Thursday, March 9, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:07 (Gareth) 


NYT 14:40 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 3:11 (Amy) 


Universal 4:05 (Sophia) 


USA Today tk (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Jake Halperin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Block Letters”—Jim’s review

The letters in SPAM have made their way into our theme answers, changing them into something that doesn’t fit the clue (though they are valid words and phrases in their own right). What we need is a SPAM FILTER (64a, [Email service, and a hint to how to interpret the starred answers]). Remove the letters SPAM from each entry to satisfy the clue.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Block Letters” · Jake Halperin · Thu., 3.9.23

  • 17a. [*Small photo holder] LAMP SOCKET. Take away SPAM and you get a locket.
  • 24a. [*Popular summer textile] PLAINSMEN. Linen.
  • 31a. [*Adjust, as an apron] SPARE TIME. Retie.
  • 45a. [*Opening part of “Rhapsody in Blue”] STRIP MALL. Trill.
  • 51a. [*Opposite of “Say again”] PRO GAMERS. “Roger.”

Very nice. It can’t have been easy to find a set of theme entries that work here. Obviously each entry can only have one instance of the letters in SPAM, and the remaining letters must spell a regular word. And of course everything has to fit symmetrically. So…quite a nice set, even if PLAINSMEN is not a word one comes across often (or ever), and PRO GAMERS resorts to a plural.

The solve was a good challenge, as a Thursday should be. I did grok the theme about halfway through, but it still took some work to suss out the bottom themers. (At one point I had STRAP MILL for the third one…whatever that is.)  So I got to enjoy the aha moment, but still savor the challenge of resolving the rest of the entries. I’m glad there were no circles to give things away. Oh, and there’s a nice play on words in the title if you consider “Block” to be a verb. All in all, a really nice theme well executed.

But wait there’s more! Fill highlights include TEMPT FATE, SNOWSTORM, HEAD TO TOE, and ROAD GANGS.

Clues of note:

  • 13a. [Treat with a trademarked design]. OREO. Completely fooled by this one. I thought “Treat” was a verb and went with ETCH.
  • 14a. [Second staff in an orchestral score]. OBOES. I still don’t understand this one, but got it from the crosses. Musicians, feel free to edify us.
  • 26a. [“___ Wiedersehen”]. AUF. I don’t say “AUF Wiedersehen” very much, but I did last night at the end of my “European Accents” online class.
  • 35a. [Yodels competitors]. HOHOS. Apparently Yodels are only found on the East Coast, thus putting us left coasties at a disadvantage. But I must have heard of them at some point.
  • 60a. [First and last name in the cast of “True Lies”]. ARNOLD. Schwarzenegger and Tom ARNOLD were in that particular flick.
  • 11d. [Jazz musician Coltrane]. ALICE. Well, JOHN didn’t fit. I’m sad to say I didn’t know the name, but have been enjoying listening to her piano stylings while I write.
  • 46d. [Julius for whom a dish is named]. PETRI. Got me again with this one as I was thinking of food the whole time.

Strong theme, lovely fill, fresh clues. What’s not to like? 4.5 stars.

Simeon Seigel’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Challenging (14m40s)

Simeon Seigel’s New York Times crossword, 3/8/23, 0308

Today’s theme: FLIP SIDES (Opposites … or instructions for answering this puzzle’s starred clues)

  • PRINT | OUTS (outsprint)
  • TOOL | BARS (barstool)
  • ALE | HOUSES (housesale)
  • WING | BACKS (backswing)
  • HOT | HEADS (headshot)

The northwest/central sections really slowed me down, between SUNBATH as a noun and CASTS ON crossing MOUE and (for some reason, inscrutable) TORSO.  I’ve heard of KPOP, so I inferred JPOP, but I had ADOBO instead of PESTO, and kept looking for another Snow White angle before I stumbled on OCTET.  Made for a very slow solve, considering how quickly I went through the theme entries otherwise.

Cracking: SECRET DOOR — although I think less “private entrance” and more “pull down this candelabra and follow the murderer to the conservatory..”

Slacking: CASTS ON — this has appeared twice before; once, twenty years ago, and then once more in the 1950s.  The rare awkward partial knitting entry.  

