Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Jonesin' 4:40 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni)  


NYT untimed (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal untimed (Matt F) 


USA Today 2:34 (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ 5:07 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Both Sides Now” — one side precedes, the other side follows. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 7/11/23

Jonesin’ solution 7/11/23

Hello lovelies! This week’s Jonesin’ theme contains a side of fun! For each theme phrase, the first words make new phrases when SIDE is added in front, and the second words become new phrases when SIDE is tacked on to the end.

  • 17a. [University with a focus on adventurous journeys?] QUEST STATE (SIDE QUEST and STATESIDE)
  • 34a. [Potential brand name for a cleaning polish for reflective surfaces?] MIRROR BRIGHT (SIDE MIRROR and BRIGHT SIDE (Or Mr. BRIGHTSIDE if you’re a Killers fan)
  • 41a. [Planned undertaking to visit the coast?] PROJECT BEACH (SIDE PROJECT and BEACHSIDE
  • 59a. [Nuts about a particular disco dance?] HUSTLE WILD (SIDE HUSTLE and WILD SIDE)

Other things:

  • 9d. [Amorphous movie villain] THE BLOB. Each year The Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, PA hosts Blobfest, a weekend full of screening Blob films, food, merchandise, and other blobby fun. This year’s festival is actually this upcoming weekend! https://thecolonialtheatre.com/blobfest/
  • 67a. [Fold and press] KNEAD. I had __EA_ and typed in PLEAT without missing a beat. This was, of course, incorrect.
  • 45a. [“___ that special?”] ISN’T. I love SNL’s Church Lady.

Until next week!

Landon Horton’s Universal Crossword DEBUT – “Triple Letter S-core” – Matt F’s write up

Universal Solution 07.11.2023

I didn’t find Landon’s name in the constructor tags, so I’m going to assume this is a print debut! Congratulations on the accomplishment.

This puzzle has a simple conceit, but Landon takes it to another level by anchoring everything around a central block of letters that adds a massive constraint to the grid. The diagonal symmetry certainly helps to “control the chaos” in this one.

Theme Synopsis:

This puzzle is built around a central 3×3 square of S’s. All the words running through the “S-pile” must contain the S-S-S substring, leaving 6 theme answers in very close proximity to each other:

  • 33A – [1955 adaptation of “Cinderella”] = THE GLASS SLIPPER
  • 38A – [Concert highlight featuring low notes] = BASS SOLO
  • 39A – [Slithering reptile with an idiomatic name] = GRASS SNAKE
  • 6D – [Device for playing music around the campfire] = WIRELESS SPEAKER
  • 21D – [Embroidery style with X’s] = CROSS STITCH
  • 25D – [Dietary claim on some chip bags] = LESS SALT

Overall Impressions:

I first noticed long answers running in both directions, with a surprising number of long intersections in the center of the grid… only later in my solve did I fully understand why this was the case. It played more like a themeless,  I think in part because of how densely packed the theme material is, which leaves the corners to kind of stand on their own. An idealist would say that no other S’s should exist outside of the central 9, but that’s a tall ask considering how common the letter is! I’d say clean fill is the top priority, and “less S’s” would be a nice-to-have feature if it works out. Nothing to fret about! The construction is great, the theme is ambitious, and the fill is clean. Can’t ask for much more than that!

Thanks for the puzzle, Landon!

Rebecca Goldstein’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “It’s a Stretch”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that have a type of cheese (identified by the circled letters) stretched out within. The revealer is CHEESE PULL (58a, [Seductive imagery in pizza ads, represented by the circled letters]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “It’s a Stretch” · Rebecca Goldstein · Tue., 7.11.23

  • 17a. [TV mom played by Florence Henderson] CAROL BRADY. Colby. That was a pretty cheesy TV show, so it’s nice to have a representative here.
  • 24a. [Red Cross event] BLOOD DRIVE. Brie.
  • 38a. [Feature of a page with lots of views?] EDITORIAL COLUMN. Edam. The only instance where the cheese doesn’t stretch from first letter to last (almost, though).
  • 47a. [Embrace one’s inner star] GO FULL DIVA. Gouda. Don’t think I’ve heard the phrase, but it feels legit and it’s quite fun anyway.

