Thursday, September 17, 2020

BEQ 16:19 (Ade) 


LAT 5:16 (GRAB) 


NYT 7:58 (Ben) 


WSJ 11:17 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball 10:17 (Jenni) 


Jack Murtagh’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Namedropping”—Jim P’s review

The clues to the theme answers don’t match the entries in this grid. That’s because you have to mentally remove the MIDDLEMAN (61a, [One who may be cut out, and what must be cut out of five answers to make sense of their clues]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Namedropping” · Jack Murtagh · Thu., 9.17.20

  • 17a. [Liberal pursuits] ARBORISTS – BORIS = ARTS.
  • 25a. [Many a Little League rooter] PARLIAMENT – LIAM = PARENT. This is the one where the penny dropped for me. The crossings led me to the right answer and then I realized the outer letters satisfied the clue. Really nice find.
  • 34a. [Coffee bar stock] MUSTANGS – STAN = MUGS.
  • 43a. [Wise off] SAGENESS – GENE = SASS. Meh, this one’s a less interesting theme entry, but I guess they can’t all be as good as PARLIAMENT.
  • 52a. [Compassionate] CARJACKING – JACK = CARING.

By the third entry, I was getting a little irked that there weren’t any women’s names in the theme. Then I saw the revealer. At least there seems to be an effort to include women’s names in the rest of the fill: KATHY Valentine (Go-Go’s bassist), HALLE Berry, ANA Armas (of Knives Out), singer KACEY Musgraves, Jane EYRE, Laila ALI, and AYN Rand, but not JAIME Lannister. Whoa. That’s a lot of proper names for one grid.

I quite like this theme, especially when the final words aren’t made up of suffixes or the names are surprising finds. Well done. I wonder what other entries were left on the cutting room floor.

On top of that, there’s still room for nice long fill in “IT BURNS!,” PHONE IT IN, “WHAT A LOSER!,” CAMERA CREW, NO DICE, and TUNA STEAK. I didn’t know ENCOMIA [Praiseful proclamations] at all; I had to double-check each crossing for that one.

Cluing was pleasantly devious today. Let’s check out the highlights.

  • 16a. [Berry native to Cleveland]. Not a fruit, but the actress HALLE.
  • 66a. [Timberland channel]. Not on the TV, but a waterway or FLUME.
  • 67a. [Diamond star]. ACE. I like that the two words in the clue are shapes and that two of the words involved here have to do with playing cards. A simple clue, but plenty of potential pitfalls for the solver.
  • 70a. [Signature instrument]. Not a famous musician’s main instrument, but a writing implement or PEN.
  • 22d. [Boring platform]. Not an uninteresting operating system, but a structure responsible for digging a hole, i.e. an OIL RIG.
  • 24d. [Slip in a pot]. Both “slip” and “pot” have multiple meanings, so it takes just a few split-seconds longer to match the right meanings together to get IOU.
  • 31d. [Those who shoot for the stars?]. CAMERA CREW. Good one.
  • 59d. [Block-and-tackle org.]. Nothing to do with pulleys, but everything to do with the NFL. But I’m not so sure those hyphens should be there.
  • 65d. [Bill concerned with science education]. Another very nice, devious clue. Nothing to do with legislation, but everything to do with The Science Guy, Bill NYE.

Overall then, a fun theme, strong fill, and great cluing. It still feels overly masculine—what with HAREM and PEC and ELK MEAT in addition to the theme. But other than that, I like this one a lot. Four stars.

Simeon Siegel’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

Oh, hey!  Simeon Siegel hasn’t appeared on this site before, and the Wordplay column associated with today’s NYT puzzle confirms it, so this is indeed an NYT debut!  Congrats, Simeon!

This took me a second to figure out what was going on, but once it clicked, the theme answers fell like dominoes.  There’s some sections of black squares that look like +, which can mean a lot of different things, but only has one meaning for this grid.

