Thursday, February 16, 2023

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 4:11 (Gareth) 


NYT 17:29 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 3:38 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 9:10 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Amy) 


Joe O’Neill & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Creature Feature”—Jim P’s review

The theme revealer is PACK ANIMAL (59a, [Beast of burden, and a hint to 17-, 25-, 36- and 49-Across]). The other theme answers originated as familiar 2-word phrases whose second words started with the same letter as the final letter of the first words. That first letter is dropped leaving behind animals as the second words.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Creature Feature” · Joe O’Neill & Jeff Chen · Thu., 2.16.23

  • 17a. [Insect addicted to posting online?] TWITTER ANT. Twitter rant.
  • 25a. [Slitherer prone to blunders?] BLOOPER EEL. Blooper reel. I don’t think of eels as slitherers. Don’t you need to be on land to slither?
  • 36a. [Schmoozy snake?] SOCIAL ADDER. Social ladder.
  • 49a. [Fish with a sweet tooth?] DESSERT RAY. Dessert tray.

I like the wordplay, but I still can’t see what makes these PACK ANIMALs. The closest I can figure is this meaning: “the main body of competitors following the leader or leaders in a race or competition.” But that still seems like a stretch, and doesn’t really explain why the first letter gets dropped. If you’ve got a better clue than me, please share in the comments.

Fill feels more solid than sparkly but I liked SLAMMED (in its slangy sense) and LEAP DAY. Francophiles got to enjoy MAL DE MER (which I learned from crosswords) and ENFANT with its nice clue [Minor in French?].

Clues of note:

  • 20a. [Headed for the fence, perhaps]. HOT. Pretty sure I’ve seen this clue before here in the WSJ. Then, I’d never heard the word “fence” being used to mean “deal in stolen goods,” but I picked up on it immediately this time.
  • 22a. [Big seller of licensed sports headwear]. LIDS. Hat retailer in many malls.
  • 57a. [Spike Lee got his from NYU]. MFA. Hey, for all I knew, Spike Lee got an MBA there, so that’s what I went with at first, leaving me with French ENBANT at the crossing.
  • 3d. [Trader Vic’s specialty]. MAITAI. Hmm. According to their website, this restaurant chain has three (count ’em, three!) locations in all of the US. (There are 11 in the Middle East, though.)
  • 9d. [Western decline?]. SET. Also hmm. Feels like this needs to be SUNSET.

I like the wordplay in the theme, but I’m still puzzled by it. 3.5 stars.

Kevin Patterson’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Hard (17m29s)

Kevin Patterson’s New York Times crossword, 2/15/2023, 0215

Today’s theme: TAKE THE L (Accept defeat, in modern parlance … or a hint to entering five answers in this puzzle)

  • NAI – L – EDIT
  • POT DEA – L – ER
  • NUC  – L – EAR

Another week, another toughie.  What jumps out immediately is the unusual grid design — it’s asymmetric and choppy, with those cascading L shapes — so when something that looks like this runs on a Thursday, alarm bells go off.  I actually missed the revealer at first, not expecting to find it at 1D, and had already jumped around and cracked NAILED IT before going back to TAKE THE L.  Bonus points for working in BOW WOW WOW.

You know what fill really suffers from the lack of a space?  TWOD and LOWPHI twod into the bakery, looking for a lowph of bread.

Cracking: GRAMMAR POLICE — I don’t think this is a grammatical point per se, but my little evergreen swath of pretentiousness is that you are raising the question, not begging the question.  Although pretty soon, it’ll go the way of irregardless, and will just be one more thing about which I am off base.

SlackingORING — what’s worse, ORING or ORANG?  Don’t sweat it, it’s a trick question.

Sidetracking: OMAR — the great Sharif, immortalized in a thousand different ways, including this number from The Band’s Visit.  Shout out to original cast member Bill Army, who was kind enough to take us backstage after the show.

Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

Joe Deeney gives us one of the more common LA Times theme types – “scrambled letters between two parts of long phrases”. Today it’s EPRSU, revealed at CHANGEPURSE. I have never heard that phrase before; the dictionary calls it “North American”. I’d call that a purse, maybe a coinpurse? Anyway:

  • [*Research without direct application], [PURES]CIENCE
  • [*Czechoslovakian movement of 1968], PRAG[UESPR]ING
  • [*Helpline offering], CUSTOM[ERSUP]PORT
  • [*Commerce imbalance], TRAD(ESURP)LUS


  • [Striped pet], TABBY. Was so relieved this wasn’t TIGER!
  • [Father of the Muses], ZEUS. Why am I not surprised?
  • [Response heard during a pool game], POLO. Swimming pool. Being monaural, this game was nigh impossible for me.
  • [Word on an Italian menu that means “hunter”], CACCIATORE. Similar to CHASSEUR?
  • [Center of a 3-4 football defense], NOSETACKLE – sounds more like a technique than a player from here?


Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 2/16/23 – Weintraub

Hmm, nowhere near dipping below the 3-minute mark today. I shall blame the cold/rainy/sleety/snowy day, because Robyn and the TNY editors have been awfully consistent with the Thursday puzzle’s easy-peasy challenge level.


Four stars from me.

Paul Hunsberger’s Fireball crossword, “Heart to Heart”—Amy’s write-up

Fireball crossword solution, “Heart to Heat” – 2/14/23

It’s Amy filling in for Jenni today. This Fireball puzzle was sent out early, in time for Valentine’s Day, which the title and grid tell us is relevant to the theme.

There’s a grid-art heart, nicely displayed in editor Peter Gordon’s solution PDF (my printout is … grat). The boxed-off word in the center is LOVE, and “love” can replace the first word in each theme entry with a clue in italics. That’s the LOVE 114a CONNECTION. The answers to italicized clues are:

  • LOST INTEREST, love interest — YOUNG CHILD, love child — “FREE / BIRD,” lovebird — BIG STINKS, “Love Stinks” — TRUE STORY, love story — REAL LIFE,  love life — MAKE SICK, lovesick

Lots of long nonthematic fill in the puzzle, so sort of a themeless vibe to the venture.

Great clues:

  • 65a. [Word with manual and drive], SEX. It’s not about cars!
  • 102a. [Burns pictures, for short], DOCS. Ken Burns documentaries, that is.
  • 118a. [They’re all about the bass], STEELHEADS. Fish, not the Meghan Trainor pop hit.
  • 35d. [Michelin-supported restaurant?], TACO TRUCK. Michelin tires, not stars.
  • 106d. [Steam engines], PCS. Steam is where you can buy a ton of video games for the PC.

Boo on 86a EMAG, 74d AH ME. These are kinda bogus entries. Is anyone saying these things?

Did not know: 8d. [One of six on Blue Origin’s New Shepard], SEAT. Apparently this is a space-tourism craft from a company I’d never heard of, and it’s Shepard instead of Shepherd in honor of astronaut Alan. Haven’t watched White Lotus, so 72d. [Testa di ___ (Sicilian vase seen in Season 2 of “The White Lotus”], MORO, was a complete blank for me. The first letter was a tough get because the crossing at 71a. [Forster mother] perplexed me. Turned out to be a generic MUM rather than a specific character in a Forster novel.

Four stars from me.


Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword, “Sprint Center” — Emily’s write-up

A silly fun grid design today that had me “run”ning in place.

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday February 16, 2022

USA Today, February 16 2022, “Sprint Center” by Erik Agard

Theme: the middle of each themer contains the word —RUN—


  • 20a. [Not happy], DISGRUNTLED
  • 37a. [“Great, one more thing to be terrified about!”], NEWFEARUNLOCKED
  • 50a. [Groups of organized workers], LABORUNIONS

DISGRUNTLED is a descriptor that really conveys its severity and not an entry I’ve seen in a crossword before—excited to see it as a themer. NEWFEARUNLOCKED is a meme that you can pursue (or not) at your own caution/level of comfort though some are funny or satirical. With all the recent employee-driven movements at various companies lately, LABORUNIONS filled right in for me today. The title not only hints at the commonality of the word within the themers but also the placement, as —RUN— appears in the center of each as well as the center of the grid itself, all lining up with each other. Nicely done!

