Thursday, November 2, 2017

BEQ 8:30 (Ben) 


LAT 4:14 (Gareth) 


NYT 2:57 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Fireball very much untimed (Jim Q) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 111″—Jim Q’s write-up

FB, 11/1/17 Solution Grid

There was a time when I preferred themed crosswords over themeless ones. But that time has come and gone. And a Peter Gordon themeless is rarely unenjoyable. I expected two things: one awfully obnoxious (but classically Gordon-esque) clue involving an absurd mathematical equation with Roman numerals, and two obvious seed phrases. I got neither.

And I didn’t get Mr. Happy Pencil at the end of my solve either <sigh>.

That was due to the SEA MOSS / ETA MESON crossing. (Google had a tough time auto-filling ETA MESON by the way…). In my defense, SPA MOSS sounds just fine- I mean, if you’re willing to put cucumbers over your eyes at the spa, then moss isn’t a stretch… And sure, PTA MESON is a tough pill to swallow, but I figured the P was silent. Which still makes no sense. But that’s what I did, and damned if I wasn’t 5% confident.

I just realized that my confidence level on the last letter I insert into a crossword mirrors my dating life.

Anyway… It’s somewhat rare that I get a perfect solve on a Fireball, but even rarer is not being satisfied with a Fireball puzzle. They’re (almost) always fun, and those darn clues strive to be original. You even have to appreciate “‘___ Thurman’ (Fall Out Boy song)”… Obviously, UMA is the only thing that goes there, but hey- at least there’s some trivia to go with it. In my opinion, Gordon’s themeless clues are top-notch. Almost always original, and rarely pretentious.

I don’t know how long this puzzle took me to solve. I completed it over a few beers and teriyaki wings while flirting with the bartender and trying to pretend I was checking some fictional investments on my phone rather than solving a crossword, and with the exception of my personal (stupid) Natick at SEA MOSS / ETA MESON, I have no complaints at all.

Bartender didn’t seem interested, by the way.

Here’s some highlights:

18-Across [Phil’s love interest in “Groundhog Day”] RITA. I’m happy to say that I knew this answer because of the recent musical that hit Broadway. Not because of the movie. That short-lived musical did NOT get its due credit. It was amazing. Maybe not in my top ten, but asking for a nod in that direction. Better than the movie. So that’s a feat. And somehow, “Cats” is still a thing. Go figure.

26-Down [Rapper with the album “Mack Daddy”] SIR MIX-A-LOT. Not only did I somehow know this answer with no crosses whatsoever (I’m not sure if I’m proud of that), but it was the theme in a very recent LAT puzzle. I love crossword coincidences.

12-Down [cross referenced clue {Actor who played NERO} in “The Story of Mankind”] PETER LORRE. I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve ever seen Peter Lorre is in “Man from the South,” a relatively unknown adaption of the relatively unknown Roald Dahl story about a guy who bets the little finger of his left hand over whether or not he can light a lighter ten times in a row. Bizarre. But 8th grade English students love it.

25-Down [Laser pointer battery] AAAA. Sure. I guess. Perhaps union would cry “foul!” for Vanna White if a Wheel of Fortune contestant bought a vowel here. Don’t want to over-exert her at this stage in the game.

Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Collaborations” — Jim’s review

It’s the start of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and today’s puzzle celebrates such scribes by asking the question, “What if famous writers collaborated to join two of their famous works?”

The resulting melded titles are in the clues, and the melded authors’ names (which share three letters) are the theme entries. We’ve seen this concept before in many a grid from the WSJ, but this one has an added layer in that the work titles are also conjoined. I appreciated that extra bit of creativity.

WSJ – Thu, 11.2.17 – “Collaborations” by Dan Fisher (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Author of “Invisible Manimal Farm”?ORWELLISON. George Orwell penned Animal Farm while Ralph Ellison wrote Invisible Man. I read both of these in high school, yet I remember binge-reading Ellison with barely a break; it was that engrossing. Did you know his full name is Ralph Waldo Ellison? Apparently his father, a small-business owner and construction foreman, wanted young Ralph to become a poet.
  • 29a [Author of “The Maltese Pelican Brief”?] GRISHAMMETT. John Grisham: The Pelican Brief, Dashiell Hammett: The Maltese Falcon. Not so much a conjoining of book titles that share words; instead one bird is replaced for another.
  • 44a [Author of “The Light in August That Rises From Your Feet To Your Hair”?] FAULKNERUDA. William Faulkner: Light in August, Pablo Neruda: “The Light That Rises From Your Feet To Your Hair” (a sonnet). I will readily admit I didn’t know either of the titles, but I do like the melded author name.
  • 61a [Author of “Heartbreak House of the Seven Gables”?] SHAWTHORNE. George Bernard Shaw: Heartbreak House (a play), Nathaniel Hawthorne: The House of the Seven Gables.

