Thursday, February 15, 2018

BEQ untimed (Ben) 


Fireball 5:25 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:36 (Gareth) 


NYT 2:27 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Are you a newbie heading to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament next month? If so, I encourage you to sign up for the annual Cru Dinner that Friday evening at the Stamford Marriott. (Do you enjoy crossword puzzles? Then you are officially a member of the Cru.) It’s a great way to meet some people right off the bat so that you’ll be running into familiar faces all weekend. For details, check out this PDF. If you’re interested, you’ll want to jump on it quickly, as the dinner sells out in advance every year.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 113″—Jenni’s write-up

It’s our second FB themeless in three weeks, to be followed by another contest puzzle next week. This is a fairly wide-open grid with some snappy entries. I made a couple of missteps that cost me some time, but overall it was a smooth, fun solve.

The NW corner is fun.

  • 1a was a gimme – [Bit of calisthenics] had to be JUMPING JACK, and 1d confirmed it. [Pitches inside to] is JAMS. The Yankees pitchers and catchers had their first workout today in Tampa. Yay!
  • I also liked 15a [In correspondence with]. This has nothing to do with letters and everything to do with the LSAT – the answer is ANALOGOUS TO. ANALOGOUS is one of those words I always have trouble spelling; I want to put a third A in there somewhere.
  • And finally we have 17a [“Summer of Sam” costar], MIRA SORVINO. The film was released in 1999. The murders took place in 1977, when I was 17 and living in Westchester County, so I remember them clearly. That kind of gun violence seems almost quaint compared to the news today.

I like the way the long stacks kind of rotate around the grid – the NW and SE are across answers and the NE and SW are downs.

A few other things:

  • 25d [Pack in a bicycle race] was one of my missteps. I had the at the beginning and dropped in PANNIER, although I know perfectly well that bicycle racers don’t have panniers. It turns out that “pack” refers to the racers themselves, and the answer is PELOTON.
  • 29d [Allies’ opponents] confused me at first. The apostrophe is the clue that we’re talking about a specific group called the Allies, so it’s WWII and the answer is AXIS POWERS.
  • 30d [Greenskeeper’s purchase] is RIDER MOWER. I usually hear “ride-on” or “riding,” but Google gives more hits for RIDER than either of the other two. OK, then.
  • And we end as we started with Scrabbly goodness. 66a [Southern stew of rice and black-eyed peas traditionally served on New Year’s Day for good luck] is HOPPING JOHN.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ROGER MOORE wrote an autobiography called “My Word Is My Bond.” Roger Moore was my first James Bond, and remains my favorite. Yes, I watch Bond movies. Yes, I know they are violent and sexist.

Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 2.15.18 by Peter Gordon

A double dose of Peter Gordon today! (If you’re a Fireball subscriber, that is.)

A nice trivia theme today: Peter Gordon has found (and squeezed into the grid!) five Oscar-nominated roles whose last names are birds:

  • 3d, SCOUT FINCH [Mary Badham’s Oscar-nominated role in “To Kill a Mockingbird”].
  • 11d, LUKE MARTIN [Jon Voight’s Oscar-winning role in “Coming Home”]This, to me, was by far the most obscure of the five character names. Still, inferable from crossings.
  • 30d, MARION CRANE [Janet Leigh’s Oscar-nominated role in “Psycho”]. 
  • 31d, JACK SPARROW [Johnny Depp’s Oscar-nominated role in “Pirates of the Caribbean”].
  • 53a, CLARICE STARLING [Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning role in “The Silence of the Lambs”].

This theme doesn’t strike me as nearly tricky enough for Thursday. I guess because (a) it’s pure trivia, (b) the theme is so dense, and (c) the rest of the grid is somewhat challenging, it found a home on Thursday. Neat that the central black squares kind of resemble a bird, too! Grid art is always a lovely excuse to have mirror symmetry, but here it’s also helpful in squeezing in two 10s, two 11s, and a 15 because the 11s and 15s intersect.

