Wednesday, August 29, 2018

AV Club 7:36 (Ben) 


LAT 2:56 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:44 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Alex Bajcz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 29 18, no 0829

The theme anagrams city names into verbs and creates goofy phrases that are clued accordingly:

  • 18a. [Work as a metropolitan health official?], DIAGNOSE SAN DIEGO.
  • 29a. [Works as a metropolitan census taker?], COUNTS TUCSON.
  • 44a. [Work as a metropolitan traffic engineer?], HASTEN ATHENS.
  • 55a. [Works as a metropolitan reclaimant?], SALVAGES LAS VEGAS.

The theme feels uneven to me, as three of the cities are in the American Southwest, among the 35 largest cities in the country. And then there’s ATHENS, which is either the capital of Greece or a Georgia city that is much smaller than these other three. I guess there aren’t a ton of cities whose names can be anagrammed into verbs, but still.

The grid is 16 squares wide to accommodate the 8×2 themers.

Five more things:

  • 15a. [Boaster’s retort to a boast], SO CAN I. SOCANI looks bonkers in the grid, doesn’t it?
  • 37a. [Extra-large], OBESE. I don’t care for this clue at all.
  • 38a. [Operator of], NOAA. Severe Thunderstorm Warning! (In effect right now for Chicagoland.) I like the NOAA’s data and I hope their funding and science are able to continue as before.
  • 12d. [Dessert that’s often topped with berries], CHEESECAKE. Mmm, cheesecake …
  • 38d. [Snuggle (against)], NESTLE UP. This feels far less natural to me than “snuggle up.” I don’t think that UP really wants to be there with NESTLE.

I would like to channel my grandmother and chide this puzzle. “Such language!” DAMN, BUTT!

Not much else to chat about here. 3.4 stars from me.

Jim Quinlan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Statements” — Jim’s review

After his WSJ debut just one week ago, Jim Q. is back. This one’s also quite fun and re-imagines various verbal statements which contain two-letter words that are equivalent to certain states’ two-letter abbreviations.

WSJ – Wed, 8.29.18 – “Statements” by Jim Quinlan

  • 17a [“Mind your manners, Buckeye State!”] “OH, BEHAVE!” Said in your best Austin Powers voice, natch.
  • 24a [“Hands off, Pine Tree State!”] “DON’T TOUCH, ME!” Yikes, these states are getting a little handsy.
  • 37a [“Exercise caution, Gem State!”] “ID, BE CAREFUL!” Another naughty state.
  • 52a [“Leave nothing behind, Hoosier State!”] “TAKE IT ALL, IN!” Wait, I think we’re sending mixed messages.
  • 58a [“Look it up online, Sooner State!”] “OK, GOOGLE.” Unfortunately, this one breaks away from the sub-theme of “states behaving badly.” Would’ve been nice if it could’ve continued.

Fun theme, I knew three of the states off the bat, but it still was some work to figure out exactly what was going on and where the state abbreviations would land. Also, I never heard “OK, GOOGLE” before, but I guess that’s the equivalent of “Hey Siri” and…what? “Alexa”? Is that how you get Alexa’s attention?

I’m a sucker for a theme that takes existing phrases and re-jiggers them into something else, so I enjoyed this quite a bit.

And there’s a lot to like beyond the theme. SADISM is a bold start at 1a (clued as [Practice with whips?]). There’s also DEADPOOL, SHORT RIB, CEZANNE, FU MANCHU, and INDULGES. That’s a beautiful set of long fill. Also good: ZENDA, DEVIOUS, SPECTRE, MACH ONE, AL ROKER, “TOLD YA!,” LAP DOG, ARAGON, and of course, ARETHA.

Not a fan of ERSE or AAH with two A’s, but them’s small potatoes compared to the good stuff. DR NO usually gets a lot of flak as crosswordese, but here it’s nicely tied to SPECTRE via the clues ([First film in a 24-film series] and [Latest film in a 24-film series] respectively). Nicely done.

In the “not in my wheelhouse” category, we have: VEDIC [Form of Sanskrit] and SALADA [Lipton alternative]. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that brand of teas in stores. While I would categorize these as really uncommon bits of fill, I don’t mind, as long as they’re edifying and they’re not pervasive throughout the grid. And of course, the crosses have to be fair, which they are today.

