Wednesday, June 16, 2021

LAT 4:17 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 5:56 (Amy) 


NYT 4:01 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX 10:32 (Ben) 


Lynn Lempel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Special Ops”—Jim P’s review

It’s a delight to see Lynn Lempel’s byline here. She doesn’t have too many WSJ-published grids, but of course she’s long been a mainstay over at the NYT with nearly 100 printed puzzles—the vast majority of which fell on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Using the title as a hint, we see that OP has been added to familiar phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Special Ops” · Lynn Lempel · Wed., 6.16.21

  • 17a. [Match-winning serve at Wimbledon?] GREAT WALLOP. Great Wall. I struggled mightily in this corner because the first word of this entry wasn’t coming to me, and I kept alternating between FREE TRIAL for 3d and EL PASO for 14a. I was expecting this entry to have a tighter connection to tennis, given the clue. I kept asking myself if a “court wall” is a thing. I think a better clue might be [TKO inducer?].
  • 26a. [Wet circus area after a leak in the big top?] SOPPY RING. Spy ring.
  • 41a. [Hunt down runaway couples?] TRACE ELOPEMENTS. Trace elements. That’s a nice find.
  • 51a. [Competed in an odd rodeo event?] ROPED DEER. Red deer. That’s gotta be hard to do, given the agility of deer vs. cattle.
  • 64a. [Shout following a medical breakthrough?] DOCTOR WHOOP. Doctor Who. I like this one best. There were probably many DOCTOR WHOOPs when results of the COVID vaccine tests started coming in.

Solid and cute. Just a tweak on the one clue would do it, methinks.

PAPAYA the CAT helps with a puzzle

Fave entries are the aforementioned FREE TRIAL “I DID IT!,” and PAPAYA since that’s the name of my sister’s CAT.

Clues of note:

  • 45a. [Jazz musician Lewis]. RAMSEY. A new name to me, but let’s enjoy some of his music (see video).
  • 68a. [Beehive State people]. UTE. I hesitated with this, since I expected the answer to be UTES. But I guess UTE can refer to the whole of the people as well.
  • 1d. [Intimate apparel brand]. OLGA. Don’t think I’ve seen this clue for this entry before. Another one to store in the old memory banks.
  • 9d. [Flutter]. ADO. I’m not so sure about this one.
  • 59d. [Senior celebration]. PROM. Good misdirection. Once you get past say, 50, you tend to use “senior” more in its other sense.
  • 65d. [“Beautiful Boys” singer]. ONO. I don’t know this song, but I know Lennon wrote “Beautiful Boy” with respect to their son Sean. I’ll presume ONO’s song is about both John and Sean. Yup, it is.

3.75 stars.

Finn Vigeland’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 16 21, no. 0616

In this 16×15 grid, Finn reimagines the term MISDIRECTED as referring to both film directors and directional words, with movie titles having the wrong direction in them. The revealer’s clue is 65a. [Led astray … or like the films at 19-, 25-, 40- and 57-Across?], and here are those four:

  • 19a. [Jim Sheridan gives Daniel Day-Lewis nothing to work with in this Irish dramedy (1989)], MY RIGHT FOOT. The movie’s My Left Foot.
  • 25a. [Rian Johnson helms this snoozer of a whodunit starring Daniel Craig (2019)], KNIVES IN. Knives Out was fun!
  • 40a. [Elia Kazan bungles this John Steinbeck novel adaptation (1955)], WEST OF EDEN. I’ve never seen East of Eden.
  • 57a. [Anne Fletcher misses the mark with this first film in a dance franchise (2006)], STEP DOWN. I’ve also never seen any of the Step Up movies.

My kingdom for a suspenseful South by Southeast.

Fave fill: UTERUS, DIYERS, SHAKIRA, BIOPICS, and “IT WORKS!” solely because its clue sells it: 48d. [Inventor’s happy cry].

Five more things:

  • 39a. [Follower of smart or bad], ASS. If you had to choose one to be, would you go for being a smartass or a badass?
  • 55a. [Korean alphabet system], HANGUL. Know your alphabets!
  • 20d. [Gumshoes], TECS. Ugh, this crusty old entry?
  • 27d. [Almond extract, e.g.], NUT OIL. Eww. I’ve used almond extract but have never once considered it to be a NUT OIL. NUT OIL isn’t a great term because while we hear about peanut oil and, to a lesser degree, walnut oil, this just isn’t a thing bandied about in many kitchens, is it?
  • 47d. [Word that fills both parts of the Shakespeare quote “These ___ delights have ___ ends”], VIOLENT. Interesting clue. Those who know the origin of the line, tell me: What are these violent delights? (Yes, I’m aware I could Google it, but don’t you like to feel smart?)

3.5 stars from me. Enjoy the movies!

