Wednesday, February 17, 2021

LAT 4:05 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 7:27 (Rachel) 


NYT 4:16 post-typo-search (Amy) 


WSJ 5:34 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX 11:00 (Ben) 


John Hawksley’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “What’s the Scoop?”—Jim P’s review

I scream, you scream, this theme’s about ice cream. Specifically, it’s a before-and-after theme starring some popular ice cream flavors.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “What’s the Scoop?” · John Hawksley · Wed., 2.17.21

  • 17a. [Antique cabinet in perfect condition?] MINT CHIPPENDALE. So…are the dancers named after furniture or vice versa?
  • 25a. [Just your standard issue tossing toy?] VANILLA BEANBAG
  • 42a. [Family vacations that don’t go as planned?] ROCKY ROAD TRIPS
  • 57a. [Extraordinarily small monarch?] PEANUT BUTTERFLY

Nice. I like a good before-and-after theme, and these were mostly fun. But is peanut butter an actual ice cream flavor? Isn’t it usually paired with something like chocolate?

In the fill we have a couple theme-adjacent entries: BANANA [Split requirement] and YOGURT [Frozen ___ (ice cream alternative)]. ALLEGORY, “ALAS, NO,” VENMO, and WHITE RAT top my list of top fill, but are lab rats necessarily white? I did not know the Springsteen song “BE TRUE,” but I was always more of an ENYA-listener.

Clues of note:

  • 15a. [Grammy winner with songs in English, Irish and Elvish]. ENYA. The “Elvish” songs were for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, of course. The most well-known of these is “May It Be” which was both Grammy- and Oscar-nominated. The lyrics are in both English and Quenya, one of the Elvish languages (along with Sindarin) created by Tolkien for his books.
  • 39a. [“___ a joke to you?”]. AM I. If you have to have a partial in your fill, it’s nice to add a bit of CHEEK to the clue.
  • 1d. [Search over, as a beach]. COMB. Why is it that we COMB beaches, but not fields or prairies? Why are beaches more combable than other tracts of land?

Fun theme, clean fill. 3.9 stars.

David Harris & Evan Kalish’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 17 21, no. 0217

Oh, hey! It’s not every day you open the puzzle and say “I know that guy from Twitter.” David Harris makes his paid constructing debut here (he was also published in the Grids for Good fundraiser puzzle pack and shares his crosswords via a blog). Co-constructor Evan Kalish, of course, is a familiar name from puzzle bylines and post office Twitter.

Lotta simian business in the theme here, though it will upset the taxonomists (pannonica! Gareth!). The revealer is 65a. [Animals found in 16-, 20-, 35-, 51- and 58-Across], APES. The letter string APE is found in:

  • 16a. [Portrayer of Carla Tortelli on “Cheers”], RHEA PERLMAN
  • 20a. [“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” co-star], AMANDA PEET
  • 35a. [Huggies, e.g.], DIAPERS
  • 51a. [Cause of a comedic slip], BANANA PEEL
  • 58a. [Where idols might be placed], ON A PEDESTAL.

And then a different sort of primate enters the theme: 43a. [With the circled letters and 46-Across, playground keep-away game], MONKEY / IN THE / MIDDLE. Monkeys aren’t apes, of course. The circled letters form a parabolic arch like the ball thrown by the mean kids on the playground. Nope, I do not have fond memories of playing monkey in the middle!

Fave fill: PREGAMED, EPHEMERA, HATE ON, OBAMAS. Mad at: General TSO at 64a, because I had an adjacent-key typo in TSP and that looks like an entirely plausible entry when you are scanning the Acrosses for typos. When folks on Twitter are reporting faster-than-usual Wednesday times, while I watched the clock keep ticking during thta typo search … sigh.

Five more things:

  • 1a. [Option in a classic taste test], PEPSI. I wonder if the typical person under 30 has ever seen a Pepsi vs. Coke taste test commercial.
  • 22a. [Can alternative], MAY. This one messed with my mind. I was seeing can as a noun, not a verb. D’oh.
  • 31a. [Bygone copies], MIMEOS. Not sure if my schools ever used mimeographs. We had the Ditto machines. Purple ink! And the pages were damp and fragrant when fresh off the machine. I tell ya, Xerox copiers with actual black toner/ink were fancy when they started to show up.
  • 47a. [Relative of a cor anglais], OBOE. I’ve never played the cor anglais, just the cor blimey.
  • 12d. [“Never-ending” offerings at Olive Garden], PASTAS. Hard to wrangle for take-out, alas.

