Thursday, January 11, 2024

BEQ tk (Darby) 


LAT 5:17 (Gareth) 


NYT 10:29 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:48 (Kyle) 


Universal 4:12 (Sophia) 


USA Today 7:54 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Paul Coulter’s Fireball Crossword, “Figure It Out” – Jenni’s write-up

The Fireball is two for two on inventive and enjoyable constructions so far this year! I apologize for not posting my rave review of last week’s puzzle – and thanks to Jim for filling in the gap.

I didn’t figure out what was going on here until I’d finished the puzzle. I knew there was some kind of code since none of the theme answers made sense and they all contained numbers. I thought maybe it was the shape of the numbers. Nope. Then I looked for a revealer. Nope. Finally I looked at 36a [Scheming], which is THIRTY SOMETHING and realized that THIRTY had to be UP TO  and that I’d seen that entry elsewhere in the grid. Turns out it’s at 30a. Aha!

Fireball, January 10, 2023, Paul Coulter, “Figure It Out,” solution grid

  • 17a [Deal an effective blow] is STRIKE THREE. 3a is HOME  for STRIKE HOME.
  • 23a [“Watch yourself out there”] is TAKE FIVE. 5d is CARE for TAKE CARE. And I am old so I thought of this.
  • 36a is explained above.
  • 46a [Like many e-readers] is BACK NINE. 9d is LIT for BACKLIT.
  • 57a [Visors] is FIFTY SHADES. 50a is EYE for EYE SHADES.

A very satisfying aha! moment indeed. Not all Very Clever Constructions are fun to solve and this one was. Thanks, Peter and Paul!

A few other things:

  • Formaldehyde is no longer used to preserve anatomical specimens for dissection, so the ODOR that permeated my clothes after anatomy lab was phenol. No matter. It was bad and my non-medical roommates rapidly made a rule that I had to change clothes at school before coming home.
  • I filled in 14d from crossings and at first I thought ESTAR was either some downgraded astral body or a really loathsome “etail”-like construction. Nope. It’s [Intro Spanish verb]. Mea culpa. I studied French.
  • 27a [Very curious] is OUTRE. As is “odd” rather than “nosy.”
  • WINONA is clued as the American Indian activist rather than the musician or actor.
  • I am currently listening to my husband practice on the invention of Mr. SAX so that was a gimme.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of “ODE to Newfoundland.” Also did not know that PRETTIES was a dystopian novel by Scott Westerfeld both because I really don’t like dystopian novels and I’ve never heard of Westerfeld.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Removing Experience”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are words that include the letters CT somewhere within. Remove those letters (mentally) to satisfy the clues. The revealer is EXTRACT (66a, [Remove, or, if you put a space after the fifth letter, a feature of five of this puzzle’s Across answers]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Removing Experience” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 1.11.24

  • 17a. [Elevator parts] DOCTORS. Doors.
  • 18a. [Local group] UNCTION. Union.
  • 27a. [Marbles, so to speak] SANCTITY. Sanity.
  • 50a. [Things to champion] CACTUSES. Causes.
  • 64a. [Pakistan divider] INDUCTS. Indus.

Pretty nifty wordplay on that revealer. EXTRACT the EXTRA CT from each theme answer to satisfy the clue. Nice. I caught on with the second entry, and that helped me resolve the others. Not a lot of sparkle in the theme answers themselves, but the wordplay was enjoyably satisfying.

In the fill, I found SAYS UNCLE to be of interest. “Cries ‘uncle'” sounds more colloquial to me, but the person giving the command would normally enjoin, “Say ‘Uncle’!” at which point the uncler (unclee?) would choose to cry ‘Uncle’ or not. DECAGON, PALE ALE, ANTIOCH, and ARTWORK are other notable entries.

I didn’t know OVERSET [Like text that’s too long for the layout], and ended up with the erroneous OVERSEB since 63d is clued [Ballpark figure], and I couldn’t see anything other than STAB for that. All the other crossers seemed right as well, so I eventually gave up and accepted the error.

Clues of note:

  • 40a. [Window closer, perhaps]. MOUSE. Needed every crossing because I didn’t make the computing connection until after I’d filled it in and stared at it for a few seconds. I don’t know. I have trouble saying that the MOUSE actually closes the window.
  • 14d. [Check for a flat]. RENT. Good, tricky clue.
  • 29d. [Gets ready to drill, say]. NUMBS. Dental drilling, not military nor construction drilling.
  • 67d. [Amendment with an insurrection clause]. XIV. Timely.
  • 4d. [Capital of ancient Syria]. ANTIOCH. We also would have accepted [Whence Monty Python’s Holy Hand Grenade].

