Thursday, September 24, 2020

BEQ 15:01 (Ade) 


LAT 4:33 (GRAB) 


NYT 11:41 (Ben) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Frnk Lng’s Frbll Crossword, “Vwless Crsswrd”–Jnn’s wrt-p

I thought about doing my whole review without vowels but I’ve already had a cocktail, so no. (A 20th Century, for those who wonder about such things). I enjoy the Vwlss Crsswrds but I never know how to review them. They have no vowels! It’s a thing! Peter offers three different versions – one with no help, one with the number of words in an answer, and one with enumerations. I did the version with no help.

Fireball Crossword, September 24, 2020, Frank Longo, “Vwlss Crsswrd,” solution grid

The grids always look absurd. This one has some particularly wacky-looking answers, starting with 1a: [Fall Out Boy bassist who wrote the lyrics to the 2007 hit “Thnks fr th Mmrs”], PTWNTZ (Pete Wentz). I don’t know why the song title is done without vowels when the rest of the clue has them. Commenter CC enlightened me: that’s the official name of the song. As CC points out, that makes this clue REALLY clever. Nice.

There’s also 51a [The Rio Grande flows through it]: LBQRQNWMXC, which I got through crossings and stared at for a long time before I saw ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO.

I admire the kind of mind that realizes a phrase has 15 letters if you remove the vowels. This one is 31a, [Folk tune repeatedly mentioning Dinah] –  VBNWRKNGNTHRLRD (“I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”).

I also had a bit of difficulty parsing 7a [Phrase on both a Chance and Community Chest card in Monopoly], which is GTTFJLFR. That’s “get out of Jail free” which seems obvious now but was not as I was solving. Maybe it was the cocktail.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of Pete Wentz.

Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Going Undercover”—Jim P’s review

Four squares in this grid are SLEEPER CELLs (37a, [Operatives living in secret, and a hint to four squares in this grid]). Those squares should have two Zs in them, rebus-style, to make sense of the entries, but I found that a single Z satisfies the solver app.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Going Undercover” · Samuel A. Donaldson · Thu., 9.24.20

  • 17a. [Good feelings] WARM FUZZIES crossing PIZZA. I love the phrase WARM FUZZIES. I was disappointed at first when the phrase seemed too long to fit into the grid, but then happy again when I realized it truly was the correct answer.
  • 22a. [This is it] PUZZLE crossing QUIZZED
  • 57a. [Knock back] GUZZLE crossing SIZZLER
  • 63a. [Yellowstone sighting] GRIZZLY BEAR crossing OZZIE. I was at Yellowstone at the beginning of this month. No bear sightings, but we did see elk and bison.

I like the concept here and enjoyed the aha moment, but in my (comic) book, sleeping is denoted with nothing less than three Zs. Perhaps the sleeper in this grid suffers from apnea.

And I must register my complaint at the entry AUTOSEAT [Golf bucket, e.g.]. “Car seat” I’ve heard, “AUTOSEAT” I have not. I’m not the arbiter of all that is crossword-worthy, and I’m no car guy, but I can’t imagine anyone comfortably using the phrase “AUTOSEAT.” And the clue is trying way too hard to be tricky referring to a bucket seat in a VW Golf, but I can’t imagine anyone calling a bucket seat a “bucket.”

