Thursday, March 11, 2021

BEQ untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 4:38 (GRAB) 


NYT 9:55 (Ben) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


WSJ 8:10 (Jim P) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “If I Mussed…”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Phrases that have a word normally ending in –ST have those letters changed to –SED forming new, wacky phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “If I Mussed…” · Gary Larson · Thu., 3.11.21

  • 17a. [Failed to recognize one’s turn to speak on a walkie-talkie?] MISSED OVER. Mist over. I didn’t uncover this one until late in the solve, and it didn’t do much for me. The base phrase doesn’t register as being as colloquial as, say, fogged over or fogged up.
  • 24a. [Hired Greyhound to relocate?] BUSSED A MOVE. Bust a move. Ha! This one surprised me and was worth a laugh.
  • 35a. [Bundled daily papers for delivery?] TRUSSED ISSUES. Trust issues. Almost as good as the previous one.
  • 50a. [Took a shot in the dark in astronomy class?] GUESSED STAR. Guest star. Not quite as good because the resulting phrase feels like it’s missing an indefinite article.
  • 59a. [Walked through the cereal aisle?] PASSED LIFE. Past life. There are a lot of other cereals you passed as well.

On the whole, I liked this, mostly based on the strength of the second and third entries.

Fill: Not so much flash, but I do like RHETORIC, ENSCONCE, and “NO LUCK.”

Clues of note:

  • 4d. [Wee]. ITSY. That’s a better answer for [Wee] than yesterday’s EENIE.
  • 37d. [Halvah ingredient]. SESAME. I don’t know Halvah, but it sounds yummy.
  • 60d. [Show shifter]. DVR. “Shifter”? Meh. Shifting is not the primary purpose of a DVR, however you define it.

Good theme. Fill is solid but not remarkable. 3.7 stars.

Leslie Rogers’ New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0311 – 3/11/2021

Look at the left-right symmetry on this Thursday’s NYT grid from Leslie Rogers!  It’s not the trickiest Thursday theme I’ve seen, but it’s cute:

  • 17A: 1940 Arthur Koestler novel set during the Moscow Trials — DARKNESS AT ONE PM
  • 29A: Short stubble — SIX O’CLOCK SHADOW
  • 54A: Work very late — BURN THE ONE AM OIL
  • 60A: Observe daylight saving time, in a way … as in 17-, 29- and 54-Across? — SPRING FORWARD

reminder that Daylight Savings Time starts this weekend!  All of these names/phrases/etc. have had their times shifted forward an hour.

Other nice grid bits: OSHA (“Org. with lots of inspectors”), PHO, SWOLE, DESI, MAD RUSH, SURTAXES, TEACAKES, SHEEPDOG, and PULSAR

Happy Thursday!

Sara Cantor’s Fireball Crossword, “A-ha!” – Jenni’s write-up

This is Sara Cantor’s debut in our reviews, and it’s a great start. Before I get to the puzzle, I want to acknowledge that the roster of constructors for the Fireball is more diverse than it previously has been. I’ve criticized Peter’s male-dominated bylines and he deserves credit for making a change. I know it takes work and attention. Sara is non-binary and uses she/her or they/them pronouns. As I said, they gave us a whiz-bang of a puzzle today!

I realized there was something missing from each theme answer and I thought it was a rebus. I also had some errors that got me in trouble and made it more difficult to figure out what was going on.

Fireball, March 10, 2021, Sara Cantor, “A-ha!” solution grid

  • 8a [Hired killers] are BUTTN, or BUTTON MEN. This was one of the last ones I got because both 11d and 12d were unfamiliar to me so I wasn’t sure what they were looking for until I grokked the theme.
  • 16a [Employees in a closed shop] is UNIMBERS in the grid, which expands to UNION MEMBERS. I thought that was UNION LABORERS, which confused me.
  • 22a [Nickel, for example] is TRANSITITAL or TRANSITION METAL. I banged my head against that one for a while because I thought it should be TRANSITIONAL METAL. Nope.
  • 47a [Blair Waldorf portrayer on “Gossip Girl”] is LEIGHTESTER which I didn’t realize was a theme answer until I looked at Peter’s grid. The last Blair I remember on TV is from “The Facts of Life,” so I didn’t know who LEIGHTON MEESTER was.
  • 63a [Main ingredient in some high-protein burgers] also foxed me. I thought they were looking for a vegetable. Once I realized that 8a was a theme answer and that the themers were symmetrical, I went back to BISAT and saw BISON MEAT.

