Thursday, September 9, 2021

BEQ Untimed (Darby) 


LAT 4:43 (GRAB) 


NYT 11:34 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ 8:33 (Jim P) 


USA Today 3:39 (Sophia) 


Fireball ~8 minutes (Amy) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Write-Downs”—Jim P’s review

Theme: DROP ME A LINE is the revealer (61a, [“Don’t forget to write,” and what you must do in 13-, 24- and 43-Across]). I wasn’t totally sure how to parse this at first. DROP MEAL IN E? DROP MEA LINE? DROP ME A-LINE? The upshot is that the other themers have the letters ME added in, thereby creating crossword wackiness. I spent a long time believing that the theme was simply “add ME” to a phrase, but there’s more to it than that. The entry above the long theme answers don’t make sense with their given clues. Putting them together, we’re to realize that ME drops from the row above and into the long theme answers.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Write-Downs” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 9.9.21

  • 17a. [Arrive like some hallway mail?] COME IN SLOTS. Coin slots. With ME coming from 13a ROA(ME)RS [Peripatetic people].
  • 29a. [Billboard advertising helmet adornments?] PLUMES SIGN. Plus sign. With ME coming from 24a A(ME)LIAS [Bloomer and Earhart, for two].
  • 46a. [Enough varieties to make lots of lots?] TEN CEMENTS. Ten cents. With ME coming from 43a PO(ME)LOS [Fruits with bitter pulp].

Not realizing what was going on at first, it’s safe to say I was pretty underwhelmed by the long theme answers. There have to be more interesting ME-added phrases than things like COME IN SLOTS. But once I realized the full extent of the theme (and the constraints determining where exactly the MEs came from and where they went), I came to appreciate the theme’s complexity and the difficulty in putting it together. I still don’t think TEN CEMENTS is a great theme entry, but it’s pretty cool how the ME drops from PO(ME)LOS above and into that entry.

So I was slow to catch on to the theme, but I’m glad I got there in the end. As for the rest of the grid, despite the stacked entries in the theme, we have a nice set of long Downs: CREEPS UP, HIGH SIERRA, ROMAN BATHS, TAPENADES, and AIRHOLES. Only DESPISERS feels iffy in that set. Plus there’s “SAD TO SAY…” in the Across direction.

Clues of note:

  • 10a. [Croque-monsieur ingredient]. HAM. I got this from the crossings, because I was thinking it would be in French.
  • 26a. [Sites of fluid-filled labyrinths]. EARS. I went with DAMS first thinking erroneously about fish ladders. Why I equated fish ladders with I don’t know.
  • 38a. [City that hosts the Gasparilla Pirate Festival]. TAMPA. I guessed TEMPE solely off the P. Interesting how those two cities differ only in the vowels.

A stealthily complex theme which took some post-solve cogitation to sort out. Four stars from ME.

Billy Bratton’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0909 – 09/09/2021

Billy Bratton has today’s NYT:

  • 16A: “In a Silent Way” trumpeter [~3:5] — KILOMETERS DAVIS
  • 25A: Some unaccredited universities, derisively [~57:1] — RADIAN MILLS
  • 40A: Hardly parsimonious, in a saying [~1:454] — GRAM FOOLISH
  • 54A: What you have to do to interpret the answers to 16-, 25- and 40-Across — CONVERT TO METRIC

Including the conversion factors for MILES DAVIS, DEGREE MILLS, and POUND FOOLISH is a nice touch on the theme, which asks you to convert the imperial measurements to their metric counterparts.

a random assortment of other fill: Tennessee’s first female senator MARSHA Blackburn, both ALE KEGS and CAKEs can be iced for a birthday, SNAIL teeth are one of the strongest substances in the natural world, MIRTH, and Clea DUVALL, OF COURSE.

Happy Thursday!

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Character Building—Amy’s recap

Fireball crossword solution, 9 9 21, “Character Building”

Perfect title for the puzzle. Theme revealer: 37a. [Mark called “the typographical equivalent of a grimace or a shrug of the shoulders,” in the New York Times obituary of Martin K. Speckter, its creator], INTERROBANG. That’s a question mark and exclamation point merged into one mark, and I have not seen it used as a grimace or shrug of the shoulders. Anyway, there are eight (I think) rebus squares where it’s a ? across and a ! down, so you can fill those squares with an interrobang if you’re solving on paper. I don’t know how to get an interrobang into a .puz file.

