Fireball contest crossword from 9/11/14

Fireball 12ish minutes + meta time (Amy) 

Big puzzle for this venue—21×22. It took me around 12 minutes, I think, to fill in the crossword, and I circled the dual-action rebus squares. Each of the 11 Down theme answers is the name of a bird, but always clued in non-avian contexts. The first letter of each bird crosses an Across answer where that letter is replaced by EGG. Circling those rebus squares puts 11 round eggs into the grid! Really neat.

Peter Broda’s Fireball contest crossword, “Cross Hatching”

Fireball crossword solution, 9 11 14 "Cross Hatching"

Fireball crossword solution, 9 11 14 “Cross Hatching”

I set to work looking for the meta, perplexed by the number of people spotted on Facebook raving about how cool the puzzle was. What is the twist? What am I missing?? The “Cross Hatching” title even had me drawing invisible lines from egg to egg and looking to see if something was spelled out along that path. We need a four-word hit song title?? I considered “I Am the Walrus,” given the “I am the eggman” lyric, but that was too tenuous a link. Eventually I focused on the circled letters, which spell out FREE AS A BIRD when taken in order from left to right down through the grid.

Isn’t it strange that with the A from ALBATROSS showing in it, ARP{EGG}IOS spells out a semi-valid answer? ARPAIOS would be [Maricopa County sheriff Joe and family].

Lively batch of theme answers in this egg carton—V{EGG}IE BURGER, B{EGG}AR’S OPERA, M{EG G}RIFFIN, BOOTL{EGG}ER, SIMON P{EGG}, P{EGG}Y LEE, the double-barreled L{EGG}O MY {EGG}O, and PR{EGG}ERS are all great. (L{EG G}UARDS less so.)

Our birds are Atticus FINCH, Batman’s ROBIN, a golf EAGLE, the Australian ornithology journal EMU (!), a metaphorical ALBATROSS, SWAN song, the [Class of World War II minesweepers] called AUK, a dim BOOBY, an Egyptian god’s IBIS head (I suppose the international lodging chain Hotel Ibis is nowhere near familiar enough, but Thoth’s head is rather birdy. Also, a double room in Vienna meant two twin beds!), the moon RHEA, and a peace-loving DOVE.

Lots of interesting fill and clues throughout. 4.5 stars from me.

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7 Responses to Fireball contest crossword from 9/11/14

  1. Tom says:

    It should also be noted that the grid is suggestive of a bird flying out of a hatched egg.

  2. Andrew says:

    I got an extra chuckle upon re-reading the meta instructions: “What four-word hit song is hidden in the many layers of this puzzle?” Nice “layers” double-entendre!

  3. Martin says:

    Very impressive puzzle. Has this guy got some constructing-chops or what?!


  4. bananarchy says:

    Glad to hear that solvers enjoyed this one; it was a long time in the making and not easy to construct. I would like to give props to Peter Gordon for being such a prudent, encouraging, and patient (I work really slow) editor to work with. Plus, his role in the construction of this puzzle cannot be overstated. He wisely suggested a change to one of the theme answers which tightened the theme considerably (I originally had BLUE/JAY spread inelegantly and asymmetrically over two entries for the B bird and he suggested BOOBY) and he found much cleaner fill than I was able to for a few very difficult sections of the grid (most notably the middle-right section, where his introduction of VARITEK, a name with which I was unfamiliar, worked wonders).

    One last thing: amazingly, the image in the grid layout was almost entirely serendipitous. The heavy constraints in this theme don’t allow for very many possibilities, and I found that the long stacks on top and the vertical stack in the center were essential to making it happen. Once those are in place, the bird and egg shapes are all but forced. Even more amazingly, an earlier draft of the puzzle used a grid layout which also contained a theme-related image which was entirely unintentional (I noticed it after I had all of the blocks in place, in fact). You can view it here (the blocks in the center kind of suggest a chick hatching from an egg, if you ask me. You might have to squint a bit)

  5. Howard B says:

    Insanely cool and fun. Worth the effort, Peter.

  6. john farmer says:

    Someone was answering a question about the database of pre-Shortz puzzles and said: “…if you have an idea for an EGG rebus puzzle and you see that Frances Hansen did one in the 1970s, you may want to think twice. Not that anyone is going to remember a 40-year-old puzzle, but as the database extends further back, with thousands of more puzzles available than before, it sets a wider baseline of what’s already been done and a need for puzzle-makers today to be more creative than ever.”

    I’d say this qualifies as “more creative that ever.” Bravo!

    Got around to the puzzle too late for the contest, but I thoroughly enjoyed the solve and admire the creativity of the construction. Solving the grid was fun, then the contest answer took a bit of time. Was it a song about eggs? Easter eggs? Ah, the answer was spelled out for us. Nice.

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