Monday, October 31, 2022

BEQ tk (Matthew) 


LAT 2:06 (Stella) 


NYT 3:14 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 7:03 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Emily Carroll’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up

Happy Halloween everyone! We’ve got a very spooky theme today:

New York Times, 10 31 2022, By Emily Carroll

  • 20a [Punctuation marks indicating irony] – SCARE QUOTES
  • 36a [Binges on bad news, in modern slang] – DOOMSCROLLS
  • 43a [Mail that cannot be delivered or returned] – DEAD LETTERS
  • 59a [Hired pen … or, punnily, the author of 20-, 36- and 43-Across?] – GHOST WRITER

So in a nutshell, it’s a phrase with a Halloween-y word combined with something that could be written. A fun re-parse!

I realized while I was solving that the phrases were all eerie, but I didn’t see the writing connection until I got to the revealer. I think part of this was because DOOMSCROLLS uses “scrolls” as a verb, as opposed to SCARE QUOTES and DEAD LETTERS where they’re nouns. It does make DOOMSCROLLS the odd man out theme-wise, but it’s such a fun colorful phrase that I don’t mind at all. I didn’t know the term DEAD LETTERS, but it’s easy enough to guess from the clue.

It’s a very tight theme set, which can mean that the fill can suffer due to lack of choices. But this puzzle has great two long answers that run through three different theme answers in STEPSTOOL and NOT UP TO IT. The other long answers in HARPER LEE and IN ANY CASE are nice too.

I ended up with a fairly average Monday time, but that’s definitely due to my knowledge of both crosswordese and Game of Thrones.  When my mom solved today’s puzzle, she got truly stuck at the ERSE/HODOR/ATHOS and had to look up the crosses (she also refuses to say that EMO RAP is a thing). I think that’s a fair criticism, and there are a few other places (ASTOR/SNOOT and the ELAN/ESTD areas) that weren’t really Monday smooth. I’m curious if this puzzle would have run on a Monday if not for the holiday? But given how well it ties in and how smart the theme is, I’m glad the team made this choice.

Kevin Christian & Andrea Carla Michaels’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Saving Face”—Jim P’s review

For Halloween, our theme consists of people in masks.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Saving Face” · Kevin Christian & Andrea Carla Michaels · Mon., 10.31.22

  • 17a. [Masked explorer] SCUBA DIVER.
  • 25a. [Masked criminal] BANK ROBBER.
  • 37a. [Masked athlete] BASEBALL CATCHER.
  • 46a. [Masked worker] PIPE FITTER.
  • 59a. [Masked hero] LONE RANGER.

Pretty straightforward, but I’m not so sure if PIPE FITTER fits (haha). I suppose if one is doing some welding then maybe, but when I search for images of pipe fitters, very few of them have masks on. Too bad CONSCIENTIOUS PERSON WHO DOESN’T WANT TO SPREAD COVID IN THEIR COMMUNITY didn’t fit instead.

LAUGHFEST and SHED LIGHT top the fill. I’m thinking LOUD TIE feels more green paintish than a real in-the-language phrase. I also noticed some tough-for-Monday fill in ACCRA, EFTS, and ROUE crossing three proper names (KROC, RONA, and PHOEBE).

And that’s about it. Clues were about as straight as the theme making for a quickish solve. 3.25 stars. Have a Happy Halloween!

Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 10/31/22 by Doug Peterson

Los Angeles Times 10/31/22 by Doug Peterson

Boo! It’s Halloween, and the seasonal TRICK-OR-TREAT theme, straightforwardly enough here, is in the clues:

  • 24A [TREAT] is SPRING FOR DINNER — that is, TREAT in its “pick up the check” sense.
  • 61A [TREAT] is FIDO’S REWARD — that is, a dog TREAT.

I dunno…I did themes like this back in the day, but I’m not crazy about “theme in the clues” executions like this that usually lead to contrived theme entries. In this case, at least, DOUBLE-CROSS and OPTICAL ILLUSION are in-the-language phrases, but the other three are clearly chosen for symmetry and length rather than because they’re words that people say together on a regular basis.

The fill is fine for a Monday, with not a ton of proper nouns to trip up beginning solvers.

Nate Cardin’s USA Today puzzle, “Spectral Series”– malaika’s write-up

USA Today, Halloween

Good morning everyone! I hope you are recovering from a lovely / lit Halloweekend. I had fried chicken + french fries for TWO meals yesterday and a whole liter of seltzer water and I can finally feel life draining back into my body. Today’s puzzle is spooky-themed, with three long answers whose first words are a type of specter. We’ve got GHOST KITCHENS, PHANTOM MENACE, and SPIRIT FINGERS. My favorite entry was definitely the latter, as I am not a Star Wars Girl, and there’s a ghost kitchen near me that I absolutely hate. (The DoorDash deliver-ers and their ebikes clog up the sidewalk, and I essentially have to walk into traffic in order to simply pass by.)

