Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword, “Cross References” – Jenni’s writeup
Today’s Fireball is very tricky. Very, very tricky. I didn’t think the payoff was worth the struggle; read on, and you be the judge.
The theme answers:
- 16a [Having as much love as the creator of “Jeopardy!”?] = GRIFFINHEARTED. Merv Griffin created “Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.” I knew that. I was amused by the concatenation of punctuation at the end of the clue. I noticed that 20a, right underneath, also had a ? clue – [Like steak that couldn’t be any more well done?] = TENDEREST. So maybe we’re supposed to cross them and come up with “tender-hearted”? Let’s see.
- 37a [Yemeni city after a blizzard?] = WHITE MOCHA. Mocha is a city in Yemen. I knew that, too. I saw “coffee” crossing “mocha” and thought “hmm. Maybe we’re supposed to substitute? Coffee mocha? White mocha? Nah.” There’s no themer above or below this one, so my original theory won’t work.
- 46a [Act like a kid getting ready to make pies outdoors?] = TEST THE MUD. I didn’t see any relevant crossing words and was now completely stumped.
- 70a [Where the king of ancient Crete went to stock his labyrinth?] = MINOTAUR MARKET. So maybe we’re supposed to cross TEST THE MUD with MINOTAUR MARKET to get TEST THE MARKET? Except that leaves WHITE MOCHA out in the cold, so to speak. Still confused.
I finished the rest of the puzzle and stared at it, then consulted with Amy, who noticed that DIRT crossed MUD and EAGLE crossed GRIFFIN. So…huh? Finally, I looked at the answers Peter sent with the puzzle. Amy was on the right track. A GRIFFIN is an EAGLE crossed with a LION, and the substitution gives us LIONHEARTED. MOCHA is COFFEE crossed with CHOCOLATE…WHITE CHOCOLATE. MUD is DIRT crossed with WATER…TEST THE WATER. MINOTAUR is MAN crossed with BULL…BULL MARKET. So “Cross References” refers not only to the words crossing the theme answers, but to the “cross” that creates part of each theme. Paul gives us two mythological creatures, one flavor sensation, and one messy backyard. It’s a construction tour-de-force of the sort that leaves me saying “oh” instead of “oooh.” I realize that’s a matter of personal taste. I was confused by TENDEREST, which is one letter shorter than two of the theme answers and has a ? at the end of the clue. That seemed to unnecessarily muddy the waters. So to speak.
- Not all ? clues are confusing. Some are simply brilliant, like [Fast food source?] for EMU at 5a
- 23a gives us an analogy. [4: diamond :: 10: __ ] The answer is OPAL. I thought this was the Mohs scale for hardness, except that diamond is a 10. It’s actually birthstone months; diamond is the birthstone for April and opal is the birthstone for October. That’s what happens when you’re married to a geologist – you think mineralogy before popular culture. I have an opal in my engagement ring because I prefer opals to diamonds.
- I’m not crazy about SLEEKS as a verb [Streamlines], 10d.
- 34a [Member of the Zeeba Zeeba Eata frat in the comic strip “Pearls Before Swine”] is CROC, which was a relief, because I could only remember the name of one of the crocs and Larry didn’t fit.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that skat players form a THREESOME. I’m not judging.
Andrew Zhou’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Short night of sleep + long day = yawning. Quickblog!
Theme pretends that various letter + word terms are short for two-word phrases. QUICK TIPS (is that a thing?) suggest Q-tips. TAPAS BARS could get you ski-slope T-bars. VITAL SIGNS, a V-for-victory sign. ONION RING, rocket or space shuttle O-ring. FOXHOLE, a violinist’s F hole. GUEST SPOT on a TV show, G-spot. And BLINDSIDES, B-sides. (I tried BROADSIDES first.) A little weird that the actual phrases in the grid aren’t really clued.
1a. Not keen on singular “foe of the Ottomans” for plural SLAVS. 38a ROUGE, a [Compact material]? Maybe for 80-year-olds, or for garish stage makeup? It’s blush these days. Chicken tikka MASALA, yes please. ODIST, meh. SPIKE LEE, great fill. Maybe a lot of names in this grid? I count about 16 proper nouns, which makes people whinge about “trivia.” I’ll grant you, LASSE and PAAVO go way beyond OSLO in friendly Scandinavian crossword fill.
