Hello, Thursday solvers! You like challenge and you like creative puzzles. Check out Patrick Blindauer’s latest suite of meta-puzzles, Space Puzzlefest. Each of about a dozen crosswords is hiding a secret answer, with each puzzle using a different twist. At the end, solvers work to combine all the meta answers to uncover a final answer, and if you nail that, you might win a prize! The grand prize drawing on February 27 will give one lucky correct respondent a copy of Sun & Shadows, a book of Vogonesque poetry by erstwhile NYT crossword editor Eugene T. Maleska. (I sure don’t know what Vogonesque means. That’s half the charm right there.) Click the Space Puzzlefest link above to buy your ticket to journey into Patrick’s mental outer space.
Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword
A rather subtle and ambitious theme: The phrase fifth column is used to tie together five columns of answers in which each entry is the fifth of a series:
- 1d. [Planet], JUPITER. Fifth from the sun.
- 4d. [Note on the musical scale], SOL. Do re mi fa—.
- 6d. [James Bond portrayer], PIERCE BROSNAN. Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, then Brosnan? And now Daniel Craig. Perhaps Idris Elba will be 007 #7.
- 9d. [Man who walked on the moon], ALAN SHEPARD. I gather four other astronauts beat him there.
- 18d. [Labor of Hercules], AUGEAN STABLES. Lots of dreadful chores before and after that particularly poop-filled clean-up task. (Is that the only classical myth that prominently features poop?)
- 25d. [Book of the Bible], DEUTERONOMY.
- 46d. [Chemical element], BORON.
- 59d. [Month], MAY.
- 15d. [With 45-Down, subversive groups … or what the answers in the circled squares comprise?], FIFTH /COLUMNS.
Ten entries, symmetrically slotted, occupying six of 15 columns … is that 78 theme squares? That’s a heckuva lot, and it’s a 72-worder as well, so that accounts for the rough patches in the fill (variant EMEER and unfamiliar fencing term, I’m looking at you).
There’s some challenging fill and cluing lurking in here:
- 7d. [Fencing thrust], PASSADO. Given all the French terminology in fencing, I’d assumed an E at the end and didn’t eyeball the crossing, so one wrong square for me. We did a fencing unit in high-school gym and I don’t recall learning PASSADO at all.
- 1a. [Kind of stick], JOSS. Apparently “joss stick” is a type of incense. With this being 1a and intersecting two themers, I might’ve opted for a parenthetical FITB clue like [___ stick (incense option)].
- 5a. [One may be involved in phone tapping], APP. As in tapping on a phone’s touchscreen to use a mobile app.
- 13a. [Decoder ring, for short?], CIA. “Ring” as in group of people in cahoots.
- 64a. [Dot-dot-dot], ESS. Morse code dots, yay, how exciting. Spelled-out letter name, wahoo. Combine the two and it’s enchantment, I tell you.
- 65a. [Backwoods possessive], YERS. That … is a weird one.
- 19a. [Neighbors of ulnae], CARPI. We all filled in RADII first, didn’t we?
TILDE is clued 24a. [El Niño feature]. Earlier today, I learned that Asians have repurposed the tilde, or “wave dash,” as a piece of punctuation with specific roles. “When used in conversations via email or instant messenger it may be used as a sarcasm mark” by the Japanese, and “In informal messaging in China and in South Korea the tilde is sometimes used at the end of sentences to indicate a semi-excited but not alarmed tone; somewhere between a “.” and a “!” I am drawn to both of these uses, but unfortunately I have no idea how to distinguish between them if I were to use them~ Now, is that semi-excited or sarcastic?
I didn’t especially enjoy the solve, but I’m finding little to compel a rating below 4 stars.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 80”
Right after I finished this puzzle, I learned that a friend’s house was destroyed by fire today. The family and pets are safe, but all their stuff is gone. Am feeling rather rattled! If you’ve had a fire yourself, please tell me what the most useful things your friends did for you was. I want to be of use.
(Note: Cruciverbal Fireball was not the cause of the fire.)
Fairly easy for a FB themeless, I thought. Started with YO MAMA-meets-YAMAHA and I was off to the races.
- Deutsch fünfzehns! 17a. [Complete downfall of a regime], GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG, and 58a. [Creation in which music, drama, dance, and other performing arts are integrated], GESAMTKUNSTWERK. Easy-peasy … unless you never took any German.
- 24a. [Tattered garment, in slang], SHMATTE. Yiddish word. I should use this more often. You know how a guy’s T-shirts sometimes verge on the molecular, sprouting holes and thinning out as the cotton fibers vanish in years of laundry? I gotta point out to my husband when he’s wearing such a shmatte.
- 52a. [Winning Best Actor role after Ray and Truman], IDI. I haven’t memorized my Oscar years, so I tried ALI here first … paying no mind to the first/last name mismatch ALI represents.
- 64a. [Leftover on a school lunch tray, maybe], TATER TOT. I’m thinking that’s the one thing that gets finished.
- 6d. [Ajaccio and Bastia are its two main cities], CORSICA. Never heard of the cities! And that, despite having had my hair cut by a Corsican named Stéphane for a couple years.
- 18d. [1979’s top hit song], MY SHARONA. By The Knack, whose lead singer’s brother was Jack Kevorkian’s lawyer.
- 57d. [Trick-taking game with a 32-card deck], SKAT. Have any of you ever played this game? I am quite convinced it exists only in crosswords today.
Lowlights: Awkward abbrev ADVT (twice as long as “ad”!), ELOI, SKAT. Three blechs in a 70-worder is not bad. Not quite Berry-grade but pretty good.
