Thursday, November 16, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 5:59 (Gareth) 


NYT 12:02 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker tk (Kyle) 


Universal 4:37 (Sophia) 


USA Today tk (Emily) 


WSJ 9:06 (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Double Headers”—Jim’s review

Theme answers turn downward from palindromic Across answers. Thus, theme answers are “double-headed” and form a T-shape. The two-part revealer is START FROM / BOTH SIDES (17a, [With 58-Across, what four Down answers in this puzzle do]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Double Headers” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 11.16.23

  • 6d [Hiccup]. (MI) NOR SETBACK with 4a MINIM.
  • 11d [Advocated]. (MA)DE A CASE FOR with 9a MADAM.
  • 30d [Event that calls for special glasses]. (SO)LAR ECLIPSE with 28a SOLOS.
  • 32d [Timid]. (TE)NDER-FOOTED with 31a TENET.

Nifty theme which I couldn’t suss out until the third entry when I got to enjoy a pleasant aha moment. Not complicated once you get it, but it’s a question of how long it takes you to get it. How did it treat you?

I liked seeing SALIERI [Major role in “Amadeus”] (a role played wonderfully by F. Murray Abraham) as well as OCARINA (due to my fondness for all things Legend of Zelda). Also good: RIBALD and CANASTA which evokes Nasty CANASTA of Looney Tunes fame.

I’ve heard of Tupelo, Mississippi, but didn’t know TUPELOS were [Trees in Southern swamps]. Least favorite entry goes to MATLESS [Like an unwelcoming entrance, maybe] which I stared at for several seconds after finishing the grid because I could make no sense of it. It took that long for the light bulb to come on, and needless to say, that wasn’t as pleasant an aha moment.

Clues of note:

  • 46a. [French aviator Garros]. ROLAND. With a nod to Ade’s “Sports will make you smarter” shtick, I’m glad for all those times I watched the French Open.
  • 62a. [Low number for an ace]. ERA. Similarly, making the connection to baseball here should’ve helped you come up with this one. Fortunately for me, I filled this in with the crossings. because I don’t know that I would’ve caught on in a timely manner.
  • 8d. [Distracted Boyfriend, e.g.]. MEME. I’m sure you’ve seen it, but that’s this one.

Good puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Paolo Pasco’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Easy (12m02s)

Paolo Pasco’s New York Times crossword, 11/16/23, 1116

Today’s theme: Evel Knievel


This is one of those instances where the website/app’s ability to animate the little DARE DEVIL — and transmogrify the all the (BUS)es into automotive icons — really put a smile on my face.  The last time I remember that happening was Jonathan Kaye’s Double Helix Puzzle back in 2018.

As for the puzzle itself, I whooshed all over the place save for the upper right section, where I spent several minutes trying to fight through STORE ADS and WIVED and the pun-ishing clue on DISAGREES (“Is a no-body”).. otherwise I might have been close to a Thursday PR.

Knievel jumped those 14 Greyhounds in 1975, by the way, setting the stage for The Simpsons to parody the feat 15 years later, in S1E08 (“Bart the DARE DEVIL“).  Other pop culture references to the stunt exist as well, but this is the one that sticks with my demographic.

Cracking: SAME LOVE, same as above

SlackingAUTOPSY, okay, there’s nothing wrong with that sequence-of-letters-as-fill, but it’s a buzzkill (ironically enough, because it’s also the buzzzzz that follows the kill.. see?  Do you feel good about that joke?)

Sidetracking: not sidetracking at all.  To quote Warner Wolf, let’s go to the video tape!



David P. Williams’s Fireball Crossword, “Medium Stretch” – Jenni’s write-up

It took me a while to figure out what was going on. I knew there were answers that were too long to fit into the space alloted. I was about halfway through when the penny dropped.

Each theme answer has a M that is stretched (see the title) into its components: I V I. The crossings use the M. So we have:

Fireball, November 15, 2023, “Medium Stretch,” David P. Williams, solution grid

  • 17a [Only some enjoy them] is PRMLEGES for PRIVILEGES.
  • 47a [It offers no resistance] is SUPERCONDUCTMTY for SUPERCONDUCTIVITY. Physics folks: is that accurate? Or is it very low resistance?
  • 63a [Famous summary of military success] is VENMDMCI for VENI VIDI VICI.

I really liked this! It was a very satisfying “aha!” moment. All the theme answers are solid and I like the multiple IVI strings in two of them. Fun!

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I thought I’d never heard of REO, who apparently designed the M35 (“Deuce and a Half”). The M35 turns about to be a 2.5 ton military cargo truck and REO is the car company. I have heard of them.