There was no revealer as far as I can tell, which is fine since the theme is evident from the clues. I found it a little distracting to have TOM KITE, a [Golfer…] whose last name is also a bird, in the SE corner where a revealer might be. But there was a lot of good, unusual fill throughout, in spite of the unbelievable theme density: TRIAMINIC, MASERATIS, BOND PAPER, WARLOCKS, LABRADOR, MINAJ, ARM CURL, ABIDJAN (though I suspect there might be a couple of tough crossings there for non-geographically-inclined solvers). RIDIC is kind of… well, ridic, for lack of a better word. The bird theme requires ERN to be clued as [East ender?], which is a cute clue for a tired entry. Some other short stuff that’s a little ugly, but certainly nothing unforgivable, especially (again) when you consider that there are five huge theme answers, three of which intersect.

Easy for Thursday, so here’s hoping Friday and Saturday are toughies! Until next week!

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Double Headers” — Jim’s review

If your name is Barbara and you’re from Cincinnati, you might be a fan of Off Off Broadway, tse tse flies, tartar sauce, and assassinations. And this puzzle. Hip hip hooray!

Alex takes words whose first three letters can be duplicated and re-clued as if they were short for something else. For example, MAC can be short for MACARONI, but it can also be short for Macintosh, the apple for which a computer is named.

WSJ – Thu, 2.15.18 – “Double Headers” by Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 17a [Apple-shaped pasta?] MAC MACARONI. I don’t really care for this clue though. “Apple” can’t refer to the fruit because MAC wouldn’t make sense then, so it must be referring to the company. But how do you shape a pasta like a company? Perhaps it’s just the Apple logo, you argue. Maybe, but Apple makes more than just Macs. [Computer-shaped pasta?] would work better for me.
  • 26a [Gathering of prisoners?] CON CONVENTION. Are you going to cosplay at the next CON-CON?
  • 43a [Place that researches the best retrieval methods?] LAB LABORATORY
  • 57a [Prescription?] DOC DOCUMENT

A pretty good set, I think. The repetitive nature of the theme definitely helped me in places where I was getting bogged down.

I’ll be honest though. This being a Thursday, and with a title like “Double Headers,” I was expecting some sort of rebus component to the theme. Therefore, the straightforwardness of simply having the first three letters duplicated came as a surprise.

Fill is mostly nice with some odd quirks. I liked PRAISE BENOISE LAW (though I think I hear “noise ordinance” more often), LIT A FIRE, CALIBRATED, and “TOO CUTE!” In the quirky category is SPOT TV, which is a new term to me. Apparently it means the approach of buying 30 or 60-second ad spots on television. In other words, it checks out, but how many solvers know this term? Another odd entry: SOMETIMES Y, which was hard to parse when you have SOMETIME_Y. It feels like a very long partial, but the clue [Sixth member of a familiar quintet], makes you stop and think and then eventually gives you that aha moment.

Clues of note:

  • 1d [Repeated passage at the start of a song]. VAMP. Another term I’ve never heard. Definitions I’ve seen online don’t seem to limit this to the beginning of a song, though. Listen the Miles Davis example below.
  • 61a [Sylvester’s series co-star]. TALIA. TWEETY didn’t fit.
  • 37d [Acid also called aqua fortis]. NITRIC. The clue is asking for a noun. The answer is an adjective.
  • 54d [Hand or foot]. UNIT. Got me with this one. I wanted LIMB…which I’m only realizing just now doesn’t make sense.
  • 18d [Independence Day sign]. CANCER. More good misdirection. My fave clue of the bunch.

Nice puzzle. Not as tricky as I was expecting, but still satisfying.

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

Cracking the theme on this week’s BEQ took a little more brain lift than usual, but a little thinking made it clear:

  • 18A: Urge to move the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight? — DEFCON JONES
  • 20A: Cadaver’s importance? — BODY HEFT
  • 34A: Show off fancy footwork in a food fight? — DODGE FRIES
  • 43A: Demonstrate cold weather? — FLEX WINTER 
  • 60A: All the crap a small amphibian owns? — EFT SHIT
  • 64A: Choice to have Norwegian flatbread with or without lutefisk? — LEFSE OPTION

This week’s puzzle is titled “Senioritis”.  When you’re a senior in your last term of high school, sometimes your As become Fs.  That’s what’s happened in these themers – DEACON becomes DEFCON, HEAT becomes HEFT, etc. etc.  I was dubious on DODGE ARIES but that is because I was unaware it was one of the first K-cars until approximately 5 minutes ago.

