Wednesday, December 6, 2023

AVCX 9:52 (Amy) 


LAT 3:39 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:53 (Amy) 


NYT 5:16 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 7:05 (Emily) 


WSJ 5:25 (Jim) 


Alan Levin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stately Roles”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are film characters who share a name with a U.S. state.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Stately Roles” · Alan Levin · Wed., 12.5.23

  • 17a. [Al Pacino’s stately role in “Scarface”] TONY MONTANA. Not to be confused with Brony Montana (“Say ‘Hello’ to My Little Ponies!”).
  • 30a. [Annette Bening’s stately role in “Bugsy”] VIRGINIA HILL.
  • 38a. [Jackie Gleason’s stately role in “The Hustler”] MINNESOTA FATS.
  • 46a. [Harrison Ford’s stately role in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”] INDIANA JONES.
  • 60a. [Jason Momoa’s stately role in “Dune”] DUNCAN IDAHO.

Nice. It doesn’t bother me that some of these are first names and some are last names. Nor does it bother me that two of these are real people and the rest are fictional. They’ve all been portrayed on film (in big-name titles, no less), and that’s enough of a connection. Solid theme.

With five long theme answers and the middle one being an ungainly 13-letters long, I’m impressed with how this grid filled in. There’s a bit of crosswordese in ALAI, AS YOU, and the like, but mostly it’s quite smooth with highlights GIN FIZZ, BAZAAR, VOLCANO, and DANUBE.

Clues of note:

  • 19a. [Oxford Word of the Year for 2021]. VAX. This year’s word is “Rizz.” You have been warned.
  • 22a. [Sleeveless undershirt, to a Brit]. VEST. True story. In my daughter’s first year of school at a small British village school, they were supposed to dress up as explorers one day. One mum asked me what she thought her son should wear. I was thinking of someone on African safari wearing a cargo VEST with lots of pockets, so I told her, “Just put him in a VEST and don’t worry about.” So of course, the day comes and the kid shows up in a white tank top (i.e. a “wife beater”) and looking like trailer trash. Oops.

Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars. Oh, and this appears to be a debut. Congrats!

Peter Collins & Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12/6/23 – no. 1206

This 15×16 grid features a big “HH” made out of black squares, partnered with the theme entries that have H.H. initials: HEAVY HAND, new-to-me HICK-HOP, HOTHEAD, HIGH HORSE, HAT HAIR, and HAM HOCK, all clued straightforwardly.

Fave fill: SMARTYPANTS, MAD DASHES, “THAT’S SO TRUE.” Half a demerit for having 11-letter Downs in the fill when there are shorter theme answers that also run Down. Been a while since I’ve seen TEC in a puzzle, and it feels inapt to apply it to Hercule Poirot despite his being a deTECtive; wondering if TEC is old-timey American slang.

No idea what this is: 42a. [High-tech gaming tournament, briefly], EVO. Apparently it’s an event where people compete in fighting video games. Is this something that more than 10% of solvers would know?

Meh: AS NO, STS, a singular BEE GEE, “OR WHAT?”, ROSE OIL.

3.25 stars from me.

Juliana Tringali Golden’s Universal crossword, “Putting Down Roots” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/6/23 • Wed • Golden • “Putting Down Roots” • solution • 20231206

Long down answers contain the names of root vegetables, circled in the grid.

  • 3d. [“It’s good to be me, right?”] HOW LUCKY AM I (yam).
  • 16d. [Canned albacore option] BUMBLE BEE TUNA (beet).
  • 7d. [Steers a situation in a better direction] TURNS IT AROUND (taro).
  • 25d. [Korean car named for a Hawaiian district] HYUNDAI KONA (daikon). I’ve not heard of this model, but it’s a great find. Maybe the seed entry?

Also excellent is the title, which is an in-the-language phrase and perfectly covers the vertical orientation of the theme.

