Andy Keller’s Fireball crossword, “Picture in Picture” – Jenni’s write-up
The NW corner of this one had me stumped for a good four or five minutes. Eventually I just started putting words in to see what made sense. Good thing Black Ink tells me I’m correct or I’d still be staring at it.
This is Andy Keller’s FB debut and it’s a good one. “Picture in Picture” pretty much tells us what we’re looking for. The theme answers are nonsensical phrases with a one-word movie title wedged in the middle of a two- or three-word movie title.
- One old delivery person who doesn’t joke around? A SERIOUS MILK MAN
- Tale that would scare a Slinky? TOY GHOST STORY
- Spiritualist passed on the way downstream? MYSTIC UP RIVER
- Battles fought by important testifiers? STAR WITNESS WARS
This was one of those puzzles that didn’t offer me a decent foothold until I worked my way down to the SE, where ENTEBBE, RECESS and SINUS got me something to work with. The first theme answer I got was STAR WITNESS WARS, down at 56A, and that helped a lot. I figured the “spiritualist” clue had to be MYSTIC RIVER and then I was rolling along – until I got back to the NW. 1a is “Minor planet discovered in 2003.” The only “minor planet” I know is Eris (well, and Pluto, but let’s not go there.) That was clearly not right. I was pretty sure that Mr T was Muhammed ALI’s bodyguard (5d) which meant our minor planet ended in A. That didn’t help. I’d filled in enough of the NE to have MILKMAN at the end of the 17A theme answer, and I tried to work my way backwards. I knew the inserted movie was MILK but couldn’t come up with the surrounding movie name (and indeed I’m not familiar with A SERIOUS MAN.) I was also expecting the same pattern in all the theme answers, with the outer titles being two words, and this one is three.
Finally, I stuck SCAMS at 1D for “Stings” and left ALI in place at 5D. The Boolean operator at 4D had to be either AND or NOR; NOR gave me SERIOUS, which matched the clue, and I finally remembered CAROL for the 2015 movie at 14A. There is one more movie I hadn’t heard of at 2D: “Emma Stone film loosely based on ‘A Scarlet Letter’ ” and that had to be EASY A (I may not know the movie, but I sure do remember the book) and I had SEDNA for the minor planet and the happy news that I had correctly finished the puzzle.
I really like this theme. I like a puzzle where knowing the theme helps you figure out the theme answers without really giving them away – they still require some thought, and the payoff is a funny little phrase. I do think SEDNA is pushing it especially at 1A, especially in a section with three movies and two other proper names (SAMPRAS and ALI) but Peter doesn’t call them Fireball puzzles for nothin’, and we know what we’re getting into when we subscribe. This time the challenge was in the fill, not the theme, and that’s OK.
A few more things:
- More movie goodness with 12D, “Role for Benedict Cumberbatch” – KHAN, in “Star Trek: Into Darkness”, which I have not yet seen. I have two weeks off work coming up (knee surgery) and that’s on my to-do list.
- Apparently the opposite of my extra large eggs are PEEWEE. I don’t think Wegman’s carries peewee eggs. Now I want some.
- A few minutes of Googling has not told me what card game is being referred to in 40D – “Extra cards taken by the highest bidder.” The answer is WIDOW. What’s the game?
- “Red brown-bagger, perhaps” is a great clue for WINO.
- I’ve heard the Beatles song “Rain” (“Paperback Writer” B-side at 53D) but didn’t actually realize that was the name.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: SEDNA. Need I say more?
Kurt Krauss’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
It’s been awhile since I blogged a puzzle that involved entering answers backwards. You know what? I have a knack for backwards spelling, and I love themes like this. The quartet of 7s that radiate out from the center square all begin with NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, and WEST, and the answers in the appropriate zones of the grid are all entered in those directions. The top half of the grid (roughly), every Down answer goes NORTH, or upwards. Bottom, standard SOUTH and Down. Left half, WEST and backwards. Right half, EAST and standard Across direction.
I don’t even remember how I cottoned to the theme. Possibly where 1a GRANT‘s central A worked with a backwards BRA (3d. [Hidden means of support?], nice clue), and 13a AURIC‘s U didn’t mesh with 2d BIN as well as its I did. After filling in the backwards-ERGONOMIC/STEGOSAUR corner, I wondered if the entire grid was flipped—but then 6a ROPE and 14a SENAT pointed me towards the variations. And then having WEST END and NORTHER in place, running WEST and NORTH, did much to explain the theme’s functioning to me. From there on out, it was just fun rather than mystifying. (The weirdest part, really, was the inclusion of palindromic OTTO and ANA.)
A couple clues of note:
- 1a. [50s president], GRANT. Without the apostrophe, that’s fifties, as in the currency, and not the ’50s decade.
