Thursday, July 5, 2018

BEQ untimed (Ben) 


LAT 5:11 (Gareth) 


NYT 3:08 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


This week’s Fireball is a contest. Look for the review on Sunday after the submission deadline.

Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 7.5.18 by Randolph Ross

It’s a rebus Thursday! This one’s revealed at 40d, WIRETAP [What the four undercover orgs. in this puzzle might do]. And indeed, there are four three-letter wiretapping organizations in rebus squares throughout the grid:

  • 22a & 11d, GARDE(N SA)LE [Spring event at a nursery] crossing BEA(N SA)LAD [Protein-rich picnic dish]. 
  • 27a & 4d, BAY O(F BI)SCAY [Outlet for the Loire] crossing DATE O(F BI)RTH [Driver’s license information].
  • 44a & 32d, ENUN(CIA)TION [Clear speaking] crossing MAR(CIA) CLARK [Lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case]. 
  • 50a & 38d, MA(DE A) SCENE [Fought in public] crossing ART (DEA)LER [Gallery owner].

Eight lively phrases! No demerits for having a few entries where the TLA doesn’t span two words, since that would’ve been roughly impossible for CIA.

I have to say that I didn’t love the theme, or maybe I didn’t love the revealer. Four secretive US organizations in rebus squares is a nice jumping off point, but WIRETAP as the revealer left me a little cold. I don’t think a revealer was even necessary here, but if you had to include one, maybe… UNDERCOVER? You could argue that these orgs. are skulking around the grid where you don’t expect them, I guess.

What bothered me more was that Joel Fagliano did a much better puzzle based on this concept last year. They’re not the same puzzle, but they have the same creative jumping-off point (How can I make a crossword about secret organizations being secret?), and they both hide NSA, CIA, and FBI. I liked this puzzle just fine, but WIRETAP pales in comparison to Joel’s aha moment. (And before Joel, Joanne Sullivan treaded this ground in 2015 in the Chronicle of Higher Education!)

Overall, the fill was fine. I liked ALI BABA, I’LL LIVE, THE MOST, MA BELL, SKORT, and the aforementioned theme entries. GLAD EYE was new to me (and Wiktionary thinks it’s more a seductive glance than a pleasant one). A BEE, NODULAR, SNEERY, and a few of the short entries gave me pause, but there wasn’t anything unreasonable.

A couple of fun clues for short entries:

  • 26a, LIL is clued as [Wee wee]. Cute!
  • 46a, EMT is a [Chest thumper, for short?].

And a clue that I’m still confused about:

  • 30a, ARE [Ain’t right?]. I filled this in without thinking about it too much, assuming that the clue was referring to the grammatically prescriptivist idea that “are” is the “correct” version of “ain’t” (an idea I don’t subscribe to, but that’s beside the point). I was talking to fellow Fiend Erik about the puzzle post-solve, who rightly pointed out that even if that were the correct reading of the clue, “ain’t” means “are not,” not just ARE. So what’s this clue doing? Is it just an error, or is there another way to read this that makes it correct? If so, I’m not seeing it. Clarifying comments appreciated!

That’s all I’ve got. Until next time!

Gabriel Stone’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Staying Power” — Jim’s review

Bs and Bs are added to well-known two-word phrases.

WSJ – Thu, 7.5.18 – “Staying Power” by Gabriel Stone (Mike Shenk)

  • 18a [Protector for a little terror’s knee?] BRAT BRACE. Rat race.
  • 26a [Equipment for a football-curling hybrid?] BLOCKER BROOM. Locker room. A goofy clue, but sometimes I like goofy, especially when it’s imaginative.
  • 42a [Shiny bracelet?] BRIGHT BANGLE. Right angle. Pretty straightforward. Maybe a little too straightforward?
  • 54a [Battle of wits?] BRAIN BOUT. Rain out. A perfect clue for this one.
  • And the revealer at 62a [Place to stay, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] B AND B.

Cute theme with solid entries.  It’s a lot harder to find two-word phrases in which you can modify both words the same way, so I am much more appreciative of the effort that went into this. Go ahead, give it a try. We’ll wait.

To pull this off so smoothly shows there’s an expert hand behind it. And the fill bears that out with WAIT A BIT, ACID WASH, U.S. DOLLAR, SEÑORITA, BATHTUB, CLEAR-CUT, AT STAKE, and PET DOORS. (I love the clue for this last one [Domestic flaps], but I admit it made me nervous for a second.)

Speaking of clues:

  • 26a [Polish language]. EDIT. When I was solving, I read this correctly with the short o, but looking back on it, I can see how it might be misinterpreted. Nice clue.
  • 37a [Harry’s brother]. WILLS. Did not know this. Apparently Prince William’s nickname is WILLS.
  • 56a [“The Lion King” meerkat]. TIMON. We usually see a Shakespearean clue for this entry. I, for one, like the more modern one.
  • 26d [Produce porter]. BREW. This could be read any number of ways, but the first word is a verb.
  • 49d [Banner, when ruffled]. HULK. Far and away my favorite clue I’ve seen in a long while. This has nothing to do with flags, but the comic book character Bruce Banner (or David Banner, if you’re a fan of the old TV show). We’ve got two bits of wordplay going on in this clue and they mesh perfectly together. I don’t know if this is an original clue (I didn’t see it in the cruciverb database), but if it’s new, I’d put it up as an Orca contender.

