David Steinberg and Milo Beckman’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
I’m glad I solved this one online, because the image to the right is what displays after you solve the puzzle! A nice cherry on top of a great puzzle.
In honor of LGBT Pride Month, we get a puzzle with a rainbow flag (which traditionally has just these six colors, lumping indigo and violet together into purple). Except! The words along each colored stripe have had that color removed from the grid. That’s a complicated explanation — let’s just dive in:
- 15a, EYES [Some cross-country flights]. Those are (RED) EYES, but RED has been removed from the entry. To get the RED back, you have to color the row red!
- Similarly, 16a, CARPET [Path to an Oscar?] and 17a, BARON [Foe of Snoopy] have both had “red” removed (RED CARPET, RED BARON). Color the whole row red to make each answer correct!
- The orange row has 21a, MEN [Syracuse athletes, once] (ORANGEMEN), 22a, TREE [Tropicana plant] (ORANGE TREE), and 23a, BITTERS [Ingredient in a classic gin martini] (ORANGE BITTERS).
- The yellow row has 30a, PEPPERS [Salad items picked at the midpoint of their maturity] (YELLOW PEPPERS) and 34a, BRICK ROAD [Path in a hit 1939 film] (YELLOW BRICK ROAD).
- The green row has 43a, BAY PACKER [Lambeau Field pro] (GREEN BAY PACKER) and 46a, LANTERN [DC Comics hero with a magic ring] (GREEN LANTERN).
- The blue row has 53a, MEANIES [Villainous army in a 1968 Beatles film] (BLUE MEANIES), 57a, LAWS [Some shopping restrictions] (BLUE LAWS), and 59a, HEN [University of Delaware mascot] (BLUE HEN).
- And finally, the purple row has 67a, PROSE [Flowery writing] (PURPLE PROSE), 68a, HEARTS [Hero decorations] (PURPLE HEARTS), and 69a, RAIN [Prince album that was #1 for 24 weeks] (PURPLE RAIN).
In order to get that rectangular flag shape, this grid is 17×13, with a roughly appropriate 80 words. This is a stunning accomplishment of construction. Nearly half of the puzzle is made up of theme material, which means that every non-theme row is extremely constrained, and yet the fill is relatively solid (which is an enormous accomplishment!). ADIOS AMIGOS and OFF ONE’S GAME are both lovely long entries, and AP SPANISH is lovely coming down in the SW. PASTORATE isn’t superb, but it’s perfectly serviceable, and the short fill ranges from lovely to fine.
The “aha” moment was really great on this one, and it didn’t feel like homework to finish the puzzle even after figuring out the theme. Really stunning, worthy of the NYT Thursday slot and potentially a Puzzle of the Year nomination. Great work!
Until next time!
Alex Eaton-Salners’s Fireball crossword “Cases of Scurvy” —Jenni’s write-up
I love this puzzle. It’s tricky and challenging and fun. As you can see, it took me a long time to finish – and it took me even longer to understand the title, which is brilliant. Did I mention I love this puzzle?
We have two 15-letter theme answers that at first glance make no sense. 20a [Overturned, as a boat] appears to be CAPSTATSTHEWAVE. I figured out part of the trick when I got to 6d [Emulates an ocean?], which intersects 20a at the second S. I realized that the answer turned the corner and ended up as DOES THE WAVE. Aha! Then I went back to the beginning and tried to figure out where the answer to [Overturned] made its turn. When I finally realized there were three “turning” answers, it felt like a lightbulb exploded in my head. I made a very crude visual aid:
You can see that every answer in each themer takes a turn at an S, so each 15-letter entry has three theme answers.
- 20a [Overturned, as a boat] is CAPSIZED.
- 13d [Dead in the water?] is LOST AT SEA, which turns twice.
- The aforementioned 6d [Emulates an ocean?], DOES THE WAVE.
- 56a [Captain’s command] is ABANDON SHIP.
- 47d [Vessel launched on the second anniversary of Pearl Harbor] is the WISCONSIN – again, two turns.
- 39d [Couples cruise vessel?] is NOAH’S ARK.
Six nautical theme entries, each taking one or two turns at an S or two, and several with misleading and amusing clues. That’s a lot of puzzly goodness right there. At first I thought the title simply referred to the prevalence of scurvy among naval crews back in the day – and then I realized it’s S-CURVY, referring to the turns of each answer. And the theme S’s are the only S’s in the grid. BRILLIANT. A construction tour-de-force that is also a lot of fun to solve. Did I mention I love this puzzle?
And the non-theme fill is excellent. A few highlights:
- 1d [Genre of “The Return of the Living Dead,” for short] is ZOM COM.
- 2d [Petite Grande] is ARIANA. She’s five feet tall, if you’re wondering.
- Two [Certain flatbread] clues. 26a is MATZO and 27 is NAAN. I’m embarrassed to admit that MATZO was one of the last answers I filled in; my only excuse is that I usually spell it “matzah,” but that’s weak.
- 42d [Writer of fiction?] had me thinking we were looking for a character in a novel. Nope. It’s PEN NAME.