Other things I liked this week: MOORE’s law, WHO KNEW, USH (as in what an usher does), ONE-EYED jacks, SKEET, OSSO-bucco, and the thought of PIE.

3.75/5 stars

Elliot M. Abrams’s LA Times crossword – Gareth

LA Times

WHOLEFOODS (HOLE FOODS – the four entries have hollow centres) would have been a better revealer, but it’s not the right number of letters to partner the pretzels. FROOTLOOPS is though off the top of my head – though it’s a brand name unlike the others. Also, the phrase is HOLISTICDIET is pseudoscientific New Age bullshit designed as woo-woo for fools and their money. I think the best part of this puzzle is that all the HOLISTIC foods listed here are, basically, considered “junk” food (whatever that actually means).

I am ashamed how many letters I needed to get SNIPE, despite seeing two only last week. They aren’t very common in these parts, and it was probably the “best” bird of our club’s monthly outing to Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary. The only native snipe species is the African (or Ethiopian) snipe, though we also have an unrelated painted-snipe species. Also, like most of us of a zoological bent, the EEL clue irked me (and yet it is a common enough angle). Electric eels aren’t in the Anguilliformes (true eels)! You wouldn’t clue BEAR with anecdotes about a KOALA(BEAR). Same applies for eels…

The hardest entry for me was DASHI. Japanese cuisine is en vogue though, and many DOACF regulars are fans! Sure that hit a few people’s wheelhouse!


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28 Responses to Thursday, February 15, 2018

  1. Penguins says:

    NYT really could’ve used more names

  2. placematfan says:

    TOM KITE? Right there? With no symmetrical counterpart? That’s a horrid job of editing. Wake up, Will. Rise to Mike Shenk’s standards.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      TOMKITE isn’t a character that led to an actor’s Oscar nomination, so it’s obviously not part of the theme—but yeah, a full name that ends with a bird has no business distracting/detracting from the theme.

      • CSC says:


        It wasn’t until reading the list of theme answers in the blog that I realized the recently departed John Mahoney played a character on Frasier whose first and last names were birds (MARTIN CRANE). :)

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Byron Walden made a meta puzzle for the Crosswords LA tournament a few years ago, with MARTIN CRANE and New Zealand’s KIWI RAIL combined with IVORY COAST and DIAL TONE. “Two across entries can be combined to start a list of related things. Similarly, two down entries may be combined to start a different such list. Your bonus answer is a 4-letter word (not in the puzzle) which belongs on both lists.” Can you guess?

          • Byron says:

            Geez, I saw the comment about MARTIN CRANE and started thinking about what could go with that in a theme. Then I had a nagging feeling it must have been done by someone, but I couldn’t remember exactly what or who. Ah, senescence…

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              And what we learned from that experience is that an awful lot of solvers have no idea that martin and rail are birds.

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Did someone say Fireball? A guy spent 10 months gluing wooden matches into a sphere and then lit it on fire:

    • David L says:

      That is just wonderful!

      • huda says:

        Pretty awesome. Towards the end, it looks like a dying sun, turning into a black hole…

        • Papa John says:

          More a dead star than a black hole, no?

          I thought the ignition was unnecessary and dull. The completed object was more impressive, merely as an object. The process and the time involved in its execution are inherent in the finished product. (Imagine 42000 Iraqi woman lined up, each adding one match to the construction. The power of the object is in what the viewer brings to it.)

          • Huda says:

            “Stellar black holes form when the center of a very massive star collapses in upon itself. This collapse also causes a supernova, or an exploding star, that blasts part of the star into space. “

  4. huda says:

    Jenni, that last interview with the older Roger Moore was interesting. After you update the image of him to an old man, the charm and humor are striking. And I love the name of that show: “Loose Women”, which has apparently been ongoing for almost 20 years.

  5. Matthew G. says:

    Kudos to Peter for not including a revealer in the NYT. When the theme is solid and apparent, save the space that would go to the revealer for better fill, as he did.

    Revealers are overrated. Down with revealers!

