Thursday, July 26, 2018

BEQ tk (Ben) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 4:26 (Gareth) 


NYT 2:34 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword “Themeless 119” —Jenni’s write-up

This is the last Fireball puzzle before the annual summer vacation, and Peter is sending us off gently. Is this the first Fiend review written in mid-air? I’m headed home after taking Emma to New Student Orientation at San Diego State University.

The first and last Across entries amused me. I’m not sure if this qualifies as a mini-theme, but it’s certainly not an accident. 1a [Enoki alternative] is SHIITAKE and 66a [Messy slapstick trope] is SPIT TAKE.

FB 7/25, solution grid

Some things I noticed:

  • 4d [Research fellows?] livens up the tired IDEA MEN.
  • 7d [Actors Jeong and Leung] are not the white boys I often associate with KENS (could have done without the plural, but the clue redeems it).
  • 37a [Super Bowl to be held in MMXXV] is a Roman numeral entry I don’t hate! For one thing, the NFL actual uses Roman numerals for the Super Bowl. And it’s an answer I can figure out: LIX.
  • 47d [Word with kick or box] is PLEAT. That sewing class I took in 8th grade finally pays off.
  • 44d [Item in a preflight safety demonstration] is the LAP BELT. Mine is fastened low and tight across my hips in case of unexpected turbulence. The computer I’m writing this on might fly up and hit me in the face, though.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’d never heard of JOSEPH CORNELL, a 20th century assemblage artist known for his boxes. Fascinating.

I leave you with Dion.

Nate Cardin’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 7.26.18 by Nate Cardin

Congrats to Nate on his NYT debut! Nate is the organizer of the excellent fundraising project Queer Qrosswords (which you can still buy now!).

This puzzle has two separate revealers. The first is at 54a/62a, OCTO/THORPE [Numerical prefix … or, with 62-Across, another name for this puzzle’s key symbol]. The other is at 70a/71a, HASH/TAG [With 71-Across, symbol used four times in this puzzle with four different meanings].  And, as promised, the symbol # appears in four squares in this puzzle, with a different meaning each time:

  • 1d, PIN # [A.T.M. necessity] crossing 20a, # CRUNCHER [Accountant]. Here, # is standing in for NUMBER. Of course, PIN NUMBER is redundant, but it’s certainly in the language.
  • 26d, DOG # [Place to get a rescue animal] crossing 41a, # CAKE [Dessert made primarily of flour, butter, eggs and sugar]. Here, # is standing in for POUND.
  • 27d, DEEP # [Far parts of the universe] crossing 48a, # STATION [Astronauts’ workplace]. Here, # is standing in for SPACE. I was totally unfamiliar with this usage of #, but sure enough, according to Wikipedia it can be “[u]sed in proof-reading to denote that a space should be inserted.”
  • 36d, RAZOR # [Finely honed] crossing 57a, # SHOOTERS [Deadeyes]. Here, # is standing in for SHARP (as it is used in sheet music).

A nice execution of a fun idea. There’s A Lot™ of theme material (eight crossing entries plus the four revealer entries OCTO/THORPE/HASH/TAG, and the ballast fill isn’t bad considering. A few gems like MANCALA and JUMBLE and MAD LIB (hey they’re all game-related!), counterbalanced by more than the usual amount of glue (e.g., RATA in the SE is basically necessary if you want # SHOOTERS and TAG), but there’s nothing puzzle-burningly kooky, and the payoff is worth it I think.

That’s all from me. Lovely debut! Until next time!

Jason Mueller’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Grout” — Jim’s review

The title suggests we’ll be taking GR out of some phrases, and that turns out to be exactly right. For consistency’s sake, all the extricated GRs were at the beginnings of their base phrases.

WSJ – Thu, 7.26.18 – “Grout” by Jason Mueller

  • 17a [Utensil that needs no instructions?] EASY SPOON. Greasy. I was going to make a joke about spoons needing instructions, but then I came across the video below designed for people suffering from Parkinson’s and other tremor-causing conditions. It still looks straightforward for the user, but I’m sure it has instructions. Be sure to check it out.
  • 26a [Flying above Progressive Field?] OVER CLEVELAND. Grover. There aren’t enough people named Grover, right? I don’t think you can be too dickish if your name is Grover. Let’s see where it stands on the baby-naming list…Per, it’s at #6,661 down from #3,914 last year. Its heyday was way back in 1888 when it was #44.
  • 36a [Transport for Tarzan’s adoptive family?] APE VINE. Grape. Yup, that works.
  • 46a [Swallow one’s troubles?] EAT DEPRESSION. Great. I didn’t care for this one. Not only does it not have much surface sense, I feel like it treats the subject too lightly, perpetuating the myth that people can just “suck it up” and “get over” what ails them. On the strength of MAKE AMERICA EAT AGAIN, this puzzle could’ve gone Saturday-sized (along with potential clue [“___” said no one, ever]).
  • 60a [Sick boss?] ILL MASTER. Grill. Sounds like a fictitious 90s rapper. I’d’ve liked that clue better.

