Thursday, March 24, 2022

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 4:54 (GRAB) 


NYT 10:10 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today  4:26 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


If you’re a first-timer attending the ACPT next weekend, I enthusiastically recommend signing up for the Cru Dinner. It’s a great way to start your ACPT weekend and meet lovely people. The Cru is nothing more than “the community of crossword solvers who met via the internet,” so that’s you, Fiend readers! The dinner buffet includes salad, vegan pasta with roasted veggies, roast turkey, bruschetta, rolls, and dessert. It’s $45 per person–hotel catering is never cheap, but on the plus side, the 6 to 8 p.m. dinner is on-site at the Stamford Marriott, so you it’s effortless to get there and you’re assured of not missing the Friday evening puzzle events. Reservations required. Details here.–Amy

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Out to Launch”—Jim P’s review

I thought this was a rebus puzzle until the very end. Maybe if I paid more attention to the revealer I would have made sense of it sooner.

Speaking of which, 39a is LIFTOFF [Launchpad event, and a hint to four answers in this puzzle]. The letters OFF can be found lifting up—rocket-style—from the main theme answers into the crossing Down answers.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Out to Launch” · Mike Shenk · Wed., 3.24.22

  • 18a. [Much merriment] BARREL (OF F)UN with crosser (F FO)R. This was the last entry in the grid for me because I could make no sense of that partial (clued [“___ Fake” (1973 Orson Welles film)]) and 16a FAR was clued ambiguously as [Significantly]. Once I realized the OFF needed to go all the way up, I filled it in correctly.
  • 28a. [Starbucks stack] C(OFF)EE CUPS with crosser CHI(FFO)N PIE.
  • 50a. [Blurry] OUT (OF F)OCUS with crosser A(FFO)RD.
  • 62a. [Branch bigwig] BANK (OFF)ICER with crosser E(FFO)RT. I’ve heard of a “loan officer” but I’m not so sure I’ve heard of a “bank officer.”

So I was confused for most of the solve. It seemed to me that those four key squares were rebussed OFFs in the Across direction and Os in the Down direction. I was thinking “lift” meant “steal” and so somehow we were to remove the OFFs to make sense of the Downs. But that didn’t work because we still needed the Os. Anyway, once I realized the correct usage of “lift,” I saw all the OFFs going up and I had my belated aha moment.

FAT TUESDAY tops the fun fill today along with SPITS UP, OATMEAL, EUCLID, and WAHOO. Don’t know that I ever heard of BIAFRA [Nigerian secessionist state of the 1960s] but all the crossings made it simple. Forgive me if I think it sounds very much like an allergy medication.

Clues of note:

  • 13a. [Winged elm, large mackerel or exuberant cry]. WAHOO. I knew two of the three usages. Never heard of the tree though.
  • 14d. [Haggis ingredient]. OATMEAL. Huh. Did not know that. What else is in there? Hmm. Looks like ox bung, lamb’s pluck, and beef trimmings along with suet. Och!

Once I grokked the theme, I liked it, especially since the OFFs look a bit like rockets on a launch pad. 3.75 stars.

Jess Shulman’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0324 – 3/24/2022

I had a hunch what might be going on with today’s NYT from the revealer:

  • 58A: Heighten expectations, say…or a hint to entering four answers in this puzzle —

and indeed, there are four answers crying out for a BAR square which has been raised above its final letter into the answer above

  • 20A: Place to order sake and sashimi — SUSHI
  • 34A: Strip of computer shortcuts — TASK
  • 47A: Where you might find very little liquor — MINI
  • 62A: Shabby establishment — DIVE

The BAR in RAIN [BAR]RELS (17A, “Sustainable water receptacles”) gives SUSHI BAR, EM[BAR]GOED (28A, “Banned from trade or commerce”) makes TASK BAR, DESEM[BAR]K (44A, “Get off”) finishes off MINI BAR, and the [BAR] in the revealer gives that last bit of DIVE BAR.  Benefitting from the extra letters, we also have [BAR]ISTA, BIRCH[BAR]K, HYPER[BAR]IC, and CA[BAR]ET in the downs

27A: “Mr. Roboto” Band — STYX

Happy Thursday!

Tracy Gray’s Fireball Crossword, “Two-by-Fours” – Jenni’s write-up

Rebuses with a twist. I knew something was up with 2d [Cohost with Springsteen of the podcast “Renegades: Born in the USA”] because the answer is OBAMA and there weren’t enough squares. (Much as I admire the title of that podcast as a slap to the birthers, I do wonder about a former President of the US and one of the most successful rock stars of all time branding themselves as “renegades,” but that’s not important now.)

