Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Jonesin' 5:21 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni)  


NYT 4:07 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 5:46 (Matt F) 


USA Today tk (Sophia) 


Xword Nation tk (Ade) 


WSJ 5:07 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Floating Point” — seas the day. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 9/5/23

Jonesin’ solution 9/5/23

Hello lovelies! I’m back after a much-needed family vacation. Unlike this week’s puzzle, I did not spend any time on a BOAT. The theme entries contain the letters BOAT, and as the puzzle progresses the letters float further apart:

  • 20a. [Making waves, so to speak] ROCKING THE BOAT
  • 25a. [Illustrations for “Capt. Storm” or “Corto Maltese,” e.g.] COMIC BOOK ART
  • 45a. [Alabama fishing village (Bubba’s hometown from “Forrest Gump”)] BAYOU LA BATRE

53a. [December 1773 harborside taxation protest] BOSTON TEA PART

Other things:

  • 24a. [Vulgarity] RAUNCH. It’s just a fun word to say.
  • 43a. [Former “Wheel of Fortune” host Bob] GOEN. He hosted the daytime version from 1989-1991.
  • 52a. [Buckwheat noodles] SOBA. If they are made with 100% buckwheat, soba noodles are gluten free.
  • 10d. [What Sir Mix-a-Lot famously likes (he cannot lie)] BIG BUTTS. I will never not like a Sir Mix-a-Lot reference in a crossword.

Until next week!

Jake Halperin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ax Me Anything”—Jim’s review

The theme appears to be two-word phrases whose first words are each three-letters long and end with -AX.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Ax Me Anything” · Jake Halperin · Tue., 9.5.23

  • 17a. [Attraction with life-size sculptures] WAX MUSEUM.
  • 25a. [Once-common business card detail] FAX NUMBER.
  • 39a. [Fiscal part of a candidate’s platform] TAX PLAN.
  • 49a. [Quantum theory founder] MAX PLANCK.
  • 62a. [Bill Clinton, by hobby] SAX PLAYER.

I said “appears to be” because it seems like there ought to be more to the theme, but I’m not seeing it. I thought theme answers might also contain a ME (based on the title), but nope. There are no spelling changes (i.e. -ACKS becoming -AX), or puns, or plays on words. The second words of the last three entries all start PLA-, but that appears to be a coincidence. It’s just -AX words in phrases. That’s a very light theme, if that’s the case. Maybe it’s better suited for a Monday.

I mean, if you’re going to change “Ask” into “Ax” for the title, why isn’t that your theme? Change “mask” into “Max,” “flask” into “flax,” “task” into “tax.”

Anyhoo, on the other hand, the fill is very lively! We get the full Shakespearean line “ET TU BRUTE,” plus WISEASS, HAM IT UP, TABLOIDS, IN SHAPE, and CALL UPON. There are two—count ’em, two—modern portmanteaus, both of which are new to me: RINGXIETY [Tendency to hear phantom incoming phone calls] and HOTUMN [Warmer-than-normal fall, humorously]. Why can’t those be the theme? (I don’t know how “humorous” that last one is, though, what with global warming and all.)

On the other other hand, there’s URI [Swiss canton whose capital is Altdorf], WYES [Letters before zees], and the awkward PAW AT [Demand attention from, as a cat may do to its owner] and WINS AT [Masters, as poker]. Meh.

Clues of note:

  • 45a. [Blubbered]. WEPT. I don’t care so much for equating these words. “Blubbering” implies that what the person is crying about is not worth crying about. That is, someone viewing someone else “blubbering” is discounting their emotion as shallow or possibly even fake. Conversely, weeping comes from the soul (IMO).
  • 50d. [Feathered flier]. ARROW. Good, tricky clue. If it’s feathered, it’s gotta be a bird, right? Nope.
  • 54d. [Not at all backstabby]. LOYAL. I haven’t looked it up, but I do hope “backstabby” is an actual word. If it’s not, it should be.

I wanted more from the theme. On the plus side, the long fill shines. 3.25 stars.

Alan Siegel’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 9/5/23 – no. 0905

Our theme revealer is 62a. [Mutually beneficial … or a hint to three pairs of crossing answers in this puzzle], SYMBIOTIC. The crossing pairs are organisms that have a symbiotic relationship: the CLOWNFISH and ANEMONE (raise your hand if you learned this from Finding Nemo), the RHINO and TICKBIRD (aka the oxpecker! Note that the rhino maybe does not benefit much from the bird. Note, too, that TICKBIRD is really tough fill for a Tuesday puzzle!), and the FRUIT BAT and FIG TREE. Fun to have a science theme, if you ask me.

