Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Jonesin' 5:47 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni)  


NYT 3:30 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 6:01 (Matt F) 


USA Today tk (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed(Ade) 


WSJ 5:07 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “A Mild-Mannered Introduction” — sounds like I’ve heard this before. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 10/31/23

Jonesin’ solution 10/31/23

Hello lovelies! This week’s Jonesin’ theme focuses on silent initial letters:

  • 20a. [Silent K?] KNOW ENTRANCE. The silent K is the entrance, or beginning, of KNOW, and the base phrase is NO ENTRANCE.
  • 37a. [Silent W?] WRITE AT THE START. WRITE starts with a slient W, base phrase RIGHT AT THE START.
  • 51a. [Silent G?] GNU BEGINNING. GNU begins with G, base phrase NEW BEGINNING.


Gritty with the Nay Yard sea monster. The text reads "I came to smash fascists and awaken chaos gods and I'm all out of chaos gods"

Gritty with the Navy Yard sea monster. from https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/gritty-memes/

Other things:

  • 19a. [“For real”] NO CAP. “Cap,” meaning “lie” in AAVE slang, dates back to the early 1900s. So NO CAP means “no lie” or “no exaggeration.”
  • 28a. [More abrasive] GRITTIER. Just using this as an excuse to share Gritty, one of the best mascots of all time. This meme places him at the site of the Navy Yard sea monster from 2018, which was amazing…I was fortunate enough to visit it with my children while it existed.
  • 33a. [Fictional (or is she?) conductor Lydia] TAR.  Cate Blanchette starred in the 2022 film Tár, which caused much debate on whether the title character exists in real life.

Until next week!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Free Spirits”—Jim’s review

GHOSTs have invaded today’s grid, and they’re GOING / THROUGH / WALLS (i.e. black squares) (37a, [With 39- and 42-Across, activity of the spirits in this puzzle]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Free Spirits” · Mike Shenk · Tue., 10.31.23

  • Row 3: GUNG-HO / STRADDLE.
  • Row 5: TROUGH / OSTRICH.
  • Row 11: VAN GOGH / OSTEAL.
  • Row 13: RATTLING / HOSTEL.

Enjoyable Halloween puzzle. “GOING” isn’t usually the verb we use when talking about passing through walls (for some reason “walking through walls” sounds more idiomatic, even though I wouldn’t expect ghosts to walk). But it fits in the grid and contributes to the added revealer GHOST at 37d.

There’s a lot of theme material here, ergo a lot of constraints on the fill. So we see things like ITALS, ILIE, EDO, and NEW TV. But it’s all clued very gettably. I enjoyed the Halloweenish tilt to many clues and entries such as for SUMMON, MOAN, and PASS ON.

Clue of note: 1d. [Nickname of basketball’s Oscar Robertson]. BIG O. I’m more inclined to know BIG O Tires of which there are about 450 locations throughout the states (albeit in only 23 states).

Happy Halloween! 3.5 stars.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 649), “Hey Diddle, Diddle — A Halloween Riddle!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 649: “Hey Diddle, Diddle — A Halloween Riddle!”

Good day, everybody! Here is hoping you all have your Halloween costumes picked out and ready to go for today! Or, if you already played dress up this past weekend, hope that you all had fun in doing so.

We have a Halloween riddle as the theme of this puzzle, focusing on the funny lady who stepped away from the bubbling cauldron to slay with a few jokes on stage before concocting some spells!


Can’t have a Halloween puzzle without a reference or two to Fright Night outside of the theme, so the clue to HAUNTS was great (45A: [Regular hangouts for ghosts?]). Then there’s the clue to MASH, allowing all of us to answer the pressing question this time of year: Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist? (47D: [“Monster ___” (tater lover’s favorite Halloween hit)])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LAW (1D: [Order partner]) – The World Series is still going strong, so might as well talk about a former Fall Classic hero. Vern Law was the ace of the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that defeated the New York Yankees in seven games in the World Series after Bill Mazeroski hit the famous walk-off home run to end Game 7. Law, who won the 1960 Cy Young Award (back when only one Cy Young Award was given out, as opposed to one in each league), won Games 1 and 4 for the Pirates, and was the starting pitcher in Game 7 for the Bucs. Vernon’s son, Vance, also played in the Majors as a third baseman in the 1980s.

