Wednesday, January 31, 2018

AV Club 9:42 (Ben) 


LAT 4:41 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:47 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Josh Radnor and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Another really nice Wednesday puzzle! Josh Radnor is an actor/writer/director who played Ted Mosby on How I Met Your Mother and he’s paired with Jeff Chen as part of the series of “celebrity crosswords” that the Times started last year. The feature was so popular that it’s extended beyond the 75th anniversary celebration. Josh and Jeff give us phrases with an extra syllable added to the beginning.

NYT 1/31, solution grid

  • 18a [Some wonderful times in Nebraska?] are OMAHA MOMENTS. That’s aha moments with OM in front.
  • 24a [Good name for politico Martin’s jazz band?] is O’MALLEY CATS (alley cats). Martin O’Malley has been the mayor of Baltimore and the Governor of Maryland.
  • 32a [Portentous fashion magazine?] is OMEN VOGUE (en vogue). This one made me giggle once I realized it said “portentous” and not “pretentious.”
  • 44a [Makes an unabridged humor book?] is OMITS NO JOKE (it’s no joke).

And the revealer: 50a [Calculated … or a punny hint to 18-, 24-, 32- and 44-Across] is PREMEDITATED. Because you say OM when you meditate and it’s a PREfix. This made the theme much more fun. A good puzzle to ease into the middle of the week.

A few other things:

  • 13a [Emulates the teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”] is DRONES ON. As proof that it is possible to overthink everything, I offer you this Atlantic piece from 2012: Happy Ferris Bueller Day Off Day, Ferris! That is, of course, if you even exist.
  • 17a [Hit it!] is what you say to children who are swinging at a PINATA.
  • 20d [Juice brand with a distinctive bottle] is POM. If that left you scratching your head, take a look at this: 
  • 30a [Small version of a popular cookie] is the MINI OREO, which is precisely double the length of OREO, which means the name gets bigger as the cookie gets smaller…
  • 38d [It has no point] would be an INTEGER. No decimal point, that is.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that AVIS acquired Zipcar in 2013.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Cover Letters” — Jim’s review

Theme: Phrases that start with a separate stand-alone letter have that letter replaced with its sound-alike word.

WSJ – Wed, 1.31.18 – “Cover Letters” by Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 17a [Afternoon snack choice?] TEA SQUARE. T-square. I’m not getting how a “square” is a “snack choice.” Or is “tea” referring to “afternoon snack” and “square” to “choice”? I don’t know; it’s just confusing. Having lived in England, I’m accustomed to hearing “tea” used to refer to the evening meal (i.e. dinner).
  • 26a [Check for texts, perhaps?EYE PHONE. iPhone. Reminds me of the time my wife was speaking to my then-4th-grader. “Oh, I know your friend’s mom. She’s an eye doctor.” “What’s an iDoctor?”
  • 36a [Ferry for flock members?EWE BOAT. U-Boat.
  • 39a [“Cradle it between your thumb and index finger,” and the like?CUE TIPS. Q-Tips. An outlier since CUE TIPS is an actual phrase.
  • 53a [Stinger?] BEE SHARP. B sharp. I like this one since needles are often referred to as “sharps.”
  • 62a [Hardtack, perhaps?] SEA RATION. C-ration.

The theme seems to work well enough, but I can’t believe this is the first time it’s been done. *checks cruciverb database* Yup, I found at least three instances of it dating back to 2001. The most recent one was in the LAT in 2011 and shares the entries TEA SQUARE and EWE BOAT. We’ve seen original, creative stuff from Alex, but just not today.

If you find yourself building a puzzle that’s been done before, try adding some different element. For example, maybe giving the theme entries a further constraint. A technological bent might work for this grid. EYE PHONE would be a solid entry, but add to that TEA MOBILE [Cell phone for ordering Twinings?] and EWE VERSE [Ode to Dolly, perhaps?], and you might have the start of something interesting.

Moving on to the fill: SEAT MATE, ESCAPADE, OUTHOUSE, and IN DENIAL are all strong. As an English major, I should know ZEUGMA (5d [Figure of speech exemplified by “You held your breath and the door for me”]), but I confess I don’t. Very happy to learn it, though. Also good: IN A FOG and “AW RATS!”

In the “questionable” column: 28a IFA could be replaced by ANA (making A FEW into ANEW). SIZE would become SAME and ZETA, META. And I say “Eww!” to EEW [“Disgusting”]. The two-W version sounds closer to the real thing to my ear; the other sounds like the abbreviation for the European Union.

A few other things:

  • 14a [Onetime “Open up…and take a lick!” advertiser]. OREO. I’m glad they changed their ad campaign.
  • 70a [Treat for flickers]. SUET. New to me. I had never heard of the flicker, which is a member of the woodpecker family.
  • 30d [He shared a screenwriting Oscar with Ben]. MATT. That would be Damon and Affleck for Good Will Hunting.
  • 60a [Bye at the French Open?] and 67a [Bye at Wimbledon?]. ADIEU and TATA. Cute. Never heard a British person say “TATA” IRL though.
  • Best clue: 41d [Match player?]. Nothing to do with tennis. One who plays with matches might be a PYRO.

Overall, not an original theme, but it works well enough, especially for newer solvers. Its strength is in the long fill.

Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #23” — Ben’s Review

KAC is back at the AVC this week, with another of his aesthetically-pleasing themelesses.  Just look at that grid!  It made me happy, and that was before I even filled stuff in.  On the fill front, I think I’ve liked other grids of his more, but this still had a good blend of high/low fill:

  • The stairstepping VITO CORLEONE, AKIRA KUROSAWA, and PRIDE PARADES with crossing fill like TAKE A VOW, ERIC BANA, ARBOR DAY, and KISSES UP was *Italian chef kiss*
  • The upper left and lower right had some nice stacks as well, with HOT DAMN, IN VOGUE, IPAD AIR, and SEXTING all slotting in nicely with some appearances from Tim Conway’s DORF and David Hyde Pierce’s NILES Crane
  • It may not OCCUR TO you that when consuming sizzurp (which for those not in the know, is when you use cough syrup for recreational purposes), you are DRANKIN it.  Now you know.

4/5 stars.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

TRAILMIX is a typical cryptic anagram fodder clue part. However, TRAIL only anagrams to TRIAL, so Dr. Sessa resorts to spanning them across two parts of four answers, shown in red.

There were a couple of tricky areas for me. Firstly, where PATRILEY intersects ?IPIT (ZIP? TIP?) and JI?A (since I i had jOB for [Heist] not ROB. Since when is heist a verb? Secondly, I wasn’t familiar with [PED’s…], which I can infer are performance-enhancing drugs, and being iNTO you, and not ONTO you (the two states aren’t mutually exclusive), ROIDS was quite obfuscated.

[Statement softener, in emails], IMO. So “You’re a dick,” would be softened if it were changed to “You’re a dick, IMO.”

[Munro pen name], SAKI. I got lost on Wikipedia a few days ago, and discovered that the author died on the Western Front, and, like many, his grave is not known. His stories were compulsory reading for me in high school. Is that the case in the U.S. too?

[“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” locale], INDIA. I have only watched “Second Best”, and didn’t know it was a sequel at the time, which made it fairly confusing…

3 Stars

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17 Responses to Wednesday, January 31, 2018

  1. Evad says:

    Shows you my age group when I plopped HI-C into that POM space. I guess I was thinking of the Kool-Aid man!

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Very cute and fun.
    Some unknown names or (to me) tricky ones– e.g. SNOOP LION in lieu of SNOOP Dogg.
    The clue for SNIVEL gave me pause. I guess it’s technically accurate (if there’s any technique to sniveling)

    • Lise says:

      As for technique, I believe that a proper SNIVEL involves some amount of sniffling. Also, one must be downcast or at least utilize sad puppy eyes. Tissues might be a necessity, as is some amount of emotional immaturity.

      When SNOOP Dogg didn’t work, I wanted SNOOP Pupp. Nothing wrong with LION, but still.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I would argue that SNOOP LION is a terrible entry, a little piece of insignificant trivia. That one album released under the Snoop Lion had four singles, not a one of which charted on the Hot 100. Whereas the Snoop Dogg legend is timeless. (Have you seen any clips of the cooking/entertaining show he cohosts with Martha Stewart?)

        • David L says:

          I had vaguely heard of Snoop Lion but I was perplexed by the reggae reference in the clue. I got SNOOP but then wondered if there was some other Jamaican Snoop I hadn’t heard about. Crosses cleared it up but it was a sticking point.

        • Burak says:

          I would argue that it is not that insignificant. He converted to Rastafarianism, and that’s the reason he picked his new stage name. It was a big ordeal a few years ago. He hasn’t used it since I guess, which takes away from its significance, but still.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            I wonder if he practices any Rastafarianism these days. He was Nation of Islam in 2009, Rasta in 2012 …

        • Jenni Levy says:

          I really don’t want to use my own level of familiarity with pop culture names as a yardstick to avoid normalizing middle-aged-Jewish-lady culture. That said, I have actually heard of Snoop Lion, and I’m not a big fan of the genre or the artist, so I figured it was fair game.

  3. Matthew G. says:

    NYT: Great puzzle, great theme. As I mentioned over at the Rex Parker blog, Josh Radnor’s character of Ted Mosby on How I Met Your Mother was himself a big crossword fan. He met Will Shortz in one episode and referred to Saturday as his “crossword day,” among other things.

    AVX: I’m surprised at the modest ratings for this one. Kameron’s themelesses are, to me, the best thing AVX has going for it and this one was superb. I guess I’m just inordinately fond of hard themelesses in which much of the difficulty comes from the cluing, and that’s Kameron’s thing. Five+ stars from me.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Whereas my complaint about Kameron’s puzzle today is that the cluing wasn’t hard enough. It felt like something on the easier end of the Friday NYT spectrum. But yes, I pounce on his themeless AVX puzzles pretty damn fast! Always look forward to a KAC themeless.

      • Ben Smith says:

        Thirding the general KAC love – I love any time I see his byline. The cluing on this one felt just shy of his usual difficulty.

        • Penguins says:

          too much obscure trivia in KAC puzzles for my tastes, made worse by it being intersected by entries with overly vague clues, a trying too hard – at least I felt that way with the handful of indie puzzles I did of his

          • GG says:

            Amen on the overly vague. 1A “Well, I’ll be…” could be just about anything. 9D “flip noncommittally” – SURF????? Even Urban Dictionary didn’t have any suggestions for that one.

          • Matthew G. says:

            See, I love vague clues. I respectfully disagree with Amy’s view that this was easy — it took me longer than most NYT themeless puzzles and yet I adored it.

  4. Tgaro says:

    LA Times Wednesday — hiyo is wrong wrong wrong. It’s hi ho silver. There is no other argument.

  5. Jordan says:

    The James Blake track is his best in a minute. Is that some clever reference to the puzzle that I missed or just a PSA?

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