Wednesday, September 11, 2019

LAT 5:54 (GRAB, 1 err) 


NYT 5:00 (Amy) 


WSJ 7:46 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Rebecca) 


AVCX 14:20 (Ben) 


John-Clark Levin & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Pre Fixes”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Words with prefixes have that prefix separated out, thus creating wacky two-word phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Pre Fixes” · John-Clark Levin & Jeff Chen · Wed., 9.11.19

  • 17a [Assignment given to a po’ boy?] SUB MISSION
  • 27a [Work of a full-time contortionist?] PRO POSITIONING
  • 31a [Spy who works for a Washington paper?] POST OPERATIVE
  • 41a [Bacteria growing in the kitchen?] COUNTER CULTURE
  • 52a [Golf course?] FORE GROUND

Most of these work well enough, but I find the clue for the first one to be too far-fetched, especially when compared to the others. Cluing with respect to a sub-eating contest might have worked better.

The fill is good and I’ll get to it, but I found myself distracted by the MONOKINI / TOPLESS / BRAS trifecta (and not for the reasons you’re thinking). First off, an entry with a clear prefix (MONOKINI) probably shouldn’t be in this grid given the theme. Second, TOPLESS is clued [Wearing a {MONOKINI}, perhaps]. I had assumed incorrectly that MONOKINI simply meant a one-piece swimsuit, mainly because that’s how the term is used commercially these days. However, it apparently was originally designed to be a bottom-only piece of swimwear for women. Not knowing this threw me off, but I suppose that’s on me. Third, BRAS is clued [Some do push-ups] as if to say a single bra does multiple push-ups. Not only is this wrong, it’s trying way too hard to be cute. Unless you’re someone who wears BRAS regularly, clue it straight and be done with it. In combination, these three clues feel on the verge of obsessive and they are potentially off-putting to a lot of solvers.

There are also some other eyebrow-raisers in there as well. Boomer ESIASON [Boomer born in 1961], the former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, is probably past his prime as crossword fill. I suppose he is still a football commentator for CBS, but I admit I had to look that up just now. Right below him is EL CAP [Mountain face climbed by Alex Honnold in “Free Solo,” for short]. I had ELCAG at first because I wanted TAG OUT for 46d [Submit, in the ring] (yes, I know that’s clearly wrong now, but I was thinking of tag team wrestling at the time). But I eventually realized EL CAP was short for El Capitan the rock-climbing destination in Yosemite National Park. I don’t know that anyone outside the rock-climbing crowd or Yosemite regulars would ever refer to the rock formation this way, and I predict that crossing will be tough for a lot of solvers. Lastly, UOMO [Man of Milano]. ‘Nuff said.

But there are definitely a bunch of things I do like in the fill like BUM RAP, IGUANAS, THE KING, SCULLERY [Dishwashing room at Downton Abbey], COCOON, the isle of CAPRI, and BOP-IT [Hasbro toy that players twist and pull]. This last was a gimme for me and I’m surprised we don’t see it more in crosswords. As far as I know, Hasbro is still making it.

Clues of note:

  • 30a [Love of Paris]. HELEN. If you weren’t sure, this clue could be re-phrased “Paris’s love”. Nice trickeration.
  • 51a [Like a wolf without a pack]. I really want this answer to be ALONE, but instead it’s just LONE. I realize “lone wolf” is a phrase, but it doesn’t feel like LONE is the proper substitute here. “That wolf is without its pack; that wolf is LONE.” Meh. Doesn’t work for me.
  • 12d [What “GIF” should be pronounced with, according to its inventor]. SOFT G. Sorry. Still not convinced. Why would I pronounce it such that it sounds like peanut butter?
  • 14d [Focus of a player on the bench]. PIANO. Favorite clue here for its misdirection. I needed 80% of the crossings before the a-ha moment.
  • 41d [Place to get wings?]. COCOON. Another good bit of misdirection.

Overall, a mixed bag for me. 3.3 stars.

