Thursday, January 26, 2023

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 8:08 (Gareth, 1 ERROR) 


NYT 23:40 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:57 (Amy) 


Universal 3:41 (Sophia) 


USA Today 9:24 (Emily) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


WSJ 9:39 (Jim) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Categorized”—Jim P’s review

Each theme entry is a title of a work that spells out (with circled letters) the category in which that work belongs.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Categorized” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 1.26.23

  • 20a. [2014 **** by David Mitchell] THE BONE CLOCKS. Book.
  • 25a. [1957 **** by Langston Hughes and David Martin] SIMPLY HEAVENLY. Play.
  • 42a. [1969 **** by Joni Mitchell] CHELSEA MORNING. Song.
  • 48a. [1989 **** by Phil Alden Robinson] FIELD OF DREAMS. Film.

Nice. Things clicked sometime while piecing together the first two entries, so that aided me in filling out the bottom half. Sadly for me, I only know one of these titles (the film), but I still think it’s a nifty theme. And what an odd coincidence that we have two Mitchells and two Davids among the creators here. There can’t be that many titles that are potential theme entries here.

Never heard of DOT BOMBS [Failed internet companies, facetiously], but it was inferable and an interesting entry. I also liked ICE CAVE and LUIGI’S Mansion. I didn’t remember OPPO [Campaign research, informally], but I feel like I’ve seen it in a puzzle before.

ICE CAVE in Norway

Clues of note:

  • 38a. [Alluring skirt feature]. SLIT. In truth, the clue doesn’t specify the gender of the one being allured here (nor the skirt-wearer for that matter), but it still feels gross. There are a million other (better) ways to clue this.
  • 9d. [Feature of Norway’s Nigardsbreen glacier]. ICE CAVE. If ice caves are your thing, here’s a listing of the world’s best.
  • 12d. [Line on un passeport]. NOM. Time for a PSA. If you’re due to get a new passport or a renewal (especially for a child), do it as soon as you can. Getting an appointment for an in-person application has been crazy since the pandemic started. There is even a black market of people getting appointments and then selling them for a profit. My daughter has a school trip to Mexico in June, and thankfully we were able to make an appointment for this week to get her application in. Otherwise we were looking at a month’s wait just for the appointment.
  • 53d. [Brochette]. SPIT. As in a skewer, not a gob of saliva.

Solid theme (even though I only knew one of the entries). 3.75 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 157” – Jenni’s write-up

This is a quick one since I have to finish packing before the alarm goes off at 4:15 AM tomorrow. It’s a themeless, it wasn’t particularly hard, and it was pretty interesting.

Fireball, January 25, 2023, Peter Gordon, “Themeless 157,” solution grid

  • 1a [Film subtitled “The Voyage Home”] is STAR TREK IV. I knew it was a Trek movie and couldn’t remember which one. 10d helped eventually. [Neon sign outside the old Pioneer Club casino in Nevada] is VEGAS VIC and I knew it had to be a Roman numeral.
  • The first answer I entered was 4d [Pooping daily, say], which is REGULAR. Don’t know if that means I spent too much time watching soap opera commercials as a kid or simply that I’m a palliative care doc.
  • 11d [Where the National League Wild Card Game was played in 2013, 2014, and 2015] is PNC PARK in Pittsburgh, which is an awesome place to see a baseball game.
  • 45a [Vibrissae] is NOSE HAIR except I think it should be plural.
  • 62a [They’re featured in norteño and zydeco music] is an ACCORDION. Also in klezmer music and Weird Al Yankovic records.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the Mona Lisa is housed in the SALLE des États.

Dan Ziring & Quiara Vasquez’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Insane (23m40s)

Dan Ziring and Quiara Vasquez’s New York Times crossword, 1/25/23, 0125

Today’s theme: SNOWBALL EFFECTS (Developing phenomena literally depicted three times in this puzzle)


Oh baby, are people going to have trouble with this or what.  For so many different reasons — chief among those is that the puzzle almost works as the completely incorrect but almost completely plausible solution pictured to the right.  That is to say, all the entries from 1-4D start at 1A, and GROW from there, making a 90 degree turn downward to fill each column.  Ditto for 10-13D, FORMing from 10A and making a similar 90 degree turn.  It falls apart at the very end of the last set, though; 55-57D SWELL from 54A just the same as the other two groups of themers, and then you’re stuck with ROL.  This last final outlier is where I realized that you need to rebus each incremental letter for 1A, 10A, and 54A, so that the actual rows look like gibberish: GGRGROGROW, FFOFORFORM, and SSWSWESWELL.  Also, for what it’s worth, the plural phrase SNOWBALL EFFECTS yields just 50k hits on the Goog.  You can’t say this wasn’t a proper tricky Thursday though!

