Thursday, November 30, 2023

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 4:32 (Gareth) 


NYT 7:16 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 3:16 (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Sophia) 


USA Today 6:47 (Emily) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


WSJ 6:46 (Jim) 


Dennis Nullet’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sideways”—Jim’s review

Per the title, theme answers are familiar phrases that end with some sort of “way,” but that “way” is on the side of (i.e. adjacent to) the main entry.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Sideways” · Dennis Nullet · Thu., 11.30.23

  • 3d [Hiker’s way] / 4d [Way]. APPALACHIAN / TRAIL.
  • 9d [Amorists’ way] / 15d [Way]. LOVER’S / LANE.
  • 26d [Dorothy’s way] / 32d [Way]. YELLOW BRICK / ROAD.
  • 44d [Aspirant’s way] / 49d [Way]. CAREER / PATH.

Pretty nifty theme! It certainly is different, but it makes good sense given the title. I encountered the second entry first, though I don’t think I recognized it as such until I went back and had the full-on aha moment with the first entry. From then on, things proceeded apace.

Having stacked theme answers always puts constraints on the fill, but I’m quite impressed how these were handled in this grid. Only RIP AT and ALAI in the NW are a little cringey to me, everything else is quite nice, especially those longer Across stacks in the NE and SW (including MONOLOGUE and LOST HEART). Also good: SCHMOES, RABBLE, TORPEDO.

Clues of note:

  • 6a. [Off the line of duty?]. AWOL. Hmm. The normal phrase is “in the line of duty” so wouldn’t the opposite of that be “out of the line of duty”?
  • 20a. [Play reporter]. ASK. It took a beat or two to recognize “Play” as a verb.
  • 40a. [Butter up?]. ARIES. Clever, but maybe a little too clever.
  • We have a Monopoly sub-theme with 44a [Monopoly token retired in 2000], 53a [Monopoly token since the 1930s], and 52d [Monopoly token added in 2013]. (CANNON, HAT, and CAT respectively.) But oddly, not 52a CAR which gets this clue: [Herbie or Christine, e.g.]. On this site, I learned the CANNON was one of the original six, but not so the CAR which was added later that same year (1935).
  • 5d. [Become a chairperson?]. SIT. I mean, shouldn’t it really be [Become a chair person?]?

Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Barbara Lin’s Fireball Crossword, “It’s a Sign” – Jenni’s write-up

Took me a bit to figure out what was going on and I was delighted once I did. Each theme answer adds LAND to a common phrase and is then re-parsed to make some wacky kind of sense.

Fireball, November 29, 2023, Barbara Lin, “It’s a Sign,” solution grid

  • 17a [Wreath of zinfandel leaves?] is WINE VINEGARLAND or WINE VINE GARLAND (wine vinegar).
  • 29a [Hang up on the Dublin office?] is the RING OF FIRELAND or RING OFF IRELAND (ring of fire).
  • 45a [“My money’s on Isak Dinesen’s antelope”?] is ILL BE THERELAND or ILL BET THE ELAND (I’ll be there).

Those were fun all by themselves and the revealer added an extra layer of amusement. 58a [Movie trope…or an original part of an iconic sign erected in 1923, as shown in this puzzle’s long answers] is HOLLYWOOD ENDING. Here’s the sign as it first appeared

The HOLLYWOOD sign with the original ENDING

So we have LAND as the ending of each theme answer. Fresh and nicely challenging!

A few other things:

  • 1a [That special something] is MOJO. Am I the only one who started with ELAN?
  • 10d [Lark’s opposite, in a way] is OWL. As in night OWL. Larks naturally wake up early. I’m a lark married to – well, he’s not really a night owl. He’s more crepuscular.
  • 27a [Duel-use blade] is a RAPIER. I read the clue too quickly and thought “I didn’t know that had two uses.” One use and one pun.
  • My daughter flew home from CA on the REDEYE last week. Does it every time by preference. Ah, youth.
  • 61d [MSG is found in it] is NYC. Madison Square Garden, not monosodium glutamate.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that CSI uses theme songs by The Who.

And because I grew up in the 1970s, this is where my mind goes with the base phrase for 45a. I didn’t know Mariah Carey recorded it until I went looking for this version.


Jeffrey Martinovic and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Easy (7m16s)

Jeffrey Martinovic and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, 11/30/23, 1130

Today’s theme: TIME TRAVEL

  • MAN / AGE with the AGE traveling into P(AGE) LAYOUT
  • ERA / SING with the ERA traveling into SHO(E RA)CKS
  • GALL / EON with the EON traveling into IMPROV(E ON)

I was bound to like this, with a finish in the 7s, but it really is a clever idea.  Individual chunks of TIME either TRAVEL forwards or backwards into their horizontal neighbor.  I actually didn’t catch the premise at first, and thought we were simply adding units of time to familiar phrase/word A in order to make familiar phrase/word — which probably would have sufficed as a theme, thin as it might have been.  Lots of interesting tho unrelated long fill for a Thursday, including PIANO ROLLSWINE TASTER, and RAP BATTLE.

Cracking: ENZYMES, now there’s a word that’s got zip!, and incidentally, they make reactions go zip! too.

Slacking: ISAO and INSO almost close enough to touch, woof!

Sidetracking: do you have your UNION CARD yet?  Cuz they’re what Made America Great in the first place.  Woody knew what he was talking about.

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

Robyn Weintraub closes out the month of November with a light, smooth puzzle.

