Sean Biggins’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Lower Class”—Jim’s review
Theme: Well-known three-letter college initialisms are found in familiar phrases, but they are “dropped” into the Down direction. The revealer is COLLEGE DROPOUTS (38a, [Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, famously, and a hint to some three-letter abbreviations in this puzzle]).
- 17a. [Whom Captain Renault wants rounded up, in “Casablanca”] USUAL SUSPECTS with LSU from “I’LL SUE!”
- 32a. [Dole medley] FRUIT CUP with TCU from BUDGET CUTS.
- 51a. [Kitchen deputy] SOUS CHEF with USC from CALF MUSCLE.
- 62a. [The Basketball Hall of Fame is named for him] JAMES NAISMITH with MIT from OMIT.
I knew something was up from the first entry when USUAL SUSPECTS didn’t fit. My first thought was a rebus, but it never materialized and I was able to spot LSU.
The biggest surprise after that was the shortness of the two middle theme answers. I really expected them to be longer to stand out. Since there aren’t any circles in the grid (and I don’t think there needs to be), help the solver out a bit by choosing longer theme answers that are a little more identifiable.
Lastly, I wanted the final entry’s school to span multiple words just like the others. With all the three-letter school names that exist, surely one could’ve been found. NAKATOMI TOWER (skyscraper in Die Hard) might’ve fit the bill.
BUDGET CUTS and CALF MUSCLE are fun, though you might not classify them as “fill” since they contribute to the theme. NOSE RING is great as well.
But for my money, there were just too many gluey bits in this grid: plural NTHS, old OSS, UTA (not clued via actress Hagen) crossing the uncommon IT HELP, ARB (still not sure what that is), random Roman numerals MMC, defunct cars AMCS, and worst of all uncommon EOLITH crossing ATL clued via a 2006 film. Two or three of these would be okay, but altogether, they made for a less fun solve.
There’s some good stuff here, but too many compromises weighed it down. 2.75 stars.
Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Themeless #149” – Jenni’s write-up
This one felt a bit harder to me than recent Fireball themelesses. Of course I only slept about three hours last night. Make of that what you will.
Things I noticed:
- 1a [Place where you might pick up a boy toy?] I was afraid this was going to be something like HOME DEPOT (I know it doesn’t fit) and I was going to feel obliged to lecture Peter about sexism. We’re both off the hook, and I owe him an apology. It’s PET STORE. “Toy” as in tiny little dog.
- 9d [In agglutinated masses] is CLUMPED, not CLOTTED, as I originally thought. Do non-medical people know what “agglutinated” means?
- Speaking of pets, we have [Abyssinian blessing] at 17a. It’s NINE LIVES, not what an ancient Ethiopian says after someone sneezes.
- 33a [“Skip”] is CAP‘N. Short for “skipper.” Very tricky clue. This is how I like my puzzles.
- 58a [Like some people’s doodles when vacationing] is KENNELED. “Doodles” as in dogs that are poodle crosses. I enjoy the first/last mini-theme thing Peter often does in his themeless puzzles.
What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: oh, so many things. Never heard of the Roald Dahl book ESIOTROT, which is TORTOISE reversed. Did not know (or more likely did not remember) that Randy AROZARENA won the 2021 AL Rookie of the Year. Had no idea that SAL MINEO lost to Jack Lemmon for Best Supporting Actor. SAL appeared in “Rebel Without a Cause.” Jack was featured in “Mister Roberts.”
David Kwong’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up
Difficulty: Average (12m19s)
Today’s theme: I genuinely have no idea.
- (ONE)(ONE) COMMANDER (Officer in charge of a military unit)
- WISDOM OF THE (ONE)(ONE)(ONE) (Collective opinion)
- THE EAST INDIA (ONE)(ONE) (British Empire trade entity founded in 1600)
- (ONE)(ONE)(ONE) SOURCING (Mass method for seeking input)
The puzzle itself wasn’t too challenging — you’re always on rebus red alert, and then you hit HERMI(ONE) and AL CAP(ONE), so there it is. And it becomes apparent that all of the rebuses are ONES. But why? WING becomes 11, as does TEA COMPANY; CROWD is used twice (!?!) and becomes 111 both times. About once a year, I have an honest-to-god Vince Lombardi reaction to a puzzle — “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON OUT HERE?” — and I’m going to let it stand, rather than looking for a lifeline and pretending I knew the score the entire time. WING ONE ONE, CROWD ONE ONE ONE, TEA COMPANY ONE ONE, CROWD ONE ONE ONE. It’s like the Zodiac killer’s last letter, or that sculpture outside of CIA headquarters.
