Thursday, September 28, 2017

BEQ 8:28 puzzle; 2:00ish meta (Laura) 


Fireball  untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 5:33 (Gareth) 


NYT 2:19 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Special Delivery” — Jim’s review

What a timely theme with the revealer AIRLIFTS [Some special deliveries, and a hint to solving this puzzle].

The situation in Puerto Rico is truly  dire. With no electricity and limited amounts of fuel, food, and water, people are starting to get desperate. While Trump tweet-fights with NFL players, Americans in Puerto Rico are struggling to survive in a disaster zone, often at the mercy of looters and thugs who commandeer gas stations.

They are in a bad, bad way — far worse off than Houston or Florida. If you can find a way to help, please do so. Here are a number of organizations working to bring relief to the island: Red Cross, Salvation Army, Global Giving, Americares (hey, they’re based in Stamford, CT!). [Editor’s note: Another good choice is the Hispanic Federation’s Unidos Disaster Relief Fund, where you can select Maria relief at the end of the donation form.]

Ok. Back to the puzzle. Each theme answer ends in the letters –AIR, which is “lifted” (bent upwards) in the grid.

WSJ – Thu, 9.28.17 – “Special Delivery” by Alice Long (Mike Shenk)

  • 16a [#1 hit of 1971 written by Sly StoneFAMILY AFFA/IR with 8d RIATA
  • 31a [Its back curves forward into armests] CAPTAIN’S CHA/IR with 21d ARIA.
  • 42a [His “Oil!” was the basis for “There Will Be Blood”] UPTON SINCLA/IR with 26d SYRIA
  • 60a [They occupy the same orbital] ELECTRON PA/IR with 54d RIALS

Solid set of theme entries. There are a couple peculiarities though. The revealer is at 47a instead of somewhere lower down, no doubt because room was needed for the last theme entry. And the revealer’s symmetrical partner, STARMAPS, is not thematic, though its ?’d clue [Cancer-detecting aids?] made me think it was at first.

A theme like this requires a lot of real estate and makes demands in the “bent” areas. Consequently, there are no long flashy non-theme entries except STARMAPS. (There are a boatload of 6-letter entries, though, like PLASMA, IGNITE, PSALMS, etc.) But there are some real eyebrow-raisers like 40a IIII [Four, on some clocks], 24d ALGIC [Suffix meaning “pain-related”], and the stacking of IN TOTO and IN PART, plus the crossing of 56a SATORI [Sudden enlightenment] and 53d ARPEL [Adrien of skin care fame]. It’s no surprise that all of these are on the right side of the grid where the “bends” are located.

I had a pretty tough time in that SE corner. POLAR wasn’t coming to me with its clue [Opposite in character], and LONG E‘s clue, [Ultimate Miami sound?], was nearly too tricksy. Thankfully, I eventually saw POLAR, sussed out LONG E, and guessed the R correctly at the SATORI/ARPEL crossing.

Clues of note:

  • 59d [Chicken tender]. VET. I think may have seen this clue before, but I still love it.
  • 44a [Main]. OCEAN. I honestly did not know this. I’ve heard of the Spanish Main of course, but I didn’t know its meaning.
  • 13a [Broad with billions]. ELI. As of this moment, I’m still clueless as to what this means. …checking… Oh. ELI Broad is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist. Per Wikipedia, “He is the only person to build two Fortune 500 companies in different industries (KB Home and SunAmerica).” As part of The Giving Pledge, he and his wife have committed to giving 75% of their wealth away to charity. Other billionaire signers of the pledge are the Gates’s, Buffett, Allen, Zuckerberg, Musk, Bloomberg, Turner, and Cook. I’m sure you can think of at least one billionaire who hasn’t signed.

Nice puzzle. Some thorniness in the clues and fill, but then again, it’s Thursday, and the solid theme, with its demands on the grid, compensates for the difficulties.

That’s all from me for this week. If you can, don’t forget to help those who need it.

Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 9.28.17 by Joe Krozel

Haven’t seen Joe Krozel’s name in a NYT byline in a grip! There was a time from 2007-2015 where you might solve roughly one Kruzzle a month; now it’s a few a year, if that. You always know you’re gonna get something a little kooky when you see his byline, and Joe didn’t disappoint today.

On the NYT applet, Shortz & co. have given us a little hint as to what’s to come:

“Two letters of the alphabet are missing from the main, connected portion of the completed grid. What are they? The answer goes, appropriately, at 35-Across.”

