Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fireball 6:52 (Amy) 
NYT 5:21 (Amy) 
AV Club 4:44 (Amy) 
LAT 4:25 (Gareth) 
BEQ untimed (Matt) 
CS 5:16 (Dave) 

Aimee Lucido’s American Values Club crossword, “Turn-Based Game”

Region capture 11

AV Club crossword solution, 3 6 14 “Turn-Based Game”

I don’t know what “turn-based game” means (is that like … Candy Land and Monopoly?) but here’s what’s going on in this theme: Two phrases with an L in them pick up an R instead, and those answers appear in the grid normally, heading to the right. Two other phrases with an R flip to an L, and those answers run backwards, to the left.

  • 17a. [In need of a manssiere from too much cheap beer?], FRAT-CHESTED.
  • 33a. [Mail-order bride, perhaps?], TAOBEHTFFOHSELF. Flesh off the boat. Ooh, ugh.
  • 38a. [Anatomical emergence in Biology, say?], STUDENT ERECTION. Ah, youth.
  • 59a. [Cleavage?], NOYNACDNALG. Mammary gland canyon.

Nutty theme! American Values Club-grade risqueness in all four, big surprise factor with the backwards angle on top of the L/R letter swap, ironclad theme with no unchanged L’s or R’s.

Likes: PSHAW37a. [Computer pioneer Lovelace (woo-hoo, women in tech!)] cluing ADA (Aimee is a woman in the tech industry); 5d. [Rec. center that would be less appealing to the Village People], YWCA (although the YWCA isn’t so big on rec centers, not like the YMCA); 12d. Spork or spife], UTENSIL (spife was new to me); 55d. Chop house?], DOJO for karate chops. Lots of entirely new and fresh clues in this one.

4.25 stars from me.

Erik Agard’s Fireball crossword, “All or Nothing”

Fireball crossword solution, 3 6 14 "All or Nothing"

Fireball crossword solution, 3 6 14 “All or Nothing”

So I finished the grid correctly, highlighted the ALL in three key entries, and … had no idea what the “or Nothing” part of the theme was. I seldom need to turn to editor Peter Gordon’s answer write-up to understand a puzzle, but this time I did. Well! Isn’t that nifty. The letters in each ALL can also be hacked out of the grid, and both the Acrosses and the Downs work with or without those A’s or L’s in place:

  • 18a. [They may bring tears to the eyes], SHALLOTS or SHOTS.
  • 10d. [Box ___], SEATS or SETS.
  • 16d. [“Rubbish”], BLAH or BAH.
  • 11d. [One might be the subject of an election news story], POLL or POL.
  • 35a. [Like computer code, commonly], ALLITERATIVE (“computer code, commonly” starts with c, c, c) or ITERATIVE (the iteration of a computational process).
  • 3d. [Polite assent, en español], SI, SEÑORA or SI, SEÑOR. I thought it was really cool to have SI SENORA for a change.
  • 32d. [Head start?], FLAT or FAT.
  • 26d. [Join], WELD or WED.
  • 55a. [Sly guy?], Sylvester STALLONE or Sly and the Family STONE. Nice find!
  • 43d. [Prepares, as some vegetables], STEAMS or STEMS.
  • 51d. [Inform, with “in”], CLUE or CUE. Good find.
  • 47d. [Olympic ___], GOLD or GOD. Ooh, another nice pairing.

75 words in a 16×15 grid, but it feels themelessy with the 4×7 stacks and the stacks of 7s and 8s in the other corners. Except for the A in SI SENORA, everything in the NW and SE corners is unrelated to the theme, and smooth. I’m partial to TWOISH, ICE BOWL, and JOE COOL—entries not often encountered in crosswords but they’re great.

Did not know: 26a. [Soccer position], WINGER, and 40d. [They often play cricket], DARTERS.

LMNO looks like a junky alphabet run, but check out the clue: 6d. [They Might Be Giants song on the album “Here Come the ABCs”]. If you’ve never listened to TMBG but you enjoy the hell out of wordplay, check them out.

