Thursday, November 8, 2018

BEQ 6:42 (Ben) 


Fireball 2:58, paper (joon) 


LAT 4:51 (GRAB) 


NYT 3:01 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P.) 


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

NYT puzzle 11.8.18 by Sam Ezersky

It’s Thursday, and Sam Ezersky is up to his usual tricks. Today it’s a laugh-out-loud revealer to a kooky-looking theme: 37a, [Horace Greeley’s advice, as followed by 17-, 25-, 50- and 60-Across?], is GO WEST, YOUNG MAN. In this case, phrases that normally end in LAD (the aforementioned “young man”) have taken that advice and put that LAD at their western edge (that is to say, the beginning of the phrase):

  • 17a, LADPOWERBAL [Many a hit by Def Leppard]. Power ballad.
  • 25a, LADARMORC [Like medieval knights]. Armor-clad.
  • 50a, LADTACOSA [Meal served in an edible bowl]. Taco salad.
  • 60a, LADSUPERBOW [Famously expensive commercial]. Super Bowl ad. (This is the only one whose “lad” spans two words!)

Tremendously fun Thursday theme. I had the aha moment pretty early on, after getting POWER BALLAD and ARMOR-CLAD, but the revealer was a terrific punchline I didn’t see coming.

The fill sort of flew by the seat of its pants: lots of multi-word phrases with various degrees of out-there-ness. Roughly from best to wackiest, we had HIP-HOP, SPACE LAB, TWIST-TOP, OIL BASIN, LIVE BY,SIT PAT, I AM ALI, DVD VIDEO, EBB TIDE, LAID IN, ROOM TEMP, “I’M IT!”, IN PHASE, ACTED BIG. (I know I missed a few in there, you can delete your comment.) Also, we got the debuts of AIGHT and Drew BREES, and the returns of the slangy VIKES and NOOB. I’m never sure what vowel completes AM?NRA (today it was an E), and I’m sure Sam didn’t love the sibilant SSS, but otherwise this was a pretty clean grid.

It’s a FIESTA in your mouth (I bet)!

My favorite clue was 44a, [Baja blast] for FIESTA. Taco Bell enthusiasts will understand why. Also liked the OPEC clue [Grp. that’s well-financed?].

That’s all from me today. Great job, Sam! Until next time!

Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword “Hamlet Characters” —joon’s write-up

Fireball 9-42 solution

Fireball 9-42 solution

joon here, filling in for jenni with the fireball review this week. this is the most straightforward theme i can remember seeing in the fireball. the reveal entry appears very early on at 17a: {With 58-Across, 1976 Thin Lizzy hit that 23-, 35-, and 48-Across exemplify} THE BOYS ARE / BACK IN TOWN. each of those three aforementioned answers is, indeed, the name of a city containing two boy’s names in reverse:

  • {City neighboring Rhode Island’s capital} NORTH PROVIDENCE has RON and NED “back in town”. now, my father-in-law’s family is from rhode island and many of his relatives live in or near north providence, but i don’t think of this city has having much, if any, relevance to non-locals.
  • {City on the island Gran Canaria} LAS PALMAS. both SAL and SAM are names that seem at least as likely to be girls as boys.
  • {City that’s an English literary shrine} STRATFORD-ON-AVON has ART and VAN (like … van morrison, i guess? i can’t think of anybody else with van as a first name). neither this clue nor the one for DANE refers to the hamlet you might be thinking about based on the title.

so that’s the theme. no trickeration here, no rule-breaking, nor really any wordplay for the solver, just for the constructor. i guess it’s interesting, but it left me kinda meh.

the surrounding fill and clues also seemed to be less tricky than a typical fireball puzzle; i finished this in under 3 minutes on paper, very nearly my fastest fireball ever. the fill is, by and large, quite clean considering the five long theme entries (including a central 9, which forces large corners). the use of lots of cheater squares to achieve this level of cleanliness was, i think, a good choice; cheater squares affect a solver’s experience much less than garbage fill.

bits & pieces:

