Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Jonesin' 4:55 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni)  


NYT 3:15 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal tk (Matt F) 


USA Today tk (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ 4:47 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Well, That’s Fare” — to coin a phrase. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 10/3/23

Jonesin’ solution 10/3/23

Hello lovelies! A quick write up today as I have to cover for someone at work. Let’s see what we have today.

  • 17a. [Annoying consumer levy] NUISANCE TAX
  • 24a. [With authority derived from one’s position, in Latin] EX CATHEDRA
  • 37a. [They’re quintessential] PERFECT EXAMPLES
  • 48a. [114-year-old gas station logo] TEXACO STAR
  • 59a. [Payment down to the penny (or what the theme entries exhibit?] EXACT CHANGE

In each theme entry, then order of the letters EXACT is changed.

Other things:

  • 14a. [Friendly New Orleans address] MON AMI. Not a physical address, but referring to someone as “my friend” in French.
  • 26d. [“It’s… Little ___ Horne!”] ALEX. Alex Horne is 6’2″, but his BBC game show  Taskmasker co-host Greg Davies is 6’8″, so introducing Horne as little went over well and became a running joke.

Until next week!

Matt Linzer’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Trailing Behind”—Jim’s review

Another debut today, and it’s quite nice. Congrats!

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose final words can double as synonyms for “rear” (i.e. “tush”). The revealer is REAR ENDS (58a, [Causes a fender bender, and literally parts of 17-, 21-, 27-, 34-, 42- and 51-Across]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Trailing Behind” · Matt Linzer · Tue., 10.3.23

  • 17a. [Stereotypical surfer] BEACH BUM.
  • 21a. [1970s pants style] BELL BOTTOM.
  • 27a. [Cinnamon rolls’ British cousins] CHELSEA BUNS. Never heard of these.
  • 34a. [Camel waste?] CIGARETTE BUTT. Nice clue.
  • 42a. [Chest full of doubloons, say] PIRATE BOOTY.
  • 51a. [Sports car feature] BUCKET SEAT.

Hmm. We had a synonym theme yesterday. Seems odd we’d have another one today.

But regardless, this one’s quite tidy, and even impressive. There are seven theme answers here when you include the revealer, and that’s quite a lot when you consider that they’re all in the Across direction. Further, having a 13-letter central entry adds to the challenge of construction. So yes, it’s a straightforward synonym theme, but the execution is remarkable.

I don’t think there’s a single Down entry that doesn’t cross one of the theme answers, and many of them cross two. To have that level of constraint and not have the grid filled with gunk is quite a feat. And there are a couple of nice entries like SANTA HAT, BIG BEN, and CULOTTE. Yes, there are some things you wouldn’t come across in everyday life (ANIONS, OCULI, BASSI, ENBLOC), but all things considered, that’s not bad at all.

Clues of note:

  • 8d. [It tolls from the Westminster clock tower]. BIG BEN. Yes, the tower is in Westminster, but it’s officially named the Elizabeth Tower. Why not use the name?
  • 18d. [Bachelor’s place?] COLLEGE. Oh duh. I was wondering if there was a college named “Bachelor.” Didn’t think of the degree until just now.

Nice theme with a high theme count and impressive fill on top of that. Four stars.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 645), “Don’t be Sad … be BAD!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 645: “Don’t be Sad … be BAD!”

Hello there, everyone! Hope you all are doing well as you get ready to start putting up your Halloween decorations … at least for those of you who haven’t done that already about 2-3 weeks ago!

Today’s puzzle is a whole lot of BS, in a way! It’s fun with puns, where the answers to the themes are multiple word entries where the syllable of the letter “B” is substituted where the syllable that sounds out an “S” would normally be.

