Wednesday, October 18, 2023

AVCX 5:34 (Amy) 


LAT 3:19 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 4:46 (Amy) 


NYT 3:57 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 9:18 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Emily Rourke’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Storybook Starters”—Jim’s review

Still under the weather, so this will be brief.

The revealer is ONCE UPON A TIME (53a, [Storybook starter, and what you’ll find three instances of in this puzzle]). Theme answers are in pairs with the top entry containing the letters ONCE and the lower entry including a period of time.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Storybook Starters” · Emily Rourke · Wed., 10.18.23


Cute and well executed. While I can’t say this type of theme excites me much, it did definitely help me resolve that third pairing, and that’s the job of the theme anyway.

3.5 stars.

Joseph Gangi’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 10/18/23 – no. 1018

This crossword plays a trick: It pulls a RABBIT out of a hat, the black top hat in the middle of the grid. The theme clues can be long:

  • 17a. [“Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to witness something extraordinary that has never been seen or attempted before!” (go to 34-Down)], “FOR THE FIRST TIME…”
  • 34d. [“You will experience a great and unexpected surprise!” (go to 48-Across)], …BE AMAZED!”
  • 48a. [“The spell is cast! Don’t blink or you’ll miss it …” (go to 15-Down)], “ABRACADABRA!”
  • 15d. [Visual representation of this puzzle’s trick (go to 38-Down)], TIBBAR, or an upside-down RABBIT being pulled from the hat. I feel like the rabbit generally comes out head up, tail down, so I’m not sold on the upside-down word making sense.
  • 38d. [“Presto!”], “IT’S MAGIC!”

The theme has some potential extras. 42d. [Rogers’s co-star in “Top Hat”] clues ASTAIRE, and those central blocks depict a top hat. 43d. [Tailcoat, vest and bow tie, e.g.] clues APPAREL, and maybe this is the get-up worn by some magicians?

Fave clue: 6d. [Hell of a poem?], Dante’s INFERNO. Much harder to clue Purgatorio!

Did not know: 30d. [Sunfish with colorful gills], REDEAR. Here’s its Wikipedia page. My angler husband has heard of it, but I don’t know that the redear sunfish (a bluegill cousin) inhabits the Great Lakes. Did you know that largemouth and smallmouth bass are also sunfish and not bass? The fish namers played fast and loose with logic. It’s like calling a tiger the “striped lion” or “striped leopard.”

The magician theme didn’t draw me in too much, I’m afraid. 3.5 stars from me.

Kiran Pandey’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Signs of the Times”–Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword, “Sign of the Times” – 10/18/23

The theme answers render the concepts of single, double, triple, and quadruple without including them in the grid:

  • 17a. [*Totally over one’s ex, say], just a single iteration of AND READY TO MINGLE, or “single and ready to mingle.”
  • 27a. [**Ultimatum commonly issued by a middle schooler], DOG DARE DOG DARE, or double dog dare. Two asterisks in the clue for the double.
  • 44a. [***Musical meter for a minuet or waltz], TIME TIME TIME, or triple time.
  • 59a. [****Figure skating feat first accomplished in competition by Kurt Browning in 1988], JUMP JUMP JUMP JUMP, or quadruple jump. A quad toe loop, to be specific, but it’s hard to squeeze TOE LOOP TOE LOOP TOE LOOP TOE LOOP into the grid.

I feel like I’ve seen this sort of theme a number of times bef0re, but not with an unexpected usage like “single” not being used to modify a noun that follows it. Quirky.

Did not know: 31a. [Final stretch of a distance race], GUN LAP.

Fave fill: LUNCH DATE, “HIGHER LOVE,” ON THE MAP, DROWN OUT noise, DOORDASH with a clever clue, [Organization that issues stay-at-home orders?]. Could do without an entry like NODDER.

3.75 stars from me.

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 10/18/23 – Agard

Felt a bit harder than most Wednesday “lightly challengings,” more like a Fri NYT here. Terrific fill, standard crisp Agard cluing.

Fave fill: PHONE TREE, new-to-me “WE CHARGE GENOCIDE,” “WAIT FOR IT…” (which I like enough to overlook the HOLD IT overlap), DASHCAMS. CHERUBIC, PLATE TECTONICS in an apt spot (is there a shifting fault between those 14s in the middle?), THIGH-HIGH BOOTS, and DICE ROLL with a fun [Cast of “Jumanji”?] clue. “THAT’S ALL.”

