Thursday, September 20, 2018

BEQ 8:08 (Ben) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 5:19 (Gareth)  


NYT 4:06 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 9.20.18 by Sam Ezersky

Wow, this was a tough one! I’m still not 100% sure I understand the theme fully, but I’ll do my best to explain it. There are three theme entries that each contain a synonym for some kind of yarn-like strand, which has been woven across two rows in alternating, unchecked squares:

  • 17a, MESSAGET/H/R/E/A/D [Series of exchanges in a chat window].
  • 35a/34a, INTERL/A/C/EDWITH [Woven into / -].
  • 48a/54a, S/T/R/I/N/GSECTION [Group that bows onstage / -].

The visual impact of the grid is undeniable. It’s a 14×16 grid with a lot of unchecked squares and tons of really long entries. Some really nice stuff in the grid (BOAR HUNT, GYM SOCK, GO TO RUIN, RAT POISON, ATOM MAN, ANAHEIM CA) and some stuff I didn’t care as much for (IN ONE ACT, MADE IT BETTER). Bit of a dupe with GO DRY and GO TO RUIN, but a forgivable dupe.

The theme was difficult for me to suss out, partly because there wasn’t really a revealer to… tie this one up in a bow. It’s a demerit in and of itself that I still don’t know if I got everything there was to get about the theme. The thing about a theme like this is that when you have a ton of unchecked squares, there are a lot of opportunities for the solver to be stymied — the unchecked square that gave me the most trouble was the H in HERDS [Drives in a field], and I could see the C in COAGENT [Associate in finance, say] being tricky as well. Even so, this an impressive construction (like I said, so many long entries! Basically a themeless grid with a really hard gimmick!) and a new and interesting idea for a theme, which is basically all I ask for from a Thursday.

There were some really fun clues, like [Blue-green?] for SEASICK and [Outing at which participants go hog-wild?] for BOAR HUNT. 

This one will provoke a lot of conversation, I think. Until next time!

Frnk Lng’s Fireball crossword “Vwllss Crsswrd 9” —Jnn’s wrt-p

As I think I said last year, I don’t really know how to review a vwllss crsswrd. I suspect some people love them and some people hate them and few are in between. I love them.

The cluing has to be easier than most because the difficulty comes from the lack of vowels. In this crossword, 21a [Technique for a test-tube baby] is a straight-up definition and gave me a nice long foothold. The answer, of course, is NVTRFRTLZTN (in-vitro fertilization).

Some of my favorites:

FB 9/20, sltn grd

  • 8d [Smarmy idlers who frequent nightclubs] are LNGLZRDS (lounge lizards), which was also a gimme, especially once I had the Z in the crossing.
  • 32a [Succeeded big-time] is MDTTTHTP (made it to the top), which took me a while to suss out.
  • 37a [Statistic for a goalie or a relief pitcher] is SVPRCNTG (save percentage). I kept trying to make it CRRSVS, which clearly didn’t fit. Nice crossing: 30d [Three-bagger on the diamond] for TRPL (triple)
  • 22d [Citrusy tequila cocktail with a greenish tinge] is a LMMRGRT (lime margarita). Is that a retronym?
  • 48a [Capital on the Tigris River] is BGHDDRQ  (Baghdad, Iraq). Took me a while to realize I had to add the country.

I overthought 9d [Colon’s place, anatomically] because I figured that laypeople think the colon is the entire LRGNTSTN (large intestine) so I didn’t put in the obvious answer. (For the record, the large intestine is made up of the colon, cecum, and rectum).

Nthng mr t sy abt ths n. Njy!

Lewis Porter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Secure at Last” — Jim’s review

We have a sort of before-and-after theme today involving LOCKs and KEYs. The title indicates that those additions will be coming at the end of the original base phrases.

