Wednesday, March 27, 2019

AV Club 7:10 (Ben) 


LAT 4:17 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:11 (Amy) 


WSJ 9:45 (Jim P) 


Universal 9:59 (Vic) 


Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stuffy Nose” — Jim P’s review

Theme: Common phrases re-imagined as if the speaker had a stuffy nose.

WSJ – Wed, 3.27.19 – “Stuffy Nose” by Gary Larson

  • 17a [Item on a wheat farmer’s agenda?] HOE GRAIN. Whole grain.
  • 38a [Keats or Shelley?] ODE CHAP. Old chap.
  • 62a [Place for a pedicure?] TOE BOOTH. Toll booth.
  • 11d [Antivirus program?] CODE REMEDY. Cold remedy.
  • 30d [Sailing?] BOAT ACTION. Bolt-action.

Hmm. These don’t really work for me. If I plug up my nose and try to say “whole grain,” there’s still an L in there, but the N becomes a D. Same story with “bolt-action.”  “Toll booth” pretty much sounds as originally intended, and in “cold remedy,” the M becomes a B. Of these five, only “old chap” -> ODE CHAP sorta makes sense to me. Your mileage may vary, I suppose.

The rest of the grid is solid with the likes of “LET’S GO!”, STRASSE, LARYNX, LAKERS, and OUSTER. Weird plurals STADIA and TONERS are eyebrow-raisers, though.

Clues of note:

  • 23a [Common sense]. SMELL. That works.
  • 31a [Con quest]. PAROLE. Nice, though I tried ESCAPE first.
  • 6d [Impertinent ones]. SNIPS. Why make this into a weird noun?
  • 39d [Banquet]. DINE. And does anyone use “banquet” as a verb?

The grid is fine. Nice, even. But the theme missed the mark for me. Three stars.

Michael Hawkins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 27 19, no. 0327

The theme revealer is 49a. [Misconceptions about money … or a loose hint to 20-, 24- and 44-Across?], FINANCIAL MYTHS, which I guess is legit but the phrase isn’t too familiar to me. The theme answers are phrases from the financial world that include names of mythical beasts—but these also are not things I really am aware of. Just me?

  • 20a. [Success story like Uber or Airbnb], UNICORN START-UP.
  • 24a. [Institutions propped up with government support], ZOMBIE BANKS.
  • 44a. [One profiting through litigation, not innovation], PATENT TROLL.

Your mileage may certainly vary, but the theme felt rather too arcane to me. I do appreciate that the theme isn’t overly dense, which means the fill is solid.

Fave fill: OVERSHARE. Love the apt clue, [Discuss one’s toilet habits, for example]! Also fond of HOT TAKES. (My hot take: The PATTY MELT is an abomination. The name alone! Ach. I’ve never had one, and the clue specifies Swiss cheese but I feel like I’ve seen it photographed on menus more with American cheese.)

Three more things:

  • 32d. [Group of talking heads], PANEL. Pro tip: If you’re invited to be on a panel, it’s good to make sure that the proposed panelists are not all men, not all white. Use their desire to have you on the panel to push them to be more representative.
  • 58a. [West African republic], GHANA. A Ghanaian restaurant just opened in my neighborhood but it’s not on Yelp yet. Should I check it out? What’s good?
  • 37d. [Role in hide-and-seek], SEARCHER. Feels like a roll-your-own word. I don’t recall using this word in childhood games.

3.5 stars from me.

Greg Johnson’s Universal Crossword, “X-Ray Eyes”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Greg Johnson’s Universal Crossword, 3/27/19 solution

Hmm. The letter runs from each of the top corners to each of the bottom corners. That’s 29 I’s in the shape of an X. The puzzle’s reveal, 26d, goes, [Gender equality law represented by this puzzle’s diagonals] TITLE IX.

Again, hmm. Why do these diagonals necessarily represent the Roman Numeral IX associated with Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972, which famously states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance”? One might expect an answer to this question to emerge from a couple or three theme answers. But one would be wrong, I think (enlighten me if I err). The rest of the puzzle feels like a not-awful themeless, though, highlighted by:

  • 5a [18 or 21, by law] OF AGE
  • 27a [Small taste of wine] ONE SIP
  • 28a [Jumbled] MIXED UP
  • 44a [Zilch] NOT A BIT
  • 50a [“Victory is ours!”] WE WIN
  • 63a [Handling the task] ON IT
  • 64a [Far from grainy] IN HD
  • 3d [Enter, then quickly exit] GO IN AND OUT
  • 4d [Like efficient trains] ON TIME
  • 6d [Uninhibited one] FREE SPIRIT
  • 10d [Treat kindly] BE NICE TO
  • 25d [Dessert with gummy worms] DIRT PIE
  • 28d [In a rebellious way] MILITANTLY
  • 29d [Where to sign] DOTTED LINE
  • 37d Like small hail PEA-SIZED

I don’t purport to know what might or could have gone into, say, 3d, 25d & 29d to constitute theme material consistent with, or in support of, the reveal. Just sayin’ that without that, the editorial question posed above looms. And, as impressive as the diagonals may be, they don’t answer it. They just make a Roman nine, kinda, sorta … with the I being much smaller than the X and having 28 mirror images of itself.

2.5 stars.

