Wednesday, July 18, 2018

AV Club untimed (Ben) 


LAT 3:35 (Gareth) 


NYT 5:03 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 18 18, no 0718

Hello! What’s this? A rebus puzzle sneaking from Thursday to the Wednesday slot? I approve fully. We’ve got an archaeological DIG SITE in the center of the grid, and 8 rebus squares (not symmetrically placed) each contain 2 letters. Taken together, the rebus letter pairs spell TYRANNOSAURUS REX. (Addendum: There’s also 29d. [What each circled square in this puzzle represents], FOSSIL.)

That’s the only thematic material, a 7 and a bunch of rebuses peppering the grid (… right?), so David’s included plenty of showy fill, much of involving those rebus squares. My faves:

  • 17a. [Music-streaming giant], IHEART RADIO. I do like that. Can sit at your computer and listen to assorted local radio stations from around the country, along with Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” reruns from the 1970s and 1980s. Not all music streaming involves apps/services like Spotify, Pandora, and Tidal.
  • 21a. [Workout-obsessed sorts, colloquially], GYM BUNNIES. *ahem* Don’t look at me.
  • 27a. [Your dream partner], THE ONE. I realized the other day that my dream partner and I first got together thirty whole years ago. Dang!
  • 3d. [Madea’s portrayer in a long-running film series], TYLER PERRY. 
  • 44d. [Grammy-winning dubstep pioneer], SKRILLEX. Dubstep is not for me, but I know the name. I thought he was more EDM (electronic dance music), but what do I know?
  • 9d. [“Whew!”], “HOO-BOY!” and it’s crossing “SHEESH!”

Clues to discuss:

  • 58a. [Part of a long line of Apples], IMAC. I thought this was a cue for “uh-oh, here comes a discontinued model name like eMac,” but no. It’s the iMac I’m writing this on.
  • 18d. [Hairdo that may take a long time to grow], AFRO. Good clue, yeah?
  • 27d. [Gender-neutral pronoun], THEM. I did fill in THEY first, but I was pleased to see the no-nonsense nature of the clue. Spare me any tiresome arguments against the use of the singular they.

4.5 stars from me. FLY AT is really the only think I can ding this puzzle for.

David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Somewhat Clueless” — Jim’s review

A rather literal title since the theme entries don’t have any words in their clues, just a simple “?”. Sometimes, when the constructor doesn’t want to give too much away, you might see a clue with just a hyphen, so I wondered if that was what was going on here.

But that’s not exactly the case. The “?” is perfectly apt because each theme answer is a synonymous phrase meaning “Huh?”

WSJ – Wed, 7.18.18 – “Somewhat Clueless” by David Alfred Bywaters

  • 17a [?] I’M STUMPED
  • 26a [?] YOU GOT ME
  • 40a [?] IT’S JUST A MYSTERY
  • 52a [?] WHO KNOWS
  • 66a [?] NO TELLING

A good set, but IT’S JUST A MYSTERY sounds a little out there. Obviously it was chosen for its grid-spanning feature, but I feel like IT’S A MYSTERY is slightly more in-the-language. I typed “It’s just a” into a Google search box, and the predictive typing came back with, in this order, “…prank bro,” “…flesh wound,” “…matter of time,” “…ride,” and “…step to the left.”

So that one seemed off, but I’m impressed at this set for all its synonymous phrases yet having no duplications, not even little words like “no” or “it.” Nicely done.

The rest of the grid felt average-to-nice with NECTARINE being my favorite entry. I much prefer the crispness of that fruit over the oft-mushy peach. For you math nerds, there’s POLYGONS, and for you fans of BFFs Putin and Trump, there’s DESPOTISM.

A couple more things:

  • I’m wondering if the acronym crossing of BMI and MTA threw anyone. Those aren’t the most common of acronyms, but by Wednesday, most solvers have seen those around plenty of times.
  • 33a‘s clue of [Occupy the throne] is RULE, but had me thinking of something else. It reminded me of my rejected clue for the entry KING LEAR: [Writer Norman, when he’s on the throne?].

