Thursday, October 11, 2018

BEQ 5:47 (Ben) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 8:52 (Adesina)  


NYT 3:13 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


David Liben-Nowell’s Fireball crossword “Making Something Out Of Nothing” —Jenni’s write-up

This puzzle comes with instructions:

The four shapes that appear in the upper-right corner of this grid have been precisely copied and then rearranged into a new configuration in the bottom-left corner. But there’s an extra black square in the top half of the grid. Can you explain what’s going on?

My answer to that question is a resounding NO.

I did the puzzle on paper as Peter instructed. The shading on the grid makes my handwritten copy illegible in photographs, so here’s the correct grid in Across Lite:

and here’s the shaded grid:

I figured the two answers that span the extra-wide grid were important:

  • 15a [Clue] is A PIECE OF THE PUZZLE
  • 67a [Common ground] is AREAS OF AGREEMENT

and then I stared at the shaded areas for a long time trying to figure out what it all meant. They’re the same? But they’re not? And why do I care? To be honest, I don’t. I do crossword puzzles because I like words and wordplay. This is neither. But I had to write something, so here’s Peter’s explanation:

By arranging the four shaded shapes in the puzzle in two different ways, we appear to end up with two right triangles with legs of length 13 and 5, but with a square that’s missing in one of the two configurations. The four shapes really are absolutely identical in the two configurations, but the explanation for the apparent paradox is that the two assembled shapes aren’t actually right triangles; the “hypotenuse” isn’t a straight line, but rather bows outward in the top configuration and bows inward in the bottom one. The extra filled area in the outward-bowing “triangle” and the missing unfilled area in the inward-bowing “triangle” total to precisely one square’s worth of space. This puzzle is sometimes called Curry’s paradox, after a 1950s-era magician named Paul Curry. You can read more about it and related “geometrical vanishes” in Martin Gardner’s “Mathematics, Magic and Mystery.”

Here’s the visual aid:

I have nothing to add. Except this:

except that, unlike Pierre {SPOILER ALERT}, I continue to say I DON’T CARE.

Johanna Fenimore and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT 10.11.18 by Johanna Fenimore and Jeff Chen

The revealer is 61a, NO BRA DAY [Annual event to support breast cancer awareness … or a hint to answering 16-, 22-, 24-, 35-, 53- and 55-Across]. Those six entries have the letters BRA in them, but are clued as if they don’t:

  • 16a, BRAIDING [Picking out of a lineup, e.g.]. IDing.
  • 22a, LAB RATS [Upper body muscles, for short]. Lats.
  • 24a, BRAVERY [Extremely]. PIPES is an anagram of PEPSI. Very.
  • 35a, LEFT BRAIN [Didn’t delete]. Left in.
  • 53a, VIBRATO [First name in “The Godfather”]. Vito.
  • 55a, BRAKING [Chess piece]. King.

From Wikipedia:

No Bra Day is an annual observance on October 13 on which women are encouraged to forgo wearing a bra as a means to encourage breast cancer awareness. No Bra Day was initially observed on July 9, 2011, but within three years it had moved to October 13, the month of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Users on social media are encouraged to post using the hashtag #nobraday to promote awareness of breast cancer symptoms and to encourage gender equality. Some users on social media sites also encourage women to post pictures of themselves not wearing a bra. Some women embrace No Bra Day as a political statement while others prefer the comfort of discarding what they view as a restrictive, uncomfortable garment.

The pros and cons of No Bra Day as an awareness-raising tool are fairly obvious, so I won’t dwell on them. Regardless, this is a good time to remind everyone that breast cancer kills about 40,920 women and 480 men every year. Learn more about breast cancer and mammograms, and get screened regularly, especially if you’re at higher risk. You can also donate to breast cancer research here.

The puzzle itself is solid, as expected. There are no stray BRAs in the fill, there’s not very much glue at all, and there are some nice entries like JOB HUNT, SAND ART, and FAST FOOD. A minor ding for the dupe of FBI LAB and LAB RATS (although I guess we’re supposed to read the latter as just LATS).

