Thursday, October 22, 2020

BEQ 9:28 (Ade) 


LAT 8:57 (GRAB) 


NYT 9:16 (Ben) 


WSJ 10:16 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Bojan Koprivica & Andrea Carla Michaels’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Letter Carriers”—Jim P’s review

Oooh, this is a good one. Our theme is a sort of before-and-after in which the first “phrase” is a single letter followed by a word. That word then leads into the second half of the entry which is another well-known phrase. It’s all revealed with FEDEX at 66a [Letter carrier that literally distributed letters to 16-, 22-, 36-, 47- and 58-Across]. The cherry on top is that the letters that were “distributed” spell FEDEX. An elegant touch!

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Letter Carriers” · Bojan Koprivica & Andrea Carla Michaels · Thu., 10.22.20

  • 16a. [Crew given to cursing?] F-BOMB SQUAD
  • 22a. [Musical rock?] E FLAT EARTH
  • 36a. [Arizona cowboy?] D-BACK ON THE HORSE. I kept trying to work SADDLE in there.
  • 47a. [Hog market?] EBAY OF PIGS
  • 58a. [Gaming workplace?] XBOX OFFICE

My only quibble would be that I don’t consider FEDEX to be a “letter carrier.” I suppose one would use the company when sending an important time-sensitive letter, but I don’t think of that as their primary service. But I’m happy to give the puzzle a little latitude here because the theme is so fun.

Okay, another quibble. 41a is BDAY which is unfortunate given its similarity to the theme entries. But again, a little latitude is warranted because it’s clearly not a theme answer.

In the fill, I got similarly concerned at 27d with its start of PTAME_ and its clue [After-school event]. I thought it was going for “play”-something, but it turned out to be PTA MEETING. Whew! All good, then. The other long Down is equally nice: OFF THE GRID. Nothing else stands out, but that’s okay, because there’s already enough to like. Not a fan of XTS (especially crossing STS), and IS BAD isn’t great, but we’ll just look the other way.

One clue of note: 19a. [Emulate Savion Glover]. TAP. Confession time. I had assumed actor Donald Glover was related to (the son of?) actor Danny Glover. So I assumed again that dancer Savion Glover was related to the actors. Bzzt! All wrong. None of the men are related. If you have six minutes, watch the uplifting video here to learn about Savion and his approach to dancing.

For me, this was the funnest WSJ grid in a while. 4.25 stars. And it’s a debut for one of the constructors. Congrats on a good one!

Rich Proulx’s Fireball Crossword, “Making the Rounds” – Jenni’s write-up

{insert weekly comment about the hegemony of male constructors}

I could not figure out this theme. The revealer at 64a is [Politician’s spokesperson, at times….or a hint to four answers in this puzzle] and the answer is SPIN DOCTORS. So I looked at the longest answers trying to find an anagram for DOCTOR or an anagram for a kind of doctor. Nope. Finally I consulted Peter’s Email and was seriously underwhelmed. Turns out four of the answers contain DR or RD. Please, someone, tell me I’m missing something. If I’m not, this is the weakest excuse for a theme I’ve ever seen in a Fireball puzzle. Thanks to alex in comments for enlightening me. Turns out you need to spin the answers around the DR squares, which means the theme answers are not the ones I originally listed. Here’s the corrected version (with Peter’s grid because he highlighted the DR entries and I didn’t feel like spending the time to do that myself).

The theme answers:

Fireball, October 22, 2020, Rich Proulx, “Making the Rounds,” solution grid

  • 11d [Place that’s fit for a king?] is the MASTER BEDROOM. I think I accepted MASTER BED because I was already frustrated with the puzzle. I should have given it more thought.
  • 17a [Live life as well as possible] is RUN THE GOOD RACE. Might have helped me grok the theme if I’d ever heard this before. I have not.
  • 36d [Option for long-distance travel] is HIGHSPEED RAIL.
  • 41a [Barb] is POINTED REMARK. I think I filled in POINTED from crossings and didn’t look at it. I hope that if I had, I would have figured it out. Oy.

I stand by my nit for 70a [Advice given in mg/day]: RDA. This is inaccurate. Some nutrients are measured in units (Vitamin D) and some in mcgs (Vitamin B12).

This is not much of a theme. The fill isn’t interesting enough to make it an enjoyable themeless, either. Apologies to Peter and Rich. This is a fun theme! And I need to pay more attention.

A few other things:

  • Am I the only one who dropped in INKED at 1d for [Signed]? It’s HIRED.
  • 8d [He was married to him] is MAO. He Zizhen was the third wife of MAO Zedong, who was not exactly a model spouse.
  • Not sure why HIGH SPEED is clued as [Option for long-distance travel]. It certainly makes long-distance travel faster, but it’s also possible to travel short distances at HIGH SPEED or long distances at slow speed. Very random.
  • TEETHED is correct for [Got a new canine, perhaps] but awkward.
  • [Hot shot, maybe] is a good clue for SEXT.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that HEMAN is also known as Prince Adam. Also did not know that Johnny DEPP voiced Sherlock Gnome, that NOH drama has comic interludes called kyogen, and see above about He Zizhen.

