Wednesday, February 6, 2019

AV Club 6:54 (Ben) 


LAT 4:43 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:30 (Amy) 


WSJ 6:35 (Jim P) 


Universal 8:21 (Judge Vic) 


Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Bargains” — Jim P’s review

The title should be read as “BAR gains.” Each theme entry is made of a base phrase plus the trigram “BAR.” In a nod toward consistency, each modified word becomes a famous person’s name.

WSJ – Wed, 2.6.19 – “Bargains” by Zhouqin Burnikel

  • 16a [Sultry Brigitte at an Oktoberfest dance party?] POLKA BARDOT. Polka dot. Nice entry. I like the pronunciation change as well.
  • 23a [“Sea of Love” co-star Ellen locking lips on the set?] KISSING BARKIN. Kissing kin. I have only ever heard “kissing cousin,” so this doesn’t ring true to me, but it checks out.
  • 48a [Bank robber Clyde working in a food-packing factory?] CANNERY BARROW. Cannery Row. I didn’t know Clyde’s surname, so I had to rely on crosses. Cannery Row, Monterey Bay, Carmel, and the whole 17-Mile Drive comprise some of my favorite locales in America. Crossword staple Fort Ord is nearby as well.
  • 58a [Nurse Clara unable to pay the bill?] SHORT BARTON. Short ton. I’m not very familiar with this base phrase. But I guess it’s what we Yanks call a “ton,” i.e. 2000 lbs. A “long ton” is the UK standard, or 2240 lbs.

I do really like the touch of consistency here by making all the new words into people’s names, even if it meant going with some more unfamiliar phrases. It makes me wonder if there is some significance to that three-letter string within a name. tells me it might be related to Old English “bere” or “bær” meaning “barley,” at least in the name BARTON which would have meant “barley town.”

Grid goodies: BIRD WATCH with a cute clue [Keep an eye on the flight crew?], BIT PARTS, MILA KUNIS, FAIR USE, and EN SUITE.

Yes, this seems like an accurate depiction of lunchtime.

Clues of note:

  • 28a [Gag reflexes?]. LAUGHS.
  • 30a [Round units]. BEERS. Nice deception there since it’s lacking the question mark. See also 54a [Circular units], ADS.
  • 32a [“The Luncheon on the Grass” painter]. MANET. I went with MONET first, and you did, too, didn’t you?
  • 33a [Cadge]. BUM. New word to me. Unfortunately, it gives no indication as to whether it means a down-on-their-luck person, a posterior, or to borrow something. (It’s the latter.)

Very nice puzzle. Four stars from me.

Queena Mewers & Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 6 19, no 0206

What a fun theme! A bunch of Down clues just say “[See notepad],” and I most certainly did not see the notepad. It’s Wednesday, so the crossings gave me enough to figure out that the unclued Down answers were the Spanish translations of the Across answers sharing the same starting square. We’ve got 1a SUN and 1d SOL , FIRE/FUEGO, MOTHER/MADRE, HELLO/HOLA, EAST/ESTE, CITY/CIUDAD, and NIGHT/NOCHE. The only other square that starts both Across and Down answers is 44, where you find the revealer, 44a. [Language of the answers to this puzzle’s uniclues], ENGLISH crossing ESPAÑOL. I enjoyed the heck out of the theme. (What’s the Spanish equivalent of “heck”?)

The .puz file’s notepad says: “In the newspaper version of this crossword, the clues appear in a single list, combining Across and Down. When two answers share a number, they also share a clue.”

Fave fill: “I NEED A NAP” (I did have a long day), KNOCKOUT, DIYER, RANKLE, and Spelling Bee puzzle regular RATATAT. I didn’t love all the fill—URAL ADORER URI NIBBLERS IRT ERIEPA, for example.

