Benjamin Kramer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Junior Mince” — Jim P’s review
The last time Ben Kramer was here he gave us an impressive grid with an “OK BY ME” theme. This one does not disappoint either.
SPLIT SECOND is the revealer at 36a and it’s clued [Instant, or what you’ll find in each set of circled letters]. My grid didn’t have the circled letters, so I shaded them yellow for the picture. But each pair of entries combines to name a well-known second banana (i.e. sidekick).
- 17a/19a ANGKOR WAT / SONAR
- 29a/31a ESCHEW / BACCARAT. What a fantastic find! I love this. And the fact that it spans the grid is sublime.
- 43a/47a TINSMITH / ERSATZ. Hmm. I don’t know that Smithers really fits the sidekick role as much as the others. He’s there more to serve Mr. Burns than to work alongside him. But what do I know? Entertainment Weekly named him the 16th best sidekick of all time.
- 59a/61a THROB / INCIPIENT
This was a lot of fun for me even though I mostly ignored the theme during the solve. Once completed, I was awed by that CHEWBACCA find. And the title! Spot. On. (Although I’m pretty sure Chewie is in no way Han’s junior.)
And there’s a lot of good stuff in the grid besides: SANSKRIT, BANTERED, KRYPTON, MAYBES, MOSAIC, RHONDA, ORWELL, MR BIG.
I couldn’t recall Hieronymus BOSCH [“The Garden of Earthly Delights” painter], but got it with the crossings. I did know ALISON [1977 Elvis Costello song], so that helped. Yes, it’s a proper name crossing, but O seems to be the only letter that makes sense there.
The cluing was fun too. Check out some of these:
- 26a [Ducks for covers]. EIDERS. I suspected something was up with this clue when I first read it. I was right to be suspicious.
- 6d [“Mind. Blown.”]. OH WOW. Fun clue and entry.
- 10d [She “caught my eye” in a Beach Boys song]. RHONDA. Along with ALISON, one for us oldsters.
- 45d [Wishy-washy invitees]. MAYBES. Make a decision already!
- 4d [Socially aware]. WOKE. Yes, but there is such a thing as too WOKE.
Amanda Chung & Karl Ni’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme revealer is 56a. [Like 20-, 28- and 45-Across vis-à-vis the female-sounding phrases they’re based on?], GENDER NEUTRAL. Those other three answers are:
- 20a. [Maternity ward worker who counts each day’s births?], DELIVERY ADDER. Riffing on delivery address, which does not actually contain a feminine suffix.
- 28a. [Dairy item thrown in a food fight?], FLYING BUTTER. Flying buttress, in architecture.
- 45a. [Dynamite?], BLOW-UP MATTER. Blow-up mattress, which is not a term I use—air mattress, inflatable mattress.
There’s the issue of whether the first word in each of these pairs—actor/actress, waiter/waitress, comedian/comedienne—is truly gender neutral, or whether it’s still steeped in its “male is the default” maleness. Given that there are still people out there insisting that he is perfectly fine as a gender-neutral pronoun to use when you don’t know the gender of the person you’re referring to (as in “everyone should clean up after himself”), this theme feels a bit off base to me.
Five more things:
- 47d. [Granny, in the South], MEEMAW. Please tell me if your family uses this term.
- 4d. [Agnostic’s lack], BELIEF. Not exactly. An agnostic believes that you can’t know if there’s a god. An atheist believes there is no god, and this is also a belief. If the answer were RELIGIOUSFAITH, the clue might fly, but no.
- 26d. [Pretend], LET ON / 60a. [“___ at ’em!”], LEMME. Duplicative answers.
- 22d. [Girl entering society, in brief], DEB. Are debutante balls still a thing? Whoa, they are. Though some young women are speaking out against them.
- 37a. [Quick rests], CATNAPS. I am nap-impaired. Can’t take a nap no matter how good an idea it might be.
3.4 stars from me.
Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “Poster Children” — Ben’s Review
Ben Tausig has today’s AVCX puzzle, and it’s a high-concept theme that I think mostly works, but is a little trickier than the 2/5 difficulty suggests it would be:
- 1A: The AVCX has obvlously run out of ideas. Its to politically bias now, — SCRAM (realizing this was the line took me far longer than it should have.)
- 21A: Whenever I use a hurtful word, somebody rolls over here and says I shouldn’t! It’s exactly like Ivan the Terrible. What about MY rights? — SURRENDERS
- 55A: tHIS PUZZLE IS RIGHT ON THE LINE BETWEEN BORING AND BAD — AMEN TO THAT
- 69A: This puzzle is a rip off!! I paid $1 and got at most one hour of entertaintmet — STEAL
- 17A/38A: [E]xcellent online advice that, unfortunately, you’ll have to disregard to complete this puzzle — NEVER / READ THE COMMENTS
- 63A: Certain troll or, read another way, a hint to what to what to look for in this puzzle’s obnoxious clues in order to solve them — RANDO
I see you, RANDO commenters. More importantly, I see your IP addresses and I especially see when they line up with someone whose account I know. That’s not important for this puzzle, but parsing RANDO as R AND O is important for parsing this puzzle’s theme clues. The words that begin with R and O in each fake comment about the AVCX (which I’ve bolded above) spells out the actual clues for their entries.
I found the idea of hiding the true clues for entries an interesting idea that I’d see out in a Mystery Hunt puzzle. I’m not entirely sure it works here, but I think this is an interesting attempt at trying something different with theme, and I applaud that wholeheartedly.
