Wednesday, August 12, 2020

LAT 4:42 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:20 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 8:36 (Rachel) 


WSJ 6:02 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX 18:47 (Ben) 


Robert Wemischner’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Two for the Show”—Jim P’s review

The term DOUBLE PLAY (62a, [Baseball feat, and a clue to this puzzle’s them [sic] answers]) takes on a theatrical meaning as the other themers hide a musical within a musical.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Two for the Show” · Robert Wemischner · Wed., 8.12.20

  • 17a. [1949 Tony-winning musical, including a 1954 Tony-winning musical] KISS ME KATE. Kismet.
  • 26a. [1975 Tony-nominated musical, including a 1966 Tony-nominated musical] MACK AND MABEL. Mame.
  • 46a. [2011 Tony-winning musical revival, including a 1982 Tony-winning musical] ANYTHING GOES. Nine.

I don’t know musicals all that well, so some of this was lost on me, but wow, these are some impressive finds! I would never have guessed you could find a musical’s name inside another musical’s name, let alone three of them, let alone have them fit in a grid symmetrically. If they’re not all top tier, universally-known productions, that’s a lesser concern. At least they all pass the bar of having at least one Tony nomination. A very cheeky theme, well executed  and with a perfect revealer and title.

Interspersed with that very cool theme we find some very nice fill: SASHIMI, EPICURE, PIEMAN, RAINBOW, EXTRACT, NOBLES, CHALLAH, and “WATCH OUT!” I always liked the word ANTEDATE because it sounds so snootily full of itself, and similarly, BANAL is more fun than BLAND which was my first choice. I did not know the two names at the bottom, Roger REES and J.J. CALE, but the crossings sorted them out easily enough.

Clues of note:

  • 20a. [It’s often served with shredded daikon]. SASHIMI. Apparently, the daikon (winter radish) serves as both a bactericide and palate cleanser.
  • 18d. [Muscovite, e.g.]. MICA. Tough one for me since I only know “Muscovite” to mean someone from Moscow.
  • 30d. [Cereal buy]. BOX. Did you see the doctored up Cap’n Crunch “Oops! All Berries!” BOX that made its way around the social medias this last week?
  • 41d. [Joplin song]. RAG. Scott, not Janis.

An impressive theme (despite my knowing very little about musicals) and strong fill make this puzzle a winner. 4.25 stars.

Check this out. It’s dazzling in several senses. I couldn’t watch it without smiling: Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf RAG.”

Adesina Koiki’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 12 20, no. 0812

Hey, hey! Ade is the second member of Team Fiend to have an NYT puzzle in the past week! Ade is wont to say “Sports will make you smarter” so it wasn’t hard to guess that the BENGAL TIGER themer had to do with the Cincinnati Bengals and that other team names might also pop up in the theme. Perfect theme to come from Adesina’s fertile mind.

The revealer is OHIO PLAYERS, 60a. [Chart-topping 1970s R&B/funk band suggested by the starts of 17-, 26-, 39- and 50-Across], and the other themers all begin with pro team names from Ohio:

  • 17a. [Animal accompanying Pi in “Life of Pi”], BENGAL TIGER. Cincinnati Bengals, NFL.
  • 26a. [Cousin of an apple cobbler], BROWN BETTY. Cleveland Browns, who wear orange, NFL.
  • 39a. [U.S. flag, with “the”], RED WHITE AND BLUE. Cincinnati Reds, MLB.
  • 50a. [Biryani or vindaloo], INDIAN FOOD. (Make mine channa masala.) Cleveland Indians, MLB.

Not included: The Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) and Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL), nor the two MLS teams.

