Wednesday, September 6, 2023

AVCX 7:20 (Amy) 


LAT 4:11 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker 4:01 (Amy) 


NYT 3:52 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 11:01 (Emily) 


WSJ 7-something (Jim) 


Stella Zawistowski’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “I Got Nothing”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words are synonyms of “nothing.”

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “I Got Nothing” · Stella Zawistowski · Wed., 9.6.23

  • 18a. [Japanese plane employed in the Pearl Harbor attack] ZERO FIGHTER. Never heard one called anything other than a “Zero” or a “Japanese Zero.”
  • 27a. [Fast-food chain named for a toy] JACK IN THE BOX. Less common, but the phrase, “You don’t know jack,” comes to mind.
  • 46a. [Product once advertised for its “Matchless Performance”] ZIPPO LIGHTER. I see what they did there.
  • 62a. [Exercise akin to a burpee] SQUAT THRUST.

Nice theme, but that first one sticks out for not being much of a phrase, and also for having a downer of a clue (my parents survived the Japanese attack and occupation of Guam which began on the same day as Pearl Harbor). ZERO SUM GAME fits in that spot, but the meaning of ZERO doesn’t change in that case. How about LOVE HANDLES instead (with a tennis reference)?

Yesterday I asked if “backstabby” was an actual word. Today, that question applies to STRAPPY. I hesitated on it, but I like its playfulness. Sounds like “scrappy.” SIGNS OFF is good (though I tried SIGNS OUT first) as is PEN PALS.

Clues of note:

  • 34a. [Fiddlehead, e.g.]. FERN. Got this one thanks to Stardew Valley.
  • 43a. [Flack’s specialty]. SPIN. Huh. I am not familiar with this usage for “flack.” I spent a long time trying to tie it to singer Roberta.
  • 4d. [Violinist Shinichi with an eponymous music teaching method]. SUZUKI. I’m only vaguely aware of the name but I’m glad to learn more about the method. It’s based on the principle that if young children can easily learn their native language, then with the proper instruction, they can learn a musical instrument as well. The stated goal is to raise children with “noble hearts.”
  • 64d. [Fabulous flier]. ROC. “Fabulous” meaning “in fables.”

3.5 stars.

Shannon Rapp and Will Eisenberg’s Universal crossword, “West Side Story” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/6/23 • Wed • Rapp, Eisenberg • “West Side Story” • solution • 20230906

The first theme clue provides instructions for understanding the theme.

  • 17a. [*Point above a quake’s origin (Note the first four letters of each starred clue’s answer)] EPICENTER.
  • 27a. [*”I’m just guessing here …”] MY THEORY IS. Why, I used this phrase just the other day, albeit with “new” in the mix, as I was pontificating about a film.
  • 43a. [*Presentation of gifts?] TALENT SHOW.
  • 56a. [*Ceremony airing live on Netflix in 2024] SAG AWARDS. I wonder if the strike will have an impact on that.

So: epic, myth, tale, and saga. I believe the connection is obvious. The title confirms that these are all synonyms for ‘story’, although it incongruously introduces the notion of geographical identification to indicate that it’s the starts of each answer that are relevant.

  • 18d [Outskirts of Mannheim?] EMS. The letters bracket the name.
  • 37d [When curbside pickup is scheduled?] TRASH DAY. Great clue.
  • 38d [Moves like a bunny] HOPS, 39d [Carrottop] REDHEAD.
  • 42d [Cloth patterns that identify clans] TARTANS. Refreshing to see that defined accurately.
  • 45d [Take heed] LISTEN.
  • 46d [State home to many Chinook people] OREGON. Namesake to the salmon.
  • 50d [Cub’s mitt?] PAW. Nothing to do with baseball.
  • Rathbunaster californicus

    52d [Set of five for a starfish] ARMS. First, starfish as a moniker is no longer preferable to sea star. Second, many species have more than five ARMS, so the clue could use a qualifier.

  • 25a [Ultimate ultimatum word] ELSE, as in “… or else!”. Perhaps you’d exclaim this in your sanctum sanctorium.
  • 32a [Number of Oscars won by Al Pacino, as of 2023] ONE. <looks it up> It was for Scent of a Woman??!! Yeesh. Seems like one of those instances where the academy is rectifying past injustices.

Ada Nicolle’s USA Today Crossword, “Good Enough (Freestyle)” — Emily’s write-up

The title is certainly an understatement given this fantastic puzzle.

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday September 6, 2023

USA Today, September 6 2023, “Good Enough (Freestyle)” by Ada Nicolle

Check out this grid and its amazing fill today! Such lengthy and fresh entires—very impressive to fit them all in. The spanner ICANTWINWITHYOU anchors several of the lengthy acrosses and proves just what’s ACHIEVABLE with these fun and open freestyle puzzles. Kudos, Ada!


