Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fireball 6:33 (Amy) 
NYT 5:07 (Amy) 
LAT 8:40 (Gareth) 
CS 8:54 (Ade) 
BEQ 5:45 (Ben) 

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 83”

Fireball crossword solution, 4 16 15 "Themeless 83"

Fireball crossword solution, 4 16 15 “Themeless 83”

Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of 37a: the CURTIS INSTITUTE—[Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber are among its alumni]. *hand raised* Full name Curtis Institute of Music. Berklee and Juilliard, sure. Elsewhere in musical ignorance, I don’t get why 21d. [Trumpet or viola, e.g.] is ORGAN STOP.

However! I nailed 1a. [Rapper with the 2014 hit “Fireball”],  PITBULL, and 27a: HAND GRENADES made me think of Bruno Mars.

Five more things:

  • 64a. Resveratrol source], RED WINE. I wanted GRAPE SKINS to fit here, the primary source.
  • 6d. Quadragesimal], LENTEN. From the Latin, as Lent lasts for 40 days. My son’s NICU stay was quadragesimal.
  • This is a 70-word grid and it doesn’t have a ton of “wow, super-fresh crazy!” fill, so I’m not sure why ARAL, ERTE, ENOS, EER, APPAL, COATER, and RDA are all here. Usually I expect less of that from Peter.
  • 34d. [Susan B. Anthony List members], PRO-LIFERS. It bears noting that there’s no evidence SBA agitated against abortion.
  • 61a. [Mythological figure whose name is Greek for “inexorable”], ATROPOS. Having parental regrets about not having named my kid Inexorable.

3.75 stars. Not a particularly fun solve, but hits the standard Fireball themeless difficulty range.

Joe Krozel and Peter Collins’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 4 16 15, no. 0416

NY Times crossword solution, 4 16 15, no. 0416

I love a good backwards crossword project! You want me to spell words backwards? Gladly. 33a. [How the Across answers appear in the bottom half of this puzzle] clues BACKWARD, and 38a. [How the Across answers appear in the top half of this puzzle vis-à-vis the bottom] is DRAWKCAB. The theme is rounded out with 20a/49a. [With 49-Across, comment upon parting], “YOU GO YOUR WAY / ENIM OG LL’I DNA” (that’s “and I’ll go mine)”. Conceptually, it’s nice that this puzzle was constructed by a duo (1a: PETER and 55d: JOE) rather than just one person. The center row plays both ways, with palindromic ESSE, MOM, and ATTA.

The rest of the thematic fill is every Across/Back answer in rows 9 to 15. Only two of them (44a WAR/RAW and 62a SEED/DEES) are valid answers in the other direction, so the grid looks terrible—AELP, SUPO, and IKAHK look like woeful mistakes, but PLEA, OPUS, and KHAKI are ordinary words.

The normal Down fill includes two lively long answers, “SEE YA LATER” and “IT’S A BREEZE.”

Five more things:

  • 17a. [Like the mynah, by origin], ASIAN. Had no idea.
  • 41a. [Something you might put drinks on], BATEHT, or THE TAB. Filled in BAR TAB backwards first.
  • 25d. [Onetime daytime talk show], MARTHA. Stewart, I presume.
  • 58d. [Domain of Thor], SKY. Is this borne out in the Avengers movies, or is it straight-up Norse mythology only?
  • 14a. [Podiatrist’s concerns], TARSI. The tarsal bones in the feet. Raise your hand if your first guess here was CORNS.

Not all of the fill is great—things like AGAPE and RATA and OBIE don’t move me. But I enjoyed solving the puzzle, particularly the bottom half. 4.5 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Corporate Rockers” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 10.06.37 PMOkay, so I straight up loved this BEQ puzzle, but I’m pretty sure this is going to be a divisive one.  This was right in my music-y, pop-culture-centric wheelhouse and I blasted through it without much difficulty, but it’s definitely not going to be your thing if you’re missing some of the music knowledge to solve it.

As the title “Corporate Rockers” suggests, BEQ’s mashed up some band names with some brand names for the theme clues:

  • 17A: “Rolling In the Deep” singer, brought to you by a PepsiCo sports drink? – POWERADELE
  • 24A: “Man of the Year” rapper, brought to you by a Dutch beer?  – GROLSCHOOLBOY Q
  • 30A: Houston’s own recluse king of outsider music, brought to you by a prophylactic maker? – TROJANDEK
  • 48A: “Mysterious Ways” singer, brought to you by a breakfast pastry chain ?  – CINNABONO
  • 52A: “Mother” metal guy, brought to you by a tech company? – GOOGLENN DANZIG
  • 65A: “Hold On, We’re Going Home” rapper, brought to you by a bankrupt energy company? – SOLYNDRAKE

This puzzle’s likely to go over like a fart in church with those that aren’t as music-savvy, but I buzzed right through it, getting a little tripped up by not knowing who JANDEK was for 30A, but that fell pretty quickly from knowing TROJAN was involved and having the remaining three down clues.  Elsewhere in the grid, we had some nice appearances from OXYCONTIN (32D) and Gordon GEKKO (58D).  I’d complain about CAMAY (1A) or VAIOS (73A), but it was nice to see some variety in the puzzle and there weren’t any down clues that prevented be from getting either word.

