Wednesday, August 11, 2021

LAT 3:25 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker untimed (Matthew) 


NYT 4:28 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 3:25 (Sophia) 


AVCX 7:02 (Sophia) 


Steve Faiella’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Niche Market”—Jim P’s review

Our theme today consists of common food pairings of the form “X and Y” except the X has been replaced with a non-food homophone, resulting in crossword wackiness.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Niche Market” · Steve Faiella · Wed., 8.11.21

  • 20a. [Breakfast joint for vampire slayers?] STAKE AND EGGS.
  • 28a. [Cafeteria that only accepts Swiss currency?] FRANCS AND BEANS.
  • 47a. [Beauty salon where you can also get a quick nosh?] LOCKS AND BAGELS.
  • 54a. [Funeral parlor offering Italian fare at its services?] BIER AND PIZZA. I don’t think “beer and pizza” is as strong a pairing as the others. However, it might be efficient to have the funeral and wake at the same time!

My first thought was that the “stake” for “steak” pun has been done many times before, but then I realized the there was something connecting all the theme entries, namely the food pairing idea. Then I realized these are all would-be names for eating establishments aimed at a specific clientele, and I enjoyed the imaginative nature of the theme. The consistency of having the pun in the first word each time is also a nice touch.

Fillwise, DOGGY BAG (being theme-adjacent) and “YES SIREE!” make for fun long entries. I struggled in the NW corner since I spelled CHAKRA as SHAKRA which made 1a [Coffee order] look like FLASK. (Sure, why not.) It didn’t help that I didn’t know 1d [Lesage’s “Gil ___”] should have been BLAS instead of FLAS.

Clues of note:

  • 23a. [Fish-bull go-between]. RAM. No idea what this is getting at. *Looks it up, light bulb comes on* Oh, the zodiac: Pisces-Aries-Taurus.
  • 50d. [Perry White, for one]. EDITOR. Of The Daily Planet (Superman), in case you didn’t know.

It took me a while to warm up to this theme, but in the end I liked its playfulness and consistency. 3.8 stars.

Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 11 21, no. 0811

Alrighty, this one’s got grid art. I’m not sure if I’m parsing it correctly—is it a mouthless face, and HAD A BLANK LOOK spanning the shoulders, and the black squares in the UCLA – MIA – IBID row are the blank-look eyes? That is my best guess. If the TIGER – BURRO row has a mouth in it, I don’t get why the RETIE row pinches the face in so sharply. And the black squares that wrap around ALCOPOP, I don’t get. The theme entries relate to that blank look, with STARED INTO SPACE and SHOWED NO EMOTION also here. I don’t see anything else that ties into the theme, nor a revealer.

The grid has 55 blocks, which is a heckuva lot. You wouldn’t expect to see more than about 40-43 blocks in a puzzle this size.

Never, ever heard of 5d. [Pennsylvania petroleum center, once], OIL CITY.

Some awkward fill that seems tough for a Wednesday: AGA Khan, SERVO, crosswordese AGORA and ORIEL.

Fave fill: MAMA BEAR, POTATO SKIN (one is enough, isn’t it?), DATA LOSS.

Five more things:

  • 35a. [N.B.A. great with five championship rings as a player and three as a head coach], STEVE KERR. You know Steve’s gotta be asking himself, “Is this grid image supposed to look like me?”
  • Cross-ref-apalooza: 17a. [With 8-Down, light blue Monopoly property], VERMONT / 8d. AVE. / 57a. [It’s $550 for 17-Across/8-Down with a hotel on it], RENT. All told, I’d rather have these three clued without the x-refs. You add the split-up AS SEEN / ON TV, you reach critical x-ref mass.
  • 1d. [Taiwan Strait’s ___ Islands], MATSU. Hey, with that 1a crossing being the prefix MID (never great to open the puzzle with less than a full word), raise your hand if you’d have preferred KATSU crossing KID. I needed crossings for MATSU, but if you’d had a clue mentioning a chicken or pork cutlet with a crispy panko breading, I’d have shouted KATSU and started salivating at the prospect of Japanese curry sauce on katsu.
  • 56a. [Brand with the record for a single car driven the most miles (3+ million and counting)], VOLVO. Interesting tidbit, that. Be sure to share it the next time you hear someone crowing about their odometer rolling over at 100,000. “Now do that 29 more times, bub!”
  • 30d. [It’s been known to chase Wild Turkeys], BEER. Leave it to bar owner Joe to drop a clue like this! I like the clue, but I do not like anything at all in the whiskey family.

