Thursday, April 6, 2017

BEQ 10:10 (Ben) 


Fireball 10:52 (Jenni) 


LAT 3:26 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:03 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT Puzzle 4.6.17 by Damon Gulczynski

Cute idea for this one: the revealer is 38a: [Playbook symbols … or letters treated symbolically in this puzzle’s Down answers], which are XSANDOS (Xs and Os). That is, the three Xs and three Os in the grid, when read down, stands for something different that “X” or “O” can stand for. See below:

  • 3d, THREE X A LADY [1978 #1 hit for The Commodores]. The Commodores song is Three Times a Lady; “X” can mean “times” in mathematics (as in 3 x 7 = 21).
  • 5d, X MY GRITS [Sitcom catchphrase of the ’70s and ’80s]. The catchphrase is “kiss my grits” from Alice; “X” can mean “kiss” (as in XOXO = kisses and hugs).
  • 38d, X SPEED [Certain bicycle]. Ten-speed bicycle; “X” is the Roman numeral for ten.
  • 18d, BEAR OS [Big, tight embraces]. Bear hugs; “O” can mean “hug” (again, as in XOXO = kisses and hugs).
  • 26d, TURNED FULL O [Went back to where it all began]. Turned full circle. “O” looks like a circle. “Came full circle” feels much more lexical to me than “turned full circle,” but that wouldn’t have been symmetrical to THREE X A LADY.
  • 39d, O SUM GAME [Situation in which, on the whole, nothing can be gained or lost]. Zero-sum game; “O” looks like a zero.

There are a few very elegant things about this puzzle. One is that there are no stray Xs or Os in the grid (the latter obviously a much tougher task than the former). It’s hard to overstate how difficult it is to avoid using Os throughout a grid and still fill the grid relatively cleanly. Damon has helped himself by going with a 78-word/42-block grid, but still, there’s a minimum of unpleasant fill elsewhere in the grid (for me, it’s really just ESTD, ENE, maybe plural DADAS, and UNE). Another elegant thing about this construction is that all the Xs are on the left side of the grid, while all the Os are on the right side of the grid. A third is, as mentioned above, that no meaning of “X” or “O” is repeated.

It’s a nice theme, and very appropriate for a Thursday. 4 stars from me. Until next week!

Jacob Stulberg’s Fireball Crossword, “Imperfect Pitch”  – Jenni’s writeup

This time the puzzle actually did take me a while. The combination of entries I didn’t know at the top of the puzzle and a theme I didn’t grasp until well into my solve left me wandering aimlessly around the grid for what felt like a very long time.

We have four theme answers, each of which is missing something.

4/6 FB puzzle, solution grid

  • 4d is [Certain tarot card, with “the”]. I didn’t realize this was a theme answer until after I’d completed the puzzle and sussed the theme. The answer is {HIGH} PRIESTESS; I thought PRIESTESS was a perfectly reasonable name for a Tarot card.
  • 19a [1944 duet whose voice parts are labeled “mouse” and “wolf”] also took me a while. I thought it was referring to a Disney film. Nope. It’s BABY IT’S COLD {OUTSIDE}.
  • 38d [#2 hit for three weeks in December 1966] was the first theme answer I figured out. The answer is MELLOW YEL{LOW}. Ah-hah! Imperfect PITCH must be referring to music, where the pitch is too low. Got it.
  • Except that 63a [2013 Coen brothers film] is {INSIDE} LLEWYN DAVIS. “Inside” doesn’t have anything to do with music. I finally figured out 19a and realized we were talking about baseball.
  • I would have realized all that sooner if I had actually looked at the clue for 39a, which is [What this puzzle’s grid represents, for a lefty]. The answer is STRIKE ZONE. I filled it in with crosses and didn’t pay attention.

So we have “imperfect pitches” that are HIGH, OUTSIDE, LOW, and INSIDE, with each word located appropriately around the grid. Very nice. I like this theme a lot – it’s solid, smooth, and multi-layered. I don’t know if Peter and Jacob are subtly commenting on the new intentional walk rule or simply welcoming the start of baseball season. You know what makes missing the theme for so long even more embarrassing? I was listening to a baseball game while solving. I mean, really.