This was my favorite BEQ of the year so far, and I’m not just saying that because it’s my fastest solve time.  Keep up the great work, Brendan!

4.5/5 stars

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 150416

LA Times

Ok blogpost draft two, I seem to have accidentally closed the first one without saving, just as I was about to post it. I assure you it was much better than this rubbish below.

The core concept is refreshingly original: FOLDINGCHAIRS are represented as “___ chair” phrases in l-shapes. There are six: LAWN, SEDAN, DECK, BARBER, WINDSOR and ROCKING. I hadn’t heard of a Windsor chair before, but it looks familiar.

The effect of the theme execution on the rest of the grid, I’m less thrilled with. The puzzle is very blocked in, with 6 mini-crosswords only linked by one or two squares. I was frowning at it even before I spent five minutes in the top-left corner, after blowing through the rest of the puzzle in under four. The reason for the blocked-in theme areas is that L-shapes are deceptively straining on surrounding fill, and some of those L-shapes are quite ambitiously large too! You will notice how even in these small blocked up sections, there are still clunkers. I think the overall puzzle could’ve been improved with only four or five L’s and a more flowing grid.

The top-left: [Isolated lines…], […”The Good Wife”], and [Web browser…] are all clue angles that led to familiar answers being utterly inscrutable. I had WIE and STRUM and then nothing. The other answers were sufficiently vague that I couldn’t commit to anything without some crossers. I did want WILL from the first second, but for some reason didn’t stick with it. Maybe those angles were more helpful for the rest of you. Anyone else battle here? Or in one of the other dead ends?

Other remarks:

  • [Choose not to pick?], STRUM. Excellent clue!
  • [Computer outlet supply], MICE. We’ve resolved the pluralisation dilemma then.
  • [The first ones were introduced in blonde and brunette in 1959], BARBIES. I got this without any crossers and this bothers me.
  • [Eleventh-century Scandinavian leader], OLAVII. Reason he should be remembered not supplied in clue, though actually he is kind of a big deal historically. I just wish we could settle on a damned spelling!
  • [Half-wild Asian canine], PYEDOG. Well that’s one usage of the term – the feral dogs that roam India. But more generally it is the “unimproved” landrace of India, which includes these ferals. We have an equivalent here termed an Africanis. People love calling them mixed or crossbreeds, when they are the opposite. No focussed inbreeding for morphological traits while ignoring the accumulated less obvious genetic defects makes them wonderful, hardy pets. We have stacks in our kennels, but most walk past and look at them with disdain. So they’re ignored repeatedly, and I have to kill them. Um where was I. I swear crosswords are meant to relieve the stress of work.

3 Stars. Satisfying theme, but overall experience a little more clunky.

Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “A Wonder-Ful Puzzle”—Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.16.15: "A Wonder-Ful Puzzle"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 04.16.15: “A Wonder-Ful Puzzle”

Hey everybody! Sorry for the late post, but the demands of sports reporting have come to the fore again, so just a post of the puzzle and a quick review. Wish I had more time, because Mr. Jeff Chen has delighted us with a fun puzzle in which the first words of the three theme answers are signed, sealed and delivered, the three words that are said together in the Stevie Wonder hit, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’M YOURS (24D: [Words following the starts of 17-, 38-, and 58-Across in a 1970 song]).”

  • SIGNED A PETITION (17A: [Formalized one’s support])
  • SEALED DOCUMENTS (38A: [Files hidden from the public])
  • DELIVERED BY HAND (58A: [Did a courier’s job])

I can’t think of OSSIE without first thinking about his need for a Miller High Life in Do the Right Thing (1D: [Actor Davis of “Jungle Fever”]). Very underrated actor, by the way. Honestly didn’t know what a SNIPE HUNT was before today (11D: [Prank involving a wild-goose chase]). Anyone want to enlighten me on that before I look it up on Google? Others may have cringed, but I loved the clue for CANNIBALS (4D: [They love having guests for dinner]). Anyone have some fava beans and a nice Chianti?  

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STONE (66A: [Item used in curling]) – The STONE that is used in a majority, if not all, of the major curling matches comes from a volcanic island in Scotland called Ailsa Craig. There are other parts of Scotland that contain the granite that is used and essential for curling matches across the world.

Have a good rest of your evening, and I’ll see you on Friday!

Take care!


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19 Responses to Thursday, April 16, 2015

  1. Martin says:

    Fun NYT! The palindromes in the centre row were a nice touch.

    (Caution information overload below: I’m an organ buff, as if you couldn’t tell)

    Re Peter Gordon’s crossword: ORGAN STOP:

    Amy, FYI, both trumpets and violas are common organ stops. Also, they’re not just stops but part of a two different types/classes of organ stops.

