Wednesday, April 7, 2021

LAT 4:30 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 9:47 (Rachel) 


NYT 3:21 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX 8:07 (Ben) 


Winston Emmons’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “At the End of the Day”—Jim P’s review

NIGHT / FALLS at different times around the globe, and this puzzle provided me the peaceful image of that occurrence as the earth spins, bringing night to each country in its turn.

The 3d revealer is clued [With 55-Down, what happens multilingually in the circles]. Each grouping of circled squares in the Down-directed theme entries is a translation of “night” hidden in a well-known phrase.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “At the End of the Day” · Winston Emmons · Wed., 4.7.21

  • 5d. [“That’s my secret”] I’M NOT TELLING. Notte (Italian).
  • 7d. [California wrap part, sometimes] SPINACH TORTILLA. Nacht (German).
  • 11d. [Rust makeup] IRON OXIDE. Nox (Latin).
  • 23d. [Trattoria topping] ROMANO CHEESE. Noche (Spanish).
  • 33d. [Open and Close, for two] MENU ITEMS. Nuit (French).

These are really nice finds. Each one of them spans two different words, and the ones that aren’t five letters in length have more challenging letters to work with (NOX and NUIT).

That said, there isn’t any rationale provided as to why we’re doing this in different languages. Obviously having NIGHT duplicated in multiple entries would be less interesting, even if it was possible to find it hidden in usable phrases, so I guess it makes sense to go the translation route. Still, I think it would have been beneficial to hint at the multi-nationality of the theme in the title.

The other thing is the Euro-centrality evident here. On the one hand, wouldn’t it be interesting to include an Asian or African language? But on the other hand, if I’m a typical English-only speaking solver, I know (or at least recognize) all of these translations; I don’t know “night” in Japanese (yoru) or Swahili (usiku), say. At least there are other international references in the fill: GHANA, the HINDI language, a TIKI torch, and Afghanistan in a clue.

Speaking of fill, I liked seeing The ALIENEST [Caleb Carr’s Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, e.g.], a book I enjoyed reading years ago. Its counterpart in the grid is AEROSOLS which is less exciting, and there isn’t much else that makes the highlight reel unless you’re a fan of THE FAN, the 1996 De Niro/Snipes film. There’s nothing much to scowl at, so that’s a good thing.

DALI’s “The Hallucinogenic Toreador”

Clues of note:

  • 63a. [“The Hallucinogenic Toreador” painter]. DALI. Okay, so I needed to know what this painting looked like. And now you know, too. Per Wikipedia, “Dalí transmits his wife’s dislike for bullfighting by combining symbolism, optical illusions, and estranging yet familiar motifs. Dali used his paranoiac-critical method to create his own visual language within the painting, and combined versatile images as an instructive example of his artistic ability and vision.” Got it?
  • 64a. [Aunjanue of “Lovecraft Country”]. ELLIS. Hadn’t heard of this show. It’s a horror/drama on HBO. I wonder if they incorporate that DALI painting in the show.
  • 66a. [Check-snatching words]. ON ME. At least this is a new take on this entry. But it feels incomplete without a leading “It’s.”
  • 68a. [National Voting Rights Museum site]. SELMA. I’d say a road trip is in order for the Georgia state legislature.
  • 69a. [Battery part]. TEST. As in, a battery of tests.

I liked this grid though I wish the title was used to hint at the multiple languages. 3.7 stars.

Adrian Johnson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 4 7 21, no. 0407

We’ve got a video game theme that’s entirely solvable even if you don’t know any of the characters from the game. The revealer is 34a. [Video game franchise with characters found at the ends of 17-, 20-, 53- and 58-Across], MARIO BROS.

  • 17a. [Small, spiny lizard], HORNED TOAD. The Toad character has a bulbous, white and red cap/head dealio, more toadstool than amphibian.
  • 20a. [Fruit appearing on a Southern license plate], GEORGIA PEACH. Mmmm, peaches! Princess Peach has a pink gown.
  • 53a. [D.C. mayor first elected in 2014], MURIEL BOWSER. Bowser is a mildly Godzillaesque character with a turtle shell, I guess? Muriel Bowser is the current D.C. mayor, and her name was in the news a good bit last summer.
  • 58a. [“Clumsy me!”], “OOPSY DAISY!” Princess Daisy has a yellow gown.

