Thursday, January 12, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:32 (Gareth) 


NYT 11:05 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:39 (Amy) 


Universal 4:06 (Sophia) 


USA Today 9:06 (Emily) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Karen Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Opa!”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Greek letters have been added to certain words thus making new words and phrases, although the clues are for the un-Greeked words. The revealer is GONE GREEK (62a, [Joined a frat, and a hint to the puzzle’s theme]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Opa!” · Karen Steinberg · Thu., 1.12.23

  • 16a. [*Dorm room wall art, often] POETASTER. Poster. New-to-me word, again despite my supposed degree in English. Per Wikipedia, “The term poetaster, meaning an inferior poet with pretensions to artistic value, had been coined by Erasmus in 1521.”
  • 8d. *[Pans’ partners] POP HITS. Pots.
  • 10d. [*Of lesser importance] MINOTAUR. Minor. Love this one with its Greek myth connection.
  • 17d. [*Sardine holder] TIBETAN. Tin.
  • 35d. [*Medicare drug level] TIPSIER. Tier. Meh. The clue could’ve just been [*Level].
  • 38d. [*Anita’s “West Side Story” pal] MARIACHI. Maria. This is a fun one, too.
  • 43d. [*Spending limits] CARHOPS. Caps.

Nice theme with a few surprising twists. Getting the gist of the theme in that NW corner definitely helped with resolving some of the others.

Eight theme answers is a lot, so there isn’t much to speak of in the long fill department. But ADONIS and ORION make for nice theme-adjacent entries, and I like the international feel with IRAN, BLANCS, ISRAEL, TAOIST, and SENSEI to name a few.

Clues of note:

  • 21a. [College application edge, slangily]. HOOK. Hadn’t heard of this usage before. Here’s a good explanation.
  • 30d. [Org. with a Reflections art program]. PTA. Did you know there’s a National PTA? I sure didn’t.
  • 36d. [Tuck deg.]. MBA. Yet another new-to-me reference. The Tuck School of Business is at Dartmouth.
  • 63d. [“Rats!”]. “EEK!” Cute. Not “rats!” as in a synonym of “darn!” but an identification of actual rats.

Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Grant Thackray’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Average (11m05s)

Grant Thackray’s New York Times Crossword, 1/11/23, 0111

Today’s theme: Spoonerisms

  • STUFFING STOCKER (stocking stuffer — “Grocery store worker on the days leading up to Thanksgiving?)
  • SAUCING FLYERS (flying saucers — Pamphlets on how to use marinara?)
  • BETTING GETTER (getting better — Bookie?)
  • NUMBING TRACKERS (tracking numbers — Devices that help dentists monitor anesthesia?)

This is what some people might derisively call an “old fashioned” theme, which means it’s somewhere in the vicinity of my wheelhouse.  I think all of these land pretty well, with my only real point of contention being that singular and plural theme entries are mixed for the purposes of grid symmetry alone; that always comes off as inelegant, but sometimes you can’t avoid it.  I’ve certainly been guilty of the same.  I wonder if it could have been expanded to a 21x, obviating the need for the arbitrary plurals.  There are certainly endless options (LISTING MAIL — Packages askew?, RAMMING BATTER — Pounding the dough?, etc.)

CrackingROUGH START — I did not get off to one, for once.

Slacking: AGENTRY — if AGENTRY means the “actions of an agent”, does that make CARPENTRY the actions of a carpent?  

SidetrackingMEGAFAN — it’s so close to MEGAFAUNA.  Speaking of which, did you know that the oldest living tree in the world — a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine named Methuselah — was already a thousand years old when the last woolly mammoths died off in Siberia?

Matt Zeleznik’s Fireball Crossword, “Going Halfsies” – Jenni’s write-up

I had a little trouble with the NW corner of this puzzle because I wasn’t thinking clearly, which made the theme harder to pick up. For a while I thought there was some wordplay or other weirdness. There was not. I wish there had been.

The theme answers are the seven longest answers in the puzzle. I know that because the revealer told me. On the surface, there’s nothing connecting them.

