Wednesday, May 15, 2019

LAT 4:34 (GRAB) 


NYT 3:39 (Amy) 


WSJ 6:33 (Jim P) 


Universal 8:41 (Vic) 


AVCX 11:39 (Ben) 


Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “How Sweet It Is!”—Jim P’s review

MIXED FRUIT is our theme, clued [Sweet snack, and a description of the first words of the starred answers]. Each theme entry begins with a word that’s an anagram of a fruit.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “How Sweet It Is!” · Alex Eaton-Salners · Wed., 5.15.19

  • 16a [*Roadside assistance, of a sort] MILE MARKER. Lime. Sweetness is not this fruit’s key aspect.
  • 22a [*2016 #1 hit song by Sia] CHEAP THRILLS. Peach. Not in my wheelhouse, but it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.
  • 37a [*Lottery option] LUMP SUM. Plum. Sadly, not an option for most of us.
  • 47a [*Surrounded by the like-minded] AMONG FRIENDS. Mango. Nice one. I like the entry as well as finding the more exotic mango included here.

Nothing tricky about this theme, but it’s nice and clean and satisfying. I wonder if Alex considered something like WIKI LEAKS.

I struggled mostly in the upper half of the grid starting at 1a [Sounds from pounds] atop 13a [Heaps]. I went with ARFS and TONS before fighting with the crossings to land at YAPS and A LOT. In the middle, JOKE seemed the likely answer to 5a [Laugh inducer], but it turned out to be JEST. And on the right, I went with a sarcastic-sounding YEAH to answer 9a [“Uh-huh…sure, buddy”]. It wasn’t until I got the lower half of the crossings that I could see it was going for I BET. Thankfully, after those initial struggles, I either got onto the right wavelength or else the bottom half of the grid was clued more straightforwardly.

I loved seeing SLUGGO in the grid as well as POMPEII, KAPUT, the BLEH/MEH combo, and especially BATTLE SCAR and SORE LOSERS.  Didn’t care much for XIN [Choose, as a survey box], but that’s a small nit in an otherwise solid grid.

Clues of note:

  • 33a [Meat brand since 1937]. SPAM. As a descendant of islanders, I grew up eating a lot of SPAM, and thanks to me, so did my kids. Recently we’ve gotten into SPAM musubi so much so that I bought a little musubi maker from my local Asian supermarket.
  • 46a [Magazine contents]. ARMS. Do you consider ammunition to be ARMS? I’ve only ever heard the word used when referring to weaponry (firearms and such).
  • 34d [Boxer’s issue?]. PUP. Ha! Nice one.
  • 53d [Life class work]. NUDE. I’m presuming this is art-related? Is “Life” a standard term for a class in which you draw or paint living things?

Fun grid with sparkly theme entries and long fill. Four stars.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 5 15 19, no. 0515

I found this puzzle to be a good bit easier than yesterday’s NYT. Anyone else feel that Tuesday and Wednesday were flip-flopped?

Theme is CROSS DRESSING, [“Mrs. Doubtfire” plot device – or what the letters in this clue’s answer do five times?], and this 14d answer crosses five long answers right through words that are also types of salad dressing. JAILHOUSE ROCK has house dressing (I was astonished last week to be told that a restaurant had only the house vinaigrette and no other options, though I know they used to always have balsamic. Does this mean they’re on their last legs?), HAIL CAESAR has Caesar, DUDE RANCH has ranch, RUSSIAN MOB‘s got Russian (eww), and THE ITALIAN JOB has Italian.

I like the theme execution, and I don’t think CROSS-DRESSING is questionable as clued.

Kudos to Zhouqin for including plenty of long fill (4 8s, 8 7s) without impinging on the theme (9, 10, 10, 13, 13, 13).

Don’t love ABE clued as a $5 bill, because who actually uses that outside of crossword clues? And ERTE is meh fill, but in a nice open corner.

Four stars from me.

Ari Richter’s Universal Crossword, “Mixed Metaphor”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Ari Richter’s Universal Crossword, “Mixed Metaphor,” 5-15-19, solution

The letters of the word DOUBT appear scattered through each of three horizontal ILSA’s, and a fourth horizontal entry, which is metaphorical as a whole, serves as a reveal. Take a look:

  • 20a [Concerning outlook] TROUBLE AHEAD
  • 32a [“To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Jane Eyre”] DEBUT NOVEL
  • 42a [“Mom is going to kill me!”] I’M SO BUSTED
  • 51a [Latent anxieties, or a hint to this puzzle’s theme] SEEDS OF DOUBT

So, doubt, which seems to me to be the non-metaphorical part of the seeds metaphor, is mixed? Are the letters in doubt its seeds? Just asking.

