Peter A. Collins’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “State Secrets” — Jim P’s review
Veteran constructor Peter A. Collins brings us a quirky re-parsing theme today. He’s found two-word phrases whose first word can be broken up into a different word plus a state abbreviation. Clues are then presented referring to a city in said state.
- 17a [Spread decks in Schenectady?] FAN NY PACKS. I’ve barely been to New York but we have good friends who hail from Schenectady, which is such a fun name to say. Also, world travelers should note that “fanny” does not mean the same thing in the UK, and you’ll get some strange looks if you say “FANNY PACK” over there. Instead, bring your “bum bag,” which, believe it or not, is more polite.
- 23a [Bad-mouth ballet in Boulder?] DIS CO DANCING. I wanted DIS CO INFERNO to be the answer.
- 38a [Ominous advertising in New Haven?] DIRE CT MARKETING. If this puzzle appeared in the NYT, I wonder if the clue would have used Stamford instead.
- 50a [Party fowl, before it winds up in the Colonel’s bucket?] FUN KY CHICKEN. I like this entry most, but there’s a lot to unpack here. (1) Oldsters might not catch the play on words: a “party foul” is an instance of unacceptable behavior at a party. But a “party fowl” might just be a fun chicken. (2) Unlike the other clues, there’s no city referred to here. Instead, “the Colonel” should conjure up Colonel Sanders and KFC (when it used to be called Kentucky Fried Chicken). (3) Youngsters might not know the “FUNKY CHICKEN.” See the jubilant video below.
- 61a [Watched little angels in Kokomo?] SAT IN DOLLS. In other words, babysat well-behaved children in Indiana. This one sounds a little awkward to my ear.
Cute theme even though speaking some of these re-parsed phrases can be stilted at times. In my mind, FUN KY CHICKEN is such a winner that I’m happy to overlook awkwardness in the others.
Very nice fill as you’d expect from a veteran. I especially liked learning about the [Comic book character whose middle name is $] (i.e. RICHIE RICH). BURLINGTON, TRISCUITS, and JET-SKIING round out the top long fill. Other goodies include CHANCY and ACUITY, and solvers over at the WSJ site always appreciate an ISAAC sighting [Bartender aboard the Pacific Princess]. ABUJA [Nigeria’s capital] is nice and crunchy as well, but I definitely needed most of the crossings.
Clues of note:
- 22a [“For want of ___ the horse was lost”]. A SHOE. This rings a little bell somewhere in the depths of my neocortex. Ah, it’s a bit of an old proverb that’s come down from various European traditions. Wikipedia shows the entire proverb as this:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
- 64a [Its academic year consists of three halves]. ETON. This must be an example of “maths,” as opposed to what we have over here which is normal “math.”
- 53d [Mourner turned to stone]. NIOBE. I did not know this bit of Greek mythology.
Clever wordplay in this puzzle. 3.8 stars.
Joon Pahk and Andy Kravis’s Fireball Crossword, “Brand X”–Jenni’s write-up
Team Fiend’s own Joon and Andy Kravis provide the sort of snappy theme, excellent cluing, and smooth fill I expect from this pair.
The formula for today’s theme is stock phrase + (ex) = wackiness.
- 18a [Abode that was too flimsy even for the first little pig?] is a KLEENEX HOUSE (clean house).
- 29a [Case for the Nasal Criminal Investigative Service?] is SINEX STEALING (sign stealing). This is the weakest of the themers. I don’t think anyone actually says “sign stealing.” The clue is so funny that I don’t care as much as I otherwise would.
- 47a [Watch that’s hard to find?] is a ROLEX IN THE HAY (roll in the hay). I know I wasn’t the only one who thought of this.
- 62a [Feminine product that provides very heavy protection?] is PLAYTEX ARMOR (plate armor). Try wearing that for 18 hours, even if it does lift and separate.
- 10d is [Part of a pump]. I had IN to start and confidently wrote INTAKE. Nope. It’s pump as in shoe and the answer is INSOLE.
- 12d [Raises the intensity] is STEPS IT UP, which I finally realized when TURNS IT UP didn’t work at all.
