Thursday, January 25, 2018

BEQ 7:50 (Ben) 


LAT 4:34 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:02, paper (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Fireball 6:23 (Jenni) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword “Themeless #112” —Jenni’s write-up

Peter’s themelesses are among my favorite Fireball puzzles. This one did not disappoint. The grid seems unusual to me and allows for a lot of longish words. Despite the title, it does have a tiny little theme lurking within…

FB 1/25, solution grid

  • 14d [Completely relaxed] is LOOSE AS A GOOSE.
  • 36a [Smashed] is DRUNK AS A SKUNK.

I left the NW corner blank on my first pass, and when I came back to it 1a [Subject of a statue in front of Amsterdam’s city hall] was the last to fall. The answer is SPINOZA. Other fun fill in that corner includes 13a [Transmitter of leprosy, occasionally]. That would be an ARMADILLO, and I actually knew that, thanks to my brother-in-law’s odyssey with a rare infection in his hand which occurred a month or so after he disposed of a dead armadillo in his backyard (he didn’t have leprosy and he’s fine now). That said, most docs I know have stopped using the term “leprosy” because of the stigma associated with it. We generally say “Hansen’s disease.”

A few other things:

  • 8d [Poutine topping] is CURDS. I have never poutined. I have no desire to. I’m sure Canadians will tell me that I am missing out on one the world’s great taste sensations.
  • Speaking of “taste,” 1d [Taste] may have been my least favorite entry in the puzzle. When was the last time you had the word SAPOR come up in conversation?
  • 10d [Smart communication device] is not one of the computers most of us carry in our pockets. It’s the SHOE PHONE, and the “Smart” in the clue is Agent 86, Maxwell Smart.  
  • 11d [All-consuming activities] are TIME SINKS. I realized when I filled this in that I think of TIME SINKS as time-wasting activities – so Facebook is a TIME SINK but catching up on the back catalog of Rows Garden puzzles in the WSJ is not. I’m not defending this assumption, mind you. It’s always interesting to notice how my mind works.
  • 33d [Marxist country?] is FREEDONIA and the Marx in question is Karl’s distant relative, Groucho.
  • 38d [Sweetheart, in slang] is SCHATZI. This one took me quite a while to fill in because I wasn’t familiar with it. I was not surprised to learn that it comes from the German.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there was a character in “Planet of the Apes” named ZIRA.

Hail, hail, Freedonia!

And, for good measure, see 0:25:

Ethan Erickson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Finalists” — Jim’s review

Another fun theme today where IST is added to the ends of phrases changing their whole meanings.

WSJ – Thu, 1.25.18 – “Finalists” by Ethan Erickson (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Member of a cruise ship band?] SEA BASSIST. Sea bass.
  • 29a [Panda Picasso?] BEAR CUBIST. Bear cub.
  • 42a [Stout string player?] FAT CELLIST. Fat cell.
  • 56a [Help while changing a flat?] JACK ASSIST. Jackass.

Add-a-letter themes certainly aren’t original, but if done with humor, they can be very entertaining. And isn’t that what a crossword is all about?

Today we get a good dose of imaginative humor, especially as we approach the final themer, which actually made me chuckle out loud. I also enjoyed picturing a panda painting in cubist fashion.

Fun fill in MONSTER HIT and EURODISNEY. The geek in me likes mathematical MATRICES, and the islander in me likes MAI TAIS. Scratch that. All of me likes MAI TAIS. I also like ARBITERS, and since my wife is from ARKANSAS, 38d [Hot Springs National Park location] was a gimme.

New to me is PULSEJET (37d, [Buzz bomb engine]). Apparently, Germany’s WWII-era V-1 “Flying Bomb” was also known as a Buzz Bomb and used this type of engine. Per Wikipedia, V-1s were launched against Britain as a response to D-Day at a rate of about 100 per day. In all, more than 9500 were targeted at Britain through October of 1944. But the British were able to employ effective countermeasures, and the success rate of Germany’s V-1s was reduced to about 25%.

