Wednesday, October 6, 2021

LAT 5:57 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:01 (Matthew) 


NYT 4:32 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 3:57 (Sophia) 


AVCX 6:38 (Ben) 


Ben Zimmer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Compound Fractures”—Jim P’s review

Our constructor today is linguist and language columnist Ben Zimmer. He’s had a few collaborations in other papers, but this is his first solo effort and his first for the WSJ. He’s also chair of New Words Committee for the American Dialect Society which means he oversees their Word of the Year selection. Last year, they chose “Covid.” Place your bets now for 2021. Hmm. How about “vaxxed”?

I quite enjoyed this theme. Theme answers are phrases which feature a compound word, but that word’s been “fractured” (in this case, placed in reverse order), thus ensuring crossword wackiness.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Compound Fractures” · Ben Zimmer · Wed., 10.6.21

  • 19a. [Nonstick aluminum?] CAKEPAN MAKEUP. Pancake makeup.
  • 26a. [Defender of an attached house?] TOWNHOME HERO. Hometown hero. I like this one best.
  • 42a. [Sequence of deleted scenes in a DVD bonus feature?] OUTTAKE ORDER. Takeout order.
  • 50a. [“It’s all yours now,” e.g.?] HANDOFF REMARK. Offhand remark.

Cute, huh? I like the fact that the compound words employed here are still legit compound words after the reversal (e.g. TOWNHOME and HOMETOWN are both compound words whereas something like BALLROOM is but ROOMBALL is not). Novel theme, clever title, and fun entries. What’s not to like?

Okay, maybe that SW corner is a little rougher than usual with its glut of proper names: AHMAD, PAULO, ENLAI, MULAN, and ALAIN, with APERÇU thrown into the mix. Another tough one for me was HONUS [Wagner whose baseball card sells for millions]. But if you could work your way through all those names, the rest is quite nice. I like the defiant “SINCE WHEN?” as well as HEIDI KLUM, PAGEBOY, BELMONT, and UNHOLY alliances.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [No fighter?]. BOND. Tricksy. That’s Dr. No in the clue.
  • 18a. [Perfect, to a syntactician]. TENSE. No doubt a clue written by the constructor and preserved by the editor.
  • 42d. [Turn into a father]. ORDAIN. Priesthood, not parenthood.
  • 17a. [“You’ve Really ___ Hold on Me” (Smokey Robinson song)]. GOT A. Just putting this here so I have an excuse to embed the song below. Enjoy the original, but I would be remiss if I didn’t link to this version by She & Him which is probably best watched while under the influence.

Fun puzzle. 3.8 stars.

Jules Markey’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 6 21, no, 1006

What ho, a rebus on Wednesday? Sure. There are four COO rebus squares, pigeons and doves coo, and the revealer is 63a. [Typecasts, in a way … or a hint to four squares in this puzzle], PIGEONHOLES. Cute.

The rebusized entries are KEEP A {COO}L HEAD / S{COO}CHED, OLD {COO}TS / “WHAT’S {COO}KING?”, {COO}RS LIGHT / OIL TY{COO}N, and CO{COO}NING / “ME WANT {COO}KIE.” The Cookie Monster line and SCOOCHED are the best bits here.

Seven more things:

  • 44d. [Mongols and Mughals, for example], ASIANS. Two huge historical empires there. Mughals is where we get mogul from, and it was a Mughal emperor who had the Taj Mahal built.
  • 8d. [Customize for], GEAR TO. Feels awkward, would work better as GEARED TO.
  • 42a. [Political journalist Berman], ARI. I think he and I have a mutual friend, so I’ve known his name for a while now. He’s currently writing for Mother Jones and has written a couple books.
  • 69a. [Coffee go-with], DONUT. I don’t drink coffee; my husband does. I don’t eat donuts anymore; my husband does. Did you know that if you go off donuts for a while, when you try one again all you taste is grease? True story!
  • 1a. [Animal that’s also a plant?], MOLE. I like this clue because it stumped me. The small ground-dwelling mammal and a spy, not a botanical organism. D’OH!
  • 38a. [Consumed], ATE / 21d. [Consumed], FED ON. Is it possible for an adult human to have FED ON regular food, or is this usage strictly for things like human blood and flesh?
  • Bits of crosswordese sorts of fill: OTT ESSE LAI ANON TERR EDDA. OK on a Wednesday or too early in the week?

3.75 stars from me.

