Thursday, May 3, 2018

BEQ 9:23 (Ben) 


Fireball 4:12, paper (Andy) 


LAT 4:59 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:45, paper (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Emily Carroll’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 5.3.18 by Emily Carroll

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I like a rebus puzzle. This is the second NYT Thursday rebus puzzle in a month, and even though the conceit of this one was similar to the last one, I liked this one just fine.

The revealer is right in the center at 38a, COMPACT CARS [Easy-to-park vehicles … or what can be found four times in this puzzle]. Sure enough, four squares contain compact versions of car names:

  • 1d, AF(FORD) [Meet the expense of] crossing 17a, (FOR D)UMMIES [Self-deprecatingly titled instructional book series]. Once I figured out that 17a wasn’t just DUMMIES, the theme made itself pretty clear.
  • 13d, R(OPE L)ADDER [Access to a treehouse, maybe] crossing 16a, PR(OPEL) [Move along].
  • 53d, S(KI A)REA [Winter vacation destination] crossing 56a, SLOVA(KIA) [European nation since 1993].
  • 54d, G(AUDI)EST [Most over the top] crossing 58a, PL(AUD)TS [Praise]. Cute that this echoes the clue at 1a, ACCLAIM [Praise].

I like the revealer, and I especially like the theme answers that break up the car name over two words like ROPE LADDER and SKI AREA. I’m shocked that the Times hasn’t done this theme before; I feel like I must have done a puzzle with this theme before, but if so it must have been a while ago in a different venue since I can’t remember when or where. At any rate, I certainly enjoyed seeing it.

I liked the fresh long downs OPEN AND SHUT and DANCE AROUNDDIRT CHEAP was great in the center. LIMA OHIO and RADISSON were solid 8s, and I also liked SMAUG and the kooky REAL BOY. A bit of necessary glue to hold the theme together, like ALII, DER, SYD, CRU, ALC, ESE, and SEL, but nothing outrageous. [Cellular carrier?] was a very cute clue for RNA.

Not much else to say about this one. A solid puzzle and a fun solve! Until next time!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 116″—Andy’s review

Fireball crossword 5.3.18, “Themeless 116” by Peter Gordon

Oh, hi! It’s Andy again, subbing for Jenni on this week’s Fireball themeless.

In true Peter Gordon style, it’s easy to spot the two seed entries because they share an obvious linguistic similarity, plus they’re the first and last across entries:

  • 1a, CAMPANERIS [First baseballer to play all nine positions in a single game]. As a publicity stunt to improve poor attendance, on September 8th, 1965, Bert Campaneris played all nine positions in a single game. He even pitched left-handed to right-handed batters and switched to pitching right-handed to left-handed batters. You can read more about the feat here.
  • 64a, COMPAÑEROS [Buds of the Southwest]I only took one semester of Spanish, but I think compañeros roughly means “friends” (or maybe “colleagues”?), so “buds” is being used in the sense of “pals” rather than in the botanical sense.

Some points of interest:

  • Peter gives us his usual heaping helping of baseball: Besides CAMPANERIS, there  were two other baseball clues in this one: 16a, EXPO [Tim Raines was one when he won his batting crown] and 4d, POPUPS [Easy outs]. 
  • A couple of entries that are abbreviations using apostrophes: 7d, EM’LY [Little ___ (Dickens character)] (she’s from David Copperfield) and 23d, FO’C’S’LES [Parts of ships where the sailors live] (short for forecastles, strangely enough). Maybe that’s why I found it so jarring to see the full version of 27d, RARING TO GO [Like an eager beaver], since that’s almost always written as rarin’ to go.
  • I loved the clue for 12d, EXXONMOBIL [Gas giant?]. It cross another nice clue-entry combo, 20a, EGG TOSS [Shell game?]. 
  • I always thought AVGOLEMONO was a soup, but apparently it can also be a [Sauce in Greek cuisine].
  • As I understand it, GHANA‘s Freddy Adu hasn’t been relevant in the world of soccer for quite some time, but he might always have a spot in crosswords.
  • Does to SNAP a football mean the same thing as to [Center] a football? Often hear the former; less so the latter.

“Did someone say ALSATIAN?”

Other entries I loved: DEEP-SIX, PROP BET, IGUANODONS, AVGOLEMONO, LORNA DOONE, PAPER ROUTE (with the stretchy clue [Job for a newscaster?], which I’m still not sure if I liked).

