Thursday, October 29, 2020

BEQ tk (Ade) 


LAT 6:13 (GRAB) 


NYT 11:04 (Ben) 


WSJ 6:47 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball 6:21 (Jenni) 


Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hang Gliders”—Jim P’s review

First off, I love the look of this grid. It’s got a great visual appeal. The danger for the constructor is that those huge corners would be tough to fill. But Ross Trudeau is a pro, and this thing just flows. In fact, I got one of my fastest times for a Thursday on this grid.

The theme is hanging BATs. The main theme answers all have the trigram BAT within, but “hanging” in the Down direction. The revealer at 41a is BAT CAVE, clued [Grotto under Wayne Manor, and an apt title for this puzzle].

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Hang Gliders” · Ross Trudeau · Thu., 10.29.20

  • 1a. [It’s three under par] AL(BAT)ROSS with crosser Jason BATEMAN
  • 8a. [Like Simone Biles] ACRO(BAT)IC with crosser bandleader Jon BATISTE
  • 37a. [Discussing pros and cons] DE(BAT)ING with crosser BATTLED
  • 40a. [Gertrude Stein’s portrayer in “Midnight in Paris”] KATHY (BAT)ES with crosser (and revealer) BAT CAVE
  • 45a. [Like gluons and muons] SU(BAT)OMIC with crosser BATONS.

Notice that the theme entries aren’t symmetrical. Necessarily, they need to be at the top of a section so that each BAT can hang from its “ceiling.” And it just works so beautifully. What a fun theme!

And yeah, with those big corners, you’d think there be a lot of kludgy fill. But it’s really kept to a minimum, and in fact, there’s a lot of fun stuff to sink one’s teeth into: SEA BLUE, LEISURE, TOYOTAS, IRAN AIR next to CESSNAS, DREAMEREDAMAME, a bruisable MALE EGO, AVOCADO, and TIP OVER. Plus, GO DUTCHSEÑORITA, and SCOOT IN.

Michael PALIN in A Fish Called Wanda

Clues of note:

  • 47a. [Make]. ARE. I had a tough time with this deceptively simple clue. The definition it seems to be going for is “constitute” or “amount to,” as in, “They make a cute couple.”
  • 49a. [Michael of “Fierce Creatures”]. PALIN. The follow-up film (but not a sequel) to A Fish Called Wanda, also starring Cleese, Curtis, and Kline. AFCW is one of my favorite films, so that’s why I’m featuring PALIN with chips up his nose.
  • 2d. [This isn’t working]. LEISURE. No it is not. Lovely clue. Also lovely: 21d. [The rain in Spain, e.g.] for AGUA.
  • 60d. [Mother of Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto]. OPS. Did not know this or even see this clue since I got it from the crossings. Feels like old crosswordese.

Beautifully designed and executed theme. 4.5 stars from me.

Kurt Weller’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

Today’s NYT from Kurt Weller (which appears to be a debut!) is the type where it’s easier to have the revealer first, then talk about all the clues it’s affected.  So:

71A: “I’m busy”…or, if read in four pieces, an aid in solving several clues here — NOT NOW

Parsing this into NO T NO W helps make a bunch of clues in the puzzle start to make sense:

NYT #1029 – 10/29/2020

  • 1A: Twice over — FREEZE
  • 17A: Tallowy — AMALGAMATE
  • 37A: Tawny — NO MATTER WHICH
  • 62A: Twin bed, perhaps — FAST ASLEEP
  • 2D: Wariest animal — RAM
  • 12D: Wrought — COARSE
  • 47D: Wrote — CAVIAR
  • 64D: Freudian “wit” — EGO

There were some of those I didn’t even catch until I was going over this grid with a fine-toothed comb to catch all the affected clues!  Very cleverly done.

Which entry gave you your AHA moment?  Mine was mindlessly filling in CAVIAR based on the crossings I had, then needing to go back to figure out why I had done that, since the clue didn’t immediately scream “caviar”.

Happy Thursday!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 143” – Jenni’s write-up

I’m not sure if this is a slightly harder themeless than Peter’s given us lately or my brain is kinda mushy, or both.

Peter’s themelesses often have echoing entries in the NW and SE. This time we get DILLYDALLY and SILLY SALLY. Both are delightful. I liked both stacks – the NW has GRABS A SEAT and ALMOND MILK and the SE has SNEAK A PEEK and NAPA VALLEY. Fun!