  • {Big dog breed, familiarly} clued both SAINT and DANE. okay, look. i get that these are supposed to be saint bernard and great dane, “familiarly”. but i’ve never heard anybody refer to either of those dog breeds as such, so this clue left me even colder than most dog clues ordinarily do. (don’t @ me.)
  • {Hurdles, e.g.} RACE. one of the very best “corporate” twitter accounts is that of merriam-webster, who yesterday tweeted out this helpful tip about the difference between “hurdle” and “hurtle”.
  • {Real estate novelist in “Piano Man”} PAUL. hey, it’s another boy’s first name (the constructor’s, as it happens), not related to the theme. same with {He sang about Alice} ARLO, and no, i don’t think the fact that these clues both reference songs from 40+ years ago (much like THE BOYS ARE / BACK IN TOWN) constitutes a sub-theme. by the way, if you’re wondering what a “real estate novelist” is, you’re not the only one. i don’t really think that’s how english works, but it’s poetic license and billy joel seems to have gotten away with it.
  • {McGwire has a half-dozen dozen more home runs than him} is both a long and boring clue for good old mel OTT. if you somehow care that ott hit 511 homers, mcgwire hit 583, and that 72 is a half-dozen dozen, that’s cool. if you were solving the puzzle, read this clue, knew all those facts, and then actually stopped to work out the math to figure out the answer to the clue? a) i don’t believe you, and b) that’s half-gross.
  • oh hey, it’s {Three-time Hart Trophy winner} ORR. because OTT was feeling lonely.
  • {Author of “No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II” and “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”} is historian doris kearns GOODWIN. did we really need the second title? did we really need the second subtitle on the first title?
  • {Leave without a leg to stand on?} KNEECAP. can we please not mix cutesy with horrifying? if you want to write a cute clue about the patella, fine. this verb usage? just … no.

the puzzle was smooth, but not very exciting, and some of the cluing decisions were baffling to me. 2.9 stars.

David Poole’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “That’s Annoying!” — Jim P’s review

I knew I’d seen this theme before! In fact it was just two weeks ago in the NYT. Same exact theme. No doubt both puzzles were in the pipeline for months, so it’s just another case of constructors coming up with the same theme at the same time.

The revealer is POP-UP AD at 68a [Bit of Web clutter, and a hint to making sense of four answers in this puzzle]. Those four answers should be longer than they appear to be; that’s because you need to step up a row to get the letters AD, then step back down again for the remainder of the entry.

WSJ – Thu, 11.8.18 – “That’s Annoying!” by David Poole

  • 19a [Minstrel in Robin Hood’s band] ALAN-(A-D)ALE with the AD hidden in ILL-MADE. I don’t recall that character at all.
  • 34a [Justin Bieber or Justin Trudeau] CAN(AD)IAN (with RAMADAN). That’s a nice pairing. CANADIAN also appeared in the NYT puzzle.
  • 42a [Barbara Feldon’s 1960s co-star] DON (AD)AMS (with TRIADIC). The show was Get Smart, of course.
  • 56a [Dungeons & Dragons weapons] BRO(AD)AXES (with EVADE).

There is one key difference between the grids. In the NYT puzzle, the latter portion of each entry wasn’t clued separately. But today, each one gets its own clue. This disguises the theme for a while longer and explains why AXES is clued mathematically [Quadrant separators].

Maybe it’s because the theme eluded me for so long, that I began to get bothered by some of the rough fill. Starting off with AMS, which I didn’t realize was thematic at the time, but continuing on with stodgy fill like OLLA, ENOW, ANON, ER actress Laura INNES, plural NATES, French ANS [Years, to Yves], and weirdities GYMNASIA, TRIADIC, and MOSHE. I don’t feel I should have to know the first name of Israel’s defense minister from 40 years ago. Heck, I don’t know who the defense minister is today.

Once I cottoned on to the theme though, the puzzle redeemed itself somewhat, but then I spied that extra AD in ASADA at 23a which really seems like it ought to have been removed since it’s right there in the thick of things.

Mostly though, I did like those long corners with SLOGANS, HOLY MEN, EYE DROP ONE LOVE, IMOGENE, SEESAWS, and ARETHA crossing LARAINE (though I spelled her name wrong at first). And BABALU [Desi Arnaz’s signature song] is always fun to come across.

Fun theme and some nice long fill, but there was a lot of mustiness in the shorter fill that detracted from those assets. 3.25 stars.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “You Are What You Eat” — Ben’s Review

This is a quick one, since I’m in back-to-back meetings today.  Luckily, this puzzle is pretty straightforward and fell pretty quickly:

  • 20A: Ignoramus — CHOWDERHEAD
  • 40A: Lifelong wrestler’s affliction — CAULIFLOWER EARS
  • 53A: Weakling’s giveaway — SPAGHETTI ARMS

It’s phrases that involve [type of food] + [plural body part].  Pretty straightforward, I’d expect to see something like this as a Monday NYT (and this felt relatively Monday-ish in terms of fill, minus a few names like Michelle AKERS and brands like CURAD.

