NYT 4:54 (Amy)
Fireball 4:08 (Amy)
LAT 5:21 (Gareth)
CS 9:06 (Ade)
BEQ 8:01 (Ben)
Joe Krozel’s New York Times crossword
You need to know how to distinguish between your STALACTITEs and STALAGMITEs to correctly complete this puzzle, because there are Schrödinger squares in the crossings that won’t help you figure that out. (Stalactites hold tight to the ceiling and stalagmites might reach the ceiling if they get tall enough, is the way my husband told me to remember them.)
- 1a. [Location containing 10-Downs and 25-Downs], CAVERN. Opposite answer in the grid is the nonthematic crosswordese, TSETSE.
- 10d. [1-Across sight], STALACTITE. The CT part crosses 28a. [*Features of some front teeth], could be GAPS or CAPS, and 34a. [*Work hard], could be MOIL (which I think I have only ever seen in crosswords and in dictionaries) or TOIL.
- 25d. [1-Across sight], STALAGMITE. I kinda wish this answer ran upwards from the bottom of the grid, don’t you? The GM crosses 44a. [*Undermine, as a government program], CUT or GUT, and the woeful 48a. [*Plural suffix with organ], ISTS or ISMS.
I like that the Schrödinger squares will be of no help to the solver who doesn’t know which cave formation hangs down from the ceiling, and might in fact lead them towards the wrong answer.
So the theme square count is, what, 37? Given that, I would expect the rest of the grid to shine. While I do like DIRT STAINS, CASTAWAY, VANILLA (clued well as [Ordinary]), COMEDY TEAM, and PAPER-THIN walls, there were also entries in the debit column: plural ADELES, MISSAY, MCCI, DO SO, ENOL (ENOL! ENOL in a puzzle always loses my heart), TSE, ADIA, plural foreign abbrev SRAS, NEY (13d. [Actor Richard of “Mrs. Miniver”]??), and rare present-tense BESOT. Not sure about N.Y. STRIPS; I don’t eat steak but feel maybe “New York” is almost always spelled out?
Four stars for the theme, three for the fill.
Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “How Dry I Am”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning people! How are you?! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin, has a really fun theme, partially because of what I’m going to point out after I tell you the theme. Each of the four theme answers are multiple-word entries in which the last word in each is also a brand of deodorant. Seeing the theme made me think of an insult joke that I heard on television when I was about 10 years old that I thought was the funniest joke I had ever heard at the time. It’s one of those “Yo Mama…” jokes, so I’ll do a little editing/paraphrasing if you’re sensitive to hearing those type of barbs. Essentially, the joke goes, “You (or whoever you’re insulting) smell so bad, that you make Sure unsure, Right Guard turn left, Speed Stick slow down, and make Ban go on strike.”
- NUCLEAR TEST BAN (20A: [Subject of a 1996 United Nations treaty])
- JUST TO BE SURE (25A: [“For extra security,…”])
- SECOND DEGREE (46A: [Type of quadratic equation or burn]) – I used to absolutely OWN quadratic equations when I was in high school! Alas, I decided on a career in journalism despite my then math prowess.
- BEST KEPT SECRET (52A: [Bit of information maintained under tight wraps])
I can’t get enough of watching the early RAMBO movies, and I just saw it again a few days ago on television and had to stop and watch it from where I caught it until the end (15A: [Stallone’s “First Blood” hero]). Although not referencing Popeye, we have a BLUTO appearance after all the times we’ve seen Olive Oyl in crossword puzzles (28D: [Belushi’s “Animal House” character, familiarly]). By the way, that’s two consecutive days that an Animal House character has been referenced. Are there any BIG GREEN alums out there that can give Dartmouth a shout out right now on here (40D: [Harvard : Crimson :: Dartmouth : ________]). Now I know all of you use the word OATIER on a regular basis like I do, right (48A: [Higher in fiber, perhaps, as some muffins])? Was tripped up a little bit by the BOX clue at the beginning, but caught on to it quickly (1D: [A hat’s is often round]). Think my mom has a couple of hat boxes laying around still in her apartment, if I go back and take a look.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TODD (57D: [Mary Lincoln’s maiden name]) – Part of being a long-suffering New York Jets fan is knowing that, since Joe Namath left, we really haven’t had anyone worth a darn at quarterback since then, although Chad Pennington should get some love. One of the quarterbacks who has come and gone post Namath was former Jets quarterback Richard TODD, who was a first-round pick of the team in 1976. In his career, he threw 37 more interceptions (161) than touchdowns (124), but he did lead the Jets to the playoffs twice in his career, including the 1982 AFC Championship Game.
