Wednesday, September 8, 2021

LAT 5:03 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:46 (Matthew) 


NYT 3:50 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 3:21 (Sophia) 


AVCX untimed (Ben) 


Jacob Stulberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Unscripted”—Jim P’s review

When I solved this puzzle using the .puz version, clues after 53d were missing. We’ve seen this problem before with WSJ puzzles, and the same is true of the version on their website. No idea what causes it, but hopefully our resident .puz expert (Martin) will be able to repair it. The pdf version on the WSJ site was fine to begin with. Edited to add: Martin did manage to fix the error in .puz file. It looks like the WSJ web app version is fixed as well.

So I solved with some missing clues, but I only had to guess at one location (see below).

Theme: BLOCK LETTERS is the revealer at 67a, clued [Cursive alternative, and the starts of the starred answers, phonetically]. Those answers start with homophones of the letters in BLOCK.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Unscripted” · Jacob Stulberg · Wed., 9.8.21

  • 20a. [*Request on a video store sign ] BE KIND, REWIND. That’s a blast from the past, and probably not a phrase today’s youngsters would know. My kids in their 20s might since we rented videotapes a lot in their youth.
  • 23a. [*Lost city of legend] EL DORADO.
  • 33a. [*”Goodness gracious!”] “OH, DEAR ME!”
  • 43a. [*Salmon’s cousin] SEA TROUT.
  • 55a. [*Bandleader who had a “Kollege of Musical Knowledge”] KAY KYSER. I’m not familiar with this name, and needed the crossings. But that still left me with KAY _YSER. Since 56d looked like _RAFT and I had no clue to go by, I considered a D, a C, and a K in that order. I suppose a G could’ve worked as well. But the clue for this entry was a great hint at the correct letter K. (56d‘s clue, I later learned, is [Big name in mac and cheese].)

The theme works. I didn’t find it all that exciting, but it does the job.

The fill is solid as well, as you’d expect from a Stulberg grid. SNOWPEA, TRICKLE, VERBOSE, ORINOCO, and ODYSSEY anchor the different sections. RIPOSTE is a nice entry as well. Not sure I can get behind TSK TSKS [Expresses disapproval] as a verb (or a noun for that matter).

Clues of note:

  • 19a. [Mineral found on Mars in 2008]. OPAL. Neat factoid I didn’t know. Why haven’t we seen this clued this way before?
  • 69a. [In need of a massage, perhaps]. SORE. Here, let me rub that for you (see yesterday’s puzzle).
  • 6d. [“Well, aren’t we special!”]. “LA DI DA!” I must’ve just filled in EL DORADO when I came across this, because it looked like another Spanish phrase: LA DIDA.

Solid, workmanlike grid. 3.5 stars.

Lee Taylor’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 8 21, no. 0908

Idiomatic phrases that mean “hurry up” are clued as exhortations to people in particular lines of work (so to speak):

  • 16a. [“Hurry up!” to a batter?], ON THE DOUBLE! A batter might hit a double (though not the “on the” part).
  • 24a. [“Hurry up!” to a dancer?], SHAKE A LEG!
  • 50a. [“Hurry up!” to a zombie?], LOOK ALIVE! Zombies? Nice work if you can get it.
  • 62a. [“Hurry up!” to an omelet chef?], GET CRACKING! Crack those eggs.
  • 2d. [“Hurry up!” to a nitrous oxide user?], HIT THE GAS!
  • 35d. [“Hurry up!” to a server?], I’M WAITING! This one feels a little backwards, because the server is the one waiting tables, not the customer.

Theme’s kinda fun, but I didn’t love all the themers.

Five more things:

  • 1a. [Chinese provincial capital more than two miles above sea level], LHASA. Really nowtwild about toeing the PRC line of Tibet being a “province,” sigh. Thought the answer was going to be some Chinese city I don’t really know.
  • 14a. [___ glass (translucent ornamental material)], OPAL. I was intrigued—I like opals and I like art glass. So I went to Etsy, where plenty of things are billed as opal glass … but they’re designed for smoking weed. Not what I was looking for!
  • 22a. [Play ___ with (make trouble for)], HOB. Definitely harder vocab. I am surprised to see a dictionary label this as North American slang. And AGUE, 66a. [Chills and fever], has a definite “old crosswordese” vibe. As does CAEN, 21d. [French city where William the Conqueror is buried].
  • 68a. [Important messenger], RNA. Gotta love our mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines against the COVID virus! I have an appointment this week for my third dose. Third time’s the charm, or maybe the fourth, or maybe never.
  • 26d. [Corrected], EMENDED. I don’t know why the English language has two spellings for this word. We all use the amend spelling. Let us remove EMEND from all the crosswords, and save it for online sewing contexts.

