Thursday, January 30, 2020

BEQ 13:07 (Ade) 


LAT 4:32 (GRAB) 


NYT 6:57 (Ben) 


WSJ 10:31 (Jim P) 


Universal 3:50 (Jim Q) 


This week’s Fireball is a contest puzzle. We will publish a review after the deadline.

Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Get in Shape”—Jim P’s review

DIAMONDHEAD (38a, [Hawaiian landmark, and a hint to the circled letters]) is our revealer today and tells us that the circled letters (in diamond shapes) spell out words or names that can precede “diamond.”

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Get in Shape” · Alan Arbesfeld · Thu., 1.30.20

  • NEIL Diamond. Famous singer/songwriter.
  • BASEBALL diamond. Where “America’s pastime” is played.
  • HOPE Diamond. Large, possibly cursed, blue diamond.
  • LEGS Diamond. Early 20th-century gangster. The name is familiar to me, maybe because I’ve seen it before in crosswords.
  • KOH-I-NOOR Diamond. One of the world’s largest diamonds and part of the British Crown Jewels. The last time part of this name appeared in a crossword (either KOH or NOOR), I was surprised at the number of solvers who didn’t know it. Definitely one to tuck away in your memory banks.
  • ROSE diamond. This one I don’t know. Is it referring to an actual named diamond, a category of diamonds, or to a person? Wikipedia lists a “Premier Rose Diamond.” And I can find plenty of information about “rose-cut diamonds.” And there are numerous obituaries for people name Rose Diamond though none of them seem to be famous. If those are the choices, this one doesn’t seem to work.

Despite that last one, I like the theme, although I feel like I’ve seen something similar recently, within the last year or so. Can’t seem to find it… Oh wait! Here it is: a Nov 7, 2019, NYT puzzle by Joe DiPietro. No wonder it was familiar, I blogged it that day.

Both puzzles have essentially the same idea. Both have BASEBALL, HOPE, LEGS, and NEIL. I like KOH-I-NOOR in this one which doesn’t appear at all in the other one, but I think FAUX (in the other one) sounds better than ROSE to my ear. They have slightly different layouts; I like the large central BASEBALL diamond in the other one, but I like the fact that the words read clockwise in this one.

Moving on to the solve in general, I feel like I struggled quite a bit here, getting bogged down by trivia and ambiguous clues at times. It threatened to turn into a slog, but I was always able to find something to give me little toeholds here and there to get me to the end.

The long fill is quite nice with ALTO SAX, “NO I WON’T!,” TEN-SIDED (referring to a decagon), PAY RAISES, DOOBIE, X-TERRA, BANNOCK (Scottish flatbread which I must have picked up somewhere), DOMINOES, “TOO SOON?,” and RED VELVET.

Not so keen on these: Proper name crossing of LETTS and O’LEARY (also LETTS and ALDO), name-I’ve-seen-before-but-will-quickly-forget-again Ansel ELGORT, OWS stacked on SOI stacked on weird partial AND BY, and lastly ORT, AORB, and RHE (Runs/Hits/Errors).

Clues of note:

  • 1a [Cash on hand?]. ANTE. It’s more like cash “for” hand, isn’t it?
  • 5a [Tony’s cousin]. OBIE. Good misdirection. Not a person, but an award.
  • 41a [Explosive oil]. I was hesitating to put in NITRO because I had no idea it was an oil.

Let’s do the men vs. women test because it feels pretty off-balance today. For the guys: Marcus LOEW, Sundance Kid in a clue, NE-YO, playwright Tracy LETTS, CAPO the crime boss, [Mocha man] the YEMENI, Ansel ELGORT, Ben Mankiewicz (who?) in a clue, Cubbie KYLE Hendricks, TV’s APU, Casablanca‘s Rick in a clue, ALTO SAX player Johnny Hodges, TV’s Kevin O’LEARY, ALDO Gucci, fictional Mr. MIYAGI, Jean-Paul Sartre in a clue, and finally Burt LAHR (along with Bolger and Haley in the clue). For the women: ILSA clued with respect to Rick, one EWE, and Judy Garland in the LAHR clue. Wow, that’s really bad: 17 to 3. A little more balance would be appreciated. If you don’t have it in the fill, make some effort in the clues to be more inclusive.

Bottom line: Strong theme and good long fill countered by some stale short fill, a lot of trivia in the clues, and a male-centric approach. 3.5 stars.

