Thursday, August 13, 2020

BEQ 15:59 (Ade) 


LAT 4:32 (GRAB) 


NYT 8:27 (Ben) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal 3:19 (Jenni) 


The Fireball is on hiatus until September.

Gary Otting & Wayne Bergman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Form Fitting”—Jim P’s review

This duo teamed up in their NYT debut a few months ago, and now they’re making their WSJ debut. Congrats, guys. This was a good one!

The revealer is at 36d: SHAPES UP [Gets fit, and a literal hint to four answers in this puzzle]. Each of the other theme answers is a phrase that includes a shape, and while the main answer is in the Across direction, the shape word bends upward.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Form Fitting” · Gary Otting & Wayne Bergman · Thu., 8.13.20

  • 22a. [Radio sponsor of “Little Orphan Annie”] (OVAL)TINE with the OVAL hidden in FLAVOR OF THE WEEK. How cool is that!
  • 27a. [He played Doughboy in “Boyz n the Hood”] ICE (CUBE) with CUBE hidden in ROEBUCK. I Naticked at the end of my solve on the first C (crossing CANT with its uncommon clue [Jargon]). I was ready to come here and rant about calling ICE CUBE “ICE C.” Then I had the sad aha moment when I realized this was a thematic answer. D’oh! My bad.
  • 45a. [A sign from above?] CROP (CIRCLE). Finding CIRCLE backwards in MICHAEL CRICHTON?! Wow!
  • 59a. [Highest-grossing film of 1977] (STAR) WARS with STAR hidden in RUGRATS. This was actually the first entry I came across, and I grokked it right away. Too bad it still didn’t help me recognize ICE CUBE.

Despite my failure at the end, I’m super impressed, and this was a lot of fun. I’m especially impressed by all four crossing answers that supply the shapes. What great finds!

And the fill was lively throughout. SENTENCER and RAWER aside, I really liked CRIME WAVES, “PLEASE GO ON,” FACETIME, EVER AFTER, and SNARK. I did not know Kaley CUOCO of The Big Bang Theory nor CANT as mentioned above.

Cluing felt fresh too, and kept me on my toes. I noted these:

  • 13a. [It means “ocean” in Mongolian]. DALAI. I would never have guessed that, but it’s interesting to learn.
  • 25a. [Lines at the movies]. Not a socially distanced queue, but a SCRIPT.
  • 56a. [Much-anticipated Christopher Nolan film]. TENET. I’ve heard of it, but didn’t realize it’s “much-anticipated.” It’s set to open first overseas (where other countries have a better grip on the virus) before opening in the U.S. on Sep. 3 (at least for now).
  • 1d. [College football powerhouse]. BAMA. Several conferences, including the Big 10 and Pac-12, have decided to postpone football until the spring, but others including the SEC, Big-12, and ACC intend to play on. My Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be playing in the ACC despite already having some players already test positive. Doesn’t sound like the right approach if you ask me.
  • 44d. [“___ Kommissar” (1983 pop hit)]. DER. Falco wrote the song in 1981 and performed it in German. The 1983 English cover was by a band called After the Fire. I’ll stick with the original (see below). Best Youtube comment: “2pac: I’m the best rapper ever. Falco: Hold my Apfelstrudel.”

Beautiful theme and grid, two days in a row now. 4.5 stars.

Jon Olsen’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

Today’s NYT from Jon Olsen had a nice AHA that took me a second to catch on to:

NYT 0813 – 08/13/2020

  • 17A:Sign on a mountain roadway — FONEING ROCK ZALL
  • 22A:Famed French wine region — RHALL VONEEY
  • 35A: Dinnertime annoyance — PHALL CONE
  • 51A: Actor with a “Rocky” performance, familiarly — SLY STONEALL
  • 57A: Group whose motto is a hint to this puzzle’s theme — THREE MUSKETEERS

All for one and one for all!  That’s the key to what’s going on in the circled squares here – we have FALLING ROCK ZONE, RHONE VALLEY, PHONE CALL, and SLY STALLONE with their ONEs where their ALLs should be and their ALLs where their ONEs should be.

I may be alone on this one, but I could have done without the circles in the squares?  Once I figured out one switcheroo, I went through and immediately filled in the remaining sets, which helped me slash through this grid – if I hadn’t had those handholds, there would have been a little bit more to chew on.

