Thursday, December 9, 2021

BEQ untimed(Darby) 


LAT 4:30 (GRAB) 


NYT 8:20 (Ben) 


Universal 4:37 (Jim Q) 


USA Today 3:26 (Sophia) 


Fireball 5:14 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Beast of a Man”—Amy’s write-up

Fireball crossword solution, 12 9 21, “Beast of a Man”

I’m not sure why the puzzle’s title is gendered, as “beast of a man” doesn’t feel like a compelling enough familiar phrase to outweigh the maleness. When underrepresentation of women in US politics is a chronic problem, painting all politicians as men doesn’t help remedy things. Peter could have put “Political Animal” in the title slot and had a 15/9/9/15 theme set.

Revealer is 59a. [Man, according to Aristotle (or how 17-, 28-/44-, or 35-Across could be described)], POLITICAL ANIMAL. The three theme phrases describe politicians and include the name of an animal:

  • 17a. [Person serving out the last two months of a six-year term], LAME-DUCK SENATOR. The SENATOR bit feels rather arbitrary.
  • 28a. [With 44-Across, surprise election winner], DARK HORSE / CANDIDATE.
  • 35a. [Charlie Crist, for example], BLUE DOG DEMOCRAT. Does Manchin fit this category?

Cool theme.

Most mystifying clue: 60d. [Puller’s pride], ARM. Peter notes on the solution page that puller is slang for an arm wrestler, and I can’t imagine more than 1% of solvers might know that. Unfortunate to require sports knowledge to confirm that last letter: 66a. [David Wright, throughout his career]. MET and ARM seemed more likely than NET/JET/ARN/ARJ, but still. There are a zillion non-name-dependent ways to clue MET.

Five more things:

  • 1a. [Major predecessor], FALA. Major is the name of a Biden family dog, and FALA was a presidential pet many decades ago. How far removed can you be and still say “predecessor”? I think this is too far. Also, FALA is crusty old trivia and a terrible way to start out at 1-Across, and I do not at all care that “it’s a political animal.”
  • 5d. [“The glue that holds government together,” according to Gerald Ford], TRUTH. Sigh. It’s a great clue.
  • 38d. [Juice brand from Mott’s], REALEMON. Technically, yes, it’s lemon juice, but “juice brand from Mott’s” screams “you can drink it” and ReaLemon is not so much a beverage.
  • More politics vibe in the clues: 49a. [“If you think the world was surprised when Nixon resigned, wait till I whip Foreman’s behind” speaker], ALI.
  • 33d. [No foe], BOND. Dr. No, James Bond. Great clue.

3.75 stars from me.

Sam Acker’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Undercover”—Jim P’s review

Theme clues don’t match the theme answers, but they do match everything inside the theme answer aside from the outer B–ED. The revealer is TUCKED IN BED (57a, [Put to rest, or what the answers to the clues at 17-, 23-, 37- and 49-Across are]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Undercover” · Sam Acker · Thu., 12.9.21

  • 17a. [Erosion during a downpour] BRAIN WASHED. Rain wash.
  • 23a. [Hooter hatcher] BOWL EGGED. Owl egg.
  • 37a. [Place to pull over in an emergency] BROAD SHOULDERED. Road shoulder.
  • 49a. [Noise] BRACKETED. Racket.

That’s cute. It would have been nice if all the interior phrases were solidly in-the-language. I’m looking at ROAD SHOULDER, which feels sort of green painty, since most people would just say “shoulder.” But it’s close enough for me. I didn’t love this theme (using past tense verbs like BRACKETED to make your bed (haha) feels a little bit like a cheat), but it’s a nice idea.

BANDWAGON is a great fill entry, but its opposite number, ARMY TANKS, definitely feels green painty. However, I do like RUSSET apples, CELTIC, and EEL PIE (as an entry, not as an entree).

Clues of note:

  • 14a. [Fishy dish for which a Thames island is named]. EEL PIE. Did not know this. Eel Pie Island is in southwestern London and gets 4/5 stars from 39 reviewers on TripAdvisor.
  • 25a. [Inclined to verbosity]. GASSY. That’s not how I use that word.
  • 44a. [Book of scanned photos?]. I SPY. This is usually clued with respect to the game often played in the car with kids, but there are indeed many I SPY books.
  • 27d. [Bird, e.g.]. CELTIC. The clue had me thinking Charlie Parker not NBAer Larry.

