Thursday, May 30, 2019

BEQ 4:44, down clues only (Andy) 


LAT 4:53 (GRAB) 


NYT 9:00 (Ben) 


WSJ 9:51 (Jim P) 


Universal Untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball 5:05 (Jenni) 


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

The title serves as the revealer, but it doesn’t do a complete job of explaining what’s happening. Each theme answer is a well-known phrase except the original ending of -CK has been softened to -G.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Surprise Ending” · David Alfred Bywaters · Thu., 5.30.19

  • 17a [Happy meal for a horse?] POSITIVE FEEDBAG. …Feedback. This one was the hardest for me to solve because I had DELAY at 8d and that NE corner is tough with proper names and a French word. That said, I like the entry.
  • 22a [Carpentry enthusiast?] SAW BUG. …buck. I don’t understand the decision to go with six-letter entries when it seems there are a plethora of options to choose from, like PASS THE BUG, or BANG FOR THE BUG.
  • 38a [Advice to a farmer heading to the state fair?] TAKE YOUR PIG.pick. This one’s cute.
  • 56a [Feature of a coop coat rack?] HENPEG. …peck. Same question as above. Note that each entry has a different vowel before the final G (AEIOU), though they aren’t in order in the grid. If having the E for this entry is important, then I would’ve gone with GREGORY PEG with a clue like [Hines’s hook?].
  • 63a [Apocalyptic plumbing disaster?] THE DOOMSDAY CLOG. …Clock. This one works though I’m only vaguely familiar with the clock. Ah, it’s a metaphorical construct meant to impart how much danger humanity has placed itself in. Thanks to the double threat of nuclear war and climate change (neither of which this administration seems to care about alleviating), we’re still at 2 minutes to midnight. See the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for more info.

Not a bad theme, but I prefer there to be some purported reason for making the change from CK to G. But maybe I’m in the minority on that. And again, the six-letter theme entries don’t make sense to me. They’re too easy to lose sight of in the grid.

This didn’t seem like a very Thursdayish puzzle, but that NE corner slowed me down quite a bit with GARDE [___-manger (cook who prepares cold dishes)] crossing GIBRAN [“The Prophet” author] and ALDA clued ambiguously [Bisset’s co-star in “The Mephisto Waltz”].

Not much in the long fill department; the 11-letter central entry causes an unusual block configuration in the east and west. I do like EGG CUP, ALTHEA Gibson, and SMIDGE.

Clues of note:

  • 51d [Film star Lamarr who’s in the National Inventors Hall of Fame]. HEDYShe invented frequency hopping which is a way to transmit signals without allowing eavesdroppers to listen in. This helped pave the way for much of our modern-day communications.
  • 13d [Charlie Townsend’s detective employees]. ANGELS. Maybe you know them by the more common Charlie’s Angels.
  • 16a [Scar, e.g.]. LION. From The Lion King.
  • 25a [Dhurrie or kilim]. RUG. I don’t know these, and frankly I don’t feel like looking them up. Anyone care to enlighten us?

A good puzzle. Not a theme to get excited about, and I still don’t get some of the theme choices made, but three of the five were good. I wish there was some flashier fill as well. 3.25 stars.

Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “This and That”–Jenni’s write-up

I bounced around the grid for a while before I figured out the theme, and then it fell pretty quickly. Each theme answer has a rebus including AND; the crossings use only the letters before and after AND. It was easier to solve than explain.

Fireball 5/30/2019 10-23, Paul Coulter, “This and That,” solution grid

  • 17a [Film role for Donald Glover] is (LandO) CALRISSIAN. 1d is [String tie], or BO(LO).
  • 25a [Kisses, e.g.] are CHOCOLATE (CandY). 28d, [Color of the ghost Inky in Pac-Man], is (CY)AN.
  • 32a [Chain of Chinese restaurants] is (PandA) EXPRESS. 23d is [California wine valley] NA(PA).
  • 41a [Proves useful] is COMES IN (HANDY). 44d [Get a lot of ink on, perhaps] is (HY)PE.
  • 56a [“An Honest Liar” documentary subject] is THE AMAZING (RANDI). 60d [Lens holders] are (RI)MS.