An enjoyable theme that works, tons of beauteous fill, and clever cluing. What’s not to like? Four stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Over Time” — Ben’s Review

Today’s BEQ Thursday puzzle felt a little off to me.  There’s some cool stuff going on in the grid, but the rest of the grid left me a little disappointed.  Let’s start with the cool stuff, though:

The revealer on this one, UPDATE (72A, “Computer download … and a hint to this puzzle’s theme”) spells everything out.  Each of the theme entries is broken into two pieces, with the entry above it helping to bridge the gaps (and explaining to cool pattern of black squares in the center).

  • 19A/21A: Party without many women — SAUS(AGE) FEST
  • 32A/33A: Want something very much — HUNG(ER A)FTER
  • 43A/45A: Holding company’s offering? — STOR(AGE) ROOM
  • 59A/60A: Justify activity — HORS(E RA)CING

The AGEs in SAGE HEN and CAGE and ERAs in CAMERA and SOLERA help bridge the gaps nicely.  Justify is a racehorse that just won the Triple Crown.

“Little Dark Age” is a nice synth-pop song off MGMT‘s latest album.

There was plenty of fill that irked me on this one: RRR, DR X (which felt a bit on the obscure side, comics-wise – feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this), HTS, APR clued as “Patriot’s Day month” (since AFAIK, Patriot’s Day is just a Boston area thing?), OB-LA (as in “OB-LA-Di, OB-LA-Da”), ASU, OSU, and the use of both to clue SCH, ARCO, MPS, etc.  A lot of small fill that this theme may have needed to work, but which felt irritating as far as my solve went.

3.25/5 stars

Agnes Davidson & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

This one of those themes I only “got” after the fact. Nevertheless, a very clever and satifying category theme. Here, each theme answer is a STOCKHOLDER – a HOLDER of one of several different varieties of STOCK. A BIGBOXSTORE has stock as in merchandise; a CATTLEFARM has stock on the hoof; and a SLOWCOOKER has stock as in seasoned water. Very imaginative theme concept and execution!

Notable answers:

    • [Returning GI’s diagnosis], PTSD. Familiar four letter abbreviation, if dark. We don’t see it too often despite its potential usefulness.
    • [Bowen of “Modern Family”], JULIE. Not a JULIE I know or have seen in other puzzle. Making a note.
    • [Instant Pot function], SLOWCOOKER. Have only seen Instant Pot references from several other puzzle people on the Facebooks. Seems to be a current American fad.
    • [Cluster of small stars?], DLIST. CLIST is not in the language, yet A, B and D are. A curiosity.
    • [“A diamond is forever” sloganeer], DEBEERS. Music…


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32 Responses to Thursday, July 5, 2018

  1. David says:

    The NYT was a DNF for me. Too tricky even tho it was clearly going to be a rebus. I didn’t know BAY OF BISCAY, for example, and in retrospect that’s a huge stretch for a Thursday. Worst of all was the terrible crossing in the northeast: BEAN SALAD isn’t something that I’ve really seen on a menu. It has 4.5 million hits on Google, but I don’t love it. And GARDEN SALE just isn’t a thing, with only 481,000 hits, compared with YARD SALE, which comes up nearly 14 million times.

    Overall, this was a hugely disappointing rebus puzzle.

    • Lise says:

      You might not see BEAN SALAD on a menu, true, but it’s a ubiquitous dish at a picnic, which is how it was clued.

      I loved the puzzle, but I have my hand up in agreement with Andy on two SNEERY moments (I like SNEERY, BTW, and plan to use it in conversation soon): “Ain’t right” seems a wildly inaccurate clue for ARE; and WIRETAP doesn’t work (for me) as a revealer. I do like “undercover” as a potential revealer, though, if one is deemed necessary.

      I was happy to see a rebus puzzle, though, and it was especially nice to have different rebuses.

      • Norm says:

        ARE is the right verb in place of AIN’T, but I;m sure you knew that. There have been variations on that same clue over the years. Didn’t bother me at all.

  2. Ethan says:

    Something about THE MOST = ‘Maximally’ feels off to me. I can think of contexts that maintain their coherence when the clue is substituted for the entry, but I don’t think it works without subtly shifting the meaning.

    -Who is THE MOST qualified here? -> Who is maximally qualified here?

    Doesn’t “maximally qualified” mean having the most qualifications *possible*, rather than merely having the most qualifications out of all the people in the relevant group?

    Am I overthinking this? Anyway, isn’t there an old slang meaning of THE MOST? I’m thinking of like, someone from the Brady Bunch or Archie comics saying, “Gee, he’s the most!” Wouldn’t that have been a cleaner way to clue it?

