Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
There’s a lot to discuss about today’s puzzle, so let’s jump right into it!
The main revealer is at 55a, WORK-LIFE BALANCE [Challenge in a demanding job … or a feature of this puzzle?]. The black squares in rows 7-11 (and the central black squares in rows 5-6, I think) are meant to represent SCALES, as noted in 47d [What some black squares in this grid represent], and there’s a semi-thematic entry symmetrically placed in the grid at 45d, WEIGHS [Puts on the 47d].
Okay, so the black squares represent SCALES. On one side of those SCALES, there are four WORK rebus squares (36a, (WORK)(WORK)(WORK)(WORK) [One half of a 55-Across]); on the other side, four LIFE rebus squares (38a, (LIFE)(LIFE)(LIFE)(LIFE) [The other half of a 55-Across]). Hence, WORK and LIFE are balanced. Here are the eight entries that cross those rebus squares:
- 1d, PIECE OF (WORK) [Unpleasant sort].
- 2d, SAFE FOR (WORK) [Office-friendly, to YouTubers].
- 29d, RE(WORK) [Overhaul].
- 24d, NET(WORK) [Exchange business cards, maybe].
- 26d, LOW(LIFE) [Good-for-nothing].
- 31d, TO (LIFE) [“L’chaim!”].
- 10d, MATE FOR (LIFE) [Have an unchanging, monogamous relationship].
- 11d, SLICE OF (LIFE) [Peek into the everyday].
Cool concept, well executed. I found this one easier than Wednesday’s puzzle, but the gimmick is sufficiently Thursday-ish to warrant placing it on a Thursday, I think. Great use of left-right symmetry to make the visual part of the theme work.
Besides the theme answers, which were all lively (appropriately) and in-the-language, there was a lot of exceptional fill elsewhere in this 74-worder: VEGAN PIZZA, MAGIC LAMPS, TOO REAL, BBC NEWS, AS YOU DO, CIARA, PHOTO OP. Really nice Thursday puzzle — I only wish it had lasted longer!
Until next week!
Randall J. Hartman’s Fireball Crossword, “Several Names” – Jenni’s writeup
I did indeed finish the puzzle correctly in the time noted above. It took me several more minutes to suss the theme – despite the revealer. Let’s see why.
There are a number of names in this puzzle that aren’t part of the theme. I don’t think that’s a deliberate misdirection, since the revealer tells us we’re looking at the long Down answers. Those are:
- 3d [Eponym of a hat trick variant that consists of a goal, an assist, and a fight all in one game]. Apparently GORDIE HOWE did that frequently enough to have it named after him.
- 21d [Bipolar explorer] was not, as far as I know, mentally ill. ROALD AMUNDSEN explored both the North and South Poles.
- 7d [“On the Record” host before Brit Hume] is the grid-spanning GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, who requires a 15×16 grid.
- 8d [Actor who delivered two lines in the American Film Institute’s “100 Years … 100 Movie Quotes” list and who played a character named in a third line] is JACK NICHOLSON delivered the 29th line on the list in “A Few Good Men” – “You can’t handle the truth!” In “The Shining” he said “Here’s Johnny!” and that’s #68. The third line isn’t #3 on the list – it’s #74, form “Chinatown.” Nicholson plays Jake, and Lawrence Walsh says “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” This is a Peter Gordon Trademark Very Long Clue, and I cribbed the info from the answer sheet included with the puzzle. Thanks, Peter.
- 35d [Lawyer played by Ed Begley Jr. in “Recount”] was apparently DAVID BOIES. That sure looked wrong, and it was the last thing I filled in, and it’s right. David Boies represented Vice President Gore in the recount lawsuit following the 2000 election. The movie was made in 2008 and shown on HBO.
So those are our theme answers, and I couldn’t see anything they had in common. Then I got to the bottom of the puzzle, where I found 65d, [Disease whose awareness increased with the Ice Bucket Challenge, familiarly (or what can be found at the beginnings and ends of the long Down answers)]. The answer is ALS. I looked for AL at the beginning and end of each theme answer – nope. I looked for names that could be combined with AL – Roald Al? Al Roald? Greta Al? Nope. Finally I realized that GORDIE HOWE has GORE at the beginning and end, and he’s an Al. Aha! We also have Al ROSEN, Al GREEN, Al JOLSON (once I realized we weren’t looking for a Jackson) and Al DAVIS. Phew. Since I am only vaguely aware of Al Rosen and Al Davis, I did not find this to be a particularly satisfying theme. That’s a quirk of my knowledge base, and not a knock on the puzzle.
A few other things:
- 20a [Email alternative to Thunderbird]. Is anyone still using EUDORA?
- 29a [“Terrible” czar] gives him his numeral: IVAN IV.
- 34a [Makeup of certain shakes] had me looking for ice cream or trendy kale-like substances. Nope. We’re talking about the shakes on houses, which are often made of CEDAR.
