Fireball 9:49 (Amy)
NYT 4:30 (Amy)
LAT 4:26 (Gareth)
CS 11:41 (Ade)
BEQ untimed (Matt)
Over at his Devil Cross puzzle site, Evan Birnholz has written a righteous polemic against the underwhelming fill ALER(S) and NLER(S). Check it out.
John Farmer’s New York Times crossword
You know the theme answers but they’re not fitting? Exactly. Each theme entry has a 3-letter overlap between two words where the words slide into each other:
- 18a. [Cream-filled chocolate treats], WHOOPIES. Whoopie pies. B-b-b-but two pies are better than just one pie.
- 19a. [Mark of dishonor], SCARLETTER. Scarlet letter.
- 39a. [“If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” poet], PERCY BYSSHELLEY. Percy Bysshe Shelley. Tell me how Bysshe is pronounced, please.
- 57a. [All-time scoring leader for the U.S. men’s soccer team], LANDONOVAN. Landon Donovan.
- 62a. [Official residence at the Vatican], PAPALACE. Papal Palace.
- 69a. [What three-letter words do in five answers in this puzzle], REPEAT. Nice angle that each trigram is a legitimate word and not just a letter sequence.
It took me a while to work all the crossings for 11d. [Ultimate rally-killer]. TRIPLE PLAY? In baseball? Whatever. “Rally-killer” didn’t mean much to me, and 11a. [“L’Amore dei ___ Re” (Montemezzi opera)], TRE, that was a never-heard-of-it for me. Does that mean “The Love of Three Kings”?
Capitalized words outside the theme numbered about 25, not counting abbreviations. I suspect this led to some elongated solving times and heightened frustration for a lot of solvers. Little bits like VAL [___ d’Orcia (Tuscan region)] and ECO (10d. [“The Island of the Day Before” novelist]) could have been made much more accessible. A standard Thursday-grade solving time for me, but then I am good with names.
Four more things:
- 17a. [Bonkers], MENTAL. Raise your hand if you scowl at slang that makes light of mental illness.
- 42a. [Inspiration for Johann Strauss II], DANUBE. Rivers are awesome. They make me want to waltz, too. (Wait a minute. I’m only now finding out there were Johann Strausses I and II?)
- 52a. [Edomite patriarch], ESAU. That clue made me turn to the crossings. Looked like it was going to be a piece of biblical arcana!
- 58d. [Bird bills], NEBS! Man, I haven’t seen this bit of crosswordese in so long.
3.66 stars from me.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “The Whole Package”—Ade’s write-up
Hello once again, everyone!
It’s a (very) rainy start to a Thursday here in New York City, but a very bright and sunny theme for today’s crossword, brought to us today by Ms. Donna S. Levin. In it, the first word of the three across theme answers combine to form the term All of Me, which is both the name of a (very) funny film and a (very) popular song. The movie’s co-star and the music artist who performs the song comprise the two theme answers going down.
- ALL FIRED UP: (17A: [Rarin’ to go])
- OF AGE: (38A: [Old enough])
- ME AND MY GAL: (60A: [1932 Spencer Tracy/Joan Bennett romcom])
- JOHN LEGEND: (11D: [Singer whose 2014 #1 hit has a title formed by the starts of 17-, 38-, and 60-Across])
- LILY TOMLIN: (28D: [Actress whose 1984 movie has a title formed by the starts of 17-, 38-, and 60-Across]) – SPOILER ALERT: Which man doesn’t want a woman controlling half of his body movements and thinking??
