Monday, May 17, 2021

BEQ untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 2:52 (Amy) 


NYT 2:52 (Jenni) 


The New Yorker 12:10 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


WSJ 4:25 (Jim P) 


Wren Schulz’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

Yes, indeed! Each theme answer starts with the word “yes” in another language.

New York Times, May 17, 2021, #0517, Wren Schultz, solution grid

  • 16a [Alternative to Zumba] is JAZZERCISE. Danish.
  • 29a [Where to order a Blizzard] is DAIRY QUEEN. Romanian.
  • 44a [Supposed means of communication with the dead] is a OUIJA BOARD. French.
  • 60a [Biggest city in South Dakota] is SIOUX FALLS. Spanish.

I don’t remember seeing this before and I enjoyed it! The theme entries were straightforward and accessible. Nothing in the fill jumped out at me as inappropriate for a Monday solve, either. Nice!

A few other things:

  • Early in our marriage, my husband and I hit on FIG Newtons as our snack of choice for road trips. We never bought them at any other time. On Wednesday, we’ll head out on our first longish car trip since the pandemic. We don’t eat cookies any more, and now I want Fig Newtons.
  • We get LA LA Land as the dream state, not the movie.
  • [Cars with gas/electric engines] are HYBRIDS. I drive a plug-in hybrid and I love it.
  • OK, there is one clue that seems out of place for a Monday, unless you know Morse code. 48a […—…] is SOS. I filled it in from crossings.
  • 47a [When some local news airs] is AT SIX. This strikes me as almost obsolete. My daughter is 21. I don’t think she ever thinks about TV being on at a certain time; she watches what she wants to watch whenever she wants to watch it.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Morse code.

Jennifer Nutt’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dim View”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Phrases whose first word is a synonym of “unclear.” The revealer is NEW GLASSES (60a, [What might be needed to clear up this puzzle?]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Dim View” · Jennifer Nutt · Mon., 5.17.21

  • 17a. [Vague idea] HAZY NOTION. Hmm. “Vague idea” feels like the much stronger term to me.
  • 22a. [It’s neither sunny nor wet] CLOUDY DAY.
  • 37a. [The difference between ethical and unethical, sometimes] BLURRED LINE. I’ll buy it, even though that’s not how we usually say it.
  • 54a. [Numbers that don’t make sense, in campaign-speak] FUZZY MATH. By far the strongest entry.

Cute, playful theme, but these phrases are not equally as strong. Still, it works well enough to get our Monday going, and it’s clear enough (as it were) to be accessible to new solvers.

Fill fill fill! We’ve got RAIN DATE, BARN OWLS, and Maya ANGELOU as the standouts. I tried SCALD where SCORCH ended up being only to find SCALDS a few entries later. Other goodies: BALBOA the explorer, AZTECS, SIAMESE cats, and STELLA!!!!

Clue of note: 10d. [Scheduling alternative]. RAIN DATE. Is “pandemic date” a term yet?

I like the playfulness of the theme, but I wish a stronger themeset could have been found. 3.4 stars.

Kameron Austin Collins’ New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Kameron Austin Collins • Monday, May 17, 2021

Hello and happy Monday! I’m coming to you live from my backyard, where it is 66 degrees and sunny, with a Kameron Austin Collins New Yorker Monday! This puzzle was pretty challenging and definitely enjoyable. Let’s discuss!

First, grid shape. I’ve said it before and will probably say it every time– I love a good pinwheel. This one is interesting in that the wheel is somewhat offset, and there’s a black square breaking up the middle, so we not only have a pinwheel, we have a cool variation on a pinwheel. Love it.

The long entries today are generally pretty shiny. I particularly enjoyed DADS-TO-BE, ESOTERICA, and CHROME DOME in the NW, but CHARLATANS, OUTLANDISH, ANABAPTISTS, and ALLERGY TEST are also great. I have never read Moby Dick, so AMBERGRIS was new to me, but the crosses were easy enough (with the possible exception of RIANT, which would have been a guess if I didn’t know enough French to infer an R in -GRIS). In general, though, the ESOTERICA of this puzzle was fairly crossed, making this a tough-but-fair Monday New Yorker.

