Monday, January 14, 2019

BEQ 21:12 (Vic) 


LAT 5:12 (Nate) 


NYT 3:08 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


The New Yorker 4:50 (joon—downs only) 


Craig Stowe’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

This puzzle has the sense of humor of a preteen boy. It also has circles, and I didn’t mind them too much.

  • 17a [Facial feature that can be eliminated by cosmetic surgery] is a DOUBLE CHIN.
  • 23a [Disney World attraction] is the MAGIC KINGDOM.
  • 36a [Friend of Archie and Betty in the comics] is JUGHEAD
  • 48a [Speak briefly] is SAY A FEW WORDS.

Each theme answer contains something DISGUSTING, as pointed out in 57a, [“Gross” title for this puzzle].

I don’t like gross-out humor in movies, where the grossness is visible. I liked it here. It’s a fresh, fun, Monday-accessible theme. Was it perhaps poking a bit of subtle fun at the breakfast test?

A few other things:

  • 1d [Having everything in its place] is TIDY. We would also have accepted [What your house looks like after Marie Kondo leaves]. I still have some of my grandmother’s double-crostic books. They spark joy.
  • 5d [Insert a new cartridge] gave me a rare Monday erasure (or deletion, since I’m using a computer). It’s RELOAD and I put in REFILL first.
  • 29a [Continuously] is NO END. This is an expression I only see in crosswords. Does anyone actually use it?
  • We have a cultural clash at the crossing of 43a [“___ ed Euridice” (Gluck opera)] and 36d [“The Family Circus” boy]. I guess people are likely to either know ORFEO or JEFFY, if not both.
  • 53d [Tippler’s favorite radio station?] is WINO. I can’t let that one go by without posting this.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: it’s Monday and there aren’t any video game references. I got nothing.

Natan Last, Andy Kravis & The JASA Crossword Class’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Seems Good Initially” — Jim P’s review

This puzzle is more than just O.K.

Really. The theme is EVERYTHING’S OK (34a, [“It’s all good,” or a hint to the starred answers]), but there are plenty of things to like here.

WSJ – Mon, 1.14.19 – “Seems Good Initially” by Natan Last, Andy Kravis & The JASA Crossword Class

  • 17a [*Period of Egypt’s history known as the “Age of the Pyramids”] OLD KINGDOM. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this term.
  • 24a [*Gridiron gambit] ONSIDE KICK. This one I know.
  • 48a [*Apple analogs to PCs’ Alts] OPTION KEYS. Wow, that’s an awkward-sounding clue.
  • 55a [*1970s gymnast nicknamed “the sparrow from Minsk”] OLGA KORBUT. Best entry saved for last. Nice one.

This team of puzzlers has had numerous grids published in the NYT, but I think this might be the first one in the WSJ. Hopefully it won’t be the last.

This one’s simple and sweet. Just right for a Monday.

That said, there were definitely some things that slowed me down. I’ll get to that in a minute, but those are some beauteous corners (NE/SW) with triple-stacked 8s (which all cross two themers(!)). I especially like the NE with MONIKERS, LINE COOK, and the new-to-me AB INITIO. For some reason, I wanted AB INITIA, but thankfully it’s pretty clear that last letter needed to be an O. These three cross the irrepressible MAXINE [California congresswoman Waters]. The SW is nice as well with VERTEBRA and ENGINEER crossing one of my favorite words: BURGLE.

Things that slowed me up: ORANGE instead of the correct SIENNA (4a, [“Burnt” Crayola color]), PLEAT and then (strangely) PLAIT instead of PLAID (20a, [Kilt feature]), and SECURE instead ENSURE (47d, [Make certain]). But the thing that threw me the most was that I was convinced DDE was the [Pres. on a dime] (29d). This resulted in THE DLOP at 28a [First three community cards in Texas hold ’em]. It didn’t help that I’ve never played hold ’em, so for all I knew, that was correct. Obviously once I sorted out the central revealer, everything “flopped” back into its proper place. As you can see, all of that is pretty much the fault of my own brain misfiring, not through any problem with puzzle.

Other goodies: SPYHOLE and EYELID to go with Andy’s EYEPIT from yesterday’s NYT. Similarly, MALT appears here as well as in the theme of Andy’s NYT grid.

