Thursday, April 11, 2019

BEQ 3:58 (Andy) 


LAT 3:40 (GRAB) 


NYT 10:14 (Ben) 


WSJ 7:14 (Jim P) 


Universal Untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fiat Accompli” — Jim P’s review

I liked the title and first theme entry in this one, so I’m inclined to give it a positive review, even though it’s a rather simple theme for a Thursday. In each theme answer the AI bigram in the base phrase is reversed to become IA.

WSJ – Thu., 4.11.19 – “Fiat Accompli” by Mike Shenk

  • 17a [Wilson greets the Beach Boys fans?] BRIAN WAVES. Brain… I suppose that’s a better greeting than BRIAN FARTS.
  • 27a [Change maker in an Oman bank?] RIAL SPLITTER. Rail
  • 43a [Alternatives to judicial robes?] TRIAL BLAZERS. Trail… These two entries cause me to think of the organization Rails to Trails. Can you think of a good clue for the entry RIALS TO TRIALS?
  • 58a [Doyenne of personal writings?] DIARY QUEEN. Dairy… Featuring your vocab word of the day: “Doyenne” means “a woman who is the most respected or prominent person in a particular field.” New to me.

Like I said, the first one was cute, the rest seemed more utilitarian.

I would have found it more interesting if some angle had been found to explain the change, perhaps something related to Artificial Intelligence in Iowa?

In the fill, I loved ALONE TIME [Harried parent’s need] and RADIO STAR [Whom “Video Killed,” according to a Buggles song]. Also good: BLUE DENIM, SENSEI, SPRITZ, RISQUE, and LISBOA.

Cluing must have been on the easier side for a Thursday which might account for my relatively speedy time. Looking over the grid, there seem to be fewer trivia-related or just plain tricky clues. There are a few to note however:

  • 42a [1969’s Eagle et al.]. LEMS. As in, “The Eagle has landed.” (LEM is Lunar Excursion Module).
  • 7d [Nada for Nadal]. LOVE. Hmm. The clue suggests the Spanish language. Is it still called “LOVE” when a tennis game is played entirely in Spanish? I don’t suppose it’s “amor.”
  • 28d [Forte]. LOUDLY. Sneaky. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was thinking of the noun and not the musical adverb.

Not the brian-busting brain-busting workout we sometimes see on a Thursday, but a nice puzzle nonetheless. 3.5 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 126”–Jenni’s write-up

This is the hardest Fireball themeless I’ve done in a long time. If I’d remembered to turn the timer on, I suspect it would have been over ten minutes. The SW corner gave me fits.

It started smoothly enough in the NE, although I really don’t care for BIOGS. [Nonfiction books about people, for short] are BIOS. 5a made up for it with the very clever [Back track] for B-SIDE.

FB 4/11, solution grid

People who don’t like proper names in puzzles will not be happy. I stumbled on EVO MORALES, since I’m not up on my Bolivian politicians, and I didn’t know ALMA was a character in “Brokeback Mountain.” I couldn’t remember Tracy LETTS, which is embarrassing, because I’ve seen and enjoyed “August: Osage County.” I was on firmer ground with boxer Roberto DURAN, Presidential candidate ALF LANDON, actor EMMA STONE and rock group PINK FLOYD.

That SW corner. Oy. I have never heard the term BLIND PIGS, which shows up at 30d as [Illegal saloons, informally]. Peter didn’t include this in the tidbits of information he lists in the answer sheet, either. Google tells me that “Blind Pig” is now a popular name for bars and restaurants. One such establishment, located in Asheville, has this explanation on their website:

The difference between a speakeasy and a blind pig was that a speakeasy was usually a higher-class establishment that offered food and entertainment. In large cities, some speakeasies even required a coat and tie for men, and evening dress for women. But a blind pig was usually a low-class dive where only beer and liquor were offered.

OK, then.

