Wednesday, November 15, 2023

AVCX untimed (Amy) 


LAT 3:51 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:43 (Amy) 


NYT 4:05 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


George Jasper’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Morning Marks”—Jim’s review

Theme: Circled letters in the grid are in the shape of checkmarks and spell out words that can precede “Chex” in cereal names. The revealer is CHEX CEREALS (37a, [General Mills line, with a homophonic clue to this puzzle’s circles]). The circled words are WHEAT, CORN, RICE, and HONEY NUT.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Morning Marks” · George Jasper · Wed., 11.15.23

I wasn’t sure about the whole CHEX CEREALS in the shape of “checks” thing, but it grew on me, especially when I got to the last extra-large one. That was nicely done. And the theme certainly helped me resolve those lower two entries, so it did its job.

Did you know…there are a bunch of other CHEX CEREALS. Apparently there’s Chocolate Chex, Peanut Butter Chex, Cinnamon Chex, Blueberry Chex, and Maple Brown Sugar Chex. I’ve never seen any of those in the stores, but then again, I’m not usually looking for them. Too bad our constructor couldn’t get them all worked into the grid (haha).

Plenty of great long fill in support of the theme: SAWTOOTH, DOGEAR, OPHELIA, ARM WRESTLE, KAZOO, and AS SEEN ON TV. Conversely, that crossing of ORRERY and ARIOSE leaves a lot to be desired.

Clues of note:

  • 68a. [Only state with a three-word capital]. UTAH. That being Salt Lake City.
  • 69a. [Sandberg in the Baseball Hall of Fame]. RYNE. With the entry above being ERIC (Carle), I tried to make this one CARL. What…maybe he wrote an epic poem about baseball and they put him in the Hall of Fame. (Oh, it’s Carl SandbUrg, not SandbErg.)

Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars.

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

NY Times crossword solution, 11/15/23 -no. 1115

Take familiar words or phrases and add a Z (aka 63d. ZEE) to get a goofy new phrase:

  • 16a. [Obnoxious houseguest?], STAYING PUTZ.
  • 21a. [Not a fan of postmillennials?], ANTI-GEN Z.
  • 35a. [Bit of water splashed on a ship’s front?], BOW SPRITZ.
  • 53a. [Cap worn at a Shriners Christmas party?], SANTA FEZ. Ha!
  • 60a. [Making fun of Beyoncé’s beau?], MOCKING JAY-Z. The mockingjay is a fictional bird from the Hunger Games world. “Beau” is an odd word choice for a husband of 15 years. It doesn’t connote marriage. It’s not as if the clue is overlong and they needed to shave off a whole three characters to condense it.

Fave fill: PELICAN (a nonfictional bird), GRANNY knot, ZIPPERS, DOZE OFF. Surprised to see: STEELIE, [Marble made of metal]. As a kid in the 1970s, I knew that marbles such as that were largely a thing of prior generations. Five decades hence … oof. The marble racing videos popular on YouTube seem to feature colorful glass marbles.

I call bullshit on: 37d. [Brand of cold and allergy relief products], ZICAM. That’s homeopathy! The thing where there’s no scientific proof of any efficacy whatsoever. Good luck with your colds and allergy, Zicam buyers. I’d have liked to see the word homeopathic included in the clue for the sake of accuracy.

3.75 stars from me. Curious about the editorial choices to call Jay-Z Beyoncé’s “beau” and to represent a homeopathic concoction as “cold and allergy relief products.”

Rebecca Goldstein’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Fake Meat”-Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 11/15/23 – “Fake Meat”

A theme you won’t find in a newspaper crossword:

  • 16a. [Dildo forged during the Bronze Age?], CAST MEMBER. As in a “member” cast in bronze, not someone acting in a play.
  • 28a. [Dildo sold with Barbie’s Dream Bed?], PLASTIC JUNK. Not sure if PLASTIC JUNK refers to plastic waste in the oceans, etc., or just your general cheap crap made from plastic. For the “Fake Meat” theme, I’m not sure JUNK is apt as it encompasses the testicles too and not just the penis.
  • 43a. [Dildo made from upcycled tires?], RUBBER SNAKE.
  • 59a. [Dildo with a warning label about splinters ?], WOODPECKER. This one made me laugh.

