Friday, March 22, 2019

CHE 12:09 (Vic) 


Inkubator {bonus cryptic} 4:40 (Amy) 


LAT 6:30 (GRAB) 


NYT 5:58 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Vic) 


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

NY Times crossword solution, 3 22 19, no. 0322

I was hoping the Friday puzzle would improve my mood, but alas (or “OH, ME,” said no one ever), it really only made me cranky. For a 68-worder, I expect to see pretty smooth fill with a modicum of zippy stuff. The contrived ONE SOCK duplicating a word in the maybe-contrived HAVE ONE, uncommon BAILORS, crosswordese N-TESTS and ESSE, fairly dated SIPE, and lifeless H-BAR were the worst bits (along with that OHME). Oh! And MISLAYER. [Lousy floor contractor]? Give me a &%*$ break. And WII-ITIS has a rather 2007 vibe. ACE VENTURA is older than Wii, but I’m more sanguine about pop culture’s staying power even though I never did see any of the Ace Ventura movies. Lots of Scowl-o-Meter action here.

Favorite fill: PIE A LA MODE (warm strawberry pie with dark chocolate ice cream sounds good, no?), MULTIVERSE (which I’ll bet Brendan put into this grid long before the multiverse movie Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse came along), Italian soccer club JUVENTUS (I hadn’t known that its name meant “youth,” but I always wanted it to), CARDI B, Norse SKALDS, and STAYS MAD (mainly because the Twitter use of “stay mad,” with or without hashtag format, is so good).

Three more things:

  • 42a. [Easter Island statues], MOAI. Not to be confused with MAOI, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor.
  • 22d. [Old World animals sometimes called toddy cats], CIVETS. Had never seen the term toddy cats before. Filing away for future trivia use.
  • 48d. [Pacific island that’s also the name of part of the body], UVEA. A friend is currently recovering from uveitis, and I think this is the first real-world mention of the UVEA I’ve encountered (outside of medical dictionaries, websites, etc., and crossword puzzles). The island, which I’d never heard of, is part of the French territory Wallis & Futuna. Nobody invited the French to go there in the first place.

3 stars from me.

Robert W. Harris’s The Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Sky Boxes”–Judge Vic’s write-up.

Robert W. Harris’s Chronicle of Higher Ed crossword “Sky Boxes” 3/22/19 solution

With this puzzle, Robert Harris MOONS us (see 37a) with

  • 17a [Maneuver disallowed in much of amateur wrestling] FULL NELSON
  • 28a [Item in a Pillsbury tube] CRESCENT ROLL
  • 43a [Bangorean or Bostonian, e.g.] NEW ENGLANDER
  • 57a [Aristocrats] BLUE BLOODS


Fun stuff, as are the following: ARCADIA, CUISINE, SAND ART, IDEOLOGUE, ERIE CANAL, TAIWANESE. Good fill all around, excellent cluing, as always.

One word I didn’t know, and I won’t criticize it, is IOLE. I see it was in a CHE puzzle a couple years ago and that Hercules loved her, so she can’t be all bad.

I’d love to write more, but I need to pack up for Stamford!

3.5 stars.

Evan Kalish’s Universal Crossword, “Lowest Rung”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Evan Kalish’s Universal Crossword 3-22-19 solution

Hmm. We have Utah north and south and a short ell east and west. I wonder what this is about. I solved it by hand a few hours ago and did not get the theme then, so bear with me. Let’s start with the reveal:

  • 26d [’70s fad that hints at the ends of 3-, 8- and 17-Down] BELL-BOTTOMS–This is hyphenated. I know that from research somewhere earlier in life. So, now we need to be mindful of the ends of three more entries. And … something to do with rung, probably a bell-related rung, rather than a ladder as suggested by the title.
  • 3d [Historic torchbearer?] LADY LIBERTY–Okay, then. What are the ends of this? Or, for one answer, do I need to worry only about one end? L, Y? TY? BERTY?
  • 8d [Crunchy Mexican dish] HARD-SHELL TACO–All right, what’s the end here? Or ends? CO, ACO? At this point, I got nothing, folks.
  • 17d [Decides to change lanes, maybe] SEES AN OPENING–How does BELL-BOTTOMS hint at the end or ends of this phrase? Aha! The end of each might also have been referred to as the last word of each. Voila:

OPENING BELL, TACO BELL, LIBERTY BELL ... And we’re just not going to talk about whether and to what extent this theme works, if at all, only because the theme answers are vertical. It is what it is, and it took me a long time to get it. YMMV.

Let’s not overlook the value of the rest of the fill. OH GREAT! IT’S HOT! AT NO TIME LEAN OVER the BIRD CAGE. Just appreciate the EPHEMERA of the MONA LISA and the ID BADGES. And LEAVE NOW! Or, rather, right after HAT TIPS to the constructor and the editor.

3.8 stars!

Stephanie Cerra’s Inkubator bonus puzzle, “Cryptic #1″—Amy’s recap

(We don’t always blog bonus puzzles, but this one’s a debut and we wanted to mark that.)

