Thursday, August 24, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:06 (Gareth) 


NYT 13:39 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:50 (Amy) 


Universal 3:59 (Sophia) 


USA Today 8:20 (Emily) 


WSJ 7:54 (Jim) 


The Fireball is on vacation.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Elevated Tensions”—Jim’s review

Theme answers come in pairs, one on top of the other. The lower one’s letter C rose up to the higher one though both entries are clued as if the C remained in its original place. Both entries are still legit crossword words (though unclued) after the change. The revealer is CRISES (64a, [Dire situations, and, if reparsed, a clue to making sense of six pairs of Across answers]) with a re-parsing of C RISES.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Elevated Tensions” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 8.24.23

  • 15a [Musical opener] PRECLUDE and 18a [Some den furnishings] ARM HAIRS. Prelude and armchairs.
  • 17a [Pizzeria fixtures] COVENS and 19a [Roadwork marker] ONE. Ovens and cone.
  • 26a [Turning tools] LATCHES and 33a [Royal decrees] EDITS. Lathes and edicts.
  • 34a [Org. with an eagle logo] CUSPS and 38a [Integras, e.g.] AURAS. U.S.P.S. and Acuras.
  • 42a [Vessel that sailed to Colchis] CARGO and 45a [Simple wind instrument] REORDER. Argo and recorder.
  • 55a [It began around 1100 B.C.] IRON CAGE and 60a [Rehab focus] ADDITION. Iron Age and addiction.

A good workout! For the first part of the solve I puttered around, doing what I could here and there, but I could sense something was askew. It seemed like this might be a rebus puzzle. Eventually I found myself at the revealer, took a few seconds to makes sense of it, and then things proceeded much more steadily after that. I ended up finishing at about my average Thursday time, maybe even a little quicker.

It feels like a lot of theme material here, and I enjoyed putting the pieces together once I caught on to the theme. I especially liked those two longer pairs to start and finish the grid.

The really impressive thing here is that there’s so much theme entry stacking yet the fill is doesn’t suffer too terribly. Yes, I noticed the overabundance of partials (A DRY, YES OR, A LIE, A LEG, AT ME) and some real eyebrow raisers (ON A TEE, ORDO). But given the extent of the theme and its constraints, it’s really not that bad. Plus there’s plenty of solid longer fill like “I’M READY” (can’t read this without hearing it in SpongeBob’s voice) and “LET ME IN!”

Clues of note:

  • 41a. [Sweet cocktail]. SLING. I only know of the Singapore SLING. Didn’t know it was a generic name for a kind of drink. Here’s the deets.
  • 43a. [“Open up!”]. “LET ME IN.” I read the clue as if it was a dentist’s command, but the entry…wait a second, it still works as a dentist’s command.
  • 26d. [Permitted]. LEGAL. As in, having been granted a permit.
  • 49d. [Word under the pyramid on a dollar bill’s back]. ORDO. I guess it would be impossible to clue this as part of the Yoda quote, “Do or do not; there is no ‘try.'” The dollar bill motto is “Novus ORDO Seculorum” which translates to “New order of the ages.” This entry has appeared in crosswords before, per Cruciverb, but it’s been about four years since the last instance.

An enjoyable solve if you can look past the iffy fill. The wordplay made it worth it for me. Four stars.

And now for your viewing pleasure, here’s 10 minutes of SpongeBob saying, “I’M READY!”

Robin Yu’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Average (13m39s)

Robin Yu’s New York Times crossword, 8/24/23, 0824

Today’s theme: ROLLING BLACKOUTS (Temporary, controlled power shutdown … or a hint to reading four of this puzzle’s answers)

  • VOTER (out) REACH
  • SWEPT (out) TO SEA

It’s always daunting to open a puzzle and see a foreign pictograph, even if it looks like the meaning will be self-evident.  I wasn’t quite sure there was another component to the direction change, as the first themer I cracked (SWEPT and TO SEA) can plausibly exist without the “out.”  This ended up being a bit of a hiccup, as I tried to force the simple direction change on the other three themers to no avail.  Then, presto, I had the “genuine a-ha moment” at VOTER (out) REACH, and the puzzle put up very little resistance after that.

Lots to like with the fill, including GOING GAGA and PIANO TUNER.  Had a bit of knee-jerk lip curl at VTUBER, and less enamored with GLOBETROT as a verb.  And seven-DEUCE, let me tell you, seven-two-suited is one of my favorite starting hands in hold ’em, my unlucky lucky pair, but I can’t recall hearing anyone refer to it as seven-DEUCE.