The title annoys me, which is probably one more reason I didn’t give the puzzle enough thought.  Doctors don’t “make the rounds.” Legend has it that we say “make rounds” because the wards at Johns Hopkins, the first modern academic hospital in the US, were round. Please note that I said “make rounds,” not “make the rounds.”

Sid Sivakumar’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

I liked today’s NYT, though I wasn’t a fan of figuring out how to get the NYT app to register it as correct.  More on that later, so let’s talk about why it was so hard to determine what to do with that:

NYT #1021 – 10/21/2020

  • 21A: What’s theorized to have preceded the big bang —
  • 36A: What polar opposites have in common —
  • 50A: What’s uttered by a mime —
  • 61A: Keeps going despite fatigue … or a hint to three features of this puzzle — RUNS ON EMPTY

One could say that there’s nothing going on with the grid, because there *is* nothing going on – those three slots in the grid are blank, with down entries maneuvering around them.  That’s not the only thing going on, though – as explained at 61A, these entries are running on empty, and in accordance with that, each set of three empty squares has RUN on top of it, from LABOR UNIONS, DRUNK DIAL, and GURU NANAK, the founder of the Sikh religion.  It’s all very clever, and I liked it a lot.

What was a little frustrating was figuring out how to signal to the app that I was done with today’s puzzle.  Per Wordplay, I could have put any of the following in the blank squares to signal I knew what was going on: rebus squares with NOTHING, EMPTY, or BLANK in each square, or the single values X, ?, or -.  That’s a lot of things, none of which made sense to me mid-solve.  I ended up just hitting the “reveal” button when I was down to just the final three blank squares.

I was very tempted to post this video three times in a row, but you get the picture.

All in all, this was very nice!  Another great Thursday grid from Sid.

Happy Thursday!

Michael Wiesenberg and Andrea Carla Michaels’ Universal crossword — “Don’t I Count?” – Jim Q’s Write-up

THEME: Chopped liver!

Universal crossword solution · “Don’t I Count? · Andrea Carla Michaels · Michael Wiesenberg · Thur., 10.22.20


  • [Existential question, and a hint to the dish “chopped” around {the theme answers}] WHAT AM I?

I’m not always a big fan of themes that I don’t see until after the grid is entirely filled in, but I liked this one despite of that. There’s something very endearing and different about the revealer itself, and then finding the answer to be “chopped LIVER” was rather amusing.

Liked HOT YOGA, I DIGRESS (although there are three “I” phrases in the puzzle…), NOT EVEN, IT’S A LIE.

Not sure about ORRIN as clued, AMI (since AM I is central to the theme), and there seemed to be a lot of crosswordy glue, particularly in the middle to accomodate for the grid-spanning themer.

Overall, cute puzzle. 3.9 stars.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I could literally feel my eyes closing mid-solve so I don’t think this is as difficult a solve as the time indicates. In any case, the puzzle itself has JUMPING / JACKS split across two across entries. I have circled the three JACKS, all fictional – SPRAT, FROST & SPARROW.

ORALREPORT and TOOLATENOW occupy spots where typically one would find theme, but are not thematic. ORALREPORT plus RSVP’D & AGApe/AGASP was my stickiest area of the puzzle. Oh, and throw in [Surrealist Tanguy], YVES – didn’t know the specific YVES and not an easy name to see!

[One of the Magi], CASPAR – good luck finding him in the Bible!

[Kuala Lumpur native], MALAYAN. I suppose, although more precisely a MALAYSIAN. MALAYAN is kind of hard to define. Most people I interact with who identify as Malay in origin are from Indonesia.


Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1307), “Cross Ward”—Ade’s take

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword solution, No. 1307: “Cross Ward”

Good day, everybody! Here is hoping that you are doing well as we approach the weekend!

Today’s grid is more fun with syllables, and in this puzzle, phrases that usually have an “er” sound in one of the words is changed to an “or” sound by changing it into a completely different word, and, in turn, changing the phrase’s meaning. The clues to the puns are are all top-notch!

  • BOURNE’S RUBBER (20A: [Condom used by superspy Jason?]) – Burns rubber.
  • MADDEN COURSE (25A: [Part of NFL coach John’s s dinner?]) – Madden Curse. SWMYS bonus: For those not in the know, the “Madden Curse” is the widely-held belief that the NFL football player who is chosen to appear on the cover of the annual summer release of the Madden video game will subsequently perform poorly and/or suffer an injury in the upcoming season. That player usually would be coming off a stellar performance the year prior, which warranted that person’s inclusion on the cover of the popular video game franchise. 
  • FLIP THE BOARD (46A: [Change everybody on an advisory committee?]) – Flip the bird.
  • HOARD IMMUNITY (52A: [Won’t share a “Survivor” prize?]) – Herd immunity.

