Thursday, January 10, 2019

BEQ 7:28 (Ben) 


Fireball 5:48 (Jenni) 


LAT 3:37 (GRAB) 


NYT 2:46 (Andy) 


WSJ 11-something (Jim P.) 


Jeff Slutzky and Derek Bowman’s New York Times crossword—Andy’s review

NYT puzzle 1.10.19 by Jeff Slutzky and Derek Bowman

Hello all! Congrats to Jeff on his NYT debut!

It feels like it’s been a while since there’s been an easy-to-explain Thursday theme; mercifully, Jeff and Derek have given me just that today. The revealer is at 68a, TORAH [Sacred text … or your reaction upon figuring out this puzzle’s theme?]. Each of the four theme answers is a phrase with “TOR” added. (“Ah!”) Hilarity ensues. Like so:

  • 21a, CAPTOR IN HAND [Kidnapper who gets arrested]. “Cap in hand.” I feel like I’ve heard this phrase much more commonly as “hat in hand.”
  • 29a, BEAT THE RAPTOR [Win a one-on-one game against a Toronto hoops player?]. “Beat the rap.”
  • 45a, KEEP IT REALTOR [“I don’t want this house after all”?]. Keep it real.”
  • 55a, CANTOR OF CORN [Synagogue singer with hokey humor?].Can of corn.”

This was a cute theme. The revealer — “TOR, AH!” — is cute, and having CANTOR in the theme answers only added to the theme’s delightfully Jewish flavor. Does the theme reinvent the add-a-letter wheel? No. But it was nicely executed, and I like seeing this theme type from time to time. I was very surprised to see this puzzle on a Thursday, though! I found both the theme and the difficulty very Wednesday-ish.

Interestingly, this grid is 16 columns wide. From the constructors’ side, the main reason to do this is that it makes accommodating the theme answers’ difficult lengths (12/13/13/12) much easier. You’ll most often see this trick used when the themers consist of a pair of 12s and a pair of 12-14s.

Entries and clues of note:

  • “AW, COME ON!” looked strange to me in the grid because I’m so used to seeing “AW C’MON!” in the grid, but I liked it!
  • ON BUTTONS and TIME BOMBS were nice long down entries.
  • Great, tricky clue at 47d, LARYNX [Need to speak]. As in, you need a larynx to speak. Excellent misdirection.
  • An especially timely clue at 10d, SANDRA [Oh, what an actress!]. Indeed!
  • I didn’t love “O, SAY…” [Anthem starter], but otherwise I thought the fill was really smooth throughout! This is one of the major benefits of making your grid big enough to accommodate your theme answers and not trying to cram in too many theme answers.

    Here’s today’s reversed byline, screencapped from the NYT applet.

And here’s the reversed byline from Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen’s 12/27/18 puzzle, screencapped from the NYT applet.

Two more notes:

  • Hey, this is the second time in a month that the NYT applet byline has reversed the authors from the print headline. I only caught it this time because I was gun-shy after last time, so I double-checked. I’m guessing there’s some setting that automatically sets these in alphabetical order? Whatever the reason: whoever’s in charge of the applet bylines, please fix this!
  • I’m pretty sure the clue for 51d, IRINA [Skater Slutskaya] is a wink to the similarity to constructor Jeff Slutzky’s last name.

Other than it being a Wednesday masquerading as a Thursday, I thought this was a fine puzzle. Nice job!  Until next time!

Jeff Chen’s Fireball Crossword, “On-Off Switch” —Jenni’s write-up

I finished the puzzle quickly with Mr Happy Pencil appearing right on schedule, and could not figure out the theme. I had the revealer: 31a [With 55-Across, policy for some beaches … and for solving this puzzle], CLOTHING OPTIONAL. I looked for a rebus containing clothing – nope. Looked for a Schrodinger puzzle with words that could turn into pieces of clothing – nope. Finally decided the heck with it, because I wanted to be done to take my daughter out to dinner, and looked at Peter’s Email. There are 16 clues that work with or without one letter:

Fireball 1/10/2019, solution grid

  • 18a [Massed aggregation] is CLUMP in the grid, and will also work as LUMP.  The crossing can be DICE or DIE.
  • 22a [Inform, with “in”] can be CLUE as written, or CUE. The crossing can be YOWL  or YOW.
  • 23a [Makes a cat call] is MEOWS and can also be MEWS crossing DROOP or DROP.
  • 45a [Like a beer belly] is ROTUND or ROUND.The crosser is CARTS or CARS.
  • 56a [“Personally, I think,” in chat room shorthand] is IMHO and can be IMO. It crosses RAJAH or RAJA.
  • 70a [Apple trademark] is IMAC and can be MAC. The crosser is my favorite clue/answer pair in the puzzle: 61d [They’re commonly seen on stages, for short]: MICS or MCS.
  • 74a [Mature] is GROWN and could be GROW. The crosser is LINE or LIE.
  • 75a [Hurt with a jab, maybe] is STUNG or STUN and it crosses 69d [Verbal abuse] which can be DIGS or DIS.

