Thursday, November 30, 2017

BEQ 6:58 (Ben) 


LAT 4:07 (Gareth) 


NYT 2:37 (Andy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Talent search! Constructor Nate Cardin recently announced that he is “in the early stages of putting together a crossword puzzle pack by LGBTQ+ constructors to benefit LGBTQ+ charities – my vision is akin to a smaller version of Francis Heaney’s fantastic Puzzles for Progress. If there are any LGBTQ+ constructors (of any experience level!) who’d be interested in writing a puzzle for this project, please get in touch with me at for more information. I’m especially looking for constructors of color and non-male-identified constructors to achieve a more diverse constructor pool, though all are certainly welcome.”

Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Think On Your Feet” — Jim’s review

Our theme today: SHOEBOXES, with the clue [Diorama holders, or an apt title for this puzzle]. Six(!) rebus squares have a kind of shoe squeezed into them.

WSJ – Thu, 11.30.17 – “Think On Your Feet” by Ross Trudeau

  • 9a [Patch product] PUMPKIN crossing 9d [Triple-platinum hit for Technotronic] PUMP UP THE JAM
  • 16a [2001 #1 hit for Destiny’s ChildBOOTYLICIOUS crossing 1d [Deal with a freeze, perhaps] REBOOT
  • 21a [Recently] OF LATE crossing 4d [Some Starbucks orders] DECAF LATTES
  • 28a [Coast along] FREEWHEEL crossing 31d [What a gate is hinged to] HEELPOSTS
  • 34a [Peacock in the corner, often] NBC LOGO crossing 35d [In need of a snake] CLOGGED
  • 43a [Not idealized] WARTS AND ALL crossing 44d [Incense-yielding tree] SANDALWOOD

I won’t lie. This kicked my butt. Or booty, specifically, because it was the northwest that stymied me.

About the only thing I had correct there right off the bat was SEDANS (18a, [Cadenza and Sonata]). But I had CASE for OGLE [Scope out] and EXES for KAYS [Strikeout symbols]. Eventually, I sussed out OF LATE, and that led to the right half of that section falling (DOG IT, ___CIOUS, ___E POSE). But I didn’t know LIDO [Venetian resort] or EAGLE POSE [Yoga practitioner’s “garudasana”] (wanted CRANE POSE), didn’t remember BOOTYLICIOUS, and couldn’t be sure of RKO [“Bringing Up Baby” studio].

But the thing that really got me was that I wasn’t expecting another rebus in that corner after I revealed FLAT. So I debated DELICIOUS and BODACIOUS which really made 1d [Deal with a freeze, perhaps] look like RUB. After much struggling I threw in the towel.

Elsewhere, I didn’t know the term HEELPOST though I sussed it out, and while I got PUMP UP THE JAM, I expect some might not have. I didn’t love NBC LOGO, but adored WARTS AND ALL hiding SANDAL.

I’m not objecting to the theme at all. It is well-handled and very impressive to have six shoe rebuses throughout the grid. For me though, I felt that northwest corner was clued a bit unfairly. A few tweaks would easily sort that out.

With all that theme material there’s bound to be some compromises, and they exhibit themselves in TINTERS and OBSCUREST. I’m not familiar with the phrase I CHECK [Passing comment?] either, but it sounds like poker. Am I right?

Favorite fill goes to LOST SLEEP, SHROOM, and ABALONE. MOTORBUS is cute, too, though I’ve never heard the phrase. I do recall Mr. Toad using the term “motor car” in The Wind in the Willows, so by extension I was able to make sense of it. Lastly, I once was a comic book reader, but I’ve never heard of MR. BONES (22d, [Skeletal DC Comics villain]) though I love it as an entry, and the clue definitely helps.

All in all, this is a really great grid, jam-packed with fun theme material and good fill. It was the cluing that got me in the end in one section, but if it weren’t for that, I could say I loved it.

Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 11.30.17 by Trenton Charlson

I really enjoyed Tuesday and Wednesday’s NYT puzzles, and I’m happy to report that I also very much enjoyed today’s offering by Trenton Charlson!

A two-fold revealer in this Thursday puzzle: the first comes at 60a, BATTLESHIP [It’s four units long in a popular board game (with the game’s other pieces hinted at by the circled letters)]; the second at 62d, HIT [Success in the game 60-Across … or a hint to interpreting the circled squares].

