Thursday, March 25, 2021

BEQ untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 4:08 (GRAB) 


NYT 11:23 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ 10:31 (Jim P) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Bill Thompson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Flying in Formation”—Jim P’s review

Based on the title, I was expecting to see Vs in the grid, but the circled letters are in the shape of Js. When I realized CONDOR was in the first J, I was still confused. If we’re going to imagine condors flying in formation, why a J and not a V?

The answer is at 41a [Symbol of nakedness represented by the circled letters], or JAY BIRD. Ahh, now I see. Birds in the circled letters are J-birds.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Flying in Formation” · Bill Thompson · Thu., 3.25.21

The birds themselves are unclued but they are the CONDOR, PARROT, ORIOLE, and MARTIN. I thought this was pretty nifty and a good play on words. It definitely helped at the bottom of the grid knowing that I was looking for birds, even if they were unclued.

The fact that they’re unclued means the puzzle mostly solves like a themeless, so the fill takes on a bigger role. For the most part, its good though I admit to having trouble with the end of COCOA NIBS—mostly because I had SON where BOY was meant to go in the crossing.

The other tough one was ETOILE [Company’s leading dancer]. Brand new to me, uncultured swine that I am.

Here I am visiting Joe Biden’s Animal Crossing island back before the election. Of course, I blinked for the picture.

Easier to love are “I’M SO DEAD,” MALARKEY (a fave of President Joe), and UP A TREE. Also: RAMJET, SURFER, TOADY, and CTRL-C.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Whodunit suspect, often]. HEIR. After the butler, I presume.
  • 21a. [Language family including Swahili, Xhosa and Zulu]. BANTU. I just heard an NPR story yesterday (see below) about how South Africa’s Port Elizabeth will now go by the name Gqeberha (add it to your word lists now, constructors). It’s well worth a listen to learn how it’s pronounced and the reasoning behind the change. Or go here for a transcript.
  • 44a. [One in a barrel, perhaps]. SURFER. Good misdirection. I was thinking of dwarves in The Hobbit.
  • 52a. [Cuttlebone location]. CAGE. I had no idea on this one. I assumed it was referring to a ribcage, but that’s not the case. A cuttlebone is a calcium-rich dietary supplement for birds and other caged pets.
  • 31d. [Cavy or coypu]. RODENT. Gimme for me since we used to have guinea pigs (cavies). Don’t know what a coypu is, though. Ah, I see it’s a nutria, which I have heard of.

Nice puzzle. The best of the week, IMO. Four stars.

Stella Zawistowski’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless #147” – Jenni’s write-up

A Fireball themeless that is not by Peter Gordon! Don’t get me wrong. Peter’s themelesses are really good. It’s still nice to see someone else get a crack at it, especially when “someone” is Team Fiend’s own Stella Zawistowski. She makes, well, fiendish themelesses. This one is several shades easier than the puzzles on her website.

Fireball, March 24, 2021, Stella Zawistowski, “Themeless #147,” solution grid

  • 15a [Shouldered vehicle] is SEDAN, as in the kind of chair carried on the shoulders of bearers. Very colonialist.
  • She had me at AWESOMESAUCE. Love this.
  • 25a [Stick’s counterpart] is CARROT. Not really. The whole CARROT and stick thing is misunderstood. It’s the CARROT on a stick held out in front of the poor horse (or donkey). The animal keeps walking trying to get to the treat and never makes it. It’s not CARROT or stick.
  • FRITO PIES are “cooked” right in the bag.
  • I never realized that DOUBLE SPACES left room for edit markings. I presume this dates from the days when editing was done on paper.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Sally Field voiced SASSY the cat in “Homeward Bound.”

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

NYT #0325 – 3/25/2021

Alex Eaton-Salners has today’s NYT – let’s take a look at what’s going on with these circled squares:

  • 17A: Opposite of [circled letters] — WONDERFUL
  • 25A: Opposite of [circled letters] — EFFECTIVE
  • 30A: Opposite of [circled letters] — FEASTING
  • 39A: Opposite of [circled letters] — PRURIENT
  • 47A: Opposite of [circled letters] — ANIMOSITY
  • 53A: Opposite of [circled letters] — COURTEOUS

It’s an interesting idea, but I found the actual solving of this to be a bit of a slog – the self-referential nature of the clues meant there wasn’t really a handhold besides crossings on these clues.  I think it’s neat that each of these words contains its own opposite running through it in order, but otherwise it was a bit stodgy.


