Thursday, August 2, 2018

BEQ 10:21 (Ben) 


LAT 4:26 (Gareth) 


NYT 7:12 (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


The Fireball puzzle is on summer vacation.

Frank Virzi’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “No Hesitation” — Jim’s review

AT THE DROP OF A HAT is our revealer (60a, [With the slightest provocation, and how four answers in this puzzle make sense]). Those four answers feature the trigram HAT which is still present in the grid, it’s just dropped down into a crossing entry.

WSJ – Thu, 8.2.18 – “No Hesitation” by Frank Virzi

  • 16a [Windshield material] SH(AT)TERPROOF GLASS where the HAT is part of 1d HI-HATS
  • 30a [“Bottoms up!”] DOWN THE H(AT)CH with 26d PHAT
  • 45a [She plays the target in “Ocean’s 8”] ANNE H(AT)HAWAY with 33d TO THAT END. I like the crosser here as much as the main entry.
  • 54a [“Huh?”] SAY WH(AT) with 51d CHAT. I was very surprised to find that this shortie answer was thematic.

The theme concept is great, but I was confused before I got to the revealer since it seemed like the phrases were just missing ATs. Since the title is “No Hesitation” this made me wonder how AT is representative of a hesitation. With that title I would have thought UMs, UHs, or ERs, were dropped. But once I got to the revealer it all made sense and I’m good with the theme.

I may like the theme concept, but I’m sad to say the execution didn’t live up to it (for me, anyway). There’s so much crosswordese in here that it really made its presence felt and took away from the fun.

I know that themes like this (with entries in both directions) cause a lot of constraints on the grid. But even with all the extra blocks (aka “cheater squares”) in the NW/SE corners and on the right/left edges, there’s still a lot of mucky stuff: starting off with roll-your-own HALER and moving on to OAS, OYEZ, SEL, CAS, ITI, DRI, GTI, OSS, IN IT, ECG, IDEE, ACR, and (ugh) TWO NO [Bridge bid, casually].

I’m not sure what the connection between bridge and crosswords is, but I’ve decided I’m in the anti-bridge camp. Just when I got used to seeing ONE NO, now here comes TWO NO. Bridge is now officially one of my pet peeves. I hereby vow never to play a game of bridge even if my life depended on it — even if I became a suave Bond-like superspy and was required to play a game of bridge in order to defeat the supervillain and stop his doomsday device (well, maybe in that case I’d make an exception; but I doubt I’d win anyway).

Sorry about that. I’m sure bridge is a perfectly fine game, played by perfectly nice people, but I don’t know anything about it (apart from ONE NO and now TWO NO) and I think I’m content to keep it that way. I’m sure this answer was fine for plenty of solvers.


Moving on. There is some nice fill here, especially ANGEL HAIR, grid counterpart to TO THAT END. I also like BRAVADO, PYTHON , RUBY DEE, and CHUTNEY. I’m keen on a spicy/sweet mango CHUTNEY to go with papadums.

But with all the abbreviations, etc. in the fill, cluing felt similarly stilted. A few of them got me wondering:

  • 57a [Sky light]. NOVA. Can you see a NOVA (or supernova) in the sky with the naked eye? Apparently, you can. And if you’re willing to wait four years or so, this one sounds intriguing.
  • 5d [Glutinous]. ROPY. I’m still trying to sort this one out. Glutinous means glue-like, thick, or viscous. ROPY means threadlike or fibrous. Those aren’t quite the same to me.
  • 9d [Crooner with a megaphone]. VALLEE. This one’s out of my wheelhouse. Wikipedia says he was the 20th century’s first mass media pop star. The megaphone was due to the fact that microphones weren’t available at every venue.
  • 11d [British entertainer O’Connor]. DES. Another one I didn’t know and another entry adding to the old timey feel of the puzzle. See also 14d [Flamenco star Jose] GRECO. See also 28d [First man of comedy] WHO, referring to the “Who’s On First” routine. See also 50d [Super Bowl III winning coach Weeb]. EWBANK.
  • 26d [Cool, in slang]. PHAT. This sounds like an attempt to counter all that stuff I just mentioned. Sadly, I doubt people are using this slang much anymore.

