Thursday, March 30, 2017

BEQ 11:10 (Ben) 


LAT 5:55 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:35 (Andy) 


WSJ tk (Jim) 


The Fireball crossword this week is a contest. The write-up will be posted once the contest closes.

Lewis Rothlein’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT Puzzle 3.30.17 by Lewis Rothlein

Lewis has dropped the middle initial from his byline, but this is his second NYT publication (both have been Thursdays so far).

The theme of this one is revealed at 42d: [Dramatic ending to a performance … or a hint to answering the six starred clues] is a MIC DROP. That is, the answers to the six starred clues only make sense if you drop the letters “MIC” from them. Like so:

  • 15a, (MIC)RON [*Onetime White House nickname]. Ron, as in Reagan. I started off with GIPPER here, which slowed me down a fair bit. It didn’t help that I’d never heard of Frances Moore LAPPE, and that there’s another theme answer in that corner. To me, that was the hardest section of the puzzle.
  • 19a, BALSA(MIC) [*What might keep a model’s weight down?]. Balsa, as in balsa wood. Not sure this clue, calling to mind models’ weight struggles, is in the best taste, especially since BALSAMIC makes some sense as an answer to that clue.
  • 51a, (MIC)KEY [*Anthem writer]. Key, as in Francis Scott Key.
  • 11d, POLE(MIC) [*Word after North or South]. Pole. Wanted PACIFIC here before I got the theme.
  • 36d, CO(MIC)AL [*Shade of black]. Coal.
  • 39d, FOR(MIC)A [*Discussion venues]. Fora.

I’m surprised this hasn’t been a NYT theme yet. Seems a couple years overdue. The execution is fine. I was expecting the theme answers to be symmetrical, but I don’t think it’s a big deal that they’re not. Some good stuff in here, like EL GRECO across from BEYONCE and crossing CD PLAYER. Hooray for GONE GIRL! Some much less good stuff in here too, though, like OBLA crossing OTRO, LAPPE (I had assumed this was a current bestseller, but no, it’s from 1971, which partly explains why I’ve never heard of it), YEE crossing EENNENEKOED (I’m going back and forth on this one — this is the NYT debut of this spelling, but I think it might make more sense than the more common “KO’d”), INDC, ACHS. That’s a lot.

Other notes:

  • I don’t think a lot of other solvers are going to plunk down 1d, MBABANE [Capital of Swaziland] as confidently as I did, so that NW corner might’ve given people some trouble. 
  • The crossing of 48a, ZABAR’S [Famed deli seen in Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”] and 48d, ZENER [___ cards (tools used in ESP testing)] at the Z feels particularly hard for non-NYC solvers.
  • I’m guessing 56a, LIAR LIAR [Start of a kids’ taunt] was originally clued as the very popular Jim Carrey comedy.
  • Cute clue for 33a, OLD [What it takes decades to grow]. I guess it depends on when you start counting, and your joie de vivre :-)
  • Did you like the clue for 44a, LIMO [Something that’s long and steep?]. I’m still undecided.
  • 13a, BEN [HUD secretary Carson]. :-(

3 stars from me. Until next week!

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Leading Ladies” — Jim’s review

HER is prepended to all of our theme answers today.

WSJ – Th, 3.30.17 – “Leading Ladies” by Dan Fisher (Mike Shenk)

  • 16a [Like Jerry’s “Hello, Dolly!” songs?] HER MAN MADE, er, I mean HERMAN-MADE. Man-made. Jerry Herman is not a name in my knowledge base.
  • 24a [Cave roundup activity?] HERDING BATS. Dingbats. Nice that this is so close to the actual phrase “herding cats.”
  • 52a [A silvery color (or red, in a whodunit)?] HERRING TONE. Ring tone.  Like the previous phrase, it appears just to be coincidence that this answer is so similar to another word—herringbone in this case.
  • 60a [Group of commissioners overseeing Everglades avians?] HERON BOARD. Onboard or on board. There’s a heron that hangs out in the creek behind our house. It likes to stand vigil at the bottom of a little dam.

I found the theme adequate, but on a Thursday I’m usually hoping for something more engaging or tricky. An add-some-letters theme feels more Wednesdayish to me.