“Union Station-Dupont Circle connector, in D.C.” was the clue, but Berlin’s “METRO” came to mind when I saw it in the grid.

Other nice grid bits: G SPOT, ACAI, GRAINY and COARSE next to one another, ALPO, CANDY BAR, and PRISONER

Happy Thursday!

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1351), “Face the Music” — Jenni’s review

I stumbled around this one for a while because most of the theme-related musical references are unfamiliar to me. The crossings were fair, the wordplay is funny, and I enjoyed solving it nonetheless.

Each theme answer is a musician’s name altered so it contains a body part.

Brendan Emmett Quigley, Puzzle #1351, “FACE THE MUSIC,” solution grid.

  • 18a [“Watermelon Sugar” singer with a face for music?] is HAIRY STYLES. Harry Styles. I’ve heard of Harry and I know he’s the lead singer of One Direction. I did not know the song.
  • 24a [Backstreet boy with a face for music?] is NECK CARTER. Nick Carter.
  • 35a [“Bad Guy” singer with a face for music?] is BILLIE EYELASH. Billie Eilish.
  • 47a [“You Raise Me Up” singer with a face for music?] is JAWS GROBAN. Josh Groban.
  • 52a [“Barely Breathing” singer with a face for music?] is DUNCAN CHEEK. Duncan Sheik. Him, I knew.

One quibble: the NECK is not a part of the face. Fun theme! I’m sure a number of solvers disliked it because of the reliance on proper names from recent pop music. As I’ve said before, if I don’t know something in a puzzle, that’s on me. Doesn’t make it a bad puzzle. It makes me an old-ish white woman with some large lacunae in my knowledge base.

A few other things:

  • 8d [Didn’t Zoom through work, maybe?] is SKYPED. That’s so 2019.
  • 31a [Flare-up that’s behind you?] is BACNE. Good clue, fresh entry, gross word.
  • I’m glad I’ve heard of Sarah Orne JEWETT because I have no idea who Ken JEONG is. JEONG also crosses 39a [Questlove’s group, with “The”] which I also knew (ROOTS) and which is inferrable if you get the rest of it.
  • 50a [With 41-Across, “any” place?] is TEN/DOWN. The answer to 10d is, of course, ANY. Brilliant.
  • Symbols for love and fidelity are SWANS. Awww.

Pretty much the entire theme was “what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle.” I also didn’t know that Amy ADAMS was in “Hillbilly Elegy.” I read and heartily disliked the book, so I have no intention of seeing the movie.

Emma Oxford’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

It’s a clue/answer switcheroo theme today. These work best when the answers are not related. Thing is all three other answers are derived from the second: MALEMONARCH. The HIGHESTFACECARD, the POWERFULCHECKER and the TYPEOFCOBRA.

The rest of the puzzle is pretty basic, making the puzzle play quite easy. GLORYBE and ITGIRL kind of stick out because they aren’t one word answers.


Catherine Cetta’s Universal crossword, “Something is Fishy” — Jim Q’s write-up

Definitely a fishy puzzle :)

THEME: Common phrases where the first word can be unscrambled to spell a type of fish.

Universal crossword solution · “Something is Fishy” · Catherine Cetta · Thur., 3.25.21


  • TATER TOTS. Tetra. 
  • LOSE HEART. Sole. 
  • PATRON SAINT. Tarpon. 

Enjoyed these entries, even though it took somewhere close to forever for me to see TETRA and TARPON hiding in TATER and PATRON respectively. The real winner for me was the fill and clues. Very fresh and fun imo.

Those included:

  • 22D [Word between “sorry” and “sorry”] NOT
  • 22A [Sometimes-sassy assistant] SIRI
  • 35A [Clay and Lacy, to one another?] ANAGRAMS. 
  • 65A [Reveal the identity of] UNMASK. 
  • 18D [The Atlantic, but not The New Yorker] OCEAN. 
  • 34D [Takes a turn for the worse] GOES SOUTH. 
  • 63D [iBeer, for one] APP. Not ALE as I originally entered :)

3.7 stars from me. I enjoyed it!

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21 Responses to Thursday, March 25, 2021

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    V. nice to see a contributor themeless at Fireball! I like that Stella’s cluing vibe was retained in at least 32a—terms I learn from RuPaul’s Drag Race (which Stella has been a fan of much longer than I have) help make her puzzles fun. (See also the RPDR judge’s name in Stella’s AV Club puzzle yesterday.)

