Thursday, February 6, 2020

BEQ tk (Ade) 


LAT 4:04 (GRAB) 


NYT 7:58 (Ben) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal 5:00 (Jim Q) 


Fireball 14:52 (Jim P) 


David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dropping Acid”—Jim P’s review

The letters PH are “dropped” from the two entries high up in the grid and added to the two entries toward the bottom. This is hinted at with the revealer LOW PH [Characteristic of acid, and of this puzzle, in a way].

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Dropping Acid” · David Alfred Bywaters · Thu., 2.6.20

  • 17a [Amoeba in love?] AMOROUS BLOB. Amorphous blob. I had to look this one up since I normally call an amorphous blob just a blob. The phrase doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
  • 24a [Person to consult when you want a good sandwich?] ORACLE OF DELI. Oracle of Delphi.
  • 47a [Rosebush?] APHID STATION. Aid station.
  • 58a [Problem for an accident-prone texter?] HOLE IN PHONE. Hole-in-one. Meh. You’re not going to get a hole in your phone by just any old accident.

I was skeptical of this theme, but I’m warming up to it. I was expecting the letters to make a vertical drop from the theme entries or just be “low” with respect to each theme entry (i.e. in the row below). But if you look at the grid as a whole PH was “dropped” from high in the grid and is now “lower” in the grid. Okay. I’m good with that.

So the theme works for me. How’s the fill? RAISES CAIN and BLUE CHEESE. Very nice. Some CORN CHIPS t0 munch on and some WORKOUTS to sweat them off. Also good. MADE HAY [Took advantage of sunshine, in a way] is not one I was aware of before I got into crosswords, but it’s legit. Nothing jumps out at me as being off the wall, so all in all, it’s good.

Clues of note:

  • 11a. [Séance sound]. RAP. “Is that you, Tupac?”
  • 31a. [Yucks]. LAFFS. This gets a SCOWL from me. I would have gone with [Yuks].
  • 3d. [Crumhorn’s relative]. OBOE. “What’s a crumhorn?” you ask. Well, it’s basically a Renaissance-era musical candy cane. See video below.
  • 12d. [Yosemite shooter Adams]. ANSEL. “Shooter” is so not the right word these days.

Good theme that grew on me as I thought about it. Strong fill as well. 3.8 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Fifteen Divided by Five”—Jim P’s review

This was a hard-fought win for me, but I got there in the end. It definitely helped to uncover the revealer…which was THREE LETTER WORD [What appears five times each in some Across answers in this puzzle grid while being absent from everywhere else (including clues)]. Each of the other grid-spanning theme entries are comprised of only 3-letter words. There are no others in the grid, and apparently there aren’t any in the clues (but I’m not about to check).

Fireball crossword solution · “Fifteen Divided by Five” · Peter Gordon · Thu., 2.6.20

  • 19a [Longtime British television series presented by Phil Drabble featuring lots of sheep] ONE MAN AND HIS DOG. I wasn’t aware of this show, but it makes me nostalgic for the years we lived on a farm in rural England.
  • 31a [1986 Lilian Jackson Braun novel] THE CAT WHO SAW RED. I don’t know this book either, but the theme sure helped me suss out the end of it. Fourth of 29 in The Cat Who mysteries, apparently.
  • 37a [Sung question at a certain party] “HOW OLD ARE YOU NOW?”. I really wanted this to be HOW LOW CAN YOU GO, but I eventually saw my error.

The theme feels more like a constructor’s gimmick than anything the solver is going to notice or enjoy. I’m sure it was a challenge to come up with a grid without any 3-letter words and then to fit everything in without too much crud. The ultimate question is how does it solve.

For me, enjoyably. The fill felt meaty and crunchy and the clues thorny but gettable. Top fill for me: BANDITO, DISAVOW (who else learned this word from Mission: Impossible?), COATIS, AMHERST, EPITAPH, ACTIVIA and HUSTLES.

