Wednesday, October 27, 2021

LAT 3:33 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 4:00 (Matthew) 


NYT 3:09 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 4:58 (Sophia) 


AVCX 3:30 (Matthew) 


Julie Bérubé’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “It’s a Stretch”—Jim P’s review

Welp, guess I was wrong about having Halloween-themed puzzles for the rest of this week. This one’s about stretchy things stretched out to span the grid.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “It’s a Stretch” · Julie Bérubé · Wed., 10.27.21

  • 17a. [Stretchy rope] BUUUUUUNGEE CORD.
  • 26a. [Stretchy pants part] WAAAAAAAISTBAND.
  • 43a. [Stretchy facts] THE TRUUUUUUUUTH. I like this one best because “stretch the truth” is an actual phrase.
  • 56a. [Stretchy superhero] ELAAAAAASTIGIRL. I went with Plasticman at first, but I like this answer better.

I like the idea here, but as a solver, the number of “stretched” letters felt random. Maybe I could’ve realized that we were going for grid-spanners, but during the solve, that didn’t register. Which letter got stretched also feels random, other than the fact that they’re all vowels. Relatedly—and maybe this isn’t fair—but I wanted the stretched letters to spell something appropriate (a stretchy sound, perhaps?), but I can’t come up with any reasoning behind why U, A, U, and A are the letters in question.

The fill isn’t especially sparkly, but CUISINE and “AS USUAL” are nice. However, the puzzle lost me when I got to 61a [Org. that supported Prohibition]. This turned out to be WCTU which is just a collection of random letters to me. I discovered it meant the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement Union which, per Wikipedia, aims “to create a ‘sober and pure world’ by abstinence, purity, and evangelical Christianity.” Yeesh. I can see why this entry hasn’t been seen since 2014. The other reason may be that, again per Wikipedia, worldwide membership of the WCTU stood at a mere 5,000 as of 2012. This entry is in such a small, easily-reworked section of the grid that I’m surprised it stayed in. It didn’t take me long to replace it with MENU and the word below it with PREP.

Clues of note:

  • 53a. [Shilling, in slang]. BOB. Sure, the shilling hasn’t been used in the UK since 1971, but you still hear the slang for it on TV and in song lyrics, so it’s nice to be reminded of this on occasion.
  • 46d. [Firkin or furlong]. UNIT. Never heard of a firkin before, but enjoyed learning about it. It has different meanings in the UK vs. the US.

I like the playfulness in the theme, but I wanted something more to tie the theme entries together. Three stars.

Johanna Fenimore’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 27 21, no. 1027

For my money, the funniest thing on SNL in the last couple seasons was Bowen Yang as the iceberg that the Titanic hit, on “Weekend Update.” It doesn’t break down to a single, crisply memorable short line that everyone quotes, but it’s so perfect. Today’s theme is SNL catchphrases:

  • 17a. [Classic line from the Superfans sketch on “S.N.L.”], “DAAAAA BEARS!” You gotta make that S super-sibilant. And no, I don’t know if there is a single accepted spelling of DAAAAA, with those five A’s.
  • 24a. [Classic line from the Delicious Dish sketch on “S.N.L.”], “SCHWEDDY BALLS.” A tad surprised to see this one in the crossword since it’s obvious in the sketch that the whole point is that these treats sound like “sweaty balls.” Going gonadal, are we? Also, I just watched the sketch, and I wouldn’t call SCHWEDDY BALLS a “classic line.” It’s a classic phrase included within some lines of dialogue, like “No one can resist my Schweddy Balls.”
  • 38a. [Classic opening line from an NBC sketch show], “LIVE FROM NEW YORK.” This is sort of a quasi-revealer, as the clue is different from the other four. Given all the tradeoffs in the fill, I’d vote to scrap this and just play with the other four “classic lines.”
  • 49a. [Classic line from the Wayne’s World sketch on “S.N.L.”], “WE’RE NOT WORTHY.”
  • 60a. [Classic line from the Blue Öyster Cult sketch on “S.N.L.”], “MORE COWBELL,” as spoken by Christopher Walken. Will Ferrell is a gem on cowbell.

I think the Schweddy and cowbell ones were one-offs, while Superfans and Wayne’s World were recurring sketches. I had fun with the themers, though 38a feels like an outlier and crowds the grid.

I appreciated WRAP SKIRT but the other fill mostly left me cold. I did a Google news search for IMPULSION and learned that this word is far more common in French and Spanish than it is in English—not sure I’d ever seen that form of the word before. UNLET, I IS, plural SRIS (not sure if that’s legit in Indian English), OSRIC crossing SRIS, LEA, -OLA, FEU… eh.

