Thursday, February 25, 2021

BEQ 6:52 (Jenni) 


LAT 3:49 (GRAB) 


NYT 7:34 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


WSJ 7:29 (Jim P) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Nina Sloan & Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Blocked Numbers”—Jim P’s review

This makes four-for-four this week of really solid, enjoyable WSJ puzzles. What a nice week it’s been!

Today’s puzzle features phrases that have hidden digits that are further hidden by specific black squares (blocks) in the grid. In an elegant touch, the numbers increase from ONE to FOUR as we progress down the grid. The revealer is DIGITAL DIVIDE [It separates those with access to technology and those without, and a feature of four answers in this puzzle].

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Blocked Numbers” · Nina Sloan & Ross Trudeau · Thu., 2.25.21

  • 18a. [With 19-Across, its high council meets in the Great Hall of the First City] KLING{ON E}MPIRE. I like this entry a lot, but it was completely unexpected and maybe a little unfair without any hint in the clue that this was a science-fictional setting. Why not reference the planet Qo’noS or the Federation? Or at least a bat’leth or a “qapla’!”
  • 30a. [With 33-Across, exemplar of female empowerment] INDEPENDEN{T WO}MAN
  • 43a. [With 44-Across, astronaut’s homecoming vehicle] EAR{TH RE-E}NTRY MODULE. A surprising find, this.
  • 57a. [With 60-Across, long-running NBC soap] DAYS O{F OUR} LIVES

Very nice entries. The title strongly suggested what was going to happen in the grid, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise. But the execution is still very well done.

In the fill, I liked seeing DIWALI, BALD SPOT, ICELAND, INDIGO, “I CONFESS,” and the F-BOMB at 1d.  I would have preferred not to have seen REALER [Less fake] which, paradoxically, is faker than the word “faker.” But that’s a tough little section to fill.

Clues of note:

  • 49a. [Wrinkle, in time?]. AGE LINE. Cute.
  • 36d. [“Paris Is Burning” subject]. DRAG. Didn’t know this one and got it from the crossings. But the film is a critically-acclaimed 1990 documentary about New York’s drag scene during the ’80s. In 2016 it was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress.

Yet another strong WSJ puzzle. Four stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 146” – Jenni’s write-up

I forgot to turn on the timer when I started this puzzle, so I can’t prove that it was harder than the most recent FB themelesses. It definitely felt that way. I wandered around the grid for a while before I got a foothold. This is not a complaint. I wrestled it to the ground and enjoyed the process.


Fireball crossword, February 24, 2021, Peter Gordon, “Themeless 146,” solution grid

  • 4d [Entrée at Easter (but not Passover)] is BAKED HAM. Unless, of course, you are my grandmother the year she was angry with her sister. Her sister was the only one in the family who kept Kosher. That year my grandmother served ham for Passover.
  • 5d [Zombies’ dinner] is HUMANS and 9d [Avoid zombies and the like] is TEETOTAL. Not the same zombies.
  • I like COCKAMAMIE because it’s a fun word. I grew up thinking it was Yiddish because my grandmother used it with the same inflection she had when she spoke Yiddish. I learned the actual etymology from this puzzle!
  • The etymology is at 30d [Transfer (and a word that has the same etymological root as 17-Across]: DECAL. According to whatever dictionary Google cites, COCKAMAMIE  is an alteration of DECALCOMANIA. Good to know.
  • 18d [Price numbers] are ARIAS. Leontyne Price.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: etymology of COCKAMAMIE. Also did not know that Mel Blanc voiced the cat DINAH in “Alice in Wonderland” or that Clint Eastwood’s character in GRAN TORINO said “Get off my lawn.”

Dylan Schiff’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0224 – 2/24/2021

It’s so rare to see a theme running through the down entries of the puzzle rather than the across entries, and Dylan Schiff’s entry in today’s NYT is a fine example of the form:

  • 3D: Feature of some bibliographic citations — HANGINDENT
  • 6D: Stethoscope detection — HEARTMUR
  • 10D: Dish often topped with raw egg yolk — STEAKTARE
  • 36D: Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” for example — COVERSION
  • 41D: Former first and second lady — BARABUSH
  • 32D: Blackjack bet … or a hint to applying the five shaded regions in this puzzle — DOUBLE DOWN

Each set of shaded squares gets doubled to correctly read the answer to each clue – HANGING INDENT, HEART MURMUR, STEAK TARTARE, COVER VERSION, and BARBARA BUSH.

other nice grid bits: ATHOS, TRACT, YOKO (rather than the typical ONO), SARONG, ISUZU, NORAH (as in O’Donnell, not Jones), SPURT, and AQUA

Happy Thursday!

Catherine Cetta’s Universal crossword, “Straight in Front” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 2/25/21 • Thu • Cetta • “Straight in Front” • solution • 20210225

If there was ever a crossword that could be described as having a straightforward theme, this is the one.

