Wednesday, March 8, 2023

LAT 4:05 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker 4:11 (Amy) 


NYT 4:04 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (Emily) 


AVCX 7:49 (Norah) 


Ella Dershowitz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mix Tape”—Jim’s review

The title made me expect to see phrases with scramblings of the word TAPE. I’m glad this was more interesting than that.

Today we get familiar phrases whose last words were also famous rock bands, but they’ve been anagrammed. The revealer is SCRAMBLE BANDS (54a, [College musicians making shapes on the field, or do what this puzzle does to the once-recognizable starred phrases]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Mix Tape” · Ella Dershowitz · Wed., 3.8.23

  • 15a. [*Blood sports?] VAMPIRE RELAYS. Slayer.
  • 22a. [*New employees at a gaming company?] SEGA SIGNEES. Genesis.
  • 34a. [*Fond pre-sleep words to one’s bunny slope companions?] GOODNIGHT SKIS. Kiss. Not so sure that “bunny slope companions” is the best way to identify skis, but I like the entry. “GOODNIGHT SKIS. Goodnight trees. Goodnight cow jumping over the cheese.”
  • 46a. [*Simba’s uncle, prepared for battle?] ARMORED SCAR. Cars.

I grokked the theme about halfway through, so I didn’t actually need the revealer, but it’s an interesting phrase and makes a good basis for a theme. However, I’ve never actually heard it before and I don’t know that anyone who wasn’t in a college marching band would have. I mean, I’ve watched a lot of college football and had friends in the band, but have never heard this phrase. Still, it’s a fun and legit phrase, and I’m glad to have learned it.

Interesting grid configuration with the blocks in the four corners. No doubt this is due to the fact that the revealer is 13 letters long and is placed in the 13th row. It makes the grid look like a big S which you can envision a SCRAMBLE BAND being shaped into. Coincidence or design? You decide.

Despite the unusual grid, we get some good long entries in AMARETTO, SANDBAR, “I WOULDN’T…,” and “SAD TO SAY…” Both L.A. RAMS and TO A TEE always look weird to me, but we’ve seen them enough times to recognize them.

Clues of note:

  • 17a. [Response to some name-calling]. “HERE!” Nice misdirection. And it corresponds perfectly to a clue in today’s Rows Garden puzzle from joon pahk: [Wiseacre’s roll-call response] (6 letters).
  • 12d. [Searched messily]. TOSSED. As in, to “toss” a room. I like this cluing angle.

Good puzzle all around. Four stars.

Miranda Kany’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 3 8 23, no. 0308

You know what’s wrong with this NYT crossword’s guacamole-recipe theme? It does not hew to the NYT Cooking recipe that puts peas into the mix.

The circled letters spell out GUACAMOLE in a rough clockwise loop, and the other themers are ingredients clue by the amount to use. There’s CILANTRO (I rebuke it, so soapy), AVOCADO (could do without), JALAPENO, raw ONION (ick), GARLIC, SALT, TOMATO, CUMIN (yum!), and the juice of a LIME.

So I’m not a guac fan, but I’m looking forward to outdoor dining season returning soon so I can eat out at my favorite neighborhood Mexican spots. Dare I hope for April?


Mystery item: [Mouse with his own island in a Newbery Honor book], ABEL. To the Google … Ah, so it came out when I had outgrown books at that level. Always did like William Steig’s work, though.

I mistook [“American Pie” ride] as referring to the 1999 teen comedy rather than the long 1971 song by the same name. “Drove my CHEVY to the levee but the levee was dry…”

3.5 stars from me.

Shannon Rapp and Will Eisenberg’s Universal crossword, “The Right Flower Arrangement” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 3/8/23 • Wed • Rapp, Eisenberg • “The Right Flower Arrangement” • solution • 20230308

Kind of a long-winded title; I’ll discuss it shortly.

  • 61aR [One developing at their own rate, or a hint to the last few letters of 18-, 31- or 50-Across] LATE BLOOMER.

Those “last few letters” are circled in the grid, and they spell the names of several flowers. Since they appear at the ends of the phrases, the flowers are thus arranged to the right side. This explains why the title isn’t something more basic, like ‘Flower Arranging’, which would probably suggest to the solver that flower names are anagrammed.

