Thursday, August 18, 2022

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 5:54 (Gareth) 


NYT 11:33 (Ben) 


The New Yorker untimed (malaika) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Sam Acker’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hidden Figures”—Jim P’s review

Are you stumped, as I was, as to what the theme of this puzzle is? I’m not totally sure I’ve figured it out, but I’ll give you my best guess.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Hidden Figures” · Sam Acker · Thu., 8.18.22

My solve proceeded thusly: I had filled in nearly the entire left half when I got to the revealer at 65a CHAMELEON [One of three hidden in this puzzle, based on its surroundings]. So we’re looking for chameleons, eh? But I could see nothing on the left side that pointed to anything hidden.

Next, I came to 13d LEONE [Currency in Africa’s Freetown]. Aha! Could this be part of a CHAMELEON? But where was the rest of it, and why didn’t I see any other parts in other sections of the grid? I decided to finish off in the SE.

After some struggles with ERNANI, especially crossing NYK and RACES (clued opaquely), I again saw no other parts of a CHAMELEON. I decided LEONE was a red herring.

Chameleons change colors, right? And there are three long entries with colors in theme: BROWN RICE, GREEN-LIT, and GRAY LADY. So that must be it. Are the letters in the colors somehow changed from the letters in CHAMELEON?

Try as I might to change letters around, nothing worked.

The revealer says “based on its surroundings.” So, what’s around those colors? Well, nothing above or before or after each color seems to pertain, but below each “color” phrase is another entry of the same length: BROWN RICE & STICK IT TO, GREEN-LIT & GRASSLEY, and GRAY LADY & ROCK STAR. A stick is usually brown, grass is usually green, and a rock is often (though hardly always) gray. Okay, I get that. But how are those things chameleons?

My guess is that each of those items are not actually those items in the grid. “Stick” is actually a verb in the grid, “grass” is part of a last name, and “rock” is the musical genre. Therefore they are “hidden” in their entries, but the colors help us to identify them in the grid. So those items are the chameleons. Does that make sense?

I’m not sure I totally buy that explanation, so if you have something better, pray tell.

Fill-wise, I love that SW corner with “HOT DAMN!” and ESPERANTO. DRY CLEANS is nice in the NW and SMIDGEN in the NE. ON A TIRADE feels a bit artificial, but it works. I didn’t know ELSTON but the crossings seemed fairer than ERNANI’s.

Clues of note:

  • 48a. [Baseball’s Blach, Buttrey and France]. TYS. Notably absent: Cobb.
  • 64d. [Retiring]. SHY. Not familiar with this usage.

Well, I often like something different, and this is definitely that. It did require a fair amount of post-solve cogitating to sort out (at least on my part) so I’m not sure it totally works, but it gets points for ingenuity. Four stars.

Adam Wagner’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0818 – 08/18/2022

We’ve got nothing going on in today’s NYTXW:

  • 18A: Paradise — HEAVE[N ON E]ARTH
  • 10D: Home of more than 16,000 slot machines — RE[NO NE]VADA
  • 22A: Bland — VA[NIL]LA
  • 3D: Targets of some waxing — BIKI[NI L]INES
  • 40A: Proverbial assessment for whether or not an idea can be taken seriously — L[AUGH T]EST
  • 32D: More likely to get coal, perhaps — N[AUGHT]IER
  • 64A: Hot tub shindig — JACUZ[ZI P]ARTY
  • 49D: Almond confection — MAR[ZIP]AN
  • 35D: Ambitious email goal, and a hint to four squares in this puzzle — INBOX ZERO

Each of these phrases contains a word meaning “zero” in one of its boxes – NONE, NIL, AUGHT, and ZIP.

