The Fireball is on hiatus until September.
Grant Thackray’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Today’s NYT from Grant Thackray is a tribute to one of my favorite YA books. Let’s take a look at the grid:
- 16A: An old wedding dress might have this — SENTENTAL VALUE
- 29A: “Er … um …” — WHAT EANT WAS
- 45A: Mickey’s rival for Minnie’s affection — MORTER MOUSE
- 59A: Classic young adult novel … or hint to the path taken by four letters in the answers to the starred clues — A WRINKLE IN TIME
I couldn’t quite figure out what was supposed to be going on with the theme clues, but some dusty corner of my brain remembered that MORTIMER MOUSE was Mickey’s rival, so I started putting rebus squares in the grid. That didn’t really do anything with the crossings. It took until I had completely filled things in, sans the IME in MORTIMER, that I spotted it.
TIME is “wrinkled” in the grid for each of the theme answers with T and E in the correct row, but I and M snaking above it in the previous answer. It’s a clever play on the book’s title, as well as in how the “tesseract” that plays a part in its plot works, joining the two sections together. We’ve got SENTIMENTAL VALUE, WHAT I MEANT WAS, and MORTIMER MOUSE wrinkled in the grid.
As mentioned, A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorite YA books – I’m fond of the first trilogy of books with those characters, though a re-read a few years ago in advance of the movie coming out reminded me that the first one is the best one. And honestly? I wasn’t the target audience for it, but I liked what Ava DuVernay did to adapt the book for the screen.
Elsewhere in the fill:
- I knew “Bases make a part of it” was likely referring to the PH SCALE, and yet I could not convince myself that PH SCALE was exactly what the grid wanted at 7A.
- Similarly, I know that a SPROCKET is a wheel with teeth, but my brain immediately associates the word with watching Comedy Central reruns of 90s SNL episodes with Mike Myers.
Stay safe! Happy Thursday!
Kristian House’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Bump in the Road”—Jim P’s review
The theme is self-explanatory given the title. The circled letters contain a TURNPIKE, an AVENUE, an ALLEY, and a HIGHWAY each with a “bump” in them.
Once I cottoned on to what was going on, the theme did its job and helped me out, especially in that NE corner where I was getting bogged down. This isn’t the type of theme where you get to enjoy some clever wordplay, but realizing what’s going on helps you succeed in completing the grid.
And you still can enjoy all the other fun fill, and this puzzle has that in spades, such as VOICEOVERS, MIND READER, ECO-TOURS, TEAM-UP, TEA PARTY, John LITHGOW, YAKKING, BALKANS, MACH TWO, and MR. SULU.
I didn’t know ANDANTE [Adagio-allegretto go-between] off the bat, but I think it must’ve been in my brain somewhere. And CAVE BAT seems redundant, but I should know that not all bats live in caves. When we lived in San Antonio, I remember seeing thousands of bats hanging out in highway underpasses. And at this time of year a family of bats roosts in the eaves of our house in Tacoma.
I also really enjoyed the fresh-feeling cluing:
- 1a. [Suffragette Belmont]. ALVA. I don’t know this name, but I appreciate the change in angle from the usual cluing, especially given the recent 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.
- 14a. [Digs dough]. RENT. I couldn’t make sense of this even for a few seconds after I filled it in. “Digs” is not a verb here, it’s a noun. Great clue.
- 33a. [Rapper with a one-word vocabulary?]. Who is this rapper rapping, gently beatboxing and tapping, breakdancing and flapping, just outside my chamber door? Is it Nas or Drake, Ice T or Ye, Snoop, Tupac, Nicki, or Dre, Cardi B, Jay-Z, or….nay. It’s just a RAVEN, nothing more.
- 27d. [“The Biggest Little City in the World”]. RENO. A gimme for me as that’s my birth city.
- 30d. [Person who’s in your thoughts?]. MIND READER. Get out of my head!
The theme didn’t excite me much, but it’s plenty solid and does the job. However the fill and cluing had me enjoying this grid from start to finish. 3.8 stars.
Roland Huget’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s word alteration theme is left to speak for itself. It’s pretty straight forward though; each of five two-part answers second part has an “OO” that is changed to “O” and the clues are reimagined appropriately. So: COMMONGO(O)D, PIGEONCO(O)P (was kind of cringing where it was going when “pig” emerged), CHILDPRO(O)F, BUMPERPO(O)L, COWBOYBO(O)T. I know what BUMPERPOOL is, though I’ve never actually seen a table IRL. I still feel like this is a fairly obscure answer to base wordplay around, though.
Quite a lot of interesting longer entries today: SAMHILL, NLOOK, DOVEBAR, COUTURE, CHICORY. Even IPADPRO, though it’s surely overpriced and unnecessary, has a certain flavour.
- Great clue [Mexican bar tender] – for PESO to open with!
