Wednesday, September 29, 2021

LAT 4:01 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 2:57 (Matthew) 


NYT 4:05 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 3:54 (Sophia) 


AVCX 6:39 (Ben) 


Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 29 21, no. 0929

What a cool theme. Find words that become their rough opposites when you add a letter, and put them in a symmetrical layout where the added letters spell out SECRET? I like it. There are other entries here that become other words if you remove a letter, but the opposite of SLOOP is neither LOOP nor SLOP, so they’re irrelevant.

The revealer is 66a. [When revealed in this puzzle, it reverses the meanings of the answers to the starred clues], SECRET. Here are those themers:

  • 13a. [*Stay in power], RE{S}IGN. Reign to stay in power, resign to leave power.
  • 23a. [*Hold on to], H{E}AVE. To have and to heave…
  • 26a. [*Done openly], {C}OVERT.
  • 37a. [*Changing gradually], {R}EVOLUTIONARY.
  • 50a. [*Doesn’t eat], F{E}ASTS.
  • 54a. [*On this spot], {T}HERE.

What else caught my eye?

  • 29a. [Unfiltered and unpasteurized brew], REAL ALE. Don’t really know what this is. It sounds … unhealthy.
  • 34a. [Helpfully pushy person], NUDGER. Not quite sold on this as an entry. And you? The audio device LEVELER is another word I’m not sure I’ve seen in this form, but perhaps we have some audiophiles who can attest to this one.
  • 14d. [Benadryl competitor], NYTOL. Pro tip: Just buy the generic store brand and save some bucks.
  • 38d. [Something with two heels], LOAF. As in the ends of a loaf of bread. If it’s a soft loaf from the bread aisle at the grocery and not a crusty loaf from the bakery, I think you’re honor-bound to call the ends ends. They don’t need a pumice like a rough heel does.
  • 40d. [Performed at one’s peak?] of the Alps, YODELLED. I’d prefer the one-L spelling, and yet I gravitate to cancelled for some reason.
  • 45d. [Dig up], EXHUME. Not enough songs mention exhuming, frankly.

Four stars from me.


Patrick Blindauer’s AVCX, “Top This” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 9/29 – “Sup?”

The title of Patrick Blindauer’s latest AVCX says it all – taking each S in the theme entries and moving it up a square creates some interesting results.  Across, it affects both the entry it’s taken from AND the entry it’s moved to:

  • 16A: Pig pen? — SWINE COOLER
  • 19A: Acupuncturist? — PIN DOCTOR
  • 56A: Place for telling whoppers? — CROCK SPOT
  • 63A: Sound of distress from Woodsy Owl? — TROUBLE HOOT

Down, it only affects the entry it’s part of:

  • 9D: Sling? — CAST CRADLE
  • 27D: One who presses charges via Zoom? — REMOTE SUER

There’s something slightly inconsistent about that (and the remaining S squares in the puzzle), but S is a popular letter in the English language and this feels pretty constrained as is.

KESHA is right there in the grid as well, but seeing TKO start off the grid made me think of this Le Tigre song, so it’s what you get.

Other nice grid things: TWO AM, UMLAUT, NARNIA, OIL RIG, and LEVI Strauss

Have a great Wednesday!

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword–Matthew’s Review

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword solution, 9/29/2021

Did you want an earworm today? Thanks to Liz Gorski, you’ve got it, with Montell Jordan’s THIS IS HOW WE DO IT (34A- 1995 No. 1 hit by Montell Jordan) right across the middle of everything in today’s grid.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but there’s flavorful stuff all over this grid. New Yorker Wednesdays have been hitting the sweet spot lately, and are high on my list of recommendations for solvers looking to add a puzzle to their rotation. Maybe there are more names and proper nouns than some people like to see in this one, but I don’t see any unfair crossings.

This puzzle does a good job managing the necessary short stuff, both in the middle crossing THIS IS HOW WE DO IT, and in the corners to supply the longer entries. I’m usually pretty forgiving of glue if it supports longer entries that bring me a smile – ESAI, EONS, and HOR (32d- Opposite of vert.) aren’t my favorite, but ABSTENTION (26d- Voter’s option) and PINE NEEDLE (11d- Fragrant tree dropping) carry more weight and open the solver up into the SW and NE corners, respectively. And of course the opposite corners have those great 10-stacks, highlighted by NUDE PHOTOS (17a- HOT SHOTS?) in the NW and DEMI LOVATO (55a- “Sorry Not Sorry” singer who came out as nonbinary in 2021) in the SE.


