Wednesday, June 9, 2021

LAT 4:45 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 5:07 (Amy) 


NYT 3:39 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX untimed (Ben) 


Alexander Liebeskind & Jeff Chen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Closed CASE”—Jim P’s review

This looks to be a debut for Jeff’s partner, so congrats are in order. Let me also go on record as being jealous of a last name which I think translates to “love child.”

The theme attempts to mimic SUBWAY DOORS (53a, [They slide shut, as pictured by the circled letters]) where the other theme answers each have the letter pairings DO and OR in circled letters, and taken as a whole, those pairings seem to come together as the solver moves down the grid.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Closed CASE” · Alexander Liebeskind & Jeff Chen · Wed., 6.9.21

  • 17a. [Find the start of the story, so to speak] TRACK DOWN A RUMOR. Does one “track down” a rumor? I know one can “track down a lead,” but I don’t think I’ve heard the term applied to a rumor.
  • 26a. [“Nothing Compares 2 U” singer] SINEAD O‘CONNOR. A gimme though I think I forgot that it was written by Prince. The video is still striking after all these years.
  • 41a. [2002 George W. Bush program for community volunteering] USA FREEDOM CORPS. I needed a lot of crossings for this one.
  • 53a. [They slide shut, as pictured by the circled letters] SUBWAY DOORS. I wanted SLIDING DOORS but since “slide” is in the clue, that wouldn’t work.

I was a little surprised at SUBWAY DOORS since I figured non-city-folk would be more familiar with a simple SLIDING DOOR, but then I noticed both halves of DOOR move inwards incrementally with each theme entry until they come together at the end, and this would be more in line with a subway door than the typical sliding door. Also notice that each bigram moves inward by the same amount each time and that the DOOR structure is perfectly symmetrical in and of itself, though not with the grid as a whole.

That would be my only gripe. The little perfectionist in my mind wants the DOOR to be symmetrical with the grid, but obviously that can’t be because of where DOOR is in the phrase SUBWAY DOORS.

Given that, it’s impressive that our constructors found phrases with the DO and OR in the exactly correct positions, and that they were able to place each phrase two lines down from the previous phrase and with everything in symmetrical position. No doubt, Jeff’s experience with left/right symmetry came heavily into play with this grid. In sum, an impressive construction.

The last thing still vexing me is the title. I’m having trouble making sense of the capitalized CASE. Give us your take in the comments.

The marquee Downs are IDEALISTIC and OVERPASSES, not bad considering they cross three themers each. PACMAN and GLUTEN add a little sparkle in the North.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [First three cards turned up in hold ’em]. FLOP. Not knowing the game, I really wanted SLOP. That F was my last letter to enter into the grid.
  • 44a. [Hippo on “Captain Kangaroo”]. ROLLO. Whoa. That’s a deep cut. My Captain Kangaroo knowledge comprises the Captain’s real name (Bob Keeshan) and the fact that his buddy was Mr. Green Jeans. That’s where it ends. If you knew the answer to this clue, feel free to publicly congratulate yourself. And if you have an image of the hippo, please share it with us since I can’t seem to find one on the internet.
  • 1d. [Food pyramid components]. FATS. See my trouble with 1a above. Prior to getting this right, I considered SATS(?), OATS, and BATS…which could be correct depending on whose food pyramid we’re talking about.
  • 30d. [Garb for grunts]. CAMO. Also for squids, jarheads, and flyboys.

Impressive grid. Four stars from me.

Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 9 21, no. 0609

Sit down and make yourself at home. This puzzle offers four options:

  • 20a. [Kibitzing passenger], BACKSEAT DRIVER. This is me, 110%. But usually from the front passenger seat.
  • 35a. [TV addict], COUCH POTATO. I love my couch. I can no longer remember if I grew up calling it a couch or a sofa.
  • 41a. [Blabbing informant], STOOL PIGEON. Hey! This space could have accommodated STOOL SAMPLE. Thanks, Byron! This themer differs from the others in that it’s not etymologically about a person/pigeon sitting on an actual stool.
  • 51a. [Dilettantish know-it-all], ARMCHAIR EXPERT. You know who you are.

It actually took me a while to see what the theme was, since I don’t see a revealer and there are a bunch of 8- to 10-letter entries that could pass for themers based on their size. You’ve got your TIRED BLOOD (right here!), an ESPY AWARD, MACCHIATOS, and the power duo of VELVEETA and BARBARELLA.

Five more things:

  • Too much nicotine! 10a. [Juul, e.g.], JUUL along with 28d. [Modern health risks, for short], E-CIGS? Still not sure if people really call ’em e-cigs much.
  • Too much Musk! 45a. [Maker of the Model S and Model 3], TESLA and 16a. [Musk of 45-Across], ELON. He’s a wealthy jackass, yeah?
  • 44a. [Prey of a murder hornet], BEE. Goodness gracious! I’m just glad we aren’t hearing much about the murder hornets in 2021. Would they eat cicadas, though?
  • 54d. [“I’m just like that,” in modern lingo], “IT ME.” I love Twitterese—it’s such fun to play with language and with the people using it.
  • 32d. [Animal that’s known to enjoy water slides], OTTER. Who doesn’t love otters? Gimme a river otter or a sea otter, I’m not choosy.

