Wednesday, June 14, 2023

AVCX 7:07 (Amy) 


LAT 5:13 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker 5:19 (Amy) 


NYT 4:09 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Addison Snell’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “You’re Positive?”—Jim’s review

Theme answers consist of words and phrases whose beginnings would seem like they should negate the root of the entries…but they don’t. The revealer is NON-NEGATIVE (63a, [Zero or greater, or a description of the circled letters, which do not affect the meanings of the answers]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “You’re Positive?” · Addison Snell · Wed., 6.14.23

  • 17a. [Capable of combustion] INFLAMMABLE. I’ve seen the word, but I’m betting “flammable” is far more common.
  • 26a. [Commingled] IMMIXED. This word I don’t think I’ve ever seen.
  • 28a. [Disentangles] UNRAVELS. I don’t know anyone who would ever use “ravel”…except in capitalized form as a proper name.
  • 40a. [“Everybody knows that, dummy”] “NO DUH!” This one’s an outlier since it’s two separate words and not a root word with a prefix.
  • 48a. [Put-on appearance] DISGUISE. Solid.
  • 50a. [Filleted] DEBONED. I can’t imagine using “bone” to mean “remove bones from.” In my experience, it means something waaay different.

Despite my little quibbles above, I like the theme. It just goes to show what a crazy, mixed-up language English is when prefixes can be added that don’t do a damn thing. Sometimes the prefixed version is more commonly used (as in the last two instances), and sometimes the non-prefixed version is preferred (the first two). I also like the mathy revealer. It makes me try to remember what’s the difference between a whole number, a natural number, and an integer. (Here’s a refresher.)

Fill highlights include CHRISTINE (clued as Stephen King’s evil car), DINOSAUR, IN ON IT, and LANDED ON (clued as a synonym to “arriving at” an answer). DAMPS as a verb (clued [Muffles]) is strange.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [World’s most populous nation]. INDIA. This just happened recently when INDIA overtook China in this category.
  • 54a. [Puts on]. AIRS. I resisted this answer because AIRS are things you “put on.” Then I realized it was a synonym for “broadcasts.”
  • 56a. [Star pitcher?]. AGENT. Nice tricky clue, but I really really wanted the answer to be NINJA.

Solid puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Jennifer Hoelzer’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 6/14/23, no. 0614

I did not at all see the theme while solving, but it became obvious when I began scrolling through the clue list to look for a theme revealer. Not! That is, each Across clue begins with the word “not.” Now, I did see the twofer of [Not doing anything] for FREE and IDLE, but we get such doubling plenty of other times.

Each entry feels like it’s part of a themeless puzzle, so the theme is more an “I see what the constructor did!” experience than enjoying solving the theme entries.

Fave fill: BLEARY-EYED (it me), ON THE FENCE, the NEBULA awards.

Crisp clues:

  • 50D. [Often a river runs through it], CANYON.
  • 33D. [Possessive type?], DEMON.

3.5 stars from me.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Tip-Top Shape”–Amy’s recap

AV Club Crossword solution, 6/14/23 – “Tip-Top Shape”

The grid is 16×16 and it has diagonal mirror symmetry, so it doesn’t fit the norm. TWIN PEAKS is the inspiration for the theme: its PEAK sounds like the end of SNEAK PEEK, and then the circled letters give four other spellings of that sound. The circled letters intersect at one end, and if you spin the puzzle 45 degrees clockwise or 135 degrees counterclockwise, you get the “twin peaks” with PIC/PEK and PIQUE/PEAKE, from PICABO STREET / PEKING OPERAS and CHESAPEAKE / FIT OF PIQUE. Intricately wrought and unusual theme.

Clues that popped out at me:

  • 9a. [Maker of tech products (not plastic spoons, that’s the other product)], CISCO. The food service company is spelled Sysco. There’s also Star Trek‘s Benjamin Sisko and “The Thong Song” singer Sisqo, since we’re archiving alternate spellings for sounds today.
  • 21a. [Structure with two legs?], LAP. Do study that structure next time you sit down.
  • 24a. [J and K, notably], DRS. The Dr. J part was easy enough (basketball legend Julius Erving) but I just blanked on Dr. K–baseball’s Dwight Gooden, with the K standing for the strikes he threw.