Four stars from me. I rather liked the German 15s.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Manspreading” — Ben’s Review
After a few so-so puzzles, BEQ roars back with this week’s Thursday puzzle, “Manspreading”. For those who’ve missed the recent trend pieces, manspreading is the term that’s now being applied when a guy on public transit is taking more than his fair share of seat space with his legs fully splayed. Similarly, the theme answers in this week’s puzzle have a few LEGs spread wide on either end of the answer:
20A: Unauthorized copy of a peanut? – LEGUME BOOTLEG
38A: Pass laws about a golf course bend? – LEGISLATE DOGLEG
58A: Designer Cassini? – LEGENDARY OLEG
All of these were very cleverly done, with the last one providing a nice twist on an otherwise well-worn piece of crosswordese. The inclusion of manspreading isn’t the only piece of recent news/pop culture-based content – there’s also a mention of Charlie HEBDO (9A), The Imitation Game (ENIGMA, 3D), the new CSI: Cyberspace spin-off (44A) and rapper ASAP Rocky (43A). New ways of cluing some old favorites (a mention of Stephen REA in 34A also mentioned motorcycler Gino, the aforementioned CSI clue – seriously, how do they keep making new spinoffs of that show?) kept the solve from getting too easy, although this was definitely a step down in terms of difficulty from last week’s puzzle.
A few of the down clues irked me this week – are BLOGROLLs (11D) still a big thing (he said, noticing the sidebar of this very site)? Similarly, ASWAN DAM (41D) and AFL-CIO (50D) are just far enough outside of my regular crossword vocal that I needed a lot of help from the the crossing clues to get them. Overall, this was a great puzzle from BEQ; now if you’ll excuse me, I’m suddenly very aware of how much room I’m taking on the T…
4/5 stars from me this week.
Don Gagliardo’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Today’s theme answers are two-word pairs each beginning and ending with the same letter, spelling out GSRE. I’m going to assume this theme is a very limited pool of potential answers, because two answers are in inflected forms: GETTINGGOING rather than GETGOING, and SURPLUSSTORES rather than a singular STORE. Nice concept, but iffy execution. The other answers are REARREFLECTOR & EVERYONEELSE.
On the other hand the non-theme answers are peppered with nuggets of gold. Faves included TEXTME, THEGAP, TRUELOVE/HUNGOVER (a very short poem perhaps?), and TOAMOUSE.
- [Edible Asian shoot], UDO is a tough bit of vocabulary. Is it used in sushi or similar?
- [Cask stopper], BUNG in my world is a veterinary term for the anus, specifically used in the context of abattoirs. My favourite abattoir jargon is still “rodding the weasand”.
- [“The boy you trained, gone he is” speaker], YODA is an evocative clue.
- [Turn right], GEE. In my world that means “Go forwards”. I wonder if you can confuse a horse if you import it from a country where that terminology is flipped
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Rainbow Connection”—Ade’s write-up
Good day, folks! Here’s hoping you walk out today and see the sunshine, and quite possibly catch a glimpse of a little rainbow as well. Today’s crossword puzzle, offered up to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, gives us a few colors of the rainbow, as well as a few that aren’t on the spectrum (but maybe appear in a packet of Skittles). Each of the five theme answers have a color hidden inside of the entries. It actually took me about 10 minutes after I completed the puzzle to figure out the theme. Guess you can definitely say that I was color blind in this puzzle for a while!
- STING RAYS (18A: [Some Corvettes])
- SHORT ANSWERS (20A: [True and false, e.g.])
- SQUARE DANCING (38A: [Activity for guys and gals]) – I have not square danced before, though I think I did the Charleston once in fourth grade, following the steps of my teacher who was a really good dancer. Let’s just say the students weren’t laughing with me when I tried it.
- TIE UP IN KNOTS (56A: [Befuddle])
- GO RANGERS (59A: [Big Apple hockey cheer]) – BOO!!! Rangers blow! Let’s Go (New Jersey) Devils!
Was startled a little but by seeing the two D’s at the end of READD (1A: [Check, as a bill]). I think the only time I wouldn’t be taken by surprise by seeing two D’s at the end of an entry is if I had to answer for Redd Foxx. Love the fill of PHOTOG, as it took me back to my journalism days when hearing that word a lot (46D: [Shooter, briefly]). Anyone else found it more than only coincidental that PURSE (10D: [Prize money]) intersected with PETE, who currently banned from Major League Baseball because of gambling (10A: [Red Rose])? I happen to think he should be in the Hall of Fame, but that’s just me. Can you still buy a box of HI-HO crackers nowadays (37D: [Old Ritz rival])? I’m guessing by the word “old” in the clue that it may officially be a bygone snack. To wrap up, is there anyone out there that has played EUCHRE (2D: [Trick-taking game])? And if so, is it fun? I’ve played just a few playing card games (Texas Hold ‘Em, Black Jack, War, Rummy 5000). Wouldn’t mind learning another one, if I had some spare time.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RAMSAY (1D: [Celebrity chef Gordon]) – One of the greatest basketball coaches, as well as one of the greatest men I’ve ever had a chance to come across, Dr. Jack RAMSAY was a longtime head coach in the college and professional levels, as well as a longtime broadcaster. His greatest achievement in coaching was leading the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers to the NBA Championship, defeating the favored Philadelphia 76ers, led by Dr. J (Julius Erving). After wrapping up his coaching career in 1988, his 864 coaching wins ranked him only behind Red Auerbach as the winningest coach in NBA history. He then went on to be a well-respected broadcaster, working as the color analyst on Miami Heat games and on ESPN/ESPN Radio. Ramsay passed away in April of last year at the age of 89.
See you all on Friday!