Thursday, August 10, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 5:40 (Gareth, 1 ERR) 


NYT 13:22 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 3:08 (norah) 


Universal 4ish (Sophia) 


USA Today 7:04 (Emily) 


WSJ 8:07 (Jim) 


The Fireball is on vacation.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Guest Appearances”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar words and phrases that feature the letters INS. However, they’re clued as if the entry didn’t have those letters. The revealer is DROP-INS (43d, [Unexpected guests, and what you’ll have to do to make sense of the starred answers]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Guest Appearances” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 8.10.23

  • 18a. [*Be conservative, perhaps] RINSE CYCLE. Recycle. I guess recycling is technically conserving.
  • 28a. [*Typographic dot] BULLETINS. Bullet.
  • 35a. [*Memo stamp] INSURGENT. Urgent.
  • 45a. [*Source of quality time for Tabby] PINSETTER. Petter. Had to look up the entry to verify that’s what the bowling alley device is called. Also, “petter” doesn’t make for the most exciting theme entry.
  • 54a. [*Game with colored circles] TWIN SISTER. Twister. This is much nicer than the previous one

I think I was around the third entry when the penny dropped. From there, things moved more quickly. However, referring to a group of people as DROP-INS is just not something I’m familiar with in my experience. Sure, you can “drop in” on someone, but I would never refer to someone as a “drop-in.”

The nine-letter central entry and the 7-letter vertically-placed revealer really dictate much of this grid’s format. As such, there’s not much space for long fill answers, but instead we get stacks of 7s in the corners. Highlights include SCARABS, SOLD OUT, ANDROID, “ALL RISE,” and NEBULAS. AT A PACE [How trainers may train horses] doesn’t sound like a real phrase but an entry borne of necessity. My last letter was the D in DUETTO [Verdi’s “Un dì felice, eterea,” per esempio].

Lt Cmdr Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”

Clues of note:

  • 30a. [Haleakala National Park location]. MAUI. Please spare a thought for the people affected by this week’s deadly wildfires.
  • 51a. [Netflix category]. DRAMAS. Normally I would say “drama” is the correct answers here, but I suppose this works, too.
  • 21d. [May neglect to]. NEEDN’T. “Neglect” implies, well, negligence whereas the answer implies the activity is optional.
  • 25d. [Data from TV, e.g.]. ANDROID. ST:TNG, y’all.
  • 38d. [Pike]. ROADWAY. We don’t have turnpikes out here in the west, so I’m assuming calling one a “pike” is a common shorthand.
  • 45d. [Pogo, e.g.]. POSSUM. From the funny pages.

3.5 stars.

The New Yorker by Caitlin Reid – norah’s review – 3:08

What a lovely breezy Thursday puzzle to start off the day! Easily worked through this one even at 7am before coffee. :)

Favorite Entries:

2023-08-10 tny

2023-08-10 tny

  • ⭐44d LIBIDO [Screw driver?]
  • 13a WOULDILIE [“You don’t believe me?”]
  • 16a HOLEINONE [Big shot on the golf course?]
  • 56a ABOUTTIME [“Took you long enough!”]
  • 13d WHATELSE [“Am I forgetting anything?”]
  • 45a BEE [Competition where one might stand for a spell?]

Full of conversational phrases with just the right amount of cute fun wordplay touches, this one is a delight.

I was just reading about Rapa Nui (19A MONOLITH [Any of the massive stone heads on Rapa Nui, e.g.]) a few days ago after solving a harder puzzle with the clue [Rapa ___] so it’s nice to see that again today just for a little retention assistance. Evocative cluing for short common fill is always appreciated. RENEW as [Keep a library book for another few weeks, say] and SLOT [Opening that may be slightly wider than a quarter] paint a nice picture for everyday words.

Caitlin is one of the many excellent constructors contributing to Lollapuzzoola this year! If you’ll be there please find me and say hi!

Thank you, Caitlin and the TNY team!