There was some great fill in the grid, none the least of which was NAYSAYER, a word that I’ve recently had a habit of saying a whole lot when doing sports reports (41A: [One who’s a buzzkill]). The naysayers are now doubting my ability to curb my use of the word naysayer. Then there was RICO, which, fortunately (at least for me), made me think of the one-hit wonder and its artist, Gerardo, who I think is now a Christian minister for children (18D: [“____ Suave” (1991 hit song)]). It also made me think of the time a former co-worker of mine played “Rico Suave” incessantly on YouTube in our office after another co-worker mentioned the song out loud. I wonder if that song, if it came out in this era of social media and YouTube, would have gone VIRAL (14A: [Like super-popular videos]). Even some of the mistakes I made in initially filling some of the answers were fun, including first typing in “A-Listers” instead of FEASTERS (39D: [Participants in a lavish banquet]). I actually got stuck in that section of the grid since I left the incorrect, yet very plausible, answer up there for a while, and only got out of that rut when one of its crossings had to be TESLA (44A: [Unit of flux density, or the physicist for whom it is named]). Because I’m an odd bird, I saw the words “flux density” and immediately thought of the movie Back to the Future and the flux capacitor. “EIGHTY-EIGHT MILES PER HOUR!!” Overall, it was a real fun solve.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HENIE (43A: [Skater-turned-actress Sonja]) – What makes Sonja HENIE one of the most fascinating and intriguing athletes in the history of sport? Not only was she arguably the greatest figure skater of all time (three consecutive gold medals at the Winter Olympics, in 1928, 1932 and 1936), she also, after her amateur athletic career, became the most in-demand actress in Hollywood at her peak and eventually earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Moreover, she also became a pariah of sorts for a while in her native Norway (and other areas) as she had a strong association with members of Nazi Germany, including Adolf Hitler himself, during the lead-up to World War II. She did later end up getting back in the good graces of many Norwegians after the war as she performed on ice as part of a skating tour across the country. Again, such a fascinating story.
See you all on Friday, and thank you so much for your time!
Victor Barocas’s Fireball crossword, “Going to the Next Level”
Unusual theme here—The circled letters on top have an inherent “over” in them and the circled squares in the bottom of the grid have an inherent “under”. The answers below and above the circled letters need the circled letter and the preposition to be understood.
- 21a. Impeccable], AEPROACH. Really A, B over E, proach, or ABOVE REPROACH.
- 23a. Gregarious types], EXTTS. Really EXT, R over T, S.
- 32a. Goobers, e.g.], CHOCOLATE ED PEANUTS. Really CHOCOLATE, C over E, D PEANUTS.
- 55a. Sandwich consumed by Morgan Spurlock in February 2003], QUARTER P WITH CHEESE. QUARTER P O under W ITH CHEESE.
- 67a. Certain muzzleloader], BBUSS. B, L under B, USS.
- 71a. Mob lawyer, maybe], MONEY LER. MONEY L A under E R.
I like the two food items occupying 18-square grid-spanning entries, but actually being 23 and 24 letters long.
The puzzle took a good long while to unravel, since mastering the top half might well persuade you that OVER was also involved in the bottom half.
Five more things:
- 39a. [What might come out of the blue?], ISLET / 31d. [Jazz guitarist ___ Farlow], TAL. That L was the last thing to fall. I don’t know that a small island is technically “coming out of” the water. Isn’t it just sitting there? Unless it is actively forming by volcanic eruption, it’s not “coming out.”
- 12d. [Tomorrow is in it], NEAR FUTURE. This one was weird. Didn’t come easily.
- 16a. [André the Giant’s middle name], RENÉ. Total guess that proved right.
- 43d. [Turns into a Mercedes-Benz logo, say, as a circle], TRISECTS.
- 13d. [Unrefined] INCULT. I’m sorry, what?? Is this a scientific or technical term? I’ve never seen this word before. Just me?
4.25 stars from me.
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Battle of the Bands” — Matt’s review
Your archetypal BEQ puzzle: Brendan conceals famous military conflicts inside battles between musicians:
20-A [“Give Me Everything” rapper vs. “My Adidas” rappers (7/21/1861)] = PIT(BULLRUN)-DMC. Battle of BULL RUN, Union vs. Confederacy. Winner: Confederacy. Music battle winner: never heard of Pit Bull, so we’ll give this one to Run-DMC.
