Fireball is a contest this week. Jenni will have the write-up for you when the contest closes.
Richard F. Mausser’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
Lots of theme material to get through, so let’s not dilly-dally!
The theme is revealed at 53a, THE DIRTY DOZEN [Hit movie released on June 15, 1967 … with a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. First of all, I object somewhat to the way this clue is phrased. It makes it sound like when The Dirty Dozen was released, there was a hint consciously included for this puzzle. Putting that aside, this is a 50th anniversary tribute puzzle for The Dirty Dozen (or, at least, it was published on the film’s 50th anniversary; the constructor’s intentions are unknown to me). Twelve entries are clued as if preceded by the word “dirty.” Like so:
- 1a, (DIRTY) JOKE [*Bit of blue humor].
- 10a, (DIRTY) LIAR [*No-good con man]. I was about to gripe that this implies there are good con men, and then I remembered that I love the USA show White Collar.
- 18a, (DIRTY) HARRY [*Clint Eastwood title role].
- 28a, (DIRTY) LAUNDRY [*Secrets that would be embarrassing to reveal].
- 64a, (DIRTY) WORD [*Something that might be bleeped].
- 66a, (DIRTY) LOOK [*Stink eye].
- 1d, (DIRTY) JOB [*Unpleasant task that “someone has to do”].
- 7d, (DIRTY) MARTINI [*Gin, vermouth and olive juice concoction].
- 13d, (DIRTY) RAT [*Lowdown scoundrel].
- 27d, (DIRTY) TRICK [*Underhanded stratagem].
- 32d, (DIRTY) MONEY [*Ill-gotten gains]. My only major hiccup in this puzzle was dropping in LUCRE here.
- 43d, (DIRTY) PICTURE [*X-rated film]. Not sure I’ve ever heard someone say “dirty pictures” referring to X-rated films, but it’s not out of the question.
Notice that this puzzle has left-to-right (or mirror) symmetry rather than the standard rotational symmetry. This is useful when your set of theme entries don’t pair off in a symmetrical way. Here, we have two 3s, four 4s, three 5s, and three 7s, which leaves an unpaired 5 and an unpaired 7. Those two odd-length entries, HARRY and LAUNDRY, as well as the odd-length revealer, THE DIRTY DOZEN, are placed along the axis of symmetry to allow the puzzle to remain symmetrical.
The unusual grid allows for some interesting long non-thematic fill, like INSTANT-WIN, KELLY GREEN, and LORETTA SWIT. There’s a little junk scattered throughout the grid, like RIRE, the unfamiliar (to me, at least) HAMMS crossing SLYS, OPE, REL. I’m on the fence about the archaic “HOW DO?” [Quaint greeting to a lady or gent]. I think I really love it as a one-off entry, but I would certainly get sick of it if it were in a lot of crosswords.
Overall, I thought this was a fine idea for a theme that was fairly well executed. The difficulty was almost Thursday-level for me (more like Wednesday, really, but my time was Thursdayish), but (a) it seems likely that it was bumped to Thursday so as to be published on the anniversary it celebrates, and (b) this feels like a Tuesday or Wednesday theme that became difficult due to high theme density and some challenging/vague cluing.
For me, this is somewhere around 3.5 stars. Solid puzzle, but I want something a little more chewy on Thursday.
Until next week!
Morton J. Mendelson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “If at First You Don’t Succeed…” — Jim’s review
What an apt title, because the online version of the puzzle that I solved suffered from some technical difficulties that made solving an unusual challenge. Also, the solution grid has errors in it. I suspect these are related to the fact that we’re dealing with a rebus grid which is rather uncommon in the WSJ. I won’t hold these technicalities against the puzzle.
On the whole, it’s quite nice and a welcome increase in difficulty for the Thursday slot which quite often has simple themes just harder clues. This one takes quite a while to suss out. In fact, I don’t think it would be possible without the revealer.
Speaking of which, its clue at 57a reads [Youngster’s lyric, perhaps after five missed attempts in this puzzle]. What the heck could that mean? After about a third of the crosses, I was able to fill in NOW I KNOW MY (ABC)S, where the ABC appears in one square. What do the “five missed attempts” mean? I was able to surmise, correctly thankfully, that since there are five other permutations of those three letters (ACB, BAC, BCA, CAB, CBA) that the other theme crossings will have those “mistaken” combinations in them.