But otherwise, the grid is filled with good stuff like APENNINES (I tried APPIAN WAY first in answer to the clue [Italy’s backbone]), HEM AND HAW, and TERIYAKI making the biggest splash. AIRPLANE is fine and it has a good clue [One might do some banking], but I’d’ve loved a clue that read [“…and don’t call me Shirley” film].

Only one really subpar piece of fill: ALOOP, but it comes with an obvious clue [You might be thrown for it], so its impact is minimized.

For the most part, clues were outstanding:

  • 66a [No longer with the company?]. ALONE
  • 7d [Camp accessory]. BOA
  • 17a [Phoenix setting]. ASHES. You were thinking Arizona, weren’t you?
  • 25d [It’s taken into account]. DEPOSIT
  • 26a [15-year-old player]. IPOD
  • 28d [The buck stops here]. TILL
  • 62d [Future school]. ROE

And here are a couple more clues of note:

  • 8d [198 inches]. ROD. I wasn’t familiar with this. Apparently it’s common in land surveying and it’s useful because an acre can be expressed evenly with it: 160 square rods (yes, I know rods are usually cylindrical—haha).
  • 41d [Dunvegan Castle setting]. SKYE. I like castles so I’m just putting this here as an excuse to add a picture of a castle. Turns out Dunvegan is the seat of Clan MacLeod, made popular in the Highlander films.
  • 48d [Felt in the dark]. GROPED. We would also have accepted [Acted Presidential].

Overall, an underwhelming theme for a Thursday, but good fill and great clues make up for it.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “No Big Pun Intended” — Ben’s Review

Today’s BEQ puzzle is a step down in difficulty from his mind-bending puzzle for the ACPT last weekend, but I still liked what was going on here, mostly due to my love of terrible puns.  Anyone who’s pop culture-averse may want to avoid this one, since the themers depend on your ability to know some reasonably well-known hip-hop tracks:

  • 17A: “‘Jesus Walks’ rapper, do you have any extra cash?”— KANYE SPARE A DIME
  • 21A: “Gangsta’s Paradise” rapper’s fleet?— COOLIO JETS
  • 36A: “99 Problems” rapper’s coast?— JAY-Z SHORE
  • 46A: “If I Ruled The World” rapper serving as a CNN correspondent? — NAS FOR NEWS
  • 52A: “Hotline Bling” rapper baking bread?– DRAKE IN THE DOUGH

There are some real groaners up there, y’all, but these are all pretty solid puns.

Other thoughts:

  • I didn’t entirely love the shape of this grid.  Too many 3-letter answers for my liking, although they were in service of some good stacks like CHIT-CHAT with PERSUADE and ROCKNE with ANTE UP
  • 45A: Computers for people in the arts — MACS (They’re not just for artsy creative types anymore!  Lots of places run their businesses on MACS, too.)
  • 42D: Class of 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee– YES (I tried to make this ELO for a very long time)

3.75/5 stars

Richard F Mausser’s LA Times crossword – Gareth

LA Times

The theme is UNIVERSITYQUADS: YALE and RICE form quads; TULANE and TEMPLE form sestets. The fill is predictable agonizing around these four areas.


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23 Responses to Thursday, March 30, 2017

  1. Susan Koehler says:

    BALSA(MIC) refers to model airplanes, which are constructed of balsa wood in order to be light enough to fly.

    • pannonica says:

      It’s quite evident that Andy fully understood the clue. He offered further consideration.

      • Speaking only for myself, I didn’t understand the clue at all even after seeing it was BALSA. Didn’t know if it had to do with model trains, or car models, or those classic model boats inside glass jugs, etc.

      • Papa John says:

        I have to agree with Susan that it’s not “quite evident” at all that Andy “fully understood the clue”. If he did, he didn’t say so, at least not to my reading of his review. That doesn’t mean he didn’t understand it, just that he didn’t plainly say so. His comments seem to be a struggle to find some untoward (read sexist) message in the clue.

        • Andy says:

          I fully understood that the clue referred to wooden models. It was not a “struggle” to find something icky about this pun: it obviously trades on the idea that human (especially female) models are required to be thin (often to the detriment of their health), or else there would be no pun here requiring a question mark.