The revealer saved me. 58a [1985 #1 hit for a-ha…or what you have to do to fit six answers into this puzzle]: TAKE ON ME. Aha! (so to speak) I looked at the 16a and 22a again and realized I had the base answers wrong, and I also realized it wasn’t a rebus – I had to take the letters ON ME out of each answer, so the crossings work with one letter in each box. What a great theme idea. It’s brilliantly executed and would not have been an easy puzzle even without the twist. There are a couple of compromises in the fill and I don’t care a bit. I suspect there will also be distress over the proper names from current pop culture, several of which either intersect or make up theme answers and did, indeed, slow me down. You know what? That’s on me (so to speak) because I’m a old-ish white woman. Constructors are not obligated to play to my strengths. Sara taught me a few things and that’s totally cool.

A few other things:

  • Is an IPOD still a popular music player? Maybe it should have been tagged [obs.]
  • There’s too long a list of things I didn’t know in the puzzle to save them all for the end. I had no idea that the IGUANA is called [“Chicken of the trees”]. That was fun to learn.
  • One of the reasons I struggled to see UNION MEMBERS was that I couldn’t figure out the crossing at 17d [Call the blind]. Turns out it’s poker, and the answer is BET. I had MET, which didn’t work at all.
  • I hope to see SFO sometime in the not-too-distant future.
  • We have a Star Trek clue for IOWAN – [Captain Kirk, by birth] and not for BORG. Instead we got one that was in my wheelhouse: [Winner of five straight Wimbledons]. I grew up watching tennis with my mother and we were both in love with Bjorn Borg.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above. I also did not know that ANA de Armas appeared in “War Dogs,” or that Italy’s oldest soccer team is in GENOA.

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1347), “NO AND IN SIGHT” — Jenni’s review

I figured from the title that the theme answers would be missing the letters AND. I think I would have known that even without the FB theme fresh in my mind. I was right, and I still enjoyed the puzzle. Each theme answer has a base phrase that’s this AND that. Remove the AND; wackiness results.

Brendan Emmett Quigley, March 11, 2021, Crossword #1347, “NO AND IN SIGHT,” solution grid

  • 11d [NFL lineman’s job?] is BLOCK TACKLE. I don’t need to tell you that the base phrase is BLOCK AND TACKLE, do I? Didn’t think so.
  • 17a [Very tiny candy?] is a SHORT SWEET.
  • 25d [Skip meals and have a bad attitude about it?] is FAST FURIOUS. I dunno. Seems to me it should be FURIOUSLY, even in wacky theme land.
  • 35a [Scrunch up a necklace?] is BALL CHAIN, which I far prefer to the misogynistic base phrase (and don’t @me to say you’ve heard it applied to men. Maybe you have, but it’s overwhelmingly used about women).
  • 40a [Noise that ensures a vault is secure?] is a SAFE SOUND.
  • 55a [Do some polling on candidates least likely to win?] is TRACK FIELD. I presume the FIELD is the motley group trailing the front-runners, sort of like the peloton at the Tour de France.

Fun! Solid except for my one nit-pick at 25d. All the base phrases are definitely in the language and the execution is consistent. Six theme answers is a lot for a 15×15. I don’t think the fill suffers for it.

A few other things:

  • Took me a while to parse DHING for [Job for a nearly retired Ranger, maybe]. The baseball team, not the state police.
  • 26a [Ex follower] is WYE – phonetic spelling of the letters.
  • Isaac HAYES and David BOWIE make appearances. The Soul Man and Space Oddity, both gone too soon.
  • You’ll get a RED EAR from a sunburn if you fall asleep on the beach right after you get your shaggy locks shorn to look nice for your parents at graduation. No, not me – one of my husband’s college roommates.
  • Are modems and BAUDS still a thing?

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that LYON‘s airport is named after Saint-Exupéry. Draw me a sheep!

Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s theme has just three entries, so we expect a tight set. It’s a tricky theme, with nothing seeming to fit initially. However, once you grok the theme, you get a lot of free letters! I guess that adds up to it running on Thursday not Friday? The first entry is G8SUMMIT, represented with eight G’s; my issue is that there is a G6, G7, G14, and a G20 so it isn’t that specific. V10JUICE is an American thing; I wouldn’t have guessed it was made by Campbell’s. The CANINEUNIT sounds like K9 and we have 9 K’s to represent that – an extra step compared to the other entries.

Tricky bits:

      • [Young Adult novel by Carl Hiaasen about an owl habitat], HOOT. There are surprisingly few novels about owl habitats. I wonder if this is like Watership Down?
      • [2016 US Open champ Wawrinka], STAN. He used to go by Stanislav, but dropped the -islav, delighting crossword writers everywhere.
      • [Green on a weather map], RAIN. Not a standard I’ve observed here…
      • [“Solutions and Other Problems” writer Brosh], ALLIE. Another new literary clue for me
      • [Cinematographer Nykvist], SVEN. There aren’t many famous Svens so…
      • [Mr. Potato Head piece], EAR. To clarify, the brand is now Potato Head, but one product they make is Mr. Potato Head

    An excuse to post one of my favourite bands:


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23 Responses to Thursday, March 11, 2021

  1. Jim Peredo says:

    Fireball (and NYT): Seems like a good day for this:

  2. David L says:

    I found the NY harder than a typical Thursday, not because of the theme (which I cottoned onto with DARKNESSATONEPM) but because some of the cluing seemed tougher than usual. I had MADDASH before MADRUSH, STOLE before SWOLE, and some other hiccups. But I liked the puzzle and the theme.

    Today’s Washington Post has a story about diversity and inclusiveness in crosswords. It doesn’t say anything much that readers of this blog won’t already be aware of. I have to say I was somewhat surprised by Erik Agard’s comment in the last paragraph. He says it’s fine to knowingly include answers that will be obscure or unknown to some solvers because “maybe I just wasn’t writing the puzzle for you… Every puzzle doesn’t have to be for everybody, and everybody doesn’t have to love every puzzle.” That appears to me be at odds with a message of inclusivity. I wonder whether other constructors agree with what he’s saying.

    • Reid Koss says:

      I think you’re misreading what he is saying. He’s saying it’s OK to include an answer that increases the diversity of a puzzle, even if a lot of white folks won’t get it because it’s new to them, and consistently doing this increases the overall inclusivity of puzzles as a whole, and white folks shouldn’t be mad because an obscure (to them) holiday or food is in their puzzle.

    • janie says:

      i saw the article as well, and i was struck w/ how synchronous erik’s words were w/ jenni’s today:

      >I suspect there will also be distress over the proper names from current pop culture, several of which either intersect or make up theme answers and did, indeed, slow me down. You know what? That’s on me (so to speak) because I’m a old-ish white woman. Constructors are not obligated to play to my strengths.

      i think the point is that inclusivity is defined a whole range — a very wide range — of variables.


      • David L says:

        Thank you both. I agree with what you say, but it wasn’t clear to me that Agard was saying the same thing. His remark “maybe I just wasn’t writing the puzzle for you” struck me as implying an indifference toward the audience, which doesn’t seem good.

        • dhj says:

          Agard has a God complex and is very good at constructing strawmen, as evidenced in the article.

          Very refreshing to read the comments on the WaPo article. There’s a elite bubble at this website and especially the USA Today crowd and the inclusivity claptrap has overtaken basic crossword considerations. Political activism and extreme ideology has taken the place of objective standards. And as the WaPo commenters note, this is shrinking your audience, not expanding it, as the activist class claim their godly mission is doing.

          The article was mostly boring, frankly, as this diversity narrative has become the most noteworthy thing about crosswords in the last few years (like everything else; a fun google game is to enter any random activity + “racist” and you’re guaranteed of finding a bunch of hits). Same old, same old. Kinda underlines how crosswords aren’t taken very seriously if the most popular narrative on the internet (i.e. how everything is racist/sexist/ist/phobe/etc) is the only narrative worth talking about.