Back to the puzzle! There are a lot of interesting clues to get through, so let’s dig in:

  • 31d [One might make counter revolutions]. STOOL. I was certain the answer was going to be SUSAN.
  • 55a [Letter after Delta] and 64a [Letter after November]. ECHO and OSCAR. I encountered the second one first, so I knew what was up by the time I hit 55a. But if you came across 55a first, you’d be forgiven for wondering how to squeeze EPSILON into four squares.
  • 58d [Manx, for one]. CAT. “Manx” is a name editor Mike Shenk uses at times. I’m surprised this puzzle wasn’t authored by Maxine Cantor (“Manx Creation”).
  • 20a [Like the Tasmanian wolf]. EXTINCT. ? The thylacine, a.k.a. the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf, was the largest carnivorous marsupial of modern time, but appears to have gone EXTINCT in the 20th century. Get this: both sexes had pouches, but the males’ was for, um, protecting his junk.
  • 10a [Wild in St. Paul, e.g.]. TEAM. My daughter is going to college in St. Paul, so the clue made me hope that she is not doing anything wild out there. The clue is referring to the NHL TEAM.
  • 49a [Sentence ender, at times]. PAROLE. Nice misdirection.
  • 51d [Isle east of the Little Minch]. SKYE. Bleh. Trivia. But you gotta admit “the Little Minch” sounds sooo cute!
  • 46a [Gets the word out?]. ERASES. I had ORATES here at first which made PULSEJET really hard to see, especially since I’d never heard of it.

Fun puzzle with an entertaining theme. See you next week!

Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT Puzzle 1.25.18 by Alex Eaton-Salners

Alex Eaton-Salners is becoming a Thursday fixture (he’s had 5 in the past 12 months), and I’m happy about it. He usually comes up with interesting gimmicks, and this one’s no exception.

The revealer is at 33a, ISLAND HOPPING [Yachter’s itinerary, maybe … or a hint to understanding the answers to the starred clues]. Let’s go to the starred clues, then:

  • 16a, S(CUBA)TANK [*Smelled]Clearly the clue doesn’t go with the answer. [Smelled] should be a clue for STANK — and indeed, if we “hop” over the CUBA in SCUBA TANK, that’s what we’re left with!
  • 24a, CON(CRETE)S [*They’re not pros]. Hopping over the CRETE in CONCRETES leaves CONS.
  • 46a, VER(BALI)SE [*Poetry]. Hopping over the BALI in VERBALISE leaves VERSE.
  • 55a, BAL(TIMOR)E [*Hayloft item]. Hopping over the TIMOR in BALTIMORE leaves BALE.

Tremendously satisfying “aha” moment in this one for me. Four really nice finds of words that contain islands, but that are still legit crossword entries when those islands are removed.

Even with five theme entries, there’s still some really nice fill elsewhere, like IN DENIAL, SOUR NOTE, EVIL TWIN [Person with inverted morality], “OH SNAP!”, O LINE [Group of football blockers, in brief], MONOCLE, “LET’S GO!”, IPHONE, BENTO box, T.S. ELIOT, etc. etc. Not a lot of junk: maybe TEC? Shockingly clean, now that I’m going back over it more closely.

Superb puzzle. I found this one to be a little on the easy side, but the theme is pitch perfect for a Thursday, and the grid is expertly constructed. Would make my “Best of the NYT Thursday” collection easily. Until next week!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Frozen Food” — Ben’s Review

I had to double-check after solving this week’s BEQ to check that this was a new puzzle and not a re-run of a past puzzle.  This week’s theme felt uncharacteristically standard for Brendan:

  • 17A:“Frozen” food #1 — SNOW PEAS
  • 24A: “Frozen” food #2 (okay, a drink) — RED WINE SLUSHIE
  • 39A:“Frozen” food #3 — VANILLA FROSTING
  • 52A: “Frozen” food #4 — ICEBERG LETTUCE
  • 62A: “Frozen” food #5 — COLD CUTS

What irks me about this theme is not its standardness (since this could run just fine as an early-in-the-week puzzle for some kind of daily), but its slopiness.  4 of these 5 are foods that are “frozen”, meaning that their name indicates something associated with the cold even though the foodstuff isn’t — SNOW, FROST, ICE (ICEBERG, even), and COLD — but the fifth is something that’s actually frozen, a RED WINE SLUSHIE.  It feels dashed off.

