Thursday, August 17, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:50 (Gareth) 


NYT 12:19 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:29 (Kyle) 


Universal 4:30ish (Sophia) 


USA Today 6:23 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


The Fireball is on vacation.

Peter A. Collins’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sitting Around”—Jim’s review

Theme: Circled letters spell out types of chairs (i.e. words that can precede “chair”), but they’ve been folded up. The revealer is FOLDING CHAIR (51a, [Portable seat, and a hint to the circled letters]). Said chairs are “swivel,” “lounge,” “captain’s,” and “barber.”

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Sitting Around” · Peter A. Collins · Thu., 8.17.23

First off, I solved this Wednesday evening after a couple glasses of wine (I’m on holiday), so maybe I wasn’t in the best frame of mind. Second off, never have I ever heard the phrase QUEEN REGNANT, though I’ve since learned it means a queen who reigns in her own right as opposed to a queen consort (wife of a reigning king) or queen regent (mother of a future monarch). Consequently, this turned into somewhat of a slog for me, and I didn’t get a lot of enjoyment from the theme. Another trouble spot was the C SHARP / UNH crossing.

Clues of note:

  • 31a. [Drew in a book]. NANCY. Wonderful clue. I was trying to make this some variation of SKETCH for far too long.
  • 35a. [Durham sch.]. UNH. Yes, there’s a Durham, NC, but the school there is Duke. UNC is in Chapel Hill.
  • 67a. [Crow home]. TEPEE. The Crow Tribe is located mainly in the south-central part of Montana.
  • 28d. [Programming language of note?]. C SHARP. I didn’t know this but C SHARP (usually written C#) is a programming language. I guess the “of note” phrase is a hint to its musical origins. Tough clue, even for someone whose done some programming in the past.

3.25 stars.

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

Thanks Patrick for today’s New Yorker puzzle. We have pairs of spanners stacked in the top and bottom of the grid (KNEW A THING OR TWO/STAND AT THE READY and ETHICAL DILEMMAS/BEACH VOLLEYBALL). All the surrounding fill is exceptionally smooth, a feat made more impressive when you consider that all but seven Down entries take two letters from each stack. Plus there are only three 3-letter entries in the grid

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 08/17/2023 – Patrick Berry

Quick thoughts:

  • I enjoyed the aha moment generated by the 8D clue [Are not instantly doable], which seems inscrutable at first but in retrospect clearly stands in for TAKE TIME.
  • 24D NATHAN HALE – there’s a statue of Hale outside the Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago (no longer the HQ of the Chicago Tribune, it was converted a couple years ago into condos and retail space).
  • 55A [Wearers of white gowns and gloves, for short] DEBS. I got this entry via crosses. Even though I’m sure I’ve seen it in puzzles before, it never sticks in my mind, possibly because I’ve never been to a debutante ball.

Erik Agards’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Average (12m19s)

Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword, 8/17/23, 0817

Today’s theme: SHORTENING (Baking ingredient used multiple times in this puzzle?)

  • CON COURSES (Cup of noodles)
  • SER RATIONS (Shrimp egg rolls)
  • CAR FARE (Chicken and rice)
  • CAV EATS (Coq au vin)
  • BRAN DISHES (Baked rigatoni alla Norma)

Good find on “Baked rigatoni alla Norma” — I probably would have struggled to come up with a B-R-A-N dish that was consistent with the cluing angle.  Was a little thrown on the clue for ALPS (Bernese or Tyrolean), which I initially misread as “Burmese” and tried to think of a synonym for PYTHON to fit there — lo and behold, PYTHON ends up being an intersecting vertical entry.  The puzzle works in mysterious ways.

Cracking: EFFA MANLEY, clued as the “First woman in the National Baseball Hall of Fame”, which is true, but nearly twenty years after she was inducted, still the only one!

SlackingITA clued as the partial “I’ll give ___ read” — Alitalia has been brought back from the dead as ITA Airways, the official flag carrier of Italy.  It’s fair game for crossworld now.  Let’s make it happen.

Sidetracking: CANDY GIRL

Karen Steinberg and Paul Steinberg’s Universal crossword, “Eek!” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer is a word with a type of bug embedded in it. The clue is for the word with the bug removed: “debugged”, if you will.