The rebus answers are all connected to 39a. [Divide into fourths….and a lead-in to 20-, 26-, 50-, and 55-Across] is QUARTER.

Fireball, March 23, 2022, Tracy Gray, “Two-by-Fours,” solution grid

  • 20a [Preceded by 39-Across, a race that’s a little longer than a 10K, literally] is MA RA TH ONQUARTER MARATHON.
  • 26a [Preceded by 39-Across, fundraising events, literally] are AU CT IO NS. QUARTER AUCTIONS? Huh? I realize these aren’t real things – I can’t figure out what they’re going for here.
  • 50a [Preceded by 39-Across, semi-hopeful athlete, literally] is FI NA LI ST. A QUARTERFINALIST is hoping to get into the semis.
  • 55a [Preceded by 39-Across, McDonalds offerings, literally] are PO UN DE RSQUARTER POUNDERS. OK, that is a real thing, so now I don’t really understand the theme at all.

Either I’m missing some unifying element or this theme is kinda all over the place. I’m leaning toward the former, since both Peter and Tracy usually have nice tight themes. Fill me in, peeps.

A few other things:

  • 6d [Mass follower?] is HYSTERIA. Alternate clue: [Disorder afflicting the Republicans who are questioning Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson]. She is grace under pressure – can you imagine what would happen if she cried and talked about how much she liked beer?
  • I like prosciutto and MELONs enough that I will forgive the odd clue for a plural.
  • Uta HAGEN originated the role of Martha in Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” before the stunt casting of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the movie. I shouldn’t denigrate Taylor and Burton; the New York Times review said she did “the best work of her career.”
  • Peter’s commitment to previously unused clues gives us the Phanerozoic EON, a gimme for my husband but a guessing game for most of us – ERA or EON?
  • I haven’t had to rip off a ticket STUB in a very long time. Beep beep beep goes the scanner.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Uhlmann and Negrini make EPEEs in Germany and Italy, respectively. Peter is really committed to not reusing clues.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1455, “Back to Front” – Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each of the theme answers is a phrase that has been reversed from its usual iteration.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1455, "Back to Front" solution for 3/22/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1455, “Back to Front” solution for 3/22/2022

  • 17a [“Teddy that you must take on vacation with you?”] BEAR TO BRING / BRING TO BEAR
  • 21a [“Words of assurance from a quarterback”] PASS TO COME / COME TO PASS
  • 33a [“Comedian Pauly to FedEx Office”] SHORE TO SHIP / SHIP TO SHORE
  • 42a [“Winning red card in bridge”] HEART TO TAKE / TAKE TO HEART
  • 52a [“White stones, black stones, and a board”] PIECES TO GO / GO TO PIECES
  • 61a [“What a cinematographer with an unquenchable desire would do?”] KILL TO SHOOT / SHOOT TO KILL

As always, so much theme in this puzzle! I struggled a bit at first filling in theme answers, thrown off by the fact that BACKGAMMON fit so perfectly into 52a. However, once the crosses took that out for me, I started to get a better sense (usually by filling in the TO of the themes as much as I could. As someone who still has a teddy bear, BEAR TO BRING was my favorite of these themers.

 Astro from the Jetsons introducing himself to Scooby Doo

Our buddy 28d [“Cartoon dog that substitutes beginning consonants with R’s”] ASTRO with Scooby-Doo

Unsurprisingly, I loved the longer down clues here with EAT ONE’S HAT, DRUMSTICKS, WHOOPS IT UP (lol) and HOPE CHESTS. There certainly did not feel like there were many black squares in this puzzle, which is surprising given the amount of theme jammed in here. As a researcher, I also particularly enjoyed 37a [“[You think I’m dumb enough to make THAT mistake?]”] SIC (though honestly, we’re all human and oftentimes SIC appears within a context where errors were hard to correct). Also, shout out to ASTRO from The Jetsons. My buddy.

There were a number of great examples of wordplay today in clues like 63a [“Boring groove”] for RUT and 58d [“Driving passion?”] GOLF. However, there were also a perhaps overly technical words that I had trouble parsing like 68d [“Attack, as a fighter pilot”] STRAFE, 49d [“Shakes on a rink”] DEKES, and 64a [“Norse mythologies”] EDDA. Still, overall, some great crosses to balance these out.

That’s all from me! See ya tomorrow!

