Thursday, September 8, 2016

BEQ untimed (Ben) 


CS 8:41 (Ade) 


Fireball 4:23 (Jenni) 


LAT 5:48 (Gareth) 


NYT 7:02 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Joanne Sullivan’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 8 16, no 0908

NY Times crossword solution, 9 8 16, no 0908

Joanne’s crafted a hidden rebus theme, where a {BLACK} lurking in a black square completes 18 answers. (I went with a big red B to indicate those squares.) We’ve got [Jet], the color that is COAL {BLACK}; the {BLACK}FEET [Montana Indians]; and a {BLACK}SHIRT who’s an [Italian Fascist] all spinning off the hidden black in the northwest quadrant. The central 7s are really 12-letter answers: MEET JOE {BLACK}, “PAINT IT {BLACK},” {BLACK} PANTHER, and {BLACK}MAILERS. The other three {BLACK} squares have three or four answers apiece radiating from them. Nifty twist on the rebus concept. I think I may have seen a theme where black squares mean {BLACK}, but I can’t swear to it one way or the other.

Five more things:

  • 47a. [J. follower], CREW / 50d. [E. preceder], SHEILA. As in the J.Crew retailer and drummer Sheila E. I don’t know if those were Joanne’s clues or Will and Joel’s, but I like the combo.
  • 65a. [Comments from ones who are all thumbs?], TEXTS. Man, this corner messed me up. I wanted the more common EJECT for EGEST, and things were just not working out for me.
  • 56a. [When leaves 56-Across], FALL. It’s very meta. Leaves fall in the fall.
  • 6d. [There’s an app for that], UBER. This is actually a good-sized flaw in the theme, because there’s an UberBLACK service with high-end black vehicles, and UBER is followed by a black square that’s not part of the hidden rebus action.
  • 12d. [Man’s name that’s Latin for “honey”], MEL. Uh, no, I don’t think so. Melissa is etymologically related to “honey,” but the men’s name Mel, usually short for Melvin, is not.

Four stars from me.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 98” – Jenni’s writeup

The Fireball is back! The Fireball is back! We don’t have crisp fall air, and I haven’t yet spotted an apple cider doughnut, but the Fireball is back and all is right with September.

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 7.44.07 PM

Fireball 9/8 crossword, solution grid

Peter is easing us back into Fireball form with a not-blazingly-hard themeless. I think this is my first sub-5:00 time on a FB, ever, and I’m completely exhausted and had a drink with dinner, so there you go. This was perfect for me tonight: interesting and clever and and completely doable, so I don’t need to regret that margarita.

We start out with a nice stack in the NW:

  • 1 [Some Persians] = CALICO CATS. My brother-in-law is a vet/genetics researcher and has explained the genetics of calico cats to me. Repeatedly, because I can’t retain it. Gareth, care to enlighten me again?
  • 15a [Wireless speaker with a personal assistant named Alexa] = AMAZON ECHO. Anyone own one of these? I’ve never seen one on the flesh. Not that it has flesh. Nice crossword entry, though.
  • 17a [Promotional video with high production values] = SIZZLE REEL. New to me. Google returns 1,120,000  results (approximately.)

That’s a lot of Zs. What do you do to cross all that?

  • 3d [Do nothing] = LAZE AROUND and
  • 4d [“For reals?”] = IZZAT SO? The quotes and the slang phrase clue us in (hah) to the unorthodox spelling, and I like it. It’s – unorthodox.

We’ve got a couple of Js (JOB SITE and JOKERS WILD) and all those Zs for a high Scrabble quotient, but no pangram. OK with me; I enjoy the fun that comes with the less common letters without the contortions often required for a pangram. I put in JOKE for [Kid] at 26d and then changed it to JOSH when JOKERS WILD showed up at 52a, entertainingly clued as [Game show hosted by Jack Barry, with “The”.]

My favorite clue is the Peter Gordon special extra-long clue at 11a [Chopin said he is “like an astronomer who, with the help of ciphers, finds the most wonderful stars.”] The answer is BACH. I had a prof in college who didn’t much care for old Johann Sebastian. He called him “the celestial sewing machine.” I like Chopin’s characterization better.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there was a  1949 movie named DEAR WIFE. This has my second favorite clue of the puzzle: [1949 Holden/Caulfield film.] This has nothing to do with Salinger or Catcher in the Rye; it’s William Holden and someone named Joan Caulfield.

