Thursday, November 11, 2021

BEQ Untimed (Darby) 


Fireball 6:26 (Amy) 


LAT 4:49 (GRAB) 


NYT 13:10 (Ben) 


Universal 3:01 (Jim Q) 


USA Today 4:13 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Sam Koperwas & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Are We Still Friends?”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Phrases wherein the first or last few letters spell out a synonym for “group of friends.” These synonyms are separated from the main entry by a block and are all clued separately as [Group of friends]. A revealer serves as an added hint: 64a [With 65-Across, private dos, and a hint to this puzzle’s five theme answers] CREW / CUTS.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Are We Still Friends?” · Sam Koperwas & Jeff Chen · Thu., 11.11.21

  • 12a [Christie creation] / 13a. WHOD / UNIT. Agatha Christie, that is. Not familiar with UNIT referring to a group of friends.
  • 19a [Figures in the ballpark] / 21a. ROUGH ESTI / MATES
  • 33a [Gather momentum] / 35a. PICKUP S / TEAM
  • 40a / 41a [Hindu holy body] GANG / ES RIVER
  • 54a / 56a [It’s usually indicated by an apostrophe] POSSE / SSIVE NOUN. It is unless it’s “its.”

We see this theme type on occasion almost exclusively from editor Mike Shenk. This one has a little extra twist with the revealer. It’s well-executed with some nice wordplay and a truckload of theme material. I can’t say I get wowed by this type of theme, but this is well done (though not as impressive as this duo’s last team-up).

I’m liking MEAT PIES, KOSOVO, and RADIO SET in the fill though I had a challenging time with the latter since the clue [Ham need] had me thinking of meat (again) or actors. There’s a proper name crossing alert for the very center of the grid: TYCHO / SUCRE.

Clue of note: 1a. [Supplier of traveler’s checks]. TSA. Don’t think I’ve seen this one before. Cute.

3.5 stars

Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword, “Chemistry Set”—Amy’s recap

Fireball crossword solution, 11 11 21, “Chemistry Set”

Clever theme, loved it! Familiar(ish) terms gain or lose letters that are also chemical symbols, forming other legit answers, and various phrases describe what’s going on quite literally:

  • 19a. [Reveals], BARNACLES. That’s BARES, the straightforward answer to the clue, with NaCl added. / 83a. [What people with hypertension should avoid (and what the answer to 19-Across has?)], ADDED SALT.
  • 26a. [Physician who treats patients with epilepsy], UROLOGIST. NEUROLOGIST minus the Ne. / 69a. [Advertising sign piece, perhaps (and what the answer to 26-Across has become?)], NEON LIGHT.
  • 42a. [Soccer infractions for kicking the ball intentionally to your team’s goalie, who then handles it], BACK PASSAGES. Silver’s Ag lines the inside of BACK PASSES, which isn’t a term I knew./ 54a. [Hope amid misfortune (and what the answer to 42-Across has?)], SILVER LINING.
  • 12d. [Setting of the Prefontaine Classic], FOREGONE. OREGON wrapped in Fe. / 53d. [Rigid (and what the answer to 12-Down is?)], IRONCLAD.

Interesting idea, executed well.


Clue that made me laugh: 49a. [Columnist Coulter (no relation!)], ANN. Good one, Paul!

4.5 stars from me, though some of the fill (DARERS, OLEO) underwhelmed. The theme overcame those entries.

Mark MacLachlan’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #1111 – 11/11/2021

It was the unchecked letters in today’s NYT that clued me into what was going on it today’s puzzle.  We’ve got COMPASS in the lower right corner, clued with “Provider of directions…or a hint to the four ‘+’ shapes in this puzzle’s grid”.  Treating those each as N, S, E, or W (just like the unchecked letters in the center) makes the clues next to each compass make more sense:

  • 5D: It covers 90+ million acres of the U.S. — COR[N]
  • 10D: Many a TikToker — TEE[N]
  • 23A: Staff — CRE[W]
  • 24A: Back in college? — [E]NDO[W]
  • 25A: Noble title — [E]ARL
  • 32D: Business that makes cuts in order to turn a profit? — [S]ALO[N]
  • 34D: Smooth, lustrous material — [S]ATI[N]
  • 50A: Change states, perhaps? — THA[W]
  • 51A: Jostle — [E]LBO[W]
  • 52A: Send out — [E]MIT
  • 59D: Car radio button — [S]CAN
  • 61D: Acronym in academics — [S]TEM

I’m not thrilled with TEES and TEE[N] in the same grid, but I’ll allow it given the constraint and density of the theme.

