Thursday, July 27, 2017

BEQ 7:45 (Ben) 


Fireball Puzzle: 9:24; Theme: a whole lot longer (Jenni) 


LAT 5:15 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:24 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Jeffrey Wechsler’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 7.27.17 by Jeffrey Wechsler

Slowest Thursday for me in a very, very long time, even though the first theme answer I finished was the revealer: 59a, HOLD DOWN THE FORT [Have charge temporarily … or a hint to answering this puzzle’s three starred clues]. “Have charge”? That phrasing aside, the three starred clues each have FORT in them, but FORT runs down off the “F” rather than across. Like so:

  • 16a, TRAVELING IN COM(FORT) [*Enjoying first-class amenities, say]. After COM-, the remaining FORT can be found in the down entry 18d, FORTE [Strong point]. “Traveling in style” is much more in the language to me that “TRAVELING IN COMFORT,” which I don’t think I’ve ever heard before.
  • 33a, BEAU(FORT) SCALE [*Wind speed metric]. The FORT in BEAUFORT can be found in the down entry 25d, EFFORTS [Expenditures of time and energy].
  • 40a, (FORT)UNE HUNTER [*One looking to become rich]. The FORT in FORTUNE can be found in the down entry 40d, FORTH [Sally ___]. Unclear if 40d refers to the phrase “sally forth” or to the comic strip Sally Forth.

Seems like a good, consistently executed theme (if you accept the premise that the ORT in these phrases coming down of the = “holding down the fort,” which, sure, I will). The FORT always runs down from the F, and it nicely moves from the end to the beginning of the starred entries. It’s also very elegant that several of the theme entries cross (see, for example, BEAU(FORT)SCALE crossing not only the mandatory EFFORTS but also the in FORTE. 

I didn’t enjoy solving it though. I don’t know if I was just in the wrong headspace or what. I think part of my problem was that the fill seemed difficult in a way that I didn’t find rewarding. Getting 29a, FUSS AT [Nag] was like pulling teeth. Not in my lexicon, and it didn’t help that it crossed RUS, AFORESAID, and a theme entry (FORTE). I had even more trouble in the NW, where 2d, ACRID, was clued as [Like many volcanic fumes]. Once I had the beginning A, I wanted something starting with ASH??, but I also wanted it to end in a D once I had ODE. The shared by ACRID and RIVEN was my last letter to fall.

Other challenging fill included the unfamiliar 23a, EMITTER [Device releasing particles], the vaguely and plural-obscuringly clued 32d, LAND SALES [Some real estate business], HAB. (Of course! That common abbreviation for Habakkuk!), RECTO crossed by UTE and EEN and a theme-containing EFFORTS. The challenging fill I liked included the band HOT TUNA (made much tougher by the crossings of EFTS and ESTAS), the medical term ECTOPIC, and the phrase MOB RULE.

A mixed bag for me. Until next week!

Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword, “Alternate Spelling”—Jenni’s writeup

This larger-than-average FB took me slightly longer than usual to finish, and I had no idea what was going on with the theme until well after I’d completed the puzzle. Either I’m missing something, or this is an underwhelming puzzle.

The theme answers consist of nonsense phrases of at least two words, with the last word spelled out in the alternate letters of the first part of the phrase. Like this:

FB 7/26, solution grid

  • 17a [Inscrutable sprite?] is SPHINXLIKE PIXIE. You can see PIXIE in every other letter of SPHINXLIKE, so that’s the alternate (get it?) spelling.
  • 44a [Dynamic womanizer of film?] is BALL OF FIRE ALFIE.
  • 55a [Limited with no dining car?] gives us STARVATION TRAIN, which is remarkably unappetizing.
  • 71a [Scammer’s schemes?] are FRAUDSTERS RUSES.

This is one of those puzzles where the construction is a tour-de-force and just not that much fun to solve. The wordplay on the theme answers isn’t particularly amusing, and the theme itself was an anticlimax. This is the last FB puzzle until September. Here’s hoping for something more fun after the break.

The fill didn’t make me any happier.

  • 23a [Make a go of, after losing a space?] I had to resort to checking Peter’s solution to understand this one. The answer is ERR, which is the same as “Making a goof,” which is the same as “Making a go of” if you remove the space between “go” and “of.” Like the theme, the payoff is not worth the effort.
  • 9a [Score the same on, as a golf hole] is apparently HALVE. News to me.
  • Also new to me: 11d [Precursor of Scrabble], LEXIKO. Wikipedia to the rescue.
  • 27d [Units of work: Abbr.] is FT LBS, for “foot pounds.”
  • 58d [Insect that gives birth to a single larva that weighs as much as the mother] is the TSE TSE. Another one in the “new to me” category (well, TSE TSE isn’t new. The factoid in the clue is).

