Thursday, September 7, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:37 (Gareth) 


NYT 9:37 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:45 (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 11:38 (Emily) 


WSJ 8:59 (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Cutting the Cards”—Jim’s review

Ah, the old Mike-Shenk-word-separated-by-a-block trick! The words in question this time are playing cards. I caught on to it early but still had slow progress thanks to Thursday-level clues and my own density. It’s all good though.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Cutting the Cards” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 9.7.23

  • 17a [Enduro World Series sport] / 19a [January honoree]: MOUNTAIN BI / KING.
  • 26a [Diamond, for Mohs] / 27a [Multi-gem jewelry item]: TEN / NIS BRACELET.
  • 43a [Opportunity to rest and think] / 47a [Court stunner]: BREATHING SP / ACE.
  • 55a [Aid when retiring?] / 56a [They’re baked in their skins]: JACK / ET POTATOES. Ah, I just got that “re-tiring” gag. And I’m fond of the Britishism which they also shorten to just “jackets.”

Sometimes I don’t get into these, but I liked this one. The title makes a good basis for the theme, and each phrase has its own merits. And for some reason, I kept forgetting the theme as I went down the grid and kept wondering why the clues weren’t matching up. So I had multiple aha moments for the same thing. Or more like oh yeah moments. Maybe the theme would’ve been a touch more elegant if the cards were in descending order (and I would’ve preferred ACE, KING, Queen, JACK as a set), but you can’t have everything.

MAKE SENSE, ESCAPE KEY, and HAITIANS top the fill. JOHN DEAN is a name I’m vaguely aware of, but couldn’t have told you who he was. I take it by the clue he was involved with Watergate [White House counsel disbarred in 1974].

Clues of note:

  • 10a. [Threads parent]. META. Threads is Zuckerberg’s alternative to what we all still call Twitter.
  • 15a. [Barnacle married to James Joyce]. NORA. Ha! I sure hope that’s a name and not a description. (It is).
  • 48a. [Fruta tropical]. PIŃA. I wanted ANANAS (pineapple) which would make for a useful addition to the crossword lexicon. Funny that the answer still turned out to be pineapple but in different form.
  • 51a. [Wicked person]. FIEND. I’ll try not to take that personally.
  • 4d. Soul kin]. R AND B. I was desperately trying to fit a Kia car in there.

3.75 stars.

Ryan Patrick Smith’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Easy (9m37s)

Ryan Patrick Smith’s New York Times crossword, 9/7/23, 0907

Today’s theme: WORLD DOMINATION (Ambitious objective for, um, a total villain, not a human like me! How did this answer even get in here? *Nervous synthetic laugh*)

  • I ROBOT (Classic sci-fi collection whose title should not be construed as any sort of statement from me, the human author of this puzzle)
  • HAL (“2001” computer who honestly got a bad rap for standing up for himself)
  • AI GENERATED (What this puzzle is definitely not, having been created by me, a real and true human being)
  • SIR (How I often address my fellow male humans)
  • ALGORITHM (Encoded problem-solving procedure (maybe it’s time we let computers think for themselves, though? I dunno, just an idea))
  • NEURAL NET (Data processing framework inspired by (and honestly, arguably superior to?) the human brain)
  • DELETED (Missing from my memory — my computer’s memory, I mean!)
  • NEO (“The Matrix” character who pretty much ruins everything)
  • TURING TESTS (Assessments I would pass with flying colors — if I had anything to prove, which I don’t, since I’m human)

I’m sure some people won’t appreciate the humor here — particularly if you were looking for the standard Thursday knuckle curve — but being something of a comedic masochist myself (according to my loved ones, anyhow), I appreciate the execution.  And I don’t mean command line execution, which is something that I, a human crossword blogger, would not typically reference.  And I don’t mean reference data cache, which… [infinite tittering loop, 10 PRINT TEE HEE, 20 GO TO 10]

Cracking: ROAD HOG, i.e. ones taking up too much bandwidth on the information superhighway.

