Wednesday, April 29, 2020

LAT 5:15 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:01 (Amy) 


WSJ 7:43 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX 5:58 (Ben) 


David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Redistributed Middles”—Jim P’s review

Find a six-letter word whose first two letters are the same as its last two letters. Now take the middle two letters, reduplicate them thus forming a new four-letter word, and add that word after the first one to create crossword wackiness. That’s today’s theme.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Redistributed Middles” · David Alfred Bywaters · Wed., 4.29.20

  • 17a [Translate a Pixar film?] DECODE COCO
  • 27a [Woman with a garden full of heirloom plants?] TOMATO MAMA
  • 44a [Viral GIF of the “Night of the Living Dead” director? ] ROMERO MEME
  • 58a [Forbidden monkey business?] BONOBO NONO

This really doesn’t do much for me. I’m still trying to see the “why” of it. There’s wordplay here, and that’s good in my eyes, but it’s so much better when there’s a reason behind it. Why are we copying the middles of these words and forming new words from them? The title usually gives us a reason for the theme if a revealer doesn’t, but this title feels kludgy and inelegant. It’s certainly not an in-the-language phrase, and I’d argue it doesn’t even accurately describe what’s going on here. Without a solid motivation underpinning the theme’s action, I’m left just asking, “Why?” If it was laugh-out-loud funny, I’d be more forgiving, but I didn’t get that from these entries.

The fill makes up a little bit for what’s lacking in the theme. ROCK BOTTOM is great as is “TRUST ME,” KABOOM!, ASK FOR IT, SPACE LAB, and “I’M SOLD!” ALARM CLOCK is solid as well.

Clues of note:

  • 20a. [Be just begging to be slugged]. ASK FOR IT. There’s gotta be a less awkward way to clue this. Any ideas out there? How about [Beg to be slugged, metaphorically]?
  • 25a. [Glaswegian, e.g.]. SCOT. The first time I realized that people from Glasgow were called Glaswegians, I wondered how the heck do you get that word from that word. I still don’t know the answer. But you can’t not love the word “Glaswegian.”
  • 46a. [Luxury cars on the Autobahn]. BMWS. Maybe some, but BMW makes a lot of cars for the German market, and they aren’t all the luxury cars that we get here.
  • 49a. [Obvious hide-and-seek option]. CLOSET. That’s a fun clue that wasn’t so obvious at first.
  • 52a. [Site of extraterrestrial experimentation]. SPACE LAB. I’m interpreting “extraterrestrial” as “not on Earth,” not as “alien.”
  • 29d. [Inspector of British mysteries]. MORSE. I used to love watching Inspector Morse. Maybe because he himself was a crossword lover. But there sure was a pretty high murder rate in Oxford on that show.
  • 30d. [Bedside convenience]. ALARM CLOCK. Time for another cluing challenge since this one seems pretty sedate. A phrase like this doesn’t get published very often, so it seems ripe for a really good clue. Can you come up with one? I’ll start you off with [Snoozer’s bane] or [It buzzes in your ear]. You can do better.

I really wanted something more from this theme than what felt like random wordplay. The surrounding fill and grid is nice though. 3.2 stars.

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 4 29 20, no. 0429

The theme revealer is HALF OFF, 24d. [Discounted 50% … or a hint to the answers to the starred clues]. The starred clues lead to a bunch of 8-letter reduplicative answers (reduplication is the linguistic term for a phrase or word that repeats a word exactly or with a change), but only one 4-letter half appears in the grid:

  • 5a. [*”Whaddya know …”], WELL.
  • 16a. [*In rapid succession, in slang], BANG.
  • 18a. [*Bonkers], CRAY. Fairly contemporary slang.
  • 35a. [*”Cheers!”], CHIN. Oddly enough, Merriam-Webster doesn’t attest to the “Bottoms up!” sort of meaning.
  • 37a. [*Dismiss lightly], POOH.
  • 59a. [*Storied New York prison], SING.
  • 62a. [*”On the double!”], CHOP. Probably best to root “chop-chop” out of your vocabulary, given the race and class ramifications of its use. I hadn’t been aware till today.
  • 67a. [*”Amen to that!”], HEAR. If each of us had a nickel for every time we inwardly cringed to see “Here here!” written, we’d be loaded now.