Nice theme! I only know the phrase CHEESE PULL from a crossword in the not-too-distant past. I questioned whether it was a real phrase and sure enough, it is. And it makes a great basis for a theme. (Heh. Well, whaddya know. That puzzle was by the same constructor.)

We get four long fill entries today: BATHTUB GIN, “FAR FROM IT,” QUITE SURE, and POKER TELLS. The last one feels a bit green paintish, but the rest are all very nice.

Clue of note: 1a. [Crash sites?]. SOFAS. Good clue, setting the tone for the puzzle.

Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 632), “Working the Angles”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 632: “Working the Angles”

Hello there, everybody! Wishing you all the best as summer continues to roll along!

It won’t be too long before the start of football season is upon us, and today’s grid takes a football term and turns it into a theme. The across and down answer pair making up each of the four corners of the grid are all words that can come after back, with CORNERBACKS, smack dab in the middle of the grid, acting as the reveal (38A: [Football positions … or an apt description of the puzzle theme]).

        • STREET (1A: [Perry Mason’s secretary Della])
        • STROKE (1D: [Golf lesson topic])
        • DROP (10A: [Lemon candy])
        • POCKET (13A: [Pita bread feature])
        • BURNER (50D: [Cheap-and-disposable phone used by a secret agent])
        • SLIDER (70A: [Mini-hamburger])
        • GROUND (44D: [Prevent from taking off, as a flight])
        • DATE (68A: [Sweet tropical fruit])

Only real trouble spot came in that intersection of ASA (53A: [Botanist Gray]) and AMIEL, with the former bailing me out given his appearances in previous crosswords (54D: [“Copycat” director John]). There were still a number of long, non-themed fill that appeared in the grid given the density of the theme, with TOE RING probably standing out the most from the 7-and-8-letter down entries that featured (2D: [Jewelry for a low digit]). We have some answers that will take those who grew up in the 1980s down memory lane, like DEVO (10A: [“Whip It” rock group]) and TOOTIE (14A: [Schoolmate of Blair and Natalie on “The Facts of Life”]). I probably watched more episodes of “The Facts of Life” than I would like to admit … even the Cloris Leachman episodes at the end of the show’s run!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ELROY (52D: [“The Jetsons” boy]) – The man who was better known by his nickname, “Crazylegs,” Elroy Hirsch was one of the first star pass catchers in the history of that National Football League. A three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro selection, Hirsch gained his famous nickname for his unorthodox running style, which one sports writer wrote that “he ran like a demented duck,” In 1951, Hirsch went for 1,451 receiving yards during the Los Angeles Rams’ championship season. His 124.6 receiving yards per game that season set a new NFL record, and over 70 years after that remarkable season, only two players have eclipsed that receiving yards per game mark. Hirsch was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Aaron Rosenberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 7 11 23, no. 0711

I always like a magazine theme. This one plays on phrases relating to shortfalls that end with a magazine title:

  • 17A. [“Got any news magazines?” “Sorry, we’re …”] STRAPPED FOR TIME.
  • 23A. [“Got any fitness magazines?” “Sadly, we’re …”] OUT OF SHAPE.
  • 36A. [With 40-Across, “Got any showbiz magazines?” “Regrettably, we’re …”] LACKING / VARIETY.
  • 53A. [“Got any L.G.B.T.Q. magazines?” “Unfortunately, we’re …”] MISSING OUT. Regrettable to have OUT in both 23a and 53a, but I appreciate the magazine’s inclusion in the puzzle.
  • 60A. [“Got any celebrity magazines?” “Alas, we’re …”] SHORT A FEW PEOPLE. Not sure anyone would refer to multiple issues as “a few People,” since People magazine takes the singular and not plural.

Fave fill: CUSS WORD, BILLY GOAT battling the troll under the bridge, STARGATE, THE BYRDS. Haven’t seen TEA BREAKS before, and EDITABLE feels a bit meh as longer fill.

I might have liked the puzzle better overall with three or four themers instead of five, leaving more space for smoother fill. A few entries feel tough for Tuesday beginners: ESTES Park, LOAM, OLAV, RIA. ALL OK doesn’t feel idiomatic to me, and I’m not entirely sure that RED STAR is that much less green-painty than, say, BLUE CAR.

3.5 stars from me.

