Thursday, October 1, 2020

BEQ 13:30 (Ade) 


LAT 4:30 (GRAB) 


NYT 8:24 (Ben) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Fireball 5:56 (Jenni) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 142”–Jenni’s write-up

I was surprised when I finished and looked at the timer. I thought this took a lot longer. There were several spots that seemed to stump me, especially the NE corner.

{insert comment about male-dominated constructor list here}

There was a lot to like in this puzzle.

Fireball puzzle, October 1, 2020, Peter Gordon, “Themeless 142,” solution grid

  • The NW corner with the stack of HEAVY HANDALZHEIMER and SITS SHIVA hits a little close to home. Did Peter know my mother?
  • Also in the NW: I enjoyed [General reply, maybe] for YES MA’AM. It was matched by the same clue at 44a for NO SIR.
  • Once I finally got the NE sorted, I struck politics at 41a [Exercises one’s franchise] for VOTES crossing 14d, [Much of Middle America] for RED STATES. Here’s hoping that changes in November*. A recent piece in the WaPo suggests it might.
  • Fun quote clues: 23d [“Star Trek” villain with the line “This is Ceti Alpha V!”] for KHAN and 36a [“Predicting ___ doesn’t count; building arks does”: Warren Buffett] for RAIN.
  • Even if you didn’t know that ERIC CARLE is the [Author who cofounded a museum of picture book art in Amherst, Massachusetts], if you’ve read to a child in the last 30 years, you probably recognize the name. My daughter’s favorite Eric Carle book was, of course, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Her copy is tucked away awaiting grandchildren.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’d never head the Warren Buffett quote, and I didn’t know that fasting during Ramadan is sawm.

*Yes, I have political opinions and yes, it is appropriate to write about them here. If you don’t like opinions with your crosswords, go somewhere else or start your own blog. This blog has an editorial stance. We believe that all people deserve safety, decent healthcare, nutrition, housing, and freedom. By “freedom” we mean the ability to live our lives without fear of police brutality, economic discrimination, and other oppressions no matter our age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or immigrant status. We know that systemic racism, misogyny, homophobia, nativism, and plutocracy threaten those values. We recognize that the current administration is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and that the decades-long effort to undo the New Deal has led us to an unthinking acceptance of terrible compromises.

If you think that we are inappropriately injecting politics into your life, you are speaking from a place of immense privilege. Those of us who live in marginalized bodies and threatened communities are aware that every decision made by White people in power reinforces a racist status quo. That includes decisions about what appears in crossword puzzles. This shit doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The cruciverbal is political. It is ironic, to say the least, that when we speak up about oppression, you whine about having your leisure taken away. It’s not a good look. Just stop.

Adam Fromm’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

Today’s NYT had a theme that I’m surprised I haven’t seen before (that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, just that I haven’t seen it).  Adam Fromm’s grid had some fun with rebus squares, both across and down:

NYT 1001 – 10/01/2020

  • 9A: Let the air out of — [DEF]LATE
  • 9D: Band with the 1970 #1 hit “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” — [3] DOG NIGHT
  • 17A: Stage a coup — GR[AB C]ONTROL
  • 3D: Bisected — IN [2]
  • 46A: Coral island nation north of Fiji — [TUV]ALU
  • 46D: Cassette tape predecessor — [8] TRACK
  • 52A: Genre of “The Big Sleep” and “Kiss Me Deadly” — FIL[M NO]IR
  • 55D: Dr. J’s team — [6]ERS
  • 64A: First name of a famous Mongol ruler — GEN[GHI]S
  • 38D: Classic checker-dropping game — CONNECT [4]

An entry across the middle of the grid spells it all out:

  • 37A: Products since the 1960s … on which you can see five “key” things depicted in this puzzle — TOUCH TONE PHONES

Yes, TOUCH TONE PHONES, which made their debut for consumers at the 1962 World’s Fair.  Each rebus square has a touch tone phone number going down, and the three letters associated with that key going across.


I leave it there.  Phones!

Happy Thursday!

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Built to Scale”—Jim P’s review

Did you PASS NOTES [Furtively communicate in class, or what you need to do seven times in this puzzle] back in your school days? I wonder what the virtual school equivalent is now. Texting, I presume.

