Thursday, June 8, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:04 (Gareth) 


NYT 12:43 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:14 (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 8:40 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jim) 


Peter Gordons’ Fireball Crossword, “Ooh … Aah!”—Jim’s review

Jim here sitting in for Jenni once again.

Compared to last week, this one was a breeze. I didn’t time myself for this solve as I was waiting at the vet’s office for most of it, but even so, my finishing time was less than half of last week. Once the first theme entry resolved itself, it gave away the next two immediately. Plus, all the clues seemed fairly straightforward.

Eventually I got to the theme revealer at 49d: VOWEL [(Each first letter of the answer words to the starred clues (as well as the first letter of each clue in this puzzle)]. The starred clues and answers are:

Fireball crossword solution · “Ooh … Aah!” · Peter Gordon · Thu., 6.8.23

  • 16a. [*Oscar winner for Best Picture … (continues at 24-Across)] EVERYTHING.
  • 24a. [*… about a multiverse-jumping woman named … (continues at 34-Across)] EVERYWHERE.
  • 34a. [* … Evelyn Wang] ALL AT ONCE.
  • 50a. [*Exclamation after blundering] “I AM AN IDIOT!”
  • 61a. [*Abecedarian phrase] A AS IN APPLE. New vocab alert: “Abecedarian” = relating to the alphabet.

So that’s the theme. Really quite light as compared to last week, and the straightforward cluing matched up with the light theme rather nicely. There probably aren’t a ton of phrases where each starting letter is a VOWEL, so I’m fine with these.

As for the starting letter of every clue being a VOWEL, that feels a little gimmicky, but it didn’t seem to hamper the solve, so that’s cool.


Clues of note:

  • 29a. [Early Shirley role]. IRMA. I was thinking Shirley Bassey not Shirley MacLaine. The film was IRMA La Douce.
  • 27d. [Erie Canal mule]. SAL. I had no clue on this one. It appears to stem from this song.
  • 62d. [Excrement, in kidspeak]. POO. This doesn’t seem like it’s just kidspeak.

Breezy but nice puzzle. Four stars.

Philip Koski’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Average (12m43s)

Philip Koski’s New York Times crossword, 6/7/2023, 0607

Today’s theme: BLETCHLEY PARK

  • SACREDLY becomes SECRETLY when A IS E and D IS T
  • DECIDE becomes DECODE when you change I TO O
  • GASMAN becomes GERMAN when A IS E and you change S TO R
  • MASSAGES becomes MESSAGES when A IS E

At first, this one played more or less like an average Friday, with sizable corner stacks and no (apparent) theme material.  Once you’ve finished the puzzle, there is a somewhat complicated set of instructions to follow in order to “decode” the theme: first, parse the shaded square as three words (1,2,1): I TO OD IS TA IS ES TO R.  Then follow those instructions vis-a-vis the circled letters in 20-, 22-, 54- and 56-Across.  What you’re left with — SECRETLY DECODE GERMAN MESSAGES — is what Turing and company did at BLETCHLEY PARK.  Omitting Turing’s name in the puzzle felt like a rather conspicuous decision, although I’m not sure there was an elegant way to incorporate him into the theme set.

Cracking: NOT A PROB — at first, it felt like a less satisfying version of NO PROBLEMO, but it’s growing on me.

Slacking: SPLEEN clued as “Bad temper” — wut.  I have never encountered this definition before.  To me, it’s about as logical as cluing LIVER as “Small credenza” or GALLBLADDER as “Mischievous chortle”.  Incredibly, it’s been clued in the “Bad temper” sense 28 times in prior NYT puzzles, and only twice as the (infinitely more idiomatic) organ.  That’s a 14:1 ratio of outrageousness to common sense.

Sidetracking: Greta GARBO!

Brad Weiegmann’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Oh, I Get It!”—Jim’s review

It took me a long while before I could truly say those title words, because this puzzle’s trick was just not coming to me.

I could see that the clues didn’t really line up with some of the entries, so I did what I could until I made it to the revealer at 56a: INNER CIRCLE (56a, [Brain trust, and what you need to add to solve 16 clues in this puzzle]). Based on the title, I figured the letter O had something to do with the theme, but did the I in “I Get It” relate as well? (It doesn’t.)

What’s going on is that certain black squares in the grid should be replaced by the letter O, and the two entries on either side (either vertically or horizontally) should be read as one long answer.

