Thursday, January 2, 2020

BEQ 13:12 (Ade) 


LAT 4:08 (GRAB) 


NYT 6:41 (Ben) 


WSJ 9:09 (Jim P) 


Universal 4:37 (Jim Q) 


Fireball 10:52 (Jenni) 


Pancho Harrison’s Fireball Crossword, “One-Eighties”–Jenni’s write-up

I don’t remember who pointed out that the Fireball has published exclusively male constructors for the past few years – except for the last puzzle of 2019, which was co-constructed by Andrea Carla Michaels. My apologies, Andrea, for forgetting that wonderful puzzle, and thanks to David Glaser for pointing it out in the comments. I suspect it was Erik who called this out, but I can’t find the comment/post/Tweet/whatever. Anyway, I went back through the Fireball reviews in our archives and found a Kelsey Blakely puzzle from June of 2016. I don’t know Kelsey. A Google search suggests she’s female-presenting. If we take that at face (!) value, it’s been 3.5 years since Peter has published a crossword solely by a woman. Since there are about 45 Fireball puzzles a year, that’s nearly 160 puzzles. I’m horrified by that number, and horrified that I didn’t notice until it was pointed out to me. Let’s see if that changes in 2020. I’m not holding my breath.

On to the puzzle. It took me a while to sort out what was going on. I knew there were rebus squares because 7d, [Nelson Mandela’s native language] has to be XHOSA, and there were only four letters. It turns (!) out that the rebus squares make the four theme entries read left-to-right with the first letters in the rebus squares and then right-to-left with the second letters. They do a “one-eighty,” hence the title.

Fireball, 1/1/2020, Pancho Harrison, “One-Eighties,” solution grid

  • 17a [Hit song from “Girls! Girls! Girls!” that peaked at #2] is RETURN TO SENDER. I filled this in after I grokked the theme, which helped me figure out that 3d [Reading unit] is ME{TR}E.
  • 19a [Recover quickly after surgery, say] is BOUNCE BACK.
  • 64a [Bizarre] is OFF THE WALL. This one doesn’t quite fit with the others – OFF doesn’t imply rebounding to me in the same way that RETURNBOUNCE and RICHOCHET do.
  • 66a [Lawman on “The Magilla Gorilla Show”] is RICOCHET RABBIT. I used to watch this show and I have no memory of Officer RABBIT.

I really liked this theme. It was fun to solve and gave me an satisfying “aha” moment. There’s a lot of music in this puzzle – the constructor is a musician – and two of the music clues provide rebus squares for theme entries. I suspect that will create problems for some solvers. I knew that [Moulin Rouge performance] was CA{NCAN DANCE} and was able to figure out that [Instrumental hit of 1966] was SPANISH {FL}EA by backfilling from OFF THE WALL.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Word with luck and cluck] is DUMB. I got the DU and couldn’t get DUCK out of my mind even though I knew it made no sense.
  • 4d [Strait-laced sort] is a BL{UE}NOSE. Not a word you hear every day. According to Google Ngram Viewer, it peaked in the mid-1940s.
  • I know that Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” are Olga, MASHA, and Irina, but I can never remember their birth order.
  • 46a [Black-and-white] is a COP CAR.
  • 71a [Picture with a posse, maybe] is an OATER. The old-fashioned use of “posse.”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that “seitsemän” means seven in FINNish, that the ASPEN is called the “asbestos tree” because it’s resistant to burning, and see above re: SPANISH FLEA. I’ve heard that song, though, and so have you.