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Kathy Lowden & Erik Piepenburg’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 10/31/23 – no. 1031

I’m not a big fan of horror movies, so there are a couple theme entries I’d never heard of in this Halloween crossword. The movies are all clued straightforwardly: HALLOWEEN, HE’S OUT THERE (slasher pic? hard pass), SCREAM, GET OUT, DON’T LOOK NOW (my mom accidentally took me to watch this at the art cinema when I was way too young to see Donald Sutherland naked), and YOU’RE NEXT (“dark-comedy slasher film”? now, I might get on board with that). If you want actual horror movie recommendations, apparently today’s debut (co-)constructor (Erik Piepenburg) writes those in the NYT.

I didn’t see any sort of revealer (might’ve missed it), so the theme looks to be “here are horror movies.” Three recent-ish movies, two franchises, and one oldie, a mixed bag.

Fave fill: EAST HARLEM. Its opposite partner in the grid is a musical term I don’t think I’ve seen before, MINOR THIRD or [Musical interval used to convey sadness].

Surprised to find in a Tuesday grid: ELOI, ASANA, AMAH, German ACHT, OOCYTE, V-TEN with a spelled-out number.

Three stars from me. Happy Halloween!

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 10/31/23 • Tue • Agard • solution • 20231031

Definitely, I’d call this ‘moderately challenging’. Enjoyable outing.

  • 1a [Big-headed hunters] OWLS. Mostly it’s the fluffiness of the feathers. And of course the eyes.
  • 16a [Pepper grinder?] MOLAR. Almost Stumpery in its stretch.
  • 18a [Sporting group sporting leaves] TEAM CANADA. Wasn’t really expecting that.
  • 29a [Activist who co-founded the organization Black Trans Liberation] QWEEN JEAN. Crossed by another unusual QW– entry at 29-down: [Number neighbors?] QWERTYUIOP, the top row of letters on a QWERTY keyboard.
  • 33a [Surname anglicized from Ua Laoghaire] O’LEARY. Makes sense.
  • 44a [Carpet-cleaning company’s vehicle] VAN. 5d [Food-processor part] MOTOR. Specific choices of examples like those in these clues help give the crossword a sense of character.
  • 60a [French cosmetics brand] NARS. Surprised this one doesn’t come up more in crosswords, as it’s a handy sequence of letters. Okay, not too surprised—it’s a less-established (in crossworld) cosmetics company.
  • 8d [“I personally can’t imagine acting like that, but I guess we’re all different”] SOME PEOPLE. Rather diplomatic.
  • 13d [Slayer hater?] DRAGON. This is a pun on player hater.
  • 19d [Disney-reboot title character whose mother is pushed off a cliff by a pack of Dalmatians] CRUELLAWhaaat? Is this humanizing retconned backstory?
  • 50d [Resound] ECHO.

David Steinberg’s Universal Crossword – “Haunted” – Matt F’s Review

Universal Solution 10.31.2023

Happy Halloween everyone! We are treated today with a puzzle straight from the editor, Mr. Steinberg himself! Let’s dig in to see what kind of tricks David has in store for us.

Theme Synopsis:

I had to sit with this one for a minute post-solve to figure out the theme. It’s a tricky one, and you have to look in just the right place to see it. The hint we’re given comes at the very bottom of the grid:

  • 69A – [Source of this puzzle’s starred, haunted clues] = GHOST

In true ghost fashion, this entry comes into the grid without any support from the crossings. The 5 down entries above it – 53-57D – are clued as 3-letter words: AGO, RUT, NAT, EVE, and TAR. The “ghost” turns them into valid 4-letter words: AGOG, RUTH, NATO, EVES, and TART. So, the ghost is here, but it is not really “here” if you know what I mean. Creepy! So, aside from that, what role is this ghost playing the “starred, haunted clues” described by the revealer?

