Wednesday, August 21, 2019

LAT 3:47 (GRAB) 


NYT 5:10 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal 7:28 (Jim P) 


AVCX 7:39 (Ben) 


Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stirring Things Up”—Jim P’s review

If this puzzle seems familiar to you, it may be because you’ve done it before. Due to a snafu on our site a couple weeks ago, we had this puzzle linked to on our “Today’s Puzzles” page, and I even went as far as writing and posting the review before I was made aware it was the wrong puzzle. So here it is again on the correct day.

Most of what follows is what I wrote back then.

Our theme takes common words ending in -STERS and re-defines them based on the first part of the word.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · Gary Larson · “Stirring Things Up” · Wed., 8.21.19

  • 17a [Hip actors?] HAMSTERS. Some actors, typically bad ones, are hams.
  • 26a [Hip wallflowers?] SHYSTERS. Wallflowers are shy.
  • 35a [Hip publicists?] SPINSTERS. Publicists spin.
  • 49a [Hip ghosts?] BOOSTERS. Ghosts go “boo.”
  • 59a [Hip tennis players?] LOBSTERS. Tennis players lob.

I like the play on words, but frankly, I didn’t get the “hip” connection. Adding “-ster” to something makes it “hip”?

Let’s say I like to jog. (I don’t, but work with me here.) So you could add “-ster” to “jog”, call me a “jogster” and that makes me “hip”? I’m not following.

“Hipster” ends with “-ster” but I’m not seeing how that relates to these entries.

So the theme confused me. I do like the title, and I think it’s sufficient to indicate what’s going on here. If the clues left out the “hip” aspect, the whole thing would have worked better for me.

In the fill I liked DOMINIC (my son’s name), “TOO TRUE“, CARPORT, SHARONA, EPHESUS, and MALARIA. I’m not so keen on NO HOPER and TILERS but DEBATER feels more legit.

3.4 stars from me.

Sam Donaldson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 21 19, no. 0821

I don’t quite gEt thE thEmE hErE. I see that the themers with “E-___” clues contain no vowels other than E’s, but the relationship between the clues and answers has eluded me. Let’s take a look:

  • 18a. [E-book?], THE SECRET. There’s a book called The Secret, and I cannot respect its thesis, which is basically that wishing for things will bring them into your life. And yet people die of diseases, and struggle in poverty, no matter how much positive thinking they try.
  • 20a. [E-waste?], DELETED SCENE. Is … the deleted scene from a movie somehow considered “waste”? I’m not sure what the term e-waste means, either.
  • 27a. [E-filing?], TERM SHEET. Is this … some legal phrase, a thing that gets filed for who knows what purpose? Contract negotiations? A glossary of terms? I’ve never encountered TERM SHEET before. E-filing is for tax returns.
  • 37a. [E-mail?], REFERENCE LETTER. Letters in the mail, okay.
  • 45a. [E-sign?], ENTER HERE. E-signing is appending a virtual signature to a document. Not sure I’ve seen ENTER HERE signs posted, but a Google Image search supports them as a real thing.
  • 52a. [E-business?], MERCEDES-BENZ. Technically, Mercedes is a division of a business called Daimler AG, and not a business unto itself. It’s also not the first thing anyone thinks of for Mercedes-Benz—we think of the car.
  • 58a. [E-mag?], SEVENTEEN. I loved Seventeen magazine as a teen, but I do deplore e-mag. Nobody uses that term!

I find myself wishing that TERM SHEET and ENTER HERE had been dropped from the theme, as a five-piece theme is plenty and it would have allowed more wiggle room for the rest of the fill. Plural DNAS is awfully questionable, the EOS SCH ESTD OCHS SHECAT chunk is also unfortunate, and there are still more abbrevs throughout the grid (FTC ATF AFL EDT). Plus there’s OOX, -ERN, ‘ENRY, and variant ENURES. Too much!

The grid perked up with LITE FM and HOBNOB, but overall I think the theme density crowded out more good stuff.

