Wednesday, August 23, 2023

AVCX 4:34 (Amy) 


LAT 3:49 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker 2:56 (Amy) 


NYT 4:38 (Amy) 


Universal tk (pannonica) 


USA Today 16:02 (Emily) 


WSJ 5:50 (Jim) 


Alan Massengill’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “The Way It ‘Twas”—Jim’s review

T sounds are added to the starts of familiar phrases that originally started with a W sound. Spellings are changed as needed.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “The Way It ‘Twas” · Alan Massengill · Wed., 8.23.23

  • 19a. [Lessons for those who got behind in the dancing?] TWERKING CLASS. Working class.
  • 31a. [Poodle that’s not quite a teacup or a toy?] TWEENER DOG. Wiener dog. Ha. I liked this one best.
  • 40a. [Income for a social media influencer?] TWEET BREAD. Wheat bread.
  • 51a. [DJ’s platter, when it’s on the turntable?] TWIRLED RECORD. World record. Reminds me of a license plate frame I saw a few days ago: “Visualize Whirled Peas.”

I enjoyed this, probably because I was won over by the second entry. I like the fact that each one requires a spelling change, adding to the theme’s consistency. (Conversely, I did notice that only one entry’s second word doesn’t change meaning.) I wonder if TWILL SHORTS was ever considered for this theme.


Clue of note: 27d. [Fitting]. MEET. This is a deep cut. I had to scour a few different online dictionaries to find this meaning which is labeled “archaic and dialectal British”: “precisely adapted to a particular situation, need, or circumstance : very proper”. Example from Joseph Conrad: “… their ghosts … haunt the fires by which sit armed men, as is MEET for the spirits of fearless warriors who died in battle.” Yikes. That’s a clue more MEET for the end of the week or in a stumper puzzle.

Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Michael Lieberman’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 8/23/23 – no. 0823

The theme is bizarre food clues that play on the orientation of various letters within the themers:

  • 17A. [Salad dressing with chopped liver], BALSAMIC VINEGAR with the letters in LIVER “chopped up” and strewn throughout in circled letters. Is it just me, or is vinegar by itself a sad excuse for salad dressing? It needs some olive oil!
  • 28A. [Sandwich with wild rice], MONTE CRISTO with the RICE gone “wild” within.
  • 48A. [Desserts with split peas], PEACH MELBAS. PEACH MELBAS sure does look weird in the plural, given how uncommon it is here in the States. The PE/AS are “split,” and I humbly ask you to please never put peas in my dessert.
  • 60A. [Egg dish with a lemon turnover], WESTERN OMELETTE, with NOMEL being LEMON “turned over.” Apparently the Western omelet is the same as the Denver. (I want none of it.) Never heard of a lemon turnover, but the internet has photos and recipes.

Aesthethically, this theme is a nightmare. Peas in the dessert! Just say no.


The Scowl-0-Meter groaned into action at the sight of EPODE, [Lyric poem]. Raise your hand if you majored in English and have never encountered that word anywhere but crosswords.

Fave clue: [Ones with chiseled jawlines, often], STATUES. Literally chiseled out of stone.

3.5 stars from me.

Adam Simpson’s Universal crossword, “Totaled Cost” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 8/23/23 • Wed • “Totaled Cost” • Simpson • solution • 20230823

  • 56aR [“How much do I owe?” … or a hint to part of 20-, 35- and 42-Across] WHAT’S THE DAMAGE.
  • 20a. [Food under a bunch of layers?] CHICKEN SCRATCH. Also called scratch grains.
  • 35a. [It’s a crisp across the pond] POTATO CHIP.
  • 42a. [Time to get a sandwich with co-workers] LUNCH BREAK.

scratch, chip, break – in increasing order of magnitude, even.

