Wednesday, October 11, 2017

AV Club 11:57 (Ben) 


LAT 4:02 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:22 (Laura) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


David J. Kahn’s New York Times crossword—Laura’s write-up

NYT - Kahn - 10.11.17

NYT – Kahn – 10.11.17 – Solution

Laura here, your substitute blogger ON CALL [46d: Ready at any time], standing in for Jenni. We’ve got our theme entries:

  • [17a: Deputy marshal at 62-Across]: DOC HOLLIDAY
  • [11d: Outlaw at 62-Across]: IKE CLANTON
  • [28d: With 62-Across, renowned 1881 event that lasted about 30 seconds]: GUNFIGHT AT
  • [62a: See 28-Down … or a punny description of this puzzle’s circled answers?]: THE OK CORRAL

… and then, our circled answers:

  • [31a: Wishful place?]: WELL
  • [35d: Expo]: FAIR
  • [37d: Actor Gyllenhaal]: JAKE
  • [52a: Punishment that might follow a summons]: FINE

… all of which mean OK in some sense. And they form a little “corral” in the center of the grid, around a cross-shaped set of squares that presumably hold the horses stolen by the Clanton gang. I would say that this theme is just slightly old fashioned, but the Wyatt Earp story never seems to go out of style — there have been over 25 depictions in film and TV since the 1930s (Earp lived until 1929), plus spinoffs like the newish SyFy show Wynonna Earp, which looks pretty awesome to those of us who like sci-fi westerns. Strange not to see EARP in the grid, given that it shows up reasonably often as an entry in non-OK CORRAL-themed puzzles.

“Before they grow so big, the baobabs start out by being little.”

What else? Got a TOEHOLD [20a: Initial progress] right away, and nothing gave me A LOT [2d: Gazillions] of trouble as I solved with plenty of SANG FROID [60d: With 42-Across, coolness of mind & 42a: See 60-Down], and no ANGST [26a: Uneasy sensation] to speak of. SALUTER [22d: Private, often] and SNARLER [29d: Angry boxer, e.g.] seemed a trifle awkward, and ugh IGA KOD ARB, but there was plenty of nice fill like MINNOWS [56a: Some fish bait], WILLOWY [6d: Tall and supple], and [45d: Thick-trunked tree]: BAOBAB, which will always remind me of Le Petit Prince.

Mark Diehl’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Up to Scratch” — Jim’s review

Well this is unusual. Mark Diehl has had scores of puzzles published since 1984, and nearly all of them have been themeless. Further, this is the first I can find of his in the WSJ. It looks like we have a genuine debut from a crossword veteran.

The revealer is at 62a [Hunt’s offering, and what you’ll find in the starred answers]: CATSUP. You’ll find the letters CAT reading up in each theme answer.

WSJ – Wed, 10.11.17 – “Up to Scratch” by Mark Diehl

  • 3d [*Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt sported themWALRUS MUSTACHES. Colorful entry, but only one of the words is truly needed for the theme.
  • 23d [*Foster, twice] BEST ACTRESS. That’s more like it, with the key letters spanning multiple words.
  • 9d [*Passed pawn, e.g.] CHESS TACTIC. Same problem as the first entry. The first word is superfluous.
  • 11d [*Potluck offerings] PASTA CASSEROLE. Solid entry.

Nice theme that works, but I wish other phrases could have been found in which the key letters span across words. Other possibilities: Santa Claus, Microsoft Access, riot act, Patriot Act, fait accompli, beta carotene, etc.

I also would prefer the greater challenge if there were different kinds of cats in each theme answer. But maybe that wasn’t possible. There is a LIONESS at 44a.

My solve went relatively smoothly except in the NW which seemed much more difficult. I couldn’t guess TOWAGE or SHARON. KILTED could’ve been many things based on the clue [Like many Scots]. Even SORES was tricksy [Areas for dressing]. The Down direction wasn’t any better since WALRUS wasn’t coming to me, nor ARTESIAN [Like some wells]. [Sounds of disapproval] seemed to want BOOS, not TSKS. Eventually I got ARTESIAN and plodded through the rest.

