Thursday, May 12, 2022

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 4:34 (GRAB) 


NYT 7:22 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 4:41 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


The New Yorker untimed (malaika) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Michael Schlossberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “You Don’t Have To Tell Me Twice!”—Jim P’s review

Theme entries are familiar two-word phrases where the first word ends in _ME and the second word starts ME_. As hinted at by the title, the two MEs are combined into one.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “You Don’t Have To Tell Me Twice!” · Michael Schlossberg · Thu., 5.12.22

  • 17a. [It passes through Greenwich, England] PRIMERIDIAN.
  • 34a. [Drastic action] EXTREMEASURES.
  • 42a. [Supreme Court justices, per the Constitution] LIFETIMEMBERS.
  • 59a. [Play structure, of a sort] GAMECHANICS.

Pretty quick to grok this one if you kept the title in mind when you uncovered just one theme entry. But it still took me some doing to uncover each themer since the second words didn’t immediately pop into mind even knowing they started with ME. But each one is solid and well chosen. I especially like the last theme answer.


Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Skeptical scoff]. “I BET!” This clue would also work for “AS IF!” Anyone try that?
  • 53a. [Saloon selection]. RYES. I hesitated on this answer because the clue seemed singular. But a “selection” can certainly refer to more than one item.
  • 68a. [Model citizen?]. STATUE. Nice clue.
  • 63d. [Hang by a thread?]. SEW. Also nice, though “hang” is used rather loosely.

Solid Thursday outing. 3.75 stars.

Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0512 – 05/12/2022

This is Ross Trudeau’s 50th puzzle in the Times – congrats Ross!  Once it clicked what was going on with this one, I really enjoyed the theme:

  • 18A: Nietzschean ideal — UBERMENSCH
  • 36A: Trait of a babe in the woods — NAIVETE
  • 38A: Noted literary sisters — BRONTES
  • 50A: Ice cream brand whose first storefront was in Brooklyn Heights — HAAGEN DAZS
  • 58A: Diacritical mark resembling a dieresis, both of which are represented in this puzzle — UMLAUT

each of the theme answers is better expressed using an UMLAUT — ÜBERMENSCH, NAÏVETE, BRONTËS, and HÄAGEN DAZS.  Appropriately, the square directly about each letter that should have an umlaut features a double O — OOPS, SPOOR, IT’S COOL, and author Margaret ATWOOD.  I caught the rebus squares early on, but understanding why they were there at the end of the puzzle was a great lightbulb moment.

Look, we can’t discuss umlauts without BJÖRK.  It was either this or Blue Öyster Cult.

Happy Thursday!

Brooke Husic’s USA Today Crossword, “All I’s on Me” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer’s only vowel is I.

USA Today, 05 12 2022, By Brooke Husic

  • 20a [Swimsuit whose top can be styled upside down] – STRING BIKINI
  • 36a [Opposite of testing the waters] – DIVING RIGHT IN
  • 52a [Answer to “How can I tell if he loves me so?” in “The Shoop Shoop Song”] – IT’S IN HIS KISS

Fabulous puzzle from Brooke today, with one of the more interesting black square patterns I’ve seen in a long time. Look at those side pyramids!

I loved all three of the answers Brooke chose. They’re all fun evocative phrases, and long enough that the fact that they only have I’s is actually interesting. I didn’t know that there was a trend of wearing STRING BIKINI tops upside down, but Refinery 29 tells me it’s a real thing, so I’ll believe it.

Most of this puzzle absolutely flew by for me – I finished all but two crossings in 3 minutes. The two that were sticking points for me were TEJ/HIJABI and EXPOSE/XINAG, both of which are tricky but fair. I’ll blame my slowness there on solving immediately after waking up. Also, I only know TEJ as the Hungarian word for “milk”, which certainly didn’t help me with its clue of [Ethiopian honey wine].

The black square pattern I mentioned earlier allowed for some really cool long answers – TWO SPIRIT, PIANO SOLO, VEERS OFF, FRUIT HAT. I also liked seeing VLOG, HALAL, and UPSELL spice up some mid-length slots. My favorite clue in the puzzle has to be 60a [Major complaint] for BEEF, because I always enjoy seeing widely used but not widely clued meanings of words.

Matt Westman’s Universal Crossword, “The Big Dig”— Jim Q’s write-up

Appears to be a debut for Matt Westman! Congrats!

