Thursday, June 13, 2019

BEQ tk (Andy) 


LAT 4:42 (GRAB) 


NYT 5:03 (Ben) 


WSJ 9:30 (Jim P) 


Universal 7:00 (Jim Q) 


This week’s Fireball puzzle is a contest. We will publish a review after the contest deadline.

Christopher Youngs’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “PC Problems”—Jim P’s review

This appears to be another debut. Congratulations, Christopher!

Personal Computer problems I can handle, but the title had me fearing we were delving into the world of Political Correctness. Thankfully, it’s neither of those. It’s a simple letter swap where Cs are changed to Ps at the start of each theme answer.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “PC Problems” · Christopher Youngs · Thu., 6.13.19

  • 18a [Birthday treat for Polly?] PARROT CAKE
  • 20a [Exercise prescribed by a dermatologist?] PORE WORKOUT
  • 39a [Bag discovered in King Tut’s tomb?] PURSE OF THE MUMMY
  • 60a [Unexpected result of putting the wrong way?] PAR ACCIDENT
  • 63a [Cleaning tool backstage?] PROP DUSTER

These seemed to work well enough, but I can’t help thinking it’s a fairly straightforward theme for a Thursday. I could see this running on a Tuesday or even a Monday. It’s nice when Thursday puzzles bring us an unusual challenge…and not just in the cluing. Maybe if we had a theme where Ps and Cs were switched… (think PAT’S CAW or PAR CARTS or PITY CLAN).

Still, that’s a scheduling issue, nothing really to do with this grid which, as I said, works well enough. I didn’t get many yuks out of it, but maybe some of you did. PORE WORKOUT feels like the weakest of the bunch because…how would that even work? PROP DUSTER feels the strongest because I can imagine it being a real thing. The rest fall somewhere in between.


The fill isn’t dazzling, but it is strong. The longest entries are OPERATORS (with the cute clue [They always seem to be standing by]) and SMARTEN UP (it’s odd to think that “smarten” is actually a word). More interestingly, we have WENDELL [Pierce of “The Wire”] whom I don’t know since I’ve never watched that show. Nor did I know EL MISTI [Volcano of southern Peru], but it was inferable with enough crossings. I liked seeing EUDORA [Wordsmith Welty] and the word ADROIT.

Clues of note:

  • 9a [___ fritas (French fries)]. PAPAS. I wasn’t sure what language this was, but it’s Spanish. Nice change of pace instead of the usual The Mamas and The Papas reference.
  • 2d [Term derived from a Czech word for “forced labor”]. ROBOT. Your interesting factoid of the day.
  • 5d [Greyhound fare]. ALPO. Good misdirection.
  • 42d [Student sporting a Y]. ELI. Out here in the west, we’re more likely to see a BYU logo than a Yale logo.
  • 57d [“Enough already!”]. UNCLE. Well, not quite, to my ear. The clue sounds more like it it’s coming from a position of authority. The entry is coming from a position of submission.

And that’s all I’ve got. A solid debut. 3.4 stars.

Michael Blake and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 6/13/2019 — no. 0613

I managed to set a new PR for Thursdays AND smash my usual Thursday time by over 5 and a half minutes on today’s puzzle – must be an extra birthday gift courtesy the NYT and constructors Michael Blake and Jeff Chen.  Here’s what was going on with this Thursday’s grid:

  • 20A: *Needlepoint, e.g. — IWORK
  • 33A: *Sets the odds for — ICAPS
  • 50A: *Plumber/carpenter type — YMEN
  • 64A: *Submitted — EDIN
  • 58A: Advantage…or what the answer to each starred clue has? — UPPER HAND

Each of the starred clues’ answer literally has an UPPER HANDIWORK needs the HAND from OOH AND AAH (“React to pyrotechnics, say”) to become HANDIWORK, which solves the clue.  Similarly, ICAPS takes HAND from CHANDELIER (“Lights up?”) to become HANDICAPS, YMEN uses HAND from HANDY  NASTY HAN DYNASTY to become HANDYMEN, and EDIN closes out the set by taking HAND from UPPER HAND to become HANDED IN.  I thought this was a clever and clean theme – this felt like the puzzle I’d see as puzzle 1 or a warm up at an indie tournament to get in the right mindset for things.

And the rest of the fill is pretty great!  I’m not in love with OENO and BIOTA, but if that and SABE in the lower part of the grid is all I can spot to nitpick in the across fill on this, this puzzle is doing pretty good.  Some nice longer downs in the grid, too – NIHILIST, SEAWATER, VANISHES, and EYESHADE.  I enjoyed briefly thinking through the various layers of a muffuletta – only SALAMI fit the grid, but there’s something about the combo of olive salad, meats, cheese, and the bread that makes those special.

