This week’s regular AV Club puzzle is a metacontest; look for the writeup very late Sunday after the contest deadline. The review in this post is of the bonus puzzle.
Michael Hawkins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
What an interesting theme! Three entirely unrelated phrases are tied together as descriptions of what you get when you hit the SNOOZE BUTTON on your alarm clock, 49a. [What a late sleeper may use … resulting in 19-, 31- and 40-Across?].
- 19a. [Incommunicado period], RADIO SILENCE. If your alarm’s set to turn the radio on, quashing the alarm gives you RADIO SILENCE.
- 31a. [Debbie Downer], BUZZKILL. Debbie Downer is the recurring “SNL” character that Rachel Dratch created. If your alarm buzzes, turning it off kills the buzz. Also! Rachel Dratch does the Times crossword. Some puzzle people met her at a party at Sundance when Wordplay premiered there.
- 40a. [Express one’s opinion in no uncertain terms], SOUND OFF. Turn the sound off and go back to sleep. You could use the rest, right?
I was not at all seeing what the theme was till after the puzzle was done and I reread the 49a revealer clue and took another look at the other three themers. It’s always nice to be surprised (in a good way) by a crossword.
The fill is pretty good. It might be time for TRICIA to fade from constructors’ word lists, because the first name of a First Family member from 40+ years ago, with not much in the way of fresher TRICIAs to clue by, isn’t adding much value to a puzzle. On the plus side, there’s GHOSTED, UNICORN, HOT YOGA (I would never), STARGAZING (that was in another recent puzzle, no? still lovely), and WORD LENGTH with the tricky clue 30d. [Six for dinner?].
35d. [Great deal], GOB? I don’t know that the singular works with the “large amount” sense. If you’ve only got one GOB, it’s probably of something sticky or goopy.
4.5 stars from me.
Sam Buchbinder’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In Other Words…” — Jim’s review
The revealing answer today is PARAPHRASES in response to the clue at 61a [Puts in other words, or, if read as three pieces, a hint to the starred answers]. The three pieces are PA, RA, and PHRASES. To state it differently, we’re looking for two-word phrases whose first word starts PA and the second one starts RA.
- 17a [*Authorities in Zion] PARK RANGERS. Really tricksy using Zion National Park. I was thinking Jerusalem for most of the solve.
- 24a [*1950s dorm prank] PANTY RAID
- 29a [*Order given at Google] PAGE RANK. Not an “order” as in a command, but a sorting order. That made this one tricksy as well. Plus, it took me a long time to come around to the phrase “PAGE RANK.” I guess it’s legit, but I kept wanting PAGE RANGE. I had to run the alphabet for the K, because I didn’t remember that the crossing [Laotian currency] is the KIP.
- 43a [*Hoarders] PACK RATS. Solid.
- 48a [*Jumps on the scale?] PAY RAISES. Nice clue. It had me thinking of the Richter scale for some reason.
I didn’t get too excited about the theme, but it certainly did its job and gave me hints in areas that I needed it. For that reason, I was appreciative of it.
The long fill is mostly workmanlike with REAGAN ERA, IN STYLE, and SOAP PAD. But “GUTSY MOVE” adds some nice color.
What stands out the most though are the uncommon proper names. CREON [Antigone’s uncle] and HURST [“Imitation of Life” author Fannie] are side-by-side up top. Together they make that section difficult along with KOAN [Zen riddle] and MAGMA with its tough clue [Plutonic rock source]. I actually resisted MAGMA because I was at a planetarium today where we learned that Pluto has relatively few craters, volcanic or otherwise. But the clue has nothing to do with Pluto. Per Wikipedia, a pluton ” is a body of intrusive igneous rock (called a plutonic rock) that is crystallized from magma slowly cooling below the surface of the Earth.” So that’s two things I learned today.
More tough names: PABLO [Giants infielder Sandoval], IRENA [Grantorto’s victim in “The Faerie Queene”], and KYSER [Kay of big band fame]. Sigh. Lots of crossings were needed. Thankfully, they were mostly fair.
Other clues of note:
- 19a [Mozz sticks or guac, e.g.]. APP. Hrm. No. I’ve never heard this term used in that way.
