Monday, April 1, 2024

BEQ tk (Matthew) 


LAT 1:52 (Stella) 


NYT 3:50 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 7:17 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (tk) 


WSJ 4:11 (Jim) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Alan Arbesfeld’s New York Times crossword —Sophia’s write-up

Happy April Fools Day, folks! Today we’ve got a trickier than usual Monday. Each theme answer includes a reference to orientation – “up”, “turning over”, things like that. Each entry is oriented vertically,  and to put in each entry into the grid you “literally” flip the direction of the word and put it in bottom to top.

New York Times, 04 01 2024, By Alan Arbesfeld

  • 3d [Start behaving more responsibly, literally?] – FAELWENA (Turn over “a new leaf”)
  • 7d [Malfunctioning, literally?] GNITCA (“acting” up)
  • 9d [Lunar omen in a 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit, literally?] – NOOMDAB (“Bad moon” rising)
  • 38d [Alpinist’s activity, literally?] NAITNUOM (“mountain” climbing)
  • 41d [Make a rude gesture with one’s finger, literally?] DRIBEHT ( flip “the bird”)
  • 48d [Former N.S.C. staffer at the center of the Iran-Contra affair, literally?] REVILO (“Oliver” north).

This felt tough for a Monday in my opinion, even with the theme answers clued in a relatively straightforward manner. The theme is doing so many different things at once – some clues refer to the backwards answers as “climbing” or “rising”, while others call it a “flip” or “turn over”. I think it might have been better to focus more on one type of phrase or the other, since it feels a little complicated to have both.

I didn’t understand the theme at all until “Bad Moon Rising”; once I got that the rest fell pretty quickly (other than having to spell things backward – trickier than expected!). The exception is that I did not know “Oliver North” – I thought that was an “Oliver Twist” reference, and I still kind of like that angle more. But overall, I do appreciate the ambition of doing a more complex Monday puzzle, and there’s a serious aha moment to be had here for the solver.

The fill is OK, but given that the theme is tricky it would be great if the fill was super smooth in order to balance out challenge. That… is not really happening here. There are so many two-word partials – STOOP TO, TIRED OF, RAN FROM, IN ON, LEER AT (that one’s a gross answer in multiple ways). Given that the theme set required the puzzle to have a lot of 7ish length answers, I wish these had been stronger, along the lines of MINI DONUT, SAMOSA, and ROOSTER. There were also some weird plurals/crosswordese – looking at you, ERST OWERS TADAS DANTEAN (is that a real word?). I did, however, kind of like the repeated MAMA NANA MOMMY content – I solved this puzzle with my mom, so very apt for me.

Happy April Fools, be vigilant today y’all!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Idiot’s Delight”—Jim’s review

It’s April Fool’s Day, but there’s no trick to this theme. (It is also a Monday.) Theme answers are familiar phrases that hide synonyms for “idiot.” The revealer is FOOLS RUSH IN (35a, [1940 Glenn Miller hit suggested by the circled letters]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Idiot’s Delight” · Mike Shenk · Mon., 4.1.24

  • 17a. [“Just say what you mean!”] “OUT WITH IT!”
  • 25a. [Place with pumps] GAS STATION.
  • 47a. [Neck bump] ADAM’S APPLE.
  • 57a. [Scenes that precede title sequences] COLD OPENS.

As I said, nothing tricky going on here, just a solid run-of-the-mill hidden word theme. (If you want some kookiness, be sure to do today’s Fireball.)

Fill highlights: EMOTICON, “ATTA GIRL!,” CEDILLA, GOLEM. Non-Mondayish fill: TEMPI, SST, and UTAHAN. And according to a 2021 survey of people from Utah, 90% of respondents prefer “Utahn” over UTAHAN. So maybe it’s about time we retire the word.

3.5 stars.

Patti Varol’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 4/1/24 by Patti Varol

Los Angeles Times 4/1/24 by Patti Varol

I think this theme might have run on a Tuesday if APRIL FOOL’S DAY, the revealer at 36A, weren’t a Monday this year. The theme is slightly less obvious than is usual for a Monday. The clue, [Apt time for pranksters to do the starts of 17-, 22-, 50-, and 57-Across?] refers to the fact that each theme entry starts with a verb that means “joke around” in some way, but not in its word context:

  • 17A [Matching cups, saucers, sugar bowl, etc.] is TEA SERVICE. The first five letters of the entry spell out TEASE.
  • 22A [Colorful hard confection] is RIBBON CANDY. The first three letters are RIB.
  • 50A [Legumes in some chili recipes] is KIDNEY BEANS, with KID up front.
  • 57A [Mojave desert yucca] is JOSHUA TREE, with JOSH in front.

