Thursday, October 13, 2022

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 4:15 (Gareth) 


NYT 13:12(ZDL) 


The New Yorker tk (malaika) 


Universal 3:24 (Sophia) 


USA Today 8:14 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Note: Fireball is a contest this week. We’ll have a review after the submission period closes.

Peter A. Collins’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Can I Get In on That?”—Jim P’s review

Theme: The letter I is added to familiar phrases, resulting in crossword wackiness.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Can I Get In on That?” · Peter A. Collins · Thu., 10.13.22

  • 17a. [Starts of Scottish lawsuits?] HIGHLAND FILINGS. Highland flings.
  • 25a. [Pairs in need of couples therapy?] TIRADE UNIONS. Trade unions.
  • 47a. [Thing heard on Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” raga version?] SITAR OF DAVID. Star of David.
  • 62a. [Groundbreaking workout routine?] TECTONIC PILATES. Tectonic plates. I like this one. If you’re not making the earth move, you’re doing it wrong.

This would have felt much more elegant to me without the other I’s already present in the original phrases. That said, I appreciate the consistency in finding words in which the added I’s go in the second position. Since there are myriad ways in which one can add an I to a word to make a new word, this constraint limits the theme and gives it some focus. And that said, I really only enjoyed the last entry; the others didn’t do much for me.

I did enjoy EGG CARTON and the quaint-sounding “LEAVE IT BE” in the fill. I kept trying to make ENIAC fit where UNIVAC belonged.

Clues of note:

  • 31a. [Headed for the fence, perhaps]. HOT. As in stolen.
  • 64a. [Frosts]. IRKS. “Frosts” as a verb meaning “annoys”? Is this slang (new or old)?
  • 2d. [Nociceptor’s detection]. PAIN. Your vocab word of the day. From Wikipedia, “A nociceptor is a sensory neuron that responds to damaging or potentially damaging stimuli by sending ‘possible threat’ signals to the spinal cord and the brain.” The word comes from the Latin nocere (“to harm or hurt”) which is the source of the phrase “no siree.” (That was a joke.)
  • 4d. [Gardener’s “Moonfire,” e.g.]. DAHLIA. There it is in the picture. Pretty!
  • 36d. [Transferred from brown to auburn, say]. DYED. I like the angle here, though “transferred” isn’t quite right, and the lack of capital letters was a dead giveaway.
  • 40d. [Raiders’ org.]. ATF. I bet a vast majority of us went with AFC here.
  • 43d. [Summer field]. DISCO. Donna Summer, that is.

3.5 stars.

Lewis Rothlein’s New York Times crossword—Zachary David Levy’s review

Difficulty: Mostly average (13m12s)

Lewis Rothlein’s New York Times Crossword 10/12/2022 1012

Today’s theme: SKIP TOWN (Run off … or how to make the answers to 17-, 21-, 34-, 44- and 53-across fit their clues)

  • RUBUTTED (Butte, MT) = RED
  • BLARED OUT (Laredo, TX) = BUT
  • PROVOLONE (Provo, UT) = LONE

Another puzzle that speaks to my inner road trip fanatic.  Saw BUTTE pretty quickly, went straight to the revealer, and was able to figure out what was going on before leaving the NW corner.  In fact, this would have played really easy (6-7 minute range, close to a PB for a Thursday), except I spent as much time in the SW as I did on the rest of the puzzle.  Really wanted RECIPROCAL to be REVERSIBLE, and did not know ELAINE Thompson-Herah.  Struggled with John DONNEMALTED Milk, TRAVAIL.. nothing too unreasonable, just couldn’t see anything for the longest time.

I wonder if this would have been better as a 21x, as longer theme answers may have allowed the “skipped” phrases to be more colorful (no pun intended) than RED, BUT, LONE, etc.  Still, kudos for the dense theme material and Americana flavor.

CrackingLIMONCELLO — delicious.  Tried to make my own once when returning from Sorrento.  Did not work out.

SlackingWDS — an unusual instance of ugly fill that has appeared primarily in the Shortz era (25 times) and rarely before that (once in 1989, once in 1979).  And it’s not like RSS, or PDF, or something that was waiting to be invented before being put to xword use.