21d Brian ENO was featured in Entertainment Weekly! He recorded an album from some sort of museum soundscape installation he had prepared. I’ll pass.
3.4 stars from me.
Zhouqin Burnikel & Peg Slay’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Play Ball!” — Jim’s review
CC is back with us and she’s teamed up with Peg Slay who makes her WSJ debut. Congrats!
The revealer at 25d is apt for a constructing partnership: [Joins forces, or the hidden four-letter words in four Down answers]. The answer of course is TEAMS UP.
My first thought was we’d be seeing the letter string SMAET going down in each of the theme answers. But it’s more fun than that. Each themed clue indicates a city, so we’re looking for the baseball team from that city going up in each theme answer.
From left to right, they are:
- 3d [Genre for tattoo design, in Tampa] FANTASY ART. Rays. Not a phrase I encounter much, but I guess it’s legit.
- 21D [Launch approval, in New York] ALL SYSTEMS GO. Mets.
- 9d [Is sidetracked, in Cincinnati] GETS DERAILED. Reds. This one feels forced.
- 32d [“China Sky” author, in Chicago] PEARL S. BUCK. Cubs. Nice find!
Why baseball? Not sure. By the time I’d gotten the theme I had forgotten the title, so I was also looking for football team names. But it’s much better to have a consistent set, and this one is. Not only are they all from MLB, but these are the only 4-letter team names in the league, so that makes the set complete.
The title doesn’t have much to do with the theme, however, except to put it in a baseball context. I wish something could’ve been found that hinted more strongly at the theme, but I guess you can’t use “Batters Up!” because it dupes “Up”. How about “Hey Batta Batta!”?
Beyond the theme, we’re treated to some nice fill: I’M TOAST, SAD BUT TRUE, and BUSY SIGNAL are the highlights. BUSY SIGNAL gets the clue [Something rarely heard nowadays]. When was the last time you heard one?
AUDIBLE is good, too, and gets a football clue [Quarterback’s change]. I would’ve also accepted, [Website for book listeners]. Oh, and there’s a MISS YOU and RIVULET. Nice.
Less than good: WKS at 27a and the crossing of ECCL and ELLE with toughish clues [“There is no new thing under the sun” source: Abbr.] and [French pronoun].
- 1a. Favorite clue: [Not a single person] for WIFE.
- 65a. Did not know that ENSIGN can simply refer to a flag. I always thought it was just a naval rank.
- 50a. Did not know AESOP was a [Slave known for his stories]. Apparently he was also “of loathsome aspect… potbellied, misshapen of head, snub-nosed, swarthy, dwarfish, bandy-legged, short-armed, squint-eyed, liver-lipped—a portentous monstrosity” (though, per Wikipedia, this description might be fictional).
- YIP and YAP. SARA, SARI, SUVA, and SAGO.
- 26d. EXES is clued [Blake and Miranda, e.g.]. Don’t know. Don’t care.
A nice Thursday challenge—tougher than yesterday, but not too tough.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Themeless Thursday” — Ben’s Review
It’s time for a Themeless Thursday on BEQ’s site! No theme to explain today, so let’s go crazy and dive straight in to the clues/fill I liked in this puzzle:
- 16A: ___ l’oeil (art technique) — TROMPE
- 28A: Start writing — PUT PEN TO PAPER (I can tell I’ve gotten better at themeless crosswords because I put this in the grid without having any of the corresponding crossings)
- 45A: David Bowie classic with the line “He’d like to come and meet us/ But he thinks he’d blow our minds” — STARMAN (I went to a version of HMS Pinafore where the cast performed their own accompaniment and “Starman” was one of the songs they played in the crowd as a warmup before the show. It was awesome – if The Hypocrites are doing their Gilbert & Sullivan rep series in either your neck of the woods, or theirs — Chicago — go and see it.)
