Thursday, June 6, 2019

BEQ 7:41, down clues only (Andy) 


LAT 4:16 (GRAB) 


NYT 10:18 (Ben) 


WSJ 8:38 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


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

The revealer, I/O ERROR [Computer glitch responsible for four of this puzzle’s answers] is our indicator that I’s and O’s are switched in the other theme entries.

Do people know the term I/O ERROR? I certainly do, because my background is in computer science, but I wasn’t sure if it made it out to the general public. My suspicion is that it’s becoming less well-known over time as operating systems become slicker and more user friendly.

Anyhoo, I think the term makes for a fine conceit for a theme. Let’s look at the actual theme answers. (By the way, the title gave me pause, but I believe it should be re-parsed as “Oh, I/O!”)

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Ohio” · David Alfred Bywaters · Thu., 6.6.19

  • 17a [Reseller of failed movies?] FLOP FLIPPER. Flip-flopper. Usually the base phrase is seen in its ER-less form. But this one works and the clue makes sense.
  • 59a [Light-haired victim of a jest?RIBBED BLOND. Robbed blind. This one feels pretty strained. No one would ever say this phrase, whereas I can see someone using the first one.
  • 11d [Snack food investments?CHIP STOCKS. Chopsticks. Very close to the actual phrase “blue chip stocks”. But my sister-in-law’s brother works at the corporate offices of Frito-Lay, so I’m sure he’d appreciate this one.
  • 29d [E-book manipulation?TOME CLICKS. Timeclocks. Meh. Another (very) strained one. I don’t think an e-book could ever qualify as a “tome” because it lacks weight.

Two worked, two didn’t work as well. I have to believe there are a lot of potential entries for this theme, so it would have been nice if they were all equally strong. (A cursory look found BIG SHOT, but I suppose that wouldn’t have worked for the WSJ.)

How about the fill? DOING OKAY is just…okay. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen BOOTSTRAP used as a verb [Develop without reliance on help from others]. WORSTS was another eyebrow-raiser [Gets the better of]. Wouldn’t a better answer be BESTS?

LINUX makes for good fill, given the theme. ORACLES [Wise ones] is also somewhat theme-adjacent, given the name of the computer technology company Oracle. And D-DAY makes a timely appearance, though it’s in no way theme related.

Clues of note:

  • 25d [Private turndown{, sometimes}]. NO SIR.
  • 30d [Bank on a table]. CAROM. Think pool or billiards.
  • 33d [Joins the service, perhaps]. PRAYS. Good misdirection here.
  • 39d [“Keep going!”]. ONWARD! This made for a fun clue/answer combo.

I like the theme but it felt a bit uneven in execution. 3.3 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 128”–Jenni’s write-up

This was the toughest Fireball themeless we’ve had in a while, although I think I said that about the last one, so either Peter is getting tougher or I’m getting weaker.

The NE corner was the last to fall for me. There are several answers with strings of consonants – DR DREABC TVCD CHANGERS, and LITCHIS. It looked like a mess. The cluing was also challenging, especially 20a [Soapberry family trees] for LITCHIS. I was also confused by 11d [Once-popular dash features] for CD CHANGERS. All of the CD CHANGERS I knew of were in the trunk of the car, with a single CD player in the dash. A bit of searching tells me that there were, indeed, in-dash changers. I don’t know how popular they were, but I can let that go.

A few other things:

Fireball 6/6/2019, Peter Gordon, Themeless 128, solution grid

  • I enjoyed the symmetrical answers at 4d and 30d: DUMBLEDORE and MUMBLECORE, respectively. I knew one of those. Guess which.
  • 25a [Exhibit a play of colors, in a way] is OPALESCE. I tried to shoehorn FLUORESCE but it didn’t work.
  • 27d [TD follower] is AMERITRADE, not EXTRA POINT. I do not think it’s coincidence that they both fit.
  • 39a [Truck stop managers?] are AIR BRAKES.
  • 44a [People whose mistakes might cause permanent damage?] are STYLISTS. My first panicked thought was SURGEONS.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: MUMBLECORE. I’d never heard of the OPPOSUM called a yapok. They are apparently water possums and they look like this:

Fred Piscop’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 6/06/2019 — no. 0606

I understand the why for today’s NYT theme, but it leaves me a little underwhelmed:

