Thursday, July 19, 2018

BEQ 8:40 (Ben) 


Fireball 13:31 (Jenni) 


LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT 4:23 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Mike Knobler’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s review

NY Times crossword solution, 7 19 18, no 0719

Ooh, a SECRET CODE! (17a. [What the answers to the six starred clues follow, as hinted at by 66-Across].) 66a is [Cry from behind a counter], “NEXT, PLEASE,” and the code is to shift each letter in the clued* answers to come up with the word you actually put into the grid. Here are the six coded answers, symmetrically located:

  • 23a. [*Firework that doesn’t work], EVE. It’s a DUD, really, and you slide one letter further in the alphabet from D to E, and from U to V.
  • 24a. [*Crafts site], FUTZ. ETSY, plus one.
  • 36a. [*Contemptuous smile], TOFFS. SNEER. Toffs are, what, highfalutin folks? Yes, in Britspeak.
  • 44a. [*Military vehicles], U-BOLT hiding TANKS.
  • 56a. [*Resistance units], PINT, OHMS.
  • 57a. [*Shakespearean prince], IBM. You know Arthur C. Clarke knew this when he named 2001‘s menacing computer HAL—single steps away from IBM.

Lovely theme, and it’s the constructor’s crossword debut. The ETSY/FUTZ shift is a particularly nice find.

Highlights in the fill: BLOODY MARY, the implausibly named Y.A. TITTLE, SCRIMPED, the London paper THE SUN, SXSW, and STYX clued as [Band with the top 10 hits “Lady” and “Babe”]. Could do without PDAS, OLEO, ENURE, OMOO, STELE.

Five clues:

  • 5a. [Vessel that’s 1% full?], YACHT. Meaning “boat that carries people who are in the top 1% in terms of wealth.”
  • 34a. [Poet who wrote “Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity”], ELIOT. I must be super-creative, then.
  • 60a. [Short, for one], MARTIN. Not ELECTRICAL PROBLEM or ADJECTIVE, nope. Comedian Martin Short.
  • 69a. [Woman’s name that sounds like two letters of the alphabet], ELSIE. Constructors! There is a new Elsie on the scene. The teen actress who stars in the new indie film, Eighth Grade, is Elsie Fisher. We wish her a long and successful career!
  • 10d. [First, second or third person], UMP. You thought this was a grammar question, or bible trivia, but no. It’s baseball.

4.25 stars from me.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Fireball crossword “That Sinking Feeling” —Jenni’s write-up

We have one more FB next week before the annual summer vacation, and it feels to me as if Peter is determined to go out with a bang. I liked this puzzle once I figured it out. That took a long time. Was this a very hard puzzle, or should I blame the sangria and the delicious belated birthday dinner?

The title holds the key to this one. We have four theme entries that appear to make no sense at all – until you look down.

FB 7/19, solution grid

  • 17a [Disorganized] turns out to be ALRTHEMAP. Huh? Shouldn’t that be ALL OVER THE MAP? Yes, it should, and the missing letters are LOVE – a feeling that sank into the answer below – LOVELL is 19a [Astronaut who cowrote “Lost Moon”]. If “Lost Moon” doesn’t ring a bell, you may know the name of the movie based on the book: “Apollo 13.”
  • 37a [Managed habitat] is WILDLIEA. I got the A at the end first and was looking for TERRARIA or something like that (and yes, I know that would be plural. Did I mention the sangria?). Then I figured out the them and looked at the entry below. 40a [Turned body part?] is DEAF EAR, and FEAR turns 37a into WILDLIFE AREA.
  • 38a [Majors on links] gave me a lot of trouble, since PGA OPENS fits. Nope. We end up with BRITISNS – BRITISH OPENS missing HOPE, which is sitting underneath in STANHOPE (41a [Light horse-drawn carriage] ).
  • 58a [Moles] are not the burrowing animals, but the spies. I was looking for SLEEPER CELLS. It’s actually SLEEPENTS, missing RAGE to be SLEEPER AGENTSRAGE is hiding in what may my least favorite entry in the puzzle, TUTORAGES for 61a [Instructional charges].

This is a great idea and a knotty construction challenge that suffers somewhat in the execution. SLEEPER AGENTS strikes me as a roll-your-own, and BRITISH OPENS shouldn’t be plural. I already mentioned TUTORAGES, and the fill also features the unfamiliar GUANABARA, archaic (if ever used) APER, OPPIDAN (completely new to me, and not in a good way), plural ELS for trains, and ex-Japanese PM ASO. On the plus side, at least ELS is clued without reference to Chicago.

A few other things:

  • 9d [Sheet between the sheets] is DENTAL DAM. We’re not in the NYT puzzle any more, Toto.
  • 15d [Gp. with the Hershey Bears and the Tucson Roadrunners] is the AHL, which also features the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, based in Allentown.
  • In 28d [Eastern half of a western Texas city?], “eastern” refers to the right side of El PASO, which is true if we stipulate that north is at the top of the page.
  • 52d [Sound that can mean “I’m hungry!” or “Wake up!”] is MEOW. We would also have accepted “Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?”
  • I enjoyed the juxtaposition of 55d [Sharp feller] and 56d [Jamaican feller] for AXE and MON, respectively.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Shakespeare called EPILEPSY “the falling sickness.”

Frank Virzi’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Photo Finish” — Jim’s review

Not only is 29d WIN BY A NOSE the revealer, it also contains two words that participate in the theme. The clue is [Edge out, and a description of what appears four places in this puzzle]. Thus, we’re looking for the letter strings NOSE and WIN abutting each other.

