This week’s Fireball is a contest puzzle. Write-up in a few days, after the deadline.
Joel Fagliano’s New York crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme revealer is 49a. [Focal points of many F.A.A. investigations … or a description of 18-, 24- and 40-Across?], CRASH SITES, and the theme answers are formed by crashing two websites together into a single, plausibly clueable phrase:
- 18a. [South American monkey’s handhold?], AMAZON VINE. Man, I thought the 6-letter part would be the name of a South American monkey. Also, I thought Vine was more of an app than a site. Have never looked at the site.
- 24a. [[Insert your least favorite congressman here]?], YAHOO POLITICO. Dictionary defines yahoo as “a rude, noisy, or violent person.” Gosh, I can’t think of anyone in politics who fits that description.
- 40a. Bird watcher upon spotting the rare California condor?], VULTURE GAWKER. I didn’t realize the condor also ate carrion.
Fresh and contemporary theme.
What is this, a 66-word themed puzzle? Lots of black squares facilitating the low word count, but also four open corners. Top fill: MR. ROPER and the FONZ for survivors of late-’70s TV, POGOED, “NO BUTS,” that SERBIAN CREAM PIE stack, Aristotle’s POETICS. No terrible fill holding things together, despite the rigors of a low word count with a theme.
Did not know: 2d. [Pennsylvania senator Pat] TOOMEY. Tried LEAHEY first, but I don’t think he’s from there.
4.3 stars from me.
Steven L. Zisser’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Astro Nuts” — Jim’s review
Simple concept today from Steven Zisser—not the usual trickery we often see on Thursdays—but handled very well.
He’s taken five astronomical terms and re-clued them with wacky literalness.
- 16A [52 weeks of easy work?] LIGHT YEAR
- 29A [Voice actor for Sneezy, Happy or Grumpy?] DWARF STAR
- 36A [Turbo-charged old Chevy?] SUPER NOVA
- 47A [ExxonMobil and BP?] GAS GIANTS
- 61A [Coal mine, perhaps?] BLACK HOLE
Pretty simple really, but clean choices. I have no problems with any of the themers.
But what really sets this puzzle apart is the surrounding fill. There are four sets of stacked vertical 7s and each one is better than the last. In the NW we get ABILITY and LEG IRON. Next is HOT DATE and ONE-A-DAY. Once I uncovered these I thought to myself, “How is he going to keep this up? The rest won’t be as nice as these.” But I was wrong; they got better.
In the SW it’s WAR HERO and ESCAPEE. Somehow those make a fantastic pair. And so I thought, “That’s it. The last pair’s going to be rubbish.” I then came to the clue [George Costanza’s mother] which was easy for me as a fan of Seinfeld and brought back memories of her hilarious, shrieking character. The last one [California’s General Sherman, e.g.] was not so obvious. Eventually I got to __QUOI_ and thought, “This is going to be terrible.” Finally, guessing NESSEN at 42A (which is not great, BTW, but I’ll take that trade-off any day) revealed the giant SEQUOIA in all its glory. I was totally won over at that point.
Oh, and this was well after I got 20A [Princess of video games]. I wanted it to be ZELDA, but thought that unlikely. Princess PEACH (Mario’s gal) is more well known, I figured. But HOT DATE and ONE-A-DAY secured ZELDA‘s place to my delight and surprise. If you can’t tell, I’m a huge Legend of ZELDA fan. My three kids and I have played every game in the series. The games are beautiful, intelligent, make you think, family-friendly, and are simply fun adventures. So finding her in the grid put me in a good mood early on.
And yet there’s more fun fill in GOSPEL, OPIATE, DYNAMO, SICKO, and SENSEI. Sure, there’s crud like BUR, AGA, PAS, and NOS, but that’s minor stuff compared to the gems. Speaking of which, ZIRCON sounded totally fake to me, but I guess it’s a real thing, so it goes in the plus category.
So if you weren’t sure, I really enjoyed this puzzle, maybe not as much for the theme, which is still solid and not without humor, but more for the wonderful surrounding fill.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “DC Capitalists”—Ade’s write-up
Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re doing great heading into the weekend. Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, looks pretty straightforward, with each of the theme entries being celebrities who have a first name that starts with a “D” and a last name that starts with the letter “C.” But, of, course, DC is the Roman numeral for 600, and today’s grid also happens to be MAS’s 600th CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle! Wasn’t it not too long ago when you had your “On the DL” puzzle, commemorating puzzle #550, and I had no clue figuring out that meta (since I’m terrible at metas)? Congratulations, Martin, and thank you so very much for continually providing crossword solvers a whole lot of joy with your artwork!