Good puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Average (10m29s)

Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword, 1/11/24, 0111

Today’s theme: Y = X (Basic linear expression with a hint to answering the five starred clues in this puzzle)

  • BAD BREAKUP (*Cause of irritated eyes) exes
  • CAT PEOPLE (*Many lovers, e.g.) manx
  • THE SHOW MUST GO ON (*Mayim of entertainment) maxim
  • BRAZILIAN (*Way down in the nether regions) wax
  • DAS KAPITAL (*Book of Mary) Marx

Real nice masking on the theme clues, particularly the Mayim/maxim swap.  When the grammar on the theme cluing is askew, it prompts you to look closer; here, it’s almost a shame they decided to append the asterisks, as the constructor has done a pretty slick job covering his tracks.  And you get a bonus rebus crossing the revealer: AS =.

Distracted by ASAHI in close proximity to AISHA, because they’re basically the same word.  You never see them in the same room at the same time.  Shenanigans.

Cracking: VROOM, screech, hummmmmmmoff into the distancemmmmm..

Slacking: If you were ranking a baby grand on its various interesting features, each individual PIANO LEG would be somewhere fifty slots down the list.

Sidetracking: I can’t see AUDEN‘s name in a puzzle without thinking of the “Funeral Blues” eulogy from Four Weddings and a Funeral —

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker puzzle – Kyle’s write-up

A nice way to begin a Thursday morning. Thanks Paolo for this breezy themeless.

The New Yorker solution grid – Thursday 01/11/2024 – Paolo Pasco

  • 1A WONG [“Beef” actress Ali] – She just picked up a Golden Globe for her performance.
  • Echoing clues in 14A [“Understood”] and 15A [“Understand?] for “I SEE” and “ARE WE CLEAR”.
  • 34A MONTHIVERSARY [Portmanteau for an early relationship milestone] is a nice marquee entry.
  • 37A SNOW [Precipitation in a flurry or blizzard]. I hear there will be several inches of snow in Chicago by the weekend, but then we had five inches forecast on Tuesday and it turned mostly into rain/sleet.
  • 49A [Harriet whose image is scheduled to appear on the twenty-dollar bill] TUBMAN. But when? The idea was first proposed 10 years ago and it still hasn’t happened.
  • 44D TUM [Rum ___ Tugger (role for Jason Derulo in 2019’s “Cats”). Deja vu! The full name RUM TUM TUGGER just appeared as a theme answer in yesterday’s LA Times crossword by Rebecca Goldstein, with the clue [Role for Jason Derulo in 2019’s “Cats”].

Daniel Hrynick’s Universal crossword, “Pickin’ Chicken” — Sophia’s write-up

Universal Crossword, 01 11 2024, “Pickin’ Chicken”

Theme: Normal phrases reimagined to be about chicken dishes

  • 17a [Attending a brunch that celebrates Pride? Try our …] DRAG STRIPS
  • 23a [Watching basketball in the Mile High City? Try our …] – DENVER NUGGETS
  • 37a [Watching hockey in the Motor City? Try our spicy …] DETROIT RED WINGS
  • 48a [Planning to drop the ball at a New Year’s party? Try our …] – BUTTER FINGERS
  • 59a [Fueling up for the law exam? Try our …] – BAR TENDERS

Very cute theme! I live in Seattle, where the hot chicken scene is really popping off. I was able to understand what was going on from DRAG STRIPS (my favorite answer too), and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the puns. The only one that didn’t really hit for me was BUTTER FINGERS – I thought it was going to be a more “New Year’s Eve” answer, and less of just a “dropping” one. But all the other four I really liked.

Fave fill: START A TAB,NOPEEKING, Ewan MCGREGOR (the “Hello there” meme clue was my favorite in the puzzle).

Fave other clue: [Quantity of brownies] for BATCH

New to me: Hockey player IGOR Larionov

Shannon Rapp & Will Eisenberg’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times 240111

First off, what I liked about Shannon Rapp & Will Eisenberg’s theme, the revealer: PROTEINSHAKE is a fresh feeling entry and a good source of word play. However, I got there early, and already was irked in a way possibly people without a biological science background won’t be. I immediately thought, “what proteins are familiar and short enough to work in this way? Insulin? Albumin? Collagen? But no, the circles spell out protein sources not proteins. The protein component of PORK and LAMB is myoglobin in the main; the plant-based LENTILS and TOFU contain a heterogenous array of plant proteins lacking in certain amino acids…

  • [Forward-looking aesthetic of Janelle Monáe and “Black Panther”], AFROFUTURISM. I’m not sure I have a lot of context here.
  • [Part of the digestive system], SMALLINTESTINE
  • [Job requirement for some visa holders], WORKPERMIT
  • [Plant-based remedies, e.g.], HERBALMEDICINE.

