BuzzFeed Crossword – Tuesday 17 November 2015

FIRM RAKER” by Sam Trabucco

Get cracking! Solve the puzzle!

Tue 11 17

“Firm Raker”

Constructor: Sam Trabucco

Theme: Pixar movie titles with one letter changed to R

  • 18A: A RUG’S LIFE – Animated film where the main character is an Afghan that’s sick of being walked all over?
  • 23A: FINDING NERO – Animated film where the main character journeys to the excavation site of a Roman emperor’s corpse and learns a little something along the way?
  • 49A: TRY STORY TWO – Animated film about a doorman who’s always reminding people that the elevator doesn’t work from the first floor?
  • 56A: INSIDE RUT – Animated movie about the boring routine of the microbes that live around road indentations?
  • 39: PIXAR – The producer of 18-, 23-, 49-, and 56-Across… or, when you say it out loud, what each answer does to one of the characters from the original movie?

Ben: This is a good puzzle — I like the concept and I like the fill. The theme didn’t hit quite as hard for me as it should have — I get that you have to parse PIXAR as PICKS R, but how is that 39A: …what each answer does to one of the characters from the original movie?

Lena: It comes across as complete nonsense to me. Awkwardly-worded revealer, and nonsense theme answers. INSIDE RUT? This isn’t a pun, it’s not even a phrase. The clue [Animated movie about the boring routine of the microbes that live around road indentations?] is rambling and weird. Boring routine = RUT, road indentation = RUT. Yeah, and?? I just put question marks in all the squares that had Rs subbed in (“picked??”).

Ben: I think this might be one where I get more out of it because I haven’t been solving for all that long. I still get a certain thrill out of cracking a theme, even if the puns are kind of lame. I will say that the clue for TRY STORY TWO has to go a very long way to make the joke work. Nice to see “Inside Out” show up in the list, though — I loved that movie, and it’s probably my new favourite from Pixar.

Lena: I guess FINDING NERO and A RUG’S LIFE the only just-passable themers imo. Weak puns, but at least they’re puns.

Ben: I have a weakness for long fill, so I was delighted to see stuff like BLOOD MONEY (4D: Green for a successful hit?) and the understated clue for NICELY DONE (30D: *fist bump*).

Lena: NICELY DONE is quite possibly the only thing I like in this puzzle, I’m sorry to say…

Ben: The fill isn’t bad. Wasn’t sure about SMIZE (46D: Portmanteau coined by Tyra Banks), but apparently it means “smiling with your eyes”. YAS is modern enough that I liked it, although I bet the clue 27A: “OMG das rite queen!!!” gave some people trouble. It’s crossed fairly.

Lena: Oh. I thought it was “small size.”

Ben: Wasn’t thrilled by ERN, EGAN, non-English spelling for BERNE, ZEES, INURE, ENL, EXE, GON — most of it is real stuff, but between four theme answers, a revealer, and a bunch of long stuff, you can see the grid straining a bit. I do love the clue for APOLO, who I usually regard as crutch fill — 14A: Ohno on skates (as opposed to “oh no,” which I usually say when on skates.

Lena: Yeah, that was a pretty endearing clue. I liked the clever 57D: Dig in, yet fill a hole? for EAT.

Ben: There were a lot of clues I liked today, but I’ll single out 31A: It throws mad shade for VISOR and 42D: Put the king into a sticky situation for MATED. Nicely understated. I do object to HOSER being clued as Canadian slang — maybe forty years ago, sure. I have never heard that term used unironically in my life.

Ben: Days Without a Harry Potter Reference – 1. Days Without “Jane Eyre” and “Princess Bride” references – 0. BuzzFeed, classing it up!

Lena: Yeaaah I dunno about class… it’s almost like they [Decided against class]– a clue I did like for SKIP— in this one.

Ben: I did think there were going to be dick jokes here — 28A: A part of the body known for being hard (ENAMEL) and 55A: Made everything all better by doing something hard (ATONED) — but the puzzle lulled me into a false sense of security. And then BAM! SEMEN! Gross. (I literally shouted “EW!” when I got the clue)

Lena: I commute to work on the train with a co-worker, and we solve a puzzle on the way in– usually the NYT, but sometimes indies and BZFs. Today it was BZF. We got to 67A [Pearl necklace material that isn’t pearl] and I cringed. I started to fill it in and said “I’m really, really embarrassed right now.” She hadn’t known what a “pearl necklace” and, well, now she does. It was really uncomfortable– and I had to push crude and debasing porn imagery out of my head BEFORE 8AM. This is beyond Breakfast Test. This is beyond Brocentricity. It’s just disgusting, unnecessary, and Not Funny or Clever.

Ben: It really is beyond the lines of good taste. There are very few topics I would consider off-limits for crosswords, but this is one of them.

  1. pblindauer said:

    BOOM! Solved with one write-over (and one secret not-really-there meta discovered).


    • Haha for about ten seconds this was gonna be a meta, which is achievable by changing INSIDE RUT to the dumb INSIDE OUR and swapping each themer for its symmetrical pair. That makes the changed characters spell out TOMB. Didn’t seem at all worth.


