Usually the Fireball puzzle arrives during the day on Wednesday. This week, it didn’t. Thursday’s a travel day, so I don’t know if/when I will get to the puzzle if/when it is sent. I appreciate your forbearance.
Jim Page’s New York Times crossword
Quick review, because I need to pack for my ACPT trip. The theme is HOT CORNER, or 35a: [Third base, in baseball lingo ... or a hint for answering eight other clues in this puzzle]. The eight answers around the grid’s perimeter, extending to the corners, should all be preceded by the word HOT in order to work with their clues. I like how it works for the answers that begin in the corners (POTATO, POCKETS, RODDER, TAMALE), but find it offputting that the other ones’ unseen HOTs are loitering in the black squares in the middle of the puzzle’s edges. I want HOT to be in the corners, rather than just sort of relating to each answer that touches a corner. But to me, the puzzle looks like it has PEPPER HOT, TICKET HOT, DOGGED HOT, and MUSTARD HOT. Is it just me or did that bug you too?
The fill’s got some ugliness to it as well: KER-, both E-CASH and E-ZINE, ENSTEEL, REE, OLAS, ALAI, A CAT, IRAE, TERNS, MOR, TAL, A TEN O’, ECT-, and a bunch of 4-letter names out of the Crosswordesetown phone book: ENID, SKIL, TINO, IGER, ELAM, SULU, and GERE. (Okay, I like the last two.) It’s highly entertaining that the central Down answer is 20d: SLIVOVITZ, [Plum brandy]. Isn’t that a great word?
Issues with how the theme is executed, concerns with a lot of the fill—2.5 stars from me.
Joel D. Lafargue’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Jeffrey’s review
Happy Thursday, everybody!
Today is deja vu day.
1A. [Theme] – MOTIF
Ways to define three names in non-name ways.
- 17A. [See 60-Across] – MALE CAT OR TURKEY (Tom)
- 26A. [See 60-Across] – SLANG FOR A SLEUTH (Dick)
- 46A. [See 60-Across] – BOTHER ENDLESSLY (Harry)
- 60A. [Trio suggested by the answers to 17-, 26- and 46-Across] – TOM DICK AND HARRY
As a budding constructor, I find the hardest part is to come up with a new theme. All the good ideas seem to have been done. Without intending to, you can end up duplicating a previously published puzzle. That happened today.
From Tuesday, September 9, 2008:
Over to you, Amy of the past:
The theme is pointed to by the first theme entry, TOM, DICK, AND HARRY, or [Anybody...and the missing clues for 30-, 48- and 63-Across]. 30-Across is a tom, or a MALE TURKEY. 48-Across is a dick, or PRIVATE EYE. Harry, my favorite, means to ANNOY CONSTANTLY. I should use the word harry more often.
To be fair, the fill is improved in today’s version. No ZEBU to be found.
- 22A. [Winter airs] – NOELS
- 51A. [Smudge on Santa's suit] – ASH
- 52A. [Snowman's accessory] – SCARF
- 57A. [Summer shade] – TAN
- 4D. [Hard water?] – ICE
Are you calling MOI a fat pig?! Hiii-yaaahhhhhh!!!!!!!
- 24D. [Story-telling song] – BALLAD
- 53D. [Club where "music and passion were always the fashion," in song] – COPA. Definitely a story-telling song, so I guess Copacabana is a BALLAD.
Got a plane to catch, so I’ll stop there. Looking forward to seeing many of you this weekend in Brooklyn!
R.I.P. Stompin’ Tom Connors:
Doug Peterson’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Out in Front”- Sam Donaldson’s review
Was Doug looking for some alone time when he wrote this puzzle? According to 50-Down, BEAT IT is both a term meaning ["Get lost!," and a hint to the beginnings of the three longest entries]. Sure enough, the first four or five letters of each of these answers forms another synonym for “Get lost!” As we’re being encouraged to move along, let’s get straight to the theme entries:
- 25-Across: SCRAMBLED EGGS, [Bacon's partner, at times] starts with SCRAM. One who failed to do so, apparently, BLED EGGS, which can’t be comfortable.