3.25 stars from me. Not entirely successful theme (though light and fun), and some iffy fill.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Last Stand”— Sophia’s recap

Theme:”Last Stand” – The final word of each theme answer can be a type of stand

USA Today, 09 08 2021, “Last Stand”

  • 20a [Accept the consequences] – FACE THE MUSIC (music stand)
  • 38a [Soccer move named for a cutting tool] – SCISSOR KICK (kickstand)
  • 57a [Is the most outrageous] – TAKES THE CAKE (cake stand)

It took me a minute after finishing the puzzle to find the theme here, but I was satisfied once I did. I appreciate that all of the “stands” are actual physical things, which makes the theme a bit tighter, since otherwise there are a fair number of words that can come before “stand”. I have played soccer for years and did not immediately know SCISSOR KICK – it’s a variation of a bicycle kick, done at a different angle (although Wikipedia does say that some folks consider them the same move). There are also scissor kicks in swimming (this was the association I had) and in martial arts!

Because the grid only has three theme answers constraining it, there’s space for a lot of fun with the fill. My favorite pieces today were COAUTHOR and LASAGNA – although I liked the two longer down answers ELK CROSSING and MARKET VALUE, neither of them felt particularly special to me. I learned a lot of people through the clues for today’s puzzle: conservationist TERRI Irwin and author Lolis Eric ELIE were both new to me, and I was happy to have new clues for words that show up a lot in puzzles. I also appreciated the inclusion of ARO clued as [Experiencing little to no romantic attraction, for short] – for those unfamiliar with the term, it’s short for aromantic.

Other notes:

  • Is TEA for 63a [Most consumed drink in the world] really true? Does it beat out water?? I would believe it, but this is all I’ve been thinking about since finishing this puzzle.
  • It took me an embarrassingly long time to connect the dots that 35a [Paper deliverer’s assignment] was connected to newspaper ROUTEs, not papers as in essays. I can’t get rid of my college mindset…
  • I love any reference to board games, so I loved 16a [Get a board game to the table] for PLAY. Personal favorites of mine include Ticket To Ride and Carcassonne. Feel free to let me know any other game recommendations you might have!

Hoang-Kim Vu’s AVCX, “The Long Way Home” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 9/8 – “The Long Way Home”

In recent years, I’ve loved seeing how the crossword can be used for more than a bit of daily entertainment, and this week’s AVCX does a lovely job of that, with guest constructor Hoang-Kim Vu memorializing an event and telling a story.  Starting with the constructor’s note, in case you passed it by:

Each passage was different. Some had mere minutes to decide what they could carry before fleeing to a USAF C-130. Some tried to escape nine times before finally making it to Malaysia, then Sweden. Some had to weigh the hard choice to leave their family behind when a single seat opened up. Some made the journey with their most valuable possessions sewn into the lining of their clothing. Some didn’t survive the journey at all. This puzzle attempts to honor those family stories by sharing them with a new audience.

  • 18A: Event also known as sự kiện 30 thang 4 nam 1975, which began a circuitous journey for many 12-Down … — FALL OF SAIGON
  • 12D: … who were given this name because they fled by sea before ending up in 66-Across … — BOAT PEOPLE
  • 66A: … facilities located in places like Orote Field in Guam or Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, where residents awaited judgment on their 30-Down … — REFUGEE CAMPS
  • 30D: … which was a type of claim submitted to the government in 25-Down … — ASYLUM CASE
  • 25D: … where the circuitous journey ended, in a place with a terribly complex immigration history — AMERICA

Again, using the positioning of clues to represent the circuitous journey taken by refugees from the FALL OF SAIGON is a beautiful visual way to reflect this event and commemorate these stories – I wish more tribute puzzles thought this deeply about ways (other than just putting some relevant words in the grid or making an image with black squares) the event they’re commemorating could be represented, since this is really lovely.

Have a great Wednesday!

