Wednesday, September 20, 2023

AVCX 5:43 (Amy) 


LAT 3:27 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:28 (Amy) 


NYT 3:57 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 6:51 (Emily) 


WSJ 7:01 (Jim) 


David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Part Time”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are phrases that normally refer to a body part, but they’re not clued as such.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Part Time” · David Alfred Bywaters · Wed., 9.20.23

  • 17a. [Careful furniture movers?] CHEST PROTECTORS. “Chest” as in the piece of furniture in which one stores things.
  • 24a. [People who really need to go?] HEAD HUNTERS. “Head” as in the Navy synonym for “bathroom.”
  • 36a. [Part of a meal-sharing strategy?] SIDE SPLITTING. Side order.
  • 51a. [Step in making a corncob pipe?] EAR PIERCING. Ear of corn.
  • 58a. [Trendy substitutes?] HIP REPLACEMENTS. “Hip” as in fashionable.

That works, I suppose. Some of the original phrases are more literal with respect to their body part (EAR PIERCING, HIP REPLACEMENTS, etc.) than others (HEAD HUNTERS, SIDE SPLITTING), but that feels like a nit. I can’t say I got any chuckles out of it, but neither can I fault it.

There’s not a lot of excitement in the fill either. I did not know PRÉCIS [Summary] nor HASID [Jewish sectarian], though I could infer the latter based on the word “hasidic.” Not so keen on FOU, CONG, IT I, and IN OR. STOOP TO ain’t great either. I did like ENIGMA and OLD HAT, though.

Clues of note:

  • 15a. [Unlucky recipient of a horse statue]. TROY. Weird to say “unlucky.” Not sure there was any luck involved.
  • 64a. [Cotopaxi output]. LAVA. Volcano in Ecuador.
  • 9d. [Striking person]. EYEFUL. Rather an objectifying clue, I’d say.
  • 45d. [It’s one thing on top of another]. PILE. Best clue in the puzzle.
  • 58d. [Battleships response]. HIT. Is this referring to the game? Because the game is called “Battleship” (no S).

Okay theme. Not much sparkle in the fill. Three stars.

Gina Turner’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 9/20/23 – no. 0920

The theme revealer is POWER BALLAD, [Slow rock song with an emotional vocal delivery … whose start can follow each half of 17-, 31-, 44- and 63-Across]. The four songs are:

  • BLACK MAGIC is a pop song by British girl group Little Mix, which I’d never heard of. They’ve never had a hit in the US. Black Power (happy to have that in my puzzle any day!), magic power.
  • SUPERSTAR is a 1971 Carpenters song, ballad but very much not power. Superpower (I’ll take teleportation, please), star power.
  • ROCKET MAN, Elton John, a song I always liked. Rocket Power (a Nickelodeon cartoon), manpower.
  • HIGHER LOVE by Steve Winwood, from my beloved 1980s (video here). A higher power, and … love power? There’s a Dionne Warwick/Jeffrey Osborne song called “Love Power.”

I don’t particularly relish themes where both halves of the themers can precede or follow a key word, but I think I’m in the minority there. Many are enchanted by the elegance of finding four two-pronged phrases/words that fit the theme concept.

Fave fill: ISSA Rae (that reminds me, I need to get back to watching Insecure), POLENTA, Maggie Simpson’s PACIFIER, KRAKOW, pretty SUNBEAM. Surprised to encounter 4D. [Saclike structures produced by fungi], ASCI—one of those words I learned from crosswords—along with 8D. [Sheep genus], OVIS.

3.5 stars from me.

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 9/20/23 – Berry

NICE GOING, Patrick! No, I mean it sincerely, not sarcastically. A breezy Wednesday New Yorker puzzle with some sparkle to it.


Been a while since I’ve seen A-LINE, 29a. [Flared dress type]. I feel like that’s a fashion term I’ve rarely seen outside of crossword grids, but then I’m not much for dresses so what do I know?

It seems apt that BOTFLY crosses BEEFARONI. (I haven’t eaten beef in decades; your mileage may vary.)

Not seeing much else to comment on, since difficult clues are generally kept out of the Weds/Thurs New Yorker crosswords. Four stars from me.

