Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 73”
This week’s Fireball took me half as long as last week’s—and played like an easy Friday NYT. Yo, where my hard clues at?
Mystifying entity: 41a. [Course loaded with balls], PEA SALAD. Nobody in my house has a clue what this is. I think I may have seen it before in a crossword, but never on a table. (Also? I wanted the answer to be PUTT-PUTT or MINI GOLF, no matter how inaccurately.)
Top fill includes a whole bunch of Down answers: the HALF-PIPE; the Eric [Idle work] SPAMALOT; the [Race opposed by PETA], IDITAROD; the UTAH JAZZ; MOUTHFEEL; a DEAD BALL; ED HARRIS; and also the Across TATER TOT. Lots of lively stuff in the 8-letter class, and only two answers that are longer than that—are 6-and-8-rich puzzles more fun than the 7-rich grids that I tend to find a bit snoozy, or does this one have more zippy fill than most of the middle-distance puzzles?
Could do without 1d. [Greek peak], MT. OSSA.
Nice clue pair: 1a. [Subject of a Manhattan museum near Madison Square Park whose entrance door handles are shaped like the letter pi], MATH, and 5a. [Subject of a Manhattan museum near Madison Square Park whose entrance door handles are shaped like the letter X], SEX. I wonder if anyone has ever accidentally walked into the Museum of Sex thinking “Oh, an X for the door handles! Because of the variable in algebra” when they meant to go to MOMath.
John Lieb’s New York Times crossword
Unusual theme, with 62a. [Misinterpretation of a biblical code … or the key to answering 18-, 24-, 40- and 51-Across] cluing AN I FOR AN EYE. Each of those other four theme answers replaces the word EYE with an I:
- 18a. [What ladies’ men tend to have], WANDERING I’S. “Ladies’ man” is a little gross, isn’t it? There’s no cross-gender equivalent. “She’s a real gentlemen’s woman.”
- 24a. [Very alert], ALL I’S AND EARS.
- 40a. [Espy], LAY I’S ON.
- 51a. [1981 #1 Kim Carnes hit], BETTE DAVIS I’S.
It’s weird to have altered answers in the grid with such straightforward clues, no? And the eye I’s are just I’s in the Down crossings, no trickery.
- 60a. [Prefix with engine], AERO. Aeroengine? That’s a thing?? Put it in quotes as a single word and you get about 238,000 Google hits, whereas aerospace and aerodynamic get 203 million and 21 million, respectively.
- 16a. [Soviet spymaster in a John le Carré trilogy], KARLA.
I like HUGH LAURIE (though I can’t say I’ve seen him in anything since House ended), BABY FAT, “HANDS UP!” and RAZOR-SHARP. Overall, though, the fill felt rather bland to me, with IPANA, HOR, ORU, ONE-A, STELE, and a number of other words that exude “I’m in crosswords far more than in the other things you read”-ness.
Dan Bernstein and Brendan Quigley’s American Values Club crossword, “Numbers Game”
Dan is our latest celebrity co-constructor, and he’s a Chicago sports radio guy. Not that I ever listen to sports radio—but I appreciated the local hits of 54d. [Setting for many Bulls games: Abbr.], CST, and 23d. [Navy ___ (Chicago landmark)], PIER. Dan and Brendan’s theme is all basebally, and I don’t think Brendan is much into bats (what? we can call basketball “hoops” but we can’t call baseball “bats”?) so I will lay my alienation at the feet of one Dan Bernstein. Abbreviations for baseball stats that happen to be letters included in familiar phrases cause said phrases to be clued as if they are somehow about baseball stats, and I understand about half of the theme:
- 15a. [Goth’s offensive baseball stat?], BLACK OPS. Goths wear black and OPs or OPS is a stat I don’t know.
- 19a. [Pitching stat for a Rastafarian in Tokyo or a Cambodian in Key West?], MINORITY WHIP. Okay, I think IP = innings pitched. No idea what MINORITY WH- signifies. Is there some WHIP stat? Well-heeled innings pitched? Walks and hits per inning pitched?
- 29a. [Undisputed leader at drawing walks?], BB KING. BB is, I think, bases on balls.
- 35a. [Broadway hitting stat?], B.A. IN THEATER. Batting average? Crosswords have tried to convince me that it’s abbreviated as “avg.” and not B.A. Crosswords have also taught me that a phrase like BA IN THEATER is a little contrived, whereas the other theme answers are all solid, look-uppable phrases in their own right.
- 40a. [How to score it when you bunt your hard-boiled breakfast to advance the runner?], EGG SAC. Sacrifice fly?
- 49a. [Group responsible for tallying dingers?], HR DEPARTMENT. HR = human resources, home run, and Mr. Pufnstuf’s initials.
- 58a. [Pitching stat for a toddler on the playground?], SWING ERA. Little kids love the swings, man. ERA = earned run average.
Let’s look at five more things:
- 1a. [Grasped] clues FISTED, and that stand-alone usage is not familiar to me. “Two-fisted drinker,” I know.
- 23a. [Navratan korma veggie], PEA. No, no, no. You know how I would have clued this? [Salad veggie].
