Thursday, July 11, 2019

BEQ 3:15 (Andy) 


LAT 5:15 (GRAB) 


NYT 9:43 (Vic) 


Universal 9:17 (Vic) 


WSJ 10:44 (Jim P) 


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

Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Judge Vic’s write-up

Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York times crossword, July 11, 2019, solution

The theme is–well, the clues are DRAWKCAB, and so are the theme answers. To wit:

  • 17a [RED ROOT] DEZIMOTSUC–Read the clue as TO ORDER, the answer CUSTOMIZED.

I think it’s pretty clever. The puzzle went pretty fast for me, for a Thursday. Other stuff of note, positive:


Hmm, nothing in the fill really bugged me. So, no negative counterpart to the above.

4.0 stars.

Jeffrey Wechsler Universal Crossword, “Zoo-illogical”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Jeffrey Wechsler Universal Crossword, “Zoo-illogical,” July 11, 2019, solution

Great title, “Zoo-illogical,” as the theme answers are all two animals rolled into one name, so to speak:

  • 14a [*Cross between a striped cat and a rodent?] TIGERBIL–Tiger, gerbil.
  • 20a [*Cross between an ape and an Andean animal?] GORILLAMA–Gorilla, llama.
  • 27a [*Cross between a raptor and a Wonderland dozer?] CONDORMOUSE–Condor, dormouse.
  • 38a [*Cross between a semiaquatic wader and a bivalve?] HIPPOPOTAMUSSEL–Hippopotamus, mussel.
  • 46a [*Cross between a four-legged reptile and a legless reptile?] IGUANACONDA–Iguana, anaconda.
  • 56a [*Cross between a crustacean and a bounding beast?] SHRIMPALA–Shrimp, impala.
  • 69a [The starred critters, e.g.] CHIMERAS–Interesting word, chimeraSuffice it to say the clue feels apt enough.

That’s clever. And that’s a lot of theme–8-10-11-15-11-10-8. Seven theme entries with 73 letters almost justifies a 21 x 21 grid. Given that, the fill is not awful and, amazingly, features ONE BY ONE and LA LAKERS in horizontal spots.

MET IN is awkward and making its debut. It is joined by the unexciting-at-best ID NO. And then there are EOS, UDON, ARA, PEIAAHS, PSST, AMA, ILE, PLO, IBIDETD, APR, and good ol’ ANI DiFranco. Three of those would be okay, but beyond that, one has to ask if that amount of theme is worth the cost.

3.5 stars.

Evan Kalish’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “I Fold”—Jim P’s review

I liked this one quite a bit! The revealer is at 65a and gives us instructions we can safely ignore: DO NOT BEND [Mail instruction sometimes ignored, as suggested by the words in this puzzle’s circles]. The other entries each end in a word that is something that might be included in the (snail) mail and is bent either upwards or downwards.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “I Fold” · Evan Kalish · Thu., 7.11.19

  • 17a [Key with a magnetic strip] ACCESS CAR(D)
  • 26a [Bold piece of writing] BLOCK LET(TER)
  • 40a [Tests boundaries] PUSHES THE ENVELO(PE)
  • 52a [Potential law] DRAFT BIL(L)

While it was pretty clear what was going on when I solved the first theme answer, I still got the pleasure of an aha moment when I came across the revealer and realized each circled word was something you might put in the mail. The only nit I can pick is that I wish the circles weren’t employed for this. By Thursday, I would have thought most solvers would be able to discern a tricky theme like this one. It would have been more fun to find the bends on my own rather than have them spelled out for me. But still, this was a good time; bending themes can be thorny to pull off, and Evan does it nicely here.

In fact, look at that super-shiny fill! “I’M CURIOUS“, BUCHAREST, GOOSE EGG, DADS-TO-BE, TÊTE-À-TÊTE, and SLOW LANES. Very nice. And I like GO BALD and CASHEW, too. That’s a really impressive clutch of fill there given the trickiness of the theme. Well done!

