Wednesday, September 7, 2022

LAT 3:18 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 4:28 (Amy) 


NYT 3:55 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 4:22 (Sophia) 


AVCX untimed (Rebecca) 


Hal Moore’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Crescendo”—Jim P’s review

Our theme today consists of song titles that build from “silence” to a “shout.” Musical notation in parentheses reinforces the increase in volume.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Crescendo” · Hal Moore · Wed., 9.7.22

  • 16a. [The Four Seasons, 1964 ( )] SILENCE IS GOLDEN. Couldn’t remember the tune to this one, but looking it up, yes, I’ve heard it. Alternatively, Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” could’ve fit here.
  • 26a. [George Michael, 1984 (ppp)] CARELESS WHISPER.
  • 33a. [Destiny’s Child, 1999 (p)] SAY MY NAME.
  • 54a. [The Beatles, 1964 (fff)] TWIST AND SHOUT.

Nice theme. I’m not musically inclined, but between the title and the musical notation, I figured out what was going on. By the way, (ppp) stands for pianississimo (very very quiet), (p) is piano (quiet), and (fff) is fortississimo (very very loud).

It would have been nice if there was one more entry on the loud side, but I can’t think of a word that would be between “say” and “shout” volume-wise, let alone a song title. Unless the “shout” entry was marked (f) and another entry got the (fff), say Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell.” Katy Perry’s “Roar” would be better thematically, but it’s an unfortunate four-letters long, which wouldn’t work with the left/right symmetry in this grid.

Stacks of sevens in the corners are mostly nice. I especially liked BLUESMEN next to RED TAPE as well as CANTINA, CALTECH, MONACO, and OH DAMN [“Did that really just happen?!”], though I wanted it to be “OH SNAP!” And MEDLEY deserves a shout out for being theme-adjacent. Never heard of the term NET LEASE [Commercial realty agreement] which is a situation where the lessee pays for taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs in addition to rent.

Clue of note: 17d. [Coward knighted by Queen Elizabeth]. NOEL. Nice use of the old “disguised proper name” trick.

Enjoyable puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Ekua Ewool’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 7 22, no. 0907

What a fun theme! Debut constructor Ekua Ewool takes us through the emotional journey of a new solver tackling the Monday through Friday puzzles:

  • 16a. [Newbie crossword solver’s thought on a Monday], “I’VE GOT THIS!”
  • 23a. [Newbie crossword solver’s thought on a Tuesday], “WISH ME LUCK!” Getting a bit tougher.
  • 35a. [Newbie crossword solver’s thought on a Wednesday], “I’D LIKE SOME HINTS,” in a faintly pleading tone.
  • 50a. [Newbie crossword solver’s thought on a Thursday], “WHAT IN HELL…?” Gimmick puzzles can really throw you a curveball.
  • 58a. [Newbie crossword solver’s thought on a Friday], “GOOGLE TIME!” It’s not cheating, it’s learning. So much smarter to look up what you don’t know, and learn some new things, than to leave a puzzle unfinished. (Note: This doesn’t apply to crossword tournaments.)

So tell me: What does the newbie say when the Saturday NYT puzzle hits?

Three things:

  • 30a. [Holder of tent sales], REI. They sell camping gear and other outdoor sportsy stuff.
  • 18a. [“Veep” actress Chlumsky], ANNA. I finally started (and finished!) Veep this year and loved it. A good 95% of the characters are essentially dirtbags, selfish and crude and thoughtless careerists always looking for their next angle; basically the polar opposite of The West Wing. I learned a lot about how government works! (Do not watch this show if you don’t want to hear astonishingly rude, crass language.)
  • 6d. [Department store chain that began as a corner grocery], KOHL’S. Did not know that! My husband probably did, as the first Kohl’s department store was in his Wisconsin hometown.

Four stars from me.

Amanda Rafkin’s Universal crossword, “That’s Twisted!”—pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/7/22 • Wed • Rafkin • “That’s Twisted” • solution • 20220907

  • 52aR [Superpower that can alter material existence … and a feature of the starred clues’ answers] REALITY WARPING.
  • 18a. [*”… and then something funny happens”] HILARITY ENSUES.
  • 23a. [*Kosher restaurants observe one] DIETARY LAW.
  • 46a. [*Evidence of laundering] MONEY TRAIL.

I’ve circled the relevant squares containing the jumbled letters.

On the one hand, I’m impressed with the quality of the phrases—they’re in-the-language and they contain a relatively long string of required letters. On the other hand, the revealer feels weak and forced.

Theme adjacent? 39a [McKellen who played Magneto] IAN, 25d [Hidden bonuses in many Marvel films] EASTER EGGS, 7d [Accessory for Thor or Storm] CAPE, 30d [Individual frame in a comic book] PANEL, 36d [Marisa who plays Aunt May] TOMEI.

