Wednesday, January 26, 2022

LAT 5:50 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 5:45 (Matthew) 


NYT 3:27 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 4:24 (Sophia) 


AVCX untimed (Ben) 


George Jasper’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Fifth of Beethoven”—Jim P’s review

Not to be confused with Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (the one we all know and love with its dramatic four-note opening), this puzzle refers to ol’ Ludwig’s Piano Concerto No. 5, known in English-speaking circles (ha! see what I did there?) as the “Emperor Concerto”.

Today’s five theme answers each contain a fifth of the phrase EMPEROR CONCERTO identified for us with circles.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “A Fifth of Beethoven” · George Jasper · Wed., 1.26.22

  • 17a. [Tlingit carving] TOTEM POLE.
  • 23a. [Elton John’s first Billboard #1 hit] CROCODILE ROCK.
  • 35a. [Song character “bringin’ every girl and boy baskets full of Easter joy”] PETER COTTONTAIL.
  • 45a. [Juilliard setting] LINCOLN CENTER.
  • 56a. [One might offer a riveting experience] POWER TOOL.

During the solve I didn’t give the circled letters more than a passing glance, and that was fine. It wouldn’t have helped me solve the grid anyway since I’ve never heard the phrase “Emperor Concerto,” heathen that I am. But I can appreciate the serendipity of the phrase being easily broken up into five parts. Even better, I liked the titular play on words with each trigram being a fifth of the phrase and the concerto being one of Beethoven’s famous “fifths” (along with the aforementioned symphony and his infamous Mambo No. 5). So while the theme didn’t resonate with me as much as it probably did with a classical music aficionado, I still appreciate certain aspects of it.

The bonus is that those of us who don’t know the piece have now been introduced to it. I’ve been blogging today while watching/listening to the video below. The truly remarkable thing about it is that pianist Glenn Gould was called on a Thursday evening to come in on Friday morning and play with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to replace the original pianist who couldn’t perform. Gould said yes even though he hadn’t touched the piece in four years. He practiced overnight and performed before television cameras in truly astonishing, superhuman fashion. I recommend opening the video in a new window and playing it while perusing the rest of today’s puzzle offerings. (I set the video to start in the middle, but I recommend the whole thing, and Part 1 as well.)

Back to the grid. This was a quick solve for me even though I didn’t time myself. That’s probably a testament to the smooth fill. Highlights include CUTS COSTS and CAVERNOUS [Extremely roomy], though I tried CAPACIOUS first for that last one.

Clues of note:

  • 15a. [Heater]. ROD. Got this one off the crossings. Both are old-timey slang words for a gun though I don’t think I’ve heard ROD used much before.
  • 16a. [Flip one’s lid?]. UNCAP. My mind went first to my childhood ability to flip my eyelids inside out to gross-out my sister. Wasn’t sure how to fit that into the grid though.
  • 32a. [Pro filer?]. CPA. I wasn’t sure why we needed the question mark here until I realized it was playing with the word “profiler.”

3.5 stars.

Michael Schlossberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 26 22, no. 0126

The theme is the optometrist’s or ophthalmologist’s EYE TEST. The themers read CONGRATULATIONS / ON PASSING YOUR / EYE TEST. The circled squares are the letters from the first five rows of the Snellen eye test. The trick with the eye test is to not study the probable letters ahead of time, lest you use your crosswordy visual memory to recall the letters even if you can’t see them clearly. You want an accurate prescription, don’t you?

The theme feels dryer than my eyes in a Chicago winter. (My eyes aren’t very dry at all.) Doesn’t do much for me.


By Jeff Dahl – Own work by uploader, Based on the public domain document: [1], CC BY-SA 3.0,, Link

Tree tings:

  • 25d. [Barely rains], SPITS. Nah. A light drizzle or sprinkle is barely raining. If the clouds are spitting? In the US, that’s a more unpleasant rain. The British apparently use SPITS where we’d use sprinkles. Given the geographical ties for this usage, I’m surprised the clue is so plain.
  • 53a. [Genre similar to indie rock], ALT-POP. Quick, name the most successful alt-pop artist out there. I’ll wait. (I have no idea who might fit into the alt-pop rubric.)
  • 55d. [Avenger with a hammer], THOR, with the hammer named Mjölnir. Thor’s hammer is the root of the name of the COVID-19 antiviral molnupiravir. How much do I wish Merck had included the J? So much.

3.25 stars from me. Would’ve liked the puzzle if the theme had felt markedly more playful than an actual eye test, but “congratulations on passing,” meh. Is there even such a thing as passing or failing the Snellen test? You are not going to tell me that someone with low vision is “failing.”

