Monday, February 18, 2019

AV Club untimed (Amy) 


BEQ DNF (Jim Q) 


LAT untimed (Nate) 


NYT 3:33 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 8:31 (Laura) 


Universal 5:52 (Judge Vic) 


No WSJ puzzle today due to the Presidential holiday. Celebrate by telling us your favorite fictional president (either a fictional character or an actor portraying an actual president) and why.

Leslie Rogers & Andrea Carla Michael’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Leslie Rogers makes her NYT debut in collaboration with Andrea Carla Michaels, who is a superb constructor and mentor. Check out their comments on Wordplay for details on their work together. Deb points out that creating a good Monday puzzle is in some ways more difficult than creating a good, say, Friday or Saturday, and she’s right. She’s also right that Andrea is one of the best practitioners of that art. I liked this puzzle a lot. It played a bit harder than a typical Monday for me, but I don’t think it’s out of the general Monday range of difficulty.

I had no idea what was going on with the theme until I got the revealer, which makes it more fun for me. Let’s look at the theme entries:

NYT 2/18, solution grid

  • 17a [“Sleep well!”] is NIGHT NIGHT. I thought maybe we were going for duplicative phrases.
  • 28a [Billy Idol hit that starts “Hey little sister, what have you done?”] proved me wrong. It’s WHITE WEDDING.
  • 44a [Vegetarian spaghetti topper] is a MUSHROOM BALL. This was new to me. The first Google hit is a Phys Ed game I am glad I never had to .play. Below that we have Super Mario – and then recipes for MUSHROOM BALLs replacing meatballs on spaghetti. Good to know.

So what’s the connection? 59a asks for [Graduation garb … or what the compound answers to 17-, 28- and 44-Across represent?]. That’s CAP AND GOWN. Aha! NIGHT CAP and NIGHTGOWN (this one is brilliant), WHITECAP and WEDDING GOWN, and MUSHROOM CAP and BALL GOWN. Very nice! The constructor’s notes tell us that the theme was Leslie’s idea. I’m looking forward to more of her puzzles!

A few other things:

  • 3d [Assemble, as equipment] is RIG UP, which makes sense but wasn’t immediately evident to me – one of the reasons it played harder than a typical Monday.
  • A nod to Leslie’s day job in Silicon Valley at 9d [Collection of figures for a statistical analysis], which is a DATA SET.
  • 23d is [’60s hallucinogenic]. LSD is still around. Just ask Michael Pollan.
  • 37a [Sidestep] also slowed me down a smidgen. It could be either EVADE or ELUDE.
  • 39a [Secret ___ (metaphoric key to success)] may be my favorite clue in the puzzle. It’s SAUCE.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: MUSHROOM BALL, which now sounds like a vegetable gala.

And, of course, I leave you with this.

Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “Name Game”–Judge Vic’s write-up

Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “Name Game,” 2-18-19, solution

This very clever, clue-dependent theme is executed with four long horizontal entries:

      • 17a [Celebrations attended by Behar and Reid?] JOYFUL OCCASIONS–Joy Behar. Joy Reid. Get it?
      • 25a [Inattention perpetrated by Rogers and Smith–A pair of Wills.
      • 43a [Magazine issue with no mention of Ginsburg and Westheimer?] RUTHLESS PEOPLE
      • 55a [Movie that bombed after Lange and Davis backed out?] HOPELESS FAILURE


  • I liked this puzzle for reasons other than that I broke six minutes, though that’s an indicator of something!
  • With four long Acrosses, there won’t typically be any other noteworthy horizontal ILSA’s, but there’ll be at least two verticals, sometimes four or more. Paul offers up BELT OUT, TEA BAGS, LONG U, OLD NEWS, and SPOT ADS.
  • Non-ILSA  Down answers FOIBLES, SLEDGES, and TEMPEST also merit note.

An outstanding clunkerless effort! 4 stars.

