Thursday, June 4, 2020

BEQ tk (Ade) 


LAT 4:46 (GRAB) 


NYT 5:40 (Ben) 


WSJ 9:13 (Jim P) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Fireball 8:58 (Jenni) 


Barbara Lin’s Fireball Crossword, “Scientifically Speaking”–Jenni’s write-up


Yes! You are not imagining it! The Fireball was constructed by a woman (confirmed by the constructor herself, not simply based on the name).

And it’s a good one that played a bit harder for me than most FB puzzles. Each theme answer is a scientific measurement clued as a soundalike phrase.

Fireball, June 3, 2020, Barbara Lin, “Scientifically Speaking,” solution grid

  • 18a [“Rats! I stubbed a digit!”?] is HECTOHERTZ (heck, toe hurts).
  • 23a [Punch out an embedded agent?] is DECAMOLE (deck a mole).
  • 35a [Fondle a diamond?] is PETAJOULE (pet a jewel).
  • 42a [Consumer of laughter?] is GIGALITER (giggle eater).
  • 52a [Rip off a morsel of food?] is TERABYTE (tear a bite).
  • 61a [Factory where a certain antiperspirant is made?] is MILLIFARAD (mill of Arrid).

GIGALITER is my favorite because it made me, yes, giggle. They all work, and they’re all funny. Nicely done! Here’s hoping the next run of male constructors in the Fireball lineup is broken more quickly.

A few other things:

  • 4d [Parabolic course?] took me a while, partly because the ski jump clue at 1a had me thinking about that kind of course. This one is math: PRECALC, where one would study parabolas.
  • I never know which [Legalese adverb] is which. This one is THERETO.
  • I do know that APU has an 18-letter surname, even though I’ve never seen an episode of  “The Simpsons.”  I also know that Hank Azaria decided to stop voicing the character after it was pointed out to him that it’s racist AF. I don’t know why it took him that long to figure that out.
  • 48a [Electronic transmission] is a FAX. Kids, ask your parents – unless you’re a doctor, in which case you still use a fax machine regularly, because for some reason faxes are HIPAA compliant and standard EMail clients are not. Whoever wrote that law never walked past an unattended fax machine.
  • I knew that APOLLO X included components named Charlie Brown and Snoopy. YAY ME.

What I didn’t know before I did this crossword: that KEDS have a wedding collection. I approve. I also did not know that ERIC sings “Her Voice” in “The Little Mermaid.” I’ve never seen it; not a big fan of romantic stories that require a woman to literally give up her voice to get the guy. That’s not even subtle.

Barbara Lin’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

This is the second week in a row that I’ve been underwhelmed by the theme of the Thursday NYT Crossword:

NYT No. 0604 – 6/4/2020

  • 17A: The unhappy drill press operator… — FINDS WORK BORING
  • 34A: The unhappy calendar maker… — NEEDS A WEEK OFF
  • 40A: The unhappy elevator operator… — ASKS FOR A RAISE
  • 62A: The unhappy orthopedic surgeon… — WANTS MORE BREAKS

It’s some C+ job-related puns!  This unhappy crossword reviewer DOESN’T HAVE A CLUE why this is a Thursday puzzle.  The theme’s absolute Tuesday material and slight trickier cluing/fill doesn’t really make this feel any more worthy of a later-in-the-week slot.  Maybe I’m JADED, maybe the INDECENT both-sides-ism of the NYT’s op-ed department has me in a particularly harsh mood, but this just didn’t do it for me.

Be well, all!

Alexander Shames’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Finally!”—Jim P’s review

Brand new byline today, so congrats are in order.

We’re given an add-a-word theme in which the letters AT are tacked on to the ends of theme answers. 48d AT LAST is the revealer, clued [Song covered by Celine, Beyoncé and Aretha, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. Odd that Etta James, who had the biggest version of the song in 1960 is not included in the clue.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Finally!” · Alexander Shames · Thu., 6.4.20

  • 18a [One or two lucky turkeys, every Thanksgiving?] PARDON MEAT
  • 24a [Delivering millions of presents in a single night, e.g.?] SANTA FEAT
  • 37a [“Four Weddings” front-runner?] BRIDE TO BEAT. I’m not getting this. “Four Weddings” is a show, I take it? I know the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, but not this.
  • 51a [“…except for the patriarchy,” for example?] MAN CAVEAT.
  • 57a [Unhealthy ecosystem?] BAD HABITAT.

