Andrew Ries’s Fireball contest crossword, “Straight and Narrow”
Meta time, with Andrew Ries (of Aries Xword) as our constructor. He asks: What Olympic event is hinted at by this puzzle?
Kind of a strange-looking grid, with two-square cheater chunks in the NE and SW corners, and it’s not clear what’s theme and what’s not. Mysterious.
There are two grid-spanning theme entries, which are very likely to be theme (turns out they were):
20-A [Zapped square, maybe] = MICROWAVE DINNER. Yum.
55-A [Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity” co-screenwriter] = RAYMOND CHANDLER
Then there are two 10-letter downs, which are probably theme (turns out they weren’t):
25-D [When major paths conclude?] = SENIOR YEAR
11-D [Scientific rat trap?] = SKINNER BOX. Great entry.
And then there were four 9s in a pinwheel pattern, which may or may not be theme (turns out all four of them were):
17-A [Like some matching wedding gifts] = HIS AND HER
9-D [They’re powerful when they’re “prime”] = MINISTERS
62-A [#2 song of March 1971 behind “Me and Bobby McGee”] = SHE’S A LADY, by Tom Jones.
32-D [They can be diplomatic] = PASSPORTS
One of the first things I saw upon free-scanning the grid is that SALAD hides in SHE’S A LADY; then I looked and saw HANDLE in RAYMOND CHANDLER, and the game was up. Those are both words that can precede “bar,” and there are three other pairs of hidden bar-words around the grid: SAND and CROW in the upper left; MINI and IRON in the upper right; and MARS and SPORTS in the lower left.
So our meta answer is PARALLEL BARS. Not “uneven bars,” mind you, since two of those four pairs are indeed even in length.
I got this meta quickly, but it was extremely tough overall: just five solvers got the correct answer, a number so low that, for what I believe is a first for Fireball, editor Peter Gordon gave out a hint and an extra 24 hours after the contest had closed.
Fun challenge and nicely executed — 4.35 stars.
José Chardiet’s New York Times crossword
The theme is SQUARE ROOTS, and there are 14 2×2 squares in which the word ROOT appears, either clockwise or counterclockwise. The ROOT squares aren’t in symmetrical spots, they aren’t all spaced apart from the other ones, and they have nothing at all to do with numbers that are perfect squares. If there were just eight square ROOTs at the squares 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, and 64, now, that would get a nod of approval. But the non-mathy execution of the theme idea (if there is a mathematical angle, I’m missing it) leaves me cool.
With 56 theme squares in the square ROOTs plus another 11 in the middle, the fill is fairly constrained, and I was scowling a bit at things like CBC/TO A/CTR, STP/POO/IRT, SOR, -ATOR, and DPS. I do kinda like NOOGIE, BOOBOOS, GO ON TOUR, and “…OR IS IT?”
Three more things:
- 61a. [Poetic stanza], STROPHE. Tough vocab for a Tuesday.
- 56a. [What a dog might raise a flap about?], PET DOOR. That “about” isn’t working for me here.
- 15d. [Good name for a baseball pitcher?], PEG. No idea what “peg” has to do with baseball terminology. (Hey! Neither does my husband, and he’s been following baseball since the ’70s.) I tried TAG first. Bonus points for not changing the sport to softball just because the name is female.
2.85 stars from me.
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle (Week 203), “It’s the Final Stretch!”—Janie’s review
Aah. Lovely. An homage to YOGA poses. Although the revealer at 61A. says that the name of each pose is […hidden at the end of five themed answers], let’s not get too literal here. They’re all “hidden” in very plain sight, appearing as the discrete last word of a familiar phrase. And a lively group of phrases (for a limb-stretching group of poses) they are!
- 16A. SCAREDY CAT [Cowardly type]. Beta version of the Cowardly Lion?
- 22A. APPLE TRIANGLE [Three-sided fruit pastry]. You may better know this treat by the name “apple turnover.” Same thing. But while we’re in food territory, this puzzle is packed with foodie fill, from the two longest (and thus highest-profile) non-themers, GUACAMOLE [Creamy burrito filler] and Bugs’s fave, the RAW CARROT, to SOUP [Borscht, for example], those pineapple CORES and the self-congratulatory “TADA!” because [“I made a soufflé!”]. Where food storage is concerned, a word of caution. Ya don’t want to see an ANT raiding the pantry. (Was amused to see COLONY immediately after [and just across the block from] ANT, so kinda wished they’d been clued together…)
- 35A. WALK THE PLANK [Meeting one’s fate on a pirate ship].
- 45A. EGYPTIAN COBRA [Reptile depicted on a pharaoh’s headdress]. And yes—this is a very specific species…
- 56A. CHERRY TREE [According to legend, what Washington chopped down]. No, no—it’s the truth. Really! [“Would] I LIE [to you?”] (“NOT I!” [Fairy tale denial])
Other real “likes” in this puzz? A buncha clues:
- [Philly outfit that makes tons of money] for U.S. MINT. Makes as in “manufactures” and not “earns.”
- [Subj. for starry-eyed students] for ASTR. Astronomy. When ya hafta use an abbreviation, it’s nice to pep it up with a pun. Imho…
- [Athenian who said “Courage is knowing what not to fear”] for PLATO. So, ya think FDR read Plato?
