Thursday, June 30, 2016

CS 7:04 (Ade) 


Fireball 9:46 (Jenni) 


LAT 5:30 (Gareth) 


NYT 5:18 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


BEQ 8:31 (Ben) 


Jonathan Kaye’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 30 16, no 0630

NY Times crossword solution, 6 30 16, no 0630

Okay, I finished this puzzle without having any idea what the theme was. Eventually it came to me: Take the TOP / OFF of the theme clues to get the actual (straightforward) clue for the theme answers:

  • 17a. [B0B], DEFECTIVE BULLET. Take off the top half of each B and you get a squat D. Lop off the zero’s top and you get a flimsy u. A dud is a defective bullet, in one definition.
  • 27a. [TB8L], ADORED SUPERSTAR. Idol.
  • 46a. [8V8TB], SHAPED LIKE AN EGG. This clue had me thinking OVATE from the *V*T* pattern, but this clue shortens to ovoid.
  • 61a. [VMB], BRIGHTLY COLORED. Oh! Here, that capital M gets split into three letters, teeny small-caps ivi, inside vivid.

This puzzle would have been a lot more fun if it had been necessary for me to grasp the theme to finish. I could see a Fireball puzzle having so many tough crossings that you’d really need to figure out the theme to fill in the grid. In generally, I’m not too keen on themes where the theme entries are all phrases that would work as clues.

Three more things:

  • 24d. [Prisoner’s assignment: Abbr.], ID NO.? What? Why’s the clue so weirdly specific, and the answer so clunky?
  • 22a. [Ingredient in old-time cookie recipes], LARD. Gross.

3.25 stars from me.

Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword, “On Tilt” – Jenni’s writeup

Peter sent two pdf versions of this puzzle, one of which has darker squares (did I miss some other feature?) We’re still at the beach and don’t have a printer, so I solved the .puz version and I think it was just fine. Actually, I thought it was terrific.

All the theme answers have a portion that is “tilt”ed, taking the words literally. See highlighted squares in the screenshot (and thanks to David for teaching me how to do that!)

  • 18a [Breakdancing attire of the 1980s] = PARACHUTE PANTS. I am not sorry to say I missed this trend. The CHUTE goes down.

    adjusted screenshot

    FB crossword 6/29. “On Tilt”, solution grid

  • 36a [1940 Disney short featuring the debut of Donald’s girlfriend Daisy] = MR DUCK STEPS OUT. The STEPS go up.
  • 41a [White House feature] = GRAND STAIRCASE. The STAIR goes down.
  • 65 a [Many a PowerPoint presentation] = PHOTO SLIDE SHOW. The SLIDE goes up.

It took me a while to figure out what was, well, up with this theme. Two of the crosses for PARA were new to me as clued – I’ve never heard of a PUMP ROOM at a spa (2d) and I didn’t know that George Halas was nicknamed PAPA BEAR (3d). The PowerPoint presentation gave me the “aha” moment after I’d filled in bits and pieces all over the grid. Once I figured that out the rest fell quickly, although I didn’t get the full beauty of it until I was done and realized which parts of theme answers were actually tilted.

Other things:

  • 1a starts us off with an unusual word: [Put in proximity] = APPOSED. Completely fair; simply uncommon.
  • Love 15a [Incredulous question] = YOU WHAT. Or, more properly, YOU WHAT?!?
  • 44a [Dark-haired guys] = the not-often-seen BRUNETS. Funny how much more common it is to see women identified by their physical attributes. Gee.
  • I didn’t even have to ask the resident scientist for the answer to 69a [Element #11]= SODIUM. I’m proud of me!
  • 19d [Creator of the Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz] has to be DR SUESS, who also appeared in yesterday’s delightful AV Club puzzle.

I really enjoyed this puzzle, and I’m glad it showed up early so I can head out to the beach feeling virtuous and productive.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re PAPA BEAR and PUMP ROOM, plus who the heck is Amanda BEARSE?

Colin Gale’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Duets” — Jim’s review

My apologies to our constructor today, as this will be an abbreviated post. I have been enjoying a beautiful vacation in Malta this week, so crosswords have not exactly been at the forefront of my mind.

Mike Shenk uses one of his pseudonyms today to bring us a puzzle of made-up musical duets.

