Malaika Handa’s Fireball Crossword, “Dealer’s Choice” – Jenni’s write-up
Today’s Fireball is by Team Fiend’s own Malaika Handa! This one kept me guessing until the very end. It’s a twisty theme with a very satisfying “aha!” moment.
The title may be a tad misleading; the puzzle has nothing to do with cards. The revealer at 38a tells us that it’s “Let’s Make A Deal” instead (and also explains why this puzzle is 16×15). [Brainteaser named for a game show host….and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] is the MONTY HALL PROBLEM. There’s a full explanation here. The very abbreviated version: in the game show, you have three doors and have two chances to pick the one that hides a car. If your first guess is wrong, should you stick with your choice or change? You increase your chances of getting the car if you switch (see above re: full explanation). I got the revealer early on and it took me far longer than it should have to realize I needed to look for DOORs and that it might be a rebus. It is. There are, not surprisingly, three of them.
- 17a [Bread served with curry] is TAN[DOOR]I NAAN.
- 30a [“We can’t turn back now!”] is IT‘S [DO OR] DIE.
- 54a [1963 hit subtitled “When He Walked Me Home”] is DA [DOO R]ON RON.
The Downs that cross the rebus don’t have DOORs. Let’s see what they have instead.
- 4d [Keto cousin] is a NO [CAR]B DIET.
- 10d [Fall guy] is a SCAPE[GOAT].
- 39d [Attempted something] is HAD A [GO AT] IT.
So behind Door #1 is a CAR, and behind the other two? GOATs. Nice! 39d bogged me down – I started with HAD A TRY and then when I realized it was a rebus kept thinking it was HAD A CRACK AT IT. Oy. I really liked this theme! Very original, well-executed, and fun to solve.
A few other things:
- 11d [Core components] are ABS. We went kayaking this morning and my core components are feeling it.
- 21a [Alaska location, often] is an INSET MAP.
- Do legal types actually use the word REHEARS?
- 31a [Emulated Harriet M. Welsch] was a gimme for any bookworm-inclined woman of my generation. It’s SPIED, as in Harriet the Spy. Love this New Yorker article about Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet’s creator.
- 41d [“Just saying…”] is BUT STILL, which doesn’t quite sound right to my hear.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that (Sir William) Ramsay discovered XENON.
Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Namedropping”—Jim P’s review
There were two possibilities for this theme when I saw the title. Either first names were removed from theme entries or they turned downward at some point. It turned out to be the latter.
That doesn’t mean I figured things out quickly; it still took some doing to fully see what was happening thanks to Thursday-level cluing. But the end result is a chewy but chewable theme and grid.
- 16a. [Many a short-story contest entrant] BUDDING AU/THOR with 18d [Adventurer Heyerdahl] THOR. I was expecting this to be based on the phrase “budding talent” so that really slowed me down here.
- 29a. [Rack spot] TORTURE CH/AMBER with 32d [Supermodel Valletta] AMBER.
- 39a. [Understood by very few] ESOT/ERIC with 41d [New York mayor Adams] ERIC. This short entry surprised me, but it’s a fine addition to the mix.
- 47a. [It precludes crossing party lines] CLOSED PRI/MARY with 50d [GM CEO Barra] MARY.
- 62a. [James Buchanan or Woodrow Wilson, e.g.] PRESBYTER/IAN with 65d [Swimmer Thorpe] IAN.
This was fun to suss out, but I’m also impressed at the construction. Three of the five theme answers cross other theme answers. And I like the mix of names from men and women, past and present.
Another thing that slowed me down at the beginning was the entry T-SHIRTED [Casually dressed], because, I thought, who would use that as an entry if it wasn’t part of a theme? But other than that odd entry, the rest of the fill is lovely with WIDE APPEAL, POP RECORD, HOUR OF NEED, TAROT DECK, CALDERAS, and DWARFS. The term TAROT DECK seems much less common than TAROT CARDS, but it makes sense. I also didn’t know Nagasaki’s island of KYUSHU, but it makes for a good geography lesson. KYUSHU is the third of the five largest islands after Honshu and Hokkaido.
Clues of note:
- 23a. [Mamoru Oshii’s specialty]. ANIME. My daughters might know the name but I didn’t. He’s responsible for a number of films though I’ve only heard of Ghost in the Shell, which later became a live action Scarlet Johansson movie.
- 27d. [Polish language]. EDIT. A lovely deceptive clue. Almost as good: [Works on a shift, perhaps] for SEWS.
Four stars from me.
Karen Lurie’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Karen Lurie has today’s NYT, and boy does 20A’s SPOILER ALERT (“Important warning before you answer 32-, 40- and 52-Across?”) spell out what’s going on well:
- 32A: 2003 Pixar animated adventure — THEY FOUND NEMO
- 40A: 2004 Quentin Tarantino martial arts film — SHE KILLED BILL
- 52A: 1993 Warner Bros. family drama — HE FREED WILLY
Alright, these aren’t entirely spoilers, but this is a fun twist of movie names featuring a title with a verb in the present tense.
spoiler alert: in 2016 THEY FOUND DORY, TOO
other nice things: GWEN STEFANI POWER POSING (which you can sing to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song if you so choose), RABIES OMELET, and ANGLED SPIRES LAPSE.
