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.

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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. étape 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!

Jonesin’ Crosswords Review: Going Against

Jonesin’ Crosswords Review : “Going Against” (2017-07-25)

Jonesin-20170725-Going-Against

Constructed By: Matt Jones
Edited By: Matt Jones
Source: Play Online. PUZ File here.
Theme: Going Against
As indicated by 6-D, each theme entry contains ANTI somewhere within it.

  • 17-A. [The economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, to economists] – ASIAN TIGERS
  • 21-A. [Greedy person’s mantra] – I WANT IT ALL
  • 36-A. [Uptempo song by The Cure] – WHY CANT I BE YOU?
  • 54-A. [The days of Caesar, coloquially] – ROMAN TIMES
  • 59-A. [Menace in many a classic B movie] – GIANT INSECT

Glenn’s Time: 18 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: 2 (dumb). Got confused on 59-A after having NPO for 55-D instead of NGO and guessing wrong on 60-D. Hindsight is always 20/20.

(Quality) Rating: 2.5 stars/5 stars.
Review:
I am aware of Matt Jones only through some of the other lists out there. He puts a puzzle of varying difficulty out on Tuesday on his site, and I’m guessing other places possibly too. I’ve done a number of them and always found them quite entertaining. Jones’ puzzles have a good amount of pop culture, often some pretty slick references. Even though, there’s often no idea of what is in the offering each week as far as difficulty goes.

In turning to this puzzle, it’s a good basic example of the general content that Matt Jones releases. The themes are usually simple, as this one is. But the particular entries, along with the Down entries have a certain underwhelming quality to them. But perhaps this is suggestive of Jones’ targeted difficulty (this one is about a 3/6). While a good quality puzzle (about a Tue LAT equivalent), the entertainment value on this one is a little lacking for me.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:
1-A. [“Just Putting It Out There” comedian Nancherla] – APARNA. This would be her.

20-A. [Bering or Messina, for short] – STR. Bering Strait and Messina Strait.

36-A. [Uptempo song by The Cure] – WHY CAN’T I BE YOU?.

67-A. [Malmo’s home] – SWEDEN. That would be a city.

55-D. [Many a charitable gp.] – NGO. Never heard of this, and was wanting NPO. Got confusing in not being able to make out 59-A.

60-D. [“Aw, hell ____!”] – NAW. An internet meme. That would definitely be why this didn’t register, coupled with 59-A.

Until next time!

BEQ Crossword #971 Review: Themeless Monday #424

BEQ Crossword #971: Themeless Monday #424 (07/24/2017)

BEQ-20170724-Themeless Monday #424

Constructed By: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Edited By: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Source: Obtain and Play This Puzzle Here
Theme: None
Glenn’s Time: 30 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: 1 (a good one, 56A-49D, would it be a Natick?)

(Quality) Rating: 4.0 stars/5 stars.
Review:
As I have recently covered Brendan Emmett Quigley’s themed track, I thought it would be a good follow-up for this week’s posts to look at his themeless track. 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 in the last couple of months.

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. However, the inclusion of a local geographical reference (IONA, 56A) keeps it from being a totally stellar example of a themeless grid. However, it (as any that Quigley does) is one that is definitely worth the time to track down and do.

(Post upcoming on the error on this one sometime soon hopefully)
Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:
5-A. [One whose job blows] – GLASS MAKER. One of those fun clues I was talking about, though I had an initial impulse that I learn to almost never trust doing these.

25-A. [“Wherever ____” (2016 OneRepublic single)] – IGO. One of those that I guessed on but had the song play in my head not soon after. How it goes sometimes.

38-A. [2016 album with the song “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done),” with “The”] – HAMILTON MIXTAPE. One almost completely gotten by crosses. Never heard of it, but am guessing what it is pretty well.

39-A. [They work with drips] – ACUTE CARE NURSES. Another fun clue.

52-A. [Tour de France legend Merckx] – EDDY. Unfamiliar to most, but knew as cycling is a small hobby of mine (dormant for certain reasons).

56-A. [N.Y. College whose motto is “Certa Bonum Certamen”] – IONA. This turns out to be Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. Never heard of it, not sure if there would ever be an occasion that I should hear of it.

57-A. [Door salespersons?] – AVON LADIES. Not sure how much this happens anymore, but this was a huge staple for a lot of women when I was a kid. It’s not so much the idea of the products are getting old, but the sales model.

62-A. [Old hand] – PAST MASTER. This was strange, but the fill made sense when I guessed. One of those that’s in the dictionary, but the two words put together not making a lot of sense.

7-D. [Art dealer Glimcher] – ARNE. That would be him.

