Thursday, November 12, 2020

BEQ tk (Ade) 


LAT 4:02 (GRAB) 


NYT 9:04 (Ben) 


WSJ 11:48 (Jim P) 


Universal 3:52 (Jim Q) 


Fireball 7:59 (Jenni) 


Kevin Christian & Julian Lim’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Vegging Out”—Jim P’s review

That was a lot of fun, even if I still haven’t fully worked out the theme. The revealer is BLACK-EYED PEAS [Southern staple, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. Every other themer has double-Ps preceded by an I, yet the I is obscured by a black block, which acts as a normal block in the Down direction.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Vegging Out” · Kevin Christian & Julian Lim · Thu., 11.12.20

  • 17a. [Flair, for…] / 18a. […example]. FELT-TP PEN
  • 24a. [Calvin Coolidge’s presidential…] / 27a. […pet Billy, for one]. PYGMY HPPO. That was tough to parse because it was so unexpected. Glad to learn this one!
  • 47a. [It involves a show of hands…] / 48a. […and possibly much more]. STRPPOKER. Wow, what a great clue on this!
  • 57a. [They share a home arena…] / [59a. …with the Kings]. L.A. CLPPERS

I like this a lot, but what I’m not grasping is how the Ps are “black-I’d”. There is a “black I” in each entry, but it doesn’t really belong to the Ps. But I’m probably venturing into the realm of overthinking this, and should just be satisfied with a “black I” followed by Ps.

Impressive long fill as well, especially given the size of those corners. Highlights include “ACT NORMAL,” ZEPHYR, HOT SPOTS, “OK SHOOT,” BUTTLOAD, LA CROSSE, and YARD WORK. I’ve never heard the term SPARK GAP [Part of an auto plug] but it makes sense if you know anything about spark plugs.


Cluing felt fresh throughout. I noted these:

  • 15a. [“The Two Towers” combatants]. ENTS. Tolkien’s tree creatures besieged one of the titular towers, Orthanc, the tower of Isengard and home of wizard-turned-bad-guy, Saruman.
  • 30a. [Remote cell, often]. AAA. This was nefariously ambiguous. I loved it.
  • 34a. [Last name of “Star Wars” bounty hunters Jango and Boba]. FETT. C’mon, you should know these guys by now.
  • 52a. [Split to get united]. ELOPE. I don’t think I’ve seen this particular take on the clue. Nice.
  • 3d. [Cocktail word that means “strained”]. COLADA. Glad to learn this. And suddenly I’m thirsty.
  • 6d. [Foliage rustler]. ZEPHYR. Anyone else try GOPHER in here?
  • 11d. [Negotiate to be charged less?]. COP A PLEA. Nothing to do with shopping.
  • 35d. [Large amount, originally 48 bushels (we kid you not)]. BUTTLOAD. This made me laugh out loud. And apparently a hogshead is half a butt. Find out more here.
  • 44d. [The Model S and the Model Y, e.g.]. TESLAS. Surprised they didn’t go with [Models S, 3, X, and Y].

A lot of crosswordy goodness in this grid. 4.25 stars.

Tracy Bennett’s Fireball Crossword, “Relative Conjunction” – Jenni’s write-up

Wow. WOW. A Fireball puzzle by a woman constructor. She hit it out of the park. This is one amazing puzzle.

I didn’t figure it out until after I’d completed the puzzle, and I had to do some research in order to fully appreciate it. It’s a Schrodinger puzzle. The four theme answers are pairs of relatives, and both names work with all the crossings.

