Wednesday, June 21, 2023

AVCX tk (Amy) 


LAT 4:05 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker tk (Amy) 


NYT 7:27 (Jim) 


Universal tk (pannonica) 


USA Today 8:32 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Jeff Stillman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Consumer Reviews”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases clued as if they were terse, confusing costumer reviews of various products.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Consumer Reviews” · Jeff Stillman · Wed., 6.21.23

  • 17a. [Confusing consumer review: “With these new golf balls, I’ve had…”] ABOVE PAR RESULTS. “Above par” is bad in a golf score, but is good otherwise.
  • 24a. [Confusing consumer review: “This vacuum cleaner…”] TOTALLY SUCKS. This is an old joke, but a goodie.
  • 45a. [Confusing consumer review: “These eggs…”] CAN’T BE BEATEN. Minor nit in that the phrase is usually, “Can’t be beat.”
  • 58a. [Confusing consumer review: “This American flag is a…”] FIVE-STAR PRODUCT. Kind of a “green paint” phrase, but it actually gave me a chuckle so I’m cool with it.

Fun, fresh, imaginative theme! With the ubiquity of people’s comments on all kinds of products and services, this makes for a fun source for a crossword theme. I love the “confusing” angle which held my interest throughout. Sure, I had a couple nits, but the theme’s freshness won me over.

In the fill I liked AIR TIMES, HASIDIC, LARAINE Newman, NANNY TAX, PRESS CAR, and SCAREDY (even if it’s missing the “cat”).

Clues of note:

  • 60a. [Nailed obliquely]. TOED. I am unfamiliar with this usage, but it checks out.
  • 4d. [Four, maybe]. SEVERAL. Four is still squarely in the “few” range in my book. I have to get up to six, seven, or eight before I use SEVERAL. How about you?
  • 32d. [Additionally]. ELSE. Hmm. This really sounds like it should be ALSO to me. But that really messed up the crossings.

Fun theme and smooth fill. Four stars.

Jimmy Peniston’s New York Times crossword—Jim’s re-cap

Jim here sitting in for Amy. We have a nifty FOOD CHAIN for our theme today (58a. [Hierarchical system … or what is formed when the answers to the starred clues are placed end to end]). The other theme answers are familiar names or terms that, when smushed together, form a list of foods.

NY Times crossword solution, 6 21 23, no. 0621

  • 17a. [*Christina of “Bad Moms”] APPLEGATE.
  • 22a. [*Robotic type] AUTOMATON.
  • 37a. [*Cause for a blessing] ACHOO.
  • 49a. [*Tab found on many musicians’ websites] LIVE DATES.

The foods in question are: APPLE, GATEAU, TOMATO, a single NACHO, OLIVE, and DATES.

I thought this was really cool once the penny dropped.  There’s no hint as to the theme until you get to the revealer, and then suddenly you get that little rush from the aha moment. Impressive execution of a stealthy theme.

LIVE DATES felt a little weird to me as a phrase. I’d expect to see “Tour Dates” on a musicians’ web site. But then I realized not all live gigs would be part of a tour, so maybe that’s a legit phrase.

I enjoyed the long fill as well with SEA MONKEY, ORGANISM, BODEGAS, PAJAMA, PET NAMES, “I CHEATED,” DEJA VU, FALL SHORT, and ARAGON. I don’t know the drinks PALOMAS [Cocktails of tequila and grapefruit soda], but if it’s based on grapefruit, you can keep it. Also, seeing ARAGON makes me think of the meme seen here…except ARAGON isn’t on it. :(

Clues of note:

  • 9a. [Home of Akershus Castle, which has a replica at Disney World] OSLO. The Disney version at Epcot features the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall where you can get some Norwegian fare while chatting with a princess.
  • 5d. [Balneotherapy site] SPA. Balneotherapy is a method of treating diseases by bathing. Think hot springs and mineral baths. And here’s another one for your vocab list: fangotherapy—the use of medicinal clays in healing.

Lovely puzzle. 4.25 stars.

Rebecaa Goldstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

We seem to switch between the outer and inner parts of theme phrases spelling out things. Today, Rebecca Goldstein presents us with SHELLCOMPANIES. Each set of circles forms a shell around the outside of the answers and spells out a company, specifically a tech company, though the revealer doesn’t allude to that part in any way I can see. So:

  • [Fruity frozen treat], ORANGEPOPSICLE > ORACLE
  • [Pursue additional education, e.g.], APPLYFORCOLLEGE > APPLE
  • [Spanish “I like”], MEGUSTA > META. Rough translation, but “me” is actually an objective pronoun.
    [Slips, bras, etc.], INTIMATEAPPAREL > INTEL

The grid design is unusual. One could consider it blocky, with the black squares on the outer edges – or consider it a non-square design with irregular edges?


