Wednesday, October 4, 2023

AVCX 4 and change (Amy) 


LAT 4:01 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:50 (Amy) 


NYT 5:10 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 5:05 (Emily) 


WSJ 7:07 (Jim) 


Kevin Curry’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Comma Folk”—Jim’s review

Happy National CB Radio Day, good buddy!

Today’s theme answers are familiar phrases that end in a person. Commas are added thus separating the phrases into an imperative and the recipient of the command.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Comma Folk” · Kevin Curry · Wed., 10.4.23

  • 17a. [Command to a texting pedestrian?] “LOOK OUT, MAN!”
  • 25a. [Command to a dancing sibling?] “STEP, SISTER!” Hmm. Not sure anyone would say this.
  • 35a. [Command to a helicopter parent?] “STAY AT HOME, DAD!” Don’t mind if I do.
  • 49a. [Command to somebody full of dirt?] “GOSSIP, GIRL!” Good entry, but the clue is a little too cutesy, IMO.
  • 59a. [Command to a suspicious senior?] “FREEZE, POPS!” Ha! I like this one best. Nice to end on a high note.

Fun theme. The second one is a little iffy, but everything else is lively and enjoyable. Nicely done.

Top fill includes PHOTO OPS, OLYMPIA, BIG HEAD, OLD WEST, “GOOD ONE!,” AREA CODE, and DYSTOPIA. Had trouble with SHOWN OUT [Led to the exit]. When I figured it wasn’t SHOWED OUT, I wondered if there wasn’t an error in the clue.

Clues of note:

  • 2d. [Favorable times to get shots]. PHOTO OPS. Reminder that now is a good time to get your vaccinations (flu, COVID, and RSV).
  • 12d. [Finch named for an island group named for dogs]. CANARY. Neat factoid.

Good puzzle. Four stars.

Gary Larson’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 10/4/23 – no. 1004

I suspect that some AI BS was the inspiration for this theme, in which each of the four theme entries can swap an “A” and an “I” in two spots to make a different word (plus the eight crossing entries that also have double clues, one with “A” in the answer and one with “I”).

  • 20a. [What to compile before travel or a “choice” that’s not really a choice], PACKING LIST (I never travel without first making my packing list!) or PICKING LAST, as when choosing teams. (Picked last is much more familiar.)
  • 59a. [Dynamos or menus], BALLS OF FIRE or BILLS OF FARE (which feels like it’s gotta be the seed of this theme).
  • 11d. [Lip cover or bettor’s pile], CHAPSTICK or CHIP STACK. Apparently CHIP STACK is a thing in gambling and it’s not just for Pringles.
  • 33d. [Sensational scoring feats or sensational songs], HAT TRICKS or HIT TRACKS. The latter feels a bit green-painty to me, as opposed to something like hit songs or hit singles.

I’m not wild about PICKING LAST and HIT TRACKS, but overall I liked the theme and enjoyed having more of a Thursday challenge/trick in a Wednesday puzzle.

Not at all sure that I knew OTIOSE meant [Superfluous]. That might be a … superfluous definition. Merriam-Webster goes with futile, idle, and functionless.

Fave clue and also least favorite: 70a. [Fly in the face, e.g.], PEST. Nice trick, but also eww. Other fave clue: 46d. [“This Is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams, essentially], APOLOGY. Really? I think the poem about the plums in the icebox is more of a “sorry not sorry.”

3.75 stars from me.

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Outline” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 10/4/23 • Wed • “Outline” • Coulter • solution • 20231004

  • 61aR [Writes hurriedly … and a hint to understanding 17-, 29- and 47-Across] DASHES OFF. That is, we are to ignore the hyphens in the clues for those entries.
  • 17a. [Co-ops?] HENHOUSES, or coops.
  • 29a. [Re-signs?] CALLS IT QUITS, or resigns.
  • 47a. [A-side?] OUT OF THE WAY, or aside.

Theme is serviceable but slight. I also feel that it would have had more in the tooth department if the editor had decided not to include those question marks in the clues.

  • 27d [Farewell that’s 80% vowels] ADIEU. Aha! Not if you count the volume of each letter.
  • 43d [In a way] OF SORTS. Crossing OUT OF THE WAY.
  • Collocations! 55d [“Tall” story] TALE, 68a [Hurl snowballs at] PELT.
  • 20a [Dastardly person] FIEND. Hey!
  • 33a [Apt letters missing from “br_ _e’s v_w”] I DO. I am once again calling for a moratorium on this type of clue.
  • 57a [Tuscan city associated with a reddish-brown pigment] SIENA. The color gains an N in English: sienna. Also, what’s that hyphen doing here??

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 10/4/23 – Berry

In brief–


Clue that interested me: 49a. [Mineral whose name comes from the Latin for “fingernail”], ONYX. I’ve seen the medical terms like onycholysis, never connected it to onyx. Apparently when onyx has white or “flesh-colored” (hey, Wikipedia, you forgot that not everybody’s flesh is a light color) banding, it can resemble a fingernail.

Four stars from me. Easy, not excessively breezy.

