Wednesday, October 25, 2023

AVCX 5:49 (Amy) 


LAT 3:35 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 4:00 (Amy) 


NYT untimed (norah) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 7:58 (Emily) 


WSJ 7:41 (Jim) 


Aimee Lucido’s New York Times crossword–norah’s review

Theme: DRUMROLL [55A Display of skill one might request from 17-Across and 8- and 28-Down … depicted literally four times in this puzzle]



  • 17-Across MEGWHITE [Half of a 1990s-2000s rock duo with six Grammys]
  • 8-Down JOHNBONHAM [Member of Led Zeppelin]
  • 28-Down RINGOSTARR [One of the Fab Four] (fun fact – Ringo and I share a birthday)
  • Plus, there are four D-R-U-Ms throughout the grid, “roll”ing in the orientations

Cluing highlights:

  • COPARENT 19A [One sharing school drop-off duties, maybe] (This is an NYT debut entry)
  • RANSOMS 28A [Return payments?]
  • AIRPORTS 60D [John Wayne and Ian Fleming, for two]
  • CUED 44A [Gave prompt attention?]
  • EGOTISM 42A [Number one focus?]
  • ELMER 34D [First name in “wabbit” hunting]

Not surprised that NYT would pick this up with the double theme component – either element on its own probably wouldn’t provide the wow factor and the complexity the editing team is often after for a mid-week puzzle. Kudos to Aimee for both the concept and execution with her 16th puzzle for the Times. Aimee reminds us in her constructor notes to check out the women drummers that she’d hoped to include but didn’t make the final cut: Sheila E., Viola Smith, Cindy Blackman, and especially Nandi Bushell – NANDI is on my wordlist; put her on yours too! :)

Wow DIGG – haven’t heard or thought of that one in a looong time! Got stuck a bit in the SW, never having heard of Dr. MESMER, and trying both BYGod and BYGeE, and naticked by NASSER / JOHNBONHAM. Lots of other tricky/unusual fill in this for me – SESTINA, GIMLI, ODEUM, DOUR – nothing super difficult, but just enough that it felt off my wavelength.

Thanks Aimee and the NYT team!

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Lying Down”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words can double as synonyms of “deceive” and whose final words can double as surnames of famous people.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Lying Down” · Gary Larson · Wed., 10.25.23

  • 5d. [Deceive comedian Lucille?] SNOW BALL.
  • 10d. [Snooker inventor Thomas?] CON EDISON.
  • 14d. [Dupe Oscar winner Holly?] BUFFALO HUNTER.
  • 34d. [Hoodwink author Thomas?] FOOL HARDY.
  • 39d. [Get the better of rapper Vanilla?] PUT ON ICE.

Meh. Not a puzzle for me. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it, and it does the job. But I want a puzzle with wacky answers to be funny, and I just didn’t find anything here to chuckle at.

In the fill I liked DAIKON, CHEMIST, and TAVERNS. Didn’t know old timey slugger Lefty O’DOUL.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Showing the most skin]. BAREST. Can you really be more bare than someone else? I thought you’re either bare or not bare.
  • 8d. [One who may be looking for a reaction]. CHEMIST. Nice clue.

Three stars.

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

Universal • 10/25/23 • Wed • “Skipping Along” • Coulter • solution • 20231025

Since the theme clues only give at best half the information for the second words in the answers, it was easier to let the crossing entries do the work.

  • 20a. [*Rue?] ALTERNATE ROUTE.
  • 34a. [*Ra?] EVEN BREAK.
  • 42a. [*Flo] ODD FELLOW.
  • 53a. [*We?] EVERY OTHER WEEK.

It’s a nifty theme, but one that’s more appealing in the abstract—or for the constructor—rather than the solver.