This was an O.K. start to the week that was better than just okay. 3.6 stars.

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—joon’s write-up

New Yorker crossword solution, 1 14 19

hello! joon here with the recap of patrick berry’s new yorker crossword. my custom is to solve these puzzles using only the down clues, and i must say that in the few short months i have been doing this, i have noticed that i have a much easier go of it on the weeks when patrick or liz constructs than when it’s one of anna, natan, or kameron (although there was a recent anna puzzle that i managed pretty well on). perhaps my sensibilities are more in tune with the two constructors who are (i believe) somewhat older than me than the three constructors who are (i believe) all younger than me?

whatever the case may be, this was my fastest downs-only new yorker solve, and it all went very smoothly. part of what made it easier downs-only was grid design: the single black squares splitting 14- and 29-down into two 4s instead of a 9 meant that i didn’t have to contend with entire corners of the grid where every answer was a long down, making it easier to put together the answers piece by piece instead of having to break in by answering one of the clues to a long answer without any crossings. but i also pleasantly surprised myself by being able to immediately enter 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-down, which then gave me HAVA NAGILA at 15a and MONKEY at 19a, and before i knew it, one corner of the grid was already done.

i should probably mention here, although perhaps i don’t need to since i did already say “patrick berry”, that the grid is squeaky-clean. that helps, too, when you’re solving without some of the clues and need to rely on the crossings turning into familiar entries. that’s not to say there was nothing unfamiliar to me in the grid—i didn’t know the vacuum cleaner brand ELECTROLUX or the musical instrument MELODEON, but both looked pretty right once i had the letters. i wouldn’t say there are a lot of marquee, “look at me” seed entries either, but it’s a patrick berry puzzle, all right. just lots of natural-looking words and phrases and an absolute minimum of crosswordese and junk.

down clues i enjoyed:

  • {Recipient of Kickstarter updates} BACKER. kudos to kickstarter for lending this not-very-fun -ER word some legitimacy; it’s absolutely what kickstarter calls the patrons who support a project.
  • {One going up and down in a plane?} Y-AXIS. wonderful clue.
  • {Liverpool street whose signs are prone to tourist theft} PENNY LANE. i had to come back to this a couple of times; my first thought is that it might be one of those delightfully rude-sounding british place names like CRAPSTONE or BUTT HOLE ROAD, but once i had the ___NY, the, uh, penny dropped. (it’s a beatles reference, erik.)
  • {What Streamline Moderne was an outgrowth of} ART DECO. i still can’t look at “streamline moderne” and not think it’s the name of a font. but apparently it’s an art movement.
  • {Numbers that might end a series?} NIELSENS. oh, that’s good.

it looks like i lucked out a bit, in that most of the cleverest clues were among the downs. scanning the across clues for the first time, i see {List of things to try?} for DOCKET, and that’s a fun one.

although the puzzle did land on the easy side, it was still very fun and good. 4.5 stars from me.

C. C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up

You won’t be “give or take” on today’s nice offering from C. C. Burnikel!

LAT 1.14.19

LAT 1.14.19

18A: MEMORY SPAN [Recall ability]
23A: DAPPER DAN [Well-groomed guy]
51A: CAREER POL [One making a living in government, briefly] – And one who should be ending this ridiculous shutdown so that hardworking federal employees can get a paycheck and pay their bills!
60A: MICKEY FINN [Knockout drink, in old gangster movies] – I’d be decidedly less excited about this entry if it were included by a male constructor.
62D: ISH [“Give or take” suffix … that can be added to the end of 18-, 23-, 51-, and 60-Across to form a sort of set]

62D is an unusual place for a revealer, but it works. Adding ISH to the last word of each themer gives us a nice set indeed – SPAN-ISH, DAN-ISH, POL-ISH, and FINN-ISH – which are all European nationalities. This is a neat theme idea that felt like a fresh way to mix up the “consider the first/last word of each theme entry” type theme. And there don’t seem to be many more European nationalities that end in ISH, so it feels like a nice, tight set. Thumbs up from this solver!