Robert E. Lee Morris’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

I had no idea of any commonality ’til I got to the revealer. That said, hidden and scrambled tetragram feels a bit of let down for ROLEPLAYING – the letters ROLE being the tetragram. Not sure what else could have been done here, though? Any ideas? You can see the letters highlighted in red in the grid.

The top half felt like it had a US geography trivia mini-theme running through it with tough clues (for me) for OMAHA ([College World Series home]) and LITTLEROCK ([Where I-30 and I-40 meet]), as well as the more difficult OILCITY, [Original Pennsylvania headquarters of Quaker State] and less inferrable MINOT, [Annual North Dakota State Fair site]. NOMAD and MOTELROOM echo the vibe.

2.75 Stars

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29 Responses to Thursday, November 8, 2018

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Joon: There’s also Van Jones, who has a CNN show.

    Disappointed by the NYT’s clue for SIR, [Military term of address]. Women serving in the military face enough hassles and discrimination as it is—do we need to add to the marginalization by continuing those decades of SIR clues that sideline military women?

    • RSP64 says:

      In what way does that clue marginalize women in the military? If MAAM had been in the puzzle and clued the same way, would it marginalize men serving in the military? The answer is no, in my opinion. The clue was not “the only military term of address” or “the better of two military terms of address.” SIR is simply one possible term of address.

      • Ethan says:

        According to the Cruciverb database, the next time MAAM is clued with reference to the military will also be the first time ever.

        SIR has had a military-related clue at least 15 times, just going back to 2012. I stopped counting after that.

        • PJ Ward says:

          I thought I encountered MAAM clued as a military address in the last couple of weeks.

        • RSP64 says:

          I still do not see how the causes the clue to marginalize women in the military.

          • john farmer says:

            I think you don’t see the marginalization because it does not exist. SIR is in grid not because it’s a male term but because it’s a useful 3-letter word and its letters fit well with the crossings.

            SIR does not marginalize women any more than SHE marginalizes men. A military clue for SIR does not marginalize women in the military just as it doesn’t marginalize non-military sirs. SIR in the Fireball, clued “Round Table honorific,” does not marginalize women of the Arthurian legend just as it doesn’t marginalize men other than knights. The clues in each case use a clear, well-known example of the word SIR.

            I don’t get the complaint.

            • Chukkagirl says:

              Thank you, well said.

            • Jim Peredo says:

              I absolutely disagree with this. John, you seem to be implying that the word SIR is the problem. Amy is pointing out that the problem is in the wording of the clue, and I agree with her.

              The sticking point is that the clue [Military term of address] implies that it is the only military term of address. A better clue would read [One military term of address] or [Military term of address, perhaps]. The WSJ got it right with the clue [What a private might call a major] by including the word “might.”

              [Round Table honorific] is fine because there were no women sitting around the Round Table according to legend.

            • john farmer says:

              The sticking point is that the clue [Military term of address] implies that it is the only military term of address.

              You’re just making that up. Crossword clues have never implied an answer is the only possible answer to a clue. For one thing, that would take away the challenge and the fun of a lot of puzzles.

              A better clue would read [One military term of address] or [Military term of address, perhaps].

              Would a better clue clue for 20A be “One of the N.F.C. North teams, to fans”? No, it adds needless clutter. Would a better clue for 5D be “A Japanese mushroom”? No, I’d think I was solving a puzzle from many decades ago.

              [Round Table honorific] is fine because there were no women sitting around the Round Table according to legend.

              But “sir” is an honorific for knights, and Round Table members include a few earls, dukes, and kings (depending on your source), so the answer to the clue is not as singular as you’d like.

              I still don’t get the complaint. The world is full of places where women are marginalized, and we should correct that where we see it. But let’s not waste time and effort on problems that don’t exist.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              That feeling when a man tells a woman that she’s WRONG to think something is marginalizing women … is it fury? Disappointment? A deeply resigned sigh that this never ends?

            • john farmer says:

              That feeling when a man tells a woman that she’s WRONG to think something is marginalizing women … is it fury? Disappointment? A deeply resigned sigh that this never ends?