Five more things:

  • 54a. [Prime-time time], NIGHT/NOCHE. Anyone else go for EIGHT p.m. and then struggle to figure out in what language EOCHE could mean “eight”? No? Just me?
  • 59a. [Hair-coloring technique], DIP DYE. I don’t know this term. Here’s a DIY video demonstrating how to do it (and with no dipping whatsoever).
  • 62d. [Facility at Quantico, Va.: Abbr.], OCS. I didn’t know the Marine Corps’ officer candidate school was in Quantico. The FBI Academy and lab, the DEA training site, NCIS, and other governmental entities are also located there.
  • 11d. [Call to the hounds], HALLOO aptly touching 27d. [Sadistic], CRUEL. Fox hunting references are … not the best.
  • 26a. [Help for a star witness?], TELESCOPE. Cute clue!

4.2 stars from me. Would be 4.5 for the theme, but the fill brought it down a bit.

Gary Cee’s Universal Crossword, “Mixed Messages”–Judge Vic’s write-up

THEME:  In this 76-answer grid—with eleven three-letter answers—Gary gives us:

Gary Cee’s Universal Crossword, “Mixed Messages,” 2-6-19, solution


  • 20a [Certain a cappella performers] MADRIGAL SINGERS
  • 26a [Cocktail vessel] MARTINI GLASS
  • 44a [German fish delicacy] HERRING SALAD
  • 52a [Cable company’s encryption, or what connects both words in 20-, 26- and 44-Across] SCRAMBLED SIGNAL

Self-explanatory! (Anagrams of SIGNAL span the theme answers’ units. Look closely!) Plus, there are the following nicely crafted non-theme entries:

  • 9d Kind of hold’em NO LIMIT
  • 11d Amazingly effectively LIKE MAGIC
  • 33d 60-100 bpm, normally HEART RATE
  • 41d “Line” over the eyes UNIBROW
  • 43d Savor a compliment EAT IT UP

Well done!

3.5 stars.

Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “Move to the Middle” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 2/6/19 — “Move to the Middle”

EDIT:  oops!  totally forgot to clear out the old intro from my draft post and address this week.  Aimee Lucido has this week’s AVCX, which does not look like a cat face and has a much different theme:

  • 18A: Underground bunker stocked with sweet tropical fruit? — MANGO CAVE
  • 12D: Buying clothing with pictures of yourself on it? — EGO-COMMERCE 
  • 36A: “Uff da” or “You’re darn tootin’!”? — FARGO CRY
  • 26D: Kinshasan painter, e.g.? — CONGO ARTIST
  • 59A: Intermediary … and a hint to this puzzle’s intermediaries — GO-BETWEEN

This one’s pretty straightforward – various phrases of some standard repute (MAN CAVE, E-COMMERCE, FAR CRY, CON ARTIST) have GO added somewhere in their middle to make new, sillier phrases.  FARGO CRY is my favorite as someone who grew up in that neck of the midwest.  I love it!

At some point I will run out of Masked Singer video clips to tie to crosswords, but for now, UNICORNS may sneeze glitter according to the internet, but they also have DEEPLY FRIGHTENING backup dancers and cannot sing.

other fill notes: this was pretty clean for the wide distribution of theme entries, with BROMANCE (especially the one on Brooklyn Nine-Nine), MUCUS, HARRY Styles, NUVARING, GUMSHOE (which my brain always reads in Lynne Thigpen’s voice), ON RECORD, and ENIGMA as particular favorites.

4/5 stars.

Jerry Edelstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Being confronted by a seemingly unnecessary block at 1A is startling. Turns out the reason is the two part revealer LOOSE/PARTS, which sounds slightly off as a phrase. When you have an extra block, why do you need AMESS and JRS? I don’t see what’s so interesting about HAJJ as an entry that it’s worth that.

Back to the theme. The revealer asks you to anagram PARTS – but although that can make SPRAT, STAP, TRAPS, TARPS and PRATS – we instead get the “spanning across two parts of the theme” shtick, which normally feels a little like a cop out. HEARTSPECIALIST is a nice central 15, and was probably my favourite thing in the grid.


  • [Monster party], BASH. “Do the Monster Bash!” What, you didn’t also fill mash in here?
  • [Corkscrew pasta], ROTINI. Not allowed in Spelling Bee yet, for some reason.
  • [Bloke], GUV. I expect some people will end up with GUY here, though IYES is a less than plausible surname.