Sidetracking: ANIMANIACS — United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, Peru…

Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Cryptogram Names” – Jenni’s write-up

I am not a fan of cryptograms. I’m glad they exist for people who like them and I’m not here to judge. Same goes for sushi. You do you. Enjoy. It’s possible I’ve run into cryptograms in puzzles before and either ignored them or skipped the puzzle entirely. Since I was committed to writing this review, I chose the former. You don’t need to do anything with the cryptogram to solve the puzzle, so for me it played like a themeless with a bunch of names in it.

The theme answers each have a first and last name that can be encoded as a relevant word. And, yes, I can see that this is an impressive feat of construction. Still wasn’t any fun for me.

Fireball, March 8, 2023, Peter Gordon, “Cryptogram Names,” solution grid

  • 16a [TV crime family member whose first or last name could be in a cryptogram as GRIFTER] is CARMELA SOPRANO.
  • 25a [“Speed” actor whose first or last name could be in a cryptogram as SPEEDY] is DENNIS HOPPER.
  • 40a [Actress who played Queen in “Alex Haley’s Queen” whose first or last name could be in a cryptogram as QUEEN] is HALLE BERRY.
  • 49a [Japanese maestro whose first or last name could be in a cryptogram as KYOTO] is SEIJI OZAWA.
  • 63a [Stabbing victim whose first or last name could be in a cryptogram as VICTIM] is JULIUS CAESAR.
  • 77a [Pulitzer winner for the novel “Ironweed” whose first or last name could be in a cryptogram as NARRATE] is WILLIAM KENNEDY.

There you go.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that HALLE BERRY appeared in “Alex Haley’s Queen” or that DENNIS HOPPER appeared in “Speed.” Also did not know that the national anthem of Somalia is “Qolobaa Calankeed.”

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 3/9/23 – Reid

The grid looks ever so slightly like a dogwood blossom. Chicago is getting snow tonight, but spring is coming, it is. Difficulty level about as expected, maybe a notch harder than the easiest New Yorker themelesses.

Fave fill: THIS IS SPINAL TAP, HANGRY ([Unfed and seeing red]), CANDY LAND, “END OF DISCUSSION,” BAIL OUT, “WELL, DUH,” PEARLY GATES, G-STRING. Least favorite: “I LOSE.” Can you hear yourself saying those words, vs. “you beat me,” “I lost again,” and so on?

1a [Targets of microblading] was a gimme for me because a friend with wispy BROWS has had it done. As I understand it, it involves making teeny little cuts in the skin in an eyebrow shape, and applying something akin to tattoo ink into those cuts so each cut looks like a brow hair. I think it’s not quite as permanent as tattooing, though.

Four stars from me.

Neville Fogarty’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

As the circles, and the grid shape, had no doubt tipped you off, Neville Fogarty’s puzzle today has a vertical theme: [Emotionally crushed, and an apt description of the circled elements in this puzzle?], ALLBROKENUP. Like it says, the revealer is particularly apt in defining the theme, as the circles spell out four frequently? broken things in two parts, read from bottom to top (up):

  • [Sport with teams of quadcopters], DRONESOCCER. {RECORD} Never heard of it, though it is completely believable given e.g. “robot wars”…
  • [Hollywood Foreign Press Association awards], GOLDENGLOBES. {BONE}
  • [Period of the Peloponnesian Wars], CLASSICALGREECE. {GLASS}

It’s a very busy grid, with a 11-12-15-12-11 theme pattern, but there is surprisingly little dross. PANDG sticks out, as does EZINE (crossing LEEZA at the zed?). On the other hand, we even got a bonus pair of long acrosses in GRANDTETON and LETSBEREAL.


Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword, “I Call Shotgun!” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer starts with a road-related term.

Universal Crossword, 03 09 2023, “I Call Shotgun!”

  • 3d [Piece of protective football gear] – SHOULDER PAD
  • 7d [Women’s apparel company] – LANE BRYANT
  • 11d [Income that half of workers make more than] – MEDIAN WAGES
  • 54a [Kerouac novel … and where you’d find the first words of 3-, 7- and 11-Down] – ON THE ROAD

Hey, it’s a puzzle by Fiend’s own ZDL! Always great to write about a member of our community, especially when they create an excellent puzzle – makes my job much easier! I also love how the grid has a black square smiley face in the middle :)

Today’s theme is simple but effective. I like how the theme answers incorporate different meanings of the “road” words, and the layout is interesting. I really wanted MEDIAN WAGES to be singular, so that took me a bit to figure out. The other two came to me pretty quickly, although LANE BRYANT might be tricky for some solvers.

