Thursday, August 19, 2021

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 5:06 (GRAB) 


NYT 8:34 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 3:25 (Sophia) 


Bill Thompson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Slanted Article”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Phrases of the form “X THE Y” are hidden in the grid thanks to a slanting THE. The revealer is THE CASCADES (63a, [Range that’s home to 18-Across, and a hint to solving this puzzle]) and should be interpreted literally to make sense of the theme, i.e. the word THE cascades down and to the right. (18a is MOUNT SHASTA [Northern California peak]), by the way.)

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Slanted Article” · Bill Thompson · Thu., 8.19.21

  • 17a. [Escape in haste] FLY (THE) COOP
  • 22a. [Get off] BEAT (THE) RAP.
  • 38a. [Be in charge] RUN (THE) SHOW.
  • 45a. [Meet requirements] MAKE (THE) CUT.

I will start off by saying, wow, this is pretty nifty. I love the consistency in the phrases and the top-notch execution. This grid is jam packed with theme material and it’s quite smooth given the constraints.

In fact, the execution was so good, I didn’t see the theme at all until minutes after solving. Obviously I knew I was missing something because the last word in each phrase has the same clue which is [CLUED ELSEWHERE]…and I couldn’t find where these clues were!

It took a few turns at reading the revealer and then thinking about the title to put things together. Finally the penny dropped and I spotted all the THEs.

My problem was that for at least two of the entries, the first word in the phrase satisfies the clue. FLY is a legitimate answer to [Escape in haste] and RUN is a legitimate answer to [Be in charge]. Granted, MAKE doesn’t satisfy [Meet requirements], but I figured I was just missing the correct interpretation of the word, and BEAT…well, let’s just say [Get off] has multiple meanings.

So in the end, I had no idea where these phrases were or even, in fact, that there were phrases in the grid. Which is a shame, because I love the theme and really wish I could have seen it during the solve. If the clues could have been a tad less ambiguous, that would’ve helped the solver out.

But today is Thursday, and this is a lovely Thursday theme.

Top fill: OXYMORONS, SPARKLE, DOOBIE, LORRIES. Didn’t know the solver SARAZEN nor the TWIN-CAM Harley-Davidson engines. I got caught putting in TIBIAS [Weight-supporting bones] crossing AMIS [Nice girlfriend] at the S. The correct answers are TIBIAE and AMIE. (Rough crossing IMO.)

I love this sneaky theme, but maybe it’s a little too sneaky. 4.25 stars.

Oliver Roeder’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0819 – 08/19/2021

Today’s NYT is a debut NYT puzzle from Oliver Roeder!  Congrats on this, Ollie.  You may already be familiar with his work as the original writer of The Riddler column for FiveThirtyEight, covering the crossword scandal with USA Today, the ACPT, and the MIT Mystery Hunt for that same site, and he’s got an upcoming book called Seven Games: A Human History out early next year that I’m looking forward to getting my hands on.

Anyways, I was really excited to see that byline, so let’s take a look at what’s under the hood for this puzzle.  We’ve got six rebus squares hidden throughout the grid:

  • 15A: Where Dalmatia is — CR[OAT]IA
  • 30A: Mobile homes of a sort — HOUSEB[OAT]S
  • 32A: Castle defenses — M[OAT]S
  • 46A: Heraldic symbol — C[OAT] OF ARMS
  • 52A: Be perfectly sized — FIT T[O A T]EE
  • 60A: Best ever, in sports slang — THE G[OAT]

these rebus squares also affect the corresponding downs, where we get CUTTHR[OAT], G[OAT]EE, UNDER [OAT]H, L[OAT]HSOME, BL[OAT]WARE, and Joyce Carol [OAT]ES (“National Book Award winner for “Them,” 1970″)

What do all these squares with OAT represent?  Well, they’d all be CEREAL BOXes.
(36A, “Life preserver? … or a hint to six squares in this puzzle”).  I thought this was super cute and a pleasure to solve.  Nice one, Ollie!

