Jeffrey Wechsler’s Fireball crossword, “Left Laughing”—Jenni’s write-up
The perfect crossword for my mood today: smooth, straightforward and entertaining, all at the same time.
The title is “Left Laughing” and we’re meant to take that literally, as indicated by the revealer at 56A: “Pioneer-era catchphrase applied literally to 18-, 24-, 33-, and 49-across”. The answer is WESTWARD HO. In each of the theme answers, HO is moved WEST (or LEFT, in the map convention most of us are accustomed to.) My map-geek husband laughed when I explained the theme. That’s a win.
- Check inventory at a firehouse? = TRACK HOSES (track shoes)
- Nickname for an overpopulated atoll? = HORDE ISLAND (Rhode Island)
- Party planner’s boast at a lawman’s shindig? = I HOST THE SHERIFF (I shot the sheriff, and my personal fave)
- What you might do if you get a blister at the 26-mile mark of a marathon? = HOP TO FINISH (photo finish). Amy’s husband probably knows something about this.
HORDE ISLAND gave me the trick. WESTWARD HO was a lagniappe. I didn’t need it; when I don’t need a revealer, I often find it intrusive and annoying. In this case, the revealer adds to the fun because it’s, well, funny.
I started off gangbusters in the NW corner, where 1A and 1D were both gimmes. MORDECAI “Three-finger” Brown dates from the golden years of baseball nicknames. He lost parts of two fingers on his right hand in a farming accident and, as result, developed a wicked curveball. My baseball knowledge let me down in the NE, though; I didn’t know that Stan MUSIAL was the only National Leaguer to make every All-Star team in the 1950’s. I also tried to put NIL somewhere in the score of the soccer match at 12D. The resulting mess made that corner the last to fall.
A few other things:
- Old movies: PATTON and “Charlie Chan at the Opera”, starring Warner OLAND. I’ll take “Racist Depictions of Asians in the Movies” for 500, Alex.
- BIC for “Pen brand” nestled with INK for “pen contents”. Cute.
- “Pig, perhaps” for PET. This has never struck me as a good idea.
- “Hand fourth” stymied me for quite a while. I first read it as “Hand FORTH”, which is something quite different. Once I noticed the “u”, I was thinking of the fourth finger. Nope. Turns that one-fourth of the hand used to measure horses is an INCH. I did not know that. You measure the horse at the highest point of the withers, and the measurement is properly expressed with the number of whole hands followed by a period and the remaining height in inches.
- FANTASTS for “dreamers” is my least favorite entry in this puzzle. I’m sure it’s in the dictionary. If you’ve used the word in the past five years, raise your hand. I thought so.
What I learned from this crossword puzzle: see above re: Stan Musial and one hand = four inches.
Maps in popular culture: Here’s today’s XKCD
And I can’t write about a map-themed crossword that name-checks Allison Janney without this clip.
Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Theme gimmick is fun: The theme entries contain double V’s, but they appear in the same square and the Down crossings have a W there. I think it’s silly that the .puz file wouldn’t accept a simple W as correct. (Really? You want us to take the time to enter VV in five squares, even though that mucks up the Downs?) The revealer is 65d. [Bugs, e.g. … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme], VWS. So we need to make “V” W’s with pairs of V’s? VVhatevs.
- 20a. [Old jalopy], FLIVVER.
- 26a. [Proficient, computerwise], TECH-SAVVY.
- 37a. [Subject of medical research since the 1980s], HIV VACCINE.
- 53a. [Gunning], REVVING UP.
- 59a. [Mufti], CIVVIES.
I like the theme, and it’s a nice touch to have no V’s or W’s in the grid outside of the five themers and the short revealer.
Overall, though, the fill felt like it was from puzzles a decade or more ago—to wit, BARI, LUCIA, ALAI, ALERO, ED TV, SIREE (just like ABOO, not really a stand-alone word), CYD, MOC, ARI Onassis. And I don’t like awkward verb phrases like LASH AT—you can lash out at someone, but “lashing at” really isn’t a thing, is it? RENEWER has the feel of a roll-your-own word—yes, you can make a noun out of a verb by adding -ER, but you don’t always get a word in regular use.
Favorite fill: the literary THE FLEA, 2d. [John Donne poem with a line starting “It suck’d me first …”].
3.4 stars from me.
Ethan Erickson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “T-Mobile” — Jim’s review
If you anagram our constructor’s name today, two of the many thousands of possibilities are “Shenk Creation” or “Shenk Acne Riot” suggesting our good editor, Mike Shenk, either created today’s puzzle or is in dire need of a dermatologist. If you are a dermatologist, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org just to be safe.
On to the puzzle! This puzzle does exactly what it says on the tin (i.e. the title). T’s have been moved around to create wackified answers. For consistency’s sake, they’ve all been moved to the beginning of their respective phrases.
- 17a [Group that may book a jazz combo?] TRIO POLICE. Riot Police.
- 21a [News department that covers the brothels?] TROLLOP DESK. Roll-top desk. This feels both quaint and misogynistic at the same time.
- 37a [Mirage that’s related to a particular subject?] TOPICAL ILLUSION. Optical illusion. I like this one best. It has the most surface sense to me.
