Thursday, July 27, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:47 (Gareth) 


NYT 9:08 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 3:51 (Kyle) 


Universal 4:00 (Sophia) 


USA Today 9:02 (Emily) 


WSJ A long time (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Seb Swann & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Keeping Kosher”—Jim’s review

Theme: PIG OUT (64a, [Ingurgitate, and a hint to making sense of the starred clues]). Theme answers are familiar phrases that only make sense once the porcine animal is removed from the clue.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Keeping Kosher” · Seb Swann & Jeff Chen · Thu., 7.27.23

  • 17a. [*Shogun’s network, collectively] SOLAR SYSTEM. Remove the “hog” from Shogun to get “Sun.”
  • 27a. [*Boarding accompanier on an airplane] SEATBELT SIGN. Remove the “Boar” to get “ding.”
  • 48a. [*Disowned, royally] ATE LIKE A KING. Remove the “sow” to get “Dined.”
  • 60a. [*Pigeons] AGES AND AGES. Remove the “Pig” to get “eons.”

This started out pretty well but turned into a real SLOG [Spell of drudgery] for me. Even after I got the revealer (which was a long time in coming), I still wasn’t making sense of things. My main sticking point is that the answer SEATBELT SIGN works with the clue as given [*Boarding accompanier on an airplane]. I’m pretty sure that when you board the plane, the SEATBELT SIGN is on. I got this answer early on so I couldn’t understand why the other theme answers weren’t making sense.

Finally, after 20-something minutes, I made the connection with the Pigeons clue then went on a hunt for more PIGs…only to find none. Eventually I realized I needed to look for other pig-like animals. At this point, I wanted to be done, especially since those other animals are hiding so well in plain sight, and I was feeling that if the revealer is PIG OUT and one of the clues uses “Pigeons,” then either all of the clues should have PIG or none of them should.

And all this was on top of the Thursday-level clues that seemed extra Thursday-ish and proper names for people I didn’t know (ALICIA Vikander, ZAK Starkey, Iris DEMENT). And who knew that Elvis had a song titled LOVE ME which is not to be confused with “Love Me Tender”? (Oh crap, I just looked up the song and realized I have heard it before; I just never knew its title.) All that’s to say that the lack of “Tender” made me question whether the entry wasn’t somehow related to the theme, before I knew what the theme was, that is.

The truth is, however, that it’s a good theme and the fill is strong (HAS IT MADE, POOL TABLE, AMBIANCE are the highlights), I was just on the wrong wavelength after the SEATBELT SIGN entry.

Clues of note:

  • 40a. [Pie-eyed]. STEWED. As in drunk. I admit I just didn’t know this old slangy phrase.
  • 52a. [Losing effort]. DIET. Good, tricky clue.
  • 64a. [Ingurgitate, and a hint to making sense of the starred clues]. PIG OUT. Hand up if you knew what “ingurgitate” meant before you did this puzzle; let’s see who our star pupils are. From M-W: “‘Regurgitate’ and ‘ingurgitate’ (as well as ‘gurgitate,’ an even rarer synonym of ‘ingurgitate,’ and gorge, meaning ‘to eat greedily’) can be ultimately traced back to the Latin word for ‘whirlpool,’ which is ‘gurges.'”
  • 47d. [Largest consumer of wood in the world]. IKEA. I was expecting this to be a country or else a critter, not a company.
  • 56d. [Award combo of Legend]. EGOT. John Legend, that is.

Good theme and grid (congrats on the debut!), but one of the theme clues wasn’t like the others. 3.5 stars.

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

Difficulty: Easy (9m08s)

Guilherme Gilioli’s New York Times crossword, 07/27/23, 0727

Today’s theme: horizontal A + horizontal B = horizontal C


Pretty straightforward theme; they probably could have run this on a Wednesday and I wouldn’t have batted an eye.  Some nice longer fill, including OVER HERE, SET FREEASKED OUT, and FEEL BAD.  On the other hand, ORRIS has really aged out of the puzzle vernacular — it appeared 123 times in the pre-Shortz era, but only 10 times in the last ~30 years.