Cracking: DONE DEAL, fait accompli, turn out the liiiiiights, the party’s over…

SlackingDONC. Unless the next thing out of your mouth is “-Y KONG”, then yikes.  If “por lo tanto” and “percio” and “daher” don’t fly as fill, DONC feels out of bounds as well.

Sidetracking: …they say that allllll good things must endddddd…

Prasanna Keshava’s Universal crossword, “Making Bread” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer’s last word progressively adds a new letter to eventually make the word “wheat”

Universal Crossword, 08 24 2023, “Making Bread”

  • 17a [Car first produced in 1908] – FORD MODEL T
  • 23a [Gives a try] – HAS A WHACK AT
  • 38a [Gets fast food, say] – GRABS A BITE TO EAT
  • 47a [Manage to keep cool] – BEAT THE HEAT
  • 60a [Healthy toast option, and a hint to the ends of 17-, 23-, 38-, 47- and 60-Across] – WHOLE WHEAT

I was *sure* when I saw the title that this was going to be a money related theme. It wasn’t, but amusingly we still get a money pun in the fill with [Capital of France?] for EUROS. I liked this concept a lot, and BEAT THE HEAT is a great answer. I wish the middle two themers were stronger; they’re both fine but neither strictly stands out as a phrase. I also solved this puzzle right after waking up, and despite the title, I thought that the “toast” mentioned in the revealer was referring to some kind of healthy alcohol?? So when I actually figured out the real answer, I was satisfied.

Fun fill extras: IN BAD TASTE, FRENCH HORN, SOFIA (even though that’s objectively a lesser spelling ;) )

Fave clues: 43a [Star born after Venus?] for SERENA, [Island home to the National Immigration Museum] for ELLIS

New to me: “Beetle Bailey” dog OTTO, that HOODS are considered “sweatshirt extensions”?? I thought that was going to be something that made it larger/longer… I guess it does kind of extend the top, but that’s not where my brain went at first.

Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

Hey, folks, it’s Amy filling in for Kyle.

I quite enjoyed Robyn’s easy-peasy themeless today. With a dozen long (9-12 letters) entries, she brings what I like to see in a themeless, but not in the classic “a stack in each corner” layout. She does a great job at interlocking a bunch of long answers amid a sea of super-smooth fill.

Fave fill: BACKUP COPY (pro tip: worst-case scenario, email a file to yourself; use the cloud; don’t count on your hard drive exclusively), WRITES OFF on one’s taxes, SPARE ROOM, “WHAT DID I DO?” (he knows what he did), old-school ROTARY DIAL that made you curse people with 9s or 0s in their phone numbers, “YOU HAD ONE JOB!”, “WHO IS THIS?”, a EUPHEMISM, and VALET PARKING.

I gave this one 4.5 stars when I did it earlier. A fun romp with plenty of flavor.

Susan Gelfand’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Susan Gelfand’s LA Times puzzle is a little more oblique than most that we see. The revealer is SWORDPLAY, and the first words are anagrams of three sword types: FOIL, SABRE & RAPIER. EPEE gets the cold shoulder because it can’t anagram well.

  • [*Baklava base], FILODOUGH. Foil
  • [*Gives testimony], BEARSWITNESS. Sabre
  • [*Fix-it guide], REPAIRMANUAL. Rapier

Mostly, the puzzle was quite easy, but I’ll see if I notice any nuggets:

  • [Taylor Swift album with the hit “All Too Well”], RED. Got it off three letter TS album, but that wasn’t one of the big songs on the album, at least not the first time around…
  • [__ & Perrins steak sauce], LEA. Is that a thing in the US? Thought it was mostly UK…
  • [“Aladdin” villain who transforms into a giant cobra], JAFAR. Another “Olaf” clue, where the second part is kind of just flavour…
  • [Second wife of Henry VIII], BOLEYN. Weird to have answer be a surname, when Henry VIII is a given name?
  • [Good vibrations?], PURRS. Sometimes. Different cat purrs mean different things…


Darby Ratliff & Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today Crossword, “Bust a Move” — Emily’s write-up

Ready to get down? Put your best foot forward today with this puzzle.

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday August 24, 2023

USA Today, August 24 2023, “Bust a Move” by Darby Ratliff & Amanda Rafkin

Theme: the word “move” is split up in each of the themers


  • 20a. [Anthology series based off of a relationship column], MODERNLOVE
  • 35a. [Two-time star of “iCarly”], MIRANDACOSGROVE
  • 55a. [Neuron that allows for physical movement], MOTORNERVE

A more ad hoc themer set today, starting off with MODERNLOVE, turning to MIRANDACOSGROVE, and ending with MOTORNERVE. With today’s theme, MO-VE shifts to M-OVE, and back to MO-VE.


