Wednesday, January 4, 2023

LAT 4:16 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 8:26 (malaika) 


NYT 5:18 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 6:40 (Emily) 


AVCX tk (Rebecca) 


David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Golf Hazards”—Jim P’s review

At first it seemed pretty clear what the theme was. The main theme answers all end with a type of golf club.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Golf Hazards” · David Alfred Bywaters · Wed., 1.4.23

  • 17a. [Banned V-shaped football maneuver] FLYING WEDGE.
  • 30a. [Pan material] CAST IRON.
  • 42a. [City on New Jersey’s Cape May] WILDWOOD.

But then the revealer added a little more to the story: 54a, [Boat enthusiast’s group, or frustrated golfer’s projectile that appears three times in this puzzle] with the answer SAILING CLUB. This was unexpected. Yes, we get the golf clubs at the ends of the two-word phrases, but the first word can also describe that club as it’s been thrown through the air in anger. Pretty cool, huh? And it gives the puzzle title a whole new meaning, too. Nicely done!

But wait, there’s more! Lots of fun long fill in BARBARIANS, SMALL PRINT, SMIDGENS, TEAMED UP, and HENNERY. I’ve never heard this last word but I loved learning it. If you want fresh eggs, get thee to a HENNERY!

Not so excited about HAD A GAS [Really enjoyed oneself] which feels pretty dated. But “a gas” is probably a better thing to have than just “gas.”

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Be beyond the pail?]. SLOSH. Good starting clue. I went with SPILL at first, though.
  • 61a. [Tap choice]. HOT. Good misdirection. I didn’t think “water” until I had already gotten it by the crosses and even then I still needed an extra beat.
  • 29d. [Font for legal niceties]. SMALL PRINT. Unless I’m mistaken, that’s not a font.

An impressive, surprising theme and strong long fill. Four stars from me.

Laura Breiman & Tom Bachant’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1 4 24, no. 0104

The theme is CELESTIAL BODIES, and the circled squares spell out a 2×2-square MOON, a COMET zooming off, a diamond-shaped STAR, a large ring for a GALAXY, and … an ASTEROID that zigs and zags? Either that’s a weird way to depict an asteroid or everything I know about asteroids is wrong.

I was surprised to encounter two related things that I didn’t know in a Wednesday puzzle: 17a. [Wireless speaker brand], SONOS and 37d. [Amazon-owned home Wi-Fi brand], EERO. I tried plunking in Amazon’s wireless smart speaker, ECHO, which slowed me down so much. I’d also never heard of EERO’s crossing, 44a. [“The Song of the ___” (Willa Cather novel)], LARK. Appears to be one of her three Great Plains novels, the other two much more familiar to me.

Fave fill: MUGGLE, BIG DUMMY (because I was a fan of Redd Foxx’s 1970s sitcom, Sanford and Son—“You big dummy!”), AIRBNBS.

I suspect the physicians around these parts are looking askance at 21d. [Gut-related] as a clue for GASTRIC. Gastric relates to the stomach, while the gut is generally taken to refer to the intestines. The dictionary reveals that in common parlance, gut can also mean the stomach. I don’t like it and you can’t make me.

Today’s “verb phrase that looks naked without an object in the mix” is LETS AT, [Unleashes on]. There are two levels of object missing from the clue! You unleash something on someone. I continue to rail against (over)use of verb + at/in entries. Who’s with me?

3.5 stars from me.

Gary Larson and Amy Ensz’s Universal crossword, “Upside Down” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 1/4/23 • Wed • Larson, Ensz • “Upside Down” • solution • 20230104

Vertical theme today.

  • 3d. [*Indicator of an economic recession? (Hint: Note how starred clues’ answers are heading)] TURN SIGNAL, but per the hint (plus the title) we’re to interpret that as downturn signal.
  • 9d. [*”Hamlet,” e.g.?] FALL CLASSIC (downfall classic).
  • 24d. [*Chill pill?] TIME CAPSULE (downtime capsule).
  • 31d. [*Shawls from Australia?] UNDER WRAPS (Down Under wraps).

And I suppose that since the DOWN element is affixed to the ‘tops’ of these vertical entries, that can be interpreted as the ‘upside’.