A standard drop-some-letters theme, but it mostly works. And after yesterday’s oddity, something sure and steady fits the bill nicely.

Your word of the day is 51a VULPINE meaning [Crafty]. This one wasn’t in my database (i.e. my brain), but now I see it means foxlike. Ah, that makes sense. I like it.

TEST ROCKET is good, too. ADMINISTER? Meh, not too exciting, but not bad. IDEA MAN I just saw somewhere. In the Fireball perhaps? Other highlights: KEPLER (next to ATOMIC), SVELTE, SELENA, and EMILIA [Clarke of “Game of Thrones”]. She plays Mother of Dragons Daenarys Targaryen.

But that NE corner stymied me for much too long. I neither knew CARLA Hall nor the show “The Chew”, [Record holder] is a tough clue for EX-CON, WASHES as the answer to [Light paint layers] is not obvious, and the crossings were all tough, too. A [Vault sight] is an ARCH? Ah, I was thinking bank vault, not the architectural form (as in “vaulted ceiling”). And SAX SOLO is the answer to [“Baker Street” feature]? Whoa! I’ve heard that song, but never, ever would I have guessed it was called “Baker Street.” (Maybe if I had listened to the first line of the lyrics…) Fun fact which I just came across yesterday: Madame Tussaud used to live on Baker Street.

Hindu goddess KALI. She looks nice.

Another tough crossing: KALI [Goddess often depicted with a necklace of skulls] crossing LOOS [“This Brunette Prefers Work” autobiographer]. KALI is the Hindu goddess who is seen as the divine protector and Mother of the Universe. Anita LOOS also wrote the novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1925. Thankfully, I knew KALI from the online gaming service which dates all the way back to 1995.

Clues of note:

  • My fave clues of the day go to [Memory trigger, sometimes] for ODOR and [Number of dots in einem Umlaut] for ZWEI. If you lüv ümlaüts, here’s a shirt for you which I just ordered for my German-studying daughter.
  • [Uruguay flag feature] made me think the answer would be SOL, not SUN.
  • [Mision San Antonio de Valero, familiarly] clues ALAMO. It made me think of this geocache which has you trace the perimeter of the entire mission which is much, much larger than just the chapel you’re thinking of. And if you’re in town doing geocaches, have a go at my wherigo cache, “The Lost Treasure of Cabeza de Vaca” (sorry, premium members only). It’ll lead you on a fun and edifying romp around the San Antonio Riverwalk.

In sum, I found this id to be and and oovy. Maybe it left you feeling umpy enough to ipe, but hopefully you came to ips with its mechanism and it ew on you. How’d it treat you? Did you make the ade or did your ass become ass? 3.7 stars from me.

As promised, here’s an EASY SPOON for people suffering from tremors. This video is 5 years old. Check out their website for their other cool product, the Level spoon which keeps the spoon level no matter what position the hand is in. I love this: technology solving real-life problems.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Trade Schools” — Ben’s Review

Today’s BEQ puzzle is a “flashback” to his “Trade Schools” puzzle from last year, his puzzle from last year’s Boswords tournament. We previously covered that puzzle when it appeared on his site last August – take a look there if you need a breakdown of how it works.

This year’s Boswords tournament is this Sunday at the Roxbury Latin School just outside Boston, MA. It’s not too late to sign up, so come join the fun! – Ben

Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

Unusual for the revealing clue of STEWEDPEARS to tip its hat to its cryptic origins. That said, STEWED is a lot vaguer anagram signal than we typically encounter. On the plus side, all three arrangements are stand-alone word parts, and not hidden across a phrase. This theme variation always feels more elegant, though not every letter set is amenable to such treatment.


    • [Bacteria in undercooked meat], ECOLI. True – as it’s in most warm-blooded gut environments…
    • [Suffix with glob], ULE. I don’t believe in this suffix…
    • [“O wad some Pow’r the giftie __ us”: Burns], GIE. Nice to have some context for this common word. The fact it’s in Scots did mean it was nie indecipherable at the time, and even now…
    • [Loosey-__], GOOSEY. How funky is your chicken?
    • [Fishing lure], SPINNER. Did somebody say Spinners?