Fave fill: ROOIBOS tea from South Africa, SCOURGE, LOU REED (hot take I read from someone the other day: He was a terrible singer and his biggest songs are lifted up by the women of color who were his backup vocalists), JINGOISM, SNL HOST, and beachy SEA GRAPE.([Native Caribbean plant whose fruit grows in clusters]).

Five more things:

  • 32d. [Fittingly, the first three letters of 32-Across], POE / 32a. [Occupation for 32-Down], POET. Nice combo.
  • 46a. [Transitional region between biomes], ECOTONE. Not such a familiar word. Is it fair game for a Wednesday puzzle.
  • 7d. [Some YouTube journals], VLOGS. The term feels maybe a bit dated, yeah? Do YouTubers call themselves vloggers at all?
  • 8d. [Jai ___], ALAI / 59d. [Hip thing to sip], IPA. Actually saw a guy carrying a six-pack of Jai Alai IPA this evening! It’s a Tampa beer.
  • 35d. [Sprint … or see print], RUN. Nice clue.

Interesting fill overall, no? With answers like HAJJI, PR SAVVY, and JINGOISM, we’ve got things that don’t pop up in many crosswords. 3.75 stars from me.

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

The New Yorker crossword solution • Natan Last • Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Hey, this was great! I love the grid design and the offset staircase in the middle, and a lot of the long entries are excellent. There were a couple tricky spots for me, including one that required a google, but for the most part I thought this was a solid Wednesday puzzle from the New Yorker.

The staircase today was SYLVIA RIVERA / BORDERLANDs / TERRIBLE TWOS, and although I couldn’t pull SYLVIA RIVERA right away, I did know BORDERLANDS and TERRIBLE TWOS, so the middle of this puzzle came together fairly quickly for me. Other long stuff today included NEXT LEVEL / ALTER EGOS / MAJOR AXIS / ROGER THAT / NOBODIES / BRASSICA. Most of these are excellent, and I particularly liked NEXT LEVEL and ALTER EGOS, but BRASSICA is a bit of a stretch. I generally stay away from genus entries, personally, but it’s hard to resist a word with that consonant/vowel pattern and two S’s!

The spot where I got stopped cold today was the BASENJI / ELA crossing. I’ve never heard of BASENJI, so the E could just as easily have been any other vowel (the lyrics of “The Girl from Ipanema” are also not stored anywhere in my brain). I definitely googled to see what noise BASENJI make and I was not disappointed.

A few more things:

  • COLD BREW is a year-round drink, not a [Summer drink], this is a hill I will die on
  • Surprised to see ENOLA GAY in the puzzle
  • Is DEL‘s that widely known? I’ve never heard of it! And this kind of feels like putting EDY’s in the grid with just EDY and leaving the ‘s in the clue… I don’t think I like it.
  • I know a lot of words, but DESCRY was a new one for me
  • Also not a huge fan of the letter-followed-by-minor-or-major entry style (DMINOR)
  • Favorite clues:
    • [“___ / La Frontera: The New Mestiza” (influential 1987 hybrid work by Gloria Anzaldúa)] for BORDERLANDS — it would have been easier, maybe, to go for the video game reference here, but this is such an important book and I’m glad this was the cluing angle!
    • [Uncommonly good, in modern slang] for NEXT LEVEL — yes! this is a perfect translation!

Overall, I really enjoyed this puzzle! There were a few tweaks I’d have made, personally, especially at that BASENJI/ELA crossing, but in general I thought this was an excellent Wednesday puzzle.

PS. The pack I edited for the Baltimore Abortion Fund is still available for preorder here and will be available to solve this weekend! Preordering guarantees that you will get the puzzles first, so if you are thinking of contributing for this important cause, I’d encourage you to do so now!

Joe Deeney’s Universal crossword, “Do the Limbo” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 4/7/21 • Wed • Deeney • “Do the Limbo” • solution • 20210407

It’s possible I’m missing something here, in which case I’d be willing to reconsider my assessment.