Welcome back, Peter! My Wednesday evenings have meaning again.

Alice Long’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Falling Rocks” — Jim’s review

It’s a turn-the-corner theme with [“Rocks” falling four times in this puzzle]. Those “rocks” are ICE (as identified at 65a), and we have four phrases that end in that three-letter string.

WSJ - Thu, 9.8.16 - "Falling Rocks" by Alice Long (Mike Shenk)

WSJ – Thu, 9.8.16 – “Falling Rocks” by Alice Long (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Some clues are written in it] PASSIVE VO/ICE crossing 9d SLICE
  • 34a [Museum posting] ADMISSION PR/ICE crossing 33d MICE
  • 43a [State Department division] FOREIGN SERV/ICE crossing 42d NICE
  • 61a [Warning] WORD OF ADV/ICE

As turn-the-corner themes go, this is pretty standard, but the title gives good justification for the theme.

I know from firsthand experience that building a grid with this type of theme can be tricky, but it’s handled with aplomb here since the ICEs are seamlessly incorporated into three Down entries (the revealer is left on its own).

Good choice of theme entries. I especially like PASSIVE VOICE since the ICE is further disguised by the pronunciation change.

Strong non-theme fill, too, especially in the NE, central, and SW sections which feature a healthy helping of 6-letter and longer entries. The longest entries though go to ARBOR DAY and RESCUE ME clued as [1991 Madonna song].

I didn’t remember that song, so it took a fair amount of crossings to piece it together. I’m more familiar with the 1960s song of the same name which I mistakenly thought was sung by Aretha Franklin. It was actually Fontella Bass’s only big hit. I think I can be forgiven for thinking it was Franklin’s song because she did a 1991 version for Pizza Hut in which she sang, “Deliver Me!”

Clues of note:

  • 39a. [Scott of “Ocean’s Eleven”] is CAAN. This is James CAAN‘s son. He was actually in all three Ocean’s films but I think is more widely known as Danny Williams on the remake of Hawaii Five-O.
  • 46a. [Bird’s music] is BEBOP, due to the fact that legendary saxophonist Charlie Parker went by the nickname Bird.
  • 15a. [Character who pledged to “do my spriting gently”] is ARIEL from The Tempest.
  • 9d. [Hook’s counterpart] threw me for the longest time. Couldn’t get Peter Pan out of my head, and when I got the ICE and then LICE, I was thinking the answer would be ALICE. But the girl in the story is WENDY not ALICE. Ugh! Finally figured out we were talking golf terms here, not Disney characters!
  • 38a. [Naive character of children’s TV] is ERNIE. I don’t think of ERNIE as naive. Seems to me he’s often playing mischievous tricks on poor, gullible Bert.
  • 46d. [Montana State player] is BOBCAT, but the leading B got me to put in BRONCO. But the Broncos are Boise State, not Montana State.
  • 36d. [50-Across offering] is PENS (referring to the brand BIC). But shouldn’t that be “offerings” plural?
  • Finally, I could really do without the clue at 49a [Do some church burning]. It’s target is the innocuous but weird verb CENSE, but in my mind, that’s just too provocative a clue.

A fine, well-made puzzle, if not particularly all that exciting. Still, good fill and interesting cluing (with one exception) makes for a satisfying outing.

Let’s go out with Fontella Bass’s 1965 hit. Check out her outfit; she could’ve fit in well at ACPT with that one.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Zip Your Lip” — Ben’s Review

Zip Your Lip

Zip Your Lip

Fall has hit Boston, and I can mostly tell because I’ve temporarily lost my ability to breathe through my nose from a fun bout of seasonally-induced sinus congestion.  Hopefully that’s not affecting my brain, but I’m blaming it for forgetting to set my timer when I started the puzzle.  Let’s get to that.