This was particularly tricky because both halves of these answers (both pre- and post-O entries) are all crossword-valid though they didn’t match their clues at all. Oh yeah, the clues of the two entries should be read together as one long clue, too.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Oh, I Get It!” · Brad Wiegmann · Thu., 6.8.23

  • 1a & 5a [Old-fashioned] [Cure-all].
  • 24a & 26a [Fallen] [Rock, of sorts].
  • 34a & 36a [Some action] [Pictures].
  • 48a & 49a [Moon] [Pie cousins].
  • 64a & 65a [Maritime] [Courses].
  • 15d & 30d [Free-standing] [Closet].
  • 25d & 40d [Notorious cartel] [Kingpin of the 1980s and 1990s].
  • 35d & 53d [Willa Cather] [Heroine].

Since there are 5 in the Across direction and 3 in the Down, I didn’t notice the symmetry until I put together the screen shot above. Thus, the solve felt asymmetrical which is fine on a Thursday when you expect a higher level of challenge. But the fact that there is symmetry makes the grid that much more elegant.

This is really an impressive construction with close attention to detail. All the Os are in the exact center of their words or phrases, and all the first and last half entries are valid crossword words (as I said above), but they aren’t related to the actual entry. (As a counterexample, the word SOPHOMORE could be a theme answer in this puzzle, but the first part would be SOPH which is related to the actual, full answer and thus wouldn’t be as nice.) Really sneaky and really cool!

The fill has plenty of niceties as well, like “CAPISCE?,” AL ROKER, “IT’S A TIE!,” TAIL END, JUMBLED, ABALONE, VOLUBLE, SNOW CAT, “HOW ELSE?,” “YES, LET’S,” and BLUE NUN. That’s a lot of good stuff on top of an already nice theme.

Clue of note: 2d. [“Here’s what’s happening in your neck of the woods” speaker]. AL ROKER. Did Willard Scott originate that phrase on the Today Show or did he say something else? I don’t recall now.

Wonderful puzzle! 4.5 stars.

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

Thanks to Patrick Berry for today’s crossword. It felt like slow going while solving, but I actually ended up with a pretty fast time. In retrospect, I found the long entries (including pairs of double-stacked 15s(!)) were fairly easy and thus helped fill in large sections of the grid quickly; it was actually some of the short fill where I had to stop and think, or make corrections:

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 06/08/2023 – Patrick Berry

  • 1A TRICE [Brief moment] – I could not come up with this even with TR___ in place, and needed crossings to complete the rest. Trice is not my first go-to in my mental thesaurus for “brief moment” (second, snap, flash…). What do you think: nice not to have a gimme here, or too tough for the New Yorker’s easiest puzzle of the week?
  • 10A SLIM [Slender] – I had THIN first.
  • 53A LOGY [Sluggish] – Another less common word.

I always appreciate the range of subjects and interesting factoids that Patrick draws on to write clues. Some that I enjoyed today:

  • 20A SCOTTISH TERRIER [Breed of the dog token in Monopoly]
  • 22A TOLEDO [Ohio’s Glass City]
  • 37A CELLO [Yo-Yo Ma’s 1733 Montagnana, for one]
  • 29D MELBOURNE [City where Australian-rules football originated]
  • 38D KIDNEY [Most commonly transplanted organ] – Let’s take a moment to appreciate transplant recipients (including DOACF’s very own Amy), organ donors, and the medical teams performing and supporting organ transplantations day in and day out.

Tim D’Alfonso’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Tim D’Alfonso delivers a somewhat quirky variation of the “wacky” theme trope. As explained at SOUNDSRIGHT, three other phrases with RIGHT have had their RIGHTS changed for a homophone: WRITE, RITE and WRIGHT. So we get:

  • [Formal induction ceremony for a league of pickpockets?], SWIPINGRITE
  • [Bicycles and aviation, notably?], THEWRIGHTSTUFF
  • [Tax advice for slugger Aaron Judge?], WRITEOFFTHEBAT

The rest of the puzzle was pretty uneventful. The longer downs include a pair of MEs: LETMETRY and BEATSME plus GROSSOUT and several more prosaic entries. There weren’t too many tricksy clue, but it is Wednesday…


Brooke Husic’s USA Today Crossword, “Pass the Time” — Emily’s write-up

Fantastic puzzle! I can’t wait to talk about it so let’s waste no time and jump right now.

