Thursday, April 26, 2018

BEQ 8:00 (Ben) 


Fireball 4:52 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:13 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:38, paper (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 4.26.18 by Alex Eaton-Salners

Alex Eaton-Salners, back on his Thursday grind with a puzzle about famous ESTONIANS!

Just kidding, of course! Despite its central placement in the grid, ESTONIANS is not the theme of today’s puzzle. Instead, we’ve got thematic entries that make reference to their own clue numbers:

  • 1a, OVER [5-Across, with respect to this answer’s location]Let’s look at 5a
    • 5a, BOGEY [Golf score]. So a BOGEY is one over par; OVER is at 1-Across, so you could read it as ONE OVER. I’m not sure I buy the “with respect to this answer’s location” phrasing, but the idea of the theme is pretty clear nevertheless.
  • 24a, SEVEN [22-Across, with respect to this answer’s location]
    • 22a, ENDLESSLY [Without stopping]. So 24a + SEVEN = 24/7.
  • 40a, WINKS [41-Across, with respect to this answer’s location]. 
    • 41a, NAP [Time out?]. 40a + WINKS = FORTY WINKS.
  • 50a, FIFTY [46-Across, with respect to this answer’s location]. 
    • 46a, EQUALLY [In fairness]. So 50a + FIFTY = FIFTY-FIFTY.

I like this theme. I’ve seen puzzles before that have incorporated the clue number into the answer, but the added cross-reference was a nice touch. I also liked seeing “OH, FUDGE” and MAGNETO, but there was a lot of ugly fill in this one. The worst offense might have been the crossing of 23d, LENE [___ Hau, pioneering physicist from Denmark] and 28a, RYN [Rembrandt van ___]. I’ve always seen Rembrandt van ___ spelled as RIJN. LENE is just awful crosswordese, and I doubt we’ll see much more of it after it got an incorrect clue in February 2018, prompting plenty of outcry from incensed linguists and a rare public mea culpa from Will Shortz. Elsewhere, ANSE crosses ONAGER, INGA Swenson crosses MT. IDA, and we get the partials GO ALL, MENLO, and ULAN. 

Despite all that, few STRUGGLES for me in solving this one, except: My first entry was 2d, VENTNOR [Yellow Monopoly avenue], from which I confidently plunked down LEAN at 13a [Trim]. Once I replaced that with NEAT, though, it was smooth sailing.

Comment with your favorite ESTONIANS! Until next time!

Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Twin-Speak” — Jim’s review

Our theme is DOUBLE-TALK at 59a with the clue [Evasive communication, and a hint to 18-, 27-, 36- and 45-Across]. And what do we find at those locations? Longish entries that each include a three-letter synonym for “talk.” The doubling comes in when each of the three letters in question is repeated.

WSJ – Thu, 4.26.18 – “Twin-Speak” by Samuel A. Donaldson

  • 18a [Source of needless anxiety] BUGGAABBOO. Gab.
  • 27a [Historic guide] SACAJJAAWWEA. Jaw.
  • 36a [“Buzz off!”] GO FLYY AA KKITE. Yak.
  • 45a [Shred] TEARR AAPPART. Rap.

I was slow to grok the theme because of that double-O in the first entry. I realize it’s not part of the word in question, but it sure looks like GABO which is…well, I don’t know what that is. It made me think of the Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor, who are twins, aren’t they? Bzzzt. Nope. Each Gabor sister was born in a different year.

But once I got the second entry, and definitely the third, I was well on my way.

The revealer tied it all together nicely, but I think I’m more familiar with “doublespeak” rather than DOUBLE-TALK. Google ngram viewer bears that out. But that being said, I’m sure I’ve heard “DOUBLE-TALK” at some point.

I like the theme. The entries look a bit like gobbledygook, but it’s pretty clear what they are. The only less-than-elegant element is that distracting double-O at the end of BUGGAABBOO.

The grid features a couple of my favorite words: MACABRE and PARIAHS. Other niceties are FREE-RANGETEARY-EYED, PRAGUE, and “BIG WOW.” FILM ACTOR is not a phrase one hears much, probably because a FILM ACTOR doesn’t tend to just stick with films, but I guess it’s used to distinguish from a “stage actor,” which is a phrase one hears. IT’S A BLAST sounds a little awkward; “I had a blast,” or maybe even “What a blast,” rings a little truer.

