Thursday, February 27, 2020

BEQ tk (Ade) 


LAT 6:07 (GRAB) 


NYT 8:54 (Ben) 


WSJ 5:43 (Jim P) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Fireball is a contest this week. We will post a review after the contest closes.

Sam Buchbinder’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Back to the Grind”—Jim P’s review

I crushed this in what I think might be my best time on a Thursday. I grokked the theme early on and that really helped to sort things out.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Back to the Grind” · Sam Buchbinder · Thu., 2.27.20

I took a second to look at the grid before I started and noticed the strangely shaped circled squares. My first thought was staples. But they turned out to be COFFEE / TABLES (35a, [With 37-Across, living room items found four times in this puzzle]). Each set of circled squares spells out a coffee drink starting at the bottom left, going up and over the “table,” and finishing at the bottom right.

In order, we have AMERICANO, MOCHA, LATTE, and ESPRESSO. I suspect cappuccino and macchiato were too much to ask for.

Cute theme, and each coffee is seamlessly incorporated in its section. I especially like that NE corner with ED KOCH, AT HOME, and TOP HAT doing the honors, with MICROCHIP, WOODY, and YUCK nearby.

Other goodies in the grid include ICARUS, USA TODAY, ASTROPOP, READY-TO-EAT, PACKED HEAT, HUMOR ME, BETA MALE, and CAT SITTER. That’s quite a lot of sparkly fill. Very nice.

I needed every crossing, though, with POT-AU-FEU [French meat-and-vegetables dish]. (Thankfully, those crossings were all fair.) According to its Wikipedia page, it is a French beef stew. Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc calls it “the quintessence of French family cuisine, it is the most celebrated dish in France.” I would have thought that title might go to ratatouille, but apparently the latter is made only with vegetables. Perhaps our resident foodies can give us more insight.

Other than that challenging bit of fill, everything else was remarkably smooth.

Clues of note:

  • 25a. [Marsellus’s wife, in “Pulp Fiction”]. MIA. Played by Uma Thurman who appears in the clue for 63a ETHAN [Uma’s “Gattaca” co-star]. Why not echo this clue in the MIA clue with [Uma’s “Pulp Fiction” role]?
  • 68a. [Site of Darth Vader’s funeral pyre]. ENDOR. Spoilers, right? Nice to have a different approach that doesn’t include Ewoks.
  • 47d. [Go from 0 to 20, in a way]. TEETHE. Whew. I could not see where this was going. I needed a couple of seconds after I filled it in to fully understand it.

Pleasant little theme with really strong fill. Four stars.

Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

How’s your knowledge of quantum mechanics?  It might be handy to review SCHRODINGER’S CAT (6D, “Quantum mechanics thought experiment in which contradictory states exist simultaneously”) before we dig into what’s happening in today’s NYT puzzle.  Here’s a video from TED Ed on it:

All set? With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the two states this crossword can take.  First:

NYT 2/26/2020 – No. 0226

  • 1D: Sounds that can startle — BOOS
  • 12D: Pronoun that can ask a question — WH(OM)
  • 25D: “Swell!” — NEA(TO)
  • 26D: Sag — DROP
  • 33D: Go to extremes, food-wise — (FE)AST
  • 34D: Buildup during vacation — MAIL
  • 53D: Many a middle schooler — (TW)EEN
  • 54D: Possible reaction to shocks — OWS

And again:

also NYT 2/26/2020 – No. 0226

  • 1D: Sounds that can startle — BOO(MS)
  • 12D: Pronoun that can ask a question — WHO
  • 25D: “Swell!” — NEAT
  • 26D: Sag — DRO(OP)
  • 33D: Go to extremes, food-wise — FAST
  • 34D: Buildup during vacation — (EM)AIL
  • 53D: Many a middle schooler — TEEN
  • 54D: Possible reaction to shocks — (WO)WS


The acrosses determining these down clues remain OMS, FEM, TOP, and TWO, but the ability to choose which square is the rebus square gives a potential 16 ways this grid can be solved.  This is a interesting rendering to this scientific idea, and things like the symmetric pairings of CROSS/THE BORDER and I NEED/SOME SPACE are also very nice, given how constrained this grid must have been to figure out.  Well-executed, Andrew and John!

Debra Hamel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle theme is a tad subtle, even with the four compass circles. The four directions are anagrammed in four long answers in their appropriate corners. TRUE(NORTH)THORN; DEEP(SOUTH)THOUS; MIDDLE(EAST)SEAT and THEOLD(WEST)STEW. The “wacky” clues are more tortured than most, but then the choices for theme entries are not many.