A few other things:

  • 5a [Cricket equipment] was one of the entries that stymied me at the beginning. I figured the clue referred to the baseball-ish game of cricket, which uses bats and wickets (and other things I don’t know about). Turns out we’re talking about a specific form of DARTS.
  • 10a [Gulf of Guinea port] also slowed me down. Geography is not my best thing. The answer is ACCRA.
  • What I lack in geography knowledge, I make up for in American history. 21a [“His Accidency”] was a gimme; it’s John TYLER. Tyler was the first Vice President to become President because of the death of his predecessor. Not everyone agreed that he should be President; many (including Henry Clay) believed he should remain Vice President or become the Acting President. His opponents dubbed him “His Accidency.” A brief review of the events can be found here. They quote a historian as saying “It’s one of the most heated, intense four years in office of any president in history.” I have a feeling our era may challenge that statement.
  • 54a [Thick-lipped fish] is a WRASSE and 47d [Thick-skinned fruits] are POMELOS. I looked at several pictures of the WRASSE before I found one that shows the thick lips. 
  • Back to American history with 71a [Winning general at the Battle of Gettysburg]. It’s MEADE, not Grant. Gettysburg was the high water mark of Meade’s tenure as Commanding General; Grant took over less than a year later.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: DARTS and Tarot cards. I also did not know that Celsius’ first name was ANDERS.

Kurt Krauss’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “No Respect” — Jim’s review

Words starting with the prefix DIS- are split in two, using DIS as a verb meaning “to criticize.”

WSJ – Thu, 4.6.17 – “No Respect” by Kurt Krauss

  • 17a [What a jealous baron might do?] DIS COUNTS
  • 34a [What an outspoken teetotaler might do?] DIS BARS. These first two are the best of the lot.
  • 53a [What a beauty pageant loser might do?] DIS MISSES. Would you refer to such pageant contestants as “misses?”
  • 11d [What an angry babysitter might do?] DIS CHARGES
  • 26d [What an overworked Senate page might do?] DIS MEMBERS. I don’t think I normally see congress-people referred to as “members.” Usually, they’re either Representatives or Senators. I think this one would work if it was clued with respect to a country club or something. Of course, “members” also has a sexual meaning; that would make for a funny clue, but probably not suitable for the WSJ.

I like the wordplay here and especially the re-definition of the ending part of each word. That certainly makes each phrase more interesting and adds potential for humor (though I can’t say I chuckled very much).

But once you’ve grokked the conceit, the rest seemed fairly obvious, and I didn’t get a lot of joy out of filling in the final entries. And do people still use “dis” in this way? It feels very 90s. Also, I’m not sure why they’re all pluralized; there are plenty of non-plural options (see next paragraph).

Further, a theme set is considered tight when the list is close to exhaustive. This set is nowhere near that, and I would deem it too loose. Consider all these alternative words that could be used in this theme: disgrace, distrust, disconnection, dislocation, disorientation, disbelief, disaster, disappointment, disability, discontent, discard, disappearance, distrophy, discuss, disgust, disorderly, and discrete. And that’s mostly just off the top of my head.  Another constraint could/should be added to tighten it up. Maybe if the second word was a proper name, e.g. (like disgrace, discrete, and dismay).

So I have mixed feelings on the theme, but is it fair? Yeah, I’d say it is, and plenty of people will enjoy it. I just think it could be tightened up a bit.

There’s not a whole of sparkly long fill either. DOVETAIL and SMELTERY are the highlights here and TURNPIKE and PROPS UP to some degree, but BARENESS, ENTITLES, and DATASETS didn’t get me too EXCITED.

That swath of 5s from NE to SW is nice with nary a bit of junk fill. DOBBY in dead center is a fun entry (assuming you’ve read some Harry Potter).

It being Thursday, there are plenty of clues that made me ponder:

  • 1a [Ides honoree]. JOVE. Did not know this. Per Wikipedia, in the ancient Roman calendar, the Ides were the middle of the month and marked the full moon. They honored Jupiter on that day because “heavenly light shone day and night.”
  • 8d [Dash lengths]. ENS. Bleh. I’d much rather see this clued as an abbreviation for ensign.
  • 59a [Small drinking glass]. PONY. I think I’ve seen this before, but only in crosswords.
  • 53d [Judo level]. DAN. See previous comment.
  • 35d [Worth of the theater]. IRENE. Didn’t know this one either, but she had an amazing career that stretched from 1943 through to 2001, winning three Tonys along the way.
  • 16a [2016’s “The Red Turtle,” e.g.]. ANIME. I have yet to see this one but it sounds lovely. Partly produced by Studio Ghibli, the film has no dialogue and tells the story of a shipwrecked man and the turtle he encounters.