Four stars from me. Over and out.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “I Need More Time” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 2/17 – “I Need More Time”

Each of the theme entries in this week’s AVCX from BEQ needs a little more time:

  • 19A: A few birds of prey feeling anxiety? — THREE TENSE CONDORS
  • 30A: Happy sonogram appearance for hopeful jeans-parents? — DENIM IN UTERO
  • 42A: Person who fervently believes in the health benefits of adding pee to one’s noodle soup? — PHO URINE NUT
  • 58A: Spawned one single ox, posthaste? — BRED A YAK FAST
  • 69A: Too-precious Bryant impersonator didn’t stop? — TWEE KOBE CONTINUED

We’ve got some phrases (like THREE TENORS, Robert DENIRO, PINE NUT, BREAKFAST, and TO BE CONTINUED) that each have taken a progressively longer unit of time – SECOND, MINUTE, HOUR, DAY, WEEK.  It’s that last part I find particularly impressive with this grid – I didn’t notice it until I started writing things up, and it adds some extra elegance to the theme.

Elsewhere in the grid, this was light on BEQ’s usual musical touches, but there was still plenty to love, fill-wise: RIP OUT (“Take, as a page from someone’s book?”), SEDER, QBERT (the “Titular video game character that speaks in grawlixes when captured”), Beck’s ODELAY, INHERENT, PARLANCE, MELLOWER, and TO A FAULT.

Happy Wednesday!

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Erik Agard • Wednesday, February 17, 2021

I’m sad that I only have a short amount of time to write about this puzzle (I have to teach in half an hour), because it was just lovely. Notes are all bullet points today in the interest of squeezing in as much content as possible:

  • The marquees are *rad* — I learned who TONI CADE BAMBARA is [Author who wrote, “The dream is real, my friends. The failure to make it work is the unreality,” in “The Salt Eaters”], and DELICATE BALANCE is both a fantastic (15) in itself and had a fantastic clue  [It’s hard to strike and easy to disturb].
  • As with Erik’s Black History Month puzzle for the NYT, the only humans named in this puzzle (SERENA [Legendary athlete Williams], DREAM [Atlanta’s W.N.B.A. team, named in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.],  TONI CADE BAMBARA) are Black.
  • The fill is A+, but the real star today are the clues:
    • [“124 was ___. Full of a baby’s venom” (opening lines of “Beloved”)] for SPITEFUL — this was a gimme for me, and such a perfect clue. And, interestingly, it’s another example of the New Yorker breaking the unwritten “no fill-in-the-blank entries longer than 5 or 6 letters” rule
    • [Without it, the mnemonic acronym for the Great Lakes might be MOSH] for ERIE. What a great angle on a very common entry!
    • [Act of throwing money around to resolve an issue?] for COIN TOSS – this might be my favorite of the puzzle.

A few more things:

  • I loved the repeated reference to “My Hero Academia,” a MANGA series (graphic novels) that was adapted into an ANIME series (animated tv). I recently spent a lot of time reading the wikipedia for “My Hero Academia,” which I have never read/watched, because I wanted to find a new way to clue TOGA and there is a villain in the series with the last name TOGA.
  • I’m not sure the grammar in the clue for TEST PREP [Getting set for the SAT, say] is exactly right? TEST PREP feels like a noun to me, like “she’s doing TEST PREP,” but maybe I’m wrong?
  • Love that New Yorker puzzles can just clue ASSES as ASSES without any need to pretend like they’re talking about donkeys.

Ok that’s it, I’m off to teach! Loved this puzzle and everything about it, all the stars from me.

Alan Massengill’s Universal crossword, “Bears Repeating” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 2/17/21 • Wed • Massengill • “Bears Repeating” • solution • 20210217

Uh-oh. The theme itself is bearable, but there was so much content that I found distasteful that the crossword overall ANNOYS (13d) me.

But let’s deal with the theme first. Two-word names and phrases, each part of which can precede ‘bear’.

    • 17a. [She had a reality show as a young child] HONEY BOO-BOO. Ding number one. I do not want to be reminded of this child. BOO-BOO is Yogi Bear’s cartoon sidekick. Not sure what this HONEY bear is referencing. The sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), the thoroughly unrelated kinkajou (Potos flavus), or something else entirely?
    • 34a. [Extra attention] GREAT CARE. That’s the constellation Ursa Major, part of which forms the Big Dipper. CARE Bears™. Ding number two. I do not want to be reminded of that unfortunate overcommercialized FAD (33d).

  • 53a. [Shade for toast] GOLDEN BROWN. The extinct Ursus arctos californicus, or possibly the German film prize. Same species (but not subspecies) as above is Ursus arctos, the brown bear, whose distribution is Holarctic, comprises numerous subspecies, quite a few which are also sadly extinct. I fear the trend is continuing.

