Wednesday, April 20, 2022

LAT 4:15 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:15 (Matthew) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal tk evening (pannonica) 


USA Today  3:57 (Sophia) 


AVCX 8:38 (Ben) 


Freddie Cheng’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sticker Shock”—Jim P’s review

Today’s theme answers are familiar phrases whose seconds words can also be loose synonyms of “invoice.” The entries are clued wackly using this synonymous meaning. The revealer is TRUMPED-UP CHARGE (58a, [Fabricated accusation, or any of 17-, 33- and 42-Across?])

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Sticker Shock” · Freddie Cheng · Wed., 4.20.22

  • 17a. [Invoice for a green screen?] BACKGROUND CHECK.
  • 33a. [Invoice for a movie stand-in?] DOUBLE BILL.
  • 42a. [Invoice for window-shopping?] BROWSER TAB.

Plenty solid. I was skeptical of using “check” as a synonym for “invoice,” then remembered we use it this way at restaurants (“Check, please”).

I’m less clear on how these are TRUMPED-UP CHARGEs. I get that we’re using the word “charge” here as an item on an invoice (as opposed to an accusation), but how are they trumped up? Maybe it’s just that they are in fact fabricated entirely for this puzzle’s purposes. Okay. Works for me.

Can’t help but notice that the definition of TRUMPED-UP CHARGE, as given, is at once punny and accurate for the right-wing loony-bin conspiracy theory that there was widespread voter fraud in 2020. The accusations seem to continue unabated. It’s sickening to see those who have lost all sense of reason still wield so much power in this country.

Moving on, we have SLEEPS LATE and BUNGEE JUMP topping the fun fill. GAINLY [Graceful] is not a word you see very often, making it feel somehow ungainly.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Leafy stimulant]. COCA. Considering the date, I almost went with WEED, but didn’t think it would be classified as a stimulant. However, it apparently can act as a stimulant, depressant, and hallucinogen all at once.
  • 20a. [Niihau welcome]. ALOHA. Not to be confused with the Mandarin Chinese greeting, “Ni Hao,” the Hawaiian island of Ni’ihau is one of the smaller populated islands. Today I Learned: It’s a privately-owned island, has no electrical system, few cars, and is the only island where Hawaiian is the primary language. Oh, and you have to be invited to visit it. Learn more here.
  • 27d. [“Bonanza” brother]. ADAM. You went with HOSS here, too, right?

3.5 stars.

Joseph Greenbaum’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 4 20 22, no. 0420

Today’s theme feels old and done-before to me, since we have a similar 2014 puzzle over at Crosswords With Friends that repeats two of these themers, and constructors have pitched similar “sports aptronyms” themes in the years since. Your mileage likely varies!

  • 17a. [Aptly named Olympic sprinter], USAIN BOLT. He bolts down the racetrack.
  • 24a. [Aptly named six-time All-Star first baseman], PRINCE FIELDER. He fields baseballs.
  • 44a. [Aptly named tennis great], MARGARET COURT. She courts tennis balls? No, she played tennis on a court. Not a sports verb there. Also, she’s a raving homophobe and I dislike seeing her in my puzzle.
  • 58a. [Aptly named N.B.A. M.V.P., in a manner of speaking], TIM DUNCAN. Sounds like dunkin’, kinda cheesy. At least it’s a verb angle.

Did not love the COURT and DUNCAN variances from the more consistent vibe I got from BOLT and FIELDER … though I guess FieldER is different from Field and therefore each of the four themers stands alone. Not the tightest theme, I don’t think. If you’ve never seen a riff on this already (and you aren’t offended by giving Court attention), you likely enjoyed it more than I did.

Three more things:

  • 49a. [Listen to gossip, in slang], SIP TEA. I … am not sure this is right. Poking around some slang sources suggests that SIP TEA means something more like “mind your own business as this doesn’t concern you,” as opposed to enjoying the tea (gossip) someone is spilling. Anyone up on their drag/gay/Black slang who can shed light here?
  • 18d. [Painter of “The Garden of Earthly Delights”], BOSCH. Ah, yes. He designed my dishwasher. That, and paintings with ass trumpets. A good body of work.
  • 19a. [Epic poem written in dactylic hexameter], the ILIAD. Hey, puzzle folks, remember when the NYT’s Spelling Bee puzzle accepted lowercase iliad as a word that is supposedly broadly familiar, and then they took it away from us? We lost the ocotillo recently, too. an colcannon be far behind? And can heliacal (“relating to the sun”—this is a word that certainly fewer than 1% of us have ever used) be killed off first?

