Thursday, January 7, 2016

BEQ 7:22 (Ben) 


CS 8:48 (Ade) 


Fireball 16:25 (Jenni) 


LAT 3:55 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:58 (Amy) 


WSJ 15:59 (Jim) 


Andrew Ries’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s writeup

NY Times crossword solution, 1 7 16, no 0107

NY Times crossword solution, 1 7 16, no 0107

This is the second of Andrew’s puzzles I’ve done today—the other was his Fireball puzzle. Both are excellent. The theme here, I ASSUME, is one Andrew came up with a while back, as it’s unlikely he would have intentionally replicated the concept used in Dave Sullivan’s 2/25/15 Fireball contest puzzle (blogged here). There was also Mary Lou Guizzo’s BuzzFeed puzzle two months ago with an even more similar theme. New York Times, beaten to the gimmick punch twice in a year for a single puzzle! Gotta move fast these days.

I mean, it’s a good theme, it is. And Andrew brings a fresh angle to it. DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS is stacked in the center of the grid, and assorted answers in the grid are legit crossword fill, but they don’t match their clues. For example, OREO is squeezed in as REO and ZEROS as EROS, with the OZ outside. Extend those two entries in each of the top and bottom rows outside the grid, do the same for three answers on the left and right, and the letters shunted outside the grid are famous “doctors”: OZ on top (real physician, zero credibility remaining), WHO on the right (there is no character named “Dr. Who,” mind you, so this is more loosely interpreted), James Bond nemesis Dr. NO on the bottom, and rapper/impresario Dr. DRE on the left. I’ve circled the letters just inside the grid from the “doctors.”

Highlights in the fill include “TRUE DAT,” our gendered POOLBOY (though indeed, there are pool maintenance professionals who are female, and who are grown men, and “boy” is insulting if he’s over 16), BANTU, HUSH MONEY, Molly IVINS, THE OLDS, “HOT DIGGITY,” POP-UP STORE, SWISH, BESTIE, COATTAIL, and MAYDAY. Lots of really nice stuff, yeah?

Three more things:

  • 4d. [Non-P.C. add-on?], -ESS. Spelled-out letters are boring fill, as are suffixes, but I would like this clue if only it had eschewed the term “non-P.C.” I can’t tell you how much “P.C.” annoys me. It’s a red flag that signals “I don’t like it when people object to sexism, racism, homophobia, etc.” Staunch civil rights folks do not much use “P.C.”
  • 11d. [“Juno and the Paycock” setting], DUBLIN. Play by Sean O’Casey. Does a peacock figure into the story at all? And can I say “I don’t care for green pays”?
  • 20a. [Passing remark?], NAH. As in “Would you like some coffee?” “NAH, I’ll pass.” Good clue.

4.5 stars from me. Not the first time I’ve seen the general gimmick, but this was well executed.

Andrew J. Ries’ Fireball crossword, “Ruby Slippers” – Jenni’s writeup

This one took me a lot longer than it really should have. I’m blaming the bottle of Early Man cider I consumed with dinner. It went very well with the turkey lime tequila chili and warm brown butter cornbread. Mmm. Sorry. Where was I?

Oh, right. The first Fireball Crossword of 2016! I’m not familiar with Andrew J. Ries – is this a debut? I will look for his byline now and expect a theme that makes me say “huh?” at first and then grin happily when I figure it out. Andrew and Peter were kind enough to include a revealer in this one, down at 64A – “Whodunit staple meant to deceive (and the theme of this puzzle)”. Answer: RED HERRING.

Does that mean there’s a color rebus in each theme answer? Nope. A fish? Nope. It means the clues for the theme answers all have a shade of red that is, well, meant to deceive.

