Alan Arbesfeld’s Fireball crossword, “Quadraphonic Sound”—Jim P’s review
Jim P. here sitting in for Jenni.
The three theme answers in this grid all sound the same if you were to speak them aloud despite being comprised of entirely different words. It’s just that the words in question are all homophones of their counterparts in the other entries.
- 20a. [“My nose could smell wet weather”?] “I KNEW RAIN SCENT“
- 37a. [“Take a look at this just-released coin commemorating the regime change”?] “EYE NEW REIGN CENT“
- 54a. [“Are you certain that a strap for controlling that bearded beast already shipped?” reply?] “AYE, GNU REIN SENT“. Oy, that clue. Thankfully by this point, the solver should be able to fill in the entry with just a few glances at the key words…which is what I did.
This is pretty goofy, but I am impressed that three sets of four triple homophones could be put together to make sentences, rough though they are. Here are more triple homophones if you’re interested. See if you can come up with another set.
Of course, you’re probably thinking that no one would ever speak like this…until you imagine SNL’s Tonto, Tarzan, and Frankenstein putting their heads together to make a crossword. Ha!
With only three themers, there’s plenty of room for long fill, and for the most part, the grid is smoother than what I expect from the typical Arbesfeld. Highlights include TENERIFE, SKI RESORT, A GREAT DEAL, TRIES OUT, THE THREE R’S, SITS TIGHT, ALTOIDS, and SOMALIA.
Clues of note:
- 14a. [Chocolate alternative]. TAUPE. Colors, not food. Who else tried CAROB here first?
- 5d. [Site of the deadliest accident in aviation history]. TENERIFE. I didn’t remember this as I was only seven at the time (March 1977). But due to a terrorist incident at Gran Canaria airport, arriving planes were diverted to TENERIFE, overloading that airport. Couple that with patches of dense fog, and you have a recipe for disaster. One 747 was beginning its takeoff run, while another was still parked on the runway (due to overcrowding) shrouded in fog. The resulting crash killed 583 people. See more here.
- 22d. [Split bit]. NUT. I kept wondering, “Who’s splitting nuts?” No, “split” refers to a banana split, say.
- 52d. [“Find Your ___” (“Spamalot” song)]. GRAIL. I wish there was a better recording of the Tony Awards performance, but you can enjoy the song below anyway.
3.5 stars. And with that, Fireball is on vacation until September.
Will Treece’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ye Olde Producte Placement”—Jim P’s review
Fun, imaginative theme today with Shakespearean characters getting the product placement treatment, before-and-after style.
- 17a. [Shakespearean king…now sponsored by fast food!] BIG MACBETH. Macbeth.
- 30a. [Shakespearean general…now sponsored by a Sanrio character!] OTHELLO KITTY. Othello.
- 36a. [Shakespearean teen…now sponsored by a web browser!] GOOGLE CHROMEO. Romeo and Juliet. This is the only one where the character is sandwiched within the product.
- 44a. [Shakespearean lover…now sponsored by dairy products!] ORLANDO LAKES. As You Like It.
- 59a. [Shakespearean lawyer…now sponsored by backpacks!] JANSPORTIA. Merchant of Venice. There’s a definite change of pronunciation here which weakens this entry.
I enjoyed this quite a bit even though I’ve never read As You Like It and didn’t remember that Portia was a lawyer. Before-and-after themes are generally fun to speak aloud, and this one is no exception.
BLOOD TIES and NO-FLY ZONE make for outstanding long fill. Also good, BLONDIE, MATISSE, DESK JOB, PAY DAYS.
I struggled in that bottom left corner at the crossing of CLOG and CHE. In fact, the whole bottom half of the grid was a struggle for me, compared to the top. I had these write-overs, all in the lower half:
- 37d. DAME instead of LADY [Countess’s title].
- 39d. ODOR instead of ODES [Anacreon output]. Sure, why not. Turns out Anacreon was an ancient Greek lyric poet. Hey, he lived in ancient Greece! I defy you to tell me he didn’t put out some serious ODOR!
- 48d. LAST instead of KEEP [Not spoil].
- 50a. WORK___ instead of DESK JOB [A paper pusher has one]. Thanks to ODOR above.
- 57d. AGE instead of CHE [Popular T-shirt subject].
- 53d. BEERS instead of BEARS [They may be out of stock]. Still not 100% sure on this clue’s meaning, but I expect it’s referring to bearish stock holders who sell all their stock before the price drops.
