Thursday, February 11, 2021

BEQ tk (Jenni) 


LAT 3:40 (GRAB) 


NYT 7:15 (Ben) 


Universal 4:39 (Jim Q) 


WSJ 11:14 (Jim P) 


Note: Fireball is a contest this week. We will have a review after the submission period ends.

Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “On the Run”—Jim P’s review

There’s been a prison break, and we have multiple CONs on the lam (63d, [Prisoner who’s escaped from this puzzle’s theme answers]). Each theme answer is a well-known phrase that’s missing its usual “CON.”

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “On the Run” · Alan Arbesfeld · Thu., 2.11.21

  • 18a. [Disturb an Altoids competitor?] ROCK CERTS. Concerts.
  • 23a. [Sight in a camping goods store?] TABLE OF TENTS. Contents.
  • 38a. [Account with only a couple of details?] TWO-POINT VERSION. Conversion.
  • 49a. [Exam that’s an easy A?] SLAM DUNK TEST. Contest.
  • 57a. [What Howard Stern rarely displays?] RADIO TACT. Contact.

Hey, not bad, eh? None of them made me LOL, but these didn’t feel overly dry or forced, either. I liked RADIO TACT and TWO-POINT VERSION best.

I will admit that when I see this constructor’s byline I can expect some tough (i.e. subpar) fill. Yes, there is some of that here, but it didn’t seem overly distracting. ARIOSE feels the most crosswordesey, and there’s also NBAer ELIE Okobo (at least, that’s a new cluing angle for this crossword staple), and ORONO, but these are countered with things like BIT OFF, “NOT ME,” REEKED OF, and IN STEREO.

I was nearly stuck beyond hope in that NW section with 1a [Low men]. I stared at _AS_I for quite a while. The crosser at 3d [When both hands are aligned] sure looked like it wanted a Roman numeral with _IX. Finally, the musical angle for 1a occurred to me, and I was able to finish.

Clues of note:

  • 6a. [Wave producer?]. SINE. Not sure I can make sense of this clue and I don’t feel like trying. Anyone want to give it a shot?
  • 28a. [Building with many wings]. AVIARY. Nice misdirection here.
  • 45a. [Magazine revenue source]. AD FEES. Seems like the clue should be pluralized to match the entry, but I guess it’s debatable.
  • 25d. [Removed, like the head of a chocolate Easter bunny]. BIT OFF. I think it was this clue that won me over to the puzzle’s side. Funny, evocative clue.

Good theme with solid fill (unlike most chocolate Easter bunnies). 3.7 stars.

Alex Eaton-Salners’ New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0204 – 2/04/2021

Let’s dive into today’s NYT:

  • 17A: What a pratfall may be done for — COMEDIEDIEFFECT
  • 25A: Program followed in Alcoholics Anonymous — TWELFELFTEPS
  • 46A: Sing under pressure — NAMANMANAMES
  • 59A: Where magazines may be laid out — COFFOOTFOOTABLE

Each set of highlighted squares could be more succinctly pluralized to make the answers make sense with their respective clues – DIE DIE becomes DICE in COMEDIC EFFECT, ELF ELF puts ELVES in TWELVE STEPS, MAN MAN is MEN in NAME NAMES, and FOOT FOOT places FEET in COFFEE TABLE.

I apologize for this “song”, but it’s all my brain can think of with FOOT FOOT in the grid.  These are The Shaggs, possibly the worst recorded band ON EARTH.

Other nice grid bits: APPARATS, ON THE LEFT (the “Proper way to pass”), MAHARISHI, LEMMAS, IS IT ART (referencing Maurizio Cattelan’s banana duct-taped to a wall in the clue!), BABY FAT, and ANTI-FOG.

Stay safe! Be well!

Fred Ohles’s Universal crossword, “On a Roll” — Jim Q’s write-up

I feel like this puzzle should come with one of those old-timey whistling sound effects.

THEME: The word WEED can be unscrambled in phrases

Universal crossword solution · “On a Roll” · Fred Ohles · Thur., 2.11.2


  • revealer: TUMBLE WEED

Well, I saw that WEED was anagrammed early on, but for the life of me could not guess the revealer ahead of time, so that is what built the suspense of the puzzle for me. In though it was going to be a marijuana reference. Some pun with POT in it or something like that.