Stumpers: GRUNT (“oinks” and “snorts” came to mind first), AERO (needed crossings), and TEA (cluing new to me)

Though it took me longer today, there weren’t any particular areas that gave me trouble, I just had to putter my way through. Very fair crossings with wonderful cluing, some of which took me a couple (or few) crossings to click.

4.75 stars


Blake Slonecker’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

Thanks to Fiendster Jim P for the reminder that, uh, I ought to’ve blogged this last night. Whoops. Tennis was on (Ben Shelton vs Frances Tiafoe, two African American men battling it out in a quarterfinal match–here’s Fiendster Ade’s report on the match at the US Open site).

NY Times crossword solution, 9/6/23 – no. 0906

The theme revealer is SOUNDS GOOD, and “good” and “right” are roughly synonymous. The four themers are phrases that have swapped the various homophones:

  • 17A. [Suddenly cut off all communication with … but do so nicely?], GHOST RIGHT. Ghost-write, and ghosting involves vanish from someone’s life. That “write” will resurface in another themer.
  • 23A. [Cordial shipbuilders?], CIVIL WRIGHTS.
  • 35A. [Pens a seafaring tale?], WRITES OF PASSAGE.
  • 48A. [Sacramental friars?], RITE BROTHERS.

It would have been cool if all four had that nicely/cordial angle, and just slightly distracting that the second pair of themers lacked it. Overall, a solid theme.

Fave fill: Fonzie’s “SIT ON IT,” TOILETRIES (anyone else try TRIAL SIZES there first?), a marathoner’s HIT THE WALL, and the beer/lemonade quaff SHANDY. Much less keen on ESSO, ASSAM, POSY, AROAR.

37D. [Dirt-digging research, for short], OPPO. Short for opposition research. OPPO is in Merriam-Webster and I’ve seen it used in political reporting for several decades, so I’m always irked (“I’M OUTRAGED!”) that the NYT Spelling Bee doesn’t deem it to be a word. Sam’s also demoted HODAD, which you can try in today’s Bee to no avail.

3.5 stars from me.

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 9/6/23 – Agard

Maybe a notch harder than I was expecting, but still like an easy Fri NYT.

Artist name I didn’t know: WANGECHI MUTU, [Artist whose work filled the entirety of the New Museum, for the 2023 exhibition “Intertwined”]. You can see some of her work here. There’s a brief bio and description of her work on that Artnet page as well. Trippy, with some Daliesque vibes. Collages, sculptures, videos.


Two things:

  • 27a. [It may drip from leaves in the morning], DEW. I absolutely tried TEA here.
  • 48a. [Providers of turndown service?], REMOTES. Turning down the TV volume, not the bedding. This is a typical sort of Erik clue, where his mind plays with alternate meanings to craft a clue that misleads, but never unfairly.

Four stars from me.

Karen Lurie’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Entitle Role”–Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 9/6/23 – “Entitle Role”

The theme is held together by 76a. [Type of “syndrome” marked by excessive self-importance, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme], MAIN CHARACTER. The other three long answers contain a {MAIN} rebus square and are clued via egotistical “characters.” A Seinfeld catchphrase, “MASTER OF MY DO{MAIN},” can boast, apparently. As can RO{MAIN}E LETTUCE, trash-talking the croutons in Caesar salad. And then a real rather than fictional person, JE{MAIN}E CLEMENT. If you don’t know his (funny) work at all, that name probably vexed you, but that’s on you because you’ve missed out on some good stuff!

It’s a 17×17 grid to better accommodate the 13/11/11/13/6/4/5 theme set without lots of junk. Fave fill: HAUTEUR, VELMA (I kinda enjoyed the HBO Max animated Velma series, which was widely–by entitled white dudes–slammed as the worst show of all time, just because Velma and Daphne were Asian and Shaggy/Norville was Black), GIVE A CRAP, MOUSER. A tad distracting to have SUBTITLED in a puzzle with “Entitle” in the title.

Fact-check: 54a SAG is not an [AFTRA partner in an ongoing strike]. SAG-AFTRA is a single labor union. The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists merged into one union back in 2012. Clue really needed to be a fill-in-the-blank, ___-AFTRA.

Did not know: 17d. [Korean seasoned codfish], TAEGU.

Wouldn’t consider TERRACE to be synonymous with 8d. [Veranda]. Verandas are shaded by a roof, while the typical terrace is open to the sky.

3.6 stars from me.

Dan Margolis’ LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

In today’s LA Times, Dan Margolis gives us stereotypical advice, plus when to use that advice, and when not to. A most imaginative theme concept! The theme felt somewhat like an Animaniacs bit. Also, the phrases are all in the second person, which is a relief:

  • [Good advice for an angry person / Bad advice for a novice dairy farmer], DONTHAVEACOWMAN
  • [Good advice for a complainer / Bad advice for someone blowing out birthday candles], SAVEYOURBREATH
  • [Good advice for a nervous public speaker / Bad advice for an impersonator], JUSTBEYOURSELF
  • [Good advice for an impatient person / Bad advice for a Chippendales dancer], KEEPYOURSHIRTON

With four spanning theme entries, the main thrust of this puzzle was definitely the theme, which was definitely worth it. That does mean most of the rest of the puzzle was more routine… The closest to a mystery answer for me today was [Global fashion brand founded in San Francisco in 1968], ESPRIT. Around here it’s a wine cooler brand.


