Thursday, January 9, 2020

BEQ 12:10 (Ade) 


LAT 4:48 (GRAB) 


NYT 13:09 (Ben) 


WSJ 10:27 (while eating lunch) (Jim P) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Tracy Gray’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Black Lights”—Jim P’s review

It’s great to see an offering from Tracy Gray in the WSJ, and it’s a pleasantly tricky one, no less. 53a is clued [Beachgoer’s protection, and a literal hint to four squares in this puzzle], and is answered by BLOCK. But really, the “block” (in other words, the black square) preceding that entry is a hidden rebus for the word SUN. We will find the same circumstance in three other squares in the grid.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Black Lights” · Tracy Gray · Thu., 1.9.20

  • 22a [Nickname of Louis XIV] & 23a THE (SUN) KING crossing 4d [Falls apart emotionally] & 27d COME(S UN)DONE
  • 24a [Brand of juice pouches] CAPRI (SUN) crossing 12d [Concedes defeat] & 30d CRIE(S UN)CLE
  • 53a (The revealer mentioned above) crossing 36d [Dandruff shampoo brand] & 58d SEL(SUN) BLUE
  • 55a [Credit-reporting agency] & 57a TRAN(S UN)ION crossing 35d [Scam victim’s complaint] & 61d THAT‘(S UN) FAIR

Of course, it took me a while to get a foothold since there seemed to be a whole lot wrong in that NW corner. When I left it alone and came upon CAPRI with its missing SUN that’s when I knew something was up.

It’s a nice touch that in each entry that is really two entries, the one after the SUN BLOCK is still a valid crossword entry. This helps disguise what’s going on and adds to the trickery.

I love this theme and its execution. It’s definitely one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” themes.

As you’d expect, the fill is strong with entries like WOOKIEES and HIJACKER (I guess enough time has passed). ENESCO feels like stale crosswordese, but EGO BOOST, JETSKI, and KODIAK are fun.

Clues of note:

  • 15a [Level at Lambeau]. TIER. I had TIED (as in a “level” score) for the longest time. The theme helped me sort this out.
  • 17a [Like Cotswolds]. OVINE. I know the Cotswolds in Britain, a rural, picturesque part of south central England, but I didn’t know the word also applied to a breed of sheep.
  • 26a [Silver wear?]. SADDLE. Tricksy. I was thinking of Nate Silver or Ron Silver, not the horse.
  • 34a [Stable environment?]. Another farm animal clue? Here it’s after a STALL.
  • 63a [Hit abruptly]. PLUNK. This was a tough one to see. I wanted SMACK. I think of PLUNK as meaning to set something down.

Lovely, tricky puzzle. 4.25 stars.

Alex Eaton-Salners’ New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 1/9/2020 – No. 0109

It’s another Alex Eaton-Salners Thursday NYT! It’s felt like he’s had a bunch lately – grids of a slightly trickier sort with a twist (like this one) seem to be his niche. This one has a LOT of theme stuff going on.

I kept running into errors while filling in the grid, since I kept using rebus squares to enter a bunch of Ts, but couldn’t figure out why the crossings looked so messy. Then I realized I had four big Ts staring at me in the grid. These take the place of the actual Ts in most (but not all) of the answers.

Here’s a big list of all the across entries making use of these T’s: A LOT, TRAIT, TIMS, JUNOT, TRIPLET, TREES, ID EST, TUGBOAT, TANGO, IN OT, TROUT, TROU, ASCOT, TRAPSET, TIMID, STOUT, TOP THAT, TRESS


Would no Ts in the grid other than the four big black square Ts have been a cool idea? Yes.

Would the fill needed to support that have been horrible? Also yes. I’ll take this a hundred times over even the notion of that hypothetical grid.

My one nit to pick here: The capital of Albania is TIRANA, not TIRANE!  I just got done watching Albania’s national music festival a few weeks ago.  It’s definitely TIRANA.  They mentioned TIRANA a bunch.

Happy Thursday!