Fave fill: TELESCOPE, WALLS IN (paging Poe!), PLACEBO, CAT TOY.

Could do without the dryness of an ORECART, partial A IS, test abbrevs GRE and LSAT, PARER, RICE U, and DO SAY as clued. The phrase people say to convey 32d. [“Ooh, tell us everything!”] is “do tell,” not DO SAY (unless “do say” is a regionalism used in a region I’ve not spent time in?). It’s better as a partial, [“If I ___ so myself …”].

3.5 stars from me.

Susan Gelfand’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

A nice solid Tuesday theme that was accessible without being predictable. I didn’t have to labor too much over this one.

Los Angeles Times, September 5, 2023, Susan Gelfand, solution grid

  • 17a [Instruction in public relations?] is SPIN CLASS.
  • 26a [Instruction in horticulture?] is NURSERY SCHOOL.
  • 48a [Instruction in an early computer language?] is BASIC TRAINING.
  • 63a [Instruction in residential real estate?] is HOME STUDY.

I popped CYCLE in for 17a which made no sense – even on Tuesday, it helps to think things through. I also wanted SCHOOL in 63a. All in all a good Tuesday.

A few other things:

  • 9d [Like most of the Pacific Coast Highway] is SCENIC. We would also have accepted SUSCEPTIBLE TO LANDSLIDE.
  • The PCH is more susceptible to landslides with [Sea level shift] and the extreme TIDEs that come with climate change.
  • Speaking of the PCH, we had the chance to check out some TIDE pools in CA last weekend. We saw hermit CRABs and rock CRABs but no fiddler CRABs.
  • Glad to see BRAVES clued as [Faces with courage]. Let’s stick with that and avoid racist references, shall we?
  • ZESTY is a fun word.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that NAIROBI is known as the Green City in the Sun. Also never heard of ISIAH Whitlock Jr of “Cocaine Bear.’

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

New Yorker • 9/5/23 • Tue • Berry • solution • 20230905

The story of the solve for this one is that it was steadfast and error-free. The grid has a distinctly tripartite feel.

  • 1a [Vessel of the Old West] SPITTOON. 9a [Long, loose coat] DUSTER, which also carries a western vibe.
  • 17a [Statute that protects you from a lot?] LEMON LAW. Cute clue, but is it too much of a stretch? I mean, is the sales lot what one needs protection from?
  • 20a [Giant ones may have a wingspan of thirty feet] MANTAS. Tricky, as we don’t immediately think of sea creatures when it comes to wingspans.
  • 33a [Low club?] DIVE. Fake out, as solvers have become used to thinking of playing cards when it comes to clues that sound like this.
  • 44a [Holes in the wall] OUTLET. Tricky, and no question mark. Tempting to put in a provisional S for a plural entry.
  • 4d [Brass instrument that can play glissandi] TROMBONE. The first answer I put in.
  • 8d [“Wow, I guess you’ve already heard”] NEWS TRAVELS FAST. I guess this is the marquee entry. The only grid-spanner.
  • 12d [Candy once put into a licking machine by researchers at Purdue University] TOOTSIE POP. A certain demographic will remember the animated cartoon with a mortarboard-wearing owl. Here are summaries of various lick tests, courtesy Wikipedia.
  • 25d [Dismissive description of music] NOISE.
  • 26d [Spy fiction?] COVER STORY. I believe the professional lingo has it as legend. 39a [Not for everyone’s ears] PERSONAL. 35d [Without anyone knowing] IN SECRET.
  • 38d [Plant that yields wood?] SAWMILL. Too cute again? One might even say that the wood yields to the plant, no?
  • 41d [Lady bud?] GAL PAL. What could the clue even mean, to merit a question mark? Is it that the phrase is just weird?
  • 44d [Rules, slangily] OWNS. Was very tempted by REGS here, but I waited for crossings.

Zachary David Levy’s Universal Crossword – “Begin at the Beginning” – Matt F’s Review

Universal Solution 09.05.2023

Ah, where do I begin with this review… ;)

Based on the title I figured we’d be dealing with some type of front-end theme. I caught wind of the primary gimmick during my solve, but I was still pleasantly surprised by the final package.

