Wednesday, August 1, 2018

AV Club 7:14 (Ben) 


LAT 3:32 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:52 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Sande Milton & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 1 18, no 0801

I like the theme but not the revealer, EYELESS, 36a. [Unable to see … or, when taken as a homophone, what today’s puzzle answers and clues all are]. EYELESS is such a weird word. The four long themers are cockeyed phrases that have had an “I” omitted:

  • 16a. [Campus area for amorous students?], RANDY QUAD. Does everyone remember/know former actor Randy Quaid’s name?
  • 26a. [Flutterer around Orange County and L.A.?], SO-CAL BUTTERFLY. Social butterfly.
  • 44a. [Put-down to someone from Manhattan or the Bronx?], NEW YORK SLANDER. The Islanders are a hockey team.
  • 60a. [Marathons, way back when?], GREEK RUNS. Nice! Greek ruins.

And the entire grid has no I’s and the same goes for the clues, which is the stunty sort of thing I don’t tend to enjoy. The fill is mostly okay, with KUNG FU, ODD DUCK, ELOQUENT, and BYE WEEKS livening things up. But ON NOW and UGA are ick. And while everyone uses the singular EAVE, it’s kind of bogus.

Three more things:

  • 43d. [Co-star of H’wood’s “The Brothers McMullen”], ED BURNS. Eww. “H’wood” is your cue to curtail Edward Burns’s first name. His career may have peaked with his first movie, in 1995. “Co-star” is an insulting minimization, but when your clues can’t include the letter I, you’re fresh out of luck in mentioning that he was also the screenwrIter and dIrector.
  • 38d. [Japanese salad green], SEAWEED. In salads, really? I did not know.
  • 43a. [Layers of dark green eggs], EMUS. It’s time to enjoy some emus.

3.75 stars from me.

David Alfred Bywater’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Manimals” — Jim’s review

Seems like I almost always like a DAB puzzle. This one’s no exception. At first this may seem like just an add-a-letter theme, but it’s a little tighter than that. He adds an M to certain words to turn them into animals. I initially thought the M would always fall at the beginning of the word (as in the first two theme entries and in the perfectly-apt title “Manimals”), but that probably would have been impossible.

WSJ – Wed, 8.1.18 – “Manimals” by David Alfred Bywaters

  • 18a [Rodent gang?] MICE PACK. Ice. I imagine them with leather jackets and cigarettes.
  • 24a [Vengeful spirit feared by furriers?] INVISIBLE MINK. Ink. Now that’s an imaginative clue. There’s nothing in the entry that requires it to be ghost-like or “vengeful,” but why not? Good use of poetic license.
  • 38a [Ape who’s mastered the art of the deal?] BARGAINING CHIMP. Chip. Ooh, is this a political statement? If so, I approve. Although I don’t think it’s accurate to call Trump someone who’s “mastered” the art.
  • 49a [Fish trying to lose that embarrassing reddish tinge?] TANNING SALMON. Salon. Nice find and again, an imaginative clue. Why is the salmon embarrassed? Readers want to know!
  • 60a [“Softest clothing wooly bright,” to William Blake?] LAMB COAT. Lab. Now this clue eludes me. Let’s see what I can find about it. Ah, it’s from Blake’s poem “The Lamb” from his collection Songs of Innocence and Experience. This “Song of Innocence” contrasts with his more famous poem, “The Tyger.” Clever clue, but personally, I would’ve gone along the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” line.

The only thing I could maybe ding the theme on is having the first two with the M at the beginning. That led to a little confusion on my part. Maybe switch the first and last one or the 2nd and 4th ones. But otherwise, cute, clean, and fun.

Fill-wise, BLACKMAIL is fun, especially with its deceptive clue [Lean on, in a way]. If you’re like me, you thought it meant a synonym for “rely on.” NAVIGATE is pretty good, but EDITED IN and DRAFTSMEN serve in a more utilitarian role.

