Wednesday, June 28, 2023

AVCX tk (tk) 


LAT 4:07 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker 3:54 (Jenni) 


NYT 15:58 (Matt F.) 


Universal 5:58 (Matt F.) 


USA Today 9:45 (Emily) 


WSJ 6:52 (Jim) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Odd Fellows”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar words and phrases whose odd letters spell out the last names of famous men.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Odd Fellows” · Mike Shenk · Wed., 6.28.23

  • 17a. [Gambling spots for a noted cellist?] CRAPS TABLES. Pablo Casals.
  • 28a. [Stand-up comic attending a soiree?] PARTYGOER. Richard Pryor.
  • 38a. [Jacket material for a “Wizard of Oz” actor?] LEATHER. Bert Lahr.
  • 47a. [“The Maids” dramatist’s surrounding parkland?] GREENBELT. Jean Genet.
  • 63a. [American architect’s cautionary action?] WARNING SHOT. Frank Lloyd Wright.

Pretty nifty finds here. I’d never heard of the playwright, but the rest were all familiar enough.

The one thing I wanted, though, was some consistency in cluing. Preferably, I wanted some literal angle that could be used for each phrase. For example, the clue [“Wizard of Oz” actor in a biker jacket?] would work if we were to interpret the entry as “Lahr in leather.” But I can’t see that working for the others (Casals in a craps table? Pryor in a partygoer?). I guess we’re meant to view the clues as two parts, a la cryptic crosswords, with one part indicating the entry itself and the other part indicating the hidden name. But I’m definitely bothered by the PARTYGOER clue. To me, it’s asking for the name (Pryor) unlike the other entries.

Fill highlights include ACUTE ANGLE, SEES DOUBLE, MOO-COW, HARRIET the Spy, and MINORCA. IN ROME seems like a rare six-letter partial. Most people should know the name VACLAV Havel. A lot of people probably know the name VING Rhames. But maybe some solvers had trouble where these two names crossed at the starting V.

Clues of note:

  • 46d. [Venerable]. AUGUST. A simple clue, but I liked that this wasn’t clued as the month.
  • 56d. [Pound part]. CAGE. You’ve seen this clue many times, but you never know what it’s going to refer to. The unit of weight? The currency of England? Nope, it’s going after poet Ezra Pound’s (rib) CAGE. (jk. We’re talking the dog pound here.)

Nifty theme though the clues didn’t always work for me. 3.75 stars.

Bill Thompson and Grace Thompson Arnold’s Universal Crossword – “I’m Lost!” – Matt F’s write up

Universal Solution 06.28.2023

If I can trust our tagging system here on Fiend, I think this puzzle marks the first published byline for one of today’s constructors. Congratulations, Grace! Until I know more, I’m going to presume Bill and Grace are a father-daughter duo, which makes today’s theme even sweeter than it already is. Let’s get into it.

Theme Synopsis:

Three little animals have wandered away from their families, and our job is to reunite each one with its MOM (1A)! Each animal belongs to a group which is spelled out by the circled letters. Here are all the connections:

  • 9A – [Young animal that can find its 1-Across in 35-Across] = LAMB, a young sheep, can find its MOM with the FLOCK in 35A – [Door features that keep kids safe] = CHILD-PROO(F LOCK)S
  • 63A – A CALF, or young cow, can find its MOM with the HERD in 58A – [Eatery such as Katz’s] = KOS(HER D)ELI
  • 65A – Finally, a young lion, or CUB, can find its MOM with the PRIDE in 16A – [Social activities for cyclists] = GROU(P RIDE)S

Nice take on a theme which relies on partner clues to tie everything together in the grid. Locking in those corners also forces an extra constraint on the grid and adds a layer of difficulty to the construction.

Overall Impressions:

There are a couple of weak spots in the fill (hello JCTS), but I didn’t mind too much as the glue is used sparingly and seems necessary to hold this theme together. Everything was fairly crossed, and in the end I found this to be an enjoyable solve. I liked the mid-length stuff sprinkled throughout, from POIGNANT to FLEW SOLO, CARPOOL, and RUN ALONG.

