Wednesday, November 24, 2021

LAT 4:15 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 2:28 (Matthew) 


NYT 4:29 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 3:35 (Sophia) 


AVCX 5:55 (Amy) 


Blake Slonecker’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “So Flavorful”—Jim P’s review

Theme: QUARK flavors are found in familiar phrases (39a, [Subatomic particle whose flavors are scattered about this]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “So Flavorful” · Blake Slonecker · Wed., 11.24.21

  • 17a. [Title scarecrow in a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story] FEATHERTOP. Not familiar with that short story. More familiar with Weathertop, the hill where Frodo first comes face to face with the Ringwraiths.
  • 23a. [Where social graces may be mastered] CHARM SCHOOL.
  • 53a. [Doctor in the war room with president Merkin Muffley] STRANGELOVE.
  • 62a. [Surface of the moon?] BARE BOTTOM. Lovely clue.
  • 11d. [In trouble] UP A CREEK.
  • 38d. [Boogies] GETS DOWN.

Nice, solid theme and fun entries. A lot of them, too. Six full-length theme answers plus a central revealer is more than your average amount of theme material.

It didn’t seem to weigh the grid down though as there are several nice long fill entries: MACHISMO, CHOCOLAT, ABERDEEN, and TARHEELS along with DIOCESE and PET SPAS. And plenty of the sixes are assets as well like “BAD DOG!” and “HEY, MAN!”

Clues of note:

  • 1d. [Seconds sale feature]. DEFECT. “Seconds” refers to manufactured goods that aren’t quite up to snuff and are often sold at outlet stores.
  • 34d. [Vaccine shot]. JAB. I’m glad this terminology is catching on here in the States. The Brits have been using it for years. Have you got your flu JAB yet?
  • 40d. [Kitchen Debate state, briefly]. USSR. I wasn’t aware of this event between the V.P. Nixon and Nikita Kruschev. Learn more here.

Impressively clean puzzle given the amount of theme material. Oh, and a fine theme, to boot. Four stars.

Brandon Koppy’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 24 21, no. 1124

I really like this theme! The revealer is 59a. [Topping made with this puzzle’s chopped and squeezed ingredients], PICO DE GALLO. Now, I’m not a fan of actual pico—it’s the raw onions I can’t take. We’ve got a “chopped” ONION, PEPPER, and TOMATO in the circled letters dispersed in the first three themers, and then there’s a rebus square in FISH FOR COMP{LIME}NTS, with that lime “squeezed” into the pico. And heck, let’s make it a FISH taco you’re topping with pico de gallo.

I did get distracted by the salt, though: 1d. [1993 Salt-N-Pepa hit], SHOOP, and 45d. [Concern for one with hypertension], SODIUM. Is that part of a standard pico recipe? And no, I’m not flagging Salt-N-Pepa as a dupe of the “chopped” PEPPER.

Seven more things:

  • 57a. [Nonsubmerging W.W. II menace], E-BOAT. I know what a U-boat is but this is new to me. Awkward as hell to cross that E with an abbreviation sort of entry: 47d. [Digital video format], MPEG. If you don’t know your file formats or your WWII craft of the “nonsubmerging” (*eyeroll*) type …
  • 6d. [Omaha stake?], BET. As in Omaha hold ’em poker. This is only played in the Great Plains, of course.
  • 8d. [Opposite of radial], ULNAR. I dunno, are these bones really opposites? Seems more like they’re best buddies, partners. (Also, nobody is excited to find ULNAR in the grid.)
  • 25d. [Rosewater of Kurt Vonnegut’s “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater”], ELIOT. I don’t think I ever read that book. I wonder how many of today’s teens have read a single Vonnegut book. I read a bunch of them, but there have been decades of novels published since then, plus video games, streaming, and the internet.
  • I cast a jaundiced eye at 36d. [Big inits. in handbags], YSL—but lo and behold, Nordstrom sells hundreds of YSL bags and many of them cost over $1,000. And the YSL monogram is front and center on all of them.
  • 48d. [Real dirtbag], S{LIME}BALL. I first considered S{LEAZE}BALL but LEAZE would be a tough thing to plunk in a rebus square.
  • 60d. [Secretary of the Interior Haaland], DEB. Within the Department of the Interior, there’s a newly confirmed director of the National Park Service, and he’s also Indigenous. Chuck F. Sams III is member of the Cayuse and Walla Walla tribes. Secy. Haaland is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna.

3.75 stars from me. The theme was fresh and zesty, but the fill wasn’t up to that level.