- 46d. [Gable part], BUTLER. For the longest time, I figured the answer was some architectural/carpentry term, but no. It’s Clark Gable as Rhett BUTLER.
How’d the puzzle treat you? Me, I’m giving this one 4.9 stars.
Peter Wentz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Extreme Measures” — Jim’s review
Perfect title for today’s offering from Peter Wentz.
At first glance of the grid, it’s hard to tell where the theme entries lie. The corners are fairly wide open, but the middle’s pretty choppy. As you go along you encounter the clues that have a “unit of measurement” in common. How, you might then wonder, do these entries connect?
The answer is that Peter’s taken words that end in a standard unit of measurement and repurposed them. The first half of each word is then used to suggest what is being measured.
- 17a [Hunting gear’s unit of measurement?] CAMO MILE. As in, a mile of camouflaged clothing.
- 36a [Revealing bathing suit’s unit of measurement?] SPEEDO METER. A bit of a cheat that the METER in the original word is there because it’s measuring something (speed in this case). But this one is laugh-out-loud funny, so it gets a pass. If your SPEEDO is measured in METERs, something is horribly, horribly wrong.
- 62a [TV room’s unit of measurement?] DEN OUNCE. I think of a DEN as a place of quiet, where one can work or study in peace. But I know the crossword convention is that it’s where the TV is. Anyhow, this one doesn’t work quite as well because how do you use OUNCEs to measure a DEN? But I like it anyway.
- 10d [Church service’s unit of measurement?] MASS ACRE. This one is darkly funny. It was the last to fall for me as I’ll go into below, but I will admit that it elicited a chuckle. Maybe others won’t agree with me on that.
- 24d [Old flame’s unit of measurement?] EX POUND. Another funny one as I imagine a bitter EX might be inclined to discuss their former partner’s weight.
- 37d [Floorboard’s unit of measurement?] PLANK TON. That’s a lot of flooring.
And that’s a lot of theme material! Also note that SPEEDOMETER crosses not one, not two, but three other themers, which probably accounts for the choppiness of the center. But on the whole, it works.
We have a distance, a distance, a weight, an area, a weight, and a weight. Would’ve been nice if there were six different things being measured, to include time, volume, density, and/or pressure perhaps. But you can’t have everything. And that probably would have been at the cost of some humorous or clever entries, if it was even possible.
And this was a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle. I love when constructors give us new ways to look at old words. So the theme plus the Thursday-level cluing makes for a really fun time.
OTOH, my fun came to an end in the NE corner where I stared dumbly at all the blank squares for minutes. I was utterly stymied from the O in ODE (21d) to the R in OAR (34a). The entire NE was empty for me for about as long as it took me to do the rest of the puzzle.
So much so that I eventually clicked the “Show Mistakes” button, which of course didn’t help since I had everything correct, but I just had no answers in that corner. I kept thinking the church service unit of measurement would start with AMEN-, didn’t know the actor TYRESE Gibson nor the “Mad Men” role TRUDY nor the trivia that CUSTER was at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox nor that 8d [Multiple choice list] would not be MENU but ABCD instead (grumble). The rest of the words were clued challengingly. In retrospect I should have realized that [Senators’ home] was OTTAWA and that would have helped a lot. What did work was that I finally sussed out 30a [Objective for a grammarian?] did not mean a GOAL, but instead a CASE. This lead to MASSACRE and so on, but it was a tough slog in that corner.
Great theme aside, we have the unusual situation where some non-theme fill is longer than some theme entries. We get MAMA CASS, FELT GOOD, MCGOVERN, RED SONJA, as well as GLACIER, MRI SCAN, ODDS ARE, and JACK TAR (didn’t know this one).
A few things had me scratching my head:
- 63d: The online version of the puzzle has the clue [Stopping poin] for the entry END. The pdf has it as [Stopping point].
- 57a: As I said, I never heard the British term JACK TAR for a sailor [Salt].
- 1d: [El Capitan runner] made no sense to me until I looked it up to write this post and had a “duh!” moment. I’ve been to Yosemite and gazed at El Capitan and can’t imagine anything or anyone running atop it. I figured there was some other place (in Spain, perhaps?) which was also called El Capitan. Turns out we’re talking operating systems here. Despite my years of using only MACs, I couldn’t see this (maybe because I’m still using “Lion”).
- 34a: [Shell competitor]. I still need an explanation on this. I thought a shell was a type of boat. Why is an OAR a competitor of a shell?
And let’s finish off with some favorite clues:
- 4a: [Bookstore section, often] is CAFE. Ha! Fooled ya!
- 45d: [Dolls with extra arms?] is GI JOES. Apparently, you can buy the arms separately!
