Thursday, February 9, 2017

BEQ 12:28 (Ben) 


CS tk (Ade) 


LAT 4:11 (Gareth) 


NYT 2:40 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball 7:11 – paper (joon) 


Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT Puzzle 02.09.17 by Ross Trudeau

Hi all! Andy here, taking over for Amy on the Thursday NYT beat.

Last Thursday we had a NYT debut by Alex Eaton-Salners; this Thursday we have another NYT debut, this time from Ross Trudeau. Congratulations!

The theme here, broadly speaking, is British terms and their American equivalents. Nicely, Ross has placed the theme entries symmetrically in the grid, with the ATLANTIC OCEAN [“Pond”] separating the British slang on the left from the American terms on the right. Themers:

  • 2d / 56d, HIRES / RENTS [56-Down, across the 15-Down / 2-Down, across the 15-Down]. All the theme clues are going to look like this, so you can probably skip over them from now on.
  • 4d / 41d, QUEUEING / LINING UP [41-Down, across the 15-Down / 4-Down, across the 15-Down]. 
  • 8d / 52d, FRIES / CHIPS [52-Down, across the 15-Down / 8-Down, across the 15-Down]. 
  • 10d / 35d, EXHAUSTED / KNACKERED [35-Down, across the 15-Down / 10-Down, across the 15-Down]. 

All total(l)ed, we have nine theme entries (the four sets of two, plus ATLANTIC OCEAN in the center). There are a couple of “bonus” Britishisms, which do add a little flavo(u)r to the grid but also slightly obscure the theme: 3d, MATHS [Numbers class, in England], and 16a, BREXIT [Subject of a notable 2016 referendum]. 

I have to say, this puzzle felt very Wednesday-ish to me. The gimmick was straightforward; it didn’t require the sort of figure-it-out mechanic I’ve come to expect from Thursdays. I do think it would have made an okay Wednesday puzzle, though. In terms of construction, there’s a good amount of theme material but not an overabundance, which allows the grid to breathe a little. This is is one of the rare instances where I think mirror symmetry would have served the theme well: it would have been easier to see the corresponding entries had they been left-right symmetrical, rather than in the opposite corner of the grid.

The fill is by and large good. The north and south central portions of the grid are a little restricted, being sandwiched between ATLANTIC OCEAN and another theme entry, so they each have a bit of necessary ugliness (ULA in the north, A TUG in the south). I know plenty of people’s skeletons left their bodies when they saw AFLERS (a NYT debut!) in the grid. In the vein of ALERS, NLERS, MLBERS, PGAERS, etc., AFLERS is one of those “terms” for members of particular professional sports groups that simply is not used in real life but which, for reasons of cruciverbal convenience, will be perpetuated to the point of saturation.

Other notes:

  • I liked seeing Aziz ANSARI and GO VIRAL. 
  • Besides several of the theme answers, all of the following were NYT debuts: DEER HIDES [Buckskins] (ick), LEG ROPE [Surfer’s tether], E TRAIN [Ride to the World Trade Center] (shockingly! I would’ve guessed that every letter train would have been in the puzzle by now), and the new-to-me-but-perfectly-inferable ALITERATE [Able but unwilling to read].
  • The clue for 33a, BIKINI [It has a top and a bottom with nothing in between] is pretty cute. I’d argue that someone’s midriff is usually between the top and the bottom of the bikini, but maybe I’m being pedantic.
  • The last entry I filled in was 33d, BOBO [Common clown name]. I don’t know where one would find statistics on which clown names are most common, but I would love to see them. The only “Bobo” I know about is from behaviorist psychologist Albert Bandura’s Bobo doll experiment. Nothing wrong with the fill as is, but I might’ve chosen BOLO, I WIN, and LIAR instead of BOBO, I WON, and BOAR.

3.2 stars from me. Until next week!

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Double-Edged” — Jim’s review

Wow! As the song goes, I wasn’t expecting that! This is what a Thursday puzzle should be.

