Wednesday, November 29, 2023

AVCX 7:10 (Amy) 


LAT 4:44, 1 ERROR (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 2:42 (Amy) 


NYT 3:45 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 7:25 (Emily) 


WSJ 4:28 (Jim) 


Steve Faiella’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “For Old Times’ Sake”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases but with -AGE tacked on at the end.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “For Old Times’ Sake” · Steve Faiella · Wed., 11.29.23

  • 17a. [Post office issue that might delay your Christmas card mailing?] STAMP OUTAGE.
  • 24a. [Fix for unevenly cut bangs? ] HAIR BANDAGE.
  • 39a. [Coach’s instructional videos of team performance?] ATHLETE’S FOOTAGE.
  • 48a. [Not going gentle into that good night?] EXIT RAMPAGE. Not sure that the tenses of the clue and entry agree. The clue makes me want a gerund in the entry. “Not going gentle” should equal “rampaging,” right? Tell me I’m right (or wrong).
  • 61a. [Automobile option for somebody with unruly children?] BRAT PACKAGE. I’m assuming this means all the top-of-the-line entertainment options.

Solid theme, despite my unease with the one clue. As someone thinking about replacing my old car, the last one spoke to me (although my kids are well beyond those years and they never were brats, anyway). I gotta believe this theme’s been done before, but it lends itself to many potential theme entries, and these are fun.

Not much in the long fill department, but everything felt smooth and flowed well, although I’m not so keen on that awkward RNR/ATT duo in the South.

Clues of note:

  • 68a. [Creature in Tolkien’s Fangorn Forest]. ENT. Did you know one of the Ents made it into A Charlie Brown Christmas?

  • 30d. [Dolphins’ protectors]. HELMETS. Miami Dolphins, that is.
  • 34d. [Carrier letters]. USS. Got me with this one. I stuck with UPS for too long.

Solid puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Ruth Bloomfield Margolin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 11/29/23 – no. 1129

DECISION FATIGUE ([Modern term for the psychological exhaustion showcased in this puzzle’s theme]) is the name of the game. The more things you have to choose among, the harder it can be to make a selection. My husband will eat anything, so everything on a restaurant menu looks good to him. For me, it’s much easier to decide after I’ve ruled out everything with mammal meat, shellfish, a mushroom or onion focus, too much garlic, asparagus or broccoli, feta cheese … I generally narrow a menu down to two or three options, sometimes just one. (I hate the “just one” places.)

But I digress! The themers are ON THE FENCE, WISHY-WASHY, OF TWO MINDS, and UP IN THE AIR, four phrases that connote being torn between two or more options. These are all great phrases to encounter in a crossword. I’m not entirely sure that DECISION FATIGUE applies to those first three, where it’s an A/B choice.

Fave fill: The Nike SWOOSH, Hanukkah GELT (I’ve been shopping for Xmas stocking stuffers, and my mom always included chocolate gelt when we were kids, so I’ve carried on the tradition), “FAT CHANCE,” Coach Vince LOMBARDI of Green Bay, and EGYPTIANS.

It’s been a while since [Peruvian singer Sumac], YMA, popped up in a puzzle I’ve done. The best thing about her is that the name is AMY backwards.

3.75 stars from me.

Nate Cardin’s AV Club Classic crossword, “A-Hole Lot”—Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword, “A-Hole Lot” – 11/29/23

This 19×15 puzzle is playful and fun. The theme revealer is MFERS, short for motherfuckers, [Awful people, briefly … and an apt description of this puzzle’s six awful theme entries]. Those six themers are unlikable entities with M.F. initials: MENTAL FATIGUE, a flipped MIDDLE FINGER, pro wrestling heel MICK FOLEY, MAIL FRAUD, the MANDATORY FUN of a workplace outing you’d rather skip, and tiresome MALE FRAGILITY.

Nate had plenty of fun clues throughout the puzzle, lots to enjoy.