- 13d [Beat box?] is a great clue for METRONOME.
- Odd musical juxtaposition of the day: NO CONTROL from the musical “SpongeBob SquarePants” next to SOULJA BOY.
- 59a is [Pirates’ home]. The location of the apostrophe tells us that this is the baseball team, not the brigands. It’s PNC PARK.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that President ASSAD of Syria studied ophthalmology in London.
Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Happy Thursday (eve), all! Today’s puzzle is from Randolph Ross and I did not understand its theme until a solid five minutes after finishing the grid:
- 16A: Blue jays — JASMINE AND JEANS
- 26A: Honey bees — BADGERS AND BEARS
- 33A: Dry eyes — ICE AND INK
- 46A: High seas — COMEDY AND CRIMES
- 59A: Green peas — PEACE AND PEPPERS
What really helped here was reading the clues out loud – that gave me the “AHA” needed to realize the jays/bees/eyes/seas/peas are phonetic versions of J/B/I/C/P. Blue can precede each word in JASMINE AND JEANS to make other common items (blue jasmine, blue jeans). Honey badgers and honey bears, dry ice and dry ink, etc. This was…unexciting, as far as themes go. I didn’t have any good footholds on the theme clues (other than that there seemed to be an AND in the middle of each), and the rest of the fill felt…less than inspiring.
Nothing in the choice of fill here helps this puzzle feel like it was written in the last few years – cluing HAJ in reference to a 1984 Leon Uris novel as opposed to something more general, like a pilgrimage – and this seemed to TEEM with abbrevs. (PSI, PMS, PBA, SOS, CRA, YDS, TBA, SSN, ISS, etc.) and other bits and pieces (GO I, IN HD) that I find frustrating as a solver.
Christopher Adams and Robert Mark’s Universal crossword, “Hanging in Suspense” – Jim Q’s writeup
I think this may be a debut for Robert Mark- if so, welcome and congratulations!
THEME: Hitchcock titles are hidden amongst five different rows.
- ROW 1: TARO/PEACH gives us Rope.
- ROW 4: CATALEPSY/CHORD– Psycho
- ROW 7: RHESUS/PIC/ION– Suspicion
- ROW 9: PSA/BOT/EUREKA– Saboteur
- ROW 12: OVERT/I GOT A NAME– Vertigo
And the revealer:
- ROW 15: 66A [Nickname of the director whose films get “interrupted” in each set of numbered entries] HITCH (COCK) (the latter half is a wink at the rest of the puzzle- it’s not part of the revealer clue).
This is another example of a workaround to circled letters- hard to figure out what exactly was going on until uncovering HITCH with its clue. Due to this, it played like a themeless for me.
It’s impressive how (relatively) clean the constructors kept the grid given the amount of theme material. The exception being the absurd entry IIII, which even the clue itself pokes fun at in a way [Clock’s four, rarely]. Other fill I struggled with was AVISO, CASEIN, SABAN, and CATALEPSY.
I’m not entirely sure why the title fits the theme (movies aren’t really “hanging”)- or why the Hitchcock movies are “interrupted” at all. Fun in retrospect to find the movies- but not too much else to say about this.
2.9 from me.
Bruce Haight’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
I liked the basic theme idea. The theme phrases start with parts of a ship – BRIDGE, HOLD, BOW, STERN and GALLEY. Mr. Haight also included a second layer – each of the clues repurposes the phrases to be nonsense phrases about said part of the ship. I have never heard of the phrase GALLEYPROOF before, and the definition – “noun Printing. a proof, originally one set from type in a galley, taken before the material has been made up into pages and usually printed as a single column of type with wide margins for marking corrections,” is not helping much… Is this not quite specialised jargon?
- [“American Gods” actor McShane], IAN. Been trying to get into this series, but not succeeding.
- [Often recyclable tech products], EWASTE. New e- terms alway get side-eye. That said, this Googles better than many.
- [GPS navigation app], WAZE. I like its verbal directions better than Google Maps. However, it has a number of infantalising aspects that are grating, and my Android has Google Maps in its protected space (so I either have Waze AND Google Maps or just Google Maps).