[RANT INCOMING]. So I administered vincristine at a very precise dose to treat transmissable venereal tumours today. Vincristine was originally extracted from cape periwinkle, but I suspect my vincristine is made more efficiently. Is it only herbal if it’s made from periwinkle, even though if it’s chemically identical, it will have the same effect? Or do you have to chew raw periwinkle and hope the very precise dose needed to be both safe and effective is absorbed… Similarly, I prescribed milk thistle extract in the form of a capsule with a guaranteed amount of silymarin, the active ingredient. Because it’s classified as a “herbal medicine”, it skips a lot of red tape regarding purity testing, as well as any need to prove its benefits – it’s used for liver support, but the evidence remains equivocal at best. But I just don’t get why one chemical is dressed up as “herbal medicine” and another isn’t.[/RANT]


  • [DOS pt.], SYS. How well recalled is MS-DOS?
  • [Far-too-memorable songs], EARWORMS. Are they always “too”?
  • [Molecule preceded by m-, r-, or t-], RNA. A bonus third of the central dogma of genetics.


Beth Rubin’s USA Today Crossword, “First Chair” — Emily’s write-up

Pull up a seat and settle in!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday January 11, 2024

USA Today, January 11 2024, “First Chair” by Beth Rubin

Theme: each themer begins with a word that can prepend “chair” to form a type of chair


  • 20a. [Classic gift for aspiring young chefs], EASYBAKEOVEN
  • 36a. [Pompous], HIGHANDMIGHTY
  • 54a. [Carol in which “la” appears 96 times], DECKTHEHALLS

A variety of themers in this set, starting off with EASYBAKEOVEN, continuing with HIGHANDMIGHTY, and ending with a seasonal DECKTHEHALLS. With the theme, we get: EASY CHAIR, HIGH CHAIR, and DECK CHAIR.

Favorite fill: TAPIRS, MAKEME, EWOK, and TARO

Stumpers: TWISTTOP (“twist off” is more common to me), BLECH (needed a couple of crossings), and GIRTH (needed a few crossings)

Love the grid design and still felt there was good flow despite some entries took me crossings but everything was fair and my time was about average. Another nice mix of types of entires and more of those multi-word fill which adds interest: ILOSE, PLAYROUGH, THROWAFIT, MAKEME, IWONT.

4.0 stars


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30 Responses to Thursday, January 11, 2024

  1. teevoz says:

    Another NYT proprietary app fail (no = sign) but at least they accepted the word as a rebus. Contempt for solvers. Disrespect to constructors.

  2. Dan says:

    The subgeniuses at the New York Times are apparently unable to debug their software.

    The timer on my Thursday puzzle now claims it took me about five times as long to solve it as it actually took.

    This has happened so many times!

    • Katie says:

      Frustrating! But fortunately, you know how you did, regardless. :-D

      Yeah – NYT has lotsa/intermittent bug issues. (I used to joke with a “hangman” figure, on the initial roll-out for Wordle….) One wishes this was “the biggest thing to worry about” these days, too. (Sigh.)

      Just – er – “Hakuna Matata”…

    • Me says:

      You probably know this already, but if you send a message to the app team, they will fix the time.

      I’ve had problems with the time if I don’t complete the puzzle in one sitting. I find it annoying, but the team has always fixed the time for me.

  3. PJ says:

    NYT – Not sure I see Y=X as a “Basic linear expression.” If I was asked for a basic linear expression, I’d say Y=mX+b. Y=X produces a (dull 45°) line through the origin

    • Katie says:

      Y = mX+b is an “affine” function.
      Y = mX is actually “linear”. (Including Y=X.)
      (Sorry to nerd out…)

      [But also, yeah – maybe not such a fun clue – but I can’t do better myself…]

      • Dan says:

        Only a math major could have written what you did about “affine”.

        • Katie says:

          Not quite – but I’ll take that as a compliment! (I think.)
          [And – I was just being silly/non-serious there, 100%…]

      • JohnH says:

        You know, the more I think of it, I can’t agree that y = mx + b is affine but not linear. A linear function is first power in x. A quick Web search gives the definition as a function whose graph is a line. (That doesn’t make the clue wrong, so I’m not with PJ either, and I still love the puzzle.)

    • Gary R says:

      Not sure what your point is here. How do you get more basic than Y=X for a linear function?

