Thursday, May 9, 2019

BEQ 3:14 (Andy) 


LAT 4:25 (GRAB) 


NYT 12:11 (Ben) 


WSJ 10:35 (Jim P) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 127”–Jenni’s write-up

It’s been a very long day that included a five-hour drive and a visit to my mother-in-law in the hospital, so I don’t know if this is really harder than recent FB themelesses have been or if I’m just really tired. Well, I am really tired, but this may also be a hard puzzle.

1a [Over-the-shoulder holders] brought to mind the middle-school chant of “over the shoulder boulder holders” but BRAS didn’t fit. That’s because the answer is BRA STRAPS. So glad to know middle-school humor is still alive and well.

Are there really a variety of LACINGS, also know as [Sneaker-tying styles]?

I was really hoping that 14d [House title] was MS SPEAKER but nope! It’s MR SPEAKER.

24d [Present for presenters] is SWAG BAG. I thought those were for everyone at fancy events, like goodie bags at kiddie birthday parties.

Fireball 5/9/2019 puzzle Themeless #127

A few other things:

  • 12d [Marketer of the Inside the Shell Egg Scrambler] is the late lamented RON POPEIL of the eponymous Ronco infomercials.
  • 21d [First National Leaguer to hit 40 or more home runs] is Ralph KINER, perhaps better known for his, um, commentary as a Mets broadcaster.
  • 40d [Frothy desserts] are MOUSSES. Frothy? Hmmm.
  • I’d never heard of MURDER INC until it was mentioned on The West Wing. And a Google search about that turned up this gem.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: oh, so many things, which may be why I found it tough going. I didn’t know that LITHUANIA won three straight Olympic bronze medals in basketball starting in 1992, or that the musical SUGAR was based on “Some Like It Hot,” or that ELENA is the Disney princess of Avalor (or that there even is a Disney princess of Avalor) and I did not know that MIT class rings are called BRASS RATS.

Evan Kalish’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ball Bearing”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Each theme answer has an ORB added in.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Ball Bearing” · Evan Kalish · Thu., 5.9.19

  • 17a [Concerned with the quality of paper towels?] ABSORBENT-MINDED. Absent-minded.
  • 29a [Space Race motto?] IN ORBIT TO WIN IT. In it to win it. I like this one a lot; it has great surface sense. Although I wonder if the word “orbit” comes from the word “orb”. Ah yes, they both stem from the Latin orbis meaning “ring”.
  • 43a [Hearses?] MORBID-SIZE CARS. Mid-size cars. This one however doesn’t have very good surface sense since “morbid” is not a size. MORBID TOWN or MORBID SUMMER might lend itself to a more sensible clue, but then grid symmetry would be thrown out of whack.
  • 57a [Chilly desserts being delivered by Grubhub?] SORBETS IN MOTION. Sets in motion. The base phrase isn’t the greatest, but I like the idea of delivered desserts. I could go for that right about now.

A pretty good set that works well enough.

What I tend to dislike most about add-some-letters themes is that there’s often no apparent reason why the letters are added. Here the title provides just enough of a conceit for the theme that I’m satisfied. I wonder of Evan considered an alternative title of “Having a Ball”.

Fine fill in KNOTHOLE, AMARETTO, BAD BOY, and TWEEZE. That BÁNH MÌ/TAMALE/TOMATO section was tough mostly because of cluing but also because if BÁNH MÌ [Vietnamese sandwich] was in my brain at all, it was buried way deep down. But I think it’s definitely fair game and interesting fill to boot.

Clues of note:

  • 10a. [Foul play?]. BOMB. For some reason I really had trouble with this one.  I think I kept thinking of “fowl”.
  • 41a. [The Brannock Device measures them]. FEET. Hey! It’s that thing! (See picture.) Never knew what that was called. (The more you know…)
  • 62a. [River past Cairo]. OHIO. My gut instinct told me the city in question was the one in Illinois, but I squashed my instinct and put in NILE anyway. Shoulda known better…
  • 64a. [Spot for a night out?]. TENT. Cute.
  • 7d. [Onus for Frodo]. RING. Geek alert! The RING in question is Sauron’s One Ring of Power.
  • 19d. [“Yes, sweetie, that was amazing”]. I SAW. I’m detecting a note of sarcasm here. I wonder if this clue comes from personal experience.
  • 26d. [Make a comeback]. ANSWER. Another cute one.
  • 31d. [Co-star of Kelley and Koenig]. TAKEI. Geek alert 2.0! This is referring to DeForest Kelley and Walter Koenig of Star Trek fame, of course.
  • 32d. [Pull one’s hair out]. TWEEZE. Fave clue there.

