Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fireball 9:28 (Amy) 
NYT 4:40 (Amy) 
LAT 6:38 (Gareth, paper) 
CS tk (Ade) 
BEQ 8:39 (Ben) 

Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 3 12 15, no 0312

NY Times crossword solution, 3 12 15, no 0312

You know the battlefield/action movie cry, “Fire in the hole!”? There are two big holes in this grid—2×2 chunks of black squares—and we are to imagine that FIRE is in each of them to complete the eight answers that butt up against each hole. The upper one has 24a PLAYS WITH fire, 28a GUNfire, 26a fire LANE, 29a fire ANTS, 9d WILDfire, 10d SPITfire, 34d fire-LIT, and 35d fire AXE. The other hole offers 47a OPEN fire, 53a SUREfire, 50a fireMAN (50a. [Many a calendar beefcake]!), 31d MISfire, 32d BONfire, 58d fire SALE, 59d fire EXIT, and the revealer: 54a. [Warning before a detonation … and a hint to 16 of this puzzle’s answers], fire IN THE HOLE.

I like the theme, which is executed quite well and offered just the right amount of “Wait, what on earth is going on here?” before the penny dropped.

Top fill: LOST ARTS, I’D SAY SO, ARBOR DAY, and <small>I wish I were</small> POOLSIDE.

Biggest clue disappointment: 14a. [What juice may come out of?] was promising, and then the answer was the blah ANODES. Worst crossing: 52a. [“Heaven’s ___ vault, / Studded with stars unutterably bright”: Shelley] meets 42d. [Seashore flier]. EBON and ERNE feel rather crosswordese-ish to me. Because Ellen and Jeff have documented their skills and standards where fill is concerned, there’s not much subpar fill here despite the inclusion of 16 theme answers and two wide-open corners.

3.9 stars from me.

Leonard Williams and David Steinberg’s Fireball crossword, “Mixed Feelings”

Fireball crossword solution, 3 12 15 "Mixed Feelings"

Fireball crossword solution, 3 12 15 “Mixed Feelings”

This one’s a rebus puzzle with two allied entries that evoke visual symbols of the feelings in the rebus squares:

  • 13a. [Trademark gesture from Fonzie*], THUMBS UP. On Facebook, the “Like” icon is a thumbs-up icon.
  • 19a. [1965 Dave Clark Five hit], I {LIKE} IT {LIKE} THAT. Crossing APE-{LIKE} and NOT {LIKE}LY.
  • 37a. [“Brigadoon” tune], ALMOST {LIKE} BEING IN {LOVE}. Crossing that verbal [Teen leader?], “I’M, {LIKE}” and “I’D {LOVE} TO.”
  • 51a. [Saying about acceptance in a relationship], “{LOVE} ME, {LOVE} MY DOG.” LOVE MY DOG fits into the space and was a red herring for me. {LOVE} BUG and S{LOVE}NES cross this. Anyone else try SERBS before figuring out the rebus action?
  • 65a. [Brand of yarn*], RED HEART. I don’t know any yarn brands, but a RED HEART is the classic symbol for love.

I didn’t know either song title in this theme, or the yarn brand—so there was an awful lot of working laboriously through the crossings. That’s not a terrible thing to do unless there’s also a rebus lurking in there that you don’t know about. Oof! And there were plenty of difficult clues for the crossings, so the whole thing was a Stumper-grade challenge.

Dislikes: MR. ED when the show used Mister Ed, ESS, STET. The wonderful FOOD COMA offset the bad vibes.

Favorite clues:

  • 55d. [Christian who’s really into kinky sex], GREY. Fifty Shades humor.
  • 6d. [Dreaded pooch?], PULI. The puli is a dog with a corded coat, basically waterproof dreadlocks.
  • 28a. [Crime that pays?], BRIBERY. I considered this early on but I had UMP- for [Teen leader?] interfering with BRIBERY’s revelation.

Four stars from me.

P.S. Yes, my .puz solution has marked each LIKE and LOVE wrong. I know better.