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Show the Door” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer begins with a part of a door.

USA Today, 01 26 2022, “Show the Door”

  • 18a [Possible result of sending a Rose] – HINGE DATE
  • 28a [Mood] – FRAME OF MIND
  • 48a [Warning on a fragile package] – HANDLE WITH CARE
  • 62a [Butt heads] – LOCK HORNS

A solid addition to the “these words all belong to the same family” lineup. I appreciate that every single one of the door words is clued in a very-different-to-what-that-part-does-on-a-door fashion. Even the closest, LOCK HORNS, changes from a noun to verb. I like when puzzles make me think about different meanings of common words, and this puzzle definitely did that. The HINGE DATE clue is a pretty deep cut, I will say – I’m on Hinge, and I needed pretty much all the crosses to understand the answer (… let’s not analyze what this says about my Hinge success). For those who aren’t a part of the wonderful world of dating apps, a Rose on Hinge is akin to a Super Like on Tinder.

As usual with USA Today, the rest of the puzzle is super clean. Here’s a rundown of the highlights:

  • Enjoyed the trio of beauty related clues/answers in 1a [Possible result of using the wrong beauty product] for ITCH, 35a [Places for balms and scrubs] for LIPS, and 32d [It’s applied before moisturizer] for TONER. I don’t personally use toner so tried to make “cleanser” fit for a while…
  • CARNE ASADA is an excellent answer, and it being in the top left helped me start the puzzle off in a good mood! It’s a long enough answer that at first I wondered if it was part of the theme (and was only slightly disappointed when it was not).
  • I tried to look up the difference between SNEAKED and snuck to enlighten y’all, but it’s late here and I don’t feel like parsing the finer points of grammar. Just know that they’re both totally valid words!
  • “She’s an ICON, she’s a legend and she is the moment” is a Wendy Williams quote, originally said about Lil Kim, but appropriated by many on the internet to be about all sorts of people, famously including Peppa Pig.
  • Do other people notice immediately when crosswords are asymmetrical? I do, but I also spend more time staring at crossword grids than the average person. The main time it was apparent during the solve was in the southeast corner, which felt incredibly disconnected from the rest of the puzzle in a way that the northeast did not.

Happy Wednesday all!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s AVCX, “Open Letters” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 1/26, “Open Letters”

Yo Dawg, AVCX and BEQ heard you like WORDLE (66A, “Daily internet puzzle game in which green indicates right-letter-right-spot, and this puzzle’s theme”), so they put a WORDLE in your crossword so that you can WORDLE while you crossword.

It was highly recommended that you print this week’s puzzle, so I did, but that means I had an extra tricky challenge (on top of this puzzle’s 5/5 difficulty) since I couldn’t tell which squares were supposed to be grey and which were supposed to be YELLOW (4A, “Color for right-letter-wrong-spot in a game of 66A”) without checking the PDF a few times.  Luckily, the WORDLE portion of things didn’t follow full crossword rules on the downs:

  • 28A: Takes precedence over everything else (or the original guess in this puzzle’s game of 66A, followed by a description of it) — COMES FIRST
  • 29A: The act of playing two notes at once on a stringed instrument (despite the name, the piece doesn’t have to end there) — DOUBLE STOP
  • 32A: Transitions, from one scene through to the next — SEGUES TO
  • 38A: An ocean away — OVERSEAS
  • 42A: Set with a strainer, salver, pot, etc. — TEA SERVICE
  • 46A: Intuition sometimes needed in a pinch (or the final, winning guess in this puzzle’s game of 66A, preceded by a description of it) — SIXTH SENSE

The way each of the five-letter segments work as words — that’s COMES with E and S correct, but in the wrong place (and all other letters incorrect), ESTOP, with the same result, GUEST, with S correct but E in the wrong place (and all other letters incorrect), VERSE, giving us E, S, and a final E all in the correct spot, TEASE repeating that, and finally SENSE as the correct word — as well as fitting into other answer words is beautifully done.

There was a moment in filling this part of the grid out where this felt impossible without the context of down clues, but realizing that each of these needed to internally be a word as well helped this all finally come together for me.  Excellent work, BEQ!

In case you’re a crossword person who somehow hasn’t found out about Wordle yet, here’s an explainer from the Today show.

Happy Wednesday!

