Wednesday, July 5, 2023

AVCX tk (tk) 


LAT 4:01 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker 4:28 (Amy) 


NYT 3:49 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 10:45 (Emily) 


WSJ 7:03 (Jim) 


Sarah Bridger’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “First Week of July”—Jim’s review

We have an INDEPENDENCE DAY themed puzzle today (36a, [What 20- and 52-Across and 10- and 44-Down celebrate every first week of July]), but it’s not marking America’s independence. Rather, we’re looking at other countries that gained their freedom from their colonizers during this week in history.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “First Week of July” · Sarah Bridger · Wed., 7.5.23

  • 20a. [July 5, 1975/Portugal] CAPE VERDE.
  • 52a. [July 5, 1811/Spain] VENEZUELA.
  • 10d. [July 6, 1964/United Kingdom] MALAWI.
  • 44d. [July 1, 1962/Belgium] RWANDA.

A pleasant enough theme, but I just didn’t find myself engaged by the fact that other countries have their INDEPENDENCE DAY near ours. If they all shared July 4th as their day of festivities then that would be something, but just because these happen to be in close proximity to ours…well, it just feels a bit random. It didn’t help that I didn’t know CAPE VERDE was a country (it’s an archipelago off the westernmost coast of Africa).

Fave fill has to be THE RAVEN followed by STEEL TOE from “steel-toe boot” fame. Plurals TARS and WRATHS were odd, and I didn’t know the actor CHAZZ Palminteri from The Usual Suspects (but I recognize the face).

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [They may pave the way]. TARS. It would make so much more sense to me to clue this as a present-tense verb than as a plural.
  • 10a. [Fields Medal field]. MATH. I don’t think I knew about this award. It’s sometimes regarded as the “Nobel Prize of Mathematics” but winners have to be under 40 years of age. Interesting.
  • 12d. [Tattered]. TORE. So “Tattered” is a verb here? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it used except as an adjective.

Congrats to our constructor on the debut! It’s a nice grid, though the theme didn’t grab me. 3.25 stars.

Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 7 5 23, no. 0705

I like the theme! Familiar phrases that begin with language/nationality names are clued (I presume) with the phrase’s second word rendered in the language/alphabet. (I assume this theme presentation doesn’t work in .puz format.)

  • 17A. [Кукла]. RUSSIAN DOLL.
  • 23A. [أرقام], ARABIC NUMERALS.
  • 36A. [跳棋], CHINESE CHECKERS.
  • 46A. [לאומי], HEBREW NATIONAL. I believe that’s a hot dog brand. Can’t say I see it much in Chicago groceries.
  • 56A. [Γιαούρτι], GREEK YOGURT.

Fave fill: The ballsiness of dropping an AGLET at 1-Across, kind of a big “eff you” to folks who haven’t learned this word from either crosswords or a fondness for knowing oddball little words for things. Actress HONG CHAU; I shan’t watch The Whale but she was also good in The Menu. “MIND BLOWN.” And a VR HEADSET, which is not for me.

3.75 stars from me.

Dylan Schiff’s Universal crossword, “The Quiet Game” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 7/5/23 • Wed • “The Quiet Game” • Schiff • solution • 20230705

Not being familiar with the title—at least not by name—I had to check to determine if it was what I suspected it to be. Yup.

So the theme is the names of games appearing within larger words or phrases, and those containers will still spell valid entries—in fact, the ones that are clued—without the presence of those names. It’s more elegant in practice than description.

  • 20a. [Divvying up fairly (in this answer, ignore letters 4–7)] PRO-RATING (Life, proliferating). ASIDE (15a): ‘proliferating’ and ‘life’ have related meanings, although they aren’t etymologically aligned.
  • 25a. [Membership fees (… letters 3–7)] DUES (chess, duchesses).
  • 42a. [“Don’t __ on it!” (… letters 2–5)] BET (Risk, brisket). “Bet” and “risk” are synonyms, so this conglomeration has huge potential for a cryptic clue; I’d be surprised if it hasn’t been thus exploited numerous times already.
  • 49a. [Thankless sort (… letters 1–2] INGRATE (go, going rate).

As none of the theme entries are of the same length, left-right mirror symmetry was sensibly chosen for the grid.

  • 8d [Awful smell] ODOR. My opinion on the exclusively pejorative characterization of this word is well-established.
  • 36d [ __ predator (food chain topper)] APEX. ‘Food chain’ is a long-outmoded model. ‘Food web’ is more useful and accurate.
  • 53d [Cursive and calligraphy are lost ones] ARTS. Would’ve preferred a “to some”-type qualifier in the clue.
  • 47a [Mr. Potato Head’s chest] TOY BOX. Not his anatomical chest (which apparently he lacks), rather the kind of chest he might be associated with. 29d [Potato features] EYES. 43d [Tater __ ] TOT.
  • 56a [Scroll in an ark] TORAH. Echoes the phrase “stroll in the park”.

