Thursday, May 23, 2019

BEQ 7:43, down clues only (Andy) 


LAT 4:22 (GRAB) 


NYT 9:12 (Ben) 


WSJ 8:46 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball puzzle 7:45, theme an additional 5:00 (Jenni) 


David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Alternate Rts”—Jim P’s review

ARTY (63a, [Pretentious, or phonetically the two letters that get separated in this puzzle’s theme]) serves as the revealer today. Theme answers are normal words or phrases that have been split (or re-split) between the R and the T.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Alternate Rts” · David Alfred Bywaters · Thu., 5.23.19

  • 17a [Nuances of automotive design?] CAR TOUCHES. Cartouches.
  • 23a [Do some inept metalworking?] MAR TIN. Martin. Hmm. I doubt anyone would ever say this.
  • 26a [Famous publicist?] STAR TOUT. Start out.
  • 34a [Feel like there must be an extra instrument in that nonet recording?] HEAR TEN. Hearten. A little awkward in the cluing, but mildly amusing.
  • 47a [They wag just like those of purebred dogs!] CUR TAILS. Curtails.
  • 49a [Bronzed sailor’s pride?] TAR TAN. Tartan.
  • 53a [Correct neckwear?] PROPER TIES. Properties.
  • Not included: 58a [Designer of over 240 Harper’s Bazaar covers] ERTE

I have a few problems with this. First of all, “artsy” (with or without “fartsy”) seems like the more appropriate answer to 63a‘s clue. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my experience. Second, there really should be some explanation as to why R and T should be separated. Simply identifying two letters and saying they’ve been separated is less elegant than having some purported, though admittedly manufactured, reason for doing so. Lastly, and relatedly, the given title doesn’t do that; “alternate” does not imply separation and furthermore, I more commonly see “route” abbreviated as “rte”. I bet I would feel differently if some of these were laugh-out-loud funny, but they didn’t quite get there for me.

Fill seemed hit-and-miss as well. Sparkly bits include LEONINE, ORIGAMI, AURORA, and LORETTA. More problematic entries include HIPAA [Medical privacy law, for short] and OUTGOES [Expenses] (I really wanted OUTLAYS there).

Clues of note:

  • 32a [Infant’s father]. DADA. Hmm. When I think of the word “infant”, I think of newborns…who don’t do much speaking. “Baby’s father” might’ve worked better.
  • 1d [Perp’s prey, on cop shows]. VIC. Rather grim and unpleasant way to clue this, don’t you think?
  • 3d [Military address]. SIR. Once again, how hard is it to add “at times” to the end of this clue? Even “often” would be better than nothing.
  • 10d [Did a hog imitation]. GRUNTED. I like both clue and answer here. First, because it makes me think the hog is thoroughly dissatisfied with the current situation, which is probably true, and second because when I was a kid living on my grandpa’s farm, I developed a pretty good back-of-the-throat piglet grunt which I can still impress my kids with today.
  • 22d [Voluntary player]. ORGAN. New to me. Apparently a voluntary is a piece of music often played as part of a church service. See more here.
  • 43d [Man in a monkey suit]. SCOPES. Love this clue!

Wordplay in a theme is always a good thing, but I felt this one needed a little more polishing. Three stars.

Byron Walden’s Fireball Crossword, “Made to Order”–Jenni’s write-up

This is not my favorite kind of puzzle. I guess it’s a constructing challenge, and we’re supposed to be impressed by the skill needed to create it. I deeply admire creative constructors and I appreciate them. An inventive, boundary-pushing puzzle that’s fun to solve is a thing of beauty – last Sunday’s NYT comes to mind. This one was a slog to solve. It took me a while to figure out the theme and when I did, it was a “so what?” moment rather than an “aha!” moment. The constraints of the theme made for some icky fill. Just not my cup of tea.

Fireball 5/23/2019, Byron Walden, “Made to Order,” solution grid

The theme is the vowels in order. We have three rows of words with A, then three rows with E, then four rows with I, three rows with O, and three rows with U. It took me a long time to see that. I tried to find something in the long downs and then I tried to find something in the clues, and then I looked again and thought “the vowels in this puzzle are weird” and there it was. This means that every Across answer is effectively a theme answer, and so we end up with fill like ITIC and ECCE and ULURU and IDING and OGOPOGO. The whole thing is just AWKWARD.

