Peter Wentz’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 68”
I thought of Peter Wentz this afternoon when a Fall Out Boy song came on the radio (mind you, I would not have known if the dashboard screen didn’t display such info). That’s the other Pete Wentz, the one who plays bass but is probably terrible at making crosswords. Whereas Peter W. has a knack for making a wild themeless:
- 1a. [Salty snacks that were endorsed by “Macho Man” Randy Savage], SLIM JIMS.
- 15a. [Utterly], TO THE MAX.
- 32a. [Gangster on “The Simpsons” voiced by Joe Mantegna], FAT TONY.
- 35a. [Unsophisticated dullard, in slang], MOUTHBREATHER. I’m going to drop “mouthbreather” and switch to “unsophisticated dullard.”
- 39a. [Doesn’t shoot for the stars], AIMS LOW. A worthy goal!
- 42a. [Convenience store implements], SPORKS.
- 46a. [Dope], PINHEAD.
- 57a. [2004 chart-topper by Twista featuring Kanye West and Jamie Foxx], SLOW JAMZ.
- 8d. [Annual Austin media festival, as it’s often styled], SXSW. South by Southwest.
- 12d. [Product that produces a geyser when combined with Mentos], DIET COKE.
- 13d. [Quick size-up], ONCE OVER.
- 21d. [Doesn’t just sideswipe], T-BONES. Fresher as a verb than as meat.
- 34d. [“Would you look at that!”], “OH, WOW.”
- 44d. [First one out in “The Contest”], KRAMER. The classic Seinfeld episode in which the foursome vied to be the last one to refrain from engaging in the art of self-love.
- 45d. [Very smart], SNAZZY.
That’s a lot of fill calculated to make me a happy solver. The Wentzy/Gordonian vibe also brings cluing flavor, of course. Every single one of these answers could be clued in a stale and boring way, and often is.
- 1d. [Restroom array], STALLS. And such a lovely array.
- 7d. [Make teary-eyed, in a way], MACE. Ouch!
- 30d. [Beneficial compost pile residents], WORMS.
- 51d. [Onetime Lance Armstrong backer, for short], USPS.
- 56d. [Its D.C. building has the Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. quote “Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society”], IRS.
- 58d. [Rooms with bumf], WCS. That’s a Brit term that’s short for “bum-fodder,” apparently. “Useless or tedious printed documents,” the dictionary says. Is that fodder to emerge from the bum or fodder for wiping the bum? I am unclear.
- 59d. [Patriot missile interceptor, at times?], JET. New England Patriots football vs. the New York Jets.
4.5 stars, man. MOUTHBREATHER anchoring the puzzle? Good times.
Almost every week, I am thankful for the Fireball crossword. (It doesn’t come out every single week. And there have only been a couple Fireballs that I have disliked over its entire run.) If you like good and fresh and smart and usually challenging puzzles too, and you’re reading this but don’t subscribe to Fireball, you can sign up here. Peter Gordon also produces another puzzle, Fireball Newsweekly, which I’ve enjoyed this year (I use it to keep sharp for an online trivia league). FB Newsweekly is going biweekly (aww…) but will surely still be good despite coming less often. It’s time to pledge for the 2014 FB Newsweekly Kickstarter deal. Twenty puzzles next year provided Peter raises $10,000 in all—meaning he will be able to pay himself about $500 per puzzle and retain the copyright on his work. A lot more appealing to the constructor than making $100 for a puzzle and signing over all rights, no?
Loren Muse Smith and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword
Nifty theme: That Samuel L. Jackson movie is rendered literally with some snakes sitting atop airplanes in this 14×16 grid.
- 15a. [Joe Louis, to fans], THE BROWN BOMBER. There’s an ASP in CLASP above the BOMBER.
- 34a. [One interested in current affairs?], HANG GLIDER. ASP in RASP above the GLIDER.
- 42a. [Gang Green member], NEW YORK JET. ASP in ASPIRES over the JET. This clue meant nothing to me and there was an unfamiliar name lurking in a key crossing point. 40d. [Horror film director Alexandre ___]?? Who? I went with a MET crossing AMA but it’s a JET (which, after all, is a plane) and AJA.
- 61a. [Cult classic whose title is depicted four times in this puzzle], SNAKES ON A PLANE. ASP in HASP on the PLANE.
- 5d. [Little Bighorn conflict], SIOUX WAR. Should probably be more familiar to me than it is.
- 25a. [Base of a certain pole, figuratively], LOW MAN. Basically a partial extracted from “low man on the totem pole,” no? Can LOW MAN stand alone?
- 47a. [Cottonwoods], ALAMOS. I count this as crosswordese.
- 21a. [Flower feature], CALYX. It’s such a pretty-looking word.
- 31a. [Some radios], AMS. “Hand me those AMS, will you?” Er, no. Mornings, sure. The professional group your local TV news weather person may be part of, the American Meteorological Society, sure (you’ve seen that “AMS” logo by the meteorologist’s name, haven’t you?).
- 24d. [Small antelope], ORIBI.
- 48d. [Canadian-born comedian once featured on the cover of Time], SAHL.
- 49a. [Tennis’s Mandlikova], HANA—followed by 51a. [Classic toothpaste name], IPANA. Really? HANA IPANA banana fo-fanna, anyone?
Kitchen-savvy people, tell me if 1d. [They may be cast-iron] is kosher for POTS. Are there cast-iron pots, or only pans? I know there is some distinction, and “cast-iron pot” doesn’t trip off the tongue at all.
