Wall Street Journal Crossword Review: e-Mobility

Wall Street Journal Crossword Review : “e-Mobility” (2017-09-07)

WSJ-20170907-e-Mobility

Constructed By: Mark MacLachan
Edited By: Mike Shenk
Source: Play Online. PUZ File here.
Theme: E Mobility
For all the theme answers, an initial E is moved two characters ahead in the phrase to make what we have today.

  • 18-A. [Banana without a peel?] – BARE FRUIT (bear fruit)
  • 23-A. [Croquet and badminton?] – TAME SPORTS (team sports)
  • 55-A. [Salon request for My Little Pony?] – MANE STREAK (mean streak)
  • 60-A. [Despise greetings from the queen?] – HATE WAVES (heat waves)
  • 5-D. [Challenge St. Nick to go down a chimney?] – DARE SANTA (dear Santa)
  • 34-D. [Perform some pruning?] – PARE TREES (pear trees)

Glenn’s Time: 39 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: 2. (very dumb ones)

(Quality) Rating: 3.5 stars/5 stars.
Review:
The Wall Street Journal has offered puzzles six days a week since late 2015, progressing in difficulty from Monday to Thursday, a meta puzzle on Friday, and then a 21×21 on Saturday. There is a typically level degree of difficulty for each day, with a few occasional interesting surprises. This makes it an excellent puzzle set to consider doing if you are looking for something that will occasionally get beyond the typical USA Today or Los Angeles Times puzzle.

This provides a good typical example of a Thursday puzzle. We have the potential of a tricker theme on this day along with harder clues and we get that here, mostly. In this one, we have six theme entries where the first E is moved ahead 2 characters. The theme entries are very consistent, although lacking in the supposed hillarity that ensues by these entries. The fill is mostly good here with a distinctly small amount of junk in the fill, but a little questionable in spots. Overall, there is very little that is confusing once revealed. A decent solve.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:

6-A. [Plays in the street] – BUSKED. A primarily British term.

30-A [Big pistachio producer] – IRAN. Who would really know this, other than to play Hangman with the crosses?

35-A [Like some larcenies] – PETIT. A perfectly cromulent word, though I definitely wanted PETTY here initially. Didn’t you?

1-D [Orders at the diner] – HAS. Perhaps the most questionable entry of the grid. For the point of ordering, ASK would be more fitting. To actually have something would be to actually eat whatever it is.

12-D [Gillian Jacob’s “Community” character] – BRITTA. I happened to watch the show and remember enough to get this one (she’s the blonde headed one). But as with a lot of grids (especially NYT), the pop culture can have a way of getting too specific on a lot of clues, and if you never watched the show, it’s inevitably a crosser.

Until next time (very soon!).

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Fireball Crosswords Review: Themeless 109

Fireball Crosswords Review : “Themeless 109” (2017-09-07)

Fireball-20170907-Themeless 109
Constructed By: Peter Gordon
Edited By: Peter Gordon
Source: By Subscription Only: See page here.
Theme: None.
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.
Review:
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.

43-A. [Eponym of an Australian Open arena] – LAVER. This would be the Rod Laver Arena. Rod Laver was a famous Australian tennis star of the 1960’s.

2-D. [Literally (literally, “in strictness”)] – A LA RIGUEUR. This is French.

3-D. [Future resident, maybe] – MED STUDENT. Another good fun clue.

7-D. [Big name in serigraphy] – ERTE. This would be the person. A serigraph is a method used to reproduce an original work of art.

8-D. [Indira Gandhi’s maiden name] – NEHRU. Indira Gandhi is not related to the famous Gandhi we know. Her father is the notable namesake of the Nehru jacket that we see in crosswords.

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!

Chronicle of Higher Education Review: Leading (W)edge

Chronicle of Higher Education Review : “Leading (W)edge” (2017-09-08)

CHE-20170908-Leading (W)edge
Constructed By: Jacob Stulberg
Edited By: Brad Wilber
Source: CHE Website.
Theme: Research Triangle Universities
The gimmick present here according to 7-A and 66-A includes rebuses featuring the North Carolina schools in the area known as the “Research Triangle”.

  • 1-A. [Fictional canine owned by the Winslows] – MARMADUKE
  • 6-D. [“Black, Brown, and Beige” composer] – DUKE ELLINGTON
  • 29-A. [Numskull] – DUNCE
  • 23-D. [Post-office scale unit] – OUNCE
  • 42-A. [Compound formerly known as “white vitriol”] – ZINC SULFATE
  • 31-D. [Surveyor who established the Iowa-Missouri border] – JOHN C SULLIVAN

Glenn’s Time: 81 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: 7 errors, I didn’t see the gimmick at all on this one.