Universal Crossword, 08 17 2023, “Eek!”

  • 17a [*Somewhat cold] – CHANTILLY (chilly + ant)
  • 21a [*Pepsi bottle size] – LITE BEER (liter + bee)
  • 33a [*West of old Hollywood] – MAGNATE (mae + gnat)
  • 37a [*Cheese whose rind is typically eaten] – BRIEFLY (brie + fly)
  • 52a [*Place to dream] – BROACHED (bed + roach)
  • 57a [Process for a programmer … or for understanding the starred clues’ answers] – DEBUGGING

This theme spoke to me for two reasons: 1) I’m a programmer and have already spent a fair amount of time today DEBUGGING, and 2) I co-wrote a puzzle with this same theme for the Inkubator a few years ago! So I’m biased, but I think it’s a good one. We went for longer theme answers than Paul and Karen did here, and I think both versions work well.

CHANTILLY and LITE BEER are both great finds in particular. Lite beer was how I understood the theme – I kept trying to make “one liter” or “two liter” work there, with no success. BROACHED being a bed with a roach in it paints a very disconcerting image….


Fave clues: [Templeton in “Charlotte’s Web,” e.g.] for RAT, [Game whose focus is eating] for PACMAN

New to me:  That only adults listen to music ON CD apparently, so says the clue…

Hanh Huynh’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today, Hanh Huynh gives us an intricate little puzzle, with five phrases each consisting of a bit of radiotelephony lingo and an animal variety. The clues string these together to make stories about animals talking over walkie talkie or similar. One or two are a smidge strained, but the constraints of this theme make thos mighty impressive nonetheless:

  • [Gnat: “Bug spray sighting. Request for assistance.” Bee: “__. Backup is on the way.”], FLYSTANDBY. I haven’t heard of the phrase “fly standby” before.
  • [Kittens: “Dogs, do you read us?” Puppy: “__. You’re coming in loud and clear.”], COPYCATS.
  • [Bunny: “Come in, Hare. Return to base.” Hare: “__. Wilco.”], ROGERRABBIT.
  • [Bear: “Doe? Stag? Any deer got your ears on?” Deer: “__.”], FAWNOVER
  • [Pig: “Hen, put the hammer down.” Hen: “Catch you on the flip-flop: __.”], CHICKENOUT.


  • [Red-and-white topper], SANTAHAT. Handy set of letters that.
  • [CrossFit staple], BURPEE. I thought that that was some sort of Tupperware thing?
  • [Shares, in a way], RETWEETS. Bet that is now “offbrand”.


Jimmy Peniston’s USA Today Crossword, “Top Marks” — Emily’s write-up

Look up (or rather down) for today’s delightful theme!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday August 17, 2023

USA Today, August 17 2023, “Top Marks” by Jimmy Peniston

Theme: the first word of each themer can be appended with “marks” to form a new phrase


  • 1d. [Exaggerate a bit], STRETCHTHETRUTH
  • 23d. [“We’re ready to pay!”], CHECKPLEASE
  • 8d. [Decorative cushions on a couch or bed], ACCENTPILLOWS

Another fun set of themers and in the downs to boot! The title is an overt hint hidden in plain sight, with it also being a common phrase. STRETCHTHETRUTH, CHECKPLEASE, and ACCENTPILLOWS. With today’s theme, we get: STRETCH MARKS, CHECK MARKS, and ACCENT MARKS.

Favorite fill: SPRINGROLL, SITCOM, and TLC

Stumpers: HATHEAD (“hat hair” came to mind first) and STAG (stuck on “buck”)

A great puzzle with a smooth flow and overall nice cluing and bonus fill. At first, I expected the theme to be in the acrosses so it was a surprise when they ended up being in the downs.

3.5 stars


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26 Responses to Thursday, August 17, 2023

  1. e.a. says:

    @Amy the one-star fairy came!!!!! (two of them for every puzzle, including a BEQ that isn’t out yet! and a Patrick Berry!)

