Thursday, March 5, 2020

BEQ tk (Ade) 


LAT 4:21 (GRAB) 


NYT 8:17 (Ben) 


WSJ 7:03 (Jim P) 


Universal 3:58 (Jim Q) 


Fireball 7:00 (Jenni) 


Ruth Bloomfield Margolin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Seeking Enlightenment”—Jim P’s review

We all need a little guidance from time to time, right? This puzzle seeks help from a higher power (Mike Shenk?) with the revealer GIVE ME A SIGN (62a, [Entreaty for divine guidance, answered by each circled word]). The other theme answers have road sign words hidden in common phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Seeking Enlightenment” · Ruth Bloomfield Margolin · Thu., 3.5.20

  • 17a [One who usually avoids meat, but might sometimes be persuaded] FLEXITARIAN. I don’t hear this one very often, but I believe I have heard it before. I needed most of the crossings, but that X was crucial. Fun entry.
  • 24a [Criticizes ruthlessly] PICKS TO PIECES. Nice how the hidden word spans all three parts to this entry.
  • 39a [Stays out of sight] LIE SLOW LIES LOW
  • 51a [President Eisenhower, e.g.] FORMER GENERAL. I can’t believe there are that many merge signs that use the actual word. Typically, it’s just done pictorially. Also, I have to give the term FORMER GENERAL the side-eye. Unless someone is stripped of rank, they keep that rank even after retirement. Even though Eisenhower took on an even higher title later in life (“President”), he could still be referred to as a general.

Despite my last little nit there, I enjoyed this theme. There aren’t that many single-word road signs, so this feels like an exhaustive set (if you can come up with something for DETOUR and YIELD, I’d like to see it).

COTILLION is a fun bit of long fill. OVERPOWER is less fun but still solid. Other highlights include TEXTILE, TONSIL, and CAN-DO. I did not know ODILE [Role danced in black]. I’ve probably seen it before but had conveniently forgotten it. It refers to the villainous role in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

Clues of note:

  • 11a. [Its first cover identified it as “Humor in a Jugular Vein”]. MAD Magazine. Fun clue!
  • 46a. [Classic brand in model rocketry]. ESTES. This name was buried way down deep in my little gray cells. My brother was heavily into model rockets when we were kids. He once put a little parachute guy in the tip of rocket. We went out to the dunes, shot the rocket off, and watched as the mini-paratrooper floated miles away…
  • 10d. [Pain in the neck, at times]. TONSIL. Hmm. As cute as the clue is, I don’t know that the tonsils are actually in the neck.
  • 60d. [Food for flickers]. ANTS. I really wanted this to be PEAS. It took me a while to come to the realization that flickers are birds. Pretty ones, at that.

Nice puzzle. 3.8 stars.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

After last week’s multi-state grid with 16 possible answers, this week’s Thursday NYT from Zhouqin Burnikel is a little more straightforward.  The revealer at 56D clues “‘Enough!,’ in Mexico…or a hint to 11 answers in this puzzle”.  That’d be NO MAS, and indeed, 11 answers are missing their MAs, not that you can tell from looking at the grid by itself:

NYT 3/4/2020 – No. 0304

  • 1A: Mugged for the camera, maybe — (MA)DE FACES
  • 8A: Site administrator — WEB(MA)STER
  • 40A: Large guard dogs — (MA)STIFFS
  • 41A: Aches and pains — (MA)LADIES
  • 70A: Feigns sickness to avoid work — (MA)LINGERS
  • 71A: Much-traveled thoroughfares — (MA)IN ROADS
  • 1D: Much-painted religious figure — (MA)DONNA
  • 12D: Food cooked in a cornhusk — TA(MA)LE
  • 32D: Stay behind — RE(MA)IN
  • 36D: Evil intentt — (MA)LICE
  • 58D: Wyatt Earp, for one — LAW(MA)N

There’s a few bits of fill I didn’t love here – the (admittedly) redundant SAT TEST, NOT A BIT clued as “0%” – but this is a pretty solid grid overall, and I enjoyed the theme.

