Thursday, August 3, 2017

BEQ  4:21 (Jenni) 


LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT 2:29 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


A reminder that Fireball is on vacation and will return September 6th.

Timothy Polin’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 8.3.17 by Timothy Polin

I raced through this one, almost faster than yesterday’s Bruce Haight puzzle. Did you all find this one equally breezy?

The theme is explained at 61a, BELT LOOP [Waistband sight … or what 20-, 39- and 55-Across each have?]. The circled squares are each a type of belt, and they “loop” around the grid (from the right side back over to the left). Like so:

  • 20a –> 19a, WOOLLY MAM/MOTHS [Drawings seen in France’s Rouffignac Cave –> Outdoor lighting fixtures?]. There’s a lot going on here. The entry WOOLLY MAMMOTHS wraps around the grid, starting with WOOLLY MAM and connecting to the stand-alone entry MOTHS on the left-hand side of the grid. The circled letters spell AMMO, a kind of belt.
  • 39a –> 38a, STOCKS COLL/APSE [Headline after a market crash –> Indoor recess]. LAP is the belt holding STOCKS COLL- and APSE together, looping around the grid.
  • 55a –> 51a, PIMIENTOO/LIVES [Stuffed garnishes –> Video game units]. TOOL is the belt holding PIMIENTO O- and LIVES together, looping around the grid.

This is a really stunning feat of construction and a very clever theme idea. Highly unusual to see top-bottom symmetry, but it provides the nice visual effect of making the grid look a little like a belt, plus it allows Timothy to keep all the ending words (MOTHS, APSE, LIVES) on the left side of the grid and keep them all short so it’s easier to make them stand-alone entries.

There’s some excellent stacking in this grid, particularly on the right side where longer entries were necessary to keep the word count down. Besides stacking BELT LOOP under the theme entry PIMIENTO O-(LIVES), there’s a bunch of lovely stuff like CRUCIBLE, CLEAN AIR, YESSIREE, “IT’S A SECRET,” HEDONISTIC, KRISHNA, WYATT EARP, KABOOM — all beautiful, and really no junk to speak of except maybe NESTER, ASK NO, TEDS (especially with the weird [Spreads, as straw] clue), and the tired ILSA. 

I have a minor quibble with STOCKS COLLAPSE, which doesn’t seem like a very in-the-language base phrase. Otherwise, one of my favorite Thursdays in recent memory.

4.5 stars from me. Until next week!

Nancy Cole Stuart’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Moonlighting” — Jim’s review

Letter-sharing theme. This time it’s occupations.

WSJ – Thu, 8.3.17 – “Moonlighting” by Nancy Cole Stuart (Mike Shenk)

  • 16a [Worker with pitches and polishes?] SALESMANICURIST
  • 25a [Worker who draws a large congregation?] VICARTOONIST
  • 42a [Worker whose prose is out of this world?] ASTRONAUTHOR
  • 52a [Worker offering soft wares?] PROGRAMMERCHANT

We’ve seen this type of theme numerous times in the WSJ where two unrelated words that share three letters are smushed together.

The theme did its job and helped me out in whole sections where I had a lot of white space. It was the last entry that I got first, and that allowed me to put together the previous ones. I got VICARTOONIST with only VICAR in place, and the same with ASTRONAUTHOR with only AUTHOR.

That said, I usually don’t find letter-sharing themes very exciting because the final entry just looks like gibberish.

But this works better than usual because of the title. You can imagine someone working two distinctly different jobs and having to juggle those different demands. Not having enough letters to fully spell out the job titles somewhat echoes not having enough time to do both jobs fully (okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but work with me here).

Lots of clues made me pause today, so let’s get right to them:

  • 31d [Merlin Olsen’s alma mater]. UTAH STATE. Do people remember Merlin Olsen (let alone where he went to school)? I remember him because you don’t usually forget anyone named Merlin. He played 15 years for the L.A. Rams and was a regular on Little House on the Prairie. Talk about moonlighting. Technically though, the LHotP gig started after he left the sport, but he did do some acting during his football years.
  • 3d [What some concert passes allow]. ALL ACCESS. Also the name for CBS’s online streaming service which reminds me that the new Star Trek show will only be available on CBS ALL ACCESS. It stars Michelle Yeoh as captain and Sonequa Martin-Green as her first officer. Based on the trailer, I think it looks brilliant.
  • 23d [Moxie, e.g.]. SODA POP. New to me even though it first appeared in 1876 and is still produced today. Apparently this is a regional drink and the official soft drink of Maine.
  • 4d [English conductor Thomas]. BEECHAM. Founder of both the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic.
  • 2d [Barnum’s “Feejee Mermaid,” e.g.] HOAX. It consisted of a mummified monkey sewn onto the tail end of a large fish.
  • 37a [Bounty punishment]. LASH. That’s the HMS Bounty. You know, Captain Bligh, Mister Christian, and that lot.
  • 32d [Marked by aggressive and speculative investing]. GO-GO. New to me. But the definition fits the term.
  • 49a [Buyer in a familiar warning]. EMPTOR. From “caveat emptor,” roughly translated as “buyer beware.”
  • 19a [Quinella’s kin]. EXACTA. Also new to me. An EXACTA is betting which two horses will come in first and second place. A Quinella is similar in that the bettor picks two horses, but the exact placing order (1st and 2nd or 2nd and 1st) doesn’t matter.
  • 1d [Ambulatory setting]. APSE. The last word in the grid for me because the clue made no sense (at the time). I know “ambulatory” only as an adjective, but apparently it also refers to a curving aisle in an APSE.