25-A [“Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” band vs. DJ born Richard Melville Hall (2/23/1836-3/6/1836)] = TAME IMP(ALA MO)BY. The Siege of the ALAMO, Mexico vs. Texas. Winner: Mexico. Music battle winner: never heard of Tame Impala, so we’ll give this one to Moby.
42-A [“Take On Me” one-hit wonders vs. “Every Breath You Take” singer vs. “Angel of Death” metal band (10/14/1066)] = A-(HA STING S)LAYER. Three-way battle, as many have been in history. Battle of Hastings, France vs. England. Winner: France. Music battle winner: Slayer is not an option, and normally Sting would win over a-ha, but I’m going to give it to a-ha here because BEQ has slandered them with the “one-hit wonder” label. They were a three-hit wonder.
47-A [“Round and Round” glam band vs. “Twin Infinitives” punks (sometime in the 1100s B.C.)] = RAT(TROY)AL TRUX, Trojan War. Athens vs. Troy. Winner: Athens. OK, Wikipedia tells me it wasn’t exactly Athens but all of Greece. Music battle winner: I’ve never heard of Royal Trux, but I’m going to give them the win anyway because Ratt can’t beat anyone.
***Your standard issue badass BEQ fill: SIXTH MAN, MT. FUJI, BOY CRAZY, HOLD ‘EM, ARBY’S and OH, HI!
***Top clues: [Pitch catcher?] for EAR, [One with will power?] for HEIR, and [“I’m not paying attention to you”] for LALALA.
***OPAL PERIL ZERO in the 14th row sounds like a sequel to “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
A slightly off-beat theme, and one that for me didn’t quite come together nicely: CASECLOSED concludes the puzzle, and the previous answers begin with words associated with a crime scene: A KILLER in [*Programs that generate hardware sales], KILLERAPPS; a dead BODY in [*Certain repair site], BODYSHOP; some CLUES in [*Brings up to speed], CLUESIN; a generic COP in [*Bargain for less jail time], COPAPLEA. The plea is not officially part of the theme as far as I can see. All in all, it felt a bit arbitrary and incomplete, although clever conceptually.
- IDTAG, [Dangler on a dog] – microchips are superior, but pricey.
- CYAN, [Greenish-blue] I first wanted AQUA, which came later, and then TEAL!
- [Gael or Druid], CELT – one of those answers where you have to wait and see: here if it will have a K or the variant C spelling.
- [“Surfin’ ___”], USA. A shameless crib of CHUCKBERRY...
- [José’s “Moulin Rouge” co-star], ZSAZSA seems to have caused the most damage to the grid: below her are ATRI, SRAS and (ugh) OSTAR – no where near worth it IMO.
- [Big name in wine], GALLO… And South African music.
Amy, JS I was the father, JS II was the son (and the Waltz King). The annual New Year’s concert from Vienna has music mainly by the son, but also one or two from the father. Richard Strauss — no relation. Our family photo album shows me, buck naked at age 1 or so, wading in the (no longer blue) Danube. Budapest is a divided city, and just to be clear about it, I was born in Pest.
Nope, not happy with MENTAL clue… Or Bonkers for that matter. So many ways that mental can be clued, why go there? I know it’s in the language, and I’m not particularly into political correctness. But the stigma surrounding mental illness is such a huge hurdle for affected people and their families, anything that adds to it even tangentially feels unwarranted at best.
Re the whole ALER/NLER issue:
There’s the tenor John Aler who’s quite well known in classical music circles. FYI: I knew of him before I became a published constructor. (Not that it makes him good fill, but an alternative occasionally in a hard puzzle, maybe)
I noted him in my post, and while he might be a better choice than the arbitrary baseball abbreviation, I suggested that he’s not famous enough to merit inclusion. Arguably his biggest claim to fame is that he won a Grammy in 1986 for Best Classical Vocal Solo on a recording of Berlioz’s Requiem (side note — I’ve sung in that before and it’s a brilliant piece), but he has nowhere near the star power of Andrea Bocelli or the Three Tenors.
Thanks for the link, Amy.
