Wednesday, August 18, 2021

LAT 3:42 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:27 (Matthew) 


NYT 4:02 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 5:17 (Sophia) 


AVCX 5:46 (Ben) 


David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Variety Show”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Familiar phrases whose last word can (maybe) be a synonym of “show” are re-imagined and clued with crossword wackiness.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Variety Show” · David Alfred Bywaters · Wed., 8.18.21

  • 17a. [Show about group learning?] CLASS ACT.
  • 24a. [Show about everything?] ALL-IN-ONE PIECE.
  • 38a. [Show about manicurists?] THUMBNAIL SKETCH.
  • 49a [Show about spa treatments?] FACIAL FEATURE.
  • 62a. [Show about army training?] DRILL BIT.

Um, well, no. The only one of these words which I would consider a synonym of “show” is “feature.” The rest—act, piece, sketch, bit—are parts of shows. If you weren’t trying to sell me so hard on these being synonyms of “show,” I would have liked it fine. But as it is, no. Maybe use “routine” or “scene” instead of “show.”

UP THE ANTE is a great piece of fill. I tried SUIT COATS for 32d [Items on carousels] thinking of dry cleaners for some reason. But I like the correct answer, SUITCASES, much better.

Hey, whaddya know! OTB (off-track betting) and OTC (over the counter) in the same grid.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [It might have a removable part]. TOUPEE. Help me out here. I’m trying to imagine a TOUPEE in which the part (i.e. the separation of hair sections) is removable.
  • 4d. [Phone menu alternative]. YES. Meh. Phone menus have gotten very good at speech recognition that there are a lot of things one can say besides YES and No. I don’t like this clue at all.

I just don’t get this puzzle’s insistence on equating “show” with the likes of “bit” and “sketch.” Otherwise it would be fine. Three stars.

Alina Abidi’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 18 21, no. 0818

What a neat theme! It works on a couple levels:

  • 60a. [Cartoonist suggested by this puzzle’s theme], THOMAS NAST. He’s the guy who created the Republican elephant and Democratic donkey.
  • 16a. [With 26-Across, game that uses a blindfold], PIN THE TAIL / ON THE DONKEY.
  • 36a. [Item exchanged in a so-called “yankee swap”], WHITE ELEPHANT.
  • 50a. [Frequent reveler, or a hint to 16-/26- and 36-Across], PARTY ANIMAL. It’s not just that the elephant and donkey represent political parties—there’s also the fact that you play PIN THE TAIL / ON THE DONKEY and do a WHITE ELEPHANT gift exchange at parties. Really an elegant theme.

Fave fill: BAD HAIR DAYS (I appreciate working from home!), BLANK CANVAS.

Four more things:

  • 39d. [Fruits whose seeds can act as a substitute for black peppercorns], PAPAYAS. !! News to me. Here’s a bit you can read about the flavor and uses of papaya seeds.
  • 24d. [Website with articles like “10 Surprising Ways to Use Mayonnaise Around Your Home”], EHOW. I am not navigating over to that, but I will say that I bet at least two of the 10 are for the bedroom.
  • 42a. [Org. that oversees O.T.C.s], FDA. Service journalism, right here! On Friday, the CDC and FDA officially authorized “moderately or severely immunocompromised” people who’ve gotten the Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccine to get a third dose of vaccine. Details here. If this describes you, you can just get yourself a third dose at a local pharmacy, no need to bring a doctor’s note or anything. (And if your immune system is fine, please do wait your turn. They’ll probably OK boosters for you 8 months after your second dose was given.)
  • 20a. [Fruit in the William Carlos Williams poem “This Is Just to Say”], PLUM. This is just to say: It’s stone fruit season! Go get you some plums, cherries, peaches, and/or nectarines before they’re gone again.

4.25 stars from me.

Juliana Tringali Golden’s AVCX, “Creepy” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 8/18 — “Creepy”

This week’s AVCX is by Juliana Tringali Golden and edited by Wyna Liu and it’s real cute, y’all.

