Wednesday, January 15, 2020

LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT 3:39 (joon—paper) 


WSJ 6:32 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Rebecca) 


AVCX 7:56 (Ben) 


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

Theme: Pronoun puns. Words that are homonyms of phrases that include a pronoun replace those phrases in well-known sayings.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Indefinite Pronouns” · David Alfred Bywaters · Wed., 1.15.20

  • 17a [“Little pitchers have big ears,” e.g.?] EWER SAYING. “You were saying…” That was a confusing clue, especially as this is the first theme entry. It took a fair amount of crosses to figure out what was going on here.
  • 28a [The Chornaya, which flows into Sevastopol Bay?] CRIMEA RIVER. “Cry me a river.” Ooh. That’s a good one.
  • 47a [Interested in trying a little poetry?] IAMB-CURIOUS. “I am curious.” I think the entry is meant to be written with a hyphen, yeah? However, the base phrase is less in-the-language than its contracted sibling, “I’m curious.”
  • 61a [What happens during Baltic ballets?] LETTS DANCE. “Let’s dance.” This one I just didn’t know. I relied on the crosses to be right. But LETT (the Baltic people living in Latvia) has appeared numerous times over the years, so it’s legit and I should’ve known it. However, with this being the second Europe-related pun, that threw me for a loop as to what the theme was. Also, with the “us” subsumed by the contraction, that makes this one an outlier compared to the others.

This one took some thinking to nail down, but on the whole, it works. Maybe some of the entries could be tightened up, but CRIMEA RIVER is worth the price of admission.

Tons of long Down fill to inspect. How does the puzzle fare? Pretty good with LOW TIDE, OVERDUE, ORIGAMI, MONROE, ANGOLA, CENTAVO, MONIKER, LIBERAL, AMNESIA, WIRETAP, and ARSENAL all in the strong plus column. Those NW and SE corners are quite large with little to complain about. Plus, there are no other pronoun-type phrases (like “I WIN” or “I RULE”) in the fill, which there often is. Good attention to detail there.

A strong puzzle for pun lovers. 3.7 stars.

Mary Lou Guizzo’s New York Times crossword—joon’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 15 20, no. 0115

joon here, subbing for amy who’s out with migraines tonight. (feel better, amy!) mary lou guizzo gives us a straightforward theme consisting of boxing metaphors:

  • {Engaged in foul play} HIT BELOW THE BELT. well, that or BITE OFF THE EAR.
  • {One engaged in friendly contention} SPARRING PARTNER.
  • {“Oh, now they’re really going to fight!”} THE GLOVES ARE OFF. this is the only one you wouldn’t ever see in an actual boxing scenario.
  • {Cry “Uncle!”} THROW IN THE TOWEL.
  • {Hold back} PULL ONE’S PUNCHES.

this is a pretty good theme. boxing has certainly receded in prominence in american culture over the past half-century, but it’s interesting that there are still so many common expressions with their origins in boxing. the awkward ONE’S in the last theme answer is about the only thing i didn’t like about the theme, and that’s pretty minor.

5×15 is quite a lot of theme, so there isn’t a great deal of breathing room left in the grid for sparkly fill. there’s only one seven-letter fill answer, and it was totally unfamiliar to me: {Receptacle for one doing decoupage} GLUEPOT. of course, it’s inferable, and it’s certainly a word (well, merriam-webster lists it as a two-word phrase, but the new oxford american has it as a single compound word), and i’ve never done decoupage, so i can hardly be considered an expert or how legit this term is. i could imagine that somebody who’s into decoupage would enjoy seeing this entry, but for me it wasn’t an asset.

clues that caught my eye:

  • {Corp. manager} COO. this is a perfectly fine word. why clue it as an initialism (for chief operating officer)? not even an interesting initialism, at that.
  • {Wager} PUT. this is a saturday clue that stuck out a mile in this wednesday puzzle. it’s certainly a valid clue (“wager money on”/”put money on” are synonymous), but boy did it make that little section tough. i also resisted writing in {Gangster} THUG, a word i am never thrilled to see in a grid due to its racially charged associations.
  • {What has a long history in ichthyology?} EEL. i actually never even saw this clue while solving, as i filled in EEL from the crosses. i have a kind of grudging admiration for this clue—it’s fairly transparent, but i appreciate the effort that went into trying to come up with a new way to clue a very familiar repeater.

that’s all from me. 3.7 stars.

Peter Silzer’s Universal crossword, “Support Group”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Word beginning with PRO redefined in terms of what they are for

Universal crossword solution · Peter Silzer · “Support Group” · Wed., 01.15.20


  • 15A [For a farm machine?] PROTRACTOR
  • 23A [For a metric weight unit?] PROGRAM
  • 25A [For the sovereign government?] PROSTATE
  • 50A [For an imperial weight unit?] PROPOUND
  • 52A [For actress Shelley or Nia?] PROLONG
  • 66A [People who say “aye,” or an alternate title for this puzzle] ALL IN FAVOR

Easy and very well-executed puzzle today that was fun to solve from start to finish – with an apt and fun revealer. There were a lot of theme answers and they all work very well within the context of the puzzle, and their placement worked nicely to allow longer non-theme answers not get in the way or confuse the theme at all. PROPOUND felt less common than the other long words, but clued very fairly – so even if it isn’t something I would come across in daily language, it worked for the puzzle. My favorite clue was for PROLONG [For actress Shelley or Nia?].