That’s all I got. Tidy little puzzle with a cute theme. 3.5 stars from me.

Byron Walden’s AVCX, “Butt Doubles” — Ben’s Review

Happy Wednesday, y’all.  It’s mid-July and I’m clearing out the Vacation Brain cobwebs after driving across MN and WI last week, but this week’s AVCX from Byron Walden and I were not on the same wavelength at all.  I think I see what’s going on in Butt Doubles, but it’s also possible I missed something extra.  Let’s take a look at the grid.:

  • 20A: “Late Night with David Letterman” announcer (who also sometimes appeared on the show) — BILL WENDELL
  • 27A: Super Bowl X MVP who was the 2006 Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania — LYNN SWANN
  • 43A: Lucie’s governess in “A Tale of Two Cities” — MISS PROSS
  • 48A: Former EPA head who probably grabbed laptops and staplers on the way out — SCOTT PRUITT

The “Butt Doubles” of the title seems to be referring to the way the end of each word in the theme clues shares the same double letter – I’m not seeing anything else spelled out there (“Ah, yes, LNST, of course!  That chestnut.”).  Feel free to tell me I am wrong in today’s comments.

I stopped by the House on the Rock while on vacation last week and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a must-see for everyone.

The fill on this one was just this side of frustrating/obscure for me.  I’ve never heard of HODS before (and HEELTAPS as the crossing for that lead letter didn’t help), and OTIOSE was nowhere my mental thesaurus for “futile”.  I also wasn’t crazy about A B OR C or D-SHAPED.  I did like “Jewel box?” as clue for CD CASE, and 9 years (and counting!) in Boston made GO PATS spring to mind immediately.

It might not have been my week, fill-wise, but this was still pretty solidly constructed.

4/5 stars.

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

LA Times

PARALLELPARKS as a revealer gives me flashbacks. Even though I passed my driver’s first time, I will happily park kilometres away at a McDonald’s to avoid the tension of parallel parking. The puzzle theme looks might complicated, but it’s not. Just add PARK to the end of SCIENCE, SOUTH, JURASSIC, THEME and CENTRAL and you get phrases. I think it’s a sign of current events overload that I wanted 13D to be Deep STATE before SOUTH. It bears noting that a STATEPARK is also a thing – “___ Park” has many, many options.

It seems deliberate that they’re all (roughly) in the top half of the grid, but if some were moved to the bottom their parallelness would not have been affected. The design choice led to what was for me a very stifling grid design, with six mini-puzzles and little flow between them.

3 Stars

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32 Responses to Wednesday, July 18, 2018

  1. Clueless says:

    Explain”key” please

  2. PhilR says:

    Does no one involved know the difference between Archaeology and Paleontology? An archaeologist is unlikely to discover T-Rex fossils in their dig, nor would a paleontologist discover pottery shards.

    • Ethan Friedman says:

      ^ this. I mean that’s pretty basic. Sure, they both dig up stuff, but are completely unrelated fields otherwise.

    • MJ says:

      Exactly. Also bad clue-writing on 29D because “each” square does not represent a fossil; rather, the squares taken together represent one. I solved the puzzle but couldn’t make sense of it because if this. Will, I’m disappointed in you!

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        @MJ: I think dinosaur fossils are often found as a bunch of individual bones, and then the paleontologists reassemble them to make a dinosaur skeleton, no?

    • Sarah P says:

      Do you not know that Dinosaurs & Humans trod the Earth together in early days? Why shouldn’t their remains be found together?

  3. Ethan says:

    I don’t know, SROS seems pretty dingworthy. I never thought I would wish for SRTA.

  4. Lise says:

    I dug the NYT! Very enjoyable, satisfying solve.

  5. Lise says:

    WSJ: I confidently plunked in “It’s all Greek to me” for 40A, with no crosses (at the time). I find that I like IT’S JUST A MYSTERY as well or better.