LLOSA [Literature Nobelist Mario Vargas ___] was the hardest bit of fill for me, but hey, it’s Thursday, and I felt the crossings were all fair. Same with ODELL [Beckham of the Browns].

I really liked the cluing as well, especially in the NE corner. Here are some of the highlights:

  • 4a [Visibility-reducing gear]. CAMO. Your first thought is, “Why would you use gear to reduce your visibility?” But it’s the other way around—gear to make you less visible to others. Nice.
  • 23a [Cat’s pupil, on a sunny day]. SLIT. Had to think about this one, but it makes sense.
  • 57a [Lose one’s ability to get a part?]. GO BALD. Getting a little cute with the wording here, but I think this one squeaks in on this side of fair.
  • 11d [“Them” or “Us”]. MOVIE. Love this clue. Them! (with an exclamation mark, I believe) was a 1950s monster flick. Us is Jordan Peele’s latest horror film. I have yet to see it, but I hear good things, and Get Out was very good.
  • 12d [Jake’s love in “The Sun Also Rises”]. BRETT. I never read the book, so I thought a homosexual romance was an unusual choice for Hemingway given his reputation for machismo. But the BRETT in question is Lady BRETT Ashley.
  • 39d [Where many return after pass completions?]. SLOW LANES. Now this one goes a little too far in the cute department. And besides, around here (Washington state), drivers tend to pick a lane and stay in it, no matter what. It drives this Californian crazy!

Solidly tricky theme (made too easy by the use of circles IMO) with stellar fill and strong cluing. 4.4 stars from me.

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

BEQ #1174, “Double Curves”

From the title, I was pretty sure we were dealing with some S-based puns. Sure enough, where once there was one S, now there are two S’s to punny effect. Like so:

  • 17a, YOGA POSSE [Group doing downward facing dog?]. Yoga pose.
  • 25a, CHASSE BANK [Riverside where one does gliding steps?]. Chase Bank.
  • 37a, PICK YOUR POISSON [Garcon’s line after handing a patron a menu with the heading “La Mer”?]. Pick your poison.
  • 47a, DESSERT FOX [Hottie that only eats the last course?]. Desert Fox.
  • 54a, LAB MOUSSE [Artificial chocolate concoction made by scientists?]. Lab mouse.

Great theme answers — PICK YOUR POISSON was my absolute favorite. Some really great non-theme fill in here too: PROP COMIC [One with a thing for jokes?]LEGO BRICKASS-KISSER. Loved seeing a reference to the new show “Los Espookys” and a new ANA clue [“Los Espookys” star/creator Fabrega].

A little bit of ugliness with C-SIZES next to EELERY and OJO crossing AJA, but overall I thought this was really nice.

Until next week!

Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by Mr. Coulter features four puns based on bird sound effects: CHEEP for CHEAP; QUACK for CRACK; CAWS for CAUSE; COO for COUP. It’s an interesting choice to opt for two French phrases, which really stretches the “sensicalness” of the puns. On the other hand, foreign phrases are a lively vein to mine for interesting entries.

Not much else to note. INSPADES was the most interesting entry outside of the theme. The clue, [To a great degree], was vague enough that it took a while to emerge. The clues today had that feel a lot of the time, but my brain may just have been foggy. ASRARE is the hilariously contrived answer of the day. It is in an area with a lot of entries criss-crossing two entries, if that counts for anything. In obscure crossword-ese, it is worth noting EGER, as few of us are up on our Hungarian wine regions…

3,5 Stars

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29 Responses to Thursday, July 11, 2019

  1. Norm says:

    LAT: Very fowl puns — and a lot of fun.
    NYT: Made my brain hurt with all that backwardness. Interesting but not much fun.
    Universal: Hilarious! A bit easy for a Thursday, but I had a good time trying to guess the animals with no crosses in place.
    WSJ: Why would one care if a BILL gets bent?

    • ahimsa says:

      WSJ: Good point! I thought of TELEPHOT/TOOxx (photo) as an option for 52 Across/ 56 Down.