Nate arranged these theme answers in a symmetrical grid, with the long answers PHOTOSHOP and HORSERACE on either sides of the grid. I also liked to see a Mariah shout-out in the clue for RANGE (I immediately put on “Dreamlover”) and the clue for ENHANCE referencing CSI, which reminded me of this puzzle.

Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 10/31/22 – Collins

Standard Monday TNY difficulty level for me, i.e., harder than a Saturday NYT.

Fave fill: “IT JUST IS,” POWERHOUSE, BUTT-DIALED, GUERNICA, OFF-LABEL med usage. Thumbs-up for slangy “A’IGHT” as well.

Not sure about having a solitary SALACIOUS DETAIL rather than multiple, but I’ll hazard a guess that a number of right-wing “reports” included one specific SALACIOUS DETAIL (no idea if it’s true or made-up) in relation to the attack on Paul Pelosi. Not too keen on phrases like BOIL UP (?), ROAR AT, CALL TO.

Re: [“Yes, ___” (line cook’s assent)], CHEF — If you didn’t already watch season 1 of The Bear on Hulu, get on that! “Heard, Chef” is perhaps more commonly used in the show’s dialogue than “Yes, Chef,” but it’s a good show with snappy writing and deft performances.

3.75 stars from me.

Trent H Evans’ Universal crossword, “Cool as a Cucumber” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 10/31/22 • Mon • Evans • “Cool as a Cucumber” • solution • 20221031

Quick, tardy recap.

  • 53aR [Good in a crisis … or like each starred clue’s answer, based on its first word?] LEVEL-HEADED.
  • 16a. [*Old pro’s opposite] RANK AMATEUR.
  • 10d. [*Children’s book character who was inflated by a bicycle pump] FLAT STANLEY.
  • 23d. [*New actor’s hurdle] STAGE FRIGHT.
  • 36a. [*Put the pedal to the metal] FLOOR IT.

As per the revealer, the first parts of the theme answers are synonyms for  various definitions of ‘level’: rank, flat, stage, floor.

Not thrilled with the title here, as it refers merely to the revealer answer but not to the theme itself.

  • 14a [ __ the moment] SAVOR, but I had SEIZE at first.
  • 10a [Made a meal for] FED, 27d [Makes a meal] COOKS, 55d [Nosh on] EAT.
  • 46d [Symbol of stubbornness] MULE.

That’s all I’ve got. It works well.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s write-up

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 10/31/2022

Many thanks to Douglas here in the Fiend comments for noting that BEQ made this puzzle available at I was going to give it one more try this evening, and am glad I checked the comments here first.

The first half or so of this puzzle was classic BEQ in the way that I sync with him: GOES MAD for [Loses it] and GIGS for [Jobs] were a quick start with no second guessing. MOS DEF [26d Yasiin Bey’s former rap name] opened a new corner.

The center has some rough spots: the crossing of BEA [30d Duolingo character who wears a bandana] and ABEL [29a ___ Magwitch (escaped convict in “Great Expectations”)] is tough – I feel moderate, not shame, but “aw shucks” at not knowing a Dickens character, but can’t bring myself to learn any “character” in Duolingo other than the owl. I passed a woman who could have been a spitting image of BEA Arthur (with some risers in her shoes, perhaps) on my walk this morning – why not clue BEA to her?

44a [Field for Michel Hazanavicius and Luc Besson] for CINE – am I supposed to nail down that we’re looking for a French word because the gentlemen in the clue are French? I’m not sure I’m buying that all the way.

And QUEEN HIGH [20a Poker hand where one honor takes it]. I’ve never encountered this use of “honor” before. I see it’s from bridge, and am not convinced that it’s used in other games.

Not too much stands out to me otherwise. I guess I’ve never seen EDNA clued to genetic material before, that’s something.

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29 Responses to Monday, October 31, 2022

  1. placematfan says:

    NYT: Sophia, I don’t understand your specific quibble with ASTOR/SNOOT. That ASTOR is too esoteric a proper noun for a Monday? I mean, it’s crossed very fairly.