(Quality) Rating: 4.0 stars/5 stars.
Review:
The Chronicle of Higher Education features a weekly puzzle throughout the fall and spring semesters and a biweekly puzzle throughout the summer semester. They often feature academic knowledge or technical topics to a greater degree than the average puzzle, and often are far more technically clued than the average puzzle. This is consistent with the target audience of the CHE – college administrators and professors. While these puzzles are often well constructed, the knowledge required will frustrate beginning or medium solvers. To that end, a degree of patience or a willingness to look up some things often required to fill in these puzzles.

This provides an example in many respects. In this one, we have a list of clues featuring rebuses of Research Triangle universities. There is often there is very challenging fill offered in these puzzles. Thankfully this puzzle offers a minimum of strange esoteric fill. Overall, while I have been able to complete few of these puzzles, they have often provided both challenge and a diversion.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:

Research-triangle-north-carolina
The Research Triangle as depicted on a map (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

7-A & 66-A. [With 66-Across, nickname for the Piedmont region whose points are marked by academic institutions … as depicted in this puzzle] – RESEARCH TRIANGLE. This is the area of North Carolina marked by the schools and denoted by the towns of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. The name came in the 1950’s by the establishment of Research Triangle Park, hope to several high tech companies and other enterprises. Interestingly, enough the setter positioned them in the same general configuration that they appear on the map.

17-A. [Gompers or Goldwyn] – SAMUEL. Samuel Gompers founded the American Federation of Labor. Samuel Goldwyn is a famous filmmaker.

42-A. [Compound formerly known as “white vitriol”] – ZINC SULFATE. Zinc Sulfate is used as a supplement for zinc deficiency, along with other industrial uses. “Vitriol” is an arcane name for a Sulfate compound. Zinc sulfate is white in color.

31-D. [Surveyor who established the Iowa-Missouri border] – JOHN C. SULLIVAN. This would be him.

38-D. [U.S. Open champ who lost to Federer in the 2017 Wimbledon final] – CILIC. This would be the guy. One of the handful of strange guesses that are usual for me to make in these puzzles. How many really know who this is?

41-D. [They know the score] – MAESTRI. An arcane plural of maestro. Most of the rest of us use maestros. More chicanery that often exists in crosswords…

51-D. [“Fiddler on the Roof” role] – YENTE. One of the roles there. Got on crosses.

63-D. [It was taken by the Merry Pranksters] – LSD. This would be the Merry Pranksters.

In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment on any of the posts made or any suggestions on puzzles to look at or topics to handle. Until later!

BEQ Crossword #983 Review: Themeless Monday #429

BEQ Crossword #983: Themeless Monday #429 (09/04/2017)

BEQ-20170904-Themeless Monday #429
Constructed By: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Edited By: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Source: Obtain and Play This Puzzle Here
Theme: None
Glenn’s Time: 58 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: 0

(Quality) Rating: 4.0 stars/5 stars.
Review:
I’ve been trying to learn how to do themeless grids better (about 9 months to a year out from being able to do them at all), and definitely trying to find challenge to get better in general. So these have definitely been on my list. Quigley provides a number of more contemporary and less formal references than the norm in these puzzles. While crosswords have proved that I am probably sheltered compared to most in what I have to guess, most of the references here are usually interesting in what I didn’t know, if not always entirely fresh and exciting.

Part of what I enjoy about good themeless grids is how the clues can be hard, but turn into something obvious. This one is no exception. I’ll pick up a small number of specifics in the next section, but for most part this was a stellar grid with little esoteric information that the average person would only know from web search, or couldn’t be figured out. Overall, this was a well constructed grid with very little that was questionable (things noted in the section below). Outside of that, there was a little bit of overload on the use of proper names.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:

15-A. [Devil Dogs, by another name] – US MARINES. As it turns out, this was a description from the German front lines in World War I that got popular and stuck.

16-A. [“Agrarian Justice” singer] – PAINE. This one is a bit questionably written. “Agrarian Justice” is a pamphlet published by Thomas Paine in 1797.