4.25 stars from me, though I worked way harder on solving than AV Club’s “2/5” difficulty level led me to expect.

Will Pfadenhauer’s Universal crossword, “Spread the Love” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 6/14/23 • Wed • “Spread the Love” • Pfadenhauer • solution • 20230614

  • 17a. [*Wildly disorganized (Note: The title hints at the expanding word hidden in the starred clue’s [sic] answers)] ALL OVER THE PLACE. In the .puz version the relevant squares—L-O-V-E—are circled. As you can see, the expansion is regular and even.
  • 31a. [*As far as the eye can see] FIELD OF VIEW.
  • 36a. [*Needing no encouragement from others] SELF-MOTIVATED.
  • 51a. [*Paid the price for shouting too much] LOST ONE’S VOICE.

Left-right mirror symmetry is an understandable choice for a theme such as this.

  • 3d [House that’s really cool!] IGLOO. Well, yes and no. I would have preferred to see a question mark instead of an exclamation point in the clue. 42a [ __ opposites] POLAR.
  • 7d [Broadway figure] ACTOR. 26a [Performing group] CAST.
  • 11d [“Bear” that sleeps up to 20 hours a day] KOALA. Definitely needs those quotation marks.
  • 24d [Is in charge of] HELMS. Had HEADS until I saw that an L was necessary for the circled square.
  • 33d [Great Plains tribe] OTOE. I checked to see if theirs was the language that gives us 8d [Chevy SUV] TAHOE; it is not.
  • 4a [They get smashed at parties] PIÑATAS. Ouch.
  • 61a [Taiwanese laptop maker] ASUS. Oh, the other one (i.e., not ACER).

Lynn Lempel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle theme by Lynn Lempel features street names, two generic, three specific, reimagined in some way. Each is now clued to be about going to a place implied in the first part of the answer, with the clues tortured quite a lot to get to that place:

  • [Route to church?], SERVICEROAD
  • [Route to the navy yard?], FLEETSTREET
  • [Route to a showing of “Jaws”?], GREATWHITEWAY
  • [Route to basketball camp?], PASSINGLANE
  • [Route to the liquor store?], FIFTHAVENUE

My favourite moment was when the Z was the intersection of SELTZER and ERSATZ and the J PJS and JETSAM. Using these letters to have zippy answers is the key!


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

New Yorker crossword solution, 6/14/23 – Agard

So much great fill in this puzzle! It did take me more time than the “lightly challenging” target promised, but super easy themelesses actually bore me a little because I never even see so many clues when filling in broad swath of crossing answers along the way.

One of the grid’s 13s was new to me: 26a. [Nigerian soccer star nominated for a Ballon d’Or in 2022], ASISAT OSHOALA. My soccer-fan husband did not know her either, but will look her up on YouTube to marvel at her play. Here’s her Wikipedia page so you can see her impressive record. I highly doubt she’d ever play in the US women’s pro league when she currently plays in Liverpool.

Fave fill: “SO ANYWAY…”, “REPEAT AFTER ME,” CUMIN (yum!), AFROBEAT, “I’M AFRAID SO,” SISTER CITY, MARY JANE, POTATO SALAD with a clue from contemporary Black discourse ([Subject of some cookout scrutiny]–don’t put raisins in your potato salad, people! that is a step too far!), “THAT WAS FAST,” IN REAL TIME, LET LOOSE, BUILD-A-BEAR.

A bit surprised to see [Screwed, for short], SOL. Short for “shit outta luck.”

I’m not sure how broadly familiar the term STIM is, but it’s a verb you should know: [Pace or rock back and forth, for example]. It would behoove you read up a bit if you don’t know what stimming is and what it may include among folks on the autism spectrum or with developmental disabilities.

