Thursday, May 26, 2022

BEQ untimed Darby) 


LAT 7:43 (GRAB, 1 ERROR) 


NYT 7:14 (Ben) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 2:45 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


The New Yorker 5:56 (malaika) 


Fireball 4:54 (Amy) 


August Lee-Kovach & Martin Kovach’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Going Downhill Fast”—Jim P’s review

August Lee-Kovach just turned 15 I believe, but he already has three NYT puzzles under his belt. The other name in the byline is new and is undoubtedly some relation in August’s crossword-solving family. Both are making their WSJ debut here. Congrats!

SKI SLOPES is the revealer at 66a [Spots for moguls, and what happens in each set of circles]. I’m not seeing how SKI actually SLOPES in the circled letters, but those circled letters comprise words that can precede “ski” or “skiing.”

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Going Downhill Fast” · August Lee-Kovach & Martin Kovach · Thu., 5.26.22

Those circled-letter words are ALPINE, NORDIC, and WATER. To me it sounds better if we use the word “skiing” because I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “Alpine ski” or “Nordic ski”.

I can’t say I got a lot out of the theme. It feels rather light, to be honest.

But the rest of the grid has plenty of enjoyable fill, almost on the level of a good themeless puzzle. Highlights include SLOW START, DINNER DATES, DNA SAMPLE, MIND READERS, “TOO EASY!,” BAVARIA, DROPPED IN, and WASABI. With the triple-checked circled letters of the theme constraining the grid, that’s quite a lot of long, fun entries.

I’ll accept AS WE SAY, but it feels like the less common cousin of “as they say” or “so they say.” I didn’t remember PIET Mondrian, and—oh yeah—I finished the puzzle with an error (for the second day in a row) at the crossing of ORU [Tulsa sch.] and ARR [Dep.’s counterpart]. The former seemed like it should be OSU for Oklahoma State Univ (it’s not, that’s in Stillwater), and the latter, well, “Dep.” could be a lot of things—dependent, depot, deposit, deputy. So I figured ASR was just something I didn’t know.  I didn’t think of departure even after I filled it in correctly. Not a fair crossing if you ask me, but it could be made fairer with less ambiguous cluing.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Feign astonishment]. GASP. Not so sure I agree with the clue. Nothing about GASP implies pretense.
  • 23a. [Awkwafina’s real first name]. NORA. Her surname is Lum, which you might be wise to store away for future use as well.
  • 39a. [Like a C in calculus?]. HARD. Cute clue.

A very nice grid with lovely fill. Theme felt light but pleasant enough. 3.5 stars.

Jonathan M. Kaye’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0526 – 05/26/2022

I’d gamble it didn’t take long to figure out what today’s NYT was referencing in its clues:

  • 20A: You’ve got to know when to hold ’em — WRESTLING MATCH
  • 31A: Know when to fold ’em — ORIGAMI CLASS
  • 41A: Know when to walk away — LOWBALL OFFER
  • 57A: And know when to run — ELECTION SEASON


and remember: you never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

Could you imagine an ABBA (1A, “”The Winner Takes It All” group”) cover of this?  Oddly enough, I can.

Happy Thursday!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1473, “Square It’s At”—Darby’s review

Theme: The W sound in each phrase has been replaced with an SQ. Thanks to marciem in the comments for pointing this out to me!

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1473, “Square It's At” solution for 5/26/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1473, “Square It’s At” solution for 5/26/2022

  • 17a [“Quick perception of an unoiled joint”] SQUEAK AT A GLANCE / WEEK AT A GLANCE
  • 27a [“Go ‘whee!’ while parachuting?”] SQUEAL IN THE SKY / WHEEL IN THE 
  • 44a [“Winces in someone’s face”] SQUIRMS EYEVIEW / WORM’S EYEVIEW
  • 60a [“Stashed away energy?”] SQUIRRELED POWER / WORLD POWER

Since it took me over a day to get this theme, I think it was a bit difficult, but it’s definitely still BEQ’s signature clever wordplay.

This was a fun grid with a few nice interlocking answers like 1d [“With 58-Down, ‘Agreed’] and 58d making up IT’S A DEAL and 67a [“59-Down in the US”] and 59d [“67-Across in the UK”] for an ASS/ARSE combo. A fun set of humans made up the center with 35a [“Kansas governor ___ Kelly”] LAURA and 42a [“Kirsten of ‘Melancholia’”] DUNST being my favorites. I was less familiar with 39a [“‘Semper Fidelis’ composer”] John Philip SOUSA, but I suspect that’s my own gap in knowledge.