I dropped in CHINA PIGS for some reason (makes as much sense as anything) and that made the whole corner impossible. 28a [What a Trojan horse might be used to carry out] should have been SNEAK ATTACK but clearly wasn’t; turns out Peter is thinking of the tech version and the answer is CYBER ATTACK. I have also never heard of  PODRIDA, which is clued as [Rotten, in Spanish]. Once I figured that out, the rest fell into place. Phew.

This is a tough but fair puzzle. I’m proud to have wrestled it to the ground.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see the laundry list above. I also didn’t know that YAHOO MAIL has been available since 1997, nor that LEO is one of the fixed signs of astrology.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

It feels like we already got our “Thursday” off-the-wall puzzle on Tuesday this week, so it seems only fair that this week’s Thursday is more standard, which just a phonetic sort of theme going on:

  • 19A: Ornately decorated money? — BAROQUE BREAD
  • 26A: March meant to end a drought? — PARADE FOR RAIN
  • 41A: Bumper version of a cart? — COLLIDE BARROW
  • 47A: What the trees by Walden Pond provided — THOREAU SHADE

This was fun, but I had trouble parsing what all the source phrases were here.  BROKE BREAD becomes BAROQUE BREAD, obviously, and THROW SHADE changes to THOREAU SHADE.  It was a bit harder to mentally turn PRAYED FOR RAIN into PARADE FOR RAIN, and I wasn’t able to reverse COLLIDE BARROW into CLYDE BARROW until I started typing this sentence out.


  • I could not pull YAHOO View from anywhere in trying to figure out what streaming service 13A was looking for.  I just signed up for CBS’ All Access so I can watch more of their updated Twilight Zone
  • “Building site code?” was nice for HTML
  • Constructors, I love you, but HOO-HA does not mean commotion, at least in these modern times.  HOOPLA? Yes.
  • OPRAH plays Mrs. Which in the adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time” that came out last year, which I thought was underrated.  It’s a tricky book to adapt and I thought Ava Duvernay kept its heart while translating it to the screen.

Enjoy your Thursday!

Ross Trudeau’s Universal crossword, “Fowl Play” – Jim Q’s writeup

At last, the age old question is answered. And in a crossword puzzle, nonetheless.

THEME: Chicken or the egg? One appears “first” in theme answers, the other appears “last.”


  • 18A [Bonanza for a fox] HEN HOUSE.

    Universal crossword solution * 4 11 19 * “Fowl Play” * Trudeau

  • 24A [1975 John Wayne role] ROOSTER COGBURN.
  • 50A [Zygote] FERTILIZED OVUM.
  • 59A [Quibble] PICK A NIT. 
  • 38A [Classic paradox that this puzzle seems to have an opinion on] CHICKEN OR EGG?

I’ll start off by saying that I had no idea until now that NIT, a word I use semi-regularly, actually refers to the tiny eggs of lice. I’m so grossed out. In a good way (“the more you know” sort of way). I find it ironic that we consider NITpicking to be griping at minor things- if I were actually picking NITs out of my hair, I’d consider the problem quite major. I guess when you see the colloquial version of that word so often in a crossword, and never see it clued as an egg (cuz it’s yucky), you don’t question the etymology all that much.

Anyway. Fun theme. Maybe some minor inconsistencies as to whether or not the bird/egg part of the answer is actually referring to a bird/egg, but I’m not going to pick ni…. errr…. quibble. FERTILIZED OVUM is not really in-language as a stand alone phrase to me, but it Googles well enough in quotes.

Ross seems pretty confident that it’s the chicken that comes first, and not the egg. Anyone disagree?

3.9 stars.

Julian Kwan’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s hidden word theme is a bit more subtle, and has a tad more variety than the usual. I had no idea what was going on until I finished the puzzle, especially as the revealer, GOFISH, is right at the bottom. Afterwards, I landed a CHAR in SKET(CHAR)TIST, a SALMON in SNICKER(SALMON)D, a TROUT in WORKOU(TROUT)INE, and a BASS in LA(BASS)ISTANT. The answers are quite river-fish heavy it must be said.