Cracking: NY GIANTS, also known as Big Blue, objectively the greatest tackle football team on Earth, soon to be a century old (!) and one of only four modern teams to pre-date the Great Depression (with the Packers, Bears, and Cardinals.)

Slacking: LACTASE, mostly because I tried to make it lactose and Lactaid™ before I got it right.

SidetrackingED HARRIS and Anthony Hopkins, sharing a scene in Westworld..

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

THEMEANINGOFLIFE, as a sixteen-letter answer, is perfect to build a theme around. As it happens, that theme is of a sort I don’t particularly care for. I do like this variant more, where the shared definition – LIFE – is hidden from view until you fill in the key answer. So yes: LIFE is… an HISTORICMAGAZINE, a BREAKFASTCEREAL, and a FAMILYBOARDGAME. At least, none of these are too tortured, except perhaps that HISTORIC is mostly padding.

There were a few more tricky spots today than yesterday:

  • [“Don’t make me laugh!”, is GOSHNO, but I had a hard time believing this to be a real phrase.
  • I didn’t know [“Game of Thrones” actor Gillen] and struggled to understand [Show place?], THIRD. If you place third, you show, in horse racing. This was where I finished my solve.
  • [Organic frozen-food brand], AMYS – a particularly fiendish clue angle!


Chandi Deitmer & Erica Hsiang Wojcik’s USA Today Crossword, “The Bar is Low” — Emily’s write-up

The title is a misnomer for this fun puzzle today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday July 27, 2023

USA Today, July 27 2023, “The Bar is Low” by Chandi Deitmer & Erica Hsiang Wojcik

Theme: the last word of each down themer can be appended with “bar” to form a new phrase


  • 3d. [Astronaut’s destination], OUTERSPACE
  • 40d. [Hot date], ARMCANDY
  • 8d. [Through examination of a topic], DEEPDIVE
  • 32d. [In great condition], GOODASGOLD

Super fun themer set with OUTERSPACE, ARMCANDY, DEEPDIVE, and GOODASGOLD. With the theme, they become: SPACE BAR, CANDY BAR, DIVE BAR, and GOLD BAR.


Stumpers: CDS (misdirected and kept thinking about “gems” and “ores”), OPS (needed a crossing), and DAISY (new to me)

Wow! So much amazing fill! At first, I didn’t notice the down theme since there were so many lengthy across entries. Fantastic!

4.5 stars


Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up

I’m short on time today, so will need to be brief, with apologies to Paolo Pasco. Paolo’s an incredibly talented constructor and a nice guy (we’ve never met but he sent me a kind email about a puzzle I made a couple years ago). I think this is the first Pasco puzzle I’ve reviewed in the Thursday New Yorker slot.

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 07/27/2023 – Paolo Pasco

I love this grid design with long answers interlocking all over the place. The density of high-value Scrabble letters (Q, X etc) is noticeable here compared to the typical Thursday offering but all of the fill is smooth and expertly handled.

Quite an opening gambit at 1A: G SPOT [“Is He Hitting Your ___ or Your Breaking Point?” (Reductress headline)]. This type of gonzo word association fill-in-the-blank clue (often drawing from satirical media) appears quite regularly in indie crosswords, and fits nicely with the edgier vibe of the New Yorker’s offerings. Paolo smartly maximizes the effect by making this the first clue. My only complaint: when I Googled the headline to find a link to the article in question, the top search results all refer back to this crossword! A search of the Reductress site left me similarly empty-handed. If Paolo or anyone would like to share the link, please do drop it in the comments.

Thanks Paolo!

Adam Simpson’s Universal crossword, “And… It’s Gone” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Phrases that usually have AND in them, but with the AND removed and clued wackily for the new phrase.

Universal Crossword, 07 27 2023, “And… It’s Gone”

  • 16a [*Career in locomotives?] – TRACK FIELD
  • 39a [*Land on the starting space in Monopoly?] – TOUCH GO
  • 65a [*Gathering spot at a carnival?] – FAIR SQUARE
  • 10d [*Good price on a tire?] – WHEEL DEAL
  • 35d [*Faint click while turning a dial?] – SAFE SOUND

Cute theme and good title! I like how all the “wacky” clues and answers are not *too* out there… like, I was able to figure them out, and the clues didn’t seem too contrived. WHEEL DEAL and FAIR SQUARE are my favorites though, because the rhyming amuses me. Would it have been possible to do this theme with only rhyming phrases? Could have been fun! But I do like the answers Adam chose here, and fitting five answers in this cleanly is impressive.

