Thursday, May 31, 2018

BEQ 8:04 (Ben) 


Fireball 6:06 (Jenni) 


LAT 5:16 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:32 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword “Themeless 117” —Jenni’s write-up

This is a smooth, solid themeless. It is not blazingly hard, and I enjoyed it anyway.

I think I had an advantage in the NW with two medical clues. I suspect all of you knew that 1d [Stethoscope target] is CHEST. 14d [Somewhat icteritious] is trickier, especially since “icteritious” is not a word I’ve ever heard. I think Peter made it up to go with YELLOWY. That may be the first time that an entry I’ve never seen before was a gimme. “Icterus” is the Latin (from the Greek) term for “jaundice,” a yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes seen most often in liver disease. There’s also a baseball clue, so I was off and running. 16a [One of up to three in a quality start] is EARNED RUN.

This is a very Scrabbly puzzle!

  • 9d [Popular U.S. art magazine] is JUXTAPOZ, and I’m glad for obvious crossings.
  • Right next door, we have 10d [Lana Turner’s costar in “Mr. Imperium”] is EZIO PINZA.
  • This is all in service of what I presume was the seed entry: 34a [2017 David Shannon children’s book whose title character is a bee], which is also new to me. Since children’s books tend to rhyme, I guessed at some of it – correctly, as it turned out. It’s BIZZY MIZZ LIZZIE.
  • EZRA POUND is well-known, and I was an English major, but I’ve never heard of the poem Peter cites in the clue – “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.”
  • Not scrabbly, but possibly my favorite clue/answer pair in the puzzle: 51a [“Yeah, so as you were saying …”] is ABOUT THAT.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: JUXTAPOZ. I also didn’t know that EZIO PINZO appeared with Lana Turner, nor did I know that ZAPRUDER was a dressmaker.

I leave you with this, inspired by 21a.



Dominick Talvacchio’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

The Thursday NYT took longer than a themeless Fireball. I think this is mostly due to the lateness of the hour…

Our theme answers appear to be nonsense – but they are nonsense that can be parsed in a specific way.

NYT 5/31, solution grid

  • 17a [Wager one’s sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus?] BET A PIETA
  • 23a [Hired vehicle that’s only as big as a potato crisp?] CHIP SIZE TAXI. The clue uses the Britishism to avoid a duplication of “chip.”
  • 51a [One-millionth of a meter along a spiritual path?] THE TAO MICRON.
  • 62a [Inst. of higher learning dedicated to the statistical analysis of young sheep?] LAMB DATA U. This one took me a long time to see – I missed the abbreviation signal in the clue.

What’s the connection? Let’s look at 39a [What you might say upon seeing 17-, 23-, 51- and 62-Across?] IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME. We can re-divide the themers into Greek letters: BETA PI ETACHI PSI ZETA XITHETA OMICRONLAMBDA TAU. Maybe I’m just tired. This theme didn’t wow me. CHIP SIZE TAXI made me smile.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Kitchen drawer?] is TAP. It took me a looong time to figure that out – it’s the faucet, because you draw water.
  • 2d [___-null (the number of natural numbers)] is ALEPH. The clue seems obscure to me. I wonder if they were trying to avoid using another language in a clue.
  • 26d [Words With Friends developer] is ZYNGA. The corporate name is a gift to constructors.
  • 41d [Answer to the riddle “What cheese is made backward?”] is EDAM. Get it?? Get it?? So subtle.
  • 70a [Is a canary] and 54d [Double-cross, maybe] are SINGS and RAT ON, respectively.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ATARI has an online-only museum.

Paolo Pasco’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Business Insiders” — Jim’s review

I’ve been a fan of Paolo Pasco’s grids since he burst onto the scene a few years ago. While the theme here isn’t complex, it eluded me for much of the solve due to solid, thorny cluing throughout. Wrangling this one into submission was a fun process.

The theme is revealed at 65d, [Business abbr. that’s inside the theme answers]. We’re looking for added INCs in the long Across answers.

WSJ – Thu, 5.31.18 – “Business Insiders” by Paolo Pasco

  • 17a [Cook’s absolutely horrible cutting job?] DESPICABLE MINCE. Despicable Me.
  • 28a [Placebo meal for a goat?FAKE TIN CAN. Fake tan.
  • 48a [Carrier with a “Fly the Starry Skies” slogan?AIR VINCENT. Air vent. Some creative cluing here, but it’s a bit of a stretch since the Van Gogh painting is “Starry Night.”
  • 62a [Offer to some royal suitors?MEET THE PRINCESS. Meet the Press.

I didn’t get a whole lot of humor from these, but they feel solid enough. “Business Insider” is our impetus, I guess, for inserting INC within phrases, but it still feels odd since we usually see INC added on at the end of a company’s name.

The long Downs are really fun today with KEEP IT REAL [Slangy send-off] and DON’T RUSH ME [“Be patient!”]. However, I struggled with the latter because it was looking like ___TRUST ME for a while. I also love MOONMEN (37d, [Hercules fought them in a 1964 B movie]). Click the image to watch the MST3K crew watch the entire film.