  • Pink Floyd hit with hooks (also known as “Money”) – ignore “Pink”, focus on “Floyd” and you get MAYWEATHER.
  • Crimson Tide and others – ignore “Crimson”, look at “Tide” and it’s obviously DETERGENTS.
  • Maroon 5 head – This was where I really got slowed down, because I had the A from crossings, hadn’t figured out the theme and plopped in ADAM, figuring there was going to be some wordplay with LEVINE. Nope. If you ignore “Maroon”, you will eventually realize that the 5 in question is the $5 bill, at which point you will confidently fill in ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
  • Rose Parade feature since 1986 – This was when the penny dropped for me. We have to ignore “Rose”, and the “Parade” in question is Parade Magazine, which arrives every Saturday with the ads and comics for the Sunday paper. I hate getting the Sunday paper on Saturday. The Sunday paper should come on Sunday, fercryinoutloud. And I don’t even bother digging the “magazine” out from the coupon circulars, but if I did, I’d be able to read Marilyn Vos Savant’s advice column, ASK MARILYN (took me a while, but I got there. Again, the cider).

Nice consistent theme. Very satisfying to solve, especially for a mystery lover like me.

A few more things:

  • Yes, I noticed that it’s a 14×18 grid. It’s nice to change it up.
  • “Company in animation” is that great Road Runner supply house, ACME. Fun clue for a common word.
  • Does “frozen food brand” MRS. PAUL’S make anything other than fish sticks? Apparently she does. Forgive me if I skip the crab cakes.
  • The fish theme continues with “Trout, for example”, and that’s a red herring of its own, because we’re looking for Mike Trout, who plays baseball. He’s an ANGEL. At least on the field.
  • “Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle newsletter” is a source of great amusement and gnashing of teeth in various quarters. I don’t know anyone who takes it seriously; maybe that’s because it’s called GOOP.

Things I didn’t know before I did this crossword: “hippocreiform” means “shaped like a horsehoe”. That’s a long way to go to get to MAGNETS. I don’t think we have any hippocreiform magnets in the house. Ours are more likely to be oddly shaped pieces of rare metal.

This puzzle reminded me of my father. He was also a doc – a cardiologist, in fact – and he loved both mystery stories and puns. I’d say “bad puns”, but that would be redundant. Anyway, he called me once to tell me about a note he’d made in a chart. The patient had both heart disease and anemia, and he thought the anemia was unrelated to the problem, so he said the it was a pink herring. He was still chuckling about it when he got home and he had to share. I enjoy almost anything that makes me think about my dad and smile. This was a great way to start the puzzle year. 4.5 from me.

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Turn It Up” — Jim’s review

Yesterday’s puzzle implied we were getting on in years. Now our hearing is going, too. Our constructor is advising us to “turn IT up”.

As you might expect when the word “up” or “down” appears in the title, the theme entries are vertical. I present them here from left to right.

WSJ - Thu, Jan 7, 2016 - "Turn It Up"

WSJ – Thu, Jan 7, 2016 – “Turn It Up”

  • 4D [Conditions of sneakers that may result in tripping?] UNTIED STATES
  • 17D [Raincoats to wear under low gray clouds?] STRATI JACKETS
  • 9D [Messy chat rooms?] INTERNET STIES
  • 23D [Hawk’s happiness during wartime?] MARTIAL BLISS

As you’ve sussed out, the gimmick is that certain words have had their IT transposed resulting in wacky phrases. There can’t be that many words where this is possible, so while UNTIED and MARTIAL are great and STIES is okay, STRATI (plural of stratus) just sounds awkward. I didn’t chuckle very much either which is usually my hope when a puzzle purports to bring the wack. But maybe that’s just me.

MARTIAL BLISS had the most surface sense of the lot. I’m picturing someone from Dr. Strangelove gleefully starting a nuclear war.

But look at this grid. The themers are 12-, 13-, 13-, and 12-letters long respectively—inconvenient lengths in a 15x puzzle. This generally means they get pushed together, usually within a row (or column) of another themer.

But today our constructor decided to own this problem and stacked (vertically) two pairs of themers. Consequently we see a lot of blocks in the center separating the two pairs, but the east and west sides of the grid remain fairly open and filled with interesting goodies. NO OUTLET, EQUITABLE, and SALDANA flow down the left side to AJ FOYT and CAPTAIN. On the right, FRANCE sits atop SUNRISE atop PLANET. Then we have TIGER, SALMA, and OUT LOUD, and finish off with TO THE LAST. Oh, and GLOBALLY runs vertically.

All this despite the fact that each themer abuts another themer which is usually a very constraining setup. The most challenging pairings of letters due to this arrangement are the AJ in 39A and the SK in 49A, but these are handled adeptly. In short, this is a skillful grid design, aligning themers in such a way as to minimize difficult letter pairings.

