Wednesday, March 13, 2019

AV Club 7:00 (Ben) 


LAT 4:12 (GRAB) 


NYT 4:16 (Amy) 


WSJ 7:11 (Jim P) 


Universal 12:59 (Vic) 


Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 3 13 19, no. 0313

OBLIQUE REFERENCE is the name of the game, clued as 60a. [Indirect comment … or a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters]. The circled words are different sorts of reference books: DICTIONARY, ALMANAC, ATLAS, THESAURUS. What?? Not a single editorial style guide? What a terrible sin of omission. When it comes to actual reference books, and not online versions thereof, it’s the Chicago Manual of Style that I’m leafing through the most.

Aside from that one 16-letter Across answer, the rest of the theme is in the diagonals, so at least the fill isn’t utterly destroyed by having lots of theme answers intersecting in different ways. I mean, starting with DROSS at 1a crossing crosswordese RIATA was a bit rough, but overall, not horribly out of step with Wednesday-caliber fill. (Could’ve done without neighboring ERTE and ROUE, mind you. Or ESTD crossing PDAS and ODED, and not even in a corner with circled squares!)

Four more things:

  • 56d. [City under siege from 2012 to ’16], ALEPPO / 10a. [Longtime Syrian leader], ASSAD. Fucking war criminal. I’m so sorry that the world did so little to stop the destruction of the Syrian people.
  • 49a. [TV host Ryan], SEACREST. Yeah, I don’t trust him.
  • 34d. [Yawn!]], WHAT A BORE. This … is a contrived entry.
  • 42d. [Made the rounds, say?], BARTENDED. Great clue.

Cute theme concept, not well supported by the rest of the fill. 3.4 stars from me.

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

The revealer is at 53d: PEN IN [Enclose, as livestock, and an explanation of this puzzle’s theme]. Theme entries have the trigram PEN added to them.

WSJ – Wed., 3.13.19

  • 17a [Where woodworkers talk shop?] CARPENTER CENTER. Carter Center. I don’t think I knew what the Carter Center was. Maybe I’d heard of it, but I’m not sure. Founded by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, its slogan is “Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.”
  • 28a [Large country with super-transparent governance?] OPEN CANADA. O Canada. This one’s not bad.
  • 47a [Baseball club still waiting for final league approval?] PENDING BAT. Dingbat. Meh. This doesn’t have a lot of surface sense.
  • 61a [Cash rebate to buy a Japanese camera?] PENTAX INCENTIVE. Tax incentive. This one works best. Do they still make Pentax cameras?

I have to say PEN IN is a rather lackluster conceit for a theme. And none of the theme entries felt like it was worth it. TEPID seems like the word of the day. I won’t go as far as YEESH or OOF, but I found the theme unexciting.

In the fill though you’ll find some crispy ONION RINGS [Circular side dish], and I love the posh-sound RIPOSTE [Witty comeback]. And of course Zhouqin always finds room for some fun conversational entries like “LET’S FACE IT!” [“Look at the facts!”] and the flatulence-implied “WASN’T ME!” [“Must have been someone else!”]. That alone was good for a chuckle.

Fave clues: [Notable fruit sampler] for EVE and [Character from a bar?] for SPACE. Cheeky misdirection in both cases.

Three stars for the theme and add a quarter for the fill for 3.25 stars.

Kyle Dolan’s Universal Crossword, “Surround Sound”–Judge Vic’s write-up

Kyle Dolan’s Universal Crossword, “Surround Sound,” 2-13-18, solution

I was contacted not long ago by the editor in charge of crosswords at my local paper. She’d received a complaint from a group of solvers regarding the Feb. 28 puzzle. In that puzzle, one-word film titles spanned two answers. Not being able to use circles or shaded squares, the editor used parenthetical numbers in pairs of clues, creating a “workaround.” E.g.,

1a [Bubble tea root (1)] TARO and 5a [Fuzzy fruit (1)] PEACH combined as theme entry no. 1, RO.PE (pretend the dot is a block);
20a [Silas Marner ailment (2)] CATALEPSY and 22a [Group of notes (2)] CHORD comprised theme entry no.2, PSY.CHO; etc.

