Thursday, March 31, 2022

BEQ untimed(Darby) 


LAT 4:31 (GRAB) 


NYT 12:06 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today  3:01 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


The New Yorker 10:08 (malaika) 


This week’s Fireball puzzle is a contest. We will post a review after the deadline is past.

Jem Burch’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Surf’s Up!”—Jim P’s review

HANG TEN is the central revealer today (39a, [Surf, in a way, and an appropriate title for this puzzle]). The other (unmarked) themers are missing the letters TEN which are presumed to be “hanging” outside of the puzzle grid.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Surf’s Up!” · Jem Burch · Thu., 3.31.22

  • 19a. [Make the rounds?] (TEN)D BAR
  • 22a. [Not permitted] VERBO(TEN)
  • 27a. [Ace of aces?] (TEN)NIS PRO
  • 30a. [Wolverine’s relative] PINE MAR(TEN). Not sure I knew of this little critter. It’s not a bird (that would be a martin). But it sure is cute.
  • 48a. [Cook’s hammer] (TEN)DERIZER
  • 50a. [Host of Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa”] INA GAR(TEN)
  • 54a. [Botanical feelers] (TEN)DRILS
  • 59a. [Cheer up] HEAR(TEN)
  • 7d. [They’re driven by campers] (TEN)T PEGS
  • 52d. [Hard gray metal] TUNGS(TEN)

I loved this, even though I was slow to catch on. I sorted out VERBOTEN first but wasn’t sure if we were dealing with a rebus or letters that were “hanging” down (or up for that matter). The aha moment really came when I sorted out TENNIS PRO. Even still, once I was finished, I was wishing there were ten theme answers because I didn’t recognize DRILS and HEAR as part of the theme. Finally, a good smack of the head brought me to full theme realization. I like the fact that the entries are not marked with an asterisk forcing us solvers to make sense of things on our own. That’s appropriate at this point in the week. So, for the record, there are an appropriate 10 hanging TENs.

The only thing that I think would make this cuter would be if the hanging letters were actually TOE instead of TEN, but that’s probably an impossibility.


I also love that NW stack of 8s consisting of ALLEY OOP and ROGUE ONE (a Star Wars film). Elsewhere we got to enjoy PILLAGE, ANORAK, ZESTER, MR. BIG, and IGUANA.

Sure, there’s some tougher fill here like OLMEC, L’ETAT, KUDU, Craig MELVIN, ODER, and a single DRIB. But it’s Thursday, and the theme was fun, so I viewed all of that as chewy good stuff to supplement the satisfying theme.

Clues of note:

  • 18a. [Herb with a horn]. ALPERT. OMG this clue. Even after I filled it in, it was a good five seconds before the light bulb came on. I was thinking flora the entire time. As punishment for my denseness, we must now listen to some Herb ALPERT.
  • 10d. [Like some walls]. PAPERED. Anyone else go with PANELED? That thoroughly messed up that corner for me (along with Herb ALPERT).

Wonderfully chewy Thursday puzzle. 4.25 stars.

Oliver Roeder’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0331 – 3/31/2022

It was a pleasant surprise to see Oliver Roeder’s byline on today’s NYT, and even more pleasant to realize what was going on in the puzzle he constructed.

There are a number of answers seemingly missing either their initial or final letter on the left and right sides of the grid

  • 1A: Beat in chess — ATED
  • 10A: Classic Jumbotron shout-out — HIMO
  • 20A: Educator in a smock — RT TEACHER
  • 22A: Figure seen on Athena’s shield — MEDUS
  • 32A: Thoroughbred, e.g. — ACEHORSE
  • 36A: FedEx Cup organizer — PGA TOU
  • 46A: Some drinking vessels — OBLETS
  • 48A: Kind of zone in a city — NO PARKIN
  • 59A: Profession in an O’Neill title — CEMAN
  • 62A: What “should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy,” per Noël Coward — DRY MARTIN
  • 70A: Geekish — ERDY
  • 72A: Big name in printers — EPSO

Filling in the letters that get cut off, we neatly get MARGIN on either side of the grid, and as suggested by 22D, this is our MARGINALIA (“Reader’s jottings … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme).  It’s very neatly done, and I enjoyed the extra AHA as I tried to piece together just what was missing on either end of the grid.