Theme Synopsis:

I flew through the first couple rows, so the way this all came together in the end was as a surprise to me. I noticed each theme answer was missing “start” on the front end, which is a solid theme on it’s own, but ZDL ties it all together with a double-reveal that I wasn’t expecting. The missing word, START, is at 1A, and it’s cleverly cross-referenced by the main reveal near the end of the puzzle:

  • 58A – [Go back to here for the beginning of each starred clue’s answer] = SQUARE ONE

The starred answers are:

  • 18A – [Entrepreneur’s early need] = (start)UP CAPITAL
  • 23A – [Announcement at the Daytona 500] = (start) YOUR ENGINES
  • 35A – [The whole shebang] = (start) TO FINISH
  • 43A – [Put on dance music, perhaps] = (start) THE PARTY
  • 48A – [Cook something without premade ingredients] = (start) FROM SCRATCH

So we go back to “square 1” to attach START to each of the theme answers. Such a neat way to elevate this puzzle! And look at all that real estate taken up by the theme: 5 theme answers + the double-reveal for 61 squares of themed content.

Overall Impressions:

This was a nice total-package puzzle, where the end result felt very satisfying. I was perfectly content with the “front of each theme is missing a word” theme and no extra flourish; but the way this one is tied together really kicks it up a notch. Great construction as well to work in the nice 3×6’s on the sides and keep the corners fairly open.

Thanks for the puzzle, ZDL!

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26 Responses to Tuesday, September 5, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: This puzzle grew on me. I usually don’t like cross references and I didn’t know these pairs off the top of my head, so I had to work at it. But I finished in typical Tuesday time and I really liked it in the end- I learned some new stuff, enjoyed the revealer, and appreciated the scientific vibe of the whole thing– including the TELESCOPE (my husband’s hobby) and the PLACEBO (whose effect is really a type of hope).
    Big points for originality!

    • David L says:

      I agree, interesting theme! DOSAY stuck out like a sore thumb, but everything else was clean.

      I was puzzled by a couple of the clues. ORECART is certainly a thing, but wouldn’t it be used to for carrying, um, ORE, not coal? I tried googling but most of what comes up are the names of gift shops, shuttle services, and other western touristy stuff.

      And the clue for TELESCOPE seems odd for a Tuesday. The most advanced astronomical telescopes indeed have segmented mirrors, but it’s hardly the norm.

      • DougC says:

        My thanks to Alan Siegel for giving us a puzzle with some science content instead of the more usual pop culture and proper names!

        I do agree with the reservations mentioned by Amy and David L, but still found this entertaining. Easy for a Tuesday, though; my time was under my Monday average.

    • Dallas says:

      Pretty good Tuesday! I wasn’t sure till I had the crosses about TICKBIRD and needed the crossings to get more info about what type of fruit there was for the FRUIT BAT; all came together well. As important as bees are to modern pollination, I love learning about all the different flowering plants that are pollinated in different ways; we have a beautiful magnolia tree in our backyard that’s pollinated by beetles.

  2. marciem says:

    TNY: 9d: I’m having trouble figuring out how “Leave the bars, perhaps” clues to “dismount”.??? i.e. getting off a barstool maybe? huge stretch for that.

  3. Mr. [confused but not] Grumpy says:

    I’m perplexed by 35A in Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle. How is “air that can’t be breathed” a clue for iPad? I’m just not seeing it.

  4. JT says:

    NYT – this was such a mix of highs and lows: I enjoyed the theme once I had crossed enough to start filling them in, I liked a lot of the clues to the more interesting answers, and I didn’t feel like anything was too far out of my reach; but on the flip side, indeed there was more than I’d like of hollow or cheap fill that took the wind out of my sails.

    Ultimately, I vibed with this creator’s puzzle a lot, but I also felt underwhelmed enough to rate it a 3.5, and was surprised to see the same rating in the article, and considerably lower from the readers.

  5. David Roll says:

    WSJ-The clue for 67A is misleading. “Letters before zees” would imply “wxys,” not “wyes.”This of course could not be reconciled with other entries, but the way the clue is worded, any other letter would fit since they are all before z.

    • Gary R says:

      I think spelling out “zee” in the clue was intended to signal that the answer would be a spelled-out letter. And “wye” comes immediately before “zee,” so that would seem to be the first choice.

  6. David R says:

    As others have already alluded to TNY had some stellar cluing, really took it to another level. Every time it was aha, of course.

  7. Bryan says:

    Not a comment about today’s puzzles, but just a note to say that I sure do hope someone (or more than one if need be) can take on the task of adding new puzzles to XWord Info. I’m only a solver, not a constructor. But I still can appreciate what a huge loss this will be for future constructors. I kind of wonder if the NY Times could just buy the site and take over ownership of it.

  8. Martin says:

    I never heard of “blubber” being dismissive; maybe that’s regional. I think of blubbering as trying to talk, possibly unintelligibly, while sobbing.

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