Thursday, October 20, 2022

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 4:54 (Gareth) 


NYT 11:55(ZDL) 


The New Yorker 4:01 (malaika) 


Universal 4:35 (Sophia) 


USA Today 12:30 (Emily) 


WSJ 6:50 (Jim P) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Hanh Huynh’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Moon Mission”—Jim P’s review

I had a pretty good guess at what the theme would be by pondering the title, but it was still fun to play it out. The revealer is DROP TROU (62a, [Moon, or what three answers in this puzzle literally do]). The letters TROU drop from the Across direction to the Down direction before the entry completes horizontally.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Moon Mission” · Hanh Huynh · Thu., 10.20.22

  • 17a. [Subtitle of a 2020 documentary about John Lewis] GOOD (TROU)BLE with crosser GOT ROUGH.
  • 23a. [The Upright Citizens Brigade, e.g.] COMEDY (TROU)PE with crosser MONSTROUS.
  • 50a. [Gas that can be a gas] NI(TROU)S OXIDE with crosser LAKE TROUT.

Very nice, eh? And those long crossers are lovely as well. I wouldn’t say “I ADORE IT,” but I certainly enjoyed the solve.

With long crossing theme answers, there are some trade-offs in the fill. Thus we get entries like SNEERS AT, IN A SHOT, SEASONER, and ATONER. While I did notice them, they served the theme, and it felt worth it. Plus, there were goodies like the aforementioned “I ADORE IT!,” “SEE TO IT,” “BAD IDEA,” ANALYSTS, and LEISURE. Didn’t know [Luxury shoe brand] TODS, but maybe I’ve seen it before in the WSJ puzzle.

Clues of note:

  • 8a. [Target for a honeybee]. STAMEN. Got me going for POLLEN, especially with the final letters being the same.
  • 42a. [Marinated seafood salad]. POKE. Have we seen this cluing angle before? Not sure, but I’m all for it. Pronounced as a rhyme of “okay,” by the way.
  • 40d. [A clairvoyant would know what letters go here]. ESP. Cute.
  • 60d. [Using it too much could cause you to lose your balance]. ATM. Also cute.

Solid execution of a nifty theme. Four stars.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Fireball Crossword, “Pack Animals” – Jenni’s write-up

The title really helped me out this time. Each theme answer contains a rebus with the name of an animal packed into one square.

Fireball, October 19, 2022, Alex Eaton-Salners, “Pack Animals,” solution grid

  • 17a [1971 black comedy directed by Alan Arkin] was the last one to fall. The rebus crosses 4d [1982 and 1983 National League MVP] and the answers are LITT{LE MUR}DERS and DA{LE MUR}PHY, respectively. I figured out it had to be LEMUR and finally dredged Dale from my memory banks.
  • 10d [Geometry class calculation] crosses 38a [Pithy things]. 10th grade was a long time ago, but I remember INTERI{OR ANG}LE. The [Pithy things] are {ORANG}ES.
  • 25d [Delivering] crosses 40a [Keeping] to give us HAN{DING O}VER and HOL{DING O}NTO.
  • 35d [Dangerous destinations for diplomats] crosses 56a [Place for billfolds]. That’s HARDS{HIP PO}STS and {HIP PO}CKETS.
  • 54d [“Kings Row” author Henry] crosses 61a [2005 rags-to-riches biopic]. I know the movie CINDERA{LLA MA}N and that made it possible to figure out BE{LLAMA}NN, since I’d never heard of him.

The first and last are viciously difficult crossings – one old movie crossing an 80s baseball player and one less old but still not new movie crossing an author who died in 1945. I guess it helps a little to know there has to be an animal in there somewhere. I like rebus themes. I especially like rebus themes that are not precisely symmetrical and don’t have the same string of letters in each rebus square. I enjoyed this one and I still think it bordered on unfair.