Solid grid with enough interesting fill and clues to keep things lively. 3.7 stars.

Lewis Rothlein’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NY Times crossword solution, 5/09/19, no. 0509

It’s not great when the reaction you get to solving the Thursday puzzle and realizing what its theme is is “that’s it?“.  This Thursday’s NYTXW needed a little oomph or something more than what it held:

  • 12A: Unassisted — BALONEY
  • 14A: Two-masted vessel — SKETCHY
  • 26A: Blacksmith’s workplace — I FORGET
  • 45A: Perfect child — TANGELO
  • 59A: 30th anniversary gift — UP EARLY
  • 60A: Not this or that — SO THERE
  • 38D: Football offense…or a hint to six answers in this puzzle — OFF SIDES

The revealer on this puzzle felt underbaked – OFF SIDES works great in a cryptic clue to tell me that I want to take the edges off of a word, but seeing it in the grid didn’t trigger that I needed to ignore the first and last letters of the fill for those six clues to have it make sense.  After the fact, it’s very clear that the answers to those six clues are ALONE, KETCH, FORGE, ANGEL, PEARL, and OTHER, but this didn’t do it for me.


  • I like the general grid pattern here!  It’s aesthetically pleasing.
  • I loved learning that the #1 how-to search on Google is how to TIE A TIE.  I’m definitely guilty of looking that up – I don’t wear ties often enough for that info to live in my brain full-time
  • I was oddly confident that “Countless” was cluing MYRIAD, despite having no crossings at the time, or even a real sense that those letters would cross well with the rest of the grid.  It was actually A TON OF.
  • CLUNKED is such a lovely onomatopoeic word.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “It’s a Lot”—Andy’s review

BEQ #1156, “It’s A Lot”

Today’s theme is adding CAR to the front of phrases, changing the spelling but keeping the phrases phonetically intact, to punny effect:

  • 17a, CARTOON YARDS [Lawns where animated characters hang out?]. Tune-Yards.
  • 28a, CARMELO YELLOW [Cowardly NBA star Anthony?]. Mellow Yellow.
  • 38a, CARTEL SECRETS [Stuff El Chapo doesn’t want public?]. Tell secrets.
  • 51a, CARDI B COOPER [“I Like It” rapper who also makes barrels?]. D. B. Cooper.

I liked the theme. This one had a lot of music trivia, even for a BEQ puzzle. Besides the three music-based themers, we also had the two long downs ASTRAL WEEKS [Van Morrison album regularly included in all-time best lists] and GARY CHERONE [Van Halen singer after Sammy Hagar], plus the bonus answers ON CD and K-TEL. Unrelatedly, we also get an F-bomb in the clue for 30d, ERR [F*** up] (censored for all our young adult readers).

41d, SABO [One-named conservative street artist] was new to me, and I can’t say I enjoyed learning about him. A couple awkward plurals in ERICAS and SNEADS, a few unlovely entries like ON CD and AS NO and AGHA, and I didn’t love seeing INSANE and PSYCHO.

Until next week!

Roland Huget’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times190509

Today is another common theme trope. A word bookends four long theme answers. The word is POLES and it is indicated at POLESAPART. The choice to include the plural ‘s’ of POLES in the theme is an odd one, and makes the rest of the themers all rather ungainly, except perhaps PICKSHOLES. It is worth noting that the four entries follow a pattern P/OLES, PO/LES, POL/ES, POLE/S. Of our themers, two are long single words: POLEMICISTS and spanning answer POLYUNSATURATES. POKERTABLES rounds out the set.

Not too many answers to note today:

  • [Historic NYC club, with “The”], COPA. Had the C and wanted the articleless CBGB.
  • [The Huskies of the NCAA’s Big East], UCONN. There is something depressing about the percentage of higher institution clues that refer to sports teams.
  • [Sensory omen regarding money], ITCHYPALM. Weird clue, but difficult to define entry.
  • Names made tougher by quite difficult (for me) examples: [’60s-’70s All-Star pitcher Tiant], LUIS and [Soprano Ponselle who debuted at the Met opposite Caruso], ROSA.

2,5 Stars

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25 Responses to Thursday, May 9, 2019

  1. Howard B says:

    NYT: (Crossing spoiler ahead, skip if you need to).
    Cool theme idea, although those letters were kind of technically unchecked (though fairly crossed).

    Speaking of crossings, it has to be said, MCTEER crossing LENA.
    I know GoT is the thing right now, and so that name is solid, but no no no :).
    In general, please, please don’t cross two names with an ambiguous vowel, that’s unresolved even on pronunciation. Had I not seen LENA before, I would have thought that “I” was a stronger guess than “E”.
    Thanks and happy solving!