Turns out, the ghost has injected a “BOO” into each clue to give you just enough heebie-jeebies to feel its presence throughout the puzzle. The in-grid answer is what you get if you take the “boo” away:

  • 17A – [When to wear bootees] = DOG DAYS OF SUMMER (when to wear tees)
  • 26A – [On the caboose] = INVESTIGATING (on the case)
  • 40A – [One may work on boosting operations] = UNDERCOVER AGENT (one may work on sting operations)

Overall Impressions:

I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle. The theme is elusive, and provides a great “Aha!” once you get it. These types of “wordplay in the clue” themes are easy to overlook if you rush through the solve. I hope you were able to take your time with this one to appreciate the nuance of this puzzle that was so expertly crafted! The “hidden” G-H-O-S-T acting as the reveal was a nice flourish.

I think the grid can also be seen as a ghostlike creature if you squint hard enough. L/R symmetry lends itself to face-like block structures, so I’ll assume that’s what David was going for here. Another elegant touch from an expert constructor.

Thanks for the puzzle, David! Hope everyone has a fun and safe Halloween!

Hoang-Kim Vu & Jessica Zetzman’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

Happy Halloween! This puzzle is appropriate on every level. So to speak.

Los Angeles Times, October 31, 2023, Hoang-Kim Vu, Jessica Zetzman, solution grid

  • 19a [Restaurant that operates within another restaurant] is a GHOST KITCHEN. I never heard of that before. It’s definitely a thing.
  • 27a [With 32-Across, embarrassing secret] is SKELETON/IN THE CLOSET.
  • 42a [Emmy-nominated TV series based on a Hilary Mantel novel] is WOLF HALL.

And the revealer: [Halloween attraction, or what 19-, 27-/32-, and 42-Across all might be a part of?] is HAUNTED HOUSE. Boo!

A few other things:

  • I can never remember how to spell MACAU – for some reason I want an O instead of a U. I wasn’t helped this time by the roll-your-own crossing at 5d [Most overgrown, say] is BUSHIEST. I mean, I guess.
  • MOOSE Tracks. Now I want ice cream.
  • [Phrase of finality] is SO THATS THAT. I like that.
  • MWAHAHA could go with the theme!
  • I also liked [TV channel with election night coverage] for both MSNBC and CNN. It’s more fun that they cross.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: GHOST KITCHEN. I had also never heard of ERIC B or TAL Bachman.

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16 Responses to Tuesday, October 31, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: According to Sam Corbin’s Wordplay column, the theme is a bit more than just the list of horror titles: “When combined, the entries form a chilling tale of a killer on the loose, ending with the worst news of all: YOU’RE NEXT!”

    I’m not sure I buy it. I certainly didn’t see it when I solved the puzzle.

    It’s a solid debut. But I wish constructors would just remove NRA from their wordlists. The gun lobby owns those letters now, and no clue for “National Restaurant Association” or whatever is going to work to make me not see the guns.

    • Cyberdiva says:

      NYT I too didn’t see the “chilling tale of a killer on the loose” until I read Sam Corbin’s account in Wordplay. But perhaps the chilling tale is one of the few places where mention of the NRA belongs.

    • David L says:

      The fact that the theme titles spell out a little tale elevates the puzzle — except that many of us apparently didn’t notice. Oh well.

      I don’t object to ACHT. We get all kinds of Spanish words in puzzles, and I often don’t know them. Whereas I do know (some) German. So it’s fine by me!

      • Eric H says:

        I don’t think Amy objected to ACHT so much as she was surprised to see it in a Tuesday puzzle.

        I’m ambivalent on the argument that “This word is too obscure for [Monda] [Tuesday] [whatever day].” Yes, there are some obscure words out there. But on the other hand, it’s insulting to say that people who are only comfortable solving early-week puzzles have more limited vocabularies. What’s more likely is that they don’t yet have the crossword-solving skills that some of us have.