Inkubator bonus puzzle, “Cryptic #1,” 3 22 19

This is an easy cryptic, with many anagram clues that jump out at you because of unusual phrasing. For example, 11a. [Pelican heist goes wrong, resulting in brain disease (12)], ENCEPHALITIS—what the heck is a “pelican heist”? How would a heist gone wrong lead to neurological disease? And 20d. [Blended carb makes cranky person (4)], CRAB—what’s “blended carb”? Cryptics are trickiest when the surface sense reads more like a plausible sentence. The surface sense is less present in the non-anagram clues, too. E.g., 3a. [Oaf going around vault to reveal four-leaf clover, say (4,4)], GOOD OMEN, GOON around DOME. Can you envision an oaf going around a vault, and that vault perambulation somehow uncovering a clover? I cannot. The MAWKISH clue hinges on “Kim Shaw,” which is less effective than using a famous name like Meg Ryan (who famously anagrams to Germany).

The best of the clues, perhaps, is 24a. [Big smile from red head captivated by alcoholic beverage (4)], GRIN. The “head” of the word red is the letter R, and it’s “captivated” within some GIN. You can easily envision a redhead (question for cryptic experts: could the one-word redhead serve as fodder for R, or does the head have to be a separate word?) beaming at a cocktail the bartender has placed before them.

I need help understanding how we get from 15d. [Lacking luminance at both ends, gem miller fails to shine faintly (7)] to the answer, GLIMMER. Anyone?

Peter Koetter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

Always nice to see a more intricate theme in the LA Times puzzle. I got a whiff of the theme early, as I spidered down to ISLAMAB and realised something was likely going on with ADs. I thought the AD was going to be hidden in the central square initially, but was quickly put to rights. I also can’t be the only person who also mulled over ISFAHAN for that square since it is a (provincial) capital, but the geographical directions are wrong even if it is fairly proximate to Kabul. As it is, the ADs POPUP into adjacent down answers. The first two I found, ISLAMAB(AD) and ELIJAHMUHAMM(AD) had a Muslim subtheme going, but that doesn’t extend to STALINGR(AD), UNDERGR(AD) or STARKRAVINGM(AD).

Despite the busy theme, we get plenty of action in the long downs: ABEVIGODA, SMARTALEC, DARKWEB (I’d quibble that it’s not limited access, since no-one is specifically denied access to it, the people using it are just difficult to trace, at least directly). BURNER is also a punchy answers, much beloved by the alphabet soup shows – NCIS, CSI etc.

On the other hand, there are many inane short answers: WASI and APIN are bottom of the barrel partials for starters.

3,75 Stars

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26 Responses to Friday, March 22, 2019

  1. David L says:

    The NYT is a perfect example of why I have come to dislike BEQ’s puzzles generally. Silly words (BAILORS, MISLAYER) and obscure names galore. Not fun.

    • Dr Fancypants says:

      I’ll second this. I rarely get much enjoyment from a BEQ puzzle, and this one was no exception.

      • Matt M. says:

        I have to disagree. I didn’t have strong opinions either way about today’s puzzle, but there aren’t many constructors who are as productive and creative as Brendan — I’m always excited to see his byline.

        • Huda says:

          Although I struggle with all the names, I actually found some of the silly words (and their clues) quite entertaining. I think BEQ takes risks and it sometimes works better than others. Some people are highly successful by having a strong and predictable approach, and others by being a bit less predictable but more adventuresome. It’s really a difference in style.

          • Zulema says:

            Since it’s so late (next day) I will second Huda as I agree with what she said so eloquently. I tried AHME before realizing it was OHME, not quite in the language-my only nit.

    • Penguins says:

      Was surprised by how much I disliked this puzzle (too much trivia) but BEQ is one of the best puzzle makers out there, imo, and am grateful for his two free offerings a week.

    • Norm says:

      I’m generally a big fan of Brendan’s own Monday themeless puzzles. This one not so much.

  2. hibob says:

    Inkubator Cryptic
    gem miller anagrams to glimmer if you lack the ends of luminance (the letters L and E).
    Now how about explaining AWFUL and OFFAL please?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Where OFFAL’s clue has “12,” substitute “awful.” So [Announced awful entrails], say “awful” out loud and get a word meaning entrails. And [Terrible 16 on the radio (5)] is [Terrible offal on the radio], same deal.

      • Bret says:

        My questions: 7D, why the “(in French)?” Is M an abbreviation for mister in French but not acceptable in English?
        9A: Isn’t the word “stands” extraneous? “Cab” works for taxi but I don’t think it does for taxi stands.
        23A: “YA” is really an abbreviation for young adult?

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I think “stands” means “means” here, rather than belonging semantically with “taxi.”

          And yes, YA is absolutely a thing. A huge thing. Google it.

        • Martin says:

          And yes, M is the abbreviation for monsieur.

        • John says:

          Also for 7D, I get the OR + M part, but why take N from “name”? Other clues (1A, 4D, 24A, 17A) *told* you to take the first letter of a word and do something with it, but not this one. Maybe it was meant to read “usual *first* name, [rest of clue]”?