24-A. [Dirty stuff on the intertubes] – PRON. This way of saying it is leet speak for pr0n. It was popularly spelt this way (or as in the answer) to circumvent content filters or avoid the association of regular sites with pornography sites when it comes to search engines.

27-A. [Main character in “The Indian In the Cupboard”] – OMRI. This is a children’s book that was published in 1980. It involves the adventures of a boy named Omri who gets a magic cupboard as a gift and puts several of his toys into it, which then turn real. The Indian namesake is from a toy Indian that turns out to be a 3 inch high Iriquois man.

43-A. [Lame out] – LIE. “Lame out” is slang indicating ducking out of an event without a good excuse or reason. This can often be done with a lie or “Lame reason”.

24-D. [Trattoria starters] – PRIMI. A trattoria is an Italian eating establishment. “Primi” is the plural of “primo”, which is generally meant to be “first class”.

54-D. [Mason’s trough] – HOD. This would be a three-sided box typically carried by brick masons.

Until next time! By all means give me feedback if there is anything you’d like to see that I can do here.

Chronicle of Higher Education Review: Getting One’s Outrage Across

Chronicle of Higher Education Review : “Getting One’s Outrage Across” (2017-09-01)

CHE-20170901-GettingOnesOutrageAcross
Constructed By: Joon Pahk
Edited By: Brad Wilber
Source: CHE Website.
Theme: United States Historical Scandals
All the theme entries identify scandals that have occurred in the history of the United States.

  • 18-A. [Scandal investigated by the Tower Commission] – IRAN CONTRA
  • 20-A. [Nickname for the scandal-plagued 1824 presidental election – CORRUPT BARGAIN
  • 24-A. [Diplomatic scandal leading to the Franco-American “Quasi-War” of 1798-1800] – XYZ AFFAIR
  • 48-A. [Scandal in which the White House Plumbers were implicated] – WATERGATE
  • 53-A. [Scandalous shell company created by Union Pacific bigwigs in the 1860s] – CREDIT MOBILIER
  • 61-A. [Scandal damaging to the Harding administration] – TEAPOT DOME

Glenn’s Time: 67 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: DNF, 9 errors, all at the bottom.

(Quality) Rating: 3.5 stars/5 stars.
Review:
The Chronicle of Higher Education features a weekly puzzle throughout the fall and spring semesters and a biweekly puzzle throughout the summer semester. They often feature academic knowledge or technical topics to a greater degree than the average puzzle, and often are far more technically clued than the average puzzle. This is consistent with the target audience of the CHE – college administrators and professors. While these puzzles are often well constructed, the knowledge required will frustrate beginning or medium solvers. To that end, a degree of patience or a willingness to look up some things often required to fill in these puzzles.

This provides a decent, but in a lot of ways easier example. In this one, we have a list of clues tied to historical scandals. Often there is very challenging fill offered to compensate for some of the academic themes in these puzzles. Thankfully this puzzle offers a minimum of strange esoteric fill, though as usual the fill did me in on the bottom. Overall, while I have been able to complete few of these puzzles, they have often provided both challenge and a diversion.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:

13-A. [Frost bit?] – POEM. This would be Robert Frost.

18-A. [Scandal investigated by the Tower Commission] – IRAN CONTRA. Senior Reagan administration officials allegedly secretly sold arms to Iran (violating embargo) in order to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. Read here.

20-A. [Nickname for the scandal-plagued 1824 presidential election] – CORRUPT BARGAIN. This was the nickname given by Andrew Jackson to this election – the only presidential election where the one who won the presidency did not receive a plurality of votes from the Electoral College. The House of Representatives ended up electing John Quincy Adams instead of Andrew Jackson, who received the majority of the electoral votes cast. Read more here and here.

22-A. [Gubernatorial predecessor of George W.] – ANN. This would be Ann Richards.

24-A. [Diplomatic scandal leading to the Franco-American “Quasi-War” of 1798-1800] – XYZ AFFAIR. This is the name given to a diplomatic and political conflict between the US and France. Read here.

48-A. [Scandal in which the White House Plumbers were implicated] – WATERGATE. This is a scandal involving a break-in to DNC National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel during the Richard Nixon administration and the administration’s cover-up. The White House Plumbers are a group established by Richard Nixon in order to stop classified leaks, and branched into other illegal activities. Read here and here.

53-A. [Scandalous shell company created by Union Pacific bigwigs in the 1860s] – CREDIT MOBILIER. In this scandal, the Union Pacific railroad’s company created to handle construction of the Trans-Continental Railroad. Bribes and discounted stock to the company were given by one representative to others in return for favorable votes to Union Pacific. Read here.

