Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 95” – Jenni’s write-up
It’s a Themeless Week in Fireball land! I love Peter’s themeless puzzles. This one seems like it’s easier than usual; it won’t make it into the next edition of “Hellaciously Hard Fireball Crosswords.” One corner did give me trouble. We’ll get there.
The NW did not immediately offer me a toehold. 1a is [Platform next to a train?] and even with the ?, I had no idea what Peter was getting at. 1d, [Slightly] could be either A BIT or A TAD. So I moved on. The NE wasn’t any better – it was actually worse. I finally got a foothold in the central west area with [Body part unblocked by the Heimlich maneuver] (TRACHEA) at 26a, which connected to SEINFELD in the SW corner (clued as [Comedian in “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”.] I worked my way back around to figure out that the “train” in question at 1a is the train on a wedding dress and the “platform is an ALTAR. Ah-hah. I finally tackled the NE where [Place with bad TV reception] is FRINGE AREA and [Band with the 1988 album “Everything’s Different Now”] is TIL TUESDAY, and I was done.
A few things I noticed in my travel around the grid:
- I’ve never been one for toilet humor, so I could have done without 14a [Support for a movement?] which is, of course, TOILET SEAT. Har-dee-har-har.
- 8d, [Shop that uses a lot of oeufs] is not a breakfast joint but a PATISSERIE, where they do indeed use lots of eggs to make delectable pastries. When we were in Paris last spring, we got our breakfast from a boulangerie. Fresh croissants, pain chocolat, orange brioche, quiche…sigh.
- 39a is one of Peter’s classic long clues. Sometimes they’re not worth it. This one is. [By and large, district attorneys can get grand juries to indict one, according to Sol Wachtler when he was chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals] and the answer is HAM SANDWICH. For those who don’t remember, Sol Wachtler was instrumental in making marital rape a crime and then was forced to resign when he was charged and convicted with making threats against a former lover and her daughter. Life is strange.
- Cubs shoutout at 57a with [Ballplayer who didn’t make the catch in the Steve Bartman incident] – MOISES ALOU. This year they’re working on shaking off The Curse. We’ll see.
- Football below baseball (appropriately enough, IMO) at 60a [A long snapper’s tackle might end it.] The answer is PUNT RETURN. Perhaps Peter was trying to make us think of fishing with “snapper” and “tackle”
- 29d is [Is like a dictator?] gives us READS ALOUD. When I dictate chart notes, I don’t read them; I compose them as I speak. That’s also what it looks like when I see old TV or movies with men (always) dictated letters to women (always.) So are they reading aloud? I don’t think so.
Nice, solid, themeless, on the easy side for a Fireball.
What I didn’t know before I did this crossword puzzle: that CRIS Carter spelled his first name without an “h”.
I leave you with the funniest “dictator” I know: Mr. Tudball as played by Tim Conway on “The Carol Burnett Show.”
James Tuttle’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Five theme answers are two-word phrases in which the second word’s letters can be found in order within the first word:
- 17a. [1976 Dustin Hoffman thriller], MARATHON MAN. The MAN is in the circled letters, and really, either of MARATHON’s A’s could have taken the circle.
- 22a. [Stage for Hulk Hogan], WRESTLING RING.
- 34a. [What 3M’s Scotch is a brand of], TRANSPARENT TAPE. I buy the Magic tape, but Scotch does indeed have a product labeled Transparent.
- 51a. [Arrival or departure approximation], ESTIMATED TIME. Feels a little sub-lexical-chunky.
- 57a. [Rothko’s field], ABSTRACT ART.
Not much added challenge to the theme—can you imagine if the circles had been left out? Would’ve been much tougher … but also more frustrating for some solvers.
- 1d. [Opposed], 7 letters, starting with A? I filled in AGAINST. This could also clue the 6-letter AVERSE, but ADVERSE sounded off-base to me. I checked Garner’s Modern American Usage (have not upgraded to the brand-new, expanded Garner’s Modern English Usage): “To be adverse to something is to be turned in opposition against it <Thailand was adverse to Japan during most of World War II.> The phrase usually refers to things, not people.” It’s hard to fight Bryan Garner.
- 56a. [Actress de la Garza of “Law & Order”], ALANA. Remember that show? Been gone 6 years now. Keep your eyes peeled for the creators and stars of Comedy Central’s Broad City, ILANA Glazer and ABBI Jacobson. They are poised for crossword immortality, people.
- 61a. [Greek colonnade], STOA. If I ever travel to Greece, I’m going to leave my husband in the hotel and tell him I’m going to the stoa for some cigarettes.
- 30d. [Beat it!], DRUM SET. We would also have accepted DRUM KIT.
- 5d. [Neighbor of Victoria: Abbr.], NSW. This was just in the NYT crossword two days ago.
Not so keen on the overall fill here. SERER is probably the worst. OLIO, plural TETS, STOA, ESS, SRTAS, SAE … At least none of these was as horrifying as 41d. [Filing target], TOENAIL.
It was nice to see ADE clued as 31a. [World music’s King Sunny ___] rather than the “hey, that’s not really a word” beverage suffix. Enjoy some African beats.
3 2/3 stars from me.
Paolo Pasco’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Going Fifty-Fifty” — Jim’s review
I’m glad to see Paolo Pasco’s byline here; I believe this may be his WSJ debut. He’s a youngster (15 or 16?) but he is building a very impressive body of work. This one is no exception. Not only is the theme clever and expertly executed, but the surrounding fill is outstanding.
