Thursday, June 8, 2017

BEQ 8:00 (Ben) 


Fireball 4:48 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:34 (Gareth) 


NYT 2:54 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT crossword 6.8.17 by David Steinberg

Thanks to Jim for filling in for me last week in the run-up to The Indie 500! Thanks also to everyone who came, volunteered, test solved, or supported the tournament in other ways! You all are the best.

I just got back from trivia night at Bennigan’s, and let me just say: if you’re ever at a Bennigan’s, get the bread pudding. You’re welcome, and I’m stuffed.

I still had enough room for a delicious Thursday puzzle though, and this one really hit the spot. The gimmick is revealed at 26a/45a, MINCE / WORDS [With 45-Across, not be direct … or what four groups of black squares in this puzzle do? / See 26-Across]. Those four groups of black squares are the symmetrically placed plus-sign-shaped pieces. Those sets of black squares are appropriately shaped, for reasons that will become evident shortly. I think it’s best to just dive right in:

  • The final portion of the first set of theme answers is 23a, TED [Bear in a 2012 film and its 2015 sequel]. Okay, that’s straightforward enough.
    • 22a, RAN [Sounded off]. Well that’s not quite right. In fact, the word that’s being clued here is RANTED, but RAN and TED are “minced” by the group of black squares separating them. RAN/TED, or, as it appears in the grid RAN+TED.
      • 21a, WAR [Called for]. Again, that’s not it. The word that’s being clued here is WARRANTED, or WAR/RAN/TED, or WAR+RAN+TED.
  • Similarly, 50a, TIC, is clued as [Little jerk]. Nothing unusual there.
    • 49a, ACE, is clued as [___ acid]. The actual answer ACETIC is minced by the black squares between ACE+TIC.
      • 48a, COP [Just fine], is just the beginning of COPACETIC (COP+ACE+TIC minced by black squares. You get it by now.) 
  • 57d, IAN [John, in Scotland]. Normal.
    • 30d, TIT [Red hair tint]. Should be TITIAN, or TIT+IAN.
      • 3d, DIE [Certain nutritionist]. DIETITIAN, or DIE+TIT+IAN.
  • 59d, ION [Na+ or Cl-]Normal.
    • 32d, RAT [Allowance]. Should be RATION, or RAT+ION.
      • 8d, ADO [Extreme fandom]. Should be ADORATION, or ADO+RAT+ION.

None of the three letter words are particularly unusual, nor are the six-letter words. The nines (WARRANTED, COPACETIC, DIETITIAN, and ADORATION) are all very good finds. The visual element of the black squares being shaped like plus signs is icing on the cake. I’m a very big fan of this theme; it was fun to solve, and it was well executed.

I don’t think this theme is very limiting to the fill, and David took advantage of that by (a) including a great revealer in MINCE / WORDS, and (b) putting in some very pretty fill in this 72-word puzzle, including the decidedly un-Shortzian BADASS at 1a on top of LATIFAH, FAT CAT, SHEBANG, QR CODES, ABOUT ME, “I’M BEAT!,” and CO-CHAIR. Some of my other favorite non-theme stuff from this puzzle:

  • 1d, BAR TRAY [It might hold your glasses]. Cute clue!
  • 36a, CAPITAL Q [MapQuest feature]. Very tricky, and a good way to clue what could potentially be an arbitrary green paint-type answer.
  • 58a, DIDI CONN [“Grease” actress whose first name consists of the same two letters twice]. It’s great seeing her full name in the grid; DIDI clued as [Conn of “Grease”] has bailed out many a constructor in the past.
  • Loved the recycled clue [Sequoia, e.g.] for both 29a, TOYOTA, and 52d, TREE. Sequoia, to my knowledge, is the shortest common English supervocalic word (one that contains exactly one of each of the vowels A, E, I, O, and U).

In spite of plural SONARS, which sounds a little off to my ear, I’m giving this one a full 5 stars. Great stuff!

Until next week!

