Wednesday, October 4, 2017

AV Club 13:20 (Ben) 


LAT  4:16 (Gareth) 


NYT  4:25 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Evan Mahnken’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

I blame the Yankees for the extra minute this took me over my usual Wednesday time. I’m also listening to the wild card playoff game. Aaron Judge! Sorry. Where were we?

We have an appropriately word-centric theme today, and it’s new to me. So is the constructor; this is his NYT debut. I liked this puzzle a lot. The theme clues all describe dictionary locations, and the answers are familiar phrases. It wasn’t until I started writing this that I realized the phrases are also appropriate to the clues, which makes me like the theme even more. Nice.

NYT 10/4, solution grid

  • 17a [Where “house party” is in the dictionary?] is AFTER HOURS.
  • 10d [Where “flanked” is in the dictionary?] is UNDER FIRE.
  • 23a [Where “new” is in the dictionary? NEAR MINT, of course.
  • 31d [Where “menial” is in the dictionary?] is BENEATH ME.
  • 50a [Where “isolated” is in the dictionary?] is BY ITSELF.
  • 56a [Where “midday” and “one” are in the dictionary?] is AROUND NOON.

Clever, consistent, and solid. All the answer phrases are in the language. I like this more and more as I look at it. I look forward to more from Evan!

A few other things:

  • 2d [Put more gas in the tank] slowed my down a bit because I put in REFILL instead of the correct REFUEL.
  • ARI from “Exodus” and ORI from “The Hobbit.” Just struck me funny.
  • 30a [Manumit] is a not a word you see every day, unless you’re a Confederate-era historian. It means SET FREE, and was often applied to the release of slaves.
  • 35d [“After this, it’s my turn”] is the awkward I GOT NEXT, which was unfamiliar to me but is apparently well-know in hip-hop and gaming.
  • 60a [Malcolm X facial feature] is GOATEE. I had the G and tried GLASSES at first. Didn’t fit. Obviously.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SONIC YOUTH was featured in a documentary called “1991: The Year Punk Broke.”

I will not leave you with an Aaron Judge home run montage.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Multidimensional” — Jim’s review

Whew! This one put up a fight for me, and it’s only Wednesday. I struggled in the NW mostly because I had AVOW for AVER at 6d, and I wasn’t grokking the theme.

With all those extra long Across answers, it was pretty difficult to tell what was thematic and what wasn’t. And there was no revealer to help a solver out.

So what’s the theme? As usual, the title is the key. Each of the four longest Across answers starts with a word that represents a geometric dimension (0, 1, 2, and 3).

WSJ – Wed, 10.4.17 – “Multidimensional” by Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 17a [One in charge] POINT PERSON
  • 29a [Activity at a country western bar] LINE DANCING
  • 47a [Fly paper?] PLANE TICKET
  • 63a [Seattle sight] SPACE NEEDLE

I really like this theme, and the fact that I had to think about it and work for it made it all the more rewarding. That said, I’ll admit that all the additional long answers felt like they were purposefully muddying the waters. Same with what felt like a reliance on trivia-cluing (like [American Eagle’s lingerie chain] for AERIE). Maybe if these things were adjusted down a notch, I would’ve enjoyed it more.

But that being said, what an amazing glut of good fill! INAUGURAL, EVANDER, SPAMALOT, ILL-SPENT, CABINET, and SATIRICAL in the Across direction and the outstanding pair of WALT DISNEY and PANDA BEARS in the Down direction. Wow! Also colorful: “IT’S A GO,” SANTANA, MOONIE, and MET GALA.

Sometimes Alex resorts to a real curveball of an entry to bring you a good theme and fill, but not today. There isn’t anything here beyond the standard crosswordese (like ACMES, LLB, NOS, and TUTEE). The good stuff easily outweighs such substandard fill.

Clues of note:

  • 36a [“That’s what ___ said!”]. SHE. Ick. Bro humor I could do without.
  • 47a [Fly paper?] for PLANE TICKET, 25d [Small sucker?] for VAC, and 45d [Red head?] for LENIN. That’s better.
  • 34a [Father and brother of Billy Ripken]. CALS. No, CALS Ripken is not both the father and brother of Billy Ripken; this is not some Oedipal tragedy taking place on the diamond. The clue is of course referring to Cal Ripken Jr and Cal Ripken Sr.