          • BUNS OF ANARCHY (15A: [FX TV series about a bakery owned by a biker gang?]) – Sons of Anarchy
          • CAESAR BALLAD (27A: [Romantic song for a Roman general?]) – Caesar salad
          • BOWL SURVIVOR (44A: [Winner of a tough football game on Super Sunday?]) – Sole survivor
          • The JOY OF BECKS (58A: [Best-selling manual for German-beer lovers?]) – The Joy of Sex

Had a major hangup when plopping down Boy Scouts instead of BOYS CLUBS, and that cause havoc given the number of common letters shared between the two (12D: [Youth organizations for males]). Also liked the paralleling entry of MIDWINTER, even if we’re fast approaching that time of the year and most of us are not ready for it yet (32D: [Antarctic holiday that celebrates a solstice]). I recently had JICAMA salsa at a friend’s party this summer, and although I’m usually super picky and set in my ways with food, I liked what I tasted for the first time (10D: [Mexican root vegetable]). Despite adventuring out of my culinary comfort zone, I don’t think I’ll be having anything from a CLAM BAR anytime soon, though (38A: [Eatery with steamers and chowder]). Not a seafood guy, sadly.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ORIOLE (63A: [Baltimore player]) – It has been a whole lot of fun to be a Baltimore Oriole player or fan the past two seasons, and I’ve been so lucky to cover the team in person in the Charm City. Last Thursday, the Orioles clinched their first AL East Division title since 2014 and, in the same same, won 100 games in a season for the first time since 1980. They’ll be playing a postseason game for the first time since 2016 on Saturday, and a really young team has a legitimate chance to make it to the Fall Classic. Will I see you down in Baltimore soon?!

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Troy Laedtke’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 10/3/23 – no. 1003

I gather there was an ’80s video game called Slither that worked something along the lines of Centipede, but with the addition of the creature getting longer when it makes a turn? In the shaded letters here, an ASP hits a black square and comes out the other side as a MAMBA, which hits another block to give us GARTER (which is not a snake—a garter snake is a snake, but a garter is an accessory worn on the leg), which grows into ANACONDA and then BOA CONSTRICTOR. Other thematic bits:

  • 13a. [Like the “legs” on a 48-Down], VESTIGIAL. I’m sorry, what legs are these? Googling … “Pythons and boa constrictors have tiny hind leg bones buried in muscles toward their tail ends.” I don’t think this was known when I was a schoolkid!
  • 48d. [Creature that grows longer in a classic video game (also in this puzzle, when it “eats” a black square)], SNAKE.

Did not know: 9d. [Roman goddess who is the equivalent of the Greek Nike], VICTORIA. There’s a Victoria? Bugged me a bit to have GODS right below this “goddess” clue; could’ve used “deity.”

Fave fill: Dining AL FRESCO (still taking advantage of restaurant patios while the weather holds), COOKIE JAR, EMPERORS clued as [Rulers of the Aztecs and Incas]. Surprised to find STENOS in a Tuesday puzzle.

3.5 stars from me.

Taylor Johnson’s Universal Crossword – “Breaking the Fourth Wall” – Matt F’s Review

Universal Solution 10.03.2023

Theme Synopsis:

I stared at this one post-solve trying to wrap my head around the theme. It turned out to be less complicated than it seemed on first blush – I just had to bang my head against a wall for a few minutes until I had a breakthrough.

Each theme answer contains circled letters (or maybe not, depending on your solving interface). All contain words that can precede “wall,” except the fourth one is separated by a black square. Oh, did you see that title? Breaking the fourth wall? Aha, now it makes sense!

  • 18A – [Squeeze the water out of] = WRING DRY (drywall)
  • 26A – [Heavy regional speech pattern] = THICK ACCENT (accent wall)
  • 44A – [“Yum!”] = TASTES GREAT (great wall)
  • 57A/59A = [Coffee shop amenity / Overnight flight] = FREE WIFI / REDEYE (firewall)

Overall Impressions:

Fun theme! It’s also fitting that the “broken” wall is a firewall – something a hacker would actually break through in order to access a secure network. Taylor has a knack for making approachable puzzles with creative themes. There wasn’t even a slight hiccup in the fill that I could ind. Very smooth all-around with some fun bonus offerings like HODGE-PODGE and IRISH CREAM.

Thanks for the puzzle, Taylor!

Side note: Taylor is doing some great work in the indie scene as well, running a bi-monthly puzzle suite over at lemonade disco. Constructors are encouraged to submit theme queries based on a prompt that’s announced for each round. Go check it out!

Bill Thompson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

Sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee looking at my slightly misty and sun-lit back yard. Good morning! Life is good. This puzzle was nice and smooth, just like the coffee.

