Thursday, September 23, 2021

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:18 (GRAB) 


NYT 8:50 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ 8:36 (Jim P) 


USA Today 3:56 (Sophia) 


Fireball tk (Nate) 


Jack Mowat & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Puzzle Pieces”—Jim P’s review

The central revealer is TOUGH NUT TO CRACK (39a, [Challenging poser…that rows 3, 5, 11 and 13 have broken]). In those rows you’ll find synonyms of “puzzle” broken up across multiple entries.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Puzzle Pieces” · Jack Mowat & Jeff Chen · Thu., 9.23.21

  • Row 3: PROBLEM found in USURP/ROB/LEMME.
  • Row 5: ENIGMA found in YEMENI/G MAJOR.
  • Row 11: STUMPER found in POSTUM/PERMIT.
  • Row 13: CONUNDRUM found in GRECO/NUN/DRUMS.

Without any long Across entries, this started out solving like a themeless. Once I hit the revealer I took a moment to go back to the first two themed rows, found PROBLEM and ENIGMA, then proceeded to ignore the theme the rest of the way. Maybe if I hadn’t, that would have helped me with POSTUM [Beverage powder marketed as a coffee alternative], which I’d never heard of before. But I only went back and found STUMPER and CONUNDRUM post-solve.

I guess the idea here is that the theme words are broken up because we’ve “cracked” them? Hmm. Not sure. “Cracked” doesn’t usually imply broken up into pieces.

This type of theme—where a word is broken up into multiple entries—just doesn’t do much for me. It does the job of a theme by potentially helping a solver fill out the grid, but there’s just no liveliness to a theme entry that consists of three seemingly random entries.

In the fill I like MARRIED UP and COMMON MAN, but I didn’t recognize the name BUD POWELL [Miles Davis said he was “the best there was of all the bebop piano players”]. That’s definitely my own failing. I do of course know Don MCLEAN, “American Pie” singer.

I struggled in that NE corner with C CORP [Co. that pays income taxes], which is another new-to-me term and which, frankly, looks ungainly in the grid. With a little effort, I’d bet that corner could be cleaned up. (I know it can because I did it with MOCKS, CRONY, LEMON, and MRE. Sure, it trades MRE for C CORP, but that’s a trade I’d take any day.)

3 stars.

Simeon Seigel’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0923 – 09/23/2021

Keep what’s going on in Simeon Seigel’s NYT today confidential.  There’s three sets of squares with a “—” clue that ties in with its nearest neighbor in its row:

  • 19A/20A: Insomniacs have them/— — SLEEPLE / IGHTS
  • 38A/41A: Failing spectacularly/— — GOINGU / FLAMES
  • 59A/61A: Members of a wartime skywatching corps/— — GROUN / SERVERS

All of these need you to write on the black squares between the clues to make these make sense – there’s SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, GOING UP IN FLAMES, and GROUND OBSERVERS, all of which have a trigram that represents private info that one BLACKS OUT when redacting sensitive info on documents (67A, “Redacts, as sensitive information (suggested by three of this puzzle’s answers)”), like your SSN, PIN, and DOB.


Here’s some more info on the art and story of HULA DANCE.

in other lovely fill: YELLOW LAB (“Marley of “Marley & Me,” for one”), AEROBATS, ANT NESTS, HIGHBEAM, ON PARADE, and HUEVOS

Happy Thursday!

Evan Kalish’s Fireball crossword, “Don’t Lose Your Balance” —Nate’s review

Nate here, putting aside a stack of tests for the moment to tackle this week’s Fireball Crossword. I hope the week is treating you well!

Fireball 9.22.21

Fireball 9.22.21

17A: B(AR T)RICK [(It can be fine or abstract)] – ART inside BRICK
39A: RU(N IT) BY [(Small thing to pick)] – NIT inside RUBY
11D: COR(PORE)AL [(Bead generation site)] – PORE inside CORAL
34D: CLARE(MON)T [(Bloke, to a Rastafarian)] – MON inside CLARET
62A: IN THE RED [Featuring parenthetical totals on balance sheets, say… and a hint to four of this puzzle’s answers]

Each of the theme entries is matter-of-factly defined by its clue, but is contained in the grid by a shade of red – in that way, each theme answer is literally IN THE RED. This scratches my cryptic crossword itch of words containing other words, so it was a fun aha moment to reveal. I also like how the title ties in with the revealer (on its surface sense) but wonder if there’s an alternate title that might hint at the word-within-a-word mechanic going on. Either way, an enjoyable solve.

Random notes:
– I absolutely sang the full chorus in my head until I got to MONTEGO at 25A. Same thing with “The Hokey Pokey” to get ALL at 38A.
– I wonder if the color RUBY in 39A is related at all to the word RUBE at 48A.
– I enjoyed the modern touches of ESPORTS and APPLE PAY, and will never be mad at a clue referencing Tatiana Maslany from “Orphan Black.”