There was something particularly tricky about the upper left of the grid on this one – I’m not familiar enough with constellations to know that ARA is by Scorpius’ tail, and HONORE de Balzac isn’t on my reading list.

did this start playing in anyone else’s head once they entered LIMBO in the grid?

Stay safe!  Happy Thursday!

Emma Oxford’s Universal crossword, “It’s Elementary” — Jenni’s write-up

It’s Jenni subbing for Jim Q who is having dental surgery. Bet he’d prefer to be writing this.

Every time I do the Universal, I think “I should do this more often” and promptly forget about it until the next time I do one. I liked this puzzle a lot. I figured out the theme about halfway through and it was a fun “aha!” moment.

The theme entries do not make any sense at first glance.

Universal puzzle, August 13, 2020, Emma Oxford, “It’s Elementary,” solution grid

  • 20a [*Suitor] is BERYLLIUM GOLD.
  • 29a [*Gel in a petri dish] is SILVER ARGON.
  • 47a [*Sugar source] is CALCIUM NEON, and that’s where the penny dropped for me.

The correct answer to each clue can be found in the symbols for the elements: 20a is BE AU, 29a is AG AR, and 47a is CA NE. There’s also a revealer: 57a [Chart whose symbols are needed to decode the starred entries], PERIODIC TABLE. I thought all the crossings were fair and enjoyed the solve. Nice!

A few other things:

  • 1a [VCR inserts] are TAPES. Kids, ask your parents. Or grandparents, maybe.
  • I struggled with 6d, [Authorizes]. It’s ENTITLES. That’s not wrong. It seems a bit off in some way I can’t clearly characterize.
  • I totally forgot that ARES is a foe of Wonder Woman and dropped in AXIS, since in the WW comics I remember from my youth, she fought the Nazis. Guess we could use her to do that again in the US.
  • 40d [Tightened as a team?] is a tricky clue for COEDITED.
  • I always have to wait for crossings to figure out if [Showing no emotion] is STAID or STOIC.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ASICS come from Japan and that EMILY POST was named the second most powerful woman in America in 1950. That’s – something.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I’ve seen this puzzle theme a few times before – the vowel pattern EIEIO is found in the theme answers; I expect this to resonate better if it’s your first time around. All four answers seemed to have another commonality in that they sound vaguely like they come from a motivating speech? BESTINTENTIONS, THETIMEISNOW, NEWDIRECTION, EITHERWILLWORK.


  • [Fountain output], SODAS; the only place I’ve seen these here is Burger King, and the fountains are dry since COVID regulations…
  • [Vatican’s higher authority], DIO. Didn’t know Ronnie James was so revered by Catholics…
  • [South Carolina river to the Atlantic], SANTEE. You’ll be forgiven for wanting SWANEE or PEEDEE here…
  • [Cell division that produces gametes], MEIOSIS. As opposed to mitosis, meiosis divides the body’s pairs of each chromosome down to a single copy for that cell – creating a gamete. The opposite process is fertilization, which sees two gametes unite to make a new organism with pairs of chromosomes. Neat.


Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1287), “Up With People”—Ade’s take

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword solution, No. 1287: “Up With People”

Good day, everybody! Hope you all are doing amazing today and getting ready for the weekend!

Today’s puzzle has a very intriguing (confounding, maybe?) add-and-subtract element to it. In it, the three longest entries are puns created by adding the letters “BRO” consecutively inside of the phrase. The “BRO” is actually grafted from an entry immediately below each of the themes, with those answers missing the “BRO” and causing those answers to not make any sense with its corresponding clue.

  • LIKE A BOB ROSS (19A: [Resembling the “happy little tree” painter? ]) from “like a boss,” with the “BRO” borrowed from AGATE (26A: [Formally abolish]), which actually should be ABROGATE
  • HASBRO KITTENS (34A: [Certain toy cats?]) from “has kittens,” with the “BRO” borrowed from MINE (40A: [Element #35]), which actually should be BROMINE
  • TAKES BROTHEL (54A: [Acquires a bordello?]) from “takes the L (L = loss)”, with the “BRO” borrowed from LEN (58A: [James of the NBA]), which actually should be LEBRON

