Wednesday, May 18, 2022

LAT 3:37 (Gareth, 1 ERROR) 


The New Yorker 2:14 (Matthew) 


NYT 4:30 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 3:17 (Sophia) 


AVCX 5:30 (Ben) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Litmus Test”—Jim P’s review

Theme: The letters PH (making the F sound) are added to familiar phrases with additional spelling changes as necessary.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Litmus Test” · Mike Shenk · Wed., 5.18.22

  • 17a. [Redoes a flower bed, maybe?] CHANGES THE PHLOX. Changes the locks.
  • 26a. [Period spent living in the East Bay area?] OAKLAND PHASE. Oakland A’s.
  • 42a. [Medicine container made of green glass?] EMERALD PHIAL. Emerald Isle.
  • 53a. [The heterosexual Hatshepsut, for one?] STRAIGHT PHARAOH. Straight arrow.

It certainly is consistent, but I find it odd to add specific letters (PH in this case) but then make additional spelling changes phonetically. But then again, there just aren’t that many words you can add PH to and still have them be actual words. (They do exist, however: lox->phlox, aid->aphid, one->phone, deli->Delphi.) In the end, I don’t mind this because it avoids any jarring pronunciation changes, and the spelling changes add just a little bit to the challenge. None of these made me LOL, but they’re solid enough. Too bad we didn’t get to see the grid-spanning entry PHALLUS IN CHAINS. That would’ve made me LOL.

In the fill we have an EYESHADE, THE GO-GO’S, an ANALOGY, SHAD ROE, and Sancho PANZA.

Clues of note:

  • 10a. [Cucumber cooler ingredient]. GIN. Never heard of the drink, but it sounds like a nice summer refresher. Here’s a recipe (if you can manage to scroll down past the life story).
  • 22d. [Bill of “Night at the Museum”]. COBBS. I’ve seen this character actor numerous times over the years but never knew his name. He’s pictured here with Mickey Rooney and Dick Van Dyke.
  • 39d. [Perry’s employee]. DELLA. I was only just made aware that there’s a new version of Perry Mason. Anyone know if it’s any good? I used to watch the old ones when I was a kid (and they were old even then).
  • 36d. [“We Got the Beat” band]. THE GO-GO’S. Just needed an excuse to embed the video.

Solid grid. 3.5 stars.

Andy Kravis’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 18 22, no. 0518

Love life seen through a jigsaw puzzle lens? Works for me! I do jigsaw puzzles both on a tabletop (usually 1,000 pieces) and on an iPad (with an app called Jigsaw Puzzles for Adults HD, which is not as racy as it sounds), so Andy’s theme is right up my alley:

  • 18a. [Confess one’s true feelings … or Step 1 for solving a jigsaw puzzle?], LAY IT ALL OUT THERE. I sort pieces by color or shape rather than laying them all out there in a heap. Also, “solving a jigsaw puzzle”? I have never used that verb in this context.
  • 28a. [Recover after a heartbreak … or Step 2 for solving a jigsaw puzzle?], PICK UP THE PIECES.
  • 50a. [Look for an ideal partner … or Step 3 for solving a jigsaw puzzle?], FIND THE RIGHT FIT.
  • 65a. [Get some perspective … or what you do once you’ve solved a jigsaw puzzle?], SEE THE BIG PICTURE.

The grid’s 16 squares wide to accommodate the theme set, so if the puzzle felt a little slow to you, that would be the extra effort for solving three additional clues.

Fave fill: The Spanish two-fer of LLANO and LLAMA, WILLOW with its salicylic acid clue (we would also have accepted a mention of recent RuPaul’s Drag Race winner, Willow Pill), PLAYFUL puppies, Michael STRAHAN (hated the clue—yes, [N.F.L. Hall-of-Famer Michael] is correct, but I suspect a much larger swath of the American public knows who he is because he’s a charming host of morning shows), THE WIRE (though I’ve never seen it!), and VOTES IN as we watch primary election returns come in.