Overall, this is an outstanding puzzle with a clever, thoughtful theme and gorgeous fill to go with it.

Claire Muscat’s AVCX, “Streamlines” — Ben’s Review

This week’s AVCX looks like a guest puzzle from Claire Muscat, whose name I don’t immediately recognize, but given that she’s also written for venues like the NYT, I’ve probably solved one of her puzzles before.  With a name like “Streamlines”, there’s probably something with water going on, so let’s dig in to this larger-than-usual grid:

  • 26A:1960s folk-rock group with the debut album “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” — THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS
  • 33A:1966 hit for the Supremes — YOU KEEP ME HANGIN ON
  • 48A:What one might lament on seeing a Starbucks abroad, e.g. — AMERICANIZATION
  • 67A:1984 Scorpions single — ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANE
  • 86A: Brad Pitt title of 1995 and 2000 — SEXIEST MAN ALIVE
  • 98A: Lindt specialty — CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
  • 107A:  Redford drama with a 25th anniversary on October 9, 2017 … and one way to describe each of this puzzle’s theme answers — A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT

I was flying through some of the longer answers on this puzzle – all of the music clues were right on my wavelength, and A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT had a prominent spot on my parents’ VHS rack as a kid, so that was right at the forfront of my brain when I saw how much answer space I had.  This was a pretty nice theme, with some lovely long fill.  As you can see in my highlighting above (and from the title/revealer), each of those answers contains the name of a river (THAMES, YUKON, AMAZON, RHINE, SEINE, and CHARLES) running through it.  Pretty straightforward stuff.

Other notes:

  • NECCO WAFERS (24A): the candy no one likes. You’re eating chalk!
  • BAI may be the “Antioxidant drink brand promoted by Justin Timberlake and Christopher Walken”, but I mostly know them as the drink I get from CVS when they have them 5 for $5 when they’re trying to clear stock
  • I’m going to assume THE ASP is the “‘Little Orphan Annie’ henchman”, given that my only knowledge of the comic is the movie/musical based on it, but it could just as easily be T.H. EASP, noted tycoon and rival of Daddy Warbucks or THEA S.P., the person who takes over the orphanage after Ms. Hannigan who turns out to be even worse at providing adequate care for orphans.
  • I love that in addition to ELO being a very crossword-friendly band, their compilation album OLE ELO seems to be referenced most in crossword grids.
  • My brain didn’t love EXAM PAPER as “What might be turned in at the terminus of a term”.  It’s a TERM PAPER or an EXAM.

4/5 stars.  Clean theme, fun fill, nice cluing.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

Very simple theme. LP is a (type of) record, and, per BROKENRECORD, those letters are at the beginning and end of several asterisked answers: LOCATORMAP, LIQUOREDUP, LAMBCHOP, LEMONDROP, LABORCAMP and LAVALAMP. It’s a pretty broad theme, so C.C. has gone for quantity here…

Notable answers:

  • [OutKast rapper Big __], BOI. One half of, the other being Andre 3000. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below being their commercial zenith. In fact, it is more two solo albums released together; Speakerboxxx is Big Boi’s half. The package is certified diamond (>10x platinum).
  • [NFLer again in 2016], LARAM. And cruciverbalists everywhere rejoiced!
  • [Oft-injured knee part, for short], ACL. The (quadrupedal) animal equivalent is CCL (cranial), FWIW.
  • [Bit of texting tact], PLS. Not yet ubiquitous in crosswords, but bound to gather momentum…
  • [“Paper Moon” girl], ADDIE. We all just saw Paper Moon and typed/wrote ONEAL yes?
  • [*Shari Lewis puppet], LAMBCHOP. A little before my time, but I inherited the puppet from older siblings…
  • [Cry from a sheep], BLAT. That’s not a word you see much IRL…
  • [Manipulative health care practitioner], OSTEOPATH. Pseudoscientific claptrap, but recognized in the US for some reason (with courses partly grounded in reality, and part in aforementioned claptrap). It’s all very mystifying.