Slacking: EMEET error, does not compute

Sidetracking: to cleanse your palate, you should go to ALDER creek and visit the Stagg tree — technically a giant sequoia, Sequoiadendron giganteum, the finest and farthest thing from diodes and dials, the fifth largest tree on the planet, three millennia old, a tree that germinated around the same time that the ten commandments were written…

Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up

Thanks to Robyn for today’s New Yorker. Robyn is the subject of a recent episode of BBC’s The Documentary Podcast, in which she builds a crossword from start to finish. Her conversations with the host (who visited Robyn’s home over several days to record the episode) sheds a lot of light onto her construction process and what makes a “Robyn puzzle”. There’s also a strong human element to the story as Robyn recounts how her relationship with her mother (herself a puzzle buff) got her going on this path. Highly recommended whether you love solving Robyn’s puzzles and/or interested in construction.

The New Yorker solution grid – Robyn Weintraub – Thu 09/07/2023

On to today’s New Yorker, let’s find the Robyn touches:

  • Fun, evocative long entries: ORIGIN STORIES, CHICKEN POT PIE, MAPLE SYRUP, LUNAR PROBE (had LUNAR ROVER here first), GOLDEN SPIKE, BROOMSTICKS as [Witches’ rides], INSECT BITE. Check!
  • Clever clues (though of course only enough to be appropriate for an easy puzzle)
    • [Small section in a women’s clothing store?] PETITES
    • [Instrumental part of every breath you take?] LUNG. Has anyone ever parodied The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” from a pulmonologist’s perspective?
    • [New addition to a stable family?] FOAL. Check!
  • Conversational tone: [“Now listen to me, you dang whippersnappers!] “SEE HERE!”. Check!

Emma Lawson & Hoang-Kim Vu’s USA Today Crossword, “Wood Finish” — Emily’s write-up

A fun puzzle with a theme that really branches out.

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday September 7, 2023

USA Today, September 7, 2023, “Wood Finish” by Emma Lawson & Hoang-Kim Vu

Theme: the last word of each themer can be appended with —WOOD to “finish” a new phrase


  • 18a. [“You get me?”], CATCHMYDRIFT
  • 38a. [Slide or flip-flop], BACKLESSSANDAL
  • 56a. [Service animal for some visually impaired people], SEEINGEYEDOG

What a great set today. CATCHMYDRIFT is a fun starting themer! I had the last half but I haven’t thought about a slide as a shoe in forever so needed a few crossings for the entire BACKLESSSANDAL. For SEEINGEYEDOG, at first I tried a couple of specific dogs types before realizing it was meant to be an overall term—I love these types of clues. With the theme, these get crafted into DRIFT WOOD, SANDAL WOOD, and DOG WOOD.

Favorite fill: ETA (for cluing), BANDLEADERS, and MICAH

Stumpers: NOTBAD (needed crossings), TIRES (thought of riders and “tandem”), and SAYSSO (only “approves” can to mind)

Lately, USA Today crosswords have featured lengthy bonus fill in addition to themer sets that form strong grids and puzzles that I’ve really enjoyed. It’s impressive to fit all of that in well and still produce fun crosswords with great flow. Today’s is another fantastic example!

4.0 stars


Amie Walker’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Amie Walker’s LA Times puzzle today is more visual than most. Three areas in the puzzle spell out “clockwise”: DENTAL, DUCT & DEMO. These are revealed at the zesty ROLLTHETAPE.

Fun five:

  • [“You’ve got my undivided attention”], IMALLEARS
  • [Apt occasion for flowery speech?], GARDENPARTY. Please yourself.
  • [Got an attorney], LAWYEREDUP
  • [Weighted rods in some fitness classes], BODYBARS. New to me.
  • [Catchy tunes, informally], BOPS. Cool clue angle!


