Wednesday, July 14, 2021

LAT 4:34 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 2:46 (Matthew) 


NYT 4:16 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 4:09 (Sophia) 


AVCX 10:14 (Ben) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Pièces de Résistance”—Jim P’s review

Theme: BASTILLE DAY (30a, [Common name of France’s July 14 “Fête nationale”]). France’s tri-part motto is highlighted with circled letters in three rows of the grid. Finally, the EIFFEL TOWER makes an appearance at 45a.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “ Pièces de Résistance” · Mike Shenk · Wed., 7.14.21

  • LIBERTÉ is hidden in DELI / BERT / ELIOT.
  • ÉGALITÉ is hidden in GRIEG / ALI / TESTS.
  • FRATERNITÉ is hidden in INFRA / TERN / ITEM.

I enjoyed this theme. Once I got the final E in LIBERTÉ and BASTILLE DAY, putting in the rest of the circled letters went pretty quickly. I couldn’t have told you what date BASTILLE DAY occurred on, so I was happy to learn it from this grid.

Not a lot of sparkle in the fill. I liked seeing SKIBOB [Bike-like vehicle with runners instead of wheels] and SEA LIFE [Cousteau concern]. The rest felt solid, though workmanlike.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Brand named from the German for “peppermint”]. PEZ, with the original German word being Pfefferminze.
  • 45a. [Site of a fireworks display on 30-Across]. EIFFEL TOWER. I don’t have a picture of fireworks at the French icon, but I do have this one that I took in 2014.
  • 42d. [Punch ingredient]. FIST. To go along with a knuckle sandwich, of course.

Not a lot to talk about aside from the theme, though I did enjoy that. 3.7 stars.

Amanda Rafkin & Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 14 21, no. 0714

The theme revealer is 38a. [Kindle, e.g. … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme?], E-READER, and the themers are familiar phrases that have had an E tacked onto the end of a word to turn it into an author’s name:

  • 17a. [Clamoring for “The Bonfire of the Vanities”?], CRYING WOLFE. Tom Wolfe.
  • 24a. [Selling someone on “The Importance of Being Earnest”?], WILDE PITCH. Oscar Wilde.
  • 50a. [Spot to store “A Confederacy of Dunces”?], TOOLE CHEST. John Kennedy Toole.
  • 62a. [Positive review of a Nancy Drew mystery?], PEACHY KEENE. “Carolyn Keene” is a pen name used by a slew of different writers, many (but not all) of them women.

Fun theme—who doesn’t like wordplay combined with the books we read?


Five more things:

  • 10a. [Old-fashioned taste?], SIP. Not because SIP is an old-fashioned word for “taste,” but because a taste of a cocktail is a SIP.
  • 66a. [A dance or a dip], SALSA. And I’m guessing you can dip your partner in salsa dancing.
  • 12d. [“Lady Lazarus” poet Sylvia], PLATH. I looked up the poem, since I’d never read it. Wow, is that dark.
  • 43d. [“Essential” things], OILS. *shoots a rigorous side-eye at essential oils* Actually, I just cast aspersions on the idea that essential oils will somehow make you healthier. If you just want to add some to vodka to make a nice, chemical-free room spray, have at it! The sweet orange oil is particularly nice for this purpose.
  • 47d. [Babe or Wilbur, in film], PET PIG. There is actually a PET PIG in my neighborhood, but I never see Rosie out in the driveway when I pass by. A friend of mine has spotted Rosie a few times.

Four stars from me. Happy Bastille Day!

Ella Dershowitz and Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “Tall Models” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 7/14/2021 – “Tall Models”

Ella Dershowitz and Aimee Lucido have today’s AVCX, and this latest collab was a lot of fun to solve, especially since unlike last week’s puzzle, the full grid was present.

“Tall Models” is one of those puzzles where some entries make a 90 degree turn in the process of being entered into the grid, and the revealer at 55A (“Irritate…or what you need to do to find six answers in the grid”) gives a hint at what these have in common:

  • 24A: May-June sign — GEMINI
  • 25A: One with a busy schedule of affairs — CASANOVA
  • 43A: Nat Turner led one — REVOLT
  • 85A: What investors usually expect — PROFIT
  • 96A: Monk’s lodging — ASHRAM
  • 97A: Where you wind up if you go due south from Detroit — ONTARIO

Each across entry above extends into (and only into) the circled squares above it, and each set of circled squares spells out a vehicle model – MINI, NOVA, VOLT, FIT, RAM, and RIO.