Other thoughts:

Fireball Crossword, October 29, 2020, “Themeless 143,” Peter Gordon, solution grid

  • The better the puzzle overall, the more I notice marginal fill because of the contrast. This is not fair to the constructor, I know. YEASTS and DOTERS both jumped out at me. They’re not horrible; they contrast with the quality of the rest of the grid, though.
  • 30a [Highlander] had me thinking of something Scottish. Nope. It’s TOYOTA.
  • 33a [Extra alternative] is ORBIT. We’re talking about gum.
  • Interesting combination of movie titles in nearly symmetrical places in the grid: REANIMATOR and The ARISTOCATS. Not the same genre!
  • I could not remember how to spell BACALAO. Good thing I’m up on my ancient regions of Asia Minor.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: a loooong list today! I did not know that NOH is Japanese for “talent” or that SITARS have two bridges. I didn’t know the tagline for REANIMATOR (also a patented Peter Gordon Very Long Clue) or that Eva Gabor voiced The Duchess in The ARISTOCATS. I was not aware that Rocky V won eight Razzies. I’d never heard of the picture book SILLY SALLY. I did not know that Amar BOSE was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of fame for his work on feedback control.

Sophia Maymudes’ Universal crossword, “Meal to Go” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Phrases reimagined as if food were going away

  • 17A [Vineyard food exits?] GRAPE LEAVES.
  • 33A [Ten-legged shellfish exits?] CRAB WALKS.
  • 41A [Bulbed vegetable exits?]  ONION DIPS.
  • 58A [Areas far from supermarkets… or a literal interpretation of {themers}] FOOD DESERTS. 

I absolutely love everything about this puzzle. The set of themers if so much fun (are there any others that would even work? I can’t think of any…) and uses such playful language. I particularly like ONION DIPS. I have a student who always says “I’m gonna dip” when heading out, and it makes me smile. FOOD DESERT is a phrase that I never tire of (UPDATE: see comments- I hadn’t fully realized it’s negative connotation), and with the added twist of FOOD DESERTing in this puzzle, it makes it even more enjoyable.

The rest of the grid is spot on too. From fill like UM OKAYEDNA MODE, and CLOSER LOOK, to clues like [2020-2019], which is not referring to a span of a backwards year, but is a mathematical equation with an answer of ONE. 

Thanks so much for this one, Sophia!

Far and away my favorite puzzle of the day.

5 stars.

Michael A. McDonald’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary


Today’s letter addition theme features IN. The IN’s are consistently placed at the beginning of each answer, which is likely why this ran on Thursday not Friday, which is the usual day for such themes. My favourite of the four was [Embezzlements?], INSIDESWIPES. It was odd that two of the four theme answers had gratuitous plurals, given the many possibilities of such a theme.

Spots to highlight:

  • [Chic, to a Brit], NOBBY. There seems to be disagreement whether this is UK or US slang with that meaning. NOBBY as in upper-class is undeniably UK though.
  • [Buffalo Bill Museum city], CODY. This appears to be Cody, Wyoming; population, a shade under 10,000. Guessable via Buffalo Bill’s surname. I also found out there are at least two Buffalo Bill Museums, and LeClaire, Iowa residents are forgiven for being confused by this clue.
  • [Ryan Hurst’s “Sons of Anarchy” role], OPIE. Not the same character.
  • Not a clecho: POPS and PAPA. Probably because then they are variations of the same word though.
  • [Port letters], USB. I bet a lot of us put USS first, a bit like how you always put USB drives in wrong the first time.


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26 Responses to Thursday, October 29, 2020

  1. AV says:

    Clever Thursday NYT – there are no t’s or w’s in any of the other clues!

  2. Barry Miller says:

    I finished it but didn’t get it until I read this. It was beyond me. Thank you.

  3. Ned says:

    36 Across should read “Like all primes besides two” rather than “one.”

    • davey says:

      all besides one, in that there is only one exception (furthermore – ‘two’ would break the “no T no W” rule!)

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I read it as “except for one prime number,” which would be the number two.

    • JohnH says:

      That one tricked me, too, for a long while into thinking it was a mistake. A big smile when I got the right reading. I also kept looking for a way to make HUR part of the theme, since I wondered if it weren’t another switch between clue and answer. Maybe we got from Exodus to Ben Hur somehow. But sure enough, I’d forgotten the less than familiar name in the Bible.

      I still haven’t verified OSMO-. RHUD has it as a combining form for “osmosis,” which isn’t all that close in meaning, and MW11 doesn’t have it at all.

      Anyhow, a terrific puzzle with a terrific theme. I didn’t get it until I was all but done. It didn’t help that I started with “no time” rather than NOT NOW, although the need for a crossing with PEW nagged at me.