Rich Proulx’s Universal crossword, “Auto-Incorrect” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/8/21 • Wed • Proulox • “Auto-Incorrect” • solution • 20210906

  • 52aR [Word processing feature that went haywire when correcting 20-, 34- and 42-Across?] GRAMMAR CHECKER.
  • 20a. [Pause mark that blends in with its surroundings?] COMMA CHAMELEON (Karma Chameleon).
  • 34a. [Feline-oriented section of lease?] CATS CLAUSE (cat’s claws). Is there a missing indefinite article in the clue?
  • 42a. [List of starters?] PREFIX MENU (pre fixe menu).

So these aren’t really things that would plausibly be emended by a GRAMMAR CHECKER, but they are puns involving elements of orthography: comma, clause, prefix.

  • 12d [Candy shaped like a truncated cone] ROLO. Factette: that’s called a frustum.
  • 31d [Like an endangered species] THREATENED. In the IUCN Red List, ‘threatened’ encompasses the categories of Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable.
  • 42d [Spun one’s wheels?] PEDALEDc.f. today’s NYT crossword theme.
  • 65a [Warped] BENT. I’ve recently completed watching all six series of Line of Duty…
  • 67a [Surgeon, informally] OR DOC. This doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch, but I can’t recall seeing it in a crossword before.

Fill’s smooth, theme’s copacetic.

Mark McClain’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I feel that, of the five theme entries in today’s puzzle by Mark McClain, the revealer is the weakest. FINALSEED doesn’t seem like a very specific thing, but in any case, each of the other four answers end in a synonym for seed. So we have the colourful SPORTSNUT (watching Zverev vs. Harris, perhaps); more mundane COARSEGRAIN and PAVINGSTONE; and, centrally, GRAVELPIT, which is first and foremost a jam for me:


  • [Chess result], DRAW. We all tried MATE first, yes? A Klingon beginning with E was unlikely, though…
  • [Dell rival], ACER. Just a relief it isn’t clued as the non-word for a good server.
  • [Actor Grant], CARY. Anyone else start with HUGH?
  • [Tropical grassland], SAVANNA. In my ecology classes, it was typically a grassland with scattered tree components, the preferred term locally being bushveld.


Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword – Matthew’s summary

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword solution, 9/8/2021

Many apologies for the late review; it just slipped my mind. The usual smoothness from Patrick, here.

Highlights (for me): GIVE IT TIME (20a- “You can’t expect results overnight), STAR TURNS (49a- Career-making performances), and EGG TOSS (37d- Messy game played at Easter festivals).

New to me: PINKING (34d- _____ shears (dressmaker’s scissors)) and GYRENE (13d – Jarhead). I can’t find much on the latter’s etymology at all, other than it was originally a pejorative reclaimed by the Marines.

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28 Responses to Wednesday, September 8, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I too like the concept of the theme, the fact that there are so many ways to say hurry up. And there are more of course than a puzzle can accommodate. Trying to think if I know as many in Arabic or French. Arabic definitely has the equivalent of “shake a leg”, it sounds more like ” Lighten your foot”…
    I got naticked at the intersection of LANA and MAISEL (LeNA and MeISEL? LoNA and MoISEL?) and it took me a while to find the problem after I was all done. So frustrating when the happens.
    Also, SILT UP? (I looked it up, it exists, but not that many hits…

  2. Gary R says:

    NYT: I thought the theme was kind of cute, but the first one I got was ON THE DOUBLE, and as Amy noted, that one is a little bit off. SHAKE A LEG and GET CRACKING were my favorites.

    For some reason, I’ve always thought of “emending” as “correcting” and “amending” as “adding to” – and of course, they could overlap. But I have no evidence to support my point of view.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Merriam-Webster defines EMEND as “to correct usually by textual alterations,” and I can tell you as an editor, this isn’t a word I use in professional contexts (or any others). AMEND is meatier:

      1: to put right
      especially : to make emendations in (something, such as a text)
      amended the manuscript
      2a: to change or modify (something) for the better : IMPROVE
      amend the situation
      b: to alter especially in phraseology
      especially : to alter formally by modification, deletion, or addition
      amend a constitution

      So we can see that AMEND’s first transitive verb definition covers the same turf as EMEND, as well as having other applications.

    • Gary R says:

      Didn’t like, or didn’t understand? Like “Jarhead,” it’s a fairly common (somewhat affectionate) nickname for a U.S. Marine.

