Note: Fireball is a contest this week. We’ll review it after the submission period ends.
Jerry Miccolis’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “It’s Elementary”—Jim P’s review
I know what you were thinking: “Yet another puzzle based on the periodic table of elements.” That’s what I thought, too. But nope, this one’s about CLASSICAL and GEOMETRIC elements (34a and 42a, both clued [Type of elements hidden in the starred answers on this side of the grid]).
On Team CLASSICAL we find:
- ATWATER. Water.
- ECLAIRS. Air.
- HEARTHS. Earth.
- FIRENZE. Fire.
And opposing them on Team GEOMETRIC:
- APPOINT. Point.
- SALINES. Line.
- PLANETS. Plane.
- SPACERS. Space.
I resisted putting in GEOMETRIC because I’d never heard of “geometric elements.” Is that a term (math) people use? Googling the term I get plenty of hits, but then digging deeper I see one site includes Curves, Angles, and Surfaces as elements, and another one includes Hyperplanes. None seem to list Space as an element. So to a layperson like me, it seems less well-defined. But I did note and appreciate the progression from a zero-dimensional Point to a three-dimensional Space.
But why? Why these two sets of elements, and why are they placed in opposition to each other? It’s like having two themes in one, and I’m not sure the puzzle is better off for it.
It’s ambitious to have 8 theme entries (even if they are shorter) and 2 revealers. And there’s a surprising amount of nice longish fill: ANALGESIA, CATATONIC, CHURRO, RAIN OUT, LEOPOLD, MACARON, JANITOR, and ELMORE Leonard. Very nice!
But what wasn’t nice seemed to be really, really rough (putting it as nicely as I can). Observe: GELEE (?!), SECHS, SIPE, HET, RITAS (clued as an Italian ice chain I’d never heard of), RESAT, singular WILE, crosswordesey TOILE, RTS, NLE, ENCAGE, IL DIVO (?!), singular THROE, PHIZ (?!), ATOR, SSRS, and HOF. Oof. It’s hard to remember the good fill when this rough stuff causes so much angst.
- 9d. [Not a good shape for the body-conscious]. PEAR. Do we really need a puzzle to pass judgment on people or to cause people to start thinking about their body shape and therefore be self-conscious about it? Find a better way to clue this common fruit. Ugh.
- 57d. [End for comment or decor]. ATOR. I personally would have rather seen this clued [B-movie subtitled “The Fighting Eagle”]. The film was riffed in MST3K’s most recent season on Netflix.
An ambitious theme which is probably too ambitious. The fill suffers. A lot. 2.75 stars.
Andy Kravis, Natan Last, and the J.A.S.A Crossword Class’ New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Today’s puzzle is another entry from Andy Kravis, Natan Last, and the fine folks at J.A.S.A.’s crossword class. Let’s see what this group cooked up this time:
- 18A: Dude, Where’s My Car?  — SALEM’S LOT
- 24A: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape  — PARASITE
- 38A: Who Framed Roger Rabbit  — THE USUAL SUSPECTS
- 50A: How the West Was Won [1969,2010] — TRUE GRIT
- 58A: O Brother, Where Art Thou?  — HOME ALONE
Each answer is a movie title (released in the year clued in brackets) that can answer the question posed by the movie title in the clue. It’s very cute and very clever – well done, all!
Does anyone else’s brain start playing this song when they see the word UPTOWN? Just me?
other fill of note: QUINOA (‘Food staple referred to as “the gold of the Incas”‘), PREEN, PSALM, ANOMALOUS, WALLSPACE, EGO BOOSTS, HEAD GAMES, LAUNDRY, and coffee AU LAIT
Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword, “My Bad!” — Jim Q’s write-up
If you screwed up solving this puzzle, you’re on the right track.
THEME: Common names/phrases that begin with a synonym for “error”
- FAULT LINE.
- BOO BOO BEAR.
- GOOF TROOP.
- SLIP STREAM.
Very impressive grid! Has a rather themeless look to it, and with all those longer entries in the fill, it wasn’t immediately apparent where the themers would end up in the grid at all. At 74 words, it is over the standard themeless limit, but not by much.
Regarding theme, SLIP STREAM was newish for me. Rings a bell, like something my dad taught me about while I was busy not paying attention. GOOF TROOP was fun to uncover. One of those shows I completely forgot existed and it was neat to see it stored in the attic of my brain. FAULT as a theme word felt a bit off compared with the others. I don’t quite equate it with SLIP, GOOF, or BOO BOO.
The real highlight of the grid was the fill though:
63A [Jeffrey Lebowski’s nickname] THE DUDE. For the win right there.
30A [Post cereal inspired by a cookie] OREO O’S. Not the first time I’ve seen it in a grid. I can imagine that some might not like the strangeness of how it looks. I think it’s so funky looking that it’s great.
16A [What covers a dome in construction?] HARD HAT. Ha!