Also, there were some fun puzzle-oriented clues, including 7d [“Puzzle within a puzzle”] META and 55d [“Puzzle’s central components”] ZEES, which I think are always cute and fun to see.

Grid-wise, this symmetric grid had such a fun columns that had a nice 8-letter set stacked with 6-letter answer starting at 4d with PRESSURE over 45d INSIST and 10d [“So you’re saying there’s a ___”] CHANCE and 40d POINT OUT. Overall, it stayed really smooth, despite two 15-letter themers and two 14-letters, which was pretty incredible.

Rebecca Goldstein’s USA Today Crossword, “Down to the Wire” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: The final word of each vertical theme answer can precede WIRE in a phrase.

USA Today, 05 26 2022, “Down to the Wire”

  • 3d [Arriving aggressively] – COMING IN HOT (hot wire)
  • 15d [Nickname for Australia] – LAND DOWN UNDER (underwire)
  • 27d [Plugging away on an assignment] – WORKING HARD (hard wire)

Well, the only bad thing I can say about this puzzle is that I now have “we come from a LAND DOWN UNDER” by Men at Work (WORKING HARD?) stuck in my head. I love all of the theme answers, and the resulting “wire” phrases are nice too. And like any good USA Today puzzle, the title adds a whole other layer by pointing out how the theme entries literally go “down” to the wire. Top notch work all around.

It’s a testament to how strong this puzzle’s fill is that at first I didn’t even realize the theme answers were vertical – I was distracted by LIMO RIDES, NO SWEAT, HOVER CAR, DRAG RACE. Once I realized where the theme answers were, I was amazed by the center stack of NOAH’S ARK, LAND DOWN UNDER, and SHREDDER (a gimme answer for me as a late 90’s kid). If I do have one complaint about the puzzle, it might be that there are a fair amount of blocks of 3 letter answers all stacked together, but even those have interesting clues like [Comedian Lara] for IAN and [Museum of Islamic Art architect I.M.] for PEI. It’s great when common answers can still teach you new things.

Happy Thursday all!

Katherine Baicker and Laura Dershewitz’s Universal Crossword, “Keep Your Mitts Off!” — Jim Q’s write-up

Just appreciating that title now. Good one!

THEME: The word HAND can come either before or after each of the words in a common two-word phrase.

Universal crossword solution · “Keep Your Mitts Off!” · Katherine Baicker · Laura Dershewitz · Thursday. 05.25.22


  • SECOND DOWN. Second hand. Hand down. 
  • FARM STAND. Farmhand. Handstand. 
  • THIRD RAIL. Third hand. Handrail. 
  • HEAVY CREAM. Heavy hand. Hand cream. 
  • (revealer) INVISIBLE HAND. 

The word-that-can-precede/come-after theme is certainly nothing new, yet it somehow manages to feel fresh here. I like that “hand” is “invisible” in the sense that it feels hidden right in the middle of the phrase, where it consistently comes after the first word and precedes the second. Also, all of the phrases are familiar in this puzzle- nothing feels shoehorned (which is often the case with these types of themes). Bravo!

Fave fill was UBER-NERD next to NO REASON. The fill suffers a bit with the amount of theme perhaps. IS IT ME? close to the “AM I…” almost has a dupe feel. LAVAS is an odd plural. And some other stuff felt a bit bland, but the theme was clever enough to redeem anything negative in there. Last nit is having SECOND as one part of a themer and THIRD as another.

Fun one! Is this a debut for Laura Dershewitz? I have no record of seeing that constructor’s name in a past puzzle. If so, congrats!

4 stars.

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker Puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Every time I solve one of Paolo’s puzzles, I think “man, I vibe with Paolo so much.” I liked this puzzle for the same reason I like all of his puzzles: they’re fresh, lively, playful, and feel like they were written for me, specifically. If you do not vibe with Paolo, I hope there are other constructors you vibe with. This layout featured what I’m calling quad-stacks in the NW and SE (three 8s atop a 10) plus stealth 15s running down either side.

TNY: May 26


Fun clues were [Animals at the ends of alphabet books, often] for ZEBRAS, [Sign next to a new coat] for WET PAINT, [Part of a spelling rule defied by science?] for I BEFORE E, [“Now it’s your turn to talk to me on the walkie-talkie”] for OVER.