- 66a [Home of the brave?] is TEPEE, and that’s my only quibble. White people using “brave” to refer to American Indians makes me a bit queasy, if only because of the association with the Atlanta baseball team.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’ve never heard of the War of the Regulation, which apparently ended at the Battle of ALAMANCE. Wikipedia tells me it involved political corruption, British colonialism, and beleaguered farmers. “The stated primary aim of the Regulators was to form an honest government and reduce taxation.” We’re still working on that first part.
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Back-to-Back” — Jim’s review
Nifty theme today with a perfectly apt title. We’re presented with phrases in which the last word can be written backwards thus forming a different word and inspiring an appropriately wacky clue.
- 18a [Extra seat belt?] SPARE STRAP. Spare parts.
- 20a [Repulsively slick gumshoes?] GREASY SNOOPS. Greasy spoons. I like this one best, because we’ve all seen a film or two that depicts a greasy snoop. I’m thinking mostly of Matt Dillon’s character in There’s Something About Mary.
- 37a [Minor no-nos involving party salsa?] ITSY BITSY REDIPS. …Spider. It’s fine, but I think most people would say “double dip,” wouldn’t they?
- 54a [Remnants of a toad’s skin treatment?] THE LAST WARTS. …straw.
- 57a [Printer’s anti-embellishment policy?] CEASE SERIF. …fires.
Interesting theme placement in the grid. The first two and last two are stacked atop each other for seven letters. That’s pretty unusual. You have to have very compatible sets of letters where the overlaps occur. For the most part, everything works well, even giving rise to long nice long Downs RAP SHEET up top and YARD SIGN down below. The toughest pairings are the TS starting at 54d and the TF at 56d. The first one is do-able with TSAR, which is a common enough entry in crosswords. The second one is harder and begets T-FAL, the cookware brand, which in turn begets ALGA and DAN’L. Not stellar fill, but given that that’s the roughest pairing in all those overlapping theme squares, that’s pretty good.
It doesn’t appear that it had to be that way. I think the second and fourth themers could have been moved inward one row without too much difficulty. But if you can get themers to stack without causing too many compromises, that should free up space in the rest of the grid for fun fill.
I don’t know that I would consider PARAGUAYAN and REDEEMABLE to be fun, but they are interesting given their clues [President Horacio Cartes, e.g.] and [Like some stocks and souls].
Still, there’s some kludgy fill: UTNE, IPANA, singular TAPA, and odd UNAPT.
Clues of note:
- 42a [Sermon ender?]. ETTE. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “sermonette.”
- 2d [Scales up?]. LIBRA. “Up” as in a constellation in the night sky? Meh. That’s a pretty far stretch, seems to me.
- 6d [List of cons]. RAP SHEET. I’m not getting this one either. A RAP SHEET is a list of crimes someone has committed. Is the clue using “cons” as short for “convicts?” Because that doesn’t make sense. It must mean “cons” as in negative things (about a person). This also seems a little stretchy.
- 32d [Boiling point?]. STOVE. Now we’re talking. Good clue.
On the whole, the fill is solid and the clues weren’t too tricky (if stretchy in places), but it was the theme that carried the day. Good puzzle. 3.7 stars.
And now, an homage to Matt Dillon’s repulsively greasy snoop in There’s Something About Mary. (Some NSFW language.)
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Joy Rides” — Ben’s Review
This week’s BEQ Thursday plays like a themeless, even though it has a theme. Four series of circled squares form loops in the grid that create MERRY go-rounds, per 37A. We’ve got JUBILANT, THRILLED, ECSTATIC, and EXULTANT from each wheel, so I’d say that’s spot on.
- Those are H.B. REESE’s Pieces you’re nibbling on, have some respect.
- ST JUDE is your patron saint of lost causes.
- I always seem to pick the wrong option when it’s fill/trivia about IBN vs BIN.
- A beret goes on your TETE, because France.
- G STAR Raw is a Dutch clothing company that makes some nice streetwear/denim.
- GRETNA Green, Scotland: We Promise That’s Not A Typo
- ERNE and EGRET: two crossword-y birds
Clive Probert’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review
Today, words beginning with “GL” become “L” and new phrases are “wacky”. We start with (G)LASSCUTTING; unfortunately, in the 21st century, CUTTING is more associated with physical self-harm than skipping school. I wouldn’t have ran that. (G)LOBALWARMING is the second, and although the [ears are burning] clue angle is cute, it’s telling that LOBAL has never been in a crossword on its own. It got better though, with (G)LOWINTHEDARK and somewhat violent (G)LANCINGBLOW landing a lot better than the first two. No revealer either, so this puzzle lives and dies by the quality of its four theme answers…
- [Siamese fighting fish], BETTA. You’re forgiven if you tried TETRA here.
- [Backyard game for two], CATCH. Or more?
- [Feature of a two-ltr. monogram], NMI. No middle initial. True, though my monogram has no middle initial but is also not two-ltr.
- [Like a birder’s field glass], MONOCULAR. Weird phrasing, though somewhat helpful. Most birders use field glasses, which are binocular. Last weekend, I went seabird watching from Cape Point, which required use of a singular MONOCULAR telescope; I suppose that’s a “field glass”. They’re hella pricey, so I (and most?) birders don’t own one.
- [Landscape artist’s shade], SKYBLUE. It wasn’t a good day for La Albiceleste…