- 49A: His website bio says “Writer, Actor, and Tall Person” — CLEESE (The “Deja Vu” episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus is one of my favorite full episodes of sketch comedy ever)
- 3D: Surrounding neighborhood — PURLIEU (This was not a word I knew before today, but it definitely looked wordish once I finally had it in the grid from the acrosses)
- 8D: “I ___ Porcellini” (Italian fairy tale) — TRE (I may only know rudimentary Spanish as far as foreign languages go, but apparently I can translate “The Three Little Pigs” from Italian without any assistance)
- 11D: Meat-lover’s pizza order — DOUBLE PEPPERONI (This was another one I got with only the crossing “P” from PUT PEN TO PAPER and I felt very proud of myself)
- 30D: Puzzle maker Joon — PAHK (This felt a little inside baseball, but also seems like a good time to point out that Joon’s site for Rows Gardens and other Variety Puzzles is very excellent and you should subscribe.)
- 46D: London museum that gives out the annual Turner prize — TATE (As someone who digs weird contemporary art, the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall series is one of my favorite things to track on a yearly basis)
I liked the fill on this one, but YMMV. Happy Memorial Day weekend!
Gareth Bain’s LA Times crossword – Jim’s review
Apologies to Gareth and the loyal followers of his posts. We had agreed to do a swap today; he would blog the WSJ and I would solve and blog his LAT puzzle. Well, I plumb forgot (as did he, I think) and I went ahead and did the WSJ. But I’m still on the hook for his LAT, so here we are.
Nice puzzle. This one falls squarely in the category of “why didn’t I think of that?”. The theme is revealed at 58a: [Wall Street announcement…or a hint to the circled letters]. The answer is STOCK SPLIT, and in the circled letters you’ll find various animals which can be referred to collectively as STOCK. And, obviously, they are SPLIT with respect to their respective phrases.
- 18a [*Steinbeck novel set in Monterey] CANNERY ROW. Cow. A gimme for me as one of my favorite places in the world is the Monterey Bay Aquarium which is located on CANNERY ROW.
- 23a [*Starter] HORS D’OEUVRE. Horse. Mind your spelling with this one.
- 35a [*China server] GRAVY BOAT. Goat.
- 52a [*Refinery job] PIPE FITTING. Pig.
To be honest, I always think cows when someone is referring to STOCK, so I was a bit thrown by the other animals. But it makes sense when you realize STOCK is just short for livestock.
Wait. We have stars and circles?! Talk about overkill. This is a Thursday. Now, I haven’t done an LA Times puzzle in a while, but shouldn’t Thursdays be tougher than giving the solver both stars and circles? And the stars weren’t even referred to in the revealer. I think this puzzle would’ve been quite fine without either.
With a 9-letter central themer, that means the corners will either have a bunch of 3-letter words or else longer 6+-letter words. For the most part, Gareth gives us the long, good stuff. Three of the corners are very nice; I like GEISHA, UPSHOTS, and MENORAH in the NW, RIVETER (as in Rosie The) and Bob Marley’s ONE LOVE in the SW, and AIRTIME and FROST UP in the NE. There’s also AFRICA (Gareth’s home continent), BITTER, ENRICO Fermi, ABILENE, and AT A LOSS. All really good stuff.
I got pasted in the SE though. 44d is [Put on a pedestal]. Of course I wanted DEIFY right away, but sometimes it takes me ages to realize that the past tense of “put” is “put”. Next door, [Raise up] was not saying ENNOBLE to me. But the real killer was the crossing of 60a and 60d ([Poke fun at] and [Mail hub: Abbr.]). Granted, I should know that to poke fun at someone is to GIBE (as opposed to jibe, which is what I was thinking). But GPO? That’s a new one to me.
But other than that stumbling block, this was a pretty quick solve. I expected a Thursday to put up more of a fight. Overall, a fine theme with good entries (frankly, I was won over at CANNERY ROW), but lots of good fill besides. But Gareth, next time you have a Wall Street-themed puzzle, why not send it to Mike Shenk?
Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Connect the Dots” —Ade’s write-up
Whoa! I’m back! Didn’t know I was going to end up missing three days here while preparing for a big couple of weeks covering an international soccer competition that’s about to start in the United States, but that’s what happened. My apologies, everyone. OK, back to crossword puzzle discussions.
Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Mr. Randall J. Hartman, has five theme entries, with all of them being multiple word entries in which the letters “DOT” bridge the two words.
- TUXEDO TIE (17A: [Formal wear]) – Number of times I’ve worn a tuxedo in my life? Three.
- LAREDO TEXAS (23A: [“The City Under Seven Flags”])
- TORNADO TRACKING (37A: [The Weather Channel service])
- TORPEDO TUBE (45A: [Submarine weapon launcher])
- JUDO THROW (58A: [Kind of martial art move])
No problems getting back on the horse doing this grid, though I wasn’t thinking of a plural greeting when seeing the clue for TATAS (1A: [Cheerios]). Guess I should noticed the lack of quotation marks for that one. I’ve heard a number of idioms that describe someone as DENSE, but the clue for it today was something I hadn’t heard before (63A: [One burrito shy of a combo plate]). Was embarrassed that I thought of Jimmy Kimmel instead of Jimmy Fallon when reading the clue for JAY, despite having no problem getting the answer (58D: [Host between Johnny and Jimmy]). Man, there have been a whole lot of talk show hosts whose first names started with the letter J: Jimmys Fallon and Kimmel, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, James Corden. Guess I would have some success with becoming a talk show host if I changed my name to Jadesina. Oooh, if you take my nickname and put a J in front of it, that makes Jade. Talk show host stardom, here I come!!
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: OTIS (20A: [Football player Sistrunk who was said to have graduated from the “University of Mars”]) – Now this is a clue for Otis that I can really dig!! It is true that former Oakland Raiders defensive lineman and Super Bowl (XI) champion OTIS Sistrunk is one of the few players in NFL history to play in the league without attending college. Sistrunk went straight from high school in Columbus, GA to the United States Marines, and, after his service, played semi-pro football until being noticed by Raiders owner Al Davis. During a Monday Night Football game, a graphic appeared on the screen while the camera was on Sistrunk that stated that he was from “U.S. Mars.,” which was supposed to denote U.S. Marines. Former football player and, at the time, Monday Night Football commentator Alex Karras uttered the now famous comment that the bald-headed Sistrunk was from the “University of Mars.” Legend born.
TGIF tomorrow! Have a great rest of your Thursday!
NYT: I really liked the concept of the puzzle…It was different and fun, including the fact that the full entry was not clued. A bunch of points for that!
But, at the risk of disappointing Bruce, I’m not up on my Estonian conductors… The name Jarvi is recognizable to me as a known conductor but I could not generate the first name. And I love Chocolat, but LASSE was not going to emerge on its own either. So, yeah, I’m one of those people that Amy talks about who doesn’t love too many names. I can often work around them, until they reach a certain critical mass, and change the nature of a whole corner, sometimes an entire puzzle. In this case, they impacted only a couple of neighborhoods…
Huda, in some ways it’s worse than that, if “worse” is the right word. By far the best known Estonian conductor is Neeme Jarvi which I treated as a gimme, and then was puzzled when it didn’t work. Then I realized that I had vaguely heard of his son Paavo, also a conductor. But Neeme is distinguished and well- known to music nerds; Paavo is not. It’s almost as if there were a baseball player named Joe Mays or Ralph Mantle who was the subject of the clue.
The theme was initially frustrating, and to me almost meaningless, since I thought that “ear swabs” was obviously Queue tips — i.e. I thought that the (very weak) theme was “take a two-word phrase where the first letter of the first word together with the second word means something and then just eliminate the rest of the first word. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the words, until I got further into the puzzle.
The design of the f-hole in the violin is a fascinating and complex subject. It was the genius of Stradivarius, building on Amati, to realize that the f-hole is not just decorative. It is asymmetrical, i.e. the wood is sanded and varnished so that it is thicker at some points along the opening. This creates different vibration patterns in the wood along the edges of the f-holes and in particular between the two “sides” of the violin, and this is responsible for the richness and power of the instrument, especially in the low register. The difference in sound between a well-crafted instrument, and a machine-made cookie cutter instrument is glaringly obvious to a musician.