- I usually think of KLUTE as a Jane Fonda movie, and forget that Donald Sutherland actually played the title character.
- 49a [Actor who sucked in his most famous film role] is not a comment on the quality of the performance. It’s Bela LUGOSI, who famously played Count Dracula.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: anything about Pascal’s triangle. David suggested it was south of the Bermuda Triangle. Wikipedia informs me that Pascal’s triangle is a triangular array of the binomial coefficients. The puzzle tells me that the second row is ONE ONE. I’m still not sure I actually know anything about Pascal’s triangle.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Campus Leaders” — Jim’s review
This is one of those puzzles during which you say, “Wish I’d thought of that.”
Alex has taken phrases and names in which the first word is a three-letter anagram of a well-known American institute of higher learning. All (well, most) of the entries are solid and not without humor.
- 17a [Sophistication, in Fort Worth?] TCU CLASS. Cut class.
- 24a [When the home team scores, in Troy?] RPI ROARING TIME. Rip-roaring time. This is the only entry that gave me pause. I think I more often see “rip-roaring good time.” Google returns 19k for the “good”-less phrase and 47k for the latter.
- 39a [Culinary professional, in Cambridge?] MIT COOK. Tim Cook.
- 52a [Student loan terms, in Provo?] BYU NOW, PAY LATER. Buy now, pay later.
- 63a [Tuition bill, in Dallas?] SMU TOTAL. Sum total.
All in all, a pretty good theme set. Again, the RPI entry is a bit off, but it allows for the presence of the BYU entry which probably couldn’t have been done any other way. Still I wish RPI SNORTER could’ve been used ([One with an embarrassing laugh, in Troy?]).
Fill-wise, TURDUCKEN (using leftover meats from yesterday?) and ON THIN ICE are fantastic. TANKARD and BUS STOP are good as well.
There are a few eyebrow-raising entries. 66a STEROL [Waxy chemical], e.g. That’s about as crosswordesey as you get, and I’m glad we don’t see it too often. I also felt the crossing of MARTI [Cuban patriot-poet Jose] with MILO [Ventimiglia of “This Is Us”] was a little unfair. And the stacking of ORGY and ORAL in the center was eyebrow-raising in a different way.
- 15a [Mucilaginous vegetable]. OKRA. New favorite word alert! As you probably guessed, mucilaginous means “sticky or viscid.” I’ve never cooked with OKRA, so I didn’t know it was like that. Numerous methods for reducing the slime are available online.
- 58a [Headed for the fence, perhaps]. HOT. Still scratching my head on this one. Anyone?
- I love the slangy uses of SLAM [Sharply criticize] and BAIL [Leave unceremoniously].
Solid puzzle with good wordplay. See you next week!
Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Today’s theme is a little quirky, and a little thin. It helps if you’re familiar with cryptic crosswords, as these clues use a trope more commonly encountered in cryptics. The second part of the clue is the definition, and can be found after “in a” – [Comprehensive plan] = BLANKETC(OVER)AGE, [Government program] = CRIMEPR(EVEN)TION, and [Classic sports car] = FORDTH(UNDER)BIRD. The first part is a definition of over, even, and under, respectively with “in a” indicating they are found somewhere in the middle of the answers. (A true cryptic clue would have to account for all the letters in the first part of the clue in one way or another.)
In essence, this is a OVER/EVEN/UNDER hidden word theme, with 3×15, with the clues trying to lend an extra layer of wordplay. I didn’t find it works out too well, personally…
[Gamer’s game face] for AVATAR was my favourite clue – referring to a similar phenomenon to what you can register here with WordPress. Personally, I deactived my Gravatar, as it wanted to show up all over the shop…
[Tigers Hall of Famer Al] KALINE was today’s mystery name. His parents had a weird sense of humour!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Can You Hear Me Now” — Ben’s Review
Today’s BEQ is a perfectly-timed and well-executed theme. Hot on the release of the VAULT 7 (1A) info dump from Wikileaks earlier in the week, we get a puzzle that’s all about surveillance:
- 18A:Steinbeck novel about surveillance agents?— OF MICS AND MEN
- 25A:Lifting a piece of surveillance? — PICKING UP THE TAP
- 42A:Place where surveillance doesn’t work any more? — THE BUG STOPS HERE
- 49A:Hides surveillance in a hamburger? — WIRES THE BEEF
Again, this was cute and clever and the themers were perfectly punny without stretching things too far.
- 55A:Very rare blood type — A NEGATIVE (Tried to initially make this AB NEGATIVE, but quickly realize I didn’t quite have the squares for that to be the case)
- 3D:Kind of hat for a conspiracy theorist — TINFOIL (see the above Rockwell song for the perfect tinfoil hat anthem.)
- 31D:Got at least a D- — PASSED (I’d hardly call a D Minus passing, but this is why I’m not a teacher.)
- 43D: Any one of the “You Should Be Dancing” singers — BEEGEE (I have “If I Can’t Have You” stuck in my head now.)