Whew! You can see I learned a lot today. No wonder it seemed like I struggled through the grid. But it’s all good and there’s very little to complain about fill-wise.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “PUSHER” — Jenni’s review

I finished the puzzle quickly and thought I understood the theme. Then I looked at it again and realized that one entry didn’t fit the pattern and the other two made no sense at all. Thanks to Erin for helping me sort it out.

BEQ 8/3, solution grid

  • 16a [Put a facial application on “The Twilight Zone”] is MUD SERLING, which I thought was a play on MUD SLING. It makes sense with the title, too – there’s an ER pushed in to the answer.
  • 23a [Calvary?] is CROSS TERRAIN, which works as CROSS TRAIN. So far, so good.
  • 38a [French restaurant for the criminally insane?] is PADDED BRASSERIE. This is where it went off the rails for me. PADDED BRAS with an ER added, sure. But what’s with the extra letters?
  • 48a [Warm greeting to a Canadian, eh?] is HOSER WELCOME. If Brendan suggested that HOS WELCOME was a phrase, I would be surprised. Also horrified.
  • 59a [Button on the Pope’s hat?] is MITER BADGEMIT BADGE doesn’t make any sense at all.

Enter Erin, who pointed out that the last two anagram to HERO’S WELCOME and MERIT BADGE, with the ER pushed to different spot in the answer. That makes sense, but doesn’t match the first two, and PADDED BRASSERIE still seems different. Then we realized that we should be looking at MUD SLINGER and CROSS TRAINER, and Erin realized that it was actually PADDED BRASSIERE. Aha! The trick is to “push” the ER  to a different spot in the word. Phew. My confusion was compounded by the fact that no one actually says PADDED BRASSIERE.

A few other things:

  • 5a [Poet Lazarus] is a timely reference to the author of “Give me your tired, your poor….” Why timely? ICYMI.
  • I liked the long Down answers: 10d [Instinctual desire] is PRIMAL URGE and 29d [Place where men don’t go] is LADIES ROOM. Given the inequity in bathroom availability, I can tell you that the reverse (obverse? converse? never studied logic) is not true.
  • 21d [Alison with 27 Grammys] is KRAUSS. Love her.
  • 45d [Like marshland] is SWAMPY. If it’s not drained, of course.
  • Nice intersection of 55d [Work over, as copy] for EDIT and 68a.{ [The other copy editor didn’t know what he was doing] } for STET.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the last song on an album is the OUTRO. According to Google Dictionary, it’s analagous to “intro.”

I leave you with Irving Berlin’s setting of Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus.” I’ve sung this, and as corny as it is, I’ve never gotten through it without tears in my eyes.


Sam Donaldson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review


LA Times

Hi all. Feeling mostly OK after a bout of food poisoning…

Unusually, I spotted most of theme at the first entry, when TIMBERWOLVES spelt out TIMES in its circles, I knew the rest would be other newspapers… POTROAST has POST, GLORYBE has GLOBE, and SPEARGUN SUN. Both aspects, the newspapers list and the wraparound circles, feel well-trodden, but the combination felt novel.

Despite the unbalanced grid – with dense, congested middle, and big open corners, the grid held together quite well in the main. The EARLGREY area was probably my favourite. Some mild Scrabble-Fing in the corners, but only AFOX/FOXX bothered….

3.75 Stars

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

15 Responses to Thursday, August 3, 2017

  1. Lise says:

    NYT: Stunning (as Andy said), wonderful, beautiful feat of construction, and fun to solve. Orca contender!

    I want to write a novel just so that I can have a character named TED Grass.

  2. Papa John says:

    Am I the only who cannot access the LAT again?

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    I goggled at TEDS in the NYT, as I assume many did (except for a college friend of mine who actually worked on a hay farm during the summer in high school). Loved the theme and the rest of the grid.

  4. Winnie says:

    I don’t get the clue spreads as straw — teds.

    • arthur118 says:

      New Oxford American Dictionary has a clue:

      ted |ted|
      verb (teds, tedding, tedded) [ with obj. ] (often as noun tedding)
      turn over and spread out (grass, hay, or straw) to dry or for bedding.
      tedder noun
      ORIGIN Middle English: from Old Norse tethja ‘spread manure’ (past tense tadda), related to tad ‘dung.’

  5. jim hale says:

    One of NYTs best puzzles of the year. I enjoyed learning the word “ted” in particular.

  6. Bryant says:

    I think there’s an error in the New York Times puzzle today. IMAX is clued as “wide-screen format” but in reality IMAX is the opposite — the IMAX image is much less “wide” than a traditional film image, with an aspect ratio of 1.43:1 (the overwhelming majority of films are projected at 1.85:1 or the even wider 2.39:1). That’s part of the appeal — the screen is much, much larger, but also more vertical in its shape, than traditional movie screens. Change the clue to “big-screen format” and there’s no problem.

    You can see an example from Dunkirk at the URL below.

  7. Papa John says:

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t TEDS, as clued in today’s NYT, an old standby, if not now, at one time, almost crosswordese?

    • arthur118 says:

      According to XWordInfo, during the period 1943 to 1993, (Farrar, Weng, Maleska), there were 124 uses of the clue TEDS. Eyeballing the list, I’d guess over 50 of those are clued as it is in today’s Times. There appear to be only 4 such uses in the Shortz era so, yes, you’re quite correct in your recollection.

Comments are closed.