  • 4d [“For __’s sake!”] PETE. Blanks with appendant apostrophe esses always look weird.
  • 53d [Scat singer Fitzgerald] ELLA. 55d. [Big name in elevators] OTIS. Remember that old joke about her marrying Darth Vader and taking his surname?
  • 19a [Computer command for making a physical copy] PRINT. Something appealing about this didactic clue.
  • 50a [Ford Fiesta fuel] GAS. I still call them Ford Piñatas, for no particularly good reason other than it amuses me.
  • 58a [Garment that can also be a synonym of “mask”] CLOAK. This clue feels different from all the others. It verges on poetic, somehow.

Caitlin Reed’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

Big thanks to Jenni, Emily, and norah for covering for me the last couple days!

New Yorker crossword solution, 10/25/23 – Reid

I really enjoyed Caitlin’s easyish themeless. So much fun fill! Faves: “SO I HEAR…,” NO RHYME OR REASON, GET OUT OF DODGE, SMALL POTATOES, ONE-FINGER SALUTE, BOOTLEG. The non-splashy fill is generally quite smooth, too.

Clues I liked:

  • 4d. [They’re often needed to make an entrance], KEYS.
  • 39d. [Prepares for surgery, perhaps], SEDATES. Been there, done that!

4.25 stars from me.

Jill Singer’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Jill Singer’s theme today is FACIALEXPRESSIONs and it’s a very elegant, narrowly-defined set. Each of four phrases is [BODY-PART]-X-ING…

  • [*”Attractive!”], EYECATCHING
  • [*”Noisy!”], EARPIERCING
  • [*”Amazing!”], JAWDROPPING
  • [*”Delicious!”], LIPSMACKING

Although the overall puzzle played easy, there were a few tricky spots. Is [Breakfast brand], MAYPO really still a thing in the US? [Latin 101 verb], ERAT was clued very vaguely, and not seen much anymore. Also, the clue for WIDOW, [Inelegant bit of typesetting] was a mystery to me; apparently it’s a bit of a paragraph that sticks out??


Mark Valdez & Matthew Stock’s USA Today Crossword, “DMs” — Emily’s write-up

Very smooth puzzle with a fun theme and themer set!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday MONTH DD, 2023

USA Today, MONTH DD 2023, “DMs” by Mark Valdez & Matthew Stock

Theme: each themer contains D–M–


  • 17a. [Pursue two main courses of study], DOUBLEMAJOR
  • 38a. [Cocktail with olive brine and gin], DIRTYMARTINI
  • 63a. [“High School Musical” or “The Lion King”], DISNEYMOVIE

Though it’s popular to DOUBLEMAJOR, I ended up taking a variety of classes in many Professors’ specialties and enjoyed them so much! It’s been too long since I’ve had a DIRTYMARTINI! There are so many these days, it’s easy for anyone to enjoy a DISNEYMOVIE.

Favorite fill: GAMIFY, BAGEL, INDIGO, and DIP

Stumpers: HEAL (kept thinking about “hone” for the cluing), ATMYAGE (needed crossings), and IDOTOO (could only think of “ditto” and “metoo”)

I was so excited when I saw this collab and the puzzle didn’t disappoint. Loved the bonus fill including the impressive lengthy ones in addition to the themers and the great cluing. Hope we see more from this duo!

4.0 stars


Becca Gorman & Adam Simpson’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Tight Combos”–Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 10/25/23 – “Tight Combos”

Love the theme! A LACK OF BANDWIDTH is the revealer, [Insufficient time and energy, metaphorically, or what led to this puzzle’s theme entries]. The other three 15s are incomplete band names, because the width of the puzzle is insufficient to accommodate the full lengths of EARTH WIND AND FIR(E), MY CHEMICAL ROMAN(CE), and SMASHING PUMP(KINS). It’s neat that FIR, ROMAN, and PUMP are all legit words unto themselves.

New to me: 37a. [___ Santo (medicinal wood)], PALO. Also had no  idea there’s a FONT called Trebuchet. It’s a Microsoft font and I don’t know why you’d name a font after a medieval weapon thta’s popular with physics and engineering students.