A few other things:

  • 1a is [Fingertipful, say] – a little DAB‘ll do ya.
  • 13a [Foundation part] is BRA.
  • 20a [Smelly sheet, sometimes] did not immediately make me think of FAX. These days my fax machine uses plain paper and inkjet ink and doesn’t smell at all.
  • The long Downs are LAWN TENNIS COURT and PARENTING GROUPS which are OK, I guess.
  • 47a [Painter of “happy little trees”] is BOB ROSS of blessed memory.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that COSTCO sells four times as many  prepared hot dogs as every major-league stadium combined. I had also never heard of ULURU or OGOPOGO.

Alex Vratsanos’ New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 5/23/2019 — no. 0523

This was a relatively straightforward NYT Thursday for me, and it was easy to figure out what was going on long before I hit the revealer:

  • 1D: Locate precisely — PIN
  • 7D: Malcolm Gladwell best seller, with “The” — TIPPING
  • 10A: The outcome of a story might hinge on one — PLOT
  • 17A: One might say “Home Sweet Home” — NEEDLE
  • 18A: Important spot on the body for acupuncture — PRESSURE
  • 23D: Kind of pen — BALL
  • 28D: Touchdown follower – EXTRA
  • 30A: Viewing angle — STAND
  • 33D: Aid in a speaker’s presentation — POWER
  • 41D: Part of a scatter diagram — DATA
  • 43D: Syncophant’s reward — BROWNIE
  • 48A: Kind of average — GRADE
  • 63D: Big moment in a tennis match — SET
  • 67A: School overlooking the Hudson — WEST

That’s a lot of theme clues!  It all makes sense with the revealer:

  • 59A: With 61-Across, what President Wilson proposed for lasting peace…or what’s missing from the answers to the starred clues — FOURTEEN/POINTS

This is fine, but the density of the theme fill (and the theme’s requirement of it being so dense) sort of leaves the rest of this grid over-constrained.  Once you had a few of theme entries it was very easy for the rest to fall.

Beck Bennett did a great job as Chopped’s TED Allen in this SNL sketch from a few weeks ago (7A)


  • I liked the little bits of trivia in the cluing for a few bits of fill, like the maximum score in PAC-MAN and the LOUVRE‘s distinction as the most-visited museum.
  • JOGS somehow felt wrong to me as “Brief, abrupt changes in direction”.  I wanted ZIGS or ZAGS, or even JAGS.
  • The problem with so much theme fill in the grid is that it leaves a bunch of small bits and pieces left over — IRE, BIT, MR T, TNT (whose chemical formula clue I didn’t love), FIB, CLU Gulager, SCI, TEE, THU, etc.


Evan Kalish’s Universal Crossword, “Out of Sync”—Jim Q’s write-up

Bizarre experience to see 1-Across clued [Not together] with the title “Out of Sync” directly above the clue (solving in Across Lite, that is). Ha!

THEME: Theme answers have the consecutive letters IM (way) ahead of U.

Universal crossword solution * 5 23 19 * “Out of Sync” * Kalish


  • 17A [No-hunting refuge] ANIMAL SANCTUARY. I have one of these near my house. No one believes me when I say I have camels living next door.
  • 26A [Source of life, some say] PRIMORDIAL SOUP.
  • 46A [Musical score specifications] TIME SIGNATURES. 
  • 57A [“That occurred to me ages ago!” … or a homophonic hint to this puzzle’s theme] I’M WAY AHEAD OF YOU. 

Plenty to like here with lively theme answers and a 76-word grid that still breathes. PRIMORDIAL SOUP was the most fun to uncover, even though it was unfamiliar to me. It’s one of those phrases that just sounds cool.

I had the most trouble with FLU SHOT. For some reason, I wanted it to be FLUSH IT or something. When I finally got it correct, I wondered aloud what a FLUSHOT was. Derp.

Not sure how I feel about NUH UH in the grid. Have we agreed on the spelling? And I’ll never warm up to BMOC, even though I’ve accepted it.

Everything else was very enjoyable.

4 stars.

Joe Schewe’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Slightly subtle hidden word theme today. The revealer is MIXEDGREENS, and if like me you didn’t read that answer’s long clue beyond “simple salad, and…” you may have first arrived at LEAF green in VOI(LEFA)BRICS, which is not the thematic part, VOILE is, as it anagrams to OLIVE (green). Similarly SAGE (green) is found at the beginning of SEGAGENESIS; MARYTODD hides ARMY (green). FERN (green) is concealed in NERFBALL and MILEHIGHCITY contains an initial LIME (green). There are a ton of “___ green” greens, but these make a serviceable set. VOILEFABRICS was the weakest entry, both for its gratuitous plurality and its tautology.

