This week’s Fireball puzzle is a contest. We will post a review when the deadline has passed.
Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “I-Lids”—Jim P’s review
Theme revealer: DOTTED THE I’S (55a, [Attended to details, and what you’ve done in five places if you’ve completed the puzzle]). All the I’s in this puzzle have DOTs above them.
- 17a. [Part of a sub system] TORPEDO TUBE above the I in ISSA.
- 27a. [Inclusive phrase] AND OTHERS above the I in INERT.
- 43a. [O-goshi or tai-otoshi, e.g.] JUDO THROW above the I in OLDIE.
- 53a. [Gal of “Death on the Nile”] GADOT above the I in the revealer.
- 55a. DOTTED THE I’S above the I in DIETED.
When I finished the puzzle and grokked the full theme, I thought it simply meant that there was an O above each I…and I was quite underwhelmed. I’m glad I went back and had another look because it was only then that I realized there were DOTs throughout the grid. I’m not going to say it’s my favorite Paul Coulter grid, but at least there’s more to it than I originally thought.
Maybe the dearth of I’s had a significant impact on the fill because it felt rather clunky with entries like GO OUT TO, TV ROLE, ROOTER (clued [Fan]), OTS, TES, AUTH, and other abbreviations throughout the grid. Also, I’d never heard of the phrase ART SONG [Schubert specialty] which sounds totally made up, but is actually a real thing.
Highlights include CATNAP, VERDANT, MOOCHER, and Amelia EARHART.
Clues of note:
- 45a. [Marine migrator]. EEL. News to me. When I think of eels, I think of morays hanging out in a reef.
- 49a. [Cut]. SHARE. Simple but tricky clue. I went with SHEAR and then SHAVE before realizing the clue’s actual meaning.
I’m afraid I didn’t get a lot of joy out of this one. Three stars.
Elise Corbin’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Average (10m48s)
Today’s theme: PHYSICS (Science that deals with the phenomenon spelled out by 10 missing letters in this puzzle)
The missing letters spell out DARK MATTER, although I keep wondering if I’m missing something — only the A-R-K-A-T-T-R are dark per se (i.e. obscured by black squares), while the D-M-E are off the grid entirely. I assume we’re simply going with DARK as in “unseen”, and not literally referring to the tint of the squares. Felt slow despite no real roadblocks, probably because the grid has 80 words and I stumbled for a while as I counted missing letters looking for the revealer.
Cracking: DECK CHAIR — cue Colbert’s takedown of W at the 2006 Correspondents’ dinner:
“Oh, they’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” First of all, that’s a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!
Slacking: AROUSER — I’m sorry, are they waking you up in the most sultry voice imaginable?
Sidetracking: DO I DARE — “Kill my boss? Do I dare live out the American dream?”
Alexander Liebeskind & Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Alex Liebeskind & Jeff Chen’s puzzle today is one of my favourite kinds: LIFTONESSPIRITS is interpreted in three different ways to be associated with three other answers:
- DIADELOSMUERTOS, [Mexican tradition that will…], aka Day of the Dead, is when ghosts, aka spirits, are supposed to rise.
- WEDDINGTOASTS, [Celebratory moments to…], when you raise glasses of alcohol, aka spirits.
- RETAILTHERAPY, [Shopping outing that may…], in the more conventional sense of the phrase.
It helps that the first and third are also excellent phrases to try and work into any crossword.
- [Search engine name], YAHOO is extant in name only.
- [The “N” of the actor known as NPH], NEIL. Figured it out, but never heard Neil Patrick Harris referred to initially.
- [Sierra ___], LEONE. Wanted MADRE first.
- [Sophomore’s grade], TENTH. These US terms always make no sense to me. Tenth grade is the third high school grade here.
- [NYC ave.], LEX. It’s weird that the abbrev. for a specific ave. is fair game for a puzzle?
Parker Higgins’s Universal crossword, “Travel Pack” — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: Each theme answer is the names of two airlines.
- 14a [*Cultural ethos represented by the word “aloha”] – HAWAIIAN SPIRIT
- 26a [*Like Archie and Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor, nationality-wise] – BRITISH AMERICAN
- 42a [*Geographic region for the Aleutian Island] – SOUTHWEST ALASKA
- 54a [Travel company headquartered in Chicago, and an apt description of the starred clues’ answers] – UNITED AIRLINES
This is a really tight theme set. I was surprised both with how legitimate each of the dual-airline phrases were (legit enough that I didn’t realize what was going on until I reached the revealer), and that they were all symmetric lengths. Great finds by Parker, really well done. I also kind of love the stair steps in the corners that the 14-length revealer requires.
- BALLING OUT and SCOOTS OVER are great fill choices, and they span three theme answers each! The fill overall is smooth; it played easier than the average Universal puzzle for me.
- I think this might be the first time I’ve seen WORDLE itself in a crossword.
- I saw APARNA Nancherla when she spoke at my college back in 2017 and she was *hilarious*.
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword—Darby’s note
There’s a delay on the BEQ puzzle, and it’ll be posted tomorrow.
Will Nediger’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap
First time in a while that I’ve gone over 3 minutes for an easiest-of-the-week Thursday New Yorker puzzle. I hit a number of longish answers where I couldn’t leap to filling in the answer without a second thought.
First up, the grid spanner RESERVATION DOGS. I need to get back to that show! I quite enjoyed the first few episodes. It’s been renewed for a third season, so now’s the time to pop over to Hulu and binge seasons 1 and 2. (And yes, the title’s meant to evoke Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.) If you’ve never watched a TV show with Indigenous cast, crew, and storytelling, well, you are in for a treat.