Even more impressive, these circled squares fit into other entries rather than just being clued by something like “–” — INIMICAL, AVON LADY, LOST LOVE, STIFFEST, OMARS, and LOIRE

It’s BTS, “Band also known as the Bangtan Boys” (23A)

Happy Wednesday!

Natan Last’s New Yorker puzzle — Matthew’s Review

Natan Last’s New Yorker puzzle solution, Wednesday 7/14/2021

I found today’s offering from Natan less literary than I’m used to from him, but there’s still plenty to talk about even if I’m not adding to my reading list. This grid design is one of my favorites as a solver – I associate the middle stairstack with Andrew Ries, but Ada Nicolle and of course the New Yorker’s roster of constructors also use it quite a bit.

In this puzzle, METHOD ACTOR, KARAOKE BARS, and MIRACLE MILE fill out the stack; three colorful (and colorfully clued) marquee entries for my money. I particularly enjoyed 34d – KARAOKE BARS clued as [Places with pitches and pitchers]. I’m a bit sad that in my short time living in Los Angeles, the only MIRACLE MILE museum I made it to was the La Brea Tar Pits, but I’ll make it back some day.

There’s all sorts of other good stuff in here:

  • 10a – [Unpleasant trumpet sound] is BLAT. It’s an unpleasant sound, but for no good reason I love this word! I was worried for a few seconds after I dropped it in that crossings would force something else, but it stays.
  • 17a – Supposedly you can train yourself to LUCID DREAM [State where you’re out but in on it?]. I either don’t believe it’s possible or don’t want to  put in the work to try, depending on my mood when you ask.
  • 38a – [Accountant on “The Office”] is OSCAR. I’ve been enjoying Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey’s “Office Ladies” podcast, running through the series. Highly recommended for any fans of the show.
  • 51a – I used ALL THE BEST [“Yours” relative] in an email just yesterday. For me, it’s more when breaking bad news than other situations – it has some note of finality to it that my usual go-to sign offs don’t.
  • 34d – KING LEAR [“O, let me not be mad” speaker] is not my favorite Shakespeare play (that would be ‘The Tempest’), but he may be my favorite character.
  • 43d – [How sex may end?] isn’t too raunchy but a wordplay clue, leading us to TUPLE, as in “sextuple”, or sixfold.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: “I Protest” – The first word of each theme answer is a type of protest.

USA Today, 07 14 2021, “I Protest”

  • 16A: [Find a petroleum deposit] – STRIKE OIL
  • 27A: [Basketball tournament since 1939] – MARCH MADNESS
  • 48A: [Property line markers] – PICKET FENCES
  • 65A: [Point to point auto competition] – RALLY RACE

Solid theme today that is nicely described by the puzzle’s title. I’m a big MARCH MADNESS fan, but I didn’t know the tournament was that old so I needed a couple crosses to lock in that answer. RALLY RACE felt a little redundant to me as a phrase – I feel like I’ve mainly heard the term rally as a standalone? – but I know next to nothing about auto racing so it could definitely be a natural term there.

My favorite parts of today’s puzzle are the two long downs, I’M ALL EARS and STICKY BUN. The grid layout of this puzzle means that these two entries cross only a single theme answer, and this lack of constraints means that they can be super sparkly. Other pieces of fill that AMUSED me were ART SCAM and the rhyming ADDRESS and SAID YES.

Other notes:

    • Two Olympics-themed clues today, for KAYAK and SOCHI. This year’s Olympics start on July 23, and I for one keep forget they’re actually happening.
    • National Taco Day is OCT 4…. who’s celebrating with me?!
    • I had never heard of Tracy Lee Stum before (50D: [Medium that Tracy Lee Stum draws in] – CHALK) and WOW is she talented. I’ll leave you with one of her art pieces.

Kyle Dolan’s Universal crossword, “Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 7/14/21 • Wed • Dolan • “Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” • 20210714

Today we’re affixing -CH at the ends of familiar phrases to wackified effect. As there are four theme answers, there are four stuttered CHs in the title.

  • 17a. [Cabinet at Domino’s?] PIZZA HUTCH (Pizza Hut®).
  • 26a. [Person who’s single, good-looking and irritable?] GRUMPY CATCH (Grumpy Cat, aka Tardar Sauce).
  • 45a. [One with a black cat and mean canines?] BITING WITCH (biting wit). I see the feline/canine pun, but wonder if the quasi-dupe of CAT from the previous themer is a problem.
  • 58a. [Secret entrance to a rave?] PARTY HATCH (party hat). That definitely sounds like a risqué euphemism.

