Thursday, September 21, 2017

BEQ untimed (Ben) 


Fireball 8:12 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:54 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:44 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword, “Double Trouble”—Jenni’s writeup

Thanks to Peter for sending this one out early in the day so I could solve it while the babka dough was proofing and write this after putting it in the fridge for the first rise. Next up: noodle kugel.

“Double Trouble” does not refer to the two briskets we’ve cooked for tonight’s dinner but rather to double letters. Each theme entry is a remix of a base phrase that includes a doubled letter; the doubles get swapped and wackiness ensues.

  • 17a [Show affection to honorees on Father’s Day?] is BUSS PAS, altered from bus pass.
  • 23a [Farm bundling device invented by philanthropist Andrew?] is MELLON BALER instead of melon baller.
  • 37a [Cage for an Olympian?] is a GOD COOP, not a good cop. I think this one is my favorite.
  • 50a [Flat paints sold in metric volumes?] are LITER MATTES, which bear no resemblance to litter mates.
  • 62a [Put money on a Portland college?] is BET REED, not beet red.

Nice theme! It’s inventive and consistent. I like the mix of shorter and longer answers and some of them are pretty funny. All the base phrases are solidly in the language. It feels fresh to me and was fun to solve.

A few other things:

  • I think we should all be drinking ICE WINE when the ICBMs arrive. I don’t know Peter’s lead time for these puzzles; ICBM feels a bit more threatening than it would have a few months ago, doesn’t it?
  • 7d [Car bomb?] is EDSEL. Phew.
  • 11d [Enterprise defenses] refers to the starship, which is protected by its SHIELDS. When I teach about communication skills, I often point out that sensors don’t work when the shields are up.
  • 30a [1995 Jane Smiley novel set at an agricultural college] gives us a non-bovine clue for MOO.
  • 29d [Pioneering PDAs] were PALM PILOTS. How high-tech that seemed and how long ago it feels now.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SOL is an extra month in the International Fixed Calendar (or that the International Fixed Calendar existed at all). If a calendar is proposed and nobody follows it, does it exist?

I leave you with the racist video for MR ROBOTO.

Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 21 17, no 0921

It’s Amy subbing for Andy, who’s off tonight. Took me a while to figure out what was going on with the answers to the starred clues. Clearly they were not complete—1a. [*Adlai Stevenson as a presidential candidate, e.g.] was TWOTIM, which looked to be two-time something, but I wasn’t sure where the rest of the answer was lurking. The other starred answers were similarly perplexing, till finally I had 60a. *Individual telephone connections], PRIVAT, and realized that the SENILE right below it (clued straightforwardly) would complete the answer PRIVAT/E LINES if I went back the other way in the grid. Later, I hit the revealer: 57d. [Often-illegal maneuver that is key to answering the asterisked clues], UEY. The other UEY theme answers are:

  • 1a. [*Adlai Stevenson as a presidential candidate, e.g.], TWO-TIM/E LOSER. RESOLE is a boring answer, but legit.
  • 21a. [*Limits on team payrolls], SALAR/Y CAPS. SPACY works.
  • 31a. [**Doesn’t go to either extreme], STRIK/ES A BA/LANCE. This one zigzags with an extra U-turn (hence the second asterisk, I guess), and ABASE and LANCE are both perfectly ordinary entries unto themselves.
  • 47a. [*Snitch], TATTL/ETALE. ELATE going the other way.

This theme has more twists and turns than your standard Thursday puzzle, literally.

Surprised to encounter two entirely unfamiliar usages here:

  • 25a. [Listen (to)], GIVE EAR. “Give ear to,” yes, I’ve seen that. But as a crossword answer, GIVE EAR looks incredibly strange.
  • 27d. [Quadrennial U.S. occurrence], VEEPSTAKES. Thought this had to be LEAP something for the longest time.

Didn’t really know the poker term MISCALL, either.

Fave fill: PIE SHELL (even though I say pie crust) because we did indeed use premade pie crusts last night for our quiches; DIRTBAG; a SYNAPSE for Huda; and “TOO LATE NOW.”

Fill on my noooope list: AFLOWER, I’LL SUE, ERLE, ENIAC. Matt is an A.I./software sort of genius, so he probably finds ENIAC less irksome than I do.