Standard solve for me north to south. Forgot that “Remington STEELE” existed. Vaguely remember seeing that as a kid, but couldn’t tell you the premise at all. And got a little chuckle out of the clue for YES [Unexpected response to “Are you asleep?”]. 

This puzzle is much better served with circles in the grid, which is offered here on this site, but the bulk of solvers are still being asked to count letters, mentally circle them, and mentally unscramble them. Weird.

3.5 stars with circles.

2.4 stars without.

Chuck Deodene’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

OUTSIDERARTISTS is an interesting spanning entry to build from. The choice of artists seems centred on the mid-20th century, white & male, which is an… interesting contrast with that starting point.

The theme is extremely busy, occupying 68 grid squares. That’s why the opening corner has plural ALANS (not the tribe) crossing weird partial ALOVE. It improves from there, with BOOHISS and ICOULDEAT (which I think I’ve only heard via Weird Al’s Trapped in the Drive-Thru).

Clueing “fail”: “The Hobbit” soldiers are mostly goblins as ORCS weren’t totally conceived of yet by Tolkien when he wrote that. Apparently the film has retrofitted orcs into it, so it is defensible, but I won’t be the only one irked by this clue.

German tennis player ANKE Huber is quite tier II, but I was pleased to see her. She won 12 titles and reached number four in the world, but she only had one grand slam final (lost to Seles) and her record against the best of her era was poor.


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16 Responses to Thursday, February 11, 2021

  1. pseudonym says:

    5 star theme for me. Woulda been better without the help circles me thinks.

  2. Ethan Friedman says:

    That was a beaut of an NYT Thursday with a genuine ‘AHA’ when I got the theme. I think it was the right difficulty level too — I solved it fairly quickly for a Thursday but ditching the highlighted squares would have moved this up a day (or two) in difficulty.

  3. Mutman says:

    NYT: Cute, but a revealer would have been nice, but the author couldn’t think of one — ansd neither could I.

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    Loved the NYT! I laughed out loud when I figured out the theme. Fun!

  5. huda says:

    NYT: Loved the theme as well. Once I tumbled to it with the top half, it helped tremendously with the bottom half.
    Irregular plurals are worthy opponents in puzzledom.

  6. Zulema says:

    For me, a terrible puzzle, the only redemptive entry was OCCAM, 1D, but this type of Thursday is not for an almost 90 solver who has never been good at themes, even years ago. At least all my entries were correct but I did not make sense of them. I am glad many of you enjoyed it, but I am looking forward to Friday.

  7. JohnH says:

    I liked the aha moment in the NYT, too. It took me a while at that. COMEDIC EFFECT didn’t exactly roll of the tongue for me, but no matter. Still good.

  8. David L says:

    Ben — thank you for today’s musical selection! It took me back to that innocent era of semi-competent but entertaining garage bands just before serious punk emerged.

    “The worst recorded band ON EARTH” is ambiguous. If you mean the worst band ever to be preserved on tape, I can probably come up with some competitors, including a couple that my brother played in. If you mean the most poorly recorded, well, I don’t think you can blame the recording engineer (if there was one) for the sound.

  9. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ (@Jim P) … You’ve gotta go back to 10th grade math class to understand 6A. The SINE function in trigonometry produces a wave pattern when graphed. Hence, the term “SINE wave’.

  10. Ch says:

    I wish I could un-hear that video!

  11. Bryan says:

    NYT: OMG, that Foot Foot video. I shouldn’t have put my ears through listening to that. However, on a positive note, it made me start laughing about as hard as the viral video this week of the lawyer with the cat filter on.

    • Mutman says:

      I heeded the disclaimer and avoided that video at all cost! Last thing I need is a horrible earworm.

      Cat filter video: AWESOME!

  12. Mark Abe says:

    LAT: I brought my BGAME and thought for a while the theme was French artists, not outsiders. I did, however, enjoy having both ERLE (the writer) and EARL (the title) in the same grid.

  13. Tony says:

    Remington Steele introduced Pierce Brosnan to television audiences, which helped launch his career. He was mainly a stage actor until then.

  14. Ellen Nichols says:

    (Yes, I know this is a late comment, I solve on paper at night and read the blog the next day.) Solving the NYT and BEQ’s puzzles for Thursday back to back really had me seeing double. And BEQ had an entry NODICE.

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