  • 63aR [Directly in your path, or a hint to what can precede each starred answer’s first word] DEAD AHEAD.
  • 16a. [*Butt heads] LOCK HORNS (deadlock). Originally, I would suppose, from observing wild sheep and goats.
  • 24a. [*Architecture or construction] LINE OF WORK (deadline).
  • 39a. [*Something that catches you off guard] BOLT FROM THE BLUE (deadbolt).
  • 48a. [*Evade conviction] BEAT THE RAP (deadbeat).

To me, deadlock stands out from the other themers as having a very similar definitional sense in both contexts. Uh, very straightforward theme.

  • 3d [Piece of low art, informally?] ANKLE TAT. Clever, and probably my favorite clue of the puzzle.
  • 5d [Cry from a pirate] ARR. Yes, they shed tearrrrrs. <insert groan here>
  • 41d [Raised for discussion] BROACHED. For some reason I always have to take a beat to sort among broaches, brooches, breaches, and breeches.
  • 2d [Happen repeatedly] RECUR. “Once more, into the breeches!” Remember when we (at least metaphorically) put on our pants every day?
  • 48d [Coffee grinder inputs] BEANS. That’s a very clinical way of putting it.
  • 14a [“Star Was” villain Kylo __ ] REN. Does he presuppose the existence of a Kylo Stimpy?
  • 70a [ __ Pie (popular ice cream bar)] EDY’S. Not popular enough for me to know about it, but I freely admit that I skip past (wouldn’t be caught dead in?) the ‘novelties’ section of the freezer aisle.

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1343), “TAKE FIVE” — Jenni’s review

As you can see from my time, this wasn’t a particularly easy puzzle. I grokked the theme quickly and really liked it. I struggled with the fill. Not a complaint!

Each of the theme answers is a phrase that contains a number from which we have to take (subtract) five.

Brendan Emmett Quigley, Puzzle #1343, “TAKE FIVE,” solution grid

  • 20a [Situation in which  a desired solution is impossible to attain] is a CATCH SEVENTEEN. Since TWENTY-TWO has the same number of letters as SEVENTEEN, I filled it in straight at first and then realized the crossings made no sense. The definition is accurate but not entirely specific to a CATCH-22, right?
  • 25a [In disarray] is AT ONES AND TWOS (sixes and sevens).
  • 45a [BOGO offer] is a MINUS THREEFER (twofer).
  • 50a [It generates interest for only a short amount of time] is a FOUR DAYS WONDER (nine days wonder). The original phrase apparently dates from Middle English and was used by Chaucer.

I’ve never seen TWENTY-TWO written out in CATCH-22. That’s a minor complaint in this context and aside from that, the theme felt solid, consistent, and fun.

A few other things:

  • 19a [Ship’s can] is the BRIG. I’m not the only one who started with HEAD, am I?
  • HEAD shows up at 35a, [Eye bank?]
  • If you haven’t read DANA Stabenow’s books and you like atmospheric mysteries, you’re in for a treat.
  • Are FAVA beans particularly fancy?
  • I won’t DENOUNCE Brendan for using MERER, but I will raise an eyebrow.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that element 188, oganesson, was named after Russian nuclear physicist YURI Oganessian.

Susan Gelfand’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle felt like the second coming of Tuesday – easy and breezy – smell that salty sea air! Four phrases end in types of “fish” (there is no taxonomically correct definition of the word), two bony, two cartilaginous. Given the relative paucity of short common names of the latter sort, that’s slightly surprising, but not in a bad way. One feels this could even have been a Sunday, but it’s also just fine as a midweek morsel. I suppose the indirect clues are the reason for it being scheduled for Thursday, but they didn’t prove especially hindersome.

I had a small amount of confusion at the use of “cosmic” as a synonym for “massive”. I wouldn’t say that I encounter that often.

Annoyances: poorly chosen use of high-value letters to shore up quiet parts of the grid. A J, X and a Z aren’t plus points if they make AJA, LEX and HAZELS.

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9 Responses to Thursday, February 25, 2021

  1. Nutella says:

    I had FAN and YES in the SW, so that was an awkward minute figuring out where I went wrong. :)

    • M483 says:

      Please, let’s all indicate which puzzle we are commenting on.
      Thank you.

      • Billy Boy says:


      • PJ says:

        I’ve found it safe to assume that if a puzzle isn’t mentioned by name it’s NYT. The number of reviews per puzzle indicates this is easily the most followed puzzle.

        • marciem says:

          not always, esp. later in the day.

          Sometimes another puzzle/commentary is the one drawing a lot of comments and it can be tedious to search out what the poster is talking about.

          Just a good habit and not difficult to do. Be nice if across/down #’s indicated also, but at least which puzzle.

    • R says:

      This comment’s hilarious and well worth figuring out. Sorry for all the noodges derailing it.

  2. Mark Abe says:

    ATHOS was in both LAT and NYT. Coincidence, or is February 25 a special day for the Musketeers?

  3. Luther says:

    WSJ Sloan and Trudeau beat me up this morning. Ignorant of Harry Potter, Star Trek,
    Hindu gods and rappers. I do know AGE LINES, though! I couldn’t even count from one to four.

Comments are closed.