Thursday, July 7, 2022

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


Fireball 5:33 (Amy) 


LAT 4:42 (Gareth) 


NYT 7:38 (Ben) 


The New Yorker 3:33 (malaika) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 3:20 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 155”

Fireball crossword solution, 7 7 22, “Themeless 155”

We have a mini-theme of sorts, with CENTURION and BEN-GURION differing in just two letters and paired up in the grid.

Notable bits: JUUL is back on the shelves pending an appeal to the FDA’s recent ban. (Did you know that many vaping companies are owned by tobacco companies? They’re just in the business of fostering nicotine addiction by hook or by crook.) 14a. [Change location], COIN PURSE—I like the “the answer is a verb” ruse. JALAPEÑO, ART TATUM, ONE-OFFS, EDIE FALCO, STRIPTEASE with a Razzie Award clue.

Did not know: 26d. [Edward James Olmos’s directorial debut], AMERICAN ME.

6d. [Number one spot?], URINAL. I learned from the delightful British reality competition show, Great Pottery Throw Down, that across the pond they pronounce it more like yer-EYE-nul rather than YOU’RE-in-ull. Three seasons of Throw Down are on HBO Max—check it out!

I assume that a word like NERD has been used in cryptic crossword clues for the Belgian city ANTWERP, with its embedded TWERP.

Four stars from me.

David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In Scale”—Jim P’s review

The theme consists of common words that have been split into two separate words and clued in wacky crossword fashion. As I was going through the solve, I wanted something else to tie them together. The revealer at 60a indicates what that connection is. We’ll talk about that in a minute. First, let’s look at the theme entries.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “In Scale” · David Alfred Bywaters · Thu., 7.7.22

  • 16a. [Mantra of ennui?] BORED OM. Meh. Awkward. No one would ever say this.
  • 18a. [Celebrity charity auction, maybe?] PR EVENT.
  • 22a. [Frosh’s drink chiller?] DORM ICE.
  • 32a. [Beach big shot?] SURF ACE.
  • 41a. [Does some mineral assaying?] EYES ORE.
  • 52a. [One who’s up on all the latest social insect trends?] COOL ANT. As opposed to the “cool aunt.”
  • 58a. [Cause of grocery aisle conflict?] CART IRE.

What’s the connection? The revealer is KEYNOTE [A different one “unlocks” seven answers in this puzzle]), but that still didn’t make it clear enough for me. A glance at the title confirmed my suspicion that the gimmick relies on musical notes. Finally, going back to the theme answers, I noticed that each split occurs at the letters in each note: DO in BORED OM, RE in PR EVENT, etc. I guess the idea is that each note is a “key” that “opens” that word up.

Was it worth all that mental gymnastics to fully grok the theme? I didn’t feel it was. I don’t mind the wordplay (when it’s not awkward), but I’m not sold on the KEYNOTE idea as a basis for splitting words apart. Mostly I was left, not with an aha, but more of a “why?”.

For a grid with short theme answers, you’d hope for some juicy long fill. But there’s not much to speak of. I like RIVIERA, ALSO-RAN, and KARATE.

But I must note that the [Washington tribe, historically] is usually referred to as the Yakama, not YAKIMASESCS is terrible fill, and there seems to be a heavy reliance on the old crosswordesey standbys, especially in the short entries: ECO, NCR, EKE, OVA, TET, ERE, INT, ORS.

Clues of note:

  • 67a. [Practice whose name is Japanese for “empty hand”]. KARATE. Nice bit of trivia worth remembering.
  • 27d. [Schooner alternative]. MUG. Schooner the glass, not the ship.

While I wanted some reasoning behind the theme, it felt overly convoluted. And there wasn’t much in the fill to add sparkle to the grid. 2.75 stars.

Philip Wolfe’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0706 – 07/06/2022

Today’s puzzle is a debut from Philip Wolfe – congrats, Philip!  No, you’re not seeing seeing, but you may want to think think on what’s going on it today’s grid:

  • 17A: 1967 James Bond film — YOU ONLY LIVE LIVE
  • 38A: Randomized clinical trial — BLIND BLIND STUDY
  • 61A: One who’s maybe too virtuous — GOODY SHOES SHOES

the TWICE/DOUBLE/TWO of each of these phrases has been made literal – we’ve got YOU ONLY LIVE [TWICE], [DOUBLE] BLIND STUDY, and GOODY [TWO] SHOES in the mix here.

Lovely bits of fill: PISCO SOUR, FRIVOLOUS, and DOOFUSES

Happy Thursday!

