Wednesday, October 3, 2018

AV Club 10:35 (Ben) 


LAT 1:54 (erik) 


NYT 3:13 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Jennifer Nutt’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 3 18, no 1003

Today’s puzzle played like an easier-than-Wednesday, I thought, even though the theme set was entirely unfamiliar to me. I mean, I’ve heard of the themers individually, but I didn’t know the mythological tale that includes them all.

  • 18a. [Sea nymphs, in Greek mythology], THE NEREIDS.
  • 63a. [Vain queen who boasted that she was more beautiful than 18-Across], CASSIOPEIA.
  • 3d. [Where 63-Across ruled prior to her banishment], ETHIOPIA. Or Aethiopia!
  • 41d. [God who banished 63-Across to the sky, as depicted by the constellation formed by the X’s in this puzzle’s finished grid], POSEIDON. I didn’t read the whole clue while solving, so I didn’t see the constellation that’s now circled in my grid.

Neat theme. But now I want to say “Cathiopeia.”

Three more things before I turn in:

  • 9a. [Presidential perk until 1977], YACHT. Jimmy Carter ended this, eh? Sounds very “on brand” for him.
  • 58a. [Nonhumanities subjects, for short], STEM. Sociology, theater, English, music. …What?
  • 38d. [Purplish-red flowers], FUCHSIAS. If they have these flowers over in Germany or Austria, I want to know how they pronounce the word. It can’t possibly be fyoosh-uh.

Four stars from me. Good night!

Craig Stowe’s Los Angeles Times crossword—erik’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 10 3 18, no 1003

A vertical theme today: in EASY STREET, WHEELHOUSE, DECK OF CARDS, and SIDESTROKE, the first bits are all words that can go before “chair” – so, as they’re oriented in the puzzle, we can call them HIGH CHAIRS.

It’s hard to fill a crossword grid with all well-known, fair-game words and phrases, and harder still when the lengths of the theme answers (in this case the 11-letter DECK OF CARDS on the middle column) demand a grid pattern that’s less segmented than your average. The person who wrote this puzzle knocked it out of the park – there’s plenty of fun stuff (FIESTA, AVATAR, EXHIBIT, DECEMBER, SNEAKER, AZORES, STEINEM, plus the OGDEN clue – [Nash who wrote “Parsley / Is gharsley”]) and nothing at all I found gripeworthy. Am I Jennifer Nutt? Because this puzzle gets 5 stars from me!

Brian Thomas’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Airing the House” — Jim’s review

C-SPAN [“Gavel-to-gavel” broadcaster, and a hint to six long answers in this puzzle] is the central motif of this grid with those six long answers starting and ending with the letter C.

WSJ – Wed, 10.3.18 – “Airing the House” by Brian Thomas

  • 17a [Brushback pitch, informally] CHIN MUSIC. I have never heard this phrase nor the word “brushback.” But then I don’t watch baseball much.
  • 23a [One side of the Iron Curtain] COMMUNIST BLOC
  • 31a [Many a police car, familiarly] CROWN VIC
  • 44a [Suburbia feature] CUL-DE-SAC
  • 51a [It includes a tiger, a monkey, a dragon, and nine more] CHINESE ZODIAC
  • 61a [Argue pedantically] CHOP LOGIC. Another one I’ve never heard.

For me, I would much rather see this grid without those first and last themers, or at least, have them replaced with a single new central theme answer. Having never heard those phrases made those entries really difficult to parse. Of course, your mileage may vary.

But six theme answers plus a revealer puts a lot of stress on the grid, and so we get some out-of-left-field entries like DURER, [Engraver Albrecht], ATHOL [“My Children! My Africa!” playwright Fugard], ORTS [Little nibbles], and TO A TURN [Perfectly]. This last one was new to me as well and was especially frustrating because the clue seemed to want TO A TEE.

Oh, and if your title is “Airing the House,” you probably shouldn’t have AIR in your grid.

So I was just not on the right wavelength, because I mostly felt annoyed during the solve. At first, I thought the cross-referencing of PEN and PAL and SPEC and OPS was thematic, so I was willing to go along with it. When I realized they weren’t, I was just irked.