New to me is LASSI (symmetrical partner of LHASA in the grid) clued as [Yogurt drink]. Per Wikipedia, “Lassi is a blend of yogurt, water, spices and sometimes fruit. Traditional lassi (a.k.a., “salted lassi”, or simply “lassi”) is a savoury drink, sometimes flavoured with ground and roasted cumin. Sweet lassi, however, contains sugar or fruits, instead of spices. Salted mint lassi is highly favoured in Bangladesh.” Certainly sounds like it’s worth a try!

There’s definitely some crosswordese here (ADEN, ANAT, ORA, DITMGS, LCDTV) but none of it seemed to get in the way.

My overall impression during the solve was that the clues felt fresh and interesting. In addition to the theme clues, here are some others I NOTED:

  • 1a [Brush alternative]. Not a hairbrush or toothbrush, but a paint brush. Hence, the answer is ROLLER.
  • 45a [Govt. agency concerned with dangerous things]. ATF. A nice twist on the usual type of clue. Each of the letters in the acronym could be dangerous.
  • 65a [Toy for spring] KITE, atop 68a [Toy for winter] SLED. Fun combo.
  • 66a [Evian, for one]. RESORT. Good misdirection. Did not know this one.
  • 2d [Hunter who threatened to kill every animal in the world]. ORION. Not a pleasant thought, but an interesting factoid. Plus, it’s theme-adjacent.
  • 25d [Counter offer]. SODA. Clever. Of course you noticed the space between the words.
  • 46d [Plane fare?] SNACKS. Like the above clue, good re-use of a standard phrase. Sadly, this clue is all too true, unless you’re flying on an international flight where you get a more proper meal.
  • 61d [Well-produced stuff]. OIL. Yup, another good one.

And that about wraps it up. I give it an even 4 stars.

I seem to recall that there was a show called Manimal sometime in the past. Ah, yup it was in the 80s. It was on NBC and lasted from September 1983 all the way until December 1983. The premise was that this young, wealthy, handsome doctor had the ability to shapeshift into any animal and would use this ability to help police solve crimes. Funniest Wikipedia note: “Another aspect of the transformations that added to the show’s camp factor involved Dr. Chase’s clothing during a transformation: He was depicted generally wearing a three-piece suit and tie, and the viewer would see it rip off him as he shape-shifted into an animal, though once the transformation was complete there would be no sign of his discarded clothing. A bit later, he would transform back into human form with all of his clothing perfectly restored upon his person, even if he was unconscious.” Enjoy this panther transformation, though the other animals’ reactions are what do it for me. I can’t imagine why they canceled it!

Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “We’ve Already Gone Over This” — Ben’s Review

This week’s AVCX is from Editor Ben Tausig.  It’s a fun one and was a nice breeze solve for me.  I’d say the difficulty rating provided of 3/5 is spot on.

Let’s take a look at what’s going on.  The title here helped me parse what was going on, as those things often do:

  • 20/22A:”Nothing new under the sun …”/ [I already clued this] — SAME OLD/AME OLD 
  • 35A/38A: “Nothing new under the sun …” / [I remember doing a theme of this sort back in ’89; Eugene Maleska hated it]]– NOT MY FIR/T RODEO
  • 44A/46A:”Nothing new under the sun …” / [We used to design our grids by slicing up boiled onions, ’til the war left ’em scarce] — I’VE SEE/IT ALL MAN.
  • 56A/59A:What a seasoned person has been, and how this puzzle’s theme answers each literally go/[I’m gonna take a nap; you want a shot at cluing this one, kid?] — AROUND/HE BLOCK

The clues are doing a lot of the lifting here (and I loved all of the grizzled comments re: constructing seeded throughout), but the “Gone Over” part of the title is what’s the point here – each “nothing new” clue goes over up into one square of the row above it before completing.  I’ve highlighted those in red in the screenshot – SAME OLD SAME OLD, NOT MY FIRST RODEO, I’VE SEEN IT ALL MAN, and AROUND THE BLOCK.

LSD, the music project from Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo.