SidetrackingOLDMAN — reportedly set to reprise his role as George Smiley in “Smiley’s People”, having first played the part for “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”.  Now all we need is a proper adaptation of “A Perfect Spy”, perhaps one of the five greatest novels of the 20th century.


Sally Hoelscher’s Universal crossword, “Malpractice” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: All the theme answers start with the name of an evil DR.

Universal Crossword, 10 13 2022, "Malpractice"

Universal Crossword, 10 13 2022, “Malpractice”

  • 17a [*Underwater defense stored in sacs] – OCTOPUS INK
  • 28a [*Negative attitude] – DOOM AND GLOOM
  • 44a [*Regardless] – NO MATTER WHAT
  • 59a [Austin Powers’ foe, or a hint to the start of 17-, 28- or 44-Across] – DOCTOR EVIL

Great title today! We’ve got Dr. Octopus from Spider-Man, Dr. Doom from Marvel, and Dr. No from James Bond – who knew there were so many evil doctors with last names that were common words?? OCTOPUS INK threw me off a little bit because I have almost always heard his name as “Doc Ock” or “Dr. Octavius”, but the internet tells me that is in fact his full name. I didn’t see the theme until the revealer, but once I did it felt very clever.

Other random thoughts on the puzzle:

  • Lots of animals in the fill today, with KITTENS, OCTOPUS, POSSUM, DOE, COW, and, uh, CAT CORA.
  • I didn’t know the definition at 11d [Free to travel] for FOOTLOOSE. To me, that’s just the song/movie.
  • 47d [Sandwich that might save you from hunger pangs] for HERO is a clever clue… almost too clever for me, since I kept thinking “won’t any sandwich save you from hunger pangs?”
  • I only know PAULA Poundstone from “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” but I’m not surprised that she has a podcast – has anyone in the comments ever listened?
  • Things I learned in the puzzle: 8d [Where Zain Asher is an anchor] for CNN, 33d [
    ___ cello (instrument that resembles a jumping toy)] for POGO.

Amanda Rafkin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by Amanda Rafkin features a revealer that I don’t know much about. Scarlet Witch apparently wields CHAOSMAGIC, which is used to indicate a cryptic style scrambling of the letters in MAGIC, found in the middle of several answers. So:

  • [*”Love Story” star], AL{IMACG}RAW.
  • [*Sports event whose medals feature braille inscriptions], PARALYMP{ICGAM}ES. You’d think they’d all have those…
  • [*Candy smokes], BUBBLEGU{MCIGA}RS. Also new to me. We did have hard candy cigarettes growing up, but I haven’t seen them in 25 years, because well laws around advertising cigarettes to children are a thing.

Fast five:

  • [PPO counterpart], HMO. Guessed right here at the intersection with [“Ms. Marvel” star Vellani], IMAN. The clue didn’t really help me, and I considered HBO as well…
  • [Top 10 Lionel Richie song with the lyric “Honey, you’re everything I need”], MYLOVE. Song #3 in his run of 13 Billbooard top 10s in a row.
  • [Like tote bags and metal straws], REUSABLE. I wish our restaurants used metal, since plastic has gotten the boot, they mostly offer paper which gives everything a weird texture…
  • [Oil in some dispensary products], CBD. Don’t think I’ve seen this used in a puzzle til now.
  • [Fish stick?], ROD. This perplexed me mid solve.


Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword, “Move Down a Row” — Emily’s write-up

Whoa. Just whoa. Stellar all the way around—loved, loved, love it!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday October 13, 2022

USA Today, October 13 2022, “Move Down a Row” by Erik Agard

Theme: the word ROW is in each down themer, moving downward from top NW to the SE.


