The Fireball is a contest puzzle. We’ll post a review once the deadline has passed.
Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Heads of State”—Jim P’s review
Our theme is regular words whose first three or four letters comprise a traditional state abbreviation and whose final letters comprise a completely separate word.
- 16a [Turkey-roasting tool in the Yellowhammer State?] ALA. BASTER
- 23a [Financial award in the Sunshine State?] FLA. GRANT. I bet a funnier clue could be had by parsing this FLAG RANT.
- 36a [Old flames in the Hoosier State?] IND. EXES
- 38a [Core muscles in the Palmetto State?] SCAR. ABS. I don’t think I’ve ever “Scar.” as the abbreviation for South Carolina. How common is it? Also, this seems like a really awkward way to refer to peoples’ abs? Bleh.
- 48a [Boxing venue in the Centennial State?] COLO. RING
- 59a [Real estate in the Bay State?] MASS. ACRES. I think I like this one best; it’s a darkly-humorous re-purposing of a grim word. I can see it as the name of a posh neighborhood in a dark comedy.
I didn’t get much entertainment value out of these. First off, it was confusing because in each case the first two letters are also the standard two-letter abbreviation of each state (which wouldn’t be the case if, say, TEXTILE was an entry). Second, the inconsistency between three- and four-letter abbreviations was off-putting. And third, none of these felt very engaging with the possible exception of the last one.
I love the long fill though: GRAPE SODA, SWEAR JAR (with a great clue [Where to give when you give a damn]), OMEGA MAN, EXIT RAMP, RAW ENERGY, and EMPORIUM. Only CATERS TO feels ho-hum. Plus, there are fun-to-say entries CAPULET and PROTEGE. US SENATE on the other hand would normally be an asset, but here I felt it was distracting, given the theme.
Other entries in the negative column: MEET A and PEETA, AT TEN and ONE NO, ING and AIG, and AAU (Amateur Athletic Union).
The strong long fill puts the grid in positive territory, but the theme only manages to be okay, not entertaining. 3.25 stars.
Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
It took me a minute to figure out what all of the weird clues in Alex Eaton-Salners’ latest grid were doing, but once it cracked the rest fell fairly easily:
- 1A: More than a bird, but less than a facial expression — COWL
- 5A: More than a symptom, but less than a jerk — WITCH
- 10A: More than a card, but less than a track bet — LACE
- 20A: More than a snake, but less than a bodily organ — LADDER
- 36A: More than a British islander, but less than a team symbol — ASCOT
- 39A: More than a court filing, but less than a status change — EMOTION
- 42A: More than a bagel, but less than a walk — TROLL
- 59A: More than a color, but less than a trade occupation — LUMBER
- 67A: More than a boat, but less than an idea – PARK
- 68A: More than a weather forecast, but less than a muscle injury — TRAIN
- 69A: More than an insect, but less than a U.S. president — RANT
Look at all that fill above! Such density! Very theme! W O W.
For each of the clues, you’re given a “more than” portion and a less than. Taking 1A as an example, we want something that’s more than a bird (so, an OWL), but less than a facial expression (a SCOWL), so COWL it is. The rest follow the same pattern. I mapped it out and alas, the “less than” extra letters do not spell anything.
Given how dense the theme is here, I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the rest of the fill seemed. Sure, there were a few weird names like HAILE Gebrselassie, Laura INNES, and Henry LUCE running around to make the grid work, but there was also some lovely stuff like LARDERS, SCHMEAR, AMINO ACID, and STOLEN CAR floating around the grid, so I’ll take it.
More than a court filing, but less than a status change, it’s Carly Rae Jepsen’s EMOTION
Happy Thursday, all!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Where’s the Beef?”—Andy’s review
This one reminds me of that classic knock-knock joke:
Each of the theme answers is HAVING A COW [Freaking out, and a hint to the theme answers], in that the letters COW have been inserted into standard, in-the-language phrases to punny effect. Like so:
- 17a, DOG SCOWLED [Boxer grimaced?]
- 25a, COWINNER CIRCLES [Spots where the victors all hang together?]
- 43a, MOSCOW DEF [“Russia’s capital is DA BOMB!”]
- 57a, COWRITE OF SPRING [What an assistant to Robert Schumann did for his 1st Symphony?].
I can’t read [LOVE sculptor…] ROBERT Indiana’s name without singing it in my head to the tune of Gary, Indiana from The Music Man. And now you have this same disease — it is a curse I bestow on you all.
Until next time!
Pam Klawitter’s Universal crossword, “Stage a Comeback”—Jim Q’s review
THEME: Phrases which hide the word TIDE backwards
- 21A [Columnist’s pronoun] EDITORIAL WE.
- 26A [Took no chances] PLAYED IT SAFE.
- 43A [“Star Wars” apprenticeship] JEDI TRAINING.
- 50A [Reverse one’s fortunes, or a hint to what’s hidden in 21-, 26- and 43-Across] TURN THE TIDE.
Simple, clean concept with a classic theme type. I thought the revealer would have something to do with editing, since I saw EDIT repeatedly popping up, but nope! I prefer PLAYED IT SAFE and JEDI TRAINING over EDITORIAL WE. In this type of theme, it’s far more elegant if the “hidden word” bridges the words in the phrase.
Fill-wise, I’m very confused as to why the commonly accepted spelling of DO–RAG is spelled as DURAG (I can’t find any usage of that in crosswords at all), especially when changing the U to an O makes SONS. Same goes for the BROS / D.O.D. crossing. Why not BRAS and DAD?
3.5 star theme, 2.5 star fill. 3 stars.
Kristian House’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
In contrast to yesterday’s puzzle, this one is all about the revealer, which occupies a whopping 20 squares. Because of that, you may potentially get to it quite early, as I did. It is a clever repurposing of TWOCANPLAY/ATTHATGAME, but the rest of the puzzle theme then becomes simply finding out which (of a near limitless supply?) of two-player games were chosen: MASTERMIND, CHECKERS, CHESS, GUESSWHO and BATTLESHIP. I’ve never encountered GUESSWHO, but it is for sale here, so I guess I just skipped it. The list-y nature of the theme meant the puzzle played very easy for a Thursday, for me at least.
The biggest desperation play in the grid today is SSTAR, which is perhaps a hair above RRN’s in its desperation.
Other points of interest:
- [Flying frenemy of Godzilla], RODAN. I don’t know enough about the lore to be able to comprehend how two destructive monsters can be “frenemies”.
- [Heart sonograms, familiarly], ECHOS. Echocardiograms. Is that the official short spelling then?