Rather than anything using specific theme entries, “Creepy” has four series of circled squars creeping their way through each quadrant of the grid.  Looking at what these spell out from left to right and top to bottom, then looking at the revealer:

  • 52A: Classic movie candy…or a description of this puzzle’s climbing arrays of circled letters — RED VINES

RED VINES!  I wasn’t really paying attention to what was being circled as I solved the various acrosses and downs, so realizing these were all shades of red was a great AHA, followed by figuring out what classic movie candy this tied in with.

A few other nice bits of the grid: PINOT, RAIN GODS, SO SOON?, REAL ALE, IAMBS, HEARTHS, the juxtaposition of IONIAN TOOTLES, and YOWZA

Happy Wednesday!

Megan O’Connell and Joe Gaspard’s Universal crossword, “Half-and-Half” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/18/21 • Wed • O’Connell, Gaspard • “Half-and-Half” • solution • 20210818

Nothing too fancy here, and it’s fairly well done.

  • 59aR [Gets two fives, perhaps … or what each starred clue does, based on its answer’s length?] BREAKS A TEN. To wit, ten-letter words are parsed as if they were two five-letter words.
  • 17a. [*Shred every last bit in the kitchen?] GRATE FULLY.
  • 27a. [*A-lister’s tirades] CELEB RANTS.
  • 44a. [*Dissuade polite guys?] DETER GENTS.

Now, there’re only three mechanized theme entries, and one of them shares a tight etymology in its original and re-parsed forms {CELEB[rity]/CELEBRANTS}, but I don’t think it’s that big a deal.

With such minimal theme material, I’d have expected the overall fill to be stronger, yet there are a ton of shortish words here, mostly fours. Makes for a choppy solve, despite the nifty stacked nines of CLOUD NINE / HOT TO TROT and NEVERMORE / TOE-TAPPER.

Neither of the constructors have been tagged on DoaCF before, so this may be a double début crossword. We can cut a little slack, eh?

  • 3d [What you may only need to sharpen once] IMAGE. Photo editing reference.
  • 13d [Kitchen that’s full of dirty dishes, say] MESS. Bit of a double-entendre.
  • 31d [Fish in a crocodile’s belly?] COD. Quasi-cryptic style clue.
  • 52d [Mobile homes?] TENTS. Not gonna lie. Saw the question mark and figured this was going to be CRIBS.
  • 14a [Bit of gossip] RUMOR. 46d [Walrus feature] TUSK.

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword — Matthew’s write-up

Patrick Berry’s The New Yorker crossword solution, 8/18/2021

A predictably enjoyable mid-week themeless from Patrick Berry this morning, with grid-spanners DELICATE BALANCE (18a- [Harmonious state that’s hard to maintain]) and I CAN’T BE BOTHERED (41a- [“That’s for someone else to worry about”]) providing structure for 10-letter answers in each corner.

The northeast was a trouble spot for me, with new-to-me COOEE (12d- [Attention-attracting cry, in Australia]) crossing the ambiguous REC (vs “rew”) at (10a- [Button on a TiVo remote]), and the easy-to-misspell (for me at least) ETAGERE (21a- [What might hold your curiosity?]). But I also quite liked EGGBEATER, WHEATLEY, and MALTESE (clued to the language!) that bracketed that corner, as well.


  • 47a- ORANGE SODA (Crush stuff?) brought back childhood memories. It’s always a delight when I can find Grape and/or Cherry Crush, as well.
  • 32d- I was just in BETHESDA (Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s home) last week for some business, and used to live very close to Walter Reed. The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) is also on the NSA-Bethesda campus, if you’re ever on the lookout for a wordier BETHESDA clue.
  • 40d- SONJA (Actress Sohn of “The Wire”). I still haven’t watched The Wire, but you know, it’s on my list.
  • 28a, 33a, 42d- TDS, NFL, and BART is quite a bit of football in a grid, if you’re not a fan.

