Thursday, September 5, 2019

BEQ 3:08 (Andy) 


LAT 3:07 (GRAB) 


NYT 8:55 (Ben) 


WSJ 7:52 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


The Fireball is a contest puzzle. We’ll post a review once the deadline has passed.

Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Heads of State”—Jim P’s review

Our theme is regular words whose first three or four letters comprise a traditional state abbreviation and whose final letters comprise a completely separate word.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Heads of States” · Samuel A. Donaldson · Thu., 9.5.19

  • 16a [Turkey-roasting tool in the Yellowhammer State?] ALA. BASTER
  • 23a [Financial award in the Sunshine State?] FLA. GRANT. I bet a funnier clue could be had by parsing this FLAG RANT.
  • 36a [Old flames in the Hoosier State?IND. EXES
  • 38a [Core muscles in the Palmetto State?SCAR. ABS. I don’t think I’ve ever “Scar.” as the abbreviation for South Carolina. How common is it? Also, this seems like a really awkward way to refer to peoples’ abs? Bleh.
  • 48a [Boxing venue in the Centennial State?] COLO. RING
  • 59a [Real estate in the Bay State?] MASS. ACRES. I think I like this one best; it’s a darkly-humorous re-purposing of a grim word. I can see it as the name of a posh neighborhood in a dark comedy.

I didn’t get much entertainment value out of these. First off, it was confusing because in each case the first two letters are also the standard two-letter abbreviation of each state (which wouldn’t be the case if, say, TEXTILE was an entry). Second, the inconsistency between three- and four-letter abbreviations was off-putting. And third, none of these felt very engaging with the possible exception of the last one.

I love the long fill though: GRAPE SODA, SWEAR JAR (with a great clue [Where to give when you give a damn]), OMEGA MAN, EXIT RAMP, RAW ENERGY, and EMPORIUM. Only CATERS TO feels ho-hum. Plus, there are fun-to-say entries CAPULET and PROTEGE. US SENATE on the other hand would normally be an asset, but here I felt it was distracting, given the theme.

Other entries in the negative column: MEET A and PEETA, AT TEN and ONE NO, ING and AIG, and AAU (Amateur Athletic Union).

The strong long fill puts the grid in positive territory, but the theme only manages to be okay, not entertaining. 3.25 stars.


Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 9/5/2019 — no. 0905

It took me a minute to figure out what all of the weird clues in Alex Eaton-Salners’ latest grid were doing, but once it cracked the rest fell fairly easily:

  • 1A: More than a bird, but less than a facial expression — COWL
  • 5A: More than a symptom, but less than a jerk — WITCH
  • 10A: More than a card, but less than a track bet — LACE
  • 20A: More than a snake, but less than a bodily organ — LADDER
  • 36A: More than a British islander, but less than a team symbol — ASCOT
  • 39A: More than a court filing, but less than a status change — EMOTION
  • 42A: More than a bagel, but less than a walk — TROLL
  • 59A: More than a color, but less than a trade occupation — LUMBER
  • 67A: More than a boat, but less than an idea – PARK
  • 68A: More than a weather forecast, but less than a muscle injury — TRAIN
  • 69A: More than an insect, but less than a U.S. president — RANT

Look at all that fill above!  Such density!  Very theme!  W O W.

For each of the clues, you’re given a “more than” portion and a less than.  Taking 1A as an example, we want something that’s more than a bird (so, an OWL), but less than a facial expression (a SCOWL), so COWL it is.  The rest follow the same pattern.  I mapped it out and alas, the “less than” extra letters do not spell anything.

Given how dense the theme is here, I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the rest of the fill seemed.  Sure, there were a few weird names like HAILE Gebrselassie, Laura INNES, and Henry LUCE running around to make the grid work, but there was also some lovely stuff like LARDERS, SCHMEAR, AMINO ACID, and STOLEN CAR floating around the grid, so I’ll take it.

More than a court filing, but less than a status change, it’s Carly Rae Jepsen’s EMOTION

Happy Thursday, all!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Where’s the Beef?”—Andy’s review

BEQ #1189, “Where’s the Beef?”

This one reminds me of that classic knock-knock joke:

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Interrupting cow.
Interrupting cow wh–

Each of the theme answers is HAVING A COW [Freaking out, and a hint to the theme answers], in that the letters COW have been inserted into standard, in-the-language phrases to punny effect. Like so:

  • 17a, DOG SCOWLED [Boxer grimaced?]
  • 25a, COWINNER CIRCLES [Spots where the victors all hang together?]
  • 43a, MOSCOW DEF [“Russia’s capital is DA BOMB!”]
  • 57a, COWRITE OF SPRING [What an assistant to Robert Schumann did for his 1st Symphony?].

I can’t read [LOVE sculptor…] ROBERT Indiana’s name without singing it in my head to the tune of Gary, Indiana from The Music Man. And now you have this same disease — it is a curse I bestow on you all.

Until next time!

Pam Klawitter’s Universal crossword, “Stage a Comeback”—Jim Q’s review

THEME: Phrases which hide the word TIDE backwards


  • 21A [Columnist’s pronoun] EDITORIAL WE.

    Universal crossword solution · Pam Klawitter · “Stage a Comeback” · Thu., 9.05.19

  • 26A [Took no chances] PLAYED IT SAFE.
  • 43A [“Star Wars” apprenticeship] JEDI TRAINING.
  • 50A [Reverse one’s fortunes, or a hint to what’s hidden in 21-, 26- and 43-Across] TURN THE TIDE.