THEME: Underground places are found at the “bottom” of common phrases (which run vertically in the puzzle)

Universal crossword solution · “The Big Dig” · Matt Westman · Thurs., 05.12.22



Cute, simple theme here. Enjoyable! Especially since (and I know I’m going to make more than a few people cringe) JOE BURROW is an unknown name to me (braces self for the virtual tomato pelting), but the theme helped me figure it out… I was also unfamiliar with Scott O’DELL, but it wasn’t a Natick for me with the synergy of the theme.

One odd discrepancy is that the definition of MINE (the part of speech even), is completely altered from the base phrase to the meaning of MINE as the theme would have us interpret. The same is not true of HOLE, where it’s a noun and its basic definition is intact in both the base phrase and the context of the revealer.

I’m not familiar with the phrase DO A DEAL! How have I gone this long without hearing it?! There’s even a good E.L.L. breakdown that I found in order to help one differentiate DO A DEAL from “Make a deal.”

[“Out of thyme” for anyone except a chef] is a cute clue for PUN. Though I doubt any chef would be able to say that and resist the chance to make a show of the obvious punny nature of it.

A fine, over-the-plate debut from Matt today. Thanks!

3.3 stars from me.

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


New Yorker– May 12

  • ERIC Adams took his first paycheck in BitCoin and lost a shit ton of money on it. Nice.
  • I have only heard of Joe NAMATH because of that Mad Men episode about the suitcase. (Edit: my sources are telling me that episode is called The Suitcase.)
  • I loved WHAT NOT TO WEAR when I was younger. I watched an episode recently and they’re so mean! I like that on Queer Eye (the reboot) they’re nicer.
  • I’ve never heard of PHANTOM THREAD, but got this based on context clues.
  • BROWNIE POINTS is a great entry!
  • The clue for RICKSHAW talks about the word deriving from Japanese characters. I don’t really understand what that means… Does it mean the Japanese words?
  • I have heard the “months that end with a Y” thing in terms of when to eat oysters! Wait, no, that’s months that have the letter R. (I only eat oysters in months that have the letter K in them.)
  • PROWL CAR struck me as a pretty sinister term. Predators prowl.
  • [Garment that may have cups] for BRA. Are there bras without cups? A sports bra, I guess, is what this is getting at?

Lynn Lempel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Lynn Lempel’s name is typically associated with the beginning of the week. Today she shows up on a Thursday, with a puzzle with fairly tricky clues, but a basic enough theme. The revealer is RUNAROUND and sure enough, synonyms for RUN are found around four entries:

  • [*Native American ritual], RAINDANCE
  • [*Cut from the short loin], STRIPSTEAK
  • [*Finish loads of work?], DOTHEWASH. Is this American-ese? We’d say “washing”?
  • [*Rust-Oleum product], SPRAYPAINT
  • [Evasive maneuvering, and what can literally be found in the answers to the starred clues], RUNAROUND

The general feel of today’s puzzle was one built around accessible answers rather than splashy ones. We get [Light baked dish], SOUFFLE, which is fun to say and a proper name clue for [“Promising Young Woman” writer/director Fennell], EMERALD. Other than that, the only surprising angle I saw was clueing SOUSES as [Makes soaking wet], when I think more typically of drunkards?


Byron Walden’s Fireball Crossword, “Give It a Whirl” – Jenni’s write-up

Sorry for the late entry – it’s a little crazy around here right now. I don’t think that’s why I struggled with this one so much. Today’s offering definitely lives up to the “Blazingly Hard” FB tagline. I solved it on paper as Peter recommended and stared at it for a loooong time before any light dawned, and even then it was only a dim light.

There are three types of clues: Across, Down, and Inward. Inward? I tried reading those backwards which didn’t work, and I belatedly realized that since 6 is one of the Inward clues, reading that backwards was really going outward. And there are five unchecked squares including one in the middle. Once I figured it out, I was really impressed. It’s an amazing construction. Sometimes there are feats of construction that leave me cold because they’re not fun to solve. This one was fun. A lot of fun.

