Wednesday, September 27, 2023

AVCX 5:45 (Amy) 


LAT 3:15 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:36 (Jenni) 


NYT 4:29 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 9:27 (Emily) 


WSJ 5:24 (Jim) 


Amanda Cook’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Playing Tricks”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar(ish) phrases that end in a word that could double as a musical instrument (or a type of instrument).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Playing Tricks” · Amanda Cook · Wed., 9.27.23

  • 17a. [Pivotal pipes for Sunday worship?] ESSENTIAL ORGANS. I’ve heard “vital organs,” but not this phrase.
  • 31a. [Cantankerous clarinets and flutes?] CROSS WINDS.
  • 40a. [Highly emotive section of the orchestra?] HAM STRINGS.
  • 54a. [Thick percussion instruments?] OBTUSE TRIANGLES.

Sounds like there’s a lot of drama going on in the orchestra pit. I chose to interpret the instruments to mean the people playing the instruments, that way “cantankerous clarinets” makes sense to me.mNice theme even though that first one strikes me as a little off.

Nothing especially shiny in the fill, but it’s quite clean and smooth. High points include ALLIANCE, LESS THAN, CLOCK IN, and NOODLES.

I’ll admit to struggling on the FOSSE [Winner of eight Best Choreography Tonys] / TSE [Luxury cashmere brand] crossing (at the E). I know the name Dian Fossey. Yes, I knew she wasn’t a choreographer, but it made me question whether an E or a Y might go there. It would’ve been helpful if TSE got the usual crossword treatment (either via T.S. Eliot or Mao Tse-tung). But the truth is I should probably know the name Bob FOSSE.

Clues of note:

  • 60a. [The Justice Department was created during his presidency]. GRANT. Huh. Prior to that, the Attorney General was a part-time job.
  • 8d. [Strips in the kitchen]. NOODLES. Hmm. “Strips” implies wide and flat, which NOODLES usually aren’t.

Solid puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Scott Koenig’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 9/27/23 – no. 0927

NOAM CHOMSKY (25d. [So-named “father of modern linguistics”]) is the name of the game, and the themers are the NONSENSICAL sentence Chomsky assembled to demonstrate something about how our language works. 61a is clued [Following 17-, 37-, 40- and 43-Across, end of a properly formed yet 11-Down sentence by 25-Down demonstrating the distinction between syntax and semantics], and that sentence is COLORLESS GREEN IDEAS SLEEP FURIOUSLY. It works grammatically but holds no actual meaning. Unusual theme, but I like it.

New to me: 46a. [Second social media account for posting private jokes and such, informally], FINSTA. Apparently it’s short for “fake Instagram,” and here’s how it’s used. I’m rarely on Insta so I don’t know these things.

Fave fill: a BOOP on the nose (my son’s cat is named Boops), DIMPLES, BOLEYN, TIME SUCK (though I ventured TIME SINK first). I also liked OOO, out of office.

54d. [Butte, but bigger], MESA. I like big buttes and I cannot lie.

3.75 stars from me.

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword — Jenni’s write-up

Good morning! I’m filling in for our esteemed blogmistress today so I get to sing the praises of this delightful offering from Paolo. On Wednesdays the New Yorker and the NYT difficulty curves cross. This puzzle is accessible and just a little bit crunchy with that distinct New Yorker flavor that I enjoy.

Things I like:

New Yorker, September 27, 2023, Paolo Pasco, solution grid

  • [Transportation for someone on the come-up?] for ELEVATOR.
  • NEEDLE DROP. My first record player was a portable red-and-white job when I was five or six. Imagine my pleasure when I saw it in a display at the American Girl store when my kid was nine and the Historical Doll of the Year was exactly my age.
  • [Nichelle who was convinced not to leave “Star Trek” by Martin Luther King, Jr.] is, of course, NICHOLS. Can’t blame her for feeling stifled by a role that was basically “Hailing frequency open, Captain.”
  • [Fluffy entrances?] for CAT DOORS.
  • [What one arm represents in the “I’m a Little Teapot” dance] made me giggle. It’s a SPOUT. Tell me you’re not singing in your head and I will call you a liar.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of BEDROOM POP.

Prasanna Keshava’s Universal crossword, “Big Bend” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/27/23 • Wed • “Big Bend” • Keshava • solution • 20230927

Grid art in addition to the theme material.

  • 34dR [2017 Ed Sheeran hit … and a phonetic hint to 17-Across, 60-Across, 28-Down and the center of this puzzle’s grid] THE SHAPE OF YOU. Ah, I hadn’t read this revealer clue all the way through, so was unaware that it makes the grid art explicit.
  • 17a. [Something especially attractive?] HORSESHOE MAGNET.
  • 60a. [What gets stuck in locks?] HAIRPIN.
  • 28d. [Airline passenger’s prop] NECK PILLOW.

