Wednesday, September 15, 2021

LAT 5:32 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:14 (Matthew) 


NYT 4:12 (Amy) 


WSJ 6:58 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 3:49 (Sophia) 


AVCX 6:49 (Ben) 


Fred Ohles’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sentinels”—Jim P’s review

I’m guessing the title should be re-parsed as “Sent in ELs.” The letters EL have been added to familiar phrases. This is revealed by the entry ELMORE (64a, [“Rum Punch” writer Leonard, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme answers]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Sentinels” · Fred Ohles · Wed., 9.15.21

  • 17a. [Guy who won’t use checks?] CASH FELLOW. Cash flow.
  • 25a. [Marketer’s pitch?] SELLING SHOT. Slingshot.
  • 35a. [“YOU” said at the altar?] WEDDING VOWELS. Wedding vows. Hmm. Not sure I’d count Y as a vowel in that instance.
  • 48a. [Lion’s trail mark?] FELINE PRINT. Fine print.
  • 58a. [Deli roll with Asiago, chocolate and raisins, perhaps?] MIXED BAGEL. Mixed bag. I like an Everything Bagel, but don’t think I’d combine chocolate and cheese.

I liked these fine. Nothing tickled me especially, but nothing induced a groan, either. So, steady as she goes, eh?

The fill doesn’t feature any stellar entries though. Note the two sets of blocks on the right and left sides and how they all extend into the fourth columns from the sides, thus preventing any long Downs. In fact, apart from the theme entries, there are no entries longer than six letters, and 23 three-letter entries is on the high side. Five long theme entries plus a revealer limit what one can achieve in a grid, but still, much of the fun in the solve—after the theme—is uncovering a fresh, juicy long entry.

Did not know pop singer Bebe REXHA and I had to check and recheck that entry multiple times. I’m grateful for fair crossings.

Clues of note:

  • 53a. [Flanders of Springfield]. NED. Do you think the clue is a play on In Flanders Field? I do.
  • 11d. [Cry from the crow’s-nest]. “LAND HO!” Interesting. I’ve never seen crow’s-next hyphenated. I see some dictionaries show only the non-hyphenated version, but some show both. Anyone know the origin of the hyphenated form?
  • 21d. [Second vice president to resign]. AGNEW. The first being John C. Calhoun in 1832 over policy differences with Andrew Jackson.

Decent theme. Would have liked to see the fill shine a little bit more. 3.25 stars.

Sophie Buchmueller & Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 15 21, no. 0915

I had to ask my husband to demonstrate a HEAD FAKE, which is today’s revealer, and then I looked up a definition. The clue doesn’t tell you much if you don’t know your sports terminology:

  • 57a. [Basketball feint … or a hint to 17-, 24-, 36- and 46-Across?], HEAD FAKE. Those themers are all artificial body parts on/in the head. Your Oxford definition of the North American term head fake is “(in sports) an act of moving the head in such a way as to deceive an opponent as to one’s intended direction or move.”
  • 17a. [Socket replacement?], GLASS EYE. My Missouri friend G. has one. Lost the original eye to diabetes. Watch out that it doesn’t roll on the floor where the cat can bat it under the furniture.
  • 24a. [Canine covering?], DENTAL CROWN.
  • 36a. [Batter’s additions?], FALSE LASHES. Pretty mainstream now. And not a baseball batter—rather, one who bats their eyes at you.
  • 46a. [Old rug in a courtroom?], POWDERED WIG, Markedly less mainstream … though maybe British barristers still buy these.

Fun theme, and I like the assortment of themers.

What else? My fave fill is ICEBOXES (the outside of my kitchen has a circa 1920s ice block door, long since painted shut, TABLOID, Let’s Make a Deal‘s DOOR ONE. Hardest fill: 5d. [Like a mathematical function that changes at different intervals], PIECEWISE. I reckon fewer than 5% of solvers read the clue and dropped that answer in.

Did not know: 62a. Alliterative “Doctor” of children’s literature], DE SOTO. DOLITTLE wouldn’t fit. Apparently Doctor De Soto is a William Steig tale about a mouse dentist to the animals, and you can have it read to you here.

Signing off to catch up on some email. Four stars from me.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Minnesota United” — Sophia’s Recap

Theme: Each theme answer contains a word that ends with an M, followed by a word that begins with an N. Thus, in the grid, the MN (Minnesota’s postal code) is “united”.