- 36-Across: SHOOT FROM THE HIP, meaning to [Speak without thinking], starts with SHOO. I’d like it better if it started with Elizabeth Shue, but what can you do?
- 52-Across: SCATTERGORIES is the highly underrated [Party game for creative list makers]. Only now do I realize it starts with SCAT. Eww! Someone needs to curb their party games.
Notice how Doug placed the 13s on lines 5 and 11 of the grid. Usually one would see 13s on lines 4 and 12. I’m thinking that by bringing the 13s closer to the center, Doug was able to have the revealer, BEAT IT, intersect a theme entry. (It also gave him more room for some of the better fill in the grid, like KOBE BEEF, the [Pricey steakhouse selection], QANTAS, the [Airline with a kangaroo in its logo], ASTHMA, and TUNGSTEN.) He could have made the revealer an Across entry, but by having it as a Down entry in the southeast corner, the surprise is pushed back closer to the end of the clues.
Other fun fill included SEE IN, RATED R, ST. JOSEPH, OIL SPILL, and BRASSY (an adjective we need to hear more often).
Favorite entry = OBLIQUE, an [Indirect] muscle I have only obliquely exercised the past few months. Favorite clue = [No-brainer?] for IDIOT.
Tyler Hinman’s AV Club crossword, “Beach Cycle”
First up, a confession. I don’t have a subscription to the AV Club crosswords. They’re wonderful puzzles, I just don’t solve that many puzzles these days and I wasn’t getting to the AV Club/Onion and many others regularly enough for there to be a point in subscribing… Due to an ACPT-induced staff crisis, I’ve been asked to pinch-blog the crossword. Ben Tausig graciously sent me a copy to blog from! Thanks Ben!
Very tough puzzle! My average Saturday time this year is 12:20, and this took me 12:31. It’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly why that is, unfamiliarity with long answers, some tough names, a few x-reffed clues, I dunno… Guess it adds up!
The theme is awesome, Tyler! Perfectly tight set of four answers! So elegant! I had to stare for a few seconds post-solve to understand. The four long across answers end in PALE, TAN, BURNED, PEELING. My body skips the two in the middle and exists only in a PALE/PEELING cycle! Sucks to be a redhead ;)
- 17a, [Be really offensive], GOBEYONDTHEPALE. I can’t believe I didn’t get this until quite a few crosses! Nice four-word answer!
- 27a, [Hoppy mixture], BLACKANDTAN
- 44a, [In need of aftershave], RAZORBURNED. I’m not sure what this is. I’ve only been shaving less than a year. I don’t own aftershave. Help!
- 59a. [Cosmetic process used to smoothe], CHEMICALPEELING. Again. Lessee…
I think I’ll take a linear stroll down the clues and highlight as I go…
- 1a, [Kid-lit elephant], BABAR. Started with a gimme, but it went downhill for me from there.
- 21a, [Scoped body part], KNEE. Tough clue! Arthroscopy not perving.
- 23a, [Locale in some "Far Side" cartoons], ISLE. I love Far Side cartoons. Nevertheless a very broad clue. I can think of Far Side cartoons set on isles, the famously subtle one with the shipwrecked mariner pointing out the entire isle was in the intertidal zone comes to mind (I’m not sure how to go about googling it!), but is it really iconically Far Side? I’d say Hagar the Horrible is proportionately more isle-prone!
- 31a, [Electric switch], RELAY. Please tell me I wasn’t the only one to start with ONOFF!
- 40a, [It's given at third 46-Down], ORAL and 46d, BASE. Tough x-rated x-ref. Needed all the crosses!
- 41a, [___ cleft (space in the brain)], SYNAPTIC. Clue had me racking my brain for something much larger… like the foramen magnum or the subarachnoid or something…
- 43a, [Hole in those nasty anti-smoking images], STOMA. I’m not familiar with American anti-smoking images. The wording in this clue is very Tausig-esque!
