Thursday, July 4, 2019

BEQ 2:13 (Andy) 


LAT 3:41 (GRAB) 


NYT 11:14 (Ben) 


Universal 6:36 (Vic) 


Fireball 8:33 (Jenni) 


Note: No WSJ today due to the holiday.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 129″—Jenni’s write-up

This is not my favorite Fireball. This may be my least favorite Fireball despite the fact that it’s much harder than the recent run of non-contest puzzles. I like Schrödinger puzzles as much as the next person; this is not really a Schrödinger puzzle because only one of the multiple possible solutions is correct, and in order to figure out which one is correct, we have to do math with Roman numerals. I don’t like puzzles in a puzzle; I specifically don’t like math puzzles with word puzzles; I don’t like cutesy or clever Roman numeral clues (and would be perfectly happy if Roman numerals never again appeared in a crossword). So this is not a puzzle for me.

Fireball puzzle, July 4, 2019, Peter Gordon, Themeless 129, solution grid

What am I talking about? This themeless has a kinda, sorta theme. I guess it’s a “minitheme.” 24a is [“Figure it out” (and an instruction to someone hoping to finish this puzzle correctly] and the answer is DO THE MATH. 40a is [A multiple of XIII] – that’s the math we have to do. I ignored the math and tried to fill it in by crossings, but it turns out that several of the crossings have multiple correct answers.

  • 29d [8, for octal] could be RADII or RADIX.
  • 36d [New York Giants’ org.] can be either NFC  or NFL.
  • 42d [Certain NBA player, for short] could be either MAV  or CAV.

I solved it by brute force – I just ran the possibilities until I got Mr. Happy Pencil.

A few other things:

  • 11d [Removing the blubber from] rewards those who have read Moby Dick. I have not, but I’ve done enough old puzzles to know it’s FLENSING.
  • 18a [Spell] has nothing to do with orthography or witchcraft. It’s STINT.
  • 9a [“An arrow that in falling oft pierces him who shot it,” in an H. Rider Haggard novel] is an obscure clue for VENGEANCE. Good ol’ H. Rider Haggard shows up again in 23a, clued more familiarly: [H. Rider Haggard novel subtitled “A History of Adventure”], SHE.
  • 25d [Bore] stumped me even after I filled it in. It’s TOTED, in the “bearing a burden” sense of “bore.”
  • 40d [Mortarboard carriers] has nothing to do with graduation. It’s MASONS.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’d never heard of a draegerman and did not know he worked in a MINE; I did not know that “macaroni” is a type of penguin; I’d never heard of the 1955 John Wayne/Lana Turner vehicle, The SEA CHASE.

Jim Hilger’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 7/04/2019 — no. 0704

I was pleasantly surprised to find that today’s NYT wasn’t some sort of Independence Day tie-in.  I had prepared myself for the lowest of bars (as holiday-specific themes has an unfortunate tendency of going for timeliness over quality) and this was a nice brainteaser that made me think.

There was no revealer in the puzzle, just a general sense that you needed to be “concise”:

  • 17A: Civil defense measure, concisely? — AIRAIDRILL
  • 23A: Recollection of something that just happened, concisely? — SHORTERMEMORY
  • 50A: Make a polite visit, concisely? — PAYOURESPECTS
  • 59A: “That. Was. A. Blast!”, concisely? — BESTIMEVER

Each theme answer has the property where each word in the answer phrase starts with the last letter of the word that came before it, allowing AIR RAID DRILL, SHORT TERM MEMORY, PAY YOUR RESPECTS, and BEST TIME EVER to compress into the forms seen above.  I can’t say this theme EXCITES me, but the core entries are selected well and there’s some crunchy fill (like SPECTRAL, MARACAS, AGUILERA, HOROSCOPE, and LIFE SAVER) to provide some texture and interest.

Have a glorious Fourth of July!

Deb Shatten’s Universal Crossword, “Olympic Game”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Deb Shatten’s Universal Crossword, “Olympic Game”–7/4/19, solution

Deb Shatten finished 166th at the 2019 ACPT, but I cannot find any previously published crosswords by her. So, perhaps this is a debut. It’s a nice one. Grats, Deb.

The title foreshadows something fairly obvious … and it’s not Independence Day, but rather Olympic game, not Olympic Games:

  • 17a [When she was asked to carry the flag at the opening ceremony, the pole vaulter didn’t hesitate to ___] JUMP AT THE CHANCE–Pole vaulters jump, and pole vaulting is an Olympic event. And this answer is a common figure of speech.
  • 26a [When he met fellow competitors, the biathlete loved to ___] SHOOT THE BULL–Biathlon is an Olympic event that involves shooting a gun. This phrase also is a figure of speech wherein no real shooting is involved.
  • 48a [When he left late for his event, the sprinter almost had to ___] RUN A RED LIGHT–The answer is a catchphrase for a traffic violation. It’s far from a certainty that committing this infraction will prevent a person from being late. Why not let the sprinter run the light, thus letting that notion be in his/her head and not even seem like an endorsement of its validity? … And, for good measure, invoke a specific Olympic event, like the other theme answers do? [When he left late for his event, the 100-meter dash contestant, in rushing, decided to ___].
  • 63A [When she wanted to relax, the skip would ___] CURL UP WITH A BOOK–A skip is the captain of a curling team, and curling is an Olympic event.

With horizontal theme fill of 15-12-12-15, there will not be much to write home about in the rest of the Across answers. SEA BASS is nice; UNCAPS, ISPS, IPOS, ABCS, ADOS, and I SAID not so much. In the Down arena, I like TAPSHOE, SWAHILI, BRAILLE, and LIE-ABED.