        • e.a. says:

          to suggest that it was a “struggle” to problematize this clue is a lot like suggesting that someone with a peanut allergy “struggles” to catch hives in a bathtub full of snickerses. one, the outcome is not that desirable; two, it’s just not that hard.

          when people who are sensitive to things like misogyny endeavor to point those things out, it’s not for funsies. in fact, commenters who berate (not referring to you here, PJ) and gaslight (ok, you maybe did this one a little?) make it the opposite of fun. non-fun.

          rather than placing the onus on those people to “stop reading into things,” it might better serve you to petition those with the power to do so to excise such triggers from the puzzles. then, when there’s nothing left to call out, we’ll all be on the same page.

        • pannonica says:

          Also, “quite evident” ≠ “plainly explicit”.

    • Martin says:

      Isn’t it a touch condescending to be triggered by the notion that a model does unhealthy things in order to make a lot of money? We rarely take offense when it’s pointed out that football players or boxers suffer permanent injuries while making a lot of money. Are we assuming the model, unlike the athlete, doesn’t realize that her lifestyle is unhealthy?

      • Jenni Levy says:

        No, we’re suggesting that the policing of women’s bodies isn’t a source of amusement. It’s not the notion that is disturbing (well, it is disturbing, but it’s true, and I wouldn’t try to stop someone from point it out.) It’s making a joke of it that’s disturbing. “Oh, look, that woman is purging every day in order to keep her job! ha ha ha!”

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    I liked the LAT, but I think it would have been better if all four schools had been four letters. This would have emphasized the four-ness of the root word QUAD, in addition to its meaning as an area on campus. Not to mention, the (unintentional?) revealer FINALFOUR.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Good BEQ today, too. Thanks Brendan, for keeping it to rappers us geezers have heard of.

    • Rich Mausser says:

      Thanks Paul. I did start this idea by attempting to put a 4-letter school into each quadrant. But beyond DUKE, I couldn’t get much traction. So I moved on to 6-letter schools, which allowed me to cycle through BAYLOR, BUTLER, LEHIGH, DREXEL, XAVIER and PURDUE before settling on TULANE AND TEMPLE. Since quadrangles just need to be four-sided, I was fine with using the 6-letter rectangles. Note that the black squares located in the center of the grid were also intentionally positioned to create a rectangular “quad” image. I’m glad you liked the puzzle.

  3. Norm says:

    Liked the NYT okay but MBABANE? I bet Evan could come up with a clue for MBA BANE to make it less obscure. WSJ was a more entertaining version of add-the-letters. Interesting how one clued to the root word and the other to the new one.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: Andy, I’m with you, including on BEN [HUD secretary Carson]. :-(

    And I could not come up with that Z at the intersection. I guessed BABAR’s but it could have been anything… Definitely Natick City. Too many of these lately. I’ve decided to charge a star per Natick…

  5. Zulema says:

    Frances Moore Lappé would have been a total gimme for someone my age, alas!

  6. Lise says:

    NYT: I liked that the theme entries were not symmetrical; instead, they were strewn about. And the clues had helpful ASTEROIDs, I mean asterisks, so it wasn’t a problem.

    I knew LAPPE, as the book was popular when I was a teenager; somehow I knew ZENER cards too. I guess that makes me OLD, although I don’t feel old. I’ve never heard of ZABAR’s, though.

    WSJ: on the Phoenix clue, I wanted EGYPT for some reason. And nice castle picture, Jim!

  7. David says:

    I didn’t like the NYT. Rex went off on it, too. He pointed out that the very same theme (MICDROP) has been done before, and better. He also hated OBLA, which is an awful answer. I liked CDPLAYER but hated its clue; CD players don’t turn your music.

    What really bothered me is that Zabar’s isn’t a deli. It’s a market or maybe even a supermarket. It happens to have a famous deli counter. Macy’s isn’t a deli, but they used to have a deli counter too.

  8. Celios says:

    BEQ’s puzzle is entitled “No Big Pun Intended”. “Send in the Clones” is from last week.

  9. drfrizby says:

    The Wall Street Journal ran the MIC DROP theme (with that revealer in the center of the grid) on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, or almost exactly nine months before the NYT’s version. The David Kwong puzzle in the WSJ was titled “I’M OUT!” and contained the four theme entries POLEMIC POSITION, COMICAL MINER, SILK MICROBES, and MICKEY TO THE CITY.

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