Thursday, November 9, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:39 (Gareth) 


NYT 15:34 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:48 (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 7:41 (Emily) 


WSJ 12:04 (Jim) 


Note: Fireball is a contest this week. We’ll post a review after the submission period closes.

Priyanka Sethy & Ajeet Singh’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Look Sharp”—Jim’s review

Theme: Four squares in the grid are rebussed with a word that’s a synonym of “point” (i.e. a sharp, pokey thing). These squares are also TURNING POINTS where a theme answer changes direction from Across to Down (or vice versa), and of course it includes the letters in the rebussed square.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Look Sharp” · Priyanka Sethy & Ajeet Singh · Thu., 11.9.23

  • 9a / 11d. [Device for rinsing out…] / […sinus cavities]. NE(TI P)OT.
  • 16a / 18d. [Country whose smaller…] / […islands include Great Bird and Prickly Pear]. ANTIGUA AND (BARB)UDA.
  • 48d / 60a. [Gradual movements…] / […on a massive scale]. CON(TINE)NTAL DRIFTS.
  • 58d / 68a. [Pricey hotel…] / […room feature]. MI(NIB)AR.

I really like the nifty gimmick here which took a good amount of sussing out to understand. I like the way the clues are set up, and I appreciate that the meaning of “point” is the same for each entry.

But I didn’t finish the puzzle (without looking things up) for a few reasons.

  1. For some reason, I thought the sinus device was called a NEPI POT. Don’t ask me why. But the result was that I had a rebussed PIP which seemed like a reasonable “point” (i.e. a dot on a die). Okay, no, that doesn’t make much sense, but it seemed like it did during the solve.
  2. I don’t think I’ve heard of Barbuda, so it seemed reasonable to go with ANTIGUA AND (BERM)UDA. No, you can’t really argue that a “berm” is any kind of a “point,” but again, sometimes logic goes out the window during a solve.
  3. Both of those are mainly my own failings, but crossing a proper name PAPP with a relatively obscure sport position SKIP (clued [Caller of shots on a curling team]) is bordering on unfair. SKIM? SKIN? SKIT? It all seemed within reason to me.

Also, I think it’s reasonable to assume that some solvers won’t be familiar with both TD GARDEN and PUNK’D, making that crossing at the D on the difficult side.

There’s some really nice fill like “TOP THAT!,” CLOUD SERVER, NBA ALL-STARS, “I’D SAY SO,” and I BEFORE E. I struggled with ASURA [Antihero of Hindu mythology], mainly because it crossed what I thought was supposed to be BERMUDA. Never heard of TEASE UP as a phrase for embiggening hair.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Where the heart is]. Sing it with me: “Home is where the heart is, so you’re real home’s in your CHEST.”
  • 45d. [“Hundo P!”]. DEF. These are absolutely foreign words to this oldster. Apparently it’s new-fangled slang for “hundred percent!” (i.e. “DEFinitely!”)

Mixed feelings for me on this puzzle. I love the theme, but I ran into unanticipated difficulties. 3.75 stars.

Simeon Seigel’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Mostly average (15m34s)

Simeon Seigel’s New York Times crossword, 11/9/23, 1109

Today’s theme: INSIDE OUT (Thoroughly … or how to read the four Across answers with parentheses in this puzzle)


I was wondering what all those parentheses were doing, and now I know.  THE OTHER PSYCHOTHERAPIST and LATTE PLATTER SPLATTERED are my favorite of the bunch, the plurals on RAFTS and CORES, however, make the other two a bit awkward.  I debated how to describe the incremental widening of the theme answers in order to get to the full phrase.. but INSIDE OUT is pretty succinct.  Don’t look a gift explanation in the mouth.


Cracking: the clue on ECOLI — “Spoiler alert! It’s bacteria!”

Slacking: INURN, oof, not just because it’s uncommon and awkward, but because it’s also self-explanatory in a way befitting someone with a caveman’s grasp of the English language.  Me put ashes in urn.  Me INURN them.  They INURN now.