The clue for 5d, ALSATIAN led me down a bit of a rabbit hole. It’s [German Shepherd, to a Yorkie], which is very cute, since it implies that it’s what someone from York(shire) might call a German Shepherd. A couple of problems, though: 1) I don’t think the word “Yorkie” is ever used to actually mean someone from York(shire), and 2) It turns out that even most Brits, even the UK Kennel Club, which lobbied for the name change in the first place, have stopped calling German Shepherds “Alsatians.”

Mostly very smooth, though the fresh stuff required a few compromises like RERODE, J.J. CALE, the aforementioned EMLYENE. Wanted RAZE for 35a, DOZE [Level in a demo], and surprising to see [Calendario span] for ANNO rather than AÑO.

Until next time!

Gabriel Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Down in Front!” — Jim’s review

I haven’t talked about editor Mike Shenk’s pseudonyms in a while. Today’s byline is one that I suspect is a pseudonym, but haven’t verified. It anagrams to BEATLES RINGO which seems like it can’t be a coincidence. But it also anagrams to EASTER GOBLIN which I so desperately want to be a thing. I think the Easter Goblin would take the candy from naughty kids’ baskets and give them to the parents. Yeah! That could work!

Anyhoo, our puzzle today takes well-known phrases and prefixes them with SUB.  To me, SUB means “under” or “below,” not exactly “down” as the puzzle title would indicate. But be that as it may…

WSJ – Thu, 5.3.18 – “Down in Front!” by Gabriel Stone (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Smiles from successful arithmetic students?] SUBTRACTOR BEAMS. Tractor beams. I like the sci-fi-inspired base phrase, but the altered phrase sounds a bit weird since you would never call someone a “subtractor.” But I’m inclined to give it a pass since my 4th grader has aced her 1-minute timed tests in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division for the last six weeks. She’s pretty happy about that!
  • 26a [Fastidious golf course groundskeeper’s pride?SUBLIME GREEN. Lime green. I wanted SUBLIME SCALE at first, because I wasn’t sure what the clue was getting at. But now it makes sense and it works—especially since it got me thinking about the band Sublime, and now I’m jammin’ to 40 oz. to Freedom as I write this.
  • 41a [Packing unit when moving into another’s apartment?] SUBLETTER BOX. Letter box. Americans would more commonly use the term “mailbox” over “letter box,” but letterbox can also refer to the reformatting of a widescreen video to fit a standard screen.
  • 53a [Fellow who annoyingly sends lots of unsolicited manuscripts?SUBMISSION CREEP. Mission creep. Ha! This one made me laugh. The base phrase refers to how a military mission can evolve over time. The altered phrase makes me wonder if editors like Shenk, Shortz, et. al., have regular submitters that they hate hearing from. Jeff Chen told me that before his first acceptance at the NYT he had submitted on the order of 20 grids in a relatively short span of time. Maybe he was Shortz’s SUBMISSION CREEP for a while.

Lots of interesting long fill again today, starting off with ROB SABANK, oops I mean, ROBS A BANK, plus NERVE END (though I think “nerve ending” is more common), BOBBY SOX, REBECCA, HERETIC, CUISINE, and MAD LIBS. In the “New-to-me” department, we find CLUB STEAK for the clue [Delmonico]. I’ve heard of the New York restaurant, but not the phrase. Also new to me: SABINES, the [Tribe of ancient Italy].

In the “Eww” department, we find KTS as an abbreviation for “knights” (20a, [Jumping chess pcs.]). Please constructors, if you must use this abbreviation, stick with “knots” or, if you have to “karats.” Better yet, don’t use it, especially if it’s crossing crosswordese like OMSK.

Best clue goes to [Pocket protector?] for MISER. I needed every crossing to figure out what this was getting at, and even then, it still took a second. Then the light bulb went on.

Overall, a fairly standard add-some-letters theme, but the humor won me over, and of course, the grid is mostly solid. 3.5 stars.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

Well, it’s certainly ambitious to try and find scrambled sets of nine letters in other phrases. That conceit is used here with CHOCOLATE scrambled in three other phrases, with SWIRLS used as a cryptic-style revealing answer. I think it’s enough of an achievement to get three working answers here, so I’m a touch lenient on the answers, although BAT in BATECHOLOCATION does feel tacked on.

The grid design is atypical, to compensate for two middle 14’s, which made making a viable design challenging. The grid has more black squares, but fewer entries than normal.

First off, [Toyota RAV4, e.g.], UTE – could have sworn that that’s an SUV? Don’t utes have flatbeds?

We have more clever clues than usual today. My faves: [Small cube?] for EIGHT; [Right at sea?] for AYE; and [Cause of a paper weight increase] for ADS.