  • 18a. [Flowery language] PURPLE PROSE (rose). Double-entendre in the clue.
  • 31a. [Blended beverages at a beach bar] FROZEN DAIQUIRIS (iris). See also 10d [Beach-day drink holders] COOLERS.
  • 50a. [Many a morning anchor] LOCAL NEWSCASTER (aster).

Fine theme.

  • 32d [“Nope” star Kaluuya] DANIEL. I could have sworn that response to the film upon its release was tepid, but nowadays I see nothing but praise for it. Am I imagining that, or was there a rapid turnaround in viewer and critical opinion?
  • 42d [Documentary fodder] FOOTAGE. I suspect this holdover word will persist for a long time, even though in the digital era it doesn’t technically apply. Thus is language.
  • 49d [Removal from existence] ERASURE. Please pay attention to groups who are  in a real sense are facing this from reactionary and revanchist political actors.
  • 62d [Pull-down muscle, briefly] LATS.
  • 10a [Snowbell in “Stuart Little,” for one] CAT. Also the common name for a genus of European mountain flowering plants. Soldanella alpina is pictured here.
  • 22a [“Turning Red” protagonist] MEI. New to me. That’s useful in crosswords. I see that it’s short for the character Meilin.
  • 24a [Grand closing?] FINALE. Theme-adjacent?
  • 44a [Homer epic] ILIAD. On this topic, I ordered a CD (yes, a physical CD) from Europe of experimental music relating to the Iliad months ago, but it turns out that the distributor was unable to get it from their supplier. My money was refunded yesterday. Now I’m going to get it from a different source at a slightly higher price, but not nearly as expensive as what Amazon wants.
  • 55a [Capital of Turkiye] ANKARA. Just recently the nation’s name was changed on the international stage from Turkey to Türkiye. So good on the constructor/editor for keeping abreast.
  • 67a [Place for cutting boards?] SAWMILL. Ignoring the good misdirection—and revealing more of the minutia of my daily life—I recently acquired cutting board oil and butcher block conditioner and wow was I impressed with the restorative results on my dried-out surfaces. Recommended. 45d [“Totally rad”] AWESOME, 37a [Leave slack-jawed] STUN.

Beth Rubin & Will Nediger’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

One thing I know about the theme type presented by Beth Rubin & Will Nediger today: these diagonals make a deceptively difficult to fill grid! Today they spell out plant milks – RICE, OAT, ALMOND, COCONUT, SOY – and if you don’t think it’s milk if it comes from a plant, I’m afraid that ship sailed a while ago. These are tied together at SPILLEDMILK; I’m not sure these diagonals quite evoke “spilledness”, but YMMV.

Notable clues and answers:

  • [Parade with strict precision], MARCHINSTEP. Parade (v.)
  • [Goblinlike fantasy creature], ORC. The Hobbit, published first, had goblins; LOTR had orcs, but they fulfilled a similar niche.
  • [Fred Flintstone’s boss], MRSLATE. MR SLATE not MRS LATE.
  • [Horvath of “The Rings of Power”], EMA. I thought I must have an error in my grid when that turned up.
  • [__ Peninsula: Michigan home of Yoopers], UPPER. ME: WTH is a Yooper? Google: cutesy repurposing of Upper.


Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 3/8/23 – Agard

This one’s pitched right over the “lightly challenging” plate, played like a Fri NYT for me.

Fave fill: Painter ALMA THOMAS (here’s a brief bio; very much enjoyed a jigsaw puzzle featuring “The Eclipse”), OVERDRESSED, the LIFE FORCE of qi, TOMATO SOUP, a GO BAG, A LITTLE BIT with its [Translation of un poquito] clue, “AS ONE DOES,” “NOT SO FAST.”

Did not know: [Another name for Sika Dwa Kofi, the sacred Asante emblem defended against the British by Nana Yaa Asantewaa], GOLDEN STOOL. The GOLD part wasn’t hard to guess. Here’s the lowdown on the Golden Stool’s history. Also new to me: [Speculative fan belief, such as the idea that Jesse from “Breaking Bad” is trans], HEAD CANON.

Four stars from me.