Karen Stock and Matthew Stock’s Universal crossword, “Back and Forth” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 1/26/22 • Wed • “Back and Forth” • Stock, Stock • solution • 20220126

Fittingly, this crossword that highlights things that can be said to go back and forth has left-right symmetry. There’s one grid-spanning themer UP TOP (32a) and four vertical ones descending like legs of a table or tendrils of a jellyfish, even if they don’t actually touch the former.

  • 17a. [*Campaign strategist’s targets] UNDECIDED VOTERS.
  • 24d. [*They ring at Notre Dame] CHURCH BELLS.
  • 25a. [*Pair on a front windshield] WIPER BLADES.
  • 31d. [*Caddie’s bagful] GOLF CLUBS.
  • 35dR [Common playground fixtures … or the starred clues’ answers?] SWING SETS. Aha, the revealer makes it more specific, and even better.

No two ways about it, this is a fine theme and perfectly placed in the middle of the week.

Okay, this isn’t for everyone, but have at it if you want:

>ahem< moving on.

  • 14a [Sheet-__ dinner] PAN. Often easy and often quite satisfying.
  • 15a [“Gotta have that!”] I NEED IT crossing 10d [“Enough of that!’] STOP IT. Too proximate for me to forgive the minor pronoun dupe.
  • 16a [Seydoux of “No Time to Die”] LEA, 42d [“Casino Royale” actress Green] EVA. Bookending the Daniel Craig era.
  • Enjoyed the sequence of 20a [Wilson of “The Office”] RAINN then 21a [Where clouds “hang out”] SKY. However: 11d [Frozen rain] SLEET. 22a [Annoy] PEEVE.
  • 23a [Language family including Ukrainian] SLAVIC.
  • 38a [Apt anagram of a flower symbolizing love] EROS (rose). 63a [Adored] LOVED.
  • 69a [Leopard’s markings] SPOTS. There are rosettes as well.

  • 28d [Violinist’s block] ROSIN.

Darryl Gonzalez’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LAT 220126

In Darryl Gonzalez’s LA Times puzzle today, DIFFRENTSTROKES is clued as the TV series, helping it to fit into a 15x grid. Each of four answers begins with swimming strokes: (BACK)tothefuture, (SIDE)entrance, (BREAST)pocket, and (BUTTERFLY)shrimp. It is very odd to include side, but omit crawl.


Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword solution, 1/26/2022

This is my slowest New Yorker Wednesday ever, and I’m not entirely sure it was due to puzzle difficulty or my own brain fog. At least ten answers I felt as if I just couldn’t see despite having multiple crossings. Case in point: I can’t even remember at what point in the day I solved this.

Faves: LA COLISEUM clued to “Wattstax”; the clue for ATM; DOSA (the first time I met Erik, we ate DOSAs).

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10 Responses to Wednesday, January 26, 2022

  1. Thomas says:

    I laughed a lot when I opened the AVCX, and I enjoyed the puzzle. But it bothered me that the Wordle guesses keep using letters that have already been ruled out. Why would you guess TEASE (for guess 5!) when you’ve been told twice there isn’t a T? One time only I made a second guess with a yellow letter in the same spot, and I immediately felt like an idiot.

    But I liked it. I have a terrible compulsion when I see other people’s results to guess what their guesses were, and this puzzle was sort of that.

    • J says:

      I also appreciated the concept (and thought similarly about whether we needed to account for a strong series of plays), though with the down not checking the crosses I felt 28A had multiple valid possibilities. I ultimately put down RATES FIRST, which meets the Wordle rules and is a valid phrase but didn’t yield the satisfying success message which sent me on a wild goose chase to find a wrong entry elsewhere.

      Still a fun puzzle, and obviously incredibly quick turnaround on the Wordle trend.

  2. Alex says:

    NYT: Meh, 20/40 vision. Makes me recall the eye test that Bugs Bunny did in which he read out “Allied Trades Council” when instructed to read the bottom line.

  3. Mutman says:

    NYT: we say SPITS here in Philly when it’s barely raining, but I can see how that may be a regional thing. Maybe better to just tie it to 26A instead.

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    Another day with a bunch of learning opportunities for me among the clue/answer combos in the USA Today puzzle. I usually sail right through CC’s puzzles, even those published in the USAT, but today’s was an exception to that rule. This long time solver is trying hard to stay current, inclusive and open-minded about crossword puzzle cluing, but it’s a real challenge at times.

  5. Zulema says:

    I solved the New Yorker puzzle, but there were a few too many words and names I have never heard off. That may be my fault but then The New Yorker Monday puzzle was over full with proper names, I think all pop artists, although I would expect better from Patrick Berry. The lack of an editor shows. I have all the time in the world, so it works for me, but I wonder about other solvers.

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