Wednesday, November 8, 2023

AVCX 10:30 (Amy) 


LAT 5:28 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:34 (Amy) 


NYT 4:25 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 9:10 (Emily) 


WSJ 4:32 (Jim) 


Desirée Penner & Jeff Sinnock’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Top Spin”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that feature a hidden HAT going backwards (upwards). The revealer is FLIP YOUR LID (26d, [Blow a gasket, and what we’ve done in the circled letters]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Top Spin” · Desirée Penner & Jeff Sinnock · Wed., 11.8.23

  • 3d. [Active volcano on Antarctica] MOUNT EREBUS. Beret. I made it green. Just for funsies.
  • 9d. [Fraternity in a 1978 John Belushi movie] DELTA HOUSE. Hat.
  • 22d. [When you might solve a puzzle] SPARE TIME. Miter.
  • 30d. [Real yawner] SNOOZEFEST. Fez. Fezzes are cool.

Enjoyable theme that still managed to catch me by surprise. (Given the title, I was expecting the beginnings of the entries to have some trick to them.) I do kinda wish HAT wasn’t used in the second one since they’re all considered types of hats. But hey, who am I to scoff at an Animal House reference?

Plenty to like in the fill, even though there isn’t anything all that long. Highlights include: ALL EARS, NAUGHTY, ENSUITE, OFFBEAT, STARLIT, and LEGO SET.  On the humdrum side there’s ARE SO, IT I, and EDO.

Clues of note:

  • 39a. [Get into the pool]. This seemed like a weird way to clue WET, until I realized it was supposed to be BET.
  • 64a. [The 10,001-piece Eiffel Tower, e.g.]. LEGO SET. Said set stands nearly 5 feet tall and runs for $629 on That’s a bit steep for me, though I am eyeing the Home Alone house.

Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Daniel Hrynick’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 11/8/23 – no. 1108

There’s a one-two punch of revealers here: 18a. [Runaway best seller], SMASH HIT / 64a.
[What 25-, 40- and 51-Across might originally have appeared on, appropriately?], DEMO TAPE, with DEMO doubling as shorthand for demolition. Those three songs have titles that connote smashing, demolishing. And the Miley Cyrus, Doors, and Peter Gabriel songs are “WRECKING BALL,” “BREAK ON THROUGH,” and “SLEDGEHAMMER.” I do like the theme.

Fave fill: GHOSTLY, GROVELED, SMIDGE, “what’s THE DAMAGE” (basically a veiled 9-letter partial, but a colorful phrase). New to me: 69a.
[Industry term for action-ready film locales], HOT SETS. (Unfortunate overlap with OUTSET.) Not entirely sure I’ve seen the word form TRAPEZISTS, either. Could do without: GEST, EZINE, wish-it-would-vanish-from-crosswords “I RULE,” non-idiomatic NO TAR, MOC, and the abbreviation parade of ADA DIY STS UNH NIH ENS NORAD YDS LTE. A themed puzzle with big swaths of 7s and 8s amid five themers does put a lot of constraints on the grid, even with the widening to 16×15.

Three stars from me.

Prasanna Keshava’s Universal crossword, “Low Numbers” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 11/8/23 • Wed • “Low Numbers” • Keshava • solution • 20231108

  • 51aR [With 54-Across, sad tunes … and a hint to the indicated letters] BREAKUP | SONGS. Types of songs span entries separated by a black space. Once again, the ‘indicated letters’ are mentioned explicitly in the clues and I’m omitting regurgitation of that, relying instead on the circled squares.
  • 19a/21a. I CAN’T | HEMLINE (anthem).
  • 31a/33a. FLOORED IT | TYPOS (ditty).
  • 36a/39a. CABAL | LADIES’ TEE (ballad).

It’s a pretty straightforward theme, and it’s well done.

