Fireball’s a contest puzzle this week.
Morton J. Mendelson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The theme is a 67-letter “punny” quip: THE PRIME SUSPECT / KNEW HE WAS COOKED / AFTER HE / WAS GRILLED BY THE / POLICE DETECTIVE. I really wanted his goose to be cooked, because that feels like a more familiar idiom than the person being cooked. And I tried CRIME SUSPECT, but I guess it’s PRIME because, like, beef or steak might be GRILLed? The quip did not hit my funny bone.
The theme density leads to a number of compromises in the fill. 51a. [Titular queen of Castile in a Handel opera], ALMIRA? I don’t recall ever seeing that one in a crossword (or anywhere else) before. The awkward patches of fill are exacerbated by really strange cluing choices. Why the hell is LAN clued as 20a. [Chilean-based carrier]? Why is AVENGER clued as if it’s a perfectly ordinary word that describes a literary character? You normally say someone is avenging an insult, or getting vengeance, not that he or she is an AVENGER. JOHANNA from Sondheim, also entirely unfamiliar to me. And a weird clue for INGOTS in that corner, plus semi-awkward answer ACT LIKE … this all made things harder than they needed to be. Other things in my “What’s up with this fill?” and “Why on earth is this the clue?” groups: ROSSI clue, GUSH clue, EN LAI fill, ESTELLE clue, RUTH clue, ATRI fill, OYER fill, DOTTED I fill.
I did like HAD A BEEF, CIS, ANTOINE de Saint-Exupéry, muy BUENO, and UTERUS.
2.6 stars from me.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wrapping Paper” — Jim’s review
Tidy little theme this, but all the wordplay is in the title. The rest is just a matter of construction.
We have four grid-spanning newspaper titles from different parts of the country—three going Across and the fourth straight down the middle crossing the other three. This sounds quite impressive, and it is, but from a construction standpoint, it’s been made immensely easier by the theme.
The theme entries are:
- 17a [Illinois newspaper] UNTIMES CHICAGO S. Chicago Sun-Times.
- 37a [Southwest newspaper] IC ARIZONA REPUBL. Arizona Republic.
- 57a [Florida newspaper] ANDO SENTINEL ORL. Orlando Sentinel.
- 6d [Connecticut newspaper] RD COURANT HARTFO. Hartford Courant.
The gimmick is that the newspaper titles “wrap” around the edges of the grid, so they don’t have to start at the left edge (or the top, in one case). This gives the constructor a great amount of leeway in finding one newspaper title that can cross three others. Instead of having to find a specific letter in a specific location, the constructor can “slide” the Across themers left or right as needed in order to get a valid crossing. All that’s needed is one letter anywhere in the entry that can match the vertical crossing. Got it?
Think how much harder it would be to construct this grid if all the newspaper titles had to start on the left or top of the grid. Finding just the right combination of four titles, might be impossible. Of course, having a vertical entry is not necessary for the theme, but it definitely increases the wow factor, and otherwise, once the gimmick’s uncovered, there’s not a lot of excitement to revealing the rest of the entries.
When I first encountered the clue for 17a, I figured it would be a Chicago paper and counted the squares to see if CHICAGO SUN-TIMES would fit. So I was pretty sure about it, but when the letters didn’t match up, I knew something was wonky. I was able to reveal UNTIMES along with a C and a G, so then I fit the rest of the title in and the penny dropped. Then it was just a matter of figuring out the other titles and where in the grid they started.
I’ve heard of the SENTINEL, but didn’t know the REPUBLIC or COURANT. That made those a little bit harder, but not terribly so.
The rest of the grid was Thursday-like, i.e. TRICKIER, but not terribly difficult. I had the most trouble in the middle and northeast sections because of these three entries:
- 9d. Did not know Krakow could be spelled CRACOW.
- 24a. [Meaning of the French verb that’s the root of “denoument”] took a while to understand, and then of course, I just plain didn’t know the answer would be UNKNOT.
- 34a. [One of Greece’s Seven Sages] is SOLON. No idea.
Favorite entries are LIGHTHOUSE (especially the fact that I somehow knew that that’s where you’d find a Fresnel lens), ZANINESS, and MEASURED UP.