Ben Tausig’ AVCX, “Inside Connection” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 6/16/21 – “Inside Connection”

Editor Ben Tausig has today’s AVCX!  I thought the theme was cute yesterday when I solved it, and I thought it was even cuter once I realized an additional layer to how it worked.:

  • 19A: Guy whose line of work is selling fine toilet seats, plungers, et. al? — JOHN GOODSMAN
  • 31A: A $21 million career purse, for tennis star Ivan? — LENDL MONEY
  • 48A: Constituent of a “WAP” rapper? — CARDI MEMBER
  • 67A: Button on a console for delegating tasks to astronauts? — ADD MISSION
  • 83A: Ford muscle car that offers snarky quips as you drive? — WILDE MUSTANG
  • 92A: What the circled letters in this puzzle go into, oh-so-smoothly — DMS

I thought this was cute when the way the circled letters curved into DMS was a representation of how you can SLIDE into someone’s direct messages on Twitter.  Then I realized that each letter of SLIDE slides in between the letters DM in the theme answers.  It is, as clued, “oh-so-smooth”.  Well done, Ben!

ZOSO (55A, “Word in Led Zeppelin symbology”) is most closely associated with their album IV for me, and that’s most closely associated with “Stairway to Heaven” for me, so here we are.

A few other nice grid bits: TAJ MAHAL clued as “Noted Muslim mausoleum” and OFF-BRAND clued as “Like Prongles and Unbelieveable This Is Not Butter”

Happy Wednesday!

Eric Hougland’s Universal crossword, “Canonization” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 6/16/21 • Wed • “Canonization” • Hougland • solution • 20210616<

This puzzle is part of the Universal Pride Month series.

  • 38R [“Thanks a million for all that help,” and a theme hint] YOU’RE A SAINT.
  • 16a. [Patron of stone bridge builders?] ST. ARCHES (starches).
  • 25a. [Patron of dermatologists?] ST. ITCHES (stitches).
  • 55a. [Patron of plane traffic controllers?] ST. AIRWAY (stairway). If there weren’t doctors already invoked by 25-across, this could’ve been the patron of otolaryngologists.
  • 65a. [Patron of people writing with quill pens?] ST. INKPOT (stinkpot). Some rather interesting and diverse definitions for that (via
    • 1: an earthen jar filled with fetid material and formerly sometimes thrown as a stink bomb on the deck of an enemy ship
    • 2: a musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) of the U.S. and Canada
    • 3: STINKER sense 1
    • 4 slang : MOTORBOAT

Fine theme, but not particularly exciting. Similarly, the solve felt as if I was mostly filling in a lot of entries by rote.

  • 5d [Pitcher’s aim] NO HITTER. Wasn’t sure if this was going to be baseball or sales.
  • 9d [Tennis star Marin whose surname is palindromic] CILIC. Not someone I’ve heard of, so the additional hint was welcome.
  • 10d [“Later, maybe?”] ANOTHER TIME. Clue could have worked without the question mark, and that would have transformed the hesitance to an assertion.
  • 11d [Most optimistic] ROSIEST, 22a [Most favorably] AT BEST.
  • Completely new to me, though I have heard of the game: 42d [Circle’s center, in a variation of duck, duck, goose] MUSH POT. The term doesn’t appear on Wikipedia’s page, though a search of the site redirects to it.
  • 68d [Haul from behind] TOW. Or would that just be [Haul behind]? Is the preposition IDIOMatic (56d)?
  • 15a [Key without sharps or flats] A MINOR. I’m sure you’ll all recognize Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A MINOR, so here’s something else:
  • 69a [Chocolaty cereal] OREO O’S, which of course looks bizarre in-grid,
  • 61a [Freezer container] ICE TRAY. I’m very pleased with my Biokips lidded trays, for many reasons. *nb: I have not received payment from the Komax company for this endorsement! I just like ’em, ok?

Dana Wilson’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Dana Wilson is not a name I recognize. If this a debut or near debut, it really shows a lot of polish!

Today’s theme celebrates chateaux cardboard, aka BOXEDWINE. However the four wines packed in 2×3 boxes are a bit larnier: SHIRAZ, MUSCAT, MERLOT and MALBEC. I found MUSCAT first, and was expecting a capital city theme for a time.

I admired the choices made regarding black square placement. The puzzle is a tad more boxed in than normal, but that is good given the stacked theme squares. The longer entries were mostly one-word, but still an interesting selection: FEMINIST/GENEALOGY, CATTAIL, GONDOLA, KILOWATT and a couple of names I don’t think I’ve seen before: ILHAN and SLIMER.


Erik Agard’s New Yorker themeless crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 6 16 21, Erik Agard

Lots of inclusivity in this puzzle, always nice to see.

New to me: AKWAEKE EMEZI, [“Freshwater” author]. There was a stir in literary/Nigerian circles recently when Chimimanda Adichie wrote an essay complaining about younger writers who’d called out her transphobic comments. Emezi is nonbinary and transgender, and the novel Freshwater came out in 2018.

