Thursday, March 3, 2016

BEQ 8:31 (Ben) 


CS tk (Ade) 


Fireball 10:00 (Jenni) 


LAT 5:09 (Gareth) 


NYT 8:06 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword, “Just What You Want” – Jenni’s write-up

The time is not an estimate: when I filled in the last square, that’s where the timer stopped. Couldn’t have done that if I tried.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 8.24.14 PM

I filled in the entire puzzle without any idea what the theme meant. The revealer at 55A says “Just what you want (or, in six words, a hint to this puzzle’s theme) and the answer is WISH LIST. So…six words? There are five other theme answers:

  • Give a job to actress Harper? HIRETESS
  • Eccentric thug? DOTTYHOOD
  • Fun for vestals? VIRGINHOOT
  • Olympian at the bat? GODHITTING
  • Fastens one cod cousin? TIESAHAKE

I tried to figure out six words found in theme answers, or deduced from the theme answers…no dice. I went back and looked at the revealer. Maybe there are six words in there somewhere? Eventually I realized that four of the “words” are actually letters:

W is H L is T

And if we swap W for H and L for T in the theme answers…


and there you have it. Did I miss a layer of meaning? I don’t think so. The revealer is clever, although it lacks parallel construction. The Ls in the grid turn into Ts – but there aren’t any Ws in the grid; it’s the Hs in the grid that turn into Ws. I know that’s a tiny little nit on a really neat theme…but it bugged me, just a bit. Or maybe more.

Some things I really liked:

  • “Gulf foe?” is not a military target, but a capitalist one: AMOCO.
  • “Spleen” for once is not IRE but rather ORGAN.
  • “Jumbo joint” is a BLUNT, and there’s a clue/answer pair I don’t think you’d see in the NYT. We are living in the Golden Age of crosswords, my friends. Seriously.
  • “Certain tee” is a VNECK. I see what you did there, Peter.
  • “Portion portion” is DOSAGE and that made me giggle.

Things I did not know before I did this puzzle:

Apparently the MARS BAR is no more; it’s now Snickers almond. So sad. And there’s a minor-league team in Biloxi known as the SHUCKERS – oysters, I’m sure, not corn. And, finally, there is a unit of inductance called the HENRY. According to Wikipedia, “The unit is named after Joseph Henry (1797–1878), the American scientist who discovered electromagnetic induction independently of and at about the same time as Michael Faraday (1791–1867) in England.” When the semi-pro physicist in the house doesn’t know a physics clue, it makes me feel better.

Andrew Zhou’s New York crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 3 16, no 0303

NY Times crossword solution, 3 3 16, no 0303

A tough two-pronged rebus if musical terminology is always far from your mind. I’m guessing that the three rebus squares could be filled not with letters but with either of two musical note/symbol thingies that are equivalent to each other? 16a is MUSEUM O{F NATURAL} HISTORY, crossing 6d TH{E SHARP}ER IMAGE. 65a is LOOKIN{G SHARP}, crossing 53d GET {A FLAT}. And 66a is D{E FLAT}EGATE with a 55d CAR{D SHARP} crossing. (And yes, card sharp has even more attested usage than card shark.)

I have no idea if the grid pattern is supposed to depict something musical. Two of the long Downs, MUSICAL NOTE and ENHARMONIC, are musical, but lack symmetrical thematic partners.

I didn’t know TWO-TONE CARS were a thing worthy of a crosswordable term. Liked FELLINI and especially FANGIRL. Liked QUIT IT and I MEAN IT, but not having two spoken IT phrases. Could have done without fill like EWER and RESOAK.

Three more things:

  • 1a. [Police rounds], AMMO. Man, I really wanted the answer to be BEAT, making the rounds in the neighborhood. Chicago is 12 days away from seeing if Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez loses her job for taking 500 days to bring charges against a cop who used a ridiculous number of “rounds” on Laquan McDonald. In the era of the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a clue too far. Gross. You could have just gone with [Weapon rounds] and not evoked police shootings.
  • 20a. [Tar water, as seen in medieval medicine], CURE-ALL. Hey! Where can I get some of this tar water? Sounds like good stuff.
  • 8a. [Transfix], STAB. Whoa. I know the “captivate” meaning of transfix but did not know that the word also had a “pierce with a sharp implement or weapon” meaning.

3.75 stars from me.

Elizabeth A. Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In Ink, Please” — Jim’s review

Elizabeth Long is back with us and inviting us to solve her crossword in ink. I did that once, but it took me hours to clean my screen! Ba-dump-BUMP! (Old joke, I know, which I stole from someone else.)

My first thought on seeing the title was we’d be adding the trigram INK to various phrases. But today’s Thursday, which usually means something trickier than that.

