Wednesday, July 29, 2020

LAT 5:41 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:19 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 9:37 (Rachel) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal upsharked (pannonica) 


AVCX 8:15 (Ben) 


Michael Lieberman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Broken Homes”—Jim P’s review

A HOUSE DIVIDED (37a, [Start of a Lincoln line, and a hint to the circled letters]) indicates that the circled letters, divided by a block, contains types of homes.

The pairings are as follows:

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Broken Homes” · Michael Lieberman · Wed., 7.29.20

  • COWABUNGA / LOWLY. Bungalow. The [Cry from Michelangelo] refers to TMNT of course, not the Renaissance artist.
  • BRILLIG / LOOTBOX. Igloo. Love this pairing of a Jabberwocky word and a video gaming item.
  • BOYCOTT / AGENDAS. Cottage. The clue for the first word [Land agent Charles who was collectively shunned for not reducing rents] is wordy and trivia-based, but I’m glad to learn the word’s origin.
  • MOCHA / LETHARGIC. Chalet. If you’re feeling LETHARGIC, grab a MOCHA?.

I like these pairings. The first two are quite unexpected and fun finds and the last two use interesting words in their own right. And all of them span the grid when you include the dividing block. Impressive construction.

And there’s still room for a couple long niceties (BELGIUM and the RIVIERA) and some crunchy shorter fill (GNARLY, PSYCHE, GINZA, BOW TIE, PANINI).

Both the fill and the clues seemed heavy on proper names. See ODELL, BOYCOTT (as clued), ELIA, JACOBS, ROY, VING, ATTLEE, COHEN. And seriously, all of these are men. Surely, cluing with an eye toward representation could’ve brought a little more parity to the grid.

Cluing felt tougher than the usual Wednesday. Or maybe it was all the proper names. Regardless, these clues I noted:

  • 5a. [Solange, to Blue Ivy Carter]. AUNT. Beyoncé’s sister and daughter.
  • 15a. [Dude, in surfer slang]. BRAH. When did “dude” stop being dude, in surfer slang? But I love the adoption of the Hawaiian term. The Guamanian equivalent is (or at least used to be) “brown.”
  • 38d. [Curse word intensifier, oddly]. HOLY. Why is that? I guess it’s because humans have always called upon deities to save them when confronted by shocking events.

Nice puzzle. 3.9 stars. And I just realized this appears to be a debut. Congrats to our constructor on an impressive first outing.

I leave you with Leonard COHEN singing his “Hallelujah.”

Amanda Chung & Karl Ni’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 7 29 20, no. 0729

The theme doesn’t work for me, because the concept requires numerals and symbols, not the spelled-out names of said numbers and symbols. The revealer is STRONG PASSWORD, 49a. [It may require letters, a number and a special character — as seen in 20-, 33- and 39-Across].

  • 20a. [Reduced-fat option], TWO PERCENT MILK. 2%! Also, “2%milk” would be rejected as a weak password for having only 6 characters.
  • 33a. [Mobile device that debuted in 2016], IPHONE SEVEN PLUS. The phone model is “iPhone 7 Plus,” which includes no symbol.
  • 39a. [Highly sought-after restaurant rating], ONE MICHELIN STAR. This phrase is solid with the spelled-out bits, but oneMichelinstar would be rejected as a not-strong password. And can you type in a star symbol for a password, or is this being used in place of asterisk?

This just feels scattershot to me, and I don’t care for it.

Three more things before I sign off:

  • 6d. [Princess’ headwear], TIARA. Can it really be NYT style to leave off the S after that possessive apostrophe? This looks terrible to me.
  • 40d. [Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley employee, informally], IBANKER. I-banker? Investment banker? I don’t think I’ve encountered this shorthand before.
  • 48a. [Post-___ (some hosp. patients)], OPS. Doctor-solvers, is this a legit and common usage?

2.5 stars from me. Love to see SCHLEPPED in the grid, but the disjointed theme wasn’t to my taste.

Don Gagliardo and Zhouquin Burnikel’s Universal crossword, “Parts of Speech” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 7/29/20 • Wed • “Parts of Speech” • Gagliardo, Burnikel • solution • 20200729

This theme doesn’t seem that ambitious, but judging by the strain it’s apparently caused, I gather it was difficult to pull off.

Two-part revealer is in the center of this grid with left-right symmetry:

  • 31aR [With 45-Across, popular lecture series … or a hint to three letters plus the last word of each starred answer?] TED TALKS.

The other theme entries are two gridspanners and an 8-8 pair:

  • 16a. [*Lively campaign face-offs] SPIRITED DEBATES.
  • 21a/24a [* … barbs] POINTED | REMARKS.
  • 58a. [Not just shots in the dark] EDUCATED GUESSES.

