Fireball’s a contest puzzle this week—write-up after the deadline.
Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The revealer is the central Down answer, 29d. [“Move on!” … or how to decipher the 16 starred clues], DROP IT. Those 16 clues contain words with an extraneous “it” within them, and the clue only makes sense if you drop “it.” For example, 1a. [*Pitiers] looks like a terrible clue, but when you remove “it,” you get [Piers], which clues DOCKS. My favorite theme clues here are:
- 3d. [*Lolita’s workplace, in song], COPACABANA. “Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl”—Barry Manilow.
- 15d. [*Britain’s location], CRANIUM. Such a geographic clue!
- 34d. [*Bar order requiring celerity], BLOODY MARY. I like the celery/celerity overlap.
- 41d. [*Suite for use?], ANAGRAM. Man, I was trying to figure out what sort of lawsuit would be done to “sue for use.”
- 51d. [*Mojito, for one], AMULET. Get your mojo workin’. Did I ever tell you about the time I heard someone pronounce this Cuban cocktail as “MOH-jee toe” rather than “mo-HEE-toe”? (You should see your doctor about that mojy toe. Looks like it might be a fungal infection.)
And now, five more things:
- 70a. [*Sitting figures, maybe], T-MEN. I tried GMEN first, not convinced that Treasury agents use stings to catch violators. But apparently the IRS (part of the Treasury Department) does indeed do some stings.
- 18a. [Places for naps?], RUGS. I have an area rug with a really thick nap/pile. It’s actually been used for napping.
- 37a. [Alma-___, Kazakhstan], ATA. Anyone who does Sporcle.com geography quizzes knows the city as Almaty now, but both are out there. (See also Ulaanbaatar, which should be in a puzzle with a five-appearances-of-the-same-vowel theme, although it would mess with people who are sticking with Ulan Bator, possibly because they see ULAN in too many crosswords.)
- 40a. [Some atom smashers, briefly], LINACS. Linear accelerators have a nickname? Who knew? (Fewer than 10% of NYT Thursday solvers, I bet.)
- When you plop 17 thematic answers into one 15×15 grid, you know what happens, right? Often the grid gets too crowded for the fill to all be smooth. Really would have preferred not to have the French word OIE, OBOL, and STEN, to name the most flagrantly old-school fill.
3.75 stars from me.
Julian Thorne’s (Mike Shenk’s?) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Duh!” — Jim’s review
Julian Thorne anagrams to “Journal Thine” for you Shakespearean types and also “The ‘In’ Journal” for you cliquish types. Today, you can be forgiven for feeling a little thick-headed because we’re adding the “duh” sound to the ends of various phrases.
- 17a [Mexican painter in one of her brightly colored self-portraits?] FANCY FRIDA. Fancy free. The only one to require a spelling change.
- 32a [Bei Bei, sitting by the hearth?] WARMING PANDA. Warming pan.
- 40a [Holding of a Greek Scrabble player?] RACK OF LAMBDA. Rack of lamb.
- 59a [Bar order from the designated driver?] MAKE IT SODA. Make it so.
I grokked the theme early because I suspected correctly the first clue was referring to FRIDA KAHLO. When I saw “Bei Bei,” I knew what was going on.
This helped me with the rest of the themers, but not necessarily with the rest of the grid. The NW played so tough for me I had to resort to the “Show Mistakes” feature of the online-app (*hangs head in shame*). This revealed that I misspelled FRIDA as FREIDA, and that ETE for 24a [Rimbaud’s “___ Saison en Enfer”] was completely wrong. I wanted GROANS for 3d [Reacts to a terrible pun], didn’t know what [Inspirit] meant at 1d or who [New York restaurateur Kaufman] was at 2d. I thought 14a [Bjorn beat him in the 1976 Wimbledon finals] might be IVAN Lendl or JOHN McEnroe (or even PETE Connors, who, it turns out, is not a real tennis star); the correct answer is ILIE Nastase. And I just plain didn’t know what word could possibly precede FRIDA.
But I’m not complaining. It’s all fair. Putting in ELAINE was my biggest “Duh!” moment of the puzzle. And I do like the theme answers, especially the last two. If you had a RACK OF LAMBDA, I think you’d be screwed in your Greek Scrabble game (though really it should be RACK OF LAMBDAS). And MAKE IT SODA evoked Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: TNG (but why not use him in the clue?). Did he ever go to Ten Forward and ask Guinan for a SODA? The writers missed an opportunity here because I think he only ever drank “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”
Most of the non-theme clues were tough or misleading:
- 66a. [Pitcher’s spot, often] is not MOUND but NINTH (think batting order).
- 39a. [Series of strange events] is talking about the TV “series” LOST.
- 34d. [Predecessor of Ben and Janet] is of course ALAN Greenspan. This is not really misleading, but I couldn’t stop thinking of superstars Ben Affleck and Janet Aniston (who, it turns out, is not a real superstar).
