Thursday, May 24, 2018

BEQ 8:43 (Ben) 


Fireball 5:05 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:18 (Gareth) 


NYT oops, untimed (Amy) 


WSJ not oops, untimed (Jim) 


Erik Agard & Andy Kravis’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 24 18, no 0524

Oh! I had to take a minute after finishing the puzzle to reread the revealer clue and see what the circled letters had to do with anything. The clever Erik/Andy duo found four foods you’d eat with a spoon, spoonerized their names, and clued the resulting phrases accordingly.

  • 18a. [Horse races?], WHINNY MEETS. Mini Wheats, frosted or non.
  • 25a. [Seinfeld’s stringed instrument?], JERRY CELLO. Cherry Jell-O.
  • 37a. [Particularly pale Ph.D. ceremony?], PASTY HOODING. Hasty pudding. Wait, that’s food? Not just a thing at Harvard? (This central entry has an even number of letters, so the grid is 16 squares wide rather than 15.)
  • 52a. [Pony up for a certain online deal?], PAY GROUPON. Grey Poupon mustard.
  • 61a. [What 18-, 25-, 37- and 52-Across all are (whose circled letters name something used with the base phrases)], SPOONERISMS. Okay, so you might scoop out the mustard with a spoon as opposed to eating it with a spoon. I don’t do mustard, don’t ask me.

Five Nine more things:

  • 20a. [“Happy Days” actress Moran], ERIN. I can’t help thinking the constructors thought of Team Fiend’s Erin when they gridded this. Hi, Erin!
  • 31a. [Literary character with a powerful face], HELEN. Listen, Helen’s face was Helen’s face. She can’t be held responsible for the way a bunch of dudes responded to it. They had the choice not to launch those ships.
  • 50a. [Doctor or engineer], RIG. Oh, this clue is brilliant. Two disparate professions, both also verbs that can be synonymous.
  • 58a. [Sch. with a Concord campus], UNH. We would also have accepted [Sound made by solvers who aren’t from the Northeast].
  • 1d. [___ City, center of the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush], DAWSON. Never heard of it. Actress Rosario Dawson is way more famous.
  • 47d. [Naval agreement], AYE, SIR. We would also have accepted AYE, MA’AM.
  • 38d. [One who knows what’s coming], SEER. You don’t really believe that, do you?
  • 10d. [“Are you kidding me?,” in texts], SRSLY. I love this entry. “Srsly?” Yes, really.
  • 11d. [R&B singer who had a 2015 #1 hit with “Can’t Feel My Face”], THE WEEKND. No, there is not an error in the puzzle. That’s how Abel Tesfaye spells his stage name. This Canadian gentleman has had eight top-10 hits in the US so far. Not too shabby! He teamed up with Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar on “Pray for Me,” in the Black Panther soundtrack. (Don’t watch this video if you are sensitive to flashing effects.)

4.3 stars from me. That “aha” moment when I realized the spoonerized phrases were all spoonable was golden!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword “Cobaltic Group” —Jenni’s write-up

I had no idea what Peter was getting at until I filled in the revealers, and even then didn’t understand how it connected to the title. That part just dawned on me now, hours after I solved it.

The theme entries all have something in common:

  • 18a [Emmy winner for playing Temple Grandin in a 2010 biopic] is CLAIRE DANES
  • 12d [“Superior Donuts” playwright] is TRACY LETTS
  • 29d [Tribe carvings] is TOTEM POLES
  • 65a [Knockout drinks] are MICKEY FINNS

Two people, two things, one drink…huh? Peter helps us out at 30a [With 50-Across, theme of this puzzle]. The two together are EUROPEAN DEMONYMS. (A demonym is the word for people who live in a specific place.) So we have DANESLETTS (from Latvia), POLES  and FINNS. That’s pretty good all on its own – and the title tells us that all the countries in question border the Baltic Sea, which takes it from “pretty good” to “brilliant.”