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

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: The final word of each theme answer is the last name of a famous Amy

USA Today, 11 24 2021, “Dear Amy”

  • 17a [Rhyming description for some healthy foods] – HEART SMART  (Amy SMART is an actress currently in the TV show “Stargirl”)
  • 29a [Bit of light picked up by night-vision goggles] – INFRARED RAY (Amy RAY is a member of Indigo Girls)
  • 46a [Prize won by Nicole Fleetwood in 2021] – GENIUS GRANT (Amy GRANT is a singer-songwriter who is sometimes called the “Queen of Christian Pop”)
  • 61 [Bed alternative] – SPRAY ON TAN – (Amy TAN is the author of “The Joy Luck Club”, among other works)

This puzzle is interesting because it has a proper noun based theme, but you don’t actually need any of the proper noun knowledge if you solve it like a themeless – GENIUS GRANT (another name for the MacArthur Fellowship) is the only one clued with a proper noun, and it’s not about an Amy. I personally like this, as proper noun themes can be tricky to appeal to all solvers since everyone has a different knowledge base.

Is the phrase “Dear Amy” a thing? I’ve heard of “Dear Abby”, and Google tells me “Ask Amy” is a popular advice column, but I don’t see much for this particular phrase. After finishing the puzzle and looking up names for this recap I realized I had heard of all four of these Amys, but on a first look at the puzzle I only recognized Amys TAN and GRANT (and I mostly know Amy Grant from her appearance on “The Masked Singer”). A fun fact about Amy Ray, though – she and her Indigo Girls bandmate Emily Saliers are featured in the crossword documentary Wordplay! Here’s a clip:

Thoughts on the rest of the puzzle:

  • There’s a lot of fun long fill here! I’M A HUGE FAN of it (haha). TURNED PRO and ROOIBOS TEA are also standouts.
  • I tried to put in “foam insole” rather than the correct GEL INSOLE, so that slowed me down a bit.
  • TILL is not my preferred spelling of the word missing in 54d [Fake it ___ you make it]. Luckily I didn’t even see this clue until I was done solving.
  • 61a [Bed alternative] for SPRAY ON TAN was a bigger misdirect than I’m used to for USA Today – I was expecting the answer to be something along the lines of “fold out sofa” and was pleasantly surprised with the angle the solution actually took.


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

Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword solution, 11/24/2021

I found today’s New Yorker grid from Aimee substantially easier than the last few New Yorker Wednesdays, but I’m not complaining.

As much as I love marquee answers in themelesses, it was nice to work through a good chunk of the grid before getting to MIDLIFE CRISIS (29a- Coming-of-age drama?), and similarly have a good bit to go after REPEAT AFTER ME (34a- Swear words?). ILL SAY IT AGAIN and the Taylor Swift song WILDEST DREAMS are likewise centrally situated. All assets to the grid for my money.

To the extent that any area was more difficult than others, I did trip myself up in the SW, with “Odets” for LETTS (58a- Pulitzer-winning playwright Tracy with roles in “The Post” and “Lady Bird”) — I’m both surprised that Odets didn’t win a Pulitzer, and learning that Letts has — and “narcs” for EXECS (39a- Suits, briefly). I don’t really have a good reason for either of those mistakes, but the crossings got much easier once I erased each.


  • 1a- (One of seven in a Kurosawa film) SAMURAI. I don’t make films, but if I did, they’d have a samurai!
  • 8a- (Trilogy of graphic memoirs co-written by John Lewis) MARCH. The flagship Ben and Jerry’s in Vermont has an excerpt on the wall as you wait in line. If, you know, you’re headed to Vermont anytime soon.
  • 25a- (“Jane ____” (book originally published as an autobiography edited by Currer Bell) EYRE. I adore Jane Eyre, but didn’t know this fun fact in the clue.
  • 56a- (Planet that orbits the sun on its side) URANUS. A quick gimme, so long as I remember my 8-year-old self’s astronomy obsession.
  • 58a- (Pulitzer-winning playwright Tracy with roles in “The Post” and “Lady Bird”) LETTS. And “Ford v Ferrari,” which I enjoyed the heck out of a few weeks ago.
  • 9d- (Org. whose champion is awarded the Calder Cup) AHL. That’s the “American” Hockey League, the top level of minor league hockey below the NHL. Calder also lends his name to the NHL’s Rookie of the Year award.
  • 50d- (Morrison who was born Chloe Ardelia Wofford) TONI. All the crossword clues I’ve seen in the vein of “Sand, for one”, and I didn’t know TONI Morrison was a pen name!

