Thursday, June 30, 2022

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


Fireball 21:45 (Amy) 


LAT 5:54 (Gareth) 


NYT 9:16 (Ben) 


The New Yorker 4:42 (malaika) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


USA Today 3:20 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Alex Eaton-Salners’s Fireball crossword, “All Stars”

Fireball crossword solution, 6 30 22, “All Stars”

Next Monday is the Fourth of July, and Alex celebrates 124a. [This puzzle’s subject], the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, with a 50-rebus puzzle. This 21x grid has left/right symmetry, lots of blocks chopping it into small, cut-off sections, and tons of short fill. Compromises must be made to assemble a workable puzzle with 50 rebus squares. All 50 of the 2-letter postal state abbreviations appear in rebus squares, and it’s a neat find that the final 6 letters of AMERICA are a sequence of three such abbrevs, for Maine, Rhode Island, and California. The title, I assume, relates to the states being represented by the stars on the US flag.

Trouble spots for me:

  • 82a. [Informal test of opinion], STRA{W V}OTE. I really wanted STRAW POLL and just could not find a way to rebusize that to fit.
  • 57a. [Largest battleship ever built], YAMATO. Japanese WWII ship, one of a few of that class, all sunk by the US Navy. Never heard of it!
  • 132a. [Wordplay found in “I scream for ice cream” and “The stuff he knows about the stuffy nose”], {OR}O{NY}{MS}. Not a term I’m familiar with.
  • The 3×4 section topped by 94a, with five rebus squares jammed in there. Black Ink didn’t display the full clue for P{LA{NE}{T X}, so [Posited trans-] is what I saw in the clue list. Not that [Posited trans-Neptunian body] would necessarily have pointed me towards PLANET X!

Fave fill: SM{OK}I{N’ J}OE, J{OH}{N M}AD{DE}N, S{WI}NG BA{ND}, {MD} PHD, medieval DONJON.

Definitely a tough challenge, even after you’ve figured out that the gimmick is state rebuses. Fifty different letter pairs! Whew. And for the first time, I appreciate Peter Gordon’s practice of coding the correct .puz solution with just one letter in it, because it highlighted (as “wrong”) all my rebus squares. Makes them easier to spot!

It wasn’t particularly fun, but I’ll give this one four stars for the challenge and execution.

Samuel A. Donaldson and Doug Peterson’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0630 – 06/30/2022

I groaned when I first figured out how the revealer on today’s NYT worked:

  • 40A: Warning before a gory movie scene…or a phonetic hint to answering four rows in this puzzle — COVER YOUR EYES

I had been staring at these three clues, trying to figure out what made sense as an answer for each of these, and then I put it all together.  No, literally, I put it all together:

  • 17A: Mechanical — VEND
  • 18A: Snack — NGMACH
  • 19A: Dispensers — NES

“Mechanical” “Snack” “Dispensers” are VENDING MACHINES, where the Is have been covered with black squares.  It’s not three clues, it’s one, and three other spots in the grid do the same thing:

  • 24A/27A/30A: French / Cake / Advocate? — MAR[I]E ANTO[I]NETTE
  • 53A/55A/57A: Atlantic / Division / Skaters — DETRO[I]T RED W[I]NGS
  • 62A/63A/66A: Home / Office / Convenience — ALL [I] N ONE PR [I] NTER

Happy Thursday!

Sande Milton’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Swab Story”—Jim P’s review

Cute title and a nice revealer today. Q-TIP is at 50a and is clued [Commonly misused toiletry item, and a clue to six answers in this puzzle]. The letter Q appears at either the beginning or end of certain Across entries (at the “tip”) in place of other letters that make the Q sound.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Swab Story” · Sande Milton · Thu., 6.30.22

  • 17a. [Potential pickle] QCUMBER.
  • 20a. [Perfectly timed] RIGHT ON Q.
  • 24a. [Toys named for a love god] QPIE DOLLS. Named after Cupid.
  • 45a. [Where Jim Dandy was headed] TO THE RESQ. I guess that was a song once upon a time.
  • 50a. [Adorable ones] QTIE PIES.
  • 55a. [Behaves well at a bus stop] FORMS A Q.

I caught on pretty quickly with the first theme answer, but it was still satisfying to get the full picture from the revealer. The title then added a nice touch once I’d grokked the theme.

