Thursday, November 7, 2019

BEQ 12:52 (Ade) 


LAT 4:46 (GRAB) 


NYT 10:54 (Jim P) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Fireball 9:43 (Jenni) 


David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Troops”—Jim P’s review

I have not been on the same wavelength as this constructor for quite some time. There’s good wordplay here and even some humor, though most of it missed me. But the theme was confounding, even after the solve, and the title, once discerned well after I was done, is too esoteric and, frankly, goofy.

At first glance, it looks like we have a simple re-parsing theme.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “The Troops” · David Alfred Bywaters · Thu., 11.7.19

  • 17a [Precipitation that isn’t even slightly subtle?] OVERT RAIN. I’m having trouble ginning up any interest in this clue or entry.
  • 25a [Food fights with butter?] PAT RIOTS. This one might be the best entry of the lot. *Looks ahead at the rest of the entries.* Yeah, this is the best of the lot.
  • 40a [Sci-fi cow’s secret weapon?] TEAT RAY. This would normally strike me as funny, but it’s done such a disservice by the clue. “Sci-fi cow”?! What is that?! And why is the weapon a secret? A more sensible clue to me would be [Cow’s sci-fi weapon?]. Well, it would if I could believe that a “ray” is a sci-fi weapon. A “ray” is a fish; a “ray gun” is a sci-fi weapon.
  • 42a [Measure of a quibbler’s output?] NIT RATE. As in, “Jim’s NIT RATE for this puzzle is unusually high.”
  • 53a [Houston Cougars’ cheer?] BEAT RICE. How many people know what Houston Cougars are? How many people know that their rivals are the Rice Owls? I struggled for minutes with this entry mostly because the crossing STINT is clued as an uncommon verb [Be tightfisted] when it’s a perfectly common enough noun, and the crossing CUSPS is clued with an uncommon definition [Molar parts] when it’s a perfectly common enough word meaning points of transition. And not knowing the basis of the theme, even though I was practically done with the grid, was frustrating.
  • 66a [Props for a comedy act about transportation history?] SKIT RAILS. The clue feels overly tortured and the entry is nonsensical.

Now, about that title. I couldn’t see any connection between the entries for the longest time, other than the re-parsing business. The title was no help, despite trying to re-parse it as “The T Roops”. I did eventually notice that the first word in each entry ended with a T.

Then it dawned on me. Not only does the first word end in a T, but the second one starts with an R. The title does need to be re-parsed…but as “The T.R. Oops.” Yup, you heard me right. That’s our theme: “The T.R. Oops.” I guess this is meant to indicate that each theme answer had an oopsie between the T and the R, where “oopsie” is defined as a word break. To struggle to find the theme and then realize it was this, was, shall we say, groan-inducing.

Ultimately, though, I do appreciate the wordplay and the attempts at humor, even though the execution of the entries and clues were mostly a miss for me. Perhaps other solvers enjoyed them better than I did.

And the long fill is very nice: HELLO AGAIN, WEARS A WIRE, CRISPER, BARACK, and SPEAK UP. However, ORANGS definitely goes in the minus column.

2.9 stars.

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword—Jim P’s review

Jim P. here sitting in for Matt who briefly sat in for Ben, though he was unable to sit for any longer.

NY Times crossword solution, 11 07 19, no. 1107

Today’s puzzle has a whole mess of circles that seemed like they might be in a pattern, but I couldn’t be sure. I did notice HOPE in the upper right but that’s as much as I could manage during the solve. I ended up finishing the grid completely as a themeless then going back to try to make sense of the circles.

It turns out there is a pattern. Each group of circles is in a diamond shape, and each word in the circles/diamonds can precede the word “diamond.” So we have FAUX (diamond), HOPE (diamond), BASEBALL (diamond), NEIL (Diamond) {Ha! That was worth a chuckle.}, and LEGS (Diamond). I didn’t know that last one off the bat; my first thought was that it was the name of a gangster or musician. I was closer with that last guess. LEGS Diamond is a rock band from Los Angeles formed in 1977 and still performing today.

Even though the theme was inscrutable to me during the solve, I gotta say I like it. I especially like how BASEBALL fits perfectly in its diamond and how you go around the diamond, passing each letter as if you were running the bases (as viewed from the top down).

The rest of the grid is a real mixed bag with some strong stuff as well as some real eyebrow-raisers. Those huge corners are lovely to behold, and for the most part, they’re filled well, but there’s some iffy stuff in there, too.