Geoffrey Schorkopf’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Changing the Channel”–Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword, 9/20/23 – “Change the Channel”

I didn’t figure out the theme till I got to the revealer and took another look at the theme entries. BRITSPEAK is the name of the game, and familiar phrases have a component word changed to the British equivalent:

  • 18a. [Potato chip not content to sit quietly on the side?], VOCAL CHIP. Vocal fry is a speech thing, and our French fries are the UK’s chips.
  • 27a. [Condom t hat wondrously appears just when you need it?], MAGIC RUBBER. Magic Eraser is a brand-name cleaning product, and our erasers are their rubbers. What’s British slang for condoms?
  • 38a. [WiFi-enabled bakery treat?], SMART BISCUIT. You’re a smart cookie who knows that the Brits call cookies biscuits.
  • 52a. [Drinking spot in a Canadian former gold rush area?], KLONDIKE PUB. Klondike Bar is an ice cream bar, the limeys drink at pubs.

I took a weird misstep at 31a and tried HIRER for [Employee hired to hire, informally], when the answer is HR REP. That meant I made an ORE into OIL and had the golfer starting with a double-L. Oops. 35a [First African American golfer to play in the Masters] was LEE ELDER. That didn’t happen till 1975, if you can believe it. You can read a bit on his fight against racism here.


Four stars from me. Nice debut!

Josh Kaufman’s Universal crossword, “Working Through It” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/20/23 • Wed • Kaufman • “Working Through It” • solution • 20230920

  • 18a. [Woo receptionists at the tribunal?] COURT CLERKS.
  • 24a. [Lay off wrestlers at the station?] FIRE FIGHTERS.
  • 39a. [Mentor orchestra leaders at the depot?] TRAIN CONDUCTORS.
  • 53a. [Fine intelligence operatives at the theater?] TICKET AGENTS.
  • 63a. [Hire goalies at the firm?] BOOK KEEPERS.

These are spiritually akin to double-definition cryptic clues, but play a little looser. Per each clue, the answer is a two-word verb phrase with a plural object. Each clue also ends in a location, and that location is where you’d expect to find people occupying the job positions that a more standard parsing of the answer would yield.

  • 27d [What welcomes change?] SLOT. Nice clue.
  • 31d [Smart talker on an iPhone?] SIRI. 25d [Apple desktop] IMAC.
  • 33d [Obsessive dedicatee, informally] STAN. I think this is meant to be devotee.
  • 28a [Wheels of fortune?] LIMO. Also a fine clue.
  • 44a [Small amount of paint] A DAB. Unsignalled article alert! I tried DAUB first.
  • 61a [One hell of a river?] STYX. But Hades isn’t quite the same as hell. I do understand that they are often considered synonymous.

The theme’s a bit slippery, good puzzle.

Rebecca Goldstein’s LA Times crossword, – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Rebecca Goldstein’s puzzle is rather ambitious in its narrowness. The revealer is GREENGOBLIN. And each of four answers is [SHADE OF GREEN] + [BODY PART]. If you’re thinking, there can’t be too many answers fitting that pattern, you’d appear to be correct. Of the four, only PEABRAIN didn’t make me squint…

  • [Injury sustained while making guacamole], AVOCADOHAND. It appears to have some currency as a “thing”. I wouldn’t say it’s as famous as say NEEDLESTICK yet…
  • [Person aggressively opposed to progress], MOSSBACK. News to me. It is in dictionaries though.
  • [First track on Fleetwood Mac’s “Mystery to Me” album], EMERALDEYES. That’s an album track off an album that didn’t even certify platinum…
  • [Nitwit], PEABRAIN. The lone “safe” answer.

Other noteworthies:

  • [Dangerous pool in a video game], LAVAPIT. I like how it acknowledges their unreality.
  • [Mouth, Chunk, or Data, in a 1985 film], GOONIE. As opposed to the Three Ninjas, who were?
  • [“Absolutely not”], HARDPASS. Top answer, along with [“Don’t think so”], YEAHNO.