- 42d. [Plant tender] is FOREMAN, as in someone who oversees an industrial plant.
- 58d. [Producer of billions of “bricks” annually] is PEZ though I couldn’t stop thinking LEGOS.
- 36d. [View from Bellagio] wanted you to put in LAS VEGAS which fits nicely. But it’s really referring to the actual Bellagio which is a small village on LAKE COMO. This is how you do misdirection, my friends!
I could go on. It was pretty much like that everywhere with tough, but really, really good clues.
More good fill: OFF-YEAR, GRACING, AL PACINO, SCENARIO, BRITISH, and NAPOLI (I just like saying NAPOLI).
Sci-Fi/Fantasy geeks get LOST and Star Trek as mentioned above, as well as Star Wars in 29d EWOK and Game of Thrones in 8d NED [Father of Sansa and Arya Stark].
Hold on! I just noticed there is one, just one abbreviation in the grid. 4d is DEC [Last of 12 pp.]. There are NO acronyms or partials or ANY OTHER DRECK. Wow! I don’t think I have ever, EVER, seen a grid this clean. There’s ILIE, as mentioned above, and UNE, but my God, this is a clean grid!
I will end it there. This grid shows why Mike Shenk is one of the masters. The theme is not ground-breaking, but it’s handled with skill and humor. The clues are late-week tough and deliciously misdirecting. And the fill is simply a thing to behold in its cleanliness. An outstanding puzzle!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Infestation” — Ben’s Review
Happy Thursday, y’all! We’ve almost made it to the weekend. Today’s BEQ puzzle was fairly straightforward, with some nice theme entries:
- 18A: Gnu’s fantasies? — WILDEBEEST DREAMS
- 25A: Animostiy shown while walking the dog? — YO-YO MALICE
- 37A: Insulted at a dinner very quickly? — ROASTED BRIEFLY
- 51A: Ill-defined gluey stuff? — DIM STICKUM
- 59A: Feudal laborer after a street fight? — BLACK-EYED PEASANT
(I tried to find a Black Eyed Peas song I liked, but that proved impossible, so here is a much better song they interpolate in “Don’t Phunk With My Heart”)
I thought this was a straight-forward and clever theme, with a different pest (BEE, LICE, FLY, TICK, ANT) infesting each theme entry. I had just one quibble: ROASTED BRIE is not something I’m familiar with. BAKED BRIE, yes. Both are a dry heat, but roasting tends to be at higher temperatures (think 400 F or higher), while baking occurs at lower temps. Another difference is that roasting usually has a layer of fat on the outside of the item being roasted (think oil/butter on the skin of a roasted chicken/turkey) vs. fat on the inside of baked goods (so, bread/cookies/brie). I’ve been reading a looooot of Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab over the past week, y’all. I’m ready for any crossword-related cooking/baking questions.
Again, aside from that (and the use of the plural LICE when all other pests were singular), I enjoyed the theme entries. The rest of the fill/cluing was pretty nice as well:
- 9A: 1980 DeLuise film — FATSO (I have never heard of this movie, but I have seen Dom DeLuise, so when I had F??S? from the down clues, I had a good guess of what one of his movies may have been titled.)
- 50A: Brandy specification letters — VSO (My brain is finally starting to absorb crosswordese like this – no downs required here!)
- 3D: Herb in Indian cooking — CILANTRO (I tend to associate this as much with Mexican cooking as Indian cooking, but I’m one of the however many percent that don’t think this stuff tastes like soap and love copious amounts of it whenever asked in a recipe)
- 38D: What baby lotion might give you — SOFT SKIN (I had the mental image of a travel-sized bottle of lotion as “baby lotion” when solving this clue.)
A few quibbles, but a generally strong puzzle from BEQ.
Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Phoned In” —Ade’s write-up
Good day, everybody. Hope your week has gone well so far as we turn the corner towards the weekend. You can somewhat accuse today’s crossword puzzle constructor, Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, of phoning it in with his grid today. That’s because each of the theme entries that isn’t the reveal has the letters “APP” spanning two words in entry. Then there’s the reveal, APP STORES, letting you in on what’s going on (34A: [Certain download sites, and a possible alternative title for this puzzle]).