  • 4d [Something to maintain with a speaker] EYE CONTACT. I’ve always found that I tend to look at peoples mouths quite a lot when they’re speaking. Dunno why, my ears work just fine.
  • 39d [Closes down for good] SHUTTERS. The site of my only mis-fill, where I assumed it was going to be a phrase, SHUTS __.
  • 55d [Short spat] SET-TO. Spats are already attenuated, so I guess a SET-TO is short still?
  • 57d [Goes “mmm mmm mmm mm,” maybe] HUMS. Strong Crash Test Dummies vibe.
  • 45a [Opinion piece] OP-ED. Remember, the “op” here stands for opposite (the editorial page).

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

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

Huh, easier than I was expecting, as it felt easy enough to be a breezy Thursday New Yorker.

Lots of longer entries that aren’t wildly new entities, but that feel fresh to the grid. Fave fill: AVON LADIES, “THE BODY” ([Nickname shared by Elle Macpherson and Jesse Ventura]), JOB SITES, RUBIK’S CUBE, CRAB SPIDER, SKETCHBOOKS, CARRY-ON BAGS.

Didn’t know that CORNELL was the [Only Ivy League university that was never closed to women].

Felt misled by [It might be used to smooth out a track], which had me thinking of Zambonis and racetracks rather than a song track and AUTOTUNE.

Four stars from me, smooth and straightforward.

Olivia Mitra Framke’s AV Club Classic crossword, “See What’s Left”—Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 8/23/23 – “See What’s Left”

Theme revealer: EYE OPENERS, 56a. [Revelatory experiences, or how you might describe aloud what this puzzle’s theme entries have]. Each themer has an “i” (pronounced “eye”) added to the front of (or “opening”) a familiar phrase or word, changing the meaning.

  • 16a. [App graphic designer?] ICON ARTIST. They won’t scam you.
  • 24a. [AP Chemistry?], ION COURSE. How long till DeSantis et al find cause to ban AP science courses?
  • 34a. [What surfers hope for?], IDEAL BREAKERS. This one’s a little bit of an outlier since dealbreakers is one word rather than a phrase.
  • 46a. [Mountain trek that involves scowling at flowers and losing one’s temper with chipmunks?], IRATE HIKE. Funny image in the clue! You know what, though? When I’m in the Magic Hedge bird sanctuary at Chicago’s lakefront and want to take a photo of a cute li’l chipmunk on the trail, that little bastard skedaddles so fast, all I capture is a blur. #ChipmunkRageIsReal

Solid theme.

Loved seeing SWEAR JAR in the grid. Also liked RETCON, the SIMPSONS, and the twofer of EVIL and SAINTLY for [Like many a one-dimensional antagonist]. Nice to have 45d. [Iranian-American chef Samin] NOSRAT. She’s got that cooking book, Salt Fat Acid Heat, along with the Netflix show it inspired.

Four stars from me.

Wendy L. Brandes and Sally Hoelscher’s USA Today Crossword, “Uppercase” — Emily’s write-up

Fantastic puzzle from a dynamic duo today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday August 23, 2023

USA Today, August 23 2023, “Uppercase” by Wendy L. Brandes and Sally Hoelscher

Theme: in the downs today, the first word of each themer can be prepended with “case” to form a new phrase (or up above it)


  • 28d. [Friend to do homework with], STUDYBUDDY
  • 17d. [Lover of Renaissance fairs, perhaps], HISTORYBUFF
  • 11d. [Queen’s subjects, in a hive], WORKERBEES

STUDYBUDDY takes me back to college in the library, especially given the timing with the start of school. HISTORYBUFF is another fun themer that makes me think of my dad and his love of Minnesota history. WORKERBEES took me a few more crossings today, as I usually think of them as just “workers” though it rounds out today’s set nicely. With the theme, we get: CASE STUDY, CASE HISTORY, and CASE WORKER. This puzzle is just so hard working and studious today!

Favorite fill: SETUP, STUDYBUDDY, MOONPIE (just had my first this week!), and AFOOT

Stumpers: ELEVENTH (needed crossings, tricky (but fun) cluing for me), INCOME (kept thinking about something being lifted and not the money sense), and HOU (new to me)

Given that I had a migraine today, it’s hard to know how much of my time was due to that versus difficulty level. What did you all think today? Was this puzzle significantly tougher than usual? Either way, I still loved it and adored the collab! Hope to see more from Wendy and Sally!