CrackingWATER BED — these were always depicted as aphrodisiacs in 80s and 90s sitcoms.  It was a simpler time.

Slacking: TYR — quick, name a God of War — no, not MARS; no, not ARES; you know, that obscure Norse one that’s sort of like THOR, except with the name all butchered and it also feels like some modern abbreviation like Take Your Receipts or Thats Yolo Ratchety or some other gobbledygook.

Sidetracking: OMAHA — somewhere in Middle America… seriously, how good were Counting Crows?

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1543, “Mad Scramble”—Darby’s review

Theme: Each theme answer can be split in the middle to form an anagram to its first half

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1543, “Mad Scramble” solution for 1/26/2023

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1543, “Mad Scramble” solution for 1/26/2023


  • 17a [“*18, in most places”] LEGAL AGE
  • 21a [“*Metal alloy strip used in electronics and decorations”] BRASS BAR
  • 27a [“*Court records”] STENONOTES
  • 43a [“*Group with the 1989 hit ‘Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)’”] SOUL II SOUL


  • 3d [“*Acquiring new players on a sports team”] SIGNINGS
  • 36d [“Bench sharer”] TEAMMATE

Revealer: 59a [“What halves of each starred clues are to each other”] ANAGRAMS

It’s impressive how many themers there are in this puzzle, with seven plus the revealer. The straightforward cluing on each made them pretty clear, and LEGAL AGE was a nice way to kick it off. I can’t say I used the theme much to help me fill the puzzle, but it would have certainly been useful in BRASS BAR, but I’d already gotten most of that on the crosses before I filled in the revealer.

I like like this grid design, with its feeling of multiple stairways going up and down. Talk about getting scrambled! It’s like that M.C. Escher painting. I felt called out by 49a [“Woman’s middle name, often”] ANN since my middle name is, indeed, ANN. I also really loved 16a [“Sarcastic diacritical added to beef up the ‘metalness’”] UMLAUT. Additionally, 11d [“Year of the ___ (2023)”] RABBIT is super appropriate, though it’s still weird to realize that it’s 2023.

In a few places I was tripped up, most particularly by the crossing of 29d [“Partle du visage”] NEZ and 37a [“‘Carmen’ composer”] BIZET. It did not help that I initially had VERDI there. I had no idea initially for 23a [“Inventor Howe”] ELIAS, but it became very clear as I filled in AREOLAE, SIGNINGS, and FILES.

Other fave fill included: DEMO MODE, BOBBLE, and BOGEY.

Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

New Yorker crossword solution, 1/26/23 – Gorski

My solving time tells me this puzzle’s pitched right over the “for beginners” plate, but newbies may well hit some little speedbumps of crosswordese.

Love, love, love the first grid-spanner, BIRD SANCTUARIES! There’s a migratory bird hotspot near me that’s always cool to check out. Other fave fill: SCENE-STEALER, PRAISEWORTHY, CASTING DIRECTOR, DAREDEVIL, FERRARI, the NORTH STAR, and a TECH STOCK.

Three clues that caught my eye:

  • 38a. [Ref. work whose 2022 additions included “vax” and “folx”], OED. We’re still waiting for Anglophones to settle on single or double X in words like antivax(x)er and vax(x)ed. I lean single X, as we don’t really have any words where ax takes a long A, and nobody’s going to pronounce it “anti-vakes-er.”
  • 33d. [Jazz singer Anita who chose her stage surname because it’s pig Latin for “dough,” which she hoped to make], O’DAY. Better than Itchray, Unnimay, or Elthway!
  • 29a. [“The Books of Jacob” author Tokarczuk], OLGA. She won the Nobel in literature a few years ago. I read a New Yorker profile of the author, but haven’t read any of her books. What have you read? (Federico García LORCA adds another literary reference.)

Did not know: 60a. [Flamenco guitarist ___ de Lucía], PACO. Here’s a 30-year-old video of a PACO performance. Also had not heard of 48d. [Pianist and music scholar Charles who wrote “The Classical Style”], ROSEN.

Speedbumps for newbies: French ELEVE, old EDSEL, AD IN if you don’t follow tennis, ATTY (feel like I don’t see that abbreviation much in the real world).

3.5 stars from me.

Lisa Senzel’s Universal crossword, “Temperature Range” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: The first word of each theme answer is something that can be either hot or cold, that people often have very strong opinions about.

