Thursday, May 18, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 6:20 (Gareth) 


NYT 20:03 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:36 (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today tk (Emily) 


WSJ 7:32 (Jim) 


Fireball tk (Jenni) 


Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Portals”—Jim’s review

Central to each theme answer is some sort of “portal” identified by the circled squares in the Down direction. The actual theme answers are phrases that start at the top of the portal and end at the bottom of the portal.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Portals” · Paul Coulter · Thu., 5.18.23

  • 1a/19a. [Something said while escorting…. / …someone out your home’s 4-Down?] “GOOD / RIDDANCE” (with 4d being DOOR).
  • 29a/47a. [Words when welcoming… / …a guest through your home’s 31-Down?] “HI, HOW ARE / YOU DOING?” (with 31d being ENTRY).
  • 55a/70a. [Enjoying some nightlife after… / …stepping through your home’s 57-Down?] OUT ON THE / TOWN (with 57d being EXIT).

Neat concept. It’s a little bit weird to conceptualize greeting someone with a “HI, HOW ARE” then walking them through the ENTRY before finishing with a “YOU DOING?” But we can shorten that timeframe in our minds to make it flow better.

What felt more clunky to me was that last entry. The first two were lively, colloquial phrases that you could imagine being used when going through a door, so I expected the same from the third one. But the phrase OUT ON THE TOWN really has nothing to do with a doorway, so it’s an outlier in my book. And no one thinks of their front door as an EXIT, so that was weird, too. I’m not sure what could go in its place, but it just doesn’t work for me.

PONDEROSA, RAILROAD TIE, and ARACHNE are strong bits of long fill. But I have never heard the phrase SHEET ANCHOR [Spare stopper at sea] and didn’t know the George Jones song “MY COUNTRY,” but at least it was pretty inferable after getting a few crossings.

On the less-fun side we had a noticeable amount of crosswordese like STOMA, OREL, IDEE, and OTOE, plus rarer UNU and EMERG. Toughest of all was that ARCARO / ORTON crossing which did me in. I tried ARCANO / ONTON at first.

Clues of note:

  • 9a. [Magazine contents]. ARMS. Meh. It just seems weird to refer to ammunition as ARMS, when the word is an apparent shortening of “firearms.”
  • 66a. [911 occasion: Abbr.]. EMERG. It’s not great fill to start with and then to seemingly evoke 9/11 wasn’t a fun moment. I realize it’s 911 the telephone number, but during the solve it felt like it could go either way. And the word “occasion” makes it seem festive. A real downer of a clue. [Reason to call 911] would work better, IMO.

Cool idea for a theme, but it didn’t quite stick the landing for me. Three stars.

Kiran Pandey’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Challenging (20m03s)

Kiran Pandey’s New York Times crossword, 05/17/2023, 0517

Today’s theme: The last word’s the thing!

  • ZILLIONS (Slang, for many = slang term for the word “many”)
  • ROMAN NUMERAL (I, for one = I representing “one”)
  • ELECTRICAL FAULT (Scientific definition, for short = the technical term for “short”)
  • SEVEN LETTERS (Length, for example = length of the word “example”)
  • ANCIENTS (Anagram, for instance = anagram of the word “instance”)

Had a real rough go of this one.  Even after finishing the puzzle and (mostly) grasping the theme, I have a hard time explaining it (usually an indication that you don’t really understand what’s going on.)  The theme answers all play off a crossword cluing trope (X, for Y), but in this case, a literal example of Y becomes the answer itself.  Like cluing BUFFALO WINGS as (Option, for starters).  You get the idea.. or you sort of get the idea.

I do think there’s something slightly incongruous about the theme set.  To wit: ANCIENTS is an anagram of “instance”, check; SEVEN LETTERS is the length of “example”, check; ELECTRICAL FAULT is the scientific definition of “short”, check; ZILLIONS is a slang term for “many”, check; but that’s where it falls apart.  ROMAN NUMERAL is not the “I” of “one.”  What I mean is, trying to use a consistent phrasing device that works for every theme answer is either impossible, or eludes me (not a tall order.)

Edit:  On further reflection, “I, for one” is a great way to clue ROMAN NUMERAL for a Friday or Saturday puzzle.

Cracking: BZZT — like the sound in my head during my first five attempts to define the theme in coherent terms.

SlackingEAPOE — nearly a palindrome, which somehow makes it even less gratifying.