4.0 stars


Catherine Cetta’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I feel like I am missing a layer or two in today’s puzzle by Catherine Cetta. The central down answer is RISEANDFALL, [Move like tides and stock prices, or what the hidden words do in the answers to the starred clues?]. All I’m seeing is four answers with palindromic sections that spell words: NAAN, STATS, MADAM, and NOON. So:

  • [*Forensic expert on many a crime drama], DNAANALYST
  • [*”Is this a smile on my face?”], HOWMADAMI. Never heard that used as a phrase, ever…
  • [*Warning from the paranoid], TRUSTNOONE
    [*Like Viola and Sebastian’s ship at the start of “Twelfth Night”], LOSTATSEA

The grid itself felt very open, and featured a lot of six-to-eight word answers. Highlights included [“Aw, darn it!”], OHHELL; [Neighborhood diner?], LOCAVORE; [Restored to mint condition], LIKENEW.


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31 Responses to Wednesday, August 23, 2023

  1. cyberdiva says:

    NYT: Amy, as an English major and English teacher, I loved your comment about EPODE! Hand raised.

    • JohnH says:

      Me, too. I wanted to love the puzzle because of the theme, double in value because you get theme entries plus the hidden word. There’s a bonus in that LEMON in WESTERN OMELETTE runs from east to west.

      But did I ever hate the fill, a mix of way too many crossword oldies and obscurities (at least to me), especially pop culture. Even one of the themers, the sandwich, has I’d swear never once appeared on a menu in New York, and no wonder. Wiki says it caught on because it was introduced at Disneyland.

      • Eric H says:

        Regarding the MONTE CRISCO sandwich: Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

        It’s been decades since I’ve had one, but the puzzle has me craving one. I’ve got recommendations for/reminiscences of them in Boston, the Bay Area, Albuquerque, and suburban Atlanta. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them in New York.

          • Eric H says:

            Damn! Thanks.

            A Monte Crisco sandwich would be pretty nasty.

            I don’t know whether to blame the error on Autocorrect or my apparently non-functioning brain. Wordle took me six tries this morning, and having gotten two categories in the NYT Connections game, I am completely stymied on the last two.

            • pannonica says:

              I remember a spread long ago in Mad Magazine where consumer products (represented by their distinctive logograms) “sponsored” new editions of classic literature, and The Count of Monte Crisco was one of them.

              Datsun Also Rises was another, to give you an idea of the era.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Come on, John … Based on your comments here, it seems like you’ve been around the block a time or two. You’ve really never heard of a Monte Cristo sandwich? I did a little Googling and there seem to be plenty of NYC delis and other restaurants that serve them.

        On the other hand, I hereby nominate NOT ON {19D: Off one’s game} for the Crossword Hall of Shame.

        • Eric H says:

          Your “award” for NOT ON ought to go to Bruce Haight. His 2/9/17 NYT puzzle had that answer with the clue “Performing beneath one’s usual level.”

          It’s really just not good fill. Most of the clues used for it in NYT puzzles are Monday level.

        • JohnH says:

          You know, I wasn’t going to worry about it, but you got my curiosity. I’d never heard of it once in all these years, so I just did a search. The Yelp suggestions were few and far between, but they did include Veselka, a true NY legend although with a very different kind of food, Ukranian, and Clinton Street Bakery. So I figured, well, if they’re at those institutions, how foreign to NY can it be. But I went to their sites, and it was nowhere on either menu.

          I don’t doubt that some bodegas here and there have added it for demand from tourism. I realize that, after all, Disneyland has a lot of influence. But forgive me if I never come across it again.

    • Martin says:

      No doubt EPODE is obscure, but you’d likely find it in a Greek Literature course, not English Lit. For most, even liberal arts students today, that’s an unknown world. But you might as well ask for a show of hands of Physics majors as English majors.

