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 like the worldly vibe of INDIA, AZTECS, CHIA seeds (cultivated by the Aztecs!), KIA, URDU, KABUL, jasmine RICE, SUSHI, and TV’s favorite cartoon desi, APU.
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.
today’s LAT puzzle is gorgeous – solid theme executed flawlessly, and sparkling fill to boot, with a wonderfully crunchy morsel at 26-down. salute to C.C. Burnikel, who Never Stops Going In
Amen to that. Really good day for puzzles across the board. Loved the NYT, WSJ, BEQ, and CS, too.
NYTs- I love this kind of surprise puzzle.
I love these sort of trick puzzles. However, I couldn’t get enough of the theme to even come close to solving it. Total fail on my end.
Maybe I was just tired; but on revealing the solution, my reaction was simply, “That’s amazing and clever. I never would have figured it out. Oh well.”
That makes me feel a little better about my 26 minutes (as the test solver, I did have to make sure every anagram worked, but it still would have been plenty slow).
I’m a very slow solver and I’m poor at anagrams as well. That said, it took me one hour to get the theme (I don’t know pop music and so couldn’t use the “gimme” of Tori Amos’s album). I’m not sure how I finally got it, but I think I accidentally had some correct letters, and I noticed that the clues for SASHA and ELDEST contained anagrams. From there, the puzzle was more enjoyable, but still very slow going, and I only figured out about three quarters of it after much more time. I wonder whether that’s why, if some others had trouble too, it has a somewhat low rating for such a well-executed, intricate puzzle.
“…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…” Which makes the reveal a kind of unfunny gag I reckon.
I gave the p̶u̶z̶z̶l̶e̶ chore one star in the hope that no one ever attempts something like it again which isn’t to say I don’t admire the construction. Without an anagram solver I would’ve tossed it so I guess I have Al Gore to thank for completing it. Thanks, Al.
You won’t need to unscramble these letters: DISASTER.
Well played, madam.
I loved today’s NYT, as I always do when Thursday rolls around, because I love that a mainstream puzzle publisher is willing to risk challenging its solvers. However, maybe as a gesture of fairness – I’m thinking particularly of unsuspecting newbies, or the less-flexible minded – should Will et al. consider tagging the NYT Thursday puzzle with an “Anything Goes” label, much like the Friday WSJ is explicitly labeled “Puzzle Contest”?
I think the NYT was excellent. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, I’m a little puzzled at the low rating and the strong negativity from a couple folks — the puzzle’s well crafted and quite unique. Five stars from me.
31 of 5 and 26 of 1 [at this moment] indicates that this was highly polarizing puzzle. Some loved; some hated it. You’re not really “puzzled” by the low ratings; you just don’t agree with them. Such is life.
Brilliant, Ian. Loved it!
I thought this puzzle was brilliant, although I love MIT’s Mystery Hunt and this totally could have popped up there with a meta answer hidden in there too. Well done, Ian!
I didn’t realize that NYT puzzle anagrammed to dreck. Creative? I guess. Entertaining? No.
It’s hard to complain about a puzzle like this without sounding like the guy who yells at the kids to get off of his lawn. So all I’ll say is, if Thursday’s here, can Friday and Saturday be far behind?
This is a traditional Thursday. There is supposed to be some sort of trickeration. In this case it was down right dastardly and I loved it. The clues that got me going were 39-Across and 56-Across. For some reason my eye/brain saw the anagram and it worked. Where I really got tricked was that I thought there were going to be three different types of “traps” based on the clues for the theme reveals. 5 stars from me.
Me too regarding “traps” but when I finished the puzzle, I realized that TRAP anagrams to PART, as in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
I got absolutely nowhere with this. Ten minutes of staring, three answers filled in, two of them wrong. I could see there was something funny about the clues but I couldn’t get a foothold in figuring out what it was.
I’m pretty good at anagrams, but that wasn’t enough to help me — you have to see the anagram but then also realize it’s not the anagram alone that’s the answer.
I see this as a sort of two-step meta puzzle, which is quite out of character for a standard Thursday offering. I don’t see how to provide a hint without giving the whole game away.
I suppose I could applaud the puzzle as a sign the NYT is trying to be more adventurous, but springing a conundrum like this on an unsuspecting audience out of the blue seems unwarranted.
Well, I hope Friday and Saturday will be satisfying for those of us who just like plain old puzzles.
Seems like these types of puzzles pop up on Thursdays.I think I’ve seen more rebus or other gimmicky puzzles on a Thursday than on any other day of the week. Fridays and Saturdays (at least for NYT) are mostly themeless and hard.