I was going to knock ILIESCU for being in the grid because I assumed it ends in a Q sound as well, but online pronunciation videos give it a “coo” sound at the end. Still, it made me pause and double-check those crossings. Ah, but now I see another Q sound at 3d ACU.

I was also not keen about ON CABLE as well as THE appearing in three entries. On the other hand, I liked TANAGER, GINKGO (even though I always mess up the K and the G), and TOP SEED.

I’m going to forgo my usual “Clues of note” section today as I have some birthday doings to attend to (my wife’s no less). Please share if there were any particular clues you want to call out.

3.75 stars.

Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword, “Carry a Tune” — Sophia’s recap

Editor:  Erik Agard
Theme: Each vertical theme answer contains the word TUNE. Furthermore, each of those TUNEs is sitting atop a type of bag – something you can literally carry things in.

USA Today, 06 30 2022, “Carry a Tune”

  • 3d [Musical sci-fi film set in Rwanda] – NEPTUNE FROST
  • 14d [Confection popularized in California in the early 1900s] – FORTUNE COOKIE
  • 9d [Suitable moment] – OPPORTUNE TIME

And the other part of the theme…

  • 36a [Something to carry things in] – DUFFLE
  • 42a [Something to carry things in] – SATCHEL
  • 48a [Something to carry things in] – CLUTCH

As I was solving I noticed the “tunes” in each of the down answers, and I thought “ok, that’s the theme… a little weak, but not bad”. I also noticed the repeated “carrying” related clues, but because I jump all over the place when I solve quickly, I didn’t realize that they stretched across the whole grid, or that they were anything more than a classic “repeated clue” gimmick. It wasn’t until I finished the puzzle that I put both of these pieces together and understood all the layers of the theme. I wonder how many casual solvers will fully notice the “carrying” aspect? It’s neat, but you almost have to be looking for it. I’ve never heard of NEPTUNE FROST, but it sounds wild and I’m very intrigued now.

I’m not always a fan of asymmetric puzzles, but I love how extreme this one goes in its asymmetry. Look at those black square shapes in the bottom half of the puzzle! There are some nice longer answers afforded by this puzzle’s unusual grid, including OFF TOPIC and COMO ESTAS. My two worst moments were putting in “duvets” for 22a[Bedding options] FUTONS (side note that I don’t love this clue; “bedding” to me refers to sheets/things put on the bed, not the bed itself), and constantly misspelling BUREAU. Oh, and I also spelled SUHWEET as “sahweet”; I’ll blame the rapper Saweetie for that one.

Dave Taber & Laura Moll’s LAT crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Dave Taber & Laura Moll’s puzzle today is a clue snowclone puzzle, where each clue is [x-line] and the answer is a spoken phrase, either general or specific, connected to X. The puzzle is cleanly executed, which is often a sticking point for these snowclone puzzles. Inevitably one or two clues feel forced, but nothing seemed too stretchy. We have:

  • [Hotline],IMONFIRE. More likely to be said figuratively, unless you’re exceptionally calm in a crisis.
  • [Deadline],ETTUBRUTE. From Shakespeare.
  • [Clothesline],KEEPYOURPANTSON.
  • [Lifeline],HELIKESIT/HEYMIKEY. American Life cereal, which needed most of the crosses for me. I have vaguely encountered it in jokes, but I think it was misquoted as “Mikey likes it,” which made it more inscrutable.

Other stopping points:

  • [Personal records], BESTS. Initially wanted GESTS, which is real crossword-ese Stockholm syndrome!
  • [Bag], CUPOFTEA. As in thing you enjoy. Quite a diabolically vague clue.
  • [Surfing stops], SITES. Oddly specific, that clue.


Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

The New Yorker– June 30

Breezy lil Thursday from Caitlin! It seemed like this puzzle had fewer long answers than a typical themeless, but I didn’t check that at all. I loved SIDE HUSTLE (what’s yours? Mine is making crossword puzzles!) and KARATE CHOP, and the clue for STOLEN CAR was great– Hot wheels? The spanner wasn’t particularly fresh or evocative though. Have a great long weekend everyone!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1483, “Head Games”–Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer is clued with a three letter acronym within a longer clue that stands for the three words of the answer. Additionally, as seen in the clues, each acronym is a common descriptor for a “head.”

