Thursday, May 16, 2019

BEQ 3:50 (Andy) 


LAT 4:54 (GRAB) 


NYT 14:07 (Ben) 


WSJ 8:37 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball is a contest this week. We’ll have a review posted once the contest is closed.

Joe DiPietro’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “All for Naught”—Jim P’s review

The word “for”, normally in the middle of the theme phrases, has been removed.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “All for Naught” · Joe DiPietro · Thu., 5.16.19

  • 18a [Played checkers with MSNBC host Reid?] JUMPED JOY. I suppose it makes sense to go with the checkers angle, but the entry reads like Joy was mugged (or possibly worse).
  • 38a [“Salad topping’s a hit!”?] DRESSING SUCCESS. This one’s slightly marred by the fact that the base phrase would be stronger in its imperative form (“dress for success”). It’s still valid, but feels a mite less elegant.
  • 57a [When nature calls?] STALL TIME. Ha! As a fan of toilet humor, I approve. (I also approve of starting the grid off at 1a with a BELCH. I had a boss once who was not shy about belching at the workplace; maybe it was because our workplace was her house, but still…)
  • 3d [Winnie-the-Pooh after too much Jim Beam Honey?] LOADED BEAR. This was the first theme clue I read, and it got a chuckle out of me.
  • 30d [Drop a frozen pizza?] BREAK LUNCH. Hmm. If it’s really frozen, I don’t see it breaking.

Despite the little nits I picked, the chuckles won me over, and I enjoyed the theme.

I further enjoyed the longer fill: TEA COZY, OH PLEASE, AIRSICK, MUPPET, and NO BATTER [Little League dugout taunt]. I wanted HEY BATTER BATTER for that last one or BELLY ITCHER, but neither would fit. I actually did try AY BATTER, but it took the crossings for me to get the correct phrase which I finally recognized once I saw it. Still, I think there should be some indication that in practice the phrase is chanted repeatedly (though not at practice).

Not a fan of crossing crosswordese: Latin ECCE and Spanish river EBRO. And I’d never heard of a TAMTAM (8d, [Flat gong]), but I’m happy to learn it. I considered STATOR for a while for 21d [Lipitor, for one], but thankfully I correctly put in STATIN. For the record, a stator is “the stationary portion of an electric generator or motor, especially of an induction motor”. Got that?

Cluing felt fresh overall, especially these gems:

  • 50a [Not well while high?] AIRSICK crossing 52d [Not well at all?] RARE. Love this. In the first instance, the question mark goes with “high”, in the second, with “well”. Nicely done.
  • 1d [He hits low pitches]. BASS.
  • 4d [Polo grounds?]. CHINA. Referring of course to Marco Polo and his journey along the Silk Road.
  • 11d [Place to get a belt]. Not a clothing store or a bar, but a DOJO.
  • 35d [Screen guild?: Abbr.]. TSA. Another good bit of misdirection.

All in all, a fun grid from start to finish. Four stars.

Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NY Times crossword solution, 5/16/19, no. 0516

My Thursday average got a little longer thanks to Jeff Chen’s puzzle today.  It starts out with four clues whose fill in the grid doesn’t make much sense:

  • 26A: South American landmark whose name means “old peak” — MACH
  • 29A: 2008 animated film set in ancient China — KUNGF
  • 47A: Start of a polite request — IFYO
  • 51A: Fruit named for a region of France — DANJO

There’s also four unclued entries in the grid:

  • 20A: ICCHU
  • 23A: ANDA
  • 40A: LEASE
  • 44A: EARS

A revealer in the downs helps link the two:

  • 45D: Increase rapidly…or a hint to connecting four pairs of answers in this puzzle — RAMP UP

I caught RAMP UP fairly early on, but then attempted to use additional white squares as the bridge.  That’s not the case here – each set of three black squares RAMP[ing] UP the grid can be used as “UP” and connect two halves of the correct answers to the clues at 26A, 29A, 47A, and 51A: MACH[U P]ICCHU, KUNG F[U P]ANDA, IF YO[U P]LEASE, and D’ANJO[U P]EARS.  This one took me far longer than it should have, given how straightforward this seems.


