Thursday, November 21, 2019

BEQ 15:32 (Ade) 


LAT 6:38 (GRAB) 


NYT 11:05 (Ben) 


WSJ 10:24 (Jim P) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Fireball 8:48 (Jenni) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stock Splits”—Jim P’s review

We haven’t seen one of these types of themes in quite a while—pretty much ever since the WSJ has had enough stock (haha) on hand to be able to run puzzles from outside constructors nearly every day. I could be wrong, but my suspicion is that Mike Shenk would rather run other people’s puzzles, but when his supply runs low, we’ll see one of his own creations.

I’ve only ever seen this theme type from Mike Shenk, but it works. The title tells us something is going to be split from something else. That something—in this case—turns out to be three-letter farm animals.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Stock Splits” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 11.21.19

  • 17a [John Glenn took part in it] / 19a [Farm animal]. MERCURY PROG / RAM
  • 26a [Farm animal] / 29a [Seeker of courage] COW / ARDLY LION
  • 44a [Wealthy bunch] / 47a [Farm animal] LEISURE CL / ASS
  • 57a [Farm animal] / 58a [Sport denounced by animal rights groups] PIG / EON SHOOTING. Yikes. I had no idea this was a thing. That LEISURE CLASS, shooting other living creatures just for fun.

Yeah? Works for me. Not terribly exciting—no fun or funny wordplay—but it definitely helps with sorting out the rest of the themers, once you’ve grokked it.

Plenty of flashy fill to look at today, starting with colorful DAD-GUM as well as MYRTLE, MARGINALIA, WAVELENGTH, SLIDERS, SINLESS, SUDOKU, ALGERIA, SMARTIES, and BEAGLE.

I had trouble in that COTERIE / PLUTO section but mostly due to the purposefully opaque cluing therein. Another trouble spot was the SAPID / TRINA stack in the SW since I’d never heard of either.

How did you do with MARISKA (20a [Hargitay of “Law & Order: SVU”])? This was a gimme for me. I’ve never seen the show, but somewhere along the line I’ve heard her name, and since my daughter’s name is Marisa and I sometimes call her “Marishka” (with a fake Russian accent), the actor’s name stuck in my head.

Clues of note:

  • 21a [Gromit, e.g.]. BEAGLE. I didn’t know Gromit (of Wallace & Gromit fame) was a BEAGLE. Why is it that cartoon beagles never look like real beagles?
  • 24a [Wise guys]. SMARTIES. We also would have accepted [Halloween staple].
  • 34a [“Hadestown” writer Mitchell]. ANAIS. I knew this at one point but forgot it. I must remember this. *pounds fist on forehead*
  • 50a [Letter O?]. HUG. Whew. I only just figured out that this is referring to XOXO, as in “hugs and kisses.”
  • 62a [Devils’ wear]. SKATES. That would be the NHL’s Toronto Ice Devils. Just kidding. I’m sure there’s a Devils team, I just don’t know what it is at the moment. And you can’t expect me to look up everything for you, can you?
  • 18d [Stock]. USUAL. A red herring of a clue given the puzzle theme.
  • 35d [Killing time in Rome]. IDES. Dark humor. I like it.
  • 53d [Oscar winner as Loretta Castorini]. CHER. For Moonstruck, I believe? *looks it up.* Yes, that’s right. There. Are you satisfied?

Nice grid, especially the fill. 3.8 stars.

Aimee Lucido’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 11/21/19, no. 1121

I feel like I’ve seen today’s NYT theme before, but I can’t find any record of it, so I may have just done a puzzle with a theme that’s similar.  It’s pretty straightforward, given how experimental/out-of-the-box Thursday NYT can get:

  • 23A: Classic fraternity bash — TO(GA P)ARTY
  • 25A: New York City — THE BI(G AP)PLE
  • 57A: Native of the Lion City — SIN(GAP)OREAN
  • 60A: Activewear akin to leggings — YO(GA P)ANTS
  • 39A: Underground warning…or a warning about four squares in this grid — MIND THE GAP

Appropriately enough, the (GAP) squares act as gaps going down, affecting REPO MAN, BAD IDEA, ICE AGE, and GYM SHOE.


I really dig the down fill in the upper left and lower right columns here – MAESTRO (“Pit boss?”), ABASHES, and SCREEDS up top, and SNEAKER, CLARITY, and SYNAPSE (“It may get fired because of a thought”).  Elsewhere in the grid, I don’t know where in my brain I’ve been storing that pickle juice has ACETIC acid in it, but I managed to fill that in without any crossings.

Happy Thursday!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 133”–Jenni’s write-up

I did this puzzle late in the evening following a long and weird day, the highlight (?) of which was realizing that the traffic jam on the way home was caused by the Planters Peanutmobile rolling along the highway. To be fair, it wasn’t really the Peanutmobile that was causing the slowdown. It was all the people who took their foot off the accelerator to look at the Peanutmobile.