I give this puzzle major points for using a mainstream crossword with a huge audience as a tool to convey a message. Milo Beckman and David Steinberg’s rainbow flag puzzle and Ben Tausig’s GENDERFLUID puzzle are two more great examples of NYT Thursday puzzles that have used a compelling theme or gimmick to talk about an important issue. Thursday has traditionally been the NYT day of the week when constructors show us what new things can be done with the form of a crossword; I’m excited that it’s also becoming a day when constructors show us what new things can be done with the function of a crossword.

Until next time!

Lewis Porter’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Putting On Weight” — Jim’s review

With four published puzzles, all of them in the WSJ, I’m going to go ahead and claim that this byline (Lewis Porter) is another pseudonym for editor Mike Shenk. It seems so anagrammable, doesn’t it? Yet, I didn’t find anything that made immediate sense, so I’m going to go with “Poi Wrestler.”

The puzzle title implies we’ll be adding some sort of term for weight to well-known phrases, and that turns out to be exactly right.  Let’s take a look.

WSJ – Thu, 10.11.18 – “Putting On Weight” by Lewis Porter (Mike Shenk)

  • 20a [Isaac’s match in virtuosity?] GOOD AS NEWTON
  • 26a [Reinforced shipping box?] ARMORED CARTON
  • 43a [Swiss state with lots of landfills?] GARBAGE CANTON
  • 49a [Ocean organisms who protect their turf?] GANG PLANKTON

Not too bad, and I especially liked that imaginative last one. Made me think of SpongeBob Squarepants and the episode where the evil Plankton enlists all his kin in another failed attempt to steal the Krabby Patty recipe.


Yet I counted four puzzles with this exact theme in the Cruciverb database, including one by our very own Gareth in the L.A. Times. I think it would have been a lot more interesting if different weights could have been used (ton, pound, gram, ounce), though I don’t know if that’s really possible.

As it was, as soon as I uncovered the first theme answer, I was able to go straight to the others and almost immediately fill them in (see picture below). I know some people like the Thursday puzzle to put up a pretty good fight, but this one really didn’t, at least not thematically.

Most of theme answers were gettable with few crossings

Fill-wise, I love WHAT ON EARTH, and the Olympic BOBSLEDS / LUGE combo was nice. Also good: STEWPOTOSIRIS, and portrait artist John Singer SARGENT (though I suppose I’m more familiar with the work of Dick SARGENT of Bewitched fame).

However, I was Naticked at the crossing of DERMA [Kishke casing] and ERBE [Kathryn of “Oz”]. I tried O, A, and I before getting to the E. I had never heard of the actor nor a kishke which Wikipedia tells me is a type of sausage. It goes on to say that in Jewish culture it’s also known as “stuffed derma” (from the German word “Darm” which means “intestine”).  The meat-averse may wish to avoid googling pictures of the dish.

Clues of note:

  • 16a [You, before you were born]. No, the puzzle’s not getting all mystical on you. It’s simply referring to the word THEE which went out of favor before any of us were born. Nice clue.
  • 48a [Birthplace of raisin bran and the Reuben sandwich]. OMAHA. Not sure how I got this without any crossings, but somehow I did.
  • 64a [Enjoy London, say]. READ. A reference to author Jack London. Another nice clue.
  • 1d [Greet the visitors]. BOO. I had a hard time sorting this corner out. That first letter could’ve been any of a number of letters. It didn’t help that this was a tough clue (oh, but it’s good). I mean, who’s going to BOO visitors that come into their home? Ah, but it’s not your home home, it’s your home field (or stadium or arena or whatever). To the home crowd, the visitors are always BOO-worthy.

The puzzle works and I enjoyed the solve, but it’s been done before and it was a much quicker solve than the usual Thursday.

