Thursday, October 15, 2020

BEQ tk (Ade) 


LAT 3:56 (GRAB) 


NYT 6:01 (Ben) 


WSJ 8:48 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball 6:10 (Jenni) 


Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In a Bind”—Jim P’s review

S’s become K’s in our theme answers today as explained by KNOTS (70a, [Conundrums, or, if read as three words, this puzzle’s theme]), i.e. “K, NOT S.”

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “In a Bind” · Alan Arbesfeld · Thu., 10.15.20

  • 18a. [Unusual sight in the vegetable aisle?] WHITE KALE. Sale.
  • 24a. [“Ever hear of that ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ band?”?] “KNOW QUEEN?” Snow.
  • 37a. [Scarlet tanager, say?] CARDINAL KIN. Sin.
  • 54a. [Fashionable shawl?] KARAN WRAP. Saran. Is “Karan” a word I’m supposed to know? Because I don’t. Ah, it’s designer Donna Karan, the woman behind DKNY among other things. Honestly, I’m more into video games than fashion; DK to me is Donkey Kong.
  • 60a. [Disastrous promotion at a retail giant?] K-MART BOMB. Smart. I like this one best.

Solid theme. I wish the one entry could’ve been based on something more universally known, but maybe I’m just a good-for-nothing schlump.

The fill did not impress today; too many preposition-ended phrases: STANK AT, WON AT, SOLD TO, NEARER TO. Throw in bridgey ONE NO (which I’ve decided I’m going to start parsing ON ENO for no reason), more names I didn’t know—ARTIS Gilmore of the NBA and the NEVA River in Russia—and random Italian NEL clued as a fill-in-the-blank. If there’s a highlight in the fill, I guess it’s (surprisingly) the preposition-ended phrase TROT OUT which feels like it can stand on its own just fine. And HARMONIC. The electrical engineer in me likes that word.

Clues of note:

  • 45a. [Part of a moving experience?]. VAN. Good clue. But how many times have you moved and used a van? As a military family, we’ve had more than our share of moves, and never once did it involve a van. But “moving van” is a phrase; “moving truck” is not.
  • 7d. [Wood that can be turned into itself?]. ASH. Nice cluing angle. Never thought about that.
  • 10d. [Charlie preceder]. BAKER. There have been several phonetic alphabets used in the past by different military services and different countries, and in at least one of them, the first two letters were “Able” and “Baker.” These days, for the most part, everyone is using the NATO version where the first two letters are “Alfa” (or “Alpha”) and “Bravo.”
  • 55d. [Roger lost to him at Wimbledon in 2019]. NOVAK. The Djokovic-Federer rivalry has its own Wikipedia page. There you’ll learn that they’ve faced each other 50 times (including a record 17 in Grand Slams) and that Djokovic leads the series 27-23. How’s this for a trivia tidbit: each man is the only one to have beaten the other one at all four Grand Slams.

I liked the theme fine, but the fill left me wanting. Three stars.

Lindsey Hobbs’ New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

In what I hope is an apt choice, I’m going to cover Lindsey Hobbs’ (debut?) Thursday NYT in the reverse of how I’d typically do so.  Let’s look at the revealers:

NYT 10/15/2020 – No. 1015

  • 18A: Locale suggested by this puzzle’s theme — AUSTRALIA
  • 55A: Nickname for 18-Across, and a hint to how four answers in this puzzle are to be entered — DOWN UNDER

With that in mind, it’s easier to spot what’s going on with each of the four clues that’s simply “-” in the grid.  In addition to some Aussie favorites entered in the grid normally like the KOALA, four entries start in one row, then flip DOWN UNDER to the entry below:

  • 14A/20A: Web-footed mammals — PLATYPUSES
  • 31A/36A: Big hopper — KANGAROO
  • 40A/43A: Brand of spread for sandwiches and toast — VEGEMITE
  • 59A/62A: Instrument played using circular breathing — DIDGERIDOO

I like the Aussie flavor throughout the theme entries in the puzzle (including the VEGEMITE…I’m partial to Marmite as far as yeast extract spreads go, and it’s definitely an acquired taste, but it has good umami flavor!)