As I said, I liked the execution of this theme better than the usual because of the added layer. Not only did our constructor have to find authors whose names would work together, but also find titles to merge together. Obviously, it wasn’t possible to get each writer’s most famous work to join with the other’s, so some lesser-known titles were needed. But still, it’s an added level of creativity which I enjoyed.

I do wish, in the interest of balance, that some female writers were involved. Here are a few that I came up with: DOCTOROWLING [Author of “Harry Potter and Billy Bathgate”?] or MORRISONTAG [Author of “Beloved in America”?] or CATHERBERT [Author of “O Pioneers of Dune”?].

Another puzzle, another raft of nice long fill. CONCUSSION and BLANKED OUT make a good pairing, although I’ve usually just heard “blanked” or “blanked on (something),” not BLANKED OUT. And then there’s AFTERMATH, STALLIONS, HAND-MADE, CONTESTS, HOLD UP, and BIG APE. SUDDENLY and EASINESS also appear in the Across direction. And for all that, the grid is still quite clean as usual.

A couple clues of note:

  • 6d [Apple of the Giants]. ELI. I thought this might be referring to ELI Manning as he is sort of the apple of the Giants’ eye. But no, ELI Apple is a cornerback on the team. So now you know.
  • 3d [Prairie dog community]. TOWN. Did not know that this is the common name for referring to a colony of prairie dogs. I love watching nature shows, so this gives me a good excuse to end this post with a clip about the lives and DEATHS of these cute critters.

Peter Sagal and Mike Selinker’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 11.2.17 by Peter Sagal and Mike Selinker

What a byline! I’m excited to have the chance to review one of the puzzles in the ongoing NYT celebrity collaborations series. Some of you may have met Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, in 2016 when he filled in for Ophira Eisenberg as co-announcer of the finals of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Shockingly, this is only puzzler and tabletop gamer extraordinaire Mike Selinker‘s second standard crossword to run in the New York Times! (He’s also had a cryptic and a diagramless.)

So, as I said — fascinating to see these two in the byline. The result is a timely puzzle that pays tribute to 37a, the NEW YORK MARATHON [Event held on the first Sunday in November, and whose path is recreated in this puzzle]. But Will wouldn’t usually run a simple tribute puzzle on Thursday, and indeed this is no simple tribute puzzle. 45a reveals that [What each step in this puzzle lacks, in proper order] is a BOROUGH. There are five additional theme answers in this puzzle, each of which should be preceded by one of NYC’s five boroughs, and each of which is placed in the grid in roughly the same place it would be found on a map (north to south and, more or less, west to east). To wit:

  • 9a, (BRONX) CHEER [Step 5: A show of contempt]. The clue is labeled “Step 5” since that’s the borough through which the marathon passes fifth, but it’s placed at the very north of the grid.
  • 23a, PROJECT (MANHATTAN) [Steps 4 and 6: A 1940s program]. Again, the marathon passes through Manhattan fourth, passes through the Bronx, then heads back into Manhattan until the finish.
  • 28a, (QUEENS) ENGLISH [Step 3: An upper-class accent]. Normally this would be written with an apostrophe (i.e., the Queen’s English), but I’m okay with a little cruciverbal license here.
  • 51a, (BROOKLYN) DODGERS [Step 2: An old baseball team]. Tonight was a rough night for the Dodgers organization.
  • 67a, (STATEN ISLAND) FERRY [Step 1: A passenger ship since 1817]. Hard to come up with anything else that begins with Staten Island; it’s nice that FERRY and CHEER are symmetrical.

I really liked this theme. Lots of layers, what with the central revealer, the BOROUGH revealer, and the five other theme answers.

The fill was pretty good given how much the theme constrained the grid. It was smart to drop in those stacks of 9-letter entries in the least constrained corners of the grid (NW and SE), and I liked all four of those entries: STAGE NAME, URSA MINOR, WIKIPEDIA, and I DON’T MIND. Sneaking in DO I DOEMOJI, and ROCK ON was icing on the cake.

There were a couple of bumps in the fill, like plural RAES (though the clue’s reference to [Actress Issa and others] is refreshingly current!), AGA, and the dupe between the otherwise excellent entries I’M OUT and I’M GAY. Much smoother than I expected, though! Also, are OUT and OUSTER etymologically related?

