Wednesday, August 4, 2021

LAT 4:13 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:12 (Matthew) 


NYT 3:33 (Amy) 


WSJ 7:03 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 6:03 (Sophia) 


AVCX untimed (Ben) 


Alex Bajcz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Bowl Game”—Jim P’s review

This one passes the Breakfast Test. All theme answers are familiar phrases whose last word is also a word used in cereal names.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Bowl Game” · Alex Bajcz · Wed., 8.4.21

  • 17a. [Watchmaker’s favorite cereal?] TIME CRUNCH.
  • 25a. [Cosmetologist’s favorite cereal?] POWDER PUFFS.
  • 36a. [Pollster’s favorite cereal?] FEEDBACK LOOPS. I think I like this one best. I can see the folks at Gallup gathering for their morning breakfast meeting with big bowls of FEEDBACK LOOPS.
  • 50a. [Yankee’s favorite cereal?] NEW YORK POPS. I stuck with NEW YORK POST here for a long time knowing that Post is a maker of breakfast cereals. That was confusing, but the crossings set me straight.
  • 61a. [Skier’s favorite cereal?] SNOW FLAKES. So…what happens when you pour milk on them?

This is a really nice theme. It feels fresh, there’s some cute wordplay going on, and yet everything is familiar and gettable. Perfect.

Plus there’s some sparkly long fill even though some of it passes through two themers: COMATOSE, DAY CAMP, PAY HIKES, and ST. PETERS. On the shorter side I like KUNG FU, UTMOST, TWEENS, and “SEE YOU” (although it feels a little more rigid than the more common “See ya!”)

Clues of note:

  • 42a. [Level for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs]. AAA. Minor League baseball. The team is based in Allentown, PA, and is named in reference to pig iron—which I’ve always wondered why it was called thus. And now I know. Apparently the ingots are shaped with a central “runner” and several smaller pieces branched off of it at 90º—not unlike a mama sow and her piglets.
  • 57a. [Two or three, say]. DIGIT. Hmm. Should the clue be [2 or 3, say]?
  • 3d. [Like many students during dull lectures]. COMATOSE. A much more pleasant clue than the alternative.
  • 12d. [2021 Olivia Liang TV reboot]. KUNG FU. This show looked intriguing when I first heard of it, but I forgot all about it. Any fans of the show hereabouts?
  • 64d. [Hampshire holder]. STY. More pigs!

A fun theme and lovely fill. 4.25 stars.

Oh, and if you have any insight on how the constructor pronounces his last name, I’d love to hear it.

Brandon Koppy’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 4 21, no. 0804

It wasn’t till the fourth themer that I began to understand what the theme was doing, and then the revealer confirmed it: 52a. [Editing device suggested by 17-, 23-, 33- and 46-Across?], FILM SPLICER. I didn’t know there was a device by that name, but there is. Here are the movie pairs that are “spliced” together to make familiar phrases:

  • 17a. [Classic song that starts “I was working in the lab late one night” [2003, 1970]], MONSTER MASH. Monster starred Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos, and M*A*S*H spun off a beloved TV comedy. Never saw either movie.
  • 23a. [Start of the Depression [1987, 2004]], WALL STREET CRASH. Wall Street, Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen. Crash, Bullock, Dillon, Cheadle, Newton, et al. Also haven’t seen either of these.
  • 33a. [Line at the top or bottom of a website [1997, 2019]], CONTACT US. Contact, sci-fi with Jodie Foster. (“I’m OK to go!”) Us, the creepy horror film by Jordan Peele that scared the crap out of me.
  • 46a. [Commuter’s headache [1998, 2000]], RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC. Rush Hour, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Traffic, Benicio del Toro and Emily Blunt. Saw both of these, but only the first one was fun.

It’s neat that the words MASH and CRASH evoke the merging together of two things, though US and TRAFFIC don’t quite work the same. Would have been an amazing extra if all four connoted “splicing,” but I still enjoyed the theme without that.


I’m not feeling called to comment on anything else in the puzzle. Long day! Four stars from me.

