Thursday, January 23, 2020

BEQ tk (Ade) 


LAT 5:20 (GRAB) 


NYT 10:25 (Ben) 


WSJ 7:41 (Jim P) 


Universal 6:21 (Jim Q) 


Fireball 6:35 (Jenni) 


Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wild Pitches”—Jim P’s review

Two things slowed me down with this puzzle. One, not being on the right wavelength for many of the clues. And two, the aroma of my lunch which was sitting right in front of me waiting to be eaten. I fought through the first and well, caved in to the second a little bit, but I got there in the end.

Paul Coulter brings us a bending theme which features four two-word phrases whose second words can all be synonyms for “plunge.” These second words are turned in the Down direction and are all clued [Goes down]. The revealer is in the middle at 42a [Acting after much hesitation, and a hint to four answers in this puzzle]: TAKING THE PLUNGE.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Wild Pitches” · Paul Coulter · Thu., 1.23.20

  • 1a [Crumbling sections of glaciers] w/4d ICE (F)ALLS. I wasn’t familiar with this term and wanted ICE FLOES. But it checks out. Wikipedia says an icefall is a slow motion waterfall.
  • 8a [Tart treats] w/13d LEMON (D)ROPS
  • 52a [“Everything but” items] w/55d KITCHEN (S)INKS
  • 56a [Evasive sub maneuvers] w/60d CRASH (D)IVES. Again, I wasn’t familiar with a “crash” dive, but again, it checks out.

Nicely executed theme. There’s a lot of material here taking up a bunch of real estate. This makes for heavy constraints on the constructor, but in this case, everything is handled well and flows (haha) smoothly with only a couple scowly entries. We get bonus lively long Across answers PLUM TOMATO and TURBULENCE, however the marquee answers in the Down direction, MOROSELY and DETAINEE, are, well, Downers (haha) to a degree.

I liked seeing TELLER clued as [Penn pal] and ANCHOR which goes along with the submarine clue. I’m not so keen on old crosswordese AYLA [Auel heroine]; I thought constructors had left this author and character behind, but I’ve seen both now recently. The other deep cut was INO [Theban queen who was the aunt of Dionysus]. Yikes.

The other thing that puzzled me was the title. Is there a definition of “pitch” that’s similar to “plunge”? The closest I can figure is using the definition of swaying (especially aboard a ship), but I don’t quite see how that’s the same. I’m happy to hear comments on this from the solving public.

There’s not much in the clues that I particularly noted, so I will leave it there. Nicely executed bending theme. 3.8 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 134”–Jenni’s write-up

Peter Emailed me to say he’d really like to publish more crosswords by women after I mentioned that he hasn’t. I suggested he get in touch with some of the (male) editors and indie puzzlemasters who have managed to actually publish more crosswords by women. No idea if he’s actually done that. He asked me to pass on the link to his spec sheet and told me that he has provisions for assessing submissions blindly to reduce the risk of of bias.

Peter’s spec sheet says “the puzzles are hard.” Not this one, even for my jet-lagged brain. There are some fun entries and I enjoyed solving it nonetheless.

Fireball crossword, January 22, 2020, Peter Gordon, “Themeless #134,” solution grid

  • 2d [Square with no right angles] is NINE. The numeral is all curves, no right angles.
  • 15a [Austin feature] is a BIONIC ARM. That would be Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man. “We have the technology….” I remember the show fondly, and looking at the intro again raises all sorts of ethical questions about consent. Still a great clue.
  • 16a [Gray, e.g.] is an ODIST. Icky word for “poet” with a tricky clue.
  • 34a [Close relative of Othello] is REVERSI. The game, not Shakespear’s Moor.
  • 50a [They’re loaded with blanks] are MAD LIBS.
  • 57a [He has a lot of stitches on his face] is MR MET. That made me giggle.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there was a 2010 horror film called INSIDIOUS, and that DIRTY HARRY carried badge number 2211.

Barbara Lin’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 1/23/2020 – No. 0123

I couldn’t immediately catch what was going on with Barbara Lin’s puzzle today, but I was pleasantly surprised once I did :

  • 20A: Proudly dresses like Bill Nye or Pee-wee Herman? — ROCKS THE BOWTIE
  • 31A: Mideast diplomat’s request, when itching to be challenged? — GIMME A SINAI
  • 35A: Premier internet connection? — THE GOOD WIFI
  • 50A: Liberate Louis XIV’s palace? — FREE VERSAILLES
  • 59A: Vote heard on the floor…and at the end of 20A, 31A, 35A, and 50A? — AYE

It’s a bit of an anticlimactic revealer, but four common-ish phrases have had a phonetic “I” sound added to their end – we’ve got ROCKS THE BOAT, GIMME A SIGN, THE GOOD WIFE, and FREE VERSE getting modified.

