Thursday, August 23, 2018

BEQ 8:05 (Ben) 


LAT 3:56 (Gareth)  


NYT 4:21 (joon—across lite) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


The Fireball puzzle is still on summer vacation.

Colin Gale’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Short Stories” — Jim’s review

I managed to figure out what the revealer would be before I came across it, but it still took some time for me to see it. We’re given phrases that end in the trigram -LOW, and it’s at that point in each entry where it turns upward. What does it mean? The revealer is LOW RISES (57a, [Short buildings, and a clue to this puzzle’s theme]). Cute.

WSJ – Thu, 8.23.18 – “Short Stories” by Colin Gale (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” jingle writer] BARRY MANI(LOW) with 9d WOLFE. I think I had known the clue’s factoid at one point in my life, but I had forgotten it. This was the second themer I uncovered after MUSTARD YELLOW. Since that one ended in a color, I thought this one might be BARRY WHITE. I bet he could make selling insurance sound sexy.
  • 33a [Goldenrod cousin] MUSTARD YEL(LOW) with 22d AWOL.
  • 44a [Subject of a series of Monet paintings] WEEPING WIL(LOW) with 32d TWOL. We’ve all seen crosswordesey ONEL many times, Nash’s reference to “a priest.” So the clue [Like the pack animal about which Nash wrote “he’s a beast”] hopefully led you to the TWO-L llama. Not a very nice bit of crosswordese, but how else are you going to fill _WOL when AWOL is already taken?
  • 62a [Mamet play in which Madonna made her Broadway debut] SPEED THE P(LOW) with 56d WOLDS. Uncultured swine that I am, I didn’t know the play, I sussed out the back half, but that first word could have been anything for me, so I was stuck in that bottom section for some time. I think I had AS PER, REESE, and TEE for the longest time. [Summer music] for DISCO is fantastically mis-directing, [Hosp. bunch] could’ve been a number of things, didn’t know the Borgia brother CESARE (for a while I had LESLIE…don’t ask), and [Ominous ending] is pretty ambiguous for OR ELSE. Oh, and I really wanted SELL for [Plug, say], so the one-letter-away SEAL was reeeally hard to see. Thankfully, somewhere I must have heard the play’s name, so I put in SPEED and that started to break the logjam. Another uncommon entry here (WOLDS) clued as [Chains of treeless, rolling hills]. I was able to get it right away though because of the leading WOL- and because there’s a Lakewold Gardens down the road a piece.

What did you think of the theme? Not bad, but that TWOL is rough, and WOLDS is an uncommon word to hinge (haha) your theme on.

Quite an array of cultural references in the clues today in addition to Manilow, Monet, and Mamet in the theme entries. Maybe this felt like a trivia contest for some:

  • [Neon Desert Music Festival site] clues EL PASO. New to me.
  • [Powers of “Hart to Hart”] clues STEFANIE. A gimme for me. I think my mom used to watch that show.
  • [Dottie West song “What ___ Doin’ in Love”] clues ARE WE. Before my time I think. Whoops. I’m very wrong. The name Dottie West sounds early 20th century to me, but the song came out in 1981. Oh yeah, I’ve heard that song before. (Could’ve gone a lot longer without hearing it again, though.) If you actually watch that video, you might chuckle at the dude up in the sound booth singing the duet with West (0:44). I wonder if the audience ever figured out where that voice was coming from.
  • [“Claws” carrier] clues TNT.
  • [Best of old movies] is EDNA. Now she is definitely before my time.
  • [Garfield, e.g.] clues TABBY.
  • [“Look Homeward, Angel”] clues Thomas WOLFE.
  • [When Romeo first beholds Juliet] clues SCENE V. (Act I, I presume?)
  • [Carmela’s portrayer] is EDIE. Ah, The Sopranos. EDIE Falco. No, I never watched that show.
  • [Prey for the Morlocks] is of course ELOI from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.
  • [___ Murdock (Daredevil’s alter ego)] is MATT. Another gimme for me. As a teen reading comic books, I ranked Daredevil right up there just under Spidey.
  • [2018 film role for Donald Glover] clues LANDO. I knew this, but, well, still haven’t seen Solo.
  • [“Thoughtcrime” coiner] comes from ORWELL‘s 1984 of course. I was just talking about this book the other day with my family and how my wife or daughter never had to read it. Sales of the book soared after everyone started realizing that ORWELL‘s dystopia parallels Trump’s America much too closely.
  • [Summer music] refers to Donna Summer and the DISCO era. Love this clue!
  • [“Camelot” composer] goes with Frederick LOEWE.
  • [“The Golden Compass” heroine] is LYRA. I started reading this, but didn’t get very far. Is it worth picking up again?

