Wednesday, March 28, 2018

AV Club 9:37 (Ben) 


LAT 3:34 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:31 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

I’m not blogging the FB tomorrow because I’ll be on vacation, so fate provided me with a Peter Gordon puzzle today. It’s on the easy side for a Wednesday, hence my sub-four-minute time. I am not a big fan of stunt puzzles, and this is definitely a stunt puzzle. The theme answers are the longest Across entries in the grid.

NYT 3/28, solution grid

  • 17a [Part of Iran that can get quite hot] is the GREAT SALT DESERT.
  • 27a [Suddenly showed interest] is SAT BOLT UPRIGHT.
  • 43a [Didn’t speak of, as a touchy subject] is KEPT QUIET ABOUT, which to me alludes to keeping a secret more than avoiding a touchy subject.
  • 54a [“Finally, though as important …”] is LAST BUT NOT LEAST.

See the connection? I didn’t. Peter anticipated that and provided us with a revealer:

  • 59d [End of each word in 17-, 27-, 43- and 54-Across – as well as every clue (and that’s a fact!)]. Now you know what it is – it’s TEE.

So, OK. There are three recognizable phrases and one place name with all the words ending in T, and it’s possible to manipulate the clues so they all end in T as well. Now we know it can be done, and nobody ever needs to do it again.

A few other things:

  • 1d [“Notorious ___” (best seller about a member of the Supreme Court)] is RBG. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has entered the cultural consciousness. This makes me happy.
  • NED Jarrett, SLOAN Wilson, LIL MO and Licia ALBANESE did not make me happy. Never heard of any of them. I have heard of Meir KAHANE and Rich AURILIA; I’m a Jewish woman married to a Giants fan. I suspect others found those as obscure as I found the first three. Kahane, by the way, was not your average one-term Knesset member. He was an ultra-nationalist, fundamentalist, misogynist zealot who wanted to strip all non-Jews of Israeli citizenship and force them out of the country, as well as criminalize sexual relationships between Jews and non-Jews. He was assassinated in New York City in 1990. And yes, I know he also founded the JDL. That doesn’t redeem him in my eyes.
  • More familiar names: KERMITELTON John, Aziz ANSARIIAN McKellen, Rafael NADAL, the LOEB who was convicted along with Leopold. At least they were more familiar to me. That’s a lot of names, and I may have missed some.
  • 18d [Matador’s opponent] is TORO. Opponent? Really? More like victim.
  • I’m too tired for a fifth thing.

What I didn’t now before I did this puzzle: see above for the list of names that were new to me.

Alex Eaton Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Meet the Dogs” — Jim’s review

Who put the dogs in? Alex Eaton-Salners did with this play on the term CROSS BREEDS (53d, [With 57-Across, what you must do four times to solve this puzzle]). Various dog breeds are crossing in the grid, but they aren’t clued as dogs.

WSJ – Wed, 3.28.18 – “Meet the Dogs” by Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 19a [Volleyball positionSETTER crossing 5d [Ring master] BOXER
  • 18a [Like a famed film falconMALTESE crossing 13d [Gravelly] HUSKY
  • 38a [City of northern Honshu] AKITA crossing 20d [Gofer, often] RETRIEVER
  • 60a [Rapper whose #1 hit “Timber” featured Ke$ha] PIT BULL crossing 49d [Swimmer who won seven gold medals in Munich] SPITZ

A good mix of dogs and a solid layout. I like the central crossing, and it’s actually pretty amazing that the other four pairs are symmetrical, even down to the crossing square. Sure, Alex had a lot of BREEDS to work with, but still, that’s impressive grid design.

Now since it’s not obvious which answers are theme answers during solving, and since I didn’t come across the revealer until the very end (my last letter was the R in CROSS), the solve proceeded very much like a themeless.