2,25 Stars

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17 Responses to Wednesday, February 6, 2019

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: I agree with Amy. This was cute and different. Not sure why early ratings seem low…
    (and I too entered EIGHT before NIGHT)

  2. sandy says:

    About WSJ/Manet’s “Luncheon on the Grass”: If you can’t get to Paris to see the real thing but find yourself in Hamilton, NJ, visit the Grounds for Sculpture, a fantastic sculpture park that includes this work by Seward Johnson:

  3. David L says:

    I was going to object that HELLO and HALLOO oughtn’t to be in the same grid but apparently they are not etymologically related. I still think it’s inelegant to have such similar words appearing together, however.

    I actually knew all of the Spanish words, so that’s a plus.

    A minus for me: I really don’t want to see an ARSE bared at me when I do the crossword. I guess to American readers it counts as foreign and therefore kinda cute. It’s not a dreadful word but it doesn’t pass my breakfast test.

  4. Ethan Friedman says:

    loved the NYT, that was fun. I usually care less about entries that echo each other than some here seem to do but HALLOO echoing HELLO did bother me a bit. Otherwise, solid puzzle with a strong enough theme to forgive the bits of dry fill

  5. Chris says:

    I thought the NYT was a nice theme, especially for a mediocre solver such as myself. It’s one I hadn’t seen before so it was an enjoyable solve.

    I am, however, a little confused how the hound hunting clue was inferred to mean fox hunting specifically; organized fox hunts have been banned in this country for years to my knowledge. Hounds are used to hunt a variety of other species, including rabbits, raccoons, coyotes, deer, hogs, and mountain lions. Also for tracking and locating services.

    • Lise says:

      If by “this country” you mean the USA, organized fox hunting has not been banned. Sadly, hunts still happen here in Virginia, and possibly in Maryland. Horse Talk Magazine describes mounted fox hunting as “a way to preserve history and enjoy the beautiful Virginia countryside.” I doubt that the fox enjoys it quite as much. I don’t know whether or not they cry “HALLOO”.

      • Steve Manion says:

        I have never heard the word HALLOO before this puzzle. I always thought the word to describe urging the hounds on was YOICKS, which I learned many years ago when I had a Sporcle type obsession with obscure vocabulary.


    • Steve Manion says:

      In England, fox hunting with dogs has been outlawed since 2004. In the U.S., there is a federal wild life association, but its jurisdiction does not cover foxes. which are subject to state by state laws. Here is a link:


  6. Hesky says:

    The AVCX review seems to start with a copy paste from a previous review.

    • Ben Smith says:

      Yep! I work from the same draft post when I write these and totally spaced on deleting/re-writing my intro like I meant to.

      Thank you for being eagle-eyed on this — don’t crossword blog without caffeinating first, folks.

  7. Michael says:

    I initially thought 44A was going to be a Schrodinger answer, allowing ENGLISH and SPANISH to fit into the same squares. But when I realized it was one of the uniclues, it gave me a true, satisfying “aha!” moment! What an appropriate revealer.

  8. Matt Gaffney says:

    Agree that the NYT theme is beautiful, especially as the clues were presented at the tournament.

  9. Gareth says:

    Coming across ORI/URI and REL early on I was really wondering what kind of payoff there would be here. But this seem is so beautiful as it emerged. Really some of the best use of foreign language words in a crossword puzzle I have seen.

  10. Max says:

    Just to clarify something:

    “various phrases of some standard repute (MAN CAVE, E-COMMERCE, FAR CRY, CON ARTIST) have GO added somewhere in their middle to make new, sillier phrases”

    It’s not “somewhere” – it’s actually strictly *between* the two words (or, in the case of “E-COMMERCE,” word and one-letter acronym). So the themer is actually more impressively rigorous and precise than that description implies.

  11. Leonard says:

    Doing the NYT in the paper, it was near impossible to not look for high number across clues and low number down clues where they would normally appear, rather than where they appear when it’s one long list of clues. Sort of frustrating, but sort of intriguing how something like that can get so imprinted in my brain. I never made the adjustment, which either says something about me, or humans in general.

    • Lois says:

      I agree with you, Leonard. I barely improved all the way through the puzzle in the way I looked for the clue numbers. But the next day, I operated for a while as though I were doing the uniclue puzzle.

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