Wednesday, January 30, 2019

AV Club 8:17 (Ben) 


LAT 4:01 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:08 (Amy) 


WSJ 6:05 (Jim P.) 


Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “All Pros” — Jim P’s review

Theme: Words starting with the trigram FOR- are split in two and clued as being in favor of the noun that follows.

WSJ – Wed, 1.30.19 – “All Pros” by Zhouqin Burnikel

  • 17a [In favor of Rapunzel?FOR TRESSES. Hmm. She is a fairy tale person, you know. There’s more to her than just her hair. I think I would have gone with a hair stylist clue.
  • 21a [In favor of yoga gear?] FOR MATS. If I were ever to do yoga, I would definitely be FOR MATS.
  • 39a [In favor of rice wine?] FOR SAKE. Big pronunciation change here, but I am certainly in this group, too.
  • 41a [In favor of dead heats?] FOR TIES. Boo! Not to the entry, but to people who want a score to end in a tie. This is ′Murica! We play to win!
  • 55a [In favor of a local election division?] FOR WARD. We also would have accepted a clue referencing Dick Grayson portrayer Burt Ward or TV dad Ward Cleaver.
  • 62a [In favor of competing at Christie’s?] FOR BIDDING. I like this one. Probably because it changes an ominous word into a hopeful incident.

Cute re-parsing theme, even if the repetition of FOR- made most of the entries a lot easier to get.

Lovely fill as usual with the likes of “ONE AT A TIME,” LATE FEES, “I’M FINE,” THWART, HUMMER, AKIMBO, and the symmetrically-paired AESOP and MR. FOX. What do you think of RURAL AREAS? I think I’m okay with it, but it feels a touch “green-painty.” However, I am definitely anti-TORPEDOS. Every online dictionary I looked at spells the word “torpedoes.”

Clues of note:

  • 43a [“___, Beware of the City” (Andrew Lloyd Webber composition)]. EVA. Didn’t know this song. It’s from Evita, of course.
  • 1d [“That’s awful news!”]. OOF. This surprised me as I don’t usually equate those two, but I can see it happening, and I find it humorous.
  • 8d [Sound barrier?]. REEF. Nice.

Nice puzzle, unless you are anti-repetition in your theme answers. I give it 3.7 stars.

Emily Carroll’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 30 19, no 0130

The theme revealer is 35a. [Unproductive … or, literally, a hint to the answers to this puzzle’s starred clues], FRUITLESS. The assorted theme answers consist of a fruit and noun, where the noun also doubles as a verb evoking the meaning “to go away.”

  • 18a. [*They get stuffed at Greek restaurants], GRAPE LEAVES. If one grape departs …
  • 23a. [*With 50-Across, classic ice cream treats] BANANA / SPLITS.
  • 30a. [*With 44-Across, sour candies], LEMON / DROPS.
  • 55a. [*Garnishes for old-fashioneds], ORANGE PEELS.

The FRUITLESS revealer doesn’t quite pull everything together for me, but I still like the fresh theme concept.

Speaking of foods, there’s 8d. [South American corn cakes], AREPAS. If you’ve never tried arepas, look for a Venezuelan or Colombian restaurant. I like my arepa filled with chicken, cheese, black beans, and/or sweet plantains. You know why Maduro was elected in Venezuela? Because maduros are sweet plantains. It’s hard not to vote for comfort food.

The grid’s got over a dozen 7-letter answers, plus two 9s. The down side of that is more subpar filler—like OLDFOES BANC TEENIE MES LAPLATA ADM LOVEALL TAGON.

3.3 stars from me.

Doug Peterson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Doug Peterson is a very experienced constructor. He brings an additional level of polish that has felt lacking in several LA Times puzzles of late. The actual theme is pretty basic, nothing unusual. Just WINDQUARTET indicating four words can follow WIND: SECOND WIND, WEST WIND, TRADE WIND and TAIL WIND. The spanning TOOLSOFTHETRADE and KANYEWEST are among the more interesting answers.

What I appreciated was a relative lack of contrived answers (except you AANDE) and needless clumps of obscurity. We even get a shiny pair of downs in SALEMSLOT and RAPBATTLE

3,5 Stars

Craig Mazin and Jeff Chen’s AVCX, “Disappearing Act” — Ben’s Review

it’s a kitty!