- [Bridal store?] for DOWRY. I.e., the money and/or material items a family stores up for the bride. This is a custom with a long history. Not all of it pretty.
- [Secretive thing?] for GLAND. When ya hafta use a clinical term, it’s nice to pep it up with some wordplay.
Then, I just want to point out a few things that felt actively DICEY to me. And as is always the case in this highly subjective area, your mileage may (and probably will) vary. Cluing APTEST as [Most likely] made me question the form (and use) of the word for this meaning. It is most definitely a word, but historically has been used faaaaar less frequently than “most apt”—which is on the decline itself. Why not clue this combination of letters in a way that is, uh, less apt to draw attention to itself, say, as [Challenge for high school srs.]? Neither was I overfond of seeing the band U2 spelled out as U-TWO. I know there’s precedence for it in other crosswords, but that doesn’t mean I gotta like it. And finally, TTL for [Sum: Abbr.]. Yes, this abbreviation is used in the world of mathematics, but it’s also one with virtually no presence in well-made, modern crosswords. The first “t” cross the first “t” in ATTIC. I almost think I’d’ve preferred the internet slang NTL (for “nevertheless”) and ANTIC. But who knows. Maybe I’d’ve called foul on that, too.
At any rate, folks, that’s my take on today’s Crossword Nation. I will leave you with one final question/image to contemplate: do SUMO wrestlers practice YOGA?
Oh. And I almost forgot. Here’s a link to some re-named yoga poses. Spoiler alert: NSFW!
Robert E. Lee Morris’s Los Angeles Times crossword
I laughed out loud as I unscrambled the set of circled letters in the theme answers. “Anagrams of RAPES!” How horribly inappropriate that would be. Turns out to be 54a. [Pocketful of coins, and what literally occurs in the circled letters in five puzzle answers], SPARE CHANGE as the theme’s rationale. A bit odd to have PSEAR, PERSA, SEPAR, PERAS, and ERSPA as the SPARE “changes,” given that there are several actual anagrams of SPARE: pears, reaps, pares, and spear give you a clean quartet without “rapes.” I don’t get excited to see things like ERSPA in circled letters.
Some of the phrases hiding the quasi-anagrams are crisp: STRIP-SEARCH (ugh), HOUSE PARTY, and OUTER SPACE are solid, and ECSTASY and HARD HAT don’t make too many puzzle appearances. Overall, though, the fill feels uninspired, with ALERO, both ELAN and ECLAT, MOT, DIRK, EOE,T-TOP, plural abbrev PSAS, and AGAR. Lots of proper names, too—I count at least 17, including one I didn’t know: 47d. [“Legion of the Damned” series writer William], DIETZ.
2.9 stars from me for this one.
Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “TL;DR”
On sites like Reddit, “tl;dr” means “too long, didn’t read.” Here, Matt truncates the first line of famous novels:
- 19a. [Opening of “Anna Kareni…” (TL;DR)], ALL HAPPY FAMIL—.
- 29a. [Opening of “A Tale of Two Cit…” (TL;DR)], IT WAS THE BEST OF T—.
- 38a. [Opening of “The Catcher in the R…” (TL;DR)], IF YOU REALLY WANT —.
- 51a. [Opening of “Moby-D…” (TL;D… wait, I think I got the whole thing!)], CALL ME ISHMAEL.
Conceptually, I’m not digging this theme. A “tl;dr” summary is typically just that, right? A summary? The first line of Salinger’s book is “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth,” which is not a summary of the book. And the idea of just truncating both book titles and opening lines seems to have little to do with the “tl;dr” vibe.
Top fill: STEAL AWAY, TWO-FERS. Worst fill:
- 39d. [Offer from a sharing friend], “USE MINE.” Contrived.
- 32d. [Paid periodically], ON A SALARY. Contrived. “On salary” is the familiar phrase.
- 46a. [Remove, like a rind], UNPEEL. No, that’s called peeling.
2.85 stars from me. Not loving today’s offerings that I’ve solved.
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Friendly Association”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there! Sorry for the late post, but only am able to post the grid and give you the theme answers to this puzzle, authored by Mr. Randall J. Hartman. In the puzzle, words that mean friends are split up between the beginning and end of each theme, as hinted at by the reveal, PAL AROUND (57A: [Be sociable (and a hint to 17-, 23-, 37-, and 45-Across)]).
- BELOW ZERO (17A: [Frigid])
- BUNGEE CORD (23A: [Elasticized rope used by some jumpers])“
- MARIE ANTOINETTE (37A: [Queen involved in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace])
- CHEWING GUM (45A: [Bazooka, for one])
Again, my apologies for a lack of a real blog, but will be back with you tomorrow with a vengeance! But, hey, I have to keep my “sports” streak going, right?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CAMP (25A: [____ Swampy (Beetle Bailey post)]) – The next time this clue comes about, I’ll give it its proper lead-up and explanation, but just enjoy what former Atlanta Braves pitcher Rick CAMP did at almost 3:30 in the morning on Independence Day (well, technically July 5th at the time) almost 30 years ago in the 18th inning to keep the game alive for the Braves against the New York Mets.
See you all on Thursday!