Wow, that’s a lot of culture, pop and otherwise (and only one is very current: LANDO). Is it more than usual? Feels like it. Is it too much trivia? Maybe. I felt crossings were fair enough to help out in (most of) the tough sections.

There’s a lot of theme material, and with it curving upwards, there are quite a few constraints on the grid. That leaves precious little room for long non-theme fill. STEFANIE is about all there is. I do like the word SWATCH for some reason. Oh yeah, there used to be a watch with that name. Hey, it’s still around. I guess there are still some people who wear watches.

Ok, time to wrap this up. I like the theme, but it led to some rough fill (I haven’t really mentioned OVETT and OSIER yet) and the cluing felt a bit heavy on the trivia side. 3.25 stars.

Kyle Dolan’s New York Times crossword—joon’s review

NY Times crossword 18 08 23joon here filling in for andy, who’s on a plane. kyle dolan has a tricky rebus puzzle today with a theme of {Common farming technique … or a hint to solving this puzzle} CROP ROTATION. what does that mean? three rebus squares contain names of crops, and the across and down answers meeting at each one take 90° turns:

  • {Title for Prince Charles’s Camilla} DUCHESS OF [CORN]WALL starts out going across but takes a downward turn at the [CORN] square, where {Third base, in baseball lingo} HOT [CORN]ER starts out going down but turns to the right.
  • {General amount of money that something sells for} P[RICE] RANGE does the same dance with {Stunning creatures of the Amazon} ELECT[RIC E]ELS. great clue for that latter one!
  • {Behind-the-scenes worker in TV news} STO[RY E]DITOR and {“Or even …”} BETTE[R YE]T meet up at RYE.

i was definitely a little slow to catch onto the theme—i could tell it was going to be a rebus, or something like a rebus, pretty early on when ELECTRIC EELS wouldn’t fit at 3d. but the first rebus square i fully grokked was HOT CORNER, and i was addled by the fact that there was an actual corner turn involved, so i wasn’t quite ready for the CROP ROTATION revealer until i worked my way down to the bottom of the grid.

i’m of two minds about the theme. on the one hand, i like seeing something new and different, especially when it comes to rebus themes, and i thought the six actual theme answers were all good to great (BETTER YET being my favorite). on the other, i can’t help feeling that the connection between “rotation” and what’s happening in these three special squares is a little more tenuous than i’d prefer. i don’t know if i’m articulating this well, but to me, a rotation would involve both of the answers turning (say) clockwise, rather than one clockwise and one counterclockwise, as is the case here. maybe this is a ridiculously nitpicky criticism that would only make sense to another physicist; i dunno. or maybe i’m just looking for somebody to blame for the fact that i was so slow to pick up on the theme mechanic.

the rest of the puzzle is all really good. i like that kyle didn’t bite off more than he could chew—having “only” three rebus squares felt just right to me as far as allowing for a lively, cleanly filled grid. there’s a lot of really nice medium-length fill: BEER CAN, IT’S A TRAP, LET LOOSE, EAGLE EYE, and CHIPOTLE to name a few. there’s a newish entry that i thought was a noteworthy inclusion: {“Lincoln in the ___” (2017 George Saunders best-selling novel)} BARDO. BARDO is an unusual word from tibetan buddhist belief, but this is a significant novel from last year, winning the 2017 booker prize. have any of you read it? i haven’t, but it looks really cool.

speaking of newish entries, {“O ___” (greeting on many lolcat memes)} HAI is a fun one. i mean, HAI is not new, but this clue is new. i’m actually a little surprised i haven’t seen O HAI in full yet. four letters, three vowels—that’s gold. (OH HAI is almost as common in memes, but of course, it’s also less useful as fill.)

i met kyle in person once, i think, at the 2017 acpt. i can’t remember all the details of our conversation, but i am pretty sure we discussed constructing; this is actually his first nyt puzzle since then, and even though it was 17 months ago, i’m wondering if it was already in the pipeline by that time. rebus puzzles have a tendency to spend a long time in the cellar before publication, because you can’t really have a rebus every thursday without them getting stale. kyle, if you’re reading this: do you remember when you sent this puzzle in?

that’s all i’ve got this week. thanks for a fun puzzle, kyle!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Carrying a Piece” — Ben’s Review

Pretty straightforward theme from BEQ this week:

  • 20A: Actress Shields did her homework? — BROOKE PREPARED
  • 25A: Tough-guy actor Steve’s tool? — MCQUEEN HAMMER
  • 47A: Element of a swindle? — SKIN GAME THING
  • 53A: Growing piscine features? — SPAWNING SCALES

Each of these entries has a chess piece hidden inside an otherwise normal phrase (BE PREPARED, MC HAMMER, SAME THING, SING SCALES).  That last one kind of trips my “that’s not actually a thing, really” trigger, but I’ll let it slide.