Fireball, November 11, 2020, Tracy Bennet, “Relative Conjunction,” solution grid

  • 9d [Jazz band leader with the 1935 hit “Lullaby of Broadway”] is JIMMY or TOMMY DORSEY. 9a is [One of a trio of rhyming personas in a 1973 Steve Miller Band hit] – TOKER or JOKER. 16a is [What some might call “Gossip Girl” star Blake] – LOVELY or LIVELY.
  • 17a [Alliterative actor in the 1981 comedy “Full Moon High” is ALAN or ADAM ARKIN. Adam is Alan’s son. 2d is [Rural sporting events in which competitors try to stay up], RODEO or ROLEO. I filled in ALAN so I had ROLEO, and I raised an eyebrow at “rural” and then shrugged. 4d is [Heavy ones seem serious]. I started with TOMES and changed it to TONES, which again caused a raised eyebrow and a shrug. I retract the raised eyebrow.
  • 29d [Singing sister on “I’m So Excited” and “Slow Hand”] JUNE or RUTH POINTER. I knew June and Anita. I forgot about Ruth. 29a is [Jose Canseco was one late in his career, familiarly] – JAY or RAY. 38a is [Biopic subject whose name can be found in the true crime section of the bookstore] – CAPOTE or CAPONE. I figured that odd clue was just Peter being clever. Silly me. And 43a is [Humiliate, in a way] – ABASH or ABASE.
  • 67a [Driver who won the Coca-Cola 600 in the 2010s] is KYLE or KURT BUSCH. I knew Kyle. I’ve never heard of Kurt. Kurt won in 2010. Kyle won in 2018. They’re brothers (I had to look that up, too. Not a NASCAR fan). 56d is [It may be held in secret] – TRYST or TRUST. 68d is [Bk. of the Bible] – LEV or REV. 45d is [Tax] – IMPOST or IMPOSE. IMPOST is an old word and I don’t even care.

Wow. Did I already say that? Four theme answers with at least two Schrodinger letters – and two of them have three. That’s amazing. Oh, I already said that, too. Sorry. I’m not usually at a loss for words. Wow.

I’ll just leave it there. The magnificence of the theme makes any other comments unnecessary. Thanks to Tracy and Peter for a terrific puzzle. There. That’s a different word.

Kristian House’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

It took me far longer than it should have to figure out the trick to today’s NYT from Kristian House:

NYT #1111 – 11/11/2020

  • 17A: Shelley ode that begins “Hail to thee, blithe spirit! — AA SKYLARK
  • 28A: “Bye for now” — TALK UU LATER
  • 45A: Gently leaves shore — FLOATS OUT CC
  • 61A: Famous question first asked around 1600 — BB OR NOT BB

I knew the Shelley ode is TO A SKYLARK, saw the 2As, and moved on figuring I’d come back to sort out why that first A was wrong later.  By the time I hit TALK TO YOU LATER, I assumed that all instances of the word TO in the grid had been removed and there’d be a revealer.  Then I hit TO BE OR NOT TO BE at the bottom and realized what was going on – each instance of “TO _” in the grid has been replaced with two instances of the letter the ___ sounds like.  This made the final entry in the theme, FLOATS OUT TO SEA, easy to crack.

20A: Like the Beatles lyric “The girl with colitis goes by” for “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes” — MISHEARD

Fill I did not expect to see in the crossword this year: RANDOS (“Unknown people, slangily”)

Happy Thursday!

Susan Gelfand’s Universal crossword, “Basketball Play” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Common phrases clued wackily, having to do with players on an NBA team.

Universal crossword solution · “Basketball Play” · Susan Gelfand · Thur., 11.12.20


  • 21A [NBA MVP who plays for Houston?] MODEL ROCKET.
  • 50A [NBA rookie who plays for Charlotte?] GREEN HORNET.
  • 3D [NBA hothead who plays for Chicago?] RAGING BULL.
  • 29D [NBA “goes by the rules” hoopster who plays for Milwaukee?] HONEST BUCK.

I’m not much of a basketball fan (read: I have no clue about basketball) but I enjoyed this! And I knew the city/teams of 75% of the answers. If you asked me before this what Milwaukee’s NBA team was, I would’ve declared it a trick question. I didn’t know Milwaukee had an NBA team.

I solved in the web applet and with across clues only, which was unintentional at first, but then I just went with it. I was surprised that my time came in under four minutes. Usually the web applet slows me down. I bet if I solved in AcrossLite I would’ve broken the three minute mark!

Funny enough, because I never really looked at the down clues, I didn’t realize there were two more theme answers in addition to MODEL ROCKET and GREEN HORNET. I scratched my head when I was done because, while three theme answers is just fine, two seems a bit thin in a 15x grid. Fun AHA moment ensued.