Emily Carroll’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 1/30/2020 – No. 0130

This Thursday’s NYT attempts to PLAY HIDE AND SEEK (40A, “Participate in a common children’s game, as illustrated in this puzzle”).  We’ve got IT and ME in the upper left and lower right corners:

  • 1A: High-profile pair — (IT) COUPLE
  • 1D: “Whatever pays the bills” — (IT)’S A JOB
  • 74A: Classic Bill Withers song — LEAN ON (ME)
  • 55D: Shout before entering a gunfight — COVER (ME)

and a trail throughout the puzzle as IT gets closer to ME:

  • 18A: It may bring one back to reality — (COLD) SHOWER
  • 8D: Disappear, as a trail — GO (COLD)
  • 35A: “Don’t freak out” — BE (COOL)
  • 36D: “Gangsta’s Paradise” rapper — (COOL)IO
  • 61A: Practice before a game — (WARM) UP
  • 61D: Grows fond of — (WARM)S TO
  • 62A: Crazy popular, as a product — RED (HOT)
  • 63D: Traditional remedy for a sore throat — (HOT) TEA

It’s cute, even if it’s not really the way I think of hide and seek working – if you’ve hidden an item for someone to find, you can guide them that way, but if everyone’s hiding, who’s saying when they’re warm or not?

Elsewhere in the grid:

  • I’m counting the appearance of ELEANOR and ARIZONA on a Thursday as a subtle nod to tonight’s series finale of The Good Place.  Bortles!
  • I disagree with 52A’s assessment that “most stand-up comedy” is NON-PC these days.  Most standup comedy these days (at least amongst the current crop of high-profile Netflix specials) are white dudes complaining that everyone is too “PC” during the special which they were paid multiple millions of dollars by Netflix to do, completely ignoring the work of John Mulaney, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia, Maria Bamford, and the many other comedians who have found a way to still be topical and funny without resorting to jokes that are really just racist/sexist/transphobic/offensive comments wearing a joke hat.

Happy Thursday!


Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1231), “Et Tu?”—Ade’s take

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword, No. 1231: “Et tu?”

Good morning, everyone! Apologies for being unaccounted for in this space last week, so definitely want to make up for some lost time.

Today’s puzzle could have also been interpreted as an alien invasion to go along with the actual play-on-words in the title. The puns created in each of the four answers are formed when adding the letters “ET” to the end of both of the words of the original phrase.

  • TICKET MARKET (19A: [StubHub?]) – Tick mark. Check!
  • PICKET LOCKET (27A: [Jewelry worn by a demonstrator?]) – Pick lock.
  • BULLET HORNET (42A: [Wasp that’s fast as lightning?]) – Bull horn.
  • ROCKET WALLET (49A: [Where James Harden keeps his money?]) – Rock wall. For those not sports inclined, James Harden is the star basketball player (and former NBA Most Valuable Player Award winner) who currently plies his trade with the Houston Rockets.

Pretty fun solve, especially since a couple of entries hit on a couple of topics close to my heart: Nigerian music, with FELA (41D: [Bandleader Kuti]) and Looney Tunes, with the entry of PORKY PIG (4D: [Toon with a stutter]). Like to get to know something new, and that was the case with BETEL NUT (38D: [Fruit of an Asiatic palm tree]). I am familiar with the Apple Stylus, so putting in STYLI didn’t throw me off too much, even though I don’t think I’ve ever seen the plural form of the word before today’s solve (22A: [Apple Pencils, e.g.]). Though I reside in the middle of KNISH central, I have never actively gone out to buy one for myself and usually come across them when co-workers bring extras and I’m in the right place at the right time to pluck one (28D: [Stuffed turnover]). Besides, I’m more of a beignet type of person with my fried dough preference!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BOZ (11D: [Guitarist Skaggs]) – One of the great defensive players in the history of college football — and one of the biggest hypes/busts in the National Football League — was former University of Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth, nicknamed The Boz. Bosworth was a tackling machine while playing linebacker for the Sooners, helping lead the school to a National Championship in the 1985 season. In part to market himself more, Bosworth created a larger-than-life, bandanna-wearing, mohawk-sporting persona called “The Boz,” which turned him into a polarizing figure nationally. Bosworth was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 1987, but injuries — and an embarrassing moment at the goal-line at the hands of L.A. Raiders running back Bo Jackson on Monday Night Football — ended his pro career after just three seasons.

Thank you so much for your time, friends! Have a great rest of your Thursday, and hope you have a good weekend coming up!

Take care!


Evan Kalish’s Universal crossword, “Bye Tickets”—Jim Q’s review

Another puzzle marred for the novice/beginner because Universal cannot employ circles in its grids. For the life of me, I cannot understand the rationale behind the refusal to update the technology in the applet and in print editions to include the very basic concept of circling letters in the grid (Universal very frequently runs puzzles that would be better served with circles).