So the puzzle took me a bit longer than it would have on a Peanutmobile-free day.

The 7-letter stacks in the NW and SE are excellent. LOVE GILDA/IM AN IDIOT/MALL SANTA and KIA SEDONA/ESTATE CAR/STEVEDORE. They’re all perfectly legit fill with Peter’s usually lively cluing and the only one I recall seeing recently is MALL SANTA. Also loved the clue for IM AN IDIOT: [Duh!] which is the opposite of the Peter Gordon Trademark Very Long Clue. The best clue in the puzzle is 62a [Woodie, to Rushdie] for ESTATE CAR.

A few other things:

Fireball puzzle, November 21, 2019, “Themeless #133,” Peter Gordon, solution grid

  • 4d [Decide to live a private lifestyle?] is a cute clue for ENLIST.
  • I never heard of LINE TESTS, seen at 7d [as Telephone technicians’ diagnostics] but it makes sense. Do they still do that?
  • 8d [Ones going gaga] are not people crazy for something or someone; they are DOTARDS, a word I dislike, but a legit entry.
  • 24d [Lady and others] are SPANIELS, the “Lady” in question being the titular character in “Lady and the Tramp.” I have very fond memories of that movie and suspect if I saw it now, it would make me cringe – or evoke “the noise.” My kid, age 10, at the movies: Mom, are you going to make that noise? Me: What noise? Kid: The noise you make when you think the movie is saying something bad about women. Me: Almost certainly.
  • I didn’t realize until just now that there are only two three-letter words in this puzzle. No wonder I enjoyed it.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SHORT TERM is the [Capital gains designation if held less than a year].

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1211), “Special K”—Ade’s take

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword solution, No. 1211: “Special K”

Good afternoon, people! Hope all is well with you as we’re one week away from turkey day!

I assumed that it was unlikely that today’s grid, given its title, was about either a breakfast cereal or the street name of a drug once popular in the rave scene (and now used as an antidepressant). The 14 x 15 grid features theme entries that are puns, with phrases and proper nouns reimagined when adding a “K” syllable to at least one of the words.

  • SLOPPY JOKE (17A: [Sort of drunk stand-up’s delivery?]) – Sloppy Joe.
  • YOLK MAMA (22A: [Throw an egg at one of your parents?]) – Yo Mama. Remember the endless “Yo mama” jokes you all cracked at the schoolyard? OK, maybe not all of us on here did that, depending on where you grew up.
  • FRIEND OR FOLK (34A: [“Are we cool?” vs. “Are you a commoner?”]) – Friend or foe.
  • WOKE IS ME (47A: [“I am totally aware of the latest social issue?”]) – Woe is me.
  • TOKE TO TOKE (53A: [How a chainsmoker lives?]) – Toe to toe.

Took a while longer than I would have wanted to get the theme, as I initially put in “slurry joke” and, because of that, put in “wired” for what turned out to be TYPE A (7D: [Like one with a hyper personality]). Also was slowed by assuming an “est” suffix for the entry that turned out to be SENIOR (29A: [Most respected]). Despite the numerous entries in which I initially put in a wrong answer, I did make up for it a bit by getting MEET almost immediately, as my recent learning of the term “meet cute,” which is the initial meet-up of a couple in a movie that evolves into a romantic relationship later on in the film, coming in real handy (42D: [___ cute]). Have never camped in my life (city boy through and through), so RV HOOKUP, while very nice fill, is unfamiliar to me in real life (35D: [Campsite amenity]). Had absolutely no idea about APR being the month where one of my favorite foods is celebrated, and now I eagerly await April 2020’s arrival (16A: [National Burrito Day mo.])! Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the song mentioned in the clue for GOTYE, but, until today, I would have been completely lost if you asked me who performed it and I probably would have guessed that it was Sting (14A: [“Somebody That I Used To Know” one-hit wonder]).  Love the entry of I’M GONE, something that I’ll be thinking at the end of completing this sentence and having to leave for an assignment later on tonight (45D: [“We will deal with this in the a.m.”]). But first…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ZAGS (52A: [Goes this way or that way]) – Twenty years ago saw the birth of a college basketball power…as well as the popularization of a non-official nickname of said college basketball power. In March of 1999, the Gonzaga University men’s basketball team, nicknamed the Bulldogs, made a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight, defeating Minnesota, Stanford and Florida in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed before losing to eventual national champion Connecticut. Very few people outside of Spokane, Wash., where the school is located, knew much about them, but many took to calling the team “The Zags” because of the funky-sounding school name. (The school is named after a Jesuit saint, Aloysius de Gonzaga.) The nickname “Zags” has become so popular that the term has been emblazoned on their alternate basketball uniforms for a number of years. Below is a picture of that uniform, worn during the 2017 national championship game between Gonzaga and North Carolina in Glendale, Ariz. How do I know that this actually occurred? As the saying goes, because I was there!

