Wednesday, January 24, 2018

AV Club 10:00 (Ben) 


LAT 4:09 (Gareth) 


NYT  4:02 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Kathy Wienberg’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

I really enjoyed this puzzle. While it may have seemed more enjoyable because the Tuesday puzzle was so bad, I think it would stand on its own. It’s a nice midweek puzzle with some zippy fill and a wordplay theme that made me smile. Each theme answer is a common word or phrase with AT appended at the end. Wackiness results.

NYT 1/24, solution grid

  • 20a [Big “but”?] is MAMMOTH CAVEAT (Mammoth Cave). I like big caveats and I cannot lie…. if you haven’t been to Mammoth Cave National Park, it’s worth the trip. It’s even more fun if you bring along your own geologist.
  • 27a [Small diamond handed down to an heir?] is an ESTATE CARAT (estate car). “Estate car” is another term for “station wagon.” I think of “estate car” as a Britishism. Wikipedia confirms. Apparently “station wagon” is used in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and African English. Gareth?
  • 44a [Fight between two lovers?] is HONEY COMBAT (honeycomb). Now I have this song in my head.
  • 55a [Futuristic Volkswagen?] is a FORWARD PASSAT (forward pass). This may be my favorite.

Consistent, amusing, solvable. A solid Wednesday theme.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Menaces that name other menaces if you put a “w” at the start] is ASPS, which transforms into WASPS. I wonder if that’s Kathy’s clue or Will’s. It reminds me of the Sunday puzzles he presents on NPR.
  • 2d [It comes a quarter of the way into the day] is SIX AM. I beg to differ. That is the beginning of the day. Prior to SIX AM, it is night, not day.
  • 6d [What an oatmeal bath alleviates] is ITCH. This time they got the medical clue right. Oatmeal baths with tepid water are a wonderful itch remedy. There are commercial products, or you can do what my mother did: put oatmeal in an old sock and run the bath water over it, leaving the sock in the tub. It works like a tea bag and you don’t have to clean oatmeal out of the tub. Cornstarch will also work but you need to use a whole box for each bath.
  • 18a [Subject of a parent’s restriction for a child] is SCREEN TIME. This is a hot topic among my parent friends. True confessions: Emma is currently in her room using a desktop computer as a TV while she does homework on her laptop and Snapchats on her phone.
  • 45d [Bullies] is COWS. I stared at that for a minute wondering how bovines could be bullies. Then the light dawned.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that most elements ending in -ium are METALS. I suppose I would have realized it if I’d ever thought about it, and David (who memorized the periodic table in high school because he’s just that kind of nerd) was surprised that I didn’t know.

Speaking of the periodic table:

Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Impressive!” — Jim’s review

Theme: Two-word phrases in which the first word can be a slangy synonym for “epic!” The second word does not appear to change meaning.

WSJ – Wed, 1.24.18 – “Impressive!” by Samuel A. Donaldson

  • 17a [Amazing mammoth?] KILLER WHALE. This one confuses me. How is a mammoth a whale? If both words are metaphoric, then this is inconsistent with the rest of the entries.
  • 24a [Great enthusiast?] DOPE FIEND. Each of us here, e.g.
  • 36a [Excellent wages?] SICK PAY. Nice. I like this one.
  • 49a [Well-done finales?] TIGHT ENDS. Do people still say “tight”? I feel like we said that in the early ’80s but I haven’t heard it recently.
  • 57a [Awesome speller?] WICKED WITCH. I love this use of the word “wicked.” I feel like it’s a Britishism we adopted. Ah, I think I was right, according to this site. However, the use of “wicked” as an adverb, as in “wicked awesome,” comes from New England, and Boston, specifically.

Fairly standard but fun theme set nonetheless.

Also good: The stacked-eights in the NE and SW corners, especially O SOLE MIO, MADE NICE, GOOD DEED, CLUTCHES, and HOT IRONS. More good stuff: PULL TAB, CRAYOLA, and YAPPING. I wasn’t sure about OF A KIND at first, but it’s growing on me. Favorite clue: [Sugar substitute?] for HON.

There’s kind of a lot of DRECK, though: SAO, ODO, ENC, SSE, ETH, ARI, AMIE, KAN, ERG, ATRA, ELS, etc., but nothing we’ve never seen before.

Maybe it’s all the subliminal messaging in the grid (aside from the themers, there’s GOOD, NICE, and ELEGANCE), but this puzzle gave me a positive vibe. Maybe not epic, but just NOICE. (Use your Cockney accent for that one.)

Nate Cardin and Paolo Pasco’s AVCX, “Nevertheless, He Persisted” — Ben’s Review

This week’s AVCX is a team up from Nate Cardin and Paolo Pasco.  I generally like both of their crosswords when writing solo, and this definitely seems to be a Reese’s-type situation as a collaboration.  Plus, I learned that a thing that felt very word-ish in fact dates back to 2015!  More on that in a sec:

  • 78A: What each of the theme answers in this puzzle suffers from — MANTERRUPTION

You may say that MANTERRUPTION isn’t a word, and I’ma let you finish, but it dates back to at least 2015, when multiple news articles talked about the trend.  I’ll give you that it’s a terrible portmanteau, though.