      Or how about using COMPOSTE/EROxx? (poster) Composter may not be a great entry but a lot more folks are composting now that cities are adding it to their garbage/recycling services. :-)

  2. Ethan Friedman says:

    Loved the NYT. backwards entries have been done before, but I don’t recall the backwards entry + clue combo ever before.

  3. Jason Mueller says:

    The link to today’s Universal puzzle (on the Today’s Puzzles page) appears not to be working.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    Somehow WSJ was very tough for me today. Do not FOLD for BEND slowed me. Ironically, my mail carrier almost always folds, bends AND creases the mail. Good thing almost nothing of importance comes in an envelope any more.

    Early discovery that the NYT themers read backwards, never bothered with the clues, figured they were anagrams. Don’t care for anagrams do I do I.

  5. David Steere says:

    UNIVERSAL: Anyone know what has happened to the links for today’s Universal Crossword? The Acrosslite and HTML links are not working. Thanks.

    • M483 says:

      I’m having the same problem.

    • ahimsa says:

      I also had a problem. I ended up solving the Universal crossword online here:

      (not sure if this is the official link)

      • David Steere says:

        Thanks, ahimsa, for this alternate link. The regular Acrosslite and HTML links just started working.

    • Martin says:

      Across Lite should be there now. Universal changed something, which I need to investigate.

      • RunawayPancake says:

        UNIVERSAL – Hey, Martin. Universal crossword usually appears on the alphacross app and it didn’t show-up there today either.

      • Martin says:

        Whatever it was seemed to resolve itself. I’ll keep my eyes on it for a few days but the site seems fine this afternoon.

        • David Steere says:

          Martin: I’m still confused about Universal. I did Zoo-Illogical by Jeffrey Wechsler. Cute. But, why is Timothy Parker listed as editor? Isn’t this David Steinberg’s series? Did I get the wrong puzzle? I just tried the link. Nothing there now. May be too early in the evening.

          • Martin says:

            The Across Lite file I post should say David Steinberg, editor. The Universal IT department is not always on top of things. I reported they hadn’t updated their editorial byline in January. I guess they have a big backlog. But that is today’s David Steinberg puzzle.

            • Martin says:

              Actually, I don’t see a Parker byline. Where do you see it?

            • David Steere says:

              When I could not get the normal Across Lite link to work, I used (suggested by ahimsa above). This morning that produced a puzzle with Timothy Parker’s byline. I just tried it again the same way. Now it says David Steinberg. Mysterious. As of 8:45 PM (Arizona time), the regular Across Lite link is not yet loaded with a puzzle. Perhaps later. Thanks, Martin.

            • Martin says:

              The Across Lite version comes online at midnight Eastern, per David’s request.

  6. DH says:

    NYT was very difficult for me today. I thought of the theme fairly quickly, but misread the first clue backwards and got thrown off the trail.

    7D – Hmmm … SKIS? nope. “Iceaxes?” uh-uh. I was stymied until I remembered what my doctor told me when I needed to get out of the city and get some fresh air:

    “You better pack your ass up and get to the mountains, fella!”

    Ah. that’s it!

  7. DD says:

    WSJ: My least-favorite puzzle in weeks. A clever theme, but executed inconsistently and illogically. ACCESSCARD works, because the D terminates this term while serving as the start of the crossing word. But the others aren’t built in the same way — BLOCKLETTERb, PUSHESTHEENVELOPEd, DRAFTBILLosa — yet each of those themers offers the possibility of a clean split: BLOCKLET – TER (or RET); PUSHESTHEENVE – LOPE; DRAFTB-ILL. Jim, I think that’s why the circles were necessary — to show where the “bent” themers ended.

    I realize that making a grid with the splits suggested above (or with similar themers that are longer or shorter) might not have been possible, but then maybe leave this prospect on the cutting-room floor.

