Thursday, March 23, 2017

BEQ 14:55 (Ben) 


LAT 3:57 (Gareth) 


NYT 2:52 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball 6:52 (Jenni) 


Sandy Ganzell’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 3.22.17 by Sandy Ganzell

Another Thursday debut! Congrats to Mr. Ganzell!

If you solved this in print or on the NYT site, the grid had immediate visual impact. Columns 4, 8, and 12 aren’t as wide as the others… and with good reason! The answers in those columns are all preceded by different antonyms of “wide,” which is implied by the fact that they are all slender:

  • 14d, (THIN) MINTS [Girl Scout cookie offering].
  • 16d, (NARROW) ESCAPE [Barely successful avoidance of calamity]
  • 22d, (LEAN) CUISINE [Brand for weight-watchers]. But not by Weight Watchers — their frozen meal brand is Smart Ones.
  • 42d, (SLIM) CHANCE [What a long shot has].
  • 49d, (SKINNY) JEANS [Form-fitting casual wear].

I think my favorite ones are the answers whose clues don’t work unless you add the “slender” synonym in front — MINTS aren’t a Girl Scout offering, but THIN MINTS are (see also LEAN CUISINE and, a little less so, NARROW ESCAPE). A long shot does, however, have a CHANCE and JEANS can be form-fitting casual wear; adding SLIM and SKINNY in front just makes them a little better.

I’ve heard from more than one solver who got stuck in the NW of this one. I didn’t have too much difficulty with it, but CARIOLE and IDLER could get a little sticky. I liked TOOK HEART, PUT TO A VOTE, OMNISCIENT, and FREE TRIAL. Didn’t care much for PEU or COSM. I always misread IF EVER as I FEVER, but that’s a personal problem.

Quick review, since I’m getting it up late. 3.5 stars from me — cool concept, some minor hiccups in the execution. Until next week!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 104”  – Jenni’s writeup

This was another of those puzzles that felt like it took longer than it did. I guess that bodes well for ACPT.

Lots of interesting stuff here.

FB 3/23, solution grid

  • 1a is [Perfect market’s lack]. I dropped in REGULATION and immediately took it out. The correct answer is MONOPOLIES.
  • The [Super Bowl party bowlful] at 15a is AVOCADO DIP. Is this something other than guacamole?
  • 17a [Tablet choice] is not medication. It’s KINDLE FIRE. That NDL in the middle looked very odd when it was all by itself.
  • 33a [Harmless inventions] are FIBS. This is also a harmless invention.
  • 50a [Unable to chase squirrels, say] ON A LEASH was a gimme. I’ve had Labradors. I know frustrated squirrel chasers.
  • 59a [Inability to wake up early might be one of its symptoms] is not just SENIORITIS. Research suggests it’s adolescence in general. I scoffed at this for a long time, but it appears to have solid science backing it up.

And the best part of the whole puzzle is our Trademark Peter Gordon Very Long Clue:

  • 65a [Parts of some strings (and what was mispronounced by Ed Norton and Ralph Kramden on an episode of “The Honeymooners” with the accentuation of 1-Across)]. The answer is POLO PONIES and the “Honeymooners” reference led me to this. If you don’t usually watch the YouTube clips I post, watch this one. Trust me.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Quinton Jackson was in the movie of The A-Team, playing the role originated on TV by MR T.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Piercing Wit” — Jim’s review

We have a clever twist on the add-a-letter theme today. All the letters were added to the same word, that word being NOSE.

WSJ – Thu, 3.23.17 – “Piercing Wit” by Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 16a [Meaningless employment?] NO-USE JOB. Nose job. This is the only entry where the added letter results in two words, and it’s not great in its inconsistency. But it’s just passable.
  • 30a [Legionary shouts?] ROMAN NOISE. Roman nose. Hey! I’ve got one of those!
  • 46a [Longship protector?] NORSE GUARD. Nose guard.
  • 63a [How cattle are wrangled?] BY A NOOSE. By a nose.

My initial reaction was that these were all “nose jobs” and that that phrase should have been the title. And on the whole, the puzzle feels rather light thematically with only four medium-ish theme entries.

But then I thought about the title and realized what our constructor was after. It’s not about nose jobs, it’s about getting your nose pierced. Notice that each added letter comes exactly in the middle of the letters in NOSE. Not only that, there aren’t any other letters in the alphabet that could be added to NOSE to make anything sensible, and it’s for that reason that NO-USE gets a pass.

My only wish was that the four added letters spelled something related like STUD, but that would have been impossible. (As it is, they spell UIRO.)

Then I was contacted by the constructor, Alex, who told me that a thematic element was eliminated before publication. In his original grid, each NOSE was pierced by something different: a STUD at 3d, a RING at 26d, a WIRE at 39d (which is still in place), and a HOOP at 58d.

While I love the concept he came up with, WIRE doesn’t work for me at all (and for some reason, sounds like torture). I’m guessing Mike Shenk may have felt the same and therefore changed the other three to eliminate any distraction. Ironically, WIRE was left in because most people don’t associate that word with nose piercings.

And while the piercing conceit is weakened by having to rely solely on the title, it’s still clever and interesting enough to make for a fun puzzle.

Okay, on to the fill! Really great stuff in RUGBY SHIRT, LEO TOLSTOY, CUE CARDS, MR RIGHT, MANCALA, and UNDOINGS (though I’d prefer it in its singular form). We had a MANCALA game while I was growing up, but we always incorrectly called it Chinese Checkers.