This week’s BEQ Thursday has zero theme — sorry, that should be has a zero theme:

  • 20A: Overhyped dud of an event, in modern-day slang — NOTHING BURGER
  • 35A: How a 20A is prepared? — MADE FROM SCRATCH
  • 47A:  Nutritional value of a 20A? — EMPTY CALORIES

This was cute and all, but I’ve never heard the expression NOTHING BURGER used.  Ever.  Doesn’t mean that it’s not an expression, but it definitely feels like a lot to hang a puzzle on.  MADE FROM SCRATCH and EMPTY CALORIES are both familiar to me (and certainly tie in nicely to NOTHING BURGER), but I’m still having a tough time clearing the initial hurdle for this puzzle’s theme – I needed most of the downs on 20A to get that one answer going.

A few other notes on this one:

  • 1A: Christian bracelet initialism — WWJD (Didn’t love this as the lead-off clue of the puzzle, but it was nicely crossed with 3D‘s instructions to JOIN HANDS to “prepare for a group prayer”.)
  • 25A: Cousins of the honey badger — OTTERS (My favorite otter of the moment, if one can have such a thing, is Takechiyo, who is owned by a person in Japan and appears on Instagram a bunch.)
  • I kept trying to make 32D‘s STATESIDE (“Toward the lower 48”) SOUTHERLY at first, then SOUTHSIDE.
  • other fill I liked: ERROR CODE, ECARTE, DELOITTE

3/5 stars.

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Lock Trouble” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.08.16: "Lock Trouble"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.08.16: “Lock Trouble”

Good day, everybody. It’s a busy day for Mr. Martin Ashwood-Smith, as he has today’s puzzle on here as well as the puzzle for USA Today. (Oops. George Barany constructed today’s USA Today puzzle.) In this puzzle, the first word of the first three theme entries can combine to form a phrase, with the fourth theme entry, STYLING SALON, acting as the reveal (49A: [Place to fix the “lock trouble” formed by the first words of 18-, 27-, and 40-Across]).

  • BAD INFLUENCE (18A: [Source of corruption])
  • HAIR TRIGGER (27A: [Easily activated])
  • DAYTRIPPING (40A: [Vacationing briefly])

Spending a few years living in Central New York, got a little nostalgic seeing the Western New York city of OLEAN, the home of St. Bonaventure University (39A: [Allegheny River city]). I once had to be in Olean to cover a basketball game in January a few years back. My word was it COLD! I knew that the word TONGUE was used to describe that particular part of a bell, but hadn’t heard that in a long, long time (15A: [Bell’s clapper]). I’m just used to tongues being used to describe parts of the mouth and parts of shoes. Loved the fill of NIETZSCHE in the grid (31A: “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” author]). Pretty meaty grid in terms of longer, fun fill. A touch tougher than what you’d see on here normally, but definitely don’t mind that!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ROBIN (14D: [Caped sidekick]) – Current Chicago White Sox manager ROBIN Ventura was a pretty good player in the Majors when he played between 1989 and 2004, mostly with the White Sox. Ventura was one of the better defensive third basemen when he was a player, but he was known for two things: 1) His penchant for hitting Grand Slam home runs, as he finished career with 18 of them. 2) Getting beaten down by then 46-year-old Nolan Ryan after the Ryan Express hit him with a pitch in a 1993 game in Arlington, Tex.

TGIF tomorrow! Have a great rest of your Thursday!

Take care!


Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times 160908

LA Times

Who else wondered about the puzzle being a now rare step quote on first viewing? It is a step puzzle, though – the theme is THESPANISHSTEPS, and all the words in the circled steps are Spanish, some loanwords to English, some not. They form a snake of AGUA/ADIOS/SALSA/AMIGO/OTROS/SANTA/ARTE. Note the lack of Spanish qualifiers in their clues, adding to an “a-ha moment” when you unravel the theme. I enjoyed this unusual theme, though I can see some “foreign entry” haters being less than fully gruntled.

These grids are challenging design-wise. The top-left to bottom-right diagonal is crammed with theme, and the opposite largely theme-free. That area is free to have big stacks, here: THEOKOJAK/SELFAWARE (was he called that in the show? Have not watched enough to know…) and OILHEATER/BRIARPIPE (was that his type of pipe? Didn’t recall; it is mentioned that way in The Doors’ ‘Land Ho!’ though.)

stepsOther points:

  • [The 1% in 1% milk], FAT. I always thought the 2% in 2% low-fat was 2% of the normal fat in milk until I studied animal science (the science of farm animals). Turns out normal Friesland (Holstein to Americans) milk is around 3,3% fat, with Jersey and other breeds higher. Was I alone in this (former) ignorance or is their marketing that clever?
  • [One rooting for the Niners, briefly], SFFAN. This is a garbage answer, right? Google comes up with science fiction fan hits, though.