TGIF once again tomorrow! Have yourself a great rest of your Thursday!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Two State Solution” — Ben’s Review
It wasn’t until after I started writing up this week’s review that I realized there was something deeper going on with this week’s BEQ than I realized. From the title, it seemed very clear the circled squares in the puzzle would be filled by state abbreviations. An initial glance didn’t show any connection between the states choses, so I felt a bit disappointed at the somewhat random nature of the phrases:
- 17A: Like horror/sci-fi writer Neil after going to the beach? — GAIMAN SANDY
- 27A: Sleeping sickness you can get from mescal? — AGAVE MALARIA
- 44A: Red 8-Down that brings out the crab in you? — WHINY CHIANTI
- 59A:Yellowish creature that leads the cheers? — TOPAZ MASCOT
And that’s when I realized that when you remove the sets of states, you actually get things that are actual phrases (GAIN SAY, AVE MARIA, WHY CAN’T I, TOP MAST) and it made a lot more sense. It also means I get to post the Stevie Wonder version of Ave Maria.
Again, before I realized what was going on, I was a little disappointed with the theme fill. There were a few other entries I wasn’t super thrilled with – 6A‘s MTWTF (“Planner headings, for short”) and 36A‘s ONENO (“Strong bridge opening with a balanced hand”) in particular, although in the latter’s case it was because I have no bridge knowledge and couldn’t figure out a well-known type of Japanese mushroom. All griping aside, there were a few entries/clues I loved – 24A‘s use of DADBOD brought a smile to my face, as did 43D‘s clue for STREAKS (“Runs uncovered”). It felt like a bit of an off week for BEQ overall (although his AV Club puzzle yesterday was fantastic), but there were a lot of nice details to this puzzle.
Pancho Harrison’s Fireball crossword, “”What’s Shakin’?”
Various “X and Y” phrases are reconfigured as made-up sound-alike “Xin’ Y” phrases:
- 17a. [Gettin’ one’s name at the top of the marquee?], BILLIN’ COUP. Bill and coo.
- 21a. [Punjabi believer who’s lyin’ low?], HIDIN’ SIKH. Hide and seek.
- 35a. [Achievin’ proficiency in one of the three R’s?], READIN’ RIGHT. Read and write.
- 43a. [Kvetchin’ as an adult?], MOANIN’ GROWN. Moan and groan.
- 52a. [Sheet that’s meltin’?], EBBIN’ FLOE. Ebb and flow.
- 62a. [Time cofounder Henry when he’s goin’ on a cleanse?], FASTIN’ LUCE. Fast and loose. You may be thinking to yourself, “Nah, Henry Luce was around before this ‘cleanse’ business started,” but John Harvey Kellogg preceded Luce.
Note that each Y word changes its spelling to an unrelated word (as in coo to COUP). Can you think of other theme answers? UPPIN’ ATOM doesn’t make the grade. BLACKIN’ BLEW doesn’t work at all.
This is among the easiest Fireball puzzles I’ve seen. Despite the six theme answers stretched across much of the grid, the word count of 76 provides breathing room for mostly smooth fill. LEO I was really the worst thing in the puzzle, and TRIBBLES brought a little sparkle.
Four stars from me. Solid, not particularly “wow!” but overall, smooth.
Additional note: Fireball editor Peter Gordon sponsored one of the awards at the Indie 500 tournament, the FireballCrosswords.com Indie Spirit Award. I was so honored and gratified to receive this medal. Tournament co-organizer Andy Kravis explained why they chose to give the inaugural Indie Spirit Award to me—for my longtime support of indie crosswords, and for speaking out in favor of more inclusive language in crosswords, taking editors to task for clues that serve to marginalize women, people of color, LGBT people, etc. How cool is that?
Michael Dewey’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
I’m not sure what the HARRY part of HARRYPOTTER is doing for the theme. In any case a POTTER makes pots from CLAY using a WHEEL to shape them; they apply a GLAZE and bake in a KILN. The theme answers themselves were a bit hit and miss. CASSIUSCLAY is excellent, and created in me a brief moment of confusion as I tried to figure out how MUHAMMADALI could fit! FERRISWHEEL is also good. ORANGEGLAZE is, I assume one of many, many potential glazes that exist, but I guess it works. The big problem is BREWERSKILN, which is completely contrived. In quotes, it gets 577 hits. The first page is all crossword-related, mostly people trying to find the answer OAST. Also, using ngrams, one gets “Ngrams not found: “brewer’s kiln””. The case for the prosecution rests.
The design here uses the “two long downs” approach to negotiating a central 11. The other option is an ugly clump of 5 squares, sometimes referred to as a “utah”. Both entries are lively: BLOODVESSEL and POLTERGEIST. Otherwise, the grid design is somewhat choppy, but this is a good thing in a crowded grid, as it allows each section to be polished individually.
- [Los Alamos projects], ABOMBS. Something about the clue/answer pair doesn’t jibe. One project at Los Alamos was the ABOMB.
- [Memorable “Richard III” worrds], AHORSE. The clue takes what looks like a too-long partial, and makes it into an interesting answer!
- [“Tess” Golden Globe winner], KINSKI. Don’t know much about her, but it sure looks fun in the diagram!
- [Level, in London], RASE. I use South African English, which largely adheres to British spelling conventions. However, I’ve never encountered this ‘S’ spelling. Since I had Ngrams out, I tried a couple of graphs, which pretty much confirmed that that spelling is dated/obsolete.
