Thursday, April 29, 2021

BEQ untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 4:53 (GRAB) 


NYT untimed (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


WSJ 6:33 (Jim P) 


Joe Hansen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Headbands”—Jim P’s review

Our theme is PUT A RING ON IT (23d, [Lock in a spouse, and what the first letters of six Down answers do visually]). (Note that the phrase “lock in” means “get a commitment from,” not “imprison.”) The other theme answers, all in the Down direction, have an O as the first letter. This is to be read as “RING” when reading the answers.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Headbands” · Joe Hansen · Thu., 4.29.21

  • 4d. [Madagascar native] O-TAILED LEMUR.
  • 7d. [Playground singing game] O AROUND THE ROSIE.
  • 9d. [Trapper Keeper, e.g.] O BINDER. Usually there’s a number (usually a three) before the “ring.”
  • 11d. [Seem implausible] O FALSE. I feel like “ring false” is 1000 times less common than “ring true.”
  • 44d. [1963 Johnny Cash hit] O OF FIRE. Just learned the song was co-written by June Carter Cash and some other dude and originally sung by her sister, Anita Carter, in 1962, a year before Johnny’s version. (See video below.)
  • 49d. [Notes to answer] OTONES. Well, you don’t really answer your ringtone, do you? You answer your phone.

I like it. The revealer makes sense, the “rings” are “on” the theme answers, and the title is a clever play on words.

But why o why are there extraneous O-words in the Down direction that aren’t part of the theme. I’m looking at “RING-NO” and “RING-TOOLE” (41d ONO and 48d O’TOOLE). This was distracting at worst and inelegant at best. I realize now that these aren’t symmetrically placed like the others, but still, by the lower half of the grid, the solver is looking for O’s in the top squares and is expecting them to be “rings.”

Other than that, there’s a lot of other fill to like: BULLPENS, NO ESCAPE (the Owen Wilson film), LANDLORD, HERMIONE (nice to see her get some airtime), RED SOX, WARSAW, and SMOCKS. I’ve also taken a shine to those first two entries: BEBOP PO’BOY. Fun to say and almost the reverse of the anime Cowboy Bebop.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Monk’s music]. BEBOP. That’s Thelonious Monk, the jazz pianist.
  • 19a. [Fender attachment]. AMP. That’s a Fender guitar, not a car part.
  • 32a. [Professional letter]. LANDLORD. That’s “letter” as in one who lets (leases) an apartment. Reminds me of the prank of adding an I to a “To Let” sign.
  • 2d. [H.S. elective]. ECON. Did your high school have Economics as a subject? I don’t think I saw that as an offering until I got to college.

Nice theme and fill, I just wish the extraneous O-words had been rooted out. 3.75 stars.

Peter A Collins’s Fireball Crossword, “Switch Positions” – Jenni’s write-up

I was pretty sure this was going to have something to do with on/off switches before I started solving. I was right. It still took me a little while to figure out exactly how it worked. It’s a two-way rebus – ON in one direction, OFF in the other, with an extra element that makes it really elegant. I’m using Peter’s grid, which is clearer than mine.

Fireball, April 28, 2021, Peter A. Collins, “Switch Positions,” solution grid

  • 2d [Place to place a drink order] is SALO{ON}, crossing 23a [Place to place a drink order], C{OFF}EE BAR. See? Elegant.
  • 22a [Certain criminal] is SC{OFF}LAW, crossing 10d, FEL{ON}.
  • 46d [___ Ice (brand of alcoholic beverage)] is SMIRN{OFF} crossing 67a, MOLS{ON}.
  • 60a [One of only two people who have twice one acting Oscars in films that won Oscars for picture, director, and screenplay is NICHOLS{ON} crossing 55d, H{OFF}MAN.

That last one blows my mind, and I presume it was the seed entry for the whole puzzle. This is amazing – four pairs of theme entries that can be clued the same way and cross at ON/OFF. They’re all solid entries – nothing iffy, nothing forced. A tour de force of construction with a good “aha!” moment. I’m in awe, and I had a lot of fun solving it.

A few other things:

  • 1d [Simple choice] is ABORC, which looks very odd until you realize it’s ABOR C. I like this; I suspect that’s a minority opinion.
  • 5d [Marlon Bundo, for example] would be a cute name for a PET RABBIT.
  • 8d [Start of an “Oliver!” song] is OOM as in OOM Pah Pah.
  • 21d [Eastern half of an East African capital?] is the right-hand (east) part of ADDIS ABABA.
  • 44a [They might be dropped in rap battles] are F BOMBS.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that EGGO has a Chocolatey Chip variety. I’m not even tempted.

