Thursday, March 3, 2022

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 5:32 (GRAB) 


NYT 10:46 (Ben) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


USA Today 3:13 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


Winston Emmons’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Homo Erectus”—Jim P’s review

I often try to guess how the theme will play out based on the title. Sometimes I even get it right, like today.

The theme answers are all names (of men) that all contain MAN somewhere within. The MAN portion turns upward before returning back to the Across entry. The revealer is an apt “MAN UP” (57d, [“Get a backbone!” (and a feature of four of the puzzle’s answers)]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Homo Erectus” · Winston Emmons · Thu., 3.3.22

  • 20a. [Novelist who used the alias Joseph Anton during nine years in hiding] SAL(MAN) RUSHDIE with 4d ENAMEL.
  • 36a. [“The Pink Panther Theme” composer] HENRY (MAN)CINI with 9d FILE NAME.
  • 44a. [“Wisdom is organized life” philosopher] IM(MAN)UEL KANT with 35d NAMU.
  • 61a. [World leader born in the village of Mvezo] NELSON (MAN)DELA with 50d NAM.

I’m not sure why all the theme answers are famous names nor why they’re all men. I guess it’s a nod toward consistency. But I wouldn’t have objected to including some women in here. Mandy Moore, Barbara Mandrell, and Nicole Kidman were probably available for this gig.

There are a lot of other proper names aside from these, so if proper names aren’t your thing, this was probably a slog. Let’s see, we’ve got ERIN Burnett, Ilhan OMAR, Sally Field character EDNA, Tiger Woods ex ELIN, baseball’s ALOU family, old actor Leon AMES, clownfish NEMO, RONA Barrett, DELLA Street, and OVID. Whew, I didn’t realize there were that many. Some of those could have been reclued as something else (like AMES), and that crossing of ELIN and OLIOS is not pretty. At least ENID was clued as the Oklahoma city. But we have to be well over the limit with proper names in one puzzle here.

Highlights include GO DUTCH, LAB RAT, TORNADO, and “I SEE IT!”

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [It may be bald]. PATE. Who else tried TIRE here?
  • 9a. [Angel in Venezuela, e.g.]. FALLS. Bleh. No, not really. Angel Falls are the falls in Venezuela.
  • 60d. [Mushroom or balloon]. GROW. Not nouns, but verbs. I like this clue.
  • 62d. [It makes waves]. SINE. Um, really? Mathematicians, you cool with this clue? Because it strikes me as dubious.

It’s a good theme, but I can’t say it did a lot for me. And the fill, though it had some highlights, felt very gluey. 3.25 stars.

Sam Acker’s Fireball Crossword, “I Can’t Be Seen” – Jenni’s write-up

The title had me thinking there would be I’s missing from each theme answer. Not exactly. I had no idea what was going on until I found the revealer – both of them – and the aha! moment was very satisfying.

10d is [Typical law school stint] which should be THREE YEARS. There are only four letters. I wondered if there was a rebus of some sort and figured I’d keep going until something made sense. 32a [Bird with a long brushlike tongue] clearly wasn’t HON, so maybe HERON? Hmm. So I went on and remained mystified. Then I got to 52d [With 55-Down, narrow-mindedness…or what you need to see your way through this puzzle]. That turned out to be TUNNEL VISION, so then I thought maybe the missing letters were somewhere else in the grid. I couldn’t find them. Finally I got to 44a [Fight results, maybe…and the theme of this puzzle] which is BLACK EYES. So maybe the letters EYE are in the BLACK squares? That’s it! The three black squares that stand in for EYE are a TUNNEL leading to the rest of the answer. Aha!

I’m showing you Peter’s grid instead of mine because it has the EYEs filled in, which makes it clearer.

Fireball, March 2, 2022, Sam Acker, “I Can’t Be Seen,” solution grid

  • 1od turns out to be THRE with the EYE connecting to 34a, [Horace’s “___ Poetica”], ARS.
  • 32a isn’t HERON but HON[EYE]ATER. The EYE tunnel takes us to 6d, RETA for [Actress Shaw of “The Ghost & Mrs. Muir].
  • 35a, [Catcher who was a co-MVP of the 1981 World Series] is STEV[EYE]AGER. The light at the end of the tunnel is 38a, [Stress it’s said].

RETA Shaw and STEVE YEAGER are both a bit obscure. The crossings are all fair (well, I guess if you don’t know the band ELO they might not seem that way, but I think if you’ve done any crosswords at all you will figure that out) and the obscurity is OK with me in service of a well-executed, fresh theme. I really enjoyed this one.

A few other things:

  • I dropped in IFFIER for [Less certain] at 1a. Nope. It’s DICIER.
  • 29a [AV club member?] is AUDIO. We had an AV Squad, not club, and girls weren’t allowed to be part of it until the end of my 5th grade year.
  • 25d [“Give me deets!”] is DO SAY. “DO TELL” sounds much more likely to my ear. Google NGram Viewer disagrees with me but it can’t speak to the idiomatic use of the phrase. Is it an idiom? Please discuss.
  • 53a [“Lux et ___” (motto of Franklin & Marshall College)] seems unnecessary. There are other ways to clue LEX. I know Peter wants new clues all the time. Sometimes it’s better to repeat something than to stretch too far.
  • 67d [Body shot?], on the other hand, is a great clue for MRI.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that “Emu Today & Tomorrow” is a thing that exists. See for yourself – but be warned! The banner photo is a bit unsettling.


