Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Jonesin' 4:24 (Derek) 


LAT 3:41 (Derek) 


NYT 3:48 (Amy) 


WSJ 5:50 (Laura) 


Xword Nation untimed (janie) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 340), “Laugh It Up”—Janie’s take

Crossword Nation 12/5 (No. 340)

Well, the premise of this ambitious puzzle is creative and entertaining, and it’s spelled out at 10D. [Club performer … and the puzzle theme that’s revealed in each string of circled letters] STAND UP COMEDIAN. For inside “each string of circled letters”—in the four remaining vertically-placed themers—is the name of a STAND UP COMEDIAN in reverse letter-order. That is, STANDing UP. A puzzle that celebrates comedy—at this juncture in time?—yes, please! The clue for each solid theme phrase incorporates said COMEDIAN’s first name as it plays with what is unlikely to be a true “favorite” for that person—which is why each clue ends with a question mark. However… I detect an outlier among the themers, and it’s the very first one (a beautiful matching grid-spanner for the reveal), which is not particularly smile-making as a result. Ymmv. Let’s take a look.

  • 3D. [Tina’s favorite type of “green” appliance?] ENERGY EFFICIENT. Tina Fey. This is dandy—I love the way the clue and fill work together—except, unlike her puzzle cohorts, the multi- and mega-talented Ms. FEY isn’t really a STAND UP COMEDIAN (a great phrase to see in a puzzle, btw). That’s a solo endeavor. Yes, she’s performed in clubs, but as an improv ensemble member. And yes, you will find YouTube clips of her by herself in front of audiences, but not so much in clubs. More like at benefit appearances. Her STAND UP career lasted about five minutes as she owns up to in this 2014 HuffPo piece. Now the three remaining examples—their bona fides are genuinely in STAND UP.
  • 4D. [Jay’s favorite modes of communication?] PHONE LINES. Jay Leno.
  • 20D. [Chris’s favorite necklace material?] PINK CORAL. Chris Rock. Hey, Chris—try these on for size!
  • 31D. [Margaret’s favorite Broadway show?] OH! CALCUTTA! Margaret Cho.

Love the theme set’s balanced composition, giving us two women and two men; love the upside-down configuration of the names and the way each spans the two-word phrase it’s a part of; and love the way the clues and phrases work together. Just wish Liz had been able to find another woman with actual STAND UP creds. [Roseanne’s favorite character in Uncle Remus?] B’RER RABBIT, e.g. But finding those women (and men) with names short enough to make the grade and then work in the same puzzle is one serious challenge.

Fortunately, the let-down there is diminished not only by thoughts of CHO, LENO and ROCK, but also by some of the non-theme fill that sparkles throughout. We get a lot of juicy sevens today, my faves among them being JOE COOL [Snoopy’s alter ego], [CATBIRD seat…], NUT CASE—a non-comestible [Fruitcake], the floral ANNUALS [Marigolds, e.g.] pairing, ELEGANT, PURITAN for [Morally strict], and ONE FOOT clued with the punny/twisty [Standard shoe length?]. Nice, too, the way the stacked sevens in the SW and NE are completed by equally strong KETTLE and FIASCO respectively. And also loved seeing the latter (a favorite word) clued with another fave: [Debacle]. Evocative fives ELFIN [Spritelike], FELLA [Guy, slangily], CYCLE [Ride a bike] and “HAPPY” [Grammy-winning music video by Pharrell Williams]? [“I LIKE…”]!

Clue/fill combo that had me scratching my head most? [Wright wings] and ELLS. I’ll just cut to the chase and say that this is about Frank Lloyd Wright and architectural wings and not about anything having to do with Orville and Wilbur’s flying machines. D’oh.

And that’ll do it for me for today. How did the puzz sit with you: what worked? what didn’t? Always useful to know what you’re thinking! Hope the week ahead will be a good one—and that you’ll find some comic relief if and as you need it. Still—keep solving and do come back next week!

Brian Thomas’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Vedgetarian” — Laura’s write-up

WSJ - 12.5.17 - Thomas - Solution

WSJ – 12.5.17 – Thomas – Solution

Theme: SIDE SALADS [63aR: Entree accompaniers, and a feature of this puzzle]. Six entries (not entrees) on each side of the grid are types of salad, like so:

  • [1d: Club for the sand trap]: WEDGE
  • [34d: Alphabet that gave us the word “alphabet”]: GREEK
  • [61d: Spur (on): EGG
  • [13d: Unimpressive brain size]: PEA
  • [29d: Golf goal]: GREEN
  • [56d: Starchy staple]: PASTA

You know you want some

Plus we have a few offerings that one could place atop one’s salad: [17a: Raisins or prunes, e.g.]: DRIED FRUIT, [30a: French or Italian, e.g.]: DRESSING, and [48a: Little bread boxes?]: CROUTONS. I suppose that salads served with the appetizer course could also be considered COLD OPENS [11d: Scenes preceding title sequences]. I wasn’t sure that PEA salad was a thing, but I’ve found many recipes, including this one that includes cubes of cheddar cheese in a glorp of sour cream and mayonnaise (glorp is indeed the technical term), and this one that seems deconstructed.

