Thursday, October 12, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 3:37 (Gareth) 


NYT 13:46 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:42 (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 8:50 (Emily) 


WSJ 5:33 (Jim) 


Note: Fireball is a contest this week. We will have a review after the submission period closes.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Rise Up!”—Jim’s review

Theme answers come in pairs. The main entries are familiar words and phrases, but they only satisfy their clues once you mentally remove the letters CO. Just below these entries are additional theme answers that need that CO to satisfy their clues. Note that these entries are still valid crossword fill even without those letters.The revealer is COUP (57d, [Overthrow, or, if reparsed, a hint to making sense of four pairs of Across answers]), reparsed as CO UP.

all St Journal crossword solution · “Rise Up!” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 10.12.23

  • 17a [Major nuisances] / 20a [Periods of economic growth after a slump]. HEAD COACHES / REVERIES. Headaches / recoveries.
  • 34a [What a teacher may do with a note or a sick student] / 41a [Scout’s work]. SECOND HOME / REN. Send home / recon.
  • 43a [Like rubies and sapphires] / 47a [Puget Sound metropolis]. PRECOCIOUS / TAMA. Precious / Tacoma.
  • 61a [Interpretation of a song] / 66a [Guiding lights]. RECONDITION / BEANS. Rendition / beacons.

Wow! This looks like it was a bear to construct with all those stacked entries needing to be placed just so to get the bottom entries to line up with the CO pairings. And there are some really nice finds here, especially HEAD COACHES -> headaches and SECOND HOME -> send home. And “headaches” / “recoveries” makes for a particularly sublime pairing. Really impressive all the way around, but of course editor Mike Shenk makes it look easy. The solve was smooth and I recorded one of my faster times for a Thursday.

I was wondering if the bottom entries were actually valid fill words when I got to TAMA. But checking the cruciverb database, I see it usually gets the clue [Author Janowitz]. So yeah, definitely valid fill.

With all those thematic constraints, entries like IRAE, UPON A, and OF A PIECE don’t irk so much. Plus there’s good stuff like “TRUTH TO TELL” and LOOSE THREAD.

One clue of note: 2d. [Hoppy Happy Hour choice]. ALE. IPAs are known for their hops, so that seemed like the more logical choice. Not all ales are that hoppy.

Impressive construction. Four stars.

John Nagamichi Cho’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Moderate (13m46s)

John Nagamichi Cho’s New York Times crossword, 10/12/23, 1012

Today’s theme: BLACK OPS (Covert missions … or what’s covert in eight of this puzzle’s answers)


Probably should have jumped straight to the revealer on this one — especially after struggling to get real traction anywhere — because the moment I did, I identified the OPs and chugged along at a good clip.  POPPED A PILL was really hard to suss out, especially crossing ELVERS and ME TOOER (not clued as the #movement, interestingly enough.)  No respite on the other side of the world (somewhere near the intersection of BROOME County and EAST ASIA?), with ARMET and SIGNORS and MARKKA.  I do appreciate when figuring out the theme becomes part of the solving experience, rather than completing the puzzle and looking in the rearview mirror to figure out what the hell is going on (though I am comfortably at home in that condition.)

Cracking: AP GERMAN clued as “H.S. course for College-Kredit”, I had no idea what that K was doing there, Is this a Krusty Krab reference?? my inner monologue asked itself.

Slacking: do you know why asteroids are more filling than comets?  Because they’re a little meteor, hee haw, not to be confused with MEOR which will never not look like a typo.