Thank you so much for your time, my lovely crossword savants! With next week being Thanksgiving Day, I will have to put my chances on being here next week at 50/50. Tune in during the same bat time and the same bat channel to see what happens next!

Have a good rest of your Thursday! 

Take care!


Brian E. Paquin’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle features a fairly broad theme that takes unusual pains to disguise itself. Six answers consist of anagrammed pairs clued as made-up phrases. In defiance of long-standing convention, these are not signposted by “?” at the end of the clues. This decision made the theme much more difficult to tease out. The first theme entry I completed was POSHSHOP, and I thought it may just be intended as a real entry, albeit a rather arbitrary one. The rest of the entries cleared that up, though slowly: CRISPSCRIP (is SCRIP “old money” though?), OCEANCANOE, PASTSPAT, ADDERDREAD and SUPERPURSE complete the set.

The theme ties up a lot of the puzzle’s working area, so most of the rest of the puzzle is shorter entries. At least today, it felt that more care was taken here and the grid is better balanced in terms of obscure, awkward entries. CSC is by far the weirdest; I normally encounter this as COSEC, and you’d be forgiven for putting SEC there.

TISHA Campbell-Martin is a new name for me. She plays the wife of the title character in Dr. Ken, which I also haven’t heard of, though I’m far from up to date with recent US television. It stars Ken Jeong, a qualified doctor who gave up medicine to became an actor, and it does sound worth checking out.


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17 Responses to Thursday, November 21, 2019

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I too have seen this theme. But the way it’s executed with a rebus in one direction and a GAP in the other is novel. And props for the SYNAPSE clue.
    There was a spot with the PEES, IPAD that I was not too fond of. But the rest seemed pretty clean.

  2. Ethan says:

    NYT: My mind reels when I think about how difficult it must have been to fill all those open corners, with all those 7-letter words, without being able to use multi-word entries. No LEERS AT or RUNS TO or any of those prepositional phrases that are such useful crutches. That is enough to put this puzzle in the all-time top tier for me.

    • R says:

      The grid is held together with fill like ESCS, TADAS, ATRAS, PEES, INITS, ESTES, and EOS. For a 15×15 with an average density theme, this is rough. I’m not sure why it’s getting a pass on this, but it’s not what I’d call all-time top tier by any stretch. YMMV.

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        I count 16×15 (because the central revealer has an even number of letters). Not that it matters for this purpose.

      • Ethan says:

        The “pass” is that the only entries with more than one word are the theme entries. That means no partials like ONA or INA, nothing like RAN AT or OR SO. That is a major, major constraint.

        • R says:

          A major constraint held together with some majorly stale fill. I respect what she’s done, but I’m not going to see both ATRAS and ESCS in a small grid and call it “all-time top tier” anything.

  3. Billy Boy says:

    Theme seen frequently in WSJ, not too hard at all, decent stuff. Overall fun to solve

    NYT – a different sort of hard. I needed a bit of help after YOGAPANTS gave me “rebus”. Some stupidly hard fill with a two-way rebus, don’t know if it’s brilliant or hard for hard’s sake. In golf (design) – ‘hard for hard’s sake’ is definitely not a determinant of good/great, so I’ll hold judgement for more skilled solvers as I have an inherent bias against that metric.

    SYNAPSE firing on a thought is too cute by half, I do know that even though it was a direct write-in for me. Still a bit half-witted it seemed.

  4. Noam D. Elkies says:

    NYT: Nice touch that the only Down entries of more than one word are the four theme entries, each with a [GAP] separating its two words. (Or did I miss any? The Acrosses seem to be likewise one word each, except ironically the revealer 39A:MIND_THE_GAP.)


    P.S. I should have checked xwordinfo first; I see that Jeff Chen already made this observation.

    • David Glasser says:

      I thought that was pretty cool, though a bit odd that the themers broke the pattern (mostly covered by the GAPs but there’s also “THE BIG”.

      Despite the breakfast test, I’d rather have seen PEES used in the common way everyone uses it rather than that weird way.

      • Noam D. Elkies says:

        (d’)Oh right, the other theme entries (except SINGAPOREAN). As for 31D:PEES, that could have been CEES (which happen to be in the more familiar copyright symbol), changing 30A:IPAD to ICED and 42D:OMA to OME (which is not great but IMHO no worse than OMA).

  5. Lise says:

    WSJ: from the review:

    24a [Wise guys]. SMARTIES. We also would have accepted [Halloween staple].

    Smarties were a Halloween staple in our house for years because no one in the house would even eat them. Your mileage may vary. But, at least they weren’t tempting.

    • Lise says:

      Oh, right, the puzzle. I loved it. I like that kind of construction. I think Mike Shenk has done something similar before, with a different theme, and I was glad to see it again. Kudos!

  6. cc says:


    I count eight 3-letter words, not two:


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