Thursday, February 14, 2019

BEQ 7:15 (Ben) 


LAT 4:55 (GRAB) 


NYT 2:51 (Andy) 


WSJ 11:13 (Jim P.) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Universal 10:02 (Judge Vic) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Out of Bed” — Jim P’s review

Aptly tricky Valentinesy theme today which stymied me until I found the revealer at the bottom: 68a [Valentine’s Day gift, and what happened six times in this puzzle], RED ROSE. In six theme answers, the letters RED rise up from the main entry. You have to return to the main entry to get the rest of it.

WSJ – Thu, 2.14.19 – “Out of Bed” by Mike Shenk

  • 17a [Its motto is “Vita, Dulcedo, Spes”] NOT(RE D)AME. Some alum I turned out to be. I did not recognize this motto which translates to “Our Life, Our Sweetness, Our Hope.”
  • 18a [Prone to prowling] P(RED)ATORY
  • 34a [Components of kits] SNA(RE D)RUMS
  • 43a [Defeatist cry] WE‘(RE D)OOMED
  • 58a [Studbook listings] PUREB(RED)S
  • 61a [Uncalled for] (RED)UNDANT

I enjoyed this nicely-executed theme. I love when nothing seems to be working and then, with just the right nudge, it all falls into place. With quite a few long Across answers, it wasn’t always easy to see which were the theme answers, but once I got the revealer, I was much quicker at spotting the REDs and working out the theme entries.

That SE corner is a bit clunky in the Down direction with ON CD, D’OR, plural ANNAS, and British METRE, but that’s to be expected when it’s dominated by two big theme answers. I’d say it’s not bad, considering.

On the whole, a fun, tricky theme. A dozen red roses is the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift, but I’ll settle for half a dozen here.

I wouldn’t say there was a lot of fun fill; this is what happens when there are so many constraints on the grid. But everything was fair. Some of it was tough: BEADING [Moccasin adornment], GLEESOME [Joyous, quaintly], and HERBAGE [Vegetation for grazing]. And some of it was interesting: ARGYLE, DOMINO, GUERRERO, ESCOBAR.

Have you ever had this happen? You put in a word somewhere only to erase it, but then you find a place for that same word elsewhere in the grid? I have, numerous times. But I don’t think I’ve ever had it happen twice to the same word in the same grid. I had DOG at 11a [Monopoly token choice] then moved it to 32a [Lab in one’s home, e.g.] until it finally landed at 22d [Feet, informally] in plural form.

And that’s all from me. A fun, Thursday-worthy Valentine’s treat. 4.2 stars from me.

John E. Bennett and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 2.14.19 by John E. Bennett and Jeff Chen

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! ILUVU all.

Today’s revealer is 36a, OUT OF ORDER SIGNS [Some bathroom postings … or what the clues to 16-, 21-, 46- and 59-Across are?]. The clues to those four entries are simply anagrams of street signs (their letters are out of order!). Like so:


The revealer is cute, but I wanted the anagrams to either be wackier or more road-related. As it stands, I had a fairly ho-hum solving experience.

A few more notes:

  • I don’t think anyone could have predicted quite how topical an appearance by Ilhan OMAR [Ilhan ___, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress] would be this week. A fresh angle on a crosswordese name!
  • GLACÉ [Candied] and ELAN [Verve] formed a little French minitheme in the south of the puzzle.
  • I was in Twelfth Night in high school! I played the very minor role of Fabian, a friend of SIR Toby Belch.
  • Loved seeing I PAGLIACCI [Opera that famously ends with the line “La commedia è finita!”] in the grid.

And with that, la blog post è finita!

Debbie Ellerin’s Universal Crossword, “L-O-V-E Spell”–Judge Vic’s write-up

Debbie Ellerin’s Universal Crossword, “L-O-V-E Spell”–2-14-19 solution–Judge Vic’s write-up

Okay, we’ve got ourselves a Valentine’s Day theme signaled by the title. Now, if I can figure it out. Or, better yet, facilitate your figuring it out.

  • 18a [*Result of oversleeping (read each starred answer as a clue for a single letter!)] LATE START–Let me see. The word late starts with an ___.
  • 28a [*Vice president, e.g.] SECOND IN COMMAND–That’d be the ___, Bob! Uh, Deb.
  • 45a [*Balancing point] CENTER OF GRAVITY–The very center of the word gravity? Why, that’d be ___!
  • 60a [*Pen pal’s exhortation] WRITE BACK–And, last but not least, we end a four-letter word with ___.

