Wednesday, October 24, 2018

AV Club 2:19 (Andy) 


LAT 5:32 (Gareth) 


NYT 5:13 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


(Inkubator logo designed by Alex Briñas.)

Team Fiend’s Laura Braunstein has partnered with Tracy Bennett to create The Inkubator a new venue specifically aimed at increasing the numbers of crosswords written by women, and paying those women a competitive fee. There’s a Kickstarter if you want to get in on the ground floor of supporting this venture, which will start out offering two new crosswords a month. Inkubator will transition to a subscription model after the first year. I’m in! (And thanks to Ben Tausig for making his AV Club infrastructure available to Inkubator.)

Anna Shechtman’s AVCX crossword, “Feminist Movements”—Andy’s review

AVCX puzzle 10.24.18 by Anna Shechtman

Guest constructor alert! Anna Shechtman graces us with her cruciverbal presence this week; I’ve very much been enjoying her pentaweekly work over at The New Yorker, and I’m happy to see her byline here as well.

This puzzle’s title, “Feminist Movements,” is a nod to the revealer, 72a, WAVES [Metaphors for three phases of the feminist movement, representatives of which are circled in the grid]. Sure enough, three 13-letter strings of circled letters run wavelike through the grid, each spelling out the name of a famous feminist:

You might say that the crossing of SUSAN B. ANTHONY with NAACP [Org. that’s published “The Crisis” since 1910] was… intersectional.

This is a very cool use of circled letters to make a visual theme!

Having constructed a puzzle with very similar constraints, I can assure you that this grid was tremendously difficult to construct. So many entries in the grid are affected by the theme answers that there are bound to be some compromises in the fill. Even going up to 80 words and 44 blocks, there’s still a lot of ugliness in this grid, though. In particular, having the tail end of WALKER and WAVES in the southeast corner required using some very challenging vocabulary like LEO IV and ANILE and SPOORS and KRONA and EARLE. You’ve also got a ton of stuff like SHHS and SSRS and BALT and NHA (I won’t belabor the point, but… there’s a lot). All that tough fill explains the 5/5 difficulty rating this week.

On the bright side, l liked seeing CAPOEIRA [Afro-Brazilian martial art] in the grid.

On the subject of feminism and crosswords, go support The Inkubator! Laura Braunstein and Tracy Bennett are starting a new venue for crosswords written by women, and I’m very much looking forward to it!

Until next time!

Nancy Cole Stuart’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Zounds!” — Jim’s review

S sounds are changed to Z sounds to wacky effect.

WSJ – Wed, 10.14.18 – “Zounds!” by Nancy Cole Stuart (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Component of brass drawer pulls and faucets?] KITCHEN ZINC. Sink. This was a nice one to start off with, and it made think of people (the Pythons, e.g.) doing terrible French accents.
  • 11d [Extreme enthusiasm?] GREAT ZEAL. Seal.
  • 33d [Reading for felony fans?] CRIME ZINE. Scene.
  • 37a [Case for a pediatric dermatologist?] BABY ZIT. Sit.
  • 60a [Witty retort from Rigoletto?] OPERA ZINGER. Singer.

An okay set which didn’t do too much for me because it seems like a theme that’s been around as long as themed crosswords have been. But once I started saying them in silly French accents, they were much funnier.

It was a little distracting that there was an 8-letter Z word (PROTOZOA at 28a) amongst the themed Acrosses. As it turned out for me, I got GREAT ZEAL beforehand, so it wasn’t much of an issue, but if someone was going straight through the Acrosses, I can see how that might have caused some raised eyebrows.

The Zs are handled nicely in the crossings with LIZA, BAEZ, and PREZ on the shorter side and PROTOZOA and GIZMOS on the longer side. Fun entries.

Our other long fill items are MACRAME (good), TANDOORI (great!), ANTI-SPAM (is that a phrase?), ENHANCE (okay), and SEMESTER (okay). DASH OFF is nice as well. In my mind it usually means to run out the door (to perform an errand, perhaps), but I’m sure I’ve heard it used as clued [Write hastily].

Not too much in the crosswordese department, but there is ILIE (56d, [Tennis’s Nastase]). It feels pretty dated, and that small corner looks like it could have easily been re-done with some sharper fill.

Overall, though, a very clean grid, but a very standard change-a-letter theme. 3.4 stars.

And now for something completely different. Funny French accents at 2:33.

Michael Paleos’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 24 18, no 1024

Once I figured out the puzzle’s gimmick, I jumped to the bottom of the puzzle looking for the theme revealer. Joke’s on me—the revealer is actually in the top row: 8a. [Internet nuisance … or a hint to four answers in this puzzle], POP-UP AD. There are four answers that have an AD letter combo in their middle(ish), and that AD appears above two black squares separating the parts of the answers.

  • 19a. [Classic strategy in the boxing ring], ROPE-{A-D}OPE.
  • 28a. [Hedonistic], DEC{AD}ENT.
  • 42a. [Like seven teams in the N.H.L.], CAN{AD}IAN. I misread this as NFL, which slowed me down.
  • 54a. [Where you may be going nowhere fast], TRE{AD}MILL.

