“ANIMAL HUSBANDRY” by Erik Agard
If you haven’t subscribed to The American Values Club Xword yet you should probably do a little soul-searching and then pony up. Read below and see what you’re missing!
Constructor: Erik Agard
Theme: Puns involving animals getting married.
- 20A: ELEVATED TRAIN – The giraffe bride wore an ___
- 28A: POP BANDS – The weasel grooms exchanged ___
- 35A: SPOTTY RECEPTION – The leopard wedding was followed by a ___
- 42A: BEEF CAKE – The newlywed Siamese fighting fish fed each other ___
- 50A: HIGHLIGHT REEL – The fireflies’ first dance was a ___
Ben: This was fun. I don’t really think of a REEL as being a wedding dance, but cluing BEEF CAKE in reference to Siamese fighting fish instead of cattle is wicked.
Lena: I really enjoy Erik’s puzzles. He got me used to Not Always Knowing Everything and Maybe Having to Cheat Once for the Sake of Enjoying the Rest of the Puzzle. That is a compliment. Perhaps it sounds hypocritical after my complaints regarding the Fireball, but those clues were so misdirecting I couldn’t have cheated if I wanted to.
Michael: Ben Tausig is really killing it lately. I’m almost never disappointed by an AVXC puzzle, and I love that even when the themes go easy / wacky (like today’s), they are smart, sophisticated, polished, funny, current. Constructors who work w/ Ben also praise him highly. I think this is the best crossword in America right now.
Ben: I so appreciate the LGBT (8D: Letters of the rainbow?) acknowledgement in the clue for POP BANDS. Nice.
Michael: Man, I totally missed that. Cool.
Lena: I was a “Redwall”-reading in-the-bushes-playing woodland creature nerd (that’s why I always get COPSE), so I loved imagining this gay weasel wedding. Although I will say that POP isn’t really a thing of weasels. Giraffes are ELEVATED, leopards are SPOTTY, but the theme breaks down a little with POP, BEEF, HIGH LIGHT. Didn’t keep me from having a good time though.
Ben: For whatever reason, I filled in the top third or so of the grid, as far down as OED (26A: Ref. whose 2015 Word of the Year is the “Face With Tears of Joy” emoji) and the first themer, and then just stopped. Couldn’t see anything off of what I had. I had to break back into the grid with PEELE (27D: Key’s comedy partner) in the middle. Thankfully, they were fresh in my mind since I just watched the first season of “Fargo” over the holiday break.
Lena: This was almost exactly my route to the South. I did the top on the train into work, and the bottom on the train home. In the morning my brain was only partially functional, apparently, as I stared at 15A: Gargantuan (HUGE) and thought it was a gorilla-orangutan, like a “tiglon” or “liger” or something… no joke. I wish it was.
Ben: One of my favourite things about AV Club puzzles is the amount of long fill you get in virtually every puzzle. Here we’ve got BONNE NUIT (11D: “No more French Open action tonight; see you in the morning!”) to go along with ADIEU (3D: “See you at next year’s French Open!”), plus a midnight snack of CHAI LATTES and a PLANTAIN.
Michael: I legit LOL’d at the French Open callback. Also great: 9D: Single ___ (thing on a bald eagle’s face on patriotic murals) (TEAR) and 31D: Fig. written LIK-ET-HIS! (SSN). The latter is so good I forgot the fill was crap.
Lena: Same here. I love French and wasn’t expected to know anything about tennis– perfect!
Ben: Have to confess that I don’t know who JOSEPHINE Baker was (32D: Baker who was an activist, an actress, a dancer, a singer, and a spy, but not, as far as I know, a baker). Great clue, though.
Lena: I have to confess that I put boSON instead of MESON (47D: Type of hadron). Also, hardon.
Ben: Other good clues are 4D: Punishment for a kid who really wanted to know what happens on the next “Dora the Explorer” (NO TV) and 55A: Class in which sin isn’t always negative? (TRIG).
Lena: 55A is genius; absolutely my favorite. I also liked 33D: Title word often accidentally swapped for Wars by people being careless (TREK) and found 6D: Word before rock or metal, or after rap (SHEET) to be nice and satisfying.
Ben: Never seen “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” (set in 53D: IRAN), but apparently it’s about a skateboarding vampire who preys on men who disrespect women. That sounds rad. Also listening to “HELL You Talmabout” (51D) now — intense.
Michael: The inclusiveness, the breadth of reference here, is amazing. That IRAN clue, the cluing of JOSEPHINE as Baker, EARL Sweatshirt. And then the fantastically current clue on OED. AVXC puzzles are just *fun* to solve.
Ben: Fun start to the year.