I’m not complaining. All the clues and entries are fair. It just felt like there was a change in wavelength from the top to the bottom.
Other clues of note:
- 23a. [“L’Atelier Rouge” painter]. MATISSE. Maybe you can tell us why this is considered one of the most influential works of modern art.
- 41a. [Common Fortnite sound]. OOF. Didn’t know this one either. Any Fortniters in the crowd today?
- 46d. [Let down one’s guard]. NAP. I guess as in the saying, “Caught someone napping.”
A fun theme, lovely fill, and crunchy, Thursdayish clues. 4.25 stars.
Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Trenton Charlson has today’s NYT, and there’s a hint to what’s going on late in the grid:
- 48A: Test format … or a hint to understanding three of this puzzle’s clues — FILL IN THE BLANK
accordingly, there’s three fill-in-the-blank clues in the grid, with some answers that don’t quite make sense with what’s present:
- 19A: Land___ — DISPOSAL AREA
- 22A: ___more and more — PRESIDENTS
- 40A: I___, for one — NEWSCASTER
It all starts to make sense once you take things literally – putting FILL in each of the blanks, you get “LandFILL”, a DISPOSAL AREA, “FILLmore and more”, or PRESIDENTS, and IFILL (as in Gwen), a NEWSCASTER. That’s it! Short, sweet, and to the point.
Other nice grid bits: artist Ai WEIWEI, POGO STICKS (“Some bouncers use them”), ZED, IRONCLADS, TOUR DATES, and everyone’s favorite crossword mushroom, ENOKI.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today crossword, “Numerical Expressions” — Sophia’s review
Theme: “Numerical Expressions” – The final word of each theme answer is a descriptor of a set of numbers.
UPDATE: There’s another layer to this theme! Each theme clue’s number fits into the set described in the answer – 19 is PRIME, 36 is SQUARE, and 55 is ODD. Thanks to joon in the comments for pointing this out!
- 19a [At the peak of life] – IN YOUR PRIME
- 36a [Without cheating] – FAIR AND SQUARE
- 55a [“Rather curious, don’t you think?”] – ISN’T THAT ODD
I was a computer science and math major in college, so I’m predisposed to love any theme with math wordplay, and this puzzle didn’t disappoint! Each theme answer is a nice find and uses the numerical descriptor in a way unrelated to numbers. My only complaints are that I wish the title was a little less straightforward, and that the the clue on 19a doesn’t really imply 2nd person to me. But these are very minor nits on an overall great puzzle.
Enrique really knocked it out of the park when it comes to long/midlength fill in this puzzle. I love all of FASTBALL, TABASCO, PRO TIP, NO SWEAT, and REINDEER (whose potentially tricky clue of [Dasher or Dancer] is helped out by capitalization). I also liked how much of the fill was math-related (at least, math related to me): between QED, ASSERT, IFS, and even SUDOKU, I felt like the theme material extended beyond just the themers to create a whole ~experience~.
Also, for what it’s worth, here’s my personal take on dupes, such as this puzzle’s IN DEEP/ IN YOUR PRIME or ON CUE/ON COURSE. If both answers are snazzy and the repeated word is short, like it is here, if the puzzle’s best or cleanest fill involves dupes, I say go for it! Many solvers won’t notice a small duplication, but they WILL notice a worse crossing that keeps them from finishing the puzzle. (Small caveat that duplication of theme answers is a bit more egregious unless that ‘s part of the theme.) The only other bad thing about duplication is that, because of the current anti-dupe stance of much of Crossworld, some people might automatically think a duplicated answer is wrong… So, let’s start to normalize dupes, OK?
- I had to spend about a minute of time on this puzzle hunting down an error – turns out I had “tore” for TORN 0n 56d [Ripped up].
- I had never heard of SKOL as a 13d [Smirnoff rival], but after going to school in Minnesota, I have heard the phrase “SKOL Vikes!” many, many times.
- I will not be including a picture of RENO native Topsy the Clown with this write up – y’all can thank me later.
Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s puzzle by Gary Larson is a list of things found in a quaint BARBERSHOP. Each is found at the end of themed phrases: laCLIPPERS, honeyCOMB, occamsRAZOR, sageBRUSH. I’m relatively sure dePLANE and tendBAR are not thematic.
1A was pure cringe. The clue itself references “water molecule diagram” as if it’s painfully aware HOH is no normal chemical way of referring to water. Otherwise, please note down ELUL if you hadn’t encountered it. It’s been scarce of late, but it’s worth recalling. I had trouble believing the next letter after U in UOFA was an O.