Fireball, January 11, 2023, Matt Zeleznik, “Going Halfsies,” solution grid

  • 19a [Haywire] is TOPSY TURVY.
  • 26a [Sweetie pie] is TOOTSIE WOOTSIE. This is where I started to think we had a rhyming thing going on.
  • 31a [Monologue sound] is a RIMSHOT. As in a comedy monologue. No rhyming there.
  • 49a [Popular wartime bumper sticker] is SUPPORT OUR TROOPS.
  • 66a [Liquid drawers] are SIPHONS.
  • 68a [They can be caused by inclement weather or voter apathy] is POOR TURNOUT. Or shenanigans or gerrymandering or intimidation…
  • 81a [Noodle shop starter] is WONTON SOUP.

What do these things have in common? I had no idea (and didn’t realize some of them were theme answers). Luckily there’s a revealer at 89a [Small matter (and when read as three words the letters that aren’t in the seven longest answers in this puzzle)] is ATOM or A TO M. The first half of the alphabet is missing from these answers as the title suggest. Um, OK. This is one of those feat of construction puzzles which was not a whole lot of fun to solve. I far prefer last week’s trickery to this tedium.

A few other things:

  • 22a [Leisurely walk] is a PASEO. This is part of what hung me up in that corner. Some signal that it’s Spanish would have been helpful.
  • 18d [His name has hes] is YAHWEH. Where do I start? Glad to know Peter and Matt think the deity has a gender. I always wince when I see the transliteration of the tetragrammaton written out, because I can’t avoid pronouncing it in my head and I follow the practice of not saying the Name (and I know that might not be the actual pronunciation because no one knows it and thus I haven’t committed a sin and I’m not sure I believe in sin anyway and I still hate it). I presume the clue refers to the second and fourth Hebrew letters. I’ve never seen “hey” transliterated as “he” but I can’t come up with any other explanation.
  • 23a [All-vowel avowal] is a cute and challenging clue for IOU. Seems like Peter and Matt were trying to create some challenge with the fill since there wasn’t much (or any) with the theme.
  • 41a [Play with music] is a SHOW. Um, OK. My midwestern cousins said we were going to a SHOW when we went to the movies. Can’t say the clue is inaccurate and I suppose by this point I was at the bitch-eating-crackers stage with this puzzle.
  • DUSKISH? Come on.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of INES Di Santo. I haven’t been in the market for a wedding dress in nearly 40 years. I have to say that hers are gorgeous.

Brooke Husic’s USA Today Crossword, “Outer Shells” — Emily’s write-up

Awesome puzzle with a fun theme and themer set plus an amazing bonus fill triple stack too!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday January 12, 2023

USA Today, January 12 2023, “Outer Shells” by Brooke Husic

Theme: each themer is enclosed in SH—ELL


  • #a. [Voice of Alexandra Trese in “Trese”], SHAYMITCHELL
  • #a. [Salad dressing bottle instruction], SHAKEWELL
  • #a. [Classroom activity often depicted in “Calvin and Hobbes”], SHOWANDTELL

SHAYMITCHELL stars in an animated fantasy horror series based on a namesake graphic novel that sounds excellent (and needs to be added to my “to-watch” list). SHAKEWELL had fun cluing and it filled in right away for me. However, SHOWANDTELL took me a few crossings since drawing and art class were my first thought, as I know of the comic but missed out on it growing up. I found a couple of stellar examples in which Calvin sasses his class and also pulls the ultimate rebellion by refusing to follow the instructions.

Plus, bonus fun: EGGED lines up with the second themer and ties into the theme nicely since an egg has an outer shell but it’s broken or split when cracked, or in this case thrown at something or someone.


Stumpers: ANTI (good cluing, needed crossings), RIMS (“lens” first came to mind), and LETUP (tried “eased” and “lessen” initially)

Take a look at this grid! Solving in the app, the most noticeable is the starting black space and then my eyes drifted to the eastern side of it, with all the rest of the space. But the most impressive is the western edge with the lengthy triple stack (is it still a “stack”, which sounds better, or is it now “columns” since it’s vertical?) that holds everything together. I love this gorgeous, quirky grid!