    • Lise says:

      That crossing tripped me up, too. I was making a case for pretty much every vowel.

      There were a lot of entries I enjoyed: HARBINGER going down the center was aesthetically pleasing (thanks for that very apt expression, Ben); MANIACAL [bwahaha]; the wonderful SHEL Silverstein; SKETCHY, in its own right.

      I liked the theme, as well. Thanks for a fun Thursday.

    • CR says:

      Totally agree. That crossing was my last fill. The corner, overall, was a groaner. How many one-, two-, multi-mast vessels do I have to know to solve crosswords?

    • Joe Pancake says:

      Spot on, Howard.

      I guessed ‘I’ at that crossing because MCTIER look slightly better to me than MCTEER, and I’m not into GoT.

      The puzzle probably should’ve been reworked to avoid that Natick, but if this wasn’t possible, a more expansive clue for LENA would have been appreciated. Either of

      “Actress Heady or Waithe”
      “Actress Heady or Dunham”

      Would have worked for me. Why not give the solver another shot at an obvious know-it-or-don’t crossing?

    • Gareth says:

      Add me to the list of people who guessed wrong on that square.

  2. I always thought the expression was “ride hard.” TIL it’s actually “ride herd.” I knew CLUNKAD had to be wrong, but all of the crossings felt good. I did fix it and get my happy pencil, but RIDEHERD just looked so wrong to me in the grid, especially since I was still trying to parse HERD as an adverb.

  3. Lise says:

    Jenni: There are many ways to lace shoes. Check out Ian’s Shoelace Site (“Bringing you the fun, fashion & science of shoelaces”), which currently has 60 methods:

    Unless you have something better to do ?

  4. Paul Coulter says:

    FB – MIT’s class rings are called Brass Rats because our mascot the beaver is the engineer of the animal world. In some designs, such as in my graduating class, the year is hidden in the sticks of the dam on which the beaver perches.

    • Paul Coulter says:

      The term Brass Rat is tongue in cheek, of course, because beavers are in the rodent family and the gold alloy’s tone is similar to brass.

      • Jenni Levy says:

        Thanks for the info! I could have searched for it, I know, but I wasted all that time looking at West Wing clips…

  5. Greetings! Many thanks to Ade Koiki for keying in to the theme in his blog of Tuesday’s Crossword Nation puzzle. And evergreen thanks to Amy Reynaldo for providing this forum for us indie puzzle providers. For those who’ve not solved the latest Crossword Nation puzzle, the special configuration celebrates a baby born 70 years ago today. The puzzle is free of charge … details and download info is on the website: Come join us in the solve! xo ~ Liz Gorski

  6. JohnH says:

    I wanted more from the NYT, too. It had me looking for a pattern such as having the paired dropped letters each form a word meaning OFF, and I was encouraged when at least the first pair gave something reasonably close.

    I didn’t know MCTEER or LENA either, but they looked right somehow, so I lucked out. I don’t get the joke on LETS, though. They’re “calls” in tennis, of course, but then what are “reserves”?

  7. Will Nediger says:

    Really surprised by the low ratings for the BEQ – I thought the theme entries were delightful.

  8. Billie says:

    LAT, 49-Across: The Huskies of the NCAA’s Big East, with the answer UCONN. The UConn Huskies left the Big East in 2013, and are now members of the AAC.

  9. Gareth says:

    [Many a rescue], MUTT. That word “rescue” I hate. I work at an animal shelter so I get that this emotion in a way benefits us, but the idea of your adopting an unwanted pet being this huge magnanimous deed that requires the rest of the world to then owe you (including financially subsiding your pet’s financial care, regardless of your own finances) and fall over you in praise for ever and ever amen is maddening at times.

    • RSP64 says:

      I like the bumper sticker that is common here in Oregon that reads “Who rescued who?”

  10. Zulema says:

    Hate to say I disagree with those of you who were disappointed by the NYT puzzle today, but I thought it was one of the funniest Thursdays I can remember, no tricks but very clever fill and very funny.

    • RSP64 says:

      What was funny about it? I found no humor in that puzzle whatsoever.

      • Zulema says:

        It’s my subjective response to some entries that I didn’t expect from their clues. Maybe it’s my age or my weird sense of humor, but why not?.

  11. CR says:

    LUIS Tiant should be in the Hall of Fame. Granted, I’m a biased Red Sox fan, and Tiant recorded the win the day I was born against a division rival. Despite all that, it’s not a name I would expect the average puzzle solver to know.

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