Wednesday, December 6, 2017

AV Club 8:54 (Ben) 


LAT 3:29 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:42 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Clive Probert’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

I think it was Martin Herbach who once said “if you can’t find the theme in the grid, check the clues.” Sure enough, I finished the puzzle and didn’t notice any real theme, although there did seem to be a whole lot of Ms. I looked at the clues and realized every single clue starts with M, and then I looked back at the grid and noticed that every single entry contains at least one M. I suppose 28d might be a revealer. The clue is [“Melts in your mouth” candy] and the answer, of course, is M AND M. That’s quite a feat of construction. Mm, mm, good.

Well, someone had to say it.

When essentially every entry is a theme entry, there are bound to be compromises in the fill, starting with the fact that the candy is actually M&M, not M AND M. And then there’s 3d [Muse of memory]. I know the term “mnemonic” so I knew it had to be something like that, but I’ve never heard of MNEME, which looks like a typo.

NYT 12/5/17, solution grid

A few other things:

  • 14a [Medieval philosopher with a “razor”] is OCCAM. This may be obscure to many, but it was a gimme for me. I learned this as “The simplest explanation that accounts for all the facts in evidence is most likely to be true.” It’s a basic principle of medical diagnosis. The idiomatic version is “When you hear hoofbeats, look for horses, not zebras.” I was told that it’s called a “razor” because it cuts away unnecessary complication, and it didn’t originate with William of Occam; it has been attributed to several medieval philosophers, including Maimonides.
  • 16a [Maker of outlandish products in Road Runner cartoons] is, of course, ACME. It’s a refreshing change from clues about the top of a mountain.
  • 28a [MI6 concern] is a MOLE. MI6 is the British version of the CIA, for those who’ve never seen a James Bond movie, so the MOLE in question is a spy, not a burrowing mammal.
  • 61a [Mini-metropolis in Utah] is our old friend OREM. According to Google, the population of OREM is 97,499. If you live in New York City, OREM is mini. If you live in Austin, Nevada (population 192) I suspect OREM looks like a very big city. Context is everything.
  • 63a [Mount Olympus, at 72,000 feet, is its highest peak]. Since Everest tops out at 29,000 feet, this Mount Olympus can’t be on Earth. Turns out it’s on MARS.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SAMOS was a member of the ancient Ionian League. Didn’t know there was such a thing as the Ionian League or an island named SAMOS. My father always said it was a good day if you learned something.

Meep meep.

David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Power Grid” — Jim’s review

We’re adding fuel to the fire in this clever grid. FUEL INJECTION is your hint to look for types of fuel in the other theme answers. (It’s clued as [Internal combustion process, and an explanation of the other long Across answers].)

WSJ – Wed, 12.6.17 – “Power Grid” by David Alfred Bywaters

  • 20a [Germophobe’s attire?] BOILED CLOTHES. Bedclothes + oil.
  • 28a [Strategic alliance of poodles, Persians, parrots, etc.?] PET COALITION. Petition + coal. Ha! Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
  • 48a [Big Bang’s source?] THE MEGA SPARK. Theme park + gas. Bonus points for going from two words to three. Clever and cute.

I loved this wonderful theme. I couldn’t suss it out until I got to the revealer and had my a-ha moment. In my mind, this was the perfect use of a common phrase as a revealer combined with excellent theme entry finds. It’s especially nice that each theme entry gets a different type of fuel added to it. Fresh, fun, and funny.

Is it IMPERFECT, though? Let’s see what I can find. ROODS was a tough start at 1a [Old quarter-acre measures], and CHASTISES and PRECAST aren’t exactly scintillating fill, but a DOLLOP of KITSCH and MIMOSA did SWEETEN the deal. Medical types will like AXILLA which I mostly remembered from the last time it appeared in a crossword.

Clues of note:

  • 17a [Job holder?]. BIBLE. That’s a bit of a stretch. I don’t know that anyone would say the BIBLE “holds” any of its books.
  • 32a [Printemps month]. MAI. I’ve seen the word, but had forgotten its meaning. “Printemps” means “Spring.”
  • 36a [Jah praiser]. RASTA. Apparently, it’s short for Yahweh. How cool is your religion when you can call God by His nickname?
  • Speaking of religion, the clue [Religious teacher] does double-duty for RABBI and SWAMI. Nice.
  • 43a [Make full again]. TOP UP. How many of you saw that “again” and immediately wrote in RE___?
  • 41d [Candidate’s concern]. IMAGE. Ah, those were the days.

Really nice grid. Great theme and strong fill all around.

Let’s close it out with BECK‘s “Where It’s At.”

Neville Fogarty’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

What do you want in an early week theme? A clourful revealer, HIDDENGEM, check; fun theme answers – SCROOGEMCDUCK and HEDGEMAZE fit the bill; GEORGEMASON and GRUDGEMATCH work. Only wish there was a little more than just GEM hidden each time, but I’m guessing not enough interesting answers exist with BERYL, RUBY or LAPISLAZULI hidden across their centres…

I have had this theme song stuck in my head for two days now. Neville you aren’t helping! [Fiancee is singing it from the study too, now…]

HIVEMIND is also a particularly juicy morsel worked into this grid. I feel like it could be the bouncing off place for a theme, not sure what…

3.5 Stars

Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX, “AVCX Themeless 21” — Ben’s Review

Either this was an easy themeless from Kam or my skills are really improving on these – I managed to blast through this themeless offering from the AV Club in under 9 minutes.  It’s got his standard high culture/low culture blend that makes solving things such a joy.  Here’s some highlights:

  • Some nice stacks anchoring this whole shabang: ERASERMATE, GET A READ ON, RATTING OUT up top, VA HOSPITAL, AM I TOO LATE, and SAVES PAPER (as in “opts for electronic statements”) down below
  • I saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding once, when it was released on VHS in the early 2000s, and apparently that was enough for my brain to remember the main character’s name is TOULA 15 or so years later.
  • I nailed that “Camel alternative” was going to be a color and not a mammal, though I had TAUPE in the grid before the correct BEIGE
  • “Shoegaze relative” would definitely be some DREAM POP like Beach House or Alvvays.  I promise those are band names and not things I made up.

