Wednesday, September 2, 2020

LAT 6:29 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 5:36 (Rachel) 


NYT 4:07 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX 7:06 (Ben) 


Margaret Seikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 2 20, no. 0902

It took me a minute to understand what the theme revealer was getting at. 60a. [Popular expression … or what the opposite of the answer to each starred clue is?], CATCHPHRASE? The constructor reimagines CATCHPHRASE as “phrase relating to catching things,” and considers its opposite to be, basically, a “throwphrase,” a phrase that ends with a word that also means “throw”:

  • 16a. [*Something reminisced about in the movie “Grease”], SUMMER FLING. If you’re like me, you were trying to get SUMMER NIGHTS or SUMMER LOVING to fit here, from the title and lyrics to a song in Grease. To fling something is to throw it.
  • 10d. [*Some hamburger meat], GROUND CHUCK. I have no idea why some beef is called chuck.
  • 14d. [*Sales spiel in 60 seconds or less, say], ELEVATOR PITCH. Terrific entry unto itself.
  • 24d. [*Alpine crossing over the Austrian/Italian border], BRENNER PASS. I had BRONNER here for awhile, since AMON-RA is as legit a spelling at AMEN-RA. I’ll bet any number of people who solve on paper and don’t know their Alpine geography will have an O there.

Not the usual “yet another iteration of a basic theme type” for this Wednesday puzzle.

Five more items:

  • 51a. [Chamomile tea and yogurt, for sunburn], REMEDIES. Say what? I’ll stick with aloe. And maybe oatmeal? Is that a thing for sunburn? (I say this as if I ever get sunburned. I take my sun protection seriously.)
  • 33d. [Suffragist and longtime leader in the National Woman’s Party], ALICE PAUL. I appreciate the quasi-spoiler from the recent puzzle marking the centennial of the 19th Amendment.
  • 7a. [German grandparent, affectionately]. OPA. Opa! I studied German so I knew this one straightaway. Lolo and lola are common Filipino terms for grandpa and grandma. (I say common, because there are over 100 languages in the Philippines and I have no idea how many of them might have different words for this.)
  • 41a. [Units of laughter?], HAS. No. Please. Just clue this as the verb has.
  • 43a. [Christian who said “Happiness is the secret to all beauty”], DIOR. I hope plenty of people hazarded a guess that this was a New Testament name before the crossings pointed them to Christian Dior.

Been a while since I took a deep dive on a puzzle’s representation. Here we have AMEN-RA (African), ALFONSO Ribeiro (of Trinidadian descent), maybe-not-straight DIOR, women’s soccer in the USA clue, drag in the BOA clue, PRIDE month, Laura Linney in the OZARK clue, ALICE PAUL, Michelle YEOH, and gay legend SIR Elton John. On the straight white guy side, there’s just Jason Bateman and ELON Musk. Ahhh, a good balance. (Note: A 50/50 split between straight white men and everyone else combined would not be a fair balance, as those chaps make up maybe 25% of the US population and an even smaller proportion globally.)

Four stars from me.

Frank Virzi’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Simply The Best”—Jim P’s review

I am road-tripping again, this time from Tacoma to Denver to install my son into his third year of college. Today’s journey spanned Washington state and the panhandle of Idaho, and we’re settled into our hotel in Missoula, MT. The stretch of I-90 from Coeur d’Alene to Missoula is stunningly beautiful (if you’re able to look past all the Trump signs) and the weather was equally gorgeous today. But I’m very tired and frankly not feeling 100%, so I will keep this short.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Simply The Best” · Frank Virzi · Wed., 9.2.20

“Simply the Best” is a TINA TURNER album which includes her cover of the song “The Best”. This puzzle “turns” TINA four different ways throughout the grid, as denoted by the circled squares.

I thought the theme was cute once I got to the revealer (58a, [“The Best” singer, and what this puzzle is, in the circles]). The idea that the puzzle itself is a TINA turner was good for a smile.

And most of the entries involved in the turning of TINA are at least 9 letters in length, and there are a lot of them. Most of them are good too, like HOLES IN ONE, CASH ADVANCE, “WHAT’S THAT?”, and NORTHERN IRELAND. I also liked LIKE A SHOT, though it’s not involved with the theme. In the Down direction, CAROLE KING stands out.