3.33 stars from me. The fill didn’t rise to the theme’s level.
Patrick Blindauer’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Negative Nancy” – Dave Sullivan’s review
Before I jump into today’s CrosSynergy puzzle, I’d like to express my thanks to the community of solvers and constructors who gather here. The puzzles and the comments continually challenge and impress me and keep me on my toes. A veritable cornucopia of clever constituents this community is, and I’m grateful for it being a big part of my daily life.
So we must move from that positive note, to a negative one, as we deal with a decidedly un-Thanksgiving theme in today’s puzzle. Patrick gives us four eight ten things that end in either begin or end with NO and trusses them up with a revealer at the end.
- [Former California congressman] was SONNY BONO – more famous as the husband of Cher and father of Chaz.
- [Female voice part] clued MEZZO SOPRANO – I suppose if Patrick was going for all names here, he could’ve chosen Tony, Carmela, Meadow or Anthony, Jr.
- [Red hot chili pepper] was a SERRANO – I wonder where it lies on the hotness scale–at least less than the recently-anointed Carolina Reaper we spoke about the other day.
- [Alternative to a spinet] clued UPRIGHT PIANO – I used to have a Baldwin spinet piano, an upright is what Rowlf the Dog sometimes plays on The Muppets.
- And our revealer, [Nancy Reagan’s antidrug slogan, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] clued JUST SAY NO – all First Ladies choose a cause, and Nancy’s was the antidrug campaign. Michelle’s I believe is combatting adolescent obesity.
Sort of a light theme as I can think of a few other things that end in -NO, such as casino, oregano, cappuccino and volcano, but perhaps something light is a good counterweight to the heavy meal most of us will enjoy later today. But as I say that, I’m just now noticing 4 more -NO entries, symmetrically placed, so I believe they are thematic as well: ERNO and DUNNO across the top and STENO and NANO along the bottom. Any others I missed? Funny how many other entries end in O: TOTO, ELO, REO, PLO, ARLO, PORTO and IT SO, but that may be just a byproduct of all the theme material. Hope you enjoy time with family and friends today and spend a bit of time reflecting on what you are grateful for.
Caleb Madison’s AV Club crossword, “Retiring Number One”
Leaving in an hour for an early Thanksgiving dinner, so 10-minute post.
“Looking out for number one” means looking out for yourself, so “I” is the key here. That letter is “retired” from the theme answers:
- 17a. [“The Mariana Trench sucks,” and so on?], PACIFIC SLANDERS. Love this clue. (Pacific Islanders.)
- 23a, 38a. [With 38-Across, goes on and on about a tropical getaway?], PRATES OF THE / CARIBBEAN. (Pirates of the Caribbean.)
- 55a. [People who might just tase a potato if the microwave is broken?], POLICE CHEFS. Ha! (Police chiefs.)
- 63a. [Coach’s cliché … and a hint to this puzzle’s theme], THERE’S NO “I” IN TEAM. Holy cats! I didn’t catch this when I solved last night, but the three words that have lost an I are all team names. New York Islanders (hockey), Pittsburgh Pirates (baseball), Kansas City Chiefs (football). I liked how the puzzle played out without the team theme, but it’s super-smart with it. Well done, Caleb.
Wide-open corners with lots of 7s; TRIP HOP, POP-UP AD, SUMATRA, and JERGENS my favorites among them.
Toughest crossing: 8a. [Godzilla, e.g.], KAIJU meets 12d. [Katy Perry single that’s either homophobic or wry commentary, depending on whom one asks], “UR SO GAY.” Don’t know the song but surmised that it would be a U in UR and KAIJU. The 2007 song was not a hit. But! Wikipedia says the song was “styled in the genres of trip hop.”
David W. Cromer’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Today’s puzzle features a pretty basic definition theme; this isn’t my favourite theme type, but you knew that. The four definitions form a familiar set of homophones. The definitions in the first two answers [Wright], WILBURORORVILLE and [Rite], CHURCHCEREMONY feel a lot more natural than those in the second two – [Right], STARBOARDATSEA and [Write], EMULATEANAUTHOR.
The rest of the grid was impressively clean: a few of the harder answers were on the crossword-esey side, but I have no issue with that. I didn’t know [Norfolk, Va., campus], ODU (apparently that’s Old Dominion) but US Univs. are a weak spot of mine! I can never keep them straight! Again, not a demerit, just an observation. Another learning point for me was [John of “Necessary Roughness”] STAMOS – I thought he disappeared after “Full House”!
There were only two long down answers, both somewhat colourful: LESSTHAN and COLDCUTS. The latter also had a clever clue, [Ham at a party, say], which disguised the plural and also had me thinking of the wrong ham… I also liked [Rover’s turf] for MARS.
The the theme didn’t excite me, but the puzzle was otherwise very good! 3 Stars.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle, “Fowl Language” — Matt’s review
Six phrases feature sounds made by fowl today from BEQ:
17-a [Popular dashboard application for management of Twitter accounts] = TWEET DECK
61-a [Intercom] = SQUAWK BOX
9-d [Betray impatience during rush hour] = HONK THE HORN
11-d [Entertainment with only a small window to enjoy it] = PEEP SHOW
24-d [Malpractice suit figure] = QUACK DOCTOR
38-d [Devour rapidly] = GOBBLE UP.
Seems appropriate. Happy Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Thanksgivukkah, everyone! I’m thankful that BEQ was born.