David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Projectiles”—Jim P’s review
Theme: The trigram -ILE is added to the ends of common phrases.
- 17a [Cloth of gold?] RICH TEXTILE. Rich text refers to the Microsoft-created format (usually seen in the initialism RTF) which includes attributes like bold, italics, font, color, size, etc. This is in contrast to plain text which includes none of these.
- 29a [Not exactly welcoming?] GUEST–HOSTILE. Guest host. As a phrase, this entry is a little weird. I guess it makes the most sense to hyphenate it and think of it as an adjective as in, “I wouldn’t go that hotel; the manager is GUEST-HOSTILE.”
- 49a [Cheese slice in a food fight?] SWISS MISSILE. Swiss Miss. This was the first entry I uncovered and I was really thrown off by the fact that a MISSILE is a projectile (see title). This really made me wonder why I wasn’t seeing any other projectiles in the other entries.
- 64a [Hanging piece of protest art?] ANGRY MOBILE. Angry mob.
As distracted as I was by the MISSILE in the third entry, I didn’t grok the theme until I was nearly finished with the solve. At that point I was both relieved that I had sussed it out and somewhat disappointed in what seemed like another “add some random letters” theme.
But I was wrong about that last bit. The title, “Projectiles,” should probably be re-parsed as “Project ILEs.” In other words, it’s an instruction to extend ILE beyond the end of the common phrases in the theme answers. OK, I suppose that works.
Moving on to the fill, “I’M SERIOUS” and “MY MISTAKE” make for a great pairing of conversational entries. Other goodies include SATYRS, GELATIN, and FIXINS [Southern side dishes] which my Arkansas-raised wife is prone to say, although I think it also includes things like condiments and such.
I’m not so keen on SCRAG [Gaunt guy] which I doubted even after I checked all the crossings, (seemingly) random-lettered C-STAR [Cool red giant], uncommon LIMN, and crosswordesey ORAN with a geographically-challenging clue [Port across the Mediterranean from Cartagena]. This made me doubt what I knew to be true: that Cartagena is a city in Colombia. Apparently it is also a city in Spain. 900k inhabitants for the former, 200k inhabitants for the latter.
Also, SNITCHER [Tattletale]? I think most people would just say “snitch.”
Clues of note:
- Fave clues: [Rite answer] for I DO, [Quest for a mate] for CHESS, [Back biter] for MOLAR.
- 68a [Ham preserver]. ARK. “Preserver” is somewhat of a far-fetched description for the boat that carried Ham (son of Noah).
- 37a [Mencken’s history of the bathtub, e.g.]. HOAX. You can read more about it here.
In the end, summing up all the plusses and minuses gives this puzzle a score somewhere around 3.4 stars.
Frank Longo’s Fireball Crossword, “Consonantless Crossword”–Jenni’s write-up
I love Frank’s Vwlless Crsswrds, and I can usually wrestle those to the ground without too much difficulty. This was much, much harder. Peter sent out several different versions: one clued as usual for the FB without any reference to the number of words in the answer, one with the number of words listed in the clue, and one with the number of words and enumerations. I tried it without help and then switched to the number of words. Didn’t really help.
If I didn’t have to write this post, I might have kept banging away at it for a few days – and I still wouldn’t have finished it, because it includes one answer I’ve never heard before, one I’ve never used in a sentence and rarely seen, and one that is totally out of my wheelhouse. I would have struggled with those in a normal puzzle. I filled in about 75% of it and then looked at the answer key. Revealing the letters in the grid wouldn’t have told me what the words were.