The letters removed to make the alternate answers are CLOTHING.

This is not my cup of tea. This is why I don’t much like metas – my brain doesn’t see these easily and it feels like way  more work than I usually want to do in a puzzle. On my first pass through this post, I wasn’t even that impressed with it – and then I realized the downs worked, too. It was LIE/LINE that made the penny drop. NOW I’m impressed. REALLY impressed. That’s an “aha” moment worth struggling for. Wow.

A few other things:

  • 15d [E-4s, in the USMC] are CPLS and 71d [E-5, in the USMC] is SGT. Good to know.
  • 26a [Low-battery warnings, sometimes] are CHIRPS. We would also have accepted [Really annoying noises that are difficult to locate and can’t be heard by people with high-frequency hearing loss].
  • 41d [Part of a cello that touches the floor] is the previously unknown to me but completely obvious END PIN.
  • 44d [Cuts open living animals for research] is VIVISECTS. This does not pass the breakfast test for me. Ick.
  • 66a [Internet source for wellness info] is WEBMD. Sure, if you’d like your “wellness info” bought and paid for by the “wellness industry.” We used to call that “snake oil.”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that GRAU is German for “gray.”

Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Plot Twists” — Jim P’s review

Movie titles are on tap today…with a twist. These “twists” occur, appropriately, at the final words which are turned upwards and clued normally in the Down direction.

WSJ – Thu, 1.10.19 – “Plot Twists” by Paul Coulter

  • 16a [1977 Sean Connery movie] A BRIDGE TOO F(AR) with 9d RAF. I didn’t realize Connery was in this, but to call it a Connery movie doesn’t seem right. Here are some of the other big names in this film: Caan, Caine, Gould, Hackman, Hopkins, Olivier, O’Neal, and Redford.
  • 29a [1993 Sylvester Stallone movie] DEMOLITION M(AN) with 25d NAM
  • 39a [1979 Martin Sheen movie] APOCALYPSE N(OW) with 34d WON. I read the clue as “1979 Marin Short movie” and was surprised to learn that he was in APOCALYPSE NOW…for a few seconds. Then I had my “D’oh!” moment.
  • 58a [1975 Don Johnson movie] A BOY AND HIS D(OG) with 50d GOD. I don’t know this film, but must have heard the title at some point, because I filled it in without many crossings. Sounds like it’s a sweet, innocent film. It’s not.

Nice theme. Would have been nicer if there was some diversity here as far as the starring actors.

At first I wasn’t sure what was connecting these film titles until I realized they all ended in three-letter words that could spell something else when read backwards. Given that limitation and the need for symmetry, there probably aren’t a whole lot of titles that could work here. For example, SOME LIKE IT HOT and ALL ABOUT EVE couldn’t be used.

Plenty of long fill to remark on, the highlights being the stacked 9s in the corners, especially EARPIECES and MEGASTORE. SLIPSHOD is great and is almost an anagram of its counterpart SPLASHED. We also get PARABLE, CARWASH, and FLOATER.

Clues of note:

  • 13a [Drop down?]. MOLT. Didn’t understand this until just now. Here “down” means feathers.
  • 61a [Flip your lid?]. BLINK. Nice clue. But I have always been blessed with the ability to flip my eyelids inside out. This is really useful in grossing out sisters and even your own children. Need a primer? Here ya go.
  • 12d [Rugby scores]. TRIES. I’m thankful for my time living in England which allowed me to get this one quickly. You can bone up on the rugby scoring system here.

Solid puzzle. 3.5 stars.

And in the inaugural edition of Cartoons Will Make You Smarter (while shamelessly stealing Ade’s sports-promoting bit), learned scholars will recall that 5d [Hasenpfeffer, e.g.] is a STEW thanks to the 1962 Bugs Bunny short in which Yosemite Sam is tasked to make Hasenpfeffer for his king. The word comes from the German Hase for “hare” and pfeffer for “pepper.” Of course, things don’t go the way Sam plans them. (Here’s the full cartoon, though you have to suffer the ads to watch the whole thing.)

