Monday, August 14, 2023

BEQ tk(Matthew) 


LAT 2:03 (Stella) 


NYT 2:57 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 4:51 (Amy) 


Universal tk (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Simon Marotte and Trenton Lee Stewart’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s write-up

Get ready for a math puzzle, everyone!

New York Times, 08 14 2023, By Simon Marotte and Trenton Lee Stewart

  • 17a [Step 1: Exceed the limit à la Spinal Tap] – GO TO ELEVEN
  • 25a [Step 2: Partygoer’s guest] – PLUS ONE
  • 39a [Step 3: Go on a brief break] – TAKE TEN
  • 49a [Step 4: Hefty sales discount] – HALF OFF
  • 62a [Never to be repeated … or an apt pronouncement after following the instructions sequentially in 17-, 25-, 39- and 49-Across?] – ONE AND DONE

If you follow the instructions: Start with 11, add 1 (12), subtract 10 (2) and then halve it (1). So, one and done!

I liked this theme for all of its re-parsed common phrases into math terms. None of the phrases particularly stand out (unless you’re a huge Spinal Tap fan, I guess), but they’re all solid and make it easy to understand what to do at each step. The ending feels a little arbitrary – is there a reason we’re trying to make 1? Or is it just that it’s the end of the equation? But I do like it all the same.

There are five theme answers, but given how short the three in the middle are, Simon and Trenton did a good job of placing them to give us bonus material. HIGH OCTANE and THRILL RIDE almost seem like a mini-theme together! I also loved seeing FANDOM, OVERLOOK, and IF ONLY. I could see some folks having trouble with the SIVA/STEPPE/YENTL area, but the crosses are all fair, and the words all come from different places/knowledge bases so I think everyone could get a foothold.

Favorite clue: 67a [You could tell how old it is if you saw it!] – TREE (for the rings, y’know??)

New to me: The actual definition of HIGHOCTANE. I’ve mostly just seen it used as an adjective meaning “extreme” rather than in its original gas context.

Karen Steinberg & Paul Steinberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Backpedaling”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases with a hidden word spelled backwards. Each of these words can be considered a “course” using different meanings of the word. The revealer is REVERSE COURSE (32a, [Do the opposite, and a punny hint to this puzzle’s circled letters]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Backpedaling” · Karen Steinberg & Paul Steinberg · Mon., 8.14.23

  • 17a. [Dairy case items] MILK CARTONS. Course to follow.
  • 24a. [Like people who think their culture is best] ETHNOCENTRIC. Course of study.
  • 44a. [Arches, e.g.] NATIONAL PARK. Course of action.
  • 53a. [Meringue-covered dessert] BAKED ALASKA. Meal course.

I admit I wasn’t paying much attention to this solve as I was heavily invested in watching the new reboot of Takeshi’s Castle on Amazon. But the theme seems plenty solid, and I like how “course” is used differently in each entry.

Top bits of fill include SWEET TALKS and RAP ARTISTS. That southern section with EIRE, LEEZA, IBIZA, and GAMAY seems on the tougher side for a Monday.

Clues of note:

  • 62a. [Art Vandelay, for George Constanza]. ALIAS. Well, now we have to see the highlight reel for Mr. Vandelay (see below).
  • 23d. [Sex ed class topic, for short]. STD. This may be the first time I’ve seen this initialism clued this way instead of the usual abbreviation for “standard.”

3.5 stars.

Brian Callahan’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 8/14/23 by Brian Callahan

Los Angeles Times 8/14/23 by Brian Callahan

The theme here is USA Today-level simple — in fact, had there been a fifth theme entry, and the revealer used as a title instead of a revealer, this puzzle probably could’ve run in that venue. (With easier fill, though; I thought there were more proper nouns and tougher-to-new-solvers entries like MEWL than I expect on a Monday.) The revealer at 61A [Informal meeting, and what can be found in 17-, 26-, 38-, and 51-Across?] is GET-TOGETHER, because the letters GET can be found TOGETHER, spanning two words, in each theme entry:

  • 17A [Stretch of a blowout game when bench players come in] is GARBAGE TIME.
  • 26A [Citrus grove inhabitant] is ORANGE TREE.
  • 38A [Sulu player before John Cho] is GEORGE TAKEI.
  • 51A [Book that’s hard to put down] is PAGE-TURNER.

Very nice evocative set of theme entries. I particularly liked GARBAGE TIME, but they’re all good.

Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 8/14/23 – Gorski

Quick one for me today, despite the Monday “challenging” designation.


There were some entries that did not delight, such as 1-Across NESTERS–who ever refers to birds as NESTERS? Also ALB, OBLATE ([Layman in a monastery], apparently–who knew?), ORKANS (a small piece of 40-year-old pop culture), SEA EEL, PEN SETS.

I appreciated this educational (for me) clue: [Another name for the Akimel O’odham people], PIMA.

3.25 stars from me.

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17 Responses to Monday, August 14, 2023

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    Admins: I accidentally leaned on the keyboard and somehow transmitted a 2.5 for the New Yorker, which probably hasn’t even posted yet. Could someone defenestrate me?

  2. David L says:

    TNY: such a contrast between a ‘challenging’ puzzle from eg Natan Last or KAC and one from Elizabeth Gorski (not challenging at all, or maybe just old-school and therefore up my alley).

    • steve says:

      please explain ‘mouth part’ = floor

      this monday took about half as long as my average time

    • JohnH says:

      For once, Elizabeth Gorski was just not on my wavelength, or I was just having a slow-headed day, so it was hard enough for me. (Say, TITOS, RIZ, the unusual clue for ARES or STARTLE , this sense of RATIONED or MOUTH, the proper spelling of BELIEIBER, Akimel O’odham. And, hmm, are there land eels?) But her usual excellence all the same, and the ones strange to me all contributed. The contrast that David L makes could not be more true.

      • Eric H says:

        “[A]re there land eels?”

        No, but there are freshwater eels.

        I’ve learned a lot about eels from crossword puzzles. Almost as much as I have learned about emus.

        • JohnH says:

          Interesting, thanks much. (SEA EEL isn’t in either MW11C or RHUD, and I didn’t think of looking further. MW online, which draws on a larger dictionary than Collegiate in print, does have it.)

        • Martin says:

          19 of the 800 or so species of eels live in freshwater. The rest are all sea eels. And many of the 19 species of freshwater eels are catadromous (the converse of anadromous), returning to the sea to spawn after living most of their lives in freshwater.

          In a sushi bar, unagi is freshwater and anago is a sea eel, actually the Japanese conger.

  3. Eric H says:

    NYT: I have to like a theme that starts off quoting “This Is Spın̈al Tap.” The rest of the theme answers are fine; I’m not sure where I picked up ONE AND DONE, but it’s a familiar-enough phrase. The puzzle has ten three-letter answers and 34 four-letter answers, which seems like an awful lot of short stuff. Usually that annoys me, but if I’m enjoying the theme, I don’t really notice it.

    New Yorker: Much easier for me than the Kelsey Dixon/Brooke Husic puzzle from Friday. Maybe because Ms. Gorski is closer to my age than Ms. Husic? (I have no idea how old Kelsey Dixon is.) It was the kind of puzzle I most enjoy: Some scattered gimmes to get me started (something-SHARP, DESI, ORKANS, BELIEBERS) and a bunch of stuff that I could figure out with a few crosses (SEDONA, DUBOIS, TEENSPEAK). TITO’S should have been a gimmick; the distillery is 10 miles from my house. But I foolishly put in Stoli for a few seconds. I really enjoyed the puzzle overall.

    • PJ says:

      I know ONE AND DONE from college basketball. Players aren’e eligible for the NBA draft until one year after their high school graduation, or some other similar wording. Most choose to attend college for a year before declaring for the draft leading to the phrase.

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks. That’s probably where I learned it. I’m not a big sports fan, but some of the language is just inescapable.

    • I realize you said you didn’t really notice them, but ten is a pretty low number of three-letter answers, and four-letter answers are usually the most common length in puzzles anyway.

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks. I knew the number of three-letter answers wasn’t particularly high, but sometimes, it just feels like it. (Which of course contradicts my not noticing them.)

        I take it back. Looking at it now, the grid is less choppy than I remembered it when I commented earlier.

        I’ve done a little construction, and if I’m not careful, I end up with a grid that has way too many short words, so I shouldn’t be so quick to jump on it with other people’s puzzles.

        Maybe it just comes down to the damned clock. This one took me an average amount of time for a NYT Monday. But given that I enjoyed it and didn’t have any problems solving it, it felt like I should have solved it more quickly. The fact that I didn’t couldn’t be my fault, so it must be the puzzle’s fault, right?

  4. Ethan says:

    I find myself wishing DONE was 1A or 1D. The dupe would be forgivable for the theme I think and it would make more sense.

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