A few more things:

  • Favorite clues:
    • [They offset gut reactions] for ANTACIDS
    • [Snack brand that released a limited-edition version in 2021 inspired by the Lady Gaga album “Chromatica”] for OREO
  • Ok so I googled AMBERGRIS and that sh*t is weird!
  • Got tripped up by my over-reliance on the board game Risk for understanding geography at ARAL (wanted URAL)
  • Lots of quaintness today with RIANT / LIBATE / ASHPAN
  • Apparently MASER is an acronym for “microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”

Overall, plenty of stars from me. I enjoyed this solve a lot! See you Wednesday.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Universal crossword, “Se-e?” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 5/17/21 • Mon • Wechsler • “se-e?” • solution • 20210517

The title is just a bit recondite, but the mechanics of the gimmick are simple: words beginning with SE- drop the initial S to become words beginning with E. SE to E, Se-e?

  • 16a. [Inconsiderate audience distraction at a play] FIRST ROW EATING (… seating).
  • 25a. [Finishes filling the last suitcase?] ENDS PACKING (sends …).
  • 35a. [Former partners’ ongoing fight?] BATTLE OF THE EXES (… sexes).
  • 49a. [Foundation of production at Santa’s workshop?] ELF RELIANCE (self …).
  • 58a. [Good moniker for the philanthropic Dr. J?] GENEROUS ERVING (… serving).

Serviceable theme.

  • 5d [Wrap with strings?] APRON. Nice clue.
  • 11d [Persevere] HANG IN. I filled this in first, then changed it to HANG ON, feeling that HANG IN needed a THERE there.
  • 27a [Egyptian symbol meaning “life”] ANKH.
  • 33d [Creature related to the raccoon] COATI. Yes, another procyonid.
  • 36d [“The __ that men do lives after them” (Shakespeare)] EVIL. Sometimes it takes generations, especially if the perpetrators are in prominent or influential positions, to recover from said evils.
  • 1a [Colorado transport option?] RAFT. Confidently plunked in TBAR, thinking of the state’s big skiing industry rather than the namesake river.
  • 31a [Fresh start?] NEO-. 46d [From the beginning] AFRESH. C’mon.
  • 55a [Fill, as a beach ball] AIR UP. Was going to cry foul on this phrase, but both a general web search and an Ngrams query give it support, even after filtering out the weird company and some bycatch results. *NYT Spelling Bee (specifically, today’s) also considers ‘beach ball’ a two-word phrase rather than a compound word.
  • 48a [Instruments such as snares] DRUMS.

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1366), “Themeless Monday 620” — Jenni’s review

Here’s the grid with the squares I needed to check to find out what was wrong. The error in the SE was a typo. The others were flat-out errors. I did not know CYRIL Kinnear and couldn’t call to mind FOO YONG for [Chinese omelet]. So that’s the review and “what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle,” all up front. Cheers!

Brendan Emmett Quigley, Puzzle #1366, “Themeless Monday #620,” solution grid

Kurt Krauss’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 5 17 21

(Oops, forgot to add this write-up to the post after I wrote it!) The theme revealer is FORTIES, 39a. [Decade in which the Slinky debuted … and a phonetic hint to the answers to starred clues], and each of the themers contains four T’s:

  • 20a. [*Inside scoop], SCUTTLEBUTT. A great word!
  • 55a. [*End-of-broadcasting image on old late-night TV], TEST PATTERN. Eventually TV stations realized they could air infomercials all night long and make more money.
  • 11d. [*Minor shoplifting crime, say], PETTY THEFT. Also called petit theft, stealing stuff of a smaller value than what’s taken in grand theft/larceny.
  • 29d. [*Snitch], TATTLETALE.

It’s a Monday-friendly theme that gets the job done.


Seemed like an awful lot of vocab I see far, far more in crosswords than in the rest of my conversation and media consumption: ILIA, OPAH, OCTAL, AFTA, ERTE, IRANI, TERN, APACE, IROC, STERE (!), and ELGAR. It gives the impression that the target audience is people aged 40 to 100 who have been doing crosswords for decades already.

