Thursday, June 24, 2021

BEQ untimed (Jenni) 


LAT 4:40 (GRAB) 


NYT 8:11 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Fireball  (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Two-Time” – Jenni’s write-up

The theme of this puzzle is “make up a sentence composed of two-letter words and create a grid around it.” I knew that before I downloaded the puzzle, because this appears in the Email: The clue for 14-Across is quite long, so for those solving in Across Lite, it’s pasted here. [With 24-, 41-, and 54-Across, resigned declaration about whether you and another person had any preference between slaying one yoked animal over hatcheting your father (who hasn’t yet divorced your mother) during his scheduled time for walking past you both [with this enumeration: 2 2 2 2 2 2, 2 2 2 (2 2 2 2 2) 2 2 2 2 2 2 2, 2 2 2!] ]

Fireball, June 23, 2021, Peter Gordon, “Two-Time,” solution grid


There you have it. And there you can leave it, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not a big fan of stunt puzzles. I want my puzzles to have either amusing wordplay or a high level of difficulty or both. This one has neither. I’m sure someone out there enjoyed it, and it certainly takes the Patented Peter Gordon Very Long Clue to another level. I tried to think of a two-letter word to sum up my opinion, but I needed three: meh.

A few other things:

  • 6a [Bets big with bubkes] is BLUFFS. “Bubkes” is Yiddish for “nothing.”
  • I really want to see “One Night In Miami…” and not just because Leslie Odom Jr plays Sam COOKE.
  • Overly picky alert: [Cholera cause] is Vibrio cholerae. The symptoms are due to the TOXIN produced by the bacteria, but the disease itself is not caused by the toxin. Hey, I admitted it was overly picky.
  • ALI Stroker was the first actor using a wheelchair to win a Tony. We had the pleasure of seeing her perform as Ado Annie in “Oklahoma.” Of course, there was no provision made for wheelchair access to the stage, so she had to wait backstage when the individual award was announced and then couldn’t join the rest of the cast when they won for Best Revival of a Musical. Grrr.
  • Guessing I’m not the only one who put IZE for [Fossil suffix] at 34a. It’s ITE, which the household geologist says is “True, but not the best cluing.” There are fossils that end in ITE (trilobite and ammonite, for two). There are also a lot that don’t. I’m sure it was intended as misdirection and it probably wouldn’t have bothered me much if I’d like the puzzle more overall.
  • [Peter Pan rival] is REESES. Does Peter Pan make candy? Does REESEmake peanut butter unencumbered by chocolate? I don’t care enough to look it up.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the band Eve 6 got its name from The XFILES.

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Dropoffs”—Jim P’s review

Theme: The trigram OFF is dropped into the vertical direction from familiar phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Dropoffs” · Gary Larson · Thu., 6.24.21

  • 14a. [Smoke, slangily] C(OFF)IN NAIL with 12d BOFFO.
  • 20a. [Get miffed] TAKE (OFF)ENSE with 7d BEST OFFER.
  • 47a. [Trusting act] LEAP (OF F)AITH with 29d HOT COFFEE.
  • 57a. [Resolute desk setting] OVAL (OFF)ICE with 53d DOFF.

Solid theme. Even most of the crossing entries are good.  But it’s not exactly original, and I’m starting to get jaded with themes like this, especially when they leave nonsense entries in the grid like LEAPOAITH.

Other turnoffs: BIENNIA which I can’t imagine anyone ever using, and stale crosswordese OATER, ERNO, RFD, and SDI. How many solvers know the name BAYH [Big name in Indiana politics]? I only know it because I went to college in Indiana and a girl I know worked for Evan BAYH’s campaign.


Clues of note:

  • 59a. [Near ringer]. LEANER. This crosses TEE, and I really wanted TOE/LOANER here, but ON TOE is elsewhere in the grid. I only just realized this is referring to horseshoes.
  • 13d. [Libro del Nuevo Testamento]. MATEO. Anyone else go for MARCO first?
  • 25d. [Hawk]. SPIT. As in to “hawk a loogie”? Gross. Talk about not passing the breakfast test.

The theme works and there’s some good fill, but also a number of distracting minuses. 3.4 stars.