Fill I liked: SRIRACHARENOIRSOCCERLAB FEE; less so TORSI (especially on Monday), ASTERNDETOO.

Emily Biegas and Sala Wanetick’s Universal crossword, “Cut the Mustard” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 4/1/24 • Mon • “Cut the Mustard” • Biegas, Wanetick •solution • 20240401

This is such an obvious and good theme that I can’t imagine it hasn’t been done previously. Even if so, this is a very good rendition. Once again, the .puz file already circles the the squares that are explicitly enumerated in the clues, so I won’t be replicating those parts.

  • 17a. [Purple Beanie Baby’s royal namesake, familiarly] PRINCESS DI.
    19a. [Mitchell of folk] JONI.
  • 34a. [Speech therapy target, maybe] LISP.
    35a. [Chilling look] ICY STARE.
  • 41a. [Scolding for someone shouting] DON’T YELL.
    43a. [Is behind on bills] OWES.
  • 61a. [Where the Taj Mahal is] AGRA.
    62a. [“Take that”] IN YOUR FACE.

Divided by black squares, the ends and beginnings of the entries in Rows 3, 7, 9, and 13 spell the names of varieties of mustard. After solving but before I saw the title, I was all set to says something about the crossword cutting the mustard, but of course that was indeed the title.

One NIT (60a [Small criticism]): I’m pretty sure the variety is typically called ‘coarse grain’ mustard rather than simply ‘grain’.

  • 2d [Drink sometimes served with an olive] MARTINI. Although I love olives, I do not care at all for them in a cocktail. Lemon twist for me, please.
  • 4d [All U.S. presidents thus far] MEN. Still.
  • 18d [Puppy __ (snack for a human, or meal for a dog] CHOW. I’m not familiar with whatever the human snack is.
  • 25d [Move to the big leagues, say] GO PRO. This is incorrect, as many of our commenters tirelessly opine. Unless we are considering the professional minor leagues within ‘the big leagues’.
  • 36d [Blac __ ] CHYNA. Unfamiliar to me. She seems to be an all-around celebrity-type. With 37d [Cotes du __ ] RHÔNE nearby, my mind went to chenin blanc because of the starting CH-.
  • 47d [Canadian capital] OTTAWA, not DOLLAR.
  • 16a [“Community” role for Danny] ABED. Different framing for this common crossword fill.
  • 20a [Excelled, in Gen Z slang] ATE. Uh, okay?
  • 22a [Muzzles] SNOUTS, not SNOOTS.
  • 40a [Doctors and lawyers take one] OATH. Mostly lip service, if you ask me, judging by the actions of a lot of them.
  • 56a [They help raise the grade!] TUTORS. It is hoped.
  • 70a [Partner of “dreams”] HOPES. 71a [Places to dream] BEDS. Aha, that’s why we saw the different angle in the cluing for 16-across.

Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 4/1/24 – Reid

Nice to see Caitlin on Difficult Monday after her many breezy Wed-Thurs New Yorker puzzles! The clues do indeed hit the “challenging” target.

Fave fill: MERE MORTAL, SCATTERSHOT, CREDIT LIMIT ([Plastic cap?] did not trick me because there was another plastic = credit card clue in the puzzle I did a few minutes prior), NAIL POLISH ([Certain digital application], nice), GIFT WRAP.

Three clues:

  • 18a. [After restitution] befuddled me. How is this SUING? Because if you’re chasing after restitution, you might sue someone.
  • Did not know 37a. [Harlem Renaissance artist Douglas], AARON. Go here to check out some Aaron Douglas works or read his bio.
  • 3d. [Weed, for instance], PLANT. The very latest in drug slang!

Four stars from me.

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Evan Birhnholz and Vicki Jones’s Fireball Crossword, “Cuckoo Crossword” – Jenni’s write-up

Why yes, I do NEED A ZOMBIE MAT, if only to ward off the POULTRYGEIST while I’m prepping for the BATMAN BARBECUE. I’ve been busy trying to find a picture of the GEMROOS for my next TINY BIG TOE ART show. And of course I wanted to write this for Wordplay but all I’ve heard is DEB NOS.

