Thursday, April 16, 2020

BEQ tk (Ade) 


LAT 5:21 (GRAB) 


NYT 11:29 (Ben) 


WSJ 10:02 (Jim P) 


Universal 4:16 (Jim Q) 


Fireball 7:30 (Jenni) 


Chase Dittrich’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Making Amends”—Jim P’s review

I love the title on this one because it’s perfectly apt. We are literally making AM-ends as we write in the theme answers. Each one is a well-known phrase with an added AM at the end.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Making Amends” · Chase Dittrich · Thu., 4.16.20

  • 19a [Parents in need of galactic transportation?] MOTHERS-TO-BEAM. I don’t know of any sci-fi shows or films where people “beam” across a galaxy. Not even a solar system, I don’t think. Most of it is done ship-to-ship or planet-to-orbiting-ship. Out of curiosity, can anyone come up with an example of a much longer distance “beaming” in sci-fi? Possibly in the film Contact with Jodie Foster? Note that we’re not talking wormholes here.
  • 25a [Driver acting just for you?] PERSONAL ADAM. Yes, but Adam’s failure will eventually lead to your own Personal Jesus.
  • 36a [Nickname for an interpretive psychoanalyst?] DR. DREAM. Not to be confused with Dr. McDreamy of Grey’s Anatomy.
  • 45a [Female kangaroo?] HOPPING MADAM. I don’t know who’s referring to kangaroos as “madams” but whatever floats your boat.
  • 54a [Hudson debris?] NEW YORK JETSAM. Rivals to the New York Flotsam?

Nifty theme that works because the title works so well. I didn’t find any of the entries to be lol-funny, but they were clever enough and none of them felt forced. Nice job.

My time was much too long because I got hung up at 22a STAUB [Original Expo nicknamed “Le Grand Orange” by fans] crossing 20d T-BOND [It takes years to mature]. It also didn’t help that I had HOLE at 1a [Round activity] for much of the solve instead of the correct GOLF.

LEE MARVIN and VOLDEMORT comprise the marquee long fill answers and they make for a good pairing. One for the older crowd, one for the younger. We have a case of THE YIPS at 42d which, not being a GOLF watcher or player, I only know from crosswords. I could do without OONA and plural PEKOES, but most everything else fell within the norms for a standard puzzle these days.

Clues of note:

  • 15d. [Pythagorean square?]. AGORA, meaning a Greek marketplace. Nice clue.
  • 56d. [The giant Enceladus is buried beneath it]. ETNA. Speaking of the Greeks, I had to look up this character from Greek mythology. Enceladus was the traditional foe of Athena, and despite being dead and buried, his rumblings are the cause of Mt. ETNA‘s tremors and eruptions (per Wikipedia and Virgil).

Excellent use of a title to drive the theme. Good puzzle. Four stars.

Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

There’s a lot going on in this Thursday’s grid, and more than I initially thought when I thought I had cracked what was going on.  It started out with three sets of paired clues:

NYT 4/15/2020 – No. 0415

  • 33/35A: Cole Porter musical — KISS/KATE
  • 42A/44A: “You can wait to show your gratitude” — THANK/LATER
  • 54A/56A: Clothing item for the youngest in the family — HAND/DOWN

I saw these and figured, since each had two black squares between the two words, the ME missing in each phrase (KISS ME KATE, THANK ME LATER, and HAND ME DOWN) was somehow represented there.  Not so!  One part of two seemingly identical clues reveal what’s going on:

  • 19A: “Don’t be a stranger!” — KEEP IN TOUCH
  • 69A: “Don’t be a stranger!”…or what you have to do three times in this puzzle — DROP ME A LINE

All of the MEs have dropped a line, making words that make sense in the grid, but don’t line up with their associated clue’s answer:

  • 38A: ___ Na Na — SHA ME
  • 48A: Repeated word in the Ten Commandments — THY ME
  • 59A: Denial of responsibility — NOT I ME

Once I saw the full picture of what was going on, I was impressed.

One final note: I have never encountered the phrase “RAW RECRUITS”, even in the context of being new in the work force.  Is this actually a thing?