Six answers and sixty-two squares is quite busy, as themes go. The middle-top and bottom areas show the most strain. AAS/CCI and IRENA/ASSAM crossing XES/ICEDAM being the most glaring parts. It’s a shame to see a thematic X’s cross being so dull. One less entry would have made the rest of the puzzle breathe (or a 17x grid, which is unfeasible as printed puzzles have space constraints.)

2,5 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Quiet Change”—Andy’s review

BEQ #1160, “Quiet Change”

Once again, I tackled the BEQ Thursday puzzle with just the down clues. I’m pretty sure the revealer is 60a, HUSH MONEY, and the theme is that the silent letters from five across answers (MNEMONICS, JEOPARDY CHAMP, DAMN GOOD, IMAGINED, and BEYOND THE PALE) spell MONEY (in a “hush”ed way).

After looking at the across clues, that suspicion is confirmed. The JEOPARDY CHAMP clue makes reference to current 25-day champion James Holzhauer, who is averaging an incredible $77,000+ per game.

Six theme answers is a lot! STAR BASES and FLIP PHONE are nice additions to the grid.

A few final notes:

  • If 4d, I’VE [“___ seen the future”] is a reference, I didn’t get it. Enlighten me in the comments.
  • BEQ was very generous to give me a big hint in 8d, THE OCEAN [Led Zeppelin song with a nautical name]. I would’ve had a much tougher time without the “nautical” hint.
  • Had no idea what LER could be while I was solving, but I figured all the down answers were right. Turns out it’s the first name of [Primus guitarist LaLonde]. I get the feeling that’s not gonna make it’s way into mainstream puzzles anytime soon, despite the friendly letters.
  • [Experiment with mushrooms?] is a clever clue for H-TEST.

Until next week!

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19 Responses to Thursday, May 23, 2019

  1. Matthew G. says:

    Not a fan of either the NYT or the Fireball today; especially the former. Dense stunt themes are just not my thing. Like Jenni, my reaction tends to be, “So what?” I’m here to solve, not to marvel at arbitrary hurdles that constructors set for themselves.

    In the Fireball, the {Smelly sheet, sometimes} clue for FAX was baffling to me. Was there a time when faxes smelled? That escaped my notice. They’re just … printers, except they transmit remotely, aren’t they?

    In the NYT, I agree with Ben that the clue on JOGS makes no sense. And who on earth is CLU Gulager? Not one of the more fun solving mornings I’ve had recently.

  2. Armagh says:

    This was a Fireball that made me regret the annual subscription fee. More three-latter drek than any solver deserves. Oh yeah, the sometimes “Y” didn’t want any part of this?

  3. Ethan Friedman says:

    I enjoyed the NYT but too easy for a Thursday. Would’ve have enjoyed it much more sans asterisks. That would be a nice challenge!

  4. Susan K. Hoffman says:

    Any thoughts on the BEQ today? I don’t get the theme.

    • pannonica says:

      Did you see the revealer (60a)? There are silent letters.

      But I confess that I’m confused by 50a/the necessary final two letters.

      • Susan K. Hoffman says:

        I thought that was it, but what’s the silent letter in BEYOND?

        • pannonica says:

          Ah. I missed 42a.

          BEYOND / BEOND


          • Susan K. Hoffman says:

            Gee, I pronounce it “Be-Yond”

            • David L says:

              I suppose you can argue that LEO and DEODORANT, for example, have an implied Y between the E and the O, so that the Y in BEYOND is superfluous. But that’s a stretch, IMO.

            • M483 says:

              I think it’s just silent letters, i.e, the ones in the revealer at 60 across: m – o – n – e – y, in that order.

            • not really? says:

              Midwesterner here, west of the Mississippi, with neither Minnesota nasal or southern drawl.

              De-odorant, are the way they are pronounced here. Properly, I might add. (Raises shield)

              I guess that’s why they say our accent is the purest.

      • WTF BEQ says:

        Revealer: “Bribe, and a hint to certain letters in the first words of the theme answers.”

        Where’s second words in theme answers MNEMONICS and IMAGINED?

  5. ahimsa says:

    The LA Times clue for RAGA (3 down) seems off. My husband is the musician, not I, but I know that a raga has nothing to do with which instrument is being played.

    I guess the sitar is the only classical Indian instrument that people know? And they don’t know about vocal performances?

  6. Peter Berardi says:

    WSJ 41A. Lower in the country = COW.

    Anybody? Thx.

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