NYT 0917 – 09/17/2020

  • 39A: + … with a hint to four pairs of answers in this puzzle — AND

Using that to handle the four “–” clues, and the clues that directly proceed them, all around said + sections:

  • 34A/35A: Tributary of the Potomac — SHEN[AND]OAH RIVER
  • 41A/43A: Food item whose name is derived from a comic strip — DAGWOOD S[AND]WICH
  • 6D/42D: Major Nashville landmark — THE GR[AND] OLE OPRY
  • 9D/50D: Financial incentive for an executive to stay at a company — GOLDEN H[AND]CUFFS

Once you got that AND in place and realize that’s what was being represented by the +es, it was pretty easy for things to fall into place.  The DAGWOOD SANDWICH popped into my head when I saw the clue at 41A, but it took me a second to realize the AND was covered by black squares for it to fit.

I’m currently working my way through a re-watch of Ken Burns’ Country Music documentary from last year on PBS, and a big part of the story of that developing is THE GRAND OLE OPRY‘s rise in Nashville.

Other grid notes:

  • Seeing Apollo 11 written as APOLLO XI makes it seem like a pope rather than a space mission.
  • I know that TACOS are technically a part of the menus, but I only ever go there when I’m in the mood for a burrito the size of my forearm when my local tacqueria is closed.
  • “Housekeeping 101” felt weirdly like a weirdly regressive clue for HOME EC – Family and Consumer Sciences classes, when still available, cover more than just keeping house.

Happy Thursday!

Alan Arbesfeld’s Fireball Crossword, “Make Up Your Mind!”–Jenni’s write-up

It took me a long time to figure out what was going on with this puzzle (created by a man, of course). I even filled in one of the revealers and didn’t catch on. I had big blank spots all over the puzzle – and then the light dawned. A very satisfying “aha!” moment and a fun puzzle all around.

There are theme answers all around, all right, and they travel in pairs, crossing at a rebus square which reads PRO across and CON down. Here’s Peter’s answer grid – easier to read than mine.

Fireball puzzle, September 17, 2020, Alan Arbesfeld, “Make Up Your Mind,” solution grid

  • 1a [Cue] is {PRO}MPT, crossing 1d [To the point], {CON}CISE. I made this more difficult for myself by dropping TERSE in for 1d.
  • 5a [Better] is IM{PRO}VE crossing 7d [Dubya cabinet secretary], {CON}DI.
  • 10a [Copy, for short] is RE{PRO} crossing 12d [Communicate], {CON}VEY.
  • 17a [Unsuitable] is INAP{PRO}PRIATE crossing 18d [Reins], {CON}TROLS.
  • 71a [Apt] is {PRO}NE, crossing 58d [Church official], DEA{CON}. I didn’t catch this one till the very end. I had DEAN for the official, and NONE is a word so I didn’t look at the definition. Then I realized the rebuses were symmetrical and I was missing one.
  • 64a [Information next to a club face?] is the MEMBER{PRO}FILE crossing 42d [*<[:{)} is one for Santa Claus], EMOTI{CON}. I’ve never used that and I doubt I ever will.
  • 72a [Blanket used when traveling] is a LA{PRO}BE crossing 66d [Strips in a club?], BA{CON}. A club sandwich.
  • 73a [One who knows the ropes] is an OLD {PRO} crossing 57d [Capital of the French department Orne], ALEN{CON}.

And the revealers – two of them! 30a [Theme of this puzzle] is FOR OR AGAINST and 49a [Theme of this puzzle] is BOTH SIDES NOW. This is an amazing construction. The theme is tight and consistent and the fill is solid despite the quantity of theme material. As usual, the cluing in the Fireball does not disappoint – this is one of Peter’s strengths, and this puzzle is no exception. One of my favorite Fireballs of recent memory.