  6. Burak says:

    I post a comment here when I’m either delighted by a puzzle or hate one with all my heart. This one falls into the latter category.

    TRIAMINIC-HEL-MASERATI-AGIN/MER-MINAJ-ANITA-RIDIC-ENID is not good construction. That’s not even a Natick, that’s an obscure galaxy that only 3 people know about, like BU9364 or something.

    And there is also ENHALO if that’s not enough for you.

    Get rid of one theme answer or replace it with a funny revealer (LADY BIRD, as Rex Parker suggested, would have been awesome as frak) Maybe then you wouldn’t have to fill your puzzle with this junk.

    • Matthew G. says:

      HEL is not ideal, but otherwise I don’t think any of that fill is objectionable. MASERATI is one of the most famous luxury car brands in the world, and TRIAMINIC is a common drug brand that is a nice-looking word I haven’t seen in a grid before that I can recall. MER, AGIN, and ENID are all standard crosswordese and thus are never Naticks.

      Anyhow, Peter Gordon’s trademark style is tough entries clued tough. Whatever you think of it, it’s never done by mistake.

      • Lise says:

        I’m pro-HEL. Also, I like that Deb Amlen nominated “Bird Droppings” for a theme title.

        MINAJ is a welcome entry, as is MASERATI (cool). I had to dredge TRIAMINIC out of my neural attic, but it needs sweeping anyway, and I didn’t mind. Good puzzle!

        • Burak says:

          Just to be clear, I don’t mind these entries as standalone ones. My problem is with creating a cluster of proper nouns/archaic-colloquial terms in a puzzle already filled with proper nouns. Heck, the theme is five movie characters!

          Also, it might be my ignorance, but I have never heard Nicki Minaj referring to herself as Minaj as the clue implies. It’s fair game, yes, but stuff like that ticks me off more than it should.

    • Penguins says:

      The puzzle’s a lifeless proper noun party. Can’t the NYT do better?

    • Ethan says:

      Wouldn’t LADY BIRD be inconsistent, since all the other roles include a first and last name?

  7. Gareth says:

    Like almost everyone(?), I didn’t know LUKEMARTIN and was distracted by TOMKITE, but finding four common answers with two such narrow commonalities (ending in birds + fictional full-names!) is awesome!

    I finished with TRIAMINEC / REDIC – influenced by redonkulous. As errors go, I don’t feel too bad about that one…

    • Matthew G. says:

      Funny that LUKE MARTIN was an Oscar-winning role and is less famous than the others, most of which were nominees, not winners. I needed most of the crosses because I also had forgotten that there is a type of bird called a martin.

      I enjoyed dredging up TRIAMINIC from my childhood. I remember it being orange-ish and not too foul-tasting as medicines go. I had forgotten about it; even though I now have two small children myself, I have only given them Dimetapp. And that’s what I thought the answer would be from the clue, until I realized it was a letter too short.

  8. e.a. says:

    one of my favorite things lately has been peter gordon’s obsession with mirror sym

  9. CSC says:

    Look at the “Oscar/bird” grid upside-down…

    Hidden smiley face!

    Trying to find a connection to birds … perhaps it’s coincidentally. Kinda funny and creepy.

  10. Lois says:

    I liked the NYT puzzle a lot, but I didn’t understand why MER was used for a clue that was unrelated to anything French except that it was in French.

  11. Garrett says:

    About the WSJ Double Headers crossword, I had pretty much the same solving experience as described by Jim, except that he didn’t mention getting stuck in the Northwest. To me this was a big Natick:

    1D Repeated passage at the start of a song
    2D Boxer Figueroa
    3D Most recent Golden Globe winner for best animated movie
    4D Hangman line
    5D Sources of hope

    Then two vertical black squares, and a them answer under that (11 letters, for which I had only the last).

    1A SAT prep study
    14A Leoncavallo’s love

    I had no idea about any of these — none! I’ve never heard of the boxer crossing what I took to be someone’s name I did not know (Leoncavallo’s love), and the rest I couldn’t guess.

    And it turns out that these are all words I know — I just did not get the clueing!


    WITH 5D being BEACONS, which is in the vernacular, so I ended up liking it. I also agree with Jim’s comments on the clue at 17A for MACMACARONI.

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