  • SUPER SLO MO (as opposed to just regular slo mo) felt arbitrary to me as an answer to “Sports replay effect”.  The rest of the longer across fill (STAGE ACTOR, STATIONARY, and KEY STROKES) was nice.
  • other fill I liked: AZALEAS, LAMAZE, MOBILES (“Hung pieces of art”), TATAMIS, SHAZAM, POLLACK, ROTUNDAS, HOLY DAYS, BJORK!
  • I would argue that Weezer no longer makes EMO music.  They’re solidly pop now, y’all.

Matt Skoczen’s Universal Crossword, “Countryside”—Jim Q’s write-up

Rejoice people of Suriname! You made it into a crossword theme!

THEME: Repetitive country endings, clued wackily


  • 17A [Delay in a Middle Eastern country?] KUWAIT WAIT.

    Universal crossword solution * 5 16 19 * “Countryside” * Skoczen

  • 28A [Craze in a Balkan country?] ROMANIA MANIA. 
  • 49A [Sobriquet in a South American country?] SURINAME NAME. 
  • 66A [Perfect place in a Scandinavian country?] SWEDEN EDEN. 

Dagnabbit! I’ve been a similar theme kicking around in my constructor notes for some time now, with one of the entries being KUWAIT WAIT DON’T TELL ME.  Matt beat me to it!

SURINAME is new to me. It seems like an outlier too since the NAME part is pronounced differently in the country.

No real complaints in the fill. BOY GENIUS was especially nice. I don’t know much about Chinese flavor additives, but STAR ANISE is definitely not in my spice rack.

3.5 Stars

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA TImes

It’s a sort of a commemorative puzzle theme today. Author MARYSHELLEY is centre, and her work FRANKENSTEIN (;or, The Modern Prometheus) is the first entry, followed by THEMONSTER. The bottom half features actors who have played the roles of a Dr. FRANKENSTEIN and THEMONSTER in two different (out of many, many) film adaptations: GENEWILDER and BORISKARLOFF respectively.


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Animal Tales”—Andy’s review

BEQ #1158, “Animal Tales”

A quote puzzle from BEQ today. The quote, from [“A Legacy of Spies” author] JOHN LE CARRÉ, is: “THE CAT SAT ON / THE MAT” IS NOT A / STORY. “THE CAT / SAT ON THE DOG’S / MAT” IS A STORY. A parable about conflict in storytelling.

I found this incredibly tough! The quote itself was challenging to solve — lots of short words in the quote, so if you’re missing a couple of letters in key spots, it’s really hard to see what the quote will be.

Plus, there were a lot of tough spots in the fill, I thought:

  • 5d, ADA [Aim tube letters]. Struggled to figure out what an “aim tube” was; not until after finishing did I realize it was the toothpaste brand Aim.
  • Didn’t know that former Jets coach REX Ryan had started doing NFL analysis for ESPN.
  • 12d, [Sire]… I put LIEGE instead of BEGET, which led me to think that [Police rank: Abbr.] was DET instead of SGT.
  • Didn’t figure out until exactly now that [Part of many cords] referred to this kind of cord, which leads to LOG as the answer.

And so on. Maybe I’m undercaffeinated today, but I found nearly every section of the puzzle sticky today. The challenge didn’t diminish my enjoyment, though — as quote puzzles go, I thought this one was absolutely fine.

By far my favorite clue was the new one for crossword staple ICE-T [Rapper who had his first-ever coffee and first-ever bagel in 2018]:

Until next week!

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23 Responses to Thursday, May 16, 2019

  1. Robert White says:

    No “Edited by Rich Norris” byline on today’s LAT?

    • Paul Coulter says:

      The file I opened at Cruciberb has Jeffrey Wechsler/ed. Rich Norris at the top.

      • Robert White says:

        As of 11:45am,
        the WPost XWord Puzzle Site
        has Editor Credit for Rich for previous puzzles up until today…

    • Billie says:

      Today’s print puzzle has the usual heading: Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis.

  2. Victor Fleming says:

    Universal. Enjoying today’s offering by friend and collaborator Matt and flying through the puzzle on a 5-6-minute pace when CRASH! One box was open and I had no clue whatever:
    SU?INAMENAME / STA?ANISE. After staring for 15 seconds, I started going through the consonants in order. I quit around N or P, as it seemed to me that any of 10 could fit.
    So, I now know the history of a South American country I’d never heard of before. And I know of the small brown pungent fruit of a Chinese and Vietnamese tree. Don’t tell me crosswords are not educational.

