Thursday, November 18, 2021

BEQ Untimed (Darby) 


Fireball 6:20 (Amy) 


LAT 4:16 (GRAB) 


NYT 5:56 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 2:18 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Alan Arbesfeld’s Fireball crossword, “Going on a Bender”—Amy’s recap

Fireball crossword solution, 11 18 21, “Going on a Bender”

Migraine-shortened write-up today. Revealer is CASING THE JOINT, 63a. [Staking out a potential robbery site … and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]. The HIP, ANKLE, and ELBOW joints are “cased” in rebus squares. We get SHOOTS FROM THE {HIP} / V-C{HIP}S, {ANKLE} BRACELET / B{ANK LE}UMI, and {ELBOW} MACARONI / PRETZ{EL BOW}L. I have no idea what a PRETZEL BOWL is, and had to dredge BANK LEUMI out of the recesses of memory with the aid of the crossings. Would prefer more familiar rebus entries—R{ANKLE}D, say.

Did not know Maria MONTEZ; she was Dominican and died young in 1951. RURALIST is uncommon, APSE is dull, plural NYETS is questionable. Did like GRUNGE MUSIC lots. Cute to clue TOON as [Bender, e.g.] given the title (Bender is the robot in Futurama).

3.25 stars from me.

Evan Kalish’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wide Angles”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Groups of circled squares bent at right angles spell out synonyms of “big.” The revealer is BIG BEND (36a, [National park along the Rio Grande, represented by this puzzle’s circled words]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Wide Angles” · Evan Kalish · Thu., 11.18.21

  • MAMMOTH formed from 13a MAMMAL and 3d SMOTHER.
  • COLOSSAL formed from 8d COLONS and 20a GLOSSAL.
  • IMMENSE formed from 41d SIMMERS and 57a LICENSES.
  • ENORMOUS formed from 47a TENOR and 28d LASER MOUSE.

I caught on to this pretty quickly since the cluing seemed unusually straightforward for a Thursday. And when I uncovered the revealer, I was not surprised since I happen to know Evan has a particular interest in National Parks and because I lived in Texas for a time (though I never made it west to BIG BEND. Still, I enjoyed the construction and uncovering each entry, especially the final one, LASER MOUSE.

As usual, Evan fills the grid with strong entries like RALLY CAP, TOUR BUS, SPIRITUAL, NUDISTS, and ESTELLE Costanza. E-SCOOTERS was a surprise, but I don’t have a problem with it if that’s what they’re popularly called, which it seems they are. Nothing else made me pause very long and I had a smooth solve from start to finish.

Clues of note:

  • 35a [Brand initially marketed as an alternative to smoking] PEZ. With the Z in place, I initially went with UTZ. Anyone else?
  • 42a [The Apollo Phantom and Unagi Model Eleven, e.g.] E-SCOOTERS. There’s an Unagi brand of E-SCOOTERS? Does the E stand for “eel”?

3.75 stars.

Ori Brian’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #1118 – 11/18/2021

I spent FAR too long trying to figure out some sort of weird rebus thing going on with the theme clues of today’s puzzle:

  • 16A: → Di ← Gaga Godiva — FIRST LADY
  • 24A: R.p.m. → m.p.h. ← k.p.s. — SECOND RATE
  • 36A: Art → Calculus ← Spanish — MIDDLE CLASS
  • 52A: Housewarming masquerade → tailgate ← — THIRD PARTY
  • 62A: Ha-ha chortle → tee-hee ← — LAST LAUGH

It’s not a rebus, though, just some indicators as to which LADY, RATE, CLASS, PARTY, and LAUGH is selected in each of the clues, leading to the final phrases.  It’s actually kind of clever.

TAYLOR Swift also has a song called “THE MAN“, but I like this one better.

other nice pieces of fill: cafe au LAIT, ROTI (instead of NAAN like I expected – as long as we’re adding more types of Indian bread to the crossword, can I request POORI next?), MORALISM, SNAKE OIL, and SEMI-NUDE.

Happy Thursday!

Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “It Goes Both Ways”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Phrases that are literally represented when a word in the phrase is both forward and backward.

Universal crossword solution · “It Goes Both Ways”· Paul Coulter · Thurs., 11.18.21


  • [Netflix program inspired by “The Twilight Zone,” literally?] BLACK KCALB. Black Mirror. The word BLACK is literally “mirrored” in the answer.
  • [Alexa’s device, literally?] AMAZON NOZAMAAmazon Echo. The word AMAZON is literally “echoed” in the answer. Well kinda, anyway. If I yelled “AMAZON!” into a canyon, I don’t think I’d hear “NO ZAMA!” echoed back. I’m more likely to hear “Amazon!” echoed back.
  • [Quick, clever reply, literally?] SNAPPY YPPANS. Snappy comeback. The word SNAPPY literally “comes back.”
  • [Coming back from a break up, literally?] ON THE EHT NO. On the rebound. The words ON THE are literally “roubounding.” This one is my favorite of the bunch, despite the bit of inelegance in the clue’s wording. It’s using “Coming back” when “Comeback” is part of another theme answer (SNAPPY YPPANS).

I’m a sucker for the “literally” themes. It’s these types of themes that got me hooked on crosswords to begin with, and I think Universal is a perfect venue to be publishing one like this, which is easily grokked but is likely to give new solvers a solid AHA moment.

The two nits I have with the theme, noted above, do not detract from a great solve experience here.

NO CAP and my inability to master the spelling of PAPAU New Guinea (no matter how often I see it) was a source of struggle for me. (Update: Someone just texted me to note that I still spelled it wrong. PAPUA. Arghhhh!) I hear “NO CAP!” said a lot in school (at least I did two years ago… I think it’s going the way of “Lit!” and phasing out), but I’ve never heard of Lil Tjay.