Colin Gale’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Clocking In” — Jim’s review

Some days ago I bit into The Taco From Hell (brought to you by the makers of Quarry Cereal) which contained an object not normally found in tacos. LONG STORY SHORT(S), today the broken part of a molar was removed, and I was informed the whole tooth’s going to have to go. All that is just prelude to say that I’m in a fair amount of pain at the moment, so I’m hoping to keep this post to a minimum. Crossing my fingers that the meds will kick in here shortly.

It took me some TIME to suss out the theme, which is rather appropriate. The dual revealers start at 60a: [With 63-Across, what (in abbreviated form) has been added to the long Down answers]. Answers: TIME and ZONE.

WSJ – Thu, 6.8.17 – “Clocking In” by Colin Gale (Mike Shenk)

  • 3d [Source of the best racetrack advice?TOP TIPSTER. Top tier.
  • 5d [Sewing begun on a skirt’s edge, and not just part of it?] WHOLE HEM STARTED. Whole-hearted. This one’s just awkward, both clue and answer.
  • 9d [Where all the blissful people live?] ON ECSTASY STREET. On Easy Street. This must have been a difficult one to find, but I like the result. Presumably, we’re just talking about generally happy people and not a streetful of addicts.
  • 28d [Place to buy magic wares?] PRESTO SHOP. Pro shop.

Why are the answers in the Down direction? To simulate each time zone’s placement on a map of the U.S. This makes for a nice bonus visual. (Time zones that need not apply: Alaska Time Zone and Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone.)

As I said, this was challenging to suss out just from looking at the theme answers, but once found, it provided a nice “Aha!” moment. I am presuming that now the gauntlet has been thrown down, and another constructor will have to rise to the challenge of doing the same with PDT, MDT, CDT, and EDT.

Despite my condition, or maybe because of it, I enjoyed the theme and puzzle…even though there’s no real impetus for injecting time zones into other phrases.

The fill is pleasant with entries like BUG SPRAY, “YOU’LL SEE!,” PETER PAN, and STRUTTER (which brings Mick Jagger immediately to mind). I also like STUPOR and SIGIL simply because I think they’re fun, uncommon words.

That bottom left corner was a bit of trainwreck though with FUTZ, EZIO, and LIMN stacked together. You can blame the stacked revealers, but those and the other crosses cleared it up well enough.

At first I thought we were in for another trivia-fest when 1a was clued [Montenegro’s capital was named for him until 1992]. (Answer: TITO. I was thinking TITO Mussolini who happens to not be a real person. Turns out it’s former President Josep Broz TITO. Yeah, that was on the tip of my tongue.) But the rest of the grid seemed fairly balanced and not nearly as much of a slog as yesterday.

Clues of note:

  • 27d [They made “Up”]. PIXAR. Cute.
  • 10a [Free cash?]. BAIL. Also cute.
  • 35a [Name on West Coast stations]. ARCO. I was thinking radio stations the whole time.
  • 61a [Banks of Chicago]. ERNIE. He played for the Cubbies between ’53 and ’71.
  • 27a [Darling visitor] and 55a [Hook helper]. PETER PAN and SMEE. I’m not sure how you have both of those in the same grid without cross-referencing them.
  • 54a [Ramstein and others]. AIR BASES. A gimme for me since our family’s Air Force career has passed us through there a few times. We tried to get stationed there, but it never worked out. Nice big base, though, in central Germany—great as a launching point for touring Europe.
  • 47d [Attack chopper]. APACHE. The clue really made me think about what my dentist was doing to my tooth today. Thanks, puzzle.

Overall, a good puzzle, with fun fill, a nice “Aha!” moment, and solid clues. Now to go lie in wait for the Tooth Fairy…

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 107”  – Jenni’s writeup

As my time would suggest, there’s nothing particularly fiery about this puzzle. It was fun to solve and had a mini-theme that I really enjoyed and that I suspect seeded the puzzle. Let’s get to it.