Here’s Peter’s grid so you can see the puzzle in all its glory:

Fireball, May 11, 2022, Byron Walden, “Give It a Whirl,” solution grid

It’s a PINwheel! The Inward clues are the themers:

  • 6i [Low-tech odor blocker] is a CLOTHES [PIN]. Used on the nose.
  • 31i [Spare part?] is a BOWLING [PIN].
  • 35i [Essential item for pastry chefs] is a ROLLING [PIN].
  • 61i [Thumbtack, to a Brit] is a DRAWING [PIN]. I didn’t know that and it seems a bit obscure and I don’t even care.

This puzzle is flat-out brilliant.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of GERI, the Pixar short about an old man who plays chess.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1469, “Shell Companies”—Darby’s review

(Sorry for the late write-up folks. It’s been a crazy week for me).

Theme: The beginning and ends of each theme answer forms a shell made from the name of a company.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1469, “Shell Companies” solution for 5/12/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1469, “Shell Companies” solution for 5/12/2022

  • 17a [“IRS collection”] FEDERAL TAX / FEDEX
  • 24a [“The Senate, e.g.”] UPPER CHAMBER / UBER
  • 32a [“Getting down”] BOOGIEING / BOEING
  • 45a [“Well-pitched game”] TWO HITTER / TWITTER
  • 51a [“Easier, as some puzzles”] APPROACHABLE / APPLE
  • 63a [“Spicy Spanish marmalade”] ADOBO SAUCE / ADOBE

I thought that this was a super fun theme. I really enjoyed BOOGIEING and ADOBO SAUCE, the latter of which made me hungry. As a baseball fan, I was here for TWO HITTER, but at first had ONE HITTER, which would have also been a “well-pitched game.” 34d [‘This very second!’”] NOW quickly made me realize the error of my ways. Plus – bonus baseball answer – 47d [“Sport with no catcher”] TEE BALL was a fun aha moment.

19a [“One-up everybody at open mic night, maybe”] SLAYed me. I thought that that was a really fun answer, and it crossed CELEBRANTS and MEAGER DIET, the upper right counterparts to TOTAL PRICE and HOUSE PLANT. As always, I struggled with names, but I imagine that some of that is the result of having so many theme answers.

Overall, definitely a fun puzzle was a fun theme. See y’all tomorrow!

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28 Responses to Thursday, May 12, 2022

  1. Maura says:

    Hoping someone can help me with Thursday’s NYT MINI even though it isn’t blogged about here.

    What someone who fails miserably is said to take: THEL. Huh? the L? I got nothin’

    • Arthur Shapiro says:

      I didn’t do the puzzle but could it be L for Loss (W/L = WINS/LOSSES) for an athletic contest such as a baseball game?

    • Jczak says:

      “Take the L” is a GenZ phrase/Internet lingo that is used usually when someone takes a loss in a game, or when they make a mistake or suffers from some type of failure.

      Say if someone is up for an exam and hasn’t studied at all, it’s a common thing to say, “I’m taking the L on this one.”

  2. jae says:

    @Maura – Take THEL is Take THE Loss. hi

  3. Bryan says:

    NYT: I think to fully appreciate this one, you have to understand the difference between an umlaut and a diaeresis. Like, reading Jeff Chen’s review over at XWord Info, I’m not sure he got it. Here’s a good article that explains (and also how to pronounce diaeresis, which I didn’t know):

    • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

      Thank you! That’s a wonderful article … and now I have to look for the book!

      • Lise says:

        I’ve read it, and I enjoyed it immensely. Mary Norris is delightful. One chapter is titled “Comma Chameleon”. Just saying.

        • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

          I actually realized I bought that book some years ago — as well as It’s Greek to Me. Highly recommend both … and enjoying the reread.

    • JohnH says:

      Must admit that, while dictionaries don’t sanction it, I always think of the two as just the English-language and German names for the same thing. It’s just that they have a different function in each language.

      No doubt I’m influenced by having long called the double dots in English an umlaut because the alternative is so awkward to spell or to pronounce. I’d have sworn that others around me did, too. But no big deal.

      I’m not a huge Trudeau fan. He churns out puzzles, and to me they generally feel it, but not this one. I found it delightful both in how it works out and how for me as solver it came together. My last step was after it was done, pinning down that the double-O landed above the square with an implicit accented letter. Must say that the WSJ theme seems unusually creative, not just an example of a familiar theme type, too. Both really good.

