Wednesday, November 3, 2021

LAT 4:47 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:04 (Matthew) 


NYT 3:30 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 3:32 (Sophia) 


AVCX 6:41 (Ben) 


Brad Wiegmann’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Obviously”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Today’s theme entries are comprised of familiar phrases whose final words start DE— and roughly sound like DUH. This DUH is replaced with THE with the remainder of the word forming a separate word, with spelling changes as needed. This is revealed with NO DUH (63a, [“Obviously!” (and an apt title for this puzzle)]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Obviously” · Brad Wiegmann · Wed., 11.3.21

  • 17a. [Like fish refusing to bite?] NOT UP FOR THE BAIT. Debate. Nice one.
  • 26a. [Podiatrist’s concern?] AGONY OF THE FEET. Defeat. This is an old pun and I expect the seed entry for the theme.
  • 42a. [What many an African crocodile does?] LIVES IN THE NILE. Denial. Also good.
  • 54a. [What a good book publisher must have?] AN EYE FOR THE TALE. Detail. I suppose an entry of AN EYE FOR THE TAIL might get sexist really quickly.

Now, I usually pronounce “detail” as “dee-tail,” and I think most people are similar. But I was sold on the theme by the earlier entries, so I’m willing to look past it. I enjoyed this daddish puns. If your pronunciation leans toward the dee sound for most of these, then you probably enjoyed this less than I.

Hey, it’s nice to have some long fill again! HEART EMOJI is a great entry with a fun clue [Result of a love tap?], although the question mark made me think it might be a theme answer at first. OIL FILTERS is nice as well. PIE SAFE [Kitchen cabinet] is new(ish)-to-me, so I needed every crossing. Same with SEA FERN [Branching coral].

Clues of note:

  • 6a. [High growth area?]. SCALP. Nice clue, though I went with AERIE as a first guess.
  • 15a. [Onetime home of the world’s largest pineapple plantation]. LANAI. So where is the largest? I had assumed it was the Dole Pineapple Plantation on Oahu, but everything I search for says they have the largest pineapple maze. Not sure where the largest plantation is at the moment.
  • 32a. [They hold hands]. BRIGS. As in, deck hands. Clever clue. You thought it was going to be about watches or clocks, too, huh?
  • 18d. [Exclusion-based angst, in brief]. FOMO. Been seeing this entry a lot lately. It’s the Fear Of Missing Out, in case you weren’t aware.
  • 29d. [QB famous for a 1984 Hail Mary]. FLUTIE. That’s Doug FLUTIE, then of Boston College, in a game against the national title-defending Miami Hurricanes.

Strong puzzle. Four stars.

Dan Harris’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 3 21, no. 1103

There’s a theme in this rather themeless-looking puzzle (72 words), chock full of long entries, and here’s the revealer: 54a. [The great beyond … or where each word in 17-, 24-, 35- and 45-Across might be found?], AFTERLIFE. Those other four themers split into two words that can follow life:

  • 17a. [It might be made short], LONG STORY. Lifelong, life story.
  • 24a. [Shortcuts], TIMESAVERS. Lifetime, lifesavers.
  • 35a. [Paper to fill out when asserting a claim], INSURANCE FORM. Life insurance, a life form.
  • 45a. [Pedigrees], BLOODLINES. Lifeblood, lifelines.

Two singular themers, two plurals, so balanced. Solid theme.

Unexpected to have 9-letter themers be stacked with a couple non-theme 9s, and to have nonthematic stacked 11s in two corners.

Five more things:

  • 1a. [Popular gem-matching app game], BEJEWELED. I have the classic version on my iPad and sometimes play the Diamond Mine game to pass the time before sleeping.
  • 39a. [Devices that criminals attack through “jackpotting”], ATMS. Didn’t know that term. Here’s a Wired story about jackpotting.
  • 22d. [Puller of strings], MANIPULATOR. Weird word to see in a crossword grid.
  • 34d. [Fitness center?], CORE. As in your core muscles, the abs and obliques and whatnot, that support and control your midsection.
  • 54d. [Comedian Wong], ALI. She’s got two stand-up specials on Netflix, both filmed while she was visibly pregnant and both quite R-rated. Excerpts in the video below (and like I said, salty language and some anatomical stuff).

Four stars from me.

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

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer begins with “LA”  and ends with “NY”, a la Los Angeles and New York.

