Monday, March 20, 2023

BEQ 6:45 (Matthew) 


LAT 1:52 (Stella) 


NYT 3:01 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 5:21 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


 Adam Vincent’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up

Theme: DINE AND DASH – Each theme answer is a food whose second word is a synonym for “dash”.

New York Times, 03 20 2023, By Adam Vincent

  • 16a [Ice cream dessert served in a boat] – BANANA SPLIT
  • 19a [Vegan version of a classic brunch dish] – TOFU SCRAMBLE
  • 34a [Citrusy cocktail garnish] – LEMON PEEL
  • 50a [Sweet spiral pastry topped with icing] – CINNAMON ROLL
  • 55a [Not pay for a meal at a restaurant … or a hint to each half of 16-, 19-, 34- and 50-Across] – DINE AND DASH

Cute theme! I always like these “double synonym” themes, which add an extra layer to a classic theme type. The revealer here is perfect and describes what’s going on well. I solved the puzzle from top to bottom, and felt a real “aha” moment when I got to it. The theme foods are all fun in their own right, too. TOFU SCRAMBLE was my favorite, although CINNAMON ROLLS are my favorite to eat.

The theme answers are laid out in a really interesting pattern here – the top two answers are nearly stacked on top of each other. This layout opens up the grid a lot (five themers are a lot, especially when the middle one is 9 letters), but if any of the letter combos don’t work, it can be a grid-killer. Luckily that wasn’t the case here  – TALC saves the only potential trouble spot. That being said, the grid does feel a little choppy/sectioned off. I wish there were one or two more sparkly downs, but that’s the trade off here.

This puzzle played very easy to me, much more so than the average Monday. I’m not sure why that was exactly – sectioned-off grid with shorter answers? Straightforward clues? It’s probably a combination of things, but I’m curious if other folks felt that way. The thing that held me up the most, embarrassingly, was [What the fish said when it swam into a concrete wall, per an old joke] for DAM.

Other highlights: REPARTEE, FWORD, FLUBBED

Happy Monday all!

Yoni Glatt’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Cryptic Puzzle”—Jim’s review

Theme answers consist of familiar phrases that all hide the word TOMB. The revealer is ENTOMBMENTS (64a, [Burials for pharaohs, and a hint to 17-, 26-, 40- and 52-Across]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “A Cryptic Puzzle” · Yoni Glatt · Mon., 3.20.23

  • 17a. [Like many Etsy products] CUSTOMBUILT.
  • 26a. [Star quarterback who retired (for the second time) in 2023] TOM BRADY.
  • 40a. [One way to see marine life] GLASS BOTTOM BOATS.
  • 52a. [Manhattan Project product] ATOM BOMB.

Not exactly the most enticing of revealers, but to be honest, during the solve, I only noticed the MB that connected two words in each phrase. The revealer gave me the aha moment I needed, and I was surprised there were that many familiar phrases (and a name) that hide the word TOMB.  So…pretty cool, after all.

I’m liking TAKE A SHOT and LAMPOONED in the fill. Most of the rest of the fill is solid, but a couple tricky entries might be tough for a Monday: MOAB [Ancient kingdom near the Dead Sea] and MAU [Egyptian ___ (cat breed)]. Ooh, pretty kitty!

Not much else going on in the clues but I will say I enjoyed the title. A fine Monday puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Jon Pennington’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 3/20/23 by Jon Pennington

Los Angeles Times 3/20/23 by Jon Pennington

The revealer at 52A [In an advantageous position, or where both halves of the answers to 20-, 26-, and 44-Across can be placed?] is AHEAD OF THE GAME, meaning that each theme entry is a two-word phrase and that each of the two words in each theme entry can be placed before the word GAME to make another phrase:

  • 20A [First songs of musicals] is OPENING NUMBERS, giving OPENING GAME and NUMBERS GAME.
  • 26A [Collectible once sold with bubble gum] is a BASEBALL CARD, giving BASEBALL GAME and CARD GAME.
  • 44A [Ideal partner] is a PERFECT MATCH, giving PERFECT GAME and MATCH GAME.