Isn’t a little gentleness and quiet welcome after noisy festivities?

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 7/5/23 – Berry

Quick takes—

Fave fill: ATHLEISURE, FEEL FREE, PUMPKIN SPICE (you can have my share, though), CAMPS IT UP. Not keen on the term HEN PARTY, which isn’t used around these parts and who wants to be called a barnyard fowl? And I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered MISDO outside of a crossword puzzle.

57a. [Homemade papier-mâché adhesive], FLOUR PASTE. I’ll bet some of you grew up with your moms making some rice paste to use instead of store-bought. Not me—my folks bought the rice that promised to be “never sticky” rather than pursuing the sticky rice of Asia, and we had the paste from the school supplies aisle.

Didn’t know this Spanish: 50d. [Before, in Bogotá], ANTES. Nice to have a break from poker bets.

27d. [Philippine island where Magellan landed shortly before his death], CEBU. Many Americans learned in grade school that Magellan circumnavigated the earth, but no, Lapu Lapu had something to say about that and Filipinos killed Magellan midway through his planned journey. Magellan’s boat limped home with a small crew.

3.75 stars from me.

Alice Liang’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Alice Liang’s extra-wide crossword’s theme is a bit quirky, with a two part revealer and three entries. I feel like the opportunity to include MEASURETWICE/CUTONCE into the grid is its main attraction. The three entries themselves consist of two starting with a MEASURE and one starting with a CUT: [*Pampering massage after a long day], FOOTRUB, [*Neighborhood notice taped to a telephone pole], YARDSALESIGN, [*Chinese takeout choice], CHOPSUEY.

The grid design is quirky, too, with pairs of 10s and 11s that are long than two thirds of the theme.

Fun five:

  • [On the rocks], OVERICE – not in trouble in any way. That comes later.
  • [High-end Apple tablet], IPADPRO. Aren’t they all high-end?
  • [Alternate nickname for the Windy City], CHITOWN.
  • [Sushi bite that’s raw fish atop hand-pressed rice], NIGIRI.
  • [Old West route], OREGONTRAIL. Where you coulddie of dissing Terry.


Brooke Husic & Will Nediger’s USA Today Crossword, “Secret Third Thing” — Emily’s write-up

Are you in the know? Solve today’s puzzle and you will be!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday July 05, 2023

USA Today, July 05 2023, “Secret Third Thing” by Brooke Husic & Will Nediger

Theme: the last (or third) word of each themer can be paired with SECRET to form a new phrase


  • 17a. [As expected], ACCORDINGTOPLAN
  • 33a. [Warm, decadent banana split topping], HOTFUDGESAUCE
  • 51a. [Indignant question to someone who just barged in], DONTYOUKNOCK


Favorite fill: LOCS, EBIKE, and JUDOGI

Stumpers: REESE (new to me), GLO (needed crossings), and JAGGED (just couldn’t come up with it so needed crossings)

Loved today’s theme and themer set! Solid overall fill and cluing. Took me a bit longer to break into certain sections so didn’t feel quite as smooth to me, though that could be lack of sleep due to the late night yesterday for Fourth of July.

4.0 stars


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45 Responses to Wednesday, July 5, 2023

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: Sorry, not my cup of tea. Left me longing for a breezy Natan Last Monday TNY.

  2. Eric H says:

    AVXC: kind of a fun theme. I didn’t see the word ladder until I was almost finished, but the rebuses made most of the answers that contained them pretty easy to get.

    But I’m starting to develop a dislike for 21X21 grids.

  3. Mark says:

    NYT – just not enjoyable.
    Plus crossing HUNGCHAU with CHU is a trip to Natick. Sad!

    • damefox says:

      It’s HONGCHAU and CHO… which I suppose proves your point.

    • JohnH says:

      Yeah, although I lucked out and guessed correctly with an O. But overall lousy fill and a recipe for misstakes, there and, especially, in the NE. A shame, since it has to support a creative theme that may be a bit of a challenge itself.

    • Ed says:


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      John CHO has been in a couple successful movie franchises as well as indie films, and he’s been in Hollywood for 20 years now. HONG CHAU is newer on the scene, but good lord, people, she was in two Best Picture nominees last year and had an acting Oscar nomination!