Solid wordplay. The first one feels somewhat forced, but I’m good with the rest of them.

Plenty of fill highlights today: SPELL OUT, KIA SOUL, ANTONIA, TANLINES, THREE-DAY weekend, URSULA, BINGED ON, GAMEBOY, NAT-GEO, and “I’M RICH!“. That’s quite a load of riches for a debut grid.

Clues of note:

  • 35a. [Disney villain partially inspired by drag queen Divine]. URSULA. Good bit of trivia I didn’t know. As is [Only player with 10 World Series championships] for BERRA.
  • 21d. [Nudist’s lack]. TANLINES. Unexpected, but technically the truth.

A nice grid with good wordplay and impressive fill. 3.7 stars.

Christopher Adams & Michael Sharp’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

HIDDENCARBS is a great revealing answer, and worthy of a themeless grid. That said, not every puzzle idea has enough thematic meat to be carried full term. I feel like this should have been rejected at some point in the construction process. OSCARBUZZ is a solid nine. Then RACECARBED is a ten pluralised to pair with HIDDENCARBS. That’s already a shaky start. And then…

MADAGASCARBEANS is a 15 that has very little presence on Google and which I have never heard of. It exists in exactly one dictionary on hand, Merriam-Webster, which simply says “1: Hyacinth Bean. 2: Lima Bean.” The clue claims they are “Lima family legumes…” Lima beans are a species of the legume family, so I’m not sure what that first part means. The second part claims “… that yield vanilla.” Vanilla comes from an orchid not a bean. The orchids are found in Madagascar and sometimes their pods are called “vanilla beans”. But the clue seems to be conflating several different things and based on not much in the real world.

Now are there alternatives? Not really. There aren’t many unrelated answers that hide CARB across two words. When you have no viable entries that match up properly, the best course of action is to can the puzzle in its entirety. I’m further mystified this puzzle not only was submitted, but passed by editing and fact-checking without an eyebrow raised.

The grid is actually very well filled, with SHANIATWAIN and THESEDREAMS as a non-thematic long pair flanking the theme answers and UMADBRO, BOBROSS and SPLENDA among the medium-length answers. Outside of the theme, which was a non-starter, this puzzle did provide entertainment.


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28 Responses to Thursday, June 4, 2020

  1. Jenni Levy says:

    It’s a double play for Barbara Lin! I agree this was easier than I like for a Thursday puzzle. I enjoyed it more than Ben. Maybe I have a lower threshold for liking puns. I blame my father.

  2. Tony says:

    Ankther thing that irks me about today’s NYT is the clue for MSDOS. MS-DOS was not software. It was an operating sysyem that ran sodtware.

    • PJ says:

      An operating system is software.

    • pannonica says:

      operating system

      • m-w: software that controls the operation of a computer and directs the processing of programs (as by assigning storage space in memory and controlling input and output functions)
      • Wikipedia: system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common services for computer programs.

      et cetera

  3. JohnH says:

    No mention of Etta James in the WSJ? They’re saving her to appear in the grid every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

    • Ned says:

      Useful letter combo + (seemingly) only one well-known Etta = the most common clue reference in all of crossword-dom.

      • Gareth says:

        @Ned: ETTA deep cuts include: ETTA Place of Western history as well as two fictional ETTAs ETTA Kett and ETTA Candy, both puns, and both about three orders of magnitude more obscure.

  4. Norm says:

    I found it very amusing that the LAT had exactly the sort of partial [32D] that the co-constructor would ream on his website were it to appear in an NYT puzzle. And the clue for 45D needed “archaic” or “former” methinks — or do people still use CD ROMs?

    • Martin says:

      Another problem is a bad clue for a themer. Madagascar beans (the legume clued) are not the source of vanilla. Vanilla “beans” grown in Madagascar are the seed pods of an orchid.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      This is rich. Michael Sharp co-constructs a puzzle that he would absolutely rip to pieces on his Rex Parker blog. It didn’t bother me a bit except for a couple of clues/answers, but here are the things I suspect he’d eviscerate:

      A plethora of partials/abbrs: DES {33A: __ Plaines: Chicago suburb}, DID A {32D: __ double take}, YSL {12D: DKNY competitor}, PEC {10D: Delt neighbor}, WERE {34D: “We __ Soldiers”: 2002 Mel Gibson film}, TCU {50A: Horned Frogs’ sch.}, INST {65A: Part of MIT: Abbr.}, HDMI {60A: Type of computer monitor cable}, USSR {63A: Mir launcher: Abbr.}, ARTS {20A: Part of AMPAS}, ESE {58D: Minneapolis-to-Milwaukee dir.}.