Other fill notes:

  • I was a little underwhelmed with some of the fill this week.  ICE IT? DO YOU? I’M NOT a fan.
  • Schipol is a pretty great airport, so seeing it get a shoutout in relation to KLM was nice
  • NVIDIA has to be a handy piece of fill as far as graphics card creators go.

3.5/5 stars

Roger & Kathy Wienberg’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I like this find. A set of four six-letter anagrams are presented, and everything is tied up by a fabulous spanning revealer: MENTALGYMNASTICS. I personally have never heard of a FIREPLACEMANTEL, I call that a mantelpiece, but it googles remarkably well, so who am I to say.


  • [Kind of artery], RENAL. This clue is poor. ELASTIC and MUSCULAR are kinds of artery. The RENAL is AN artery, not a KIND OF artery.
  • [Mosquito repellent], DEET. An acronym of a long chemical name.
  • [“Stop pouring”], WHEN. This clue is perfect, on the other hand.
  • [Yellow bill in classic Monopoly], TEN. Classic monopoly was not intended for amusement so much as to make a political statement on the dangers of monopolies…
  • [Five-time US Open champ], GRAF. Hey, that’s next week! Not sure who the favourite is exactly!  Feel like Kvitova has to come good again in a big tournament soon, was really looking impressive all-around until just before Wimbledon. Betting against Serena of course is always a risk.
  • [Airport parking facilities], HANGARS. Another great, but simple clue. You might be thinking for cars, but its referring to the planes.
  • [Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter Laura], NYRO. Think I’m obliged to link

4 Stars

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27 Responses to Thursday, August 23, 2018

  1. john farmer says:

    Tricky puzzle. No idea for a while where HOT CORNER was supposed to go. Finally made sense of it all. Nice work, Kyle.

    “Lincoln in the BARDO” was timely. I’m halfway through, and enjoying it. Set in a graveyard during the Civil War, Lincoln’s son Willie is in transition from life to death while a variety of characters comment on and debate his fate. It’s an actual ghost story. An unusual and original novel, and a relatively quick read. I recommend it.

  2. Chukkagirl says:

    NYT: fun to suss this one out, caught on to the rebus action with DUCHESS OF _ER right about the same time as CROP ROTATION. Liked it a lot!

  3. Ethan says:

    The NYT solving interface spoiled one of the answers for me. I had filled in BETTER STILL for 25D early on and I kept that R there until the end, but before I could go back and make sense of BETTERDITOR and STORT I got the congratulations on a successful solve and the program changed the R to RYE for me. Very frustrating. I did get CORN and RICE on my own, though.

  4. Cindy says:

    Lincoln in the Bardo is an amazing book, about Lincoln grieving the death of his son Todd. Having lost my own son, I couldn’t finish it though. Some day I’ll feel stronger and give it another go.

  5. Ktd says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful review, joon! Yes, I also remember our conversation over dinner at ACPT 2017.

    This puzzle was originally submitted at the beginning of this year, maybe January or February. Will and Joel asked for minor revisions in May, and it was accepted shortly thereafter.

  6. arthur118 says:

    “Lincoln in the Bardo”, (bardo being purgatory), is sensitive and riveting in the early going as the author mainly depicts the grieving Lincoln.

    When the book branches out to feature cartoonish spirits displaying their idiosyncrasies like a murder of crows competing for individual attention, the book becomes a bad joke and for this reader, a waste of time; not rewarding and not read further.

  7. JohnH says:

    WSJ theme just fine, but as Jim says a heck of a lot of names in LANDO, STEFANIE, OVETT, . . . . The Mamet play is actually far more in accord with my interests, so I did in due time remember the first word.

  8. Scott says:

    NYT very enjoyable today.