65A [Facial features that could aptly be blue?] SAD EYES. Embracing the double meaning of the word “blue.”
9D [Cake associated with good health?] HAND SOAP. Cute clue, though I usually think of HAND SOAP as being in the liquid form.
42D [Puzzles in which a ewe may mean “you”] REBUSES. Reminds me of that game show that Alex Trebek hosted, Concentration.
Typically, when clues are starred, there’s a revealer with a clue that mentions something about those stars. Unless I’m missing something, I don’t see one here. I think they’re just starred out of caution that solvers may not realize they are themers with how wide open the grid is (14 seven-letter entries that aren’t theme!)
4.5 stars from me.
Steve Mossberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Short tree names are a well-trodden path for themes. In this case, that is combined with the “top and tails” treatment revealed at SPLITWOOD. The trees are: ASH, OAK, PINE, BIRCH and FIG; with only one doubling as a fruit.
The puzzle played a little harder for me but in the end I’m not sure why. I think I made a few silly errors like CHEYENNE for CHEROKEE.
- [Shot banned in some pool halls], MASSE. Like jump shots (which are explicitly banned in many forms of pocket billiards), they can ruin a table…
- [Photo-sharing app, familiarly], INSTA. I think this is going to become a trite answer fast…
- [Spectate intrusively: Var.], KIBBITZ. Streamers prefer “backseat”, but kibbitz has more zhuzh.
- [Popular avocado variety], HASS. Around here, the fuerte is favoured.
- [Risking a ticket], ILLEGALLY. That clue is kind of awkward.
- [Miserable in mid-flight, perhaps], AIRSICK. You don’t get many vomitting references in puzzles…
Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1365), “A Show of Hands” — Jenni’s review
Each theme answer has CLAP spelled backwards
- 19a [Motherfucking problem] is the OEDIPAL COMPLEX. An only-in-an-indie clue if I ever saw one.
- 34a [Where an Anglican might worship] is the EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
- 54a [Trying location?] is MUNICIPAL COURT.
And in case we didn’t get it, Brendan included a revealer at 59a [Return fire on social media, or this puzzle’s theme]: CLAP BACK.
Gotta run! What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Arcade Fire has a song called “UNE Année Sans Lumiére.”
WSJ: I thought the left side/right side theme was great. Didn’t like PHIZ, HET, OLEOOIL, and some of the other awkward fill.
WSJ Yikes! I thought I was a great solver until this one. But a few of the answers were pretty esoteric. PHIZ! Puhleeze!
I agree that the WSJ theme is a bit forced, and way too many names packed into the central west. Geez. It didn’t help there that I’d ANALGESIC for a long time and didn’t have off the top of my head a label for the old theory of four elements.
Oh, on whether it’s ok to call the right-side terms geometric elements. Tough one, actually. Surely they’re terms in geometry, so I don’t know what else to call them, but I’d agree that no one would think of “the geometric elements.” So I’ll give it maybe a qualified ok.
Then too, a bigger objection could be that space isn’t exactly on a par with the others. True, it’s a natural in the sequence, as you move from 0 to 3 dimensional spaces, but then they’re no longer elements but the thing itself. The first three are elements in the sense that they’re successive ways of building 3-space one thing at a time, while space itself may or may not be, depending on how you look at it. (Well, ok, logically there’s no reason not to build 3-space in one fell swoop.) So, in sum, call the theme forced and shrug.
NYT: I love this puzzle! I didn’t stop to figure out the connections during the solve, so I kept looking for a revealer. When it didn’t come, I went back and then got that aha moment. Such a fun and funny theme. Makes me wonder what pairings got left on the cutting room floor.
Agreed — loved the theme!
[After undergoing gender reassignment surgery … ]
Whatever happened to Baby Jane? (2006)
She’s the Man
Fantastic Thursday NYT puzzle for me who usually cannot work Thursday NYT puzzles. Thank you! Thank you!
NYT: I like the gridwork and it was entertaining which is what matters, but weren’t the answers kind of arbitrary? That last themer could have been PHILADELPHIA or ON GOLDEN POND or literally any film whose title refers to a location. The first themer could have been THE MECHANIC, the middle one could have been SMALL TIME CROOKS, etc.
+1 Yes, maybe exactly the reason this is the right kinda theme to tackle with a class of 50+ where you can elicit multiple answers?
BEQ’s “a show of hands”
someone please explain the theme for me
The three theme answers have PALC — CLAPBACK, 59A — in them.
The word “clap” backwards is found in each of the long answers, per the revealer . Took me a minute. Give the man a hand :D :D
thank you both, love beq, i have done every one of his puzzles and usually have a pretty good idea of what is going on
wow, WSJ cluing PEAR as [Not a good shape for the body-conscious] is super gross. pick literally any other angle
Whence a partridge?
+1 love it!
WSJ–I am not going to rate because there is no choice “O.”