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1483, "Head Games" solution for 4/30/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1483, “Head Games” solution for 4/30/2022

  • 17a [“She’s got a HOT head”] HELEN OF TROY
  • 23a [“Anne Nichols comic play for AIR heads”] ABIE’S IRISH ROSE
  • 34a [“Parting phrase for BIG heads”] BEFORE I GO
  • 40a [“Glad-hand for WAR heads”] WORK A ROOM
  • 47a [“Digits for FAT heads”] FINGERS AND TOES
  • 58a [“Stickies for PIN heads”] POST IT NOTES

I don’t know how it’s possible that BEQ thought three each of these. It’s such a great combination of answer lengths and acronyms in the puzzle. HOT head for HELEN OF TROY, AIR heads for ABIE’S IRISH ROSE, and PIN heads feel a little bit like insults? Overall, though, a well-crafted theme.

My favourite clue was undoubtedly 32d [“Check to see if a slip is showing”] for PROOFREAD. I’m amazed that this grid is symmetrical, and so it was nice to see PROOFREAD by AIRFIELD and reflected by FAKE SMILE and OVEREAGER in the opposite portion of the puzzle. Also, loved the inclusion of AULI’I 3d [“Cravalho who voiced Moana”] and PATTI 7d [“Smith who is the Godmother of Punk”].

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29 Responses to Thursday, June 30, 2022

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Clever trick, nicely executed.

    I feel like I have been seeing the Electric Light Orchestra’s initialism in a lot of grids recently. I was only about 90% sure that “Turn to Stone” was theirs. (I was guessing that song was from the 1980’s, but it’s even older.)

    But I kind of resent the suggestion that my CD cases are “obsolescent.” They function very well to contain the many dozens of CD’s spread across three rooms of my house.

  2. Jenni Levy says:

    The contrast between the NYT and the Fireball is striking. The NYT is a masterpiece of construction that was also fun to solve. A lot of fun to solve, in my opinion. The FB was a tortuous slog that I only finished because I thought I was supposed to write about it and Amy gave it about twice as many stars as I would have.

    • Me says:

      For the Fireball, it’s an impressive construction feat to have all 50 states as rebus squares, but I think it’s one of those puzzles where you admire the technological challenge rather than actually enjoying the puzzle.

  3. R Cook says:

    NYT has a massive blunder at 74A. Theories don’t become laws. They’re completely separate things: one explaining how something works (law) and the other explaining why (theory). The idea that theories are just immature laws is one of the misapprehensions that leads to nonsense like “Evolution is just a theory, it’s not strong enough to be considered a law.”

    • JohnH says:

      It’s not a blunder, much less a massive one. You’re chasing rainbows. There’s considerable ambiguity caused by the range of legitimate, widely used senses of THEORY. Dictionaries gives things like “speculation” or “conjecture,” among other meanings, and we say all the time things like “my theory is.” For all I know, schools still teach a mechanical sequence from observation to hypothesis to testing to theory to final proof as “the scientific method,” even as the theory of evolution and theory of relativity remain accepted terms to all. There it acquires a kind of honorific sense, as something like “not just a hypothesis” or “how science explains it as opposed to old myths.”

      There’s even ambiguity in scholarly philosophy of science. Karl Popper famously argued that all of science was up at any time for “disconfirmation,” while Thomas Kuhn saw it as open to sea changes in how many different understandings come together, like the shift from the Newtonian universe to relativity and quantum mechanics. (He spoke of “paradigms.”) Paul Feyerabend argued for a more wide-open view of science with no clean succession of steps. His magnum opus is “Against Method.”

      Even the old saw that “evolution is only a theory” is too dated as to be worth arguing over. These days, fundamentalists are too wedded to their ideology to fall back on it (and also fewer in number), while climate-change and vaccine deniers are so obviously political that there has to be another solution than the improve our linguistic habits. If they do fall back on it, it’s a marker of desperation and ignorance. But anyhow, don’t blame crosswords for the messy thing we call the English language. Comments here do so way, way too often.

      • R Cook says:

        Yes, “theory” has a common usage more akin to hypothesis, but the clue specifically compared it to a “law”, which has no such common usage (except among people who learned their terminology from anti-science cranks).