Rafael Musa’s USA Today Crossword, “It Ends With Us” — Emily’s write-up

This puzzle is packed with delightful treats today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday September 20, 2023

USA Today, September 20, 2023, “It Ends With Us” by Rafael Musa

Theme: each themer ends in —US


  • 19a. [Shakespeare’s first tragic play], TITUSANDRONICUS
  • 30a. [1993 Halloween movie with a large queer fan base], HOCUSPOCUS
  • 52a. [Largest muscle in the human body], GLUTEUSMAXIMUS

Even having studied TITUSANDRONICUS in college (yes, my Shakespeare course was themed all about the war plays), I had forgotten that it was his first tragedy. New fact for me about HOCUSPOCUS, an excellent movie and almost the season for it! Needed crossings for GLUTEUSMAXIMUS but perhaps some of you got it right away.


Stumpers: SHIES (needed crossings), SIS (new to me), and OPINE (also needed crossings)

Overall a fantastic puzzle with a great grid and flow. I always enjoy lengthy bonus fill and we certainly got a lot today! Nicely done!

4.0 stars


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

14 Responses to Wednesday, September 20, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: “Many are enchanted by the elegance of finding four two-pronged phrases/words that fit the theme concept.”

    I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but from what Jeff Chen has written, I think you can count Will Shortz among the many.

    It does make for a tighter theme set. Is that any more fun to solve? Not necessarily.

  2. Patrick M says:

    I agree with your last sentence, Eric H. From either a constructing or solving standpoint, I think having a tighter theme set is meaningless. What does it matter if there are many or just a few possibilities that fit the theme? Frankly, I’d rather there were many, with the best ones being used.

    • Eric H says:


      Sometimes, I think editors forget about what’s fun for solvers. But of course, that’s entirely subjective. I’ve been less taken with a lot of puzzles that other people seem to have adored.

      • Patrick M says:

        Speaking just of theme tightness, I think that’s of more interest to a few people who tout such things than it is to editors.

  3. DougC says:

    I think a solver’s response to today’s NYT will depend heavily on whether you know and love your entertainment trivia, of which there is ALOT, and not just in the theme; and secondarily, whether you think that a canine giving you a warning says ARF rather than grr, and whether you’ve ever heard a rowing machine called an ERG.

    I’m a “no” on all counts.

    • Eric H says:

      I got ATOM quickly, so GRR was never a possibility — but it does fit the clue better.

      ERG as a rowing machine is something I picked up in previous crossword puzzles.

  4. Dan says:

    LAT: The clue “Throb” for 6D ACHE is simply wrong.

    Throb does not mean ache. Throb means to pulsate.

    Sure, an ache can throb, but neither word means the other.

    (Likewise, an ache can bleed, but that’s not what it means, either.)

    • Gloria Elizabeth says:

      This was an interesting observation to me, as I regularly make the “throb” connection to the clue “ache” when I encounter it while solving crosswords. Also, while I could think of “throb” uses that centered the “pulse” meaning, I couldn’t think of any that actually included the sensation of pleasure, while many “pulse” usage examples I thought of included pain. So I went digging around in Google dictionary and thesaurus sources for support of my sense that “throb” and “ache”, while not exact and exclusive synonyms, may serve as synonyms in some cases, and, therefore, as crossword clues. Merriam-Webster gives “to pulsate or pound with abnormal force or rapidity”, which sounds unpleasant, as its first definition of “throb”. The top result for “ache”, from Oxford languages, offers “throb” as a synonym for both noun and verb.

  5. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: My time was a minute or two faster than my Monday and Tuesday New Yorker times, but it didn’t feel “lightly challenging,” especially not at the end.

    I’ve seen every episode of “St. Elsewhere” — it was a favorite back then — but I had to pause the timer to come up with BEGLEY. And it hasn’t been that long since we saw him in “Better Call Saul.”

    The biggest slowdown was that I was conflating the rock ‘n roll biopics that I haven’t seen, and had ELton for 24D. I remember now that it’s called “Rocketman” (nice coincidental non-reference to today’s NYT puzzle). And it’s, um, from 2019. Time flies when you get past 60.

    36A wanted to be NICE GOING, but with Elton in the way, I was stymied. As soon as I booted Mr. John and put in NICE GOING, ELVIS was there in that white jumpsuit.

  6. PJ says:

    UNI – 61a [One hell of a river?] STYX. But Hades isn’t quite the same as hell. I do understand that they are often considered synonymous.

    I paused there, too. I think Tartarus is more like hell than Hades.

Comments are closed.