Thursday, December 3, 2020

BEQ tk (Ade) 


LAT 5:42 (GRAB) 


NYT 7:45 (Ben) 


WSJ 6:54 (Jim P) 


Universal 4:25 (Jim Q) 


Fireball 4:35 (Jenni) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 144” – Jenni’s write-up

As you can see from my time, this was not blazingly hard. As you can see from the byline, it was made by a man. On the first point – this felt easier to me than the Wednesday NYT. Since the difficulty level in puzzles is largely set by the cluing, it could have been much harder. It’s subscription season at the Fireball and maybe Peter is trying to broaden his market share.

Speaking of subscriptions, you can sign up here. I’ve made an issue of the lack of non-male representation in these puzzles, and I still think they are totally worth the money. They are consistently well-made and entertaining to solve even when they’re surprisingly easy (at least to me). And it’s a good thing in general to support indie puzzlemakers and publishers. We’re living and solving in the golden age of crosswords, thanks to the interwebs, and the folks who do the work so we can have the fun deserve to get paid. So subscribe, and put some extra money in Peter’s tip jar if you can.

On to the puzzle:

As usual, Peter gives us a mini-theme, or at least a pair of connecting answers. They’re not first and last this time. 23a [Person who comes to bat to start the second inning if no one gets on in the first] is the CLEANUP HITTER. 45a [Pitcher brought in when a team is losing in a blowout] is the MOPUP RELIEVER. Nice pairing! I’ve listened to a lot of baseball in my life – it’s the one sport I pay attention to – and both of those are definitely in the language of the game. This is where I would usually insert the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting but….pandemic. Sigh.

Other things of note (at least that I noticed)

Fireball, December 2, 2020, Peter Gordon, “Themeless #144,” solution grid

  • I filled in 5d from crossings and couldn’t figure out who or what a STANNE was. Turns out it’s ST ANNE, clued as [Maternal grandmother of Jesus]. Which I didn’t know. They didn’t teach us that in Temple Emanu-El Sunday School. Thought I’d point that out for the commenter who said that Jewish content is over-represented in puzzles compared to our presence in the US. Methinks they don’t notice much of the Christian content because it’s “just American culture.” In the past month I’ve seen references to various Christian saints, Santa, the Easter Bunny, at least four separate Protestant movements, the Nicene Creed (which I can never spell), Luther’s theses nailed to the church door – I could go on. Christian culture in the US is like water for fish. It’s everywhere, and mostly unnoticed. References to non-Christian faiths stand out because they’re not the norm.
  • I liked [! neighbor] as a clue for TILDE. Sometimes solving on the computer feels like cheating.
  • 12d [Golden child] is a fun clue for COLORADAN. A youngster in Golden, CO.
  • Everyone sing along to the Edgar Winter Group at 26a – “Come on and take a FREE RIDE…”
  • I had to think about the math at 49a. [Five-eights of a gross] is NINETY. I suspect Peter used this clue because a gross is 144, and this is Themeless #144.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: ST ANNE. I also did not know that EVITA won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. I honestly didn’t know they had two Best Motion Picture awards (the other is for Drama). I’d never heard of TENNESSINE, element #117, and neither had my husband. He memorized the periodic table in high school, which was a long time ago, and TENNESSINE wasn’t discovered until 2010. Yes, dear reader, I married him.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sea Change”—Jim P’s review

Our theme is two-word phrases where the letter C moves from the beginning of the first word to the beginning of the second word. Pronunciations change as necessary, but spellings do not (other than the movement of the Cs).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Sea Changes” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 12.3.20

  • 17a. [Ice box?] RIME CRATE. Crime rate.
  • 24a. [Team of eccentrics who are behind in the game?] LOSING CRANKS. Closing ranks. I don’t equate eccentrics with cranks which is more of a curmudgeon in my book (though I recognize the dictionary gives both definitions).
  • 32a. [“Your bran is strictly brand X,” maybe?] OAT CRACK. Coatrack. I read the clue as “Your brain…” until just now, so it made no sense to me. Maybe my brain is on crack.
  • 43a. [Part of a roughly-made mattress?] RUDE COIL. Crude oil. I have trouble envisioning a coil as being rude.
  • 51a. [Paramour decides it’s time to split?] LOVER CLEAVES. Clover leaves. Using “split” in the clue was confusing becomes it’s a synonym for both cleave and leave (which is kind of a cool find, tbh, but unhelpful in this context).
  • 63a. [Strongbox crafted from pale hardwood?] ASH COFFER. Cash offer.

I like the wordplay and the consistency of limiting the theme to C-starting phrases, however none of these tickled me in particular.

STATE VISIT, Deepak CHOPRA, YAMAHA, and EURASIA highlight the fill for me. The rest of the fill was fairly standard fare.

One clue of note: 70a. [Supreme leader]. ROSS. Diana, that is. How many of you were stuck on BOSS for this one? This isn’t a new clue, but it’s definitely a good one. And it’s late in the week, so I guess that means a question mark is optional.

Nice wordplay in this theme, but not all that sparkly. 3.3 stars.

Jake Halperin’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

Happy Thursday! Jake Halperin has today’s NYT:

NYT #1203 – 12/03/2020

  • 19A: This occurs at least once – and never more than three times – in a year — FRIDAY THE BTH
  • 30A: Memorable launch of April 11, 1970 — APOLLO B
  • 47A: 2007 heist film sequel — OCEAN’S B
  • 57A: Bad fortune … as suggested by 19-, 30- and 47-Across? — UNLUCKY BREAK

As evidenced by the screenshot at right, you can also enter a 13 with a rebus square to get FRIDAY THE 13TH, APOLLO 13, and OCEAN’S 13, but putting the B there (if you’re like me and got all of BIPOLAR, ABETS, and BLUNTS from the down clues) helps see the UNLUCKY BREAK going on.  Breaking a B into two parts (the stem and the curvy bit) gives you 1 3.  13 is an unlucky number.  Et voila.

