Sunday, May 20, 2018

Hex/Quigley 18:30 (Laura) 


LAT 9:24 (Amy) 


NYT 9:49 (Amy) 


WaPo 11:12 (Erin) 


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Back to Square One” – Erin’s writeup

WaPo solution, 5/20/18

Clever puzzle this week in which the last letter of a word or phrase moves to the beginning to create a different phrase:

  • 23a. [*Choice between a campfire treat and guitar legend Paul?] SMORE OR LES (more or less)
  • 25a. [*Description of the players on the court during the NBA All-Star Game, in terms of their wealth?] TEN RICH MEN (enrichment)
  • 32a. [*Brief way of introducing actress Adams to actress Stone?] AMY, SHARON (“My Sharona” by The Knack)
  • 44a. [*”Kendrick Lamar’s album ‘Damn.’ is awesome and worthy of the Pulitzer,” e.g.?] RAP PRAISE (appraiser)
  • 55a. [*Pumbaa’s way of saying, “Look out for that squeezing snake!” to his meerkat buddy?] TIMON, A BOA (“I’m on a Boat” by The Lonely Island)
  • 72a. [*Big gas company’s cherub?] SHELL’S ANGEL (Hell’s Angels)
  • 89a. [*Repetitive series of German grunts?] ACH ACH ACH (cha cha cha)
  • 99a. [*Way of measuring the number of times someone says, “Uhuh,” compared with “Yup”?] NOPE RATIO (operation). My nope ratio is about 10:1 these days.
  • 109a. [*Help yourself to whichever rodent?] EAT ANY RAT (at any rate)
  • 120a. [*”Dragnet” actor Jack alongside an “Alice” waitress?] WEBB AND FLO (ebb and flow)
  • 123a. [Goes back to square one, and what’s spelled out by certain letters in this puzzle] STARTS ANEW

Other things:

  • 81a. [Chess grandmaster Carlsen] MAGNUS. Want to learn chess names? Follow Matt Gaffney on Twitter.
  • 46d. [Organ with an auricle] EAR. The auricle is the externally visible portion of the ear, aka the pinna, or the outer ear minus the ear canal. Each atrium of the heart also has an auricle, because apparently there are not enough Greek or Latin words or white male doctors’ names to give each thing its own moniker.
  • 83a. [ESPN Radio commentator Mike] GOLIC. He was half of Mike & Mike for 17 years until the two Mikes were split and given their own shows last year. He also hosted The Lighter Side of Sports, a blooper show.
  • 69d. [Where ID is shown?] U.S. MAP. ID is Idaho in this case.

Until next time.

Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword, “Rhymes, Schmymes”—Amy’s write-up

It’s perfect that Erin included a Matt Gaffney tweet in her WaPo review, because Matt just tweeted high praise for Will Nediger last week. Here’s the link to Will’s Bewilderingly site.

Moving on to the crossword at hand: The theme makes use of the always-charming Yiddish-style rhyming wordplay of saying things like “puzzle, schmuzzle” in a dismissive tone—but with actual SCHM- words (most of them are Yiddish, and maybe SCHMIDT is too but I’m not familiar with it aside from as a Germanic surname). And the themers don’t embody the dismissiveness of your typical “blank schmank” phrases.

  • NY Times crossword solution, 5 20 18, “Rhymes Schmymes”

    23a. [Conversation over a few whiskeys?], BOOZE SCHMOOZE.

  • 38a. [Filth covering pecans and such?], NUTS SCHMUTZ. Okay, this one doesn’t work for me on the pronunciation front. NUTS has the short U sound of BUNS, while SCHMUTZ has the vowel in “look” and “put.”
  • 50a. [Venison spread?], DEER SCHMEAR. *cringe* I’d have preferred an expensive or adorable spread, DEAR SCHMEAR, or else something like (non-dead) [Bambi’s bagel topping?].
  • 67a. [Hardly a dolt?], NO SCHMO.
  • 83a. [Avoid a jerk?], DUCK SCHMUCK.
  • 90a. [Break up with an “unbreakable” Ellie Kemper character?], QUIT SCHMIDTUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
  • 111a. [Puts a stop to sentimentality?], HALTS SCHMALTZ.

Enjoyable theme with fun wordplay action.