All in all, a good theme, but too much other stuff got in the way. Three stars from me.

Xan Vongsathorn’s New York Times crossword—Jim Q’s review

Well, this was fun! If you had trouble making heads or tails of this one, perhaps you weren’t alone.


NYT Solution Grid 8/2/18

The circled squares in the grid work with either H or T (heads or tails).

5a. [___ value] SHOCK or STOCK with 6d. [Slight coloring] HINT or TINT.

10a. [Interjection heard when breaking up] HAHA (as in breaking up laughing) or TATA (as in breaking up a relationship… and I find the idea of using “Tata!” as a break-up line somewhat wonderful) with 10d. [Carrier of something that might burn] HEAT RAY or TEA TRAY and 12d. [It’s a blast] HOOT or TOOT.

20a. [Many people may be eliminated by one] HIT LIST or TIT LIST?? Oh. TITLIST (as in a sports champ, I think) with 1d. [Something at the end of the hook?] FISor FIST. Great clue for that part.

31a. [With 31-Down, breaking records, maybe] TIP / TOP or HIP / HOP. I’m not sure I completely understand how HIP HOP works with the clue.

39a. [Cry aboard a frigate] HEAVE Hor HEAVE TO with 40d. [Ones in the know] HIPSTERS or TIPSTERS. 

46a. [Giggle syllable] HEE or TEE with 29d. [It can take root in wet places] RUSH or RUST

56a. [Wallops] BASHES or BASTES with 44d. [Yearning] WISTFUL or WISHFUL. 

62a. [An investor might want to get a fair one] SHAKE or STAKE with 63d. [Evidence of a little spasm] HIC or TIC. 

This is not to discredit Vongsathorn’s fine work, but I distinctly remember solving a puzzle with this very same theme… It was on April Fool’s Day some years ago and I was sitting in a parking lot of a school before going in to play piano for their musical. The only reason I bring that up is that the theme was so memorable and clever that I specifically remember where I was while solving (I’ve forgotten the title of the play I was accompanying).

Surely, someone else is having that same experience with this puzzle, and I hope Xan doesn’t catch flack for his version.

[Update: Xan’s comments on his own puzzle acknowledge this- it’s an interesting read]

At first, I just thought the circled letters were all T’s, and was caught off-guard that it was a Thursday theme, but the AHA came with the revealer at 65a. [With 55-Down, actions that can be performed nine times in this puzzle without affecting any of the clues] COIN / FLIPS, and it was fun to go back through answers I’d already entered and see how they worked with the clues.

Naturally, some of the entries and/or clues felt a little forced when the letters were swapped: HIT LIST (great)-  TITLIST (say wha?). TIP TOP (I get it…)- HIP HOP (if you say so…). HEAVE HO (that works!) and HEAVE TO (wait… that’s a phrase?), but that’s the nature of Schrödinger puzzles.

There’s a heck of a lot of theme here, and it’s handled well.

Other Cool Stuff:

56d. [Wet bar locale?] BATH. Bar meaning soap. Good one.

5d. [Place for a mogul] SKI SLOPE. Moguls scare me when I ski. I avoid at all costs.

47a. [Go “heh-heh”] SNICKER. You could also go 46-Across and 46-Across.

4 stars from me! I’m still having a tough time looking at TITLIST in the grid.



Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Tipping One’s Hand” — Ben’s Review


Happy Thursday, everyone – we’ve almost made it to the weekend.  Today’s BEQ puzzle after last week’s flashback to his 2017 Boswords entry is a new one with the title “Tipping One’s Hand”. This one took me a minute to fully “get”:

  • 18A: Tipping one’s hand — LETTING ON
  • 52A: Tipping one’s hand — REVEALING

Well, that’s not much to go on.  It’s all about looking at some of the other connected clues in the grid:

  • 28A: With 17A, Fiercely — TOOTH/DNAIL

The expression is TOOTH AND NAIL, and if you follow the H from TOOTH in a diagonal down to DNAIL, you find the H-A-N-D tipped to make the full phrase.  The same H-A-N-D tipping works for 35A‘s HAN DYNASTY (“With 23A, Historical period when negative numbers and paper were invented) and 43A/55A‘s NORTH ANDOVER (“Massachusetts town where Anne Bradstreet died”)

I’m leaving it there since this week took more explanation than usual and the rest of the fill is pretty straightforward (though I’ve got my stink eye on you, JLKMN, “I/O connection?” or not).