NYT: Interesting how polarizing this was. I got the trick after some head scratching, and worked my way through it. I admired it without really enjoying the process. So, I’m one of the few people in the middle.
But I thought the clue for ISIS was simply awful. Hadjis are people who have gone to pilgrimage. They are not the definition of ISIS. And by the same token, member of ISIS have not all necessarily been to pilgrimage, so they are not necessarily Hadjis, though some clearly are. It’s both factually incorrect to define the group in this way, and it sends the wrong message, tarring millions of people who are religious observers with that brush.
Yes, it jarred me when I saw that, too, but it was actually my entry into the trick. When anagrammed, the clue is “Jihad group…” But you’re right – it’s still unfortunate to have this apparent inaccuracy in the un-translated clue.
PS. I do realize that HADJI was an anagram for JIHAD. But the juxtaposition was a little too clever…
I think it’s fair from within the framework of the puzzle but it could lead to some unfortunate misunderstandings. If a Muslim who did not know the trick was looking at a solved grid and saw this clue/answer pair, he might be quite offended and it would be a weak defense to point out to him how the trick makes it ok.
I grant all of the above (the four posts above), but it’s definitely the case that none of the other words that have to be unscrambled make for clues that make sense either.
But I guess there’s also an issue with the word “jihad” – that many don’t like that word to be associated automatically with terrorism. For instance, Google has this as one of the definitions: “the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin.”
NYT very polarizing today. Count me in the “loved it” column. Would have been even more enjoyable to solve in a leisurely fashion, which I could have chosen to do. It’s difficult for a crossword puzzle nowadays to reward such a ‘slow’ solve.
I am not very good at anagrams and yet I really liked this puzzle. I also thought there were three different “traps” to solving. Figuring that out was the cherry on top.
That’s what I thought too. Once I finished the puzzle, I realized that TRAP anagrams to PART
I’ll be the contrarian on today’s NYT puzzle: 100% lukewarm!
I didn’t love it; I didn’t hate it.
Once I got the trick, (which I did very quickly — I *knew* “big 2000s comedies” was APATOW, somehow), the mental anagramming was fun for about half the puzzle and boring for the other half. I think it might have been better with just the across clues as anagrams.
Still, kudos to the constructor — very clever!
Maybe that partly explains my negative reaction to the puzzle — I don’t think I’ve seen any Apatow movie (although I know the name) and I wasn’t familiar with the Tori Amos album (although I know who she is). So I was stumped from the outset…
The NYT really threw me for several minutes. I don’t remember just when the light bulb flickered to life, but when it did, I loved this puzzle. Five stars from me.
The NYT puzzle was complete BS . The first word of 1a is trio, how the hell does that anagram to amos, using the definition of anagram?
Tori (trio) AMOS. As Amy said you take the first word of the clue, find an anagram of that which makes sense with the rest of the clue, and then get the answer. The anagramed clue for 1A is then: Tori who …Album Title.. That’s what gives you AMOS.
TRIO anagrams to TORI, and the artist is Tori Amos.
NYT-I’m not sure what I think. I love the Puns and Anagrams puzzles that come out every six weeks on Sunday. This was similar, but without the puns. What I liked was the working back and forth. Sometimes the answer was clear before I figured out the anagram, and then I could figure out the clue. A few of the clues I just never figured out, like the 25D NERF clue. What’s the answer–or the clue–or the question? Kind of a “Jeopardy” like crossword.
“Abhors material for making toys.” Hasbro makes the Nerf products.
Ah – All I could come up with is Harbors, even though I knew it wasn’t right.
Thanks from me too! I didn’t mention, in my recounting of struggles with the puzzle, that I did cheat and look up a few anagrams online. Naturally, I couldn’t find Hasbro.
NYT was fun, but took me a long time since I was using Stand Alone app. I liked how not everything was a “standard” word, like anagramming Blaise (Isabel) for PASCAL and Deseret (steered) for UTAH.
Lovedoing rarely disappoints, and today was no exception – love doing his puzzles.
I see what you did there:)
For the record:
Thank you, pannonica. I needed this (also available from Jim Horne in XWord Info, but I saw this one first, and also not everyone gets XWord Info). But note that as Amy says in her (unusually, but this puzzle is nuts) less thorough review, 30d is lead-in, not denial.
The list is also in Deb Amlen’s Wordplay. I just don’t want to omit credit, but I am very grateful to Pannonica that the list is here on this page.
Oh, whoops. Careless error. Fixed. Thanks!
If I’d known about the other lists, I might have saved some time by copy-pasting.