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday June 08, 2023

USA Today, June 08 2023, “Pass the Time” by Brooke Husic

Theme: each themer contains the word “sec” (short for second) and it proceeds from each themer starting at the beginning of the first and shifting right with each themer until it ends the last themer


  • 19a. [Romantic interest that might only be told to a diary], SECRETCRUSH
  • 26a. [They might encourage stealing], BASECOACHES
  • 38a. [Gem style named for a flower], ROSECUT
  • 48a. [Forms a crisscross], INTERSECTS
  • 58a. [Orange-flavored liqueur], TRIPLESEC

An amazing total of 5 themers today, plus there is lengthy bonus fill too. How did Brooke get it all in to this puzzle?! The first themer SECRETCRUSH has a very middle-school vibe which is fun especially with the end of the school year. Next up, BASECOACHES shifts the theme two letters forward in the word. Delightfully the third or middle themer ROSECUT has it exactly in the middle of the themer. INTERSECTS then shifts it two letters from the end and the final themer TRIPLESEC shifts the word to the end of its phrase. Incredible!

Favorite fill: FLUTESOLO, ANKLEBELLS, PRESTO, and PURR (as my cat is pawing at me for more treats while I type!)

Stumpers: CDC (needed crossings), TRIPLESEC (could only think of Cointreau), and HSU (really I need to watch Everything, Everywhere, All at Once and remember her name–plus she has newer works as well)

A fun grid for an awesome theme and themer set, great fill, and excellent cluing. One of my new faves!

5.0 stars


P.S. For anyone wondering, yes Jasmine kitty got treats once I finished this post. :D

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44 Responses to Thursday, June 8, 2023

  1. andeux says:

    Oh, only the circled letters?

  2. Seattle DB says:

    As far as I know, the Fiend has been online for about two decades. What I’m curious about is if they could create a “Top Twenty” list of the puzzles that have the highest ratings, and also include links to those puzzles for us “noobs”.

    • Eric H says:

      The ratings are meaningless — or so I’ve told anytime I’ve written a comment about how many ratings seem to be awarded by people who appear to not like crossword puzzles.

      You might do better to search for winners of the ORCA Awards, honoring the best crossword puzzles and constructors from the preceding year.

      For 2022, here’s the story (spoiler alert):

      • damefox says:

        Someone should correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the early years of the ORCA Awards used the ratings on Crossword Fiend to determine the best puzzles. I can’t remember where I heard that though so I might’ve accidentally made it up.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          @damefox: The ratings were used to assemble a list of category nominees, but the choice of winner was entirely subjective.

          @Seattle DB: We don’t have the rights to republish those puzzles here, and many will not have handy-dandy links that still work. Tough to wrangle a playable best-of list.

  3. cyberdiva says:

    NYT: Zachary, try googling “vent one’s spleen” to get a sense of why “spleen” can be clued as “bad temper.”

    • ZDL says:

      I understand the reference and would have at least accepted “vent one’s spleen” as a phrasal verb stand-in for “be angry”, but “spleen” as a noun to substitute for “anger”? No. I reject your reality and substitute my own.

      • pannonica says:

        Show some guts, have heart!

        • ZDL says:

          Both phrasal verbs! You wouldn’t just shout “GUTS! HEART!” at me! Q.E.D.

          Also, the way it’s clued, SPLEEN=BAD TEMPER.. you definitely wouldn’t say “Be careful, that guy has a spleen!” Unless you were in an operating room.

          • David L says:

            As cyberdiva said, in the phrase ‘vent one’s spleen,’ the word ‘spleen’ means ‘temper.’ There’s no problem with the clue that I can see.

      • MattF says:

        ‘Splenetic’ means prone to anger, so I’d guess this comes from the old medical theory of bodily ‘humors’ determining one’s emotional disposition.

      • PJ says:

        ZDL – maybe the idiom (dating to 400 BCE) describes the spleen as where our anger is stored. Venting our spleen means to let our anger out. If that is correct, I agree with you.

    • JohnH says:

      I’ve sure heard “spleen” used independently that way, and it has support in both the common dictionaries I’ve checked. Besides, I don’t think it’s requiring one to shout “spleen” on its own. In English, last I look, most things appear in sentences. And it does seem silly to deny what “guts” and “heart” mean on the grounds that one might have to use them with a basic verb like “have.” That would seem to disallow such familiar vocabulary as “a care,” “patience,” and “faith.”

      I’d mixed feelings about the puzzle, because one does solve it like a themeless on what would normally be my favorite themed day and because it’s like a meta in that you may or may not bother to proceed further. I figured it was mere bookkeeping and came here to see how it would turn out.