{it’s the “Bachelor’s Theme” from The Dating Game.” You’re welcome.}

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Game is Up”—Jim P’s review

The title led me to believe we would have yet another puzzle based on board games, but it’s the beginning of January, so the games in question aren’t board games, but Bowl Games. 19d is BOWLS OVER clued as [Leaves flabbergasted, and a hint to the circled letters]. This is our indication that we should be looking for the names of Bowl Games going upward in the circled squares.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “The Game is Up” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 1.2.20

  • 3d[Results of successful pitches] SALES ORDERS. The Rose Bowl. OREGON vs. Wisconsin. It looks like pure coincidence that one of the teams in The Rose Bowl is actually crossing ROSE here. (Winner in italics.)
  • 8d [Shoots in the garden] ASPARAGUS. “Sugar” going backward in ASPARAGUS is a nice find. The Sugar Bowl. Georgia vs. Baylor.
  • 22d [Gerald Ford succeeded him] SPIROT AGNEW SPIRO T. AGNEW. My first reaction: “There’s a silent T in Spirot?!” My second reaction (upon learning the truth): “When has anyone ever referred to him while using his middle initial?” Anyway, the bowl game we’re looking for here is The Gator Bowl which obviously needs that T. Indiana vs. Tennessee.
  • 32d [“Don’t spread this around…”] BETWEEN US. I struggled at the end with this one because I couldn’t parse this to any meaningful phrase ending in -NUS. The Sun Bowl. Florida St. vs. Arizona St.

Good news, Fighting ILLINI, you made it into the grid. Bad news, you weren’t part of the theme. Good news, you made it to a bowl game (The Redbowl Bowl). Bad news, you lost to Cal 35-20.

Too bad my team’s bowl game wasn’t included backwards in the grid. That would be Notre Dame in The Camping World Bowl. If you think that’s a silly name for a bowl game (it is), get a load of this list which includes The Popeyes Bahamas Bowl, The Duck Commander Independence Bowl, and The Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. C’mon, Shenk! Quit resting on your laurels and put some these in a grid!

Not a bad theme, though. And the rest of the grid is solid, as you’d expect, though not necessarily sparkly. I liked seeing CHALUPA, ARMENIA, PRONTO, and “SAVE IT!”

Clues of note:

  • 1a [NFL extra periods]. OTS. I guess [NCAA football extra periods] was just too lengthy despite being on theme.
  • 16a [Like many a fine sword]. TOLEDAN. No idea on this one; needed all the crossings. Apparently Toledo (Spain, that is) has been known for its fine, strong steel since Roman times.
  • More football!: 10d [Tackle’s linemate] END and 60a [Offer a sports scholarship to] RECRUIT.

Solid, football-themed grid. 3.8 stars.

Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 1/2/2020 – No. 0102

I had the weirdest sense of deja vu from this Thursday’s NYT, and a quick Google search couldn’t resolve why.  I feel like I’ve seen the exact same style of theme before, but can’t place where.

  • 17A: Nyctophobic — AFRAID OF THE
  • 19A: 1990 Sam Raimi film — MAN
  • 23A: 1967 thriller for which Audrey Hepburn received an Oscar nomination — WAIT UNTIL
  • 26A: Surprise winner — HORSE
  • 36A: Not know something others know — BE IN THE
  • 38A: Cocktail made with ginger beer — ‘N’ STORMY
  • 51A: Post-sunset — AFTER
  • 53A: Sweet that lacks milk — CHOCOLATE
  • 60A: Where Darth Vader gets his strength… or what eight answers in this puzzle share — THE DARK SIDE

I’ve definitely seen this genre of theme (black square representing “black” or “dark” or “hole”, etc.) before, but the answer set here is pretty solid.  Each set of answers has a DARK square in between them – AFRAID OF THE [DARK] MAN, WAIT UNTIL [DARK] HORSE, BE IN THE [DARK] ‘N’ STORMY, and AFTER [DARK] CHOCOLATE

Other fill I liked this puzzle: SCONES, STOPGAPS, AIR SINAI, CHEZ, REGALING.

Less fond of: OR NO, JAKE clued as “A-O.K.” (is this common use?), RESORB (which constantly looked wrong to me)

Happy Thursday!