4.25 stars from me.

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43 Responses to Wednesday, June 14, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I loooved this theme. It cracked me up.
    To me, it was very evident as I was solving and it made me smile. Somehow, the Not puts things in relief. And I thought it was very creative on the part of the constructor.
    Also, I flew through it in Monday time.

    • Eric H says:

      I enjoyed it, too.

      I was a bit surprised by the number of people commenting on Wordplay that they hadn’t noticed the theme. I saw it as soon as I had to move my answer for the first “Not doing anything” (a phrase that hits a little too close to home).

      I would be happier if I never saw UNMAN in a grid again, but at least they eschewed the popular “Deprives of courage” clue.

      • JohnH says:

        Count me among those who did not notice a theme and was puzzled by its lack. So it’s just the form of the across clues and not anything one needs to take into account in solving? Not my favorite kind of theme, as it felt themeless in solving and still pretty much seems missing something.

    • Mr. [very very very] Grumpy says:

      You can write clues that all begin with not. Excuse me if I am NOT impressed at all.

    • marciem says:

      I enjoyed the theme too, even though it wasn’t a solver’s type theme. I did have hopes when I had to change my first answer to “Not doing anything” as I came across the second one, that there would be more doubles…maybe “Not safe for work” could double ‘smut’ and ‘porn’… things like that. But I’m sure it would be impossible to construct.

      Still a fresh and zippy Wed. puzzle, for me.

  2. Mutman says:

    NYT: Not crazy on theme.

    Though I’ve ranted before about how the puzzle was not designed for the app (and I’m ok with that) this would have been obvious if looked at holistically, say in the actual newspaper.

    Some sort of revealer would have been nice.

    NOT SO GOOD could have pulled it off as a clean double entendre.

  3. John says:

    NYT: I flip pretty freely between across and down in the app, so did not notice the pattern until I read this blog :)

    Definitely would have noticed if I was doing it on paper, of course.

    • DougC says:

      Ditto. It’s cute trick, but, sadly, not one I saw while solving. But still easy enough that I finished in Monday-average time.

  4. AmyL says:

    NYT: The theme was hard to miss when I printed the puzzle (I’m a paper solver). I thought most solvers wouldn’t like it for being a constructor’s feat rather than a solver’s. I found it smooth and snappy, so I liked it.

    I don’t understand 33D. [Possessive type?], DEMON. Can someone explain?

    • Eric H says:

      Have you never seen “The Exorcist”? It’s a classic horror movie that will have its 50th anniversary in December. (I wouldn’t be surprised to see it get a theatrical rerelease then.)

      The theme was a constructor’s feat. But unlike last Tuesday’s puzzle (all “semiordnilaps” like RAOS and SOAR), I found this one fun to solve.

    • Craig says:

      Some believe demons exist and can possess people like in “The Exorcist.”

  5. Mr. [very very very] Grumpy says:

    I wish the Universal syndicate would stop hitting people over the head with the theme and ruining any chance of an “aha” moment. I mean … the title and the circles weren’t enough? Sheesh! Apologies for being so very,very,very grumpy today.

    • Eric H says:

      Yeah, the clue for ALL OVER THE PLACE was too much.

      I’m bad about not fully reading verbose clues, so I was looking for synonyms for “love” and it wasn’t until I was almost finished when I realized that all the circled letters spelled LOVE. (It doesn’t help that I have trouble reading the letters in circles.)

  6. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: That’s not what I would call “lightly challenging.” There were plenty of clues like 16A, which could easily have been barE instead of NUDE.

    My biggest problem was with the soccer player. I don’t think I have ever heard of ASISAT OSHOALA. Even after I had the answer, I wasn’t sure how to parse her name. (But I will go learn something about her now.)

    I can’t say the crosses for ASISAT OSHOALA are unfair. SISTER CITY is a well-known phrase, even if you don’t know the factoid in the clue. But I couldn’t see SISTER CITY as the answer because I had the perfectly logical BAnnED rather than BARRED. (The intersection of those two words was my last square.)

