Thursday, April 8, 2021

BEQ tk (Jenni) 


LAT 5:30 (GRAB) 


NYT 6:59 (Ben) 


Universal 4:28 (Jim Q) 


Fireball puzzle 5:57 theme DNF (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


There’s a new fundraiser crossword bundle in the works! Team Fiend’s Rachel Fabi spearheaded the project to benefit the Baltimore Abortion Fund, and the puzzle pack will be emailed out in the coming week. Visit the fundraising site, make a donation (suggested amount is $20), and enjoy the crosswords! The themes cover reproductive rights and Baltimore, and there are themelesses, too. The roster of constructors includes Brooke Husic, Chris Piuma, Claire Rimkus, Erica Wojcik, Erik Agard, Finn Vigeland, Juliana Tringali Golden, Martha Kimes, Matthew Stock, Natan Last, Nate Cardin, Rebecca Goldstein, and Robyn Weintraub, along with project editor/constructor Rachel Fabi. Disclosure: I was on the editorial team … so I’ve done all the puzzles and know firsthand that you are in for a treat!—Amy

Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “Alphanumeric” – Jenni’s write-up

I had no idea what was going on with this theme. I stared at it for a while. I have appointments and projects and things to do, so after about 15 minutes I looked at Peter’s solution. I’ll just give you his explanation:

Fireball, April 7, 2021, Paul Coulter, “Alphanumeric,” solution grid

DEER DASHES (16-Across) has D (letter number 4, or 2²) replacing B (letter number 2) twice in BEER BASHES. ION TRAITOR (24-Across) has I (letter number 9, or 3²) replacing C (letter number 3) twice in CONTRACTOR. PEAR REAPER (47-Across) has P (letter number 16, or 4²) replacing D (letter number 4) twice in DEAR READER. APPLY STORY (56-Across) has Y (letter number 25, or 5²) replacing E (letter number 5) twice in APPLE STORE.

Um, OK. I was not anywhere near Paul’s wavelength. I feel like I had my old AM transistor radio (it was red! I loved it) and Paul was broadcasting on a Star Trek subspace channel. Now that I know, I’m not entertained or amused. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad puzzle. I finished it without difficulty, so the crossings are fair, and the fill is solid. It means it’s not to my taste. I’m sure some of you loved it. Let us know in comments!

A few other things:

  • 1a [Honey bunch?] is a great clue for ROSES. My honey is allergic to flowers, so he shows his affection in other ways. He’s out picking up the kiln for our basement bead-making studio. Now THAT’S love.
  • I don’t like my ALE overly bubbly.
  • 25a [Many lightweight boxers] are RUNTS. Dogs, not pugilists.
  • 39a [Air bag?] is LUNG. Not quite. The “air bags” are alveoli. I know, I know, there’s a question mark, it’s a joke. Still.
  • Could have done without IKEAS. That’s a plural you’re unlikely to see in the wild.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that MEGATRON is the arch-enemy of Optimus Prime, and that Terceira is part of the AZORES.

Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Switch Hitters”—Jim P’s review

Baseball’s in the air as evidenced by another baseball-themed grid today.

This time we’re given phrases that sound vaguely familiar but clearly aren’t in-the-language phrases. It took me a little while to piece together that these are spoonerisms, and all of them are related to baseball. Now, it’s not easy to find decent spoonerisms and to find ones all related to the same topic is a minor feat (at least in my eyes).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Switch Hitters” · Alan Arbesfeld · Thu., 4.8.21

  • 17a. [Italian vandals?] ROME HUNS. Home runs.
  • 22a. [Pie fight among pastry chefs?] BAKING BRAWL. Breaking ball.
  • 38a. [Tailor out the door?] PARTING STITCHER. Starting pitcher.
  • 50a. [Great buy on some facial hair?] STUBBLE DEAL. Double steal. Eww, lol. I’m going to hope the facial hair in question is fake.
  • 62a. [Sandwich choice in a Colombian city?] CALI WRAP. Rally cap.

