Thursday, January 6, 2022

BEQ Untimed (Darby) 


LAT 7:34 (GRAB) 


NYT 7:13 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 4:25 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Fireball 8:04 (Matthew) 


Alan DerKazarian’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Downpours”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Famous WATERFALLS (63a, [What the circles in this puzzle hold]) are named in the circled squares which form the appropriate shape in the grid.


Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Downpours” · Alan DerKazarian · Thu., 1.6.22

  • ANGEL Falls comprised of 19a ARIANA and 17d MAGELLAN.
  • NIAGARA Falls comprised of 20a MANIAS and 10d JOE’S GARAGE. Didn’t know the Frank Zappa opera, but it was not difficult to infer.
  • VICTORIA Falls comprised of 42a VICUÑA and 38d TUTORIAL. Who else tried ALPACA at 42a first?

Pretty nifty execution of this theme. I can’t say I needed to rely on it to finish the solve, but it’s clean and clear and solid all around. Plus the title makes for a good bit of wordplay.

Since I barely looked at the theme, this solved like a themeless for me. Regardless of what goes on elsewhere in the grid, if you’re going to have NINCOMPOOP as a fill answer, you get a thumbs up from me. Also good: PENCIL CASE, AREA RUGS, IRON AGE, GALAXY, SAGUARO, GO GRAY, and CREOLE. I’m not a fan of AGLITTER and the weird ALL TOO, but hey…NINCOMPOOP.

Clues of note:

  • 15a. [Boring drill]. ROTE. Got me with this one as my mind first went to power tools. Similarly, the entry below it, 18a [Some have electric organs] makes you consider musical instruments before going to the correct EELS.
  • 65a. [Artemis program org.]. NASA. Aretmis is NASA’s program to return humans to the moon by 2025. Learn more here.
  • 8d. [Crunch in a bowl]. CAP’N. Meh. Doesn’t seem accurate to me. “What’s CAP’N?” “It’s Crunch in a bowl.” Nope. Doesn’t work.
  • 17d. [Armada de Molucca admiral]. MAGELLAN. Didn’t know this even though I claim MAGELLAN as my favorite explorer. The ships of the MAGELLAN-Elcano expedition were called the Armada de Molucca because their goal was to reach the Maluku (or Molucca) Islands (aka the Spice Islands) in the east of Indonesia. (Recall that MAGELLAN was killed in the Philippines, and it was the Spaniard Elcano who completed the mission and subsequently the first global circumnavigation.)

3.75 stars from me.

Andrew Linzer’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0105 – 1/5/2021

Hello 2022!  It’s a new year of Thursday NYT puzzles.  If you’ve made a resolution to do the NYT, don’t get thrown off by some of what goes down on these days – Thursdays tend to see more rebus squares (yes, you can put multiple letters in a crossword square) and other trickery, but we’ll get through this together.

Andrew Linzer has the honor of kicking off this year’s set of slightly-more-out-there-than-usual grids:

  • 17A: Genre for Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle — [CROW][CROW][CROW] MYSTERY
  • 22A: June — [LION][LION][LION] MONTH
  • 51A: Early 19th-century Australia, for one — PENAL [ANT][ANT][ANT]
  • 60A: Intellectual conformity…or a hint to interpreting 17-, 22-, and 51-Across — GROUPTHINK

GROUPTHINK is a great description of how to parse what’s happening with each of these answers.  A group of CROWs like we have here is a MURDER (as in MURDER MYSTERY), a group of LIONs is a PRIDE (as in PRIDE MONTH), and a group of ANTs is a COLONY (as in PENAL COLONY).

All the down clues crossing these entries take full advantage of the extra space – SCAL[LION], PAVI[LION], and A MIL[LION] BUCKS for LION, [CROW]D NOISE, MI[CROW]ATT, and ES[CROW] for CROW, and DOMIN[ANT] HAND, [ANT]ACID, and [ANT]HEMS (“Country songs?”) for ANT.

Galaxie 500’s “TUGBOAT“.

Happy Thursday!

Alan Arbesfeld’s Fireball crossword, “Missing Links”—Matthew’s review

Alan Arbesfeld’s Fireball Crosswords solution, “Missing Links”, 1/6/2022

The new year of Fireball Crosswords starts off with bang, courtesy Alan Arbesfeld. The two-part revealer beginning at 43a [With 64a, constraint put on some writing contests, and read differently, on this puzzle as well] TWENTY FIVE / WORDS OR LESS.

