Wednesday, June 22, 2022

LAT 4:57 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 4:52 (Amy) 


NYT 3:48 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal tk (pannonica) 


USA Today 4:10 (Sophia) 


AVCX untimed (Ben) 


Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Padded Cells”—Jim P’s review

Theme: As I surmised by glancing at the title, it should be read as “P-Added Cells.” The letter P has been added twice to various words.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Padded Cells” · Gary Larson & Amy Ensz · Wed., 6.22.22

  • 17a. [Manipulating others with sullen behavior?] POUT PLYING. Outlying.
  • 27a. [Wrap gifts?] PREP PRESENTS. Represents.
  • 46a. [Scene locations in “The Birthday Party” and “Betrayal”?] PINTER PLACES. Interlaces.
  • 60a. [Glib reaction to a vaccination?] PRICK PSHAW. Rickshaw.

I did not care for this one. The theme entries are overly strained, and apart from PRICK PSHAW, which was irksome in its own right (can we retire PSHAW already?), the base phrases are mundane. Adding two Ps to words is a challenge for the constructors, but if it results in uninteresting entries, where’s the joy in it?

Long fill consists of SAMPLERS and OAT GRASS which are fine but not exactly sparkly. Nothing else really captures my eye. Oh yeah, not a fan of seeing Nazi sympathizer LINDY in the puzzle.

The wiliwili tree of Kaua’i

Clues of note:

  • 14a. [Old Speckled Hen, for one]. ALE. Oh hey! Shout out to the brewers of Old Speckled Hen, the Greene King Brewery, which was just down the road from us when we lived near Bury St. Edmunds, England.
  • 15a. [Dahl of “Bengal Brigade”]. ARLENE. Well, ROALD didn’t fit. I thought this might be the name of a young actress I hadn’t heard of, but no, she was active starting in the 1940s. Turns out her son is actor Lorenzo Lamas.
  • 7d. [Nawiliwili necklace]. LEI. If you’re Nawiliwili nice, I’ll tell you what Nawiliwili means. Basically, it means “the place of the wiliwili tree.” The wiliwili is a tree native to Kaua’i, and its orange-red blossoms and seed pods are used to make LEI.

This puzzle wasn’t for me. 2.5 stars.

Kate Hawkins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 22 22, no. 0622

Theme revealer: 61a. [Accept and let go of something … or a hint to the starts of the answers to the starred clues], FIND CLOSURE. The starred answers all begin with things that can be clothing closures:

  • 17a. [*Drivers’ process when two lanes of traffic become one], ZIPPER MERGE. Service journalism here: The zipper merge is mathematically sound! You should use it! Don’t stay in the backed-up lane cursing the people who zoom ahead in the shoulder lane—cars should occupy all the space available in both lanes, and then take turns for which lane’s car goes forward at the merge point.
  • 26a. [*Garden plant that opens and shuts its “mouth” when squeezed], SNAPDRAGON. Great clue for this flower.
  • 38a. [*White pizza toppings], BUTTON MUSHROOMS. I don’t like white pizza and I don’t like mushrooms.
  • 49a. [*Design on some baseball uniforms], PINSTRIPES. Not being a New Yorker and being anti-Yankees, I wasn’t too keen on YANKEE being in the puzzle with an x-ref to this. Haberdashery suits can have pinstripes, too!

Solid theme, with two compound words and two two-word phrases being balanced.

Fave fill: Those long, nonthematic entries are nice. WORDPRESS, AFFOGATOS, SUSHI MENU, STEINBECK? Good stuff.

Five more things:

  • 55d. [Very corpulent], OBESE. Okay, this is a rude and incorrect clue. I weigh about 10 lb more than I’d like. If I gained another 24 lb, my BMI would be 30.0, “obese.” What the hell is this “very corpulent” phrasing? I’d like to request that the puzzle editors word their OBESE clues more sensitively.
  • 48d. [Daughter of Joe and Jill Biden], ASHLEY. No idea. I feel like I somehow missed entirely hearing that the Bidens had a kid together. She’s 41!
  • 31a. [Syria’s Bashar al-___], ASSAD. Gross. He claims he isn’t a war criminal. Does anyone side with him?
  • Did not know: 60a. [Brown who wrote “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”], DEE. A Southern man, if you were wondering.
  • 35d. [Wine vessel], TUN. TUN! Been awhile since I saw this one in a puzzle. Can’t say I missed it.

Four stars from me.

Billy Bratton and Erich Bratton’s AVCX, “I Woke Up Like This” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 6/22 – “Courting Couples”

Today’s AVCX is a debut by Billy and Erich Bratton – congrats!

There’s a pattern to what’s going on with the theme entries in the grid:

  • 17A: Modern schedule fillers — ZOOM MEETINGS
  • 29A: “Maybe … maybe not” — WE’LL SEE ABOUT THAT
  • 45A: All-time NBA 61-Across leader — RUSSELL WESTBROOK
  • 61A: Feat achieved by 17-, 29-, and 45-Across (in two ways, in the last case) — TRIPLE DOUBLE

Each of these has 3 sets of double letters, which also (triple?) doubles as a basketball feat accomplished by RUSSELL WESTBROOK many times.