Unusual trifecta of brands in the downs: PREGO into SARAN into ESSIE. Slightly later we got TAGAMET, which sounds like an Egyptian deity… All TREMBLE before mighty TAGAMET!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s crossword, “Red in the Face”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each themed answer incorporates a skin condition that sounds similar to either the first or last name of the celebrity referenced in the clue.
- 17a [“‘Cantos’ poet with a rash?”] ECZEMA POUND (Ezra Pound)
- 25a [“‘Hip to Be Square’ singer with a rash?] HUEY LUPUS (Huey Lewis)
- 39a [“Gravity-discovering scientist with a rash?”] PSORIASIS NEWTON (Sir Isaac Newton)
- 50a [“‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’ singer with a rash?] BURL HIVES (Burl Ives)
- 59a [‘’Private Dancer’ singer with a rash?”] TINEA TURNER (Tina Turner)
This was an unexpected theme, for sure. BEQ definitely stretched my imagination in coming up with these answers. I thought that TINEA TURNER, HUEY LUPUS, BURL HIVES, and ECZEMA POUND were the three strongest of the themed answers while I felt that PSORIASIS NEWTON was a bit of a stretch. Once I added “sir,” which maybe I should have thought of before, I caught the full name.
This was a tough solve for me. I spent some time on a few of the red herrings like 57a [“Minor figure in astronomy?”]. My first reaction was that it was a human name, so I ended up filling in URSA via the crosses. I love bears, so I definitely felt like I should’ve caught onto this one sooner and my fondness for it. I also love that it could be clued as “major/minor figure in astronomy” as well. The other one that elicited the crosswordese-favorite “d’oh” from me was 18d [“Sporty, by another name”]. You better believe that I went straight to brainstorming four letter synonyms for fit, athletic, Olympic, etc. before getting Sporty Spice’s other nickname MELC.
My other critique is that this puzzle felt borderline male-centric, with four of the five themed answers being men, though I do get that those must’ve required some creative thinking to get to fit the theme. However, we also see CHRIS (42d [“The ‘C’ of the NBA’s ‘CP3’”]), BOYHOOD (21a [“2014 Richard Linklater film”]), Hermann HESSE (25d [“‘The Glass Bead Game’ author”]), and COCKS (54a [“Gun hammers”]). I did appreciate the references to ETTA CANDY (who I talk more about below), LIZ TAYLOR (3d [“First actress to be paid 1 million bucks for a role”]), MEL C, and ASHE (33a [“Leader of the Deadlock Gang in the video game Overwatch”]). It’s a tight balance but I thought worth mentioning.
Other clues that I want to mention include:
- 23d [“It was cloned in the ‘80s”] – Shout to my dad for explaining to me what it meant that the IBM PC was “cloned.” Google did not meet my needs for this history day, but good ol’ Pop explained to me that the IBM personal computer (PC) was the first computer that other computers essentially modeled their computers after, including companies like Compaq (the first), Dell, and Gateway. At the time, IBM was using a Microsoft operating system (OS) that didn’t have the same proprietary protections so these other companies could essentially make their computers look and seem just like an IBM PC with a Microsoft OS. I also learned that Xerox sold some of its tech to Apple because it didn’t think that it would go anywhere, and then Apple…well, it didn’t agree and used that tech to go big. Big regrets for Xerox, I bet.
- 36d [“Wonder Woman’s best friend”] – I’m not a big DC fan, so I had to use my movie knowledge to fill in ETTA CANDY’s name. A fun fact about the film is that, if you look closely, you can spot Lucy Davis as Etta Candy and Gal Gadot as Diane Prince/Wonder Woman in a photo in the latter’s apartment in Wonder Woman 1984. Davis is wearing makeup to make her look older since the photo is meant to reference Davis’ performance in the first movie, which takes place during World War I.
- 36d [“Insta posts”] – “Photo,” “pics,” and “Insta” (obviously) were all in the first deluge of thoughts for this clue, but I love that SNAPS is the answer, given that it also alludes to another favorite photo-oriented app/social media platform, Snapchat.
As I said above, BEQ’s Thursday was a tough one for me, but it was satisfying as I finished it off. It was an odd theme, pushing me way, way, way out of the box to fill, but it also had such a solid center fill with crosses between literary celebrities (HESSE) and video game characters (ASHE) that provided a good assist to the rest of my solve.