Thursday, February 23, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:17 (Gareth) 


NYT 9:55 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 3:43 (Amy) 


Universal 3:24 (Sophia) 


USA Today 7:52 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jim) 


Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Easy (9m55s)

Joe Deeney’s New York TImes crossword, 2/22/23, 0222

Today’s theme: Odes

  • TO PRANKS (“It is such fun to fool the folks / And make them butts of harmless jokes …”)
  • TO ASTERS (“An avid flower lover sees / A fall bouquet that’s full of these …”)
  • TO ADS (“For me, the Super Bowl’s a bore / But watching these is fun galore …”)
  • TO MCATS (“Exams a must for future docs / Make sure your answers fill the box …”)
  • TO WARDS (“A hospital has many specialized places / Where patients recover in bright, cheerful spaces …”)
  • TO RON, TO BLUE JAYS (“I don’t have the words / That rightly commend / Cerulean birds / And Harry’s best friend …”)

I’m usually not a big fan of Thursday puzzles that involve a straightforward solve, but I liked this for two reasons: one, it was actually interesting to parse each theme entry; and two, there is a cheesy quality to each ode that required a degree of thoughtfulness and artistry, and I really appreciated reading through them.  I will say, though, that the last one was a bit of a stretch, and ventured into “Look what I found!” constructor preening (which is another way of saying I’m jealous, more than anything else.)

Odd that there were two medical/hospital themed entries adjacent to each other, by chance alone.  TO MCATS is a great find, although I’m not sure which hospitals Mr. Deeney has frequented lately.. I don’t know anyone who thinks of the wards as “bright, cheerful spaces” — though I suspect the sunny spin is required to prevent the puzzle from coming off too dour.  Also, “wards” is a pretty outdated term in the U.S.; we just call them “floors” these days.

Cracking: DASHIKI — reminds me of a fiery Fred Hampton quote:

We have to understand very clearly that there’s a man in our community called a capitalist. Sometimes he’s black and sometimes he’s white. But that man has to be driven out of our community, because anybody who comes into the community to make profit off the people by exploiting them can be defined as a capitalist. And we don’t care how many programs they have, how long a dashiki they have. Because political power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki; political power flows from the barrel of a gun—it flows from the barrel of a gun!

Slacking: IT PEOPLE — I got the IT, and had to get the rest on crosses.  IT CROWD, IT HELP, IT DESKS, IT PEOPLE… IT never ends.

Sidetracking: DWAYNE — Johnson, surprisingly adept at the microphone, singing perhaps the greatest Disney tune of all time:

Queena Mewers & Alex Eaton-Salners’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Language Barriers”—Jim P’s review

My apologies for reviewing an old puzzle in this space to begin with. Here’s the review for today’s puzzle.

Our theme is foreign two-word phrases that hide an English word between the words. The revealer is MIDDLE ENGLISH (56a, [“The Canterbury Tales” language, and what’s hiding in the circled letters]).

Each theme clue has three parts and and feels a bit like a clue from a cryptic puzzle. There’s a city which hints at the language of the phrase, there’s an English definition of the phrase, and there’s a hint at the hidden word.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Language Barriers” · Queena Mewers & Alex Eaton-Salners · Thu., 2.23.23

  • 20a. [Soup burglar’s usual technique, in old Rome?] MODUS OPERANDI. Old Rome hints at Latin. A burglar’s usual technique is a definition for the phrase. And SOP means “soup”? Or does SOP mean “soup” in MIDDLE ENGLISH? Not sure. This one was confusing and a tough one to start with. Especially since SOP could be an initialism for Standard Operating Procedure which is a rough translation of the phrase. I think I would’ve gone with [Usual technique for soaking up soup, in old Rome?].
  • 29a. [Carnival folks enjoy, in Paris?] MARDI GRAS. French. The phrase is the French term for the “carnival” that occurs the day before Lent starts (although the term actually translates to “Fat Tuesday”). DIG = “enjoy.”
  • 36a. [“Thanks for saving me after I fell out of the rowboat,” in Tokyo?] DOMO ARIGATO. Japanese. The phrase means “Thanks.” …And an OAR is used in a rowboat, but I’m blanking on the “saving me after I fell out” part. I guess a fellow rowboater would save the fallen person by extending an OAR? Meh. This one got overly-complicated, IMO. A more compact clue would be [“Thanks for this rowboat propeller,” in Tokyo?].
  • 45a. [Well wishes at a latish hour, in Munich?] GUTE NACHT. German. The phrase means “Good night.” And TEN is a “latish hour.” I like this clue best because it’s compact with no extraneous bits.