  • 15a [The Hawkeye State] IOWA. 30a [The Buckeye State] OHIO.
  • 21d [Disco __ (“Simpsons” character)] STU. High time to give this particular clue a rest.
  • 37a [Cat’s joyful sound] PURR. (But that isn’t always what it indicates.)
  • 50d [Word after “went” or “whiskey”] SOUR. Although ‘went sour’ is a LEGIT (35a) phrase, it isn’t nearly as common as ‘went south’, so I wonder if there may have been confusion here. On the other hand, I’m surprised that ‘went sour’ and ‘gone sour’ track so closely.
  • 59a [Multiplied by four] QUADRUPLED. Pairs rather interestingly with its symmetrical partner 16a [It uses only 1s and 0s] BINARY CODE.
  • {found nothing too exciting among the non-theme downs}

Manaal Mohammed & Brooke Husic’s USA Today Crossword, “Quickstarts” — Emily’s write-up

On your mark, get set, go!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday December 06, 2023

USA Today, December 06 2023, “Quickstarts” by Manaal Mohammed & Brooke Husic

Theme: each themer begins with a synonym for “quick”


  • 20a. [Band with 1977 album “Rumors”], FLEETWOODMAC
  • 34a. [Ground-shaking phenomenon caused by an Eras Tour crowd], SWIFTQUAKE
  • 53a. [Drink brand with lemon and peach varieties], BRISKICEDTEA

A bopping and popping set of themers today, kicking off with FLEETWOODMAC, SWIFTQUAKE, and ending with a refreshing can of BRISKICEDTEA. What’s better than some good tunes and a tasty drink? A fun set overall, though I was wondering if the third would be another music group/preformer related themer though this set is still great (knowing the constructors, it’s probably not possible otherwise they would have used it).


Stumpers: ARTPOP (new to me), BARTY (also new to me), and LUNA (need a couple crossings, could only think of “Diana”)

Nice flow with a great grid and lots of fantastic, fresh fill with excellent cluing! Loved it!

4.5 stars


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

New Yorker crossword solution, 12/6/23 – Berry

What a sociable puzzle! If you’re going to a POOL PARTY this time of year, some HOT WATER is appreciated. At poolside, the guest of honor (who arrived ON THE DOT, having SLEIGHED in with his reindeer) GADS ABOUT AMID folks in PAPER HATS. It’s also a slumber party, so bring your SLEEPWEAR. There’s always some RICE CHEX in the Chex Mix, of course. The rest of it’s a BLUR.

Less familiar entry: 52a. [What authority figures might not want to hear], BACKCHAT. Is this a newer version of back talk? If so, why does Merriam-Webster show the older back talk as two words while granting backchat the whole “this compound is so well-established, it’s a solid word now” status?

Name to know: 50d. [“Big Energy” rapper], LATTO. She’s only 24 but has had some big hits with big-name stars on remixes of her songs. When LATTE or LOTTO won’t quite work in a grid, she’s there to save the day. All common letters, you’ll be seeing her again. Her stage name used to be Mulatto, which will help you remember LATTO. The lyrics of “Big Energy” do include the phrase “big dick energy” (an established phrase in recent years) if you were wondering.

Smooth grid anchored by the 15s “DOESN’T RING A BELL” and “IF IT’S ALL THE SAME…”. Four stars from me.

Matthew Stock’s AV Club Classic crossword, “World Bank”—Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, “World Bank” – 12/6/23 – Matthew Stock

I groaned when I saw that this week’s offering was a 21x. Luckily, it turned out that I liked the theme a lot. The “World Bank” title points to the use of country names as letter banks for the themers.

  • 22a. [Large dish used in Spanish cuisine from Nepal?], PAELLA PAN. PAELLA PAN uses the letters in NEPAL, some of them more than once.
  • The other themers are RUSH AROUND, Honduras; MANO A MANO, Oman; ALIEN INVASION, Slovenia (a great find!); MAIN EVENT, Vietnam; IRENE ADLER, Ireland; “BANG A GONG,” Gabon (here’s a performance video); GREEN ENGINEERING, Niger (would’ve been nice to leave “green” out of the STIPENDS clue); and PASSENGER PIGEONS, Singapore (another great one).

Freshest entry: 82a. [Frida Kahlo or Stephanie Beatriz, e.g.], BI ICON. I didn’t know Beatriz was bi, and appreciate that her Brooklyn Nine-Nine character Rosa Diaz came out as bi and fell in love with a woman.

Note on TREE SNAKES: If you’re looking for nature and anthropology TV viewing, you could do worse than to check out the Primal Survivor franchise (streaming on Hulu), in which wildlife biologist Hazen Audel travels the world, learning survival skills from indigenous peoples in remote areas. He never met a tree snake (or ground snake, or water snake) that he didn’t want to pick up, marvel at, and coo over. Even the venomous ones. (He’s very gentle and deliberate.)