Ironically, Andrews McMeel’s website claims that it “…sets the standard for all daily crosswords.” If that’s true, then why are all other major publications willing to include circles in their puzzles? If omitting them is the “standard” then shouldn’t they all follow suit?


THEME: International versions of “Goodbye!” are hidden in theme answers.


  • 20A [Symptom of ghosting (Spain)] RADIO SILENCE. Funny enough, ghosting

    Universal crossword solution · Evan Kalish · “Bye Tickets” · Thur., 01.30.20

    is another way of saying ADIOS! How meta.

  • 27A [Sweet citrus (Italy)] VALENCIA ORANGE. 
  • 43A [Keeper of order on Capitol Hill (England)] SERGEANT AT ARMS.
  • 48A [Band’s final concert series, and what this puzzle’s theme answers constitute?] FAREWELL TOUR. 

Not the grandest tour in the world, going from Spain to Italy to England, but it works!

Evan is publishing a heck of a lot of puzzles lately, and I’ve gotten to know his work quite well. He is painstakingly meticulous when filling and always makes sure his concepts/executions are clear and consistent. While this may not be his most clever theme, it certainly fits that bill.

Liked the meta-clue on 8D [Answer that was also in yesterday’s puzzle, fittingly] SAME. Made me smile even though I didn’t do yesterday’s puzzle.

My most amusing error was filling in TORTE instead of FORTE for [Strong suit]. I mean, it sounds correct, right? A TORT could be a strong lawsuit. But I doubt a TORTE can do anything other than taste delicious.

Thanks, Evan.

3.5 Stars with circles.

1.5 without.

Dan Margolis’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

This is one of the best realised LA Times themes I have solved in a while. The clues are all spoken phrases beginning with “That’s…” and the rest as used as a clue for some unexpected answers. POWDEREDSUGAR is […fine]; THEHUMANRACE is […all folks]; a PENCILERASER is […not the point]; and […rich] is CHOCOLATECAKE. My favourites were the middle two which require more intricate wordplay to work.

Is it a rule that ACAI clues have to echo their sellers’ hype? Also note: new ANA found in the clue [“Knives Out” Golden Globe nominee de Armas]. Curious how many people still use an [MP3 player], IPOD and not just their phone.



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34 Responses to Thursday, January 30, 2020

  1. scrivener says:

    NYT was very clever and fun.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: re NON PC– I’m in LA staying at a hotel close to the Comedy Store… trying to decide whether to go there… This discussion about comedy makes me think I should go check it out.
    Their sign, below “Comedy Store” reads : “RIP Kobe & Gigi”
    I’ve seen that on city buses around town, as well.

    • Chip says:

      Interesting comment on stand-up and interesting NYT article yesterday ,,, I think yesterday … on audience interaction and it’s incidence in modern stand-up ,.. the point being that Netflix specials tend to stay away from audience interaction … omitting what some comics maintain is a traditional … meaning important … aspect of stand-up.

    • Ethan says:

      I say go for it, Huda. You can always leave if the comedian is hacky and offensive.

      At the risk of kicking up a hornet’s nest here, I find the idea that John Mulaney’s or Maria Bamford’s comedy is “PC” to be pretty amusing. Bamford’s most well-known album thoroughly mocks religion (it’s actually called “Ask Me About My New God!”) and ends with a (very funny) joke involving a disabled victim of the Darfur genocide. Mulaney’s latest special has an extended (also very funny) joke about the Catholic Church. Am I offended by these jokes? Not at all. But they are not “PC” in the sense that politicians would be nervous around them.

      Whenever UNPC or NONPC come up as entries, both this blog and The Other Guy’s Crossword Blog are quick to draw a binary that says that “un-PC” really just means “racist, sexist, or homophobic” and “PC” means not those things. But there are plenty of putatively anti-racist things one could say that would not be PC. For example, “I don’t support the troops. Why should I support people who volunteer to help an imperialist power bomb brown countries?” Or perhaps, “The Constitution was written by slaveowning patriarchs. Set it on fire.” Am I offended by either of those opinions? No, not really, but they are not PC in the sense that all American politicians would run screaming from them, as even far-left candidates are supposed to say platitudes about loving the troops and Constitution.

      Ultimately, the only side I’m on here is the pro-constructor side, because until better options come along for U_ _ C or _ N P _ or _ _ P C , UNPC isn’t likely to go away.