IRATEST was the irritatingest of the fill. I also had trouble with STEPS TO (39a, [Challenges, in slang]). Is that something the kids are saying these days because it sounds awkward? SOMA (53a, [Body of an organism]) is another less-than-stellar bit of fill made harder because I’ve never seen it without a Brave New World clue.

As I said, cluing was thorny and ambiguous, but in the best way. Here are some of the ones that struck me:

  • 54a [It might cause a draft]. WAR.
  • 2d [Major suit]. EXEC.
  • 4d [Rays’ home, casually]. ST PETE. If you did Matt Gaffney’s WSJ contest puzzle last Friday, you know the team is the Tampa Bay Rays, but their Tropicana Field is in St Petersburg.
  • 8d [Opal, e.g.]. SILICA. Tough one unless you’re a geologist I suppose.
  • 44d [Eyjafjallajokull output]. ASH. Another one for the geologist. This volcano is located in Iceland, in case you were wondering.
  • 52d [Garfunkel and ___ (comedy duo)]. OATES. I don’t think I’ve seen their comedy, but I have heard of them. Ah, I knew I recognized this song (below). It was slightly modified and used in an episode of Scrubs. Pretty obviously NSFW.

That’s all I have. This one provided a good Thursday challenge mainly due to the crunchy cluing. 3.4 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Can You Field It?” — Ben’s Review

It’s BEQ time!  This is going up later than expected, but it’s been one of those weeks over here.  BEQ seems to be back in form with this week’s entry, “Can You Field It?”:

  • 17A: What wrestlers or lion tamers do? — WIELD CHAIRS
  • 27A: Task a busy witch must do? — ERRAND SPELLING
  • 48A: Those that smack vultures? — BUZZARD BEATERS
  • 63A: Swashbucklers that keep misplacing their rapiers? — SWORD LOSERS

A phonetic “D” sound has been added on to WHEELCHAIRS, AARON SPELLING, BUZZER BEATERS, and SORE LOSERS to get the theme entries.

enjoy some Gumby and POKEY

Fill of interest to me: JAKOB Dylan, #METOO, LUBE job, POKEY, OIL SEAL, FOSSIL, and EXURB

4/5 stars

Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword grid

LA Times

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31 Responses to Thursday, May 31, 2018

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I loved the NYT theme (and the shout-out to my employer at 26d).

    Really liked the ESTÉE clue, [Lauder making some blush]. Did it trick anyone into wondering, “Who gives embarrassing praise and has a 5-letter name?”

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I thought that was your employer, but in my haze of fatigue I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t mention it. Also loved the ESTEE clue.

  2. Something I can’t shake from the NYT, even though I liked the theme: How come 15A isn’t something like ARISE or AROSE instead, if only to drop TUE in favor of TIE or TOE?

    • Ethan Friedman says:

      what’s the advantage there? I don’t see TUE as a particular improvement over either of those. Sure, it’s an abbreviation, but it’s an everyday one.

      • philr says:

        No, it’s a once a week one.

        • AMUSE contains the Greek letter MU, and it’s right above a theme entry. I didn’t notice it myself, but avoiding it would have been easy enough.

          • To be fair, the extra MU wasn’t what bothered me (I didn’t notice it while solving either), though I can see why it’d be a good idea to avoid it.

            But to answer Ethan’s question, TUE is not only far less common in writing and (certainly) in speech than TIE or TOE, but TIE and TOE offer far more possibilities for cluing, where TUE is just the abbreviation for Tuesday, unless there’s a nationally famous person named TUE that I don’t know about. I think it’s fine to have TUE if it’s 100% necessary, but it’s not necessary here.

  3. Martin says:

    “Oates” also played Raj’s very neurotic girlfriend on a season of The Big Bang Theory. It was years ago when I still watched it. I loved her (Kate Micucci as Lucy).

  4. Michael Tong says:

    I study math — the ALEPH-null clue is pretty obscure I think and I was very surprised to see it. I don’t think it’s that well-known even among people who, say, have minored in the subject in college. Also, since I study math, I’m pedantic and wish the clue said the cardinality and not the “number”!

    • Steve Manion says:

      I am pretty sure that we had an infinity-related clue a few years ago with ALEPH as the key element and a discussion about ALEPH-NULL in this blog. I wonder if there is any way to retrieve that.


      • GLR says:

        I believe you’re recalling the June 2, 2017 NYT puzzle. The answer that time was the full ALEPH NULL. You should be able to get to the discussion by using the “Monthly Archives” drop-down in the northeast corner of this page.

    • Ethan Friedman says:

      I’m familiar with it and I didn’t take anything beyond a single college calculus course.

      I think it’s reasonable obscurity for a NYT audience.

