Thursday, July 20, 2017

BEQ 6:50 (Ben) 


Fireball untimed (Laura) 


LAT 7:51 (Gareth) 


NYT 2:45 + 1:30 to find my error (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 7.20.17 by Randolph Ross

Surprisingly light theme, especially for a Thursday. Three theme answers, each one using a famous person’s last name as a homophone of a question word:

  • 17a, WATT’S THE PROBLEM [James is keeping me from getting a steam engine patent?]. Cute! The clue helps you figure out which James is being asked about with the “steam engine” bit. Obviously, the common phrase being punned on is “what’s the problem?”.
  • 35a, HOWE’S BUSINESS [Hockey, to Gordie?]. Gordie Howe was one of the greatest hockey players of all time. I met him once at a metro-Detroit grocery store, where he was signing bottles of “Mr. Hockey” Chardonnay from the NHL Alumni Signature Wine Series. (“How’s business?”)
  • 56a, HU LET THE DOGS OUT [A former leader of China gave his shar-peis some exercise?]. Hu Jintao. (“Who Let the Dogs Out?“)

A strangely old-fashioned puzzle, but not bad. Just not Thursday-ish (except perhaps in the non-theme areas). The lightness of the theme is compensated for by the density of the fill. It’s a 72-word puzzle (a count appropriate for a themeless puzzle) with difficult-to-fill corners. Some really good stuff hanging out in there: EXACTA, ALL-STARS, TEE TIMES, ED MEESE, HONOLULU, SOCKHOP, PUG NOSE. ON ONE LEG was okay, though I liked the clue [How a flamingo may stand]. Not a lot of junk either (again, facilitated by the light theme): ILONA, EHLE, AMS, and COSA stood out. OLEO by itself is crosswordese, but OLEO OIL was oddly charming. “MAY I SEE?” was also oddly charming.

You can see from my time at the top of the post that I found this one fairly easy, except… I confidently plunked down LOBAl in the NE for [Lung-related] and never came back to it. BASIN was my last entry, and I didn’t get the tell-tale “You solved the puzzle!” jingle, and it took me a minute and a half to cycle through every answer in the puzzle until I found one I didn’t like, BElTIE, which it turns out is not [Edward VII, familiarly]. That’s BERTIE, and the lung adjective is LOBAR (?!).

26a, MARLA (Maples), isn’t really a [Presidential ex]. She is the ex-wife of a President, but I don’t know that that’s sufficient to call her “Presidential.”

Not my favorite puzzle. On the low side of 3 stars. Until next week!

P.S.: Just popped onto Twitter to see reactions about the puzzle, and realized I missed something bizarre about this puzzle:

1d is… REWARM? I solved that section mostly from the Acrosses, and it never really registered with me that REWARM is not really what you would call [Nuke, maybe]. “Reheat,” sure. It’s passable fill, but only passable.

What’s more, as my Tweeps noted, REWARD/DARLA is much better in the Down direction and equally good in the Across direction. My strong guess is that either constructor or editor valued getting “topical” (they divorced 20 years ago!) content into the grid over having clean fill. I dunno. That’s all.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Fireball crossword, “First and Foremost”—Laura’s write-up

Fireball 7/20 solution

Fireball • 7/20/17 • Thu • Eaton-Salners • solution

(Hi all, it’s Laura, new member of Team Fiend, filling in for Jenni.)

We have five theme entries, four of which cross-reference other theme entries:

  • 15a [Initially, 57-Across {A&W} and the like?] ROOT BEERS
  • 21a [Initially, 15-Across {R&B} singer with the hit “It’s Just a Matter of Time”?] BROOK BENTON
  • 33aR [What’s needed to complete each of four clues in this puzzle] AMPERSAND
  • 48a [Initially, 21-Across {B&B} income source?] ROOM RENTALS
  • 57a [Initially, 48-Across {R&R} time, often?] AFTER WORK

The key to this grid was solving it forward to the cross-references (since I didn’t know 21a immediately though I’m glad I do now), and so I ended up getting the themers mostly from the crosses. Then the theme resolved itself nicely — and impressively, given the constructing challenge of finding ampersanded acronyms that denoted categories of (or specific instances of) phrases that in turn, initially, made ampersanded acronyms (ampersanded acronyms is something I just made up so let me know if there’s an official linguistic term), and then have them link all together.

