Friday, January 10, 2020

CHE untimed (pannonica) 


LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 5:44 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 6:37 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (Rebecca) 


Brendan Quigley’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 10 20, no. 0110

Hey, it’s Brendan in the NYT again! Feel like it’s been awhile. The “here comes BEQ, working on debuting splashy new fill” vibe features BITMOJI, AFROFUTURISM (a term I first learned from the always-erudite Erik Agard), JUUL PODS, and TAKE THE L (meaning “loss”—but Chicagoans often take the L without feeling like losers). They’re all good fill, though I deplore the whole “let’s get young people who think smoking is gross hooked on nicotine even worse” aspect of Juul and vaping.

I’ve never seen APPLE SHORTCAKES, just (straw)berry. Any good? Regional?

Toughest zone for me was the southwest corner, where I tried WE AGREE for I’D AGREE; the SPY RING clue, [Term for a group of moles], was tough; the LAWYER clue, [One who goes through the motions?], was also hard; [Smack on the street, e.g., for short] suggested heroin rather than kissy PDA; and I could only think about Superman for [Meaning of an embossed “S,” maybe], rather than the SIL of  répondez s’il vous plaît on an embossed wedding invitation. Felt more like a Saturday puzzle, but the rest of the grid was more pliant.

Five more things:

  • 9d. [Succotash ingredient, at times], OKRA. Really? I only knew corn and lima beans should go in succotash (which was included in a weird quiz about salads, somehow).
  • 23d. [P’s and q’s typer], PINKIE. The fingers used to type P and Q, not a person who types or anyone who’s minding their P’s and Q’s.
  • 52a. [“Black Panther” genre], AFROFUTURISM. Also in this category: Octavia Butler’s sci-fi, Janelle Monae’s concept album The ArchAndroid and Monae’s musical forebears like George Clinton, and artists like Basquiat.
  • 40a. [Tampa suburb named after a pope], ST. LEO. It was his hometown, of course, so they had to rename it after him.
  • 50a. [Capable, jocularly], EPT. This is also a popular brand of pregnancy test.

Four stars from me. How’d it treat you?

Natan Last’s New Yorker puzzle  – Rachel’s writeup

What a funky grid! Before I even dug into this puzzle, I just paused and admired the cool design of the black squares, jutting out from the top and bottom in little backwards “y”s. And then I started the puzzle, and as usual, found that Natan and I are just perpetually on the same wavelength with regard to what makes a good entry or interesting clue. This puzzle was a pleasure to solve.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Natan Last • Friday, January 10, 2020

The staircase through the middle was crunchy and had a fun contrast to it, with ROBERTO BOLAÑO juxtaposed nicely with SEX AND THE CITY, and NEUTRAL COLORS rounding it out. I didn’t know ROBERTO BOLAÑO or his novel 2666, so I had to fill in much of his name from crosses, but they were all fair and I now have another book to add to my Goodreads list. The long downs crossing the staircase were also lovely, with I SMELL A RAT / OBEDIENTLY crossing through the west and ST BONIFACE / O HOLY NIGHT in the east. All solid, crunchy stuff.

Although his marquee entries are super solid, the highlight of this puzzle for me is the medium fill, like ROSIE’ S BAR, the “M*A*S*H watering hole,” and NACHO CHIP, perfectly clued as “Little dipper?”. The music clues also shine here, with NOKIA, a word that another constructor might have clued in terms of  a telecom company, instead clued as “New York-based rapper Princess ___”; STAGE NAME clued for Common (as opposed to one of countless other options); and HALSEY clued for the artist rather than the WWII admiral. So fun and fresh!

The last square to fall for me was the L of ROLLO/EL ALAMEIN; people disappointed by Admiral HALSEY‘s snub can rest easy knowing that at least one WWII tidbit made it into the puzzle! I’ve never read Nancy, and am absolutely out of my depth when it comes to military history, so this cross was tough but inferable.

A few more things:

  • Favorite tricky clue: SOUL CYCLE (Where you might be spinning out?);
  • Names I didn’t know: ROBERTO BOLAÑO, David Graeber (“DEBT” author), DOC Dwight Gooden

Overall, many stars from me.