The rebuses are NO? / E! NEWS; “THAT?” / P!INK; “WHEN?” / “HA!”; “IS IT?” / “WOWIE!”; “WHY ME?” / “HERE!”; “WAS I?” / HELLO!; “WHAT?” / “OW!”; and “SO?” / the song “HEY YA!“.


Mired in: 59a. [Pocket], SMALL (I guess like a pocketknife?) and 63a. [Tailor, in Turin], SARTO crossing 59d. [Dir. of traffic on Manhattan’s Columbus Avenue], SSW (lots of options if you’re missing that W) and 60d. [Sound at a petting zoo], MAA (could be BAA). Note to self: maybe don’t solve/blog at 1 a.m.

3.5 stars from me.

Rachel Fabi & Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “No, No, and No” — Sophia’s recap

Theme:”No, No, and No” – each of the theme answers start with a contraction that means “will not”.

USA Today, 09 09 2021, “No, No, and No”

  • 19a [RuPaul’s rhyming catchphrase for a lip-sync winner] – SHANTAY YOU STAY
  • 38a [“The ___” (Chaucer stories in which the singular “they” can be found)] – CANTERBURY TALES
  • 52a [Sheets for folding dumplings] – WONTON WRAPPERS

It took me forever after solving this puzzle to figure out the theme (well, ok, more like 20 minutes. But it felt like forever!) I think I had a hard time parsing it because of the change in pronunciation of “shant” and “wont” – it took actually typing out the answers for this blog to see the repetition in their meaning. I don’t watch “RuPaul’s Drag Race” so SHANTAY YOU STAY was new to me, although I have heard “Sashay Away” as the show’s send off line, so I had some clue as to the structure of the phrase. I love any food answer so WONTON WRAPPERS was right up my alley, and I was happy to learn a new fact about The CATERBURY TALES as well.

Loved the fill all around today. RAN POINT is a great in the language phrase, THIN MINTs are delicious, and I liked the Jewish representation in the clue for SATURDAY. The grid is a bit segmented but none of the sections are closed off, so they can each be full of  clean entries without disrupting the flow of the grid. I didn’t know SANAA Lathan, SONOYA Mizuno, or Brooke EDEN, but I was happy to learn about them all, and all the crosses were very fair to new solvers.

Other notes:

  • Yep, the book title does hyphenate “Bad-ASS” like that. I’m more used to seeing it as a single word so it feels a little off to me. Side note that the book looks incredible and I definitely want to read it now.
  • Looking at the grid and clues now, it’s notable that this is not a single white man anywhere in this puzzle.
  • Anyone else still playing AMONG us almost a year after the fad began?? Just me and my NERD friends?? OK.
  • This puzzle was edited by Amanda Rafkin! I’ll probably start including an editor section in my puzzle headings next week to make sure that Amanda and Erik get the credit they each deserve.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1399, “Big Box Stores”—Darby’s review

Theme: The shaded, box-shaped squares in the puzzle include the letters spelling out the name of a big box store from left to right in a box.

Theme Answers (Going clockwise from 1a)

Brendan Emmett Quigley's "Big Box Stores," 9/9/2021 crossword solution

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s “Big Box Stores,” 9/9/2021 crossword solution

  • HOME DEPOT (with sections from 9a [“Ecce ____”] HOMO, 15a [“Sparkle with morning moisture”] BEDEW and 17a [“Tools to make béchamel and Bordelaise”] SAUCE POTS)
  • TARGET (58a [“Rite site”] ALTAR and 63a [“Early word processor?”] ROGET)
  • IKEA (64a [“Things placed by a recording engineer”] MIKES and 67a [“X-ray blocker”] LEAD)
  • KROGER (16a [“Steve of ’60 Minutes'”] KROFT, and 19a [“Hand sanitizer targets”] GERMS)

Revealer: 38a [“Systems of transactions made in cryptocurrency spread through a network and a hint to this puzzle’s theme”] BLOCK CHAINS

As always, BEQ coming in with a creative Thursday theme. At first, I had no idea, and I didn’t get the revealer until after I filled in the store names. First, I realized that the shaded letters in the upper right corner with components of 9a [“Ecce ____”], 15a [“Sparkle with morning moisture”] and 17a [“Tools to make béchamel and Bordelaise”] were only missing the E of HOME and the PO of DEPOT. Once I realized that they were store names, it was a game changer for the rest of my fill.