Elsewhere in the grid:

  • OCULAR!  What a wonderful word.  Also great were YURT, T REXES, EYE EXAM, TURBINE, and DRIED UP
  • I was very confident the “Half of a 1960s folk-rock group” being looked for was SONNY Bono.  Nope!  The MAMAs and Papas was the group in question.
  • “Locale for Ernst and Young” as a clue for SENATE was great — that’d be Joni Ernst and Todd Young.

Happy Thursday!


Adam Vincent’s Universal crossword, “Take It to the Rim”—Jim Q’s review


Another Universal where the grid is circle-dependent. And of course, Universal cannot support circles in its grids, so instead, the casual solver is asked to count letters. Seasoned solvers may find their way over to this site and download the .puz file, where David has graciously included circles. But 99.99% of solvers are left without the visual and are tasked with counting. What’s more ridiculous is that I’m willing to bet that Universal runs far more “circle dependent” grids than any other publication. That’s what it feels like anyway.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · Adam Vincent · “Take It to the Rime” · Thurs., 01.23.20

THEME: The word LIME is “twisted” in common phrases.


  • 15A [Face protectors for net protectors] GOALIE MASKS.
  • 27A [Escape room feature] TIME LIMIT.  
  • 43A [Iron filler at brunch] WAFFLE MIX. Is that in-language? “Pancake mix” is, for sure, but waffle mix? I dunno.
  • 10D [Nondairy grain drink] RICE MILK. 
  • 34D [Poker request] DEAL ME IN. 
  • 58A [Tart garnish for a drink, or a hint to the circled letters] TWIST OF LIME. 

Okay, so advocating for the novice/casual solver, I’m not a big fan of this grid. I know from coaching novices through crosswords that this one in particular would be frustrating. For a few reasons.

  1. The aforementioned circle complaint. If themes are circle dependent, and you are unable to circle the letters, then the theme shouldn’t be run. Veteran solvers may shrug it off, but the experience is ruined for novice and casual solvers. I’ve seen it. The visual aid is important.
  2. It felt like the fill in this one has a lot of crosswordese to wade through. WIGHT, EDM, COS, GMAT, ANEW, AGORA, EOS, SO IT, EHOW, EWW, PFFT, PR FIRM, LO RES, FWIW, OFFS. Maybe not the worst stuff, but coupled with some Trivia Dependent clues (like [Civil rights leader John] or [City southeast of Merced]) it really requires crossword muscles that already need some definition to them. It overshadowed good stuff like DEAL ME IN, SEXISTS, MAFIA DON and LIVE SET.
  3. The revealer. It’s weak. As a bartender with 20 years of experience under my belt, TWIST OF LIME isn’t really a thing. If someone requests a twist (referring to a section of the fruit’s rind), it’s lemon. 100% of the time. If you google “TWIST OF LIME” in quotes, you’ll have to sort through some pages before it’s referenced as a garnish of sorts. So again, from a novice’s POV, if you managed to do all that work- plowing through the crosswordese, counting letters in the themes, and then your payoff is a revealer that feels wonky, why would you want to keep doing crosswords?

2.4 Stars from me with circles.

0.5 Stars without.

Bruce Haight’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s 16-square tall puzzle features more words hidden in long phrases. Today features different words, tied together by RAISEMONEY. I think circles were used to reduce the difficulty in seeing the pattern. In any case, they spell PESO, RUBLE, LIRA, BAHT and YEN; with the last found in the revealer for a cute bonus.

Favourite answers: DADTOBE, XGAMES, DAIQUIRI and KAMPALA. If you’re going to use a K, Q and X, use them for answers like that! Also fond of SAGINAW for some reason, though I know it only from S&G’s America.


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21 Responses to Thursday, January 23, 2020

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I can’t decide whether the endings all sound the same… VERSAILLES and WIFI? Do they, to a native speaker? And how about the start– does VERSE and VER(SAILLES) begin with the same sound (I pronounce the palace as if it started with vair, rhyming with hair)
    My favorite is ROCK THE BOWTIE, because both expressions (with the Boat and the Bowtie) make sense.