There are four long answers with various numbers of circled squares. All of those circled squares turn out to be filled with Xs (or, as we’ll later learn, HITs). Going across, those circled Xs are standing in for the names of various ships in the game BATTLESHIP, and the number of circled squares corresponds to the size of the ships:

  • 17a, CONAN THE XX [1984 Schwarzenegger sequel]The movie is CONAN THE DESTROYER; in BATTLESHIP, the destroyer is the smallest ship, measuring a mere two pegs in length.
  • 25a, XXXXX PIGEON [Early form of airmail?]. That would be a CARRIER PIGEON; this one’s a bit stretchy, since the ship of length 5 in BATTLESHIP is an aircraft carrier. I couldn’t say whether it’s regularly referred to as just a carrier, but that felt a little inelegant to me.
  • 37a, PT XXX [Chrysler model discontinued in 2010]. That’s the PT CRUISER; in BATTLESHIP, a cruiser is three pegs long.
  • 50a, XXX SANDWICH [Grinder]. A grinder is a SUBMARINE SANDWICH; in battleship, a submarine is three pegs long.


And, of course, the last of the five ships in BATTLESHIP, the self-same battleship, is omitted from the gimmick since it’s the revealer in the grid.

There was a very satisfying aha moment in this puzzle; for me, it came at PT CRUISER, but I suspect I would’ve felt just as satisfied if the aha moment had come at the revealer. It’s possible if you haven’t played BATTLESHIP and are unfamiliar with the rules/ships, this might not land as well with you, but I thought this was very clever overall.

The huge number of adjacent Xs in the grid makes the fill a little tight in places; A DEUX and RXS in particular stood out, but really the Xs were very well handled. JUKEBOX HERO [Foreigner song with the lyric “With that one guitar / He’ll come alive”] was a really nice way to incorporate an into a long down entry, and I liked the symmetrical 11 (LOOSE CANNON) too. I usually like this sort of thing, but I found it a little weird to have the similar [Trollish sort] for BOOR and [Unpredicable sort] for LOOSE CANNON. To be fair, I hadn’t figured out the theme yet, and I thought they might be part of the theme.

I wonder if (Cold as) ICE was originally cross-referenced to JUKEBOX HERO?

Not much else to say about this one. I liked it! Happy Thursday, see you next week!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword “Two for Two” —Jenni’s write-up

I did the puzzle yesterday in the midst of a long, difficult day, and couldn’t figure out the theme. So I went to bed, thinking that all would become clear in the morning. This strategy was ineffective. Thanks to Laura for helping me get it. I don’t know why I struggled; it’s pretty straightforward.

“Two for Two” means we’re supposed to swap double letters in each theme entry to turn wacky answers into familiar phrases.

FB 11/29, solution gridd

  • 17a [Give away a Hall of Fame right fielder in a random drawing?] is RAFFLE OTT. I thought this transformed to RAFFLE OFF, and couldn’t make that pattern work for the other theme entries. That’s because the answer actually is RATTLE OFF – I had to switch the Ts and Fs. Duh.
  • 24a [Person who mixes Smucker’s?] would be a JELLY STIRRER, which switches to JERRY STILLER.
  • 47a [Meal at which Peter Pan doesn’t get served?] is a SKIPPY DINNER, and that changes to SKINNY DIPPER.
  • 60a [Session at which a marshmallow candy is photographed?] would be a PEEP SHOOT, and that morphs into POOP SHEET. I’ve never heard that term before and it’s an informational handout. Fun fact: Peeps are made in Bethlehem, PA, my neck of the woods. I drive past the factory fairly often and am always amused by the sign on one driveway that says “RECEIVING: MARSHMALLOW.” We also enjoy finding the PeepMobile on its travels around the Valley. 

Peter also gave us some help in the middle of the puzzle with a Peter Gordon Trademark Very Long Clue: 37a [National League manager’s action when bringing in a reliever to avoid having the pitcher come to bat in the next half-inning (and a hint to this puzzle’s theme)]. The answer is DOUBLE SWITCHING.  I’m familiar with the double switch, but I’ve never heard the term in this form.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Discount, perhaps]. Do retail workers actually use the term RETAG?
  • 16a [Depiction on a certain kids’ vitamin] is WILMA Flintstone of the eponymous vitamins.
  • 19a [Bug heaps] made no sense to me. I filled in EAT AT from crossings and then realized that “bug” meant “annoy.” Ah.
  • 44a [Third person?] is an UMP. Also first person, second person, and home person. Well, that last one doesn’t make sense.
  • 58a [Battle songs] are ARIAS, sung by Kathleen Battle, the eminent operatic soprano.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle, or more precisely before I set out to write about this puzzle: that people sell these.Yes, those are poop sheets.

Morton J. Mendelson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

I was wondering as I solved this why many of the long answers clunked. MUSHYFOOD, DIESPOT, MUSICGENRE and YOUNGSEAL are not idiomatic, merely descriptive. Only GETUPANDGO has, well, GETUPANDGO. As usual, the culprit is the “clue reversal” trope, which is well established, but I find usually leads to dull puzzles.


