Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 125”–Jenni’s write-up
Either I’m getting better at Peter’s themeless puzzles, or this one wasn’t as difficult. There are a fair number of straightforward factual clues that I happen to know, which helps. I was also on Peter’s wavelength for some of the misdirection. I guess you do enough of somebody’s puzzles and that happens.
There’s misdirection at 1a [Social service carrier]. I had the initial T and dropped in TEA CART; right idea, wrong carrier. It’s TEA TRAY.
There’s lots of sports in this puzzle: PRO BALL, O LINE, OTS, Lyle ALZADO, LAYUPS and ONE AND DONE clued as [Like freshman hoopsters who enter the draft].
Some other things I noticed:
- 9d [Patty Duke autobiography] was a gimme for me – see what I mean about this being in my wheelhouse? It’s CALL ME ANNA.
- 14d [Bikini blast] is A TEST. I never know if these are going to be A TEST or N TEST. Is there a difference or are they different names for the same thing? Yes, I know I could look it up but I like calling on the wisdom of our commentariat.
- 42a [Exactly right] is TO A TURN,which I’ve heard before but not often.
- Unusually pedestrian clues for a Peter Gordon puzzle: [Luau dish] for POI; [Cart for carrying heavy loads] for DRAY; [Level with a wedge] for SHIM.
- 51d [Opposite of “Yummy!”] is YECCH. I initially put YUCKY, which seems to me to be a more parallel construction. Since “Yummy!” is in quotes, it works. Never mind that YECCH could be spelled a lot of different ways.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: a whole lot of things, although many were details about people or things I’d heard of. I know who TYNE DALY is, although I didn’t know she’s the only person to win four Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for the same role. Those were awarded for Cagney & Lacey. She also won two Emmys for other roles. I’ve certainly heard of TAGAMET and I know it’s for heartburn but did not know it was made by Prestige Brands. I did not know that PRETORIA is home to the presidential residence Mahlamba Ndlopfu. My favorite new bit of info is this: [Its lyric “in all thy sons command” was changed in 2018 to the gender-neutral “in all of us command”] is referring to O CANADA. If only Canada weren’t so far north.
Blake Slonecker’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Other Way” — Jim P’s review
This is lovely. It appears to be a WSJ debut, too. Congratulations, Blake!
Our central revealer is at 40a: BACK INTO A CORNER [Trap, and a hint for how to enter eight answers in this puzzle]. The eight answers in question are the ones that include the four corners. Each entry is a word that can follow “back” to satisfy the clue, and each word is written backwards (right-to-left or bottom-to-top). However! Each entry as it appears in the grid (i.e. reading forwards) is also a valid word. How elegant is that! Very nicely done!
- 1a [Wild pitch barrier, literally] POTS (i.e. BackSTOP)
- 1d [Congratulatory gesture, literally] PALS. BackSLAP.
- 10a [In reverse, literally] DRAW. backWARD.
- 13d [Plumbing problem, literally] WOLF. BackFLOW.
- 69a [Covert entry, literally] ROOD. BackDOOR.
- 55d [Shady deal site, literally] MOOR. BackROOM.
- 71a [Slice feature, literally] NIPS. BackSPIN.
- 62d [Betray, literally] BATS. BackSTAB.
I’m very impressed by this. It seems simple, but to have a perfectly apt grid-spanning revealer and then eight suitable theme entries that are also words in the reverse order is really quite remarkable. To be sure, there are plenty of “back____” words, but most of them don’t work in the reverse (e.g. backbone, backlash, backhand, backpack). Kudos to Blake for going that extra mile to make an elegant grid.
And the fill is beauteous as well. Check out FREE REFILL, ALL SMILES, RUN UP A TAB, ONION BAGEL, and TITLE TRACK. Wow! GOES TO MASS might seem a bit “green-painty” and I don’t know how many people know about Belgian SOUR BEERS, but I love the entry (my wife is a big fan of Kriek, i.e. cherry beer). I also liked seeing IRL (“in real life”) and “I’M OPEN!”
There’s really not too much dross either. And what there is (A RUT, SON OF, ONCLE, etc.) is just not that memorable when there’s such a fun theme and great fill.
Clues of note:
- 18a [Pop perk]. FREE REFILL. Ambiguous but fun clue.
- 26a [It brought Hope to GIs]. USO. Sure, it’s a pretty easy clue, but it’s a keeper.
- 35a [“The Biggest Little City in the World”]. RENO. A gimme for me as that’s the city of my birth.
- 51a [Makes out]. SPOTS. I really thought this was about kissing, so I really wanted SNOGS in there.
- 48d [Group no longer in the minority?]. ADULTS. Clever.
- 54d [Dorm bowlful]. RAMEN. Judging by my and my son’s experience, I can confirm this one.
Beautiful puzzle! 4.5 stars from me.
Nancy Stark and Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
It’s Thursday, which means silliness is afoot in the NYT today. Nancy Stark (who appears to be a debut! Go Nancy!) and Will Nediger constructed today’s puzzle, and it might make sense to look at the revealer first:
- 66A: Western villain … or a hint to four answers in this puzzle — BLACK HAT
That explains the four answers circling the center of the grid where the answers seem a little incomplete – the black square at the center represents the letters HAT.