Three stars from me.

Paolo Pasco’s AVCX crossword, “Endgame”— Sophia’s review

Hey all, it’s Sophia filling in for Ben today. This week’s AVCX was sent with a note that this puzzle is paired with an upcoming one by Quiara Vasquez, and if that crossword is anything like this one, we should all be in for a treat.

Theme answers:

AVCX, 08 10 2021, “Endgame”

  • 17a: Talk back to urban birds who are being complete jerks? – SASS TOOL PIGEONS
  • 28a: Part of the house that tends to make a humming sound? – THRUM PRONE ROOM
  • 48a: Pillow MRI result? – SCAN OF A CUSHION
  • 63a: Attract an audience… or what [the above answers] all do? – PUT BUTTS IN SEATS

This puzzle elevates the classic “add a letter to make a wacky phrase” theme by having both the base phrases and the inserted words fit certain categories, adding a layer of interest. It has the perfect revealer too, in that it’s a fresh phrase that perfectly describes the gimmick. I think of “can” as being slang for “bathroom” more than “butt” though? I guess it’s always good to learn something new from crosswords…

I love solving Paolo’s puzzles first and foremost because of the cluing. There’s a bunch of modern pop culture references (See today’s references to Promising Young Woman and WandaVision, among many others), plus some sneaky misdirects ([Does a Singer’s job] for SEWS gave me a genuine aha moment) , plus jokes and asides to the solver – not a single clue in this puzzle is wasted, and as a solver I really appreciate that craftsmanship.

It’s not just the cluing though – the fill is also great! It’s physically impossible for me to dislike a puzzle with ZOOTOPIA and CINNABON in it. The only piece of fill I didn’t like was HUNH, but at least the clue [“?!?!?!?!?!” interjection, with or without the third letter] made it clear that the puzzle kinda knows “huh” is the preferred spelling.

Other notes:

  • I see what you did there, Paolo, putting THANOS in a puzzle called “Endgame”….
  • Anyone else hyped for Idris Elba as the voice of Knuckles in Sonic 2? Gotta go FAST to the theater next year, I say.
  • I went to an incredible talk given by Hanif Abdurraqib at my college – his book “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us” was one of my favorite things I read there. Here’s a video of him performing his poem “Ode to Prince, Ending in a Jukebox on Fire in OHIO“.

Wyna Lius’s The New Yorker crossword — Matthew’s review

Wyna Liu’s Tne New Yorker Crossword solution, 8/11/2021

I have to be brief this morning, but gosh this was a fun puzzle! Highlights:

  • 4d- [Fragrant brew named after a British Prime Minister] EARL GREY TEA. What a fun long entry, and I love the clue. I drink a lot of tea but I can’t stand the bergamot in Earl Grey. I do love to see the -e- spelling of “grey” in a crossword though, since I always fill it in first and have to erase.
  • 15d- [Sandy ____, lead singer of the folk-rock group Fairport Convention] DENNY. Here’s something for my lifetime reading list. Perhaps I’ll recognize a song or two.
  • 23a- [1973 Bill Gunn experimental horror movie, in which the title characters become vampiric lovers] GANJA AND HESS. I do not like horror, but this is a great seed entry for a themeless, and the crossings were the right amount of crunchy for me.
  • 28d- [Battle hand in hand?] ARM WRESTLE. Love this clue.
  • 31d- [Drilling permit?: Abbr.] DDS. This one too.
  • 38d- [Collector’s coup] RARE FIND. I had RARE ITEM at first and was a little dissatisfied, but both the aha moment to flip to -FIND and the entry were enjoyable.
  • 50d- [“Wayne’s World” co-host] Garth. Party on.

