Wednesday, September 12, 2018

AV Club 12:46 (Ben) 


LAT 4:07 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:25 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 12 18, no 0912

The theme is 63a. [Julia Child’s PBS show, with “The” … or one associated with the answers to the starred clues], FRENCH CHEF (… blurgh, “with ‘The'”). Four themers are French foods clued via their English translations:

  • 18a. [*Literally, “small ovens”], PETIT FOURS. Well, that’s just silly! I assume the tiny cakes are made in regular ovens? Or is the name because they look like little ovens full of racks?
  • 30a. [*Literally, “outside the works”], HORS D’OEUVRES.
  • 39a. [*Literally, “boil and lower”], BOUILLABAISSE.
  • 46a. [*Literally, “thousand-leaf”], MILLE-FEUILLE. Mmm, pastry.

I might’ve liked the theme better without FRENCH CHEF in it. Presumably there are other French foods whose names come from other French words. Not sure if Child addressed these four recipes on her TV show. And even if she did, they’re no more associated with her than they are with France itself.

Lots of somewhat clunky short fill wedged in here amid the themers and the other six long non-thematic answers. TZE GUV SAO ENDO TAFTS AVEO EBON EDDA? UGG. AS WITH felt weird, too. And having French LE ROI outside of the theme is weird.

Five more things:

  • 15a. [Attribute for “my girl” after “Five Foot Two” in a 1920s tune], EYES OF BLUE. I know this from my (decades after the 1920s) childhood. The rhyme makes it slightly more gettable for solvers who’ve never encountered this song, but …
  • 17a. [Notable feature of Chicago], WIND. You can find articles that explain how “The Windy City” derives from windbag politicians rather than wind—but you can also walk near a tall building not far from the lakefront and feel the wind push you back, hard. It was particularly windy over the weekend.
  • 48d. [Revealing, in a way], LOW-CUT. You see the inherent male gaze in this clue? You could also frame a low-cut top as being cooler, airier, letting you breathe easy without a collar cinching your neck, showcasing a necklace.
  • 59a. [What the V sign can also represent], TWO. True! I use that when seeking a table for two at a noisy restaurant.
  • 40d. [Org. with a feared black-and-white flag], ISIS. I miss the ’70s Saturday morning TV show with the female superhero Isis.

2.9 stars from me.

Ed Sessa’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wanna Bet?” — Jim’s review

54a holds the revealer ROLLS OF THE DICE which is clued with [Crapshoots, or what you can find in 20-, 31- and 39-Across]. Each of the other theme answers contains the letters DICE in a different formation.

WSJ – Wed, 9.12.18 – “Wanna Bet?” by Ed Sessa

  • 20a [Dumbfounded exclamation] WHAT THE DICKENS
  • 31a [Economic benefit of decreased defense spending] PEACE DIVIDEND
  • 39a [Old-fashioned sweets] LICORICE DROPS

Solid entries, but the really good part is that the letters simulate rolling by maintaining their order, except for the last letter which moves to the front. And so we have EDIC, CEDI, ICED, and lastly DICE in the revealer. That’s a nice touch.


I was thrown off for a bit by the long Across answers at 19a and 58a, but the revealer makes it pretty clear they aren’t part of the theme. However, they are the lovely entries CORN POPPER and TAKES A DIVE. SEX TAPE is pretty steamy, and I like OAK LEAF and PANDORA as well. And it comes up a lot more in crosswords than in real life, but I always like seeing the OKAPI [Animal also called a forest giraffe]. Plenty of fun entries there.

The iffiest answer is at 9d RAP CD [Ludacris production]. Maybe in the 90s. Are they still making CDs?

Good puzzle. 3.5 stars from me.

Byron Walden’s AVCX, “Hidden Agenda” — Ben’s Review

One thing that’s always interesting (to me, at least) is that the more you do puzles by certain authors, the more you find out how your minds overlap when it comes to thinking of the same things.  There are constructors who I instantly get on the same wavelength when they appear in the NYT or AVCX.  And then there’s Byron Walden, who I’m constantly out of sync with.

“Hidden Agenda” is a great puzzle, and its gimmick is probably something I’ve seen before in another venue, but it took me a solid 5 minutes of being away from the grid to suddenly have what was going on snap into focus:

  • 24A: One who’s duped by a web page guide? — SITEMAP SUCKER
  • 36A: Restaurant dishes evidently sampled by the chef? — BITE MARKED ORDERS
  • 47A: Brew that pairs well with turkey or chicken breast? — WHITE MEAT BEER

“Hidden Agenda” should have been enough of a push, but I needed to piece together WHITE MEAT BEER becoming WHEAT BEER to realize that each of these entries has a hidden ITEM modifying the phrase.  SAPSUCKER and BARKED ORDERS complete the trio here.  The rest of the cluing/fill here was pretty good even if it was a little off my wavelength.  In particular, I liked PONZU, CHELSEA BUN (which I identified as the “Cinnamon roll look-alike made with currants” right away after a ton of seasons of Great British Bake Off), and LAKE CHAD

Tracey Thorn’s newest album from this year features this track where she talks about being free AS AIR

4/5 stars.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I keep feeling like I’m missing something in this puzzle, but I can’t seen anything more. Three down answers begin with words fitting the phrase “___ Monster”. They all cross MONSTERSINC, though the INC seems extraneous to the theme. I tried to find “in C” as in GREENSEA but that didn’t go anywhere. There are only three answers, but I can’t think of too many other viable options. As it is the GREENMONSTER is a very specific wall of a baseball field, albeit a well-chronicled one. There is a BLUEMONSTER in golf, but the associated tournament which gave it some prestige was moved to Mexico, and besides, it’s now owned by Voldemort. The Spaghetti Monster is further modified by Flying. So, that’s why the theme is minimal.