Danny Lawson’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0624 – 06/24/2021

Danny Lawson’s NYT is a debut!  Congrats Danny!

It’s Thursday, so rebus squares are fair game, and this has plenty of those under the hood:

  • 19A: In-flight call? — [HEAD]S OR TAILS
  • 28A: “That’s ridonculous” — SHAKING MY [HEAD]
  • 45A: “Someone’s going to pay for this!” — [HEAD]S WILL ROLL
  • 1D: Fool — PIN[HEAD]
  • 25D: Moved up the corporate ladder, say — GOT A[HEAD]
  • 32D: Embark on the Oregon Trail, say — [HEAD] WEST
  • 59D: Piece of equipment for a telemarketer — [HEAD]SET
  • 55A: Lucy van Pelt’s frequent outburst to Charlie Brown…or how to fill some squares in this puzzle — YOU BLOCK[HEAD]

All in all, it’s a nice debut.  There’s some cluing in here that felt weirdly obscure, even for a Thursday — cluing LEVI with Levi Eshkol, third prime minister of Israel — and other parts that felt weirdly out of time (I love The Fifth Dimension, but I don’t see Marilyn MCCOO clued too often these days), but that’s all a little nitpicky.

Still, it’s nice to learn something from the puzzle, and it turns out that Michaelangelo’s PIETA is his only signed work. Who knew? I also learned that KELP holds itself up with gas-filled bladders, and that felt neat.

Happy Thursday!

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1377), “Is Not” — Jenni’s review

Each theme answer has the word IS removed from a three-word phrase – sort of. The S remains attached to the first word.

Brendan Emmett Quigley, Puzzle # 1377, “Is Not,” solution grid

  • 18a [Moves effortlessly out of the way of danger?] is COASTS CLEAR (coast is clear).
  • 27a [Wields a stopwatch during singer Eddie’s set?] is TIMES MONEY (time is money).
  • 40a [Sign above the SCOTUS bar?] is JUSTICES SERVED (justice is served). Now I want to know what each justice orders. We know it’s beer for Kavanaugh….
  • 51a [Can’t get enough of a window treatment?] is LOVES BLIND (love is blind) which…kind of works. We don’t usually say BLIND in the singular for a window treatment, do we? It’s a bit forced.
  • 63a [Sets a value on a Constitutional privilege?] is PRICES RIGHT (price is right) which also sounds a bit forced to my ear.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of either ELYSE Sewell or ELYSE Knowles.

Alex Bajcz’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I can’t argue with today’s concept, though it is a familiar one. Members of a set are hidden between parts of four theme phrases. The circles didn’t make too much sense to me initially. I did drop SONOMAVALLEY in initially, but even once correctly MACOUN didn’t mean anything to me. SPY emerged, but also didn’t seem related. The revealer made everything a little clearer: APPLECORES. I found it hard to accept that a SPY is an Apple but Google confirmed, as it did for MACOUN. I hadn’t heard of 50% of the theme, but I expect you have different Apple varietals than us so. Also, Alex Bajcz, PhD is a plant ecologist and I’m pretty sure his pet subject is fruit. Write what you know!

About half of South Africa’s apple crop is grown one valley east of us; I wonder which varieties are grown there? One of the themers, GALA, is number one, but the others are too wordy to be useful thematically, except perhaps FUJI, but its UJ digram is awkward.

Pretty smooth design choice to include paired double tens GLENNCLOSE/MANYTHANKS and SETTLEDOWN/TEHRANIRAN across two theme answers. There are compromises, but given the crowded theme and awkward themer counts, I’d say within reason.

Tricky spots: PAYS clued opaquely as [Uses Venmo, say] crossing proper noun CAYUGALAKE and SVEDKA/SWAK.

Clue of the day: [Modern test of humanity] for CAPTCHA


Becca Gorman and Hannah Puckers Universal crossword, “K, Whatever” — Jim Q’s write-up

*This puzzle is part of Universal’s Pride Month series

**This appears to be a debut for Hannah Pucker. Congrats!

Super fun title!

THEME: Phrases whose first words start with N now start with K and a homophone. Wackiness ensues.