Other difficult parts:

  • [Patterned fabric], TOILE. Some less common crossword-ese. Not to be confused with VOILE.
  • [Comedian Garofalo], JANEANE. I knew it was a “Janine” variant but those vowels got me all tangled up…
  • [Part of Curaçao], CEDILLA. The diacritic under the c.
  • [Apparel brand with a spinaker logo], NAUTICA. Never heard of it, but somewhat inferrable.
  • [Structural engineering piece], GIRT. News to me…


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27 Responses to Thursday, February 27, 2020

  1. JML says:

    The bonus is that the letters that can fit in either square spell MEOW

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      That’s an outstanding touch!

    • Lise says:

      Can I give it more than 5 stars?

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Completely missed that! Already loved the puzzle – that makes it art.

      • Billy Boy says:

        THAT is the coup de grâce on a brilliant puzzle.
        Did not know prior to today that Schrodinger’s cat puzzles were a thing.

        Since not yet mentioned – Rebus animation also works after solving on the NYT site, so it’s not an Apple-magic thing. I almost missed seeing that ’16 solutions’ thing. NERTS!

        I truly love my YOGA, if we’re going all fanboy.

        – avoiding a double-post –

    • Francis says:

      A lovely touch, but I think it would have been better if the puzzle had been presented as a meta with a four-letter answer, so people wouldn’t be as likely to miss that detail. (I did until it was pointed out to me, and other people who I then pointed it out to had also missed it.)

  2. Anne says:

    And a fun thing, in the iPad app, is that once the puzzle is solved, the rebus squares move to and fro to illustrate the theme (eg OM and S move to O and MS). Great theme!

    • Cyrano says:

      You saw the moving to and fro on an iPad? Because I did not. On the *iPhone* app, yes, and it is lovely. But not the iPad. Which illustrates an ongoing frustration I have with the NYTXW iPad app development, or lack thereof. It has been more than two years and it still does not scale to the proper screen size (on the larger iPad Pros) and it still does not have the equivalent functionality of the iPhone app.

      • Anne says:

        I have an iPad Air 3rd generation. The app is pretty good except that the keyboard disappears from time to time. ?‍♀️

      • RSP64 says:

        The app works very well on my iPad Pro and the rebus squares moved back and forth on my iPad today.

        • John says:

          iPad 6th generation running 13.3. Rebus moves fine.

          • Cyrano says:

            All these comments led me to realize that I had the overlays option turned off! Thanks all.

            Still annoyed that the app doesn’t fit the 12.9” screens after two years, particularly since it’s supposedly an app store requirement and NYT developers have said they’re “working on it” for a year. Grumble grumble.

  3. Pamela Kelly says:

    I do wish they didn’t have the notepad. (or maybe I should say, I do wish I hadn’t looked at it!)

  4. MattF says:

    Rebus animation in the NYT app works on my iPad Air, and it’s quite cool. Broke my solving streak, however. About the NYT app, my main complaint is the lack of access to the solving data. There’s a piece of software that claims to fetch that data:

    but I haven’t tried it.

  5. damefox says:

    If anyone’s curious, it seems a version filled with no rebus squares will also be counted as correct (at least, this is what happened when I solved it on the NYT site – I was fully prepared to have to go back and insert rebuses in four of the spaces). This may be just a limitation of the software, since the across clues aren’t correct without the rebus. A very clever mechanism.

  6. Ethan Friedman says:

    The NYT is an early candidate for Puzzle of the Year. A brilliant puzzle to begin with (I’m a big fan of Schrodinger themes in general), the fact that the rebus letters spell MEOW is an amazing touch; that the fill is sparkling with almost nothing blah (maybe RVER if you insist) elevates it to the tour-de-force level for me.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ: Would someone please explain TEETHE {47D: Go from 0 to 20, in a way}?

  8. Tina says:

    Can anyone explain the answer to beq puzzle?

    Right! I knew I forgot it!
    Answer is thatoo. I guess for ‘that to’

    Shouldn’t it be ‘thattoo’ for ‘that too’
    Looks like it is missing a ‘t’

    • R says:

      The answer is THAT TOO. The theme has 10 squares that are doubled in the down answers, but single in the across answers. ASCII, TTYL, TAXIING, THAT TOO, RIIS, CIGAR BUTT, ET ALII, OTTAWA, WWII, and T-TOPS. The revealer across the middle, MAKE I(I)T(T) A DOUBLE somewhat clarifies it. It’s a clever theme, though the theme answers listed aren’t the freshest. I’m not sure if there are 5 great entries with II in the language to make this theme great.

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