The design features left-right symmetry and two long down 11s that have nothing to do with the theme. The design also makes it feel like you have to wade through banks of 3-letter answers. To be fair, only perhaps CYD and definitely CLI and CFS are wince-inducing. CFS/CKONE is by far the roughest cross in the puzzle. I won’t blame anyone for guessing wrong there!

2.5 Stars

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26 Responses to Wednesday, September 12, 2018

  1. William Hall says:

    I have a slight bone to pick with the clue for 6d in today’s NYT (“Roger” in the Navy/AYE).

    In formal structured communication (like radio telephony) “roger” does not mean “yes,” it means “I have received your transmission” (it does not even necessarily imply understanding).
    “Aye” means “yes.”
    “Aye aye” means “I understand and will comply” (akin to “wilco” in landlubber- and aviation-speke).

    These may be fine distinctions but they are critical in certain environments.

  2. ArtLvr says:

    Julia Child was an American chef, author and television personality. She is recognized for bringing French cuisine to the American public with her debut cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her subsequent television programs, the most notable of which was The French Chef, which premiered in 1963. I can’t understand why the write-up here would go to such lengths to downplay her achievements! A graduate of Smith College ’34, she set up a foundation to donate major funding for many charities, and our alumnae found her always ready to do fund-raising programs for the college’s benefit. Why such a sour note from Amy?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Because the puzzle is about French food terms and not about her illustrious career.

    • Papa John says:

      Did I miss something? Where does Amy play a sour note on Julia? Was it the “blurgh” interjection? Julia was a card. I remember her “dancing” with a whole chicken and picking up food she had dropped on the floor and putting it right back in the bowl. She was hoot!

  3. David L says:

    Well, I liked it. That’s all.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: I loved it… I guess being partial to food and to all things French, it was a slam dunk.
    I also loved learning the meaning of bouillabaisse. Unlike the others, I had never parsed it before. Cool.
    I was thinking yesterday that the themes this week were all about things I love– Cheese, flowers, and French food. Let’s see some neuroscience tomorrow!

  5. Lise says:

    The OKAPI in the above photo is wearing wicked good leggings

  6. Diana says:

    I don’t get 26 D – the clue or the answer. Hope someone will explain. Thanks.

  7. Brian says:

    Anyone know if Holland is 17% reclaimed land, or the entire Netherlands? All I can find is that 17% of the Netherlands is reclaimed land, which doesn’t match the clue.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      My Dutch uncle refers to the whole country as Holland, which may be the sort of usage the clue hinges on. But when referring to the nation, it’s surely more accurate/specific/clear to use “the Netherlands.”

  8. CFXK says:

    An ever so small nit…

    NYT 63a reads: “Julia Child’s PBS show, with “The” … or one associated with the answers to the starred clues”

    The important word here is “or.” If the word “and” was used, I would tend to agree with Amy’s critique. But the use of the word “or” here means that the phrase “french chef” in the later part of the clue is not about the TV show or about Julia Child, but refers to any and all french chefs who might be associated with these foods. The word “or” does not restrict the later part of the clue to (or even necessarily include) Julia Child. It refers to a generic member class of people who would be associated with these things.

  9. CFXK says:

    Re WSJ 2d

    I resisted for as long as I could entering “sophs.” There is nothing in the clue that suggests a slang or abbreviated term. Next year’s juniors are sophomores.

    But I was at least smart enough not to hit the escape key and tried to make is a rebus!

    • David Roll says:

      I agree, and a minor nit I think the reference should be to 18a, not 19a.

    • Martin says:

      Actually, soph is not an abbreviation. It’s a word derived by abbreviation. You don’t write it with a period.

      While it might feel slangy, dictionaries don’t tag it as slang either. Using “soph” and “junior” together in conversation is quite common. “Sophomore” seems pretty formal today and there is no equivalent alternate for “junior.” I’m sure Mike Shenk considered this.

  10. Diana says:

    In case my post above gets unnoticed, I didn’t say what puzzle I needed explanation for. It’s the WSJ. 26 D. Thanks!

  11. NonnieL says:

    WSJ: Two of my female idols from my 1970s TV-watching childhood in the upper third of the puzzle: Isis and Uhura. Love it!

  12. Norm says:

    LAT: I thought it was cute, although maybe a tad easy for a Wednesday. Three completely different “monsters” — a TV/cartoon character, a mythological one, and a baseball legend. What’s not to like? Maybe the INC [apart from being a required part of the movie title] could mean incorporated [into the answer]?

  13. jj says:

    AVC: “Barked orders” is not a good standalone phrase for a crossword, especially as a base phrase for a theme entry, and WHITEMEATBEER doesn’t riff at all off WHEATBEER; BEER isn’t changing its meaning. So 2/3 of the theme was DOA in my opinion.

    If you’ve only got three themers, and it’s a straightforward letter-addition theme like this, you’ve got to dazzle with each of those three. Two out of the three here are non-starters in any theme, and their weaknesses only stand out more because of the thinness of the theme. The grid is original with some fresh entries, but overall this was thoroughly underwhelming.

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