The title is spot on, too. It hints at but doesn’t telegraph the gimmick. We have two-word phrases where an L (think Roman numerals) is added to each word to make something wacky.
- 17a [Raleigh suffered from a cut?] WALTER BLED. Waterbed. I wonder if there was an original clue that referred to the main character of Breaking Bad.
- 21a [Boorish fellow among the pigeons?] LEDGE LOUT. Edge out. My least favorite. Probably because it started life as a verb, and boorish and LOUT are so old timey.
- 35a [Movie critics who scrutinize every last story detail?] PLOT STICKLERS. Pot stickers. My favorite. Smooth and perfectly described by its clue. Plus the word STICKLER is just funny. Factoid of the day: in the 16th century it meant “umpire”. The more you know.
- 52a [“Smooth move, Tyne!”?] “SLICK, DALY!”. Sick day. Nice, but I don’t know if Tyne DALY‘s name carries as much currency today. She is still actively working per IMDB.
- 58a [Blows exchanged at the Playground Fight Club?] SLIDE BELTS. Side bets. I love the clue here better than the answer. I doubt kids would call punches BELTS, but Playground Fight Club is objectively funny. I can see it as a recurring feature on a grimmer, darker Sesame Street. Maybe now that it’s on HBO…
As to the rest of the fill, with a 13-letter central theme entry, the corners are either going to be wide open or short, stubby affairs. Paolo went with the former. In the NE we get MASON JAR, END USERS, and DIATOMS (13d, [Some plankton], a word I didn’t know.
In the SW we get HIT SHOW (with a Hamilton reference), PETALUMA, and what I think is the marquee answer, LESBIGAY (36d, [Pride parade portmanteau]). This is another term I didn’t know but am glad to learn. The Internets tell me it originated with the 2009 film Jennifer’s Body. I suspect it is already passé at this point, having been overtaken by “LGBT” which is more inclusive. And it’s probably not in most constructors’ word list, but Paolo slides it in as natural as anything, and not only that, crosses two themers with it. Very nicely done.
Plus, it contributes to another word I didn’t know but am glad to learn: TABARD (48a, [Herald’s coat]), which is a “sleeveless jerkin consisting only of front and back pieces with a hole for the head,” per Google.
More noteworthy stuff:
- I love the SE corner with STELLA, TINTIN, and OLD SOD. But with TINTIN referred to as a “Belgian reporter”, why not clue STELLA with respect to the Belgian beer STELLA Artois? Oh yeah, Paolo’s not old enough to drink yet.
- 64a is POORS [The “P” of “S&P”]. Standard & Poor’s is a financial services company. It just struck me: Why would you do business with a financial company that calls itself “standard” and “poor”? (Yes, I know POOR’S is eponymous.)
Outstanding puzzle from a kid my son’s age. Crikey! I need to go lie down.
Edited to add: I’ve decided our constructor needs a new moniker. Much as I love the name Paolo, I shall henceforth refer to him as The Pasco Kid.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Dis-Entangled” — Ben’s Review
- 18A: I — THE ROYAL WE
- 24A: Whaler’s cry — THAR SHE BLOWS
- 40A: Meals on wheels provider? — DRIVE THRU WINDOW
- 50A: Queen Elizabeth’s head gear — BRITISH CROWN
- 61A: Publicly express contempt for, or an alternate title for this puzzle — THROW SHADE
I had a few issues with the theming on this puzzle. THE ROYAL WE felt super underclued, and to say throwing shade is to publicly express contempt for someone is a simplification. Business Insider does a far better job than I can of explaining where the phrase comes from and some better context for what kind of comment actually counts as “shady”.
That wasn’t the only thing frustrating me this year. The rest of the fill felt sloppy in places, particularly the southwest corner of the puzzle. CAN I at 1A took me most of the puzzle to crack, but Bobby RAHAL, I ERE I, OBS, and LSTS all in the lower left were inelegant, especially with a theme that didn’t feel as constrained as some of what BEQ’s previously created. Here’s some fill/cluing I liked:
- 67A: Martial arts-based exercise system — TAE-BO (Tae-Bo as a pop cultural phenomenon is almost old enough to drink, y’all. Where has the time gone!)
- 70A: “Hamilton” star Renee ___ Goldsberry — ELISE (Hamilton: it’s everywhere, even your local indie crossword)
- 4D: One well-versed in only one subject — IDIOT SAVANT
- 53D: Drum kit part crucial for that disco beat — HI HAT
A theme that was a little underclued and some inelegant fill brought this one down for me today.
C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s Summary
Today’s puzzle offers a strong visual of CROSSSTREETs – WALLmap and starFLEET in the bottom-left are real streets on either side of the Pond; SESAMEbagel and ELMtree both contain fictional ones; overEASY and waterMAIN are more idiomatic, though of course most towns have several Main Streets… The fact that the first two theme answers are [Breakfast order]s is a sneaky red herring!
Similar to yesterday, the sprawling theme means containment is the order of the day. With a seasoned constructor at the helm, things are kept nice under control.
- [Ludicrous], ANTIC. Don’t think I’ve encountered ANTIC as adjective before!
- [__-color pasta salad], TRI. Didn’t know that was a thing!
- [McDonald’s potato variety], RUSSET. Didn’t know that was specified!
- [Certain partner], WIFE. Uncertain partner = husband then?
Since the boss is a fan, leaving you in Dire Straits…