      • pannonica says:

        I don’t believe the ‘politically’ in ‘politically correct’ refers exclusively or even primarily to formal or capital-P politics, and this in my opinion is part of the confusion.

        politics 5a: the total complex of relations between people living in society

        • Ethan says:

          That’s a fair point, pannonica. Maybe I’m looking at it too much from that lens. I still think my examples hold up, though, as statements that would strain “relations between people living in society.” And it’s simplistic thinking to say that Mulaney and Bamford are examples of “PC comics” simply because they don’t say racist and sexist things.

          Not that the clue in today’s NYT is especially good, though.

        • Noam D. Elkies says:

          In the print edition — and, I see, also on xwordinfo — 52A:NONPC is clued as “Like much stand-up comedy”, not most. That seems more plausible. (FWIW the terms “politically correct” and “politically incorrect” were originally ill-advised coinages from the liberal side of American politics.)

  3. Constant Malachi says:

    How many times is Arbesfeld going to lift an exact theme and theme answers until people start getting loud about it?

    • Jim Peredo says:

      While I’m not the biggest Arbesfeld fan, I find it very unlikely that he stole the idea. He’s a long-time constructor, and constructors tend to think along the same lines. So it’s not surprising to me that two different people hit upon the idea of placing “diamond” words in the shapes of diamonds. There aren’t that many of those, so they naturally picked the same ones.

      The process of getting a puzzle published is a long one, relatively speaking. From creation to submission to acceptance to publication, we’re talking a span of several months usually, if not longer. I expect both puzzles were in their respective pipelines for a while.

      • Constant Malachi says:

        You’re probably right, although WSJ can accept and publish puzzles in under two months. I bring it up more because there are multiple prior instances of Arbesfeld publishing puzzles with the same theme and an identical set of theme answers, word for word. Maybe it’s just because he’s written so many puzzles — I guess it’s not fair to speak to intent. But past examples have been kind of striking:

        see here

        or here:

        • Jim Peredo says:

          Those are pretty striking examples, and now that you bring it up, I vaguely remember that discussion with your second example.

          But as prolific as Arbesfeld is, it’s not beyond the stretch of imagination that he has duplicated themes almost exactly. But it does show a lack of due diligence for checking if a theme has been done before, and I’m surprised the NYT ran those puzzles when they have near-duplicate themes. But I guess gaps of 14 and 20 years is acceptable to them.

          As for today’s, there’s only a gap of two months and in different publications. I would hazard a guess that Arbesfeld’s grid was submitted to NYT first and shot down because of its similarity to the DiPietro grid which they had already accepted but not yet published. Just a guess, though.

          WSJ used to be pretty quick at turnaround, but I think their submissions have grown lately based on anecdotal evidence I’ve been hearing, thus resulting in longer wait times.

          • P Merrell says:

            You know, 999,999 times out of 1,000,000, having a theme that’s similar to someone else’s is coincidental. Puzzling minds do think alike, and sometimes an idea has only so many possibilities for generating theme answers. People sometimes suggest that a theme might have been subliminally remembered to form a later inspiration. I doubt that happens much at all.

            My third-ever crossword had the exact same three theme entries as a crossword that had run in another paper three weeks earlier, and I remember people noticing and wondering about that. Of course, my submission had preceded the other puzzle’s publication by several months. The lesson for me: It was a mundane theme, and I vowed to not make a mundane theme like that again.

            Alan Arbesfeld is an excellent and prolific crossword writer, and his having themes that are similar to ones that have run elsewhere does appear to be entirely coincidental. That said, the comments above reminded me of a pretty distinctive crossword I had in The NYT in 2006 and a Fireball Alan had in 2015. I didn’t and don’t suspect fowl play in any way (and only three theme entries coincide) — but I sure did notice:



            • Jim Peredo says:

              Thanks for that insight, Pat! It’s very welcome.

              By the way, I love that you wrote “fowl play” (and it took me a couple of read-throughs to catch it). Knowing the artistic work that you do, it seems right. :)

    • Joanne Sullivan says:

      Alan Arbesfeld sent “Get in Shape” to the WSJ last September, and it was accepted in October so he couldn’t have lifted the theme from the November NYT puzzle (unless he has a time machine, that is).

  4. Billy Boy says:

    First the PC non-PC thing, we all ought to realize by first making fun of ourselves that the best humor will offend someone, whether based on stereotypes or hyperbole of reality. Ethnic, sexist, social or ageist (OK BOOMER) jokes are to be taken for what they are, based to some however tiny bit of reality. We overcome these to become aware of others and be kinder folks. I’m part Polish on my mother’s side and she used to get so worked up about Polish jokes while all the rest of us laughed our asses off. vive la difference and please, no ad hominem I’m just opining from an older point of view that remembers actual segregation in reality, not on a page.