- 8D: Incredulous question — YOU DID W(HAT)
- 37A: “Here’s something for you to think about, you ingrate!” — CHEW ON T(HAT)
- 39A: One who spreads discord — (HAT)EMONGER
- 43D: Takedown piece — (HAT)CHET JOB
I got slightly distracted by a misread of 66A and thought four squares were affected, not four answers, which had me looking for HATs that weren’t there at other squares until I took another look at the revealer. I’ve seen this theme before, and I think I’ve seen it done better.
Three random notes:
- Of the long across fill, I liked ALTER EGO, MAIN MENU, and OLD LATIN a bit more than LAID AWAY or JAR LOOSE.
- Also nice on the down fill: HOBO BAG! KIMONO!
- SUDOKU? In my crossword? What is this madness.
That’s it! Enjoy your Thursday.
Stu Ockman’s Universal crossword, “Changing Locks” – Jim Q’s writeup
Having a bad hair day? So is the puzzle with its hair all tangled up!
THEME: The word BRAID is jumbled in each of the long across answers.
- 17A [Discover statements] CREDIT CARD BILLS.
- 27A [Liger, and others] HYBRID ANIMALS.
- 43A [Falstaff’s voice] VERDI BARITONE.
- 56A [Alcopop selections] BACARDI BREEZERS.
- 65A [Hair feature “woven” in each starred answer] BRAID.
If you haven’t played the game “Braid” by the way, you should check it out. Very fun app with clever puzzles to solve.
Anyway, I can’t say this was my favorite puzzle. Partially because only one of the theme answers landed solidly for me (CREDIT CARD BILLS). I guess HYBRID ANIMALS works too, though it doesn’t feel like an in-language term for some reason. I’m unfamiliar with BACARDI BREEZERS, and I don’t want to take the risk Googling them because I’m on school Wifi network- Big Brother is watching. I assume they’re sickly sweet. VERDI BARITONE was entirely new for me as well. According to Wikipedia it’s a “specialized voice category.”
I also don’t really understand how BRAID is “woven” into the answers. Seems to me like it’s jumbled or tangled.
2.8 stars from me.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Get in Line”—Andy’s review
Today, BEQ invites us to DRAW A BLANK [Be unable to remember, and what you must do to make sense of this puzzle’s theme] at 61a. Four across entries have starred clues that literally require the solver to draw a blank after them in order to make the clues make sense. Like so:
- 17a, A BRAIN FART [*Have]. The clue should be [Have ___], and “have a brain fart” is a phrase meaning “draw a blank.”
- 26a, TO RECALL [*Fail]. The clue should be [Fail ___], and “fail to recall” is a phrase meaning “draw a blank.”
- 38a, CONSCIOUSNESS OF [*Lose]. The clue should be [Lose ___], and “lose consciousness of” is a phrase meaning “draw a blank.”
- 51a, ONE’S MIND. [*Slip]. The clue should be [Slip ___], and “slip one’s mind” is a phrase meaning “draw a blank.”
A few other notes:
- Outstanding clue at 9d, BICYCLES [Specialized equipment?]. Specialized is a brand of bicycles.
- I had never heard of the show referenced in 1a, NOAH [Youngest son on “Alaskan Bush People“]. As you might have guessed from the title, it’s a reality show about a family that lives off the grid in Alaska. What you may not have guessed is that this show is in its NINTH SEASON!
- We’ve got an error at 13a. The clue reads [“Captain America” star Larson], when it should read [“Captain Marvel” star Larson]. I’m bad about keeping up with the MCU, but I did see Captain America way back when (was that already eight years ago!?).
- After “AH, I SEE” appeared as an entry in the NYT last week, I had a fun discussion with Natan Last about whether OH, I SEE or AH, I SEE is the better entry. We agreed that we both preferred OH to AH, but even so I still tried AH, I SEE before OH, I SEE at 23a [“Now that makes sense!”].
- I recently learned that the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is not, as you might expect, in Ho Chi Minh City but rather in HANOI, so it was nice to be able to use that tidbit to solve the 24d clue [Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum city].
- This is my first time seeing the entry at 47d, MIDDY [Blouse with a sailor collar]. Readers, have you heard this before? Do you wear these?
- Nice anagram find for the adjacent entries 54d, NORAD [Mil. defense acronym that’s an anagram of 55-Down] and 55d, DRANO [Clog opener that’s an anagram of 54-Down].
Until next week!
Alan Olschwang’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s bit
CRAZYEIGHTS was a popular family game growing up (or at least popular with my dad, which I guess is whose vote counts…) I didn’t realise it was well-known enough to build a crossword theme around. That was a pleasant surprise. This isn’t my favourite genre, and it’s been quite over-represented of late. EIGHT is scrambled and hidden across two parts of a phrase (or inside a word for the central entry). The entries themselves are rather prosaic: HIGHTENSION (wires), GETHITCHED, a NIGHTIE and WHITEGOODS.
My favourite entry was easily ZAHARIAS, a fascinating women. She was an Olympic Gold medallist in hurdles and javelin, a 10x LPGA major winner, and successful basketball player amongst other sports achievements. Success in multiple sports was a lot more feasible then than now, but even so she is exceptional! There are also a couple more golf bonuses with PAR and TAPIN.
The American pencil system has long been a mystery to me, but I did get around to a look at it. A [#2, for one] is an >HB< PENCIL. The American scale doesn’t seem to extend nearly as far in either direction. Are 2B’s just not found in the US? You’d think there was some more comprehensive, less esoteric scale around. It’s kind of similar to the USP suture scale, where the most common sizes are 3-0, 2-0, 0 and 1…