Thursday, September 12, 2019

BEQ 2:37 (Andy) 


LAT tk (GRAB) 


NYT 7:06 (Ben) 


WSJ DNF (Jim P) 


Universal 7:21 (Jim Q) 


Fireball 5:47 (Jenni) 


Evan Kalish’s Fireball Crossword, “Letter Boxes”–Jenni’s write-up

We start the autumnal non-contest session of the Fireball with a really nice puzzle. I figured out the trick with the first theme answer and still had to work to suss out the others, which made it even more fun.

Each theme answer has a Greek letter rebus in two consecutive squares; the answer requires the plural. It’s easier to show than to explain.

Fireball Crossword, Sept 12, 2019, Evan Kalish, “Letter Boxes,” solution grid

  • 17a [White House tour highlight] is {RHO}{RHO} GARDEN –> RHOS GARDEN –> ROSE GARDEN.
  • 21a [Huggable sorts] are CUTIE {PI}{PI} –> CUTIE PIES.
  • 55a [Exclusive sources, at times] are {NU}{NU} LEAKS –> NEWS LEAKS.
  • 61a [Important poll number] is SAMPLE {PSI}{PSI} –> SAMPLE SIZE.

And in the middle, to tie it all together: 37a [“I have no idea what they’re talking about” … and what you might say after solving this puzzle]: IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME.

I really liked this theme. It was fun to solve with four enjoyable “aha” moments.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Farm sounds] could have been MOOS but were BAAS, which made me nostalgic for this part of my kid’s childhood: 
  • 8a [Top dogs] is BRASS, which confused me because it ends in S like a proper plural but nooo.
  • 34a [Set piece?] is a REP. I presume this is one in a set of exercise moves.
  • 60a [Raid target] is not ROACH, as I first tried. It’s FRIDGE.
  • 56d [Ripening agent] is AGER, a word not generally seen in the wild.

What I didn’t now before I did this puzzle: that John CENA lost to the Rock in the main event of WrestleMania XXVIII and then beat him in the rematch the next year. The Rock is a local boy: he graduated from Liberty High School in Bethlehem, PA.

Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Jam Bands”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Band names are “jammed” into single squares, rebus-style.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Jam Bands” · Alan Arbesfeld · Thu., 9.12.19

  • 17a [Tatooine crime boss] JABBA THE HUTT crossing SCABBARD.
  • 21a [Sometime soon] BEFORE LONG crossing NAVEL ORANGE.
  • 38a [“Listen up, sailors!”] NOW HEAR THIS crossing THE ARTS.
  • 55a [Any of a healthy daily trio] SQUARE MEAL crossing TIRE MARK. This was the last one for me to find and I was hoping for a band a little more modern than the others. At least this band is from the ’90s as opposed to the ’70s.
  • 60a [Grateful Dead concert souvenir] TIE-DYE SHIRT crossing SETS EYES ON. Apt clue since, if you look up “jam band,” you’ll find The Dead there.

I liked this theme quite a bit. It was surprising and provided a good challenge. I wish there was a little more variety in the bands, but at least they are all crossword staples (except maybe HEART).

And there’s a lot to like in the fill as well: FREE SPIN, MR. MOTO, YEAR ONE, GYRATOR, “I GOT IT!,” ON IMPULSE, EURASIA, FANTINE, EGOISTE, and PRITHEE.

If only something could have been done about that NE corner where fictional proper name REATA [Ranch in Edna Ferber’s “Giant”] crosses foreign god ATEN [Egyptian solar deity]. I tried M and D in that spot before, frankly, just giving up out of lack of interest. Aside from those, other toughies include AESIR [Pantheon of Norse gods], HATHA [Yoga variety], and ILIE [1976 loser to Bjorn at Wimbledon]. But then, it is Thursday and we should be able to get these, at least with a lot of help from the crosses.

Apart from my Natick, this is my favorite Arbesfeld grid in quite a while. 3.9 stars from me.

Greg Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Table Talk”—Jim Q’s review

Greg Johnson is bringing A Game to the Universal puzzle today. Literally.

THEME: Common exclamatory phrases that end with board games.


  • 17A [“Beats me”] I HAVE NO CLUE. 

    Universal crossword solution · Greg Johnson · “Table Talk” · Thurs., 9.12.19

  • 28A [“If it fails, it fails”] I’LL TAKE THE RISK. 
  • 43A [“Mom will be upset”] I’M IN BIG TROUBLE. 
  • 57A [“No need to apologize”] DON’T BE SORRY. 

This totally works! I love that it’s not just simply random phrases ending with board games (board game themes have been done and done). The fact that they’re all colloquial quotes is neat. And neither the title nor any clue in the puzzle itself is a direct revealer, but it’s enough to let the solver have his/her “aha” moment without frustration.

The fill and some clues were pretty damn good in my opinion. My favorite easily being 30D [Boring Tinder opener] HEY. I got that with no crosses whatsoever (it’s totally accurate btw). When’s the last time your favorite clue yielded HEY as an answer? I WANT IT ALL was another fun entry, even though it looks and sounds like it belongs in the theme.