- SCRAP PAPER (17A: [Jotter’s need])
- WRAP PARTIES (25A: [Events after movie shootings])
- REAP PROFITS (50A: [Run a successful business, say])
- SOAP POWDER (58A: [Detergent type])
Oh, and just in case you were solving the puzzle and didn’t read the byline as to who constructed the puzzle, you definitely would have gotten a hint once you filled in MAS (47A: [Kettle and Bell]). Seeing that, whether an intentional signature on a grid or not, only makes me want to put my initials in a grid even more when I start constructing. Speaking of cool fill, how about PHARISEE (35A: [Biblical hypocrite])? Definitely the highlight of the solve for me, and much RESPECT given to that (1D: [Regard highly]). And for those with an opera persuasion, you must have liked TOREADOR in the grid as well (9D: [“________ Song” (“Carmen”)]). Although I’m sure someone who wouldn’t be too pleased with the grid is celebrity chef Bobby FLAY, who might be disappointed he wasn’t the subject of the clue that led to his surname being in the grid (4D: [Censure harshly]). All kidding aside, AWESOME grid (39D: [“Sweet!”]).
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ASHE (33D: [“Off the Court” author Arthur]) – With Wimbledon coming up in a couple of weeks, we go back 41 years to 1975, when Arthur ASHE won the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s singles championship. On his run to the title, he defeated Bjorn Borg in the quarterfinals, the man who would subsequently win five consecutive Wimbledon singles titles, from 1976 to 1980. Ashe defeated Australian tennis great Tony Roche in the semifinals, and then beat the defending Wimbledon champion, Jimmy Connors, in the final. Not too shabby, Arthur!
TGIF tomorrow! Have a great rest of your Thursday, everyone!
Bruce Venzke & Gail Grabowski’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
When you get to the first themer, it’s a 15, and the clue is one word – [Bug] in this case – you have that sinking feeling it’s going to be clue reversal. Today it was. A [Bug] is a LISTENINGDEVICE, a PROGRAMFAULT, a VIRALILLNESS (I thought bug was vaguer than that in that context) and a VOLKSWAGENMODEL.
The theme is flat, and the longer downs are things like MASHERS and ENTANGLE. One vaguely interesting thing going on is that three clues are [Cuba libre ingredient] – RUM, COKE and LIME. Sounds like a rum and cola putting on airs to me…
Dug a small hole for myself in the bottom-left, with ENJOY/YEAR for SAVOR/REDS.
Not much going on here…
I just didn’t get this NYT puzzle. Even after I filled the entire thing in I didn’t understand. I was looking for the dropped ‘IT’ to be in the answer, not the clue. So it took me about three times the usual length of time to finish. Ah well.
I really liked the theme. Fun and fresh and amusing.
I did not like the clue for ALDA at 62A. I know it’s common entry, and I know long, complex, cutesy clues are all the rage these days. Ugh.
I agree about 62a. I appreciate trying to freshen up the clues for ALDA, ESAI, etc., but this one didn’t work for me, either. I skimmed over the clue and dropped in ALDA without any crossings. This made 41d apparent with no additional crossings and the theme was laid bare. And I didn’t feel particularly clever for figuring it out.
WSJ–I loved this puzzle. It was very challenging, but for the most part doable with some effort. I got the entire puzzle with the exception of the NW corner, where I also had GROANS for 3d. I hit show mistakes, saw that was my only error, and then basically followed Jim’s same path to completion, and in the process I learned a few things.
I too had GROANS at 3d. After reading the OVULATION discussion earlier in the week (as well as having a degree in toxicology), I was very close to filling 15a (“CSI” clue) as SEMEN which is a much better answer than FIBER IMO.
Pretty much the same, though a little much off the wallness in that NW corner, and IMO the wordplay gets way too cute at times in that grid.
Ilie Nastase: A name only Ade could love. Now that I looked it up, it’ll probably be forgotten before I’d need it in a grid again…if I ever need it in a grid again.
WSJ – what does “pp” stand for at 4D, DEC.? pages of a calendar?p.s. Birthday boy Trump is now seventy, going on senility.
Yes, exactly right. Pages of a calendar.
I believe senility refers to a decline in cognitive ability, due to age. This would seem to presume a higher level of cognitive ability at some point in the past. I don’t think Mr. Trump’s condition qualifies.
Fine point — He likes to boast of how smart he is, using his Wharton connection, and thus implying an MBA degree, but in fact he has only a B.A. More aptly, it would have been a B.S.
Re MAS’ use of the TOREADOR Song, here’s an amusing tidbit: Habanera is the popular name for “L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (“Love is a rebellious bird”), one of the most famous arias from Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera Carmen. The score of this aria was adapted from the habanera “El Arreglito”, originally composed by the Spanish musician Sebastián Yradier. Bizet thought it to be a folk song; when others told him he had used something that had been written by a composer who had died only ten years earlier, he had to add a note to the vocal score of Carmen, acknowledging its source!
LAT – Based on the ratings numbers, I’d say most of us still think definition themes (or clue reversal as it’s called here) are still OK. I realize they’re not tricky nor ingenious , but I find them appealing and like to solve them (and construct them). I guess it’s because they illustrate how diverse and colorful the English language can be when you put on display so many different meanings of common words. And, in this puzzle, I kept looking for an insect (or, for you old-timers a Morse Code key).