Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword “Before and After” —Jenni’s write-up
I finished the puzzle without understanding the theme, and then I thought I had it figured out, except it made no sense. Then I looked at the title and went over it again and actually said “aha!” out loud.
The theme answers are normal phrase made wacky by the addition of a letter before and after.
- 17a [King who is considered a deity?] is DON THE GOD, referring to Don King, the boxing promoter. Take away the D’s at the ends and you have ON THE GO.
- 24a [Generals working their hardest?] are STRAINING BRASS. This is the one that bollixed me up, because if you take out some letters in the middle, you get STRING BASS. None of the other theme answers worked that way and the letters that have to be removed make no sense. Take away the S’s, however, and you get TRAINING BRAS. That’s when I said “aha!”
- 40a [The process of cultivating tin cans?] is GOAT MEAL RAISING (oatmeal raisin). One of my college roommates raises goats.
- 51a [Firelit room where I give a lecture?] is HALL OF MY HEARTH (all of my heart).
- 62a [Couple’s serious fight?] is LOVER DUEL (overdue), which is the weakest of the entries. Seems to me it should be “lover’s duel.”
A few other things:
- 7d [Oxford Dictionaries 2015 word of the year, for example] is EMOJI. The actual choice was this “face with tears of joy”:
- 9d [Country whose capital is Tarawa] is KIRIBATI, which lies in the central Pacific and causes the International Date Line to be indented to keep the entire nation on the same day. The easternmost islands have the most advanced time in the world, UTC + 14 hours. Yes, fine, I got all that from Wikipedia.
- 27d [Businessman buried at Hershey Cemetery] is REESE, inventor of the cup. I live about an hour from Hershey. There is indeed chocolate everywhere.
- 24d [British invasion participant] is not about 1960s pop music; it goes back much further than that. The answer is SAXON.
- More islands! 52d ]Hispaniola is directly north of it]. The answer is ARUBA.
- 63d [Chow checker] refers to the dogs, not the slang for food. It’s VET.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: anything about KIRIBATI. I also didn’t know (or at least hadn’t remembered) that MR ROBOTO was a cut off the album “Kilroy Was Here.”
I leave you with the “Unplugged” version of LAYLA.
Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Shifting Gears” — Jim’s review
The revealer (69a, [Gearshift letters, in the order they’re shifted in the starred answers]) is PRNDL. Each theme entry is a well-known phrase in which the initial letter of the first word has been shifted to the end of that word.
- 18a [*Rollicking royal?] ROMP QUEEN. Prom Queen.
- 26a [*Withhold his favorite chew toy?] ANGER ROVER. Range Rover.
- 37a [*Bit of godly graffiti?] AMEN TAG. Nametag.
- 48a [*Enthusiasts of newspaper columns?] OP-ED FIENDS. Dope fiends.
- 61a [*Having a fly-by-night cost?] OWL-PRICED. Low-priced.
Nice theme. I solved from top to bottom, so didn’t uncover the revealer until the end. I felt adequately befuddled until having my a-ha moment.
One thing, though. Are Park, Reverse, etc. actually gears? During the solve, I was looking for “first,” “second,” etc. And I was also thrown off by the presence of OWL since it’s an anagram of LOW, one of the gears in question. That feels a bit inelegant. (Other possibilities might be LEAR/EARL, LEE/EEL, LANA/ANAL. Hmm. I’m sure someone here can come up with a clue for ANAL TURNER). Plus, OWL-PRICED lacks a certain amount of surface sense; perhaps a Harry Potter clue might have improved it.
But aside from those nits, I enjoyed the wordplay, and the shifting of “gears” made sense enough for this to be fun. The consistency of the shift (from first position to last) is another nice tough.
Fill-wise, I really enjoyed BOURBON, EUPHORIA, and MOOD RING. IN DISGUISE is nice as well. ANEAR is decidedly not nice, but I do like the clue [“For two cents I’d leave the blamed country and never come ___ it agin”: Huck Finn].
The LOG/FIG crossing was rough given the clues [Footing for birling] and [Black Mission or Brown Turkey]. Birling is the game where lumberjacks balance on a floating LOG and try to outlast an opponent. Why did I think this was just called log rolling? And I’m not a FIG eater, so I don’t know FIG varieties.
Thursday clues are often have a trivia bent, and that’s also true today, but it was all gettable with the help of crossings. I did like these clues in particular, all because of tricksy misdirection:
- 54a [One might be on top of the deck]. SAILOR.
- 54d [Berlin product]. SONG.
- 62d [Highest suit?]. CEO.
Overall, a fun puzzle with good wordplay and fill, and a satisfying a-ha moment.
Alex Eylar’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
A debut byline this Thursday! Congrats, Alex!
Interesting concept this week. Some answers are cross-referenced with other answers to humorous effect:
- 17a, TAUTOLOGY [See 58-Across], and 58a, TAUTOLOGY [See 17-Across]. One of the rare puzzles to have a duplicate entry, but here it’s thematic. Admittedly, I was never quite clear on what did or did not constitute a TAUTOLOGY, but I guess the fact that these two entries reference each other and are the same is a TAUTOLOGY.