Of these, I like 44A the best, because the two GAME phrases have the most difference in meaning from the original phrase. OPENING NUMBERS and OPENING GAME are basically the Broadway and sports versions of each other. BASEBALL means the same thing whether it’s about a CARD or a GAME. That being said, this kind of gimmick is hard enough to execute that it’s more than impressive to find three phrases that work and fit into traditional crossword symmetry. The grid is well done, with few propers and no traps for the Monday solver.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword—Matthew’s review

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 3/20/2023

Toughie for me this week – I had trouble with everything to the right and below the central diagonal of black squares, even with what is usually enough crossings.

Spoken phrases like IT IS BEST and HELLS NO were a bit unfamiliar to me. BOSTON COOLER was half-familiar in the back of my brain, and fun to refresh. KIDNEY from [Classic pool shape] was a nice aha moment. MIA and SOO are relatively crossword-common clued in new ways for me, and MAXIM rather than MOTTO (after crossings eliminated CREED and CREDO) was a nice trap.

That said, very little on the “I guess that’s technically a word” spectrum that we sometimes see in harder BEQ grids, and everything went in with a solid click for me, just tougher cluing IMO than the usual from Brendan. How did it treat you?

Drew Schmenner’s Universal crossword, “Wide Range” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 3/20/23 • Mon • Schmenner • “Wide Range” • solution • 202230320

I initially thought this theme was too insubstantial, but upon reaching the revealing entry I felt less critical of it.

  • 52aR [They’re too loud for indoors … and a hint to the words bookending 49-Across, 4-Down and 10-Down] OUTSIDE VOICES. The letters are already circled.
  • 4d. [Diana Prince, to Wonder Woman] ALTER EGO (alto).
  • 10d. [Publicity that may bring 15 minutes of shame] BAD PRESS (bass).
  • 49a. [Wimbledon, e.g.] TENNIS MAJOR (tenor).

Bonus theme-adjacent content: 43a [Operatic solos] ARIAS. But it hardly makes up for the notable absence of SOPRANO, the fourth major vocal range category. There is unsurprisingly nothing sensible (save the etymologically related sopranino) that could work for the theme. Had I been developing this theme I would have taken this impossibility as a signal to abandon it, but perhaps this one reason I haven’t ever published a crossword.

  • 1a [“Poker Face” singer Lady __ ] GAGA. Crossing {ALTO}, but she’s apparently a mezzo-soprano. That would have been a neat trick—crossing each of the range names with a famous singer whose voice is in that range!
  • 21a [Insert, as an online video] EMBED. We do this quite frequently on this blog.
  • 27a [Suffer a major defeat] LOSE BIG. Big dupe in the clue with themer 49-across.
  • 41a [Name bookended by 40-Across] MARV. Recalls the instructions in the theme revealer. 40a [Dallas hoopster, briefly] MAV.
  • 34d [Musical master] VIRTUOSO. Not theme-related, in my estimation.
  • 43d [Singer DiFranco] ANI. Crossing themer 49-across, and she is definitely not a tenor.

Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 3/20/23 – Gorski

This one played easier than most Monday New Yorker puzzles for me, but with about 19 names of people, places, and brands in the grid, some solvers may have felt stymied. (My Fiend experience has shown me that once you exceed about 14 propers, people complain.)

Raised an eyebrow at the clue for TINTED MIRROR, [Colorful wall fixture]. What color, exactly? The only not-just-plain mirrors used in home decor that I can think of are the old mirrored wall tiles that had dark markings on them, which are neither colorful nor fixtures. Show me your colorful wall mirrors, people! Enlighten me.


Did not know: [Nickname of Basketball Hall of Famer John Havlicek], HONDO.

Three stars from me.


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23 Responses to Monday, March 20, 2023

  1. Hans says:

    So the NYT acrostic and puns and anagrams are no longer available online? Was any reason given? Thanks.

    • marciem says:

      I don’t know that they announced it, but *poof* they’ve been gone a couple of weeks. Apparently available in print edition. You can find them and do them online at, for a small fee.

