Wednesday, May 13, 2020

LAT 5:24 (Gareth) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WSJ 5:50 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX 5:25 (Ben) 


Freddie Cheng’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Show Stoppers”—Jim P’s review

I like a theme that takes accepted phrases and reimagines them as something else. In this case, the phrases all become terse negative reviews of a theater performance. The revealer at 40a is THE REVIEWS ARE IN and is clued [“Critics have spoken,” as featured in 17-, 25-, 51- and 64-Across].

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Show Stoppers” · Freddie Cheng · Wed., 5.13.20

  • 17a [“The music is uninspired…”] OLD SCORE. The phrase seems incomplete without “settle” before or after it, but I think it’s close enough.
  • 25a [“The actors all seem mopey…”] DOWN CAST. “Mopey” isn’t a word you see too often, but it fits just right.
  • 51a [“The objects the actors handle are bizarrely designed…”] MAD PROPS. Conversely, “the objects the actors handle” is ungainly at best, but whaddya gonna do? Being a more modern phrase, I wonder if this was the seed entry.
  • 64a [“The whole show stinks!”FOUL PLAY. A perfect conclusion from a cantankerous reviewer.

Very tight theme with strong consistency throughout, fun phrases, and imaginative to boot. Wonderful!

The long fill is outstanding as well, with RED PLANET, HOT SWAPS, TENT SALES, and VAMOOSES. I also liked “I’M BUSY,” TITIAN, NINJAS, and PHILIPS [Maker of Hue lights]. We’ve got a few of those in the house, and for the most part they work quite nicely.

The rest of the fill is smooth, too, so there’s nothing for me to grouse at. Let’s move on to the clues.

Clues of note:

  • I did not know either OTTO [Porter Jr. of the Chicago Bulls] nor its crossing TINA [2019 Broadway jukebox musical], but the T seemed the most logical choice.
  • 47d. [Printer’s insert]. Tricky. I was thinking of the desktop appliance the whole time.

This was a POWER GRID (i.e. a strong puzzle) all the way around, and a good time was had by all (meaning me). 4.25 stars.

Benjamin Kramer’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 13 20, no. 0513

Rather subtle theme, no? The theme entries end with a writer’s output, ranging from the fewest words to the most:

  • 17a. [Protection offered for a traveler in a dangerous area], SAFE PASSAGE. A passage might be a few sentences or paragraphs.
  • 24a. [Group of Greek women], SORORITY CHAPTER. I started with SORORITY SISTERS, slowed myself down. Many books have chapters.
  • 36a. [Member of the Apple family], MACBOOK. Now we’ve got the entire book.
  • 50a. [1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.], FIBONACCI SERIES. What’s your favorite book series?
  • 59a. [Canapé, e.g.], HORS D’OEUVRE. A writer’s oeuvre comprises everything she’s ever written (or published).

I like it.

The long fill feels a bit hit-or-miss. I like WIN AT LIFE, THE BOMB, TOE JAM, A.A. MILNE, and STACCATO. Not sure I’ve seen OPEN-ENDER in that noun form before, VERDURE is rather uncommon, and ON AGAIN feels iffy. There are also some shorter entries I’m really not keen on: –CIDE, plural Latin abbreviation E.G.S (!).

Four more things:

  • 30a. [Emmy-winning actress Uzo ___], ADUBA. She’s currently playing Shirley Chisholm on the Hulu miniseries Mrs. America.
  • 44a. [Big name in name tags], AVERY. Avery is a much bigger name in the world of labels, but that clue avenue is foreclosed by UNLABELED on the other side of the grid. Might’ve felt tidier to go with animator Tex AVERY instead.
  • 12d. [Question whose answer can go almost anywhere], OPEN-ENDER. Or, as most of us would term it, an open-ended question.
  • 65a. [Hip-hop artist whose name once ended with “tha Kyd”], SYD. I didn’t know the name. She used to be in the Odd Future collective, and they had a hit album. As a solo artist, she flies under the radar.

3.5 stars from me. That EGS really dinged the puzzle for a lot. (This was the first time that entry has appeared in an NYT puzzle since 1993, which tells you something.)

Blake Slonecker’s Universal crossword, “Where to Begin?” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 5/13/20 • Wed • “Where to Begin?” • Slonecker • solution • 20200513

Quickie write-up, since it’s already late in the day.

63a functions as the revealer: [Major purchase for some newlyweds, and a hint to the starred answers] STARTER HOME. Accordingly, those themed answers begin with synonyms, mostly slangy, for ‘home’.

  • 17a. [*Temporarily stop talking to] PLACE ON HOLD.
  • 26a. [*Totally] FLAT-OUT.
  • 32a. [*Tries to start a scandal, say] DIGS UP DIRT.
  • 44a. [*They may have all the answers] CRIB SHEETS.
  • 50a. [*Noodle dish that often contains peanuts] PAD THAI.

