Thursday, October 26, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 5:31 (Gareth) 


NYT 12:18 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:35 (norah) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 9:10(Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Billy Ouska’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Uptown”—Jim’s review

Theme answers come in Across pairs. The upper entry hides a four-letter world city and the lower entry hides the letters HILL. The revealer is A CITY ON A HILL (49a, [Metaphor for America’s standing as a beacon of hope, and what can literally be found four times in this puzzle]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Uptown” · Billy Ouska · Thu., 10.26.23

  • ADEN is hidden in TRADE NAME atop ACHILLES HEEL.
  • AGRA is hidden in AGRARIAN atop CHILL.
  • KYIV is hidden in ROCKY IV atop the revealer’s HILL. This one was unexpected; I liked it a lot.
  • NICE is hidden in ON ICE atop SHILL.

Nice theme! I got to the revealer without any inkling that there was a theme. For a moment I entertained the thought that we had a themeless puzzle here—and a nice one at that. But the revealer clued me in and really helped me with that SW corner where I was stuck. I like the world cities approach.

The stacked theme answers make for a lot of constraints, but there’s still plenty of nice fill like DINOTOPIA, GO NAKED, and SINKHOLE. Did not know composer PURCELL nor architect ELIEL Saarinen. I thought I was going crazy when I couldn’t fit EERO in that slot. ELIEL was Eero’s dad.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [Nike, Mercury or Pandora, e.g.]. TRADE NAME. This clue followed by ACHILLES HEEL made me think we had a theme about Greek myths.
  • 34a. [Black Worcester or Stinking Bishop, e.g.]. PEAR. Has anyone checked on the PEAR industry lately? What are they up to over there?
  • 43d. [“You should not call in ___ to settle the argument of two birds” (Indian proverb)]. A CAT. Fun way to clue a partial.

Very nice puzzle. Four stars.

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

Difficulty: Average (12m18s)

John Donegan’s New York Times crossword, 10/26/23, 1026

Today’s theme: (numbers) (words)

  • BIRD BIRD STONE (two birds with one stone)
  • PLACE PLACE AT (two places at once)
  • BITTEN SHY SHY (once bitten twice shy)
  • MAN MAN MAN BABY (three men and a baby)

Of course, when I actually start a puzzle by hunting for a revealer, I don’t find one, so perhaps it’s better to save that strategy for when the team is up against it, and the breaks are beating the boys (to quote Knute Rockne.)  Otherwise this played like a pretty standard Thursday, although it skewed early Gen X with Three Men and a Baby (1987) and Once Bitten, Twice Shy (1975) (yes, I’m aware the latter is an idiom unto itself.)  Some fading 40-something who found HANS Gruber menacing. and had a TONKA truck growing up, and rolls their eyes when people use the word DEETS.

Cracking: NEW MATH, and we’re not talking about Common Core either.

Slacking: EBONDs, now defunct, formally “Series E Bonds”, dry as sawdust, and unrelated to e-tail and e-commerce and e-mail and E! online..

SidetrackingBE STILL, commands Brother Justin, Clancy Brown’s best role outside of Mr. Krabs, and one of TV’s most underrated villains:

The New Yorker by Robyn Weintraub, norah’s review, 2:35

THEME: none!

Favorite entries:



  • ⭐IMUSTBEDREAMING 33A [“No way this is actually happening!”]
  • NEWCARSMELL 9D [Fresh Outback air?]
  • NORM 9A [Good name for an average guy?]
  • MOOS 31A [Cattle calls?]
  • MOLDY 41A [Like white bread that’s green]
  • SLIMY 44A [“Okra Is So Much More Than Its ___ Reputation” (Los Angeles Times headline)]  (I truly enjoy that we have MOLDY and SLIMY in the puzzle, and almost back to back.)


Holy moly what a blazing fast solve. :)  Classically Weintraubian – super clean, no junk whatsoever, every clue on point. A little less spoken-phrase stuff than we’re used to but instead we’re treated to long in-the-language entries like MONSTERMASH, BLUSHWINES, NEWCARSMELL, ONEOFAKIND, GUIDEDTOUR, ACCESSCODE, and  POLICETAPE. Just perfect.

Did you know: Robyn recently appeared on In The Studio from BBC, in which a reporter followed her construction process over three days. Fascinating stuff; listen here.