This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Wednesday, September 6, 2023

  1. Dan says:

    LAT: Clue 54A is “Brief chances” for OPS.

    I can only imagine that OPS is supposed to be brief for opportunities. Is that right?

    In any case, I am not finding any dictionary support for this meaning.

  2. pannonica says:

    WSJ: STRAPPY is definitely in the language, primarily to describe sandals (as per the clue) and dresses.

    On the other hand, 48d [Adds color to, as a comics panel] INKS IN is just plain wrong. An inker goes over the pencil artist’s drawing with black or india ink. The colorist, unsurprisingly, does the coloring, originally with cut film and latterly often with watercolor or airbrush.

    • Seattle DB says:

      Your breadth of knowledge is very helpful to us! TY for doing reviews and for adding to the comments section!

  3. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT: Was it just me or did anyone else out here have a much different experience with today’s puzzle than Emily? This was my fourth ever DNF of 1,167 USAT puzzles since Erik started editing there in December 2019. My Waterloos were SPIDER GWEN (“Superhero in a universe where Peter Parker didn’t get bitten”), GRAY ASEXUAL (“Person who may occasionally experience attraction”) and RIA (“Mathematician and classical musician Persad”). Thank goodness I was easily able to fill TEA (“___ pets (ceramic toys that react to hot water)”) from the crosses.

    “Very fair crossings”? Not for this solver, but fairness is at least partly in the eye of the beholder.

  4. dh says:

    It’s frustrating when an obvious word is not included in the Spelling Bee (“Oppo”) but it’s a level playing field for everyone so it’s not a hill I want to die on. On the other hand, I am truly outraged by the nature of political “oppo research” these days, which is much more about muckraking and destroying a rival than it is about revealing any important truths. No issue with “ops”; I think a “photo-op” is very much in the language these days, regardless of who may or may not include it in a dictionary.

    Of the four puzzles I did this morning, three of them had the word “SKA”, and two were clued exactly the same. SKA may be a reasonable, easy, and popular bit of 3-letter fill, but when two of the puzzles use the same clue (a fairly esoteric reference to “rocksteady”), it’s too much of a coincidence. Perhaps editors could do a little “oppo research” to make sure their puzzles are unique.

    Wednesday is trash day in my neighborhood – but this week it was pushed to Thursday because of the holiday. As I was doing the puzzle, I heard a trash truck outside and had a little moment of panic, but it was a private service, not the city. Yet another coincidence!

    • Dallas says:

      I remember Ska from the mid-nineties, but that doesn’t really lead to an obvious clue that will help anyone other than me :-) And I think name-checking bands (even popular ones) likely isn’t helpful either.

  5. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    New Yorker – 42A is just off the wall, “WANGECHI MUTU” is “lightly challenging”?
    27D cannot be right, what are “diminutiveie” and “diminutiveling”?

    • Gary R says:

      It’s DIMINUTIVE *words* that might end in “ie” (I think you see this most often in names – “Eddie” for Edward or “Richie” for Richard) or “ling” (e.g., “duckling” or “seedling”).

    • Eric H says:

      I had never heard of WANGECHI MUTU, either, but the crossings were all pretty easy.

      Overall, I’d put it on the moderate end of “lightly challenging.” I liked the EQUAL SHARE/EVEN STEVEN pairing.

    • Stephie says:

      The days of Merl Reagle are over.
      Wordplay is dead.
      Constructors want us to know how “cool” they are.
      Wit? That’s for boomers.

  6. steve says:

    anypne know why scraper is suddenly failing with regularity??


  7. Matt Gritzmacher says:

    Really like the theme+themeset in the Universal!

  8. e.a. says:

    @pannonica re: “Yeesh. Seems like one of those instances where the academy is rectifying past injustices” – worse yet, they gave it to him over Denzel in Malcolm X! then when Denzel won years later for Training Day people said that was his “make-up call” Oscar. (imo he deserved both)

    • Seattle DB says:

      “Training Day” is a great, gritty film with outstanding performances by Denzel and Ethan. Scott Glenn, Eva Mendes, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg also make the movie shine.

  9. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    Universal nice themeless/theme. Think that rather than add the note to 17A (Note the first four letters of each starred clue’s answer) it would have been just as good if they had just put circles in the first four squares of each theme.

    • Seattle DB says:

      SOG: Your comment bears repeating until UNI starts using circles or grey-boxes for the letters they want to highlight.

  10. Simon says:

    AROAR is not allowed in some NYT “games” either.

Comments are closed.