KYOTO“, by Phoebe Bridgers

Other nice grid bits: LOGAN Roy from Succession, Buffalo Bill CODY, ORTEGA taco shells, THRESH, IMARETS, FORTUNE, and RHYTHM

Happy Thursday!

Claire Rimkus’s USA Today crossword, “Casting a Wide Net” — Sophia’s recap

Theme: “Casting a Wide Net” – Each theme answer begins with NE and ends with T, literally making the word “net” wide.

USA Today, 08 19 2021, “Casting a Wide Net”

  • 17a [Excitedly recited the digits of pi, for example] – NERDED OUT
  • 31a [Embroidery craft] – NEEDLEPOINT
  • 45a [Brain specialist] – NEUROLOGIST
  • 63a [Bar window feature] – NEON LIGHT

I mentioned yesterday that I like to play “guess the theme” from the USA Today title, but unlike yesterday, I was actually able to figure out today’s theme! It’s a solid one –  I really enjoy the first two theme answers and (despite knowing the theme) kept trying to make “neon sign” work for the last slot. I like the consistency of breaking up NET the same way each time (NE/T); I would guess there are a fair number of potential theme answers for this pattern so it was nice to see them in a tighter set.

Great bonuses today with NINA SIMONE, TOTAL LIE, and DUOLINGO. I liked the conversational tone this puzzle had in its clues, for example “I should have ___ that coming” for SEEN and “What’s up with ___?” for THAT. Other favorite entries today for me include the bear/”bear” pairing of PANDA and KOALA, and the whole Reading Rainbow themed corner with LEVAR Burton and PBS.

Other notes:

  • I kept wanting to put in “onions” for 26a [Scallion relatives]… and then ONION turned up as 15a [Salsa ingredient]! Funny how that works sometimes.
  • I know nothing about hockey so I was pleasantly surprised when 44d [Hockey stat (abbr)] was the very generic PTS. Side note that, for a team that has yet to play a single game, you certainly see a *lot* of Kraken merch around Seattle.
  • Loved all the music references in this puzzle, but had to link to 22d [“Make Me ___” (Janelle Monae song], my favorite of the bunch:

Tomas Spiers’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times 190821

Tomas Spiers explores a well-mined theme vein in today’s LA Times theme: synonyms for money. In today’s case, the set is looser than usual: TENDER, GREEN, CAPITAL and CHANGE aren’t precise synonyms. In any case, the non-financial terms CHICKENTENDER, PUTTINGGREEN, STATECAPITAL and CLIMATECHANGE have clues that imagine that they are in fact to do with money.

There aren’t too many entries, for better or worse, that I see need to highlight. I always thought the [Cough syrup ingredient], CODEINE was heavily restricted in the U.S.? I found the clue [Structured internet listing], SITEMAP rather opaque. Just me?


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s “Get the F Out” crossword—Darby’s review

Theme: Each themed answer omits an “F” as a reconfiguring of a popular phrase.

Theme Answers:

Brendan Emmett Quigley's "Get the F Out"  8/19/2021 solution

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s “Get the F Out” 8/19/2021 solution

  • 17a [“Words said about a tool while raising a glass”] – WRENCH TOAST / French toast
  • 24a [“Cheer on during an NBA game?”] – ROOT BASKET / Fruit basket
  • 29a [“Bullshitters on pot?”] – HIGH LIARS / High flyers
  • 43a [“Penn and Teller’s spoils”] – MAGIC LOOT / Magic Flute
  • 48a [“Gasps for aid made while jittery”] – ANTSY PANTS/ Fancy pants
  • 60a [“Examine Syria’s Bashar methodically”] – SCREEN ASSAD / Screen facade

This was a fun theme, and figuring it out with WRENCH TOAST definitely helped smooth out the rest of my solve. HIGH LIARS was the most creative and most fun of the themers, and I definitely enjoyed the realization as I filled it in.