1d KEPIS hit me with crosswordese (95% of the time I’ve seen the word, it’s been in crosswords–I would say 99% but I don’t think I’ve seen it in 99+ crosswords) right off the bat. Gave me a sense of foreboding, but overall the fill turned out to be smooth. Four stars from me.

Wendy L. Brandes & Taylor Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s theme review

LA Times

Wendy L. Brandes & Taylor Johnson’s LA Times crossword puzzle describes an ONLINECOMMUNITY – this revealing answer links together three people whose jobs are “online” in a punny way: [Sure-footed circus performer], TIGHTROPEWALKER (line of rope; [Gridiron position], DEFENSIVEEND (scrimmage line) & [Call center worker], TELEMARKETER (phone line).


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31 Responses to Wednesday, December 6, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: I was not underwhelmed by the puzzle when I finished it, but Sam Corbin pointed out two things in her Wordplay column that caused me to think a bit more highly of the puzzle: (1) The only H’s in the grid are those in the theme answers; and (2) Every clue starts with an H.

    • Mutman says:

      As per the latter, this often goes unnoticed (by me at least) when doling in the app and not seeing the whole puzzle in print form, where it would be obvious.

      Happy Humpday!

    • Eric H says:

      That should have read, “I was underwhelmed . . .”

      • DougC says:

        I was definitely underwhelmed. While the construction feat was impressive, it just wasn’t a very enjoyable solve.

    • Dallas says:

      Wow… I completely missed the initial H’s in the cluing, but I wished I had seen it—some of the cluing felt a little off, and had I noticed that they all start with H, it would’ve changed my experience a bit. I really liked the grid layout, and it was a little slower than my usual Wednesday time but it’s a nice puzzle in the end.

  2. Me says:

    NYT: I agree with Amy that TEC seems very slangy for someone like Hercule Poirot, who is someone who’s pretty formal. Seems a real mismatch of clue and answer, although he’s a detective who begins with “H.” I’d probably use Holmes or Hardy Boy rather than Hercule Poirot, though. “Hammett’s Sam Spade” would be even better.

    I never heard of EVO, either. It’s hard to tell from its Wikipedia article how niche-y it is.

    • JohnH says:

      I’d say that, from a Web search, EVO has too many meanings, with others being dominant, to merit inclusion of anything nearly so obscure. But a minor flaw, I guess. The clue for TEC definitely raises eyebrows. I can’t imagine Agatha Christie into 1940s American slang.

      I was impressed at the construction, with the prominent H’s of black squares to rub in the theme. So I couldn’t get as upset as most other solvers. Still, no question all the theme constraints resulted in some difficult, dicey fill. So for me hard to hate but also hard to like TOO much.

      TNY was awfully easy, though not awful in itself. Played like a lowly Monday NYT, even with LATTO (ouch).

  3. RCook says:

    NYT: I immediately knew EVO since my ex participated in it, but I think only a small subset of solvers under 45 will be familiar with it.

    • dh says:

      I don’t know the demographics of solvers, but I think that gaming and game culture are probably at least as popular, if not more so, than rap music. Whenever I see a rap clue I skip it and go for the crossings, though I’m finally learning the difference between “Lil Nas X” and “Dr Dre”, but only thru CWP. Other than that, my only exposure to the genre is by passing cars with giant speakers who think it’s a good idea to impose their tastes on the rest of the world whether we like it or not.

      That said, I didn’t know EVO either.

  4. Tony says:

    NYT – I’ve seen this a few times in crosswords recently . I have never ever heard anyone holler “IT’S A TIE!!”

  5. Ethan says:

    I only remember this puzzle because it was in the first book of NYT puzzles I ever bought, but shout out to the OG H-themed puzzle, which also had H grid art and clues that started with H.

  6. Ben says:

    I found the NYT a little underwhelming, too.
    Anyone else surprised to see another dupe between the clue for 45a [Hopping mad sort] and the answer 8d MADDASHES? Second time this week! Happened Sunday…

    • JohnH says:

      Slowed me down briefly, as it didn’t feel right. But it’s not an oversight, since there’s been ample evidence that the NYT doesn’t consider it a factor, so (I guess) ok.