Also, I wanted to call out some of the clues where Paolo / The New Yorker editors made this puzzle easier. Easy themeless puzzles are new for me– I don’t think I really solved any before the past year. The New Yorker does a good job of smoothly integrating extra bits of information into the overall term in clues like these:

  • SEA DOG: Canine term for a veteran sailor
  • PET SCANS: Medical-imaging tests that are, aptly, sometimes used on cats and dogs
  • HILO: Hawaiian city whose name starts with Hawaii’s postal abbreviation
  • ETON COLLAR: Stiff shirt attachment named for a British prep school
  • GANG: Yang ___ (rhyming term for fans of a 2020 Presidential candidate)
    • (I’m just waiting for him to announce he’s running for NY10)

Blake Slonecker’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by Blake Slonecker certainly felt very busy. To fit the central ten-letter revealer, BLOCKCHAIN, and possibly also to help the grid breathe a bit more, the puzzle is 16×15. Each of four 3×2 blocks spell six letter US take-away chains: PANERA, WENDYS, CHILIS and SUBWAY. CHILIS is the least familiar of those, but have at least heard of all them despite only one, SUBWAY, being in South Africa, if only barely.

With the big chunks of helper squares in the top-right and bottom-left, this grid has a whopping 44 black squares. The design was also walled off into discrete sections, which often makes thing easier, but today proved to make me get mired frequently. I clung to SupercOOl for SCARYGOOD at 5D for way too long. I also finished with HOWDy at 9d and though POPy made little sense, I couldn’t see any other words…

Individual entries:

  • [Plastic fig.?], APR. Completely new one for me: google suggests Association of Plastic Recyclers.
  • [Round bakeware], TUBEPANS. I really struggled here, even with TUBE; google suggests that they are what I think of as BUNDTPANS, but that the latter is actually more restrictively defined.
  • [Digital ledger that stores non-fungible tokens, and what can be found in each set of shaded squares], BLOCKCHAIN; did anyone read that wall of text?
  • [Army swimmers?], OCTOPI. Because they have lots of tentacles, er, arms.
  • [French article], LES. Or Spanish pronoun…


Paul Coulter’s Fireball crossword, “Or Else”—Amy’s belated quick recap

Fireball crossword solution, 5 26 22, “Or Else”

Terrific theme! Each long themer starts with a rebused 4-letter word, and in the Down crossing, that word is parsed as “X or Y” and either of the two letters works for the crossing clue.

  • 20a. [Medallion makeup, maybe], {PORK} TENDERLOIN. Crossing 5d. [Furtive glance] could be either PEEK or PEEP, one of those instances where in a standard puzzle you’d need the crossing to know which letter fits. Here, it’s P or K.
  • 33a. [SUV introduced in the 1991 model year], {FORD} EXPLORER. 33d. [Stun], FAZE or DAZE.
  • 41a. [Food that a Butter Boy butter dispenser is designed for], {CORN} ON THE COB. 41d. [Sanctuary spot], CAVE or NAVE.
  • 53a. [Keeper of the U.K.’s Great Seal of the Realm], {LORD} CHANCELLOR. 53d. [Structure on a waterway, perhaps], LOCK or DOCK.

This is a 5-star theme. Overall vibe for rest of the puzzle less thrilling. Let’s call it 4.5 stars for the themed and non-themed entirety.

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21 Responses to Thursday, May 26, 2022

  1. EricH says:

    NYT: Nice enough puzzle, but Thursday should take more than one second longer than Wednesday.

    Maybe by tomorrow, I’ll get that damned song out of my head.

    • huda says:

      yeah, that song is really sticky. I happen to agree with it (including in the context of doing science), so it was nice to see it as a puzzle theme…

  2. JohnH says:

    Good point about “Dep.” in a WSJ puzzle I, too, found underwhelming. I wondered, say, if it might mean “department” in the sense of a division of a country similar to U.S state, as in France and so maybe the desired fill could be SSR, that old crossword setter favorite. It’d give OSU for the university, which sure sounded plausible, although NOSH coming down, which was plainly a problem, although I could not have given you succession at the Daily Show off the very top of my head. The whole sector could have been clued better of otherwise improved. Maybe the theme works for avid skier.

    • Mr. [Very] Grumpy says:

      I thought the WSJ theme was a complete fail. How does WATER skiing go DOWNHIll or involve SKI SLOPES? I might have accepted SLALOM, which would have been six letters like the other two themers, but WATER? No.

  3. marciem says:

    BEQ: Theme … Initial W sound is traded for SQ.

