Wednesday, January 22, 2020

LAT 3:57 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:15 (Amy) 


WSJ 5:39 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Rebecca) 


AVCX 8:04 (Ben) 


Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Heaven Above”—Jim P’s review

Neat double theme today from Ross Trudeau. MORAL HIGH GROUND (39a, [What the righteous may claim, and a hint to the starred answers]) is the revealer, but what is it hinting at exactly? At first, I noticed that each theme answer starts with a building associated with religious practices: Temple, Seminary, Cathedral, Mission. I thought, “That’s cool…but that’s it?” No, that’s not it.  But wait, there’s more, as they say. Each theme answer also ends with a “high” geological formation: Mount, Ridge, Peak, Hill. “High ground”? Get it? How cool is that!

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Heave Above” · Ross Trudeau · Wed., 1.22.20

  • 17a [*Jerusalem site holy in Islam, Christianity and Judaism] TEMPLE MOUNT
  • 23a [*Gettysburg site that served as Robert E. Lee’s headquarters] SEMINARY RIDGE
  • 51a [*Yosemite site first climbed by John Muir in 1869] CATHEDRAL PEAK
  • 63a [*Historic Boston neighborhood] MISSION HILL

Now, I’ve only heard of one of these for sure (TEMPLE MOUNT). I think I’ve heard of MISSION HILL, having never been to Boston, but I’m not sure. But my lack of knowledge didn’t slow me down (too much), and it doesn’t bother me at all when a theme is as tightly-defined as this one. I’m really impressed with these finds and Ross’s ability to get everything to fit symmetrically, and with a lovely grid-spanning revealer to boot. Mwah! I’m wondering if he had any other theme answers he had to leave on the cutting room floor. I know there’s a Cathedral Rock park in San Anotnio but that’s it. Apparently there’s also a Cathedral Rock mountain here in my home state of Washington.

CATHEDRAL PEAK in Yosemite National Park. I can see why they named it that. (Photo from flickr.)

Turning to the fill, it’s solid though not necessarily sparkly. GAME STORE and DULL KNIFE are in the marquee slots, and are pretty good considering they each cross three themers. KIDDOS [Elementary teacher’s charges] is my favorite entry, and HENRYS [Eight English kings] and ASKERS [Inquisitive folks] are at the other end of the spectrum. Everything else is good to go.

Clues are fairly straightforward, so I’ll just note my favorite one [Tank top] for TURRET. Very nice.

A beautifully structured theme on display here today. 4.25 stars.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 22 20, no. 0122

This looks to be Alex’s fourth NYT puzzle in the past 6 weeks or so. That is quite a lot!

The theme is the SEVEN SEAS (57a. [Result of connecting the circled letters in a certain way, in a punny manner of speaking]), which I would like better as THE SEVEN SEAS. The other themers are seven sea names, clued mostly in other contexts, and each one contains a circled/shaded letter C:

  • 17a. [Like calypso music], CARIBBEAN. Well, the region and the sea are pretty synonymous here. Inelegant.
  • 19a. [Atoll material], CORAL.
  • 21a. [Porcelain], CHINA. Uh, no. There’s a South China Sea and an East China Sea. I don’t know the China Sea.
  • 23a. [SS ___, onetime flagship of the White Star Line], ADRIATIC. Pfft, are we supposed to know and/or care about ocean liners of the 1800s?
  • 34a. [Second Monopoly avenue], BALTIC.
  • 45a. [Prince of Narnia], CASPIAN.
  • 55a. [Hugo ___, longtime Supreme Court justice], BLACK.

I like the theme concept much better than the execution.