Alex is a relative newcomer, but he’s getting published left and right, and with this grid, he’s proven he can construct a grid as tricky as they come.

As far as I know, this is the first rebus puzzle to appear in the WSJ, or at the least, it’s been  a very long while. Those who strictly do the WSJ and no other puzzles are probably feeling flummoxed and frustrated, just as I was the first time I encountered one. But rebuses are not uncommon at the NYT and of course, at the edgier indies (AVCX, Fireball, etc.). (A rebus crossword puzzle is one that has a picture, symbol, or more commonly, more than one letter in certain squares of the grid.)

Each of the edge entries is a word that can follow “double.” And each entry is doubled-up by having two letters in each square. Since the WSJ online app can’t handle such trickeration, I solved it as a PDF.

WSJ – Thu, 2.9.17 – “Double-Edged” by Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 1a [Like court briefs] SP AC ED. For a short time, I was afraid this answer was going to be MU RD ER.
  • 4a [Really strong brew] ES PR ES SO. This section is where I started to suspect something was up. Given the title, I was thinking we had swords going around the grid and that the outer letters (outside the grid) would spell the sword. So I had (E)SSENE at 4d and (P)RELL at 5d leading me to think I was trying to spell EPEE at the top center of the grid. I held on to this belief for quite a while until I figured out 32d.
  • 8a [Didn’t say nothing, say] NE GA TI VE. Nice clue on this.
  • 12d [Bearing two rows of buttons] BR EA ST ED.
  • 15d [Leak sources, perhaps] AG EN TS. Ah, memories of my first published grid!
  • 31d [Shotgun description] BA RR EL ED. I’d’ve spelled it with two Ls, but I guess both are acceptable.
  • 32d [Bygone cinema offerings] FE AT UR ES. This is where I figured things out and had my wow/a-ha moment.
  • 52d [Target of some long-range bombs?] CO VE RA GE. This was the last to fall for me, and I call foul on the clue. The target is not the double coverage, but the receiver who may be in double coverage.
  • 53d [Backstabber] DE AL ER.
  • 66a [Cause of unfair treatment] ST AN DA RD. Nice one.
  • 67a [It may conceal adult humor] EN TE ND RE. Another nice one.
  • 68a [Brixton bus] DE CK ER.

This must have been a real challenge to construct and, for the most part, Alex pulls it off nicely. There are some tough entries, sure, but that’s to be expected when putting something as ambitious as this together.

Sudafed in a BLISTER PACK

I struggled mightily in the SE, mostly because I couldn’t see COVERAGE, I had LAGER where LARGE should be [Drink order], and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a BLISTER PACK (BABA, LIRR, and REVE also contributed to my befuddlement; that’s some tough fill). But once I got COVERAGE, it all fell into place.

Aside from the tough fill above, there’s also ERINNA at 63a [“The Distaff” poet], ESALEN at 6d [Big Sur retreat], and ATERRE at 50d [On the ground, in ballet]. ATERRE I can live with, but those other two, hoo-boy! I can smell the desperation. But the crossings were all fair, and the ambitious grid put me in a forgiving mood.

Another tough one to parse was 2d [Certain flats]. For a long time I was thinking it was something-RENTALS. Turned out to be ACCIDENTALS. Still not sure if it’s referring to cars or music.

Alex had MUCOUS and PINK-EYE in the NYT the other day. Today he brings us SPUTUM (1d, [Phlegm]). How pleasant. *smirk*

Moving on to clues:

  • 32a. [Party decoration]. Not a fan of FESTOON as a noun, but it’s legit. Sure looked like BALLOON at first, but I guess that was the point.
  • 19a. [Support group member?]. STUD. Nice.
  • 43a. [Got into the habit?]. DRESSED. This is good, but I knew where it was going immediately. I expected the answer to be more, I dunno, “nunny.”
  • 47a. [Result of getting home late?]. OUT. Another nice one.
  • And finally, 57d. [Enthusiast]. FIEND. I think he’s talking about us!

