Monday, May 6, 2019

BEQ untimed (Jim Q) 


LAT 4:32 (Nate) 


NYT 2:40 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 6:32 (Ben) 


Universal untimed(Vic) 


WSJ 5:35 (Jim P) 


Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

This is one of Peter’s easier puzzles. The theme is straightforward and revealed with two answers at the bottom of the puzzle.

New York Times puzzle for 5/6/2019, 0519, solution grid

  • 18a [Lone Star State baseball player] is a TEXAS RANGER.
  • 35a [What you might drape a dress or shirt on in a closet] is a CLOTHES HANGER.
  • 56a [Sandwich chain whose name is French for “ready to eat”] is PRET A MANGER.

And the revealers: 59d [With 65-Across, what the last words of 18-, 35- and 56-Across are to each other] is EYE RHYMES. I’ve seen “sight rhymes” more often, but that’s a minor quibble. It’s a perfectly adequate Monday theme which didn’t add anything to my enjoyment of the puzzle. On the other hand, it didn’t subtract anything, either.

A few other things:

  • 4d [Tushie] is PATOOT. This made me smile.
  • I like 22a [“That was a close one!”] crossing 19d [“You’ve got to be kidding me!”]. They’re WHEW and AW, C’MON, respectively
  • 33a [Take unfair advantage of] is TRADE ON. I never thought of that expression as implying “unfair.” Interesting.
  • Juxtaposition of politicians from different eras: Ilhan OMAR and Evan BAYH right next to each other.
  • Has anyone ever seen GAM used as a collective noun for whales anywhere outside of a crossword puzzle? I know it’s defined that way. I don’t think it’s in general use.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’d never heard the quote at 50d [“A blessing that is of no advantage to us excepting when we part with it,” according to Ambrose Bierce]. That’s a Patented Peter Gordon Very Long Clue for MONEY.

Ali Gascoigne’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “PG-13”—Jim P’s review

It’s always nice to see a new byline! Ali Gascoigne’s American debut ran in the NYT in February, but he makes his WSJ debut today. Congratulations! He’s a London-based crossword “setter” as they’re called across the pond, but it looks like he’s branching out to give us Yanks a bit of what for.

Judging by the title I was right to expect two-word phrases with the initials P.G., but I thought there might be 13 of them, which would probably be impossible to pull off. Instead, there are…four of them. I’m not getting what the 13 is referring to yet. Maybe it’ll come to me. But each is clued with a fun bit of wordplay.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “PG-13” · Ali Gascoigne · Mon., 5.6.19

  • 20a [Study that lacks depth?] PLANE GEOMETRY.
  • 25a [Corn mill?] PEPPER GRINDER. This one took some thinking, but I eventually settled on the idea of peppercorns.
  • 42a [A lot of cars?] PARKING GARAGE
  • 48a [Spot for a critical mass?] PEANUT GALLERY. Fave clue here.

It just dawned on me what the 13 is referring to here. Each of the above entries is 13 letters long. Thirteen-letter entries are typically not fun to deal with as a constructor, especially as your first and last entries in the grid. They can’t go in the 3rd/13th rows because the blocks on the end(s) would force two-letter words in the Down direction, and that’s a no-no. Instead, everything gets squished into the middle of the grid, causing extra constraints for the constructor.

But it’s handled well here. I especially like the layout of the four themers; the centered design makes it visually appealing. And the fill coming into and out of the center, as well as what’s in the center, is all strong stuff. CREAM PIE, KIDNAPS, SKIM MILK, WEASELED, STIMULUS, and TRA LA LA (in its entirety) are all solid.

Good on Ali for picking up American sayings like R-RATED and spelling things like MEAGER “correctly.” Plus there’s quite a bit of American pop culture in the clues as well.

Seeing ALECK [“Smart” guy] was an eye-opening way to start the grid, though. I think I’ve only ever seen it spelled ALEC. And sorting out whether 33a [“Sure thing”] was YES, YEP, or YUP took some doing. Aside from those little trouble spots, everything else felt smooth.

A nice debut. I look forward to seeing more from Mr. Gascoigne in the future. 3.7 stars.

Julian Kwan’s Universal Crossword, “Country Cooking”—Judge Vic’s write-up.

Julian Kwan’s Universal Crossword, “Country Cooking”–5-6-19, solution

Clever title. Familiar theme. That the theme has been done before does not take away from its legitimacy. It does, however, make it familiar. We have here


It’s clever,  and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s simply a theme that comes around a lot, sometimes with a new angle.

All of the above is horizontal. And, at 11-13-15-13-11, you know what that bodes for the balance. This grid has 28 three-letter answers, not counting the TON in A TON, among them quite a few abbreviations and initialisms. Two 8-letter ILSAs* squeeze into the Down answers–ET CETERA and SCARE OFF. They are joined by JOJOBA, EX-FBI, AIR OUT, and ON SPEC, all of which are kinda nice.

2.2 stars.