Universal crossword solution · “K, Whatever” · Becca Gorman· Hannah Pucker ​ · Thur, 6.24.21


  • 17A [What won’t come undone on the job?] KNOT SAFE FOR WORK. 
  • 27A [Met the benchmark for second-grade math?] KNEW ADDITION. 
  • 49A [Training for King Arthur’s men?] KNIGHT SCHOOL. 
  • 64A [Physically demanded a fresh diaper from?] KNEED FOR A CHANGE.

A familiar theme today, but fun answers nonetheless. Probably the most bizarre of the themers is KNEED FOR A CHANGE– I like that level of “out there.” That’s juxtasposed with KNIGHT SCHOOL, which is very vanilla in comparison.

Filled well. If I had a knit… erm… nit… it would be the clue for PART II [Post-intermission segment]. Post-intermission segments as I know them are typically called ACTS, not PARTs.

HUNDO P is entirely knew… erm… new to me. According to this blog, it was essential 2017 slang. That’s the only year in the past 15 I wasn’t teaching in the classroom. Maybe I missed that fad. Seems like a fun phrase on the outset that would get on my nerves after my third time hearing it.

I was surprised to find the word count higher than normal at 80. I wonder why.

Good time overall- thanks for this!

3.1 stars

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30 Responses to Thursday, June 24, 2021

  1. Me says:

    NYT: Really liked the theme, but there are three possible Naticks here, which is two too many even for a Thursday IMO:

    The intersection at nikI/birIyani (and I have never seen biryani spelled this way)
    leVi/viV (could be leCi/viC)
    snooD/youDo (the latter wouldn’t be problematic with a better clue)

    The nikI/birIyani is particularly bad. nikA/nikE/nikI/nikK/nikO/nikU/nikY all seem like reasonable possibilities to me.

    • Anne says:

      I’ve never seen BIRIYANI spelled in any other way, and SNOODS was a gimme for me. I got stuck on the PINHEAD, had aIrHEAD for the longest time.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Agree about LEVI/VIV, particularly since there are a lot of less obscure ways to clue LEVI. Also agree about BIRIYANI. I really liked the theme, but those crossings made it a lot less fun.

      • Anne says:

        I’m not sure who Jenni agrees with about BIRIYANI. Not me but Me?

        • Jenni Levy says:

          Yes! Sorry. I’ve always seen BIRYANI spelled, well, like that.

          • just stopping by says:

            You spelled it two different ways in your two posts, so it’s still unclear which spelling you found familiar.

            For myself, I’ve only ever seen it without the middle I.

            In fact, when I search “BIRIYANI” on the web, it returns: “Did you mean BIRYANI?” Interesting.

    • scrivener says:

      Me too on niki/biriyani and levi/viv. My first DNF all year, I think. Even with a CHECK PUZZLE I didn’t have it in me to try all the combinations.

      • RM Camp says:

        I usually see BIRIYANI spelled as shown in the puzzle, but I filled it in without that second I at first for some reason and it threw me for a bit.

        Also: not a fan of VIV. That’s not a number, 9 is IX. LIV was my first guess and ultimately what made me search for a mistake upon finishing.

  2. Billy Boy says:


    Didn’t hold my interest after rapidly getting the rebus. Agree with the Natick intersections, not a fan of obscure names “we’re supposed to know”. pfffft

    Too many possible Roman Numeral nicknames to care about good Old Levi from Israel.

    • Me says:

      Boy, there are an awful lot of 3-letter nicknames composed solely of Roman numerals. LIL, LIV, VIC, VIV. IDI. DIL. If someone told me they were nicknamed MIC or MIM or IVI, I wouldn’t blink twice at that.

  3. JohnH says:

    WSJ took me ages. I figured it had to be DADGUM, but I didn’t recognize it and kept looking for my mistake. I had even more trouble with the center west. I started with sell for hawk, and eventually stared at SP_T and stared some more, never knowing this one. I didn’t know the crime writer Rule either and kept fixating on the wrong kind of sash (clothing). Eventually the meaning of “call” came to me, and I filled in the rest while moderately confused. Lots else I didn’t know, like Morpheus/Neo, but the crossings there were straightforward.