4.2 stars from me. Neat theme angle, with the letters that complete each theme entry appearing in the other direction, in a word that’s a legit crossword answer going the other way.

Harold Jones’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Back to Nature” — Jim’s review

Theme: Certain members of the animal kingdom have been turned around for comedic effect.

WSJ – Thu, 9.21.17 – “Back to Nature” by Harold Jones (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Bill for all those bloody cocktails?] VAMPIRE TAB. Ha! I like this one best, mostly because of the funny clue. British solvers, note that “bloody” is not considered profanity in this country.
  • 25a [Pale-yellow marsh plant?] FALLOW REED
  • 35a [Mariner who’s good at island-hopping?] KANGAROO TAR. Meh. Do people really use the word “tar” to refer to a sailor these days? Also, this breaks with the theme a little bit by having a second critter in the entry.
  • 48a [Log flume’s function?] TIMBER FLOW
  • 59a [The Lakota’s Wakan Tanka, “the Great Spirit”?] PRAIRIE GOD. Anybody get this without any crossings? Yeah. I didn’t think so.

A serviceable theme that unfortunately didn’t hit my funny bone (aside from the first clue). I do like the consistency of restricting the entries to animals. But wait, there’s more: 36d ANT FARMS and 50d LLAMA.

Fun fill: The aforementioned ANT FARMS, words from Farmer Hoggett (i.e. “THAT’LL DO“), MRS PEEL, ART SALE, and NOUGAT.

Did you know that the word “Ayatollah” translates to “Sean Connery”? Yup, it’s true.

Less than fun fill: KHOMEINI (yeah, that guy), TEMPI, MOUE, MOHR, OIL OF.

I struggled in that upper-middle section with OTTO [Porter of the Washington Wizards] and MOHR [Jay who was the first host of “Last Comic Standing”]. I guess that latter clue is misdirection to get you to write in LENO (which I dutifully did). But misdirection is only fun when you figure out the right answer and say, “Aha!” In this case, I said, “Who?”

Clues of note:

  • 2d [Clay, e.g.]. ORATOR. Whew. That’s digging deep. The clue refers to Henry Clay who was a Representative, Secretary of State, and Senator from Kentucky back in the early 19th century. Together with John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster, they made up the “Great Triumvirate.” And that’s about all I remember from my high school history class.
  • 44a [Emmy winner for “Homeland”]. DANES. That’s Claire DANES. I didn’t know this having never seen the show.
  • 11d [It’s defined as the distance light travels in 1/299,792,458 second]. ONE METER. That sounds like a really arbitrary number (the fraction, not the one). Turns out, that’s only been the definition since 1983. There were several other definitions before it. (Oh, is that a dupe I see in the clue?)
  • 22d [Like some presidential communications]. TWEETED. A president may tweet, but I wouldn’t call a tweet presidential.
  • 45d [Milky Way section]. NOUGAT. Totally got me on this. Was thinking astronomy the whole time.
  • 52d [Area of Mars]. WAR. Again, good misdirection.
  • 66a [Opposite of “faster”]. EATER. Favorite clue. This clue more than makes up for a roll-your-ownish entry.

Overall, a middle-of-the-road puzzle with more plusses than minuses.  That’ll do, Khomeini.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s writeup

LA Times

I’m sure plenty of us have contemplated a theme coinciding with the hype around the new It film, maybe including COULROPHOBIA somewhere… It looks like C.C. got her puzzle in early (as it usually takes a few months from submission to publication) or Rich Norris bumped the puzzle forwards! Her take features four Stephen King novels: IT, MISERY, CARRIE and CELL at the front of long answers. King conveniently has several one word novel titles, though Pet Semetary, Salem’s Lot, Shawshank Redemption, Lawnmower Man and many (many, many) others wouldn’t work, he is prolific enough that are at least a couple more that C.C. probably toyed with – Christine and Trucks… Ed McBain’s novels could probably also get this treatment, but I don’t think Evan Hunter’s works have aged as memorably!