Fill-wise, we’re drawing upon a broad spectrum of knowledge. We’ve got science with ORBITAL [9d: Wave function of an electron in an atom], geography with AKBAR [17a: Word on the flag of Iraq one time and on the flag of Iran 22 times], literature with DARCY [14a: “Price and Prejudice and Zombies” character] (haven’t read it yet, but I hope he’s a zombie because he sometimes is one in the original P&P), television with LAVERNE [41d: Penny {Marshall} part {in L&Shirley}], sports with RCA DOME [10d: Where the 2007 AFC Championship Game was played], and music with BOB [16d: “Weird Al” song whose lyrics consist entirely of 38 palindromes]. IN SHORT [18a: “To recap…”], nice job, Alex!

Do nine men interpret? “Nine men,” I nod.

Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Am Too! Are Not” — Jim’s review

Long-standing crosswordese entries “Am Too” and “Are Not” have been repurposed as our revealers today. What’s going on? The “Are Not” is a little bit clearer; an R is removed from each theme entry. But that’s not all. “Am Too” is meant to indicate that an M is added. I take it the phrase should be parsed as, “A M, too!” I think most people would use “An” in that case, but we’ll let it slide.

End result: Phrases have an M added and an R taken away. Huge bonus points for there being only one of each letter involved with each entry.

WSJ – Thu, 7.20.17 – “Am Too! Are Not!” by Joe DiPietro

  • 17a [Only seedy bar in a northwest capital?] SALEM’S DIVE. Sales drive. When I uncovered this, I had no idea what was going on. “Sales drive” is not an everyday phrase.
  • 26a [Where kids are sent to disappear?] CHILD POOF CAMP. Child-proof cap. By the time I got around to this one, I had grokked the theme. This one elicited a chuckle from me.
  • 43a [Coil-shaped sausage links?] MEAT LIKE A HOSE. Eat like a horse. And this one made me laugh. Let’s agree not to elaborate on it, shall we?
  • 57a [Primates who specialize in prodding?] POKE CHIMPS. Poker chips. This is the one that cleared things up for me. I imagine others probably had the same experience.

It probably couldn’t have been easy coming up with theme entries that contained no Ms and only one R in which the removal of one and the addition of the other would result in something that made sense. Having that tight a constraint and still being able to pull off some humor is a definite win in my book.

It wasn’t all vanishing children and Dirk Diggler (oops, I’m sorry; we agreed not to elaborate, didn’t we?). One entry that got me scowling was 3d‘s SCENIC AREA clued as [Highway pull-off attraction]. I’ve heard of scenic roads, scenic routes, and scenic overlooks, but SCENIC AREA sounds entirely made up. So I searched Google images. Sure enough there are hundreds of those other scenic things, but by gum if SCENIC AREA wasn’t the first image that popped up!

Other scowly entries were ODED and UNTAME [Yet to be broken]. If an animal (presumably a horse) hasn’t been tamed, it’s either wild or untamed. Most dictionaries don’t even list UNTAME, but Collins English Dictionary says it was chiefly used in British English and only very rarely.

Better fill entries were ARE WE ALONE?, BEST PLAY, TAKE A HIT, and the cross-referenced duo of ZERO and MOSTEL.

Favorite clue goes to [Good combatant]. I was thinking it would be someone adept at fighting, perhaps in an arena. But no, it’s the antithesis of Good, i.e. EVIL.

All in all, an impressively tight theme laced with humor makes this puzzle stand out. A few questionable entries mar the grid, but not enough to do lasting harm.