Sorry if I’m seeming a little TOUCHY, but with that out of the way, we can move on to more interesting fill like LOW CARD, TYPHOON, PODCAST, and TRIES OUT. I didn’t recognize the names of actress DREA de Matteo, photographer Diane ARBUS or folk singer ELYSE Weinberg, but I’m happy to learn about them. I did know my senator, Patty MURRAY, whose resistance against this administration I’m proud to note.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [Doesn’t pass, perhaps]. RUNS. Think football.
  • 23a. [When one hand’s up and the other’s down]. AT SIX. To me, that clue wants to be answered with a simple SIX.
  • 31a. [Canine-care deg.]. DDS. I was at the vet today, so I briefly tried to justify DVS (Doctor of Veterinary Services?) here.
  • 41a. [Univ. divisions]. YRS. I guess. That’s a little fuzzy though. I’ll accept it but I don’t have to like it.
  • 49a. [You can bank on it]. ATM. I don’t think I’ve seen this clue for this entry before. I like it. I was thinking airplanes and rivers before I got all the crossings and the penny dropped.
  • 4d. [Ready for war]. ARM. “Ready” being a verb, not an adjective.
  • 13d. [They may be liquid or frozen]. ASSETS. Is it coincidence that this clue comes right after the [In the buff] clue?
  • 44d. [“Office Ladies” or “Stuff You Should Know”]. PODCASTS. The former is hosted by two stars of The Office, so if you liked that show, you might be interested in all the behind-the-scenes details. The latter comes from writers at and is consistently one of the most popular PODCASTS out there.
  • 46d. [No. 2s in some states]. LT GOVS. Not every state has a Lt. Gov.? The current Lt. Gov. for Washington, Cyrus Habib, who is fully blind and was considered a rising star for the Democrats, announced earlier this year he would not seek reelection but would instead join the Jesuits. I gotta admire his convictions.

Cute theme, though I feel like I was cheated out of some much-needed sleep. 3.7 stars.

Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

It took today’s puzzle FAR longer to “click” for me that it probably should have.  I stared at the grid for at least 4 minutes after solving everything without fully getting what was going on.  In fairness, the set of answers we have for this set of clues doesn’t seem to go together:

NYT 0924 – 09/24/2020

  • 18A: Kay, e.g. — BEER BARREL
  • 22A: Elle, e.g. — DRUMSTICK
  • 38A: Pea, e.g. — CRIBBAGE MARKER
  • 57A: Bee, e.g. — PANHANDLE

Even with the revealer, I still wasn’t fully catching what was going on:

  • 63A: Explained in great detail … or what four of this puzzle’s clues are? — SPELLED OUT

To which my main reaction was something along the lines of “Yes!  They are spelled out!  K, e.g., L, e.g,…and then it clicked.

K-E-G.  L-E-G.  P-E-G.  B-E-G.

These all make sense when you spell everything out.  a KEG is a BEER BARREL.  To BEG is to PANHANDLE.  Etc, etc.

“Dragostei Din Tei”, best known as the “Numa Numa” song (thanks to a viral video that is now somehow 16 YEARS OLD), is a song by Moldovan band O-Zone, sung in ROMANIAN.

Other grid notes:

  • “The ANTIDOTE for 50 enemies is one friend”.  So says Aristotle.
  • I needed to google if PRO-KEDS were a different separate shoe brand different from regular KEDS.  As it turns out, no!
  • MAYA Rudolph went from having no Emmys to having 2 Emmys this previous weekend, picking up trophies for her vocal work on Big Mouth and her Kamala Harris impression on SNL.

Happy Thursday!

David Alfred Bywaters’ Universal crossword — “Long Division” – Jim Q’s Write-up

Divsion… that is to say [Late beloved princess’s ability to see] DI VISION. 

THEME: Long words are broken up and parsed into nonsense phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “Long Division” · David Alfred Bywaters · Thur., 9.24.20


  • 17A [Hospital wing for a plutocrat?] PRIVATEER. That is, PRIVATE E.R. 
  • 27A [Message from a scammer?] CONNOTE. CON NOTE. 
  • 38A [Marketers’ word choice?] ADDICTION. AD DICTION. 
  • 54A [Refuses to settle?] ISSUING. IS SUING. 
  • 65A [Hair condition that explains how the starred clues break up?] SPLIT ENDS. 

A fun, if familiar theme. I do appreciate the consistency of the answers in that they are all one-word base phrases. I’m unsure whether or not it matters where the split occurs. The revealer says SPLIT ENDS, but CONNOTE couldn’t be split more in the middle than where it is. I really don’t think the revealer was necessary at all in this puzzle. I would’ve enjoyed another themer in its place.

