Wednesday, November 15, 2017

AV Club untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 4:04 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:25 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Steven A. Atwood’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Today’s theme plays on the differences between American and British English. You know what they say: two countries separated by a common language. Each entry is a common word or phrase defined as if it one part were Britspeak.

NYT 11/15, solution grid

  • 17a. [*Monthly charge for a London apartment?] is a FLAT RATE. I know plenty of Americans who use the term “flat.” Not sure if that’s regional or generational; I heard it first in San Francisco.
  • 26a [*French fries on a London card table?] are POKER CHIPS.
  • 40a [*Catalog from a London raincoat designer?] is a MAC BOOK.
  • 51a [*Part of a London police officer’s uniform?] are BOBBY SOCKS. I always think of that term for 1950’s kids as “bobby sox” but that’s just me.
  • 62a [*Conveyance in a multilevel London store?] is a SHOP LIFT.

Aside from the fact that 17a isn’t really a Britishism, in my book, I liked this theme. It didn’t knock my bobby socks off, but it was amusing.

A few other things:

  • 1a is [Man’s name that means “king”]. I confidently plopped in REX and then had to backtrack when I tried to fill in the crossings. It’s ROY.
  • 33d [Gets ready to play basketball, say, with “up”] is LACES UP. I think of this as referring to hockey.
  • We did have two hockey clues, though, so maybe three would have been too many. 61d [Org. with the Original Six teams] is the NHL and 63d [What 61-Down teams play on] is ICE.
  • 44d [___ Harry, vocalist for the band Blondie] is DEBORAH. Wikipedia has her listed as Debbie, which is how I remember her. DEBORAH is correct, of course, but made me stop for a second.
  • Words I only see in crossword puzzles: EPOS and OPEL.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that a RATCHET is the mechanism in a unidirectional wrench. I’ve used a RATCHET but never really thought about what it was.

I leave you with the music of my youth.

David Poole’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Drive Around the Block” — Jim’s review

WSJ – Wed, 11.15.17 – “Drive Around the Block” by David Poole

Car models are bumper-to-bumper around the perimeter of the grid, clued via alternative meanings of the words. I won’t list all the clues, but here are the models and their makes proceeding clockwise: Ford TAURUS, Saturn ION, Kia SOUL, Ford LTD, Ford FOCUS, Ford PINTO, Chrysler DESOTO, Honda FIT, Dodge OMNI, Kia RIO, Honda CIVIC, and Chevy TAHOE.

Aside: If you’re wondering why the list is heavily laden with Fords and Hondas and Kias, I’ll tell you, since I’ve made a couple of car-themed grids. It’s because certain car makes lend themselves more readily to word puzzles since they use normal words for names. Ford in particular has a wide range of popular cars with simple names. Other companies, like Toyota, use made-up words (Camry, Corolla, and the like) and of course others don’t use words at all (BMW, Volvo, etc.).

I almost forgot, there’s a revealer in the middle: (41a, [Cognac-and-Cointreau drink, and what each of this puzzle’s border answers is]) SIDECAR. Hmm. To me, the sides are left and right. The top and bottom are, well, top and bottom. I felt the title of the puzzle does enough to indicate what’s going on here and the revealer isn’t really necessary.

The theme is fine, but let’s look under the hood.

Well, here’s your problem! There’s some ASANA, UTERI, and RESIT over here, and a whole lotta NOTV, RES, SDS, UAE, AES, IRT, URI, OHS, CRO, AST, HEPS, and LTD (oops, that last one’s a theme answer) under there. That’s what’s causing all the  creaking and rattling.

HEPS is particularly troublesome because it tries to get cutesy with the clue [Drill bits?]. Ouch. You’ve got a clunker on your hands; bells and whistles aren’t going to fix it.

There are a few nice things: PAGODA, CASSEROLES, TOTTERED, and theme-adjacent TAILLIGHTS and MARTINI. (Oops, that last one’s not theme-adjacent. Don’t drink and drive, kids.)

Clues of note:

  • 9d [Parental threat to a misbehaving child]. NO TV. Not only is this ugly fill, but I don’t think it even works anymore. My kids barely watch TV these days although they still get too much screen time with various devices.
  • 39a [Blood count, familiarly?]. DRAC. I like this one, both clue and entry.
  • 49d [Be a whistleblower]. TOOT. Cute. I like it even though I think horns TOOT, while whistles tweet.