WSJ – Thu, 9.20.18 – “Secure at Last” by Lewis Porter

  • 20a [Security device that has government approval?] LEGAL PADLOCK
  • 27a [Backlit part of a PC?] NIGHT SHIFT KEY
  • 43a [Ivory part of a PC?] WHITE CAPS LOCK
  • 49a [Superintendent’s item that’s an antique?] OLD MASTER KEY

Let’s start with the title. I’ve never heard that as an in-the-language phrase before. I think I’ve heard, “Safe at last!”, but not “Secure…”

I didn’t find the theme answers themselves humorous or engaging, and they seemed inconsistent as well. For example, you have two entries that refer to PCs, and two that don’t. And I think that people would more commonly just say “Shift” rather than “Shift key.” But Caps Lock is also a key, yet it doesn’t have that appended to it.

Further, it just seems odd that the LOCKs and KEYs are just sitting there. A KEY should go into a LOCK, so I would find the puzzle a lot more interesting if that could have somehow been represented.

And then there was some unusual and unfortunate fill.  For example, I do not remember Remember WENN, the “1990s AMC series.” Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it. OILWAY [Lubrication channel] is both weird in its clue and in the fact that it is a thing that exists. Do they not always pipe oil whenever they need to transport it? I didn’t know FOLIE [___ a deux (shared delusion)], nor GAMAL [Nasser’s first name], but those are fair and I could get them from the crossings. The one that triggered the scowl-o-meter the most was crosswordese ISERE [Grenoble’s department] crossing uncommon foreign currency PIASTRE [Division of the Egyptian pound]. If I didn’t recognize ISERE as crosswordese, I would surely have been Naticked there.

Also, I had CAN / I GO NOW instead of MAY / I GO NOW. I ended with an error because I forgot to go back and check that SE section. But the crossings were RICE and BANS, two legit words, and in the case of RICE, preferable to RIME (for me anyway).

RAIL THIN is good, and BELLY RUB is great, but my favorite moment was when I realized [Born to run?] was cluing YELLOW. Lovely, lovely clue. Runner-up: [Set of dishes] for MEAL. [Post-bottle event] for BURP is good too; that one’s for those of you with infants.

Too many sticky and befuddling points in this one for me. 2.9 stars.

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

Today’s BEQ had a pretty easy-to-spot theme:

  • 18A: Go back and forth between types of sparkle? — VARY GLITTER
  • 25A: Brute in a touring band’s vehicle? — VAN SAVAGE
  • 39A: Thor’s weapon? — VIKE HAMMER
  • 56A: One rotating a sizable tub? — VAT TURNER
  • 64A: Cover up a baseball field? — VEIL DIAMOND
  • 11A: With 72A, fast food chain, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme — FIVE GUYS

We’ve got GARY GLITTER, DAN SAVAGE, MIKE HAMMER, NAT TURNER, and NEIL DIAMOND, but with a V in front of their names, which ties in with the FIVE GUYS revealer.

The rest of the fill on this was pretty straightforward, though EXMOOR managed to trip me up towards the bottom of the puzzle.  What did you find tricky?

3.75/5 stars

Paul Coulter’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I’ve seen the FORD to FJORD stunt pulled a few times, usually as FJORDEXPLORER or FJORDMUSTANG, so it was quite easy to pick up the gist of the theme. That and it’s Friday at the LA Times, and like as not we’re adding letters! The J’s are added in different places each time, both in the word and the phrase – at least it’s consistently inconsistent though. Throughout the solve I was hoping for a revealer of some sort to elevate it above the mundane. Well, there is a revealer, GOTTHEHOOK, and although I can visualise the act in Vaudeville, I’ve never heard it called that. Dictionaries label it “North American slang”, so it’s probably just me.

It felt like the short fill in general could’ve been polished a tad. Maybe it was because I was feeling a tad underwhelmed by the theme, but CAULS (which are unrelated to CAUL fat, and this confuses me totally), seemingly easy to avoid and hopelessly contrived ETS, and the way STEN was clued as [Scandinavian name meaning “cliff”], STEN all served to put a general dampener on my enjoyment factor. Oh well, KNISHES and WALLOON are fun to say.