Natan Last and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Average (13m22s)

Natan Last and the J.A.S.A. Crossword Class’s New York Times crossword, 8/10/23, 0810

Today’s theme: IMPULSE / CONTROL (With 63-Across, Freudian concept of resisting temptation … or a hint to four squares in this puzzle)


The ID versus the EGO, depending on which way you’re going.  Tipped off to the rebus by MOMMA SAID, although at first I was wondering whether the title was spelled MOMMA SED, or was it MOMMA SEZ? Skipped ahead to the revealer, and as soon as I saw Freud’s name, I figured this would be an ID/EGO puzzle — HE GOT GAME clinched it.

Somewhere in the cobwebs of my mind (and on the actual, literal cobwebs on my decades-old bachelor’s in psychology), I remember the superego being the opposing force to the ID, with the EGO being more of an arbitrator.  Where’s Trent Evans when you need him?

Cracking: the clue on HOUSEBOAT (Accommodations that a bank might float a loan for?, hee hee, har har)

Slacking: LOLED, that single L really bothers me when it precedes ED with a short O sound.  Having lazily lolled — that’s the grammar for me.

Sidetracking: call him Siggy!

Drew Schmenner’s Universal crossword, “Cold Ones” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer has a character from “Frozen” embedded within it.

Universal Crossword, 08 10 2023, “Cold Ones”

  • 18a [Central American country known for pupusas (In this answer, note letters 1-4)] – EL SALVADOR
  • 23a [Certain soda’s trade secret (… letters 6-9)] – COCA COLA FORMULA
  • 36a [Concept studied by philosophers and psychologists (… letters 4-7)] – HUMAN NATURE
  • 50a [Entrepreneur’s undertaking (… letters 8-11)] – BUSINESS VENTURE
  • 56a [NCAA ice hockey finals … or what 18-, 23-, 36- and 50-Across contain?] – FROZEN FOUR

Poor Kristoff, his name is too long to be hidden nicely in a phrase, even if he is a bigger character than Sven :( I guess this puzzle really said “Reindeers are better than people”, huh?

This is a cute theme, albeit one that, if you haven’t seen Frozen, will mean absolutely nothing to you. Frozen was a global phenomenon, so there might not be many people in that camp. This puzzle does feel a little dated because of that though? The height of Frozen-mania was 2014-2015, and Frozen 2 came out in 2019. So it’s a little random to have a Frozen puzzle now, but I’m not upset about it. All of the names are split across two words, which is elegant and consistent, and the theme answers themselves are nice. I know nothing about hockey so I though the FROZEN FOUR would be the semi-finals, because it has four teams, y’know? But the internet tells me it is also used to refer to the final.

Given the high number of theme answers, the fill is remarkably clean, but at the expense of there being any non-theme answer over 6 letters long.

Fave clue/answer: [Agua ___ (fruity taqueria drink)] for FRESCA

New to me: That Michael URIE was in shrinking, that RKO is the studio that made Citizen Kane.

Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today Crossword, “Opening Numbers” — Emily’s write-up

Listen up—make sure that you hit your queue when you jump into today’s puzzle.

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday August 10, 2023

USA Today, August 10 2023, “Opening Numbers” by Stella Zawistowski

Theme: the first word of each themer is a synonym for “song”


  • 19a. [Prompt at the end of some TV episodes], TUNEINNEXTWEEK
  • 24a. [Monitor the status of an online purchase], TRACKYOURORDER
  • 49a. [Preform a rare batting feat in baseball], HITFORTHECYCLE

A fun themer set today, with a little bit of something for everyone. TUNEINNEXTWEEK is a fantastic, iconic phrase, though has fallen by the wayside for “next time on” or “previously on”. TRACKYOURORDER is a common phrase that many people do all the time and it’s so satisfying to watch the progress and countdown the stops until it’s delivered to you—or is that just me? Personally I needed the crossings for HITFORTHECYCLE but for some of you, I’m sure you placed that right away. Also, the title serves as another synonym for “song”, though for a while I was misdirected by thinking in mathematical terms, looking for numerical words initially. Great theme!