I see that John ALER has at least one Grammy:
1986 Best Classical Vocal Soloist Performance
(I say “one” because he has three others for being involved in the recordings)
Ah, so you did Evan. Sorry for missing that. However, I’m not suggesting that John Aler has the star-power to be regular fill, but regardless of his Grammy (which I only just found out about), he’s still quite well known in classical circles (he’s been quite widely recorded on major labels). So I think he’d be OK for the occasional Saturday puzzle. (Underline “occasional”!)… so please nobody think I’m saying that somehow ALER is now just peachy for regular crossword fill. I largely agree with Evan: it’s not good fill, especially considering the frequency it is used (full disclosure: I’ve used it once in the NYT).
Here’s John Aler performing a famous Handel aria from “Semele”:
A further shout-out for HENIE in Hollywood: “Sun Valley Serenade” is a 1941 musical film starring Sonja Henie, John Payne, Glenn Miller, Milton Berle, and Lynn Bari. It features the Glenn Miller Orchestra as well as dancing by the Nicholas Brothers and Dorothy Dandridge, performing “Chattanooga Choo Choo”, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996, and was awarded the first Gold Record for sales of 1.2 million.
With the -PLAY already in play in my grid, I put in DOUBLE instead of TRIPLE as the “Rally killer,” but I guess either can take the wind out of the sails of a baseball team that has a few players on base in an inning. I preferred DOUBLE, though, as it seemed to echo the theme idea and might’ve been a better revealer than REPEAT. (I’d prefer none at all.)
Hand up for grimacing at the MENTAL clue.
And finally, timely shout out to Landon Donovan who played his last MLS game earlier this week.
” Tell me how Bysshe is pronounced, please.”
Based on my research, it rhymes with fish. Or, fysshe.
I attended that game at Rentschler field in East Hartford, with my brother, who is a major soccer fan, and who came up from Virginia just for the occasion. Donovan played 40 minutes and hit the post once and was barely wide another time. The US scored very early. There was some disappointment when Ecuador got the (well-deserved) equalizer right at the end, but there was good will and good vibes throughout the game. There were some boisterous Americans next to me chanting “USA, USA”, but there was a group of Ecuadorians right behind us, and when Ecuador scored, they began chanting “EC-CUA- DOR” as a gesture of good will, and there was good cheer all around.
It’s a nice little stadium, but the parking and traffic in and out was unbelievably horrendous, and totally uncontrolled. I don’t know how that venue can pretend to be adequately set up for any major event. A road rage riot was a much more worrisome possibility than a soccer riot. We parked on basically a large cow pasture, with no installed lights (just portable generators) and hordes of meandering lost souls searching for the gateway to paradise, or at least to their cars . I shudder to think what it would have been like had it rained.
I liked John’s puzzle much better than the consensus, though I share some hesitation at the “mental” clue. The puzzle shows that a theme can be straightforward, even obvious, yet satisfying and entertaining.
Incidentally, I’m pretty sure that “Jim Parsons” is the actor whom I recently described as “odious,” in TV Show promos. But the show promoted was “Big Bang” rather than “Breaking Bad,” which I confuse because I’ve never seen either of them, and because they sound the same and run together in the mind.
Bysshe is pronounced “BISH,” right? Right?
I am stunned that John’s Thursday NYT is being greeted with shrugs. To me it’s a perfect (if too easy) Thursday. Five-plus themers, open grid with almost zero crap. TRIPLE PLAY is a top-notch entry with an absolutely spot-on clue. And this gets below-average ratings from the commentariat? Wow.
Get used to it. It’s a tough crowd.
Loved, loved theme (the theme). Well-executed. The fill was rough in spots and the names really caught me up (TRE, ALMA, ALEC, VAL, etc) but that’s as much due to my lack of knowledge in those areas. Once I fought through the cobwebs and found the theme, it really moved from there.
Like Howard, I thought the gimmick was very good but it had a lot of names I didn’t know which made it a pain to fill.
I loved it as well, except for that one clue.