    • JohnH says:

      They announced the change a couple of weeks in advance and it’s been much talked about (well, objected angrily to), including both here and at the NYT’s own wordplay blog. They also replied more or less personally to a complaint from me, and all of us here can only suggest you add your complaint as well.

      However, none of this gave us a reason. One can only assume a cost-cutting measure, although the cost can’t be too high (someone’s 20 minutes of labor a week), at the expense of subscribers. Amy has speculated that it’s a redirecting of resources to the phone app, but I’m not entirely convinced there can be a direct relation between costs saved in one place and costs added in another, since the people involved in each will have distinct skills. But you never know!

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I don’t think it was I who speculated thus.

        It’s true, though, that acrostics, variety puzzles, and Puns & Anagrams all require puzzle constructors who are paid for their work, whereas some of the NYT web games, like Tiles and Sudoku, can be computer-generated.

        • JohnH says:

          Sorry about my mis-remembering. Now I’m curious, though. An ordinary crossword construction tool will, I’m guessing, kick out puz files and pdf. It’d be poor planning if the new NYT online format weren’t also kicked out from a tool that the NYT shares with constructors, since they need to publish something every day. That surely takes care of producing a P & A for sharing online within no more than a couple of minutes, and I’m guessing it works for construction of black-square puzzles like cryptics as well, since English and Irish papers all run them.

          Diagramless puzzles probably haven’t had online solving as it is, so the NYT would have only to put their clues online, from a text file that no doubt already exists each time. (Printout solvers can go back to the old days of their own graph paper, if they don’t already.) Some other variety types, such as split decisions, I’m guessing, were never solvable online, and all they’d have to put online is a graphic.

          That leaves pretty much only acrostics. How do constructors share those with the NYT on the way to publication? Is there a constructor tool for them, too? If so, I’ll stick to my thought that they’re saving at most 20 minutes of paid labor time per week. (Surely the loss of Sunday’s smaller, more recently added variety puzzles, such as the spelling bee, would not anger all that many people. It’s the second Sunday puzzle, after the big main one, that’s at stake.)

          • Lois says:

            I’m not sure I understood all of JohnH’s comment, but I appreciated what I understood. The puzzles are still being published in print in the Sunday magazines, apparently to dissuade people from canceling their home delivery. The Times not only got rid of the work of transferring the puzzles and solutions to PDF files, but did not even want to maintain the archive of old puzzles, for some cruel reason. Furthermore, the archive page disappeared on March 1, as promised, with the answers never appearing for the final Sunday variety puzzles on the last Sunday of February. I’m glad I was finally able to solve the Patrick Berry middle puzzle, or there would have been no recourse for me. Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, the constructors of the acrostic, made the acrostic solution available online for that day, but I don’t know how easy it will be to find the acrostic in the future. Even if you can’t find the PDFs with the solutions to the variety puzzles any longer, you might find articles about the print puzzles online by searching Times Gameplay, if you subscribe to the games. I’m a hoarder and I can’t deal with home delivery in a mature way, so that’s that for me. I’m still getting a couple of the variety puzzles on XWord Info. I wouldn’t agree with John about which puzzle is the biggest loss. Everyone has different favorites. I liked that Berry puzzle in the middle.

    • Hans says:

      Thanks all.

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: It felt easy to me, though my time was a hair under average. I think I may have set a new personal record for typos made. And Today I Learned that LiMe wedge and LEMON PEEL have the same number of letters.

  3. dh says:

    I always thought that that little swab of Benzocaine the dentist puts in your mouth before giving you novocaine was an “Opening Number”. In the WSJ, I thought it was appropriate (for me, anyway) that 54-D “Blond” is followed immediately (using the TAB key) by 56-D, “Wince”, because that’s what I do when I see the word “Blond” without the “e”. I know it’s perfectly legit, but I still 56-D. Same as “cigaret”, “catalog” and others. It’s just me, I’m sure – thank you for listening.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Traditionally, blonde applies to women and blond to men. Given that English doesn’t gender nouns (and their associated adjectival inflections), and that gender isn’t a binary, we really ought to settle on a single spelling, and blonde feels dominant to me.