Chloe Revery’s Universal Crossword, “Built to Scale” — Jim Q’s write-up

Looks like a debut today! Congrats to you, Chloe :)

THEME: Common phrases that can be made up entirely of “music notes” (letters A-G)

Universal crossword solution · Built to Scale · Chloe Revery · Thursday. 07.07.22


  • (revealer) MUSIC NOTES

I liked this one and enjoyed the solve, despite not really caring about the theme all that much. I did enjoy the tension that was built as I solved from north to south trying to figure out what the starred themers had in common. I mean, CABBAGE and BAGGAGE look like they have something in common… but what? That tension was broken with a mere shoulder shrug once MUSIC NOTES gave up the goose. This theme idea kinda sorta falls into the category of “stunt puzzle” for me, very reminiscent of many a Bruce Haight construction. A lot of solvers wince at these types (Bruce himself calls them “Haighters”) since they can be so constrictive; I mean, the themers in this one aren’t overly familiar to me… needed nearly every cross for BEADED EDGE. But I don’t mind a theme like this here and there.

I think my favorite entry was SCALAWAG, despite being 100% positive that the second A should be an I. Had to comb the grid at the end of the puzzle to find my typo once Mr. Happy Pencil failed to appear. Also like the fresh SESH and PODCASTER. 

“Ice Ice Baby” was a B Side? Whaaaa?

Excellent title, btw.

Thanks for this one, Chloe. Looking forward to your byline again.

Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Hey folks! I absolutely sailed through this one– I can’t remember ever cracking four minutes on a New Yorker puzzle before. When there’s a central stack like this, I like for two of the three answers to be zesty and fun– in this case, LINE IN THE SAND and RETAIL THERAPY (with a stellar clue, [Attempt to buy happiness?]). BANK STATEMENT was pretty meh, especially since it couldn’t get a mis-direct-y clue.

New Yorker– July 7, 2022

Things I liked seeing: SHONDALAND (esp calling out “Bridgerton”), CANNONBALL ([Announcement before making a big splash?]), ANTIMATTER, bulgogi + kimchi (cluing KOREAN), ANYA Taylor-Joy. I don’t like the “crossword grammar” of using “as” in a clue, but [Fail to get support from, as a beanbag chair] for SINK INTO was a lovely image.

Things I didn’t care for: ODS, AS BAD, HOSNI Mubarak, RDA

Rebecca Goldstein & Rachel Fabi’s USA Today Crossword, “Internal Matter” — Sophia’s recap

Editor:  Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer contains the word ATOM.

USA Today, 07 07 2022, “Internal Matter”

  • 16a [Countries in an international alliance founded in 1949] – NATO MEMBERS
  • 29a [Kitchen tool used to make shepherd’s pie] – POTATO MASHERS
  • 45a [Ingredients in marinara sauce] – ROMA TOMATOES
  • 60a [“Spider-Man: No Way Home” actress] – MARISA TOMEI

I think this is the third USA Today puzzle in a row that I’ve written about that has a hidden word theme? To be fair, I don’t always write on consecutive days, but it seems like this is an especially common type recently. That being said, I liked this puzzle a lot! All of the answers are solid, and I like how ATOM is split across the two words in each of the phrases. One thing that was kind of funny for me was that I originally started ROMA TOMATOES with the word “tomato”, but once I figured out that it was wrong I only had to change the first letter to get the right answer! Also, I watched “Fire Island” last weekend, which contains a top-tier MARISA TOMEI joke, so now that’s all I think about when I see her name.

Other thoughts on the puzzle:

  • Such great long answers in HOT MESSES/I’M SO TIRED/PITA CHIPS/DOUBLE DIP. I loved how the last two were clued similarly, but without a wordy cross reference ([Hummus scoopers] and [Scoop hummus twice with the same scooper])
  • It felt like so much care was put into choosing each word in the puzzle in order to squeeze out as much goodness and entertainment for the solver as possible. Even all the short fill was fun and clued brightly. Just a general vibe note :)
  • I liked SLAT on top of SLIT, fun to see the same letters shifted over.
  • ABBOTT Elementary has been on my list of things to watch all year; I’m gonna try to get season 1 done before the next season premieres!
  • The only place I had a bunch of trouble was [Home of the National Library of Medicine] for NIH – I thought it was going to be a city or a state, and given that “National” was in the clue I wasn’t thinking of this particular place.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1485, “Word Plea”–Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer replaces a long “A” sound with a long “E” and, in some cases, rearranges where the E typically is.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1485, "Word Plea" solution for 7/7/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1485, “Word Plea” solution for 7/7/2022

  • 18a [“Unpolluted December rain?”] CLEAN SLEET / CLEAN SLATE
  • 23a [“Efficiency stat on some mowers”] GARDEN SPEED / GARDEN SPADE
  • 37a [“Miniature figurines of Simon and Young”] NINE INCH NEILS / NINE INCH NAILS
  • 52a [“Lion’s prey in the midst of a hunt”] RUNNING MEAT / RUNNING MATE
  • 58a [“Really wild haircut?”] SHOCK WEAVE / SHOCK WAVE

Thanks to Cynthia who pointed out the long A to long E vowel change. I thought that the changes resulted in tough but fair themers. My favourite was definitely RUNNING MEAT.