- 25a, RECURSION [See 25-Across]. [See 25-Across]… okay. *looks at 25-Across* [See 25-Across]… okay. *looks at 25-Across*…
- 36a, A WILD GOOSE CHASE [See 66-Across]. There is no 66-Across. The NYT applet messes this one up a bit; it doesn’t know how to handle the nonexistent cross-reference, so it highlights 1-Across instead.
- 46a, AMBIGUITY [See ??-Across].
I have to admit that I mostly ignored the theme while solving. In hindsight, it’s pretty cute. It’s not a theme type you see often, and it was refreshing to get something unusual.
I’ve never heard GALE used as a [Burst of laughter], though I have heard “PEAL of laughter.” Not sure why ZOD and ZOO instead of GOD/GOO or BOD/BOO or MOD/MOO, except to sneak in the Scrabbly Z. I liked the clue for 40a, SET [22+ pages of the Oxford English Dictionary]. It does not, however, have the longest entry in the online OED, according to Jeopardy!.
Let’s talk briefly about the clue for CIS: [Prefix with gendered]. On the one hand, hooray! The Times is talking about cis- and trans- identity! Looking back at clues, they’ve been cluing CIS this way since roughly 2016. And, relatedly, let’s not forget this Ben Tausig GENDERFLUID NYT puzzle. A big thumbs-up from me.
On the other hand, the word “cisgendered” is, to the best of my knowledge, strongly dispreferred to the word “cisgender,” or at best simply outdated. The Times has gotten this right before, in clues that refer to CIS as a [Prefix for gender]. I’m not sure why the change to “gendered” now, other than to have a different clue for difference’s sake. Whether the distinction between “cisgendered” and “cisgender” is very important, that’s not for me to say. But it’s a strange choice, and I wanted to point it out.
The rest of the fill was very clean, which I appreciated. The grid isn’t that constrained: there 5 themers, most of which are short. At 76-words, the grid has room to breathe, so there’s really no dreck to speak of. Like, none. BAR BET looks weird in the grid, but that’s a fine entry. I already mentioned ZOD, but it was clearly intentional to put that in the grid — plenty of solvers will see that as an asset.
I’m sufficiently impressed! Way to go, Alex. Until next week!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Worst. Puzzle. Ever.” — Laura’s Writeup
Ben is in <checks Instagram> Europe, so his evil counterpart from an alternate universe is here on a gloomy, sleety, blustery day (seriously, there’s actual snain), blogging for you in the DARKEST TIMELINE [7d: Worst possible existence, in a meme, and a hint to six squares in this puzzle]. What are those six squares? I’ve filled them in for you in the grid, using some kind of magic image-editing software. Did you notice how a bunch of the downs on the sides didn’t seem to fit? Well, they do now, because the darkest (i.e. black squares) timeline (i.e. ERA and AGE) has provided the missing letters, fading in from another dimension. I love the time-travel and alternate-history subgenres of science fiction so much, it would be difficult to select just one meme, but let’s go with this one from the Best Episode Ever of Community, “Remedial Chaos Theory“:
Other acceptable cultural references would have been, for starters, the “Time and Punishment” segment of The Simpsons‘s “Treehouse of Horror V,” the “Cause and Effect” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the 1998 film Run, Lola, Run. If you enjoy reading fiction about the alternate-timeline trope (and who doesn’t?!), I highly recommend Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter or something from the GenX retro-popular Choose Your Own Adventure series.
Stray thoughts from a fractured narrative:
- [11a: “Nothing’s going right today,” briefly]: FTW. As in fuck the world, not for the win. I originally had FML, as in fuck my life. Fits nicely with the theme.
- [15a: Rods]: PHALLI. Dick jokes are yet another example of the freedom constructors enjoy by going editor-less on their own websites.
- [28a: Mouse drawn by Lucy Cousins]: MAISY. My kids loved the Maisy books and videos, about a gentle yet independent mouse and her friends Tallulah the chick, Cyril the squirrel, Charley the crocodile, and Eddie the [38d: GOP symbol]: ELEPHANT.
Jason Chapnick & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times – summary by Gareth
I had to go and check what the beer chases in a BOILERMAKER – whisk(e)y it seems. Each of four entries in today’s puzzle has a BEERCHASER in that their distal end is a variety of beer, and the puzzle covers most of the more common types drunk by those poor masochists who drink beer: TVRE(PORTER); MERCURYVIL(LAGER); CA(STOUT) – the only one where the beer spans two words; and HAIRRAISINGT(ALE).
- [El Misti’s land], PERU. Congratulations on making the World Cup! Unlike say, South Africa or the US!
- [MLB playoff event], ALCS. That was just letters for me, but I can’t help feeling it is still a markedly better entry than ALER.
- [Means of spreading dirt?], RUMORMILL. Most pleasing clue/answer of the day…
- [Pet pendant], IDTAG. Microchips are much more reliable though; unless of course the finder never bothers to take them to a shelter / vet and just holds on to them (which happens remarkably often).
- [Order clothes], HABIT. The toughest clue here, at least for me. Order as an nounal adjective not a verb…