2.75 stars from me.

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword solution, 10/27/2021

Whoo, this was a fun one. Dense as heck with tidbits of knowledge, I learned a bunch of stuff, and the New Yorker could have run this with a “Constructor X” byline and we all would have known it was Natan. With apologies to the last few puzzles I said this about, my favorite in some time.

Edit: looking at it again, I do see a potential trouble spot at DIRAC (47a- Nobelist Paul who helped develop quantum mechanics), which crosses three proper nouns and a movie (or musical) reference I didn’t know. But those answers collectively touch on a variety of topics, and it’s not like there are *too* many possibilities.

I’ve also got the AVCX today (scroll down!) so getting right into notes, which are going to be lengthy:

  • 1a- (“___, like dreams, are made of desires and fears”: Italo Calvino) CITIES. I’m not very well-read, but I adore Calvino, and love this as a 1-Across.
  • 12a- (Crucial trial) ACID TEST. This still hasn’t clicked for me. An idiom I’m unfamiliar with? Or a double meaning of “crucial”?
  • 19a- (“Word”) AMEN. Including this to plug Natan’s crossword book from 2012; Word.: 144 Crossword Puzzles That Prove It’s Hip To Be Square.
  • 26a- (Org. for the Panthers) NFL. These are the Carolina Panthers, but could have also been “NHL” (Florida), or “ACC” (Pitt)
  • 27a- (No. 1 hit for Migos featuring Lil Uzi Vert, with the lyric “Raindrop, drop-top” (BAD AND BOUJEE). I’ve never actually heard the song? But I knew it from the clue, and it’s a great marquee for a themeless.
  • 1d- (Die Siedler von ____ (German board game created in 1995 and released in the U.S. the next year) CATAN. I’ve tried, but I’ve never been able to enjoy this game.
  • 9d- (Local positions?) UNION JOBS. A play on “local”. I love it.
  • 10d- (They may end a story) KILL FEES. I was unfamiliar with this term, and the PANTHERS ambiguity slowed me on it, but another nice misdirect.
  • 30d- (One who succeeds in a performance) UNDERSTUDY. Another deft misdirect, on “succeeds”.
  • 34d- (Musical genre that flourished after the Trujillo dictatorship) BACHATA. I like the music, I like the word, and I learned something.

Thanks, Natan!

Ben Tausig’s AVCX crossword, “Short Courses”—Matthew’s review

Ben Tausig’s AVCX Crossword Solution, “Short Courses”, 10/27/2021

Matt subbing for Ben on a neat grid from Ben (T.) this week. I needed the revealer to make sense of the circles and the “unclued” entries contained in them.

The revealer is at REROUTING (53a- Word when the GPS finds a shorter path, such as the circled letters in this puzzle provide).

Looking back at the themers, there’s the clued entry, and then the circles REROUTING the entry through another that satisfies the clue:

  • 1d- (Major African river) NIGER and NILE
  • 22a- (Storied New York City avenue that runs through Harlem) LEXINGTON and LENOX
  • 10d- (Speedy German option) AUTOBAHN and AUDI
  • 37a- (Trail named for the indigenous people whose territory it partly sits on) APPALACHIAN and APACHE

My favorite thing about Schrodinger puzzles are the versatile clues that cover multiple entries, and it’s nice to get more of them.


  • 1a- ([I can’t say it out loud right now, but hi]) NOD. Loved this clue – so much more colorful than just (Silent greeting) or something.
  • 11d- (Certain benign growth) ADENOMA. I’ve probably seen this word before, but it wasn’t easy coming in the puzzle. Specifically, it’s a gland-related growth.

Thanks, Ben!

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Universal crossword, “Above it All” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 10/27/21 • Wed • “Above It All” • Henestroza Anguiano • solution • 20211027

  • 32dR [Wildly exaggerated, or a hint to two words that can precede each starred answer’s start] OVER THE TOP. Accordingly, “over the” can precede the vertical entries’ first words.
  • 3d. [*Fictional lunar settlement] MOON COLONY (over the moon).
  • 14d. [*Fast-casual restaurants offer it] COUNTER SERVICE (over the counter).
  • 26d. [*Work week’s midpoint] HUMP DAY (over the hump). Hey, that’s today.
  • 8d. [*Iris, in Greek myth] RAINBOW GODDESS (over the rainbow).