Happy Thursday!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1417, “Nose-to-Nozze”—Darby’s review

Theme: Each themed answer includes a phrase where the S has been replaced by ZZ.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1417, “Nose-to-Nozze” solution for 11/11/2021

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1417, “Nose-to-Nozze” solution for 11/11/2021

  • 9a [“With 66-Across, operatic singer with the hots”] & 66a [“See 9-Across”] MEZZO HORNY /ME SO HORNY
  • 20a [“Texas rock trio commemorative coin”] – ZZ TOP ON A DIME / STOP ON A DIME
  • 27a [“With 39- and 46-Across, massive slice stack that’s about to topple”], 39a [“See 27-Across”], & 46a [“See 27-Across”] – LEANING TOWER OF PIZZA / LEANING TOWER OF PISA
  • 51a [“Astronaut Aldrin getting ready to propose”] – KNEELING BUZZ / KNEELING BUS

This was an interesting grid. I’ve never seen a puzzle with this many theme answers split up into two or three answers as in MEZZO HORNY and LEANING TOWER OF PIZZA (the latter of which was my favorite, by the way). I thought that the title made clear exactly what to look for, and it was a fun time to see what the phrases would be. I didn’t know what a KNEELING BUS was before today, but it turns out that I take them pretty regular since the buses in St. Louis typically don’t have stairs but just lower themselves.

Grid-wise, I liked the shape of this puzzle a lot. I thought that the interlocking clues moved through the puzzle well, with MEZZO and HORNY in the upper right and bottom left corners respectively. LEANING TOWER OF PIZZA was also split nicely between the left, center, and right portions of the middle of the grid, which was satisfying.

Some other thoughts:

  • 10d [“Comic Cleghorne”] – I was excited to learn more about ELLEN Cleghorne, the first woman of color on the SNL cast for more than one season. She is the second African American woman on the show, right after Danitra Vance.
  • 26d [“Gabriella ___ (Vanessa Hudgens’s ‘High School Musical’ character)”] – Finding MONTEZ required a deep dive into my early 2000s memory, and this was a little tricky right after having to think about both 22d [“Fast-serving tennis star John”] ISNER and 25d [“The Monkees’ drummer”] Micky DOLENZ right in a row.
  • 49d [“With 62-Across, city on the Cuyahoga river”] & 62a [“See 49-Down”] – I grew up not too far from the “Burning River,” so I was very intrigued to see it mentioned by BEQ. AKRON, OHIO was not the city I expected to see since the Cuyahoga is usually most associated with Cleveland, at least in my mind, which is located 50-60 minutes up the highway, but I was still thrilled!

Overall, a fun puzzle! It had a lot of names, many of which I had to catch on the crosses, but that’s also a reflection of my inability to remember celebrity names.

Malaika Handa’s USA Today crossword, “The Powerpuff Girls” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer ends with the name of a Powerpuff girl

USA Today, 11 11 2021, “The Powerpuff Girls”

  • 19a [Flower also known as sakura] – CHERRY BLOSSOM
  • 33a [Chocolate treat that’s geometrically a frustum] – PEANUT BUTTER CUP
  • 51a [Containers of dialogue in graphic novels] – SPEECH BUBBLES

If you don’t know the names of the three Powerpuff girls, this is probably going to play like a themeless puzzle. From a fan perspective, I knew what this theme was going to be from the second I read the title. Even with that, it took me a while to parse Buttercup’s name into two words for PEANUT BUTTER CUP, and I kept trying to work in “thought bubbles” instead of SPEECH BUBBLES. I’ll blame these errors on solving the puzzle five minutes after waking up, though, because I really like all of the theme answers that Malaika chose.

This grid has one of the strangest black square patterns I’ve ever seen! I’m into it! One thing I love about solving the USA Today puzzle is that they are not afraid to take risks with grid design. As a solver and a constructor, this allows me to experience unconventional puzzles, and in turn think about why the conventions are there and if they matter to me personally or not. I don’t mind the extra black squares today at all, although I do kind of wish that the corners of the puzzle were more connected. But I also love HOT COCOA, LES MIS, and I’M GOOD as answers!

Other notes:

      • As a SEP virgo, I’m happy about this crossword representation (even if I did put in “aug” first since I’m more used to the “sept” abbreviation).
      • I kept parsing the clue for 56a [Dwelling] as a noun rather than its verb form – RESIDING.
      • I use YEET for many things in my life – as a verb meaning “to throw”, as a noun meaning “yes”, as an all purpose exclamation – but never as a 62a [2010s dance craze]. Is the repetition here of the clue for NAENAE an accident or am I just really out of the loop? (very possible).

Roland Huget’s La Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

Roland Huget’s LA Times puzzle today is revealed at LEMONADEMIXES, a phrase I haven’t encountered, but assume is something American. There are three other entries with LEMONADE scrambled across their inners. Technically, that’s a long string to conceal three times, but this type of theme always feels less meaningful. Of the entries, ODEONMELANCHOLY is a great fifteen.