Stella Zawistowski’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-uphe

Stella!! I’m always delighted to see Stella’s byline. Even on a Tuesday it means there’s fun ahead. I’m glad there wasn’t a revealer; the theme didn’t need it and I suspect it would have required inelegant fill.

Four theme answers, two 15 letters long.

Los Angeles Times, July 11, 2023, Stella Zawistowski, solution grid

  • 16a [Stop by briefly] is POP IN TO SAY HELLO.
  • 23a [Make a rude noise] is BLOW A RASPBERRY.
  • 41a [Be extremely self-satisfied] is BURST WITH PRIDE.
  • 56a [Digress from the main topic] is GO OFF ON A TANGENT.

POPBLOWBURSTGO OFF – all mean “explode.” Solid, consistent, Tuesday-accessible. Nice!

A few other things:

  • I know it’s ULTIMATE with the FRISBEE and I know we’re supposed to say “disc” instead and it still sounds odd to my 1970s ear.
  • BANTU knots look like this

bantu knots

  • I’m happy to see GAIN clued as [Positive result at the gym] rather than with a negative reference to weight.
  • The Amazing RANDI did not like to be called a “debunker.” Fascinating and brilliant man.
  • 44d [“Who are ___ judge?”] took me a minute because YOU TO didn’t fit and I TO was clearly wrong (and also didn’t fit) and for some reason I couldn’t see WE TO right away.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’ve heard of James ENSOR; did not know he was Belgian.

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 7/11/23 • Tue • Berry • solution • 20230711

I’d call this one a mildly challenging puzzle rather than a moderate one, but that’s quibbling—and highly subjective.

What sticks with me after the solve were the several ultra-clever clues that definitely flirt with being a little too much. With a few crossings, however, their tricks revealed themselves.

I’m talking about stuff like: 15a [Something to share with a close friend?] UMBRELLA, 34a [Thanksgiving stay?] DON’T MENTION IT, 40a [Circle once entrusted with important information?] CD-ROM, 52a [Duck sauce?] TEETOTAL, 11d [Intro courses?] PACE LAPS, 14d [Feature of a packed joint] WEED.

  • 8a [Accessories to consider when picking locks, maybe] HASPS. Is that true? I don’t see how the hasp would be relevant. Also, is this clue trying to misdirect about hair? Just odd all around.
  • 30a [They cost forty-one cents apiece when introduced, in 2007] FOREVER STAMPS. A real d’oh moment for me when I got the answer.
  • 50a [Blighty resident] BRITON. Etymology: modification of Hindi & Urdu bilātī foreign, English, alteration of vilāyatī, from vilāyat province, realm, country beyond India, from Persian, dominion, province, from Arabic wilāya (m-w.com). There is, however, a locality in New South Wales, Australia called Blighty. 42d [Precious New South Wales exports] OPALS.
  • 55a [Odiferous diner order] TUNA MELT. See? It isn’t difficult to invoke ‘odor’ without being pejorative.
  • 5d [Much looked up?] TALL. A gimme, no crossings.
  • 7d [Waste from a smeltery] SLAG. Have seen this entry with similar cluing more than once recently. Easy for me, because for ages I used to rename the ‘Recycle Bin’ on the computer’s desktop to ‘Slag Heap’.
  • 8d [Samskara observer] HINDU. There are several senses for which Samskara may be applied, and HINDU seems to be a good answer for most of them.
  • 30d [Contemplate the bizarre, say] FANTASIZE, 31d [Contemplate the bazaar, say] SHOP. Distinct etymologies, by the way, for bizarre and bazaar.
  • 46d [Place associated with Butch Cassidy?] ETTA. If you’ve been doing crosswords long enough, this won’t fool you at all.

Catherine Cetta’s USA Today Crossword, “Three Inches” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Jared Goudsmit & Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer hides the word INCH.

USA Today, 07 11 2023, “Three Inches”

  • 16a [Language with the highest number of native speakers] – MANDARIN CHINESE
  • 36a [Postpones for a later date] – TAKES A RAIN CHECK
  • 58a [Dairy product made in the Midwest] – WISCONSIN CHEESE

Nice finds here by Catherine to have three grid spanning answers where the “inch” spans multiple words. All three of the phrases are great – my time in the Midwest makes me partial to WISCONSIN CHEESE as both a food and an answer :) My only tiny complaint is that it would have been cool if the title was less straightforward, but the inches are hidden well enough that I appreciated the theme hint.