Even with the title I wasn’t looking for BREEDS. I didn’t recognize MALTESE and SPITZ as BREEDS. And earlier today, no lie, I had thought to myself that if I ever have SETTER in a grid, I would clue it as [Crossword puzzle constructor, to a Brit]. Needless to say, I was clueless to the theme when I got to the revealer. But upon completion, I enjoyed going back to see which ones were actually theme answers.

I told our dog Penny about this puzzle. While she found it interesting, she expressed disappointment that BASSET and BEAGLE didn’t make it into the grid.

All that theme material crossing each other adds quite a bit of constraint to the grid, but Alex still manages to get a few goodies in there, most notably CHEESE DIP. The stacks of 6s and 7s in the corners must have been difficult to fill but there are some nice things there as well: TOEHOLD, ABOUT US, FOOD DYE, R.L. STINE, “IT’S OPEN,” and EAST BAY clued as [Oakland location]. Do people not from California know that Oakland is in the EAST BAY? I grew up in the South Bay, so this wasn’t a challenge for me, but I imagine that wasn’t the case for many solvers.

And what do you make of ZLOTYS (65a, [Krakow coins])? I like it, but maybe that crossing with SPITZ was difficult for some. If you didn’t know Mark SPITZ the swimmer or weren’t aware of the dog breed, running through the alphabet in that square might have taken some time.

In the only-in-crosswords department, we find RIAL, AWHIRL, ASPIC, ETAS, A-ONE, ABAA, and ADES. In the only-in-crosswords-every-few-years department, we find ORALES (46d, [Papal vestments worn over albs]). As a constructor, I would’ve considered a cheater square at the S and gone with “¡ÓRALE!”, the Mexican-Spanish interjection meaning “Right on!” *checks cruciverb database* Interesting, ORALE has appeared numerous times over the years in various venues, but has only been clued as the vestment, not as the interjection. Meh. That needs to change.

I appreciated some of the fresh cluing, especially on EEL [It propels itself with body waves] and SIRI [Her favorite color is sort of greenish, but with more dimensions]. Ha!

Not a lot of wordplay in this theme, but it’s well-constructed and fun for the doggie lovers. ¡Órale, perritos!

Francis Heaney’s AVCX, “Dude, Where’s Your Karma?” — Ben’s Review

This week’s AVCX is a doozy, y’all.  It’s a 4.5/5 difficulty by Francis Heaney, though I might kick it up to the full 5/5 since it took me a solid 5 minutes of staring at the grid after completing the puzzle to figure out what the heck was going on with the theme.  I’ll try to break it down as best I can, though I think the shaded-in screenshot I made does a lot of the heavy lifting.

First of all, there are some standard “theme” clues (or clues in what I tend to think of as the “theme” spots of the grid, anyways) ending in question marks:

  • 18A: Appliances that remove moisture but add lemon flavor? — TANGY DEHYDRATORS
  • 24A: “Check it out, dude — actual female sheep!” — BRO, LIVE EWES
  • 55A: Selfies taken when relaxing alone? — ME TIME SHOTS
  • 63A: Try to explain why you’re selling Viagra from Stockholm via online chat? — SPIN SWEDE PILL IMS

These are all really weird clues AND answers (with the possible exception of ME TIME SHOTS), so something’s clearly going on with these.  In addition, there are a bunch of clues with similar structures where the answers don’t fully make sense:

  • 9A: What a cad may come back as — WEEVIL
  • 29D: What an ass may come back as — MITE
  • 34D: What a jerk may come back as — GNAT
  • 38D: What a heel may come back as — MILLIPEDE

The combination of these two didn’t make sense for me until I realized that GNAT can be found running backwards in TANGY DEHYDRATORS.  Swapping in JERK (from the clue) for TANG (the GNAT it “came back” as), you get JERKY DEHYDRATOR, which is definitely a thing.  This works for the three other pairs as well:

  • ME TIME SHOTS – ETIM + ASS = MASSE SHOTS (it’s a billiards thing, apparently)

SPINS WHEELS is a little iffy for me compared to the rest, but this is still a fairly cleanly executed concept for a puzzle.