Francis Heaney’s AVCX, “They’re Here” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 10/6 – “They’re Here”

Francis Heaney has today’s AVCX, and it’s a lovely one that’s right at 2.5/5 difficulty:

  • 18A: Air Bud, after turning pro? — NBA BARKER
  • 29A: Instance of getting drunk near a hibernating bear without trying to hide it? — PUBLIC DEN BENDER
  • 36A: Had Bieber keep an eye on, while you ran a quick errand? — LEFT JUSTIN BY
  • 47A: Like someone busted for having not yet made it to the tanning salon? — PRE-SUNBED GUILTY
  • 61A: Option for those (like me, and like some characters in this puzzle) whose gender identity is neither entirely male nor female — NON-BINARY

In each of the theme entries, the M or F that would typically go in the phrases MA BARKER, PUBLIC DEFENDER, LEFT JUSTIFY, and PRESUMED GUILTY has been replaced with NB for non-binary.  Thus, “they’re” here.

Halsey, who 32D notes had their latest album produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of NIN, also identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns

Other nice grid things: BETOKENING (9D, “Standing for”), SMACK DAB, CITRUS TREE, EMERITUS, FOOD COMA, and REMITTER

Happy Wednesday!

Robyn Weintraub’s The New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review

Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword solution, 10/6/2021

The first two-thirds or so today played much easier than a typical New Yorker Wednesday, and then the bottom four or five rows slowed me down plenty. It’s been a bit since I’ve had that experience in The New Yorker.

Robyn’s typical voice shines through, with four grid-spanning entries: DONT BE A STRANGER (20a- “Hope to see you again soon!”), FAMOUS LAST WORDS (48a- Sarcastic reply to an optimistic pronouncement), IT TAKES A VILLAGE (6d- Book subtitled “And Other Lessons Children Teach Us”), and WEATHER ADVISORY (8d- Shakespeare in the Park spoiler alert?). I particularly love the reworking of “spoiler” in that last one.

Despite my slowdown at the end, I found this smooth — I’m sure the familiar long answers help plenty with that, as do plenty of entries I just plain like: AHAB, TRES clued specifically to the delicious (15a- ___ leches cake), PAEAN, GOA (33a- Indian state that’s home to the tomb of Saint Francis Xavier, in the Basilica of Born Jesus), the author CORNEL West, among others. I’M IN NO MOOD (26d- “Don’t test me”) sure looks funny in the grid, but it’s certainly in my vocabulary, and I love when a tricky letter pattern comes in like that.


  • 28a- (Org. for the Kraken) NHL. The Seattle Kraken are an expansion hockey team new to the league this year.
  • 55a- (Buddha’s hand, e.g.) FRUIT. I’d never seen this fruit before, but it’s a variety of citron. Definitely give it a Google if you’re unfamiliar!
  • 35a- (Guide for a sailor) POLESTAR. As the world turns (ha), we cycle through pole stars, but the current north star, Polaris, is one of the closest of that group to true north. There’s also a theoretical southern pole star, but there’s nothing both bright enough and close enough to true north to be as useful as Polaris.
  • 43d- (Cousin ___ acacia (fuzzy evergreen named for a TV character) ITT. Another plant I Googled after the solve, and yep, the name is apt.

Roger Miller’s Universal crossword, “Undercover” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 10/6/21 • Wed • “Undercover” • Miller • solution • 20211006

  • 60aR [2019 film whose secret agent protagonist becomes a pigeon, and a theme hint] SPIES IN DISGUISE. “Pigeon” can have a metaphorical sense, but I suspect that this is a literal avian pigeon, which would suggest an animated feature …  annnd I was correct on both counts.
  • 17a. [Alex Trebek’s closing line on “Jeopardy!”] SO LONG EVERYBODY. SOLO, Napoleon Solo.
  • 26a. [Method for determining an artifact’s age] CARBON DATING. BOND, James Bond.
  • 45a. [“I’m doing it no matter what!”] TRY AND STOP ME. RYAN, Jack Ryan.

Perhaps it’s because I’m feeling a bit luster, lack luster, this morning, but this theme isn’t thrilling me. There isn’t anything wrong with it per se, but it seems that a related set of four-letter words hidden in phrases isn’t so awesome.

  • 35d [Bring in the sheaves] REAP.
  • 32a [Earthy pigment] OCHER.
  • 62d [Name within “human”] UMA. Echoes of the theme. UMA Thurman played secret agent Emma Peel in the universally panned big-screen version of The Avengers (1998).
  • 56a [Coin that may feature the Vitruvian Man] EURO. As you might expect, it’s from Italy, specifically the reverse of their one EURO minting. I suspect the bimetallic version, pictured right, is a special edition.
  • 49a [“This means __!”] WAR. Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary, described it as “a by-product of the arts of peace” and states that “war loves to come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide the night.” Yep, pretty acerbic.