This puzzle played easier than the standard USA Today fare for me, even with a few mistakes (“loads” instead of SCADS, “aye” instead of YEA, etc). I think that’s because there are very few proper nouns in the puzzle, and most things are clued in a pretty straightforward manner. The things I didn’t know were very easy to get from crosses. Overall, a nice beginner friendly puzzle!

New to me: GERI Jewell, “ODE to Gold Teeth”

Fave clues: [Word after “freight” or “gravy”] for TRAIN, [Anton ___ (“Ratatouille” critic)] for EGO

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26 Responses to Tuesday, July 11, 2023

  1. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Forgot to mention that H. ROSS Perot was never a “politico.” Being a billionaire who unsuccessfully runs for office doesn’t convert one to a politician, does it?

    • Eric H says:

      I was in my 30’s when Perot ran for president. Yeah, he got zero electoral votes, but I don’t have a problem clueing him as a politician. To the extent anyone outside of Texas or the tech industry knows who he was, it’s because of his two presidential campaigns.

  2. dh says:

    Nice to see Li’l Nas X and Ilhan Omar getting so much ink (not). Always disappointing to me when I see the same fill crop up in multiple puzzles. No comment on the particulars.

    • Milo says:

      Artist of the longest-standing #1 hit in history & (co-)first Muslim woman in Congress both seem pretty notable, as far as proper nouns go

      • dh says:

        There are lots of notable people and/or clues that can be used. My objection is that the same answers and very similar clues appeared in two puzzles today. Nor do I put any stock in “the first ________”, as I don’t buy into identity politics. In my view, I think that a congressperson’s record is far more important than the color of their skin, their gender or their religion. If Omar were not a Muslim Woman, no one would have heard of them.

        • R says:

          “I don’t buy into identity politics” is just another way of saying “I prefer power structures the way they currently are, with my identity comfortably on top.”

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Rep. Omar gets in the news when the Freedom Caucus people target her, in addition to being known as a member of the “Squad.” This “no one would have heard of them” bit is just weird.

          Listen, if Tommy Tuberville wants to be in the crossword as often, he should shorten his name. Crossword editors are just glad to have a notable OMAR outside of acting so we don’t have to lean on Epps and Sharif all the time.

          • dh says:

            Let’s not forget Omar Bradley. Every once in a while I will do a random puzzle from the NYT archives. This evening I did the one from Saturday, July 14, 2007. Coincidentally, 44-A was clued “Mets manager Minaya and others” Can you guess what the answer was?
            “Rep. Omar gets in the news when the Freedom Caucus people target her, in addition to being known as a member of the “Squad.”

            Yes, that’s my point exactly. I’m fine with acknowledging that she is the “first [insert your favorite here] but for that to be the basis of her notoriety, well, I expect more. Call me Pollyanna.

  3. PJ says:

    TNY – Felt quicker than the 12:02 on the timer. I bought FOREVERSTAMPS Saturday in anticipation of the price hike, so that helped. That with 3D, 19D, and 29D really got me going. I saw through 31D pretty quickly. Not so much with 30D, the toughest entry for me. I can’t decide if I like the clue for 34A. I’m leaning no. The clue for 52A is pretty good. Not thrilled about ELLA crossing UMBRELLA.

    • I don’t see what the problem is with ELLA crossing UMBRELLA. It’s just a name and a word that don’t have anything in common with each other except a string of letters.

      • PJ says:

        That’s fine you don’t. When I’m solving a crossword I am entering strings of letters. After having entered UMBRELLA, I later completed ELLA. I looked at the crossing entries and thought something like, “That’s not my favorite crossing”.

        • Is your issue that you thought 6D couldn’t be ELLA because you just entered UMBRELLA, so it slowed you up? If so, that’s unfortunate … but again, there’s no actual problem with the crossing. Repeated letter strings like that happen all the time.

          • PJ says:

            Did I mention it slowed me up? I’ve solved crosswords since before you were born (I bet). I’m familiar with their appearances.

            I think I’m beginning to understand your issues with ratings. You don’t seem to appreciate to other solvers’ points of view. You seem more interested in pointing how they are incorrect.

            • Lol, I didn’t realize appreciating other solvers’ points of view meant accepting all of them as equally correct, or at least accepting all of yours without any disagreement.

