Wednesday, November 7, 2018

AV Club untimed (Ben) 


LAT 3:19 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:34 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 7 18, no 1107

Election returns are coming in and my shoulders keep inching up next to my ears. So a quick recap here, and you’re welcome to chit-chat about crosswords as much as your heart desires. The theme is the Leaning Tower of Pisa, depicted in those circled squares spelling out LEA/NIN/G TO/WER on a slant. 38d. [Home to this puzzle’s featured structure, as hinted at by the starts of the answers to the starred clues] clues PISA, ITALY, and the starred answers are ANGLE FOR, TILT AT WINDMILLS, PITCH OUT (with a basebally clue that makes no sense to me, having not heard this term before), and TIP SHEETS, all starting with the leaning words ANGLE, TILT, PITCH, and TIP.

Wasn’t I just mentioning the Leaning Tower the other day? If you’ve got cable with on-demand, look for the Science Channel show Engineering Catastrophes, the episode that includes the “who the hell approved this building plan” Leaning Tower.

Three more things:

  • 7a. [Rapidly increase in size], SNOWBALL. I wanted MUSHROOM, but 7d insisted on being SCALD rather than something starting with an M. What other 8-letter words are synonymous?
  • 25a. [Got ready to run?], EDITED. I like this. I tell ya, I get things ready to run more than a track-and-field coach or a political advisor.
  • 50a. [Airheaded], DITSY. I disavow this Z-less spelling.

Likes: Pretty CAMELLIA, “AFRAID SO,” UMAMI (though, truth be told, I’ll take sweet over umami any day). Mehs: EDDA as crosswordese (please let the Norse Eddas play a central role in all future Thor movies), but I guess the rest of the fill didn’t irk me.

4.2 stars from me.

Thomas van Geel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “ Solve This, Please!” — Jim P’s review

New byline! Either this is a genuine debut or it’s another pseudonym for editor Mike Shenk. Let’s see. Is Mike Shenk possibly a SHOVEL MAGNATE? Or maybe he’s one of those HOT SALVAGE MEN we all know.

Actually, I have it on good authority that this is a debut, so congratulations Thomas!

It’s not often that a puzzle will make you laugh out loud, but this one did just that for me. Major props to our newest constructor for making a grid that delivered both an aha moment and some solid chuckles!

The first thing to notice is that whole words are circled in the grid. While solving, this gave me no indication of what the theme could be, even when I had most of these filled in. Once I got the revealer, it all made sense, and I laughed.

WSJ – Wed, 11.7.18 – “Solve This, Please!” by Thomas van Geel

The clue for the revealer at 26d is [How to read the circled answers (please!)]. The answer is ALOUD. So what do we get when we read them ALOUD? Why, it’s a cry for help!

HELL PIE YAMS TUCK KIN ACK ROSS WARD FAQ TORY!” Translation: “Help! I am stuck in a crossword factory!”

Imagine you’re some poor schlub in a crossword factory toiling away to put out grids with mediocre themes and bland fill. The pay is poor, the working conditions suck, and your mind has been numbed. Suddenly you see a chance for escape if you can just get a secret message out to the public. This puzzle is your chance!

I love this, and I’m still laughing about it. It’s creative, imaginative, and just plain funny. Everything I want in a puzzle.

I also love that all the theme answers are symmetrical in the grid and they’re all solid, normal words. ACK borders on crosswordese, but I think it’s okay. And some people pronounce the individual letters in FAQ, but I’m not one of them.

I don’t really care to talk about the rest of the fill because I love the theme so much, but I suppose I should. It’s all good anyway, with nothing that stuck out at me. The best long bits are LOVE SCENES, CALCUTTA, HAT STAND, and ELAINE CHAO. Very nice!

There’s also AMBER ALERT [Missing child announcement] which serves as the reality check in the grid. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that somewhere on the order of 1500 children go missing each day in this country. These aren’t necessarily all abductions; some might just be lost children or runaways, but still, that’s a scary number. Here is an FBI-produced app for parents to keep vital statistics and photos of their children if the worst should happen.