  3. Ben says:

    Inkubator: Since I’m still a novice at cryptics, I appreciated the relatively easy version we got today. To help others who are just starting out, or just confused, here is my attempt at an explanation for each clue. (One of frustrating aspects of cryptics, for me, is sometimes not understanding why I got a clue wrong… or right!)

    ***Spoilers abound***
    1A: “Tabby” = “Cat,” “returning” means flip it around to get “Tac” “first of October” = “O” –> TACO. Pretty simple.
    3A: As Amy noted in the review – “Goon” going around “dome” to get GOOD OMEN.
    9A: I got the answer, CABARET, which has something to with “taxi” = “cab”, but don’t get it otherwise
    10A: You can find SEWER within the clue
    11A: Noted in the review – “Pelican heist” is an anagram
    14A: “Alternately” should tell you to look at alternating letters, in this case EnGaGe = EGG
    16A: This one was tricky. “Announced 12” refers to 12 Down. With a bit of circular logic and the hints “entrails” and “terrible,” you can deduce that OFFAL and AWFUL are the sound-alikes suggested by “announced” and “on the radio” in the clues.
    17A: “Safety first” means the letter “s.” Take that from “shoe,” and you get HOE (a gardening tool).
    18A: “Crime gold” is an anagram that gets you most of the way to MICROLENDING – just add “inn.”
    21A: “Plot again” might be enough to get you REMAP – the extra hints are “sleep stage” (REM) + “wire service” (AP)
    22A: “He, sorta” is an anagram for EARSHOT (“where sound is audible”)
    23A: “Poet” (BARD) surrounds “medical professional” (RA) and “young adult” (YA) to get you BARNYARD
    24A: Covered in the review – “Red head” (R) goes in “alcoholic beverage” (GIN) = GRIN

    1D: “Friar” (TUCK), then a “wounded deer” (meaning you mix it up to get ERED) = TUCKERED
    2D: “Young bear” (CUB) + “I see” (IC)
    4D: “Initially” means taking the first letters of One Perfect Tomato = OPT
    5D: “Pricy island” is an anagram for DISCIPLINARY. Not sure how “I make stupidly” plays into it.
    6D: From the review – “Kim Shaw” is an anagram for MAWKISH
    7D: “Usual” is enough to get NORM. For an extra hint, take the “n” from “name”, add OR, then a French mister (M). (The French use “M.” before a name to stand for “monsieur.”)
    8D: “Mausoleum” (CRYPT) + circle (O) + diagram (GRAPH) + unknown quantity (Y) = CRYPTOGRAPHY
    12D: See 16 Across
    13D: Stuff “chicken” (HEN) with “two-thirds of a dozen” (EIGHT) = HEIGHTEN
    15D: GLIMMER is an anagram of “gem miller,” subtracting L and E – the “two ends” of “luminance.”
    19D: “Organ of sight central part” = EYE CORE, which sounds like ICHOR
    20D: Blended carb = CRAB
    22D: “Ignore the odds” in “hEaReR” to get ERR

    • Bret says:

      In 9A, “Tear wildly” means an anagram of tear, in this case “aret” past the taxi (=cab), so cab+aret. My question is, why is the word stand in there? Cab = taxi but I don’t see cab = taxi stand.

      • Norm says:

        Tearing wildly past a taxi would be dangerous driving while tearing wildly past the taxi stand would merely carousing or running on the sidewalk? Maybe just part of the image rather than an essential part of the clue? I got nothing better than that.

      • John says:

        Here “stands for” means “means”. CABARET stands for nightclub.

    • Hesky says:

      “pricey island I” anagrams to disciplinary. “Makes” means that these words make up the answer, but not straightforwardly, “stupidly” i.e. mixed up or anagrammed. “Punitive” -> the definition

  4. Billposter says:

    Any news on CRUCIVERB? We miss it…..

    • LaurieAnnaT says:


      I was just over there – it’s back up – and posted at the forum was this message:

      “Both the LA Times and I are now back online. The LA Times upload is a manual process at the moment and I was not able to take care of it. I will be looking at an automated solution so this does not happen again. Sorry for the inconvenience.


  5. Lise says:

    LAT: I selected 4.5 stars when rating, but I guess I clicked “submit” a little too quickly and it went back to 3.0. Could that be changed? I really loved the puzzle. Thanks!

    • Lise says:

      Also: I don’t get 30D “Phone in crime shows” = BURNER. Maybe because I have never watched the shows that Gareth mentioned, I guess.

      For some reason it brought to mind Maxwell Smart’s shoe-phone ;)

      • Penguins says:

        When spies or criminals need to communicate while performing illegal activities, they often take the precaution of using cheap, pre-paid cellphones, commonly known as “burners”. This allows them to quickly dispose of said burner if law enforcement or other criminals use it to track them. –

      • wilsch says:

        A burner is a prepaid untraceable cellphone used in criminal activity.

  6. wilsch says:

    LAT – Unique for the LAT. Felt like a Thursday NYT puzzle. Great puzzle.

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