Nothing to complain about here!

4 stars.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s theme is diastemata as 3/4 of the common tooth types are represented divided by a black square, hence GAPTOOTHED. Having three out of four in a set is generally something to avoid in a puzzle. However, fitting premolar (or bicuspid) into the grid was clearly a bridge too far. Also, I feel like cuspid is out of favour compared to canine, but that may be a personal bias.

As is typical for this type of theme, without clear theme entries, the longer answers are fewer than usual, and rather workaday. CARTITLE sounds odd. PIDDLED is trying to avoid referring to urination, but we know it wants too. Cringingly, Looney Tunes was rebooted ca. 2015 as WABBIT. Why not just create a new show than trample over the old?

Quibble: [Data, e.g.], INFO; I was always taught data is raw numbers and info(rmation) is said numbers processed to create specific meaning. For example, the weights of all the class members is data; the median weight of the class is info(rmation). Yes?


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14 Responses to Thursday, November 12, 2020

  1. huda says:

    NYT: It’s good to see a NYT rated in the “3” range! Hasn’t happened since last Friday… I was starting to think everyone was being grumpy (including me).
    Yeah, it also took a while to tumble to it. For some reason the “MISHEARD” entry felt like a hint. But it’s clever, and I liked RANDOS…

  2. WhiskyBill says:

    Agreed with Jenni about the Fireball: Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.

  3. placematfan says:

    OhmyGAH that Fireball is pretty.

  4. janie says:

    just getting on the tracy train today. dazzling puzz and worth the wait! but oh, man — is that bar ever set high now — for everyone! ;-)

    over at the nyt, really enjoyed (in a different way) kristian’s literal/homophony themers.

    satisfying solves both!


  5. JohnH says:

    NYT a real workout for me. Everything seemed to count against solving. I hadn’t heard of IT BANDS so kept wondering if a rebus wouldn’t apply there, too. One theme entry has two rebus points, but not the others. I pronounce the poem “two uh,” not “two A.” The clue for ANKHS is tricky, I hadn’t heard of LIAM, MALALA, TASHA, RANDOS, Sublime, or sniping on Ebay, and I needed an explanation of RARE from a Wordplay blog comment. It took lots of crossings for me to recall the pope’s name. I don’t think there’s such a grade as D PLUS. And so on.

    So for me kind of a slog, but I’m sure I’m not typical, so fine.

    • JohnH says:

      Oh, to show how out of touch I am, facing _ ANDOS, I wondered if unknown people weren’t X’s and O’s, maybe after a game of tic tac toe, and so puzzled over whether the extra letter meant another candidate for themer!

  6. Billy Boy says:

    ” ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy.”
    -Misheard at my first live concert
    that’s a good earworm

    I liked the read aloud 2-letter trick, got it from CC

  7. haari says:

    I know I have commented on this issue before, though no one else seems to care. But INUIT is a plural in Inuktitut, and 21D asks for a “Native”, so that would be singular, which is INUK.

    • darkmatter says:

      Yes, thank you! Glad someone pointed this out. I wonder if Inuit is a less common word in the U.S. than here in Canada….

  8. Gene says:

    Want to join those praising the Fireball, even though I didn’t quite get it originally. Oscillated between TOMMY and JIMMY, thought I was done when I changed ABASE to ABASH, and got RUTH. Very impressive puzzle.

  9. scrivener says:

    NYT: The elegance of the theme answers is sweet. AA at the beginning of the first; UU in the middle of the second; CC at the end of the third, and BB a the beginning AND end of the last. Fill was a little shaky in one or two spots for me, but an overall pleasant and stiumlating puzzle. I really enjoyed it.

  10. snappysammy says:

    terrific thursday, a lot of fun
    hats off to some very good constructors

  11. Davis Glasser says:

    Fireball was very well made but totally out of my wheelhouse: of the 8 people involved, ALAN ARKIN is the only one whose full name I knew. (I know the Pointer Sisters and Dorseys only by last name.) So I appreciated it without really enjoying the theme. I’m happy to see it worked better for other folks who know the people better!

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