Caitlin Reid’s USA Today crossword, “Grand Openings” — Sophia’s recap

Theme: “Grand Openings” – each theme answer is a two word phrase where both words start with “K”.

USA Today, 08 18 2021, “Grand Openings”

  • 16a [Character also known as Ms. Marvel] – KAMALA KHAN
  • 34a [Santa Claus, by another name] – KRIS KRINGLE
  • 40a [Doughnut chain]  – KRISPY KREME
  • 61a [Main character in “Roots”] – KUNTA KINTE

I like to play a game with myself when I solve the USA Today puzzle where I read the title and guess what the theme is going to be – does anyone else do that? Today my guess was “words that can go before ‘grand'” (which I guess would have included… mgm? I don’t know where I was going with this idea, I shouldn’t try to guess themes before 8am). Anyways, I was pleasantly surprised to see a different take on the “openings” wordplay, and I like the elegance that both words in the phrase start with K. (Side note that it’s interesting to me that both “G” and “K” can mean “thousand” in different contexts. Would this theme work with all G words?)

I have seen the names KUNTA KINTE and KAMALA KHAN before, but there was no chance I was going to remember either one without a *lot* of crosses. In particular, the bottom left corner got me more stuck than I’ve been on a USA Today puzzle for a long time – I didn’t know SONIA Gomez, so that N crossing KINTE was an educated guess. I also had trouble parsing 53a [Smallest amount] to mean LEAST (I kept wanting something like “a tad”), which kept me from seeing SATIRE for a while. I do enjoy that both KUNTA KINTE and KAMALA KHAN are from very different eras of pop culture – Roots premiered in 1977, and the Ms. Marvel miniseries will be dropping on Disney+ later this year – because it means folks are likely to have heard of at least one of them (unless you’re me, apparently! Luckily KRISPY KREME was right up my alley).

Very clean fill today, as per usual. Love TEARING UP and EXIT POLLS as bonuses. I love meta humor, so I love when clues or answers play off of each other, so I was into the 66a [“Good ___” (“Nice thinking!”)] and 67a[“Good ___” (“Jeez!”)] clue repetition. I also enjoyed PAUSED being right next to PAWS.

Other thoughts:

  • Lots of numbers in this grid! ONES, TWO, SIX, OCHO
  • I didn’t know the word SARI came from the Sanskrit for “strip of cloth”! I love that the USA Today puzzle is never lazy with its cluing and takes the time to include new facts about words that are often clued the same way.

Jerry Edelstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by Jerry Edelstein features a well-worn theme concept: BLOCKBUSTERS is interpreted such that each of three entries are bookended by the five letters that spell out BLOCK. They are found in BeatthecLOCK, BLuechipstOCK and BLOwonesstaCK.

As mid-week puzzles go this one leant somewhat easier, both in grid design and answers. We did have an unusual clue for LAE: [Ka __: southernmost Big Island point], which is normally Papua New Guinea’s second city in crossworld.

I was amused how [It’s not a bear] is the clue for KOALA, but EEL clues routinely enforce the idea that electric eels are eels…

[“MacArthur Park” songwriter Jimmy], WEBB is as much a singer, but generally people covered his songs and made them “big”. Here is his “The Highwaymen”:


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20 Responses to Wednesday, August 18, 2021

  1. Zulema says:

    I have just printed out what I hope is tomorrow’s NYT crossword. This time, as I did yesterday, I tried “newpaper” version. I have always printed out the puzzles under “acrosslite.”
    My printed version tonight has no date on top, the constructor’s name so tiny I cannot read it without a magnifying lens, and it is missing the final line of yesterday’s solution, not that I needed it. What was offered as “newpapaer version” is a joke, except it is not funny, and I do pay extra for getting the crossword, above my home delivery cost. I don’t know what the NYT thinks it has achieved. Sorry for dumping my complaint here, it has nothing to do with you.