61-A. [Scandal damaging to the Harding administration] – TEAPOT DOME. This scandal involved the Secretary of the Interior, who accepted bribes from the oil companies to lease the Teapot Dome and a couple of other sites to them for low rates. Read here.

63-A. [Fleece] – COZEN. Cozen is a word that means to trick or deceive. Some of the fill that’s pretty typical of the CHE puzzles.

64-A. [Fat in a traditional spotted dick] – SUET. Spotted dick is a British pudding made with suet and dried fruit of some kind.

40-D. [Celebrated caricature hanger of New York] – SARDI. Sardi’s is a restaurant in New York City noted for the large number of caricatures that line its walls. A demerit on this puzzle, as many of the puzzles produced by the New York Times, in that it requires intimate knowledge of local geography and culture of the Northeastern United States in order to successfully solve them. I didn’t know this, and have no reason to think that anyone outside of New York City would have any awareness of this.

56-D. [Expression of distaste] – MOUE. A moue is a pouting grimace.

58-D. [Croupiers oversee them] – BETS. A croupier is an attendant that rakes in money or chips off of a gambling table and pays the winners.

61-D. [The NCAA’s Horned Frogs] – TCU. This would be Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX.

In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment on any of the posts made or any suggestions on puzzles to look at or topics to handle. Until later!

Wall Street Journal Crossword Review: Nothing Left

Wall Street Journal Crossword Review : “Nothing Left” (2017-08-10)

WSJ-20170810-NothingLeft

Constructed By: Peter A. Collins
Edited By: Mike Shenk
Source: Play Online. PUZ File here.
Theme: Right Turn On Red
As indicated by 7-D and 55-D, we are going to be doing some right turns on red.

  • 1-A & 5-D. [How some things are … purchased] – ON CREDIT
  • 9-A & 13-D. [It might be brushed in … a concert hall] – SNARE DRUM
  • 36-A & 39-D. [Home of the Mendoza College … of Business] – NOTRE DAME
  • 45-A & 46-D. [School safety … exercises] – FIRE DRILLS

Glenn’s Time: 22 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: 0.

(Quality) Rating: 4.0 stars/5 stars.
Review:
The Wall Street Journal has offered puzzles six days a week since late 2015, progressing in difficulty from Monday to Thursday, a meta puzzle on Friday, and then a 21×21 on Saturday. There is a typically level degree of difficulty for each day, with a few occasional interesting surprises. This makes it an excellent puzzle set to consider doing if you are looking for something that will occasionally get beyond the typical USA Today or Los Angeles Times puzzle.

This provides a good typical example of a Thursday puzzle. We have the potential of a tricker theme on this day along with harder clues and we get that here. In this one, we have four entries which turn right on red. The theme entries are mostly unforced and executed brilliantly. The fill is very good here with a distinctly small amount of junk in the fill. Overall, there is very little that is confusing once revealed. A great quality solve and a wonderful one to try for the day.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:

16-A. [Lightened up?] – PALED. A little weird, but okay.

24-A. [Home of the ACC’s Noles] – FSU. This would be Florida State University.

25-A. [Daughter of Cronus] – HERA. This would be Greek mythology. Cronus and Hera.

35-A. [In the capacity of] – QUA. Another little weird one. Crosswordese for sure.

49-A. [Lenten purchase] – EGG DYE. Some Christian-claiming denominations practice a 40-day fast called Lent or Lenten, wherein eggs were a natural way to break the fast since they would be in easy supply. A whole host of myths link some of the events of Christianity to eggs changing color, most notably blood-red. So often in these practices of Lent, dyeing eggs is connected to it.

57-A. [Tour de France section] – ETAPE. ├ętape is the French word for “stage”.

61-A. [Keyboardist Saunders] – MERL. This is him.

62-A. [Pair of hearts?] – ATRIA. This is another clue that struck as weird. The atria are the upper chambers of the human heart and there are two of them. Each heart has a pair of atria.

10-D. [“Tropic Thunder” setting, for short] – NAM. “Tropic Thunder” is a 2008 movie starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr. The movie involves a group of actors who are making a Vietnam war movie.

37-D. [Paris instigated it] – TROJAN WAR. This would be Greek mythology again.

Until later!