But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the grid. The aforementioned LIONESS and ARTESIAN are assets as are MAHI MAHI, EPHEMERA, PANELISTMYTHIC, and OKSANA [Olympic skater Baiul]. I didn’t know SOMA [“Brave New World” drug], but I think it’s crossworthy especially given the presence of nearby ALDOUS. The most eyebrow-raising entry is BAILEE [One to whom property is left for safekeeping].

In the end though, a solid theme and a plethora of fun fill from a themeless master make for a fun puzzle.

Are you Team CATSUP or Team Ketchup? I expect the vast majority of Americans go with the K spelling. But the other one is still understood and accepted. The sauce itself has had numerous recipes over the past few hundred years though it originated in China and was based on a fish sauce. (Jane Austen’s recipe included a walnut paste, horseradish, and shallots.) Growing up, I found it odd that my dad used the word CATSUP to refer to soy sauce, but I guess it’s not so strange once you realize both condiments originated in China and were based on fish fermentation.

Paolo Pasco’s AVCX, “The Silver Screen” — Ben’s Review

It’s a Paolo Pasco puzzle this week at the AVCX (which mentioned it’s having “a major technical transition” behind the scenes this week that meant I didn’t get this puzzle until late today – delivery on your end may be delayed as well).  Rather than another themeless, this one’s got a theme that was easy to figure out from the title of the puzzle, but was still well-executed:

  • 23A: Movie about doing a one-person tribute? (1990) — HOMAGE ALONE
  • 36A: Movie about a spell-caster whose special power is making things huge? (2004) — SUPERSIZE MAGE
  • 50A: Movie about a wheelchair-bound nuclear expert dressed à la RuPaul? (1964) — DRAG STRANGELOVE
  • 68A: Movie about condemning, in no uncertain terms, a fellow WWII soldier? (1998) — SAVAGING PRIVATE RYAN
  • 83A: Movie about a Wiccan-managed maze? (2006) — PAGAN’S LABYRINTH
  • 100A/115A: Movie about camaraderie between people at a wild party? (2001) — THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RAGING

Again: straightforward (add the atomic symbol for silver, Ag, to the title of a movie), well-executed, cute.  A Sunday-sized grid packed with all of these was lovely on a kind of gross Boston day.

Other notes:

  • “Tablet that shouldn’t be swallowed” is a great clue for IPAD
  • It turns out the OBOE is used in the intro to Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose”
  • I assume Tom Haverford coined “Raw TOAST” as a “(jocular name for bread)”
  • “Type of drama James Franco briefly decided to act in, for whatever reason” — SOAP OPERA (he’s an ARTIST, Paolo.  He needs to perform his craft!)
  • They are still making ICE AGE movies, which means that people are still watching the ICE AGE movies.  In my day, we had The Land Before Time and its approximately 40 million sequels and we were fine with it.

4.5/5 stars.  This was great.  Well done!

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

LA Times

The essence of this theme is the repurposing of four textual units. However, there are a couple of things Zhouqin has done to take this context and elevate into a top-notch crossword. First off, the theme order: LETTERS, WORDS, PHRASES, SENTENCES – a natural progression, even if CLAUSES is left out, probably for space reasons, and because of a lack of viable entries / clues. Second, note the consistency of the clues, and also their jarring dissonance. We are first confronted with [Inc. and LLC?] Figuring these clues out results in a classic “a-ha moment”.

To sum up [Inc. and LLC?] are letters used in business names, so BUSINESSLETTERS in wacky world. [Beaming and shining?] are GLOWINGWORDS in the sense of synonyms for glowing. [“Got it!” and “Roger that!”?] require a little stretch to reach CATCHPHRASES. They are phrases used when you catch what someone says. “Mine!” is a catchphrase of a different sort. This reminds me upsettingly of my first club cricket game of the season last Sunday. Dropped a hard catch (still have the bruise) off my own bowling with the first delivery, and then went for four boundaries in a row while my mind was focused elsewhere… Crossword? Oh yes. PRISONSENTENCES, [“What are you in for?” and “I was framed”?] are sentences one might use in presence. Reminds me of Alice’s Restaurant and “What you get?”