Happy Thursday!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1497, “Spot of Tea”—Darby’s review

Theme: Each answer adds a TEA sound to a common phrase.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1497, “Spot of Tea" solution for 8/18/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1497, “Spot of Tea” solution for 8/18/202

  • 20a [“Problematic time-tested book?”] FAULTY CLASSIC / FALL CLASSIC
  • 25a [“Tiny cow?”] JERSEY SHORTY / JERSEY SHORE
  • 43a [“Ill-defined states?”] MISTY AMERICA / MISS AMERICA
  • 50a [“Fourscore in an orgy”] FUCKING EIGHTY / FUCKING A

As always, this is an interesting theme, though it was interesting that the title focuses on tea as in the drink but the added letters are the homophonic TY. I thought that FAULTY CLASSIC and and MISTY AMERICA were fun, and as always, I forgot how many years make up a score (this feels like one of those facts that just doesn’t want to adhere in my brain),so it took me a minute to fill in FUCKING EIGHTY.

Fill-wise, I really enjoyed this puzzle. 4d [“Gets ready, as for an amusement park ride”] STRAPS IN felt like a visceral clue, and I thought 46d [“Good subject”] ETHICS was super clever. I also enjoyed 28d [“It might give you a leg up”] for STILT, 51d [“Male ___”] GAZE, and 64a [“TikTok dance participant”] TEEN. Plus, it was fun to see both 9d [“Seehorn’s ‘Better Call Saul’ character”] Kim WEXLER, and 62a [“Marie who coined the term ‘radioactivity’”] CURIE.

I’d definitely agree with 59d [“‘Was this puzzle fun?’ answer”]: YES.

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

Good morning folks! Let’s just do bullets today.

Robyn– August 18

  • I didn’t realize Titanic was only rated PG THIRTEEN. Doesn’t it have boobs in it? Or are those allowed for thirteen year olds?
  • There was lots of bleh short fill in this, like the partials I LIE and DO A, plus INS as an abbreviation and ING.
  • I love a layout with a triple stack of thirteens along the middle! All three of these were great: HANG ON A SECOND, PARKING GARAGE made sparkly from its clue [Tacoma, Malibu, and Tucson locale?], and WALK IN CLOSET.
  • In the summer of 2020 I read my town’s budget and one of the items was a new FIRE ENGINE. I asked my friends to guess how much they thought it cost and I will never forget my friend saying “$10,000? Wait oh my god. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever said.” (The answer was about one and a half million.)
  • In math class in high school, we had to do an independent study and I wanted to film myself serving volleyballs, and then graph the resulting PARABOLAs. (My teacher said no.)
  • SHEEP DOGS and HALF NAKED were also fun answers.

Jon Pennington’s Universal Crossword, “The Missing Link” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: The word “THE” is omitted from common phrases, and a new common phrase is the result, yet the phrase is still clued as if the word “THE” is there.

Universal crossword solution · The Missing Link · Jon Pennington · Thursday. 08.18.22


  • 18A [Gain an upper hand, minus the secret word] TURN TABLES. Turn the tables. 
  • 24A [Gain an upper hand, minus the secret word] COOKBOOKS. Cook the books. 
  • 53A [Just in time, minus the secret word]] UNDERWIRE. Under the wire. 
  • 60A [Manipulate rules to get an edge, minus the secret word] GAME SYSTEM. Game the system. 
  • CENTRAL REVEALER: [2006 crime film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, or a theme hint] THE DEPARTED. That is, the word “THE” has “Departed” from the answers as clued. 

I enjoyed this puzzle a lot more before I started explaining it right now. One of those that I think is best not overthought. I do think that the word “the” couldn’t be more bland of a “secret” word. My curiosity was piqued when I hit the first themer.. “oooh…. secret word! I wonder what it is!” and then it’s just…. “the.”

I’ve also been on the phone with the cable company for over two hours for what I thought would be a very simple issue, so if any frustration is seeping into this post, please forgive.

Other things:

  • 53A [“Eww, I can’t ___ that!”] UNSEE. Love that UNSEE is a word now. Really enjoyed SEEing this in the puzzle.
  • 42A [“OMG, hilarious!”] ROFL. I think this entry is in need of retirement. This acronym was a somewhat brief thing when texting first appeared. I have never seen anyone use this in the modern era.

That’s all! everything else seemed fairly par for the course.

3.5 stars from me.

I’m still on hold.

