Wednesday, September 9, 2020

LAT 3:25 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 11:22 (Rachel) 


NYT 3:58 (Amy) 


WSJ 6:59 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX 7:12 (Ben) 


Jakob Weisblat’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 9 20, no. 0909

The 9/9 puzzle’s theme is 99:

  • 17a. [99, in chemistry], EINSTEINIUM. Don’t quiz me on atomic numbers. 1, hydrogen! 2, helium! It all gets fuzzy after that point. Boron, then lithium? Something else before oxygen?
  • 28a. [99, in Islam], NAMES OF ALLAH. I was not familiar with this concept at all, but am glad to learn of it.
  • 47a. [99, in hockey], WAYNE GRETZKY. The Great One’s jersey number. Coincidence: A few of the names of Allah, such as al-Kabir, include “great.”
  • 60a. [99, in pop music], LUFTBALLONS. Thought this was going to be Jay-Z’s PROBLEMS. Video below of the Nena song, in German.

I like the disparate set of fields in which 99 is meaningful.

Fave fill: “COUNT ME IN,” FORT KNOX, and a CRAZY IDEA that just might work. It’s always nice to be reminded of Janelle MONAE, too.

Tired fill: DEP DFC ALP STRAD LLCS, plus NEB as discussed below. Did anyone fill in DFC without any crossings? 38a. [U.S.A.F. honor], what does that stand for, maybe distinguished flying … cross? Yep, that’s it; it’s also bestowed by the Army, Navy, and (somehow) Homeland Security.

Five more things:

  • 1a. [Citizens United, e.g., for short], PAC. What a depressing way to start the puzzle, with a clue reminding us that “corporations are people, too.” Gross.
  • 14a. [What fire poppies do after a wildfire], BLOOM. Screw the selfish bozos who started one of California’s current wildfires with a dumb “gender reveal party.” The poppies that might bloom afterwards are not adequate recompense for the 3,000 evacuees, the terrible air quality, and the danger to firefighting crews.
  • 64a. [December 1st?], DEE. Blurgh. I don’t like spelled-out letter names, especially when cluing it that way blows the opportunity to give a shout-out to, say, Ruby DEE.
  • 30d. [Upscale section of an airport], LOUNGE. I have been in one of these LOUNGEs just once. My friend P.D. had me as his guest at a LaGuardia lounge en route to the ACPT. Comfy lounge chairs! Tasty appetizer buffet! A bar! None of the chaos of an airline terminal.
  • 45d. [Bird’s beak], NEB. Oh, dear. Old-school crosswordese. We don’t really need the word NEB. You know why? Because we all know the word beak. Maybe Gareth or another of our resident birders can tell us whether hardcore birders talk about NEBs much.

3.25 stars from me.

A note from Wordplay: Constructor Jakob Weisblat is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. If that recent David Steinberg puzzle with the pronouns theme left you wondering when on earth you’d ever have occasion to use the singular “they” about a specific person (as opposed to, say, “somebody left their backpack over here”), now’s your chance. No misgendering the constructor, folks! Thanks.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Getting By”—Jim P’s review

Road trip update: Sheridan, WY to Missoula, MT. No more snow today, but the snow-capped mountains of southern Montana made for a stunning backdrop. The unexpected gem of today’s leg was the three-hour unplanned excursion to the Little Bighorn Battlefield site just off of I-90. In addition to seeing where Custer fell, I was most impressed by the memorial to the various Native American tribes who united in this battle to preserve their way of life. Well worth a visit if you’re traveling that way.

On to the puzzle! Our theme: The letters -BY are appended to the ends of well-known phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Getting By” · Mike Shenk · Wed., 9.9.20

  • 16a. [Rough sport played at a seminary?] PRAYER RUGBY
  • 26a. [Ricky Ricardo or Rob Petrie on CBS?] NETWORK HUBBY
  • 43a. [Feline wandering the store aisles?] BROWSER TABBY
  • 59a. [Plumed headgear that’s part of the dress code?] SCHOOL BUSBY

Fairly standard add-some-letters theme. Nothing really tickled me, but then there’s nothing to frown at, either. I vaguely remembered that a BUSBY is a hat, but not what kind. The internet tells me it’s a ceremonial military hat originally worn by Hungarian hussars.


In the fill, the highlights are OUT OF TIME, MOON SHOT, and THE HOBBIT, with a gimme clue (for me, anyway) of  [Its fifth chapter is “Riddles in the Dark”]. (This is the scene where Bilbo has just found the Ring and encounters Gollum in a cave and where they engage in a battle of wits.) I do have to give a side-eye glance to ULTRAIST [Radical], because it doesn’t look like a real word—or one that anybody ever uses.