A slight fault is an indicator of personal handiwork. Kudos and thanks again.
NYT: I think this puzzle would win if there were a category for largest number of 5 stars awarded. It would also win for the most bimodal distribution. I bet we could take the people who gave it a 5 and the people who gave it a 1, give them a standard personality test and discover significant differences. I’m not passing judgment on either side of that equation. I’m just fascinated by anything that neatly underscores differences between people (I study the biology of differences in temperament in my research).
I wonder how the number of ratings compares to the norm. It’s 83 as I type. I don’t usually pay that close attention to the number of ratings but that feels high.
Huda, I love your neuroscience musings!
@Huda I suspect the division is simply about having solved the puzzle or not. People may be different but they’re also all the same.
Nope. You can solve the puzzle and still hate it.
That’s right, and you might not be able to finish it and still love it. I’m one of those in between. Success should not be the major criterion, but I think it’s just human nature. And, as someone said, you vote against it if you don’t want to see another one like it. I’m not rating today, because I think my performance was so poor that I don’t have the right. I might give another such a low rating, but I did like and admire this puzzle.
In around my twentieth post about this NYT puzzle, I have to say that I went back and rated this puzzle after I said I wouldn’t. I got tired of people bad-mouthing it all weekend, so here I am on Sunday night, giving it 4.5. I might not be entitled, since I couldn’t entirely finish it or complete the solving of the anagrams all by myself, but I do feel that I spent enough time with it to know it and appreciate it.
My law of crosswords: There is no such thing as a too easy Monday, a too hard Saturday, or a too tricky Thursday puzzle.
You’re not wrong.
Amen, Jeffrey K. I love being fooled by a fair puzzle! 5 stars.
Today’s NYT was thoroughly frustrating for me. I know that Thursdays are often tricky, but I don’t recall ever encountering a Thursday puzzle with this level of complexity before. After coming here and seeing what was going on, I see that Mr. Livengood has constructed a very clever and challenging puzzle – and I certainly appreciate that accomplishment. I’m just not sure it belonged on a Thursday – especially without some indication from the editor that this was an “out of the ordinary” puzzle.
I sometimes attempt the “Cryptic Crossword” or “Puns and Anagrams” puzzle in the NYT Sunday Magazine. I’m not very good at anagrams, so I find those puzzles very challenging. Sometimes, I complete one – and when I do, it’s a really good feeling. When I can’t complete one, it’s not a big deal – I knew going in that the puzzle was going to be a stretch for my solving skills, and I’ve usually enjoyed the challeng.
Today’s puzzle seemed even more challenging than those Sunday magazine puzzles, because the latter typically don’t involve very many pop culture references. I know who Tori Amos is, and I know who Judd Apatow is, but off the top of my head, I couldn’t name any of their songs/movies. Put those answers/clues into anagram form, and I’m utterly at sea.
I rated today’s puzzle a 1-star. I averaged my ratings for Mr. Livengood as a constructor (5 stars) and Mr. Shortz as an editor (negative 3 stars) for publishing this on a Thursday, without a note to solvers.
Loved it! Took me a few minutes to figure out what was going on, though I knew SOMETHING was going on. The Croat/actor clue finally tipped me off.
NYT: I loved the idea and having my own AHA moment. It did however get to be a slog after a while, and some anagrams I just gave up on though I was still able to fill in the correct entry (thanks pannonica for posting the whole list). I will say though that the cluing was absolutely masterful!
NYT – If only the Aha Moment had come sooner. The horror. Took two of us I-won’t-say-how-long. Love the high/low split and the great number of comments.
I never comment and only rarely visit these reviews when I encounter an especially noteworthy puzzle. Such was the NYT puzzle today and I LOVED it. Took me forever to get the trick staring at a nearly empty grid (I managed a few conventionally clued answers like LSD for Tab material and TASTE for Folgers concern and NON for Veto in the French Legislature (which is actually right but for the wrong reasons)) before I finally got my big break and now I can’t remember what it was. I think it was Apatow.
I’ll admit that even after getting the trick it was a slog through parts of the puzzle and kind of tedious doing all that mental anagramming and looking back at forth between clues and partial answers to try to find a match. But still, it’s Thursday and anything goes in the tricks department and it’s so refreshing to have something truly original like this. I say bring ’em on.
I’ll refrain from commenting on the nay-sayers personalities, but I agree that given how polarizing this puzzle was there must be something interesting going on there.
Awesome puzzle!! 5 from me as well
It took me 42:53 to do the NYT puzzle. I commend anyone who solved it in less than half an hour! BTW, I loved it and gave it 5 stars.