Wednesday, December 13, 2017

AV Club 8:20 (Ben) 


LAT 3:12 (Gareth) 


NYT 10:15 (Ade) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Benjamin Kramer’s New York Times crossword—Ade’s write-up

Benjamin Kramer’s New York Times crossword puzzle solution, 12.13.17

Hello again, crossword lovers!

I hope you’re doing well, and I hope you don’t mind me (Ade/AOK) pinch-hitting once more, as Jenni currently is on the road in the Golden State. Honestly, Jenni, you couldn’t take us with you? It’s cold here out East!!! Brrr….

Anyways, today’s puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Benjamin Kramer, includes shaded squares (or circles, if doing the .puz edition) in the first three theme entries and, when filled out, happen to be synonyms. The reveal, MAKE AN ENTRANCE, is supposed to tie those words together (55A: [Arrive with fanfare…or what the circled squares do?]). But, do they?

  • FRENCH ANTILLES (18A: [Island group near Dominica])
  • DRIVE-THROUGH (31A: [Option at many a fast-food restaurant])
  • SIDE LIGHTING (40A: [Producer of horizontal shadows])

I understand that those words (enchant, rivet, delight) are reactions that could be made from someone “arriving with fanfare,” but it’s far from a strong connection between those actions( which do connect well collectively) and the reveal. Honestly, there isn’t a connection. How about being turned off, disinterested and disgusted by someone arriving with fanfare? That would work just as well…and it would also have no real connection with someone making an entrance. If “fanfare” was the word in the clue that was supposed to suggest that those reactions/verbs fit the overall theme, then it’s more of an ill-fit than anything.

Well, I do hope that people are enchanted, riveted and delighted when I make guest appearances on here. I guess the amount of fanfare that gets depends on the number of comments today, as well as the tone of them!!!

**Addendum: As I got on the train home from New Jersey to New York after initially publishing this, I thought again about the grid and its theme and it dawned on me: you’re supposed to think about the verb tense of “entrance” in the reveal to connect the other theme entries together. But then reading the final theme entry, using the verb tense – and different pronunciation – is really odd. So, therefore, my opinion on the theme execution doesn’t really change that much.**

This grid also suggests that the constructor might be a huge sports fan. There’s PACKER (48D: [Winning player in Super Bowl I]), NFL LOGO (10D: [Image on the middle of a Super Bowl field]), AXELS (9D: [Ice skaters’ jumps]) and, my personal favorite of the lot, TOE POKE (60A: [Unconventional soccer kick]). If you’re a soccer junkie, “toe poke” makes complete sense. If you’re not well-versed in soccer nuance and jargon, that might have been a little confusing. There’s also GEENA, who I absolutely loved when she played the baseball catcher, Dottie, on A League of Their Own (50D: [Davis of “Thelma and Louise”]).

Now it’s time for the food portion of the grid. First and foremost, I have never heard TATER TOTs be called spud puppies before (15D: [Food item sometimes called a “spud puppy”]). Is that a “soda” vs. “pop” or “remote control” vs. “clicker” thing? If so, raise your hand if you’ve ever referred to tater tots by that moniker. Show yourself!

I went to a Croatian bar/restaurant a few years ago in the Astoria section of Queens, and I distinctly remember seeing the word SIRENE on the food menu and not knowing what it was then (3D: [Crumbly cheese similar to feta]). That was back in 2012, and I have not come across that word until…now. I’m trying to step up my cheese game, so let me know if you’ve had sirene before and what you think of it and/or what foods might be best to put sirene on. I’m due for another trip to Murray’s Cheese Bar in Manhattan soon. (I usually get “drunken goat” cheese when I go there. It’s sooooo good!)

Probably my favorite fill of the day happened to be the one I ended the puzzle with, WAYLAY (63A: [Attack from a hiding place]). I’m sure people either loved MANDMS or hated it when filling it in (8A: [Mars produces billions of them each week]). I liked it, even though it’s the whole spelled-out “and” replacing the ampersand kerfuffle. Totally was thinking solar system for a good while before the light turned on.