    Also, some of the fill was clued in a hard-trivia and not-inferrable way (BUCHAREST; EMU; ORE; EAST), which is not fun when there’s already a fair amount of trivia. (And bakeries are unlikely to use SIEVEs, which have big holes and are used for draining pasta and vegetables; they use fine-mesh strainers or sifters for flour etc.)

    There was some clever, fun clueing, but for me that wasn’t enough to compensate for the above. Overall this seemed like another example of a constructor thinking too little about the quality of the solve and too much about the pleasure of creating something unusual — too enamored of what the software makes possible.

    • Evan Kalish says:

      Oh, DD. You know nothing of my work. But I love how ridiculously vested you get with my puzzles!

      • DD says:

        It *is* a compliment — you’re very clever and you’re capable of doing better — so I’m glad you heard the praise. You’re in a field where you’re going to get some negative feedback, so I’m sure you’re also working on toughening your hide.

        Better luck next time — or, more accurately, please keep your solvers in mind next time.

        • lk says:

          What about the puzzle says that the constructor didn’t consider the solver when they made it? That’s a pretty unfair assumption on your part.

          Don’t like the puzzle all you want, but please stop short of assuming you are acutely aware of the constructor’s intentions, because you don’t.

          • DD says:

            My 1st post makes clear why I think the constructor didn’t consider the solver when creating this puzzle.

            It’s a criticism I’ve seen of puzzles by various constructors, on this blog and others, when a puzzle was noteworthy for its use of a clever gimmick but elicited a negative response from some or many solvers because the gimmick in some way made solving more of a slog than a pleasure. Obviously there’s never consensus, on a puzzle or anything else, but a low-ish rating tells us a little about the overall response.

            Such are puzzles are more common since the widespread use of constructing software, which enables innovation (much good but some bad) that wasn’t possible, or would have been too time-consuming, in the past.

            You raise an interesting point — that none of us can know with certainty what someone’s intention is or was, ever. Thanks.

          • Evan Kalish says:

            Thank you, lk; you have it exactly right.

            DD, believe me, I appreciate your general sentiment, beyond the repeated whiffs of condescension. Your problem is you seem to conflate the premise that you might have executed a concept differently (or not at all, as the case may be) with … well, I’m not sure what, exactly, but it does not justify your repeated sentiments that I’m more enamored with expansive word lists and creating unusual puzzles than the solving experience.

            For example, a little while back you took me to task for including BAR SET and MRS. MET in a puzzle. Sure, bar set was a suggestion by the word list. But I approved it. At first I wasn’t sure it was a real thing, but lo and behold, look how many of them you can buy on Amazon. I specifically clued the entry as “Gift for an aspiring mixologist,” to reflect the fact that it’s probably not something you’d see at an actual bar (and to suggest both pieces of an entry that might be a bit obscure). (That clue didn’t make the cut, but what can you do?) As for MRS. MET, sure, it’s a bit cutesy, but I also know several children who were thrilled to have met her at a ballgame just the week before. The entries were fairly crossed. I’m sure you appreciated as much.

            Keep the comments coming, if you so desire. My hide is fine with or without you.

            • Martin says:

              It never fails to amuse me when a critic objects to a theme because it’s not the different theme that he or she would have preferred.

              “If it only had one more constraint, I would have like it more,” is a common and, I guess, reasonable comment. “Without this additional constraint this theme has no right to exist,” not so much.

  8. pannonica says:

    Universal: Anyone else find the final across, SEALANT, a bit offputting in context of the theme?

    • Victor Fleming says:

      Palm to forehead!
      I cannot believe I missed the SEAL ANT when solving and studying for the review.
      Thanks for pointing it out.
      Seriously, though, not offputting. Just a bonus for any so perceptive as to catch it.

      • Martin says:

        I wondered if it were a tiny flaw. It doesn’t conform to the theme (no overlap) but it’s close. I came down on the side of mini-Easter egg. Like an Easter quail egg.

  9. Brian Thomas says:

    preach it Jim – left lane campers abound up here, and it’s incredibly frustrating

Comments are closed.