My one tiny nit is 49D [Wrap it up] GIFT. That’s a rare sort of clue where you can’t substitute the answer for the clue itself. Those kinds of clues need exclamation marks. Not only that, but the clue [Wrap it up!] with an exclamation looks way better. Imagine you’re a teacher, and you have a study hall. And there are really bright kids who are bored of school. And you decide to teach the ropes of crosswords. And you emphasize the basic rule that the clue must always be a viable substitute for the answer. Help me out with consistency in curveballs. I’m honestly doing my part (quite successfully!) to spark interest. But publishers need to follow the rules, or my kids lose interest in my unofficial/involuntary crossword elective class that they didn’t know they had, which always turns out to be my favorite class of the day (and theirs).

Okay, one more nit. The phrase is I’LL TAKE MY CHANCES. Not I’LL TAKE THE RISK. But it’s fine.

Overall, this had a modern and lively feel to it throughout the grid. 3.9 stars.

Grant Thackray’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 9/12/2019 — no. 0912

Today’s NYT seems unusually…normal…for a Thursday puzzle.  Maybe it’s an apology for yesterday’s dreadful puzzle, maybe it’s just slightly too weird to run on a Wednesday, but whatever the reason, I liked what was going on here:

  • 19A: Fury at a husband leaving his entire estate to his mistress? — WIDOW’S PIQUE
  • 25A: What an in-group uses for fishing — CLIQUE BAIT
  • 37A: “Oh, I’m supposed to be in the line over there?” — THAT’S MY QUEUE
  • 54A: Some alcohol smuggled into a rodeo, say? — BOOT LIQUOR
  • 59A: Smudge on a theater sign? — MARQUEE MARK

This sort of “replace one set of letters with another that has the same phonetic sound” thing has been done before, but that’s a pretty good theme set.  THAT’S MY QUEUE‘s clue made me smile and MARQUEE MARK made me listen to “Good Vibrations”.

A theme like this has a side effect of introducing a LOT of Qs into the grid, and the down fill for these mostly works: BAR-B-QS, LOQUAT, I QUIT, SQUARE, and QUO are all perfectly cromulent, even if I hate that particular spelling of barbecue/BBQ/etc.

When I think of AMELIE, I think of this bit from the podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me

Elsewhere in the grid, I liked LIMB, PARODY clued via Spinal Tap, KEANU Reeves, AKITA, BEAVER, INHALER, ER NURSES, and a shout out to “I’ll Make a Man Out Of You’s” choir of BE A MANs in Mulan.

Happy Thursday, all!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website crossword, “Meals on Wheels”—Andy’s review

BEQ #1191, “Meals on Wheels”

Here, we have three long theme answers containing OOO [“Wheels” in the theme answers that support meals]. On top of those triple-Os are three-letter “meals” — ergo, meals on wheels. Like so:

  • 20a, HAS NO OOMPH [Lacks energy];
    • With the OOO underneath 18a, PBJ [Kid’s lunchbox fave, briefly].
  • 39a, IT’S A ZOO OUT THERE [“I’d stay inside if I were you”];
    • With the OOO underneath 34a, BLT [Crunchy sandwich].
  • 61a, TOO OBVIOUS [“Like, duh!”]
    • With the OOO underneath 57a, BBQ [Finger-licking meal that usually comes with a wetnap, for short].

Solid, though I found it hard not to think of this very similar Brian Thomas NYT puzzle from 9 months ago. That one had the revealer OZONE (which is O3, chemically), but this one has the nice added wrinkle of stacking meals on top of the triple-Os. Goes to show you the difference a puzzle title can make in tying a theme together.

Also thought UH UH” at 2d was misclued with [“You got that right”]. That clue seems to point to “UH HUH” rather than “UH UH.” Am I missing something? If not, we all make mistakes — no big deal. Still a fun puzzle.

Until next time!

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11 Responses to Thursday, September 12, 2019

  1. Pseudonym says:

    MARQUEE MARK made me laugh

  2. Scott says:

    Never heard of NO SOAP before. I had to look it up. Learned something new today.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    I enjoyed today’s puzzle but also thought it was a misplaced Wednesday. Definitely a good do-over for yesterday’s.

  4. JohnH says:

    For the WSJ, I didn’t find the NE crossing nearly as difficult as the center, what with cologne, a song, the character from Les Miserables (which I did read but ever so long ago), and (what I’m never sure is acceptable), the unexpected THE in THE ARTS. (I also had “lay eyes on” at first.) But success.

    I liked the theme, perhaps just because I like rebus themes like this. It could be annoying that four of five theme clues amount to bands I’m tired of seeing in puzzles, but somehow it felt like just revenge on puzzles to have them put to use. It also helped me with all the names.

  5. Dave S says:

    The LAT was fun today, except for the southeast corner where “satat” rather inelegantly crosses “getat.”

  6. RunawayPancake says:

    BEQ – Yet another fine puzzle from Mr. Quigley. But I have a question about 2D [“You got that right”] UHUH. Maybe I’m not parsing this right but doesn’t uh-uh mean “no”, and uh-huh mean “yes”?

  7. BarbaraK says:

    If you’re looking for the LA Times review, today’s puzzle is on yesterday’s page.

  8. GlennG says:

    I’d love an explanation of BEQ’s 2D as well…on the surface of it, it doesn’t make any sense, especially with what Mr. Webster has to tell me about it. In other news on the WSJ I Naticked on 16A-12D, and couldn’t make sense of the Fireball gimmick (had S’s instead of repeating the rebus – and had XI instead of PSI for some reason. How it goes, but I think this is the second puzzle like this that I couldn’t see through).

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