Filling up our word salad we have:

  • [4d: Matchmaking event with a timer]: SPEED DATE. I’ve only ever heard this as the gerund speed dating, so the singular term threw me off. “I’m going on a speed date” is not something you hear; it’s more that one [46a: Attempts to pick up]: HITS ON several people in succession. Or so I’m told.
  • [41a: Researcher’s field]: SCIENCE. I wanted a “for one” or “e.g.” here. There are many fields of research that aren’t sciences.
  • [2d: Youngest Jetson]: “Meet George Jetson {doot doot doo-da} … His boy ELROY … {doot doot doo-da da-doo-da da-doo} … daughter, Judy … {doot doot doo-da da-doo-da da-doo} Jane, his wife!”

Harry Smith & Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 5 17, no 1205

I’m not sure if I’m missing something in this theme. Is it just three things that can be clued in a cutesy way with an occupation? Not seeing another thread joining these three:

  • 17a. [Anchor man?], POPEYE THE SAILOR. The job anchorman is one word, of course, not two. I guess the character’s officially called Popeye the Sailor, but that theme song has “Popeye the Sailor Man” cemented in my head.
  • 25a. [Sound technician?], MARINE BIOLOGIST. In geographic terms, a sound is a marine body of water, but I suspect most marine biologists aren’t working in sounds and wouldn’t refer to themselves as technicians.
  • 48a. [Beat reporter?], ALLEN GINSBERG. Poet of the Beat Generation. I would think a reporter is one writing in prose, not poetry.

The theme set’s balanced in that you have one of each type—fictional character, generic sort, real person. It would have been neat if all three had been of the same sort, but my brain isn’t letting me envision how that would play out with this sort of off-the-wall theme angle.

Wait, there’s a fourth question-marked clue centered in the grid:

  • 65a. [Executive producer?], WHARTON. As in the business school, which produces executives as opposed to being a producer with executive status.

Overall, the fill is quite smooth. SAD DAY is a little weird, as is “GOT YA,” but I like ROAD CLOSED, “I’M NOT READY,” and sweet home CHICAGO. APIA, Samoa is on the hard side for a Tuesday, but not much else jumps out.

Three more things:

  • 62a. [Sister brand of Baby Ruth], OH HENRY. I haven’t eaten one of these since my childhood trick-or-treating days. Caramel, peanuts, and “fudge,” whatever they mean by that, coated in milk chocolate? Gonna have to try it out.
  • 40d. [___ pickle], DILL. Listen, I don’t like pickles. I don’t like dill. There’s some sort of Pickle Juice Soda out there, and I’m certain I wouldn’t like that, either.
  • 12d. [Resource in the Mesabi Range], IRON. Northern Minnesota, in Zhouqin’s home state. If you’re a native Minnesotan, I’m pretty sure you’re required to call it “de Range.”

3.9 stars from me, with a degree of perplexity regarding the theme (and it’s only Tuesday!).

Kurt Krauss’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Kurt’s byline is a new one for me. Not at all familiar with his style, and this puzzle certainly qualifies as different. At 1A and 69A, as well as 13D and 57D, the clues are all similar. They are either a place, bird, or an animal that can precede the starts of 20-, 30-, 36-, 46- and 53-Across.” Well what are those clues and entries?

  • 20A [Company that maintains network messages] EMAIL HOST
  • 30A [Apple music player] IPOD NANO – This should be [Old Apple music player], since I don’t believe they manufacture this anymore.
  • 36A [Springsteen’s ensemble] E-STREET BAND
  • 46A [“My stars!”] “I DECLARE!”
  • 52A [Willa Cather novel set in Nebraska] O PIONEERS!

Yes, our theme is Old MacDonald today, and the theme entries hint at the phrase E-I-E-I-O that is repeated in that tune. As stated, a little different, but simple enough for a Tuesday and actually kind of fun! I am assuming the stars are used since some theme entries are shorter than actual entries, but they still seem a little redundant since the relevant entries are mentioned in four different clues. How about 4 stars for this one.

A few more things:

  • 5A [Spanish red wine] RIOJA – Nice job getting a J in here, although it looks as if there weren’t many other options.
  • 29A [’60s United Nations secretary general] U THANT – Perhaps this entry is another reason for the stars? Not sure if I like another entry in the grid that starts with a single letter. That is the idea behind the theme!
  • 24D [Soil acidity measure] PH LEVEL – This, while starting with TWO letters, is actually pretty good!
  • 55D [Basketball Hall of Famer Archibald] NATE – This is too dated, in my opinion. Why not clue something about Nate Silver or Nate Diaz?