              And if you’re gonna throw around how long you’ve been solving as though that makes your point better, I’m willing to bet I’ve written a lot more crosswords than you have. I’ve gotten every kind of feedback on puzzles that you can ever get, from well-reasoned critique to completely baseless complaints to vicious demands that I be fired from my job because oh heavens I wrote a challenging crossword and we can’t have that. I even remember this bit from you last year where you admitted you’d just wanted to find reasons to get mad at someone when they say something or act in a way that matches the preconception you already have of them. Take your own advice: I gave you a *slight* bit of pushback on a total non-issue in a New Yorker puzzle and you invented a reason out of nothing to get mad at me.

              So please, PJ, don’t lecture me about how I somehow don’t appreciate other solvers’ points of view. I listen to them and understand them and remember them a lot better than you realize.

              Have a nice day.

            • PJ says:

              My comment about the time I’ve solved dealt with you telling me what happens all the time.

              You’re *slight* pushback was your first comment. When I explained my point of view I felt like you dismissed my explanation.

              This has certainly mountained out of a mole hill.

              I understand themes are the primary focus of Sunday WaPo, which are reliably excellent, but I really enjoy your themeless grids. You know I’m a fan from Devil Cross days.

    • JohnH says:

      I’m obviously in the “blame TNY” camp, and I’m not convinced the solution is to hear that if we don’t like it, don’t solve it. To me, that sounds like “love it or leave it.” It also overlooks that we’re the clear majority, that we think our objections are valid, and we think that a bad puzzle shouldn’t be published.

      Still, I didn’t have a problem with ELLA (and what did slow me up is that the name in the clue was new to me, which is fair enough). Of course, I also look forward to Patrick Berry puzzles and rarely complain about them, but I’ll admit this one took me longer than I expected, which again is fine. My last to fall was PACE LAPS.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        LOL at thinking you’re the “clear majority.” A handful of vocal people complaining on a blog when the New Yorker crossword likely has many thousands of solvers? And when there are also solvers who love the New Yorker puzzles?

  4. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: I rarely get 1A without crosses in anything but an easy puzzle (e.g. NYT Monday), but MUTATES was a gimme that I quickly confirmed. That set the tone for most of the rest of the grid, which I filled pretty quickly.

    The middle was a bit tougher. I’d forgotten Mahler’s last finished symphony was his ninth, so TENTH needed more crosses than it should have. I kinda like the DON’T MENTION IT clue, as it really had me thinking of the holiday for a while.

    It took a long time to get FOREVER STAMPS. I’m old enough to remember when a first class stamp was about 5 cents, so I’ve seen a lot of rate increases. I’ve gotten bad about sending birthday cards and such, so I probably use a dozen stamps per year anymore.

  5. Eric H says:

    Universal: I like the attention Matt F’s review brings to this apparently being the print debut for Landon Horton. I hope that will be a feature of other reviews.

    I got the theme quickly, which made the rest of the puzzle pretty easy.

    Those nine squares in the middle are something stupendous to see.

  6. JT says:

    NYT – “out” showing up a third time in this puzzle – 23A, 53A, and 51D – with no real connection between was bizarre for me, two are in a theme but used differently, and one is entirely on its own. Despite that, I didn’t dislike this puzzle, a few vexed me in their choice of cluing, and the V in 24D threw me greatly, but I felt ok about it by the end despite being quite the novice.

  7. pannonica says:

    Well I see things are going swimmingly here.

  8. Landon Horton says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Matt! It is indeed my debut, and your positive review made this great day even better. Hopefully I’ll show up in print again soon!

    • Sam Acker says:

      I’ll concur with the comments above: the 9 S’s in the center is mesmerizing. I loved the concept and the clean execution! Looking forward to more from you.

  9. JML says:

    Speaking of like it or leave it… This is probably the last time I delve into the comment section on this blog. Which is rather unfortunate, given that there are occasional moments of decency. But those don’t outnumber the negative ones. Having to sift through comments to find the happy people is an emotional chore and defeats the purpose entirely. Here’s to hoping for humanity on the internet, which makes me wonder why I even bothered writing this.

  10. G.B. says:

    And on top of everything, we got 3 ratings of 1 star for the Jonesin’ puzzle, and nothing else. Just finding that… weird. I get what you mean, JML.

Comments are closed.