However, all those long Across entries come at a price, and it felt pretty heavy, starting off with UNELGIBILE [Not qualified] which I’m sure was the first choice for very few people.

That western central area is laden with crusty fill like AWNS, OTT, COSH, and ALTE. Elsewhere there’s ENER, ANGE, ENRY, and ON BY. And [Issuance from a returns department] seems like it wants a singular answer, not CREDIT SLIPS.

Since I encountered all of those before grokking the theme, the puzzle was running at a deficit for me. But you know what, the cute idea for the theme, and the realization that there are so many long Across answers started bringing things over to the plus side. So while I’m no fan of entries like AWNS, COSH, and ANGE, I can get past them this time. I wouldn’t say this puzzle is “simply the best,” but it won me over.

3.7 stars.

Sean Griffth’s Universal crossword, “Final Answer” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/2/20 • Wed • Griffith • “Final Answer” • solution • 20200902

Let’s cut to the chase.

  • 16a. [Last words?] OVER AND OUT.
  • 28a. [Last place?] DESTINATION.
  • 45a. [Last night?] NEW YEARS EVE.
  • 63a. [Last names?] END CREDITS.

Good, simple theme with a punny element. Well-made crossword, though I don’t know if it will make a lasting impression. Definitely not MEH (67a [Doesn’t do much for me”]).

48a [They face final finals: Abbr.] SRS.

But maybe nothing is final? 5d [Ctrl+Z command] UNDO, 36d [“Don’t go away!”] STAY TUNED. 46d [Long stretch] EON, which can seem endless.

  • 54d [Breakfast mugful, informally] JAVA. Currently sipping some, and since it’s dubbed ‘Pacific Rim’ it may indeed contain some coffee from Java. Does indeed have a 21a [Pleasant scent] AROMA, but of course I’m conditioned to respond that way.
  • 10d [Wolf, in Juarez] LOBO.

  • 1a [Fast food chain whose name is an acronym] KFC. Is it still an acronym if they’ve officially changed their name to it? Historically of course it is an acronym for Kentucky Fried Chicken, but maybe I’m just looking for a bone to pick.
  • 4a [Sculpted pieces of marble, perhaps] BUSTS, 9a [Unsculpted piece of marble] SLAB. Little forced, but sure.
  • 44a [One has a front-facing cap] KNEE. Confusing, tricky clue but it all makes sense in retrospect. Ditto for 50a [Place to hear or wear a ring] EAR.
  • 52a [Bayou settler] CAJUN. The name’s a corruption of Acadian.
  • 55a [Irish or Arabian] SEA. Clue seems incomplete.


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

This was fun and felt very smooth while solving, although looking back, there are a few rough patches of fill that I could live without. The long stuff is clean if not terribly exciting, but overall I enjoyed solving it.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Elizabeth C. Gorski • Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The marquee entry is DIAMOND BRACELET, which, sure, that is a thing, but I can’t say it’s a particularly *exciting* thing! Other long stuff includes HYPHENATES / ISLAMIC ART / FEEL BETTER / PLANETARIA / LEMON DROPS / EXPRESSWAY / ROAD MOVIES / BIKINI-CLAD. My favorite long entry/clue pair was right at 1A: [Breaks one’s word?] for HYPHENATES. Clever!!! I’ve always found it a little odd that “ISLAMIC ART” and African art and other non-European/American art frequently gets shunted into one room explicitly for its display while art that fits with the “western canon” can just live wherever in a museum. I hope this is changing?

A few more things:

  • Not super jazzed about the corrupt far-right Netanyahu getting his cutesy nickname (BIBI) into the puzzle
  • Fill I Could Live Without: OEO, I BAR, ENE, NIE, EMB
  • I’d say my favorite part of this puzzle is the cluing; a lot of it is just really fun! Not going to list out all of the best clues, but here is a small smattering:
    • [___ Building (structure with gargoyles resembling hood ornaments)] for CHRYSLER
    • [Venues for star-studded shows?] for PLANETARIA
    • [Bourbon, for one] for STREET (clever!!!)
  • I fell for the fakeout on the pull clue [Singer with the 2018 hit “Without Me”] by not reading the “2018” part and assuming the 6-letter answer was EMINEM instead of the (far superior) HALSEY.