  3. Erik says:

    Totally agree about the “Ain’t right?” clue. That looks like an error to me.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Agreed. I stared and stared at that and it added significantly to my time. The problem was compounded by this being a rebus puzzle; since we were still in the NW and thus not far into the theme, I wondered if there was an additional rebus square there.

      I, too, am operating on the assumption that the {Ain’t right} clue was simply an error unless someone comes forward to explain/defend it.

      EDITED TO ADD: Okay, I now see on the NYT Wordplay blog that, per Deb Amlen, the editors have conceded that {Ain’t right?} was indeed a mistake in cluing.

    • Karen says:

      “Ain’t right” was not used in my version of AL. Was clued as “live and breathe”

      • Matthew G. says:

        {Ain’t right?} was used in my AL version when I solved around dawn. So they must have subbed it out once it was called to their attention.

        • Norm says:

          I’ve seen similar clues many times (e.g., probably for ISN’T or IS NOT) and entered the ARE without even thinking about it (since ALI BABA was a gimme) or noticing that the answer was missing the negative. I’ll have to go to Wordplay to see if the constructor and/or editor had the same short circuit.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: I am amazed that a human being can solve this puzzle in 3 minutes (Looking at you, Andy!).

    Rebus puzzles mess with my head, and even after I uncover the trick, there’s still a lot of uncertainty… I’m sure solving a lot helps, but it’s some kind of processing speed!

    Even when I had CIA in place, I called her MAR(CIA) stARK and had “AtthaT” in lieu of ALBEIT and had to clean up that little mess. But that’s on me, names are my downfall.

  5. Lise says:

    Is there a CHE archive? I went to the site but didn’t see how to go further back than the links on their page.

    I would love to do the puzzle from your link. I’m not sure when I started doing the CHE but I think this predates the ones I’ve done.

  6. JohnH says:

    I liked the WSJ well enough, but thanks for the explanation of WILLS. I tried to confirm it by Googling “harry wills,” but that just got me a heavyweight boxer. Maybe they should have found a clue with more of an aha!

  7. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: I rather enjoyed this grid. At least, it was better than I was expecting. But I agree that WIRETAP is not the best revealer here. No revealer would’ve been better. (By that I mean it would’ve been better to have no revealer than that one.)

    My favorite clue was [Grace period?] for AMEN. Maybe it’s not new, but I love it.

  8. Bob Margolis says:

    From July 1 through July 4 I could not download Newsday crossword puzzles in Across Lite format. I learned why today as I tried to download BEQ’s puzzle in the same format. He directs solvers to download and install a new version of Across Lite in order to retrieve and save his puzzle.

    I installed the new Across Lite and was able to get not only his today’s puzzle, but also that of Newsday’s.

    • Art Shapiro says:

      Ignorant question of the day: where does one get Newsday in Across Lite format???


      • Bob Margolis says:

        Go to Diary of a Crossword Fiend at where you can download Newsday’s crossword puzzles in Across Lite format.


        • pannonica says:

          I don’t believe that’s so.

          • Bob Margolis says:

            I’m so embarrassed. :-(

            Too little sleep, I suppose.

            I meant to say the PDF format that just came out in a new version is needed to retrieve Newsday’s puzzles. Sorry for the confusion.

            Now I’m going back to sleep. No confusion there.


  9. AV says:

    I am amazed how our bloggers remember all the puzzles from the past … to me, the NYT rebus was quite a fine puzzle – except, I do agree that the reveal was so-so! The existence of previous such puzzles (which I admit were better, having now clicked on the links) doesn’t detract from this clean puzzle. I scored it a 4 – for the theme, the lively ALIBABA, ILLLIVE, etc., and overall fun Thursday experience. (Felt the need to comment when I saw the 5 solvers who gave this a 1 or 1.5)

  10. Penguins says:

    nice NYT rebus

    fun, clever BEQ gimmick

  11. JPM says:

    Since the Chronicle has been mentioned, why not give this one try. SPOILER ALERT!! It might be a rebus puzzle.

  12. Tim in NYC says:

    Ain’t is a contraction of “am not.” The phrase “I’m right, aren’t I?” would be more correct as “ain’t I”, since the form “are” doesn’t go with “I”. But the form “ain’t” has been deemed too low-class to use.

  13. Burak says:

    The only thing that was slightly above par for me in the NYT was cluing, but that wasn’t enough to save this puzzle for me. It was just boring, and imho it is really difficult to come up with a boring rebus puzzle. The fill, the execution of the theme, overall flow… It was just off. It’s all subjective, obviously, but yeah, that’s how I felt. 2.15 stars.

  14. JCL says:

    “[Banner, when ruffled]. HULK. […] We’ve got two bits of wordplay going on in this clue and they mesh perfectly together.”

    Just wanted to point out that there is actually an additional level of wordplay, if you count the fact that Banner is currently played by Mark Ruffalo.

Comments are closed.