A few other things:

  • 3d [Lab equipment provider] is PETCO. Dogs, not scientists.
  • 20a [Like PR, but not marketing] is IN CAPS. Cute.
  • 22d [Coke product] is COAL TAR. Mining, not soda.
  • 46d [“Are you freaking kidding me?”] is OHCMON. I love this.
  • 58d [It started 21,874 hours after Pearl Harbor] is D DAY.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: DALE MURPHY and Henry BELLAMANN. I also did not know that Zac EFRON appeared in “The Greatest Beer Run Ever.”

Rebecca Goldstein’s New York Times crossword—Zachary David Levy’s review

Difficulty: Average (11m55s)

Today’s theme: BLACK SHEEP (Familial outcast depicted three times in this puzzle)

Rebecca Goldstein’s New York Times crossword 10/19/2022 1019


Started to look for EWE hidden across three black squares (ala Evan Kalish’s DARK ART puzzle, for example), then realized a) the BLACK SHEEP are also rebuses, and b) we’re looking for a RAM, a EWE, and a LAMB.  The “-” clues are a giveaway, so it didn’t play too difficult.  The real coup de grace would be finding themers whose split components can stand alone so that they don’t have to be clued in a way that points to the premise, but that’s always a pretty tall order.  There are great long non-theme entries here, including AMY POEHLERI’VE GOT A PLAN, and…

CrackingHARLEM SHAKE — this was a “meme” and “went viral” when there were still people who genuinely hadn’t heard those terms yet.  Get ready to feel old: it’s almost been a decade.

SlackingSULLY — not because of the word itself, but because when someone lands an airplane on the Hudson River and single handedly saves all 155 souls on board, he gets to be the only way we clue SULLY from now until the rapture.

Sidetracking: TWAIN — know who won the TWAIN Prize in 2013?  None other than CAROL BURNETT, whose scene-stealing turn as Marion was a highlight in the incandescent final season of Better Call Saul.

Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Good morning, folks! I was intrigued by this layout, which doesn’t seam to have many long answers. There’s a spanner, a nine-letter entry across the middle, and then a total of four ten-letter entries, but that’s it. I’m used to seeing themeless grids with 10-15 long entries, not just five. It’s also unusual to see those staircase shapes in a grid with 72 words. All of these are things that jump out to me now that I’ve been constructing puzzles for two years, but I never would have noticed them before.

new yorker– oct 20

I loooved all of the ten-letter entries, hell yeah FAN FICTION and BAD ROMANCE. I THINK I CAN and ONE OF A KIND both have an interesting property where they feel much longer than just ten letters because they are both four-word phrases. RED BEANS AND RICE was nice to see because I just finished planning a Dinner Party Menu with my sister, and I will be bringing beans & rice (pinto tho– frijoles charros– not red beans) (and batched whiskey sours).

And I was so impressed by the fun short entries as well! WIFI next to KARATE next to PIRANHA! TRILOGY next to INSIDER next to CASCADE! SIN CITY and THE BOSS! Caitlin is one of my favorite constructors and this puzzle was another reminder of why.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1515, “HBO”—Darby’s review

Theme: In each theme answer, the H of a common phrase has Become an O.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1515, “HBO” solution for 10/20/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1515, “HBO” solution for 10/20/2022

  • 17a [“Dish made with discontinued Apple products”] IPOD SOUFFLE / IPOD SHUFFLE
  • 27a [“What you wear next to a hearth for further warmth”] FIRESIDE COATS / FIRESIDE CHATS
  • 44a [“Shoot French singer Hardy”] FILM FRANCOISE / FILM FRANCHISE
  • 59a [“Western with a ladies’-man lead”] PLAYER OATER / PLAYER HATER

I thought that this was a really fun theme. I love the wordplay in H-B[e]O and the choice of theme answers. IPOD SOUFFLE made me miss having an iPod. It was FILM FRANCOISE that made me crack the themes, and it was very helpful in solving both PLAYER OATER (since I was unfamiliar with what an OATER is (a western)) and FIRESIDE COATS.

