Thursday, July 20, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:32 (Gareth) 


NYT 15:41 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:59 (Kyle) 


Universal 4:52 (Sophia) 


USA Today 6:02 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Trip Payne’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Not-So-Eminent Domains”—Jim’s review

Ooh! Haven’t seen Trip’s byline in a good long while. You’ll remember him of course from Wordplay. These days he’s co-editor of the Zynga app “Crosswords With Friends” alongside our very own Amy. So if you don’t happen to know his name, you can rest assured he knows his way around a grid.

Today he brings us a cheeky little puzzle with familiar phrases whose final few letters are also one of the more well-known internet domains (you know: org, edu, com, etc.). That part of the entry is separated from the main phrase by a rebussed DOT, and the whole thing is clued as if it was an apt website.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Not-So-Eminent Domains” · Trip Payne · Thu., 7.20.23

  • 19a. [Website listing the best places to store alcohol?] LIQUORCABI(DOT)NET.
  • 31a. [Website that collects funds for retired tennis players?] BJORNB(DOT)ORG. I like this one a lot because I can see someone referring to the tennis star as “Bjorn B”. Therefore it makes sense that his website is
  • 40a. [Website about the American Depression?] GLOOYMG(DOT)US. This is odd. I’m assuming the clue is referring to what I know of as “The Great Depression.” Never heard it referred to as the “American Depression.” Maybe the clue needs to refer to America since it’s a .us domain. But what is the connection between “gloomy gus” the phrase and The Depression, anyway? The Depression and depression in general are…kinda depressing. I would’ve gone with a clue like [Website for pessimists in America?]
  • 51a. [Website discussing “Fawlty Towers” and “Absolutely Fabulous”?] BRITISHSIT(DOT)COM. Here’s a list of “the top 50” Britcoms. What’s your fave? Mine comes in at number 42, sadly, although we all know that 42 is the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything.

I enjoyed this, especially the aha moment when I found the DOTs and saw the ensuing domains. And for me, the Bjorn Borg entry alone is worth the price of admission. A fun set.

Top bits of fill include Carl Sagan’s PALE BLUE (DOT), GAY ICON, and ON A STREAK (to a lesser degree). The computer nerd in me loves WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), but I’ve never heard it used outside of discussions regarding computer operating systems. Is it known to the general public? Crossing that second W with proper name WEEB might be impossible for some solvers.

Speaking of crossing proper names, crossing BEBE and BELLA at square one is a tough way to start. Thankfully, B makes the most sense there.

Clues of note:

  • 5a. [It could reduce the price of a diamond]. FLAW. I fell into the trap of believing “diamond” referred to baseball. I’d say 9 times out of 10 it does in a crossword clue, but this time it didn’t.
  • 36a. [Like cutlets]. BONED. I would say de-boned, but maybe that’s just me.
  • 60a. [Hard liner, in baseball lingo]. ROPE. New to me, but sure, I guess.
  • 46d. [Its heel is near its butt]. RIFLE. Near as I can tell, the heel is the top corner of the butt (closest to one’s shoulder when holding the gun) and the toe is the bottom corner (at one’s armpit).
  • 53d. [“Naked and Afraid” structures]. HUTS. Not familiar with this Discovery Channel reality show. Apparently, two strangers must strip down before they meet and then survive 21 days together in the wilderness. Not sure why they have to be naked…just for the sake of the title?
  • 54d. [Insult that Kim Jong Un memorably used about Donald Trump]. (DOT)ARD. I never thought I’d enjoy a clue referencing Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump…but here we are.

Good puzzle. Four stars.

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

Difficulty: Tricky (15m41s)

Drew Schmenner’s New York Times crossword, 7/20/23, 0720

Today’s theme: SLEEPING CARs (Accommodation for a long train trip … or a hint to entering a certain letter 14 times in this puzzle)

  • S(KI A)REA — ZZZ

Wow, did I enjoy this or what.  Really nice Thursday level twist, and kept me on my toes the entire time.  There was only one point during the solving experience that I really balked, and that was when I couldn’t make SLEEPER CAR fit, and was forced to settle on the (apparently) much more idiomatic SLEEPING CAR (if Google hits are anything to go by — and they usually are.)  So I guess that one’s on me.  I was also slightly distracted by the paired vertical fill at 2- and 35-down that are the same length as their adjacent theme entries, but that’s also a pretty minor infraction and something I’m guilty of violating all the time.

Cracking: I REPEAT, c-r-a-c-k-i-ng.

Slacking: DISMAYING did cause me varying degrees of dismayment and dismayfulness.