    • JohnH says:

      I can’t replicate your experience or help much, as I’m not a crossword subscriber. As a home-delivery subscriber, too, though, and a solver on paper you can always fall back on another way to print the puzzle. It’s unnecessarily confusing as well, but here goes just in case you hadn’t explored the option.

      When you are reading an article or looking at a section listing (e.g., world news or arts), you of course get an invitation to play the crossword . Bizarrely enough, this takes you not to a crossword page, but to a page headed Games in big letters, touting other game choices. I guess they want ever so much to sell you puzzles.

      Even more unintuitive, you click on that big Games to get a crossword page, it, too, headed Games but with only crossword and spelling bee options and with a URL ending com/crosswords. (The Games link in the site map page takes you directly here, not that you’re likely ever to see that page.) The link to get the actual puzzle for printing (the only option available here for us who don’t purchase the puzzle separately) is easy to overlook as well, a small print icon at top right of a central box.

    • Gary R says:

      When I click the “print” icon, I get a pop-up window in which “Puzzle” and “Standard Layout” are checked by default. This gives me a readable 8.5 x 11.0 rendering of the puzzle. I usually also check “Ink Saver.” The black squares come out gray, but everything else looks the same to me.

    • Bernie Haas says:

      You can still access the Across Lite file of the NYT crossword on this site’s Today’s Puzzles link.

  2. Dan says:

    LA Times 18D clue is “Hold (onto)” for LATCH.

    Yet another indication of how tone-deaf the LA Times crossword often is.

    “Latch” means “grab and hold on to”, not just “hold”, and not “onto”.

  3. Philip says:

    Amy, I checked. No bedroom uses!

  4. Alice Wicker says:

    The review on WSJ seems a bit harsh – “show” can span major spectacles to small presentations. Fun puzzle overall.

    • David Roll says:

      I didn’t much care for the puzzle either, but I did like “fifth place” and “bottle.”

    • Crotchety Doug says:

      WSJ – Agreed. I took the title, Variety Show, to mean a revue, which can contain ACT, PIECE, SKETCH, AND BIT. To me, FEATURE was the outlier, unless the revue has a featured performer.

    • JohnH says:

      I agree too. I’m fine with show as not a synonym but only a hint to more. Besides, “put on an act” and “put on a show” are not so very far apart.

  5. Mac says:

    AVX – Can someone explain the answer “larps” to the “Gets props for playing an elf?” clue? I assume it has something to do with role-playing games but cannot figure out the connection ( I am not into larps so maybe that is the issue).

    • Alan D. says:

      LARP = Live Action Role Play. It’s a group performance thing.

    • Eric Sv says:

      LARPS was new to me, too.

      I think “props” is being used in the theatrical/movie-making sense and isn’t short for “propers.”

      And it helps to think of one of Tolkien’s elves, not Keebler’s or Santa’s.

  6. Eric Sv says:

    AVXC: Nice theme that reminds me of a great Aimee Mann song:

    One nit: The clue for 15A EARL has it backwards; the title “count” is used in most of continental Europe.

  7. Reddogg says:

    WSJ 16a. [It might have a removable part]. TOUPEE. Help me out here. I’m trying to imagine a TOUPEE in which the part (i.e. the separation of hair sections) is removable.

    The entire toupee is removable, including the part. OK?

  8. JohnH says:

    In TNY, as usual lots of names. But in particular, I thought the crossings of REC COOEE (where REW WOOEE seemed at least as natural) and KALEY KEEL BOAT were both really unfair

  9. Christopher Smith says:

    TNY: Given the interest in acknowledging Black female cultural figures, it’s surprising that SARAH and DASH are sitting snugly in the southeast corner with nary a nod to a fairly well known vocalist.

  10. e.a. says:

    this nyt was one of the best puzzles of the year

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