Thursday, February 16, 2017

BEQ 7:51 (Ben) 


CS 6:01 (Ade) 


LAT 5:25 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:05 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball untimed – solved with grid (Jenni) 


Keith Redwine’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT Puzzle 2.16.17 by Keith Redwine

Happy Thursday, everyone! This appears to be yet another constructor making his NYT debut with a Thursday puzzle! (I think that’s the fourth Thursday in a row!) Congratulations yet again, this time to Keith Redwine.

I breezed through this one without really seeing the theme. On the surface, this looks like just a rebus theme using the word BLACK four times, which has been done by several other constructors. The eight entries containing the rebus squares are:

  • 1a / 1d, (BLACK)BOARD / (BLACK)BEAR [Menu holder at many a cafe / University of Maine mascot]. 
  • 10a / 10d, (BLACK)SEA / (BLACK)HAT [Body of water near Georgia / Villain]. At a talk last week, someone asked Will Shortz about ways to get better at solving crosswords. In response, one of the things he mentioned was that practice helps solvers recognize when a constructor is being tricky, and his major example was  that when you see “Georgia” in a clue in a Monday puzzle, you should think of the state, while if you see “Georgia” in a clue in a Thursday puzzle, you should think of the country. I wonder if he had this particular puzzle in mind?
  • 39a / 39d, (BLACK)CAT / (BLACK)MAIL [Worry for the superstitious / Extorted from]. 
  • 50a / 37d, INTHE(BLACK) / THE(BLACK)KEYS [Solvent / Five-time Grammy-winning duo from the 2010s]. Really glad to see The Black Keys make their NYT debut; I’m shocked it took this long. It’s a bit misleading to say they’re “from” the 2010s, since they’ve been making music since 2002 (I had a friend from Akron [where The Black Keys are also from] tell me how they were going to be the next big thing. This was while we were both in undergrad at Michigan in about 2006).

    How could this li’l guy worry you? (39a)

If that were all there were to this theme, I’d be a little underwhelmed. But wait, there’s more! The central entry explains it all:

  • 35a, ASYMMETRY [Feature of this puzzle that’s “fixed” by a literal reading of four squares]. That is to say, if you were to shade in the four BLACK squares in the puzzle, the grid would become symmetrical. While I was solving, I didn’t notice the grid asymmetry at all, but there you have it!

This is a cool idea, a nice twist on the BLACK-rebus = black square concept. The puzzle felt very appropriate for a Thursday. Ultimately, it’s not much more than a rebus puzzle, but I do like rebus puzzles a lot (maybe more than most).

The fill is okay. Some bright spots with MAMMOTH, VENOM, THE(BLACK)KEYS, CARNAGE, SCRUPLE, and SHINTO. On the other hand, there was just enough stuff in the grid like SES, TET, MTS, AUS, LEV, ARA, RET, and OLEO (which, again, I like more than most) to ding my solving enjoyment a bit.

Other notes:

  • Two references to Arnold Schwarzenegger in this one: 7a, AUS [Where Schwarzenegger was born], and 29a, TERMINATOR [1984 movie with a 100% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with “The”]. Coincidence? You be the judge.
  • I really liked the clue for 31d, ICY [Needing salt, maybe]. One of those “wish I’d thought of it” moments.
  • Will has said before that one of the main purposes of the newspaper crossword is as a respite from solvers’ worries and from whatever bad things are happening in the world. That sentiment was echoed today in pieces recognizing the 75th anniversary of the NYT crossword, which was released two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. That said, I appreciated seeing the crossword reference SYRIA‘s civil war (34d, [Civil war locale since 2011], which as far as I can tell the puzzle hasn’t explicitly referenced before now (a 2016 clue called Syria the “origin of much 2015-16 emigration”).

3.6 stars from me. Until next week!

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Long Jumps” — Jim’s review

I had forgotten the title when I started doing the puzzle, so several entries were leaving me perplexed. Finally I glanced at the title (and the byline) and realized it was one of Mike Shenk’s signature “jumping” grids.

Theme answers are broken into two entries where the short part is also a word that can (roughly) mean “long (for).” Solvers must jump over certain blocks to complete the theme answers.

WSJ – Thu, 2.16.17 – “Long Jumps” by Alice Long (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a/19a. [Errol Flynn trademark]/[Long]. PENCIL MUST/ACHE. Great theme answer!
  • 25a/27a. [Long]/[Melatonin source]. PINE/AL GLAND
  • 44a/46a. [Juice maker?]/[Long]. LIGHT SW/ITCH. *grumble* A LIGHT SWITCH doesn’t make the “juice.”
  • 55a/56a. [Long]/[Many shots are taken from it]. SIGH/T SEEING BUS. *double grumble* SIGH as a synonym for “long?” Oh, dictionaries are telling me it’s used in high-falutin’ litter-chure. *sigh* That’s a pretty far stretch.