Other fave fill: LAMBCHOPS, the “PAST ME” whose choices have paid off for present me, POPE HAT, BIRKIN BAG, CRUSH HARD, JUST BARELY, ONLY CHILD, HIT THE TOWN, I’LL MANAGE, pesky SKEETERS. Less keen on “I SAY YES” and “HERE’S A TIP,” which don’t feel natural enough to me.
Did not know: [Drinking game whose players throw projectiles at aluminum cans], BEER DARTS. Someone’s gonna lose an eye!
Four stars from me.
Nate Cardin’s USA Today Crossword, “Pop Group” — Emily’s write-up
This puzzle is making me thirsty! It’s a sweet treat all it’s own.
Theme: each themer begins with a word for a container of soda
- 19a. [“Do you agree?’” in church], CANIGETANAMEN
- 39a. [Focus of Ponce de Leon’s quest], FOUNTAINOFYOUTH
- 58a. [TV series installment with a limited set and cast], BOTTLEEPISODE
CANIGETANAMEN for this beauty of a puzzle? The myth of the FOUNTAINOFYOUTH dates back to the 16th century with lots of current day intrigue about its exact location. BOTTLEEPISODE is a new term for me so I needed most of the crossings.
Favorite fill: KLUTZ, NAB, DUPLO, and LUAU
Stumpers: FOND (COMMENT), GRANDTOUR (COMMENT), and EDGER (COMMENT)
Super tasty solve with a sweet finish. Really enjoyed the gird design and its smooth flow in addition to all of the delightful fill. For me, there’s nothing better than an iced cold can of pop every now and then (I’m nowadays a hydro-homie). Everyone has a preference—what’s yours?
NYT: Haha, what a great ending for this review, the cracking, slacking and the side tracking… hilarious!
This puzzle appealed to my love of order (I love disorder as well, each has its own kind of beauty).
Orderly things I appreciated:
1- It’s always the first letter that’s missing.
2- The missing letters spell DARK MATTER sequentially.
3- The words with the missing letters are placed systematically in the grid: the top 2 corners, then more centered and located 4 lines from the top, then back near the edges in the center line of the puzzle and then a complete mirror image of that top arrangement on the bottom half.
Seriously, that’s a thing of beauty.
NYT: I found this to be a pretty straightforward Thursday, although I agree with Zachary David Levy that some of the missing letters being at the leftmost edge detracted from the theme. It felt a little inconsistent to me.
I also appreciate how hard it is to have ten themers, but there is a lot of fill that pays the price: EXCELIN, PEERIN, CARAD, etc.
Yeah EXCEL IN and PEER IN was a bit brow-furrowing. Especially so since they cross :/
Not to mention IN STORE, AS IN crossing WENT ALL IN, and IN GENERAL.
WSJ: A quick Spanish lesson (unless I’m misunderstanding the clue): 18-down is the word for “that” when it precedes a feminine noun. For example, “this table” would be “esa mesa.” It does not mean “that girl” as the clue indicates.
NYT: for me the theme presentation is spot on. “Dark” in “dark matter” has nothing to do with color or appearance and everything to do with being “unseen” as ZDL puts it. Hats off to the constructor for a fun interpretation of a very cool concept.
If anyone is interested in learning more about the study of dark matter, the LZ Experiment is worth reading about: https://lz.lbl.gov/. Incredible effort of science and engineering.
Yes, loved it. I don’t see the least problem either with some dropped letters falling on the edge of the puzzle, others preceded by a black square. There are 12 of them, they’re dropped (just as the revealer says), and they spell out you know what. That’s more than enough for me. The revealer doesn’t promise they’re hidden by black squares or morph into black squares.
I don’t have a problem with [blah] IN phrases either. They were idiomatic enough. CAR AD took me a moment to parse, but it makes sense, no?
FWIW, I don’t know much Spanish, but the WSJ clue about “that girl” bothered me, too.
FWIW, technically the challenge for physics right now is that, while we’ve good reason to believe that dark matter exists, we can’t prove it. It’s not that it’s too dark (in color or somehow otherwise) to see. It’s, shall we say, MIA. So the revealer is reasonable even in terms of science.
Of course, sorting out what would make physics complete and unified right now is itself an unsolved problem. String theory hasn’t really delivered, and some phenomena really do give hope that relativity and quantum theory not only can co-exist, but are both needed, such as Hawkings’ proposal of leaky black holes, but quantum theory still blows up when it tries to incorporate gravity (unless we’re going about that the wrong way right now, too). Unlikely as it is, even dark matter is for now only a hypothesis.
To add to the physics lesson: the original argument for the existence of dark matter came from studying the motion of stars in galaxies, pioneered by Vera Rubin, who totally deserved a Nobel. In brief, the dynamics of stars in the fringes of galaxies indicated through simple gravitational theory that there was more mass in the galaxies than corresponded to the visible matter in stars and gas and dust — hence ‘dark’ matter. Since then, studies of clusters of galaxies have reinforced the same conclusion.
The point is that the evidence for dark matter is fundamentally empirical – either that, or Newtonian gravity doesn’t work on scales that are modest in cosmological terms. Something’s out there, in other words, that has not yet been identified.
Really nice wrap-up, and much clearer than my rambling!
@Zachary – it’s not cool to joke about killing one’s boss, or anyone else, even when you’re attempting cute humor. It’s even worse with the recent mass killings around the US.
OMG shut up… it was a Simpsons reference. Thanks for the write-up and the funny joke, Zachary!