  • 17a [Fasteners with Phillips or Torx heads] SCREWS. Before I parsed the theme correctly, I was examining this entry with regard to the crossing TURN for turnscrews.
  • 20a [Big dipper?] LADLE. This reminds me of some long-forgotten children’s joke or pun or something.
  • 50a [Big heart?] ACE.
  • 40a [Contents of Pandora’s Box] EVILS. Don’t forget Hope! And I think it was originally a jar or amphora type vessel.
  • 62a [American Chinese dish with the same etymological roots as the Korean dish japchae] CHOP SUEY. I’ve learned something.
  • 68a [“Light rail” terminals?] ELS. The clue gets the belt-and-suspenders treatment, with quotation marks and a question mark. (The phrase ‘light rail’ is bookended by two letter Ls.
  • 16d [“Only Murders in the Building” actor Martin] STEVE, not SHORT.
  • 32d [“Knives Out” director Johnson] RIAN. “Glass Onion” is the current film in the franchise.
  • 37d [Out of fashion] OLD HAT. 55d [In fashion] CHIC.

Solid crossword.

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Good morning, friends! I always struggle with Patrick Berry’s puzzles, and this was no exception!! Here I got stuck on the Spanish island crossing a figure skater I had never heard of. To me, that island is called “Mallorca” and I did not really know there was an anglicized version of the name, so MaYorca felt like a fair guess. It is a nono to cross two proper nouns ambiguously, which I would expect Patrick Berry to know, but maybe the New Yorker is more lax about that sort of thing. (I write the puzzles for Vulture and they encourage it…)

I have also never heard of the word ANDIRON, and I don’t really get why LOW RENT describes a cheap imitation…. to me that describes a great but mythical apartment in NYC. So that crossing also tripped me up.

A Patrick Berry puzzle is also likely to include people I’ve never heard of. Here, we’ve got the aforementioned figure skater, as well as the colonial Thomas PAINE (although once I filled it in, I realize I recognize his name from a Hamilton lyric), Alan SMITHEE (a pseudonym?) and Frank CAPRA.

What were y’all’s thoughts on GREEN BEER? I do not think this is a real phrase and rolled my eyes aggressively when I finally figured out the letters.

Hoang-Kim Vu & Jessica Zetzman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary


Hoang-Kim Vu & Jessica Zetzman’s theme idea is a fun list: WRAP/ITUP is the revealer, and four wrapped things are found in the long across answers:

  • [*Overnight delivery, maybe], NEWBORNBABY
  • [*Injury treated with ice and elevation], SPRAINEDANKLE
  • [*Secret Santa item], CHRISTMASGIFT
  • [*Meatless meal in a tortilla], BEANBURRITO

Some unusual short and medium answers were to be found in today’s puzzle:

  • [Padre de tu padre], ABUELO. Spanish for “grandfather”.
  • [Messi’s team, familiarly], PSG. Paris Saint-Germain. Unlike other major European cities, they only seem to have one high profile soccer team? It’s odd.
  • [Soup, in Koreatown], GUK. No idea here, but I saw kimchi for sale in South Africa for the first time this afternoon, so it may appear eventually…


Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Falling Flat” — Emily’s write-up

Faster solve today with a fun theme and title hint with excellent fill!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday January 04, 2023

USA Today, January 4 2023, “Falling Flat” by Zhouqin Burnikel

Theme: each themer contains —FLAT— which is in the downs (and so “falling”)


  • 3d. [Foamy espresso drink without the jitters], DECALFLATTE
  • 7d. [The equator and the Arctic Circle, for example], LINESOFLATITUDE
  • 26d. [“Eastern Sounds” jazz instrumentalist], YUSEFLATEEF

For not too much of a buzz but to still enjoy a hot beverage, order a DECALFLATTE. LINESOFLATITUDE filled in fairly easily, though it took me a moment since it’s been a while since I’ve thought about the full phrase. YUSEFLATEEF is a musician that I recognize by sight though not name but now I’ll remember him by both.