There are some gluey bits in the puzzle here and there, but nothing distracting.

Clues of note:

  • 13a [Company whose business is picking up]. UBER. I’ve seen this clue a lot. I don’t know that anyone is fooled by it on a Thursday anymore.
  • 53d [“Getting to Know You” singer]. ANNA. Didn’t realize that song was from The King and I.
  • 19a [Our top story?]. ATTIC. Cute and clever.
  • 23a [Nice round number]. PAR. I was trying to come up with French for “zero,” but the trickeration was on a different word in the clue.
  • 36a [“Jeepers!”]. “OH MY!” I’m glad George Takei doesn’t say “Jeepers!”

Recap: An interesting theme and grid made more interesting by its backstory. But on its face (haha!), it works and is a good puzzle.

Matthew Sewell’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

This puzzle’s wordplay was delightfully subtle: PUMPUPTHEVOLUME is interpreted in three different way: volume of fluid in SUPERSIZEDRINK, the size of the print in the volume in LARGEPRINTBOOK, and the volume of hair in BOUFFANTHAIRDO.

This puzzle is all about the theme, with four spanning answers. The rest of the grid is pretty solid. We get another instance of [Minute amount], DRIB in singular form this week. FUGU, which is the poisonous pufferfish served as food, is an interesting shorter entry.

3.5 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Send In The Clones” — Ben’s Review

Oh, man, this one was TRICKY, y’all.  I immediately feel like I need to gird my loins for whatever puzzle he’s constructed at the ACPT.  It was an enjoyable solve, though – this was cleverly done and even though my time was slower than I’d like:

  • 19A:Stabs / Some lodgings— GUEST HOUSES
  • 45A:Crane’s location / African tourist destination — MARRAKESH
  • 72A:Tried / 1964 title role — STRANGELOVE
  • 13D:“Richard III” co-star / Fattening? — BROADENING
  • 39D:Something “fine” at a dinner party / Stole stuff, maybe — CHINCHILLA

The puzzle noted along with the title to “Watch out for some double-crossers! They may sneak in when you’re not looking.”, and it took me far too long to figure out that the reason I couldn’t crack what were obviously the theme clues in this week’s puzzle were because one of the crossing entries was “cloned” in each of them.  For example, 19A’s “Stabs” is GUESSES.  6D’s THOU (“What came before you?”) is cloned inside to create GUESTHOUSES, which fits the second part of 19A’s clue, “Some lodgings”.  RAKE, ANGEL, ROAD, and CHILL all get duplicated across the other such entries, MARSH (“Crane’s location”), STROVE (“Tried”), BENING (“‘Richard III’ co-star”), and CHINA (“Something ‘fine’ at a dinner party”)

Other thoughts:

  • 22A:Constellation next to Triangulum Australe — ARA (WOW my brain could not produce this triad easily)
  • 57A:“The Daughter of Time” author Josephine — TEY (This one too.)
  • 74A:“Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” composer — ARLEN
  • 30D:Like fingerprints — WHORLED

4/5 stars

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10 Responses to Thursday, March 23, 2017

  1. Lise says:

    NYT: I printed the puzzle, and none of the columns were skinny. This works only if you print the newspaper version, not what I think of as the normal pdf. Still, I got the theme although I had filled in the entire right half of the puzzle before I realized that the jeans were SKINNY.

    Also I kept trying to jam “cabriolet” where CARIOLE goes. Besides a VW, a cabriolet is a one-horse carriage, and it is Thursday, after all.

    I loved the long downs, too, and want to give a shout-out to Ramon, our neighborhood ROOSTER, whose morning musical encouragement adds to my solving experience.

  2. Lise says:

    Also, re NYT: I meant to say, clever puzzle, loved it, thanks, and congratulations on your debut, Mr. Ganzell!

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    Yes, a very nice NYT debut from Sandy Ganzell. I also enjoyed Matthew’s LAT a lot. It was fun, well put together, and featured a non-obvious connection for the themers that came together with an interesting revealer phrase.

  4. David L says:

    Nice puzzle, although I did it in AcrossLite and kept waiting for the puzzling Thursday aspect to emerge. But I finished it unenlightened, except that some of the cluing/answers seemed a little off (for all I know, Girl Scout cookies include plain mints, so that didn’t bother me). Finally I looked at the note and the penny dropped.

  5. Ethan Friedman says:

    Clever fun NYT although I thought more of a Wednesday level. The Girl Scout clue was a immediate tipoff.

    Nice, original theme!

  6. sharkicicles says:

    Wow, hardest BEQ in a looooong time.

    I built one of those Useless Machines from a kit last year. People love that thing.

    • Martin says:

      I may be missing something, but I didn’t find the BEQ too hard. I noticed the second clue for the long entries was the clue to use and, ignoring the first clue, found the puzzle a reasonable challenge. Not super-tough, but a challenge.

      The shtick was of no use in solving, but became a meta: what do the title and the first clues mean? It was pretty easy, as far as metas go. But it wasn’t really needed to complete the grid.

      • Jenni Levy says:

        I didn’t grok the theme and didn’t need it to complete the grid, but the NE corner was grueling even though I started with UMBER and RELY. I just could not see BROADENING or MAKES AS IF. Makes me nervous about this weekend.

        • Norm says:

          Interesting construction that was irrelevant to solving the puzzle, as has been pointed out. Yawn. I like BEQ’s themeless puzzles much better as a rule.

Comments are closed.