              I’m sorry you feel that way, Amy, but all I did was say that I don’t agree with your complaint and say why. I didn’t disagree because you’re a women. I didn’t disagree with Jim because he’s a man. Yet you seem to imply I’m wrong for disagreeing because I’m a man. I don’t get that either.

            • Jim Peredo says:

              …we should correct that where we see it.

              This is exactly what we’re trying to do, John. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

              Going back to the issue of the clue, if it was [Address for a customer] and the answer was SIR, you’d be okay with that? Try to put yourself in the shoes of a woman coming across that clue. The answer SIR would be pretty annoying because the clue seems to be saying that SIR is the correct way to address a customer — any customer. The exact same is true with [Military term of address]. If I’m a female officer solving that puzzle, the answer SIR is just one more dig at my gender in a career probably already full of such things. It’s thoughtless and needless and we can (extraordinarily easily) do better, just by adding one little word. [Address for a customer, maybe] with the answer SIR is no less tricky, but it’s much more inclusive.

            • john farmer says:

              Thanks, Jim, for your efforts to help me see what you see. I believe I understand what you’re saying. But because you see an offense, that doesn’t mean that others see it too, and I think we should be careful about assuming what others find offensive, including female officers.

              Maybe a women officer would take offense. On the other hand, she might just recognize the answer as one of a couple possibilities because they are common terms that she uses every day. She may view them as both equally valid terms of respect — they’re gender-specific but neutral — and she may be happy to just fill in the answer that works and move on.

              I’m not sure the “customer” clue works quite as well as a military reference. In the case of the military, there are a variety of protocols about the use of SIR and MA’AM (used for officers, not enlisted, and so forth), and the terms have greater currency and mean something more specific.

              I think the basic beef here is that we shouldn’t assume a military officer is a man. That’s fine: we shouldn’t. I don’t assume that, and as I’ve said, I don’t think the clue does either.

              Maybe a better way to find equity is looking at clues for MAAM. That said, if you add a tag to SIR clues in the future, I won’t complain, but I don’t think we should insist everyone needs to do that.

          • GLR says:

            “But let’s not waste time and effort on problems that don’t exist.”

            John, just a sign of the times – you’ve got to have a problem to keep people interested. If you don’t have a real one, make one up (the real ones are too hard, anyway).

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              AYFKM? Come on, bro.

              I suppose you have found a cure for cancer in the time you’ve saved by not giving a rat’s ass about sexism?

    • Elise says:

      Maybe it would have been better to clue [Male military term of address]? I agree, Amy, that as it was clued, it reinforced a lesser or invisible status of women.

  2. Ethan says:

    I enjoyed the NYT overall, but did anyone else feel that cross-referencing 62-D with 63-D was a bit of a reach?

    • Ethan Friedman says:

      yup. easy corner for me so it didn’t matter personally, but would’ve pissed me off had it been a hard spot

  3. Dook says:

    NYT theme just didn’t make sense to me. I would have preferred the rearranged phrase to spell out something new.

  4. JohnH says:

    WSJ fill just awful. All trivia all the time.

  5. janie says:

    re: f’ball — and from “golden age” hollywood, van johnson and van heflin…


  6. Twangster says:

    I could be wrong on this: With the Fireball theme, I think there’s also that the title is Hamlet Characters, with the towns in the theme answers serving as hamlets (giving us some misdirection from the expected Shakespearean theme).

    • Norm says:

      Even a misdirection should have a foundation in reality. A hamlet is a small settlement — generally smaller than a village, which in turn would be smaller than a town. North Providence is tucked up against Providence, the capitol of Rhode Island. It is not a hamlet. Las Palmas is a capitol in its own right. It is not a hamlet. Stratford upon Avon is a bustling market town and tourist destination. Hamlet does not fit it either. If that was the constructor’s intent, and I agree that it is a logical supposition, it just further demonstrates what a bad puzzle it was.

  7. Dr. Fancypants says:

    There was some discussion of DVDVIDEO over at Rex’s place. It’s not entirely well-known anymore, but you used to be able to find some albums in DVD-audio format—I once had a Flaming Lips album in DVD-audio format. The difference was that you got a 5.1-channel mix of the album, as opposed to the stereo mix you would get on the CD version.

  8. Penguins says:

    “the revealer was a terrific punchline”


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