Today in being slightly awed by how much time has continued to pass: Rihanna (or RIRI, if you’re being familiar a la 56D)’s “Umbrella” is 15 years old. 15!

Happy Wednesday!

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

New Yorker crossword solution, 6 22 22, Paolo Pasco

Smooth, not-too-hard themeless today. Played like a Friday NYT for me.

Fave fill: TRASH PANDA, GRIM REAPER, MASCOT SUIT, GLAAD, WEST AFRICA, TINKER TOY (I loved TinkerToy!), “HARD AGREE,” IMPULSE BUY. Man, I miss impulse purchases! When you get 98% of your groceries via online orders and you don’t set foot inside the store, you miss out on the whole “SETS EYES ON, adds to cart, enjoys” experience.

Five more things:

  • 17a. [“Or to take arms against ___ of troubles . . .”: “Hamlet”], A SEA. Given how few people actually use the word ASEA outside of crossword puzzles, I’m pleased to see a Shakespeare partial instead.
  • 21a. [Geographic low points], DALES. Tried VALES first. Yet another pair in the roster of “Which one is it this time?” fill—AVER vs AVOW, SEETHE vs SEE RED, ESO vs ESA, etc. Could even have been DELLS here.
  • 26a. [Performance style for Manila Luzon and Plastique Tiara], DRAG. Manila Luzon, as you might guess, is Filipino American. Other notable Pinay drag queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race include Jiggly Caliente and Ongina. Hey, who’s watching the current All Stars season? These queens are all so talented and funny!
  • 8d. [Dating ___ (romantic video-game genre, for short)], SIM. Had no idea this was a thing. Are these games fun?
  • 9d. [“Yes, absolutely this”], HARD AGREE. Not sure where or when “hard” picked up its use as an intensifier, but “hard pass” and “hard same” are also familiar to me.

4.25 stars from me.

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

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer is a two word phrase. The first word starts with U and the second starts with N.

USA Today, 06 22 2022, “UN Assembly”

  • 15a [Button encouraging users to download the latest version] – UPGRADE NOW
  • 25a [“Baloney!”] – UTTER NONSENSE
  • 62a [Bowlful often topped with tempura] – UDON NOODLES

Good title, cute theme, and interesting theme answers – what more do you want from a USA Today puzzle? It took me a bit to see UPGRADE NOW, because I was *certain* the first word in that answer was “update”. Combine that with having “nearest” over CLOSEST for 7d [Least distant] and “evil” over VILE for 13a [Despicable] (what can I say, at least they’re anagrams?), and it meant that the top half of the puzzle took a long time to come together. Luckily for me, the bottom half went much more smoothly. I was able to drop in UDON NOODLES without even seeing the clue once I had a few crosses.

Sticking points: “zinc” instead of ALOE for 51a [Sunscreen additive]. Also, it took me a long time to be convinced ORCS was correct, because I interpreted the “fantasy games” in the clue as video games as opposed to dungeons and dragons.

Favorite answers: NO LUCK, POINSETTIA (I can never spell that) and FOOTIE pajamas.

Favorite clues: 40d [Word before “food” or “mate”] for SOUL, 68a [Chloe, to Halle, for short] for SIS (Chloe x Halle is a band made up of two sisters).

Dave Taber & Laura Moll’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Dave Taber & Laura Moll’s puzzle really hit home at the revealing answer. I could see two puzzle themes – food dishes and dwelling places – but how did they relate? Answer: HOMEMADEMEAL, although HOMECOOKED sounds more natural to my ear.

The components:

  • [Healthy starter], GAR(DEN)GREENS
  • [Baked side], POTATOWITHC(HIVE)S. Not familiar to me as a discrete thing, but the dual nature of the theme makes me inclined to ignore a few rough edges.
  • [Meaty entrée], TBO(NEST)EAK. Weird choice for a second starter?
  • [Filled dessert], CHOCOLATEEC(LAIR)S

Other notable entries:

  • Shot I took of an African Black (“Verreaux’s”) Eagle on its aerie last week…

    [American Eagle Outfitters lingerie brand], AERIE. My Google searches are going to be weird after googling this…

  • [Flavor enhancer, for short], MSG. Glutamate is naturally found in many foods, so while it is an “enhancer” at times, this clues reinforces a lot of food fear propraganda.
  • [Honolulu-born jet pilot who became a pop singer], DONHO. Weird that the clue makes it sound like his jet pilot gig is how he got famous?
  • [“But it’s a dry __”], HEAT. Weird use of quotes, though maybe if you live in LA…


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17 Responses to Wednesday, June 22, 2022

  1. DH says:

    Re: “I’d like to request that the puzzle editors word their OBESE clues more sensitively”…

    The Spanish Inquisition was a 15th century Holocaust with the same ends – and “Heresy” in this case is synonymous with “Jewish”. (In fact, the Holocaust mostly targeted Jews who practiced in secret while pretending to be Christians in order to save their own lives and businesses).