Fave fill: The entirely new-to-me BEERMOSA (turns out it’s just beer with OJ, plenty of juice! I love a good fruited-up beer, do not at all mind diluting the beerness of it), POT GUMMIES, SOAP BUBBLE (better in the plural, though), MUPPET.

Clue that made me laugh out loud: 10d. [It’s a motherfucking tragedy!], OEDIPUS REX. Kudos to you, Rebecca!

4.25 stars for the puzzle, 100 stars for 10d.

Willa Angel Chen Miller’s Universal crossword, “First in Line, Second in Command” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 11/15/23 • Wed • Miller • “First in Line, Second in Command” • solution • 20231115

I’m not familiar with the title phrase, but it seems to be applicable to hierarchies in governments or, say, ships. For the purposes of this crossword, it refers to the first letter of line (L) and the second letter of command (O). Each of the theme entries is a phrase with those initials.

And then to gild the lily, there’s a revealer that adds another, completely different, riff on describing the mechanism: 38a [Skill that’s rare these days … or, parsed differently, a hint to 17-, 27-, 45- and 61-Across] LOST ART, or “L-O start”.

Whew, right?

  • 17a. [Young child] LITTLE ONE. Also how I frequently refer to my cat. (26d [“Are you __ out?”] IN OR.)
  • 27a. [Garden gnome or plastic flamingo] LAWN ORNAMENT.
  • 45a. [Tool similar to a paper knife] LETTER OPENER.
  • 61a. [“Time for bed!”] LIGHTS OUT.

Underneath it all, it’s actually a rather standard and small crossword theme, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • 1a [Word before “chocolate” or “matter”] DARK. Nice way to start things off, if you ask me.
  • 19a [Cartoon character originally called Dippy Dawg] GOOFY. Did not know that. Does this resolve the question of whether Goofy is a dog or some other species? Did he perhaps evolve, similar to how Betty Boop did?
  • 22a [Offerings from Jeni’s or Ben & Jerry’s] PINTS. Crossed by 13d [Ice cream brand] EDY’S.
  • 7d [Diarist Frank] ANNE. Some school districts are including her historically important book on banned lists, using the excuse that in an unabridged (less abridged?) version she wrote about <gasp!> her body and menstruation.
  • 24d [ __ text (image description that a screen reader might read)] ALT. Here, a screen reader is a kind of technology, not a person.
  • 29d [College in Barcelona?] ELON. This is like a cryptic crossword container clue.
  • 32d [Bawl] WAIL. 62d [Bawl] SOB.
  • 44d [Write “missteak,” say] ERR. Followed by 46d [Certain small steaks] T-BONES.
  • 52d [Black piano key material] EBONY. Is it still used? I would think less frequently, if at all. And certainly ivory is no longer used for the white keys.

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

The New Yorker crossword solution, 11/15/23 – Agard

We’ve got four corners with some 8×6 fill and Erik gets good results. Smooth fill, though not as many patented “wickedly tough Agard clues” since Wednesday New Yorker puzzles skew pretty easy.

Fave fill: TOP-HEAVY (gentle clue mislead, [Liable to tip]), the Tina Turner song SIMPLY THE BEST (wasn’t a big hit in the US, but gained more recent familiarity via a serenade scene in Schitt’s Creek), KNISHES, SAVANNAH, UPSIZE, LATE BELLS at school, [Sitting Bull’s people] HUNKPAPA.

Liked the POND SCUM clue, [Film that shows where not to swim?]. Eww!

Four stars from me, nothing to object to here.

Barbara Lin & Carly Schuna’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I loved Barbara Lin & Carly Schuna’s revealing answer, TOTALLYRIPPED, and the excellent wordplay it evoked. Each of three answers are a different sort of RIPPED: WRAPPINGPAPER is torn up, COMPACTDISCs are (or were) ripped onto PCs, and DISTRESSEDJEANS have tears in. The weird dupe is including a BODYBUILDER, whose rippedness is the same as the revealer. This puzzle could have worked just fine as three plus one IMO?