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

It’s Thursday!  Let’s BEQ.  This week’s puzzle is titled “Bard”, and it goes a little something like this:

  • 17A: Area for hammers? — BANGER ZONE
  • 27A: Expel a cupcake? — BANISH PASTRY
  • 44A: Ursine caution? — BEAR PRUDENCE
  • 58A: Bit of holly used in a bartender’s drink? — BOUGH MIXER

The “Bard” of the title seems to get parse as “B AR(e) D” in my brain, since Bs are replacing the Ds in DANGER ZONE, DANISH PASTRY, DEAR PRUDENCE, and DOUGH MIXER.  As themes go, it’s okay.  Nothing revolutionary, but it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel every week.

The rest of the fill was pretty standard.  I’ve never heard of a ROOD or seen it as fill, but apparently it’s a name for the Christian cross I was simply unaware of.  I enjoyed learning that ENYA’s real name is Eithne Ni Bhraonáin

3.75/5 stars

Susan Gelfand’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Adesina’s write-up

Los Angeles Times crossword solution, 10.11.18

Good day, everybody! Today’s crossword puzzle, brought to us by Ms. Susan Gelfand, was thoroughly enjoyable to solve and had a very slick theme to it. (Pun definitely intended!) In the grid, four of the theme entries, with all of its clues being starred, are two-word answers in which the first word is an anagram of a word that can describe a specific type of oil. The fifth theme entry, OIL CHANGE, acts as the wonderful reveal (60A: [Jiffy Lube service, and a hint to the start of the answers to starred clues]).

  • LEASH LAWS (17A: [*They’re for the dogs]) – Shale oil.
  • SNEAK IN (39A: [*Enter on the sly]) – Snake oil.
  • ABBY WAMBACH (11D: [*Two-time women’s soccer Olympic gold medalist]) – Baby oil. Is Abby the second-best forward in US Soccer history, behind popular crossword entry Mia Hamm? Probably!
  • CURED SALMON (25D: [*Gravlax]) – Crude oil.

It is always real nice to get to learn new something in a puzzle, and filling in SPODE was exactly that for me today, as that was a complete blind spot for me until right now (51D: [Fine English china]). My guess is that I’ve come across some pieces while watching a movie or in an antiques shop (which I have frequented a couple of times with my dad years back) but would have never been able to identify it – nor realize that Spode is an eponym. Yay for learning new things! (For enough of you, I’m sure this was a slam dunk, and I’ll try to make up for my shortcoming there with, hopefully, teaching you something you might not have known relating to an entry later in this blog.)

Only fitting that in a grid that indirectly hints at the presence of the word “baby,” we are blessed with the presence of SIRS, given that one of the men mentioned in its clue was the person who sang the iconic rap song “Baby Got Back,” Sir Mix-a-Lot (33A: [Lancelot and Mix-a-Lot]). Change one letter in that entry to get SARS (45A: [2002-’03 viral outbreak, briefly]), as that entry, along with LYME, hinted at some of the health risks when solving this grid (22A: [____ tick: disease carrier]). Seeing UNSER (23D: [Indy family racing name]) made me want to break down the history of the first family of American auto racing, but then another entry caught my eye, one which has ties to an iconic movie released in the latter portion of the 20th century that made a killing at the 1972 Academy Awards.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SABRE (16A: [Buffalo hockey player]) – Almost all of you have heard of The French Connection in the context of the drug smuggling scheme, as well as the subsequent book and movie about it. But did you know about the The French Connection as it pertains to 1970s professional hockey? Between 1972 and 1979, the Buffalo SABREs’ three best players, who played on the same line together, were all French-Canadians born in Quebec: Hall-of-Fame center Gilbert Perreault, left winger Rick Martin and right winger Rene Robert. Because of their Francophone backgrounds, as well as the emergence and popularity of the drug scheme in pop culture at the same time, the line combination was given that nickname, one of the most popular and memorable sobriquets in NHL history.

