Thursday, October 4, 2018

BEQ tk (Ben) 


LAT 4:56 (erik)  


NYT 2:36 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


Fireball is a contest puzzle this week. Tune in on Sunday evening for Laura’s write-up!

Joon Pahk’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 10.4.18 by Joon Pahk

It’s Fiend’s own Joon Pahk! (Full disclosure: Joon’s my boss over at the wonderful Outside the Box Puzzles, where he makes excellent weekly Rows Garden puzzles, plus there’s a variety crossword every other week!) It’s been over three years since Joon’s last NYT puzzle, but he’s back and serving up a tall, fizzy glass of puzzle.

The revealer is 60a, SODA MIXER [Ingredient in some cocktails … or a hint to the last words in 17-, 23-, 32-, 43- and 48-Across]. It took me a minute or so after finishing to realize that the last words of the five theme answers are anagrams of soda brands:

  • 17a, BUBBLE GUM [It might pop out of a kid’s mouth]. GUM is an anagram of MUG (Root Beer).
  • 23a, JUDAS PRIEST [Heavy metal band whose name is a euphemism for “Jesus Christ!”]. PRIEST is an anagram of SPRITE.
  • 32a, GAS PIPES [Main connections, of a sort]. PIPES is an anagram of PEPSI.
  • 43a, MARK ECKO [Fashion designer whose namesake brand features a rhinoceros in its logo]. ECKO is an anagram of COKE.
  • 48a, BASEBALL BAT [Swinger’s club]. BAT is an anagram of TAB. Great clue for this one!

Simple enough. A ton of theme in this one — getting 6 theme entries in a 15×15 grid is impressive, and the fill was pretty smooth despite the constraints. Some nice entries like I’M GAME, LAID OUT, OCARINA (which I suspect may have originally been clued via the classic Zelda game Ocarina of Time), and SEATAC.

The MARC ECKO logo.

My time on this one suggests that the difficulty was somewhere in the limbo between too-hard-for-Wednesday and too-easy-for-Thursday. The fact that the theme isn’t made explicit by circled letters / an explicit explanation in the revealer clue / any other hand-holding measure makes this a little tougher than a normal Wednesday, but there’s none of the tricksy-ness or gimmickiness that one has come to expect from NYT Thursday puzzles. I’ve found this week’s puzzles easier than usual, so in the sense that this was harder than Wednesday’s puzzle, this one is properly placed on Thursday.

Also some nice “?” clues, like:

  • [Long nap?] for SHAG (as in carpeting);
  • [Phone tapping targets?] for ICONS;
  • [Server load?] for TRAY.

A refreshing puzzle that really hit the spot. Until next time!

Wendy L. Brandes and Martha Jones’s Los Angeles Times crossword—erik’s review

LAT puzzle 10.4.18 by Brandes & Jones

Big congrats to Brandes & Jones for their LAT debut! Hope to see many more from this duo.

The clue for the theme-explaining answer is so specific and relatable that I wonder if the puzzle was inspired by true events. [Like a delivery truck blocking your car, maybe] is DOUBLE-PARKED, and sure enough, three Frankenstein phrases in the puzzle are formed by combining names of cars:

  • [Spotify category for courageous Motown lovers?] = INTREPID SOUL (Dodge Intrepid; Kia Soul)
  • [One hiking in a Maine national park?] = ACADIA EXPLORER (GMC Acadia; Ford Explorer)
  • [Weekend in the Hamptons, say?] = SUBURBAN ESCAPE (Chevrolet Suburban; Ford Escape)

I was only familiar with one out of each pair of car names, so I had a tough time figuring out the phrases – I hope you fared better.

Here’s a list of answers from this puzzle that would have baffled me when I was starting out as a solver: SAS, TARN, EOE, STP, ESTOP, DTS, PRIE, ABOU, SEARLE. Even now, I haven’t run into most of those outside of crosswords, so I’m going to say this grid could have used a bit more polish (though I’m open to the alternative explanation: that I’m ignorant as heck and need to read more). I did like seeing SYRIAN, BAYOU, WELSH, TRYOUTS, PRETEXTS, VAGUELY, and TRIP UP.