Favorite fill: COCOA, RATIO, FLIPCUP, and MIMI

Stumpers: SNARL (got stuck on “growl”), RENEE (needed crossings), and DRAT (“dang” and “damn” came to mind first)

Overall a smooth solve with lots of great bonus fill and a fun grid. Enjoyed how the theme, themer set, and title hint worked for closely together. Nicely done!

4.0 stars


Christina Iverson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

The clue-writing is doing a lot of heavy lifty in today’s puzzle by Christina Iverson. Essentially, it’s a list theme of POTSANDPANS, but then the clues are PANS of those POTS. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have kitchen space for much beyond an oven, a kettle, and a microwave…

  • [“Two stars! My spaghetti always sticks to the sides!”], PASTACOOKER. In a pot on the stove part of the oven, mine stick to the bottom rather…
  • [“Half a star! The ceramic is flaking off the cast iron!”], DUTCHOVEN.
  • [“One star! Chocolate gets clumpy, and sauces always separate!”], DOUBLEBOILER.
  • [“Zero stars! It spits hot oil everywhere!”, DEEPFRYER

My one error was spelling SYMONE SIMONE, and FRIER seemed a potentially preferred US spelling so I didn’t even stop to consider. My two other sticking spots apart from SYMONE were: [SoCal school], SDSU, but the letters seemed likely enough and
[Bowen of “Modern Family”], JULIE; but it’s a common enough name.

There were a lot of interesting medium-length answers. My favourite entries included: stealth oldies CALLME and INBLOOM; STPATS, HEARYE, AUREVOIR, DRAMEDY and DUDEBROS.


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37 Responses to Thursday, August 10, 2023

  1. AmandaB says:

    Loved the NYT puzzle today, but I really wish they’d be more lenient with the rebus answers. I had IDEGO instead of EGO/ID, so I had to come here to figure out how to make it solve.

    • pannonica says:

      Typically the across answer has priority. I wasn’t sure whether using the slash would make a difference, and was relieved when my use of EGO/ID was accepted by the software.

    • Eric H says:

      I initially had [GO/ID] and only belatedly realized that the Across answer were not making sense. So I changed them all to [E/I], which I thought would work based on previous rebus puzzles. It was a bit frustrating to have to change them all to [EGO/ID], but I recognize that they can’t anticipate every possible way people will think of to enter those rebuses.

      Otherwise, the puzzle was fun. I’ve long since forgotten most of what I knew about Freudian theory, so the missing superego didn’t bother me. And there were a few amusing clues.

    • Art Shapiro says:

      For what it’s worth, I use the Nexus solver and it took plain ol’ EGO as being correct.

  2. JohnH says:

    I believe the Freudian idea that the NYT is using isn’t a mistaken omission of the superego: “where id was there shall ego be” is the goal of impulse control. I’m not totally convinced by the puzzle, since there’s no reason to give the across entry that much priority, but hey it’s entertaining. I found it hard as well, especially given the opening corner’s ARTIE and HE’S GOT GAME.

    • Vessiot says:

      I interpreted the “EGO/ID” as meaning “ego over id”, as in the ego controlling the id.

      • Dallas says:

        I thought the same thing…

        And while I still dislike rebus puzzles, this one felt okay, and perhaps even worth it :-) In my head I read BRIDE STOBE and thought I had made a mistake… ;-)

      • JohnH says:

        Of course, then you have to enter a square shared by across and down as A/D. That may be right for online solvers. Working in pen, I just entered an asterisk, as I often do with such things, but I could easy have entered D/A or whatever else. Anyway, Freud really did speak instead about one displacing the other.

  3. John Pagliarulo says:

    LOLED – In textspeak LOL is “Lots of laughs”. So both the clue and the answer are appropriate.