What’s your favorite PANGRAM?  Mine is “Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow!”

Martha Kimes’ Universal crossword, “After Dark”—Jim Q’s review

A puzzle best solved at night.

THEME: Two word phrases where the first word can follow “dark.”


  • SIDE EFFECT (dark side)

    Universal crossword solution · “After Dark” · Martha Kimes · Thur., 3.4.20

  • KNIGHT RIDER (dark knight)
  • SECRET AGENT (dark secret)
  • MEAT LOCKER (dark meat)

Right over the plate today. I did momentarily wonder if BROKE EVEN was part of the theme. Doesn’t seem to work, and its symmetrical partner suggests they’re just along for the ride.

Also, how late am I to the party that I didn’t know OREOs had an annual mystery flavor? OOh… it’s a contest too! Guess the flavor! Last year’s winner won $50,000 after correctly guessing “Churro.” I’ll be on the lookout in 2020!

No frills puzzle here with a very simple theme. Smooth fill all around. Great puzzle to hook potential solvers!

3.1 Stars.

Kurt Krauss’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today we have a pretty straightforward theme. STORMYWEATHER is clued as the song and four other phenomena associated with storms are listed: DARKCLOUDS, LIGHTNINGBOLTS, THUNDERSHOWERS, and HAILSTONES. All four clues feature a snowclone-like construction with some form of [They’re ___-ous]. Partly, this is to make the clues less obvious, as STORMYWEATHER gives a lot away. I feel like this style of clue may be somewhat polarising for solvers? Some might enjoy the wordplay, but others may find it annoying and cutesy?

I liked [Ones seeing things] for TOURISTS – short, snappy wordplay! On the other hand, why are people using STOICAL when STOIC means the same thing?


Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “Double Back”–Jenni’s write-up

The Fireball has not joined the crossword Women’s March. I liked this puzzle anyway.

The theme answers appear to be random wacky phrases until you literally look the other way. They make sense backwards.

Fireball crossword, March 5, 2020, Paul Coulter, “Double Back,” solution grid

  • 17a [Bounty given out in weed?] is a POT REWARD  (top drawer).
  • 21a [Rewrite a repeated section of code?] is EDIT LOOP (tide pool).
  • 29a [Gave back yak?] is REPAID GAB (diaper bag).
  • 41a [Busybodies who aren’t bald?] are TRESSED SNOOPS (dessert spoons). This is when I figured it out, and I said “aha!” and then I laughed.
  • 51a [Compost heap items?] are PEELS ET AL (sleep late). I didn’t figure that one out until after I finished the puzzle. I got “sleep late” but couldn’t figure out what PEELS ETAL were.
  • 60a [Pixar clownfish performing in person?] is LIVE NEMO (evil omen).
  • 67a [Love god comes to a halt?] is EROS STOPS (sore spot).

That’s a lot of theme material – it’s a 15×17, so there’s extra room. The fill doesn’t suffer overly much – nothing that annoyed me while I was solving. A really good puzzle.

A few other things:

  • 9a [Heated up?] is a good clue for ARMED.
  • Are lawyer’s specifically more likely to wear SERGE suits? I found out yesterday that the San Diego Padres have brown as a team color because their founding owner wore brown suits. Who knew?
  • 20a [Outer edges of greens] has nothing to do with food. It’s APRONS, which I presume is a golf thing.
  • I like the long downs: INTRAUTERINE and GRAPESEED OIL. For the record, do . not use GRAPESEED OIL in your uterus.
  • TSUNAMIs aren’t funny, but [Salt shaker?] is a funny clue for one.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ELLA Fitzgerald won a Lifetime Grammy the year after Duke Ellington, and I’d never heard of Vantablack. Turns out it’s one of the darkest substances known. VANTA is an acronym for vertically aligned NANOtube arrays. According to Wikipedia, light bounces around the tubes and thus does not escape, so it’s very very dark.