I leave the puzzle here this week, but with a note that most San Marzano TOMATOes are a scam . Just buy Muir Glens!
Roland Huget’s LA Times – Gareth’s summary
The puzzle’s theme explains itself. There are 3 15s with no REPEATEDLETTERS. Two thirds of them lean towards the green paint end of the spectrum, with only CRAZYSTUPIDLOVE seeming ironclad.
Four fifteens nearly always result in a very stuffy feeling puzzle, and this was no different. STADT, AWACS and DADO are words to note for next year, being infrequent, difficult crossword answers.
“An atheist believes there is no god, and this is also a belief.”
Gonna object a bit to this; though it’s often seen as a distinction without a difference, I think many atheists would describe their view as the absence of belief in gods, rather than a belief that there is no god. The website of American Atheists makes this same point: “Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.”
Best I heard was someone who observed that “‘atheist’ is a term that shouldn’t exist.”
Could not agree more, Evan. Thanks for saving me the trouble of voicing it.
I did not understand the theme when I had finished the puzzle, and I am still clueless (ha ha) even after reading the explanation. Wouldn’t “blow up matter” be “blow up matteress” with the feminine ESS added? Maybe it is just me
Also, 5A has two huge problems: An arc is not a line. Secondly, a compass draws arcs. A protractor measures angles. WS must have been asleep at the wheel when reviewing this clue (hopefully it was not his rewrite of what may have been a perfectly good clue originally).
It doesn’t make any sense for me either. How do you get the final -ER on the theme answers by removing -ESS from the base phrases?
You’re right about a protractor being the wrong instrument for 5A. But an arc is a line.
Another problem for me: how is LETON the same as ‘pretend’?
I guess since “protractor” was in the clue, I was thinking of the geometric definition of a line: “In geometry, a line is straight (no bends)”
It wasn’t obvious to me either, but as Amy indicated, it’s the equivalent of converting between waiter and waitress – i.e. the -ress becomes -er. And while sure, a protractor isn’t designed for it, you could presumably trace along the curved side to make an arc. Again though, not the most elegant.
Here I was thinking the base phrases were DELIVERY ROOM, FLYING SAUCER and BLOW-UP DOLL, trying to work back to what was in the grid. Real head-scratcher today.
Thought the AVCX was really original today. I liked it.
Is the term/concept “rando” particularly associated with internet trolls? My first thought is “no” — and therefore the AVCX puzzle makes no sense and probably shouldn’t have been published. Am I missing something?
“rando” works perfectly as the theme, which I won’t spoil as the review has not yet been posted. But the clue to 63A does say “or, read another way”, which is what you may be missing.
Here’s M-W’s definition of “rando”: “: a random person : a person who is not known or recognizable or whose appearance (as in a conversation or narrative) seems unprompted or unwelcome.” So, an internet troll would qualify.
This was a wonderful puzzle. Not only clever, but highly amusing. I was stuck in the NW with all of those 1960s music clues until I figured out what Ben was doing at the clue for 1D, ha ha ha *snort*.
Thanks, AVCX, for making me laugh out loud, especially at the theme clues. 5 stars, all the way!
I knew “Meemaw” from “The Big Bang Theory”. The character Sheldon (from Texas) loves his Meemaw.
One of my grandmothers was Mamaw (the first a is short).
Nice theme. 45A:BLOW-UP_MATTRESS is not the phrase I know either; by the time I got there, I already solved the revealer, and so was expecting the worst from “blow-up”!
Strange to see 34D:STRONGMAN and 22D:DEB in a puzzle with this theme . . . The first, like “gunman”, “manslaughter” and “manhunt”, is an exception that proves the rule — they’re “man” words with a negative connotation, but can be explained in the same way (i.e., either the default dictator, victim, etc. is male, or the word is old enough to retain the gender-neutral sense of “man”). For the second, in theory there could be male “debutants”, but not here and now, and certainly not with that clue. For that matter a comment on Rex’s blog notes that 25A:ELK didn’t have to be clued as a frat member. (Hm, if a female lion is a lioness then a female elk sounds like the original pronunciation of my surname. NB “tigress” is another example of the Mister/Mistress family.)
The warning 32A:SSS could be coming from the other kind of ADDER . . .
No idea what was going on with AVCX. Theme completely lost on me. Never heard of rando
I grew up in Arkansas and had a meemaw. It’s legit.
WSJ: 6d [“Mind. Blown.”]. OH WOW–why the periods?
It’s a way of emphasizing each word and therefore the entire phrase to hyperbolic proportions. Make sure to read it with a heavy and significant pause between the words. Another example is “Best. Day. Ever!”
Thanks-haven’t seen that before.
I found this discussion at StackExchange. Based on musings there, I proffer ‘staccato orthography”.
Nothing turned up in a cursory search at Language Log.
“Staccato Orthography” is good. But I think I’d be partial to “shatnering” or “shatting” for short.
“I don’t know that Smithers really fits the sidekick role as much as the others. ” But it’s just Shortz’s inane obsession with the Simpsons. (Can’t have a puzzle without it.) At least I hope it’s an obsession. The alternative, that he’d being paid off, is worse.
Mike Shenk is going to be very surprised to learn that Will Shortz edited the WSJ puzzle.
hooray to LAT for not having the teeny tiny font for the print copy