        I think you’ve missed the point of my complaint. If it were just that the clue used the vernacular form of “theory”, then I wouldn’t have said anything. However, it put said vernacular usage with something that has a very specific usage, which is wrong and easily checked. Hence, it’s not just a blunder, but a big one,

  4. Mister [Not At All] Grumpy says:

    Question. Isn’t the cluing in the LAT for 57A and 69A backward. The commercial line in “Hey Mikey, He likes it!” so it seems to me that 69A should have had the “Lifeline” clue and 57A should have the “see” cross-reference. Or am I overthinking this? Lovely puzzle in any event. Actually … a wonderful morning of puzzles. NYT, WSJ, Universal & New Yorker were all fun.

  5. Mister [Not At All] Grumpy says:

    Another question. This one regarding the wonderful NYT. Why is the cue for 30A the only theme-related one with a question mark in the clue? It seems like all four theme sequences should have had ? for the third piece or none of them.

  6. JohnH says:

    I’m very impressed by the NYT, but it was sure hard, at least for me. It didn’t help that I didn’t know AXE or ROTO coming down, hadn’t seen YELPER before as a term for what Yelp people do, and tried Kerry rather than DERRY. I was hoping that the theme would come to me and give me the crossings, but it just wouldn’t come.

    Obviously the across entries that weren’t making sense yet did fall in four rows, just as the revealer promised. But it was along time before I hit on reading the entire rows as units. Before that, I figured you’d just replace the letter I where it had vanished to make each of the nine entries into something meaningful. Nope!

    I still don’t know what a SAG card is, and searching for “sag auction” didn’t help. (Just got me a lot of hits about the Screen Actors Guild, on which my mother relied for a tiny pension.) As a non-car person, I didn’t know that PARK heads the gear shift, so I first thought that maybe a parka was one’s topmost all-weather gear, and somehow the missing A was part of the theme. Again, nope! But nothing truly unfair.

    • Eric H says:

      Re: SAG card. Maybe the clue had a typo in it, because I definitely read it as “auctioneer’s need,” and I got it through the crosses.

      But looking at it now, I see the clue is “auditioner’s need,’’ so Screen Actors Guild (well, SAG/AFTRA these days) makes perfect sense.

    • Ed says:

      SAG, the clue is “auditioner” not “auctioneer”. I misread it too.

    • marciem says:

      Count me three as reading “auctioneer” vs. “auditioner” (in AL). Plopped in “BID” card right away. As pointed out, a SAG (screen actor’s guild) card is required for professional screen acting auditions.

      Beyond that, really enjoyed the NYT today. Nice twist. Yesterday’s was the most fun I’ve EVER had crunching abs!! :)

      • Eric+H says:

        Hmm. At least three eagle-eyed crossword solvers misreading “auditioner” (a word my spell-checker doesn’t like) as “auctioneer” makes me wonder even more if that clue wasn’t “fixed” in editing and then surreptiously changed overnight to what it should have said.

        Or it could be that I just read the clue too quickly. I do that a lot.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I solved in a static .puz file, and absolutely saw “auctioneer” where it said “auditioner,” too.

          • Eric+H says:

            Thanks! That makes me feel a little better.

            (I solve on my iPad, so the font for the clues is pretty small, and half the time, I’m looking through the wrong part of my multifocal lenses that probably aren’t the right Rx anyway.)

        • Gary R says:

          I “scraped” the puzzle into AL last night, shortly after it went up on the Times website. I read it as auctioneer, too, and didn’t understand SAG. But I happen to have the puzzle still open on my laptop, and it reads “auditioner.”

  7. Mutman says:

    NYT: I usually like a good Thursday, but this simply never clicked. Gave up 3/4 full with no clue. The revealer didn’t really help — to me it did not imply a rebus (or darkened) square.

    Afterwards, I think it was clever, and impressed that the constructor at least eliminated all ‘I’s from the puzzle. Kinda bummed I missed it.

  8. David Roll says:

    WSL-60A Isn’t it Lliescu, not Iliescu–“LL” not “IL”? Of course that really screws up “fir”. Must be two spelling although LL is the only one I see when I Google.

  9. David Roll says:

    On further reflection the cap I looks too much like a lower case l for my poor eyesight. Sorry.

  10. David says:

    I saw “auctioneer” as well. I think there actually was a typo. I solved it on my phone.

    • Amy+Reynaldo says:

      I honestly don’t think the Times originally published the wrong clue. I used Crossword Scraper to get a .puz file midway through Thursday, and read it as “auctioneer” two or three times before “auditioner” emerged for my eyes. Certainly we see “auction” clues (EBAY, LOT, BID, GONE, -EER, etc.) more than “auditioner.”

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