Other fill thoughts:

  • Fill that didn’t thrill (me): CO-MVP? LAFF? Both of those SMELT fishy, even if the clues for those grokked perfectly well.
  • Things I liked: Music Trivia/Trivia-Adjacent things, like asking if we perhaps overreacted to MILLI Vanilli’s whole lip-syncing deal (we probably did!  By “we”, I mean to collective we, because I was 1 at the time and barely knew what music was, much less Milli Vanilli or lip-syncing), pointing out that despite a few co-writing credits ELVIS didn’t write his own material, and also noting that the one member of ZZ TOP who didn’t have a super-long beard was named Frank Beard.

4/5 stars.

Victor Barocas’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I have mixed feelings about this theme and its execution. ITCOUPLE is a lively revealer, and the concept is sound – two IT’s in the four theme answers. Of course IT is a fairly common bigram, so that mutes things a tad. I also wish VITALITY was replaced with a fourth two part entry. Such a short entry doesn’t have too many options though: a search query turned up RITZBITS, which isn’t too great either.

The other four fifths of the theme answers were fun. Two animal-related entries in KITTYLITTER and WHITERABBIT; and especially the grid-spanning SPLITINFINITIVE, even though the actual concept that this is somehow incorrect is absurdist Latinate nonsense.

The grid is quite crowded themewise, so containment rather than flashiness rules outside the theme. Mostly, things are under control though. I’m not sure who says SPENDY, but it isn’t me. Dictionaries tag it as “US informal”. The NY Times Spelling Bee doesn’t seem to like [Desert riverbed], WADI but I’m not sure what’s up with that.

Confession. I love Songs in A Minor so much more than anything else ALICIA [Keys of music] did after that… I feel like I shouldn’t.

3.5 Stars

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12 Responses to Wednesday, August 1, 2018

  1. Jim Hale says:

    I enjoyed the puzzle. Particularly liked the social butterfly entry since I just finished planting a large butterfly garden today. Also, I have fond memories of putting suet out for birds. Less fond of “Ed Burns/Nena” cross.

  2. Jenni Levy says:

    Completely agree about the theme and revealer. I didn’t notice the lack of I’s and wouldn’t have enjoyed the puzzle any more if I had.

  3. Zulema says:

    I see a problem with the NEW YORK SLANDER clue. If it refers to the team, it’s one thing, but
    it could refer to New Yorkers in general, especially if it’s a “put-down,” in which case any other borough would have worked, but not the Bronx, because it’s not a part of NY island, it’s on the continent. That is how I parsed at first when I found out about the “I”s.

    • GLR says:

      I don’t think there’s any problem – “Islander” is part of the familiar base phrase, like “Quaid,” “social,” or “ruins” in the other themers. It doesn’t have to be consistent with the “punny” clue.

  4. Noam D. Elkies says:

    You didn’t know of 38D:SEAWEED in Japanese salads? NOR I. ;-)

    Nor could I tell you anything about RANDY QUAiD beyond the fact that it’s some showbiz or maybe sportz dude. But at least I recognized the name,which is more than I can say about either 43D:ED_BUR?S or 64A:?ENA (I guessed L for the crossing). Pity to have such a (Nat)icky crossing mar a mostly successful puzzle.

    Anybody else confuse their 24D:CUTLASS with a CUirASS? (Rex confessed to “CorsAir”; evidently neither of us had fully appreciated the theme at that point.)

    One of the constructors extends the i-less lipogram to their constructor note.


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I was fine with CUTLASS—and CUIRASS is a piece of armor rather than a blade. My problem was looking for a buccaneer’s word rather than sword.

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        I was (com)miserating, not complaining. Indeed there’s nothing wrong with CUTLASS — and yes, I learned afterwards that CUIRASS is armor (possible mnemonic: “cover-ass”, though a cuirass is both breast- and back-plate), not weaponry.

    • GLR says:

      “Corsair” – isn’t that a ship?

  5. Penguins says:

    better clue for GREEK RUNS: what a bad souflaki may give you

  6. PJ Ward says:

    Uga is a damn good dog.

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