Nicely done, Debbie, though we did see something quite similar recently in another venue, no? And the title is a tad bit of a giveaway, but … we’ll blame that on David. That, in no way, detracts from your accomplishment here. After all, what the world needs is more people who can correctly spell love.

Debbie’s Downers include some nifty work as well:

  • 7d [Chem lab substance] REAGENT
  • 44d [Very different (from)] A FAR CRY–This is not seen too often.
  • 46d [Heart on a bicep, say] TATTOO–This clues feels brand new to me.
  • 51d [San ___ (town north of Tijuana)] YSIDRO–Another item we don’t see pop up too much.

4.0 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 124”–Jenni’s write-up

Happy Valentine’s Day! Sorry for the delay in posting this writeup. I solved the puzzle last evening and then….life happened.

I also forgot to turn on the timer. This wasn’t particularly difficult despite some unfamiliar entries. Let’s see what we’ve got.

FB 2/13, solution grid

  • We start off with a Peter Gordon Trademark Very Long Clue at 1a: [Comedian with the joke “I’m walking home from school and I’m watching some men building a new house, and the guy hammering on the roof calls me a paranoid little weirdo … in Morse code”] I’ve never heard that bit, but I have heard of EMO PHILIPS, so a couple of crossing letters let me fill it in.
  • 16a [Long races, for short] are TRIS, a more up-to-date clue than a reference to the old baseball player. I have some friends who are triathletes and they use this term to refer to their races.
  • 12d [Part of the Constitution that defines treason] is ARTICLE III. For the record: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” The Constitution online has it as Article 3; other references use the Roman numeral.
  • Another reference that meant nothing to me: 45a [U2 song on the B-side of “Where the Streets Have No Name”], and the answer was again inferable from crossings: SWEETEST THING.
  • 55d [Cable channel] is the physical construct through which the cable passes, a DUCT.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: 25a [Progressive Canadian who isn’t a Grit]. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, a “Grit” is a member of the Liberal Party. This apparently dates from a 19th-century slogan for the Upper Canada Reform Party, whose adherents were characterized as “all sand and no dirt, clear grit all the way through.” A Progressive who is not a Grit is a SMALL-L LIBERAL. I suspect this was the seed entry for this puzzle. The string of 4 Ls in the middle looked really odd when I started to fill it in, and I enjoyed the aha! moment.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Go-ing Places” — Ben’s Review

It’s a themeless from BEQ today!

  • The heart in the middle of the grid is cute, as is thematically-related fill CHARM OFFENSIVES, HEART OF DARKNESS, and LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.
  • Less cute is all the three-letter fill needed to make this possible.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Dr. Pepper is the manufacturer of RCS (as in Royal Crown colas), but was less amused by all the abbrev. fill like TEL, ATH, WAC, ESE, PDF, RPI, OBJ, DSL, and the other shorties on the sides like ANO, OWL, and ACAI.
  • The rest of the fill is mostly RESPECTABLE, though I’ve never heard of ZAP MAMA.


Bruce Haight’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s theme features an unusual arrangement, though one still seen from time to time. TOOLSAROUND is interpreted literally, and the answers on the edge of the grid are all tools not clued as such. Most of the tools used have sufficient alternative meanings, though MALLET and HAMMER didn’t really differ too greatly, as there aren’t clearly alternative meanings. I also learnt today that there is a tool called a ROUTER: “a power tool with a shaped cutter, used in carpentry for making grooves for joints, decorative mouldings, etc.” I am not tool inclined.

The problem with these puzzles is usually that there is considerable strain in the corners. With two theme answers constraining fill considerably, things inevitably get out of control.

  • [“Little Book of Mind-Power” author], URIGELLER. Feels like the punchline of so many 80’s and 90’s jokes… Still not forgotten.
  • [Ending to avoid?], ANCE. Those noun-forming “suffixes” are supremely ugly as entries.
  • [Raise from three to four stars, as a hotel], UPRATE. Is that a real usage of this word?
  • [Fortune 500 IT company], TECHDATA. New name for me. Such a vanilla company name.

3,5 Stars

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20 Responses to Thursday, February 14, 2019

  1. Ethan Friedman says:

    Very European NYT — multiple French and Spanish entries and even an Italian one too.

    I wonder if any puzzle has ever hit all the major romance languages in one go: Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese ….

  2. Mary Flaminio says:

    This is probably stupid but wondering about WSJ title “Out of Bed” ? How does this tie in?