Here’s the grid:
Here’s Peter’s list of correct answers, consonants included:
1A: Inquisitive 7A: Ovenware 11A: Isuzu 14A: Equilibria 15A: Of a personal nature 17A: Exfoliative 18A: Insurance coverage 19A: Internal medicine 21A: Inferno 22A: “Encore! Encore!” 25A: Infiniti 29A: Arrestee 33A: Epilogue 34A: Ethan Hawke 35A: Islamophobe 37A: Open-pit mine 39A: “As do I” 40A: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) 43A: Opera 44A: Anne Meara 45A: Indifference 46A: As it were 48A: Eurasia 50A: Age range 51A: Oregano 52A: Added feature 54A: Urbane 56A: Engine performance 61A: Once-in-a-lifetime 66A: Equivoque 67A: Indicate otherwise 68A: Arab-Israeli 69A: Apollo 70A: Immature 71A: Electoral vote
1D: Intermezzi 2D: “Unquote” 3D: Insignia 4D: Irrigate 5D: Indivisible 6D: Earned income 7D: Octopi 8D: Esau 9D: Alternative media 10D: E-commerce 11D: Impasse 12D: Uvula 13D: Unnerve 16D: Apologize 20D: Exception to the rule 23D: Exponential rate 24D: Outside assistance 26D: In a larger sense 27D: “I had no idea” 28D: Interviewee 29D: Aficionado 30D: Email service 31D: Edmonton, Alberta 32D: Enforce 36D: Eczema 38D: Emoji 41D: Et cetera, et cetera 42D: Enigma 47D: Encourage 49D: Acquired taste 53D: Effectuate 55D: A priori 57D: Emilio 58D: “Ooh la la!” 59D: Attuned to 60D: Ever since 61D: Optima 62D: El Niño 63D: Idaho 64D: In situ 65D: Essence
For the record, the word I’ve never heard before (and what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle) is 66a, EQUIVOQUE, clued as [Pun]. The one I’ve never used in a sentence is 1d, INTERMEZZI, and the one out of my wheelhouse is 56a, ENGINE PERFORMANCE, clued as [Functioning that’s improved by a turbocharger].
I had EDMONTON, CANADA instead of EDMONTON, ALBERTA because I’m a chauvinistic US-er.
This could have been fun. I expected it to be fun. I didn’t really enjoy it. Just me?
David Kwong’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Today’s NYT from David Kwong is nicely timed with this weekend’s upcoming PRIMETIME EMMY awards, and has a fitting theme:
- 9A: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 — MAD (ME)N
- 18A: With 71A, 2016, 2018 — A(ME)RICAN CRI(ME) / STORY
- 24A: 2015, 2016, 2018 — GA(ME) OF THRONES
- 40A: 2012 — HO(ME)LAND
- 53A: 1949 (first winner) — PANTOMI(ME) QUIZ
As mentioned at the top of this recap and in 62A, “…each of the programs in this puzzle has won” a PRI(ME)TI(ME) EMMY award (or two, or more) in their run, and each of them contains at least one instance of an (ME) rebus square. And that’s kind of it? I kept waiting for a revealer in the down clues to do something with ME TIME or something that elevated this past TV trivia, and if it did, it whooshed right by me as I solved.
EDIT: oh, duh, “M-E”, Emmy. I still think I would have preferred a revealer on this.
The rebus squares affect the down fill nicely, with SHOW (ME) STATE, RO(ME), NE(ME)A, HEL(ME)T, DRO(ME), TA(ME)ST, and Golda (ME)IR making appearances. The packed nature of this theme means that there’s a few LAHs, NT WTs, and ENS/NET/TDS in the edges of the grid that are a little crosswordese-y. That’s the PERIL on this type of theme, I guess. I did like FRAUDULENT and OCCASIONED in the lower right corner, though.
37D‘s “Chain letters?” was S AND M.
What show will get an Emmy to put on its MANTEL this year?
Happy Thursday, all!
Sophia Maymudes’s Universal crossword, “Bust a Move”—Jim Q’s review
I really can’t believe I have to do this again. It’s literally the third time within a week. This write-up is essentially a repeat of this write-up from a week ago, which features the same theme type, executed perfectly well (like this one), but requiring circles… which Universal does not provide.
Imagine you don’t solve in Across Lite (like a normal crossword solver looking for a simple diversion), and what feels like every other day, you’re being asked to count and circle your own squares. Because… because… why? (I haven’t yet seen what the non-Across Lite version is asking its solver to do at this point, but if it’s business as usual, then unnecessary math is involved)
Well, anyway, here’s your theme:
THEME: Dances are “broken” in the grid
- 17A/19A MINNESOTAN/GOBI
- 24A/27A AVOWAL/TZATZIKI
- 37A/40A MISSAL/SACHET
- 52A/55A FLIMFLAM/ENCORE
- 62A [Do a headspin, say, or what four of this puzzle’s black squares do?] BREAKDANCE.