Newsday Crossword Review: Saturday Stumper (2017-07-29)

Newsday Crossword Review : “Saturday Stumper” (2017-07-29)

Newsday-20170729-Saturday-Stumper

Constructed By: Lars G. Doubleday (Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson)
Edited By: Stanley Newman
Source: Play Online.
Theme: None
Glenn’s Time: DNF after 126 minutes. After corrections, finished in another 25 minutes with 0 errors.
Glenn’s Errors: DNF, 23 corrections. Overall, pretty prototypical of how these puzzles go for me.

(Quality) Rating: 4.0 stars/5 stars.
Review:
Newsday offers a daily crossword puzzle seven days a week that ranges from incredible easy (Monday), to incredibly difficult (Saturday), and a 21×21 on Sundays. When I was learning how to do crosswords, I found the Newsday grids good as something to do when I couldn’t do some of the late week grids that were being put out in other places. While the early week grids will be too easy for most, the late week grids will be an interesting diversion for most solvers. The Saturday Stumper grid is particularly known as a different challenge for even the more able solvers.

The Saturday Stumper is often one of the hardest puzzles offered throughout the week in mainstream sources, and will almost always offer a degree of challenge to those who desire it. This is one of the puzzles that routinely reminds me that I’m not there on being able to do crossword puzzles, as I’ve finished four successfully without aid since the beginning of February. But they are always worth the effort, and usually yield some interesting cluing or interesting things as answers. This one is no exception – and is generally prototypical of these kinds of puzzles.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:

1-A. [Trees used for matches] – ASPEN. As it turns out, this species has a lower flammability, which makes it safer to use for such purposes.

7-A. [Swimmers + divers + music] – AQUACADE. Never heard of this until this puzzle. The most famous seems to be the one put on during the 1939 World’s Fair.

20-A. [Patriots’ progress] – GAINS. This would be football.

24-A. [Burro mascot of “Boys’ Life”] – PEDRO. Boy’s Life is the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America, as generally issued to the Scouts involved. A mascot named Pedro the Mailburro has appeared for a majority of the magazine’s run in some capacity.

26-A. [’70’s Renault with a pseudo French name] – LE CAR. This is how the French Renault 5 was sold in North America in the late 1970’s. Pictures of it are interesting as it’s a small hatchback car – basically consistent with the gas crisis of that time.

32-A. [Priest/plotter of French fiction] – ARAMIS. That would be this character.

59-A. [Milieu for sunning] – LIDO DECK. Never heard of this. LIDO is the Italian word for beach, and has come to refer to any kind of outdoor swimming facility where people may also lay out and sun themselves. The place for this on a cruise ship is called the LIDO DECK.

1-D. [Practicer of throwing and catching] – AERIALIST. This would be acrobatics.

3-D. [It’s rarely called upon now] – PHONE CARD. How easily we forget these things? Before people got cell phones on a ubiquitous basis, people used these if they needed to make a call in public in a way where you wouldn’t get charges on someone else’s phone bill. Phone bills used to be charged by minute call and often ran into some serious bucks if you talked far distances or for a long time. Most notably for me, the one phone card I had charged a “per-call” fee in addition to a certain exorbitant rate per minute. It didn’t take long for me to use up a couple of $20 phone cards I had just on a small handful of calls.

8-D. [Latter-day breakfast grain] – QUINOA. Never heard of it. Never had it.

10-D. [. . . Frank, Jimmy, _____, Sir Veto, . . .] – ABE. These are all presidential nicknames: Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson.

27-D. [Opposite of “emotive”] – ARID. Turns out this word also means “lacking interest or imaginativeness” outside of the obvious definition.

34-D. [Teddy Roosevelt’s lawman pal] – MASTERSON. This would be him.

40-D. [Emulate some rockhounds] – SPELUNK. A bridge too far, perhaps?

51-D. [Journalist praised by President Truman (1945)] – Pyle. This would be Ernie Pyle, who was a front-line reporter during World War II.


I have a couple more “project” posts in mind, and from there will just post on grids I come across that are something different or when something comes to mind, as I’d like to get to other things – specifically learning more how to make grids than solve them. But if anyone has any specific preferences on anything they’d like me to stick with, feel free to let me know!

Newsday Crossword Review: It’s A Date

Newsday Crossword Review : “It’s A Date” (2017-07-28)

Newsday-20170728-Its-A-Date

Constructed By: S.N. (Stanley Newman)
Edited By: Stanley Newman
Source: Play Online.
Theme: It’s A Date/I’m With Her
While I don’t see the reasoning behind the title, as indicated by 55-A, HER exists within all the theme entries.