Whew. Solving the puzzle wasn’t so bad once you start to recognize the phrases, but parsing the clues was another matter. I like the theme a lot, but felt like the clues were just a tad off. Maybe that’s just me.

Our long fill consists of FARMYARD, ROAD TEAM (I wanted AWAY TEAM), AIR TIMES, and OVERHEAT. Nice.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [Major club]. ACE. As in a deck of cards.
  • 63a. [Creature whose name comes from the Greek for “change”]. AMOEBA. For most of the solve I had an R where that B is since I used RIB for the crossing [Chest protector]. That made me think this answer might be the Egyptian god AMON-RA. I thought it was weird that the Egyptians would use a Greek term for a god.
  • 66a. [Tree tender in Tolkien]. ENT. Note the distinction here. The ENTs aren’t actually trees themselves but forest managers.
  • 44d. [Masters study]. SEX. Referring to William Masters who, with Virginia Johnson, led research into the human sexual response.

Novel theme, though the clues weren’t always on target. 3.75 stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless 158” – Jim’s review

Jim here filling in for Jenni on short notice.

Fireball crossword solution · “Themeless 158” · Peter Gordon · Thu., 2.23.23

First off, I enjoyed the pairing of KATE MOSS at 1a with CAKE BOSS at 66a. But there some other really chewy entries, notably TEPIDARIA [Warm rooms in Roman baths] and RODOMONTADE [Boastful talk]. I also had RASH for DAFT [Foolish] in the SW and that screwed me up big time down there.

Other highlights: STRATEGO, SIGN HERE, ALL-AROUND, STANFORD, JAM BANDS, ANITA HILL, MENTAL FLOSS, BAD SANTA, BEDSORE, and ONE-ON-ONE. Did not know TILSIT [Second cheese mentioned in the Monty Python “Cheese Shop” sketch] despite my love of that comedic troupe.

Good, tough workout. Four stars.

Michele Govier’s Universal crossword, “Movin’ On Up” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer is a common phrase with the letters “ON” removed and placed in the row above.

Universal Crossword, 02 23 2023, “Movin’ On Up”

  • 20a [Bad teething spells?] – DENTAL SURGES
  • 32a [Slugger who’s kind of a showoff?] – BAT TWIRLER
  • 41a [Request when the keg is running low?] – LEAVE ME ALE
  • 52a [Problem resulting from using a seat warmer for too long?] – HOT BUTT ISSUE

Great use of the title as a revealer. I didn’t see what was going on until the final theme answer, HOT BUTT ISSUE (the clear standout, in my opinion – that’s funny enough to elevate the the entire puzzle). The ON above the theme answers adds a (literal!) extra layer to the theme, which makes it more interesting than a general “remove a letter for wackiness” puzzle.

Stacked theme entry puzzles are hard to make, but this one is very clean. There are a few choppy phrases like ON A ROPE and AT A BOIL, but some nice stuff like MENU BAR and E READER balance it out.

Dan Caprera’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

Dan Caprera gives us a 3×2 theme revealed at the quaint BOOKSONTAPE. There are three long entries featuring book titles, each with a tape variety – SCOTCH, TICKER and DUCT – below. The weirdest part of the theme is the first category – books – is quite broad; there are lot out there, but we get three: Dune by Frank Herbert, Emma by Jane Austen and Holes, that I really only know as a film starring Shia Le Beauf, Sigourney Weaver, and other people.

Other notable answers:

  • [2021 U.S. Open champ Jon], RAHM. Golf. Men’s. Current #1 and one of the heavy favourites to win a major this year.
  • [Progressive agent played by Stephanie Courtney], FLO. This meant buggerall to this non-American. Apparently this is a character in adverts for Progressive insurance.
  • [Member of the South Asian diaspora], DESI. Slightly disorienting, as I’ve heard it used by Indians in India as well…
  • [“A Change Is Gonna Come” singer], SAMCOOKE. My Spotify chose his “(What a) Wonderful World” in the car this afternoon.


