Wednesday, December 16, 2020

LAT 4:56 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker 5:26 (Rachel) 


NYT 3:05 (Amy) 


WSJ 5:59 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX 5:59 (Ben) 


Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Offenders”—Jim P’s review

Today we have a before-and-after theme in which the second of the two-word phrases always ends in OFF.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Offenders” · Gary Larson · Wed., 12.16.20

  • 17a. [Make a big deal out of a political tiebreaker?] MILK RUN-OFF. Milk run. Run-off. There’s definitely a lot of milking going on with the Georgia run-offs, so I find this to be a very timely entry. Also, do people still use the phrase “milk run”? The Internet tells me it’s “a routine, uneventful journey, especially by plane.” Is that how you know the term?
  • 25a. [Come to grips with idleness?] FACE TIME OFF. FaceTime. Time off. There’s been a lot of this lately as well.
  • 36a. [Disparage a counterfeit product?] KNOCK KNOCK-OFF. Knock Knock. Knock-off.
  • 50a. [Finance a pilot derived from a popular TV series?] BACK SPIN-OFF. Backspin. Spin-off.
  • 59a. [Broadcast clips of a grandstanding exhibitionist?] AIR SHOW-OFF. Air show. Show-off.

That’s a lot of duplication there, and I’m somewhat surprised it was allowed to make it to publication. Once you get the gist of the theme, you could (and I did) write the OFF part of the remaining themers pretty quickly and then deduce the rest of the entries from there. That’s a lot of real estate you’re giving away for free.

I find the theme answers to be solid enough with good wordplay, but none of them especially tickled me.

There isn’t much in the way of long sparkly fill due to the limiting factor of the central 13-letter themer and the fact that there are five theme entries. In truth, there are no entries longer than six letters aside from the theme answers.

Out of curiosity, I ran the puzzle through the XWord Info puzzle analyzer just to confirm I wasn’t missing a long answer somewhere. I wasn’t. But I also noted a pretty low “Freshness Factor” rating of 11%, a figure calculated based on the number of times words in that grid have appeared in other puzzles. Monday NYT puzzles average 18.5% whereas Saturday NYT puzzles average 84.3%. Other interesting stats: a high number of blocks (40) and a low average word length (4.74).

All that is just to say that there’s not a lot of sparkle here. The puzzle would be more fun with only four themers (probably doing without the problematic central entry) and loosening up the grid to allow some fresh fill.

3.25 stars.

Ed Salners & Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 16 20, no. 1216

I had to find a typo and still finished in 3:05? Did this play more like a Monday than a Wednesday for you, too?

The revealer is 59a. [Treasury notes … or what the two sides of 17-, 23-, 37- and 52-Across are joined with?], GOVERNMENT BONDS, and there are three-letter initialisms for US agencies at the border between two words (or components of compound words) in the themers:

  • 17a. [Place to land that’s not on land], AIRCRAFT CARRIER, with the Federal Trade Commission’s letters in circles/shaded squares.
  • 23a. [2002 musical that won eight Tonys], HAIRSPRAY. Internal Revenue Service.
  • 37a. [Very picture of idleness?], SCREENSAVER. National Spying-on-us Agency? National Security Agency.
  • 52a. [Felix of “The Odd Couple,” for one], NEAT FREAK. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Not many agencies don’t include a general noun like agency, administration, service, or commission. Leaves it unstated as to what their stance is on the booze, cigs, and guns.

The theme’s okay in terms of execution, but having a bunch of government agency abbrevs as the added trick is like frosting a cake with kindergarten paste. It’s not as sweet and fun as you might have hoped.

What else?

  • 28a. [Gaelic language], ERSE. Crosswordese alert!
  • 64a. [Something you grin and bare?], TOOTH. I filled in TEETH, but sure, I guess people with just a single tooth also grin.
  • 2d. [Toy company that made Etch A Sketch a success], OHIO ART. Now owned by a Canadian company, but OHIO ART had it for 56 years. Believe it or not, they sold the toy line so they could focus on their metal lithography business.
  • 13d. [Martin Luther’s crime], HERESY. I kinda want to put “crime” in quotes.
  • 56d. [Parts of black widow spiders’ diets], ANTS. Yes. Ants, and also human flesh. Yes?
  • 62d. [Need for making latkes], OIL. This is a December holiday tradition that should really be universal. Potatoes, fried! What’s not to love?