    The Inquisition began in 1492 under the rule of Queen Isabella, who funded Columbus’ trip to the New World. There is much speculation that not only were a substantial percentage of Columbus’ crew Jews who were escaping the imprisonment, torture, and execution at the hand Torquemada, but there is ample evidence that Columbus himself was Jewish.

    The confiscation of all of the assets of “heretics” (Jews) resulted in substantial revenue for Isabella and the crown, which were used to fund subsequent voyages.

    This is but one instance of global antisemitism that has repeated itself as a matter of national policy in every century before and after the 15th (, yet this chronic (and often acute international systemic racism) is largely ignored. True, there is much context and nuance to my statements but the fact is that this topic is largely ignored and often reduced to a simple crossword clue. I just thought I’d provide the point of view of an obese, White Supremacist heretic.

  2. David L says:

    I discovered at my last physical that I am now officially obese. Pandemic and other reasons. I am not happy about that and disgust with oneself is a great motivator to lose some weight. I really don’t understand the objection to the clue used today.

    I don’t believe I have ever seen button mushrooms on a pizza, white or otherwise. Don’t they generally use sliced mushrooms?

    • e.a. says:

      David, wishing you all the best on your health journey.

      i think we collectively need to be more aware of some of the language we use that implicitly equates “fat” and “bad” or “disgusting.” for example, i’ve heard it’s a common trope that skinny people will complain to / in front of their fat friends, “ugh, i feel/look so fat.” unfortunately, fatphobia is so entrenched in society that even theoretically medically neutral words like “obese” have come to be used hurtfully. i winced when i saw it in the puzzle.

      • David L says:

        Thank you — but my perspective or experience is different, I guess. I think of ‘obese’ as a basically neutral, descriptive term and don’t find it all wince-inducing.

      • dhj says:

        I winced every time you wrote “fat.”

        Just to clarify – “obese” is to be banished, but “fat” is fine?

    • Gareth says:

      Button Mushrooms are the most common name here for small white Agaricus bisporicus mushrooms, which are by far the most common mushroom variety to find sliced on a pizza?

  3. Fred says:

    BMI doesn’t jive for short and tall people, it is non-linear, tall people are far too often the O-word

    corpulent alone is enough to clue OBESE

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Amen … I’m 6’3″ and weigh between 215 and 220. I wouldn’t mind losing about 5 or 10 pounds, but I’m fit, I hike about 10-15 miles per week, do a lot of work in my garden, generally eat pretty healthfully and am in very good physical condition, particularly (I think) for someone who will soon be 63 years old. I don’t think anyone would look at me and think “gee, that guy is grossly overweight”, in spite of what the NIH says my BMI suggests (it’s around 27). The YANKEE’s Aaron Judge is 6’7″ and he weighs 282 pounds. That makes his BMI 31.8. Do you think anyone would call him obese (other than the NIH)? I very much doubt it and they certainly wouldn’t do it to his face.

      • Martin says:

        Jenni has often commented that BMI doesn’t distinguish between muscle and fat. Athletes are particularly mischaracterized for this reason.

        On the other hand, I don’t agree with Amy’s critique. Of course Amy (and probably most people) would not be very corpulent at BMI 30. But the clue doesn’t say that. It says that if you’re very corpulent you’re obese, not the converse.

      • Fred says:

        Try 6’5″ it takes 210# to be healthy. I’m fine at 250#, thank you – on the very border of obese

        It’s more than just adipose and muscle, it a plot with an arc at each end, it’s faulty because it is non-linear

        Ladies 4’11” 90# is underweight (My friend is not)
        5’3″ 140# is healthy. Tell some female you know who is 5’3″ that she looks good and add “What do you weigh 140#?” It won’t go over well

  4. David Roll says:

    WSJ–Johnson’s predecessor//May?? Please explain (nicely)

  5. huda says:

    NYT: Good (and complex) discussion about connotations of words related to weight. Totally agree that it is tricky, and terms that are put forward as neutral windup sounding judgmental.
    But no one talked about AFFOGATOS!!! Did anyone else feel like wanting to go make one on the spot, calories be damned? What stopped me is that I solved the puzzle in the middle of the night. Now, I’m thinking about it again…
    I enjoyed the puzzle. It’s fun to think about the multiple meanings of CLOSURE.

  6. marciem says:

    “Yet another pair in the roster of “Which one is it this time?” fill—AVER vs AVOW, SEETHE vs SEE RED, ESO vs ESA, etc. Could even have been DELLS here”

    Don’t forget the Maunas, Loa and Kea. And for the not-so-musical, the major and minor keys. And the Ari vs Ali vs Aly vs Ara vs Ana vs Ani vs Ann … nevermind Eero vs. Erno vs ??

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