Incidentally, did anyone else get WING COMMANDER because of the classic 90’s video game? I used to have a visceral reaction to my 16-bit coffin being launched into space like Spock at the end of The Wrath of Khan. In any event, I’m going to go ruminate on what this puzzle could possibly mean, but a deadline is a deadline.
[Edit: Okay, apparently it’s II=2=COMPANY, and III=3=CROWD, so it’s COMPANY COMMANDER and not WING COMMANDER, and I added an unnecessary TEA to the EAST INDIA COMPANY. I’m still sticking with my own addled interpretation.]
Cracking: NOBU — there’s a restaurant in Hakone, Japan, called “Itoh Dining by Nobu”, built in a residential neighborhood, with a dining area that looks like someone’s living room, and we ended up there on a rainy Tuesday in the off-season a few years ago. It was the greatest meal of my life.
Slacking: CEYLONESE — woof. I knew Ceylon and figured out the derivative.
Sidetracking: ok, well now I’ve got Shatner’s Spock eulogy in my head.
Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker puzzle – Kyle’s write-up
Hello! This is my first post for DOACF, coming aboard after many years of being a reader and occasional commenter as ‘ktd’. I’ll be writing about the Thursday New Yorker puzzles. Thanks to Amy for the opportunity!
Let’s dive into Caitlin Reid’s puzzle! This 72-worder felt well-tuned to being a good puzzle for beginners, as advertised. Buttery-smooth fill swirls around the grid, with the central 13 GARDEN VARIETY surrounded by corner stacks of 8/9/10 and 8/8/7. From a construction viewpoint, notice how the top left and bottom right regions have no direct crossings with the middle of the grid – this helps give flexibility for building those longer stacks. There are still two ways out of each corner as well, so the grid flows nicely.
- CLAPTRAP (1A)/SPAM (9A) make a nice duo across the top of the puzzle. There’s also the echo of ATHLETES (36D) pouring GATORADE (35D) over the coach after a big win
- 15A [Ill will, as between two old rivals] is a great clue for NO LOVE LOST
- Conversational entries: 10D PEACE OUT [“Later!”], 20A COW [“Don’t have a ___”], 63A LEST [“___ we forget”], 41D NOS [“¡___ encantó!” (“We loved it!”)
- 15D NCAA [March Madness org.] – how’s your bracket doing?
- 9D SMH [“Unbelievable”, in textspeak] – this one briefly tripped me up as I first entered SRS (is that a valid alternative? Or am I making up a back-formation from srsly?)
- I chuckled at the long quotation clue for 43A IAN [McKellen who once said, “Some fan attention is odd, but no odder than a cereal box with me as Magneto on it”]
Thanks Caitlin for the puzzle!
Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1559, “Two-for-One”—Darby’s review
Theme: Each theme answer uses two letters to phonetically replace one word.
- 17a [“Being unsuccessful”] COMING UP MT / COMING UP EMPTY
- 23a [“‘Yeah! Right!’”] EZ FOR YOU TO SAY / EASY FOR YOU TO SAY
- 35a [“Visual magazine feature”] PHOTO SA / PHOTO ESSAY
- 37a [“Dentist’s concern”] TOOTH DK / TOOTH DECAY
- 47a [“Office item with a lot of cells”] XL SPREADSHEET / EXCEL SPREADSHEET
- 57a [“Sweetie”] QT PATOOTIE / CUTIE PATOOTIE
A themer-packed Thursday from BEQ this week! I was curious to see what the theme was based on the title, and EZ FOR YOU TO SAY was my “aha” moment. From there, it was easier to fill in TOOTH DK (where I initially had HYGIENE because CAVITY was too short) and PHOTO SA. Grid-wise, it’s also really nice that these two theme answers are consecutive. Similarly, XL SPREADSHEET was right at the tip of my tongue, but obviously EXCEL SPREADSHEET wasn’t going to fit.
Generally, this was a fun puzzle. I was a bit thrown off by 1a [“Moistened, as some steak”] AU JUS, as I haven’t seen this referenced as an action rather than a liquid. I initially had GOLF for 16a [“Sport where athletes wear jackets”] but EPEE is a much clearer answer, and I like that it crosses PET DOC. My favourite answer of the day was 5d [“Joseph, to Pete Buttigieg”] SON, but there were quite a few wordplay-based clues.
Bart Gold’s Universal crossword, “Running Joke” — Sophia’s write-up
Theme: The longest answers in the puzzle all contain synonyms for “easy”. Each answer stacked over those words contains two O’s.