This puzzle has a workable theme, but it’s not quite road ready. Under the hood, there’s a lot of duct tape and baling wire. I think it needed to go back to the shop for a tune-up.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “Space Shuttles” — Jenni’s review

This is a fairly complex theme that yields pretty easily. Ben gave it a 3/5 for difficulty and for once I agree with that. It’s very satisfying without being stumpery.

Each theme entry is somewhat nonsensical because it’s missing a “space,” which then shows up elsewhere in the puzzle.

AVCX 11/15, “Space Shuttles,” solution grid

  • 17a [Just not into cooking things in fat at a low temperature for a long time anymore?] would be so OVER CONFIT. We then find 58a [Space that found its way out of 17-Across], which is DEN. Put them together and you get OVERCONFIDENT. Nice.
  • 26a [Where a pig might be buried?] is a SOW GRAVE. The missing space is at 19a: HALL. That’s a SHALLOW GRAVE. Shiver.
  • 40a [Celebrity gossip magazine spinoff in the checkout lane at the songbird’s supermarket?] is US FINCH, which I suppose would feature the latest escaped of Gwyneth Sparrow and Tomtit Cruise (sorry. Now you know why I don’t construct). The missing space at 53a is ATTIC, and that gives us ATTICUS FINCH from “To Kill a Mockingbird.” This may have been my favorite.
  • 50a [Smacks a double, say, allowing the greatest talk show host of all time to score a run?] would take place at the Harpo Enterprises picnic. It’s HITS O HOME. 23a gives us the space: CLOSET, so that’s HITS CLOSE TO HOME.

BEQ ties it all up in a bow for us at 59a [Live puzzle events and, in a different sense, this puzzle’s theme]. The answer is ESCAPE ROOMS. That gave me a big smile. I really enjoyed this theme.

A few other things:

  • 1d [Progressive lady] stymied me for a bit because I thought we were looking for someone political. Nope. It’s FLO, the face of Progressive Insurance.
  • If you were reading quickly, saw [Disney movie] at 15a, starting with M, and plopped in MOANA, you should have read the whole clue. It’s [1998 Disney movie] so it’s MULAN. Not that I know anyone who did that.
  • I’ve seen 12d [Veal ___ (dish named after a Russian noble)] rendered as ORLOFF. BEQ has it as ORLOVORLOV gives 38,700 results on Google, many of which are actually for ORLOFFORLOFF itself gives over 200,000. I know it’s transliterated from the Cyrillic, and I’m sure either one is acceptable.
  • 29a [First baseball team to retire numbers] was, of course, the YANKEES. When the Yanks retired Derek Jeter’s #2 last summer, that was the team’s 21st retired number; they have the most of any MLB team. They were also the first team to regularly use numbers on uniforms – and still have no names on the backs of the jerseys. 90 days until pitchers and catchers report!
  • If you’re looking for a place to stay when you come up to catch the next performance of the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, don’t call Brendan. 30d [Furniture in my condo nobody’s allowed to crash on anymore] would be his SOFA.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Veronica’s dad (of Archie Comics fame) has a first name, and it’s HIRAM. It suits him.

Jerry Edelstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

A two-part revealer occupies a helluva lot of theme real estate, and SHUFFLESANDCUTSTHEDECK is a pretty mundane and wordy way to get to a theme that hides the letters in DECK rearranged across two parts of three entries. Three entries is quite thin, and while BLACKJACKDEALER is cutesily meta (the BLACKJACKDEALER cuts the DECK), the other two don’t cut the mustard for me. Both are pretty arbitrary – a MISPLACEDKEY and BAKEDCOOKIES are just green paint.

I’m not sure POLEMICIST or MAGISTRATE is the best use of the two long down answers built into the grid, and both come with short stacks of alphabetty spaghetti: MTM/ARA/DEG and IRA/SEP/TDS… Small answers are part of puzzles too! Add clunky long partials ORFOE and DIDON (!?!) and unacknowledged weird variant BOCCIE and well, most of this puzzle was a chore.

