Wednesday, March 18, 2020

LAT 3:30 (Gareth) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


AVCX untimed (Ben) 


Hello! So there’s no ACPT this weekend, but there is a Crossword Tournament From Your Couch instead. You can solve on the web or in .puz format, starting at 1 pm Eastern/10 am Pacific. The virtual hosts (xword podcasters Brian Cimmet and Ryan Hecht) will be in a livestream, and the five (or more!) puzzles have been made by Patrick Blindauer, Laura Braunstein & Jesse Lansner, Rachel Fabi, Joel Fagliano, Finn Vigeland, and Byron Walden. Finn and Kevin Der are the brilliant chaps organizing all this. Kevin has an amazing tech résumé so I’m confident they’ll pull the whole thing off.

The event is free (we’re encouraged to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts). Puzzle scoring reflects both accuracy and speed, and we’ll all be on the honor system. (Please: no pandemic profiteering through cheating on crosswords.)

In addition to the event link above, there’s also a Facebook event page.

Kevin Christian’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Five of a Kind”—Jim P’s review

Vowel-progression theme with entries that start P*LL.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Five of a Kind” · Kevin Christian · Wed., 3.18.20

  • 17a [Silver-white metallic element] PALLADIUM
  • 21a [In confused haste] PELL-MELL
  • 38a [Sleepover free-for-all] PILLOW FIGHT
  • 54a [Future frog] POLLIWOG
  • 59a [Gain the lead] PULL AHEAD

Pretty standard for a vowel-progression theme. Not much to get excited about.

The fill is fine with HAVE AT IT and PLAYLIST leading the way. NIKE, MALALA, SARTRE, and YODA make for an interesting set in the middle. On the other hand, FEEL ME? and MIS-DO are rather clunky.

Not much to talk about in the clues either so I’ll leave it there. There just wasn’t much zip here. 3.2 stars.

Ricky Cruz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 18 20, no. 0318

Took me a bit to figure out how the theme worked. Take a familiar phrase and tack on a -FUL to the first word, and the merriment ensues:

  • 17a. [Zombies with a sense of humor?], PLAYFUL DEAD.
  • 29a. [Grizzlies that don’t fall for traps?], CAREFUL BEARS. So many kinds of bears out there.
  • 45a. [Exam in an interior design class?], TASTEFUL TEST.
  • 60a. [Terrible attempts at peeling corn?], AWFUL SHUCKS.

Cute theme.

Fave fill: US OPEN, Luis FONSI (though I’m not sure I’ve actually heard “Despacito,” now that I think of it), GOLEM (both a Jewish thing and a Pokémon), a snarky NEWS FLASH, MEET-CUTE (a term I learned from Roger Ebert—he didn’t originate it, though, and it’s not in his glossary, but you should definitely click through to read the glossary), and PAN-SEARED.

Three more things:

  • 33a. [Writer who went through hell?], DANTE. Someone remind me why Dante’s classic work is called Divine Comedy when it really is not so funny or happy-endinged.
  • 36a. [Rat-___], ATAT. I wonder if Ricky originally clued this as the Star Wars AT-AT, because in the NYT Spelling Bee puzzle, RATATAT is a solid word and not hyphenated.
  • 6d. [Neither feminine nor masculine], NEUTER. As in some grammars. I know, I know. You wanted NONBINARY to fit into these 6 squares.

Four stars from me.

Gabrielle Friedman’s Universal crossword, “Type Set”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Each theme answer starts with a word that is also the name of a font.

Universal crossword solution · “Type Set” · Gabrielle Friedman · Wed., 3.18.20

  • 19a [Southern cobbler ingredient] GEORGIA PEACH
  • 29a [A high-scoring basketball team may pass it] CENTURY MARK
  • 46a [Where many gather on New Year’s Eve] TIMES SQUARE
  • 55a [Result of a meteor strike] IMPACT CRATER

This was fun even though I don’t think I would recognize that Georgia is a font. It’s not unattractive though. I do vaguely remember Impact as a font, but probably couldn’t have described it to you. Aha! Apparently, it’s the memer’s font of choice. Makes sense.

I have to wonder though if some solvers won’t see the theme, since there’s no revealer and not everybody’s up on all the font names. Of course the title helps, but it might have been good to have FONT in the grid somewhere.

I really dug the fill in this puzzle. “NOBODY’S HOME” is so full of sparkle and “DO THE MATH!” is right there with it. A SALMON STEAK is nice as well. When BIKE RIDER is the least interesting of your four long Downs, you’re doing something right.

A few bits of crosswordese are unsightly (SBA, ALII), but the only nit I’ll pick is that “UH, OK” and “UM, NO” really feel like a duplication.

As for SOPA [Gazpacho, e.g., in Spanish], it’s certainly not the most common of Spanish words, but the crossings are fair. And since I love gazpacho, I was not going to dislike this entry.

All in all, a very nice puzzle. 3.7 stars.

Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

SPIN is the revealing answer today, found in the bottom middle. It links itself to doctor, spelt in circular letters to become SPIN-doctor. Four doctors; Jekyll, Doom, Watson & Phil; are arranged in similar fashion to the central doctor. Curiously, three of the four are fictional, though one could argue Phil’s doctorship is fictional. There are heaps of DR options to choose from, why that quack?

This kind of theme rarely pays off, as it has small areas that are extremely constrained, causing the fill to suffer. For me, SSTAR alone is a good enough reason to star a corner again, let alone crossing it with three more abbrs one of which is a fake plural.