Four more things:

  • 9a. [Black-and-white swimmers], ORCAS! We would also have accepted [Diary of a Crossword Fiend awards program run by this puzzle’s creator]. You rock, Sam!
  • 1a. [___ talk], CHALK. No idea what chalk talk is. My husband suspects it’s the X’s and O’s on a football coach or commentator’s blackboard. Yes? No? Please educate me!
  • 5d. [___ Berry Farm (California attraction)], KNOTT’S. My mom was just reading to me from a letter she’d sent her SoCal sister back in the early ’70s, saying she hoped to avoid spending any of our money supporting That Guy. All I know is that “panning for gold” there was an awesome experience, but I’m sorry it vexed my mother to help enrich Mr. Knott of the John Birch Society. (You see that I have been liberal since early childhood.)
  • 67a. [It’s no miniature gulf], ABYSS. Ha! That is terrible. Sam, I assume this was your clue?

2.8 stars from me.

Jake Scheele’s Universal Crossword, “Rolling in the Aisles”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Comedic partnerships meet up at the corners of the grid.

Universal crossword solution · “Rolling in the Aisles” · Jake Scheele · Wed., 8.21.19

  • 1a & 12d [Ice-skating comedy duo half] FRICK / FRACK. This was the last corner for me as I’ve never heard of this duo. I had FRITZ at 1a for quite a while. I have heard of both words used as substitute curse words, though.
  • 6a & 15d [“Up in Smoke” comedy duo half] CHEECH / CHONG.
  • 43d & 62a [“Laugh-In” comedy duo half] ROWAN / MARTIN.
  • 63a & 47d [Radio/early TV comedy duo half] BURNS / ALLEN

Nice theme and a well-executed grid. I love the grid design.

I wonder what other partnerships were considered. Laurel and Hardy seem like they could have fit in well. Hope and Crosby as well. But finding a symmetrical partner for Abbott and Costello probably wasn’t possible. And I would have loved to have seen a more modern example like Key and Peele, but again, a symmetrical partner would be needed.


Some snoozers snuck in there, though. I could do without ever seeing AJA [Steely Dan’s best-selling album] again. REDATES is roll-your-ownish. KLIEG [Filming light type] was hard because of its crossing with FRICK and FRIZZLE. EDDA is tired crosswordese made worse into plural EDDAS. But it’s all a balancing act, and with the solid theme and that boatload of strong fill, these few clunkers are okay.

Clues of note:

  • 12a [Curl tightly]. FRIZZLE. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard this used as a verb. Of course, if it was clued [“The Magic School Bus” driver Ms. ___], I would’ve gotten it immediately.
  • 22a [Klink and Sanders: Abbr.]. COLS. I found the clue humorous for some reason. Sounds like a good comedy duo name. Maybe because it makes me think of the British comedy duo French and Saunders.
  • 26a [“A Fish Called Wanda” star Kevin]. KLINE. And of course that film ranks as one of my all-time favorite funny films. “Don’t call me stupid.”
  • 8d [Revivalists, for short?]. EMTS. Brilliant clue there.

Very good puzzle. Four stars.

Laura Braunstein’s AVCX, “Agency Reform” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 8/21/19 – “Agency Reform”

This week’s AVCX had an interesting headnote that, after solving the grid, totally goes along with the theme.  Ben Tausig noted that this week’s constructor, Laura Braunstein, was “donating her payment from this puzzle”.  Let’s look at the grid to talk about why:

  • 16A: The sign on Monsieur Bonaparte’s door, back when he was busting students for smoking weed in their dorm rooms? — NAPOLEON RA
  • 22A: Comedian Margaret’s greatest resource — her bold and outrageous satire? — WEAPON OF CHO
  • 35A: “Ok, I confess: I plagiarized my tenure file”? — PROF ADMISSION
  • 47A: Fitting actor Patel for a costume in a Harry Potter film? — CLOAKING DEV
  • 58A: Political movement advocating elimination of a certain DHS branch, particularly since it began implementing inhumane policies toward refugees, migrants, and their families; or, a hint to this puzzle’s theme — ABOLISH ICE

Each of these answers features a more common phrase that has “abolished” ICE – NAPOLEONIC ERA, WEAPON OF CHOICE, PRICE OF ADMISSION, and CLOAKING DEVICE.  As noted in the revealer for this puzzle, ICE has implemented policies that have torn apart families and placed children in cages along the border, and it needs to be completely abolished.