Reasonable theme. With under 40 theme squares and 78 words, the fill should be pristine. It’s pretty good, though I didn’t love SO DO I, GLOOPS, IT’S SAD, and DAH.

Five things:

  • 8d. [Rolling textual coverage of an event], LIVEBLOG. I feel like this is still the term of art for when someone is live-tweeting something, like when they’re watching a movie or the Oscars.
  • 36d. [Softball designation], SLO-PITCH. Judging by a cursory Google investigation, slow-pitch is the standard term, with Slo-Pitch being a specifically Canadian thing? The W-less version makes me want to call it slop-itch. Say it with me!
  • 11d. [Typewriter roller], PLATEN. I wonder if my age group is the last to have any sort of broad familiarity with typewriter anatomy.
  • 17a. [Sister channel of HBO and TBS], TRUTV (styled as truTV).My favorite shows on that channel include Impractical Jokers (four buddies make each other do nutty challenges), The Carbonaro Effect (magician on this hidden-camera show pranks people who can scarcely believe what they are experiencing), and Adam Ruins Everything (Adam debunks/explains things in an entertaining fashion).
  • 34d. [Last part of a machine wash], SPIN CYCLE. Shoot, I forgot to get my laundry out of the dryer. Oh, well. If everything is wrinkled, who cares? We’re not leaving the house so what does it matter if we wear a wrinkled top? #pandemicchic

3.5 stars from me.

Enrique Henestroza’s Universal crossword, “Dress for Success” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 4/29/20 • “Dress For Success” • Wed • Henestroza • solution • 20200429

  • 54aR [Perfectly qualified, or like the people in the starred clues?] IDEALLY SUITED. Double-entendre!
  • 19a. [*Shoes for seminarians?] CROSS TRAINERS.
  • 27a. [*Pants for pianists?] PEDAL PUSHERS.
  • 45a. [*Hats for wildlife photographers?] DEERSTALKERS. Well, that’s kind of the original purpose of the headgear. Different kind of shooting, but the same general principle. Ergo, no wordplay on this one. At least the separation between piano PEDALs and bicycle PEDALs is more significant.

So. Two types of shoes, one hat—and the hat clue/entry is off. I call that a failed theme. Nice revealer, though. edit: Pedal pushers are of course pants and not shoes, as sanfranman59 helpfully comments below.

Oh, and maybe attire should have been avoided from the ballast fill? 9d [Floppy caps] BERETS, 17a [Knight’s protection] ARMOR. With  just two it feels like sloppiness rather than going all-in and indulging the theme. Hmm, do HALOS (3d) count as clothing?

Let’s look around.

  • 1a/18a [Drained of color] ASHEN, WAN.
  • Nod to the feminist nods: 10d IDA Lupino clued as a filmmaker rather than actress (she was a producer as well). 31a [Place for two brides, maybe] ALTAR.
  • 41a [James who wrote “A Death in the Family”] AGEE. He also wrote the screenplay for Night of the Hunter. 67a [Word you may have tattooed opposite “love”] HATE.
  • I like both long(ish)downs: 10d [Journalism, collectively] NEWS MEDIA, 33d [Age indicators in a forest] TREE RINGS.
  • Trivia! 58d [It uses 1.5 gallons of maple syrup per year] IHOP. Didn’t realize they  had real maple syrup there, as opposed to high fructose corn syrup, ‘maple style’, boysenberry, and the rest. On the other hand, that number seems a little low, so maybe it’s just a small fraction of their syrup consumption?
  • Technical musing: 6d [Sidetracks, like plans] DERAILS, A train shunted to a side track is still on tracks. Idiomatically the two are synonymous, but they’re kind of mixed metaphors.

Far, far from a bad puzzle, but I daresay it got derailed along the way.

Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s theme is MOVIETRAILERs, and four answers end in four-letter films, circled for your convenience. It’s good that the movies have something more in common, because there are a rather a lot of movies out there… M, W, Us, Up, It.