Five more things:

  • 15a. [Lovefest, literally], ORGY. That is literally incorrect. There is nothing about love in the definition of ORGY. Sex, sure, but not love.
  • 27a. [Philly Ivy], U PENN. With “Philly” carrying the weight of suggesting an abbreviated answer. Eh. Question for the Penn graduates among you: How often is the school referred to as U Penn as opposed to just Penn? I have a sneaking suspicion that the entry is on the bogus side. but I don’t know for sure.
  • 11d. [Moving targets for waves], CAR ANTENNAS. Man, was this entry hard to parse as I was piecing it together. Carante-something??
  • 25d. [Launch time], RELEASE DATE. I really read [Launch time] as being about spacecraft, whereas RELEASE DATE is super-familiar in the movie world. Time ≠ date.
  • 51d. [And the following: Abbr.], ET. SEQ. This entry will always make me frown while solving.

Three stars from me. The theme didn’t quite jell for me, and I wasn’t captivated by the overall fill and clues.

George Jasper’s Universal crossword, “The Sticks”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Theme answers are two words starting with C AND LE

Universal crossword solution · George Jasper · “The Sticks” · Wed., 01.22.20


  • 10D [*Seafood items served with melted butter] CRAB LEGS
  • 15D [*Thing you shouldn’t pass on] CHAIN LETTERS
  • 22D [*One might change your eye color] CONTACT LENS
  • 4oD [*Lot contract] CAR LEASE
  • 53D [Incense source, and a hint to the starred answers CANDLE

Only time for a quick write up today. Cute theme with CANDLE parsed as C AND LE to describe the theme answers. I thought the themers worked well and the revealer was a fun surprise. I particular liked the choice to have the theme answers run vertically in a CANDLE-like fashion.

Construction-wise I thought the northwest was beautiful. Favorite fun extras in this puzzle were TRY IT ON, ENIGMA, and STAGE NAME.

3.5 stars

Jared Tamarkin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s Summary

LA Times

The hide “scrambled variations of a word in long phrases” theme type is feeling rather overdone in the last while. Today’s puzzle wins mostly with its revealer: the colourful CODESWITCHING. I code-switch all the time between English and Afrikaans. Although written communication is easier to keep down to one language, I still have to control the urge here sometimes. The answers themselves are more functional: ARM(EDCO)NFLICT, FOR(CEDO)WN and BLO(ODCE)LL.

Tricky parts: [Coffee cup insulators], SLEEVES – wanted SCARVES?! To be honest, I didn’t realise those cardboard thingeys had a function beyond increasing waste. [Cupid’s wings], ALAE is some seldom seen and difficult Latin vocabulary. I personally come across it mostly in reference to the wings of the ilium, but YMMV. [Roman three], TRE – modern Roman, not III.

Favourite word to say: POOHBAH – a word coined by Gilbert & Sullivan.


Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “Word Wide Web” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 1/22 – “Word Wide Web”

I felt a little out of sync with this AVCX’s theme, even though it should have been right in my wheelhouse:

  • 22A:Meme #1, sample comment: “LOL I wish I looked this evil at MY boss’s round table #likeaboss” — SINISTER LANCELOT
  • 36A: Meme #2, sample comment: “OMG this salamander is bored AF #mood” — DISINTERESTED NEWT
  • 56A: Meme #3, sample comment: “this McDonald’s chicken piece is me IRL at literally any party #CanIGoHomeYet?” — INTROVERTED NUGGET
  • 72A: What some memes do figuratively (in real life) and literally (in this puzzle) — BREAK THE INTERNET

Each “meme” here breaks up the word internet across its length.  That’s the theme.

This was alright – the theme clues feel meme-ish (if not really meme-worthy), but it also felt a little harder to know if I had the right phrase given their slightly odd nature.  As a whole, this felt okay.  Just okay. Other fill notes:

  • I like the idea of branching out in cluing SSW with places in the Lord of the Rings instead of cities, but I’m just as bad at knowing Iron Hills and Mordor are SSW from each other as I am with actual cities.
  • I liked all the longer down fill – PLASMID, RAVIOLI, and AVENUES in the upper corner, GRENADE, EASES IN, and TEETHES below, and INBOX ZERO and METEOROID on the opposite diagonals.
  • I like the way Aimee frequently includes references to children’s and YA literature in her grids – in this case it’s OWEN, Kevin Henkes’ mouse with a yellow blanket.