Jeff Chen’s Fireball Crossword, “Car Restoration”–Jenni’s write-up

Either I’m missing something here, or the theme is not quite right. I might well be missing something. It’s been a lousy day and my brain is mush.

The grid starts off with some squares filled in.







This is odd. I started to solve without no idea what I would do with those squares. I figured they were part of the theme answers. I tried using them as rebus squares. That made no sense. Finally I just replaced them with the correct letters.

Fireball puzzle, January 8, 2020, Jeff Chen, “Car Restoration,” solution grid

  • 20a [Coiner of the term “unperson”] is GEORGE ORWELLCLC becomes GEO.
  • 27a [Royal cursed by a gift from Dionysus] is KING MIDASCV becomes GM.
  • 38a [“Land sakes!”] is JEEPERSIFFF becomes JEEP.
  • 46a [What all the N.L. Rookies of the Year from 1992 to 1996 were] is (are?) L A DODGERSLCLCL becomes DODGE.

So the letters become makes of cars, which matches the title. And, sure enough, there’s a revealer: 52a, [Browser tool appropriate for the letters already in the grid] which is AUTO COMPLETE. This is the part that doesn’t make sense to me. The letters in the grid don’t complete the name of a car; they are changed into the name of a car. Wouldn’t that be AUTO CORRECT? I was so sure of that answer that I entered it into the grid and of course it didn’t work. So enlighten me. What am I missing? Is there some significance to the replaced strings of letters?

A few other things:

  • 1a [Round square] is ZERO. It’s round, and it’s a square (0x0 = 0).
  • 11d [Hand-to-hand combat locales?] is a great clue for POKER TABLES.
  • 15a [Person who might give you flat bread?] is a ROOMIE.
  • What I know because I’m married to a geologist: 44d [Like granite] is IGNEOUS.
  • 57a [Expressed displeasure] is HOOTED, not HISSED.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Dionysus gave KING MIDAS his golden touch.

Christopher Adams’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times
20 01 09

Thank you for our queer dean Amy for helping me out due to poor planning yesterday.

Today’s puzzle is extra tall, and features a very busy list theme with a two-part revealer, as well as left-right symmetry. The list is plays with an EXCLAMATIONMARK at the end, making that mark a SHOWSTOPPER. It’s a clever piece of word play, though it does make for a rather crowded theme. The four plays selected are OHCALCUTTA, MAMMAMIA, OKLAHOMA and HELLODOLLY. I wonder if anyone will ever make a SCARYSPICE! Broadway revue? It has more oomph than PHYSICISTS! at least.

The grid’s crowded nature has some rough-around-the-edges spots. PADMA crossing a tough MOTO clue may fox some. AVILA and SION are also handy names to keep in your crossword-solving back pocket. With all that, I’m surprised XCI wasn’t edited out of the grid. That’s one area where there is not that much going on, so a RRN seems a touch odd.


Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1225), “Tossing Back a Few Beers”—Ade’s take

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword solution, No. 1225: “Tossing Back a Few Beers”

Good afternoon, good people! Hope you’re doing well and staying warm today! Just finished today’s NYT before coming here, which was a T-rip!

After doing that puzzle, one might need to have a beer or two to relax! Fortunately, BEQ is ready to serve you some cold ones for you to imbibe. There are five theme entries that all contain at least one grouping of circles and, when spelled out, are all types of beer…but spelled backwards!

  • RETRO POP (17A: [Music genre that evokes an earlier time]) – Porter
  • BLACK COBRA (25A: [Deadly African snake]) – Bock
  • THE LAY OF THE LAND (36A: [Where things stand today]) – Double-fisting with an Ale
  • GUINEA PIGS (46A: [Test cases?]) – IPA. My personal favorite.
  • REGALING (59A: [Entertaining lavishly]) – Lager

