Thursday, September 14, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 6:41 (Gareth) 


NYT 13:50 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker tk (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 10:42 (Emily) 


WSJ 8:20 (Jim) 


Fireball tk (Jenni) 


Prasanna Keshava’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Twist of Fate”—Jim’s review

Our theme consists of four groupings of circled letters all of which spell out LUCK, but in a slightly different formation. The two-part revealer is WHEEL OF / FORTUNE (32a, [With 37-Across, card in a tarot deck, and a hint to each circled letter set]). The intent is to visualize the letters LUCK within a spinning wheel (as opposed to a group of squares).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Twist of Fate” · Prasanna Keshava · Thu., 9.14.23

I like the concept and (most of) the grid design! The left-right symmetry seems appropriate, given the theme. Now, if we could’ve had radial symmetry, that would’ve been really appropriate.

What I found challenging with the grid design was the two northern corners being so segmented off. And with the stacked theme words causing more than the usual amount of abbreviations and crosswordese in the fill, I found that NW corner especially challenging.

Thankfully, once I realized that the circled letters in each grouping were the same four just in different positions, I was able to get myself unstuck.

Topping the fill are those two marquee entries: KITE SURF and TOP SHELF. Down at the bottom is the fun “BEER ME,” and I also liked REDUX and TROPE. As I said, there was a lot of crosswordese to get through like BUCO, ENTRE, NENEH, ECKO, TGI, DAK, but it was all gettable in the end, and the cluing seemed fair.

Clues of note: 19a. [Hard rock instrument?]. PICKAXE. Ha! Fun clue. See also [Plant putting out records] for ROBERT and [Pod rich in caffeine] for K-CUP. Tricky stuff!

It’s nice to have something a little bit different. 3.5 stars.

Vasu Seralathan’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Average (13m50s)

Vasu Seralathan’s New York Times crossword, 9/14/23, 0914

Today’s theme: SOLVE FOR X (Common directive in 17-Across … or what to do with five squares in this puzzle)

  • AIR X (kiss)
  • X PAN (times)
  • RENT X (strike)
  • LAXE (cross)
  • ANXNA (ten)

I never really excelled in MATH CLASS, and Elongated Muskrat has soured me on the letter X lately, but I enjoyed this puzzle.  It was a rebus without being a rebus, which makes the grid look cleaner to my eye.. at the very least, it will sit well with newer solvers who (like myself, once upon a time) respond to the existence of rebus squares with abject incredulity.  No such problem here, though — to quote Paul Simon, the cross is in the ballpark!

Cracking: DEAD SEA, in which I floated once, every minor abrasion feeling like a fire ant jamboree.

Slacking: IIII, not technically incorrect, but as far as fill goes, woof.

Sidetracking: every time REN calls Stimpy an eediot, because I am an aesthete par excellence.

Bill Pipal & Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Bill Pipal & Jeff Chen give us a well-executed “clue/answer reversal” puzzle. Why? Beaut of a revealer: THATSMYJAM; also, all the definitions are real answers, not contrived / awkwardly phrased chunks. We have: GRAPEJELLY (Jelly and jam are different here, with jelly typically being runnier, and the fruits differing); RUSHHOURTRAFFIC; SLAMDUNK; and ADILLYOFAPICKLE, which I’ve not heard of, but it’s in dictionaries as old timey. Cat’s pyjamas!


  • [Texter’s “My bad”], SRY. I prefer “soz”.
  • [Laundry room convenience], UTILITYSINK. What makes it “utility”?
  • [X-ray __: gadget advertised in classic comic books], SPEX. How were those adverts legal?
  • [City with the world’s largest naval complex], NORFOLK. I think it shows up a lot in NCIS?
  • [Genre that’s an element of Kawaii metal], JPOP. Kawaii is a sort of “cute” aesthetic in Japanese culture.