Alex Miller’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150312

LA Times

Apparently there’s an event coming up called MARCHMADNESS… And there I thought everyone was glued to the Cricket World Cup as it approaches the knock-out stages, with Ireland vs. Pakistan likely to determine the last quarter-finalist! Anyway, all the themers begin with anagrams (sensu lato) of MARCH. That’s a tough word to anagram, and to accomodate this, the anagrams are merely parts of words (or span two words in HAMCREPE’s case). The answers themselves are not as interesting as the conceit of MARCH as anagram fodder. The best is composer RACHMANINOFF. We also have CHARMED (clued as the TV show, which helps liven things a bit, I guess), HAMCREPE (ham doesn’t make a very good bandage material, it must be said; perhaps combine with a mustard plaster…) and an ARMCHAIR.

Some interesting medium-length makes up for the flat theme. FANFIC is excellent, plus we get ANTFARM, SCHMEAR, HEARYE, HIATUS and NAZARETH. The FANFIC/ANTFARM stack comes at the price of NTEST and RLS – not convinced that’s worth it, even if FANFIC is the best answer in the puzzle! First do no harm. Outside of that section, this grid actually reflects that philosophy admirably.

Bos indicusOther notes:

  • [Reservoir creator], DAM. In South African English, DAMs create DAMs.
  • Clecho alert: [Milk sources for some Tibetan cheese], YAKS and [Milk sources for some Greek cheese], EWES. Strictly speaking YAKs are male, so I’m not sure I’d eat YAK cheese!
  • [Story you might find on, briefly], FANFIC. I’m not sure I want to know what stories Mary Sue has for us there!

3.25 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Hear Ye Hear Ye” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 9.29.44 PM

Getting stuck on one of the theme answers this week really ruined my solve time this week. Here’s a case where I immediately knew what to expect from the theme clues, but still had some trouble.

With a name like “Hear Ye Hear Ye”, it’s fairly easy to guess what’s going on with the theme answers – each has some phonetic “YE” sound added to an otherwise ordinary phrase or title:

  • 20A: Woody’s wife getting off? – COMING SOON YI
  • 37A: Battle Royal between Kanye and everybody? – WORLD WAR YEEZY
  • 52A: Wait for a second before doing a cowboy’s shout? – HEM AND YEEHAW

While I liked all of the theme answers (although seeing 20A outside of something like an AV Club puzzle felt like a bit of a shock), it was a little disappointing that they didn’t all have a YEE in them. I ended up getting tripped up on 37A – I had WORLD and YEEZY, but kept trying to figure out some variant of versus to stick in the middle.

Besides YEEZY, fellow musicians MGMT (17A, “Band with the 2007 hit ‘Kids'”) and Steve VAI (42A, “Steve whom the Village Voice called the Douchiest Guitar Player of All Time”) made appearances in the fill. Other interesting bits I liked were MCJOB (56A), ROMCOM (1D), and 14A‘s ONUS (if only because I am catching up on the Sparks Nevada bits of the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast and there is a lot of talk of onus there).

There were also a few nitpick-y things in the clues I didn’t love this week, besides the inconsistency in the theme answers. SUMMER MOVIE made sense as an answer for 3D (“Blockbuster, often”), but somehow read a little odd to me, and THE CIA felt like a similarly odd phrasing for “Its headquarters are in Langley, Virginia”. Again, those mostly feel nitpick-y for what was otherwise some pretty good fill and a good puzzle, overall.

3.5/5 stars

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14 Responses to Thursday, March 12, 2015

  1. David L says:

    A nice trick, which luckily I figured out early on, and then the puzzle was pretty straightforward. Is FIRELIT really a word anyone would use, though? Did you remember to bring in wood for the fireplace, dear? Yes, and it’s now firelit!

    Here’s another question that has bugged me for a while. 56D is EMOTE, a word that shows up in crosswords with some regularity, and the clue is “act like an amateur.” No surprise — ’emote’ is always clued by some reference to overacting, bad acting, hamming it up, etc etc. This seems unjust to me. When King Lear is losing his marbles, he’s supposed to emote, isn’t he? Standing around stoically reciting his lines in a state of quiet resignation wouldn’t do the job.