Dan Caprera’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Romantic Boundaries”–Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 10/4/23 – “Romantic Boundaries”

The theme revealer is LOVE HANDLES, which usually refers to waist flab but is repurposed to have “handles” mean names/nicknames. Four terms of endearment lose a letter at the edge of the grid: (L)IGHT OF MY LIFE, INAMORAT(O) (much more common as the female counterpart, inamorata), (V)ALENTINE, and CUTIE PATOOTI(E). Those letters outside the grid spell LOVE, and they serve as HANDLES by which you could imagine picking up the crossword. Cute! It would have been fun to hold the puzzle till the day before Valentine’s Day, but I don’t think AV Club gravitates much to holiday-observance puzzles.

Did not know that the POPLAR tree (poplars, aspens, cottonwoods) was used in the manufacture of cardboard. Also pulpwood, paper, plywood, Camembert boxes, etc., Wiki tells us.

I’m working my way through the Bible in a game called IBBLE that you can no longer download, where you slide tiles around to unscramble text excerpts. I just read the Book of Esther, where indeed, I learned that pur means “lot” as in the casting of lots, so the plural (like seraphim) is PURIM. I would not have instantly known the answer to [Holiday that means “lots” in Hebrew] otherwise. (Side note: Esther is one of the least repetitive, most accessible books in the Old Testament. It’s also one of the shortest. Those folks needed an editor!)

Four stars from me.

Matt Forest ‘s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LAT 231004

Today’s puzzle has a 2×12 square explanation: THEENDISJUST/THEBEGINNING. I’m not sure that’s a real idiom? In any case, we have four answers that start and end with the same trigram:

  • [*Synthetic pump], ARTificialheART
  • [*Cheap shot], LOWbLOW
  • [*Regional collective pronoun], ALLyALL
  • [*”There really is a wolf now!”], IMEanitthistIME


  • [Machine that helps with 51-Down], CPAP. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in a puzzle, nor it’s cousin, the BIPAP.
  • [Towers that may have scratching posts], CATTREES is also an unusual entry. We get many second-hand ones donated, but often they’re quite well-used!
  • [Great Plains grazer], ELK. I think most other deer are browsers though?


Jasmeet Arora & Brooke Husic’s USA Today Crossword, “MATERIAL WORLD” — Emily’s write-up

A fantastic puzzle collabo today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday October 4, 2023

USA Today, October 4 2023, “MATERIAL WORLD” by Jasmeet Arora & Brooke Husic

Theme: the first word of each themer is a type of building material and the second word of each is a type of place in the world


  • 19a. [Metaphor for a high-risk leadership position that may set a woman or nonbinary person up for failure], GLASSCLIFF
  • 35a. [Crowded city with a competitive atmosphere], CONCRETEJUNGLE
  • 54a. [Tech hub in California’s Bay Area], SILICONVALLEY

This is a fun dual theme, with each part of the themers has its own commonalities. The concept of a GLASSCLIFF is a new one to me but not too tough to figure out. CONCRETEJUNGLE and SILICONVALLEY though are more familiar so were easy fills. Love the two-parter theme that makes use of every part of the themer set today. I’ve personally not seen that done before so I really enjoyed it. Nicely done!

Favorite fill: SLOPPYJOE (topped with a slice of extra sharp cheddar cheese please!), MEHNDI, SARI, SALSACLUB, and RAITA

Stumpers: none for me today

Loved this puzzle! The fun grid had a smooth flow and the excellent bonus fill and cluing were on my wavelength so this was also my fastest solve time. How about for you all? Hope to see more from this duo in the future!

4.75 stars


P.S. After all these food entries, I’m hungry! Totally making curry and naan tonight though wishing I had some raita now too.

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32 Responses to Wednesday, October 4, 2023

  1. Ethan says:

    Loved the NYT! I thought the theme entries, especially the ones that doubled up with two theme squares, were all terrific and solidly in the language. The shorter ones just felt extraneous and I wonder if the fill would have been improved by omitting EL(I/A)TE, BAS(A/I)L and PR(I/A)NCES.

    But overall just a super fun puzzle, on the easy side for an experienced solver who will get the theme right off (Satan/satin did it instantly for me) but that provided a gentle introduction to this sort of theme for newer solvers who don’t have a couple hundred Thursdays under their belt.

    • huda says:

      NYT: I like it too. It must have been fun/challenging to construct as well.

    • Gary R says:

      But if you eliminate those three short themers, you’d lose three of the long ones, right?

      One of the cool features of the theme, I thought, is that in the long ones, the answers only work if you put an “A” in one spot and an “I” in the other – two A’s or two I’s and the clues/answers don’t make sense.

      Fun puzzle.

  2. Ethan says:

    Re: “This Is Just To Say”, I think the poem might be a “sorry not sorry” up until the last line, “and so cold”, which I’ve always found haunting and indicates some hint of true regret in the speaker or at least an acknowledgement of the antisocial and isolating nature of their actions.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Come for the puzzles. Stay for the literary analysis. Now rethinking my experience of this poem.

      Oh, I liked today’s NYT. I did wonder if I’d slept through Wednesday and woken on Thursday.

