Wednesday, August 9, 2023

AVCX 5:13 (Amy) 


LAT 3:49 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker 4:05 (Amy) 


NYT 3:58 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 9:19 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Land Reform”—Jim’s review

Theme: Land puns. Theme answers are familiar phrases in which one of the words can also be used to identify an area of land.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Land Reform” · Gary Larson & Amy Ensz · Wed., 8.9.23

  • 17a. [Online real estate listing?] PARCEL POST.
  • 26a. [Vacation properties?] LOTS OF FUN.
  • 35a. [Holy lands?] RELIGIOUS TRACTS. “She’s got huuuuge…tracts of land!”
  • 51a. [Savvy real estate investments?] WISEACRES.
  • 61a. [Surveyor’s tool?] PLOT DEVICE.

That works. Each keyword has a significant change in meaning, and all the phrases are solidly in-the-language. But the best part of this theme is that it got me to re-watch one of the most classic scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I could just show you the parts with the discussion about land, but the whole scene is so expertly written and executed, it’s worth a re-watch. (See below).

Top bits of fill include CLASSICO and FINESSE. I struggled in the NE and the North sections, mainly due to cluing, not because  of any awkward bits of fill.

Clues of note:

  • 5a. [Start of Kalamata]. KAPPA, Did not realize this was in Greece, so this crossing KALE (clued as slang for money) plus the golf clue for APRON, really made the North section tough to fill.
  • 19a. [Senior moment?]. PROM. Nice clue there.
  • 3d. [Velocity for free fall]. TERMINAL. *grumble* Velocity is a noun. The answer shouldn’t be an adjective.

3.5 stars.

Caryn Robbins & Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 8/9/23 – no. 0809

Fun Wordplay theme, taking words that end with -nce and changing them to sound-alike -nts words:

  • 17A. [What’s found under Casper’s Christmas tree?], GHOSTLY PRESENTS.
  • 27A. [Rule that forbids singing hymns to the devil?], NO CHANTS IN HELL.
  • 47A. [Doctor’s concern when a rival clinic opens up next door?], LOSING PATIENTS. So glad this isn’t about a bad surgeon.
  • 59A. [Evidence at the robbery crime scene?], PRINTS OF THIEVES.

27a and 59a were the best in my book.

Fave fill: CARTOONING, “NICE TRY,” CALZONES (had one the other day, did not use a dipping sauce), TINSELTOWN. A singular PITA CHIP feels weird, but I’d love it in the plural. Fairly smooth fill overall.

Needed the crossings for 32A. [Filmmaker ___ Lily Amirpour], ANA. Still fairly early in her career, probably very few of you have seen any of her works. I’m rooting for her, though! I can always use another pop-culture ANA clue angle.

3.75 stars from me.

Brendan Quigley’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Special Ops”—Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, “Special Ops” – 8/9/23 – Quigley

Change each O to a P in familiar phrases to get the theme entries, goofball phrases clued accordingly:

  • 17a. [Floppy golf clubs?], LIMP DRIVERS. From limo drivers. Good luck at the tees.
  • 24a. [Quietly noble skin condition?], UNSUNG HERPES.
  • 38a. [The brains behind the brains of the Knesset’s computers?], ISRAELI CPU’S CPUS. Nice switch-up from couscous. I mean, CPU’S CPUS is terrible, but finding a way to play off couscous is cool.
  • 49a. [Frozen storm of HIV-prevention meds?], PREP BLIZZARD. PrEP = pre-exposure prophylaxis and I’m a big fan of the approach.
  • 59a. [Festooned a telephone wire with Charmin?], TP’ED THE LINE.

I enjoyed this theme.

Three things:

  • 57d. [Generation that grew up with ColecoVision], XERS. Yes! My friend Robin’s household had ColecoVision and there were some fun games. Kristin’s household had Atari (Frogger!), and it was harder to find someone with access to Intellivision. (At my house, all we ever had was … Pong. Hand-me-down Pong, at that.)
  • 50d. [Beast that makes a “mmwonk” sound when happy], RHINO. Did not know!
  • 11d. [Blues Traveler frontman also famous for rejecting all empirical philosophy … wait, different guy there], JOHN POPPER. I only know the musician. Who rejected all empirical philosophy?