    • Matt Skoczen says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Vic!

    • andrea says:

      The clue said it had a shape in its name, and even if you haven’t heard of “star anise,” you’ve likely heard of anise. The fact that you didn’t get to R and weren’t using the part about the shape is not a fault of the puzzle or the cluing. (And it’s actually pretty well known as a spice.)

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Yes, this took a while to decipher, but it’s very clever, and I liked the visually appropriate revealer. For me, the challenge was the combination of the unusual theme with the blank halves, coupled with the many proper names (which usually take me time to decipher).
    I’m used to thinking of either “Anjou Pears” or in French: “Poires D’Anjou”. It seems weird (wrong?) to start a name with D’ which means “of” and is usually in the middle of a French phrase. But in looking it up, I see that D’Anjou is sometimes used in English. So, learned something new.

  4. Ethan Friedman says:

    That was a fun and original NYT!

  5. Glickstein says:

    Doing the puzzle last night in ink while watching S.F. Giants baseball game on TV. Camera was on a group of four women in the stands each with a young child that looked about the same age. Announcer (Mike Krukow) made a joke that they probably met at LaMaze class, saying “LaMaze” at the exact moment I was writing into the puzzle. I love when that happens!

  6. DD says:

    WSJ: The phrase is “dress for success” (11 million hits on Google), not “dressing for success” (840,000 hits). Would’ve been better if the constructor had found another — not easy, I know, but if they’re going to put all that effort into a puzzles, might as well make the theme answers as good as they can be,

    As Jim wrote, a clever theme with some good clueing, if a bit too crosswordese-y. (Thanks, Jim.)

  7. M483 says:

    NYT: why does Button-downs? clue keystrokes. Does one use a keystroke to press a button?
    I had a different problem with “suriname name” in the Universal today. I’m familiar with suriname and the crossing star anise, but I did not know there was an “e” at the end of that country’s name, so in addition to the lack of similar sound, I had that “e” stuck out there that looked like it was the start of the second word!

    • Martin says:

      The key is a button of a sort.

    • pannonica says:

      Surinam was the more common spelling when it was a Dutch colony. Its legacy is seen in eponymous flora, fauna, et cetera: Surinam cherry, Surinam toad, Surinam disease.

      A similar phenomenon with its neighbors Guyana and French Guiana.

      • Martin says:

        Oddly, Surinam was the more common spelling in English, but it was always Suriname to the Dutch. That’s because the Dutch pronunciation has four syllables. They changed the official spelling upon independence specifically so English speakers would stop mispronouncing it.

  8. Norm says:

    LAT: “EEW”? EWW

  9. DD says:

    Gareth, I hope it’s OK to post a belated FYI — the comments for 4-4-19 are closed. You wrote “Oddly, the constructor has gone for only 72 words, which is more typical of a themeless. That does make space for longer entries like …”

    But his wordcount is 72 only because his themed answers are 14 letters long. Normally a row (or column) with a themed answer of 9, 10, 0r 11 letters also contains one short word. Had his themed answers been shorter, his wordcount would be a typical 76. In other words, that 72 doesn’t mean he included lots of long words elsewhere — he has two 9-letter, two 8-letter, two 7-letter, and two 6-letter — nothing out of the ordinary. (That said, he built a nice-looking grid, and the two 9-letters rest on two themed answers — no mean feat.)

    Hope it’s OK to add my two cents. Thanks for your reviews and your work with animals; best wishes.

  10. bonekrusher says:

    Great misdirection with “2008 animated film set in ancient China.” I immediately plunked down MULAN and was wondering why none of the crossers made sense.

  11. Psumcoleman says:

    Definitely enjoyed Jeff’s Easter egg starting at the end of “danjo” and progressing diagonally up and to the right. Surprised this got past Will!

    • Lois says:

      Could you explain your post, Psumcoleman? I looked up Danjo and it seems to be innocuous. I guess it’s too late for you to see this question.

      The puzzle was hard and laborious to finish, but in the end I loved it.

    • Dave G says:

      Wow, thanks for pointing this out. I’m even more impressed now.

Comments are closed.