Thursday, June 15, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT untimed(Gareth) 


NYT 13:10 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 3:05 (Kyle) 


Universal 5ish (Sophia) 


USA Today 10:21 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball tk (tk) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Seating Plan”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar(ish) words and phrases that either start or end with a word that can precede “table.” Said table is separated from the main entry by a block and is also clued separately. The revealer is SEPARATE / TABLES (67a, [With 68-Across, 1958 David Niven film, and a feature of the starred answers]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Seating Plan” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 6.15.23

  • 19a / 20a. [*DNA structural unit] / [Ocean motion]. NUCLEO / TIDE. Tide table.
  • 33a / 34a. [Return focus] / [*Items affixed to yellow hoods, perhaps]. TAX / I MEDALLIONS. Tax table.
  • 42a / 45a. [*Lose it] / [Terminus]. GO ROUND THE B / END. End table.
  • 55a / 56a. [Jack or joker] / [*One might show atrial fibrillation]. CARD / IOGRAM. Card table.

I really should have expected this type of theme since it’s been a while since the last one, and editor Mike Shenk seems to put one out at least a couple times a year. But it feels like it’s been such a long time that I wasn’t looking for it.

I was struck by the grid design which is rather unusual with its big open corners and lack of “diagonality” (is that a word?) in the block placement. No doubt this is due to the location of the revealer in the last row which is quite uncommon for such a long entry. I would think that would make the grid quite difficult to fill, but of course, Mike Shenk is a pro at filling grids, even unusual ones like this.

As for the theme itself, I never heard of the film, so that didn’t ring any bells, and with the “tables” being clued normally, it was tough to suss out. All in all, it made for a good challenge, and then a satisfying aha moment helped me put it all together.

In the fill, I’d never heard of the stadium referred to as THE VET, but I’ve been to THE VET a lot lately (for my dog), so I used my own clue for that entry (after the fact). MANACLES, OVEN BAKE, MULISH, ALITALIA, HUMORIST, and THEOREM are all good stuff. Didn’t know ALTAI [Central Asian mountain range] nor NATALIA Dyer (she plays Nancy Wheeler on Stranger Things), and RIO DE makes for a weird-looking partial, but all the crossings seemed fair.

Clues of note:

  • 1d. [Bootlegger’s foe]. T-MAN. Meh. A signal that this was an abbreviation would have been helpful, but I suppose it is Thursday.
  • 27d. [Seeking sainthood, perhaps]. PIOUS. I would think piety and humility would go hand in hand such that one “seeking sainthood” would never achieve it.

3.75 stars.

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

Difficulty: Average (13m10s)

David Harris’s New York Times Crossword, 6/14/23, 0614

Today’s theme: BACK TO SQUARE ONE (Horizontal theme answers add IOUS, vertical entries add IONS)


An easier Thursday than my time suggests; once you get the first few themers, the others fall into place pretty quickly.  But at 80 words — rarely seen, particularly in a late week puzzle — the task just takes a bit longer.  I appreciate that the vertical and horizontal entries get their own separate, consistent appendage, and most of the theme entries work both alone and in tandem with their endings (with the exception of CAPT, which is an outlier as a presumed abbreviation of “captain”?)

Cracking: the otherwise groan-inducing DERMAL, ironically owing to an even groanier-inducing cluing angle (“Skinny?”)  This would be in Clue of the Year territory if not for MER being clued as “Eau so big?” in Robert Ryan’s May 21st puzzle.

SlackingPABLO, clued as (“Picasso, for one”) — “Cubist Picasso”, sure.  But Picasso as a type of PABLO?  No sale.. especially considering it doesn’t really do anything to obfuscate the answer.  I recognize that this is not a totally unconventionally cluing format, but it felt particularly jarring today.

Sidetracking: “I wanted the CASHMERE, Georgie!” Co-STANZA!

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up

Thanks to Elizabeth C. Gorski for today’s New Yorker puzzle. This 72-word grid has roomy NE and SW corners where we get some nice fill like 12D BIKER BAR [Hangout for hog owners?] and 38D VIOLISTS (a fun self-reference as Ms. Gorski is a violist herself).

The New Yorker solution grid – Thu 06/15/2023 – Elizabeth C. Gorski

For the musically inclined there’s also 3D G MINOR [Key with two flats]. Personally, I like musical keys as entries, though this one slowed me down as I stopped to work out the answer in my head (“Is 19A TAN or TAJ? OK, it’s TAN, so a minor key…what major key has two flats? B-flat major…now what’s the minor key associated with B-flat…G MINOR!”).