M35, “Deuce and a Half”

David Alfred Bywaters’s Universal crossword, “It Is Indeed” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: “It is in deed” – the first word of each theme answer starts with DE and ends with ED to make wacky phrases. Remove these letters, and you get a normal phrase. Thus, the word is literally in “deed”. It makes more sense with examples….

Universal Crossword, “It Is Indeed”, 11 16 2023

  • 17a [Abhorred cross-country event?] – DETESTED RUN
  • 23a [Distracted the hen at a crucial moment?] – DELAYED AN EGG
  • 38a [Part of a photorealistic bird drawing?] – DETAILED FEATHER
  • 52a [Listed an adhesive product as a work-related expense?] – DEDUCTED TAPE
  • 63a [Transit annoyance?] – DETOURED BUS

There are some puzzles/themes that are titled at the last minute, and then there are some where the title is the puzzle’s whole being. This is one of the latter cases, and I like it! Having the “reveal” as the title allows there to be five theme answers, and they all shine. It’s nice how the DE-ED changes the meaning of the word each time. As someone without a car, DETOURED BUS was my favorite answer… even if it’s a little too real.

Fill highlights: OPOSSUM, CRUDDY, HEAT UP

Clue highlights: I love the non sequitur vibes of [Sensitive … or a piece of chicken] for TENDER.

New to me: [Cholesterol-reducing drugs] for STATINS

Bruce Venske’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times 231116

Bruce Venske’s puzzle theme is a central fifteen, PICKEDUPTHEPACE, and an 8×4 word ladder, SLOW>FAST. The problem with word ladders is, you’ve seen one you’ve seen most of them, and your theme answers are mostly short plain answers, requiring the rest of the puzzle to do with razzle dazzle.

CLUSTERING and OPINIONATED are among the longer answers, both one-word and inflected. Their counterparts were TOUCHSCREEN and CLEANSLATE, but I found the puzzle rather unengaging.


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30 Responses to Thursday, November 16, 2023

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: An overabundance of pop trivia + a thoroughly uninteresting theme = a puzzle that is not my cup of tea.

    (But I would spell the word DAREDEVIL without a space.)

    • JohnH says:

      Agreed. In the NW, I stared forever at Sonic, Chris, Curious George, the band with a string section (although, yeah, it’s not as obscure as that fact, indeed crosswordese), Macklemore, and Besssie (ditto), with too many choices of NL E teams. In the SE, my last to fall, I stared at what turned out to be ETHAN, MTV, and the fact about VOLE, even with a correct guess for TAHOE, made worse because, while I had no idea at all about the rapper, Little NAS X sounded like memories from crosswords. Also didn’t know Mack, Hotel Transylvania (although the answer was guessable), and the nickname for Columbus and had to get over having had AEONS rather than ON END, which to me means more like nonstop.

      The theme? I never made the association to a stunt by Knievel I didn’t really know. In short, felt like an early week TNY puzzle, and sure enough it’s by Paolo Pasco. I was surprised the NYT took it without more modifications.

      And while the theme placement is ingenious, the Puns & Anagrams puzzle style of many clues had me looking for a very different theme related to that.

  2. Nino H. says:

    NYT: I can never complain too much about Paolo. He’s great! Got kind of screwed by LE ROI and PRETORIA, as well as the oxford motto… otherwise it’s an impressive construction!

  3. Dallas says:

    Really fun Thursday; I’m looking forward to showing my son the animation later this morning :-) The theme really helped with my solve, too, so an additional bonus. The rebuses worked out pretty well, too. The NW was the slowest for me (I wanted RING instead of SEGA for Sonic boom generator, and the pencil clue took me *way* too long to get…).

    In general, I liked the cluing, but I have a nit to pick: the clue for COLUMBUS as a capitol with the nickname “Arch City”… oof. My wife and I lived in Columbus for close to ten years, and while we know the arches they’re talking about, I’ve never heard anyone refer to it by that nickname. It felt like someone went to the Wikipedia page for Columbus, and dug this fact up to put in the puzzle.

    • ZDL says:

      Dunno.. was just in Columbus and our hotel was a block away from Arch City Tavern.

    • Art Shapiro says:

      Add me to the list. I lived in “Clumps” for two years for grad school, and likewise never had heard the alleged nickname.

      But unlike some others, I enjoyed the puzzle. The only thing better than a reebus puzzle is an unusually clever rebus gimmick.

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    Loved the NYT, although I did it in Black Ink so I missed the animation. Thanks for mentioning it! My husband solves on the website so I popped over to watch the fun.