I dig the cool grooves of Australian band Confidence Man

Elsewhere in the grid, I liked the cluing on the bits of longer fill that ran throughout — “Things with perks?” for COFFEEPOTS, and especially “Bouncer’s equipment” for TRAMPOLINE

Happy Thursday!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “When the Saints Go Marching In” – Jenni’s write-up

{insert comment about another crossword by a man}

This was a fun theme! I didn’t catch on to the whole thing right away. Each theme answer has ST inserted twice into a base phrase. Wacky clues result. I saw the one at the beginning and missed the second one for a while.

Fireball Crossword, October 15, 2020, Peter Gordon, “When the Saints Go Marching In,” solution grid

  • 17a [Shower compartment surrounding comedian Martin?] is STALL ABOUT STEVE (All About Eve). I thought it was going to be Martin Short at first.
  • 25a [Dark beer belonging to a Marvel Universe doctor?] is STOUT OF STRANGE (out of range).
  • 40a [Paint a crosswalk on the boards of a venerable theater?] is STRIPE OLD STAGE (ripe old age).
  • 53a [Rock sturdy enough to make into steps?] is STAIR FORCE STONE (Air Force One).

All the base phrases are solid and the theme clues and answers are amusing. Nicely done.

A few other things:

  • 9d [Court witness, e.g.] is ATTESTER. Am I the only one who started with ATTESTOR instead? It seems more legal-ish to me (I am SO not a lawyer).
  • 10d [Business whose clients might go belly up?] is an adorable clue for PET SPA.
  • I think EYER  is creepier than [Person taking a good look] implies.
  • 28d [They use both kinds of compasses] is NAVIGATORS. I presume this means a compass for directions and a drawing compass to mark the map. Any other ideas?
  • [Excellent, in slang] should have included some suggestion that PHAT is, well, old.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ABBA had an album called “Voulez-Vous.” Also did not know that the 2022 Winter Olympics have a PANDA as a mascot or that he? she? they? is named Bing Dwen Dwen. Have never heard of Eve ENSLER‘s play “Fruit Trilogy.” And I would have misspelled OREOOOS. It looks like it should have an H at the end.


Jim Holland’s Universal crossword — “S E-A Changes” – Jim Q’s Write-up

Sounds like it’s just a “lose the S puzzle,” but there’s more to it than that!

THEME: Lose the S at the beginning of a word, but also change the EE part of that word to EA to create wackiness. Very specific!

Universal crossword solution · “Comma Bond” · Jim Holland · Thur., 10.15.20



I’m surprised how many words there are that you can do this with! Are there others besides STREET / TREAT, SLEEPING / LEAPING, STEEL / TEAL, SPEECH / PEACH? I’m really impressed with this set.

Fillwise, I floundered a lot. I was distracted (solving during study hall supervision), but I botched the NW badly putting OTTER and STOLE for [Mink cousin] before the correct SABLE. Had WADE for [Walk over water?] even though it makes no sense, and AS IF in place of I BET. Hot mess result.

Winning clue: [Word that surrounds “short of money”] SHY. although I think the cryptic nature of it is asking for a “?”

I also learned what a backronym was. Not because it was in the puzzle, but because I googled H.E.R. since I’ve never heard of… her. H.E.R. is her backronym for Having Everything Revealed. A backronym, as I discovered, is a word that already exists and is then turned into an acronym.

Good times, and I learned stuff.

4 stars.

John Michael Currie’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I’m not one-hundred percent sure of the rules in play here: DOUBLETEAM is the revealer, and each of four answers consists of two pairs that, if an ‘S’ were added to each, would make Big 4(?) North American sports teams. I’m not always sure which teams go with which sports, but I don’t see an NBA team there?

The puzzle itself is ably filled, a lot cleaner than many of late, partly aided by the pinwheel design, which is sometimes underutilised. There is a Mallorca mini-theme with PALMA and RAFA. Growing up in a (nearly) subtropical area, the idea that [Avocado ___] TOAST is Millennial feels weird. In a lot of areas, especially Natal and Mpumalanga they’re abundant and often free to pick… New to me: PEETS – is it run by Calvin and Amanda?


