Thursday, December 2, 2021

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 6:06 (GRAB) 


NYT 9:28 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 3:35 (Sophia) 


Fireball 5:47 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Hoang-Kim Vu’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In a World…”—Jim P’s review

The theme is VOICE OVER ARTST (64a, [Animated film specialist, or what can be found literally three times in this puzzle]. The long theme answers hide famous artists, and directly above them are different voice types (not clued as such). The title is the classic phrase spoken by a narrator at the start of many a movie trailer.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “In a World…” · Hoang-Kim Vu · Thu., 12.2.21

  • 16a [Muhammad Ali or Serena Williams, e.g.] OLYMPIC MEDALIST with DALI underneath TENOR 15a [General character, as of a conversation]. (Interesting that DALI is also hidden in Muhammad Ali.)
  • 28a [Smoke-filled room?] HOOKAH LOUNGE with KAHLO underneath ALTO 22a [High in the Andes].
  • 50a [Common scale] FROM ONE TO TEN with MONET underneath BASS 46a [Some are striped].

I uncovered the second long entry first and immediately saw KAHLO. What a great find! Going back to the first entry, I was expecting to find an artist spanning the two words, but couldn’t make it happen. Eventually I found DALI, but was disappointed the name was contained entirely within one of the words.

The reason for that of course is because of the placement of TENOR. Once I hit on the revealer I learned the full scope of the theme, I was somewhat mollified. However, I would have liked it better if the artist names and the voices they’re attached to were of the same length.

There’s some nice long fill here (a kick RETURNER, TURKEYS, LAND GRAB, and BAKE SALE). But there’s also some fustiness especially in the upper middle, because—guess what—that’s where you find a clutch of theme material. And so you have entries like the unlikely RECOOLED and the clunky ON HBO. Obviously there’s little wiggle room for the constructor in those areas, but as a solver, it’s still no fun to find these.


Clues of note:

  • 20a. [___-Berlin (sector controlled by die Sowjetunion)]. OST. I found this clue very tiring. Seemed like a long way to go just to get the German word for “East.”
  • 34a. [Irkutsk or Omsk, e.g.]. OBLAST. I’ve seen the word  but couldn’t tell you what it meant. Per Wikipedia, “An oblast is a type of administrative division of Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Ukraine, as well as the former Soviet Union and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
  • 14d. [Inuit transport]. UMIAK. Since we’re looking things up, let’s do this one, too. “The traditional umiak was made from a driftwood or whalebone frame pegged and lashed together, sometimes with antlers or ivory, over which walrus or bearded seal skins are stretched.”

A large amount of theme material forced some constraints in the fill, but overall, the theme is nice. 3.5 stars. And oh, by the way, if you want to learn more about the fascinating work of voice-over artists, I highly recommend the documentary “I Know That Voice.”

Alex Rosen’s Fireball crossword, “The Old Switcheroo”—Amy’s write-up

Fireball crossword solution, 12 2 21, “The Old Switcheroo”

The constructor’s gathered a set of two-word phrases that form other legit phrases when the words are subject to “The Old Switcheroo.” The clues match up with the switched form of the phrases that fit into the grid:

  • 18a. [Some National Portrait Gallery subjects], LADIES FIRST. They’re First Ladies, of course.
  • 22a. [Joy, e.g.], SOAPDISH. Joy is a brand of dish soap.
  • 37a. [Feature of some lopsided court victories], SETS STRAIGHT. Straight sets in tennis.
  • 46a. [What few would consider “War and Peace” to be], READING LIGHT. Light reading.
  • 56a. [Bulge after overeating, informally], BABY FOOD. “Food baby,” because your bulging GI system looks a little pregnant.
  • 66a. [Totalitarian regime], STATE POLICE. Police state, eek.

What a nifty theme! Well conceived, well executed.

I didn’t love hitting RELO LADE ALIA in the opening corner, but overall the fill was solid. Fave entry: The didn’t-know-it-till-this-puzzle ENVIRO-PIGS.

Five clues:

  • 30d. [Pirate’s booty?], STOLEN BASE. Concealed capital-P Pirate, as in the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team. The clue definitely misled me.
  • 60a. [Greek salad ingredients?], ALPHAS. As in the letters in “salad,” or the alphas in σαλάτα, saláta.
  • 57d. [Thing modeled in the plum pudding model], ATOM. I know a scientifically minded reader wants to explain the plum pudding model to us. Maybe provide a recipe.
  • 27a. [“___ en español” (link on some online news articles)], LEER. Meaning “read.” Love this as an alternative to the gross ogling.
  • 10d. [Love indicator?], PETAL. The next petal on the flower, of course, is “he/she loves me not” or “they love me not.”

4.5 stars from me, mainly for the cool theme.