Damon Gulczynski’s Universal crossword, “Something Else Entirely”—Jim Q’s review

What a beast!

THEME: Animals whose names suggest they are of another species


  • 17A [*Frog of some Caribbean regions] MOUNTAIN CHICKEN. Perhaps it

    Universal crossword solution · Damon Gulczynski · “Something Else Entirely” · Thur., 01.02.20

    tastes like chicken? Gross.

  • 23A [*Rodent often kept as a pet] GUINEA PIG. 
  • 31A [*Bird related to the chickadee] TIT MOUSE. 
  • 50A [*Marsupial native to Australia] KOALA BEAR. 
  • 59A [It’s in a whole other category … or a hint to the starred answers] DIFFERENT ANIMAL. 

When I got to GUINEA PIG, I had the feeling that I’d seen this theme recently. Sure enough! A very similar idea was in the NYT on a Sunday exactly one month ago. However, I like this one better because it sticks with animals and avoids a mansplainy vibe.

The revealer feels like it’s missing something… like the word “altogether” or something at the end. DIFFERENT ANIMAL doesn’t strike me as a stand-alone with just those two words. I wish there were another 15 letter animal that could’ve been used in its place. The revealer is unnecessary as the title is doing its due diligence.

3.25 Stars.

Derek Bowman’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today features a clever and unique, if somewhat strained theme idea. Three different occupations that are stitch-related. Only the STANDUPCOMEDIAN is directly related to INSTITCHES. Leaving garments or patients INSTITCHES sounds odd. Also why specifically a BRAINSURGEON. All of my sterilisations today, my bite wound and my toe amputation were all “left in stitches” yet I am no brain surgeon. Regardless, it’s a fun bit of word play to tie the theme together.

I liked the idea of those two big corners. I’m not sure we got the most out of them, with only PERSIMMON, ISRAELITE and perhaps JOBSDATA as interesting answers out of the stacks.

EXCIA is truly a cheap answer. No, the X does not mean the answer is any less contrived than any other EX[JOB] answer, though it still better than EX[TEAM], which is next level bullshit.

Interesting to note: [Singer between Melanie and Joan at Woodstock] is ARLO. I first had JIMI, another four letter first name, but of course he is famous for finishing the concert.


Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1223), “20/20 Vision”—Ade’s take

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword solution, No. 1223: “20/20 Vision”

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you are all doing well and rang in the 2020 in style! While I am not able to commit to a New Year’s resolution to provide a review of BEQ puzzles every single Thursday in 2020, I’ll definitely try my best to do just that. As of right now, we’re 1-for-1! (I had thought I had posted this much, much earlier, but, apparently, the Internet conked out as I published this and didn’t notice. Sorry, friends!)

Today’s puzzle was definitely X-rated, with phrases turned into puns by their clues and by the fact that an extra “X” is added right next to the one “x” contained in the original phrase to create the Roman numeral 20 inside of the entries.

  • SIXX SHOOTER (17A: [Person who photographs Motley Crue bassist Nikki?]) – Six shooter.
  • FOXX IN SOCKS (52A: [Comedian Jamie wearing only knee-highs?])Fox in Socks.
  • THE XX FILES (11D: [MP3s of “Intro” and “Angels”?])The X-Files.
  • GET A FIXX ON (27D: [Intentionally walk runner James during the softball game?]) – Get a fix on.