Will definitely has top-notch gridding skills, as attested by fill like BUG BITE, SIX-PACKS, CASTRATO plus BASSOS for your operatic dudes, KATRINA (plus Katrina documentarian Spike LEE), HUMOR ME, Zooey DESCHANEL, NEWCOMER, EDAMAME, WISECRACKS, and IMPEACHED.

Seven more things:

  • My pick for most potentially vexing cross: 71a. [Director Wenders], WIM meets 63d. [Scornful sound], HUMPH. If you don’t know your German directors playing in American arthouses of the ’80s and ’90s and you’re not sure what sort of spelling that snort will have, you’re screwed. Or SCROD. (My Wenders picks—the only two I’ve seen—are Wings of Desire in German, Paris, Texas in English.)
  • 44d. [Some drink garnishes], ZESTS. I’m not sure this is accurate. The zest is just the outermost part of the citrus rind, the brightly colored exterior with those oils in it. If you have a lemon or lime peel or twist in a cocktail, you generally are peeling a bit deeper, into the white pith, no? When I use a zester, I’m scraping off just the yellow. Maybe fancy cocktail makers have amazing skills with removing a super-thin twist that’s pretty much all zest? Clearly I have not spent much time inspecting cocktail garnishes.
  • 57d. [Site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World], EPHESUS. A temple, yes? Googling … the Temple of Artemis, in (erstwhile) Ephesus, which is in modern-day Turkey.

  • 9d. [Cavity filler], GROUT. This refers, of course, to dentistry pioneer Herman D. GROUT, D.D.S.
  • 68d. [Personalized music gift], MIX CD. This one won’t resonate with the younger generations, who just share a Spotify playlist. An awful lot of people don’t even have anything that will play a music CD anymore. However! I have a friend who makes a mix CD each December and mails it out to a bunch of us.
  • 40d. [Publisher in a robe, familiarly], HEF. If you gotta have him in your puzzle, it’s best to cross him with a grubby word like SCHMUTZ (and run him alongside IMPEACHED).
  • 66d. [Picasso, e.g.], CUBIST. You’ve heard about the Nat Geo anthology series starring Antonio Banderas as Picasso, yes? The season is in progress.

4.25 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s CRooked Crossword, “Themeless Challenger”—Laura’s review

CRooked - 5.20.18 - BEQ - Solution

CRooked – 5.20.18 – BEQ – Solution

It’s a 21x themeless, packed with good stuff. Here are five interesting things:

  • [48a: Rump muscles]: GLUTEI. Did you, like me, have GLUTES there for a bit? (That is, we all have GLUTES, but I mean in the grid.) There’s another Greek plural later in the grid: [86d: Conifer cones]: STROBILI
  • [122a: Civil Rights Act of 1964 supporter Everett]: DIRKSEN. This name may be familiar to you if you address actual paper mail letters to your senators; the Dirksen Senate Office Building is named after him.
  • [109a: Time travelers in a phone booth]: BILL AND TED, they who had an Excellent Adventure, will be getting a threequel: Bill and Ted Face the Music. San Dimas High School football rules!
  • [36a: Crooked-E company]: ENRON. Referring to the “crooked E” in the company’s logo, but could’ve been parsed as [Crooked E- {i.e. energy} company].
  • Lots of music in this grid, what with [8d: “A Sort of Fairytale” singer]: TORI AMOS, [58d: “Come Together“] singer]: LENNON, [39d: Folkie Joan]: BAEZ, and “Black Beatles” duo [113a: ___ Sremmerd]: RAE. Could’ve also clued [17d: Inherently]: BY NATURE as [“O.P.P.” rappers Naughty ___], or [31d: Head toward L.A.]: GO WEST as [80s synth pop group known for “King of Wishful Thinking“]. I’ll leave you with [53a: Nickname of reggaeton’s Don Omar]: EL REY. (If you don’t already know, reggaetón is a Spanish-inflected genre of hip-hop originating in Puerto Rico.)