All in all, this is a fine puzzle, but I look forward to Thursdays for some clever wordplay. This is impressively constructed to be sure, but it just had the one gimmick and that’s it.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Tee Times” — Ben’s Review
If you subscribe to the Breakfast Table rule, you may want to finish your coffee before starting today’s BEQ. Things get (mildly) risque in some of the theme clues of today’s puzzle, “Tee Times”:
- 17A: Blondie’s view from within? — BAKING X-RAY
- 23A: Elf’s orgasms? — MICROCLIMAXES
- 31A: Cost of a server system? — UNIX PRICE
- 40A: Transmit an image of a thumb? — FAX FINGER
- 47A: Dessert that makes you itchy? — CHICKEN POX PIE
- 60A: Endless booty? — SEX FOR LIFE
It’s all about crossing your T’s incorrectly here and making them X’s – BAKING TRAY, MICROCLIMATES, UNIT PRICE, FAT FINGER, CHICKEN POT PIE, and SET FOR LIFE all get slightly warped in meaning. This was a nice theme, in my opinion – straightforward, but there were some nice reveals as I figured out exactly what the X’s were replacing.
- 19A: Hacker’s cry — I’M IN (This in the same grid and within proximity of 22D‘s I’M UP felt a little repetitive)
- 43A: Feature made by glaciers — FJORD (I love this word)
- 41D: Dark reddish-purple — FUSCHIA
- 43D: Pre-Dropbox uploading protocol — FTP (remember FTP? I’m so glad we have things like Dropbox now)
- 44D: Cesta sport — JAI ALAI (this gets so much use in individual word fragments that it’s refreshing to see in full in a puzzle)
Fun theme, pretty nice fill.
Greg Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
Hidden word themes are a common trope. I think this one is a well-made example. It has a specific and apt revealer: INNERCHILD. This is translated as “four entries have a gender-neutral synonym for child spanning some of their words”. QWER(TYKE)YBOARD is a great entry, especially as it looked so wrong as it was going in! There is also a TOT in WENTOTOWN, a KID in KIKIDEE, and a YOUTH in WHATDOYOUTHINK.
KIKIDEE is interesting to me as an answer. In the U.S., she was pretty much a one-hit wonder, that I can see. Her career outside of that duet wasn’t that successful, even in the U.K. She had a second duet in 1993 with Elton, a Cole Porter cover, that was also quite big…
JPEG in the same area as QWERTY is an interesting gambit. It’s mostly well contained, though whether it was indirectly responsible for OTTS or not is an open question.
[Its website has a range finder], AMANA. This clue is trying to be cute, but I don’t think it works. It might have worked if that was an actual feature on the website, but no. There is a list of ranges: http://www.amana.com/#ranges/ , but no “range finder”.
[Dance provocatively], TWERK. Not in my definition of “provocative”.
[Pop’s Perry], KATY. I find this cover of her “Firework”, oddly mesmerising…
Jeff Chen’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Getting Schooled” —Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! Hope you’re all doing well! We get to FISH in today’s crossword (brought to us by Mr. Jeff Chen) as that entry explains what’s happening with the puzzle’s theme today (59A: [Word that follows the starts of 22-, 27-, 48-, and 53-Across, in a Dr. Seuss title]). Sadly, I never got a chance to read the book or have any of my schoolteachers read us this book when growing up.
- ONE MOMENT (22A: [“Hold, please”])
- TWO-FACED (27A: [Duplicitous])
- RED BARON (48A: [Snoopy’s nemesis in the air])
- BLUE BLOOD (53A: [Aristocratic sort])
How many people still use digital alarm clocks with the SNOOZE BAR on it to help them get up in the morning (6D: [It’s often pressed in the morning])? I can probably speak for a lot of people my age in that we now use our cell phones as our alarm clocks, though I still have an digital alarm clock/CD player that has a snooze bar on it. Can’t tell you if it actually still works, though. Actually am blogging at a coffee shop, so missed the chance to have some LATTE ART with my drink while doing this puzzle (39D: [“Drawing” made by a barista]). Fun fill, though, just like some of the other long downs in the grid, like I CAN RELATE (31D: [“Me and your both, brother”]) and JEEZ LOUISE, which I usually spell with a ‘g” (geez) instead of a “j” (3D: [“Oh, come on!”]). Wasn’t too much of a fan of INLEAF, though, but that’s me nitpicking more than anything (4D: [Covered with foliage]). Alright, time to head out, and maybe I’ll PRANCE out of the coffee shop in doing so (43A: [Gambol]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: FARM (1D: [Produce producer]) – This puzzle gave me probably the toughest time in terms of coming up with a fresh term to give a sports spin. What I’ll do is talk about my time broadcasting games on radio for one of the Baltimore Orioles’ FARM teams, located in Salisbury, Md. It was in 2007 and 2008, and the league the team (Delmarva Shorebirds) was in was called the South Atlantic League. During my time there, I got to see players who currently are starring in the major leagues. Some of those players I saw as minor leaguers include current San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (Augusta GreenJackets) Cleveland Indians All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley (West Virginia Power), former National League Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan (Greensboro Grasshoppers) and current Philadelphia Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez (Lake County Captains).