A few other things:

  • Raise your hand if you dropped in STAR for 13a, [___ Wars]. It’s actually COLA.
  • The SNARLY dog could be the reason the horse is REARING UP. If that crossing was accidental, it’s amusing. If it was on purpose, I’m seriously impressed.
  • 19a [Result of providing service and getting nothing in return?] is an ACE. Tennis.
  • NCIS LA crossing NTSB is a lot of consonants. They’re both perfectly legit answers and accessibly clue. The collection just looks wrong.
  • 56d [Leaves alone, sometimes] is SALAD. This is what I mean about Fireball clues. I love this.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that there is a brand of cashmere clothes called TSE, which makes an interesting change from Eliot and is far better than half a fly. Also the clothes look amazing and I may go shopping when I’m done with this. I had never heard of the rock TRIO The Presidents of the United States of America; I’m a child of the 60s and 70s, not the 90s. As such, I certainly know the Jim Croce song I GOT A NAME but I didn’t know it was the theme song of “The Last American Hero.” Apparently it’s also on the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” Didn’t know that, either.

Fred Piscop’s Universal crossword — “Left And Right” – Jim Q’s Write-up

THEME: Spoonerisms with L and R switches!

Universal crossword solution · “Left And Right” · Fred Piscop · Thur., 9.17.20


  • REGAL LIGHTS. Legal Rights.
  • RIP LEADERS. Lip Readers. 
  • ROCKER LOOM. Locker Room. 
  • ROW LATE. Low Rate. 
  • 56A [Get a new grip, say, or what the starred answers do?] SWITCH HANDS. 

I love good spoonerisms. Making these ones even more enjoyable is the cryptic revealer that leads to an AHA as the solver realizes that the letters being switched are L and R (left and right). I suppose L and R is a somewhat odd way to refer to hands without the {eft} and {ight} part, so when I was trying to figure out the theme after uncovering the revealer I was looking for something specifically related to either the whole words or the directions.

It’s not often that I really enjoy a theme after I’ve completed a puzzle, but that was not the case here. I had no clue I had been uncovering spoonerisms and they were fun to go back and sound out. I like the 7-Letter Bonus themer in the center of the grid!

RIP LEADERS is quite the stretch, but I thought the rest landed solidly.

4 stars!

Mike Peluso’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle theme, revealed somewhat incongruously at FRANGLAIS, is a collection of four French place names (three cities, one river, which jars) plus English homophones, probably. In my world, Cannes rhymes with “ban” and maybe “barn”, but never “bon-bon”, which is what this puzzle alleges.

Weirdest part of the puzzle: TVA and STRO wedged above CANNESCON – you could almost put anything there and you chose THOSE?

I did appreciate: the ANA clue – the ANA Inspiration is of the LPGA major tournaments; the UTOPIA clue – Thomas More wrote Utopia, from which we get the word.

Also worth noting: old-time crossword daggers are SNEEs, which are nearly extinct. They are never kukris.


Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1297), “Tea Party”—Ade’s take

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword solution, No. 1297: “Tea Party”

Good day, everybody! Hope you’re all doing well and wishing all of you parents, grandparents, relatives and guardians all the best in sending your children back to school, especially in the Northeast, where we are currently in the middle of the first few days of back to school.

Today’s puzzle, straight from the Boston area, made all of us take the “T,” though I’m not referencing the subway system in Beantown. well-known phrases/nouns are altered when adding the syllable “t” to them, creating the puns that you see below,

    • MISTY PIGGY (18A: [“Lord of the Flies” boy turning on the waterworks?)]) – Miss Piggy.
    • EIGHTY HOLES (23A: [One shy of four-and-a-half games of golf?]) – A***holes.
    • MEATY GENERATION (36A: [Strapping young lads, collectively]) – Me Generation.
    • SHORTY, LEAVE (51A: [“Get out of here, shrimp”?]) – Shore leave.
    • FAULTY GUYS (57A: [Men who are definitely NOT the marrying type?]) – Fall guys.