USA Today, 09 15 2021, “Minnesota United”

  • 17a [“Count me out!”] – I’M NOT INTERESTED
  • 28a [Online shopping button] – REDEEM NOW
  • 48a [Occasion to rent a tux] – PROM NIGHT
  • 58a [“SNL” intro phrase] – LIVE FROM NEW YORK

I was very excited when I read this puzzle’s title for three reasons: 1. I went to college in Minnesota and love the state, 2. I am a big major league soccer fan and immediately knew that the puzzle’s title, “Minnesota United” was a reference to their soccer team, and 3. This weekend I watched said Minnesota United lose to my hometown team, the Seattle Sounders! It was my first live sporting event since the start of the pandemic, and was a great game to attend (if a little boring, being a 1-0 result. But a Sounders win is a win!)

Anyways! I had high expectations for this puzzle, and it didn’t let me down. The theme answers are all super strong, well-known phrases (although I did kind of wish REDEEM NOW had something about coupons in its clue; I kept wanting the answer to be something along the lines of “add to cart”). BONG JOON HO and NICELY DONE sparkle, and the fill overall is very clean… but honestly, I’m gonna love any puzzle where 1-across is WNBA. Did anyone else feel like there were a lot of fill in the blank clues today? I haven’t counted to see if there are actually more than normal, but some (e.g. 1d [___ up some breakfast] for WHIP) felt a little gratuitous to me.

Other notes:

  • Right after I talk about excess fill in the blank clues, I’ll mention one that I loved – 9a [The Shib ___ (ice dancing duo)] for SIBS. So crazy talented! I’ll link a video of them below.
  • I had not heard of Maddy Court, aka XENA Worrier Princess, or of Katherine Holmes, world champion in the EPEE, but I enjoyed learning more about them after I finished the puzzle.
  • The one piece of fill I didn’t love was MCLEAN, because city suburbs are oftentimes both not too well known and not very interesting to learn about (I only knew MCLEAN because I have a college friend from there). That being said, it’s a Minnesota puzzle – if we have to have a suburb can it at least be Edina?

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Stella Zawistowski’s AVCX, “Get It Up” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 9/15/2021 – “Get It Up”

Stella Zawistowski has today’s AVCX puzzle, which is on the easier side at 2.5/5 difficulty.  There’s a nice AHA with the theme once you spot what’s going on:

  • 18A: Shit-free monologue? — CLEAN COMEDY
  • 23A: Spicy Jamaican fish dish — JERK SALMON
  • 49A: “Drag Race” challenge that has featured three different Beyoncé impersonations — SNATCH GAME
  • 55A: What you do if you do the first words of 18-, 23-, and 49-Across — RAISE THE BAR

You’d RAISE THE BAR, of course, because CLEAN, JERK, and SNATCH are all parts of weightlifting!

Speaking of raising the bar, here’s weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz scoring the first gold medal ever for the Philippines.

Other nice grid things: GISELE is of German-Brazilian origins, I’m mad about being earwormed with the “Kars 4 Kids” song merely from the word DONATE, OWLET, D’ANGELO’s “Black Messiah” album is fantastic, and CLAES Oldenburg, whose massive soft sculptures are always fun to see in a museum’s collection.

Have a great Wednesday!

Christina Iverson’s Universal crossword, “Get a Grip!” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/15/21 • “Get a Grip!” • Iverson • Wed • solution • 20210915

  • 60aR [Mess up … and a hint to 17-, 24-, 36-  and 50-Across] DROP THE BALL.
  • 17a. [*Completely immoral supervisor?] BASE MANAGER (baseball manager).
  • 24a. [*Weaving instructor?] BASKET COACH (basketball coach).
  • 36a. [*Some under-the-table flirting?] FOOT GAMES (football games).
  • 50a. [*Evidently fake jewel?] SOFT DIAMOND (softball diamond).

These aren’t particularly exciting or interesting. We have three of the ‘big four’ Unitedstatesian sports—all save ice hockey, so softball stepped up to the plate. Poor soccer.

The original phrases are closely aligned with their respective sports, describing essential elements thereof.