    That said today’s NYT even if its execution isn’t 100% elegant it is a nice “intro-rebus” if you will. I found the rest of the fill on the easy side with one or two relatively obscure entries fairly crossed. Rebuses are really fun and we need these simpler ones to introduce newer puzzlers to them, even if we zip through them quickly. I say well-done.

    WSJ? I eventually enjoyed it (I don’t remember the alluded stolen thematic example) but as did Jim P, I had wavelength problems for a while and some mis-directions he noted were exactly my experiences. Agree it was a bit lopsided …

    • R says:

      I’ll agree that OK BOOMER is ageist the minute that boomers admit that their relentless carping about millennials for the last couple decades was also ageist. I won’t hold my breath, though.

      • RunawayPancake says:

        Right on! Because as we all know, the best way to fight ageism is with even more ageism.

        • R says:

          Right on! Boomers should never, under any circumstances be held accountable for their own actions, and everyone else should (continue to) cater to their every whim and insecurity and never under any circumstances make them feel a little bit bad or even self-aware. Thanks for reminding me!

  5. Lise says:

    WSJ: I wasn’t familiar with “flack” as a verb, and I kept trying to connect it somehow with Roberta Flack, so this was a bit of new vocabulary for me, yay. I thought the long answers were really good.

    NYT: I was enchanted with the hide-and-seek theme and very happy that the theme rebuses were not symmetrically placed; it was more appropriate to hunt for the hider in more random positions. Also, thank you for the LEAN ON ME earworm ❤

  6. Joe Pancake says:

    Another comedian who could be added to the funny-without-being-problematic list is Gary Gulman. I just watched his “The Great Depresh” on HBO and was literally LOLing. Although, as a Gen-X dude who grew up playing sports, I might fit his demographic perfectly; my wife fell asleep during it.

    Speaking of sports, Ade, you hit upon a pet peeve of mine: The Jackson-Bosworth hit is one the biggest much-ado-about-nothing plays in sports history. Seriously, I defy anybody to watch the play on YouTube and tell me honestly that it’s not a completely normal football hit — the kind that happens several times in every game, every week of the season. We all remember Bo running over The Boz (they even made a funny commercial about it 30 years later), but it never actually happened.

    • PJ says:

      I disagree. You can hear the hit. Bosworth had Bo where he wanted him and ended up getting knocked back two yards.

      • Joe Pancake says:

        Yeah, Bo won, no doubt about it.

        But it’s just not anywhere close to the humiliating play it’s been made out to be. Bosworth doesn’t get flattened or run over or trucked or anything close to that. If I somehow obscured the identity of the players, you couldn’t pick this play out of a football play lineup — it’s just not that special. And yet we still remember it 32 years later!

        It’s very typical of Bo Jackson — great athlete who, for some reason, has been elevated to a mythical level.

        • PJ says:

          Bo’s combination of speed and power was pretty unique. And he could also hit a baseball, one of he most difficult things to do in sports. Had he trained for the decathlon his record might still be standing.

  7. JohnH says:

    ELGORT /MIYAGI in the WSJ was a DNF for me that I didn’t appreciate. The NYT game is wonderful.

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal: Re RADIO SILENCE {20A: Symptom of ghosting (Spain)} … I don’t really understand the connection between the clue and the answer here. I know that ‘ghosting’ is a modern term for ending a relationship passive aggressively by suddenly cutting off communication, but what does this have to do with RADIO SILENCE? Does that phrase mean the same thing in modern parlance?

    • andreaborn says:

      RADIO SILENCE in this sense is not as modern (10+ years?), but means much the same thing. A while back, more likely to be a lack of phone calls — “Have you heard from sanfranman?” “Nope, radio silence.” Not limited to dating — could be someone you were dating, someone you worked with, a friend or a family member. Key difference is that radio silence might be temporary (perhaps the person was just busy), whereas ghosting is forever. Verb form: “He’s gone radio silent.”

  9. Crotchety Doug says:

    LAT Gareth – You asked, and I answer. I, for one, use an iPod (Classic, w/hard drive) for music, and an iPhone for calling, text, and some browser work.

  10. GG says:

    Wow, Ade, almost a throwaway on BOZ (11D: [Guitarist Skaggs (sic)]). “Scaggs earned six solo Top 20 hit singles including “Lowdown” (Grammy award-Best R&B) and “Lido Shuffle” from the critically acclaimed Silk Degrees. That album reached number two in the U.S….” critic, columnist Rob Patterson.

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