Wednesday, November 20, 2019

LAT 4:18 (GRAB) 


NYT 5:41 (Amy) 


WSJ 7:06 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Rebecca) 


AVCX 12:42 (Ben) 


David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “PA System”—Jim P’s review

This is essentially the same puzzle that we saw from this constructor two weeks ago, except with PA taking the place of TR. Here, standard words and phrases that include a PA are re-parsed with a word break between those two letters.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “PA System” · David Alfred Bywaters · Wed., 11.20.19

  • 17a [Highway maintenance concern?] RAMP AGING
  • 26a [Piscine proficiencies?] CARP ARTS
  • 40a [Soreness after taking too many college prep tests?] A.P. ACHES. Meh. This one’s different than the others since it initializes the starting A as well. And taking the name of a proud Native American tribe and dicing it up for solvers’ enjoyment doesn’t feel right. One of my college friends was Apache, and he always had trouble fitting in at our school. This entry just makes me sad.
  • 51a [Pass on the chocolate-covered insects?] SKIP ANTS
  • 64a [Nursery theater draw?] IMP ACTING

Other than the APACHES entry, the rest are better than the ones from two weeks ago. At least they have surface sense, and the humor is more on target.

But again, the title doesn’t do much to explain what’s going on here. At least last time, there was an effort (remember “T.R. oops”?) to explain why we were splitting T from R. Here there’s not even that. How is “PA System” a basis for this puzzle? Before we go down the road of making similar grids titled “AV Club,” “BB Gun,” “DH Lawrence,” and whatnot, how about if we limit these to those that are justifiable? For example, you could have a puzzle titled “Commercial Break” where you insert a word break between the letters A and D. That makes sense. I’m sure there are others that do as well.

The fill here is nice, especially SUPER-SIZE, WIPEOUT, ELEPHANT, AVATARS, and TRADE UP. And there’s little to complain about, so that’s a good thing.

Clues of note:

  • 9a [Disposed to verbosity]. GASSY. We would also have accepted, [Like some babies]…especially since the G crosses GUT.
  • 30a [Lurking spots]. LAIRS. Hmm. “Lurking” to me means trying not to be noticed in a public place. LAIRS aren’t public places.
  • 31a [Bull issuer]. POPE. Tough clue. The initial P was my last letter in the grid. A Papal bull is an official decree by the POPE.
  • 25d [Party animal?]. ELEPHANT. Good clue.

Not a bad puzzle—certainly better than the previous version—but the title needs work. 3.25 stars.

Erik Agard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 20 19, no. 1120

The theme revealer is the central Down answer, 14d. [Argue repetitively … with a hint to this puzzle’s theme], TALK IN CIRCLES. The six Acrosses that contain words and phrases whose start and end spell out words that are roughly synonymous with the revealer.

  • 12a. [Take the risk], CHANCE IT, with CHAT.
  • 23a. [2018 blockbuster film based on a Marvel comic] BLACK PANTHER, with BLATHER. Gorgeous movie.
  • 31a. [Time for a trip to Cabo San Lucas or Miami Beach], SPRING BREAK, with SPEAK. I suspect the percentage of young people who travel to a beach destination for spring break is way less than than 40%.
  • 46a. [Bring about], ORCHESTRATE, with ORATE.
  • 51a. [Sturdier alternative to a cardboard box], PLASTIC CRATE, with PRATE. I wanted ORANGE CRATE here, going old-school, but it was one letter short.
  • 66a. [Long fish with a row of barbs], SPINY EEL, with SPIEL.

Not the usual theme idea. Erik is so incredibly creative.

Highlights in the fill: COMO ESTA, EMPANADA, ZIGZAG, “WHAT CAN I DO?”, and a classic STAGE ACTOR.

Didn’t exactly know: 46d. [Nonfiction film with a point of view, in brief], OP-DOC. It seems to be a New York Times term. If you want to watch some NYT op-docs—short documentary films conveying opinions, made by indie filmmakers and artists—check out that YouTube channel.