Sidetracking: going to pick on POPPED A PILL one last time, although it does remind me of a classic mini diatribe —

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

Thank you Robyn for today’s New Yorker puzzle. Let’s see what’s in store today:

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 10/12/2023 – Robyn Weintraub

  • 35A [Breakfast carb for someone who wants it all?] EVERYTHING BAGEL. Nice choice for a central spanner that can take some light wordplay.
  • 29D [Coffee option with less bitter, more delicate flavor] LIGHT ROAST. Could this and 35A have been Robyn’s breakfast when she made this puzzle? I like this entry a lot. It’s so familiar, yet not something I’ve ever seen in a crossword before.
  • 60A [“Reelin’ in the Years” yacht-rock band] STEELY DAN. Knew the song, knew the band, didn’t know the band recorded the song (or that Steely Dan is considered “yacht rock”). Hopefully I can remember this for a future trivia game. We’ve also got the FAB FOUR, RAP GROUP [Wu-Tang Clan or Salt-N-Pepa], BACH, ETHEL Merman, Freddie Mercury in the clue for ROLE, and DUA Lipa rounding out the musical offerings.
  • 37D [Traffic-jam sound, when playing with Matchbox cars] BEEP BEEP. Cute! My two-year-old currently has a fascination with garbage trucks, and associates beeps with the truck backing up. It’s fun to see him play with toy cars by moving them backward very slowly while saying “beep, beep, beep…”.
  • 41A [___ Institute of Chicago (home to Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks”)] ART. One of many iconic pieces in the collection.

Catherine Cetta’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I wasn’t familiar with the revealing answer [Modern innovator, and what can be found in the answers to the starred clues], CHANGEAGENT. From Google, it seems to be some kind of motivation speaker-ese? In any case, the rest of the theme is a pretty well-worn path: four answers have AGENT scrambled – changed – between two of their parts:

  • [*Period of connectivity that began in the 1990s], INTER(NETAG)E
  • [*Place for navel gazers?], OR(ANGET)REE
  • [*”Let me stop you right there”], DONT(GETAN)YIDEAS
  • [*Power source for some superheroes?], MUT(ANTGE)NE. IRL, this usually just makes a non-functional protein…

The rest of the puzzle played again for me very easy, with not too many splashy answers outside of the theme. As is often the case, cramming a central fifteen letter answer forced a more utilitarian approach to grid filling. [Lines of communication?], DIALOGUE was a surprise spelling, as I assumed Americans eschewed extraneous silent “ue”s. If you aren’t a crossword veteran, you may not have known [Desertlike], SERE; it’s virtually extinct, but was dusted off for this puzzle.


Bruce Haight’s USA Today Crossword, “Fairy-Tale Endings” — Emily’s write-up

It’s spooky season and today’s theme put me in the right mindset, though I’m not sure it meant to!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday October 12, 2023

USA Today, October 12 2023, “Fairy-Tale Endings” by Bruce Haight

Theme: the last word of each themer (aka the ending) is a word that when combined with the set creates the name of a fairytale character


  • 16a. [“C’mon, don’t be uptight!”], LIVEALITTLE
  • 31a. [Really angry], SEEINGRED
  • 47a. [Driving recklessly for thrills], JOYRIDING
  • 62a. [Reveals a car’s engine compartment], POPSTHEHOOD

I hope you got to LIVEALITTLE today, and if not then can this weekend, and not SEEINGRED instead. My mom totally missused JOYRIDING if this is the genuine definition–hers was driving around aimlessly for no reason other than to drive, which she highly discouraged as a teen activity. It’s been a while since I heard POPSTHEHOOD and usually it’s when maintenance is needed. With the theme, from the set we get LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD and all I can think of this time of year is the 1966 hit that’s still played every Halloween.

Favorite fill: RELOCATE, AMIGA, MOORE, and AMIE

Stumpers: IPASS (“folds” was my first instinct), YEAHOK (needed a few crossings), and DUSTS (only “wipes” came to mind)

Check out all of the lengthy bonus fill too! Fun puzzle that was just right for today.

4.5 stars


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27 Responses to Thursday, October 12, 2023

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: Thought this was a clever theme.

    But ARMET/BROOME and MARKKA/TARTT? OYS! ( groans equivalent to eyerolls)!

