Thursday, June 7, 2018

BEQ 9:00 (Ben) 


LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT 12:00 (Laura) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball is a contest this week, so you’ll find the review on Sunday after the deadline.

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

NYT - 6.7.18 - Haight - Solution

NYT – 6.7.18 – Haight – Solution

  • [3d: Carbonated beverage, spelled as 33-Down might suggest?]: OOLEMNSDA lemon soda
  • [7d: Carbonated beverage, spelled as 33-Down might suggest?]: OOCHAMPAGNECLER champagne cooler
  • [9d: Carbonated beverage, spelled as 33-Down might suggest?]: OOJLTCLA jolt cola
  • [37d: Carbonated beverage, spelled as 33-Down might suggest?]: OOCKEZER coke zero
  • [33dR: Rises, in a way]: BUBBLES UP

So I’m solving this, and I know there’s something wacky with the long downs, and everything’s referencing 33d, so I hop over there, figure it out, stick the bubbles up at the top (wouldn’t carbonated beverages have CO2 at the top, not O?), and I’m still stumped by what 7d is supposed to be for the longest time. I get the gimmick (you gotta have a gimmick) but it wasn’t fun (unlike carbonated beverages, which are indeed fun — in fact, I’m enjoying one right now, a OGUINNESSSTUT). Also, 3d and 9d took the bubbles from both words in the entry’s base phrase, while in 9d they were only from the second word, which felt inconsistent.

Filled with bubbly goodness: lotsa propers, like BENNET, CAAN, KYLE, CARL, JANET, MEARA. I’m from the state in question, and [57d: Michigan college town]: ALMA barely registers. I really wanted [21d: Something often added to a carbonated beverage]: ICE to be GIN or RUM. At [20a: Big foot spec]: I’m all, please don’t be EEEWIDTH. Why wasn’t [40d: Food court regulars]: MALLRATS clued as [1995 Kevin Smith film]? In the words of [13d: Eponymous cartoonist Guisewite]: CATHY — ACK!

Queena Mewers & Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Animal Crackers” — Jim’s review

Anthropomorphic animals are taking over. Phrases that describe certain people are altered (by adding a single letter) to represent certain animal sounds. The animals themselves are present elsewhere in the grid.

WSJ – Thu, 6.7.18 – “Animal Crackers” by Queena Mewers and Alex Eaton-Salners

  • 17a [69-Across that’s a hot mess?] BAASKET CASE (EWE)
  • 28a [3-Down that’s really into the past?] HISSTORY BUFF (SNAKE)
  • 48a [54-Down that acts like it owns the town?] GRRAND POOBAH (TIGER)
  • 62a [10-Across that’s big in Hollywood?] MOOVIE MOGUL (COW)

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the theme while I was solving. To be sure, these aren’t new puns and the jokes are equivalent to what you might find on a kid’s cereal box…literally.

But once I started imagining a townful of animals running the place, I came to feel the theme had a certain charm. In a word, cute.

Except for the first one. It’s fairly inconsistent with the others which have second words that are related. POOBAH and MOGUL are almost synonymous in my mind. A BUFF isn’t quite the same thing, but is still an expert in some fashion.

Contrast these with BAASKET CASE which 1) is usually pejorative about someone suffering some mental instability (and mirrors the word “Crackers” in the title in an unfortunate way), 2) doesn’t describe an expert or bigwig like the others, and 3) requires a pronunciation change from the base phrase (unlike the others).

But, that being said, I imagine the theme set was hard to come up with, especially if trying to get the second words to be related. BUZZ and PURR might provide alternatives, but then maybe not. Ooh, how about [Major League 69-Across?] for BAALL PLAYER?

Ok. Well. Aside from the first entry’s inconsistencies, I like the theme. And including the animals themselves in the grid made sussing out the theme a mite bit trickier and put more constraints on the fill. It’s a nice touch that the animals are also symmetrical in the grid and that two of them cross theme entries themselves.

With all the theme entries and constraints, it’s not surprising that there isn’t anything too sparkly in the fill. CANE SUGAR is nice; ATTRIBUTE is just sturdy. The central BAD BOYS makes for the flashiest non-theme entry.

RHINO is in the grid and probably shouldn’t be in a puzzle whose theme is about animals. WRENS as well. I would have tried to remove them. There’s food for the animals to EAT, though: OATS ON RICE provide a lot of FIBER. The SNAKE can eat the WRENS I suppose, and the TIGER can eat all the other animals…or MEN if it likes.

Favorite clue absolutely has to be [Times up] for AT BATS. Sadly, it’s not new (it’s in the cruciverb database), but it’s still a perfect example of the beauty of a well-crafted clue.

Other goodies: [Leading indicators?] for BATONS and [Catch some waves?] for HEAR.

And then there’s [Double rainbow’s makeup] for ARCS which prompts the following video (which is now eight years old!).

Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

I looked at the grid, and at the circles, and knew the fill was going to be, to use a traditional English phrase, a balls up. The degree of challenge when your theme makes circles like that is extreme, and it never makes pleasant solving. Those corners are already big. The circles spell out HULAHOOP, WINDMILL, THEEARTH and CAROUSEL.

One corner has MICAS/UNAPT/SHEDON/CAPELLA/APOD. APOD is ridiculous; as a partial, it may be barely tolerated but ONPOP and IFNO represent the two partial LA Times maximum. DNY is the most desperate of desperation fill I’ve seen in a while.


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Counter Revolutions” — Ben’s Review

This week’s BEQ is called “Counter Revolutions” and it goes a little something like this:

  • 20A:Where Janet Leigh gets killed in “Psycho” — MOTEL BATHROOM
  • 34A: Energy provider that is filled with an electrolyte instead of an acid — GEL BATTERY
  • 41A:Thin crispy treat — MELBA TOAST
  • 49A: Make a disadvantage an advantage, or another title for this puzzle — TURN THE TABLES

Each themer has the word TABLE turned inside of it.  Pretty straightforward.  I had THE BATES MOTEL for 20A before I caught on to what the theme was, and learned that a GEL BATTERY is a thing.