  • [Hip-hop artist who narrates Netflix’s “The Get Down”], NAS. New clue alert! I don’t have Netflix, and I’m not sure what kind of show that is…
  • [Plant-eating scarab beetles], CHAFERS. My dachshund loves to catch and eat fruit chafers. I wouldn’t have thought they were too tasty myself. Between that and her habit of perching on her hindlegs, we’re convinced she is part meerkat…
  • [You might hear music on it], HOLD. “Music”.

3.5 Stars

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23 Responses to Thursday, July 26, 2018

  1. Karen says:

    Fireball: A perk for becoming a lifetime subscriber to the Fireball puzzle is the opportunity to suggest an answer for a puzzle, and I came up with Joseph Cornell. I spent many hours staring at his works at The Art Institute of Chicago, which has a relatively large number of his boxes. Before the museum added a new wing where the boxes now are located (but not showcased), museum volunteers often did not know where to find the boxes. Cornell boxes are endlessly fascinating, particularly the ones with birds. The boxes with dolls are eerie to say the least.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: yes, excellent puzzle. Cool concept, nicely executed. I too was unfamiliar with # meaning space, but always good to learn something new. It is actually remarkable for a symbol to have that many functions and names. I wonder why that has happened with this one.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Copyeditors and proofreaders use # to mean a space. If two words have run together on the line, a caret below and a # above means “insert space.”

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        (And I read the comments before looking at Andy’s post, which explained that.)

      • Beach Bum says:

        For the curious, here’s a list of proofreaders’ marks from the Chicago Manual of Style:

      • Ethan Friedman says:

        I wonder how many people outside of the publishing world know that one; not many I’ll bet. In fact despite being personally familiar with that usage, #STATION / DEEP # was the second theme square I came across, and my initial reaction was “oh this is some sort of keyboard theme with different keys or something because it can’t be another #; that’s too obscure a usage”; it wasn’t until the bottom that I realized “oh, he actually IS using # in the proofreading sense there”

        • Huda says:

          Exactly the same here. I thought the space bar was the keyboard element of relevance in that STATION/DEEP intersection, and wondered if it should be left blank, just hitting the space bar… I then circled back to it after realizing that # worked for the other areas.

          I publish a fair bit and I still somehow did not remember seeing it. But maybe I just never omitted a space… and it was certainly inferable as the puzzle went on.

        • Norm says:

          Not just publishing: court and legal editors use # for space as well. I certainly do with our externs. :)

  3. LindaB says:

    NYT: Fun debut puzzle!

  4. Martin Ashwood-Smith says:

    Clever NYT debut puzzle Nate!


  5. Jenni Levy says:

    Loved the NYT, despite REFARM. I knew # could be used to denote “space” but did not know it was called an OCTOTHORPE.

  6. Howard B says:

    Congrats Nate! Great fun!

  7. David L says:

    Clever puzzle. At first I left the space for ‘space’ blank, thinking there were going to be different symbols, and then, despite all my years in the US, the ‘pound sign’ meaning of # always takes me aback slightly, because to me a pound sign is £.

    REFARM and RSTU are disappointing in a puzzle that has so much nice stuff.

  8. Richard says:

    As much it would raise some people’s hackles, the better clue for PIN # would be “A.T.M. Machine Necessity”

  9. JohnH says:

    WSJ: ok theme, but all trivia all the time.

  10. Lester says:

    WSJ 10D: I thought of SAXSOLO right away for Baker Street, but I hesitated putting it in. I loved that solo so much that I bought an album by Raphael Ravenscroft, who played it. The album was, um, not worth keeping; when I tried to sell it at a used record store, the guy was not willing to accept it until I told him about the Baker Street connection.

    But I agree with JohnH about the puzzle generally.

  11. Penguins says:

    # for space is arcane madness

    James Brown was the Godfather of Soul not the Godfather

  12. Bencoe says:

    I honestly didn’t understand how a bunch of far- left liberals who had spent the last fees years arguing about post-feminism and what contested “woke” could continue to act like shallow word games were important when get world was involved in a life or death struggle between the far right and everyone who is decent.
    Then I realized that you take words extremely seriously. Literally. I never did. To me words are just words. Fit for a game, but not expressive of true reality.
    Good luck to you all in the upcoming in civil war. I’m sure you and your children will inherit a great country worth living in thanks to your dail word puzzles.

  13. Bencoe says:

    Last statement to the crossword community:
    I honestly didn’t understand how a bunch of far-left liberals who had spent the last few years arguing about post-feminism and what consisted “woke” could continue to act like shallow word games were important when the world was involved in a life or death struggle between the far right and everyone who is decent.
    Then I realized that you take words extremely seriously. Literally. I never did. To me words are just words. Fit for a game, but not expressive of true reality.
    Good luck to you all in the upcoming civil war. I’m sure you and your children will inherit a great country worth living in thanks to your daily word puzzles.

Comments are closed.