So what are our theme answers? You could be forgiven for looking at the long Across answers and trying to suss out the theme from them. They are: 29a TIC-TAC-TOE, 31a PASTORAL, 39a PLAY DUMB, and 44a ADULTHOOD. Turns out only one of them is involved in the theme.

Let’s look at the revealer at 35a: [What can be found “on” portions of 17-, 28-, 51-, and 64-Across]. 17a is the reasonably long LEGO SET, 28a is the aforementioned TIC-TAC-TOE, 51a is…ARMY? Surely that’s a typo. And 64a is WARSHIP. How could TIC-TAC-TOE and ARMY be involved in the same theme?

Well, the answer to the revealer is BODY ART and with the hint given in the title, that should get us to think tattoos, or TATs for short. So what do all the theme answers have in common? They all contain a three-letter body part. Look just above that body part in the grid and you will find a TAT.

WSJ - Thu, 03.03.16 - "In Ink, Please" by Elizabeth A. Long

WSJ – Thu, 03.03.16 – “In Ink, Please” by Elizabeth A. Long

  • 14a [Urchin’s attire] TATTERS on 17a [Box of blocks] LEGO SET. Speaking of urchins and legs, today is World Book Day (though only the UK is celebrating it today), and most UK schoolchildren are dressing up as a book character. My 7-year-old broke her ankle a couple weeks ago, so I got her to dress up as Tiny Tim (the urchin-like Dickens character, not the falsetto singer).
  • 26a [Division d’une nation] ETAT on 28a [Game with a grid] TIC-TAC-TOE. Do people get tattoos on their TOEs? Apparently, they do!
  • 48a [Breezy “Bye!”] TATA on 51a [Service option] ARMY.
  • 61a [Experienced in] ADEPT AT on 64a [Corvette, e.g.] WARSHIP. Great misleading clue on WARSHIP!

Missing from the puzzle: TATs on ABS.

Cute theme! And it’s well-handled. That’s a fair amount of constraints stacking TAT on various body parts. I see a TL, TG, TM, and a TP, plus an AO. Most of these are handled very well thanks to some necessary abbreviations. Plus, she spreads them out to the four corners to keep them from interfering with each other.

I do wish the long Across answers could have all been involved in the fun. And I wish that TATs could have been contained in more interesting answers than ETAT and TATA. But with the constraints, perhaps this was the only way to come up with a quality grid.

Apart from the theme, I love PLAY DUMB and EMILY POST. IT GIRLS is good, but the clue at 3d [The Kardashian sisters, e.g.] is debatable.

Favorite clues are [Inflatable pilot in “Airplane!”] for 34a OTTO, [Minor goal?] for 44a ADULTHOOD, the aforementioned [Corvette, e.g.], [Takeout meal?] for 8d PICNIC, and [One who makes a lot?] for 50d PAVER.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Hi There” — Ben’s Review

Hi There

Hi There

It’s been kind of a tough, busy week, so it was nice to start this Thursday off with today’s BEQ puzzle.  “Hi There” had a fun concept for the theme clues that was a nice difficulty level:

  • 17A: Surfer girls with their surfboard applications?– WAXES AND WAHINES
  • 25A: Next in line after Paul Pierce — BEHIND THE TRUTH
  • 41A: Awesome skiing trip in the Andes, maybe? — GOOD CHILEAN FUN
  • 53A: Some Muslims in the construction industry? — BUILDING SHIITES

It’s all about being friendly and adding a “HI” to some other common phrases to get new ones.  I think 41A, GOOD CHILEAN FUN, is my favorite of the bunch.

Other clues/fill of note this Thursday:

  • 14A: Spread on a fish taco — AIOLI (fancy mayo, you guys.)
  • 35A: Ziggy Stardust genre — GLAM (still digging through David Bowie’s back catalog, still loving it)
  • 9D: Like some fitted reusable diapers — SNAPLESS
  • 19D: Terre ___ — HAUTE (Hey, my alma mater’s city made a crossword puzzle!  Awesome!)
  • 50D: School Eddie Redmayne attended — ETON (of course Eddie Redmayne when to Eton.  Of course.)

A well-executed theme with some other nice cluing in the grid.


Mel Rosen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160303

LA Times 160303

So ALTERNATIVEROCK is both a) a fabulous 15 and a great revealing answer, and b) an annoying garbage taxon of the music biz; but I do love me some jangly guitar music so… Song 1 and Song 2. I’m not sure either are that “rock-y” or what they’re an alternative too… Anyway, the theme answers are a quarter of two-part answers with ROCK anagrammed (in the looser sense of the word that a few detest) and – with one exception – spanning the entries:

  • [Temporarily out of stock, with “on”], BA(CKOR)DER. Story of my life re my suppliers. Everything is always on back-order…
  • [One might spoil a dream], CL(OCKR)ADIO. Quaint!
  • [Gadgets with helical parts called worms], (CORK)SCREWS. Who knew!?
  • [Restaurant convenience], CHE(CKRO)OM. Seems to be a variant of COATROOM. Do these still exist?