4D: Leader of the house band on “The Muppet Show” — DR TEETH

Whether intentional or not, I found a few nice references to Roeder’s fantastic book, Seven Games, that came out this January.  We’ve got MATED from chess and ATARI from Go (clued “Chess : check :: go : ___”).

Happy Thursday!

Brooke Husic & Will Nediger’s USA Today Crossword, “Intro Music” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer begins with a musical instrument.

USA Today, 03 31 2022, “Intro Music”

  • 41a [“Ain’t I a Woman” author] – BELL HOOKS
  • 58a [Yoga asana named for a shape] – TRIANGLE POSE
  • 7d [Arctic marine mammals] – HARP SEALS
  • 19d [Businesswoman who challenged segregation at a Nova Scotia movie theater in 1946] – VIOLA DESMOND

The first thing I noticed about today’s grid was the shape. Look at those 3×3 blocks in the corner! At first I wondered if they would be theme-related somehow, but nope, just some cool grid design. I think the high number of black squares probably helped decrease my solve time, which I’m not mad about.

It’s been a while since I’ve written up a diagonally symmetric USA Today grid, so it’s a nice change of pace. One reason that constructors sometimes use diagonally symmetric grids is because it allows theme answers of different lengths, if all the theme answers go in the across direction for example. That’s actually not what Brooke and Will did here – the theme answers still break into two pairs of length 9 and 12. That means they could have been laid out in a more traditional format, which makes the diagonal symmetry even more striking – with this layout, the theme answers need to cross, which constrains them much more than if they were all laid out in the across direction.

Even without the grid constraints, I loved the theme set the constructors chose. As a kid one of my favorite animals was HARP SEAL pups – they’re just so cute! I didn’t know VIOLA DESMOND, but her first name was easy to get through the theme, and all the crosses were fair on the last name. Other grid highlights for me included SHE/THEY, HUMOR ME, and the Princess Bride shout out at 6d [Facial feature of Inigo Montoya] for SCAR.

Happy Thursday all!

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle

Hey squad! I’ll be switching to Thursdays so that I can continue to cover the easiest themeless puzzle. Speaking of which, I am very curious as to how the difficulties will end up. It’s super hard to calibrate the difficulty for themeless puzzles, especially New Yorker puzzles which have lots of proper nouns. I also wonder if these Thursdays will be equivalent to Fridays of Yore, or if they’ll be even easier– the blurb is different (“A beginner-friendly puzzle”). Fwiw, this puzzle was fast for me, for a Patrick Berry puzzle, although I did not finish. (Had to guess the ADE? / TENO? crossing.)

This puzzle had fourteen people in it– twelve of them are white. (And that’s me being pretty freaking generous given that the actors in “The Mikado” were, for the most part, not Japanese.)* This puzzle had the same amount of Jack’s as it did non-white people AND the same amount of John’s as it did non-white people. Patrick!! Come on!! This is so boring for me to talk about! I hate talking about it! Please stop doing this so that I can stop talking about it! (I’m sure he doesn’t read these lol and likely does not even know who I am.)


Things I didn’t like: TENON, REBAR, NORTHER, S-SHAPED

Other things: I will never learn the difference between lutes and LYRES. Never. I will simply write in L??ES and wait for crosses. Is it SMOKEY BEAR? I’ve always heard SMOKEY *the* BEAR. Leave your favorite fictional bears below– mine is obviously Paddington, although Pooh is up there.

*SPIRO Agnew, Claude Debussy, Johnny Carson, Jack PAAR, Cathy, David BOWIE, HAN Solo, Jack Nicholson, RITA Moreno, Jasper Johns, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Philip Sousa, Lord High Everything ELSE, DIDO

David Distenfeld’s Universal Crossword, “21st Century Double Feature”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Two movie titles are found in common phrases… I think. I solved on webapp. It doesn’t make sense.