Conclusion: A really ambitious, well-thought-out and -executed grid. Some tough fill and hiccups are to be expected along the way, but the overall effect is really, really lovely. A tough solve, to be sure, but very satisfying.

Edited to add:

If you solved the puzzle using the WSJ online applet there is no way to input multiple letters in a square. To get the applause, you have to enter only the first letter of each bigram in the pertinent squares. This results in a lot of nonsense in the grid, and it’s just not pretty. I feel the WSJ should have included a warning on the site stating the PDF would be the recommended solving medium. For completion’s sake, I have included a pic of the online solution grid. Click it to enlarge.

Don Gagliardo and Zhouquin Burnikel’s Fireball crossword, “One Way or Another”—joon’s write-up

joon here with the fireball review, filling in for jenni who’s at a conference. this was a cool puzzle with a tough gimmick. it’s “explained” in the two entries that meet at square 38. it’s kind of a two-way rebus; each of the special squares reads as GOT in the across entry, so 38-across is {Conveyed (and a hint to this puzzle’s theme)} [GOT] ACROSS. fine. but what about the downs? how does PU[GOT] at 28d fit the clue {Deck out (and a hint to this puzzle’s theme)}? well, the trick is that they’re not downs; they’re ups. so it’s [TOG] UP. the other theme answers:

  • {“That’s a touchy topic!”} LET’S NOT [GO T]HERE crosses {1941 James Stewart movie based on a big-money giveaway radio program of the same name} DLO[GOT]OP, which is actually PO[T O’ G]OLD. it did not help my understanding of the theme that i have never heard of this film.
  • {Self-indulgent “excursions”} E[GO T]RIPS crosses {Decisive battle site of the American Revolution} SARA[TOG]A. now, i did know this one, and i could not get it to work out even when i considered that TOG could be a rebus in the other direction.
  • {Slow food?} ESCAR[GOT] (a cute clue that i have seen before, so it was a gimme, or at least as much of a gimme as a rebus entry can be in a puzzle where i haven’t yet figured out how the rebus works) crosses {Smelly smokes} S[TOG]IES.
  • {Its sports editor started baseball’s All-Star Game in July 1933} CHICA[GO T]RIBUNE crosses {Pro shooter} PHO[TOG]. i’d heard the baseball fact before (the first all-star game was designed to be part of the 1933 world’s fair in chicago), and finally having all the letters in place for [GOT]OHP enabled me to see the upward direction of the “down” theme answers.

whew, that was tough. i’m not sure i understand the raison d’être of the theme—is it just that this particular trigram works one way in a ___ ACROSS phrase and the other way in a ___ UP phrase? because there is no other connection between those two phrases. that aside, there is lots to admire about the construction. it’s a very nice grid, with the beautiful (in more ways than one) MUSÉE D’ORSAY, fun SCREW-UP, and the usual utter lack of junk we take for granted in fireball puzzles. i didn’t like the clue {Geena’s director in “The Long Kiss Goodnight”} for RENNY because it very much made it seem like we were supposed to know who this RENNY was with no last name, when in fact i don’t know who that is at all, to say nothing of this particular film. (somebody named harlin, apparently.)

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Band-Aids Needed” — Ben’s Review


BEQ’s been on a musical kick lately, what with last week’s puzzle, this week’s AVCX, and now, this week’s puzzle, which features some maladies affecting musicians:

  • 17A: Terrible guitarist? — AXE MURDERER
  • 23A: Problem where a piano has 88 middle C keys? — DUPLICATE KEYS
  • 36A: Drummer’s kit ruined post-avalanche? — TRAPS UNDER A ROCK
  • 48A: Problem for a horn player who uses a slide? — FRACTURED BONE
  • 56A: Problem for a singer with stage fright? — FROZEN PIPES

This one was missing something for me.  The theme entries are lovely and punny, but I wish they were a little more consistent – a few are specific to the players of those instruments, while others are the instruments themselves.  Also, it should be FRACTURED TROMBONE – just calling it a ‘BONE isn’t a thing as far as I know.