* ILSA = in-the-language, stand-alone

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Ben’s review

New Yorker 5/6/19 – Elizabeth Gorski

Today’s New Yorker was a comparatively breezy solve for me – just over six and a half minutes.  Let’s dig in:

  • Our highlighted clue, per the pop-up that appears when you finish the grid, is the grid-spanning VANILLA FROSTING.  I’m partial to chocolate myself.
  • I really dug the banks of 9-letter answers in the upper left and lower right corners in this grid — OIL FIELDS, ONION TART, PLASTERER, ONE-REELER, BINGE READ (not SPEED READ as I initially thought), and STAY LOOSE
  • Today I learned that WIZ KHALIFA‘s moniker means “successor” in Arabic and that GECKOS chirp.


This felt a bit more slight than some other recent Monday New Yorkers, but was enjoyable nevertheless.

Brock Wilson’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Nate’s write-up

Today’s LAT puzzle is brought to you by the Wheel of Fortune bonus round: P_LL

LAT Solution 05 04 2019

LAT Solution 05 04 2019

17A: PALL BEARER [Coffin carrier]
31A: PELL GRANT [College student’s federal subsidy]
38A: PILL ORGANIZER [Prescription meds scheduling aid]
43A: POLL TAKER [One sampling opinions]
60A: PULL HITTER [One whose batted balls rarely go to the opposite field, in baseball lingo]

Strong, consistent early week theme. My only slight ding is that all but one have the format of P_LL ____ER, where the second word indicates an action. PELL GRANT breaks this trend, but I can’t think of anything else that could have been used for PELL. Maybe one of the other ones could have been changed so that the rest didn’t adhere to such a consistent pattern? Either way, a fun solve that I was able to pick up on quickly. I also enjoyed that there were some scrabbly (but gettable!) words in this grid, which is only a Q and an X away from being a pangram.

Other random thoughts:
– The clue for INDIA – [Where to find Delhi sandwiches] – feels too cute by half, since sandwiches aren’t an Indian dish. I understand wanting a good pun, but it should at least make sense, given the context.
– There’s a slight dupe between TYPE and [Blood-typing letters] for ABO.
– The shade of having LOHAN next to DUI, though!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword #516—Jim Q’s review

A snazzy pangram from BEQ today! Difficult, though. I was legitimately surprised when Mr. Happy Pencil appeared telling me I didn’t screw up.


  • 13D [Uber Eats rival] DOORDASH. Despite hearing of this service in the news

    BEQ Themeless Monday #516 – 5-06-19–solution

    many, many times, I totally blanked here. I know… it was a total gimme. But I live in a very rural area where I doubt many people are going to turn a profit making the 30-minute drive from the nearest eateries to my house.

  • 38A [2018 Ariana Grande #1 hit] THANK U NEXT. I feel like I’ve seen this entry a few times as of late. So much so that I finally filled it in with no problems!
  • 21D [“Well, duh!”] OBVS. Short for “obviously,” obvs.


Lots of new/barely familiar terms, yet (strangely?) inferable.

  • 9D [China’s largest administrative division] XINJIANG. Read about it here. Then send me the Cliff’s Notes.
  • 45A [Riviera beaches] PLAGES. I had PLAYAS. But sure enough, PLAGES is a better answer.
  • 38D [Part of the face that is made up of the forehead, nose, and chin] T-ZONE. I had OZONE, figuring that there was some sort of metaphorical reference I was missing.
  • 44D [Mtge. insurer] FHA. Wanted FDIC. And when that didn’t fit, inexplicably wanted FDA. Duh. Federal Housing Administration.
  • “The Bridge at Narni”

    32D [Czech martyr of the Reformation] JAN HUS. If you say so! Thanks for the fair crossings!

  • 40A [Atomic org.] NRC. Inferable if you determined JAH?US in JAHNUS. One of those acronyms (like FHA) that’s not readily on the tip of my tongue. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • 2D [“The Bridge at Narni” and “Venise, La Piazetta”] COROTS and 4D [“Peer Gynt” dancer] ANITRA were very tough. Once again, without confidence in the crossings, I don’t think I would’ve been able to infer those.

Lots of bite today! I liked it.

3.9 stars.

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19 Responses to Monday, May 6, 2019

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: Never heard of EYE RHYMES, so that was interesting.
    To my mind, TRADE ON implies some level of calculation, but not necessarily of the nefarious kind. So, that’s the same view as Jenni. But looking it up, it says: “take advantage of (something), especially in an unfair way.”
    People from the Middle East, especially Syria and Lebanon, think of themselves as being primarily in the business of trade and commerce. You might say they invented the Art of the Deal…Growing up going to souks and watching all kinds of negotiations, I found it fascinating. Even buying a scarf, much less a piece of jewelry, was a battle of wits– both sides listing advantages and disadvantages, uniqueness, flaws, and how all that should affect price. Different people had different styles and various degrees of success. And time was no object (except for my dad, who just wanted it over with and consequently paid “too much”). But it was also a remarkably enjoyable process, done with humor and playfulness, forging a bond between the negotiators, whether or not you ended up buying that scarf. The shop owners remembered you when you came back, and behaved accordingly.
    The most fun I ever had bargaining in Damascus was with my American roommate who was blond, blue eyed and very charming. I would get the shop owner as far down in price as I could, and then she would utter a single sentence in highly accented Arabic: ” I’m a poor American student, and I’m buying it to take home” and they would go lower than I imagined possible. We were definitely TRADING ON that little unexpected twist.