Max Carpenter’s AVCX, “Small Doses” — Ben’s Review

Max Carpenter microdosed us all with this week’s guest puzzle in the AVCX.  You’ll want to click through on the screenshot to catch what’s in the rebus squares, but if you know anything about microdosing, you’ll already have an idea of what’s going on:

  • 32A: Superstitiously sealed portal in the back of some churches — DEVILS DOOR
  • 36A: Upcoming occasion on which the AVCX will publish a guest puzzle by Malia Obama — APRIL FOOLS DAY
  • 14D: Reality show that moved to VH1 in 2017 — RUPAULS DRAG RACE
  • 15D: Fergie song about a dramatic breakup — BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY

There’s little doses of LSD everywhere in the puzzle.  I keep feeling like I missed one somewhere, but a second pass through the grid didn’t reveal any other squares that would benefit from a rebus entry.


Other fill I liked: NUMERO UNO, IDA LUPINO, MOOG, MR BEAN, OX TONGUE, ARBORISTS, PUSSY RIOT, BOP IT, BON MOT, NEVADAN, and GREY GOO (which I’ve never heard before, but I’m assuming is another way to talk about the Singularity).  Lots to love here!

4.25/5 stars.

Norfleet Pruden’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

This felt like it should be a clichéd theme, once I found it, like THESUNALSORISES etc., but I don’t recall encountering it before. MONKEYBUSINESS, HORSEFEATHERS and then more general ANIMALCRACKERS… Along with having an zoological link, they are MARX brothers films.

There are only three theme entries (plus MARX), but they are of irregular length, which seems to be why there aren’t a lot of other flashy answers, and why things like PPD and AANDP (crossing PTS) occur.

We don’t have ANIMALCRACKERS here, but we do have ZOOBISCUITS, which are completely different, I gather.

3 Stars

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20 Responses to Wednesday, March 27, 2019

  1. Mark Abe says:

    I agree the NYT theme is obscure. “Patent Troll” was familier to me and many information technology workers will recognize it, but I had to look up “Unicorn Startup” and “Zombie Bank.” I think anybody who works far from Wall Street will be puzzled.

    • Sheik Yerbouti says:

      They were all familiar to me, but they tie together only in the very loosest sense. I don’t think of a patent troll as “financial” in nature. It just seems like the theme is very, very weak.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: Yeah, no clue about any of this. I guess to the credit of the constructor, it still was solvable in normal time. I always like learning something new though, so thanks!

    I’ve always wondered why I’m a re-SEARCHER rather than a plain old SEARCHER…

  3. Brian says:

    These themers were pretty easy, for me. But I’ve spent my whole career in finance and tech.

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    I knew “unicorn startup” and enjoyed learning the others.

    There’s a Ghanian restaurant in Bethlehem – we went last month. Everything was good.

  5. WhiskyBill says:


    I took the Universal to be “an X made from I’s,” making it an “I-X,” as it were. I thought it clever, although that’s obviously a matter of taste.

    • PJ Ward says:

      I tend to agree.

      However, the extra X at SIX/MIXEDUP took away from the theme for me.

      Unless I’m missing something. That does happen with these things.

    • Greg Johnson says:

      Originally it was a 60-something word themeless but extra Is were unavoidable. If you notice there are no other Is outside the diagonal. So, having two Is, TITLE IX only fit in certain places…and that led to the grid and that led to no real theme answers.

      I decided to keep the grid clean and David chose this option as the way to go. This was before the change in Universal’s format. It was tough to pull this off.

      Play my free puzzles at

    • steve says:

      yes, x made of i’s

  6. TBeck says:

    AVX puzzle today had way too many proper nouns and too much pop culture trivia. I hated it, which is unusual for me, since I usually love the AVX puzzles.

    • RSP64 says:

      Agreed. I did not finish. I personally don’t think the 3.5 difficulty rating was remotely accurate.

    • David Steere says:

      I must agree with TBeck and RSP64 about Max Carpenter’s AVX. I try not to make a comment unless I have something positive to say. But, this puzzle was ghastly. So tedious that even checking the reveal after giving up provided no catharsis.

    • Dan45 says:

      Pretty terrible. If not for the decent rebus I’d have given it negative stars. Ben is either an awful rater of difficulty or knows his audience well.

  7. Zulema says:

    I have been far from Wall Street for many decades but I read the NYT Business Section when they deign to deliver it (a daily struggle) and I thought the NYT theme was well done and very interesting. Being retired helps, as my son points out.

  8. David Roll says:

    WSJ–For me, it seemed like a very difficult puzzle for a Wednesday.

  9. Lise says:

    Today I learned a lot from the AVCXword ? But seriously, I have finally mastered SXSW and now I have to learn CBGB?

    NUMEROUNO looks really weird, too. I liked that I knew Big Girls Don’t Cry and RuPaul’s Drag Race, and The Great GILLY Hopkins (Katherine Paterson is a wonderful author), and I was saved from not knowing GRAY/GREY GOO by the wonderful MR BEAN.

    That was a workout!

  10. JJ says:

    Hi. Just want to say that the “Inspector Lynley” novels were adapted into a great TV series — I strongly recommend them. (I’m three weeks late in commenting: BEQ’s 3-7-19 puzzle, which I didn’t solve until today, contains LYNLEY; the reviewer mentioned that he was unfamiliar with them — hence my recommendation.)

    Best wishes.

  11. Ethan says:

    I didn’t love SEARCHER either. I wonder, why not change it to SEARCHES and ARGO to AROD?

  12. Doug says:

    AVX was an enjoyable workout for me. I like it when I learn a few things from doing a crossword. And yes, I think Ben knows his audience well, though I would have given it a 4 star difficulty.

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