Alex Eaton-Salner’s Fireball crossword “Workarounds” —Jenni’s write-up
Alex took us out of the 8th year of Fireball Crosswords and he brings us in to the 9th year with this dazzling effort. The theme lived up to Peter’s tagline of “blazingly hard puzzles” and took me a long time to sort out. The “aha” moment was worth it – I love this puzzle.
“Workarounds” gives a clue that some things will not be straightforward, and each theme clue seems to request two responses. The theme answers look like gobbledygook at first.
- 17a [Doubly drunk?] is PLTABLEED. See, gobbledygook. I figured “plastered” was in there somewhere, but I couldn’t find it. After finishing the puzzle, I went back and looked carefully. The missing letters were in 20a [It’ll make white brown] – TOASTER. They answers were lined up so that ASTER is right under TABLE. So we have “plastered” and “under the table.” I told you it was brilliant.
- 31a [Doubly immoderate?] is EXCETOPVE, which should be EXCESSIVE. The missing letters are in 24a [Start of an alley-oop, say]: ASSIST, with SSI over the TOP.
- 43a [Doubly stressed?] is PRGUNURED, missing the ESS to make PRESSURED. That’s in 46a [Actually existing], IN ESSE, and that puts ESS under the GUN.
- 57a [Doubly ecstatic?] is DELMOONED. The IGHT from DELIGHTED is hiding in 50a , EIGHT PM – right over the MOON.
Wow. Just, wow. It’s January 3rd and I won’t be surprised to see this one show up in the ORCA voting. There are a lot of 3-letter words and some inelegant fill (AMA, DPI, ABO, ERA, and a Roman numeral math problem) and I really don’t care. It was totally worth it.
A few other things:
- 4a [Urban pollution] is SMAZE, a portmanteau word combing “smog” and “haze.” “Smog” is itself a portmanteau word – “smoke” and “fog.” That’s like a Russian doll of words.
- 9a [Flack’s concern] is not the singer/songwriter Roberta but the PR agent, and the answer is IMAGE.
- 29d [Bar] is TAVERN, so now I have “Those Were The Days” in my head.
- 35d [Sandra’s successor on the Supreme Court] is SAMUEL. Sigh.
- 22d is [Denmark’s ___ Islands]. Raise your hand if you had difficulty spelling FAEROE.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that MR LEE was recorded by the Bobbettes. Here they are:
Damien Peterson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Affronts” — Jim’s review
Theme: The letters AF are added to the front of two-word phrases whose first word starts with F.
- 17a [Make intense concentration possible?] AFFORD FOCUS
- 31a [Put tags on the merchandise?] AFFIXED COSTS
- 39a [Declare support for Bartlett’s work?] AFFIRM QUOTES
- 55a [Business that many motels are in?] AFFAIR TRADE
For the most part, I found these to have very low entertainment value. Your mileage may vary of course, but these seemed decidedly unexciting — the last one, possibly, being the exception, which felt both sordid and depressing simultaneously.
Otherwise, I enjoyed the fill. FORT DIX usually gets the abbreviation treatment but is fully spelled out today. IGUANAS, HOT SHOT, SNOOKER, PASSEL, and FIRE ANT round out the top fill.
Speaking of FIRE ANTs, I am currently reading (okay, listening to) Children of Time by British author Adrian Tchaikovsky. I’m finding it amazingly inventive and detailed, including descriptions of war between cognitive spiders and fire-spewing (and tool-wielding) ants on a distant Earth-like planet. There’s way more to this 2016 Arthur C. Clarke award-winning novel than that, including the last remnants of humanity fleeing a dead Earth, so check it out if that sounds at all interesting.
SNOOKER is clued as [Trick] and rhymes with booker or looker, but I can’t look at the word without thinking of the British billiard-type game (and its pronunciation). See the video below for some amazing SNOOKER action.
And speaking of world games, new to me is SHOGI [Japanese game akin to chess]. Seems to look a lot like Stratego. Also new to me is the disease pellagra in the clue for 45d: [Pellagra preventer]. NIACIN is apparently what is needed to prevent the disease that Wikipedia says is “characterised by diarrhoea, dermatitis and dementia.” Fun times.
Other clues worth noting:
- 3d [Loser to Franklin]. ALF. The year is 1936. The opponent is ALF Landon. And that’s way more than I want to know about it.
- 26a [Colon portion]. No, we’re not talking biopsies here. It’s just a DOT.
- 56d [Wrong answer to a sentry]. FOE. Ha! Seriously, why even ask?