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Partial Palindromes” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 11/24/21 • Wed • “Partial Palindromes” • Coulter • solution • 20211124

I’m lost.

  • 17a. [*Person on a rant? (Theme hint: Note the first word of each starred clue’s answer)] MAD SPEAKER. The first word here is MAD, but that doesn’t look like much on its own. The answer looks as if it could be an augmented version of AD SPEAK, but that doesn’t add much. ‘Palindromes’ in the title at least makes me think of reversals, but DAM doesn’t get me anywhere either. Next!
  • 27a. [*Awesome snare?] RAD TRAP. Got nothing here.
  • 41a. [*NFL rusher who’s also an official?] REF BACK. Ditto.
  • 53a. [*Some bejeweled table-tennis equipment?] KAY PADDLES. Guess that’s Kay Jewelers. Also no idea with the first word here, KAY or YAK—oh wait, I finally see it: KAYAK PADDLES.

That gives us MADAM SPEAKER, RADAR TRAP, and REFER BACK. Whew. Not the most forthcoming theme, even with the title and the hint.

  • 11d [What new babies grow?] BIRTH RATES. I get it, but I don’t really like it.
  • 23d [“No returns”] AS IS. Not theme-related.
  • 24d [Loading zones] LAUNDROMATS. Ngrams shows me that this is by far the most common spelling, above laundermat and laundrymat.
  • 20a [Word before or after “blue”] SKY. Okay, cute.
  • 46a [Pancake often served with applesauce] LATKE. I think I heard that, because Hanukkah is falling so early this year, some people may be using cranberry sauce?
  • 58a [Orecchiette pasta’s namesake body parts] EARS. It’s a very useful shape, those little lens-like discs. Not just for soups! I have yet to try the somewhat lauded and maybe-only-partially-gimmicky shape cascatelle cascatelli.

Brendan Quigley’s American Values Club crossword, “Sins of Omission”—Amy’s write-up

AV Club crossword solution, 11 24 21, “Sins of Omission”

It’s Amy stepping in for Ben this holiday week.

The circled letters are all skipped over in their Down crossings, which means Brendan got to clue a bunch of 2-letter words for a change. When you fill those squares with assorted deadly sins, you complete the Across themers, and while the circled letters appear to be unchecked, they’re basically checked by the limited options for 4- and 5-letter deadly sins that fit.

  • 17a. [Heating measurement calculated over a 24-hour span], DE{GREE D}AY. Semi-bogus, perhaps, as I think the unit is heating degree day. Without the GREED, the crossings are GAME OW WISE ON OLE, and when GREED is incorporated, those crossings become a new set of legit crossword fill: GAGME ROWS WIESEL ONE OLDE.
  • 26a. [Fastener with a single-lined groove on top], {SLOT-H}EAD BOLT. I’ve never heard of this hardware bit, personally. Along with the OW and WISE crossings, this one has DC/DOC, EA/TEA, and OWL/HOWLS.
  • 48a. [Exam with derivatives], CALCU{LUS T}EST. SAY/SLAY, PSHAW/UPSHAW (I don’t know which UPSHAW Brendan had in mind, but Grammy-winning soprano Dawn Upshaw went to my high school a couple years before I started), LO/LOT.
  • 64a. [One who brakes train cars in yards with slight hills], HUM{P RIDE}R. Oh dear. This is wildly obscure, no? I literally Googled “deadly sins” to see exactly which letters were possible here, since the Downs had a number of ways they could be completed. IP/PIP, SNOTS/SNORTS, TAX/TAXI, BIER/BIDER (BIDER is lousy fill!), –ODON/ODEON.

It’s certainly an ambitious theme, and I admire most of the sin-filled Down crossings. To have WISE expand to Elie WIESEL with letters from two theme sins? Nifty. But the actual theme answers that could hide the sins, well, they don’t hide all the sins. HUMPRIDER is not worth the payoff of committing the sin of PRIDE! It’s so meta.

Three more things:

  • 43a. [Media popular with twenty-first century composers?], EMAILS. As in composing an email, not music. Tricked me!
  • 30d. [Jared of 30 Seconds to Mars (mediocre band I once opened for)], LETO. BEQ music-career trivia! You know exactly why I assumed 43a was about music composers.
  • 23a. [Stayed mad], STEWED. “You prunes are so angry all the time!

3.25 stars from me.