Favorite fill: the stack of AVID READER, LANE BRYANT, KIA SORENTO is lovely. Also loved CRONUT, PRONTO, and of course SOPHIA!

Tricky spots: UNISOM (I had “soho” instead of NOHO and “usisom” looked juuuust weird enough for me to change). “Stops” before BALKS for 5a [Refuses to proceed]. My fave tricky clue was 13d [Word before “bars” or “business”] for MONKEY.

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13 Responses to Thursday, March 9, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Yeah, it was hard to get a foothold in the NW. I had to wander elsewhere, get a nibble here and there and piece together what the theme was. But it was a good aha moment.
    It feels that the revealer almost undersells the theme. All the flips happen around an S that sits in the midst of the original expression and winds up as a plural in the flipped version. That’s pretty nice consistency. Three of the 5 theme entries are fantastic either way you look at them: backswing, headshot and barstool. Housesale and alehouses is very good but the second, unflipped, S in there is a bit distracting.
    I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the two “U”s in DUFFS and SULLY that were part of YOU UP?
    And the two pairs of long down entries are impressive in a puzzle with 6 theme entries.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Agree. I really liked the theme entries and thought the revealer was a bit of a letdown.

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: Thanks to the black bars, I got the trick quickly with PRINT OUTS/OUTSPRINT. Pretty smooth all the way through until I hit CASTS ON/CADS. My mother knit, but I don’t remember her ever saying she was “casting on.”

    • marciem says:

      She may not have said it, but the first step in any knitting project is casting on the number of stitches instructed for the pattern desired. (for crochet, its making a chain the specified number) :) .

      I do the puzzle in AL and it worked just fine… what specifically made the app solve different or better? Where were these “black bars” you speak of?

      • Eric H says:


        In the NYT app, there’s a setting called “Show Overlays.” If it’s turned on, as mine was, you get black bars in the middle of the theme answers (see the image of the grid that accompanies Zachary David Levy’s review). I read somewhere that the printed version of the puzzle had those bars, so it seems like the bars are closer to what the constructor wanted. Having them does make the puzzle easier to solve.

  3. Mr. [not really] Grumpy says:

    I refuse to read Notepad notes before solving. Period. NYT is welcome to its app, but can put a cork in it as far suggesting that the solving experience will be better there. This was an excellent puzzle in Across Lite. I would have hated to have the experience cheapened [IMO; YMMV] by the “hit you over the head with the solution” black bars.

    • Mutman says:

      You should have removed the [not really] for today’s post.

      Enjoyable solve for me.

      • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

        But I have a “reputation” to uphold [or live down]. :-)

      • JohnH says:

        I enjoyed the puzzle, too, even or especially with obstacles along the way like ANIMANIACS and the clever cluing of ESPY. I liked the bars, mostly because I often draw them myself to indicate word breaks in a cryptic puzzle, as a solving aid. (Clues normally give word lengths, so I go on that.) It’s a tad awkward when it’s a barred rather than black-square grid, as I don’t want to confuse word breaks with breaks between answers. But barred cryptics are usually variety puzzles, with a theme, and often word counts there aren’t given, so it’s no big deal.

  4. Mr. [not really] Grumpy says:

    WSJ 14A: An orchestral score covers all the instruments, since the conductor, for example, needs must see who is supposed to be playing when and what notes. The woodwinds come first, and, within that section, the flutes are on top, then the oboes, then the clarinets, and so forth [highest pitch to lowest, I think]. So the oboe is the second section [“staff” of five lines and four spaces] from the top. That clue was a nice change from the usual “Peter and the Wolf” or “orchestras tune to this instrument” clue

  5. Steve G. says:

    On the WSJ puzzle isn’t ozone odorless?

    • LaurieAnnaT says:

      I know I’m late to the article – I do the puzzles when I get around to it – but, per Wikipedia, ozone “is a pale blue gas with a distinctively pungent smell.” And “Ozone’s odour is reminiscent of chlorine, and detectable by many people at concentrations of as little as 0.1 ppm in air.”

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