I’m not going to dock this puzzle for the Roman numeral MDI. The theme is so cool, and executed so beautifully, I’m calling it 5 stars (even though I needed help seeing what the theme is, I was knocked out once I grokked it).

Daniel Raymon’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 6 14, no. 0306

NY Times crossword solution, 3 6 14, no. 0306

Boy, am I glad I blogged the AV and Fireball this morning, because I am ready to fall asleep here. It’s been a long week and I haven’t even gotten to the packing-and-flying-to-New-York part!

Nice clean rebus theme: SOAPBOX is 37a. [Platform … or something that appears four times in this puzzle?]. Those four times are rebus boxes that contain the 4-letter brand names of soap.

  • 19a. [Cajun French, e.g.], {DIAL}ECT. Not SECT, which vaguely works until you look at 10d.
  • 10d. [Traction provider], RA{DIAL} TIRE. I bet people will be Googling “rastire” to check the 19a crossing.
  • 23a. [Doesn’t waste an opportunity], SEI{ZES T}HE DAY.
  • 4d. [Military decoration], BRON{ZE ST}AR. Very nice rebus entry!
  • 52a. [Device that converts pressure into a rotating motion], PIS{TON E}NGINE.
  • 29d. [Opalescent gems], MOONS{TONE}S.
  • 65a. [Honey-soaked dessert], BAK{LAVA}. Hey! I had baklava today at a high school open house.
  • 42d. [Capital on the Danube], BRATIS{LAVA}, Slovakia.

The theme plays out well, and we have diversity among bar soaps (one moisturizing, two deodorant, and one … abrasive). I use a Dove soap that would also have lent itself to such a rebus.

Highlights in the fill: MR. GREEN from Clue(do), BRUSSELS and PASADENA, JINX.

Not as happy with AGAR (though the clue is interesting: 30a. [Ingredient in many Asian desserts]); ARN (43a. [Royal son of the comics], old crosswordese; ANIL; and plural TITOS.

Latin I wasn’t expecting: 35d. [“Tullius” in Marcus Tullius Cicero], NOMEN. “Tullius” is a name, or NOMEN, yes?

3.75 stars. Suds up!

Updated Thursday morning:

Gail Grabowski’s CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword, “Street Smarts” – Dave Sullivan’s review

Four theme phrases that end with a famous street name:

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution - 03/06/14

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution – 03/06/14


  • [“Sweet Love” singer] clued ANITA BAKER – let’s take a listen, shall we? I often confuse her with the also very crossword-worthy Oleta Adams who sings here with Tears For Fears. Anyway, Baker Street is a Gerry Rafferty tune (you can find that one yourself!)
  • [Artificial construction for mountaineers] had me first thinking of some structure that climbers used to get up mountains, but it’s a CLIMBING WALLWall Street
  • [Briny deep] clued BOUNDING MAIN – let’s sing along with this one…Main Steet is the thoroughfare implied here.
  • Finally, [Ali Baba’s magical phrase] was OPEN SESAME – also what I believe Ford is calling their foot-activated back hatch door. Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?

THE BIG EASY would’ve been a nice addition to this set, any others you can think of? Interesting set of compound words/phrases complete the down entries: SEA SALT, NEW CAR, TRIM DOWN, RIPSAW and FIG LEAF. It’s also hard to IGNORE the clue for MARTINIS, or [They might contain Grey Goose]–I’m a Ketel One fan, myself.

Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Say What?” — Matt’s review

Lovely 19×19 from Brendan today. Base entries have the sound of “say” tacked on their fronts, like this:


21-A [Party to a lawsuit regarding Japanese watches?] = SEIKO DEFENDANT. From “co-defendant.”

38-A [Cello in an Ozawa orchestra, e.g.?] = SEIJI STRING. From “G-string.” I had these two first and thought it was going to be a Japanese theme of some kind, but no.

52-A [IV liquid that I’ll pay for?] = SALINE ON ME. From “Lean on Me.”

66-A [Jackets less likely to cause injury?] = SAFER COATS. From “fur coats.”

80-A [What the “Wheel of Fortune” host wields at an auction?] = SAJAK HAMMER. From “jackhammer.” But that’s a gavel, no?