Three more things:

  • 9d. [Medicinal rinse], DOUCHE. This needs some clarification. While an older relative was indeed advised by her gynecologist to douche regularly because of her pessary, those drugstore products aimed at “freshening” and scenting the vagina are not something I’d call “medicinal rinses” since doctors recommend against their use. If you’re gonna break DOUCHE into the crossword, please clue it better and more responsibly. (I wonder if the women on the editorial team argued against this clue and were outvoted by the men.)
  • 41d. [Sluggish], LOGY. My whole life, I haven’t known how this is pronounced because I never hear anyone use it (… outside of crosswords). Long O, hard G.
  • 60d. [Brand originally called Froffles], EGGO. I did not know this! I can’t say they made the right call. Why put EGG in the waffle brand name? EGGO should be the name for those pucks of cooked egg you see in some fast-food breakfast sandwiches.

Four stars from me.

Drew Schmenner’s AVCX, “Heading South” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 5/18 – “Heading South”

Today’s AVCX was refreshingly breezy, and had a cute theme to boot:

  • 4D: Axes wielded by B.B. King, Slash, and Rosetta Tharpe, among others — GIBSON GUITARS
  • 21D: Brand-name product for a barbecuer — REYNOLDS WRAP
  • 22D: Iconic escape artist born Erik Weisz — HARRY HOUDINI
  • 10D: Judgy way to refer to people who aren’t optimistic, or a neutral way to refer to three answers in this puzzle? — DEBBIE DOWNERS

I love a down clue-based theme, and this was executed perfectly.  DEBBIE can precede the first word of each theme answer to make a famous DEBBIE – DEBBIE GIBSON, DEBBIE REYNOLDS, and DEBBIE HARRY.

Other nice fill in this grid: ABYSS, SATIRES, BAGGINS, OH YAY, DORITO, EYESORE, and GO TO PRESS

Happy Wednesday!

Brooke Husic’s Universal crossword, “Variety Packs” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 5/18/22 • Wed • Husic • “Variety Packs” • solution • 20220518

I understand the theme, which itself is a pile-on of two standard crossword theme types, but I don’t see quite how the revealer explains it.

  • 15a. [*Second part of a plan (swag, tote)] STAGE TWO.
  • 23a. [*What to do with a new baseball glove (Birkin, tea)] BREAK IT IN.
  • 32a. [*Dances all night, say (diaper, trash)] PARTIES HARD.
  • 46a. [*State of being current (dirt, money)] MODERNITY.
  • 55aR [Diverse assortment, and one of two anagrammed words combined to make each theme answer] MIXED BAG.

All right, seeing it now I’m able to parse that explanation marginally better, but I still feel it could be worded better. (If I have time (unlikely) I’ll make an attempt to do so.)

Anyway, as I hope you all can see, each of the parenthetical words in the clues can precede the word ‘bag’—swag bag, tote bag, Birkin bag, teabag, diaper bag, et cetera. And if you combine the paired bag-preceding words they can be anagrammed for the answer seen in the grid (e.g., SWAG + TOTE = STAGE TWO).

A fairly involved theme this time out, and I think it works pretty well.

  • 6d [Nuh-uh] NAW. 54d [Aye’s counterpart] NAY. Pet peeve: people who say “yay or nay?” It’s yea, yeah?
  • 17d [Mascara layer] COAT. 38d [Mascara mishap] SMUDGE.
  • 23d [Indonesian island with a Hindu majority] BALI. One of the reasons that its culture, music, and mythology are so distinctive.
  • 22a [Word before “book” or “paper”] SCRAP. Reminiscent of STAGE ONE of the theme mechanic.
  • 25a [“Ex’s & __” (Elle King hit)] OHS. Don’t know it, but the title seems clever/intriguing. Without knowing the lyrics or anything about it, I wonder if orthographically it should be EXES and OHS?
  • 26d [Brew such as Audrey Hopburn] IPA. Oh that’s pretty awful as puns go.
  • 59a [Suffix with “Japan” or “crossword”] -ESE. Minorly meta.

Adrian Johnson’s LAT crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

In today’s puzzle by Adrian Johnson, it was abundantly clear the same letters were in each set of circles, but I didn’t stop to ponder why till reaching OLIVERTWIST. TWIST is a classic Cryptic keyword for anagramming, though here the letters span between two parts of longer answers since OLIVER doesn’t have any one-word anagrams.


