Thursday, April 27, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:06 (Gareth) 


NYT 10:07 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:13 (Kyle) 


Universal 5ish (Sophia) 


USA Today tk (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Justin Werfel & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Free Association”—Jim’s review

Theme: IT’S ON THE HOUSE (53a, [“No charge,” and a description of five places in this puzzle]). Five domiciles are hidden in larger words in the grid, and above each one you’ll find the letters ITS.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Free Association” · Justin Werfel & Jeff Chen · Thu., 4.27.23

  • 17a EXITS above a CABIN.
  • 27a BITS above a LODGE.
  • 38a OMITS above a VILLA.
  • 48a HITS UP above the HOUSE in the revealer.
  • 53a IT’S from the revealer is above a HUT.

I definitely needed the revealer on this one because I reached it without a clue as to what the theme was. It wasn’t so much of an “aha” moment, as an “ah, okay” moment, though. That is to say, I wasn’t particularly wowed by the theme. Literal, punny revealers like the one today aren’t my particular favorite, but I did like looking for the hidden buildings.

Once I grokked the theme and looked for the buildings, I was surprised to see the extra IT in WITCH without a house beneath. But then again, the key letters are ITS, not IT—a distinction I didn’t latch onto at first.

The fill isn’t particularly sparkly though there are highlights FILM NOIR and DRY EYE. There are more than the average number of theme elements, so that will have put constraints on the fill.

Clues of note:

  • 19a. [Order in the Supreme Court’s courtroom, e.g.]. IONIC. I’m not knowledgable enough about architecture to have heard the phrase “ionic order,” so I kept double- and triple-checking this entry. This page says there are 36 Doric columns in the Great Hall outside the courtroom and doesn’t mention what’s actually in the courtroom, but an image does show IONIC columns inside.
  • 20a. [Garland, e.g.]. CABINET MEMBER. Attorney General Merrick Garland, that is, who might have been on the Supreme Court if things had gone differently.
  • 25a. [The Tick’s nonsensical battle cry]. “SPOON!” Did not know this despite having seen the 2016 TV series starring Peter Serafinowicz. Was it in that show?
  • 27a. [Boring parts]. BITS. As in parts of a drill.

Not my favorite puzzle of the week, but solid nonetheless. 3.5 stars.

Michael Scholssberg’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Average (10m07s)

Michael Schlossberg’s New York Times crossword, 4/27/23, 0427

Today’s theme: TAKE THE EDGE OFF (Alleviates pain a little … or what this puzzle does to certain squares for literal effect)

  • DOCTORS (without borders)
  • (no end) IN SIGHT
  • (undivided) ATTENTION
  • (baseless) ACCUSATIONS
  • (topless) DANCERS

Another “proper” Thursday gimmick, and a relatively easy solve.. at least as far as the theme material was concerned.  This harkens back to more traditional “rebus” puzzles, i.e. what that word used to mean before we all fell down the xword rabbit hole: “funny funny words words words words” (too funny for words), bloodwater (blood is thicker than water), etc.  Literally reinterpreting common phrases with (at times) painfully unclever contortions.  But “painfully unclever” could be the title of my autobiography, so once again, this puzzle’s alright by me.

Cracking: ICK FACTORS — minus a few points for the awkward S that symmetry demands, and also because it’s trying a bit too hard to be in the lingo.  Even still, good show.

Slacking: UNDOCKS — i.e. the piers near Tudor City.  See above re: painfully unclever.

Sidetracking: DOCTORS (without borders) — “Ah, the old D’s without B’s.”

All joking aside, the folks at Médecins Sans Frontières are, to quote Interstellar, the best of us.  Donate @

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up

Thanks to Patrick Berry for bringing us today’s New Yorker crossword. This is a really nice 70-word grid with some sparkling longer entries.

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 04/27/2023 – Patrick Berry

  • 19A WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE? [“Seems perfect, right?”] and 44A DO THE DIRTY WORK [Tackle unpleasant tasks that others avoid] – a wonderful pair of 14s.
  • 3D CLEARING UP [Starting to get sunnier] and 27D TURNED OVER [Lost possession of, as a basketball] – nice examples of phrasal verbs ending in prepositions that are coherent units. Patrick Berry writes about the pitfalls of tacking on prepositions willy-nilly in his book on crossword construction.
  • 33A CIGS [Coffin nails] – I was unfamiliar with this slang term so I had to get this through crossings. My first thought was, “there’s a specific word for a coffin nail?”
  • 34D ROCHELLE [New ___ (city in Westchester County)] – granted that it’s probably a place known to many subscribers of the New Yorker, I found it strange to see this clued as a partial. Part of me wonders if CDC Director Rochelle Walensky was originally in Patrick’s mind when he chose this entry.

Sam Acker’s Fireball Crossword, “Hole in the Fabric” – Jenni’s write-up

I liked this one! It was challenging and fun and the aha! moment was very satisfying.