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20 Responses to Wednesday, January 22, 2020

  1. andreaborn says:

    The [Launch time] clue for RELEASE DATE works perfectly in the tech world (and maybe consumer products, not sure) — the company is launching a product, and it becomes available on the release date. Extra clue credit for the oblique nod to the phrase “lunch time.” (I agree it doesn’t work for movies, because you don’t “launch” them.)

  2. Person says:

    The NYT was rough imo. Although clever, it felt like more of a feat for the constructor than fun for the solver.

  3. mt says:

    Can someone explain 9A in the NYT? I don’t get how that clue means that answer, I’m probably just missing something.

  4. Seamus says:

    As a Quaker, UPenn is almost as common as Penn
    Fortunately, I haven’t heard “Oh! Penn State!?” in quite a while.

    The last few weeks the NYT puzzles have been pretty awkward.

    • Chip says:

      Not a Quaker but still familiar with U Penn as a moniker for Penn with currency here across the river in Jersey. Never before thought of it as a bit unusual … but so be it.

    • David Glasser says:

      My dad went to Penn and I only ever heard him call it Penn. But notably, the domain name is

  5. snappysammy says:

    what’s wrong at cruciverb??

    ha, went to check again after i asked and there it was after several down daze

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I don’t think the proprietor checks it regularly. I finally decided to sign up for access to the database a few months ago and I needed to email him about ten days later to get him to add me. Of course, the payment left my bank account right away :-| I tried emailing him about the site being down, but the message was returned as undeliverable (probably because the address is hosted on that server).

  6. Erik says:

    It felt cheap to me that the C in NICOISE wasn’t circled.

  7. Gale G Davis says:

    NYT – I need help understanding 47A ; Art nouveau? = ARE
    Thanks in advance

    • Ch says:

      I think it’s that ARE is the current verb, ART is Old English. “You are” vs. “Thou art”. Meh IMO.

      • cyberdiva says:

        I really enjoyed that clue/answer, as well as 40D (Spare part?) and 11D (Moving targets for waves). I confess, however, that that last one drove me crazy for a while even after I had a fair number of letters.

  8. Phil says:

    At risk of sounding stupid, can someone explain the Universal theme? What is the connection between the title and the theme? Is it just candlesticks?

    • sanfranman59 says:

      @Phil … I think Rebecca’s review is it. As best as I can tell, there’s nothing tying the theme answers together other than the first word of each starting with a C AND the second word starting with LE. It sure didn’t do much for me, but I thought it was a nicely clued and filled grid.

  9. John says:

    NYT – I totally didn’t notice that the theme answers were the names (or not-quite names, as Amy points out) of seas, but I DID notice (and so far it doesn’t seem like anybody else has?) that they form the shape of a 7 when you connect them, as the revealer clue mentions. I’m thinking that constraint led to most of the awkward fill (“CAR ANTENNA”? come on).

  10. David Steere says:

    AVCX: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Aimee’s puzzle. Normally, I rebel when the fill is loaded with social media references, rap singers, names/terms I’ve never heard of (Rian Johnson, VSCO, KWEEN, Kevin Henkes, etc.). But this puzzle was so well-constructed and the main concept so beautifully handled (as per 72 Across) that I ended up filling in everything and smiling afterwards. Thanks, Aimee.

  11. Noam D. Elkies says:

    NYT: the “7” C’s are a neat theme concept. (See the xwordinfo entry for a “7” graphic.) Besides the minor flaws noted already, it seems an unforced error to include “gas” in the clue for 20A:NEON when 39D:GAS is in the grid — and worse, to use or allude to the idiom “it’s a gas” in both clues. One could either pick another NEON clue, or change 42A:LAO to BIO, thus changing GAS to GI’S and 42D:LARD to BARD.


  12. Chip says:

    NYT: I know I should I feel out of it to admit that “to be elect” had no recognition factor

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