3 Stars

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28 Responses to Wednesday, October 4, 2017

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Good gravy, a dated ARI clue crossing rather obscure AMARNA crossing not-so-familiar RUHR? I predict a lot of elongated solving times and disgruntled puzzlers.

    I’d also quibble that “new” and “mint” aren’t all that near each other in the dictionary (42 pages apart in my Merriam-Webster Collegiate), and that it’s unfortunate to have that “new” theme clue with NEWS REEL also in the grid.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      Yep, I got Naticked at the first square of the puzzle! Put in URI for 1-A (got the “Exodus” hero confused with the Swiss canton, for some reason) and UMARNA looked just as plausible as AMARNA.

      A demerit in what was otherwise a fun, clever puzzle.

      • Bryant says:

        I think this may be common because Leon Uris is the author of a one-time bestseller called Exodus and part of my brain wanted URI up there for that reason.

  2. Ethan says:

    “We got next” was the slogan for the WNBA for it’s first year, at least.

  3. PhilR says:

    I/WE GOT NEXT is standard on every playground, pool hall, ping pong parlor, everywhere competitive games are played sequentially. Everywhere in the universe.

  4. jim hale says:

    The URL’s are screwed up again in the links. They are restful based so the servlet is confused.
    The link again is one day ahead of itself.

    As for the puzzle. so so. Somewhat convoluted and not particularly enjoyable.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Fixed! (I hope.)

      • jim hale says:

        I’m wondering if the server hosting this has the wrong system time set or they could have moved this on the cloud to a server in the Far East.
        It works now, but will it work tonight?

      • Lise says:

        Will the AVCX be reviewed? It’s not in the list and I’m not aware that it’s a meta/contest although I was low on caffeine when I printed it, so I could have missed something.

        • Ben Smith says:

          Hi Lise! AVCX has been added back to the top part of the post now that my review is live.

          • Lise says:

            Thanks! I loved the puzzle. It just all made sense. I didn’t know THEASP (or however that gets divided) and somehow was not able to dredge PATENTS out of my brain even though it is a really obvious answer.

            NECCO WAFERS make excellent roofing material for gingerbread houses.

  5. LindaB says:

    Enjoyed the NYT a lot; thank you, Evan!

  6. JohnH says:

    Sorry, but I thoroughly hated the WSJ puzzle. All proper names all the time, like the crossing of AERIE and PAPI, or EVANDER, EILEEN, SANTANA, and EDBERG. I also didn’t know LINE DANCING apart from maybe crossword puzzles, and I can’t find that meaning of MAR anywhere except by inference from Trump’s golfing, but never mind. LLB looked like a mistake at that, although I see it does exist in England, as the clue implies.

    • Lise says:

      Key = MAR is because, sadly, a key can be used to mar a metal surface such as that of a car. It seems a little obscure for a Wednesday but it reminded me that there are myriad senses of “key”.

  7. artlvr says:

    I really liked the WSJ! Standard and POORS fits perfectly with Wall Street.

  8. Rick Narad says:

    After I got the WSJ theme but before I (finally) broke through in the NW, I tried to find a way to put “time” as another dimension.

  9. Brian says:

    I don’t get why most people hate NECCO WAFERS – the chalky texture feels nice to me!

    • pannonica says:

      And the flavors are interesting.

      But don’t get me started on Mary Janes, Peeps, or Circus Peanuts.

  10. Amy L says:

    I really enjoyed the NYT today. The theme was clever and fun, and the fill had some nice nuggets. I’m rating it 4.5.

  11. Gareth says:

    Thought you might have wanted the same as me for [Like a good surgeon’s hands] Jenni. Was trying to wedge in STERILE.

  12. David Glasser says:

    Thanks to Hamilton for teaching me about manumit:

    A bunch of revolutionary manumission abolitionists?
    Give me a position, show me where the ammunition is!

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