P.S. those interested in my quest to track media misrepresentations of crosswords, including in New Yorker comics, may enjoy the twitter account I created for this purpose: @Not_A_Crossword

Ada Nicolle’s Universal crossword, “Mistakes Were Made”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: TYPOS strewn across theme answers and form the bonus word, ERROR

Universal crossword solution · Ada Nicolle · “Mistakes Were Made” · Fri., 01.10.20


  • 16A [*Wacky writing implements] NOVELTY PENS
  • 20A [*Happening spots in dorms] PARTY ROOMS
  • 37A [*They reward regular shoppers] LOYALTY PROGRAMS
  • 51A [*Deteriorating] GOING TO POT
  • 59A [*Companion of Hermione Granger] HARRY POTTER
  • 66A [Mistakes in the starred answers? (read the “wrong” letters in order for a bonus!)] TYPOS

It has been a fantastic week for Universal puzzles that I get to review and today’s was no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed this solve and was even more impressed when it came to the bonus ERROR hidden in the TYPOS themselves. I love when there is a reason for theme answers beyond the revealer alone and this hit the mark so beautifully. The answers all stand on their own as legitimate entries, with my favorites as NOVELTY PENS and HARRY POTTER.

Getting a little nit-picky here, but I questioned my initial HOT POT entry because so many POTs in that corner – with HOT POT, HARRY POTTER and GOING TO POT all clustered like that felt a bit too repetitive, but the rest of the puzzle is really smooth – especially considering how much is accomplished with this theme, that I can accept it.

3.75 stars

Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up

We have four theme entries with the same clue: [Joint venture?]

Los Angeles Times, Joe Deeney, January 10, 2020, solution grid

  • 18a is ORTHOPEDIC OFFICE. I have seen far too much of my orthopedist’s office this week after I fell on ice and injured the knee he replaced last June. Rest, ice, aspiration, Tylenol, and it’s 75% better in 48 hours. Phew.
  • 28a is PRIVATE PRISON. These should not exist.
  • 47a is MARIJUANA SHOP. I started with MARIHUANA because I had HISS AT  for [Boo] rather than the correct JEER AT. I have my dad’s New York State Special Tax Stamp from 1960 authorizing him to prescribe “opium, coca leaves, marihuana, etc.” Apparently medicinal MJ was legal in NYS in 1960.

All solid and an overall entertaining theme.

A few other things:

  • 1a [They may be counted] are SHEEP. Now I’m sleepy.
  • 22a [“C’mon, play along”] is BE A SPORT. I associate this with being pressured into doing something you know is unsavory. I don’t object to its appearance in the puzzle, just wonder if others have the same sense.
  • 26a [Of inferior quality] is EL CHEAPO. Another entry for the list of “entries that should go away because they are fundamentally racist.”
  • 34d [As much as possible] isn’t quite what I think of for TO THE BONE.
  • 38a [Like the object of an “Aww!”] is ADORABLE. Life with a teenager daughter: I hear that “awww” in a particular inflection and octave.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Timbuktu is in MALI. I think I mentioned this before. Clearly it didn’t stick. Geography, man. Not my strong suit.

Bonnie L Gentry and Victor Fleming’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “A River Runs Through It” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 1/10/20 • “A River Runs Through It” • Gentry, Fleming • solution • 20200110

Through compounded incompetence (mostly mine) this belated write-up now comes to you.

The longest entries contain letters—in order but not necessarily contiguous—spelling well-known rivers. They’re helpfully circled already.

  • 20a. [Quantity denoter] CARDINAL NUMBER (Danube).
  • 25a. [Gravitationally bound group] PLANETARY SYSTEM (Platte).
  • 43a. [“The most relevant of Shakespeare’s plays for the modern era,” per Julie Taymor] TITUS ANDRONICUS (Indus).
  • 49a. [American composition showcased at the opening ceremonies of the ’84 Los Angeles Olympics] RHAPSODY IN BLUE (Rhone).

Pretty good finds. Probably not coincidental that all five river names are also crossword-friendly and seen fairly often.

  • 1a [Dot and Ditto Flagston’s mom, in the funnies] LOIS. Presumably this is the Lois of Hi & Lois.
  • 5a [Wrinkly citrus hybrid] UGLI. Has anyone encountered the somewhat wrinkled citrus hybrid SUMO orange? They are quite amazing. Super-easy to peel, juicy, sweet, and flavorful. Freakish! Also: expensive.
  • 18a [Prefix with second] MILLI-. Much more useful a measurement than the vanillisecond.
  • 23a follows themer 20a with an echoic clue: [Quality denoter] A-ONE. 12d [Opposite of 23 Across] POOR. Also, via translation, the opposite of the crossing 16a RICO [“Copacabana” antagonist].
  • 7d [McCann of country music] LILA. Don’t know her, but I am a casual fan of LILA Downs, who has the better crossword name.
  • 38d [South end?] -ERN, 47a [Adroit beginning?] MAL-.
  • 53d [Easily directed, as a ship] YARE. I’d thought this was a noun, maybe something like yaw. But now I’ve learned something.

Solid if low-key puzzle.

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30 Responses to Friday, January 10, 2020

  1. Matthew G. says:

    For me it was the southeast corner that tanked the puzzle. SEEPIER and EPT–really?