    Trumpet stops are part of the reed family of stops. That is the sound is produced by a metal “tongue”, at one end of a (often) brass pipe. They tend to be loud and in many cases very similar to trumpets in sound. They’re also often called “tubas” (Latin for trumpet) and clarions. They are used in the general choruses of the full organ sound we’re familiar with, or in many cases as distinctive (loud!) solo stops. St John the Divine in NYC has a fantastic example of a trumpet stop underneath the famous rose window. They have to be heard to be believed. Check YouTube! Ditto St. Paul’s in London.

    Viola stops are from what are called “string” stops. However, no strings are involved. The string effect is usually achieved by tapering the pipes to accent different harmonics… mimicing string sounds.


  2. Evan says:

    Re: Fireball

    That northeast corner could be beastly if you haven’t heard of any of the proper nouns in that cluster (or don’t know how to spell ARANTXA). I wouldn’t have gotten the TOPKAPI/SAIN crossing if I hadn’t almost put SAIN in one of my puzzles recently.

    The Curtis Institute is right here in Philly. Not far from where I live, in fact. My wife and I have been to a few free recitals — really talented students there. Meanwhile I hadn’t heard of Berklee….

    • Matt says:

      I had to look up AKON to finish that corner (and the puzzle). Rest of the puzzle was quite doable.

    • Bencoe says:

      I went to Berklee! (And in conversation I always have to say “In Boston, not California.”) But I didn’t know the Curtis Institute.

  3. CY Hollander says:

    I think the NYT theme would have been much more fun to figure out had it not been revealed in the middle of the puzzle. As it was, by the time I got to the backward section, I already knew how to enter those answers, so the puzzle played like an unremarkable Wednesday.

    I hadn’t noticed the constructors’ signatures, so thanks for pointing that out, Amy. That was a nice touch.

    • pannonica says:

      I felt the execution was excellent and well-designed. Shifting it around merely for the sake of increasing the difficulty or prolonging the reveal would have been corruptive and inelegant, no?

      • Papa John says:

        I’m with Cy on this one. I’m not sure what you mean by “corruptive” and “inelegant”.

      • CY Hollander says:

        Shifting it around merely for the sake of increasing the difficulty or prolonging the reveal would have been corruptive and inelegant, no?

        I usually agree with what you have to say, pannonica, but this time I have to differ. I’m not 100% sure what you mean by “corruptive and inelegant”, but maybe you’re saying that delaying the reveal until the backward-looking section would have destroyed the symmetry of BACKWARD/DRAWKCAB both directly referencing the theme and reflecting one another.

        That’s so, but honestly, I’ve never been a fan of entries that outright reveal a theme’s secret. To me, they undermine the puzzle posed by the theme itself. After all, as much as you might admire the grid’s overall elegance and execution, surely an integral part of a theme is unraveling its mystery. Without that, IMHO, a theme like this is little more than a pointless variation on how you enter the answers, not much different from asking you to write the letters upside-down or do the puzzle with a red pen.

        Had the forward BACKWARD entry only been paired with a clue that didn’t directly reference the gimmick or could not be interpreted until its drawkcab mate was found, the puzzle might have preserved both symmetry and mystery.

    • Avg Solvr says:

      .evlos nuf a saw ti tub ysae tib a sgniht edam laever ylrae eht eerga I

  4. pannonica says:

    BEQ: JANDEK got such a grin out of me during the solve. Suspecting I’m in the minority.

    • David L says:

      That one defeated me and even after reading the wikipedia entry I’m not much wiser…

      Also, I had DRIER instead of DRYER and I’d forgotten about SOLYNDRA, so I missed that one too.

    • Papa John says:

      Jandek, huh? If I had known him back in my peyote days, maybe… It’s just a bit too freaky for me. Some of the stuff I’ve heard is pretty good, though. Maybe I just need more exposure.

    • Avg Solvr says:

      From what I’ve heard of Jandek (Jandrek?) he seems to have missed some (most?) of his music lessons.

  5. PJ Ward says:

    BEQ – I know a fair amount about music as a consumer but not a lot about these artists. Still, a pretty quick, enjoyable solve. I’d rather not have unattached brands (CAMAY, VAIOs). REO SPEEDWAGON gets by because I think the themers are solo artists.

  6. Margaret says:

    Gareth, I also struggled with the LAT more than I expected. Not in the top left so much (I knew LAWYER from the show and WIDOW from the print formatting term “widows and orphans”) but I didn’t know ENSOR and I had to correct taupe with BEIGE. The other corners didn’t fall easily either. I made a wrong guess on the theme at first — when I filled in SEDAN in the L shape, I was sure the theme was car seats! Close but no cigar.

    • jae says:

      Gareth – My slow spot was SE. A sorta random OLAV, PYEDOG was a WOE, had to dig to remember MARIAN, tata vs. CIAO…slow.

      BEQ: Only knew 2 of the 6 (although DRAKE seems familiar) and it still went pretty fast.

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