Be well, all!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 137”–Jenni’s write-up

I’ve lost track of how many Fireball crosswords by men we’ve seen since we last saw one with a woman’s sole byline. Peter certainly has the right to publish his own work, which I usually enjoy (not so much today. More on that below) and he certainly could do more to publish women when he’s not running his own puzzles. The last time I mentioned this, he Emailed me and said he’d love to get more submissions from women. Since that seems to be all he’ll do to reach out while other editors (Ben Tausig at AVCX and Erik Agard at USA Today, at least) are doing more, I’ll repeat it here and link to his spec sheet.

On to the puzzle. As I said, I usually enjoy Peter’s puzzles, including his themelesses. I want the Fireball to be “blazingly hard.” This one was almost impossible, and not in a good way. 5d [Top R&B Artist at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards] crossing 24a [Beastie Boys bandmate of Mike D and Ad-Rock] was an absolute Natick for me. I solved it through brute force – I entered every consonant in the alphabet until I got Mr. Happy Pencil. I do not object to pop culture in my puzzles. Both of those are completely legit entries. ELLA MAI is a big deal in current music and the Beastie Boys are iconic. It’s a lacuna in my knowledge base and one my brother would be horrified by. I admit that. Everyone has lacunae, and that’s why entries like that should be crossed with words that are accessible to people who don’t know pop music unless it’s in a specialized outlet. MCA is (or was) also a record label. I know Peter doesn’t like to repeat his own clues, let alone anyone else’s, but sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do to make his puzzles enjoyable. 29d [Hip-hop hit for Petey Pablo] was also new to me and also has pop culture crossings. Luckily I’m old, so I know the songs compiled on OLE ELO, and remember bad movies from my college years, which gave me PORKYS. (Petey Pablo recorded FREEK A LEEK).

Well, that’s a long couple of paragraphs of ranting! Here’s the grid and a few other things:

Fireball, April 16, 2020, Peter Gordon, “Themeless 137,” solution grid

  • 9a [Health professional?] is one of those sneaky clues where the first word is a proper noun, disguised by the convention of using upper-case to start clues. “Health” is a magazine and the answer is EDITOR. It would have been much harder without the question mark, which would have been fair.
  • I’m pretty sure my mother had Frank Sinatra’s DUETS II album. I don’t remember hearing “Mack the Knife” with Frank and Jimmy Buffet. I don’t think I’ll listen to it again.
  • 36a [Say “hi,” say] is a cute clue for ASPIRATE. It’s better than “inhale food or liquid into one’s lungs,” which is what I think of when I see that word.
  • 45a [Oz creature] is COOKIE MONSTER. That’s Frank Oz, of blessed memory  who is, happily, still alive, and was not the voice or body behind Big Bird. That was Carroll Spinney, who died recently. So sorry! And thanks to the commenters who set me straight.
  • 61a [Dutch city where a peace treaty was signed in 1678] is NIJEMEGEN, which I’ve never heard of (geography is another lacuna. Gaps, I have them). All the crossings were fair, including 62d [Noodle with an ax], JAM. The “ax” in question is a guitar.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above, and above, and above. I also didn’t know that TULANE has a pelican mascot named Riptide, or that the CELICA was Motor Trend Import Car of the Year in 1978.

Mark McClain’s Universal crossword — “Fantasy Setting”

A puzzle that’s both out of this world, and yet also the complete opposite of that…

THEME: Phrases where the word EARTH is hidden in the middle.

Universal crossword solution · “Fantasy Setting” · Mark McClain · Thur., 4.16.20


  • 18A [“Listen up!”] NOW HEAR THIS!
  • 27A [Well-formulated ideas] CLEAR THOUGHTS
  • 44A [Ancient battle skill] SPEAR THROWING
  • 58A [Hobbits’ realm, or a hint to the word hidden in 18-, 27- and 44-Across] MIDDLE EARTH

I enjoyed this one, though in retrospect I didn’t know SPEAR THROWING was a thing! CLEAR THOUGHTS seems a bit vague too now that I think about it, but neither of those bothered me mid-solve. Also, I love the phrase NOW HEAR THIS! It’s so deliciously old-timey.