None of the horizontal allies are more than six letters long. In the Downs, though, we find:

  • 5d [Wrapped in pastry] ENCROUTE–New word to me, though it looks to have been used a couple times before.
  • 10d [Dance like Chubby Checker] DO THE TWIST–Good clue. Good memory.
  • 29d [Hushes] QUIETS DOWN
  • 40d [Starts spending less] CUTS BACK–Interesting, brain-taxing clue. When you start to spend less, aren’t you really ceasing to spend the same amount or more? Ouch!
  • 42d [On the throne] IN POWER

Fun stuff, though a tad hazy in the final analysis! 3.0 stars.

Chuck Deodene’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I think of GUESTAPPEARANCEs more as big names appearing on regular tv shows than guests on talk shows, but that may just be me? In any case, the exact letters GUEST repeat 4 times in other long across answers. It’s quite a big chunk to hide four times: LEAGUESTANDINGS and TONGUESTUD are good, and the FUGUESTATE is a really interesting phenomemon, but ARGUESTHEMERITS was a tad awkward without its OF. I think the puzzle wouldn’t have lost much to have just the 3 GUESTs.

In other news:

  • [Insulin-producing gland], PANCREAS. The main gland is exocrine, with the islets of Langerhans within being little, well, islands of endocrine tissue that produce hormones – insulin and glucagon. Obligatory musical interlude.
  • [Perform like Ella], SCATSING. That looks and sounds really weird as is.
  • [TV lawyer Goodman], SAUL. Have no idea what show this is, and little inclination to find out.
  • [__ the crack of dawn], UPAT. That’s me (us) tomorrow. Off day, but going to see the red-billed oxpecker at Koeberg.
  • [House-warming option], GASHEAT. Like SCATSING, this looks and sounds really weird as is.
  • [Put into power], ENSEAT. Another awkward entry.
  • [2019 Pebble Beach event], USOPEN. However, we’re first heading to Bethpage in Long Island for the PGA Champs, which has been moved forward in the year.

3 stars

Juliana Tringali Golden’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #38” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 5/15 — “AVCX Themeless #38”

We’ve got a world debut in the AVCX — congrats, Juliana Tringali Golden!  Maybe it was the 4/5 difficulty, maybe it’s wrapping my brain around a new constructor’s cluing style, maybe it’s tackling this at the end of a busy workday, but this one took me longer than usual.  Let’s look under the hood at the fill:

  • I usually look at a themeless’ long fill to get a sense where the constructor is at, and the choices here felt like they didn’t stick out as much as some more idiosyncratic constructors — ENAMELED, PINEAPPLES, CUTTLEFISH, ADAPTERS, IRREVERENT, and PLAY BY PLAY are all fair fill, but nothing stuck out as hyper-fresh fill
  • I liked both the upper-left and lower-right stacks — MOTIVES, AMOROUS (“Like Pepé le Pew”), and NITRITE balanced nicely with KENYANS, PLEATED, and PAVLOVA (my brain got briefly stuck on Melba, but that’s an opera singer with a dessert named for them, not a ballerina with a dessert named for them)
  • Speaking of desserts, I learned that I’ve been mishearing a phrase for years.  “Just compensation, at times” feels like it’s pointing to “just DESSERTS”.  That spelling (the one I thought was the original spelling) is technically incorrect – per Grammarist, it’s supposed to be “just deserts”, as in what you deserve.


I’m still on an Icelandic band kick. This is Vök.

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

14 Responses to Wednesday, May 15, 2019

  1. no.2pencil says:

    I’ve never posted here before but I’ve always loved this blog for the insight it has given me on puzzles where the theme has eluded me, or when I wanted just a little bit more backstory on constructors or clues. I’ve never really had a need to post a response, or felt I had anything else to contribute because everyone here does such a great job. Thanks!
    However, I am posting now because when I opened my app today I found puzzles that were sponsored by Marriott!!! For the amount we pay can’t we expect ad free content?! I am asking for some pushback on these app developers. I am irked to the point of ire with these inane apes….worse than asps if you ask moi……sorry. Continue.

