Fireball Contest — April 22, 2020

Grid: 13ish; Meta: same-ish  


Peter Gordon’s Fireball contest, “Above Average” — Laura’s review

This month, Peter asks, What 14-letter word is hinted at by this puzzle?

Fireball Contest - 4.22.20 - Solution

Fireball Contest – 4.22.20 – Solution

What indeed? That was a pretty tough grid — definitely some sloggy bits. Then at first, I was hung up on all those long themers: MISDEMEANORS, UNSYSTEMATIC, VIDEODIARIES, IMMODERATELY. Took a nudge from solving pal (and occasional ringer) Jeremy to consider the title more closely, and it popped out at me. There are three themers —

  • [19a: Last word of Article II of the U.S. Constitution]: MISDEMEANORS
  • [48a: Brooks and Rivers, e.g.]: COMEDIANS
  • [79a: In an excessive manner]: IMMODERATELY

— that contain within themselves the terms for different aspects of average (or “central tendency”), like so:


The mean is calculated by adding a set of n numbers and then dividing that sum by n; the median is the middle value in that set where half of the numbers are above and half are below that value; and the mode is the most frequent value in the set.

For the next step, if we look in the grid “above average” as the puzzle’s title suggests, we see the strings MATH (above MEAN), EMATIC (above MEDIAN), and IANS (above MODE), giving us MATHEMATICIANS —  a fourteen-letter word and our answer.

I’ll leave you with some wisdom from [5d: Steak-___]: UMM:

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5 Responses to Fireball Contest — April 22, 2020

  1. joon says:

    the similarity of this theme to the friday LAT theme is a staggering coincidence. not quite as staggering as two schrödinger’s cat themes in different venues in the same week, but still pretty amazing.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Yes, one of the most amazing double-shots ever. Themes are mirror-images of each other, and published on the same weekend.

    • Mikie says:

      I first thought this coincidence might be a sign of the apocalypse, but then those are pretty much strewn about like toilet paper these days, so I’m choosing to look at it as proof of cosmic symmetry.

  2. Matthew G. says:

    A month ago I swear I had never heard of Steak-Umm, and since then I’ve seen it in crosswords at least three times. I thought it must be new, but apparently the brand has been around since 1968. What a weird dimension slip.

  3. BHamren says:

    Here I am with a degree in Mathematics and I did not get this. I didn’t look too long, but I got stuck looking over the 4 letter “C”s in the puzzle that had the letters BASI in that order. Sometimes rabbit holes are hard to leave.

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