Clues of note:

  • 24d. [Church part that sounds like what you might have on your smartphone], APSE. Sounds like apps.
  • 39d. [Line out the door?], “TA TA!” Definitely misled me.
  • 49d. [Gas that’s a man’s name + E], ETHANE. There’s an actor named Ethan Embry. Does he know how gassy he is?

Names galore: TOPOL, TGI Fridays, UTAH, EPCOT, HEGEL, LOGAN, ANA, OMAR Dorsey, Brian ENO, GAEA, EDEN. That’s actually not a problematic proper nouns count, though the HEGEL/GAEA/ANA swath may have snagged a solver or two.

Four stars from me.

Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

The best thing about this puzzle is the revealing KEYWEST. It’s a clever way to get to “KEY+___” for the first part of four phrases: KEY(BOARD)WALK; KEY(RING)TONE; KEY(NOTE)BOOK and KEY(LIME)LIGHT. Otherwise it’s a pretty typical theme of its type.

The theme takes up 41 squares by my account and the grid is quite blocked off otherwise. I am not sure why a puzzle with ALBS, RCPTS and EGER/DHED and EFAX (???) gratuitously in its corners and edges wasn’t sent back for another draft. ETHNOS was guessable but also seemed far from necessary or interesting.


Jennifer Nutt’s Universal crossword, “Busy Bees”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Bee-related words end each themed answer

Universal crossword solution · Jennifer Nutt · “Busy Bees” · Wed., 11.20.19


  • 17A [Type of jeans] BUTTON FLY
  • 28A [(C)overt (op)eration] POLICE STING
  • 45A [Group of celestial objects] METEOR SWARM
  • 58A [Academy Award speculation] OSCAR BUZZ

There was so much to love with this puzzle. Starting with a simple, but really well- executed theme. Even without reading the title (which at this point I’m sure you all realize I do not) I figured out the Bee theme fairly quickly into the puzzle. Before the puzzle, I was not familiar with METEOR SWARMs but google tells me they are real from both the astronomical side of things, as well as in D&D, so I’ll take it.

The fill here is also pretty fantastic – the grid is pretty scrabble-y, but there isn’t much crosswordese which is super impressive. Some great long non-theme answers in there like OPERA HOUSE, ON THE LOOSE, and OMNIVORE, along with the smooth construction and lively clues, made this entire puzzle such a pleasure to solve.

3.75 stars

Victor Fleming’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #44” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 11/20 – Themeless #44

This week’s AVCX is a themeless from Victor Fleming, and boy oh boy, do Judge Vic and I have different pop culture wavelengths – I was in desperate need of some footholds on this grid:

  • I was Natick’d in two separate spots on the grid – ONE-HOPPER is a bit of sports jargon I’m not aware of, nor is “Noted sexologist” SHERE HITE.  I was trying to figure out hot to fit Ruth Westheimer in here somewhere.  In the lower right of the grid, Joanna KERNS and Helmut KOHL are both off my usual radar as crossword fill.
  • Also off my radar this puzzle: the film LIBEL, T.S. GARP, and the DODGE COLT (I had DODGE DART for too long)
  •  The full Cheech and Chong bit for cluing DEPORT didn’t really add anything to solving this for me.

Finally: I appreciated the Prince content across the center of this grid – “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is classic, as is its initial line of “I AIN’T GOT NO MONEY

Happy Wednesday, all!

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3 Responses to Wednesday, November 20, 2019

  1. Sarah says:

    Don’t understand the NYT theme. If “in circles” just means the circled letters, why are all the circles arbitrarily at the beginnings and ends?

  2. Billy Boy says:

    Somehow didn’t want to comment solo yesterday so it turns out to be a quiet comment day.

    NYT did less than nothing for me, so arbitrary, but I do have a thing with circles in my puzzles, some good clue/answer pairs, but eh.

    The re-emphasis phrasing theme in WSJ is recurring and I like parsing out the changes as early as possible once I figure out the first theme answer. Rather fun for me, you opinion may differ.

  3. Joel Johnson says:

    A one-hopper is the easiest/most desirable hop for a SS, not the best cluing there.

Comments are closed.