Universal crossword solution · 21st Century · David Distenfeld · Thurs., 03.31.22


  • 17A [Mix that contains baking powder (In this clue’s answer, see letters 2-4 and 7-10)] SELF RISING FLOUR. Elf and Sing
  • 27A [Ship’s storage space (… letters 3-5 and 9-12)] CARGO HOLD??Going by the instructions the titles here are Rgo and D[black square] [black square][black square].
  • 43A [Bach piece published together with his “French Overture” (… letters 2-5 and 7-9)] ITALIAN CONCERTO. Tali and Nco?
  • 56A [What Moses did with a staff (… letters 4-6 and 8-10) PARTED THE RED SEA. Ted and Her

Oh dear. Oh no no no.

Not only are they asking you to count letters today… which is absurd in and of itself (Universal does not employ up-to-date technology to allow the inclusion of circles), but today, they are asking the solver to count the wrong letters for two of the entries.


If you’re going to use the *awful* workaround of making solvers count and mentally circle their own letters to understand the theme, wouldn’t you triple check to make sure that you’re asking them to count and mentally circle the correct letters?

It appears that the parenthetical instructions for the middle themers are in the wrong spot.

Letters 2-5 and 7-9 in CARGO HOLD are ARGO and OLD, which are movies, but I was asked to count letters 3-5 and 9-12.

Letters 3-5  and 9-12 of ITALIAN CONCERTO are ALI and ONCE. But I was asked to count 2-5 and 7-9.

If this doesn’t give the powers that be at Universal the kick in the pants it needs to update its lousy software, then I don’t know what will. Counting letters in the first place turns newer solvers off from crosswords (from what I’ve observed first-hand.) This error is likely to make those who are new to the unique-to-Universal “count-the-letters” concept feel stupid when they can’t figure out what on earth is going on.

Could’ve been a good puzzle. But it was a disaster. Didn’t see a single themer during the solve and spent longer counting letters and scratching my head than I did solving the grid. Yeesh.

So distracted by the negative I am that I almost neglected to point out the fantastically clued TURKEY SUB [Hero that’s not chicken?]. Also enjoyed finding out Martin is the name of the GEICO Gecko.

Unfortunately those flashes of enjoyment don’t make up for the shoddy presentation today. Sorry your work was represented this way, David. It’s embarrassing for sure.

4 stars with circles.

2 stars without.

0 stars without the circles and with the typos in the theme clues.

Per its website: “[The Universal]… sets the standard for all daily crosswords.” As far as I know, it’s certainly not standard to ask solvers to count and circle their own (wrong) letters.

Lin Josephson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle theme by Lin Josephson is the JIGSAWPUZZLE, but the answers before it are rather vague and incoherent. We start with a weak pun, PIECEBYPIECE; an unlikely hypothetical – WHYWONTITFIT; and then just NATURESCENES. And that’s it.

  • A couple more entries:
    [China shop threat], OAF. From that well-known idiom, an oaf in a china shop…
  • [“___ for You”: Dylan song to his first wife], IFNOT. Is it bad I mostly think of ONJ’s version?


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1457, “Where Are We Eating?”—Darby’s review

Theme: Each theme answer includes a city and the food its known for, making a full meal.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1457, “Where Are We Eating? solution for 3/31/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1457, “Where Are We Eating? solution for 3/31/2022

  • 17a [“Appetizer #1”] CINCINNATI CHILI
  • 27a [“Appetizer #2”] BUFFALO WINGS
  • 48a [“Main course”] ST. LOUIS PIZZA
  • 62a [“Dessert”] BOSTON CREAM PIES

This was such a fun theme, and, as you can guess, I’m now pretty hungry. As someone who livd in Buffalo for a long time, I miss the wings daily, so BUFFALO WINGS obviously was an appealing answer to me. As an Ohioan, CINCINNATI CHILI was the first themer I filled in though, catching the many I’s and N’s off of the Down answers. I was shocked to see ST. LOUIS PIZZA over New York-style, especially since I avoid provel and opt to go to a New York-style shop here in STL.