Three stars from me. How’d the puzzle treat you?

Michael Lieberman’s AVCX, “False Fronts” — Ben’s Review

Before we dive into this week’s AVCX, a few quick words about last week’s variety puzzle from Paolo Pasco: that variety type is one of my favorites, and last week’s edition was very fun and very challenging, but it’s also a puzzle type that doesn’t lend itself well to the same kind of blogging as a crossword.  I hope you’ll take a look at the solution included with this week’s AVCX classic, since that breaks things down well and does a beautiful job of explaining how the meta works within that grid.

Alright, onto this week’s puzzle:

AVCX 4/20 – “False Fronts”

Michael Lieberman makes his AVCX debut this week with “False Fronts”.  That title does a great job of hinting what’s going on:

  • 20A: Record label that renewed its contracts with T.I. and T-Pain? — TRAPPER KEEPER
  • 33A: Advertisement for Shenandoah and Sequoia? — SPARK PLUG
  • 39A: Dullard who works with bauxite and beryl? — BORE STIFF
  • 52A: Children of potters and papermakers? — PARTISAN ISSUE

Each of the answers is a real word or phrase, but if you remove the “false front” of their first letter, you get the wackier phrase being clued – RAPPER KEEPER, PARK PLUG, ORE STIFF, and ARTISAN ISSUE.  It’s cute, though the meta from last week had me looking at the letters being ignored to see if they were doing something else atop all of this.  I didn’t spot anything, but I suspect the comments will call out if something’s whooshed past my head.

Here’s a fun sketch from this weekend’s SNL with Lizzo, depicting the directors of an ancient SEX PARTY (23A, “Coming attraction?”).

Other nice fill: CORGI (“Breed the AKC calls “a big dog in a small package”), TEHRAN (which I learned is “at about the same latitude as Tokyo”), FLARE-UPS, FLIP PHONE, WEIRD FLEX (“Not sure why you’re bragging about that …”), PROTESTED, and STUNT MAN

Happy Wednesday!

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Joking Around” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The outside letters of the theme answers form the word JEST

USA Today, 04 20 2022, “Joking Around”

  • 18a [Toon who said “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way”] – JESSICA RABBIT
  • 35a [“Don’t worry if it’s not perfect”] – JUST TRY YOUR BEST
  • 52a [Doris Payne job] – JEWELRY HEIST

I love the title of today’s puzzle! It’s a fun phrase and perfectly encapsulates the puzzle’s theme. It’s cool too that the “jest” letters are split differently in each answer. In terms of the answers themselves, JESSICA RABBIT was an instant drop-in for me, but the other two took a bit longer. I wasn’t sure what exactly the phrasing was on JUST TRY YOUR BEST even though I had a general idea of the answer. I had also never heard of Doris Payne so I thought the “job” referred to a profession rather than a JEWELRY HEIST.

Other notes:

  • The clue [Shenanigan] for ANTIC is one of my pet peeves, even though I’ve definitely used it myself. Who ever talks about a singular shenanigan?
  • Things in clues I was happen to see shouted out in this puzzle: For The Gworls, Rachel Zegler, the Red Sox.
  • Things in the grid I was happy to see in this puzzle: SLEEP TIGHT, KEY LIME PIE, PASTA.

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword solution, 4/20/2022

Well today has gotten away from me, which is a shame, because I could write many many words about this gem from Paolo. It felt like a quick solve, but was actually a bit longer than average for me. I chalk that up to some fantastic clues that I let myself savor. A few favorites:

  • 31a [Uncredited post-production aid?] BURNER ACCOUNT. I adore this cluing angle and play on “post production”. I had it right from the start, which is great, but wouldn’t have minded a longer journey to the aha moment.
  • 51a [“Swipe right if you like bridges, Phoebe Bridgers, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge,” e.g.] TINDER BIO. It’s just fun.
  • 57a [Residents of the “entertainment capital of the world”] LAS VEGANS. Not a clue highlight for me, but I am chuckling imagining if the city only supported vegan diets.
  • 1d [The first instrument heard in My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade”] PIANO. Notable marching band/parade instrument, the PIANO. Also a great example of the imagery clues I’ve been high on lately.
  • 33d [Nineties kids?]A STUDENTS. Has this not been done before?! I love it. I certainly don’t remember it in major-outlet puzzles, at least. I’m sure any number of indie puzzlers have done it by now.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I do believe this is the first LA Times I’ve blogged with Patti Varol as editor and Christina Iverson as asst. Welcome Ms. Iverson and welcome to the limelight, Patti!