    The theme clues were very apt; the puzzle was way entertaining. So far, an excellent Wednesday.

  6. JohnH says:

    I liked the WSJ puzzle and its theme way better than the ratings here would have me expect. The superfluous JUST didn’t really bother me, and I’m afraid that, with heated arguments over who’s to blame for the state of the subways and whether a new subway director can turn things around, the MTA is much in the news in NYC, so that one was easy for me. Took me longer to hit on BMI. I needed first GAMUT to get me the G in BIG.

  7. Dook says:

    What am I missing in the NYT? DIG SITE is not referred to as relating to the theme in the clue. Fossil is related to the theme, but I don’t see how. I realize the letters spell TREX, but the FOSSIL clue is about their location in the grid (which are represented by circles in the download, but shaded squares on-line). Is the entire grid the “dig site” and the “fossils” just randomly scattered throughout? Or am I missing something here?

  8. David L says:

    Hmm, I dunno, I wasn’t so impressed with this. DIGSITE seems like a redundant phrase – wouldn’t you just say DIG? And INARMSREACH doesn’t belong in my phrasebook at all.

    I agree with MJ above that the revealer is very poorly worded. I was looking for each two-letter combo to represent a fossil, until I put them together.

    I didn’t care for SROS, but that’s mainly because SRO is something I regard as pure crosswordese. It’s not an abbreviation I come across in these here parts. A regionalism, perhaps.

    Also, AcrossLite rendered the double-letter squares in a teeny-tiny font that was very hard to see. Not like it usually works, so perhaps there was some software update.

    • Richard says:

      IN ARMS REACH is common enough to have tens of thousands of hits on Google, including a nonprofit and a few song titles. Definitely not as many as its cousin, “within arm’s reach.”

    • Norm says:

      Yes. A dig is a dig is a dig. One might also talk about the site, but the two together? No.

  9. Greg says:

    Superb Thursday-level puzzle from David Steinberg in the Times. When I got “AU” in 46A, I was convinced the squares would be the symbols for atomic elements. Very cool to see it was entirely different.

  10. Margaret says:

    I’m with Ben, wondering if there’s anything more to the AVCX than the last part of each theme word being a double letter. It’s a perfectly fine puzzle but the theme seems a little bit lackluster compared to usual! That’s the problem with setting the bar so high I guess.

  11. RSP64 says:

    Once again, the difficulty rating for the AVCX does not work for me. I was not able to complete this puzzle after spending more than 30 minutes on it. I seem to have an easier time with the puzzles they rate as 4 or 4.5 in difficulty rating and then I struggle with the 3’s and 3.5’s. It must just be me.

  12. Penguins says:

    ridiculous NYT theme nets it a 2 in a very good grid

  13. Nene says:

    I have a bone to pick on 20 across:
    THE TURF is not used to refer to the sport of horse racing. They may eat it and run on it but they don’t race in it.

    • PhilR says:

      Nene – I’ve never heard of horse racing being referred to as THE TURF, but they absolutely do race on it. For example, at the Breeders Cup, what is essentially the end of year championship event for thoroughbred racing, there are 14 events, of which 7 are run on turf.

      • GLR says:

        The National Turf Writers’ Association members cover the horse racing industry. And the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, NY has a Hall of Fame category called “Pillars of the Turf.”

    • ahimsa says:

      Maybe this is a British expression? I remember hearing in P. G. Wodehouse stories, eg, they talked about the purity of the turf when betting on horses.

  14. Mr. X says:

    That money was taken for today’s phoned-in, Jeopardy!-in-a-box AVC c̶r̶o̶s̶s̶w̶o̶r̶d̶ ̶p̶u̶z̶z̶l̶e̶ dreck is borderline theft IMO

  15. Richard says:

    Fully agreed on the AVCX. HODS and BILLWENDELL and OTIOSE crossing HEELTAPS and NERDRAP made this a DNF for me.

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