Thanks Bruce… I feel better! There are two of them! And Papa Jarvi passed on both his talent and a crossword worthy double-vowelled first name. I actually realized that I remember the name Jarvi because Neeme Jarvi conducted the Detroit Symphony at one point. I wonder if this was the clue provided by the constructor, or whether someone picked it as the second name that pops up when you look up PAAVO, after Nurmi.
Very interesting re the f-hole! The art and science of the acoustics of these instruments is fascinating. I grew up listening to Oud music and my aunt had a very personal relationship to her Ouds– they each sounded distinctive, and she used to say they had different souls and a different kind of tenderness.
I love your comment about your aunt and her ouds. Her comment echoes the intense and personal relationship dedicated musicians have to their instrument, whether oud, violin, piano, or whatever. I think music historians would say that the oud is perhaps the most ancient instrument still widely played, having undergone the fewest changes over the millennia.
I only know the name PAAVO because of Paavo Nurmi, a marathon runner from the early 20th century, and I can’t say why I know him (aside from crosswords. I think there’s a famous picture of him that I’ve seen.) I don’t know either Jarvi and if I didn’t know Nurmi I would have been stumped. At least I know PAAVO is a name.
Thanks for the explanation of f-holes, Bruce. Now I need to go look up “oud.”
I learnt about Paavo Nurmi in Standard 2 (Grade 4) in 1996 because our teacher was overly excited about the Olympics and so gave us profiles of all the great athletes! Luckily I was a sponge at that age!
I wonder if you are thinking of an Italian runner named Dorando Pietri. There is an iconic photograph of him winning the 1908 marathon. Sadly, he was disqualified because he was assisted in the final lap. Paavo Nurmi was a force of nature and is almost always depicted in a totally in control way.
The third picture down is the iconic one of Pietri.
Replying to Steve below- ran out of nesting. I remember the photo you point to, and I also remember the one at the top of Nurmi’s Wikipedia page. So who knows?
BRUCE, thank you for your post. I’d never heard of Paavo and I agree with your and Huda’s comments. Also the rest of them.
Thanks for the review, Jenni. The TENDEREST, EMU, and most of the best clues were Peter’s. He really is a master of the art. In retrospect, however, you’re probably right that only the theme clues should have had a question mark.
The puzzle’s genesis was mythological hybrids, and I would have liked to have them all be from a thematic set. A few from my list like SIREN crossed by bird in a phrase originally using woman, and CERBERUS crossed by snake in a dog phrase didn’t make the cut since Peter was concerned that woman was a quasi dupe with man, which I’d already used. Also, bird is too similar to eagle. The modern understanding of Cerberus, the three headed dog of Hades doesn’t involve snakes. (Homer, Hesiod, and other ancients described the beast as such, but it isn’t widely known these days.) Many others from my list couldn’t be used for similar reasons and the puzzle morphed into a blend of types that fit the constraints of space and crossing letters.
I just had reason to read up on Cerberus the other day (catching up on old Acrostics) and I didn’t know about the snakes until then. I didn’t mean to suggest that the theme should have been more consistent -you were working with a lot of constraints.
Peter is indeed a master of the art of cluing, and most of the time I appreciate that. Sometimes, though, I think the desire for an original or creative clue can get in the way, and TENDEREST falls into that category because of its length and proximity to a theme answer. As I said, I loved the clue for EMU.
Thanks, Jenni, but I do have to ding myself for failing to produce a consistent set. Mythology was the puzzle’s raison d’etre, and in fact my original title was “Myth Busters.” In addition to MINOTAUR and GRIFFIN and the ones I mentioned above, I had BASILISK, which is a chicken/serpent, and MERMAID for girl/fish. But a basilisk is also a real reptile and the same dupe problems for woman exist with girl. I couldn’t use faun, Sphinx, satyr, harpy, or centaur for the same problem of duplication in that I’d already used man. Pegasus almost worked, but Peter and I agreed it was in a somewhat different category, more a horse with wings than a cross of two species.