Six more things:

  • 71a. [Full of curses, say], SALTY. As in using salty language. You might be that sort of SALTY if you are feeling the newest definition of SALTY, listed in Merriam-Webster as “feeling or showing resentment towards a person or situation.” If slugs could speak to us, they’d surely be every kind of SALTY if you sprinkled salt on them.
  • 10d. [Dress in vestments], ENROBE. Or chocolate. I encounter this word more in the context of dipped chocolates. Would you like to dress in chocolate?
  • 25d. [Electric ___ (dance)], SLIDE. I have only attempted the Electric Slide once or twice in my life. If you know all the steps and can acquit yourself respectably, go ahead and boast in the comments.
  • 30d. [What might help right a wrong], LAWSUIT. The “tort reform” folks won’t like this clue.
  • 47d. [Wooden shoes], SABOTS. This is basically crosswordese, but this word for wooden shoes is important historically. It’s connected to laborers sabotaging work efficiency as a means of bringing management to the negotiating table.
  • 65d. [The limit, they say], SKY. The Chicago Sky are my local WNBA team. Usually the WNBA plays its season while the NBA is on summer hiatus, but this year, both leagues are playing at the same time. The Sky sit atop the Eastern Conference at present.

Four stars from me. Looking forward to more puzzles with your cruciverbal voice, Ade!


Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

Good morning, everyone! Quick writeup today because life, but the tl;dr is, this is a fun puzzle that taught me something new about queer history and I loved it! The slightly longer version is:

The New Yorker Crossword solution • Erik Agard • Wednesday, August 12, 2020

I had never heard of FLORENCE HINES, but in typical Agardian fashion, the crosses were all perfectly gettable, so instead of feeling flummoxed by the unfamiliarity of the entry, I was thrilled to learn about a pioneering black drag king and then have a reason to go read the internet about early vaudeville drag kings, something I had never known existed. Very cool!

Other long stuff included STATEMENT and CONSENSUS, both with A+ clues [Clothes might make one] and [One person alone can’t reach it]. We also had CAPSLOCKANACONDA / BETA TEST / I’M ALL SET / VERY MUCH / EXCESSES in the NW and SE corners. Favorite clue there was [Common culprit behind an incorrect password] for CAPSLOCK. So true to life!

A few more things:

  • I once again did not mind a cross-reference, with the NINTHS/TENTHS clues working well together.
  • I can never remember how to spell the kind of ARKS that are [Torah holders], so I had the other spelling in until I reached ARC [Redemption story line, e.g.] in the SE. I personally don’t see this as a dupe, but ymmv.
  • I had ETC____ in for [“… you get the picture”] and couldn’t figure out why ETC ETC ETC didn’t fit. Did a mental facepalm when I realized it was just ET CETERA. ?‍♀️
  • Representation: it hardly needs to be said, given the central entry, but this puzzle nails it on representation: FLORENCE HINES, Tracy Chapman, MILT Jackson, Queen Latifah, KATE Berlant, K-Pop.

Overall, lots of stars for this puzzle. Super clean, excellent cluing, learned a new thing– that pretty much checks all of my boxes!

PS. Congrats to Ade on his NYT debut!!!!!

Steve Mossberg’s Universal crossword, “Bottomless” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/12/20 • Wed • “Bottomless” • Mossberg • solution • 20200812

Not sure I completely understand this theme.

  • 59aR [Soda fountain bonuses … and what 17-, 23-, 36- and 47-Across get?] FREE REFILLS.
  • 17a. [One often contains an “In case you missed it” heading] TWITTER FEED. Inasmuch as it can be refreshed or reloaded to replenish/refill it? Originally attempted to put in something like TWIST ENDING or TWIST EFFECT.
  • 23a. [Missing galoshes may turn up here] LOST AND FOUND. Why galoshes? Inquiring minds want to know. Anyway, I guess items keep getting brought to said location?
  • 36a. [Seasonal use for an old pillowcase] TRICK OR TREAT BAG. Kid gets candies, empties it out, repeats?
  • 47a. [It might list many meetings] WORK CALENDAR. Is this one of those whiteboard jobbies, where it gets erased and refilled at the changeover of the month?

As you can tell, to me at least the theme feels disjointed and unconvincing, but I’m willing to entertain further explanations, so please feel free in the comments.

