Dan Caprera’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Can You Dig It?”—Jim P’s review
The revealer is “AIN’T THAT THE PITS?” (40a, [“Man, what a bummer!”…and a hint to four of this puzzle’s blocks]). The lone blocks in the four corners of the grid each represent the word PIT and are used as such to complete the neighboring entries.
The corner PITs are used as follows.
- 1a. [Casino VIP] (PIT) MANAGER. I actually tried PIT BOSS here at the start and it fit. I thought that was a nice way to begin the grid until I had to remove it for the seemingly generic MANAGER. It wasn’t until later that I realized what was going on. 13d. [Miamian rapper nicknamed “Mr. Worldwide”]. (PIT) BULL.
- 8a. [Home in constant need of repairs, idiomatically] MONEY (PIT). 15d. [When a racer retires?] (PIT) STOP.
- 50d. [Locale at many a punk rock show] MOSH (PIT). 70a. [Concealed traps] (PIT)FALLS.
- 58d. [Mining method] OPEN (PIT). 71a. [Drive-in theater, slangily] PASSION (PIT). I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term “passion pit.” That made that last corner more of a challenge even knowing the theme by that point.
This was fun to uncover and suss out. I definitely started with a few missteps before grokking the theme, but that added to the fun of the aha moment. Throw in some Thursday-level cluing and this proved to be a somewhat meaty challenge. Good times!
Some fun fill in the middle (away from the theme answers) in the form of MIDDLE CHILD and LIGHT SABERS. I also liked LOYOLA, PROUST, and ACCOLADE.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen CGS [Meas. syst. that includes the erg and the dyne] before in crosswords or IRL. Apparently, the initials stand for centimeter-gram-second, and the system is a variant of the metric system. Here’s hoping we don’t see it again in a puzzle anytime soon.
Clues of note:
- 21a. [“Biscuit” born in Chelsea]. OREO. That’s a new cluing angle. Apparently “Chelsea” is referring to the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan where Nabisco once had a factory. (But the OREO is still a ripoff of the Hydrox, which—I gotta say—is a terrible name for a cookie. Sounds like a multi-headed toilet bowl cleanser.)
- 27a. [Arabian leader]. REIN. Got me with this one. I did not think horses until after I filled in all the crossings.
- 57d. [Slew]. DID IN. This clue helped to make that SE corner a challenge. I only interpreted it as a synonym of “a great many” as opposed to the past tense of “slay.”
Enjoyable puzzle. Four stars.
Bojan Koprivica’s Fireball Crossword, “Spin Cycle” – Jenni’s write-up
Last week’s themeless seemed a bit harder to me than the recent run of Fireball puzzles. This one seemed a bit easier. I solved on paper per Peter’s suggestion and I don’t think it was worth the ink to have the colored squares in the theme answers.
It’s Tour de France season. The “cycle” of the title is a bicycle. The red and blue squares contain the names of cities in France that (I presume) are part of the race. I know one for sure and I confirmed another. On my third Google attempt to find the other two, I decided I wasn’t that interested. That’s kind of how I feel about this puzzle.
Since I solved on paper, I’m giving you Peter’s grid. No one wants to read my handwriting (anyone who’s judged my papers at ACPT is nodding). Each city is embedded in a straightforward answer to a straightforward clue. The cities spin around the center.
- 11d [Analogies] are COMPARISONS. Paris.
- 21a [Like dementia in a 50-year-old] is EARLY ONSET. Lyon.
- 29d [Unreceptive to new ideas] is CLOSE–MINDED. Nimes.
- 69a [Room with a large-screen TV and surround sound] is a HOME CINEMA. Nice.
There you have it, unless I’m missing something. No wordplay. No tricks. Nothing much to figure out. Except for the color it feels like a Wednesday NYT. Oh, and it’s bigger than a standard daily puzzle. Still. I want more from the Fireball.
A few other things:
- 1a [Storms ridden out in the street, e.g.] are GEOS and that’s one of the most enjoyable clues in the puzzle.
- I remember reading about EMIL Zapotek in the 1960s edition of the World Book Encyclopedia that I grew up with. I can still see the photo in my mind, and here it is.
That’s it. I’m just not interested enough to come up with more.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: there are a lot of these, at least. I’d never heard of the IRMA Black Award for children’s literature. Children are the final judges – cool! I did not know that Mendelssohn wrote a famous OCTET at age 16. And I did not know that Seneca was EXILEd to Corsica.
Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review
Today’s puzzle from Alan Arbesfeld feels a little more straightforward than the last few Thursdays have:
- 18A: Seeking a dry Italian wine? — AFTER SOAVE
- 29A: Fervor over Senator Rubio? — MARCO MADNESS
- 46A: Blazer worn next to a blaze? — FIRESIDE COAT
- 59A: TV show about a group of whales? — POD PROGRAM
- 69A: Fire fighter, familiarly … or a phonetic hint to this puzzle’s theme — H2O
All of these phrases have been made wackier by changing their H to an O – AFTER SHAVE, MARCH MADNESS, FIRESIDE CHAT, and PHD PROGRAM all get this treatment. Crosswords with one square getting a number are a weird pet peeve of mine, and the theme answers are…fine, so this one wasn’t my favorite.