With a lot of theme contact, the rest of the answers were short. I did enjoy some of the playful touches in the clues: [Horn-heavy genre] for SKA; [Finger painting, for short?], MANI echoed by [Finger-paints, perhaps], DABS; plus another clue echo with [“Hello,” for one], SONG and [“Hello” Grammy winner], ADELE.


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24 Responses to Wednesday, November 15, 2023

  1. PJ says:

    NYT – I enjoyed it. STAYING PUTZ and SANTAFEZ were my favorites. I found the longer downs (seven letters) to be solid, if not sparkly. PELICAN being an exception

    I’ll ask Siri to call my wife of 41 years by saying, “Siri, call my girl friend,” so JAY-Z being Beyoncé’s beau is cool with me

    • Dallas says:

      STAYING PUTZ was the final one to drop for me (the whole NE corner slowed me down a bit) but over all I liked it a lot—fun Wednesday theme.

    • DougC says:

      I agree that STAYINGPUTZ and SANTAFEZ were the best of the bunch. Enjoyed it, and would have liked it even better with fewer threes, and without that really weak clue for RED in the lead-off spot. That one gets my nomination for the trying-too-hard clue of the month.

      Re ZICAM: I’d never heard of this, but looked it up and found that the company paid out $16,000,000 in 2018 to settle a class-action lawsuit claiming that they had ‘deceived customers by falsely representing that Zicam products “reduce the duration and severity of a cold.”‘ And yet the product is apparently still on the market. I can only conclude that they must be making a fortune on this stuff. I guess you’ve gotta give ’em credit for persistence, if nothing else.

  2. DBC says:

    Two things:
    Some dildos do include molded versions of the testicles, so “plastic junk” seems legit to me.

    In the NYT puzzle, why is “red” the answer to “half of an orange”?

  3. MattG says:

    NYT: I suspect that “beau” was chosen simply because “Beyoncé’s beau” is alliterative.

  4. Z says:

    Best Oedipus Rex clue ever.

  5. PJ says:

    Uni – Sodas as an acid will always look odd to me. I’m also wondering if I’m overlooking something with TBONES being clued as small steaks or does the constructor grill for Fred Flintstone

    Excellent track in the review.

  6. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: Pretty slow for me, but that is probably just trying to solve on my phone. There’s nothing too difficult about it, though TERF sounds only vaguely familiar and MAMI is new to me.

    • JohnH says:

      Hunkpapa was new to me as well, plus a couple of others. But nothing I couldn’t get fair and square, so I learned something.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT: I’ve enjoyed a lot of Will Nediger puzzles over the years and this puzzle is mostly very well constructed, but what an odd set of theme answers. Is there some unifying idea here that I’m missing? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a theme went over my head. As it is, I’m left wondering if Will tried but failed to come up with a third myth-oriented 15-letter phrase and then just punted with the snooze-worthy SKIN CARE ROUTINE. It seems like there must be something, even with the IN-OUT constraint (though I can’t think of anything off-hand). If there isn’t, maybe move on to some other possibilities with something in common? You know … a theme? This just came off as two-thirds baked to me.

    BTW … I don’t rate puzzles and that’s not my one-star rating. If I did, I’d give this one more than one-star rating.

    • Will Nediger says:

      Phrases with “in” and then “out” was enough of a theme for me – pretty standard USAT fare, and I just picked my favorite 15s rather than caring about there being a semantic connection. That said, if it left you wanting more, you should solve tomorrow’s!

  8. Gene says:

    ZICAM, being a zinc lozenge, has nothing to do with homeopathy. There is controversy over whether zinc lozenges actually reduce duration or severity, but they are not homeopathic, they have actual ingredients

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Wondering if Zicam’s zinc content is at a teeny-tiny homeopathic dilution rather than the dosage in a vitamin company’s zinc lozenges. Zicam lists things like “Zincum aceticum 2x” and “Zincum gluconicum 1x” rather than something like “Zinc (from zinc gluconate) 50 mg.”

    • stmv says:

      But Zicam’s own webpage describes it as “homeopathic Zicam® Cold Remedy products”, so linking it to homeopathy is far from unfair.

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