Yolande Hardison’s AV Club bonus crossword, “Total Bust”—Amy’s recap

AV Club bonus crossword solution, 2 18 19, “Total Bust”

This bonus puzzle is Yolande Hardison’s debut, and the constructor has a close relationship to her theme.

  • 19a. [African-American sculptor of 31-, 45-, and 60-Across, notably], INGE HARDISON. Yolande is the sculptor’s daughter. I’d never heard of the artist, but that’s on me since she was notable enough to merit an NYT obituary on her passing in 2016. Hardison specialized in sculpting great African Americans. Do a Google image search for Inge Hardison to see her many busts (the inspiration for the puzzle title, “Total Bust”).
  • 31a. [Abolitionist who later became a suffragist], FREDERICK DOUGLASS.
  • 45a. [Abolitionist who later became a suffragist], HARRIET TUBMAN.
  • 60a. [Educator, civil rights leader, and businesswoman who served in FDR’s cabinet], MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE. Born too late to be an abolitionist.
  • 74a. [Shining example, or what 31-, 45-, and 60-Across each literally were for 19-Across], MODEL CITIZEN.

Highlights in the fill include TOSCANINI, SCRIMPS, and A SINGLE MAN42d. [Black Maria] clues PADDY WAGON, which is a term that may or may not be a slur on Irish Americans. I didn’t know the Black Maria term, about which the Oxford dictionary folks say “said to be named after a black woman, Maria Lee, who kept a boarding house in Boston and helped police in escorting drunk and disorderly customers to jail.”

This 17×17 grid’s got a lot of 3-letter entries, which means lots of clunky little abbreviations and fragments. There’s also a dupe, with IS IT OK and OKS. Could’ve been ART/OTS or ARC/OCS, or ARE/OED/LED.

Four stars from me. I especially appreciated the articles included in a PDF sent out with the puzzle.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword #505—Jim Q’s review

Boy, did I mangle this one. I found it much harder than a typical BEQ themeless- never firmly getting a foothold anywhere besides the SW. Lots of unfamiliar names and some vague cluing left me stymied.


BEQ Themeless Monday #505 – 2-18-19–solution

  • 1A [Words said with a comic head shake] WHAT THE WHAT.
    I’ve heard it before, but not often, and it wasn’t on my radar.
  • 17A [Words said after a 60-Across] I’M TERRIBLY SORRY. Though I got 60A first, it seems like there’s a lot one can say after a CARELESS MISTAKE.
  • 66A [Worthless contributors on social media] SHITPOSTERS. Unfamiliar with the term, though it was inferable. Googles well enough without a space (with a space will bring up actual posters available for purchase!)
  • 4D [Drink with pain aux raisins] THE. What the what? Never heard of “THE” as a drink. I’m finding it very difficult to Google. Seems unnecessary to clue it this way with the North being already tough. Would’ve liked a gimme here.

More missteps included EVEN PAY for MORE PAY, GRILLS for GRYLLS, RESOUND for RESPOND, ORATOR for EDITOR, AOL APPS (?) for WEB APPS, LDL for HDL, LIMESTONE for SOAPSTONE, POM for THE, and probably a host more. I lost track.

Names ALYN, WHIPPLE (though inferable), LE COQ, SIPE, EMMA (as clued), GRYLLS (spelling), EDD, and LEVI were all areas of stumbling for me.


  • 61D [Engage in bombing wrapped in binding] SKI. Puzzle was worth it just for that clue.
  • 28D [Wax collector] Q TIP. Gross. But I liked it.

2.5 stars from me. Found this one difficult to enjoy in comparison with most of BEQ’s themeless puzzles.

Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up

Let’s see what trouble we’ll be in (or, rather, B_N) with Monday’s LAT puzzle:

LAT 2.18.19

LAT 2.18.19

17A: TRAVEL BAN [Extreme-weather restriction, perhaps]
25A: GENTLE BEN [Title bear of ’60s TV]
37A: DUST BIN [Brit’s trash can]
51A: CEST SI BON [Classic French song whose title means “It’s so good”]
61A: HOT DOG BUN [Frank holder]

It’s unconscionable to me that TRAVEL BAN is included as a theme entry, given how xenophobic, racist, harmful, unnecessary, and misguided the current administration’s multiple attempts at travel bans have been. Also, [Extreme-weather restriction, perhaps] makes no sense as an alternate attempt at cluing. When major storms occur, certainly travel (and especially air / road travel) is halted, but there is certainly not a ban on it. There’s no getting around that there is a singular connotation for this phrase in 2019 and its inclusion in a grid has put me off … so much so that none of the rest of the puzzle merits discussing.

This grid should have been an immediate rejection. That it wasn’t and that it got through the editorial process to be published is bananas to me.

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword — Laura’s review

New Yorker - 2.18.19 - Solution

New Yorker – 2.18.19 – Solution

Five things:

  • [14a: Dirt-cake ingredient]: OREO COOKIE. There’s regular grid inhabitant OREO with its last name, COOKIE, appended. Dirt cake is very delicious, especially made with Cool Whip.
  • [17a: Chicago district named for the intersection of three streets]: SIX CORNERS. Chicago is chock-full of these insane intersections where a diagonal avenue splits the north-south grid of streets, sometimes to make more than six corners. This SIX CORNERS is at the intersection of Irving Park (east-west), Cicero (north-south) and Milwaukee (northwest-southeast). As the Supreme High Commander of Fienddom, herself a Chicago native, can attest, these intersections are insane. Cars go in … but where do they come out?
  • [57a: Fox’s television partner]: DANA Scully, who was the partner (professional, and much later, romantic) of Fox Mulder on The X-Files.
  • [6d: One beaten to make salsa]: BONGO DRUM. The salsa that is music, not the salsa that is sauce, although the musical term is derived from the sauce.
  • [43d: Boston’s only No. 1 single]: AMANDA. This surprised me, since I totally would’ve said “More Than a Feeling” — but that only reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. If I tell you today will you turn me away and let me go?

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31 Responses to Monday, February 18, 2019

  1. Lise says:

    NYT: 32A: TIL that my sister-in-law used to own a Toyota Bullfighter’s entrance march. ;)

    I enjoyed this puzzle a lot. It’s well-crafted, with an excellent theme; kudos to the constructors.

    • Huda says:

      My sentiments exactly. Great puzzle. I hope the rest of the week follows suit. And I too did not know MUSHROOM BALL. I need to learn to do it for the vegetarians in the family.

  2. Ethan Friedman says:

    That was a terrific Monday. Just a great example of how to make an easy puzzle that’s still fun for experienced solvers. Well-done theme, solid fill, I had a (non-mushroom) ball.

    Also loved the USS of USS Enterprise crossing the UFOS it encountered. cute

  3. Brian says:

    Loved the Monday! Accidentally gave it 3 stars instead of 4.5, is it possible to switch that?

  4. Norm says:

    Would have been cute to run the NYT in June, but I’m glad we didn’t have to wait for graduation day. Really, really nice Monday puzzle. Liked LAT [that theme can be boring but these five were enjoyable] and Universal [the switch from FUL to LESS at halftime saved it] as well. New Yorker was kind of easy but I always enjoy a PB puzzle, and the clue for REWRAP was hilarious. I really want to see that one in the past tense some day — maybe about five years from now, when I’ll have forgotten it and can be fooled all over again.

  5. Dr Fancypants says:

    I really liked how the revealer pulled the theme together here.

    One oddity: my wife and I have roughly four decades of vegetarianism between us, and yet I’m not sure either of us has encountered a MUSHROOM BALL.

    • ahimsa says:

      Ditto for me (vegetarian since 1984) and my husband (lifelong vegetarian). We’ve never heard of a MUSHROOM BALL (or even mushroom “meat” ball).

      But it was a cute puzzle!

    • Ben says:

      My local grocery store sells mushroom-substitute “meatballs”, but I don’t think I’ve seen them labeled as “mushroom balls.”

