Thursday, April 27, 2017

BEQ 7:07 (Ben) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 5:17 (Gareth) 


NYT 2:34 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Todd Gross’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT Puzzle 4.27.17 by Todd Gross

You open the NYT solving applet. The first things you notice are:

  1. The grid is 16×14.
  2. There is a 4×4 grid of circled squares in the center of the grid, which is broken up into four 2×2 grids.
  3. The first across answer is cross-referenced to the last across answer.
  4. The second across answer is cross-referenced to the second-to-last across answer.

After entering seven straight down entries, 1-Across turns out to be CENTRAL. “No,” you say. “Surely CENTRAL SQUARES is not a theme entry in this, a Thursday puzzle.”

  • 1a / 68a, CENTRAL / SQUARES [With 68-Across, the circled part of this crossword / See 1-Across]. 

You solve on. The northeast of the puzzle falls quickly into place, and you are faced with 8-Across, SUDOKU. “No. Surely,” you muse…

  • 8a / 67a, SUDOKU / PUZZLE [With 67-Across, what the circled part of this crossword represents / See 8-Across]. 

It’s a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in newsprint: the Times has gotten sudoku in your crossword. Only it’s not sudoku: It’s Wordoku, since there are letters in the grid, not numbers. Those letters are A, E, R, and T. “Why?”, you wonder aloud to no one in particular.

The Wordoku portion of the crossword contains HERAT[Afghanistan’s third-largest city]. HERAT, you learn, is roughly as populous as Omaha. It is 7 times more populous than Utica, 9 times more populous than Eilat, 35 times more populous than Truro, and 40 times more populous than Orono.

The Wordoku is done, and you still have half the grid to complete. You enter PSSST. You enter AT YA. You enter ERSE and EIRE. You are heartened by ME FIRST and FANTASIA. “So much fu-u-u-u-un!”, you say as you enter WHEE at 29-Down. 

Just the southwest of the grid left now, and you drop in HAIRCUTS [Tops off?] and I HATE YOU [Cross words]. But now you’re left with the vowel-soupiest Senator, Daniel INOUYE crossing a familiar entry, ONO, clued as the unfamiliar [Hawaiian fish with a palindromic name]. The “palindromic” portion of the clue, you note, would be helpful if the O of INOUYE or the O of ?SU [Big ten inits.] were already there. You wonder if there are any YouTube videos of a NENE befriending an ONO.

The crossword is over as quickly as it began. You are careful not to STARE INTO the black-and-white abyss too deeply, lest it stare back.

Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “Sitting Pretty”  – Jenni’s writeup

I wandered around this grid for a while before I tumbled to the theme, and then I still had to work to get the whole thing. This is not a complaint. I love rebus themes that are more complicated than just filling the same thing into each rebus box.

As the title would suggest, we are dealing with structures onto which one places one’s derriere.

FB puzzle 4/27, solution grid

  • 5d [High-performance family car] is SPORT{SEDAN}, crossing 28a [Popular pastry pick], a nice yummy CHEE{SEDAN}ISH. This one seems to not quite like the others, because it’s not just a SEDAN upon which one sits, it’s a SEDAN CHAIR. None of the other rebus entries require a modifier.
  • 11d [Sot’s spot] is a BAR{STOOL} crossing 23a [Song in the musical “Beautiful”], Carole King’s IT{STOOL}ATE.
  • 69d [Convertible] is a {SOFA}BED, crossing 68a [Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur], the DAY{SOFA}WE. The entire ten-day period constitutes the Days of Awe, but that’s OK.
  • 60d [Committee head, maybe] is {CHAIR}WOMAN, crossing 59a [Plane passenger’s payment, perhaps], which is COA{CHAIR}FARE. These two are not quite right. Somehow I doubt CHAIRMAN would be clued as “committee head, perhaps” because men are “standard” and women are “deviant” in leadership positions. And I’ve never heard the term COACH AIRFARE used on its own like that. Please do not give me examples; I didn’t say no one had ever used it, I said I’d never heard it. A Google search shows mostly definition pages, which suggests that it’s not widely used.