Zaineb Akbar’s USA Today Crossword, “Doll Up” — Emily’s write-up

If you aren’t careful, there are some major throwback music earworms are bound to get stick in your head today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday February 23, 2022

USA Today, February 23 2022, “Doll Up” by Zaineb Akbar

Theme: each themer in the downs today starts with a type of doll


  • 3d. [Snipped winter decor], PAPERSNOWFLAKES
  • 5d. [“My loneliness is killing me…” song], BABYONEMORETIME
  • 9d. [Bedding option that reduces breakage], SATINPILLOWCASE
  • 11d. [Condiment that originally contained caviar], RUSSIANDRESSING

We cut-out PAPERSNOWFLAKES for our windows and it’s probably overdue for taking them down but they are fun to make and look at each year. Although BABYONEMORETIME is the themer, it really starts with “Hit me” and if it’s not stuck in your head yet, kudos to you! (And if you don’t but want to hear it, it’s an iconic Britney Spears song). SATINPILLOWCASE and RUSSIANDRESSING had mostly filled themselves in by the time I got to them and round out this impressive set. Four full-length themers! With the theme, we get: PAPER DOLL, BABY DOLL, SATIN DOLL (a jazz standard by Duke Ellington), and RUSSIAN DOLL. What an incredible theme and set!

Favorite fill: SENSEI, PLUMES, and BLU

Stumpers: ITSASNAP (needed crossings), AOKI (new to me), and IBIZA (also new to me)

The overall fill was good, the grid design is fun, and liked the related cluing for BRASS and METAL as a pair.

4.5 stars


Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword, the easy themeless—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 2/23/22 – Berry

Whoops, day got away from me. Without further ado:

Fave fill: LOONEY TUNES, the lively BUSTLE ABOUT, self-centered “ME FIRST,” KNOCK ON WOOD, the vagueness OF SOME SORT, RON WEASLEY, HIJINKS, the Eagles’ “THE LONG RUN,” and DEGENERATE, which makes me wonder when I will get back to watching Letterkenny, where the out-of-towners are referred to as “degens.”

Regionalism alert: [Area marked by a red-painted curb], FIRE LANE. Not in Chicago! Our fire lanes are, like other no-parking zones, marked by yellow curbs. I just learned some places have red curbs when editing a crossword last week.

Four stars from me. Maybe a notch harder than most of the Thursday New Yorker puzzles? Or it’s just me being slower this week and last. Who knows.

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22 Responses to Thursday, February 23, 2023

  1. Eric H says:


    ZDL writes that “‘wards’ is a pretty outdated term in the U.S.; we just call them ‘floors’ these days.”

    I don’t think “wards” and “floors” are the same thing. Hospitals generally don’t have “wards” any more; they’re all private or semiprivate rooms. When I had surgery in the 1960’s, my recovery was in a ward with probably at least half a dozen other boys.

    I enjoyed the goofiness of the theme. I went through the grid fairly quickly without really understanding the theme, until it hit me with TO RON TO BLUE JAYS.

    I still went over my Thursday average because I didn’t know the Puccini aria, I misread the 26D clue and kept trying to make TIo work, and I forgot that each TO ___ formed a real word (my Super Bowl ode wanted to be TO TDS).

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I had TIo instead of TIA (dang lack of understanding of Spanish!) because my Super Bowl ode was ‘TO otS’, which also makes perfect sense with the clue. Tricky one there! Plus, I didn’t know GIA, had ‘ETa’ instead of ETD and could make no sense of ‘GRANa_t’ where GRANDAD belonged. That word always looks like it’s misspelled to me, whether it’s this or ‘granddad’. Oh well. I really enjoyed sussing out the themers.

      • Eric H says:

        Yeah, GRANDAD added to my difficulties in that area. Was it GRANDAD or GRANDpa?

        My problem with the Spanish relative was just a failure to pay attention. My Spanish is very limited, but I know the difference between words ending in -A and -O.

  2. Christopher Murray says:

    NYT: I liked the theme and picked up on the “TO___” early. I tried to throw TOCOMEDY into 3D before I looked at the crosses. I had idea who Danny Ainge is. GIA slowed me up as well. I’ve never seen PESACH before. Ward is definitely antiquated in the US, but usage in reference to a maternity ward was used as recently as last year (

    Overall I liked it

    PS – What’s surprising about The Rock being able to sing? That man can do anything!