Okay, back to my grading. Let me know in the comments how this puzzle treated you. Be well!

Bill Conner’s Universal crossword, “Theater of the Absurd” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Common phrases reimagined as if they have to do with stage presentations, resulting in absurdity.

Universal crossword solution · “Theater of the Absurd” · Bill Conner · Thurs., 9.23.21


  • [Stage presentation about a manicurist?] THUMBNAIL SKETCH.
  • [Stage presentation with a trio of takeaways?] THREE POINT PLAY. 
  • [Stage presentation about a religious service?] MASS PRODUCTION. 
  • [Stage presentation about mountain climbing?] PEAK PERFORMANCE. 

This is a very good set. Tight concept and all were interesting to uncover. Most impressively the words SKETCH, PLAY, PRODUCTION, and PERFORMANCE all change meaning from the base phrase to the resulting absurd phrase. So do the first words more or less. Excellent!

If I’m being honest about the fill, nothing really stood out. It was mostly mindless for me to fill in, pausing to enjoy the clue for TRIPE [Baloney, or a meat dish] and scowling at the highly inaccurate clue for SASS [Typical teen’s talk]. I deal with teens all day every day. Hundreds of them. From all walks of life. Very rarely do they SASS, especially if you talk to them as if they’re real people.

Overall, a very enjoyable theme.

3.9 stars.

Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Outliars” — Sophia’s recap

Theme: The word “crook” is found on the outside of each theme answer.

USA Today, 09 23 2021, “Outliars”

  • 20a [Hashtag for Katie Grogg’s clue explanation videos] – CROSSWORDTOK
  • 37a [Newfoundland city] – CORNER BROOK
  • 52a [Started to study] – CRACKED A BOOK

My favorite part of the puzzle is how perfectly the title sums up the theme – the outside of the words are literally “liars” (crooks). Figuring out what was going on was very satisfying for me (and also very important, because I very nearly got stuck at the CORNER BROOK/MOESHA crossing). I’m impressed that Erik found three legit phrases that all conform to this letter combination, and I appreciate that the letters in “crook” are split up a different way in each answer. I’m somewhat split on CROSSWORDTOK as an answer – it’s certainly fun and fresh, but it might play a little inside baseball to folks not as familiar with the crossword community.

I don’t have much to say about the rest of the grid today, other than that it felt very segmented to me. Each of the corners was pretty cut off from the rest of the puzzle, and there are not many long answers running from section to section that might help solvers break into a new area. I do like VANESSA, APACHE, and HOODIE, though, and the puzzle overall is very clean.

Other notes:

  • This puzzle has two types of diets (KETO and PALEO) and only OMELET and ACAI as food? What kind of ratio is that?? (I’m being facetious but actually don’t love diet related words/clues in puzzles, although as a constructor I understand that they are well known). At least we’ll always have LATTEs.
  • As a math/CS major, I liked the clueing angles on 22d [Mathematician’s proposition] for THEOREM and 60a [Write a program] for CODE.
  • Speaking of great clueing angles, I ended the puzzle on a high note by filling in PAN for 65a [Attracted to people of any gender, for short]. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s short for pansexual.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Before reaching the revealing answer of today’s puzzle, I found myself puzzled at the strange and rather janky longer answers. As it happens, those were theme answers in the almost symmetrical trio of HIP/HIP intersections signalled by JOINEDATTHEHIP. The first pair of themers were EXHIPPIES and HIPPOTAMUSES; as EX- answers go, that’s pretty arbitrary. The other three HIPs are PARTYWHIPS, MRCHIPS and a beige WORSHIPER.


    • [Gravelly voiced sort], RASPER. Has anyone found a way to use this in a sentence?
    • [Insect dating from the Jurassic era], WASP. This clue seems to misunderstand how evolutionary theory works…
    • [Cockeyed], ALOP. I’m looking ALOP at this entry as well..
    • [Boomers’ kids], XERS. This is assuming a lot. My father, in that schema, belongs to the silent generation, and I would be a Millenial so…
    • The clue for [Espresso-based coffee concoction], MOCHALATTE seems to leave out a lot…
    • [Toms’ counterparts], HENS, in the turkey world, I believe…


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43 Responses to Thursday, September 23, 2021

  1. Maxine Nerdström says:

    NYT: not a fan of that UTA/ATREUS crossing. I had UNA/ANREUS, which seemed plausible.