  3. AaronB says:

    Suggestion about ratings.

    I would find it useful if the reviewer’s rating of a puzzle (if they decide to give one) be listed next to the collective rating. This would be analogous to the Tomatometer and Audience Score at If desired it could also include ratings by other Fiend writers. As a slower puzzler who doen’t have time to “solve them all” this would be a great help. The ratings are not as useful as they used to be, with some puzzles getting close to the same number of 5s and 4.5s as 1s and 1.5s.

    Would that be hard to implement? Would anyone else find it useful?

    [I inadvertantly posted this earlier in the morning on yesterday’s comment page.]

    • Huda says:

      before answering your question about usefulness, I was trying to understand what you would see as the advantage. Is it just greater ease of seeing the rating, rather than scrolling down the review? Is it to encourage Team Fiend to rate?

      • AaronB says:

        Hi Huda,
        I’m trying to decide which puzzles to solve. I try AV Club MGWCC and Thurs. BEQ most of the time, but but would like to try others like LAT, WSJ, Universal when they are 4ish plus, or perhaps roughly the best of the day. (I no longer get the NYT, so I’d copy it at the library only if really motivated.) If I scroll down the solutions I’m likely to see spoilers.
        So what I’m really looking for is recommendations I can trust, not ratings per se.

        • Hi AaronB. I get that not everyone has the time or the inclination to solve every crossword reviewed here, but the Fiend ratings are not a good standard for determining whether you should solve the puzzle or not. They’re an extremely flawed metric for several reasons.

          If you’re not sure about whether you have time to add another puzzle to your routine, I’d recommend just trying each of those puzzles that you listed on different days and judge for yourself if you enjoy them. Maybe one day tackle a WSJ in addition to a BEQ. Another day try a Universal in addition to the AV Club. All of the puzzles you listed are fine ones. The ratings on each day will not change that.

      • JohnH says:

        I often compare the review (almost always more favorable) to the user rating, and just for myself I don’t find the task onerous.

  4. Doug says:

    LAT: I have a nit to pick: “One of these things is not like the others.” All the tools in this puzzle are items used by carpenters, masons, or other tradespersons, with one exception. The measuring device used alongside these other tools is almost invariably the retractable tape measure. In years past, it would have been a folding rule or carpenter’s rule (not RULER). Yes, a RULER is certainly a tool, and I still own several 12″ desk rulers. But it seems out of place in this particular list, because its place is in the home, office, or classroom, not on the job site with the other tools mentioned.

  5. anon says:

    NYT: “The revealer is cute, but I wanted the anagrams to either be wackier or more road-related. As it stands, I had a fairly ho-hum solving experience.”

    According to the constructor notes, the anagrams were originally very different, and were blandified in the editing process.

    • Huda says:

      Interesting! My reaction was that there was a significant price to pay for these anagrams. Lots of proper nouns to fill around the theme and with the theme answers not immediately gettable until you tumble to it. So, that sets the expectation that the theme phrases should be really cool Or the clues should be a lot of fun. Now, I am curious re what used to be there…

  6. NMG says:

    WSJ – might be nitpicky but 43a should be defeatists (plural and probably even possessive – defeatists’ cry) – since it’s “we’re doomed” – I had “I’m doomed” for the longest time. But of course that doesn’t work for the theme.

    • JohnH says:

      I found the puzzle hard, and less likeable than it was for others because of clusters of unusual words or names, like the Mexican state, the software, Pablo, Bryson, Faris, and a Britishism all in the SE. And I too had I’M DOOMED for a long time. But I think it’s totally legit. The person moaning WE’RE DOOMED is a defeatist (in the singular) precisely because that person isn’t speaking for others.

  7. LaurieAnnaT says:

    It appears that the site which hosts the AcrossLite versions of some of the crosswords (Wall Street Journal, Universal, etc.) is currently down.

    • Martin says:

      Sorry, yes.

      We’ve had back-to-back storms of amazing ferocity. My area has received almost a foot of rain in two days. There are mudslides and downed tree everywhere. PG&E is swamped dealing with the power outages, as you can imagine.

      Here’s hoping they restore the electricity tonight.

      • LaurieAnnaT says:

        Oh, I so sorry to hear that!

        Crossword access is not critical. Home and family are definitely higher priority!

        Stay safe.

        • Martin says:

          Thanks! We’ll be having a romantic candle-lit dinner tonight. Not the Valentines dinner I was expecting to prepare, but I’ll try to do something nice on our table-top butane stove.

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