Oh, and if you’ve never seen the stage show STOMP before, do yourself a favor and see it live (46A: [Dance with a percussive effect]). UH-MAY-ZING!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MIÑOSO (47D: [Minnie who played Major League Baseball in five different decades]) – One can definitely make the case that one of the greatest Major League Baseball players to not be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame is former Chicago White Sox third baseman Minnie MIÑOSO, a nine-time All-Star who was one of the first Latin superstars to make a name for himself in the big leagues in the United States. Miñoso, born in Cuba, finished his Major League career, which started in 1949, with 1,023 runs batted in (RBI) and 186 home runs in an era that was mostly dominated by pitching. In 1976, 12 years after he retired for the first time, Miñoso appeared in three games for the White Sox after he was initially signed by the team to be a coach. Then, in 1980, Miñoso, 54 years old at the time, appeared twice as a pinch-hitter for the White Sox. His No. 9 is retired by the Pale Hose. (That’s another nickname for the White Sox…just in case some sports-centric, crossword-constructing aspirant throws that in a grid sometime in the future! *Wink, wink.*)

Thank you so much for your time and attention, everyone! Have a great rest of your Wednesday!

Take care,

Morton J. Mendelson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Company Directors” — Jim’s review

Today we have a bef0re-and-after theme where all theme entries share the same “after”: BOARD (59d, [See 18-, 25-, 40-, 53- and 63-Across]).

WSJ – Wed, 12.13.17 – “Company Directors” by Morton J. Mendelson

  • 18a [With 59-Down, means of riding the waves off of Brighton?CHANNEL SURF(BOARD).
  • 25a [With 59-Down, piece of an ebony dining room set?] DARK SIDE(BOARD).
  • 40a [With 59-Down, computer component for a referee?] WHISTLER’S MOTHER(BOARD). Ha! Favorite entry, right there.
  • 53a [With 59-Down, Scarlett O’Hara’s closet?] DIXIE CUP(BOARD).
  • 63a [With 59-Down, highway sign promoting the Sabres?] BUFFALO BILL(BOARD).

A cute and enjoyable theme with lively entries. It’s fully consistent in that every word changes meaning somewhat from base phrase to theme entry.

That said, I didn’t uncover the theme until my scowl-o-meter was in the red zone. Entries like singular SCAD, RUR, DAM UP, EBRO, IS FOR, and especially AUTOED (50d, [Went by roadster, say]), collectively turned me off. I’m also not appreciative of the entry NUT JOB clued as [Fruitcake]. Not only is the entry insensitively derogatory, it’s not even synonymous with the clue in my mind.

It’s all a shame because the theme is really quite fun. The long fill isn’t so sparkly (TAKE APART and the borderline “I’D LIKE TO“) but there’s some good mid-range fill: SINBAD, DEBBIE (with the surprisingly ambiguous but fun clue [Harry of Blondie]), EXPOSÉ, HACKER, and VODKA crossing KOPEK.

I wanted to like this puzzle, and I did like the theme, but the amount of theme material, and its layout in the grid, caused too many compromises for me.

Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “In the Loop” — Ben’s Review

I managed to trip over my own feet while solving Ben Tausig’s most recent entry for the AVCX – I think based on the title “In the Loop” and the general shape of the grid, I overthought what was going to be going on with theme clues.

I was trying to figure out how all the entries marked by “-” clues would loop together, but then I hit the revealer and all became clear:

  • 61A: Loop, as the sartorial items inside this puzzle’s theme answers do — WRAP AROUND
  • 18A (wraps around to 17A):Popular computer model of the 1990s-2000s — COMPAQ PRESARIO
  • 32A (wraps around to 28A): Alliance fighter, in “Star Wars” — REBEL TROOPER
  • 48A (wraps around to 47A): Home decorating sample — FABRIC SWATCH

At first I was a little underwhelmed by the whole “wraparound” element – it felt very NYT.  Then I re-saw the “sartorial” aspect, and realized that each theme answer had a article of clothing that wraps around embedded within and suddenly got it.  It explained the otherwise stiltedly worded REBEL TROOPER and bumped the whole puzzle up a notch.

(Troll 2, one of the B-MOVIES mentioned in 33A, is definitely so-bad-it’s-good)

Keeping this brief this week – put any clues/fill you didn’t get in the comments and I’ll do my best to explain.

4/5 stars.