There was a fair amount of crusty acronyms and abbreviations: OKC, BWI, EX-GI, ETDS, OSU, BSA, PTS, IBID, LGA, and EDS. These weighed things down a bit and set off the grumble-meter, but on the whole, the plusses in the grid outweighed the minuses for me.

Clues of note:

  • 14a [Price performance]. ARIA. I figured “Price” was referring to actor Jonathan Price…except that it’s spelled Pryce. I was on the right track, but the clue was after acclaimed soprano Leontyne Price.
  • 17a [Stretch of high moorland]. FELL. Completely new to me. Apparently it derives from Old Norse fjall which meant “hill.”
  • 28d [Dedicatee of a famous ode]. JOY. At first, I thought this was going to be JAY. You know, that famous “Ode to Jay,” of course.

Oh, hey! I just got the play on words in the title. “Twin-Speak” obviously refers to DOUBLE-TALK, but it is also an alteration of the TV show title Twin Peaks. Cool.

Are any of you out there a twin? If so, did you have a unique way of communicating with your sibling?

The theme made me think of this song, which my parents enjoyed listening to back in the day.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword “Tank-Bodied” —Jenni’s write-up

This is an oddly shaped puzzle – 17×12 – and I thought I’d missed something, because the theme didn’t have anything to do with the shape. We have three theme answers:

FB 4/26, solution grid

  • 16d [Having gained nothing] is EMPTY-HANDED
  • 7d [Vociferous] is FULL-THROATED
  • 11d [Lacking enthusiasm] is HALF-HEARTED.

EMPTYFULL, and HALF apply to the gas tank, and the words have body parts. That’s all I’m seeing. It’s – not the cleverest puzzle Peter has ever constructed.

A few other things:

  • 19a [Forward part of a vessel] is the STEM. I entered PROW at first and that didn’t fit at all. I didn’t see how STEM fit the clue until I remembered “from STEM to stern.” Ah.
  • 4d [Longtime San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb] CAEN was still a Bay Area fixture when we lived out there and subscribed to the Chron.
  • 10d [“Carmina Burana” composer] is ORFF. It’s not a subtle piece of music.
  • 40d [Color similar to collie] is ACORN. Shades of brown…
  • 50d [School founded by Henry VI in MCDXL] is ETON. No complaints about this use of Roman numerals, although it seems unnecessary. Peter points out in his solution to the puzzle that ‘MCDXL” contains all seven Roman numerals. Oh, yay.

What I didn’t know before I solved this puzzle: that CANONICAL meant [in simplest form]. Wikipedia tells me this is a mathematical term, and you can check it out if you’re interested. I won’t try to explain. To me, a canonical form is something like this:

Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

I feel like I’ve seen PUTALIDONIT as a revealer before. In any case, this one has three three-letter synonyms for lid as in headgear above the bigram IT. TAM is a lot more specific than HAT or CAP.

Fill is in a lot of places, decidedly unpolished. The rather violent MUGGER (could have been clued as a crocodile, I guess), which seemed easy enough to avoid, is a different case. But ITERS (plural for an antiquated term for the aqueduct of sylvius) crossing CIE/ATT, made up, pluralised -er word ALLAYERS – apparently these are [calming agents] – all conspired to suck the joy out… This is the one time UGHS is in fact appropriate.

2.25 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Antisocial Network” — Ben’s Review

Well, this was underwhelming.  I like the general idea of the theme here (phrases modified to be tech-related), but there’s not enough consistency to hold together:

  • 17A: Eventually got around to unleashing annoying tweets from one’s fake account? — BOT SOME TIME
  • 28A: Truly awful thing shared on the Internet? — DESPICABLE MEME
  • 43A: Those in charge gonna start flame wars? — HEADS WILL TROLL
  • 58A: Guy who scours for negative content on a lolcat-filled forum? — 4CHAN HUNTER

This needed to either be all phonetic sound-alikes or all additions of one letter – it’s a little sloppy with both.  Plus: a number?  They’re not completely unwelcome in a crossword grid, but just one sticks out.  Do a whole theme with that.

“Put Your Money On Me” has some gorgeous ABBA-esque harmonies that I’m glad Win Butler broke down in this episode of Song Exploder


The rest of the fill here’s a bit BANAL – I liked the attempt at alternate cluing for some otherwise common things like UMA, as well as comparing an ONION BAGEL to a bialy.