I’m not going to say I loved all of these or that they even made me laugh, but as spoonerisms go, they work well enough, and as I said, I’m impressed a full set could be found centered around one topic. Nicely done.

The best of the long fill consists of the leading SPEAR GUN and the old-timey “I WAS HAD“. CACKLE is a fun word we don’t see often in crosswords, and it’s nice to see DENALI again.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [It might help you catch some rays]. SPEAR GUN. I like the play on words here, but the thought of spearing a beautiful ray makes me sad. It even makes the ray sad, see?
  • 1d. [Lines at the movie]. SCRIPT. “At?” I realize the clue is trying to get you to think of standing in a queue waiting to get in, but I just can’t see how “at” works here.
  • 5d. [Spot to get clean]. REHAB. Another good misdirection in service of a sad situation.
  • 10d. [Little Boy, e.g.]. A-BOMB. Again, the clue goes for cute when in truth it’s quite grim. Little Boy was the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
  • 11d. [Pocket protector?]. MISER. There, that’s more like it.
  • 20d. [Wolf’s territory?]. CNN. Also good. Referring to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
  • 24d. [Classic skyscraper figure]. KONG. Haven’t seen the new monster movie yet, but I expect I will. Anyone have a review they’d like to share?
  • 52d. [Flip your lid?]. BLINK. My stupid human trick is to flip my eyelids inside out in one smooth easy motion. I did it a lot as a kid to gross people out. Turns out, I can still do it.
  • 63d. [Inflation cause]. AIR. Hmm. I don’t see AIR as the cause of an inflation; it’s what is being used during an inflation. The inflating pump is more accurately the cause.

Despite some downers in the clues, I liked the spoonerisms in the theme and the grid as a whole. 3.9 stars.

Jake Halperin’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0408 – 04/08/2021

Sometimes you get a real stumper of a Thursday theme, like last week, and sometimes you get a lot of boat puns.  This is one of those weeks.

  • 17A: Weary boater’s welcome sight? — A PIER ON THE SCENE
  • 27A: Cry on arriving for a boating trip? — WHAT’S UP DOCK
  • 49A: Completely retire from boating? — FOREVER MOOR
  • 63A: Boaters, collectively? — QUAY DEMOGRAPHIC

That’s it.  That’s the theme. Boat puns.

Other fill of note: young OTTERs and DOGs are pups, CHILD ACTOR Tatum O’Neal won her Oscar AT TEN (age ten?  10pm?  both?  you decide!), YOU GOT THIS, BE MERRY, and ROOMBA

Happy Thursday!

Jerry Edelstein’s Universal crossword, “Watch for Trickery” — Jim Q’s write-up

Of course that title is a synonym for KEEP AN EYE OUT, which is a forehead slapping revealer if I ever saw one. So obvious and perfect for a simple crossword theme! How come I never thought of it?

THEME: The letter “I” is omitted from common phrases, causing extreme i-less wackiness.

Universal crossword solution · “Watch for Trickery” · Jerry Edelstein · Thur., 4.08.21


  • 21A [Deejayed?] RAN DANCES. Rain dances. 
  • 25A [Concert worker who kicks out overzealous fans?] STAN REMOVER. Stain remover. 
  • 45A [Overcharge?] PAD THE PRICE. Paid the price. 
  • 52A [Result of a cereal factory malfunction?] BRAN STORM. Brain storm. 
  • 64A [With 67-Across, stay alert (for) … and a phonetic theme hint] KEEP AN / EYE OUT. 

As far as letter removal puzzles go, this one is just fine. I don’t think I’ll find the theme answers particularly memorable (except for that revealer of course). The only one I got a half chuckle out of was BRAN STORM, which is an enjoyable visual. Of course, I shouldn’t be the judge of at least one of the theme answers as I had no idea that STAN was slang for an “overzealous fan.” I was actually somewhat stunned when Mr. Happy Pencil showed up and told me I had filled everything in correctly. Sure enough… it looks like it’s attributed to Eminem.