Clues of note:

  • 32a [Square between two primes]. FOUR. One for the math nerds!
  • 36a [Lancaster emblem]. ROSE. One for the history nerds! The Lancasters were of the red rose and the Yorks were of the white, hence the War of the Roses, in which each house laid a claim to the English throne. Both had been supporters of the House of Plantagenet which held the throne for 300 years. (I loooove the name Plantagenet; it sounds delicious!) The war eliminated the direct male lines of both families (good job, guys!). Eventually, Henry Tudor of the Lancastrian faction wed Elizabeth of York and became Henry VII, and they all lived happily ever after (ha!).
  • 65a [Himalayan foot]. PAW. I assume this is referring to some sort of an animal (though not a yeti), but I leave it to the interested solver to look it up.
  • 2d [Kingdom of Ferdinand and Isabella]. ARAGON. Another one for the history nerd.
  • 34d [King Rudolf V of Ruritania’s place of imprisonment]. ZENDA. This one is fictional from the book, The Prisoner of ZENDA. My daughter gave me this book, and I started it, but haven’t made it very far I’m sad to say.
  • 49d [Changes from green to red, say]. RIPENS. Tricksy!

A fun theme and lovely grid with outstanding fill. 4 stars from me.

Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “Raising Dough” — Ben’s Review

It’s Wednesday!  We’ve made it midway through the week.  The .PUZ version of this week’s AVCX was missing the shading of the PDF version (or it’s just the solving tool I used not picking the circles up), so I’ve highlighted the entries in red over in the screenshot.

Aimee Lucido’s “Raising Dough” is a 2/5 on the difficulty scale which was made a little trickier by the lack of circles for me.  It’s a vertical theme, which is a fun twist on the usual expected structure for this sort of thing:

  • 3D: It may be prepared alla bolognese — RAGU SAUCE
  • 9D:”Hamilton” character played by Jonathan Groff — KING GEORGE
  • 37D:Hidden London train sometimes called the “Mail Rail” — SECRET TUBE
  • 44D: Calcium oxide, in common parlance — QUICKLIME
  • 16D: Result of mixing the ingredients found in this puzzle’s circled words — UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

I’m a little underwhelmed by this theme.  I would’ve liked to have seen FLOUR somewhere in the grid (probably not as a theme clue – RUOLF is a tricky patch of letters to hide), since MILK, BUTTER, EGG, and SUGAR will get you something that’s definitely GLUTEN-free but doesn’t quite qualify as a cake.  In addition, RAGU SAUCE is redundant (RAGU is a sauce genre) and SECRET TUBE feels oddly greenpaint-y, even if it is an actual thing.

Here are the pants described in the clue for 27D’s “PYNK” (which is, as the kids these days say, a “bop”)

Let’s chat about some of the other fill:

  • AFRO crossing FROM felt odd
  • Hello I would like to bingewatch season 1 of “FESTOON My Chariot” IMMEDIATELY.

3/5 stars.

Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

I am not feeling at all good. I will explain the theme at least. SHORTCHANGE is using CHANGE as an “anagram indicator” and the letters in short can be found in other theme answers rearranged across both parts. So: BOOSTE(RSHOT), GI(FTHORS)E, FIS(HSTOR)Y, and N(ORTHS)TAR.

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21 Responses to Wednesday, August 29, 2018

  1. Bill Richmond says:

    What’s wrong with the clue for obese? Seems perfectly clear.

    • Chukkagirl says:

      I agree.

      • Huda says:

        NYT: re OBESE: I too had a bit of a reaction to the clue, Extra-large. It seemed flippant. That description applies readily to a coffee order or a tee shirt. When extended to a human, it sounds judgmental or jokey. A more medical sounding definition sounds better to my ear– e.g. “high BMI”.
        I knew a young woman from the South (who has since passed away) who had been obese and had worked really hard to lose a bunch of weight. She was proud of her accomplishments until she overheard someone refer to her as “that big girl”. It was devastating to her.

        • Jim Hale says:

          I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. Living in the rural South, there are many unhealthily heavy people here who are sensitive to that. Many of them smoke as well.
          Regarding BMI, their classifications contain two classes of obesity so it is a medical term in that regard as well. I dislike BMI when measured coarsely i.e. weight and height. To me it doesn’t mean much unless doing a finer grained test measuring fat vs muscle as well as looking at body type. I take your point though that if you have to mention it to a person (say you’re a Doctor or loved one), it’s the kinder way to phrase it.

          • Huda says:

            Yes, BMI is definitely not an ideal criterion for health. I’ve heard even people in the armed forces object, as they can be very fit but sometimes have a high BMI because of muscle mass. I was offering it as an example of what I mean by a medical definition that might be just as effective in eliciting the answer, while minimizing other connotations.