Adam Wagner’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0429 – 04/29/2021

Oh man, y’all, I am not a fan of quip crosswords, and it turns out I’m even less of a fan when you apply specific poetic meter rules to them:

  • 17A: First line of a three-line poem — IT WOULD BE A SHAME
  • 30A: With 36A and 43A, second line of the poem — IF MY
  • 36A: See 30A — HAIKU WERE
  • 43A: See 30A — TO BE
  • 56A: Final line of the poem — ONE SYLLABLE TOO [LONG]

There’s just not enough of a toehold on some of these longer entries to figure out what’s going on, and there’s something that kills the joke for me of the final line of the quip actually being too long instead of leaving you hanging at “one syllable too”, which wouldn’t work here because you need a 15 letter answer for the final clue.  The one rebus square for LONG also sticks out to me, though it’s nice that PRO[LONG]ED (47D, “Extended the duration of”) gets use of the square as well.

Anyways, this ended up feeling like a slog to me, since the very specific wording of the lines meant that getting the lower left corner’s entries (RHYE? COME NOW?) was trickier as well.


In honor of today’s haiku theme, here’s some Japanese ambient and my favorite haiku:

Haiku are easy
but they don’t always make sense.

Happy Thursday!

Stu Ockman’s Universal crossword, “Through the Looking Glass” — Jim Q’s write-up

A puzzle you will definitely reflect on.

THEME: Phrases / Words that can be read in a mirror due the symmetric nature of their letters and the backwards placement in the grid.

Universal crossword solution · “Through the Looking Glass ” · Stu Ockman · Thurs., 4.29.21


  • ITIHATTahiti. 
  • AHTAWAIHHiawatha. 
  • ATAMOTUAAutomata. 
  • IHAMIHAMMahi mahi. 
  • AIMAMMAMMamma Mia!

This is pretty cool, despite the fact that I stared at the grid for quite a bit before actually checking it out in a mirror (of sorts). I used my phone in selfie mode to look at it, but when you actually take a picture (or even screen capture), it “unmirrors.” Otherwise I’d share the picture. I suppose I could take my laptop in to the bathroom here at the high school where I teach and snap a pic there, but that’s way too much explaining to do on the very likely chance that someone inadvertently witnesses that situation.

I really didn’t catch on to the fact that the answers are simply backwards and are composed of symmetrical letters, so the theme stayed a mystery for me until post-solve. That’s not a bad thing. It has enough of a curious gimmick to keep the suspense high, and the AHA is satisfying. I just wonder how many solvers are going to actually see how the puzzle looks in the mirror, especially those solving on a desktop computer/phone/laptop/ipad.

At first I assumed WII GAMES was part of the theme because it’s the same length and doesn’t solidly strike me as a stand-alone phrase. I think the themers would pop better (especially in the mirror) if they weren’t abutting other entries of the same length.

Plenty to like in fill: BEER ME, NEW KID, I HAD TO!

Chuckled at clue for EAST with [Indian-to-Ohio direction]. I’m programmed to assume abbreviations like SSE, NNE, etc. when I see clues asking me to mentally navigate the country (I never do btw, I always just guess).

How did I never notice that HERA is an anagram of Rhea?!

Also, I think I HAM! I HAM! sounds like a swell name for a children’s book about piglets.

3.8 stars from me.

George Jasper’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s sumamary

LA Times

I have said this before but these “scrambled word hidden across parts of a phrase” puzzles are feeling a bit overdone lately. Today’s puzzle is by the book: cute revealer with anagram indicator – TUMBLE:WEEDS. The entries are well chosen too: THOMA(SDEWE)Y, SHORTAN(DSWEE)T, and UNIT(EDWES)TAND.

Bits and bobs:
[Yanks’ NL counterparts, on scoreboards], NYM. Don’t remember seeing that abbreviated thusly. (Mets)
[Cutlass model], CIERA. Not to be confused with R&B singer CIARA, which I usually do.
[Minute], WEE. We had a cat for sterilisation called Wee-wee today?
[Google rival], YAHOO. Yahoo search is just bing now and it’s long since been bought out and its brand eroded.
[“No arguing”], BENICE followed by [Cast a spell on], BEWITCH. Don’t be nice, be witch!


Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1361), “Oy!” — Jenni’s review

I always end up writing these in a rush. I apologize if I’m not given Brendan his due. It’s almost dinner time around here…

Each theme answer has an OY sound replacing a long U sound. Wackiness results.

Brendan Emmett Quigley, Puzzle # 1361, April 29, 2021, “Oy!”, solution grid

  • 17a [Helen’s abduction by Paris?] is TROY CRIME (true crime).
  • 19a [Enter a Volkswagen carpool?] is JOIN BEETLE (June beetle).
  • 32a [Celebrate béarnaise?] is ROISTER SAUCE (rooster sauce, also known as sriracha, so-called because the brand most commonly found in the US has a rooster on the label).
  • 49a [Inventory entry for a lace mat?] is DOILY NOTED (duly noted).
  • 53a [Places where the “Ulysses” writer drank?] are JOYCE BARS (juice bars).