    • Eric H says:

      Isn’t LOL “laughed out loud”?

      I’m eagerly awaiting the crossword puzzle debut of IJBOL.

    • David L says:

      ZDL’s objection, which I agree with, is that LOLED with one L in the middle should rhyme with HOLED or POLED, not DOLLED. But then if you spell it LOLLED it’s a different word.

      Best avoided, IMO. Although I do like ‘roffle’ as a verb…

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Caitlin’s New Yorker puzzle is incredibly smooth! The fill is indeed CLEAN AS A WHISTLE, perfectly suited to be an easy crossword. I gave it 4.5 stars for smoothness.

    And still some yobs out there gave it 1-star ratings. In fact, each of the eight puzzles in this post has at least two 1-star ratings. People! Knock this immature nonsense off. A 1-star puzzle is one that is so poorly conceived, filled, and/or clued that it should never have been published. You don’t have to love every puzzle, but be real. “The worst imaginable excuse for a crossword” cannot possibly describe all of the puzzles published in established venues today. You’re trolling and it’s just plain dumb.

    • I realize we don’t see eye-to-eye on this but what you’re describing sounds like some great reasons why the star ratings should no longer exist. Even Fireball has a couple of one-star ratings and they didn’t release a puzzle this week.

      I do however agree with you about Caitlin’s New Yorker — it’s solid and fun everywhere, with a god-tier clue for LIBIDO.

      • Eric H says:

        A clue like that LIBIDO clue is why the I enjoy the New Yorker puzzles. I can’t see a clue like that getting into the NYT, LAT or WaPo puzzle (though you’d know better than I whether that would fly with your employer).

      • e.a. says:

        Amy, if you’re able to divulge, have there been any policy changes/technical solutions discussed at Fiend HQ regarding the ongoing ratings issues?

        and, adding my voice to the chorus of those who loved Caitlin’s puzzle (and that all-timer LIBIDO clue)! what a treat. i haven’t gotten to all the puzzles today, but i also loved the clever theme in Universal and the super-smooth USAT

      • Caitlin says:

        Credit where credit is due — Andy Kravis and TNY editing team is responsible for that genius LIBIDO clue!

    • JohnH says:

      I don’t mean people expressing their displeasure one bit. Speaking for myself, I though it was a good puzzle (and rated it accordingly), if maybe with a few too much knowledge of, well, TNY kind to be for beginners. But if others had a different experience, I’m cool with that. There will always be days in which a lone dissenter rates a puzzle 5 stars that’s widely disliked.

      • e.a. says:

        John, the evidence for others having had a 1-star experience on TNY is not strong given that, as noted above, every puzzle from today’s slate got two 1-star ratings this morning, including a puzzle that apparently does not actually exist. you keep bringing this back to people expressing their opinions, which i appreciate in a vacuum, but it’s very unclear to me what opinion is being expressed by that act, apart from “i hate all crossword puzzles” which surely could be expressed through some other medium, maybe skywriting

    • Eric H says:

      “A 1-star puzzle is one that is so poorly conceived, filled, and/or clued that it should never have been published.”

      My thoughts exactly.

    • PJ says:

      There will be measurement error every time people are asked to respond to a question. Sometimes it’s an innocent mistake like clicking a 2 when a 4 was intended. Sometimes some people will have an agenda. This site is clearly not immune to that error source.

      The problem with the ratings here is not enough people rate the puzzles. My casual observation is the NYT is the only puzzle that consistently gets enough voters to be considered somewhat reliable. I’d like to see people encouraged to rate the puzzles.

      If it were my site I would not show the ratings or the average rating until after some set time late in the day. I wouldn’t use the average but something like the percentage of raters who gave the puzzle a 4 or higher rating. This could change after more data got analyzed.

      For what it’s worth I began analyzing survey data in the early 80s. I have designed, executed, and analyzed many surveys over the years.