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

It took me a little longer than usual to grok this week’s BEQ theme puzzle, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.  Let’s cover what’s going on here before I dig in:

  • 17A:
    Bad guy who can’t see too far into the future?— MYOPIC ENEMY
  • 27A:
    Freedom from gas relief medicine? — MYLANTA AUTONOMY
  • 46A:
    Unexplained neurosurgery?– MYSTERY LOBOTOMY
  • 61A:”Best Chatty Bird Recording” award? — MYNAH GRAMMY
  • 36A:”I’m laughing so hard” in memes, and theme of this puzzle — MY SIDES

Okay, I’m an old millennial (according to the chart for that sort of thing), and I’m unofficially the World’s Oldest 29-year-old according to friends, but I have not seen “my sides” used in memes.  I just haven’t.  The other part of this theme that didn’t quite work for me is that all of these themers are fully made up – there’s no phonetic or other “hook” to connect these phrases other than the MYs at both ends.  Removing the MYs doesn’t give you a well-known phrase or other start point for determining the rest of the answer.

(as a fan of music crosswordese, I’ll take any excuse to post some ELO)

Things I did like this puzzle: CINEMA, TORNADO clued as the sum of its alcoholic parts, GHEE, HEAD HONCHO, YVONNE Orji

Underwhelming theme on this one.

3/5 stars

Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

LA Times 170720

This one of those themes where the revealer makes the puzzle. It’s perfect: apt, surprisingly, and a colourful stand-alone answer. I’ve never watched ANIMALHOUSE, but older Americans seem to hold it some kind of awe… Anyway, the theme trope itself is familiar enough: words are hidden in the middles of answers. Two of these words are natural ANIMALHOUSEs and two man-made. Going across is a stable in CRAPSTABLES, with a gratuitous ‘S’. COOLAIR has a LAIR concealed. Like me you may have initially wondered what animal lives in a COT, but that’s a COTE in WACOTEXAS! Lastly, WINESTAIN disguises a NEST.

I didn’t know Mike ROWE, but ROWE was a familiar enough surname. Can’t think of any familiar ROWE’s other than cricketer Lawrence, which I don’t anticipate having familiarity Stateside. [Big dos] are often GALAS in crosswordland; in my world, galas are usually used to describe swimming meetings… I didn’t fancy the (in any case trite) puddy angle for plural TATS, since mostly there is only Sylvester; the ink angle would have been better IMO. I know at least one crossword editor who would be pleased to see [Golfer Tseng who’s the youngest player to win five major championships], YANI as a clue!

4 Stars

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Thursday, July 20, 2017

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    Outstanding Fireball from Alex. I’ve been working on a similar idea, and it’s fantastically difficult to do this well. Not only as a feat of grid construction, but to make it be an enjoyable challenge for the solver. Best Fireball of the year, in my opinion.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Joe’s WSJ was also excellent. It played a lot like a first-rate Fireball for me. All the themers were solid, and as Jim notes, it must have been quite difficult coming up with a good set with no conflicting letters.

  2. JohnH says:

    My experience with the WSJ was a lot like Jim’s. My first theme entry to fall was the play on “sales drive,” which was unfamiliar to me, too, so I had a lot of trouble getting further. Because of SCENIC AREA, the NW was also my last to fall.

    While I had the end of several theme entries but the left of the puzzle still blank for too long, I could see POOF CAMP emerging, and in time the title made sense. I then had to think of what goes with “proof cap,” got CHILD, and had a foothold on that side of the puzzle.

  3. Brian says:

    Question for the constructors out there: which word list is better, the xwordinfo or cruciverb list? I’d like to pick one of them up but am not sure which to get.

    • Sam Donaldson says:

      Either one is great and will get you up and running. Cruciverb draws from more sources, but xwordinfo’s list is scored. Up your status to Angel on Cruciverb and you also get additional entries from Jeff Chen that likely include most of the entries you’ll also see on Cruciverb.