I appreciate what today’s AVCX puzzle (a co-write between Craig Mazin, making his debut, and Jeff Chen) is attempting to do, but it’s perhaps one thing too many.  First off, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, the grid does look like a cat face.  Adding to that, we have the theme clues:

  • 26D:Part 1 of a feline quote — YOU MAY
  • 5D: Part 2 of the quote — HAVE NOTICED 
  • 7D: Part 3 of the quote — THAT I’M
  • 9D: Part 4 of the quote — NOT ALL THERE
  • 32D: End of the quote — MYSELF
  • 56A: Disappearing speaker of this puzzle’s quote, from “Alice in Wonderland” — CHESHIRE CAT

So, as you can see, we have a quote running (symmetrically!) along the downs of the puzzle, CHESHIRE CAT (which, true to its nature, is treated as invisible for the entries crossing it like NECTA[h]RS and ALL-NE[r]WS), PLUS GRIN in the circled squares!  It’s a quote puzzle! It’s a secretly invisible entry puzzle!  It’s a grid that makes a fun shape!  It’s a steak sauce!  I think any combo of these elements is good, but all put together, I think this needed to remove one puzzle accessory before it left the house, particularly since the fill on this, given all its quirks, is so lovely.

4/5 stars.

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14 Responses to Wednesday, January 30, 2019

  1. Evad says:

    I agree on the revealer being a bit off (if taken literally, it would just be LEAVES and SPLITS in the grid, etc.) but it does help to tie the theme entries together if you don’t see the connection right off.

  2. Will Nediger says:

    Today’s NYT theme is a simpler version of Andy Kravis and Victor Barocas’s classic Sunday from November 3, 2013. Having the theme entry BANANA/SPLITS split into two entries is pretty elegant, though.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: I interpreted the revealer as making the FRUIT LESSer– by making it go away (leaving, dropping) or by diminishing its size (splitting, peeling). I think it’s the use of SPLIT that is equivocal and can lead to the split interpretation.

    I found this incredibly easy for a Wednesday- thanks no doubt to the scarcity of proper names.

    AREPAS are magic if you need to eat gluten free. It’s actually remarkable how many GF options there are in Mexican and South American cuisines. Also, in others like Indian cuisine– think Dosa– awesome stuff. Having to learn to cook without gluten in our family has broadened our range. I tasted Chinese sweet peanut soup as a dessert for the first time this week, thanks to my son in law.

    • David L says:

      I had a similar thought — GRAPELEAVES and ORANGEPEEL are the non-fruit parts of grapes and oranges, LEMONDROPS have lemon flavor only — but then BANANASPLITS do include the actual banana, so that theory failed.

  4. JohnH says:

    I’d have sworn that the WSJ page not long ago, following a puzzle attributed to Shenk himself, announced that they were going to abandon these pseudonyms. Yet here we go, and I’m really disappointed. Cute theme indeed, though.

    • joon says:

      what pseudonym are you referring to? the wsj puzzle today is by zhouqin burnikel.

      • Jim Peredo says:

        Yes and “Zhouqin Burnikel” also appears as the name “C. C. Burnikel” in some venues which clearly anagrams to “Uncle Brick,” which I’m presuming is Mike Shenk’s porn name.

        (N.B. I am joking.)

  5. Ben says:

    Tricky but fun AVCX today! I didn’t find it quite at 5/5 difficulty, but parsing some of the down theme answers was definitely a finish. Almost had a DNF at 39D and the crossings at 41A and 45A. Never heard of “white tuna” and I’m struggling to understand how ENL can mean “blowup.”

    • Judith Speer says:

      ENL=enlargement I think.

    • Lise says:

      The AVCX was most excellent. Alice in Wonderland is one of my favorite books, and I reread it now and then; I think that made me appreciate the puzzle even more. Lewis Carroll would have loved it.

      Very clever, and very fun!

  6. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: From a constructor’s standpoint, I looked at this grid as a lesson in how to be creative when your theme entries don’t play nice symmetrically.

    Just looking at the whole theme answers, she has two 11s (GRAPE LEAVES and ORANGE PEELS), a 10 (LEMON DROPS), a 12 (BANANA SPLITS), and a 9-letter revealer (FRUITLESS). I think a lot of constructors would look at this and throw their hands up. But thanks to the Crossword God of Serendipity, Emily realized that LEMON DROPS and BANANA SPLITS could each be cut in half and placed just so in the grid. Sure, it’s not ideal, but it’s the best that is possible with these phrases. Nicely done.

    • Ben says:

      Per the Wordplay column, Emily gives credit to the NYT editors for suggesting the split of those theme answers. Yay, collaboration!

  7. anon says:

    To whomever restored the LAT .puz files on Cruciverb: Thank you – much appreciated!

  8. Craig Mazin says:

    Thanks, Ben Smith! I’ll take that solid review! Yup, this one certainly had no shortage of ambition and accessories… although now tomorrow’s Thursday NYT puzzle is making me think Jeff and I *could* have gotten some steak sauce in there…

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