BuzzFeed Crossword – Wednesday 28 October 2015

THEMELESS 3” by Michael Sharp

Did we let Michael comment on his own puzzle? Solve it first and find out below

Buzzfeed solution 10 28

“Themeless 3”

Constructor: Michael Sharp

Theme: None

Ben: Hey, I know this constructor! We’re getting the themeless early this week so that BZF can run a Halloween puzzle on Friday.

Lena: Fine by me! I’ll take that sweet sweet themeless action any day of the week.

Ben: This is excellent, as all the themelesses have been. Obviously the highlight is the unusual 14/13/12 staircase stacks — can’t remember having seen this pattern before. Makes for an unusual collection of cheater squares in the corners, but I kind of like it.

Lena: Michael sent me this grid to look at (spoiling what would have been a super fun solve for me smh) on… August 15th and I’ve been excited to see it published ever since. I can’t remember where, but I said “nice grid” and Michael asked if that was a crossword wolf-whistle. Sure why not– nice grid!

Ben: I’ve taught his book, so SHERMAN ALEXIE (13A: Author whose “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” topped the American Library Association’s “Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2014” list) was a slam dunk. (The book is excellent, by the way.)

Lena: I loved seeing real live book references! Both of the featured authors’ works are current, “hip,” important must-reads– can you handle it, tl:dr generation? “Between the World and Me” should take you 2 hours max.

Ben: Since I had a 13-letter gimme, most of the puzzle played pretty easy for me, up until the point where I had to try and remember how to spell TA-NEHISI COATES’ name. Fortunately, I know who the ALABAMA SHAKES are (57A: Southern rock band fronted by Brittany Howard), so I was able to work it out through crosses eventually. Cute cross-referenced clue too, with RISE TO THE TOP showing up as 58A: Reach No. 1, as 57-Across’s “Sound & Color” (the album, not the song).

Ben: Don’t understand the clue at all on PHAT (50D: Foxy fab). That, GREBE (46D: Pied-billed ___ (American water bird also known as “hell-diver,” “devil diver,” or “water witch”) and misspelling TA-NEHISI made the SW corner kind of a bear, though I got it in the end.

Lena: As a kid who wrote letters to Roger Tory Peterson and pretend-published a magazine entitled “Wild Brid,” GREBE was a nerd-gimme. And there’s a little WREN hiding out! I’m also not sure about [Foxy fab] but once I got the answer I thought maybe the clue was referring to Foxy Brown. Maybe?

Ben: A little fill that’s less than ideal: MAV, ELIS, PFCS, A STEP, SNO, IRR, GOV, GRP… nothing too bad. Most of it is in and around those stacks, which must have been a bear to make work. I will forgive ERE, which is clued in reference to my second-favourite Shakespeare play with 3D: “Blood hath been shed ___ now, i’ th’ olden time”: Shakespeare. Is it sad that I immediately knew the act and scene it’s from?

Lena: My main criticism regarding fill is the longer TOOLERS. Forever I am side-eyeing that -ERS fill. Like, [Butterfingerses] for DROPPERS or something… but here is where the rambling, awkward justification clue comes to the rescue (20D: Five-___ (baseball slang for position players who excel at hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning, throwing ability, and fielding) (I swear this is a real thing)). By the end of all of that I’m chuckling and thinking “I believe you, I believe you!”

Ben: Yeah, I’d actually heard of five-TOOLERS (the term came up in Moneyball), so I glazed right on over that one.

Lena: Like yesterday, the tone is more sedate than many of the other puzzles so far. I think this is a stately themeless with clues to match– a good balance of tricky, witty, and factual.

Ben: Favourite clue: 37D: Like some red fish? for SWEDISH.

Lena: My favorite: 28A: Conclusion of a presidential address (GOV). Hee! Least favorite: 13D: Girl-oriented manga, familiarly (SHOJO). As someone who has never heard the formal term for this genre of manga, adding “familiarly” feels unfair to me. It’s not nice to the solver to slang up an already-obscure term (but maybe I should know about this and I’m just out of the loop, who knows!).

Ben: Oh, and before I forget — BuzzFeed seems to be staking out ground as a socially conscious puzzle, with the clues for WHITE PRIVILEGE (14A: Advantage often unacknowledged or denied) and CIS (39A: Gender identity that isn’t trans). More of this please!

Lena: Thanks to all the horrible everything these days, (28D: When you have one on you, you’re strapped) for GAT brought to mind depressing thoughts/images, but that’s reality. So, yes, lots and lots of pertinent social topics here– sobering, necessary topics– balanced nicely with feel-good, brain-hugging puzzliness that helps me take some of the heavier stuff off my mind for a while.

17 comments
  1. rabonour said:

    Great work, Michael. I knew you had been working hard on this one, and it turned out really well.

    I will say: I didn’t like PHAT at all. In a puzzle where you were so focused on race-consciousness, that dated slang feels even more jarring. I probably would have changed it, which could have also gotten rid of GREBE and GRP, two of the weakest entries in my opinion. Are APACHEs known for raids? Cluing an answer about Native Americans with a reference to violence also seems to not fit with the puzzle’s spirit.