Rebecca Goldstein’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #1202 – 12/02/2021

I had the revealer on today’s NYT before I had any of the theme entries, which helped figure out what was going on, so let’s start there:

  • 58A: One of a pair at the dinner table … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme — SALT SHAKER

“Shaker” feels anagram-y, so I figured we’d have some combos of either SALT or NACL (NaCl is the chemical formula for table salt) in the answers, and then it made sense that those might be rebus squares.  That proved correct:

  • 17A: Circadian rhythm regulator — INTER[NAL C]LOCK
  • 5D: Australia, once — PE[NAL C]OLONY
  • 26A: H.S. course that might have a unit on the Harlem Renaissance — AMERI[CAN L]IT
  • 11D: Papal collection overseen by a bibliothecarius — VATI[CAN L]IBRARY
  • 55A: Hawaii is famous for them — VO[LCAN]OES
  • 25D: Largest French-speaking city in North America — MONTREA[L CAN]ADA

There’s something very satisfying of knowing exactly what’s going on with a theme as you’re solving it, and that was true here as well.

Mendelssohn’s OCTET in E Flat Major, as clued by 29A

and that’s that – happy Thursday!

Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “Front and Back Legs”— Jim Q’s write-up

The byline today comes as no surprise at all. In *almost* the last three weeks, over 50% of the puzzles have had the same byline. I found it somewhat irksome at first. Now it’s rather enjoyable.

Welcome to the Paul Coulter Crossword (formally Universal).

THEME: Two word phrases with repeated letters at the front and back of each of the words.

Universal crossword solution · “Front and Back Legs” · Paul Coulter · Thurs., 12.02.21



The repeated letters spell out LEGS.

Another one that’s just fine. The “hint” given in the first theme clue was a bit clunky to read, but I think in this case, circled letters would be too strong of a nudge, so I like the way it was presented.With the title and after uncovering the first themer, I was pretty certain the rest of the phrases would feature -E, then -G, then -S. So it was easy to plunk those in at the first and last positions, but not be entirely certain where they were on the inside. This created a synergy of sorts between the theme and the fill.

Pretty standard everywhere else. I liked the Universal style clue for EEL [Word hidden in “three letters”].

Nothing much else to say!

We’re all but certain to see the byline again in the (very) near future.

Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “Title Search — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: DIONNE WARWICK – 52a [Singer with song titles at 16-, 18-, 23- and 35-/38-Across]

USA Today, 12 02 2021, “Title Search”

  • 16a [Pass without saying hi] – WALK ON BY 
  • 18a [Feeling that’s French for “already seen”] – DEJA VU
  • 23a [Overtime loss in the playoffs, for example] – HEARTBREAKER
  • 35/38a [With 38-Across, “You know I got you!”] – THAT’S WHAT // FRIENDS ARE FOR

OK, I’ll admit it, the main ways I’m familiar with Dionne Warwick are 1) her incredible Twitter presence, 2) Ego Nwodim’s “The Dionne Warwick Show” SNL skits, and 3) her “Masked Singer” appearance, but I still enjoyed this puzzle! I couldn’t have told you any of these were Dionne Warwick songs (the only one of hers I immediately recognize is “Say a Little Prayer For You”), but if you check her “popular” section on Spotify, three of these songs – THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR, WALK ON BY, and HEARTBREAKER – are listed in the top five. So I bet if you are a big Dionne Warwick fan, this puzzle was super fun for you, but because Erik clued all the song titles in ways that didn’t involve specific Warwick knowledge, it was fun for people like me who know very little of her catalog. Now I’ve got to listen to some of these songs!

The black square placement today is super weird! I can honestly say I haven’t seen anything like this before. I did not love the design of the 3×5 block of answers in the southeast corner, but I understand having it there for two reasons – having some shorter, easier answers would help out solvers unfamiliar with Dionne, since they cross most of the back half of her name, and it’s also directly below two stacked theme answers, which can be notoriously tricky to work with. The grid felt pretty segmented to me, even though there is space for nice longer answers like RAPTORS. Also, there is a big section in the middle (the two THAT’S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR clues and then 42a [City in 38-Down] for ORLANDO) where everything is cross-referenced, which meant that on a first pass I had absolutely nothing in that area until I went on to the downs. Maybe the FLORIDA/ORLANDO clue pair could have been cross referenced the other way so that there wasn’t just a big stack of the same clue type?

Closing with the most embarrassing part of my solve today:

Me: *Gets to revealer clue, looks at cross-referenced answers, realizes the only one I have is DEJA VU*

Me: “Olivia Rodrigo tribute puzzle, here we go!”

Happy Thursday all!

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Coincidentally, I was listening to this song before solving Jeffrey Wechsler’s puzzle. The four long across phrases today start with a fastener of sorts. The phrasing felt stilted often today, I’m guessing the word lengths weren’t balancing well? Any we have NAILANINTERVIEW (NAILTHEINTERVIEW sounds much better), BOLTDOWNAMEAL (“a meal” is kind of an arbitrary addition). The final two, SCREWTHINGSUP and TACKINTOTHEWIND, sounded more natural.