I went to the Lourens River estuary this morning and there was a solitary Little Egret. Not exactly a marsh, but similar… Little Egrets occasionally turn up in the Eastern US and cause quite a stir; similarly, your Snowy Egret has turned up twice here in Cape Town.

3.25 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Just Patching Through” — Ben’s Review

After last week’s disappointing Thursday puzzle, this week’s BEQ was a welcome return to form for him.  The title of this puzzle, “Just Patching Through”, was a nice hint to what was going on within:

  • 17A: Trail of trenches? — DITCH TRACK
  • 25A: Mall that can get you a date on Friday? — MATCH MARKET
  • 37A: Porn connoisseurs? — CROTCH EXAMINERS (ewwwwwwwwwww)
  • 51A: Exam that checks your pliability? — STRETCH TEST
  • 60A: Analog demos? — PITCH TAPES

In each of these, the SS from a more common phrase (DISS TRACK, MASS MARKET, CROSS EXAMINERS, STRESS TEST, and PISS TAPES) has become TCH.  Hilarity has potentially ensued (37A: still real gross)

The theme was okay, but there’s a lot of so-so fill here – SOO, EEE, SRS, etc. abound, all of which EATS INTO what was a lovely base theme.

3.75/5 stars

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14 Responses to Thursday, May 3, 2018

  1. Eric Conrad says:

    Fireball: tough puzzle, came up one square short. AVGOLEMONO crossing EMLY is full-on Natick for me. Loved the CAMPANEROS clue: fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

  2. Dook says:

    Didn’t really care for the NYT today. First of all, these car makers make all sorts of vehicles, so the answers don’t really respond to the revealer answer. Lots of the fill felt off – how many people “leash” cats? How many use “leash”as a verb? “Open and shut” sounds wrong without “case”. Is the Adriatic an “arm” of the Mediterranean? Bling = ice? Meh. Lears?

    • GLR says:

      I believe the cars are “compact” in the sense that the brand names are squished into a single square in the grid.

      As a dog owner and a person with a yard too-frequently visited by off-leash cats, I would say that “too few” people leash cats – however, including them made for a much cuter clue. I think “leash” as a verb is common – as in all of the signs I see around my town reminding me to “leash your dog” (but not my cat).

      I agree that adding “case” to the clue for 11-D would have made it sound more in-the-language, but various on-line dictionaries carry definitions of “open-and-shut” as a standalone phrase (most reference “case” or “argument”).

      So, I mostly liked the NYT puzzle – though it ALWAYS takes me too long to realize that an answer I can’t make sense of contains a rebus square!

    • Bryant says:

      We used to leash one of our cats and take him for walks. He would freeze in the wide open spaces and relax and walk with us when we were amongst trees. And I believe in this case ICE is meant in its slang sense as diamonds, which are definitely a type of bling. I was a little bothered, though, by the clunkiness of SKI AREA.

      • Richard says:

        Yeah, I think of SKI AREAS more like places with a basic setup for skiing, as opposed to a resort with rooms and restaurants, which would be a vacation destination.

      • Matthew G. says:

        How is SKI AREA clunky? It’s the term I use for them, and definitely a term lots of other people use as well. SKI RESORT sounds hoity-toity to me. This may be because I’m used to New York skiing, where there are lots of very small ski areas that nobody would refer to as “resorts.”

  3. Scott says:

    Andy, did you mean concept rather than conceit?

  4. huda says:

    NYT: I thought it was an excellent Thursday puzzle. If you were going to give an example of a Thursday puzzle, it would be one of my contenders. I’m not saying it’s amazing but to my mind, it captures some essence of Thursdayness…

    • AV says:

      I agree. A more ambitious constructor might have added an extra rebus square or two (I think this is doable), but it would have led to the removal of some of the long down entries .. I liked all of them and felt the trade-off was perfect.

    • Penguins says:

      Agree as well

  5. Burak says:

    Once you figured out the theme, NYT turned into something totally different. I agree that the theme could have used a little more zest, but this is definitely fine. A rewarding fill that makes up for all its crosswordese, decent clues and overall, a fun experience.

    3.65 stars.

  6. chris says:

    re: the LAT: i remember discussing this puzzle with jeffrey last summer, when a collaboration of mine was in the minnesota crossword tournament; it, too, had nine letter anagrams. iirc, jeffrey mentioned that he found all his anagrams by hand (we used computers) and made his puzzle square (we did 17×13). i believe he also noted that rich said, as far as he was aware, this is a record for anagram strings, though i would love to know if there’s longer somewhere. the longest i’ve seen elsewhere, incidentally, is the following erik agard puzzle:

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