Favorite fill: WES, BOSSA, and DIGRESS

Stumpers: FLORALS (needed crossings), and BLURB (kept thinking “about” or “intro”)

As a mobile solver, the grid is usually lost on me until the very end when the puzzle zooms out and was an additional delight when it did today!

4.5 stars


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1459, “Planning Board”—Darby’s review

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1459, “Planning Board” solution for 2/16/2023

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1459, “Planning Board” solution for 2/16/2023

Theme: Each theme answer is part of a polyomino with an abbreviation in it, playing on the notion of “calendar tetris,” in which you try to finagle all of your plans in your calendar.

I’ve been playing a lot of Tetris recently, just by happenstance, and so I appreciated the appearance of Tetris-like blocks in today’s puzzle. I was not familiar with calendar tetris before, and so I especially liked how BEQ really embodied it in this theme. Plus, it’s a perfect fifteen letter answer.

In terms of my usual BEQ solve, this felt much faster than normal, despite overthinking 16a [“‘___ Lisa (Nat King Cole song)”] MONA and 10d [“The Rock’s first name”] DWAYNE. I really have no excuse for the extra time I spent on those. I really liked 8d [“Character asked to ‘please shine down on me,’ in a children’s song”] MR. SUN, 44d [“Long lunch?”] HOAGIE, and 27a [“Source of many problems”] MATH TESTS. SHOE BAG and ROT GUT were less fun, but fillable.

The NE corner came together first for me. I relied on the crosses for 15a [“Shamblin who founded the Christian diet”] GWEN and 32a [“Capital of East Flanders”] GHENT. From there, I mostly moved in order, stumbling as usual on other proper nouns, but all of the crosses were fair.

Overall, it was definitely fun! And a very relevant use of CALENDAR TETRIS, complete with fun colorful squares.

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24 Responses to Thursday, February 16, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Man, it took a LLLLLong time for the penny to drop on this one. “Take the L” is an expression I understand when I hear it, but it didn’t pop into my head as the answer to that clue. And even after it was there, I figured out that the L was a stopping point, and wondered if it meant there would be a rebus at that spot… which obviously doesn’t work. I was staring vacantly at the puzzle when the L shapes popped up for me. It felt a whole lot easier after that.
    My solving time was not that different from my average Thursday in the end, but there was a clear before and after seeing the L shapes.
    I really need to look at the puzzle before I start.

    • Eric H says:

      It took me probably longer than it should have to figure out the trick, though I got the revealer early on. (I’m glad I’d come across TAKE THE L in an earlier puzzle, as I don’t follow sports and haven’t heard that phrase in real life.)

      It also took me a few minutes longer than usual to solve it. But I didn’t notice that while I was solving it, which means I was having too much fun.

      Today I Learned the etymology of “angora” (which in hindsight is pretty obvious) and that “inventor” has the same number of letters as ENGINEER.

    • David L says:

      Same here — I was almost done with the puzzle before I was able to fill in the revealer at 1D. I’ve seen the expression but never used it.

      I thought the puzzle was tough in other ways. Unfamiliar names GREG and AVICII and some tricksy cluing for OVA and LOWPH.

      Can you make a single INROAD? Seems awkward to me. And I don’t care for the clue for TWOD, which doesn’t necessarily imply ‘flat.’

      I can’t remember when I’ve taken so long on a Thursday puzzle.

    • JohnH says:

      This one almost defeated me, for lots of reasons. I didn’t know the term that’s the key to it all. I mistakenly guessed that NUC was new slang for NUCLEAR, kinda like NUKES. I had so much of the puzzle, all but the top really, filled without having to change anything, so that it was almost themeless. I had filled ANGORA for ANKARA, thinking they meant that odd spelling in order to make sense of how the goat and are named. I had MITE for MOTE. I’m still not making total sense of TING before a toast. (Clink is the sound that occurs to me, and it doesn’t precede but follows the speaker’s dedication or is itself the toast.) The clue for OVA fooled me. Finally, I just plain didn’t know AVICII or MACA, although I’d correctly edited GREG without knowing the character. Ouch. But impressive anyhow in its way.

