This week’s Fireball will appear on Friday and is a contest. We’ll have a review posted once the contest closes.
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dog Gone!” — Jim’s review
I figured I knew what was going to happen just by looking at the title, and I was right. But when I didn’t see question marks in the theme clues, I wasn’t so sure anymore.
But I was indeed right, and the theme entries are phrases that originally included a stereotypical dog name (I won’t say “common” since how many Fidos do you actually know?), except that the dog’s name has been removed leaving gobbledygook in the grid.
This is an approach you don’t see too much anymore. Constructors usually try to find entries where the remaining words/letters comprise some sort of wacky phrase which can be given its own clue. When you leave gobbledygook in the grid, some solvers tend to complain. But maybe it just wasn’t possible with this particular theme.
Me, I can be won over with a cute theme. This one worked for me.
- 16a [*”Please take one” reply] DON’T MIND I(F IDO). I got a chuckle from this, so I was sold.
- 19a [*Administrative assistant] JUNIO(R EX)ECUTIVE. I had a hard time seeing this one until near the end of the solve.
- 35a [*”Betcha can’t eat just one” brand] LAY(S POT)ATO CHIPS. Couldn’t remember if the clue was going for Pringles or Lays. Oh yeah, Pringles is something like “Once you pop, you can’t stop.”
- 53a [*Number on a nightclub safety posting] (MAX)IMUM CAPACITY. I don’t feel like Max is that stereotypical of a dog’s name.* And why a nightclub in particular?
- 58a [*”Wisdom is better than rubies” source] BOOK OF P(ROVER)BS. This is more like an entry you’d see where it can be given its own wacky clue. The BOOK OF PBS might be a [Tome detailing the history of “Nova” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”?].
On the other hand, knowing that the entry won’t have any face value can make things very difficult, especially if you’ve never heard the phrase in question. If someone doesn’t know Lay’s brand of potato chips, they’re going to have a really hard time. Even knowing the base entry isn’t always a guarantee. I needed every crossing to get BOOK OF P(ROVER)BS. And if you can’t get those crossings, you might just be screwed.
But as I said, this worked for me. Plus there’s lots of good fill like GIRL TROUBLE, AS DISCUSSED, MINI-MART, CITI CORP, CRAYOLA, AIR MAIL, TRIBECA, TRUDEAU. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a FIRE POT (44a, [Early thermal weapon]), but it was inferable…once I got most of the crossings.
There isn’t much I could do without in the grid, but I certainly could do without IMRE (63a, [1950s Hungarian leader Nagy]). That entry needs to be retired. And I’m not a big fan of name-calling entries like NUTJOB which we’ve seen before. And I know a lot of people are tired of MR ED.
Clues of note:
- 12d [Some are bitter]. ENDERS. I have never heard the term “bitter enders.” I take it to mean someone who will stay the course to the very (bitter) end.
- 33d [Conciliatory concession]. SOP. Still scratching my head on this one. Anyone?
- 1a [Fiddlehead source]. FERN. Hadn’t heard this term before. It refers to the furled fronds of a young FERN.
- 22d [“Staying out of the penalty box will really help” speaker]. ORR. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a clue go this route for the old standby entry. I approve.
- 27d [Company begun by Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith]. CRAYOLA. I was trying to read significance into their names, but I’m not seeing it. Otherwise, this is a straight-up trivia clue which I don’t find enjoyable. There have to be so many other colorful (haha) ways of cluing this entry.
- 54d [Bamboo Harvester’s TV role]. MR ED. More deep trivia. Phew! Unlike ORR above, there’s no extra hint provided in the clue.
If you’re okay with nonsense in your solved grid, you probably liked this one. If not, then you probably didn’t.
*I may feel that Max is not a stereotypical dog’s name, but it certainly is popular. According to rover.com, it was the top male dog’s name for 2017. Check out some other statistics in this cool infographic.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
I’ve been itching for a really challenging Thursday puzzle to cut my teeth on in preparation for ACPT. This is a solid offering from the modern master Zhouqin Burnikel, but it wasn’t the stumper I was hoping for.
The revealer comes at 60a, REVERSING COURSE [Backtracking … or what 17-, 27- and 46-Across are doing?]. Let’s look at those entries:
- 17a, LANOITANATSUGUA [Home of the Masters]. That is, AUGUSTA NATIONAL backwards. Or, a golf course reversed.
- 27a, ARBEGLAERP [Something unknowns are introduced in]. That is, PRE-ALGEBRA backwards. Or, a school course reversed.
- 46a, SREZITEPPA [Starters]. That is, APPETIZERS backwards. Or, a culinary course reversed.
Cute! As always with C.C., the surrounding fill is rock solid. DON’T PANIC and AU NATUREL are lovely 9-letter downs, and ALEXA, ADD ME, and FOUL UP were nice to see too.