Sidetracking: ODELL Beckham Jr. may be a diva punk drama queen, but this is still one of the top 10 greatest catches in NFL history:

Sunday's Craziest Play: Odell Beckham Jr. Makes Ridiculous 1-Handed TD Catch | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors | Bleacher Report

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

Thanks Robyn for today’s New Yorker puzzle.

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 11/09/2023 – Robyn Weintraub

  • 54A [“Bargain at twice the price!”] “IT’S A STEAL!“. But if you later try to return those sale items, you may wind up with a STORE CREDIT [What a retailer might offer in lieu of a cash refund]
  • 1A [Athlete’s top supporter?] SPORTS BRA. I’ve seen this clue angle many times for this entry so it didn’t really pop for me.
  • 46D STD gets a health clue [Chlamydia, for example: Abbr.] rather than a more typical reference to the short version of standard.

Alexander Liebeskind’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

Alexander Liebeskind’s puzzle today has a clever theme with a subtle revealer: TRIPOLI. The long e sound occurs three times in four answers, often with varied spellings, which is a touch I liked:

  • [“Almost done!”], BEREADYINAJIFFY
  • [Command attributed to Captain Kirk], BEAMMEUPSCOTTY.  If not invented here, it was certainly reinforced…
  • [Cat call?], HEREKITTYKITTY.
  • [1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on], FIBONACCISERIES


  • [“Ideas worth spreading” offshoot], TEDX. Some sort of Ted Talk thing? Seems like it will appear again, though..
  • [“Sister Outsider” writer Audre], LORDE. Not the Royals singer then…
  • [Attachment at the front of a sloop, e.g.], HEADSAIL. Common enough components, but needed a lot of crossers to even guess at this.
  • [“Almost done!”], ONETOGO. A nice callback to the first theme answer…


Amie Walker & Kelsey Dixon’s USA Today Crossword, “DMs Are Open” — Emily’s write-up

Lines of communication are wide open today! Also, today’s edited by Kelsey Dixon.

Completed USA Today crossword for November 09, 2023

USA Today, November 09 2023, “DMs Are Open” by Amie Walker & Kelsey Dixon

Theme: each themer is contained within D–M


  • 19a. [America’s first openly trans elected state official], DANICAROEM
  • 39a. [“My reputation should precede me, but does someone need a reminder?”], DOYOUKNOWWHOIAM
  • 58a. [Squad that likes to argue], DEBATETEAM

DANICAROEM is new to me but had fair crossings. DOYOUKNOWWHOIAM has wordy cluing but is oh so good! Within the first clause, I knew and filled it right in, except I first went with the contacted form (“don’t”) since that’s what’s more common to me. DEBATETEAM was also an easy fill, though growing up our school had knowledge bowl (a quiz/trivia competition).


Stumpers: SEX (excellent cluing just didn’t click for me)

Smooth solve with lots of great fill and cluing. Excellent collab!

4.0 stars


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24 Responses to Thursday, November 9, 2023

  1. Art Shapiro says:

    NYT: Alas, one of the sporadic days where the gimmick was absent in the .puz file .

    So solving it didn’t exactly yield the great Aha Moment. Oh well.

  2. Katie says:

    NYT: ((NO)T)HING, but wish I could get back as much time (W(AS))TED – by me, in doing it.

    Clever idea, but somehow… with fill and clues. Hmm.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I like the originality of the theme. It makes me want to think of other nested expressions like this. I agree that THE OTHER PSYCHOTHERAPIST is the best entry. I have a couple of them in my family, so I could even say it.
    Totally cracked up reading ZDL’s “slacking” riff on INURN. It made it worth having to solve for it in the puzzle.

    • Dallas says:

      Yeah, that’s the winner. IN URN threw me off because I had INTER at first (from interment) but eventually had to take it out. A cute theme; S(C(ORE)S)SHEET was the first one I got, then it went from there.

      And I also like that ZDL’s solving time was the same as mine :-)

      A truly geeky question, but I’ll ask: I’m finishing my year streak of solving (365 days will be on Monday, but I’ll keep going to finish out the year), and I wanted to do some data analysis on my solve times over time; does anyone know if it’s possible to get raw data from the NYT puzzle site so I can do my own analysis?

