Fireball is a contest this week. A review will be posted after its conclusion.
Mark McClain’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jim’s review
Jim here sitting in for Gareth who is on holiday…in the middle of winter (yes, I know he lives in the southern hemisphere).
Our theme today is a study in Economics, specifically the INFLATION RATE of certain idiomatic phrases (59a, [Economic factor that affects three puzzle answers]).
- 20a [Really cheap] QUARTER A DOZEN. Dime a dozen.
- 37a [Precisely] TO THE NICKEL. To the penny.
- 44a [Worthless item] PLUGGED DIME. Plugged nickel. I was wondering about the origin of the original phrase, so I looked it up. Apparently, in early American coinage, coins were made with a central silver disc to raise the value of the coin. If the disc was removed, thereby decreasing its value, the coin was said to be “plugged.” It turns out, there were in fact PLUGGED DIMEs as well as quarters.
I enjoyed this theme and the puzzle as a whole, but let me quibble about one thing. The entries have been affected by inflation, yes, but the INFLATION RATE is different for each entry. A penny going up to a nickel is a difference of four cents which is an increase of 400% of the original penny. A nickel to a dime is a difference of five cents, or 100%. And the dime to a quarter is 15 cents, or 150%. (Disclaimer: I am so not an Economics guy, so if I did the math wrong, sue me. You’ll probably win.)
The upshot is that I don’t think INFLATION RATE is the right revealer. INFLATION would suffice, but unfortunately it doesn’t have enough letters. The best solution in this case would be if the puzzle could have a title alluding to price increases and then a fourth themer could be found (a quarter to a dollar, presumably). But the LAT doesn’t do titles.
Be that as it may, I still found the theme fun. Maybe if the penny is ever abolished, we will have to adjust our common sayings in similar fashion.
I found the fill to be quite good as well, especially TURNPIKES, POURS IT ON, and the scrabbly X-AXIS, ORYX, ZITI, and HORMUZ. I expect we have a pangram here since I just spotted the J in the SW corner, but I’m not going to check. Maybe that’s why that corner seemed rougher than the rest of the fill (ROTI, ASOK, RAJ, and OSU, which stands for Oklahoma State U. in this case).
In the opposite corner, ORYX crossing ELY might cause some consternation especially since crosswordese ELY gets a new (to me) clue [Bridge expert Culbertson]. I’m partial to the British cathedral town since I’ve been there a few times.
Some clues worth mentioning:
- 10a [Burgoo or ragout]. STEW. Never heard of a burgoo (looks like it’s a Kentucky thing), and I thought a ragout was a sauce, so I needed a few crossings.
- 17a [Cornstarch brand in a yellow-and-blue container]. ARGO. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this clued this way. I approve since I use ARGO cornstarch to make roskete, Guam’s favorite cookie.
- 34a [Rest area freebie]. MAP. My first thought was GONORRHEA, but it didn’t fit.
- 67a [Adopt-a-Pet pet]. MUTT. Let me channel my INNER Gareth and say that mutts need love, too.
- 45d [Club sport]. GOLF. Nice misdirection. I had POLO at first.
- 34d [Scott Joplin’s “__ Leaf Rag”]. MAPLE. A fun little ditty to go out on.
Jim Peredo’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inner Peace” — Laura’s write-up
If you’re in the puzzle constructing
business avocation hobby madness, you’ll have moments where some theme idea you’ve carefully crafted and diligently researched (i.e. to make sure it hasn’t been done before) gets published in someone else’s puzzle — and it will be a complete coincidence. No worries; IT’S COOL [24a: “Not a problem”]. Yesterday that happened to the Fiend’s own Jim Peredo, with Josh Radnor & Jeff Chen’s NYT theme. BUT NO [42a: Sarcastically elongated words], I think our Jim did it better with today’s WSJ:
- [17a: Ad for the Australian Open?]: TENNIS PROMO
- [27a: “Beloved, wouldst thou liketh this bak’d sweet?”]: O ROMEO COOKIE
- [43a: Chromosome set on the more outrageous side?]: GENOME WILDER
- [57a: Slogan on Marge’s t-shirt?]: I’M WITH HOMER
- [63aR: “Your moment of ___,” and a hint to what’s added to the starred answers]: ZEN
In the opinion of this critic, Jim’s puzzle benefits from not needing a themer-length revealer, and the grid is elegantly constructed around a 11/12/11/12 set. And these are just funnier.
