Wednesday, February 15, 2023

LAT 4:57 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker tk (malaika) 


NYT 3:43 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 9:07 (Emily) 


AVCX tk (Rebecca) 


Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Exchanging Digits”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Numbers are switched out for their homophones in familiar phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Exchanging Digits” · Gary Larson · Wed., 2.15.23

  • 20a. [Got bedroom furnishings in a raffle?] WON NIGHTSTANDS. One night stands.
  • 33a. [Aiding and abetting a burglary?] BREAKING IN, TOO. Breaking in two.
  • 41a. [Tried chopsticks instead of cutlery?] ATE THE HARD WAY. Eight the hard way (a craps term for two fours). Not really keen on this Eurocentric view that eating with chopsticks is harder than with cutlery. I mean, babies can do it.
  • 54a. [Strictly opposed to any kind of warning on the golf course?] DOWN ON ALL FORES. Down on all fours.

If you like groaner puns, this one’s for you. These didn’t do much for me, though.

It’s also weird to go from 1 to 2 to 8 to 4. Sure, there’s no thematic reason why the numbers should increase in an orderly fashion, but it would’ve been more elegant.

Looking at the fill, I needed every single crossing for DENARII. I don’t mind learning about the denarius coin (which was apparently worth 10 asses), but to have it be plural in the grid somehow just annoyed me. “I’M INDEBTED” feels off without a final “to you.” Plus there’s GNAW ON, DWELL ON, PASS ON, and ON TO in addition to DOWN ON in the theme. And WADS UP immediately followed by UPS clued [High points]. Why not clue this as the shipping company? Too many dupes, even if they are short words.

I did like “STAY STRONG” and PANGAEA.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Gloomy]. GRIM. These don’t feel quite synonymous to me with the latter being more dire than just pessimistic.
  • 18a. [Its Europa Clipper is planned for a 2024 launch]. NASA. Per the NASA website, the Clipper “will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter’s moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon could have conditions suitable for life.”
  • 59a. [Wrote in Swift, say]. CODED. Tough one if you’ve never heard of this programming language developed by Apple.

Not my cup of tea. 2.75 stars.

Sean Ziebarth’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 2 15 23, no. 0215

An educational (for me) theme with a semi-Thursdayish slant: The center revealer is 38a. [W.W. II-era campaign that helped usher in the civil rights movement … and a hint to four answers in this puzzle], DOUBLE V, and four notable Black Americans with a W in their names have those W’s expanded to VV. It is not surprising that my schooling (in diverse but majority-white schools) never addressed the Double V campaign. (Click through a learn a bit if it’s also new to you.) The theme entries include one unfamiliar-to-me hero:

  • 17a. [Investigative journalist and civil rights pioneer who co-founded the N.A.A.C.P.], IDA B VVELLS. A legend, a leader, a Chicagoan for most of her adult life. Here’s what a women’s history site has to say about Wells.
  • 23a. [Novelist and civil rights activist who wrote “Go Tell It on the Mountain”], JAMES BALDVVIN. He needs no introduction, but the NMAAHC has a nice bio. (If you’ll be in Washington, DC, be sure to visit the museum.)
  • 52a. [African American who received a posthumous Medal of Honor for valorous service in W.W. II], GEORGE VVATSON. I had not known of Watson, who saved several of his fellow soldiers from drowning.
  • 62a. [Historian, essayist and civil rights leader who was the first African American to receive a doctorate at Harvard], VV.E.B. DUBOIS. Here’s a brief bio from the NAACP.

Terrific theme, for Black History Month or any month.

Fave fill: A WAFER in your Kit Kat bar, HEROISM such as George Watson’s, PECAN (I’ve been snacking on some), FLAPJACKS, ACTING OUT, and WARBLY birds.

Fun clue: 35d. [Facial feature that many characters on “The Simpsons” lack], CHIN. Really, chins are optional.

Four stars from me.

Howard Neuthaler’s Universal crossword, “Drop-off Points” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 2/15/23 • Wed • Neuthaler • “Drop-off Points” • solution • 20230215

This was a nice, tidy theme in a well-constructed crossword.

  • 63aR [Frozen treat made with liquid nitrogen, or a hint to 14-, 29- and 44-Across] DIPPIN’ DOTSaka the “ice cream of the future”, which I think now has retro appeal. Each of the theme answers features the trigram D-O-T, which descends vertically and whose down clue is different each time. I’ve circled the relevant squares for ease of reference.
  • 14a. [Breakfast food featuring a green spread] AVOCA{DO T}OAST.
    15d. [Dorothy, to friends] DOT.
  • 29a. [“Don’t break the rules!”] YOU CAN’T {DO T}HAT.
    31d. [FAA overseer] DOT, the Department of Transportation.
  • 44a. [Faux formal garments with short sleeves] TUXE{DO T}-SHIRTS.
    45d. [ . ] DOT. Very literal.

See? Quite nice.