As with Monday’s offering, a serviceable theme. I’m a bit distracted this morning, so forgive me if the write-up is not full of my usual sparkling wit and cheerful nostrums.

  • 10d [Anemones’ homes] REEFS. Strictly speaking, anemones are terrestrial flowering plants and sea anemones are the animals that are usually found as part of reef ecosystems. But 5-down is [Charts for sailors] SEA MAPS, so you can see the dilemma.
  • 12d [Bread with tabbouleh] PITA, 15a [Bread with palak paneer] NAAN.
  • 31d [Platypus venom, e.g.] TOXIN. Delivered by spurs on the hind limbs of males. Platypuses are one of the very few venomous mammals.
  • 18d [Lamarr who held a patent for a Secret Communication System] HEDY. I only recently learned that her given name was actually Hedwig, but it makes sense. Also, the patent was indeed for a ‘Secret Communication System’ (capitalized), and was as I’m sure many of you know a forerunner of Bluetooth and wifi technologies.
  • 38a [Shape of a watermelon’s shadow] OVAL. Interesting clue approach, but debatable. But also probably not worth debating.

Darryl Gonzalez’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I have… questions, particularly about the revealer to Darryl Gonzalez’s puzzle today: MIXEDSALAD. What is an UNMIXEDSALAD then? In any case the first word can be unscrambled to make a “___ SALAD” salad. I don’t know enough about the show to know if AUNTGLORIA is her standard name, seems a tad quaint, in any case AUNT=TUNA. Below that is CHECKINDESK; CHECKIN=CHICKEN, it seems. Also in the downs is DANGERAHEAD (garden). There is bonus pair in COATRACK (taco) and TAKESOUT (steak). I’m assuming these make more sense if you’re American…

There are quite some ugly plurals going on today: plural surname ONEALS; LBS, which is generally abbreviated to LB, even in plural; TSKS, which is a plural interjection.

The last time the SLA was relevant, so were TELEXES.


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19 Responses to Wednesday, July 14, 2021

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: It’s been years since I saw the movie “Babe,” and many more years (55 or so) since I read Charlotte’s Web, but I don’t recall that either Babe or Wilbur was a PET PIG. Weren’t Charlotte’s efforts to keep Wilbur from being turned into bacon the main plot in Charlotte’s Web?

    • Mutman says:

      Remembering back 50ish years to my school days also, I thought Wilbur was one of the stock of many pigs on the farm. But Charlotte befriended him — isn’t that really what a pet is all about???

      And yes, Charlotte was aiming for turkey bacon as the story’s outcome.

  2. David L says:

    I put in EXTRAVERT at first, that being what I think of as the correct spelling. But Google tells me that EXTROVERT has become so widespread that many dictionaries give it as the preferred spelling. Well, I protest, by gosh, and please remove yourself from my lawn at once.

    • JohnH says:

      Looks like you lost that battle decades ago. Both MW11C and RHUD give EXTRAVERT as only an uncommon variant. I’m growing old, and I’ve never used it myself.

    • just stopping by says:

      I agree with you. Extravert is correct! When else have you ever seen the prefix “extro-“?


  3. Steve Manion says:

    If you have not yet read A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, do so. It is a brilliant comic masterpiece. Toole committed suicide n the late ’60s and his mother tried for years to get the book published.


  4. pannonica says:

    Really enjoyed the WSJ today. Well-made crossword.

  5. JohnH says:

    Funny, but the last thing I’d associate with Natan Last is literary. I think of him as an overdose of the opposite, low-brow culture that makes his puzzles all but impossible, and sure enough today for me was far, far, far harder than the supposedly more challenging Monday. I eventually came up with plausible answers but foundered on DARIA crossing SIA. The SW with its cartoon character, poker player, and more was only marginally better, but at least I got them.

    • e.a. says:

      here are some long answers from natan’s last 5 puzzles before this one (spoiler alert):
      -adrienne rich, ezra pound
      -abraham lincoln as a saunders reference
      -god help the child
      -louise glück, love story
      -anzaldúa’s borderlands
      which is not to say i wouldn’t adore his puzzles if they were entirely unliterary, but more just to ask, what are you talking about lmao

      • just stopping by says:

        Indeed. I’m guessing he’s just using “low brow culture” to refer to any literary reference he hasn’t heard of.

  6. just stopping by says:

    LAT: Did anyone else find this one to be just full of … peculiar answers? Maybe I stopped watching Modern Family before this became a thing, but did anyone on the show at any time refer to Gloria as “Aunt Gloria”? I don’t remember her having any nephews.

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