Though the theme was straightforward, figuring out a couple of the origins where the puns came from might have been real tough, especially if you were never made aware of the English indie band The xx nor famed runner and author Jim Fixx. (I guess that would also be true if one was not up on Dr. Seuss book titles as well.) Knowing The X-Files helped me out tremendously because, for some reason, I was not aware that TJS was a legitimate abbreviation for Trader Joe’s (11D: [Grocery store chain whose employees wear Hawaiian shirts, for short]).  Did however realize that “Butler” in the clue to EDU was in reference to Butler University in Indianapolis (19A: [Butler’s address part?]). Don’t know why I initially entered in “Platoon” instead of DAS BOOT when reading the clue, but quickly remedied that (5D: [1981 movie set on a submarine]).  At the end of the day, this was definitely far from a BLAH puzzle which presented a little bit of a challenge (45D: [Like undelectable cake]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: IGLOO (40A: [“Ask me in a bit]) – From 1967 until 2010, the Pittsburgh Penguins called the Pittsburgh Civic Arena (renamed Mellon Arena) home, nicknamed The IGLOO because of its domed shape as much as it was because the team that were the main tenants were nicknamed the Penguins. The arena saw the birth of a borderline NHL dynasty, when the Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. For you music fans, The Doors’ “Live in Pittsburgh 1970” album was recorded in The Igloo. Here is the arena, since demolished, in all its domed glory.

Thank you so much for your time, friends! Have a great rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!!

Take care!


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25 Responses to Thursday, January 2, 2020

  1. RSP64 says:

    NYT – Ben, I think you accidentally left in the bowling reference from a previous puzzle review.

  2. David Glasser says:

    The final puzzle of last year was coconstructed by Andrea Carla Michaels but your general point sure stands.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    I think of “jake” as old slang – 1930s gangster movie slang, or something like that. I wouldn’t say it’s in common use these days.

    • huda says:

      Never heard of it until this puzzle. I guess I need to brush up on my gangster slang…

      • sanfranman59 says:

        FWIW, JAKE’s in 54 puzzles in the Cruciverb database. 31 times it’s been clued as some variant of today’s clue, most commonly “Hunky-dory” (12) or “Copacetic” (11). It’s tripped me up many times.

  4. GlennP says:

    Anyone know what’s wrong with the .puz version of the NYT? Third day in a row that I can’t download it from their puzzle page. I reported it on Tuesday but no response except an automated email.

  5. GlennP says:

    Anyone know what’s wrong with with the .puz version of the NYT? Third day in a row that I can’t download it from their puzzle page. I reported it on Tuesday but no response except for an automated email.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    This is the deadtree puzzle from Monday’s paper. Pretty decent execution, but I’m a Football Fan, not an American Football Fan; can’t watch the oblate spheroid game that +rarely uses a foot +is too slow +too violent +has too many opportunities for :30 commercials (just fer starters). UGH.

    First, this was pretty simple/straightforward for Th.
    Another semi-antiquated (1960-70’s) use of Jake – always meant the equivalence of ‘mail it in’ in sports. The coach would yell out “BONNER, YOU’RE JAKE-ING (v. to jake), step it up or you’ll run extra wind sprints!”

    Oh yay! Something I know about #StarWars. I really liked the use of a black space to represent the word Dark, but very easy to get quickly with a bottom up solve.

  7. Billy Boy says:

    Troubleshooting ALite led me back to Cruciverb and I Decided maybe I’ll do LAT puzzles again as well. Generally nice, clean, quick(er) puzzles … West Coast (esp. SoCal, duh) familiarity a definite help in solving. Felt very fast today v. typical NYT or even WSJ Thursdaysolve.

    Slight irony: BRAIN SURGEON is unlikely to leave one in stitches, skin staplers most commonly used on skin and sutures/stitches are often replaced by clips inside … but few will quibble.

  8. RunawayPancake says:

    Per BEQ – Check out Stella Zawistowski’s Tough as Nails. Puzzles in PDF and Across Lite.

  9. Brenda Rose says:

    Universal: this animal theme has been done to death & if I see it again, this non-bovine will have a cow.

  10. Jim Peredo says:

    “Ping! Ping! Pingggg! Ricochet Rabbit!”

  11. scrivener says:

    NYT: JAKE and RESORB were challenges for me. I didn’t handle ATV crossing AVE very well. Eventually got them all with a little bit of ABCDEing. Not my best Thursday. 20:00. :(

Comments are closed.