Otherwise, this was a pretty fun grid, I got a wee bit caught up by some of the names, including 1d [“Medicine Nobelist Montagnier”] LUC, 53d [“He played Henry in ‘The Third Man’”] ORSON, and 35d [“Tool held by Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa”] JAZZSTICK. I also didn’t really want the reminder of 11d [“Kavanaugh’s benchmate”] ALITO. However, I did enjoy the timely clue for AMY in 64d [“Oscars cohost with Regine and Wanda”] and the pop culture colloquialism SUS in 65d [“Skeptical for short”].

Definitely a nice appetizer all on its own, just have your snacks prepared.

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27 Responses to Thursday, March 31, 2022

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Fun gimmick that took just the right amount of time to reveal itself. For 1A, both MATE and MATED fit the clue. I’m kind of glad that it was ambiguous, unlike, say, [A]RTTEACHER.

    Nice tricksy puzzle for the final Thursday of the month.

    • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

      Agree. I love tricky clues like 1A where the verb can be either present or past tense. I’m always confused before bemused.

  2. Mutman says:

    NYT: Liked the gimmick, but the BRAHE/ARLEN/ISLAS/BPICTURE crossings were a bit messy for me.

    • PJ says:

      I believe Brahe is more commonly known as Tycho. The nose story is a hoot. He lost a large part of his nose in a duel with a distant relative over who was the better mathematician.

      The large crater in the southern hemisphere of the full moon is named for him.

    • Eric H says:

      Harold ARLEN also wrote the music for “Over the Rainbow,” which the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts both named as the “Number One Song of the 20th Century.”

      But yeah, I had BP____ and had no idea where that was going, even with the straightforward clue.

  3. marciem says:

    Wow… NYT and WSJ…not one but TWO “think outside the box” themes today. I enjoyed both of them very much. Maybe there’s another one that I haven’t done yet today, I was just so surprised to hit both of them in a row LOL!!

    • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

      Thumbs up. Although I thought the WSJ “hanging” theme was weaker than the NYT “marginalia.” They were both very enjoyable.

  4. Zulema says:

    Amazed at myself that I completed the very interesting NYT and it was very enjoyable work. Thank you all involved in this production. Very clever.

  5. marciem says:

    TNY: One person’s view, I found today’s title of “beginner-friendly” to be very appropriate. I only needed to depend on a few downs to get finished (I’m not a beginner, but I DO work in traditional NW to SE acrosses first), and they got me the words I didn’t know (never heard of the documentary Helvetica, but a couple of crosses made it obvious.) So far this week, for me, the hardest-hard-medium-easy progression has been right on.

    I’m looking forward to tomorrows themed. Themed are my personal favorite puzzles.

    • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

      It will be interesting to see what TNY offers for a theme and who the constructor is. I think they definitely hit their target today: a very easy themeless but it wasn’t boring.

  6. Trudy says:

    Sing it, Malaika! Like you, I view people exclusively by their race and disregard any other possible personality attributes or possible human characteristics. I judge people only by the perceived power status that I learned through my radical postmodernist education. Rock on sister! But I wish you would have been more assertive in your review. The New Yorker needs to FIRE Patrick Berry! His whiteness is SO toxic and his puzzles are VIOLENCE against BIPOC people everywhere. He can’t get away with this shit any longer. His racist shtick ESPECIALLY can’t fly at The New Yorker. Can you start a petition or write an open letter to the editor or something? Let’s get this done! Let’s get him fired! No more white men at The New Yorker!

    • malaika says:

      hi trudy,

      can you please point out where i said that Patrick Berry should be fired? i don’t see that anywhere in my write-up, but i must be missing something!

      thanks so much :)

      • Trudy says:

        I know you didn’t say it – that’s why I said you need to be more assertive! I’ve also been appalled by Patrick Berry’s toxic whiteness on display in his crossword puzzles in The New Yorker. So I know that you didn’t say he should be fired, but…HE SHOULD BE FIRED, yes?! You wouldn’t want to give white men any more power than they already have, right? He’s stealing a spot from a person of color who is obviously more deserving, right? Words are empty without ACTION. So let’s get this done – fire the man!

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Trudy, this is tiresome and unnecessary.