New answers or clues (there were quite a few today!):

  • [“Baby Cobra” stand-up comedian Wong], ALI. Another ALI to add to the list!
  • [Motor-assisted rides], EBIKES. I think I’ve vaguely heard of these?
  • [Smug brew “expert”], BEERSNOB. New term for me, but with all the craft brewing going on the phenomenon checks out. All beer remains bitter and vile and I’m convinced anyone who says otherwise has Stockholm syndrome.
  • [One of the Pep Boys], MOE. Apparently an American company with three blokes on it, a bit like Snap, Krackle and Pop.
  • [Yelp alternative], ARF. So far I’m only founding a large shelter near San Francisco? Maybe Advertising Research Foundation? I’m lost here. Oh, wait, a dog’s bark can be a “yelp” I guess. Disregard.


Nate Cardin and Martha Kimes’ AVCX, “The Price of Freedom” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 4/29 – “The Price of Freedom”

This week’s AVCX from Nate Cardin and Martha Kimes, “The Price of Freedom”, has a good cause behind its theme.  In addition to that, it’s a debut in the AVCX from Martha – congratulations!  Let’s dig in:

  • 16A: Mexican sport with high-flying maneuvers — LUCHA LIBRE
  • 23A: Overly literal literary maid who “dusts the furniture” by covering it in dirt — AMELIA BEDELIA
  • 38A: Online compendium of momentous mishaps — FAILBLOG
  • 48A:Widespread news censorship — MEDIA BLACKOUT
  • 60A: Movement to end wealth-based pretrial detention … and a hint to this puzzle’s theme — BAIL REFORM

The Bail Project‘s work is particularly crucial in the midst of COVID-19 (for reasons outlined here), and I hope if you enjoyed this puzzle like I did, you consider donating.  I thought the theme here was a great translation of the cause into a theme (even if I’m side-eyeing the heck out of FAILBLOG — I love Cake Wrecks as much as the next person, but I don’t think a failblog is enough of a thing on a level where it can be crossword fill)

I spent too long trying to figure out a five-letter word for TRIO that described the majority of songs by The Supremes. It turns out that all those songs are also OLDIEs

Be well, all!  We’ve almost made it through another week.

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22 Responses to Wednesday, April 29, 2020

  1. Bryan says:

    NYT: Just to be clear, the New Oxford American Dictionary definition of “boff” is: “have sexual intercourse with (someone).” Boffo is the more common slang for a box office smash. Regardless of that nit, this was a fun puzzle and the theme layout is cool.

  2. Jenni Levy says:

    Came downstairs where the light is better and realized there’s a small stain on my shirt. Thought about changing it and decided it didn’t matter, because it’s going to be covered by PPE anyway #pandemicchic

  3. Drew G says:

    WSJ: A bonobo is an ape, not a monkey.

  4. David L says:

    CHIN-CHIN has a very Noel Coward ring to it. And like M-W, I think of it as meaning ‘ta-ta’ rather than ‘cheers.’ Although Brits also say ‘cheers’ as a farewell. Perhaps that’s what the clue was getting at, but then it would be a rather unAmerican sort of clue.

    • pannonica says:

      Clearly you need to watch Withnail & I.

      And see Billy Boy’s comment below for the correct spelling.

      • David L says:

        Hmm, Collins says it comes from Chinese Pidgin and that it dates to at least the late 18th century. Cinzano is older than that, but apparently wasn’t exported until the 1890s. It seems more likely to me that ‘cin-cin’ as an advertising campaign was based on the existing meaning of ‘chin-chin.’

        I remember watching Withnail & I some years ago — or at least I started to watch it but didn’t care for it and gave up after half an hour or so. I can’t recall why I didn’t like it.

        • pannonica says:

          Interesting etymology. Thanks!

          I had originally thought that “chin-chin” was the right way, but was convinced (without checking) by the explanation below. Serves me right.