Four stars from me. Easier than the Tuesday puzzle, so I’ll agree with yesterday’s commenter who said the Tuesday puzzle was misplaced.

Alex Eaton-Salners’ AVCX, “Repairs Needed” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 6/09/2021 – “Repairs Needed”

Today’s AVCX is a guest puzzle from Alex Eaton-Salners, and comes with a 5/5 difficulty rating that it absolutely earned.  I started solving this one digitally and switched over to solving on paper with as much is going on in this grid.  Looking at the revealer explains why:

  • 41A: Mixed bags…or, parsed differently, this puzzle’s theme — [DO]UBLE EDGED SWOR[DS]

There’s a neat frame of squares with two letters all around the edge of the grid, and all of the entries start with S.  Limiting this to just the entries composed entirely of squares with two letters:

  • 1A: Sensitive subject — [SO][RE] [SP][OT]
  • 1D: Business with a fountain — [SO][DA] [SH][OP]
  • 5A: Tennis feat most recently achieved by its namesake (2014-2015) —
    [SE][RE][NA] [SL][AM]
  • 10A: TV show locale “where the air is sweet” — [SE][SA][ME] [ST]
  • 13D: Collection that makes an impression? — [ST][AM][P  S][ET]
  • 28D: Bitty bit of beach wear — [SP][EE][DO] [SU][IT]
  • 35D: “Metal Gear” game franchise protagonist — [SO][LI][D  S][NA][KE]
  • 55D: Realize the error of one’s ways — [SE][E  S][EN][SE]
  • 63D: Starts a voyage — [SE][TS] [SA][IL]
  • 71A: What a serious sock might make you do? — [SE][E  S][TA][RS]
  • 72A: Sexennial race prize — [SE][NA][TE] [SE][AT]
  • 73A: Whelk, conch, or other slow mollusk — [SE][A  S][NA][IL]

It’s a bevy of DOUBLE EDGED S-WORDS!

The Youtube comments on “EENIE Meenie” say that the song never gets old, but it very much sounds like a “2010 Kingston/Bieber number” to me.

Other nice grid bits that intersect with the frame of rebus squares: NOT YET, BENGALI, SEEP IN, OTITIS, OCARINA, and The Mandalorian’s Nick NOLTE.

Happy Wednesday!

Elizabeth Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 6 9 21, Gorski


Not sure IT’S SHOCKING is truly a crossword-worthy phrase.

Did not know REAL ALE was [Beer stored in barrels and pumped without the use of carbon dioxide]. Is this the same as cask ale?

Fave clue: [À la Nala] for LEONINE, Nala being a lioness in The Lion King.


3.25 stars from me. It’s always nice to have a themeless puzzle to do on a Wednesday, though!

Rafael Musa’s Universal crossword, “Near Miss” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 6/9/21 • Wed • “Near Miss” • Musa • solution • 20210609

This puzzle is part of the Universal Pride Month series.

The grid features four circled consecutive letters in three long across answers.

  • 17a. [One eschewing synthetic pesticides] ORGANIC GARDENER.
  • 31a. [2017 hit whose title contains a fashion brand] GUCCI GANG.
  • 51a. [Go through a purse, perhaps] DIG AROUND.

And finally an explanatory revealer:

  • 61aR [“Almost,” or a theme hint] CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR. That hoary old phrase.

In each instance the four letters span two words in a phrase.

So. You know what I’m going to point out, right? You can feel it, yes?

There’s a variant missing: CI–AR. So let me introduce you to the swamp wattle, also known as water wattle, wirilda, mimose de quatre saisons, and everblooming acacia. Its scientific name is Acacia retinodes. There are other options for the CIAR tetragram, but this was among the most entertaining to me.

What else have we got?

  • Pride Month content: 14d [Stonewall __ (site of a seminal uprising in LGBTQ+ history)] INN, 67d [Rainbow’s top color] RED, 56a [Jonathan Van __ (nonbinary grooming expert on “Queer Eye”)] NESS, and in the marquee center spot: 40a [The Gay Nineties and others] DECADES – what’s that, you say? That isn’t the meaning of ‘gay’ there? Oh well, “61a”.
  • 28d [“Fearless” (Taylor’s Version),” e.g.] REISSUE. I don’t think this is accurate. Because of a contract dispute with her old record label, Taylor Swift is undertaking complete re-recordings of her first 6 albums, of which this is the first. That is not what a reissue is.
  • Metaclue! 50d [Most common lake in crosswords] ERIE.
  •  34a [“__ you hungry, dear?”] AREN’T. Odd choice for the fill-in-the-blank phrase, I wonder what the backstory is.
  • 35a [Animated aardvark on TV] ARTHURWaitaminute. You’re telling me that that roundish no-nose character is supposed to be an aardvark?! Talk about taking liberties. Jeez. Just look at him! Little round pinnae! No tail! Completely snoutless! About the only thing that approaches verisimilitude is his color.Compare him to the unnamed aardvark from the Pink Panther cartoons. Now that fellow is much more accurate, aside from his overall blue color. Big feet, long ears, thick tail, long snout, some sparse hairs! For some reason he’s also wearing a shirt and pants, but at least there aren’t any cargo pockets. (Don’t ask me why the ant has only four limbs, okay?)
  • 1d [Vietnamese noodle soup] PHƠ. Good on a hot day like today. Wish I had some for lunch. Alas.