Obviously, the grid is visually striking even before you start solving. My first thought was that it was some kind of dog, but no! It turns out to be a PIÑATA (44d) [Party item depicted in the middle of this puzzle’s grid]. That explains the long line of black squares coming down from the top of the grid: that would be the rope from which the piñata hangs. Naturally, it’s filled with CANDY at 35a [Likely contents of a 44-Down].

The fantastic kicker here, as explained by the note above, is that there are only two letters missing from the rest of the grid: C and Y. Or, C AND Y, or CANDY. Because all the CANDY is inside the piñata!

This puzzle legitimately excited me. The grid art to begin with is fantastic: it takes skill to make grid art that looks this good, and besides the central entry, somehow the rest of the grid still connects. That’s so important in making sure the solver has a fun solving experience (which ought to be a [if not the!] main focus when making a puzzle).

There’s great fill elsewhere, even with the massive constraint of making a 68-word/47-block pangram that’s missing exactly C and Y! ULTIMATE FRISBEE, GO JUMP IN THE LAKE, AMBER ALE, GI JOE, MULTIPLEX, TOTEM POLE, GET GOING. This could’ve been a slog with so many 3- and 4-letter entries, but somehow it all just really worked for me. Sure, there were a couple SO-SO entries, like OEDS, OLES, and A ROOM, but I still think the ambition/execution ratio here is off the charts. If I have a complaint, it’s that the puzzle played a little easy for a Thursday, but the gimmick was certainly Thursday-appropriate.

Five stars, would solve again. Until next week!

Fnrk Lngs Frbll crsswrd, “Vwllss Crsswrd”—Jnn’s wrtup

Don’t worry, I’ll use vowels for the rest of the review.

That said, I never quite know what to  say about vowelless crosswords. I really enjoy them. I know that’s not a unanimous view. I’m sure there are Fireball subscribers who groan every time these show up. Either this one was easier than usual or I’m getting better at them.

FB 9/28, sltn grd

Not surprisingly, the cluing is more straightforward than usual for a Fireball. It helped that 1d was a gimme: [The disease varicella, much more familiarly] is, of course, CHICKeN PoX, and then I had the to work off of for 30a [Costing a pretty penny], filled in eXPeNSiVe and I was rolling.

I got hung up in the NE quadrant because I thought 9d [Heinie] was TuSHY – it turns out to be KeiSTeR. I also thought 13d [Connects together as in a chain] was iNTeRLoCKS instead of iNTeRLiNKS.

Things I notice when doing crosswords without vowels:

  • Words that have very few vowels: 29a [Hoofs it] is WaLKS.
  • Words that have lots of vowels: 27a [Indiana inhabitant] is HooSieR.
  • Words that can’t be clearly identified without their vowels: 34d [Admire excessively] could be either iDeaLiZe or iDoLiZe.
  • Words that are just plain amusing without vowels: 54a [Abba song that became the title of a Broadway musical] turns into MMMinto the grid for MaMMa Mia. This also has the distinction of being the only entry that could be used in a regular crossword. It would be a lousy entry,  but I bet it’s been used.
  • Words I just pull a blank on and have to type four or five times to get right: 22a [Microsoft Xbox competitor] is NiNTeNDo GaMe CuBe. I just could.not put the correct letters in the correct boxes, even once I figured out the answer.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that CoLeRiDGe wrote “Brute animals have the vowel sounds; man only can utter consonants.” I don’t understand that, but there it is.

Derek Bowman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

The theme is not overly convoluted today. TIMEFORDINNER is a more matter of fact way of stating four other entries: COMEANDGETIT, SOUPSON, LETSEAT and SUPPERSREADY. What’s for supper? A WHITEPERCH FISHFILLET it seems… Isn’t it tradition to serve fish on Fridays, not Thursdays? I was trying to wedge FISHFINGER where FISHFILLET went; I learnt recently those aren’t things in America though…

Not too much to comment on today:

  • [Condition treated by Ritalin, briefly], ADHD. An answer that has felt oddly taboo – doesn’t appear as often as it’s familiarity and letters would lead you tou expect. I’d like to hear from doctors about the word “treated” too…
  • [Jenny Craig offering], DIETPLAN. I thought that company was Australian? I know it only from my Australian aunt, who worked for them at one point…
  • Is MENSSHOP “in the language” in the US. I had to Google post-solve to understand [Haberdashery] since in my world that’s an obsolete seller of “notions” (a word I also encountered post-solve).

3.25 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Party Line”—Laura’s write-up

BEQ 9.28.17

BEQ – 9.28.17 – Solution

  • [17a: Excursion that starts at square 18 and moves through the grid one square at a time up, down, left or right, never crossing its path, and ends somewhere in 65-Across]: PUB CRAWL
  • [65a: How you might feel after consuming everything in the path starting from square 18 (shouldn’t have had a couple on the fourth stop)]: HUNGOVER

Cheers! Our PUB CRAWL starts in square 18, as per the clue. On the menu: CHAMPAGNE, SCOTCH, SANGRIA, PALE ALES (yes, plural, as hinted at in the clue for 65a with “a couple on the fourth stop”), MARTINI, and SAKE.

