Thursday, February 1, 2018

BEQ untimed(Ben) 


LAT untimed (Jim) 


NYT 2:07 (Andy) 


WSJ 7:42 (Laura) 


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]).

LAT – Thu, 2.1.18 – Mark McClain

  • 20a [Really cheap] QUARTER A DOZEN. Dime a dozen.
  • 37a [PreciselyTO THE NICKEL. To the penny.
  • 44a [Worthless itemPLUGGED 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:

WSJ - 2.1.18 - Peredo - Solution

WSJ – 2.1.18 – Peredo – Solution

  • [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.

I'm with Marge

I’m with Marge

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

NYT puzzle 2.1.18 by Damon Gulczynski

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!

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29 Responses to Thursday, February 1, 2018

  1. Dr Fancypants says:

    Mathematically, 43D is a sequence, not a SERIES.

  2. Penguins says:

    “…a Zhouqin Burnikel NYT puzzle from less than two years ago.”

    Thanks. I knew I’d seen this gimmick before.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I agree this goes very fast and you can ignore the cluing. But the latter is its downfall. You can bypass the gimmick altogether, so it takes away from any need to stop and admire whatever cleverness went into the cluing.
    I think in general trick puzzles where said trick is in the clues rather than the fill seem harder to pull off…

    • Jenni Levy says:

      and certainly less satisfying to solve.

      That said, I am sure I did the CC puzzle from two years ago and I have no memory of it.

  4. Joe Pancake says:

    I do the NYT puzzle everyday, and I always search Cruciverb to see if there are any puzzles with similar themes before I start constructing. I have no idea how I forgot about/missed Zhouqin’s puzzle. (The closest thing I remember finding was a puzzle from seven years ago in the LA Times with themers RYAN O’NEAL, ROY ORBISON, etc., and the revealer ROMAN.)

    In general, I don’t mind submitting a puzzle with some theme overlap. Constructors independently come up with similar ideas all the time, and if it’s a good idea, there is usually room for more than one variant of it. However, had I noticed, I probably would have shelved this one for a few more years before submitting it.

    Oh well…

  5. Penguins says:

    Even after yesterday’s NYT I still enjoyed the WSJ.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      Heh… yep, case in point of exactly what I was talking about — two OM puzzles in major publications running a day apart.

      • LauraB says:

        Which was my point as well; I happened to prefer Jim’s execution of the theme, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with similar (or nearly identical) themes recurring. And if editors had a problem, you’d think they would be the ones rejecting grids and/or theme pitches.

  6. Burak says:

    NYT: “The fill is really solid.” Jeff Chen also said something along these lines. What am I missing? RETD, NANA and NENE, CPAS, ODS and OTS, CLIO, ASL… There is “Vast amounts” and “Tons” in the same puzzle! To top all of that, there isn’t one answer that makes its NYT Crossword debut.

    My sense is that because the really pro solvers did this quickly, they didn’t have time to look back and see what it was filled with.

    • Ethan says:

      Pet peeve: when people are complaining about the fill of a puzzle and list the allegedly “bad” entries to show you how just many there are, but they cheat and include completely legitimate entries to pad their list. There’s no reason that NANA, CPAS, CLIO, and ASL aren’t completely legitimate in any crossword puzzle, let alone Thursday.

      • Burak says:

        That complaint is not about their legitimacy, it’s about their triteness/repetitiveness. To reinterpret Nixon’s “if the president does it” line, an entry that appears in a Crossword puzzle is already past a certain legitimacy threshold.

        • Ethan says:

          Perhaps, but there’s a limit to how original you can get with a 3-letter word, especially when you’re locked into, say, O as the first letter. I don’t really see ASL as substantially different, in terms of “originality”, from ALL or ASH, even though the latter two are Scrabble-legal and the former isn’t. I can’t remember ever doing a puzzle and being impressed by a 3-letter word.

          • Steve Manion. says:

            Many years ago, the answer was TUV. I forget the clue, but I know it caused great consternation and perhaps dozens of comments in the old NYT forum. For whatever reason, almost no one appreciated that the letters were the ones that are connected to the 8 on a phone and that that was what the clue was asking for.


      • Penguins says:

        ASL was clued well though

  7. Ethan says:

    Re: WSJ:

    “Beloved, wouldst thou liketh this bak’d sweet?”

    Yuck, how are you going to inflect the verb “like” after modal “wouldst”? An inflection for third-person, no less! Just because its faux-Shakespearean doesn’t mean there isn’t grammar!

    • Zulema says:

      The inflection was taken care by “wouldst” above. The sentence is totally ungrammatical with “liketh” in the present tense. The grammar is wrong.
      About the NYT crossword, if I can finish a Thursday fairly quickly (for me), it was a good experience. Thank you.

      • LauraB says:

        Comedy overrides prescriptive grammar.

        … is a principle that I have learned and lived by as, in no particular order, a comedy writer, English teacher, crossword constructor, crossword critic, and person who enjoys reading things that are funny.

      • Jim Peredo says:

        The error is definitely mine. However, when I was cluing, I ignored the small voice that argued “like” over “liketh” because the latter, to me, was funnier.

  8. Alan D. says:

    Re: LAT. Definitely scrabble f***ing in the corners to achieve the pangram. Not saying I don’t like it, but it’s obvious.

  9. beqfan says:

    WSJ: 20A — the answer to the clue is not TRE. Therefore the clue must be incorrect.

  10. Robert White says:

    BEQ: I’d like to thank all the crossword puzzles that volunteered for the honor, but 2018’s Puzzle of the Year has already appeared!!

    • beqfan says:

      Wouldn’t know it by the cop-out of a review. Puzzle: 5, reviewer 0 (unless I have to go 1)

      • Ben Smith says:

        Howdy! This sort of puzzle (which usually gets called something like “Going Too Far” or “One Step Beyond” or “Over The Line”, etc., etc.) is more of a variety puzzle than a standard crossword and has more constraints than your standard 15×15 grid.

        After solving the puzzle and staring at the grid post-solve for about 30 minutes thinking about how to review it, I thought it didn’t seem fair to try and compare this to a standard crossword, so I didn’t. It’s a nice orange! It doesn’t seem fair to apply the rubric for an apple to write about it, though.

      • David Glasser says:

        I hope you get a full refund!

        • beqfan says:

          @David: Snarky replies aside, it’s not about that. Why even post anything if you aren’t going to say anything? (If you can’t stand even a touch of constructive criticism, even on another’s behalf, then you need to find another hobby.) I respect every second people volunteer here. Doesn’t mean I have to be silent when I feel something is awry. On review, perhaps my words appeared harsher than necessary, but I stand by them.

          @Ben: Thank you for replying. Let me suggest that comparison isn’t necessarily a criterion for a review, nor is rating. Each puzzle can be taken on its own merits. I’ve been in the cruciverbalist world for a long time, and I’ve never seen a grid where *every* black square represented a theme. That does not preclude such a thing, but my point is that if *I* haven’t seen it, then there are very probably others who haven’t as well. The lack of even a cursory review demeans the puzzle (I won’t go so far as to say the constructor, my handle notwithstanding). Thank you for not taking my criticism personally.

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