  • 4d. [Equipment for a full-body workout], ROWINGMACHINE
  • 13d. [Ethiopian chicken stew], DOROWAT
  • 25d. [“If it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life…” orator], BROWN
  • 37d. [Javelin competitor], THROWER
  • 18d. [Michelle Alexander book about mass incarceration], THENEWJIMCROW

Most of the themers were partially filled, given that I start with across, so they filled in more easily. ROWINGMACHINE starts off the set getting solvers ready for a (mental) workout. For me, DOROWAT is delicious and filled right in for me though I do prefer fir fir from our local restaurant. The Abolitionist John BROWN was known for his final speech at his trial. THROWER is new fill for me though had fair crossings to give me enough to complete it without a struggle. THENEWJIMCROW is a non-fiction work that has an impressive Wikipedia page for anyone wanted a detailed overview including the court cases it covers. In addition, the word ROW begins at the top of the grid in the first themer with R at the top and moves down the grid (with the next R just below the previous W even!) until the bottom of the grid ends in ROW with the last themer and the final W is at the bottom. The themers also are one row apart, with the third in the middle of the grid. Beautiful construction indeed! Pulling all of this off in one puzzle is truly impressive to me.


Stumpers: DOLAPS (needed a few crossings today), BAMA (needed crossings), and PRIORTO (this one got me today, especially with 20d for some reason and I also needed crossings for it)

What puts it over the edge for me is how well designed the grid is for this theme—it is so visually stunning to behold. Kudos! This just topped my all-time-favorite puzzles list. The theme, the incredible bonus fill, the grid design–I’ll say it once more, in case it wasn’t abundantly clear: whoa.

5.0 stars


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1513, “Pig Bun”—Darby’s review

Theme: Each theme answer switches out a B and a P for a BIG PUN (aka a PIG BUN).

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1513, “Pig Bun” solution for 10/13/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1513, “Pig Bun” solution for 10/13/2022

  • 17a [“Apply ointment to a Georgia fruit”] BALM PEACH / PALM BEACH
  • 21a [“‘That film director Michael, such a whiner!’?”] BAY THE PILL / PAY THE BILL
  • 34a [“One vampire over some Camels?”] A BAT ON THE PACK / A PAT ON THE BACK
  • 43a [“‘Mission: Impossible’ actress Barbara mid-golf stroke?”] BAIN IN THE PUTT / PAIN IN THE BUTT
  • 58a [“With 66-Across, carefully placed obstruction in one’s premiere bit of smut?”] & 66a A BOX ON YOUR FIRST BORN / A POX ON YOUR FIRST BORN

BEQ had some technical difficulties with posting this grid, and I wasn’t able to print the PDF as I’m out of town, so sorry for the delay here.

When I first saw BEQ’s title, I was so curious. Were there going to be oinking creatures involved? While my guess was off base, I thought that this grid was solidly very punny. BAY THE PILL made me laugh, and I thought that A BAT ON THE PACK was worth it, even if it’s a little different from the other themes because it starts with the indefinite article instead of the B of the two switched letters. PAIN IN THE BUTT was also really fun, and figuring out the theme can be helpful even if you don’t now who Barbara Bain is.

I finished the NE corner first, knowing the Across answers in that corner easily, moving from 9a [“Rami of ‘Amsterdam’] MALEK to 16a [“Seek forgiveness”] ATONE to 19a [“‘The Nose’ short-story writer Nikolai”] GOGOL to 26a [“Small, sandy island”] CAY. The SE was also pretty solid, with 62a [“Only Swedish group in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”] ABBA and 70a [“Answered the cattle call”] MOOED really anchoring it for me.

Some other faves:

  • I loved the TED Lasso reference in 50a [“Sam, Dani, and Jamie’s soccer coach”].
  • I recently got my flu shot, and 54a [“Booster, e.g.”] JAB feels like an apt description. My arm was so sore.
  • 29a [“One who gets what’s coming to them”] was something I assumed had to do with karma, so I was pleased at the aha moment when I filled in HEIR.

That’s all from me for today!

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13 Responses to Thursday, October 13, 2022

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Zachary David Levy writes, “[I] did not know ELAINE Thompson-Herah.”

    Neither did I. I typically cringe when I see a “Seinfeld” clue (not a show I ever watched), but it might have made the SW corner a little easier if I’d gotten ELAINE with fewer crosses.