Sidetracking: KANSAS — still the greatest/second greatest “medical show” of all time, depending on how you feel about M*A*S*H 

Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up

Thanks to Robyn Weintraub for today’s ultra-smooth New Yorker crossword. I noticed that there are no 6-7 letter entries in this grid. Every entry of 8+ letters crosses at least one other long entry, and the rest of the crosses are short common words or familiar names. If you’re getting started constructing themeless puzzles, this is a good grid layout to practice with finding a balance between colorful long entries and clean short fill (especially if you are working with a scored wordlist).

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 05/18/23 – Robyn Weintraub

    • The Weintraubian conversational clue of the day: 56A “ALMOST DONE” [“One more minute and I’ll be finished”]
    • 8A SPOT [“Out, damned ___!] (line uttered by Lady Macbeth]. One of my favorite Macbeth productions is Trevor Nunn’s 1979 TV adaptation featuring Sir Ian McKellen (who was recently in another Thursday New Yorker) as the title role, and Dame Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth. Here is Judi Dench performing the sleepwalking scene with the famous line in question.

Adam Wagner & Rebecca Goldstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Adam Wagner & Rebecca Goldstein give us a more ambitious version of the letter sequence hidden inside theme answers trope than usual today. The revealer is OILANDWATER, and each answer has all eight letters of OILWATER scrambled in their centre:

  • [*Pronoun for a spokesperson], EDITORIALWE
    [*Decorative touch made with a small paintbrush, e.g.], DETAILWORK
  • [*What “we are living in,” per a Madonna hit song], MATERIALWORLD
  • [*Wraps at a spa], HAIRTOWELS. I have no idea what those are, but they sound disgusting…

There were actually several more mysterious answers for me today. I’m still not sure what [Where teens are treated like royalty?], PROMCOURTS are, but they sound barbaric. I also thought [Bughouse chess, but not classic chess], might be a cardGAME; I’m guessing it’s a kind of fairy chess? No idea on [iOS personal avatar], MEMOJI, either; those are far far too expensive for me those devices.


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29 Responses to Thursday, May 18, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I, for one, agree.
    Challenging, feels a bit off, and the two are related.

  2. Curmudgeon says:

    Bloody hard and full of odd ducks. I needed Google a bit and still struggled.

    I have no idea how to rate it

    5 for “feat”
    0 for fun
    2 for consistency of theme

    I admire what was done, but casual crossword folk will give up very early

  3. Eric H. says:

    NYT: Isn’t the trick that you have to read the clues for the theme answers as if the commas weren’t there? For example, 17A ZILLIONS makes perfect sense if the clue is “Slang for many.”

    I was a bit underwhelmed by the theme. I didn’t find the puzzle particularly hard, though it took me about a minute longer than the typical Thursday. The NW took a while; I knew ZHAO was right, but BZZT just seems made-up (and yes, I know all words are made up).

    I also struggled with the crossing of SEVEN LETTERS and SLATE. I hadn’t yet figured out the trick regarding the commas, and I could only think of “Ticket” as having the meaning “citation.”

    • ZDL says:

      The thought of describing it simply as “drop the comma” also occurred to me, but “I for one” still comes off as an awkward way to clue ROMAN NUMERAL, especially if the loss of the comma is supposed to remove the wordplay.

  4. JML says:

    NYT: could someone please explain how “Mini display?” yields KNEE? Much thanks!

  5. rob says:

    NYT: Very tricky Thursday puzzle, IMHO. After finishing, I had to come here for an explanation of the theme. Admittedly very clever, but maybe I needed another cup of coffee to kickstart my crossword puzzle brain to figure this one out

    • JohnH says:

      Very hard for me, too. Given the tough theme and tough BZZT and KNEE, I could have lived without DOUGIE, ZHAO, NENE, ARI, and a video game franchise. The clue for ROCKET feels off to me on top of that, but what do I know.

  6. JohnH says:

    Looks like the WSJ PDF still isn’t available, but I lucked out with Crossword Scraper. In the past even clicking on Grant Permission wouldn’t get me to a pdf, but this time it worked.

    I had much the same qualms about the theme as Jim, which translated into obstacles. The long down answers, SHEET ANCHOR new and RAILROAD ties clued, well, indirectly, were obstacles, too. Fortunately I knew who wrote Loot. But feel lucky I got it done at all.