That sobering issue aside, this was a wonderful puzzle. One that I’m likely to remember for a long time. 4.5 stars.

Francis Heany’s AVCX, “Casting Call” — Ben’s Review

This week’s AVCX puzzle from Francis Heaney was particularly timely – hopefully you did it when it arrived in your inbox on Tuesday.  Let’s take a look at what was going on with all those boxes and shading (which were sadly reduced to mere circled squares in the digital version of the puzzle – there’s only so much AcrossLite can do)

There were four sets of across clues featuring unusual boxes in the grid with shaded squares next door:

  • 14A: Sketchy way to avoid paying the government one’s fair share — TAX DODGE
  • 17A: Rubbed the wrong way — AB RADED
  • 26A: Combine, as the tracks in a multitrack recording — MIX DOWN
  • 32A: Little undeveloped wormlike things — LA RVAE
  • 47A: Length of a 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict — SIX DAYS
  • 51A: Common Russian name — SE RGEI
  • 64A: Libido — SEX DRIVE
  • 68A: Wildly unpredictable — ER RATIC

As illustrated by the X’s, we’ve got a lovely reminder to create a BLUE/WAVE and vote for Democrats, as clued by 36A and 45A.  It’s time to get the current administration out of power, and this is just the start.  Let’s keep this momentum up.

Other fill things I liked/had notes about:

  • I loved the political content in this political puzzle: mentioning the current OPIATE crisis, SNOPES, Reality Winner and the NSA, the AMORAL nature of the current administration, etc.  This puzzle was dripping with relevant references and it’s the better for it.
  • I also loved the Snoopy references – Spike and his holiday SAGUARO and Woodstock’s YELLOW color.  According to Instagram, Francis recently visited a Snoopy exhibition in Japan, so I bet he had that on the brain while cluing this puzzle

4.5/5 stars.

Michael Ray Jacobson & Patti Varol’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

This is straightforward tribute puzzle. I got to BOTH, saw 1968, and filled in BOTHSIDESNOW, JONIMITCHELL then BIGYELLOWTAXI, making most of the rest of the puzzle easy to fill. It includes two of her best known songs, as well as two symmetrical albums – HEJIRA and CLOUDS. Not much more to be said, although BLUE is her most acclaimed album, it isn’t one of a symmetrical pair.

Although most of the puzzle is affected by theme, our constructor pair did manag to include choice morsels: MANBAG, LIKESO, WELLTODO and KHAKI are all fun entries. IGLU , on the other hand, is the ugliest thing here; an extinct spelling forced by the pattern ?G?U.

[Fish dish served with wasabi], SUSHI is not a tight clue. Sushi can have fish, but I feel like rice and seaweed are the most consistent ingredients…

I’m not sure how to rate such a puzzle.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Wednesday, November 7, 2018

  1. David Steere says:

    AVX: Francis: Thank you for your hopeful crossword which I completed late Monday night. A brilliant construction in a very good cause. It also made me smile broadly when I realized what you were up to. Your grid may represent wishful thinking but that’s just fine with me. I completed your puzzle not long after I finished streaming the second episode of the impressive new PBS series, NATIVE AMERICA. The show, “NATURE TO NATIONS,” dealt with—among other things—shell wampum and how it was used to document the origin stories of the Northeastern Native American nations and how it symbolizes their successful efforts to end warfare and find peace. Their first democracy inspired Benjamin Franklin and others to create our government in the image of these united Native Americans. This show and your puzzle together made me feel a bit less pessimistic about what may happen on Tuesday. Thanks also to Ben for sending this puzzle out early.

    • janie says:


      high-concept puzz w/ 1st rate execution, making for an impressive entry in the cruciverbal realm. im(v)ho —


    • GG says:

      Did a little before Tuesday, most after and am basking in the glow of Democratic successes. With the crossword community behind them, how could they lose!