This was a satisfying, consistent solve, and not something I remember seeing before. Thanks, Paul and Peter!

A few other things:

  • At least 13a, [Like few marathoners], acknowledges that some runners are OBESE. Fat is not a synonym for unhealthy.
  • 30a [Smokejumper’s need] is a CHUTE. If you haven’t read Norman Maclean’s “Young Men and Fire,” you should. And then listen to this.

  • 52a [Jet pilot of the past?] is one of those sneaky clues that uses the upper-case letter at the beginning to confuse us. The Jet in question is a member of the football team, and the answer is NAMATH.
  • 42d [Seat in a group of 12] is IMPANEL, which I think of as a variant of EMPANEL.
  • 51a [Sport in which players wear body cords] is EPEE – the cords register the hits electronically.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’d never heard of the documentary “An Honest Liar.” I didn’t know that KAMPALA is the largest city on Africa’s largest lake. I didn’t know that ROCK/paper/scissors is also called roshambo.

Brandon Koppy’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 5/30/2019 — no. 0530

I’m not quite sure what to make of Brandon Koppy’s latest puzzle for the NYT.  It was tricky in a Thursday sort of a way, but also not quite?  Let’s discuss that in a minute, once we’ve looked at the theme here:

  • 17A: Peter…/Rabbit… — JACKSON HOLE
  • 24A: Space…/Bar… — TIME FLIES
  • 30A: Dead…/Drop… — BEAT BOX
  • 42A: Jack…/Cheese… — POTHEAD
  • 49A: Fire…/Screen… — POWER PLAY
  • 59A: Dog…/Star… – PADDLEBOARD

Well, it’s not quite a before & after…more of an after & after?  Each pair of clued words  can make a two-word phrase.  Each of the those words is also the first word of a two word phrase, and those second words can also be combined to form a third word or phrase.  I think I’d like this one more if there were more of a theme to either the clues or the answers – something to unify things rather than being a random assemblage of phrases that fit a certain word pattern.  It’s fine, but just fine.


  • Things I liked: BEELINE, ATE CROW, director WES Anderson, AMIRITE (meant to be parsed as “am I right?”, but the sort of quick “amirite, ladies and gentlemen?” that a hack-y 90s stand-up comedian would do), L’CHAIM, PALADIN, SANDRA Bullock,
  • Lots of proper names in the bottom half of the grid: KEN STARR, Walter HAAS, the WEBER (named for German physicist Wilhelm), Bobby ORR, and Valerie PLAME
  • Weird wormhole from the fill this week: the clue for AWARDS (“Edgar, Oscar, and Tony”) made me think of another name associated with awards: Jimmy.  The Jimmy awards are to high school theater what the Tonys are to theater theater, and both of last year’s winners for actor and actress in a musical will be stepping up on Broadway soon in Dear Evan Hansen and Mean Girls, respectively.  Vulture did a fantastic piece about all of this last year that’s worth a lunchtime read

Hope to see some of you at the Indie 500 this weekend in DC!

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

BEQ puzzle #1162, “Adders”

Another week of solving the BEQ puzzle without the across clues, and I feel like I’m getting more on Brendan’s wavelength with each passing week. This time the title, “Adders,” was a big hint: Each of the theme entries added two ERs (not necessarily consecutively) to a normal phrase, to punny effect. Like so:

  • 20a, OAKLAND ERASER [One gerrymandering the Bay Area?]. Oakland A’s.
  • 27a, MAGIC WANDERER [NBA legend Johnson’s life as a nomad?]. Magic wand.
  • 44a, SPIN DERRIERES [Shake some asses?]. Spin-dries.
  • 49a, GRUMPY CATERER [Guy who’ll provide food for your wedding and will have a miserable time doing it?]. Grumpy Cat, rest in peace.

Fun twist on the “add-a-letter” theme type, and the puns and clues were all very funny. Some nice long fill as a bonus, with MORNING JOE [Mika Brzezinski’s show] and SOUR GRAPES [Sore loser’s reaction].

