Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 89″—Jenni’s write-up
9:02 for solving and another minute to find the typo. I hate typos. I love themeless puzzles, though, especially nice smooth ones like this.
As we expect from Peter, the entries were generally fresh and lively and the clues were even fresher. Some highlights:
- Cover subject of the eight issue of Cigar Aficionado – FIDEL CASTRO. One of those factual clues that I didn’t know at all and yet could figure out with a few letters.
- Curse: “Shazbot” :: sign-off : _____ – NANUNANU. This may be my favorite clue in the whole puzzle. It was a gimme and it made me chuckle.
- Unlike eagles – ABOVE PAR. Not birds, golf. Nice misdirection.
- Possible accidental in B major – A NATURAL. Music clue. I’m enough of a musician to know what an “accidental” is and enough of an amateur to assume all accidentals are sharps or flats. Good education.
- Young women who enjoy boisterous activities and heavy drinking, to Brits – LADETTES. Another answer I didn’t know ahead of time and figured out partway through.
- It’s often done on a treadmill – STRESS TEST. Near-gimme for me (I had the first S from BASIC). I used to administer stress tests in a previous professional incarnation. This is one of those tasks that’s completely boring until it’s terrifying.
I have no idea what an ATTRIBUTIVE noun is. I do know they exist, which helped.
I didn’t know the symbol clue at 20A, which I also can’t reproduce and which apparently means PIPE, and I still don’t know what it is, really.
I’m not sure what to say about 17A, “Chopsocky feature”. The answer is MARTIAL ARTS. I didn’t figure this one out – I needed almost all the crossings to get it – and it sounded like a made-up Asian word, the kind tossed at kids by bullies. According to both Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary, “chopsocky” is a term coined by Variety and applied to a group of martial arts and Kung Fu movies made in Taiwan and Hong Kong in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Current usage applies to video games. The word “cheesy” appears in the Wikipedia article, confirming my instinct that this is a disparaging term, although it’s not clearly racist, which was my first thought.
A nice, smooth, not particularly tough themeless and I learned a new word. Four stars from me.
Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Where there’s an unclued entry, it’s actually a continuation of what’s to the left of the black square between the entries. In each case, there’s a hidden A that’s buried in the POTHOLES of black squares, and it’s the A in the middle of CAR:
- 14-15a. (Clue numbering is that of the .puz file) [Recognition from the Academy], OSCaR NOD.
- 22a. [Flan], CREME CaRAMEL.
- 36a. [Place for pre-20th century medicines], APOTHECaRY’S SHOP.
- 46a. [“How to Win Friends and Influence People” writer], DALE CaRNEGIE.
- 60a. [Road hazards … four of which are illustrated literally in this puzzle], POTHOLES.
Must be mighty big potholes to swallow the entire middle of a car, rather than just popping a tire. (Saw a flat tire from roadwork on Lake Shore Drive yesterday—they’re repaving a section to “prevent an explosion of potholes this winter.”) Perhaps these potholes are the ginormous sinkhole-sized ones caused by a washout of the ground beneath the pavement?
Five more things:
- 28a. [Several Asian lands, informally], STANS. Kazakh-, Kyrgyz- (though the guy I met from Kyrgyzstan called it the Kyrgyz Republic), Turkmeni- (my ex-colleague who competed in crossword races with me used to live and work in Ashgabat), Uzbeki-, Tajiki-, Paki-, and Afghani-.
- 1d. [“Kitsch” or “kindergarten,” from German], LOAN. This slowed me down, since I was trying to figure out the trick for hiding WORD. “Loan word” is the term I’m familiar with.
- 4d. [Over-knight mail?], ARMOR. Cute clue!
- 8d. [“Curiosity … is a ___ of the mind”: Hobbes], LUST. Filthy, filthy, lust of the mind.