Fireball, April 1, 2024, Evan Birnholz and Vicki Jones, “Cuckoo Crossword,” solution grid



What I didn’t know until I blogged this puzzle: that this is Vicki’s first byline with us!

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22 Responses to Monday, April 1, 2024

  1. Robert Loy says:

    I think Mr. Fagliano’s sense of humor must be petty puerile. CRAPPER and NOSERAG last week. Starting off this week flipping the bird. And I’m sure putting ANAL and ORAL side by side must have really made him snicker like a fourth grader.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Not the usual Monday fare, but understandable given that it’s April fool. I agree with Sophia that the interpretation of the theme is both flipping/turning and going up, so it’s a dual theme. Would work better later in the week.
    I love the word WAFT. I can’t think of a perfect word that captures its connotations in either French or Arabic.

  3. Eric H says:

    NYT: “Bad Moon Rising” is possibly my favorite Creedence Clearwater Revival song,* so as soon as I saw the clue for 9D, I knew what the trick was. The puzzle was fun, but I learned that I don’t spell backwards very well.

    *It’s also the source of one of my favorite mondegreens: “There’s a bathroom on the right.”

    • huda says:

      haha, yes to both– I love this song and the bathroom bit.
      I actually attending a CCR concert in LA in my youth. I was a poor grad student, so the seats were way up high, and you could get stoned on the fumes that were rising. But it was an amazing experience.

    • Dallas says:

      Yep—same for me. I figured it had to be NANA’s, so after I had the two O’s, I figured it just had to be backwards. Fun April Fool’s Monday puzzle.

  4. David L says:

    Cute puzzle for the most part, but I hated to see OLIVER North, even with his name upside down.

    I don’t understand why crosswords – or maybe just the NYT – always seems to clue AWAIT as ‘look forward to’ or something equivalent, when that’s really not what it means.

    If you haven’t heard the spoof of Werner Herzog talking about Trader Joe’s, please listen!

  5. PJ says:

    UC – The ‘Y’ from 62a was also circled giving us GRAINY mustard. That’s not how I think of it but searching gives it some support

  6. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: It felt “challenging” as I was solving it, but it steadily came together without much trouble. The NW was a bit tricky, as I have never seen “Survivor” and expected ALLIANCE to be some sort of tool.

    Lots of nice misdirection and wordplay in the clueing. I especially liked the clues for PLANT, PIED-À-TERRE, CREDIT LIMIT and GIFTWRAP.

  7. CC says:

    USA Today: I create the crossword puzzle for a monthly A&E magazine in my hometown… and I did a “cut the mustard”-themed puzzle last year!

    Instead of making it the title, I had “CUTS THE MUSTARD” as a revealer, with “What a Spread!” as the title. My mustards of choice were DIJON, BROWN, AND HONEY. :)

  8. JohnH says:

    NYT was delightful, with not just a tricky theme for a Monday, but clever execution throughout. I did not at all find “flipping the bird” to be a gross-out failing the breakfast test or otherwise objectionable. I’d forgotten what verb goes into the phrase, but could work out the fill regardless.

    The WSJ pales by comparison, but in all fairness its theme directly addresses April Fools Day rather well. As for UTAHAN, one poll in a source we don’t know well may object, but all major dictionaries prefer it. Also can’t say I’d find TEMPI or especially SST too hard for a Monday, but then I’ve seen too many puzzles.

    TNY was easy for a Monday though often interesting. I had trouble finding a foothold to begin and then finding another to break into the extended N/NE, but then it went fast. I didn’t know CODA even after getting DEAF, so I had to look it up, but since I was done that doesn’t count for me as cheating. I still don’t get why Anchor’s position is LAST.

    • JohnH says:

      Oh, “After restitution” tricked me, too, but it doesn’t mean what you, like Amy, might think, like this comes after you receive restitution. It’s “after” in the sense of in pursuit of.

    • Eric H says:

      New Yorker: I assume that the “anchor’s place” clue refers to a relay race.

      “CODA” won the Oscar for Best Picture for 2021, so the DEAF part is pretty much cemented in my mind.

      • JohnH says:

        Ah thanks. I did look up anchor in RHUD, but now that I look again I’d read right past this definition. It’s there.

  9. Patty says:


  10. DJR says:

    WSJ was tough for a Monday

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