Thursday, March 15, 2018

BEQ 13:18 (Ben) 


Fireball 6:42 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:29 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:00, paper (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword “Themeless 114” —Jenni’s write-up

It’s been a long day and this is a themeless; I always find it hard to write coherently about a themeless puzzle because, well, there’s no theme. I enjoyed this puzzle and did not find it particularly challenging. I’m not usually on Peter’s wavelength, so that surprised me.

I suspect the seed entry for this puzzle was 36a [Dairy Queen dessert pie]. TREATZZA PIZZA creates all kinds of letter combos that could convince a solver she is completely wrong about the crossings. I got that one easily. The stumper, for me, was 25d [So as to give a low-to-the-ground appearance], which turns out to be SQUATLY. Um, OK.

FB 3/15, solution grid

A few other things:

  • 9d [“Rumble in the Jungle” strategy] was the ol’ ROPE A DOPE, used so effectively by Muhammed Ali.
  • Crossing four Zs can be challenging. Peter used two names: VIC WERTZ and LEBOWITZ. I didn’t know either of them. I did better with OOZES and [Pontiac crossover] AZTEK, once I remembered the deliberate misspelling.
  • Even though Aztec is not spelled correctly in the Pontiac entry, I knew Peter would not duplicate it, so 53a [Quechua speaker] had to be INCAN.
  • 36d [Show stopper, at times] is not applause. It’s TV REMOTE.
  • 33d [Waistline decreaser?] was the last answer I filled in. The “waistline” in question is a crease, and the answer is STEAM IRON.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that someone attempted to make a musical out of the LEON URIS novel, “Exodus.” Apparently it ran for two whole weeks. (Check out that link for one of the great blog names of all time).

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 3.15.18 by Joe DiPietro

Hello, readers! Before we get to the review, let me quickly say: There’s a very exciting puzzle pack dropping tomorrow called Queer Qrosswords that I think you will really enjoy. It contains 22 LGBTQ+-themed crosswords, and you’ll be able to get it just by donating $10 or more to an LGBTQ+ charity. Plus, I wrote a puzzle for it with the amazing Alex Briñas! Watch this space tomorrow for a full announcement.

Also, in case you missed it, registration for The Indie 500 is now open! The Indie 500 is a crossword tournament in Washington DC, to be held on Saturday, June 2nd. We’d love to have you join us, but there are plenty of other things you can buy if you can’t make it (including the At-Home version of the tournament puzzles, puzzles from past years’ tournaments, and a fundraising pack of meta puzzles)!

Now, moving out of Andy’s Shameless Plug Corner: Today’s puzzle falls on THE IDES of March, which explains why this puzzle’s revealer, 38a, is THE IDES [Date that provides a phonetic hint to four other answers in this puzzle]. The four IDES in question are actually I’Ds: four phrases that begin with “I’d.” Like so:

  • 3d, I’D TAKE THAT [“Sounds like a deal”]. Does anyone say “I’d take that?”
  • 15d, I’D RATHER NOT [“Count me out”].
  • 20d, I’D BE HONORED [“Yes, how nice of you to offer”].
  • 30d, I’D BETTER GO [“It’s getting late”].

I’D be lying if I said I liked this puzzle. The theme is unfun in a way I find it difficult to describe. The theme answers are just “four phrases starting with I’D,” which would almost be too easy for Monday, but it’s been crammed into Thursday to coincide with THE IDES of March.

Speaking of the revealer, it does nothing for me. As its name suggests, a revealer should tie a theme together by providing sort of a punchline to the puzzle, or by revealing an otherwise non-obvious connection between the themers. THE IDES doesn’t really do that at all, or at least not in as satisfying a way as, say, MID As TOUCH does in this Ian Livengood puzzle, or that HIDDEN GEMS does in this Barry Boone puzzle. I’d be more interested in THE IDES as a revealer if the four theme answers all contained a homophone of “IDE” spelled differently (perhaps all ending with that sound, as in BEADY-EYED, NAUGAHYDE, ANTI-APARTHEID, and REQUEST DENIED). Even then, this would still definitely be a Monday or Tuesday theme. The only Thursday-ish thing about this puzzle is the grid, which at 72 words resembles that of a themeless puzzle.