      It’s not a great look to draw a blank on two noted Asian Americans. Please think about your blind spots rather than crying “Natick” because you somehow deem it impossible or implausible that solvers should know these names. Lots of people do know both of these names. Given that the NYT crossword does include popular culture, it’s churlish to complain that pop culture is just too hard and you shouldn’t be expected to know it. Maybe buy a book of Maleska-edited crosswords and call it a day? /soapbox

      • e.a. says:

        i don’t think it’s fair to say not knowing things is a bad look. we can control whether we’re curious or not but we can’t control what we don’t know. and some people have no interest in learning about actors and imo that’s ok*. i do think it’s bad to expect every crossword to 100% bend to the things you know and to suggest that even a one-square deviation from this is a sin by the puzzlemaker

        (*although if you’re not watching john cho projects, you’re missing out 🥵)

      • Milo says:

        Hear, hear, Amy. Have to say the general reaction to today’s NYT is a little dismaying. Now that I mention it there’s been quite the oafish, philistine vibe around here lately. Mainly from the most frequent “contributors.”

      • Mark says:

        Umm, I don’t think it’s “impossible or implausible” that people might know these names. But it’s a Natick.
        Or maybe you’re right and it’s just a basic character defect and blind racism on my part (and those of others who think it’s a Natick).

        It really is ok to disagree with a point without making it personal. In fact, your point might be taken more seriously without the condescension.

        • Mark says:

          Forgot to add that you might want to look up the word “churlish” and try to imagine which responses here fit the description.

      • Papa John says:

        I know John CHO only from crosswords. He’s shown up in a quite a few lately. I recognized his face when I Goggled him, but I’ve never seen any of his films or TV appearances. How is this possible? Maybe he had a bit part in something I watched. More likely, he appeared in some TV promotion that I did see.

        Despite HONG CHAU’s claim to fame, I have no recollection of ever having seen her or her name, for that matter.

        The fact that these two both have Asian ancestry has nothing to do with me having “blind spots” toward Asian Americans. I think you’re looking for a bigotry that isn’t there.

        • Mark says:

          The funniest part of this (for me, at least) is that I have Korean ancestry.
          But I appreciate being told that I have blind spots that I should examine.

      • JohnH says:

        Sorry, but first I don’t think it’s racist to say that I gave up on Star Trek as trash many years ago. And second, who sets the bottom line for wht counts as a culture’s shared or necessary knowledge? Sounds like it’s either what sells most or, more likely, it’s what YOU know.

        When I grew up, it meant things like literature that I wouldn’t inflict on others. And when I was in my teends and twenties it was downright de rigeur to dismiss top 40 as for AM radio and seek out something else. And my friends and I did so, starting in college radio.

        I swore again and again I’m not trying to impose my tastes on others, only asking for fair crossings and not such as dense amount of factoids, period, of any and every kind, that the whole darn puzzle takes working from crossings. But again and again you then just return to the stance that we’re ignorant and you’re smart.

        • pannonica says:

          I think it’s more simply advocacy for greater cultural democracy in crosswords. Regardless of approach, it’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time.

          • Mark says:

            I disagree. I found Amy’s response to be churlish and very ugly in its tone. The implication of bigotry on my part is disgusting.
            I’ll bet we all want more cultural democracy in crosswords. I fully acknowledge that popular culture is not my wheelhouse. However I love crosswords partly because of the world it opens to me. I often spend time looking up references I don’t know. So the slam that I think popular culture is “just too hard” and that I “shouldn’t be expected to know it” is off base.
            One reason I love Boswords is because it’s so out of my comfort zone and it’s a challenge.
            But I will always have a problem with Naticks.
            And finally, I (an Asian-American) am confronted with a non-Asian telling me I should check my blind spots regarding Asian-Americans. It’s not the first time. It won’t be the last. But it’s always ugly.

          • Ethan says:

            I do think it’s kind of hilarious that Amy made a point in her review of saying that she refuses to watch “The Whale” (presumably on principle), only to turn around in the comments with, “You haven’t heard of Hong Chau??!! She was in the Oscar-nominated WHALE, for heaven’s sake!!”

            • Shanda says:

              She also enjoys an “eff you” to people who don’t know AGLET.
              There’s some odd hostility going on there.

      • Shanda says:

        I knew Hong Chau – I actually met her through a friend in “the business”. She was really down to earth!

        But not cool to suggest that people are racist because they don’t know her. THAT is not a great look.

      • R says:

        I didn’t know that the definition of “Natick” required it to be “impossible or implausible that solvers should know a given name.” I thought it meant that, if you’re going to include a proper name that isn’t broadly known, it should be crossed with reasonably common words/phrases/names. I think it’s a reasonable and useful term and doesn’t need to be taken as a slur against the notoriety of a given pair of entries.