I’m sorry, Sophia. You fell victim to the “Good puzzle! Bad delivery!” theme that is not at all your fault. I’m stymied as to why Universal is running a bizarre number of circles-needed themes when they cannot figure out how to include circles.
So, here’s my plea. Once again. It’s a screenshot… and it still shows up in my “recently used” files:
Until Universal can figure out the solution to what should be a non-problem, they should quit publishing themes that need circles. Stop repelling potential constant solvers.
4 star puzzle gets a 1 star rating from me. That’s a shame. Fantastic title, though!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Cancel Culture”—Andy’s review
Sorry for the late post — a long day became a long night, and here we are.
The term “cancel culture” being so squarely in the zeitgeist, you knew it was ripe for BEQ to build a puzzle around. Here, we have three entries containing 54d, GERM [Culture that has been canceled in the long theme answers]. The down entries crossing GERM in those long theme entries have X’s where the letters GERM would appear, so:
- 17a, DANGER MOUSE [Record producer born Brian Burton] becomes DANXXX XOUSE;
- 40a, ANGER MANAGEMENT [Class for people who are hot all the time] becomes ANXXX XANAGEMENT; and
- 62a, MERGER MANIA [Sudden surge of companies joining forces] becomes MERXXX XANIA.
A nice execution of the concept, with a lovely little “aha” moment. What more can I say? (NSFW language in the below clip.)
Until next time!
NYT: Kept thinking that I would see the revealer, “This is Us” (NBC show)…
Thank you for that great link to the Mencken story!
Small quibble with 64D in NYT (an otherwise fantastic puzzle), an MFA is not a ‘music school degree’, it encompasses almost all fine arts that AREN’T music.
Music schools typically offer a BM, MM, and maybe a DMA or even PhDMus (for music ed., history, musicology) but never an MFA. At least in my experience. There might be some small programs that award an MFA for audio-related work but it seems like a straight up error to me–thoughts?
NYT: I don’t think I quite understood what the theme was. Is it just that the same arbitrary two-letter combination shows up in a bunch of Emmy-winning TV shows? If so, the list is incomplete, since “thirtysomething” and “Arrested Development” also fit the theme, and I didn’t even check on the miniseries category, which is what “American Crime Story” won for.
I thought that the puzzle would play on the fact that ME is also a syllable in “Emmy” and tie things together with some kind of wordplay. But all we got was a pretty straightforward revealer. Sure, ME shows up in “Prime Time Emmy” twice, but so does IM, so I’m still confused about what makes the sequence ME special. Add to that the fact that nobody would really say something like “Mad Men won a Prime Time Emmy,” (they would just say it won an Emmy) which makes the revealer even more tepid for me.
Say the letters M E.
It took me a nanosecond to understand the ME-Emmy connection. That made it a great puzzle!
Fireball was indeed very challenging. I did the no-additional-info version and it took me about four times as long as a Saturday NYT puzzle. I had SO DO I instead of AS DO I, because I had no clue about IN A LARGER SENSE (a phrase that’s not really in my dialect), so I didn’t quite solve it. But I found it rewarding in that there were repeated just-barely-gettable answers that led me to trust that the puzzle would continue to yield to persistence. It’s impressive for a puzzle to achieve that without being unsolveable.
Did not like the Fireball. Didn’t even finish the first corner before I quit. I like vowelless, but this was just not fun.
The vowel-only answers look boring and sameish, and if you fill one from the crosses it’s much harder to see the full word. NQSTV looks like *something* in a way that IUIIIE does not.
Not a fan of the Fireball today, AT ALL.
I’m getting used to the Universal “no circles” puzzles now that I understand the otherwise incomprehensible numbers & … cluing. Actually, “understand” is the wrong word: I just ignore them and try to figure out what’s going on by myself. I often think circles make a clever puzzle too easy. Today’s was very, very nice.
I agree to an extent. But I also think it’s important to think about non-seasoned solvers who likely see Universal as an access point into puzzling. You have been solving for a long time. I gave the puzzle to some students in my study hall, and they lost interest when they didn’t understand the numbering thing. My criticism is from that point of view.
I’m 55 years old and I’ve never heard of Pantomime Quiz, so that seems rather obscure and difficult. Was it included just to get the Q and Z into the puzzle?
Well, Amy, here I am again No LAT is beginning to be too often!