    • Jim Lo says:

      WSJ is usually workmanlike at best, and Thursday is another example.
      It’s staid fill speckled with outdated 1950’s stuff like OATER, and ASTER, RFD, and 80’s refs ERNO, BOFFO, ANN and SDI, plus whatever DADGUM is.

      I guess they’re trying to satisfy their older, conservative subscriber base so rarely do we get fun, current references. Mike Shenk is the anti Erik Agard.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I generally enjoyed the challenging WSJ solve today, but AFROED {16A: Sporting a natural} belongs in the Crossword Hall of Shame. I’m not sure that whole NW section, which also includes CARB {14D: Potato or pasta}, BOFFO {12D: Extremely successful}, HAIRDO {1D: Bob, e.g.} and ERNO {2D: Rubik of Rubik’s Cube fame} (in order, left to right!), is worth the clever C[OFF]IN NAIL {14A: Smoke, slangily}. Plus, there’s the now 40-year-old, trickily-clued, government program letter salad, crosswordese SDI {5D: Star Wars letters} up there. That corner is pretty ugly.

  4. David L says:

    I had VIC first but corrected it after realizing the name must be LEVI.

    BIRIYANI seems odd to me too — the Wikipedia article is headed ‘Biryani’ although many other spellings are offered. I think my first choice would be ‘biriani.’

    The crossing that gave me the most trouble was TEAR_OMS/_OPS. I didn’t recognize ‘my b!’ and thought it might a term of endearment — my bae or something — and I was looking for a consonant to fill the gap. Will Shortz seems to have a strange belief that Brits are always offering or asking for a spot of tea. I suspect his knowledge of British English comes from PG Wodehouse and Agatha Christie and no one later than that.

  5. MattF says:

    I got snagged on the NYT VIV/AVON crossing, with an L rather than a V. And, in the FB, ‘bubkes’ in the 6A clue should be ‘bupkis’.

  6. Jason T says:

    Re: Fireball. For the record, I loved it. Yes it was a stunt, but it was an unusual, amusing stunt, and it was fun to piece together the two-letter words that made (some) sense out of the ridiculous clue. Different strokes for different folks!

    • Me says:

      With the Fireball, I think you are definitely warned by the wacky long clue, “This is going to be very silly.” Jenni has to do it regardless of how silly she thinks it is, but for the rest of us, if you keep going, you’ve accepted that it’s going to be very silly. And sometimes, you’re looking for silly.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni: I’m guessing that every generation goes through this, but when I see things like HUNDO P {50D: Without a doubt, slangily} in a crossword, I wonder if I’ll still be able to communicate in my own primary language 20 or 30 years from now.

    • PJ says:

      I had no idea how to parse it. I googled it and found it in a page of slang terms you need to know in 2017. I get 51,000 hits when i search for “hundo p.” Of course I didn’t search snapface or any other apps ktd are using.

      That it’s been around that long and has the number of hits it has make me think it’s a slang term that didn’t catch on.

      I certainly didn’t object to seeing it in the grid.

  8. KarenS says:

    NYT: I got caught up on 37A/25D. I’m weak on names of flowers. TANSY threw me off.

    • RM Camp says:

      Yeah, I thought I was getting the GOT AHEAD answer wrong because PANSY comes to mind first.

  9. Margaret says:

    Re LAT, I live in California near San Francisco and I’ve never heard of a Macoun apple or a Spy apple either. Just as a point of reference.

  10. Jack2 says:

    WSJ: Jim, it’s not a nonsense entry. It’s LEAPOFFAITH with the “OFF” dropping down.

  11. Tim says:

    BEQ: Please someone explain 7A. Thanks!

    • stmv says:

      CINC is short for Commander In Chief, one of the president’s roles (“Amtrak Joe” is one of Joe Biden’s nicknames).

  12. dh says:

    I learned that the Pieta was Michelangelo’s only signed work from watching Jeopardy! last night.

  13. Dan says:

    I found the use of the word “cores” entirely gratuitous. Sure, the circled letters were names of apple varieties. But “cores” was used in a failed pun.

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