This text serves one purpose only, to fill enough space that when I insert a video for GOLDEN BROWN it isn’t awkwardly offset by the kinkajou photograph. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. Whew, done!

(The Snatch scene is too graphically violent for tender eyes such as yours, reader.)

More stuff that upset me:

  • 43d [Make less threatening, as a cat] DECLAW. Yeah, radical digital amputation is definitely not okay and should never be done, and should never be euphemized. You’d better believe I’m going to call it out every time.
  • 25d [“South Park” character Eric] CARTMAN. More crassness and intolerance. Yuck.
  • Even POOR IDEA and RAW DEAL take on an unnecessarily ominous tone in the context of this crossword. I mean, obviously they’re objectively negative things, but they seem much more so here.
  • Heck, even the benign 31a [ __-friendly software] USER now has put me in mind of hostile design and imagining USER-hostile software. Yeesh.
  • 51d [Split __ (hair problems)] ENDS. Ya, don’t remind me.

Alright, let’s see what I can salvage.

  • 29d [Choice when one can’t handle the truth?] DARE. Good clue.
  • 1d [Item of clothing that usually has holes] BELT. What’s the name of the other kind?  … Aha! After having GOOGLED (12d) I’ve learned that they’re typically O-ring/D-ring buckles or box-frame buckles.
  • 15a [“Please, please call on me!’] OOH OOH. Nifty the way it sits above BOO-BOO.
  • 27a [Small] TINY crossing 4d [Really small] TEENSY. Is this a quasi-dupe? If so, I don’t even mind.
  • 38a [Most common value, in statistics] MODE.
  • 59a [Anago or unagi, to a sushi chef] EEL. Yum.

Overall, the grid fill is clean, without too much ‘glue’, so that’s a positive. Despite that, it bears repeating that this puzzle upset me overmuch.

Julian Lim’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

A theme we’ve seen before – gaits – in this case ordered from slow (WALK, JOG) to fast (RUN, DASH). The first two entries, WALKAWAYFROM and JOGONESMEMORY, felt less elegant than RUNTHENUMBERS and DASHOFFANOTE; WALKAWAYFROM is also the least figurative of the themers (though still somewhat so).

There’s a lot of chat in the puzzle: OHHEY, WOOT, ITSUSELESS, PSST, SEEYA and TEXT(S) speak in FOMO and FWIW (and WOOT again).

Toughest X-es are REVUP/ROVIO and ORZO/OZMA.


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36 Responses to Wednesday, February 17, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I like it and I cannot explain why :).

  2. philr says:

    Apes and monkeys are separate families, an ape in the middle is entirely different than a monkey in the middle.

    • JohnH says:

      You may be too harsh. There’s a loose, nontechnical usage that’s quite common, given in both MW11C and RHUD, and most people don’t know the difference.

      NYT was really, really TV friendly, though. Not for me.

      • David L says:

        I agree. I know that zoologists insist on the difference but I can never remember what the difference is and which animal belongs to which group. So I ignore the whole business.

        • pannonica says:

          I’m dumbfounded that it’s difficult to remember which is which. But of course I’ll take your word for it.

          • David L says:

            From the Wikipedia entry for ‘Monkey’:

            “Apes emerged within “monkeys” as sister of the Cercopithecidae in the Catarrhini, so cladistically they are monkeys as well. There has been resistance to directly designate apes (and thus humans) as monkeys, so “Old World monkey” may be taken to mean the Cercopithecoidea or the Catarrhini. That apes are monkeys was already realized by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon in the 18th century.”

            Say what now?

            • pannonica says:

              Okay, I’ll accept that. Hadn’t really considered the full phylogeny. (looked at some other sources too.)

              Part of the problem is that ‘monkey’ isn’t a good scientific term, colloquially describing polyphyletic taxa.

              In the future I’ll refrain from thoughtless pedantry on this matter.

              Thank you.

            • David L says:

              No worries. As I say, I just find the whole thing confusing.

            • JohnH says:

              I didn’t mean to challenge the biology. I just meant that it’s usage attested to in the obvious dictionaries (“loosely” in RHUD, “nontechnical” in MW11c). Language, not science.

            • pannonica says:

              JohnH –

              Both language usage and biology are on your side.

  3. David Harris says:

    Thanks, Amy! And you just reminded me of a little easter egg we hid inside the OBOE clue, hinting at another version of this theme idea….

    • Phillip says:


      • David says:

        Yup! Our original concept was types of monkeys (or to be safe, primates!), with cOR ANGlais as a possible themer. But it starts getting tough when you’re trying to fill the last spot with a GIBBON or MACAQUE phrase!

  4. Anne says:

    Here we call the game “piggy in the middle“. I tried “piggie” to no avail. Oh well, I tumbled to it via the crossings.