- 56a: [Polo goal] is ASIA. “Marco..!” (Aside: Is there a connection between the swimming pool games Marco Polo and Water Polo? Also, there ought to be a swimming pool game called “Marco Rubio” in which one person shouts “Marco!” and the others deliver canned, memorized speeches until the first person gets bored and swims away.)
Summing up, Peter gives us an outstanding puzzle with a clever, re-parsing theme, good fill and crunchy clues throughout. That FELT GOOD!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Nair-Do-Well” — Ben’s Review
After last week’s disappointing puzzle, this Thursday’s BEQ feels back on track. Lather up for some slightly odd theme answers that make more sense once the revealer’s fully known:
- 17A: Songwriting attribution for Mr. Porter? — COLE CREDIT
- 22A/27A: “Those who pay dues can use the outhouses”? — MEMBERSHIP HAS/ITS PRIVIES
- 42A: Secret Serviceman assigned to Gore? — AL GUARDIAN
- 48A: Subject of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Booty”? — THE END OF ZELDA
- 59A: Some smooth calves…and an alternative title to this puzzle — SHAVED LEGS
I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on wordplay-wise with the first few clues I cracked (COLE CREDIT came pretty easily, as did AL GUARDIAN), but the SHAVED LEGS reveal cleared everything up. Giving each of these off-kilter phrases a LEG up gets you COL(LEG)E CREDIT, MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS PRIVI(LEG)ES, (LEG)AL GUARDIAN, and THE (LEG)END OF ZELDA. This was a clever theme, with a nice range of places LEG was removed from, and source phrase variety.
Clues/fill of note this week:
- 15A: ___ Repulsa (“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” nemesis) — RITA (Who’s getting played in an upcoming movie by Elizabeth Banks.)
- 25A: One nicknamed Trip, often — III (This one took me a second to ken, but also explained why I have a friend who goes by Trip)
- 40A: Alternative to Java or Python — PERL (Is Perl still being used for major coding operations these days? I’d love to see languages like DJANGO get clued this way.)
- 55A: “___ Frome” — ETHAN (I love the summary of this book from The Toast.)
- 5D: Some old synthesizers — MOOGS
- 11D: “Sit on a potato pan, ___” — OTIS (Palindromes!)
A huge step up from last week, with a fun theme and lots of equally fun fill.
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Spring Cleaning” —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everybody. Though we’re about to hit the merry month of May, it’s definitely not feeling like spring time here in New York City. However, Ms. Lynn Lempel may have gotten us in the mood to do some spring cleaning today in her puzzle, as each of the theme entries starts with a word (or letters, if the entry is a one-word answer) associated with doing some cleaning.
- SPONGE CAKE (17A: [Madeline or ladyfinger, basically])
- SOAP OPERA (25A: [Tangled TV tale, typically])
- RAGTIME (38A: [Syncopated music genre])
- WATERGATE (50A: [Building synonymous with scandal])
- BUCKET LIST (61A: [Agenda for hoped-for activities])
No lie: I had the capital of ARMENIA, Yerevan, in my mind for the past couple of days, just because of its unique name (28A: [Nation between the Black and Caspian Seas]). And today, I come across the country. So if I think about Ouagadougou now, will Burkina Faso be an entry in the grid a few days later? We shall see! Initially had “pick at” instead of PECK AT, which might mean I’ve gotten that phrase wrong all this time (49D: [Eat unenthusiastically]). Loved the clue and the fill of PIPE DREAM (2D: [Vain hope]). Getting ready to head out for lunch, and I think I’m going to take the bus and check out the SCENERY in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn (43D: [Theater background]). Most people take that bus to head to the one and only Ikea store in the area, so I guess I might stop in there as well.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: GARNER (18D: [Acquire]) – Nicknamed “scrap iron” for his hard-nosed play on the field, former Major League Baseball second baseman Phil GARNER was a three-time All-Star who won a World Series with the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979. In that postseason in 1979, Garner batted .417 in the sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS, then batted .500 in the World Series, as both he and World Series MVP Willie Stargell each had 12 hits in the Fall Classic against the Baltimore Orioles. Garner became a manager after his playing days ended, and he led the Houston Astros – one of the teams he once played for – to the World Series in 2005 as its skipper.
TGIF tomorrow! Hope you all have a great Thursday!
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Vertical theme today! CROPSUP is the revealer, and sure enough, between the two part theme answers, running backwards – or up since they’re vertical – we find four CROPS – OAT, RICE, CORN and RYE. Want some rye? Course you do! They’re all Poaceae, an additional consistency, though not one contained within the revealer. Theme entries are a nice set: ANITAODAY, LECTURECIRCUIT, HOUSTONROCKETS and ABBEYROAD.
There are also nice pairs of long acrosses: IAMSODEAD / STATUETTE and PEANUTOIL / ATLEISURE.
Best clue: [Uncle relative] for IGIVE.