Clues of note:

  • 9a. [Good thing that comes to those who wait]. TIP. During the solve, I thought this meant TIP in the sense of “good advice.” Now I see it’s referring to waiting tables. Seems like there should be a question mark in the clue.
  • 12a. [Pele’s hair, e.g.]. LAVA. I learned during a vacation to the big island a few years ago that the goddess of volcanoes and fire and the creator of the Hawaiian islands is Pele.

3.5 stars.

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword  – Rachel’s writeup

Lots to like in this moderately challenging puzzle from Natan Last! Fun long entries, cool grid design, some excellent colloquials, and interesting cluing. Let’s do this!

The New Yorker crossword solution • Natan Last • Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Something I’ve really come to enjoy about regularly reviewing these puzzles is learning the signature style of each New Yorker constructor, to the point where I could probably have a good chance of identifying the constructor just from the puzzle, which is extra true about Natan’s puzzles. The dead giveaway here is the NO GODS NO MASTERS down the middle of the puzzle, an [Anarchist/labor slogan] that just feels very Natan: political, progressive, and not at all shy about it. I love how clear Natan’s voice is in every puzzle he makes.

The other long entries are also solid: SMOOTH OPERATOR [He moves “in space with minimum waste and maximum joy,” in a 1985 hit] / ONE FINGER SALUTE / FULL COURT PRESS / WILD IMAGINATION [One working overtime in story production?]. I’m not totally sold on this last clue; is a WILD IMAGINATION “one”? Or is it one *with* a WILD IMAGINATION who is working overtime in story production? Unclear. I don’t hate it, but I think the clue leaves a loose end dangling a bit.

A few more things:

  • Is NADERITE a thing?? I had *no* idea. Google suggests it is a supporter of Ralph Nader, which I had figured out, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that a NADERITE is a [Consumer-protection advocate, perhaps], unless I’m missing something?
  • Love the colloquial partials SON OF A… and I’M LIKE… 
  • Natan shores up his hipster cred with PBR (jk, I am deeply unhip and also enjoy a good PBR)
  • Would love a PUPUSA right now
  • Not sold on MOTHY and suspect some solvers will struggle with MOONY, which (spoiler alert, I guess?) could have used a werewolf clue
  • Representation: The puzzle highlights a poet whose work was read at the Women’s March, J-Lo, and the women of the Lost Generation (Zelda, Gertrude, and Sylvia) in a clue about ERNEST Hemingway. I’m satisfied!

Overall, tons of stars from me. This was a fun solve, despite a few moments of “hmm I guess that has to be right…”, and I love how it is just packed with personality.

Ella Dershowitz’s AVCX, “A Few Side Notes” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 9/9/2020 – “A Few Side Notes”

It’s another 2/5 difficulty week at the AVCX, this time with a guest grid from Ella Dershowitz.  The theme on this one eluded me until right after I finished filling in the grid, and it’s so obvious in retrospect I should have picked up on it sooner:

  • 16A: Bessie Smith specialty — DOUBLE ENTENDRE
  • 29A: Texas pageant since 1986 — MISS GAY US OF A
  • 49A: “The Bling Ring” and “Lost in Translation” writer/director — SOFIA COPPOLA
  • 65A: Home away from home, for something like a week each year — TIMESHARE CONDO

When the title suggests “side notes”, you should check the sides of the answers.  We’ve got all the notes of the scale progressing through the grid.

When I saw the clue “Wolves of the Sea”, this immediately came to mind. Unfortunately, “Latvia’s off-key 2008 Eurovision entry” doesn’t fit in the same number of squares as ORCAS

Other notes:

  • Among the 22 video games in the collection of MOMA are The Sims, Myst, and Katamari Damacy
  • I loved seeing the AVCX call out that “Baby YODA” is not actually the name of the character on The Mandalorian, but that it is merely another YODA-species creature known as “The Child”.
  • To “[p]ull a Tom Haverford and hit the woods with your SkyMall finest, say” is how you GLAMPGLAMPing is “glam camping”, or hitting the woods with string lights, fancy shelters, etc.

Happy Wednesday!

Michael Lieberman’s Universal crossword, “Got Milk?” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/9/20 • Wed • Lieberman • “Got Milk?” • solution • 20200909

Appropriate solve, as it’s breakfast time as write this.

Cold cereals:

  • 1a. [“He likes it!” cereal] LIFE. ‘He’ being Mikey.
  • 18a. [“Two scoops” cereal] RAISIN BRAN.
  • 28a. [“Snap, Crackle, Pop” cereal] RICE CRISPIES.
  • 49a. [“I vant to eat your cereal” cereal] COUNT CHOCULA.
  • 64a. [“Follow your nose!” cereal] FROOT LOOPS.
  • 73a. [“Silly rabbit!” cereal] TRIX.

All are seemingly clued via quotes from advertising campaigns. Am not interested in breaking down which companies produce which cereals and whether there’s an imbalance, but I’m pretty sure it’s just two of the largest ones.