In line with this, Laura is donating her payment from this week’s puzzle to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (, an organization that provides free and low-cost assistance, advocacy, and legal services to under-served refugee and immigrant families and children.  I think this is fantastic and encourage you to donate as well if you feel similarly.

Elsewhere in the grid: it was great to see a 30-50 feral hogs reference for the clue to HOGWILD, KESHA‘s “Rich White Straight Man” (which I tried to attribute to LIZZO), and DADBOD show up in the grid.

Salt n Pepa’s “SHOOP” is an absolute classic.

Happy Wednesday! ABOLISH ICE!

Jim Bordoni & C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

A 60th anniversary for America’s 50th state – the ALOHASTATE, Hawaii. As good a reason as any for an H/I initials theme. There are five themers (plus a revealer), but they’re on the shorter side: HOLIDAYINN, HOOFEDIT (the weakest entry, IMO, though the shorter theme entry lengths is probably why it’s here), HEATINDEX, HALEIRWIN (with a US Open fake-out since the tennis tournament is next week), and HOTISSUE.

As with most puzzles with Zhouqin’s name on them, there is a lot of interesting fill worked in outside of the theme (regardless of it being quite busy). METOO is a bit more than just an [Anti-harassment movement], anti-abuse/rape too? COLDFRONT and IMISSEDIT are the longer down pair. I personally liked seeing RAPA Nui; strangely, despite its letters, MOAI has never appeared in any puzzle I can find.

Clue of the puzzle: [Have more People come to the house?], RENEW, even though variations of this pun have been done before, it felt like a fresh wrinkle.

3 Stars

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31 Responses to Wednesday, August 21, 2019

  1. Pseudonym says:

    “With this puzzle, I intended to have a bit of fun with that convention that says you can stick an E in front of something and suddenly you’ve coined a hip, modern term.”

    Well, I’m glad you had fun with it.

  2. mt says:

    awful nyt

  3. Steve Manion says:

    Term Sheet is a common term in financing. It is often prepared by a bank and serves as the foundation for the preparation of final binding documents in a deal. It is very similar to a letter of intent except that a letter of intent is prepared by one or both of the principal parties.Neither document is binding but parts of it such as confidentiality and non-disclosure provisions can be biding even if the deal falls through

    • Brian says:

      Also, for notes that will be issued to retail investors, the term sheet will often be filed with the SEC. See their Edgar site for more info.

    • Dr Fancypants says:

      TERM SHEETs are also central to venture capital financings.

      However, I don’t get how the “E-file?” clue is meant to connect to TERM SHEET. Is it because the term sheet document is a file on your computer? That would be a weak connection. It’s not a document you “file” anywhere (except possibly on a computer somewhere), so even though TERM SHEET is very much a thing in my world it still didn’t work for me because the cluing just didn’t make sense.

  4. Joel Roman says:

    We cannot (here in San Francisco) access any of your Tuesday blogging.

  5. cyberdiva says:

    Joel Roman, I’m in SF, and I too had trouble with accessing the Tuesday blogs. I found, though, that if I clicked on the link that appears in the Not Found error message, it took me to the list of puzzle discussions, and then if I clicked on the Continue Reading link at the end of the list of Tuesday discussions, I’d get to the actual discussions. Hope that helps.

  6. Patrick says:

    A CHALK talk is part of the interview process for some jobs, particularly university professorships. Candidates for those jobs are often asked to give two lectures: first a public presentation giving a broad introduction to their research, then a private (i.e., hiring committee and other faculty) seminar in which they give a detailed overview of their plan to carry out new research, establish collaborations, secure funding, etc. Traditionally, it is given with no slides, just a chalkboard — hence the name — although many candidates now use a second slide deck.

    Horrendous puzzle.

  7. Martha says:

    Again the Universal puzzle doesn’t load in Across Lite because of a corrupted file.

    • Martin says:

      I replaced the bad file. It’s still a mystery as to how these get corrupted, but David and I are working on it.

    • Martin says:

      We traced the corruption problem to an occasional glitch in the review process, so hopefully this was the last occurrence.