MALIGNANT, ESSAY TEST, and FIDGETY were all fun long answers to come across while solving -and I particularly enjoyed the clue for ERA [Some are named for queens].

3.75 stars

Byron Walden’s AVCX, “Pandora’s Boxes” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 1/15 – “Pandora’s Boxes”

I think this is the most I’ve ever been on Byron Walden’s wavelength for an AVCX – this fell for me almost instantly once I realized what was going on with the grid.

The title “Pandora’s Boxes” tells you everything you need to know about what the rebus squares in the puzzle contain:

  • 19A: Dog-eat-dog precept — K(ILL) OR BE K(ILL)ED
  • 24A: Actor in Episodes V, VI, and IX of the “Star Wars” movies — B(ILL)Y DEE W(ILL)IAMS
  • 41A: Get the booty? — P(ILL)AGE
  • 44A:Congress, metonymically — THE H(ILL)
  • 46A:”Mack the Knife” composer — KURT WE(ILL)
  • 54A: What watching stock car racing offers fans — THR(ILL)S AND SP(ILL)S
  • 64A: Hanna-Barbera ape in a bowtie and suspenders — MAG(ILL)A GOR(ILL)A
  • 74A: “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my ___” — ONLY (HOPE)

The grid is full of ILL, with HOPE emerging right at the end.  I liked the construction on this one! I’m not a fan of Roman Numerals in puzzles, though the Super Bowl-themed cluing of CVI was much appreciated over any sort of math problem.

In addition to the theme from”To Sir With Love” and the theme for “The Man with the Golden Gun”, LULU also was involved in a 4-way tie for Eurovision in 1969! They…didn’t have a plan for what to do if that happened, so all four songs won.


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15 Responses to Wednesday, January 15, 2020

  1. WhiskyBill says:

    ACVX: The (minorly wrong) clue for 17A has me still laughing imagining a world in which “To Sir With Love” is a James Bond movie.

  2. maxine nerdström says:

    I had a DNF because I could not make heads or tails of “NO_V.” It seems incredibly obvious in hindsight (doesn’t it always?) but the ERI_U crossing also felt unparseable. Alas.

  3. Crotchety Doug says:

    AVCX – Beautiful! Follows the myth exactly. And loved the ending. I’m actually glad I don’t know much about carriages, and don’t know much about Star Wars either. My aha came from thinking back about Pandora. Five stars!

  4. Margaret says:

    I will check in later hoping that someone has time and energy to review the LAT since the theme doesn’t entirely make sense to me. It’s just… four things about dogs? At least it’s not circles, I feel like the LAT has had A LOT of circle puzzles lately. And four meanings for the same clue which are not my favorites either. Wow, I’m crabby today.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I think it’s more like, “If dogs could speak” or how we humans interpret dog behavior. As a dog owner, these all rang pretty true to me. I especially liked WHAT WAS THAT? People who don’t have dogs may find this less interesting.

  5. huda says:

    NYT: I’m surprised at the low ratings. I came down closer to Joon, at 3.5.
    I think the theme sets you up to be a bit more specific… For a while I thought it was boxing terms with items of clothing/accessories– BELT- GLOVES -TOWEL But obviously, it does not hold up.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal: Easy-Medium … There was some minor fumbling around from time to time along the way, but I mostly cruised through this nice puzzle. RIRI {16D: “FourFiveSeconds” singer, to her fans} was a learning opportunity (again). It apparently didn’t sink in the first four times I’ve encountered it, but at least I know who Rihanna is. The different pronunciation of PROSTATE {25A: For the sovereign government?} vs the other themers is a minor nit.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT … OK, I’ll chime in with my thoughts about today’s LAT. I hope Amy’s getting through her migraine. I’ve experienced them from time to time and also occasionally have optical migraines, which are a different animal, but very annoying. Feel better Amy.

    For those who care about such things, my solve time was about 13% below my LAT Wednesday 6-month median. That places it well within my Easy relative difficulty range by the semi-objective method I use to rate puzzles. IMHO, The world could use a higher dogs to people ratio. We San Franciscans like the nickname San FRAN {3A: San __: Cal. city nickname} only marginally more than we like “Frisco.” In other words, not much at all. I think EVANS {42A: Harry’s mom Lily __ Potter}, LISA {56D: Legal thriller writer Scottoline} and DIANA {64A: “Outlander” series novelist Gabaldon} were the only blanks I drew here. That due south section is chock full of names. I’m glad I knew two of them right off the bat. Fortunately, the other two were easily inferable.

    @Margaret … Though I don’t own a dog and haven’t in years, I just adore them and like Jim, thought the clue/answer combos all hit the mark. Now that I’ve retired and will soon vacate this lovely and outrageously expensive city that’s been my home coming up on 24 years, I anticipate reintroducing a canine companion into my life.

    • Margaret says:

      @sanfranman59, I was born and raised in San Francisco but got priced out, have lived in Oakland and Alameda for nearly 40 years now. Haven’t been able to leave the Bay Area entirely!

      I think my issue with the theme is that I wanted something more to tie it all together, the four individual answers weren’t as fun for me as other people found them. Not every puzzle is going to be my favorite puzzle!

  8. Joan Macon says:

    It’s interesting that the LAT gets more reaction when it isn’t here than it does when it appears. I hope Gareth isn’t sick, and Amy, migraines are no fun and please feel better soon!

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