  • ROL{LOVERI}RA, [Investment option when leaving an employer]. I discovered fairly recently that a USA IRA and an RSA RA are more or less equivalent.
  • [London fashion street], SA{VILERO}W.
    [Leaving the state without permission, perhaps], PA{ROLEVI}OLATION.
  • [Goal at a film audition], MO{VIEROL}E.

My error was GRANATA/LEVA. It seemed plausible, as I didn’t know [“Shazam!” actor Zachary], LEVI nor the pudding GRANITA. I thought it may be etymologically related to pomegranates?

These two were something of an outlier for me as the rest of the puzzle played quite simple with most of the clues being quite straightforward and few other difficult or even long entries. Oh, there was [Like everything in a she shed], HERS – not sure what that is? I can guess, though. Oh, and one more: [Evergreen wood used for flooring]; my initial instinct was YELLOWWOOD, which is popular here, but the repeeated wood deterred me, plus I don’t think it’s exported to the US?


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

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer starts with R and ends with IGHT, so “right” is on the outside of the phrase.

05 18 2022, USA Today, “Outright”

  • 20a [Aid for enjoying “The Night Watchman” at night] – READING LIGHT
  • 39a [First hip-hop single to enter Billboard’s Top 40 chart] – RAPPER’S DELIGHT
  • 55a [Overnight travel option] – RED EYE FLIGHT

Cute theme, and I liked all of the answers! I was proud of myself that I knew RAPPER’S DELIGHT off the bat without any crosses. On the other hand, I could not see RED EYE FLIGbHT for the longest time – maybe that’s because I normally just call it a “red eye”, no flight? Anyways, I kept thinking the answer would have something to do with a sleeper train or something like that.

Almost all the non-theme long answers in this puzzle were food related, which I love. RICE PILAF, PAD THAI, PASTRAMI, all great. My only real hold up today was that I only know “Oh My God” by Adele, not IDA Maria, and I wanted “comp” over TREAT for 29a [Pay for someone else’s meal].

Will Nediger’s New Yorker crossword—Will Nediger’s review

Will Nediger’s New Yorker crossword solution, 5/18/2022

I’ll get this out of the way early: I adore this puzzle. Will is one of a handful (maybe two handfuls) of constructors I consider “can’t miss”, and this grid exceeds my lofty expectations for his work. I’m writing a full day late, but a few highlights:

I never understood the PAUL BLART memes, but they were everywhere, AND there was another mall cop movie that came out around the same time, no? Enjoy the colorful phrase IT ISN’T OVER as well lashed out. Misuse of “alumni” is a pet peeve of mine, so I’m always happy to see it correct, here in SNL ALUMNUS. FIG LEAVES clued to [Fall fashion?] is about as good as it gets.

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10 Responses to Wednesday, May 18, 2022

  1. Ahecht says:

    What is it with AVCX and Megan Thee Stallion? It seems like she’s in every puzzle. Earlier in the year there were two separate puzzles with REALHOTGIRLSHIT clued as “Megan Thee Stallion catch phrase”, and now we’ve had three days in a row with WAP-related clues (the last two days were both ASS clued as “The A in WAP”).

  2. Billy Boy says:

    NYer pretty quick except for learning new names by crosses, I’m enjoying their regular freshness and quality.

  3. Mark says:


    a shower of water.
    “a daily douche”

    spray or shower with water.

  4. marciem says:

    TNY: Seemed a perfectly balanced Wednesday. There were a few new names I was happy to learn.

    Upon completion I had a difficult time figuring out how Camp Uses could be testing sites? DOH!! LOL :)

  5. JohnH says:

    Can’t say I appreciated a crossing of PAULI / RUSS / SADE in the NYT with STRAHAN just a square away. Unlike Amy, my “fave fill” isn’t what I know, but what I don’t know has to be gettable. Otherwise, why bother?

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni: Hand up for the pet peeve about confusing ‘yay’ and ‘yea’. I also cringe when people write ‘yea’ when they clearly mean ‘yeah’ and vice versa. Oh yea? Yeah or nay? It’s painful for me to even type those phrases like that.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    Wait … Will Nediger reviewed his own TNY puzzle?

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