It isn’t too unusual to see theme answers that pass through or ‘behind’ black squares to make sense. Similarly, we’ve had our fair share of those that ‘leap’ over letters or simply shift up one row.

I don’t recall encountering one that asks the solver to look below a grid element, but that’s what’s going on here.

  • 23a. [*With part of 32-Across and all of 27-Across, American Red Cross founder] CLARA BAR|TON. (32a [Whom “everybody loves”] RAY BARONE, 27a [Heavy weight] TON.)
  • 38a. [*With part of 50-Across and all of 40-Across, expelled from legal practice] DISBAR|RED. (50a [Gym snack] ENERGY BAR, 40a [Main color on China’s flag] RED.)
  • 57a. [*With part of 72-Across and all of 61-Across, “It’s quite dark!”] I CAN BAR|ELYSEE. (72a [Show, as one’s teeth] BARE, 61a [Parisian palace] ÉLYSÉE.) Very deft, utilizing élysée there; quite the flourish.

So this is a limbo BAR being progressively lowered. First one row down, then two, then three. But in limbo, one has to pass beneath the bar, so this seems off. Also, the clues are asterisked, which makes me wonder if I’ve missed an explanatory revealer somewhere …

Okay, wait. I now see the first themer:

  • 18a. [*Political spending on pet projects (note letters 5 to 7 in this answer] PORK BARREL.

All right, that helps to balance things out. There is  more symmetry going on than I realized, and I can discount my notion that the horizontal three-square blocks were supposed to represent the limbo bar. Which means I no longer have to be concerned about the two other horizontal three-square blocks that are not involved in the theme mechanic.

However, there is no revealer, no explanation, nothing in the notepad. Odd. Still, my estimation of the theme and construction has gone up.

  • 63d [One may be erasable] PEN.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • 21a [“No ifs, ands or __!”] BUTS. 66d [“__ lack thereof”] OR A. Would’ve been better to clue the latter with modern crossword celebrity Rita ORA. Maybe even go old-school and frame it as Latin for mouths?

Not much else I found to glean from the rest of the grid. It’s solid but not exceptional, considering there’s quite a bit of theme to work around.

Seeking to avoid an obvious (and perhaps trite) limbo musical selection, I searched for lower and bar, came up with this:

“Maqam E Gol Wa Khuk (Flower and Earth Maqam)” – Ali Akbar Moradi and Kayhan Kalhor

Lindsey Hobbs and Ross Trudeau’s AVCX, “Submarines” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 4/7/2021 – “Submarines”

Today’s AVCX is from Lindsey Hobbs and Ross Trudeau.  If some of the clues seemed fishy, you weren’t wrong:

  • 24D: Noted “Little Mermaid” song, and where to find five answers in this puzzle literally (as well as the ends of those answers, phonetically) — UNDER THE SEA

There are five answers that can be found under the sea, and each of them has a C in their name.  They’re all too short for the space allotted for them in the grid, but each finishes under its C while also spelling out another word.  For example:

  • 1A: Butterfly and horse, for two — MACKER
  • 3D: Some Disney collectibles — CELS

continuing MACKER with the letters after the C in CELS, you get the full answer for 1A, MACKERELS.  This pattern continues with the other four answers:

  • 7A: “Precious” marine growth varieties — RED COR(ALS)
  • 10D: Baseball’s Ripken Jr. and Sr. — CALS
  • 28A: Prized Washington crustacean — DUNGENESSCR(AB)
  • 30D: Hansom, for one — CAB
  • 51A: Tasty bivalves — SCALL(OPS)
  • 52D: Adopts, in a sense — COPS
  • 55A: Skipjack cousin — ALBAC(ORE)
  • 58D: Nuclear fuel locale — CORE


One other note: I loved the left-right symmetry of this grid and the longer entries it allowed: A-LINE DRESS, ON AN ERRAND, TEN FOOT POLE, PERMEATIONS, and the revealer.

Happy Wednesday!

Jeff Stillman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s theme has a basic concept: FALLAPART means the ends spell out FALL. This introduces a lot of F’s into the mix, which seems to have led to some filling issues. The entries themselves are above average in quality: FALSEIDOl, FARETHEEWELL (my rambling boy), FARMERINTHEDELL and FLYONTHEWALL.