Adam Wagner’s Universal crossword, “They’ve Got Your Back” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/4/21 • Wed • Wagner • “They’ve Got Your Back” • solution • 2021084

Bit of an odd mechanism for the theme, entries, but as the in-clue instructions were explicit, I was able to start filling in those answers right away.

  • 17a. [Dinosaur experts (Hint: Read this answer’s last 3 letters first)] EONTOLOGISTSPAL (paleontologists), Between this and the title (hastily referred to at this point) I was able to see that a relevant feature was PAL’s sense of ‘friend’ or ‘compadre’.
  • 22a. [One-dollar chips at a high roller’s table, say (… last 4 letters first)] PCCHANGECHUM (chump change).
  • 38a. [Into many things? (… last 4 letters first)] RIALISTICMATE (materialistic). Cute clue, by the way.
  • 51a. [Low-cost lodging (… last 3 letters first)] GETHOTELBUD (budget hotel).
  • 57aR [Those who stick together forever, or a theme hint] FRIENDS TO THE END. And here’s the payoff. The revealer’s an even more apt description of what’s going on than the title! The parts of the answer phrases synonymous with ‘friend’ are moved to the ends. Instantly upgrades the theme from mildly dubious to superb.

As you can see, I was sold on the theme … eventually.

  • Despite five theme entries, there’s still room for two longdowns: 3d [Produced electronically, as music] SYNTHESIZED, 25d [When a beach trip is especially nice] WINTER BREAK. Plus, a pair of 9-letter entries and a pair of 8s.
  • 46d [Button often clicked moments before noticing a typo] SEND. The trope is true. Some applications even offer a feature which allows one to “unsend” an email.
  • 52d [One of its Roadsters is in space] TESLA. *sigh*
  • 61d [“Car Talk” network] NPR. Are any stations still broadcasting the show? They ceased production of new material in 2012. (A brief consult with Wikipedia shows that there are a few places where old episodes are being aired.
  • 47a [Compostable straws?] HAY. Cute.
  • 55a [Like many restaurants] DINE-IN. Ostensibly, yes. The respite and heralded recovery seems short-lived as the delta variant of COVID-19 threatens to require renewed precautions. Bleah.
  • 56a [What skaters “catch” after jumping] AIR. The Japanese team is dominating the new-to-the-Olympics skateboarding events. Especially the young girls, among the youngest athletes in all of the Games.

Ben Tausig’s AVCX, “Q-Tips” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 8/4/21 — “Top Bonus”

AVCX editor Ben Tausig has this week’s puzzle, and it’s a fun twist on the standard “add a letter, make things wacky” theme:

  • 17A: Prophet who’s been dispensing non-stop wisdom since 7:00 a.m. and no one has even brought her a granola bar? — UNFED ORACLE
  • 26A: White part of an orange that spent all its money? — BROKE PITH
  • 38A: Devices for calling in paintballs, fresh out of the oven? — HOT AMMO PHONES
  • 52A: Cotija that sings in the countertenor range? — ALTO QUESO
  • 62A: Ancient Roman website for buying and selling mutual funds along maritime routes? — TIBER E-TRADE

In this case, we’ve got an entire hat (FEDORA, KEPI, TAM, TOQUE, and BERET) invading UNCLE, BROTH, HOMOPHONES, ALSO, and TIRADE

A few other nice bits of the grid: QUORUM and CONSUL, both “an image Thotokos holding the child Jesus or Dolly Parton” being described as ICONIC, SQUIRE, CHENILLE, and OAK TREES described as “Honorable”.

Happy Wednesday!

Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword — Matthew’s write-up

Aimee Lucido’s The New Yorker crossword solution, 8/4/2021

Enjoyable as always from Aimee, with two long answers holding the marquee spots: BOW CHICKA WOW WOW (17a- [Sound of sexy times?]) and WHOOMP THERE IT IS (56a- Tag Team single often played at basketball games.]). Two entries that are just fun to say aloud, though I always thought it was “BOWM” CHICKA WOW WOW, with a nasal consonant in the first word. Anyway, fun stuff for the middle of the week.