  • [Gently used], NEWISH. “Gently” is such an odd choice of adjective.
  • [Brand of suit Bania gave Jerry in a memorable “Seinfeld” episode], ARMANI. The way this clue aggressively assumes my knowledge of Seinfeld is offputting. I watched a fair bit of Seinfeld around the time it was on, albeit in a casual way, but I’m not sure what a Bania is (apparently a repeating supporting character), and if I did see that episode, it surely wasn’t memorable…
  • [Ex-Met pitcher known as “Dr. K”], GOODEN crossing [Canon SLR], EOS. Good luck with that crossing if you don’t know either of the two…
  • [Shark tip-off], FIN. Bonus answer?
  • [Biometric identification technique], IRISSCAN. Best answer in the puzzle!
  • [Narwhal feature], TUSK. Another bonus answer – the tusk, or cusk – is an Atlantic relative of the cod.
  • [Revealed the function of, with “over”], MOUSED. Not the easiest answer to clue punchily.

3,25 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Blank Space”—Andy’s review

BEQ puzzle 4.11.19

A challenging solve today, for reasons that will soon become obvious. Even though the title gives quite a lot away, I still had a hard time pinning down exactly what the theme was until I got to the revealer at 63a, VACANT LOTS [You can build on them, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. Each of the theme answers contains the letters LOT; going across, you read the LOT, but going down, you ignore the LOT (it becomes “vacant”). Like so:

  • 17a, “HELLO, THERE!” [“Look who just showed up!”]. Crossing:
    • 4d, NOLTE [Scribbling in the margin]. Looks like NOLTE, but ignoring the LOT is read as NOTE.
    • 5d, GROOVE [Orange tree spot]. Looks like GROOVE, but ignoring the LOT is read as GROVE.
    • 18d, TRAVELS [Glowing reviews]. Looks like TRAVELS, but ignoring the LOT (and another lot farther down in the grid) is read as RAVES.
  • 21a, POLO TEAM [Athletes on horseback]. Crossing:
    • 9d, AXELS [Lumberjack’s equipment]. Looks like AXELS, but ignoring the LOT is read as AXES.
    • 22d, OBAMA [The Crimson Tide, familiarly]. Looks like OBAMA, but ignoring the LOT is read as BAMA.
    • 10d, BRAT [Lift provider]. Looks like BRAT, but ignoring the LOT is read as BRA.
  • 38a, APOLLO THEATER [Landmark Harlem hall]. Crossing:
    • The L of the aforementioned 18d, TRAVELS
    • 26d, TITO [Small songbird]. Looks like TITO, but ignoring the LOT is read as TIT.
    • 31d, CATAN [“The Godfather” actor]. Looks like CATAN, but ignoring the LOT is read as CAAN.
  • 58a, BOLO TIES [Strings around the neck]. Crossing:
    • 49d, SALUTE [Cook with oil]. Looks like SALUTE, but ignoring the LOT is read as SAUTE.
    • 59d, OPAL [Buddy]. Looks like OPAL, but ignoring the LOT is read as PAL.
    • 39d, LEAST [Grazing spots]. Looks like LEAST, but ignoring the LOT is read as LEAS.
  • The aforementioned revealer,63a, VACANT LOTS [You can build on them, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. Crossing:
    • 57d, PILAF [“La Vie en Rose” singer]. Looks like PILAF, but ignoring the LOT is read as PIAF.
    • 65d, ORA [Dormitory overseer, briefly]. Looks like ORA, but ignoring the LOT is read as RA.
    • 66d, TIL [French pronoun]. Looks like TIL, but ignoring the LOT is read as IL.