Even with that, I still needed a key breakthrough to break into the tougher sections: this isn’t a rebus puzzle, but rather “OR” is removed from twenty-five answers; twenty-five words are “or-less”:

Acrosses: 1a. CLAM(or) // 17a. EXPECT(or)ATION // 19a. L(or)EN // 21a. CENS(or)ED // 22a. RES(or)T // 37a. FUDGE FACT(or)S //41a. FL(or)A // 56a. M(or)ASS // 59a. VAP(or)ING // 66a. T(or)IC

Downs: 4d. MO(or)E // 6d. (or)BITS // 7d. ST(or)IES // 9d. SEN(or) // 10d. M(or)ALE // 11d. AD(or)ES // 12. CANT(or) // 22d. RETAIL(or)ED // 24d. F(or)EIGNERS // 33d. ASS(or)T // 36d. T(or)IES // 55d. NEST(or)S // 56d. METE(or) // 58d. SECT(or) // 65d. LAB(or)

Let’s see … any tricky clues in that bunch? [Major league?] for T(OR)IES is quite good.

And of course, every entry in the grid itself is also a valid crossword entry. I could say it would still be an enjoyable puzzle if that weren’t the case, but I’m very glad I don’t have to. The most impressive aspect of all this to me is getting precisely 25 (or) entries into the grid. I’m not facile enough with the various constructing/coding tools to get a sense of how many options there are for this constraint.

Outside of all that theme, I quite liked [Golf foursome] at 42a for TIRES. I could have done without the Landmark Forum reference at 69a – goodness knows there are other ways to clue EST, even if the NY Sun and Fireball have gone through dozens of them by now. Kinda neat to see crossword staple D.C. CAB clued to someone other than Mr. T, but I’m not sure Bill Maher’s role is *that* significant. LUFF is a neat word.

Jenni will be back for the Fireball next week. Happy Thursday!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1433, “Bones Days”—Darby’s review

Theme: Each theme answer replaces a day of the week in a common phrase with a bone.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1433, “Bones Days" solution for 12/6/2021

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1433, “Bones Days” solution for 12/6/2021

  • 17a [“‘This week sucked!’ [forearm]”] THANK GOD IT’S ULNA / THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY
  • 25a [“Film with the second-best-selling soundtrack of all-time [shin]”] TIBIA NIGHT FEVER / SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
  • 42a [“Thoroughly or completely [calf]”] SIX WAYS TO FIBULA / SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY
  • 55a [“Classic second-guesser [hips]”] PELVIS MORNING QB / MONDAY MORNING QB

It took me a minute to start putting the bones in the answers, and I was completely thrown at first at how SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER could not fit, especially once I filled in FEVER on the crosses. I didn’t know what a MONDAY MORNING QB was (it’s someone who criticizes after the fact), but got there off of that bottom right corner, which was the last bit of the puzzle to fall into place for me.

The top left corner was also especially tough, considering the number of names crossing one another. I knew 10d [“Literature Nobelist Glück”] was LOUISE and could reasonably fill in 16a [“Chancellor Scholz”] as OLAF once I got the L from I’LL SAVE YOU and the F from AFAR. I had no idea, though, on 12d [“Billy of ‘MacGruber’”] to save me with 10a [“YouTube star Koshy”], so it took a bit of plain guessing to figure out the LIZA/ZANE cross.

Other notes:

  • 37a [“Two-time WNBA champ Jewell ___”] – I didn’t know who Jewell LOYD was, so I caught this entirely on the crosses. Still, it was cool to learn that she was the first pick in the 2015 WNBA draft, playing for the Seattle Storm, the 2018 and 2020 Champs.
  • 31a [“Sign up; Var.”] – I had to look this variation up to find that ENROL with only one L is a valid verb form for ENROLL. The more you know.
  • 51d [“Cookie sometimes dipped in mayo”] – As I’m sure many of you have felt by now, there are just something you don’t want to know about OREOs. I’d say this is one of them.

Overall, not my favorite BEQ theme, even though I love the subtle reference to Noodle the Pug and his bones/no bones days. I hope y’all are having whichever type of day you need!

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today Crossword, “Internet of Things” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer ends with something that can be opened in a web browser

USA Today, 01 06 2022, “Internet of Things”

  • 20a [Piece of metal that cracks open a soft drink] – SODA CAN TAB
  • 38a [House feature with a nice view] – PICTURE WINDOW
  • 57a [Newspaper section that covers playoffs] – SPORTS PAGE

As a software engineer this theme immediately piqued my interest! TAB, WINDOW, and PAGE certainly all fit the bill of being things that can be opened in a web browser. It took me a while to see the theme because I kept wanting something related to “pop top” for SODA CAN TAB, so I ended up having to abandon the top part of the puzzle for a while and come back to it. It might have been interesting to push the meanings of the words even farther from their internet relations – something like maybe “Elliot Page” over SPORTS PAGE? – but that’s a minor nitpick on a ver solid theme.