  2. John Lampkin says:

    WSJ: Like Jim, I’m still laughing! What a great take on the ancient “fortune cookie” gag. Congrats to Thomas van Geel for a stunning five-star debut. Like a good joke, the punch word is the last word across.

  3. WhiskyBill says:

    I enjoyed e.a.’s offering today at Puzzle Society.

    I was reluctant to start solving them, since one must use cookies in the browser, wait through an ad, and navigate a strange “print” menu that requires multiple clicks to move aside things that oddly block the print button. However, since I decided to do that daily dance, I’d rate the Puzzle Society crosswords consistently between “very good” and “excellent.”

    • joon says:

      agreed, especially about today’s puzzle. i was blown away at how good the fill was. wish the clues had a bit more bite—this grid could easily have been clued up to a saturday nyt level—but i appear to be atypical of the target audience for these puzzle society offerings in that regard.

  4. Gene says:

    The baseball term PITCHOUT is one word, not two, but I don’t think that detracts from the theme.

    • joon says:

      i think of it as two words as a verb, one word as a noun, and dictionaries seem to agree. so i think the entry is fine, but the clue could have been tweaked to make the theme more consistent.

      then again, this is a pretty minor point, and the clue (already unfamiliar to non-fans) might have been even ungainlier as a verb. best i can come up with is {Try to deter a baserunner from stealing, perhaps}, but it doesn’t do much to convey what a pitchout actually is to any solver who doesn’t already know.

      • susanb says:

        As a baseball fan, I agree on the one word/two word usage of pitchout, and the ungainly clue. The clue & answer truly are ‘inside baseball’ terms. A pitch out actually was used more to avoid a known slugger – to intentionally walk him on 4 balls instead of throwing a possible home run or run-scoring ball – or to get to a weaker hitter (a pitcher, maybe). But it is rarely seen & unnecessary now after MLB allowed the manager to signal an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw a ball. And I wouldn’t think first of using a pitchout to thwart a squeeze play, when the batter bunts to give the runner at third base a chance to score.

        • Dave S says:

          I don’t have access to the NYT puzzle, so I don’t know what the clue is for pitchout. But the term itself is not used in connection with a strategy to avoid a slugger. A pitchout is called when the defensive team suspects that a runner (usually on first base) is going to attempt to steal the next base. The pitchout is thrown deliberately high and sufficiently outside to give the catcher the best possible opportunity to receive the pitch without any interference from the batter, to optimize his/her ability to throw out the would-be base-stealer.

          • Martin says:

            The clue refers to another use of a pitchout: getting the ball to the catcher in a standing position, and well positioned to tag a runner stealing home. It’s “Baseball throw that might thwart a squeeze play.”

          • Steve Manion says:

            I agree completely with Dave S regarding pitchout.
            As to the squeeze play in the clue, it seems that a pitchout would certainly thwart a suicide squeeze in which the runner on third commits to running toward home as soon as the pitch is thrown, but as to a regular (sometimes called safety) squeeze, the pitchout would thwart the squeeze for that pitch only because the batter wouldn’t be able to bunt it, but the runner on third would easily be able to get back.


            • Martin says:

              Yep, “suicide” in the clue would have been more precise but since a suicide squeeze is a kind of a squeeze play, the clue is certainly accurate. And because any word that can be omitted from a longish clue is for the better, I consider it well edited as is.

  5. Ethan Friedman says:

    I thought that was a very nice Wednesday NYT. Fun theme, well done, solid fill

  6. Sanfranman59 says:

    I just finished solving the WSJ puzz and felt a little like what poor Ralphie must have felt like after decoding the secret message with his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring: “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine”. It did make for a creative debut puzzle though.

  7. Mainedoc says:

    Unfortunately the online version of the WSJ puzzle( at least on my iPad didn’t have any letters circled, leaving me puzzled…

Comments are closed.