  • 17A: Direct-to-customer beef retailer — OMAHA STEAKS
  • 40A: Calaverite or sylvanite — GOLD ORE
  • 66A: Performer with a weapon — SWORD DANCER
  • 11D: NASA spacecraft orbiting Jupiter — JUNO PROBE
  • 36D: The Aggies of the N.C.A.A. — UTAH STATE
  • 59D: Its beaches begin five answers in this puzzle – D-DAY

Today is the 75th anniversary of D-DAY, and the five beaches involved (Omaha, Gold, Sword, Juno, and Utah Beach) are all included in the grid.  I think commemorating this milestone via crossword is fine!  I even think this way of handling the theme, with answers starting with each of the beach names is okay, but the overall execution feels just okay.  All of the fill here feels standard, but in a way where this puzzle could have been constructed any time in the past five years and set aside for this big numerical milestone.  I come to the Thursday NYT looking for something that bends the rules in a fun way, and this just feels like any given Wednesday puzzle.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Oodles of ‘Oh’s'”—Andy’s review

BEQ #1164, Oodles of “Oh”s

This week, Brendan treats us to some wacky phrases made by replacing a vowel sound with an “oh” sound. Like so:

  • 17a, DORY BUTTER [One who slams into Nemo’s forgetful friend?]. Dairy butter (as opposed to non-dairy butter alternatives, I suppose).
  • 19a, TORY JONES [Strong urge from a UK political party?]. Terry Jones.
  • 32a, ROADIE MONEY [Salary for someone who works for Queen?]. Ready money.
  • 40a, PONY PINCHER [One who gooses a shetland?]. Penny-pincher. (Pinching a pony seems like a bad idea.)
  • 53a, TOADY BEAR [Sycophantic stock market pessimist?]Teddy bear.
  • 57a, HOARY CHEST [Treasure container that’s as old as the hills?]. Hairy chest.

Great cluing on the puns as always from BEQ, and even with the six themers there’s still some fun additional fill like GYMBOREE“GET A ROOM!”, and US BANK.

A few additional notes:

  • Glad to see [Farm-to-your-table letters] for 58d, CSA. Here that stands for community-supported agriculture. A breath of fresh air, and nice to see the Confederate States of America phased out.
  • I had a devil of a time parsing the clue for 2d, EURO: [Note with a national side]! As in, it’s a bank note where one side is nation-specific.
  • It didn’t affect my solving because I didn’t use the across clues, but looking over those now, I don’t love the GRIP clue being [“Get a ___”] when it crosses GET A ROOM at the G. It’s very possible that was an intentional joke, but it kind of looks like a mistake.
  • Nice clue for 18d, UNARM: [Take a piece?].

Until next week!

Pancho Harrison’s Universal Crossword, “Vertical Drop”—Jim Q’s writeup

A puzzle after the heart of my wallet…

THEME: The word “AND” is deleted from common phrases to make new, wacky ones instead.

Pancho Harrison’s Universal Crossword, “Vertical Drop”–6/6/19, solution


  • 3D [Request for a police operation?] STING ORDER. Instead of Standing Order.
  • 34D [Pack a mineral supplement?] BRING IRON. Branding Iron.
  • 17D [Citrus fruit from Sausalito’s county?] MARIN ORANGE. Mandarin Orange.
  • 8D [Prince Harry, to Meghan Markle?] ROYAL MATERoyal Mandate. 
  • 30D [Destitute, or a hint to what was deleted from from each (theme) answer] DOWN AND OUT.

One of those crosswords where I had to stare at it for a bit before understanding the theme. My post-solve AHA came with MARIN ORANGE, which clearly looks like MANDARIN ORANGE. I liked all of the theme answers, and DOWN AND OUT certainly makes for a perfect description of what is happening if read correctly (the DOWNAND” is OUT). It may feel like the revealer clue is oddly worded, but it’s not.

With the exception of MARIN ORANGE, the theme answers actually feel like they could be things, so it may have missed the wackiness mark.

3.8 Stars from me.

Stu Ockman’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I’m sure there are stacks of lists of these on the internets. I typed two words into Google and got this. That said, any word nerd (that is most of the target audience of this or any crossword puzzle) will enjoy piecing together these rare words whose opposite equivalents are far more common. So: (UN)GAINLY, (IN)NOCUOUS, (UN)KEMPT, (AN)ONYMOUS, RUTHFUL (RUTHLESS), COOLTH (WARMTH) and (UN)COUTH

I just wished the rest of the puzzle had more care to it. In a puzzle focusing on rare words, using SCHLEPP and then pretending it isn’t a var. is cheap. The worst area though is the top-right. I don’t know how an area with ISSUERS, OMOO, NANU, ADES crossing ASMAD and USONE with your theme answer NOCUOUS on top of it all can pass muster. Four of those are not real-world answers, they are cruciverbal extractions. One is a partial with one way to clue it and then there’s a largely forgotten Victorian work of fiction.