I love starting off at 1a with MR. FIX-IT, but right next door at 8a is GOT A HIT which feels a little arbitrary. Next is “I CAN’T GO” which also felt arbitrary at first, but I’m warming up to it. FROZONE is a highlight for me, and MANX CAT and OCTOPUS are strong. And that’s just the top three rows!

Other goodies: SELASSIE, WORSE OFF [In poorer financial shape, say] (which is better than my first guess—LESS RICH), and HOT WINGS. I’m on the fence with TOTAL LIE.

In the “Huh?” category is HOP ON IT [“Get going already!”]. I’ve heard “hop to it” and “get on it” but never HOP ON IT. OIL RING [Engine part that distributes lubrication evenly] is not one I’ve heard of either, but at least it sounds like it has some legitimacy. I could say the same about FAN DUEL as well. And then there’s AZOLE, ALSTON, and WEEB. As I said, “Huh?”

Cluing felt fresh overall, especially these corkers:

  • 53d [Half-assed sort?] was good for a chuckle when I realized it was MULE, the offspring of a donkey and a horse.
  • 9d [Swimmer with big calves]. I was running through the list of Olympic swimmers when I realized the clue was after ORCA. Ha! Speaking of which, here’s some newly released drone footage of orcas swimming and playing off the British Columbia coast. Researchers were amazed at how playful they were.

Though this solved more like a themeless for me without the usual Thursday trickery, it was still an enjoyable outing thanks to some fun fill and strong cluing. Those outweighed the clunky bits in the fill. Four stars.

Howard Barkin’s Fireball Crossword, “Null Set”–Jenni’s write-up

Howard won the ACPT in 2016. He’s a top solver, a skilled constructor, and one of the nicest people in Crossworld. This puzzle is a construction tour de force that was challenging and fun at the same time. Quite an achievement!

Each theme answer runs Across, and each has a word that fits the title. The Down clues only make sense when you remove that word. The Down answers are real words either way.

Fireball crossword, November 6, 2019, Howard Barkin, “Null Set,” solution grid

  • 17a [Like half of the Beatles (Paul and Ringo)] is LEFTHANDED. The crossings are HA(L)LIC(E)ERA(F)T, and TI(T)LING. I dug myself a deep hole with 20a, which is LET LOOSE. I had it as CUT LOOSE and tried to remove CUT, which worked for two of the Downs. Finding and fixing that accounted for at least 30 seconds of my solving time.
  • 28a [Expresses an opinion unreservedly] is SPEAKS OUT, crossing (O)RCAS, (U)SAGE, and (T)APES.
  • 37a [Gotten rotten] is GONE BAD, crossing HOP IN(G), (O)S(L)ONE(E)D, and PI(E)T(A).
  • 47a [Stay a safe distance away] is KEEP CLEAR, crossing (C)OX, (O)S(L)ONE(E)DPI(E)T(A), and (R)ER(A)TE.
  • 62a [Things to build on] are VACANT LOTS, crossing (V)AT, (A)BE, S(C)AT, (R)ER(A)TE, VI(N)ES, and DIVER(T).

Phew. Really remarkable construction and a lot of fun to solve.

A few other things:

  • 1d [Mechanical villain of film] is HAL when the letter from the theme answer is removed. I don’t think of computers as mechanical, although I suppose at some level they are.
  • 21a [Last word of a paragraph that’s on its own line at the top of a column] is WIDOW, which I knew, although I have no idea why I knew that.
  • 36a [Call back?] refers to the letters at the back of the word. It’s ELS
  • 42a [Heckle artwork, say] refers to the Heckle of Heckle & Jeckle, and the answer is CELS. I love the image of someone insulting a painting in a museum.
  • 50a [Spray holders] are VASES – a spray of flowers.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the Robbins of Baskin-Robbins was named IRV, that Al HIRT performed at the first Super Bowl halftime show, that JUJITSU means “soft technique,” and that Huy Fong Foods makes SRIRACHA.

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1207), “Remember the Troops”—Ade’s take

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword solution, No. 1207: “Remember the Troops”

We made it back again for another week! Hello, everyone! Here is hoping that you all are doing well and that you’re ready for what is supposed to be the coldest Veterans’ Day on record for many parts of the United States, at least according to a story I just read about the projected temperature drops that are predicted to happen over the weekend.

Speaking of Veterans’ Day, here is a crossword tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces here in the US, as the letters “VET” are added consecutively to common phrases and/or proper nouns to create puns with the theme entries. (Wished that “POPPY” could have been an entry in the grid as well, as I’ve seen a few people here in New York the past couple of days, including a co-worker friend from England, wearing the Remembrance Poppy on their lapels to honor veterans in England, Canada and Australia.)

