Monday, December 24, 2018

BEQ untimed (Vic) 


LAT tk (Nate) 


NYT 2:23 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


The New Yorker is running a holiday puzzle contest, so no blog post today! Here’s today’s puzzle.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

I think this is a record for me, and it’s certainly a record for a BEQ puzzle. I even figured out the theme halfway through! We’ve had a run of nice early-week puzzles lately and this one is no exception. Smooth, fun, and definitely Monday-easy.

NYT 12/24, solution grid

Each theme answer has a little something in the middle.

  • 20a [Features of some eco-friendly vehicles] are HYBRID ENGINES.
  • 30a [Dry region covering most of Botswana] is the KALAHARI DESERT. That always makes me think of “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” one of our favorite movies from back in the day. I haven’t watched in years and might cringe at it now, but “so that’s how the t’ing got up the tree” remains a catchphrase in my house.
  • 39a [It may or may not correspond with one’s birth sex] is GENDER IDENTITY. It would be perfect if it were “assigned sex at birth,” but that’s a minor quibble on a very good clue.
  • And the revealer at 55a: [Getting picked up by the side of the road … or what 20-, 30- and 39-Across are literally doing?] which is HITCHING A RIDE. I found the RIDE in the second themer. I like the added layer of HITCHING, which I think refers to the way RIDE straddles the two words in each answer and HITCHes them together. We also have BRIDE in the first theme answer – another kind of HITCHING – but not in the others.

This is a manageable amount of theme material for a Monday puzzle and as a result the fill is also smooth with minimal crosswordese. I’ll leave it to Zulema to tell us if BESO is accurately clued as [Kiss, in Spanish].

A few other things:

  • I filled in SAYOK from crossings and wondered if it was a Vulcan I’d never heard of. Nope. It’s [Give the go-ahead], or SAY OK.
  • 10a [“That was a bear!”] could be either PHEW or WHEW, so I needed WHEEZES at 10d to get it right.
  • 11d [Taboo alternative to beef] is HORSEMEAT, which does not pass my breakfast test. I know, I know, it’s all social conditioning, but ick.
  • I love 48d [Words to a josher]: OH, YOU!
  • I wonder when Will accepted this puzzle, and how close to deadline he changed 66a [George H. W. Bush had four] to past tense. See also 46a [Former attorney general Jeff]. SESSIONS resigned on November 7, and I know NYT puzzles are often accepted far in advance.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that I could solve a BEQ puzzle in under three minutes.

Dinah Blaetter’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Branching Out” — Jim P’s review

Lately, we here at The Fiend, get a tip-off whenever a WSJ debut is in the works. While that’s a good thing since we like to congratulate and celebrate a new constructor, it points out when a new byline is not a debut, but most likely another pseudonym for editor Mike Shenk.

Today is such a case. It’s also a female-sounding pseudonym, and I think we’ve made clear our general feelings about such circumstances. Laura put it all very well last week. I find it distracting and detracting from the puzzle and a disservice to the constructing community and especially women constructors.

So sadly, this puzzle started off on a sour note for me. If I’m wrong (and I would be glad to be wrong), I’ll make a correction to this post.

Be that as it may, let’s look at our grid.

WSJ – Mon, 12.24.18 – “Branching Out” by Dinah Blaetter (Mike Shenk)

  • 17a [Hollywood, informallyTINSELTOWN
  • 21a [Employer of Kirk and PicardSTARFLEET
  • 54a [Bedtime for kids and cadetsLIGHTS OUT
  • 63a [Bottom-dwelling fish with winglike finsANGEL SHARK

The central revealer, TRIMMING THE TREE, comes with the clue [Yuletide undertaking, and a hint to the starts of 17-, 21-, 54- and 63-Across]. Each of those phrases starts with something you might put on a Christmas tree.