    MW11 defines ’emote’ as ‘to give expression to emotion, esp in acting.’ Why has it become the fixed convention in crosswords that this is always a bad thing? Or is this just another of those crossword oddities, like the fact that of all the species of trees in the world, the only ones that create shade are elms?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Thank you, David! Yes. Precisely. I’ve complained about this malarkey off and on for years, to no avail. A psychologist friend who took a lot of drama classes in her youth uses the word to mean “show/express emotion” in a healthy way. As in “His family has always been bad at emoting.” I have read an awful lot of TV and movie reviews in magazines and you know what? When the critics lambaste an actor’s performance, they never seem to blame it on “emoting.”

      All right, I’m switching over to e-mote, a mote of dust inside an electronic device.

      • Gary R says:

        The on-line dictionaries I looked at, as well as my dead-tree AHD seem to embrace the “ham it up” sense of emote. Some use the relatively neutral “in a theatrical manner” while others explicitly refer to “excessive,” “exaggerated” or “inept” expression of emotion.

        I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the term used in conversation. Meaning no offense to your psychologist friend, it seems like one of those words that someone might use to sound more authoritative. I have a friend who consistently says “utilize” instead of “use.” At least your friend isn’t wasting syllables!

    • Martin says:

      It’s not just crosswords. Some dictionaries are non-judgmental but others say “exaggerated” or “inept.” As with so many questions of usage, crossword editors take the heat long after lexicographers have thrown in the towel.

    • john farmer says:

      Acting with Adler: Acting is doing. But when imagination is applied to doing the action, feelings emerge. Adler taught that it is useless to attempt to feel. Making an effort to emote, which she called “pushing” or “squeezing,” was the surest indication of bad acting or a lack of technique.

      That’s why EMOTE gets clued for bad acting. But I agree there are plenty of neutral and positive uses of the word that rarely get into crosswords.

      • David L says:

        But I take it that it’s “making the effort to emote” rather than emoting itself that’s the flaw. The actor shouldn’t be seen as striving for effect, in other words.

        • john farmer says:

          Not sure if this will help but here is the first part of that quotation: At the beginning of our training, we predictably thought that acting is feeling. Adler corrected the misunderstanding. Acting is doing.

          I think Adler would say that emoting is not acting (and vice versa) even if the effort is artfully concealed.

          • David L says:

            The actor’s goal is to “do” but not “feel”? That sounds like robot acting to me. Or Keanu Reeves. In any case, an actor giving a good performance presumably gives expression to emotion — i.e. emotes — through their “doing.”

            I’m not at all sure I know what these distinctions mean, but I have a suspicion we’re probably going round in circles.

          • john farmer says:

            If you click on the link to Adler, you’ll see it’s not about “robot acting” at all. I was trying to give some background on why, in acting shorthand, emoting can be viewed as bad acting — usage that dictionaries support.

            I understand your point, that conveying emotions and emoting are the same thing, and not something negative. I agree, except that the word emoting has a history in the world of acting, which may not be obvious to us non-actors because what we see is the result and not the actor’s internal process.

  2. Matt says:

    Both NYT and FB were both entertaining. FB was tough– I had to look up a bit of sports trivia to finish the NW– but otherwise doable.

  3. Avg Solvr says:

    Another entertaining, artful puzzle from Jeff Chen and friend. Loved the animated fires online.

  4. Margaret says:

    I thought the LAT theme was timely and the anagrams were all actual words/phrases you’d use, even HAM CREPE which I balked at initally but then saw the accent mark on cafe, making it more appropriate. As far as the fill goes, all I have to say is FANFIC! Excellent current-day word with a terrific clue.

  5. dr. fancypants says:

    This was the first time in quite a while that I was downright disappointed by the Fireball puzzle. I found it to be a joyless slog–at some point I Googled two clues just so I could be done with it.

    Thankfully, today’s NYT puzzle more than made up for it. I liked the theme and the theme density. And there were no memorable “ugh” moments.

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