Wishing I could get back under the covers this morning.

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

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Each theme answer is the name of a woman with the letters SALE in her name.

USA Today, 10 06 2021, “Salesladies”

  • 17a [First player to dunk in an WNBA game] – LISA LESLIE
  • 38a [First Hmong American to win an Olympic gold medal] – SUNISA LEE
  • 63a [Best Supporting Actress winner for “The Fighter”] – MELISSA LEO

I’ve written before that it can be tricky to do an “easy” puzzle with a proper-noun heavy theme, but I think this puzzle does a great job of it. Even if you never have heard of one of these women before, the theme of the puzzle helps you get about half their name. For me,  despite being a WNBA fan, I didn’t immediately know LISA LESLIE, but all the crosses are fair, and once I had “sale” in place it wasn’t hard to puzzle out the rest. I remember MELISSA LEO less from her being in “The Fighter” and more from her Oscar campaign for the film where she put up “Consider…. Melissa Leo” ads all over Los Angeles and the media had a field day about it. For context of how weirdly big of a deal it all became, “The Fighter” came out when I was 12 and I still remember this discourse clearly. And SUNISA LEE is clearly incredible (Minnesota represent!)

Anyone else notice this puzzle is asymmetric? There’s an extra black square in the middle left, making HALAL and DECODE symmetric in the grid. Honestly, I’m into it. One extra black square does not affect my enjoyment of the puzzle at all – I didn’t even see it until I had finished solving. What does affect my enjoyment is fun, clean fill, and this puzzle has it in spades (especially impressive in a puzzle with this many theme constraints). All four corners have great long answers – EDAMAME! BIG DEAL! BAHAMAS! In terms of trouble spots, it took me a bit to get UNE (kept parsing [A, in French] as… just the letter of the alphabet??) and EROSIVE is a real word but my brain keeps wanting it to be “corrosive” or something a bit more common. Overall, though, a fun puzzle for first thing in the morning.

Other notes:

  • Running late to this week’s campaign? Better DM your DM(s)! (Seriously though, I’m surprised we don’t see this abbreviation much, given that both of these uses are very common).
  • Glad to see BOB and ROB clued as verbs over nouns in an already proper-heavy puzzle.
  • I liked the clue on 51d [Crack, like a cryptogram] for DECODE – felt like a shout-out to all us puzzle people.

Winston Emmon’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Odd theme, in part explained at DPS. Double plays occur when there are two outs. There are four answers which “?” style made-up entries that oddly lack the “?” warning courtesy. These all include OUTOUT. So: BOUTOUTCOME, TROUTOUTLAW, SCOUTOUTING, and SPOUTOUTPUT.


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16 Responses to Wednesday, October 6, 2021

  1. Rob says:

    NYT: Rebus Wednesday? I like it!

  2. Billy Boy says:

    Really nice little rebus but the central NE was too annoying to be fun, it became tedious and I almost lost interest (EDDA ESSE) and seemingly tons of tiny names all over for which I have little use.

    Top half was the tougher, but cookie monster broke the rebus for me

  3. marciem says:

    WSJ: That SW corner mostly names was a little unfair, IMO, but all is forgiven with a great word (apercu) starting it off… AND,

    a reminder of my favorite performance of my favorite Miracles song (with added spice of favorite Sam Cooke song), available here:

    Gets going even better at about 3 minutes.

  4. PAT says:

    USA TODAY: Second day in a row that the theme answers are names not well known and the spelling not easily remembered. I did follow the Olympics and remembered what medal she won, but not her name. I don’t find fun in this type of puzzle. I would prefer to see puzzles with clever, or funny clues or answers?

  5. R says:

    AVCX: It seems very strange to me to think of BETOKENING and REMITTER as “nice grid things.”

    • Francis says:

      I actually agree with you about REMITTER but I will defend BETOKENING to the grave

    • Eric S says:

      When I realized it was going to be BETOKENING, I felt like I had been transported to my computer Scrabble game.

      REMITTER isn’t quite so awful, but it’s not great. Hardly a highlight of an otherwise good puzzle.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    Very New Yorker

  7. Luther says:

    WSJ Twenty proper names. That’s not counting HEBrew, EDEN, BELMONT and U CONN.
    Everywhere I turned for crosses, there was a proper names, so really, 24.
    Very frustrating for me.
    The only one I was sure of was AHMAD JAMAL.

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