A really nice themeset. I especially like STARFLEET as an entry and TINSELTOWN almost as much. But I’m not familiar with the ANGEL SHARK, though I don’t doubt it’s a thing. Let’s see if I can find a picture.

Very nice fill throughout the grid with the likes of MESS HALL, SKILL SET, MOSAIC, CONRAD, and a plethora of Christmas-related entries and clues (plus one EASTER).

One entry I really don’t like is 30d HAREM [Quarters for women]. I don’t think there’s any way to clue that word without recalling the sexist activities of overly-powerful men. It’s in a tough section where it would be difficult to replace, but it’s possible it could be changed to HARES with a re-working of that SE corner.

In the end, between HAREM and the whole pseudonym thing, the goodness of the grid was tarnished for me, despite the nice theme and theme entries. Maybe the grid treated you better; I hope so.

In any case, if you’re celebrating Christmas, have a peaceful and joyous holiday. The WSJ puzzle will be off tomorrow, but I’ll be back here for Wednesday’s grid. See you then.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword #496—Judge Vic’s review.

I really liked this puzzle, which took me about 20 minutes to solve, right from the get-go. You got your three-stack in the upper left:

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword #496–solution 12-24-18

1a Place to try out different plates TEST KITCHEN
15a Conclude with the help of known data EXTRAPOLATE
17a Bad losers SPOILSPORTS

and, Bang!, we’re off to a great start. Then, you got your lower right stack of

53a Order with everything DELUXEPIZZA
56a “L.A. Law” divorce attorney ARNIEBECKER
58a Giving a second look to REASSESSING

Fun stuff! And through the center areas, you got

20a Gardener’s supply PEATMOSS–My mom was a huge fan of peat moss, and I miss her this time of year.
29a Phrase said while brushing one’s shoulder off I TRY–Nice new clue for this old reliable entry.
33a Preparing fruit to send, say CRATING–A clever clue here bails out a boring gerund. Or is it a participle?
46a Medicine dose SPOONFUL–Nice visual here, easy to identify with.
3d Thread in a book STORY ARC–Yeah!
4d State of some FLDS marriages TRIGAMY–I don’t remember seeing this word in puzzles before.
12d W.W. II torpedo launcher PT BOAT
33. Classic gift that’s used every day CALENDAR
34. 2011 NBA Finals MVP NOWITZKI
35. Donut purchase ONE DOZEN–This reminds me it’s time for breakfast.

There are many other great clues in this themeless JEWEL. I am being asked to EXPEDITE review, PDQ, so that we can begin to wrap up our family matters here in Atlanta.

4.5 stars.


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10 Responses to Monday, December 24, 2018

  1. Jeff Mizrahi says:

    The NYT was awesome…until the South part of the puzzle. Wow, was that bad. MOORE x NICOL on a Monday? Yeowwww.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Huh. I figured if I knew MOORE (which I did), anyone who grew up celebrating Christmas would (since I didn’t). Never occurred to me that it was obscure. Sorry!

  2. JohnH says:

    WSJ definitely yet another pseudonym for Mike Shenk. I think, in line with the puzzle’s theme, it’s supposed to be a loose pun on the opening to the German lyrics of O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blatter).

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Ah. Thanks for that. I was wondering about that strange last name. There are better ways to anagram those letters into a name, but I see it’s not an anagram, but a homophone for the words that translate to “your leaves/needles” (per whatever web site I just looked at). The letters do anagram to “A bald thin tree” which makes me think of Charlie Brown, so there’s that.

      • Doug says:

        The seasonal theme must surely extend to the lack of difficulty of the clues, which amounts to a gift under the tree: this was the easiest WSJ puzzle in recent memory, even for a Monday.

  3. Lise says:

    When I try to pull up the New Yorker puzzle, I get a New Yorker page that says “Page Not Found”. I tried it with two different browsers. This is using the link on the Today’s Puzzles menu.

    Is there another way to get it?

  4. Penguins says:

    Great Berry TNY puzzle

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