Did not get tripped up in any one place, though there was some uncertainty if the name of a band that I FORGOT (46D: [Drew a blank]) shared the same name as the David Copperfield character URIAH (30D: [___ Heep (hard rockers]). Not too much long fill in this grid to enjoy outside of the theme entries, though I liked ON BRAND a lot (5D: [Consistent with one’s image]). Actually, I did get thrown for a little bit with the clue to I LOST YOU, as I did not think of cell phone coverage for that clue before getting almost all of the letters the first two words entered in through crossings (40D: [Comment said when walking into a bad cell]). It’s almost as if that needed a question mark at the end of that for me to pick that up faster, ironically enough. 

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: YALE (16A: [Whiffenpoof’s school]) – The Whiffenpoofs are the world’s oldest a cappella group, as the group, comprised of 14 Yale University seniors, travels the world and performs around 200 concerts a year. In 2015, one of the “Whiffs” was one of the premier college basketball players in the country, Brandon Sherrod. On the court that season following his time with the Whiffenpoofs, Sherrod went on to set a new NCAA Division I record for most consecutive field goal attempts made without a miss (30 straight shots made). How do I know this happened? We were at the arena in person on the day the record broke, on Feb. 5, 2016!! Furthermore, we talked with him after the game and, at the end of the interview, we asked how singing in the group made him a better basketball player and his best (and worst) memories about being a Whiffenpoof. Don’t you love it when sports and a cappella come together???? 

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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24 Responses to Thursday, October 22, 2020

  1. alex says:

    Jenni- looks like the Fireball theme is that you spin the answer around where the DR is.

    So for example it’s HIGHSPEEDRAIL, not just HIGHSPEED.

  2. Maxine Nerdström says:

    NYT: I left the 9 empty squares empty (I didn’t enter any characters) and the app recognized that I had completed the puzzle. Hmm

  3. scrivener says:

    NYT: I couldn’t figure out how to signal the web interface either and had to hit REVEAL PUZZLE. But also I had DADJOKES at 23d and couldn’t figure out what to do with 22a, so I’m a doofus even without the blank squares. I hate myself.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: I liked the theme a lot. I entered the work “Empty” in each of the empty squares, using Across Lite. That worked.
    I struggled with the middle west area- the BAYOU, IOUS, etc… Not knowing GURU didn’t help… Finally the penny dropped with BAYOU and HYPE…
    There was a techie vibe that I liked about this puzzle.

    • norm says:

      You can just enter an “E” and get the happy pencil. Nine rebus squares to enter “empty” is abusive IMO.

      • Reid says:

        I figured that would be the case, but it literally made me put “empty” in each square. Weird that different people are having different experiences.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I also tried entering E in each of those squares, in Black Ink (which opens .puz files), and nothing happened.

    • JohnH says:

      That section, with the beginning of the Sikh name and the Harrison clue, defeated me for once on a Thursday.

  5. Ryan says:

    Was anyone able to figure out how to get the official NYT crossword app to recognize the puzzle as complete without using the “reveal” option? My Dad LOVES his crossword streak and today will mark 1,300 days in a row. He always calls me when he has an issue trying to enter unique themes like today into the app. I’m not familiar with the specifics but I’m assuming that choosing “reveal” counts as a hint that would blow his streak. Any help is greatly appreciated!

    UPDATE: He had one letter off, he fixed it and is all set now lol. Thanks anyway. The streak continues!

    • damefox says:

      You have to do a rebus EMPTY in all 9 squares. Note to NYT: this kind of stupid, easily correctable technical issue RUINS puzzles like this. You are doing an enormous disservice to your constructors when solvers find themselves frustrated with a puzzle due to technical issues that are not the constructor’s fault. If you do not have the technical ability to make puzzles like this a smooth solve, *don’t accept them.*

    • R says:

      I had the same concern. I know that my streak isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of things, but losing it because of weird formatting decisions would be pretty annoying.

  6. Bryan says:

    NYT: I love grids that break the norms, so this one was right up my alley. In retrospect, I wish I had left those 9 squares blank to see what would have happened. I solved this in the NYT app on my phone. Would the app have considered it solved as others have indicated? Well, as it happened, during my solve I thought those squares surely needed *something* — so I intuitively entered hyphens into all of them. That worked. But now I have a finished grid with hyphens instead of empty spaces (which would be more elegant). Well done, Sid! And this has prompted me to go down the Spotify rabbit hole listening to Jackson Browne, which is always good. His song “Running on Empty” is one of my favorites.

  7. I used the app and had left the squares black until the end with the plan to figure out what to put in them later, and was marked correct once I filled in the last non-empty square. That has to be frustrating for anyone who has an error because they won’t be notified as such unless those squares are filled in with something.

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