Three more things:

  • 9a. [March parade VIP], ST. PAT. Among Chicago’s Irish, I feel like I hear “St. Paddy’s Day” and never “St. Pat’s Day.” However, there is a church west of the Sears Tower popularly called “Old St. Pat’s.”
  • 60a. [Farsi speaker], IRANI. You know and I know that the general English word used to refer to the people of Iran is Iranian and not IRANI. (See also: Afghani. That is a unit of currency in Afghanistan; the people are Afghans, not Afghanis.)
  • 62a. [Beach bird], TERN. Not at my beaches! Along with the ubiquitous gulls of Lake Michigan, Chicago’s Montrose Beach has been the summer home of a nesting pair of rare piping plovers for three years running. Rose and Monty have got three new eggs in their 2021 nest and we love following their story. They go south for the winter, to different states, and then meet up on the beach in spring. Strong Same Time Next Year vibe!

2.5 stars from me, thanks to the antiquated fill.


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12 Responses to Monday, May 17, 2021

  1. JohnH says:

    I was mentally praising the WSJ for a theme of lousy skies (cloudy, hazy, etc.) extending to long down answers as well once I got RAIN DATE. Oops. That’s just a coincidence, and the other down didn’t fit at all. So it’s more about haze. Not that glasses can help with a cloudy day, although they do with cloudy vision, and I guess the idea is to follow all themer first words with vision. Well, how well this coheres I leave to others

  2. David L says:

    The popular etymology for OUIJA is that it is a combination of OUI and JA, although it seems that the original inventor claimed OUIJA was an ancient Egyptian word meaning good luck (fat chance, says me).

    The NYer clue for MASER is similar to one that was used in the NYT, I think, a while back, which I objected to then. A maser or laser is indeed an important part of the mechanism of an atomic clock, but the thing that does the timekeeping is, believe it or not, an atom–specifically, an atomic transition at a well-defined frequency.

    • Ethan says:

      I was wondering if anyone was going to mention this. It’s plainly trivial to find phrases starting with JA, DA, and SI, and the one phrase where everyone is saying “ooh, good find” is very likely derived from the thing that’s supposedly hidden in it.

    • Gary R says:

      If you’re trying to come up with a clever name for a device where two prominent features are a “Yes” and a “No,” why would you name it “yes yes”? The ancient Egyptian thing seems a likely fabrication, but oui+ja doesn’t seem to make much sense.

      • Ethan says:

        IMO whether this is the true origin of the name is almost beside the point. This is a story that’s been floated for over a century; therefore there is at least somewhat widespread awareness of the OUI string in OUIJA, which detracts from a theme that partly depends on the solver’s surprise in discovering like strings hidden in common phrases. The other strings are so short that their concealment in phrases is trivial. That’s why the theme didn’t work for me, but to the constructor’s credit it’s a nice accessible Monday grid.

        • GaryR says:

          (1) I’d be curious to know what constitutes “somewhat widespread awareness,” beyond you and @David L – and no, the fact that it’s in the Wikipedia entry for Ouija Board doesn’t make the case. There’s plenty of obscure trivia as well as misinformation to be found on Wikipedia.

          (2) Even if this is widespread knowledge, I don’t see how it detracts from the theme.

          (3) Relative to your earlier comment, who is it that’s saying “Ooh, good find”? I don’t see that in Jenni’s review or any of the comments here.

  3. Kameron says:

    on AMBERGRIS, see:

    Bob’s Burgers, Season 4, Episode 18 (“Ambergris”)

  4. Bonekrusher says:

    Did anybody else learn about ambergris from Encyclopedia Brown?

  5. pannonica says:

    I’ve held a pomelo-sized chunk of ambergris in my hands. I have no idea what its market value would be.

  6. Zulema says:

    Worked hard on the NYer and not so hard on the NYT. Thank you all for your comments and the puzzles’ creators for their masterpieces (Not being sarcastic, I mean it)

  7. marciem says:

    BEQ: I’ve always seen it as either egg foo young or egg foo yung. Google takes me away to either of those in preference to today’s answer, I didn’t look any further than that.

    Jenni… In case you wonder, I always look forward to your write-ups on the BEQ… the puzzles usually contain stuff I don’t know or have to really work for, and you’re a big help! (I know not many comments show up here about the Monday and Thursday BEQ’s :) .)

    Ambergris…. ewww.. I’d heard of it, I think in stories about whalers, and knew it was highly valued. Who knew that something that smelled like feces would be used in parfumery? And who figured out such a use for it to begin with, after smelling it? LOL! thanks for that link, Rachel!! Somehow I thought it was an extract from blubber…

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