      • David L says:

        I was also bothered by the clue for TING. It occurs to me now that the host might TING a glass with a knife or fork to get everyone’s attention before proceeding with the toast. Not exactly the first thing that comes to mind.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          That’s the way I interpreted the clue for TING. It seemed reasonable to me, though it took a cross or two to land and in that NW corner, I found the crosses hard to come by.

          I’m a little surprised that JohnH hasn’t heard of a MACAW, even apart from the regularity with which it appears in crosswords.

  2. placematfan says:

    +1 regarding the request for a further WSJ theme explanation

  3. JohnH says:

    In the WSJ, I think the idea of PACK ANIMALS is to think of the dropped letter as “packed” into the square with the same letter’s occurrence just before it. This allows one to read the entry as if it never existed. Or so I figure, but no doubt it’s a bit lame. (I was in no danger of thinking that the film director got an MBA. My only hesitation was whether he did grad work at all, so that BFA was a possibility, but I went with MFA and found it worked.)

    • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

      I think you got it. I found the puzzle amusing enough in its own right.

      • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

        Oh, and re Jim P’s legitimate critique of the clue for 25a. “Skinny swimmer” in place of “slitherer” maybe?

  4. billy boy says:

    L-trick became apparent easily (FOODCO – L – *ORING) but
    TWOD stack – since I’d otherwise finished everything else just killed my interest.

    Looking back I tried to grok why Flat 2 D was the most likely apartment (ha-ha)
    never mind

    * ask NASA how bad O-RING is (1986 is so forever ago)

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT: This was a relatively smooth and easy EA USAT puzzle for me today with the exception of NEW FEAR UNLOCKED (“Great, one more thing to be terrified about”). Is this a thing? Google suggests that it’s an internet meme (and maybe related to gaming?). That would certainly explain why I don’t know what the heck it is. I just watched a TikTok video labeled as a “new fear unlocked meme” ( I still don’t get it.

    It seems that this lifelong member of the out crowd has always struggled with stuff like this (are we still called nerds these days or are nerds the cool kids now? … I just can’t keep up). How do I get to be a member of the meme “in crowd”? Is it necessary to spend a chunk of each day on Reddit or combing through TikTok and/or YouTube videos? Just wondering …

  6. Dallas says:

    NYT was very interesting. I filled in the 1D revealer immediately, and noticed the L’s.. but just thought that was a bit of grid art at first, and assumed that there wouldn’t be any L’s in the answers. I think the theme answers finally clicked with NUC-L-EAR, and it felt like a ton of bricks dropped. Really dug it, even if it was slower than average for a Thursday. TWO-D and LOW-PH took a little bit to get in, but seem perfectly reasonable?

  7. Eric H says:

    WSJ: The Wikipedia entry for Trader Vic’s says that during the “Tiki culture fad” of the 1950s and 1960s, there were 25 Trader Vic’s locations worldwide. It’s a name I remember from way back, but I‘be never eaten in one.

    JohnH’s explanation of the PACK ANIMALS makes sense to me.

  8. Mutman says:

    NYT: I agree with David L. ‘Flat’ does not imply TWO-D. I mean the earth is flat but does have some thickness, making it THREE-D.


    • David L says:

      I was thinking more that the surface of the earth is two dimensional, but it’s not flat. And things can be flat without being 2-d, like a paving slab, for example.

  9. Mike H says:

    I agree, Amy, TNY was a step beyond “beginner-friendly”. It was a great puzzle, though!

  10. Paul H says:

    Hey, just to clarify the Fireball “Heart to Heart” theme.
    The word LOVE actually goes with both words in each theme pairing, so:

  11. CK says:

    I know this is late, but I think you missed the other half of the theme in the Hunsberger Fireball. “LOVE” doesn’t only replace the first word, but if you put it between the two word answers, it works with both words for common phrases.
    LOST INTEREST, lost love ; love interest
    YOUNG CHILD, young love ; love child
    FREE BIRD, free love ; love child
    I think the “connection” is that it works in the middle.
    Maybe I’m wrong?

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