- 16a [Parliament contents] TO(BAC)CO crossing 11d [Simple adders] A(BAC)I. Parliament cigarettes, not the legislative body.
- 20a [They aren’t subject to customs inspection] DIPLOMATI(C BA)GS crossing 19d [Like many a PAC] D.(C.-BA)SED. I’ve heard of a “diplomatic pouch,” but not a “bag.”
- 39a [“Blood will have blood” speaker] M(ACB)ETH crossing 33d [Device with a Force Touch trackpad] M(ACB)OOK. Minor demerit for using MAC- in both words.
- 41a [Texas State team] BO(BCA)TS crossing 24d [Source of meals on wheels] CLU(BCA)R. I like this latter clue.
- 64a [Trip home from the airport, perhaps] (CAB)RIDE crossing 60d [They cross the line] S(CAB)S.
- And of course the revealer at 57a which I mentioned above. It crosses 55d [Experimental fashion?] L(AB C)OAT. Nice clue on that.
Note that the website software doesn’t allow the use of more than one letter in a square and, again, the solution file has errors in it. For these reasons I re-created the grid in Crossword Compiler to get the screenshot above.
I really liked the theme and the unexpectedness of having different rebus combos in each themer.
I will admit I had some unexpected help in locating the rebused squares, though. In the online version, those answers in the grid that contained rebuses had their blue selection boxes shortened by one square. Wherever I found two crossing entries with this feature I knew that’s where the rebus would go. In the pics below, note how, in the two crossing themed entries (NOW I KNOW MY ABCS and LAB COAT), the blue selection boxes do not include the final letter.
At first I thought this might be thematic, but it turns out to just be a weird quirk of the software. I’ll admit that I took advantage of this quirk to find the exact rebus squares.
No doubt all the technical problems are related. It’s a shame because this is a good puzzle.
Clues of note:
- 38a [Source of baby’s breath]. LUNG. Tricksy. I like it.
- 27a [One of many revolving around Mars]. MYTH. Nice. Was thinking celestial bodies the whole time.
- 67a [Leaves undressed, maybe?]. SALAD. I figured out where this was going, but undressed or dressed, it’s still a SALAD.
- 8d [Hall of fame]. ANNIE. Do you call a fictional character famous? I suppose so. Feels odd, though. Saw the same clue somewhere recently for ARSENIO.
Good puzzle, despite the technical difficulties.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Higher Degree” — Ben’s Review
Sometimes a puzzle’s title is all you need to have a hint of what’s about to go on. Today’s BEQ puzzle definitely fit that bill — “Higher Degree” immediately made me thing “NTH”, and that turned out to be just the case:
- 20A: Smug — HOLIER THAN THOU
Expression of great approval, on-line — YOU WIN THE INTERNET
- 56A:Cold pressor test measurements — PAIN THRESHOLDS
It’s not the most difficult, theme-wise, but to kick it up another degree, all of the NTHs are rebus squares.
Other things I liked: UPBOW, BEANO, zebra COLTs, PRE-K NOOGIEs, EGGMAN, LOGJAM, BALL RETURN, AGENT MULDER, and the way NTH makes SYNTH, WORN THIN, and MONTH possible in the grid.
Solid theme, solid fill, solid puzzle.
Brian Thomas’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
A PERFECTSQUARE is any number whose square root is an integer. Four nine letter (nine is a PERFECTSQUARE too) squares spell out examples: SIXTYFOUR, THIRTYSIX, FORTYNINE, and EIGHTYONE. Fun to have a maths theme, and neatly executed too…
Those banks of (more or less) locked-in letters must have been taxing to build around, but the grid holds up well. I know that, despite the gimme of MAURYS, the top-left was by far the hardest, between ULTIMA and BOXOUT and tough clues for USB (wanted the port initials to be USS!) and LEO (was thinking birds)…
I have no idea what a HOTFOOT prank is… From the dictionary definition, it sounds a bit more like assault than a prank… Am not a fan of the [injured pro] angle on MRI – it’s not as though non-sportspeople don’t regularly go for those…