  • 22a [Film-evaluating group renamed in 20119] MPAA. Changed from Motion Picture Association of America to Motion Picture Association (MPA). Not to be confused with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which determines and distributes the OSCARs (20a [Award for Laura Dern]).
  • Longdowns: 11d [Not necessarily] DISPUTABLY, 28d [Seasoning trade path] SPICE ROUTE.
  • “What the kids say” vol 1: 29a [Like an awesome party] LIT, 13d [“Sorry about that”] MY BAD, 48d [“Such a tease!”] OH, YOU.
  • 56d [Hit, as a bass] SLAP. Please enjoy some of Victor Wooten’s playing:

And some of Brian Bromberg’s:

Patrick Blindauer’s AVCX, “What’s in a Game?” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 8/12/20 – “What’s in a Game?”

I appreciate what’s going on in this week’s AVCX puzzle, even if it kind of didn’t do anything for me:

  • 22A: Bridge player starting a trick with a low face card? — LEADER OF THE [J]ACK
  • 38A: Chatty chess piece? — [R]OOK WHO’S TALKING
  • 54A: Chaucer’s Scrabble pieces? — CANTERBURY T[I]LES
  • 78A: Vibrantly tinted Sorry! piece? — TECHNICOLOR [P]AWN
  • 93A: Poker discs made of ham hocks? — BONE-IN PORK CH[I]PS
  • 116A: Condition of a Yahtzee-obsessed fellow? — [D]ICE GUY SYNDROME
  • 126A: Musical based on “Twelfth Night” … and the hidden message derived from this puzzle’s circled squares — PLAY ON

As for the mentioned hidden message – replacing the circled letter (or highlighted letter, in my grid above) with the letter that makes the fill a more well-known phrase (LEADER OF THE PACK, LOOK WHO’S TALKING, CANTERBURY TALES, TECHNICOLOR YAWN, BONE-IN PORK CHOPS, and NICE GUY SYNDROME), you get PLAY ON.  I noticed the all-game themed clues on the theme entries (for one version of “play”), and a similar sports and theater-heavy touch on the cluing of other fill (for other types of “play”) was nice, but somehow that all added up to a solve that was Just Okay for me.  It’s a fine crossword. It was a fun challenge to start my day.  But the payoff on the theme didn’t quite work for me.

Handel’s MESSIAH had its debut in Dublin 1742. Here’s a nice version of its Hallelujah Chorus from the Royal Choral Society.

Happy Wednesday!

Gabrielle Friedman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

CENTERCOURT is an interesting starting point for a theme idea. However, I’m not sure the rest of this theme’s execution holds up well. For starters CLAY court and CENTERCOURT are the same kind of court, which feels like a foul. Even HOME court is still in the realm of sports. The third is MOOT court which is apparently a legal term; TBH, I’ve never used it, but it is a thing. Also, it seems some effort was made to place the words more or less in the centre of the phrases, but all the words are four letters and the answers are eleven so you get an awkward four/three split. Personally, I also didn’t know PSYCHOMETRY, which is OK, even though after reading more I still don’t seem know what it is. There are words in its definition, but they don’t seem to say anything: divination of facts concerning an object or its owner through contact or proximity. Huh?

One other note:

[Urged to attack, with “on”], SICCED. Answers like this and SICEM I find disturbingly violent. Am I the only who finds them so?


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27 Responses to Wednesday, August 12, 2020

  1. WhiskyBill says:

    Ade/AOK: Congrats on the NYT! I enjoyed it a lot–sports made me smarter!

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    You can read Ade’s notes on his NYT puzzle, and the issue of the Cleveland Indians’ inappropriate team name, over at Wordplay:

  3. philr says:

    Spoiler: The tiger was Pi. At least the one on the boat.

  4. Dryden says:

    Can someone explain the avcx theme? I don’t get it

    • Jenni Levy says:

      The circled letters are correct in the Down answers and change the base phrase in the Across answers. If you look at the letter that would make the Across phrase correct, those all spell PLAY ON (see revealer at 126a). So LEADER OF THE JACK should be LEADER OF THE PACK (P), ROOK WHO’S TALKING should be LOOK WHO’S TALKING (L), etc.

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    Rachel, would you see THERE and THEY’RE as dupes? If not, then ARK and ARC aren’t, either, because they’re completely unrelated words that happen to be homophones. If you would, then there you go! I wouldn’t bristle at THERE and THEY’RE and so ARK and ARC don’t bother me (but then again I’m Jewish and very familiar with ARKs).