    BUILD A BEAR also took a while to get. The clue encapsulates why the thought of that company makes my skin crawl. (I have a low tolerance for cuteness.)

    I did enjoy the clue for REPEAT AFTER ME.

    • Mark says:

      The soccer player was the NYer’s typical way of letting us know that the constructors are terribly sophisticated in their awareness of obscure trivia.
      It’s so pretentious.

      • Mr. [annoyed and] Grumpy says:

        Indeed. They are apparently required to insert one extremely obscure grid-spanning [or at least super long] answer in each puzzle. The crosses are easier with the “lightly” challenging puzzles, but it is still very annoying, and I wish they would stop. They get at least a full point deduction in my rating every time. That’s my rule, and I;m sticking with it.

      • Eric H says:

        I don’t know Erik Agard, but I get the sense that he is genuinely interested in women’s sports. I’m not. (I’m also not interested in men’s sports, but those are more inescapable given the press coverage they get.)

        I assume Mr. Agard put ASISAT OSHOALA in his puzzle because he admires her athletic abilities, not because he wants to show off. And that’s fine.

        I don’t mind learning a new name. I don’t much mind that I struggled with that area of the puzzle.

        Given the choice between an athlete and the Pokémon whatever it was in yesterday’s New Yorker puzzle, I’ll take an athlete any time.

        But I don’t get that choice. All I can choose is to do or not do the puzzle.

        • Mark says:

          He may very well be a fan of women’s sports. But the name in the puzzle is, I’m guessing, not known to lots of sports fans. I’ll bet it’s learned and quickly forgotten by most solvers.
          Erik is a remarkable solver and I’ve enjoyed many of his puzzles. But this is kind of a hallmark of NYer puzzles and I think it’s pure pretentiousness.

      • JohnH says:

        Yes, just plain annoying. I didn’t know SISTER CITY, BUILD A BEAR (whatever that means), “Philadelphia climbers,” the phrase “just wanted to close the loop,” “Abbott,” and other things that I’m sure allow Erik Agard to feel he travels in the right circles and I don’t. But crossing by crossing, I eventually got them. But does I BET ever come without irony?

        I don’t really understand my answers to “Screwed” and “Pace or rock back and forth,” but I’ll find out later, no doubt, from Amy’s review. Or maybe I’ve mistakes in both that I can’t seem to locate.

        • Eric H says:

          BUILD A BEAR is a store/website where one can make a customized teddy bear. I know this only because I saw pictures of the bear my sister-in-law once made for her mother. (In my sister-in-law’s defense, that was out of character for her. But she knew her mother would appreciate it.)

          SOL (46A) is a somewhat more polite way of saying “Shit out of luck.”

          STIMming (34D) is, I think, the repetitive movements that some people with autism find comforting. It took me a bit to get that one, but once I had it, the M helped me get REPEAT AFTER ME.

          The “Philadelphia climbers” clue also threw me. It wasn’t until POLE was obvious that I remembered reading about the authorities greasing light poles in downtown Philadelphia after the Eagles won the Super Bowl, because otherwise, boisterous fans would have climbed them. I went to Philadelphia not long after that game, and the signs of the celebration were everywhere.

          Looking back at these answers, it’s no wonder I thought the puzzle was more than “lightly” challenging.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        @Mark: That’s a parochial point of view. “Obscure trivia” for a world-class athlete who’s probably well known to everyone who follows women’s soccer? Way to dismiss out of hand the idea that anyone else’s interests are irrelevant if they don’t match yours. Some call her the best soccer player in the world, but you don’t know her so she doesn’t matter?

        • Mark says:

          Amy, I never suggested that she doesn’t matter. Please don’t blow things out of proportion. That’s a great way to shut down any reasonable discussion.

          • PJ says:

            I don’t know, boss. A snarky “terribly sophisticated” followed by “pretentious” will draw some fire,

            • Mark says:

              I get it. Differing opinions are not welcome. I’ll make my way out.

