Thursday, January 21, 2021

BEQ tk (Jenni) 


LAT 5:35 (GRAB) 


NYT 12:34 (Ben) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


WSJ 10:38 (Jim P) 


Winston Emmons’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Pop Star”—Jim P’s review

Ah! A good rebus puzzle to sink our teeth into!

This one features a {JACK} IN THE BOX (68a, [Toy that appears several times in this puzzle]) throughout the grid.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Pop Star” · Winston Emmons · Thu., 1.21.21

  • 1a. MONTEREY {JACK} crossing {JACK}SON
  • 10a. FLAP{JACK} crossing {JACK} FROST
  • 22a. {JACK}ASS crossing {JACK}POT
  • 39a. {JACK}AL crossing {JACK}ETS
  • 45a. {JACK} RYAN crossing BLACK{JACK}
  • and the revealer noted above crossing CAR{JACK}

I was certain I’d seen this theme before, probably in the NYT, but digging through the cruciverb database I only found a 2007 NY Sun puzzle and a 2004 Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, and I’m certain I wouldn’t have done either of those. Maybe you all have a better memory than I do or maybe I’m completely off base.

Regardless, this was a solidly executed—and fun—rebus, even though I caught on to it early on. The JACKs are not quite symmetrically placed, giving us just that little bit of an extra Thursday challenge. And the title is just perfect.

It’s a bold move to put the nine-letter revealer in the very last row, thus requiring stacks of nines in both the SE and NW corners. But they’re handled beautifully with only a few gluey bits (SAE and TAL). I struggled with the double-B in OBBLIGATO [Integral instrumental part], but what a lovely, crunchy word to have in your grid.

Conversely, it’s that middle section which has the kludgiest mash-up of fill like DII, AUS, AIM TO, and ROGUISH (not to be confused with “roguelike“). Elsewhere there’s a lot to like such as BEST BET, TIGRIS, and MENOTTI.

Clues of note:

  • 6d. [Ginger on screen]. ROGERS. Who else was thinking of Ginger Grant, the Gilligan’s Island character. FYI, she’s the last remaining cast member since Dawn Wells passed away a month ago.
  • 13d. [License type]. POETIC. I’m going to use this entry as an excuse to embed Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem below. If you missed it, just watch it…or even better, just listen to it.
  • 31d. [Coat, as in chocolate]. ENROBE. I don’t think I would ever use this word with respect to chocolate.
  • 59d. [Specimen, for example: Abbr.]. SYN. “Specimen” and “example” can be synonyms. Good misdirection.

A very good example of a rebus puzzle. Four stars from me.

Daniel Mauer’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0121 – 1/21/2021

Today’s NYT needs is one of those grids where words start getting put in with 90 degree turns, though you can’t tell just by looking on the right, as MODERNISTS, I’M ALONE, CASTLES, and DEGREES all feature circled squares, but read normal from left to right.  When you look at the clues around those squares, however, it’s clearer what’s happening under the surface:

  • 17A: Not radical — MODERATE
  • 5D: Feeling on a lo-o-ong car trip — BOREDOM
  • 22A: Cry from a survivor — I’M ALIVE
  • 10D: Satan, with “the” — EVIL ONE
  • 40A: Choose randomly, in a way — CAST LOTS
  • 29D: Long fur scarfs — STOLES
  • 50A: Break down chemically — DEGRADE
  • 40D: Like toreadors, again and again — CHARGED
  • 56A: Automotive safety feature represented (and to be followed) eight times in this puzzle — TURN SIGNAL

Each circled square acts as a TURN SIGNAL, telling you which way to go (L or R) in continuing to put an answer into the grid.

It feels like this was 3 years ago, but MR PEANUT died at the Super Bowl last year and became Baby Nut.


Stay safe!

Rachel Fabi and Christopher Adams’s Fireball Crossword, “Blown Away” – Jenni’s write-up

The first woman (co)constructor of the Fireball year is Team Fiend’s own Rachel Fabi! I hope the constructors enjoyed collaborating as much as I enjoyed solving this one.