The revealer tells us what we’re dealing with. 56a [Multidimensional model, and a hint to the long Across answers] is SPACETIME CONTINUUM. Each theme answer has a SPACE rebus next to a unit of TIME. The SPACE in the theme answer is, indeed, a space; in the Down answers it’s the word SPACE. Peter’s grid shows it better than mine.

Fireball, April 26, 2023, Sam Acker, “Hole in the Fabric,” solution grid

  • 21a [Paperless, in a way] is ONLIN{SPACE}E ONLY. 22d [Scatterbrain] is {SPACE} CADET.
  • 33a [Motif] is COM{SPACE}MON THREAD. 4d [Where feeling pride is definitely not a sin] is QUEER {SPACE}.
  • 78a [Somebody who makes the same thing every week] is a SALAR{SPACE}Y EARNER. 67a [Former social-networking giant] is MY{SPACE}.
  • 94a [“The details aren’t important”] is YAD{SPACE}DA YADDA. 95a [Tile separators that leave room for grout] are {SPACE}ERS.

Nice! Solid, consistent answers with fun, fresh twist. I always (well, almost always) love a rebus. I like the fact that all the time divisions cross two words – no idea if that was intentional but I find it pleasing.

A few other things:

  • 6d [School zone?] is SEA. Fish.
  • 10d [Weapon that sounds like it leaks goop] is UZI. I will never not think of this when I see this word.
  • I really have had enough of EMAG. See also ETAIL.
  • 59d [Makes a big impact on, maybe] is TBONES. I filled that in by crossings and was expecting a reference to steak, not collisions.
  • 98a [Cervices are part of them] is UTERI. I originally filled in NECKS which would also be correct (and no one I know says “cervices” but then again we don’t usually discuss them in the plural. It’s one to a customer, usually).

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that IDRIS Elba voiced Shere Khan in “The Jungle Book.”

Sam Acker’s Universal crossword, “They Sound Just Like ‘Em” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: “Apt” cover bands, named after things that literally cover the original band name.

Universal Crossword, 04 27 2023, “They Sound Just Like ‘Em”

  • 13a [Good name for a band covering the Pretenders] – ALIBI
  • 14a [Good name for a band covering the Flaming Lips] – HOT SAUCE
  • 29a [Good name for a band covering Heart] – RIBCAGE
  • 37a [Good name for a band covering the Cars] – AUTO INSURANCE
  • 46a [Good name for a band covering Blondie] – HAIR DYE
  • 65a [Good name for a band covering the Beach Boys] – TAN LINES
  • 66a [Good name for a band covering Queen] – CROWN

There’s an impressive amount of theme material here – 7 answers, even when some of them are short, is hard to do! It’s interesting how many different uses of “cover” Sam found here – HOT SAUCE and TAN LINES are literal coverage, ALIBI and AUTO INSURANCE are not. I’m not sure the puzzle needed the two 5 letter answers as they are the stretchiest – does a CROWN really cover a Queen? I guess it is on top…. – but that’s a minor nitpick.

Loved all four of the longer down answers – UPSIZING, NOSE GOES, YOU DO YOU and QUIXOTIC are all great. Thank goodness for the “healthful” part of the clue for NUTRIA [Large rodent whose name sounds healthful] – my large rodent knowledge begins and ends at capybara. I was so busy debating between “ekg” and “eeg” for [Heart test: Abbr.] that I was not expecting the actual answer of ECG at all. But those were the only bad grid spots; everything else was very clean for the amount of thematic material.

Also just noticed when I went to post this write up that this is a double Sam Acker puzzle day along with the Fireball! Congrats Sam!

Lance Enfinger & Jeff Chen’s LAT crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Lance Enfinger & Jeff Chen’s puzzle’s theme is something of a one trick pony. The entries are four “AP-” gerunds each clued to be read as “Advanced Placement” and the rest of the word then makes a new unrelated gerund. So: APPOINTING is AP POINTING, APPRAISING is AP PRAISING, APPEALING as AP PEALING and APPROVING is AP PROVING.

The theme only occupies 38 squares, so there’s a lot of space in the grid. With that said, I don’t see a whole lot to pick out:

  • [Claire of “The Crown”], FOY. I think I learnt this the hard way as it was one of my mistakes at the (online) ACPT. Puzzle five? Put FeY and didn’t check crosses.
  • Another actor I didn’t know was [Gabrielle of “L.A.’s Finest”], UNION. This puzzle had quite a few proper nouns, so I’m surprised at the choice to add to the count.
  • [Many entries in The Great American Songbook], SHOWTUNES. You know who’s surprisingly good at performing these: Seth McFarlane!
  • [Everymutt], FIDO. The name of one my dachshunds, which he came with. It ties in with the song above in which “even Fido is afraid to bark…”


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23 Responses to Thursday, April 27, 2023

  1. Scott says:

    NYT: Fun Thursday. But I had to come here for a full understanding.

    • Jeremy says:

      Agreed! But the video clip made it worth coming.