Favorite fill: MILK, TELLMEMORE, SNITS, and SPUN

Stumpers: SATE (took me a couple of crossings since I usually hear it used in the form of “satiated”), SLAMS (cluing didn’t do it alone for me, as I equate it more with “dissing” instead of “criticizing”—similar but different enough for me), and ASSUME (needed crossings, as I was thinking more along the lines of “factual” and “proven”)

Lots of fun throughout today’s puzzle, including SILO cluing made me smile with its apt yet unique description. Plus, I enjoyed the fill overall and the grid design. Much to love!

4.75 stars


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28 Responses to Wednesday, January 4, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Yeah, I agree that GASTRIC to my mind is more specifically stomach related. And I also wasn’t sure about the clue for AERATE ( “produce oxidation in”). You certainly increase oxygen availability when you aerate but it doesn’t necessarily lead to an oxidation reaction. I entered both after some hesitation.
    SONOS and EERO were also news to me. Don’t mind learning them, but it made me feel better that I wasn’t the only one.
    Currently staying at an AIRBNB in Sedona Arizona. We drove to Flagstaff yesterday and I noticed the name of its county– Coconino, and thought how come I haven’t seen it in a puzzle?

    • Gary R says:

      EERO was new to me, but we have several SONOS speakers in our home, so that went in with no crosses (pretty good sound from a fairly small box at a not-outrageous price).

      I have no medical training, so I was not bothered by the clue for GASTRIC. I’m a little surprised to learn that it refers specifically to the intestines. Why do we use the term gastrointestinal?

      • Gary R says:

        Apologies – my comment makes no sense. I misread Amy’s remark about gut/stomach/intestines. Oops!

        But as a layman, I guess I’m okay with gut=stomach.

      • Mr. [just a little bit] Grumpy says:

        Since when did EERO Saarinen become a nonperson?

    • Mutman says:

      While COCONINO may be good for constructors, I find it bad for this solver, who does not know or care about counties — or county seats — outside of my state. Especially when they are thousands of miles away (end rant).

      Enjoyed the puzzle though. Perfect Wednesday fare!

  2. Zurg says:

    Love science puzzles, but it makes me cringe so hard to see a scientific error in one :/
    Oxidation is a specific chemical reaction; aeration frequently does not produce a chemical reaction – the assertive definition in the clue is not correct.

    @Amy: I think the asteroid splatter is meant to depict an asteroid field, rather than a single asteroid. Including the “S” in WEIRDOS to make it ASTEROIDS could conveniently work here.

    • Dallas says:

      I had the same issue with aerate; I ended up relying on the crossings to get what the constructor intended when it became clear it wasn’t actually “oxidation”.

      And while we have EERO wireless routers in our home, I literally learned today that they were owned by Amazon…

      The theme was nice; really sped up my solve once I saw MOON, I was able to get COMET from the first three, GALAXY from the G, STAR from the S…

    • Gary R says:

      I’m inclined to agree that the theme was going after “asteroid field.” So I suppose there was a choice to be made whether to keep it singular and maintain the connection to the underlying phrase, or make it plural to imply we’re looking at multiple asteroids.

      I took some chemistry classes many moons ago, and also balked at the “oxidation” clue.

  3. Doug C says:

    Aeration produces oxygenation, not oxidation. I’m another one who cringes when the NYT crossword makes errors in basic science vocabulary.

  4. BryanF says:

    NYT: I saw it as an ASTEROID shower raining down.

  5. PJ says:

    NYT – My guess is the SW is a depiction of the asteroid belt.

  6. JohnH says:

    After two rough days, I found Patrick Berry’s awfully easy. (Yeah, I know, just can’t please ’em.) Not uninteresting though.

  7. Mister [Not At All] Grumpy says:

    GREEN BEER is very real. Always love me a glass … and a Patrick Berry puzzle.

  8. gyrovague says:

    WSJ: A fine, multilayered construction from D.A.B., par excellence in complexity for a Wednesday. The revealer evokes the archetypal frustrated duffer, the guy who gives “water hazard” a literal meaning — as in “Watch out, airborne club incoming!” — after sinking one ball too many in the pond. An amusing tableau, though one I personally can’t really relate to. No, not me…

  9. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT … I had no trouble at all filling it in, but isn’t the actual term for “Animals that mainly live in Sichuan” simply PANDAs, not PANDA BEARS? I know they look like bears and some people refer to them this way because of that. This clue/answer combination seems like misinformation to me.