Very solid theme. Consistent, ample. The revealer took a little time for me to parse, I was I was interpreting the revealer as implying some other pair of words, no providing them outright.

  • 10d [Kill it, in drag lingo] SLAY. As I sped through the clue it registered as a weird slang for ‘dragon’, which actually helped me get the answer even more quickly.
  • 56d [Scam artist’s victim] DUPE. I must protest this blatant dupe in the crossword!
  • 13a [Seemingly emotionless sort] STOIC. I appreciate the qualifier.
  • 18a [Get busy, as a bee] POLLINATE.
  • 64a [Negative person] CYNIC. Often said to be merely realistic. Anyway, it could have been tied to 13-across, but *sigh* I guess that would be expecting too much.
  • 69a [Lovers’ quarrel] SPAT.

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

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer contains the word “TEEN”

USA Today, 10 27 2021, “MInor In”

  • 17a [DVD extra] – ALTERNATE ENDING
  • 39a [An ample amount] – QUITE ENOUGH
  • 62a [Feature of some apartments] – PRIVATE ENTRANCE

Solid connection to the title, as there is a minor (a TEEN) in each answer. I liked that the TEEN was split up between words and thus changed its sound. Because of that change, it took me a minute after finishing the puzzle to find the theme at all, and at first I wondered if it was just phrases with EE in the middle. I’d hope newer solvers would be able to figure it out, but I’m not sure. I really like ALTERNATE ENDING, and it took me a long time to figure out the first word in QUITE ENOUGH (I kept wanting “just enough”).

Other thoughts:

  •  My favorite words in the puzzle today were the symmetric pair of QUAGMIRE and NAIL TECH, although I’ll admit that I had to get the TECH entirely off crosses after “artist” did not fit.
  • A lot of food in today’s puzzle, featuring two I didn’t know: kabocha (a squash) and yum cha (a dim sum brunch). One food I will always know, however, is the choco TACO. Good to see it back.
  • Wasabi the Pekingese won the Westminster DOG show this year! Here’s a picture of him with his ribbons in all his floofy glory.

Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Craig Stowe’s puzzle has something of a stealth theme, with no obvious theme entries. The explanation is, in part, found at SPLITLEVEL. I think I’ve seen the term, but can’t really envision what such a house could be like. In any case, as indicated by the added circles, four words that satisfy “___ LEVEL” are found separated by a black square in four pairs of theme answers.

I appreciate the effort taken in including some interesting answers in the four pairs, as sometimes this theme type can make for staid entries. Here we have MIRACLE(GRO)/(UND)O, PRE(EN)/(TRY)ASIMIGHT, INFER(NO)/(ISE)ENOW, and CANOP(ENER)/(GY)ROS.

The rest of the puzzle played quite easy for me. There weren’t too many tricky clues or proper names to work around. I wasn’t familiar with the particular ARI who is the [“Hereditary” director, Aster], but they are worth noting as both first and last names are vowel-opening. I imagine some may have had to work around [Email program named after writer Welty], EUDORA but you do get two different bites at that apple.


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30 Responses to Wednesday, October 27, 2021

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    The Tausig AVCX puzzle is excellent.

  2. Zulema says:

    I have never watched SNL and at first I feared the NYT would just be a loss, but I managed to fill it correctly except for one square in the final quote. Rather than congratulate myself, I think the constructor deserves the kudos for his managing to create this puzzle that ended up being solvable by someone like me who came from a different universe. And perhaps the editing helped also, I don’t know. Thank you all.

  3. Gary R says:

    NYT: Not in my wheelhouse. I was in college when SNL debuted. I had a steady girlfriend, and we had an active social life – so we generally had something more interesting to do than watch TV late on a Saturday evening. We had friends who thought SNL was “must see” TV, so half-watched it occasionally at a party. By the time the active social life had waned, sleep seemed more interesting at that hour than comedy.

    I know enough to get the occasional SNL cast/character name when it comes up in a puzzle, but focusing on “classic lines” seems a little risky to me – especially when a couple of them have some funky spelling involved. The only one I actually knew was 38-A.

    Crossings were fair, so I finished with no errors, but I spent a lot of time puzzling over that string of A’s in 17-A before I figured that out. Didn’t help that I grew up a Packer fan, and always thought it was “Duh Bears.”

  4. JohnH says:

    I did the WSJ last evening and came to the NYT this morning, and the first themer with its five A’s was then truly spooky. If the clues hadn’t been so explicit about cuing SNL, I’d have been slow indeed coming to the theme. Also am out of touch these days with SNL, but crossings were fine. (Well, yeah, IMPULSION isn’t everyday, but fair.)