USA Today, 11 03 2021, “Coast to Coast”

  • 18a [Drag queen who founded Wigstock] – LADY BUNNY
  • 27a [What something sincere might be cloaked in] – LAYERS OF IRONY
  • 47a [Fire department unit] – LADDER COMPANY
  • 60a [Bottom of the barrel, moneywise] – LAST PENNY

I figured out the theme mid-solve, which doesn’t always happen to me on the USA Today if I’m moving quickly. Knowing the LA – NY trick was very helpful, because none of these answers came to me easily at all. I love LADY BUNNY as an answer but I had never heard of her, and to me a LADDER COMPANY is just a company that sells ladders. LAYERS OF IRONY and LAST PENNY are both solid phrases, but I needed a lot of letters to see them – but luckily I got a bunch from the theme! I liked that the LA was on the left side of each answer and the NY was on the right, like a visual representation of where they are in the country. And I was glad to see my own part of the west coast represented by SEA, even if it wasn’t clued that way.

As with all of Zhouqin’s puzzles, the gridwork is extremely solid here. My thoughts on a few entries in particular:

  • I am definitely not a runner, and as such have no idea what an ENERGY BALL is – I keep wanting to turn it into “ball of energy”. Luckily the clue, [Round snack for a runner], gives a lot of help for that last word.
  • I knew 19d [Official state tie of New Mexico] was BOLO because I’ve used that fact as a clue in one of my own puzzles! As a constructor, I tend to remember interesting clues as much or more as the words themselves in my puzzles – as a solver, I’m much more likely to remember an interesting entry. Is this the case for anyone else?
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – keep giving me those specific scenario ERRS clues, like today’s [CCs the wrong person, for example]. I love them.
  • I did not know that OMAN is the only country that starts with O?? How have I never seen this clue angle before? Have I just forgotten all other cases of it?
  • During the pandemic, my entire family got very into watching the Try Guys together – They’re a YouTube group comprised of four guys (NED, Zach, Keith, and Eugene) who try all sorts of activities together, usually with comedic outcomes. And they have a video where they learn about crosswords from the incomparable David Kwong! I’ll link it below.

Emily Sharp and Kumal Nabar’s AVCX, “Higher Dimensions” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 11/3 – “Higher Dimensions”

Emily Sharp and Kumal Nabar co-constructed this week’s AVCX puzzle, with a pleasingly geometric theme:

  • 16A: Position for Damian Lillard, 2020 NBA bubble MVP — POINT GUARD
  • 23A: Utility pole climbers — LINE WORKERS
  • 45A: Drag-and-drop website builder — SQUARESPACE
  • 52A: Cuts made from the top round — CUBE STEAK

That’s everything from one dimension (point) through to three dimensions (passing through, in order, line, square, cube) in the theme answers. The fourth dimension, of course, is the time spent solving this puzzle.  It’s definitely a 2 of 5 on the difficulty scale, but it was a lot of fun.

Other nice fill: THE GANG (as in the Scooby Doo gang, “Mystery Machine occupants, familiarly”), BIG DATA, PAINTERS (“Coat designers?”), and KISS CURL (“Hair feature for Josephine Baker and Superman, traditionally held in place with spit rather than a smooch”).

Happy Wednesday!

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

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword solution, 11/3/2021

Easier Wednesday for me than the last two weeks from the New Yorker – perhaps your experience was similar.

The stars of the show from Natan today are the stacks at the top and bottom of the grid. I love the S-shape that you get with this type of stack, and especially when the stacks pay off.

We’ve got LUPITA NYONGO (clued to the movie “Us”), fun conversational entry HERE WE GO AGAIN, and MAN BOOKER PRIZE up top, and BREAD AND BUTTER, ANNUIT COEPTIS (took me a minute of picturing the dollar, and a few crossings, but a satisfying click), and SEALS THE DEAL below. All assets to a themeless grid for my money.

Right into notes, because there’s a few:

  • 15a- (Signature fabric for designer Veronica MacIsaac) TARTAN. I was stumped here until I saw the MAC- in MacIsaac.
  • 32a- (Luis of Atletico Madrid) SUAREZ. And Uruguay, in international soccer. I maintain an active dislike for Suarez – he’s bit people on more than one occasion, among other controversies.
  • 36a- (Onetime “Born from Jets” automaker) SAAB. Way back when, I learned from a crossword puzzle that SAAB was a “former” automaker. That was a trip.
  • 41a- (Person who experiences little to no sexual attraction for short) ACE. This isn’t the first time it’s been in a puzzle I’ve reviewed, but as someone who falls somewhere under the Ace umbrella I’m heartened to see it each time.
  • 50a- (Sancho Panza’s mount, for one) DONKEY. My brother and I recently convinced our mother to name her new dog “Quixote”. Big win. Don Quixote is probably my second-favorite book after Moby-Dick.
  • 1d- (Slowly, musically) LENTO. I always hate the LENTO/LARGO trap when I get to it with no crossings!
  • 5d- (Small glassy object formed from the debris of a meteorite impact) TEKTITE. Cool word, cool thing.
  • 23d- (Star of “The Lego Movie”) CHRIS PRATT. I adore the Lego Movie – I’m no expert in philosophy, but I think it’s a smart, deep movie, and the song doesn’t hurt!
  • 32d- (“___ Manos,” animated show about three Mexican orphans trained in Chinese martial arts) SEIS. I might have to look this one up.