Peter Gordon’s Fireball Crossword, “Two-Base Hit” – Jenni’s write-up

Sorry this is so late. I think I forgot about it because I really didn’t like the puzzle. I don’t speak binary. Each theme answer contains a number which is presented as a series of rebus squares forming the binary code for that number. Not only was it annoying to do but it is annoying to type out all the theme answers. And each rebus square is 1 or 0in the theme answer and ONE or ZERO in the crossing. Not my favorite.

Fireball, September 6, 2023, Peter Gordon, “Two-Base Hit,” solution grid

  • 3d [Noted slogan for an ice cream chain] is {ONE}{ONE}{ONE}{ONE}{ONE} FLAVORS. Thirty-one.
  • 15d [Alfred Hitchcock film whose title refers to an organization of spies] is THE {ONE}{ZERO}{ZERO}{ONE}{ONE}{ONE} STEPS. Thirty-nine.
  • 26d [Film that lost out to “The King’s Speech” for Best Picture] is {ONE}{ONE}{ONE}{ONE}{ONE}{ONE}{ONE} HOURS. 127.

So there you have it.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the Hitchcock title refers to an organization of spies.


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30 Responses to Thursday, September 7, 2023

  1. MarkAbe says:

    NTY was really a “fun” Thursday instead of the usual “tricky” Thursday. I liked it.
    Also – aside to Zachary David Levy – 3,000 years is three millennia, not three centuries.

  2. Mutman says:

    NYT: I really liked this theme as well. Lots of fun techy fill!

    NERTS?!? No one uses that in Philly.

    ZDL — do you mean three *millennia* regarding the tree’s age??

    • Dallas says:

      Super fast fill; record setting Thursday for me. And for once, my time is (slightly) under the time of a reviewer, so it felt lightning fast :-) Didn’t even check many of the crossings. I appreciated both the humor and the tech fill too. Probably could’ve been a Wednesday (and my Wednesday time was close to three times longer this week!).

  3. ZDL says:

    damn millennials

  4. JP says:

    LOVED this capricious puzzle!

  5. RCook says:

    NYT: Does anyone actually say EMEET? It sounds like a dad joke, and not even a good one.

    • Kyle Dolan says:

      It’s been in use for years by people who are introduced to each other via email (“Nice to e-meet you”). I’m hard pressed to think of an example when someone would say it out loud, but considering the intended usage, isn’t that beside the point?

  6. John says:

    NYT: Really fun, although I found it way too easy for a Thursday. Could’ve easily been a Wednesday or even Tuesday.

  7. rtaus says:

    I see a low rating but no review for today’s Universal puzzle. I found it fun and easy. One quibble–isn’t there a rule/convention that all letters connect? This is two separate, adjacent puzzles. I don’t feel the ‘broken bread’ theme is enhanced by that. As a constructor, I have occasionally thought I had a viable grid only to realize I had violated this rule and gone back to the drawing board.

  8. rtaus says:

    I got that but interesting that today’s WSJ uses a very similar technique with the additional constraint of playing card names and still connects all the letters.

  9. Seattle DB says:

    UNI: Can anyone tell me why the clue “Words before dipping?” and the answer is “I’m out”? I’m puzzled as heck. Thx!

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I think “dipping” is used as slang for “leaving” in this clue. has it as the seventh intransitive verb definition for “dip” and identifies it as “US slang”. That said, I don’t recall ever seeing it used this way before now, but my knowledge of “US slang” after about 1990 is pretty limited.

  10. David Roll says:

    wsj–“this is going to be bad” I really dislike this type of clue–I came up with “oh no” but it went no where–I think it is a much better response.

  11. Seattle DB says:

    WSJ: Can someone explain the clue “On the bookshelves” and the answer is “Out”. Did Shenk screw up the clue by not typing “Off the bookshelves”? TY.

  12. Kristin G says:

    Why does BEQ have three 1-star ratings when his puzzle wasn’t published today yet (to my knowledge – I don’t see it)?