Because of the layout where some of the theme answers are vertical, there are not too many standout “bonus” answers – the longest are only 7 letters. But I do love SARCASM, THE WORKS, and TIM GUNN especially.

Fave clues: [Theater chain with a Nicole Kidman campaign] for AMC, [Older partner?] for WISER.
New to me: That IDAHO is the Gemstone State.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Fireball Crossword, “Double Crosses” – Jenni’s write-up

Peter and Alex gave us a nice challenge for the final Fireball before the puzzle goes on summer hiatus. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on. I knew there had to be a rebus somewhere. There are multiple rebuses (rebi?) involving different letters and they’re not symmetrical – at least they’re not symmetrical in the puzzle overall. They do form a pattern in each theme section, which helped me finally solve the thing.

The “double crosses” of the title are three sets of rebus squares forming a cross. I didn’t realize until I started writing this that each set also forms a word that goes with “cross.” I liked the puzzle before and now I’m in awe. This is an amazing construction that was also a blast to solve.

Fireball, July 26, 2023, Alex Eaton-Salners, “Double Crosses,” solution grid

  • 3d [Fruit of a certain evergreen] is F{IR} C{ON}E.
  • 17a [Chills, in a way] is A{IR} C{ON}DITIONSIRON Cross.
  • 29d [Without reservation] is W{HO}L{LY}.
  • 39a [Metonym for the film industry] is {HO}L{LY}WOODHOLY Cross.
  • 58a and 63d are A{MO}S and {TO}RI, respectively.
  • 61a [Sugary breakfast fare] is CINNA{MO}N {TO}ASTMOTO Cross.

Again, wow. FIR CONE is a bit strained and I don’t even care.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the John Irving novel “Avenue of Mysteries” is partly set in OAXACA.

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23 Responses to Thursday, July 27, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Fun but awfully easy for a Thursday: I beat my Monday average.

    I skipped the NE corner because I didn’t immediately think of USED, so it wasn’t until I saw LIME + RICK = VERSE that I knew what was going on.

    Nice to see ED HARRIS in the grid. I always enjoyed his performances.

    • Dallas says:

      Wow! I had a fast fill too, but not that fast; below my Wednesday average and within a minute of fastest Thursday. I had DENMARK before I finally fixed it to GERMANY. GORIN and IRVIN I had to get from the crosses with NEIN being my final guess… Definitely felt more like a Wednesday than a Thursday. I liked the theme, but got the “summations” from the bottom up so I briefly thought they were all going to have the same end (IND)… I suspect someone’s done a theme like that before.

    • DougC says:

      This would have been a perfectly fine Tuesday puzzle. Unfortunately, it’s misplaced on a Thursday as regards both clue difficulty and trickiness.

      • DougC says:

        Now I see that Jeff Chen and the constructor both thought it was Tuesday-level difficulty, so I feel like I’m in good company. :-)

  2. JohnH says:

    I didn’t get the theme of the WSJ until well after I was otherwise done. From the metas in the Friday puzzles he himself writes, even though I don’t believe I’ve gotten a single one, I should have known that Shenk is fond of having one focus on the clues, not the fill to work out a theme, and the constructors could have catered to that. All told, though, undeniably clever, even smile worthy, even if not allowing a smile while working the puzzle itself.

    • AmyL says:

      WSJ: I definitely smiled when I got the theme, which I only got after doing 95% of the puzzle. Once I got it, everything fell into place. Jim has already mentioned the clues of note, all of which I liked.

    • Eric H says:

      I had to stare at the theme answers for a bit after finishing to see what PIG OUT was doing, even though I had gotten STY much earlier, probably because of the puzzle’s title.