1.5 Stars

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30 Responses to Wednesday, November 15, 2017

  1. sinking sands says:

    so, let’s talk about 70D, COPS, clued as “beat people?”

    i get that it’s about walking a beat.

    but given the current political climate, the horrific reality of police brutality, the troubling way law enforcement officers are perceived by many of those they serve, the increased danger of violence as a result of mistrust between the public and LEOs… this feels like such a bad clue/answer pairing to me. tone deaf at best.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Yes, very much so. There’s no reason to choose a cutesy clue that evokes such harms.

    • Lois says:

      I felt it to be intended to mislead, not a cruel pun. I didn’t think about the relationship of the right answer to misdeeds by our enforcers of the law, but just the general ambiguity of the multiple meanings of “beat,” as for example in music, defeat, weariness, 1950s poetry and so on, where one waits to see the correct answer before deciding on the meaning. A similar clue was used in a recent puzzle, where the answer was “patrol.” In the current remarks by the constructor (it’s Wednesday night now), I don’t see anything on the subject in Wordplay, although Deb says something, and in XWord Info the constructor disavows the clue without expressing distaste, although you might say it’s implied. Perhaps he wrote something in response to the comments from readers, but I didn’t check those.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        You know what they say: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. If you mean well but end up hurting people, you still need to apologize, rather than insisting that your intentions are all that matters.

  2. pannonica says:

    WSJ: Interior 55d RODEO is also a car model (Isuzu). Inelegance.

  3. Lise says:

    WSJ: “Corolla”, as a place in NC on the Outer Banks, would have made the cut for the clues; in fact, when I googled “Corolla”, the town was the only thing that came up in the autocomplete list. The lighthouse there is on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Loved the review. The Fiends are a creative bunch!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      (It was indeed a fun review!)

      Google search results are tailored to whoever is searching. The NC town (which I’d never heard of) was far less prominent than the car in my results.

      • Lise says:

        That’s really interesting! We own two Toyotas (including a Corolla) but I can’t think why either the car or the place would be more prominent in my results. (I haven’t been to Corolla since about 2008). I tend to google books, authors, and food :-)

  4. Ethan says:

    If my revealer were BRITISHISMS, I would try extra hard to get rid of that ISM in my fill.

  5. Dr Fancypants says:

    Typically when cosecant is abbreviated, it’s done using the standard CSC abbreviation. So it was kind of odd to see COSEC. It’s not wrong, just odd.

    • David L says:

      COSEC was the standard when I learned all that stuff (a long time ago, admittedly). And COSEC googles better than “CSC trig” (there are many unrelated hits for CSC alone).

      • Jenni Levy says:

        COSEC was also standard when I took trig, which was 40 years ago, so things may well have changed. I didn’t give it a second look, aside from rolling my eyes at it as too common in crosswords.

    • Gareth says:

      Never heard of CSC. We learnt cosec, and that was 15 years ago…

  6. David Glasser says:

    I dunno, Jenni, I think you should construct!

  7. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Fortunately I checked the X of REX before filling that in at 1A. No such luck with BRITTICISMS, which fits 11D’s 11-letter length (hi, GB&MS!) and of course has most letters in common so it took a while to figure out what went wrong . . .

  8. Gareth says:

    [Like a doctor’s penmanship…], SLOPPY. At school, I excelled in most things academic, but got borderline failing grades for “penmanship” (as it is known in the US). Since acquiring a “Dr.” in front of my name, I get complimented regularly on my writing, which no-one in my family (or anyone who knows me from youth) believes is in fact possible. How overdone is that stereotype??

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Um, not overdone at all. My lousy penmanship preceded my MD by nearly two decades; when I was 8, my mother bought me a used manual typewriter and said “Just learn to use this.” So I did.

  9. Craig says:

    I’m disappointed in BEQ’s 11D. Given that this grid is asymmetric, the entry wasn’t completely forced.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Oh, yes. “Deaf as a …” insults can eff right off. (See also: “blind as a bat.”)

      • Jenni Levy says:

        True. Should have noted that in my review.

        • Ben Tausig says:

          I thought about this as well, albeit too late. It’s on me. It’s an ableist term that’s not a fair, kind, or defensible entry, and I won’t allow it or anything like it again. Mea culpa, and sorry to Craig, Jenni, Amy, and everyone.

  10. Pat says:

    LATIMES: The 3 theme answers SHUFFLE the (word) DECK. They don’t cut it.

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