Sidetracking: Methuselah is the oldest non-clonal organism on Earth — a single life form that, at nearly 5,000 years old, almost predates all of written history, which is a mind-boggling thing to RUMINATE about.  Only slightly less impressive (in my mind, at least) is the colony of quaking ASPEN in Richfield, Utah that has an 80,000 year old root system and weighs about 6,000 tons, making it both the oldest and heaviest clonal organism alive.

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

Thanks to Patrick Berry for today’s New Yorker puzzle. This is a classic Berry themeless grid design: four corner triple stacks, two entry/exit points out of each corner. Plenty of long answers to keep a solver’s interest, while also insuring against getting stuck in a region.

The New Yorker solution grid – Patrick Berry – Thursday 07/20/2023


  • Really liked the conversational clue/entry 20A [“Well, that answer didn’t make things any better”] “SORRY I ASKED“. Other conversational entries include 50A “ANYONE HOME?“, 3D “COME TO PAPA!” (although neither one gets a spoken phrase for a clue) and 25D [“___ where you’re wrong!”] THAT’S
  • Good range of subject matter for the proper names in the puzzle, many of which get appropriate beginner-level clues. The trade-off, for me, was that not many of the trivia/cultural reference felt especially current: HARLEM SHAKE is already 10 years old, Post MALONE released “Rockstar” in 2017, etc. I think the freshest thing in the puzzle might be cluing RYAN Reynolds with respect to Wrexham AFC, the Welsh football (read: soccer) team that he co-owns with Rob McElhenny. The team is the subject of the documentary series “Welcome to Wrexham”, which is about to air its second season. They won their league last season and are currently touring the US playing against the likes of Manchester United and winning over legions of American fans in the process.
  • I liked the intersection of ABBA and “Dear ABBY“. What kind of advice would a “Dear ABBA” column dispense?

Will Eisenberg and Shannon Rapp’s Fireball Crossword, “Closing Time” – Jenni’s write-up

I made this one much harder than it was with a couple of errors and a complete brain cramp. Since the brain cramp struck in the NW, I stumbled around for what felt like forever and solved the puzzle bottom up and once I found the revealer I was off and running. It’s a fun puzzle!

Each theme answer starts and ends with circles. The pattern in the grid is not just for decoration.

Fireball Crossword, July 19, 2023, Will Eisenberg & Shannon Rapp, “Closing Time,” solution grid

  • 18a [1980s arcade game sequel] is DONKEY KONG JUNIOR.
  • 33a [Subtitle of Robert Palmer’s “Bad Case of Loving You”] is DOCTOR DOCTOR.
  • 51a [Pet-sit for, say] is DO A FAVOR.

And the revealer in the bottom row, plus some additional help: 71a [It comes to a close in this puzzle] is DOOR. 70a [With 72-Across, a warning…and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] is STAND CLEAR. I enjoyed this! Once I got 71a I was able to fill in all the circles, and that cleared the fog for me in the upper third. Solid and fresh. Fun!

A few other things:

  • 2d [Joule, e.g.] is EPONYM. Since it has a circle I kept thinking there was something funky going on with the theme and it was going to be some kind of UNIT. Nope.
  • 28d [“On Beyond Zebra!” letter] is a tricky clue for ITCH especially since that particular Dr. Seuss book is now out of print.
  • 38a [Fisher’s general role] is LEIA. Carrie Fisher. The lower-case g held me up for a while.
  • 59a [They’re usually left on all night] is a cute clue for PJS.
  • 66a [’70s child] is an XER. I was born in 1960 so my cultural references are mostly from the 1970s and I tend to think of myself as a 70s kid. XERs were, of course, born in the ’70s and I’m a tail-end Boomer. I was also a late-onset mom so my kid is Gen Z, I think. My family apparently skipped the XERs completely.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Don McLean went to IONA.

Dan Ziring’s Universal crossword, “Enhanced Browsing” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: The theme clues point to a particular answer, but the answer in the grid is actually [that word] + AD.

Universal Crossword, 07 20 2023, “Enhanced Browsing”

  • 17a [*Service members since 1775] – MARINADES (marines + ad)
  • 25a [*Just OK] – DECADENT (decent + ad)
  • 51a [*Certain guitars] – BADASSES (basses + ad)
  • 61a [*Blackjack request] – HAD IT MADE (hit me + ad + ad)
  • 36a [Online privacy tool to use on each starred clue’s answer?] – AD BLOCKER

I like this concept! I’ve seen various takes on AD BLOCKER in the NYT and other outlets, so it wasn’t completely new to me, though. At first I was a little confused why the AD was being added to each theme answer rather than “blocked” (removed), but rereading the revealer clue I see that the solver is meant to remove the AD themselves.