I really don’t have much else to say about this one. Felt ever so slightly too hard for Wednesday, but definitely on the easy side for Thursday. Will we have to wait until ACPT to get a mind-boggling NYT puzzle? Find out… next week!
Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
A clever revealer – BACKWOODS – translates to spell trees backwards. Shorter tree names have been used in many different crossword puzzles; it was nice to see POPLAR and CEDAR get some time in the sun.
Best spots: MOUSSAKA and the symmetrical LEASHLAW – with a cute baseball fakie. There are two sides to leash laws: many dogs do not get enough exercise on-leash; also dogs are not able to socialise properly (adequately the perform the butt-sniff tango, e.g.) and that can increase aggressive altercations. On the other hand, a poorly trained / socialised / dog with natural aggressive instincts is a genuine menace off-leash. Balancing individual freedom with the collective good is never easy.
This grid needs to have been sent back for polishing though. CDL and OSIS are bottom of the barrel contrived nonsense that no-one should being using without it holding up a vast swathe, and even then tearing everything up should be plan A… ASET is nearly in that category. And things like IBN and MILLE in a 5×3 area with one entrance are unnecessary.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “A Hero Among Us”—Adesina’s write-up
Good afternoon, friends! It’s almost baseball season, and, in the spirit of the National Pastime, I’m (Ade) pinch-hitting for Ben today as we talk about a grid inspired by the hottest, non-political topic being talked about right now. (If you think that’s the US Women’s Hockey Team winning the gold medal for the first time in 20 years with its shootout victory over rival Canada early this morning, I won’t argue that! Sorry, my Canadian lovelies!)
We’re talking about the latest movie adaptation from a MARVEL (1A: [Comic publisher behind the hero hidden in this puzzle]) comic, Black Panther, starring Chadwick BOSEMAN (56A: [Actor Chadwick who plays this puzzle’s hero on the big screen]) and Lupita NYONG’O (71A: [Actress Lupita of the movie based on this puzzle’s hero]). In this grid, there are seven rebus squares – the seven black squares going diagonally from left to right in the middle of the grid that all conceal a letter. Of course, the letters hidden in those black squares spell out “PANTHER,” and those rebus squares also help the solver make sense of the pair of across entries that share one of those squares, which all appear to be missing a letter when not taking those squares into account.
- STAM(P)LUGS (22A: [Mailing need] & 25A: [Alternative to Rogaine])
- LA MES(A)BRIDGE (28A: [San Diego suburb whose name means “the table” & 30A: [Cut off short]) – This entry reminds me that I need to go back to San Diego ASAP! Love that city!
- IRANIA(N)OT US (33A: [Rial man] & 35A: [Them])
- CONTEMP(T)ENT SALE (39A: [Intense disrespect] & 41A: [Event to buy outdoor things?])
- TEAC(H)EATHEN (44A: [Show the ropes] & 46A: [Non-believer]).
- GESTUR(E)RRAND (47A: [Charade’s motion] & 49A: [Trip to the store])
- EELE(R)AN AT (53A: [Fisherman with pots] & 55A: [Barreled toward])
There probably is not too much to talk about outside of the non-themed entries and/or the entries that did not cross the rebus squares, since there were so many of both. Totally forgot to mention Boseman’s movie character that’s also in the grid, T’CHALLA (21A: [Alter ego of the hidden hero]). Not only have I not played STRATEGO before, but I’m fishing in my brain to find out the last time I have played a board game with/against someone (42D: [Capture-the-flag game]). One would think that being around fellow crossword solvers in person at least two times a year would lend itself to that, since a number of us also partake in board games. Might have to stop by Bryant Park or Washington Square Park soon to play a game of chess and break that streak. Thank goodness my father brought to United States, from Nigeria, a tea COSY that he ended up using in the house when I was growing up (27A: [Cover for a teapot]). I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever had to spell out this word, as he asked about where he had put his cosy a couple of times when he misplaced it, but my young self had no idea what he was talking about when he said the word. In contrast, I have spelled out (and said) “koozie” a number of times! Does that count for something?
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MAHAN (36D: [Golfer Hunter _____]) – When people talk about the sudden fall of a once-great American golfer, most might bring up the tale of Tiger Woods, and rightfully so. But the sudden drop in form of Hunter MAHAN (pronounced MAY-han, the second syllable sounding as if you were saying “hand” without the “d”), while not as widely reported, is almost as stunning. In 2012, Mahan reached No. 4 in the world golf rankings, but, by 2017, he had lost his exempt status for playing in PGA Tour events because of his run of poor results in 2016, and was playing on the Web.com tour – the professional tier below the PGA Tour where golfers try to earn enough points to qualify for PGA Tour-level events. Between 2007 and 2014, Mahan recorded a top-10 finish in each of the four majors, including a fourth-place finish in the 2013 U.S. Open where he went into the final round just a shot behind the leader.
Thank you so much for the time once again, and I hope to see you all again on here soon!