A great effort from Michael Blake and Jeff Chen.

Rob Gonsalves and Jennifer Lim’s Universal Crossword, “Crop Top”—Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: The word “CUT” has been broken up, and each letter is atop a common phrase, turning it into a wacky one.


  • 3D [Stopwatch for Winter sports?] COLD TIMER.

    Rob Gonsalves and Jennifer Lim’s, “Crop Top”–6/13/19, solution

  • 28D [Functional jacket?] USABLE COAT. 
  • 9D [Showcase for award winning pies?] TART MUSEUM.
  • 35D [Superior to, and a hint to the first letters of {the theme answers}] A CUT ABOVE. 

Solid theme! My favorite of the bunch was COLD TIMER, though the second half of the base phrase somewhat changes meaning in the clue.

Surprised that the clue for 50D [Competed in a regatta] yielded ROWED. Especially when SAIL was nearby at 56D. I’m sure people ROW in regattas, but I associate it more closely with SAILing.

I feel like I made every typo possible in this grid, but I think that’s largely because the online solving app and I aren’t on good terms with one another.

All around fun puzzle.

3.9 Stars

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

This didn’t quite come together for me. The revealer is CLUBSANDWICH(ES), pluralised for convenience, which as a piece of word play is quite clever. Golf CLUBs are SANDWICHed into four phrases – putter, wedge, iron , driver – but not wood, which is a rather conspicuous omission. When you have the typical members of a set bar one, it always feels wobbly. The second half of the entries were great: AIRONTHEGSTRING lends gravitas (and juvenile sniggering), and REDRIVER an earworm. But the first two were more ungainly: INPUTTERMINALS is dry and another conveniently pluralised answer. SAWEDGED is similarly technical. It’s a difficult theme to pull off, as the hidden answers are so long, so there should be some tolerance here at least.

[Winter expense], HEAT – foreign concept here. Is this gas or what? Here, we rely solely on heaters (apparently Americans call heaters space heaters which sounds incredibly science-fiction) if anything so it is just added to the general electric bill.

The challenging grid is mostly well controlled, but we do have [Do more lawn work], REMOW (not RESOD, which I tried first) and the dubious [Suffix with elephant], INE.

2,5 Stars

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7 Responses to Thursday, June 13, 2019

  1. huda says:

    NYT: SALAMI was my first entry. My husband is from NOLA and I still remember my first visit there and going to Central Grocery for a Muffuletta (which is not pronounced anywhere like it’s written, at least to my ear). Back then, great food in the US was harder to come by, but NY, SF and NOLA had and still have amazing food. This really makes me want to go back for a visit..

    And yeah, very lovely puzzle. Took a bit to figure out what was going on, but once there, it flowed very smoothly.

  2. DH says:

    I was thrown by “YMEN” because it didn’t fit with what I thought the theme was, which is something to do with Apple. Similarly, I had “ICALC” instead of “ICAPS”. Wasn’t sure about “IWORK”, but I’m not a Mac user and just figured it was a thing.

    • Norm says:

      I was expecting something more intricate, since “Needlepoint” suggested the EYE of the needle, and EYE/I-work would have worked for me, so I was kind of let down when it was “just” a “thing above” theme — and two of the four had an extra letter not exactly “under” the hand, so … meh. YMMV

  3. DD says:

    Jim Q, re: the solving app for Universal: If you solve on a laptop, try Across Lite — very easy solving experience. (I don’t know whether it can be used on a tablet and I.)’m guessing not on a phone, but I don’t know.)

  4. DH says:

    re: BEQ – I held off entering anything for 25A for the whole puzzle – I thought of FLIPS ONES WIG very early on, but the tense didn’t jive with the clue, so I thought I was missing something. Am I? Shouldn’t the clue be “Sells a head covering …”?

    • DD says:

      Fwiw, I agree. I’m guessing that solo constructors who offer work for free don’t hire proofers, so the occasional typo will slip in (hell, I inserted an error in my post above when I went to correct an earlier typo). Doesn’t detract from BEQ’s great work, though.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Jim Q, thanks for your review! Of course, you are right about regatta and sailing. We are in Boston, where every October the Head of the Charles Regatta takes place with great fanfare and our son rowed in it back in the day. Another famous one is the Henley Royal Regatta. Thanks to our terrific editor, David Steinberg, for retaining our bit of a personal association in clueing.

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