3.75/5 stars

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

It’s a theme that reminds me of an old Reader’s Digest “Towards More Picturesque Speech” set. That is not to say it wasn’t an entertaining quartet. Basically, four crimes are considered hyperliterally, and paired with professions whose practitioners are considered likely to commit said crimes. So a blacksmith is FORGINGCHECKS, a miner is PICKINGPOCKETS, a marathoner is RUNNINGNUMBERS and a barber is SHAVINGPOINTS.

In contrast to the theme, I found the fill a little bland. It’s partly due to the 13/14/14/13 theme answer lengths, which play havoc with grid design. In any case, even in the medium length answers, there were a lot of entries like AMENDER and PANDG, and not a lot of choice morsels to counterbalance that.

3 Stars

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26 Responses to Thursday, August 2, 2018

  1. Jim Hale says:

    Moguls to me are easier on a snowboard, having done both. Good puzzle. Didn’t know Dalmatia was in Croatia or that there were people called Dalmatians.

    • Matthew G. says:

      That clue, {Dalmatian or Croatian}, struck me as weird/off, because Dalmatians _are_ Croatians. Dalmatia is a region of Croatia.

  2. Michael Tong says:

    I guess it’s the nature of Schrodinger puzzles as you say, but doesn’t HAHA/TATA feel really contrived? I think that could’ve at least been clued better. Also doesn’t it not make sense if you flip one coin but not the other (i.e. TAHA and HATA)? I would’ve liked to see theme answers which were less contrived, even if at the cost of having fewer of them.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      I agree with this sentiment. I *love* Schrödinger puzzles, but I’m also very snobby about them. My standard is that a clue must be able to be used seamlessly in a non-Schrödinger puzzle for both variant answers.

      For example, “Slight coloring” is an acceptable clue because if you saw this as a clue for HINT or TINT is a “normal” puzzle you wouldn’t think twice about it. On the flip side, the above example of “Interjection heard when breaking up” is not a clue you would ever use in a normal puzzle for TATA, so I don’t think it should be acceptable in a Schrödinger puzzle.

      But maybe this is too high a standard, as a lot of folks seemed to really enjoy this one — and I do appreciate the effort by the constructor. I just think it was impossibly ambitious.

    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      The circled letters in HAHA/TATA illustrate quantum entanglement :-)

      That is, they are in a superposition of the HH and TT states (while the other Schrödinger squares are independent of each other and of this HH/TT pair).

  3. Michael Tong says:

    Also, for those who don’t want to look, the same theme was in the April 1, 2014 crossword. That one only had four H/T squares, but had a “HEADS/TAILS” revealer where the first four squares had down answers which worked with either letter (i.e. H/E, E/A, A/I, D/L).

    • Michael Tong says:

      Also, today’s puzzle borrows BAS(H/T)ES, FIS(H/T) (with essentially the same clue), (H/T)INT, and (H/T)OOT from the puzzle that many years ago.

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        According to the constructor note the puzzle was constructed and accepted several years before “the puzzle that many years ago”, so the two constructors thought of those H/T pairs independently.

  4. GLR says:

    Jim – I took the clue for HIP HOP to be a reference to breakdancing. And HEAVE TO is definitely a legitimate sailing term – basically means to stop your boat dead in the water.

    I didn’t notice the theme until I ran into the revealer. I think I was about 50/50 on entering H’s vs. T’s, and had no idea what was going on with the circle letters.