- [Santana’s “___ Como Va”], OYE. Ernesto Puente would like to have a word about that…
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1289), “Two By Fours”—Ade’s take
Good day, everyone! Hope all is well with you heading into the weekend!
Today’s puzzle seemed to contain a straightforward theme, with anagrammatical puns being created with wacky clues. However, there’s also the fact that the last two letters of the first word in the theme repeat as the first two letters of the second word, forming those pairs in the middle of the answers. Also, the first four letters in the first word of the theme entry also, and in that order, make up the last four letters of the second word.
- CORTES ESCORT (19A: [Spanish conquistador Hernán’s companion?])
- THERE’S ESTHER (26A: [“That’s stand-up comic Povitsky!”?])
- LISTEN ENLIST (42A: [“Here’s a tip: sign up for the Army”?])
- THE MAN ANTHEM (50A: [Song praising an authoritarian figure?]) – A missed chance to clue this as [Entrance music to WWE superstar wrestler Becky Lynch, perhaps?]. (Her nickname is “The Man.”)
No real trouble spots when solving the grid, though it took be a bit to catch on to the extra layer of the theme with the repeating pairs of letters. The grid certainly had a human anatomy nature to it, from KNEE (18A: [Femoral groove spot]) to HAMMY (34A: [Leg muscle, colloquially]) to ATRIA, as long as you looked at that one in a different sense from the clue in today’s puzzle (32D: [Spots for fountains, maybe]). We have four eight-letter down entries that stood out as well, all of them being pretty lively. Seeing WAWA made me think of the few people who attest to the convenient store of the same name being such a great place to eat and have a stopover if on a road trip and needing to take a rest stop (54A: [Funk guitarist’s pedal]). The Jaguars referenced in the clue to TITANS was referencing the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team, with one of their rivals in the AFC South being the Tennessee Titans (43D: [Jaguars’ rivals]). Speaking of football…
“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SHULA (24D: [NFL coach with the most regular season wins]) – A posthumous tribute to coaching legend Don Shula, who passed away at the age of 90 on May 4. In his 33 seasons as a head coach, Shula won 347 career NFL games (328 in the regular season), with 17 of those coming during the 1972 season, when his Miami Dolphins went 17-0 and completed the only perfect season in NFL history. He also will be most remembered for one big loss, as he was head coach of the Baltimore Colts when the heavily-favored Colts lost to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. Shula was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
Thank you so much for your time, everyone! Have a great rest of your Thursday, and hope you have a good weekend coming up!
I liked the NYT a lot with the exception of that NE corner. I could not parse PHSCALE at all. I’ve never heard of “ese-speak,” didn’t know the Romanian currency or the Hindu god, and I was up a creek. I ran the alphabet but use-speak was the only thing that seemed really possible? And I couldn’t make anything work with PH_CA_u. Frustrating to only need three letters and find myself unable to fill them in!
Oh well. A well-executed theme… much love for AWIT, including the newest movie version.
i think ‘-ese’ was meant as a synonym for ‘speak’, e.g. legalese being legal speak!
NYT: A Wrinkle in Time is my favorite novel ever. I’m 51, an English major, and a former HS English teacher, and nothing I’ve read has replaced it in my heart. I was so pleased to see this theme, and doubly pleased that the puzzle’s fun was worthy of 59A.
I got hung up in the mideast, where I hastily wrote ETTA for “First name in jazz” and took several minutes to spot my error when I couldn’t make the crossings. Thanks to Grant Thackray for a fun solve!
That’s exactly the mistake I made, mixing up my ELLAs and my ETTAs. Welp…
I never read A Wrinkle in Time, and I feel bad for it, not necessarily that I didn’t read it (though I do feel I should) but more that I managed to scam my way through a book report for it in grade school, and getting an A. To this day I don’t know how I did it, and I really need to atone or it.
Kudos to Grant for his “A Wrinkle in Time” puzzle! I had messed around with this very idea a while back and got nowhere. Seeing his simple, yet elegant solution was more of a “Doh!” moment than an “Aha!” moment for me but delightful just the same!
NYT: Great theme, very well executed. And I tumbled to the gist of it early with the wedding dress and thought it was going to be about “Time bubbles” (like we might be living in). It helped me guess the other theme answers and fill IM in the right spot. Discovering A WRINKLE IN TIME made it all the better!
BUT, some of the fill took away from the enjoyment- ERE NOW, ESE, plural OEDS and that NE corner, etc.. I do understand that this must have be quite demanding to construct requiring many compromises.
NE corner of NYT was a rubbish heap. Ruined a perfectly decent, not great puzzle.
Interesting that the NYT and WSJ both have theme answers that take “excursions” into the row above on the same day!
A weird coincidence!
I hate it when the answer is just gibberish. If you’re going to have a twisting theme, take the extra step and make the answers make real words rather than stuff like WHATEANTWAS.