Overall, the solve was HELLA smooth and mostly quite enjoyable! A few patches of things I didn’t like, but on the whole, still worthy of plenty of stars.

Paulo Pasco’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #50” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 09/02/2020

This week’s AVCX is a 2/5 difficulty puzzle from regular Paolo Pasco.  I sometimes disagree with the difficulty scale provided (and rating the actual “difficulty” of a crossword feels almost impossible), but that rating feels spot on for what’s going on under the hood here:

  • 17A: Former TV reporter, who now throws vintage gaming consoles professionally? — NES CASTER
  • 25A: Former carnival mystic, who now analyzes horse gaits professionally? — TROT READER
  • 35A: Former animal wrangler, who now teaches hairstyling professionally? — DO TRAINER
  • 49A: Former emergency worker, who now engages in hand-to-hand combat with Christmas trees professionally? — FIR FIGHTER
  • 60A: Crime that steals from workers … as perpretrated against this puzzle’s theme entries, one letter at a time? — WAGE THEFT

Looking at the original jobs clued across the theme entries, you get NEWSCASTER, TAROT READER, DOG TRAINER, and FIRE FIGHTER, each with their respective letter of WAGE stolen from them.  This was a nice, neat little theme.

To quote Paolo’s clue, “Wikipedia calls it “one of the best and most interesting card games for 3 players,” which, okay, whatever you say”, but I’m more familiar with DJ SKAT Kat’s duet with Paula Abdul.

Other notes:

  • There’s nothing too BANANAS in the across fill in the grid, though DR. MOM feels a little arbitrary as an actual entry, and it’s clued to really get you to the DR part.
  • It took me far too long to understand the SMARTLY-clued “Semi-effective communication medium?” for CB RADIO.

Happy Wednesday!

Pam Amick Klawitter’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LAT 200902

Solving this puzzle from top down, the first impression I had of the theme answers is that they seemed remarkably dull: SEAATTACK, GUIDESERVICE, DOMESTICBIRD, POLICERESCUE; the one exception is HOUSEHUNTING. Turns out it’s a symptom of the theme genre: DOUBLEDOG, where each of two parts can be combined with “dog”. This tends to create rather generic “green paint” answers of which GUIDESERVICE could be the poster child. Cramming five theme answers is also a design choice that has exacerbated that.

ESS plays a prominent role in glueing things together today. I can’t say I’ve had many occasions to talk about plural FETAS, DADOS or SERGES. The deepest cut is NCC – I don’t think that’s mentioned much in the shows, you kind of have to have noticed it sailing past?


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24 Responses to Wednesday, September 2, 2020

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: Went Monday fast, except for the AMoN-RA/ BRoNNER PASS delaying Mr. Pencil.
    I remember hearing the expression ELEVATOR PITCH for the first time and wondering: what kind of elevators are people riding? My favorite elevator is one in NYC that plays very old cartoons. The screen is near the ceiling and everyone looks up, thereby abrogating the need to avoid staring at each other.
    And now, I’m suddenly missing elevators… I haven’t been in one since March.
    As to the representation analysis, Amy, it’s conceivable that Elon Musk may require a separate category– I mean he’s not exactly typical, and he gets points for having a kid named X Æ A-Xii.

    • Lise says:

      That name was fun to learn! I liked this puzzle a lot. I never know whether it will be AMoN or AMEN. Just like YENTA and YENTE and YENTL – I don’t know the different meanings among those, if there are any.

      I guess if you’re stuck with ZAS, you make the best of it, but I have never heard anyone say that. We need Elon Musk to name another child ZAS for cluing purposes.

      I liked the many long answers in this puzzle, and the way the theme answers intersected. That took some doing, I’m sure. Great puzzle!

      I don’t miss elevators. They terrify me. I have been stuck twice, and thinking about them gives me the creeps. I am grateful that they exist, and hope to be able to put off using them as long as possible.

      • Gary R says:

        I remember ZA from when my older sister was in college – late 60’s and early 70’s – but I don’t remember ever hearing it in plural form. Always just, “Let’s get some ‘za.”