August Lee-Kovach’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #0303 – 3/03/2022

I spent far too long on today’s puzzle trying to figure out how rebus squares worked:

  • 16A: *Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur — HIGLIDAYS
  • 25A: *The wolf in “Peter and the Wolf” — FRENCRNS
  • 42A: *Cape Cod retreats — BEACUSES
  • 56A: *Last possible second — ELEVENTUR

I could tell HHO was in the theme answers, but it wasn’t working with the downs.  Of course, 35A really spells it out:

  • 35A: Simple recipe instruction … or a hint to the answers to the four starred clues — JUST ADD WATER

I was definitely trying to add water to the grid, but you’re supposed to enter the HHO-free versions in the grid.  Re-hydrated, we’ve got HIG(H HO)LIDAYS, FRENC(H HO)RNS, BEAC(H HO)USES, and ELEVENT(H HO)UR.

Speaking of BEACH HOUSES, the Baltimore band of that name is currently celebrating having the album with the highest amount of physical sales this week with their newest, Once Twice Melody.  It’s pretty great.

Elsewhere in the fill: DRAG RACES!  DEMENTORs!  JANE EYRE?

Happy Thursday!

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by Jeffrey Wechsler features a theme basd on a collection of similar idioms, with an interesting presentation of said, all of which are clued basically. The puzzle’s final two across answers are THE/WHOLE and each of PACKAGE, SCHMEAR, ENCHILADA, SHOOTINGMATCH, THING and WORKS can be completed by that. I’ve personally never heard of THEWHOLEWORKS, only THEWORKS, but it’s in the dictionary?

The grid was carefully designed and well balanced. For better or worse, there wasn’t a lot that stood out. The two longest non-theme entries were GOODPICK and ITSAWASH, the former a little contrived, but guessable.


Ada Nicolle’s USA Today Crossword, “All of It” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer is of the form _ALL OF ___. 

USA Today, 03 03 2022, “All of It”

  • 20a [Greats are inducted into it] – HALL OF FAME
  • 36a [Home to the busiest transit station in Minnesota] – MALL OF AMERICA
  • 53a [Incredibly lively person] – BALL OF FIRE

Crazy busy day for me today, so just some quick notes on the puzzle:

  • Great theme! I didn’t realize how all of these common phrases followed the same pattern, and learning things like that is one of my favorite things about solving crosswords. As someone who has taken public transit to the MALL OF AMERICA many times, the mall itself feels much busier than the transit station does.
  • I loved how spacious the grid felt – each of the corners was chock-full of long interesting answers (WAIT A SEC being the standout, in my opinion) and no area felt too overrun by 3s.
  • Being a Seattleite, I appreciate any SLEEPLESS in Seattle reference, but today’s felt incredibly apt as it crossed the word BEDS!
  • Other two favorite moments: the angle on the IPOD clue at 29d [Music device referenced in Iyaz’s “Replay”] (This is how I know Ada and I are in the same age bracket; this song was huge in like 2009 when I was in middle school, so this answer was immediate for me), and learning a new clue for NAT with 40d [Singer Puff, aka Left at London], which is my brother’s name!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1449, “How Embarrassing”—Darby’s review

Theme: The theme answers include a stacked set in which STEP appears in each top answer and RAKE in the answer underneath.

Revealer: 64a [“Suffer embarrassment by your own actions, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme”] STEP ON A RAKE

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1449, “How Embarrassing” solution 3/3/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1449, “How Embarrassing” solution 3/3/2022

Theme Answers

  • 17a [“Civilian cleaning up in the park, e.g.] WASTE PICKER / 20a [“Marsh birds”] CRAKES
  • 33a [“Detecting of umami, say”] TASTE PERCEPTION / 37a [“It keeps your car in place, for short”] EBRAKE
  • 45a [“They provide Aquafresh automatically”] TOOTHPASTE PUMPS / 51A [“52-Across rapper”] DRAKE

It took me until I read the comments on this post to figure out the theme, so thanks to theWil E. Coyote stepping on a rake team of commenters for help! I had a hard time with a few of the RAKE answers, like EBRAKE and CRAKES and caught both of them on the crosses. TASTE PERCEPTION also threw me off a bit. However, I thought that this bit of slapstick humor was such a fun and clever puzzle theme. It didn’t feel like any of the answers were too heavy of duplicates. It’s also pretty impressive that this grid maintained its symmetry throughout.