I feel like I flew through this puzzle. The top half fell into place pretty easily, especially with BAD OMENS and MOUNT SINAI opening up longer swaths were I might otherwise have stumbled longer. Knowing 18d [“City in California’s Ventura County”] OJAI was useful in figuring out 21a [“Football team originally called the Titans”] JETS. Speaking of sports, 9d [“Letters on Albert Pujols’s cap”] STL was a nice nod to the retiring Cardinals player. NONE was a funny tease in 37a [“Number of World Cups Portugal has won”].

Overall, this was a really fun puzzle!

David Alfred Bywaters’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

There are two different things going on in the theme of today’s puzzle by David Alfred Bywaters. There are four phrases starting with words that roughly imply downward movement running down: DIVING, TIPPING, DROPPING and FALLING. The second part is the clues are reimagined in various ways. The two parts don’t quite come together for me…

  • [Committee members parachuting from an airplane?], DIVINGBOARD.
  • [Feathers during a no-holds-barred pillow fight?], DROPPINGDOWN
  • [Church steeple in hurricane-strength winds?], TIPPINGPOINT
  • [Ball carrier on a wet football field?], FALLINGBACK

Noteworthy entries:

  • [Table protector], TRIVET. It is possible you don’t know the word, even if you have them… They’re the doohickeys you put under hot pots.
  • [Controversial agribusiness letters], GMO. Only really controversial due to fearmongering. They usually add or remove a single protein so unless that specific protein does something harmful, the safety profile of a GMO will not be different to the original.
  • [Words from the weary], IMSOTIRED – specifically one John Lennon.
  • [Second person of old], THOU. Tricky! Second person pronoun!


Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today Crossword, “Topdog/Underdog” — Emily’s write-up

Tricky for me today but still a fantastic puzzle with an awesome theme, fun themer set, and impressive bonus fill.

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday October 20, 2022

USA Today, October 20 2022, “Topdog/Underdog” by Amanda Rafkin

Theme: types of dogs either start or end each themer phrase


  • 3d. [Hybrid underwear type], BOXERBRIEFS
  • 9d. [Popular piece of ‘50s fashion], POODLESKIRT
  • 23d. [Room that might be used for printing], COMPUTERLAB
  • 27d. [Person who popularizes things], TRENDSETTER

BOXERBRIEFS is not an obvious dog per se but it starts with BOXER. POODLESKIRT is a classic that is also iconic and starts with POODLE. Then we move on to COMPUTERLAB, another gimme for me since I grew up with them throughout school, which ends in LAB. TRENDSETTER also slotted right in and ends in SETTER. What a doggone good set! Plus, the two in the upper half of the grid start with a type of dog which the two in the bottom half end with them. Visually it’s also fun from left to right that they alternate top and bottom (“under”). So many delightful things going on with the theme today!

At first, given the lengty across bonus fill, I almost was expecting an across theme but the directional hints in the title cued me to it before I got too far in the solve. The first one is not an obvious dog per se so


Stumpers: DAINTY (cluing had me thinking on the lines of “breakable” so needed crossings), NONONO (needed crossings), and BORGE (new to me)

This puzzle with a down themer set starts off 1d with FETCH. Loved it, despite taking my time filling some of it in here and there to complete it. The bottom half was the hardest for me to break into. My only complaint is that it ends with 53d TROUT instead of “treat” for all of the good bois in this grid!

5 stars


August Miller’s Universal crossword, “We Go Together” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: All the theme answers contain both the strings “IM” and “HER”.