Further, the clues didn’t help matters. There were a few trivia clues (like [Mount Merapi’s island] for JAVA), but thankfully not too many. But SPEC / OPS clued as [With 28-Across, some CIA business] got to me. No one says “SPEC OPS.” My brother, while not in Special Ops, worked closely with Special Ops people, and I’ve never heard him say anything but “Special Ops.” And speaking of things I never heard while I was in the military: CIC [POTUS, militarily]. CINC is the far more common way to refer to the Commander In Chief, at least in my experience. And further, CIC fits the theme of the grid, but it’s not called out as such.

There are some brights spots here though: OLD SCHOOL, SUPERCOP, DIORAMA, and WEDGIE are all really fun. Interesting how all of those are in the bottom half of the grid. And the clue [Second person in the Bible] is wonderfully misleading for THEE.

I’m sure many people were fine with this grid, but for me, too many negatives detracted from the positives here. With two fewer themers, there’d be more room for the grid to breathe.

Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “Pop-Up Blocker” — Ben’s Review

The theme on Aimee Lucido’s puzzle from the AV Club today felt a smidge underclued for me – which is a shame, since it’s a massive grid, there’s a LOT of theme going on, and it’s very good once you connect all the dots.

First off, there’s one set of clues that hint at dropping something to get another word:

  • 24A: Burn slowly … hey you, get out of here! OK, that’s better … welder’s alloy — SMOLDER
  • 40A: Plank … galdarnit, scram! … poet — BOARD
  • 91A: Falling-watermelon sound … you again?? fixed it … expectorated — SPLAT
  • 111A: Hill angle … gotcha! … pig food (THE THEME IS ALMOST OVER, NOW GIT!) — SLOPE

Parsing this out further, you could answer the second part of each of these clues by dropping a letter: SMOLDER becomes SOLDER, BOARD becomes BARD, SPLAT becomes SPAT, and SLOPE becomes SLOP.  Those extra letters end up spelling MOLE.

There’s also a set of clues that revolve around the answer at 71A:

  • 27A: Summer genre … or tenderness, after playing 71-Across knocks a certain character down — DISCO
  • 46A: Atkins no-no … or champagne bubbles, after playing 71-Across — CARB
  • 95A: Actress/director Mason … or organizing, as soldiers, after playing 71-Across — MARSHA
  • 119A: Chicken holder… or worked together, after playing 71-Across — COOP

This had me stuck for a little bit – adding a letter didn’t seem to work with these.  Then I looked at 71A:

  • 71A: Arcade game with persistent rodents — WHAC-A-MOLE

Parsing this as instructions to “whack” a “M-O-L-E” (the leftovers from the first set of clues) into the second set of clues (which are all conveniently below the locations of those letters), it all clicks into place.  DISCO and FORT combine to become DISCOMFORT when the M from SMOLDER is “whacked” down, which makes the second part of the clue for 27A, “tenderness”, make sense.  Applying this same process to the other theme answer sets, CARB and NATION become CARBONATION (“champagne bubbles”) with the O from BOARD, MARSHA and LING become MARSHALLING (“organizing, as soldiers”) with the L from SPLAT, and COOP and RATED become COOPERATED (“worked together”) with the E from SLOPE.

There’s some masterful construction here (and pretty decent fill, all constraints considered) that took just a little more of a mental jump than expected for me to connect today.

4.25/5 stars.

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23 Responses to Wednesday, October 3, 2018

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I laughed when I saw ALEXA. My grandson Theo, who just turned 2, is obsessed with Alexa. He wants her to play his favorite songs, but his pronunciation is not all that clear so Alexa gets confused–“Alexa, Play: Walking in the Jungle by Super Simple Songs”. When you’re lisping on all these S’s. Alexa picks random stuff and he is so annoyed. “Alexa Stop!” Then he tries again, more slowly… can’t figure out why that thing is not getting it.
    Today we were Face Timing and I asked Theo if Alexa was a person. “Noooo”, he said pretty emphatically.”Is it an animal?” That took a little more thinking… then “No”… “So, if it’s not a person or an animal, what is it?” I asked. “It’s white!” he said. It is… so we left at that.

  2. Rob says:

    STEM is science, technology,engineering, math. It is part of a curriculum to get students geared up for careers related to math and science

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Dude. She knows that. I guess we should use little winky faces to mark the jokes.

      • Papa John says:

        Again, you feel the need to belittle.

        If that was a joke, it wasn’t all that funny or, in Rob’s defense, clearly a joke. In this case, it would be have beneficial to somehow mark it as a joke.

        Perhaps this “Dude” is mistaken, too. Maybe your post is a joke. It’s hard to tell.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          “Dude” is an insult now?