Four stars from me.

Chad Hazen and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “Letter Drops” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/9/23 • Wed • “Letter Drops” • Hazen, Chen • solution • 20230809

  • 33aR [Form phrase that hints at which letters to ignore in the starred clues’ answers] NOT APPLICABLE. The bigram NA is to be dropped from the entries for them to answer the clues.
  • 17a. [*Pizza alternative] CANAL ZONE (calzone).
  • 19a. [*Surplus] ON AVERAGE (overage).
  • 25a. [*Erase] RUNABOUT (rub out).
  • 42a. [*Unsuitable for children] NARRATED (R-rated).
  • 52a. [*Words that support a motion] IN A SECOND (I second).
  • 55a. [*Viral things on the internet] NAME NAMES (memes). Finishing off with a double drop.

Nice spin on a common theme variety.

  • 5d [Wine valley in Southern California] TEMECULA. Of the state’s wine valleys, certainly far behind NAPA and SIMI in terms of crossword appearances.
  • 8d [Most excellent] A-ONE. 1a [Hollywood’s cream of the crop] A-LIST.
  • 12d [Stuck at a cocktail party?] SPEARED.
  • 24d [Green layer of a seven-layer dip, for short] GUAC. 21a [Spicy layer of a seven-layer dip] SALSA.
  • 29d [It’s beside the point] ONES PLACE. For a brief moment I thought this was going to be ONE SPACE and envisioned lecturing everyone on why, in most contexts, it is unequivocally correct to use only one space (rather than two) after a period in a sentence.
  • 38d [Sips some liquor] HAS A NIP, which I robotically entered with HAS A SIP, not realizing it replicates a word in the clue. Took some hunting at the end to uncover my error.
  • 22a [Sleep stage, briefly] REM.
  • 39a [Job posting inits.] EOE, equal opportunity employer.
  • 59a [Antler, e.g.] HORN. Colloquially, yes, but anatomically there are significant differences. Simplified: antlers are made of bone and are shed annually, whereas horns have a bony core with a keratin sheath and grow throughout an animal’s life.

Jon Pennington’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

It was quickly obvious that the circles in Jon Pennington’s LA Times puzzle today had the same set of letters, however they didn’t seem to spell any word. Turns out, it spells out two: LETSGO, with the revealer being Prince song LETSGOCRAZY:

  • [Orange-yellow hue in 1970s kitchens], HARVESTGOLD. Is that what that was? I’m pretty sure a lot of our house was still that sort of shade in the early 1990s, but obviously colours stick around until being redecorated.
  • [Place to purchase Pixel phones], GOOGLESTORE.
  • [Make drowsy with a lullaby], SINGTOSLEEP.

What else I learnt in the puzzle? [Gelatinous tomato dish], ASPIC. I knew about the gelatin, not the tomato. Not a whole lot of sticking points today, but then it is only Wednesday.


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

New Yorker crossword solution, 8/9/23 – Patrick Berry

I learned a newish term today: UBERIZES, or [Overhauls by means of mobile technology, as an industry]. “Disrupts,” grr. I also sure did not know the word ROLLWAYS, or [Inclines used by lumberjacks to get logs into rivers].

Fave fill: PUSH ON despite that OFF DAY (mine was Tuesday), RAY LIOTTA, PRIMA DONNA, Theodore DREISER, “I BEG TO DIFFER,” THE GO-AHEAD (you might ask whether that THE is extraneous, but who ever mentions “a go-ahead,” or multiple go-aheads?), and HONOR GUARD.

Who else tried BOD before AGE for [Figure on Tinder]? Similarly, [School gathering] had me thinking of proms, pep rallies, and assemblies rather than a school of FISH.

Four stars from me.

Bruce Haight’s USA Today Crossword, “Busy Busy Busy” — Emily’s write-up

An apt title for midweek!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday August 09, 2023

USA Today, August 09 2023, “Busy Busy Busy” by Bruce Haight

Theme: every two-word themer starts with B—Z—, the sound of a bee (or a “busy” insect)


  • 17a. [Neutral area between hostile forces], BUFFERZONE
  • 35a. [Like temperatures that are beyond freezing], BELOWZERO
  • 59a. [Electric insect-killers], BUGZAPPERS

A bit of a mixed bag for the themer set today. For BUFFERZONE, the “green zone” (it’s called the “green line” in Cyprus) and the “demilitarized zone” (aka the DMZ in Korea) first. BELOWZERO took me a couple of crossings to get, though BUGZAPPERS was an instant place which was fun for me.

