Wednesday, December 1, 2021

LAT 4:26 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:16 (Matthew) 


NYT 3:58 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal tk (pannonica) 


USA Today 4:38 (Sophia) 


AVCX 7:23 (Ben) 


Big news on the AV Club Crossword front! There’s a Kickstarter for expanding AVCX from one weekly (usually themed) crossword to variety pack of puzzles each week: one additional regular crossword (with an emphasis on themeless puzzles), one cryptic crossword, one or two midi crosswords (between 9×9 and 11×11), and a trivia game each weekend. The added puzzles and games come from a terrific roster of puzzlemakers, and I’m looking forward to seeing their creativity every week!—Amy

Chuck Hamilton’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Happy Talk”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Words and phrases that are synonyms of [Really happy], which is the shared clue for each theme entry.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Happy Talk” · Chuck Hamilton · Wed., 12.1.21

  • 19a. OVER THE MOON
  • 7d. JOYOUS
  • 47d. ELATED

The story here is theme density and the fact that the two vertical grid-spanning entries (the best of the lot) are each crossing two other entries. Very impressive. I can’t say I’m totally sold on TOTALLY ECSTATIC as an in-the-language phrase or that anyone actually uses FANTABULOUS to mean “really happy,” but as a feat of construction, I’m impressed.

I could, however, do without the shorter entries JOYOUS and ELATED. All the other entries are slangy or idiomatic. These two are just regular words that only serve to diffuse the theme. In my opinion, it would be better to ditch those and help loosen up the grid.

With so much theme, there’s little room for long fill, but somehow a couple of interesting 8s (SAUCEPAN, PRE-SALES) and 7s (NETBALL, TIN CUPS) sneak their way in. I did notice more than the usual amount of fustiness in things like RESEE, “AH, ME“, MAAMS, ASTA, ELIA, A COW, and OLEIC.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Off the hook]. LIT. I must be getting better with my modern slang, because I filled this one in immediately.
  • 24a. [Marinara maker]. SAUCEPAN. Hmm. You really credit the SAUCEPAN with making the sauce?

3.6 stars.

Christopher Youngs’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 1 21, no. 1201

Homophone theme today, featuring words that sound like “air” being swapped with their sound-alikes:

  • 17a. [Play a wrong note during a violin sonata?], ERR ON THE G STRING. Playing on… I don’t know what. If each homophone is in one theme entry and one other theme clue, then this would be Eyre on the G String. But no, Google confirms that “Air on the G String” is a thing. I don’t care for the extra “air” base phrase and the inclusion of EYRE with no theme clue to pair with it.
  • 28a. [Little prince taking a bath?], CLEAN HEIR ACT. Playing on Clean Air Act.
  • 44a. [“We all put things on TV sometimes”?], TO AIR IS HUMAN. “To err is human…”
  • 59a. [Headline after Jane becomes queen?], EYRE TO THE THRONE. Not plausible as a headline, I don’t think. There’s no verb in it! Playing on heir to the throne.

Fave fill: FARMER’S TAN!

This grid’s got over 20 proper nouns. If you hate being expected to know names, did this puzzle make you a little cranky?

15a. [Literary partner of Porthos and Aramis], ATHOS, referring to the Three Musketeers. This salvages the antiqued entry MUSKETRY, clued as 39d. [Skill never performed by 15-Across, oddly enough].

I’m not seeing anything else in the puzzle that prompts me to add it to my post, so I’ll sign off here.

3.25 stars from me.

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

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The final word of each theme answer is an anagram of TENS

USA Today, 12 01 2021, “Breaking Tens”

  • 17a [Trapeze artists’ precautions] – SAFETY NETS
  • 39a [Heading for college, perhaps] – LEAVING THE NEST
  • 63a [Very much a blessing] – HEAVEN SENT

Solid theme that’s well described by the title today, which is always what I’m looking for from USA Today. It took me much longer to get HEAVEN SENT than the other theme entries, and I’m not sure why – I’ll blame it on thinking that 48d [Become wider] was about, like, a chasm, which made it hard to see DILATE, and I didn’t know Quan Hongchan so I had to get DIVES entirely on crosses. (Actually, I had DI_ES for a while and though “gosh, I hope not”). Quan Hongchan won gold at the Olympics in diving this year and is 14 years old, how wild is that??

Fun fill today in the form of DEAD LAST and DUE DATES (the latter of which I enjoyed the obstetrician-related clue for). I found the southeast corner of the puzzle to be the hardest – I had “demon” before SLAIN for 58a [Dispatched by Buffy] and “seed” instead of STEM for 58d[Sunflower part], which made all the answers hard to get! I did not know that the Chinese word for sugar is TANG, but I’ll be sure to remember it from now on. And it was great to see Jewish representation at 1a for SEDER, even if it’s the wrong holiday for the current season :) Happy Hanukkah to all celebrating!

Ella Dershowitz’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #60” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 12/1/2021 – “AVCX Themeless #60”

First off: The AVCX has a Kickstarter right now for an AVCXpansion with a second weekly puzzle, midi, cryptic, and more.  Find out more details and contribute if interested here!

Now, it’s a themeless week.  Ella Dershowitz has given us a visually lovely grid, so let’s see what’s inside:

  • The combo of PLANNED CITY (“Inorganic environment?”), THIRST TRAPS (“Posts that make you go “ugh, I know you just want me to think you’re hot, but it’s kind of working””), and PROFITEROLE down the middle is really lovely.
  • I’ve never seen an OREO CHURRO before, but I fully believe that is a dessert that exists.
  • as it turns out, “We are much more certain of what DARK MATTER is not than we are of what it is” , in a quote attributed to NASA

There’s lots of other great stuff, but I leave it there for now.  Happy Wednesday!

