Wednesday, March 9, 2022

LAT 7:00 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:05 (Matthew) 


NYT 4:13 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal tk (pannonica) 


USA Today 3:52 (Sophia) 


AVCX 10:25 (Ben) 


Roland Huget’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sinking Funds”—Jim P’s review

Well, if ever there was a puzzle theme suited for the WSJ, this might be the one.

Theme answers (in the Down direction, hence the title) are familiar phrases that hide types of monetary investment funds.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Sinking Funds” · Roland Huget · Wed., 3.9.22

  • 4d. [Age-determining technique] CARBON DATING.
  • 5d. [Imperfections that still need improvement] ROUGH EDGES.
  • 23d. [Adam Blake’s alter ego in DC Comics] CAPTAIN COMET. A nice six-letter find, but whew! That seems like a deep cut. The superhero never had his own series and only appears occasionally in other comics or in limited series. I read some DC comics in the 80s/90s but never heard of him.
  • 30d. [Orange, for one] CITRUS TREE.

I’ve never heard the phrase “Sinking Fund” which OED defines as, “A fund formed by periodically setting aside money for the gradual repayment of a debt or replacement of a wasting asset.”

Maybe that’s why I can’t say I personally got a lot of enjoyment from the theme. However, it seems as solid as any other hidden-word theme. Maybe I would’ve liked it better if all the words were commonly paired with “fund.” “Hedge fund” and “trust fund” seem common enough, but “bond fund” and “income fund”—though actual things—aren’t phrases the average person hears bandied about too often. Alternatives might have included “slush fund,” “mutual fund,” or “index fund,” but for all I know, no reasonably good potential theme phrases hide those words.

Interesting choice to put the 12-letter themers on the outside, forcing them to go in the fourth and 12th columns. Given a choice, I’d say most constructors would put the 10-letter themers on the outside in columns 3 and 13; that would conceivably allow for better flow throughout the grid. As it is, this one’s very segmented with all the themers pushed toward the middle.

Those corners are huge, though, eh? While they’re mostly nice, there’s a noticeable amount of crosswordese here like APER, SALA, ODEA, TESTEE, and SST. That EOS/ROI crossing is also a little rough given their clues [Daughter of Hyperion] and [Père du dauphin].

Lest you think I didn’t like anything about this puzzle, there are some definite highlights here like the NE corner’s RED ALERT and AVE MARIA stack as well as GAS CAPS, GO KAPUT, and PHOTO OPS.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [Juan’s wife]. EVA. The Peróns, I presume.
  • 37d. [They may involve shooting stars]. PHOTO OPS. This was tough to parse when I had _HOTOOPS. It made me think of “hoops” (i.e. basketball) which seemed to jibe with “shooting” in the clue. Thankfully, the crossing sorted me out.

Three stars from me.

Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 9 22, no. 0309

The theme works by inserting an apostrophe into a word in a familiar(ish) phrase to make it a contraction, with the resulting phrase clued accordingly:

  • 16a. [“You and I should eat that”], LET’S HAVE IT. This one plays on the verb phrase let (someone) have it, and it feels broken because of that missing object.
  • 26a. [“Kid at a college bar who seems, to me as a bouncer, too young to allow in”], STUDENT I’D CARD. Ugh, this “seems, to me as a bouncer…” bit is ungainly, and the clue/answer are both nothing you’d expect someone to say. It’s just a description of a person! It’s not a sentence!
  • 43a. [“Easter item that the woman is going to decorate”], EGG SHE’LL PAINT. Nice breaking of an eggshell, but it’s also not a sentence.
  • 59a. [“What the couple dressed in lupine costumes said”], WE’RE WOLVES. This clue just looks bizarre with the quote marks. (And “lupine costumes” is clunky.) At least the answer is a workable spoken sentence, like the first themer.

I’ll guess that Peter looked long and hard for more possibilities that would have worked as sentences and didn’t find any that fit the right letter counts. I just didn’t care for the middle two as part of this theme. Can anyone summon up a rousing defense of the theme’s cleverness that outweighs my disappointment?


Call me JADED, but I gotta say, SUER just is not a word people use. Plaintiff! Plaintiff is the word. Now, one could argue that it’s bizarre to use that quaint English word when all you need is a way to convey “the person who is suing the other party,” but we aren’t in a place where SUER is poised to take over.