Ned White’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 11 19, no. 0911

This theme is 30% “the theme answer reads more like a clue for an answer that’s been put in a clue” (a theme type I dislike) and 40% “interpret a phrase literally” and 40% “hide a word in circled squares.” The extra 10% is because of the interplay among those levels. Here’s the theme:

  • 17a. [Bird in the hand?], HIRED PERSON, which is a definition of “hand,” with a HERON in circled squares. So, literally a kind of bird in a phrase that means “hand.” Nifty.
  • 24a. [Snake in the grass?], CATTLE FODDER, or grass, with an ADDER in it. CATTLE FODDER is a dull, clue-like term.
  • 38a. [Come up in the world?], MARS, FOR INSTANCE, with ARISE in it. MARS, FOR INSTANCE is worded like a clue.
  • 50a. [Throw in the towel?], SPA ACCESSORY, with a PASS inside. SPA ACCESSORY is another distinctly clue-ish entry.
  • 61a. [Ace in the hole?]. PERFORATION, with a PRO inside.

So while the clue-ish themers are innately annoying to me, I forgive them here because I like the gimmick.

Five more things:

  • 23d. [One who’s “out”], ODD MAN. Six-letter partial, technically. But it feels sort of OK to me because we’re watching the ESPN “30 for 30” documentary on Dennis Rodman.
  • 32a. [English architect Jones], INIGO. The sort of entry you get with 61 theme squares, yes? And the ampersandless R AND R, ANAT., SDS, SNERD … Overall the fill’s decent, though.
  • 64a. [One of three figures carved on Georgia’s Stone Mountain], Robert E. LEE / 56a. [Provides pieces for], ARMS. The editorial choices were made to canonize the Confederacy (there are a ton of other people named Lee you can choose among) and include some guns. Why?
  • 51d. [Some funeral arrangements], PYRES. Omigod, this is grim. I tell ya, I don’t know anyone whose funeral has involved an actual pyre.
  • 47d. [Onetime pop star Donny], OSMOND. Hey, my sister and I each had the Donny three-ring binder. He’s no longer a pop star, but he’s done well on reality competition shows—Dancing With the Stars and The Masked Singer. His AGENTS must’ve worked overtime to get him booked on both of those shows.

3.8 stars from me.

John Guzzetta’s Universal crossword, “In the Right Place”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: The end of

Universal crossword solution · John Guzzetta · “In the Right Place” · Wed., 9.11.19


  • 17A [Part of a bicameral legislature] LOWER HOUSE
  • 23A [Spot for a picture?] MOVIE TRAILER
  • 36A [Exclusive airplane area] FIRST CLASS CABIN
  • 47A [Lickety-split] IN NO TIME FLAT
  • 57A [Cry of relief after a long drive, or a description of 17-, 23-, 36- and 47-Across] HOME AT LAST

Classic theme here and very well executed. I enjoyed the range of the answers as well as the type of housing they spanned – I particularly loved the clue for MOVIE TRAILER. The revealer works really nicely with this theme and the puzzle itself feels full of theme entries without any sacrifices being made with fill.

Some great fill and clues throughout. The long downs of IMPULSE BUY and SCRUB NURSE were really nice bonuses for the puzzle. I loved the clues for AMMO [Rotten tomatoes, for a tough crowd] and ESE [Tongue suffix]. Really the only crossing I didn’t care for was the ERIC/TCU one at 27D/40A – at least for me these were both answers i wasn’t sure of and crossing them felt harder than the rest of the puzzle. I was very excited to see NAOMI Osaka who has become one of my favorite players & people in the tennis world – and yes this interview left me with tears in my EYES.