    • JohnH says:

      I understood the theme, and I liked how it made me catch on only one step at a time. I got the idea of DOCTORS almost immediately, saw another like it coming right up in what turned out later to be ATTENTION, and figured that, whatever it is, it won’t just be using “without borders” in each themer, since that’s not common enough. So we must be facing synonyms. But then I saw the missing bar in what turned out to be INSIGHT. So it must be more complex still. Then had to work out whether the remaining missing edges related to the across or down fill. Nice!

      I did find the fill much harder than others did. I had the hardest time at the bottom. SHAMBLE has been in a recent puzzle but it’s not my usage, I started with “me too” for DITTO and TMC for TCM, had to decide between ERS and ORS and between Ani and ANA, didn’t recall the Danish city or “gaggle” without geese, and of course couldn’t know without crossings that the migration would end in KENYA. So it kept me busy.

  2. Barry says:

    I had to come to this site to better understand the WSJ puzzle theme, which I now find brilliant.

    • JohnH says:

      I liked it. Like Jim, I did get thrown by the apostrophe in the revealer (which I needed, having like him missed the theme till it was over) to focusing on the repeated IT and then balking at the bonus IT. But the theme does make perfect sense.

  3. JML says:

    NYT, especially the way it’s displayed in the app, reminded me visually of the Borders options in Excel. Fun puzzle!

  4. John says:

    NYT: Maybe it’s just the Android app, but the missing borders did not appear at all, so the puzzle made zero sense whatsoever. I was still able to solve it relatively quickly

    • Tony says:

      I was able to see the missing borders and I have the Android version. It’s easier to see when on a down clue that crosses one of the theme entries.

    • Eric H says:

      I solve on my iPad, but I imagine the Android version of the app isn’t all that different.

      Make sure that in the app settings, you have “Show Overlays” turned on. That’s how they covered up the lines that would normally be there.

  5. Me says:

    NYT: I was thinking “groundless ACCUSATIONS” rather than “baseless ACCUSATIONS.” One nice thing with this theme is you can be “wrong” but still fill out the grid correctly! : )

  6. Bryan says:

    NYT: I solve in the NYT crossword app on both my iPhone and iPad. And for a long time, I didn’t know what the “Show Overlays” setting in the app was (it’s not really explained). Until the last time a puzzle like this came along with visual effects. And then I understood. Now I leave the “Show Overlays” setting enabled all the time, and it sure came in handy today. This puzzle wouldn’t have made any sense in the app without that setting turned on.

    • Eric H says:

      Some of the NYT app settings are self-explanatory, but Show Overlays is not one of them.

      The app could use a Help section or an FAQ to explain what the settings do, the requirements for maintaining a streak of gold stars, etc.

  7. Stephen Adkison says:

    For the fellow NYT solvers that the theme didn’t work properly, I believe I found why: dark mode. The way the borders were removed was by putting a white line where the black cel borders would normally be, which works in light mode. In dark mode, however, it just makes the white cel borders even bolder. Just something the tech team probably forgot to consider.

  8. Norris Smith says:

    Universal – do moths eat cotton?

  9. Sam Acker says:

    Thanks for the write-ups, Jenni and Sophia! Yes, I’m quite fortunate this week in the puzzle world. Big thanks to David and Peter for all the help!

    Jenni, in re Fireball: the themers’ time divisions spanning two words was intentional per Peter’s standards!

    Sophia, in re Universal: Yes, I wasn’t too pleased with the NE most of all, but I thought STR, ECG, and DQED were relatively small prices to pay for QUIXOTIC, YUKITUP, EUROSIGN, and YOUDOYOU. Thanks to David for eventually agreeing!

    Cheers Fienders!

    • Eric H says:

      I enjoyed the theme in your Universal puzzle.

      QUIXOTIC will always make me smile. It’s the first word I remember getting a bingo in Scrabble with.

      Sophia: I think EKG is the old-fashioned initialism for electrocardiogram, based on whatever the German word for cardio- is. EEG is electroencephalogram, a brain wave test. Trust the guy who’s had them both.

    • Seattle DB says:

      I really liked your creative UNI puzzle because you were able to squeeze 7 themers into the grid, which is an amazing feat and a treat for us music lovers!

  10. Seth Cohen says:

    NYT: I think the missing words for IN SIGHT are supposed to be “with no end,” not just “no end.” For DOCTORS, ATTENTION, ACCUSATIONS, and DANCERS, the part that’s missing is an adjective (or adjective phrase) that literally describes the boxes. The boxes of DOCTORS are indeed without borders. The boxes of ATTENTION are indeed undivided. So it should be the same for IN SIGHT: The boxes of IN SIGHT are indeed with no end.

    However, it’s weird that the adjective phrase here comes before IN SIGHT (if you were saying this out loud, you’d say “with no end in sight”), because that doesn’t really fit with the rest of the themers. What I mean is this. Take ATTENTION as an example. The way you’d say that phrase and the way you’d describe the entry are the same: “Undivided attention.” That’s the phrase in real life, and that’s a perfectly apt way to describe the entry. But for IN SIGHT, that doesn’t work. The way you’d say the phrase is “With no end in sight.” But the way you’d describe the entry is “IN SIGHT with no end.” It’s a subtle difference, but it’s jarring to me.

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