      I’d forgotten that Woodstock was a Peanuts character, but so it goes.

  4. Barry says:

    WSJ puzzle is impressive. It certainly threw me for a loop.

    • anon says:


    • Eric H says:

      Before I started the WSJ puzzle, I had seen here that something was hidden in some of the black squares. I got the revealer fairly quickly and figured out how it worked with ARM[O]IRE — and then spent 10 minutes more getting the west side done. Pretty tricky stuff.

      I wonder how much my lack of TV viewing cost me answers that were gimmes for a lot of people. I needed a lot of crosses to remember that Frasier’s wife was named LILITH, and I had no idea on the AL ROKER clue.

      I can easily imagine the whining that would have been in the Wordplay comments if this puzzle had run in the NYT.

  5. Mike says:

    Ahh…. DECIDE.

    Bad crossing as I read the down as LETLIE and, being a data analyst by trade, DECILE seemed to make as much sense as anything with that clue.

    Also, the app version had nothing about the shade and circles so I was completely at sea on what that all meant.

    • Hi. says:

      There is an “i” above the grid in the app. Tap that and you will see any notes on the puzzle.

    • Dallas says:

      The app does this thing that when there are notes, the little “i” will subtly show a circle fading in and out. It’s always there on the Sundays, since there’s the title for the puzzle, and possibly additional instructions. But from time to time, it shows up on weekday ones too… so if you see that, click on it :-)

      • Eric H says:

        From the comments on Wordplay, I gather that the i doesn’t pulse on Android devices.

        People might just want to get in the habit of clicking on the i every day. There might not be much information there, but it doesn’t take long to look.

        • Mike says:

          Thanks for the tips…yes, the “i” doesn’t pulse on my Android tablet. I always click it on Sundays for the title but it wouldn’t occur to me to do that the other 6 days….

  6. David L says:

    NYT: I finished the puzzle, started changing letters to get SECRETLY DECODE, then got annoyed with having to do extra work post-solve and decided I didn’t care. I’m not putting in overtime if I’m not getting paid for it!

    • Mr. [very very very] Grumpy says:

      +1 [although I used my “very very very” moniker, you made me smile.

    • John says:

      Yeah… IMO gimmicks are lame if they aren’t part of the puzzle. You can grok all the answers to this puzzle without bothering to solve the meta (although GASMAN and SACREDLY did strike as pretty un-idiomatic words).

      • VB says:

        I find this line of discussion intriguing. Is one person’s “I’m not putting in overtime if I’m not getting paid for it” another person’s “Oh, look, I got a little bonus puzzle to solve without having to pay the Times extra for it!” ? Is there an “I only like meta-puzzles when I want” vibe going on here?

  7. Tony says:

    Would’ve been nice if the NYT games app changed the letters back and forth after completing like it does with other puzzles with similar themes/gimmicks.

    • C. Y. Hollander says:

      I’m glad it didn’t, because that gave me the chance to work out the bonus puzzle on my own.

  8. JohnH says:

    You don’t often see two pairs of (stacked) entries running the length of a puzzle along with fresh fill in an easy puzzle like TNY. Credit to Patrick Berry.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Super-duper-breezy puzzle, too. I zipped through it in 2:15 … which is how long it takes your Erik Agards, Tyler Hinmans, Will Nedigers, and Paolo Pascos to solve much harder themelesses, but I’m still patting myself on the back.

      Agree that the stacked 15s are a great touch.

  9. JoeO says:

    SPLEEN has appeared 125 x per the Ginsburg clue database, and mostly clued as something “vented” (as in the relatively common phrase “vent one’s spleen”) or as “mean temper” or “ill humor.” Making it a highly acceptable clue IMO.

  10. RichardZ says:

    Yesterday’s Fireball was so much easier than the usual offering that I figured there must be something going on beyond what was covered in Jim’s write-up. It’s certainly true that the first letters of the answers to the starred clues begin with a vowel, but that’s true for many of the other (un-starred) Across answers as well (EPEE, OWNED, ALIAS, etc). Perhaps the title of the puzzle (“Ooh … Aah!”) is supposed to be a hint, but at the moment I’m not seeing the connection.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I’m guessing Peter opted to make this puzzle on the lighter side as compared to last week. But also, having multi-word (four or more) phrases where each word in the phrase starts with a vowel is enough of an oddity that Peter must’ve thought it made an interesting basis for a light theme. I for one welcomed the lighter fare after last week’s challenge.