4.25/5 stars.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

Interesting theme, with a more complicated than usual set of disguised words. Three RELIGIOUSLEADERS lead unrelated phrases. They are from three world religions – a Christian VICAR, a Buddhist LAMA, and a Jewish RABBI. The Muslim IMAM in the clue was probably the most promising option left unexplored – IMAMAZED is about the best entry for him I could see. Not sure if there is an appropriate
specific word for any Hindu priest that could have worked. With a fifteen-letter revealer though, you’re better off sticking to just three answers in most cases.


  • [Place to get delivery instructions?], LAMAZECLASS – cute clue. [Hare care site], RABBITHUTCH – too cute clue.
  • [The Sultan of Swat and The Splendid Splinter], NICKNAMES. I’m not sure who the latter is, though I’m guessing he’s not the TMNT’s murine chum.
  • [Guthrie who sang about Alice], ARLO. And motor-sickles! And Coming into Los Angeles with a couple of keys! Amongst others…

3.5 Stars

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17 Responses to Wednesday, March 28, 2018

  1. David Eisner says:

    You’re correct that Meir Kahane was a repellent human being, but he did not found the ADL. Perhaps you’re thinking of the JDL (a far-right extremist group), which he did found.

    Fun fact: “MEIR KAHANE” contains no T’s. Nor do any other of the non-theme answers. (To be fair, I missed this, too.)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s just so arbitrary. “Let’s have a theme where unexciting phrases are made up of words that end in T, and then not put T’s in any of the other Across answers, and then we’ll end every clue with T. Why? Just because.”

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Ugh. Thanks. Will fix.

  2. PJC says:

    Love Peter Gordon’s puzzles, but this one … yikes. Between ASON/NEGEV, KAHANE/FARO, and ADELEH/LILMO, that’s three strikes and out as far as I was concerned. The grid just collapsed under the weight of those crossings for me.

    • Dr. Fancypants says:

      Came here to say the same thing. I’m a big fan of Peter… but I was not a fan of this puzzle.

  3. Scott says:

    I actually thought the NYT was pretty cool. Sorry Jenni.

  4. Ethan Friedman says:

    oh man, ADELEH / LILMO killed the puzzle for me.

    This gimmick’s been done before (although IIRC it was all the clues starting with the same letter). It’s fine, IF the fill is up to par, since it’s essentially a themeless (coming up with 4 long answers ending in T is not a highly constrained theme).

    In this case, sadly it wasn’t.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s four long phrases in which each word ends with a T, though really, who cares? It’s less interesting than “hey, look, three successive double letters” or something.

      I work in pop culture for a living and had not heard of LILMO.

  5. Lise says:

    WSJ: Dogs! Any puzzle with dogs is paws-down A-ONE. ZLOTYS was gettable from the CROSSes (ha!) and the fill was lovely. I was happy to learn another EEL factoid. IT’S OPEN, R.L.STINE, SENT FORTH – yeah. I liked the clue for THE TOP, too. I don’t know this from personal experience, though ;-) (“Lonely place, they say”)

    Didn’t know the papal vestments ORALES, got that one from the crosses. I like the list of Mexican meanings. Bring it on.

  6. Will says:

    Thanks for that AVCX theme explanation. I wasn’t seeing it. The only thing I noticed was that all the “come back as” answers were Arthropods, which helped to get MILLIPEDE down the middle.

  7. Norm says:

    ACVX question: why is 31A WEBINAR a “Reprehensible modern portmanteau”?

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    I wasn’t a fan of the AVCX when I first solved it, but it’s growing on me. I predict it will gain a cult following and its release on DVD will prove highly successful.

  9. Alan Matson says:

    The AVCX is a gem. Would agree with Matt…panned (relatively) by the critics and sure to be a streaming hit.

Comments are closed.