      • Agreed. IMO, a meta-answer should only be used if it enhances the theme, so a bonus answer like CARS or CARR would’ve been cool given the subject matter.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Joe Pancake said:

    I too was very much put off by seeing SEMEN in my puzzle. But I started thinking about why and I don’t have a great answer. Is it that pretty much any allusion to bodily egestion is gross (would PUS or FECES cause a similar reaction)? Is it the clue? “Pearl necklace” also immediately takes my mind to debasing porn, but there is nothing wrong with pearl necklaces per se. (I’m sure there are plenty of self-respecting people who enjoy receiving them.) Is that we are all kind of prudish when it comes to explicit sexual references? I don’t know.


    • Lena Webb said:

      For me it’s absolutely the clue. And even if some folks enjoy the act, I don’t think most of them would bring it up in a casual setting. Having a sense of decorum doesn’t mean you’re a prude. I do puzzles with friends, sometimes with strangers at bars, and I bust them out to share the fun at work over lunch. On Peter’s xword blog he actually provides a maturity rating system, serving to warn folks that some content might be on the extreme side– so, I might not print one of those puzzles to share depending on the rating. BZF is rough because it’s supposed to be fresh and inviting to new solvers, but landmines like this might keep folks from coming back.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joe Pancake said:

        I hear you. Maybe the BF puzzle should adopt a maturity rating as well. It just seems strange to me that I had no problem with the reference to masturbation in a puzzle a few weeks ago (SELFABUSE, I believe it was) and yet was really put off by pearl necklace.


  3. rabonour said:

    This theme was completely incoherent. I didn’t even come close to parsing PIXAR as “picks R,” and even once you explained it it’s total nonsense. Themers were split for me – A RUG’S LIFE and FINDING NERO are okay, TRY STORY TWO is borderline, and INSIDE RUT sucks. Regardless of what it’s supposed to mean relative to the clue, it’s just phonetically too far from “Inside Out” to work.

    I don’t *hate* seeing SEMEN in a puzzle, but the clue definitely struck me as a little too far. I was surprised that a grid with SMIZE and YAS also contained GALOOT, which feels much more like it would belong in today’s dated Times puzzle.


  4. Bob Dively said:

    I can’t say that I enjoyed this one very much. The theme was flat (FINDING NERO) to WTF (INSIDE RUT) for me. Also, the clue to the revealer PIXAR (39A The producer of 18-, 23-, 49-, and 56-Across… or, when you say it out loud, what each answer does to one of the characters from the original movie?) doesn’t make any sense for INSIDE RUT. There’s no character in “Inside Out” called Out, is there? (I admittedly haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve got a good idea of what it’s about.) It’s also a little tenuous for A RUG’S LIFE and TRY STORY TWO because the clue says PIXAR for “one of the characters” and there are lots of bugs and toys in the respective original movies.

    I struggled with some of the pop culture stuff that’s off my radar like EGAN (38A: “Veep” slimeball Dan), YAS (27A “OMG das rite queen!!!”) and SMIZE (46A Portmanteau coined by Tyra Banks).

    Liked NICELY DONE (30D *fist bump*). Remember when Obama and Michelle gave each other a dap during the 2008 Presidential campaign, and Certain People got all exercised about what it meant? Yeah, that seems like ancient history now.

    Finally, an Afghan is not a RUG. It’s a blanket. (Yes, there are “Afghan rugs” in the sense of traditional woven Oriental carpets made by people from Afghanistan, but those are called – wait for it – Afghan rugs.)

    –your Quibbler-in-Chief

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe Pancake said:

      I think character is referring to a letter in the movie title — so should the clue have stated “original movie title” instead of “movie”? Or is meant to be ambiguous as part of the pun? I’m not sure. I, like you, didn’t really enjoy this one, and thought the theme just didn’t really work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bob Dively said:

        Hmm. Yes, it works a little better if “character” means “symbol” and not “role”. But if that was the intent then the clue is pretty annoying.


  5. FWIW, in creating this grid (and the others I’ve submitted to BuzzFeed), I consider the audience to be the average user of BuzzFeed. And so, for any entry (and any clue for any entry) that I include, I hope that some significant cross-section of BuzzFeed’s user base will enjoy it, and the cross-section that will absolutely hate seeing it is minimal. In the case of SEMEN, I 100% stand by its inclusion in the grid — this is absolutely commonplace on BuzzFeed (and, I think, is seen as less shocking/gross by younger people? I don’t know). I will not hesitate to include it (or really much, to be honest, that is not overly and inherently triggering) in future puzzles I submit to this outlet.

    With that said, I am not huge on this clue. I don’t really have a problem with the subject matter at-hand, and in particular it passes the “would this appear elsewhere on BuzzFeed” test. However, typically if it were to appear elsewhere on BuzzFeed, it would be in an article about the 21 Craziest Sex Stories or whatever, where you’re expecting to read stuff like that. And so it becomes a potentially-unexpected thing that you’re now picturing a guy ejaculating on some person’s face in a puzzle specifically-advertised as being about animated movies, which can be, let’s say, an unwelcome surprise. I’d always keep in mind that it’s BuzzFeed and so a certain level of Breakfast Test-failure ought to be expected, but this is a bit much.

    Also, not trying to be defensive, in particular. I’d prefer for this to be seen as a meta-comment about what should and should not be acceptable in a puzzle like this, that just so happens to have appeared because of a puzzle I wrote.

    Liked by 2 people

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