Wednesday, July 24, 2019

LAT 4:13 (GRAB) 


NYT 5:34 (Amy) 


WSJ 9:05 (Jim P) 


Universal 6:37 (Vic) 


AVCX untimed (Ben) 


Joe Deeney’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Wild Bill”—Jim P’s review

This appears to be a WSJ debut, though Joe Deeney has had quite a number of grids in the LAT and NYT the past couple of years.

The theme is phrases whose last word ends in -ACT. This is separated out (mentally) so that the entire entry becomes the purported name of some Congressional product. Wacky clues ensue.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Wild Bill” · Joe Deeney · Wed., 7.24.19

  • 17a [Law canceling a speech?] STATEMENT OFF ACT
  • 26a [Law distributing sandwiches for free?] SUB COMP ACT
  • 35a [Law scheduling a breakup? ] TO BE EX ACT
  • 49a [Law blaming the car?] AUTO-DID ACT
  • 60a [Law providing orthodontic devices to a hellion?] BRACES FOR IMP ACT

Most of these felt pretty strained to me. The second and fifth ones feel somewhat plausible (although the last one’s clue is a bit of a mouthful (ha!)), but a law scheduling a breakup? A law blaming the car? Huh?

Never mind that the word AUTODIDACT (noun – A self-taught person) is entirely new to me, and so I doubted that entire middle right section. I wanted AUTODETECT, but that obviously didn’t fit with the theme. But even if I knew the word, AUTO-DID ACT is just entirely too awkward.

I wanted to like this, because I like themes that take existing phrases and mess around with them. But it all just felt too forced.

Nothing overly sparkly in the fill, but those big open corners in the NE and SW are solidly-filled. A VACCINE is always good, and I liked CEREBRA and Mary Lou RETTON. Plus, “OH CRUD“, “I CONCUR“, and PLACEBO.

Clues of note:

  • 34a [1926 Mae West play]. SEX. A play for which the young actor spent 10 days in jail but which boosted her career.
  • 54a [Cool, in jive talk]. HEP. There’s gotta be a better way to clue this without playing into stereotypes.
  • 66a [Racy hanging]. PIN-UP. I suppose the clue is gender-neutral, but come on, it isn’t really.
  • 25d [“A Bug’s Life” princess]. ATTA. No one remembers this. Sadly, I think we’d better stick to [Lead-in to boy or girl].

I like the attempt at wordplay here, but it just didn’t work for me. 2.8 stars.

Jake Halperin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 24 19, no. 0724

Three (semi-)idiomatic phrases starting with TO {VERB} make up the theme, clued as if they were tasks for specific people:

  • 20a. [Task for new parents of twins?], TO NAME A COUPLE. Eh. “To name a few” feels markedly more natural to me.
  • 38a. [Task for a Thai chef cooking for typical Americans?], TO PUT IT MILDLY. I loved this article about the global spread of chili peppers from South and Central America to cuisines all the world over. Thai food 500 years ago had no spicy peppers!
  • 55a. [Task for a Benedictine monk?], TO SAY THE LEAST. Ha! Liked this one much better than 20a.

Did not know: 30d. [“Sesame Street” baby Muppet], NATASHA. Also did not know and don’t think is a good entry: 41a. [Like the most protective hazmat suits], LEVEL A.


LOATHE might be a strong word, but my enjoyment of the puzzle was dampened considerably by too much of the fill: AT PAR, IN E, ALGAL, NEAP, ORANG (who uses this “informally”??), HOR, OPELS, ENS, ONE-NIL, ASLOPE, “I RULE” (dumb clue, as [Cry with a fist pump] should be “YESSS!” and I can’t really imagine anyone shouting “I rule!”), AN ACE, UTERI, UPRAISE, and AD SALE. That is far too many “meh” entries to cram into one 15×15 grid.

2.75 stars from me, mainly because of the fill.

Stanley Newman’s Universal Crossword, “The First Shall be Last”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Stanley Newman’s Universal Crossword, “The first Shall be Last,” July 24, 2019, solution

THEME: The last word of each of the three theme answers is a first synonym.

  • 20a [New store’s proclamation] GRAND OPENING. It usually involves a special celebration.
  • 35a [Hardly moving weather system] STATIONARY FRONT. The boundary between two air masses, when neither is taking out the other.
  • 49a [What may top a screw] PHILLIPS HEAD. Named for Henry F. Phillips, though invented by a guy named Thompson. No apostrophe.

Solid theme, accompanied by good, well-clued, unobjectionable fill. Including:

4d [Early version of a film] ROUGH CUT
5d [Two-time prime minister Benjamin] DISRAELI
9d [Deceitful] SLIPPERY
36d [Rusted, say] OXIDIZED
37d [Bug zapper ancestor] FLYPAPER
38d [Breakneck speed] RAPIDITY

Watch out for this guy, Newman. he’s got potential!