In each case, the TED is formed at the end of an adjective. REMARKS seems the most like “talks”, but DEBATES is pretty good also. GUESSES seems weakest as a synonym (but obviously one has to talk, or at least communicate in some way, to make a guess).

The two eleven-letter down entries and the non-thematic eight-letter words in row 12—equal to those in row 5—are certainly both distracting and detractive.

  • 9a [Large shark bone] JAW. Well, their skeletons are cartilaginous—including the CRANIA (13d [Brain covers]), which helps explain this one.
  • Keeping with the fishes, by far my favorite clue in the crossword was 65a [Who can be found among anemones?] for NEMO. What a superb double-entendre (and a legitimate cryptic clue)! Disney’s animated clownfish NEMO is indeed to be found sequentially among the letters of the species’ primary habitat.
  • 34a [“__ a woman?” (Sojourner Truth speech)] AIN’T I.
  • 6d [Quincy Jones, to Rashida] DAD. Did not know this, but then I barely know who Rashida Jones is, despite recognizing the name.
  • 8d [They’re used to drain pasta] SIEVES. Yes, but don’t we usually call them colanders?
  • Longdowns: 23d [“Let me think about that”] I’M NOT SO SURE, 25d [French tennis legend who cofounded a polo shirt company] RENÉ LACOSTE. Great colloquial phrase, and nice to see the other as a full name for once.
  • Ditto non-broken KIT-KAT at 26-down.
  • 41d [Kind of illusion] OPTICAL. 27d [Stereotypical dorm rooms] STIES.
  • 55d [Young Yorkies] PUPS. Or, you know, sharks (hint, hint).
  • 50d [Like many sign language speakers] DEAF. I like the inclusiveness of the clue.
  • 23d I’M NOT SO SURE, 29a [“Fine”] SO BE IT, 57d [Child’s response to “Uh-uh!”] IS SO. So I’m not too bothered by these small-word duplications. How about you all?
  • 56d [Paper quantity] REAM. Sure, why not continue my subtheme:

Anyway, kind of a strange crossword, if you ask me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword  – Rachel’s writeup

“You’re not gonna fool me, Elizabeth C. Gorski!” was my first thought upon opening this puzzle and seeing [Capital of Georgia] at 1A. I wrote in TBILISI and moved on, feeling proud of myself for (a) remembering how to spell TBILISI and (b) not falling for that classic crossword trap. Imagine, then, my delight upon reaching 62A and seeing [Capital of Georgia] *again*! It’s not a theme, but it is super elegant and beautifully bookended this pretty great puzzle! Aside from some a sprinkling of iffy fill and a couple of rocky crossings, I really enjoyed the solve.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Elizabeth C. Gorski • Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The long entries in this puzzle were mostly vertically oriented, and I was happy to see the gimme SPIRALIZER in the SW. I have and frequently use a SPIRALIZER, and if you don’t have one, well, that’s probably because you’re not a consumerist fool drawn in by flashy infomercials. But you know what? My SPIRALIZER sparks joy. The other long down was MISTER SNOW, a complete unknown to me, but fairly guessable with crosses. Other long stuff includes: TRIUMPHS / BELTS OUT / IDLE TIME / TRILLION / ORNAMENT / NO-GO AREA. Aside from this last, which doesn’t totally feel like a real thing, these are pretty solid.

A few more things:

  • Always here for a Kate MULGREW reference, whether it’s for OITNB or Star Trek
  • Got stuck at the POSNER/STEINER crossing and guessed at the N
  • I had an error that I hunted for for over three minutes (no exaggeration) and it ended up being ASTANA / LYRA. I had ASTANE / LYRE, having seen “Harp-shaped” and not thought any further about the clue.
  • Fill I could live without: MST / ORL / GES / INO
  • Representation: Nice! For every Justin  Bieber there was a Nicki Minaj; for every STEINER/POSNER there was a Perry/Mixon/MULGREW. Elizabeth Cady STANTON was a racist who opposed the 14th and 15th Amendments (for complicated reasons), though, so that’s a complicating wrinkle to her feminist legacy.

Overall, loved this puzzle, despite my lengthy hunt for an error. Tons of stars from me!

Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “Scaling Down” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 7/29 – “Scaling Down”

The theme on this week’s AVCX fell fairly quickly for me, even if finding all of the rebus squares took me a bit:

  • 17A: Nerve — C[HUT]ZPAH
  • 21A: Vacationer’s website with an owl logo — TRI[PAD]VISOR
  • 48A: Recently — O[F LAT]E
  • 66A: Doodles in the margins, say — S[CRIB]BLES
  • 40A: Minimalist living arrangements represented by four squares in this grid — TINY HOUSES

Are TINY HOUSES still a fad?  In this environment?  Regardless, we have four squares in the grid that each contain  a tiny “house” – we have a HUT, a PAD, a FLAT, and a CRIB, affecting both the across clues and the crossings (S[HUT]TING, IN S[PAD]ES, SUBS[CRIB]ES and [FLAT]TERERS).  It’s a cute theme

REM‘s “Shiny Happy People” features guest vocals from Kate Pierson of The B-52’s, who rose in the same Athens, GA music scene in the late 70s and early 80s.  Grace Elizabeth Hale’s recently-released Cool Town discusses the history of both of those groups and others that helped shape alternative music and “college rock” in American culture.

Elsewhere in the fill:

  • Is ESA-Pekka Salonen a notable Finnish composer?  I appreciate the attempt at some new cluing for that bit of crosswordese, but I’m not sure this passed the smell test for me and I definitely needed the crossings.
  • I knew that HAL‘s name is riffing on IBM, and yet I somehow had not thought that it’s literally just a one-letter shift.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

The theme is “a bunch of people whose surname is ??DD”. That’s quite an arbitrary theme concept, and it seems to have been rammed home by repetition: 8 entries and 66 letters, albeit in a wider-by-one grid.

Now the other thing about eight entries is theme density. There are several large areas with multiple double-crossed words in them. And so: LITEALE (doesn’t seem to exist, even if the component words do); DEADTO a six-letter partial, which I thought were verboten; ASDIDI, which seems to be a simple sentence, rather than a specific in-the-language phrase – all of which are “redo from start” offenses for me, and there’s a lot of just plain joyless entries to boot.


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16 Responses to Wednesday, July 29, 2020

  1. Bryan says:

    NYT: Clever idea for a theme. The themer that was the hardest for me to figure out at first was 33a, which is funny because I solved this on my iPhone 7 Plus! I take slight umbrage at Jeff Chen referring to the iPhone 7 Plus as obsolete. Mine is still serving me quite well and has the latest iOS version and everything. Anyway, I think the theme idea could have been amped up and turned into a tricky Thursday puzzle. Like: “Paula Poundstone” as an answer, but there aren’t enough spaces, so the solver has to figure out to enter PAULA#ST1 as the answer.

  2. Winnie says:

    33A. + is a symbol

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      + is a symbol, yes, but the phone model is named iPhone 7 Plus, without a symbol. Just feels scattershot/inconsistent to me, and I’m never a fan of spelling out a number in the grid when the actual thing uses a numeral. (Calling the band U2 “UTWO” is criminal!)

  3. PJ says:

    UC – The shark-pig flip made my day!

  4. Billy Boy says:

    POST-OPS is a crosswordese stretch in my book.

    Loved the WSJ, I used the abodes as additional clues for the fill.

    I’ll have to do the Universal, it seems

  5. Stephen B. Manion says:

    I enjoyed the puzzle.
    Most style books give you a choice between SS’ and SS’S. The same applies to S’ and S’S. I prefer just the apostrophe.


  6. Gene says:

    Don’t agree with part of the NYT theme criticism. It does *not* imply that the themers would be strong passwords, only that, *like* strong passwords, they would contain …

  7. R says:

    NYT: I’ve been doing crosswords for decades and have always been surprised at how rarely numeral or special character rebuses are done. In my experience, they show up in less than 10% of Thursdays and Sundays, when they could go any time during the week. A rebus would have made a puzzle like this much more satisfying, instead of the odd hodgepodge of spelled characters we got.
    Also, any talk of making “strong” passwords with special characters reminds me of this:

  8. Mutman says:

    NYT: OWOW may be the worst entry I’ve seen in the Covid era.

  9. M483 says:

    WSJ: re: “When did dude stop being dude in surfer slang?” My idea – The surfers
    didn’t like that their personal slang was co-opted by the rest of the world so had to come up with something else! I always thought it was odd that so many people were using numerous words from surfer slang. Maybe it started with the wanna bes or poseurs.

  10. Michael Lieberman says:

    Thanks Jim! Very exciting to see my name in print and on here.

    On the comment about representation, I agree 100%, and I will do better next time.

    • Diana says:

      This was a good puzzle. On behalf of Gen X females, I will say your/Shenk’s cluing was fine. Jim P’s complaint does not register with me.

  11. Marge says:

    ESA-Pekka Salonen Is clued as a Finnish conductor, not composer.

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