A few final notes:

  • The hardest clue for me was 57d, INT [Chief takeaway?: Abbr.]. I solved this by inferring the crossings. I assumed it was about banking until I had the big aha about 40 seconds ago that this was an abbreviation for “interception,” and “Chief” here refers to a Kansas City Chief.
  • [Pitching award] for CLIO is a great clue, and will never get old to me.
  • 9a, GASOL [Raptors star Marc] — The Raptors are in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history this year.
  • 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.
  • [Keeps in the galley] for STETS is a lovely clue.

Hope to see many of you this weekend at The Indie 500! To everyone else, until next week!

Debbie Ellerin’s Universal Crossword, “Body Building”—Jim Q’s write-up

I wish body building were this fun all the time. I’d be buff.

THEME: Phrases with body parts.

Universal crossword solution * 5 30 19 * “Body Building” * Ellerin


  • 18A [Totally in love] HEAD OVER HEELS. 
  • 26A [Thin as a rail] SKIN AND BONES. 
  • 44A [Intense way to fight] TOOTH AND NAIL. 
  • 53A [Sarcastically] TONGUE IN CHEEK. 

Simple theme today. I feel like I may be missing something that ties the themers together other than two body parts in each. Somewhat surprised when there was no revealer. Perhaps a consistent cluing style for each or a common middle word (OVER, AND, AND, IN) would’ve led to a stronger sense of cohesion.

With four theme answers, the grid still has plenty of room to breathe, which Debbie took advantage of with snappy fill. TACO STAND, DARED NOT, and SMELL A RAT were my favorites.

3 stars.

Ross Trudeau’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

Well look at this! An anagram theme featuring actual discrete words and not “scrambling them somewhere in the middle”! And seven letters too, even if they are pretty common ones! The three entries suffer slightly from being in non-standard tenses in two cases and awkwardly plural in the third. This is partly the nature of the theme, as DIAPERS hands you two -ED words.

CHANGINGDIAPERS is a great revealing fifteen (even if it should be nappies, which anagrams to pinesap, and, er…) though I wish the clue had just read [New parent’s task…] which is simpler and avoids making a vague, unclear statement on gendered roles.

The entry with the best personal positive connotation is [Spanish stuffed pastry], EMPANADA, because our one local market has a stall run by an Argentinian couple that sell those and they’re magnificent! UPTOP was also snazzy.

3.5 stars

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46 Responses to Thursday, May 30, 2019

  1. TheDopeFromHope says:

    Does (almost) every crossword post have to veer off into political commentary? “Thanks to the double threat of nuclear war and climate change (neither of which this administration seems to care about alleviating), we’re still at 2 minutes to midnight.” The author might wish to do a little research: CO2 emissions in this country are down (as are emissions/concentrations of real pollutants), but up in most every other country. Hmm…., go figure.

    • Bill Richmond says:

      This is crossword fiend. It’s a political commentary with some crossword sprinkled in.

    • Brian says:

      Get out of here, carbon emissions were down a whole 0.5% in the US in 2017, the smallest drop in the last 5 years. Meanwhile atmospheric CO2 again reached levels 33% higher than anything we’ve seen in the past 800,000 years, and will only continue to go up. Sure would be nice if we’d start by admitting we have an existential crisis on our hands…

      • pannonica says:


        • TheDopeFromHope says:

          If the left really wanted to do something about “climate change,” they’d come out strong in favor of nuclear power. But they don’t, which proves they’re phonies.

          So all you global warm-mongers, give up plane rides, driving cars, eating beef, etc. Just go live in caves.

          • Brian says:

            Not surprised you didn’t even to come up with a coherent argument against climate change being real. Here’s a third graph which might help you out – this one’s done by hand so might be more up your alley.


            PS – working on those 3, got two down pretty well but giving up the car will have to wait til the kids are out of daycare. Cheers!

          • cyco says:

            It’s precisely because people are pretty bad at making individual decisions that are societally beneficial that we need collective action. Even the most libertarian economists recognize the problems inherent to the tragedy of the commons and similar conundrums.

            p.s. this lefty doesn’t eat meat or own a car, but as you snarkily implied, that really doesn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme, and I don’t expect others to be willing/able to live the same lifestyle. And I happen to be very much in favor of nuclear power, though ideally with thorium rather than uranium once that technology becomes more commercially viable.