Had never heard of OMPHALI [Navels] (I bet Jenni knows that one), and the end of PRELACY was difficult to work out. And TEAWI [Kiwi ___ (former Snapple flavor)] is just plain bonkers. All I could do was laugh at that one. Who has that in their word list? Apparently Peter Gordon.

Clues of note:

  • 27a. [Subject with powers]. MATH. I was convinced “Subject” was a verb here. Wrongo.
  • 36a. [Like a Ucalegon’s house]. ON FIRE. Even with most of the crossings this was tough. Apparently the word means “a neighbor whose house is on fire.” Named after an Elder of Troy and pal of Priam whose house, you guessed it, burned down. File this one under r/suspiciouslyspecific.
  • 42a. [Hand tools?]. MOPS. I’m still not sure of this one. Why the question mark?
  • 27d. [Pulgar’s place]. MANO. Spanish lesson of the day: Pulgar = Thumb.
  • 54d. [Ingredient in grape leaves]. RICE. More properly known as the Greek dish Dolmadakia. Tasty!

Ultimately for me, the theme was an interesting side note to this puzzle which I enjoyed mostly because of the fill and clues. Four stars.

Jake Halperin’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT 2/6/2020 – No. 0206

This Thursday NYT’s theme was pretty straightforward, given that Thursdays tend to be the designated “experimental” space.  Instead of any rebus squares or other trickery, we’ve got this:

  • 15A: Reactions to social media posts? — LIKES AND THE LIKE
  • 21A: Breeds of hunting dogs? — SETTERS ET CETERA
  • 33A: Boxing champs of the 1960s-’70s? — ALI ET ALII
  • 47A: Things that scouts earn badges for? — KNOTS AND WHAT NOT
  • 54A: Cows’ various glands? — UDDERS AND OTHERS

There’s a whole “phrases for finishing off a list in a general sense, plus something they kind of sound like” theme here that wasn’t my cup of tea.  I don’t really love any of the themers here – none of them feels strong enough to make this whole set worth it.
“Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole OAK TREE” was #1 on the Billboard chart for 4 weeks in 1973. Stereogum rightly ranked it a 1/10 in its Number Ones series revisiting every song that’s topped the Billboard singles chart.

Elsewhere in the grid:

  • TABU is a “Fragrance since 1932” but I learned about it today.
  • I like the appearance of XANADUS in the grid, but not enough to allow EX-PM and ISR.
  • VERANDAED is one of those words that somehow looks off even when spelled correctly.
  • Nice to see BITSTREAM in the down fill as well!

Happy Thursday!


Don Gagliardo’s Universal crossword, “Trilingual”—Jim Q’s review

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying this played like a themeless puzzle, but indeed there is a theme hiding in there!

THEME: Three entries are made up of letters that can be found in the Greek, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets.


  • 1A [*’50s literary counterculturist] BEAT POET. 

    Universal crossword solution · Don Gagliardo · “Trilingual” · Thur., 02.06.20

  • 26A [*Status for some income] TAX EXEMPT. 
  • 43A [*Status for some income] HOT POTATO. 
  • 64A [Like the alphabet in Athens, which the starred answers’ letters also appear in] GREEK. 
  • 9A [Like the alphabet in Vatican City, which the starred answers’ letters also appear in] LATIN. 
  • 65A [Like the alphabet in Moscow, which the starred answers’ letters also appear in] CYRILLIC. 

So that’s it. One of those puzzles where you get the theme afterward, shrug, and say “okay.” I mean, it seems like there are quite a few letters we can choose from. But at the end of the day, I don’t really care about letter crossover in various alphabets. In fact, since I didn’t finish reading the clues for GREEK, LATIN, and CYRILLIC, I didn’t make the connection to the starred answers until post-solve (not that it would’ve helped).

As a themeless though, I enjoyed it! Themed? IT’S A LULU.

2.3 stars.