Chase Dittrich’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

The central fifteen of this puzzle is SCHOOLCROSSINGS, and there are circled letters spelling out ETMTRI, but those are just place markers for where the crossing occur. ELEMENTARY school crosses its posher cousin PREP school and an ACTING school. CHARM and MED schools intersect at the M. ART and TRADE SCHOOLs connect at the top T. JOURNALISM school has two crossings: HIGH and HEBREW schools.

The theme was certainly an intricate affair, although the lack of marquee answers beyond the 15 means the solve itself was more muted.


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22 Responses to Thursday, August 18, 2022

  1. Ethan says:

    WsJ: I think the idea is that a chameleon would typically turn brown standing on a stick, green standing on grass, and gray standing on a rock. The colors in the puzzle are the chameleons, displaying the appropriate hue for the surface they’re standing on.

    • JohnH says:

      I followed much the same thoughts as Jim’s and ended up just as puzzled. I have no idea. Ethan may be right, but it’s not persuasive either as a theme. Sure must have something to do with those three color entries, especially as otherwise GREY LADY is kinda weird fill. (I don’t know if its dated usage would be insulting today, and anyway the phrase more recently has been used for The New York Times.)

      One thing, though. The revealer says “based on its surroundings,” and we haven’t really yet used that. It must be relevant that all four themers, counting the revealer, are in blocks of two entries of equal length. I wondered if it somehow didn’t matter that green went with grass and that STICK-y like BROWN is a kind of rice. But I’m still lost.

      • JohnH says:

        Oh, I also thought of looking like a proper chameleon for color changes. A lady can also be pink, and the rock below that could be black (as in Black Rock, the home of CBS). Grass can be bluegrass, and rice as an accompaniment can also be white (and many a restaurant offers you a choice). But this looked like a dead end, as, first, it isn’t consistent in its variation between the entry and the paired entry, and, second, there’s no indication in the puzzle of the possible alternatives. Oh, well. I tried!

    • marciem says:

      I agree with your explanation Ethan, and thank you for it. I got stuck in the “Leone” rabbit hole, and gave up after that. And Grey Lady totally confused me, since I think of that as the NYT.

      Puzzle was a fine solve, but theme was confusing and didn’t add to the solve experience (IMO)

      • gyrovague says:

        I found it to be pretty straightforward: imagine that there are chameleons lurking in the grid, turning brown, green and gray to blend in with their adjacent stick, grass and rock respectively. Interesting idea, although the puzzle also works fairly well as a themeless without the colors.

        Gray ladies were volunteers working with the American Red Cross in WWII, according to Wiki. New to me but inferable and reasonable for a Thursday.

        • Sam Acker says:

          WSJ constructor here to defend my puzzle! gyrovague has it right: BROWN, GREEN, and GRAY are three chameleons hiding in the puzzle sitting atop items in the natural world that are turning them their corresponding color. I thought it was a fairly straightforward idea, so I feel disappointed as a constructor that the execution fell flat. In the first draft that got accepted, I did have the upper themers clued in reference to other colors (e.g., GRAYLADY was clued as PINKLADY), the idea being that the chameleons changed from their original colors. WSJ favored a version with simpler cluing, wherein themers didn’t “change colors.” In hindsight, and as is evident by this conversation, that idea might have been too lofty. And finally, in defense of the cluing for GRAYLADY (boy, she is one awfully contentious entry today), I did have the clue referring to NYT in one version, but we all know how constructors have zero control on the eventual cluing. I hope this has helped you understand my puzzle and the decisions I made during construction. Thanks for playing it!

  2. Frank says:

    NYT: Not usually a fan of rebus puzzles, but this one was a fun solve.

  3. David L says:

    Good and original rebus in the NYT, but it included one of my pet peeves — MANSE clued as ‘stately estate.’ A manse is a house associated with a church, where the vicar/priest/whatever lives. At some point, journalists or real estate copy writers decided it was a short way of saying ‘mansion’ — saves two whole letters! — and the usage has stuck. Bah, is what I have to say. Bah!