I’d take 100 ALER(S) and NLER(S) in exchange for a ban on clues making light of mental illness.
I agree, this one is severely underrated
I struggled to complete the NYT, mostly due to personal knowledge gaps.
In the northeast, I wasn’t familiar with the Montemezzi opera, nor the movie “42,” so that cross was a bit of a guess. I did recognize “42” as a movie, but that was it – and I was trying to come up with an actor’s name anyway, not a character. Had also gone with “Moon pie” before I had any idea about a theme, which didn’t help in that corner.
I’m familiar with Percy B. Shelley, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the middle name spelled out (seems like it would stand out in my mind, if I had – pretty unusual).
Down in the southeast, Landon Donovan’s name is passingly familiar, but I had gone with mOLE instead of VOLE, so between that error and the repeating letters deal, I couldn’t see it.
Overall though, I enjoyed the solve. I was a bit surprised at the end when I had only one wrong letter, the “m” in mole.
For future reference, moles aren’t rodents (as per the clue). Nor are shrews, for that matter.
One more knowledge gap filled!
Amy, re FB:
How the devil did you figure out that the circled letters had “inherent” words in them? Even after your explanation, I’m still not sure I get it. Weird thing is, I had all the theme answers and still couldn’t see what was going on. It didn’t help that I thought “Impeccable” to be BEYOND REPROACH, not ABOVE it.
I got stuck in the SW corner with the name of the mayor, QUIMBY (I’m not sure why I’m supposed to know that), so I was unable to complete the solve. Bummer.
Loved loved loved the Fireball. INCULT was the last to fall for me and was the only think that made me wince. LOVED the theme. Original and well-done. John, I got the theme with ABOVEREPROACH because it included ABOVE – for a minute I thought that was the theme, and then I saw OVER and it all made sense.
I also really liked your theme and didn’t at all mind the fill – didn’t even notice it as an issue. It’s a great grid. The clue for MENTAL was so disturbing that if I did the star rating thing, I would have given it one star. It’s insulting and degrading and completely unnecessary, and I probably wouldn’t have said anything if you hadn’t said “tough crowd”. The objection to degrading and insulting language is not the same as “there are too many names I don’t know”.
There’s no reason to remove the word MENTAL from the grid – it’s a perfectly fine word with a lot of perfectly fine ways to clue it.
I didn’t react negatively to Bonkers/MENTAL. M-W Unabridged lists wacky – eccentric or irrational especially in an amusing, absurd, or fantastic manner – as one definition of mental. I’m willing to give the constructor and the editor the benefit of the doubt here.
About MENTAL. Not sure I understand, or agree. Sincerely.
Bonkers, bananas, nuts, loco, cuckoo, wacko, batty, mad, psycho, berserk, loony, round the bend, off his/her rocker, out of his/her mind, crazy, demented, mental. Using any of these terms to describe someone with mental health problems would be offensive. Of course. No argument there. For similar reasons, we don’t use the words idiot, imbecile, and moron to categorize people with low IQs.
Yet those words survive and are part of everyday language. Because when we speak, we don’t use just words but words in context. Words I wouldn’t use in a clinical context I may use with friends and family (until they’ve been diagnosed, at least). “My boss is nuts.” “That song’s totally demented.” “Her prom date went mental.”
Though the words can be offensive in some contexts, mostly they’re used in slangy everyday language without a professional mental health connotation intended. Fwiw, I have family members who work in the mental health field. I don’t think I’m insensitive about the issue. I did do a quick search to see if mental is generally considered a pejorative or derogatory term. In a mental health context, yes, and I agree. But if it’s objectionable as a loose term meaning bonkers, I missed it. Fwiw, there is dictionary support for the latter usage.
I realize the prevailing idea here is don’t use anything that someone might consider offensive. But we also shouldn’t be quick to take offense when none is intended.
For the record:
I am a papa, Jenny, and I am John, but I am not the “Papa John” commenting above. (I didn’t have anything to do with the Fireball either.)