3.5 stars.

Alexander Liebskind’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #1209 – 12/09/2021

The grid on today’s NYT wasn’t as kooky/playing with structure as I tend to expect from the Thursday puzzle, but the cluing was definitely trickier than usual, so it all evens out:

  • 18A: Film adaptation with … a choir arriving at the airport? (2016) — LA LA LANDING
  • 24A: … a room in an environmentally friendly hotel? (2018) — GREEN BOOKING
  • 39A: … a triceratops trying to find a spot for its car? (1993) — JURASSIC PARKING
  • 52A: … a quick trip to purchase cutlery? (2019) — KNIVES OUTING
  • 61A: … a movement to make invoices illegal? (2003) — KILL BILLING

It’s movies that suggest different plots when you add an extra “ING” to the end.  “KNIVES OUTING” was the first one I spotted and my favorite.

KELLY Clarkson is clued as having “the 2004 hit “Since U Been Gone”, but she’s also amazing at ANYTHING she covers as part of her talk show.

happy Thursday!

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today crossword, “So So Good” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer is two words, each beginning with the letters SO.

USA Today, 12 09 2021, “So So Good”

  • 20a [Ocean waves and flowing rivers, for many] – SOOTHING SOUNDS
  • 37a [“It’ll happen before you know it”] – SOMEDAY SOON
  • 56a [Supreme Court justice and Nuyorican] – SONIA SOTOMAYOR

It’s a neat trick by Enrique to name his puzzle what he wants people to say about it… but hey, I agree! Three great theme answers here, all fun phrases and none feel forces into the theme. I always forget whether SONIA SOTOMAYOR spells her first name with an I or a Y, and have to write it over every time. As a kid, I invented the word “soonday”, for when I wanted confirmation from a parent that we were actually going to do what I wanted at a near point in the future, so SOMEDAY SOON made me smile thinking of that.

I’m a few hours post booster shot, so forgive me if this recap is both shorter/loopier than normal. My bullet point thoughts on other things that jumped out at me in this puzzle:

  • Love the long entries of SEAHORSE and MANDARIN, and I am a PILSNER fan both in the puzzle and in real life. Great use of the open corners.
  • I didn’t know what “Mash” was in the clue 47d [Country celebrated during Mash]. Mash is short for Mashramani, which is a festival usually held on February 23 to celebrate GUYANA becoming a republic in 1970.
  • Wow, I got really thrown off by 52d [Award in the shape of a knight standing on a reel of film] for OSCAR. I was imagining, I don’t know, a knight chess piece or something.
  • The middle top of this puzzle is chock full of rare letters (J, K, X) and not a one of them seems forced in there just for the sake of having more rare letters. You love to see it!
  • Any other musical theater nerds immediately think of “Once Upon A Mattress” when they saw the clue [“Many moons ___ . . .”] for AGO?

That’s all from me! Go get vaccinated/boosted!


Hanh Hunyh’s Universal Crossword, “Down Clue”— Jim Q’s write-up

This appears to be a debut for Hanh! Congrats!

THEME: The word HINT is “dropped” from phrases and can be found in intersecting down entries.

Universal crossword solution · “Down Clue” · Hanh Huynh · Thurs., 12.09.21


  • (revealer) DROP A HINT

Loved this puzzle! So much fun. It revealed itself perfectly for me as I tried to make the connection between the themers. In the first one I noticed that INT was missing, of course. By the second I saw that INT was going down. With the third, I was able to use that synergy in order to fill in CHINTZ (which was new for me) and HIGH INTENSITY. And then a great AHA moment with the revealer. Very, very well done.  Fantastic debut puzzle!

I like when Universal occasionally runs out-of-the-norm concepts. They always keep them accessible to solvers at any lever. What makes this most impressive is that there is a lot of strain on the puzzle with there being 7 theme related entries, yet it’s fairly clean.

Odd that there’s another INT non-related down answer in WINTER :)

This was great, Hanh. Congrats

5 stars from me.

Dan Margolis’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Dan Margolis’ puzzle today features four phrases starting with rather loose synonyms: INBETWEEN, CENTRAL, HALFWAY and MIDDLE, found in [Often euphemistic words for lacking employment], INBETWEENJOBS; [Manhattan attraction], CENTRALPARK; [Rounding third base after starting at second, say], HALFWAYHOME; [Just plain folks], MIDDLEAMERICA.