Drunkard's Path Quilt

Quilt (c. 1900) with “Drunkard’s Path” design, from the University of Nebraska

There are a few potential wrong turns — could’ve had a VODKA in the NE if diagonal movement was allowed, and a taste of JÄGERMEISTER in the E — but I’m pretty sure this is the drunkard’s path that BEQ means us to take.

Other stuff I liked: LEST [25a: ___ we forget]; LEAK [21a: White House worry]; BE A PAL [34a: “Help me out here”], which is what I’m doing covering this puzzle for my fellow F(r)iends; AGNES [36a: Gru’s youngest {adopted} daughter in “Despicable Me”]; and EDITOR [45a: One who might get the word out?]. I’ll end by toasting every EDITOR I’ve ever had with every drink in the puzzle, all of whom have made my writing infinitely better, especially by pointing out the dangling modifier that I just typed. FINITO [42d: Over]!

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25 Responses to Thursday, September 28, 2017

  1. Alain says:

    Electron pair? crossed by Arpel and Long e? No

  2. MattF says:

    I’ve got to start looking at the puzzle notes if I’m mystified by something– the macOS app Black Ink has a ‘Show Puzzle Notes…’ item under ‘View’. But I was able to guess the sort-of unclued letters in the NYT puzzle, anyhow– although not the additional hint.

  3. David L says:

    I was underwhelmed by the NYT. I filled in PINATA and CANDY pretty early, then waited to see how the rest of the puzzle would add to the party theme. But it didn’t. Instead (after consulting the note) I was told the rest of the puzzle lacked C and Y. Hmmm. OK then.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Ditto! Quick, easy puzzle. Never saw that there was a notepad entry, and it wasn’t remotely needed to solve the puzzle’s middle answer.

      • obertb says:

        The info in the note *was* needed because, without that constraint, any 5-letter answer could be deemed acceptable, as there are no crosses to favor one entry over another. Someone on Rex’s site suggested URINE. You could enter TREAT, or just STUFF. But with the note, CandY is the only possible answer. Personally, I would have included that info in the clue to 35A: “Contents of 44-down or what’s missing from the rest of the grid,” or something like that.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          How on earth would URINE or STUFF be a plausible answer for [Likely contents of a 44-Down]?? I mean, come on. Piñatas are filled with candy. I filled it in instantly without the note.

          (Although I know a guy who had an adult piñata, too, at his kid’s birthday party. There were airplane-size bottles of liquor in that one! But if you were to argue that BOOZE was a plausible answer for that clue, I’d scoff.)

    • Gareth says:

      What I came here to say, basically. That and I was relieved the puzzle was quite easy because the connectivity is shocking. Excluding CANDY, there are effectively 5 mini-crosswords that can be separated by blacking a single square. This is widely considered bad form, especially in harder puzzles…

  4. pannonica says:

    “I’m sure you can think of at least one billionaire who hasn’t signed.”

    That needs an asterisk, or quotation marks.

  5. Bone Spur Patriot says:

    Impressive feat by BEQ, puzzler extraordinaire

  6. DRC says:

    WSJ I had a hard time when the “bent” word didn’t rise to a black square, i.e. there were letters above the “air” bit.

  7. C. Y. Hollander says:

    Quibble re the NYT clue for 39 Across: “No Triple Crown winner, ever”: MARE. It’s technically true that no mare has ever won the triple crown—for the same token no stallion has ever won it: adult horses are excluded from the races that the triple crown comprises. The clue presumably meant that no female horse has ever won the triple crown, but the relevant class is FILLY, not MARE.

  8. Noam D. Elkies says:

    67 words, actually — the count of 68 includes the CandY in the center. How close is this to the lowest count seen in a Thursday puzzle?

  9. David says:

    Didn’t like the NYT puzzle as a whole bc the top middle section was impossible. Still not sure what ITEN means. I didn’t remember LELAND Stanford, couldn’t get BLOTTO from the clue, and don’t see how EXERT really means ‘wield’. Unfortunately I had UBI for QUO (Latin ‘where’), so I was stuck.

    Some of the long answers were great, tho I grew up hearing GO JUMP IN A LAKE rather than referring to a specific lake. Some short answers were awful. The piñata was cute, and the center answer was too, tho leaving our Cs and Ys isn’t at all special.

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