    Week at a glance
    Wheel in the sky
    Worm’s eye view
    World Power.

    • David L says:

      That’s what I decided must be it, although (a) ‘Wheel in the Sky’ means nothing to me (Google sez it’s a song by Journey; I don’t know if that’s the intended reference) and (b) ‘squirreled’ and ‘world’ aren’t at all similar for me, although I’m aware that some people pronounce squirrel to rhyme with girl.

      Also, I don’t quite see how to get from ‘winces in someone’s face’ to SQUIRMSEYEVIEW.

      • marciem says:

        I know the Journey song, so that was a gimme, theme wise. I needed all the crossings for squirmseyeview since it made no sense to me from the clue. I don’t know anyone who actually rhymes squirrel with girl, but Ogden Nash rhymed Purple with Syruple, so close is good enough :D :D .

        Not necessarily BEQ’s best but still interesting as always. The title works with the theme.. Square its at/where its at

        • marciem says:

          oops, wasn’t Ogden Nash (though he would have, I think :D), was a Roger Miller song… about violets are purple, sugar is sweet and so is maple surple.

  4. Ethan says:

    NYT: This is the nit of nits, but LOWBALL OFFER doesn’t quite fit for me as a “when.” The other three, a MATCH, a CLASS, a SEASON, are actually periods of time or events so they can be “when” you would do a certain thing.

    Put another way:
    You hold ’em during a wrestling match. Check.
    You fold ’em during an origami class. Check.
    You walk away during a lowball offer? I wouldn’t say it that way.
    You run during election season. Check.

    Again it’s the nit of nits, so I might be on an island here. Carry on.

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT … Yikes! I really found this puzzle to be out of character for an LAT Thursday. It puzzle took me about 80% longer to solve (10:41) than my 6-month median LAT Thursday solve time (5:55). Heck, my current Saturday median is a full minute less that what it took me to solve this one. It’s not unusual for me to have a tough time with Blake Slonecker’s puzzles, but I found this puzzle to be particularly difficult.

    I didn’t understand the theme at all while I was solving and after staring at the completed grid for a few minutes post-solve, I still didn’t get it. I see that the letters in the circles spell out CHAIN restaurants, but what does BLOCK have to do with anything (I guess because the circled squares are sort of BLOCK-shaped?). And what is a “Digital ledger that stores non-fungible tokens”? I gather that it must be something called a BLOCK CHAIN {34A: Digital ledger that stores non-fungible tokens, and what can be found in each set of shaded squares}, but I have no idea what that is. When I saw SUBWAY, I figured that the theme somehow related ‘tokens’ (even if SUBWAY tokens are fungible). Nope.

    Then there were the clue/answer combinations in the fill. I won’t list all the things that gave me trouble here because it’s not my blog, but suffice it to say that there was a lot that was on a different wavelength than mine.

    • Gareth says:

      You’ve got the theme, more or less. The BLOCKCHAIN is a decentralised store of information that is spread redundantly over a number of different computers. The two most well-known uses are in recording cryptocurrency transactions and non-fungible tokens, effectively, signed copies of digital data that are considered unique (non-fungible) and therefore collectible, in theory.

      Patti Varol has definitely been exploring a lot of new ground in her clues, a lot like Peter Gordon is wont to do. I think we are going to have to take notes of these new clues, as as regular solvers we were used to getting a lot of freebies out of reruns…

    • Papa John says:

      What is Blockchain: Everything You Need to Know (2022)

      [What has happened to the Comments section? The line above is a Web link that is not activated. If you want to read the article, copy and paste in Google. I have to enter my personal info each time I post. Apparently, it’s no longer saved. What affected these changes?]

    • Billposter says:

      I got blockchain but “Ohio”??

  6. Billy Boy says:

    (New Yorker) Is it just me or are easy themeless better puzzles (by a long shot) than easy themed ones (e.g. – Monday NYT)?

    So much more enjoyable.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      A theme has to be really amazing for me to enjoy a themed puzzle as much as a themeless. Not every easy themeless is fun—if the fill is stodgy and the clues are flat, it’s not worth the time. But an easy New Yorker themeless with interesting fill and clues? Sign me up.

  7. BarbaraK says:

    LAT: Credit cards (plastic) charge interest at an Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

  8. Gloria Elizabeth says:

    LAT: A tube pan (metal, round with slightly tapered sides and a central tube) is the traditional baking pan for Angel Food Cake (a fluffy white cake made with thickly beaten egg whites and no yolks). Thank you Barbara K for clarifying APR.

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