Some more difficult entries today, mostly clued quite plainly:

  • [Rope fiber], SISAL.
  • [Digital media brand], ROKU. I think they make streaming thingies?
  • [Mosaic piece], TESSERA
  • [Dish from which paella evolved], PILAF. I do like making this, but I feel like it has quite a lot of variations, which is unsurprisingly given how ancient it is.
  • [Parkinson’s treatment], LDOPA. The entry that Crossword Compiler believes will help any grid…


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1425, “I’m Sick”—Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer in this puzzle contains a sickly action that sounds like a common phrase.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1425, "I'm Sick"

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1425, “I’m Sick” solution 12/9/2021

  • 17a [“‘Step aside, critics, or you’ll get sick!’?”] HATERS BACK COUGH/ HATERS, BACK OFF
  • 22a [“Grunts when you’re sick?”] GROAN PAINS / GROWING PAINS
  • 34a [“‘I’m sick, think about it’?”] ACHOONTHAT / CHEW ON THAT
  • 49a [“Dignified sounds of sickness?”] CLASS HACKS / CLASS ACTS
  • 54a [“Complete wellness achieved after a head cold?”] SNIFFLER RECOVERY / SWIFT RECOVERY

Per his constructor’s notes, BEQ is sick (feel better!!), and that clearly influenced his theme choice. I usually struggle with adapted phrases like these, but I got most of them right away. HATERS BACK COUGH was the one I struggled with the most, but after saying it out loud a few times, I was good to go.

Some things I noticed:

  • 28a [“Characters in a toddler’s book?”] – There were a couple of kid-friendly entries in this grid, including the ABCS here (Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom anyone?) and 25d [“‘Here ___…’ (Old McDonald line)”] A MOO.
  • 43a [“Bright flash”] – I didn’t love GLINT here; I tend to think of GLINTs as brief shimmers rather than “bright flashes.”
  • 3d [“Winter warmer”]HOT COCOA is a given in my household at the end of the year, so you would’ve thought I would’ve gone straight for it. Instead, there were a few HOT segues, including HOT DRINK and HOT TODDY before I got that crucial second C.
  • 11d [“GPS showings”] – I cannot remember the last time I got the full spelling of ROUTES in a grid rather than the RTE abbreviation, so I appreciated the script flipping.

‘Tis the season for illness, as it gets colder, but I hope everyone feels alright and stays healthy for the holidays!

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15 Responses to Thursday, December 9, 2021

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: The theme would have made a nice Wednesday puzzle. For once, though, I didn’t spend time trying to find the trick. Instead, I realized pretty quickly that there was no trick.

    JURASSIC PARKING was my favorite of the theme answers.

    I’ve tried constructing a few puzzles with movie themes, but have always had trouble finding recent movies that fit the theme. Kudos to Mr. Liebeskind for getting a few 21st-century movies in there.

  2. PJ says:

    FB 1a – I agree with Amy’s thoughts about 1 Across entries (see today’s NYT).

    At first I forgot about Biden’s Major and did a little Wikipedia research. Turns out FDR also had a German Shepherd named Major. He was well before Fala. Like Biden’s Major, he had a couple of biting incidents (a US senator and the UK PM) and was moved to Hyde Park.

    • Gareth says:

      As a vet, of the larger dog breeds, I’d say GSD’s are the ones that try and bite me the most, but usually just a defensive / warning type of bite. They are often very nervy in temperament!

  3. pannonica says:

    NYT: Crossing of 35a and 36d: boo. Guessable but borderline unfair.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    NYT Tuesday on Thursday, that’s what happened. I directly wrote in all the filmING answers once the first one came in. Did not find unfairness in cluing or obtuseness, I chuckled at OLDS, that must be who this is for. Astonishingly easy and straightforward from my hotel bed.

    • Rob says:

      NYT: Agreed. Easiest Thursday I can remember. Should have been a Tuesday or Wednesday puzzle. But I did enjoy the theme.

      • Billy Boy says:

        I really don’t mean to come off as such a sourpuss, but a little creativity and resistance on Thursday is expected!

  5. David L says:

    BEQ: I didn’t understand the last of the themers, SNIFFLERECOVERY, and getting ‘swift recovery’ from it seems like a stretch, to say the least.

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