- 5d. [“You ___ seen a grown man naked?” (classic “Airplane!” line)], EVER. I’m thinking that it would be harder to sell a pedophilia joke in a movie these days. And yet this one was nominated for inclusion in the AFI collection of the best movie quotes.
- 7d. [Labor leader?], OB/GYN. It would seem that the OB is out of the room for the vast majority of labor, so I’m not sure he or she merits the “leader” designation.
- 35d. Toon hurler with a “pachydermous percussion pitch”], BUGS. I don’t know what the clue means. I assume this is about Bugs Bunny but that’s as far as I get.
3.5 stars. I am not the target audience for this puzzle.
Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “After All”—Ade’s write-up
Hello once again everybody!
The best thing about every crossword that we do, no matter the difficulty, is that we give it our all almost every single time we’re engaged in solving a puzzle. In a way, this particular puzzle by Ms. Gail Grabowski forced us to give it our all, because each of the five theme answers are two-word entries in which the first word can be followed by the word “all.” This probably won’t make me buy the laundry detergent of the same name, though that does remind me that laundry day isn’t too far down the road!
- RIGHT BRAIN: (17A: [Mind element associated with creativity])-All right. Most of my blogs may not originate from my right brain, with my lack of creativity.
- SET FREE: (40A: [Release])– All set.
- THUMBS DOWN: (64A: [Sign of disapproval])– All thumbs. All thumbs is what I am at the golf course. Anyone want to be patient with me during a round of golf? Haven’t golfed in forever.
- HEART RATE: (11D: [Pulse])– All heart.
- BETTER OFF: (34D: [More prosperous])– All better.
Don’t know if this is interesting to you (probably not, and rightfully so) but the clues to four of the five theme answers were three words or fewer. Brevity definitely is the soul of wit in this puzzle. Loved the clue to STEPDAD (46D: [New pop]). Seeing NORAD officially confirms that I will have heard a reference to it more than once in 2014 outside of Christmas time, when they track Santa Claus up in the sky (1D: [US/Canada early warning acronym]). Think I’ve come across C.S. LEWIS in a grid at least three times in the past week or so (44D: [Narnia’s creator]). Maybe the best part of the grid for me is seeing DETEST (25A: [Loathe]) on top of ADORES (29A: [Is crazy about]). Along those same lines, seeing SET FREE and SHUN intersect (40D: [Stay away from]) was also an interesting little semi-contrast.
Seeing STAID (7D: [Strait-laced]), for some reason, reminded me on the rock band STAIND, who I listened to a whole lot as I got ready to go off to college, thinking that was one of the bands that I would have to know/talk about with the students that I eventually would encounter who might have different tastes in music as I had. As a result, I probably know more about Staind than I ever wanted to, even though I didn’t really need to. Also, I can identify a song of theirs on the radio within the first couple of seconds of that song playing.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: EL NIÑO (51A: [Cause of chaotic weather])– There were some good choices to occupy this spot, including OILER (67A: [Edmonton player]) and NO-HIT (52D: [Masterful, pitching-wise]), but we chose the nickname of the very talented Spanish professional golfer Sergio García, El Niño. Expected to rival Tiger Woods as the best young golfer – and best golfer in general – at the turn of this past century, Garcia has finished in the top 5 in each of the four majors, but has never won one. He’s best known for being an extremely reliable player for Europe at the Ryder Cup – the biannual team golf competition between the United States and Europe – but also is known just as much for his sometimes petulant behavior on and off the golf course.
Is tomorrow Friday? Yes? Good! See you then!
Take care, everyone!
James Sajdak’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I feel like I’ve seen this puzzle’s theme a good few times, which made more of an “oh, that” moment than an a-ha one for me. As the central DOG suggests, all the words begin with commands one might train a dog to respond to. The phrases all consist of at least 3 “parts”, and are very nice as a set: COMEBACKTRAIL, SPEAKEASYERA, SITINPROTEST and STAYATHOMEDAD. Back to the theme, it’s a bit dissonant to have only the COME of COMEBACK TRAIL, the SPEAK of SPEAKEASY ERA and the SIT of SIT-IN PROTEST be thematic.
The puzzle did have some nice longer entries. We have the somewhat out-of-the-public-consciousness but quite interesting NELLIEBLY , risque SHEBOP, quasi-thematic SPAYING and SHTICK for instance.
However, we also a lot more dull notes than I’d have liked. An answer like ITO is not one I’d generally be bothered about, but in a corner like the top-right, with stacks of other options, why choose one with ITO in? Despite managing to find an article from the NY Times, I’d really go to great lengths to avoid EMALL in a crossword. That section is already going to be hard for many what with WEISS, AMBIT and IBN! I’m also not one for partials – ASIT, ITOO, ADARK, and ATA are quite a collection!
2.5 Stars, but I did like the theme answer set!
Brendan Quigley’s “Marching Bands” website puzzle — Matt’s review
No review today because Brendan’s got a variety puzzle up that’s cumbersome to solve for my broken-printered self. But variants like this Marching Bands are a forte of Brendan’s, so by all means go to it.