There were certain a few clues that elicited a solid “hmm” from me. I didn’t particularly care for 40a [“They can replace this phrase”] HIS OR HER, as I love thinking of crosswords as a place to move beyond the gender binary. I also tend to hem and HAW (40d [“Turn left”]) over the amount of name clues in a puzzle. This one had a nice range, a few like the fictional 5d [“‘Midnight Cowboy’ nickname] RATSO Rizzo, 15d [“Composer Britten”] BENJAMIN, and 29d [“Monsieur ___ (Jacques Tati role)] HULOT felt a little dated and made for especially tricky fills.

Lastly, in terms of grid shape, I thought the center of the puzzle was aesthetically kind of wonky in a way that I loved.

Other clues that caught my eye:

  • 6a [“Three-part shot given to kids, for short”] – This reference to the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine felt especially poignant, especially as boosters are approved for widespread use in the face of COVID. It’s going to be surreal when COVID vaxes and references to coronavirus become a historical crossword norm.
  • 13a [“Home to the National Voting Rights Museum”] – I’m definitely excited that this museum, located in SELMA, Alabama, made it into BEQ’s puzzle today. As a big fan of museums, it’s always interesting to learn through crosswords about where certain ones are, adding to my ever-growing list. You can learn more about visiting the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute here.
  • 56d [“Google Calendar page, for short”] – I still can’t quite believe this abbreviation for “schedule.” SKED is not a term I have ever used, but Merriam Webster knew it, so my skepticism is slightly reduced. Maybe I’ll work it into my vocabulary.
  • 66a [“Waft of smoke”]PLUME felt very refreshing and is a word I haven’t seen often in puzzles.
  • 69a [“Movie with a saloon fight, likely”] – I wanted to fill in WESTERN here, but I was shocked to learn that OATER is a term for Western movies and TV series. Another new term for the genre I picked up was “horse opera.”

Overall, I thought the theme, its answers, and its revealer were awesome. As always, I struggle with older references in BEQ puzzles, but I appreciated the variety and the new terms I picked up today, from OATER to SKED.

Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword, “Fruitless”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Food/Drinks with fruits in their titles which are actually lacking said fruit as an ingredient.

Universal crossword solution · “Fruitless” · Zachary David Levy · Thur., 9.9.21



Fun grid! Left/right symmetry and looks rather themeless, doesn’t it? Actually, to me it felt themeless with a “mini-theme” if that makes any sense.

That theme, however, is strong with its three entries.  A reminder that that’s all you need!

Clean, interesting fill results.

And today’s most bizarre clue:

[Name hidden in “vegetarian nachos”]. I wonder if ARIANNA ever noticed?

So far out-there that it’s delightful.

4 stars.

Chris Sablich’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LAT 210909

Chris Sablich’s puzzle theme today is definitely clever, and very neatly packaged. The revealing answer is PICKUPSTICKS and the other three entries – STRAIGHTPOOL, LACROSSE and a DRUMSOLO are activities that are played with sticks.

Undergarment bifecta:

    • [Lingerie brand], BALI. Worth noting as an alternative clue possibility. I’m not sure I understand what is different about it, but I do know my targeted ads are going to be different now…
    • [Fashion trademark of old-time golfer Gene Sarazen], KNICKERS. This must mean something different to Americans, because over here, those are lingerie, but less alluring.


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23 Responses to Thursday, September 9, 2021

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Congrats to first-year Carleton student Billy Bratton on his NYT debut! He follows in the footsteps of recent(ish) Carleton alum and constructor Sophia Maymudes. This 1988 grad enjoyed the puzzle!

  2. Jenni Levy says:

    In Black Ink, you can enter ! and ? the same way I enter rebuses: right-click on the square. It pops up a little and you can type whatever you want.

  3. MattF says:

    NYT was fun, but ‘radians’ and ‘degrees’ are not metric or imperial units. In fact, they are both dimensionless measures of angular magnitude, related by an exact numeric scale factor.

    • Rob says:

      You beat me to it! As a former high school math teacher, I was amazed that this clue made it through the fact checking process!

    • Adam Rosenfield says:

      I took issue with this as well. Technically, radians are an SI unit, which therefore make them part of the metric system, but they’re not normally thought of that way in practical usage. Degrees are definitely part of the imperial system AFAIAW, but the theme is only about converting to metric and not from any particular system. So it’s not exactly wrong, it’s just weird and slightly inconsistent (two imperial units, one other non-metric/non-imperial unit as the conversion source).