Thoroughly modern cluing at 1-Across: [Abruptly end a relationship with by ignoring texts, calls and such] = GHOST. The excellent third season of Insecure, which concluded this past Sunday, featured a ghosting storyline that got a lot of people talking.

22-Down: [Unwelcome word from a barber] = OOPS. Nice evocative clue – that’s some nightmare fuel right there! Gotta do your research.

That’s all I got for today. Thanks to the constructors and the editing team for the challenge. Safe driving!

David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Rambling” — Jim’s review

Now this is more like it. I feel like we’ve been in a slump lately with WSJ puzzles. But today there’s solid wordplay on display in this grid where we have Rs going on walkabout (hence the title, “R Ambling”). Specifically, we have two-word phrases in which the lone R changes teams and finds a home in the other word. Clues are wackified accordingly. Oh yeah, there’s a revealer at 69a (MOVER, [Relocation pro, and a hint for six of this puzzle’s answers]), but it seemed superfluous.

WSJ – Thu, 10.4.18 – “Rambling” by David Alfred Bywaters

  • 18a [Result of avian overfeeding?] BEAK CRAMP. Break camp. This was the last one I got. In fact, the R was the last letter I put in the grid and it rewarded me with a chuckle.
  • 23a [Conversation among anglers?] PIER CHAT. Pie chart. This works.
  • 37a [Shirt with a daring message?] RASH TEE. Ash tree. This one isn’t as strong because the base phrase isn’t as “in the language” as the others.
  • 40a [Course in a French painter’s curriculum covering hat-wearing?] BERET ED. Beet red. Here the base phrase is solid, but the modified phrase looks like a single adjectival word meaning “wearing a beret.” And the clue is somewhat tortured.
  • 53a [Likely to be duped?] CON PRONE. Corn pone. I’m hungry.
  • 57a [Crustacean with Olympic ambitions?] CRAB DIVER. Cab driver. A strong entry to finish the list. But a CRAB DIVER seems like it’s probably a real thing.

Despite the weaker two in the middle, this was a very enjoyable theme handled deftly and with humor.

And the fill is strong to boot. I like OPEN TOE (sandals), CHOLERA (as an entry, not as an disease), DAY BED, LAB RAT, SECRETS, and DIOCESE. Oh, I also liked that I was able to pull WOLSEY [Early adviser to Henry VIII] out of my head with few crossings. Cluing seemed to strike that balance between tricky and trivia to make the whole enterprise fun and worthwhile.

There are a few things that I could do without though, like ITALO, ABASE, ICE AX, ENRON, and ETAILED. Those are all overly used in crosswords, but that’s because they’re so durned useful to a constructor. Oh well.

Still and all, two thumbs up for this fun finish to the regular puzzle week. Until next time!

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20 Responses to Thursday, October 4, 2018

  1. e.a. says:

    shoutout to all the constructors who wrote a great puzzle and then logged on here to see 1- and 2-star ratings because people didn’t like what day the editor decided to run it on. madness

    • Jeff says:

      Three stars here. MUG as the first theme entry totally threw me off. Never heard of it. Feel like the other four are iconic. I guess you could debate TAB, but at least it’s…kitschy? MUG, meh.

  2. CC says:

    Gaaaaaah! I have been working on a crossword with literally the SAME theme — and revealer! — as the NYT one (anagrammed soda/pop names). The moment I saw STRIPE and PIPES I knew it.

    Well, at least I had an NYT-worthy idea!

    • Brian says:

      Same thing happened to me with your ZITI puzzle earlier this week :)

    • Joe Pancake says:

      Heh! That’s the worst!

      A month or so ago, I got a rejection email for a FULL HOUSE puzzle I submitted. (Each theme entry contained a circled triplet and pair of letters — TALL LATTE, IT’S A ZOO OUT THERE, etc.) And then that very day a puzzle with the exact same theme ran.