  • [Chaparral growth], SHRUB – The South African equivalent is fynbos. I apologise to anyone I converse with and send too many fynbos hiking photos to.
  • [WNBA honor for A’ja Wilson in 2020 and 2022], MVP. Seems like this is setting us up for future AJA clues.
  • [Largest lagomorph], HARE. Well, the largest lagomorph species is >a< hare.
    [Expert who relies on a show of hands], PALMREADER. “Expert”.
  • [Casual top], POLO. Wait, these are casual? By my slobbish standards the seem possibly evening wear…


Brooke Husic‘s USA Today Crossword, “Girl Group” — Emily’s write-up

Today’s puzzle feels like an ode to women, with not only the theme and themer set but also many of the other fill throughout.

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday June 21, 2023

USA Today, June 21, 2023, “Girl Group” by Brooke Husic

Theme: the first word of each themer forms a new phrase when followed by “girl”


  • 15a. [Website for speculating about celebrities’ lives],GOSSIPBLOG
  • 27a. [Menstrual product for a heavier flow],SUPERTAMPON
  • 43a. [Hippie-era nonviolence slogan],FLOWERPOWER
  • 60a. [“There’s no downside to trying!”],ITCANTHURT

What a great themer set today with GOSSIPBLOG, SUPERTAMPON, FLOWERPOWER, and ITCANTHURT. With the theme, we get: GOSSIP GIRL, SUPER GIRL, FLOWER GIRL, and IT GIRL.


Stumpers: TOOLSET (could only think of “kit”, “box”, and “belt”), SAHNI (new to me), and UNI (needed crossings, loved the cluing!)

Fantastic puzzle–loved everything about it including the flow and grid design. Seriously fun girl power!

4.75 stars


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22 Responses to Wednesday, June 21, 2023

  1. Mutman says:

    NYT: I thought the ‘food chain’ was pretty darn impressive!

    • e.a. says:

      +1, blew my mind

    • Gary R says:

      Ha! I finished the puzzle and only half-read the revealer (most of the answer was already in place from crosses). Then I looked at the first starred clue, saw APPLE, and thought the theme was just a list of food items. After a closer look, I thought it was pretty cool.

    • Milo says:

      A fun aha element for sure. Congrats to Mr. Peniston on his Times debut! The editing was a little off, though — the ECLAIR that distracts from the theme, the typo in the 46-A clue, the awkward LIVE DATES (instead of, according to the constuctor’s notes, the original and in my opinion preferable LIVESTOCK.)

  2. Shanda says:

    I thought the New Yorker was hard! SKACORE crossing with WONGKARWAI was bad. I also never heard the term HOTGARBAGE before.
    I guess I’m just not cool enough or smart enough.

    • Mr. [a little bit] Grumpy says:

      That was a very difficult sector, to be sure. Mostly guessable in the end, but I would NEVER call that puzzle “lightly” challenging.

      • JohnH says:

        For me hands down the hardest this week so far, especially (for reasons others have given a broad SW including most of the center. That quadrant also pretty bad and very unfair.

        I doubt he could write a “lightly” challenging puzzle if he tried, but there’s no evidence he tried. Still, to me that’s subjective, which is the whole problem with trivia quiz puzzles. You know it or you don’t, and if you do, it’s just fine. If you don’t, the setter in effect says, you know what you.

    • Eric H says:

      I found the puzzle on the hard side for “lightly challenging” — maybe more like “moderately challenging.”

      The SW wasn’t too bad for me. SKACORE seemed likely for a genre with Caribbean elements. I knew it was WONG KAR-WAI but couldn’t remember how to spell his name (“In the Mood for Love” is over 20 years old). But HOT GARBAGE is new to me, too.

      The NE took me a while. I may have misread the clue for IMPROV GAME and would have gotten TIME LAPSES easily if I hadn’t skipped over that clue the first time around.

    • Mark says:

      Shanda, it’s not you.
      It’s them.
      The NYer prizes pretentious esoterica over wit and wordplay.

      • JohnH says:

        Good summary. I saw neither of the latter two in this puzzle.

