Thursday, November 9, 2017

BEQ untimed (Ben) 


LAT 5:46 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:18 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


The Fireball is a contest puzzle this week, so look for that write-up on Sunday evening/

Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 11.9.17 by Bruce Haight

Thursday, back again so soon? Bruce Haight gives us a lovely tribute to coming BACK with five phrases that contain the word “back,” but represented in an unusual way:

  • 17a, WE’LL BE THGIR [Words spoken just before a TV commercial]. “We’ll be right back!” Except instead of “right back,” Bruce has given us the word “right,” backwards (THGIR).
  • 26a, I TAKE TAHT [Words of retraction]. “I take that back!”
  • 39a, THERE’S NO GNINRUT [Comment upon making a fateful decision]. “There’s no turning back!”
  • 49a, GUESS S’OHW [“Uh-oh, here they are again”]. “Guess who’s back?”
  • 58a, AND DON’T EMOC [Angry words said after “Get out of here!”]. “And don’t come back!”

Huzzah! I thought this theme was great! The theme had both quantity and quality — five long theme answers, all of which are fresh, in-the-language phrases. The “aha” moment was very satisfying: I started my solve on the right side of the grid and couldn’t make much headway until I saw THGIR in the grid and figured out it was “right back.”


The fill was pretty good given how much theme there was. Sure, there was the standard glue: NOL, NIA, YSL, UTA, ICER, AND SO on, but nothing tremendously objectionable. The dupe of AND SO and AND DON’T EMOC was a little unfortunate, but the two long down answers, PRIMAL URGES and INNER BEAUTY, were both nice, even if the clue for PRIMAL URGES [Sex drive and others] was a little bland. I also liked seeing SOLAR CAR, KENNY G, and “UP TOP!”. My favorite clue was [Powerful bloodline?] for AORTA. 

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Thanks, Bruce! Until next week!

Alice Long’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Merging Traffic” — Jim’s review

Theme: Types of vehicles in the Down direction “merge” with Across answers that have the vehicle word embedded at its ending.

WSJ – Thu, 11.9.17 – “Merging Traffic” by Alice Long (Mike Shenk)

  • 5d [It loops the Loop] EL TRAIN crossing 17a OVERSTRAIN. That phrasing makes it look Spanish, but it’s not (that would be “el tren”). We’ve seen ELS of course in many a crossword, but also ELL. Chicagoans, does “EL TRAIN” sound legit to you? My expectation is that no one ever says this, preferring the shorter “the El.” Officially, CTA says it’s the “L.” (Note: The Loop is Chicago’s downtown district and “el” is short for “elevated.”)
  • 11d [Sienna or Sedona] MINIVAN crossing 25a [Soft leather] CORDOVAN. I will admit I don’t know CORDOVAN leather. I wanted Ricardo Montalban’s “Corinthian” in that Across answer, but it was not to be.
  • 24d [Student driver?] SCHOOL BUS crossing 53a COLUMBUS. This was the entry where I first figured things out. I initially thought it was a rebus with the Across entry being COLUM(BUS) OH, but I quickly remedied it.
  • 47d [The Brits call it a tipper] DUMP TRUCK crossing 65a MOONSTRUCK. Great entries, both. This one saved me because I was stuck in the middle without seeing SHOD, DOG, FOP, GOLD, RED FLAG, or PAUSING. Once I realized 47d was a theme answer, it all came together.

This was a fun theme, beautifully executed. And like I said, it did what a theme is supposed to do because I was stuck until the last themer got me out of the jam. Interestingly, there are some other vehicles in the grid: TAXI at 14a and LIMO at 22a. These don’t appear to be theme-related, and as I only just noticed them, I didn’t find them distracting.

With all those theme answers heavily weighted in the east and northeast sections of the grid, you’d think we’d see a lot of compromises in those areas. But I really can’t point to anything very questionable. RELO is about as iffy as it gets.

Other niceties in the grid: stacked ISAAC / ASIMOV, I’M A LOSER, RED FLAG, and RIVULETS. PENINSULA and EXERCISES round out the long fill.

Aww! Who’s a good puppy!

Clues of note:

  • 28d [Bridge tally heading]. THEY. I don’t know bridge, so this was odd to me.
  • 68a [Tell tale target]. No, it’s not HEART; it’s APPLE. And it’s not Poe; it’s William Tell. Tricksy.
  • 33a [Fresh from the farrier, say]. SHOD. Could not recall what a farrier does. It is one who shods horses.
  • 34d & 36d [Brittany, for one]. DOG and PENINSULA. I don’t recall seeing the same clue used for such diverse entries. Nice.
  • 9d & 44a [Possible answer to “Parlez-vous anglais?”] NON and YES I DO. Not as nice a pairing since YES I DO seems somewhat random. But you certainly can’t say the clue isn’t true.