      • Philip says:

        In keeping with the literary analysis theme, is Moby Dick reall about whaling?

        • Mutman says:

          Absolutely it is! I reread it long after college and finally appreciated it. I learned a lot about whaling. Granted, it’s not the only theme of the book, but I feel the entry is solid.

        • Papa John says:

          For those who have actually read the book and not just seen the wonderful Gregory Peck movie, it’s painfully obvious that it’s a lengthy treatise on whaling and a short story about chasing the white whale.

          • pannonica says:

            I believe the implication was a reference to its metaphorical qualities.

            • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

              My take is that it’s a treatise about whaling wrapped around a novel about obsession. Nice NYT regardless.

            • Papa John says:

              And, so..?

            • pannonica says:

              Like, the Pequod can be seen as a microcosm of the United States, and whaling can be seen as a sort of comment on humankind’s various endeavors. Stuff like that.

            • Papa John says:

              Again, you’ve lost me. I wasn’t making any comments on the metaphors or any other literary devices in the book. In the book I read, the story is in one section of the book and a lengthy treatise about the whaling industry takes up another section. That’s all I was talking about. (I remember one metaphor describing the sound of Ahab pacing the decks at night as “walking on life and death”.)

    • Me says:

      I hadn’t thought about this poem in many years until this crossword! That’s an interesting analysis that the plums being “cold” has larger meaning. I love eating cold fruit straight out of the fridge, and I never thought about other implications of “cold.”

      It’s interesting also to think of this poem as an “apology,” which is also how it’s labeled in Wikipedia. The tone isn’t apologetic at all. It’s, “I ate your stuff – forgive me because I couldn’t help it.” That’s not an apology.

  3. Jordan says:

    Really appreciated the LAT: quick, fun gimmick, minimal trivia.

  4. Tony says:

    It would’ve been cool if the Larson only used the A and I for the theme entries, but that likely would Have resulted in awful fill.

  5. R says:

    NYT: CODICIL/ELY crossing was a little nasty for a wednesday, or any day, really.

    • dh says:

      I felt the same way about “PARTIV/EVAN. Both were (to me) relatively obscure trivia questions that are impossible to get from the crossings if you don’t know one of them.

      I loved the theme – especially if you chose one “or” the other, that dictated the correct answer for the crossing. Reminds me of the Clinton/BobDole puzzle of 1996. However, the Across Lite version (I know, I know, NYT doesn’t support that), would not accept either correct answer in any case – so “Packing Last”, “Hat Tracks”, “Chap Stack” etc were deemed to be the correct answers.

      • JohnH says:

        PART IV / EVAN was my sticky point, too. No question hard for a Wednesday and maybe too often iffy. And maybe it’d have been nice if something capitalized on the thought of AI, maybe a funny revealer. But still a really nice theme in a nice puzzle.

  6. MattG says:

    NYT: I missed the rebus for T(A/I)LE but it still accepted my solution as being complete and then filled in the rebus for me.

    • Eric H says:

      I did all the rebuses by entering a single letter (whichever one made an answer that fit half the clue).

  7. DougC says:

    TNY: Two thumbs up for this highly entertaining Wednesday puzzle from Patrick Berry, doing what he does best. Easy, but fun!

  8. Jenni Levy says:

    Come for the puzzles. Stay for the literary analysis. Now rethinking my experience of this poem.

    Oh, I liked today’s NYT. I did wonder if I’d slept through Wednesday and woken on Thursday.

  9. Alex B. says:

    Oh yay, Amy solved the AVCX in the new interface! I hope it ends up being handy for people.

  10. Martin says:

    WSJ note: the Wall Street Journal has deleted the solution key from the Friday contest crossword, so starting with this week’s puzzle, the Across Lite version posted here will show “XXXX” as the answer for all entries. No Happy Pencil on Fridays.

  11. Eric H says:

    Universal: “33a [Apt letters missing from ‘br_ _e’s v_w’] I DO. I am once again calling for a moratorium on this type of clue.”

    Hear hear! I usually skip them because they take longer to figure out than they’re worth. But since “v_w” almost had to be “vow,*” the rest of I DO was easy to get.

    *(Computer Scrabble has taught me “vaw” as an alternative for the Hebrew letter “vav.”)

  12. Seattle DB says:

    Can anyone explain Friday the 29th’s TNY to me? The clues/answers for 19A & 53D don’t make any sense to me.
    19A: “Sub’s key holder” is a “Dom”, (which I guess means a dominatrix and a submissive?)
    53D: “Woof” is “Yikes”.

    • Eric H says:

      I think you’re right on the BDSM interpretation of DOM. (Who says crossword puzzles are not educational?)

      For YIKES, one of the definitions of “Woof” in the Urban Dictionary says it may be used “as an expletive to express disgust or surprise.”

      Imagine telling someone that the repair shop want $5,000 to fix your car. Either “woof” or “yikes” could be an appropriate response.

  13. Seattle DB says:

    TNY: I misread 41D as “Plants that are hard to hurdle” instead of “handle”, but the answer “Cacti” fits either of those clues, lol!

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