The grid had its ups and downs. 72 words is very low for a themed puzzle, which usually leads to some compromises in the fill. There were some excellent and interesting entries, like TAX DODGER, BAR SCENE, ELAINE MAY, RED CARD, BEAR PIT, OAXACA, and THE PILL. I think I also liked NUTLIKE and GAY PAREE. There were also some not-so-excellent entries, like BREN, WAACS, TSO, EBON, SUPE, and CTR.

On the bright side, this puzzle had one of my favorite clues in a very long time: 18a, TAX DODGER, was clued as [One with a no-returns policy?]. As in, they have a policy of not filing tax returns. Superb! Plus, my co-teacher of the JASA class, NATAN Last, had his first name appear in the crossword for the first time in the Will Shortz era, clued as [Hebrew name meaning “he has given”].

Until next time!

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Beware!” — Jim’s review

It’s March 15th, AND YOU know what that means. Yup, it’s the day to eat all the leftover pie you didn’t finish yesterday.

Naw. It’s the IDES (3d, [Time to beware]) of March, silly. Thus our theme is Caesarean in nature. 62a is ET TU with the clue [Words of disbelief found in the four longest Across entries]. You get the feeling that if ol’ Julius was ever played as a hipster, these words would be replaced with a snarky “Really?” as his former buddies proceeded to aerate him.

Oh, and let me take a moment to hail my daughter for playing Marc Antony to some acclaim a couple years ago in a high school play. Euge!

WSJ – Thu, 3.15.18 – “Beware!” by Alice Long (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Edible algae called aosa nori in Japanese cookingSEA LETTUCE
  • 26a [Candidate to replace Andrew Jackson on the twentyHARRIET TUBMAN. Hear! Hear! Tubman was proposed by Obama’s Treasury secretary Jack Lew, but there has been no movement on the proposal since last August when current secretary Mnuchin said, “It’s not something I’m focused on at the moment.”
  • 41a [Escape routes, at timesSECRET TUNNELS. A perfect pairing with the previous entry recalling the Underground Railroad (yes, I know it’s not meant to be literal). However, this misled me into thinking that this aspect was part of the puzzle’s theme.
  • 54a [With tenderness, in musicAFFETTUOSO. Would not have gotten this without the theme and crossings.

A fairly standard hidden word (phrase, actually) theme although only two of the entries have the phrase split across two words making them the more elegant of the set.

Fill is mostly workmanlike but with highlights of PAULA ABDUL, SHERATON, and ABEYANCE. CAME TRUE is nice (I had CAME TO BE at first) and becomes theme-adjacent with the clue [Happened as foretold]

Clues of note:

  • 56a [Texting while driving, e.g.]. NONO. It’s more than just a NONO. It’s illegal in most (all?) states and has been shown to be far more dangerous than driving while drunk.
  • 8d [Roy Rogers part]. COLA. Nice misdirection. That’s Roy Rogers the drink which is made with COLA and grenadine.
  • 13a [Clytemnestra’s mother]. LEDA. Don’t you just like saying “Clytemnestra”? As a word, it ranks up there with “mnemonic” and “somnambulist.”

And now for some historical perspective brought to you from the BBC’s “Horrible Histories.” I couldn’t find a good Julius Caesar sketch, so we’ll just have to settle for some Rotten Romans in general. I don’t know why the audio doesn’t seem to sync up with the video, but it’s still fun. “X out of X!”

Bruce Haight’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

STOCKHOLDER is the revealer, and four answers have the tetragram HERD between their two parts. For me, it would’ve been more interesting with different answers, but the theme is technically sound, and the answers are solid enough, with KOSHERDELI (crossing MENSCH) the best of the bunch. Odd clue on ANOTHERDAY – I’d have thought the hit song by Paul McCartney was more than satisfactory, rather than half a famous quote, which doesn’t look good with TOMORROWIS somewhere…

Despite a central 11, the grid doesn’t strain too heavily. A lot of multi-word answers in the medium length fill. Not a fan of SOLAME, [“How pathetic!”], with its ableist implications. [Like R.L. Stine stories], SCARY – I tried first EERIE then OUTRE – horses not zebras, Gareth! [Call in a pool game], MARCO was my favourite clue – was thinking SOLIDS/STRIPES/POCKET etc, but all too long. Since I only hear in one ear, I really sucked at Marco Polo as a kid. Lastly, [Words to a traitor], ETTU is a timeous clue / answer pair!