WSJ - Thu, 6.30.16 - "Duets" by Colin Gale (Mike Shenk)

WSJ – Thu, 6.30.16 – “Duets” by Colin Gale (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Frank Sinatra/Beatles duet?] THAT’S L(I FE)EL FINE
  • 24a [Aerosmith/Bobby “Boris” Pickett duet?] DREA(M ON)STER MASH
  • 42a [Guess Who/Beatles duet?] THESE E(YES)TERDAY
  • 55a [Cat Stevens/Petula Clark duet?] MOONSHA(DOW)NTOWN

All entries are grid spanners and all share three letters between song titles. It would have been much easier from a construction standpoint to simply share a word. For example, ONE LOVE by Bob Marley with LOVE SHACK by the B-52s gives you ONE LOVE SHACK. But finding grid-spanning pairings of well-known songs that share three central letters is much, much harder. Yes, the Beatles are duplicated, but I think it can be forgiven.

Regardless of Cat Stevens’s/Yusuf Islam’s comments later in life regarding Salman Rushdie, his song “MOONSHADOW” was always one of my favorites since I saw a short animated film of it when I was a kid in the late ’70s.

I looove the Internet! I saw this short film one time at a film festival in 1977 and it stuck with me. Today, after doing this puzzle in a hotel in Malta, I looked for it and found it, and now I can share it with you. It features narration by Spike Milligan and is directed by one of the artists behind the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.  Please enjoy!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Fireworks” — Ben’s Review

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 9.42.15 AM

Split Decision?

The Fourth of July is imminent, and much like my beloved adopted hometown of Somerville, MA, BEQ is bringing out the “Fireworks” a little early this week.  It’s a fun theme that’s just in time for the holiday weekend:

  • 18A: Storage spot for fireworks? — BOOM CLOSET
  • 24A: Patriotic fireworks? — BANG OF AMERICA
  • 40A: Firework that sizzles over the red carpet, say? — WHOOSH UPON A STAR
  • 53A: Improve fireworks? — SWEETEN THE POP
  • 63A: Picture-taking session for a firework? — CRACK SHOOT

(There’s always time for some ITALO disco, even if the puzzle was looking for ITALO Calvino at 16A)

The theme, like I said, is fun and pretty straightforward.  I initially thought that there was going to be a deletion happening every theme clue to get a firework noise, but it’s just a quick replacement of a similar-sounding word with the appropriate firework sound — BROOM/BOOM, BANG/BANK, WHOOSH/WISH, POP/POT, CRACK/CRAP.  It could’ve been a little more elegant, but I’m not being picky this week.

Other notes:

  • 1A: Katy Perry hit that always reminds me of Survivor — ROAR (This was a nice nod to the Katy Perry song “Firework” that is now ubiquitous with actual fireworks displays)
  • 22A: Animal that can learn sign language — APE (Koko!  Seen in this video with some kittens.)
  • 38A: R&B singer Green — CEE-LO (My brain wanted this to be AL so badly, despite knowing that AL is not a valid crossword word!)
  • 1D: Soul cousin — R AND B
  • 52D: “Roadies” channel, for short — SHO (I keep seeing ads for this show and it has yet to make me want to see it)
  • 54D: Religion that celebrates Candlemas and Beltane — WICCA (I kept trying to make this some specific Christian sect, then had _IC_A from the crossings and it was all over)

(More ITALO disco. Happy fourth!)

3.75/5 stars.  Theme could have been a little cleaner, but fun overall.

Patti Varol’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Daily Grind” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.30.16: "Daily Grind"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 06.30.16: “Daily Grind”

Good afternoon, everyone! I’m sure many of you had a cup of coffee before going out and starting the day, which means today’s puzzle – brought to us by Ms. Patti Varol – would also have been the perfect start to your day as well. As for me, I just can’t do coffee. I’m pretty sure the last time I drank coffee was when I was in elementary school, when I was curious of how it tasted because my dad would brew it at home almost every day. 

  • MUD SLINGING (17A: [Dredging up a candidate’s past, e.g.])
  • JAVA SCRIPT (29A: [HTML programming language])
  • JOE MONTANA (44A: [Quarterback who won four Super Bowls with the 49ers])
  • COFFEE MAKER (58A: [Appliance that produces the first words of the answers to this puzzle’s longest entries])