  3. Curmudgeon says:

    With the highest degree of respect – Total waste of a Thursday

    WARD is fine, has a negative historic conno with Charity WARD, though

  4. Kim says:

    Jim P.’s review is for “Body Blows” but the online version of the puzzle that I have is called “Language Barriers.” Looks like there was a mix up today.

    • JohnH says:

      My experience, too. My Japanese is nonexistent, although I think I recognize the phrase from, well, crosswords. Still can’t make sense of “soup burglar,” though, and not sure how I feel about the puzzle, period. Is the idea of three-letter words enough to rescue the thought of “middle English”? Also a couple of DNF crossings for me, at the Batman foe and dinosaur.

      • Zach says:

        I knew “domo arigato” thanks to Styx, but I could not recall if it’s spelled “arigato” or “arigado,” and I had a defense for both spellings with regard to the crossing clue “course requirement.” “Tee” works, of course, because you need one to play golf, but in my mind I was also defending “Dee” as in needing a minimum “D” grade to pass a school course. Oof!

        • JohnH says:

          Good point that DEE might work, although I got T ok. Looks like Jim had the same puzzlement as I over SOP’s clue and that of OAR as well, which I should have mentioned myself in my comment. It, too, lost me. Goodness, what a clumsy theme.

          My last to fall was BANE, without understanding it. I wondered why a foe, which might match BANE very loosely, was specific to Batman, not realizing it’s a cap B and proper name.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      That’s because I screwed up and reviewed an old puzzle without realizing it. I’ll try again.

  5. huda says:

    NYT: The puzzle is a little goofy in a lovable way.
    Liked seeing TO_MCATS. MCATs don’t get the same level of love as LSATs.
    Not sure how BLEU the Seine really is. Images make it look blue but I’ve seen it mostly looking greyish. I do miss seeing it, though. It’s been a while.

  6. Mutman says:

    NYT: being a bit dense, I could have used a more explicit revealer at 63A. I had to come here to grok the theme.

    And why is CONE part of a drumstick??

    • Mr. [only a little bit] Grumpy says:

      The ice cream treat called Drumsticks is basically a frosted ice cream cone.

      • Mutman says:

        Thx. Explains why my BONE didn’t work out.

      • David L says:

        I didn’t know that either. I’ve never come across Drumsticks.

      • JohnH says:

        I didn’t know it either, nor AINGE, GIA, the German cake, the prop for the Riddler and and Willy Wonka, Harry Potter’s friend, nor UNO, although that one was only natural, and I didn’t know that Jerry Stiller appeared on Seinfeld. I know the yoga term only from crosswords. So this was a hard Thursday for me.

        I feel dumb, but I caught on early to filling in TO at the start of theme clues, but never did figure out why. Oh, well. With the (partial) revealer, I just got caght up in wondering how many odes are anonymous.

        • Eric H says:

          I’ve seen AINGE in enough archived puzzles that it was a gimme.

          When I realized the “Seinfeld” actor couldn’t be Jerry Seinfeld, all I could think of was Anne What’s-Her-Name, married to Jerry What’s-His-Name. It took me a while to come up with Meara and finally STILLER.

  7. Tony says:

    I didn’t get the NYT theme right away. I already had TOGAS & TOADS entered, mostly through crossing letters. I finally grasped what was going on after getting TOP RANKS/TO PRANKS. I think since they both are two words, it helped me understand the puzzle.

  8. placematfan says:

    NYT: I think, like, one Thursday a month should be set aside–and it kinda already is–for a puzzle that’s lovably obnoxious. This one nailed it.

  9. Dallas says:

    I really liked the odes NYT; very fun. And the rhyming, overly-positive clueing was very fun.

  10. B Smith says:

    RE: WSJ 2-23-23: 20 A – i took the SOP of moduS OPerandi to mean standard operating procedure, comporting with the clue’s “usual method” phrase. I think modifying burglar with soup is an example of the needless complication you reference in the review.

    As for 36 A – thanks for saving me, etc. in Japan, my guess is it DOMO (very) ARIGATO (thanks) because you would be so grateful for being saved. Again, not intuitive.

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