    • pannonica says:

      This is why I tried MANOR first. m-w lists one sense of the word as “a large imposing residence” but provides no elaboration on when or how that use was adopted.

      • JohnH says:

        And RHUD has two meanings, the second of which is a landowner’s property or [quite explicitly] “mansion.” That’s not falling for the latest mistaken usage either, as RHUD hasn’t been updated in ages. Heck, Hawthorne is no newbie either, and he took the title of his story collection, “Mosses from an Old Manse,” from the house in which he lived. It may at some point have been clerical property, but tough.

        Sorry, but it’s yet another nit that is just imposing one’s tastes on English and blaming a crossword constructor for common usage, even should that itself be misguided. It might be nice to maintain a distinction between a cleric’s manse and a luxuriant mansion, but as an editor I wouldn’t go to bat with an author over it.

        FWIW, I found the NYT really hard fill throughout. I never really got LAUGH TEST without help.

  4. Leah says:

    NYT: I really liked most of this puzzle; clues for 36D and 54D were quite fun.

    But I had problems in a few spots. The dupe of TV (1D, 21A) was striking, especially so close together, and had me thinking something must be wrong.

    My biggest issue, though, was right in the middle. I’ve never heard AUGHT used as a synonym for zero (though I’m from THE US), *and* I’m not familiar with LAUGH TEST, although it makes sense, I guess. I’ve also not heard “straight face test” as such, though that one has 8x as many hits on Google vs. laugh test. I’ve certainly tried to say something ‘with a straight face’ or ‘without laughing,’ but the “test” versions aren’t familiar to me.

    All this to say, it took me *forever* to close up the middle. I entered “aught” thinking “I’ll put it in then I’ll figure out what’s wrong,” and then I got the jingle. Made for a very unsatisfying solve for me, but others’ experiences will vary!

    • Eric H says:

      I got stuck in the same area. LAUGH TEST makes sense, but I don’t think I have ever heard it before. Nor does the Khan Academy sound familiar, so I had no idea on SAL.

      The odd thing was that NAUGHTIER was where I first thought it was a rebus puzzle, pretty early on.

      I liked it overall. Perhaps the clue for MANSE should have used the original meaning, but usage evolves, like it or not.

      • huda says:

        I too had issues in that neighborhood, in part because the Khan academy founder’s full name is SALMAN and so that confused me about the location of the rebus. I knew AUGHT but it’s not at the tip of my tongue, and LAUGH TEST was new to me.
        And the dupe of the TV was also confusing.

    • Gary R says:

      I’m most familiar with AUGHT in reference to years – like “aught-nine” to refer to 1909 or 2009. Seems like I’ve seen the first decade of this century referred to as “the aughts” in print.

      LAUGH TEST was new to me, too. I thought “smell test” or “sniff test” might work with the clue, but clearly neither one was working with the crossings.

  5. Perry says:

    It seemed as though the theme “inbox zero” indicated that an “n” was substituted with a synonym for zero in four answers. This was the case for nil and none but not for aught and zip, the last two were just random. That was disappointing.

    • Eric H says:

      The N works for NIL and NAUGHT because the NYT program considers a rebus solved when just the first letter is entered.

      AUGHT and ZIP aren’t random. They’re just synonyms for “zero” that don’t begin with N.

    • MarkAbe says:

      I think it’s that a word for “zero” in placed in the “box” of a rebus square.

  6. Papa John says:

    NYT was a drag for me because I spent more time trying to figure out how to put in the rebuses than actually solving.

    LAUGH_TEST was new to me, too.

    I have no idea why SEPIA is “antique”.

    Aforementioned dupe with TV.

    BEQ: Once again Brendan shows his locker room immaturity with “shocking” profanity.

    • JohnH says:

      The dupe of TV threw me, too, and like Leah had me on hold while I looked for what I did wrong to get it.

  7. R Cook says:

    I see BEQ is again claiming UNIX is a programming language. (It’s an operating system, not a language.)

  8. Michael Hooning says:

    The “boobs” (I’m glad you said it Malaika!) in Titanic were in a drawing, not real-life, which is probably why they got away with it.

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