  • [PGA Tour golf course near Miami], DORAL. I’m pretty sure that should read former… Didn’t Trump’s bungling lead to his course being axed from the tour? The Blue Monster course hosted the Doral Open and then WGC-Cadillac Open for many years…
  • [“Never __ Me Go”: Kazuo Ishiguro novel], LET. Topical; I guess with a Nobel prize your novels are now cross-worthy?
  • [Driver or putter], CLUB – more in the golf minitheme. [What some caddies carry], TEA is a fake-out though…
  • [Be judged unfairly], GETABADRAP. Anyone else have a snarl-up by putting BUM here?
  • [Like priests], ORDAINED. Crossword indoctrination made me immediately want ONEL.

4.5 Stars

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23 Responses to Wednesday, October 11, 2017

  1. arthur118 says:

    I haven’t yet rated any of the Wednesday puzzles, but the official tally is showing I’ve already rated the LAT, NYT and WSJ puzzles.

    To boot, at this early stage of solving, the number of ratings for the NYT puzzle, for example, stands at 49. Seems highly unlikely.

    Were the ratings carried over from another puzzle?

  2. Flinty Steve says:

    WSJ: It’s “CATS” UP, so there’s more constraint on the themers than just “CAT” would provide.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Why, so it is. Thanks for pointing that out. That negates most of my complaints against the grid. My apologies for missing it.

      • Mark Diehl says:

        Another subtlety I included was arranging the themers so the CATS move UP the entries as you travel from left to right. Just saying :).

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Live and learn– I had no idea that JAKE meant OK, so I kept staring at that corral area wondering what was going on.
    SANG FROID threw me– I wasn’t expecting a French expression. I actually love it in French, but have never used it when speaking English. Do people use it in regular conversation?
    I loved discovering a BAOBAB in that corner– the Little Prince and the OK CORRAL in one puzzle.

  4. Brian says:

    Little bit bummed with the finish of today’s LAT, thought I was done but couldn’t find the error. Finally checked it and I had TEE instead of TEA for [What some caddies carry]. That’s rough for anyone who hasn’t heard of Perle MESTA.

    Loved the rest of it, particularly the snazzy down pairs in the NE/SW.

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    LAT – Wonderfully inventive theme from C.C. today. And in order, too! I thoroughly enjoyed it. The TEE/TEA trap amused me, rather than annoyed me, and I quickly fixed it on the crosser. For me, this was the best easy puzzle of the year so far. I also liked David Kahn’s NYT a lot. This is another example of a skilled constructor breaking new territory in a very accessible way.

  6. Tony says:

    I’ve really never heard anyone using “Jake” to mean OK except in old Mob movies (“Everything’s Jake”)

    As for the OK Corral itself, I first learned of the gun fight from the Star Trek Season 3 episode 6, “Spectre of the Gun,” where Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Chekov and Scotty find themselves in a macabre version where they are the Clanton gang going against a seemingly evil Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday. It wasn’t until later that I learned that the Clantons were the ones on the opposite side of the law.

  7. Penguin Person says:

    creative NYT – nice WSJ gimmick

  8. artlvr says:

    Oddly, some years ago I found a painting of Wyatt Earp here in upstate NY –Deputy Sheriff at the OK Corral shootout! Not my usual thing, but I bought it and thenI sent it to an auction house in Texas, where it did quite well!

  9. jagoandlitefoot says:

    Is something going on with the AVC? I haven’t gotten the puzzle in my inbox yet and the website seems to be down.

  10. Ethan says:

    Am I the only one who thinks WELL is a pretty tenuous synonym for OK? I suppose “Well, then!” is pretty close to “OK, then!” but not exactly synonymous and that’s a pretty limited context.

  11. e.a. says:

    grateful to amy for pointing out last month the problems with “wheelchair-bound” as a descriptor, sorry to learn that it popped back up today

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