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12 Responses to Thursday, June 6, 2019

  1. Dave S. says:

    I can tell that I am in a minority, but I thought the puzzle was beautiful in recognition of DDay and the sacrifices of WWII. Great puzzle. Some anniversaries are not about fun, or about the fill. They’re about what made our country great.

    • huda says:

      Those names are code names, right? they’re not truly the names of beaches in Normandy? I’m sure one can visit Omaha beach now based on the history of D-Day. But would a French person going to that area for a swim say ” I’m going to Omaha Beach”?

      • Stephen B Manion says:

        The beaches are indeed code names. Utah was the westernmost and Omaha was in the middle. I can’t find any site that explains a precise reason why Juno, Gold and Sword were chosen. The two sites I found said simply that they were chosen from a list of operational code names.

        I personally only remembered Utah, Omaha and Juno. It was nice to learn the names of the other two. I have read that Omaha was the beach that met the greatest resistance. Canadians (conspicuously not mentioned by Trump) suffered heavy casualties at Juno and Utah met “light” resistance.

        I appreciate the tribute. My father was not at DDay but was a POW captured in the Hurtgen Forest in the buildup to the Battle of the Bulge and arrested by a 15-year-old soldier. The Hurtgen Forest is not well remembered because of its proximity in time to DDay. He was shot twice and lost his toes on one foot to a hand grenade.

        Excellent tribute puzzle.


    • DD says:

      Maybe not the minority, after all. I too thought it was beautiful, and I’m glad that the constructor took the time to honor the servicemen. Deeply painful to think about all of those young lives cut short — all of the suffering.

      My takeaway is a little different: I would hope that everyone would honor them by doing everything in their power to avoid another war, anywhere, at any time, and stop thinking about change as a negative “sacrifice.” For example: If we weren’t still dependent on foreign oil, that would change our foreign policy massively. And, it would be great if people viewed meat-eating and airplane travel as perks that we one had but now should be glad to give up, if we want to live in a way that helps avert climate catastrophe (because the latter will lead to other wars, as resources become scarce).
      …… In other words, it would be great if we would stop feeling aggrieved about minor modifications to our lives and instead focus on how lucky we are to have friends, family, nature, crossword puzzles …

  2. Brian says:

    AVXC – Is anybody else having trouble with their puzzle delivery? I have not received my puzzle for the past two weeks. I emailed them both times to ask if they could resend the puzzles but did not got a response. Then I went to the “Resend Puzzle” link on their webpage and got a “subscription expired” error message. I know for certain that my subscription is good until November.

    • Norm says:

      Hmm. No. In fact, I just a notice that mine would renew in 4 weeks, which seems about right. You really, really want to get your hands on this week’s “bash your head against the wall in frustration” puzzle with multiple moments of satisfaction when things become clear.

  3. BillyV says:

    Today the WSJ sat much better with me, obscure Proper Nouns just turn me of. I thought more of the theme answers than Jim, obviously. We all have our I/O buttons heehee

  4. Sheik Yerbouti says:

    I finished today’s Universal, but still don’t understand the theme, even with the revealer. What am I missing?

    • PJ Ward says:

      The theme answers are all downs and the string AND has been removed from common phrases. And royal mandate.

      • JML says:

        Wow, I thought DOWN was removed from the first word and OUT was removed from the second word (bear with me):

        STING(DOWN) [I thought a sting operation may also be called a sting down] with ORDER OUT

        BRING DOWN and IRON OUT was the strongest pair

        But then I was lost at MARIN DOWN/ORANGE OUT and ROYAL DOWN/MATE OUT.

        Thanks for the clarification!

        • Norm says:

          I thought the clue for the revealer should have refrained from using “deleted” since that was conveyed by OUT — as in DOWN AND [is] OUT.

  5. Norm says:

    This “word nerd ” loved the LAT puzzle for exactly the reason Gareth noted. And the rest of the fill did not bother me at all. The day that NANU and my old friend OMOO and their ilk disappear from the crossword world is the day I hang up my pen. Of course, I’m always charmed when Uncle ORLE and Aunt SNEE come back to visit, so take my opinion with a grain of NACL.

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