The Fireball puzzle is a contest crossword this week. Write-up to come after the deadline.
Crossword tournament announcement from Will Shortz—The 19th Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament will take place this Friday, Sept. 16, 7:30-9:45 pm, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 8 Sunnyside Ave., Pleasantville, NY (about 4 blocks from Pleasantville’s Metro North station). The puzzles are drawn from Monday–Thursday NYT crosswords that will run in the next two weeks. Prizes (puzzle books and trophies) will be awarded to the top solvers overall, as well as the best junior (≤25 years), senior (60+), rookie, and resident of Pleasantville. The cost is $30/solo solver or $45/pair and includes coffee and dessert. All the money raised goes to the Pleasantville Fund for Learning. Regular crossword constructors and editors aren’t allowed to compete, but are welcome as officials. You can sign up at the door. For more info, see the Fund for Learning’s website.
Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Ah, this is a delicious puzzle. As the theme answers instruct (but you’ll need to figure out what’s going on in the puzzle in order to fill in any of the letters in the theme entries): ANAGRAM THE / FIRST WORD / IN EACH CLUE. I hadn’t figured out that it was always the first word in the clue, and I wasn’t sure if the answers in the grid would need to be scrambled too (e.g., figuring out that 5d was bowling SPARES, I wondered if I needed to enter SPEARS in the grid, but no)—but I was well on my way. The hints, for me, came from the clues for 1d and 2d. 1d. [Procured for many big 2000s comedies] was really weird, but producer makes more sense and is an anagram of procured; with the help of a few crossings, I came up with Judd APATOW. And 2d. [Manila alternative, in a guessing game], well, “alternatives in a guessing game” suggested “animal, mineral, or vegetable,” and Manila/animal are anagrams, and MINERAL has 7 letters.
Three of the crossings for 13d, and 13d itself, were elusive, as were 56d and 64a. Turned out to be 10a. [Tenure], neuter, SPAY; 19a. [Hadji group, briefly], jihad, ISIS (wasn’t sure if I’d need ISIL); and 31a. [Rescued], secured, GOT. Those three crossed 13d. [“Geared!”], agreed, YES, LET’S. And in the lower center, 64a. [Never] meant nerve, not Verne, or MOXIE, and 56d. [Squire message] is a risqué SEXT.
I don’t know about you, but I loved this puzzle. Definitely a different sort of challenge than the usual crossword, since you need to be a facile anagrammer to make headway. And you have to entertain multiple anagramming options for some clues. For example, 30d. [Nailed, for short] is INTRO, as an introduction is a lead-in. Nailed also scrambles to denial, which will get you nowhere here. As with the invisible-but-necessary hyphen in that one, there’s also 51a. [Clan from the ocean], SEA SALT, where you scramble a word into the chemical formula NaCl. Tricksy!
If you didn’t dig this type of puzzle at all, I’m sorry you got shorted on a standard crossword. Presumably the other crossword venues have regular puzzles today, and the NYT will return to its usual style tomorrow.
5 enthusiastic stars from me, along with a vote for more people to make this type of variety puzzle. (Maybe Joon Pahk, for his Outside the Box puzzle service? Erik Agard for his Glutton for Pun puzzles? Anyone and everyone who is thus inclined?)
Dan Fisher’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Leading Men” — Jim’s review
A simple theme today — HEs are added to the starts of phrases (thus, the title) — creating new, wacky phrases.
- 17a [Organ bank section?] HEART COLLECTION
- 25a [Staffer at a Skye hotel?] HEBRIDES MAID
- 40a [Rabbi?] HEBREW MASTER
- 49a [ID tags on turbans?] HEADDRESS LABELS
Solid theme, expertly executed, and with just enough humor. Further, the title legitimizes the wordplay perfectly.
I especially like HEBRIDES MAID for the pronunciation change. HEADDRESS LABELS comes in a close second. I find HEART COLLECTION morbidly humorous.
The fill is outstanding with USAIN BOLT, CARTAGENA, ROSIN BAG, and STEMWARE as highlights. Oh, and a BUONO PORNO there in the middle. Very little crud except, notably, at 1d: SPH.