Consistency in the cluing scheme is good, as is having all present-tense verbs.

Happy Independence Day!

3 stars.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “But First, Coffee”—Andy’s review

BEQ #1172, “But First, Coffee”

As someone who solved this puzzle shortly after his second coffee of the day, this puzzle’s title really spoke to me.

Here, everyday phrases get a synonym for coffee tacked onto the front, to wacky effect. Like so:

  • 20a, JOEY CHROMOSOME [Kangaroo’s hereditary piece?].
  • 39a, MUDSLIDE WHISTLE [Thing blown after a heavy rainstorm?].
  • 52a, JAVASCRIPT NOTE [Middle C made by a computer program].

Three well chosen theme answers. I’m having a hard time coming up with any other synonyms for coffee that are nearly as common as these. Maybe “dirt”?

A few closing thoughts:

  • We get a double shot… of vodka, with STOLI and SMIRNOFF in the grid.
  • Minor error at 2d, OREO [Cookie sold in Pronoun Packs packages]. The Pronoun Packs (with cookies reading HE/HIM, SHE/HER, or THEY/THEM) were never available for sale; the limited-edition packs were given out at NYC Pride.
  • Re: 29-Down…

Until next week!

Ed Sessa’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I’m not sure what is especially inequitous about a HIDDENTAX, but “___ tax” words can be found across four entries today. Only QUAKINGASPEN is really a word you’d try to include in a crossword puzzle. TAKESALESSON is rather arbitrary, BUMPSINTO bland, and THISISJUSTATEST is not the standard phrasing – that is “this is only a test”. I’m guessing GASTAX is the same as our fuel levy.


  • [Bread brushed with ghee], NAAN. If you see it, order the Peshwari naan. The variant is filled with sultanas, coconuts and almonds (or similar).
  • [Tennis’ Andy Murray’s title], SIR. They do seem to throw a lot of those around.
  • [When many workdays start], ATNINE. Around here EIGHT is standard.
  • [Mild oath], EGAD. Bowdlerization of “Oh God”. Similar minced oaths include ZOUNDS (God’s wounds) and GADZOOKS (God’s hooks)
  • [College benefactor], ALUM. It’s cute when you get those begging emails. Didn’t our parents give you enough as students already?
  • [Armadillo meal], ANTS. Nice choice of critter.

2,5 Stars

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19 Responses to Thursday, July 4, 2019

  1. Martin says:

    Re: WSJ tk.

    Not on a holiday.

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I actually kinda enjoyed the Fireball, despite the requirement to do Roman numeral math. What held me up was making I the last “digit” in Roman numeral, since INNOCENT is also in the grid and part of another Grafton title. When trying both M and C for the NBA answer didn’t get me the correct solution, I used “check solution” and found that my I needed to change. I didn’t think there was an “X Is for …” Grafton title, and settled on V, eyeballing the grid till I spotted that VENGEANCE for confirmation.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I guess that’s where the math comes in; if you use I instead of V, it doesn’t solve the math problem correctly. I knew not everyone would agree with me. Chaçun a son gout.

    • Norm says:

      Grafton had X in the series, but it was the only one not titled “Is For ___” — just X.

    • Bret says:

      I’m going to call a bit of a Natick here. I had MMMCCXXIV, which is divisible by 13. It’s incorrect because it’s “X Prize” not “I Prize,” but given that I’ve never heard of the X Prize, my answer sure looked reasonable

  3. Joe Pancake says:

    I totally understand how one could find the Fireball puzzle annoying, but I thought it was brilliant. I even enjoying doing the tedious longhand to find the multiple of 13. But I got it wrong.

    I had never heard of the X PRIZE (just me?), so put in I PRIZE thinking Apple sponsored an iPrize or something like that. Thus, my answer was MMMCCXXIV = 3224: a multiple of 13! Had to look at the answer to figure out what was wrong.

    Also, 29D is not a Schrodinger entry. The other one is 44D. Both Sue Grafton’s I (INNOCENT) and V (VENGEANCE) books are in the puzzle — super clever.

    • David Glasser says:

      The puzzle is a lot easier if you only notice one of the three Schrodingers and guess the other two correctly!

    • Bret says:

      Yes, that’s what I got too (MMMCCXXIV)

    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      Yes, an amazing puzzle, and quite enjoyable here (though of course I’m an outlier in the extent of my fondness for math). Indeed RADIX can’t be RADII with that clue — and anyway neither XIXV or XIXI can be the end of a Roman numeral. I thought 41 might also be a Schrödinger square, with “cc-ing” as an alternative to 41D:MCING; but no: while MCM is a valid start for a Roman numeral, MCMC is not.


  4. Mac says:

    I know I am way late with this but can someone help me understand the theme behind last weeks avx “Queening it up” puzzle with the swedishfish and windowshade and lipread and tigerbeat and friartuck entries? Thanks. I haven’t seen a writeup anywhere.

  5. Doug C says:

    Disappointingly weak offerings today, overall. Unlike Ben, I think a nod to the holiday might have resulted in more interesting puzzles than what we have here.

    • DD says:

      A different perspective: This holiday is about celebrating our country’s … what? The nation is a polarized mess, with people on both sides of the political spectrum believing that the US has strayed (albeit in very different ways) from the founders’ intentions.

      Also, celebrating America is typically done in a superficial, flag-waving way that fills a lot of more-reflective people with discomfort (because it glosses over the country’s problematic past and present, and the harm it has done/still does to populations here and abroad); I’m glad not to have encountered any flag-waving in today’s puzzles.

    • PJ Ward says:

      Doug, I had the same thought.

Comments are closed.