Fireball Crosswords Review : “Themeless 109” (2017-09-07)
Constructed By: Peter Gordon
Edited By: Peter Gordon
Source: By Subscription Only: See page here.
Glenn’s Time: 49 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: 3. The results of guessing between 39-A, 43-A, and 28-D. “I’LL BE TRASH” seemed reasonable enough at the time given the crossings. Guess “I LOVE TRASH” is more reasonable on hindsight. Of course, a sort of dumb error resulted as well.
(Quality) Rating: 4.5 stars/5 stars.
Fireball Crosswords is a by subscription-only crossword service provided by Peter Gordon, that features puzzles either constructed or edited by him. They often feature unique and creative things. However, the primary pitch is the difficulty as indicated on the website’s pitch: “The puzzles are hard. How hard? If you have to ask, too hard for you.” One will indeed find difficulty in these puzzles, often due to the cluing which is generally far more oblique than the norm, though not as difficult as some other examples people can find, such as the Newsday Saturday Stumper or some of the New York Times Friday or Saturday puzzles.
This puzzle provides a fairly typical example of the themeless grids offered on Fireball Crosswords. There were a number of fairly interesting deceptive clues, though a fair amount that turned into educated guesses due to the trivia involved. While this was a challenging puzzle, it kept my attention throughout, especially with some of the ways the clues were written. This was one of the more enjoyable themeless grids I’ve done in a long time.
As one of my goals of this blog in doing these reviews is awareness and accessibility to enable newer solvers. While I can’t freely provide examples of this puzzle, I will note that most of the themeless offerings parallel what you might expect on the Friday or Saturday New York Times grids.
Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:
1-A. [Foot in “the door”] – IAMB. A good example of having to read the clue carefully for as many meanings as you can get.
5-A. [1947 Dennis O’Keefe film] – TMEN. T-Men is a movie with two treasury agents hunting a counterfeiting ring. In seeing this in many crosswords as crosswordese, I wonder where the phrase came about and how. Nearest I can find, it got started in 1935-1940, but I have to wonder what happened that caused it to get popular. Perhaps they were in charge of the rationing that happened in the US in World War II?
19-A. [Ketch pair] – MASTS. A ketch is a two-masted sailboat.
20-A. [Advertising character who once said “I’m thick and rich”] – MRS. BUTTERWORTH. How many wanted to put an S after BUTTER like I did?
23-A. [The Sakmara feeds it] – URAL. The Sakmara River is a river in Russia that feeds into the Ural River.
27-A. [New York county whose seat is Utica] – ONEIDA. One of the more frustrating entries here due to Northeastern local geographical references.
35-A. [Florsheim designation] – EEE. Florsheim is a brand of shoes.
2-D. [Literally (literally, “in strictness”)] – A LA RIGUEUR. This is French.
3-D. [Future resident, maybe] – MED STUDENT. Another good fun clue.
10-D. [River under the Harvard bridge] – CHARLES. This is the river separating Boston and Cambridge Massachusetts. Again, a specific Northeastern geographical reference.
13-D. [Deg. for someone who’s studied calculus] – DDS. This would be a dentist. Calculus is the scientific term used to refer to tartar as deposited on teeth. Again a good clue.
28-D. [Oscar’s best song?] – I LOVE TRASH. This is referring to Oscar the Grouch of Sesame Street fame.
29-D. [Show for which Bernadette Peters won her first Drama Desk Award] – DAMES AT SEA. This is a musical play.
37-D. [“______ Comes Mary” (1966 hit for the Association)] – ALONG.
48-D. [National park of Israel] – MASADA. Masada is a mesa where a number of historical figures have built a number of fortresses and plays a number of roles in the history of the area.
Until next time! Feedback about what to consider looking at or talking about, or questions (if I can answer them) are always welcome!