All the theme answers skip three squares that would contain the word AIR. Add it back in and you get another actual unclued word in the theme answers and the crossings. That’s an amazing feat of construction and unlike some great feats of construction, it was a lot of fun to solve. Here’s the grid with Black Ink highlighting the AIR squares.

Fireball, January 20, 2021, Rachel Fabi and Christopher Adams, “Blown Away,” solution grid

  • I knew there was something fishy right away but couldn’t figure out what. 17a [German geologist Friedich] had to be MOHS of the eponymous hardness scale. And indeed it is. With the missing letters restored you get MOHAIRS. The crossings are TWAINPAINTS, and ERRS.
  • 18a [Hellions] are IMPAIRcrossing AMASDOINGS, and STRIPE.
  • 39a [Firecracker part] is FAIR USE crossing INCADELI, and URSA.
  • 41a [Gives up the ghost] is DAIRIES crossing MAREALII, and ACRE. This is where I finally realized what was going on and went back and filled in all the blanks I’d left up above.
  • 65a [Sonic pulse] is PAIRINGS crossing PINATARATION, and IRON.
  • 67a is also our revealer. [Deliver by parachute and a hint to this puzzle’s theme answers] is AIR DROP crossing NAILDINA, and SPORTS.

I want to stand back and admire that for a while. (counts on fingers) That’s 18 words involved with theme in a standard 15×15 grid. And yeah, there’s some crosswordese in there and I don’t care enough to point it out because the puzzle is overall so awesome. Thanks to Rachel, Christopher and Peter for this gem.

A few other things:

  • 14a [“This is not news to me”] is IM AWARE, which in my head has a very specific tone of voice.
  • It took me a while to figure out how GPA fits [No. considered for Latin honors]. I finally saw the signal that it was an abbreviation and realized the Latin honors in question are cum laude, summa cum laude, and magna cum laude.
  • 30d [Tail of a small dog?] is a great clue for APSO.
  • The PESO adorned with a jacaranda tree is Argentinian currency (I Googled so you don’t have to).
  • We’ve been taking bead-making lessons at the local glass studio (masked, distanced, don’t worry) so [Temper] didn’t fool me for a bit. I filled in ANNEAL with no crossings. Bam.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above about the PESO. I also did not know that TIM Horton was in the hockey Hall of Fame. I only know the doughnuts (we have a Timmy’s outpost here in Allentown. At least we used to before the pandemic. Haven’t been down that way in a while). And I forgot that AIMEE Lucido wrote “Emmy in the Key of Code.” AIMEE is one of the bylines that always makes me smile on a puzzle, and the Kirkus review of her book sounds wonderful.

Bryant White’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

This puzzle’s theme is one I know very little about. I’m not sure if the black squares and circles are supposed to look like a bowl, or just a regular space invader. In any case the circles spell out BOWLOFCLAMCHOWDER and apparently you get a red one from MANHATTAN and a white from NEWENGLAND. And you eat it with a single SALTINE/CRACKER, which seems a terrible idea. Adding crunchiness to soup is not something I can comprehend as working.

It was a good thing BOWA/OTO was triple checked cos that’s a difficult crossing!


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24 Responses to Thursday, January 21, 2021

  1. Paul J Coulter says:

    Fireball – I thoroughly enjoyed today’s FB. On the morning after a great day, it proves once again why crosswords are one of the many things for which I’m thankful. Great job, Rachel and Christopher. One of the clues strikes me as something that will confuse many solvers. For non-soccer fans, referring to the USA as a soccer powerhouse must be a head-scratcher. Most people know that the men’s team, for all our hopes and the occasional reasons for optimism, has long been anything but. The clue, however, surely refers to the U.S. Women’s national soccer team, which has indeed been a dominant force for decades. As someone who’s played soccer for over fifty years, and once coached women’s collegiate soccer, I’ve long been a huge fan.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I loved that clue because it didn’t specify the women’s team. You’re right that people generally assume that the USA team is the men’s team, and that drives me buggy. I still hear people say that the US has never won a World Cup. Aarrghh.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I was surprised to see HABIB on a Thursday. It’s of course commonplace in Arabic but I didn’t think it would be broadly accessible. We use “Habibi” (male) and Habibti (female) for “dear” or “honey”.
    I also liked seeing SCIENTISTS and FAUCI in the grid.
    And the theme was cute and very well done. Intertwining all these words so they can be read with and without turns must be challenging. I kept looking to see if there is going to be a hidden clue for the full horizontal or vertical entries that ignore the turn signal (e.g. MODERNISTS, EVILEYE)… But the puzzle ended up with 8 un-clued entries.