- DANA CARVEY (15A: [“Wayne’s World” costar])
- DREW CAREY (22A: [“The Price is Right” host])
- DAVID CARUSO (33A: [“CSI: Miami” star known for wearing “The Sunglasses of Justice”])
- DICK CLARK (44A: [New Year’s Eve figure, once])
- DON CHEADLE (54A: [Basher Tarr portrayer in “Ocean’s Eleven”])
Not only was Dana Carvey the first theme entry I answered, it was the first entry I inputted overall, and that made the solving experience pretty quick, as the other four themes were gimmes after that. Even though it’s tucked in the Northwest corner, XYLOPHONE definitely sticks out as one of the better entries (13A: [Percussion instrument with wooden bars]). I don’t think it’s too much of a coincidence that DISCO ERA (33D: [Summer’s peak period]) intersected AGONY, as I’m sure a good number of people thought back then that listening to disco was agonizing (49A: [Ecstasy’s opposite]). I don’t think I didn’t like any of Donna Summer’s songs, so it definitely wasn’t agonizing to listen to. Of course, I was born just after the disco craze ran its course. I actually learned something after filling in SOL-FA, as I knew there was an a cappella group with the same name, but didn’t know that it was actually a scale (47A: [Tonic _____ (singer’s scale)]). I actually just knew about the group when looking up different a cappella groups after learning that one of the basketball players I was covering at Yale a couple of weeks back had left the basketball team for the 2014-15 season to travel the world to sing with Yale’s prestigious a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs. True story! But, of course, none of those groups can hold a candle to my favorite a cappella group, Rockapella, from “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego” fame!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WALRUS (24A: [Carroll’s carpenter’s companion]) –Because of his roly-poly figure at 5’10” and (at least) 250 pounds, 1982 Masters champion Craig Stadler was affectionally nicknamed “WALRUS” during his time on tour. Stadler’s win in Augusta in 1982 came in a playoff, and was one of his 13 career PGA Tour wins. One of his sons, Kevin, finished in eighth place at the 2014 Masters, and currently is a regular on the PGA Tour.
TGIF tomorrow, people! See you all on Friday!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Back to Front” — Ben’s Review
This Thursday’s BEQ puzzle was challenging (and had a second vertical theme puzzle in as many weeks), but once the theme revealed itself as I solved, I really enjoyed it:
- 3D: The only presidential candidate with his own board game– RUMP DONALDT (DONALD TRUMP)
- 10D: Route in the Afghanistan-Pakistan mountains — ASS KYBERP (KYBER PASS)
- 28D: Rob Roy or martini, e.g. — TAIL DRYCOCK (DRY COCKTAIL)
- 31D: Radiohead’s “Pablo Honey”, e.g. — BUM DEBUTAL (DEBUT ALBUM)
- 7D/45D: Trail…or a hint to this puzzle’s theme — BRING UP THE REAR
Once I figured out what was going on here, everything fell nicely into place on these. Excellent choices all, although I thought it was a nice touch to have BUM show up in a clue with a British band. Besides Radiohead, singer JESS Glynne showed up at 9D:
Other clues/fill of note this Thursday:
- 22A: Music for rude boys — SKA
- 32A: Full of beef fat — SUETY (this is definitely in wordish territory even if it didn’t feel like an actual word to me)
- 60A: “Deadpool” star Reynolds — RYAN (did anyone else who went to see “Deadpool” find it just okay? I had a good time, but it also felt a little much at times)
- 2D: Group with multiple hits — THE MOB (I kept trying to make this a band, but this also makes good sense)
Lots of good fill and a nice twist on a theme.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Today’s theme answers start with one-word film titles. These titles all belong to BESTPICTURE winners. The clue tells me the Oscars are on Sunday. I thought they must have been held weeks ago. Isn’t it an early February thing? I don’t pay that close attention as you can guess. CHICAGOSKY is my favourite theme answer, the others being CRASHCOURSE, ROCKYSTART, and TITANICSTRUGGLE.
I found the longer answers mostly functional; nothing really stands out except the meaty geography answer KINGSTON. On the other hand, the clue [They’re drunk at socials], TEAS is great! There was a lot of clecho action too, some subtle some less so..
Gareth, leaving you with a reggae classic…
Generally an enjoyable NYT today, although I didn’t fully understand the theme until I got here. I recognized four of the six sites (Vulture and Vine being new to me), but the “crash” part seems like a stretch to me. Especially in the context of anything computer- or tech-related when I see “crash,” I’m thinking of something that crashes my browser and/or system – not just two things butted end-to-end.
Fill seemed pretty clean. Didn’t care for IS AN, IT A, or ZOOL – and POGOED sounds made-up to me.
I wondered if I was missing some new expression that involves crashing a site on the internet… This is more of a mash up than a crash…
Still it was remarkably smooth and relatively fast even when I only had an inkling of the theme…
I like “No Buts”.
This went very quickly for me, despite the fact that I was just writing in pairs of website names (or not, as Amy notes in the case of VINE) without knowing why.
The revealer didn’t enlighten me. I surmised that a CRASHSITE might a trendy name for a website that, I dunno, people visit a lot because they haven’t got anything better to do.
I don’t what an AIRTRAIN is but it seems like something you might find at an airport, so that was no problem.
RE BEQ’s Thursday. Seriously? Nori and uracil crossing in a Medium puzzle. Both unknown to me and neither inferrable imo – I tried three different letters before giving up.
I’ve seen NORI several times in crossword grids, but this is the first time I think I have seen URACIL in a grid. Usually I see it as a clue for RNA as in “Genetic material containing uracil.”
I confidently entered BLACK BOXES at 49A, thinking it had something to do with the grid’s abundance of black squares.
I loved today’s LAT puzzle, by C.C. Burnikel!! The theme was “Best Picture.” The non-theme clues were very well-done. Now we have to wait until Gareth gets around to posting to see what he gripes about.
TITANIC STRUGGLE is in-the-language enough to use as a theme entry? I think not. So tired of C.C. Burnikel themes that get away with this type of entry.
Posting late…Pat TOOMEY is one of our senators, and I enjoyed the fact that he crossed YAHOOPOLITICIAN. I enjoyed it very much.