Universal Crossword, 01 26 2023, “Temperature Range”

  • 20a [Discussion about saving the planet] – CLIMATE DEBATE
  • 28a [Bathroom curtain holder] – SHOWER ROD
  • 48a [It may be full of Trix] – CEREAL BAR
  • 58a [2022 musical based on a 1959 crime comedy, or a hint to the starts of 20-, 28- and 48-Across] – SOME LIKE IT HOT

I watched “Some Like It Hot” with my grandparents as a kid and I remember seeing the Broadway cast perform this year at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but I still needed 50% of the crosses to see the revealer of this puzzle. (Side note: Does anyone know if the musical any good? Does the “men dressing up like women!” humor hold up in 2022?)

Anyways, the theme is a little broad in that there are many, many things that some people prefer hot, but at least all of these are things that I know people have *very* strong feelings about. CEREAL BAR is a great answer, but SHOWER ROD didn’t do much for me. I was worried when I first got the revealer that saying SOME LIKE IT HOT about the CLIMATE DEBATE was giving credence to global warming deniers… But it’s actually just about people who prefer warm climates in general, thank goodness.

Other highlights: BARES ALL, HOME/ALONE split across two answers next to each other.

Happy Thursday all!

Katherine Baicker & Ross Trudeau’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle is extremely clever and well executed. I struggled mightily with it, as 3/4 of the characters don’t exist here, and the twist made the answers even more opaque. Katherin Baicker & Ross Trudeau’s theme is SALESPROMOTIONS. Four advertising characters with titles, all male, get their title upgraded by one:

  • [Mascot who pursued the Hamburglar], DETECTIVEBIGMAC
  • [Mascot with a goatee and a string tie], GENERALSANDERS
  • [Mascot “born in the Sea of Milk”], ADMIRALCRUNCH
  • [Mascot who says, “I want to eat your cereal!”], MARQUISCHOCULA

My error was pSAI/pBS. I didn’t know TBS, and although HSAI seemed most likely, PBS was, I was sure, a channel, but HBS wasn’t. I also struggled at SSI/SINKS, the [Features of some islands] clue was rather subtle and had me, literally, at sea. I was also only semi-sure of [Dutch banking giant with an orange lion logo], ING being correct, having AIG running interference.

A brace more clues:

  • [Verb on a dipstick], ADD. News to me? Dipsticks have verbs?
  • [Alison in the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame], KRAUSS. One of her best songs, IMO


May Huang’s USA Today Crossword, “Top Talent” — Emily’s write-up

Tough theme for me today—how quickly did you all get it?

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday January 26, 2023

USA Today, January 26 2023, “Top Talent” by May Huang

Theme: the first word in each down themer is a synonym for “talent”


  • 4d. [Room for teachers on lunch break], FACULTYLOUNGE
  • 7d. [Helped out by doing something not normally allowed], BENTTHERULES
  • 10d. [Occasions for swapping presents], GIFTEXCHANGES

Had K-12 on the mind so kept thinking about a “shared work room” for FACULTYLOUNGE. BENTTHERULES is usually harmless, and seems to be the case here with its cluing. Usually GIFTEXCHANGES happen around the holidays and the ones with the most risk/reward in my experience are white elephant ones. I certainly learned a lot from the theme—as I haven’t heard the first two used in that way. h/t to Sally and her blog post for explaining today’s theme to me—be sure to read her write-up too, as it contains excellent trivia about many of the entries and today she also discusses the grid’s symmetry in particular at the end.


Stumpers: READ (convinced it was “leaf”), CHEF (end to me), and ANAGRAMS (misdirected by the clue and was thinking about commanitilies—loved it once filled though!)

Overall a fun puzzle, though I kept having to go back over certain areas to slowly fill it all in. No areas were too tricky, as there were fair crossings throughout and it was a fairly smooth solve, just a bit pokey for me today, or at least it felt like it.

4.0 stars


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18 Responses to Thursday, January 26, 2023

  1. Greg says:

    I thought the Thursday NYT was exceptionally good. A challenging theme, but a truly satisfying “aha” moment when the penny finally drops.

    Also, a dazzling feat of construction, working splendidly on multiple levels.

    • Doug C says:

      Same. The best Thursday puzzle in a very long time! Sadly, I followed ZDL’s game plan exactly. Figuring out how to make ROSWELL work, then going back and adding all the rebuses, put my time into Saturday territory. But I loved it!

    • gyrovague says:

      Truly bizarre that this fantastic puzzle has elicited so many one-star reviews. Or for that matter, so many of fewer than four stars. This one has it all — clever wordplay, fresh entries, a nice aha scenario … I could go on. What more could you want from a Thursday NYT?

      I suspect that those panning it aren’t really up to the challenge of a good Thursday puzzle. Rather than see their lack of success in solving it as a learning experience they lash out here. So juvenile.