    • David L says:

      Nice story! Reminds of the time years ago when I was in southern France with a couple of friends. There were many people, Algerians mostly, selling all kinds of stuff on the beaches. One of my friends decided he wanted a long, loose robe that one guy was selling. The starting price was, I dunno, 40 francs or something. There was a lot of back and forth and walking away and so on, and the price came down to a few francs. Then my friend decided he didn’t really want it after all and tried to walk away — which the seller took simply as a hard-bargaining tactic, so he followed my friend despite his (genuine, by now) lack of interest. Eventually, to get rid of the guy, he bought the thing for two or three francs. Then he put it on and the main seam instantly came apart!

  2. Sarah says:

    The WSJ theme was already done for a LAT Sunday puzzle a few years ago. Includes the same title, and two of the same themers.

    • DW says:

      Fwiw, I would’t assume that plagiarism took place. I’m a new constructor, and I was recently told that one of my puzzles uses a theme that appeared in the LAT about a year ago — and I know I didn’t see it then, bc I didn’t start solving LAT until Nov. 2018. Similarly, I made a joke in the early 1990s that Al Franken later made on SNL, and I’d bet my life that he and I didn’t have any social overlap.

      With more than 300mil persons in the US, certain ideas are going to occur to more than one.

  3. Chip says:

    NYT: Thank you, Huda. Years ago I attended a lecture on the process of negotiation. The instructor had first come to the topic living for a year in pre-Soviet Afghanistan. Long ago I know. He expressed his frustration at having to bargain in the market each time he bought staples like fruit … always arriving at the same price. But he must have learned something because the talk was excellent and at various occasions in my legal career proved extremely helpful to me in counseling clients.

  4. JohnH says:

    I think of Gorski’s puzzles for The New Yorker as, thankfully, their least drowning in trivia, but we did have the crossings of NAVI, EVANS, and INEZ. I guessed UNEZ. At least the Arabic moniker was doable from crossings.

    • Jenni says:

      “Navi” comes from the highest-grossing movie of all time, and Janet Evans won four gold medals over two Olympics and still holds at least one world record. It’s so interesting what you classify as “trivia.” Of course, some of us like trivia, not that you care what anyone else likes.

    • Doug says:

      I agree that there seemed to be an unusually heavy load of trivia in this Gorski puzzle. The relative ease or difficulty depended a great deal on whether one was familiar with those factoids. Count me among those who don’t find that enjoyable. But I did enjoy the clever cluing and, like Ben, the 9-letter stacks.

  5. David L says:

    I had a silly error in the NYer: didn’t know the rapper at 12D and ended up with WIZKHADIFA crossing the well-known biblical land of EDAM. Because, of course, blessed are the cheesemakers.

  6. Kent Byron says:

    Why does the New Yorker demand a subscription just so you can work the weekly crossword? I never liked the magazine, but the crossword is great. Still, they limit you to three “articles,” including the crossword per month. Annoying, to say the least.

    Incidentally, I wanted to contact them directly, but I found no way to do so.

    • Jenni says:

      They require it so they can stay in business, but you can get around it by using an incognito browser window.

      • PJ Ward says:

        Is that just another method for stealing intellectual (or at least copyrighted) property? Asking for a friend :-).

      • David Glasser says:

        My problem is that I consider TNY crosswords worth paying for, but maybe not $100/year worth paying for. Yes, of course that also gives the rest of the publication, but while I respect TNY, I don’t feel like I have a New Yorker-shaped hole in my life (except for the puzzles).

        • DW says:

          $90 annually. Perhaps split a subscription with a friend or co-worker: You take the online access, they can take the physical mag, and each can have the tote bag for 6 mos. of the year.

    • DW says:

      Do you work for free? Do you think that others should? Can most people survive without a paycheck?

      I’m asking not to pick a fight but to point out something that many overlook, because we’ve become accustomed to getting seemingly free content online (not free, though: It’s ad-heavy, or it’s garbage, or it steals from paid sources). Magazine and newspapers have been slammed over the past 20 years; what the Internet started the Great Recession finished, hastening the death of some and radically shrinking the staffs of others.

      If you want high-quality content, then you have to pay for it. (Surely you agree that the constructors deserve a decent check for each puzzle — ?) TNY lets you access 3 free per month — I think that’s pretty good (that’s 36/52 per year). If you want more, then split a subscription with a friend (they can get the physical mag, you can access the online content).

  7. DW says:

    WSJ: Thanks for noting that each is 13 letters — harder to make a grid around 13-letter answers. That said, solvers’ appreciation of the puzzle should be based on its theme and fill (which I found a bit blah), not on the difficulties the constructor encountered. No disrespect intended — I think he’s very clever — but I didn’t really care for this puzzle.

    Another constructor handled a “PG-13” theme differently in a 15×15 NYT, in 2015:

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