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “TBT” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer is a three word phrase where the first letters are T, B, T.

USA Today, 03 24 2022, “TBT”

  • 16a [“Honestly . . .”] – TRUTH BE TOLD
  • 33a [Ride the Shinkansen, for example]  – TRAVEL BY TRAIN
  • 55a [Finds the Fountain of Youth, maybe] – TURNS BACK TIME

Cute theme and very appropriate for #TBT! (That’s “throwback Thursday”, if you haven’t seen the acronym).It’s impressive that none of the T or B words are repeated in any of the phrases. TRAVEL BY TRAIN is probably the weakest answer just because it’s not a very exciting phrase, but it’s still legit. TRUTH BE TOLD and TURNS BACK TIME are both great examples, and now I have Cher stuck in my head.

It took me a while to get into this puzzle (although that might be because I solved it first thing after waking up). I didn’t know any of the first three across answers I encountered: 1a [Trenette al pesto, for example] for PASTA, 6a [Title for Kiri Te Kanawa] for DAME, and 10a [___ + pool = spool] for SPA (that last one really threw me; I was thinking sewing. I’m still not 100% sure I get it – do people call a pool at a spa a spool??) I eventually found a rhythm and enjoyed the rest of the puzzle! SHAR PEI, READY TO GO, and EDAMAME were all great down answers, and I liked learning about the number of capital cities in South Africa (THREE) and Bolivia (TWO).

Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “Race to the Top”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Words having to do with pace can be read backwards (or upwards) in common phrases.

Universal crossword solution · Race to the Top · Paul Coulter · Sat., 03.24.22


  • (revealer) PICKED UP THE PACE. 

I suppose it’s a horse picking up its pace. I’m just seeing the hidden words for the first time since I solved on the webapp and Universal has yet to adapt its technology to utilize circles. Without circled letters, puzzles that should absolutely require them (like this one) I solve as themeless until the end as I do not want to count letters and read them backwards during the solve.

So as soon as I saw the frequently recurring Universal instructions about reading letter numbers __ to ___ , I was predisposed to enjoy this puzzle less than I normally would. I really don’t like counting and mentally circling my own letters. It brings my solve experience to a halt.

The themers were a bit tough for me as I’m unfamiliar with RIGHT TO WORK LAWS as an in-language phrase and POLL AGGREGATORS was not on the tip of my tongue. But sussing those out gave the puzzle some enjoyment for me.

I’m surprised that there are three UPs in the grid: PICKED UP THE PACE, PEP UP, and LAP UP. The past tense of the revealer I found odd as well.

Lastly, the dupe in [MoMA city] / NYC feels inelegant as the C in NYC stands for “city.”

Almost forgot: Great clue for WINE[Rose bought on a date, maybe]

Definitely not my favorite today, but I do appreciate the idea behind it.

2.5 Stars with circles.

1 star without.

Joe Deeney’s Wall Street Journal crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Joe Deeney’s puzzle theme today is one of those most of us, at best, went back afterwards and confirmed “yep, that checks out”. The vague revealer is a good entry in its own right [Shortened version of a pop song…] RADIOEDIT. It signifies that four answers have the pentagram RADIO scrambled somewhere in their bowels. We have: [*Be silly], K(IDARO)UND; only in dictionary definitions [*Loosen up], LETONESH(AIRDO)WN, [*Grand Canyon traveler], COLOR(ADORI)VER and [*Nyctophobic], AF(RAIDO)FTHEDARK.

Notable answers:

  • [Spacecraft docked at the ISS], SOYUZ. Not easy letters to work into a grid… In this case the fall-out is WONTDO, TUE and OZS.
  • That [Exams for aspiring judges, briefly], LSATS  [2021 Emmy winner for Outstanding Comedy Series], TEDLASSO crossing was hard to guess; I got it correct, but I hadn’t heard of the TV show and there are too many exams that I can ever keep them straight!
  • [Gps. like Partners In Health], NGO. I don’t understand the plural GPs. in the clue.
  • [Modern checkout devices], IPADS. News to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an iPad in real life?


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22 Responses to Thursday, March 24, 2022

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I really liked it. It didn’t feel overly intricate, but it was clever and fun. And the words with the BAR buried in them were all great. To manage those intersections while also putting a type of bar right nearby must have taken some doing. But it never felt strained, like we had to make excuses because it’s a construction challenge. The puzzle felt smooth and easy, which is a real compliment to the constructor.