I didn’t catch on to the theme until I was stuck in the SW. I had to make the active decision to understand it in order to make progress and complete the grid. Each theme answer has one of the standard musical notes in it, though you have to “pass” it (i.e. mentally eliminate it) to have the remaining word match the clue.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Built to Scale” · Alex Eaton-Salners · Thu., 10.1.20

  • 17a. [Taking for a ride] CONDONING. Conning.
  • 21a. [Hustles] SCREAMS. Scams.. This was tricky because “hustle” can also mean “move quickly” as can “scream.”
  • 23a. [Safekeeping sites] CHEMISTS. Chests.
  • 29a. [In short supply] SCARFACE. Scarce.
  • 46a. [Green lights, perhaps?] LASSOERS. Lasers. Hmm. Usually it’s written “sol”…or “sew,” if you’re Julie Andrews. Your homework: Are there any “sol” words that could fit in this spot?
  • 51a. [Stagnant spots] SWAM LAPS. Swamps.
  • 53a. [Steers clear of]. SHUT-INS. Shuns.

Cute theme. As I said, I was at a standstill in the SW thanks to a (slightly unfair) cluster of ? clues. That was when I made the decision to figure out the theme. It’s nice when a theme does exactly what it’s supposed to do and helps the solver come unstuck.

Top fill for me: AXL ROSE, CATNAP, and BEER BRAT [Oktoberfest sausage]. Near as I can tell, the BEER BRAT is an American thing coming first out of Wisconsin. But of course, Oktoberfest is celebrated here in the U.S. as well.

It was a CREWEL joke to have that word’s first and last letters be part of theme answers, but I must have heard of it somewhere because my first guesses were correct. Also, not a fan of  WUSSY (or its noun form “wuss”) because of the bullying vibe it gives off.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Remote location, perhaps]. SOFA. Filled this in immediately, but I still love the clue.
  • 43a. [Weak heart?]. THREE. Good grief, this took me way too long to get. I was considering that “heart” meant “center.” Then I realized that it could be thematic since RE is embedded, and when you remove it, you still have a real word (THE). But it’s simply a reference to a 3 of Hearts being a weak card.
  • 4d. [Navel base]. ABDOMEN. Nice one.

I like a theme that seems inscrutable at first, but then becomes all clear post-aha moment. This fits the bill. 3.75 stars.

MaryEllen Uthlaut’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today features a pretty basic “clue reversal” theme, with four long answers clued as [Pops]. The wrinkle is that BOSTONORCHESTRA and DADSNICKNAME are singular, whereas ICECREAMBARS and CARBONATEDSODAS are plural. One further nit – isn’t a SODA by definition carbonated, making the phrase tautological?

As previously noted, four spanning entries tends to make for a grid without a lot of room for “playfulness” in the non-theme entries. The shorter entries actually hold up well here, but the compromise comes in longer phrases being entries like SHAPER and CREEDAL rather than colourful phrases.


Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1301), “Language Immersion”—Ade’s take

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword solution, No. 1301: “Language Immersion”

Good day, everybody! Hope all is well with you and you have all of your fall clothing lined up and ready to go!

We have some fun playing with our words today, and each of the three theme entries is a pun where a known phrase or popular noun is altered by adding letters into it when, spelled out, also is a word that is an actual language. A couple of the original phrases/nouns are not so common, at least in my mind, so seeing the a-ha moment might cause some mixed feelings for some — especially those not as well-versed in music and music history.

    • DILATING A PONY (19A: [Prepping the baby horsy for the eye doctor?)])Dig a Pony (song from The Beatles’ Let it Be album) 
    • CAT HAIR SICKNESS (36A: [Furball allergy?]) – Car sickness
    • GIBSON’S SHINDIG (49A: [Party for actor Mel?]) – Gibson SG (popular guitar model)

    It is no joke that I had just had a conversation with a friend of mine who lives  north of Minneapolis (and near the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth), and she mentioned a school called MESABI Range Community College (4D: [Minnesota iron range]). Sure enough, about a couple of weeks later, and hello Mesabi!! Still struggled to get that one without the crossings. Outside of that, pretty smooth sailing, and was nice to have all those lovely chunks of 7-letter stacks in each corner of the grid. Of all those sevens, probably liked GET CUTE the most, probably because of the British vernacular in the clue more than anything else (58A: [Become overly twee]). And to have SEVEN UP as one of the seven-letter entries is beyond poetic (8A: [Soda with a red dot in its logo]).