  • 7d [Was surrounded by wavy lines, in a comic] STANK. These are a particular type of emanata, as coined by MORT Walker in his Lexicon of Comicana. Not sure of their name, but they’re not to be confused with, say, indotherms, solrads, or waftaroms.
  • 22d [More like sea salt than iodized salt] COARSER. Sea salt is available in fine grind also.
  • 23a/23d [Like the wolf in a fairy tale] BIG | BAD.
  • 26d [“Regarding, in a memo” or “Counterbalances”] CLUE. Those happen to be the two flanking this entry in the clue list: 25d and 28d are AS TO and OFFSETS, respectively.
  • 43d [“Has the meeting started?”] AM I LATE. In the grid, without spaces, it looks like the name of some sort of chemical, amilate.
  • 58d [Words before and after “is”] A BET. Very open-ended clue, and the answer doesn’t seem strong.
  • 64a [Last number in many prices] NINE. I find that gimmicky convention annoying. 27a [Irritates] ANNOYS.
  • 68a [Yards’ relatives] METERS.

Aimee Lucido’s The New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review

Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword solution, 9/15/2021

OK, I know I always call attention to the grid design (it’s the first thing you see!) but I knew I was in for a treat from Aimee Lucido as soon as I opened this one. So much connectivity!

And we start with a bang with that stack in the NW – SPIN CLASS (1a- SoulCycle offering), CAN YOU NOT (15a- “Quit it!”), and RIDE OR DIE (17a- Loyal to the extreme). Three super flavorful and in the language entries.

I enjoyed so much about this grid. For highlights, I think I’ve heard SEIDEL (21a- Large beer glass) before, but fun to learn/see it again during Oktoberfest season, a neat piece of quizzing for VERMONT (44d- State whose capital starts with its last four letters), and the juxtaposition of the *very* different disco and baroque (25d) to clue ERAS.

The southwest corner slowed me down a bit – RETAIL SLUT (51a- Los Angeles clothing store where Slash got his signature hat) was probably in my brain, but I used most of the (very fair, as always from Aimee) crossings to complete it. TITANIA (40d- Bottom lover?) had a marvelous clue that maybe would have tripped me up even more in a more indie-minded outlet.


  • 47a– I think I’ve finally locked into my head that ALI (“Always Be My Maybe” star Wong) ends in -I, not -Y. I have a similar memory hole with Rami Malek, who yep, I spelled wrong again before googling to double check.
  • 14d- I still can’t believe that someone actually named a product SOYLENT (Drinkable meal created by a software engineer in 2013).
  • 35d- (Subject of a “Mythbusters” episode involving a rolling stone) MOSS. I won’t spoil the result for you, but I will share that this was the longest experiment in all of Mythbusters’ portfolio.

Stephanie Lesser’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by Stephanie Lesser has a theme that sings its own praises. It includes five phrases meaning ECSTATIC: OVERTHEMOON, BEYONDHAPPY, ONCLOUDNINE, GLEEFUL and TICKLEDPINK.

The pinwheel theme design – two across, two down – with a bonus central seven, is one of the most balanced an usually allows for the least stressful grid filling for a constructor. In this case, there are also few medium length non-theme answers, the two longest being TUNAROLL and GREENBAY.

Mystery bits:

  • [Stephen Hawking’s journalist daughter], LUCY is a not one I knew.
  • [The “P” in TAFKAP], PRINCE. Never encountered that abbreviated; apparently it’s a way of writing The Artist Formerly Known As…


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23 Responses to Wednesday, September 15, 2021

  1. Joe Pancake says:

    PIECEWISE in the NYT is indeed an esoteric answer.

    Also, the clue is not very good. The defining characteristic of a PIECEWISE function is that the *equation describing the function* changes over different intervals.

    The way the clue is written now implies (to me at least) that the output (y-value) of the function changes over different intervals. But that’s true for just about every function, PIECEWISE or otherwise.

    • JohnH says:


      Mostly, I found the entire puzzle a little too dependent on trivia or the setter’s judgment. Abutting PIECEWISE, I also ran into INA (crossing RAE), WOAH, and DOLCE, none of which I recognized. Ditto DE SOTO. The whole theme may be a bit trivial even to many baseball fans or, depending on what you think of body parts, a little unpleasant.

      • David L says:

        I was very disappointed to see WOAH get the NYT imprimatur, even in a crossword puzzle. That spelling should be banned, by the Supreme Court if necessary.

    • Gary R says:

      Joe – I respectfully disagree with your reading of the clue for PIECEWISE. It says the “function” changes. Generically, we write y=f(x). The way the clue is written, I’d take it to mean f(x) changes.

      But I agree with the general sentiment that this is a tough clue/answer for the typical solver.