        • DougC says:

          Agree. “Natick” doesn’t mean “impossible,” it means “a lot of people are going to have trouble with this cross.”

  4. JohnH says:

    Regarding “tattered” as a verb in the WSJ. I’m not even sure what part of speech it’s supposed to be, but I duly entered TORN, changing it to TORE only when it seemed impossible not to.

  5. Zach says:

    WSJ: I found it fascinating that so many countries won their independence the same calendar week as the U.S., and conveniently their letter lengths created symmetry for this puzzle. I have two nits though:

    1) Cape Verde has been officially known as Cabo Verde for about a decade. I know it is still recognized as Cape Verde by most people, but it’s technically not correct.

    2) IMO, there were too many two word entries starting with A: A RAT, A BIRD, A TAD, A FATE

    • JohnH says:

      I believe that, while it’s officially the Republic of Cabo Verde, the use of Cape Verde as stand-alone geographical name rather than Cabo Verde still predominates. It’s the entry in Wiki and Webster’s, for two. Interesting to learn a bit of is history, though.

  6. Jim says:

    Perhaps a fun (though challenging) twist would have been for 23A (ARABICNUMERALS) and 46A (HEBREWNATIONAL) to fill from right to left, as their languages do.

  7. PJ says:

    NYT – About أرقام – I used a couple of online tools and got NUMBERS as the translation. I’m (insert preferred word here) enough to point out that a number is a concept that we represent with a numeral.

    • Ethan says:

      Here’s the Arabic Wikipedia article about the Arabic numerals. Note the first word in the title.

    • huda says:

      I’m a native Arabic speaker and Numbers was the first thing that popped into my mind. So you are correct. But I think NUMERALS is close enough in meaning. Trying to come up with an Arabic word that perfectly renders NUMERAL is not so straightforward. In the end that entry made the puzzle much easier for me.
      I too had some intersections where I was not sure of the spelling. But I don’t mind not knowing (being a scientist means you’re good with that). I usually look it up and try to learn more about the subject. My reward is when I surprise my kids or grandkids by being familiar with something/someone that they didn’t expect of me.

      • PJ says:

        I’m not surprised it’s not straightforward. Foreign languages have always been a challenge for me. For some reason the distinction has always caught my eye. I also have been aware of the contributions of the Arab world to mathematics. I think it started with a book or two I read by Asimov as a teen.

        I also like to look up things that are new to me. Gotta keep learning!

    • R says:

      But are you (insert preferred word here) enough to imagine that not every language has precisely the same distinction between “numbers” and “numerals” that English has?

      • PJ says:

        I guess you overlooked my post directly above yours.

        • R says:

          I guess you overlooked the fact that being condescending towards speakers of other languages isn’t fine just because you give a half-hearted explanation for why you did it.

  8. respectyourelders says:

    NYT: Loved it! How interesting to see characters from the different alphabets and a clever theme to boot. I found it pretty easy to guess the source of the characters (not that I know any of these languages) so once the theme pattern became clear it wasn’t too difficult a solve. A refreshing puzzle!

  9. John+F.+Ervin says:


    I congratulate Sarah Bridger for this construction and coming up with the concept and symmetry. So what if their Independence day is not on the Forth? (close enough for me).
    44D, I had Uganda inked in ‘fore I deciphered The Raven. Re tore/torn, I had older not olden for 28D, obviously a trouble spot for me.

  10. Eric H says:

    NYT: All the talk about the CHO/HONG CHAU crossing made me curious.

    CHO has been a NYT answer 40 times in the last 30 years. Mostly, it’s been clued as “Comedian Margaret.” John CHO has been in the clue about half a dozen times, with the clues fairly evenly split between “Star Trek” and the “Harold and Kumar” series.

    But what interested me was that in the Farrar/Weng/Maleska days, CHO was routinely clued as a Japanese land measurement. Is that really the kind of clue that people want?

    • Shanda says:

      I don’t think anyone complained about the cluing.
      It’s about the crossing where the O isn’t inferable.

      • Eric H says:

        Any complaint about an entry in the grid is to some extent a complaint about the clue, isn’t it? I don’t think there’s a way to clue CHO that almost everyone would know.

        I haven’t tried to recreate that grid on my own, so I don’t know whether the CHO/HONG CHAU crossing is the only thing that works there. For all any of us know, Joe Deeney may have worked hard to avoid that crossing and found it impossible to get rid of.

    • Shanda says:

      I don’t see it that way. It’s really the crossing and not the clue.

  11. Dan says:

    I don’t watch many films (I find very few new films enjoyable) and don’t plan to waste my time by making an effort to learn the names of actors, other than by osmosis via solving crosswords.

    I haven’t the faintest concern about how this “looks”.

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