And our revealer at 46a: [Big spender’s ballpark purchase (and a hint to what you have to do to solve this puzzle)]. You have to BOX SEATS – put each kind of seat in a box. Perfect.

Even with my quibbles, this was fun to solve. I appreciate that all the sit-upons show up intact in the Down clues and are spread over two words in the Across clues. We’re “sitting down,” aren’t we? Nice little addition.

A few other things:

  •  19a [Orange Crayola color] is  NEON CARROT, which is fully as bright as one might expect. I’ll color with a NEON CARROT, but I won’t eat one.
  • 21a [Where to find canals] is not Venice or upstate NY but INNER EARS. Those would be the semicircular canals that form the labyrinth system which helps keep us upright.
  • 43a [2014 documentary about a pugilist] is I AM ALI, which just looks odd in the grid.
  • I liked the long non-theme Down answers: DONNIE DARKO and BACCHANALIA.
  • 66d [Antepenultimate word in the Franklin Pierce Adams poem “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon”] is EVERS. That’s the poem that immortalized Tinkers, Evers and Chance, who formed the backbone of the Cubs infield the last time they won the World Series before 2016.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there’s a children’s book called “The One and Only IVAN,” about a silverback gorilla.

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “One or Two Things” — Jim’s review

Added letters today. The title gives us the hint we need.

WSJ – Thu, 4.27.17 – “One or Two Things” by Alice Long (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Circus vehicle that mows down pedestrians in its way?] VICIOUS UNICYCLE. I like the clue here. Mean clowns are funny. Oh, did you know that a re-make of Stephen King’s It is coming in September?
  • 26a [Oyster with a childproof shell?] SAFETY BIVALVE. Kids, just say no to aphrodisiacs.
  • 43a [Oddballs of the mythical animal world?] UNICORN FLAKES. Is this related to Unicorn Meat?
  • 56a [Shape and arrangement of a Sopwith Camel’s parts?] BIPLANE GEOMETRY

I suppose the theme is driven by the title which is why it’s limited to UNI and BI, as opposed to progressing on to TRI and QUAD, but it still felt a little odd to go from one to two then back to one.

And there’s no indication of why we’re adding these letters. I prefer some sort of conceit, even if it’s a bit contrived. Somehow, it makes the universe feel orderly.

So when the theme doesn’t get me too excited, I look to the fill. I like HICKSVILLE contrasted with PROVENCE, THYSELF, “YOU BET,” and A AS IN APPLE, as well as SAIL OFF, SKIM OVER, SIMILES, and UKULELE. There is some crosswordese in ELS, AMIS, ET AL, but nothing too bad.

For some reason, the solve seemed very quick for me; perhaps I was just on the right wavelength or else the clues were easier than the usual Thursday fare. I suspect it was more the latter since I didn’t note that many clues to comment on:

  • 16a [What to do while it counts]. HIDE. Here “it” = the seeker, as opposed to the hiders.
  • 21a [Bird specialty]. BOP. That’s Charlie Parker, aka “Bird.”
  • 44d [Uncas’s love]. CORA. I read the clue as “Unca’s love,” as in, I thought, Unca Donald (Donald Duck that is). Even if I had read it correctly, it wouldn’t have helped. I didn’t recognize these as names from Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans.

Overall, the theme didn’t thrill me, but the theme answers were mostly good with generally strong clues, and the puzzle’s fill is quite nice.

And that does it for my regularly scheduled program for this week. However, I will be sitting in for pannonica on Saturday’s WSJ, so I will see you then.