      • JohnH says:

        I have a feeling that the setters had the fill, checked a dictionary, and not having the background, misunderstood what they read. In other words, they were too clever by half.

        Both my usual references have it in context of phrases like “piecewise continuous function,” not “piecewise function.” In other words, it modifies a descriptor, and that’s how I remember it from math myself.

        A piecewise continuous function, say, is continuous however the function changes, piece by piece.

        • Gary R says:

          I don’t think that the clue necessarily implies that “piecewise function” is a common phrase (though I do think it exists in the wild) – just that PIECEWISE is a legitimate adjective to describe certain functions.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I managed it, but I agree that it had a bit too much intersecting trivia. I also felt the theme was somewhat tricky. To me, calling a glass eye a “Head Fake” with a jokey clue felt uncomfortable.
    I just learned about the history of Iditarod as I was reading up on the history of vaccination– Very cool that it celebrates the courage of mushers getting Diphtheria vaccines to Nome through truly challenging conditions!

    • Eric S says:

      I too am not crazy about the jokey clue for GLASS EYE. In January, it was clued as “Artificial object in orbit?”

      To cut the constructors and editors a little slack, Sammy Davis, Jr. is probably the most famous person to have had an ocular prosthesis — and if someone were too complain that he is a dated reference, I wouldn’t disagree.

  3. MeanMrMustard says:

    Am I crazy or did AVX have the clue “try to do something” cluing the word “TRY”. That’s just lazy garbage that breaks pretty standard rules. It’s like cluing the word “orange” with “orange-colored fruit”.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      The clue was “attempt to do something” (13D). Easy to double-check.

      • MeanMrMustard says:

        aha – they must have caught it and changed it…I printed out the pdf this morning and it says “Try to do something”

        well good on them for correcting it, I found it hard to fill that in lol

  4. John Daviso says:

    My head is spinning. It took six hours for Chrome to download on my archaic connection. So now what? I’m lost. How do I use it to get the puzzle?

    Yesterday, David L said, “This crossword-scraping business sounds kinda weird to me.”

    You’re not alone. What’s “crossword-scraping”? I Goggled it and a site came up. I have no clue how to use it to get the puzzle.

    • pannonica says:

      Six hours? That sounds beyond excessive!

      Anyway, you need to go to the plug-in’s page at the Chrome Store and find a button that says “add” (or possibly “install”). You may need to set up/sign in to your Google account, depending on whether you’re registered.

      As part of the process, it should create a black-and-white downward-pointing arrow icon on the righthand side of the taskbar near the top of your browser.

      Thereafter, whenever you’re on a page that contains a crossword puzzle, you should be able to click on that icon, select the .PUZ format, and automatically download the file.

      • pseudonym says:

        If the arrow isn’t there, click the extension icon at the top right of the Chrome window (looks like a puzzle piece) then click the pin icon across from “Crossword Scraper”.

  5. Kaia Omand says:

    A little let down with some of the fill for LAT: in what universe are YSL and DKNY competitors?

    • Stephanie says:

      The clue I submitted was ‘Designer inits.’ and I’m sure the editors had a reason to change it. Thank you for the feedback, I’m grateful, and I learn so much from this column.

  6. John Daviso says:

    I solved the puzzle with the NYT app on GAMES. It’s no wonder why Across Lite is so popular. What a drag. The font used for the clues is so small I can hardly read them.

    I’m still seeking help with using scraper. I found the site but have no idea how to use it to find a .puz file. Anyone willing to give me a hand can email me at

    • pseudonym says:

      Crossword Scraper is an extension you install on your browser, not a site. Once installed, you use it on a puzzle page to download that puzzle in .puz format. Try following pannonica’s instructions again if you haven’t already.

  7. pseudonym says:

    Glad I read about Crossword Scraper here. I’m sure I’d get used to the NYT app/burden in time but now I don’t have to. Yeeeehawwwwwww!

  8. KarenS says:

    Thank you for recommending Crossword Scraper. I still solve on paper and much prefer the printout from Across Lite, especially for Sunday puzzles.

    I enjoyed today’s New Yorker. Matthew, thanks for the terrific review.

  9. Elizabeth Block says:

    I’m not sure what the date is on this puzzle, but it’s NY Times No. 0729. I solved it, without even resorting to the internet – but: What has FILL IN THE BLANK got to do with DISPOSAL AREA, PRESIDENTS, AND NEWSCASTER? Please someone, enlighten me.

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