      Pop culture freshness: SAFECO {44D: Seattle’s former __ Field} … so 2018. CD ROMS {45D: Data media} … so 2010s. BOB ROSS {15D: Painter known for “happy little trees”} … so 1980s-1990s. LE BON {40D: Simon of Duran Duran} and THESE DREAMS {22D: Heart hit song with the lyric “Every second of the night I live another life”} … so 1980s. OMNI {55D: Old Dodge} … so 1970s-1990s. ORR {48A: Bruins legend} … so 1960s.

      A fat-shaming answer: OBESE {51A: Past pudgy}. I can’t even imagine what he’d say about WAH {28A: With 28-Across, sad trombone sound effect} if it was published by Will Shortz (unless it was one of Rex’s constructor friends, that is). U MAD BRO {49A: Taunting phrase from internet trolls}??? MADAGASCAR BEANS {43A: Lima family legumes that yield vanilla}??? YES I SEE {35A: “That makes sense now”}???

      • Norm says:

        I totally agree, sanfranman59. Hubris some?

      • Gary R says:

        Wow – sucks to be Rex today! I have no use for his blog, and haven’t been there in several years. I spent 35 years in academia, and Rex/Michael is the classic frustrated academic – he can spot all the shortcomings in someone else’s work, and point them out in excruciating detail, in the harshest terms, but can’t do better (or maybe even as well) himself.

        That said, I thought today’s LAT was fine (accuracy of the MADAGASCAR BEANS clue notwithstanding). Theme was not especially exciting, but some good long fill.

    • anon says:

      It was a truly awful puzzle. He’s much better at bashing other peoples’ puzzles than writing good ones himself, apparently.

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal: Weirdly, today’s Newsday puzzle by Evan Kalish has a very similar theme and two identical theme answers. Still more evidence of the Great Crossword Constructor Conspiracy.

  6. David Roll says:

    WSJ–The more recent movie was BrideS To Be, but there apparently was another really forgettable film entitled, Bride To Be (singular). I think the constructor possibly meant to refer to the former.

    • rock says:

      There is a show on TLC called” four weddings” where each bride to be attends each others wedding and rates the wedding and reception. I think the winner of the 4 gets a free honeymoon

  7. Sandra Stark says:

    I can’t ever find the BEQ comments. Why not find someone who can review it on time, like the others do?

    • Norm says:

      This one wasn’t worth reviewing, IMHO, but I follow you. LAT is often overlooked as well, but this is a labor of love, so I think we need to cut them some slack. It’s not as though any of us is paying for the content, right?

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Thanks for the backup, Norm. Yeah, we all squeeze puzzle write-ups in amid the rest of work and life, and we’re all volunteers. Reader donations cover the webhosting bill and part of an annual dinner for Team Fiend (canceled this year, alas), so none of us earn a penny for it.

        “Why not find an unpaid volunteer who can give me free content at the time of my choosing?” is kind of a nonstarter.

    • Karen Ralston says:

      I agree, Sandra, and also with Amy’s point, but that doesn’t prevent us from posting queries, comments and answers here about the puzzle. The puzzle title ICU explains the long answers: C becomes U. Does that help? Love BEQ puzzles.

    • Diana says:

      I’ve thought that often myself, Sandra. Why isn’t the BEQ puzzle reviewed? We did get that big review on his IMACOP entry last week, but usually whoever is assigned to reviewing his puzzles doesn’t show up.

      Meanwhile, the NYT and WSJ are reviewed without fail.

  8. RM Camp says:

    Jeesh, three of my personal bests this week in the NYT. It can’t just be me, I topped my previous Thursday best by over three minutes, so what the eff is happening?

  9. Brenda Rose says:

    I agree with Ben. What happened to the escalation of NYT challenges through the week? How are new puzzlers going to learn if the training wheels never come off?

Comments are closed.