That theme took me forever to write about — as you can see, there’s a ton of theme material in this puzzle. A really fantastic concept, executed to perfection, with the punchline of having two-letter answers clued in the bottom right of the puzzle.

The rest of the fill is pretty solid, especially given how much the theme constrains it. Liked seeing DOTARD, SKY MAP, HUBCAP, O’TOOLE, and the evocative “STOP HER!”. The one place I had trouble was at the seemingly innocuous crossing of HOWE and WES because their clues were unusually tough/obscure: HOWE was clued as [Yes guitarist Steve], and WES was clued as [Contestant Bergman of “The Challenge: War of the Worlds]. (This, by the way, should have been a double-n Bergmann, not that many solvers will have noticed or been affected in any way).

I thought this was a very fun and challenging puzzle. Until next week!

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13 Responses to Thursday, April 11, 2019

  1. CR says:

    I was not familiar with HOOHA as a synonym for commotion (a definition still lends credence to), and I certainly wasn’t aware of its more common usage as defined on Urban Dictionary. When I saw the emerging pattern, I desperately wanted it to be BROUHAHA. For obvious reasons, it wasn’t.

    • Noam D. Elkies says:

      Well it’s BEQ. At least 6D wasn’t DILDO. Now that might have been a mischievous trick.

  2. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: We just saw this exact theme, including THOREAU SHADE, exactly three weeks ago by David Alfred Bywaters in the WSJ.

  3. Penguins says:

    The BEQ was so much better than the NYT BEQ

  4. Dr Fancypants says:

    That was a lame clue for YAHOO in the NYT. A streaming service that was never popular, from a company that is now defunct? Yuck. How about a reference to YAHOO Serious instead? (Clued as Serious in “Young Einstein”?)

  5. Old Mr. Boston says:

    NYT: What is a “throw shade”? According to the clue, it’s something that the trees provided. But the syntax of “throw shade” is a verb phrase, not a noun. Maybe the clue should be “What the trees at Walden Pond did.” Since the clue is in past tense, it should sound like “threw shade.” Can’t change it to present tense, since Henry David isn’t at Walden anymore. How about Thoreauing the whole thing out? (Thanks are due to my friend Tom Fitzgerald, who wrote a book titled “Thoreau to First.”)

    • Ethan says:

      In wordplay puzzles, I prefer for the clue to be 100% applicable to the actual entry that’s in the puzzle, and to not include confusing extra verbiage that alludes to the base phrase. Your suggestion is to clue THOREAU SHADE as a verb phrase even though the solver is not going to be writing in any verbs. That would be much more confusing that what BEQ actually did, IMO.

      And “broke bread” and “prayed for rain” are also verb phrases, so I’m not sure why you singled out the entry you did.

  6. Ethan says:

    Fireball: I have not studied Spanish but I assume that PODRIDA is a feminine form, and that masculine “podrido” is equally valid? If so, isn’t having that A cross APRES, another foreign language word, pretty unfair? Also, SSS is quite bad on its own, but it scores a hat trick of forming three awkward plurals!

    I don’t mean to be too harsh on Fireball, which I mostly enjoyed, but I do feel like the NYT is usually scrutinized and picked over on the site, while Fireball often gets a pass on these things.

    • Jenni says:

      Probably because I usually review the Fireball, and I don’t notice things like that. I speak French (or at least I read French) so I dropped in APRES without thinking about it at all. So yeah, the NYT gets nit-picked more, except on Mondays, when it’s me again, and except for blatant misogyny/racism/etc, which I do notice. It’s not site policy. It’s just me.

      • Norm says:

        I don’t speak French, but avant [garde] and apres [ski] seemed in common enough use that I wasn’t going to worry about Spanish word genders, since I don’t speak Spanish either. Heck, I started out with PUTRIDA [why not?] and BLIND PIG was no help at all, but it was an excellent puzzle.

  7. Marcus says:

    Universal: I had the same exact discovery / reaction about NIT.

Comments are closed.