Solid theme. See also, 58a [Bit of nesting material] TWIG.

  • 30d [End, to Brigitte Macron] FINIS. French speakers: is this correct, or is FINI what the clue wants? More French vocab in 12d [Parting word in France] ADIEU, 38d LES Misérables, 
  • 66a [ … ––– … ] SOS. Clue gave me PAUSE (50d) because I’m used to seeing the dots and dashes on the same line, more like  ···  –––  ···
  • 5d [Previously, in poetry] ERE, 32d [Paternal palindrome] DAD, 64d [Dynamite letters] TNT, 40a [Plastic __ Band] ONO, 66a SOS, 69a [London __ (big Ferris wheel] EYE.

And that’s all I’ve got.

Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I am DIY illiterate. WOODFILLER means nothing to me. I am the half of the household that rarely gets consulted on “projects”. Luckily, I do no a bit about programming, because we got not one, but two longish programming jargon terms: thematic BINARYSEARCH and IFTHEN going down. The theme features four circled woods, each with unrelated “filler” middles – PINE, ALDER, MAPLE & BIRCH. I appreciate the choice of longer trees rather than say OAK or YEW.

Other notables include two pairs of long downs: ADDEDVALUE/MEATEATERS and COMEHITHER/ADAGENCIES. Both juxtapositions create rather strange images in my head.

Other sticky spots for me: MEDEVAC, because I believed there was an “i” in the word; CHEDDAR, which is the most common variety of cheese here by far, because I believed Americans refuse to acknowledge its existence.


Rob Gonsalves and Jennifer Lim’s AVCX, “Found in Translation” — Ben’s Review

This was a pretty breezy AVCX solve for me, time-wise, and the theme found an interesting nugget of linguistic trivia:

  • 17A: Always together / Siempre unidos — INSEPARABLE
  • 59A: Warmly nostalgic / Cálidamente nostálgico — SENTIMENTAL
  • 11D: State-sponsored lies / Mentiras difundidas por el estado — PROPAGANDA
  • 28D: Made by humans / Hecho por humanos — ARTIFICIAL
  • 37A: Either of the two languages used in 17- and 59-Across and 11- and 28-Down — ENGLISH/SPANISH

Yes, INSEPARABLE, SENTIMENTAL, PROPAGANDA, and ARTIFICIAL are spelled the same way in both ENGLISH and SPANISH.  The grid even does one of those nifty things where the down clues that cross 37A can support either set of letters needed for the answer:

  • 24D: Bananas — LOONY/LOOPY
  • 25D: Superboy’s sweetheart — LANG/LANA
  • 32D: Nation of Afr. — ALG/ANG
  • 37D: Amtrak listing, briefly — ETA/STA

It’s very clever and cleanly executed.

With ENGLISH/SPANISH on the brain, Slate’s Hit Parade podcast had a fantastic episode on Latin crossover onto the pop charts a few months ago, dipping as far back as “Oye Como Va” and “Eres Tu”, ET AL, focusing on the explosion of Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias in the late 90s, and finishing with the current presence of artists like Bad Bunny and Rosalia in the current pop moment. It’s a fantastic listen and worth an hour or so of your time.

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27 Responses to Wednesday, May 13, 2020

  1. Margaret Rucker says:

    And it’s a Fibonacci SEQUENCE, not series…not unless you are adding the terms.

    • JohnH says:

      Thanks. I had the same concern. Actually, the puzzle had a lot of foreign territory for me, including ADUBA, THE BOMB, OPEN ENDER, NITRO as a ride, JEAN in the singular, and WIN AT LIFE, and I sure could have lived without running into TOE JAM this morning. And I never did get the theme, while it played out as themeless. So while I’m glad to have learned them all (except for the proper name at the start and the theme, which I still don’t know), I won’t say it was a laugh riot for me.

      • JohnH says:

        Oops, I see now thanks to Amy’s explanation. My problem was in mistaking EGS for a revealer and trying over and over to relate it to the theme entries. Not sure how I feel about that.

    • Dr Fancypants says:

      I dropped in FIBONACCI right away, but refused to put in SERIES even though it obviously fit. “They couldn’t possibly make such a rookie mistake”, I thought to myself. “Surely there is something else that will finish this entry.” Then the crossings confirmed that they did, indeed, make such a rookie mistake.

      I could swear they made a similar mistake years ago, but I’m too lazy to search the archives now.

  2. Mark Abe says:

    Good point, Margaret. I was so pleased to see some pure mathematics in the puzzle I totally missed it!