WSJ – Thu, 7.19.18 – “Photo Finish” by Frank Virzi

  • 3d [Minute minute part] NANOSECOND next to 4d [Attract] DRAW IN
  • 9d [Pinpoint a cause, in a wayDIAGNOSE next to the WIN in the revealer
  • 15d [“It’s been a while!”LONG TIME, NO SEE next to 51d [Like Chicago] WINDY
  • The NOSE in the revealer next to 59d [Mattress choice] TWIN

At first this struck me as an odd choice for a puzzle theme. I wasn’t sure that I cared that NOSE and WIN could be placed next to each other multiple times.

But the theme grew on me, especially with the long entries NANOSECOND and LONG TIME, NO SEE. I found those entries more interesting because 1) they’re long and 2) the letter string in question is embedded within other words. DIAGNOSE, WINDY, TWIN, and to a lesser extent DRAW IN, also work for that reason.

Contrarily, using the WIN and NOSE of WIN BY A NOSE as parts of two theme entries (not just as a revealer) feels a little bit like a cheat. I think I would prefer that phrase to be the puzzle’s title and then be treated to another two pairings in the grid.

I also would have found it more interesting if the two words in question were the same length. Having one shorter than the other feels odd.

The puzzle started off strongly. The first six entries are all enjoyable. But then I hit 20a, and huge red flags started waving. When you have [Women, patronizingly] as a clue, you are purposefully walking on thin ice. The answer turned out to be GALS which was tamer than what I feared. That word feels more regional to me than anything. My wife and her family are from Arkansas, so I’ve heard it around the South. In my mind’s ear, I hear both women and men using it. Cruciverb’s listing of clues tend to be centered around hoedowns or “Partners of guys.” I liked one offering from Paula Gamache in 2009: “Gas pump measures (abbr.).”

Other iffy entries: TSOS, ENTO, AT TWO, ILES, I LET, and SSR. But they’re contrasted with CLOSE IN ON, MORTGAGED, SARDINE, GOLD MINES, ICELANDER, NOT EASY, and NEOPHYTE.

In the end, I’m not really sure how I feel about this puzzle. I didn’t dislike it, but I feel like it missed some opportunities. I’ll put it at 3.4 stars.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Marking One’s Territory” — Ben’s Review

It’s BEQ Thursday time!  This week’s puzzle is called “Marking One’s Territory” and that tells you most of what you need to know with regards to its theme:

  • 20A: Pay money owed — SQUXXX XCCOUNTS
  • 37A: Like someone with an unpredictably dual nature — JEKYLX XXX HYDE
  • 56A: Ecological effect studied at the South Pole — OXXXX DEPLETION
  • 61D: Marked, as a ballot, and as the territories in this puzzle’s theme — EXED

All of the territories in the theme clues have been X’d – there’s AREA in SQUARE ACCOUNTS, LAND in JEKYLL AND HYDE, and ZONE in OZONE DEPLETION.  It’s a pretty straightforward theme, but it’s executed well (given all the Xs that suddenly need crossings in the grid) and sometimes you want a straightforward puzzle anyways.

I’m doing office hours today in lieu of other grid thoughts – what fill did you like?  what did you dislike?  What didn’t you understand?

3.75/5 stars

Gail Grabowski & Bruce Venzke’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

An interesting theme concept – a number of idioms swap off and on, radically changing their meaning. So we have: BLOW(ON/OFF)STEAM, CUT(ON/OFF)THEBIAS, CALL(OFF/ON)THEDOGS, PUT(ON/OFF)ANACT..

3.5 Stars

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13 Responses to Thursday, July 19, 2018

  1. LindaB says:

    Quite enjoyed the NYT. Congrats on a nice debut!

  2. paul coulter says:

    FB – I liked this one a lot. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but if you trace the path of the letters from the departure point on the top line back to where it resumes, they consistently have the shape of capsized ships. Hence, “That Sinking Feeling” is doubly appropriate.
    p.s. I accidentally put in the wrong score. Dave, could you please change my vote to a 4.5

  3. JB says:

    “Sleeper agents” is not even remotely a roll-your-own:

  4. JohnH says:

    My first thought on the WSJ was that WIN BY A NOSE will mean that NOSE has to appear not four times overall, including there, but it four other places. Between that and summetric placement, I wasted no end of time trying to make it fit in what turned out to be STRADDLE. So clever to interpret the phrase literally and make it fit, but still bothered me.

  5. Loved today’s BEQ — but I got a bit hung up on Main Stream Media as an acronym (thought the crossing was the old OBE, not MBE). I have a feeling we are going to see MSM alot more often in the future.

  6. MattF says:

    For the Fireball, I give myself the option of looking stuff up if necessary– and it was necessary for this one. A good puzzle, but with lots of things I’d never seen before.

  7. Martin Ashwood-Smith says:

    Nice NYT debut puzzle!

    Loved 60-A … for some reason ;)


  8. PJ Ward says:

    NYT – I read about IBM/HAL in “Space Odyssey” yesterday so the theme fell quickly for me. Both Kubrick and Clarke denied that HAL’s name was intentionally related to IBM. They also said that Bowman’s name wasn’t meant to be connected to Odysseus. The author suggests that maybe they were subconsciously aware of both connections.

    I’m enjoying the book. But I’ve been a fan of Clarke’s a long time.

  9. Phil says:

    There is a series of British whodunnits by John Creasey in which the gentleman detective is call the Toff. Lord Peter Wimsey would also be considered a toff.

  10. Bob says:

    Jenni, FWIW, Emily and Henry used OPPIDAN in one of their NYT acrostics. Clued as [Of a town; townsman].

  11. Penguins says:

    Fun NYT

    Nice BEQ as always

Comments are closed.