But there aren’t many other choices. “Yearn” and “lust” don’t produce any good results. Neither do “hunger” or “thirst”. So these choices of “synonyms for ‘long’ that are also parts of other words” is fairly exhaustive, and that’s a good thing.

But I can’t say I get a lot out of these jumping themes. Once you’ve grokked the gimmick there isn’t much else to grab onto. If I had been paying attention to the title, I would have caught on much sooner, maybe even before I started. But that would have made the whole endeavor even more straightforward.

It’s nice to have trickiness on Thursday, preferably like the recent rebus. This has some, but not enough wordplay to satisfy. But that’s just me.

Beyond the theme, our long answers are PERTURBED and GUN RANGES. This last one is the most interesting non-theme entry in the grid, but its clue, [Many shots are taken at them], echoes the theme clue at 56a and led to a fair amount of confusion.

Aside from those, there aren’t many highlights in the grid. But in the “yeesh” category, there’s IERE, CLETE [Boyer who played with Berra], and REPILE. *yeesh*

Clues seemed tougher for me than the usual Thursday; I just didn’t seem to be on the right wavelength. Here are some that I noted:

  • 4a. [Title courtesan of opera]. THAÏS. This also gets a *yeesh*. What’s wrong with sticking with the people of southeast Asia?
  • 16a. [Charge a criminal?]. TASE. Am I a bad person for finding this humorous? Maybe it’s because some jackhole got into my car the other night and stole my stuff!
  • 30a. [Item for Martha Grimes’s mantelpiece]. EDGAR. I don’t know this mystery writer’s name, so this was a tough one. Also, how does one know whether she keeps it on the mantel?
  • 43a. [Insignificant person]. SPRAT. New definition to me.
  • 2d. [Home of the Lady Miners]. UTEP. And the Gentlemen Miners as well, I presume?
  • 24d. [Knight from Georgia]. GLADYS. I like this one.
  • 34d. [Belg. neighbor]. NETH. I kept trying to put NEDE or NEDR in there.
  • 39d. [Literary coda]. EPILOG. Another good one.
  • 54d. [Sport whose highest rank is yokozuna]. SUMO. My first thought was JUDO, but that would have put a J at the end of a 7-letter word. Highly unlikely.

Final verdict: A solid puzzle, but it just didn’t turn me on.

Just last month, Japan got its first yokozuna in 19 years. Here is an interesting BBC article regarding the challenges the sport faces in Japan. And here is some sumo silliness (warning: some language):

Andrea Carla Michaels’s and Bruce Haight’s Fireball crossword, “Focus Group”—Jenni’s write-up

Today’s Fireball has several distinguishing features. It’s bigger than usual, it’s a non-standard size (23 x 23), and it’s available with the grid visible in a .puz file and as a diagramless in a PDF. I chose the .puz; I enjoy diagramless puzzles, but when Peter Gordon warns that something will be a “severe challenge” and I have a list of other things to do today, I stick with the grid. The Email also offered hints about symmetry and gave the starting square, for those who wanted to try the diagramless without quite as much of a struggle.

It’s apparently my week for blogging about puzzles with letters in the grid. This time it’s a big E. Can you see it? If not, you may need glasses. In addition to the diagramless challenge, we have a theme to go with our big E – two long theme answers and two rebus squares.

2/16 FB puzzle, solution grid

  • 11a [Place for a big E] is not CENTER OF THE GRID but rather SNELLEN EYE CHART, which is the arrangement of letters in different configurations and different sizes that you look at while the eye doctor says “This one? Or this one?”
  • 93a [Hit song on the album “The Who Sell Out”] is I CAN SEE FOR MILES.
  • 50a [Kings of León] crossing 30d [1981 World Series co-MVP] is R{EYE}S and STEVE Y{EYE}GER, respectively.
  • 51a [Comedian who delivered the line “Nothing like a Schweddy Ball” on a classic “Saturday Night Live” sketch] crosses 48d [“Veep” main character Selina] will no doubt make people yelp; two proper names, both referring to pop culture TV and crossing at a rebus square. We’re looking for GAST{EYE}R and M{EYE}R. I knew Ana Gasteyer was an SNL cast member, and that’s what gave me the rebus trick.

I enjoyed the theme. I’m not sure that SNELLEN EYE CHART is common knowledge, and the presence of theme answers with and without rebus squares threw me a little bit. I can only imagine what the diagramless solvers thought. Please tell me in comments.