Theme answers:

Los Angeles Times, October 3, 2023, Bill Thompson, solution grid

  • 17a [*Capital letter creator] is the SHIFT KEY.
  • 25a [*Group that plays in foursomes] is a BRIDGE CLUB. “Foursomes” had me thinking of golf.
  • 36a [*Say something that doesn’t need to be said] is STATE THE OBVIOUS.
  • 44a [*Classic Motown hit about a wedding ring] is BAND OF GOLD.

I had no idea what the connection was until I got to 55a. [Playground fixture, or an apt description of the beginnings of the starred clues] is SWING SETSWING SHIFTSWING BRIDGESWING STATESWING BAND. I asked the resident civil engineer about the bridge (yes, he’s a geologist – undergrad degree in geological engineering) and it’s definitely a thing. A Tuesday-appropriate solve and a solid, consistent theme – nice!

A few other things:

  • There was some fill I wasn’t crazy about.  HES clued as [Steers and rams] probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much if it weren’t at 1d. That NW corner really sets my mood for the puzzle. Our old friend YMA Sumac made an appearance, and the plural YOS wasn’t great, and we had A HOOT and A NO as partials and FITBs.
  • I was amused by the juxtaposition of ESPNU and REHAB, especially since the latter was clued as [Post-injury regimen]. We also had ADOLPH Rupp in that corner.
  • I can hear John Astin’s voice saying TISH on the old Addams Family show.
  • I filled in HOAGY from crossings and thought “that’s not how it’s spelled” but it’s not the sandwich. It is how Mr. Carmichael spelled his name. My apologies.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: had not heard the term SWING BRIDGE although I’ve certainly seen them. Also did not know BAND OF GOLD. My loss.

Erik Agard’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 10/3/23 • Tue • Agard • solution • 20231003

I’d say this one was pitched right. Felt like swimming against a mild current, for the whole solve. Just an overall steady progression with a couple of surges, negative then positive.

  • 9a [Word before “just in” or “time”] THIS. Somehow I was able to hit on the correct answer right away here.
  • 21a [Get takeout, say] ORDER. This one fooled me, as the common crossword answer for this prompt is EAT IN.
  • 25a [Havana’s José __ International Airport] MARTÍ.
  • 31a [Made it big?] STARTED A TREND. Not the easiest clue for this., which is kind of an unexciting entry anyway.
  • 33a [Clichéd] STALE, for which I first tried TRITE. This was part of a genuine salve where I answered a few stacked entries without any crossings. The others were, fortunately, correct: 35a [British nobles] EARLS, 37a [Sharp as __ ] A TACK, 44a [Port city south of Milan] GENOA. 75% success rate for that, not bad.
  • 34a [Start of a COVID-surveillance dashboard, perhaps] VARIANT. Yesterday I received my booster for the current VARIANT, which I sense is going to have significant impact this winter.
  • 38a [Line of thinking?] BRAINWAVE. Say, on an EEG.
  • 50a [Places for bears and beavers] DENS.
  • 4d [Bypass with tolls?] AVOID AT ALL COSTS. I think I see the wordplay here, not sure. It makes a sort of emotional sense?
  • 5d [Restrained] RETICENT. Had RETIRING until 22a [Totally wipe out] ERADICATE partially wiped out that notion.
  • 10d [Something made with palm oil] HANDPRINT. Yeah, okay.
  • 28d [Landmark legislation of 1990, familiarly] ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kind of shameful that it was so late in coming. Then again, kind of indicative, no? Definitely feels significant factions want to take the country backwards.
  • 39d [Up] RISEN.

One thing that was unusual about this crossword was the general vertical orientation, with some impressive stacking including a couple of grid-spanning entries. Refreshing.

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21 Responses to Tuesday, October 3, 2023

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: An enjoyable Tuesday. But there was a bit of asymmetry in the theme: BOA CONSTRICTOR, MAMBA, and ANACONDA are terms for types of snakes, while GARTER is only *part* of a two-word phrase for a type of snake (the second word being “snake”).

    (Maybe snake fanciers and herpetologists just call them garters — I don’t know — but everyone else calls them garter snakes.)

  2. Jim says:

    @Universal: Revealer is way too clunky. Hard to get excited about WRINGDRY, THICKACCENT, TASTESGREAT.