Other notes:

  • Great long downs in the grid today. All the 8 letter answers – PARASITE, IN A SENSE, CREATIVE, WANNABES, ALTER EGO, and MAIN DRAW – are excellent and add some color to the puzzle.
  • I made my first mistake of the puzzle right off the bat by dropping in “at ease” for AT HOME for 2d [Totally comfortable]. Yet another reason it took me forever to see SODA CAN TAB!
  • This puzzle also had a great collection of food words in PHO, OREO, RYE toast, and TACOS. Is there a better type of fill? I think maybe not.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s grid & theme summary

LA Times

Jeffrey Wechsler gives us four descriptive entries clued as [Buzz]: NOISEMADEBYBEES, WORDONTHESTREET, ASTRONAUTALDRIN and MILITARYHAIRCUT. All four seem very much of a single origin.


Julian Lim’s Universal Crossword, “Widespread Outrage”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: The word MAD is spelled out every other letter in common phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “Widespread Outrage” · Julian Lim · Thur., 01.06.22


  • (revealer) HOPPING MAD

Fun theme! Great title. Perfect revealer. Solid phrases (FROM HAND TO MOUTH was a bit of a downer).

One nit for the GO COMMANDO entry is that it’s not necessary to hop all the letters… there’s another M in between the M and the A. That’s a bit fussy though. I enjoyed that themer the most.

The big problem: This is a circle dependent puzzle and Universal is unable to publish circles. Asking solvers to count three letters and mentally circle them is, in my opinion, silly. It’s a big turn-off to newer solvers, as I have witnessed on so many occasions. So having a difficult time understanding why Universal doesn’t update their software. The webapp experience is pretty terrible.

Great fill in this one with fun clues! Though [It’s made in the morning] for BED is not accurate for me, who wakes up on a daily basis and says “Oh shit!” and runs around and *somehow* manages to get to work on time still. Bed making is not in the morning routine. Total afternoon thing for me. I had DEW, which made sense to me :)

Not sure if I’m ready to accept DM ME as crossword fill. Looks pretty ugly.

4 stars with circles

1.5 stars without.


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26 Responses to Thursday, January 6, 2022

  1. Billy Boy says:

    A real Thursday, and a very nice one


    • Billy Boy says:

      Sorry I forgot to mention

      1D CHIVE v. scallion are is a great diversion, but scallion is not a substitute for chive in cream cheese for a bagel.

      The substitution is a trend to lament, maybe even HATE


  2. huda says:

    NYT: The Thursday Ideal… Bravo.

  3. Sheik Yerbouti says:

    As Rex Parker pointed out in his summary, it is fairly jaw dropping just how much of the NYT puzzle exactly duplicates an existing puzzle from a few years ago. Not just concept but exact entries, revealer, etc. Overlaps happen, common themes happen, but it is difficult to see this as just a coincidence. Would be interested in the view of the experts as to whether the degree of duplication of material crossed the line or if we really should just chalk this up to an amazing coincidence.

    • Ethan says:

      Just to add some anecdata to this: I submitted a similar theme to the NYT in late 2017. It was not as good (I had only two consecutive animal rebus squares, not three) and it had no revealer. If I recall correctly, my theme entries involved LION/PRIDE, CROW/MURDER, RAT/PACK, BEE/SWARM, and FISH/SCHOOL. Shortz & co. turned it down in 2018 because they felt it was too tricky and “murder of crows” might be too obscure. They suggested that it might be more appropriate for an indie venue. So I sent it to Fireball in April 2018 with the title yup, – you guessed it – “Groupthink” and then sadly Peter told me about the version that was already in the pipeline for that December.

      So, to anyone raising their eyebrows about this excellent NYT puzzle, in particular a certain other big-name crossword blogger and his weaselly “not making accusations, just asking questions” stance: it’s perfectly natural to think about animal group names as a theme, certain animal names readily lend themselves to this theme, and “Groupthink” is a fairly obvious title. There is nothing suspicious about this coincidence.

      • huda says:

        Thank you for writing this, @Ethan. It really helps to give perspective.
        In science, plagiarism is when one copies something verbatim but duplications of ideas happen quite often because it’s in the Zeitgeist. The first time something is discovered or shown, it has greater impact and others who came at it independently often feel “scooped”. But we try to acknowledge parallel contributions especially if contemporaneous. On the other hand, we have tools to search older findings and we are expected to acknowledge them.
        It seems hard for a constructor to check because there doesn’t seem to be a database that allows them to find out if a theme has been done? Is that correct? Some themes are so common that repeating them is not ever described as plagiarism… but the unique ones with more creativity but more limited options seem to be more treacherous.
        Anyhow, I really liked the execution on this one, as well as the very clever idea that you and a couple of your colleagues had of using the concept of “group think” in this way.