          One might think that someone who’s been reading this blog would think “this Amy, she knows a lot of things” and “this Amy, sometimes she’s funny,” and thus pick up on when I’m joking. When there’s something notable that I didn’t know before seeing it in the crossword, I typically preface it with “did not know:” rather than just blabbing out something that is patently and stupidly wrong. Listing four humanities fields when the clue specifically says “nonhumanities” … I mean, the only way someone thinks I don’t actually know what STEM is, is if they think I’m probably quite ignorant. Which (she says immodestly) I am not.

          • Papa John says:

            No, Dude was not necessarily insulting, although I personally don’t like it. (It’s probably an age thing. I would prefer not to be addressed as dude.) I equate it to calling a women “doll”.

            It was the last part of the post, the “little winky faces” that was disparaging.

            BTW, the first definition of dude is “dandy”. I don’t think most men like to be called a dandy. I’m also aware that it has recently evolved into connoting a guy or fellow, but vestiges of its pejorative usage linger.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              Do you notice, Papa John, that you were fine with Rob’s tone, which is basically providing a “correction” under the assumption that I’m ignorant rather than joking? But then you got mad at Jenni’s tone when she stood up for me?

            • Jenni Levy says:

              And do you notice that you expect us to give men the benefit of the doubt when you do not extend that same benefit to us? We’re supposed to be perfectly clear every time we’re joking (which I think Amy was, but whatever) and sweet and nice to commenters who assume we’re dumb, but it’s OK for commenters (including you) to be insulting to us.

            • Mary says:

              I don’t usually comment here, but this one gets my goat. Papa John, you accuse these people of the very behavior you exhibit. Belittling, patronizing, mansplaining. JUST. STOP.

  3. Lise says:

    This was the first clear early morning that we have had in ages. It was a real treat to be able to see Orion and the Big Dipper, and the barely visible Cassiopeia.

    How lovely, then, to see her in a crossword, with the stars so well-placed. Great job!

    • PJ Ward says:

      Cassiopeia is useful in locating the Andromeda galaxy. On dark clear nights the galaxy is visible to the naked eye.

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        I just learned today (on Rex’s blog) that Andromeda is the mythical daughter of Cassiopeia, so their pairing in the sky is apt (similar to the naming of the major moons of Jupiter, Saturn, etc. for the corresponding gods’ progeny).

  4. Huda says:

    A propos of nothing (or maybe of STEM), two women have one the Nobel Prize in the last two days, one in Physics and one in Chemistry. I know this is a well informed group and you knew that. I just wanted to mark the moment. In Physics, it’s been 55 years since we had a woman. And I don’t recall having two in the STEM field in one year. I’d love to be wrong on that one.
    Anyhow, a bright light in what seems like a dark time… Cheers!

    • Huda says:

      PS. The above should have “won” not “one”…

      Also delighted that one of the Physics Nobelists, Gerard Mourou, is a Professor Emeritus and did some of his seminal work at the U. of Michigan where he was the founding director of the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science. Cheers for a colleague!

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        Also delighted that the *third* Physics Nobelist, “Ashkin, who at 96 is the oldest winner of any Nobel prize, told the committee that he may not be able to give any interviews because he was ‘very busy’ on his latest scientific paper.”

    • GLR says:


      2009 appears to have been “The Year of the Woman” in Nobel Prizes. Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol Greider shared the prize for physiology/medicine with a man. Ada Yonath shared the prize for chemistry with a couple of men. Herta Müller won the literature prize, and Elinor Ostrom shared the economics prize.

  5. hibob says:

    I just loved the AV crossword, but I did not think it was a 2.5/5 difficulty. For me more like a 4.5/5. I struggled almost everywhere. Nothing unfair just stuff I didn’t know. Hooha!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Agree that it was on the hard side—took me longer than the typical Sunday NYT of the same size. Loved the theme!

    • Martin says:

      Same here, great puzzle and theme, and definitely harder than 2.5/5.

      • Jenni Levy says:

        At this point I assume that Ben’s 2.5 means that I will struggle with the puzzle. Today’s was totally worth it.

  6. Gale says:

    The flower Fuchsia was developed by a man who lived in Ansbach, Germany, by the name of Herr Fuchs.
    Hence the name. Pronounced FEW -SHUH in the US.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Right. But one wonders if the Germans pronounce it more like “fooks-ee-ah.” (Note: Herr = Mr. His first name was Leonhart.)

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