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.
- 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.
THEME: COIN / FLIPS
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?] FISH or 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 HO or 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).
Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
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.