A few other quick notes:

  • Fonts are measured in PICAS, not PIXELS
  • I felt like it should have been RED HORSES rather than just the singular RED HORSE to go with “Seabees” in 41A, if only for the sake of consistency.
  • I CONDONE filling the blank at 34D with IN HER rather that IN HIS.  More gender parity, please!
  • In what probably explains more about me than the puzzle, I expected the answer to 52D’s “Blazing, likely” to be SPEEDY, not ON POT

3/5 stars

Alan DeLoriea’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

The puzzle is less symmetrical than normal, with only left-right symmetry in play. This is to accomodate the theme entry structure of 3 15’s and 1 11 letter entry. Each of three entries has a word referring to the present changed to the future, with the revealer PROCRASTINATORS. So: APOCALYPSELATER (NOW), USATOMORROW (TODAY) and NEXTMAGICMOMENT (THIS).

Despite the design calling for a large number of 3-letter entries, there are some colourful touches: a DAYCARE PAYPHONE CESSPOOL for starters… It is worth noting a new cluing angle for ARLO, [“The Good Dinosaur” dinosaur], though I venture it won’t be a long-lasting one. I’m not sure I knew that SPAM was a [Canned meat used in Hawaiian cuisine]; it doesn’t sound like spam and cuisine should be words used in the same phrase…

3 Stars

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49 Responses to Thursday, February 9, 2017

  1. Pete Muller says:

    No surfer would ever refer to a “Leash” as a LEG ROPE.

    • Cyrano says:

      Seriously. I was going crazy trying to figure out how to stretch LEASH to seven letters. Between that and BOBO (Google hits not withstanding), and the fact that all the British terms are on the USA side of the grid, I just don’t get this.

    • pannonica says:

      Was going to say the same. Although ‘cord’ would also be believable.

  2. Glenn says:

    WSJ: Jim’s review makes this puzzle seem very interesting. I use the Crosswords app which can handle rebus puzzles but the .puz version does not seem to be coded so that the app can recognize that it is a rebus. My essential tremor makes it to difficult to try to solve on paper.

    • Norm says:

      Worked perfectly for me with AcrossLite.

      • Papa John says:

        Lucky you. Like Glenn, my (newly installed) Across Lite did not allow multiple letters in the rebus squares. It “corrected” my multiple-letter answers in that terrific WSJ puzzle with just the first letter. Bummer.

        • Jim Peredo says:

          I’ve added an addendum to my post above with the online version of the solution. It’s ugly but it’s “correct.”

          • Martin says:


            I’d like to remind everyone that the AcrossLite version in not an official Wall Street Journal offering. It is not found on their web site so a note about its limitations would make no sense.

            It’s brought to us every day by Joon Pahk, with the permission of Mike Shenk. It’s a labor of love. (Previously, the Saturday-only conversion was similarly the work of “Litz Brother” volunteer Lloyd Mazer.)

            Joon uses some automation that cannot produce rebus elements in the answer key. Considering how often the WSJ includes them, I don’t think we can complain too much. But please remember that it’s an all-volunteer army that makes these available every day.

          • Jim Peredo says:

            Martin, it’s not letting me reply to your post, so I’ll reply to my own.

            We are very grateful to you and Joon for bringing us the .puz version. But I was referring to the WSJ Java applet on their website. A disclaimer there would have been appropriate.

          • Martin says:


            That’s their fault, indeed.

          • M K V says:

            Thank to all, and a special great big thanks to Joon!

      • Katie M. says:

        AcrossLite worked perfectly for me, too.

        Thank you, Joon, for doing the AcrossLite versions. I didn’t know about that.