44A: “Best Actress Oscar winner between Bullock and Streep” — that would be Natalie PORTMAN, for Black Swan
Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up
Good morning, besties! Are these Thursday puzzles getting easier, or am I getting better at puzzles? I zipped through this one, and “zipped” is not a verb I typically use on a Patrick Berry themeless. I liked ELBOW ROOM, PATREON, YOU BETTER RUN, and LITE BRITE (so many memories!!).
Nice to see a “Dreamgirls” callout– that movie is one of my all-time favorites.
This puzzle didn’t really have a lot of long answers– only eight of the entries were nine-letters or longer. Usually when a themeless puzzle has more mid-length fill (there were six seven-letter entries here), it will lean into tricky clues, but an easy themeless puzzle like this can’t really do that.
Katherine Baicker and Scott Earl’s Universal Crossword, “Bedhead” — Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: Common phrases with types of bedding at the beginning are clued wackily as if they are those types of bedding
- 17A [Snarky criticism about an afghan?] THROW SHADE.
- 26A [Chat about feathers vs. foam?] PILLOW TALK.
- 38A [Thumbs-up for Linus’ security item?] BLANKET APPROVAL.
- 53A [Tale about tucking someone in?] COVER STORY.
- 63A [Falsehoods about quilts?] SPREAD LIES.
Fun theme. Enjoyed uncovering all of the themers. The only gimme for me was BLANKET APPROVAL, because Linus is synonymous with BLANKET in my mind. I like how each of the “bedhead” words becomes a noun, where they were adjectives/verbs in the base phrase.
PILLOW TALK seems to be a bit of an outlier as I’m pretty sure the definition of PILLOW doesn’t change from the base phrase to the altered phrase. In the others, the definition of the “bedhead” word completely changes. Also, the others all blankets of sorts. PILLOW is the only one of the group whose purpose is something completely different.
Found the fill trickier than normal for Universal, particularly in the MODEL T / ADEPO / EP area. I think the P is a dangerous cross in those last two, especially for newer solvers. Have never heard of the movie Happiness nor its director, TODD Solondz, but it looks like an interesting movie. I think I’ll seek that out tonight. Kinda want to watch it!
3.9 stars for me today. Thanks for this one!
Karen Lurie’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Today’s puzzle by Karen Lurie features letter subtraction, an L always from the opening letter of each phrase to be precise. I have never heard, nor I could I imagine a situation where I could, the phrase JUSTTAKETHEL, but it’s inferable I suppose. [*Research on the ampersand?], ANDMARKSTUDY is brilliant; and the other two function: [*Ambien, for one?], AIDTOREST; and [*Folds?], ENDSAHAND. It’s unusual to only do three examples in a theme like this, but if it means the rest of the puzzle is better, I’m for it.
Got a “huh? oh?” moment early on with [Perfect copy], EDIT. Perfect is a verb in this sentence. Sneaky! Other fun clues included [Unrealistically common affliction in soap operas], AMNESIA and [Lancelot or Mix-a-Lot], SIR even if the latter was a riff on the former. [Baby birds?], STORKS was another punchy misdirecting clue.
Lastly, I wonder how many of us started reading [Insurance spokeslizard], GECKO and put GEIKO in…
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1487, “Is This Your Card?”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each theme answer contains ACE as a rebus
- 17a [“Calm and comfortable”] AT PEACE WITH
- 32a [“Hospital section that might have a Helipad”] TRAUMA CENTER
- 41a [“Setting for the 2013 movie ‘Gravity’”] SPACE STATION
- 61a [“Beefeater, e.g.”] PALACE GUARD
I love playing cards, so I was pretty pumped to see the title of this grid. BEQ recommended the paper version, and if I’d access to a printer, I’d have 100% done that, but the little aces in the applet are cute. I first filled in OUTER SPACE for SPACE STATION, which fit perfectly, but it quickly became apparent that it was incorrect. It wasn’t until I went back and figured out AT PEACE WITH that the rebus became apparent.
I really liked how open this grid was, and I felt like it flowed nicely, especially in the corners. Usually, since I’m a slow solver, it’s anybody’s guess where I’ll fill in first, but I was pretty top to bottom on this one.
A few other things I noticed:
- 46a [“Transports with batteries”] – My dad really wanted me to get an EBIKE when I started grad school, but I insisted on my good ole fashioned bicycle. However, I have noticed EBIKEs appearing more and more.