I was surprised that PRIVATE E.R. was clued as a wing in a hospital that one purchased so that it could solely belong to his/her person. I would’ve gone with the soldier route, but now that I think about it… good choice. I’d prefer to leave the idea of wounded military personnel out of the puzzle.

LEANDER was new for me, though it sound like an interesting myth. I would’ve assumed that the plural of MOUSSE was MOUSSE. But maybe that’s just cuz it sounds like MOOSE. And FTP was new for me also… but I can’t say that I’m smitten with that entry.

Thank goodness for the help in the clue for TAINO!

Enjoy the day!

3 stars.

Debbie Ellerin’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

As this style of puzzle goes, we have some nice touches. FASTBREAK tells us to look for synonyms for fast on either side of black squares. We find a effervescent foursome of FLEET, BRISK, ZIPPY and RAPID.

Other notable answers include:

  • [Virologist Yvonne who worked with Epstein], BARR. Nice to recognize as a person and not just an eponym
  • [Unit in an improvisational parlor game], MADLIB. Can you have just one? Also who still has a parlor?
  • [Indira’s son] is RAJIV Gandhi. Not a name I knew more than faintly. He succeeded after his mother’s assassination apparently, until he too was assassinated.
  • [First Best Actor Jannings], EMIL. Odd to still honour a Nazi collaborator.
  • [IA city on U.S. 20], FTDODGE. How well do Americans know which cities are on which highways?


Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1299), “Symbolizing”—Ade’s take

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword solution, 09.24.20: “Symbolizing”

Good day, everybody! Hope all is well with you on this Thursday!

Today’s puzzle is another hard edition for a Thursday, which is, I believe, the second time in about a month that we have a relatively hard themed puzzle from BEQ. We are so used to seeing stars/asterisks at the beginning of clues to signify a theme, but in this grid, the letters to “star” need to be interpreted as the first four letters of each clue for each of the clues to make sense. Once you do so, the answers become crystal clear…well, so long as you know Ringo Starr’s surname by birth, of course!

    • NEGOTIATED TERMS (17A: [*Ted talks, say)]) – [Started talks]
    • HERMAN MELVILLE (25A: [*Buck inventor]) – [Starbuck inventor]
    • OCTOPUS’S GARDEN (45A: [*Key song]) – [Starkey song…Ringo Starr’s real last name (Starkey) was used in “Octopus’s Garden” credits]
    • HOLLYWOOD NOVICE (57A: [*Let]) – [Starlet]

    It normally takes a while to get the theme of tricky puzzles like these, and it took a bit of answering much of the crossings before seeing enough letters in the entry to “HERMAN MELVILLE” that the stars/asterisks were replacing the letters to the word (star) in the clue. I was familiar with Octopus’s Garden that I wasn’t thrown off by the two S’s next to each other in figuring it out, but I didn’t readily answer that song title as I did with BIG OLE BUTT, which was completely down my alley (3D: [1989 LL Cool J single]). That, plus SAG CARD, something a number of my college friends who studied television/radio/film currently own, were my favorite entries (50A: [Working actor’s ID]).  Time to get out of here with some tunes…

    “Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HAVOC (25D: [Mayhem]) – In 2011, the men’s basketball team at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) made a surprise run to the Final Four, and it was spearheaded by its full-court-pressing style of defense that then-head coach Shaka Smart termed HAVOC. The term was associated with the school so much that VCU had “HAVOC” registered as an official trademark one year later. Even after Smart left the school — and the style of basketball he perfected — in 2015 to take the head coaching job at the University of Texas, the “HAVOC” brand still remained in Richmond and on the VCU campus.

    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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27 Responses to Thursday, September 24, 2020

  1. CC says:

    FIREBALL: That song by Pete Wentz is actually spelled without vowels–the title really is “Thnks fr th Mmrs”–so the choice to include the artist behind that song at 1-Across is pretty clever.