- 47a, [No Limit Records founder], MASTERP. I know the name (I think? Jam Master J is “running interference”) but I can’t say I recognize anything in his discography! The P is for Percy, which is a very gangster name.
- 1d, [Grocery stores freebies], BAGS. Here in South Africa, we are now charged +- 3 cents US a bag by law in an effort to curb pollution… (That’s what the government told us, so it must be true)
- 8d, [Score perfectly, as a dive], RATEATEN. Alternative clue: [Rodent consumed].
- 11d, [Site unlikely to be used in conjunction with ChristianMingle.com], JDATE. Wikipedia sez it’s aimed at Jewish singles. Ah.
- 27d, [Ritual in the "South Park" episode "Ike's Wee Wee"], BRIS. More Jewish content! Extra-effort clueing FTW!
- 29d, [40% of "Two and a Half Men"], ALAN. Don’t watch the show. Can’t be bothered to figure out what the clue means!
- 45d, ["Don't Fear the ___"], REAPER. Love the song! Isn’t it more correctly called (Don’t Fear) The Reaper though? Anyway, listen here.
- 47d, ["Unhealthy Starbucks order"], MOCHA. Define unhealthy. Empty calories? If you have a vitamin/mineral rich diet that is otherwise calorie-deficient then that’d be healthy would it not? There’s no such thing as unhealthy food, only unhealthy diets and portion sizes IMO. I may be [Troll]ing
Whoa! That’s a lot of bullets! Excuse me while I find some gratuitous images to break up the white space a bit… I’ll go with 4.5 stars. Great theme! Lots of pop-culture/trivia type answers, making the puzzle tough, but fun!
Brendan Quigley’s website puzzle, “Check Your Crossings” — Matt’s review
Express review today since I’ve been shoveling snow this afternoon and am having trouble keeping my eyelids open. Brendan pays tribute to this weekend’s ACPT by including nine letters that take an AC going across and a PT going down. So 17-across is J(AC)K KEROU(AC), which crosses GU(PT)A and RA(PT)OR at the AC/PT.
Cute and timely idea, especially tied in with the title. Have fun, those of you who will be in Brooklyn this weekend!
Alan Arbesfeld’s Fireball crossword, “Taking Things Apart”
Short writeup, because it’s a day later and there are People, So Many Lovely People, here in the Marriott lounge.
Theme: Deconstruct each phrase by breaking up the words. “FA” CULT Y MEMBERS love the musical note “fa” and joined the YMCA. [Step on a scale following a spot of exercise]. No idea how CULT figures in–oh, wait, that’s “following.”
DI RECTOR’S CUT is [Princess belonging to a church official]. Princess Diana, a rector, and your “cut” is your share of something. Like the first theme answer, it doesn’t quite hang together in a way that makes sense vis-a-vis the clue. In the first one, where is MEMBERS reflected in the clue? These feel sort of like cryptic crossword clues, but missing a piece of the pie.
[Guys top collection of baseball teams] = MEN (guys) T (t-shirt = top) A.L. (American League) BREAKDOWN. Oh, okay, I get it. The clue is a BREAKDOWN of the word MENTAL into several components, and MEMBERS of the word FACULTY are those things in the first clue, and DIRECTORS is CUT into DI and RECTOR’S. Dang, this is not an obvious theme. I saw someone on Facebook asking for a theme explanation, so I know it’s not just me who had trouble here.
PERIOD PIECES, PIECES of PERIOD are P.E. [Gym class...] RIO [...locale known for its dancing...] D [...almost failing]. And last, we have STRING SECTIONS, sectioned into ST. [Canonized one...] RIN [... part of a noted German Shepherd...] G [...movie rating].
Complex theme, but it works. 4.5 stars for the theme. The fill is a bit “meh” (CDIV, UTWO, AGAPE), which brings the puzzle down to 4 stars.