Dave Taber & Laura Moll’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Dave Taber & Laura Moll’s theme is fairly subtle. There are two revealers: CYCLOPS and EYE. Every other entry has exactly ONEEYE. An extra aspect of the theme is that each answer’s clue has exactly one “I” too. I’m not sold on the latter constraint, as it explains some of the more awkward clue choices, and doesn’t add much more than an “oh” to the puzzle.

New to me:

    • [Secret fraternity memmber], SHRINER. Apparently aka Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, but essentially a Freemason with a silly hat, it seems.
    • [Guido of Baroque art fame], RENI. It’s a good thing that I is effectively triple crossed as otherwise DESI could trip a few.


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13 Responses to Wednesday, November 24, 2021

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: In a bit of crossword serendipity, yesterday or the day before I solved an archived puzzle with E-BOAT in it. I’m not a WW II buff, but I have read some books about it (or with a WW II setting). I don’t think that I had ever encountered E-BOAT before.

    And in another bit of crossword serendipity, I was just thinking this morning how, when I was a teen, I read virtually everything Kurt Vonnegut wrote, so ELIOT was another gimme.

    My first stab at [Real dirtbag] was S{CUM}BALL.

  2. stephen manion says:

    I see that there are references online to “Omaha hold’em” but I have never heard that expression. Omaha is a distinct game usually played hi-lo, although pot limit high only is very popular. No limit, which is the essence of high stakes hold’em, is rare in Omaha. In Omaha, each player starts with four cards; in hold’em, two. There is an opening round of betting and then, as in hold’em, there is a 3 card flop, a single card turn, and a single card river. In hold’em, the two in your hand and the 5 on the board are all in play to make the best poker hand, In Omaha, you must use exactly two cards from your hand and three from the board.

    The bluffing opportunities are more wide open in hold’em. In Omaha, the best possible hand (“the nuts”) is obvious and betting calculations often revolve around the player’s chances of ending up with the nuts.

    • Mutman says:

      Well explained Steve. You are correct, there is no “Omaha Hold ’em” There is Omaha (often referred to PLO, as it is Pot Limit Omaha) and there is (Texas) Hold ’em. While similarities exists, as explained, they are completely different games.

  3. BarbaraK says:

    WSJ: One more bit of elegance: UP and TOP are in the top part of the grid, and DOWN and BOTTOM in the bottom.

  4. Crotchety Doug says:

    LAT – I enjoyed this one – a bit crunchy for a LAT Wednesday, I thought. Then I got to the clue for 64D, and started reading through the clues finding exactly one “i” in every across clue. OK, ’nuff of that…. Re-read 64D clue and decided not to check the down clues. Started checking the grid for exactly one “i” in each answer, except for… CYCLOPS at 40A. That’s when I gave this one 4 stars. Then of course I had to look up how the Cyclops (turns out that they were a race of one-eyed giants) and how Odysseus and his crew got him drunk and put out his one eye with a sharpened stick.

  5. Crotchety Doug says:

    AVCX – Very nice! Almost immediately you see that the downs crossing the shaded squares do not use the shaded squares. So it’s a little like solving downs only. Figured it out at 48A, and realized the missing letters spelled lust, one of the seven deadly sins. Also I assumed that all down entries should also make sense with the correct letter added in, which turned out to be true.

    Hump rider is new to me, but a fun word. Slot head bolt is maybe a word I’ve run across a time or two before, but not a word I use. Describes a round-head or pan-head machine screw that fits a straight-blade screwdriver, as opposed to phillips-head, hex-head, allen head, Torx head, or any other kind of tool you may imagine. I’m going to start using it – slot-head. And of course, degree-day is a common enough concept, which can be used for heating or cooling.

    Good job, Brendan!

  6. Ethan says:

    Hooray! The NYT finally noticed the most exciting player in football exists!

  7. Mutman says:

    NYT: I think ULNAR was meant to be positionally opposite of RADIAL. Much like if I am talking face to face with Amy, I am opposite her. (We won’t bother with specific viewpoints :O)

  8. R says:

    AVCX: I love the concept, but three (!) of the themers are obscure and boring phrases without real crosses to help. Trying to run through the seven deadly sins and plunk them in to make some kind of sense of the phrases was doubleplusunfun.

    • Eric H says:

      I wouldn’t say it was that bad, but it won’t be on my list of best AVCX puzzles (or best BEQ puzzles, for that matter). HUMPRIDER is the only theme answer with much zing, and I don’t recall ever hearing it before.

      You’d think there would be more interesting words that include the sins.

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