Thursday, February 9, 2023

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 6:24 (Gareth) 


NYT 12:50 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 3:17 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Sophia) 


USA Today 11:42 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


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

Theme: MAN is added to the middle of common words. The revealer is INSIDE MAN (59a, [Helper in a bank job, and a hint to an infiltrator in six Across answers]). Theme clues hint at the MAN-less words.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Forgettable Fellows” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 2.9.23

  • 17a. [Maracas, originally] GOURMANDS.
  • 23a. [Lichtenstein in galleries] ROMANY.
  • 26a. [Some wines] REMANDS.
  • 37a. [Of necessity] PER FORMANCE.
  • 50a. [Golden Globe winner for “Chicago”] GERMANE.
  • 52a. [Shade] HUMANE.

Solving was slow going for most of this. I ended up at the revealer before getting a single theme answer, so that helped me sort things out. I can’t say I got a lot of joy from the grid as it felt like a slog from start to finish. I wish the theme answers would’ve at least given us some humor, but there was none to be had (maybe something along the lines of EMANATING FOR TWO?). That NW section with OISE, YIPROMANY, AVANT, WAYNE, MAYPEAR, MARYANNE, and MINTERS, was brutal.

Clues of note:

  • 9a. [Work on figures, maybe]. SKATE. Figure 8s, presumably.
  • 10d. [Its highest point is Mount Sunflower]. KANSAS. An apt clue since KANSAS is the Sunflower State.

Three stars.

Alex Rosen’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Tricky (12m50s)

Alex Rosen’s New York Times crossword, 2/8/23, 0208

Today’s theme: REVERSE EACH / TWO WORD CLUE (With 66-Across, hint for solving this puzzle)

  • Too many theme entries to list.. basically, every clue in the puzzle that is two words long should be read with the second word first; for example, Pan Asian should be read as “Asian Pan”, for WOK)

This played slow because a) the sheer volume of misleading theme material, and b) the grid is oversized at 16×15.  I was actually able to fill a good deal of the puzzle on crosses alone, cognizant that some of the answers didn’t real make sense vis-a-vis their clues.  Decided to skip around so I could uncover the revealers (as opposed to my normal practice of just solving consecutively), and had a genuine a-ha moment.  In my opinion, the puzzle does contain an error of sorts — whereas Mount Olympus is quite clever, and capitalized correctly (Olympus being a camera brand), Water buffalo is not (i.e., Buffalo is intentionally left lowercase for the sake of misdirection).  It’s a small thing, and unless it’s a subtle jab at the Queen City (it obviously isn’t, Go Bills, Go Sabres), it eats at me.

CrackingCASPAR — also known as Gaspar in Chrono Trigger, the Guru of Time, whose quasi-Noir trench coat clad figure officially marked a place outside of time and space.  They don’t make ’em like that anymore.  Honorable mention for TRASH TV.

Slacking: ATRA — I myself have used this particularly musty item before, so hating it here is really a form of projection.  I am amazed, however, to discover they still make razors for the ATRA despite it being more than 45 years old.

Sidetracking: HEIST — you sun-of-a-bitch, I’m in!

Hanh Huynh’s Fireball Crossword, “Study Group” – Jenni’s write-up

Fireball, February 8, 2023, Hanh Huynh, “Study Group,” solution grid

A quick take today: we have rebi! Each rebus is an academic discipline. Here’s Peter’s grid, which is easier to read. And this is the first time we’ve tagged Hanh Huynh at the Fiend; if this is a debut puzzle, it’s a great start!

  • 17a [Treatment often combined with a massage] is ARO{MATH}ERAPY crossing EM{MA TH}OMPSON clued as [Only person to win Oscars for acting and screenwriting].
  • 24a [Metropolis known as “Paris of the Plains] is KANSA{S CI}TY crossing [End credits?] for WORK{S CI}TED. That’s a bit of a stretch, but it didn’t bother me too much.
  • 41a [Captivate] is {ENG}ROSS crossing GRE{ENG}ROCERS, [They know their onions].
  • 49a [Loan repayment add-on] is LA{TE CH}CHARGE crossing [Knifehand strikes] for KARA{TE CH}OPS.