      • G.B. says:

        What the actual gatekeeping BS… So you’re faced with fresh new fill that could be a learning experience, possibly one of the masters of Hong Kong cinema and or a new genre of music, and you call it “pretentious esoterica”? You know you could just solve something else… Or the Junior Jumble or something…

  3. PJ says:

    NYT – I really enjoyed solving the puzzle. I particularly liked the long downs – SEA MONKEYS, FELL SHORT, and TALKED TO. SEA MONKEYS took me back to my childhood comic book days and sent me on a search for X Ray Specs.

    The theme certainly works but seemed a little ragged to me. DATES is the only plural but that seemed ok since I don’t think often about a single DATE. But then that left one lonely NACHO which I only think of that way with Cheese Doritos tacked on. Also, we’ve got four stand alone ingredients like APPLE, TOMATO, OLIVE, and DATES coupled with finished the products GATEAU and NACHO. Of course, all of the entries I call ingredients can be enjoyed solo. As I type this I’m warming to the theme a little more.

    I’d give it 4* now with a chance of moving to 4.5*.

    • PJ says:

      Oops! I forgot to mention the non-theme ECLAIR. This added to my enjoyment of the fill but detracted from the theme.

    • Mr. [a little bit] Grumpy says:

      And who on earth eats a single olive? An intriguing bit of construction, but a weak “theme” that added nothing to the solving process.

      • JohnH says:

        I didn’t come to it in solving, only later. But nice enough how it comes together.

        Must admit I didn’t know GATEAU appears in English. (It’s familiar enough as a French word.) I was sure that “that was a close one” was WHEW, and I use PHEW differently. I didn’t know Menzel, and crossing it salicylic acid is also used in making aspirin, which targets an “ache.” So that threw me, too. But all ok in a puzzle. I’d never heard of the Disney castle, but easy enough to get.

        Nit: “This is weirdly familiar” put in quotes suggests, if not another spoken phrase, then an unspoken gesture, not the thing itself. And has anyone ever said DADA ART, rather than just Dada? Besides, the movement presented itself as anti-art, although not all participants would have agreed and it became part of talk about art fast.

        • Papa John says:

          For the phrase DADA_ART I would say Dadaism, but even that seems stilted. Neither term is incorrect and can be found in many Web sites.

          • JohnH says:

            It does get hits. But I still think it’s highly misinformed. Google for it, and you see the search engine’s translating that into natural language questions about Dada art. But when you expand the questions to see the answer and source, it doesn’t use Dada art!

      • JohnH says:

        Oh, all it requires is that an olive is a food. How you eat it isn’t relevant.

        Of course, you might eat just one if it’s the garnish in a drink or pick one up from the spread table at certain events, but no matter.

  4. PJ says:

    TNY – At 10:29 it took me a minute longer than last Wednesday’s puzzle. 1A and 19A gave me 1D. 3D, 4D, 5D, 9D, and 15D were gimmes. With those the NW was done.

    The NE and E took a little more work. I only associate one tribe with Florida. I misspelled 10D until 16A and 21A straightened me out. 12D was a gimme. I had the basic idea of 11D but the lower crosses helped a lot. SAMOVAR made sense after most of it was filled in.

    In the SE, 47A, 53A, and 56A fell easily as did SPF and WRIST. I dropped in XENA after reading “TV princess.”

    33A, 36A, 52A, 55A, and 57A got me started on the W and SW. GOOSE came reasonably quickly with the crosses I had and the honk in the clue. Those led me to GOES DUTCH, which was clued nicely. I know HOT GARBAGE. Caribbean music screams SKA or Reggae and Reggae didn’t fit. That sealed Mr. Wong’s fate.

    That left the center pretty well complete.

    Nice puzzle!

  5. dh says:

    Whenever I see “Aragon” I think of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, both of Aragon. The most common knowledge about these two are that they sponsored Columbus’ journey to the “New World”, a discovery that has been subject to much criticism. There is also speculation that Columbus and Isabella may have been an “item” – but the one thing that is never discussed is the fact that Isabella also sponsored the Spanish Inquisition, leading to the death and torture of countless Jews. There have been a number of papers and articles written on this subject, including conjecture that Columbus himself was Jewish – and some very credible evidence that many of his crew were Jewish as well. Considering the fact that the Alhambra Degree was issued in March of 1492 and Columbus’ first voyage began in August, there is an element of “rescue mission” that can be applied to his voyages. It’s also not an unreasonable conclusion that the financing of these voyages was achieved on the backs of the Jews in Spain, who had their wealth and businesses confiscated by this pair of Aragonians.

  6. JohnH says:

    Live and learn. Last week I asked for help with SOJU, where I wasn’t sure I’d got the fill right. Today I got a flier from a local eatery with a one-time special offer concerning a SOJU.

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