    • dh says:

      “Sheet Anchor” seemed at least familiar to me though I don’t remember the context, but I’ve never heard of railroad ties being called “Sleepers”. It’s an interesting reference with a lot of opinions as to the origin of the term, but nothing definitive that I found. One entry is that they used to be called “Pillows” but that seemed too feminine for the male-dominated RR industry (a stretch, IMHO); another says that they’re called that because they lie in railroad “beds”. A third likens them to coffins. This kind of instructive etymological rabbit-hole is what makes crosswords fun for me.

      • David L says:

        I didn’t do the puzzle, but ‘sleepers’ is the standard British term for railroad ties. It would be odd to clue it without a reference to it being a UK term, I would think.

        Why they are called sleepers I can’t tell you.

        • Eric H. says:

          My dictionary offers this definition of “sleeper”: “A horizontal structural member on or near the ground that supports weight.” (I’m reminded that when I built a deck-like walkway in front of our house, the deck-building book called the joists that I set in the ground “sleepers.”)

          Perhaps the name derives from the fact that they’re just lying there?

          • JohnH says:

            Thanks to everyone for explaining it. I just kept trying to read a pun into the clue, about the onboard sleeping person in the railroad’s sleeping car, never thinking to look up “sleeper.” FWIW. dictionaries do label it as British.

      • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

        SLEEPERS is used in America as well, although I do not know why. I just know that I’ve heard it used by railroad relatives.

  7. David L says:

    I finished the NYT pretty easily, filling in the theme answers with the only words or phrases that made any sense, but I had no clue what they were about until I came here. Well, except for the ROMANNUMERAL one, but the others I couldn’t figure out.

  8. Zach says:

    WSJ: Not a huge fan of this one.
    – The theme felt uneven. It’s a cool idea, and I like that it keeps you from getting stuck because of the way the three theme answers span the grid, but the phrases and portals themselves didn’t have enough tying them all together.
    – I agree EMERG was a super clunky fill choice. There wasn’t that much theme fill locked in above it, so I’m guessing it could have easily been reworked, but maybe I’m wrong. I have to assume the constructor explored all his options.
    – I got naticked with the ORTON/ARCARO crossing and imagine many others did. How many horse racing and/or English theater fans are solving the WSJ crossword each day?
    – I immediately entered “WINE” for the 61-across clue “Word under a leaping stag picture.” I was thinking about Stag’s Leap wine, which is what I need a glass of after powering through this Thursday puzzle.

    • Mr. [laughing and not] Grumpy says:

      Final paragraph of Zach’s post gets a 5 and a nomination for an ORCA.

    • Eric H. says:

      ORTON was a gimme for me. (Gay playwright whose lover killed him in a particularly messy way.)

      ARCARO took a second; at first I was trying to think of a horse that could have won the Kentucky Derby more than once. (I’m not a horse racing fan, but I’m pretty that a horse is only eligible for the Kentucky Derby one year.) I’m not sure I could name any jockeys other than Eddie [I think] ARCARO and Steve Cauthen, though there are probably more names that I would recognize.

  9. Margaret says:

    Gareth, I’m not sure why HAIRTOWELS disgust you? They are just smaller towels to dry hair, particularly for those of us with longer/thicker hair that doesn’t dry quickly. Like hand towels for hands. Hair towels for hair.

    On a slightly different subject, did you solve yesterday’s LAT? I questioned the need for a revealer in the comments section yesterday but too late in the day, I don’t think anyone saw it. I wondered what other people thought since I was confused.

    • Papa John says:

      Gareth may be thinking in terms of towels made of hair. I suppose it’s possible, but not much absorbency.

      • Margaret says:

        Oh lol OK. I guess if you don’t need a hair towel you wouldn’t consider their existence.

    • Pat says:

      I don’t know if this answers your question. The revealer in the middle, “That was cool,” is telling us that the 4 theme answers are old fashion ways of saying that’s cool.
      Specifically, “That WAS cool.”

    • Gareth says:

      Sorry. My lat post yesterday was accidentally blanked at one point. Amy found it, and fished it out.

  10. Ethan says:

    NYT: Kind of wild that this theme ran the day after ETYMOLOGY was clued with the exact same formula. (The ETYMOLOGY clue didn’t really work for me, FWIW, but it’s quite a coincidence.)

  11. JohnH says:

    I know print solvers here at Crossword Fiend are a small minority, but just to let them know: whatever Thursday’s glitch, the Friday WSJ pdf opens as usual. I’d say more, but of course that would not be appropriate for a contest puzzle, so please do not reply.

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