      • R says:

        For me, I give it 5 stars for the puzzle and 1 star for the 10 minutes of looking for my mistake only to come here and find out that I needed to fill in all the rebuses.

  2. janie says:

    loved the trick of the nyt — but didn’t find it as difficult as zdl. caught on to the game almost from the get-go and then really enjoyed seeing the ways it played out in the grid.

    as for the fireball — always get a smile from peter’s opening and closing *almost* matches. so today, hooray for STAR TREK IV and STARTER KIT. smartly done!


    • huda says:

      Same as janie re NYT. I think it depends on whether the Rebus occurs to you early on, or you work it out as described by zdl, which would have also been a clever way to go.
      To me, the irony is that using the rebus, the letters progressively get smaller as you’re scrunching more of them in the same square. So visually, it’s the opposite of growing…
      But I agree it’s a fresh theme and a great job with the construction!
      We owned a waterbed in the good ole days and kept it for a while because it felt restful… But try to get out of it when you’re 9 months pregnant!!! The people who had the most fun with it were toddlers and little kids. Lots of belly laughs…

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I didn’t catch on the NYT right away. OTOH, I got up at 4:00 AM to catch a plane so my brain wasn’t completely functional.

      And I was in such a rush last night that I missed the almost match in the Fireball! Nice!

    • Dallas says:

      I finally got the rebus when I got to ROSWELL, which elicited a groan… I really don’t care for rebus puzzles generally. This was a hard solve, in part because even though I could infer what “snowball effects” was after I got it all in, it is not a phrase I’ve ever heard, or seems to get much usage. The end result was clever and all, but a slooooow solve this morning. And yes: on the app, you get the weird effect of the sections of the words getting smaller, not bigger too.

  3. Susan Hoffman says:

    I had the same first “wrong” solve, but could not get it out of my head. I just thought that with Roswell you had to read left-to-right (dumb). Once I gave up and hit “check” and the wrong squares were highlighted, I had my AHA moment. Ugh.k Brilliant puzzle.

  4. David L says:

    Excellent NYT. It took me quite a while to figure out what was going on, and it clicked only when I got to ROSWELL, so I didn’t fall into the same trap as others did.

    One minus for me was that the revealer, SNOWBALLEFFECTS, didn’t help me at all in understanding the rebus mechanism.

  5. JohnH says:

    The NYT has been really hard for me, and I’ve been cracking the theme only in steps. It took me a while first to remember ROSEWELL and then another break before I figured out how to apply it. But then those rebus letters weren’t fitting in the NE and NW. I did have some crossings in the NW, but nowhere near all, and eventually I did get it. But last, I have almost nothing in the NE, so it’s going to be harder still to find a synonym that helps. Maybe if I put it aside for w while again.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ … Sorry to be sports clue nit pick guy again, but the clue for OHIO seems wrong (“Home of eight professional sports teams”). First off, as I commented in a recent post here (last week, I think?), minor league baseball, basketball and hockey teams are also professional teams. So there are more than just eight professional sports teams in Ohio. Secondly, there are other so-called “minor” sports with professional teams in Ohio. Finally, even if the clue were worded “Home of eight major professional sports teams”, it’s still wrong. There are only six MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL teams in OHIO (the sports generally referred to as “major” in this country). There’s also the Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer, but that still only makes seven.

    • Dallas says:

      There’s a newish MLS team in Cincinnati, which gets you to eight:

      I mean, the soccer league does have “major” in the name, so it’s not unreasonable to count it. But it should read “major professional sports teams”

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Maybe that’s it. That makes eight, though MLS has nowhere near the same level of popularity as MLB, the NFL, the NBA or the NHL (or the WNBA, for that matter). In any case, it’s a poorly worded clue.

  7. marciem says:

    NYT: The only thing wrong with this great Thurs. tricky puzzle was that I wanted MORE!! :) Rebuses are one of my sweet spots, love ’em! Took me to Roswell to get the “aha” and finish the upper two, so that made it even more satisfying. I did have NO idea what a “growler” was regarding beer, but happy pencil danced so I looked it up later.

    Fun puzzle.

    TNY: Perfect beginner puzzle, nice job Liz!

  8. Ed says:

    3 down was what tipped me off to the gimmick, then things fell fairly quickly into place. 19 minutes. Loved it.

  9. Rick Narad says:

    I caught on the the NYT with “grounded” but got messed up on the app’s rebus function. Instead, I just left off the extra letters for each answer.

    I kept staring at my answers trying to figure out what I had wrong. I finally tried the rebus and got the success signal.

    170 day streak saved!

  10. Chris+Wooding says:

    LAT : for Gareth, often dipsticks indicate when it’s time to “add oil”.

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