  • [WC], LAV (& LOO). The word lav always evokes my grandfather, the only person I know who used the term IRL. “Karzie” is another fun old-timey UK slang word, but doesn’t show in crosswords as much, despite the Small Faces.
  • [1976 Dylan song about his first wife], SARA. What’s up with that time period and songs called Sara. See also: Fleetwood Mac, Thin Lizzy, Hall & Oates (okay that has “Smile” tacked on), Starship…
  • [Like poorly made Cream of Wheat], LUMPY. This does cross [pap].
  • [… and Oscar winner Streep], MERYLS. There’s another Meryl?

2.5 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Pick Six” — Ben’s Review

It’s Thursday, which means there’s a themed BEQ puzzle on deck and it’s time to review it.  Let’s take a look at what “Pick Six” has going on in its theme clues:

  • 18A: Impartiality from your pops? — DAD JUSTICE
  • 23A: Pest near the Taj Mahal? — AGRA PILL
  • 38A: Two things that you do at an Oasis concert? — SEE NOEL, HEAR NOEL
  • 49A: Crime novel? — DICK TALE
  • 58A: Kudos for some BDSM activity? — LASH PRAISE

All of these are phrases which have had six (or, more correctly, VI) “picked” from them to create the phrases seen.  We’ve got DAVID JUSTICE (who Google tells me is a baseball player and not impartiality from a Michelangelo sculpture), VIAGRA PILL (which feels redundant written out like that), SEE NO EVIL HEAR NO EVIL, DICK VITALE (which my brain kept really wanting to be a terrible translation of DUCKTALES instead, woo-oo), and LAVISH PRAISE.

(You can tell I’m one of those Terrible Millennials Who’s Ruining Everything because I have 3 episodes of this on my DVR at any time)

A few nits worth picking:

  • In this, the year of our lord 2017, there are plenty of couples for whom “One’s better half’s title” (56A) would not be abbr. as MRS. This clue is sloppy and I expect better from BEQ.
  • BE ALL felt like a weird truncation of the Army’s former slogan
  • You might hear USA! USA! cheered in QATAR in 2022, but not in Russia next year – the US men’s soccer team failed to qualify for the first time since 1986
  • I’m not sure I consider the internet abbreviations TBH (to be honest) and IMO (in my opinion) interchangeable.  What say you?

3.5/5 stars.

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16 Responses to Thursday, November 30, 2017

  1. Penguins says:

    Not knowing much of the trivia made the WSJ a bit of a slog.

  2. Cindythompson6 says:

    Loved loved loved this puzzle.

  3. GlennG says:

    In case anyone wants today’s WSJ puz with rebuses included, I did one that you can download here.

  4. Brian says:

    NYT was fantastic! In awe at how smooth the grid is with so many Xs. I could have sworn the Battleship version we had growing up called the two-peg ship a patrol boat…CONAN THE PATROL BOAT sounded pretty goofy! Quick Google search cleared up my confusion – really a spiffy and fun puzzle!

  5. Gareth says:

    NYT: Funnest theme in a good while. Very original and surprising!

  6. Scott says:

    NYT. I had mixxxed feelings about this puzzle. Liked it but didn’t love it and I am not sure why.

  7. JohnH says:

    I gave up on the unanticipated rebus square at far NW, too, although REBOOT is perfectly familiar. A whole lot else, though, I didn’t know, unfortunately including rebus entries like the two hit songs and HEEL POST. Can’t really say it was fun.

  8. joon says:

    best thursday nyt in a good long while. outstanding theme, delightful aha moment, and a lively grid despite the constraint of all those X’s. this one definitely hit the spot.

    and count me as a fan of the wsj puzzle, too. it was unexpectedly difficult, sure—even the non-rebus entries were clued way tougher than a typical wsj—but i really liked the separate ahas for each different shoe. beautiful puzzle.

  9. janie says:

    probably because i love a good wordplay puzzle, i really enjoyed solving today’s fireball. my inner fourth-grader giggled at the silliness of the PEEP SHOOT/poop sheet pairing. nice find w/ those graphically literal poop sheets, btw. always good to have the poop on that kinda info…

    and no. [home person?] wouldn’t make a great clue for UMP. but [home body?] could work.


  10. Robert White says:

    WSJ: The NW corner was a killer, but you can’t solve em’ all…. biggest “problem” for me with the puzzle was imbalance- there are 2 rebus squares in the NW quadrant, 3 in the NE, and 1 in the SE…

  11. Papa John says:

    >>>I couldn’t say whether it’s regularly referred to as just a carrier…<<<

    I was assigned to one carrier, USS Kearsarge, and was deployed to three, USS Constellation, USS Ranger and USS Intrepid. They were each part of a carrier group. Carrier, by itself, is just fine.

  12. GConn says:

    I agree with the WSJ reviewer about how tough this one was – it beat me to a pulp. But once I got it, I was in awe of the constructor for putting this together. Amazing.

  13. GlennP says:

    I’ve passed along Nate Cardin’s request to the American Library Association’s GLBT Round Table’s list to see if there are any constructors there.

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