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Shifting”—Amy’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 5 20 18, “Shifting”

The theme answers are familiar phrases that start with an -ING verb, but the G is shifted to the following word so that the verb becomes an elided ___in’ word:

  • 21a. [Steepin’ oats in water?], SOAKIN’ GRAIN. Chicago has had a lot of soaking rains in the last week or two.
  • 27a. [Marathoner’s lookin’-happy flush?], RUNNIN’ GLOW.
  • 53a. [Result of tossin’ an old mitt on the fire?], BURNIN’ GLOVE.
  • 82a. [Layin’ off football legend Red?], FIRIN’ GRANGE. An old reference, to be sure.
  • 111a. [Takin’ first place at the Olympics?], GETTIN’ GOLD.
  • 119a. [Muttered complaint about a toe woe that’s really hurtin’?], BLEEPIN’ GOUT. This one is very true.
  • 3d. [Lettin’ the family elder onto the plane?], BOARDIN’ GRAMPS.
  • 58d. [Preparin’ husbands-to-be?], TRAININ’ GROOMS. That Prince Harry surely was well prepared for his nuptials yesterday].

Cute theme.

New to me: 37a. [Johnson Space Center humanoid project], ROBONAUT. Also the GIRTHS clue, 55d. [Saddle bands]. Is that a horsey usage of GIRTHS?

Not sure that FLAN counts as a 87a. [Custardy pastry]. I define pastry as something with a bread/cake/crust component, and I don’t think of flan that way.

Weird to clue VPS via Bush and Nixon, who of course are better known for their presidencies.

Crosswordese crossing: 93d. [Reddish-brown chalcedony], SARD and 91a. [Sign word beckoning a Canadian driver], ESSO.

Top fill: CURVEBALL, Bebe NEUWIRTH, NASCENT (I just like that word for some reason), BRO CODE, “I GOTTA GO.”

Four stars from me.


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26 Responses to Sunday, May 20, 2018

  1. Vega says:

    Re: the WaPo puzzle: perhaps it’s implied in your review, Erin, but I have to say I’m way impressed that those new(ly misplaced) first letters also spell out STARTSANEW. Dang.

    • Martin says:

      Evan has been providing creative, innovative Sunday crosswords for over three years now. We all worried that Merl Reagle was an impossible act to follow. Of course, Merl had a unique voice and Evan’s is quite different. But they share a knack for constructing accessible, fun crosswords with innovative themes. Like Merl, Evan does it by himself with a minimum of fuss. I think the Washington Post subscribers got a pretty fine next act.

      • David Steere says:

        I couldn’t agree more. Well said. If I believed in “inherited spirits,” I’d say Evan had a bit of Merlishness about him. Loved, loved, loved this Sunday puzzle–even though I completed it Saturday night. Makes me hungry for more but not enough to 109 Across.

      • Alan D. says:

        This is what makes Evan’s puzzles a cut-above, the extra layer of having the letters spell something out. I’m in awe.

    • I didn’t catch that at all, Vega. Usually I try to get time alone to blog but this time I was catering to a sick toddler. That’s pretty awesome.

      • Thanks for the compliments, all.

        I have some (okay, a ton of) regret that I left out T-REX RABBI, simply because I didn’t know how familiar solvers would be with the phrase “rex rabbit.” But I guess not everyone would have known the song “I’m on a Boat” either, so …..

        • Norm says:

          Did not know the song, but it worked as a phrase for me. REX RABBIT would have been … not in my strike zone.

  2. Martin says:


    Wikipedia says a twist is a piece of zest, and I think any good bartender will avoid the bitter pith when cutting one. I know I do.

    I love how zest comes from the French word for citrus peel (“zeste”) and other uses followed. In other words, food is zesty because of added ingredients like orange peel. Our intuition might be that the peel is called zest because it has a zesty flavor. But that would be wrong. A zesty flavor is one like that of orange zest.

    • Jenni says:

      Nice that you avoid the bitter pith. Better if you actually read the blog carefully enough to realize you were ‘splaining to Amy, not Erin. I guess we all look alike.

  3. Dook says:

    Sunday NYT was fun. The hardest part for me was “waves hi”. I guess that’s an expression. But I kept wanting it to be waves at or waves to. And it took me a while to realize that “hardly a dolt” was a theme clue. The short answer made me think otherwise.

    • JohnH says:

      WAVES HI is quite nice really, although I was hung up wanting AT or TO myself.

      As usual, what’s a gimme vs trivia is quite different for me from Amy. WIM Wenders for me was the first. Actually, art-house stuff I didn’t know might work for me, too, as worth learning, while all the TV and lousy movies that I’m supposed to learn from or for puzzles doesn’t.