A few other things:

  •  Martin Herbach will be glad to see that MISO SOUP appears in its entirely, clued as [Sushi bar starter].
  • My sticking point was the crossing of 17d [Cruise part] with 44a [Basketball Hall of Famer Irish who founded the Knicks]. I finally realized 17d was one of those hidden-uppercase-letter clues and we were looking for a role played by Tom Cruise. Didn’t help much, since I don’t know his oeuvre all that well. In the end, I ran the alphabet to get it.
  • More basketball at 46a with [Longtime Pacers center nicknamed “The Dunkin’ Dutchman”]. I’ve heard of RIK SMITS, at least.
  • 76a [1946 fictionalized biopic of Jerome Kern] made me think of Janie. I’ve never seen TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY, but I bet she knows the music.
  • [94a Jewish noodle casserole whose name rhymes with a search engine] made me hungry. I love my mother’s noodle KUGEL, and it would go nicely with the baked chicken I have planned for tonight. Hmm.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there were flowers called NEAPOLITAN VIOLETS. My first rhymes-with-kugel search turned up pages of a anime character; I had to add “flower” to my search string to find pictures.

I leave you with the trailer for “Till The Clouds Rolls By,” which apparently features a glittering MGM cast. The whole movie is on YouTube. See you later.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Court-Packing Plan” — Ben’s Review

I’m not sure I entirely get the reference in this week’s BEQ Thursday puzzle, but I figured out what was going on in the theme clues, so it’s all good:

  • 17A:Do an incantation by yourself? — CHANT SOLO
  • 26A:Place where Yo-Yo Ma gets stranded? — CELLIST ISLAND
  • 47A:Pioneer Davy uses FedEx? — CROCKETT SHIPS
  • 62A:Marsh plant that gives you political muscle? — CLOUT REED


Regardless of my comprehension this week, this had some cute entries – I was partial to CHANT SOLO and CROCKETT SHIPS in particular.  For those that still aren’t quite grokking what’s happening hear, we’ve got normal phrases/names (HAN SOLO, ELLIS ISLAND, ROCKET SHIPS, LOU REED) with the first word “packed” into the letters CT.

A few other quick notes:

  • A big UGH to DEVOS in the grid.
  • PLAID is an excellent “Grunge outfit choice”.
  • I liked the parallel placement of TRAGIC HERO and ANNA SEWELL
  • All of Prince’s Warner Brothers albums are now available on streaming services like Spotify – get on that!

4/5 stars

Zhouqin Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

I’ve seen “apt TICKERSYMBOL” themes before. This is an effective, if convoluted example. It is also up to date, featuring FERRARI, which I did not know was an independent company again. Their symbol is RACE, found in the intersecting OBSTACLERACE. Similarly, the symbol of HARLEY (no DAVIDSON) is HOG in crossing WHOLEHOG. The same pattern occurs with CAR in SOLARCAR and AVIS.

More “fill nuggets” than usual for sure: TOUCHE, JUSTSAYNO, DOESTIME, MINIBATS, and mystery brand ORAJEL. More controversial are GCHAT, which has never officially been a thing, and no longer exists at all, as well as the, well, racist MELIKEY… It looks like it was a deliberate choice, but I’d have stayed clear of it, myself.

3.5 Stars

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “The Late Shift” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 02.16.17: “The Late Shift”

Hello there, everyone! I hope you’re all doing great on this Thursday. It won’t be a late shift for me tonight, opposite of what’s going on, literally, with today’s grid, brought to us by Ms. Donna S. Levin. In the grid, each of the theme entries feature the letters “L-A-T-E” appearing consecutively, with those letters “shifting” from left to right with each descending theme entry.

  • LATENT PRINTS (20A: [Evidence for which crime scene investigators dust])
  • BILATERAL TREATY (35A: [Camp David Accords, for example])
  • COLORADO PLATEAU (42A: [Four Corners region])
  • HOT CHOCOLATE (56A: [Marshmallow-garnished winter beverage])

Not sure when this grid was actually put together, but seeing WHAM definitely made me nostalgic with the recent passing of George Michael (10A: [George Michael’s erstwhile duo]). Hey, can Andrew Ridgeley get any love in a grid ANY TIME soon (44D: [Whenever])? I know we’re still in winter, but I can’t wait until I’m back in Queens getting ready to cover the US OPEN, one of the highlights of my year as a sports reporter (47A: [Flagship event at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center]). If you’re a fan of tennis and you can make it out to New York City in late August, do yourself a favor and buy a grounds pass for a day or two, especially at the beginning of the tournament, and take in all of the tennis matches as you’re taking a stroll around the tennis center. It’s amazing. The only thing that can make it a downer is the weather, as, sometimes, it’s really hot and humid. But you’ll have a couple of cold bottles of water in tow, so you can bear it!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: GYMNAST (5D: [2016 “Final Five” Olympian]) – There might have been no more fascinating watch in the 2016 Olympics in Rio than the American gymnastics team absolutely dominate the competition, so much so that the names of the Final Five are etched in the memories of sports fans. Pick any GYMNAST on that team and you can remember great performances. The five – Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman – won the team gold in dominating fashion in Rio and, collectively, won nine medals, breaking the previous USA Olympic gymnastics record of eight by the 1984 and 2008 teams.