I am of two minds about the final theme clue, HAD IT MADE. It’s a great find, but changing up the single “AD” pattern at the very end made that bottom right corner much harder to figure out than the rest of the puzzle.

Fill highlights: TIE-DYES, ARTEMIS, REAR END. Was it just me, or did it feel like there were a lot of short phrases in this puzzle (e.g ACTED IN, ON A TEAR)?

Clue highlights: [Homeric exclamation?] for DOH,  [___ Diego Zoo] for SAN (any Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fans out there? Iykyk).

Matthew Stock’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

The concept in Matthew Stock’s puzzle is a strong one: WHATISLOVE is a song that remains surprisingly popular, and each of three entries starts with a word that completes the phrase “Love Is A ___” to make a song. So the problem is, that’s very specific. I knew one of the three songs: the #5 hit by Pat Benatar “Love Is a Battlefield”, but I can bet a lot of younger folks haven’t. The others are “Love Is a Game”, which appears to be an album track on Adele’s most recent album. Am I mad to say very few people outside superfans are that familiar with album tracks. I bought 21 and I’d be hard-pressed to name all the tracks on it. The other is “Love Is An Open Door”, and looking back on it I do kind of remember it from Frozen, kind of. It’s not as iconic as say “Let It Go” or “For the First Time in Forever” though, but OK.

Other entries worth noting:

  • [Greek yogurt brand], OIKOS. Don’t think this is sold here; it’s worth noting as being a crossword vowel dump, it may show up again.
  • [Like slime-making kits], MESSY. Not sure what those are, but I’m willing to bet they are in fact messy.
  • [John Travolta film…], BATTLEFIELDEARTH. Bad Science Fiction based on Scientology, which is a religion based on bad Science Fiction.
  • [Justice impersonated by Kate McKinnon on “SNL”], RBG. Very few people rise to the level of being known as a monogram…
  • [Most populous U.S. state capital], PHOENIX. I’m going to guess this is just a quirk of quaint historical boundaries rather than real functional urban area?
  • [Hasbro toys that issue commands], BOPITS. New to me, but not surprising. It did come out when I was ten, though.
  • [Papa, in Chinese], BABA. In Zulu as well, I think. Terms like this seem to be pretty universally similar?


Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today Crossword, “Left Behind” — Emily’s write-up

Very punny title today that might misdirect some solvers since it’s also a common phrase.

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday July 20, 2023

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday July 20, 2023

Theme: each across themer starts with (on the left) a word for a rear (or behind)


  • 19a. [Pass the time idly], BUMAROUND
  • 38a. [25C and 13D, on an airplane, e.g.], SEATASSIGNMENT
  • 56a. [Engage in conflict], BUTTHEADS

Please be sure to not BUMAROUND when you already have your SEATASSIGNMENTS. Only real BUTTHEADS would be so obnoxious. This theme and themer set are just so playful today, I’m leaning into it—hope you enjoy it too! :D

Favorite fill: HINDUISM, AEROBICS, ALLIN, and SSAM (yum!)

Stumpers: UGH (only “eww” and “ick” came to mind), and PRO (needed crossings)

The cluing for SEATASSIGNMENTS was amazing—loved it! Overall, it was spot on for me today, as I find Stella’s tricker usually and they tend to take me longer but I was on a roll today and had a quick solve (for one of her puzzles) except for the NE corner which took me some crossings to break into.

4.5 stars


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28 Responses to Thursday, July 20, 2023

  1. Jim S says:

    I’ve missed Mr. Payne. I thought the puzzle was far better than some of the WSJ commenters would suggest. Sure I looked for a rebus command, tried to type in a period, and finally settled on the ‘D.” But in the end, isn’t Mike Shenk supposed to do whatever it is editors do when provided with a clever puzzle that requires more capabilities than the WSJ application provides?

  2. Greg says:

    Really fine NYT. Perfect for a Thursday. Very skillful construction.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    Loved the NYT!!!

  4. JohnH says:

    My printer has declared itself unable to proceed, so for once I worked the WSJ on-screen. As ever, I’m left admiring the majority of solvers here. You can see so little at a time, and then have to work to jump around. Naturally I found the whole puzzle difficult, and I can hardly say whether the fill that presented me with obstacles otherwise would.