      • Mr. Grumpy says:

        My father never minded it. Neither did the Gunny and the Lance Corporal who were my first scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster in the troop at Pendleton. :)

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Given that three of the letters overlap with ‘maRiNE’, that clue/answer combo was unusually punishing for this solver and stuck out like a sore thumb in this lovely grid. Unless GYRENE is a lot more commonly known than I’m aware, it seems out of bounds. OTOH, it made me look it up and read about it, so there’s that. Now, will it stick if I don’t see it again for some time? Doubtful, but I never know.

    • JohnH says:

      It sure had me puzzled in an otherwise straightforward puzzle. It sounds like a plastic or other chemical, but clearly “jarhead” (also unfamiliar to me) does not. It hardly helps that its crossing is clued with a mythical being you don’t see everyday. Fortunately, there seemed little choice, whether in potential meaning or in letter combinations, but CRONE’s final E.

  3. Mutman says:

    NYT: Did the write-up come down? Don’t see it on my PC or phone.

  4. marciem says:

    NYT: Enjoyed the theme, having frequently been the “victim” of autocorrect :D … but it seems to me like the revealer is off, being Grammar Checker, when the problems would be spell checker tricks… no?

  5. RichardZ says:

    In today’s New Yorker puzzle, is there a typo in the clue for 31A (“Bald Spot’s lack?”)? I’m not sure why it’s “Spot” rather than “spot”. I thought perhaps it was somebody’s nickname or a place name, but a cursory Google search didn’t turn anything up.

  6. Loved the AVCX. I’m a big fan of crosswords that represent people’s personal stories.

    • Eric S says:

      And yet it was completely solvable for someone whose story is nothing like Hoang-Kim Vu’s.

      I enjoyed it quite a lot.

  7. Crotchety Doug says:

    AVCX – Wow! Just! Fucking! Wow! Tears, lump in throat, what a beautiful puzzle. US Army 1968-69, Vung Ro Bay, Vietnam.

  8. MaryS says:

    AVCX – 26D is also part of the theme.

  9. Eric S says:

    AVXC: I enjoyed seeing a theme that obviously resonated with the constructor personally, but was still something the rest of us could get.

  10. Bryan says:

    NYT: I, for one, thought today’s puzzle was cute and fun. I’m a dad and I like dad-joke puns, so this was all in my wheelhouse. I got a chuckle out of all the various ways to express “hurry up,” tied to professions. The “emended” answer was my only hitch. I wanted “amended,” and I agree with others that “emended” isn’t common enough and shouldn’t be used. Otherwise, I enjoyed solving this one.

    On another note, I don’t ever solve the AVCX puzzle, but I agree with Ben’s review that I wish all tribute puzzles incorporated the tribute as beautifully as this one does.

    • RM Camp says:

      The only time I’ve ever seen EMEND was in… [drawn-out, plaintive sigh] Sunday’s NYT (as EMENDS), which is the only reason it *wasn’t* a hitch for me. Turned out to be a personal Wednesday best for me, actually, after a few lousy ones in recent weeks (and bad puzzle times too).

  11. njy says:

    AVCX: Fantastic theme idea, even better execution. Just an incredible puzzle.

  12. RM Camp says:

    The NYT is the only puzzle I usually do, but I took a look at the writeup for AVCX and noticed LAO among the answers, which is more than just tangentially related to the theme. The US was fighting in Vietnam, but all of Indochina was hot, with civil wars raging also in Laos and Cambodia. The US bombed the hell out of Laos in what the CIA called the Secret War; with nearly one ton of bombs dropped for every person there, Laos was the most heavily bombed nation in history (relative to its population), leaving 80 million unexploded bombs scattered throughout the country. There were an estimated 12,000 casualties from UXO in the decades thereafter, nearly 60 even in 2006.

    All this too led to a number of ASYLUM CASEs—my best friend growing up was the first in his family to be born here in the US after his family escaped Laos in the ‘70s or early ‘80s.

    • Kim says:

      Fwiw, there were several pieces of more-intentional-than-not bonus fill, and LAO was definitely one of them, for the reasons you describe.

  13. Crotchety Doug says:

    USA Today Sophia “Is TEA for 63a [Most consumed drink in the world] really true? Does it beat out water??”
    Good question. I would doubt it, since most any drink I can think of contains lots of water.

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