A few other things:

  • LARAM always looks weird to me, until I remember that it’s L A RAM, or [NFC West player].
  • 1d [Pink-slip] is SACK and 69a [Pink-slipped] is AXED.
  • 39d [Smart in intelligence] is MAX, good ol’ Agent 86.
  • 27d [Puke] is RALPH, perhaps my least favorite synonym for one of my least favorite words. Ick.
  • MINIME also looked odd until I went back and looked at 51d [Film character in scenes with Frau Farbissina]. It’s really MINI ME of Austin Powers fame.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that AMELIE‘s last name is Poulain.

I leave you with Vicki Carr, which may remind some of you of your youth and others of Moonstruck.

Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stealth Mode” — Jim’s review

Nice to see Jeff’s byline here every once in a while. Today he’s found phrases that feature the trigram OPS but clues them as if the trigrams weren’t there. 60a tells us these trigrams are COVERT OPS [Clandestine activity, and a hint to answering the starred clues]. Get it? Sure you do.

WSJ – Thu, 5.24.18 – “Stealth Mode” by Jeff Chen

  • 17a [*iPad, e.g.] TABLE TOPSTablet.
  • 24a [*Mouthful of tobaccoCHOP SAW. Chaw. Never heard of a chop saw. Sounds oxymoronic.
  • 27a [*”The nerve!” elicitorGALLOPS. Gall.
  • 38a [*EatsCOP SHOW. Chow.
  • 49a [*Brilliant stratagem] COOPS UP. Coup.
  • 52a [*Pioneering video game] POP SONG. Pong.

Fun wordplay. I wonder if Jeff considered using BLACK OPS and placing the OPS “inside” specific black squares. That would be a much trickier puzzle (to make and to solve). Has that been done? It feels familiar.

Jeff always knows how to bring the fun fill. AD BLOCKER gets a clever clue [Spot remover, of a sort]. I tend to forget what TAUTOLOGY means, but the clue helps us out [“Short summary” or “free gift,” e.g.]. Ah yes, it’s saying the same thing twice with various different words. (“Various different” is one of my neighbor’s particular pet peeves.)

Also good: HASHTAG. Why [#StarringJohnCho, e.g.], I wonder. Ah! It’s a movement to encourage diversity in American cinema. It imagines what a Hollywood film would look like with an Asian-American actor (specifically John Cho). Nice!

Also also good: A. A. MILNE, BAPTIZE, BATBOY, and DOG RUN. Not sure how I feel about CALIPHS in the grid; on the one hand it brings ISIS to mind, on the other, it’s a historical title.

Additional clues of note:

  • 5a [Pocket full of food]. PITA. Did you imagine your jeans pockets stuffed with various different foodstuffs?
  • 19a [Get biblical on]. SMITE. Ha!
  • 67a [Trapped like Katniss in “The Hunger Games”]. TREED. This one is much too specific. If you don’t know anything about the book or film, you needed most of the crossings.
  • 68a [Mole’s place]. SKIN. Nice misdirection. The theme had us thinking about spies.
  • 69a [Arby’s offering]. GYRO. Ack! I find this utterly disturbing.
  • 18d [Phileas Fogg’s heading]. EAST. This is a nicely fresh clue for a very standard word. Bravo!
  • 41d [Breather]. LUNG. Ha! My fave clue in the grid.
  • 43d [Make an awe-inspiring dunk?]. BAPTIZE. I’d love to see baptisms performed a la the NBA.

Fun grid with plenty of shiny fill and fresh clues. 3.8 stars.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Bugging Out” — Ben’s Review

This week’s BEQ theme is a little interesting – 34A points out that The WALLS HAVE EARS, and indeed, the two walls at the top and bottom of the puzzle need to have EARS placed in them for their fill to make sense.  Take a look at the screenshot for the full list of affected entries, but here’s a few examples:

  • 1A: Manhattan Transfer classic — JAVA JIV (E)
  • 8A: Strong cup — (E) SPRESSO

Etc, Etc, at both the top and bottom of the grid.  If I’m honest, this was just okay as a theme.