Seeing TIE in the center does make me wonder if there was an attempt to put KIX (“Kid tested. Mother approved.”) in that spot. Too difficult to fill? Too similar to TRIX?

  • Misdirection! [Plays Othello, e.g.] ACTS.
  • Not a Hawaiian goose! 70a [Bravo star Leakes] NENE.
  • Not a Conservative British politician! 58d [Fashion designer Burch] TORY. Not to be confused with actress Thora Birch.
  • Trivias! [Middle Eastern country with a women-only village] SYRIA (it’s called Jinwar). Singer whose name is scrambled in her album title “Melodrama”] LORDE.
  • 3d [Podiatrist’s concerns] FEET. Yes, I reflexively put in FEES rather than going FEET first.
  • 25d [Clothing item shaped sort of like Michigan] MITTEN. So much so that it’s a standard description of the place—well, the lower peninsula, anyway.
  • 61d [At an end] OVER, 62d [Done, in Dijon] FINI.

With many of the clue choices—not merely among the ones I’ve reported above—it seems that a conscious effort was made to be more inclusive of women, so brava!

And now it’s time for me to have my own cereal-based breakfast, albeit with granola and Bulgarian-style yogurt.

Susan Gelfand’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

LA Times
20 09 09

I guessed the theme type – words that follow x2 – at the first entry. If you see rather vague theme answers like WHITEHAIR, chances are you have one on your hands.

Today’s is HORSEPLAY, and unusually, it’s words that follow the first part, but which preface the second? I think? The entries make the most sense that way. So: WHITE(HORSE)HAIR [Capital of Yukon Territory / that thick hair in the mane of a horse]; WILD(HORSE)MAN [a horse that is wild / a man on a horse]; SADDLE(HORSE)SHOES [Uncommon alternative name for an American Saddlebred, a horse breed. HORSE SADDLE is also a thing, but all the others only work one way! / Metal bits stuck on the hooves of horses]; QUARTER(HORSE)BACK [Another US horse breed / while mounted.]

Gratuitous dupe – [Chess pieces], MEN. WILDMAN is literally underneath. Change IMITATE to AGITATE say and it’s fixed!
Mysteriousest clue – [Routes that contain the letters in “routes”], DETOURS. Anyone?

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19 Responses to Wednesday, September 9, 2020

  1. pseudonym says:

    Is it me or has the Stan Newman Hard Crossword been ridiculously easy the last week?

  2. R says:

    NYT: I learned about the 99 names of Allah from this comic series:

  3. Greg says:

    I thought the Nathan Last New Yorker puzzle was superb. Smooth, entertaining fill.

  4. nene says:

    Still chewing over LUFTBALLONS. Obscure German song from the early 80’s. If this were a three letter throwaway answer that is one thing. To use it as a theme answer that few solvers have heard of, let alone in a foreign language, is troubling. A theme clue may be: song 99 percent of you do not know.

  5. dhj says:

    New Yorker: I love how “progressivism” is now incorporating anarchist slogans. Nothing says “progress” like mob rule and lawlessness. I’m sure this “progressive” brand of anarchy is 93% peaceful, though. And hey, if you don’t *look* at the the guillotine, it technically doesn’t exist. Now fetch me another PBR, bro.

    • Rachel Fabi says:

      I bet you’re lots of fun at parties ;)

    • Ethan says:

      That radical leftist Will Shortz has used ACAB eight times! Sure, it’s always clued as “Hail ___” but the anti-cop sentiment is obvious.

    • BenMettsLee says:

      well good news Trumpy guy – the AVX is now publishing puzzles by the daughter of Trumplover and noted pedophile Alan Dershowitz – so you’ll be happy to know not everybody is progressive, and that white celebrity privilege will get you everywhere!

  6. Diana says:

    Talking about NYT. I’m probably too late on comments that will be read because I’m in California, plus my power has been turned off for awhile due to supposed fire safety reasons. Just got it back this morning (earlier than expected so, woo hoo). So, I didn’t download the puzzle until now.

    Anyway, I wanted to say 9/9 is California’s State Admissions Day. (Woo hoo, again.) Could have put that in the puzzle. ;-)

  7. Crotchety Doug says:

    Re: LAT – Amy, the letters in ROUTES are contained in dETOURS.

  8. Mutman says:

    NYT Comments: “Screw the selfish bozos who started one of California’s current wildfires with a dumb “gender reveal party.”

    I actually agree with Amy here. This has to be one of the most narcissistic things being done these days. Puh-lease — don’t people have anything better to do with their time (and money?)

    And to take it a step further in 2020, why are we forcing the unborn into a binary deterministic sexual identity? Come on! There are countless outcomes available these days! What kind of parents are labeling their children before they can determine who they are??


  9. BenMettsLee says:

    Isn’t the AVX this week written by Alan Dershowitz’s daughter? The Trumpers are permeating crossword culture.

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