That is all! Have a great week!

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “You’re the Toppings” – Derek’s write-up

This puzzle made me hungry! And even on a vegan/vegetarian diet, you can still have most of these toppings!

  • 18A [Party table item] ONION DIP
  • 20A [Peace offering] OLIVE BRANCH
  • 34A [Kitchen gadgets that really shred] CHEESE GRATERS
  • 50A [Scale on a review site that determines if movies are “Certified Fresh”] TOMATO-METER
  • 53A [Amateur broadcaster’s equipment, once] HAM RADIO – My late uncle was a HUGE ham radio enthusiast. There is almost no need for this anymore, unless you’re a trucker!

Are you hungry too? Tons of fun stuff in this one, as is usual for a Matt Jones puzzle. A fair mix of pop culture, but nothing too obscure this week (I don’t think!). A solid 4.1 stars from me.

Lots to talk about:

    • 13A [It’s formed by small droplets and shows white rings (unlike its colorful rainy counterpart] FOG BOW – Is this two words? Great entry! (Google search shows one or two word versions.)
    • 47A [Reznor’s band, initially] NIN – As in Nine Inch Nails. Perhaps you’ve seen their logo as a bumper sticker on some kid’s car!
    • 2D [“Gangsta’s Paradise” rapper] COOLIO – A little bit old school! This tune is over 20 years old!! (Which means “I” am old!!)

    • 7D [Til Tuesday bassist/singer Aimee] MANN – She was hilarious in an episode of Portlandia. She also, as the clue indicates, sings one of my favorite one-hit wonder tunes ever.

  • 9D [Network merged into the CW in 2006] UPN – Never watched this channel. I consume CW a bit. Riverdale is on my radar now until it gets tired. And I only watch because I read TONS of Archie Comics back in the day!
  • 34D [Gossip sessions, slangily] CHINWAGS – Another awesome entry!
  • 42D [Ramona’s sister, in Beverly Cleary books] BEEZUS – This also goes way back for me, but I don’t think I ever read one of these books. Probably a girl thing, I believe.

Until next week’s Jonesin’!

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19 Responses to Tuesday, December 5, 2017

  1. artlvr says:

    Gorski: Again, my being from Oak Park, Frank Lloyd Wright’s wings must be ELLS…

    • janie says:

      flw wings, yes, i get the (oak park) connection — but also all architectural wings, pipe joints, 90-degree shapes. on first reading of the clue, however (even third…) not clear that we’re talkin’ flw and not wilbur and orville. w/out a question mark at the end, not a typically “easy/early week” clue. imho!


  2. GlennP says:

    WSJ: Laura, thanks for the two recipes and the “Jello salads” picture to remind me of my childhood!

  3. Amy L says:

    NYT: I thought this was really lame, for all the reasons Amy R said. Was there a reason it was symmetrical around a vertical axis? It was too many apples and oranges.

    Amy R: I guess you wouldn’t like the pickle juice bubble gum?

  4. Paul Coulter says:

    I enjoyed the whimsy of Kurt’s LAT. Definitely a fresh approach, and a delight as I discovered what was going on.

  5. Scott says:

    NYT. It was okay. Typical Tuesday puzzle candy.

  6. David E. Hansen says:

    Why is WSJ entitled “Vedgetarian” with the “d”?

  7. Ethan Friedman says:

    @Amy — I think the theme is TV news personnel?





    • Jenni Levy says:


      • Andy says:

        Yep. Harry Smith is a longtime TV journalist [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Smith_(American_journalist)], which I think it’s safe to say was the jumping-off point for this theme.

        And responding to another comment, the reason to use L-R symmetry here is that the theme answers couldn’t be placed symmetrically in a standard grid given their lengths (15, 15, 13, 7), but they *are* all odd, which means you can center them in a 15×15 grid with mirror symmetry.

        As always, I thought this was a beautiful early week offering from C.C. and company.

        • Amy L says:

          Mirror symmetry is often used for a visual effect, which is lacking here. Since I thought the answers were weak, I guess my view is that they should have come up with better answers and had regular crossword symmetry. (I got the TV news personnel angle when I was solving it, so Ethan’s comment doesn’t change my view.)

  8. Sarah says:

    Some seriously bad crossings in both the WSJ and LAT. I didn’t grok either theme until I got here, so I would have preferred a more explicit revealer clue for both. I was wondering if DRIEDSALAD was actually a thing.

    Honestly, I’ve say both were pretty shoddy.

  9. Huda says:

    NYT: I liked the theme and thought the puzzle was fun. I know the ratings are not high at this point, and I’m honestly not trying to be contrary. I thought it was very cute.

    And I hope Ethan Friedman’s explication elevates it in the mind of some solvers.

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