Brian Gubin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

I can see this theme going over a number of heads. The revealer, DOWNWARDDOG, is excellent. The dogs though, are rather concealed, and not consistently interpreted. G(LAD)(Y)OUCAME has two fictional dogs; BA(NANA)RAMA one; PAL in (PAL)EODIET is apparently the real lassie, and not like the others in its realness; with F(ASTA)CTING we are back to fictional dogs… Aside, one of the many reasons to see Coco is the goofy xolo dog, Danté…


  • [Palm smartphone], TREO. No. This clue pretends like that phone is present-day. The Treo predated
  • smartphones, being a “PDA”, although the distinction is not clear-cut.
  • [Car seller’s employer: Abbr.], DLR. I eyeballed this for a while. Not anything specific that I can see, so I’m guessing it’s “dealer”. Who abbreviates that???

2.5 Stars

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16 Responses to Wednesday, December 13, 2017

  1. The other definition of entrance explains the theme:

    verb (used with object), entranced, entrancing.
    1. to fill with delight or wonder; enrapture.
    2. to put into a trance: to be hypnotically entranced.

    That said, it’s still clunky, since it clearly functions as a noun in the answer MAKE AN ENTRANCE.

    • Thank you, Adam! What you pointed out actually dawned on me a few minutes after I published the blog and left the building I was when I wrote the blog. I spent the whole subway ride thinking, “That might make the theme execution worse, if anything.” I think I’ll say it out loud a few times to play with people’s minds: Say to someone I’m making an entrance while swinging a pocket watch in front of his/her face.

  2. jim hale says:

    A good write up Ade. Toekick, sirene, AMA (ask me anything) and Mini MIÑOSO were new to me as was the reference to tater tots. All and all an entertaining Wednesday with a few nits. In particular, LSD can come in a tab but doesn’t have to.

  3. Brian says:

    Apparently I’m in the minority but I really enjoyed the NYT despite the grammatical awkwardness of the revealer. Those big corners were fun to piece through. NE was my favorite – and I fall on the side of enjoying seeing MANDMS in the grid.

  4. Lise says:

    I was ENTRANCEd or possibly enchanted to see SIRENE in the puzzle; our town has a delightful Afghan grocery with items from many other countries, and they carry sirene. Sorry, Ade; I don’t know how to tell you to use it. I bought some once, and I think my family put it on crackers or something of that nature. It probably deserves better.

    Congratulations on your debut puzzle, Dr. Kramer; I look forward to more puzzles from you!

    I had a bit of an eraser session in the SW of the WSJ, caused by TIMEr instead of TIMEX (don’t know what I was thinking there), an unfamiliarity with ELLIE Kemper, and not sussing out SPOT AD for a long time. But I liked it fine.

    Also liked the LAT. It made me smile.

    On to the AVCX!

  5. Joe Pancake says:

    Agree with Ade’s write-up on all accounts, except for his classification of Minnie MIÑOSO as a third baseman. Although he played a little third in his younger days, he spent the vast majority of his career in left field.

  6. Noam D. Elkies says:

    3D:SIRÈNE could have been clued as one of these:

    Is “bef0re” just a typo or is there something I’m missing (like many solvers did today with “entrance”)?


  7. Zulema says:

    The last time I came across a quiz about someone who played for five decades in the major leagues, the answer was an organist, a woman, so I thought this clue was about that same person, or another like her, but this clue turned out to be for real, that is, not a trick.

  8. ahimsa says:

    LAT puzzle – I think the dog in PALEO DIET is supposed to be ODIE.

    But maybe that comment about PAL was supposed to be a joke?

    I had forgotten all about NANA (dog from Peter Pan) so thanks for pointing out that one.

  9. Flinty Steve says:

    AVCX: and SCARFACE contains a SCARF

  10. David E. Hansen says:

    With respect to WSJ 56 across, couldn’t agree more. A much better clue would’ve been “Changed a tire?”

  11. JakaB says:

    NYT & WSJ both pushing the envelope of enjoyability into the reign of ugh.

    Maybe it’s me.

  12. Lester says:

    LAT: Having “dogs” in the clue for 22A seems awfully inelegant (and easily avoided) when “dog” is part of the theme/reveal.

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