And the puzzle is by Ms. Zhouqin “CC” Burnikel, a name I feel I used to see a lot, but haven’t for awhile! And one whose grids are always full of polish and interesting grace notes! The puzzle provides four examples of an uncommon clue trope, where the clues are imperatives. Here each clue is a “>VERB< that” phrase and “that” is a possible example of a thing you can “>VERB<“. Clear? So [Top that!] is a WEDDINGCAKE. Is topping a cake different to icing it? [Beat that!], STEELDRUM – wanted SNARE first, which is less beatable! [Strike that!], POWERPOSE and [Take that!], COFFEEBREAK. Weird concept that, coffee breaks, at work!?

I feel like Zhouqin will always include a few East Asian clues in her puzzles so not surprised to look up Kabocha in [Kabocha or pumpkin, e.g.], GOURD and find out it’s a Japanese squash. Similarly, OREO is a [Cookie that has a lychee flavor in China]; I notice Americans favour the spelling “lychee”, but rarely see anything other than “litchi” here.

  • Others:
    [Chewy chowder chunk], CLAMMEAT. Read this as “chewy chowder drink” first, and that didn’t pass any breakfast tests!
  • [Application that may help reduce crow’s-feet], EYEGEL. Guessable enough, but not sure a hundred percent what this. I have gels that I use for eyes, but wouldn’t specifically call them eye gels?
  • [Doc intended to prevent leaks], NDA. Wow this clue got me good; didn’t think of docs as documents, and so it’s a non-disclosure agreement. Only figured this out post-solve!


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25 Responses to Wednesday, April 20, 2022

  1. dh says:

    It continues to disappoint me that people get so triggered by crossword puzzles.

    • R says:

      With a quick scan, I can’t see any sign of a triggering. Maybe you’re the oversensitive one, now.

      • dh says:

        I was talking about Amy’s review of the NYT, re Margaret Court: “she’s a raving homophobe and I dislike seeing her in my puzzle.” and Jim P’s, “right-wing loony-bin conspiracy theory …”.

        Both angry and dismissive, and to me, disappointing.

  2. Billy Boy says:

    Re: NYT – that was pretty awful today.
    Re: WSJ
    WEED (as alcohol) “stimulates” by depressing inhibitions. All sedative-hypnotics have that ironic effect. It’s why Super Bowl and NBA Championships are “celebrated” by overturning cars, setting fires, looting and the like. Minimal inhibitions are dissolved and the non-directional rage is released.

    Don’t forget WEED (and CBD – sponsoring that link) is real medicine in search of disease – everything from insomnia and impotence to digestion and skin tone. Send in your money … (That author needs more letters strung after her name, or maybe just to learn scientific method.) It can be whatever you want it to be.

    @dh – I’m with ya!
    But some of these NYT’s are just sooooo awful lately

    Don’t let anything upset your world view/perception/delusion

    • Jenni Levy says:

      So you’re with dh on the “triggered” comment? Because referencing something that has been confirmed by multiple court cases is “triggered” now? Either you all don’t understand the word, in which case you have the wrong hobby, or you have decided to denigrate and dismiss people who disagree with you and yet continue to show up somewhere those opinions are clearly stated. It’s like you realized you hate alcohol and everyone who drinks it and yet insist on visiting bars while complaining loudly that there is drinking there.

      tl; dr: you don’t have to stay, you know. The door works both ways.

  3. David L says:

    Spelling Bee: At least I’ve heard of colcannon. I would get rid of callaloo before that. There seem to be a lot of oddball foods in the list of acceptable words.

    And today, still not acceptable, bole. Sometimes I make up words that sounds as if they might be words, and sometimes they are accepted. It’s all very strange.

  4. Dan says:

    In the LA Times puzzle, the 41D clue is “Ambiguous point” for the answer “gray area”.

    It’s almost oxymoronic to clue an “area’ with a “point”.

    • Mark Abe says:

      Not an oxymoron: Points are one-dimensional and areas are two-dimensional! Also, I enjoyed this puzzle and its theme, as I do most of Zhouqin Burnikel’s puzzles.