FB 6/8, solution grid

  • OLEANDER probably isn’t the only [Poisonous evergreen shrub], but it’s the only one I know of, and luckily it was the right answer for 15a.
  • 16a [Part of Mr. Peanut’s outfit] is his TOP HAT, which goes so well with his monocle. I solved another puzzle recently which referenced the monocle.
  • 26a [Pampers] is the verb, not the noun, so it’s BABIES rather than something used on babies.
  • 45a [Milk container] is not QUART. It’s UDDER.
  • 64a [Fujairah and Sharjah, for two] were new to me. They are EMIRATES.

Blogger aside: Wednesday’s NYT was slightly easier than this puzzle, although not much. This puzzle is MUCH more interesting. Ethan pointed out in comments that the Wednesday NYT was a feat of construction. I don’t dispute that; it was boring to solve. This one may not be any great shakes in the construction department (or it might be; I’m not a constructor) and it wasn’t very hard, but it was interesting. I had most of EMIRATES from crossings, so [Fujairah and Sharjah, for two] wasn’t unsolvably obscure. Another example: 32d is [Atlanta 1996 : Muhammad Ali :: Nagano 1998 : ___], referring to the athletes who lit the Olympic torch. The answer is MIDORI ITO, again gettable from crossings, although I actually knew it. That’s a much better clue than [Pioneering Japanese figure skater].

OK, back to this puzzle and the mini-theme I mentioned.

  • 23a [Character in a series of John Updike novels] is HARRY ANGSTROM, the protagonist of the Rabbit books. “Rabbit” is his nickname.
  • 50a [Film character whose last name is roughly 95 septillion times longer than 23-Across’s?] is BUZZ LIGHTYEAR. Both a lightyear and an angstrom are measures of length. Very cute.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that USA TODAY covered Princess Grace’s death on the front page of its first issue.

I leave you with Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart. They were the best.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

DONQUIXOTE is the subject of today’s puzzle by Jeffrey Wechsler. The diagonal TILTATWINDMILLS is a nice touch, and, though diagonals do strain the puzzle, the fill didn’t suffer much today. DONQUIXOTE/DULCINEA/LAMANCHA are all solidly thematic. The first entry, KNIGHTHOOD, is a tad arbitrary. One would expect SANCHOPANZA/ROSINANTE/(DE)CERVANTES would be more specifically on one’s entry list, but none are the same length as DONQUIXOTE.

3 Stars, Gareth, who would be remiss if he didn’t post a song from a certain musical…

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

Today’s BEQ Thursday has a pretty straighforward theme.  Well, mostly straightforward – some of it’s straight backward:

  • 17A:All-Poitier, all the time station? — RADIO SIDNEY
  • 24A:
    Changing country singer Rucker’s opinion? — TURNING DARIUS
  • 30A: Stoned Depardieu? — HIGH GERARD
  • 44A: TV program that’s not yet visible? — LATENT SHOW
  • 51A: Folks who are more lenient? — SOFTER PARENTS
  • 63A: Wayne Manor butler gasps for air? — ALFRED PANTS

Half of each of the theme answers can be flipped around to make a phrase that’s more recognizable – RADIO DISNEY, TURNING RADIUS, HIGH REGARD, TALENT SHOW, FOSTER PARENTS, and FLARED PANTS.  I thought these were all pretty clever and particularly liked ALFRED PANTS and HIGH GERARD.

(you put half that theme entry down, flip it, and reverse it)

Loved the themers here, but I wish the rest of the puzzle’s fill wasn’t so underwhelming.  Maybe it’s a case of 5 themers in the grid constraining things a bit, but PAP, trying to figure out what the name of the dog in Downward Dog is (it’s NED, btw), UEY, MAC (especially as “Apple Music machine”, since I think Windows runs Apple Music just fine), REFI, SASE, P AND G, INI Kamoze (who feels about as obscure to me as NED was), LAR, and SAT MATH (which feels a little GLASS OF RIESLING-esque in terms of green paint).

Fill I liked: AZIMUTH was pretty great, as were GENUFLECT and PETRI DISH

Good theme!  So-so fill.