    • Gareth says:

      Clue Database is free, and more than sufficient if you only use it for suggestions (which is probably the better way to use any clue database IMO)…

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Agree with Gareth. As a crossword editor, I can tell when a constructor leaned on auto-fill to do the heavy lifting in a grid. Mediocrities in a section that’s easy to improve on? Auto-filled. You can use auto-fill, but you should also eyeball everything and see what’s lifeless, stale, or crossed awkwardly, and make it better.

        • Brian says:

          Appreciate the advice, Gareth and Amy, and I’ll try not to rely on autofill too much. Not going to just go “hey, crossword compiler, give me the highest scored fill for the whole grid, go!” What I’m really hoping for is to make the process more efficient – being able to do one click and pull up 250 words that all fit in a slot and have possible crosses is really handy.

  4. David says:

    The NYT puzzle today really was awful. You’re too kind. I’m 50, and it was way outdated even for me. Having the very first down clue turn out to be REWARM should be a constructor’s warning to rebegin. Like you, I could forgive the fact that WATT doesn’t sound like WHAT, but too many answers were crosswordese (AMS) or things no one says (OLEO OIL) or things no one remembers (BERTIE), and in many cases, the problems were avoidable (REWARD). Just an awful waste of time.

  5. Lise says:

    NYT: I wanted the answer to 1D to be WARM UP. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say REWARM although it’s not wrong. Also, I would have liked a Wodehousian clue for BERTIE. So friendly!

    That said, I enjoyed coming up with SOCK HOP, EXACTA, HONOLULU, ALBANIA and other interesting answers. Not quite as fond of the vowel-rich OLEO OIL although I guess it’s a thing.

    *Loved* the WSJ. I love the feeling I get when I don’t quite get a theme and then have the semi-narcotic Aha! moment. Thanks for the fun!

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I think of REWARMing as what they do in hospitals when someone comes to the ER with hypothermia. (They do not nuke them. Ever.)

  7. Zulema says:

    No one has a good word for today’s NYT crossword, so will stick my neck out and say I liked it. One of my early entries was BERTIE and what others call old-fashioned I would call “educated.” Randolph, don’t stop constructing puzzles that don’t rely on so-called modern usages: and Will, keep letting them in, please, despite OLEO OIL and REWARM.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      I liked it, too, despite the less than ideal fill. The idea was fresh, but I wondered why there were only three themers. Are there no sufficiently famous people surnamed WISE (the pitcher Rick Wise is well known in my Philly region) or WARE? Then there’s our current quarterback for the Eagles Carson Wentz, though I realize that’s a homophonic stretch.

      • Lois says:

        Yup, I liked the theme and not the fill (OSU etc.), but there were only three theme answers.

      • Andy says:

        I think three theme answers was probably the best choice here, honestly. I don’t think there are any recognizable enough base phrases that begin with “WHY’S” to try something with WISE. (DeMarcus) WARE’S THE BEEF or WARE’S THE FIRE could’ve worked theoretically, but (a) it would’ve required changing HOWE’S BUSINESS to something symmetrical, and (b) neither of those phrases seems likely to lend themselves to a natural-sounding clue. Maybe WARE’S WALDO could’ve been [Football player DeMarcus dressed up in a red-and-white striped shirt for Halloween?].

        It’s easy to forget that three theme answers used to be de rigueur. These three at least take up a lot of grid space, and I’d rather have three consistent, decent theme answers than three of those and a fourth less good one.

  8. Decently fun set of puzzles today. Think I’m gonna enjoy this shiny new Fireball subscription, too. :)

  9. m says:

    Loved BEQ’s 7Down clue.

  10. Joan Macon says:

    I note that the NYT gets credit for two crosswords here and the LAT is ignored. Am I the only one who does the LAT faithfully?

  11. Isaac says:

    I was thinking BEQ’s theme clue is related to “splitting my sides”? Not quite sure how to make it fit, though.

Comments are closed.