Fun Fact:

Speaking of NOMs de plume (62A), The late John le Carré, renowned writer of espionage novels, was born David John Moore Cornwell, and actually spent time working for MI6 before becoming a full-time writer. He was required to use a pseudonym because Foreign Office staff were forbidden to publish in their own names.

Thanks for the puzzle, Bill and Grace!

Matt Fuchs and Victor Sloan’s New York Times Crossword – Matt F’s write up

NYT Solution 06.28.2023

Theme Synopsis:

We have six intersecting answer pairs today that represent “X in Y” phrases. Visually, it is supposed to look like the down answer is “in” the across answer:

  • 3D/14A – […first (and last) gift of a seasonal song] = PARTRIDGE in a PEAR TREE
  • 10D/15A – […cause of some hoarseness] = FROG in one’s THROAT
  • 30D/38A – […hidden traitor] = SNAKE in the GRASS
  • 36D/42A – […source of restless anticipation] = ANTS in one’s PANTS
  • 44D/59A – […harbinger of danger] = CANARY in a COAL MINE
  • 58D/62A – […persistent little obsession] = BEE in one’s BONNET

The preposition I think of when I see this visual gimmick is “through,” but that doesn’t work with the theme phrases. I’d like to believe 33A was included to argue the case (queue “stoned philosopher” voice), “You might think it’s going through, but it’s actually INSIDE, MAN! Just free your mind, and you’ll see it…” I caught the trick with FROG/THROAT and was able to figure out the remaining theme pairs with minimal crossings. The extra layer to the theme (that I definitely did not forget to mention and did not have to edit this post to include) is that the first part of each theme answer is an animal. So many English idioms play off the behavior of animals! These were some good finds.

Overall Impressions:

A grid-consuming theme like this takes some construction prowess to pull off, and these two did a nice job isolating the theme pairs without making the grid feel too restrictive, despite the NE/SW corners having only one way in. Some sacrifices were made in the fill to hold this together, and I found the NE corner particularly tricky with AFTRA, TOLET, and AIOLIS. I enjoyed the bonus entries: INSIDE MAN, MINI SKIRT, and GOES BROKE.

Thanks for the puzzle, and congratulations to Victor on his print debut!

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — Jenni’s write-up

Erik’s byline always makes me smile in anticipation even for an easier crossword. This one was pure Agard.

New Yorker, June 28, 2023, Erik Agard, solution grid

  • Loved the duo [Permission-denying phrase] and [Permission-seeking phrase] for NO YOU MAY NOT and CAN I, respectively. I can hear that in my mother’s voice. She was big on the difference between CAN and MAY. Also LESSER and FEWER. My dad was a stickler for NAUSEATED because NAUSEOUS doesn’t mean the same thing. Is it any wonder I ended up here?
  • I knew that GI JOE fought Cobra because of my brother who was also the source of my TEEN TITAN knowledge on a recent puzzle. Thanks, Joe.
  • [“Potayto, potahto”] is SAME DIFFERENCE. Nice.
  • My favorite clue of the week and probably the month: [Fruit about which Dragonfly Jonez tweeted, “Every single letter in that word suffers from main character syndrome”] for ACAI. And I’m grateful that I can copy and paste from the New Yorker website because that’s a Peter Gordon-ish Very Long Clue.
  • Another original clue for a common entry: [Garland often made with ti leaves] for LEI.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of Dragonfly Jonez, did not know that DOROTHY ROBERTS wrote “Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare” and now want to read it, and I didn’t know that SZA recorded CTRL before “SOS.”

Matthew Stock’s USA Today Crossword, “Food Chain” — Emily’s write-up

What a tasty morsel today! A perfect treat for a Wednesday.

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday June 28, 2023

USA Today, June 28 2023, “Food Chain” by Matthew Stock

Theme: the last word of each themer is the start of the next themer, so “chaining” the set together with foods


  • 20a. [Yellow veggie often pickled as a pizza topping], BANANAPEPPER
  • 42a. [Stir-fry dish with sliced beef], PEPPERSTEAK
  • 63a. [Thick-cut potato side], STEAKFRIES

This puzzle is making me hungry and the themer set reads like a menu–how fun! Nothing better than a spicy, pickled BANANAPEPPER, except maybe the tangy, juicy PEPPERSTEAK and some crispy, salty STEAKFRIES, with a little ketchup of course! In addition to the fantastic set, the title encapsulates the theme with the perfect amount of hint without being overpowering (like spot-on seasoning). So with the theme, we get BANANA PEPPER, PEPPER STEAK, STEAK FRIES. It feels very much like an extended “Before and After” Wheel of Fortune puzzle.