  • 8d [Feature of desert air] DRY HEAT, though I tried DRYNESS first.
  • 9d [Holler] YELL, not DELL.
  • 36d [Hand-to-hand fighting] COMBAT. Well, COMBAT is just fighting, and hand-to-hand combat is one type. So the clue feels a bit weird to me.
  • 13a [Organ used to enjoy organs] EAR. ~parivahittam~
  • 50a [Stable grains] OATS. Found in a stable. You know, for horses.
  • 57a [Occupied a seat] SAT. Shared etymology? Looks like maybe-ish? m-w provides this history for sit: “Middle English sitten, from Old English sittan; akin to Old High German sizzen to sit, Latin sedēre, Greek hezesthai to sit, hedra seat”, and this for seat: “Middle English sete, from Old Norse sæti; akin to Old English gesete seat, sittan to sit”.

Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 11/8/23 – Liu

Fun puzzle from Wyna today! I enjoyed the cluing throughout.

So much terrific fill, too. Check these out: MAPLE SYRUP, POST-IT NOTES, SNOOZE ALARM, ROCK OPERA (I’m here to tell you that age 9 is too young to watch Tommy on the big screen), Star Trek‘s STARFLEET, The MUPPET MOVIE, SPPONERISMS (love the clue, [Bunny phone and belly jeans, for two]—funny bone and jelly beans), the TRAINED EYE, GOD COMPLEX, ECOTOURIST, KRUMP ([Expressive street-dance style] and a pleasing clump of letters), and SPY NOVELS (terrific clue, [Where literary agents are found?]). The clue for SESAME SEED is also fun: [One on a roll, perhaps?].

Today I learned: [Mountain, in Mandarin], SHAN. And also [“The Babysitter” actress ___ Mae Lee], HANA. She’s also a comedian, model, and fashion designer, so a multi-hyphenate.

4.5 stars from me. In the arena of easier themeless puzzles, what I’m looking for is a good time, and Wyna provided that here.

Rose Sloan & Shannon Rapp’s AV Club Classic crossword, “You Do the Math”-Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, “You Do the Math” – 11/8/23

The theme revealer is the 16-letter CRUNCH THE NUMBERS, and there are spelled-out numbers crunched into three rebus squares: 20a GUES{T WO}RKER crossing CA{TWO}MAN, 55a FREE W{EIGHT}S crossing IN THE H{EIGHT}S, and 66a FEMI{NINE} URGE crossing HOR{NINE}SS. I needed crossings for 66a, [Memetic phrase referencing the “chaos of womanhood,” in a 2021 Huffpost article]. I like the revealer, but the theme’s asymmetry (FREE W{EIGHT}S has no partner in the grid) in a plus-sized grid bigs me a little. I suppose there have been previous titled puzzles called “Crunch the Numbers” with number rebuses, but moving that revealer to the title would give space for another rebus square. This puzzle’s title suggests we’re to do something with the TWO, EIGHT, and NINE, but I didn’t run into anything in the puzzle that pointed that way.

Fave fill: BANDCAMP, HOOLIGAN (cool clue, [Raging party?]), NEAR-MISS, PRESENTS (I’ve bought some advent calendars to keep myself supplied with little presents throughout November and December! No reason to wait till December 1 when you’ve got more than one set of 24 gifts), and SAMMY as shorthand for “sandwich” (we would also have accepted SANDO … though I looked askance recently at a restaurant menu that offered both a sammy and a sando).

Clue I liked, though the one time I watched (on TV) Hamilton, it didn’t obsess me: 51d. [“Planting seeds in a garden you never get to see,” according to “Hamilton”], LEGACY.

3.3 stars from me.

Robyn Weintraub’s USA Today Crossword, “Where’s the Vacuum? (Freestyle)” — Emily’s write-up

An unthemed treat today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday November 08, 2023

USA Today, November 08 2023, “Where’s the Vacuum? (Freestyle)” by Robyn Weintraub


Stumpers: ITSASETUP (needed a few crossings), LOSESATURN (also needed a few crossings), and ALAIN (new to me)

Check out this awesome grid that’s packed with so much delightful lengthy fill! I had been worried about the difficulty level but it was very fair with crossings and didn’t take me nearly as long as I thought it might. Loved the cluing and fresh fill. Amazing!

4.5 stars


Rachel Fabi’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I enjoyed the simplicity of Rachel Fabi’s theme. The revealer is UPPERATMOSPHERE, and there are four synonyms for ATMOSPHERE – TENOR, TONE, MOOD, SPIRIT – at the top of four longer down answers. Nothing is upside down or scrambled and smooshed between parts of words, it’s all in the open.