    • DD says:

      When we live in a safe, egalitarian world — which won’t happen until every citizen recognizes the danger we’re in / the problems we face, votes accordingly, and urges the current office-holders to act — then you can enjoy apolitical crossword blogs.

      Instead of complaining here — which you know is useless, because the blog owners clearly support meaningful commentary — why not email every recalcitrant member of Congress, urging them to act now while we still have a little time?

      Btw, Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy. That’s sick, and it happens in part bc we’re in the grip of Big Oil and its disinformation campaigns; artificially low gas prices (to placate Big Oil); and ridiculous non-investment in public transportation (again, to please Big Oil). This would be a great topic for you to address with every beholden member of Congress.

      Thank you for highlighting the political content on this site — gives some of us an opportunity to provide more facts.

      • TheDopeFromHope says:

        I bet that Somalians consume far less than their population’s share of the world’s energy. Go live there, it’s a paradise.

        • DD says:

          People who live in the Scandi nations, France, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Austria, and many other EU nations have an excellent standard of living even as they consume far less energy per capita. They also find a way to offer healthcare for all and much more PTO annually, including PTO for new parents. How horrible that must be!

          What is it about being a responsible, compassionate adult that scares you so much? Try it — you might like it.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      And show me the proof that this meager drop in emissions is due to anything the administration has done. The current downward trend began in 2014 and continues on overall downward trend that started in 2007, presumably (though I can’t find information on it) due to environmental regulations put in place over the years.

      Now Trump seeks to rollback these regulations in order to help businesses. The failing NY Times keeps track of how many of these regulations have been rolled back allowing business and industry to put more pollutants into the air.

      “All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could lead to at least 80,000 extra deaths per decade and cause respiratory problems for more than one million people, according to a separate analysis conducted by researchers from Harvard.” And that’s just in America.

      But, heck, they’re just little people. We gotta help big business.

      For the data, see this.

      • David L says:

        I think — although I don’t have time to check — that the slowdown in US carbon emission comes in large part from the rise of natural gas production by fracking and decreasing use of coal. Natural gas is a fossil fuel but produces less CO2 per unit energy than coal. There’s also been a steady increase in solar and wind power, but I don’t know offhand how that compares to the generally increasing energy budget of the country as a whole.

        The Chinese, somewhat paradoxically, are becoming world leaders in solar cell technology, but they are also digging up vast quantities of cheap coal.

      • TheDopeFromHope says:

        “Over the past two decades, Germany has focused its political will and treasure on a world-leading effort to wean its powerful economy off the traditional energy sources blamed for climate change.

        The benefits of the program have not been universally felt, however. A de facto class system has emerged, saddling a group of have-nots with higher electricity bills that help subsidize the installation of solar panels and wind turbines elsewhere.

        Germany has spent an estimated 189 billion euros, or about $222 billion, since 2000 on renewable energy subsidies. But emissions have been stuck at roughly 2009 levels, and rose last year, as coal-fired plants fill a void left by Germany’s decision to abandon nuclear power. That has raised questions — and anger — over a program meant to make the country’s power sector greener.”

        The left-wing weekly, Der Spiegel, now calls electricity in Germany a “luxury good.”

        • **Slams Crossword Fiend for including political commentary in its posts**

          **Proceeds to write several comments on Crossword Fiend about how he thinks concerns over climate change are just left-wing alarmism**

          It’s almost as though your real objection isn’t about having political commentary on a crossword blog; just political commentary that you don’t like.

          • Gareth says:

            It’s almost as though there’s someone in office who is aggressively anti-intellectual, aggressively anti-hard facts, anti-objective reality and therefore, in any pursuit that is vaguely intellectual will have almost no-one in support of said individual, and that anyone who is will be suffering the worst case of cognitive dissonance since Young-Earth Creationist Zoologists…

          • Steve Faiella says:

            Just look at his screen name, Evan…

    • JohnH says:

      I see. Crossword Fiend is too political, merely by commenting relevantly on a clue, so you’ll take time to distract us all with a political diatribe or two (or three). That makes sense.