  4. Lise says:

    NYT: Hi Ben! Could you please address the clue for 36A: “Like all prime numbers besides one”? I realize that since the non-theme clues had no Ts or Ws, the correct number, two, can’t be in the clue. But 1 is not prime, and this just feels wrong. Perhaps the actual digit could have been in the clue without violating the theme?

    Overall, I enjoyed the puzzle; the theme was clever, the puzzle otherwise well-constructed.

    • AV says:

      All prime number are odd, besides “one”: meaning, only one prime number is not odd. That “one” number is 2.

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    Universal – I love this theme, particularly the revealer FOODDESERTS. The first theme answer GRAPE LEAVES – “Vineyard fruit exits?” started off the puzzle beautifully. Great job on those two, Sophia. CRABWALKS was also good. But ONIONDIPS? As a verb, “dips” usually means “declines” of course. Or it can mean “uses chewing tobacco.” I did find one citation that dip is recent slang for leave, but I imagine most people outside the younger generation haven’t heard this. I would have loved to see BANANASPLITS instead. Perhaps paired with CABBAGEROLLS.

    • e.a. says:

      yes, excellent puzzle! seeing early 20th c for “dip” = “leave” on dictionary dot com (but even if it were a more recent usage, it’d still be a great find! the younger generation can have a little representation, as a treat)

  6. huda says:

    NYT: I gave this puzzle very high marks for cleverness, and the fact that the clues had totally avoided T and W except for the critical ones that needed to be removed. And the rest of the cluing was done pretty seamlessly, I thought. It was not contorted by the need to avoid these two letters… Avoiding “t” in particular, must have been demanding.
    I realize the prime number clue gave some folks pause, but I thought it was great, including an acceptable type of misdirection even if it were not for today’s theme.
    Well done and fun!

  7. Flinty Steve says:

    Universal – maybe just me, but FOODDESERTS as a cutesy-pun revealer seems tone deaf given the lousy reality the term describes.

    • Cynthia says:

      It’s not just you. I thought the same thing. The reality of food deserts is not amusing at all. Otherwise an entertaining puzzle that could have been even better with a different (albeit less punny) revealer.

      • Paul Coulter says:

        I didn’t read this as an attempt to be amusing. More of an attempt to bring attention to the problem of food deserts. Which is the main reason I liked the theme. If it makes people aware of the issue, and/or influences them to learn more about it, that’s a good thing in my book.

      • Jim Quinlan says:

        That never crossed my mind. I hadn’t realized that it had a negative connotation, but now that makes sense. We would just throw that term around if we were far away from restaurants and stores. Thanks for pointing that out.

        • Gareth says:

          It’s sad that I never really perceived it as such a major problem in South Africa until recently; but now my one assistant is always trying to get to the supermarket opposite work because once home there is nowhere except spaza shops and a distant U-save. I suppose that, at least in comparison to the US, those shops do stock fresh fruit, veg and meat, but hygiene and quality standards are not satisfactory.

  8. marciem says:

    NYT : One of the funnest I’ve done for a while. Finally figuring out how to make four parts out of notnow. I haven’t checked for any symmetry, but the randomness-seeming of the themers added to the fun, like an easter egg hunt… plus the AHA after the “wha?” at the prime number clue, plus then going back and getting a bunch of answers with holes in them, plus I knew “fast asleep” had to be the answer, but HEY, can’t be, it had a T in it!! That was what threw me back to looking at the clues.

    It wasn’t til I came here I also got that there were no t’s or w’s in the non-theme clues!

    Well done and I wish I could give it higher than a 5 .

  9. Mutman says:

    NYT: Took the revealer and then Caviar to make sense of this and loved it!

    As a numbers guy, I liked the prime number clue. The misdirection could have been avoided by cluing it something like ‘… besides 2’, maintaining the T-lessness. But what fun would that have been?!?!?

  10. John says:

    LAT – As a Brit, the answer to Chic to a Brit was a new one on me. You’re looking rather nobby in that delightful new coat!?! Maybe in the 1920s…

    • Gareth says:

      Well, in crosswords, Brits still say “I say” and the like. They could’ve gone with World Cup winning Stiles of ’66; or Pratchett’s Corporal Nobbs (whose character was kind of an east end of London stereotype) but that would’ve mystified even more people.

  11. Norm says:

    WSJ: Actually, four of the answers are symmetrical in terms of placement from the edges of the grid. I actually used that assumption in the bottom half of the grid. SUBATOMIC is the odd one out, but I don’t see how that could be helped. Lovely puzzle. Liked it much better than the NYT.

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