Other than JIBE (1d- [Agree]), which I can never keep straight with “jive” (would love a mnemonic in the comments, if you have one!), I had no issues, so right to the notes:

  • Loved the crossing of CREPE (49d- [Brunch item sometimes served with Nutella]) and SCONE (48a- [One might be studded with currants]). My top two breakfast joints in town are a crepe place and a scone place. I wasn’t going to head down before working today, but I might now!
  • 26d- [“I’m sorry you feel that way,” e.g.] for NONAPOLOGY is a great answer that I don’t think I’ve seen in a puzzle before!
  • 58a- I’ve always had an interest in learning to SIGN [Communicate, perhaps], but it hasn’t turned into anything yet. Maybe that’s my lifetime reading list for this puzzle.
  • 11d- I’ve never made the connection between KEWPIEDOLL [Toy that gets its name from the Roman god of love] and “cupid” before, but it seems obvious now.

We’ll close with something from JIMI (1a- [Hendrix who was the final performer at Woodstock.]):

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “It’s Not The Real Thing” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: “It’s Not The Real Thing” – each of the theme answers is the manmade version of a natural thing/material.

USA Today, 08 04 2021, “It’s Not The Real Thing”

  • 17a [Garden hose material] – SYNTHETIC RUBBER
  • 36a [Beads on some wristlets] – IMITATION PEARLS
  • 56a [Water storage sites] – ARTIFICIAL LAKES

I’ve blogged a lot of CC’s puzzles during my first month at Fiend, and this theme  didn’t excite me as much as hers normally do. I think this is because I personally don’t find the theme answers to be very interesting as stand-alone answers, although they are all totally legitimate things and I do appreciate that they’re all 15 letters long.

Despite my thoughts on the theme, I enjoyed solving today’s puzzle, mainly on the strength of the fill. PRICE MATCH and BABY CARROT are snazzy answers, as are CHAIN SAW and LEG CURLS! You can always get me with food clues/answers, and this puzzle had a bunch, including LATKE, OKRA, SUMAC, and two different references to hummus. The only piece of fill that seems difficult to newer solvers is GROK, which I myself only learned from solving puzzles. Honestly I’ve only heard GROK in the wild as part of the crossword discourse (people saying “It took me most of the solve to GROK the theme” and things like that), so to me it feels amusingly meta every time I see it itself in a puzzle.

Other notes:

  • I love when puzzles have situational clues for ERRS, and this one didn’t disappoint with 18d [Hits the wrong elevator button, for example]. I personally hope that as time goes on and USA Today needs more unique clues these situations get progressively more random/specific. Give me something like [Chooses a 8 minute song at karaoke night, say], and I will be a happy solver.
  • I have seen “Knives Out” three times and enjoyed it more every viewing. Hyped for the sequel to see what else Benoit BLANC is up to!
  • Best/funniest write-over: 53a [Pod vegetable] – I had O_ _ A and wrote in… “orca”. Whales live in pods, right??

Sean McGowan’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

Sean McGowan’s theme today features a basic theme type with some odd wrinkles. ABOUTFACE is the revealer and four circled parts of answers are parts of a face read right to left: EYE, RAE, ESON and SPIL (which is pluralised, unlike the others). You noticed, of course, that EYE is palindromic. I’m not sure if that counts as a feature or a bug?


    • [XXX], CHIS. The Greek letter CHI is similar to an X (but not exactly: Χχ)
    • [Two-tone treats], OREOS. I read that as two-tone threats, which are ORCAS…
    • [Super Bowl LIV performer], SHAKIRA. Anyone else unable to read her name without hearing Wyclef Jean yelling, “Shakira! Shakira!”
    • [On-the-go game show], CASHCAB – is that still going?


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16 Responses to Wednesday, August 4, 2021

  1. MeanMrMustard says:

    Todays AVX is my least favorite kind of puzzle – theme clues were groan worthy random word salad garbage that means nothing. It’s like “hey look I crammed words for hats into other random words that have nothing to do with hats and came up with a series of words that also has nothing to do with anything”.