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18 Responses to Thursday, October 15, 2020

  1. Rob says:

    NYT: Congratulations Lindsey on a fantastic debut! Hopefully we will see more puzzles from you!

  2. Anne says:

    NYT: Well done Lindsey! I thought the puzzle was great. The “web footed mammals” had to be PLATYPUSES, right? A couple of crossings made me sure about the theme. So all the other themers were gimmes.

    I’m a big fan of Vegemite myself. I spent most of my 20s living in the US and had to make one large jar last all year because that was all my mother would send.

  3. Michael in Chelsea says:

    Still wondering if it’s a meta that the NYT themers boomerang in the grid.

  4. Bryan says:

    NYT: Clever concept nicely executed. I did get stumped at the crossing of EIS and ERSE. That S was the last letter in the grid for me.

    One thing I noticed right away: Both yesterday’s and today’s puzzles have had almost identical clues/answers. Yesterday had 53d: Strand at an airport, maybe – FOG IN. And then today had 34d: Strand at the airport, maybe – FOG IN. What are the odds of that, on consecutive days?

    • arthur118 says:

      Three of the four clues used for FOGIN are exactly the same as today’s, beginning with the Patrick Berry clue in February of 2018.

      Not a big deal, just a bit of editorial laziness, maybe.

  5. Norm says:

    NYT: Nothing in DOWN UNDER says reverse direction or double back or boomerang to me. That’s the only thing that bugged me a bit. A very nice puzzle otherwise and fun to figure out, but the revealer had nothing to with it for this solver.

    LAT: Another inapt revealer. The theme entries are individual players — not teams. So, they not DOUBLE TEAMS. I suppose you can try to pretend that each one is a team made up of a player from a different sport, but, again, doesn’t work for me.

    • JohnH says:

      DOWN UNDER for “down back” or “back under” confused me, too.

      My sticky point was the SE with DIDGERIDOO, which isn’t ringing a bell.

      • marciem says:

        Here’s a native player of the didgeridoo:

        I first heard the word in the song “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport”, which had a terribly racist verse, but it got a lot of airplay in the US (and I assume elsewhere) at the time.

        • marciem says:

          And I’m now remembering that as a California girl, I had no clue what an “abo” was, so I thought he was singing “emu” with an Australian accent… the rest of the song was mostly about tending to other fauna of his . :( :) .

        • Anne says:

          Rolf Harris, who performed “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport”, is now a pariah. He was convicted of the sexual assault of four underage girls and served some years in prison in the UK.

    • David L says:

      I agree — BOOMERANG would have been a better revealer, and it’s also nine letters

    • placematfan says:

      BOOMERANG as a reveal doesn’t work for me because the theme entries would need to end where they started. And I don’t understand the naysaying about the “under” part of DOWN UNDER. I mean, the theme entries go down, then they go under. There’s no need to have included in the reveal something about reversing direction, because the reversal is an inherent effect of having gone under. And would it actually be better to have the themers go down and then stop abruptly and begin again at the starting column? That would be awkward.

    • Bob says:

      Norm, to double-team is to use two players on one other. Works for me. You appear to have ignored the DOUBLETEAM clue.

  6. Zulema says:

    The NYT puzzle was great fun to solve. My final entry was TRAMPOLINE, perfect answer for its clue. Thank you for a doable (for me) Thursday. Wednesdays are becoming more gnarly.

  7. Billy Boy says:

    Immediately apparent when PLATYPUSES didn’t fit and the row below clue was “-“.

    OODIR that’s a cool coincidence


  8. Steve Manion says:

    For Jim P. The greatest movie ever relating to obsessive arcade gaming is THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS. Sadly, it is not playing on any streaming service currently.

    Excellent NYT today.

  9. Gareth says:

    How do you make a puzzle with an Australian foodstuff and not find a way to work in Golden Gaytime ;)?

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