The crossings definitely helped me out in solving GYOZA, as I was at a complete loss after inserting the “Z” in GAZA (43A: [Strip of the Mediterranean]) and trying to figure out the name of the specific delicacy (31D: [Japanese dumplings]). This might be a case of trying food that I officially first come across via solving a crossword. Outside of gyoza, no real hang-ups when solving today. Rare sighting to see the full name of NIELS BOHR in the grid, but that was a nice touch to add (2D: [Danish quantum theory physicist]). Major props for the clue to NAS, as I’ve listened to the song mentioned in the clue countless of times — the song came out before Nas became big as a solo artist — and always marveled at one of the must underrated hip hop groups of all time, Main Source (32A: [“Live at the Barbecue” rapper]).  I would leave you with the song embedded below, but I’m using a shared computer at the moment that won’t play YouTube clips nor let me access the embed code. It’s like that, y’all..(That last line is also the refrain/chorus in “Live at the Barbecue,” by the way.)

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ASH (60D: [Brick oven residue]) – No woman had a better 2019 in tennis than Australia’s Ashleigh “Ash” Barty, who won her first grand slam singles title at Roland Garros in the spring and then capped off her year by winning the championship at the WTA Tour Finals event in Shenzen, China. And to think, just six years ago, Ash quit the sport of tennis to become a professional cricketer. In 2014, after a stellar junior career which saw her win the girls’ singles title in 2011 and, while a professional, reach three grand slam finals events in doubles, she left the sport and became a cricket player in the top women’s cricket league in Australia. Barty came back to tennis in 2016 and has shot up the women’s rankings since, and her win at the French Open saw her lose only two sets in those seven matches.

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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34 Responses to Thursday, January 9, 2020

  1. Glickstein says:

    So much fun, this one!

  2. Krye "Mik" Bajrak says:

    The linked Eurovision clip you provided was a lovely modern rendition of our Albanian hill folk standard that celebrates our cultural exports: track suits, asphalt, cement, construction materials, and tobacco. Faleminderit!

  3. Ch says:

    NYT – was the most fun Thursday in a while!

  4. Drew says:

    +1 for not getting the Fireball theme. Can anyone shed some light?

    • Paul Coulter says:

      I think it’s that you “complete” the given letters (when solving on paper) with strokes of your pen. Which works for C to G, F to E, etc., a little less so for L to E or V to M (which take two strokes) and not so much for I to J or C to O or L to D (which take curved strokes, and could just as well wind up as several other letters.) Overall, I thought it was a very creative idea, but it needed more consistency.

      • Norm says:

        And completely irrelevant to solving the puzzle.

      • Jenni Levy says:

        Oh. Ok. {shrug}

      • John says:

        Thanks for the explanation. If I had solved this on paper, perhaps I would have given it some thought and figured it out because I was forced to. I solved within the app and just deleted all the stray letters in one fell swoop once I completed a section that proved you didn’t need them. Didn’t think about the puzzle title; sometimes ignorance is bliss.

      • Drew says:

        Ahhhh, I get it. But… Don’t love it. Agree that it would be easier to pick up on if doing on paper. I use the iOS Crossword app and it too had nothing prepopulated, so I only checked the PDF after I was done. Oh well. On to the next one.

  5. David L says:

    Not a fan of the NYT. The trick was ingenious but too much of the fill was iffy: PRERIGS, HOISTER, BROODER, SUDSES, PCHELP. Plus lots of proper names of varying obscurity: TOULON and SOCORRO are not exactly major burgs.

    As a long-time editor, I think my task is to unmince words, not MINCE them.

    ETA: Also, dupe on PRERIGS and PRELUDE. “Make like” sounds too forceful to be ENDEARing.

    • pseudonym says:

      Fair point, but the gimmick is so good it overshadows any iffy fill IMO. Then again, and as I alluded to below, I can see peeps objecting to the trick. I never look at the grid as a whole myself.

  6. davey says:

    surprised TIRANE was not caught somewhere along the line.

  7. MattF says:

    Took quite a while to get the NYT trick, but I did get it, eventually. Funny thing— I get the dead wood version of the paper, and when I saw the big ‘T’s on the page with the puzzle, I immediately thought ‘that’s interesting’. But when I actually solved the puzzle with the NYT app, I didn’t ‘see’ the big hint until I was well into solving.