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Universal crossword, “Go Out With a Bang” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 11/3/21 • Wed • Henestroza Anguiano • “Go Out With a Bang” • solution

Each of the theme answers ENDS (68a) with an ‘impactful’ word.

  • 17a. [Digital announcement with many recipients] EMAIL BLAST.
  • 29a. [Effect of eating candy, after the rush] SUGAR CRASH. You can read about the veracity of such things here.
  • 46a. [Late-’90s economic expansion that went bust] DOT COM BOOM. ‘Bust’ could also have worked in a theme answer.
  • 62a. [Competitive spoken-word event] POETRY SLAM.

So that works well. Approachable theme, and not particularly traumatic despite the subject.

What else have we got?

  • 3d [One trying to get good marks?] SCAM ARTIST. Great clue. 58a [Not  just pass] ACE.
  • 31d [Snack whose raisins represent insects] ANTS ON A LOG. So what then does the peanut butter (hummus?) represent? Good entry, though.
  • 44d [“Can’t wait!”] I’M HYPED. Meh.
  • 59d [You may have it and eat it too] CAKE. And therein lies my problem with this expression. It should be “would you eat your cake and have it too?” (or, as it was in an early version: “wolde you bothe eate your cake, and have your cake?”). It’s no big deal to have and eat it. Sequence matters!
  • 6a [Lunar lander’s destination] MOON. Overcomplicated it, put in MARE at first.
  • 20a [Sen. Duckworth or Warnock] DEM. An “, e.g.” might have been helpful here.
  • 22a [Understand the reason] SEE WHY. Is that crossworthy?
  • 67a [Mushroom served with ramen] ENOKI. Ooh, it’s chilly today. Ramen sounds like an excellent option.

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

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by August Miller features an interesting set: shortened forms of muscles; except with triceps not shortened as an odd one out. The rest are: quad(ruceps),glute(us),delt(oid) and lat(issimus). The revealing OUTMUSCLED was apt if not quite as cute as I was expecting. As it implies, the outer parts of five other entries spell out colloquial muscle names. I feel like one fewer theme entries would have made the puzzle better on the whole.

    Difficult? brace:

  • [Beetle relative], JETTA. Common here, but I didn’t realise they were native to the US as well. I thought Americans frowned on small, practical cars with sensible engine sizes.
  • [Author who wrote the Thongor fantasy series], LINCARTER. This crosses three entries. Not someone I was familiar with, personally.


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9 Responses to Wednesday, November 3, 2021

  1. Bill says:

    NYT has only 30 black squares in a 15×15 grid? How unusual is that? How much lower can they go?

    • Eric S says: says the record is 17 blocks.

      30 is low, especially for a themed puzzle.

    • JohnH says:

      Impressive! After that start, hard to go wrong.

      As usual, the author is far more indicative of TNY difficulty than day of the week. Monday was, if I remember ok, Patrick Berry, so not unchallenging but totally gettable and fair. Today is Natan Last, so about 10 orders of magnitude harder. After several hours, I still don’t have the bottom five rows. One can see what’s coming with six proper names in just the first nine clues. Fortunately for me, he took pity on the likes of me with an occasional highbrow one, like Arthur Miller and Ferrante.

      • JohnH says:

        Just got it at last. The Lego movie guy, motto on the dollar bill, and slang for asexual were my last to fall.

  2. Alex H. says:

    NYT: OK theme. Wasn’t familiar with BPOE as an acronym, and meh for tsar Ivan V, but both were easy enough with the crosses. I think this is the second time in less than a week that I’ve seen Marla Gibbs clued in NYT

  3. JML says:

    I have never understood the criticism for having non-themers that are as long or longer than the themers. If the result is a more open grid that’s still clean, why not aspire for a higher average word length? The themers are still symmetric and all horizontal, and there are no horizontal entries longer than the shortest themer. Loved this 72-word, 30-square, themed puzzle. Great Wednesday surprise!

  4. Crotchety Doug says:

    AVCX – Number of dimensions for:
    Point – 0
    Line – 1
    Square – 2
    Cube – 3
    Good puzzle

  5. Dave says:

    WSJ – 32 a. Never thought of watches or clocks, but had poker hands in mind.

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