I should mention that there is another I in PAD THE PRICE. While it may be way too big of an ask for there to be no “I’s” at all in the grid (it would also likely result in horrible fill), I think it would be more elegant if there were only one “I” in the base phrases.

Fill was a little south of Universal standard imo. BRIC, PAO, AMOI, TEL, NOS (clued with Russian?), ESAU, ISIS. The longer entries didn’t do much to add to the excitement (INSPIRED, HAVE TIME (?),  JC PENNEY)

Also, I don’t think the clue quite works for 10D [Off the ground] MID-AIR. Like, one wouldn’t say “That UFO is mid-air!” I would think the clue would be improved if it were [Off the ground, with “in”].

Anyway, I don’t mean for the gripes to overshadow that the puzzle wasn’t all that bad. Just didn’t land all that solidly for me.

2.75 stars.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Due in part to the segmented nature of the grid design, I went right around the puzzle to the bottom without encountering the middle. Because of that, I was convinced the [Source of an organic fiber] was going to be something to do with COCONUTs. As it happens, that was to be found in the centre, but I had sussed out the theme, slight as it is. Four words here contain COCO because the constructor is a “COCO” nut?

Today, the segmented grid design does a good job of mitigating the effects of the difficult theme entry letter counts: 14/12/7/12/14.

ONCOLOGISTs and their trade are typically taboo subjects in puzzles. I’m not sure [Physician wearing a pink ribbon, perhaps] is a very well pinned clue, possibly tiptoeing around the definition? [How to receive a freebie, perhaps] for BUYONE is also kind of odd as a clue. I get it is referring to BOGOT though.


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14 Responses to Thursday, April 8, 2021

  1. Ch says:

    Sorry, not understanding QUAY DEMOGRAPHIC pun twist reference? What’s this a play on?

    • Cynthia Thompson says:

      Being from Kansas, this stumped me too, but I think “quay” is pronounced “key”

      • Jenni Levy says:

        It’s not pronounced that way in PA or NY, but yeah, I think that’s the idea.

      • Ch says:

        Thanks, I had no idea. Apparently Webster has all three pronunciations mentioned here – I always heard it pronounced as it’s spelled. Which reminds me of this priceless Fry & Laurie skit:

  2. huda says:

    Unrelated to crosswords, but for those like me obsessed with Box Words-
    For the first time yesterday, I had 3 different 2-word solutions, and the NYT solution was different yet. So, there were at least 4 ways to solve that puzzle using 2 words only. Some days, it seems like there is literally only one answer, and either you get it or you don’t.
    Does anyone else keep track of how often they do or do not match the official Box Word solution?

  3. Mr. Grumpy says:

    WSJ: funny Spoonerisms, but not sure they make up for IN A, TRUSTS IN and SEEP IN [with the latter two intersecting on the N].

  4. marciem says:

    apropos of nothing, it has struck me again to wonder if anybody has actually had the word “espy” or any of its variations & tenses cross their lips in conversation?

    (not talking awards here :) ) .

    And p.s. Mr. Grumpy that crossing of the “in” irritated me too, but I’ve seen similarities to that frequently (with to, or on, or at etc, and nobody here seems to mind.

    • PJ says:

      My wife’s middle name is Espy so yeah, I’ve used it quite a while. Not just as her name, either. She likes it when I tell her she’s in a puzzle again.

      • marciem says:

        LOL!! Good one!

        Is it pronounced like the award as in ES-pee, or eh-SPY like crosswordese “to notice or catch sight of” ? (I’m guessing the first but I could be wrong since I don’t know her :) )

    • Mr. Grumpy says:

      I guess the grading of dupes lies in the eye of the beholder. Meh.

  5. len elliott says:

    re rays in WSJ Thursday

    One of the saddest animal sights for me: in Thailand outside a tourist destination — a ray
    “swimming” back and forth in a shallow, tiny pool.

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