    That being said, there is tons to like here, between WHITE PRIVILEGE, TA-NEHISI COATES, SWEDISH (devilish clue), and more. I loved this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • zzedzed said:

      Good catch on APACHE. A clue ripped from 1950s westerns.

      Like

  2. zzedzed said:

    With so much current “Hey the world didn’t end in 1999” in this puzzle I didn’t even notice the crap short fill. IRR, the only things that made me wince at all were the gerunds. They’re helpful from a solving perspective but feel a little like a crutch at times. This puzzle also manages to seem current without being too 20-something.

    I do recall MS commenting once about having a puzzle turned down because it included SHERMAN ALEXIE. I can’t help but wonder if there is a bit of a middle finger intended here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • therealrexparker said:

      There is always middle finger.

      Like

  3. austinburns said:

    happy to announce: Days Without a Harry Potter Reference: 2!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. r.alphbunker said:

    This was a well-done puzzle. I just finished TA-NEHISI COATES’ book but that didn’t mean that I knew how to spell his first name right away. It took me a while to get the H in the right place. It was also a nice touch to see WHITE PRIVILEGE in the symmetrically opposite position.

    Like

  5. “Advantage often unacknowledged or denied” – nice.
    Very timely references (esp. Ta-Nehisi Coates!) Pleasantly surprised by the Korea mention. Did you know that character was named in honor of the mononymous actor of the same name, who voiced Zuko in the original Avatar?
    Had GUN in place of GAT and GOD instead of GOV (argh), leading to nothing.
    …PHAT?

    Like

  6. nwnk said:

    SOVIETS bothered me a little too, as far as I know the US has never been in an explicitly declared war against either the USSR or Russia (plenty of proxy wars, sure). Reading “with” as “on the same side as” for WWII seems like a stretch.

    Definitely like the social-consciousness clues, especially ZINES.

    Like

    • Bob Dively said:

      That clue is a little awkward because most people are going to parse “a war with” to mean “a war against” even though it can also mean “a war alongside of”, as was the intent here.

      Like

    • zzedzed said:

      The WWII implication is probably the Intended meaning, but the Cold War was how I took it and that certainly works well enough. I’m pretty sure the last “explicitly declared war” ended 60 years ago, so that’s not a very good standard for understanding “war” in crossword clues. Thinking about this some more, since either interpretation works, I like this clue more now than I did this morning.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_war_by_the_United_States#Formal

      Like

  7. Bob Dively said:

    A fun puzzle that initially looked intimidating with all the long across answers.

    I had the EV of EVENT (26D: It might created on Facebook for a party) and for a moment I thought it was going to be EVITE and I was all nooooooo, Rex, for the love of God, why??? And then I saw PLEDGED and sighed in vast relief.

    Never watched Mad Men (I know, I know) and my brane went blank on SWEDISH (37D: Like some red fish?), so I stared at the cross with STEWART for a long time. Otherwise, it played pretty easy for me. It didn’t hurt that I wrote in the top 3 longs without needing any crosses and did likewise with ALABAMA SHAKES.

    Liked GRID (23D: There’s one right in front on you). And JORTS. Because jorts!

    Like

  8. Lewis Rothlein said:

    Three of the long answers and several of the shorter answers were out of my knowledge bank, but the crosses gave them up. Loved the clues for GOV, STEWART, MAV, and GRID. I like that RISETOTHETOP is smack on the bottom. WHITE PRIVILEGE crossing ELIS seems appropriate. The grid design itself is gorgeous. Minimal junk and lots of shine. Decent amount of grit to make this a tussle. Good one! Hopefully more to follow…

    Like

  9. Nice stacks!

    Are you a bird watcher or something? [Insert Austin Powers joke here.] With two birds and WHITEPRIVILEGE/TANEHISICOATES are sure there wasn’t some kind of bird and/or racial justice theme going on? (JK.)

    Favorite clue misdirection: “be the summer” for ADD. Ha!

    Today I learned that lasagna is the singular and lasagne is the plural. (Makes sense, but I never thought about it before.)

    Had to run the alphabet for the GAT/GOV cross; nice aha! moment for the finish.

    Like

  10. numisama said:

    I’m thinking that “On the other side in WWII” would have been a good clue for SOVIETS. After all, they were fighting from the east and we from the west.

    Like

  11. therealrexparker said:

    I quibbled about clue on SOVIETS and did not get my way. It was one of only a handful of clues I didn’t like that much. Many of the good clues were CM’s. Some were mine. Some we hammered out in consultation. And some, I assume, are good people.

    I wasn’t thrilled with the APACHE clue either, but didn’t speak up there (my orig. clue was hella long and involved the last Jimmy Stewart film I’d seen…). I appreciate the feedback from you all. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Very nice! Repeated “a” in the clue/answer for 48D, but that’s a very minor nit in an otherwise stellar puz.

    Like

  13. Teedmn said:

    Great job, MS (Rex). My fave clues were for STAG, GRID and FLATTENS. Really liked seeing the two authors. The grid layout looked elegant and the dreck was minimal.

    Like

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