4 stars!

Howard Barkin & Sam Buchbinder’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Scrambled letters across the middle of theme answers as a theme concept really feels like it appears far more often than I care for, possibly because of other similarly oft repeated theme types being phased out? That isn’t this puzzle’s fault, of course. Anyway, there is a lot of gymnastics you have to do after the fact to make sense of the theme, but they felt extraneous to the puzzle itself. To wit, each circled letter set must be anagrammed to make a phrase that matches “___ bag”, a mixed bag – PERPA = PAPER; RACEMA = CAMERA; ARTHS = TRASH; and ANGTERM = GARMENT. Hiding such long bags, even anagrammed, is quite a challenge, so it’s not surprising SUPERPAC is the most splashy of the entries. HORACEMANN I know only from crosswords, though his importance is largely local to the USA. SLANGTERMS is the only plural, FWIW.


  • [Himalayan of legend], THEYETI. Never seen this with a THE. Feel somewhat ambivalent about it.
  • [Spirals], HELIXES. I prefer the plural HELICES, but a CBOX is not a thing.
  • [Support after a bad break?], CAST. Cute, but it doesn’t land. A cast can only be used in a good break where the bones are still aligned.
  • [Barista’s decoration], LATTEART. My favourite answer; this always seems like sorcery, but apparently it’s just a stencil?
  • [Plant swelling], EDEMA. Also animal, but crossword clues favour plants for some reason?
  • [Wham-O summer lawn toy that needs water], SLIPNSLIDE. And Sunlight liquid for maximum injury risk? Actually, this is another themeless grade answer in the downs.
  • [Medicine man in “The Princess Bride”], MIRACLEMAX. Very specific reference. I imagine those who adore this cult film enjoyed the nod, but the rest of just ran crossings.

3,75 Stars

Kameron Austin Collins’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #40” — Ben’s Review

AVCX Themeless #40 – 7/24/2019

It was a delight to see that this week’s AVCX was a themeless when the puzzle arrived in my inbox last night.  Kam’s cluing felt “looser” this time around, for lack of a better term.  Let’s peek under the hood of this grid:

  • Nothing that jumps out to me as particularly of-the-moment in this grid’s longer entries — THAT SMARTS, AERIAL ROOT, BLANK STARE, BUSHIDO CODE, MOTHER’S RUIN, FALL COLORS, FREE PASSES, and SETS A TEASE.  That feels a little unusual for KAC, but there was some lovely cluing on these – “Gahhhh freaking paper cut FML …” for THAT SMARTS, and “Red, orange, and yellow (but not green)” for FALL COLORS were particularly nice
  • It took me forever to mentally parse WPA MURAL in the correct way.  Once I had the letters in, though, I was immediately reminded of the murals in Pawnee City Hall
  • Other nice fill: WINE BAR, CELIE, SAKE BOMB, NEUROPATH, Yasmine BLEETH, ANTI-TOXIC, THIN COAT, and Nobel winner Mario Vargas LLOSA a few columns over from Nobel winner Herman HESSE

It doesn’t include a PIANO SOLO, but “Fingertips, pt. II” was Stevie Wonder’s first #1 single


Happy Wednesday, all!  See you in a few hours for the NYT Thursday puzzle.

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9 Responses to Wednesday, July 24, 2019

  1. Ethan says:

    Great NYT theme. All of the themers were debuts, too. I did think a more apt clue for 20A would have been “task for a tabloid headline writer,” thinking of, e.g. the person who came up with Brangelina or Bennifer.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Cool theme, but the puzzle felt lumpy. There were areas that were very smooth and others that were pretty rough.
    I’ve heard people say “TO NAME A COUPLE” but rarely, and it gave the impression that the rest of the theme answers would be somewhat modified to fit the clue. So it did a disservice for great clues and answers like “TO SAY THE LEAST”.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    Toughest AVCX in a long time.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    Density of obscure to obscure-ish Names, those real and from poop culture alongside and crossing some of the worst fill in memory make loathe perfectly appropriate today, AMY.

    I not only forgive you, I endorse your use of said strong language.

  5. Dr Fancypants says:

    NYT was simply bad, but interesting tidbit about the peppers and Asian cuisine. I often find it fascinating to think about iconic elements of European cuisines that all came from the New World. What was Italian cuisine like before tomatoes came over? Spanish cuisine before maize? Irish cuisine before potatoes? Okay, that last one maybe is less interesting…

  6. John says:

    Informal summons ====> cmere


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