Thank you so much for your time, everyone! Have a great rest of your Thursday and enjoy the rest of your time solving puzzles today and beyond!

Take care!


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9 Responses to Thursday, October 11, 2018

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I’m casting a skeptical eye at the concept of No Bra Day, which I don’t think is much of a big thing because it doesn’t really ring a bell, and which I think sounds like a pretty dumb way to supposedly “raise awareness.”

    I do want to take the opportunity to share a link for METAvivor, an organization that supports research into metastatic (stage 4) breast cancer. This form of breast cancer remains particularly resistant to treatment, much less cure. A friend of mine who was diagnosed with breast cancer when pregnant with her second child recommends supporting METAvivor rather than many of the other breast cancer orgs out there, which may focus more of their funding on business connections and “awareness” than on actual cancer research.

    Andy’s donation link goes to National Breast Cancer Foundation, which is also a reputable org that actual cancer patients and survivors have spoken highly of. (Just … don’t send your money to Komen.)

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: Not sure either what to think about the NO BRA DAY idea…The concept feels rather gimmicky (not to mention less than ideal for certain ages).

    Also, it’s getting mixed up in my head with the shedding of bras in the early days of the feminist movement and the confusion that ensued about burning them (which did not really happen).

    I have to say that bras were truly ridiculous contraptions back then, and so the No Bra idea made sense as a symbol of declaring freedom from highly artificial expectations– Not sure how it fits in the intended goal here, which is more about raising awareness of a deadly disease. Also, women who undergo mastectomies struggle with body image, some have unilateral surgeries and many are fitted with special bras, so the idea that healthy women are rushing to shed theirs feels rather awkward to me. I may be missing something- Always happy to learn.

    This aside, I thought the puzzle was well executed. I especially liked the appearance of LAB RATS and LEFT BRAIN– that’s right up my alley! And VIBRATO is a great name! I might have to get a cat just to name it that…

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    I liked the NYT as a puzzle more than I like the idea of NO BRA DAY or of breast cancer awareness. We don’t need awareness. We need research on prevention and treatment, better access to care for poor women in the US, and a rational discussion of the risks and benefits of screening – because screening does carry risks, and those risks may outweigh the benefits for some women. OTOH, as Huda says, some of the theme answers were fun and I enjoy a Thursday theme that isn’t immediately obvious. I’m a sucker for the AHA moment, and this puzzle gave me that.

    And as Amy says – don’t donate to Komen. I actively avoid buying pink-ribbon-branded items and it annoys me to have that foisted on me (I’m looking at you, Words With Friends).

  4. Lise says:

    WSJ: Thanks for explaining why BOO would be a greeting for visitors. I hadn’t thought of that aspect of “visitors” but I don’t like the answer. To boo the visiting team seems to me, rude and unsportsmanlike. I would boo an unfair call, or unfair behavior from either team, but that’s not the way to treat the team that one is hosting.

    That aside, I liked the theme answers, especially GANG PLANKTON, very much; there were also a number of nice long answers. I also enjoyed the review and its SpongeBob and Dick Sargent references.

  5. MattF says:

    The geometric oddity illlustrated in the Fireball is fairly well-known in mathematical circles– I was somewhat misled into thinking there was some crossword-related lexical thing going on. But there wasn’t– and I didn’t realize I was done with the lexical puzzle when I actually was.

  6. AV says:

    NYT: Loved the puzzle .. and the review!

  7. anon says:

    BEQ: Sober AS A judge


  8. JohnH says:

    I liked figuring out the theme of the NYT, and it’s not my right to take a stand on its significance in the real world. Came slowly, as did some other fill, and I never did get the crossing of LIV and IROC, neither of which I’ve heard of. Didn’t care for that.

    I appreciate the explanation for BOO in the WSJ, which sure had me scratching my head. I didn’t know ERBE but did recall DERMA, although must say I’d rather not.

  9. Penguins says:

    Liked the NYT theme as well as BEQ’s. Have JC and BEQ done a puzzle together?

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