Thursday, June 28, 2018

BEQ 9:11 (Ben) 


Fireball 5:53 (Jenni) 


LAT 4:42 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:03 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Dave) 


Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 6.28.18 by Jeff Chen

Cool concept today from Jeff Chen! It’s explained a little at 37a, ENTER [Key that moves the cursor to the next line … or a hint to answering five clues in this puzzle]. Five entries in this puzzle contain the word ENTER, except! The “ENTER” has been removed, and instead the second half of the entry begins on the line below, as if Jeff hit the ENTER key on a keyboard. Like so:

  • 1a/13a, TAKEC ( ↵ ) STAGE [Assume a leading role / –]. To assume a leading role is to TAKE C(ENTER) STAGE.
  • 15a/18a, CARP ( ↵ ) ANTS [Insects that nest in deadwood / –]. Insects that nest in deadwood are CARP(ENTER) ANTS. 
  • 32a/34a, USS ( ↵ ) PRISE [In sci-fi, it had the registry number NCC-1701 / –]. That’s the USS (ENTER)PRISE.
  • 49a/53a, THE ( ↵ ) TAINER [Classic Scott Joplin rag / –]. That’s THE (ENTER)TAINER.
  • 65a/68a, CHICK ( ↵ ) IYAKI [“Fowl”-tasting Japanese dish]. That’s CHICK(EN TER)IYAKI. (Weird clue for this one, I don’t think I like it.)

It’s a great bonus that ENTER is in the same spot in the grid that it would be on a standard keyboard (although the grid isn’t keyboard-shaped). Five lively theme entries, all using ENTER in a different way. CHICKEN TERIYAKI has to be my favorite, since it’s the only one that breaks ENTER up across two words. I flew through this one, but it put up a nice Thursdayish challenge!

Some nice long fill elsewhere in the grid, as you’d expect from Jeff: there’s FREE SPIRITS, SITS PAT, STILETTO, Chrissy TEIGEN, and OPERA STARS (with the lovely clue [Met people]). The usual dusting of crosswordese to hold the grid together, but nothing egregious in my book (maybe CSIS and ETYM?). Incredibly strange to see TON clued as [Style: Fr.]. There are plenty of ways to make TON hard without resorting to foreign languages, I think. I liked the cute SCYTHE clue [Wheat whacker].

That’s all I have on this one. Fun puzzle, worthy of the Thursday slot! Until next time!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword “Themeless 118” —Jenni’s write-up

I’m surprised my time was that fast, since I left a lot of blank squares on my first pass through the grid. There’s some fun stuff in this puzzle.

My blankness started at 1a [Spanish lollipop brand whose logo was designed by Salvador Dali]. After I circled back and got enough crossings to fill in CHUPACHUPS, I had a vague memory of having seen it before – so vague I have no idea where. This is the logo that shows up on a Google image search, and it doesn’t look all that Dali-esque to me.

NYT 6/28, solution grid

Other things I noticed:

  • 11a and 16a are both clued as [Comics canine]. 16a is ODIE, of Garfield fame. 11a is DAWG. Peter is referring to the pet in “Hi and Lois.” A Google search tells me that Lobo of DC comics has a bulldog named DAWG. Works either way.
  • 12d [Bar mitzvah, for example] is an ADOLESCENT. “Bar mitzvah” means “son of the commandment” and can refer to the person, not the ritual.
  • 14d [Skein game] are GEESE. “Skein” is the collective noun for GEESE in flight.
  • 26d [North Pole setting] has nothing to do with Santa. The answer is ALASKA TIME.
  • 30a [Root for peace?] is ELIHU. Root served as the Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt and Secretary of War under Roosevelt and McKinley. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912.
  • 37d [What the emoticon =|:-)= represents] is UNCLE SAM. I don’t know why I would need an Uncle Sam emoticon.
  • 40a [DVF contemporary] is an original clue for that crossword standard, YSL. DVF is Diane von Furstenberg.
  • 54d is also from the comics. [“___ with a mouth” (Deadpool nickname)] is MERC, short for “mercenary.”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that an ACACIA TREE is called a “wattle” in Australia.

