Thursday, March 4, 2021

BEQ tk (Jenni) 


LAT 4:41 (GRAB) 


NYT 8:57 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ 8:16 (Jim P) 


Fireball 5:49 (joon) 


MaryEllen Uthlaut’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Rung by Rung”—Jim P’s review

The title made me think “word ladder,” and yup, I was right. I realize there are a good many people who don’t care for word ladder puzzles, but if you throw in some extra layers, like this puzzle did, then it becomes enjoyable.

The revealer starts at 3d [With 26-Down, how to succeed in business, and a hint to this puzzle]. These turn out to be MAKE YOUR WAY / UP THE LADDER. That feels a little iffy since the word “corporate” is usually in there before “ladder,” but for crossword symmetry purposes, it works well enough.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Rung by Rung” · MaryEllen Uthlaut · Thu., 3.4.21

I happened to get the revealer before I got any of the “rungs,” so I made the conscious decision to start in the SW corner. Sure enough, there we find a [Lowly laborer], i.e. a PEON. This becomes PEEN, then BEEN, BEES, BESS, and once we’ve made it to the top, the BOSS [“Large and in charge” person].

You know what—hate on word ladders all you want, but this is just elegant, and I enjoyed each of the layers to this theme, from the PEON climbing up to the BOSS to the visually apt circled words comprising the rungs of a slanted ladder. Super construction job!

On top of all that we get a couple of 10s stacked with the revealer. One is the rather mundane ENSNARLING, but the other is the more interesting SECRETAIRE [Writing desk with a cabinet section]. I tried making SECRETARY work; although it was too short, at least most of the letters matched up. What else is good? TREADLE [Loom part] is a fun word you don’t see every day. ADAGIO, BOHEMIA, and UTENSIL fill out the rest of the list of top fill.

Clues of note:

  • 22a. [She leaves for New York with Sportin’ Life]. BESS. Did not know this reference at all. It comes from the opera Porgy and Bess.
  • 25a. [Cut a zigzag edge on]. PINK. I like the different angle for this clue though I’ve only ever heard this meaning in the phrase “pinking shears.”
  • 29a. [Clay, e.g.]. ORATOR. Henry Clay, I’m assuming, though maybe you could stretch the meaning to include Cassius?
  • 65a. [Wherein the world?]. ATLAS. I almost missed that non-space in the first word of the clue. Nice one.
  • 33d. [Kid after napping?]. SUEDE. This one I needed the crossings for. Apparently, the softest SUEDE comes from the skin of young goats. Yeah. TMI.

I really enjoyed this puzzle with its tight theme, multiple layers, and expert construction. 4.5 stars.

Blake Slonecker’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0304 – 3/04/2021

Today’s NYT is a fun riff on classic video game NBA JAM (38A/39A, “Classic sports video game…or a hint to four squares in this puzzle”), and with that as the clue, it’s not too hard to figure out what to do when an answer doesn’t fit in the grid – JAM NBA into one square!:

  • 18A: They’re swaddled and coddled — NEWBOR[N BA]BIES
  • 9D: Beliebers or the Beyhive, for instance — FA[NBA]SE
  • 20A: Regain, as affection — WI[N BA]CK
  • 3D: Seats that sink — BEA[NBA]G CHAIRS
  • 57A: Some measures championed by the March for Our Lives movement — GU[N BA]NS
  • 26D: Eggs Benedict component — CANADIA[N BA]CON
  • 58A: Co-founder of the women’s rights newspaper The Revolution — SUSA[N B. A]NTHONY
  • 53D: Bumper-to-bumper activity? — PI[NBA]LL

This was easy to figure out, but had a few curveballs – I was very convinced that HOLLANDAISE was the Eggs Benedict ingredient being looked for.

Happy Thursday!