    • Ethan says:

      I mean Y=X is in fact a form of Y=mX+b where m=1 and b=0.

      It is clued correctly. It’s a basic linear expression. It’s not the general form but the clue didn’t ask for that.

    • PJ says:

      I guess my main point was Y=X is such an uninteresting function. To me it’s the second most boring function after Y=b. Both are linear expressions but with b=0 or m=0 they don’t excite me.

      • Gary R says:

        From your original post: “Not sure I see Y=X as a “Basic linear expression.”” That seems to be mistaken, per the comments above.

        You say you don’t find “Y=X” very interesting. Nor do I (on its own) – but the answer certainly fits the clue, and works well as a revealer for this puzzle.

        So, I still don’t quite see your point regarding today’s puzzle.

  4. Greg says:

    I found the NYT to be clever and a pleasure to solve.

    • Dallas says:

      Agreed—a fast solve with a very clever reveal. Weirdly, I got BAD BREAKUP before the reveal, but then the others didn’t make much sense… and the crossing for AS EQUALS wasn’t obvious at first… really liked how it all worked out. I got a little stuck at the end as I had ACHE instead of ACHY, and then I was wondering if STELE was some writing terminology that I wasn’t familiar with, till I finally fixed it :-)

  5. Joe Pancake says:

    Hey everybody, NYT constructor here. With my puzzle dropping today (last night, technically) I’m doing some shameless self-promotion.

    So, if the mods don’t mind, I’m sharing a link to my book of rejected crossword puzzles and personal anecdotes. I think it’s really good and worth buying, but, full disclosure, I have a strong bias toward me.

    Will Must Send Regrets: 101 Rejected Crossword Puzzles and the Stories Behind Them

    • Dallas says:

      Nice puzzle today! I decided that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to construct and submit a puzzle to the NYT… so I’ll have to wait after that before reading a book about puzzle rejection; sounds like fun.

    • placematfan says:

      Publishing a compilation of your rejected puzzles? That is just Awesome in Principle. I’m in.

  6. Susan Hoffman says:

    On the BEQ, why is RINSED a “well-made item”? You can rinse something in a well, but “rinsed” is past tense of the verb, not an item. What am I missing?

    • CrotchetyDoug says:

      Same question.

    • marciem says:

      I third the question. I liked the puzzle twist, but I do not understand that one clue/answer.

    • Josh says:

      Fourth here. Plus, made worse by crossing the first vowel in RXNSED with the last vowel in some rando name (NIKOLX). The letter could be anything and still not make sense.

    • Katie says:

      Fifth here.

      Also, what would work better, for the idea of a “well” making some item “rinsed”? The best I can imagine here is both clue and answer filling the same phrase, e.g.,: “This (thing) is ___” – either filled with “RINSED” or “a well-made item”. But without a/the/some definite article, it doesn’t quite match. (Although we all get what the joke is meant to be, I think…)

      Hmm. Can anyone either help us all out here – or suggest a tweaked clue that might work better? (Maybe we’re all just missing something…)

      [Well-done state? Well-made status? Well-done situation? Like well-made items? Some well-made clothing?] — Do any of those work better?

      BTW, er, I only did the BEQ puzzle due to reading Susan’s question here. Glad I did! Great question. Fun puzzle. :-]

      • Susan Hoffman says:

        I think I’ll ask Brendan directly – I’ll let you guys know if there is an answer.

        • marciem says:

          thx! I’ll look forward to an answer, if you get one :) !

          It isn’t often (never) that I’ve seen so many astute crossword aficionados flummoxed by a clue/answer.

    • Susan Hoffman says:

      OK, here’s the scoop. I asked BEQ directly, and his first response was that he had no idea what I was talking about. So I directed him to his puzzle and which clue it was. Here is his reply:
      “Man, I have no idea what I meant. Neither did my tester, as he didn’t mention it.”

      So I offered to be a tester!

      • marciem says:

        Thanks, Susan! Ya never know, there are often obscure slants on things (esp. with BEQ :D :D ) that aren’t readily obvious. I’m glad you asked and told us :) . Maybe he’ll wake up some night with “AHA!! That’s what I meant!”… or not ;P . (I personally think this was a double oopsie (BEQ and tester), concentrating on the “side hustle” theme.

      • CrotchetyDoug says:

        Yes, thanks Susan. This incident reaffirms why I keep Crossword Fiend always in an active tab in my browser.

  7. rob says:

    NYT: Loved the puzzle, a perfect Thursday! I filled in the whole puzzle and then looked at the ANSWERS for y or x. Then the lightbulb went on and I realized I had to look in the CLUES. As Homer Simpson would say, “DOH” !

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