Simple, clean concept with a classic theme type. I thought the revealer would have something to do with editing, since I saw EDIT repeatedly popping up, but nope! I prefer PLAYED IT SAFE and JEDI TRAINING over EDITORIAL WE. In this type of theme, it’s far more elegant if the “hidden word” bridges the words in the phrase.

Fill-wise, I’m very confused as to why the commonly accepted spelling of DORAG is spelled as DURAG (I can’t find any usage of that in crosswords at all), especially when changing the U to an O makes SONS. Same goes for the BROS / D.O.D. crossing. Why not BRAS and DAD?

3.5 star theme, 2.5 star fill. 3 stars.

Kristian House’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

In contrast to yesterday’s puzzle, this one is all about the revealer, which occupies a whopping 20 squares. Because of that, you may potentially get to it quite early, as I did. It is a clever repurposing of TWOCANPLAY/ATTHATGAME, but the rest of the puzzle theme then becomes simply finding out which (of a near limitless supply?) of two-player games were chosen: MASTERMIND, CHECKERS, CHESS, GUESSWHO and BATTLESHIP. I’ve never encountered GUESSWHO, but it is for sale here, so I guess I just skipped it. The list-y nature of the theme meant the puzzle played very easy for a Thursday, for me at least.

The biggest desperation play in the grid today is SSTAR, which is perhaps a hair above RRN’s in its desperation.

Other points of interest:

  • [Flying frenemy of Godzilla], RODAN. I don’t know enough about the lore to be able to comprehend how two destructive monsters can be “frenemies”.
  • [Heart sonograms, familiarly], ECHOS. Echocardiograms. Is that the official short spelling then?

3,25 Stars

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20 Responses to Thursday, September 5, 2019

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Hmm. In the NYT, 7d TINGE and 35d TINCT (anyone have a modern dictionary showing that verb sense?) do not belong in the same grid. They’re far too close together in derivation and meaning.

    • pannonica says:

      I know W Shortz doesn’t care about this sort of thing, but 34d [Midori on the ice] ITO and 61a [Waiting in the wings] ON ICE seems gratuitous.

    • Stephen B Manion says:

      The usual suspect dictionaries don’t mention a verb sense for tinct, tinge. Here’s a link to one that does:


      • JohnH says:

        Both MW11C and RHUD have TINGE as a verb, although RHUD’s definition isn’t all that close to “influence.” RHUD but not the other has TINCT as a verb.

        Anyhow, what with that, the two names, and CLEAR with a definition that I must admit I don’t understand made the due N section of the NYT really hard for me. (And hmm, how often do you see EDSEL clued as a classic rather than a flop? Interesting.)

        Actually, more throughout that I didn’t know than I’d ideally like, but the sheer number of theme entries no doubt makes that inevitable, and I loved the theme. It, too, had me working hard.

    • Billy Boy says:

      Back from DORIAN evacuation, we did OK, good luck to N.C.

      NYT: Yes, I had a grouse about those two twingetinges as well – however I sadly found the overall theme tedious and not fun although not too hard to suss out and remarkably dense. Very mixed bag for me.

      I, too have my problems with the liberties Will takes for the self-proclaimed greatest puzzles, but I’ll spare everyone my grouse.

      WSJ: However, I *DO* like Sam D’s puzzles and today was no exception. Although far from a constructor or any kind of expert – aren’t the variations in the state abbreviations (I kinda expected the 2-letter mail abbrs., too) considered inelegant? I did like the wordform/clue pairs.

  2. Pamela W Kelly says:

    I really wanted the extra letters to be a secret message!

  3. Desper-otto says:

    Doncha think the single-, double- and triple-scoop visual images warrant a mention?

  4. R Cook says:

    Regarding BEQ: Stravinsky wrote “Rite of Spring”, not Schumann.

    • sps says:

      Yes, but Schumann’s first symphony is known as the Spring Symphony. Not that I like this answer much…the assistant “co-write of spring symphony”. Co-wrote? Co-writer of?

    • Martin says:

      It’s a tad strained but it works. “Schumann was busy so he brought in someone for the co-write.”

  5. JohnH says:

    Off topic, but I can definitely think of Robert Indiana without The Music Man because he milked his one famous work and, to a lesser extent, its typeface for everything they’re worth. His estate and family have been at war over what’s genuine, but he asked for the war in his lifetime by making them an industry. Several works have been on the roof of his gallery, visible from the High Line all summer. For all I know, they’re there now. (The gallery, Paul Kasmin, has a new show opening indoors at least in a week.)

  6. Will Nediger says:

    In the world outside of crosswords, the DURAG spelling is very common – I’ve used it spelled that way in a puzzle before, and I’m happy to see another usage.

    • Lise says:

      I find the DURAG spelling in the book “Sapiens”, by Yuval Noah Harari, which I’m reading currently. That is the first time I’ve seen it spelled that way but it may be the most common spelling, according to the Google results I got.

  7. hibob says:

    Universal review has the wrong grid displayed.
    I also wondered about SoNS and DoRAG.

  8. Zulema says:

    Don’t have much to say, but both Wednesday’s and today’s puzzles were innovative and I enjoyed solving them in my slow way.

  9. Brian Thomas says:

    SCAR shows up as a college sports abbreviation sometimes, to prevent confusion between the two USCs (South Carolina and Southern Cal).

  10. PJ says:

    WSJ – After the first themer I was excited. Alabaster is a city in Alabama and I thought all the theme answers were going to incorporate cities.

Comments are closed.