Loved the clue for 33D [One Way or another?] SIGN. Haha!

I do take issue with LGE being an acceptable abbreviation for “large,” but I’ve seen it in crosswords before. Not the puzzle’s fault!

Thanks, Mark!

3.4 stars.

Steve Mossberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Yesterday’s clue for POSTMEN provides an odd segue to today’s puzzle, which features pairs of AIL/ALE homophones being substituted. PREHENSILETALE and DELIVERTHEMALE were definitely strong entries, and I also appreciated the consistent way the theme was executed.

Things I don’t recall seeing before: ISS clued as the space station. TAI clued wrt sushi, also haven’t heard of this, but northern fish species are not common here. I haven’t heard of ROSELESLIE the actress before, and if I had only had half their name I wouldn’t have been sure how to assemble it!

Clue of the puzzle: [“Yo, Hadrian!”] for AVE.

Final note: I wonder if FARCRY was originally intended as the video game, but was clued to be more accessible, if somewhat awkward to clue.


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27 Responses to Thursday, April 16, 2020

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    For what it’s worth, “RAW RECRUITS” was a familiar and completely noncontroversial phrase to me.

    • Gary R says:

      Same here. I think RAW RECRUITS is probably more common in a military context, but I’ve heard it used to describe newbies in private sector employment, too.

    • JohnH says:

      Me, too. But also, the entry for RAW in RHUD corresponding to the meaning at hand (“inexperienced, untrained”) just happens to give “raw recruit” as its example. FWIW, I didn’t know AHN, PATEL, or SWALE, but all were entirely fair based on crossings, and the last is really nice to learn.

      I enjoyed the theme, although it’s the third theme involving dropping the middle of an across entry down a line in the not too recent past now. The revealer made it better for me by being funny in context. Another plus is that, if I remember the other two puzzles rightly, the dropped part came naturally from that row’s across entry, whereas here we had a new twist, with the drop-down ME changing the entry, after first slowing me up in a good way. (Hey, why does SHA have five letters? Oops, duh.)

      My only qualm would be that it left large portions of the grid untouched, including nearly the whole top half, as well as the four large corner sectors, each with a long entry.

  2. cyberdiva says:

    The term RAW RECRUITS was quite familiar to me as well.

    I thought the puzzle was clever, but I keep thinking that the MEs should be raised up a line rather than dropped down. Only if they’re raised up will KISS ME KATE, THANK ME LATER, and HAND ME DOWN make sense. I understand that DROP ME A LINE works with “Don’t be a stranger,” but “what you have to do three times in this puzzle” is raise the MEs up a line (and then SHA, THY, and NOT I also make sense).

    • scrivener says:

      I read it as having to drop the ME a line in order to fit the answer in the grid. Fun puzzle. A grueling 25:06 for me.

    • placematfan says:

      Yeah, I Zenned out reading Rex Parker and asking myself: If this was my theme, would DROP ME A LINE or LIFT ME UP be the better, or more apt, revealer? And, a bit embarrassingly, I can’t wrap my head around the answer to that.

      • David L says:

        I saw Mr Parker’s rant and thought it was absurd and over the top even by his standards. The revealer works fine. You take KISS ME KATE, for example, and you DROP ME A LINE to see how to put the answer in the puzzle.

      • Gary R says:

        Seems to me, either one works. DROP ME A LINE is what you have to do to enter the answers correctly. LIFT ME UP is what you have to do if you’re looking at the filled-in grid, in order to make sense of those answers.

        • David L says:

          I agree. Either one would work. But Mr P insisted that the revealer used in the puzzle was unacceptable.

  3. Gary R says:

    Enjoyed the NYT. Lots of good long entries, and a clever theme. I picked up on part of the theme – the dropped MEs – fairly quickly, but somehow struggled to recognize that the MEs had to be left off of the end of the other three entries in order to work with the clues.

    I like KEEP IN TOUCH as an entry, but didn’t like the parallel cluing with DROP ME A LINE. Made it seem like KEEP IN TOUCH should be part of the theme, when it’s not.