  5. Huda says:

    NYT: Nicely done. I had more H’s than T’s but at some point noticed that both could fit . I got the revealer partway through and it really helped with the rest. The last letter I entered was the H in HEEL and it made me wish that all the H’s were in circles only. But I guess you’d have to do the same for T’s and that’s way too many constraints on a puzzle.

  6. Jeff Mizrahi says:

    NYT: I think this should have ran on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. When you have choices for nine letters in a grid, it’s much easier than a usual Thursday offering. The Schrodinger gimmick shouldn’t necessitate a Thursday run.

  7. DH says:

    I didn’t understand “Tea Tray” because I didn’t separate the words correctly – thought it might be something a farmer might shoot at a cat in the early morning …

    My only question was HIPSTERS being clued as “Ones in the know”. While “hip” can mean “in the know”, “hipsters” is generally a pejorative term – trendy, snobby, elitist, pretentious. Kind of like “Artsy”; it sounds like it might be a good thing, but it’s not. (Or maybe “In the know” carries a certain sardonic patina that I am missing …)

    There is a very interesting etymology of the word on Wikipedia – but nowhere in the word’s history does it seem to be used positively regarding a person’s savvy.

    Of course, I’m just one person – perhaps others use the word or have heard it used in this context – but not me.

    The trendy people whom others call “hipsters” do not self-identify as such, often taking offense at the epithet. Perhaps if they embraced it and wore the label with pride it would lose some of its derogatory implication.

  8. JohnH says:

    I liked the NYT a lot. The theme revealed itself only slowly and in stages, first as I got the idea that my initial T or H might not be the only choice, then the connection to a coin flip at the very end, when I reached the hint dual entry. But I still just hate the editor’s fixation on the mistaken idea that C is an average grade. I guess he’ll never get over it.

    I agree with the review of the WSJ, too. Promising theme, but mediocre execution and plenty of awful fill. I was also thrown by the asymmetric placement of the short theme entry. Indeed, I wanted to deny that it was a theme entry at all. Maybe, I told myself, it was just a variant spelling of the slangy “Saw wha?” Sad to see such an interesting theme and difficult to create theme fill turn into such a lousy puzzle. You’d think that’s what you have editors for.

  9. Gene says:

    I thought of HIPHOP as new, recent,i.e. breaking, records.

  10. Lise says:

    If there is a longer bowl game name than “Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl”, (LAT 63A) I’d love to hear it.

    According to Wikipedia, in the CTCBR Bowl, the Florida Atlantic Owls beat the Akron Zips 50-3. Owls rule! (Although I understand that the Akron Zips won the 2015 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl).

    • PJ Ward says:

      Those are good ones. My favorite was the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl played in Shreveport Louisiana.

      • Brian says:

        In addition to those ones, I am partial to St. Petersburg’s Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

        • Lise says:

          Those are amazing!

          I nominate “The Mondelēz International Nabisco Nutter Butter Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies East Hanover New Jersey Bowl” for a future contest.

          • Jim Hale says:

            Of course all of the Bowls mentioned can be put under the category of Toilet Bowls. BYU and the University of Utah frequently hurl those insults at each other when they do not get into the more prestigious Bowls.

  11. Greg says:

    Not sure what the objection is to “Titlist.“ “Many people are eliminated” (in, for example, a golf tournament) by the eventual titlist.

    • PJ Ward says:

      I’m guessing it’s one of two things.
      The golf ball has us conditioned to look for titleist.
      The tit list parsing can cause a second take while we’re deciding if we’re looking at a list of small song birds or something else.

      • Matthew G. says:

        Yeah, I had a moment of real self-doubt because of the golf ball thing. I initially put in TITLEST and then couldn’t decide if I had been tripped up by corporate branding or just incipient senescence.

    • michael Hodson says:

      Not that the answer made any sense, but a long I and a schwa were the farthest things from my (preoccupied) mind. I only learned the explanation from the review. What a terrific misdirection.

      • Lois says:

        Yes, I didn’t get it at all. And I had such a hard time reading the spelling “Titleist” when I watched golf some time back. Seems like neither works for me — I should know the word spelled either way from this day on, I hope.

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