Overall, a nice grid with a good a-ha moment in the theme. Solid and clean fill made this one a pleasure.

Rob & Marlea Ellis’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

TTOPS is a tired crossword entry; I mean, it’s fine, in isolation, to hold up a chunk of fill. As a way to signal “+T”, it’s just dull. +T itself is pretty open-ended. The answers also left me basically unmoved: (T)RAINCHECK, (T)RASHDECISIONS, (T)ROUGHESTIMATE and (T)RUMP “Grab them by the pussy” (taste that bile) ROAST.

TTOPS‘ friends OCA (crossing THRO, which is not the friendliest cross) and obsolescent variant IBO (of IGBO) are joined by awkward plurals SHOTPUTS and STRS. It’s not a huge list, but when there’s little in the positive column the negative stick out more…

2 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “We Have Achieved Peak Puzzle” — Ben’s Review

After last week’s “Next Level” puzzle, BEQ is still on a slightly meta kick, with this week’s grid having an additional limitation of not having an AcrossLite file.  I’m trying a whole “paperless” kick at the moment, so enjoy the grid I improvised on the back of a day-by-day calendar page.  There’s nothing going on in the acrosses, theme-wise, but there is a series of “Peak” clues that I missed when filling the grid, leaving me completely stumped to the theme:

  • 19: Puzzle
  • 25: Puzzle
  • 52: Puzzle
  • 57: Puzzle

As it turns out, once you notice those (and go to the appropriate squares in the grid), there are, in fact, some Peak Puzzles:

  • 19: Puzzle — KENKEN
  • 25: Puzzle — ACROSTIC
  • 52: Puzzle — JUMBLE
  • 57: Puzzle — WORDSEARCH

This was pretty dang clever, once I realized there was a third set of clues, and certainly introduced some constraints into the grid that explain some of the fill choices (EGALE/LOORA, a one-L ENROL, SABIN).  As someone who works in software, it’s a DO-WHILE LOOP, not just a DO LOOP, but I can’t be too nitpicky this week.

4/5 stars.

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12 Responses to Thursday, November 9, 2017

  1. Penguins says:

    great NYT gimmick – figured it late and the fill wasn’t so easy in spots but the minor struggle was well worth the payoff

  2. Ethan Friedman says:

    That was a terrific NYT!

  3. Rick Narad says:

    Before I got the WSJ’s theme, I thought that “the loop” had to refer to the Chicago Transit Agency so I put in CTA. It took a while to undo that. The V in Asimov gave me those two crosses which finally made me give up on CTA but I didn’t get ELTRAIN for a while longer.

    Fun puzzle!

    • Norm says:

      CTA was the only three-letter answer that fit, so I did the same. As far as EL TRAIN is concerned, we only called it the EL (written as both “El” and “L”) but the announcements always talked about the train, so I’d accept it as legitimate.

  4. anon says:

    LAT: 12d [Highly respected speakers maker] = BOSE. Ha ha, yeah, no.

    Highly priced would be more accurate.

    • doug says:

      I agree with anon on Bose’s advertising skills. I own a Bose system, and never use it, far preferring to use separate amps and speakers, which cost less, but present the sound properly. (Rant over.)

  5. Norm says:

    BEQ: Can someone please explain how SPR is the answer to 63A (“When Arbor Day is observed: Abbr.”) ??

    For extra credit, please explain why that puzzle could not be rendered in AcrossLite.

    • David L says:

      SPR for spring, I presume.

      I don’t why it couldn’t be done in AcrossLite. I didn’t get the puzzles but I was sort of on the right track. I thought the indicated letters were going to be the “peak” of the meta answers, so I was trying to find words that descended from them.

      • GlennG says:

        2.0/5.0 for me on the BEQ mainly due to the whole gimmick. There isn’t any reason that he couldn’t have encoded that as circles into the grid and been done with it like a lot of the other puzzles that have appeared in the NYT/LAT that have used the mountain “peak” gimmick. Doing it as he did added nothing to the overall solve.

        • Norm says:

          Any extra level of misdirection — pretending that there was more mystery than met the eye? Failed my “too cute” test.

  6. mmespeer says:

    Thanks for the BEQ write up. I solved the puzzle but wondered about the additional clues. I rarely get past week one on Gaffney puzzles, but I appreciate the artfulness of these meta designs.

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