  2. Maxine Nerdström says:

    NYT made me feel a bit dumb today. I just could not grok the clues, but luckily stumbled into the correct theme answers just based on what seemed like legitimate phrases that fit. Now that I read the explanation it seems obvious (sigh).

    Also I had a DNF in the bottom middle section. I didn’t know the closer term, the SCOTUS judge name, the Dancing with the Stars judge name, OR the WNBA team name. I only had four squares to fill in but I couldn’t muster up those answers with guessing. I thought maybe LYVE for the WNBA team name? Which now seems so obviously wrong. Ah, hindsight.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I liked the theme, which I did figure out, eventually… But I found that there were too many obscure names (obscure to me, anyhow)… So, mixed bag.
    I was thinking about my reaction to having many names in a puzzle. Some of course are reminders of memorable people (regardless of the valence). And I realize that what’s memorable to a scientist is different from what’s memorable to a sports fan or music lover. But there comes a point where it just feels like it’s random, that even if I were to google that person, I wouldn’t feel especially enlightened. This is the point when I think that the constructor went with what was convenient to them rather than what was good for the puzzle and its solver. It’s like driving a visible nail into a mortise and tenon construction.

    • damefox says:

      I agree. I thought the fill was pretty obscure in some places, and the puzzle stopped being fun around minute 10. The CALYX, LEN, LYNX, TANEY section was the worst for me. Even BEER BARREL feels like kind of a weird phrase (although I admit I don’t have a great deal of familiarity with keg-related vocabulary).

    • John says:

      Fully agree. Constructors, take note please.

  4. JohnH says:

    In the WSJ, can I get help with POSSE for “Singer’s squad”? Thanks.

    Diane ARBUS was a gimme for me; the other names were new to me, as was AUTO SEAT instead of “car seat” and WARM FUZZIES instead of “warm and fuzzy feeling,” but no doubt my ear is not correctly attuned to the idiom now. I don’t think I’d ever heard NLC abbreviated or, for that matter, in the plural, but no sweat. And here I thought that deuces were mostly wild.

  5. Billy Boy says:

    NYT gimmick was immediately transparent once I got the NW redundancy of GERM IDEA and paid attention to the actual theme answers. Cute theme, similar to another recent gimmick I cannot grab onto this moment.

    But TANEY? Did a consonant run as I was wholly dense to MIDST as my mythology is total crap, lol

    OOPS! Must do WSJ!

  6. GlennP says:

    WSJ: The .puz version of the puzzle available through the Fiend site is correctly coded so that my Crosswords app recognizes the ZZ rebus squares and won’t accept a single Z. Yay!!! Let’s hear it for correct coding!

  7. stmv says:

    Universal: the clever thing is that the theme entries are split (in order) at doubles of the letters of ENDS, e.g., PRIVAT*E E*R, CO*N N*OTE, etc.

  8. Hi says:

    I read Styles and Mousses not as plural nouns, but as verbs. Styles one’s hair using mousse, or mousses one’s hair.

  9. Steve Manion says:

    I am surprised that no one mentioned TANEY as an offensive crossword entry. He was the author of the Dred Scott decision, universally condemned as the worst decision ever by the Supreme Court.


    • R says:

      Good call. It’s doubly bad as a (guessable) Natick with LEN Goodman, but such a terrible American shouldn’t be let off with an innocuous clue.

  10. Bryan says:

    NYT: OMFG, e.g.
    Didn’t understand this at all until I hit the crossword blogs. Now I think it’s amazing!

  11. Zulema says:

    This NYT was one Thursday I solved completely but had to come here to get the connection of DRUMSTICK and PANHANDLE. Thank you. Good experience and enjoyable.

  12. Rob says:

    NYT: not my cup of tea. I usually love Thursday puzzles, but this one just blew me away. No idea what the theme was!

  13. jefe says:

    LAT: Wanted to write in about [H, to Hercules]=ETA. Hercules was the Roman version of the Greek Heracles/Herakles, which could’ve been used instead, or other Greeks like Homer, Hermes, Hera, etc.

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