All are roughly U-shaped. Little weird that two of the three non-revealer clues are punny/question-marked and one isn’t.

Theme-adjacent? Final across answer 70a [Put in service] USE, which if you squint your ears could sound like the plural of U.

But I want to talk about the major duplications, because they really stood out. Crossing 17-across HORSESHOE MAGNET is 3d [Female horse] MARE. Crossing 69-across [Hard-boiled Chinese snacks] TEA EGGS is 62d [Beluga eggs] ROE. (Note that this is beluga sturgeon and not the toothed whale.)

  • 1a [Transmission chain?] AAMCO. Pretty good.
  • 15a [Ginger __ ] ALE. 61d [Hoppy brew, for short] IPA.
  • 21a [“Now you’d better watch out!”] OH IT’S ON. That was my reflexive instinct for the answer, but I waited for enough crossings to confirm, because it somehow didn’t seem likely.
  • 39a [Storage building] SHED. Hands up for SILO.
  • 18d [Played billiards] SHOT POOL. Purists will point out that billiards and pool are different, though similar, things.

May Huang & Rafael Musa’s USA Today Crossword, “Last Kiss” — Emily’s write-up

*Chef kiss*

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday September 27, 2023

USA Today, September 27 2023, “Last Kiss” by May Huang & Rafael Musa

Theme: the final (“last”) word of each themer ends with a type of kiss


  • 20a. [Apology offered after swearing], PARDONMYFRENCH
  • 40a. [Person talking to everyone at the party], SOCIALBUTTERFLY
  • 57a. [Defusing a misunderstanding], CLEARINGTHEAIR

What’s not to love about this affectionate theme today? With PARDONMYFRENCH, SOCIALBUTTERFLY, and CLEARINGTHEAIR, we get: FRENCH KISS, BUTERFLY KISS, and AIR KISS. Delightful!

Favorite fill: TWANG, ACCENT, RANDO, and REDEEM

Stumpers: RUB (just couldn’t think of it today—“b” was the last letter I placed) and BITES (tough crossing for some reason for me today—“b” was the last letter I placed)

Loved the bonus fill, grid, and cluing in today’s puzzle! Other than that one crossing, it was a smooth solve with fair crossings though it took me a bit longer than usual. Fun! Hope to see more from this collab in the future!

4.0 stars


Ella Dershowitz’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Shell Game”–Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 9/27/23 – “Shell Game”

Theme revealer is AWKWARD TURTLE, clued [“Well, this is uncomfortable …” hand gesture, or each set of shaded letters in this puzzle]. BUTTER LETTUCE, NOBLE TRUTH, FOUR-LETTER WORDS, and SHUTTER LAG (a camera term that’s new to me) each have a scrambled TURTLE in the circled letters, but that does nothing to explain to me what this AWKWARD TURTLE business is about. Never heard of it! Here’s a brief Wikipedia article on the gesture. The theme falls flat when the revealer is a thing that has entirely eluded your awareness!


New to me: OYEZ, [Online Supreme Court archive]; BOBTAIL, [Drive the front of a truck without a trailer attached].

Three stars from me.

John Guzzetta’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

The core of John Guzzetta’s theme idea is interesting. The ends of four answers satisfy “___ MODE”. That in itself is a fairly basic theme, and the revealer is a bit vague: ALAMODE. That said, the idea of MODE as a snowclone strikes me as something that seems to have taken in hold? Maybe it’s just me? We used to say our (late) dachshund Tara was on “mouse mode” when she was scouring every cranny of the house after a scent. The four modes today? BEAST, CRISIS, AIRPLANE (as a phone) and SAFE (as a PC):

  • [*Ray Winstone/Ben Kingsley crime drama], SEXYBEAST
  • [*Period of anxiety that may be brought on by facing one’s mortality], MIDLIFECRISIS
  • [*Folded missile in a classroom], PAPERAIRPLANE
  • [*Spot to store valuables when traveling], HOTELSAFE

A lot of the rest of the puzzle went by pretty quickly. Standouts included:

  • [Prosecutor’s deputy, for short], ASSISTANTDA. Not ASST?
  • [“Wow at first sip” brand], BAI. Never seen it in or outside of a puzzle. It appears to be a flavoured water brand?
  • [Slobbery kiss], WETONE. Evoked the infamous “sloppy, wet kiss” CCM song…
  • [Mathematical void symbolized by { }], NULLSET


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

16 Responses to Wednesday, September 27, 2023

  1. MarkAbe says:

    NYT: Lots of fun, but probably not so much if you didn’t have a Linguistics class ever. However, “I like big buttes” is probably TMI about Amy. I also liked OOO, and still remember the first time I saw it in an email from a co-worker who said she would be OOO on Friday. I thought that was also TMI…

    • Eric H says:

      Never took a linguistics class, but I enjoyed the puzzle plenty.