    I liked the theme and particularly finally discovering the needed “dot” squares. (I typed D without worrying over it and was rather surprised to see that the functionality includes a congratulations.) But I overthought it. A couple made sense read with or without the dot: SITCOM, CABINET. But while a Depression could leave people gloomy (or angry enough to change parties), and American goes with US, that orphans the G in GUS. And is Bjorn needy or typical of retired tennis players? Naturally he retired with enough money for three luxuriant residences and now rakes it in from a fashion line, but never mind. I guess it’s just a puzzle. Also don’t often see country code file extensions outside of distant ones in scam emails, whereas do often see EDU, but I realize that would be hard to turn into fill.

  5. Scott says:

    I very much enjoyed the NYT and solved in 19m09s which I am happy with.

    I am unhappy with the clue for 6D…why clue this in two languages?

  6. David L says:

    DNF for me on the NYT. I had CEE instead of CEO at 36A, and that prevented me from seeing what was meant at 3D.

    Also, I put in PAID at 33A, but PUPAS made no sense, so I was able to fix that.

  7. damefox says:

    Oof, I’m glad it seems like most people enjoyed the NYT, but wow I did not like this puzzle at all. Several Naticks — LST/STAN (just as plausibly LSE/SEAN, as far as I could see), LST/ICLZZZZUS (could’ve been literally any letter, probably Z, since I had no idea about the book), and ARI/IZZZATSON (could’ve been ARZ, since I had no idea what 3-Down was getting at) — and the fact that the only theme answer I could reasonably infer was UPZZZZEBATE made this absolutely no fun. I think a puzzle like this only works if you know the “real” answers without the gimmick letters, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what they were supposed to be. S(KIA)REA did eventually come to me, but I had no idea about the other two and it made the whole puzzle a real slog. The fact that one of them was pop culture trivia from *89 years ago* makes me feel a little better about not knowing it, but I do watch Jeopardy! so I probably should’ve gotten IZZZATSON. It’s hard to infer the answer when 33% of the real letters aren’t there though…

    • suesyo says:

      agreed. i did not like that e.g. bmw or ford did not make sense on the horizontal cross – bmw would be cub, tmm, and imod on the cross. silly and distracting. i completed the puzzzzle with the zzz’s and “got it” about the cars, but the trick was incomplete so for me not fun.

    • Dan says:

      Since there’s already a city named Natick (in Massachusetts) and since there is no reason for a crossword natick to be a proper noun, I propose lowercasing the latter.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Merriam-Webster generally retains the uppercase for words derived from names of people or places. Wine varieties named for places, dog breeds, nervous Nellie, etc.

        I disagree with the origin of the term, because N.C. Wyeth was hardly an unknown and it wasn’t an unfair crossing to me! (There’s absolutely no reason for non-Boston solvers to know the Massachusetts suburb, though.)

    • Dallas says:

      I admit, I’m with you… this one felt like a bit of a SLOG. I liked the theme idea, and piecing it together was fun, but the large number of 3 letter answers, foreign words (albeit ones I encounter in crosswords) led to a long solve time even after the theme answers came together. Lots of counting Z’s along the way… I also couldn’t figure out if we were supposed to enter the combos as rebuses (Z/F, Z/O, Z/R, Z/D) or not, and when it didn’t go through, I kept switching those in an out… oof. I saw on the NYT page that the constructor was asked to work on the fill before it got accepted… it looks like a challenging puzzle to construct. I’m glad other people enjoyed it more than me.

      • Eric H says:

        20 three-letter words and 28 four-letter words — that does seem like a lot of short stuff.

        I didn’t particularly enjoy solving this one, though the basic idea is fine. Some of my dissatisfaction may have been that I didn’t figure out the trick until I was finished with the grid. I don’t blame the puzzle for that, but it’s usually more fun when a theme provides at least a little help in solving the grid.

  8. PJ says:

    WSJ had an older feel to me. That’s mot a value judgment, just my observation.

    It started with the crossing of WYSIWYG and WEEB. WYSIWYG was big for me in the early years of personal computers (the 80s). If I remember correctly it was a big selling point for Macs. If Joe Namath wasn’t one of my favorite athletes of all time his coach from the 60s would have been very difficult. Bjorn Borg also took me back to the 70s and early 80s. The Depression (American?) always gives an old feel. The Earp brothers tbring a 1957 film to mind. I first encountered B-Boys dancing on the streets of NOLA in the 80s. I saw Dr. Zhivago with my parents in the mid 60s. If my millennial children are indicators, EMAIL is not an alternative to a text. I reliably get eye rolls when I insist on sending them one.