        I actually didn’t know ACHT. But it’s close enough to “eight” and “ocho” that it wasn’t much of a stretch.

        • Ethan says:

          Agreed. I got ACHT from context. I think it’s a matter of degree: early-week puzzles can have obscurity, but in more moderation than would be ok in a late week puzzle. Easy puzzles _should_ be introducing newer solvers to those terms so they can recognize them when the move to the harder puzzles, but never so much that it becomes frustrating.

    • Eric H says:

      Just to clarify: I missed the little story when I solved the NYT puzzle. After solving the puzzle, I started reading Wordplay and saw that there was more to the theme than just movie titles. So I went back to the puzzle to see what I had missed.

      I spent a couple of minutes looking at it before I gave up and went back to the column.

      • Katie says:

        I agree. (Also, it wasn’t clear the order mattered much, for exciting/thriller statements.) I _do_ like the general idea, but I think I’d have liked this more if the “storyline” idea had been more integrated into clueing – b/c I surely wasn’t clever enough to see it (w/out Eric’s comments, leading me to read the Wordplay).

        Maybe clues could have clued us in on this, somehow? e.g.:

        “Good evening. It’s ____! (1978)” (and so on)

        Even with a very mild “set up”, a lot of the rest (e.g., “Scream” and “Get Out”, in particular) might have just flowed nicely, with nothing more than (as clue) just: “_____! (2017)”

        Also, “He’s Out There” was – just weird to include. I’d never heard of it, and the IMDB ranking is… 5.3/10.

    • Dallas says:

      I missed the “story” of the titles, but it’s cute :-) A fine Tuesday puzzle for Halloween. And if there’s a petition to remove NRA, I’m happy to sign…

  2. JohnH says:

    I’ve never heard of Big O tires, and there’s no location closer than half the country away. And then I don’t have a car. While I do understand that Robertson was a great, even if it’s sports trivia I don’t know, and at least it’s deducible with crossings given that his name begins with O. Maybe if tires began with an O, too.

  3. Dan says:

    “Don’t Look Now” is a very well-made film, set in Venice, starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland (based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier).

    It has what may be the sexiest love scene that didn’t merit an R rating in all of filmdom.

  4. JT says:

    NYT was an incredibly disappointing puzzle, it started on an answer from *yesterday*, then the junk fill absolutely demolished my enthusiasm in finishing this one even before I got to NRA, an answer that needs to disappear entirely from crosswords. The Halloween theme was relegated to six clues about movie titles instead of seeding spookiness throughout. OUT appears three times. This was a real letdown.

    • Katie says:

      “Three OUTs and yer…” – um – it’s ironic that the repeated word is (already) “OUT”…

      I’m fine with that, although I get that there are “rules of the road” – and this does go outside the lines there. Which simply means: there should be a plausible reason to do so.

      For example, here, it’s partly due to constraints on Horror genre movie titles. (“Get Out” [2017] vs “He’s Out There” [2018] does NOT feel a coincidence, btw… I had never heard of the latter movie. Interesting it came out right after “Get Out” did… Gee…)

      And yes, noone is aiming to build a grid that has “ATMS” as it’s first entry. (But sometimes, it’s the best option, toward greater fun, elsewhere…)

      I feel bad saying anything bad about this puzzle, b/c the idea seems solid (to me)… [sidebar: hope to add more on that, later/perhaps]

      At the end of the day, are there any academic papers out there, about how stuff like this (puzzles) are viewed, across different population groups? (Just curious, theoretically.)

      Well, seems like a potential “science project” topic – for anyone with kids in the K-12 system at present. :-P (…although, getting the data could be a challenge…)

      • Katie says:

        btw: “populations” here, from me, means “experts” vs other categories (as opposed to different ages/genders/etc. – although all those questions are also interesting to think about, too)

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT (@Jenni) … The reason you get confused about whether MACAU ends in an O or a U may be because it can be spelled either way. It’s been in the NYT puzzle 45 times as MACAO and 16 times as MACAU. It’s one of those crossword answers that I always leave a blank space until I can confirm the vowel with a cross.

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