    Sorry – one star.

    • Dallas says:

      Clever theme; CHROMOSOMES got the down for me (though I thought at first they were all blacked “O”’s until the revealer…) but then I wondered what were the 8 answers, instead of the 4 I had… till I got RAGTOP.

      I had RPM for a long time until I had to change it to RPS to get LASTTOLEAVE to go in… and a lot of proper names crossing other proper names. Not my favorite Thursday, though I really liked the theme.

    • Lois says:

      NYT: Gary R. has said that he gave this puzzle one star despite a clever theme, and others imply the same thing. What would Gary and others do with a puzzle in which the fill is poor and the theme is ordinary or worse? That puzzle can get one star, which is the lowest rating. The rating of one star should not be resorted to just to express ordinary annoyance. Though there were numerous problems with the fill in this case, a lot of it was pretty interesting, too. The theme was much admired in these comments. The rating of below two stars is just too low, going by what people said here.

      • Josh says:

        A theme — no matter how “good” (and this one was just MEH) never (NEVER) can make up for bad fill. A puzzle should stand alone on its fill, period. If a good puzzle also happens to have a clever theme — fine. If a good puzzle has an amazing theme — okay. But it has to be a good puzzle first and foremost. A bad puzzle with a crappy theme is something that should never see the light of day — so maybe a zero or -1 rating? I seriously don’t understand themed puzzles — the themes are almost always somewhere between meh and okayish, and they almost always require sacrifices in terms of fill quality. Just do themelesses unless you’ve got some kind of just mind-blowingly awesome theme. My 2¢.

  2. Justin says:

    The NYT today was really something… ASHIP, METOOER, IMAS, MEOR, and even more. Plus I was wondering why famous racist John Wayne was clued, it was for MCQ!? Seriously?

  3. David L says:

    DNF for me on the NYT. I had JOCKS for JACKS — they lift heavy weights before going to bed, right? – so couldn’t make sense of the FO_/MC_ crossing. MCQ rings a bell faintly but it’s not something that leapt to my mind.

    And lots of terrible stuff besides that. METOOER? ARMET? SWEETSOP? C’mon.

    In the clue for APGERMAN, Kredit is indeed German for credit, but whether it’s used in the sense of college credit I doubt very much.

    All in all, a nice idea for a puzzle that should have been sent back to the workshop.

    • Me says:

      I also had a lot of trouble with JACKS/JOCKS/FAQ/MCQ, especially because I had never heard of MCQ.

      I really liked the theme, but I feel like there was too much compromise that had to be made with the fill in order to make it work. In addition to MCQ, I wasn’t familiar with SWEETSOP (which was particularly problematic since it was a theme answer), ARMET, ELVERS, BROOME, or BLAS. And there are a lot of obscure things I knew but many would not, such as LEROUX.

      And then there’s the stuff like ASHIP, METOOER, MEOR, IMAS. Now I understand why too many partials is not good. And the clue for SIGNORS was not great. Great idea for a theme, but a lot of compromise here.

  4. Mutman says:

    NYT: cute theme but the fill, to repeat OY!

    Aside from everything mentioned, let’s not forget the double ASS entries, and AS being both in the clue and entry at 31A.

    • Alan D. says:

      The AS thing got me too. “It couldn’t possibly be IM AS with that repeat, right?” But it was.

    • mkmf says:

      NYT: Regarding the two ASS entries, perhaps they may be thought of as a nudge to discovering the theme for those who were floundering to discover the OPs theme?
      As in: “Wait a minute: there are two identical answers. That’s weird. Will S. wouldn’t allow that, would he?!…Oh, maybe he didn’t. AHA!”

  5. John says:

    NYT: BROOME crossing ARMET was just absurd. Ruined the whole thing honestly

  6. Art Shapiro says:

    Am I the only one here who vaguely recalled ARMET?