Three bits:

  • 1a. [Word after fun or face], FACTS. Tricky because “fun facts” is a noun phrase while “face facts” is a verb phrase. A little mind-twisting at 1-Across.
  • 59a. [Cactus used in tacos], NOPAL. More commonly seen in the US as the plural nopales, I think.
  • 67a. [“Miss Juneteenth” star Beharie], NICOLE. A gimme for me because she’s in the current season of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show. I see that Miss Juneteenth has terrific reviews and is on Netflix; I’ll watch it soon.

Four stars from me.

Gregory Smith’s Universal crossword, “Musical Quartet” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 10/18/23 • Wed • “Musical Quartet: • Smith • solution • 20231018

The theme features for “as a” similes referencing musical instruments.

  • 7a/67a. [*… very healthy] FIT AS A | FIDDLE.
  • 20a. [*Easy to hear] CLEAR AS A BELL.
  • 39a. [*Spotless] CLEAN AS A WHISTLE.
  • 57a. [*Taut] TIGHT AS A DRUM.

I like the variety of lengths here—one grid-spanning entry, two 13-letter entries, and a shorter one split symmetrically.

  • 2d [Fastest Amtrak train] ACELA. But rather paltry compared to high-speed trains elsewhere in the world.
  • 35d [Punishment-related] PENAL. 17a [Like some summer school courses] REMEDIAL. Growing up, I felt the prospect of REMEDIAL classes (which I fortunately never needed—except for a semester of organic chemistry in college)—was akin to punishment, until I realized that REMEDIAL had the same root as remedy. (That realization came much earlier than college, of course.)
  • 16a [Fester and Scar] UNCLES. Attempted misdirection.
  • 19a [Kind of balloon or therapy] SPEECH. Just hoping that there’s no such thing as balloon therapy.
  • 52a [Lifeguards guard them] POOLS. Took me a few beats to get this since I reflexively think of beaches and the seashore.
  • 68a [“A centipede!”] EEK. Interesting trigger choice.
  • 49d [Rise to one’s feet] STAND.

Josh Goodman’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Josh Goodman’s puzzle features a typical earlier-in-the-week LA Times theme trope. Revealed at COMMANDCENTER, three answers have, in their exact centre, commands given to a dog: SIT, DOWN & HEEL. These were found in:

  • [“No one told me!”], HOWWASITOKNOW
  • [Had a new proprietor], CHANGEDOWNERSHIP
  • [Run errands during a bad storm, say], BRAVETHEELEMENTS

The puzzle played typically easy, with fairly constrained areas partly due to the long (16, 13) across themers.

New to me was [Bryant of “Human Resources”], AIDY; although I didn’t notice it while solving..


Rebecca Goldstein’s USA Today Crossword, “Core Memory” — Emily’s write-up

Boot up before solving this one!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday October 18, 2023

USA Today, October 18 2023, “Core Memory” by Rebecca Goldstein

Theme: each themer contains –RAM–


  • 12a. [At no time ever], NOTFORAMOMENT
  • 30a. [Request in a deli sandwich order], EXTRAMAYO
  • 50a. [“Sister, Sister” star], TAMERAMOWRY

This set is brought together by the theme and each is a fun three themer on its own. NOTFORAMOMENT fell right into place for me while EXTRAMAYO took me a few crossings since it’s not a common request that I’d think of (compared to “hold the…” or “no…”). TAMERAMOWRY was another gimme for me today and serendipitous since I recently borrowed one of her cookbooks from the public library (and she also has a memoir if that’s your jam!).

Favorite fill: TAHINI which sits across from POCKET, IMHYPED which crosses with WOOHOO

Stumpers: CAMEO (needed crossings–I forgot he was even in it since it was so subtle and sparse a role), NOKIA (also needed crossings), and RAE (new to me)

What a fun puzzle and stellar grid design! Loved all of the bonus fill, especially the lengthy ones, and the cluing was on pointe! Fantastic!

4.75 stars


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

32 Responses to Wednesday, October 18, 2023

  1. Sheila Price says:

    Chilean sea bass are also not bass; they are Patagonian toothfish!

  2. Nino H. says:

    NYT: Really interesting theme. The fill’s also nice and neat (aside from BOSN and ALEE) for how much theme and grid constraining there is.

    In spite of that, I’m still mildly confused about what relationship the actual theme entries have with the clues. Otherwise, it’s pretty good.

    • Mutman says:

      The theme entries are things you’d hear said at a magic show.

      The clues, well, how else would you clue them other than the ‘now oft-used’ alternate phrase??