    But again, I’m not knocking the puzzle. I rather enjoyed solving it.

    • Eric H says:

      WEEB Ewbank was a gimme for me, thought I couldn’t have told you that he coached the NY Jets. I’m not a football fan, but some of the unusual names of long-ago players and coaches have stuck with me. I keep expecting to see Y. A. Tittle or Amos Alonzo Stagg in a grid.

      BEBE Rexha, ELON Musk and Lady Gaga are not names you’d have seen in a puzzle 20 years ago.

      • PJ says:

        I agree everything isn’t old. There did seem to be a number of things that are, though.

        I’m late to the Gaga train. I saw “A Star is Born” and loved her in it. I enjoyed Gucci, just not as much as Star. Now I want too see her live.

  9. Dknnws says:

    NYT: SLEEPINGCAR doesn’t really pass the ear-test for me, but it seems to exist. Have only heard it called “sleeper car.”

    Also in the SEAN camp with the LST/OZMA/STAN junction.

    • JohnH says:

      I’ve only heard it as entered, SLEEPING CAR. I also happened to know LST (maybe from crosswordese) and STAN; I eventually summoned up the princess but not how to spell it. Still, a hard one overall for me. Lots of tough fill like TMZ given how much you need other fill to fill and make sense of the themers. Whew! Hardly helps that I don’t know cars as well as most and had encountered ski resorts mostly in puzzles, meaning not these two. And somehow I just couldn’t decide how to write the Jeopardy answer. I really should have remembered that it was an IBM product, although WATSON was on the tip of my tongue.

      Oh, well. Ingenious, though! BTW, I wouldn’t call I CLAUDIUS pop culture trivia. If anything, it’s high- or at least middle-brow, although it sold well. It’s about, of course, classical history, kind of a slog as prose, and written by an often anthologized poet. I read it because I was assigned it in maybe 8th grade. At least the teacher took it seriously!

      • Eric H says:

        This may (or may not) help you remember TMZ [per Wikipedia]:

        “The name TMZ is derived from the acronym [initialism] for thirty-mile zone that was historically used in the film and television industry to refer to the so-called ‘studio zone’— an area with a 30-mile (48 km) radius centered on the intersection of Beverly Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. It was called the studio zone because of the number of film and television studios within it.”

        If you watch the original “Star Trek,” you’ll see how many “alien planets” resemble the hills around LA.

  10. Eric H says:

    WSJ: Fun puzzle, though I had forgotten there are now two-letter top level domains, so I erroneously placed the [DOT] in GLOOMYG[DOT]US where the second G needed to go.

    Kyle wrote, “The computer nerd in me loves WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), but I’ve never heard it used outside of discussions regarding computer operating systems. Is it known to the general public?”

    I can only answer for myself, but when I started working for the Texas legislature in 1990, our heavily-used “word processing” system was an IBM email system called PROFS. To do anything like indent a line, you had to type a specific command at the left margin. After a few years, the agency I worked for replaced our mainframe terminals with PC’s that ran WordPerfect, which we were told was a WYSIWYG application. I expect the only attorneys who missed PROFS were the ones who had been using it for 10 or 15 years.

  11. Eric H says:

    Universal: I really enjoyed this one. I got MARINADES quickly and was briefly puzzled until I got AD BLOCKER (which is a wonderful browser extension to have).

    I thought the HAD IT MADE was nicely sneaky. I wasn’t expecting two ADs in one answer, but HIT ME is what you say in blackjack, right?

    It’s really a pretty clean grid, too — almost no crosswordese.

    If I had to ding the puzzle for anything, it’d be the NE corner, with REAR-END right next to RAM INTO. (My mother was killed when a semi hit the car she was riding in, so I’m more than a bit sensitive about those kinds of entries.)

  12. Simon says:

    I, Claudius was also made into a famous TV series starring Derek Jacobi in 1976. Hardly just trivia. I may be wrong, but I always assumed Tina Turner chose the name I, Tina for her autobiography based on that novel.

  13. Brenda Rose says:

    As soon as I saw “I CLzzzzus” I got the gimmick without even seeing the revealer. I don’t understand how this was so difficult to those who usually solve a Thursday NYT.
    I found this to be one of the best I’ve encountered in years.

  14. Seattle DB says:

    BEQ: Nice tribute to Ali, but I differ on 22A. On the West Coast we call a package of 24 cans a “case”, and 12 cans is called a half-case. (Yes, I’m a beer snob who drinks Busch Light because it’s a cheap buzz, lol!)

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