    However, I agree with the other comments. Fantastic theme burdened by absurd obscurities. I’m waffling on how low to rate it.

    • MattF says:

      Mixed feelings about the NYT. Got the OPS trick. Doris Day and John Wayne signaled a retro vibe, so ELVERS, ARMET, and MARKKA were OK, firing neural associations that had been asleep for a long time. But the two ASSes combined with SSA crossed the line for me. Not good.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      ARMET is one of those words that resides only in the highly sequestered puzzle-solving section of my brain. It’s always been a mystery to me why some of these words stick and others don’t.

    • Dr. Fancypants says:

      The theme was a good one, and really deserved to have a better grid behind it. It seems in large part an editing failure—isn’t it the job of the editor to say “you’ve got a great idea here, but you need to clean up the junk like MARKKA and the double-ASS”?

  7. Jim says:

    NYT: Hated it – but different strokes for different folks, right?

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    TNY … I’ve said it before and will probably say it again, but I sure do love me some RW puzzle constructing. I found this puzzle to be so smooth, clever and fun. On another day, I probably would have posted a faster solve time, but I’m not at all mad that this one lingered longer than it probably should have.

    Just a few of my favorite parts …
    • Music! … It’s pretty common in Robyn’s puzzles, but there’s such an incredible and delightful range of music here! … a Beatles reference (FAB FOUR) *and* STEELY DAN (though “yacht-rock” is a new one on me) *and* a Freddie Mercury reference *and* BACH … plus the others that Kyle mentions in his review … heck, even DIRE brings to mind another one of my favorite rock bands (Dire Straits, in case I need to spell it out)
    • Raciness! … FOREPLAY and THONG
    • an EVERYTHING BAGEL … I sure miss living somewhere where I can get a fresh one of these in a deli … believe it or not there are no real delis in the mostly food wasteland that is Stark County, Ohio

    [chef’s kiss]

  9. Francine Kopit says:

    I have been doing the NYT puzzle for 65 years, (remember Eugene Maleska?) This was one of the worst. If rated on difficulty, (5 *’s). If rated on likability or ease of transition, (1*).
    Sorry, really did not like this puzzle. Hopefully, Friday will be more hospitable.

    • e.a. says:

      Francine, as someone who’s been doing the puzzle for so many years, have there been any notable shifts/trends in your average ratings over time? (for example, were the Maleska puzzles harder? i tried a book of them once and found there were crossings i couldn’t deduce in almost every puzzle)

      btw, i enjoyed this puzzle – not seamless, but a very cool theme mechanism

      • sanfranman59 says:

        I’ve been working my way back through the Maleska-era puzzles since about the beginning of this year. I’ve made it back to the beginning of 1986 at this point and, as I expected, the puzzles are getting more difficult to complete without help the further back I go. It’s been an interesting and (mostly) fun experience, but boy am I glad that Will came along and dispensed with a good deal of the ridiculous crosswordese, obscurities, random abbreviations and insane Shakespearean, Biblical, scientific, operatic, poetic, geographic, etc etc etc references (plus crossing these types of answers two, three or even four different ways). I’m confident that I’d have ever come to love this pastime as much as I do if Will hadn’t come on the scene.

  10. DougC says:

    NYT: a perfectly serviceable Thursday theme, thank you very much. I do agree, however, that the fill reminded me of the Maleska era; kind of a deep dive into the trivia pool. When you get into low-rated half-century-old B-movies, or late-medieval armor terminology, you’ve gotta know you’re in murky waters. Liked the theme just fine; the fill, not so much.

  11. Philip says:

    NYT: I would have had no idea about ELVERS, except they were in the news a lot here in Nova Scotia a few months ago. Interesting how things can quickly go from obscure to mainstream.

  12. Stephie says:

    I loved all the puzzles today.

  13. Bill Harris says:

    Lowest rated puzzle in Fiend history. Deservedly so IMO.
    Any other opinions are obvious outliers.

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