Stumpers: MUSTY (“dusty” and “musky”), EHOW (needed crossings, it’s been forever since I used or thought of this website), and ACE (could only think of “out”)

On top of all the theme-y goodness, the grid is excellent, the cluing top-notch, and much of the bonus fill is food related. With a strong representation from PIXAR’s “Ratatouille” including REMY the surprisingly good chef RAT. There’s also STEW, YEAST, and DINER. Not to mention all the lengthy bonus fill! Super impressive. Kudos, Matthew! Please keep the stellar puzzles coming!

5.0 stars


Jodi Davenport & Barbara Lin’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Jodi Davenport & Barbara Lin’s puzzle today features a simple yet well-executed synonym theme. Each of four two-part answers end a synonym for “tale” and have clues reimagined to be referring to a tale of that sort. It seems more than likely intentional CATTAIL is a bonus central answer, although with the spelling change it wasn’t included as a true themer:

[Recap of the biopic “Walk the Line”?], CASHACCOUNT
[Recap of an anatomy lesson?], ORGANRECITAL
[Recap of the rise and fall of Peloton?], SPINNINGYARN
[Recap of a dollar bill’s journey from the mint to a wallet?], SINGLESTORY. Not storey…

Otherwise a pretty uneventful crossword, except for one or two tricky names:
[Chef Samin who wrote the cookbook “Salt Fat Acid Heat”], NOSRAT; Samin seems like it’ll show up at some point too…
[Board game with settlers], CATAN. At some point, they appear to have dropped “Settler of…”


This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Wednesday, June 28, 2023

  1. m says:

    is NYT site down?

  2. PJ says:

    TNY – Rolled out of bed and solved cleanly in 8:02 while the coffee was brewing. A TNY equivalent of a Monday NYT. The long answers were interesting and familiar. The author, with her English/Norman name should elicit few groans. The abundance of long entries gave us a grid layout that I really liked. Lots of connectivity between sections. A couple of commons entries were clued in a way that slowed me down a little (49A, 58A, and 53D are examples) but not for long. The crossing of 52A/53D was my last square.

    Similar experience to Monday’s TNY.

    • JohnH says:

      This puzzle has a lot of fans despite admitted obscurities. I found it, as usual with this constructor, all a foreign language. That crossing with which you ended defeated me.

  3. pannonica says:

    Universal: “Speaking of NOM de plumes …”

    That of course should be noms de plume.

    Thanks, Matt, for taking care off the write-up today, even if it was inadvertent!

    • Zev Farkas says:

      Kind of cute when a correction contains an error (“off” for “of”). I’ve been caught in those, so I know your pain… ;)

    • Matt F. says:

      A grammatical mistake? Where? (I’m glad Fiend doesn’t show a version counter on these pages for the number of times I’ve had to make post-post edits).

      • Zev Farkas says:

        pannonica corrected your pluralization of nom de plume, but she used “off” instead of “of” when thanking you for doing the review. (And it’s a good thing I reviewed this comment, because I had dropped the e at the end of plume…)

  4. Jim G says:

    NYT: There’s also ANTS in PANTS at 35D/42A.

    In a sign that I’ve been spoiled by Evan’s WaPo puzzles, I checked whether the crossings spelled anything. Unless “aratae” means something I’m not aware of, they don’t. But if Evan did a theme like that, I’m sure he’d have managed to make those crossing letters spell a theme-appropriate word.

    • Milo says:

      Also worth a note that the NYT themers are all [animal] in [Y] phrases. Extra little connection/restriction

      • Matt F. says:

        Ah, yes, of course, the ANTS! I’ve updated the post to include that one. And I agree that the animal lead-in is a nice touch.