    I didn’t want the WSJ extended letters to spell something. Maybe I expected them all to be different or, alternatively, all the same with some punning revealer for the latter, but no sweat. The elasticity was enough.

  5. Matt Gritzmacher says:

    Genuinely curious to hear from folks who rated TNY low. When I posted the review, there were six ratings, all one star. I took another look and added to the review, but I’m still interested in what in that puzzle is a con for folks.

    • Danny Link says:

      My guess is that a lot of puzzlers view it as a bit low-brow. Not the most engaging puzzle ever but SNL is culturally significant and I didn’t mind ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      • marciem says:

        He’s asking about The New Yorker, not the NYT.

        I’m curious too. I found it a usual Natan puzzle with lots of things I didn’t know but do now :) . I enjoyed it.

    • Don’t make me tap the “The star ratings are meaningless” sign.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I don’t do star ratings, but I had a DNF on this puzzle and that never leaves a good taste in my mouth. This is my only TNY Wednesday DNF to date and, though I usually struggle with Natan’s puzzles, I almost always make it through them without needing to look anything up. That wasn’t the case here. There were just too many crosses that required total guesses.

      My Naticks:
      CITIES {1A: “___, like dreams, are made of desires and fears”: Italo Calvino} crossing CATAN {1D: Die Siedler von ___ (German board game created in 1995 and released in the U.S. the next year)} … I got this one eventually since it pretty much had to be a C, assuming the rest of the crosses for CITIES were correct
      BACHATA {34D: Musical genre that flourished after the Trujillo dictatorship} crossing DIRAC {47A: Nobelist Paul who helped develop quantum mechanics} … I managed to guess correctly here
      BAD AND BOUJEE {27A: No. 1 hit for Migos featuring Lil Uzi Vert, with the lyric “Raindrop, drop-top”} and SOUKS {7A: Moroccan marketplaces} crossing SIS {7D: Black queer term of endearment} and KILLER FEES {10D: They may end a story} … this was my downfall … even after I Googled to get BAD AND BOUJEE, I couldn’t come up with SOUKS, KILLER FEES or SIS.

      TARO CAKES {14A: Dim-sum mainstays} and ANY {51D: “___ Song” (hit for South Korean rapper Zico)} also missed my wheelhouse.

      • Matt Gritzmacher says:

        Thanks! I did notice the DIRAC area when I looked another time. Didn’t even see 51D in my solve – all off the crossings.

        I’ll pay closer attention in my TNY reviews in the future, since this didn’t strike me as out of their norm during the solve or review.

      • Crotchety Doug says:

        Same experience. Thanks for putting it down in words.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    NYT awkward and unenjoyable, I nearly didn’t bother to finish

    I’m intrigued to do NYer as it’s apparently “so bad”

    I’d generally call it preachy, not culturally significant, so I’m really curious

  7. cyberdiva says:

    NYT: I had watched SNL occasionally in the past, but apparently none of the puzzle’s sketch phrases were in the shows I saw (except for 38A). I did manage to finish the puzzle, thanks to the crossings, and I agree with Zulema that that reflects the skill of the puzzle’s constructor. However, my experience on the whole was rather negative. None of the sketch phrases seemed in any way clever or amusing, nor obviously did they bring back pleasant memories of the sketches, since I hadn’t seen them. They simply made solving the puzzle more of a slog.

  8. Greg says:

    Nathan Last’s New Yorker was excellent, but, for me at least, quite difficult. Lots of fairly arcane knowledge needed. More like a Monday New Yorker, or even a tough Saturday New York Times.

  9. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT: Today’s learning opportunity … ARTERIAL {22A: Through street} can be a noun and not just an adjective. But I had to check with to confirm. Huh.

  10. A says:

    I can’t get past the popup to subscribe firewall on Newsday today…..anyone got a link.? There was a workable one posted here a while back, which I bookmarked, but that doesn’t work now either.

  11. David Roll says:

    WSJ–small matter–It is Women’s Christian Temperance UNION, not MOVEMENT.
    One of the few things in the puzzle that I knew.

  12. RM Camp says:

    Man, I haven’t watched SNL in a while, apart from clips on YouTube, but all of those theme bits clicked for me instantly. I was one second off from a Wednesday personal best, even. Maybe it’s my age?

  13. Crotchety Doug says:

    Uni – Thanks Pannonica, for my best laugh of the day with “Over the Hiccups”!

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