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

Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword solution, 12/1/2021

Dropping the grid in now, and will have to come back later in the morning for a more complete review. See you later!






Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Joe Deeney’s theme today is fairly basic in concept: HOMESTRETCH is the revealer and four entries have those letters but not adjacent to each other. What is ambitious is having three 15’s and 11’s as theme entries. Two of the four – HAMILTONMIXTAPE and HOLYROMANEMPIRE – are definitely top drawer entries; the other two, HORRORMOVIE and HIGHPERFORMANCE are solid, if more generic, choices.

Another unusual feature is having a single 15 down in the middle unrelated to the theme the meta GOOFFONATANGENT. It’s an odd choice for sure.

Other entries of note:

  • DRJ clued nonspecifically as a [NBA legend, familiarly] and a [Website for Jewish singles], JDATE intersecting at the J seems a tad precious and will likely trip a lot of us up.
  • [Orator’s art: Abbr.], RHET. Really? Who is abbreviating that and why?
  • [Org. whose income taxes are passed through to shareholders], SCORP. Is it just not being American that made this largely meaningless to me?
  • [Tanks and such], ARMOR. I mostly know this from the video game Civilisation 2.
  • [Yoga term meaning “force”], HATHA. Spelling Bee maintains this is an English word, unlike many others…
  • [Tyler of “Archer”], AISHA. I mostly encounter her in the Whose Line reboot. Nevertheless, I anticipate this name getting much more grid time…


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20 Responses to Wednesday, December 1, 2021

  1. Boston Bob says:

    TNY: Noon isn’t P.M. or A.M. It’s just M.

    • JohnH says:

      I’d have said so, but I’m slowly getting used to seeing midnight as 12:00 AM and noon as 12:00 PM. It’s illogical, but I guess a listing has have something. I just tell myself that it brings on the afternoon.

      • Dan says:

        A reasonable compromise might be to label noon as 12 N and midnight as 12 M (acknowledging that M here does not stand for “meridiem”).

  2. Billposter says:

    Anyone else having AcrossLite problems today?

  3. Billy Boy says:

    Must be slanted old as I didn’t realize 20 names – that would normally make me UGH. Then I learned PWN from Rex. Apparently spelling doesn’t count so that made it merely a mostly old slant.

    PWN, really? I looked for *typos* in that general areas 2-3 minutes at the end solve, ironically ,,,

    • JohnH says:

      I didn’t observe its being proper name heavy either. Maybe because they ran to things like LEDA and FRIDA Kahlo more than Disney, Star Wars, and pop singers, except for DEMI, which came easily from crossings. Must admit I didn’t know ISS or PWN before, though.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Note to solvers who don’t follow pop music these days: DEMI Lovato is nonbinary and they use they/their pronouns.

        ISS is usually heard as the International Space Station rather than via its abbreviation.

  4. steve says:

    This grid’s got over 20 proper nouns. If you hate being expected to know names, did this puzzle make you a little cranky?

    no, but in new yorkee: naomi osaka’s sister crossing ma rainey did, grrr

  5. Zulema says:

    Except for “PWN” and the FARMER’S TAN, the rest of the NYT’s crossword I thought was great fun. Demi Lovato is quite famous in the Jazz world.

  6. David L says:

    WSJ: I am given to understand that the young people of today use ‘lit’ to describe something that is excellent. But how does that equate to ‘off the hook’? Or is there another slang term here that I’m not familiar with?

    I would like to have one of those saucepans that makes marinara sauce. Although, do you need a different pan for each kind of sauce, or are they adaptable?

    I don’t think FANTABULOUS means happy. It means lit, doesn’t it?

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Ooh-ooh! I know this one! I certainly struggle with the language that younger folks than me use, but I do know that, like LIT, “off the hook” can be used as an idiom for “exceedingly fun” (e.g., “Last night’s party was off the hook!”). Just don’t ask me how that phrase came to have this meaning.

      • David L says:

        Thanks, that’s new to me. Somehow it sounds more like old 50s hep cat lingo. I saw Coltrane last night and he was off the hook, man!

  7. huda says:

    NYT: I found that theme a little strained. But I must admit that this type of theme is my least favorite, probably because I didn’t grow up with puns.
    After I was done, I wondered who FARMER STAN was…

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT: Grrr! It just wouldn’t be a Joe Deeney puzzle if I wasn’t frustrated at the end of it. I submitted with ‘ROs’/’MATsO’ instead of ROZ {62A: Cartoonist Chast}/MATZO {48D: Passover staple}. That one’s on me.

    S-CORP {5D: Org. whose income taxes are passed through to shareholders} is nowhere near my wheelhouse and threw me for a loop. I’m not familiar with the relationship between the clue and the answer with HIGH PERFORMANCE {22A: Like energy-efficient buildings, e.g.}. Buildings are referred to as “HIGH PERFORMANCE”? Not in my world. Why is the answer for TILDES {31A: 34-Across has one of them} plural? Either I’m missing something and that’s a pretty egregious mistake in the grid or TILDES is the Spanish word for ’tilde’ and it sucks as an answer in an English language puzzle. The crossing SO HOT {33D: Très chic} is pretty awful anyway, so that section could have used a rewrite in this solver’s opinion.

  9. Gloria Elizabeth says:

    LAT Gareth. RHET would appear in a schedule of college classes if the college had a Rhetoric Department. (1.e. RHET 101). When I was at UC Berkeley Rhetoric was a popular pre-law major. Also, I actually liked the GOOFFONATANGENT entry because, well, it literally went off on a tangent.

  10. DonL says:

    WSJ/LAT: Did anyone else notice the rather esoteric references to olive oil- i.e. “oleic” appearing in both puzzle answers today?
    55 D in the WSJ and 30 A in the LAT; somewhat of a remarkable coincidence…

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