  • [*Staff symbol for a bassoon piece], TENORCLEF
  • [*Symphonic composition that evokes another art form], TONEPOEM
  • [*Wig adhesive], SPIRITGUM. New to me. Seems to be a theatre / movie thing?
  • [*Accessory that changes color], MOODRING

The two long across answers looked like they could be thematic initially but RELEASEDATE and ONETREEHILL have nothing to do with anything. They’re just colourful long answers that wouldn’t be out of place as marquees in a themeless crossword.


  • [Food word that is plural in Italian but singular in English], PANINI. Panino?
  • [Cabbage in baechu kimchi], NAPA. That is a whole bunch of things I have no idea about…


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

19 Responses to Wednesday, November 8, 2023

  1. Dallas says:

    My fastest Wednesday time; just flew by. I liked that the three songs were from different eras (late 60s, mid-80s, and 2010’s), too. GEST through me off; I originally had FEAT there after putting in MART from ITSME, but then with IMAGINED, it just went in with all the crossings… pretty good Wednesday and a nice theme.

  2. Dallas says:

    I don’t do the WSJ puzzle, but I can’t not comment about the big Lego set… my 8 yo has been eyeing that Eiffel Tower. We have the old Taj Mahal set that’s around 6000 pieces (a wedding present) that he’s put together, and I suspect before he turns 10, that set will end up in our house…

  3. RCook says:

    NYT: I was tripped up by the crossing of UNH and HOTSET since I only know Durham, NC (which has a UNC campus) and have never heard HOTSET. I assumed COTSET (or CUTSET, since NEU is a less common, but still used prefix) was a slangy film term.

    • David L says:

      Same here. I figured that was the error but couldn’t see what the right letter should be.

    • Dan says:

      There is a UNC in Chapel Hill, about 12 miles away, but not in Durham.

      • huda says:

        Same error here, even though I knew it was UNC at Chapel Hill but Durham is very close. Had no idea about a UNH campus being in Durham.
        Otherwise I really enjoyed the puzzle, liked the theme.

        • DougC says:


          I get the complaint about too many abbreviations, and would normally agree, but I barely noticed them today (and in fact didn’t even see several of them) because the grid filled in so quickly. Fun theme!

      • RCook says:

        There are schools in Durham that are part of the UNC system (NCCU and NCSSM), which is why I remembered the city.

    • PJ says:

      I recall the Durham misdirection showing up every now and then

      • sanfranman59 says:

        +1 … this might be the first time it didn’t trip me up

      • Gary R says:

        According to, this is the 11th time UNH has been clued as “Durham sch.” in the Shortz era. Most recent instance before today was in 2020.

        Multiple schools in the “research triangle,” but Durham is mostly associated with Duke. I had a good friend who taught at the University of New Hampshire, and I still have to stop and think for a minute when this (and similar) clues show up.

    • JohnH says:

      Same experience (or at least same as huda, who just figured Durham, NC, was close enough). I also didn’t care for SMIDGE for “smidgen.” MW calls it one among many variants, and RHUD doesn’t list it at all. Not in my vocabulary for sure.

      In TNY, I could have lived without HANA /SHAN / MONA.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: TRAPEZIST has me thinking about trapezeur and trapezeuse.

  5. Eric H says:

    AVXC: I’m missing what’s significant (if anything) about the rebus numbers TWO, EIGHT and NINE. Most of the web sites that I found searching on 289 referred to Ford’s 289 cubic inch V-8, which was apparently a popular engine, but there’s nothing in the puzzle that points in that direction.

    I had a hard time with some of the fill: I know of the musical “IN THE H[EIGHT]S,” and probably knew about the movie version, but had no memory of who directed it. I couldn’t remember who can get a H-1B visa. Never heard of the Huffington Post article about the FEMI[NINE] URGE. On the other hand, I knew lots of the pop culture like BANDCAMP, MANET, SCARF and SLIME.

    Maybe there were just a lot more pop culture references than I usually see.

  6. Prasanna Keshava says:

    ~parivahittam~ : bharatanatyam?

Comments are closed.