The Fireball is a contest puzzle this week, so the write-up will come on Sunday night.
David Kahn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
The NATO PHONETIC alphabet is the theme: 60a. [Like the alphabet that includes the answers to the starred clues … and an anagram of the eight circled letters]. The first letter of those eight starred answers is circled, and the eight words that represent the letters P, H, O, N, E, T, I, and C actually fit into symmetrical spots in the grid (with PHONETIC included to balance the 8-letter 18-Across). There’s PAPA, TANGO, NOVEMBER, HOTEL, INDIA, CHARLIE, OSCAR, and ECHO—all clued without reference to the NATO alphabet.
You could solve the whole puzzle with zero attention to the theme, filling it in like an unthemed puzzle. The only wordplay angle is anagramming the circled squares to get … an answer that you’ve probably already filled in at 60a. So it was a rather dry solve for me.
Five more things:
- 4d. [Be generous to a fault, in a way], OVERTIP. I take issue with the “to a fault” part here. Overtipping is not a problem, unless you’re broke and did the math wrong, tipping more than you can afford. A great many service workers who rely on tips for a bug chunk of their income get stiffed or undertipped so, so much—if you can afford to bump your tips up to a higher percentage and the service was not insultingly bad, “overtipping” is a good thing indeed.
- 7a. [Audio player], TAPE DECK. Ha! I wonder how many solvers under the age of, say, 45 struggled with this one. I quizzed my teenager on this, and he had at least six or seven guesses that had nothing to do with any sort of tapes (8-track!) or cassettes. This clue is for the Olds. (Lucky for me, I have a lot of crossover between the Olds and the younger generations.)
- 36a. [___ Piano, designer of The New York Times Building], RENZO. I’ve been there, and also in Piano’s Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago. I like his style.
- 44d. [Inhuman], BESTIAL. This word … is seldom used in that context.
- 9d. [Ones laying down 20-Down], PAVERS. In my world, PAVERS aren’t people laying blacktop, they’re bricks or big, flat stone-type things you use to lay a patio or driveway.
3.25 stars from me. I was hoping for more fun and more of a brainy challenge in this Thursday puzzle.
Kyle Dolan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Back Taxes” — Jim’s review
Kyle Dolan makes his WSJ debut today with a beautiful grid. He gives us two-word phrases in which the first word can precede “taxes” and is also entered backwards in the grid.
- 17a [Harry & David order] TFIG BASKET. Not to be confused with a TGIF BASKET.
- 24a [W, e.g.] YRUXUL HOTEL. I’m not too familiar with this line of hotels, so I kept thinking of our 43rd president, but INAPPROPRIATE GROOVER didn’t fit.
- 42a [Element in a pairs skating routine] HTAED SPIRAL. I had no idea this term was used in figure skating. It seems ridiculously grim for a sport intended to convey beauty and grace. I think the term originally comes from aviation, but has more recently been applied to insurance and investments.
- 54a [Product lines?] SELAS PITCH. I kept trying to figure out a way to incorporate barcodes or UPC codes into the entry.
This was a tough puzzle for me. I pretty much knew the gimmick almost from seeing the title, but sussing it out exactly took much too long. Of course, the clues are Thursday-tough, but mostly I think I was brain dead or at least in a brain coma late last night as I was solving.
Does anyone have a problem with referring to these theme words (GIFT, LUXURY, etc.) as “taxes” (which the title does)? These words themselves are not taxes, but kinds of taxes. I like the puzzle itself, but conceptually, this irks me a little bit.
Moving on, there were few gimmes but more missteps, especially in the lower half of the grid:
- YAWNS for SIGHS, 43d [Indications of weariness]
- IDOL for ICON, 50d [Biopic subject, often]
- ANTE for STEW, 49d [Pot contents, perhaps]
- HAND OVER then TURN OVER for SIGN OVER, 49a [Transfer legally]
- CATS for RENT, 53d [Tony- and Pulitzer-winning musical], which is cross-referenced by 7d [Source material for 53-Down]. Knowing that Cats is based on a work of T. S. Eliot, but not knowing which work, I tried to shoehorn The Wasteland where LA BOHEME rightly goes. Well done, brain!