  3. huda says:

    Jim P- I loved that poem and listened to it a dozen times yesterday. I’d really like to find the text itself. But she delivers it with a unique cadence that makes it all the more arresting.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Ask and ye shall receive

      • huda says:

        Thank you, Jenni!!!

        • Paul Coulter says:

          Yes, Thank you, Jenni. I teared up repeatedly during the whole Inauguration, but Amanda Gorman’s superb poem, along with her wonderful performance, had tears streaming down my face.

    • marciem says:

      Worthy of being an Inaugural Address in and of itself. Thanks for the video and link!

      • marciem says:

        When I said that, I was thinking of her lines:

        “Where a skinny Black girl
        descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
        can dream of becoming president”


        “We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
        And the norms and notions
        of what just is
        Isn’t always just-ice”

        She will have my vote. She can recycle the whole poem for her own Inauguration speech somewhere in our future.

        And yes, awesome performance of a beautiful beautiful poem.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I agree it’s not just the words. It is the words to an extent with symbols of light and fortitude in times of darkness as well as wordplay (“what ‘just is’ isn’t always ‘just-ice'”), but she brought the whole package: rhythm, movement, emotion, grace, confidence, youthful idealism. It was a stunning performance.

    • Billy Boy says:

      I thought the cadence (as well as the meter [I may have that wrong as poetry is not my forte]) rap or hip-hop inspired, obviously at a slower tempo than most said performances, or perhaps a throwback to the beatniks


      • R says:

        The influence you might be hitting on is slam poetry, which you could definitely think of as an intersection of beat poetry and hip-hop. I wouldn’t call this a slam poem, but there’s definitely some slam in its DNA.

    • STEVEN says:

      not just the cadence, that was not a reading, it was a grand performance

      after seeing the rolling stones at MSG, jim morrison, etc, i rate this the most moving performance i have ever witnessed

      if i had been there in person i would have been weeping, no question about it

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I, too, was totally enthralled. The words, the presentation … what a talent! I read a little about her afterwards. Like Joe Biden, she struggled with stuttering as a child and credits that experience with fine-tuning her sense of the resonance of language. I sure wish that those who criticize our new president for his occasional oratorical difficulties would remember that he suffers from a neurological condition that has absolutely no effect on his ability to think clearly and make decisions. When he trips over his words, it most likely has nothing to do with his age and is not an indication of senility.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    I found the ‘unclued’ entries in the NYT grid inelegant. I looked for some sort of meta but I couldn’t find one

  5. pannonica says:

    NYT: “I was certain I’d seen this theme before, probably in the NYT …”

    I found it in the NYT daily of 2 June 2016 and 1 Dec 2011 by searching the DoaCF site.

  6. Ronnie says:

    In the WSJ puzzle, I was confused with the answer to the clue It. neighbor. Does Italy abut Australia (AUS)? Living in Switzerland, I am pretty sure that the puzzle meant that Italy’s neighbor is Austria (AUT).

    • Reid says:

      yep, this is an error. The official 3 letter abbreviation for Austria is AUT, not AUS, which is designated to Australia

  7. Rachel Fabi says:

    Thank you for the kind write-up, Jenni! Fun fact, the original title for this puzzle was “Is your bluetooth on?” but there was a concern that older solvers may not get the… connection!

  8. Mark Abe says:

    LAT: As one who enjoys clam chowder, I ate this one up!
    The circles look like a bowl.
    I didn’t see a pattern to the black squares. Did anyone else?

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