        • Glenn says:

          My thanks also to Joon. I greatly appreciate having the WSJ .puz versions available. After having several email conversations with Mike Miller of the WSJ that resulted in vague indications of the intention to offer the WSJ puzzles in other formats but no substantive action, I was delighted to find the .puz versions here. It’s probably a sigh of my addiction that my day goes haywire if there are problems.

          Am I correct that there’s no Across Lite version for Android?

        • Papa John says:

          Joon is only one from that army of Litz Brothers that Martin mentioned. I had forgotten how fortunate we are to have these guys volunteer their time and effort for our enjoyment. It all goes unnoticed until something goes awry. I’d be back to doing one puzzle a day, if it weren’t for them. We owe them all a great deal of gratitude.

        • joon says:

          you’re welcome. it’s not manual labor—there’s some code that gets run automatically every day to pull the data from the wsj website and construct the .puz file, and i did not write (all of) that code myself. (i’m not sure if the others who did want that fact to be known, so i won’t out them here.)

          pity about the rebus, though. the file used by the wsj applet itself doesn’t know about the rebus, so there’s no way for the .puz file to have that info, either. at any rate, nifty (and unexpected) puzzle!

  3. Paul Coulter says:

    Double Wow! Alex’s WSJ was superb. With all of the constraints, it’s amazing he was able to accomplish this with barely any junk. Esalen and A terre are fine with me, so that leaves only Erinna. Which was entirely inferrable from the crossings. I’ll double down on Jim’s comment that this was REALLY, REALLY lovely. Doubly so. Five stars from me. No, wait, let’s make it ten, today. This was good enough to be an ACPT #5.

  4. Howard B says:

    BOBO. Really? That one really threw me, especially after filling in BOZO early on. Doesn’t ring a bell to me at all.
    Otherwise fun to find the word pairings.

  5. e.a. says:

    pretty great construction in the WSJ! the completely avoidable use of a deadname at 12-across made it hard for me to enjoy the solve tho

  6. pannonica says:

    Count me among fans of the WSJ today. But, in what is rapidly seeming to be the custom, I choose to pick a nit with one small aspect of it. 4a [Really strong brew] {double} ESPRESSO. It’s no stronger than a regular espresso, just twice as large. Incidentally, a double espresso should never cost twice as much as a standard one, as the amount of labor is unchanged.

    • Jim Peredo says:


    • Martin says:

      Whatever is “strong” about espresso is twice as so in a double. It’s not caffeine, by the way. The steam extracts more of the volatile compounds in coffee and less caffeine than the percolation of water. There are 64 mg of caffeine in an average shot of espresso and 95 mg in an average 8-ounce cup of drip coffee. Any discussion of the relative strengths of brews, where espresso is on top, is necessarily subjective. So I’ll give the clue a pass.

      Twenty years ago, my wife got me a fully-automatic espresso machine for a birthday. Push a button and it grinds my house blend (half Peets mocha Sanani and half aged Sumatra) and pulls a short shot. I need three of those before I can even read the paper. Elaine has two. Well over 10,000 shots later that machine has paid for itself many times over.

      • pannonica says:

        That’s why I introduced it as a minor nit, Martin.

        It certainly seems that the clue’s intent is to relatively characterize a double espresso as a very strong brew, with the tacit understanding that a standard espresso is a merely strong brew. I don’t feel your recitation addresses that.

        • Martin says:

          Again, if a shot of espresso is strong in the sense of delivering some jolt of subjective measure, a double delivers 2X jolt. It’s about total jolt, not jolt per cc.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            So a “strong drink” can be divided into levels, wherein one shot of tequila is not as strong as a whole fifth? Seems a little dubious to me.

          • Martin says:

            Wouldn’t you say that a drink with two shots of tequila in it is stronger than one with a single shot? Or that a double scotch is stronger than a single? It’s the same proof but you get double the buzz.

            A double espresso has more kick than a single. It wasn’t a big nit to begin with and pannonica is well within her rights to register it. It’s just that the clue sounded fine to me.