5.0 stars


Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 1/12/23 – Reid

Quick and breezy! Caitlin—like our other Thursday New Yorker regulars, Robyn Weintraub and Patrick Berry—knows how to make easy puzzles as well as zippy themeless grids.

Fave fill: BRAINTEASER, “HANG IN THERE!”, SCOUT’S HONOR, MEAT RUB (not that I personally engage in barbecuing, etc.), HARD SELL, “COME AGAIN?”

The rest of the short and mid-range fill is good, super-smooth and free of crud. Exactly what you want in a puzzle that’s pitched to be easy.

New to me: [Additional free throw, in basketball lingo], AND ONE. Makes sense. Never even saw the clue while solving, since the crossings were zip-zip-zip to the finish.

4.5 stars from me, for a light jaunt through themelessland.

Geoff Brown’s Universal crossword, “In The Soup” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Puns about ingredients in soups.

Universal Crossword, 01 12 2023, “In The Soup”

  • 20a [Essence of some mushroom soups?] – MOREL CHARACTER
  • 25a [Like a slightly pale borscht?] – MISSING A BEET
  • 42a [Vichyssoise vegetable chopped into five-sided pieces?] – PENTAGON LEEK
  • 48a [What a seafood soup with poorly prepared mollusks has?] – MUSSEL WEAKNESS

Food puns are a tried and true theme type, but these were pretty funny if a bit random – “soup ingredients” encompasses a pretty wide array of things, after all. Two of the theme answers, MISSING A BEET and MUSSEL WEAKNESS, are about soup flaws, so it could have been funny (and perhaps a tighter theme) if all the answers were about that. My favorite answer was MOREL CHARACTER, while PENTAGON LEEK felt weaker to me both in terms of the base phrase and how convoluted the clue needed to be.

Generally, the fill is very smooth – I could *maybe* see the SELES/AETNA/RAINN area tripping people up, but I personally knew them all, and I think it’s a fair enough crossing. Notable fill included ESPRESSO, CAN’T LOOK, and FOURTEEN (although that one was clued with the impressively boring [Half of twenty-eight]. There’s also a lot of British royal content here, between Meghan and HARRY and the REIGN of King Charles III. I guess this puzzle is really excited to read “Spare”, huh?

New to me: LEN Deighton, ERIN Andrews

Clue I disagreed with: that FILA is a converse competitor. Idk man, Filas are known for being chunky and Converse are… not. I really thought this was gonna be “Vans”. They’re both shoe brands, but minimally comparable ones in my opinion.

Amie Walker’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’

LA Times

Quick because our fourth two hour period of rotational power cuts for today is about to start: there are six four letter “___ RED” colours, with the revealing answer – RIGHTONRED. That’s turning right into traffic here… Five of the six reds seem pretty common from over here: WINE, RUBY, RUST, BEET and ROSE. LAVA red is news to me though…


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25 Responses to Thursday, January 12, 2023

  1. Ethan says:

    ZDL: Re: the NYT, your examples don’t quite work. The theme is transforming a phrase of the form “X-ing Y-er” to “Y-ing X-er.” RAM and LIST don’t have the -er ending that made this such a tight theme set. This concept definitely falls under the category of “dang, wish I’d thought of it” for me.

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: I picked up on the theme easily enough, but found it hard to come up with the second half of BETTING GETTER and the first part of NUMBING TRACKERS.

    All the theme answers were reasonably amusing, but I especially liked SAUCING FLYERS.

    I thought it was on the easy side for Thursday. My only real snag was the crossing of AMPM/PIGMENT; even after I had the last several letters of PIGMENT I had trouble getting the answer.

    • Dallas says:

      Fun puzzle, really nice theme. It took me a little bit to get the theme, but it helped me realize that I didn’t have BETTING GETTER right; the cross with AGENTRY was not obvious to me.