  11. Mr. [very angry] Grumpy says:

    I hope this comment is not a trigger for anyone and does not offend anyone, but GASMAN and GERMAN was unacceptable IMO.

  12. Papa John says:

    Today’s NYT was one of the least pleasurable for me in a very long time. How does a solver know that some black squares are actually treated as blank squares? The cluing didn’t indicate it. The revealer was confusing for me because I don’t equate circles with the ovate letter O. The puzzle was way too “meta” for my liking. Judging from the number of raters who gave the puzzle the lowest possible score — more than any other score — I’m not alone.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I assume you’re talking about the WSJ, not the NYT.

      The WSJ’s puzzle page says this: “WSJ Puzzles is the online home for America’s most elegant, adventurous and addictive crosswords…” For the most part, this is nothing more than salesmanship. I don’t find their puzzles all that adventurous, even on Thursday when the NYT is often doing something tricky.

      Thus, regular WSJ solvers don’t expect anything different or outlandish on Thursday, just more of the same but with harder clues. You can see this in the comments on their site which is filled with hate for today’s puzzle.

      But to my mind, this puzzle is what their Thursday puzzles ought to be like. Something adventurous, something tricky, something elegant. It’s not even all that different from tricky puzzles we see in other venues; it’s just unexpected in the WSJ.

      The only thing different in this puzzle is the way the clues are handled for those theme entries (i.e. how they’re split between two entries). I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, so it took some sussing out, but since it’s Thursday, I welcomed the added challenge. The ultimate aha moment was very rewarding.

      As for the ratings, they’re widely split between 1’s and 2’s on one side and 4.5’s and 5’s on the other. Nothing in the middle. Currently, there are 10 4.5’s and 5’s vs. 8 1’s and 2’s. No, you’re not alone in hating it, but I’m not alone in loving it.

      • Milo says:

        Hear, hear, Jim P! You can count me among the 4.5 crowd. This was one of the more intriguing WSJ concepts in recent memory, and very well executed. My hat’s off to Herr Wiegmann.

      • Eric H says:

        It’s one of the more challenging WSJ puzzles I’ve done. As I commented earlier, my lack of TV watching cost me a few answers that were probably gimmes for many people. And I blanked on the Willa Cather heroine even after realizing those clues were to be read together.

        I’m not surprised that the WSJ has some splenetic commenters today. The same thing would have happened if the puzzle had been in the NYT.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I think you might be referring to the WSJ puzzle, not the NYT? Both were like pulling teeth for me and ended in a DNF. It’s the first time I’ve had two DNFs on the same day from my regular rotation of six dailies in a very, very long time.

      I fear that I’m showing signs of aging out of crossword puzzles.

      • Eric H says:

        Don’t get too discouraged! The WSJ puzzle was pretty tricky, even if (like me) you had some idea of what was going on when you started it.

        I’ve had days where every puzzle I’ve worked on has been a struggle. It happens.

    • JohnH says:

      I admired the theme. It held a special challenge in that I first saw SEA as marine, ROUTES as courses, WAR as some action, and MOVIES as pictures. So I guessed the idea was to add an O in the black square and shift the start or end of the fill by a square or two. When that wasn’t working out further, I was long in trouble.

      I did run into serious trouble, though, approaching the NW. LILITH, ESCOBAR, SKINK, Colophon as a place name, AL ROKER, even what to put in front of WRESTLER. CAPISCE was hard, too, although well within my knowledge base. The whole area just plain stumped me. I don’t know whether to blame the puzzle or myself.

  13. Gene says:

    Perhaps, when you one sees a 14:1 ratio, one should reconsider one’s evaluation of word usage.

  14. Lise says:

    NYT: It must have been a little tricky to work the instructions into the puzzle and find the words necessary to make it work. I like having to do a little work after solving a puzzle, if it makes me go deeper into the solve. Kudos!

  15. Lise says:

    WSJ: I’m on Team Loved It. After I figured it out 😁. Before, it was a little frustrating because so many of the answers made no sense. The revealer was most helpful. And each of the answer parts, sans ‘o’, was a valid crossword entry. That must have complicated the construction, and is very impressive.

    I had SPINE for the colophon region (clue for 20A); the colophon is usually on the spine of a book (or sometimes inside on the title page). I even looked at a nearby book to make sure – the colophon was right there. I had no idea that it was also an ancient city. So that further complicated the solve.

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