    “Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: AGASSI (27D: [Tennis star nicknamed “The Punisher”]) – With the French Open currently going on, it’s a perfect time to highlight the accomplishment of Andre Agassi’s win in Roland Garros 21 years ago, when he came back from two sets down in the final to defeat Andrei Medvedev (who, if I remember correctly, was wearing sweatpants during the match) to complete a career Grand Slam and joining Rod Laver in that exclusive category in men’s singles. (Federer, Nadal and Djokovic would follow in winning each of the four majors at least once.) Only Agassi and Nadal have won the career Golden Slam in men’s singles, which includes winning the gold medal at the Olympics in singles. (Federer has an Olympic gold in doubles, in 2008, with fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka.)

    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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36 Responses to Thursday, October 1, 2020

  1. Bryan says:

    NYT: Hey, Laura, who commented on this past Sunday’s puzzle asking how to type the word “olive” in one square, and I responded about how to use the Rebus key… well, your Rebus key got a workout today! I’m 51 years old, and I grew up using touch-tone phones, but I eventually had to Google a picture of a touch-tone keypad as reference. (That was before realizing that my iPhone has a touch-tone keypad on it.) My kids’ generation and younger won’t understand this one at all.

    It took me quite a while to figure out what was going on with this one. I got 8 TRACK first (I had an 8-track player as a kid), and I thought it was going to be a “some squares have numbers” kind of thing. But then I got FILM NOIR, and I just couldn’t figure out how MNO equaled 76 for Dr. J’s team. Eventually, through enough crosses, I got TOUCH TONE PHONES, and it all clicked. But that’s when I had to Google a picture of the keypad to solve the other themers.

    The crossword geek in me appreciates the gimmick of this theme. But mostly (sorry if this sounds harsh), like the debate on Tuesday night, it was a slog that I was just happy to be done with.

  2. mary says:

    Go Jenni! Fully agree. Am pleased that Fiend doesn’t try to exist in a vacuum.

  3. Bryan says:

    I don’t do the Fireball crossword, but Jenni: +1 to your comments. Everything going on right now is way too existentially consequential to stay silent about, even on a crossword blog — especially on a crossword blog.

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    We moved into our house when I was 3 – early 1964 – and I’m pretty sure we had touch-tone phones from the get-go. My father loved gadgets, and we had multiple lines which rolled over because he was always on call and could not abide the idea that someone would get a busy signal.

    My kid (20) started texting when a lot of people were still using the letters on the phone keypad because their phones didn’t have keyboards, so I think younger folk will get this theme even if they’ve never heard of a “touch-tone phone.”

  5. Vince Hradil says:

    WSJ: SO instead of SOL? Come on!?!

  6. huda says:

    NYT: Fun theme… Took a while for the penny to drop, even though I figured out early on that it was a number in one direction and 3 letters in the other…
    Some of the fill was not so great. I think when there is a rebus and therefore a lot of uncertainty, you need the rest to be very solid to maximize the fun.

  7. jack says:

    WSJ-53 across clue? Printing error or am I a moron?

  8. David L says:

    I put the numbers rather than the 3-letter strings in the NYT (mainly because I’m lazy) but that didn’t count as a correct solution. It’s not clear why, since putting in the letters makes nonsense out of the down answers.

    • MattF says:

      Generally, if there’s a choice, the across entry counts as ‘correct’.

      • David L says:

        Thanks — that must be on of the unwritten rules of crosswording that no one told me about

        • Norm says:

          You can generally get away with just entering the first letter of the rebus if you want to avoid entering the whole thing. FWIW, I tried the numbers first as well, because it seemed whimsical and fun.

    • Mike OD says:

      I typed in the numbers and I got a correct solution. I solved it on the NYT website, not AcrossLite if that makes a difference…

    • RM Camp says:

      I tried to do it a few different ways, and it killed my solve time >:[

  9. MattF says:

    NYT was good, although it took me an unreasonably long time to get that little block in the middle of the W edge. I had to count the rebuses to persuade the xword lobe of my brain that there weren’t more ‘keys’ in the block.

    And, FWIW, I don’t mind the occasional political comment. Probably because I usually vehemently agree with the opinions generally stated here. I do think there’s a risk in surrounding oneself with compatible viewpoints, but now is not the time for that.

  10. Mutman says:

    NYT: Fun Thursday for me. And I appreciate that the rebus letters ran across (not down) as they do on the phone key!

    I am also curious why people ‘care’ that Across Lite counts them as ‘wrong” (as it did mine) in certain rebus puzzles such as today. You know the answer is correct. The software has deficiencies, so what. You might think people’s job performance reviews hinged on this?!?!?