  • Unfamiliar to me: 42a [“__ to the Women on Long Island” (Olivia Gatwood poem)] ODE, which partially duplicates 5d [Art form that might be in free verse] POETRY.
  • Also unfamiliar: 48d [“The Last Five __” (off-Broadway Musical)] YEARS.
  • But at least I’d heard of 58a [Ruth who played Lady Macbeth] NEGGA. I believe this was opposite Daniel Craig earlier this year.
  • 59a [Lion’s bellow] ROAR.
  • 61a [Barely defeated] EDGED. Not sure that I see it without a helper such as ‘out’ anywhere outside of crosswords.
  • Appreciative of the symmetrical pairing of 8d [Hospital trauma pro] ER NURSE and 41d [Prioritizes by severity] TRIAGES.
  • 35a [Hollywood fame] STARDOM, which can cause one’s reality to warp, I’d say.

 Zaineb Akbar’s USA Today Crossword, “Serving Plaits” — Sophia’s recap

Editor:  Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer starts with a word that can precede BRAID.

USA Today, 09 07 2022, “Serving Plaits”

  • 4d [Savory bowlful topped with bread and cheese] – FRENCH ONION SOUP
  • 7d [Fluffy oven-baked pancake] – DUTCH BABY
  • 10d [Valentine’s Day gift] – BOX OF CHOCOLATES
  • 67a [Word that can follow the first words of 4-, 7- and 10-Down] – BRAID

Cute theme, and good title! I know all of these hairstyles so this wasn’t too much of a stretch for me, theme-wise. I liked that all of the theme answers ended up being types of food – at first, I thought that the theme was going to relate to that.

It took me a while to get going on the puzzle. There were a lot of words or clues I was unfamiliar with, such as ABAYA or Hilton ALS, and there were also a lot of clues in which I went off in the wrong direction: for example “prove” instead of EXERT for 19a [___ yourself (put in effort)] and “Tampa” instead of MIAMI for 53d [Major city in Florida]. So this one ended up playing harder than the usual USA Today fare for me, but I enjoyed the challenge!


Clues that I am going to think about for the rest of the day: 36a [Cookies used to model moon phases] for OREOS, 64a [“Don’t ___!” (prey’s plea)] for EAT ME.

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

New Yorker crossword solution, 9/7/22 – Agard

I forget where my Wednesday New Yorker solving times usually land, but I think the “lightly challenging” should feel a bit easier than a Friday NYT. This one was right up there in the Fri NYT zone.

Entirely new to me: 34a. [Experimental film by Tourmaline about Mary Jones, a Black trans woman who lived in nineteenth-century New York], SALACIA. Salacia is also the name of a Roman goddess of salt water, not that I’d heard of that. Here’s an article about the film.

Fave fill: SCLC (the important Southern Christian Leadership Conference—though I half wanted SNCC here instead), KIDDO, “MIND BLOWN,” “WHO’S ‘WE’?”, “GOTTA GO,” ALOO GOBI, SHOOK ON IT, “DON’T FORGET,” BROWN SKIN GIRL, “I KNOW THAT LOOK,” “GO EASY ON ME.” Very chatty grid!

Four more things:

  • 52a. [Country whose ten-gourde note depicts Sanite Bélair], HAITI. If you missed the long NYT article about the massive robbery of Haiti’s wealth on the part of large, white-majority nations (France, the US, more) a few months ago, it’s time to catch up.
  • 45d. [Any of several characters played by Tatiana Maslany on “Orphan Black”], CLONE. Maslany also stars in Disney+’s 53d SHE [“___-Hulk: Attorney at Law”] series, which I’m enjoying.
  • 46d. [Browse Miiriya or Cafe con Libros, say], SHOP. I don’t know either business name, but Cafe con Libros sounds like a bookstore. Miiriya turns out to be an online consortium of Black-owned businesses. And yes, Cafe con Libros is a feminist, intersectional bookstore in Brooklyn. Click through for books for adults and books for KIDDOs.
  • 6d. [Marvel superhero paired with Dagger], CLOAK. Never heard of this pair, but cloak and dagger is super-familiar.

Here’s the sumptuous Beyoncé video for 18d:

4.25 stars from me. Fun puzzle with lots of layers to it.


Rebecca Goldstein and Brooke Husic’s AVCX, “All the Feels” — Rebecca’s Review

AVCX 9/7 – “All the Feels”

This week’s AVCX Classic from Rebecca Goldstein and Brooke Husic was a super smooth 3/5 difficulty.

I always love a puzzle that uses a non-traditional layout to get the point of the theme across. Rather than having a few long answers and a revealer, today we get a revealer and 4 ‘RINGs’ as the themed entries.