Cluing seemed a touch easier than most Thursdays. Either that or I was just on the right wavelength. Some of the clues were deliciously tricky, however, such as [One may be related to you] for TALE and [Flutes, e.g.] for STEMWARE. Oh, I think my fave is [Supreme authority?]. My first instinct was DIANA or ROSS (though obviously neither fits). I felt vindicated once I finally uncovered MOTOWN. Nice.
Two things I really didn’t know:
- 26d [Lamb pseudonym]. Essayist Charles Lamb’s pen name was ELIA. I suppose I should know this from crosswords, but I honestly don’t think I’ve ever come across a non-Kazan ELIA clue.
- 13d [Xanadu’s owner]. Xanadu is the fictional estate of Charles Foster KANE of Citizen Kane. You can ridicule me, but I will admit I’ve never seen the whole film. However, (**SPOILER**) I do know that the sled did it.
Aside from that stinker at 1d, this was a beautifully filled grid with a simply elegant theme and great clues throughout. Loads of fun.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right” — Ben’s Review
It’s Thursday! Let’s go over the BEQ puzzle. “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right” is a nice assurance to get right when starting, but it’s also a hint to exactly what’s going on in the theme entries:
- 17A: Folk tender’s jails — SHEPHERD’S POKIES
- 23A: Corny tar? — HOKEY SAILOR
- 35A: Eskimo formally endorses? — NANOOK SECONDS
- 49A: Dummies who never leave their houses? — HOME JAMOKES
- 58A: Rowing machine area? — STROKING SECTION
This was cute – OK is added to SHEPHERD’S PIES, HEY SAILOR, NANOSECONDS, HOME JAMES, and STRING SECTION to make new phrases. HOME JAMES (or more correctly, “HOME, JAMES”, was the only one that threw me off – for a second I thought it was a phonetic modification of HOME GAMES rather than the same addition the rest had been.
A few other notes:
- BEQ raised my IRE this week by tripping a few of my fill pet peeves: A AND E (when it’s always used as A&E), III, describing appliances as GES – this week’s theme didn’t feel that constraining, so this lackluster fill is disappointing to see.
- 2D: Stick-to-itiveness? — ADHESION (Liked this clue)
- 38D: Fantasy world belief — DELUSION (Somehow wanted to make this one about utopias, then figured it out once I had enough crossings)
- 46D: Capital Limited operator — AMTRAK (DC to Chicago!)
Zhouqin/C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Gareth’s got a technical problem keeping him from blogging this one, but I was pleased to cover for him after seeing the rave review in the Fiend comments Wednesday night. The theme is SOAPBOX, or 40a. [Speaker’s stand … or what each set of circled squares graphically represents], and those 2×2 boxes contain 4-letter brand names of soap, all laid out in the same clockwise rotation. I’ll pass on the LAVA and ZEST, but DIAL liquid and DOVE for sensitive skin are in my house right now. (I think Dove may claim to be a “moisturizing bar,” but come off it, people—we know you’re bar soap and we’re okay with that.)
The rest of the puzzle is essentially a themeless grid, with LAST SECOND, NOVELLAS, MEL BLANC, ONE AND ONLY, AZTECS, C’EST LA VIE, KIA SOUL, CRUELLA, GROOVE, and HARD LABOR bringing plenty of sparkle.
Does it count as a dupe to have the 12d. [29-state country], INDIA, in the grid and 41d. [Many an Indian fan] in the clues for OHIOAN? I vote no, because you get that sly misdirection in wondering if the Indian fan has to do with Bollywood or cricket aficionados rather than Cleveland baseball.
I’ve seen plenty of disappointing or dull clues for LEES in my time. I like this clue, 69a. [Some skinny jeans]. (Alert for women with curvier hips and thighs—Lee sells a Curvy cut that you might like.) I also like the tricky retro clue for GROOVE, 50d. [It’s on the record].
I’m never excited to see AGUES in a crossword, but I do like everything else in its corner of the grid.
4.2 stars from me.