  3. Me says:

    NYT: Until reading Amy’s write-up, I didn’t understand how the theme worked, with the snakes connected by a black square and getting longer each time. Amy, thank you for clarifying that! I know about Centipede but never heard of Slither or other snake games.

    • JohnH says:

      I needed Amy’s write-up, too. Must have been a bad day in printing, but I didn’t see the shading. I hadn’t heard of the video game, but no matter. Clever enough theme for early in the week.

      I agree that GARTER for garter sneak is a bit of a cheat, since it’s not in either MW11C or RHUD, but no big deal.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: Snake was a very early and rather primitive video game. Don’t know that there was ever an arcade version of it. You can play a slick version of it by typing  play snake  in the Google search box.

    “I’m sorry, what legs are these? Googling … ‘Pythons and boa constrictors have tiny hind leg bones buried in muscles toward their tail ends.’ I don’t think this was known when I was a schoolkid!”

    It was certainly known to scientists and anatomists, but probably not by most elementary schoolteachers or young students.

  5. David L says:

    NYT: No idea about the video game, and the business with the snakes ‘eating’ black squares doesn’t quite hang together, since most of the transitions are diagonal rather than across a black square. But none of that made any difference to the solve.

    TNY: Not even ‘mildly’ challenging for me — about the same time as the NYT. I can’t make sense of the clue for AVOIDATALLCOSTS but the phrase was gettable easily enough. The bypass should be the route without tolls, shouldn’t it?

    • JohnH says:

      For TNY, the joke is that you avoid traffic or maybe not getting at all where you’re going by paying a price for it, the toll, so it’s what you’ve gained “at all costs.” Maybe not thoroughly convincing, but I got a smile, and I thought it was a good puzzle, very challenging as it should be, but mostly by clever clues like that one.

      I did find the NE and E harder and not quite as good. I appreciate the deception that had me enter “eat in” for ORDER, and some others up there were nice, too. I leaned to “scary” for TENSE. But then others up there were more about difficult fil. I hadn’t heard of the short REPRO rights, was slow in coming to how to spell MARTI, not sure I buy that hand prints are a matter of skin oils, and don’t understand the answer for “. . .” I tried, from crossings, “the rear end words,” as plausible, but then a god couldn’t be “did,” right? But what’s THEREARENOWORDS?

      • David L says:

        Hmm, still not seeing the joke… Oh well.

        “There are no words” is a thing people might say when they’re awestruck, rendered speechless, befuddled, gobsmacked etc.

  6. Dan says:

    LAT: Interestingly, re 25D “Most well-to-do” for BEST OFF, I have certainly heard “well off” and “better off” for “rich” and “in a better situation”, respectively, I don’t think I’ve ever run into the phrase BEST OFF before.

    Even though BEST OFF makes perfect sense and has nothing wrong with it.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ … @Jim … BIG BEN is the bell in Elizabeth Tower

  8. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: “Moderately challenging” sounds right. When I first started, I had to jump around the grid to maintain any momentum. But I never got bogged down anywhere.

    The clue for HAND PRINT amuses me, even though it cuts close to home. (You do not want me using your touchscreen!)

    I too can make no sense of AVOID AT ALL COSTS. Maybe the idea is just that you’re avoiding a traffic jam by taking the toll road?

    I’m not sure I understand the clue for THERE ARE NO WORDS, unless an ellipsis in texting means “I don’t know what to say.”

    STARTED A TREND seems green-painty, but maybe that’s just me.

  9. Eric H says:

    Universal: Anyone got a clue what the theme is? Circled letters that give you DRY ACCENT GREAT FIRE?

    I’m missing something, but I’ll be damned if I know what.

  10. Andrew says:

    I found the NYT very enjoyable, especially so for a Tuesday. Good clueing (“an aye for the eye”!) and I liked the theme. The snake game is simple enough that I wrote a basic version of it on a Ti-83 graphing calculator, my first ever experience programming something. This was some 20+ years ago while sitting bored in the back of a classroom.

  11. Thank you for the Breaking the Fourth Wall explanation. I, too, was banging. My head against a *wall* until I found this page. I agree with your observation that it was incredibly frustrating yet simple (and a good one) in the end.

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