  2. anon says:

    AVCX: 60a Stock near financiers, perhaps? = ROLLS

    The “perhaps” might be indicating an alternative/uncommon meaning of “stock” or “rolls” (or both), but I’m struggling to make sense of this. Rolls of cash? If so, then my response is, “perhaps not”.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      I think it’s an alternative meaning of “financier,” as a kind of cake.

    • Eric H says:

      ROLLS-Royce, maybe? Though I’m not sure I buy “stock” = “auto.”

    • Josh M says:

      True, ROLLS was a bit of a stretch, but at least it was unambiguous given the crosses. (I had BULLS first, but then changed it with a shrug). But RETCON X NOSRAT X BLAT is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. WTH? Who lets that in? I’m sure if I googled them all, they would, in fact, be actual words/names/alternative spellings, but come on! Sheep BLEAT FFS. I want a public apology on allowing those 3 to cross each other.

  3. JohnH says:

    I must be missing the obvious, but why in TNY is a WET BAR a cocktail mixer’s convenience rather than, say employer?

    I enjoyed it well enough but found it harder than Amy did, especially in the SW with (also) THE BODY and CRAB SPIDER. RAG TOPS was also among the fill new to me, and I bet a truly easy puzzle wouldn’t go for the anecdote about the pope’s annulling the Magna Carter, which you won’t learn in school. (I see it led to something called the Baron’s War.)

    But I did get a truly coincidental gimme in Ann, because I’m just now reading Radcliffe’s most famous novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho. It’s pretty dumb and awfully long, but it’s won me over. I recently reread Jane Austen’s first completed novel, which makes serious fun of it, and I realized I’d never read it or, for that matter, any Gothic Novel from back then. (How many have?) So I’m giving it a go.

    • Eric H says:

      I’ve only heard WET BAR used to describe an amenity you’d find in a rec room or hotel room. A bar in a commercial establishment almost always has a sink (which is what makes a WET BAR wet, right?).

      I enjoyed the puzzle, though took me more than twice as long as it took Amy (par for the course). I didn’t know the MAGNA CARTA factoid, and though the date should have clicked, it didn’t, and I needed CARTA to get the rest of it.

      I think I had something like OH is it for OH SURE which slowed me down a little.

      I liked the clue for AUTOTUNE. But nothing about contemporary pop music turns me off quicker than vocals that are auto-tuned into some freaky mechanical-sounding mush.

  4. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    NYT – In agreement Amy. BALSAMICVINEGAR by itself is not a salad dressing. A better clue might have been, “Salad dressing ingredient with chopped liver”. Normally when we order or buy this dressing, it’s BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE.

    As for PEAS in dessert, I always come back to Rachel’s trifle on Friends. Which per Rachel includes, “ladyfingers, then a layer of jam, then custard, which I made from scratch, then raspberries, more ladyfingers, then beef sauteed with PEAS and onions, then a little more custard, and then bananas, and then I just put some whipped cream on top” HAHAHA Yuck!

  5. Seattle DB says:

    WSJ: I agree with Jim’s review that “fitting” and “meet” don’t equate. Editor Mike S has a habit of reaching too far into archaic meanings, and this is yet another example.

    • Eric H says:

      My dictionary has a quote from some otherwise unidentified Shakespeare play for that sense of “meet.” (It’s actually a different word than the one that means “encounter.”)

      But yeah, that is kind of a Stumper level clue.

      • Seattle DB says:

        TY for the reply, and I know what you mean about Stan N’s Stumpers. I quit doing them months ago because I was wasting hours on them.
        Also, I like your replies on this site because they seem very contemplative and well-thought out!

        • Eric H says:

          You’re welcome.

          I know what you mean about the Stumper. I do them about two or three times a month. Some of them take me way longer than any contemporary NYT puzzle takes, and I end up checking or revealing answers anyway.

          Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate them.

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