Four things:

  • 11a. [Language where one might say “si us plau” and “merci”], CATALAN. Needed some crossings to get started on that!
  • 44d. [African American Vernacular English term for a hostile look], MEAN MUG. Not quite in my vocab. Here’s an example from Twitter.
  • 46d. [Tingly post-coital sensation], AFTERGASM. Dammit, I didn’t know this word existed. I tried AFTERGLOW despite the inaptness of “tingly” for that. (The only dictionary at that attests to this word is Urban Dictionary, so the lexicographers haven’t all taken note of it yet.)
  • 6d. [Make more interesting with a point system and prizes, say], GAMIFY. Another example of gamifying is how the NYT puzzles track a player’s streak of consecutive days. Is that more interesting, or just more likely to induce addictive behavior? (You can miss a day! It’s completely fine!)

Four stars from me.

Michele Govier’s Universal crossword, “Time After Time” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 11/29/23 • Wed • “Time After Time” • Govier • solution • 20231129

  • 26dR [Repeatedly, or what can precede both parts of 3-, 6-, 9-, 36- or 39-Down] OVER AND OVER.
  • 3d. [Like a structurally important wall] LOAD-BEARING (overload, overbearing).
  • 6d. [Support for reading in bed] HEADBOARD (overhead, overboard).
  • 9d. [Traitor] TURNCOAT (overturn, overcoat).
  • 36d. [Reference manuals] HANDBOOKS (overhand, overbooks).
  • 39d. [Process for completing tasks] WORKFLOW (overwork, overflow).

This is a simple but fantastic theme. The ‘over’ aspect is enhanced by the choice of orienting the answers vertically. The only imperfection—and it’s very minor—is the necessity of including the plural for handbooks/overbooks, and that’s in service to maintaining symmetry with 6-down.

  • 1d [Soothing stuff] BALM, stacked upon 14a [Soothing stuff] ALOE.
  • 18a [Place with many agitators] LAUNDROMAT. Is the name regional? Laundromat, laundrymat, laundermat, laundrette …

    Laundromat is the clear winner!
  • 30d [Laundry or dusting] CHORE. Oops.
  • 48a [Place for a plug that can safely get wet] DRAIN. I fell for the misdirection.
  • 53a [Word before “mouth” or “foot”] BIG. Overbig?
  • 33d [Thinker?] BRAIN. Question mark not strictly necessary, in my opinion.
  • 63d [Loudness: Abbr.] VOL. But audiophiles will tell you there is a difference between loudness and volume, hence the TWO (21d) controls on stereos.

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 11/29/23 ~ Berry

Easy, breezy, played like a Thursday New Yorker puzzle for me.

I haven’t seen a hamster in years, so I had no idea if the HABITRAIL brand of tubular habitats still existed. It does, but now there’s a rival CritterTrail, too.

Fave fill: SOUR CREAM (can’t beat a dollop of it), “WE MADE IT!,” CHAMPAGNE CORK, ONE-BEDROOM, MACARONI (recently watched this delightful Epicurious video in which three chefs taste-tested over a dozen brands of boxed mac & cheese; I’ve now bought the Cabot’s and Cheetos{!} brands to try them out), CHET ATKINS.

Did not know: 18a. [Southern California city nicknamed Goat Hill] is COSTA MESA. I’ve heard of the city, never heard of Goat Hill. Apparently the town used to be rural and had goat vibes?

28d. [Protected from a disease], IMMUNE. Consider this your reminder to get an updated covid vaccine. There’s a new alternative to the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines now, Novavax, with a different vaccine platform. If you’ve had a bad experience with an mRNA vaccine, try the Novavax! It’s available at Costco (even to non-members) and at CVS (though you have to call your local stores to see if they have Novavax on hand, can’t reserve it online). The less people catch and spread covid, the safer public life is for immunocompromised people, cancer patients, transplant recipients (hello!), etc.

Four stars from me.