    I’m a bit huffy right now after just reading Rex, wherein I witnessed the most egregious example of what I’ll just call a Bad Crosswordese-List I’ve ever seen. I like Michael Sharp; enjoy his insight; enjoy his writing style. Don’t really care if I agree with his criticisms; they’re usually thought-provoking and well-explained or evidentially inferable. But not today, on this particular point: just a long list of crosswordese the blogger calls “stale”. So I get why ON TOE or ERSE would be labeled crosswordese, as ON TOE isn’t heavily in-the-language and ERSE is a bit esoteric–and that with both of them (and this is, for me, the primary qualifier for “crosswordese”), you’re going to encounter them more in crosswords than in real life or whatever. Okay, so I get that. But Crosswordese Lists so often come across as “I’ve seen this answer too many times and I would prefer to have answers that are not ones I’ve seen too many times.” But with three-, four-, even five-letter fill, the world where a solver who does nine puzzles a day is going to consistently be presented with fresh short fill just doesn’t fucking exist.

    • Me says:

      I also think ASTOR/SNOOT crossing isn’t really Monday level. SNOOTY is pretty common, but I’ve never heard anyone use the word SNOOT in writing or in conversation, ever, outside of a crossword puzzle. And Mary ASTOR is somewhat obscure nowadays. Although I don’t think any other letter than O would fit in the cross, it’s tricky for a beginner.

      Rex is purposely a bit extreme – hey, would we be talking about him if he weren’t? – but I agree with his general point here. IMO, the first words of the theme answers are too loose – they are words vaguely associated with Halloween, I guess, but not with ghosts specifically in all cases. As Rex said, what do ghosts have to do with doom? And what does Halloween have to do with doom, for that matter? So the theme is just okay, and when that’s true, fill that’s also only just okay doesn’t add up to a great puzzle that’s worthy of the NYT. And I think Rex generally tries to make a distinction between fill that comes up all the time and fill that’s crosswordese. There’s too much crosswordese here for a Monday IMO.

      • placematfan says:

        First point, understood. Second point (“There’s too much crosswordese here for a Monday”), no. MEME, MENSA, NEMO, AD HOC, ARIA, EXES, LASE EROS, ELAN, IMAX, IMAM, PIETA, and I even dare say ATARI, SPA, and ALI … ?! What the hell are these doing on a Crosswordese List?! No, no, no. These go on an Acceptable-to-Good Short Fill list. And if they’re on that list, that makes them ineligible for a Crosswordese List.

        Let’s say the constructor took a blogger’s Crosswordese List to heart, and just for giggles, went and spent four hours “polishing” her grid. What does that finished product look like? What 3-, 4, and 5-letter acceptable-to-good fill that isn’t crosswordese would there be? It doesn’t freagin’ exist, y’all. But a Bad Crosswordese-List like Rex made today tacitly asserts that finished product DOES exist, and that is tacitly illogical; it doesn’t exist, it’s not reality.

    • Eric H says:

      Your last sentence is spot-on.

      I get as tired of the repeated entries as anyone else, but they’re just part of the package.

      It’s hard for me to judge whether SNOOT/ASTOR is a fair crossing for a Monday. I’ve seen “The Maltese Falcon” at least three or four times, and it must’ve been 30 years old the first time I saw it. (I know; some people don’t care about old movies. But that’s their loss.)

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I will start by admitting my ignorance– I had not heard of either SCARE QUOTES nor DOOMSCROLLS. DEAD LETTERS was inferable based on dead cases and the Halloween vibe. But I found these new (to me) expressions to be fun and I’m very glad to learn them. And I was able to finish in standard Monday time, mostly by working with the down clues. This is where crosswordese actually helps :). By the time I got near the revealer, it was very obvious.
    IN ANY CASE, it was an unusual but interesting Monday experience.
    Happy Halloween, y’all.

    • Eric H says:

      I like both SCARE QUOTES and DOOMSCROLLS. The latter seems particularly evocative — we’ve all done it, even though we may not have known this name for it.

    • JohnH says:

      DOOM SCROLLS is new to me, but SCARE QUOTES are old friends.

      On the subject of crosswordese, can I put in a plea against AROAR? Patrick Berry won’t so much as admit it in his Sunday NYT Magazine version of Spelling Bee. Not that it’s the only kinda sorta word begining A- in puzzles.

  3. David L says:

    Are others having trouble accessing BEQ’s website? When I go to it, I first get a message saying that the server is checking that I have a secure connection. After a while it says OK but then only parts of the webpage load and the little blue circular spinny thing keeps spinning….

    ETA: I use chrome on a PC

    • David Manuel says:

      Same here…

    • KarenS says:

      Firefox on my Mac showed an error message with the name of a different website and would not connect for security reasons. I hope BEQ’s website didn’t get hacked.

    • marciem says:

      Same here with Chrome. I’m sure it is a problem at his end somehow. It was a problem last Thurs. also, but finally came through.

      As above, hope he hasn’t been hacked.

    • RunawayPancake says:

      BEQ – Still a problem here as of 5:00pm EDT when trying to download puz file. “An error occurred. Please wait a few minutes and try your request again.” Using Android/Chrome.