ITHURTS gets a cute clue: [Smart comment?], CELLMEMBRANE goes all science-y and CARRIEFISHER is clued for her literary efforts. MISERYINDEX is quite a breakfast test pusher, though not quite as visceral as say, DOGMEAT. I do realise the whole puzzle has a horror theme, but somehow it doesn’t feel as in-your-face.

Another cute clue moment was clueing SOOT as a problem for Santa’s dry-cleaner. The biggest mystery answer for me was SIDEPLANKS which sounds like a derivative meme from 2011. Still, including a reference to the external obliques made me smile.

The worst clue in the puzzle is BAYER as a [Tylenol rival]. What??? One is a multinational chemical company, the other is a brand of paracetamol made by (checks) Johnson & Johnson. Johnson & Johnson are the Bayer rival, though only barely, as I imagine their brand portfolios don’t actually match up significantly. If I were to pick a Bayer rival, it would be Merck Group (not MSD)

3.5 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “The Fall” — Ben’s Review

This week’s BEQ review is a little late, but it’s here.  The trick to this one is all in the name, “The Fall”:

  • 18A: In the style of pop singer Debbie? — ALA GIBSON
  • 20A: One getting clean on the space shuttle? — SPACE BATHER
  • 36A: December holiday abroad? — FAR CHRISTMAS
  • 40A:“Put that thing just to your left, Judi Dench”? — NOT THERE DAME
  • 59A: Prepare fried chicken with no problems? — BREAD EASILY
  • 62A: Middle-aged fellows grow molars? — MEN TEETHE 

I was expecting a Mark E. Smith reference somewhere in here, knowing BEQ’s love of post-punk, but apparently not.  Instead, THE falls out of one themer and into the one directly below it.  THE drops from ALTHEA GIBSON and joins SPACE BAR to create ALA GIBSON and SPACE BATHER.  The same goes for FATHER CHRISTMAS and NOTRE DAME (which become FAR CHRISTMAS and NOT THERE DAME) and BREATHED EASILY and MENTEE (which make BREADED EASILY and MEN TEETHE)

I’ll leave this one here since it’s late.  I liked this a lot!

4/5 stars

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11 Responses to Thursday, September 21, 2017

  1. steveo says:

    The Times’s web/desktop app let me cheat a little by highlighting the revealer when when I got to the first starred clue. That made the theme much easier to suss out (even though I initially spelled it uie instead of uey. (Ugh that word.) Otherwise a fun solve. I seemed to fall into the lOtS/tEa instead of GOBS/BEE trap that many others did.

  2. Nene says:

    Did not like the idea of a puzzle based on a crosswordese answer, UEY. Theme answers then could be BASSI, TEMPI, OSSO, IDEO, DER, NORA, ERLE, etc

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    Thanks for the review, Jenni, and happy Rosh Hashana. My seed phrase for “Double Trouble” was Bold as Brass. This didn’t make it into the final grid, but it would have become:

    BOLDASSBRAS Daring derriere doohickeys?

    I thought this one would be a snap, but it proved surprisingly difficult to come up with a consistent set. Peter and I went through about twenty iterations before we were happy with the puzzle.

  4. David says:

    Loved the NYT today, one of my favorite non-Sunday puzzles ever. Yeah, there were some weak clues (MISCALL should have been clued as ‘butt dial, e.g., as someone pointed out on the Rex blog), and some weird fill (AFLOWER is poor, and GIVE EAR is worse), but the gimmick was amazing, and most of the non-gimmick was fun and fresh, like VEEPSTAKES.

  5. jeff says:

    Am I wrong but has there been a recent outbreak of MENTEE in puzzles? Today it was used as a base phrase in a beq theme answer, and I swore I’ve seen it multiple times this week as fill entries. Strange coincidence or has that become a popular term lately? Because I wince every time I encounter it in a puzzle.

  6. Jenni Levy says:

    Loved the NYT!

  7. pannonica says:

    In addition to the weird Tylenol–Bayer equivalence, there’s the very visible SPAN and C-SPAN quasi-dupe (C-SPAN stands for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, but still, come on) at 41 and 52d.

  8. Rick Narad says:

    Despite having to solve between students coming in outside of office hours but still needing help, this may have been the best Thursday I’ve seen in a while. I loved all four of my normal Thursday (NYT, LAT, WSJ, BEQ).

Comments are closed.