  8. Robert Kurzmann says:

    Re: Today’s WSJ puzzle. Doesn’t the Selective Service classification system follows the pattern of the number first and the letter second? Such as One-A and Four-F? Therefore 27D should correctly be One-D and not D-One.

  9. JohnH says:

    I found the WSJ really hard, what with Cotswalds, WOOKIEES, ALVIN, and ENESCO all in a cluster, plus (new to me) TRANSUNION, SELSUN BLUE, and CAPRI SUN just among the theme answers. Nice enough puzzle, though. (Note that Nate never did deliver a review of the Tuesday WSJ.)

    In a theme like this one (very similar to another in the last week), part of me wants to object that it’s inconsistent, since not every black square means something. But I realize that’s foolish and an unfair demand.

  10. arthur118 says:

    Ben says TIRANA; Alex says TIRANE.

    Encyclopedia Britannica says, “as you wish”.

    • davey says:

      this has me confused. britannica says it’s “tiranë” in albanian, but the albanian wikipedia just calls it tirana! maybe a grammatical case issue.

    • JohnH says:

      MW11C has Tirane with Tirana a “variant.” RHUD has Tirane with Tirana the Italian spelling. Wikipedia has Tirana, with no mention of Tirane but with a very brief separate entry for Tirane that links to its page for Tirana. NOAA has a page on its weather, with the spelling Tirane. (In all this, I omit the accent because I can’t enter it and, more important, because puzzles don’t worry about them. Think of all the virtual ink wasted in forums on the entry ANO.) In sum, hard to fault a puzzle for whatever choice it makes.

      • JohnH says:

        I should have added that most publishers, no doubt including the Times, use MW11C as the basis of their style sheets. So another reason not to criticize the puzzle.

  11. Billy Boy says:

    Yes, TIRAN(E)A was an error, but boy that was tough. Agree, given the trick the fill was obscure (too obscure?) at times. Kept wondering how the + fit in, but determined it was cosmetic in the end. The graphics of the grid jumped out at me first thing and I figured something was up. Glad I did this after the WSJ which was tough/frustrating on its own for me.

    (WSJ) The south-central block wasn’t coming to me and sitting with my coffee, I kept getting random interruptions and got frustrated with RANGE and TINGE just not coming into view.

    Tough morning for me. Not sure what to give NYT 5 for clever 2 for obscure fill in such a trick-state. Hmmmm

  12. pseudonym says:

    I can see why some would disagree, and forcefully, but the NYT is the best gimmick puzzle in memory. An easy 5 stars.

  13. PJ says:

    NYT – It was fine but not my favorite. Once I figured out the mechanism it was fun for a couple of entries. Also, I wanted the plus sign in the middle to be utilized.

    WSJ – I finished in 10:31 while drinking coffee. More fun solving than NYT.

    FB – I didn’t see the theme and spent some time trying. I enjoyed solving it and when I learned what was going on I was even more impressed. Nice job!

  14. Alan D. says:

    Hooray for the 41-down clue in the NYT! As an Armenian I wish more people knew this fact.

    • Amy L says:

      I figured out the answer because I know that some of the oldest churches in the world are in that general area, so the answer made sense.

  15. sanfranman59 says:

    Point of order … It would be very helpful to readers (this one, anyway) if folks precede their commentary with at least an abbreviation for the puzzle you’re commenting about. I like to read the comments here after I complete each of my dailies, but prefer to avoid spoilers.

    NYT: In spite of a real struggle, I loved, loved, loved this puzzle. AE-S has rather quickly established himself as one of my favorite constructors among the new breed. He’s both creative and prolific with 70+ puzzles that I know of over the past three years or so. I know it’s only January, but I’ll go ahead give this one an early nomination for Puzzle of the Year.

  16. DRC says:

    WSJ Isaac is Esau’s FATHER not brother

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