      This happens sometimes in general, where I will get a great idea or have what I think is a deep thought and then I Google it and find out hundreds of other people, smarter than me, have already discovered it and analyzed it extensively. Yes, you can take solace in the fact that you thought of it too, but that’s little consolation. My solution now is just to not Google things :)

    • joon says:

      oof, that is indeed the worst. sorry, cc! it’s happened to me, and if you keep constructing for a while (and i hope you do!), it’ll happen to you some more. don’t let it discourage you, though—you’re bound to think of more good theme ideas.

  3. Dr. Fancypants says:

    A perfectly serviceable Wednesday puzzle. Nothing amazing, but also no real junk (except this is the first time I’ve seen it suggested that “SODA MIXER” is a phrase that actual English speakers use). But Thursday through Saturday are the days I reall look forward to—Sundays are almost never good anymore and Monday through Wednesday are over too fast. So it’s a bummer that Will misplaced this one.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I like the fact that we get Thursday puzzles like today’s. If there is always a trick then you expect a trick and so the trick loses some of its trickiness. I like the feeling of not knowing right away if there is something extra going on or if it’s just a straight-over-the-plate crossword puzzle.

      So, I would say I enjoy the tricky Thursdays better, but that’s in part because of the (still really good) non-tricky ones, like today’s fun offering from Joon.

  4. Lise says:

    I liked this fizzy NYT. MUG made it more of a challenge – I may have heard of it, but it didn’t come to mind – and I enjoy doing anagrams. The theme brings back memories of my mother, who consumed truly epic amounts of TAB in the 1970s.

    It’s impressive to have this much theme real estate and still be able to work in ANTARCTIC and INHIBITED. I can’t recall having seen GLASSY before – that was nice.

    This one is well-constructed, and fun to solve. Thanks, Joon Pahk!

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    I’m not great at anagrams. The puzzle itself fell fairly easily but it took a while for the letters to rearrange themselves into soda names in my head. I think it’s a worthy Thursday. Then again, I also thought Tuesday was harder than usual, so Andy and I are clearly not on the same wavelength this week!

  6. David L says:

    I kept looking for the Thursday trick but never found it and was puzzled to be told I had successfully completely the crossword. Then I didn’t understand the theme until I came here, in part because I’ve never heard of MUG as a soda brand. And finally, SODAMIXER is really not a thing, as far as I know.

    So I thought it was only an OK puzzle with a mystifying theme that didn’t belong on Thursday.

    I wasn’t aware that JUDASPRIEST is a euphemism for Jesus Christ, and the google evidence seems iffy at best. I’ve always assume the metal band was named after the Dylan song, and that Dylan came up with the name for his own enigmatic reasons.

    • pannonica says:

      Ngrams indicates the early 1900s for its initial heyday, at least in print.

      • David L says:

        I did a little more googling and discovered that Sinclair Lewis used the expression in Babbitt — which may explain the bump in the ngrams around the 1920s.

        • john farmer says:

          Lewis and Dylan were both Minnesotans. Judas Priest may have been a local term to start.

          Judas Priest seems to be one of those high-turnover “Ship of Theseus” metal bands. All the original members were gone by the time the band released its first records in the 1970s, and from then only one member (bassist Ian Hill) remains in the lineup today. Yet the name lives on.

        • pannonica says:

          Some clicks via Ngram deposited me to this analytic (?) passage from a 1905 book of collected essays.

  7. Ethan Friedman says:

    I’m in the “not every Thursday needs to have a trick” camp. This was a consistent, solid theme and well-done.

    However, given that there isn’t a trick, would’ve liked to see the clues bumped up a bit in difficulty. Don’t need a gimmick, but do want a little more head-scratching

  8. julie says:

    Thanks to BEQ for a wonderful Thursday puzzle. It took me a while to uncover the theme, but I loved the challenge and the aha moment when I got it! One of my favorites! Separate question for BEQ and others who don’t put a date on the puzzle … I find it hard to track the puzzles without a date indicating when they ran but assume there must be a reason why one doesn’t appear?

    • Norm says:

      YES! YES! YES! I loved this BEQ. 1A: Huh, CROC doesn’t fit. 4A: WTF? Ala not CARTE? 8A: Okay; got that one. 12A; Huh? 13A: Okay … I think I see what you’re doin’. Title and revealer and the trick all meshing: who could ask for anything more.

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