  4. damefox says:

    Why is THYME a “Repeated word in the Ten Commandments”? Am I just being really dense?

    Overall I have to say I didn’t enjoy the NYT very much, although had I noticed the MEs weren’t just missing but were instead on the line below, I might’ve liked it more. Some awkward fill (ESKER, DOES OK, SWALE) and some baffling clues (SHAME for “____ Na Na” comes to mind – what is that?? – in addition to THYME) brought the enjoyability factor down for me.

    • damefox says:

      Oh I see. I must just be having a slow morning. Presumably if I was 50% more awake I would’ve enjoyed this puzzle 75% more. (I still don’t like the awkward fill.) Alas.

  5. MattF says:

    ‘Raw recruit’ is a phrase from Ovid’s Art of Love.

  6. marciem says:

    Really enjoyed the WSJ, got small smiles out of each themer.

    One nit… 30 across, “minimal amount” = none. Uh, no. Actually none is the lack of any amount, not a minimal one. At least according to my mind and three dictionaries LOL.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I thought about calling that one out, but I kept thinking about the little piggy who had NONE. In the end I didn’t think it was worth arguing over, but your point is a valid one.

  7. blinkerz says:

    ‘RAW RECRUITS’ is very familiar to me. Of course I’m 85, and that may have something to do with it. I’d like to pile on the criticism of Rex Parker’s rant about the NYT puzzle. I couldn’t even figure out what he was saying. But we should all recognize that this is Rex’s shtick – writing stuff that will get people to respond, and to continue to read his blog.

    “If we had some ham we could have ham and eggs — if we had some eggs”

  8. Billy Boy says:

    I really liked the WSJ and my last square was also the B in STAUB/T-BOND. Also – PAR more common use in bond than stock, interesting for WSJ since it is appropriate. I think Galactic was used to suggest a non-terrestrial milieu, even though too large, economical. Good fill and cute stuff in there.

    NYT RAWRECRUITS was far from its biggest nit. Theme a bit thin (only 3) and ME telegraphed by the only [two black square spaces] not on the periphery of the grid coupled with straight-forward answers to the clues. The difficulty laid in the tangential to obscure cluing and answers. There were others, maybe it was me just thinking I had figured out an easy theme but … I thought CAPISCE || CAPEESH without (var.) was Saturday-ish as was MOSELLE for ‘French’ wines (Being a “wine guy”).

    I do think DROP ‘ME’ A LINE is the more appropriate as you – drop the ME a line – whilst writing it in, at least that’s my take. Right or wrong, I’m sticking with it.

    Non-constructor construction question – is having two “Don’t be a stranger!” clues, one revealer, one not, a legit thing? I thought it a little odd only in retrospect, not at solving time to be fair.

  9. Aimless says:

    Frank Oz is still alive – you scared me for a minute! Maybe you were thinking of Carroll Spinney, the icon who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, who died this past December.

  10. Crotchety Doug says:

    Loved the BEQ – the feeling of being hemmed in comes through loud and clear. It’s worth breaking the “no unchecked squares” rule for. And they are checked after all, by each other.

  11. Mark McClain says:

    Re: Universal – Thanks for the mostly kind review, but one little gripe. I don’t like to use abbreviations in crosswords except when necessary, but when I do use them, they are appropriate. You need look no further than the venerable and authoritative Webster’s Random House Unabridged Dictionary to find lge. as an appropriate abbreviation for large. Suggest you check sources before dinging a puzzle for a improper entry.

  12. haari Meech says:

    WSJ I got hung-up at 22a also, only because i immediately wrote in “Rusty” for Le Grande Orange. Figured the clue was focusing more on the color aspect. His number 10 was retired by the Expos in 1993.

  13. Brenda Rose says:

    I absolutely agree with all who find Rex’s Rants puerile. I stopped reading his blog. I found it too full of him with no basis in commonality. That’s why I like the Crossword Fiend. It is a civil discourse where people disagree to agree.

  14. Phil says:

    WSJ: A great example of the diversity of common knowledge. For me, STAUB was a gimme (and I was delighted to see his name in the puzzle.)

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