    And the rest of the fill was garbage too. “Son of a”? Give me a break. And how many initialisms/non-words can you cram into one puzzle? CPR/XKE/XII/NFT/ICU, etc.

    Definitely not one of the better ones, I think Ben should stick to editing.

    • Matt M. says:

      I definitely disagree. I thought it was a fun puzzle (though I guess if you don’t like wacky theme answers it’s not for you) and think that CPR, NFT (topical!), and ICU, to name 3, are good fill.
      It also greatly frustrates me to read a comment like “Ben should stick to editing” because you don’t love one puzzle — Ben’s written countless terrific puzzles and that’s extremely and unfairly reductive.

      • Steve H says:

        I agree with Mr. Mustard. This puzzle was a mess. But, I also agree that the insult wasn’t necessary.

  2. Jeremiah Rios says:

    I enjoyed the WSJ theme but some of the clueing felt subpar – digit and kayo stand out as the most frustrating to me

  3. Drew Geary says:

    LAT: “Ice” tea??? Ugh.

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    NYT: Amy has it backwards … the beloved TV series M*A*S*H (1972 – 1983) spun off of the 1970 Robert Altman film of the same name, starring Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, Sally Kellerman and Tom Skerritt.

    Oops … I think I misinterpreted Amy’s comment. Never mind. English sure can be confusing!

  5. Luther says:

    Jim P-
    Per Crossword Corner, 6/24/21:
    Our constructor for today is Alex Bajcz (pronounced like “badges”)

  6. M483 says:

    I just heard something about the NYT not supporting across lite anymore. Does that mean I won’t be able to do the puzzles in across lite if I want to? I work on a laptop.
    Across lite is the smoothest, easiest way to work the puzzles.

    • David L says:

      I’ve used Across Lite for years but started using the NYT web interface (on a full-size monitor) this week. It ain’t that bad. I like it better than the NYer interface, which has an annoying way of jumping you to the next clue whether you want to go there or not.

      • marciem says:

        Re: NYer interface, in the settings you can change it from going to the next clue when a word is finished to staying in that clue/word. You might have to do that every time you play, I don’t know. I liked that feature myself.

    • Mutman says:

      To answer M483, from what I understand, they will not provide the .puz download so you cannot solve in Across Lite

  7. Noob says:

    How is “Good tempered?” OKAY in TNY? Thanks.

    As is so often the case, the second I ask it dawns on me. “It was okay” is a tempered “It was good.”

    Clever clue.

  8. JohnH says:

    The NYT theme and the meaning of the dates came slowly to me. I got the entries ending MASH and CRASH really quickly, which made me sure I was seeing a pattern and wondering why I was having so much trouble continuing it! Didn’t help that I don’t recall Monster and definitely don’t recognize Contact and Us. Probably didn’t help either than my first film association with Traffic is the film by Jacques Tati (a genius). But all worked out, more or less.

    If you haven’t seen the Altman film of M*A*S*H in a long time, it can be quite a shock to catch it again. The TV show was suitably sardonic, but not cruel and Alda’s Hawkeye was sufficiently cute and cuddly, no doubt, to make a successful TV show. But wow, is the movie harsher than I ever remembered. It’s a welcome shock, too, and it fits with the edge of innovative American movies of that decade, like Taxi Driver and with anything, comedy like Dr. Strangelove the decade before or the Hal threat to Dave in 2001 alike, by Kubrick. This viewing I even found myself sympathizing with Houlihan for how she was treated.

    Off-topic, because also on my personal experience, I mentioned when she appeared in a puzzle that I was so sorry I hadn’t heard of Nella Larsen in the Harlem Renaissance and wanted to check her out. I just read Passing, and it’s just wonderful. A wide-open exploration of race and personal identity, with an uneasily unresolved ending.

  9. John Daviso says:

    Robert Johnson! Smashing!

    Thx, pannonica

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