    That entire northwest corner was a serious slog for me, even with getting ARAB (1A: [Swift horse]) and ALLEGE right off the bat (3D: [Claim without proof]). Only having the knowledge of what types of genres BEQ places in his puzzles was I able to guess ROADIE, though, after finishing the puzzle, I totally remember seeing that brand name on a bunch of amplifiers I’ve come across (2D: [Marshall stack mover]). Initially had “mall” instead of MALE (17A: [___ gaze]), which then made BLEAH next to impossible to see without completely deleting the entire section and starting over, which I did (4D: [“Yuuuuuuck”]). On that note, bleah?!?!? Sheesh! I might have come across that once or twice in a crossword, but probably not in the past five years, at least! Also took at while that the game of Risk includes dice, hence ROLL making much more sense (14A: [Risk battle?]). All in all, I’m glad I got out of that section in one piece. The variant spelling of ALLELUIA could have been a spot of bother for people (38D: [“Praise the Lord!”]). Oh, and congratulations to ALEX MORGAN, who gave birth to her first child, a girl named Charlie Elena, this past May (55D: [With 46-Down, co-captain of the United States women’s national soccer team])

    “Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PLAX (66A: [Pre-toothbrushing rinse]) – On the receiving end of one of the most memorable plays in New York Giants and Super Bowl history, wide receiver Plaxico Burress, nicknamed “Plax,” caught the game-winning touchdown pass — from crossword favorite Eli Manning — with 35 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLII as the G-Men derailed the New England Patriots’ attempt at a perfect 19-0 season in 2007-08 with a 17-14 win. Also, on the receiving end of one of the more absentminded moves any athlete has made in recent memory, Burress, just nine months after Super Bowl glory, suffered an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg at a nightclub while reaching for his concealed weapon that was slipping down his pants. He ended up serving 2o months in prison for criminal possession of a weapon. There are many layers to this incident and how athletes feel when going out in public, including addressing the need that athletes feel in terms of having to protect themselves given that their celebrity does attract people who may want to harm them physically, but that’s for another day. 

    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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23 Responses to Thursday, September 17, 2020

  1. pseudonym says:

    If anyone here’s seen “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” I’d like your thoughts on its last shot.

  2. Steve Manion says:

    It took me forever to appreciate the theme. I was sure it was GOLDEN PARACHUTE and the H looked a little like a parachute. It was not a spot on answer and didn’t work going across, but that didn’t stop me. Excellent puzzle.

  3. Anne says:

    What a great puzzle! I was slow to tumble to the theme and then it was, head slap! I must pay more attention to grid art.

    • Anne says:

      Oops, should have prefixed my comment with NYT: Billy Boy will growl at me.

      I did notice my lack of attribution and tried to fix it, but the edit button gave me an empty text box. ?‍♀️

  4. huda says:

    NYT: I liked the theme and, like Amy, once I tumbled to the AND the rest of it fell pretty quickly. I considered GOLDEN HANDshake and watch before arriving at CUFFS.
    But the 1A clue got me… THRIFT was the last thing I entered…

  5. Gary R says:

    NYT: Nice puzzle. Once I convinced myself it couldn’t be a rebus, things became clear pretty quickly.

    Haven’t seen THRIFT used that way in a long time.

    Ben – I was a big fan of the space program when I was a kid, and I think “back in the day” (the 60’s) NASA routinely used Roman numerals to designate missions/spacecraft.

  6. PJ says:

    NYT – I believe NASA manned mission patches (Gemini and earlier Apollo) largely used Roman numerals. Apollo 11 didn’t. And it didn’t on purpose.

    In addition to keeping the crew names off the patch, the decision to use the Arabic numerals “11” instead of “XI” or even “eleven” was extremely purposeful. Neil Armstrong particularly disliked spelling out the word “eleven” (as it was in Collin’s first design), because it wouldn’t be easily understandable to foreigners, so the crew decided on “11”.

    You can read more here:

    Also NYT I stumbled out of the gate with RYMAN crossing HOORAY.