This is one of those grid skeletons that’s great for borrowing for themeless construction (note to self!).

Thanks Robyn and the New Yorker team!



Chandi Deitmer’s USA Today Crossword, “Loose Lips” — Emily’s write-up

Make sure you’ve eaten or grab a snack before you solve this tasty puzzle today, filled with delectables!

ALCompleted USA Today crossword for Thursday October 26, 2023T

USA Today, October 26 2023, “Loose Lips” by Chandi Deitmer

Theme: each themer contains LI—PS (parted or “loose” lips)


  • 20a. [Eagerly anticipate a meal], LICKYOURCHOPS
  • 38a. [They’re emptied before using dryers], LINTTRAPS
  • 59a. [Anise-flavored candies], LICORICEDROPS

Did this puzzle make you LICKYOURCHOPS? I certainly did for me. Okay, well maybe other than LINTTRAPS but the themer set finishes on a sweet note with LICORICEDROPS, which I initially thought of “black licorice” or “salted black licorice” until the theme clicked in.

Favorite fill: RELLENO, MEEPLES, and TORO

Stumpers: GRR (cluing threw me for a loop for a while), MEEPLES (took me a few crossings but I got there!), and ROSA (new to me)

This puzzle is putting me in the mood for dinner then a snack filled movie and game night! So much fun, fresh fill and cleaver cluing, plus a fantastic grid. Though it took me a bit longer, it certainly didn’t feel like it during the solve and everything was fair for crossings.

4.5 stars


Emily Biegas & Sala Wanetick’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Emily Biegas & Sala Wanetick’s theme today is so neat, it’s all wrapped up in a bow. YOUTHGROUP is the revealer, and we get three GROUPS with kinds of youth in their name: SPICEGIRLS, COLDWARKIDS & PETSHOPBOYS. My initial thought was the final answer had to be MUSICALYOUTH, but that’s two letters too long, so the girl group would have had to be the knock-off CHEETAHGIRLS. As it is, the COLDWARKIDS are an order or two of magnitude less well-known than the other two, with no Billboard Hot 100 singles to their name.

My favourite answer by a good way was [Gesture of approval], CHEFSKISS. It’s long down part was ONESPLACE, which if nothing else, is a creative answer.

Other tricky spots:

  • [“Our treat!”, ONUS]; which is also a regular word…
  • [Avocado app], GUAC. Well guacamole is made with avocado, so it’s inferrable; it seems to be a saving app of some sort?
  • [Absorb, as a spill], SOPUP; wanted MOP…


Alex Eaton-Salners’s Fireball Crossword, “Leading Averages” – Jenni’s write-up

Sneaking this in just under the wire…sorry. This one was tough in a very satisfying way. I don’t remember seeing a theme like this before.

Each theme answer starts with two rebus squares. To get the right answer you have to average them. Here’s Peter’s grid, which is clearer than mine:

Fireball, October 25, 2023, Alex Eaton-Salners, “Leading Averages,” solution grid

  • 17a [They might be left with sour grapes] is {III}{IX}NEYARDS. The average of III and IX is VI which gives us VINEYARDS. III comes from W{II I}TIS clued as [Video gamer’s malady] and IV from [Ed’s TV wife], TR{IX}IE. The Nortons, neighbors to the Kramdens on “The Honeymooners.”
  • 37a [Big name in private security] is {WHITE}{RED}ERTON. The average of WHITE and RED is PINK, so that’s PINKERTON. We have HEPPLE{WHITE} and {RED}ID.
  • 60a [Place for a wreath-laying ceremony] is {COLD}{HOT}MEMORIAL. COLD and HOT average out to WARM, so that’s WAR MEMORIALS{COLD}ED and IM{HOT}EP are the crossings.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that IMHOTEP is the Mummy in the original “The Mummy” movie.

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34 Responses to Thursday, October 26, 2023

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: a cute and elegantly simple theme.

    I was a bit surprised that, although the first two theme entries were familiar sayings, the last two were instead the names of entertainments. This found me trying to put BURNED where BITTEN should go.

    But I just looked up that phrase intended for this puzzle, and several dictionaries list it as a phrase with meaning identical to the phrase with BURNED. I never heard that phrase with BITTEN until a song had come out with that title, so I”m a bit confused.