  7. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: If you’re going to bisect the grid vertically with the Atlantic Ocean, as in a map, I should think America would be on the left and Britain on the right. Also, I would try to avoid uniquely British things on the American side (BREXIT) and vice versa (E-TRAIN). Those nits and yes, AFLERS, irked me.

    But I enjoyed the theme and I especially love KNACKERED.

  8. bpj says:

    great puzzle for the idle rich and bed ridden, me, I gotta go.

  9. Glenn says:

    As far as I’m aware, the last rebus puzzle to appear in the WSJ is the 08-11-2016 grid.

  10. Zulema says:

    Hope my dislike of the Wednesday NYT was not expressed too grossly, but I’ll make it up by saying I enjoyed very much solving or filling in today’s offer. A few nits but minor and I will pass by them. Otherwise a very good experience. Thank you to the constructor and the editor.

  11. Joe Pancake says:

    I was supremely bothered by the fact the British terms were on the US side and vice-versa — especially since the Atlantic Ocean is right in the middle of the puzzle! Why not just switch them around?! I couldn’t get past this, which is a shame, because it’s a cute theme idea.

    As somebody who defends ALER and NLER as legitimate (if overused) crossword puzzle entries, I draw the line at AFLER. The league has been defunct for nearly 50 years; I’ve never seen a single reference to an AFLer (and I read *a lot* about football and football history), and I can’t even find one using Google.

  12. Bruce N Morton says:

    NYT: I understand the virtues of the puzzle as explained by others, but I can’t tolerate endless cross-references, and found the puzzle difficult and tedious.

    • Papa John says:

      I’m not a fan of cross-referencing in puzzles, either, but, once I grokked the theme, I gave it a reluctant pass. Both cross-referencing and rebuses halt the flow of a solve, distracting, as it does, with the technical aspects of the solve.

    • pannonica says:

      I’m no fan of cross-reference overload, but this one was made palatable by virtue of the pattern being consistent (British English vs American English, symmetric locations). Once such a recognition was made, it was no longer necessary to move beyond merely recognizing the presence of another CRC (cross-reference clue).

  13. Alan D. says:

    I wonder if Alex sent his WSJ puzzle to the Times first and it was rejected? Hard to imagine that. But maybe he decided the puzzle had to have a title and thus the WSJ was the logical choice?

  14. BarbaraK says:

    Re WSJ, I loved this one!

    2d ACCIDENTALS is a music thing – a flat (or sharp, or natural) that is not part of the key signature. Though I guess it could be a car thing too. Is there ever an intentional flat?

    If that PDF was your first time through the puzzle, I’m really impressed. Mine is much messier than that.

    • Norm says:

      Ha ha. I thought maybe it was a term for the flats a woman might keep in her bottom desk drawer at work to wear when an accident happened to the dress shoes she wore that day.

  15. Grahammy says:

    Re BEQ

    “Bone” is definitely used as slang for a trombone in the music world.

  16. Penguin Hora says:

    WSJ is clever and impressive but can’t say I enjoyed it much.

  17. Bruce N Morton says:

    WOW! The WSJ is incredible. It took me a long time but it *was* enjoyable for me, once I started taking “double” seriously. Blister pack, reve, baba and lirr were among my easiest rescue entries (especially since I rode the LIRR for years.) If anyone wants to listen to some of the greatest Italian opera music ever written listen to the “Un baccio” scene at the end of the first act of Otello by Verdi. (see 62a)

  18. Bruce N Morton says:

    I’m only a moderate Italian opera fan, but I guess I have opera on my mind because of the recent death of a dear friend of mine Molly Lien with whom I taught law at Moscow State University (in English) for many summers. She started out as an operatic soprano. I used to have a poster of her singing ‘Vissi d’Arte” at the end of the first act of Tosca, (right after she stabs Scarpia, mysteriously killing him with one shot from a letter opener :-). A great, dramatic scene from the only opera allowed in crossword puzzles, Tosca. I miss Molly.

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