- 58a [Final scene in many teen rom-coms]. I had KISS at first, but the K got changed to a P when I put in SOAP PAD. I figured that new answer had to be wrong. The correct answer is PROM.
An okayish theme with some uncommon fill. 3.2 stars.
Andrew Linzer’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s Summary
NOAHSARK and TWOBYTWO are the same length, and form a two part revealer for today’s theme. The TWOBYTWO phrasing is very strongly embedded in popular culture, yet the source material is more complicated( See Genesis 7 and Deuteronomy 14). Therefore, two ZEBRAS (uncloven hoof), two FROGS (no fins or scales), but 7/14 DEER… I suppose TWOBYTWO is a rough equivalent of “a male and its mate” though. FROG, ZEBRA, DEER are the randomest of random set of 3 animals you could possibly choose, though any more of that would crowd the theme out. The puzzle is 16 wide to accommodate paired central downs, which is a nice visual element.
I did enjoy several answers scattered throughout the puzzle: BENTO(box) feels fresh to crosswords, and answers like MATZO, ISHTAR (not continuing with a quasi-Babylonian theme), YAYME, BIGDEAL and YKNOW were all good choices. YKNOW was probably the trickiest answer in the puzzle, with that Y in particular a curveball. I had IKNOW for a long time, and with a mystery ?SU university (these are never a strong suit) that section was quite a challenge.
Caleb Madison’s AVCX Themeless — Laura’s Review
It’s Laura, subbing for Ben, who is at NPLCon in Milwaukee this week! The regular AV Club puzzle today is a metacontest from Francis Heaney; I’ll post my writeup of that on Sunday night after the deadline. But we also get a bonus themeless from Caleb Madison — so as not to deprive our readers of an AV Club review this fine day, here is a solution grid and a few thoughts about the entries that are related to music:
- [1a: Word in a 1970 Miles Davis album title]: BREW. As in Bitches Brew, my bitches. Groundbreaking, funky, fusion jazz. I’m listening to it right now.
- [11a: Band that opened for the Sex Pistols in 1976, with “the”]: CLASH, on July 4 in Sheffield. The night after that show, all the guys in the Sex Pistols and the Clash went to see the Ramones, who were on a UK tour. What a night that must’ve been.
- [22a: She was legally challenged by the singer of “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” after trying to trademark their shared first name]: KYLIE JENNER. The singer of “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” would be Australian pop superstar Kylie Minogue, and likely my favorite of the Two Kylies, if you asked me to choose.
- [35a and 36a: One of two blanks in the Aaliyah song “___ Ain’t Nothing ___ a Number”]: BUT and AGE respectively in the grid; AGE and BUT respectively in the song title. Aaliyah died in a plane crash in the Bahamas in 2001, at the age of 22.
- [37a: “Float On” band named for a Virginia Woolf quote]: MODEST MOUSE. The Virginia Woolf story is “The Mark on the Wall,” and the full quotation is as follows: “”I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises.”
That was a smooth as silk NYT. Fill was so fun I didn’t notice the theme until done — and then that turned out to be a nice, fresh theme too
WSJ: 19a, Restaurant servers often refer to appetizers as “apps”.
Also in the WSJ, PageRank is the original ranking algorithm developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin to order the significance of websites in searches.
That AVXC was about the cleanest grid I’ve ever seen. I think “EDYS” was about the only sorta-crosswordese in the entire thing. Well done!
I thought the NE corner was absurd. Baseball name crossing sushi restaurant name crossing novel characters crossing South American food that no one has ever heard of. I liked the rest of the puzzle. That corner was anything but clean. It was a little trivia fest.
I enjoyed the NYT today. The theme reminded me of my college freshman roommate. Our first semester, he managed to get himself scheduled for 8:00 am classes, four mornings a week. His alarm would go off at 7:00, then again at 7:10, then again at 7:20. I was generally wide awake after the first one. Marty made his 8:00 about once a week.
I accidentally rated the NYT 3 stars when I meant to rate 5 — oops. Outstanding puzzle.
In Caleb’s clue of Andean predators for Condor, I think it more than a nit to point out that condors are carrion eating birds, and predators kill their food. Nice puzzle, though.
Ugh WSJ – yesterday I said it was the best in a long time – how quickly they went “first to worst”