See Jim Q’s review of this a couple weeks ago. He did not say so, but it’s just not the same without circles or shaded blocks, is it? That’s my beef.

The beef of the solvers who called the editor, who called me, was that they couldn’t figure out the parenthetical numbers or the theme. Plus, they didn’t know what bubble tea was and didn’t like something about the clue/answer [Twitter spammer] BOT, but I told them those latter two were on them!

Today’s puzzle is similar to that one and to a couple others that have run of late. As a workaround, the solver is told to look for bookends (though today that word is used as a verb). Rather than being presented, say, with a grid containing a few circles, we have instead the following (I’m listing the reveal first, because I think it helps to illustrate the POINT, PERSON):

  • 58a [Tribute groups, or a hint to what bookends the starred answers] COVER BANDS–I know what a cover band is. At least I thought I did. Okay, let’s get to those stars.
  • 17a [*DC Comics cosmic construct (“Madness”)] MULTIVERSE
    I did not know this word.
    Of “Madness” I’d not heard.
    There’s a band called Muse?
    To me that was news.
    That’s three strikes on me,
    or four as you’ll see,
    and I’ve been evolving
    in this hobby, solving
    20 crosswords a week,
    30 at my peak,
    for decades, seems like!
    And so my fourth strike:
    is I assumed Muse,
    in a term overused,
    was literally, a cover band.
    Did I misunderstand?!
  • 21a [*Project leader (“Every Rose Has Its Thorn”)] POINT PERSON–I was vaguely aware of a group called Poison. I didn’t know it was a cover band. Wikipedia says “Every Rose …” is its “signature song.” Though the song rang no bells at all for me, I found myself wondering how Poison could be a cover band if that song was its biggie.
  • 37a [*London travel hub (“Alone”)] HEATHROW AIRPORT-Never heard of the band or the song. And the research doesn’t ID them as a tribute group. Hmm. I am starting to get suspicious. Something is wrong somewhere.
  • 50a [*Wicketkeeper’s squad (“White Room”)] CRICKET TEAM–Cream I know … and, only now, hours after I solved the puzzle (editing the draft of my review), is it dawning upon me that cover in the answer COVER BANDS is … a pun. Uh, kinda. Sorta. A little bit? Actually, no! It is not. Bookends do not cover the books that are between them. Not literally or, in the context of this puzzle, metaphorically.

So, yup! I’m predicting more calls to my friend at the newspaper. I think I’ll get out in front of this one and call her first.

Let’s not fail to mention that, with a theme that runs 10-11-15-11-10 (that’s really too much, guys!), it was somewhat remarkable to see the following other answers in this puzzle: AD HOC, OR ELSE, NAYSAY, CHIP IN, LESS IS MORE, I HAD NO IDEA.

Conversely, we cannot overlook some stale, not-much-wanted, and hardly-ever-appreciated entries in this grid:. E.g., HELL, ODAY, ACME, DOUR, ALTON, VON, ELAN, ORBS, OCHO, ORES, BSED.

As a friend of mine used to say on the golf course, usually regarding one of his own shots, “It’s not horrible.” But …, this one did not resonate with me on an objective or subjective level. Plus, it was hard! People who seek out this venue expect Tuesday-level easy.

2 stars.

Erin Rhode’s AVCX, “Not Feeling Up To It” — Ben’s Review

Erin Rhode has this week’s AVCX, a 4/5 on their difficulty scale that felt like more of a 3 or 3.5 to me.