Universal Crossword, 10 20 2022, “We Go Together”

  • 20a [*Large-scale vaccination goal] – HERD IMMUNITY
  • 28a [*1994 basketball film] – ABOVE THE RIM
  • 49a [*”Not now”] – ANOTHER TIME
  • 56a [*Photo of a hot body, perhaps?] – THERMAL IMAGE

And for the revealer:

  • 36a [Folk trio whose name predates 2016, or a hint to two words contained in each starred clue’s answer] – I’M WITH HER

Quick write up today because I’m sick (and as such am already getting this out late) –  I like this theme, even though I’ve never heard of the band (I’m curious if someone involved in the puzzle’s creation is a big I‘M WITH HER fan, or if this is just an attempt to remain apolitical). I had never heard of ABOVE THE RIM despite being a basketball fan, and the excellent misdirect clue on THERMAL IMAGE rescues it from being the most boring theme answer.

There are 5 theme answers and still a lot of long down answers, which is impressive. OUTTAKE, GHOULISH, WINE MENU and EAR CANDY were personal faves. I also disagree with the clue of [Style with straight black bangs] for EMO HAIR because I believe the bangs need to be a little swoopy and cover at least one eye to be truly emo.

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14 Responses to Thursday, October 20, 2022

  1. Laura E-D says:

    My sleepy brain put TPAIN for 36A.

  2. Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

    I didn’t like the inconsistency in the structure of the black squares where the sheep went [two down; one of chunk of five; a solitary square], but it was otherwise an entertaining enough puzzle, although a lamb is a symbol of innocence, and I wonder how the poor thing strayed far enough from the fold to be a black sheep — which is itself arguably a racist term in origin. See, e.g., and I’m conflicted about this one.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    Loved today’s NYT. Now THAT’S a Thursday puzzle.

    • Mutman says:

      Agreed! I had a hard time getting the gimmick, but when LAMB fell (with help from LAMBORGHINI) it was smooth sailing after that.

      • huda says:

        I also thought it was great. And I appreciated the ease of the rest of the clues, so it didn’t feel like a slog..

        • gyrovague says:

          Agreed! Could have easily been a Wednesday. That’s not a complaint; it’s just that there’s nothing too tricky here clue-wise. The solve went really smoothly. It was as if the sheep were lurking in the dark, waiting for someone to come in and turn on the lights.

  4. Art Shapiro says:

    I’m a bit bothered by the WSJ title. Unless I’m missing something pre-coffee, it seems that ROU was dropped, not TROU. What am I missing?

    • gyrovague says:

      That seems a bit persnickety. It’s a cute theme, and it’s obvious that we’re being mooned by the dropped TROUs, not ROUs. I was more put off than Jim P by the roll-your-own IN A SHOT though, and that lamentable SEASONER. Surely another word (seasoned?) could have worked in that slot with some tinkering.

  5. Papa John says:

    Does anyone have the skinny on Zulema? It’s been ages since she’s posted, and I’ve lost track of her email address. At the time of my last contact with her, a couple of years ago (?), she was 85, so you can appreciate my concern.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      She came to Stamford for the Cru dinner last April and unfortunately fell and was injured on her way through the lobby. She was evaluated in the ER and not admitted, so apparently was not seriously injured, and went home that evening. Other than that, I unfortunately haven’t heard anything.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Is this in reference to something in particular?

    • R says:

      Two of those are citing the same quote from the same therapist, and the third doesn’t say anything in particular about the specific phrase BLACK SHEEP, so that’s not extremely persuasive.
      The real etymology goes back a few centuries with some pretty clear connections to actual sheepherding and is potentially as old as European colonization of Sub-Saharan Africa.
      That said, this does seem like the kind of crowd that would jump on that as a problematic phrase, and it’s hard to know why you’re getting no response.

      • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

        There are more if you care to Google the question. I have no answer myself, but I was a bit surprised that the term drew no attention, since this site is usually very sensitive to language issues. I was also extremely surprised that my first post took hours to appear, which was the reason I reposted the links — only to see that post held for a moderator’s review, which was also a first in my experience. And, frankly, I still see nothing objectionable in the question I raised. So be it.

Comments are closed.