3.75 Stars

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19 Responses to Thursday, September 8, 2016

  1. Francois Trufaux says:

    Worst clue of the year contender for 50-D. But I guess that’s what you’ve got to resort to when you need Sheila in your puzzle.

  2. Martin says:

    [Man’s name that’s Latin for “honey”] doesn’t say anything about being a nickname derived from a name that’s based on Latin for “honey.”

    “Mel” is Latin for honey. It’s a factoid. It’s more like “STU is a good name for a chef” clues in that it uses a name non-etymologically. If that’s a thing.

    Mel Gibson is named for Saint Mel. Saint Mel is famous because he was living with his aunt, which caused great scandal. His uncle (not the aunt’s husband) was Saint Patrick himself, who investigated. To prove his chastity he plowed up a live fish from his field. To prove her chastity, his aunt carried hot coals. This proved it was all a misunderstanding. If I were Saint Patrick I might have burned them at the stake as witches, but I guess blood is thicker than water. That Mel apparently means “bald,” and symbolized the tonsured head of a friar. I guess he was destined to be a friar from birth. Tough times.

  3. Ethan Friedman says:

    I’m with Martin on the ‘mel’ clue — it doesn’t say “Man’s name derived from the Latin for ‘honey,'” just that they’re the same.

    I disliked the Metrosexual / FOP clue but otherwise thought this was a fantastic puzzle.

    Totally missed the uberBlack issue, Amy, but — there’s no “uberBLACK” app. Just an Uber app where you can access their various services, including uberX, uberBLACK, uberPOOL. So I think it technically flies through for me.

  4. David L says:

    I mostly liked the puzzle but found it unusually difficult for a Thursday. SKIRTS before SKATES, [black]BALL before LIST, [black]TAR before TOP (before I sussed the theme). Plus lots of names I had to dredge up from the bottom of the memory well or didn’t know at all. YOSHI? And that ORC/ARAM/MCCRAE bit was a bear. In what context do elfs fight orcs? Is this some Tolkien thing I know nothing about?

    I agree that the clue for MEL is just fine, although MEL seems an unlikely word in Latin — I would have guessed MELUS or MELLA or something similar.

    • pannonica says:

      You missed BOOT[black] before SHOE?

    • huda says:

      David, I’m with you, including the same errors and struggles.

      But YOSHI is important! Actually, I’d have no idea ordinarily, except for the fact that I recently resurrected my son’s old Super Nintendo for his son to play on, and as the little guy jumped both feet into Super Mario World, I got to remember all the characters, from Mario and Luigi to Princess Peach and Yoshi.

  5. anon says:

    BEQ: Generally enjoyed this, but that clue for 5D was cringeworthy. SIKHS = Mystics in turbans?

  6. Alan DerKazarian says:

    “I think I may have seen a theme where black squares mean {BLACK}, but I can’t swear to it one way or the other.”

    Amy, you may be remembering a Sunday NYT I had a few years back. That one had BACK in black, as in the AC/DC song. This one reminded me of that one also. Sorry to self-promote, but that may be what you’re thinking of.

  7. Joan Macon says:

    All right, Gareth, are you so far away that your LAT review got lost? Are you ill? (I hope not!) Please submit your grid as I don’t like to go to any other site!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Whoops! I forgot to add Gareth’s write-up till Friday morning. Sorry! It’s up now, along with Friday’s.

  8. Zulema says:

    It’s probably too late to ask, but what is the meaning of OVER as a reply to “High, as a guess” in the NYT. I don’t understand this at all.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      “How many jelly beans do you think are in this jar?”


      “No, sorry, you’re way over. There are only 189.”

      • Zulema says:

        Well, thank you. Amy, but shouldn’t the clue have read “too high”? I know it was a Thursday, but I don’t think it was a good clue. Still, thank you so much for getting back to me; besides you don’t write the clues..

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