- 17a [*Avoiding anything complicated] – KEEPING IT SIMPLE
- 25a [*”This is pretty straightforward”] – IT’S ELEMENTARY
- 42a [*”Quit following the mainstream!”] – DON’T BE SO BASIC
- 56a [*Diner order represented visually in and above the ends of the starred clues’ answers] – TWO EGGS OVER EASY
Stacked theme answers are always fun and add a (literal!) extra layer to a puzzle. This one took me a while to see because I didn’t immediately associate the “OO”s with eggs – I guess a zero is a “goose egg”, but I don’t remember any phrases with just O’s by themselves. The theme answers are all solid, but feel a tad repetitive – it might have been more interesting if the answers had changed the meanings of the “easy” words at all (even just like, “elementary school” or something like that)? But overall, a solid theme with a bit of high concept interest.
Favorite clues: 10d [Doc Brown of “Back to the Future”] for EMMETT, [Ivy where Lupita Nyong’o got her master’s] for YALE
New to me: That SENEGAL is known for mbalax, that BEA Arthur was in the Star Wars Holiday Special?? Wild!
Rebecca Goldstein & Rafael Musa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary
Never heard anyone say THEVIBESAREOFF before, and the VIBESARE area took easily the longest time in the puzzle to fall. As it happens, Rebecca Goldstein & Rafael Musa’s puzzle theme is familiar in concept – VIBE is scrambled in the middles of four other answers:
- [*Players who cover wide receivers], DEFENS(IVEB)ACKS
- [*Film fanatic], MO(VIEB)UFF
- [*Black Friday slogan], SA(VEBI)G
- [*Couple in the honeymoon phase], LO(VEBI)RDS
I felt quite lucky to guess right at the intersection of [Hawaiian island whose population was 84 in the 2020 census], NIIHAU and [Actress Shawkat], ALIA after considering an E.
Maybe it’s just me, but I cannot find the Comments to the NYT Wordplay column (which is at its usual URL, but without any Comments button).
I had ALI as the one-liners guy, but that didn’t fit the quotation marks (or the down answer).
NYT: The theme is based on the common expression “Two’s company, three’s a crowd.” I thought this was super clever and figured it out when I got to “wisdom of the (crowd).”
It was pretty darned clever. The company/crowd distinction clicked for me just as I was finishing the grid. The [ONE] Rebuses were obvious from the beginning, when I figured the criminal had to be AL CAP[ONE]. (That he was imprisoned at Alcatraz is one of those things that I learned once but didn’t really remember.)
The puzzle doesn’t need a revealer. 55A can only be [CROWD] SOURCING.
NYT: Awesome, Bryan! I got it with THE EAST INDIA (Company). This was indeed clever and I saw no need for a revealer at the time but I can see where it would help.
I learned about Alcatraz/Al Capone when I read Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko, a really enjoyable book.
I second this book recommendation!
Two’s company, there’s a crowd — THE PUZZLE RAN IN 3/ 2 3 / 2 3, March 23, 2023. Can’t be coincidence! Who gets the credit– David Kwong or Will Shortz?
NYT: Bryan is right, but this needed a revealer.
NYT: I really liked it. Partway through, I realized that it referred to that adage, and I filled the extra ONEs which made for a fast Thursday for me.
Like the clue for SYMPTOM!
NYT: can someone explain how HANK is a “Hair piece?”
I thought the theme was clever, but “wisdom of the crowd” and “crowdsourcing” are related enough concepts that using both seemed a bit repetitive. And the crossing “THE ____” entries kind of bugged, too.
See, e.g., https://www.dictionary.com/browse/hank, definition 3 for “hank of hair”.
where i first learned the term “hank of hair”:
and i bet a lot of others did, too!
but what i hadn’t realized was that the lyrics are by bob merrill — he of “how much is that doggie in the window?” fame. and funny girl fame and so many other successes during the so-called golden age eras of both pop music and broadway. a tragic life ultimately — but (even w/ some of his less-than perfect shows) what a career!
This explains it here for the NYT theme. I was also stumped on the themes meaning
Loved this puzzle! CROWDSOURCING gave it to me and then I just stood back and admired it. This is how Thursday should be done.
Ditto that “This is how Thursday should be done”!!
My favorite Thurs. in quite a while… loved it! Pick any nits one wants, it was a fun solve for me :) .
Absolutely! I’m not a huge fan of rebus puzzles but this was a big winner in my book. As Erik H. said, “It was pretty darned clever.”
I also thought it was EASTINDIA Tea COMPANY, so I could not decipher the “two’s company” part of the theme. I’m pretty sure that’s what I learned in school, but there’s no reference to the “Tea” name in Wikipedia at all.
I also think WISDOMOFTHECROWD and CROWDSOURCING are too close in meaning to each other to both be theme answers in the same puzzle. There’s no variation on the meaning of “CROWD” between those two answers.
I should have remembered there was no “Tea”, based on the classic Douglas Adams line:
“Arthur no more knows his destiny than a tea leaf knows the history of the East India Company.”