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 11/30/2023 – Robyn Weintraub

  • 30A [“You really believe that pack of lies?”] DON’T BE SO NAIVE. A nice long conversational entry that I haven’t seen before.
  • I thought 15A [Like Bigfoot or a werewolf] would be an adjective related to legendary, but they are indeed both HAIRY.
  • Fun clue for AIR GUITAR: [Instrument that doesn’t make a sound, no matter how enthusiastically you play it]
  • 18D SAT ON A WALL [What Humpty Dumpty did before having a great fall] – Interesting choice for a long entry. “Sit on a wall” isn’t a common in-the-language phrase, yet in the context of the nursery rhyme, it’s obvious what the answer should be. But then, is it a long partial? I think answers like this used to be more common 10-15 years ago (or more) but are much rarer nowadays, which made me surprised to see it here.

Thanks Robyn!

David Goldenberg & Matthew Goldenberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

David Goldenberg & Matthew Goldenberg (odd styling) feature a puzzle theme where five long across phrases have words that are also anglo? short forms of first names. In the grid, you have to enter the full version. Four answers worked well, but, without the spelling changes, EUGENEPOOL was the slightly wonky fifth wheel…

  • [Formal name of a tech business?], DOROTHY{DOT}COM
  • [Formal name of a bun holder?], ROBERT{BOBBY}PIN
  • [Formal name of a free local periodical?], PENELOPE{PENNY}SAVER
  • [Formal name of a twin-engine fighter jet?], THOMAS{TOM}CAT
  • [Formal name of a DNA collection?], EUGENE{GENE}POOL


  • [Blue-white heavenly body], BSTAR. Does anyone know which letter its going to be, ever?
  • [Cause of death in some cozy mysteries], POISON. Dying of poison doesn’t seem cozy to me? The dog I saw in acute respiratory failure due to organophosphate poisoning this morning didn’t seem too cozy either…
  • [Sleeveless outerwear], VEST. They’re sleeved underwear here?
  • [Nutritionist’s advice], EATRIGHT. Helpful!


Rafael Musa’s USA Today Crossword, “Flip-flops (freestyle)” — Emily’s write-up

Another puzzle that’s packed with goodies! What a treat!



alt=”Completed USA Today crossword for November 29, 2023”
USA Today, November 29 2023, “Flip-flops (freestyle)” by Rafael Musa[/caption]


Stumpers: ACRID (needed a few crossings), UMA (new to me), and ABYSS (needed crossings)

Though it’s labelled as a “freestyle”, there really could be considered a theme here with LOVEYDOVEY, WISHYWASHY, HOITYTOITY, and DILLYDALLY. Even the placement lines up! Regardless, it’s a strong puzzle with loads of additional lengthy bonus fill, fun cluing, and great entries. Plus the grid is an excellent design with great flow. Love it!

4.5 stars


Schell’s Brewery in New Ulm, MN, has fabulous beer, brewery tours, beer garden, homemade 1919 root beer, and a large all-gender restroom. It’s a room with stalls on the sides and a shared countertop of sinks and mirrors along the front wall, so no matter who you are, you can use any stall then wash in the shared sink area.


Schell’s beer flight


Schell’s restroom signs says “Whatever just wash your hands”


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14 Responses to Thursday, November 30, 2023

  1. PJ says:

    NYT – I pretty much agree with the Zach. An easy puzzle where I really liked the theme. I also enjoyed the long downs and wholeheartedly agree on unions. I questioned 44d while solving because I associate lakes with fresh water and assumed that salt flats were bottoms of ancient sea beds. A little post solve research on Lake Bonneville disabused me of that notion.

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: I found it a bit more challenging — or maybe I was just falling asleep when I was solving it.

    I repeatedly conflate the golfer ISAO Aoki with the film director Greg Araki (some of whose movies I have enjoyed). Having Greg for 11D made the NE corner a mess, even though I was pretty sure that 10D ENZYMES was correct. Finally abandoning Greg got me 9A REIGN, which I had wanted all along.

  3. Mr. [anything but] Grumpy says:

    I thought this was one of the best puzzle mornings in months, if not years. I will acknowledge that I am often critical, but I loved NYT [the theme of which escaped me for EONs], LAT [my mom was a Dot and my dad a Bobby], WSJ [another one that took me a while to get over the repeated “way” clues — and then “aha”], and the Universal [arguably a somewhat skimpy theme, but SPARE THE ROMAN GOD was just wonderful]. And Weintraub’s puzzle for beginners in The New Yorker was as smooth as bowl of delicious chocolate pudding. My thanks to all of the constructors for a lovely morning.

  4. Hjos says:

    Goes in some video games = MEN in BEQ today.

    Should goes be foes? Anyone knows?

    Thank yos.

    • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

      Perhaps it means the number of “lives” or attempts you get in the game. Not certain but my take.

      • Hjos says:

        Incidentally, a perfect example of being tripped up by mistaking parts of speech. Never saw GOES as a noun.

        Thanks again.

  5. Hjos says:


    Can’t think of a video game example at the moment, but I guess that’s it.

  6. Dan says:

    NYT: Very enjoyable solve, that was harder than average for a Friday but which succeeded by a succession of little successes. I liked the minimal pop culture and other minimally junky fill. The long entries may not have been scrabbly, but they were fresh and novel to my eye.

    * * *

    I didn’t quite get the clue 13A (I shall henceforth use Amy’s square brackets for clues):
    [Fly “away”], for SHOO.

    That doesn’t compute for me, since I only know “to shoo” as a transitive verb, but it looks as though it’s the shooee that is referenced by this clue. Or I may be completely mis-parsing it.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      You might be thinking that “Fly” is a verb when I think it’s meant to be a noun. “Away” and “SHOO” are things you might say to a fly.

  7. Frank says:

    WSJ: I still don’t understand the “Butter up?” one – can someone explain?

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