[Words before “Happy New Year!”], TWOONE. This time the clue DOESN’T negate that this is a six-letter partial!
Solidly filled, but the theme was a little half-baked [wince].
“You need to know how to distinguish between your STALACTITEs and STALAGMITEs…” An unnecessary fail IMHO. I mean, how many solvers will even know both of these? I guess spelunkers got a big charge out of this one! lol
Yeah, spelunkers thought it rocked.
Mini theme: TSE & TSETSE.
Also with crossing Roman numerals.
Did not enjoy NSYNC/ADELES/MISSAY.
NYT: This theme is special to me because I have fond childhood memories of visiting a place in Lebanon called Jeita Grotto that is supposed to have the world’s largest STALACTITE. There are actually two interconnected caverns and all of this is reached through an underground river, so it’s quite an adventure. I’d forgotten about it but now I want to go visit again when I go back to Beirut.
I did not see the notepad until after I was done and wondered what the asterisks were all about. I actually fiddled with the various options but since I did not know MOIL, I put TOIL and ended up with the correct choice. Sometimes it helps to know less.
I liked the concept of the puzzle. I’m also grateful that my daughter dragged me to see TORI AMOS back in the day, and Amy, I like your husband’s mnemonic.
So, all good.
Thanks for sharing that memory, Huda.
My only CAVERN memories are from a visit to the Oregon Caves.
That way I remember is that stalaCtites = Ceiling & stalaGmites = Ground.
That’s the way I was told, C as in Ceiling and G as in Ground. Loved the puzzle because it was untricky.
Unless I’m missing a dupe, MISSAY/ELSE could have been MISLAY/ELLE.
I think the “nucular” and the MISSAY are meant to, together, poke fun at Pres. Bush (43), he of “misunderestimated” and other Bushisms. Here are some of the Bushism items available at Amazon.com:
(1) George W. Bushisms: The Slate Book of Accidental Wit and Wisdom of Our 43rd President
(2) Dumbass: Outrageous Quotes From The World’s Most Powerful Moron
(3) George Bush Quotes Political Humour Poster (16 x 20 inches) which includes 68 quotes in total.
The “theme square count” for the Krozel Krossword may be low, but there’s also the rather low word count of 70 which imposes additional constructional constraints.
Re the 25D comment – great minds think alike :-)
Ah, but the “low word count of 70” isn’t something that was forced upon the constructor. If you choose a lower word count, you’d better be able to fill it with good-quality stuff. If you can’t avoid ADELES and ENOL, etc., then please, back up and change the diagram to something more conducive to good fill.
I suspect that much of the grid structure was also forced by the theme and the symmetry constraint, but I didn’t try hard to find an alternative grid that can be filled less choppily. (MISSAY/ELSE does seem to be an unforced error as Byron notes.)
NYT: Growing up, I used Doug P‘s mnemonic, but have long since shed the need for it. Agree with both Amy and Noam on the notion of STALAGMITE moving upward instead; without an element like that, I honestly don’t see the point of this theme and by extension the crossword itself.
The mites go up and the tights come down, that’s the mnemonic I learned long ago.
I put in WARNING immediately at 7A. Growing up inland, in farming country, I learned the rhyme as “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky at morning, shepherd’s warning.”
It seems odd to me, for some reason, to describe USAID as a humanitarian org, seeing as it’s a govt agency, but I can’t see why it shouldn’t be described that way…
RANATAB sounds like one of those new drugs they advertise endlessly on TV. Do you suffer from chronic dry-mouth? Ask your doctor if RANATAB is right for you.
Interesting to see “shepherds” above, as I knew the saying with “sailors” — and also put in WARNING at first!
A distinction without any important difference, at least to this non-geologist. Why don’t they just call them the same thing?
that indie award is **majorly** cool. plus, you placed third in the tourney, no? diva!!!
but how about [Outbiddin’ Egoyan?] for UPPIN’ ATOM?…
Third in the standings, but second place in the final round! I have a second place medal to clink against my Indie Spirit medal.
Awesome! Congrats to you and joon!
NYT: I enjoyed it! Agreed with some of the fill comments but the theme was fun. I’m surprised by comments saying STALACTITE and STALAGMITE might not be known to solvers. I know that people mix up the two words all the time but I thought that they were fairly well known.
LAT: I liked this one, too! Often I’m quite slow to pick up on the theme, asking myself how these entries could possibly be connected. But this time I managed to guess the theme quickly.
I had one wrong letter because I don’t know sports and picked the wrong conference for 1-Down. Heck, I’m lucky if I know whether a team is NFL vs NHL vs MLB – conference is way beyond me! Then I convinced myself that 1-Across starting with the other letter made sense. But that’s on me, nothing wrong with the puzzle. (omitting details since the LAT write-up is not posted yet)
Congrats, Amy, on the medal! Although my commenting is infrequent I appreciate the posts by you and the rest of the team. Thanks.
I didn’t actually notice, but you’re right: NBOMB can be short for nuclear bomb, so is not an incorrect answer for 1A. Which makes 1A/1D very definitely an unfair cross in my opinion.