Gary Larson’s Universal crossword, “Alternative Education” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/11/21 • Wed • “Alternative Education” • Larson • solution • 20210811

“Creative” interpretations of 62aR [Areas of study, and a hint to 17-, 24-, 36-a and 53-Across] SUBJECTS.

  • 17a. [Study of government revenue?] TAXONOMY.
  • 24a. [Study of “Bodak Yellow” rapper?] CARDIOLOGY. I recall hearing somewhere that she adopted the moniker as a play on Bacardi.
  • 36a. [Study of supermarket conveyances?] CARTOGRAPHY.
  • 53a. [Study of the Punxsutawney groundhog?] PHILOSOPHY. A friend of a friend once related a nightmarish story of how awful Groundhog Day is in person. Despite having seen the film (long ago), I hadn’t realized how huge a deal it is. Suffice to say, however, there is no way I would ever willingly attend the overhyped event.

These are entertaining, and admirably do not share etymologies with the actual disciplines. Note also that each of the four has a distinct suffix: -{O}NOMY, -{O}LOGY, -{O}GRAPHY, -{O}SOPHY.

Kind of feel that this one could have been called ‘Pseudosciences’ but I also admit that if that had been the case, I’d have called out philosophy for not strictly being a science. So this’ll do.

  • 3d [What the Equal Rights Amendment combats] SEXISMSeeks to combat.
  • 37d [Disappearing sea in Asia] ARAL. “Sea”. My, I’m being extra-pedantic this morning.
  • 51d [Person who may read a book many times] EDITOR. Strewth!
  • 14a [Number not found in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”] ONE. Clever approach.
  • 16a [Bird that me black and yellow] ORIOLE; 20a [Classic sporty Ford, informally] T-BIRD.
  • 30a [Inverse of addition?] REMOVAL. I had REMODEL first.
  • 1d [More popular] HOTTER. National Weather Service local forecast for today, verbatim: “A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2pm. Mostly sunny, with a high near 94. Heat index values as high as 106. Southwest wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.”

Hoang-Kim Vu’s USA Today crossword, “It Started Out Alright”— Sophia’s review

Theme: “It Started Out Alright” – Each theme answer begins with a synonym for “alright”.

USA Today, 08 11 2021, “It Started Out Alright”

  • 16a [Maneuvering delicately] – FINESSING
  • 26a [Distribute more broadly] – DECENTRALIZE
  • 44a [Home of the NBA’s Thunder] – OKLAHOMA CITY
  • 58a [Story that ends with “happily ever after”] – FAIRY TALE

Fun theme today from Kim (and editor Amanda Rafkin) – certainly more than just alright, in my opinion! My favorite answer is DECENTRALIZE because of the sheer amount of the word that is comprised by the synonym; it’s more interesting to me, wordplay wise, than OKLAHOMA CITY, where the synonym is just the first two letters. (As a Seattle basketball fan, I also still have a grudge against the Thunder so….)

This puzzle played very easy to me, I think mainly because the segmented grid meant there weren’t too many long answers that weren’t part of the theme. Once I was into a section, it was mostly short words that I could fill in quickly. Of course, the fill needs to be very clean for this to work, and it certainly is here. For that reason I think this would be a great puzzle to give to someone trying to start doing crosswords – it’s simple but clean and fun. Favorite pieces of fill for me today are GRASS-FED, I GUESS, and RANDO (a word I’m very glad to see catching on as legit fill).

Other notes:

  • 60a [Apt synonym for “ice”] for FROST threw me off for a while because I couldn’t figure out the “apt” part of the clue, and honestly I’m still not 100% sure I have it. Is it because frost and ice are both terms for frozen water and what you do to decorate a cake?
  • I did some yoga yesterday after a 3 month long break, and this morning my RIGHT LEG (along with my left) is very sore. Thanks a lot, Warrior II :(
  • Always happy to see ELLE King in the puzzle!