      Or rather, I enjoyed it up to the point when I had to clear the grid and retype all my answers twice (or was it three times)? It turned out that I had misread the clue for NDA and put NSA. SO TELL was syntactically correct and arguably semantically correct, making my error difficult to find.

      • DougC says:

        No linguistics background here, either, and I gotta say, I thought this was a dud of a Thursday puzzle. Just an obscure academic quote hiding in plain sight.

        Then I realized it’s only Wednesday, which changed my whole outlook. As a Wednesday puzzle, I think this is an absolute gem!

        Did not know the Chomsky quote, but enjoyed learning about it, and enjoyed the lovely grid work, too. Well done, Mr. Koenig!

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I started my career in linguistics before I became a neuroscientist (it’s all about how the mind works). So, I enjoyed this theme.
    It’s interesting that even though the theme sentence is nonsensical, it’s still evocative. It’s actually rather hard to create a sentence (esp. a long one) that is syntactically correct, is nonsensical, but is devoid of associations or imagery. Try it!
    Speaking of long sentences, that clue for FURIOUSLY is quite convoluted- almost meta.
    Didn’t know BOOP or FINSTA (makes me feel better that Amy didn’t either).
    “I like big buttes and I cannot lie” cracked me up. Thanks Amy!

    • Eric H says:

      Huh! I knew something Amy didn’t! I don’t remember what crossword puzzle I first encountered FINSTA in — New Yorker or AVXC, maybe — but I had seen it (and I have never used Instagram).

      Update: FINSTA was in an LAT puzzle in May, which I might have solved. (I don’t do that one every day,)

    • sanfranman59 says:

      No kidding, huda … we lived at least somewhat parallel lives … I also started out in linguistics in grad school (CHOMSKY was red-hot at UConn in the early ’80s) and then moved into neuroscience. I recently told part of the ugly story of my PhD chase here and won’t repeat it. It all worked out okay in the end, though I never did get to the dissertation stage. I took my MS and remained in science throughout my career. I started in substance abuse program evaluation and research, then moved into pharmaceutical and medical device development and finally, breast cancer epidemiology. I’m retired now, but it was a pretty good ride.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    I learned FINSTA from my kid when she was in HS. And no, I didn’t get to look at hers.

    I did not enjoy this puzzle. I mis-read the revealer and thought FURIOUSLY was supposed to go after each of the other words. I appreciate Amy’s explanation and I’m glad other people thought this was fun!

    • Gary R says:

      I mis-read the revealer, too. It didn’t help that I was solving in AcrossLite, where I find it hard to read extra-long clues. Even if I’d read it correctly, it wouldn’t have helped me with the answer – I’m not familiar with the sentence, and, by definition it’s nonsensical, so no real way to infer it.

      But except for the revealer, this solved like a themeless, which is the type of puzzle I prefer anyway. The fill seemed solid – so I enjoyed the puzzle.

    • Lois says:

      I had the same experience as Jenni with the revealer, and I suspect that others had the same misunderstanding, with the result of a somewhat low rating for the puzzle.

  4. rob says:

    NYT: Just not my cup of tea. Maybe because I never took a linguistics class. But I did know Noam Chomsky

  5. David L says:

    OK, no Star Wars reference in the NYT, but two Simpsons clues? Maybe I’m being a snob but I can’t help thinking that Will Shortz’s idea of popular culture is very limited.

    I knew the Chomsky phrase but the clue for FURIOUSLY meant it took some work to figure out. Also, Chomsky is a controversial figure in linguistics, known mainly for his Universal Grammar idea, which, according to his critics, remains wholly unsupported by evidence and yet exerted a powerful influence on the course of linguistics research, and not in a good way.

    • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

      Don’t blame Will. He’s got an editorial team that can change those things if they decide it’s worth the trouble.

  6. pannonica says:

    NYT: So are we not going to talk about 8d [Bay area sch.] UCSF and 43d [West Coast hub for United] SFO? Also, 52d [Big boss, informally] CEO—is ‘informally’ describing ‘big boss’ or ‘CEO’? Crossword syntax would suggest it’s the entry, but that doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Eric H says:

      I don’t usually notice minor duplications in a grid, but I did notice the two San Francisco’s. It doesn’t bother me that much. I really don’t understand why people get so put out when a crossword puzzle violates that convention.

    • Gary R says:

      I guess “CEO” is okay there, as it’s an initialism – so somewhat informal. But I was looking for something a little slangier. Thinking of a criminal context, I considered “Don” for a bit – but maybe that’s not informal either.

    • Mr. [a little bit] Grumpy says:

      I dislike UCSF as an answer in its own right, since it is not like all the other UC campuses. It’s a package of professional schools with no [as far as I’m aware] undergraduates. UCSC, UCSD, UCLA are all fine. I’d take USF or SFSU over UCSF as an entry any day.

Comments are closed.