  • 2d [Made square] EVENED, 1a [Square things with] REPAY.
  • 11d [Ambitious venture] MOONSHOT. I believe Biden has dubbed his (10d) ANTI-cancer proposal thus.
  • 36d [Black gold] TEXAS TEA. No ‘informally’-type qualifier necessary because the clue itself is presented that way also. Same with 47d [Head honcho] TOP DOG.
  • 37d [Fire: Var.] AXE. Universal™ style guide, or possibly just the editor’s.
  • 41d [“There’s that sound!”] I HEAR IT.
  • 46d [Some young fish] SCROD. Often cod or haddock. I’ve also just learned that schrod is variant spelling.
  • 18a [Small digits] TOES. Thought this was ONES, then TWOS. I don’t feel this is a particularly good clue.
  • 50a [Caspian or Caribbean] SEA, 51a [Pacific or Atlantic] OCEAN.
  • 65a [ERA, e.g. … or an ER order] STAT. Cute.

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano gives us a letter deletion theme today based on SHAVEICE – ICE being missing (shaved) from four entries. It exhibits the typical issue with this theme type; you only really appreciate the original phrases if you go back and puzzle out where the ICE disappeared, otherwise I found it easier to just solve around the theme…

  • [Get-together with a sketchy vibe?], OFF[ICE]PARTY
  • [Marketer’s blitz campaign?], PR[ICE]INCREASE
  • [Intercom call on Take Your Child to Work Day?], SON[ICE]TOSEEYOU
  • [Shake Weight and The Flex Belt, per their infomercials?], BOD[ICE]RIPPERS

Fast five:

  • [Pickleball shot], LOB. Pickleball sounds as goofy as it appears to be…
  • [Nut used to make vegan cheese], CASHEW. Those are extremely pricy to begin with here?
  • [Foodie website covering 25 metro areas], EATER. Is 25 a lot?
  • [Arcade achievements], TOPSCORES. Do more people prefer top or high?
  • [Process that may involve PT or OT], REHAB. Clue was mysterious while solving, but google suggests physical and occupational therapy.


Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Open Sesame” — Emily’s write-up

Fun puzzle overall with lots of great bonus fill!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday February 15, 2022

USA Today, February 15 2022, “Open Sesame” by Zhouqin Burnikel

Theme: the first word of each themer can be preceded with “Sesame” to make a new phrase


  • 16a. [Highly energetic person, metaphorically], BALLOFFIRE
  • 36a. [Startup funds], SEEDMONEY
  • 62a. [Focus of some fashion blogs], STREETSTYLE

BALLOFFIRE took me a few crossings for the last word, since I use “energy” more often. SEEDMONEY will certainly get a project started.
New to STREETSTYLE?–there’s a great list blogs to get you started or find new faves.
With today’s theme, we get: SESAME BALL, SESAME SEED, and SESAME STREET.


Stumpers: SAFETYNETS (“mats” came to mind first), ROPED (kept thinking “looped”), and ENID (needed crossings)

A tricker theme to identify today for me, with all the lengthy bonus fill and because “sesame balls” are delicious but something I rarely enjoy (though always wish I did more often when I remember about them) since I wasn’t sure what portion of the title was meant to be the themer clue. Otherwise it was a great puzzle and I loved the grid.

4.0 stars


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8 Responses to Wednesday, February 15, 2023

  1. Dallas says:

    Nice Wednesday; the IDA B VVELLS was throwing me off when I first saw it because I wondered if the “B” was being expanded… but it came together really quickly. Fast fill for a Wednesday.

  2. David L says:

    NYT was good. One nitpicky complaint: I wanted ALAN at 2D for “Hawkeye’s player…” because the clue seemed to signal a first name. Easily corrected, though.

    • Mr. [just a bit] Grumpy says:

      Agree. Editing team should have caught that. I also disliked OVER in 10D and in the clue for 6A, since the latter could have been avoided so easily. See, e.g., LAT 31A. None of that really detracts from a very nice, and educational, puzzle.

  3. marciem says:

    NYT: Fun theme and so appropriate!! The theme gave a nice aha! when it landed :) Almost a Thursday-tricky, which I love.

    Working it all into Black history was terrific. I too had not heard of George Watson and am glad to learn about him.

    one teeny tiny nit… wish the four real w’s hadn’t been there … like I said, a really nitty nit nit for an enjoyable puzzle :)

  4. Eric H says:

    Universal: I’m generally not a fan of puzzles that have answers that look like gibberish (for example, 14A AVOCADOAST), but when the trick is as straightforward as it is here, I don’t mind as much. Overall a nice, well-filled puzzle. (But between this one and Monday’s NYT, I’ve seen enough of DIPPIN’ DOTS to last me a while.)

    Re: “18a [Small digits] TOES. Thought this was ONES, then TWOS. I don’t feel this is a particularly good clue.” That’s funny, because the first thing that came to mind for me, without any crosses, was TOES. It’s a brilliant clue!

    • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

      I had never heard of DIPPIN’ DOTS before Monday. Now … Dots the movie candy? That’s a different story.

      Don’t know whether it was intentional, but I liked [in retrospect] the fact that first theme had an O after the D as well as the DOT going down. Slowed me down in picking up what was going on. If it was intentional, it was a very nice sleight of hand [eye?].

      • Eric H says:

        I don’t remember where I picked up the term DIPPIN’ DOTS — I’ve never eaten or seen them (it?) and don’t hang around places where they are sold, but I got the answer quickly on Monday and even more quickly today.

  5. Ernest A says:

    Why isn’t anyone reviewing AVCX puzzles anymore?

Comments are closed.