Stumpers: FETED (new as a verb to be, usually I hear the noun), SAGES (“alder” and “elder” came to mind first), and USEDTO (needed a few crossings)

Overall a solid puzzle, though the crossings really helped me throughout the solve. No one area was trickier than another, so it was all fair crossings too, no matter what knowledge a solver brought to it. That made for a smooth solve even though it too me a bit longer.

4.0 stars


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20 Responses to Thursday, August 24, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: very cute. Made me smile.

  2. Dan says:

    I found the NYT puzzle to be a case of trying too hard — WAY too hard — to be different.

    Okay, it re-used the familiar “theme answers do a 90º turn”.

    But did it need the big stupid arrows? Which made it much harder for the theme to be mysterious?

    Not in the least. And outside of the theme, there were some good clues, but it was nothing special.

    • JohnH says:

      I guess it’s a double bind. Without the arrows, I don’t know if I’d ever have got the idea, not without a revealer more explicit about a 90 degree turn. With them, true, that turn is obvious before one begins, and of course we’ve had long entries before. That makes it all but a themeless, apart from getting the revealer, especially since, yes, the first to fall for me, SWEPT / TO SEA works just fine without the OUT.

      For me, it was much like a themeless on the hard side for a Friday. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I know that some solvers here prefer a themeless, whereas I look forward to Thursday for the hardest theme of the week. But hard the fill was.

    • Art Shapiro says:

      I didn’t get any arrows with the .puz file using Nexus solver. Didn’t need ’em, anyway, to see the theme after a couple minutes of vacant stares.

      Interesting puzzle – always happy for something nifty on a Thursday.

  3. Lise says:

    NYT: I printed the pdf, which didn’t have the circles and arrows (nor a paragraph on the back of each one) so although I got the theme, I didn’t understand how the black squares were supposed to represent the blackout. Cute theme, though, and either way, cleverly executed.

    • Eric H says:

      The arrows roll, but stand in for OUT. Donc, ROLLING BLACKOUT.

      • Lise says:

        Eric, I get that the arrows roll and stand in for OUT.

        I didn’t have arrows. Or circles. Which I mentioned in my comment.

        Without those, the theme was less exciting, but still good.

        • Eric H says:

          Sorry. After I replied, I reread your comment and saw that the arrows hadn’t printed.

          I don’t know why it’s so hard for the NYT to make sure that all the versions of the puzzle show the same thing. But apparently it is. (It’s ridiculous to offer a PDF and expect people to look at the “newspaper version” to make sure they aren’t missing anything.

          With the arrows, you know immediately that something funky is going on. Without them, it just looks like unusual grid design.

    • Dallas says:

      I at first thought that BLACK was being removed from the answers (as in BLACK OUT) but then slowly realized that was not the case. The SWEPT (OUT) TO SEA held me back, as I just put in SWEPT/ASEA at first, even if it was a bit unsatisfying. Ended up being a very slow Thursday solve for me, though I got it all in the end. I get a little itchy when I see too many “in short” or “maybe” clues in a puzzle, and a “perhaps, in short” clue started to feel like just too much… like two bank shots to get to the answer :-)

      But I guess in the end, it was just another example of American blind justice, and there ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.

    • Lois says:

      I printed the “newspaper version” from XWord Info and that’s what I got, arrows and circles. I always check the newspaper version first for things that might disappear, such as italics.

  4. David L says:

    NYT was cute and not at all as tricky as it appeared at first glance. But aren’t the arrows pointing in the wrong direction? They meant as stand-ins for OUT but actually they represent TUO, it seems to me.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Huh? The arrows start at the ends of the answers that are clued, loop around and end at the starts of the parts of the answers that are unclued, right? i.e. the OUT starts at the beginning of the arrow and ends at the end of the arrow. I don’t get what you mean by “actually they represent TUO”? How would you depict it differently?

      • Dan says:

        I think each clue applies to both legs of the right angle together, with the word OUT between them.

      • Eric H says:

        Yep. If you follow the direction of the arrow, it’s O-U-T.

        It’s really a pretty clever trick once you see what’s going on. The revealer is a big help.

      • David L says:

        Oh, I see what you mean. I was interpreting it the other way around.

  5. Mutman says:

    NYT: pretty straightforward Thursday gimmick.

    As a poker player, I have often said “seven-deuce” often followed by “off” (for offsuit). I recommend folding that hand every time. Suited or not!

  6. placematfan says:

    I think Yoda was wrong. There is, in fact, no “do”; there is only “try”.

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