I thought it was interesting that the USSR was clued as 3d [“Where Volodymyr Zelenskyy”] was born. I appreciated the inclusion of Zelenskky considering the injustice of Russia’s invasion; However, I feel like this dichotomy doesn’t accurately portray Ukraine’s sovereignty. Outside of that, I liked IN A SPIN a lot, as well as TAB STOP. 22d [“Flat land”] PLATEAU was also fun to see, as was 34d [“Wrestling partnership”] TAG TEAM.

That’s all from me. Sorry for the late post. I’ll see y’all first thing tomorrow.


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21 Responses to Thursday, March 3, 2022

  1. Squidley Juan says:

    WS Journal: Sigh. Ok, so we have the title “Homo Erectus” and we all know what that means. Based on the title, I have a fair idea what’s to come, and sure enough, there it is. That’s all fine and dandy. Then it turns out that all four themers are men (big surprise) As Jim P said, very easily, you could have put at least two women in there to even it up. How about a great name, like Harriet Tubman? Or if you want to be really inclusive, how about a non-binary person? Amandla Stenberg?

    Fine, you want all men. Then I guess you need to sum it all up with your revealer MAN-UP. Because why? All women and non-binary are cowards? Enough of this macho bullsh!t already.

    Now if the entire theme wasn’t sexist, I could let the puzzle get away with “Demanding sort” as DIVA, because it’s a phrase (not a good one, but ok, it’s there). As is, your entire work is telling the world that men are brave, let’s just say it outright, “Men are brave and women are whiners and demanding.”

    Now if this sexist dung isn’t enough, let’s train killer whales to be circus actors at the same time.

    Total Garbage

    • pannonica says:

      Nothing erroneous in the above comment.

    • David Roll says:

      Did you forget to take your meds?

    • Gary R says:

      I don’t see much of a problem here. Yes, the theme entries are all men, but at least there’s a little diversity there – a Black man and an Indian-born man. Many women’s names, as both you and Jim point out, could have worked as well, but I think going with all men is reasonable, given the theme.

      And in the fill, it seems that the constructor and/or editor attempted to balance things out a bit. The proper names are mostly women, including the Somali Ilhan Omar. There’s also 2-D clued by the name of the Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson. Even the Dominican ALOUs are clued not as any particular baseball player, but by their “matronymic” family name.

      DIVA could certainly have been clued in a more neutral way.

      MAN UP as a revealer is a visual description of the theme, not some characterization of the men who comprise the theme. One could certainly describe Nelson Mandela as “brave,” and perhaps Rushdie, too. But that wouldn’t be a likely adjective for Kant or Mancini.

    • dh says:

      A person undergoes a Rorsach test in a psychiatrist’s office – and invariably sees sexual references in all the images. “I think you are obsessive about sex!” says the doctor. “Me?” says the patient, “They’re your pictures!”

      How are you at Scrabble?

  2. David L says:

    NW corner of the NYT took me forever to figure out. 1A: ORBS, CARS, GODS? 3D: DATED, RETRO, ROOMY?

    And it didn’t help that I thought Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur were High Holy Days.

    Clever idea and I got there eventually.

    (Is the wolf a bunch of French horns, or are there a bunch of wolves?)

    • pannonica says:

      “(Is the wolf a bunch of French horns, or are there a bunch of wolves?)”

      The former.

      From one of my favorite versions of the recording:

  3. Richard Zinar says:

    Is anyone else having difficulties accessing puzzles on the AVXC website? I tried a handful of PDF and Across Lite downloads, and the apps (Adobe Acrobat, Across Lite) are giving an error message which seems to indicate the files are corrupted. This is true for puzzles I’m downloading for the first time, as well as ones which I was able to access a couple of days ago. I sent a message to the support email address, but just curious if others are seeing this behavior as well. Thanks …

  4. Mr. [Very] Grumpy says:

    I tried ADDing the necessary WATER to my NYT grid but there was no place to put it, so it just made a mess of my breakfast table. The puzzle should have come with a sponge. I managed to s****e by, and you are free to “imagine” what I thought of the puzzle. Heck, I even went to the app and dutifully filled in the squares to see if maybe it would blink back and forth between HHO[X] and [X] … but no.

  5. marciem says:

    BEQ: I’m at a loss on the theme… how embarrassing!! :D

    Any help?

    • pannonica says:

      The slapstick/cartoon trope of stepping on a rake and the handle flipping up to whack one’s face.

      • marciem says:

        yes, I saw that as a revealer. What are the theme answers and what do they have to do with self embarrassment or stepping on a rake?

        • RunawayPancake says:

          BEQ – @marciem, I don’t get the theme either. Also, the clue for 60D should say “‘CODA’ actor______ Kotsur” – not “Kostur” as it appeared in my puzzle.

          • marciem says:

            Good catch on that misspelling! . I wasn’t familiar with the name or movie, so I had to get it from crosses… ( and it isn’t a really common name :) . ).

            All I see is waste, taste and paste as commonalities in the long acrosses… if they are indeed themers. Still no embarrassment or rake handles there.

        • David L says:

          In the three theme answers, the letters STEP are directly on top of the letters RAKE. I don’t believe there’s anything more to it.

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