The MENTAL clue wasn’t mine either, but I felt like it needed a defense. If I’m totally off-base and there is something special about the word that makes it taboo (in that sense), please enlighten me.
Thanks for the comments, folks.
Oops. That should be “Jenni.” (For some reason, can’t edit on the iPad.)
I don’t think you’re using “mental” correctly. You’re example seems to be better for “postal.”
As you might guess I’m with you but if it helps, “mental” (as short for “mental case”) is in the idiot, imbecile and moron group. I think people feel that terms that are, or once were, actual diagnoses should not be used lightly, such as to describe odd behavior.
The theory is that a loved one may be an actual mental case in an active file somewhere, while bananas, bats and cuckoos don’t have feelings. I’m sure that some would prefer none of these terms be used, but I also believe some make the distinction between clinical and quasi-clinical terms and pure slang.
I’ll cop to still calling Alex a “moron” if he does something particularly dumb, but we both know it’s homage to a Howard Stern movie we’ve watched together many times. I wouldn’t say it in public. Charges of hypocrisy gracefully accepted in advance.
I have to disagree, Martin. My understanding of mental is exactly like John (not Papa) described. Someone going mental is the same as someone going postal. A mental case comes closer to what I understand to be the gripe, that is, it refers to someone with a limited mental capacity. That’s just my anecdotal take on it. I haven’t looked for dictionary backing.
Quick note before I have to run. For a sense of “go mental,” let’s go to the dictionary, which doesn’t seem consistent with itself. Definition says “become very angry” but the three citations given use a different meaning, more like “bonkers.” None below seems offensive to my ear.
Nathan Hogg, drummer and the youngest of the group, smiles as he tells me: “We just go mental on stage.”
They’re really easy to live with, don’t rust and at that money you could sell for much more in France, where they go mental for them.
They’d have had the foresight to pack a pair in advance so they could go mental in the mosh pit without fear of contracting trenchfoot.
Follow the link for “mental” and you’ll find different references. American Heritage has a couple of slang definitions, one labeled “offensive,” one not; Collins and Random House provide “insane” definitions but no warning labels like “offensive.” So the references don’t agree. Hey, just like people here.
I don’t like to offend people for no good reason. But I don’t like to ban use of words or meanings without good reason either. As I said before, context is important. If you want to scowl or grimace at the clue (more offense taken here than at Wordplay, fwiw), go ahead. But we won’t all agree.
And “various decent people have told us that they find this language is very hurtful” is not a good enough reason? For me it is. I know numerous people whose loved ones have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and if these people don’t care for the usage, then I don’t care for the usage and I will try to be sensitive and not use it, because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings when it is so easy NOT to.
Mental Floss magazine, mental calculations, the Mental Health Parity Act, mental faculties—it’s not as if we just can’t come up with a way of cluing MENTAL that doesn’t marginalize folks with mental illnesses. A word like “bonkers” makes light of some very real suffering.
Agreed. If usage is hurtful to people, let’s not use it. My point was that words can have uses in contexts that have nothing to do with the people who may be offended. Really an inquiry more than an argument, but I’m done. My original clue was for Mental Floss. Still a good one for another day.
I’m sorry, John, for confusing you with the other commenter. I appreciate your attention to the misspelling of my name. Most people don’t even notice, and my iPad autocorrects it to the wrong spelling…
I think the comments here give the reasons that it’s worth finding another way to define “mental”. There are lots of words that are part of everyday language that are hurtful, and there are lots of words and phrases that used to be part of everyday language and now are not.
I’m surprised at the relative disdain for this clever puzzle. The fill struck me as excellent an the gimmick original.
Two comments. A vole is indeed a rodent. And a triple play is the better answer for “ultimate rally killer” because it indeed is even worse (for the team at bat) than a double play.
Hum? Why the vole clarification now?
I misread an earlier post. The vole/mole distinction was indeed clarified above.
Since I’m coming here very late (the next day) I will simply and totally agree with Greg about John Farmer’s Thursday crossword.