ROSA Parks

ROSA Parks

Other random thoughts:
– It was so lovely to start at 1A with ROSA Parks! Her act of bravery might not have been as unplanned as lore might suggest, but it was important and impactful all the same.
– I really enjoyed SCHLEPS crossing OH YES I CAN. That section felt fun and empowering.
– Ugh to SUPER PACS crossing CAREER POL. Not because they’re bad entries at all, but because those two things seem to be having a lot more influence on the way our country is going than they might should.
– I appreciated that SANE [Fit to be tried] and FAT [Budgetary excess] were both clued in ways that weren’t demeaning.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword #499—Judge Vic’s review

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday #499 solution, 1-14-19

Finishing in 21:12, with a lot of wild guessing down the stretch, I was humbled, to say the least. This puzzle is full of really nice stuff, but those items are not alone. They have company from a different class. There are some really clever clues. And some things that don’t much admit of clever cluing.

I got a late start, but ultimately was READY TO GO at this puzzle by late afternoon. Maybe I’d have benefited from an ALCOHOL RUB and a couple of DOUBLE IPAS. But alas, I would not EXCEL IN solving this puzzle. I would learn that I’ve been misusing FIXED POINT. Who knew that it was a mathematical term of art, [A reproducible invariant temperature in physics, e.g.]? I will not tell exactly how I’ve misused it. I bet other non-math-and-science guys out there have misused it in the same way. The crossers were of little help, as I’d locked in on OLD, rather than ELD and was unfamiliar with Fios, so could not get XFINITY on its own. I have more excuses, but they’re really boring. And when I saw the clue [5/2(sa), for a pentagon] at 38a for  AREA, I entertained the thought, however fleetingly, that maybe BEQ’s inner scientist was showing off.

As for 15a [Social media marketer] INFLUENCER, I was looking for a term of art, instead of this totally legit word that no one every really says or writes. And at one point the crossers were showing me IN?LUEW??, since I had guessed wrong early with TWO-OUT where ONE-OUT was called for. Forgive me, that was not very polite. Speaking of which, [Was polite, e.g.] is a nice clue for SAID PLEASE at 17a. Shoulda been real easy. I made it hard.

Kudos for 63a [Concerning over-the-ocean flying] AEROMARINE, for 65a [Places for some baby dolls] DRESS RACKS, and for the original clue [River the Ponte Santa Trìnita bridge spans]  for ARNO at 64a.

I did not know 18a [“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” voice actor Schreiber] LIEV, though I now see that I should have from many other crosswords. Plus, I did not know JENNA Jameson at 21a or FIENNES at 13d. Other than that, I CAN’T SAY FOR SURE exactly why this puzzle gave me so much trouble.

With OER, CSN, IRA, PHD, JRS, TRE, ELD, & ARG, to say nothing of  ET TU & SRAS, there was a fair amount not to get excited about.

3.0 stars.

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26 Responses to Monday, January 14, 2019

  1. Rob S says:

    Jenni: Thanks for the George Carlin comedy routine! I did not know (until 5 seconds ago) that he hosted the first episode of SNL in 1975. In my book, George Carlin and Richard Pryor were the two best stand up comedians ever.

    I was not a big fan of this puzzle, but as Amy always says, “Your mileage may vary”

  2. David Steere says:

    Universal Sunday Crossword: I hope a few of you had a chance to do this delightful puzzle by Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen, SEIZE THE DAY. It is part of David Steinberg’s new editorship at Universal. Print-only for now. Wonderful.

    • Lise says:

      Thanks, David! I printed both Sundays: the one you mentioned and the 1/6, by Erik Agard, Dog Team, which also looks good.

      • David Steere says:

        Hi, Lise. Out of curiosity, which newspaper provided the puzzles for you? I’ve asked David for a list but he hasn’t responded yet. Since 1/6 was my birthday, I’ll need to find that puzzle, too!

        • Brian says:

          “Among the many new venues that run the 15x15s are The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Seattle Times; new venues that run both the 15x15s and the 21x21s include the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Daily News, and the Miami Herald.”

          per an email from David a couple weeks ago. Hope this helps :)

          • WhiskyBill says:

            I don’t live in Chicago, New York, or Miami. A cursory search online revealed no easy way to get the 21×21.