  6. Ethan says:

    My favorite fictional president is probably the doltish POTUS from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, a sequel that I always enjoyed as a kid more than its antecedent. After the glass elevator goes through the chocolate factory roof in the previous book, it keeps on going into orbit and is presumed to an enemy spacecraft by the American brass who are attending the grand opening of the first hotel in space. It was basically Willy Wonka crossed with Dr. Strangelove.

  7. A says:

    Fave fictional president would have to be Josiah (Jed) Bartlet. He possessed all the strength of character that president Tweet lacks.

  8. LauraB says:

    Nothing but respect for my President.

  9. David L says:

    I agree that the BEQ was tougher than usual, with an excess of proper names even by BEQ’s usual standard.

    thé is French for tea, which I suppose you can consume with pain aux raisins (among many other possibilities).

    • Jim Q says:

      Ah! I appreciate your explanation. Out of curiosity, would you consider the French name for tea common knowledge? Unsure whether or not to fault myself for not knowing it…

      • David L says:

        I’m more familiar with French and German than with Spanish (the result of a British education), so I’m probably the wrong person to ask. Coffee and tea, café and thé — pretty basic, obviously, but I don’t know how widely known such words are among American readers.

      • RunawayPancake says:

        I know thé, the French word for tea, from crosswords. It’s appeared in NYT crosswords at least 15 times during the Shortz Era, most recently on March 4, 2018.

  10. PJ Ward says:

    My favorite fictional president is Donald Trump. There’s no way this shit can be real.

  11. Jim Peredo says:

    I’m partial to Kevin Kline’s Dave in the movie of the same name. I also liked Dennis Haysbert’s David Palmer on 24.

  12. GG says:

    Could someone explain BEQ’s [Engage in bombing wrapped in binding] SKI. Totally lost!

  13. JML says:

    Ditto to the LAT analysis.

    Despite even that glaring inclusion, it felt (to me) like an uninteresting solve. I count ~13 abbreviations/suffixes, not to mention a few 3-letter foreign words and partials. Plus, the “long” downs felt contrived: ITSALIE, NOTWELL, ONECELL, and GONEBAD. Maybe that’s just me

  14. Brian says:

    AVCX: Congratulations on your debut puzzle, Ms. Hardison, and thank you for the history lesson. I enjoyed the puzzle.

  15. Tim in NYC says:

    Yes, the NYT puzzle is brilliant. And I’m grateful for hearing about MUSHROOM BALLs. There’s an interesting recipe on a site called cooktoria that I’m going to try.

  16. Christopher Smith says:

    TNY: Fun experiment: walk into a pub in Ireland & declare that a CELT is a “Briton of old.” You’ll be surprised by the results!

  17. Doug says:

    I think that LAT review was ghost-written by Rex Parker.

    I have lived in two different mountain states where sever winter weather frequently is the cause of a travel ban. Gates swing shut to close the highways. Those foolish enough to drive around the barriers are subject to prosecution, if they are found alive.

    • Doug says:

      Amen to this! When I first moved to the north country there were several days during the winter where people received tickets if they were found driving on the public highways. The clue certainly was worded correctly. I actually liked this puzzle.

      (not the same Doug as above.)

  18. Ben says:

    Loved the AVCX bonus! Great theme answers without impacting the fill too much. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE – I used to live right by her statue in Lincoln Park.

    Almost got stumped at TMAX / MIA SARA and that general area. It’s funny how the constructor’s name is actually a meta-clue for 19A, which I otherwise had to get entirely from crosses.

    For anyone interested in a compelling dramatized version of Frederick Douglass’ evolution (in fits and starts) from abolitionist to suffragist, I recommend Mat Stanton’s excellent play The Agitators, which I saw during its run in DC. The real-life friendship between Douglass and Susan B. Anthony is not something I was aware of previously.

  19. Ray says:

    Thanks Jim Q. I am glad to know I am not the only one who struggles with BEQ Puzzles. What the what indeed…

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