Wednesday, January 29, 2020

LAT 3:59 (Gareth) 


NYT 5:36 (Amy) 


WSJ 6:33 (Jim P) 


Universal tk (Rebecca) 


AVCX 6:27 (Ben) 


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

Our theme is well-known phrases whose last word can be a synonym for “finalized” and whose first word is changed to a noun.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Mission Accomplished” · David Alfred Bywaters · Wed., 1.29.20

  • 20a [“Your car is ready”] AUTO COMPLETE
  • 31a [“The taffy has all been stretched”] PULL OVER. Did not know that the act of stretching taffy was called a “pull.”
  • 36a [“The tournament is finished”] OPEN ENDED
  • 47a [“You can pump your water now”] WELL DONE
  • 55a [“Our pledge period is concluded”] DRIVE THROUGH

This didn’t do much for me. The lack of articles and verbs just makes everything sound awkward and unnatural.

And then I started hearing the theme answers as if they were spoken by the Hulk (“Hulk smash!”), and that helped a lot. I would have loved it if the clues all had the Hulk in them, e.g. [“You can pump your water now,” to the Hulk]. This line of thought then put me in mind of the old SNL sketches featuring Lovitz, Nealon, and Hartman, as Tonto, Tarzan, and Frankenstein’s monster respectively speaking and singing in broken English. Here’s their rendition of “We Are World” (can’t embed the video, else I would).

Top fill: “NAME IT!”, GAZEBO, FOOTSIE (next to AROUSAL), SHOO IN, TEHRAN, SEAGULL, and SCHELP. Bottom fill: Archaic HIE and weird LAID IN [Stored away] and DEE clued as a Scottish river. (Note that there are actually four Rivers DEE in Britain.)

Clues of note:

  • 3d [Game of concealed dalliance]. FOOTSIE. I know you “play FOOTSIE,” but is it really a “game”? Does that mean you can win or lose it?
  • 37d [Spock suppressed them]. EMOTIONS. “Mr.,” not “Dr.”
  • 56d [Penthouse selling point]. VIEW. I presume this is referring to the type of apartment and not the magazine. Still, I found the implied misdirection off-putting.

On their own, the awkward-sounding theme answers didn’t thrill me. I needed to employ my imagination to make them more fun. YMMV, of course. 3.3 stars.

Jeremy Newton’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 29 20, no. 0129

Our theme features actors whose surnames are synonyms for “want,” with their surnames flipped into verbs:

  • 17a. [Want an actress from “Soul Food”?], LONG FOR NIA.
  • 23a. [Want an actor from “Wonder Woman”?], PINE FOR CHRIS.
  • 36a. [Want an actress from “Mad Men”?], JONES FOR JANUARY. A mite inelegant to have four movie clues and one TV clue, but the theme is better for including this entry so I’ll forgive it.
  • 44a. [Want an actor from “Rogue One”?], YEN FOR DONNIE.
  • 55a. [Want an actor from “Here Come the Girls”?], HOPE FOR BOB. Wasn’t familiar with this movie.

Great theme! I appreciate that the theme’s only 40% white men.

Five more things:

  • 34d. [Mythical ship that gave its name to a constellation], ARGO. “Wait, what?” I said to myself. I don’t remember seeing that in those Sporcle quizzes about constellations. So I looked it up: “Argo Navis (the Ship Argo), or simply Argo, was a large constellation in the southern sky that has since been divided into the three constellations of Carina, Puppis and Vela.” It was officially divided up in 1930. Yes, the clue says “gave” and not “gives,” but I still don’t like it.
  • 39a. [They’re often lit], SOTS. Why isn’t this SETS crossing SHOE? Who actually enjoys the word SOT?
  • 10d. [Something most people don’t go into more than once a year], LABOR. Some do, but yes, most don’t. Raise your hand if you wanted SEARS or KMART here.
  • 20a. [Creepazoid’s gaze], LEER. Yeah, that’s about right.
  • 50a. [Org. seeking clean skies], EPA. Gotta love the historical/aspirational clues for EPA. [Org. rolling back 25 air pollution and emissions regulations under Trump] would be more accurate. We will keep having more upbeat EPA clues until the EPA returns to its mission!

I don’t think this puzzle was as hard as my comparative (Thursday/Saturday-tough) solving time suggests. How’d you wrangle the puzzle?

Four stars from me.

John Guzzetta’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s Summary

LA Times

I know a FALSESTART as an athletics infraction, but OK [Gridiron…] works too. It’s a slightly loose, but interesting, synonym theme with various falsities at the beginnings of words: a RACKET, a TRICK, a TRAP and a CON. Parsed the last answer as CONE/DISON first; we only have one power company for the whole country so a city-specific firm is a curiosity. I found myself realising I wasn’t sure what a TRICKKNEE was, but guessed luxating patella, as those slip in and out on a whim. Sure enough…


  • [Latina toon explorer], DORA passes on the opportunity to tie-in with the recent movie version.
  • [Skateboard stunt], OLLIE. Not taken in Spelling Bee, if I recall correctly. It is the basic jump that many other tricks build from.


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “Following Threads” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 1/29 – “Following Threads”

This week’s AVCX is from BEQ, and it’s a 3/5 on the difficulty scale.  I’d say that’s about right.  Since this is more of a visual theme rather than something in the clues, let’s talk about that and then run through the fill like it’s a themeless.

The hint for the circled squares in this puzzle is a “household chore” that turns out to be FOLDING LAUNDRY.  Folding laundry tends to take me forever, but spotting what was going on with this was pretty instantaneous – each set of circles contains a folded article of clothing – TSHIRT in the upper left, UNDIES in the upper right, BLOUSE in the lower left, and SHORTS in the lower right.  It’s a cute theme.