Favorite fill: DENALI (especially for PBS’ Molly of Denali), UKRAINE, RESTDAY, and UNICORN

Stumpers: CRUD (only “goop” can to mind), ANEW (needed crossings), and DREDGE (usually think of this word in terms of a breading)

Fun puzzle with oh so much great lengthy bonus fill. It was a hard solve for me today though a nice overall flow, even if it took me longer than usual.

4.0 stars


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12 Responses to Wednesday, August 9, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: As punny themes go, this was pretty good. NO CHANTS IN HELL greatly amused me. It seemed on the easy side for Wednesday.

    AVXC: The top of it seemed Monday NYT zippy; the bottom took a lot longer. Looking at it now, most of the theme answers send my mind in directions that I’d rather avoid when doing something that is supposed to be fun (especially UNSUNG HERPES). But that’s what I‘ve come to expect with BEQ’s puzzles.

    I’m assuming one might see ISRAELI CoUSCoUS on a menu or in a cookbook, but it sounds a little green-painty to me.

    I did enjoy the visit to my bookshelf. “White Teeth,” “Dune,” and “Catch-22” are some of my favorite novels. (The last one is probably my favorite novel of all.)

    • PJ says:

      Israeli couscous is a thing and is distinct from other couscous.

      UC – “38d [Sips some liquor] HAS A NIP, which I robotically entered with HAS A SIP, not realizing it replicates a word in the clue. Took some hunting at the end to uncover my error.” My experience was the same. Even the hunting for my mistake at the end.

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks. I (obviously) didn’t know how Israeli couscous differs from the North African couscous that I’ve eaten.

      • Papa John says:

        How are you guys getting the AVCX puzzle on a Wednesday? Isn’t that BEQ’s Thursday offering?

        • Eric H says:

          I get an email every Tuesday night from the AVCX folks that has that week’s “classic” puzzle.

  2. Arthur Shapiro says:

    Universal: can I surmise that the high number of really-low ratings means that people just didn’t catch on to the gimmick? Seemed like a nifty puzzle to me.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I’m guessing that’s the case, but who knows when it comes to the ratings here? I thought it was an enjoyable solve and would have given it a good rating if I did such things, but I was really slowed by the theme. Even with the revealer in place, I didn’t grok it until I filled in my last themer (NARRATED) based solely on the letter pattern (as was the case with the other themers).

    • Eric H says:

      Maybe people are just put off by answers that don’t seem to fit the clue. I’ve done enough puzzles like that that it doesn’t bother me; I know that it will eventually become clear.

      And it did. The revealer tells you exactly what to do to understand how the theme answers fit their clues. Seemed like a perfectly fine midweek puzzle to me.

      The ratings here always skew low. But I think you’re right that a few people didn’t understand the trick. (As I write this, only 10 people have rated the puzzle. I’ve been told that that’s not statistically significant.)

      Seeing CALZONE in two puzzles today (NYT and Universal) has me wondering how long it’s been since I’ve had one. Austin used to have a pizza place that made a pretty good calzone, but it closed probably 20 years ago.

  3. placematfan says:

    pannonica, I would like to hear your space lecture, please.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I have a “stop double-spacing after a period” lecture, too. Just as we’ve learned to move from dialing a phone to pushing buttons to tapping a screen, folks who learned to double-space in typing class decades ago need to move on. We no longer live in a “typing with a monospaced typeface like Courier” world, and all these variable-width fonts can adapt. If you don’t have trouble reading books, magazines, and websites, congratulations! You can read material without that double-space after a period. Stop clinging to the “old habit” that really (honestly!) is not hard to give up.

      • Eric H says:

        What I like is that most app developers recognize the “old habit” and have turned “two taps on the space bar” into “insert period and space here.”

        Test. (Yep, it works here.)

      • pannonica says:

        That’s pretty much it, although I would have named proportional fonts contra monospace ones. Thanks, Amy!

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