The {AD}s appear in circled letters in AVOCADO, SIDE ROAD, BREADED, and NOT SO BAD. I’m not so keen on NOT SO BAD and SO SAD echoing one another so strongly in this grid. Also not keen on the rough translation of 25d. [“Eureka!”], “I HAVE IT!” (the Greek means “I have found it”). This is not something people typically shout in English.

Five more things:

  • 17a. [Shade of green], AVOCADO / 15a. [Birthstone for most Leos], PERIDOT. Stacked greens! One thing I learned at work is that the cartoon Steven Universe involves some alien Gem characters, and one is named Peridot. #themoreyouknow Also, I don’t know any other August babies who really like the peridot. (The DARK RED / ORANGES stack echoes the green stack.)
  • 61a. [Bubble gum brand], BAZOOKA. You can taste it, can’t you? And you want to read the little comic on the wrapper? That reminds me—my fortune cookie from Panda Express today was empty. What does that mean?
  • 58a. [Fictional African kingdom in “Coming to America”], ZAMUNDA / 48d. [Ring around a watch face], BEZEL. Heaven help the solver who never saw that movie (or did, but forgot the fake place name) and can’t remember which is which for BEZEL and BEVEL. (And if you filled in WAKANDA, well, I’ll mark that correct, too, just on account of sheer awesomeness.)
  • 2d. [R&B trio Bell Biv ___], DEVOE. Cue the bad jokes about Roy G. Biv being one of the original three.
  • 8d. [Launched a tech start-up?], POWERED ON. Good clue!

Didn’t love all the fill—EDA ATEN OLIOS ALO ORA—but overall, a solid puzzle. 3.75 stars from me.

Tim Schenck’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Even with the circles, I can expect a lot of people to skip the last part of the theme. The middle part has MIXED/DRINK and if you unscramble the circled letter sets you reveal cocktails. RICADES is a SIDECAR; INIMART becomes MARTINI; RESTING rearranges to STINGER?; and SBINGO is the faux-martini GIBSON. A rather quaint cocktail set, particularly the stinger. Also, the theme entries themselves are rather bland, particularly ARRESTING and BARRICADES.

Not a big fan of the grid design, with the central revealer and four themers forcing a very segmented design that fell more like a set of a mini-puzzles than a single crossword.

Not too much threw me for a loop except having ??OTGUN and getting to [Crowd control weapon]. Only thing that made sense was SHOTGUN, but my gosh that’s brutal. Turns out there’s something called a (hopefully) non-lethal RIOTGUN.

Didn’t know wine-maker BOGLE (songwriter Eric yes) or the particular author DIANA Gabaldon, but fairly straightforward otherwise.

2.5 Stars

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12 Responses to Wednesday, October 24, 2018

  1. Dr. Fancypants says:

    I saw “Coming to America” numerous times many years ago, and the name of that kingdom still didn’t ring any bells. That word simply has no business being there, particularly given the crosses.

    As I was close to wrapping up this puzzle, I was all set to give it a good rating. Then I hit the SE, and that section alone probably knocked a full star off my rating of the puzzle.

  2. Jim Akin says:

    Assistance on some minor confusion would be greatly appreciated:

    The theme for Wednesday’s (10/24) LA Times/Washington Post syndicated puzzle, stated in clue references to entries MIXED and DRINK, involves anagramming circled letters within the four longest entries to reveal the names of cocktails:

    The last seven letters of BARRICADES yield “sidecar.”

    Letters 2-8 of MINIMARTS anagram to “martini.”

    The final seven letters of ARRESTING unscramble as “stinger.”

    The fourth anagram has me baffled. The Washington Post puzzle webpage confirms I’ve completed the grid correctly, but I can’t work out the name of any drink hidden in the last six letters of the two-word entry PLAYSBINGO.

    After pondering a while (I’m pretty good at anagrams but spotty in cocktail lore), I caved and plugged the letters into an online anagram generator, but found nothing recognizable. In case the “Y” was accidentally left uncircled (all other anagrams are seven letters long), I added it to the mix, but still came up dry. Can anyone here slake my curiosity? Thanks in advance.

  3. Ethan Friedman says:

    Amy I got an empty fortune the other day too! Maybe there was a manufacturing error at the factory — it can’t be like there’s dozens of fortune cookie factories are there?

  4. Noam D. Elkies says:

    NYT: First theme answer I got was 28A:DECADENT, which led me to expect that the other themers would also remain words when ad-blocked. Alas it was not to be.

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    There’s an error in the AV Club puzzle—24d PRE is not the [Ante-‘s opposite], as they both mean “before.”

    • Ben says:

      That caught me off-guard as well. However, apparently “pre” can also mean “in front of,” as in “premolar” (according to Merriam-Webster’s site). Still, seems like there could have been a much more clear clue.

  6. David Glasser says:

    AVC: When I saw SUSA in the top wave, I gasped. Great puzzle. How lucky to find a same-length trip that works that well.

  7. David Roll says:

    WSJ I thought 1A was difficult considering Lazarus has been dead for awhile–but the puzzle brought him back to life!

  8. Penguins says:

    Wednesday is not a great day for puzzles, though today’s was exceptional

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