  • 49d- Always a pleasant surprise to see a “Moby-Dick” reference that isn’t Ahab (though I’m plenty happy to see Ahab in puzzles, as well). Here, it’s PELEG (“Moby-Dick” captain), one of the co-owners of the Pequod.
  • 40a- (Maker of primitive are) CAVEMAN. Must-read Twitter thread here on cave art.
  • 3d- (Blitz, in football) RED DOG. The whole concept of blitzing as a defensive strategy was originally called RED DOG, perhaps after Kansas linebacker Don “Red Dog” Ettinger in the late 1940s.
  • 24d- (Ducks whose males are black and white) SMEWS. This is one of those words I learned entirely from crossword puzzles, so I’m always glad to see it now that I’m a more seasoned solver. Come to think of it, there are a lot of birds I first learned from crosswords.
  • 36d- (Sweet-talk) INVEIGLE. Just a good word!

Joseph A Gangi’s Universal crossword, “Music Mix” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/29/21 • Wed • Gangi • “Music Mix” • solution • 20210929

Quickly this morning, as I’ve got some obligations.

  • 33dR [A to B, for one … or a hint to the word scrambled within each starred clue’s answer] KEY CHANGE.
  • 15a. [*Simply marvelous] PEACHY-KEEN.
  • 63a. [*Child who won’t touch vegetables, say] PICKY EATER.
  • 8d. [*Thick, creamy breakfast] GREEK YOGURT.
  • 9d. [*Willie Mays’ nickname, with “the”] SAY HEY KID.
  • 24d. [*Fond farewell] GOODBYE KISS.

This unusual arrangement of two across theme answers and four down entries (3 themers + 1 revealer) fits six theme items into the grid. That’s all the permutations of K-E-Y accounted for!

Although the grid’s a bit broken up in the center, the vertically stacked eights in the northeast and southwest corners give the enterprise some additional heft.

  • 38a [What’s impossible to boil, in slang] OCEAN. Global ocean temperatures are nevertheless rising, and that’s extremely consequential.
  • Non-KEYs: 13a [Click the wrong button, e.g.] ERR. 46a [PC panic button] ESC.
  • 67a [Copy genetically] CLONE. Not going to lie—my first instinct was TRANSLATE.
  • 4d [Shoes with Native roots, briefly] MOCSMoccasin comes from Virginia Algonquian.
  • 6d [Cry after seeing a mouse] EEK. Seeing double with that so close to GREEK YOGURT.
  • 54d [Joined a conference call] GOT ON>moue<

Stepping off now.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “React Differently” — Sophia’s recap

Theme: The final word of each of the theme phrases is an anagram of “react”.

USA Today, 09 29 2021, “React Differently”

  • 20a [Leaving no evidence behind] – WITHOUT A TRACE
  • 38a [Stackable dairy container] – MILK CRATE
  • 59a [Pick and choose from a menu] – ORDER A LA CARTE

Great puzzle today! Three solid theme answers and a punny title that connects them is what I’m looking for when I solve USA Today, and this puzzle delivers. (Well, I guess ORDER A LA CARTE feels a little put-together, as a phrase, but I’m not mad about it). Because there are only three long theme answers, there’s room for a lot of other good stuff in the grid – the four 8-letter long answers through the middle of the grid – ICE CREAM, HINT HINT, NIGHT OWL, ARMY ANTS – are all super fun, and they each cross two theme answers! The long answers anchoring the other corners (particularly the northeast and southwest stacks) also add a lot of sparkle to the grid.

Other notes:

  • 48d [“Quit!”] feels like an odd clue for STOP IT. Does anyone say just “quit” in this scenario over “quit it”? I know the clue can’t have the word “it”, but this rings a bit false to me.
  • Fave >>> FAV, imo.
  • Loved seeing two Tony winners in the grid today, LEA Salonga (who I mostly know from guesting on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and IDINA Menzel. I know that editor Amanda Rafkin is a big musical theater person, so it’s fun to see that passion in the grid.
  • So many food references in this puzzle! ICE CREAM, DAL, MEAT, PEA, DONUT… I’m here for it all.
  • Technically this could have been considered a dupe in the puzzle, but I’ve spent the entire time writing this recap laughing at the idea of BTS ARMY ANTS.

Philip Koski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “One Way or Another”—Jim P’s review

ALTERNATE ROUTE is the revealer (45a, [GPS suggestion, and a hint to each set of circled letters]). Those circled letters spell out alternatives to the word “route” hidden within familiar phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “One Way or Another” · Philip Koski · Wed., 9.29.21

  • 20a. [Maine course?] LOBSTER RAVIOLI. Trail.
  • 24a. [Lay groundwork of an idea] PLANT THE SEED. Path.
  • 40a. [Offering at many colleges] ROOM AND BOARD. Road.

Hmm. Well, I’m just puzzled as to the pattern of circles in the theme entries. I note the consistency of how the hidden words are evenly spread out, but I don’t see a thematic reason as to why they’re spread out in the first place. We usually see hidden words in consecutive letters in familiar phrases (for example, TRAIL in LIGHT RAIL), but perhaps a full set couldn’t be found for this theme. I suppose this is the next best thing.

Edited to add: Flinty Steve pointed out in the comments below that I did indeed miss a layer to the theme. The circled letters are “alternate routes” because they are made of alternating letters. Clever!