Dex Coleman’s Universal crossword, “Odd Jobs”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Jobs, clued wackily

Universal crossword solution · “Why Are You Here?” · Adrian Johnson · Thur., 11.11.21


  • [Person who does some groundwork?] DITCH DIGGER. 
  • [Person who does some coursework?] GREENS KEEPER. 
  • [One who does some press work?] WEIGHTLIFTER.
  • [One who does some brushwork?] HAIRDRESSER. 

Not entirely sure I get the punniness of the theme here. Like, I know “coursework” would usually be school-related, so it’s wacky to think of it as a job for someone on a golf course, but I guess I don’t know what groundwork and brushwork are. I thought groundwork had to do with… I dunno… groundwork, I suppose. Never heard of “press work” I don’t think in any context.

Also, why do two of the clues start with “person” and two with the pronoun “one”? Is there any significance in that? Or is that a typo of sorts?

New for me:

Aja NAOMI King. The term “GREENSKEEPER” isn’t one I was overly-familiar with either.

Fun puzzle to fly through. The good ‘ol ERMAs and LOEBs and LOOIES came out to play. Fill felt a bit dated, but definitely familiar, so speed solvers were likely off to the races. I got a little hung up on some of the proper nouns (ENGELS, NAOMI, HARRY crossing GREENSKEEPER when I was trying to enter some variation of GROUNDSKEEPER).

Not my cup of tea today, but that is likely due to my own ignorance in misunderstanding some of the theme terms.

2.75 stars.


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13 Responses to Thursday, November 11, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: The way the cardinal direction letters lit up at the end, along with the compass sign, was really nifty. There’s hope for NYT improved technology!
    It was odd to see AQUEOUS and AQUARIA crossing… I guess there’s no rule against words from the same root crossing but…

    • Mutman says:

      I think this site has firmly established that Will Shortz has (or ignores) his own ‘rules’ …

    • JohnH says:

      Yes, and that was generally a really hard quadrant for me. CAPTCHA and PUP TENT were of course tricky, and it took me a bit to remember BATAAN, but also I just didn’t recognize SUPER G, HUGH, CASH CAB, or cartwheels as HATS rather than actions.

      • David L says:

        Same here. I figured out the trick pretty quickly but that corner took me quite a while to finish, for the same reasons. Except that I filled in HUGH right off the bat, shame on me.

    • marciem says:

      love love loved it! Very fun puzzle for me.
      NW was a struggle and last to fall. I balked at Puptent since the clue sounded plural, and I was unfamiliar with Hugh (everything I know about simpsons I learned from xwords…) and super-gs, so it was pickpickpick. We have a Bataan park in my town so that came quickly when the A doubled itself.

      Again, fun and interesting puzzle.

  2. Billy Boy says:

    NYT was quite a feat but a bit of a slog as the tangentiality of (?) clues varied from clever to stupid. Having friendly crosswordese (necessary for any puzzle, it seems) made things work, but was a really hard start and eventually a ho-hum finish.

    Still better than average for a trick, maybe I should have woken up more before tackling it.

    Black squares are too big and clunky to be more readily seen as compass points hindering the visualization, nothing can be done about that, clever still …

  3. LaurieAnnaT says:

    NYT – When the NYT puzzle was no longer available in AcrossLite format, I started using the NYT app on my iPad. Got so I really, really liked that app. But they broke it! The latest update disabled the Tab and Arrow keys on my bluetooth keyboard. Grrr. How frustrating!

    But I really liked today’s puzzle, fun once I figured out what was going on.

    • Rick Narad says:

      Today was one of the days where I missed AcrossLite. I would have used the ability to mark squares where there was weirdness to be able to work with them later and see how they linked to other weirdnesses. If there is a way to do that in the NYT app, I haven’t found it.

    • Mark says:

      Laurie, those keys are functional on my Bluetooth keyboard using the app on my iPad. May be a settings issue, or a hardware / software issue.

      • LaurieAnnaT says:

        Have you updated to the the latest version of NYTime Crossword? I had no problems before this version. I have two different Logitech bluetooth keyboards, one for my iPad, one for my iPad Mini. Neither one works now in this app, although they continue to work in other apps. I’m not the only one who has posted a review at the App Store mentioning this.

  4. Me says:

    NYT: I’m having trouble understanding how “There are 5,164 along the Great Wall of China” = STEPS? The Great Wall is over 13,000 miles long. There are a lot more than 5,164 steps involved, whether talking about “step” in the sense of “stride,” or in the sense of a staircase step.

    Is there some other meaning of step that I’m missing?

    • David L says:

      I’m guessing it means 5,164 staircase steps — I believe the Great Wall has a flat or gently sloping walking surface for most of its length. (I haven’t been there, tho.)

  5. Brenda Rose says:

    Darby – are you forgetting the outrageous Leslie Jones!!! Ouch that woman killed. I died when she referred to Colin Jost as her piece of sweet white chocolate.

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