          The one interesting thing in the article was the claim that the (GASP) Woody Allen (GASP) puzzle of last year – aka the most offensive puzzle in the history of puzzles – was written BY Rich Norris under the pseudonym Matt McKinley. But yet Norris doesn’t confirm this is the case. Big tea-spilling here! What’s the truth – is McKinley real or not? May the real McKinley please stand up?

          • R says:

            It’s a bad sign for your connection to reality and decency if you think reading the lightly moderated comments on a national news site is “very refreshing.”

    • cyco says:

      (Not trying to pile on, I think you raise a good point.)

      One way to think of it is that older/white solvers have clues/entries that are pitched to their (likely) cultural wavelength all the time, to the point where it is so default we barely comment on it. Today’s puzzle, for example, includes a German-language novel from 1940 that I have never heard of as a themer. Which is fine! It was inferable and fit the theme. But can you imagine the NYT running a puzzle with, say, TONI CADE BAMBARA in a place of such prominence, as Agard did in his most recent New Yorker puzzle? If not, why not?

      I read Agard’s quote, which I imagine was cut down from a longer answer and probably seems more terse for that reason, is that it shouldn’t be a big deal when “unfamiliar” pop culture or other references are brought into a puzzle. It doesn’t serve solvers or the medium in the long run to use narrow definitions of acceptability.

  3. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ: I can’t believe how much trouble I had with this puzzle. I usually have a pretty easy time with GL’s grids, but not this one. That NW corner was a real bear for me.

    Would someone please explain how the clue for 60D: DVR works? “Show shifter”?

  4. Reddogg says:

    Gareth’s summary of the LA Times puzzle tells us that one of the long answers is V10 juice. Well, V8 juice is what the answer is in the puzzle as well as in grocery stores.

    • marciem says:

      Added to that, the Summit is G-7 by my count, then V-8 juice, and K-9 unit. I thought it fit elegantly, myself, and enjoyed the solve once I got over all those g’s in a row :) .

  5. Kelly Clark says:

    LAT: Am I missing something in the review? The first theme answer is G7 summit; the second one is V8 juice.

    Anyway, I had fun with this one, once I kept erasing the repetitive letters, thinking “this can’t be right!” :-)

  6. Dan Asimov says:

    I did not like the LA Times clue 55A “Trig. function” for “cos”, simply because “trig” is not used as an abbreviation but only as a shortening of “trigonometry”, so should not take a period. A clue should not rely on such an awkward device.

    • marciem says:

      how else would one abbreviate “trigonometry” other than trig. with or without a period?

      MW online:
      ab·​bre·​vi·​a·​tion | \ ə-ˌbrē-vē-ˈā-shən How to pronounce abbreviation (audio) \
      Definition of abbreviation
      1: a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in place of the whole word or phrase

  7. Dan Asimov says:

    “That appears to me be at odds with a message of inclusivity.”

    Oh, please. Not everyone will know the answers to every clue in every puzzle, because we don’t live in a world where everyone knows exactly the same things. But everyone is welcome to learn more and more things as time goes on, and everyone is welcome to join the crossword community.

  8. R says:

    NYT: Sad that they skipped an opportunity to cross-reference (W)NYC with WNYC’s great erstwhile podcast NANCY.

  9. Steve Manion says:

    I normally just do Friday and Saturday these days, but in waiting for the review, I wondered what the clue for SWOLE would be. I work out every day and many of my friends are serious weightlifters. Most of us think SWOLE is a step beyond JACKED. The clue is not definitively wrong, just a little off. The sequence is CUT, RIPPED, JACKED, SWOLE. SWOLE includes gigantic people like The Mountain or more recent massive Mr. Olympia types like DORIAN YATES or RONNIE COLEMAN. JACKED would be the early Mr. Olympia types like FRANK ZANE or drug-free serious lifters at a health club.


  10. Joan Macon says:

    Amy, thanks for your reply yesterday. I appreciated it, especially when I know you are so busy!

  11. Crotchety Doug says:

    BEQ – If anyone is still reading yesterday’s comments, can someone explain how in 58D “Did a tour?” equals LED?

Comments are closed.