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano & Steve Mossberg’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by messrs. Henestroza & Mossberg features an offbeat list theme: things on strings, or STRINGENSEMBLES. I tried to stretch STRINGQUARTETS to fit here first. I had the same issue trying to make BEADCURTAIN fit where BEADEDCURTAIN was intended. The other two themers are CHRISTMASLIGHTS and a CANDYNECKLACE.



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15 Responses to Wednesday, August 11, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I agree the grid pattern is a little disorienting. I see the straight line between TIGER and BURRO (a nice combo) as the mouth. It also seems to contribute to the neutral expression. But it does render this dark stack above it confusing.
    I love that VOVLO clue. I have a Prius from the first year they were ever made and it’s still in great working order (dent in passenger door notwithstanding). Maybe I’ll pass it on in my will and ask them to keep it alive for a million miles.

  2. Gary R says:

    NYT: Ambiguous grid art. Too much crosswordese. Too many cross-reference clues.
    Nineteen (if I counted correctly) 3-letter entries. Add in the first day of being forced to solve in the Times’s Crappy App, and the experience goes from “meh” to “ugh.”

    Too high a price to pay for good clues for SWEAR and BEER.

    • M483 says:

      I am also really unhappy with the Times’ app. Even though I’m on a lap top, the grid isn’t placed properly. Either the the last row of the grid is cut off or the clue cannot be seen at the top. If I try to take it down in size, the clue list is out of sync with the grid.
      Acrosslite was so smooth. In Acrosslite, it was wonderful to be able to do the puzzles off-line – like when a hurricane is coming, I can down load a bunch of puzzles from the archive and have something to do. (I live in Florida).
      I subscribe to this puzzle and I feel I’m not getting my money’s worth with this lousy app. I want my acrosslite back!

      • cyco says:

        You can download the puzzles in any of the mobile/tablet apps – not sure about laptop/desktop, though. They should really add that feature.

  3. JohnH says:

    I rather liked the NYT grid and found the blank look with a vertical nose and horizontal mouth perfectly plausible, even ingenious. But agreed that there are too many cross-refs and too much trivia, at the very least hard for a Wednesday, although I’d normally welcome that.

    I didn’t know the unthemed long entry, the basketball figure, making the center especially hard, and I don’t believe I’ve heard of the “malternative.” Indeed, I wavered on ending it with F, for “free throws” going down.

  4. Eric S says:

    NYT: One Wordplay commenter likened the huge groups of blocks in the middle to muttonchop sideburns. I’ll buy that, though I still think they’re kind of ugly.

    “Katsu” would have been as unknown to me as “Matsu.”

    I had “Baby Bear” before “Mama.” Dumb, I know, but blame the story: If Baby Bear’s porridge is in a smaller bowl than Mama’s, it would get colder more quickly.

    On the whole, I liked it. A few fun answers and quick to solve.

  5. David L says:

    I couldn’t see the face in the NYT at first, but now that I do it seems ominous or positively wicked rather than blank.

    I agree that MID/MATSU is not a great way to start, but KID/KATSU is no better, IMO.

    Personal factoid of the day: I have never played the American version of Monopoly, so the only names I’ve learned have come from crosswords.

    • R says:

      A very common word is not better than a prefix? And a delicious food is not better than a tiny string of islands no one has ever heard of? Cool opinion.

  6. Mutman says:

    NYT: I liked it — thought it was rather fun and something different for early in the week.

    Was it a content masterpiece? No. But it wasn’t as horrific as other alt-content puzzles I’ve seen.

    Thumbs up from me!

  7. e.a. says:

    agree that KATSU would have been a highlight but don’t get why MID is bad

  8. Eric S says:

    WSJ: Fun theme answers and not too much glue.

  9. Brenda Rose says:

    NYT: Why would anyone think a K would be a letter for an easy clue that asks “day & night”?
    Kidnight? Kidday? And Matsu has been crosswordese like forever.

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