“RUBY SLIPPERS” by Andrew Ries
Today we tackle a Fireball! Not literally; we’d die. Well, maybe this puzzles is a bit lethal… Draft a living will, subscribe at fireballcrosswords.com, solve, and see for yourself!
Constructor: Andrew J. Ries
Size: 14 x 17
Theme: The clue to each theme answer begins with a shade of red that has no significance to the clue — a literal RED HERRING.
- 16A: MAYWEATHER – Pink Floyd hit with hooks (also known as “Money”)
- 28A: DETERGENTS – Crimson Tide and others
- 41A: ABRAHAM LINCOLN – Maroon 5 head
- 50A: ASK MARILYN – Rose Parade feature since 1986
- 64A: RED HERRING – Whodunit staple meant to deceive (and the theme of this puzzle)
Ben: This brought back memories for me — I started solving Fireball a year ago, only a few months after I got into crosswords. The first one I solved took almost two hours of painstaking work, and I was uncertain of almost every entry. This one I solved in 20 minutes, so go me.
Lena: I had quite a different experience. I got about halfway done, progress mostly restricted to the South, over my hour-long lunch break. The clues left me feeling hollow and exacerbated an existing headache, so I didn’t continue solving on the train home. It took me probably just under 2 hours, cumulatively.
Michael: Yeah, Lena and I were bonding over solver’s rage on this one. I *love* the theme, but I was not digging the whole wannabe impish trickster cluing, which too often ends up feeling strained. Not a fan of clues you need a good lawyer to defend. Like [Simple in design] for CHASTE. Please. Stop. This is the one aspect of Fireball puzzles I tend not to like. Hard to describe, but it’s a *kind* of difficulty—the kind where I eventually get it and do not feel ennobled or enlightened or amused. I also just outright hate INHD as fill. Like, Hate. Can you tell I died in the north? I died in the north. Well, not died. Bled nearly to death.
Ben: This is a great concept. I knew the revealer immediately, but had no idea how the other theme answers tied into it. So I had about half the grid filled around the themers before finally going “wait a minute — is that ABRAHAM LINCOLN?!”
Lena: When I had the revealer and ABRAHAM LINCOLN I still had no idea what the deal was. I also got boned by knowing that Maroon 5’s lead singer is Adam Levine and tried to make something with A. L initials happen… Once I figured out the theme with DETERGENTS, I experienced a pleasant Aha Moment– I needed it!
Ben: All the theme clues work, but that MAYWEATHER one is killer — even once I knew what I was looking for, it took me a bit to parse it.
Michael: I have no idea what “ASK MARILYN” is. Never heard of it. People still read “Parade?” I mean … “Parade.” Even when the local paper was king, we just threw out “Parade.”
Lena: Knowing nothing of this “Parade” publication, I felt like I was inventing the answer. “Well, I guess it’s some advice column in a… magazine? Yeah. Yeah it is.”
Michael: I need to ASK MARILYN about MFN.
Lena: You should always keep a copy of “Parade” in your MANBAG (22D: Stylish guy’s carrier). Is a MANBAG the PC way to say “murse?” Is “murse” NON-PC? Men can and should carry bags! They are useful!
Ben: Getting a foothold in a Fireball is often hard (at least for me). Before I made it down to the revealer, I managed to fill in the NE corner off of TWO (18A: First word of “Romeo and Juliet”) and NOOSE (26A: Word in the title of the 14th Kinsey Millhone mystery novel). For the benefit of any confused readers, the joke there is that the Kinsey Millhone series all have titles like “A is for Alibi”, “B is for Burglar”, etc.
Ben: Kind of a literary grid now that I look back at it. THE NATURAL is clued as 35D: 1952 novel featuring a bat with a name (I only knew it as the Kevin Costner movie), CAL shows up as 43D: Cook for Jem and Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, plus “Monsieur RENE” and SMUT (47D: Blue books?).
Ben: I love the cluing in these puzzles. 45A: Touchdown prognostication, for short for ETA fooled me completely, as did 70A: Trout, for example for ANGEL. Favourite non-theme clue is 52D: Green-haired TV character with a superfluous third nipple (KRUSTY the Klown).
Michael: OK, see the ANGEL clue—*that* is an example of a clue that baffled me and then, when I got it, I thought “Oh, right. That’s perfect misdirection. Good job, puzzle.” That’s good-hard. Although, if you don’t follow baseball, my guess is you are still staring at the grid going “what?”
Lena: I really didn’t like the cluing in this one, and I do typically enjoy Peter Gordon’s infernally, hellaciously, misdirecting clues– I go through his themeless grids with extreme paranoia, never once trusting my first instinct. And typically the clues challenge but also satisfy. The clues here failed to reward my efforts over and over again. That TROUT clue can bite me.
Ben: Could have done without SNELL, which is straight crosswordese, and AL WEST (11D: A division) isn’t my favourite. Otherwise, very clean fill, with just a little bit of ENS GSN RCA type stuff to make the longer answers work. I didn’t know what POTAGE (38D: Creamy soup) was, but I’m not much of a cook.
Lena: In my 9th grade French class we had to cook a French dish and describe it to the class en francais. I picked vichyssoise and learned that it is, at its core, POTAGE. Never forget.
Michael: My favorite wrong answer was LEE for 55A: Spike setter? (GEL). You know, ‘cause Spike LEE … works on movie “sets” … I didn’t even blink, tbh. My least favorite wrong answer was EDIFIED for 20A: Held very high (DEIFIED). I reckon that cost me 5 minutes, at least. Bled. To. Death. I tell ya. You wouldn’t think a mere two letters would cost you like that, but hoo boy. And they’re the Right Letters, too; just in the wrong order.
Ben: I don’t actually know what 22A: Some are hippocrepiform means for MAGNETS… “shaped like a horseshoe”. Huh, okay. And what’s 10D: Part of MFN? Looks like economist speak for “most favoured NATION”. Cool.
Michael: Not cool. None of us knew it. When not one of us knows something: red flag.
Lena: I was proud of thinking “hippo-/horse” but that’s about it (Michael: Yaaasssss. Me too!). I wanted MFN to to be “___ For Now.” Most Favored Nation… in terms of what? I’ve never heard that and it sounds totally fake. LOL OMG WTF USA is MFN!!!!#!!#
Michael: Monday Fight Nootball!