    • Marcus says:

      Wow yeah okay.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I thought the theme was really cleverly done…

  3. Ethan says:

    NYT: Did anyone else fill in UMADBRO off the M for 62A?

    I thought this was a very solid puzzle. In these “words can follow” themes, I’d like to discontinue word like HEAD that can follow a ridiculous number of things. Seems too easy. But JACKSON HOLE was a good find, as was BEATBOX.

    My one cluing nit was the Esperanto clue for ANI. If you don’t know anything about Esperanto, it’s impossible to know whether the entry refers to “an ‘i'” or some actual suffix “ani.” Is Ani DeFranco not famous enough anymore for the puzzle?

  4. JohnH says:

    Oops, and here I was counting on you to explain why the WSJ changes the endings to G.

  5. Victor Fleming says:

    Kenneth Starr, who has somehow become Ken Starr over time, was let go as chancellor of Baylor University in the wake of a serious scandal in the athletic department there. He’s making the news of late as one of the lawyers for Jeffrey Epstein and a supporter of Christopher Kloman. If that is not enough to ban him from crosswords, contact me privately and I will tell you a story or two about his years in Arkansas and cases he did not win. The SE quadrant of this puzzle could easily have been done without his name therein.

    • DD says:

      Thank you for highlighting this.

    • Stephen B Manion says:


      Thank you for highlighting this. I always thought that the Starr Report was icky. prurient and astoundingly tone deaf. Your points only confirm what I thought at the time.

      On a lighter note, I am watching the Spelling Bee. It is down to the 50 finalists. The first 15 all got their (impossible to spell) words correct. I knew the meanings of two of them. Only ROBESPIERRIST was a gimme.

  6. Douglas says:

    Did anyone suss out the Newsday puzzle theme today? I haven’t grokked it. Maybe you’ve educed it.

    • pannonica says:

      They begin with SUMMA | CUM | LAUDE.

      • Douglas says:

        As Homer (the cartoon character, not the Greek poet) would say, “Doh!” I was never Summa Cum Laude. Maybe Summa Cum Lately.

        • Norm says:

          If there’s an ORCA award for best reply to a response to a question, you should be in the running, Douglas.

    • MoonMan1 says:

      Kudos to Douglas for squeezing ‘sussing’, ‘grokking’ & ‘educing’ within one simple thought!

  7. Rebecca F says:

    Loved finally seeing a clue featuring the Jayhawks! Although it was disappointing to see the unique name (and history) not being utilized more. I’ve always wondered why we never see them used in a clue or a fill – lots of good letters and trivia in there.

  8. DD says:

    WSJ: It was pleasantly punny, albeit not a Thursday puzzle — but that’s the ed.’s fault, not the constructor’s. Can’t understand why its rating is so low — not warranted.

    • cyco says:

      Personally, I didn’t find the theme answers that interesting, and with no revealer it seemed kind of arbitrary to change CK to G.

  9. Brian says:

    Also, what’s up with the clue for 39D in the NYT: [Abbr. on a professional’s shingle]? What do shingles have to do with dentists?

  10. GlennP says:

    WSJ: Sawbuck could refer to the slang term for a $10 bill or to a support (often X-shaped) for wood that being sawed. The two are actually related since, years ago, $10 bills had Roman numeral “X” on them.

  11. Jerome Gunderson says:

    WSJ puzzle was clever and fun. Best one so far today.

  12. DD says:

    Fireball: Interesting coincidence that both Paul Coulter and Evan Birnholz recently created puzzles titled “This and That” — something in the air or water? They handled the theme differently, and both did it well.

    EB’s is still up, if you’re curious (and please disable your adblocker for the WaPo, if you’re not a subscriber — it’s a few seconds out of your life, and newspapers need the ad revenue):

  13. Steve Faiella says:

    Fireball: I liked this one a lot! It was obvious there was a rebus involved (due to all the usual indicators), but kept me guessing since the two letters that completed the down entry didn’t seem to work with the acrosses. When the light bulb went on, the A-Ha was awesome!

  14. Ray says:

    Beq gassed = beat. Really?

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