I didn’t care for some of the short fill like MCII [1102, in ancient Rome], GHI [Letters underneath 4, on a phone], and SSS, especially with the clue [Draft org.]. There hasn’t been a draft for the US military in 50 years!

Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today Crossword, “Earring Backs” — Emily’s write-up

Tougher puzzle for me today, thought to be expected from Stella. Still a fab one and very enjoyable!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday June 15, 2023

USA Today, June 15 2023, “Earring Backs” by Stella Zawistowski

Theme: each themer ends in a type of earring back


  • 20a. [Fixture at a free-throw contest], BASKETBALLHOOP
  • 38a. [Go on a spending spree], SHOPTILLYOUDROP
  • 51a. [Poker variety also known as “Down the River”], SEVENCARDSTUD

A fun themer set today with lots of free-time activities for everyone: BASKETBALLHOOP, SHOPTILLYOUDROP, and SEVENCARDSTUD.

Favorite fill: DAPHNE, LANA, CRAB, and SNEAKS

Stumpers: IDED (cluing didn’t quite get me there), DANDY (needed crossings), and EVEN (misdirected by “tied”)

Fun solve with excellent cluing and fill, along with an interesting grid.

4.25 stars


Hanh Huynh’s Universal crossword, “See You Later!” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: In four pairs of adjacent words, the left one is missing the letters CU from its clued answer, and the right one has the letters CU inserted. In both the inserted and deleted cases, the resulting words also are valid crossword answers.

Universal, 06 15 2023, “See You Later!”

  • 17a [*Items hurled at the Olympics] and 18a [*Place for suits to hang] – DISSES and CLOSE CUT (clues for “discuses” and “closet”)
  • 26a [**Chose museum pieces for] and 27a [**Response to “Where?”] – RATED and THE CURE (clues for “curated” and “there”)
  • 43a [***Actor’s prompt] and 45a [***Like a good Christmas] – ECARD and MERCURY (clued for “cue card” and “merry”)
  • 59a [****Beaded counters] and 61a [****Most introverted, usually] – ABASES and CUSHIEST (clued for “abacuses” and “shiest”)

This is pretty high concept for Universal, and it’s an impressive feat of construction. Hahn needed to find words that worked both with and without CU, and place them into the grid symmetrically – speaking of which, I love the up-down symmetry in this puzzle! My favorite re-parsing is “there” into THE CURE. “Abacuses” as a plural felt a little off to me – I wanted “abaci” – but the internet tells me it’s valid. Anyways, this puzzle gave me a real “aha” moment during my solve when I figured out the theme, which is always a great feeling.

Loved seeing ISSA RAE clued via the new Spiderverse film – I am generally a superhero movie hater, but that was the best movie I’ve seen yet in 2023. Everyone should watch it. Other fill highlights were RIDE OR DIE, RED HOT, and TV MOM clued via Carol Brady.

August Miller’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

August Miller offers up an ambitious version of the “hidden centres” theme trope. [Ravioli option, and what the answers to the starred clues literally have?], CHEESEFILLING explains the gimmick, with each of four two part themers containing a cheese varietal: two of the four seem a little “green paint”: [*Fruit pastry], APRICOTTART and [*Array in some wine bars], CAFETABLES; a third, [*Unwanted color fluctuations, in digital photography], CHROMANOISE is quite technical. The set is rounded out by [*”Star Wars” role for Oscar Isaac], POEDAMARON. As alluded to, many of these hidden entries are quite unwieldy, and I think that explains the theme entries used.


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25 Responses to Thursday, June 15, 2023

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: The CAPT entry is completed to become CAPTIONS, fitting the clue (“Descriptive lines under photos”).

    • ZDL says:

      Yes, I understand the premise.

    • Me says:

      I think Zachary was saying that CAPT isn’t a stand-alone word, except as an abbreviation for “Captain.” But since it’s a widely used abbreviation and not a crosswordy one, I think that’s just fine.

      I’m really, really impressed with this puzzle. David notes in his comments on the NYT website that he put a lot of constraints on the construction that increased the difficulty of construction, but he addressed them without decreasing the experience for the solver.
      This includes that as Zachary notes (but I did not while solving), the Across clues all use the -IOUS Across answer, and similarly with -IONS for the Downs; IOUS and IONS are clued in a way that doesn’t give the game away at Square One; all of the theme answers without the IOUS/IONS are legitimate entries AND they aren’t just a shorter version of the IOUS/IONS version. Evan Birnholz is the master of balancing constructing constraints and solver enjoyment, but too many NYT puzzles have a “look at me!” component that may impress fellow constructors but makes the puzzle go less smoothly for solvers, or the constructors give up on the constraints and you have nonsense answers and such. This was a very smooth puzzle with 15 (!) theme answers, and it’s a good entry point into “Thursday puzzles” for newer solvers.