This is a really nicely constructed puzzle! I like all the long stuff: GALAXIES, LA BOHEME, INTERPOL, ALL-IN-ONE, and even HE-GOAT. Plus, MALL RATS, SIGN OVER, and even OWLISH. And gunk? Uh…maybe STL? Maybe? But nothing else, really. Truly a lovely grid!
The most unusual entry is at 14a. Did not know that a [Collection of aphorisms] is referred to as a SUTRA. Turns out the “Kama” means desire, wish, or longing in Nepali and Indian literature.
Clues of note:
- OTIS gets a remake at 5d with [Kanye/Jay-Z song that samples “Try a Little Tenderness”]
- [Sexton, e.g.] at 44a kept making me think of nautical tools, not the POET Anne.
- I’m still not sure I get [Path to unity?] at 8d. An AISLE divides. If you cross it, maybe you can achieve unity, but if you walk the AISLE as path, are you really unifying? Seems just a tad off to me.
Overall though, beautiful grid with a solid enough theme and tough, crunchy clues. Good Thursday fare!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Musical Round” — Ben’s Review
Maybe it’s because I’m still a bit DRAGGY after getting back from the National Puzzlers League’s annual Convention early Monday morning, but this week’s BEQ Thursday puzzle took me longer than usual to fully grok. I stared at the circled letters and the theme revealer about them for a solid 5 minutes before I realized what was going on:
- 17A: Large gray rain cloud — NIMBUS
- 18A: “Running Up That Hill” singer — KATE BUSH
- 34A: Egyptian village with temples to Ramses II and his wife, Nefertiti — ABU SIMBEL
- 44A: Doesn’t just sit around — KEEPS BUSY
- 60A/62A: Classic kids song, and an explanation to the circles in this puzzle — WHEELS ON/THE BUS
Looking at the circles from BIMBO (more on this one later), TV TRAY, FETAL, SEAL, and ERRATA, I couldn’t see anything going on. Then, looking up a line, I realized that all the clues above the circles make the word BUS. These are the wheels on the BUSes in the puzzle. That helped things make sense.
- In my sleep-deprived state I kept trying to make 1A’s DRAGGY GROGGY. Life imitates puzzle.
- 14A: Engage in a revolution — UPRISE (Putting a clue about uprising in spot 14 on Bastille Day is very clever if this was on purpose)
- 20A: Ditzy type — BIMBO (Oh man I do not like this term. It’s a bit outdated and insulting, and if you must use it in your puzzle, use it to clue the bakery of the same name, although why they haven’t changed their name is also kind of confusing to me.)
- 21D: Some stunt vehicles — BMX BIKES (I entered and erased the first bigram of this one so many times, thinking there’s not an entry that can start with those two consonants in a row)
- 23D: Wright-Patterson, e.g.: Abbr. — US-AFB (Oh, man, this one did not come easily today. I kept thinking about Clarissa Dickson-Wright from Two Fat Ladies, who is a person and not an air force base.)
- 45D: Women’s apparel sizes — PETITES (I initially tried to make this NUMBERS. Maybe I need another nap.)
3.5/5 stars. I liked the theme once I figured this out, but the fill dragged this one down. See you next week!
Matt Skoczen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up
As a theme concept this is neatly executed. Four RINGS spelling out BULL, with BULLRING revealed in the bottom-right and a MATAODOR in the centre.The PASODOBLE is a dance imitative of bullfighting, and is there for symmetry mostly I guess. On the other hand, the less said about BULLRINGs the better.
The short fill was by turns musty, by turns clumsy in many, many places. Plural PGAS, the bizarre variant plural KIL, archaism RASES. One in a puzzle is already problematic. And there is a lot more than just those. Part of the issue is that theme guides you to a low black square count grid with many diagonals and lots of flow. I still think this should have been sent back with a “redesign from scratch”.