  9. Medicated says:

    WSJ revealer and theme were quite good, but not enough to make up for the wretched fill

  10. GLR says:

    In the end, I liked the NYT but, as usual, I was too slow to consider a rebus. I didn’t know Camilla’s title, but three letters didn’t seem like much for her to be Duchess of, and although I thought 3rd base was the HOT CORNER, I’m not enough of a baseball fan to be certain. I kept ELECTRIC EEL at 3-D for too long, thinking that “eel” can be either plural or singular, but I didn’t feel good about it.

    Need to put a Post-it note on my laptop – “Rebus?”

  11. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: joon, I also felt a little perplexed by the rotational aspect. My first thought was that the theme answers making a right turn wasn’t really a rotation. But it’s not supposed to be the theme answers rotating, just the crops. So…let’s get nit-picky.

    Let’s look at RYE in particular, since it’s a nice short one. Focusing on the square which RYE inhabits, and with respect to BETTER YET, the R comes in from the top, then we have an axial Y, then the E exiting out to the right. If the crop truly rotated to satisfy the other theme answer (either clockwise or counterclockwise but using Y as the axis point), the E would end up on the left side of the square and the R would be exiting down (never mind that all the letters would be upside-down; for the sake of argument, let’s pretend they have some sort of balancing mechanism that keeps them upright). This could be used for an entry like K(EY R)ING, HOCK(EY R)INK, or SMOK(EY R)OBINSON. I think it would have been way cool, but maybe too confounding for the solver? I don’t know that I would have been able to pick up on it.

    And this would be harder to do with the other crops (and it feels less elegant with even-numbered crops since you have to rotate around the space between the middle two letters). NORMA(N ROC)KWELL works for CORN but that’s the only decent entry I could find. STON(E CIR)CLE works for RICE, but there’s not much else.

    As it is, Kyle’s approach might just work best for a general audience. And it sure made me think. Nice one, Kyle!

  12. Jenni Levy says:

    I guess I’m glad I’m not the physical scientist in the family. I loved this puzzle and found the “rotation” very satisfying, since I don’t know enough about physics to bother me. “Hot corner” was also the one that gave me the rebus, but then I was looking for “corn” everywhere until I found the revealer. So much fun!

    • David L says:

      I am (or was) a physicist, and I didn’t have any problem with the theme and explanation. The revealer says that CROPROTATION is a “hint” to what’s going on, and the theme answers all rotate at the square containing the rebused crop. Good enough for me!

    • JohnH says:

      I was a physics major in a top department and the theme works perfectly for me, too. I appreciated the challenge.

      The fill was hard, too. I didn’t make the connection from “or even” easily and didn’t know what Camilla is called. With the RYE rotation, too, the down fill took me longer for not knowing ABBA either. DAP / TOUPEE was another hard crossing, with more new vocabulary. (Still don’t get that one, in fact, after Googling for “define plugs.”) Ditto HAI. Still, nice to learn or relearn some of this and POULT, and not much in the pop culture realm to put me off after BADU.

  13. Ethan Friedman says:

    Add me to the list of satisfied NYT solvers. I did find your comments a little nitpicking, Joon. Solid theme, well-executed

  14. pannonica says:

    NYT: I envisioned the rotation as three-dimensional. A simple 180° twist at the rebus-node flips both ends. Of course the letters would be reflected, but I feel that’s an internal nuance reasonably overlooked.

    Although this isn’t directly analogous to the essentially planar agricultural practice of cycling among fields, I’m untroubled by that as well.

    • pannonica says:

      Wow. I could have written that a lot more simply. Apologies.

      Also, I’d like to point people to my delayed response regarding the Tuesday ‘evolution’ NYT crossword.

    • WhiskyBill says:

      I thought the same thing, pannonica, and equally worried about the complexity of putting it into words.

  15. RSP64 says:

    Thank you to all commenters for using proper capitalization of words at the beginning of sentences. I (and I assume others) find it difficult to read sentences that don’t start with capital letters. I don’t care how old someone is, they can use proper grammar (or whatever you would call it) rules.

    • Gareth says:

      Have you dug up Edward Estlin Cummings to inform him of that?

      • RSP64 says:

        You’re equating a blog post about a crossword puzzle to a work by E. E. Cummings?

        • Papa John says:

          I believe those who do use all lower case equate themselves to cummings… It’s an unique conceit, no? I always felt you had to give something to a convention before you’re entitled to bend it.

  16. DRC says:

    WSJ – I had Leslie for awhile as well. This one was a slog.

  17. pauer says:

    playing catch-up, and I enjoyed the rebus puz, which reminded me of the first rebus puz I ever saw:

Comments are closed.