And a revealer, which made me laugh: 53a [Subjects of some biomedical research…or a hint to four squares in this puzzle] is STEM CELLS. Science, Math, Engineering, Technology are the STEM disciplines. Very fun!

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that EMMA THOMPSON won both those Oscars and that she’s unique in that way. I also did not know that KANSAS CITY is called Paris of the Plains. Which of course makes me think of this:

Griffin Sullivan and Adrian Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Final Touches” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer starts with a word that uses three out of four letters in the word “DONE”, in order.

Universal Crossword, 02 09 2023, “Final Touches”

  • 20a [Partner for life] – ONE AND ONLY
  • 35a [Start of a refrain in “Do-Re-Mi”] – DOE A DEER
  • 41a [Journalist on “CNN This Morning”] – DON LEMON
  • 57a [Nearly finished, or a description of the first words of 20-, 35- and 41-Across] – ALMOST DONE

What, they couldn’t find a phrase with DNE?? What kind of a puzzle is this???? I kid, I kid! The theme is solid, if a little simple. It would have legit been cool if this idea worked with all four letters of the word DONE, but that is a lot to ask for, and the three out of four work well. I like that the phrases are in order of the letter removed – D missing first, then N, then E.

There isn’t a lot of thematic material in this puzzle (only 36 squares total), but that allows the rest of the grid to really shine. It’s packed full of cool down answers – DEADPOOL, BIG CHEESE, DOT-TO-DOT, SKELETON, just to name a few. I also loved some of the clever clues today, my favorites being [What’s picked up in a hurry?] for PACE and [Get off the internet?] for DOWNLOAD. Because I didn’t figure out the puzzle’s theme until the revealer, I solved it like an easy themeless puzzle, and it was a very enjoyable one! This puzzle really highlights how puzzles that are widely accessible don’t need to be boring in their fill and clues. Great job from the constructors – I think this is Griffin’s debut!


Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 2/9/23 – Pasco

I went a bit slower on this one compared to other recent ThursTNY puzzles, but I can’t swear that the puzzle is any harder than usual. Could be all me!

Fave fill: OREO SUNDAE (though I’m actually not a fan of Oreo-based desserts), ESPORTS, BAD TIPPERS (that is an in-the-language term in my book), RACE CAR BED, LINEN CLOSET, FIRE ISLAND (enjoyed Joel Kim Booster’s Netflix stand-up special, Psychosexual, and his performance on the Apple TV+ series Loot; haven’t seen the movie yet).

Did not know: [2022 Park Chan-wook film about a detective and the widow of a murder victim], DECISION TO LEAVE. Won Best Director at Cannes last year.

Four stars from me.

Paul Steinberg & Karen Steinberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Paul Steinberg & Karen Steinberg [sic] offers a four plus one theme revealed at HOLDTHATTHOUGHT – each of four other long across answers has IDEA between two of its parts.

  • [*External troublemaker], OUTS(IDEA)GITATOR
  • [*Prized possession], PR(IDEA)NDJOY. SRV!
  • [*Camera attachment for a panorama], W(IDEA)NGLELENS
  • [*Space-saving option for overnight guests], H(IDEA)WAYBED

I think this puzzle’s fill suffered from one too many theme entry, especially with two fifteens plus a central thirteen, which really makes a balanced black square arrangement nigh impossible.

There are certain groups of first names with similar vowels and I think that it’s always good to keep their crossers fair and clued easily. Today RADOME is a pretty technical word, and it runs into KARA and OXY, parallel to another technical phrase, EXPARTE, which in turn intersects with ELISE. Other difficult nouns included COTIJA, EMOPOP, RILO, AUGIE.


Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword, “Step Up” — Emily’s write-up

This puzzle rises to the top and is among my all-time faves! So much to too love.

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday February 09, 2022

USA Today, February 09 2022, “Step Up” by Erik Agard

Theme: each down themer contains —STEP— that climbs higher from left to right


  • 19d. [Season premiere], FIRSTEPISODE
  • 14d. [Worthless materials], WASTEPRODUCTS
  • 7d. [Actress who played Joy in “Everything Everywhere All at Once”], STEPHANIEHSU

FIRSTEPISODE took me a few crossings because I kept thinking about a pilot thought that would be for a series—I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. WASTEPRODUCTS I also needed some crossings for, as it’s just not a common enough phrase to me for the cluing. I didn’t realize STEPHANIEHSU was in this movie—it clearly needs to move up in my “to watch” list, as I’m missing out. In addition to —STEP— climbing as it proceeds along the puzzle, the last one ends at the very top, making it all the way up. Amazing.



At first glance, there is so much lengthy fill that it would have been hard to tell if the themers were in the acrosses or downs today if it weren’t for the title hint. Excellent, fun bonus fill. I adore the grid design. The theme is top-notch. Instant fave for me!

5.0 stars


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1547, “Going Too Far”—Darby’s review

Theme: This was a going too far puzzle, so each of the black squares was occupied by a letter from an adjacent word. Together, they spelled out a quote from chess master Garry Kasparov.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1547, “Going Too Far” solution for 2/9/2023

  • 4a [“Space___ (airhead)”] CADET
  • 8a [“‘Bring it in!’”] HUG ME
  • 12a [“Marks on the face”] ACNE
  • 14a [“Antiperspirant choice”] SPRAY
  • 19d [“Dip for corn chips”] SALSA
  • 7d [“Thriller writer Hoag”] TAMI
  • 22d [“Places offering Reiki and crystal healing”] SPAS
  • 2d [“Lorena in the World Golf Hall of Fame”] OCHOA
  • 20a [“Giants play it”] BASEBALL
  • 9d [“Barbecue appliance”] GRILL
  • 10d [“Tyler Perry in a drag role”] MADEA
  • 28d [“Starter with pool or pit”] CESS
  • 22a [“George Clinton’s supergroup, for short”] PFUNK
  • 31a [“Mystery writers’ awards”] AGATHAS
  • 34a [“Homes in the sticks?”] NESTS
  • 37d [“1 or 2 or 3”] DIGITS
  • 23d [“Character deficiency”] FLAW
  • 35a [“Considered someone to be very important”] HELD DEAR
  • 41d [“Typestyle for titles, often: Abbr.”] ITALS
  • 27d [“‘Round and Round’ rockers with a misspelled name”] RATT
  • 43d [“Hobbyist’s glue”] EPOXY
  • 45d [“Actress Cusack”] JOAN
  • 44a [“Knife brand with a Japanese name”] GINSU
  • 47a [“Like Bob Dylan’s voice”] NASAL
  • 8d [“Covering up a couch”] UPHOLSTERING
  • 49a [“Vocalist’s vibrato”] TRILL
  • 51a [“Best Bowler or Best WWE Moment, e.g.”] ESPY


Once I figured out CHESS, I put together that Garry Kasparov was a chess figure, and so that was hugely helpful in replacing TENTS with NEST when I realized that “BLACK AND WHITE” were a part of the quote I was looking for. I really enjoyed this puzzle, partly because it forced me to print it out and work through it throughout my busy day. I enjoyed the last one of these that BEQ did, so I was pretty excited to see the title of this puzzle when I first loaded the page. Of course, I loved seeing BASEBALL, but ITALS, UPHOLSTERING, and HUG ME were also really fun.

