Thursday, June 15, 2017

BEQ 8:13 (Ben) 


LAT 5:24 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:03 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


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

NYT puzzle 6.15.17 by Richard F. Mausser

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 SLYSOPE, 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.

WSJ – Thu, 6.15.17 – “If at First You Don’t Succeed…” by Morton J. Mendelson

  • 16a [Parliament contentsTO(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
  • 39A:
    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.

4/5 stars

Brian Thomas’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

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…

4.25 Stars

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26 Responses to Thursday, June 15, 2017

  1. THE SOLVER says:


  2. JohnH says:

    I very much liked the WSJ, but tricky. My last to fall was the unfamiliar DIPLOMATIC BAGS. I never did get the joke behind LUNGS. (Why include “baby’s” in the clue.) But now I see it’s punning on a flower new to me.

  3. jack says:

    I was doomed from the start at WSJ when I could not get DIPLOMATICBAGS. I had POUCH in my head and could not get rid of it….aaargh.

  4. Carl hupert says:

    Andy’s explanation for “why” right/left symmetry was used is concise and helpful. It’s a lot nicer than simply pointing out that it is there.
    Hup hup

  5. David L says:

    NYT was very easy — I figured out what was going on before seeing the revealer. I thought it was a weakness that a couple of the answers — RAT and (maybe) TRICK — make sense without ‘dirty’ in front of them.

    This seems like the second time recently I’ve seen IDEATE clued as ‘brainstorm’ or something similar. I think that’s a misreading or misunderstanding of the meaning of the word. See here*, for example. ‘Ideate’ is a somewhat academic word meaning “to form a mental image of.” It’s not synonymous with simply having ideas, let alone with brainstorming, which means having ideas in a furious and competitive fashion.

    *EDIT: There was supposed to be a link in what I wrote but it didn’t work. This is it:

  6. Ethan Friedman says:

    Enjoyed the NYT but the SZELL / LPNS crossing was brutal for me. I had to try the alphabet in the online app.

    What *are* LPNs?

  7. WSJ: No idea why the Across Lite file has those errors in there. I thought the “five missed attempts” in the 57A clue referred to the fact that, in addition to the six rebus squares being marked as wrong, the file shows five other squares immediately below the rebus squares as incorrect. It would have been a real trip if those extra “wrong” squares were a secret meta, or something.

    Crossword Compiler is odd sometimes with rebus squares; if you hit a certain limit (I forget what it is, maybe 10?) the resulting .puz file won’t produce the right squares. It is possible to fix them using a Notepad file, though, and there are only six of them in this puzzle.

    • Martin says:

      The AL file has those errors in the answer key because the WSJ app has those errors in the answer key. The .puz file is created automatically, converting the data file that drives the WSJ app. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll repost the .puz if the WSJ fixes their file, but manually massaging it is a bit more than I have the time for.

  8. Allan says:

    @Ben re BEQ: I’m pretty sure that the ends of 12d & 19a is also a rebus square making the answers tenth and plinth.

  9. ahimsa says:

    “I have no idea what a HOTFOOT prank is… From the dictionary definition, it sounds a bit more like assault than a prank”

    I’m more familiar with HOTFOOT as a verb. My dictionary doesn’t have a prank definition.

    I have heard of the prank but I thought was fiction, something done only in cartoons, like Wile E Coyote hanging in the air for a second after falling off a cliff. And then being fine in the next scene. :-)

    It’s no fun to learn that this is a real thing.

  10. Brian says:

    Glad you enjoyed Gareth! I’ve been excited all day about the puzzle running. And you are right – those blocks were a pain to build around.

  11. Brian says:

    Also, I started posting crosswords at a site of my own about a month ago – there are four puzzles up so far (2 themed, 2 themeless). Planning on putting one up once per week, come check them out (they’re free)!

    Site is

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