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Agree with Ben’s take: Idea is cool, solving experience not so fun… It was hard to get a foothold in the start until you tumble to what is going on and all the proper names didn’t help the situation (at least in my case).

  3. Kent Byron says:

    Why was the PDF link to Newsday’s puzzle eliminated? It’s hard enough–and takes a lot of luck–to download the puzzle directly from Darn popups that keep wanting you to subscribe….

    • Evad says:

      I reached out to Peter Ritmeester, who hosts that daily Newsday PDF, when it wasn’t working and he told me that it should only be accessed by paying customers, so I removed the link. The HTML link also requires you to subscribe.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    NYT very much a chore to solve, once the trick was out, I cared very little.
    No I cared none at all.

    Nice to see EFFETE which became legacy for Spiro Agnew in standardized testing.

    “Effete intellectual snobs” remind you of anyone these days?


  5. Mr. Grumpy says:

    A dissenting voice. I enjoyed the NYT — which surprised me, since I often do not like AES puzzles. Nothing wrong with being made to think on a Thursday.

  6. BarbaraK says:

    Something weird is happening – this site is showing that I rated NYT and Fireball today. But I didn’t – at least not intentionally. I’ve seen that before and assumed I accidentally touched the button on my iPhone, but twice??

    • Evad says:

      Seems as if your hostname is coming over as redacted, which is rather generic and likely shared by another visitor to the blog. Try it again now.

      • BarbaraK says:

        Interesting. That’s not something I set up, but I do generally opt for the strictest privacy settings, so it doesn’t surprise me. And I just changed internet service a couple weeks ago, so it may have come with that.

        You did fix it. I’m no longer seeing that I already rated any of today’s puzzles. Thanks!

        I don’t rate puzzles very often but didn’t want to have given something a bad rating by mistake.

        • Evad says:

          It could happen again–since we don’t require a logon to rate on this site, nor do we save cookies on visitors’ browsers, we have limited options regarding associating a prior (non-foolproof) rating with a visitor.

  7. STEVEN says:

    so will we be gettin LAT across lite back anytime soon, or is it gone
    i cannot access on cruciverb page either

    • marciem says:

      oops, I didn’t see your note before I posted mine below. I have the same problem, accessing Across Lite. I’ve been doing them on-line, which isn’t my favorite way. Especially hopeful that Sunday Across Lite works, I have trouble with the size for the larger puzzles in the online places.

  8. David L says:

    I struck out on the BEQ in the SW corner. Don’t know Duncan Sheik (I knew all the others), and I couldn’t come up with ICETONGS (not an implement I have ever possessed), CAT (kinda random, but makes sense for Hemingway) and ORGAN (from the clue, I was expecting a person’s name).

    As an old white dude, I have come to realize that BEQ’s puzzle are often not for me. It used to bug me but now I have achieved the serenity that comes with age (well, not always, but most of the time).

    • Cynthia says:

      Don’t feel bad. AARP-eligible woman here, and I’m usually stymied by current pop culture references, too. Today’s BEQ was a struggle for me. I didn’t know any of the songs referenced in the themers, although like you I’ve heard of all the singers except Sheik. Most of the other individuals referenced throughout the puzzle were unfamiliar as well. Nevertheless, I enjoy doing BEQ’s puzzles and look forward to them each week.

      One more note: I thought “moog” might be a Harry Potter reference. Dare I admit that I’ve never read any of the books or seen any of the movies? Most of what I do know about the series has come from doing crossword puzzles!

      • pannonica says:

        I am a vehement Potter-abstainer too; always thought they seemed kind of obvious and clumsy. And lately the author’s ugly prejudices have come to light. Like you, all my knowledge is via crosswords.

  9. marciem says:

    Am I doing something wrong? Haven’t been able to access LAT AcrossLite all week.

    Link here takes me to Cruciverb LAT archive, click on today’s date and get a “File does not exist” error message.

    • Evad says:

      I see that as well, Kevin McCann supports the cruciverb site, so hopefully he can look into it.

      It takes a lot of chefs to put this meal together! :)

  10. len elliott says:

    There’s only one thing to say about Fireball and AVX this week: “STELLA!!!!!”

Comments are closed.