4/5 stars.

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26 Responses to Wednesday, December 6, 2017

  1. arthur118 says:

    Tried to vote for the NYT and WSJ puzzles but the tab tells me I’ve already voted (and for the LAT, too, which hasn’t even been released yet).

  2. Art Shapiro says:

    I didn’t appreciate the profusion of names in the NYT. And nobody in the known universe expresses M & Ms in the singular.

  3. Penguins says:

    NYT: What’s in it for the solver when the fill’s so problematic? And who notices a clue list anymore with Across Lite or other apps? A feat of construction perhaps, but not a very good puzzle imo.

  4. Occam says:

    “This may be obscure to may…”

  5. artlvr says:

    Samos is a Greek island in the eastern Aegean Sea, separated from Turkey by the mile-wide Mycale Strait. It was the birthplace of mathematician Pythagoras and philosopher Epicurus. On the southeast coast, the remains of the ancient port of Pythagoreion include the 1,040-m underground Eupalinian aqueduct, built in the 6th century B.C. Neat to visit!

  6. huda says:

    NYT: OCCAM and ANGSTROM were good to see in the puzzle. I got that every entry had an M but didn’t notice the clues…
    Sometimes, when studying the brain, I really wonder about good ole OCCAM and his razor. We start with the simplest explanation, but it’s typically completely wrong– complexity, redundancies, alternate routes, parallel circuits, compensatory tricks, dynamic change, and organized chaos are the name of the game. I once wrote a poem for a scientific meeting about how Mother Nature seemed to behave like Imelda Marcos in a shoe factory— if you like it, get it in every color and variation.

    • PJ Ward says:

      I’ve always taken it as if two competing theories explain equally well, go with the simpler one. Life is complicated. Don’t further complicate it needlessly.

  7. Thanks to Jim for his characteristically perceptive review of my WSJ puzzle. I hope I won’t be violating this site’s protocol in alerting its readers that I have begun a website, in which I post a new free crossword every Saturday. Its address is my name without spaces, DavidAlfredBywaters, followed by the customary “.” and “com.”

    • Laura B says:

      Not just new free crosswords, but a Weekly Victorian Novel Recommender! This former Victorianist thanks you for drawing attention to these neglected works.

    • Robin Morrissey says:

      Thank you for the puzzles on your website! I just finished your puzzle 002 and enjoyed it immensely – well executed theme.

    • Lise says:

      Wow, thanks, these puzzles look great. I love the art on your site too.

    • doug says:

      Enjoyed your WSJ puzzle Power Grid. Got to these comments and took the bait. Made the bookmark and DL’ed the first two puzzles. My wife and I sailed through #1, Upset, pleasantly surprised at every turn. I would rate it 5 stars. I’d love to see your site added to Fiend’s weekly rotation.

  8. David L says:

    I liked the NYT. Goofy but cute, and an entertaining start to the day. (Quite accidentally, this post contains none of that letter).

  9. JakaB says:

    Gee Whiz, I just thought WSJ and NYT were simultaneously meh. I didn’t suss out in WSJ the injection being an added word to a phrase until seeing it here, but the separated non-fuel words aren’t thematic, so what do I know? NYT need MEH as an answer, then it would have been ultra-thematic.

  10. Brian says:

    Loved David’s WSJ. Took me longer than I’d like to admit to find OIL in the first themer, and I agree with Jim that THE MEGA SPARK is an especially nice find.

    Liked the NYT better than most, but was surprised to see the clue for ALMA MATER include the word alumnus in it – they both have “alere” in their shared etymologies.

  11. Scott says:

    NYT contains 46 Ms. Is that a new record? I know somebody must keep track of these things!

  12. NoaM D. Elkies says:

    Thanks for the Coyote/RoadRunner clip, apparently from Arches National Park not far from 61A:OREM.

    Not sure if I knew 31A:SAMOS, but I had a dim recollection of “Samothrace”, which may or may not be related with Samos and Thrace but was good enough to corroborate a grid entry.

    Normally 9D:MADAM shouldn’t cross 19A:DAME which is more-or-less the same word, but the theme must make such compromises unavoidable.


    P.S. Starting from the Southeast, I thought 47A:??MEADE was going to be FTMEADE, and was thus amused when the clue pointed me towards LIMEADE instead.

  13. Dr Fancypants says:

    I confidently misremembered that the muse of memory was Mnemosyne, and then spent a quarter of the puzzle wondering if there was some rebus-y trick at play. Of course, Mnemosyne was a titan—and MNEME is from the more obscure version of the muses. I blame hubris.

  14. Harry says:

    Would someone tell me what TMS is? It was clued in the LAT as “what circled R’s represent,”
    but I still didn’t get it.

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