I am required by law to post this as a response to a “frozen” theme in a crossword. Sorry, these are the rules.

This would be bad enough, but a bunch of the fill’s bugging me as well:

  • Leading with PRON is questionable – it’s a bit of internet slang, but it’s not used heavily and the NEW CD crossing is equally meh
  • Lots of crosswordese, however cleverly clued (I liked the mention of Yoko ONO’s work as part of Fluxus over another Lennon clue), is still lots of crosswordese: ERA, NDA, ODES, TON, AVIA, EVES, IMS, ORR, ROTE, ELS, NANA and others ERODED my feelings about this puzzle.

2.5/5 stars

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

LA Times

The puzzle ended on a pleasant a-ha as I connected the revealer to the unusually early-week theme: ESCAPEE – sound it out – SK… P. Like Ellen Degeneres in this scene… The entries are rather functional: SKATEPANTS, SKINPATCH, SKIPOLE, SKYPILOTS and SKETCHPADS. That’s two gratuitous plurals.



  • [Nadal’s birthplace], SPAIN. Overthought this, as it’s Thursday, and tried to figure out how MAJORCA could fit. Nadal was dumped by Cilic in the quarters on the way to the latter’s third major final in this year’s Australian Open. Tomorrow sees Federer take on the unheralded Chung in the other semi-final.
  • [Snatch, as a toy?], DOGNAP. Can’t get down with wordplay for a sad answer. Working at an animal shelter, I guess it’s more triggering for me though.
  • [Canal completed in 1825], ERIE. How many syllables is that?
  • [Words on a help desk sign], ASKUS. We all put ASKME first?
  • [Drywall support], STUD. What a drywall support!

3.25 Stars

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10 Responses to Thursday, January 25, 2018

  1. Greg says:

    The Times struck me as perfect for Thursday. Answers that were phrases or words, but made no sense in context – until one figured out the revealer.

  2. Penguins says:

    “Tremendously satisfying “aha” moment in this one for me.”

    Yep, a fine Thursday

  3. Ethan Friedman says:

    This was a 5-star Thursday NYT for me. Just a beautiful puzzle. TEC the only subpar entry and that’s pretty impressive.

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    What a wonderful puzzle. So much fun.

  5. huda says:

    NYT: I agree with all the above praise. Kudos!

    And HOPPING brought to mind Gene Hopping and Jumping Genes. The term jumping genes refers to transposons first identified by a great woman scientist, Barbara McClintock… Her work (from the 1940’s) was disbelieved and dismissed for two decades, only to be rediscovered as fundamental to our understanding of genetics, and leading to the Nobel prize (for which she was the single recipient, which is quite rare in Biology & Medicine). One of my heroes!!

  6. Lise says:

    Loved the NYT!

    I had trouble in the WSJ with the crossing of PULSEJET and JACKASSIST because I had no idea what a buzz bomb was and all it brought to mind were the wasps that ganged up on me a few months ago. And I thought, that since Thursdays can be tricky, “flat” might mean “apartment” with a question mark missing because, Thursday. But then “Jackass” saved the day. (First time *that* ever happened!)

  7. Martin says:

    A note about tomorrow’s WSJ. The online app is missing many clues. The converted AcrossLite file uses this version, so it’s missing them as well. As of now, the pdf is the only way to see all clues.

  8. Brenda Rose says:

    BEQ”s puzzle had slopiness?
    Is this your idea of a pun?

    • Ben Smith says:

      Management for Mr. Smith regrets the error and will make sure the reviewer has had a full cup of coffee before operating heavy blogging machinery like the spell checker.

Comments are closed.