Wednesday, August 26, 2020

LAT 3:45 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 7:44 (Rachel) 


NYT 4:20 (Amy) 


WSJ 5:52 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX 11:08 (Ben) 


Val Melius’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Remote Locations”—Jim P’s review

BACKCOUNTRY (60a, [Rural area, and what can be found in this puzzle’s circles]) is our theme where country names are hidden backwards inside well-known phrases. Circles are employed to tell us where to look.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Remote Locations” · Val Melius · Wed., 8.26.20

  • 18a. [Lizard with a poisonous bite] GILA MONSTER. Mali, West Africa. You mean “venomous,” right?
  • 24a. [Pale green flutterer] LUNA MOTH. Oman, Middle East.
  • 39a. [Getaway memento] PICTURE POSTCARD. Peru, South America.
  • 50a. [Buffet feature, often] HEAT LAMP. Malta, Mediterranean Sea.

Good phrases and a nice distribution of countries—at least culturally, anyway.

Good fill, like a MANGO on a SPORK; that’s NOT NORMAL, I guess. SCAR-FACED with a Bride of Chucky clue. A FELT HAT and Mr. ROBOTO with a BAD REP.


Clues of note:

  • 42a. [Filmmaker Lupino]. IDA. I only know the name of this actress from crosswords, and now I know she was also a director and a producer of films. Apparently, she spent a lot of time on suspension from Warner Bros. for refusing roles she felt were beneath her and rewriting dialog. While on suspension she took an interest in directing. Later, she would be the first woman to direct a film noir, The Hitch-Hiker.
  • 57a. [Puma part]. TREAD. Shoes, not tires or animals.

Straightforward (if backwards) hidden-word theme. Mostly clean and interesting fill. 3.6 stars.

Carl Larson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 26 20, no. 0826

The theme hinges on financial assets, basically. The revealer, WORK PORTFOLIO, is clued as 34a. [Collection that demonstrates job skills … as suggested by 17-, 24-, 48- and 55-Across]. So each themer is a phrase that ends with a word that’s a financial thing in other contexts, and is clued with a job that might relate to that:

  • 17a. [Investment for a humorist?], COMEDY GOLD. Which … the theme is not.
  • 24a. [Investment for a butcher?], BEEF STOCK. Who doesn’t love being reminded of Big Ag?
  • 48a. [Investment for a physicist?], IONIC BOND. Really? Physics? Not chemistry? My son has studied both in recent years and he just shook his head at this.
  • 55a. [Investment for a restaurateur?], MENU OPTION.

The theme doesn’t work for me because some of these aren’t remotely plausible as possible investments. What would menu stock options be? How would you sell bonds that are ionic? There probably are major beef companies that are publicly held corporations, and There are comedians with a net worth in the hundreds of millions, so they could actually buy plenty of gold. Just feels uneven to me, and WORK PORTFOLIO doesn’t quite make sense to me as the revealer.

Overall, I wasn’t loving the fill. “IT’S ALIVE” makes me laugh because I read the novelization of the 1970s horror movie by that name when I was maybe 12. That and Coma were the scariest things I read when I was a kid. And I love WEAK TEA because of the second part of the clue, [Insubstantial beverage … or argument]—a contemporary usage. OLIVE OIL, a TRAGIC END, COCKTAILS—also good. But this Chicagoan looks askance at EL TRAIN (my family agrees the E is superfluous), and I wasn’t digging R AND R, AN E, ATT (AT&T’s ampersand is a key part!), ST LO, ANON, AVIA, TELS, TOOK A VOW, DIRK as a knife, singular HOT ONE, HI-DEF, A LOT OF, TV AD, GOT AT … meh.

Plural Hot Ones is among my favorite things on YouTube. A celebrity interview show that combines really interesting questions and discussion with the challenge to eat 10 hot wings (which can be vegan or cauliflower for celebs who don’t eat chicken) with an escalating scale of hot sauces, ranging from basic low-grade sauce to the stuff with a Scoville rating of, say, 2,000,000. If you’re looking to pass 20-25 minutes, such as while you eat lunch at your desk, you could do worse than watching any old Hot Ones episode. (The show is currently filmed with the host and celeb at their respective homes.) The comedian Eric Andre is on the one I’m watching right now but I’ll link an older one from the studio, with John Boyega.

Four more things:

  • 60a. [Devilishly clever insults, in slang], BURNS. Good clue.
  • 3d. [Unaffected by], IMMUNE TO. I guess we all appreciate the non-infectious clue here, but our mind took us straight to viruses anyway, didn’t it?
  • 22d. [Dodger beater in the 2017 World Series], ASTRO. Oh, hey. Were the Astros stealing calls that year, too? Would [Dodger cheater in the 2017 World Series] work, too?
  • 56d. [New Deal program with the slogan “We Do Our Part,” in brief], NRA. Hey! An old reference, yes, but I’ll take it over a “neutral” current NRA clue.