  • [Waits with a guitar], TOM. I think of him as a pianist, but it seems he has used guitars as well.
  • [Reindeer in “Frozen”], SVEN. Before this, it had the weird distinction of being a stereotypical Nordic name without notable examples.
  • [Trivial detail], MINUTIA. Not often seen in the singular.
  • [Money for some AARP members], SSI. Seems to be Supplementary Security Income, which is similar to our SASSA.
  • [Lamp, e.g.; light, only sometimes], NOUN. That clue is trying way too hard to be misleading and ends up just being borderline gibberish.


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1423, “SportsCenter”—Darby’s review

Theme: Each themed answer includes the letters NFL in the center, referring, of course, to the National Football League. Go Bills.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1423, “SportsCenter” solution 12/2/2021

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1423, “SportsCenter” solution 12/2/2021

  • 18a [“Ingredient in some muffins”] CORN FLOUR
  • 24a [“Where you might roast peppers”] OPEN FLAME
  • 39a [“Grunge outfit”] COTTON FLANNEL
  • 56a [“Healthy morsel in breakfast cereal”] BRAN FLAKE
  • 62a [“It features busy people”] PORN FLICK

I appreciated this theme for its simplicity. Once I got OPEN FLAME, the rest of the NFL fell in line. I thought the combo of the clue for 39a and the next immediate Across answer was incredibly self-aware and funny, being that it was 43a [“‘ZOMG! BEQ just made a grunge reference!”] LOL. And, I mean, on its own, COTTON FLANNEL is such a fun answer.

A few other things:

  • 58a [“Bêtes noires”] – Talk about words of the day. This Bêtes noires/BANES pairing here was a nice combo.
  • 2d [“City that’s a 90-minute drive from Buffalo, NY”] – There’s Benedictine monastery in ERIE, PA that I visited regularly when I lived in Buffalo, so I’m very familiar with this hour and a half jaunt down the 90. It’s a hidden gem, and so this clue captured two of my favourite places all in one. Thanks, BEQ. I owe ya.
  • 32d [“Having three unequal sides”] – I remembered isosceles and right triangles, but I had to fill most of SCALENE on the crosses. If you’re a math brain, this one’s for you. Clearly, I am not one.
  • 41d [“Beginner, in slang”] – I thought that this one would be NOOB for sure, but then I got the B on BRAN FLAKE and the W on 48a [“Gothenburg guy, e.g.”] SWEDE to form NEW B, which was an interesting combo of my thought and, of course, the word NEWBIE.

That’s it from me today. A fun puzzle with a few obscure names but overall a nice brain-bending fill.

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9 Responses to Thursday, December 2, 2021

  1. Billy Boy says:

    NYT – not keeping the Na & Cl letters as pairs doesn’t really go down well with the chemist in me, but interesting that two of the rebus squares involve N.A. countries, 5 of the 6 are geographical-related clue/answer pairs.

    Nice to see THE CASTRO, where we had our wedding rehearsal dinner in 1985. That locked in almost a third of the puzzle very early for me, so maybe this puzzle was just easier for me.

    Decent, not great, albeit clever trick, better than average.

    • Mutman says:

      I thought that SALT would be “shaken” for the rebus. But Keeping Na and Cl together (I know a tiny bit of chemistry) would only yield one rebus of CLNA, and there really is no such thing as Chlorine Sodiumide, which is nonsense anyway from a chemical perspective.

      Clever and enjoyable. Would have liked a fourth rebus though, perhaps in the center if it could have been done.

    • David M says:

      As a chemist, I especially liked this version in the pesky rebus Thursdays on the NYT puzzle. For me, the imaginative tweak was increasing the common 2- or 3- letter rebuses to 4 letters. I expected Na and Cl to be distributed throughout, but not the full formula as anagrams. Guess I’m too slow for the author/NYT editors.

  2. Alex says:

    WSJ and UMIAK

    Anyone else remember singing the Eskimo song in elementary school?

    Umiak, kayak, mukluk, tupik
    Umiak, kayak, mukluk, tupik
    Umiak, kayak
    Eskimo words
    Learn them if you can

  3. Disappointed says:

    Why are there so many french words? :(

  4. Me says:

    I don’t know why the Universal Crossword has become the Paul Coulter Crossword, but I think he’s pretty great, so that’s all right by me. He designs smooth, clean puzzles.

  5. Lester says:

    NYT: We’ve all done rebus puzzles, chemical element puzzles, and (many) scrambled letter puzzles, but I don’t remember ever seeing a puzzle that combines all three. Plus, it was fun for the (this) solver, not just for the constructor (as some feats of construction seem to be).

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