      • WhiskyBill says:

        Thank you! I’m sure I speak for many, many here (and many who have no idea of the work you do behind the scenes) in thanking you most sincerely for all you to keep the puzzle community solving.

      • Jim Peredo says:

        It was me. Recently I was given the power to download the Universal puzzles early for those occasional times I review them (like today). But unbeknownst to me, the program I was using was updating my solved version of the puzzle back to Martin’s site thereby corrupting it. Now that we know, I’ll find a different method to do this. It just goes to show…power corrupts. Occasional power corrupts occasionally.

  8. Lise says:

    NYT: Thank you to Steve Manion, Brian, and Patrick for your explanations of TERM SHEET and CHALK talk, neither of which I had heard before.

    WSJ: I had fortunately not done this puzzle upon its earlier publication. I liked the repurposing of words that end in -STERS. This one, and yesterday’s WSJ, serve to highlight the diversity of sources of words in the English language.

  9. JohnH says:

    Agreed that fmo “hipster” to “hip” seemed a tenuous connection to me, too, in the WSJ. Brought the whole puzzle down.

  10. Billy Boy says:

    CHALK TALK is known to me as a basketball term from my youth, I see it is perpetuated in some business circles, I find it wholly legit.

    Well … the other day we had ARTIE as a revealer (LAT? I rarely comment on those because they win the cleanest fill of the day award most often and rarely need a comment on cr*p or even excellence, just middle of the road decent puzzles)

    R T now E so S L & N will complete the wheel. [Paging Vanna White …]

    Today’s WSJ was a crummy idea to me, just random stuff-STER, I came here to check as I had solved on paper today and was unsure a couple of squares (crosses in the heartland) and saw the terrible crowd vote number for NYT which I was on my way to solve (Computer grid). It (NYT) really fell rather easily for me, although I thought the fill was dreadful in spots.

    Here’s hoping I enjoy LAT as I usually do!

  11. jj says:

    I liked the idea of the NYT, but almost uniformly I didn’t care for the actual theme answers. I think SEVENTEEN works the best, but then [E-mag] isn’t in standard usage. I guess I’m not sure what a REFERENCELETTER is and how it differs from a plain old LETTER. Unsure what THESECRET is and I can’t believe that there isn’t a more well-known book with only E’s as vowels. Amy’s suggestion to cut two themers is a good one, and some more thought with the other theme answers would have greatly improved this good idea.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      A letter of reference is a thing a teacher, academic adviser, or employer/colleague might write in support of the requester’s application to a school, program, or job. Traditionally, they’re sealed so the requester can’t read what’s said.

      Wait, that’s a letter of recommendation. But I think it’s the same thing.

  12. David Steere says:

    AVCX: Abolish ICE…indeed! I loved Laura’s message and her lovely donation of the proceeds to RAICES. I do, therefore, feel I’m being a bit churlish to complain about some of the fill. I couldn’t finish due to clue/answers I’d never heard of: Dansko/Ecco, “Steal My Sunshine”/Len, 30-50 Feral Swine, Ned Ludd, “Shoop,” Wiiu (I’ve certainly heard of Wii but beyond that I’m lost–guessed Wiia which makes “hang” at 41 Across which seemed fine), Mos Eisley, Siouxsie/Banshee, Google Hangouts, Buffalo Dairy, etc. Using Google and GMail often, I’m surprised Hangouts is unknown to me. Too old and too much a non-user of social media to make much headway with AVCX fill like this. But, bless you–non-religiously–Laura for you social conscience.

    • MeanMrMustard says:

      This puzzle was terrible. The themes were a stretch…and just bad fill everywhere. I mean I get what you’re trying to do with the political “ICE” thing but this was just bad.

  13. David Roll says:

    WSJ–I give: 8 down, INB for “Having five sharps perhaps.”Just don’t get it.

  14. mr x says:

    NYT would’ve fared better with a revealer

  15. David Reich says:

    E this e that. Jesus Christ what stupid stupid set of clues. How the hell did it get on yesterday’s but? Will Shortz must be dead.

  16. David Reich says:

    E this e that. Jesus Christ what stupid stupid set of clues. How the hell did it get on yesterday’s nyt? Will Shortz must be dead.

Comments are closed.