  • 16-A. [Aspirational slogan] – AIM HIGHER
  • 23-A. [Former Dallas daily] – TIMES HERALD
  • 35-A. [Any of the Ninja Turtles, e.g.] – ANIMAL SUPERHERO
  • 52-A. [’80’s Israeli president] – CHAIM HERZOG

Glenn’s Time: 40 minutes (paper). (my head swims some days, I wonder a lot of times how to tell and when/how to prevent it, I definitely wasn’t as sharp doing this as today’s LAT or WSJ earlier today.)
Glenn’s Errors: 0.

(Quality) Rating: 2.5 stars/5 stars.
Review:
Newsday offers a daily crossword puzzle seven days a week that ranges from incredible easy (Monday), to incredibly difficult (Saturday), and a 21×21 on Sundays. When I was learning how to do crosswords, I found the Newsday grids good as something to do when I couldn’t do some of the late week grids that were being put out in other places. While the early week grids will be too easy for most, the late week grids will be an interesting diversion for most solvers. The Saturday Stumper grid is particularly known as a different challenge for even the more able solvers.

This provides a typical example of a Friday puzzle. There’s a number of theme entries with slightly harder clues. From the second standpoint, the theme entries here are simple and unforced, causing a decent selection of fill with very little junk. The clues are often very oblique, as they were in this one, but nothing overtly challenging. The long down entries are a little off, given the clues (RETRO CHIC being the best of the four). While a good quality solve for most part with typically decent fill for the aims of Newsday grids, the entertainment value of these grids often leave a little to be desired, outside of the Saturday Stumper.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:

1-A. [Possessive on a Jade Garden menu] – TSOS. Jade Garden is a smaller franchised Chinese and Vietnamese restaurant chain. (no Wikipedia entry for anyone that’s enterprising there)

25-A. [Sam Snead contemporary] – HOGAN. This would be Ben Hogan, and involves golfing.

43-A. [’80’s Israeli president] – CHAIM HERZOG. This would be him.

44-A. [Good looker?] – EYER. This is probably the oddest one that seems to not logically fall into place.

61-A. [Cedar Rapids college] – COE. This would be Coe College. No cause to ever have heard of it.

8-D. [Wildcat’s strike] – GUSHER. This would involve digging or drilling for oil. A wildcatter is one who drills for oil in areas not known to be oil fields.

11-D. [Dostoyevsky contemporary] – GOGOL. Dostoyevsky would be a 19th century Russian novelist and philosopher best known for Crime and Punishment (1866) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). Nikolai Gogol is a playwright and short story writer from the same era.

13-D. [Julius Caesar foe] – CATO. This would be Cato the Younger who opposed Julius Caesar. Also known by one of Shakespeare’s plays.

Until next time!

Fireball Crosswords Review: Alternate Spelling

Fireball Crosswords Review : “Alternate Spelling” (2017-07-27)

Fireball-20170727-AlternateSpelling

Constructed By: Paul Coulter
Edited By: Peter Gordon
Source: By Subscription Only: See page here.
Theme: Alternate Spelling.
We have featured a number of phrases where the last word is interspersed throughout the rest of the phrase.

  • 17-A. [Inscrutable sprite?] – SPHINX-LIKE PIXIE
  • 27-A. [Aromas that mall rats are attracted to?] – FOOD COURT’S ODORS
  • 44-A. [Dynamic womanizer of film?] – BALL OF FIRE ALFIE
  • 55-A. [Limited with no dining car?] – STARVATION TRAIN
  • 71-A. [Scammer’s schemes?] – FRAUDSTER’S RUSES

Glenn’s Time: 99 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: 5. The results of guessing on the theme entries of 44-A and 55-A. I had BALL ATTIRE ALFIE and STAR NATION TRAIN in trying to guess what is going on in comparison to the crosses in those spots and my guesses on the corresponding Down answers led from there.

(Quality) Rating: 4.0 stars/5 stars.
Review:
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 15×17 puzzle provides a fairly typical example of the five I have attempted so far, though a bit more difficult because of the nature of the theme entries. The actual theme was a little lost on me until I looked at the attached PDF, leading to a number of guesses on entries surrounding some of them. While this was a generally enjoyable puzzle that kept my attention despite struggling, the themers and a handful of the fill left something to be lacking in terms of being able to figure out what was going on or whether I arrived at the right idea (a peeve of mine with puzzles).