Three more things:

  • 11d. [Mother of Beyoncé and Solange Knowles], TINA. This was a gimme for me. It’s a gimme for probably 100 million people (Queen Bey has 242 million Instagram followers), and the crossings are easy, so please don’t complain that this is “trivia” that you shouldn’t know.
  • 4d. [Losing team in the “Miracle on Ice” hockey game], USSR. (a) No abbreviation cue! Is that kosher for a Wednesday puzzle? (b) Putin seems to want to reestablish the whole USSR concept.
  • 45d. [Waiters at busy restaurants might be handed them], PAGERS. I’m reading this clue two ways: Patrons who are waiting to be seated (“waiters”) might be handed pagers to tell them when their table’s ready, or servers/waiters might be handed flashing/buzzing pagers by customers whose table is ready. The latter is less likely since that sort of restaurant would have a host collecting the pagers. Anyway! A good clue, in tune with current uses of paging devices.

3.25 stars from me.

Matt Gritzmacher & Brooke Husic’s AVCX, “Say What I Say” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 3/9 – “Say What I Say”

We’ve got a 17×17 collab from Matt Gritzmacher and Brooke Husic from the AVCX today, and it’s Matt’s debut as a constructor!  Congrats, Matt!

Given the larger size of this grid, I like how this played like a themeless (for me, at least) where I could see the theme after taking a step back to look over the grid:

  • 20A: Cane product with a crunchy texture — DEMERARA SUGAR
  • 32A: Be out of left field — COME AS A SURPRISE
  • 49A: Breathable footwear item — MESH SHOE
  • 52A: Bits of text that describe what’s on a webpage — META TAGS
  • 67A: Chance to slow down — TIME ON ONES HANDS
  • 83A: Language teacher’s prompt … and a feature of five answers in this puzzle — REPEAT AFTER ME

The “feature” each of these answers has is a pair of repeated letters appearing directly after the bigram ME.  It’s a more subtle theme, but again, I liked that this felt like I was solving a themeless, and I could connect what everything had in common after the fact.

93A: “DON’T Leave Me This Way” (Thelma Houston hit) 

Happy Wednesday!

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

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword solution, 3/9/2022

Pretty standard TNY Wednesday for me today difficulty wise, but I had a real fun time moving around the grid, with long and medium down entries seamlessly feeding into an interrupted middle stairstack.

I quite liked several of the long entries; HOOTENANNY, MIND THE GAP, ALL YOU CAN EAT, NEVER LET ME GO. I’ve only known NEVER LET ME GO from cultural osmosis until now, and reviewing the plot, dystopias are not for me. Alas.

But anyway, the real joy for me in this puzzle were the midlength entries and clues. I love clues like those for RAW ONIONS [15a Whopper toppers] and LA LA LAND [31d Best Picture nominee mistakenly announced as the winner at the 2017 Oscars] that bring up a memory rather than a mental cycle through synonyms. Other clues I liked: [“Well!”] for I DECLARE at 52A and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” lyrics for EDSEL at 53A.

I’ve been seeing a lot of entries I first learned from crosswords lately. Today it’s SALSODA [34d- Stain-removing compound]. Also learned something new from a clue at 50d, YER [“D’___ Mak’er” (Led Zeppelin title that’s meant to be pronounced Jamaica”)].

Other notes:

  • 1a [Winged title character of a 2018 Marvel movie] THE WASP. I’ve had minimal interest in the MCU since the Infinity Gauntlet arc ended. I wonder if the coming Doctor Strange movie will pull me back in.
  • 32a [Weapon on a warship] CANNON. I ended up in a rabbit hole, but yes, modern warships do still have guns, even if they’re not the primary weaponry.
  • 39a [Enlightenment philosopher who wrote a best-selling history of England] HUME. Confession: I had the H- and stopped reading at “philosopher”
  • 11d [Herb used in bearnaise sauce] TARRAGON. I love tarragon, but I rarely have the patience to make sauces.


Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “The Broken Rung” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer starts with RU and ends with NG

USA Today, 03 09 2022, “The Broken Rung”

  • 16a [Spread for a Reuben] – RUSSIAN DRESSING
  • 26a [Unpleasant surprise] – RUDE AWAKENING
  • 59a [Moved hastily] – RUSHED HEADLONG

When I do a puzzle like today’s that’s such a classic USA Today theme type, there are a couple things I look for that can take a puzzle from average to great: namely, how cleverly the theme relates to the title and if the theme answers themselves are memorable (given that USA Today doesn’t require symmetry, there’s no excuse for boring theme answers, imo). Today, the title told me exactly what to expect (although I was kind of hoping for some type of ladder to exist in the puzzle just to switch it up), mostly because because the phrasing felt a little forced and “The Broken Rung” isn’t a common saying. In terms of the theme answers, RUDE AWAKENING was the standout by far. I always thought Reubens used thousand island and not RUSSIAN DRESSING, but a quick post-solve google tells me either are valid (Thousand island is basically Russian with pickles, who knew?). RUSHED HEADLONG is fine but felt a little partial-y to me – I really wanted the word “into” on the end. Thus,  this puzzle didn’t quite get to the top echelon for me, but was enjoyable nonetheless.