Fave fill: “YEESH!”

Smooth fill overall. Four stars from me.

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20 Responses to Wednesday, October 25, 2023

  1. reid says:

    The BIEB/EE and BIEB/BONHAM/NASSER crossings were a very tough area if you aren’t up on your older proper names and pop culture slang. EE felt like it could have been a lot of two letter abbreviations.

  2. JAFC says:

    Any insight on the theme of today’s (10/25) Universal? Finished the puzzle but couldn’t work out the theme.

    • Mr. [not really] Grumpy says:

      Universal has clues more typical of a cryptic crossword. E.g., “Even break” means to use the even letters of BREAK to get RA. Hope that helps.

      • JAFC says:

        Turns out I had figured it out – I just thought there was more to the theme than what actually turned out to be be there.

    • Eric H says:

      I had to read Pannonica’s write-up to really understand the theme. I saw that each of the theme answers had the letters from the corresponding clues, but I didn’t notice that it was every other letter.

      And until I read Mr. [not really] Grumpy’s comment, I didn’t connect the ALTERNATE, EVEN, etc. bits of the theme answers with the pattern for skipping letters.

      It’s an interesting theme, but as pannonica noted, it was easier just to use the Down answers to fill things in.

  3. Philip says:

    Great NYT puzzle. Aimee Lucido rarely disappoints. My favourite under-appreciated drummer is Linda Pitmon.

  4. Eric H says:

    NYT: Not only is no DRUM ROLL repeated, the first one most solvers encountered (NE corner) has D at the top, a logical place to begin reading a word arranged that way.

    If you go clockwise through the DRUM ROLLs, each letter advances one square at a time such that D ends up in the square at the left of the arrangement.

    That little detail had to have made it even harder to get this grid to work.

  5. Ethan says:

    WSJ: Isn’t Thomas Edison the very person that Con Edison is named for? Completely defeats any sense of wordplay there, IMO.

  6. cyberdiva says:

    NYT: I finished the puzzle after changing BEEB to BIEB. It’s quite an impressive feat of construction, though much of it was far from my wheelhouse. What I still don’t know is what in the world YAS QUEEN is/was/means. Anyone?

    • Eric H says:

      YAS QUEEN is apparently a common thing to say in certain LGBTQ communities (and maybe some Black communities?).

      From your; “In short, ‘yas queen’ is an emphatic term of endearment, encouragement, celebration, love, and/or show of support.”

      I only know it from crossword puzzles.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Now that I finally seem to have committed this phrase to the crossword-solving-specific part of my brain, I fully expect it to disappear from the popular vernacular and CrossWorld.

      • David L says:

        I may be wrong but I think the phrase entered wider pop culture through the show Broad City (which I have never seen.)

  7. cyberdiva says:

    Thanks VERY much, Eric H! I had no idea.

    • Eric H says:

      You’re welcome.

      I can imagine circumstances where it would be an appropriate response, but I can’t imagine myself actually using it.

  8. Art Shapiro says:

    Gareth asks about the use of “widow” in the LAT, I believe it’s a term used when only one or two lines of a paragraph appear at the bottom of a page, with the bulk of that paragraph on the next page. It is considered more aesthetically pleasing to not split a paragraph in this case, simply putting the totality on the subsequent page.

    • Gary R says:

      I think you’re right. In addition to “widows,” there are “orphans.” I believe one refers to the case where the first line of a paragraph falls just before a page break and the other refers to the last line of a paragraph that falls just after a page break. (I’m not sure which one is which.)

      I’m pretty sure MSWord has (or had) a setting you could choose that would avoid them.

  9. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: Lots of nice long answers like NO RHYME OR REASON, GET OUT OF DODGE, SMALL-POTATOES and ONE -FINGER SALUTE. And the rest of the fill sparkles, too.

    It wasn’t hard, but it was a lot of fun. Nice work, Ms. Reid!

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