Daniel Kantor’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review
The NYT applet has been adding more and more features over the past six months or so. In recent memory, there’s been Sunday’s Ceci n’est pas une pipe puzzle that connected the circled letters upon completion, Sam Ezersky’s weaving puzzle that animated the weaved letters upon completion, and one of my favorite puzzles, Milo Beckman and David Steinberg’s rainbow flag puzzle from June, filled in the colors of the rainbow upon completion. So, big ups to the NYT applet coding team! This is a puzzle that would formerly only have worked in print, so I appreciate getting to have the same experience online.
Daniel has given us a meta puzzle! No, there’s not a second secret answer to the puzzle. Rather, the puzzle itself contains meta entries: the four theme answers are clued not by words in the clue list, but rather by themselves, hinted at by art in the grid:
- 17a, FILL IN THE BLANKS. The grid contains thick underscores in every square of this entry; you must fill in the blanks with FILL IN THE BLANKS.
- 33a, SHADES OF GRAY. Every square of this entry is not white, but rather a variety of SHADES OF GRAY.
- 42a, INSIDE THE BOX. This entry is surrounded by a thick gray box, inside of which you must write INSIDE THE BOX.
- 62a, BETWEEN THE LINES. This entry has two thick lines on top and on bottom, between which you must write BETWEEN THE LINES.
I think this is a very innovative gimmick, and I was glad to see Daniel push the boundaries of what a mainstream puzzle can be. I like my Thursdays tougher than this, and I thought it was misplaced on a Thursday even though the theme was unconventional. By contrast, I thought the clues were unusually difficult (even for a Thursday!) to compensate.
Speaking of clues, there were some fun ones!
- 16a, TOGAS [Coverage of the Senate?]
- 21a, MISERY [Word that sounds like a state when accented on the second syllable rather than the first]. mih-ZUR-ee (Missouri) instead of MIH-zur-ee.
- 49a, SEA LEGS [Good standing in the Navy?]. Very cute!
- 55a, ALAS [“‘Tis sad”].
- 68a, TORTS [Stuff from which some suits are made?]. Got me right in my lawyer-bone.
- 50d, HABIT [Something you might kick after you pick it up].
- 58d, AHAB [Starbuck’s order giver]. It’s Pumpkin Spice Latte™ season! (Don’t @ me, haters.) But this of course refers to Moby Dick, not my beloved PSLs™.
This is maybe the only time you’ll hear me say that I liked seeing MINIONS [Highest-grossing animated film of 2015].
Fun fact! Eric Foreman was the character played by Omar EPPS on House; Eric Forman was the character played by Topher Grace on That ’70s Show.
Didn’t love the clue for 28d, SHE [___-bear]. The only times I like seeing “she-[insert animal name here]” are:
- In the name of she-crab soup, inexplicably; and
- In the name of this good Shakira song.
An interesting idea that made for a fine Thursday puzzle. Until next time!
Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword “Themeless 120” —Jenni’s write-up
I may be tired – well, I am tired, and that may be why this felt like more of a slog than it probably was. That and a couple of completely unfamiliar entries.
- 2d [Margarine ingredient] is OLEO OIL. I’ve been doing crosswords for more than forty years, and I’m oh-so-familiar with OLEO. I have never seen nor heard of OLEO OIL. Merriam-Webster says it’s “a yellow oil of buttery consistency expressed usually from edible tallow and used in making margarine and soap and in lubrication – compare OLEOSTEARIN.” I may never eat margarine again. Edible tallow? Eeuw.
- 30a is [Leatherneck]. I had the E at the end and confidently filled in MARINE. Nope. It’s GYRENE, which M-W helpfully tells me is slang for “a U.S. Marine.” Origin unknown. OK, then.
A few things I liked:
- 15a [Programs that are memory hogs] are BLOATWARE.
- 8d [Blue books?] are EROTICA.
- Math trivia that was kind of fun to figure out: 10d [Dozenth prime] is THIRTY-SEVEN.
- 17a [Washington, once] isn’t George. It’s Denzel – BEST ACTOR.
- 47a [Can] is not the verb for preserving food, nor the verb for firing someone, nor the noun describing a food storage vessel. It’s THRONE – slang for toilet.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that George HALAS is on a stamp. The stamps were issued in 1997. The other three coaches are Bear Bryant, Vince Lombardi, and Pop Warner.
Dan Fisher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Spelling Bee” — Jim’s review
DRONE is the type of bee we’re looking for as clued at 66a [Bee formed by the letters heard at the starts of this puzzle’s theme answers]. Those theme answers have pre-pended “letters” (actually, “letter sounds” would be more accurate) that together spell out, not BEE as the title would suggest, but DRONE.
- 18a [Sign of exertion by the Flintstones’ pet?] DINO SWEAT. D + “No sweat.”
- 23a [Sweetener understood only by a few chemists?] ARCANE SUGAR. R + Cane sugar.
- 35a [Click “Okay” in a pop-up alert box?] OBEY WINDOWS. O + Bay windows.
- 51a [Not just two or three links?] ENTIRE CHAIN. N + Tire chain.
- 57a [Cookout featuring colorful eggs?] EASTER FRY. E + Stir fry.
I get that we’re spelling out the word DRONE, but what I don’t get is why those “letters” are added to existing phrases. There’s sort of a logical leap taking place here that doesn’t make sense to me. Why those phrases? Why at the beginning of the phrases and not the ends? In actuality, the theme is accomplished with just the first words of the theme answers; the second words are all extraneous.
If all the base phrases were, say, flowers, that would tighten things up and make it more interesting (yes, I know drones are the male suitors to the queen, not the workers who are going out collecting nectar or pollen, but work with me here). Another approach is to use phrases that have a standalone first letter, which, collectively, would spell out the needed word. For example, D DAY, R RATED, etc. As it is, the theme feels too loose.
Moving on, our longest non-theme fill entries are TOENAILS and OUT TO SEA. Maybe not exactly thrilling, but not bad. I also like OLIVIER, ANORAK, CALICO, and “DON’T GO.” But I did get hung up on entries like ELIHU and EDD in the SE and trivial clues like [Tupou VI’s kingdom] (TONGA) and [Cavatelli coating] (PESTO) in the NW.
My favorite bit of the puzzle was MACLEAN [“The Guns of Navarone” writer Alistair]. Not that I knew the name, but I have always loved the film ever since I was a kid. Here’s a taut action scene from early in the film. As one commenter said, “This is what happens when you don’t ask, ‘Permission to come aboard?'”
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Belatedly” — Ben’s Review
I initially figured today’s BEQ puzzle title was meant to be read “belated LY”, but it turns out it’s more of a “B latedly”:
- 19A: Unwillingness to listen to anything but Motown? — R AND B LOYALTY
- 36A: Steal somebody else’s computer program? — ROB CODE
- 49A: Oil up some dudes? — LUBE MAN GROUP
If you make the B in the PHRASEs “BRAND LOYALTY”, “BRO CODE”, and “BLUE MAN GROUP” late, you get today’s theme clues. Cute, straightforward, etc.
The rest of the fill felt pretty straightforward, but I wanted to call out the clue for CHUN-Li (45D, “Street Fighter” babe Li). The use of the word “babe” in the clue feels completely unnecessary. Call out the gender of the character in the clue (“female”) since it distinguishes her from other character choices, or just go with “‘Street Fighter’ choice Li”. BEQ is usually better about stuff like this.