Ethan Erickson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “C+”—Dave’s review

WSJ – 6/28/18 – “C+”

Hi folks–Evad in for Team Fiend member Jim today with hopes for a speedy recovery. Today’s WSJ puzzle is called “C+” and let’s see if it merits that rating. I’m not familiar with the work of this particular constructor, but I do see he gave us a puzzle in this same venue back in May. The theme idea here is not to just add the letter C to phrases but instead add the sound “cee,” spelled in many different ways, making the theme entries much more interesting to solve:

  • 17a. [Tool for pounding out dents from rough urban traffic?], TAXI HAMMER – I’m thinking the base phrase here was tack hammer, but it seems odd to me to have a tool that’s sole purpose is to do what’s much easier to do with one’s thumb
  • 25a. [Awards won by brothers bandleaders Tommy and Jimmy?], DORSEY PRIZES – here, door prizes is what the constructor started with. These guys go back a ways, both brothers began in the music business in the ’20s.
  • 46a. [Tent show featuring trained sheep?], FLEECY CIRCUS – my fave of the bunch; flea circuses remind me of ant farms and the idea of both of them really skeeve me out
  • 60a. [Simple schoolbook with a frilly cover?], LACY READER – I was going with lay leader first until the difficult crossing FACTOR IN fell

Fun theme, I’d rate the puzzle a strong A- instead of C+. I found the puzzle itself quite hard, especially since the theme technique involved adding different letters to each phrase. ROTOS harken back to an earlier time; it’s short for rotogravure or the technique of transferring images to paper. I’m also not familiar with DROODLES, or what the comedian Roger Price (another from the ’50s) called “a borkley-looking sort of drawing that doesn’t make any sense until you know the correct title.” (I’m not going into the rabbit hole to find out what “borkley” means) . Finally, I didn’t know that Venice gave us POLENTA; since it’s corn-based, I would’ve thought it came to us from Mexico. (And would’ve considered it among the many great things that have come to us across our southern border, just sayin’…)

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Skip Rope” — Ben’s Review

The theme of this week’s BEQ Thursday puzzle is pretty straightforward – it’s all in the title, “Skip Rope”.  This one’s not entirely theme entry driven, but here’s those three:

  • 19A: “This is really important!” — DROP EVERYTHING
  • 36A: Truck-driver who works for himself, e.g. — OWNER-OPERATOR
  • 52A: It’s really hot — HABANERO PEPPER

Each of these pieces of fill contains the word ROPE, and each set of crossing down clues skip the part of the theme entry where ROPE would appear.  Thus, “Skip Rope”.  Not the first time I’ve seen this sort of thing, but this is well-executed.

4/5 stars

Christopher Adams’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

The letters of GOLF move around from FGOL to LFGO to OLFG to GOLF – so a ROUNDOFGOLF. Thursday is an odd day for one, for those not retired or in executive positions… The best thing in the theme entries was WOLFGANG in WOLFGANGPAULI, because that’s just a crazy first name. On the other hand, that’s the only one that’s buried in one word rather than spread across too. That’s really only a minor thing though. HEARTOFGOLD wasn’t clued that way, but I’m sure many of us either thought of Neil Young or Zaphod Beeblebrox…

The biggest issue with the theme was that 11/13/13/11 is somewhat difficult to design a grid around. This monstly kept itself together, except that area around SODDED/IDEATES/ETO/DELE, which is a lot of glue to chew on in one sitting. The top right and bottom left corners are less crowded, and we have SDCARD (a novel, and useful entry) on one side and POWERADE opposite. Personally find the NBA angle the least interesting way to clue PELICANS. Most of South Africa doesn’t have PELICANS, but the Cape Town area is home to the Great White Pelican, a beautiful massive flying behemoth. I did also appreciate singer [One-named “A Seat at the Table” singer], SOLANGE and a clue emphasizing her own achievements, even if she is the 21st century’s Erma Franklin.

