Wednesday, March 1, 2023

LAT 3:25 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker 3:33 (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (Matt F) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (Emily) 


AVCX untimed (Jenni) 


Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Icy Conditions”—Jim’s review

Theme: The letters IC are added to familiar phrases at the ends of words resulting in purported wacky physical afflictions.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Icy Conditions” · Gary Larson & Amy Ensz · Wed., 3.1.23

  • 17a. [Vocal paralysis caused by fear of singing?] PANIC PIPES.
  • 26a. [Emotional disorder caused by excessive twerking?] MANIC BUNS.
  • 35a. [Nervous condition that causes one’s hands to clench when trying not to appear threatening?] IRONIC FISTS.
  • 51a. [Mental lapses caused when confronting sound reasoning?] LOGIC JAMS.
  • 61a. [Stomach distress caused by bringing up a sore subject?] TOPIC KNOTS.

I found these to be tired and groan-worthy (not in a good way) with little to no surface sense. IRONIC FISTS? TOPIC KNOTS? I guess it was too much to ask to have three good puzzles in a row this week.

I do like FENG SHUI and SOFT SOAP. Not so sure about TEHRANI though. How many Tehranis do solvers know? Also not a fan of TRITER nor USE IN.

That’s all I have. 2.5 stars.

Aaron M. Rosenberg’s New York Times Crossword – Matt F’s write up

NYT Solution 03.01.2023 by Aaron M. Rosenberg

No revealer today – the theme spells itself out in the clues. Each theme answer is a common phrase, punned up with a clue from the voice of a court jester who asks solvers to parse each phrase as a title for a king:

  • 17A – [Hark! And hear of the vengeful ruler who took great pleasure in expelling disloyal subjects, for he was the …] = PERSONAL BAN KING
  • 28A – [Listen now! And I shall relate the story of the curious sovereign who adorned his castle with images of red fruit, for he was the …] = CHERRY PIC KING
  • 47A – [Lend me your ear! And I will speak of the clumsy monarch who took twice as many golf strokes as his opponents, for he was the …] = DOUBLE PAR KING
  • 57A – [Give heed! And listen to my tale of the mad tyrant who decreed that all toilets in his realm be installed the wrong way, for he was the …] = BACKWARD LOO KING

Look, puns aren’t for everybody, and these theme clues are loooong, so I wouldn’t fault anybody who took a downs-only approach to this puzzle and didn’t take a second look after finishing. You ended up with some -king phrases that sound right and you got the music. A solve is a solve! If you do circle back and take a closer look at the theme, it’s actually pretty cute. No shortage of creativity in crafting the intro for these four eccentric kings. I also looked up some golf trivia and apparently it’s de rigueur to pick up and move to the next hole after shooting double par (6 on a par 3, e.g.), even if you don’t hole out.

The fill has some sticky spots (37-D for me, though I’m no French major) but I found a lot to love. A few years ago I read Exhalation: Stories by Ted CHIANG, which I found to be an excellent collection of sci-fi short stories (very simpatico with my engineering brain). Anybody else think “womb” for [Bun holder, so to speak] before coming around to OVEN? The clue for 20-A takes the cake for me: [Apt recourse for a deal gone sour?] = LEMON LAW. Speaking of puns, I’ll leave you with this one that I can never un-hear when I see 40-D: “Where Anne hath a will, Anne Hathaway.”

Thanks Aaron!

Ben Tolkin’s AV Club crossword, “Scorched Earth”–Jenni’s write-up

Good morning! I’m sitting in for our esteemed blogmistress today and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Maybe that’s because I’ve been married to a geologist for 38 years.

If the grid looks a bit narrow, that’s because it’s a 13×15 to accommodate three 13-letter theme entries.