    • Martin says:


      A native speaker of what language? Your pronunciation of Versailles is correct in French, and my preferred pronunciation in English too. But “verse-eye” is an acceptable English pronunciation. It grates, I know, but it’s legit.

      The last syllables of Versailles and wifi sound the same to me. Can you describe how you hear them differently?

      • huda says:

        Thanks for the feedback, Martin. I did mean an English native speaker. As to the ending, it’s a matter of how long I dwell on the sound. For Wifi, the ending sound is light and short, for Versailles it’s longer and has more of a ripple to it– sorry hard to render in writing… but the response from Billy Boy is also informative.
        So I think I got my answer, that this likely sounds fine to most solvers.

  2. Barry J Miller says:

    Pitch as in pitch overboard?

    • placematfan says:

      Isn’t it just that the four non-revealer themers are wild pitches, thus at the end of the pitch they do what a baseball would do at the end of a wild pitch?

    • Lise says:

      I second this one. Pitching items overboard, or pitching unwanted household items. Gravity would be involved ?

  3. Billy Boy says:

    WSJ was indeed a nice theme and execution with each drop/fall/plunge a legitimate answer. Dreaded OREO appears (Near the center!), but that’s OK with such an otherwise super puzzle.

    NYT? at least there’s no OREO but little else to recommend.

    As to VERSAILLES – which syllable does the “S” go with and which is stressed
    en Francais: vuhr-SIGH/vehr-SIGH
    || VUHR-sigh || VAIRS-eye || vairs-EYE, etc

    aye-yai-yai!! whatever, it’s close, unlike the overall puzzle masquerading as a Thursday. Not being a timer, I can only say that I flew through this like Tuesday, way faster than the WSJ where I did have wavelength problems at the start as well.

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal: @Jim Q … Just download the .puz file right from CrosswordFiend’s Today’s Puzzles page. It includes the circles in Uni grids.

    That said, I have to agree with Jim’s review. This puzzle definitely wasn’t my cuppa.

    NICOLE {26D: “Nailed It!” host Byer} crossing COS {36A: What might help you get a tan?} … The only thing I recognize in the former is “host”. “Reality bake-off shows” aren’t my thing.
    – I had no idea what COS was until thinking about it (a lot) post-solve… trigonometry … tan = tangent, cos = cosine … Ugh.
    – My other WTF moment was with LORES {48D: Like a grainy pic}. Once I typed it out in my notes post-solve, I saw that it should be parsed as LO RES. Ugh, again.
    – Plus, anagrams and circles in the grid … not a fan.

    • Jim Q says:


      As I thought I clearly stated in the review, I am very well aware a .puz file exists and can be found through this site. However, the vast majority of solvers are unaware of that. And they’re treated to themes that require circles but don’t have them constantly.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Sorry … I misread your review. I thought you said that solvers could go to some other page where David makes the .puz files available. My bad. At any rate, it’s nice that the Universal circles are at least available.

  5. NonnieL says:

    Fireball: Very cool seed entries found by Peter: INSIDIOUS and INSIDE OUT. Two very different movies whose titles differ by only two letters.

    • WhiskyBill says:

      Nice catch! I’d missed that.

    • David Glasser says:

      I filled in the two different letters in 1A last in that entry (I hadn’t heard of the answer), and before doing it thought “huh, were there maybe two movies both named INSIDE OUT?

      Then after correctly filling that entry I thought “Wait, this is a Peter Gordon themeless, I bet I know what the symmetrical entry is”.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ: Is there a more prolific constructor around now than Paul Coulter? In 2019, he published 60 puzzles(!) in the sources that comprise the Cruciverb database and 12 of them were large grids. He’s slacking off a little this month with this being “only” his third so far. I thought Jim P’s review was spot-on.

  7. scrivener says:

    The NYT was a much nicer solve today than Tuesday or Wednesday, even if it took me 19 minutes to get it done. What a nice time I had this morning. I’m still reeling from Tuesday’s FOOFARAW and Wednesday’s ET SEQ.

  8. Mike says:

    NYT 27A interesting bit of trivia; when we started the Canadian version of the American Association of Retired People (AARP) we naturally called it the Canadian Association of Retired People without realizing the impact of the acronym. We are now an association of old people who like to bitch.

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