  5. Zev Farkas says:

    Universal –

    When I saw that the answer to 63A, “Young animal that can find its 1-Across in 58-Across” was CALF I still hadn’t noted that only part of the answer to 58A is supposed to be used, so I found it rather sad that the calf would find its mom in a KOSHER DELI. ;)

  6. Simon says:

    Question re: NYT et al. When one keeps seeing MAE, OBI, TSA, LEIA, LOL, NTH, TAT, NYSE etc in a grid, does that mean constructors used a computer program to do the non-themers? I rarely see this type of repetitive, lazy fill in a Patrick Berry puzzle, for example. I expect better fill from the NYT.

    • Ethan says:

      Looking at the most recent Patrick Berry puzzle reviewed on this website, I see AORTA, ALAS, ALOE, BTS, ISIS, EGOS, MBA, and APPS. I would consider all of those quite familiar, and that was a themeless puzzle. Especially when building around theme entries (and today there are crossing theme entries), you’re going to need to rely on shorter entries with common letters and vowels. OBI was considered crosswordese long before anyone was using software.

  7. marciem says:

    TNY: 22d: e/em/__ = eir

    any help understanding that?

  8. Bill T says:

    Universal – Correct on the father / daughter collaboration. We really wanted FATHERDAUGHTER to be the HERD entry, but we just couldn’t figure out a way to make that work.

    • e.a. says:

      that’s so cool! loved the puzzle!!

    • Matt F says:

      That’s great! I’m inspired to share a byline with one of my daughters someday. That would be so cool!

    • Zev Farkas says:

      The daddy/daughter collaboration is really sweet!

      If you had succeeded in getting FATHERDAUHTER to work, my confusion about the calf and the deli wouldn’t have happened… ;)

  9. Mark says:

    TNY – I enjoyed it very much. I also enjoyed Jenni’s write-up. What she highlighted is exactly how I felt solving the puzzle. Erik is so impressive as a solver and a constructor.

    NYT – those clues that reference others generally turn me off. And they kind of did here too, but they were the actual theme, and so I softened as I solved. Really a nice puzzle!

    WSJ – I love Mike Shenk. Love him! Also a nice puzzle.

    All in all a lovely Wednesday!

    • dh says:

      “those clues that reference others generally turn me off” Me, too. I generally just skip them – too much trouble – until I get all the rest of the crossings, then I go back if I have to. Today it all worked out fine – i didn’t answer any of those clues but they all filled in nicely for a final read-through.

  10. Anon says:

    NYT: I had submitted a very similar theme a couple years back. I, instead, wedged animals within the respective idiom words to make gobbledegook themers (e.g. BON[BEE]NET, HEADL[DEER]IGHTS, PA[ANTS]NTS, etc.), and also included the revealer INVASIVESPECIES. I wanted the phrases to be restricted to using the preposition “in” even if other words found their way into the idiom (such as “deer in headlights” vs. “bee in ONE’S bonnet”) so that the animals being *within* would at least ring true. Apparently my version wasn’t good enough, and while I’m happy that some interpretation of this theme has seen the light of day, I’m disappointed I wasn’t pushed by the editors to rework a theme that evidently passes publication muster. Maybe they liked the intersection concept better anyway. Alas, such are the tribulations of being a crossword constructor. All that said, a genuine hats off to MF and VS for doing something right. Fun puzzle!

  11. anon says:

    AVCX: nice puzzle/theme!

    But annoying that the provided .puz file did not accept the correct theme answers (for me anyway).

    (Deliberately being vague here so as not to spoil, but if you solved with Across Lite or similar, maybe you had the same issue.)

    • Eric H says:

      I know what you mean about the .puz file. AcrossLite didn’t like what I had in, say, the cross of 21A and 10D. I ended up revealing the puzzle just to get the happy pencil.

      I just looked at the PDF answer grid. It shows what I originally had entered, so as far as I am concerned, I correctly solved the puzzle.

      The other half of the trick bothered me a bit, because it doesn’t really seem to fit the revealer, it creates gibberish answers, and because I struggled with the crosses in those parts of the theme answers.

      I was halfway through it before I realized that the grid is 21 X 21. That makes me feel better about my time (25:59).

      Overall a nice puzzle, if a bit frustrating.

Comments are closed.