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Computer Cases” —Ade’s write-up
Hello there, everyone! Short blog once again today, but at least I get to blog about a fun puzzle from Mr. Doug Peterson. In it, the first three theme entries contain the letters “MAIN” on its extremities, creating MAINFRAMES, which is the reveal (62A: [Alternatives to server farms…and features of 17-, 27-, and 48-Across]).
- MODEL TRAIN (17A: [Toy with a small engine]) – If I tried hard enough, I could find the Lionel toy train set that my dad bought the family when I was about 10 years old.
- MACAULAY CULKIN (25A: [Star of 1994’s “Richie Rich”]) – Man, I forgot Hollywood made this into a (terrible) movie!
- MAIDENHAIR FERN (37A: [Break-in on the top floor?])
If I wasn’t in Texas right now, I totally would have shown you the small article that I wrote for ESPN Magazine about the Polly Pocket DOLL and the “Race to the Mall” collector’s set (68A: [Polly Pocket, for one]). It was some hard-hitting journalism, let me tell you! I’ve never seen a full episode of Law & Order which features MARISKA in it, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about her (10D: [Hargitay of “Law & Order: SVU”]). I did know beforehand though that she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield and a former Mr. Universe-winning bodybuilder. Talk about some genes!! OK, maybe not the shortest blog, but have to skedaddle with the kiddos, who continue to marvel despite a demanding schedule we have at camp. OK, I can make one more comment: The CRITIC is probably one of the top three animated shows I’ve ever seen (8D: [Restaurant rater]). Binge-watched the show on YouTube about a year ago and had to remind myself of how hilarious it is. Probably will binge-watch it again soon. Real soon.
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LAMB (23A: [Mary’s little follower]) – One of the emerging stars in Major League Baseball, Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Jake LAMB currently leads the National League in slugging percentage (.612) and ranks in the top three of NL third basemen in home runs, RBIs, extra-base hits, average and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).
TGIF tomorrow! Talk soon!
NY Times killed me. Struggled with the fill all over, and had to come here for the explanation. I had no idea what was going on.
Luckily, I started at the bottom – and when Sales pitch had to be SELAS PITCH, I got it. Wow! It still wasn’t a snap… Clever.
Guessing AISLE as the path to unity refers to a marriage ceremony.
Ah. Well done!
I loved the BEQ’s idea. But unless I’m missing something (which wouldn’t be unusual) this would have been outstanding if the circled letters spelled out something appropriate. Or maybe just all O’s.
If they were all Os, it would have been a great meta: The answer to the meta is a common children’s song.
BEQ: 58a [Dictator’s dictum] EDICT. Now that’s chutzpah.
NYT: When you look at it after the fact, it looks solid and the idea is good. But I agree with Amy that the solve itself is not playful. And some of the cluing got me… The last letter to go in was that intersection between OSCAR and OASES. “ASES” seemed to call for a consonant and the clue for OSCAR sound more like a infomercial, so it took a little processing.
I love Renzo Piano’s style. He loves light and he also seems to be a genuinely nice man.
LAT: Sam Snead died in 2002, so noting that he “has” won three PGAs was just … weird. He ain’t gonna win another one. “Snead won three of them” would have done. I don’t even think the “briefly” was needed, since I’m pretty sure almost nobody uses the words rather than the acronym (and more often than not do not include the trailing word “Championship”).
BEQ: “draggy”? Really? Yuck.
NYT: Yawn. This was a Thursday? Plus — thanks for the ear worm. Not.
I agree with Ben on BIMBO, and I almost took a picture of myself with a Bimbo bakery truck in the Walgreens parking lot the other day, but the driver was there and I didn’t want to deal with an occupied vehicle.
And thanks for the Kate Bush video, Ben!
BIMBO the bakery is actually the Mexican “Grupo Bimbo,” the world’s largest bakery company—bigger than any American competitor. Per Wikipedia, they’ve been around since 1945.
I don’t see them changing the name anytime soon.