I appreciate going for fresh entries, but I’m not convinced FACEWEST passes muster as a discrete phrase. BRISKWALK is slightly arbitrary (I had QUICK), but does hold together.

In general, we see a lot of harder short answers, many of which shouldn’t trouble (or alert) seasoned solvers, but could make the puzzle exasperating for those not “in the know”. Most of the answers aren’t “bad” in broad terms, but the combined effect is a different story.

Random remarks:

  • [Daisy ___], MAE. No context given, but it’s from Dogpatch.
  • [Where the Sky and the Sun collide, for short?], WNBA – cute clue of the puzzle!
  • [To be, in Toledo], ESTAR. Wait it’s not one of those arbitrary star classifications??

3.25 Stars

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35 Responses to Thursday, March 3, 2016

  1. Phil says:

    If it were esharp/fnatural/gflat then the puzzle would have some central theme, as these are all the same note. Why eflat/fnatural/gsharp, Ihave no idea.

  2. Kary says:

    As a high school music teacher, I loved this puzzle. It seems like the long downs are all vaguely thematic (TWOTONE refers to the two tones in the rebus squares, SIGNS might be a synonym for flats and sharps here). ENHARMONIC, if you’ve got the background, is basically a revealer, or at least was for me…putting the idea in my head just in time to figure out what was going on with DEFLATEGATE. An incredibly satisfying solve!

  3. ArtLvr says:

    By coincidence, I picked up a couple of bags of miniature chocolates today — one is labeled “Snickers Minis”, distributed by Mars, but has peanuts & not almonds. The other, “Hershey’s Nuggets” has almonds. Now it’s back to the diet with less political angst and no regrets!

  4. I assumed the bottom of the puzzle was shaped like a tuning fork.

    • Gary R says:

      I thought maybe the whole thing was supposed to represent the head of a violin (if that’s the right term for the part with the pegs used to tune the instrument).

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    Thanks for the spot-on review, Jenni. You were right – the VNECK clue and many of the other clever ones were Peter’s. As before with my previous Fireball puzzle P.O. Boxes, he helped me enormously in improving Just What You Want from the original submission. My seed entry for this was actually DISGUISE, which of course didn’t make the cut. I thought the word was neat, because it not only does the code thing, but a code is a form of disguise, itself. However, the implied switches didn’t produce many good base phrases that turn into usable entries. Turns out WISHLIST is the only good choice for IS, though I also played around with _TO_ _ TO_ and _AS_ _AS_, producing STOVETOP and FASTCASH.

  6. Matt says:

    Back in my grad school days, we had a 1 Henry coil in the lab… It was known, familiarly, as ‘Hank’. Also, back in those days there were room-sized 1 Farad capacitors that had a nasty habit of exploding if you bumped into them when they were charged up. Nowadays, you can buy a stable, multi-Farad ‘supercapacitor’, so technical advances have made that particular laboratory peril obsolete.

  7. David L says:

    I like music but am almost totally ignorant of music theory, so this one defeated me. I got the general idea, eventually, but still couldn’t figure out what answers to put in the rebus squares to make Mr HP happy.

    Nice puzzle and a clever idea, but getting the full solution required knowledge I don’t have. In particular, F NATURAL doesn’t really mean anything to me — is it the same as plain old F? — so I was left wondering what the MUSEUMOFHISTORY had to do with stuffed animals.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Everything I know about sharps, flats, naturals, and major and minor keys, I learned from crosswords. And I’m also unclear on what the heck naturals are in music. (Nobody explain, please. This is not knowledge I need. It is not knowledge I will ever truly understand. Let’s move on.)

      • Bruce N. Morton says:

        Your last couple sentences summarize perfectly my attitude towards computer – Internet related clues.

    • Martin says:

      Yes, David (but not Amy), F-natural is plain old F.

      It needs to be a thing because in a key like G major, where F-sharp is played “by default” you need a way to say, “play this one note as plain old F and not F-sharp.” That’s done with a natural sign. So you would normally speak of plain old F when in the key of C-major, but F-natural in G-major.

    • Will N. says:

      Museum o{f natural} history. Stuffed animals >Taxidermy

  8. David L says:

    You know how some explanations answer one question only to create two others….?

    But that’s OK. Thanks, Martin.