    Urban Dictionary doesn’t give “capable” as a meaning of EPT until the third definition down, so I’m a bit dubious on that as established slang. I see that it’s intended as a witty takeoff on “inept,” but meh. I would have gotten it if clued from the pregnancy test.

    As for SEEPIER, I had LEAKIER, which gave me UCLA instead of UCSB, and then everything else got hard to see.

    • pseudonym says:

      Love BEQ, but I thought the UCSB/SEEPIER/BLESSME cross was wanting. His Monday puzzles are great, most of which are easily superior to this one.

  2. MattF says:

    Didn’t know BITMOJI, puzzle was a nice challenge.

    Also, after some thought, I’ve upped my admiration for yesterday’s puzzle. Just consider what the filled grid would look like if all the ‘T’s in the answer grid were visible. A remarkable construction.

  3. Cynthia says:

    Today’s Universal theme “bonus” put a big smile on my face–something these crosswords rarely do. I’m impressed, Adam! The puzzle had just the right degree of challenge for me. If not for a few (probably unavoidable) common fill words, this would have been my first 5-star rated puzzle.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: Really liked the misdirection for 58a SPY RING. Great clue.

    Universal: HOT POT | GOING TO POT | HARRY POTTER all together, really?
    (spoiler – highlight text to see comment)

  5. Billy Boy says:

    The lowlights of BQE’s tangentiality outweighed any highlights for me, but I did laugh aloud at SPY RING. I did start in SW with UCSD ….

    Not even Alexa (My wife has her fine-tuned for cooking, etc.) could confirm the existence*APPPLE*(!?)SHORTCAKES, ugh. That crossing APPLET as well.

    I lived years in Tampa, St. Leo does not qualify as a ‘suburb’ except maybe for Brooksville, FL

    As we say in golf course architectural critique, “Hard does not make good on its own”. For me the contextual did not make up for the two(sic) clever by half B.Q.E. M.O..

    So be it, not bitter, just ruing a wasted Friday chance for a great puzzle missed.

  6. Scott says:

    NYT was a tough Friday for me.

  7. gaconnel says:

    I have been doing crosswords on my computer for 25 years, and BEQ has frequently caused me to not finish. Certainly true of today’s NYT. Yet I think he is the premier constructor of crosswords out there today, because his puzzles are so tough. I also regard some of his clues as unfair, but accept that as the product of his fertile mind and wouldn’t want him to change a thing. 3 cheers for Brendan.

  8. David Glasser says:

    New Yorker: overall great puzzle, but the 5D/20A dupe was hard for me to believe and I spent a while trying to avoid writing SMELL in twice.

  9. Alan D. says:

    I’m surprised this hasn’t been mentioned yet re: New Yorker but you cannot, I repeat, cannot have SMELL (20-across) and I SMELL A RAT (5-down) in the same puzzle. I’m fine with little dupes like the ones that the NYT allows but don’t you think this dupe is too much?

    (Just saw that David beat me to this while I was writing it but I’ll let my message remain)

  10. Ethan Friedman says:

    That felt very much like a Saturday NYT to me — which isn’t a bad thing!

    never heard of EPT before and that felt like a bit of a stretch but SPY RING for “group of moles”, BITMOJI, and the other entries Amy and others mentioned made for a terrific puzzle.

  11. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Very hard for me today.

    My first thought for Black Panther was Afro Eye Candy. I enjoyed both Black Panther (very much) and Crazy Rich Asians (to a lesser extent), but I have always thought that the showcasing of very attractive blacks and Asians was every bit as important as anything in the movies’ storylines.


  12. Phil says:

    I would like to hear from BEQ what the embossed “S,” comes from. RSVP does not have a comma, at least not after it. Best I can glean is maybe an R,SVP. Was there an error with the comma? possibly “S”, was the intent

    • Karen says:

      The comma is there not as part of RSVP but rather to set off “maybe.” In US English, the convention is to place commas and periods inside closing quotation marks, so it immediately follows the S here.

  13. Bonekrusher says:

    I thought the NYT was awesome but probably more of a Saturday than Friday level. I too am trying to figure out what SIL is embossed on. When solving, I reasoned that SAL and SEL are words for salt, so maybe in some language SIL is too, and the S gets embossed on a salt shaker?

  14. Lise says:

    NYT: I too thought it more of a Saturday level, and I await tomorrow’s puzzle with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation. APPLE SHORTCAKE seemed random, but I *love* EPT. My bookselling colleagues and I used words like “ept”, “kempt”, and “gruntled” all the time, so I am happy to see this entry.

    What about today’s CHE? Will there be a review? I enjoyed it, just saying.

  15. pamela feiring says:

    Apple shortcake makes no sense.

Comments are closed.