3.25 stars from me.

Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels’ Universal crossword, “What a Card!” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/16/20 • Wed • Christian, Michaels • “What a Card!” • solution • 20201216

Very easy to twig to what’s going on with the theme, rendering the central revealer all but unnecessary. Then again, what’s wrong with a little extra, if it doesn’t stress the grid?

  • 39aR [Famous FDR program, or a theme hint] NEW DEAL. That’s right. Reinterpretations of (specific) playing cards.
  • 17a. [Major figure in the nightlife scene?] KING OF CLUBS.
  • 24a. [People in a love triangle] THREE OF HEARTS.
  • 51a. [Baseball team’s best pitcher] ACE OF DIAMONDS.
  • 62a. [Couple who own a garden tool shop?] TWO OF SPADES.

Four suits, four main theme entries. A singular ace, a pair, a threesome, and then a king. Both the theme and the clues were quite easy, leading to a rapid solve.

  • 1d [Seltzer starter?] ALKA- with a ™
  • 4d [Certain female grouse], you mean besides me? Anyway, it’s a SAGE HEN. You can see what both females and males look like here.
  • 28d [It’s close to the funny bone] ULNA. Of course, the ‘funny bone’ isn’t a bone at all. It’s the ulnar nerve.
  • 29d [A stone’s throw from, say] NEAR. And since Christmas is indeed nigh, I’m reminded of the weird and wonderful holiday album from Stone’s Throw Records, Badd Santa.
  • 53d [Modern hieroglyph?] EMOJI. This is how I think of them. So would you say they represent progress or regression?
  • 28a/30a [Like vampires] UNDEAD / [Name that rhymes with “foodie”] RUDY. It has been noted by many observers that Mr Giuliani bears a striking resemblance to the early cinematic vampire Nosferatu.
  • 33d [Roulette bet] ODD. Ya, I tried RED first.
  • 16d [Bunyan’s tool: Var.] AXE. I consider this to be the more common spelling, but crosswords tend to clue it as the variant. Merriam-Webster backs this up, but American Heritage agrees with me, as does this Ngram:
  • 49d [“Hypothetically speaking …”] IF IT IS. Am now thinking that ifitis could be inflammation of the hypothetical gland.

Quick solve, decent crossword.

Paolo Pasco’s AVCX, “From Bad to Verse” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 12/16/20 – “From Bad to Verse”

Happy Wednesday!  Paolo Pasco’s up with “From Bad to Verse (giving us the second AVCX puzzle from a constructor whose name starts with ‘Pao’ in as many weeks), and it goes a little something like this:

  • 16A: “‘She Walks in Beauty’ is so dull, it feels like the author barely cared! Seems like it was written by …” — BORED BYRON
  • 27A: “Only this guy can take a walk in the woods and turn it into something pretentious! He’s a regular …” — SNOBBERT FROST
  • 34A/38A: With 38-Across, “Lllama? News flash: obviously that doesn’t exist, you hack! Absolute piffle. Some real …” — OGDEN TRASH
  • 42A: “Aww boo-hoo, you got sad and saw a bird? Pack it up, emo boy! I should call him …” — EDGAR ALLAN WOE
  • 55A: Event I misunderstood when I wrote this puzzle’s theme clues — POETRY SLAM

This felt like the perfect crossword-size version of a Twitter joke.  Paolo has slammed the poets Lord Byron, Robert Frost, Ogden Nash, and Edgar Allan Poe.  I’ll be reaching out to their estates to see if they need some aloe for those Burns.