    • Mutman says:

      Same, but I had UMA/AMREUS

      Enjoyed the rest though, some fill (NW), a bit challenging for a Thursday

    • JohnH says:

      Funny, but UTA has appeared in so many puzzles now that it was one of my few gimmes. I guess calling it crosswordese isn’t exactly a compliment to the setter, but at least it didn’t feel too hard. (I guess I could defend it on the grounds that, while I don’t know what Uta Hagen did, I remembered from stage history that she’s famous for, well, something. Yeah, I guess that’s lame, too, so maybe that fill is due for retirement.) That and that, while I didn’t remember the myth well enough until I’d had a few crossings, the House of Atreus, usually seen as fated to put up with a lot of misery, is definitely in my knowledge base.

      I did find this hard for Thursday. I didn’t know what kind of DANCE to expect in the NW or the YELLOW LAB beneath it (either the dog type or the cartoon), and it took me a while to accept AEOBATS, since acrobats are already aerial, no?

      I like the theme. DOB took me way longer than it should once I got the theme, as did recollection of the phrase “ground observers,” so I was staring at the first word and SERVERS for a while before it clicked. My bad.

  2. davey says:

    NYT: i too resorted to trying every letter in UTA/ATREUS (neither classics nor old theatre are my bag) but loved the theme. i usually prefer it when we’re left with real words in the grid but i feel that would surely be too much to ask in this case!

  3. Seahedges says:

    Hoping the rest of you are not suffering the same glitch as I, not amused to find has simply vanished, & with it my gateway to a pleasurable regular morning activity. is inaccessible to me. Are there others in the same boat, left drifting at sea ?

    • PJ says:

      I don’t know what you use for but I’ve found I only needed it for the LA Times. The Today’s Puzzles page on this site has quite a few puzzles.

      You can also go to for the LA Times puzzle and solve it online or download the puzzle in .puz, .jpz, or pdf format using Crossword Scraper extension in Chrome.

      • PAT says:

        I clicked on the link in your post, but I can’t find any place where I can access across lite (.puz) for it. I can’t get across lite from the icon for LA Times on this site either. Cruciverb doesn’t have a link that I can find to get it in Across lite.
        On top of all that, BEQ doesn’t have the link for across lite today!
        Can anyone help me?

        • PJ says:

          You need to use Google Chrome and add the Crossword Scraper extension.

          It sounds more complicated than it is. I hadn’t used an extension before and I got up to speed very quickly.

          • cyberdiva says:

            Crossword Scraper is also available for Firefox. I added it, but I can’t figure out how to use it. When I go to the NYT site, I seem to have no choice but to click on the Print icon (because I do want to print it out), and then print it in .pdf. Also, I found that Crossword Scraper also wants me to allow access to my data. Huh? What data? All of it? And why? I like to print out the puzzles, and I prefer .puz format rather than .pdf, but I can’t figure out how to use CS nor whether to trust it. Any help would be appreciated.

            • PJ says:

              For years I’ve just assumed that all of my data are vulnerable and acted accordingly.

            • Dbrickma says:

              I installed Crossword Scraper and had the same problem. Finally figured out how: go to the puzzle as though you are going to solve online; in the upper right corner of Firefox is a small, dark down arrow. This is CS. Click it and you’ll be shown a box with .puz, .pdf, and .jpz options. Pick the one you want and you’re all set. I have been using CS for about a week on both NYT and LAT puzzles direct from the sites. Hope this helps!

            • PAT says:

              Thanks so much for letting me know I could use Firefox. I don’t like to use google chrome.

        • marciem says:

          As far as BEQ, he states on the page that today’s is a special puzzle, a contest, and for legal reasons can only go up in pdf.

          • PAT says:

            Thank you so much for the info on BEQ. Using Crossword Scraper in Firefox I can still do NYT in Across lite. What I really missed was being able to do it off line.

            • marciem says:

              yep, Xword scraper is a godsend to me. I actually cancelled my NYT subscription for a minute (until I learned of Scraper), as I cannot use the on-line app comfortably at all, nor on paper. Firefox and Chrome both do well with Scraper :) .

    • marciem says:

      Yes, I’m sorry to see it down. It was my one-stop shop for daily puzzles. But then, NYT stopped Across Lite, and LAT has often been unavailable at Cruciverb, so its more and more going to the online sites and using the wonderful Crossword Scraper.

      Less convenient than getting them all from Cruciverb, but all are still available and mostly in AL with Scraper.

      Also this site’s “Today’s Puzzles” is helpful getting where you need to go to use Scraper, or get the AL puzzles.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Woo hoo! It looks like Cruciverb is back from the dead! All is right with my daily visit to CrossWorld again.

  4. Gary R says:

    NYT: Theme was kind of fun, and I caught on to it fairly early on. I was not particularly fond of GROUND OBSERVER. It’s inferable enough, but even as a 65-year old who pays some attention to things military, it didn’t seem “in the language” to me. And the “redacted” DOB didn’t make a lot of sense, either – SSNs and PINs are routinely x-ed or asterisked out, but DOB is more-or-less public information, isn’t it?