  2. Gary R says:

    NYT: Clever theme that took me forever to suss out, even after seeing the revealer. Did not know EFFA MANLEY, and settled on “stun” for 65-A. I’m afraid I put my blinders on at that point and never recovered – DNF. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • JohnH says:

      Not a TNY puzzle, but still Asgard so may as well have been in a foreign language, and I don’t mean AAVE (new to me). Well, maybe it really is a foreign language, as I gather “chuffed” is British and there’s no language I know in which the cited dishes become abbreviations. That corner, with JEJ and EFFA MANLEY was my last to fall, the theme much later. But overall no fun at all.

    • Eric H says:

      I got about two-thirds of the top part filled in and the theme made no sense to me.

      After getting the revealer, I saw how the SHORTENING was being done. That helped me get CAVEATS and BRANDISHES. But I still missed the food parts of the theme answers (COURSES, RATIONS, etc.) until I read Deb Amlen’s column. I do like how most of those are well-hidden in the longer words.

      I had absolutely no idea on CANDY GIRL or EFFA MANLEY (who I appreciate learning a little about). Knowing either one might have helped a lot.

      Overall, a fun puzzle that was a bit trickier than the usual Thursday NYT. Great clues for MOM and ARCS.

    • Dallas says:

      I solved it with the revelation but did not get the theme until now… a tough theme fitting for Thursday.

  3. Laura says:

    WSJ clue 35a Durham sch. Not North Carolina, but university of New Hampshire in Durham, NH.

  4. Mr. [annoyed and] Grumpy says:

    A typical Agard puzzle. Read that as you like.

    • Seattle DB says:

      EA likes to shake things up and strongly avoids the green-painty stuff. Some of it I learn from, other stuff is way over my head.

  5. Billposter says:

    As a retirred sea captain and commercial pilot, enjoyed the hell out of the LAT in the radio-telephone lingua franca entries. Nicely done.

  6. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    NYT – Theme creative. But I would love to hear if anyone actually figured out the theme from the revealer? I did get the theme after filling in enough of the crosses for CARFARE and CAVEAT. But is the revealer really a revealer?

    As for the cluing, seemed like a foreign language sometimes.

    • Eric H says:

      Once I had the revealer, I looked back at the theme answers I already had. The revealer helped me to understand what the SHORTENING was turning each dish into its initials, e.g. “cup of noodles” into CON. But I completely missed the second part of each theme answer, e.g. COURSE.

      The theme did help me get BRANDISHES and CAVEATS.

    • Art Shapiro says:

      As you asked: after completing the puzzle, and musing for a while because a review with explanation hadn’t yet posted, I managed to discern both halves of the theme. Let’s call it a well-post-solve AHA moment.

    • Leah says:

      The revealer definitely functioned as a revealer for me! I parsed both parts (words for servings of food and “acryonyms” of foods listed) and it helped me with several missing answers.

  7. Bryan says:

    Happy belated birthday, Amy! (I’m just catching up on the past few days of NYT crosswords.) Here’s to another trip around the sun! And thanks for this incredible place online to nerd out about crossword puzzles.

  8. Leah says:

    @E.A.: I thoroughly enjoy your puzzles and find them quite challenging! Since I know you comment here, I thought I’d ask a question.

    I loved that some of the theme answers could be two separate words (“bran dishes” and “car fare”), but bumped up against the fact that others didn’t work that way (“ser” and “cav” not being English words). And then one of them didn’t read as a single word when put together (“car fare”). I’m curious, did you try to get a full set that all had two separate words combining to one word and discover that that wasn’t possible, or were you more focused on getting interesting resulting words (serrations, caveats, brandishes are all nice ones in my book)? Always fun to know more about how a constructor thinks! :-)

    • e.a. says:

      hi Leah, very kind of you to say!! the options that i could find for theme answers were very limited (pretty much just the ones you saw), so i didn’t make it as far as thinking about things like word interestingness

  9. Seattle DB says:

    WSJ: Hi Jim, I like reading your reviews quite a lot, but is there a grammar error in the sentence “Tough clue, even for someone whose done some programming in the past.”? Should the word “whose” be written as “who’s”? (Sorry for being anal, but if I’m mistaken please blast away at me, lol!)

  10. Judith says:

    LAT cracked me up! I thought the ratings were a little low. More often than not, seems like people these days have no sense of humor.

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