      I found a lot of the fill to have difficult clues, at least while I was solving it. Looking at it now, nothing seems particularly challenging. I know I have seen the “Washington or Phoenix” clue before, but I needed a few crosses to see ACTOR.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Crazy difficult for me for a WSJ Thursday puzzle. I posted a solve time a little north of my NYT Saturday average. It seems to me that either all of the themer clues should have involved dropping PIG or none of them should have. I wonder if they tried to come up with a clue/answer combo with ‘shoat’ in it? Even aside from the amount of time it took me to find the swine among the clues, the cluing for the fill generally seemed unusually tough.

  3. David L says:

    Pedantic objection: EPIC + ENTER = CORE — no no no! The epicenter of an earthquake is the place on the earth’s surface above the core of the quake, which could be a long way underground. I know ‘epicenter’ has been mangled in ordinary usage to mean pretty much the same as ‘center,’ except fancier-sounding, but I wish this error had not been perpetuated.

    Lesser pedantic objection: UPCCODE – like ATM machine, PIN number etc. This doesn’t bother me so much, for reasons I can’t properly explain.

    • Eric H says:

      EPIC + CENTER = CORE kinda bugged me, too.

      I also don’t like the redundancy in UPC CODE, but you can bet that plenty of people say it.

    • JohnH says:

      Bothered me a bit, as it’s wrong concerning earthquakes, but it has entered the language as a metaphor for other things. RHUD gives as its example “the epicenter of the Chinese community.” UPC slowed me up in entering, as I kept thinking they can’t possibly mean that, but as you point out such things have gained currency.

      I liked the puzzle, although I’d have said I’d seen the theme before, and I did wonder at why it was phrased A + B = C, C being this entry, rather than just A + B, until I just shrugged off my thought.

    • R says:

      That’s not the only meaning of “epicenter.” The second (and more common outside of geology) sense is “The focal point of a usually harmful or unpleasant phenomenon or event; the center.” “Core” is just fine for that.

  4. T Campbell says:

    Kyle, here it is:

    Looks like you were searching for “quiz,” not “g-spot,” BTW…

  5. Eric H says:

    BEQ: The puns about the musical artists were clever enough, though they were all acts who peaked about 40 years ago. I knew them all, but younger people might have trouble with some of them. PIAGET GEILS BAND was probably my favorite.

    But I could do without seeing ENEMA in a grid. Ever.

  6. MattF says:

    Thought the NYT was pretty easy. The Fireball, however was good and tough.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT: I don’t think of the phrase GOOD AS GOLD as meaning “in great condition”. I thought it meant genuine or exhibiting good behavior.

  8. JohnH says:

    I know there are people who like it as well those you hate it, and Kyle is plainly in the first camp while ratings are split, but PP in TNY just cannot restrain itself. If you ask me, it’s a beginner-friendly puzzle only if your beginner is new to crosswords because he’s been spending 16 hours a day on social media with all-teen likes. For me, it was tougher than many a Thursday NYT and a lot less fun.

    • e.a. says:

      looking through this puzzle trying to figure out what inspired your “16 hours a day on social media with all-teen likes” comment. i see one meme reference (which is also a rhymes-with clue) and … not sure after that. what else was there, for you?

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I’m solidly middle-aged and finished this fun, breezy puzzle in 2:46. As usual, I can’t relate at all to JohnH’s complaints about New Yorker crosswords.

        Seriously, John, why don’t you skip the puzzles by constructors you don’t vibe with and spare us all the repetitive complaints? Surely by now you realize that the New Yorker’s crossword editors aren’t going to fire all the constructors you struggle with. Your experience is not the norm!

      • sanfranman59 says:

        I agree … I often struggle and am sometimes frustrated when solving PP’s TNY puzzles, but I don’t know what JohnH is referring to by his “16 hours on social media” comment about this one. I posted a relatively slow TNY Thursday solve time with this puzzle, but it had very little to do with off-my-wavelength, youth-oriented pop culture references or modern slang. I just looked back through it again and all I see that could possibly fit his complaint are SICK BURNS, BIZARRO WORLD, TMI, HAN and ROY and the clues for G-SPOT and WIRED (which, as EA points out, includes an additional hint in the wording of the clue). They were all pretty well spread out in the grid. TMI is pretty ubiquitous now and I’ve heard the SICK BURNS slang occasionally, so neither of those was much of a problem for me. I thought the others were pretty easily inferable with a couple or three crosses.

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