    • Victor Fleming says:

      Dear No. 2 — Color me clueless. I’ve now spent 15 minutes searching for this Marriott ad you mentioned. What app are you referring to?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s free stuff IN ADDITION TO the puzzles you’re paying for, and not replacing it. Do you know how many people will actually go right ahead and devour “sponsored” puzzles, just because they are looking to do more puzzles?

      Also, complaining to us is not remotely a good way to reach out to the NYT puzzle app. They have an email address accessible from the app’s settings screen:

      • no.2pencil says:

        I apologize for my rant. It was late and I was feeling testy. I did lodge a complaint through the app before I posted here. I guess I was fantasizing about kicking off a wave of complaints to the app developers. I will refrain from such behavior in the future!

  2. billy boy says:

    Too many passes necessary to call WSJ clean and satisfying. Sorry. Still a decent resistance for a Wednesday.

  3. pannonica says:

    WSJ: “46a [Magazine contents]. ARMS. Do you consider ammunition to be ARMS? I’ve only ever heard the word used when referring to weaponry (firearms and such).”

    Another sense of ‘magazine’ is of a storeroom or storage area, often explicitly for explosives and armament.

  4. DD says:

    WSJ: Thanks, Jim, for teaching me about Spam musubi — fascinating, and a new take on Spam.

    Didn’t love this puzzle, but that’s because the AE-S puzzles in the NYT are so wonderful — my expectations were high. And, BLEH is unacceptable. MEH, BLAH, BLECH, and BLEAH are in the Oxford dictionary, but not BLEH. AE-S is a wonderful constructor, so I wish he’d opted for ACEH (Banda ___) or ONE-H (draft classification), or replaced CINCHES with something that didn’t create the hard-to-fill ??EH (would’ve altered a chunk of the puzzle, but better to lose some treasured fill than to fall back on BLEH).

    pannonica, thanks for elucidating. Nonetheless, magazine is seldom used that way, so I wish it had been clued more cleanly. A gun (two or more guns = ARMS) can contain a magazine of cartridges, so why not “Magazine holders”?

  5. DD says:

    Universal: This is a good example of how xwp technology is leading some constructors astray at least some of the time.

    Online wordfinders make it easy to find themers that fit the requirement of literally thousands, or tens of thousands, of reveals. But the end result isn’t all that satisfying.

    1. The themers TROUBLE AHEAD and DEBUT NOVEL are dull; I’M SO BUSTED is less dull, but it’s not all that fun and, more importantly, is cliche teenspeak. (It really needs to be cut from wordlists, and that too is one of the perils of these tools — such relief when the wordlist provides that the constructor doesn’t evaluate whether the entry is actually *good*.) So there’s little payoff from the themers; clever ones would’ve vastly improved this puzzle, and given that there must be thousands of possibilities to choose from (because D O U B T can be placed anywhere within a themer that’s anywhere from 9 to 15 letters long), I can’t understand why AR settled for these. Didn’t want to put in the time to search exhaustively? Then don’t make the puzzle — don’t expect us to commit our time to something meh.

    2. Why did AR opt to jumble D O U B T rather than keep them in sequence? Because seeds, in the packet and in the ground, are in disorder? Because the constructor couldn’t be bothered to spend a lot of time finding good themers that kept them in sequence? I find myself spending too much time pondering this / finding no good answer, and that’s irritating.

    3. Equating “seeds” with the letters is tenuous, as Vic noted. That being the case, why didn’t AR boost the connection by choosing only themers that are about growth?

    These online and software tools, when badly used, are resulting in disappointing puzzles. In the days before these tools, a theme like this would’ve been discarded *unless* the constructor could’ve come up with themers that were a coherent set, or each compelling on its own.

  6. Zulema says:

    Re Vinaigrette House dressing, had lunch a few years ago at the Morgan Library, and they had only vinaigrette for their salads. This was soon after they opened the lunch service and I don’t know if it has changed, but I gathered then that they definitely looked down at flavored dressings.

  7. Martin says:

    I agree that the new AVCX constructor has a distinct voice. I enjoyed Juliana’s challenge. The one clue that might have been a bit iffy was “Punch chunks.” As a clue for PINEAPPLE, I’d have been on board. Put PINEAPPLES left me with a vision of a bathtub full of punch with whole pineapples bobbing up and down.

    I’ll blame Ben and give Juliana an A+.

    • Juliana says:

      Ah, I see it now! Perhaps the chunks in one punch could come from many pineapples? That one was all me, but I’m glad you liked the puzzle otherwise. : )

  8. Joan Macon says:

    Gareth, I for one could have done without the musical interlude.

Comments are closed.