            • PJ says:

              No, Mark. You don’t get it.

              And I’m sorry the way we-uns talk down here in Alabama isn’t up to your standards.

            • Mark says:

              Ok tiger.
              When you can’t counter an opinion with a rational thought, just resort to personal insults.

    • dh says:

      I agree regarding Asisat Oshoala; not only is it (for me) an obscure clue, which is fine, I guess, but the name is so unusual it’s almost impossible to guess.

      I have a small nit about 47D, also. The Berenstain Bears are not named Berenstain – the authors are. The father (I looked this up) is named “Papa Q Bear”, not “Papa Q Berenstain”. “Stan” could have fit nicely for this answer.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        You know who probably doesn’t have trouble parsing and understanding a name like Asisat Oshoala? Everyone of Nigerian descent! The crossings were all quite reasonable, no intersection with the latest K-pop stars, foreign vocab, obscure place names, etc.

    • PJ says:

      Completed in 9:28 with no errors. That’s a perfect “lightly challenging” solve for me.

      Since the Nigerian soccer (football) star wasn’t Sam Obisanya I needed every crossing. And every crossing was fair. I did need some other crossings to get the crossings but they were fair, too.

      Edit – I’m pretty sure I botched my rating. I meant it to be 5*. I have no idea what I entered.

      • Eric H says:

        My time was 13+, but I used the reveal feature to get at least one square.

        I contrast that with the Monday and Tuesday puzzles, both of which I solved entirely on my own (albeit with slightly longer times).

        To me, “lightly challenging” means “You won’t get stuck anywhere for long.” That wasn’t my experience with this one. Consequently, I didn’t enjoy the puzzle as much as I would have liked or expected.

        I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        @PJ: I’ll bet that Toheeb Jimoh’s career will skyrocket now that “Ted Lasso” has (probably) come to an end. He’s so good as Sam!

        • Eric H says:

          Toheeb Jimoh is freaking adorable as Sam.

          I don’t usually get weepy over movies and TV shows (or real life, for that matter). Several times, “Ted Lasso” brought me closer to tears than I usually get. This last season, it was the scene where all the Richmond players work to get Sam’s restaurant running again after the racists trashed it.

    • Eric H says:

      Amy wrote, “I highly doubt [ASISAT OSHOALA would] ever play in the US women’s pro league when she currently plays in Liverpool.”

      I assume the National Women’s Soccer League is not all that different than the MLS. When players age out (as it were), they often sign with an American team to close out their careers. For example, Lionel Messi may have just signed with Inter Miami. (I thought that was a done deal, but apparently it is not yet finalized.)

      Ms. OSHOALA is only 28. Give her a few more years and she may be playing in the USA. And maybe by that time, her name will be more familiar to those of us who don’t follow sports.

      • R says:

        US Women’s soccer is among the very best in the world. World class players play in the domestic league (and not just the US Women’s team who have won the last two World Cups). It is very different from the (only somewhat merited) stereotype of the MLS as a retirement league.

  7. MH says:

    Great Av Club puzzle! Nice theme.

    • Eric H says:

      When I got theme, I saw the circled PIC of PICABO STREET and was momentarily annoyed because PIC doesn’t sound like “peak.” Then I remembered how her name is pronounced.

      Fun puzzle, though, like Amy, I thought it was a bit harder than the AVXC people rated it. (Not that I minded.)

  8. Lois says:

    NYT: At first I loved the theme, and could spot it online (I solve slowly), but the unsatisfactory grammatical match of the clues with the answers got to me. In the end, average, not bad.

  9. Brenda Rose says:

    With all due respect Jim, have you ever ordered a trout at a restaurant or at home & never deboned it before consumption?

    • Jim Peredo says:

      “Deboned,” yes. “Boned,” no.

      • marciem says:

        better late than never: The knife used to remove the bones from meat is called a boning knife, not a deboning knife. It is thicker and sturdier than a fillet knife.

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