  5. golfballman says:

    Get rid of Gareth

    • Are you volunteering to take his place? Because Fiend is volunteer-run. It’s a labor of love for everyone involved. If your life is stable enough that you can review crosswords on time every time, then hit Amy up.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Plus, I think Gareth is in South Africa, so there’s probably a time zone issue. Cut him some slack. I assume that you’re paying the same amount for your subscription to this site as I do, right? Yeesh!

      • Jenni Levy says:

        Gareth is in South Africa, where he has a busy work life and oh, yeah, a personal life.

        I didn’t look at the comments for last week’s Tuesday post when I completely missed posting the LAT, so maybe someone took off after me. Wouldn’t be the first time. As Erin pointed out, we all do this as a labor of love for crosswords and for (most of) our community. And come to think of it, being paid for this wouldn’t mean we deserved the kind of abuse some commenters see fit to throw at us. I can only assume, golfballman, that you are also the kind of person who yells at hapless cashiers if the liquor store is out of your favorite beverage and berates caddies if you shank the ball.

        Oh, what’s that? You don’t like nasty assumptions and ad hominem attacks? Well, gee whiz, how about that.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Golfballman, you should know that it’s quite easy to ban your IP address(es) from commenting here. Being a jerk to volunteer bloggers one more time just might get you banned.

      And it’s not about free speech. It’s about not being an asshole to nice people whose free labor you demand.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Also, if you just aren’t a good enough solver to finish the Wednesday LAT and understand the theme, you could always check out Crossword Corner in our blogroll unless you’re persona non grata there already.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      It continues to disappoint me that people get so triggered when bloggers don’t blog to their liking.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Such snowflakes, really.

        Another complicating factor is that South Africa has these rolling blackouts to manage their electrical grid, and they don’t always arrive on schedule. So sometimes when Gareth gets off work after a grueling day of surgeries to save animals’ lives, there’s no electricity for a few hours and thus getting on the computer to blog about a crossword simply isn’t possible. I appreciate Gareth’s years of volunteer contributions to Crossword Fiend, and as I said above, one can always visit Crossword Corner (see blogroll at top right) for the LAT solution rather than being hostile towards Gareth. That entitlement reeks.

  6. Christina says:

    AVCX- the “false fronts” are also hinted at in the clues, in which both of the examples used start with that letter. So “t rapper keeper” -a “rapper keeper” of T.I. and T Pain…
    S park plug..(Shenendoah and Sequoia…)
    b ore stuff (bauxite and beryl) etc.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    TNY … Would someone please enlighten me about the clues for BURNER ACCOUNT {31A: Uncredited post-production aid?} and TINDER BIO {51A: “Swipe right if you like bridges, Phoebe Bridgers, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge,” e.g.}? I know the phrase BURNER ACCOUNT from police procedurals on television, but I don’t get the connection between the clue and the answer at all. Re TINDER BIO, I’ve picked up on what swiping right is through the ether, but what does the play on “bridge” have to do with anything? Is this some kind of inside Tinder lingo? Just trying as best I can to keep up.

    • Matt Gritzmacher says:

      Less so “burner phone” (which I imagine is more common in police procedurals) as a secondary Twitter (for example) account, from which one might “produce posts”

      “Bridge” isn’t significant other than to add flavor to a clue that might be [something that might lead you to swipe right] – I simply thought the repetition was fun.

      Hope that’s helpful. A few months into reviewing here, I’m still trying to find a balance of explaining things that might be tricky without being condescending about it.

      • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

        Please feel free to explain things. Paolo’s clues often baffle me, but today’s crosses were fair.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Thanks for the explanation, Matt. Right you are. After re-reading my post just now, I realized that I was thinking of a “burner phone” and not a “burner account”. I don’t do Twitter (or any other social media, for that matter) except to occasionally look at tweets that are referenced in news articles or other sources. I don’t understand why someone would want or need a “secondary Twitter account, from which one might produce posts” (or even fully grasp what that means), but I’m sure you’re right about this explaining the wording of that clue.

        The idea with the TINDER BIO clue is that that if you like “bridges, Phoebe Bridgers, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge”, you’ll probably also like me because those are things that I like? Some of my confusion may be that I didn’t recognize either of the names. I’m glad to learn of both of them. I do know of “Fleabag” (it’s on my watch list, but I haven’t gotten to it yet). I didn’t know the star’s name.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Phoebe Bridgers is a current musical artist, and it’s wildly confusing to my head to have two famous people with “Phoebe” and “Bridge” in their names.

          “Fleabag” was amazing.

          And yes, a Tinder bio is a bit of text that one hopes will entice others to find one appealing.

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