    Mea culpa (I think) … I should have done a little reading before I posted this. It looks like giant pandas really are members of the bear family? pannonica, you seem to know a lot about animals. Help?

  10. David+Steere says:

    New Yorker: Wonderful, easy, smooth as silk, puzzle from Patrick Berry…as per usual. Loved the inclusion of 25A, 26A, 27A, 58A, 6D, 16D, 22D, 43D, 48D, 50D. Great “inclusiveness” across the board. Slightly more obscure 38D and 44D were fun to fill in. I’m a bit puzzled by those answers malaika hadn’t heard of…including…”Thomas Paine”…really? Must be an age thing…one person’s obscurities are another person’s gimmes. No problem at all with “Green Beer”–a Google search results in tons of hits. Who knew there were so many recipes? Thank you, Patrick. David

    • gyrovague says:

      Yep, Malaika brings a next-gen perspective to this site, and for that I suppose we should be grateful. But her many blithe pronouncements about things she’s never heard of … well, forgive me but they very often make me want to weep for the future.

      • Matt M. says:

        I’m glad you’re (begrudgingly?) grateful for Malaika’s perspective, but I think “weep for the future” is quite melodramatic. I’m a big Tom Paine fan (and Frank Capra fan, for that matter) but everyone knows different things and I’m confident that there are many cool and fascinating things that Malaika knows (and you know, etc.) that I don’t. The things I worry about in the future don’t involve how many people know that people sometimes dye beer green on March 17.

      • Gary R says:

        I taught, until fairly recently, at a major public university. As I got older, it was always interesting/entertaining to discover the things that were unknown to my students, but so familiar to me. But, of course, they could come up with lots of things that were new to me, but so familiar to them. It was part of what made the job fun.

        I don’t see any particular reason for someone to be familiar with ANDIRON. SONJA Henie is pretty old-timey, even for me. LOW RENT, as clued didn’t really click for me.

        But, yeah – I would like to think that someone educated in the U.S. (I don’t know Malaika’s background – maybe that’s not her profile) would have heard of Thomas PAINE, even without “Hamilton.” Frank CAPRA is pretty prominent (and I’m not a movie person) and shows up in crosswords pretty regularly, so I’m surprised that was not familiar.

        Regardless, I still think it’s fun to learn about the differences between what I and others find obvious/familiar.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          Well put, Gary. When I read one of Malaika’s reviews or do one of her puzzles, it confirms for me that she and I have diametrically opposed life experiences and spheres of knowledge (but vive le différence!). We’d probably make a killer pub trivia team.

  11. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … I really hate the ridiculous waste of resources represented by receipts at CVS {25A: Big pharmacy chain known for big receipts}. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones. Lots of other stores do the same thing. Maybe it started with CVS? I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t like those stores and everything I’ve ever read about them makes me dislike the company even more. For reasons I can’t explain, I (mostly) like Walgreens.

    Why are we suddenly getting so many Universal puzzles by Gary Larson & Amy Ensz. This same type of thing happened at this time last year with Paul Coulter puzzles.

    • David R says:

      Too much rain today in San Fran, I can see.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Unfortunately, I’m no longer in San Francisco. I relocated back to my stomping grounds in NE Ohio at the beginning of the pandemic because I can afford to retire here and to help take care of my mother.

        Anyways … I’m not sure what my receipt peeve and my dislike of CVS has to do with rain, but I will admit that I’m very much on edge because I’ve not had a cigarette in 2023. I take it that it’s showing? If so, sorry about that.

      • Mr. [Moderately] Grumpy says:

        Actually, the rain is very nice … in Berkeley, at least. Wife & I have taken two long walks today … in our REI [gotten a lot of puzzle play lately] rain gear of course.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          I bet it is, Grump. I almost always welcomed the rain out there and would rejoice when we got the odd electrical storm.

          Believe it or not, it’s been 60 and rainy here in NE Ohio the last few days. It’s been a very, very weird winter weather-wise around these parts so far. Thank goodness climate change is a myth.

  12. rtaus says:

    I’ve been doing WSJ for a few years–free, without subscription. Today I keep getting “404 page not found” error message.
    Anyone else? Does someone know a way around this?

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