I already identified three things I didn’t know before I did this puzzle, and here’s one more: GRINDR apparently has rival apps named Scruff and Hornet.

Happy Vacation, FB puzzle. Get some rest.

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “High Standards” — Jim’s review

Solid bending theme that had me guessing until I got towards the bottom of the grid. The revealer is RAISE THE BAR at 60a with the clue [Set higher standards, and what you must do five times in this puzzle].

WSJ – Thu, 7.27.17 – “High Standards” by Alice Long (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [One can perform a giant swing on it] HORIZONTAL B(AR) w/ 9d RABAT
  • 21a [Firefox feature] SEARCH B(AR) w/ 12d DRAB
  • 33a [Shucker’s workplace] OYSTER B(AR) w/ 26d RABATOS
  • 43a [Like much blues music] TWELVE B(AR) w/ 31d ARAB
  • 53a [Spot for MacBook medics] GENIUS B(AR) w/ 46d RABIES

It was that last entry that cleared things up for me, mostly. I say “mostly,” because that entry happens to be followed by two blocks which I took to stand in place of the A and R of BAR. (It’s not logical; I know. Don’t ask me why my brain does these things.) When the crossings didn’t make sense, I then thought we were dealing with a rebus. But again, no luck with the crossings. Finally I noticed the BAR going up at every B and the penny dropped. The revealer then confirmed what I took pains to figure out on my own.

This is a very dense grid, thematically, and the bending feature ups the difficulty for the constructor in those areas. Yet we still get very nice fill in SPACE RACE, “YOU’RE NEXT,” WEED OUT, ON ALERT, and WIZARD. Sure, there’s some iffiness in ARISERS and VOICERS, but they don’t grate so much up against the theme and the better fill.

I did not know RABATOS (26d, [Stiff 17th-century collars]). We’ve seen “ruff” in these pages before, which is the type of collar Queen Elizabeth I is usually seen wearing. Apparently a rabato, or rabat, is a type of ruff that is “worn turned down to lie across the shoulders or stiffened to stand high at the back and often open in front.” ( Domo arigato, Mister.

I also didn’t know the term “twelve bar blues,” but that’s my own knowledge gap. It refers to the standard 3-sets-of-4 bars chord progression in classic blues music. Listen for it on the video below.

All in all, a pretty fun theme and grid.

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

Cracking the theme of this week’s BEQ was easy for me, but it was the rest of the grid that was the problem.  Each of this week’s theme answers (as clued by the title “imaginary friends” is strategically under-clued to skip over its “friend”:

  • 18A:
    Attempt some arithmetic?— PALTRY SUMS
  • 24A:
    E-5s from the Mile High City? — DENVER BRONCOS
  • 46A:
    Stuff that makes a Cambridge school smell better?– MITCHUM DEODORANT
  • 47A:Yemen or Oman, financially? — MATERIAL WORLD
  • 59A: Acquire shares of the pot? — BUDGET CUTS

This wasn’t too bad, theme-wise – like I said, I grokked what was going on here pretty quickly and used the downs to fill things in where I was unclear.

(I was earwormed with this as soon as I hit the MATERIAL WORLD entry)

The lower right corner of this puzzle tripped me up while I determined what kind of WORLD I was working with from the theme clue.  Not sure if it was me or the cluing, but cracking AD OUT, NONCE, and ERUCT were all tricky without some assistance.  Elsewhere in the puzzle, I liked TAR BEACH (a new phrase for me, but one that totally fits a bunch of instagram pictures I’ve seen lately of friends on their roofs catching some sun).

Okay theme, tricky fill, but decent overall.

3.5/5 stars

Pancho Harrison’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

It ends with a slightly odd revealing clue, referencing the Hollywood family BRIDGES, but an interesting, genuinely surprising, “collection” theme. A POPSONG, a BASSFIDDLE (never heard it called that, always known it as an (upright) BASS; apparently is regional and the “bluegrass” part of the clue is leading, in that regard), an AIRCRAFTCARRIER and EYEGLASSES are all things with bridges. Not too many other bridges that could be referred to… Not sure anything can have a dental bridge or the game bridge so…

Biggest missteps were at the beginning putting raPSONG ahead of POP, and DOT ahead of ROM, the latter a clear trap. For the most part the grid was functional, the most ugly things being 1D RPTS and Latin cruft ENSE, but the design of the puzzle, with biggish corners and a busy middle meant most of the puzzle was constrained by the theme, I think.