- 13d [Frolicsome fauna]. OTTERS. pannonica, care to take this one?
Overall, good fill, but a theme that lacked excitement.
Daniel Mauer’s New York Times crossword — Laura’s write-up
Laura in for Andy, who is out on the town before the storm hits. I had been scheduled to head down to NYC tomorrow, but am stuck up in the mountains due to pretty much every form of interstate transportation in the northeast being cancelled.
We’ve got some self-referential repetition going on here, like so:
- [1a: Ten cents]: 12 DOWN and [12d: Answer found elsewhere]: TEN CENTS
- [13d: Macarena]: 18 ACROSS and [18a: Answer found elsewhere]: MACARENA
- [44d: Allowed in]: 44 ACROSS and [44a: Answer found elsewhere]: ALLOWED IN
- [70a: Sea cow]: 48 DOWN and [48d: Answer found elsewhere]: SEA COW
- [38aR: Something to leave at the post office … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme?]: 4WARDING ADDRESS.
Thus, each theme clue contains the answer to the entry at the indicated position in the grid noted in its answer. Get it? I didn’t for a while, until I got pretty much the rest of the SE on crosses, and thought, wait … I thought that a SEA COW was a DUGONG, or a MANATEE, so why doesn’t it fit there? Then I saw that it fit at 48 DOWN, and everything else fell into place. I especially liked how the words in the crossing entries were partial homophones for the theme entry numbers — which limited the cross-references to entries with English homophones like 2/TU, 4/FOR, and 8/ATE. In the case of 1/ONE, both crossing entries, ONESIES [1d: Toddlers’ attire] and ACT ONE [10a: When a messenger from Godot arrives in “Waiting for Godot”], use the same word. So, not perfectly executed, but clever and Thursday-worthy.
Since the fill had to work around the constraints of the cross-references, there were a few clunkers: I don’t feel especially warm towards LATENED [22d: Approached dusk] or REANNEX [34d: Take back, as territory] or SSRS [68a: Historical group of 15, for short]. I’d like to see ENRICO, ORSINO, and DELANO do the MACARENA (which has an OSTINATO) with STEVIE and ALAN at the IOLANI Palace. Have some WINE in WIEN — what a BARGAIN!
Thing I Didn’t Know Until a Few Minutes Ago When I Looked It Up on Wikipedia: The SEA COW is not from the same family as WALRUSES [39d: Blubbery ones], but is instead more closely related to elephants, hyraxes, and — disputedly — anteaters.
Video I’m Not Going to Embed in This Post Because It’s “Macarena”: MACARENA [18a: Answer found elsewhere]
Robert & Marlea Ellis’ LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
Four phrases usually unrelated to golf are repurposed to be about golf. Results are at least moderately amusing, and ending it with a joke about the 19th hole is a nice touch. RECKLESSDRIVING, ACEINTHEHOLE (from poker), BYEBYEBIRDIE and MAKEMINEADOUBLE (bogie / drink) are the four puns.
Favourite clue: [Where glasses may be raised?], OPERA. Just booked tickets for day one of the first five day test, RSA vs. India – glasses (binoculars) will be packed.
[Fall flat], BOMB – not clued topically…
[2017 Pixar film set in Mexico], COCO. Saw it at the actual movie house; was a delight.
[Taxi alternative], UBER. Humph, pretty sure there isn’t that much difference…
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Aw Jeez” — Ben’s Review
BEQ’s back with a new puzzle after last week’s trip down memory lane. Apparently “Aw Jeez” could have been titled “GG Allin”, so let’s take a look at what that could possible mean as a puzzle theme:
- 4D: Area where joke writers hangout? — GAG MEN CORNER
- 9D: Fret about blocking a play? — SWEAT STAGING
- 21D: Powwows deciding what the “Poker Face” singer should do next? — GAGA MEETINGS
- 23D: Supernatural music from Seattle? — MYSTIC GRUNGE
Stripping these of their double-Gs, you’ve got the more normalized AMEN CORNER, SWEAT STAIN, AA MEETINGS, and MYSTIC RUNE.
(I’m not familiar with AMEN CORNER’s work, but know the Amen Break well, and now you do too.)
- I didn’t know that BOAC is the “Airline mentioned in ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.'”, but I did know that JOJO is the first word in “Get Back”
- I really wanted “Roman matchmaking god” to be ARES, but it’s AMOR, which makes sense.
- ESTEE is definitely a first name you’d find in Sephora. I got in my head about that one and tried to make it be a different brand name.