Three stars from me.

Kameron Austin Collins’ AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #50” — Ben’s Review

AVCX Themeless #50 – 08/26/2020

Fifty!  Fifty AVCX Themeless puzzles have been published, and KAC has the 50th one.  As always with Kam’s work, it’s a visually pleasing grid, with some equally pleasing (and tricky) fill.

  • I was very pleased with myself for pulling GLOSSOLALIA (“Speaking in tongues, more formally”) out of nowhere with only an O in the grid.
  • The other long across fill in the grid was a nice mix of things: ARE YOU THERE, REBEL ROUSER, DIPLOMA MILL (“Trump University, e.g.”), the aforementioned GLOSSOLALIA, TRIPADVISOR, and RICE TERRACE
  • I was trying to be all fancy and assumed the “[h]erb in gummies, say” was THC, but it’s just plain old POT.
  • The “T.S. of literature” this was looking for this time was GARP and not ELIOT, as my brain really wanted to try and cram into only four squares

I wasn’t familiar with Duane Eddy’s “REBEL ROUSER” before solving this puzzle, but here it is.

Happy Wednesday!

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

Hellooooo team. Today’s New Yorker is a moderately challenging puzzle from Patrick Berry, although I’m not sure how apt that challenge rating is because my brain is in a deep fog and I still managed to solve this at around my average Wednesday pace, which makes me think it may have been easier than normal? We’ve got some fun long entries in this one, with a nice staircase middle and a neat grid design. And right up until the very end, this puzzle was doing a fabulous job on the representation front, and still overall comes out ahead.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Patrick Berry • Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The long entries in the staircase were DIRECT CURRENT / BACKDOOR PILOT / HARRIET TUBMAN. I have always found the AC/DC “war” intriguing, so this was a pretty quick get for me. I had never heard of a BACKDOOR PILOT, but it was fairly inferable with enough crosses, all of which were eminently reasonable. I just spent a bunch of time reading the internet about various BACKDOOR PILOTs and wow, this is a more common phenomenon that I realized! I also didn’t know about HARRIET TUBMAN‘s role in the Combahee River Raid (ok, I didn’t know *anything* about the Combahee River Raid), so I was delighted to learn about that as well.

And on that note, just a brief foray into the “representation” space: Berry’s puzzle featured HARRIET TUBMAN in a key central spot, and also used Cardi B to clue RAPS and “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” to clue MADEA (which, although it has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 16%, was also the start of the cultural phenomenon that is the Tyler Perry film empire). That’s all great! So it was kind of a bummer to end (or nearly end) this puzzle on OGLED, a word I wish people would just delete from their wordlists (right along with LEER). Being OGLED is a truly degrading experience, and unless it’s happened to you, it probably seems like a bad but abstract thing. The concrete reality of being objectified while walking down the street is indescribably gross, and I don’t really want to be reminded of it while solving. Obviously, this doesn’t completely undermine all the good things this puzzle does, but I did want to make this point.

A few other things:

  • Favorite clues:
    • [One bound to be perused?] for PAGE (I initially put BOOK)
    • [“Didn’t we just do this?”] for “AGAIN???” (punctuation added)
  • Fill is super clean! No complaints on that front, as is standard with Patrick Berry’s puzzles
  • I recently learned that there is a name for ENDCAPs (after describing them as “you know, the shelves on the end of the shelves that are kind of outside the aisle but still part of it?”). ENDCAP is a much neater way of saying that!
  • Some nice scrabbly letters in the SE with DAZZLE and XRAY and CRUXES

Overall, this was an enjoyable solve, one unpleasant entry notwithstanding! Tons of stars from me, and looking forward to more puzzles with an attention to representation from Patrick Berry in the future.


Will Eisenberg’s Universal crossword, “Poker Action” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/26/20 • Wed • “Poker Action” • Eisenberg • solution • 20200826

No revealer, just what’s advertised by the title. Each of the theme entries ends with a typical poker action.

  • 20a. [Verifying, in a way] CROSS-CHECKING.
  • 31a. [“Sticks and stones may break my bones …” elicitor] NAME CALLING.
  • 40a. [Form of mutual aid for the 14-Across] BARN RAISING. 14-across is [Simple-living sect] AMISH. Am never a fan of cross pollination between theme and ballast material.
  • 53a. [Preparing turkeys for a fancy meal, say?] NAPKIN FOLDING. Little misdirection here. There are quite a few (similar) versions out there should you choose to enliven your Thanksgiving table.

I think these follow a sequential order. Not 100% on CHECKING. Consistency in all being gerunds is good. Solid if a bit stiff crossword and theme.

    • 2d [Casual Reddit interview, for short] AMA, “Ask Me Anything”.
    • 9d [Tough choice] DILEMMA.