TGIF tomorrow! Have a great rest of your Thursday!.

Take care!


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15 Responses to Thursday, February 16, 2017

  1. Glenn says:

    Unable to download the .puz version of the WSJ this morning

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    That was a very nice debut in the NYT. Let me add my congratulations to Keith. When I first saw the grid, my Scowl-o-Meter (royalties pending on Amy’s patent) went off. I was all set to dislike this for the cheater squares and asymmetry. What a pleasant surprise to find both were thematic. My only nit is that bamboo isn’t really a jungle plant, though some varieties are tropical. It is a widely spread evergreen grass.

  3. Robert says:

    I’ve said it before, but I have a small issue with AUS for Austria as AUS is the official three letter code/abbreviation for Australia while AUT is the official 3 letter code/abbreviation for Austria. I understand that casually AUS can be short for both…but having working in Europe with the EU countries, using AUS for Austria has gotten me a talking to! (It’s kind of like mixing up the Australian and New Zealand flags).

  4. Bruce N Morton says:

    Congrats, Keith. Very good puz. I was hoping for Black Ops.

  5. Jenni says:

    I really liked this puzzle – I like rebus puzzles in general, and the extra layer made it extra fun.

  6. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Nice debut, but I’m going to quibble with one clue. ROTC refers to the program, not to the individuals in the program. The answer to [Some campus marchers, briefly] really should be CADETS or MIDSHIPMEN (or MIDDIES).

  7. Noam D. Elkies says:

    NYT: Neat puzzle, even if ANTE VOS VOSTRA CONSTRUXERUNT (or however that Latin phrase should be adapted here). Yes there’s some OLEO holding the grid together, but in the assets column there’s also the full 58A:LAKE_ERIE (albeit not geographically correct, whereas 10A:[BLACK]_SEA is in roughly the right place). Must be rare for a NYTimes crossword to have exactly 73 words (symmetric grids have even word-counts). I wonder if the double helping of Schwarzenegger items was suggested by the theme too (Schwarz = black). Another double that’s clearly not thematic is “war” in the clues for 40D:CARNAGE and 34D:SYRIA (and this SYRIA also crosses 51A:ARAB); see also 24A:ROTC and the G-rated clue for 18A:PRIVATES.


  8. anon says:

    LAT: Very surprised to see 46D, especially given the constructor.

  9. janie says:

    >[1946 fictionalized biopic of Jerome Kern] made me think of Janie…I bet she knows the music

    hah — i wish! ;-) truth is, know all of the showboat material, but am maybe 80% familiar w/ the rest. those “other-than-hammerstein” collaborators are an eclectic bunch…


  10. Phoebe says:

    Re Fireball – I tried the diagramless version, but gave up and went with the grid. Certainly tough enough with the grid! One nit to pick, kugel (at least the way it was pronounced in my house) does not rhyme with Google. Not sure there is an English word that does rhyme…

    • Linda says:

      Probably the pronuncation is from a different district in the Old Country. As a vivid dreamer whose metaphorical life sometimes resides in kitchen items, incluing noodle kugel, I am still wondering what one I had about mondelbrot means. So I made some this week to see if it would jog a memory. No luck there, but great for snacks.

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        Frugal rhymes (Google once had a shopping search engine called Froogle), not to the EYE but to the ear (which is what usually counts). rhymezone notes that bugle rhymes too, as do some less common words.

        • Jim Leonard says:

          No they don’t. Kugel’s U is closer to the sound in would or putsch. Otherwise it would rhyme with google.

          • Linda says:

            Some do pronounce it like “would” but others more like “google.” No “putsch” intended, I am sure, on my end of things. Also spelled “Mandelbrot” or even mandel bread. Yum.

  11. Re: Fireball:

    I did it in diagramless form. I had to use the starting square and symmetry hints, but with the difficulty of most of the clues, I don’t imagine I could have gotten anywhere without them.

    It was generally slow but steady progress throughout, and I thought for a while the big shape in the middle would be an F for Fireball. Uncovering the two rebus EYES after a very long time was what busted the rest of it open. From there it was a short jump to filling in the remaining squares to get a big E and then just solve the grid normally. I had to guess at the cross between SNELLEN and ALPH, but it seemed logical enough.

    One question, though: Peter Gordon’s email included the hint that the grid was asymmetric, but is that true? I think it has top-down symmetry, meaning you could divide it in half along the X-axis.

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