Elsewhere in the grid: I would have loved a slightly more recent reference for GIA than actress GIA Scala (who, looking over her body of work, doesn’t have anything that made me go “oh, HER!”).  How about drag queen GIA Gunn, or director GIA Coppola?

Neville Fogarty’s Universal crossword, “What? What?” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Two word phrases where each of the words starts with WH-

Universal crossword solution · “What? What?” · Neville Fogarty ·  Thur., 12.03.20


  • 18A [Obsession focus in “Moby-Dick”] WHITE WHALE. 
  • 23A [With 49-Across, 2001 Shakira hit with the lyric, “I’ll be there and you’ll be near”] WHENEVER / WHEREVER.
  • 39A [Annual publication of notable names] WHO’S WHO.
  • 57A [Toast option] WHOLE WHEAT. 

Nice finds in this one to create a consistent, well executed theme. Normally, I’m not a big fan of theme answers being split in a grid, but there is something I really like about WHENEVER / WHEREVER flanking the center themer. It feels very… symmetrically satisfying.

Liked THAT GUY in the fill very much, even though it played a part in creating the very strange looking/sounding ECHOEYI BLEW IT and the clue for AA MILNE were other fill standouts.

Doubted myself on how to spell ANEMIA only because WIGGLE is more familiar to me than WAGGLE. Can one WAGGLE without a WIGGLE first? I’ve never WAGGLED. WIGGLING on the other hand… I’m a pro.

4 stars today.

Kevin Salat’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

Thursday’s puzzle is extra-wide. It features 3×16 answers with REST. The third, ACUTABOVETHEREST alludes to a second factor in the theme. Three broad synonyms for CUT are found above the tetragram REST: CLIP, RIP, PARE.

Among the better long answers we get are SPAMALOT, CARPACCIO (springbok is a popular choice here), and PHONEITIN.

Trickiest double-cross: [Vile] was not REPULSIVE but REPUGNANT.


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15 Responses to Thursday, December 3, 2020

  1. MattF says:

    Took me a moment to figure out what was going on in the NYT, but I got it when I saw that all the rebus squares were ‘B’s. Odd fact— the 13th day of a month is more likely to be a Friday than any other day of the week.

    • pannonica says:

      In a way I’m reminded of the (newer) Baskin-Robbins logo.

    • Mutman says:

      Re: Odd fact— the 13th day of a month is more likely to be a Friday than any other day of the week.

      Not sure I believe that, can’t find an easy source of calendars. Used to be a page in the back of the yellow pages with all 14 calendars — us old folks would know this.

      Please provide some sort of justification for this.

      • MattF says:

        The standard calendar has a 400-year repeating cycle, and it turns out that the number of days in one cycle is exactly divisible by seven— which means that the distribution of days of the week vs. days of a month is uneven. If you do the cumulative calculation for a 400-year cycle, it works out as I said.

  2. JohnH says:

    I never did work out what’s going on with the NYT. I saw myself with Ocean’s 11, Friday 13th, and (I guessed) what then had to be a third number for the Apollo missions, and I could not understand what they had to do with B. I guess I don’t pay attention to sequels like the Ocean trilogy. I’d venture most people don’t apart from Star Wars fanatics.

    BLUNTS was new to me, but a nice term to know. I didn’t make sense of DOOMscrolling, though, although I’ve found it online. I couldn’t remember how to spell EZER and am having trouble remembering Scala, and my family never used Pop-pop (or, for that matter, Nana, which I think of as Eastern European, although it’s standard crossword fare), but no problem.

  3. RM Camp says:

    NYT: I initially thought the B/13 spaces were meant to be left blank (I think I took UNLUCKY BREAKS to mean something different, with triskaidekaphobia) but the BIPOLAR crossing fixed that for me. Not a fan of FLA being used as an abbreviation for University of Florida but whatever.

  4. pseudonym says:

    Wouldn’t be surprised if many struggle with the gimmick. Arabic numerals and rebus-like answers are, with great exception, alien to the NYT crossword.

  5. Zulema says:

    Some of us solvers are very very old, Ben, and happy to have Scala lead us to GIA, and thankful for a doable Thursday crossword this week also.

  6. marciem says:

    BEQ 59a: Page out of Hollywood: errrm… Elliot doesn’t fit (re: announcement of the past day or two). Talk about timing.

  7. Joan Macon says:

    Again–no LAT. We all have our troubles, but I do look forward to the review every night!

  8. christopher brisson says:

    WSJ: 11D Clue: “is triggered by”; answer: “begins upon”. I found this very unsatisfactory. The fact that something occurs on a certain date doesn’t necessarily mean it is “triggered by” (i.e., caused by); the connection between cause and date of occurrence is likely to be more a matter of happenstance than precipitation. I know that’s being somewhat particular, but I also feel it’s far more accurate, and thus the clue/answer seems tenuous at best, shoddy at worst. A more appropriate clue might have been “commences”.

    I appreciated the double nod to Benjamin Britten, btw. And I agree with Jim p.’s enthusiasm for “Ross” as the answer to “Supreme leader”–that’s a very clever construction.

    • Martin says:

      “Your ability to buy a drink legally is triggered by / begins on your 21st birthday.”

      Seems pretty causal. I think it’s an acceptable late-week clue.

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