    • Norm says:

      Because sometimes I mistype, and if Ms. Happy Pencil doesn’t appear, I don’t know if it’s that or if I somehow did not conform to the underlying coding.

  11. Billy Boy says:

    NYT was cute and fairly well done.
    Shaded use of MANTRA, AGATE and the new-to-me TRICE made SW a lot more work, though.

    WSJ was cute and awkwardly done.
    Once I figured out the ‘bit’ it helped me to solve although SO not SOL was confusing; a puzzle must be made to work. (WSJ)Several ‘sleeping policemen’ in there for me. Good that the scale went in order, unlike the seemingly random key placement in NYT.


  12. Ethan says:

    Fireball: Since 22A could have also been PICK AT, why would Peter clue the cross for that vowel as the proper name for a modeling agency rather than the perfectly common word? Am I supposed to know there’s no such agency as ELITI? Questionable cluing decision there, IMO.

    • MattF says:

      I fell into that particular trap. Part of the game, IMO.

    • Jason T says:

      Agreed – I actually thought the answer was PICK AT / ELITI until I read this. (I solve on paper, so I don’t get the automatic confirmation from solving online.)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Meanwhile, I’ve known about the Elite modeling agency since I was a 1980s teen reading magazines like Seventeen. Didn’t know it was European, but aside from that, it was pretty much a gimme.

      Given all the arcane baseball slang I’ve been expected to know, I have zero problem with some solvers going the wrong way on the modeling agency. Also, put yourself in Peter Gordon’s shoes. He is an excellent constructor. He doesn’t put sheer crap in his grids, generally. Why would he choose ELITI/PICK AT when ELITE/PECK AT is arguably better fill? (Peter’s drive to never reuse a clue is what brings you the modeling agency instead of a mere adjective clue.)

      • Ethan says:

        I’m afraid I still don’t agree. Baseball slang (as is the case with other slang varieties) normally consists of regular words taking on different meanings. I can’t assume the same is true of the proper name of a commercial enterprise. I would have the same criticism for Peter if PECK AT were crossing the proper name of a baseball player at that vowel.

        I am also not convinced by the argument that the solver should have to assume the constructor’s brilliance as they solve. It’s also an odd argument to use here because on the one hand you’re implying that ELITI would be “sheer crap” if it were the answer and on the other hand arguing that names of modeling agencies in and of themselves constitute fine and familiar fill to lots of people.

        Finally, we’re not talking about ALAI here. There must be unused, fresh ELITE clues that wouldn’t have resulting in an unfair crossing.

        Again, I would have no problem with the clue or learning about the Elite Model Agency if the cross hadn’t been ambiguous.

  13. Shteyman says:

    One of the harder Thursdays for me, despite having seen a similar theme circa 1999.

  14. Adam says:

    All this time I thought it was called an “A-Track,” because I’ve only ever heard it aloud in conversation. Between that and not knowing the last letter of ENLA? and SEAL? I was quite stumped in that little corner for a bit.

  15. Gary R says:

    NYT: Thought it interesting that we often complain about puzzles that call for spelled-out numbers that aren’t spelled out in the wild (Seven-Up, Ten-K, etc.), but today’s puzzle goes the other way – we’re using numerals for numbers that are usually spelled out (except for 8-track).

  16. Brenda Rose says:

    In the spirit of “sports will make you smarter” want everyone to know that the California fires are now the size of over 3 million football fields. The 90 degree temps & the winds are making things worse for our fire fighters. I envy the rest of the country thinking about fall clothing; our clothing is in Go Bags in case of evacuation. This is scary real.

    • Hello Brenda,

      Here is hoping that you and your loved ones and neighbors are coping with the wildfires as well as one can given the strength and spread of the fires. In a good number of opening lines of my blogs on here, I regularly mention current events (e.g. the last round of wildfires on the West Coast a month ago, hurricane landfalls, social injustice protests) and always wish everyone who’s reading the blog and located in those affected areas the best in handling those situations and their aftermaths. Not sure if you thought I came across as tone deaf to those going through what you’re going through out West, but in no way did I mean to come across as insensitive to all of you out there while blissfully writing about a puzzle.

      Thank you for the update, and I am hoping for the sparing of as much life and property as possible in fighting them. Stay safe, Brenda, and thank you for all your past contributions in conversations on here!

  17. Dedie says:

    I found NYT puzzle annoying. If l wanted a rebus puzzle l would look for it elsewhere Crossword puzzles are crossword puzzles not some gimmick. I live abroad and look forward to keeping up with Americanisms. This does not fit the bill

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