So on the whole, while the theme entries themselves didn’t do a lot for me, I can look at this grid and appreciate all the other good stuff in it and the skillful design.

1280x720-data_images-wallpapers-23-367975-noddyCluing is Thursday tough and equally skillful. Did not know 24A [Noddy, e.g.] was a TERN. The only Noddy I know is the one to the left. Consequently I plunked down TOON instead of TERN. I figured 25A [Sedan setting] was a place, but it took me a while to conclude FRANCE. 42A [One with multiple mates] couldn’t be BIGAMIST, so it was nice to unravel CAPTAIN. 55A [Scarf stuffing, perhaps] is so sufficiently misleading that the resulting EAT was very satisfying to sort out. I learned an EMU comes out of a dark green egg, and I learned of the existence of the band FUN and their song “We Are Young”.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Mais Out” — Ben’s Review

Mais Oui

Mais Oui

How have I already been reviewing BEQ puzzles for a year?  It feels like yesterday I was tentatively figuring out how to write one of these things, and now it’s old hat.  It remains to be seen if writing these continues to make me a better solver (see you at ACPT 2016), but it’s still a lot of fun.

Okay, enough mushy reminiscing.  This week’s BEQ is a nice entry into the new year with some phonetic addition going on – removing the sound of a French yes from each of the theme entries gets a more well-known phrase or person:

  • 18A: Something served in the court covered with rainwater?  — DEWY JUSTICE (due justice)
  • 24A: “Spielberg, meet this wookie”? — STEPHEN CHEWIE (Steven Chu)
  • 39A: Paul Reubens after being punched in the face? — BLACK EYED PEE-WEE (black-eyed pea)
  • 52A: Transitional parts of the Thin White Duke’s songs? — BOWIE BRIDGES (Beau Bridges)
  • 63A: One who has seen a New Zealand bird? — KIWI WITNESS (key witness)

This was a pretty well-constructed theme, although I didn’t recognize Steven Chu as “correct” as quickly as the other answers, although it certainly sounded like it could be the name of a person of note.

(Catching up on 2015 music I missed, Susanne Sundfor’s album is front-to-back fantastic)

The grid on this one felt odd for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint – it was oddly high in 3-letter words (or felt like it, anyways) and felt a little underwhelming, clue-wise.  I liked seeing MRES as a nice bit of fill (“GI fare”, 23A), as well as GEODE (“Rock with a sparkling middle”, 38A) and CURBSIDE (“Place to leave your recycling”, 40D).  I kept trying to make the answer for 68A‘s “Enter, as data” TYPE IN, only for it to be READ IN, which doesn’t quite make sense to me, but that could just be the march of technology.

A tighter set of theme clues would have boosted this a bit, as would some fresher fill and cluing.  3/5 stars.

Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s writeup

LA Times 160107

LA Times

The revealer is COMMONAREA. This ties together the long, starred answers, all of which feature the letter string AREA. GETAREADON, IMAREALBOY from Pinocchio and SHAREACAB are the best answers, with SCAREAWAY and FAREASTERN making up the numbers.

SAYAPRAYER, SOTHERE and ASUSUAL are picks in the longer answers. ITSADUD seems to be falling on the wrong side of the abritrary line for me.

The big unknwon for me is the so-described [immortal] LYNDE – Paul apparently. You might consider Patrick HENRI at their intersection, might. I’m also a little sceptical of the existence of LBARS – with difficulty I can find a few examples on the Internets.

3.25 Stars

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “In-Doc-Trination”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.07.15: "In-Doc-Trination"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 01.07.15: “In-Doc-Trination”

Good day, everyone! Today’s crossword, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, includes five different theme entries, and each of them has the letters DOC appear consecutively while spanning two different words (32D: [Word hidden inside all five theme answers]).

  • JUDO COMPETITION (17A: [Event that may involve black belts])
  • WIND OCTET (24A: [It involves eight players])
  • SINEAD O’CONNOR (35A: [“Nothing Compares 2 U” singer])
  • MONDO CANE (49A: [Infamous documentary of 1962, whose title literally means “A Dog’s World”])
  • NINTENDO CONSOLE (57A: [Wii, e.g.])