        • RM Camp says:

          The only time I ever hear it is with some mild mockery, like when notorious not-with-it nerd Ben Wyatt (I say that with affection because I identify most with him) uses the term on Parks & Rec.

    • JohnH says:

      I went for AMEN without knowing because somehow BRENNER kinda looked better, but I had trouble spelling YEOH, too. I also had no idea what to make of the crossing of LUTZ and ZAS (whah?) although I should have dredged the first out of memory.

    • Mutman says:

      Gets points?!?!? I’d be subtracting points from Elon for that idiotic name.

      Glad to see a Philly “HOAGIE” in the puzzle. No subs in this town!

  2. MattF says:

    In fact, regular tea is a home remedy for sunburn— but you don’t drink it, you apply it to the burn. And it really does work.

    And I enjoyed the NYT puzzle. A good one.

  3. JohnH says:

    The WSJ interface seems to be back. I should say that, judging by comments, online solvers weren’t too pleased either. Yesterday’s interface, I gather, didn’t bring up both across and down clues for the square you’d picked, and you couldn’t see both at once.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    Old guy stuff first:

    More recently, I believe that it was the former le Méridien I think now just known as the Parker, between 57th & 56th and 6th and 7th Aves. that showed the old cartoons in the elevators. But – 30 years ago that was a great hotel with I believe Jean-Georges’ first NYC restaurant, best lobster dish we ever had with a lovely julienne of vegetables and a light cream sauce, served in the shell and whole; restaurant was called Maurice. J-G? he went downhill from there, IMHO. So did the hotel but it’s a great mid-town value now with the only rooftop pool in a city hotel.

    Between the streets, that now filled-to-the-brim breezeway to the lobby (from 57th to 56th) was totally free of coffee kiosks and the like.

    ‘ZAs not legit? Don’t tell anyone from Wisconsin (Especially around Madison) that.


  5. AP says:

    My laugh with NYT today: for “losing Brexit option” I immediately filled in NODEAL. After I realized it was wrong it took me at least three crosses to get to REMAIN because I kept thinking of the December cliff edge rather than the referendum itself ?

  6. Ethan Friedman says:

    BRENNER / BRONNER tripped me up forever and I’m shocked this passed editorial muster. I figured out that HAD to be the issue and just started trying vowels. Ugh.

  7. Billy Boy says:

    Re: Universal

    KFC in Quebec is PFK

    Now the rest of your day will be better

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal: KFC {1A: Fast food chain whose name is an acronym} is not an acronym. It’s an initialism. Acronyms are initialisms that can be pronounced as a word, e.g. scuba and radar. That’s a bad way to start a puzzle, but it recovered well. A very smooth solve.

    • cyco says:

      To be even more pedantic, KFC hasn’t officially stood for anything since 1991.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        @cyco … Pedantic? Ouch. I’m sorry if my comment came across that way. It doesn’t seem pedantic to me to comment about a poorly worded clue on a crossword puzzle message board.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      I wish this was the case sanfranman59, but every dictionary I’ve consulted says an acronym is an initialism whether or not it can be pronounced as a word (FBI is the example given at Some dictionaries delineate the distinction or tag it as a “usage problem”, but still concede the point.

      Anecdotally, it seems as if people use acronym in this way (in the KFC way) in everyday speech, as well, so I don’t think it’s correct to declare that KFC is not an acronym. It can still be pet peeve, though, like it is for me.

  9. David Roll says:

    WSJ–Jim–off topic–I went to college at the University of Montana and very much agree with you about that section of I-90.

  10. R says:

    The AVCX title is wrong.

  11. Steve Manion says:

    I was surprised to see the discussion of AMEN v, AMON. AMEN-RA has close to 5 million hits and AMON has 343,000. What surprised me though was that there were no comments about AMUN RA, which is generally considered to be the Egyptian god’s “official” name. AMUN also has significantly fewer hits than AMEN. I knew BRENNER so I never considered anything else.


    • janie says:

      amUn-ra here… ;-) completely unfamiliar w/ bronner pass and thought brUnner sounded more swiss alp-y. so much for *that* logic!

      that said: loved this theme and theme set and thought the grid layout for the themers all helped make this one tremendous debut.


  12. Jenni Levy says:

    No one will be surprised that 48a in the AVCX is one of my favorite crossword clues of all time.

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