I’m not sure if OPPO is a deliberate choice, but with OFFOF it’s a very stilted opening. There are a lot of really ugly “fillbits”, particularly where two themers run in parallel: HEMA, plural UGHS, ETRE, ESTE, not-a-real prefix CRAN. I think the goal would be for one or two of those per puzzle? Perhaps one themer less would have made a better overall puzzle, even though I can see it being difficult to let one go.

New to me: LOTSO, a bear in Toy Story 3. Seems like something worth noting as he will turn up again. I’ve looked him up and I’ve definitely seen him as a reference before, just not seen the movie so didn’t know the name.


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15 Responses to Wednesday, April 7, 2021

  1. David Glasser says:

    NYer: I found this particular “guess the key” clue particularly hard because the most famous part of Beethoven’s Ninth is in D Major (and is even associated with major-key joy!). Not saying the clue is wrong, just extra tricky.

    • marciem says:

      I’m not crazy about “guess the key” entries, but the crossings on this made it pretty gettable and helped me with unknown crossers. I didn’t know either Sylvia Rivera or Borderlands, but the Terrible Twos made the key obviously d minor (for keys you have x MxxOR as givens) and the past tense ending D for the note).

      TNY was actually a favorite today, as I usually struggle much more with Natan Last, to the point of DNF/DC (don’t care). I enjoyed this and last weeks Last’s :) .

      My biggest struggle was wanting broccoli etc. to be something close to cruciferous. Nonscientific me doesn’t know family trees of plants etc. My last letter was the C in uncut/brassica, thankfully c comes early in an alphabetic run-thru :D

      • marciem says:

        oops it was actually the choice of j or n that made “minor” obvious, since if you have DVD, you won’t have a JD ending. :)

      • David Glasser says:

        Oh sure, I got it pretty easily from crossings, just had to override my confident entry of ?MAJOR after humming Ode To Joy to myself.

  2. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: The franchise isn’t really the MARIO BROS. franchise, it’s centered pretty much around Mario alone, and I would have thought MARIO would have made a sufficient revealer.

    Most solvers who haven’t played the games probably have heard of Bowser and maybe Peach (who was originally Princess Toadstool in English versions) but I’m skeptical they know Toad or Daisy.

    Interestingly, the current president of Nintendo of America who took over from the longtime and well-liked head, Reggie Fils-Aimé, is named…Doug Bowser (no relation). The BBC referred to his appointment as “one of the most charming cases of nominative determinism ever.”

    • David L says:

      I’ve never played the game and no, I didn’t know any of the theme answers. Puzzle was not difficult but for me, anyway, kind of pointless.

      Nice to see MURIEL BOWSER in a puzzle. She is doing a pretty good job, I think.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        That her name conceals ELBOWS, which should be sharp on a politician, was the basis for a Washingtonian Magazine crossword I once wrote

  3. Mutman says:

    NYT: I think ECOTONE is more fair than ROOIBOS on a Wednesday, though both are very getable from the crosses. (Actually ECOZONE looked like a better answer, but the cross of ZRIADS made clear that was wrong).

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    My daughter still describes YouTubers as “vloggers,” at least when she’s talking to us. Maybe that’s because we’re old and wouldn’t understand the truly current term….

  5. Joe Pancake says:

    Does anybody else solve (or attempt to solve) the AV Club crossword via Slate Plus?

    I think it’s supposed to come with a subscription, but the website almost always updates late and sometimes never at all. It’s currently showing the title and byline for the puzzle from two weeks ago, but the puzzle itself is actually from three weeks ago.

    I reached out to Slate (waiting for a response), but I’m wondering if anybody else sees this, so that I can verify it’s not something I’m doing wrong on my end.

  6. Tim in Queens says:

    New Yorker. I also had to google 1A. There was no way I would ever guess a dog I’ve never heard of crossing a song from years ago that I’ve forgotten.

  7. Will says:

    There’s an error in the AV club. Michael Regan isn’t the first Black administrator of the EPA. Lisa Jackson held that role during the Obama administration. The Wikipedia entry for Regan states that he is the first African-American MAN to hold that position.

    Other than that it was a great puzzle!

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