I dug the unusual grid size on this and the theme entries – these were all fairly clever additions, and PRODIGAL MANSON reminded me of the excellent biography by Jeff Guinn I read a few years ago (side note: if you’re reading a biography of a serial killer UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES can you tell the prospective person you’re dating how much you enjoyed it when they ask you what you’re reading.  Especially if that comment is in context of mentioned that you’re reading the author’s current book on Jim Jones.  Learn from my mistakes!)

Please GAF about manterrupting!

Other fill notes:

  • Going to use 40A’s “Upstate New York engineering sch.” clue for RPI to make another pitch to crossword constructors: RHIT is an engineering school in Terre Haute, IN, on the WABASH river.  It’s a very good engineering school.  It has crossword potential.  Thank you for your consideration.
  • ATLANTA is back in March!  I am very excited because season 1 was very good.
  • “Excited about measles, I guess” is a v. good clue for ANTIVAX
  • 3D: remember when ASHANTI was more of a thing?  Ah, the halcyon days of the early ’00s
  • Going to take a quick moment to note that 79D’s Pizza RAT video might have been faked.

4.5/5 stars.

Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

Just three theme answers today. They are each an ADJECTIVE+NOUN that means very fast: BREAKNECKSPEED and BLISTERINGPACE go together idiomatically. DIZZYINGVELOCITY… doesn’t. It’s completely arbitrary green paint.

ONELOT and ECAR seem similarly contrived.


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20 Responses to Wednesday, January 24, 2018

  1. Ethan says:

    Next month is the 75th anniversary of the arrest, “trial” and execution of the members of the WHITE ROSE. It would have been nice if the clue had paid tribute instead of the generic clue we got.

    But I liked the puzzle. It feels like a throwback, in a good way, to when themes could just be fun and not overcomplicated.

  2. JakaB says:

    NYT joyless, but a teense better than yesterday

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    LOVED the AVCX. Great puzzle!

    • Lise says:

      I liked that Li’l ABNER was right above DAISY but they were clued differently (and I learned another actress).

  4. Penguins says:

    “How is a mammoth a whale?”

    Mammoth as in something immense of its kind

    Really liked the WSJ theme answers

    • Lise says:

      So did I. In the 1990s I had a student who told me that she had taken “wicked good notes”. I immediately swiped “wicked good” for my own use. I know a good thing when I see it :-)

  5. Phil says:

    Liked the AVCX, but someone should tell the young constructors that “presently” means “soon,” not ATM (at the moment).

  6. Mike M says:

    Honestly, I did not get the connection between “Bullies” and COWS until I read this post. Got the entry from the crosses but was scratching my head about the clue until now. Nice wordplay there. And even though I’m a chemical engineer, it hadn’t before dawned on me about the connection between -ium and METALS.

    But seriously, Jenni, on the SIX AM? It makes perfect sense in terms of a 24-hour day. I got that one right away. Still, nice commentary overall.

    • I’m fairly certain Jenni was referring to “day” as in the portion of the 24 hour period in which a person is awake. Sometimes people make humorous comments about certain times they find it too early or too late to be awake and alert. I got her joke right away.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I disagree with Jenni that 6 am is the start of the day. Nothing before 7 am, dammit! (Says the woman with work-from-home privilege.)

    • Rick Narad says:

      If I wake up at 4am tomorrow worrying about stuff (as I did today), the first thing I’m going to think about now is what percentage of the day it is. Thanks for adding to my reasons for insomnia.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Hey, Mike, I love the way you condescend after you’ve missed my joke. That’s a good look for a guy.

  7. Norm says:

    I thought 70A in the ACVX was beyond the pale — and anything but “clever.”

    • Ben Smith says:

      I’m not sure I catch what’s beyond the pale about the clue.

      The PRODIGAL SON is a biblical story about a son returning after an absence

      Charles MANSON is a serial killer of note.

      Were the clue to go into explicit detail of Manson’s murder of Sharon Tate and the four other people in the home at the time, I’d agree the clue went beyond the pale (and wasted valuable page space for just one clue!). As it is, the clue notes that Charles Manson was a serial killer whose name can be inserted into PRODIGAL SON by adding MAN.

  8. Gareth says:

    Station wagon is what we use here too. Our main outlier in car terminology is bakkie for what Americans call a pick-up and Australians a ute (rooting in the ute).

  9. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Am I a bad person for thinking the answer to the clue [Menaces that name other menaces if you put a “w” at the start] was OMEN? (Yes, I missed the plural in the clue.)

  10. JakaB says:

    REAL Science here …

    Re: WSJ (I know there are comments already)
    2d [It comes a quarter of the way into the day] is SIX AM. I beg to differ. That is the beginning of the day. Prior to SIX AM, it is night, not day.

    Astronomical “Day” ~23:56:4.1 – ’tis why we need Leap Year and the occasional Leap “Day”.

    I apologise just this once for being a total M&S Nerd.


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