That’s all from me. See you next week!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Catch You On The Rebound” — Ben’s Review

Today’s BEQ is so nice it almost makes up for him completely ruining my chances of having a clean ACPT a few weeks ago.  It took a few minutes, but once I figured out what the themers were doing in “Catch You On the Rebound” it was smooth going:

  • 18A: Place where it’s impossible to stop— THE POINT OF NNTROUFTNEOR (THE POINT OF NO RETURN)
  • 36A: Google Home rival — AMAOZHOCNE (AMAZON ECHO)
  • 49A: #1 hit by girl group The Angels — MY BOYFRI EKNCDASB (BOYFRIEND’S BACK)

A really simple concept (having the parts of the theme answers that are synonyms for returning “bounce” backwards creating double-letter squares), executed well, especially with bigrams like ZH that need to land in the middle of a word.  Thank goodness for violinist ITZHAK Perlman.

Other thoughts:

  • For all the great fill here, there are still a few clunkers, clue-wise.  Really, “Letter run” for STU?  At least give me “Name of the dad from Rugrats” or something here.  I also needed just a little more context for “____ Gold” to get ULEES.  I had SOLID down there at first since we were looking for a title.
  • A firm recollection that Ralph FIENNES‘ last name is spelled with two N’s is what helped me crack what was going on in the puzzle.  Don’t even get me started on the pronunciation of that one.
  • 34D: “Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” platform — SNES (knowledge of there being a new Zelda game for the new Nintendo system led me to try and make this SWITCH, somehow.)

4.5/5 stars

Kurt Krauss’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

It’s a rich vein that this puzzle taps into. TIGHTENDS implies each other phrase ends in a synonym for drunk: kiddieLIT, downLOADED, stirFRIED, juniorHIGH.

My favorite misdirecting clue was [Elvis played one in “Blue Hawaii”] for UKULELE.

There was rather a glut of the TONSOF, DOTEON, VOTEDIN answers in this puzzle. Did that grate for anyone else?


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28 Responses to Thursday, April 6, 2017

  1. oliver says:

    Does it bother anyone that an O appears as an oblong shape, not a circle?

  2. Tony says:

    I haven’t been able to download the PUZ version of the WSJ all week. Anyone know what’s going on?

  3. Joe Pancake says:

    If anybody is interest in extended constructor notes for today’s NYT:

  4. JohnH says:

    In the WSJ, I agree that verbs agreeing in number with the subject would have helped. That way, you could have read the clues two ways, as no doubt intended but with both correct, which might have made them more smile worthy. (I didn’t know about Ides or pony either. Nor the seemingly inevitable Harry Potter clue.)

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    Excellent NYT from Damon today. My favorite Thursday in a long time. Perfect execution of the theme, with three distinct and widely used meanings of X and O. And as Andy notes, it must have been extremely difficult to construct this with only the thematic Os, and yet a smooth experience for the solver.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      The BEQ was also brilliant. Because I couldn’t enter the rebus letters in .puz, I had to print it out and fill in the theme areas before the full effect emerged.

  6. Ethan Friedman says:

    That is a beautiful Thursday from the NYT. Each ‘X’ and ‘O’ had a different meaning, no X-tra Xs or Os in the grid, solid fill (outstanding fill given the theme constraints). This is a 5-star puzzle for me.

  7. David L says:

    I finished the NYT but only halfway understood it. I don’t know the phrase “kiss my grits,” didn’t see how the ‘O’ in BEAROS was meant to represent a hug, and couldn’t make sense of TURNEDFULLO (came full circle, sure, but turned?)

    I also didn’t know TWEE pop or ‘freeboots’ meaning MARAUDS.

    Still, I thought this was a very good puzzle. It just had a lot of stuff that was unfamiliar to me, so I felt extra pleased for completing it.

  8. pannonica says:

    FB: “I looked at several pictures of the WRASSE before I found one that shows the thick lips.”

    Probably because wrasses are a large, diverse family of fish. Wikipedia says over 600 species in 82 genera.

    The best-known, I suspect, are the cleaner wrasse which operate ‘stations’ for removing parasites and dead tissue from other fish.

  9. Martin says:

    AT&T has half-fixed things. The good news is access to my servers should be okay. My home network is still not working (long, technical story) but while they work on fixing that, your access should be stable. Of course, they can break it all again.

    Tomorrow’s WSJ is on the server and will be available through the normal Puzzle Pointers page.

    Or for the impatient, Friday’s WSJ.

    • Steve says:

      Not working

      • Martin says:

        AT&T was mucking around intermittently, and you might have hit it at a bad time. Try again, please. Anyone still having trouble, please say so.

        • Lorraine says:

          Martin, I tried your link just above (at 9:25pm) and it didn’t work. Just wanted to let you know that your problems, sadly, are ongoing.

    • Susan Hoffman says:

      This link isn’t working and the one on the links page isn’t working either. So now I’m missing both Thursday and Friday (sob)

    • GlennP says:

      Your regular server worked for me this morning (Friday). Thanks again for all your efforts!

Comments are closed.