    • David L says:

      Thank you for that reminder. I knew that we didn’t call it monkey in the middle when I was growing up, but I couldn’t remember what we did call it. Old age strikes again!

      • David says:

        I had no idea this was a regional name, but I’ve seen people listing a few different varieties today. Live and learn, I guess—and thanks for sharing!

  5. pannonica says:

    I can only justify the NYT theme by presuming the primate in question is Macaca sylvanus, the Barbary ‘ape’.

    *See recantation, above.

  6. Phillip says:

    NYTX. My second grade teacher did not agree with clue writer that “can” is an alternate to MAY. One got me to the restroom, the other did not.

  7. Billy Boy says:

    I loved the WSJ, sure silly themes (Aren’t they all?) but well-done and loads of superior shaded meanings in so many clues. Mix of eras – PAAR immediately adjacent to VENMO!
    ANI DiFranco the only trite CWese, even the tired old err is upgraded to ERRED.

    NYT too troublesome to get into

  8. pannonica says:

    TNY:“I’m not sure the grammar in the clue for TEST PREP [Getting set for the SAT, say] is exactly right? TEST PREP feels like a noun to me, like “she’s doing TEST PREP,” but maybe I’m wrong?”

    Reads as a gerund phrase to me, and that works.

  9. Mutman says:

    Re: NYT and Amy’s ditto machine.

    When we would get a ‘fresh’ test off the ditto machine, we would rub the paper in our faces to smell the ink! Probably explains a lot about who I tuned out to be … Oh those Catholic school memories!

  10. e.a. says:

    that theme is vintage BEQ, hilarious

  11. dj says:

    NYT – can’t get around the fact that all the “apes” were not in the middle of the answers, since the revealer is “monkey in the middle”

    • David says:

      In our defense, standing exactly halfway between the throwers is actually a terrible strategy for the game—you gotta get in their faces and block some shots!

  12. Mark Abe says:

    LAT: I enjoyed doing it in increasing speed, from a WALK to a DASH. My only problem was putting in OUZO instead of ORZO. Guess I need a drink…

  13. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni: I spent most of this solve asking myself the question, “What the hell is a HONEY BOO BOO? I’ve generally managed to avoid cluttering my brain with anything related to so-called “reality” television, but since it’s impossible not to pick up some of this crap through the zeitgeist, it rang a faint bell. After I finished the puzzle, I read the Wikipedia blurb about this poor soul and her wacko family. How very sad. I shudder to think of what this now-15-year-old’s adulthood will be like. It’ll be a minor miracle if she makes it to age 30. It’s difficult to argue that a species that produces garbage like this for entertainment purposes is more evolved than bears, as we so anthropocentrically like to believe.

  14. RM Camp says:

    NYT: My elementary school still used a mimeograph or a ditto machine into the ‘90s (likely the latter, being a bit newer tech), and it was so weird to see black xeroxed copies of things. Not so much that the copies weren’t purply blue, but that they were clean and crisp, not uneven and faded in places. I imagine you’d normally be hard-pressed to find anyone under 40 who might even know what a ditto machine or a mimeograph is, but when you grew up in a rural backwater, you might even get away with remembering them at 35. That’s a hard “might” though.

  15. Robert Alden says:

    Pannonica’s review of the Universal puzzle was one of the most unnecessarily grumpy reviews I’ve read on a crossword blog (with the exception of the perpetually grumpy Rex Parker). It wasn’t even humorous grumpy, it was just…vapid.

    Puzzle: 3.5 stars
    Review: 1 star

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Robert Alden’s review of pannonica’s puzzle write-up was one of the most unnecessarily grumpy reviews I’ve read on a crossword blog. It wasn’t even humorous grumpy, it was just…vapid.

    • PJ says:

      Pannonica’s reviews, including this one, are my favorites. The combination of her extremely broad and deep knowledge of many subjects, her razor sharp wit, and her command of the language make her a must read for me. I also enjoy her musical selections. They overlap my tastes enough that I will listen to something new to me that she posts without hesitation.

      I typically check the site to see which puzzles she is reviewing and make a point to solve them.

      Review of the review: Returned to the author with instructions to sit in the corner and think about what he’s done.

  16. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @pannonica: At first I thought Honey Bear was the mascot for the cereal Golden Crisp, but apparently that’s Sugar Bear. Maybe the bear-shaped bottles of honey are referred to as honey bears? Not sure.

    @Rachel: The common rule against FITBs longer than 5 letters typically applies to multi-word partials only, I think, with single-word FITB answers deemed acceptable.

  17. Joan Macon says:

    Where’s Gareth????

Comments are closed.