I have had this Diet Coke jingle stuck in my head for ~2 years. *shakes fist at the Manhattan Transfer*

A few other notes:

  • Brendan, I love your indie musical taste, and crosswordese is tricky, but Ski Mask The Slump God releasing “Beware the Book of ELI” is no reason to replace a clue about Yale in the puzzle.
  • I know it’s MR. ED (of course of course), but my brain processes that bit of fill as a Teen Girl Squad-esque MRE’D!  It’s what happens when you choke on an MRE.
  • 26D: excellent timing for use of the ROYAL WE.  Speaking of The Royal We, if you’re still all into the royal wedding I highly recommend this book of the same title if you need a summer beach read.

3.25/5 stars

David Poole’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

I really enjoyed today’s tight little theme. We get four two-part watercraft. The craft in question all have homonyms, and the clues are written to wackily reinterpret the phrases as pertaining to said non-nautical homonyms. I can’t imagine a PADDLESTEAMER has an easy job; I’m pretty sure the rubber will melt and make a big mess.

We also get some slicker than average clues. My favourites were [They’re stuck in pubs] for DARTBOARDS and [Gave religiously] for TITHED.

Gluey entries were present, if only in DRIBS. I wouldn’t cry to not see SER again, but when its one answer in a stack, it grates less.

3.75 Stars

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46 Responses to Thursday, May 24, 2018

  1. Steve Manion says:

    I saw the connection, but had to reread the clue to justify Gray Poupon. I guess it is used with a spoon, although all the others are eaten with a spoon.

    I was a member of Hasty Pudding my senior year, but went there exactly twice. Found out today that Jared Kushner was also a member. Harvard publishes a Red Book every five years for each class. Normally, one discusses where he or she summered, but several students this year in Kushner’s 15th year Red Book, took it upon themselves to excoriate him. I think ad hominem attacks in such books are utterly inappropriate.


  2. Huda says:

    The spoonerisms were fun.

    But the revealer is a head scratcher “whose circled letters name something used with the base phrases”. Whom does that “whose” refer to? May be skipping the “whose” might have been less confusing? And a SPOON is used not with the base phrases but with the food they designate.

    Maybe the revealer could have been less concrete, more of a teaser?

    For instance:

    “What 18-, 25-, 37- and 52-Across all are, and what they required in their original form?”

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The “whose” refers to the answer SPOONERISMS. The base phrases are the foods, though. “Cherry Jell-O” is a base phrase, the original form from which the wordplay JERRY CELLO was made. The revealer clue wouldn’t point to “spoon” without a mention of the circled letters, alas. Such clues are pretty much always ungainly, aren’t they?

      • Huda says:

        Thanks Amy, I managed to work out the intent of that clue, so it was definitely decipherable. But I was trying to describe how confusing it felt along the way… it’s a cool concept that seems to be a challenge to encapsulate in an equally cool clue… .

  3. jj says:

    Cherry Jell-O tastes too much like green paint, in my opinion, especially as a base phrase.

    • maxine nerdström says:

      DARKGREEN paint, even! ;)

    • Jenni says:

      Nooo. Cherry Jell-O should be the only Jell-O.

      • Beach Bum says:

        Your comment that Fireball’s “27d [Puke] is RALPH, perhaps my least favorite synonym for one of my least favorite words…”, your paean to Cherry Jello, and yesterday’s experience with a high pressure car salesman bring up a synonymous phrase — “technicolor yawn.”
        15 letters, perfect for a Friday or Saturday puzzle!