    The UTA – ATREUS crossing almost got me, but I dredged up UTA from somewhere in the recesses of my mind. I live far from Broadway, so Tony Awards are not very much on my radar. But Wikipedia tells me that UTA Hagen grew up in Wisconsin and went to school at the University of Wisconsin, as did I – so I’ll remember her name more easily from now on.

  5. pannonica says:

    NYT: Surprised by the number of commenters unfamiliar with UTA Hagen; she’s a very frequent crossword flier.

  6. Andrea Carla Michaels says:

    I got BLACKSOUT right away but wasn’t able to get the theme till last word filled in bec I thought SLEEPLE was a word!!! I thought it was slang for people who walked in their sleep or people who couldn’t sleep so they were called SLEEPLE :)

    Speaking of slang, what does CROSSWORDTOK mean?

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    USA Today: re CROSSWORD TOK “might play a little inside baseball to folks not as familiar with the crossword community” … or even those of us who are familiar with the crossword community. I don’t really do hashtags, so I’m not up on such things. Is this a commonly known hashtag in CrossWorld?

    On the other hand, I was very happy to see a reasonable clue for the simple word PEEL in this grid. In Stan Newman’s ridiculous Newsday puzzle today, he clued it as “Pizzeria implement” and crossed it with SNAP, clued as “Off-the-cuff”. Elsewhere, he seems to have invented a new word and used it in a clue. NATO is clued as “What might be called a ‘pactronym'”. A Google of ‘”pactronym” -crossword’ returned seven hits (i.e. that word doesn’t exist in the real world outside of Stan’s head). Yeesh! Erik’s puzzle was a breath of fresh air after that mess.

  8. JohnH says:

    Oh, MRE to me would be kinda stale, while I’ve now learned from the WSJ something that’s probably important, from looking up C corporation and making sense (eventually) of the difference from an S corporation. Always nice to know how the well off get compensated, especially with Trump’s prosecution (I hope) coming up.

  9. marciem says:

    WSJ: I have to commend the clue/ans. for “Mugs for the camera, maybe” to “Rob” (thinking of mugs as coffee cups or making faces) which I only got from crosses. Took me coming here and starting to beg for help understanding before the light came on… which I always enjoy that aha! :) . Maybe I’m the only one that took a while to get it, but that’s ok. Still fun.

    • Lise says:

      Right, I didn’t get it at first either, and I still am not sure that I fully appreciate its cleverness. Is it that a mugger might rob you of your camera? “Your camera or your life”?

      Maybe there is another interpretation? Sorry to be so obtuse.

      C CORP was new to me and I found it an interesting and important concept. Also, I liked the theme. One thing that makes a theme enjoyable to me is the anticipation of subsequent theme entries based on what I understand about the theme as I proceed through the puzzle, and guessing in advance what those entries might be.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        I took the clue as related to the now pervasive security cameras that keep an eye on us wherever we go these days. If you mug someone in public, there’s a pretty good chance that it will be caught on someone’s camera.

      • marciem says:

        Lise: That was the final conclusion I made, “Your camera or your life” … rob . As Sanfranman said, I did think of mug = making faces at a camera, but it doesn’t work with rob. Unless Rob (somebody) is some famous camera-mugger?

        No, I think we’ve got it with mugger = robber.

        Which is why I applauded the clue/answer as tricky but good.

  10. David L says:

    Is today’s Spelling Bee a repeat? I distinctly remember a previous occasion when I typed in MURIATIC for the pangram, only to be scolded that it wasn’t allowed.

    More annoyingly, I haven’t been able to recall, thus far, what the legit pangram is/was (but pls don’t tell me, I will get there eventually)

    • Lise says:

      I tried MURIATIC too, and TARTARIC, to no avail. Both words seem cromulent.

      I find the decision about some of the non-allowed words mystifying. GAYLY is allowed, but not GAILY?

      Sorry. I’ll stop now.

    • Lise says:

      I meant to add that I have seen one or two pangrams repeated, with a different required letter. That definitely changes the game.

    • Gary R says:

      Sam’s choices about what is “obscure” (since I can’t see any way “muriatic” is offensive) often seem rather arbitrary – but it’s particularly annoying when the word he won’t accept is a legitimate pangram. Had the same frustration a few weeks back when he wouldn’t accept “littleneck.”

  11. Brenda Rose says:

    Yesterday I offered my Fiend Friends the site Daily Crossword Links (Google it, subscribe for free & you’re on your way to all the puzzles you love & then some.) Cruciverb has nothing over this site. Trust me.

  12. Ellen Nichols says:

    Re WSJ: Don MCLEAN was much more than a singer of “American Pie,” he wrote it. I treated the lyrics as a poem and did an analysis for my Freshman English class. Many years ago. The only other thing I remember about the class was that it was at the dreadful hour of 7:40 am.

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