- 52a [“___ Bolin (Chinese contemporary concealment artist … look him up, mind-blowing stuff)”] – BEQ is absolutely right here – LIU Bolin is amazing and is perhaps most known for his show “Hiding in the City,” which you can read about here.
Sorry for the late post, y’all. It has been a crazy day. See you tomorrow!
Just to explain regarding the WSJ, no question but CGS is a bit old and specialized. When I was in my first high school physics class, there were still two alternative ways to express results, even in metric: cgs (centimeter-gram-second) and mks (meter-kilogram-second), that on top of English units like feet and pounds.
You might think that this defeats the whole point of metric, that there’s a simple standard like meter or gram to which one can add prefixes like centi- and kilo- to one’s heart’s content, conversions being fast and easy. But as a historical accident, cgs preferred to express a couple of things concerning electricity and magnetism in a unit that had no place in mks. By the time I reached college, cgs was pretty much ancient history, and mks was dubbed SI, from the French for international system, and that was that. Again, metric being metric, you can still speak of centimeters and grams, but the more arcane parts of naming were gone.
FWIW, I didn’t know LSD came with a blotter.
WSJ: Thanks for your thoughts on CGS. I found that to be just about the only Thursday-level entry in this puzzle, which otherwise played pretty smooth and fast for me, like a Tues/Weds, once the pit corners and revealer emerged.
That’s two puzzles in two days from Mr. Caprera. Keep ’em coming, Dan.
Blotter LSD was the primary mode of delivery back in the day.
I don’t mind one number square and I liked the theme in the NYT. The fill, OTOH, was…not good. REHEM? BE A HERO? Meh.
Berry’s themeless New Yorker was indeed as easy as advertised! I rarely do the Mon NYT, but I don’t know that I’ve ever finished a Tues NYT in 2:37. (Part of it is the PuzzleMe interface by Amuse Labs, which conveniently jumps me to the next open entry.)
You know you can select a setting in the NYT puzzle app that does the same thing? (It’s also the browser version, if I remember correctly.) Very convenient, except when you’re trying to type something like “circadian rhythm” in a sine wave pattern.
I don’t use the app or browser version for the NYT—use Crossword Scraper for a .puz file. I’ve tried the browser version but it doesn’t feel like the navigation is the same as Puzzle Me’s.
I had never heard of CGS, but like most unknowns in crosswords I got it by the crossings and looked it up later. I much prefer learning about things like this to learning about the ubiquitous rappers in so many puzzles. Your results may differ.
Likewise, I’ve never heard of the phrase “passion pit” as a term for a drive-in theater – but unbelievably, when I went to (all boys) boarding school in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s the “Passion Pit” was a fixture at the Junior/Senior dances. It was an area of the dance venue that was filled with blankets and pillows and marked off by hanging blankets. “Attendees” had to crawl through a small opening in the blanket-wall. As the “nerdy Jewish kid” at this school I never had the opportunity to crawl in myself, but I did hear rumors of what went on in there.
I didn’t know PASSION PIT either, but did like that puzzle and indeed the NYT much more than others. (BTW, I honestly didn’t mean to offer an opinion on CGS or its inclusion in the puzzle. I was just trying to help, or maybe unconsciously just reveling needlessly in the memories of a former physics major. Truly, a wonderful lost direction in this life.)
NYT: Appropriately terse write-up above for a puzzle that pays lip service to what makes for a challenging and engaging Thursday. The theme is not bad per se — letter swaps are old-hat, yes, but often bring a smile — and the revealer is a nice touch, but with the exception of AFTER SOAVE, the marquee entries land with a resounding thud. Factor in the GOP ghouls and a bit too much pedestrian fill, e.g., CAR LOAN and TRANK, and the oft-lamented star ratings seem pretty much on the mark in today’s case.
Fireball: I’ve been told what the significance of the grid’s colors is, or is supposed to be, which has left me wondering what you “Spin Cycle” solvers out there think it is.
I didn’t solve the Fireball puzzle, but the review pretty much matches my impression from looking at the filled-in grid. (I didn’t make the Tour de France connection. I don’t know if this year’s race hits all four cities, but it would make sense if it does.)
Bonus theme content: Happy Bastille Day!
Eric, your thought(s) about the colors specifically?
They’re the colors of the French flag (along with the white squares).
More specifically, the layout is supposed to resemble the French flag.
The layout doesn’t look like “le tricolour” to me.
But on second thought, maybe the arrangement of the colors is the “spin” of the puzzle’s title.
It doesn’t look like “le tricoleur” to me either. That’s why I started this thread.
(The Fiend wouldn’t let me add to the thread immediately above.)
BEQ: the rebus was trickier than the description above: The four crosses of the ACE rebus were the four card suits, e.g., NEIL [DIAMOND] crossing PAL[ACE]GUARD, for a sort of ACE of DIAMONDS feel. This made it more difficult to solve.