Fill highlights include AT IT AGAIN, ROLLED OVER and LITERALIST [One eschewing interpretation of the law]. Who’s your favorite LITERALIST? I’m going to have to go with Amelia Bedelia. (Book proposal: Amelia Bedelia goes to law school, ends up a judge, and lands on the Supreme Court. Wackiness ensues.)

HOT SEATS is good, but a little odd in the plural. SEACOAST is also odd; most people just call it “the coast.” I tried SEASHORE and then SEABOARD prior to getting it right. FAMINES, INUNDATED, and VOTES NO are fine fill, but decidedly negative (see yesterday’s positive-feeling fill).

Clues of note:

    • 1a. [It covers planes]. MATH. I’m thinking “covers” here means “addresses,” as a topic of study. Even after getting it correct, I still had to think about it.
    • 6d. [Epps of “Power Book III: Raising Kanan”]. OMAR. A new cluing angle for this crossword staple. It’s a Starz series and spin-off from the show Power.  It’s not a film about Apple laptops.

3.5 stars. Four stars. And this is yet another debut. Congrats!

August Miller’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Hmm… The grid design in August Miller’s LA Times today is rather quirky. Normally, if you see 15 letter downs you’d think it was a down theme, but no the theme answers are across and each of those downs intersect three answers. CASTLESINTHEAIR is idiomatic, while EXPRESSIONPEDAL is more technical.

Oh? The theme? A standard “words with” affair, signalled by TRAILHEADS. The second part of four entries matches “___ TRAIL”. There is good variety in the trails, from the specific salemOREGON(trail) to three more general trails: waterVAPOR(trail), whisperCAMPAIGN(trail), and liquidPAPER(trail). WHISPERCAMPAIGN is a pretty spiffy spanning answer crossing both down 15’s.

  • Remarks:
    [PC file suffix], EXE. Not seen much by general users anymore, at least in Windows, as the default settings hides these suffixes from users, but they’re still there.
  • [Taiwanese golfer Yani ___, youngest to win five majors] – such a bizarre career. She’s still young enough to comeback, but she hasn’t won a tournament since 2012, at the age of 23; which is when most golfers are barely establishing their credentials…
  • [__-crab soup], SHE. Never heard of it… It’s weird.
  • [Commonly injured ligament for NFLers], MCL. Medial collateral; not a cruciate ligament, as you may have guessed.


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17 Responses to Wednesday, September 29, 2021

  1. Eric S says:

    NUDGER is one of those “verb + er” constructions I normally detest (unless they’re common words like “painter”). But this puzzle was fun enough that I was willing to overlook its few bits of clunky fill.

    REAL ALE is also a brewery in Blanco, Texas, that makes some damned good beer. I’m particularly fond of their brown ale (a style that seems to be out of favor now) and their coffee porter. I don’t think it’s available outside of Texas, though.

    Thanks for the R.E.M. clip.

    • David L says:

      REAL ALE is definitely a thing, but originally (1970s) it was very much a British thing. Small breweries were being pushed out of business by conglomerates making bland beers, leading to a consumer-led pushback that coined the term ‘real ale.’

      The approximate US equivalent would be craft beer, except that real ale is served from the keg while craft beers are mostly bottled or canned.

  2. Greg says:

    The Times was fun and clever. Felt more like a Thursday. But I’m not complaining.

  3. Anne says:

    NYT: I liked it. I got stuck on YODELLED – first I tried excELLED, then medaLLED, before finally tumbling to the actual answer.

  4. Gary R says:

    NYT: The first themer I got (from crosses) was RESIGN, so I parsed it as RE-SIGN, which seemed plausible – an NFL quarterback who re-signs with his team stays in power, in a sense. (I’m a Green Bay Packer fan, so this year, perhaps I can be forgiven for my mind going in this direction). So I was a little confused. Once I got to the revealer, I understood the error of my ways, and thought the theme was clever. But even understanding how to parse 13-A, it seems like the weakest of the themers.

    Didn’t care for NUDGER or LEVELER, nor SLEETY, for that matter. I’ve heard “rainy” and “snowy” but never SLEETY (and I live where we get sleet from time to time). What’s next, “haily?”

    Always thought of NYTOL as a sleep aid and Benadryl as an antihistamine, but it seems they’re essentially the same thing – huh!

  5. Jim says:

    NYT: have to disagree — a heel is a heel regardless of what kind of bread it comes from.

  6. Flinty Steve says:

    WSJ: Those are alternate routes because they are routes made of alternating (i.e. every other) letters.

  7. Tom says:

    In re: the WSJ theme. The title “Alternate Route” suggests that every alternate letter forms a the route.

  8. David Roll says:

    WSJ–5A–Roy Rodgers part–cola? Must be missing something very easy, but would not be the first time.

  9. David Roll says:

    Thanks–that is a new one on me–I only drink the hard stuff.

Comments are closed.