Kate Hawkins & Taylor Johnson’s USA Today Crossword, “Keep It PG” — Emily’s write-up

Hope your hungry for a tasty puzzle today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday September 14, 2023

USA Today, September 14, 2023, “Keep It PG” by Kate Hawkins & Taylor Johnson

Theme: each themer has P—G—


  • 20a. [Starchy Italian dumpling dish], POTATOGNOCCHI
  • 34a. [What beer is often served in], PINTGLASS
  • 51a. [Item often next to a saltshaker], PEPPERGRINDER

What a delish themer set! In addition to its theme, they also form a well-seasoned meal that comes with a drink. This is the first time that I’ve encountered POTATOGNOCCHI, PINTGLASS, and PEPPERGRINDER in a crossword and it’s delightful that they are today’s set.


Stumpers: NONEVENTS (cluing new to me), UNSPENT (needed crossings), and BALM (first thought of “aloe”)

Acrosses gave me more of a challenge, leading to a longer solve for me, though the downs were smoother to me and helped with crossings to break into more of the puzzle. Cluing was excellent, even if a bit tougher for me in some cases today. A fantastic and enjoyable puzzle overall. Nice collab!

4.0 stars


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13 Responses to Thursday, September 14, 2023

  1. Mutman says:

    NYT: I always like a math theme, and this was was pretty good.

    Not sure why ZDL feels IIII is not technically correct. In fact is *is* technically correct for a clock, as my family had one in the 70s. I never understood why they constructed them that way. I mean, there was an IX on the clock, not a VIIII?!?!

    • ZDL says:

      “not technically incorrect”

    • RCook says:

      We don’t know for certain why IIII was ever used instead of IV, but it does make casting the numerals easier. With IIII, you need 20 I’s, 4 V’s, and 4 X’s. With IV, you need 17 I’s, 5 V’s, and 4 X’s. Casters normally wouldn’t have a single mold with 17 I’s, so it required extra casting work.

      There’s a Mental Floss article that claims ancient Romans didn’t have subtractive notation in their numerals (hence IIII instead of IV), but that’s simply wrong. It wasn’t always known, but they did use it.

    • Dallas says:

      I liked the theme, and felt like a really good level for a Thursday. In fact, as I was getting near the bottom, I was starting to wonder if it was a rare Thursday themeless, until the revealer talked about “five squares”, so I figured it must be a rebus and put in TEN for AN-TEN-NA, but then I realized it was SOLVE FOR X, which I liked much better. LA-CROSS-E I got from the crossings, but I got snagged since I had BASSOON not BASS SAX, even though I was pretty sure it had to be RENT-STRIKE. Anyway, all worked out in the end. And I’m glad it wasn’t a rebus after all ;-)

      • Eric H says:

        It’s sort of a “rebus in your head” idea.

        It does spare you of figuring out how to enter TEN, STRIKE, etc.

        I liked it a lot.

  2. Bill Sulliva says:

    IIII is brutal

  3. Dan says:

    LAT: Was less than enthused by the theme, since the phrases “a dilly of a pickle” and “That’s my jam” are both entirely unfamiliar to me.

  4. dh says:

    I thought “IIII” was perfectly fine – it referred to its use on Roman-numeral clocks, not general acceptability. Either is OK, but the clock reference is very common.

    I really enjoyed the WSJ puzzle; I had many “aha” moments and chuckles with the refreshing clues. Plant, hard rock, booklet – all fun.

    Small nit with 62-A; I studied furniture design as an undergraduate, and computer art as a graduate – and my thesis dealt with a hotly debated issue at the time, which was the distinction between “training” and “education”. It is ingrained in me that these are two different concepts.

  5. MaryS says:

    NYT: I was bothered by “strike” in the clue for 5A (Motion to strike?) given that the X in the answer for 35A stood for “STRIKE”.

  6. pannonica says:

    WSJ: Didn’t care for the clue for HIP, [Femur’s upper end]. That would be HEAD, or perhaps TROCHANTER.

  7. Lois says:

    NYT: You might all read Wordplay, but, if not, here’s a quote from the constructor, Vasu Seralathan, that adds a layer to the solution. I certainly didn’t catch it when I solved! Fun puzzle. “If you look closely, you’ll see that you can draw a giant X through the five squares that contain an X. Incorporating this final touch, as well those five theme answers, was quite a challenge.”

  8. Dan says:

    I confess that I was taken aback by the association between the owner of a pocket protector and the word DWEEB. There is more than enough shade thrown at certain students who try to do well in school; we don’t need any additional piling on.

Comments are closed.