    • Rachel Fabi says:

      Totally agree! But I leave it to the reader to set her own limits around what constitutes a dupe ?‍♀️

  6. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Excellent puzzle. I always look forward to Ade’s sports will make you smarter comments.

    I spent much of the late ’70s through the mid ’80s dancing at predominately black clubs and have done the electric slide many times. I still study dance moves even though I am way south of a good dancer. Great dancers have great balance. My personal favorites are Astaire and Usher.

  7. Karen Ralston says:

    Congratulations on your NYT debut, Ade! So delighted to see your byline in the puzzle today, and it was a fun solve. Your write ups of BEQ are always excellent to read. Thank you and looking forward to more.

  8. janie says:

    w/ *full* props to ade and his dazzling debut, let me add that theatre (okay — all the arts…) will make you smarter, too. so rock on and bravo, patrick, for your theatre-wise avcx! great theme set / meta / reveal. imho…


  9. Ethan says:

    I didn’t make the connection between Ade the writer here and Adesina O. Koiki the name in the byline today. Congrats!

    If I had to pick a nit with the NYT today, it’s that BENGAL TIGER is pretty on the nose, since the team is named for that very thing. Question: would people have considered it viable to use BENGAL SPICE, the Celestial Seasonings variety of tea? It’s definitely a staple of our cabinet.

  10. jefe says:

    LAT: [IOC country two before NZL, alphabetically] for NOR might be the worst clue (excluding inaccurate clues) I’ve seen in a modern puzzle.

    • Me says:

      Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Why would anyone know the alphabetical order of IOC country name abbreviations? And TWO before? The three countries are NOR, NRU, and NZL. Who would know that? There are a million other ways to clue NOR.

      I just couldn’t get on the wavelength for this puzzle at all. Other stuff like Gee whiz = OMG was frustrating. I don’t think Gee whiz, which is mild IMO, and OMG, which is more severe, are synonymous at all. There was a lot of stuff like that in this puzzle. Not a bad grid, but the cluing was trying too hard and hurt the experience.

    • R says:

      Disagreed. Obviously I didn’t know what it was, but it was nice to pencil in N and get the rest later working with crosses. De gustibus!

  11. Luther says:

    WSJ Fun puzzle for me.
    Maple Leaf Rag- wrong melody on the Trio.
    Should be repeated Ab
    Toms Mucenieks plays Ab Bb Eb Bb @ 1:34 on video and alters the melody throughout.
    Should be Ab Ab Eb Bb
    Correct version @ 1:46

  12. Luther says:

    WSJ fun puzzle for me.
    Maple Leaf Rag – wrong melody @ 1:34
    Should be Ab Ab Eb Bb

  13. Kelly Clark says:

    Congratulations, Ade!

    WSJ: Amazing finds!

    Universal: Darn, one reason I stopped by was for someone to explain the theme to me! :-)

    • jj says:

      I second (third?) the confusion regarding the Universal theme. No idea what’s going on in that puzzle.

      • MK says:

        There are senses – some punnier than others – by which each thing can get a free refill. Twitter has the endless scroll, the lost and found doesn’t pay you for filling it with items, trick or treating is a free way to fill a bucket, and a work calendar fills your free time. The last one’s funniest.

  14. Lemonade says:

    Gareth, CENTER COURT and CLAY COURT are not interchangeable, though they both can deal with tennis, there also is definition 1 in the OED: NOUN
    1The midpoint of a basketball court, in particular the spot precisely in the center where tipoffs take place at the start of each period. ‘he walked to center court and tossed the ceremonial jump ball.’

    It is Gabrielle’s solo debut.

  15. Adam says:

    So much to love today. Fantastic debut from Ade. Tremendous themeless from Erik Agard. The theme from the WSJ is honestly so impressive. And to top it all off with a Vic Wooten/Béla Fleck reference in the Fiend writeup?? *Chef’s kiss.* I may have to drop what I’m doing and go listen to Live Art for the 100 millionth time.

  16. AP says:

    Thanks for including the not about sabots, Amy! Did not know the history and really appreciated learning it. Great puzzle, Ade!

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