      Euglossa dilemma

    • 24a [State lines?] MOTTOS. 47a [Courses with few obstacles?] Cute clues, especially the latter coming right after a golf clue (46a [Hole in one, on a par three hole] EAGLE).
    • 28a [South Pacific island country] SAMOA, 54a [South Pacific archipelago] FIJI.
    • 37d [Shoes that have colorways] SNEAKERS. Looking up ‘colorways’ in this context right now… Aha, as suspected it’s just the color scheme, but has outsized significance for sneaker connoisseurs. Here’s an article I didn’t bother to read.

Mike Peluso & Joe Krozel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’ recap

LA Times

This kind of visual theme is encountered far more often in the NY Times. Our two constructors explore SQUARE/DANCES – four of them – in four corners of the puzzle – arranged in 2×2 squares. We get the REEL, HULA, HORA and the forgettable FRUG.

The puzzle played very easy, more like a Monday / Tuesday. This theme can play all kinds of hob on your fill, so our constructors went with a very divided grid, divided into five fairly self-contained areas. All of them have a lot of four letter answers, which made it easy to solve. It also meant the puzzle had decent quality control, though.


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16 Responses to Wednesday, August 26, 2020

  1. David Steere says:

    AVCX: I can’t believe that this lovely puzzle isn’t rated too high in difficulty. I usually have big problems with KAC’s puzzles. His generally very indirect cluing often defeats me (as did Monday’s New Yorker by Natan Last whose cultural references are usually way outside my 66-year old wheelhouse). But this AVCX by Kameron was a relative breeze. Only 23A and 47D and the proper name in the 22A clue were unknown to me. Enjoyable puzzle–at least for 1am, late Tuesday night, Arizona time.

  2. David Glasser says:

    Nice pair of entries between AVC 34D and New Yorker 34A.

  3. Scott says:

    Is it just me, or does the NYT writeup seem a little harsh? No disrespect intended.

    • R says:

      Agreed. I’m not sure why Amy expected MENU stock OPTIONS to make financial sense. It’s almost like she’s never done a crossword puzzle or heard a joke before and saying “I don’t get it doesn’t he know that BEEF STOCK is food and not a financial investment read a book for once jeez?!?!”. This is a bog standard theme and I’m not sure why it’s being held to some arbitrarily high standard.
      I’m also not sure how the mention of BEEF STOCK is an unwelcome reminder of Big Ag, yet she can launch into a long rave about a show where people eat processed food for your entertainment.

    • Mutman says:

      I also agree. Seems the theme is basic Crossword Themes 101 word play. And get the shade correct! It would be MENU OPTIONS, not MENU STOCK OPTIONS.

      I do agree with Amy in two other respects: 1) Should have incorporated ‘Cheaters’ into the Astros clue and 2) Physicist NO; Chemist YES

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I gave it a (lukewarm) 3 stars, but the average star rating from readers is 2.42 stars right now. So … it would appear that other people also tended not to enjoy it much.

    • Gary R says:

      I thought the theme was just so-so. I thought BEEF STOCK, MENU OPTION and IONIC BOND were pretty good (cluing on the latter notwithstanding). I know that they’re “things,” but COMEDY GOLD and WORK PORTFOLIO are not phrases I hear or use regularly, so those two fell kind of flat.

      I thought a lot of the longer fill was pretty good (as Amy noted), but there was quite a bit of crossword glue, too.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    I see NYT today is an exercise in ineptly ‘clever’ cluing, that’s my take. OK puzzle clued really weirdly, I won’t say badly, just weird, that way, maybe it’s just a wavelength thing.

  5. Lise says:

    The AVCX was wonderful, a very satisfying solve. I am not familiar with Duane Eddy, as I was 2 years old when that song came out and my mother was more of a Frank Sinatra kind of person, but I recognize the song now that I’ve heard it. Thanks for the link!

    Congratulations to Kameron Austin Collins for the 50th themeless.

  6. Lise says:

    pannonica, that is one beautiful bee. The wikipedia article is fascinating. I did not know that bees could have teeth.

    Your knowledge base is quite wide. Thanks for posting the photo.

    • ahimsa says:

      Agreed, I really enjoyed that bee photo!

      On a side note, another animal that you might not expect to have teeth is a snail. Maybe teeth is not the exact technical term (forgot what it is) but if it’s quiet you can hear a snail chewing.

      I learned this some years ago from the book, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. The book is actually about a woman who is bedridden with a chronic illness and ends up with a snail in the potted plant next to her bed.

      Book trailer –

  7. ahimsa says:

    Thanks too all the folks who posted on Yeats vs Keats yesterday!

    Now I need someone to do the same thing for Monet vs Manet. :-)

  8. Brenda Rose says:

    Hint from Art History 101: MANet mostly painted people..think Cezanne or Corot. MONet mostly painted landscapes…think of his water lilies & haystacks.

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