The solve itself wasn’t that too much of a problem, but figuring out the multi-layered approach to the theme took much longer. Only after knowing that “LEN” had to be wrong for its clue was when I realized what was happening. If anything, the toughest entry for me to get was the first clue, LETHEM (1A: [“Motherless Brooklyn” author Jonathan]). As always, references to Africa will give any puzzle a bonus from yours truly, and that’s the case with DJIBOUTI, whose capital city is….Djibouti (8D: [Horn of Africa nation]).  Djibouti’s paralleling entry, ON SCREEN, was also a very lively and fun entry (36D: [Streaming, say]). At first, when I thought BEQ might have messed something up with the LeBron/Len entry, I wanted to call him up and ask him if he actually meant to refer to Alex Len, currently an NBA player who hails from UKR (29A: [Kiev’s nat.]).  I know that the term MOONSET exists, but took me a bit to believe that was correct when I put it in (27A: [Lunar event]). It’s not “Call Me Ishmael,” but the line referenced in the clue to BARSTOW definitely ranks up there as one of memorable first lines of any book (21D: [“We were somewhere around ___ on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.” (opening line in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”)]). Loved the solve, and thank goodness I got to know sooner or later what was the trick. Make sure to read the title when you’re in the midst of a solve and you’re not sure what’s going on!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DYNAMO (68A: [Energetic person]) – Major League Soccer, the highest-level pro soccer league in the United States, has just restarted, which means you might be hearing about the Houston DYNAMO, one of the teams in MLS. The Dynamo, which was added to the league and played its first season in 2006, made history by winning the MLS Cup (the league’s championship) as an expansion team, defeating the New England Revolution in penalty kicks in the final. One year later, the Dynamo repeated as league champions. Current basketball great James Harden and boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya are part owners of the franchise. 

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

Take care!


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16 Responses to Thursday, August 13, 2020

  1. Billy Boy says:

    NYT cute, WSJ cuter.

    Thanks so much for the late Austrian Falco

  2. placematfan says:

    Ben, I think your opening paragraph is for a different puzzle or something. (:

    • Huda says:

      Yes, the opening paragraph is unrelated to this puzzle:
      “Derek Allen and Jeff Chen have cooked up a grid with some GRAY/AREAS, as 28D and 32D spell out. Each of the (gray) shaded squares in the grid has a mixture of BLACK and WHITE happening within”.
      Agree with the rest of the review:

  3. Lise says:

    I am nominating today’s WSJ for an Orca. The theme is clever, and was fun to discover.

    I had not known that DALAI is Mongolian for ocean. I love the idea that the Dalai Lama’s spirituality is as deep as the ocean.

  4. Huda says:

    NYT: HONORE de Balzac is what saved me. I found it hard to get going, but once I tumbled to the switcheroo, it felt easy. The bottom fell quickly.
    Cute concept.

    • JohnH says:

      He and MOLIERE were my footholds. I guess all those years of French lit finally paid off.

      The WSJ was impressive. I’m ashamed to admit that, at the end, it took me a few minutes to think of how Cupid could be a DEER.

  5. Anne says:

    NYT: Birds Nest Soup is made with bird spit! I had to look it up and I’m still low key appalled. How did I never hear this before?

    • marciem says:

      LOL, I learned that today myself. NOW, I will say that birds-nest soup was never in my wheelhouse anyways because all I could picture was a bunch of baby birdies eating and doing their business in the nest, as well as shedding baby feathers, so that’s even worse. Or not.

      Still laughing…

  6. Dj says:

    NYT – Isn’t there kind of an unwritten rule that theme answers have to be able to stand on their own even after applying the “trick””? Eg “rhallvoneey”?

    I’ve had several puzzles rejected because of this.

  7. norm says:

    WSJ: Did not like. Two themers went across and up. Classic. Two started up and then you had to come back down to go across. No. No. No. Abomination.

  8. Me says:

    What a bizarre coincidence that today’s LA Times crossword has an EIEIO theme, with the revealer smack in the center of the puzzle, and the NY Times puzzle had the exact same theme and set up two days ago! Any other examples of such close duplication?

    I’m sure both puzzles are scheduled months in advance.

  9. Mac says:

    Re BEQ: Am I missing something on 26A? Clue: Abolish completely; Answer: agate. I can’t find any definition of agate that is anywhere close.

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