3.25 Stars

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36 Responses to Thursday, June 28, 2018

  1. janie says:

    fb: loved the gordon ™ bookended pairing of CHUPACHUPS/MUCKAMUCKS. while my first thought for [The man who clued too much?] was MERL REAGLE, did lol to see that the shoutout went to WILL SHORTZ.

    nyt: tough to suss out; tough *and* satisfying to solve.

    both: smartly done!


  2. alexa shortbush says:

    Funny…when I hit ENTER on my keyboard the cursor goes to the BEGINNING of the next line, not just below it.

    And encountering ENTER before I knew what was going on confused things even more. And having one theme entry broken up differently than the others was not good.

    Concept was OK but what a mess in execution.

    • pannonica says:

      Unless you’ve formatted for columns or similarly discrete blocks of text. Also, it’s very common to progress through crosswords by moving to the next word below an across entry.

      • alexa shortbush says:

        Enter Tab Tab will get you there. The left side entries require only an Enter. They are totally different and the formatting matters not. All the theme answers should be consistent.

        • pannonica says:

          Exactly how much verisimilitude are you expecting from a crossword?

        • Howard B says:

          The idea is simply that [Enter] moves to the start of the next line. Nothing more, nothing less.
          In that puzzle, it is 100% consistent.

  3. Michael Tong says:

    NYT was great. I liked that the revealer clue was easy, since I was bombarded with these — clues and so the revealer actually did help as a hint to figuring out the theme! It was a great aha moment when I was mentally going through famous Joplin rags and remembered “The Entertainer.” The longer downs gave the puzzle a lot of life too.

    Chicken Teriyaki is pretty much only a thing in Western countries — the Teriyaki style of cooking in Japan is usually only for fish, though (thanks to influence the other direction) is used for hamburger steak and meatballs as well.

  4. Lise says:

    This was a really great Thursday NYT. I got the conceit with CARPenter ANTS. They remind me of the friendly carpenter bees that we are trying to discourage from drilling holes in our house. We don’t want to off them completely. Just tryin’ to save the house.

    Long downs FREE SPIRITS and CREDENTIALS were wonderful, as were the other long and longish answers. I thought the crosswordese was supporting good fill. Altogether, it was a very satisfying Thursday experience.

  5. Dook says:

    I found the NYT particularly difficult. I think mostly because of the way that enter was used differently each time, coupled with people’s names in key spots who I didn’t know. Really don’t understand why “attics” is clued as chest protectors. You can store a chest in an attic, but does the attic “protect” the chest? Also, “sits pat” isn’t a phrase i’m familiar with as opposed to stands pat.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I think “sits pat” is a poker phrase – I’m sure Steve will correct me if I’m wrong.

      • Steve Manion says:

        Hi Jenni,
        I wouldn’t say that “sits pat” is completely wrong, but as Dook notes, “stands pat” is the idiomatic expression in poker. It is usually if not always a comment made by a commentator after the fact in describing the action: “Jenni stands pat; Dook takes one.” In the action of the game, the player would not say “I’ll stand pat.” Usually, the player herself would either make a hand gesture or say “I’m good” or maybe “None” if she did not want a card.


  6. Jenni Levy says:

    Really liked the theme – concept and execution. I figured it out at [ENTER]PRISE. TERIYAKI gave me pause because ENTER is divided over two words, which made the theme feel a bit tougher, which is good.

    I did *not* like MIA clued as [G.I. classification]. It’s accurate, but it felt like a slap in the face because I wasn’t expecting it, and it feels like they’re being clever with tragedy.

    • Lise says:

      I know – I was thinking, why not MIA Hamm?