          In my work as an editor of easy pop culture crosswords, I’ve been delighted by our constructors’ embrace of diversity in their theme sets. The white male constructors include in their themes people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, and women–as do the constructors who are women, LGBTQ+, and people of color. Patrick Berry has done rap themes about Black artists! So yes, it’s doable for constructors to consciously avoid having Almost All Straight White Men references in their puzzles. I’ll join Malaika in hoping that Patrick (whom I admire the hell out of) will pop some more women, POC, LGBTQ+, disabled (etc.) into his subsequent New Yorker grids (as he certainly has before), so that more of us can feel better represented and reflected.

          And yeah, this one was smooth and easy, perfectly attuned to the “easiest of the New Yorker’s themeless week” scheduling. Patrick can write crisply accessible, easy clues, and he can craft dastardly, clever clues–not everyone can nail both ends of the spectrum and everything in between.

          • Jim Q says:

            You’re reading Trudy’s response differently than I. I assumed they are being pointedly ironic to mock Malaika’s pov (why else write “Like you, I view people exclusively by their race…”). That being said, Trudy’s point is lost entirely when their stance is indiscernible.

          • DJ says:

            You know what I find tiresome and unnecessary? The handful of reviewers on this site who regularly use racism (reducing both constructors and grid entries merely to their race) in their reviews. Compounding this tiresome and unnecessary racism is that they believe it to be morally superior, calling it “anti-racism.” This racist impulse to view people in purely race-based terms is well shared by, you know, Nazis and white supremacists, so be sure to keep that in mind as you vigorously pat each other on the back for your unparalleled goodness. Tiresome and unnecessary to be sure – disgusting is another word that comes to mind.

            • malaika says:

              if you do not like my disgusting and racist reviews DJ then i encourage you to simply stop reading them !

            • R says:

              Nobody here is viewing people purely in race-based terms. Pretending like you don’t see race while giving systematic advantages to white people is racist, and that’s the view you’re actually advocating for. It’s understandable, as that’s the view that white people have been trained to have for a couple generations in the US, but it is actual racism, as opposed to acknowledging the existence of race, which isn’t.

            • zyxwvutsrqponmlkjihgfedcba says:

              Pretty annoying to view the world as just a bunch of Americans too.

          • Trudy says:

            It’s disappointing to see that you’re just a PINO – a Progressive In Name Only. It’s about time we stop sitting idly by, watching the evil ciswhitemaleheteronormativeocracy continue to trample us. We must RISE UP! And hold bad people ACCOUNTABLE for their bad actions. #FirePatrickBerry

        • Reddogg says:

          I trust that Trudy’s rant is an attempt at satire. If so, fairly well done.

          • Jim Q says:

            Is it well done? In what way? If one cannot tell for sure that it is satire, then I wouldn’t call it well done… Nor would I call it well done if it’s so bitingly sarcastic that anyone with another viewpoint is unlikely to be swayed by the argument at all. So… I’m gonna say that as satire, it’s rather poorly done.

            • kell says:

              The fact that people aren’t able to discern if it’s satire is more depressing than anything. The fact that we’ve all become aware of the Trudys in society and how much power they’ve been able to usurp by means of their lunacy is truly troubling. Trudy is only a slightly turned-up version of the general tenor of this site, which has become a nakedly ideological organ in the last few years.

            • pannonica says:

              One, it is obviously satire. Two, it is poor satire.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    TNY: Favorite bears: Yogi, Boo-Boo and Walter Payton … “Hey, hey, Boo-Boo! Let’s go get us a pic-a-nic basket!” still rings in my ears when I think cartoon bears all these years later.

    Patrick Berry is an incredible talent. In my book, it’s a toss of the coin between him and Robyn Weintraub for who publishes the smoothest low word count puzzles.

  8. Brenda Rose says:

    To the responders on my view of the NYorker > rap: Y’all jumped to a conclusion that wasn’t even in my brain. I was not referring to the music nor the artists that produce it. I was merely commenting that 3 letter clues are annoying & that this magazine & their puz constructers have a deeper depth. This sort of cluing is a cop out. I don’t think F.A.S or N.K.C would fly. This is purely my opinion on crosswords & not, as it was implied, on popular music.

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