      I’m beginning to wonder how popular EMO RAP is outside of the crossword constructors community…

      • JohnH says:

        That was my reaction to EMO RAP, too. Seen it before in crosswords, so not hard, but still crosswordese. Similarly, I kept wondering why “agency” didn’t fit rather than AGENTRY. EMUs at war are also a bit obscure. (My last to fall was the clever crossing of the two examples of the same meaning for “catch,” as fish.) But overall an amusing puzzle.

    • AlanW says:

      I thought BETTING GETTER was a stretch to begin with. But crossing GETS A C? No.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: That theme looks cooler the more you stare at it. Very clever…
    I had no idea that AGENTRY was a word…
    Thanks for the link re the Bristlecone pines. So awesome.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I met Methuselah on a road trip from San Francisco to Salt Lake City a while back. It was an awesome experience standing there contemplating everything that tree lived through. I highly recommend a visit. The hike was well worth it.

  4. JohnH says:

    I’m sure I’m just being dense, but what does the WSJ title refer to? Once I had POTS for a theme answer in the NE, I saw that the entry has extra letters. Should I include OPA? I thought of POP TARTS and the less felicitous POP ARTS, but neither was quite the combination I sought. In due time, branching out, the inclusion of Greek letters was easy to see, but OPA! still puzzles me.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      “Opa!” is a Greek celebratory exclamation often heard at weddings and during traditional dancing. It’s a joyful shout meaning “Hurray!” or “Bravo!”

      The word often shows up in crosswords but is often clued as a German grandfather. Lately I’ve seen it more often with its Greek meaning. Anyway, it doesn’t really have a lot to do with the puzzle theme other than being Greek.

      • Mr. [not even a little bit] Grumpy says:

        A Google search tells me that OPA means “to jump” — which would fit the theme very precisely … except for MARIACHI, I guess, since you’d be jumping off the grid. Loved the puzzle, even though [or maybe because] it confused and frustrated me for the longest time.

      • PJ says:

        Years ago in a Greek restaurant, the table would shout Opa! when the saganaki was ignited.

  5. Clarissa Otonye says:

    Kinda felt like they ran the NYT on the wrong day. Enjoyable and clever, but more of a Wednesday.

  6. Clay Patrick says:

    WSJ — I liked all but the SW where the Greek letter added to Maria was NOT inside the longer answer (like all of the other theme answers), but at the end. That lack of consistency bugged me until I realized reins had to be 67A, which meant 38D ended in I. Sigh.

    • JohnH says:

      That one took me a tad longer, because of its falling at the end, but the revealer doesn’t call for a container.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    TNY … I could be over-thinking it (this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of that), but the clue for AND ONE {46A: Additional free throw, in basketball lingo} seems at least a little off the mark. I know basketball lingo very well and don’t think of an AND ONE as an “additional” free throw. It’s a single free throw that you get if you’re fouled while making a basket.

    • Mr. Grumpy says:

      Maybe they were thinking of the one & one when the shooter did not make the original basket? Not a great clue regardless.

    • Phil W. says:

      “LeBron makes the shot and one,” meaning he made the basket and has the chance for a three-point (or four-point) play. Very common term in basketball/basketball play-by-play.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        As I tried to say in my post, I’m aware that “AND ONE” is a common basketball phrase and I know what it means. I wasn’t questioning if it’s a valid phrase. It’s the phrasing of the clue that clanked for me. To me, it’s not an “additional” free throw. It’s a single free throw that follows a made basket. It’s a relatively minor problem and I’ve definitely seen worse in crosswords, but I think the wording here is imprecise.

  8. Katie+M. says:

    TNY: Let’s give credit to Sandra Boynton for 10D “MOO, Baa, La La La!”. I love that book.

  9. AVXW (but not that AVXW) says:

    Jim: I’m a constructor who was inspired to come up with a theme based on one of your write-ups a couple years back. Given that you offered one or two starting ideas, I’d love to either collaborate with you or get your blessing to run with it.

Comments are closed.