This is a trickier theme, so let’s talk about the revealer first, then dig into what’s going on.  We’re told at 36A that UNDER THE WEATHER (“Sick, or where to enter the rest of the entries with starred clues”) points out how to insert the starred entries into the grid.  There’s also a bunch of unclued spaces at 20A, 22A, 53A, and 54A, which I’ve included below as well since they tie in with everything:

  • 17A: *”Better make a decision …” — SNOW
  • 19A: *The moment when you’re on Final Jeopardy! and forget the name of the story where the guy turns into a bug (and then you lose and your dad brags that he wrote his college thesis on said story… hypothetical clue, obvs), e.g. — RAIN
  • 23A: BFART
  • 46A: *My standard order at Starbucks, since I don’t drink coffee — HAIL
  • 53A: CATTE
  • 50A: *What you might be, idiomatically, when you’re stunned — SUN

Playing off of UNDER THE WEATHER, the full answer for each clue at 17A, 19A, 46A, and 50A is solved with a phrase: IT’S NOW OR NEVER, BRAIN FART, CHAI LATTE, and MONKEY’S UNCLE.  The non-weather portion of each answer goes where indicated, and everything else goes underneath.

Something about the construction on this rubbed me the wrong way.  I figured out what was going on easily enough, but there’s still something unsatisfying about having four answers that aren’t really words and don’t give you a ton to go on if you haven’t figured out that AHA in the grid.  This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve seen a grid do this (and it definitely feels like the reason for the high difficulty rating), but for whatever reason, it felt less elegant in this specific puzzle.

Part of it may have also been some of the other fill being all over the place: BIST, ALCS, EMTS, MOCS, RBIS, etc. all felt a little junk-y, and I’m not too fond of OOHER, either (“Person during a fireworks show, perhaps”).  I think I would have forgiven the theme more here if the rest of the puzzle shined a bit more.

3 stars.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

We have slightly offbeat (and more convoluted than usual) theme today. TOM, DICK and HARRY are each connected to a surname of a famous example of each. They are all clued plainly as [Generic guy]. However, the surname is used as a first name of another celebrity in an intersecting across answer. So: TOM(ARNOLD)PALMER, DICK(FRANCIS)SCOTTKEY, and HARRY(TRUMAN)CAPOTE. The last must have been the seed surely. Such an odd first name! In other news, quite the sausagefest.

The theme, despite the extra downs, didn’t feel overly busy. We got TAGTEAM, DOTIME, and ROASTMASTER all of which help to enliven the grid.

AUTHOR and the second [Bridge position], NOSE are two playful clues. It’s nice to see some tricks in the earlier part of the week.

One thing is bugging me though. [Family nickname], MOMMIE. That spelling looks plain bizarre…

3,75 Stars

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12 Responses to Wednesday, March 13, 2019

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: “I’m so sorry that the world did so little to stop the destruction of the Syrian people”. Me too, Amy.
    My brother, his wife and son are on a trip to Beirut and they tell me the city is overflowing with Syrian children begging for food. It’s remarkable that this seems actually worse. I don’t know whether more Syrians have come in, or some of the aid has disappeared. But every time one of these disasters happen (e.g. Iraq and Syria) neighboring countries get also really badly hit (Jordan and Lebanon). Misery spreads.
    I am really hoping that a civil war does not start in Venezuela. There is nothing worse.

  2. Greg Johnson says:

    Re: Universal What’s wrong with ACME DOUR ORBS ORES HELL OCHO? Sheesh, they’re all perfectly fine.

  3. Dr Fancypants says:

    NYT is a shining example of a good theme idea that results in a puzzle that is no fun to solve. So many “ugh”s as I filled in the gunk required to support the triple-checked themers.

  4. RunawayPancake says:

    Universal: Unlike the reviewer, I thought this puzzle seemed pretty typical for a Tuesday with a straightforward and enjoyable theme. Guess I have lower standards.

  5. anon says:

    LAT: Anyone have an update on the LAT .puz files on Cruciverb? No new files there for the past ten days or so.

  6. Jenni says:

    LOVED the AVCX.

  7. Gareth says:

    RIATA… Good enough for the crossword; shunned by the Spelling Bee…

  8. Alan D. says:

    Gareth, agreed MOMMIE looks weird but ever hear of “Mommie Dearest”?

  9. Doug says:

    It’s hard to know how to respond when someone says they’re not sure they’ve heard of the Carter Center. One of the foremost NGOs in the world? Earned Jimmy Carter the Nobel Peace Prize? Known around the world for humanitarian work? Awkward.

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