So, good puzzle with a fun little theme and—

Wait. I know what you’re going to point out. I can feel it, yes. You’re going to point out that  this write-up has neglected another variant: CI–GR. 22a [“Leave it to me”] I CAN deal with that too.

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

LA Times

I had a few fake outs on the way to figuring out the theme of today’s puzzle by Julian Lim. The first entry was BENFOLDS and I thought the lack of FIVE might be thematic. It wasn’t. I then noticed the repeating final plurals, which in the case of LOWYIELDS and, to a lesser extent, BEARCAVES was a tad awkward. However, reaching CRYUNCLE, I first spotted UNCLEBEN; however the clue says look at the last words, not the first: FOLDS, GIVES, YIELDS and CAVES are words of surrender. No mas!

The long entries were definitely striving for their own voice: YODAWG, QRCODE (but crossed by FREQ), HOWISHE and PUNKOUT stand out. I’m guessing HOWISHE is a bail-out giving it crosses three theme entries.


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21 Responses to Wednesday, June 9, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Loved it. I’m usually not on Byron Walden’s wavelength but this one felt smooth and fun.
    And I literally laughed out loud reading Amy’s comment about Musk. I wonder what he’s thinking about Bezos beating him into space. It’s the modern day version of battles of the gods on Mt Olympus.

    • Mr. Grumpy says:

      Whatever happened to good old ELON college?

    • BryanF says:

      But Musk’s car beat Bezos into space! :P

      I still think Musk would be the perfect Bond villain for a future movie…

    • Billy Boy says:

      Decent and yes, Tuesday/switch – easy! puzzle, but – Interesting Billionaire-basing today here and at Rex, lol. WSJ has an interesting Op-Ed today on IRS leaks of Billionaire Tax Returns. (One about Police Defunding, too)

      Taxing Income v. Taxing Wealth, I’m going to stay out of that one.

      also WSJ
      – Cute little puzzle, but WOW!! huge personal struggle in NorCal-Nev area nearly led me to a D.N.F., had to peck through that like a Saturday NYT puzzle with my names handicap.

  2. Paul J Coulter says:

    Universal – Today’s theme was the kind I like best. No idea what’s going on throughout the solve, then BAM, a terrific payoff with the reveal. This seems to be a debut, so congratulations on a great job, Rafael.

  3. Boston Bob says:

    TNY: I didn’t see “a la Nala” as a palindrome when solving. Kudos!

  4. cyco says:

    AVCX – wow, incredible construction. I didn’t put together the “s-words” angle until reading the review, so that’s an extra layer of difficulty in setting the theme answers. I was expecting some sort of rebus puzzle after a few early answers didn’t fit, but it took a while to make it all come together.

  5. marciem says:

    TNY : My favorite, LOL, clue/ans. 7d: “Artwork displayed near a sitting area” = lower back tattoo. Also “Ala Nala” because I love the word leonine… it flows like the cat. Enjoyed Aral and Ural in the same puzzle. I usually don’t know which it’ll be except for the shrunken sea.

    Those and others overcame some of the no-love picked by Amy, I loved this puzzle.

  6. pannonica says:

    AVCX: “… and all of the entries start with S”

    More specifically, they’re two-word phrases whose components both start with S. They are double S words in more ways than one.

  7. David Roll says:

    WSJ–Big Sur Runners=Macs? Please advise.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Big Sur is an Apple Macintosh computer operating system. Other than iTunes, I’ve never had anything to do with Apple stuff, so their OS names are always curve balls for me when they show up in crosswords.

    • Reid says:

      Many recent operating systems on Mac computers are named after natural features in California. Previous OS’ have been Yosemite, El Capitan, Sierra, etc.

    • Joe Pancake says:

      Big Sur is the name of Mac’s current operating system.

      Edit: The other replies weren’t there when I first submitted this response, honest.

    • marciem says:

      Thanks to you all for this… Never having to do with Apples or Macs, and living close to Big Sur where they do have a marathon yearly (except of course last year) with runners … well that Macs had me confused completely. “Are marathon runners referred to as Macs?” <—my only thought on it (not a marathon participant either) … LOL!

      • David Roll says:

        Thanks to all of you. I was thinking runners as well (having once participated in the Hood to Coast). Guess I am not as benighted as I feared–not an Apple fan either.

  8. PJ says:

    WSJ: 18a – “Site of a historic demonstration led by John Lewis” – SELMA. The movement to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge in memory of John Lewis met with pushback from an unexpected source – some in the Selma Black community. Many felt that naming the bridge for Lewis diminished the efforts of locals in the movement in Selma.

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