Pretty smooth grid. Probably can be described as a MEATY grid, in terms of the fill (23A: [Substantial]). I definitely noticed all of the two-word entries that weren’t part of the theme: THE BOSS (35D: [Springsteen, to fans]), ALL DONE (37D: [“I cleaned my plate!”]), RED MAPLE (3D: [Tree with a Scarlet Sentinel cultivar]), AUNTIE EM (37D: [“The Wizard of Oz” caretaker]), GOES APE (21A: [Freaks out]). Oh, and there’s DON ADAMS, too, which makes me wonder if there’s some prototype of a shoe phone out there somewhere (6D: [Actor who often talked into a shoe phone]). Had a chuckle a little bit with the intersection of HAM (1D: [Not-so-subtle performer]) and HERO, though I don’t eat ham and haven’t had a ham sandwich in eons (1A: [Six-footer at a party, e.g.]). Alright, I might be getting a little hungry for a turkey sandwich right now!!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ORACLE (45D: [Delphic prophet]) – One of the toughest places to win a game in the National Basketball Association, ORACLE Arena is the home arena of the Golden State Warriors, who went 39-2 at home this season on their way to a record-setting 73-win season. Unfortunately for the team and its fans, the Dubs (nickname for the Warriors) lost both Game 5 and Game 7 at home in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month, missing out on winning back-to-back titles. Because of this, ownership of the arena has changed…at least according to Wikipedia! (This screen grab was taken just 10 minutes ago.)

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 4.00.23 PM

TGIF tomorrow! Hope you all have a great rest of your Thursday!

Take care!


Julian Lim’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160630

LA Times

This Thursday is a “words that are followed by” themed puzzle. The word is “wheel”, which is indicated obliquely by FIFTHWHEEL. The conceit is that the theme answers hold four wheels: ONTHEWAGON (WAGON WHEEL), COCONUTWATER (WATER WHEEL), RUSSIANROULETTE (ROULETTE WHEEL) and CHUCKECHEESE (CHEESE WHEEL). If you’re South African, at least, there is a fifth wheel: a COCONUT WHEEL is definitely a thing here!

The theme is deceptively quite dense, five entries, but 59 squares. The big pairs in the top-right and bottom-left seem fairly ambitious, but once placed they allow the rest of the grid to divide into bite-sized chunks. I had no idea on ZAGATRATED, which looked frankly daft in the grid. I finished there in that top-right, and had taken out UZIS and NANA in case I just plain made an error! It seems to Google out okay enough, and the one American I corned on Facebook had no issues with it… (And she is known for her impeccable judgement in such matters!)

Outside of the theme and the big pairs, it’s a pretty quiet grid and there’s not a whole bunch more to say. No clues stood out as being too mystifying, there are a few ENS / AANDE answers, but not many…

3 Stars

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27 Responses to Thursday, June 30, 2016

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    Thanks, Jenni for your kind review. You should have seen the early versions. It’s a good thing Peter has such exacting standards, but also that he was so patient – I went through dozens of attempts before we landed on one that really worked. I would have been embarrassed if any of the first few had run in the Fireball. By the way, I’d never heard the phrase “On Tilt.” That was Peter’s, too. The original title was Snakes and Ladders (the British version of Chutes and Ladders.) And as was mentioned yesterday, it’s pure coincidence that the AVCX and Fireball were sent so close together — there’s no tie-in between them other than SEUSS happening to be in both as Jenni mentioned.

    I’d also like to say I thoroughly enjoyed today’s WSJ. It brought back the rush I got from squeaking in at the 30 minute mark several years ago on the ACPT #5. I believe it was also by Mike Shenk, and combined tunes in an even more infernal way by making them jump over blocks. I remember HAPPYTOGETHER and THEROSE, also IMABELIEVER and EVERGREEN. I had little idea what the trick was until I had enough squares filled in near the end, since we weren’t told the entries were connected. I wonder if Mike compiled his lists at the same time, saving the ones that shared three letters for a later date, and going with the group that shared four. It was one of the most impressive #5s I’ve ever done, along with this year’s brilliant tour de force from Patrick Berry, of course, and Patrick Blindauer’s tunneling ants.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I almost mentioned “Chutes and Ladders” in my writeup! I definitely got the flavor. Thanks for the insight, Paul.

      • Paul Coulter says:

        I really tried to make the SLIDE one head downwards, but none of my attempts worked. Though I do remember running up the slide in elementary school to tease the girls waiting at the top, bratty kid that I was.

    • Steve Manion says:

      ON TILT has several applications, but it is an extremely important concept in poker. There are countless poker players who play solidly much of the time, but do not have the ability to walk away from the table when they are losing. When you see someone–perhaps someone you know does not play consistently well–running over the table with one miracle hand after the other while you are getting beaten by the only card in the deck that beats you, it is hard to keep your composure. Going ON TILT refers to playing hands that you know you are not a percentage favorite to win, but you play them anyway because the pots are big and you are hoping to dig yourself out of a hole. I know lots of people who will get $3,000 ahead over a three-week period and then lose it all in one session.