      It also seems that David is a new-ish constructor, which makes this puzzle even more impressive. Great job, David!

      • marciem says:

        ^ everything you said, most especially I didn’t get the constructor “hey look at me” feeling of some themes. This was geared to a solver’s enjoyment also.

        This was fun, and doable and made me smile when I got it :), but not too easy. Perfect Thurs. tricky/difficulty level.

      • JohnH says:

        Agreed it was great. And besides being fine with CAPT, I thought the clue for PABLO was rather clever, raising a dull, straightforward cluing to Thursday level.

        I got the theme reasonably quickly, slowed of course by both its mental gymnastics and also requiring two different entries, from 1A and 1D. (Very nice touch.) I was much slower to find the revealer.

      • placematfan says:

        Great post.

    • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

      Brilliant puzzle. Not easy for me. I guess I was slower on the uptake than the rest of you, so I was baffled and then had that joyous moment. Thanks for a wonderful Thursday morning, David Harris!

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: I bumbled about, filling in the answers that weren’t affected by the theme and skipping the ones that were (unless they filled themselves in). That got me enough letters in the revealer to make sense of the trick, and I finished it up quickly.

    I’m impressed that all the theme answer fragments stand alone so well.

    Fun puzzle and an impressive debut.

  3. Milo says:

    Does anyone know why there’s no leaderboard for the NYT dailies on the app? There’s a leaderboard tab for the 5×5 minis but not the actual puzzle. Am I missing something?

    • Eric H says:

      Someone who comments frequently on the NYT Wordplay column told me that there used to be a leaderboard for the daily puzzle. He said the NYT discontinued it after people started bragging in the comments that they had solved the puzzle on paper and then achieved a ridiculously fast time in the puzzle app by just typing in the answers.

  4. Mutman says:

    NYT. Very impressive, but I had to stick it out to grok it.

    I solved on the app. Having not yet gotten the long revealer, when positioned on it, it highlights all the themers. Fine.

    But it appeared as if they were all paired (intersecting) so that threw me for a while. Turns out that was simply coincidence.

    • Dallas says:

      Yeah, for a brief period (before STALLION finally made it obvious for me) I thought it was crossing rebuses…

  5. Mr. [very very very] Grumpy says:

    Note to LAT editor & constructor: Cute puzzle, but the 12D/28A cross is effing ridiculous. 12D can end in an A or an O per the clue, and I should not have to be familiar with dumb movie characters in order to make a choice. Seriously. Just give me a gender clue for 12D, and I’m good.

  6. chris says:

    Universal really stressed me out today, the theme and clues just did not jibe for me at all and I was left with “solve clues that make no sense.” Very frustrating and no satisfaction from completion. When “I see what you did there” is “randomly and in an uninteresting way mix up the answers” it’s not that fun — probably there are those who love this kind of mixed-up clue != word crossword, but I am not one of them. Also, uses a sandwich cookie clue and word, aka the hamburger helper of crosswords. Sorry Hahn, it was miss for me today. A disappointment after yesterdays “spread the love” Universal, which I found really fun.

    • marciem says:

      Well there ya go, I found yesterday’s pretty blah, I mean ok but not memorable, easy peasy.

      OTOH, today’s I thoroughly enjoyed and found it a nice Thursday tricky, ala NYT. I didn’t see anything random about the switches, and found them clever.

      So… to each their own.

      • chris says:

        I think with “discuses” to “disses” I though the clue worked with either word and was funny, and I couldn’t find the pun (because it didn’t exist) in any other clue, so it bummed me out. But I am glad you enjoyed it!!

  7. Josh M says:

    Today’s NYT is the exception to my rule that themed puzzles are boring and dumb. I enjoyed it thoroughly! DERMAL was an aha/lol moment.

  8. OakTownMike says:

    NYT: I agree with the ‘Eau so big?’ for MER as Clue of The Year but today’s 31D- ‘OverDO it as an ACtor’ for EMOTE and 56D- ‘TOtal rOOkie’ for NOOB were clues that actually made me chuckle…

    • JohnH says:

      Actually, I don’t get the caps in DO -AC for EMOTE. Help?

      • Eric H says:

        I think the caps are supposed to indicate over-stressing of those syllables, the way a hammy actor might do.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          I don’t recall ever seeing anything quite like that in a crossword clue before. I just figured something went haywire with Crossword Scraper.

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