  7. Papa John says:

    Amy: Would it be possible to put the date on your Today’s Puzzles page?

    • Dave says:

      Hi PJ! Would you want it to be the current date in Eastern Time Zone or the date of the current NYT puzzle (which changes at 6 and 10pm depending on the day of the week).

      • Michael OD says:

        Why does the NYT puzzle date change at 6 or 10pm depending on the day? Those times aren’t midnight for the Eastern US or even GMT time. I don’t see the logic…

        • JohnH says:

          A publication is of course free to decide when to post its puzzles, and no reason that should be at a day change. The WSJ, say, generally posts the next day’s puzzle at 5 pm; it posts the Monday puzzle later so as not to give the Friday solution away before its contest deadline.

          You can see the convenience to many solvers, who want a puzzle to solve the evening before. And the date of the puzzle doesn’t change in the process. The puzzle released Monday evening is still the Tuesday puzzle. (I don’t know myself why the NYT comes out sooner on Sunday evenings than the rest of the week. Maybe it’s to solvers like me who, absent the WSJ, need something to preoccupy them.)

          • Gary R says:

            I thought it was the Sunday puzzle that comes out early (6:00 pm Eastern) on Saturday. I figured that had something to do with the hard copy Sunday paper hitting news stands early on Saturday evening.

          • MichaelOD says:

            Oh cool, thanks for the information, JohnH!

            Do you know if that’s the deadline used to keep a streak going for the NYT puzzle? For example, is Thursday evening @ 10pm eastern my deadline to solve Wednesday’s puzzle and keep a streak alive?

    • Papa John says:

      In hindsight, I realize she dates her entire site. It’s cool.

  8. Eric H says:

    AVXC: I wish I’d paid attention to the title when I started. I was three quarters of the way through before I realized the countries in the clues were letter banks; until then, I thought the theme answers were weird anagrams that I was too lazy to work out.

    But I enjoyed it anyway.

  9. Lois says:

    NYT: I enjoyed a lot about today’s puzzle. I liked the refreshing long downs and a lot else, but I missed the H focus except for the obvious design and the theme answers. As Mutman points out, the initial h’s are harder to see when you’re solving online, but going back again to look, not very hard. There are still many of them in every view.
    It was towards the end of completion that I ran into a couple of rough spots and had to look up some items. I don’t know football or cars or stadiums or much about current music, and I don’t know whether I’ve ever seen The Andy Griffith Show. I’m kosher, so that hurt me in another area, but I figured that one out after I looked up the car. Most solvers know the first name of 36d, but I suspect that the constructors had another clue for that one that was more contemporary but less well known. Two of the items I didn’t know crossed a third. Still, some of the things I didn’t know were gettable with persistence, and the fill was mostly more interesting than usual.

  10. Whisky Bill says:

    Did anyone else notice that the top row of the top H has words that the “H” fits?

    Similar to the bottom row of the bottom H:

    Feels like that can’t be by accident.

    • Katie says:

      @WB: How astute!

      I do not believe “KITH” or “TALL H” was ever something the constructors intended.

      However – (but who knows, for sure?) –
      one can plausibly imagine that the clues for [H]EMS, [H]AS NO, [H]ERE, and [H]OLE could potentially (out of a limb here) originally have been more complex – deliberately working either with or without the H (for example) – which, in my opinion, would have strengthened the puzzle (had the clueing exploited this well – which is a huge challenge).

      I had indeed not noticed that possibility, but it looks plausible (to me). (How could it be a coincidence?! Indeed.)

      In short: Lots going on, resulting in lots of constraints (and obfuscation, potentially).

      (I did not rate this puzzle. After I think more about it, perhaps I will. TBD. I liked how “mass” and “choir” were both in the top row, i.e., some common nods throughout like this. In fact, I used “choir” as my first word today in Wordle – probably as a kind of subconscious nod to this puzzle?)

      I think some puzzles bring immediate joy (or not), while others require some reflection.

      At the first performance of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, the solo instrument was described as being “tugged about, torn, beaten black and blue”.

      [Somehow, Tchaikovsky only wrote that one violin concerto, btw… Ahem.]


      • Katie says:

        Also of note, it’s been written that:
        “It was a review that stung Tchaikovsky so deeply that he could recite it by heart.”


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