  5. PJ says:

    FB – I knew something was up, especially when I got to 63a. The crossings of 17a allowed me to see it. I really enjoyed it, too

  6. MattF says:

    NYT was quite tough for me— I guess that particular combination of puns and popcult is not my cup of tea. That said, the animation at the end was neat and somewhat atoned for the struggle to get there.

  7. Scott says:

    How does the NYT get anything less than 5 stars?

  8. David L says:

    I almost gave up on the NYT. I got the rebus fairly easily, but the fill nearly defeated me. I had AFT crossing FARE in the NE corner, which held me up for a long time. And AEONS instead of NOEND.

    I guessed SEGA eventually but there were a few crucial things I had to puzzle out and infer: SAMELOVE, ANDI and LILMAMA.

    Clearly a generational thing. I’m usually quite a bit faster than ZDL, but I was way slower on this one.

    One nitpick: I don’t know why the clue for ISM says ‘informally.’ It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

  9. Mr. [oh so very] Grumpy says:

    Okay. This will be a classic Mr. Grumpy. Evel Knievel was an idiot who made money luring people to watch him attempting risky, irrelevant, and dangerous “feats” [quotes because I think of feats as something admirable] in order to see if he would die in the attempt. He was an exemplar of the worst of American pop culture. I found this puzzle offensive. Feel free to disagree and/or criticize me all you want, but I think Will Shortz blew on this one.

    • PJ says:

      My first thought was Evel Knievel was very dated. I saw the George Hamilton biopic probably in 1972 with a bunch of buddies. That’s pretty much where I saw his appeal – early adolescent boys.

      Bonus – we walked across the Pettus Bridge to the theater.

    • damefox says:

      I was told to refill a section of a crossword I made for a mainstream publication once (not NYT, probably either LAT or Universal) to remove the word EVEL because apparently he’s too problematic a figure to be valid crossword fill. So it does irk me to see an Evel Knievel tribute puzzle get published.

    • JohnH says:

      Must admit I too thought he was a moron. Not sure we can exclude him from puzzles on that account, though.

      • PJ says:

        He clearly hasn’t been excluded. To my recollection, his first name has shown up regularly. Two Es in four letters is apparently very useful to constructors. It’s being the focus of the theme that some question. But his shtick, jumping over things, fits nicely with NYTXW’s desire to show off tricks in its app.

  10. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT … strange … another IN and OUT themed puzzle today … did I miss a memo?

  11. Eric H says:

    NYT: I share Mt. [oh so very] Grumpy’s low opinion of Evel Knievel, and like David L, I struggled with a lot of the fill, ending with a much slower than average time.

    Having not encountered any rebuses in most of the grid, I wasn’t really expecting them at the bottom. I thought the US of COLUM[BUS] would be outside the grid, as it was LIVING ON THE EDGE.

    A theme that requires circled letters going on a diagonal makes the grid harder to fill, and while there was a lot of pop culture stuff that I didn’t know, all of it was reasonably inferable from the crosses.

    But the ending animation was cute enough to redeem the puzzle for me.

    • Dallas says:

      I feel like the parodies of Evel Knievel have much more merit: Lance Murdoch from Simpsons and Doom Kaboom from Toy Story 4… but probably too obscure to build a puzzle around.

      I didn’t think there were going to be rebuses, while watching SYLLA(BUS) get built letter by letter… I really liked that they included a RE(BUS) for the down. A very nice touch.

  12. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ … MATLESS clued as “Like an unwelcoming entrance, maybe” crossing MINIM clued as “Eightieth of a teaspoon”? Are you kidding me? Since I don’t know any internet memes (everything I know of them has come from crossword puzzles), I had _I_I_ for MINIM and absolutely no idea how to complete it until I finally semi-grasped the theme. That section reminds me of the Maleska-era NYT puzzles I’m trying to work my way through. Ouch.

    Full disclosure: I’m having a very bad day. I awoke with an unexplained sharp pain behind one of my eyes and am having some difficulty reading today. I shouldn’t be trying to solve my daily crosswords today and am stopping after this one. I didn’t even notice the palindrome part of the theme here until I read Jim’s review here.

  13. Art Shapiro says:

    WSJ: I was bothered by STETS in the lower left corner because it conformed to the gimmick without actually being intended as such. Is that too picky a nit?

  14. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    NYT – bleh! Paolo constructs some good puzzles. This is not one of them. Paolo is one of the pets of the editorial team. As I have said many times. IMO this puzzle isn’t Will’s fault. Blame the editorial team.

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