  2. Alex says:

    WSJ: I am old enough to remember Biafra. Nowadays the name does sound like an allergy medicine, but its brief existence was altogether different. Back then, the media was supersaturated with vivid, horrific images of Biafran babies and very young children with the tell-tale bloated bellies, spindly limbs, and gaunt heads of starvation. During this post-colonial civil war, millions of civilians died, mostly children and mostly of starvation and disease. The Nigerian government blocked humanitarian aid was accused of genocide and the erasure of the Igbo people and their memory. Estimates are as high as 3 million civilian deaths. Even more were displaced. The conflict inspired the founding of the NGO Doctors Without Borders. Some works of acclaimed writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are rooted in intergenerational family memories of the conflict.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Thank you for this sobering background which I didn’t know. My apologies for sounding flippant above in my post.

    • marciem says:

      Thank you for the concise reminder. I remember Biafra in the news (no instant access to news as we have now, no twitter, internet etc.). It seems like they may have accomplished what they were accused of… i.e. “erasure of the Igbo people and their memory.” :( :(

  3. Karen says:

    My husband was in the Peace Corps in Nigeria, and in the last group to leave the country before the forced removal of PC Volunteers due to the Biafran War. Here are his comments: “I was in the southeastern region of Nigeria which was populated predominantly by the Igbo. That’s the region which broke off to form Biafra. Prior to war breaking out the Igbo (Christian) who were living in the northern region were being terrorized by the predominant tribe living there (Hausa – who are Muslim). It was this religious conflict which precipitated the war. Despite the Nigerian government’s efforts to eliminate them, the Igbo people survived and are now thriving. I loved my time living among them.” He continues to be involved with Nigeria, and is on the Board of an organization which provides support and aid.

    • marciem says:

      Thank you for the inside info and update :) . Glad to hear the Igbo are not erased, but thriving!

      • sanfranman59 says:

        +1 … I’m learning lots from my crosswords today. I had only a cursory knowledge of Biafra before doing this puzzle and reading the comments here. I also just learned from Wikipedia that crosswordese stalwart ‘Ibo’ is a variant spelling of Igbo. FWIW, that article says “The Igbo people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa.” So, they clearly haven’t been “erased”.

        • Alex says:

          Yes, correct. I wrote my comment quickly and early this morning. Apologies for my unartful wording. The Nigerian government did intentionally block humanitarian relief and was accused of genocide (by deliberately using famine as a tool to try to eliminate the Igbo within Nigeria.) There are many Igbo throughout Africa and also dispersed throughout the rest of the world. Their situation was and remains much more faceted than I implied. I appreciate the interesting and thoughtful responses.

          • marciem says:

            Your comment was well written, and you spoke of their “alleged intentions”. My comment was made because I was worried that nobody under the age of 50 (in other parts of the world, at least) remembered, and I really didn’t know what happened to the Igbo after the war/genocide was over.

            I thank you for keeping this subject alive!! It is pertinent.

  4. marciem says:

    BEQ: 48A: Engaged in a spat? = Shod…. I don’t get it…???

  5. Tracy says:

    Thank you for the review, Jenni, but I’m sorry that you didn’t quite understand the theme. The unifying element is that there are four noun phrases that are all real things: QUARTER MARATHON (race), QUARTER AUCTIONS (bingo-like games using quarters (25 cent coins) at school fundraisers, bingo halls, firehalls, etc…google them and you will see almost 20,000,000 hits), QUARTER FINALIST (athlete hoping to get into the semis) and QUARTER POUNDERS (McDonald’s hamburgers.) However, when you change the meaning of QUARTER from a noun to a verb, my revealer tells you to quarter (divide into fourths, literally) the 8-letter answers which have to be written in the grid as rebuses – 2 letters per square x 4 squares – (hence the title: Two by Fours.) Hope this helps explain it!

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Like Jenni, I’ve never heard of quarter auctions (I googled ‘quarter auction’ in quotes and got about 106,000 Google hits, which is really quite small), and I checked with my distance runner husband and he’s not heard of the quarter marathon (which googles up about 130,000 hits, but including a Wikipedia article so better attestation there). As with pronunciation-based themes, themes whose base phrases are not quite “household names” will be hit or miss with solvers, depending on if they resonate or not.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Thanks, Tracy! I guess I missed the whole mathematical part!

  6. Simon says:

    I liked the Fireball puzzle, but agree that QUARTER AUCTIONS are significantly less in-the-language than the other three themers. Still – impressive construction, and a fun solve!

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