    I enjoyed the puzzle overall. I picked up on the hidden towns fairly quickly, but still had to wrestle with a few of the theme answers. All those O’s in PROVOLONE — my first attempt had PROVO in the middle of the answer.

    And the clever “apt rhyme for fit” threw me, as I was thinking of “fit” as in “physically fit.” It wasn’t until I finished the puzzle that I saw SNIT and realized I had misread the clue.

  2. NYT: For Zachary’s question about this theme being in a 21x, well, I did that for the Post in 2018. I used today’s revealer as a title and had a couple of the same theme answers, too.

    I would not be surprised if someone else had done the same theme before me; the phrase SKIP TOWN is ripe for a “skip over the names of cities in phrases” idea. And in retrospect, some of my theme answers were probably better left on the cutting room floor since some of the changes weren’t exactly radically different (like skipping FLINT in THE FLINTSTONES to get THE STONES).

    But anyhow, I’m chalking this up to “great minds think alike” and I enjoyed solving the NYT regardless. I’ve chatted with Lewis several times before and he’s good people.

    • ZDL says:

      This is where the “old me” would have been grumbling about plagiarism (not saying you’re doing that), so it’s a good time for this excellent Slate piece on identical crossword themes.

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks for that link.

      • JML says:

        Yeah, great reference. Put me in the camp of born-again, no longer grumbling at apparent crossword plagiarism. I was pretty appalled at a puzzle published a few years ago that was glaringly similar to a slightly more recent one and I flew off the handle on here, probably upsetting the more recent constructor. I believe in crossword coincidences now more than ever and love the “great minds think alike” mentality. That’s what constructive (pun-intended) communities are all about!

        • Eric H says:

          I’ve had two puzzles published. The second had a theme that had been used at least twice before, but I didn’t know that when the idea occurred to me. (Actually, one of the puzzles I know of hadn’t yet been published.)

          It’s hard to come up with a good theme. I’m surprised that we don’t see more “duplication” of themes.

      • Papa John says:

        Why should themes not be repeated? As long as the fill isn’t duplicated, what’s the fuss? Themes in the literary world have been repeated ad nauseum.

        • I never said themes can’t ever be repeated. I’ve written puzzles with themes similar to previous ones before. My own personal goal is to have a fully original set of theme answers where possible, but as long as you come up with the theme on your own, then it’s fine — and I know from talking with Lewis directly about it that he thought of this theme independently. There’s no problem here.

  3. marciem says:

    WSJ: I enjoyed all the wackies..

    Hand up for trying to stretch Eniac to fit Univac’s spaces.

    Frosts = irks. I got held up here dropping in ices off the i. I HAVE heard “frosts” used for “irks” (That really frosts my patoot” for example) so it must be old slang.

    Thank you Jim for explaining how ‘hot’ = ‘headed for the fence’!! LOL, I stuck with HIT for a long time on that one, even knowing the cross HAD to be Iowa, and with a home run in mind I couldn’t get the other meaning of fence. Nice misdirect.

    • PJ says:

      I read the clue for 28d immediately after entering SEC. I looked up and had a space. I then put in UNIVAC and sighed. The first computer I worked on was a UNIVAC and pioneering made me feel old.

      • Martin says:

        You’re not old. There were a lot of UNIVACs. Think “Ford.” You’re probably old if your first car was a Model T. Maybe not if it was a Mustang.

        I’d call the 1951 UNIVAC I “pioneering.” A UNIVAC 1108 from the ’60s, say, not so much.

  4. Seattle Derek says:

    David Steinberg and his parents are quite accomplished. Here’s a ten-year-old story:

  5. Dan says:

    Contrary to ZDL’s writeup, I thought the clue/answer combos of Thursday’s NYT crossword were definitely harder than average. (Leaving aside the theme.)

    In fact, I’ve often thought it seemed that if the theme might be difficult to crack, the NYT editors seem to try to ensure that the clues are on the easy side. Especially for Thursday puzzles.

    But not this one. (Which was just fine with me, by the way.)

Comments are closed.