  • 62A: Item of color changing
    jewelry found four times in this grid MOOD RING


My only nitpick here is the choice of moods felt a bit random – but the puzzle was fun throughout and the ‘aha!’ moment when I got to MOOD RING was entertaining enough to make the puzzle great.

No surprise that there was some really fantastic cluing throughout the puzzle – my favorites:

  • 10D: Travel company? — CARAVAN
  • 23D: Control tops? — DOMS
  • 33A: Character in a “Strange Planet” comic — ALIEN
  • 55A: It’s shared by John Oliver and John Cena — AGE
  • 30A: Monarchy with no permanent rivers: Abbr. — UAE

Here’s some Mötley CRÜE for your Wednesday

Susan Gelfand’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Susan Gelfand’s puzzle theme is quite basic. Four two-part’s foods’ first parts are surnames of singers. Given surnames are quite commonly basic nouns, this seems a low bar. In any case, we have:

  • [Favorite vegetable side dish of singer Donna?], SUMMERSQUASH
  • [Favorite leafy course of singer Al?], GREENSALAD
  • [Favorite fish entree of singer Carole?], KINGSALMON
  • [Favorite fruity dessert of singer Fiona?], APPLESTRUDEL

In general, this puzzle offered little resistance. There were a few trickier clues/answers, though: [Toepick-assisted skating leaps], LUTZES named for skater Alois Lutz; [__ Valley: puzzle game with optical illusions], MONUMENT was new to me, but I’ve heard of the place. It appears it’s a puzzle >video< game; [“Mayans M.C.” star Edward James __], OLMOS also rings only the dimmest bells.


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9 Responses to Wednesday, September 7, 2022

  1. JohnH says:

    I wanted to nit pick the WSJ theme to death. Is the absence of dynamic markings really the same as silence? Maybe that should be ppp. For that matter, maybe the other two triple indications could have been the far more common double. Is speech really p, meaning quiet? Depends on who’s speaking, I guess. Maybe that could have been mf, for average, although I realize most solvers might find that obscure. And yeah, another on the loud side would have been more elegant.

    But what the heck, it’s only a crossword, not musical truth. Maybe it’s even a tad challenging (given the references) and clever.

    • gyrovague says:

      No, your nits are valid. My main beef was that the parenthetical notations had no real bearing on my completing the puzzle. I simply saw the artists and filled in the songs (with help from crossings). At which point I was confronted with the grammatically questionable progression of silence —> whisper —> say —> shout.

      That coupled with fill like the esoteric NET LEASE, roll-your-own OH DAMN, and use-only-in-desperation TRA meant that my overall impression was, to extend the tortured musical metaphor, flat.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Yes, it’s only a crossword, but most crossword themes make a hell of a lot more sense than this one does. I read music and am pretty sure that the absence of a musical notation for loudness (as in the top themer in the grid) means the musician should play or sing at a normal volume (mf), as dictated by the orchestra/choir director. It most certainly doesn’t mean that they should be silent. If there are notes in the staff for your part, you play/sing regardless of if there’s a loudness marking. In fact, when needed, ‘tacet’ is the specific marking for silence. Plus, I don’t think that using SAY between WHISPER and SHOUT in the progression works at all. This one gets a big “meh” from me.

    • Eric H says:

      Add me as one who picked up on the theme three-fourths of the way through. The only meaning I know of for “fff” is the musical direction.

      But the theme really didn’t help me figure out the theme answers. The only song I’m know is TWIST AND SHOUT (which would have been more challenging if it was clued to the Isley Brothers, and even more challenging if it was clued to the Top Notes).

      On the other hand, the volume directions do help explain why, out of millions of pop songs, we got those four.

      The fill has some nice stuff, but the puzzle’s starting off with “angel dust letters” didn’t do much for me.

    • marciem says:

      WSJ: Constructor would have obviously been more successful with a “less is more” cluing, leaving out the supposed musical notations and just going for songs that progressed from silent to loud in steps. It wasn’t a bad puzzle at all without them (the notations).

  2. Leah says:

    NYT theme was so fun! I thoroughly enjoyed discovering each theme answer. Plus, smooth fill including LAVA CAKE and ENIGMA. And it’s a debut! Looking forward to Ms. Ewool’s next byline for sure.

  3. gyrovague says:

    TNY: A very engaging puzzle, and a great write-up as always from Amy. Among many other highlights, I especially liked the clue/answer for CLASSY [Admirable in one’s treatment of others], as well as the suggestive intersection of CRONY and CROOKS.

    I didn’t know SALACIA from salami, but had no problem getting it with crosses and am glad to have learned the name. Nice bit of cosmic overlap with Mary Jones on Wiki, which refers to the planetoid 120347 Salacia as a “trans-Neptunian object.” :-)

  4. David Roll says:

    WSJ–The musical notation added nothing to my success in solving the puzzle–I even remembered “Silence Is Golden.”

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