      • JohnH says:

        Great point. Normally I would just consult dictionaries like MW11C and RHUD, taking them as authorities. But more and more gendered words are moving out of the language for people who care. So we really could choose one or the other, and I could easily see if people decide on blonde, at least as a noun. (I can imagine, at the risk of overcomplicating things, if both genders could then have blond hair.)

  4. Noah says:

    NYT: Hit a Monday PR today, so yes, definitely on the easy side

  5. marciem says:

    LAT: “26A [Collectible once sold with bubble gum] is a BASEBALL CARD”

    Huh! I always thought the card was a freebie included when I bought the gum, I didn’t want the cards :D .

    • marciem says:

      NYT Silly me didn’t know that Baked Alaska wasn’t served in a boat :P (same number of letters as the correct answer, starts with BA… worked for me for a hot minute). The only time I’ve had Baked Alaska was on a cruise ship (boat) so I forgive myself.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      In case you aren’t aware of it, you may have been after your time, marciem! Beginning in the late 19th-century, baseball cards were included as promotional materials in packaging of tobacco products and confections (including gum). The cards themselves eventually became the main draw. I think that might have started to become the case in the late-’30s and card-collecting really took off in the ’40s and ’50s.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Hah! Enjoyed your bubble gum bit.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    NYT … Who “dines” on a LEMON PEEL? All of the other themers are things that people eat. This seems like a three-quarters-baked theme to me (a little like today’s three-quarters-baked theme in the Universal puzzle).

    I think the NYT constructor and puzzle editors have a different definition of “classic brunch dish” than I do. TOFU SCRAMBLE?

    • anon says:

      Presumably the classic brunch dish is one of cheese, ham, or sausage scramble (or similar) – I would call this classic. Then “tofu scramble” is the vegan version of this classic, as clued.

    • JohnH says:

      I wasn’t familiar with it but only because I don’t go for scrambles either, but it made pefect sense. The harder part for me was the theme, which is to say the part of associating the second word in themers with “dash.” I’m guessing “dash” in the sense of hurry off, where ROLL would then be taken in the sense of “let’s roll”?

      I’m surprised, though, to hear of TALC as an obstacle to anyone. The whole seemed Monday-ish enough to me.

      • Eric H says:

        I read Jim’s comment that “TALC saves the only potential trouble spot” as looking at TOFU SCRAMBLE from a constructor’s viewpoint; as C is not a common last letter in English, it was a bit of luck that TALC fit.

  7. Eric H says:

    BEQ: Mostly smooth going, but a couple of half-correct answers slowed me down a lot (GODmode and EGGhunt). I was slow to get ASSLESS CHAPS even after I had the last part of it because that’s not a tautology I’d heard before, but the clue was amusing.

    • Brenda Rose says:

      Assless chaps are quite prevalent during the Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco & both women & men can be seen wearing these any day of the week. Talk about hot crossed buns :).

  8. JohnH says:

    I’d agree that TNY was on the easy side for a Monday, merely on the grounds that for me for once it was at all solvable. But then it’s Gorski, not Last, TNY does tend to leave constructors to set difficulty by their own tastes, and this is how a fine, traditional constructor ups difficulty.

    I did have an easier time near the bottom than near the top. I first tried “free” for lacking a charge, say, didn’t think of either long top across entry until I’d lots of crossings, wondered if the cathartic would be SENNA or henna (which at least I’d heard of), faced two geography clues (although by now I should know the city of a thousand minarets from crosswords!), wondered if a human being could be “tahini” like the condiment, and couldn’t remember OTIS. I also didn’t know this sense of “floss” and had no idea why something more like dental hygeine wasn’t fitting. But all worked out.

    HONDO was new to me, too, as was PEABO crossing it. I vaguely remember him from the days of Bill Russell on his team and the champion Knicks, but I don’t know if I knew his nickname. Maybe you’d have to be a Boston fan for that.

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