The LEE in this puzzle [Stan who co-created “Ant-Man”] was also a very welcome alternative to the clue in a certain other puzzle today. That’s all from me for now- will leave you with my favorite picture of MADAM Speaker

3.5 stars

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “Blackout Dates” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 9/11 — “Blackout Dates”

BEQ has a supersized AVCX for us all this week, and the theme’s pretty straightforward, but well-executed:

  • 26A: In a way — AFT
  • 40A: Keep at it — HAMM
  • 50A: Servant to the King and Queen of Hearts — WHIT
  • 89A: Track activity — HORS
  • 98A: Temporary tattoo remover — MIN
  • 112A: Sub rosa — UNDERTH
  • 68A: Alternate universe in which things are extremely bad, and a hint to the hidden parts of this puzzle’s theme — DARKEST TIMELINE

There’s a dashed clue after each of the theme entries in the grid, which typically means that something is missing and bridging the gaps.  123D spells this out directly — we’re missing the “Timeline hidden throughout this puzzle”, or an ERA.  Using this to fill in the black squares next to the theme entries, we get answers that match their clues: AFTER A FASHION, HAMMER AWAY, WHITE RABBIT, HORSE RACING, MINERAL OIL, and UNDER THE RADAR.

The trailer for the upcoming Taika Waititi film Jojo Rabbit features the German version of the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” and I’ve had it stuck in my head all week.

A quick dash through the rest of the fill here:

  • BEQ and I spell AW JEEZ differently – I had a GEEZ in my grid until JOULE corrected me on the downs
  • Facebook bought WHATSAPP for 19 billion back in February 2014.
  • I really liked the longer fill like IMPERATIVE, ALARM PANEL, and FLIES OPEN.  HAVE A MEAL less so.
  • A LLANERO is an inhabitant of a LLANO.

Happy Wednesday!

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s theme summary


Quick theme recap: CHUTESANDLADDERS (known as SNAKESANDLADDERS here, which makes for much prettier boards) is the revealer and there are 2 triplets of diagonals, one with ___ CHUTE and one with ___ LADDER words. LAUNDRY, MAIL and TRASH are the chutes, and ROPE, FIRE and STEP the ladders.

Diagonals always cause havoc with grid fill… What the heck is AUDIOSPAM, for starters.


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18 Responses to Wednesday, September 11, 2019

  1. Martin says:

    Jim P,
    Why would I pronounce it such that it sounds like peanut butter?

    “Jif” is easier to say and sounds nicer to my ear than “ghif.” But it was precisely because the pronunciation mimicked a common word that it was chosen. In fact, in the early days the format was pushed with “Choosy developers choose gif,” a takeoff of the Jif tagline, “Choosy mothers choose Jif.”

    • Ben says:

      It’s also a pun on “jiffy” or “jif,” referring to the speed of the animation. Hence the popular site GIPHY for storing/sharing .GIFs.

  2. Jeff says:

    Oh wow, that NYT’s a bad one today ….

  3. Bob says:

    NYT – Gimmick was cute, but the fill…..ooof. GSTAAD?!? really?

  4. JohnH says:

    I’d agree with Jim on the not so great WSJ fill and passable theme. I didn’t know HOP-IT but got it from crossings. ESIASON and TAP-OUT were a do not finish.

  5. Billy Boy says:

    NYT among the worst puzzles I’ve ever solved. I’ll leave it at that.

  6. David L says:

    What kind of transportation safety workers are AGENTS?

  7. Dr Fancypants says:

    Another voice chiming in to say that today’s NYT puzzle deserves to be on a “worst of all time” list.

  8. Billy Boy says:

    WSJ – really struggled but finished. Lots of oblique in a *bad* way cluing.

    Tough day in puzzledom, not just from about 5 days off.

  9. Brian Thomas says:

    really creative AVCX today!

  10. Joan Macon says:

    This is the third time this week that the LAT has not appeared here. Twice it was Jenni and now it’s Gareth. Just because we are four time zones away from New York doesn’t mean we aren’t wanting the blog. Amy, I’m not blaming you, I know how busy yo are, but please can’t somebody look into this? Am I the only Californian who reads the Fiend?

  11. Joan Macon says:

    Here it is Thursday morning and I find the LAT has appeared: but, alas, it’s not the same puzzle that was in my newspaper on Wednesday?

  12. Joan Macon says:

    I have just discovered that the LAT posted here for Wednesday is the one in the Thursday LAT newspaper. So where is Wednesday?

  13. PJ says:

    Someone wants to speak with the manager.

  14. A says:

    Please fix the LAT posts!!!

Comments are closed.