Quick fill rundown: huzzah to QUAY, GEN Z, GLAM, OLGA KORBUT, and DOODLEBUG, boo to BIG D, REW, and EX GI.

3.5/5 stars

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33 Responses to Thursday, June 7, 2018

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    Can someone enlighten me about NYT 6D: “Part of a competition” being ‘INIT”?

    • Huda says:

      I think it just means that you’re in the competition– you have not been knocked out of it… It took me a while to figure it out…

    • Penguins says:

      “Part of” is referring to a competitor. As a competitor you’re part of a competition or “in it”. Dats how I understand it.

  2. Lise says:

    I think 37d was supposed to be COKE ZERO. This puzzle was really hard for me, even though I am a big fan of anagrams. Didn’t know BENNET or ALMA and for a long time I wasn’t sure about AMAS/AMAt. And Huda, thanks for explaining INIT.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      My bad—Laura had missed including that one in the list and I translated it to Coca-Cola by mistake.

  3. lemonade714 says:

    IN IT, as opposed to now being out of the field competing. I liked Bruce’s puzzle more than others, but what do you think of the unrelated to the theme clue/fill 21d: Something often added to a carbonated beverage: ICE?

  4. Gail Wollerton says:

    In the NYT, perhaps the O’s are intended to be the physical bubbles rather than Oxygen?

  5. Jenni says:

    One of those puzzles that is probably a construction masterpiece but a slog to solve even after I figured out the gimmick. For one thing, I’ve never heard of a champagne cooler. For another, I had SLY LOOKS instead of WINKS which gave me FOIL instead of MICA which caused no end of problem. Also didn’t know BENNET. And I had OLD SAW instead of OLD GAG; the correct answer feels like a roll-your-own. Not a great puzzle.

    • MattG. says:

      Raising my hand for OLDSAW. Also went LABDATA>RATDATA before finally nailing it down.

      Don’t know if I’m more bothered by EEEWIDTH or the inconsistent themers.

      • Howard B says:

        Wow Jenni, I could have written your description, as I had exactly the same troubles!

  6. Joe says:

    Agree with Jenni. NYT masterful. Not only do the o’s rise to the top but the rest remain intact.

  7. David says:

    Yes, the NYT puzzle was just awful. Thursday puzzles usually have a fun twist (like a rebus). But this puzzle was replete with arcana (ALMA?) and crap (INIT?!) and themers that I wasn’t familiar with (I rarely have champagne, and it’s never warm).

    In the end, I simply didn’t care. And I wasn’t impressed.

    By the way, in writing this, I never used the “bubbly” letter in the puzzle. It wasn’t very difficult.

  8. paul coulter says:

    Great LAT from Mark today. Excellent theme and remarkably smooth fill given all the three way crossings.

    By the way, in the WSJ, tigers don’t generally make a growling sound. They “cough,” sort of a harsh roar. They also “chuff,” similar to a purr, and grunt and hiss and moan. But I liked the consistency of all the animal vocalizations having a double letter.

  9. Scott says:

    I rarely dislike a NYT puzzle but this one falls in that category. Probably a bear to construct. Sure was a bear to solve.

    • AV says:

      One adder to my original rating comment – yes, this was made harder than it needed to be. One instance where the editors could have eased up a little on the clues so the average solver (i.e., me) could enjoy the theme more. [Specifically, ALMA, CARL, MERC could have been easier]

  10. Burak says:

    When I’m in the minority for a Bruce Haight puzzle, it’s usually because I hated it and the others were OK with it, but it’s different this time!

    Well, that doesn’t mean I liked it, but I think it’s an average puzzle. I really liked the theme idea (I had some problems with a Jolt Cola (what?!) and lemon soda (consistency please)) and I thought it was executed well. It was a slow solve, but I never got to the point where I just said “OK eff this.” It was challenging with a little reward.

    The fill went both ways. I liked almost all the longer entries: CATTREAT, MALLRATS, SLYWINKS, GIFTSET, RAWDATA. That made up for, as much as it can, the burning pile of trash that was the 4-letter words. Look at the list in alphabetical order: ABES ADUE ALMA AMAT ANOS ASTI ATRA BDAY… oh my gods they are all terrible.

    Overall, 2.9 stars.

  11. Penguins says:

    I give the NYT 5 stars for the gimmick alone. The bubbles/Os to the top is great stuff.

    Glad my comments are being posted now. A few days ago they were swallowed and just a while ago I got an error page or the page wouldn’t load.

  12. dj says:

    Puzzles are supposed to be fun to solve, the NYT was torturous. Cute theme idea, but the fill was pretty atrocious.

  13. Papa John says:

    It’s been a while since a NYT puzzle has put me through a wringer like today’s did. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it, once it ended. The construction is top-notch and the fill was torturous — what’s not to like? If I had worked the puzzle on paper, it would have been riddled with erasure holes. To add to my exquisite misery, I didn’t know a lot of the fill and had to work my brain to overcome my ignorance.. I don’t count that against a puzzle. That’s the challenge of it.

  14. JohnH says:

    I don’t like cross-reference puzzles, and the WSJ theme was, well, unexpected from the wording. But I do enjoy puzzles that keep me guessing this long about the theme, so some relief there.

    Unfortunately, as the review notes (and I see the ratings are uniformly low) the theme entries weren’t exactly killers and necessitated a lot of awful fill. The center with its Copes theme song, Dart Punk (who?), and “game” took me forever. So glad to put this one behind me.

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