  4. jim hale says:

    Pretty good puzzle but some back-tracking for me required. Liked learning Miami (needed all the crossings) for Alg. tribe. Didn’t care for castrato (also needed the crossings) particularly the etymology of it. Also “Burrs” was of no interest.

    Liked No Schmo… that had me for a bit.

  5. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: Dunno I work in advertising in NYC & have regularly heard SCHMUTZ pronounced to rhyme with nuts by colleagues who seem well versed in the matter. Its English cousins “smut” & “smudge” are pronounced similarly. Doesn’t seem like an error to me.

  6. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: I didn’t realize SNIGLET had made its way into common parlance. The term was originated by comedian Rich Hall on his 1980s show Not Necessarily the News. The one I remember to this day is Subatomic Toasticles – Miniscule toast crumbs that get left behind in the butter.

    There are some other examples on the Wikipedia page, like Expresshole – A person that brings more than 20 items to the express lane in the store.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I found some huge lists online, but am having trouble getting the links to work properly. Anyway here’s another sniglet of interest to us: “Zyxnoid (ZIKS noid) – n. Any word that a crossword puzzler makes up to complete the last blank, accompanied by the rationalization that there probably is an ancient god named Ubbbu, or German river named Wfor, and besides, who’s going to check?”

  7. roger says:


    Yonah Schimmel delivers in case you need an infusion of LES sounds.

    Also, I think in light of the past year’s carnage, 22a is completely inappropriate.

    • Richard says:

      I’m not sure what’s unique about the past year, but I think celebrating survival is always appropriate.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      @Roger, I was thinking of people trapped in earthquake rubble—and I also think of the many people who’ve struggled with difficult medical issues but are glad they can still say I’M ALIVE. Mind you, I do not at all think you’re wrong to be sensitive about all the various types of carnage, tragedy, and loss in the world. The past year? Hell, the past week has been tough.

    • Nance says:

      Since when is saying “I’m alive” inappropriate? C’mon lighten up.

  8. janie says:

    *really* entertained by will’s nyt and laughed out loud w/ NUTS/SCHMUTZ, be it eye rhyme or true rhyme. ditto HALTS/SCHMALTZ. in our house the “a” in the latter was always pronounced like the “o” in “doll.” and my mother often kept a jar of it in the fridge…


    • JohnH says:

      Neither bothered me, although I grew up with words like these. I figured we’re not going to speak with quite a proper Yiddish accent.

  9. Steve Manion. says:

    I really enjoyed today’s puzzle, perhaps because it brought to mind one of Martin’s all-time great posts on the old NYT forum, in which he explained the meanings of various Yiddish words for various losers and pests: SCHLIMIEL, SCHLIMAZEL, SCHMENDRICK, SCHMUCK, NUDNIK and maybe more. It was a tour de force.

    Is there an etymological difference between SCHMITT and SCHMIDT? Is one more likely to be German and the other Jewish?


  10. Norm says:

    NYT: Agree that DEER SCHMEAR was a bit off-putting, and DEAR SCHMEAR would have been easy to use instead with GO AS [clued to a Halloween party costume, maybe?] replacing GOES.

    WaPo: Brilliant. Just brilliant. Made my Sunday morning. Thank you, Evan.

  11. pannonica says:

    WaPo:: “My Wenders picks—the only two I’ve seen—are Wings of Desire in German, Paris, Texas in English.”

    Plenty of good stuff in his filmography. But I guess the appropriate recommendation for crosswordy convergence is the eponymous documentary on choreographer PINA Bausch (2011). It’s excellent.

  12. Burak says:

    For me, the NYT puzzle was meh in terms of theme and pleasurability: While I dig the Rhyme Schmyme concept, it didn’t humor me as much as I would have liked. Clues were also meh for a Sunday.

    But that fill… Damn. It was almost perfect! There were a couple of answers that one could have issues with (WIM/HUMPH as noted, or that UTNE-CZAR-BUC-SCHMALTZ cluster could have proven problematic) but overall, this might be the smoothest NYT Sunday I have ever solved. On top of being mostly crosswordese free, the longer entries were also fun. What gridwork.

    3.65 stars from me. If the theme and clues were snazzier, we were definitely looking at an HoF Sunday puzzle here. Still, very above average work.

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