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22 Responses to Thursday, February 9, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I really enjoyed this puzzle. I don’t usually love it when the clues are the point of the theme, but in this case it worked. You could squint and sort of make some of them work without reversing (Like Engagement Ring—> BOUT), but others really needed the inversion. My favorite was Pan Asian for WOK.
    I agree with ZDL re Water buffalo. One option might have been to capitalize all the first letters across all the clues, or to clue ERIE some other way, outside the theme.
    And as a Syrian (mentioned in one of the clues) I have appreciated all the support I have received about the earthquake situation, especially in my father’s hometown of Aleppo and its surrounds. I fear we have not yet come to grips with the depth of devastation for that part of Turkey and Syria… The homelessness alone is beyond imagination, and it’s pretty cold right now.

  2. ktd says:

    NYT: thanks Alex for the puzzle and ZDL for the review. I really liked [Mount Olympus] and [Water buffalo]. No issues for me with the capitalization on the latter, it feels like one of those liberties that can be taken in clue-writing.

    This puzzle reminded me of another from 2010 that I liked, with a similar concept: [Stern violinist] was an especially memorable clue.

  3. Eric H says:

    NYT: Fun theme, which I picked up on halfway through, thanks to a combination of REVERSE something and the realization that OGRE was a “Storybook giant.”

    “Water buffalo” doesn’t bother me at all. If you reverse that clue, by crossword puzzle convention, you capitalize “Buffalo” and make “water” lower case.

    Great clue for ADAM, too.

    • pannonica says:

      This is my thinking regarding the Erie clue, as well.

    • JohnH says:

      Totally my thinking regarding B/buffalo. Put it at the start, and it’s necessarily capitalized.

      Really clever puzzle, not to mention the rarity and challenge of so novel a theme. A fave. I took a long time to get the idea, and some clues (names) for me were a challenge, too, but it all came together in the end so quickly and nicely.

      I didn’t care nearly as much for the WSJ. I kept wanting something to make the actual entries more punning, connected, or otherwise meaningful, although I realize that’s a lot to ask and would also lower the difficulty too much.

    • ZDL says:

      You read them out of order to make sense of the clue, but you’re always referring to the city and not the animal. That’s why the convention seems irrelevant to me. But it’s a minor quibble.

  4. Matt Gritzmacher says:

    A great Thursday for Thursdays, between the NYT and WSJ.

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … anyone else out here who’s never heard of ‘connect the dots’ referred to as ‘DOT-TO-DOT’?

    • Margaret says:

      I didn’t do the Universal puzzle today so I may be missing something in the cluing, but I’ve always referred to the paper game (1 connects to 2 which connects to 3 etc.) as dot-to-dot. Connect the dots only refers to figuring something out, like in a noir movie. I am also from San Francisco and about your age I believe! So not regional.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Thanks for the input, Margaret. While I lived in SF for much of my professional life (23 years), I’m Ohio born and raised and am living there once again since I can afford to retire here. So, it could be a regional thing. That’s why I posted my question. I find regionalisms interesting to learn about.

        • Matt Gritzmacher says:

          I only know it as “dots,” for what it’s worth! That did catch my eye during the solve, as well

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT … Would someone please explain EVE clued as ‘”One more sleep” time’? Googling suggests that “One more sleep” is somehow associated with Christmas. Wikipedia informs me that it’s a song title on Leona Lewis’s Christmas album, so I guess there must be some association with Christmas that I don’t know about.

    • Margaret says:

      I think that Christmas Eve is exciting and means there’s only “one more sleep” until Christmas Day and presents. I find the term extremely grating but I’ve definitely heard it, not just at Christmas but when someone is anticipating any big event. “One more sleep” until vacation or a birthday or whatever.

  7. Paolo P. says:

    Just here to advocate for DECISION TO LEAVE, a movie which rocks across the board

  8. Seattle Derek says:

    I always enjoy the Steinberg Family puzzles. Karen & Paul and David are crossword royalty and their puzzles are Rated E — E for everyone!

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