      • AV says:

        I can guess that Eds./Jeff did not want to make the Chicken Teriyaki reveal an easy one .. hence the vague MIA clue. Hamm would be a gimme for a Thursday, and the reveal. [Ditto for __ factor]

        • Gareth says:

          That tiny corner was about half of my solving time… SHEEHY was an unknown and I wanted WOW factor. It didn’t help that I assumed I wouldn’t know the Japanese dish…

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Agreed. I thought that was a downer of a clue.

      • Papa John says:

        One may also consider the entry MIA as reminder of what some of our gallant military members endure to “preserve” our liberty. It may be respectful sign of recognition and remembrance.

        • Jenni Levy says:

          The “amusing” clue suggests it’s not respectful.

          • Papa John says:

            What am I missing? I don’t see anything amusing about the clue. It seems pretty straight forward, to me.

            Oh, well, I’m glad I wasn’t aware of any insult.

  7. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Inventive theme from Jeff, as usual. I kept wanting termites for the insect clue, but it just wouldn’t fit. Nice long fill, but there were some real rough spots. That whole DCUP / CSIS / USSR / USS section is pretty kludgy.

    I tried answering the TYPHOON clue based on the double-O. I had CHINOOK first, then MONSOON, both of which describe winds. Interesting how all three words have that same double-O feature though they have different etymologies.

    • Evad says:

      My first attempt was BASSOON!

      • Lise says:

        mine also!

        But it comes from the Italian “basso” meaning low, and interestingly, is called “fagott” in German, which comes from a word meaning “bundle of sticks”.

  8. Papa John says:

    Dave/evaD “…much easier to do with one’s thumb.”

    Try pushing in a carpet or upholstery tack with your thumb.

  9. Lise says:

    Dag Hammarskjöld is popular in the LAT this week!

  10. Penguins says:

    BEQ was a tad tricky. Good puzzle.

    • Alan D. says:

      It should be noted in the BEQ that the down answers WITH rope in them are also words in and of themselves. That makes it especially elegant and much harder to construct!

    • old meta says:

      I’m gonna catch crap for this I’m sure, but I question the intent of the reviewer. Yes, I paid nothing, and yes, I could do better. But why even bother, regardless of remuneration? There was a lot of interesting stuff that could have been discussed in this puzzle. The time it took to find and post an appropriate video could have been used to mention it. BEQ deserves better, and that is my point.

      I’m not being a troll, nor mean, nor superior. I just question why one would review a puzzle so sparingly! Time? Understanding? Help me out, here! Or flame away. Whatever.

  11. Burak says:

    I usually rate Jeff Chen puzzles 0.25 stars higher than this blog’s readers, but today that is not the case. This was a subpar puzzle for me in terms for pleasurability. The theme, as a concept, was really cute and creative, but the execution was rather lacking. (A keyboard shaped grid like Andy suggested would have been really good) I wouldn’t have minded that if the fill were more satisfactory, but alas, it was also mostly stale (even Mr. Chen’s own website puts this one at par with a Tuesday puzzle in terms of freshness). Oh well.

    3 stars.

    • AV says:

      Wow, tough crowd! But fair commentary for the 3 stars.
      (I would really like to hear from the 5 people who gave this a 1 star, though! :-))

    • placematfan says:

      These comments about “the grid would have been better keyboard-shaped” seem a bit naive. A bit spoiled. Have y’all considered the paradigm of Jeff selling that to Will? Or the paradigm of Will considering the cost/reward ratio of all of his outlets having to conform, or change whatever, to make that happen? The ENTER where it was placed was optimal, intelligent, and efficient.

  12. JohnH says:

    The NYT theme both challenged me (enormously) and worked for me, so for me a terrific puzzle. The WSJ puzzle just annoying, with (as pointed out) TACK HAMMER (although RHUD confirms it as a term) and DROODLE. I felt grateful to finish it, but not rewarded.

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