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks for sharing the story of your own puzzle with this theme.

        Based on what I know, this was innocent duplication of a theme. “Pride of lions” and “murder of crows” seem pretty obvious for this theme.

        I too have constructed puzzles that inadvertently duplicated themes that have been used before. What’s surprising is that we don’t see more of it.

  4. Scott says:

    Best Thursday NYT puzzle of the year so far. Oops, that is not saying much. So, Best Thursday NYT puzzle of the past several years.

  5. Me says:

    At xwordinfo in regard to today’s NYT puzzle, Jim Horne writes:
    “Speaking of collective nouns, William Shakespeare is credited with coining two good ones. The first is the name of a play. The second is from his most famous soliloquy. You’ll know when you get them.”

    I can’t figure out either one of them. Can someone help?

    In terms of whether the duplication with Paolo Pasco’s puzzle is intentional, there is an interesting comment on this website from back in 2018 on Paolo’s puzzle from Ethan, who writes that he submitted a puzzle with a similar idea to the NYT but it was rejected because they thought a murder of crows was too obscure! The NYT has obviously changed their mind on that, but I think the duplication in all 3 puzzles is more of a “great minds think alike, especially when constrained by crossword construction conventions” rather than intentional plagiarism.

    That being said, it’s clear from today’s Wordplay column that the NYT was aware of Paolo’s puzzle before today’s publication, and given that two of the three theme answers are basically exactly the same both in the rebus and in the crossing clues, to the extent that the LION portion is even in the same place on the grid with the crossing SCALLION/PAVILION/AMILLION in the same order, I’m surprised that the NYT didn’t pull today’s puzzle before publication and asked for it to be re-worked. Not because of plagiarism, but because it’s been done already.

    • pannonica says:

      “a sea of troubles”?

      As for the other, it doesn’t specify (according to your reportage; I haven’t read Horne’s post) that the play is one of Shakespeare’s. It could be a coinage of his that was used as the title of a later writer’s work.

      • Cyberdiva says:

        A Comedy of Errors?

      • Me says:

        pannonica, I bet you’re right that it’s “sea of troubles,” because nothing else from Hamlet’s soliloquy seems to fit, although I would argue that’s not really intended to be a collective noun, but rather a general type of metaphor. Given that Horne’s using “collective noun” loosely, I think the play is “Comedy of Errors.”

  6. David L says:

    USA Today: Finished the puzzle, no clue what the title means.

    BEQ: DNF (didn’t know 37D, wrong last letter at 30D, not familiar with the phrase referred to at 42A), no clue how to interpret the substitutions in the theme answers (I assume they’re not random).

    I await elucidation.

  7. Alex says:

    NYT: Love the idea, but in my mind, three ants does not a colony make.

  8. JohnH says:

    Unlike everyone, I found the NYT hard, because I guess I’m not up as much on animal collective nouns as I should be. Well, I do know “a pride of lions” from way back, back when I also learned “a pod of whales,” and now that I have it I do recognize “a murder of crows.” Maybe it also slowed me up that “ant colony” doesn’t feel like the same sort of thing. Still, a good puzzle.

    I’ve often wondered who made up these nouns, since most are unfamiliar from everyday speech. It’s as if a small group got together for a drinking game, and the results entered an odd lexicon.

    • Art Shapiro says:

      JohnH: You might enjoy getting hold of a copy of the book “An Exaltation of Larks” by James Lipton. It gives many familiar-to-obscure collective nouns, as well as some fanciful ones the author coined. (A pile of proctologists). There is considerable discussion of the history of these words.

  9. Phil says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t understand the BEQ puzzle? I get that bones are substituted for days of the week, but why? How does Friday turn into ulna or Saturday into tibia? Is there some inside joke I don’t know? The reviewer makes a reference to something called Noodle the Pug, which I’ve never heard of. Is that the answer?

    • marciem says:

      Join the club, here. I think the bones are just random bones that fit the grid to go along with the sequential days of the week and placement (last word, first, last, first) of the replacements.

      If there is another layer to this all, I’d like to know :) . I’m guessing Noodles the Pug was the inspiration for bones and days (of the week). I didn’t watch any but read whatever was there.

    • Tina says:

      Same question. It just seemed weird.

    • PuzzleCraig says:

      I’m really hoping that this is needed in a Mystery Hunt puzzle, because otherwise it’s just too random.

Comments are closed.