  3. Howard B says:

    NYT: I just could not understand that EGS answer, even after several reads, and really was not planning to search the clues to explain while solving. That was a truly bizarre experience!

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I thought it had something to do with theme and was completely stymied. Very odd.

    • MattF says:

      It’s problematic. Maybe OK for a puzzle on a printed page, where you can see all the clues at once, but not OK for app users who only see a few clues at a time. Also, crossing it with a hard-to-spell foreign word is strike two. I can imagine that a constructor would be aware of the number of e.g.s in the list of clues, but it’s an obscure fact in a location where one might expect a revealer, particularly for a rather subtle theme. Strike three.

    • Howard B says:

      I should have added that other than that corner, I enjoyed the theme and appreciated the puzzle :).

  4. Clueless says:

    Still don’t get EGS answer

    • It’s saying “the string “e.g.” appears twice among all the clues.” It appears in 21A (LP, e.g.) and 59A (Canapé, e.g.). It’s pretty bad. I don’t see an easy way of removing it from the grid, though, without completely rewriting that corner (and possibly changing EGOS/TEST to EGON/TENT if you need to use EGO down there).

      And if EGS can’t be excised, I’d have much preferred a clue referring to the Epic Games Store, although that’s likely not mainstream enough for the NYT’s audience—that would be much more at home in an AVXW puzzle.

      Incidentally, I was trying to interpret EGS as a theme revealer for a bit, as such revealers are often squirreled away in the bottom-right of the grid, but I couldn’t understand what it had to do with any of the theme answers.

      • Ethan says:

        And if you want to get really into it, 8D and 45D both have the string “eg” as well, in the words “legato” and “vegetation” respectively. This is not one of the NYT’s handsomer moments.

      • Emperor Zurg says:

        took 10 seconds to refill with EDT, leaving the acrosses
        and downs

  5. maxine nerdström says:

    Such a promising start to the NYT with the memorable BLUTH family. But I *really* didn’t like the southeast corner. I didn’t know Irvin Kershner, have never heard of VERDURE, and couldn’t make heads or tails of that clue for EGS. I knew 59A was HORSDOUEVRE, but god help me if I could’ve spelled the second half of that word. French stuff remains my Achilles heel.

    Anyway I didn’t enjoy that corner, and I did like the rest of the grid.

  6. Ethan says:

    Would have liked to see ONAGAIN clued as something like “Like a volatile romance, half the time.” It would have seemed less arbitrary.

  7. Billy Boy says:

    ‘Momma always said if you cannot say anything nice …”

    NYT – no comment

    SEQUENCE, not series

    OK, I lied

  8. Mutman says:

    NYT: Figured out the EGS better than most, which helped with my poor French.

    Got Naticked with BLUTH/HAP: 1) Never saw the show and 2) Never heard of Hap

    Liked the puzzle when I discovered the theme.

  9. Kelly says:

    NYT: first of all, too much Trivial Pursuit; second, bad Trivial Pursuit.

  10. David L says:

    Besides the Fibonacci problem, there’s also the fact that Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA (the dark-haired one) was born in Norway. She grew up in Sweden and Wikipedia describes her as Norwegian-Swedish, but I don’t know what that means exactly.

    The theme of the puzzle was fine, but the rest of it — woof.

    • Me says:

      She was born in Norway but she moved to Sweden when she was two. I would give the puzzle a pass for calling her a Swede.

  11. rock says:

    Hi, I just did yesterdays jonesin and read the review but I still don’t get it. Any help would be appreciated. Is it because I don’t play scrabble? off the J off the Q etc …. I am lost!

    Many thanks and hope everyone is coping with life

  12. David Roll says:

    WSJ–Some very obscure clues IMO. Not fun for me.

  13. Norm says:

    I really liked the central ACVX switch … but … if you’re going to do that, you have to code Mr. Happy Pencil to accept both. I’m not rating this one because I probably could not give it a fair rating due to that glitch.

  14. David Stone says:

    Amy, Rex’s blog often seems overly curmudgeonly, but today, your write-up of the NYT seemed far too generous, as evidenced by your readers’ ratings of the puzzle — under 2.5 stars. It really had problems. I know you’re keen to find praiseworthy stuff, but EGS is really just too awful to excuse: It was the final clue and just made no sense whatsoever.

    Also worth whingeing about: the whole SERIES thing. I’m a middle school math teacher, and I didn’t care that much, but at the upper levels, I can see how a fact-check should have made that answer a null set. The bad clue for AVERY… this ADUBA person most of us haven’t heard of… “THE” BOMB? It just goes on an on. WOW.

    • R says:

      Maybe you should start your own blog, especially if you think multiple-Emmy-winning black actresses shouldn’t be in crossword puzzles. Maybe you could work that opinion into its title!

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