    • Eric H says:

      Thanks for the link. Now I know I’ve been mispronouncing “dieresis” for the last 20 years.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Hmm … When I found that article after my solve and before coming here, I interpreted it as suggesting that the revealer answer in this grid is wrong. Maybe I need to reread it and think about it a little more, but my initial was that only UBERMENSCH contains an UMLAUT. The other three are diæreses, though I’m not entirely sure about HAAGENDAZS. To quote the article … “An umlaut is a German thing that alters the pronunciation of a vowel (Brünnhilde) and often changes the meaning of a word: schon (adv.), already; schön (adj.), beautiful. … A diæresis is a mark placed over a vowel to indicate that the vowel is pronounced in a separate syllable—as in ‘naïve’ or ‘Brontë'”.

      Doh! I just realized that I completely misread the clue for the revealer, which says that both UMLAUT and diæresis are represented in this puzzle. Never mind.

  4. David L says:

    Thank you for the Björk video. She is just wonderful. Don’t let poets lie to you!

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT: First, a disclaimer … I’m a big fan of Lynn Lempel’s crossword work and this puzzle is no exception. Next, a pet peeve: The clue for PRO {23A: Major-leaguer}. I cringe every time I see this clue/answer combo in a crossword. In the American sports world, “Major leaguer” is generally reserved for baseball players and this clue implies that only major league baseball players are “PROs”. That’s simply not correct. Minor league players are also professionals. They just don’t make nearly as much money as major leaguers. (Yes, yes, I know there’s Major League Soccer and Major League Lacrosse also and I admit that I don’t know if my peeve applies to those sports.)

    • pannonica says:

      To my reasoning, there’s no implication that minor leaguers are not also PROs. It is mentioning major league players without exclusion—either explicit or implicit—of other professional athletes.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Understood … It just seems to me that there’s a misperception, even among casual sports fans, that minor league baseball players are amateurs. They’re not. Clues like this foster that misperception, but as a lifelong baseball lover, I acknowledge that I may be more prone to being peeved by this cluing than the average crossword constructor, editor and solver.

        • pannonica says:

          Fair enough. I certainly have been known to get peeved about casual slights I perceive in areas for which I have specialized knowledge!

  6. David Steere says:

    New Yorker: Another lovely puzzle from Patrick. Never a surprise. Interesting difference with malaika. I remember well the highly praised 35A–see — but have never heard of 32A (since I avoid most TV particularly reality shows). As to 15D, Wikipedia article notes that “Rickshaw originates from the Japanese word jinrikisha (人力車, 人 jin = human, 力 riki = power or force, 車 sha = vehicle), which literally means “human-powered vehicle”.” See also

    • David Steere says:

      Sorry for my poor typing. Correct first link is David

    • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

      Interesting puzzle. I actually found it a tad harder than the “beginner-friendly” puzzles they’ve been running on Thursday. Anyone else?

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Since you asked, my solve time on this one is right in the middle of the seven solve times I’ve posted since TNY started publishing Tuesday and Thursday puzzles and only about 8 seconds below my mean Thursday solve time to date. It felt very easy to me with the exception of the previously unknown to me PHANTOM THREAD. I also struggled a bit with the also unknown to me PROWL CAR, for which I wanted to force in ‘PatroL CAR’ in spite of “patrolling” being in the clue. I thought this was pretty much NYT Monday-easy.

      • Billy Boy says:

        I just resubscribed to The New Yorker after cancelling my NYT XW subscription, (I couldn’t’t take their puzzles any longer just now, so I’m taking a break) Now with so many NYM puzzles, and many really good ones, I had to subscribe to get access.

        I found this puzzle skewed (IF you’re ‘older’) to be rather easy, if you’re very young and ignore the past as much as you can and cancel as much as you can, it might be rather hard. If you’re young and not into sports, JOE NAMATH probably requires a lot of crosses. BATISTA is Kennedy-era stuff, and so on. So … PROWL CAR, as a great example is 1950-1970 cop drama linguistic staple, so it’s relegated to have never even existed, I suppose. /sarc


  7. Brenda Rose says:

    Dear Esteemed Crossword Fiend reviewers:
    Can we stop using the word *cute* to describe a well executed puzzle? To me, cute is an adorable young animal or human. Or meeting cute or being *cute* in a snarky way. If someone told me my composition was cute & I was not any of the above I’d consider it condescending. There are many other words in the language to rate work that pleases. Or am I missing a new description of the word *cute?*

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