TGIF tomorrow! Have a good rest of your Thursday everyone!
This was an unpleasant solve. I must be honest and say that this was my least favorite Times xword ever. Sorry.
WSJ – very odd.
The second time in a couple days I’m baffled by reviews. The quote was amusing, even if not screamingly funny. I found it an enjoyable solve. Almira is an excellent and successful Handel opera. If you’re not familiar with it, that’s fine, but now you know how I feel about all those weird rock groups. Johanna is a major character in the wonderful Sweeney Todd, who I assumed would be widely familiar. I love the reference to Antoine de Saint Exupery, who is not only a honored writer, but also, if I recall correctly, a French war hero (WWII).
I’ve never heard of Estelle, but she’s gettable from the crosses. I’d rather see ‘Lan’ clued as an airline than a piece of computer jargon whose meaning I can never remember. The Turing test is interesting and controversial among linguists — It involves the thought experiment of asking questions and determining from the responses whether the responder is a conscious, (i.e. human) being, or a machine.
All in all, much more interesting than most puzzles.
I had the same reaction as Bruce. Though I didn’t know the character in the very famous Sweeney Todd, it was fairly easy to get from the crosses. And though I love Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna,” I don’t always require my own tastes to be confirmed, just a nod now and then (Handel will be fine, thanks). It’s amazing the stomach solvers have for Harry Potter, the Simpsons and old TV shows (as opposed to old movies, which I love) ad infinitum. Quote puzzles are hard to solve for me too, but I found this one amusing and not too slow (although I had a little help on the train from my husband, I admit).
My sister liked it too. Don’t be discouraged, Morton!
NYT: It’s a piss-poor quote that comes off more as a paraphrase designed to fit in the grid. The rest of the fill was sloppy and uneven, going from the too easy to the almost too hard (I did finish the puzzle). Quote puzzles don’t tickle my fancy, to begin with, so this one came in pretty close to what Amy rated it, for me.
I’m with the naysayers on this one. The theme was as funny as a brick, and the fill was uneven. Top half easy, bottom half difficult (for me, of course). ALMIRA may be a pleasant opera but it’s hardly well-known. JOHANNA was easily guessable from the first three letters, but I would have got it more quickly from ‘Visions of JOHANNA’ (B. Dylan, sorry Bruce).
I knew about the Bruno ROSSI prize, but that’s because I’m familiar with astrophysics. I rate it at least as obscure as ALMIRA, possibly more so.
I take issue with the clue for BOT. A bot, in standard parlance, is a simple app that performs some simple and highly specific actions. Not the kind of thing you would expect to give a Turing test to.
No need to apologize. Opinions differ.
Can a crossword clue/answer be an ear worm? I can’t get CHICKEN POX PIE out of my head.
23A has to be the funniest clue/answer I’ve seen in a long time.
Johanna was about the only thing that made me smile in that puzzle:
It’s pretty much already all been said: stilted, contrived, unfunny joke that you have to solve around as a theme. The solving around makes the number of difficult proper nouns extra annoying – you may have known some, but most wouldn’t have known enough that large sections of the puzzle were hard, not in a fun way, but in an annoying way. That reflects in about the worst ratings I’ve seen in a NYT puzzle.
A final rating under 2…wow.
The interesting part is the implied indictment of Will and his staff . I also imagine constructors who have had numerous rejections are shaking their heads.
NYT: I couldn’t figure out where I had a wrong answer until I realized that “Nautical command” was not, in fact, SEA VETO.
And I wondered what editors wrote “steh” on manuscripts.
That’s a combination of ‘stet’ and ‘meh.’ It means change it back if you like, or whatever, I don’t care.
Quick question: I can’t figure out how “baking xray” is the answer to BEQ clue 17A. Blondie like a vanilla brownie or like the band or Blondie like Dagwood’s wife? The confectionary is baked but not conscious. Or is it somehow about weed?
I wondered about that one, too. At first I thought it might be a stoner reference to blonde hash and “baking” but decided it was a brownies.
Blondie looking for a high tech view of whether her corn muffins were done?
CS: Cute. I loved reading that book to my daughter.
LAT: Excellent. Seems to me that the embedded children got older as you went down the grid: TOT, TYKE, KID, YOUTH. Nice touch. And TWERK definitely provokes something if someone is doing it to/with you. Cough, cough.
BEQ: Quirky and fun.
2.01 rating, says a lot about the quality of NYT crosswords of late. Lots of low fill quality and themes that just aren’t that great.