- 53a [Bugs, making fun of Elmer?] TEASER BUNNY. Easter bunny. TOPICAL!
- 59a [Group of spectators at the Old Salt Golf Tournament?] TAR GALLERY. Art gallery.
Solid theme, consistently executed. When you look at the title, you think, “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that!?” It’s straightforward, but clever at the same time.
Nice long Downs today. ANIMAL SKIN and COLOSSAL (which always makes me think of “COLOSSAL Cave“, the first interactive fiction game) are both great. LIVING ON is fine, but I really like GOODNESS ME. Here in England that’s a common enough phrase that I’ve adopted it into my vocabulary, especially when I’m around my kids. (Yes, I’m an Old.)
There are a few more-than-usual less-than-ideal entries (a.k.a. “things I didn’t know”): 6a CANO [2011 Home Run Derby champ Robinson], 61a MIDI [Noon, in Nantes], 7d ANILS [Indigo-yielding shrubs], and 40d LEANNA [___ Love (“The Young and the Restless” character)]. But, it’s Thursday, so the puzzle’s bound to put up some fight.
I also didn’t know 36a A SHOE [“For want of ___”]. It comes from an old proverb:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of A SHOE the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
This puzzle put me in the mood for some Bugs Bunny. This snippet seems aptest:
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Oh. My. God!” — Ben’s Review
I overthought this one, ya’ll. After staring at the theme answers in this Thursday’s BEQ puzzle and trying to figure out what the title “Oh. My. God!” meant was hidden in the grid, I took a screenshot of the puzzle and found it staring me in the face:
- 20A: Smashing success– FLYING COLORS
- 36A: Fancy dress feature — SPAGHETTI STRAPS
- 48A: Retooled vehicle that crushes cars — MONSTER TRUCK
Yes, this puzzle has been touched by the noodly appendage of the FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER. It’s perhaps not as elegant as I was trying to make it, but there it is.
Other clues/fill of note this Thursday:
- 14A: Instrument roughly 65 cm. long — OBOE (the more you know!)
- 32A: Cheeky flesh — JOWL (raise your hand if you also tried to make this entry in the puzzle BUTT for far too long. Just me? Okay.)
- 32D: “Governor Moonbeam” — JERRY BROWN (I needed to Google this one because I’m one of those Millenials Who Is Part Of The Problem)
- 37D: Affluenza teen Couch — ETHAN (the Affluenza Teen saga was my favorite dumb news story to follow. They got caught in Mexico because they ordered Domino’s Pizza, you guys.)
This week’s theme felt simple, but overall, I liked the puzzle.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
The theme is revealed at FINALSAY. There are four theme answers, and each ends in letters than can form a synonym for SAY. Our quartet are DAVIDATtell, a comic I’ve not heard of; REALEstate; SHEAButter; and WIDOWspeak, which apparently Mr. DiCaprio has – I’ve not noticed.
- [Berry rich in antioxidants], ACAI spreads the superfood gospel; of course, antioxidant chemicals that aren’t a part of our normal physiological pathways are highly unlikely to be a meaningful way to fight oxidative challenges, and can potentially increase those oxidative challenges…
- [Excercises, in a way], DOESLAPS. Slapping does is a fine way of exercising!
- [Bread for Reubens], RYE. Misdirecting clue! You’re meant to see the artist Reubens, here. Is the sandwich typically capitalised?
- [10-Down feature], SILENTL in PSALM – What. There’s a silent P, yes. Do you pronounce PAM and PALM the same? No. That clue is confused.
- [Ark units], TWOS. Also FOURTEENS…
- [Exotic vacation], SAFARI. I know one blogger, and notable Prancercise advocate, who is on one right now…
- [Lures for anglers?], LAKES. Very clever!
Cleanly wrought puzzle.
Gareth, leaving you with someone doing MYWAY, their way…
Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Kid Around”—Ade’s write-up
Hell, everyone! Hope all is well. Today’s crossword, brought to us by Ms. Lynn Lempel, involves themes in which the beginning letters and the ending letters can combine to spell the word “GOAT.”
- GREAT COAT (17A: [Outerwear for Sherlock Holmes])
- GOOSE FAT (26A: [By-product of a classic Christmas entrée])
- GLASS BOTTOM BOAT (40A: [Means of viewing marine life])
- GOAL POST (52A: [Where some get their kicks])
- GOLD DUCAT (66A: [European coin of yore])
Fun grid, with some pretty awesome long fill, specifically GOES VIRAL (3D: [Spreads like wildfire, in a way]). Couldn’t help but chuckle reading the clue for MEDUSA (51D: [Gorgon with a perpetual bad hair day]). Sorry I can’t stay too much longer, as well as not providing too much commentary, as I’m at Madison Square Garden covering the Big East Tournament. But, I can wing the “sports…smarter” moment in a flash, so here it goes!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: TYRA (18D: [Banks on TV]) –There was a time early on in the century that TYRA Banks was dating then Sacramento Kings basketball player (now current television basketball analyst) Chris Webber, and I remember when Tyra would show up and be courtside at Kings games. Nowadays, being courtside at Kings games means you’re watching one of the worst teams in basketball.
TGIF tomorrow! See you (hopefully) tomorrow!