Pam Amick Klawitter’s Fireball Crossword, “Rhyme Spree” – joon’s write-up

Fireball crossword, March 3, 2021, Pam Amick Klawitter, “Rhyme Spree” solution grid

joon here, filling in for jenni this week on the fireball. the theme of pam amick klawitter’s puzzle is twelve (!) different words (well, ten words and a couple of proper names) that rhyme, but all have different spellings of the common ending sound:

  • {Complete the first half of the Greek alphabet?} DO THROUGH MU. this was difficult for me to figure out, because i really wanted ALPHA to be in there somewhere at the beginning. also, it’s interesting to me that alpha through mu is, indeed the first half (1st through 12th) of the greek alphabet, much like A through M in our alphabet, even though M isn’t in the same ordinal place as mu. that’s because the greek alphabet has only 24 letters.
  • {Result of Robin’s companion scoring big at the footwear sale?} POOH SHOE COUP.
  • {Why Laurie’s Cajun restaurant was wildly successful?} HUGH KNEW ROUX.
  • {Line formed by a pair in wool coats?} TWO-EWE QUEUE.

this is the kind of theme that’s interesting in the abstract, but not a hugely fun solve, because the theme phrases themselves are neither sensical nor especially amusing. so it was not the most enjoyable solving experience for me, but i enjoyed the post-solve contemplation of the theme somewhat more.

other bits:

  • {Trump violating the rules, perhaps} RENEGE. i giggled.
  • {Disney prince} ALI. um, sort of? unless i’m missing a reference, i think this is the fictional (that is to say, fictional in-universe) prince that aladdin pretends to be to impress jasmine.
  • {Many a climate change victim} BEE. this clue is simultaneously sad and intriguing. tell me more!
  • {“Notorious” name part} BADER. i struggled with this even when i had BA_ER; i was even a little uncertain whether that might be a rebus square. once i figured out the theme, i was able to fill in the D and then i facepalmed. i really thought it was talking about the hitchcock film notorious!

that’s all i’ve got. three and a half stars from me on this puzzle. how’d you like it?

Leslie Rogers’ Universal crossword, “Retail Therapy” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Common phrases reimagined as if they are retailers.

Universal crossword solution · “Retail Therapy” · Leslie Rogers · Thur., 3.4.21


  • [Where to buy male cows?] BULL MARKET. I feel like I just saw this entry as a themer in another crossword recently…
  • [Where to buy testimony?] WITNESS STAND. Adjacent to the lemonade stand.
  • [Where to buy the current trends] WHAT’S IN STORE. Far and away, the best entry of the set.
  • [Where to buy panes?] WINDOW SHOP. 

Cute! The WHAT’S IN STORE entry completely changes meaning, unlike WITNESS in WITNESS STAND and WINDOW in WINDOW SHOP, so I think I was drawn to that one for that reason. Also, it’s bonkers, and I like bonkers.

I had unreasonable difficulty parsing INCA TRAIL. I wondered for quite a while what cats had to do with the [Path that leads to Machu Picchu] as I saw IN CAT RAIL.

My favorite blunder was when I went to enter BARF BAG for SCREEN (off the R) for the clue [Seat-back amenity on a plane]. One letter short. And I suppose it doesn’t pass The Breakfast Test.

Thanks for this one!

3.3 stars.

Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

There’s something about “double words that go with” theme entries that makes them stand out even before you get to a revealer. You rarely get particularly interesting entries: of ROUND/ABOUT, LEFT/OPEN, STRAIGHT/POKER (which seems to be poker without any strategy to it), and BABY/DOLL only the last has a little panache to it. And then, when you look at the FACETOFACE faces – all entries have two parts that satisfy “___ FACE” – you see several similar phrases and some slightly odd ones. This is also par for the course. We have left face and about face which are both military and part of a set. A round face is a face that is round?? Openface refers to sandwiches. Straight and poker faces are more idiomatic. And finally a baby face and a doll face are more or less synonyms?

The starting off point in the fill was clearly 11D & 37D: THEBLAHS and OBITPAGE. I’m not sure jokey clues about OBITS are entirely in good taste? I’m also not sure what the connection of YESAND and improv comedy is, but I think there are fans around to explain? [Parental units?] for GENES is a great clue! OSAKA gets an updated clue, although she has now won a bit more than just the [2020 US Open…]


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16 Responses to Thursday, March 4, 2021

  1. fkd says:

    NYT: A rebus puzzle? Ugh. A sports-themed rebus? Double Ugh. This was a real slog.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Come on now, fkd. Two things you need to know about the NYT puzzle: (1) They’re going to throw a trick at you on Thursdays and (2) That trick is often a rebus puzzle. You needed zero knowledge of sports trivia to get this puzzle, though I acknowledge that some sports video game knowledge would have helped with the revealer.