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 this recent offering of the WSJ (PUZ here) is a good easier baseline of what to expect with these puzzles.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:

5-A. [Senate garb] – TOGA. This would be the Roman senate.
9-A. [Score the same on, as a golf course] – HALVE. This turns out to be an esoteric usage of the word as directly related to golf. The language is quite strange and illogical for sure, as I wonder how a word came to mean two literally different notions of amounts in golf circles.
17-A. [Inscrutable sprite?] – SPHINX-LIKE PIXIE. I think of the mythical connotation and statues in Egypt, but the dictionary indicates a parallel.
23-A. [Make a go of, after losing a space?] – ERR. As explained in the PDF accompanying this one, remove the space from “go of” and you get “goof”. A little too odd.
44-A. [Dynamic womanizer of film?] – BALL OF FIRE ALFIE. ALFIE is the womanizing main character of a movie of the same name. I can’t say what was supposed to logically prod one to BALL OF FIRE in this one, but I sure didn’t get there.
48-A. [“Z” actor Montand] – YVES. Never heard of him.
11-D. [Precursor of Scrabble] – LEXIKO. Never heard of it before this puzzle. Basically, players draw tiles and then form words out of them. No board.
24-D. [Piano-playing Muppet dog] – ROWLF. I could picture this one, but couldn’t pin a precise name on it. Definitely esoteric for today’s audiences as the last time I was aware of this one was “The Muppet Show”, which was definitely before my time.
26-D. [Subject of the children’s book “Trudy’s Big Swim”] – EDERLE. This would be a recently released children’s book involving the exploits of Gertrude Ederle.
45-D. [Prince who’s the eponym of a coast of Antarctica] – OLAV. I guess a natural guess, but couldn’t think of anything that made sense with what I know of Antarctica. I know better now.

Until the next time, whatever that might be.

Wall Street Journal Crossword Review: Drive-Thru

Wall Street Journal Crossword Review : “Drive-Thru” (2017-07-26)

WSJ-20170726-Drive-Thru
Constructed By: David C. Duncan Dekker
Edited By: Mike Shenk
Source: Play Online. PUZ File here.
Theme: Relocation aid drive thru.
As indicated by 64-A, each theme entry has a VAN moving through it.

  • 17-A. [Destructive crime] – VANDALISM
  • 23-A. [Grassy tracts] – SAVANNAH
  • 39-A. [Walk all over] – TAKE ADVANTAGE OF
  • 52-A. [They go with the flow] – WIND VANES

Glenn’s Time: 15 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: 0.

(Quality) Rating: 3.0 stars/5 stars.
Review:
The Wall Street Journal has offered puzzles six days a week since late 2015, progressing in difficulty from Monday to Thursday, a meta puzzle on Friday, and then a 21×21 on Saturday. There is a typically level degree of difficulty for each day, with a few occasional interesting surprises. This makes it an excellent puzzle set to consider doing if you are looking for something that will occasionally get beyond the typical USA Today or Los Angeles Times puzzle.

This provides a typical example of a Wednesday puzzle. We have a relatively basic theme presented, with a bit more saltier clues. In this one, we have VAN scattered throughout the theme entries. The theme entries here are simple and unforced, causing a decent selection of fill with very little junk, but producing a couple that were a little bit too straight forward. The long down entries are interesting, to part. While a good quality solve for most part with relatively basic non-problematic fill (save a handful of exceptions), this grid provides a decent but not overly exciting experience.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:

44-A. [Good looker?] – EYER. This is probably the oddest one that seems to not logically fall into place.

27-D. [Classic cinema] – ODEON. This occurs occasionally as crosswordese, but thought I’d look into it. This is an old Greek or Roman building used for the purpose of witnessing performances. Pairing this with a 19th century word referring to moving pictures is a rather suspicious red herring given the answer, but typical with crosswords where all things are almost never logically correct.

33-D. [Onetime colleague of Randy and Simon] – PAULA. This would be American Idol.

37-D. [Bergen’s Mortimer] – SNERD. This would be a puppet manned by Edgar Bergen.

49-D. [Senator in space, in 1985] – GARN. That would be Jake Garn, who as a US Senator insisted on taking a trip on the space shuttle and got to do it in 1985.

63-D. [Ace’s objective] – WIN. The ace is the best starting pitcher as assigned on a baseball team.

Until next time!