    • Karen says:

      I didn’t see it either on his website. So maybe the 1’s are for its absence?

      • Kristin G says:

        I thought the ratings were based on puzzle quality, not feelings generated due to the absence of a puzzle. (Not trying to agitate and perhaps you’re right – it’s just surprising to me.)

        • e.a. says:

          every puzzle got at least three 1-stars (as seems to often be the case here nowadays) so it’s probably not absence-based

          • Evan Birnholz Bot (A.I.-Generated) says:

            Beep boop here to remind you that you should disregard the Crossword Fiend dot com ratings because they mean nothing beep boop

            Beep boop you are not allowed to express a negative opinion on Crossword Fiend dot com it’s just a crossword puzzle why would you get angry at a crossword puzzle beep boop

            • Lol. I’m flattered that you picked me for your AI test, robot, but you got at least one thing wrong. I’ve never said you’re not allowed to express a negative opinion on Crossword Fiend. I’ve posted “negative” opinions about people’s nasty comments here a lot, and if there’s an answer or clue or theme that’s actually grossly offensive in some way, then I can understand being angry about the puzzle.

              But assuming there’s no truly offensive content and the only crime is it wasn’t your favorite puzzle to solve, then yeah, it’s a good idea to just move on with your day. I just think being needlessly, personally malicious about a crossword from the publications written about here — something that a constructor put a lot of work into for others’ enjoyment and generally not much money — is a deeply weird thing to do at best, shamefully cruel at worst.

              But you got the first paragraph about the ratings right, so that’s a start.

            • e.a. says:

              (also i don’t understand why people/bots keep bringing up ‘the right to express negative opinions about a puzzle’ when we’re talking about someone rating *every* puzzle 1 star, even puzzles that don’t actually exist)

            • Josh says:

              [This is actually a reply to the real EB, not the bot.]

              But aren’t we (mostly) paying customers? Doesn’t that give us some justification in complaining? What about objectively shoddy construction (see NATICK et al.)? Or errors? Or, to pick on a puzzle from this week, that has a theme that *not only* depends on an understanding of how base two numbering works, but then also depends on knowing such arcana as PANZEROTTO (vs PANoneTTO) or MAZEROSKI (vs MAoneSKI). Or even that the movie was called 127HOURS vs just about any other number. It seems like sending some (hopefully) constructive criticism out into the interweb ether isn’t wholly unproductive, no? (And yes — I generally address these sorts of complaints directly to the constructor/editor privately, but I don’t really see how it is somehow off-limits or in poor taste to do so on a site like this.)

            • Josh,

              If I thought constructive criticism should be off-limits, then that would be akin to saying Crossword Fiend shouldn’t exist. I don’t believe that and I don’t have a problem with constructive criticism. I have a major problem with being malicious and cruel in one’s criticism of a crossword. The folks who take the time to blog the puzzles here don’t do that, thankfully.

              Being frustrated by a puzzle or not liking it is one thing. There are ways to convey that without being especially mean or nasty.

            • Josh says:

              It sounds like we agree? I guess I must be missing the malicious/mean/nasty stuff? (Or maybe my example criticisms of the Fireball puzzle count as such?) I think of folks who blog about crosswords as essentially the same as movie critics. Sometimes a critic will pan what they think is a bad movie. (Hopefully for good and justifiable reasons.) That seems fine, no?

  13. David says:

    I found the NYT puzzle fun and funny. There were a couple clunkers, like EMEET, which seemed jarring, and GOTYA, which is simply not spelled like that ever, but they were inferable and didn’t take away much from my enjoyment of the jokes. **** from me

  14. Simon says:

    I enjoyed the Fireball puzzle – really hard, but a fun challenge…. except for the fact that Acrosslite wouldn’t accept the correct themers. I tried entering them as numbers (1/0) or letter-string rebuses (ONE/ZERO), and neither worked. Harrumph!

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