10-D. [Corday assassinated him] – MARAT. This would be in the French Revolution. Charlotte Corday assassinated Jean-Paul Marat. This was memorialized by Jacques-Louis David in a painting entitled The Death of Marat. Having fun yet?

12-D. [Golden child’s father] – KING MIDAS. The Greek legend as told to children is that when Midas received “the golden touch”, his little girl ran and threw her arms around him and she changed to gold. The moral of the story is the cost of the lust for wealth.

27-D. [“The Nubians of Plutonia” jazzman] – SUN-RA. Don’t say I don’t learn stuff from other crosswords.

32-D. [Ultimate, back when Run-DMC was popular] – PHAT. I always thought it stood for “Pretty, Hot, And Tempting” and was a reference to something else. But oh well.

44-D. [“Murdering Airplane” collagist] – ERNST. That would be Max Ernst.

49-D. [Simple basket] – TAP IN. I looked a little askance at this one. So maybe not on the Natick?

52-D. [Turkey hill rival] – EDYS. Guessed this, but since I’ve never been around a Kroger’s to know this is their store brand.

Definitely a good fun grid. Until tomorrow, hopefully!

Yer Breaking The Crossword Laws!

To pick up from before, I was talking about different puzzles with the idea to “Be Careful What You Wish For”. I mentioned then that I would share some more samples of bad crosswords, and will do that with this post. It all especially underscores that we need to give feedback to newspaper editors on what doesn’t work and works with crosswords that they purchase to run in their news papers.

To start out with, most of us that have gotten into crosswords like the New York Times and others will readily notice a certain consistency with how they’re made. These submission standards are generally laid out in a consistent fashion that most will recognize from Margaret Farrar through the New York Times. Among these are:

  • The black and white pattern must be “diagonally symmetrical.”
  • The black squares should not take up more than one-sixth of the total design.
  • The puzzle shouldn’t have “dirty double-crossers” – that is, obscure words should not intersect one another.

While there are other considerations that will come out in the following puzzles, hopefully if nothing else we can see that if we think the crosswords we see are bad, they can get much worse. As well, it will hopefully raise the appreciation for those constructors that are out there providing us quality grids.

I will note the rights to these puzzles are purchased and then published by their respective editors.  The grids below appear in multiple publications between June and July, but are generally unattributed.  They appeared in postage stamp form (almost) in publication, so I sketched them out in Across Lite rather than take pictures of the newspaper.  I won’t go in depth with any of them, as a whole lot can be picked out on them.  The point is more to prove that they exist, than anything else.

Puzzle 1

BadPuzzle01

This 67-word grid has rotational symmetry as noted as one of the general requirements.  However, the first thing that jumps out is the number of black spaces.  Do the math, and it comes out to roughly 33%, which is double the number of allowable spaces.  One will also notice 2 letter answers, which are verboten in most mainstream puzzles.  Generally, any other submission standards are written to help guarantee good solid fill, and ultimately to make the puzzle doable.  As we will see, it will take a certain skill to come up with good tight fill.

We then dive into the clues and answers themselves.  A number of strange things will readily jump out, admist the others which are what one would expect and would pass muster in most other crosswords.  These things appear to be things that the constructor went with just to get through and gives it it’s sloppy character.

For example, most of the 2 character answers and some of the 3 character answers are simple abbreviations or acyronyms.  For example, 21-Across [Microsoft Surface Book] is MSB and 29-Across [In absentia] is IA.

Puzzle 2

BadPuzzle02

At first blush this puzzle seems better.  The black space is to an acceptable level and rotational symmetry is still assured.  However, one may observe that it seems to have a large number of words.  It does – 86 of them.  We can perhaps infer the large number of 3 and 4 character words are an attempt to make the fill happen easier, and that is perhaps right.  But we can go through and pick out a number of examples of weird answers.  Many of these, with some of the poor and inconsistent cluing these things can often have form a number of “dirty double-crossers”.  (Though this grid is easier than some of the others I’ve encountered in some of the other random media.)  An example of some of the cluing that can exist in some of these is 56-Across: [Affected with rabies] – RABID.  Lovely.

Conclusion
Hopefully, this post can serve to illustrate some of the reasons why some of the submission standards are as they are, along with simply proving that things like these exist and are published. I know people who are more expert about construction could have a whole lot to say about them, but as a solver, trying things like these are incredibly wearing and often lead to a poor experience. This is not simply because they are different, but because not following the general submission standards does reduce the quality of these grids. I finish this post with the same reminder as before, if you find good or bad in the crosswords you do, be sure to let the editors of the papers you get them out of. I found in my own travels that they often don’t know any more than what they hear from their readers, and the squeaky wheel often gets the grease. So be sure to be heard!