2 Stars

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19 Responses to Thursday, September 20, 2018

  1. Jim Hale says:

    The NYT was rough sailing for me until figuring out the trick. I didn’t care much for “gym sock”. I’ve never heard anyone say that and I’ve been a gym rat since the age of 15. “Sal soda” seemed pretty obscure to me. There was some clever stuff mixed in… but I wouldn’t call it a pleasant solve.

  2. Lise says:

    I loved the NYT. I wobbled a bit in the beginning, but caught on with INTERLACED WITH (although I had a little trouble figuring out the WITH part). I liked the contrast between GO TO RUIN and MADE IT BETTER. I initially misinterpreted “bows” as people bowing after a performance; that was a good bit of chicanery on Mr. Ezersky’s part.

    Nice one!

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Exactly my experience! I got “interlace” but didn’t see the DWIDTH for a while. Liked the puzzle a lot!

  3. Norm says:

    Fireball was one of the best puzzles this year! Thought I was going to hate it after having little to show for staring at the grid for 5 minutes and was about to give up and try the With Enumerations version, but something clicked and I ended up liking it more and more as I went on. Last thing to fall for me [in terms of understanding the answer, even after I had the puzzle “solved”] was NTLFRTHRNTC. Just couldn’t parse it for the longest time, but couldn’t give up until I did.

  4. Scott says:

    NYT. Am I the only one who doesn’t understand 31D as a reference to 28D?

  5. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Interesting NYTimes crossword. In the end there are no unchecked squares, e.g. the C of COAGENT is in the thematic part of INTERLACED_WITH. Probably too ambitious a grid, despite the helper/cheater squares in the top and bottom rows; e.g. I recognized ye olde “SAL soda” but had a tougher time with the (um, how to say this thematically?) cluster-screw of names in the Northeast.

    @Scott: CDT = Central Daylight Time, observed by IOWANS in the summer. (It’s 29D in the paper version.)

    3D:MADE_IT_BETTER may have been intended as a Hey Jude allusion. [Hey Paul, spend some more time / Take your bad song, and make it better. / You know it isn’t really a rhyme / When you don’t change even one letter. ;-) ]


    • GLR says:

      Sorry – didn’t read your post before I replied to @Scott.

      I had the same thought on 3-D.

    • David L says:

      It took me a while to figure out what was going on, and I struggled with COAGENT until I did. SAL soda is an old groaner. You could clue it with reference to SAL Paradise instead, but perhaps that would be equally mysterious to Young People Today.

      Until now I had no idea that SCOTland is the ‘land of cakes.’ IGETIDEAS was similarly obscure. All in all, though, the crosses worked and the puzzle was doable.

    • Andy says:

      This is a great point about the checked/unchecked letters. Thanks!

    • Ethan says:

      But in your parody “rhyme” doesn’t rhyme with “change” at all.

  6. Greg says:

    I thought that Mr. Ezersky’s NYT puzzle was perfect for a Thursday. The theme was ingenious and the fill was appropriately challenging.

  7. David L says:

    I don’t quite understand the BEQ theme. How does FIVE GUYS suggest replacing the initial letter of five guy’s names with a V?

    As usual with BEQ, an abundance of names and, for me, a Natick at WARRENG and REN. Guessable, I suppose, but REN could be any number of things and rapper names are not known for being commonplace. Could’ve been WARDEN G, for all I know, or WAR ZENG. WARM ENG? Probably not…

  8. Penguins says:

    “The print version of this puzzle contains irregular instances of clue numbering that this software cannot reproduce.” Which drastically reduces the difficulty of the gimmick having looked at it. Nice design , but odd in that it just kinda hangs there w/o a revealer.

  9. Mutman says:

    NYT: I got the ‘string section’ first. Thought the gimmick had something to do with the tuning pegs. I just slugged trough the rest, not even picking up on the yarn angle.

    I agree: some sort of revealer was needed.

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