    The last theme entry was definitely a show and not a familiar phrase. So the theme ended up feeling unbalanced or asymmetrical to me.

    • Eric H says:

      Maybe it’s a regional thing or a generational divide, but I have *never* heard “Once burned, twice shy.” It’s always been “BITTEN.” (I’m in my 60s.)

      I agree that MAN MAN MAN BABY seems out of place by being a common phrase like the others.

      I’m trying not to be too annoyed that this theme is one I have had floating around for a while. I had a completely different but incomplete set of them answers. C’est la vie.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Ditto re BITTEN vs BURNED. I’m 64 … born and raised in Ohio but spent all of my adulthood (until three years ago) in New England, the DC-area and San Francisco.

        FWIW, BITTEN sure gets a lot more Google hits when you search for the exact phrase than BURNED (most of the results I got are for a song by one of the members of Abba). Google’s Ngram Viewer agrees.

    • Mutman says:

      I really liked the theme today. Had to correct MOOMOO to MOOCOW, which my (grown) girls never said.

      We could have really ‘Boomered’ 39A by cluing it as an Ian hunter hit of the 80s!

      • JohnH says:

        I wonder if MOOCOW is local usage. While I never heard it in life, it’s in the opening to Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist, with the hero’s father telling the child a story. (Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, there was a moocow coming down along the road, and the moocow coming down along the road met a nicen little boy named Baby Tookoo.)

        In the NYT, the clue for SCENE in 1A puzzled me. Must admit those two films never registered with me. There were lots better to think about then. Helped that one is a legit expression. But a nice theme.

  2. AlexK says:

    SW corner: I was thinking ‘sand’ as something you might regret hitting (since NYT never shies away from golf clues) and ‘pat’ as stroke… took me a full 30s to figure out why the puzzle wasn’t completing. A breezy finish but for that intersection!

  3. Ethan says:

    Nice NYT. Not a standout but a solid puzzle. I disliked crossing of 59D and 61A though. “Stroke” for the down works for both PET and PAT. And I had SAND for “Something one may regret hitting” (as in golf, you don’t want to hit the sand. ) eventually found and fixed to PET/SEND

  4. David L says:

    I was amused by the clue for OAR — “Boating noun and verb” — because the only place I’ve ever seen OAR as a verb is in crosswords. Outside of crosswords, people row or scull.

  5. James says:

    Maybe a nit but the way BIRDBIRDSTONE was clued annoyed me. Killing two birds with one stone means achieving two goals by doing one thing, not doing multiple things at once.

  6. Siberian Khatru says:

    Maybe I’m being too literal, but shouldn’t 54A be “MENMENMENBABY”?

    • marciem says:

      That bothered me also, but nobody else (until you) mentioned it so I thought I was seeing it wrongly. I’m here to say I agree with you :) .

    • Ethan says:

      I don’t think so. In 20A, BIRD is used, whereas ‘birds’ is the word in the original phrase. BIRD:BIRDS :: MAN:MEN, so the same format is used in 54A as in 20A.

    • MattF says:

      That seems to me to be at least six men.

  7. Seth Cohen says:

    NYT: For the longest time I thought the INSANE clue was super weird (“Off the hook, so to speak”). I thought it referred to a trial, like how you can be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Like, you’re “off the hook” as in “absolved of responsibility.” I came here to ask for an explanation, because that explanation didn’t make any sense. And as I started writing, I realized that “off the hook” is the slang phrase for “crazy.”

    • Papa John says:

      I like your version of “off the hook” as not guilty. I can’t say I’ve ever heard it as being crazy. In that case, what “hook”is one off of?

      • Martin says:

        “Off the hook” is short for “off the hook crazy.” “Off the hook” here means “excessively” or “unbearably.”

        The origin of the metaphor is a telephone endlessly ringing. We say it’s “ringing off the hook,” meaning with such annoying energy that we imagine the handset vibrating out of the cradle.

        “Off the hook” means extreme. Guy Fieri uses it all the time.

  8. Eric H says:

    WSJ: I missed the NICE on top of HILL in the SW corner, so I originally thought the puzzle was a bit thin in terms of theme content.

    YIkES for YIPES had me wondering what DINOTOkIA was. Duh. And I can sort of picture the illustrations in that book.

    Solid puzzle.

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