      For better consistency, I might have gone with a more conventional unit choice like area or volume, e.g. 40 HECTARES AND A MULE, TEN-LITER HAT, etc. (TEN-LITER HAT is even the same length as RADIAN MILLS so could conceivably use the same grid, if the fill were to work out.)

      Aside from that it was an enjoyable puzzle.

      • Adam Rosenfield says:

        Actually TEN-LITER HAT wouldn’t be a great answer since it has a number in it that’s not converted (should it be a 38-LITER HAT?), unlike the theme answers. So a numberless entry would be much letter, like GREEN HECTARES, but that’s a different length and so would have a symmetry problem.

    • zenocelot says:

      My issue was that I had only ever heard “diploma mill,” not “degree mill.” When I search for the latter on Google, the first hit is the Wikipedia page for the former. Plus I lost track of it being a theme clue. I liked the other two, but found that clue/answer pretty frustrating. But fascinating snail trivia!

    • JohnH says:

      Yep. I didn’t object at first simply because it took me a long time to realize the theme had anything to do with metric units. In fact, it was a hard Thursday. I got the first themer fairly quickly. Miles Davis was a gimme, so why didn’t it fit? And soon enough I did ask what 3/5 of Miles Davis might be, and aha. But then the other two took me much longer, in no small part because degree mills isn’t ordinary English to me.

      Of course, I figured the theme was unit conversions, which would have fit apart from crossings. Only when I finally got what follows CONVERT did I think, oh, that’s plain wrong. My last to fall, though was the cluster of NAE (wha?), SILVA, and SERVO, although I do recognize the last. (And gee, who knew that snails have teeth? Nice factoid.) So many pluses and minuses, but still, shouldn’t have appeared as it is.

  4. Mutman says:

    NYT: Cute theme, But I’ll add my nuances as well.

    Agree that RADIANS / DEGREES is weak. In fact, I thought we were converting MILLS (short for milliliters) to DROPs or something.

    And lastly, it seems to me that the revealer needed to be Convert FROM Metric, not TO. To understand it you need to reverse the metric conversion. The answers were already converted to metric.

  5. Gary R says:

    NYT: Overall, a pretty good puzzle. I liked the clues for B AND BS (hmm – looks a little odd parsed that way), DIY-ERS, GROCER and RUMMY.

    Have never run across ALIMENT before.

    The theme was a neat idea, but hard to execute well, I think. A kilometer is at least in the vicinity of a mile, and they are typical replacements for each other for map distances and vehicle speeds. Gram/pound, not so much – maybe gram/ounce or kilogram/pound. The radians/degrees replacement works well, but I wasn’t sure about the metric/Imperial distinction – others have addressed that.

    I did like the fact that the Imperial measure being replaced in the theme answers was never actually a unit of measurement in the original phrase.

    • marciem says:

      The alimentary canal is a term for the whole digestive system, from mouth to rectum. Aliment is a quaint term for what goes in there :) . There is a restaurant in San Francisco by that name.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    I’m sorry, fail – I won’t even bother to go into the half-dozen reasons the NYT was an awful puzzle, many are already up there.

    OK, one £ is currency, not mass

    Yeah, I gave it * – feel free to go ad hominem, I’ve been involved in internet discussion for( 30?) years

    • David L says:

      As Gary R points out, none of the ‘imperial’ words replaced in the puzzle actually refer to imperial measurements. Miles is a guy’s name, degree is what you get from college, and pound is a currency. (I suppose it could be a considered a flaw that the pound referred to here is an imperial unit of something, though not in the usual sense.)

      I’m not that bothered by the issue of whether radian/degree is fully consistent with the theme. You can’t expect the revealer to refer to SI units, which would be baffling to many solvers. The idea of metric conversion is close enough, IMO.

    • BryanF says:

      But LB (pound) is mass.

  7. David L says:

    BEQ: Darby says she struggles with the older references — I always have the opposite problem. In this case, FML (don’t worry, I googled it and now I understand).

  8. Luther says:

    WSJ- Well, I was lost and gave up.
    Thanks, Jim P for the explanation. TEN CEMENTS takes a lot of imagination to accept.

    • marciem says:

      I’m still lost about ten cements. what does ten cements phrase mean with the clue?

      • RunawayPancake says:

        WSJ – Yeah, I don’t get it either. Maybe “cement” as in Portland cement, used to make concrete for parking lots? That’s all I could come up with.

  9. Jack2 says:

    WSJ- Just maybe Mike Shenk shouldn’t edit his own puzzles!

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