  5. marciem says:

    WSJ maybe you said it differently but I’m seeing

    Deco Deco
    Toma Toma
    Rome Rome
    Bono Bono

    as the “redistributed middles” in the title, where the second word in the repeat actually is the first syllable in the second word thusly redistributing the middle of the phrase.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    NYT – not a fan today, not quite an utter failure
    +yes BOFF (var.) is really awkward when the most common use is BOFFO
    +CHOP CHOP seems racist to me, so it must be, insensitive in the least
    +CHIN CHIN* is actually Cin-Cin from Cinzano, half/half red/white vermouth on the rocks and probably the most common ‘clinking toast’ in Italy. Martini & Rossi owned the vermouth market and Cin-Cin cocktail came into being in a marketing blitz, at least how an old Italian guy in SF told me, I’ve learned nothing since to change my opinion. (*Sooo wrong and why it’s a problem)
    + CRAY CRAY is baby talk as far as I am concerned, these diminutives don’t sit well with me
    +Seemingly lots of awkward/incorrect clues for words intended to be challenging but just failing.

    WSJ – a near-miss
    Overall a rather challenging/enjoyable solve Wednesday-style with a rock-solid consistent theme that (Indeed, JimP) makes no sense other than its mechanical execution.
    Rambling ….(I apologize)
    Very true comment on BMW’s (Also M-B and Audi) in USA v. EUR. I love the rentals I have had from SiXT with cloth seats, diesel engines, mechanical seats, no sunroof, amazing value cars – US manufacturers would never sell a car again if we could get those models at those prices! AND a buyer must buy accessories in $$$ packages. I was friends with my Audi/M-B dealer and tried every trick in the book to get one of those ‘stripped down’ models. So I buy 1 year old, low mileage pre-owned M-B cars for less than the price of brand new pick-up truck and get an insane warranty.

    • R says:

      It’s funny that you’re concerned that CHOP CHOP is racist, but CRAY CRAY, which comes out of Black American slang, is “baby talk.”

      • Billy Boy says:

        It’s something my very blonde, very white sister-in-law says to her grandchild. Frankly, no offense intended it’s really a bit stupid when people in medicine dialogue with their patients about signing the state form for a “Crip parking pass” and recently I learn it’s “Abelist”. That as an Orthopedist makes me face-palm.

        I got very attuned to Chinese/Asian offence in SF, thus the perceived over-sensitivity on my part. Chop chop is very Charlie Chan.

        I’m not really sure you need to call me out on that one

        • R says:

          “I’m not really sure you need to call me out on that.” Nice try, but given the opportunity, no one would ever accept being called out, so I don’t think you get a pass just because you don’t want to acknowledge that calling black slang “baby talk” is just as bad as the type of racism you’re more attuned to.

          • Billy Boy says:

            Who was the Rapper with the Binky? I guess that’s a full circle.

            Binky phoenetically also equates to bugger or some other less offensive term.

            Words are tough.


  7. Howard B says:

    Two unknowns in one puzzle is very unusual on a Wednesday for me – CHIN (CHIN) and BALIN were both completely new to me. Learned new things today!

    • Lise says:

      CHIN (CHIN) was new to me, too. When I had only the C in place, I read “Cheers” as “goodbye”, and thought it would be CIAO (CIAO). And I had to dust off BALIN, but it was way back in my brain somewhere. It’s good to have a challenge and learn new expressions.

      POOH reminds me that I need to reread Winnie-the-Pooh…

    • Billy Boy says:

      I did not even recognize BALIN from the puzzle as I crossed every word-letter. Thanks for pointing it out.

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    @pannonica re the Universal puzzle … PEDAL PUSHERS are pants, not shoes. FWIW, DEERSTALKERS seems fine to me wordplay-wise. A wildlife photographer might stalk a deer to get a photo. The wordplay is photographer vs a hunter, the typical wearer of a DEERSTALKER.

    • pannonica says:

      Ugh. I got my wires crossed in focussing on the pedals! Revise my scornful take upward as appropriate. Holding the line on DEERSTALKER, however.

  9. davey says:

    for ALARM CLOCK how about “bedside inconvenience”?

  10. Brenda Rose says:

    I beg to differ to all who explained the word Cin Cin. As an Italian who grew up with her grandparents from the old country I was told Cin Cin derived from the word centinaio (English for hundred. ) Italians toast one another by wishing them a hundred years of life. Cinzano has nothing to do with it aside from usurping a traditional toast that sounded good for their advertisement.

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