Other notes:

  • I originally had “amped” instead of the correct KEYED for 22a [___ up (excited or nervous)]… until AMP appeared as the answer for 10a [Device for a guitarist]!
  • Things I learned today: That Anita Hill went to OSU, and that snakes never close their EYES. Creepy!

Stella Zawistowski’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times

I think that knowing Stella is, to put it mildly, a fitness fanatic – elevates this puzzle’s theme. Even without that knowledge though, it’s a very creative theme with four spanning theme answers tied to both working out and another, arbitrary, profession. We have [Work out like a hairdresser?], PUMPUPTHEVOLUME; [Work out like a bartender?], LIFTYOURSPIRITS; [Work out like a fine artist?], SWEATTHEDETAILS; [Work out like a stockbroker?], EXERCISEOPTIONS.

The puzzle played very hard for me for a Wednesday, both because of the large amounts of theme acreage that were not clued straightforwardly, as well several other clues and entries:

  • [Protagonist of the “Divergent” novels], TRIS. Not your cliched Speaker clue!
  • [Numero dopo le sette], OTTO. That’s a lot of Italian to try and understand!
  • [Component of the spice blend za’atar], SUMAC. Can’t say I’ve cooked with it!
  • [Bring together], UNIFY, which wanted to be UNITE.
  • [Much, casually], LOTSA, which wanted to be LOTTA.
  • [Gregorius of the Phillies], DIDI. Not

    I didn’t mean to tern you on…

    someone I am familiar with.

  • [Centenarian fashion icon Apfel], IRIS. Again, not a name I know, personally.
  • [“__ alert!”], NERD. Not sure what this means?
  • [Fork-tailed flier], TERN. Not sure why I battled here, especially as I was photographing them on Sunday after cricket!


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11 Responses to Wednesday, March 9, 2022

  1. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: I also thought the first themer was problematic since there’s another use for the phrase. As an example, a teacher might say, “Let’s have it,” when confiscating a student’s cell phone. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s how I heard it in my head when I filled it in.

  2. David L says:

    NYT 28D: TIE is by no means a Jeopardy impossibility. Two players can finish with the same winning score (sometime by design) and if so, they both compete again next time.

    I liked the theme better than most, apparently. The fact that two are phrases and two are sentences didn’t bother me at all, and I thought ‘egg she’ll paint’ was clever. But I agree the first one is not so great.

    • marciem says:

      “NYT 28D: TIE is by no means a Jeopardy impossibility”

      Yes, it is. Tie at the end of final Jeopardy goes to a tie-breaker. Tie at the end of THAT goes to the fastest buzzer-inner.

      “Jeopardy!” rules dictate the game must go to a tiebreaker,”

    • stmv says:

      The Wikipedia page for Jeopardy says “Since November 2014, ties for first place following Final Jeopardy! are broken with a tie-breaker clue, resulting in only a single champion being named…” E.g., this happened on the 23 February 2022 show. One could quibble that this is still a sort of tie, but still only one player proceeds to the next show.

      • David L says:

        Huh. I guess it’s been too long since I was regular Jeopardy watcher. I can certainly remember seeing a tie, but it must have been quite a few years ago.

        • marciem says:

          From anything I can see, the “No ties” rule was revealed in 2016, with the first tie-breaker under those rules in 2018.

          according to EW, “In short, no more co-winners”

          So yep, there used to be co-winners, you haven’t lost your mind or memory :D .

  3. dh says:

    I didn’t get the NYT theme until “WEREWOLVES”. I thought it was cute, but not cute enough to go back and look at the other themes to see how they fit. Re: Jim P’s comment about the suitability of the WSJ theme, I thought the theme was sadly far more relevant to current events than it was to the Journal itself; I’m watching the purchasing power and investment potential of my dollar sink on a daily basis. I was hoping to retire next year, but it may be 2-3 years away now.

  4. Steve Manion says:

    Agree on SUER. Petitioner/Respondent is the terminology in a divorce.

  5. Philip says:

    As a Greek speaker, I find the NYT 9A clue off-putting. (And it’s not the first time it’s been clued this way.) Is it really surprising that there are different alphabets?

  6. Hi says:

    I had PUMPCURLINGIRONS for 16A and was briefly very pleased with myself. Also NERD alert is from Austin Powers.

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