AVCX, March 1, 2023, Ben Tolkin, “Scorched Earth,” solution grid

  • 16a [People’s 2016 Sexiest Man Alive] is DWAYNE JOHNSON. Allentown boy makes good!
  • 32a [Some fiery summer light shows] are METEOR SHOWERS. The Perseids light up the sky in August in the Northern Hemisphere. There are others that I never think to look for because it’s cold out when they appear.
  • 45a [Loot in “Speed 2: Cruise Control”] is STOLEN JEWELRY.

What do all these have in common? Ben tells us at 53a [Bestselling 1971 Rolling Stones compilation album, or an apt description of 16-, 32-, and 45-Across]: HOT ROCKSDWAYNE JOHNSON is also known as The Rock and I presume the others are obvious. Fun theme worth concocting a special grid.

A few other things:

  • I recently visited my daughter in San Diego where TENTs are not [Temporary lodging] for far too many people. We need to figure out how to make housing more affordably and accessible.
  • Even when I know the answer to clues like [Journey to the Kaaba] I don’t know if it’s HAJJ or HADJ. Transliteration is so much fun.
  • We have colliding myths with 19a [Story from the Mahabharata, e.g.] and 8d [Like the goddesses Sif and Frigg]. Answers: LEGEND and NORSE, respectively.
  • I’ve heard people say INSTA. Never heard anyone call it [“The gram”].
  • I enjoyed 31a [Channel for following the Bills, perhaps] and 39d [Channel for following the bills, perhaps?]. ESPN and CSPAN. Too bad they couldn’t find a way to squeeze in CNBC for following another kind of bill.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Sheila E plays the BONGO. Shame on me.

Jill Singer’s Universal crossword, “At the Salon” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 3/1/23 • Tue • “At the Salon” • Singer • solution • 20230301

Let me issue a caveat right at the start: I was tired of punny salon names decades ago—even called out the practice years ago on my now-defunct blog—so the theme of this crossword was bound to fall flat with me. In truth, I’m not a fan of punned business names in general, as they’re typically so awful, but it turns out that salons as a category are among the most frequent and worst offenders. (Fast-food establishments constitute strong competition.)

  • 17a. [Apt salon name that puns on a phrase related to flawlessness] SHEAR PERFECTION.
  • 26a. [Apt salon name that puns on a phrase related to embarrassment] CURL UP AND DYE.
  • 48a. [Apt salon name that puns on a phrase related to navigation] FASTEST ROOTS.
  • 63a. [Apt salon name that puns on a phrase related to tourism] MANE ATTRACTIONS.


  • 6d [Himalayan ethnic group] SHERPA. I may have kind-of thought that it was reserved specifically for those involved with mountaineering, in which case I would have had been mistaken.
  • 9d [Poem of tribute] ODE. 35d [Plath or Poe] POET.

Eesh. I’ve gone through all the clues and didn’t find anything too exciting or exceptional. They’re quite serviceable, but nothing to provoke, for example, a 10a [Amazed reaction] GASP. So, in tandem with my confessed lack of enthusiasm for the theme, this crossword was a clunker in my book.

  • 19d [“Deja Vu” folk-rock quartet: Abbr.] CSNY.

Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword — Jenni’s write-up

I really do love Aimee’s puzzles. While I’d always prefer a New Yorker Monday or an NYT Saturday because crunchy, I do every one of hers no matter the difficulty level. This one is as smooth and as much fun as I’d expect, and that’s saying something.

Some highlights:

New Yorker, March 1, 2023, Aimee Lucido, solution grid

  • I enjoyed seeing TACO TRUCKS over SOUR APPLE. No good reason aside from my warped sense of humor.
  • Do you suppose J. S. Bach ever played his HARPSICHORD at a TALENT SHOW?
  • The center stack is great: SANCTUARY CITY/AM I THE ASSHOLE/MEALS ON WHEELS. One of these things is not like the other. Also related to Reddit: my daughter recently introduced me to Two Hot Takes, which is fun for an advice column junkie like me.
  • There are things that appeal to me about having a SMART HOME. A Bluetooth-enabled refrigerator is not one of them. Our (relatively new) stove periodically asks to connect to WiFi. I see no reason for this.
  • I’m a child of the late 60s and early 70s. My first thought when I see VCS has nothing to do with startups.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of the Egyptian MAU breed of cat. Pretty cute!