      • Beach Bum says:

        Also, the “Nooo.” part of your comment brought back a Jimmy Fallon bit called #TextFails. The sender typed “Nooo” but the receiver saw something completely different. It is on Youtube here: (starts at 1:40)

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        LEMON JELLO or GRAPE JELLO would be green paint. Jenni is correct about CHERRY JELLO being the quintessence (except for anyone doing a colonoscopy prep who is told to avoid red liquids).

        • jj says:

          Ha! In my book, the flagship Jell-O is blue raspberry, as that was the flavor that was available daily in my high school cafeteria. BLUERASPBERRYJELLO [17]! LIMEJELLOWITHPINEAPPLECHUNKS [28]!

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Blue Jell-O? My god, there must have been a lot of teenagers with green poop in your town.

            • jj says:

              LOL…this conversation has made me wonder why the school only had blue Jell-O. I’d like to think there were other flavors offered, but I honestly can only remember blue raspberry. Our prominent school color was blue (the same blue that was the tint of the said Jell-O), so I guess this is the most plausible rationale. That and I feel that blue raspberry as a flavor profile really peaked during this time – late ’90s/early ’00s, so maybe they were bowing to a trend, too. ;)

            • Beach Bum says:

              Before the kids have the blue Jello, perhaps they would like a beet and asparagus salad?

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              And also some corn and peanuts, for contrast.

          • errhode says:

            I grew up with lime jello with shaved carrots and cool whip on top.



            • Beach Bum says:

              A few winters ago, I went to a coffee shop at night. It was a little windy and perhaps 35°. A barista wearing a short-sleeved shirt was outside on her break, enjoying an iced coffee. She said she was from Minnesota.

  4. Ethan Alexander Cooper says:

    The theme is a nice idea, but I just don’t know if the execution was there. Does anybody pronounce Poupon like it rhymes with Groupon? Does the combination of nouns in JERRY CELLO make a lick of sense? What could it possibly even mean for a HOODING to be PASTY? Nancy Saloman has a good write up of pun theme dos and don’ts under Sage Advice on cruciverb, and every constructor would do well to check it out.

  5. john farmer says:

    Liked the puzzle, especially the SPOON connection and that RIG clue. Theme worked for me. Somewhere out in crosswordland I suspect there’s a solver Googling THE FEEKND to find out who that R&B singer is.

    • Jenni says:

      I did that at first, but I have a teenager so when I looked at it I knew what was wrong and fixed it sans Google.

  6. Matthew G. says:

    Loved the NYT puzzle today. Revealers are always clunky so I didn’t hold that against the excellent theme.

    I was slowed down by having GIG instead of RIG for a while. After all, GIG can mean a job, and so would also work for {Doctor or engineer}. Not being familiar with THE WEEKND, I wrecked my time in that area of the puzzle. It was great fun to work through, though.

  7. Matt M says:

    I thought the NYT was really great – and disagree with the qualms about “cherry jello” (at some level every phrase is kind of “green paint,” I guess, but that’s recognizable and distinct as a specific thing rather than a random adjective and noun) and “Grey Poupon” which I have heard commonly pronounced to rhyme with Groupon.

  8. Jenni says:

    LOVED the NYT. Giggled out loud when I filled in the revealer and realized what was going on. PAY GROUPON is by far my favorite of the entries. A fun start to a Thursday morning!

  9. JohnH says:

    WSJ SW with two (!) “Hunger Games” clues alone and much more was all trivia all the time.

  10. Alan D. says:

    I don’t even particularly like spoonerisms but thought the NYT was hilarious and brilliant.

  11. David L says:

    I figured out the spoonerism theme at JERRYCELLO, which helped me correct CARSON to DAWSON (yeah, I know, wrong part of the world…)

    RIG was tough to see but clever. But I still don’t understand the clue for MAYS — can someone explain?

    ETA: Oop, never mind, just got it

  12. Ethan Friedman says:

    Oh my god I totally missed that the spoonerisms are spoonable spoonerisms!