Jeanne D. Breen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

Jeanne D. Breen’s puzzle utilizes a central revealing answer – ALLKIDDINGASIDE. It is similar to many other mid-week LA Times themes in that shorter words are hidden in long across answers. However, today they’re all on the SIDEs and they synonyms of the verb “to kid”:

  1. [*Collection for an afternoon party], (TEASE)RVICE
  2. [*Subject of many June parades], GAYP(RIDE)
  3. [*Bed in a nursery], BABYC(RIB)
  4. [*Desert plant on the back cover of a U2 album], (JOSH)UATREE


Most surprising clue/answer pair: [Unwelcome picnic visitors], BEARS. True, but I had WASPS first.


Darby Ratliff’s USA Today Crossword, “Splitting Tens” — Emily’s write-up

A delightful puzzle, chock full of treats today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday November 29, 2023

USA Today, November 29 2023, “Splitting Tens” by Darby Ratliff

Theme: each themer contains TE—N or T—EN


  • 19a. [“The Book of Boba Fest” star], TEMUERAMORRISON
  • 24a. [Dr. Kelly McInnes, for the Boston Red Sox], TEAMPHYSICIAN
  • 42a. [Noodle dish with pork bone broth], TONKOTSURAMEN
  • 49a. [All day, every day], TWENTYFOURSEVEN

What a fantastic themer set, with a mix of topics! Star Trek is more my jam, so this interview with TEMUERAMORRISON was fun to watch to learn about him, especially since he explains a bit and describes his many filming experiences and parts. TEAMPHYSICIAN has fair crossings, if you need them like me. TONKOTSURAMEN is one of my favorite Japanese dishes and some use a combo pork and chicken broth too. The set wraps up with TWENTYFOURSEVEN, a fun finish!

Favorite fill: LATOYA, NODISC, MIO, and ITOO

Stumpers: HILT (needed crossings today), PARK (smart cluing, I just didn’t realize the set before the crossings filled it it), and ADDME (new to me)

Nice flow and fill! Loved the theme and themer set. Lots going on in this perfect puzzle for midweek.

4.75 stars


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10 Responses to Wednesday, November 29, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Loved it!

  2. Mutman says:

    NYT: I enjoyed it as well.

    TILTS = CANTS? New to me …

    • JohnH says:

      Took me a while to remember, but definitely in my vocabulary. “Running on FUMES” was new to me. Anyhow, enjoyable puzzle.

  3. GTIJohnny says:

    WSJ – Could not suss out theme’s relevance even with all 5 two word phrases circled! I was thinking nostalgia rather than years.

  4. Art Shapiro says:

    New Yorker: I’ve lived a dozen miles from Costa Mesa for 36 years and have never heard the alleged moniker. If there was a Goat Hill, they would have long ago razed and overdeveloped it!

  5. Gary R says:

    NYT: Liked the puzzle, and I thought the cluing on the themers was kind of clever.

    Amy, I think DECISION FATIGUE comes as much from having to make too many decisions (say, over the course of a day) as from having too many options for a single decision – so the “A or B” type decisions work fine in my mind.

  6. David L says:

    TNY: Nice puzzle but I think their challenge-o-meter needs to be recalibrated. I’ve done Monday NYTs that have taken me longer.

    I barely noticed the Goat Hill clue. I had quite a few crosses by the time I got to it, saw “California city,” and plunked in Costa Mesa.

    • Eric H says:

      People say that Wednesday is when the NYT and New Yorker difficulty scales intersect.

      That was true for me: The NYT took me three seconds more than the New Yorker.

      If the New Yorker puzzle had been described as “beginner friendly,” I would not have questioned it.

    • JohnH says:

      Felt awfully easy to me, too. Nice one, though, in its way.

  7. Eric H says:

    Amy’s recap of the AVXC puzzle asks “Is [the streak-tracking that the NYT provides] more interesting, or just more likely to induce addictive behavior?”

    The thought of breaking my relatively unimpressive NYT streak* keeps me honest in that I don’t look things up or use any app checks with NYT puzzles. I’m rarely that rigorous with difficult puzzles in other publications.

    But yeah, I can see how it could induce unhealthy an obsession with solving the puzzle every day.

    *Nearing one year now, after ending last winter when we didn’t have electricity for about three days.

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