3/5 stars

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27 Responses to Thursday, April 26, 2018

  1. e.a. says:

    found NYT to be quite the (click)

    • Willie Sloman says:

      a pun with an Estonian link because the puzzle had “Estonians” in it? not sure i get it. anyone?

      • Richard says:

        Just say the person’s name out loud.

        • David L says:

          Still not getting it. Can you explain?

        • Willie Sloman says:

          i presume it sounds like “enigma” (i’m not sure how one pronounces that name) which I get but i’m kind of missing why he chose that woman outside her name. if he chose her solely for her name then the joke/pun just seems a bit off.

          • Willie Sloman says:

            okay, just read Andy’s review so that’s where the Estonian angle is coming from

            thanks for the reply, Richard

  2. jim hale says:

    A puzzle with Naticks is an automatic fail for me.

  3. Penguins says:

    Very nice WSJ theme. Liked the NYT as well.

  4. Robert White says:

    NYT: Could have clued 26A as “Actress Lyda of ‘Million Dollar Legs’ (1932)”

  5. Lise says:

    I liked LENE better than most people, I suspect. I looked her up after completing the puzzle, and I appreciate the entry of a female physicist, and one who is so very accomplished. Thanks for including her. Perhaps someday Lene Hau will be a household name. Bring her on!

  6. Scott says:

    I liked the NYT but I had to come here to fully understand the theme.

    • Papa John says:

      Thanks for the heads up! How can it be deleted?

      Don’t know how it happened but this is supposed to be a reply to Penquin’s malware warning.

    • Papa John says:

      While I’m here, I too failed to parse the theme. I’m not sure how anyone was able to get it.

  7. Noam D. Elkies says:

    In Dutch the combination ij can be written ÿ, so IJ sometimes becomes Y. But yes, that top left corner is a mess.


  8. David L says:

    I’ve only ever seen Rembrandt van RYN thus spelled in crosswords, and was perplexed the first time I came across it. His actual name is van Rijn, and the pronunciation is not that hard to grasp. I think in Dutch the ‘ij’ can be written as a digraph that sorta looks like a ‘y’ so maybe that’s how it comes about.

    I’m knowledgeable about physics, and have even written a little about that slow-light work, but LENE Hau rang no bells.

  9. Matthew G. says:

    I gave the NYT 3.5 stars as a compromise between really loving the theme and having some serious issues with the fill. The RYN/LENE crossing was not inferrable, and like Andy I’ve only ever seen Rembrandt’s surname spelled “van Rijn.” Seeing the RY_ had me doubting myself and wondering if I was misremembering his name altogether. ONAGER and ANSE are pretty brutal, too, and having all of that tough fill in the NW corner made starting out on this puzzle a somewhat unpleasant experience. But it got a lot better after that!

  10. Gareth says:

    In contrast, VENTNOR was where I crashed and burnt… Remembered ANSE as AASE? And GTE as GRE and though VEARNOR looked wrong, it didn’t look that wrong…

    • Gareth says:

      Ah. Aase is the mother of Peer Gynt. Sometimes knowing to many cruddy bits of crossword glue is dangerous!

  11. Burak says:

    The NW was an abomination. His name is Rembrandt van Rijn. I’m sure this RYN is a legit variation somewhere in the world, but then you go and cross it with LENE. WTF?!?!

    VENTNOR/ONAGER/ANSE/RTE/GTE in the same fraking corner. Geeeez. That’s just disrespectful.

    Look, you might have a superb theme that utterly needs that corner to work. OK, fine, I guess. The solver had to suffer that because what, 1-OVER is a direly needed entry? Give me a break.

    Ridiculous. Just ridiculous. If the rest of the puzzle had some high-quality fill, I could still let that go. But no, just more proper nouns, clued as trivia. Meh.

    2.35 stars from me. Possibly the worst puzzle of the week.

  12. Zulema says:

    I have gone over Andy’s comments and everyone else’s also numerous times, and although I had no problem figuring out the theme when I solved the puzzle, I still have no idea whose name when pronounced fits the ESTONIANS entry, nor do I think the entry requires any explanation, though it seems other solvers do or did. Please someone enlighten me.

    I was away most of the day, and I finally decided to make this inquiry even if a little late.

    • Richard says:

      Pronouncing someone’s name wasn’t connected to the puzzle, it was just a response to the Erik’s (e.a.) comment on this post. The link in that comment is to a person whose name looks/sounds similar to the word “enigma”. Nothing to worry about, really.

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