  3. Cyberdiva says:

    NYT: I enjoyed much about this puzzle, but I don’t understand 11D, whose clue is “So, so delish!” I immediately thought “yum yum!” However, the crossings led me to NOM NOM. Huh?? That makes no sense to me, at least not in English. I kept hoping that the magician at the heart of this puzzle would somehow turn NOM NOM into yum yum. Sigh.

  4. Art Shapiro says:

    Well, I had a real WTF moment on this one.

    I had absolutely no idea what a TIBBAR was, so I Googled it and found it was some sort of exercise equipment.

    • MarkAbe says:

      I had a similar experience: Solving down, I had TIBB and tried to think what the word might be, until I saw the top hat shape and had a pleasant “aha” moment. As an old guy who hasn’t been to the gym since COVID, I still have no clue what a TIBBAR is.

    • marciem says:

      Its an upside down rabbit being pulled from a hat, and I’m with Amy, all the pictures I find of rabbits being pulled from hats show the head first. I tried “feet first” and got nuthin’, just head first shots, so the upside-down rabbit doesn’t really work. IMO

      • JohnH says:

        Agreed. I’d mixed feelings overall. A clever puzzle, but the theme never grabbed me or, until I came here, fully made sense to me, and there were things I got caught on, like the whole intersection of NOM NOM, yet another Star Wars clue, and something about foosbar that just wouldn’t come to me. I am not finding as much dictionary support for the clue to DESI either. Maybe I’m just not visual enough to appreciate the grid more.

        • marciem says:

          I only learned about “desi” from xwords, but found this definition: “Desi is a loose term used to describe the people, cultures, and products of the Indian subcontinent and their diaspora,” I also didn’t exactly know what diaspora meant, but now I do. That’s reason 3784 why I love crosswords! :) .

          • Eric H says:

            I learned “desi” in real life. Somewhere, I read that urban Indians use it in a superior manner to refer to people from rural areas, the way someone here might call someone a rube or a yokel.

            But I’ve also heard that it’s not at all pejorative. It does seem like a useful word, as you can’t always tell if a person ‘s roots are in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, or any other country considered part of the Indian subcontinent — and it seems rude to ask.

    • Katie says:

      Response #1, from me: TIBBAR? Don’t overthink. Probably a wordplay attempt, meaning you’re to _read_ the word, literally, by going/moving “OUT of this hat”? (ba-dum-dum, followed by a HIHAT: “ching!”)

      [But – if you were to PULL the “RABBIT” out of the hat, then it would still have the R at top… So, I’m not 100% sure here… It did not quite work, geometrically and linguistically, for me.]

      Regardless, the theme/puzzle DID bring me joy! Full stop. It’s just – not great that so many of us are still scratching our heads here, and fill is – OK but somewhat distractingly disappointing, at times.

      Response #2, from me — OK, but REALLY (ha, ha) — what my subconscious thought process was is as follows:

      All those corny phrases go specifically with AMATEUR/cornball tricks that NEVER quite go right, right? (Bird poops on someone, or something gets dropped, or the wrong card gets picked, or you see a thin wire that’s supposed to be hidden, etc.) Pulling the rabbit out the wrong way was — just the kind of thing one can visualize happening, as the punchline in campy magic, right?

      Really, it simply reminded me of all those Rocky and Bullwinkle snippets. (“Hey Rocky! Watch me pull-a rabbit outta my hat!” – “Oh Bullwinkle, that old trick NEVER works…”) Whoops. Some of you are lost now, I suppose. Here’s a good youtube example I just found:

      Anyway, I was disappointed the bottom right word wasn’t “OOPS” or “AHEM” [or “ROAR”?] or — something as a final punchline here…

      Perhaps the constructor (Joseph Gangi) can chime in, if he reads this? NYT Wordplay mentions inspiration came from the cover of Will Shortz’ “Wittiest-something-or-other” puzzle book, with words coming out of a top hat. But…

      “Inverted rabbit” remains a mystery – for me – which may be appropriate to a “magic” theme, in the end. ;-)

      Summary: Cute grid! :-) And that double-B is quite perfectly/misleadingly located (for TIBBAR vs RABBIT), as a very nice touch. (i.e., I jumped to “RABBIT” so early I was worried it was all too easy, so figuring out the flip was genuinely a fun element, for me…)

  5. ZDL says:

    loved loved loved the NYT

  6. David L says:

    Is anyone else having trouble with the NYT games site? Can’t get the puzzles, can’t log in…

    • David L says:

      Hmm, I can get the puzzles on my tablet but not on my desktop. So the problem’s at my end.

      NYT was cute.