What do solvers think about question-mark clues for fill in a puzzle where the themer clues also have question marks? Editors tolerate and often welcome them, while some crossword critics don’t like them. I feel like I wouldn’t want there to be more of those for the fill than there are for the themers. Here are some question-mark clues that I liked:
- [21a: Ranch dressing?]: CHAPS
- [53a: Young business partner?]: ERNST
- [32d: Branch office?]: TREEHOUSE
“But wait, there’s more! You get the 6-in-1 tool, the set of steak knives, and the spiral slicer. Now how much would you pay?” The original GINSU [1a] had a 50-year guarantee; if you bought a set for $9.95 in 1980, you have twelve more years to confidently cut through a tin can, and then immediately afterwards cut a paper-thin tomato slice.
Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
It’s February, and I’m visiting Minnesota for the week (for reasons unrelated to the Big Game™). It’s cold! Whoda thunk?
Always nice to see Damon’s byline; I really enjoyed his last Tuesday puzzle that went dimension hopping.
Readers, I crushed this puz. The fill is so smooth that I didn’t need to understand the theme at all to finish solving, though I did notice (and subsequently ignore) some strange clues along the way. Those are explained by the revealer at 54a, INITIALLY [At the start … or how the first two letters of each starred clue relate to the answer?]. This one’s a bit tricky to explain:
- 17a, RYAN O’NEAL [*Roman of Hollywood?]. RYAN O’NEAL isn’t a Roman, of Hollywood or elsewhere. Instead, the revealer tells us that he’s an R.O. man (that is, a man with initials R.O.).
- 24a, LINDA EVANS [*Legal acting in a 1980s prime-time soap opera?]. Linda Evans is an L.E. gal. (The soap was Dynasty.) Really clever phrasing here to make the clue work: “Roman” is a noun, so it’s much easier to clue RYAN O’NEAL as a “Roman.” “Legal” is an adjective, though, so Damon gives us “legal acting in…,” which makes the clue make sense regardless of whether you read “legal” as an adjective or as a noun (L.E. gal).
- 34a, MARIE ANTOINETTE [*Malady of French history?]. MARIE ANTOINETTE is an M.A. lady.
- 46a, ROGER EBERT [*Regent of film criticism?]. ROGER EBERT is an R.E. gent.
The clue for MARIE ANTOINETTE struck me as oddly familiar, so I did a little digging and found out why. The exact same clue [Malady?] was used to clue MARIE ANTOINETTE in a Zhouqin Burnikel NYT puzzle from less than two years ago. In fact, that Thursday puzzle also has [Legal?] cluing LINDA EVANS and [Roman?] (this time cluing ROY ORBISON). C.C.’s fourth themer was [Tamale?] cluing TOM ARNOLD. Well, shoot… now I feel a little less proud of my Thursday-record solving time. Surely Will remembers running C.C.’s puzzle, right? Damon’s version is really good, to be sure, but I’m not sure how this slipped through the cracks.
The fill is really solid. I’M ALL EARS and STEM CELLS are nice long downs, and the big NE and SW corners are pretty clean (AGE ### entries don’t excite me, but they’re always at least inferable). I also liked OBLIVION and L.A. GEAR. Short stuff’s all fine — NENE, A TOI, and A LOAD are the least good, but those are both fine.
Amy liked this theme the last time it ran, and I like it this time too. Not sure what else to say here, so I’ll just say… Until next week!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Going Too Far” — Ben’s Review
It’s hard to rate a non-traditional puzzle, so I’m not going to! This was a nice casual solve with a fun Mitch Hedberg quote hidden within. See you next week!