    Amy, can you change my 4 star rating to a 5? Because that just took a funny puzzle to the next level. Also surprised DAWSON wasn’t clued w/r/t Rosario or the show “Dawson’s Creek”, both far more well-known than the Klondike city.

  13. Jason Mueller says:

    Technically, those “dudes” did have to launch their ships, as Helen’s father Tyndareus (on the advice of Odysseus) made Helen’s suitors swear an oath to support whomever was chosen to marry Helen (Menelaus); thus, when Paris abducted Helen, the thousand ships were launched to get Helen back for Menelaus in the Trojan War.

  14. Greg says:

    The Times puzzle was challenging but great, and spoonerisms are indeed fun. Only minuscule quibble: it would have been nice to see 5D clued to refer to the great Willie Mays, as opposed to the somewhat clunky plural of the month.

  15. Burak says:

    NYT: The basic idea of the theme was great, the entries were also great, but that revealer really took the fun out of it. “(whose circled letters name something used with the base phrases)” what is this? Don’t explain the joke to me if you can’t do it concisely.

    The fill is very smooth for the most part (some negligible 3-letter glues), some brilliant clues (not enough) but overall the puzzle felt flat. I’d like to think that there was a better way to execute this theme. 3.65 stars.

  16. Andy says:

    Many commenters have correctly guessed some of our original clue ideas. We submitted [“The Defenders” actress Rosario] at 1D, and MAYS was originally [Subject of the autobiography “Say Hey”]. I’m guessing the editors thought there was a preponderance of people’s names in the grid.

    The original revealer was something like [What 18-, 25-, 37-, and 52-Across all are (and, in circles, a utensil that can be used for the base phrases)].

    • Jenni says:

      I’d rather have more names than awkward plurals and obscure cities….great puzzle!

    • Gareth says:

      Your revealer is superior, IMO.

    • Burak says:

      Yeah, that’s a much better revealer. It’s a pity we had to read that crowded and cold one instead. “whose circled letters name something used” is a phrase that one would likely see in the first draft of a college essay.

    • joon says:

      i don’t mind learning about DAWSON city (esp. errhode’s sourtoe comment below!), but cluing MAYS as a plural month is borderline perverse. just… why.

      and your reveal clue is considerably less clunky.

  17. johnH says:

    I really liked the Times puzzle. I’m a fan of Spoonerisms in cryptic, which helped, but still didn’t get the theme till the end, which was nice, too. And the connecting element from spoon was a nice extra layer.

    Still, I sure wish the long name I’d never know had totally cold crossings. I had BAD jokes, which seemed only idiomatic to me. (Also don’t get the idea behind spring parts.)

    • JohnH says:

      Oops, that’s embarrassing. Of course, MAY as in months of spring. Sorry. The long name, still.

  18. errhode says:

    You’ve never heard of DAWSON City? Let me change that…

    Literally right before solving this morning, I was telling some people about the Sourdough Saloon in Dawson City and the infamous Sourtoe cocktail. Yes, it refers to a real human toe (desiccated) in a shot of whiskey. I once met a woman from the Yukon who was there when the first toe was accidentally swallowed. Apparently now it’s mostly a tourist thing, but it’s $20 and you have to let the toe touch your lips to get the certificate.

    My dad had a toe amputated a year ago, and my mother tasked me with keeping him in good spirits, so I told him about the toe-shot. He told his surgeon shortly before going under and the last thing he remembers is her doubting his tale of this mythical Canadian saloon and how it accepts donated toes for its collection. The first thing she said to him when he woke up was apparently that while he was out, she googled and was shocked to confirm that, yes, this bar is real! But they needed to do some tests on his toe, so donating it was unfortunately out of the question. Also, sending a toe through customs seems complicated.

    Anyway, imagine a desiccated toe in a shot of whiskey and now you will never forget Dawson City.

  19. If you enjoy food-based-Spoonerism-themed crossword puzzles (and who doesn’t?), you will not want to miss my website puzzle from last February:

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