- 42d. [Curry or Taylor], ANN. Uh, no. There is no such person as Ann Taylor. Wikipedia tells us: “Richard Liebeskind, the founder of Ann Taylor, opened his first Ann Taylor store in New Haven, Connecticut in 1954. “Ann Taylor” was the name of a best-selling dress at Liebskind’s father’s store. Both the best-selling dress and the name Ann Taylor were given by the father to his son, Richard Liebeskind, for good luck. Liebeskind decided to go with the name Ann Taylor because Ann was considered a very New England name, and Taylor evoked the image of tailored clothing.”
Fill I didn’t care for: UNADON crossing TOTIE and SNELL; NO SCORE; SLOE; O COME; OTOE; BETELS; and ETONS. On the other hand, CHOO-CHOOS is a delight, and I always like to see Ms. Franklin, even when it’s possessive ARETHA’S with a FITB album title clue.
3.6 stars from me.
Harold Jones’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Contractors” — Jim’s write-up
Harold Jones is back (regular WSJ contributor and therefore another Mike Shenk pseudonym?) offering a list of “Contractors” to get some work done around the house.
Specifically, we’re given a list of people whose last names start with the same two letters that end their first names. Their two names are then smushed together, or contracted, to give us our theme answers.
- 20A [Contractor who composed “Someone to Watch Over Me] GEORGERSHWIN
- 28A [Contractor who won five Tonys] ANGELANSBURY
- 45A [Contractor who presided over his nation’s reconstruction] KONRADENAUER
- 54A [Contractor who founded the Operalia competition] PLACIDOMINGO
Nice enough theme. I would have liked it better if the clues were all related to building or contractor’s work (as ADENAUER’s clue is). Can you think of some other famous names where this pattern works? What about for three letters?
Cluing today seemed easier than yesterday. Either that or I was closer to the constructor’s wavelength. I liked 2D [Bull session?] for RODEO and 26D [Mayo masses] for IRISH (I had GLOBS at first). LORRE at 16A gets an updated clue [“The Big Bang Theory” co-creator Chuck], but I still prefer Peter.
Fun fill: XTERRAS was hard to see at first (partly because I didn’t know HOLT since I live in the UK), but was satisfying in the end given the clue at 4D [Cherokee rivals]. Speaking of the UK, HOBNOBS are some delicious biscuits (cookies to us Yanks). I’M ON IT is fun, as is HOT RODS. I even like JESSE, JACKO, and IBERIAN. And of course, I always like being reminded of “The Princess Bride”, so INIGO is always welcome.
Not much else to say except another clean grid with little CRUD. I is all over the place (heh heh), with I DIE, I SEE, I’M ON IT, and I RISH (just kidding, is anybody reading this stuff?). But other than that, very few nits to pick (yeah, I see you ESE).
Hey, we got another mini-theme with RATED G, TYPE A, and U BOATS.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “He Who Hesitates” — Ben’s Review
Don’t hesitate to solve today’s BEQ Thursday puzzle – although if you do, all your um-ing and er-ing may actually give you a heads up when it comes to solving the theme clues. It takes some phonetic thinking, but it’s easy to understand the phrases that have been modified by some stalling:
- 17A: Website with the threads “What to look for in a funeral home?” and “Is there life after death?” — FINAL FORUM
- 20A: Gems on Precious? — GOLLUM STONES
- 41A: Undeclared earnings? — INVISIBLE INCOME
- 57A: Tell a rival of the Crips to “give in”? — SUCCUMB BLOOD
- 64A: Bounce off a seraglio wall? — HAREM CAROM
The fill in the rest of the grid is solid as well. I managed to learn that potatoes originated in PERU (7D), and not the standard EIRE I put in the grid on my first pass through. I also learned that while Ronald REAGAN is also someone who may appear in many a TCM flick (as mentioned in 46A), Ronald COLMAN makes sense when the clue makes no mention of a former president. “Royal beef order request” had me thinking Wellington rather than Chinese food, but NO MSG makes sense if that’s the case (although, do any places still use MSG? I figured we’ve been on about it so much it’s mostly phased itself out).