Today I learnt: Crosswords have taught me to spell TEEBALL as TBALL, but it turns out the longer spelling is preferred.


Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “Jump Shots” — Ben’s Review

How’s everyone’s self-quarantine going?  Mine could be going better, but there’s a roof over my head and food in my pantry, so I can’t complain too much.  Let’s dig into Aimee Lucido’s latest for AVCX, a 17×17 titled “Jump Shots”.

There are five sections of shaded squares in the grid, with a different type of BAR HOPPING (“Bouncing from club to club, perhaps, and this puzzle’s theme”, 79A) between two or three nearby answers.  There’s TAPROOM and SALOON up top, PUB in the center, and CANTINA and INN along the bottom.

Looking at the actual fill:

  • “Place to go outside” is such a great, non-descript clue for PORTAPOTTY
  • TOP RAMEN is one “Instant noodle brand”, but I’m partial to Indomie Mi Goreng, which has 5 different little seasonings that form an awesome spicy sauce for your noodles.
  • I always loved hearing contestants talk about BICARB, or baking soda, on GBBO.

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23 Responses to Wednesday, March 18, 2020

  1. maxine nerdström says:

    NYT 6D, when AGENDER and NON-BINARY didn’t fit, i was convinced it was UNISEX.

  2. Karen says:

    WSJ: In many puzzles, I’ve been noticing clues and answers that strike me as either apt or ironic in these crazy days. This morning, I had to laugh at myself when I first entered TLC as the answer to 41D: post-breakdown need.

  3. JohnH says:

    Given that Dante’s three volumes move from hell to purgatory to heaven, I’d call that a happy ending. I liked the NYT theme. FONSI and TOE in this sense, crossing, were new to me but guessable.

    I must admit I’ve mixed feelings about the common thought that puzzles with lots of women are good for the cause, any more than it’s great for women when tabloid celebs make the tabloids (or worse media outlets). The frequent inclusion of ONO honors Yoko not for her (real) achievements, but her vowels. That said, I was thrilled to have DORA Maar not just in a puzzle, but even better clued as a Surrealist. People often know her, if at all, for her relationship with Picasso, but she was an impressive photographer. I stumbled on a work of hers apiece recently in two museum shows, and I’m looking forward to learning from seeing more (online aside).

    • MattF says:

      My recollection is that Dora Marr appeared in a NYT puzzle a while ago, and people complained a bit. I was pleased to see her.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    I neither bothered with nor got the WSJ ‘Theme’ while the thin NYT one was painfully apparent. A fairly undistinguished pair.


    golem – 9th circle crosswordese

    • Alan D. says:

      As a kid I was obsessed with movie monsters, so I read about “The Golem” every chance I got. I would use GOLEM as fill every day of the week.

  5. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Despacito has almost 7 billion hits on Youtube:

    Fun puzzle

    • Karen Ralston says:

      There are many comments on this you tube about the number of views: e.g. “almost the entire population of the world?” Or “how many people came here just to check the number of views?” Ha!

  6. cyco says:

    Amy, your question about Dante made me curious, so I pulled this from Wikipedia:

    Dante called the poem “Comedy” (the adjective “Divine” was added later, in the 16th century) because poems in the ancient world were classified as High (“Tragedy”) or Low (“Comedy”). Low poems had happy endings and were written in everyday language, whereas High poems treated more serious matters and were written in an elevated style. Dante was one of the first in the Middle Ages to write of a serious subject, the Redemption of humanity, in the low and “vulgar” Italian language and not the Latin one might expect for such a serious topic.

    • David L says:

      That reminds me of an ancient Pete and Dud sketch where they’re visiting an art gallery. Pete complains about the exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci cartoons: “I didn’t get the bloody jokes at all!” So Dud explains that people’s sense of humor was different back then…

  7. Cynthia says:

    Universal – I had no clue what this theme was. I suspected it might be sizes of type (e.g. Pica or Elite), but no. I’m not familiar with any of those fonts, so that didn’t jump out at me. This is why I so appreciate this website. Thanks for explaining it, Jim P!

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Times (short for Times New Roman) is a commonly used font, particularly in publishing. As it happens, the Times that it was named for is the British paper, not the NYT. Which means that Times does change meaning from Times in Times Square. This was named for the NYT, of course.

  8. Jon says:

    Did anyone else read Natan Last’s atlantic article on diversity in crosswords? It’s a good summary of the current state of things.

  9. David Roll says:

    WSJ–polliwog not polligwog (in comments)

  10. anon says:

    NYT: 54a “Automaton of folklore” = GOLEM

    I know this clue/answer combo has been used for decades (back to 1950 per XWord Info), but these aren’t really the same, are they?

    • ahimsa says:

      I had a similar feeling but have not researched it.

      But I have encountered GOLEMs in a play (Vilna’s Got a Golem) and two books (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Snow in August). The act of bringing a golem to life always felt more mystical/magical than mechanical, which is what the word automaton brings to my mind.

  11. John says:

    Universal: spot on review Jim. I never got the theme during the solve and then totally forgot about it until I came here. I’ll take your word for it that these are fonts. But I really don’t care. Some terrific fill as you pointed out. I really enjoyed solving this puzzle which is, at the end of the day, why we do ‘em.

  12. Ron Seckinger says:

    Shouldn’t foreign words be spelled correctly? NYT 66-ACROSS: TAMALE should be TAMAL.

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