      • Dave W says:

        I wish it were visibly possible to do that on the site. You can always email and see what they say. I started putting my times in a spreadsheet a while back (it took forever to click through every puzzle, or change the URL, on the older ones dating back a couple years at that point) so I could graph out my daily average, or track when I beat a best time, or anything else I can think of to do with what is really just nerding out.

    • Mutman says:

      Me luv good caveman talk

    • PJ says:

      INURN does seem like a nice counterpart to INTER

      • DougC says:

        INURN has been around for a very long time (since 1602 per M-W), and it’s still a very common term in the funeral industry. Anyone who needs to arrange for a cremation (as many of us will, eventually) will encounter it.

  4. JohnH says:

    WSJ had so much I didn’t know. Besides NETI POT and the other things Jim mentions, there’s DANA / ASURA and goodness knows what else. Besides not knowing BARBUDA, it also threw me that there’s a country with an AND in it. Or so I had to learn.

    • pannonica says:

      St Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Bosnia and Herzegovina, São Tomé and Principe, St Vincent and the Grenadines (which definitely sounds like a musical group).

  5. dh says:

    I’m curious about how people feel about 33-D in the Universal. Are there other instances where terrible diseases suffered by some people are highlighted in a crossword? (That’s a legit question – I don’t know where to look for that kind of stat). How often do CANCER, DIABETES, or BLACK LUNG appear in crosswords?

    I wonder if there are any afflicted vets who might take this as a non-serious attitude toward something they live with every day. I won’t be offended on their behalf, but if any (or their families) were to speak up about this inclusion I’d support them.

    • Eric H says:

      I’m not crazy about seeing answers like PTSD in puzzles. At least they didn’t try to get cute with the clue.

      Just out of curiosity, I looked up “Cancer” at They say it was an answer in 14 WaPo puzzles in a row in 2011. I’d be interested to know what that was about.

    • Katie says:

      Most certainly, you are not the first to ask similar questions, having similar concerns… All I can say is: I am convinced crossword editors DO take this VERY seriously. Sometimes, the “clueing” itself can make the difference, for answers like this. (And – sometimes not.)

      OK, I didn’t do the full puzzle here, and I have nothing to do with it… But that answer was, I am presuming “PTSD”?

      The place to look, for NYT puzzles (only, I’m afraid), is: xwordinfo

      PTSD (first used in 2016) has been used 17 times, peaking at 5 occurences in 2021. (Perhaps a post-COVID correlation. I do not know.)

      CANCER, despite the fact one might attempt to “clue” it as an astrology sign, or as a constellation, has only appeared 2 times, in NYT, since Will Shortz started editing… 2007, it was “Constellation between Lynx and Hydra”. It did not appear again until 2012, clued as coming after another entry (after “LEO”).

      DIABETES = once, in 2022.

      BLACK LUNG = never.

      Great question – asked many times, I believe.

      (Oops! I walked away… Eric H already gave a similar reply, obviously. Just wanted you to know, mostly, I think they try hard here…)

    • Gareth says:

      I haven’t been writing much, but I know a puzzle I sent in with the revealer SOCIALDISTANCING (social events circled with their letters apart) was rejected as being “too soon” and noted they were avoiding any direct COVID references in puzzles for now.

    • Simon says:

      This might sound like I’m trying to be funny, but it’s sincere: The NYT puzzle used the word psychotherapist today, but intentionally broken up with brackets for the Thursday theme. The way the letters were broken up wasn’t quite, but was quite close to, isolating ‘rapist’, which just beamed out really clear as day to my and my wife, and we couldn’t un-see as we were trying to figure out the theme. A little off-putting to see it this morning. (I’m not really complaining, but this discussion but me in mind of it…)

  6. Eric H says:

    Universal: I tried making sense of the theme, but all I came up with is “homophones of letters.” (For example, AYE AYE TONE could be read as I I TONE; EXCEL WINKS could be X L WINKS.) But I don’t see what, if anything, that has to do with “Exchange Numbers.”

    Any thoughts?

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