100-A [Beatles girl writing some notes?] = SADIE COMPOSING. From “decomposing.” I kept trying to make Rita and then Michelle work.

Nicely executed. Then we see Brendan flex his fill muscles on the 19×19 grid, which is more naturally conducive to the three-point shots he excels at than a 15. It starts off with a power entry of CAPTCHA at 1-A (and I dig that cvccccv consonant-vowel pattern), then we have Scrabbly 8-letter actresses JORJA FOX and ANA ORTIZ, METALLICA, IN A PICKLE, PAY RAISE, LAS VEGAS, NANNYCAM, ELM TREE, HAD A COW, METALLICA, ABRAHAM, TAIPEI and PRE-OWNED. That’s some sweet long fill.

Other highlights:

***Had several “that can’t be right” moments in the grid due to entries with unusual letter combinations/placements. Had ?SAL? for [Mass presentation] and assumed I had an error since no one word fits there…except PSALM. Similarly for [“Ugly Betty” star] I had something like ??AO???Z which looked crazy-wrong, but the aforementioned ANA ORTIZ fits. Finally, for [“The Hangover” setting] I suspected it was something other than the obvious LAS VEGAS since that would mean the crossing [Some comedy] would have the letter pattern I????V. Unlikely, but IMRPOV it was.

***I’ve been paying more attention to the aesthetics of unfilled grids lately — does it look nice? This one does — not a cheater square in sight and nice flow between the various sections of the grids. I propose a new term for an unfilled crossword grid’s aesthetics — “Weng Shui,” named for former NYT editor Will Weng. I don’t know if he especially prized the beauty of unfilled grids, but if you can top that tell us in comments.

***Five favorite clues: [Lessen plan?] for DIET, [Some films] for GRIMES, [Invigorating hike?] for PAY RAISE, [They may be put on at a black-tie party] for AIRS, and [Personal check?] for CAPTCHA.

4.25 starrage.

John Guzzetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140306

LA Times

Theme was a bit of a post-solve revelation for me. As the revealer, 62a [Word that can follow five prefixes hidden sequentially in the answers to starred clues]SPHERE, suggests – each of the 5 longest across answers contains one of the five layers of the atmosphere. I love any science-based theme so this was just byootiful to me, even if it only emerged after solving! It’s also a very elegant touch to arrange them in order, but it also makes it a lot more difficult to match everything up! Some might think this is too specialised a theme to appear in the LA Times, but I’m pretty sure it’s taught in about 6th/7th grade science/geography… which a lot of people have long forgotten. This argument may in fact be a straw man though. I do think it would’ve fit right in as a CHE puzzle! Answer-wise, we have:

    • 17a, [*Large emigration], MASSEXODUSSphere
    • 24a, [*Lunchbox item], SOUPTHERMOS. Never heard of that. It gets about 40,000 google hits, compared to 64,000 for “soup of thermos”. I’ll believe the crossword that it’s a thing!
    • 32a, [*”I’ll Be There for You” on “Friends,” e.g.], THEMESONG. No link!
    • 47a, [*Children’s literature VIP], ILLUSTRATOR. One of two one-word theme answers…
    • 54a, [*Daily Planet setting], METROPOLIS

Sun BearOther remarks:

      • Who else opened at 1a with WATSON and not HOLMES as his [Elementary fellow?]?
      • 14a, [Longtime Hawaiian senator Daniel], INOUYE has plenty of vowels. Hawaiians like their vowels!
      • 15a, [Ottawan interjections], EHS. The extent to which this stereotype exists is debated. Jeffrey? MAS?
      • 29a, [100-eyed Giant of myth], ARGUS has given his name to countless newspapers!
      • [Southeast Asian honey lover], SUNBEAR. Zoology answers are always welcome! See also CAIMANS.
      • 57a, [Palm smartphone], TREO
      • [“Tell __”: 1962-’63 hit], HIM. This was originally “her”, which is what I put in initially. The “music video” here is bizarre…
      • The double of 2d, [Winning steadily] ONATEAR and 3d, [Get clobbered], LOSEBIG is nice.
      • 34d, [Many couples], MARRIEDS. I remember it sounding horrible the first time I heard it, but phrases like “young marrieds” are very popular in churchspeak.
      • 43d, [Cuarenta winks?], SIESTA. Cuarenta is forty, right?
      • 52d, [Painter van __], GOGH. PSA, this rhymes with loch and Koch.