  5. Michael Tong says:

    The theme is impressive and I think chip size taxi is the strongest by far. The fill definitely hurts in areas though because of it. I enjoyed the clue for MSRP and the shout-out to one of my favorite watch-makers, SEIKO.

  6. Jim Hale says:

    Nice puzzle and I loved the shout out to Aleph-null the smallest numbered infinity. While it may be obscure to some it’s a very deep and interesting concept discovered by Georg Canter who was able to see that different infinite sets of numbers that contain other sets of infinite numbers are actually the same “size” in the sense of cardinality based on mapping them to known infinite sets. For instance, the set of Integers and Rational numbers have the same size (cardinality) based on the fact that a function can be produced that maps both to the natural numbers even though Rationals appear to be bigger because they include Integers. Also that the set of Real numbers is 2 to the aleph-0 (null) and is a bigger infinity than aleph-0 and is actually the set of all subsets of the Natural numbers. In fact there are a countable number of discrete infinities each bigger than the other…. but I digress

    • Lise says:

      But it’s a great digression. As a computer science/engineering major a large but finite number of years ago, I took a boatload of math, but it was all applied math and I do not remember aleph numbers having been part of the curriculum. I have read number theory on my own, because that is an area where I find math to be incredibly beautiful.

      Perhaps we’ll get used to seeing this clue.

      The clue for ASPS, 18D “Not what Indiana joneses for” made me laugh out loud. And I thought the constructor got an amazing number of theme entries out of the Greek alphabet. I look forward to more puzzles from Dominick Talvacchio.

  7. Scott says:

    I love the Greek alphabet so I really enjoyed today’s NYT.

  8. Burak says:

    NYT: This is one of the best themes I have ever seen. Might even be the best. Amazing answers, clues, execution. Just brilliant. The clues are also filled with misdirections and puns and whatnot.

    So I should give this one a super high rating, right? No. Why? Because this is also one of the worst fills that I have ever seen. I hate with when a puzzle with such legendary potential becomes a drab because the constructor/editor just didn’t care about the solving experience.

    3.2 stars.

    • Richard says:

      Seriously, one of the worst ever? [[citation needed]]. I only count a handful of weak ones, and nothing egregious offensive.

      • janie says:

        no citation needed. burak is speaking subjectively, so the “worst ever” part is specific to his/her own solving experience.

        that said… pollyanna here sez no constructor or editor makes it his/her goal to overlook the solving experience. yes, for any number of reasons, some puzzles are more universally enjoyed than others; some are more polarizing. diff’rent strokes…


      • Burak says:

        I have an Excel sheet where I have been grading every single NYT puzzle since 11/21/2017. I have four basic categories: Fill, Theme/Long Answers, Clues, Pleasurability. Theme has sub-categories such as Cluing, Revealer/Execution, Creativity, Entries. If you have long, rewarding fill, they make up for the shorter glues. Basically what I’m saying is that every category is graded on a (mostly) consistent set of criteria.

        So yes, in the past 6 months or so, this was the 3rd worst fill for me, being only better than 2/7/2018 and 2/11/2018.

        I hope that satisfies the request for citation.

        P.S.: Again, by that Excel sheet, this is one of the best themes ever. I don’t know why that statement of mine didn’t merit citation requests.

        P.P.S: I’ve been solving NYT crosswords regularly for only about 1.5 years. So my “ever” is a relatively short period of time compared to many commenters/reviewers here.

  9. Ethan Friedman says:

    loved loved the NYT. Just a blast. And a fun (I think) new clue for MSRP too.

  10. Papa John says:

    Boy, I wasn’t able to get into this puzzle, at all. To start with, I’m not a fan of puns or nonsense phrases, so the theme did nothing for me. I thought I was filling in (too) many abbrvs. I counted nine. Is that too many? I had to look up Words With Friends, although ZYNGA seemed familiar. Here’s an instance of a truncated clue that I mentioned a while ago: 29D [Twelve] NOON. To me, the clue should read “Twelve o’clock” or “Twelve A.M.” Twelve is not noon. Certainly a well-made puzzle, just not for me.

    • scrivener says:

      I had a few issues with this puzzle (‘though I loved the theme), but [Twelve] was not one of them. It seems to me that if someone asks you when you’re going to lunch and you say “Twelve,” you mean NOON, unambiguously nearly all the time.

  11. Robert Zimmerman says:

    What is the connection between the clue “Mouthful” and the answer “Sassy”?

  12. da kine says:

    This week’s Fireball is the first one I’ve ever disliked. It wasn’t just Scrabbly, it was stupidly so. (Insert image from Cruciverbalist at Law that’s been displayed at the top of the feed since January.)

  13. Penguins says:

    I suppose I’m a bit tired and preoccupied but I found the NYT a slog. WSJ wasn’t a pushover either.

  14. roger says:

    To turn away from math for a moment, why is 56d, clued “Adjective and adverb, for two”, NOUNS?

  15. Joan Macon says:

    So where, please, is the LAT?

Comments are closed.