Robert Wemischner’s LA Tims Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Robert Wemischner’s theme today is quite interesting as well as intricate. It features four “word-palindromes” where two two-part compounds with the same component words are combined in the pattern abba to create wacky phrases. Further, each answer has at least one positional word (OUTBACKBACKOUT is made of two). UPSTARTSTARTUP, OFFHANDHANDOFF and DOWNPATPATDOWN complete the set, which for me all work very well with few if any convolutions of grammar or phrasing.

Again, a fairly busy theme where the rest of the grid is mostly there to hold things together. KLONDIKE dishes out some extra K’s, however.


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21 Responses to Thursday, February 6, 2020

  1. Bryan says:

    NYT: No, no, no. I’m typically a lot more lenient than most other crossword sticklers, but this didn’t work on so many levels. The theme entries aren’t consistent. And “Verandaed”??? “Xanadus”??? “ExPM”??? No. Nope. I get what the theme is striving for, but this whole thing misses the mark. When Deb Amlen at the Wordplay blog trashes the puzzle (which I’ve rarely seen in all my years of reading her posts), then you know it’s bad. Good idea, but needed more work.

  2. David Lieb says:

    Fireball: 42a. [Hand tools?]. MOPS. — I too am waiting for the aha moment on that one.

  3. Me says:

    TABU is in both the NY Times and the LA Times crossword today. A weird coincidence.

    • Stephen B. Manion says:

      Not my favorite puzzle, but TABU brought back a fond memory. In the late ’60s, my friends and I golfed all the time at Hyde Park, a municipal course in Niagara Falls. The restaurant/bar was modest to say the least and almost always close to empty except for one summer when the waitresses were two spectacularly beautiful girls. You couldn’t get a seat and their many fans included several Buffalo Bills. One of the girls wore TABU. I have always liked Ysatis, but for some unknown reason, I will never forget TABU.


    • JohnH says:

      Like Amy, I learned it from the puzzle. Also OWNAGE, where I started with “owning.” Odd, but I liked the theme more than others and appreciated that I found it a challenge to catch onto.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        *ahem* I knew of TABU. The NYT review is by Ben today.

      • scrivener says:

        Because of the clue, I had PWNAGE there first and it slowed me down. It’s quite a bit slangier than OWNAGE.

        I didn’t hate this puzzle but it wasn’t very fun. I still can’t really wrap my brain around ALI ET ALII even though I get the premise.

  4. Constant Malachi says:

    NYT: Anyone sitting on a big stack of rejected submissions from Shortz et al should be furious that puzzles this bad are making the cut.

  5. RichardZ says:

    Re this week’s Fireball – the word “ucalegon” (in the clue for 36A) was completely foreign to me. (I thought it might be related to Game of Thrones). Interestingly, the Wikipedia page for the word mentions that it’s Will Shortz’s favorite word in the English language (at least as of 2007, when the interview in which he said so was conducted).

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal … Was anyone besides me perplexed by DRAG UP {21D: Recount, as bad memories}? I’m not familiar with that idiom. Just wondering …

  7. Stephen B. Manion says:

    I am aware of two idioms for bringing up essentially bad memories: DRAG UP and DREDGE UP. I prefer DREDGE UP because for me it gives a purer connection to the idea of bringing up something that is perhaps long-buried for the purpose of hurting someone or at least throwing shade.


  8. wot says:

    anyone care to explain the BEQ title?

    Thank you

  9. Phil says:

    No idea what the BEQ theme is all about… Penny Express.
    Anyone gonna blog it?

    • wot says:

      An O sound is replaced by an EH sound changing known things into silly ones based on the clues. So zone defense becomes zen defense, road to perdition red to perdition, choke the chicken czech the chicken, ghost stories guessed stories, coachwhips (snake species?) ketch whips. The title works the same with Pony Express becoming Penny Express, “express” being a clue/play one words for how things are being expressed with EH sounds instead of O. At least that’s my understanding of the theme.

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