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Chick COREA won two posthumous Grammys earlier this year.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Thursday, April 29, 2021

  1. AV says:

    – was too painful to wait for the reveal, what with those tough crossings.
    – would have been great if the LONG had different meanings in the Across and Down answers. How? Move the long answers one row closer to the center and use OOLONGTEA, for example.

  2. Samuel says:

    I didn’t find the NYT puzzle to be too hard, perhaps because a three-line poem immediately had me thinking about haiku. Really enjoyed the clever theme.

    I did have some trouble with the NW corner. ERUPTS fit for the geyser clue, but that conflicted with OR WORSE. For 1 across and 4 down I tried WHOS [there] and SNEER, which did not help.

  3. David Stone says:

    Yeah, the NYT was a slog and not worth it. I liked PIEHOLE and HAIRBALL (tho not the clues for either) and HUMOR ME (nicely paired with COME NOW). OR WORSE was fun, too, but there were too many obscure items like RHYE and RAE (I’m guessing that clue was Will’s doing). ILES was pretty awful, too, tho quite gettable. Overall, I found the puzzle a terrible disappointment considering how much I look forward to Thursdays.

    • marciem says:

      I look forward to Thursdays also. And I love rebuses so lit up when I saw the rebus signal in AcrossLite. Quips? Uh, no :( .

      Utz must be regional, I’ve seen it once before in crosswords and didn’t remember the z. Kurtz unremembered by me from high school reading. Wanted sweeps for whisks. I thought maybe a rebus even at 1a because it was so short. Erupts didn’t work. so UGH on the NW.

      moving on, Sayst with no hint it was a 2nd choice variant? UGH.

      ONE rebus square at the end erased the fun of the hunt.

      I’m all for new things and difficulty, but fair crossings please! A quip doesn’t give much foothold for crossings, since anybody could be saying anything, for a start.

      • Billy Boy says:

        UTZ is PA Dutchie (derogatory?) but their chips and pretzels are decent. Also known for selling in massive sizes (Cheeze balls come in like 5 gal. tubs, lol)

  4. Billy Boy says:


    I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a mean spirited puzzle before.

    Gave up about 75% in with all the bad, not clever clue-ing, non-fitting answers, obscure names and general nonsense. Slog is far too kind.

    I’m admitting that I cheated. I just got bored.

  5. Adam Rosenfield says:

    Haikus are easy
    All you do is stop at the
    Seventeenth syllab

  6. RM Camp says:

    NYT: I think I must be the only one who got RHYE right off the bat, and while I love Queen I’m not some kind of superfan. But I agree that the puzzle was a trudge overall. It botched the whole northwest for me to have ERUPT instead of the correct SPOUT, and choosing to enter OPULENT over OBSCENE in the southwest didn’t help matters either.

  7. Joshua Kosman says:

    My favorite haiku is in the first panel of this strip, but the rest are good too.

  8. JohnH says:

    NYT was awful for me, too, and I never did finish around the left center. I also still haven’t found an explanation of that use of REC online.

    I didn’t know or recognize the Queen hit or Addison, (or for that matter an English TV show and Lorde’s real name, though those I got) and it didn’t help that I tried “ice” rather than INK a deal, which then had me wondering if the central entry didn’t start with ADIEU, which might accord not quite convincingly with the idea of LONG as an ending. But then nothing was terribly convincing today. Frustrating fill throughout in support of an unfunny poem.

  9. John McCluggage says:

    JohnH… Rec is short for recommendation.

  10. Amy L says:

    NYT: I really liked this. I like quip puzzles. There used to be a lot more and I miss them. I really don’t get all the change a letter/add a letter/subtract a letter and get a goofy word puzzles–these have become very common and leave me cold.

    A number of people have complained about misdirection in this puzzle. Isn’t that the point? Do you want to only do Monday puzzles?

    Adam’s haiku should have been the theme tomorrow.

  11. Lise says:

    NYT: At the bookstore where I used to work, we often had haiku wars. The bulletin board in the breakroom was our field of operations, and unfortunately they were never, as far as I know, compiled into some sort of document.

    BTW, REC is an abbreviation used often in the bookselling world. But I get it: seeing REC makes most people think of record or recreation (room).

  12. Mr. Grumpy says:

    If there is an anti-Orca award, I nominate today’s NYT. It was basically a trivial Monday/Tuesday puzzle tarted up with what I call “f*** you” cluing. Lorde’s real first name for ELLA? She doesn’t have a not-real first name: she just goes by the one. BBC’s BRENT? Give me a break. And the list goes on. Will Shortz owes me 1/365 of the annual fee for foisting this abomination on me.

  13. Reddogg says:

    NYT puzzle has garnered a lot of complaints both here, and at Rex Parker’s blog. And I suppose at the NYT Wordplay, but I didn’t look. I found it tough to finish because of all the proper names not known to me, and the misdirection. But it was very satisfying to solve it, so I have nothing but praise for it.

  14. Billposter says:

    Universal “Gain” = ERA? W hat am I missing

Comments are closed.