AVCX, “Don’t Look at Me!” by Karen Lurie — norah’s write-up

THEME: Homphones of “you” at the end of wacky phrases




  • 19A SUCKSTOBEU [“I hate having to follow Q almost everywhere it goes!”?]
  • 28A WHOASKEDEWE [“Did anyone check with Dolly to make sure she’s OK being a clone?”?]
  • 36A ILLBESEEINGYEW [“Looking forward to checking out poisonous shrubs on my trip to the English woodlands”?]
  • 44A/57A SOUNDSLIKEAYOUPROBLEM [“I can’t help with that,” or an apt description of this puzzle’s theme]


Hi! Norah here filling in for the AVCX. Editors described this one as a 2/5 difficulty, and I agree. Pretty smooth and chill. I’m most struck by the (im)balance in the construction here. We’ve got 35 themer squares plus 21 for the revealer. It certainly needs the space at 21 letters: SOUNDSLIKEAYOUPROBLEM — what a great, in the language revealer, so characteristic of good AVCX puzzles. Perfect consistency in the themers with the homophones at the end, each one different, and each a separate word in their base phrases. Great clues for these themers too, posing them as conversation phrases attributing “problems” to the “you” presented. Fun long bonuses in RICKROLL and APRILFOOL, and lovely cluing throughout with such highlights as ACACIA [Tropical tree that comes up a lot in Spelling Bee], DRAG [___ Queen Story Hour], ICEAGE [Animated film in which John Leguizamo plays Sid], and WET [Like puppy kisses].

I learned:

58D RICH [Like Brooklyn Blackout Cake] This version is made with stout, bittersweet cocoa powder, and fudgy pudding buttercream. YUM

Thanks Karen and the AVCX team!


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21 Responses to Wednesday, March 8, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: “I mistook [‘American Pie’ ride] as referring to the 1999 teen comedy rather than the long 1971 song by the same name. ‘Drove my CHEVY to the levee but the levee was dry…’”

    Same here. I felt a bit dense when the crosses made CHEVY obvious.

    Nice debut puzzle. A bit on the easy side for Wednesday, but now I know that I’ve been mispronouncing the Canadian city (REGINA).

  2. billy boy says:

    REGINA rhymes with VAGINA, (I always chuckle at how VAGINA is colloquially synonymous with pudendum (or vulva), but few actually get to study ANAT). Regina is the capital city, 2nd largest or not.

    Interesting cross trip-up – I got caught reading one clue for another – technically clue for CHEVY (D) but entered CHENY(A) joined of course by the Y – had to find to correct the grid – so much for not looking at the grid while typing.

    This played almost H.S. age target and was full of yucky 3 and 4 letter junque so the slip-up added excitement. Almost a Monday puzzle.

    call me not a fan

  3. Ethan says:

    NYT: I was confused that the clue on CUMIN seemed to feel like I needed some convincing. I thought that was a normal, accepted part of guacamole. In general, I find it cringey when the NYT clues do these odd parenthetical asides with exclamation points, like the clue somehow needs to convince you that it’s interesting or legitimate.

    • JohnH says:

      I’d the same reaction, but then I also found the CILANTRO clue unduly apologetic. (I wouldn’t have thought first of “soapy” rather than, say, minty.) I use cumin liberally elsewhere as well; say, together with thyme it accounts for some Middle East flavors. And I’d never discard jalapeno seeds. But then this is aspires to be a national newspaper, so I suppose they have to accommodate chain-store tastes.

    • Peter says:

      I personally would never put cumin in my guacamole. The basics are avocado, lime, salt and a little garlic and/or onion. That’s it. Sometimes I’ll add tomatoes, Serranos, and cilantro as well for a chunkier version that is more like pico de gallo plus avocado. Never saw anyone add cumin until I saw my brother do some last week. I was going to inquire but I just shut up. Cumin just feels all sorts of the wrong flavor for it to me.

      And cilantron being described as “soapy” is typical. First few times I had it it was soapy to me as well, until I just got used to it and it’s my favorite herb now. But it is one I have to ask about if preparing for a group, as a lot of people just taste soap.

  4. Eric H says:

    WSJ: I didn’t get the theme while solving the puzzle, probably because I anagrammed “relays” as “layers” (which works as a “band” of a different sort). “Cars” and “kiss” are such generic words that they didn’t jump out as band names.