      • Gary R says:

        Re: desktop – I’ll offer the standard solutions:

        1) Clear the cache, try again.
        2) Log out of your NYT account, log in, try again.
        3) Close the browser, restart, try again.
        4) Reboot the machine, try again.
        5) Leave it alone until tomorrow, try again.

        I don’t really understand how any of these solves the problem, but it seems as though they often do.

        • David L says:

          Thanks. I tried #2, no dice.

          Google introduced a change to their login procedure today, which I declined because my computer has no camera and certainly no fingerprint thingie. I wonder if that caused a glitch somewhere.

        • David L says:

          Stratagem #3 worked! Who the heck knows why.

          Thanks, Gary.

  7. David L says:

    Well, I was able to access the New Yorker puzzle at least — wrong day, IMO. Slower than the Monday one, IIRC. Quite a few words I didn’t know and some oblique cluing too.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I was much faster solving today’s than I was KAC’s excellent Monday puzzle, but about 40% slower than yesterday’s. But it’s not at all unusual for me to have trouble with EA’s puzzles, particularly in TNY. I was thinking that the GENOCIDE petition that was presented to the UN in 1951 would name a specific ethnic group, so WE CHARGE was very slow in coming to me.

    • Eric H says:

      I thought it was more than “mildly challenging.” It took longer than Tuesday’s, but not as long as Monday’s.

      The whole middle section was slow. It took me longer than it should have to get PLATE TECTONICS, even though I understood the clue immediately. (And then when I got it, I mistyped it!) WE CHARGE GENOCIDE does not sound familiar, so I should probably learn something about it.

      I enjoyed the off-beat clue for JUMANJI. To the extent that I think about that, I think of the movie (which I’ve never seen).

  8. pannonica says:

    NYT: Agree with Amy and others regarding the upside-down-ness of the RABBIT.

    I also take issue with the clue for 3d [Like some hair and seas] PARTED. “Some seas”? Aside from one particular body of water in a story in the bibble, what are we talking about here? Incidentally, there is (or was?) a theory that the origin of the story comes from the retreating waters just before the arrival of a tsunami caused by a major volcanic eruption on the island of Santorini in the Mediterranean.

    “The fish namers played fast and loose with logic. It’s like calling a tiger the ‘striped lion’ or ‘striped leopard.'”

    You’ll find that taxonomy is practically littered with misnomers, especially the vernacular names. As to your examples: at one time all of the extant species of big cats were in the superseded genus Leo rather than Panthera, where most but not all of them reside today. Stay with me here. So, for example, the lion was Leo leo and the tiger was Leo tigris. And guess what? Leo pardalis was the ‘spotted lion’, aka the leopard. Ta-da!

  9. Jim says:

    NYT: 54A – ILLER?? Really?

    • Katie says:

      Ironically (or, “worse”/iller yet), xwordinfo shows NYT last let that go in in 2019 with… (drumroll) New Yorker’s author-of-the-day, Eric Agard.

  10. marciem says:

    WSJ: From my bookkeeping days, I don’t recall ever hearing/seeing “financial year” (always fiscal), but that’s a nit and I enjoyed the theme!

  11. MDR says:

    Some (athletics) track-meet-related items from this week:

    Yesterday’s LAT: One of the theme answers was “MIXED RELAY” followed by the revealer “IT’S GOT LEGS”. The review of this puzzle indicated that this referred to “physical legs on the [relay] runners”. I’ll additionally point out that, in a relay, the segment traversed by each runner is called a “leg”. So a 4x100m relay will have 4 “legs” averaging 100m each. It’s an average because the distance run by each runner also includes some steps in the “exchange zone” where the baton is passed between one runner and the next.

    Today’s AVC: Regarding “Did not know: 31a. [Final stretch of a distance race], GUN LAP”:

    Guns haven’t been used for this purpose in many years. Currently, loud bells are used to indicate when the lead runner in a race is starting their final lap on the track, and as a result the final lap is now typically referred to as the “bell lap”.

    Historically, guns were also used to start the race (and to signal false/illegal starts) in both track and swim meets, but at around the same time as the switch to bells for the final lap, the use of guns has fallen out of favor (now a loud electronic tone of some sort is typically used).

    As a consequence, such guns were called the starter’s pistol, and (in case anyone is wondering) these were cap guns, not real guns, i.e., no real bullets were fired.

  12. Seattle DB says:

    TNY: I liked this puzzle because I learned about “We Charge Genocide” and the cactus plant that is used in tacos. Thanks EA!

Comments are closed.