Fave fill: the BEYONCÉ/SOLANGE Knowles sister crossing, POLI SCI, SPLENDA, ON THE DL.

Interesting clue: [“One ever feels his ___,—an American, a Negro …”: Du Bois], TWONESS.

Tons of good clues, as you expect from Erik, but it’s late and I want to get this up so I’ll sign off with 4.25 stars.

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18 Responses to Wednesday, June 16, 2021

  1. inxs says:

    NYT was kind of boring, no? no real wordplay in any of the titles …

    • Gareth says:

      The wordplay was in the revealer: MISDIRECTED. The films have directions which are misdirected by changing the directions cardinality, as Amy explains…

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I found this puzzle quite hard to get going on, probably because I don’t keep track of names of directors and their connection to specific movies. The clue with Elia Kazan and Steinbeck eventually helped the penny drop. The bottom half felt a great deal easier, and I can see the playfulness behind the MISDIRECTED concept. But I think being STYMIEd for a while diminished the fun.

    • Eric H says:

      I do pay attention to directors, so I really enjoyed that puzzle, and solved it pretty quickly.

  3. JohnH says:

    I agree that it’d be nice to have a closer connection to tennis than WALLOP in the WSJ. I resisted that one for some time, even with crossings. Probably just me, as SOPPY has plenty of ordinary dictionary support, but I don’t use that either. Things were always “sopping wet.” So in this puzzle the theme entries were the slow stuff, even with very much a giveaway for a title (maybe too much so, but it’s only Wednesday).

    My first thought for Lewis in jazz was John of the Modern Jazz Quartet, but obviously that wasn’t going to fit and didn’t hold me back for long.

  4. BarbaraK says:

    I’m lucky AVCX was not a meta as I’d never heard of sliding into dms. Thanks for the explanation!

  5. Eric H says:


    Thanks for taking the time to solve and critique my puzzle (Universal). Constructive criticism is always helpful. I hope to get better at this.

    I’m sorry you found the fill to be “rote.” I’ve had the same feeling solving other puzzles, especially those published in mainstream media. Lots of words get used hundreds of times, probably because they fit so well in a grid.

    • pannonica says:

      Oh, it certainly isn’t unique to you! Not just the words, but the associated cluing—it’s how it struck me today. Much of it can also be ascribed to the editing process.

      Constructing a crossword is no mean feat, so I apologize if I came across as too discouraging.

      • Eric H says:

        Not discouraging at all (or at least no more discouraging than an editorial rejection).

        I agree with a lot of your criticisms.

        And thanks for linking the Grieg piano concerto. I know it’s a warhorse, but I love that piece anyway.

  6. Nene says:

    I was put off by the insensitive answer MY RIGHT HAND. The film is an excellent and caring tribute to a man overcoming a horrible handicap and nothing to make light of.

    • Eric H says:

      There’s a nice discussion of that clue in the comments to the NYT Wordplay column. (It’s in reply to a criticism similar to yours that was posted last night.)

      • just stopping by says:

        Thanks to you, Eric, I just scrolled through hundreds of comments on the NYT page. Wow, just wow … I still haven’t discovered why MY RIGHT FOOT is particularly controversial, but I have discovered that a great many commenters on that page are shockingly ignorant of movies. I’m not anyone’s idea of a “film buff,” but good God, I’ve heard of those four.

        • Eric H says:

          I wasn’t bothered by the clue or answer for “My Left Foot.” It doesn’t seem to poke any fun at Christy Brown.

          You’d think almost everyone trying to solve a Wednesday NYT puzzle would recognize at least a few of those movies. (I was three for four.)

    • just stopping by says:

      I’m not understanding why it’s making light of a man’s handicap to use the name of the movie as a crossword answer.

  7. Sailor Doug says:

    Universal: I, too, have not heard of MUSHPOT as a variation on Duck Duck Goose. A regionalism, maybe? I wonder how many solvers knew this. I stared at that answer for several minutes, couldn’t imagine I had it right, but couldn’t see any reasonable alternative, either. I was surprised to come here and discover it was correct.

  8. marciem says:

    Amy: If you haven’t seen East of Eden (as you said)… search out the 1981 TV mini-series starring Timothy Bottoms, Jane Seymour and Bruce Boxleitner . It is much truer to the book and to me was more enjoyable.

    The main interesting thing about the movie was James Dean starring in it, released about 6 months before his untimely death. His acting style was his own, and pretty much the same in the three movies he starred in. IMO.

    Now I’m ear-worming Janis singin’ “One day up near Salinas I let him slip away…”

  9. Crotchety Doug says:

    I noticed an extreme similarity in the theme of yesterday’s LAT and the “Hard Crossword” from Stan Newman (written by Greg Johnson) dated June 10th. I put a comment in Wednesday’s Tuesday’s page. This is just to direct attention in case people are done reading yesterday’s news :)

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