  • VETTED TALKS (17A: [Fact-checked some speeches?]) – Ted Talks.
  • FRONT STOVETOP (27A: [Burner that’s easy to cook on?]) – Front stoop.
  • COVETED SPORTS (44A: [In-demand athletics?]) – Co-ed sports
  • EMPTY LOVETT (59A: [Vacuous singer Lyle?]) – Empty lot.

Another lively grid with fun, non-themed fill, though one clue that stood out for me was the pseudo mislead — and literal interpretation — of the clue to GUANO (13D: [Bat shit]). The wording of the clue is embedded in the minds of so many as the mental state that it took me a little bit to come off of that to answer correctly. Staying in that northeast area, ZYNGA POKER (11D: [Online gambling app]) took the longest for me to take down, especially since I first had “tic” instead of ZIG (11A: [Jerky maneuver]) and also had put in “scan” instead of SKIM (40A: [Read quickly]). Definitely gave that area of the grid the EVIL EYE once I untangled myself from that mess of my own creation (42D: [It’s a bad look]). The last time I was in HOTLANTA, in Dec. 2017, I stayed in a hotel that was about 4-5 blocks away from the flame was lit to open the 1996 Summer Olympic Games (4D: [Southern metropolis, jokily]). Even though I was there on an assignment and was just looking out of my window at the hotel randomly, being in the area was an overwhelming experience, as I absolutely flashed back to when I was at home as a kid and seeing Muhammad Ali light the flame on television during the opening ceremony. Powerful!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LEFTY (33A: [#Resistance member]) – Let me quickly tell you the story about a couple of southpaws from yesteryear who made a profound impact on the game of baseball in the States and around the world. Hall-of-Fame pitcher Lefty Gomez (Vernon was his given first name) was one of the first Latino stars in Major League Baseball, making the All-Star for seven straight seasons, between 1933 and 1939, while playing for the New York Yankees. Born in California to a Spanish-Portuguese father, Gomez won five World Series titles with the Bronx Bombers and, to this day, still holds the record for most World Series wins as a pitcher without a defeat (6-0). Gomez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.

Also active during the 1930s, outfielder Lefty O’Doul (Francis was his given first name) was one of the great hitters for average during his time. During the 1929 season while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, O’Doul amassed a whopping 254 hits, a National League record that stands to this day. After his playing career ended, O’Doul was the sport’s goodwill ambassador before and after World War II and was influential in the growth of baseball in the now baseball-rich country of Japan. The Yomiuri (Tokyo) Giants, by far the most popular pro baseball team in Japan, were given the nickname “Giants” in 1934 by O’Doul, who played for the New York Giants (baseball team, not football) in 1928 and from 1934-35. Coincidentally enough, the man who has the Major League record for hits in a season is a person who was a baseball icon in Japan before coming to play in the United States, Ichiro Suzuki, who had 262 hits while playing for the Seattle Mariners in 2004.

Thank you so much for your time, everyone! Chances of making it back here for next week’s puzzle: 91.5 percent. (Some sports-related travel early next week should not hold me up from being here on time. At least I hope so!) 

Have a good rest of your Thursday! 

Take care!


Sean Biggins’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

The “words that partner” theme trope is somewhat overdone in the LA Times. That said this puzzle has some interesting variations on that theme. The keyword is TICKET and it is SPLIT across two answers. This makes for a busy puzzle, but one with few long thematic answers. The first two answers contain SEASON and LIFT – and had me thinking the keyword would be SKI; I haven’t heard of a LIFTTICKET but apparently it’s a ticket for a SKILIFT… So. SEASON, GOLDEN, PARKING and MEAL are more familiar tickets for me.

My favourite answer is of course DOGPARK, though not all are off-leash. On vs. off-leash is a divisive question. Dogs are more reactive on-leash, but poorly socialised off-leash dogs can be horrific. In both cases, personal responsibility is the answer.

I struggled (though guessed correctly) at the AME/KEATING intersection. KETTING and KENTING seemed less likely.

Crossword-ese cross-pollination: TIL Tuesday (66A) launched the career of AIMEE Mann…

3,25 Stars

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24 Responses to Thursday, November 7, 2019

  1. Kelly says:

    Today’s NYT: a tasteless soup of stale trivial pursuit. I’ll pass.

  2. pannonica says:

    NYT: “… LEGS (Diamond). I didn’t know that last one off the bat; my first thought was that it was the name of a gangster or musician. I was closer with that last guess. LEGS Diamond is a rock band from Los Angeles formed in 1977 and still performing today.”