3.5 Stars

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16 Responses to Thursday, July 27, 2017

  1. Martin says:

    Interesting similarity between Times “keeping down the fort” and WSJ “raising the bar.”

    • Jim Peredo says:

      They do make a good pairing today, don’t they? Nice when that happens.

      • Norm says:

        Very interesting. I liked the WSJ better of the two since its idiomatic revealer seemed a better fit for what was going on in the grid, but both were very entertaining.

  2. This Fireball puzzle (as the other 5 I’ve done) actually kept my interest through the challenges of me trying to figure out what’s going on. Perhaps part of that is my intention to write a review of this puzzle (and the set) today, part of it is being determined enough to get through it since I was mostly figuring it out given enough time (I suppose an accomplishment at the solving level I’m at).

    While some of the fill is questionable, the theme entries were the biggest problem I had in figuring something out – being not sure how to figure out whether I had them right even after I had them filled in – as with most. I definitely will need to study a lot of the entries to figure out what’s going on.

    Overall, I will say the ones I’ve done so far have been an enjoyable challenge and I’m not regretting getting a subscription.

    Onward to the other puzzles here (ironically I can do every one of these today, eventually).

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Thanks, Glenn. My original set of theme answers concentrated on famous people, things like POSSESSIVEOSSIE – “Actor Davis acting jealous?” and FRIENDEDREDD – “Accepted Foxx into a social network?” and BLUEBEARDSLEERS – A pirate’s salacious stares?” but these didn’t make the cut.

      • These all logically follow enough that I could buy them. FWIW, I got 3 of the ones that made the theme cut (1 confirmed by crosses) okay, got confused on one but it made sense afterwards, and didn’t understand BALLOFFIREALFIE at all (had BALLATTIREALFIE which seemed reasonable enough as a guess). Anyhow, I got the post on this one written now on the site that’s linked to my name here, if you want to see my more extended comments on this one (and the Fireball set in general so far).

    • sharkicicles says:

      Glenn, after subscribing for a few years I can say that the better you get at solving the more fun they become!

  3. David L says:

    Tough Thursday for me too. I don’t understand the clue for EMITTER — unless it refers to some specific device, an emitter can emit anything, I would think. A volcano is an emitter of ACRID fumes, for examples.

    NW was troublesome. BIGCATS instead of MASCOTS, SEVER instead of RIVEN. Took a while to sort that out.

    FUSSAT doesn’t ring any bells with me either. Fuss over, sure, but that has the opposite meaning.

    Fun Fact: J.M. SYNGE had a nephew, J.L. Synge, who was a mathematical physicist and wrote a nice short book on General Relativity, among other things.

  4. Steve Manion. says:

    Interesting puzzle today and a more interesting sidebar for me.

    I am visiting my sister in Doylestown, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her husband, a doctor, was stationed in the Belgian Congo (not sure if that was the official name then) in 1963. He told me that he knew Joseph Mobutu. I did not realize that that was the original name of the monstrous crossword staple: SESE SEKO. To add to the irony, he was doing the crossword puzzle in the Philadelphia Inquirer as we talked.


  5. Shuka says:

    I loved this one (NYT). It fell into place in such a satisfying way.

  6. Bruce N Morton says:

    I too loved the NYT. One of my favorite Thursdays in a long time, and I would say one the of the easiest, I didn’t realize immediately that the ‘forts’ actually dropped down; and that only increased my admiration for the puzzle.

  7. Papa John says:

    I, too, thought today’s puzzle was terrific. Just the kind of challenge I want in Thursday offering. Good one.

  8. Bob In Omaha says:

    I had a problem with a NYT clue that I’m struggling to understand. The clue for 53 down is “These, to Goya”, and the answer is “estas”. The Spanish language has a masculine form of these, which is estos, and a feminine version, which is estas. The clue references Goya, who was male, but the answer uses the feminine version “estas”. That seems wrong. Typically the “a” at the end of a noun would indicate that it’s feminine, but Goya is a proper name representing a male. So why use the feminine version of the adjective?

    • pannonica says:

      He would be the subject, not the object, which is what the clue is interested in. The typical parallels that we see in clues as hints (abbrevs., Briticisms. etc.) aren’t applicable. Truth is, for certain languages we have no way of knowing the gender of some pronouns, adjectives, et cetera, in clues such as this and have to rely on crossings.

      The inclusion of Goya only functions to signal the language, gives us no more information than “in Madrid” would.

      • Bob In Omaha says:

        Ah, good point about Goya indicating the language but not being the object of the adjective. Thank you. The way it’s clued it could’ve gone either way.

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