- [No hard feelings, dude], WECOOL. Felt a tad cutesy all round.
- [Setting at 0 degrees long.], GST. S is for sidereal. Is that something anyone actually uses?
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Faking Out” — Ben’s Review
This Thursday’s BEQ is a PUNny one:
- 20A: Scammer’s brute? — FRAUD SAVAGE
- 24A: Thing that doesn’t water your lawn? — GARDEN HOAX
- 39A: Event that shows faux flicks? — CON FILM FESTIVAL
- 48A: Unbelievable strut? — WALK OF SHAM
- 61A: Riverdale High nonsense? — ARCHIE BUNCO
All reasonable puns on reasonable things: Fred Savage, garden hose, the Cannes Film Festival, walk of shame, and Archie Bunker.
TLC, singers of “Waterfalls” as well as “No Scrubs”
The rest of the fill on this was just alright, y’all. POI isn’t really a finger food (though, if you want to eat taro paste with your hands, be my guest), and it was part of a bunch of fill, like ALEE, IPO, OUI, ENOS, etc. that pops up all the time in crosswords. Two high points in cluing: calling out the ridiculous lengths of CVS receipts and “Garten of eating” for INA, purely fork doing the work to make that clue sound like Garden of Eden.
NYT: I thought it was great fun! maybe because I got an inkling of the theme partway through and that transformed the solving experience. I thought saying the theme word out loud and thinking back on what might unite them was also cute. Some issues with fill here and there, but a clearly positive experience for me.
I also enjoyed the NYT theme – figured it out early on and found the hunt amusing. I agree with Ben about the dated fill, though. I think I read that Leon Uris book back in the 1980s and I couldn’t remember if it was TAJ or HAJ.
Funny, I couldn’t remember if the book was HAJ or RAJ. I also enjoyed Randy’s puzzle very much and found it cute in its own way.
Universal – I enjoyed the theme very much. I thought it was well executed, though given the title David and the authors chose, I’m surprised they didn’t rotate the grid to make the theme answers Downs.
I enjoyed the NYT theme … clever and executed well.
Reading comments below, though, agree that we should not see AH SO in a grid.
NYT: AH SO and NIP? Really?
I was underwhelmed by the NYT. The theme was not very exciting (plus I don’t know DRY INK) and a lot of the short fill was ugly.
I agree with anon that AHSO is a nasty phrase.
I found WSJ tedious in its fill necessary to create the parsed answers. Not too joyful.
Re: Fireball, one might argue that “sign stealing” is too much baseball arcana / trivia, but it is a common usage in that context.
The idea, sure. The actual phrase? I’ve heard “he’s stealing signs” or “they accused him of stealing signs.” I’ve never heard anyone say “there’s sign stealing going on.”
Seems common enough.
Universal: Seems to me the title works quite well. Each film title is interrupted by a black square; the visual pause—for the purposes of the crossword’s conceit—builds the suspense and thus keeps the audience hanging, waiting for the payoff.
NIP would be hard to fix, and it’s a common word going back hundreds of years. But AH SO could be changed to OH SO and TBA to LBO. No excuse for keeping that idiotic phrase.
WSJ – Hey, Jim P! Thanks for including that great clip of Rufus Thomas at the 1972 Wattstax concert at the LA Coliseum. If anyone’s interested, there’s an excellent documentary on YouTube about that historic event.
But if TBA became LBO, I would have no idea what it stood for.
Leveraged buyout. Certainly not as common as TBA, but not obscure. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leveraged_buyout
LAT: 17A Could have been clued “Spot to spread out a chart, maybe”. If you want to refer to the displays that describe the important elements of nautical navigation, whether paper or electronic, the word is always “chart”. “Map” is for landlubbers.
Beq … gave it a 1. Liz Phair. Das EFX, kiki delivery service all after my time. I got Quigley’d. That is my new phrase for when the puzzle yells you are too old to do me or is just needlessly obcure. I am thankful he makes them but maybe he could make them more inclusive.