  9. dave glasser says:

    Huh, I’m not sure I agree about the Fireball not having parallel construction… H and T are in the grid and in the same spots in the IS phrases.

  10. Lois says:

    NYT: I think that TWO-TONE CARS are a “thing.” I liked the answer because although I was oblivious of the fad, since I don’t really take anything in about cars, in retrospect I realize, just thinking about such cars in movies and so on, that there was such a fad. (I lived through the era, but, as I said, I would have been oblivious.) It was fun to learn that.

    I know a little about music, but very little indeed, have taken basic piano lessons when I was a child. The puzzle was miserably hard for a long time. The non-theme parts weren’t that hard to fill in, though, just the areas around the trick squares. I needed help from my husband to remember DEFLATEGATE as well. But when I got it all, I was delighted.

    • Jan says:

      My parents had a two-tone turquoise and white car before I was born. I just saw one recently, out for a spin on a nice day, and this always delights me.

  11. Amy L says:

    Could someone help me out with the NYT–I really don’t get two clues. 29A [Virtual city dweller] SIM and 46A [Mo] SEC. Please explain what these mean. THANKS!

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Mo for moment. Sim referring to the video game SimCity.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      SIM is from the video game series Sim City (and all its spin-off games). The inhabitants of the city are Sims.

      “Mo” is short for “moment” as in “Just a mo”, as SEC is short for “second”.

      • Amy L says:

        Thanks, Paul and Jim. I figured Sim was from a video game and I wouldn’t know it. But Mo??? I overthought it. I wondered if Mo Udall was ever secretary of state. Too simple!

        • ahimsa says:

          My first thought was that Rocca had too many letters (that’s the first Mo who comes to my mind!)

  12. Lois says:

    NYT: Re Amy’s last point about STAB as an answer to the clue “Transfix”:

    1) I had not encountered this meaning of “transfix” to my knowledge before seeing it in another puzzle last year. This definition is the interesting origin of the usual meaning, which is “to hold motionless by or as if by piercing” (Merriam-Webster online)

    2) On Wordplay, David Connell had this to say about STAB, along with several other interesting comments about the puzzle:

    “STAB is a frequent seating arrangement for mixed choirs (Soprano/Tenor being the higher voices and Alto/Bass the lower).”

    Definitely an extra, but fun.

  13. cyberdiva says:

    Many thanks, Martin, for your explanation of when/why plain old F needs to become F natural. It’s been ages since I played music from a score, and I’d forgotten all about key signatures and the need for natural signs.

    Loved the puzzle.

  14. Chris says:

    This may be solely b/c I saw the “National Pig Day” crossword bonus right below it, but I think the layout of today’s NYT crossword looks just like Olivia, the pig from the children’s book series :)

  15. John Bowen says:

    Help! We do these on the NYT online app. on iPad. Exactly how do we enter the three rebus answers? We’ve tried many things and can’t hit a combo that works. Shame on NYT. Good puzzle, lousy execution.

    • Lois says:

      I read at Wordplay that you can put in either of the two relevant letters, without worrying about the symbols for sharp, flat and natural, if I understood correctly. I solve on paper.

      • John Bowen says:

        Yes, that worked. Either of the two letters, no rebus. Whoda thunk it? Thank you very much.

  16. ahimsa says:

    NYT – This was an enjoyable puzzle even for a pretty non-musical person like myself.

    I managed to get each rebus at the bottom of the grid but had to cheat to get the one up top. I figured out TH(E SHARP)ER IMAGE going down without much trouble but could not figure out F NATURAL (although it sounds familiar after the fact). I’m happy to learn something new, though!

    I do agree with the comments about the clue for AMMO at 1A. That was a real bummer, completely unnecessary.

    LAT – That was fun! I know of at least one CHECKROOM that still exists. At our local art museum you can check bags, coats, umbrellas, etc., when you first enter. A nice convenience when you don’t want to lug stuff around.

  17. Margaret says:

    LAT: I put in CLOAKROOM before CHECKROOM, which is what we called it in grammar school lo these many years ago. And BRISKWALK is definitely a phrase around my neck of the woods.

  18. Matthew G. says:

    Loved the Fireball, Paul.

    Can someone explain the clue {Dogs} for RED HOTS to me?

  19. Lois says:

    For John Bowen: You’re very welcome. I’m sorry that my note was incomplete and that no one will read this. But for the record, there are other ways to enter the answers online. Here is Deb Amlen’s note on Wordplay:

    “If you are solving this on the web or in our app, please note that the accepted entries are supposed to be either the entire entry (either Across or Down) or the first letter. So, for 16 Across and 6 Down, the accepted answers should be F NATURAL, F, E SHARP or E.”

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