Tell me that I’m not the only one who believes that the only times I come across SAINT LEO is when it appears in a crossword puzzle (11D: [University near Tampa]). At least when you see UCLA, MSU, OSU, and all other schools and/or its abbreviations represented in a puzzle, you come across them on another platform. Seeing a not-so-frequently-used demonym is pretty nice, and we have that in FIJIAN (1D: [South Pacific Islander]). Of all my times watching Vijay Singh, a Fijian, play golf, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that word used before. Usually, you just hear, “native of Fiji.” To complete the geography with the down clues on the leftmost side of the grid, there’s ROMANIA (39D: [Bucharest’s country]). Hopefully, seeing ODEON made you look up the old nickelodeon theaters of the early 20th century, as well as the origin of the word “nickelodeon,” where five cents would get you into a movie (33A: [Suffix with nickel]). I wonder what would happen if I walked into a movie theater today and only have five cents in my possession. You think I could gain admission with that, along with my charm that I would use to convince the ushers and ticket vendors to let me in?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DIESEL (61A: [Semi fuel]) – We’re not too long away from the Super Bowl being played, which means the person who plays the role of star in that game will become a household name. In 1983, Washington running back John Riggins, nicknamed “The DIESEL,” became just that when the 230-pound bowling ball of a runner rushed for a then-Super Bowl record 166 yards and the game-winning 43-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter as the team with the insensitive nickname from the nation’s capital defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-17 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to win its first Super Bowl.

TGIF tomorrow! See you then!

Take care!


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14 Responses to Thursday, January 7, 2016

  1. Ethan says:

    loved the NYT and loved how the web applet put the doctors outside the borders after you solved. Anyone who solved it on paper, did they do anything funky to indicate the theme visually?

    • Zulema says:

      I printed the AcrossLite version. No indication of anything about the theme, except in the one clue, which was very vague of course.

  2. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Really lovely grid today from Andrew. With the theme material relegated to four small sections at the compass points (aside from the central revealer), that left him to fill the grid with really good themeless-like fill. I really like the modernish POP-UP STORE, THE OLDS, and especially TRUE DAT.

    But the extra nice touch is that in those words that lend their letters to the DOCTORS, the remaining letters still form a valid, crossworthy word, as Amy said. That’s a classy touch that isn’t strictly necessary for the grid, but elevates the puzzle and the constructor.

  3. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Probably I will hate myself for asking this, but what does {King’s little cousin} for ‘twin’ mean?

  4. Paul Coulter says:

    I loved the Ries Fireball. As Jenni notes, it’s so clear once you get to the revealer. Which I really should have looked for much earlier as I struggled through the top. Then the title makes perfect sense, too. My only quibble is with “….5 head.” To really work, it needs an added symbol. 4.5 stars from me.

  5. mmespeer says:

    Thank you Jenni! I got most of the Fireball answers through the crosses (and guesses) but could not figure out what it all meant. My brain must be missing some meta particle. This is perhaps why I can’t get past Week 2 of Matt’s puzzles.

  6. Gareth says:

    From my Concise Oxford dictionary: Usage note – Bantu is a strongly offensive word in South African English, especially when used of individual people, but is still sometimes used outside South Africa to refer to the group of languages and their speakers collectively.

  7. Gary R says:

    I really liked the NYT, but mostly in retrospect – it’s been a long time since a Thursday puzzle kicked my butt this badly! I thought I understood the theme after filling the center and then finding (D)ROVES and (R)OPED. I didn’t notice (E)DEN, so I was off looking for a set of DR’s outside the borders of the grid – oops!

  8. Jenni Levy says:

    LOVED today’s NYT. I made the mistake of starting it 15 minutes before my 8:30 meeting this morning and had just figured out the theme when I had to pack up and be professional. I had a long day that included a DMV test (too many speeding tickets) and finally got back to the puzzle about 5:00. I stumbled over CHE(W) on in the middle right block and also pulled a blank on the king and TWIN connection – don’t know what was up with me and Andrew’s puzzles. Anyway, it was worth the wait. Excellent theme, really well-executed. I’m looking forward to more of Andrew’s ouevre.

    Thanks for the kind words about my post!

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