Awesome puzzle today, Paul. 4.1 stars.

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today crossword, “Promise Me This” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Each theme answer is a type of promise

USA Today, 11 18 2021, “Promise Me This”

  • 20a [Promise between besties] – PINKY SWEAR
  • 40a [Promise made by a doctor] – HIPPOCRATIC OATH
  • 61a [Promise made at an altar] – WEDDING VOW

Stellar theme set from Enrique today – I like all of these answers, and HIPPOCRATIC OATH is a great grid-spanner. Every answer was exactly what I expected it to be when I read the clue, which in my opinion is a good thing because it means all the theme answers are real things that easily come to mind (and it also meant my time was super fast, so I won’t complain). Each type of promise uses a different word to mean “promise” too; that’s a nice touch.

The fill is great today too – there aren’t too many proper nouns, which should even out the difficulty levels since different people have different pop-culture knowledge.

Favorite pieces of fill: PREGAMES, ALTER EGO, SALSA

Favorite clues: 31d [Piece of swag that might carry more swag] for TOTE, 57d [Fictional hedgehog with a “spin dash” move] for SONIC

Things I didn’t know: that NASA‘s headquarters is named after Mary W. Jackson, or that TESSA Thompson was in “Sylvie’s Love” (I do, however, know that she is in “Passing”, which is out on Netflix now and is very good).

Happy Thursday!

August Miller’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

My first impression of today’s puzzle by August Miller was “boy that’s a lot of circles”. It also has left-right symmetry, so there must be something interesting going on. To be honest, except for pausing to note SEACHANGE was the revealer, I didn’t really register the theme. I turnso out this quite ambitious arrangement has “___ Sea” seas scrambled in SIX places: ADRIATIC is hidden across, and then from left to right going down, we have Yellow, Caspian, Baltic, Bering and Aegean.

Even without noticing the theme, I was having a grand old time with this puzzle. There are a number of playful answers, as well as more prosaic ones that are elevated by playfulness in the clues.

Favourite spots:

  • [Riddle end, maybe], WHATAMI
  • [“It’s just a flesh wound”], ILLBEOK, although my first attempt, ILLLIVE, would also be good!
  • [It tops out at ten in a doctor’s office], PAINSCALE
  • [Pinnacle of religion?], SPIRE
  • [Dingy kitchen item?], TIMER. Heh, ding-y.
  • [Ease up], DIALITBACK
  • [1926 Pulitzer-winning poet], AMYLOWELL. I didn’t know her, but she seems worth exploring more…


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1419, “Going Too Far”—Darby’s review

This was definitely a buckle-your-seatbelt-sharpen-your-pencil moment for me crossword-wise. BEQ warns in his constructor notes that this was a “Going Too Far” puzzle, meaning that first or last letters of many of the answers will overlap into the grey squares. For example, the first Across answer to overlap is 5a [“Old Testament prophet”] ISAIAH, the I of which is in the grey square immediately to the left of the rest of where 5a begins. I’ve noted the overlap in red on the solution here.

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1419, "Going Too Far" 11/18/2021 solution

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1419, “Going Too Far” 11/18/2021 solution

Ultimately, this spells out a quote from Nietzsche, which was “In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.”

Where I struggled – aside from this being one of my first puzzles like this – was with the amount of names included in the puzzle, ranging from 19a [“‘Trinity’ novelist Leon”] URIS to 47a [“‘Around the Horn’ host Tony”] REALI to the Jeans PIAGET and AUEL, among others. I also struggled with 24d [“59-Down prefix”] GEO and 25d [“Conductor Solti”] GEORG in which GEO was doubled right next to one another, which I found to be odd, though I’m curious what y’all think.

The highlights of this puzzle include:

12d [“___ in Borderland”]ALICE in Borderland is a 2020 Netflix show about two characters in a violent game in Tokyo where they have to play games to survive. It’s based off of a manga of the same name, and you can check out the trailer here.

18d [“Nonsensical poppycock”] – I said “HOGWASH!” out loud when I figured this one out, confusing the heck out of my friend sitting across the table from me.

23d [“Stay or go, e.g.”] – I think that using parts of speech as puzzle answers is very fun, so once I got VERB, I was well pleased.

Overall, I definitely had a rough time adjusting to the style of this puzzle, but I’m definitely a better solver for having done so, which I count as a win.

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13 Responses to Thursday, November 18, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: This theme came into focus for me in steps. First I figured out that the second word in the answer was a category that all the example belong to- LADY, RATE…, and then I thought it would be a number- FIRST, SECOND, THIRD, then realized that MIDDLE and LAST had been inserted. It was nice to have it unfold in this way. And once I tumbled to it, the puzzle went fast.
    FILCH is a good word!

  2. Billy Boy says:

    Very fun puzzle to suss the theme without crosses once knowing what it was. Clever method of cluing!

    This more than mitigated the plethora of three letter dross necessary for its construction.

  3. haari says:

    Canuck here… NYT – sadly wrote in Timbit instead of TIDBIT… it fits, eh!
    Tim Hortons sells them tasty morsels.

  4. marciem says:

    BEQ: I thought this was one of the funnest, hardest mental gymnastics I’ve done for a while!! Especially since each “overflow” was only used once (either across or down, never both) . We’ve seen “overflow” puzzles before with the extra letters outside the box/grid, but I don’t recall one like this exactly.

    TBH, I didn’t even notice the side-by-side GEOs, I was so busy matching up the “gray squares” (which are black in AL) and remembering what letter went in each and then deciphering the quote.

    ah the agile mind of BEQ :) .

    • Darby Ratliff says:

      Hi Marcie!

      Yes! My mind was definitely doing a few flips, which I enjoyed so much!

      I had to print it out, so I applaud you for doing it in AL.

Comments are closed.