On the fill that I’m more confident on:

  • 14a [“Bank transaction, briefly”] – I’ve come across REFI as an acronym for refinance twice in puzzles in the last week, and it’s not a term that I’m familiar with, though a quick Google search tells me that that’s more about me than it does about the colloquialisms relating to banking and money.
  • 32a [“View from the top?”] – This felt a like cryptic clue-like to me for VEE, and I was here for it.
  • 47a [“Ancient region south of present-day Izmir”] – I found this to be tough, but it helped that it crossed NEW ERA, IAMBIC, and AT DUSK.

That’s all from me for now!

Laura Dershewitz & Katherine Baicker’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times 220707

Today’s puzzle by Laura Dershewitz & Katherine Baicker won me over with the revealing entry, LIFEHACKS, which was both a fun answer and an apt and vivid explanation of the theme. I had already figured out that LIFE disappears from several phrases, creating new “wacky-style” ones by that stage. Taking a word rather than letters from entries tends to make the new phrases more grammatically forced, and so this proved, but the concept more than makes up for that:

  • [*Paperwork for a UFO pilot?], ALIEN{LIFE}FORM
  • [*Fast fashion?], ACTIVE{LIFE}STYLE
  • [*House of worship known for raucous parties?], WILD{LIFE}SANCTUARY
  • [*Office scale?], WORK{LIFE}BALANCE
  • [Tricks to improve productivity, and the tricks used to form the answers to the starred clues?], LIFEHACKS

[Mobile game?], PHONETAG is not thematic, but is probably why the authors and editor chose to use asterisks. Of course, I just saw the “?” and didn’t really pay closer attention, so for a good while I considered as possibly thematic. It’s a fun clue, though!

As usual in the PV era, there are a lot of recent-ish clues I have no idea about, but end up being plausible answers. So:

  • [“__ Great Heights”: single by The Postal Service], SUCH. From 2003, when I was in high school; never encountered it…
  • [Wonkette founding editor __ Marie Cox], ANA
  • [Actor Mapa of “Ugly Betty” and “Doom Patrol”], ALEC
  • [“Collapsed in Sunbeams” singer Parks], ARLO. The title is her 2021 debut apparently and her real first name is another crossword staple: ANAIS!


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10 Responses to Thursday, July 7, 2022

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I really liked it. It is simple but fun.
    Didn’t know PISCO SOUR. How did that happen? I need to get my hands on some!

  2. Dougo says:

    The Newsday puzzle link isn’t loading today, but you can get the puzzle here:

    • Bit says:

      Yes, though I couldn’t get Puzzle Scraper to give me an AcrossLite puz of that. It appears that Newsday is redirecting to a new crossword address (from the one Fiend has, and I have bookmarked), and is now possibly behind a paywall. The paywall may be unintentional on Newsday’s part, caused by the web change.

  3. gyrovague says:

    WSJ: Where is the love?

    I found today’s puzzle to be a fresh take on the classic solmization theme, here with each of the seven notes elegantly split across two words. Appropriately tricky for a Thursday, with few obscurities to muddy the water. Save for YAKIMAS … I don’t mind the plural so much — see oft-used UTES, etc. — but the preferred spelling for the tribe seems to be YAKAMA, the Washington state geographical names notwithstanding.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    WSJ … Why no love? I have a little, more of a challenge than I expected. Wavelength?

    More of a clever execution than anything else, it doesn’t sparkle is what I suppose

  5. dh says:

    NYT – It occurs to me that 61A could be “Goody Shoe Shoe” in a limited sense. Doesn’t fit the wordplay as well, but it’s easier to say. My one small nit is 3D; rouge does not make you blush, it makes you look like you’re blushing. In another sense, the answer to this clue could be “Estee”, a company that makes blush for you.

    I first thought of “NIECE” for 8D, then very confidently put in FRODO instead.

  6. marciem says:

    random question: ok, we usually see “mic” for microphone even though it is pronounced like mike but the mic starts the correct word so ok… BUT sesh always comes out sesh, not sess as in session… I don’t know why this bothers me but it does.

    • Martin says:

      Because “mice,” “mic” is reasonably pronounced with a hard c sound. “Sess” would never be pronounced “sesh,” but always like the first syllable of cesspool.

  7. Cynthia says:

    BEQ – Gave me a good laugh at 37 across. And Darby, the key to the theme is in the title: “Word Plea” is the result of changing the long A in “Word Play” to the long E.

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