David Poole’s LA Times Times crosswor – Gareth’s review

LA Times

A lot of us probably went through this puzzle puzzled as to where the theme went. At TAXBREAK, we get a revealer that’s a lot less illuminating than most. It just says four squares represent a “tax break”. Turns out that types of tax are hidden across two entries as highlighted. On the one hand, it’s a little different to most “hidden letter string” themes. The downside with this angle is a lack of interesting long theme answers, though KITSCH/OOLONG is a nice pair.

There weren’t too many long answers to highlight neither in theme nor otherwise. The splashiest were probably some nice long vocabulary words like ORTHODOX and BROMIDE. There were another three pairs of “clue-chained” short answers, which are rarely my idea of a good time: KARL/MARX is a fair cop, as is perhaps OOLONG/TEA, and then there’s THE/URGE.

[Boomer’s kid], XER. I feel like that needs a “typically”. My parents were born in ’44/’46 and I was born in ’86. I’m told I can’t be an “xer”…

3,25 Stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword – “Shuffling Cards” — Ben’s Review

“Come Fly With Me” – BEQ 1/10

Howdy, all!  This is going up later than planned, but I’m here and I’ve solved the puzzle, so that’s at least something.  Let’s dive in to “Come Fly With Me”:

  • 17A: 1997 Foo Fighters single– MONKEY WRENCH
  • 42A: Began eagerly — DOVE IN
  • 62A: Surfer’s spot — INTERNET
  • 64A: You might rip it open to get money out — VELCRO WALLET
  • 40A: 2018 horror movie that has spawned dumb blindfolded memes, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme — BIRD BOX

Birds. Boxes. It’s an okay theme that’s timely, but the lack of symmetry for the theme entries bothers me and makes this far less elegant than it could be.

I haven’t watched BIRD BOX but I have watched both episodes of The Masked Singer multiple times. It is the dumbest premise and is something that would be on in the background of a dystopian comedy as a throwaway gag and I love it with my whole heart.

The rest of the fill is pretty good – I liked the symmetrical placement of EYESORE, ERMINE, DREBIN, and COUGH UP, and AFTER TAX and BANISTER were nice as well in the down fill.

A step down from last week, but it’s fun and timely.


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15 Responses to Thursday, January 10, 2019

  1. Matthew G. says:

    Like Jenni, I had no idea what the Fireball theme was, and eventually looked at the Answers email. It was a fine puzzle grid-wise but thematically it perhaps should have been repackaged as an actual meta-puzzle since it played as one anyway.

  2. Penguins says:

    TORAH for win!

  3. Beth Willenborg says:

    NYT: 29a, BEAT THE RAPTOR [Win a one-on-one game against a Toronto hoops player?]
    I do ignore most duplicates but this one seemed a little closer than most since Toronto is TOR on scoreboards.

  4. Shawn P says:

    WSJ: Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!

  5. Ethan Friedman says:

    Amy, did I miss your review of the new Letter Boxed game on the NYT crosswords page? Would love to hear your thoughts.

  6. David says:

    I feel that I should point out that today’s LAT xword differs substantially from the puzzle I submitted. The original puzzle had the thematic bits circled but I guess Rich thought that was too easy. Also, the only x-ref in the original was the KARL/MARX combo. Not sure if the edited version is an improvement or not. As usual, YMMV. Cheers!

  7. Martin says:


    ’44/’49 here with an ’86 son. I’ve thought of him as a Gen X / Millennial crossover. Or is that a car?

  8. haari Meech says:

    re WSJ. As for the Indigenous Canadians, I realize the clue is plural and requires a plural answer, but the word Inuit is already plural. The singular is Inuk.

  9. dh says:

    This is a late comment on BEQ, should anyone get notified of a new comment. When we filled in the grid on Across Lite, “CROW” was marked incorrect (VelCROWallet/CROWds). Erased it and re-entered it, still incorrect. Hit “Reveal”, and the app filled in CROW, just as we had. Did anyone else experience this anomaly?

    Also, not to pick nits here, but was that a typo in the clue for 53D? (Its enharmonic equivalent it (should be is?) B major).

    Also … wouldn’t the enharmonic equivalent of C flat be B natural? Those are both notes.
    The enharmonic equivalent of the key signature of B major would have to be C flat major (as opposed to minor) I think.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong – my music theory is rusty and my son is working this morning.

  10. marciem says:

    LAT I didn’t get to read this until today…. thanks for the explanation on Tax Break!

    All I could come up with was a combination of the end of 6 down (st. paT) and 36 down (achs), forming T Achs which sounds like tax to me, and spent a lot of time looking for similar t achs or t acks or other kinds of tax breaks.

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