Other good clues:

  • 59a [“Game played witha pile of sticks”] – This clue was frustrating in the best way, simply because I was like “WTF” (40a [“I can’t even”]) every time I tried to think of different names for this. NIM, I learned, is a math strategy game in which one person tries to be the last person to remove an object.
  • 1d [“Cries and cries”] – We see sobs, weeps, and cries a lot, but BAWLS is less common in puzzles.
  • 11d [“Tension-building call for a swinger”] – As a baseball fan (who, barring rain, is off to a Cincinnati Reds game tonight), I loved the clueing and answer for STRIKE TWO. This also paired well with 24d [“Scoring stats”] and its invocation of RBIS.

Overall, one of my favorite BEQs so far, both between the baseball references and the excellent theme. Short one from me today, but I’ll be back tomorrow with USA Today!

Gary Larson’a Universal crossword, “Puns of the Year”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Seasonal puns- homophones of common phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “Puns of the Year” · Gary Larson · Thurs, 8.19.21


  • [*Seasoning for the Christmas turkey?] WINTER THYME. 
  • [*Part in a play put on at the end of the school year?] SPRING ROLE. 
  • [*Halloween costume, e.g.?] FALL GUISE. 
  • [*Condition after hours of lolling in the sun?] SUMMER DAZE. 
  • [Luxury hotel chain, and a hint to the phonetic “changes” in the starred clues’ answers] FOUR SEASONS. 

Cute, simple theme if somewhat familiar. All solid phrases though, and tightly knit. I’m not sure I understand the revealer entirely as the seasons don’t change phonetically at all, do they? I mean, I totally get what’s happening without the revealer. It just seems a bit weird in there.

Couple things:

  • [Disgruntled diner’s decision] NO TIP. “Disgruntled diner” in this context is synonymous with “asshole.”
  • [Nickname within “president”] SID. Like these Universal-esque clues. Like them better when the name found within has a strong relationship to the word in which its found. Presdent Sid!
  • FOIE / OCHER I think is a dangerous crossing for newer solvers.


3.5 stars.

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21 Responses to Thursday, August 19, 2021

  1. Ch says:

    68A, MOILS?! I could see TOILS, but this is news to me!

    • Lise says:

      NYT: As the clue suggests, the answer is an “old-style” word. And while old, it is still around in writings that may still be read today.

      From “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, by Robert Service:

      “There are strange things done in the midnight sun/By the men who moil for gold”

      I love that poem.

      I thought the constructor did a great job of finding good entries containing OAT. It seemed to me that there was relatively little crosswordese, and it was a satisfying solve. I would love to see more from this constructor.

  2. Roger Phillips says:

    This was probably my worst Thursday solving time ever, because there were a lot of US names and brands that were unknown to a foreigner like me: LOGAN Roy, NINA Totenberg, ORTEGA, LIFE (in the 36A clue), DOUG Jones (ex-senator, not actor), ORECK, David CARR, Kool MOE Dee, Robert FOGEL. By my count there are 16 names of people and brands out of 78 answers – over 20% – though some of those are well known.

    • John says:

      Yes, I found it took me a long time for that reason too. Good fun though. All the OATs were good, loved THE GOAT/OATES. For its brevity and because I’ve been thinking about reading her Wonderland Quartet, of which Them is the third, for a while. Maybe this is a sign I should start.

  3. Billy Boy says:

    Isn’t G(OAT)EE and THEG(OAT) an unacceptable foul? I thought dupes in the same puzzle, no less in themers was a no-no, it at least looked down upon.

    All this puzzle needed was*more names* to make it perfect.

    Now get off of my lawn.

    • Mutman says:

      Not that Shortz cares about dupes anyway, but I don’t see it that way.

      Sure, GOATEE refers to the animal’s beard, but THE GOAT is simply an acronym. By that logic, you could say that GALORE and ALGORE duplicate the word ORE. But I don’t think so.

      And I’ll get off your lawn after I get my ball back!

  4. marciem says:

    WSJ: THANKS for ‘splaining the theme, JimP! The penny never did drop for me so I needed your review!