3.5 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “On The Table” — Ben’s Review

This is going up suuuuuuper late because I spaced on this yesterday.  It’s also puzzle #3 from last year’s ACPT, which answered why it felt so familiar the entire time I was solving it.  If only my time for this one had been this good in the heat of the tournament!:

  • 24A: Chrysler offering — PLATINUM CRUISER
  • 35A: Trauma specialist — ERBIUM DOCTOR
  • 43A: Baseball team that has played in the same stadium since 1962 — LANTHANUM DODGERS
  • 68A: Image shaper — PRASEODYMIUM FIRM 
  • 77A: Pioneer in science fiction — MERCURY WELLS
  • 91A: First hip-hop artist to have a 10-million-selling album — MOSCOVIUM HAMMER

The two letter part of each answer gets expanded to its full chemical element.

4/5 stars

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21 Responses to Thursday, March 15, 2018

  1. David L says:

    As a matter of general curiosity, is SUPE known anywhere outside NYC? I live in a condo and there is no person with the title superintendent. For me SUPE is pure crosswordese.

  2. Greg says:

    I always like Joe Depietro‘s puzzles, and this was no exception. Clever and timely theme, and consistently lively fill.

  3. Phoebe says:

    Re Fireball, a third name crossing the unknown-to-me Vic Wertz was the also unknown-to-me Rod Roddy. R seemed to me the only possible crossing. Fran Lebowitz is more in my wheelhouse.

  4. Joe Pancake says:

    Re: Fireball

    The legend of Ali’s Rope-a-Dope in “The Rumble in the Jungle” is much more a testament to his genius for self-promotion than it is his fighting style.

    If you actually watch the fight (the whole thing is on YouTube), it barely resembles the popular myth. Far from sitting back on the ropes and letting Foreman pummel him, Ali dominates the fight from the get-go with aggressive attacks and counter strikes.

    The only time Ali leans on the ropes for an extended period is for a few minutes in round 5, and this is the footage that is usually shown from the fight. But it’s not an accurate reflection of the match, as Ali dominated almost the entire thing.

    Anyway… not a criticism of the clue or anything like — just an example of mythologizing an event I found interesting.

    • HMJ says:

      How long was round 5?

      • Penguins says:

        All boxing rounds are 3 minutes unless cut short by a knockout, technical or pure. Ali won that fight in the 8th by a knockout.

    • Steve Manion. says:

      I don’t disagree with anything you said, Joe, but there is something to be said for the way that the rope-a-dope played out. Ali was actually ahead on all three cards when the eighth round started. One ref had it 3-0-4, meaning that Foreman hadn’t won a round.

      But Foreman at that time was a powerful man. He demolished Frazier and had an aura of invincibility. When in the eighth Ali emerged from the protective cocoon of the ropes to knock Foreman out, it had the air of a master tactician imposing his will on a giant. I have always thought the rope-a-dope reference was apt, even if it was a myth.

      Foreman himself said that the rope-a-dope was not a tactic, but a necessity because Foreman’s size and power allowed him to cut off the ring. He went on to say that the tactic had some truth in it because he (Foreman) was a dope for allowing it to happen.


  5. Gareth says:

    I sound like a stuck record, but boy, the people flogging ACAI products have really done their marketing well. So many crossword clues either subtly or directly repeat the pseudoscientific health benefits of this snake oil… In this case, it’s the weasel word “antioxidants”. The clue is not wrong, acai berries have polyphenols, but unlike foods with antioxidants that are part of endogenous processes (vitamin C for example), these have never shown any benefits in vivo, even though they work just fine outside of the body. The reason should be obvious, the body uses specific anti-oxidants in a targeted manner, and it can’t just do so with random exogenous anti-oxidants. Or you can read this EFSA summary: . So while the clue isn’t strictly wrong, it plays into the false narrative of acai as a “superfood”.

  6. HMJ says:

    Hey Joe Pancake – How long was round 5?

  7. sandra stark says:

    BEQ KILLED me today. Anyone else?

    • Penguins says:

      Wasn’t crazy about it but didn’t find it very difficult.

      • Norm says:

        Interesting theme, but the pleasure/fun value was zero. I guess it was a contest puzzle from last year, so maybe a constructor doesn’t worry as much about solvers enjoying it. Decided not to rate it, since it was either a 5 for ingenuity or a 1 for lack of fun. YMMV

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