Wendy L. Brandes’s USA Today Crossword, “Stock Split” — Sophia’s recap
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer begins with ST and ends with OCK, thus “splitting” the word STOCK
- 20a [Reservation whose members established the Sacred Stone Camp] – STANDING ROCK
- 36a [“Begin timing me now!”] – START THE CLOCK
- 53a [Dismay at an astronomical price tag] – STICKER SHOCK
A classic USA Today theme today, and a satisfying one! The best part of the puzzle for me was when I got to 53a, thought to myself, “well, that could be anything”, and then remembered the theme and instantly knew the answer. I love aha moments like that! Having the word STOCK split the same way each time (ST/OCK) made it a bit easier to suss out the theme answers, but given that there are only two ways to split it into parts where all of said parts are longer than one letter, I actually prefer them to all be split the same way. Plus, all of these answers are excellent! Living in the midwest for the past couple years I heard a lot about STANDING ROCK; if you haven’t heard about their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, I’d encourage you to learn about it.
- Between the PACERS, ELI Manning, and the NFL, there were a fair number of sports clues today! None about Seattle teams though :(
- Speaking of Seattle, I was not prepared for the Macklemore shout out at 36d [“___ Love” (song that 33 couples got married to at the 2014 Grammys)] for the word SAME. Despite living in the one place where Macklemore still plays on the radio regularly AND actually watching the Grammys in 2014, I had forgotten that this happened. Remembering it now, it was… kind of odd! Kind of like this song! By far the the best part of the song is the chorus sung by Mary Lambert; she actually released a full extension of it called “She Keeps Me Warm” which I’ll link below.
- Didn’t know LYNN Nottage or Isabel WILKERSON, the latter of which slowed down the right side of the puzzle a bit for me.
- AMOEBA might be my least favorite crossword word because of the number of valid spellings it has. Today’s is my preferred one, though.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1435, “2 x 22”- Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer includes 2 Xs replacing 2 CHIs.
- 17a [“Rodents with soft fur and large ears”] XNXLLARATS / CHINCHILLA RATS
- 23a [“First Puerto Rican to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame”] XX RODRIGUEZ / CHI–CHI RODRIGUEZ
- 37a “[“Deep-fried burritos with pollo”] XCKEN XMICHANGAS /CHICKEN CHIMICHANGAS
- 48a [“Sluggers training devices”] PITXNG MAXNE / PITCHING MACHINE
- 56a [“1964 Best Original Song”] XM XM CHER-EE / CHIM CHIM CHER-EE
Full Disclosure: I’m not 100% sure I’ve got this theme completely nailed down, so feel free to add anything in the comments that you think is useful for understanding it.
17a CHINCHILLA RATS was tricky since CHINCHILLA on its own fits perfect here, and I didn’t know that there was a difference between the two (Chinchilla rats appear to be smaller). Also, I found it odd that the crossing words in each treated the X replacing CHI as Xes (i.e. 1d [“Where hip-hop started”] BRONX crosses the first CHI in XNXLLA RATS). I’m sure that there’s only so many double CHI words out there that would work in a puzzle, so I can see both sides here.
Other things I found interesting:
- 46a [“‘Room With a ___’ (‘Shaun the Sheep’ episode)”] – This was one of the most fun EWE clues that I’ve ever seen. I also loved that it crossed with other crossword fave EMU in 46d [“Bird on Australia’s coat of arms”]. BEQ also shouted out Crossworld in 38d [“Suffix with crossword and Brooklyn”] ESE.
- 3d [“Grouping for some kids sporting events”] – AGE BRACKET was a fun 10-letter down answer.
- 11d [“Porter on the Warriors”] – I am not a big basketball fan. Space Jam is pretty much the extent of my knowledge, but OTTO Porter Jr. was born in St. Louis, which I found to be such a fun fact. This is currently his 8th season in the NBA.
That’s all from me today, folks!
George Jasper’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary
George Jasper’s theme is a fairly conventional riff off GATECHANGE, a phrase I can’t recall encountering, that said most airports here don’t have enough gates for that to be a thing. GOGREATGUNS is an excellent entry, and PAGETURNER and SECRETAGENT are serviceable. I’m not sure any but the most ardent astronomers were delighted to puzzle out SATELLITEGALAXY though.
Three entries to highlight:
- NOMSG may be an [Assurance on some menus], but given that that compound naturally occurs in so many foods, it will almost assuredly be a lie.
- DRE is a a [Titled rapper], but fellow 90’s artist Dr. Alban at least had the qualification for real (and went back to dentistry as his musical career flagged).
- Trickiest clue of the day: [Short dip?] for GUAC(amole)
Adrian Johnson’s Universal Crossword, “Wrap Party”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Synonyms for “party” can be found at the beginning/ends of common phrases
- BAJA FRESH. Bash.
- RAW NERVE. Rave.
- SHOW STOPPER. Shower.
- DATA SCIENCE. Dance.
- BANKROLL. Ball.
- GUATEMALA. Gala.
This is a very impressive grid. Astounding to fit six long, extremely solid, interesting themers. Nothing about the grid seems forced or shoehorned for the sake of “getting another themer in there.” The resulting fill doesn’t suffer in the slightest. Enjoyed uncovering OBJET D’ART (I’m assuming I put the apostrophe in the right spot?), and HOLI, both of which were new for me but fun to learn. Also, I hope the PAKISTANI is enjoying their vacation in GUATEMALA!
Other new things (for me):
ANNIE Easley, and I really want to know what “jiaozi” is. Also, can I use that in Scrabble?
Just googled. Look like pretty standard Chinese dumplings. The name “jiaozi” is much better.
I’m gonna forego the complaint about circled letters being included here but not in the grid offered to the masses. This is a puzzle that is better served with circles. Doesn’t seem like Universal cares about the issue of offering two different solve experiences all that much.
Fantastic grid, Adrian!
4.25 Stars with circles
3 Stars without.