3.25/5 stars

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18 Responses to Thursday, June 8, 2017

  1. janie says:

    if anyone’s perplexed by the clue/fill pair at 56A in the fireball, give this snl skit a go. enlightening!


  2. Amy L says:

    I really liked the NYT. Andy’s review is spot on.

  3. Norm says:

    CAPITAL Q crossing QR CODES flat out ruined the puzzle for me.

    • Bruce N Morton says:

      Partially agree, except that I wouldn’t say anything as strong as “ruined.” Yes, QR Codes was an annoying crossing. The problem I had is that I don’t think “mincing words” means anything close to running them together. Maybe “Mash words” would have been a better revealer. “Mincing words” means to be not entirely blunt–Tell me exactly what you mean, don’t mince words.

      I still thought it was quite a remarkable construction. I just read David L’s comment just as I was posting mine.

      • Andy says:

        Bruce, you’re thinking about the theme mechanic backwards. It’s not that the black squares are concatenating the small words; rather, they’re cutting the large words (WARRANTED, COPACETIC, DIETITIAN, ADORATION) into smaller words. To mince something is to cut it into small pieces; thus, the plus-sign-shaped black square blocks mince those four words into smaller pieces. The revealer is cute for the reason you’ve stated — it plays on the idiomatic sense of “to mince words” as meaning to not be blunt.

  4. David L says:

    Very clever construction, although I finished most of the puzzle before I figured out what was going on. And MINCE WORDS didn’t help me — the idiomatic meaning of the phrase doesn’t apply, and separating a word into three short pieces doesn’t strike me as an example of ‘mincing.’

    But those are quibbles, really. Enjoyable puzzle, with a trick I haven’t seen before.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      Yeah, the enjoyment of the solve didn’t quite match the impressiveness of the construction, IMO.

      But still a pretty good one — better than the average Thursday, I would say.

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    I loved this puzzle. Took me way longer than Andy to solve – I blame jet lag. I missed CAPITAL Q because I didn’t check the crossings – my fault, and I liked it once I figured it out.

  6. Ethan Friedman says:

    NYT: up there for puzzle of the year so far for me. Fantastic fill. Surprised at complaints about the CAPITAL Q / QR CODES crossing — QR Codes are ubiquitous now. Subway ads, bus ads, in stores, etc etc. I think that’s more than fair game. I really don’t have a nit to pick with this puzzle. The theme is beautifully executed, the “+” shaped blocks, the symmetric MINCE/WORDS and the super-smooth fill.

  7. JohnH says:

    I liked the WSJ theme a lot and was impressed that four answers could be found that fit with it while having the right number of letters and an underlying decent phrase. The time zones marching across the grid were nice, too.

    I, too, first feared a trivia fest, given the first two across clues, plus the very first down clue. (I have no idea what Bob’s Burgers is, and I haven’t looked up SIGIL and its clue either, but I suppose now I will.) And yes, FUTZ combined with two more or less unclued hint answers was tough. I was, though, after getting the T in TOP, able to remember enough European history to write in TITO. The other trivia in that corner would have been impossible for me without it.

  8. Vic says:

    Liked BEQ’s a lot, except the INI/NED crossing, where the N could be a lot of things if you don’t know either name.

  9. 180 Proof says:

    Andy’s explanation of Steinberg’s gimmick made my head spin. Does Bennigan’s lace their bread pudding with alcohol?

    Steinberg’s such a great constructor.

  10. Greg says:

    Belatedly weighing in on David ‘Steinberg’s superb puzzle today. Truly ingenious and a very enjoyable solving experience.

  11. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Even more belated comments about David’s puzzle. Andy mentioned that the blocks in the grid are plus-shaped which I didn’t pick up on and which is excellent. To me, they looked like blades in a blender slicing and dicing the words. David took a brilliant concept and executed it brilliantly.

  12. Mike Buckley says:

    Andy, I told my cat about your sequoia tree.
    She miaoued.

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