Elizabeth C. Gorski’s BuzzFeed crossword, “Austerity Measures”—Derek’s write-up
I consider it a high honor to blog today’s BuzzFeed puzzle, which is by one of my favorite constructors! Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Sunday NYT puzzles are among some of the most ambitious and yet solidly satisfying themes out there. Today’s puzzle is also neatly done, with a nice theme to boot. The entry at 39A sets the tone: [Paring things down to the essentials, as hinted at by the transformation occurring in the answers to the starred clues] KEEPING IT SIMPLE. The starred clues? They form a word ladder from LESS to MORE, as in “Less is more!” Here is the word ladder:
- 1A [Minimalist’s mantra] LESS
- 21A [Emotional wreck] MESS
- 27A [Tiny plant clump I want to make a bed out of] MOSS
- 48A [“___ definitely!” (surfer’s assent)] MOST
- 57A [“La petite ___” (French term for an orgasm that literally means “a little death”)] MORT
- 69A [Maximalist’s mantra] MORE
Again, smoothly done. Puzzle also full of great entries. Here is just a taste:
- 9A [French region with truffles that inspired a Beatles song] SAVOY – Referencing the Beatles song Savoy Truffle, which I actually have never heard!
- 61A [Anything:47] THIRTEEN TO – Nicely done. A clunky entry saved by a clever clue!
- 67A [“NCIS” agent Timothy or Maverick JaVale] MCGEE – I don’t watch NCIS that often, but I do know the basketball player. He has some legendary dunks, and also some legendary bonehead plays. He seems to always end up on some ESPN blooper reel!
- 11D [Magnetic medium for movies] VIDEO TAPE – Maybe [Retro medium for movies]?
- 12D [Says, “This is literally going to be your favorite crossword ever,” say] OVERSELLS – Favorite clue of the puzzle!
- 34D [Eddie Murphy character to whom “The royal penis is clean, your highness” is spoken] AKEEM – One of the many classic lines from the movie Coming to America. Still funny after nearly 30 years!
- 37D [Mowry who played Sashabella in “Bratzillaz”] TIA – Probably better know for starring with her twin sister Tamera in Sister, Sister.
- 58D [Sashabella, or Vampelina, in “Bratzillaz”] ROLE – There is a mini-theme here…
- 60D [Amount of interest I have in seeing “Bratzillaz”] NONE – I echo this sentiment! And I don’t even understand what Bratzillaz is!
These BuzzFeed puzzles have been fun, and this one is no exception. 3.9 stars!
David Poole’s LA Times crossword, – Gareth’s write-up
The theme is surnames replacing common words that they are homophones of. That seems awfully broad at first, but the additional constraint is that all those common words are bird names. There are five males featured today. I hadn’t heard of Lynn SWANN or Walter PIDGEON. They come from US sports and old film (his extensive filmography does include films I’ve seen), which are areas I’m weak in. Walter PIDGEON was Canadian, like our constructor, FWIW. I had heard of the other, more recent actors Ethan HAWKE and Russell CROWE and politician Dan “Potatoe” QUAYLE.
In full, the theme is:
- [Ditty from 1970s-’80s NFL wide receiver Lynn?], SWANNSONG
- [Unwinding places for actor Russell?], CROWEBARS. First of two plurals of convenience.
- [Tough spot for actor Walter?], PIDGEONHOLE
- [Easter adornment made by politician Dan?], QUAYLEEGG
- [Facial feature of actor Ethan?], HAWKEEYES
It’s a pretty conservative grid all-told. The pair of 7’s of RLSTINE and RAGWEED (not clued as Cross Canadian ___, who are Texan of course) are the closest things to splashy.
I enjoyed the [Enjoy Whistler], SKI; [Emulate Whistler], PAINT pair of misdirecting clechoes!
Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Friends of Crocodile Dundee”—Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! I hope you’re doing very well today. In today’s puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randolph Ross, we imagine celebrities and fictional people through the lens of animals that are native to the Land Down Under. Each of the names are altered so that either the first or last name is changed to a similar-sounding word that’s also an animal native to Australia.
- PLACIDO DINGO (20A: [“Down under” dog that sings tenor?]) – From Placid Domingo.
- MARCUS WALLABY (28A: [“Down Under” marsupial with a medical degree]) – From Marcus Welby, M.D.
- ROO MCCLANAHAN (48A: [“Down under” hopper who was a “Golden Girl”?]) – From Rue McClanahan.
- KIWI TE KANAWA (54A: [“Down under” bird that sings like a bird?]) – From Kiri Te Kanawa.
Initially thought that each of the theme answers would have “MATE” hidden in them when seeing the title, but pleasantly surprised that wasn’t the case. Almost hit my forehead so hard with my palm when I was struggling with the clue to TAVIS, only to find out quickly how easy that clue/answer really was (38A: [Smiley guy on PBS]). I’ve only met him like five times as well, so even less of an excuse I didn’t get it immediately. Was thinking along the lines of a character on PBS that actually smiles. Interesting that TAVIS intersects another talk show host of African descent, TREVOR, the new boy on Comedy Central (25D: [Jon’s successor on “The Daily Show”]). Speaking of African/Africa, hello there CAIRO (29D: [Where “Aida” premiered]). Not sure if our constructor has ties to the Lone Star State, but there’s also a Texas twang to this puzzle, with both WACO (56D: [1993 standoff site]) and RICE in the bottom part of the grid (61A: [Houston University]). Only place I got really tripped up was at the end, with RIYAL, as I was so used to seeing “rial” that I didn’t really know what the middle letter was (71A: [Qatar coin]). Thank goodness the crossing, which I hadn’t looked at first, bailed me out.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ENOS (69A: [1961 chimp in space]) – KOBE was the obvious choice, but I believe that I’ve done him twice in this space, so I chose Enos and will focus on Dan ENOS, former Michigan State quarterback in the late 1980s and early 1990s and current offensive coordinator on the University of Arkansas football team. In 1990, Enos was the starting quarterback of the Spartans when they won a share of the Big Ten championship, finishing the season 6-2 in Big Ten play and an 8-3-1 overall record. Before his current position at Arkansas, Enos was the head football coach at Central Michigan University for five seasons, from 2010-2014.
TGIF tomorrow! Have a good day, and I’ll see you tomorrow!
re NYT: it does “pop the tire” a bit, considering that the missing “A” always appears below the black square
Excellent point, Alex.
The presence of “POT” within APOTHEC(a)RY’S_SHOP, the first theme answer that emerged after figuring out POTHOLES, did slow me down in sussing out the theme of Tracy Gray’s fine puzzle.
I liked the Fireball, especially the NE and SW corners with BeVERAGE and BaVERAGE.
NYT: I instinctively thought HOBGOBLIN for 8D, but no, that’s “a foolish consistency.”
The national solvership might not have noticed, but as I pointed out at Rex’s blog, we in the New York area know 16 A, AL D’AMATO, as “Senator Pothole,” fitting in with the theme and symmetric to 56 A, POTHOLES.
I’m still having trouble seeing how a “literal” pothole could cause the middle third of car to fall down while the front and back stay where they are….
On the other hand, a nice touch is that Al D’Amato was jokingly known as Senator Pothole because of his attention to constituent issues. [edit: beaten to the punch!}
Spooky coincidences: Both ANN Taylor and IMHOT appear in the NYT and BEQ puzzles, similarly clued, and distorted versions of PLACIDO DOMINGO are in the WSJ and CS.
From 3 years ago, here in South Africa: http://www.grocotts.co.za/content/galleries/photo-galleries/collapsed-section-n2-incl-aerial-view-22-10-2012