    • Reddogg says:

      WSJ: Amen to that marciem. Also agree that it was a delight once I understood it. Kudos to both the constructor and to the reviewer.

      • marciem says:

        I second that entirely! With the review, I very much appreciate the construction and theme very much. Wish I’da thunk it :) :D but glad Jim shined the light!

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT: BUN {43A: Diana Taurasi hairstyle}/DUOLINGO {40D: Language-learning app} almost undid me here. I know very well who Diana Taurasi is. I got my graduate degree from UConn and have avidly followed both their men’s and women’s basketball programs for almost 40 years. Even aside from the fact that hairstyle names are completely out of my wheelhouse (I had B_N and still didn’t know what the answer was), I’m supposed to know what kind of hairstyle someone wears? Really?! Is she particularly famous for this in some circles? The only athlete I can think of off-hand who I know was famous for her hairstyle was Dorothy Hamill (the wedge, I think it’s called?). Dr. J’s, Artis Gilmore’s and Oscar Gamble’s fros were also pretty famous, I suppose. DUOLINGO means absolutely nothing to me, but I guess it was at least somewhat inferable.

  6. marciem says:

    BEQ: Without giving a spoiler, boy that last theme entry gave me a fit. I had never heard of the object that was real … even with the correct answer in place I finally just had to google every possibility of sound-alikes for both words. WHEW!

    Good puzzle, BEQ! I like learning new things :) .

  7. M483 says:

    NYT 36 across: Why is cereal box clued as a “life preserver”?

  8. marciem says:

    From reading the NYT page about how to do rebuses… they say that part of the game is finding out that it really actually IS a rebus puzzle? (I paraphrase). Is that so? There is no clue in the app or print version that says “this is a rebus” ?? (such as AL let us know with their rebus red thingy on the bottom).

    • cwm says:

      I’m a fan of rebuses and I think part of the fun is the ‘aha’ moment of figuring out that it’s a rebus and seeing the pieces fall into place.

      I’ve haven’t used across-lite, but yeah, that definitely feels like it would be a spoiler

      • M483 says:

        Wow! I must have a very old version of across lite, but mine never gave any indication of a rebus.
        Yes, discovering that it is a rebus is part of the fun.
        My experience has been that when a NYT puzzle started to look very hinky, I’d check to see what day it was. Aha! It’s Thursday. If it looks like a duck… it’s rebus.

        • marciem says:

          In AL, under options->solving there is a checkbox to turn the rebus indicator on. I’ve been using AL for several years and its always worked for me, so I’m guessing you don’t have it turned on :) .

          I can see that this would add a whole nother layer to the solving process. I’m still debating, I’ve cancelled my NYT subscription for now as I don’t like the online app… and I’m not sure I need another layer… but I do love rebuses!

  9. David Stone says:

    NYT felt like stale cereal to me. Yes, there was some fresh fill (hadn’t heard of BLOATWARE!), but the puzzle was a DNF for me thanks to Rio Lobo and a few other spots that seemed old-ish (MOILS? I’ve heard of the word, but even the clue said it was old-style). Glad to see new constructors, tho.

  10. David Stone says:

    NYT seemed like stale cereal to me. RIO LOBO? Didn’t happen to catch that one at the moving picture show, sadly (tho it is a fun looking answer). Robert FOGEL? I guess I’m not up on my Nobel laureates in economics. Between those two clues and a few related spots, this was a rare (in fact, unique) DNF on a Thursday for me. I couldn’t figure out THE G[OAT], partly because I assumed that the inclusion of GOATEE would preclude it. Ironically, that was one of the fresher clues, tho it crossed the author of a book from 51 years ago. So I found the puzzle underwhelming, and I guess I wasn’t alone (it’s rating is below 3, suggesting that Ben was a lot more enthusiastic about the puzzle than most of the readers of this blog).

  11. David Stone says:

    [Oh — I just noticed that my earlier attempt to leave a comment via my phone gave me an error message, so I switched devices and ended up leaving a second comment. Sorry!

    That error message comes up every time I try to comment using my phone.]

Comments are closed.