The similarity between the two CROWD answers bothers me a little. But the whole theme was so clever, with a delayed (for me) “aha moment,” that I’m willing to overlook that duplication.
The NYT app did not accept the numeral 1 as a correct entry for the rebus “one.” It did accept the letter O.
Wow. That’s disappointing. I use Crossword Scraper so I can continue to solve in Across Lite, and I thought I might be missing out on the NYT’s new technology for this particular puzzle, but I guess not!
I thought I was being clever by putting in the numeral 1 instead of spelling it out but that didn’t turn out to be the timesaver I had imagined.
The NYT App is horrendously inconsistent with rebuses. I’ve had puzzles where I’ve taken an extra 10 minutes just figuring out how it wants me to put in rebuses.
I’d hard time in the WSJ NE, but not like Jim because of UTA. For me it was BIZ plus slow to remember ZALES (thinking, was it Hales?) from previous crosswords alone. (But yes, does look like there’s one in NYC.) That and the theme.
We’ve had drop-down and other detours before. This one felt harder because there are so many colleges out there and so many places in the grid they might land. Especially hard if you don’t remember JAMES NAISMITH.
Not that I’m typical, and no doubt UTA Barth really isn’t common. But she’s a show up right now at Tanya Bonakdar gallery in Chelsea, and it’s wonderful. She photographs crisp modern and not large buildings in a wider open setting with greenery in changing light over many days. Photos are paired or collaged in a way that extends and disrupts the architecture and point of view. Lovely for the buildings themselves, for the image, and for the concept of time passing slowly.
NYT: THE crossing THE? No thank you.
Meh, given the rest of the positives, that’s pretty minor.
Fireball: The clue for ENES (8D: Center Freedom) had me totally stumped. I could not figure out how to parse it at all, and could not get the N, as I had no idea about AROZARE(N)A – that N could have been a variety of letters and I still would not have understood the clue.
I googled “Center Freedom Enes” and saw what was going on, but oof, that was tough. It’s nice to have another clue for ENES, so that’s good. Also, I feel like I’ll remember him from here on 😁
And Jenni, I somehow did know “agglutinate,” although I don’t have a medical background. I feel that it’s what happens when I mix chia or flax seeds with a little water. Feel free to tell me if I’m wrong, though. I don’t want to use the word incorrectly.
Fireball: It was interesting to note the phrasing of the clue for 27A — General reply, maybe : YES SIR
“Maybe” being the key word there.
Compare that to Tuesday’s NYT where “Soldier’s affirmative” was YES SIR and Amy noted that there are high-ranking officers that don’t go by “sir”
BEQ: Enjoyed this one very much, too! Another nice quirky Thursday puzzle to chew on.
My flaw was Photo RA instead of SA, but it was easy to find when HappyPencil didn’t appear.
NYT: I got the “One-One” for 16-A, but was thinking along the lines of “Base Commander” as in “Base 2” or something like that. I had never heard of “Wisdom of the Crowd” so that was also a roadblock for me – but I figured it out by the time I got to “Crowdsourcing”. I thought it was innovative and fun.
WSJ: A fine theme and satisfying challenge. Side-eye at Jim for dismissing the very much in the language IT HELP as “gluey.” ARB as well, for that matter, especially in the context of the WSJ. And to deride AMCS as an entry because they’re “defunct”? Geez, that would eliminate an awful lot from puzzle fill in general, including EDSELS in this one.
Nice job, Sean. Hoping to see more from you soon.
IT HELP is a perfectly valid answer. My problem with it was that I interpreted “crash” as something involving motor vehicles, and with the unknown UTA (who I originally thought might’ve been UWE), I couldn’t see IT HELP.
It also didn’t help to have UPS as the FedEx competitor. I don’t see nearly as many DHL trucks as UPS vans.
WSJ: I just didn’t see the colleges dropping down, though I did fill the grid mostly on my own. The NE was hard, as UTA Barth is new to me and BIZ Markie only vaguely familiar.
I also expected a rebus when USUAL SUSPECTS didn’t work, but the crosses didn’t work with any rebus that seemed logical.
ARB is Wall Street talk for an arbitrageur — someone who engages in arbitrage, “taking advantage of a difference in prices in two or more markets,” per Wikipedia.
BEQ: Au jus translates “with juice”. The liquid is just called “jus”. So if a steak is “with juce” it has been moistend.
Yep. “Moistened” in the clue is an adjective, not a verb.
Bart Gold’s Universal crossword, “Running Joke” — Sophia’s write-up
Good puzzle, but how does the title “Running Joke” connect?
Bit of a stretch, but eggs over easy have runny yolks. Best I can do on that.