    I was amused by GOODNIGHT SKIS. My skis live in my bedroom, so I could wish them good night every night — except, ironically, when I’m actually on a ski trip, when they’re probably out on top of the car.

  5. billy boy says:

    NYer 49d

    not for shot, discus, long and triple jump, high jump, pole vault …

    nah terrible clue

    • JohnH says:

      I don’t believe it need mean that all track and field results are times. (We’ve had discussions in this forum of clues like that before.) Not relevant, but the limited track and field I had in high school was all times.

      I’ve so often whined that TNY puzzles are barely and badly edited, and one should go not by day of the week but setter. So I went into today’s gearing up for a slog for anyone not totally sharing Erik Agard’s tastes. But it was very easy, even for a Wednesday. I’d never have guessed he was capable of that. I still learned a few things, mostly in the long answers.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Dude. Erik Agard is capable of anything he sets his mind to.

        Also, I don’t know what makes you think the New Yorker puzzles aren’t edited by the puzzles’ editorial group. I suspect you just want them to be edited as if Shortz edited them, rather than with the New Yorker’s sensibilities. They aren’t what you wish for, so somehow they’re bad? Me, I enjoy the heck out the New Yorker themelesses, and as a crossword editor myself, I’d be disgruntled if they were poorly edited. They’re not.

        • billy boy says:

          Being an old “Athletics*” guy – what indicates a partial or is it just another form of deception?

          *Track-and-field is inclusive of field events which are not timed. Athletics a better, more clear yet more obscure deception

          Agard good? Sure, very good!
          Clue? inconCLUEsive
          To be fair, I have far more gripes with Shortz

          I prefer themeless; puzzle puns in big grids – I’ve touched on that enough
          Personally, I like NYer puzzles, and they introduce me to many currents

        • JohnH says:

          Thanks, Amy. I just meant because the difficulty level by day seemed so unreliable unless you ignored the day and went by artist. I assumed the editor just accepted whatever crossed their plate.

          But hey, maybe with the TNY style difficulty of Elizabeth on Monday, even if I personally hate it, and Erik’s ease today (I swear it’s his first such, relatively late in the week) indicate a turning point in taking editorial control.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … Thanks to pannonica for introducing me to a new word in her review (revanchist) and for informing me of how I’m supposed to spell Türkiye now. I guess I need to try to remember how to get the umlaut u when I type that word now. Either that or do what I do now in similar situations … i.e. cut and paste from a Google search. In my ignorance, I thought the way the clue was worded meant that I had to come up with the Turkish spelling of Ankara for the answer (or should that be Türkish?).

    • David L says:

      Just because nasty antidemocratic would-be dictator Erdogan wants us to call the country Türkiye in English doesn’t mean we have to go along with him. I will be sticking to Turkey.

  7. Milo says:

    NYT: Tasty little snack of a puzzle as far as it goes, but I think it misses an opportunity by not having the circles more closely resemble an avocado. Also — not that they were needed — the PDF doesn’t render the italicized clues mentioned in the note. Sloppy! (Like my lime-juiced counter after guacamole assembly.)

    • Lois says:

      Yes, I find this issue of the italics quite odd. I don’t know what happened on this page, which I can’t test because it’s a day later now. I usually use XWord Info to print. The PDF there of the puzzle as it appears in print always shows the italics when they appear from time to time. However, the default there for printing is a different format, which I use in order to use less ink. That Standard format, as it is called, does not replicate the italics. I have to click on Newspaper format just to see whether there are italics there. If there aren’t any, I go back and use the Standard format.

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Re: Gareth’s note on the LAT: YOOPER isn’t a play on “Upper,” it’s a play on “U.P.”, basically “U.Per”.

  9. Bryan says:

    Unrelated to today’s puzzles, but it turns out there’s some breaking “crosswordese” news. I just got this news alert on my phone: “The oldest-known reference to the Norse god Odin was deciphered on a 1,600-year-old piece of Viking treasure.”

  10. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    NYT – I appreciate that this was Miranda’s debut, but just wasn’t entertained by this puzzle. It’s a list of ingredients for guac. That is all that it is. No wordplay or creative theme.

    Very similar to my feelings about last Sunday’s NYT puzzle.

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