Egyptian Mau cat courtesy of

August Miller’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I’ve never encountered the term [Not conforming to traditional male/female norms], GENDERCREATIVE so I was trying to stretch/wedge NONBINARY or GENDERFLUID into those squares. Other than that, the circles reveal a very common LA Times theme trope – they can be unscrambled to spell GENDER and span two parts of four long across answers:

  • [Brilliant artist beset by personal demons, say], TORTU(REDGEN)IUS
  • [Activities Rudolph was kept from joining], REI(NDEERG)AMES
  • [Southern part of the Mariana Trench], CHALLE(NGERDE)EP
  • [Leafy side], COLLARDGREENS

Others to note:

  • [__ palak: dish of potatoes and spinach], ALOO. ALOO means “potato”.
  • [Prison drama that was Jonathan Demme’s directorial debut], CAGEDHEAT. That’s a rather obscure choice that seems it was definitely “baked in” the grid early…
  • [Time to celebrate with one’s krewe mates], MARDIGRAS. Took a bit to remember who used that funky spelling.
  • [GIF alternative], PNG. Am I the only one who thinks of Papua New Guinea as the definitive PNG?


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11 Responses to Wednesday, March 1, 2023

  1. Philip says:

    NYT might have been ok if it had’t come within a week of the last Thursday and Sunday puzzles. Today it just feels tired to me.

  2. David L says:

    Was today National Pun Day? Nobody told me….

  3. sanfranman59 says:

    TNY … It seems to me that if you feel the need to ask an anonymous internet mob the question “AM I THE ASSHOLE” for validation of the way you’ve behaved, you probably are.

    • Mr. [not really] Grumpy says:

      Actually, they are often amusing tales … and the person asking the question is seldom the asshole, which only goes to show how many assholes there are in the world causing trouble for other people.

      • Me says:

        Most of the letter writers are people who didn’t give someone else what they wanted, and the person is writing in saying, “This other person is really mad at me; are they justified in being mad?”

        Usually, the answer is no. But there’s a fair amount of what they call ESH: everybody sucks here. The other person is overreacting, but the letter writer didn’t handle it well, either. It’s an interesting website that’s worth exploring.

  4. Mr. [not really] Grumpy says:

    Can someone explain how to parse 45A in the New Yorker puzzle? Does HIP HOP ERA fit the clue? HI PH OPERA? I’m baffled.

    • pannonica says:

      It’s a portmanteau of hip-hop and opera.

    • JohnH says:

      That was new to me, as was VIDEO NASTY (as I’m guessing we parse this), and I’m not sure I know why CLEAR precedes a shock. I’m still pondering VCS, which to me are Vietcong. So can’t say I enjoyed that sector. (Don’t care much for TV, but at least JERSEY SHORE coming down into that sector is a familiar phrase on its own.)

      Oh, wait. I guess it must somehow be venture capital in the plural, where I’d say venture capital firms, but whatever. Still nowhere near the top among VC meanings in a Web search.

      • Gary R says:

        I’d guess CLEAR has to do with the use of a defibrillator – on TV at least, someone always yells “CLEAR” before they administer the shock.

        • JohnH says:

          Thanks! I’ve seen EMTs in action often enough, but never heard of that. I guess I don’t watch nearly enough TV for puzzles.

          I was guessing that maybe someone shouted clear to get people to leave when an aftershock was expected from a quake, say. But no question that was a stretch.

  5. Eric H says:

    Universal: Pannonica writes, “I’m not a fan of punned business names in general, as they’re typically so awful . . . .”

    Whenever my husband and I encounter such a name, one of us is sure to comment about which side the Tuffnell-St. Hubbins line the name falls on. (If you don’t get that reference, you haven’t seen “This is Spın̈al Tap” enough times.)

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