            Is there a straightforward online method I missed?

        • Lise says:

          Hi David! I got both puzzles online – there’s a pdf containing both of them. I went to the site:

          and in the search box I typed “universal sunday crossword” (no quotes) and clicked “search”.

          A bar appeared with the words “Overview” “Creator” “Samples” “Sales Contract” above the image (of Erik’s crossword) that came up; I clicked “Samples” to get the pdf.

          I don’t know whether this will work for very many weeks, but the first two Sundays are available in this manner.

          Happy Birthday!

          • WhiskyBill says:

            That worked! Thank you!

          • David Steere says:

            Worked for me, too, Lise. I appreciate your determination and ingenuity. I do suspect this may not keep working for a “print only” puzzle but we shall see. Very kind of you!

          • David Steinberg says:

            Great find, Lise! I’ll be sure to make note of this for future inquiries about where to find the Universal Sunday Crossword. Also, thanks to everyone for the kind words!

  3. David L says:

    New Yorker: ‘one going up and down in a plane’ — Y AXIS

    I figured that was the desired answer, but I’m struggling to make sense of the clue. The y axis is a fixed line in space. A plane might be defined as a suitable set of x and y coordinate values, or an airplane might follow a path defined by changing x, y and z coordinate values. Whatever’s intended, I don’t see how the y axis is going up and down in either case.

    • PJ Ward says:

      I’ve been referring to the x-axis as the horizontal axis and the y-axis as the vertical axis for longer than I want to say.

    • andrea says:

      If you think about it a bit less technically / more colloquially, the X-axis goes left-to-right, and the y-axis goes up and down.

    • Lise says:

      I think the problem is with interpreting the word “going”. If you replace it with the word “extending”, the clue/answer relationship is correct, because the y-axis extends up and down in the xy-plane. We use the word “going” colloquially to mean a lot of different things, and its use in this clue is within those boundaries.

      • David L says:

        Thanks, Lise — I think the ambiguity in ‘going’ is the key point. I still find it an awkward clue, though.

        If you’re thinking of a graph with x and y axes, then I agree that x is horizontal and y is vertical. But if the clue refers to an airplane — I don’t know if does, but that’s what first came to my mind — then usually xy defines the horizontal directions and z is vertical.

        PS I may well be overthinking this!

        • Lise says:

          That’s a great way to look at it, with the airplane and the z-axis. It’s a clever clue that can spawn this much discussion.

  4. Milo says:

    As someone born after 1980, ORFEO JEFFY ULEE and JUGHEAD were all foreign to me. Not seeing the “cultural clash” between opera and Family Circus — both things only old white people know about.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I was thinking “highbrow” vs “lowbrow” but you certainly have a point. I haven’t watched “Riverdale” – does Jughead not appear?

    • Lois says:

      Milo, you might not know the wonderful music by Gluck, but the classic story of Orpheus and Eurydice has appeared in many forms and spelling variations. (And I have seen many black and young people at attendance at the opera, despite your snide remark.) I guess it’s a tough crossing for Monday, but I think that the story of Orpheus is very well known, and sometimes you have to try a little with spelling changes in various languages. I didn’t know The Family Circus, but JEFFY was guessable from the crossing for me with both JUGHEAD and ORFEO. I see that if you haven’t heard of JUGHEAD it does get too tough, and I can’t require that people would have heard of him or Archie or have watched Riverdale (I haven’t done the latter either). I do know children who know that reference pretty well, though, as the Archie comics are available at newsstands and candy stores. In general, I don’t go for the disparagement of things old white people know. I would rather disparage you for not YET knowing Gluck or about Orpheus. We have to put up with plenty of references in crosswords from your generation.

  5. Brian says:

    Awesome bonus downs in CC’s LAT!

  6. pannonica says:

    New Yorker: I feel the clue for 23d PENNE is a poor one. [Pasta whose name means “feathers”]. While it’s technically true, the pasta is so named because they resemble pens—or more accurately—quills, which of course were originally made from bird feathers.

    When we see ‘feather’ nowadays, our primary association is with the vane rather than the calamus and rachis. Whence our sense of ‘feathery’ and so forth.

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