    • Douglas says:

      In the comments on his site now, it says go to There, download the zip file (down arrow in upper right). Unzip it for the puz and pdf. Refresh desktop if you saved it there if you don’t see it after unzipping it.

  4. pannonica says:

    Some great potential musical selections for today’s New Yorker crossword!

  5. JohnH says:

    Amy mentions, with displeasure, ROAR AT, BOIL UP, and CALL TO in TNY, and I’d have to agree. For almost any clue in that corner, the SW, it felt like almost anything would do, and I ended up trying, among other things, HAIL TO, TOOL UP, and coming across ROIL rather than RILE. It’s true that then my answer regarding the Disney TV channel and Parks and Recreation were wrong, but there’s no I could have known that.

    I’m afraid I couldn’t make sense of AIGHT, but thankfully I could come here for help. Revealing the word would just have told me I had the letters right. I entered “yes, CHEF” with regrets, as not exactly a phrase in the language (and would the line cook actually use it, rather than just the chef’s name), but I guess it works. I’ve never seen FINES on a road sign either. Does it really happen? I trust that speeding, say, merits a fine, but I’ve never seen that or the amount on a road sign.

    • pannonica says:

      “Chef! Yes, Chef!”

    • Mark says:

      I don’t think they’re as ubiquitous as they once were, but there are no littering signs along roadways. Also, most construction zones have a “Fines Doubled…” sign at the beginning of the zone.

      • Eric H says:

        Now that you mention it, I remember seeing road signs with the amount of the fine for littering. But maybe they no longer bother with those signs. I never saw any evidence that the anti-littering law was enforced.

        • JohnH says:

          Thanks to you both. Here in the NYC area, you’re more likely, in warnings against speeding, to see an appeal to conscience, on its killing people, or far more likely nothing at all. Who knows? Maybe an appeal to greed would be better.

    • Eric H says:

      Regarding FINES on a road sign: It’s common in Texas (and other states, I assume) for highway construction zone signs to warn that “Fines double.”

      I agree that the SW corner was the hardest part of the puzzle. Until I got BUTT-DIALED (with its wonderful clue), I was pretty stuck. I ranted and raved before I finally ROARed. About the only word down there I was certain of was KID, which wasn’t much of a start.

    • GlennG says:

      FWIW (and not a response per se as just stating my own thoughts), I thought today’s TNY to be relatively clean effort and enjoyable, though nothing I would call exceptional (3.5-4.0*). About average for the venue on difficulty for a Monday, though I will note they have never consistently caught their intended difficulty drop over the week.

      IMO, BEQ’s effort (and per average) has a lot more side-eyeable clues/answers and crossings (36A-30D today) and is probably more a candidate for the Stumper+ class this week.

    • R says:

      I’ve seen plenty of signs with FINES, particularly in work zones.

  6. Mr. [Very Very] Grumpy says:

    Thumbs DOWN for “slangy” A’RIGHT [thank you for the punctuation, however], since that is the sort of hip [?] slang [I should probably say “lit” or something equally stupid, right?] that drives me crazy with the TNY puzzles from KAC and Paolo, etc. You have a perfectly good puzzle, and then they have to eff it up with something that an old fart like me has no effing way of knowing … and doesn’t want to know. I think TNY ought to change its rating system. Rather than a “challenging” puzzle, it ought to be “geezers need not bother.” Well, geezers like me have kept the magazine in business for years, so maybe someone should take that into consideration.

    • e.a. says:

      per Ight is a variant of aight, itself a variant of the adjective, adverb, and interjection all right as pronounced in colloquial Black English. It resulted from a series of what linguists call elision, or leaving out sounds. So, in colloquial Black English, all right became aight [ah-ahyt], which was further shortened to ight.

      The spellings aight and ight date to the 1990s, though almost certainly found in speech well before then. One early example of aight in pop culture can be found in the song “I’m Looking for the One (To Be With Me)” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (Will Smith). On it, Smith raps: “You feeling’ aight? You feelin’ aright? …Well next time bring a friend with you / So (they can feel the same way too).” The song reached #79 on the Billboard Hot 100, and helped introduce the form aight to a wider audience.

    • Gary R says:

      I spent a long time looking at AIGHT, but couldn’t find anything wrong with the crosses, so I went with it.

      After the fact, the first two online dictionaries I looked at (American Heritage and Merriam-Webster) didn’t list it, so I resorted to Google. After finding an explanation, I realized that I (a white geezer) have both heard the term and used it myself – but I’ve never thought about how it would be spelled (as I don’t think I would ever write it down).

      To me, it’s more rural than Black, but I’ll bow to’s expertise.

    • R says:

      I remember hearing AIGHT in the 80s when I was a kid, so it’s at least that old, if not older.

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