NYT: I, too, initially wrote in QUEUETIPS before realizing that with O-RING and G-SPOT, there would no way to make the O sound or G sound with 5 letters. Then I realized what was going on, and the puzzle solved itself pretty quickly after that.
I, too, am not a big fan of proper names in xwords, so PAAVO was terrible, and AMATI crossing LUMET was unforch. I did like the three Greek letters as well as UNPC. I’m still not sure about “Grateful?” = ASHES — ok, I guess some people fill grates with ashes.
And QUICK TIPS are definitely not a thing. Someone can give you a quick tip, I suppose, but in the plural, that phrase sounds bizarre.
On the whole, a pretty solid Thursday puzzle.
I’ve definitely seen “quick tips” as a section of an instruction manual or website – what you need to know to get started, or extra help without reading the whole manual.
The Fireball theme is very clever, so clever that, like Jenni, I couldn’t grasp it. After the first theme entry, I thought it was going to be mythological creatures, but then it wasn’t.
It might have worked better as the framework for a meta, with perhaps two additional crossed entities hidden elsewhere in the grid.
Mr. Zhou missed a great opportunity to include two of the best distance runners of all time in today’s NYT: PAAVO Nurmi and LASSE Viren. (Both Finns, incidentally.)
Okay, so maybe “missed” is the wrong verb and “great” the wrong adjective and “opportunity” the wrong noun, but I certainly would have appreciated it.
Nurmi won 9 gold medals in distance running. In one Olympics, he won the 1,500 and 5,000 meter races on the same day. He is one of the absolute all-time great distance runners. I am not sure, but I do not think he ever lost a cross country race in his career.
I really need to learn how to play skat.
(Fun, hard puzzle, but I would have never gotten the theme without coming here.)
The WSJ title ‘Teams UP. is integral to understanding that the team names are read from bottom to top. And it is a wonderful title for a collaborative puzzle. Using the only 4 letter baseball team names makes this puzzle special.
While I find the concept of ratings a subjective exercise, those who assign 2 stars for this baffle me, of course to rate as poor and not comment also baffles me.
“Collaborative”! That’s the word my brain wouldn’t come up with when I was writing the post.
As for the low raters, I find that some people just get angry about some nitpicky thing and decide to “punish” the constructor with a low rating. Any reasonably constructed puzzle should always get at least a 3 in my book. Of course, I refrain from using the ratings at all.
Like you say, the ratings on this blog are a completely subjective exercise for all involved. One could equally say that ratings that are not 3 stars (meaning your condition, or anyone who ranks 4 or 5 stars) are baffling and anyone who rates 4 or 5 stars and does not comment is baffling. While there are notable trends that show up every once in a while of a more sociological note, in the end, it’s just a subjective exercise with no notable objective criteria behind them. So in the end, it really doesn’t have very much meaning behind it.
NYT: Impressive theme density and cool that all the phrases begin with a different letter. This puzzle hit my Thursday sweet spot in every regard; a pleasure to solve. GESSO made me think of an old friend who appeared on Jeopardy! a couple years ago–she got it as the answer to an art question. (Incidentally, this was during Arthur Chu’s run on the show; she tied him in their first game, but he defeated her the next day).
Re NYT: Not to knock what others like, that is, distance runners, but I enjoyed today’s movie directors, Sidney LUMET, SPIKE LEE and LASSE Hallstrom, and the orchestra conductor, PAAVO Jarvi. It just so happens that there are about an equal number of Google hits for the son and the father (Neeme Jarvi), and not so many, I grant you. I’m a little more familiar with the son. I didn’t know his name perfectly and had fun working it out. I wouldn’t have known the runners. It’s good for everyone to have their interests represented in the puzzle sometime, and I don’t mind others expressing their opinions about their preferences, but I want to speak up for mine. I enjoyed the CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA too, and the LUTZ from one of my few spectator sports. Fun puzzle aside from personal preferences.
Swimming somewhere in my mental well—my dad talking about Paavo Nurmi, the Flying Finn.