    Band’s namesake is indeed a gangster:

    “Jack ‘Legs’ Diamond (possibly born John Thomas Diamond, though disputed; July 10, 1897 – December 18, 1931), also known as Gentleman Jack, was an Irish American gangster in Philadelphia and New York City during the Prohibition era.” —Wikipedia

    Additionally, there was a Peter Allen musical about (sort of) said gangster.

  3. JimPfan says:

    It is really sad when a reviewer’s pomposity affects the score of a puzzle. Nor does one’s lack of experience or knowledge dictate the quality of someone else’s work.

    • Ethan says:

      Huh? The NYT puzzle received four stars. The WSJ did not get a glowing review but don’t see anything in the review that points to anyone’s “lack of experience or knowledge.” What is this referring to?

      P.S. I do agree that some reviewers confuse “I’ve never heard of this entry” with “this entry is substandard or illegitimate” but I don’t see any case of that today.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    The WSJ was an absolute masterpiece compared with the NYT today.

    That said, I actually liked the WSJ theme although the solve was Tuesdayish, just more of a reflection of the disjointedness of NYT. Never a fan of circles strewn on a grid, I garnered no more love for them today. Oh well, there’s always Friday NYT coming, usually my week’s fave.

  5. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Fan Duel is a fantasy sports gambling enterprise. There are several others, most notably Draftkings. Players pick a fantasy football team and compete against others.

    I have never played either one, but they are periodically featured in poker magazines as many of the winningest players are high stakes poker players, who establish algorithms to bet hundreds of combinations. The skill of an individual football handicapper is overwhelmed by the volume of bets made by a professional gambler.

    I thought today’s puzzle was fine.


  6. David L says:

    Didn’t like today’s NYT at all. So many proper names, few of which I knew. I couldn’t make any sense of the theme. I saw FAUX and HOPE and LEGS and didn’t see a connection to baseball. The last one I read as LINE, thinking that was at least baseball-adjacent.

    I had OILPUMP before OILRING — the latter seems to be what I have always called a piston ring. And I didn’t care for the ALLELE clue. An allele is simply a variant form of a gene. You typically get one allele from your mother and one from your father — no mutation involved.

    I’m going to give this puzzle three ughs.

  7. JohnH says:

    Must admit I never did parse the title of the WSJ. I did like the theme of, in effect, moving the T, even though I, too, was slow to make sense of the Texas sports theme entry. Why would I know or care? No matter, as it worked out fine.

    Looking at the NYT now. My first reaction was that one could come up with pretty much anything by circling enough letters, although I do see that there’s symmetry. Maybe, just maybe, that will lift the theme above awful. But not sure it’s doable, with one proper name after another. I better be prepared to do a lot of guessing and don’t even know if that will be enoughfor crossings. Rats. I can see why it’s rated a record number of 1 and 2 stars.

    • Kelly says:

      I am curious about your last comment. Is it possible to see all the individual ratings received by a particular puzzle? Or are you inferring from the average?

      • wobbith says:

        Just mouse over the stars to see a breakdown.

        • Kelly says:

          Thank you. Very interesting. As of right now, only 9 solvers have rated the NYT puzzle higher than a 2.5. The other 46 ratings went the other way, mostly landing at the very bottom.

      • JohnH says:

        You can mouse-over the stars to see the breakdown. I haven’t tried to find an equivalent on the phone, so there I can’t say one way or the other. (And nope, I’m not getting this one at all, although I do have the theme and all but one of the theme entries. Big gaps and highly questionable entries everywhere. I do agree btw that the clue for ALLELE is incorrect.)

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal (no more Universal reviews here?): I found this to be an enjoyable and easy puzzle. But is a DANDELION (35A) something that one WISHes upon? I know of plucking petals while alternately saying “She loves me, she loves me not”, but I always think of the flower as a daisy or something like that. It would take an awfully long time to pluck individual petals from most DANDELIONs. Since most flowers have an odd number of petals, it’s critical to start this game with “She loves me” (assuming that the outcome you want, that is). CANDLE PIN (18A: Boston bowler’s target) brought back fond memories of my years in the Boston area when I bowled in a league.

    • David L says:

      In my recollection, you are supposed to pick a dandelion with a full seed head (ie after it’s flowered), make a wish, and then blow all the seeds off with one mighty breath to make the wish come true. In reality, of course, this is a devilish evolutionary strategy on the part of the dandelion to get its seeds scattered to the wind.

    • John says:

      I’d be interested in hearing about the Universal reviews. I’d like to see them continue.

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