        • Steve Manion says:

          In one recent snapshot I saw, Ronnie Coleman, the many times Mr. Olympia, is listed at 5’11”, 298 pounds, with a BMI of 41.7 and body fat of 7%.
          I have generally used body fat in excess of 30% (depending on age) as a criterion, but I have seen many people who do not look obese who have over 30% body fat.

    • Jim Hale says:

      I agree as well. To me it was a gimme.

      • Papa John says:

        At 6’3″ and weighing in at 280 pounds, I’m fat, obese, over-weight, and certainly “extra large”. I take offense to none of those accurate descriptions. It’s what I am. If I were offended by any of them, I’d best get off my ass and do something about it. The offense is not in the words, it’s the cultural stigma attached to the condition.

  2. Brian says:

    FYI, the NYT link is broken

  3. Ellen Nichols says:

    Before I turn in, I am going to post my rant. Although the clue that triggered it appears in the generally fine AV Club, the rant is a response to seeing the same ignorant clue over and over again in X world.

    50D, The Tigers of the SEC

    First, there are 3 teams in the SEC with a tiger as a mascot. LSU has Mike the Tiger. The University of Missouri (Mizzou) has Truman the Tiger. And Auburn has Aubie the Tiger (no, the War Eagle is not the official mascot for Auburn. Granted, LSU is the only one that has 3 letters in its abbreviation, so it isn’t hard to solve, but it really irks this double Mizzou alum.
    Isn’t there something else notable about LSU?

    On a positive note, in 2017 these 3 schools plus Clemson of the ACC teamed up to form the US Tiger University Consortium to support actual tigers in the wild. “The schools plan to focus on applying technology to monitor wild tiger populations. They aim to ‘create the next generation of conservation leaders through university-supported academic scholarships and assistantships,’ “, SB Nation

    And where’s Memphis in this conservation effort?

    • Ben Tausig says:

      Sorry Ellen! I’ll try to be mindful to run more interesting clues for LSU in the future.

      There’s also an error in this week’s AVCX puzzle: 8D should be something like “Person from a Yemeni port city,” not “Yemen’s capital,” which is inaccurate. My bad.

      • PJ Ward says:

        The Bengal Tigers of the SEC would work. There’s always Shaq and Pistol Pete. Political alums include James Carville, Donna Brazlle, and Hubert Humphrey (?!).

  4. Jim Hale says:

    I thought this puzzle was a near perfect Wednesday. The few personal names, my weak point, were derivable and it took a bit to find the trick. I gave it a 4.5, the only entry I didn’t like was “Yellow belly?”/els but that’s just a nit. Always good to see Tucson mentioned, one of my favorite cities to bike in, given their extensive bike trail system and great parks and gardens.

  5. Wendy says:

    I tried to give today’s WSJ puzzle five stars, but clicked at the wrong spot and ended up awarding three stars by accident. I tried to go back, but couldn’t. Is there a way to fix it? I really enjoyed the puzzle. I thought the theme was very clever and the fill extremely smooth. Well-done, Jim Quinlan!

  6. Medicated says:

    WSJ – I’m mixed in my feelings on this one, lots of proper name obscurity, I guess I should bone up. One question raised above: Himalayan is a type of cat in the Siamese variant, usually blue, so PAW is clever-ish to very clever, I’ll go the latter since I got it easily, hohoho.

  7. David Roll says:

    O.K., I looked up “BAE”–guess I am just not with currant slang.

  8. PJ Ward says:

    The LA Times link at hasn’t worked for me this week. Anyone else?

  9. christopher brisson says:

    WSJ: Jim on Jim: I really enjoyed both the puzzle and Jim’s write-up. Regarding 65A, “himalayan”–I didn’t get it on my first pass (I’m a “dog person”), but then I remembered that it’s a breed of domestic cat–one of the poofy/fluffy kinds.

    Really enjoyed the “Dr. No” clue set-up for reasons mentioned.

    Hardest cross for me was intersection of 40d (“machone”) and 51a (“cru”). My fault for not knowing more about space flight, but I had no idea about the term “cru” even though I studied French for five years (not a wine-drinker though). I wonder if its inclusion in the puzzle was due to a reverse-engineer fill in which those three letters were left after other construction choices were made and Jim Q. was hopin’ and prayin’ there was something out there that could be summoned as a clue.

    I thought it was poignant that the puzzle, which Jim no doubt created weeks if not months ago, featured Aretha, in this the week of her funeral.

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