    • Milo says:

      Someone a while back suggested a permanent mini-guide would be welcome in the right margin to remind people of what each star rating might represent. I like that idea! For example:

      *****: Brilliant — as perfect as a puzzle can be
      ****: Excellent despite any minor flaws
      ***: Good overall, but could use improvement
      **: Fair but has too many problems; needed revision
      *: So awful one wonders how it got published

      • Eric H says:

        That’s not a bad idea.

        Maybe soften the one star a bit: “So bad it should not have been published”?

        I don’t know that it would really reduce the number of one- or two-star ratings, but maybe people would think about it a little more.

      • Martin says:

        Yeah, but don’t expect it to affect the trolls’ behavior. I know we’re not voting, but I’m with Evan.

        • I appreciate your vote even if it’s not technically a vote.

          The mini-guide idea above makes me laugh. I’ve said before that there aren’t any stated, agreed-upon criteria for what each star rating means, so I can understand why one might want them. But even with these suggested criteria, there’s a ton of information that would be left out. Which theme answers or fill answers didn’t work and why? Which clues could have been improved and how? What if someone’s problem with a puzzle is just based on, say, not knowing pop culture references or thinking a tricky theme is unacceptable? You can’t get any of that information in a simple star rating.

          And, man, “So awful one wonders how it got published” — this is supposed to be helpful for constructors somehow? It’s just a cruel message to send to them and only gives trolls another opportunity to troll.

          • Eric H says:

            Good points.

            I’m curious as to whether you find many the comments, whether here or on other blogs, very useful. The comments here seem more thoughtful than some of the ones on the NYT Wordplay blog. That column gets a lot of the “Hated it” and “Awful puzzle” types of comments. (But I’m guilty of basically the same thing when I say a puzzle was “fun” or “amusing.”)

            • It depends on the comment. Fiend gets thoughtful ones and sometimes not-so-thoughtful ones, but either way if I think I can add something useful, I’ll take the time to respond. I usually dismiss simple “Hated it” comments since there’s nothing to really discuss there. I actually don’t think those are the same thing as saying “Fun” or “Liked it.” Every constructor wants people to like their work and it’s nice to feel appreciated, so if you say that, then great, we’ve done what we set out to do. Saying “Awful puzzle” and nothing else means there’s a lot that’s left unsaid about why that person didn’t like it.

            • Pavel says:

              Agreed. As a solver, what I’d love is a crowd-sourced opinion about which puzzles were most worth solving that day. I don’t want to try to fit in solving *all* of the Fiend-reviewed puzzles every day (or maybe any day), but when I want to add one or two to my usual routine, which ones are generally considered most worthwhile? Similarly, but somewhat separately, I’d love the same kind of guidance about “don’t miss” puzzles when they come up. Reading all of the comments here often provides the information I seek, but that comes inseparably from spoilers, so.

          • Lois says:

            I don’t think it’s quite true that the meanings of the star ratings were never stated. I remember Amy spelling them out, but unfortunately I only have that memory.

  5. Eric H says:

    Universal: “This is a cute theme, albeit one that, if you haven’t seen Frozen, will mean absolutely nothing to you.”

    I agree it’s a cute theme. But I think if you have solved enough crossword puzzles, you have encountered these four “Frozen” characters multiple times (though I always struggle to remember whether it’s Ella or Elsa, probably because my grandmother’s name was Ella). So I kind of liked that spin on it.

    It was fun seeing Michael URIE in the grid. My sister-in-law was one of his acting teachers, and she came down here to see him in a play. We went with her to the play and the four of us had dinner afterwards. The play was pretty bad, but he seemed like a nice guy. Years later, we enjoyed seeing him in “The Good Fight.”

  6. BarbaraK says:

    So in the LAT, is there any significance to which pot got how many stars (beyond that they were all two or less)?

    • Eric H says:

      I don’t think so.

      The only complaint that sounds at all legit is the one about the enamel chipping off the cast iron Dutch oven.

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