      I thought the NYT was fun and caught the theme fairly early,


  2. huda says:

    NYT: I thought I was being fuzzy headed because I’m in Europe and time out of sync, so it was good to see that it took Amy till the end to figure out the theme. But when I did, I found it amusing… I don’t imagine I’d ever think of IDOL as the bottom of TB8L.
    But I can’t figure out the clue for EPEE? Why is it electrified?

    • Joe Pancake says:

      In fencing competitions the swords-people wear electrified gear that makes a sound when contact is made. It’s a more precise way of scoring.

  3. Steve Price says:

    huda, because epee combat exchanges and resulting touches happen so rapidly, in many instances faster than a judge’s eye can detect, an electronic device in the weapon indicates a scoring touch.

  4. Scott says:

    I liked the NYT but I had to come here to understand the trick. Thanks.

  5. Patrick Jordan says:

    Re: Amanda BEARSE in the Fireball puzzle

    She is undoubtedly better known for playing Marcy D’Arcy, the wacky neighbor on “Married … With Children.”

  6. Nene says:

    I am disappointed that the flawed TOP OFF theme passed muster.

    One issue is that very few solvers will figure out this theme before completing the puzzle. Another issue is the awkwardness. The bottom half of the letter ‘L’ is an unsightly ‘L’.

    • PhilR says:

      Not to mention that the i’s in vivid are actually teeny upside down T’s.

    • Michael says:

      Nene, If you cover the top half of the letter/number sequence with a piece of paper, you’ll get a perfectly readable word. I agree not everyone will get the gimmick and the words do look like they were typed on a typewriter with the paper a bit crumpled. But the theme is not flawed and I think TOP OFF is enough of a hint on a Thursday for a lot of regular solvers to figure it out.

      • nene says:

        When a world-class solver, Amy Reynaldo, is unable to unearth the theme before completing the puzzle then it’s safe to say 99 plus percent of solvers cannot do so. That is sufficient grounds to say that the theme today is flawed. QED.

        • Norm says:

          Your sample size is too small to be statistically significant. I caught on at BRIGHTLY COLORED [the crosses down there were more obvious than some of the odd ones — e.g., IDNO — above], and then it was relatively easy to go back and complete the other theme answers. I thought it was a very nice theme and the right difficulty level for quirky Thursday.

        • Gary R says:

          I think what Amy indicated in her write-up was that she solved the puzzle without seeing the theme because the fill was pretty straightforward, and she didn’t need to get the theme in order to complete the puzzle. I don’t think she had any trouble getting the theme after the puzzle was complete.

          There’s a difference between “unable to unearth the theme before completing” and “didn’t need to look for the theme before completing.”

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            I still had to think a bit to see the theme after completing it, though. It wasn’t a case of “zipped through so fast, I didn’t even see the theme clues.”

        • Zulema says:

          Nene, I totally agree with your comment.

        • Jenni Levy says:

          World-class solvers go so quickly they often don’t suss the theme until they’re done.

      • Papa John says:

        What did everyone do when they filled in the hint at 38 and 39 ACROSS? I stopped right there and wrinkled my brow at the opaqueness of the hint TOP OFF until I figured it out. The theme — I’d rather call it a gimmick — was out of the bag, for me, and I went back and filled in the preceding long answers and those that followed with some degree of confidence. I thought the down clues were relatively easy for a Thursday puzzle, which was probably a deliberate decision to allow for the awfully tricky gimmick.

        • Gary R says:

          I’m always slow to spot/understand a theme that is in the clues rather than the answers (like today’s and Wednesday’s puzzles) – insufficiently broad thinking, I suspect.

          I did figure this one out before I finished – mainly due to confusion caused by a typo and a wrong choice (walk-iNS rather than walk-ONS). Had to get the theme before I could see BRIGHTLY COLORED.

  7. shark icicles (formerly CC) says:

    I loved the Fireball, but I’m still at a loss for the two separate PDFs. It seems like the only difference is some nicer typesetting and darker squares.

    • Evad says:

      Look at the square that ends 11-Down, e.g. It should have a number it in (specifically in this case 20), but it does not. Same for where 60-Across would start. I haven’t done the puzzle yet (so am trying to avoid other FB comments), but I noticed this numbering anomaly as justifying a special PDF version. (Hopefully later today when I get to work on it, I’ll see why!)

      • sharkicicles (formerly CC) says:

        Ahhh, going back and looking at the other PDF I see it now. The recommended one is a much better way to solve, I think.

  8. janie says:

    re: the nyt — clearly it wasn’t to everyone’s liking. but even if it wasn’t my favorite-est thursday ever, i thought it was a genuinely impressive debut!


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