Looking at the fill:

  • I’m not familiar with the Love and Hip Hop series of shows, so Safaree SAMUELS wasn’t on the tip of my brain when solving, but the crossings were pretty straightforward and I figured her last name was probably relatively common if it was being clued like this.
  • I had RIGHT NOW for “That very moment”, but it ended up being NO SOONER after I realized the downs I had were definitely DORITO, OSOS, and NONET
  • I liked all of the longer down fill – INDICTER, PREGAME, AMALGAM, and OVERBEAR

It’s late, so I’ll leave it there.  Hope you enjoyed this week’s AVCX!

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18 Responses to Wednesday, January 29, 2020

  1. Constant Malachi says:

    NYT: Between the misspelled EFS and the non-existent RAISE A BET I was quite stuck in the SE corner. Yuck.

    • Jeff Livingston says:

      Same for me.

    • Gary R says:

      On-line sources (Merriam-Webster, American Heritage Dictionary, Wikipedia) seem to support EF as the correct spelling for the letter “f,” so I assume EFS is correct for the plural.

      I doubt anyone ever says “RAISE A BET” at a poker table, but it seems like a fair description of what a player might do at the table.

  2. Dave says:

    WSJ: 56d. The magazine was the furthest thing from my mind.

  3. Constant Malachi says:

    Also, I’ll add that to RAISE A BET is exactly what it means to “Increase the stakes”, hence the ? was also not appropriate.

    • Gary R says:

      There’s no “?” in the clue in the Across Lite version of the puzzle – but sometimes they make changes after the hard copy has gone to print.

  4. Ethan says:

    WSJ: I disagree that the lack of articles made the themers awkward. They are all patterned after “Mission: Accomplished” and a lot of constructions like that have become commonly used in English, e.g. “Suggestion noted”, “Challenge accepted”, etc.

  5. Stephen B. Manion says:

    While RAISE A BET is not an expression I have ever heard, I have seen movies in which a sequence that occurs is “See your 50 and raise you 50.” In real life, players have to be cognizant of illegal string raises, so the use of phrases is far more constrained. The normal correct statement is simply RAISE.

    When someone bets into you, you have to call or raise (if that is your intention, fold is always an alternative) in a single motion. If the bet is 50 and you put 50 into the pot and then return to your stack to try to raise, that is an illegal string raise. If you put out 100 in the first single motion in a single stack without saying raise, that is illegal and your excess is returned to your stack, although there are exceptions to this such as when in limit poker where 8 is the bet and you put out 16 in two equal stacks of 8. That is a raise by obvious intention regardless of words. You should always say RAISE and avoid any ambiguity,

    As you make the forward motion to at least call the bet, you have to say “Raise” as you do so or any return to your stack is a string. You do not have to announce the amount of your raise in that motion and if you have said RAISE, you can return to your stack for whatever raise amount you choose. In limit poker, the failure to announce a specific amount is immaterial because you can only raise and must raise by precisely whatever the limit is.

    One of the underhanded moves that my friends and I think is illegal but is rarely called is when your first motion contains more chips than the call amount, but you pull the chips greater than the call back. Players do this to look at the reaction of their opponents when a larger than the bet amount appears to be made.

    There are other variations of what is generally called angle shooting.


  6. Gary R says:


    In the end, I thought the theme was pretty clever but, for someone who’s not very up to date on entertainers/celebrities, it was a tough solve. Nia Jones seemed to ring a very faint bell, but I thought she was a singer. Ali Wong – nothing. January Jones – nope. Donnie Yen – same. I think I’ve heard of Erica Hill. Bob Hope – I’m old enough to have seen him on TV when he was a big star (and still alive). I happened to know Chris Pine from the new-ish Star Trek movies – but was thrown off there because I came up with Linda Carter from the Wonder Woman TV show and had read an article about Gal Gadot in the recent movie.

    Took me until the Bob Hope answer to see what was going on with the theme (as I was still trying to make Linda or Gadot work in 23-A. Before that, I was trying to figure out some word-substitution/sound-substitution concept. Substitute LONG for NIA to make some familiar phrase? Something that changes CaliFORNIA into LONGFORNIA?

    Guess I need to start scanning my wife’s “People” magazines to get myself up to date!

    • scrivener says:

      It might say something about the way Asian American entertainers have been covered, or about their scant opportunities in decades before this. In my town, Ali Wong regularly sells out, and she’s performed here twice in the last two years (I think). She’s pretty funny! Check her out. Donnie Yen is in the new live-action remake of Mulan, a chance to see some top-level Asian American (and Asian) actors.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Nia Long, not Nia Jones. She did, however, star in the movie “Love Jones.”

  7. Billy Boy says:

    First try posting didn’t take and probably good so!

    NYT – Not a fan. Execution of maybe clever theme was awful and cluing was at times awfuler.

    WSJ – Fan. Pleasant, enjoyable solve.

    Number difference of stars awarded was large.

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    Since no one else has, I’ll post my notes about today’s Universal puzzle …

    Medium-Challenging Wednesday (about 3% above my Universal 6-month median Wednesday solve time) … A very nice debut puzzle by this constructor.

    Speed bumps:
    — ‘ScEntS’ before SMELLS {21A: Aromas and odors}
    — I was thinking ‘A gOod’ before A LOST {30D: “It’s ___ cause!”} … the correct answer is much better than mine
    BUDDY COP {39D: Genre of “Rush Hour”} … I don’t know this term
    POWER CHORD {57A: *Certain guitar music combo} … or this one

    I wasn’t 100% sure of the ‘C’ cross with those last two, but it seemed safe

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