  2. Martha Mock says:

    Can’t use links to download Right click on
    mac not working.

  3. Billy Boy says:


    Everything wrong with Will Shortz era
    Knee jerk fill, like some code
    Rebus answers as transparent and obvious as NEWBOR-NBA-BIES spoon feed you a very thin trick, why bother? When the shape of the grid gave you the jam spots
    So PC GU-NBA-NS ironically having NBA in gun bans? Really?
    1A crossed with a baseball player, some nobody athlete to start? Oh boy, that ramped up the difficulty mightily.

    Yeah, I gave this one star, but someone beat me to being first.

    • Ethan says:

      Gee, what about the NBA makes it “ironic” that it would appear in GUN BANS? Enlighten us.

      I also think it’s a stretch to call this entry PC; it is factually accurate that March For Our Lives supports gun control measures. The puzzle isn’t advocating for it, unless you also think including SLOB makes it pro-slovenliness.

    • JohnH says:

      Funny, but I’d have said that GUN BANS is offensive because it’s anti-PC. It’s the wingnut line that those supporting gun control are out to take away our guns.

      I like rebus puzzles, but this one’s been a strain. Not even because it’s sport, as NBA isn’t too obscure a fill. In part, it’s that it’s about a video game, and I’m just not getting its second half. And in part it’s just plain fill. The violinist is the highbrow fill I often get easily, but not this time, and I forgot the senator’s first name. So with those, the video game, and the punning lip clue, I was at sea in that sector. NW hard for me, too. I haven’t seen a beanbag chair in living memory.

      • Matt M. says:

        There are many problems with the original comment, but among them: calling ICHIRO a “nobody athlete” is completely absurd. Good puzzle.

        • JohnH says:

          I think of myself as a baseball fan, but I admit it’s mostly an obsession with the Yankees. So I put my difficulty with that one for sure to my own weakness and just trusted that he’s important.

          Come to think of it, though, the ladder wasn’t as much fun as I’d like. I didn’t get the end points until late, so for all I knew it was just some arbitrary word ladder. The tie-in to the theme was thus more like an afterthought than a satisfying part of solving. But ok. Not the greatest, but it’ll do.

    • Mutman says:

      So Billy Boy took his grumpy pills today. Good for him.

      I enjoy the occasional rebus, as I did today. not sure how the shape of the grid ‘gave you the jam spots’?!?!?! I think the symmetry makes it a more elegant puzzle.

      And I agree, Ichiro is not a nobody, unless you do not follow baseball, which is fine. I don’t follow Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, but I’m not complaining.

  4. Susan K. Hoffman says:

    NYT was relatively easy rebus, but using the on-line tool gave me an error notice at the end. Couldn’t find an error, of course, so I substituted a single N for each NBA and got the happy notice. Bad mistake on the programmer’s part, obviously. So I don’t know what my actual time was (certainly much faster than what’s shown on the site).

  5. David L says:

    I had no idea what “Taradiddle” meant. Looked it up and indeed it’s defined as a ‘petty lie’ and said to be chiefly British. I can only assume it went out of widespread use no later than the first half of the 20th century, because it wasn’t part of anyone’s vocabulary when I was growing up.

  6. David Roll says:

    WSJ–I understand the connection about peon climbing the ladder to boss, but what do peen, been, bees and Bess have to do with that process?

    • Reddogg says:

      David, the ladder words relate to the process by being words in which one letter of the prior word has been changed. That’s all a ladder is in crosswords.

      • David Roll says:

        Thanks–I kept trying to think of words for positions that one might have as they working up the employment ladder.

  7. Pam Selz-pralle says:

    Per Leslie Rogers Universal Crossword: There is NO SUCH THING as a male cow!! Where to buy male cows?? Cows are female!! Bulls are male!! I’m a dairy farmer. I know! IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE A MALE COW!!

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