Other things to love in this grid:

  • MABEL is the “[o]wner of Waddles the pig, on “Gravity Falls”, for those that have not seen that delightful show
  • GeorgE MIchael’s name hides his onetime label, EMI, as it turns out.  Please know that I had the opportunity to Whammageddon all of you here and chose to have mercy for those that are trying to avoid that.
  • I love that singer Rita ORA now has both “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Detective Pikachu” on her list of acting credits

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Elizabeth C. Gorski • Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Helloooo, short write-up today! This puzzle is the rare miss for me from Elizabeth C. Gorski. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great puzzle and I enjoyed solving it, but the bar on these New Yorker puzzles is *so high* that a couple of minor nits on this puzzle added up to a bit of a “meh” on this one. Namely, 2/3 of the marquees are pretty “meh”, some of the fill is “meh”, and an unfortunate confluence of entries in the center made me sad. But! Some of the clues are excellent and there are definitely a few interesting entries I haven’t seen before. We’ll call it a draw.

The marquee entries today are ALTERNATE JUROR / CLASS REUNIONS / TAKE A COLD SHOWER. These first two are not particularly interesting, but I enjoyed TAKE A COLD SHOWER (although the clue on it is a little cringey: [Extinguish feelings of excitement, say]). Some of the other long-ish entries are interesting—I liked I’M TO BLAME and LION’S DEN— but the rest are also just ok. I also just could not fathom crossing CORPSES with RE-UP and IED. That seems to me like a poor judgment call, although maybe I’m just extra sensitive to this as a member of a military family.

A few more things:

  • Fill I could live without: TER / OR WE / OVI / PRS / EPT / OSE (this is a lot, for a Gorski puzzle!)
  • Favorite clues:
    • [Fault line?] for I’M TO BLAME
    • [Went for the bronze?] for GOT A TAN
  • MAURA/RAMSEY cross was a guess for me, although not a difficult one, as was DOHERTY/EPT.

Overall, not my favorite Gorski puzzle! Some stars for a variety of interesting entries and clues.

Brock Wilson’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

It seems Mr. BEETHOVEN, first name LUDWIG-VAN is 250 years old today. He doesn’t look a day over 180! Words sometimes used to describe/name his works are found in the grid: CHORAL, PASTORAL + SYMPHONY; EROICA and FIFTH. OPUS, CLEF and DMIN are kind of shoehorned in as well…

Some fun clues elsewhere: [The M in BLT?] is “mayo”. [Important gem in Oz] is not OPAL, but EMERALD. Different Oz!

Also: WEFIE – can people stop trying to make WEFIE happen…


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10 Responses to Wednesday, December 16, 2020

  1. pseudonym says:

    Good puzzle by Stella Zawistowski over at her Tough as Nails site.

  2. Crotchety Doug says:

    AVCX – Puzzled by 61A. The clue “Twitch chat reaction” seems to ask for a noun. MW lists EMOTE only as a verb. What have I missed?

    Never mind – I searched “twitch chat” and it indeed its own thing, with an EMOTE button.

  3. cyco says:

    Great AVCX this week. My wife is a (recovering) English major with a loathing of 27A, so it’s extra fun to see him taken down a peg, even via bad indie crossword pun.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    Boy did I lose interest doing that NYer

  5. Denny Baker says:

    NYT What does INOT mean?

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ … MILK RUN was a new one on this solver and stood out like a sore thumb in this very easy and kinda blah grid. At first, when I got MILK from the crosses and saw that the clue involved politics, I thought it might be some kind of play on Harvey MILK or maybe related to the 2008 Sean Penn film about him … but no.

  7. Joan Macon says:

    Here’s a puzzle: the Times says today’s LAT is by C C Burnikel, but Gareth says its Brock Wilson. Is this a case of two people or two names for one person? Just curious! And Amy, thanks for yesterday’s answer!

    • Gareth says:

      I think we’re looking at a puzzle that was swopped out at the eleventh hour? Either just the author’s name didn’t get changed at the last minute in some paper venues?

    • Rich Norris says:

      Joan, there have been intermittent errors in constructor names in the LA Times newspaper (only the print version) for the past week or so. I’m still trying to straighten it out. The online constructor is correct.

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