  7. JohnH says:

    I had trouble in the NE, the section with “the BIRD” and BELIEBER, and I hadn’t known of Dagwood sandwiches, but no problem. (I didn’t know BRAHS either and wondered if there might be a very weird variant “sorto” of SORTO, with “brohs” then at least closer to “bros.” But I left the A in place, luckily more or less just giving up.) I admired the theme, too, maybe especially because I got it only in steps.

    I first tried to translate the dashes into something, which of course isn’t the idea. I saw the H just to the NE of CUFFS and tried to imagine the black square connecting them as holding the theme AND, but that didn’t generalize. And only after I was done did I step back to look at the grid as a whole and realize that the black squares formed plus signs. Terrific!

  8. Billy Boy says:

    Simple and transparent yet fun NYT

  9. Lise says:

    WSJ: From the review: what makes PEC a masculine thing? Women have them, and bench-press, too. Also, ELK MEAT? As relates to venison? That’s masculine?

    I thought this was a great puzzle. Fun theme, excellent clues. There were several names I hadn’t known, but I know them now, so that’s good.

    NYT: I love grid art, especially when it is used as a cloaking device. Nice!

    • sanfranman59 says:

      You beat me to it, Lise. I thought exactly the same thing after reading the WSJ review. I readily acknowledge that the bias is real and is worthy of criticism, but it’s counterproductive to reach so far for examples. It seems pretty clear to me that the constructor and editing team made an effort to be gender-inclusive in this grid.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      The theme is male-dominated by nature. On top of that add HAREM which is distasteful in my book even with an attempt to tone it down with the clue [Group of female seals]. Then you go to ELK MEAT which I associate with hunting, a male-dominated activity and PEC, clued [Benching target], associated with weightlifting, another male-dominated activity.

      I noted the inclusion of a number of women’s names in the fill, but overall the grid still skews heavy with a masculine vibe.

      • David Steere says:

        I guess the positive way to look at this puzzle is that the “bro vibe” has been considerably softened with a wealth of women references. A good thing. A tricky, fun puzzle, to boot.

      • Lise says:

        Hi, Jim P! I had to spend some time thinking about your very reasonable point of view. To me, “Benching target” does not bring to me the mental image of a man. To me it conveys the mental image of the anatomy itself, and the benefits of strength training. I know more men than women lift, though that may be changing these days.

        And I agree with you that hunting is mainly done by men. The three or four people I know who hunt are all men. I’m hoping that people who hunt elks do so for eating purposes. I think I was just mentally comparing elk meat to venison without a mental male reference.

        I get the point about HAREM. There’s probably no good way to clue that one. But I think that crossword constructors are making progress, if only because when I see a name I don’t know, I no longer automatically assume it’s a man.

        I applaud you for your sensitivity to this issue and sorry if I was argumentative. Thanks for listening.

        • David Roll says:

          Me thinks JP protests too much–While he was at it, I am surprised he didn’t object to “skate,” also a male dominated activity.

        • Gary R says:

          I respectfully disagree.

          ELK MEAT -> hunting -> masculine
          PEC -> weightlifting -> masculine

          both strike me as tortured logic, at best (PEC, weightlifting less so than ELK MEAT, hunting), and sexist, at worst.

          I work out regularly (give or take Covid) and know several women who are serious lifters who could kick my butt in a bench press competition. I also know several women who are avid hunters (no elk around here, but definitely deer).

          What if we had a clue, “Void” and the answer were VACUUM?

          VACUUM -> house work -> feminine

          If someone were to make that linkage on this blog, I suspect “Management” would be (properly) offended.

  10. snappysammy says:

    terrific puzzle thursday
    made for a nice morning
    not a stinker in the bunch

  11. Will says:

    Oh, thank you for this. I gave up.

    I *thought* I understood the theme but it left me with a broken grid. Instead of removing [AND], I had them inserted as rebus squares; THEG[rand], broke “serum” for instance.

  12. Kelly Clark says:

    Universal: I believe the visual isn’t the right one.

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