Smooth, interesting film and a higher-grade theme? 4.25 Stars at least!

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15 Responses to Thursday, March 6, 2014

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: It was frustrating until I confronted the possibility of a rebus, and then it felt so much better and I got to enjoy it. In each case, the rebus works well in both directions. And I love the KABOB/BAKLAVA meal in BRATISLAVA! Great corner.

    Interesting that EMIR is clued with Qatar. I’ve never been but I’m heading there next week. That should give me a 100 degree swing from where I currently am. Trying to get my brain wrapped around that packing.

    Good luck to all of you heading to Brooklyn for the tournament!

  2. dave glasser says:

    I was sad that I was unable to get the meta part of the Fireball (had a busy day planned and decided to peek at the answer rather than spend too much time thinking about it)… especially given that it was the same trick as a meta crossword from a few days ago that I also didn’t get!

  3. I had a leading B and a penultimate S, and thought for sure I had forgotten how to spell Budapest for Capital on the Danube . Oh, rebuses, you never fail to fool me.

  4. Davis says:

    NOMEN isn’t just “name”. Roman names had three parts: the praenomen, the nomen, and the cognomen. The praenomen was the given name and the nomen was (roughly) the family name. What the cognomen represented apparently varied depending on time period–for a while it was what we would call a nickname, but later it became a hereditary name indicating branches of the larger lineage indicated by the nomen.

  5. Davis says:

    Oh, and I feel like AGAR gets short shrift as crosswordese–outside of crosswords it’s the key ingredient in yokan, which can be both delicious and beautiful.

  6. tom pepper says:

    Fireball: May be THE coolest puzzle I’ve ever seen. Way to go, dude!

    • Evad says:

      It should be noted that this praise comes from the constructor of 1 of the 9 top puzzles nominated for 2013. Jeffrey K would know for sure, but this is of the more than 1,000 puzzles reviewed on this blog last year.

  7. David L says:

    You can’t fool me with your Thursday rebuses! I saw what was going on straightaway and put in BRONZE[star], then began looking for all the other little stars strewn about the grid.

    Well, I got there eventually…

    • CY Hollander says:

      Ha! Me too. And I followed up by entering ESTH into one box and assuming it was a brand of soap for an embarrassingly long time.

  8. Gareth says:

    Solid rebus, difficult for me because these brands don’t really exist here. Dove is very familiar! As is Lux which seems to be mostly historical in the US. My first rebus square was LAVA, and I was kind of wondering if the puzzle was going to be FLOORISLAVA or somesuch! Answers like AGAR are perfectly fine in moderation. There are plenty of ways to come across AGAR outside of crosswords, but it is a “difficult” word. Cooking/baking is one, as is encounters with the natural sciences, like in agar-plates and gel electrophoresis. Still waiting for the day when enzyme-linked immunosorbancy assay becomes a popular crossword answer!

    • Huda says:

      LOL… clue: Alternative to RIA. Answer: ELISA. It should become crosswordese. Nothing wrong with that in my book.

  9. pannonica says:

    BEQ: Last part to fall was the right-center. The nexus of non-knowingness of actress JORJA FOX, Old Testament JOEL, MADERA in central California, organic suffix -ANES vs -ENES, plus my pronouncing “fur” and the “-fer” of safer differently made for quite the challenge.

  10. klew archer says:

    Wasn’t blogged but the AV CLUB bonus puzzle today was a thing of beauty.

  11. bananarchy says:

    2013 Orca noms were just announced and we’ve already got a strong contender for the 2014 awards. EA’s FB was quite simply astonishing.

  12. Tuning Spork says:

    I’m a week late to this thread – (finally got around to renewing my NYT subscription) -, but I want my royalties! :-P

Comments are closed.