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19 Responses to Thursday, March 5, 2020

  1. huda says:

    NYT: A nice twist on the pangram. I think it’s notable that the words without MAs are all real words. Once I realized that, it helped the solving…

    • Paul Coulter says:

      Yes, it was excellent when the theme answers turned out to all be legitimate entries. So much better than when a trick produces random letter strings. Great job, C.C.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      FWIW, the puzzle isn’t a pangram, though that doesn’t detract from the grid at all for me.

      • Chip says:

        Yes, real words, but in no way ‘clued.” Which bothers me. An un-clued answer. I know the theme was no “ma” s. But I entered the “ma’s” as rebus entries and they were scored as wrong entries. Which is to say that the “ma” should not have been entered at all. No ma’s. As opposed to last week when the reveal grid switched back and forth between alternative ways of entering the answers .. which I thought was ‘way cool’ … to date myself. These puzzles back-to-back were not consistent. Again this approach ended up with un-clued answers. I guess I’m OCD. Sorry, been thinking about this.

  2. Dook says:

    Totally confused by the NYT. Perhaps it was the first entry. Since the MA ran both across and down, I made that a multiple entry square MAD. The rest of the theme answers have the MA for one direction of the answer – ta(MA)le, but not ‘am i late’ and to make it even more confusing, web(MA)star crossed ta(MA)le. I can’t be the only that had this problem. This made it more difficult and also, less fun.

    • MattF says:

      You certainly couldn’t tell from the NW corner that the trick was going to be a -lack- of ‘MA’ rebuses— even with the revealer, you had to realize that MAS was plural. It’s fair to conclude that the puzzle was deliberately misleading. Personally, I don’t mind that, but one could plausibly object to it.

    • David L says:

      I had the same problem — and things were made more difficult by the fact that AMILATE has MA going backwards, which seemed like it was part of the trick.

      I couldn’t make sense of the DRAW/REIN crossing, but it turned out to be correct. So OK it’s RE(MA)IN, but I wanted to put MA somewhere in DRAW. How does that mean “one-up, say”?

      I found the whole thing too inconsistent for the result to be pleasing.

      • Gary R says:

        “One-up” is sometimes used in sports to describe a score of 1-1 (“one-all” seems more common to me).

        It’s a pretty small nit, but to me, “one-up” would be used to report the score of a contest in-progress, while a DRAW seems more like a final result.

        • David L says:

          Weird — to me, “one up” means ahead by one and nothing else.

        • Cassandra Chan says:

          I haven’t encountered one-up as meaning 1-1, only as bettering the opponent’s score. And there are SO MANY other clever clues for “draw.”

      • M483 says:

        Same problem here. First occurrence being in NW corner applied both ways. Second occurrence NE corner applied to both an across answer and a down answer that crosses it but not in the right place. That wasn’t fun; it was annoying! Even with the revealer, that corner still didn’t make sense.

  3. gaconnel says:

    I filled in all the MA*s as rebuses. But Mr. Happy Pencil did not like that so “corrected” them all. But he accepted the TAM rebus at 12D. Don’t know why. I like my grid better. And still don’t get why just an M was acceptable when the third letters were different..

  4. Noam D. Elkies says:

    New job: fix Mr. Gluck’s hazy TV, PDQ!

    (any idea who constructed that perfect pangram?)


  5. Billy Boy says:

    NYT was a really nice puzzle, but with 11 entries and the NW (Start!) last to fall, I got bored. Shame on me.

    WSJ was fun to figure out backwards, knowing the circles were signs.

    I have Flickers (And about 250 more species of birds) here in SC, tiny little dinosaurs (Except not so tiny Great Blue Herons and Wood Storks), one listen to a squawking Blue Heron and you know where they got the idea for dinosaur sounds …

    Cheers, good day in Women’s Week!

  6. Cynthia says:

    Lot of fresh fill and fun clues in today’s Universal. Thank you Martha for an enjoyable solve!

  7. Tony says:

    I too first entered squares with a MAD rebus, since it worked for both MADefaces and MADonna. I then quickly became confused when the rest didn’t follow the same pattern. I eventually figured it out.

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