Fun puzzle. Until next week!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Next Level Shit” — Ben’s Review

With this week’s puzzle, BEQ’s website has officially published 1000 crosswords!  It’s definitely time to celebrate that and push forward into the future with some next level…stuff.  Let’s take a look at today’s theme, which plays with this idea in a very literal sense:

  • 18A: Some next level shit — CRAPERAD
  • 29A: Some next level shit — TURDAY
  • 44A: Some next level shit — POODLE
  • 57A: Some next level shit — CACA

Looking only at those clues, you’d likely understand think these clues were pretty shitty (and you’d be right), but you’d miss out on the next level part.  Each of these completes a clue that starts on the line below:

  • 20A: Pitch that runs along the side of a webpage — SKYS (CRAPERAD)
  • 32A: Easter eve — HOLY SA (TURDAY)
  • 46A: Toy from Europe — FRENCH (POODLE)
  • 58A: It borders Bolivia and Peru — LAKE TITI (CACA)

As far as theme goes, I thought this was masterfully executed – I had a hunch of what was going to happen going in, and it was proven right in the best way possible.  The other fill is also pretty solid — IKEA, ALIBABA clued as the chinese merchant, CROSSEYE, MORTARED, and others made for a good solve with few hangups.

4.25/5 stars.

Peg Slay’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s theme has at least one plus point over the typical “clue reversal” type – surprise. Until you solve the central FLATS and get an “a-ha”, of sorts. The execution felt rather cumbersome though. APARTMENTHOUSES (US) having FLATS (UK/Commonwealth); FLATS are found in a BLOCKOFFLATS (with the obvious problem that entails). A >WOMENS<SHOESTORE has FLATS, but so does a more typical plain-ole SHOESTORE, so WOMENS felt like padding for length. SYMPHONIC in SYMPHONICSCORE felt similarly padded. The last entry, GARDENINGCENTER, I’m putting down to sheer personal ignance – I’m clueless as to what FLATS are found there.

A typical 4×15 with the rest of the grid devoted mostly to containment…


    • [Pennsylvania city subject to lake-effect snow], ERIE. Mighty specific clue that! I guess getting at the connection of Lake Erie.
    • [Nine-time NHL All-Star], ORR. It feels like everyone loves Bobby more than Ben!

  • [Dismissive words], GONOW. Is the Chinese car marque available in the US?
  • [Italian Renaissance poet], TASSO. New to me. Is that the guy in Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up in Blue?


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11 Responses to Thursday, November 2, 2017

  1. Lise says:

    Loved both the NYT and WSJ! The NYT was a slow solve for me because I got a little bogged down in the Brooklyn area. Also, I don’t know NYC at all, having been there only once, by accident.

    But what a delightful puzzle, and I wish Mr. Sagal and his co-runner a good marathon experience.

  2. David L says:

    Hmm, I didn’t care so much for the NYT. IMOUT and IMGAY in the same puzzle? (Is someone trying to tell us something?) Dodgy plurals RAES and OPIUMS. Plus a bunch of tired short fill.

    Persnickety objection: Queen’s English, in my experience, is less about any particular accent than it is about “proper” usage, according to old fuddy-duddies.

    • jim hale says:

      Regarding your first sentence, it felt like someone wanting to make you say it. Adding to that was 36 across “Why yes, I am in fact a cow”/moo which was pretty funny.

  3. janie says:

    had a lotta love for the nyt puzz and gave it a healthy rating. but… i’m 99 and 44/100ths that the official name of the event on sunday is the “new york CITY marathon”…

    regardless, hope it’s a great one for our co-constructor!


    • Evad says:

      Funny you mention that, I recall submitting a theme to Peter Gordon back when he was editing the NY Sun puzzles, my entries were something like:


      and he turned it down for just the reason you cite, janie! Oh, and that the actual marathon length is 26.219 miles. :)

  4. David says:

    WSJ: A lovely and charming puzzle by Dan Fisher. Thanks for the write-up, Jim. You might want to try Faulkner’s magical 1932 novel, A LIGHT IN AUGUST. I first read it in high school (1970-ish?) and still remember the details of specific scenes involving the heart-touching heroine, Lena Grove.

  5. Art Shapiro says:

    Guess I liked the LAT more than most folks. Gareth, a “flat” in the gardening term is perhaps an Americanization, although if so it surprises me. It’s a flat tray packed appropriately with smallish plastic normally-square plastic containers each containing one or more plants. I’d guess they are all the same species. So the flat might have 12 or 16 individual disposable plastic “pots” big enough to hold a new growing plant intended for transplanting into a bigger “real” pot or into the garden.


    • pannonica says:

      You can definitely get a mixed flat.

    • ahimsa says:

      I’ve also heard the term “flat” when buying fresh fruit, e.g., a trayful of containers (pints or quarts) is called a flat. Just FYI for Gareth, hope it helps for some future crossword. :-)

  6. beqfan says:

    Just giving the BEQ some love. Leave it to Brendan to come up with strabimus.

  7. ahimsa says:

    “I do wish, in the interest of balance, that some female writers were involved. ”

    I thought of ATWOODHOUSE while I was solving, thought I was so clever, and then I remembered it was spelled WODEHOUSE. D’oh!

    But how about AUSTENNYSON?

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