Neville Fogarty’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

The basic theme is straightforward enough: ORDERUP, and four vertical answers have the letter string REDRO, which in South Africa is a fish spread and I have some in my fridge and am getting cravings… Where was I? Hiding five letters in just seven naturally is a nice find and an elegant grace note – opposite the revealer is (REDRO)SE. The more prosaic SHA(REDRO)OOM and WI(REDRO)UTER, as well as the better-known-as-just-Mr. F(REDRO)GERS.

The thematic sevens force Neville into a big-cornered design, but that allows a GRABBAG of lively medium-length answers: WAYCOOL; the weirdly spelt CHICLE; MALLOMAR, not OREO, which sounds like a Pokemon; stripper-cum-singer IGGYPOP; a DARTGUN which feels unlikely as a Safari guide weapon, as it’d be a bit… slow; WAREAGLE was bafflingly clued for me, and the W was my last letter.

I have made myself Redro on toast while writing this, and now I leave you to enjoy my sarmie, with the original China Girl..

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Hybrid Sports” — Ben’s Review

I think I tried to see a little more in this theme than was actually there, which kept me a few minutes behind on time.  More on that in a sec:

  • 19A: Most challenging tests?— ULTIMATE HURDLES
  • 24A: Looking around for service on the Now network? — SPRINT HUNTING
  • 43A:Step on Jiminy? — SQUASH CRICKET
  • 52A:Halloween decoration that goes all around the lawn? — SKELETON FENCING

I spent a little too long after quickly getting SKELETON FENCING trying to make all of the theme entries combinations of two Olympic sports, but that doesn’t quite work out (ULTIMATE, HUNTING, and CRICKET aren’t, if I remember correctly, and SPRINT and HURDLES are specific events rather than separate Olympic sports).  Still, some cute entries.  This is going up late, so I’m going to be a bit brief on the rest of the fill and say that I liked it, but found a good chunk a bit overly familiar for such great theme entries.  Cluing ENOL as “Chemistry compound of crosswords” is a bit disappointing, even if it is bang on in terms of accuracy.

3.5/5 stars

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16 Responses to Thursday, April 27, 2017

  1. e.a. says:

    i enjoyed the nyt review even more than the puzzle

  2. Nene says:

    67 across is I HATE YOU. ‘Nuff said.

  3. Brian Thomas says:

    Every time I look at the LAT blocks, I feel like they’re giving me the finger.

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    Andy, that was the best puzzle writeup ever.

  5. Rob says:

    Page A2 of today’s NYT mentions it is the 28th anniversary of Lucille Ball’s passing. Is 49D in the NYT xword a coincidence?

  6. Papa John says:

    Todd’s puzzle and Andy’s review mesh together nicely. Both are original in format and style and both left me utterly perplexed; yet neither is compelling enough for me to delve into them beyond a post-solve, cursory re-reading. The complexity of Todd’s theme is offset by the downright lack of challenge in the fill/cluing. Andy matched Todd’s complexity with his inclusion of a link to an old Reese’s Cup TV commercial and his short discourse on the relative populations of cities, neither of which have any apparent relationship to anything. Having never played a Sudoku puzzle, that aspect of Todd’s puzzle and of Andy’s review has no meaning to me. It seems my short-comings as a solver are as much to blame for my dissatisfaction in today’s NYT offering as any fault in the puzzle or its review. Nonetheless, major kudos to both for their originality.

  7. Zulema says:

    It is probably obvious but not to me. How does the answer EDU relate to 41D “Lead-in-to-tainment”? And I know Andy didn’t come up with the reason for the ARET letter mixing (I will call it that). Can someone who gets it explain?

    Thank you.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      “Edutainment” is media designed to be both entertaining and educational. I don’t get the letters, either, but then I don’t get Sudoku.

      • Becky56 says:

        I assume the letters were chosen because they are among the most common and therefore it was easiest to find words to create the square. Sudoku is just a logic puzzle – there is no need to use the numbers 1-9 other than convenience. It could be done just the same with the letters A-H, the nine planets (before Pluto got demoted), or any set of nine elements.

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