Wednesday, January 3, 2024

AVCX untimed (Amy) 


LAT 3:39 (Gareth) 


NYT 4:43 (Amy) 


Universal tk (pannonica) 


USA Today 7:51 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


The New Yorker 4:12 (Amy) 


Bill Thompson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Snack Time”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose outer letters spell out certain animals. The revealer is ANIMAL CRACKERS (61a, [Lunchbox treat that contains the four beasts hidden in this grid, and what the starred answers literally are]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Snack Time” · Bill Thompson · Wed., 1.3.24

  • 16a. [*”What I’m saying makes sense!”] “LISTEN TO REASON.” Lion.
  • 21a. [*The Kama Sutra, e.g.] SEX MANUAL. Seal.
  • 39a. [*Accept a responsibility] BELLY UP TO THE BAR. Bear. I’ve never heard of this definition of the phrase; I’ve only ever heard it used more literally.
  • 52a. [*Dextrose from plant starch] CORN SUGAR. Cougar. I would not have guessed that cougars were in animal crackers, but apparently they are.

I’m not sure I buy the premise that these phrases “crack” the animals by having them at opposite ends of the entry. That feels like a stretch. But I do like the theme answers themselves. The last one is an especially nice find.

SNOW GLOBE and FLAT PANEL are nice anchor phrases in the fill. I like that there’s NO FUSS and no muss, but there is MESS.

YOU DA MAN!” feels dated. As a matter of fact, a lot of the fill felt on the musty side like ONE NO, CBS-TV, ODER, URKEL, IT’S A, and ONCLE. The most recent pop culture reference is probably John STAMOS of “Full House.” So…probably not a puzzle that’s going to appeal to the younger set. (After looking again, NCIS gets a shout-out in the clue to CBS-TV, and it’s apparently still on the air. But I feel my conclusion still stands.)

A solid puzzle, but I’m not sold on the revealer, and the fill and clues could’ve used some freshening up. Three stars.

Jared Goudsmit’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1/3/24 – no. 0103

The theme reimagines the word REFUSED as RE- FUSED, [Said no … or, interpreted differently, a hint to entering the answers to 16-, 26-, 46- and 61-Across]. Those four themers are phrases whose first word ends with -RE while the second word starts with RE-, and the REs are “fused.” 16a. [Was worth another mention] would clue BORE REPEATING, but just BOREPEATING fits here. A fare reduction condenses to FAREDUCTION, fire-resistant to FIRESISTANT, and nature reserve to NATURESERVE. Unusual theme angle.

Did not know: 54a. [“___ que sí!” (Spanish “Of course!”)], CLARO. Probably basic first-year Spanish, but I didn’t study Spanish outside of a summer in grade school.

Fave fill: BREYERS, MACBETH, IRON HORSE, and the phrases BOX IN and RAG ON.

A couple clues:

  • 51d. [Leader of Argos?], ALPHA. First letter of “Argos,” in Greek.
  • 22d. [Letters that are fittingly part of “f_mily _ _ i _”], AUNT. Although who really thinks of a fAmily UNiT as including their AUNT? Odd.

3.75 stars from me.

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 1/3/24 – Agard

Not quite NICE AND EASY, maybe a notch harder than I was expecting. It’s nice and not too hard.

Fave fill: DARLENE Love, HIT COUNTERS, MARIAH CAREY, FENTY BEAUTY, EGG WHITES, FALSIE (only because I’m grateful that fake eyelashes have commandeered the word from bra inserts), NONPARTISAN, no phones at the DINNER TABLE.

Did not know that 25a. [Kappa, for example] was a WATER SPIRIT. A creature from Japanese folklore, it turns out. Wikipedia tells us the kappa enjoys cucumbers and sumo wrestling, and is wont to remove “a mythical organ called the shirikodama from their victim’s anus.”

DARLENE Love, [First name of the singer whose compilation albums include “So Much Love” and “The Sound of Love”], is featured in the acclaimed documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, which I still haven’t seen. Just learned from her Wiki page that she played Murtaugh’s wife in the Lethal Weapon movies, so I’ve seen her acting for sure.

Four stars from me.

Brandon Koppy’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Nonstop Flights”

AV Club Classic crossword solution, “Nonstop Flights” – Koppy

Solved this one off the clock, because man oh man, racing through a 21x puzzle is no longer my idea of a good time. Neat theme, which provided plenty of perplexity before I finally reached 125a. [Artist who created “Ascending and Descending,” this puzzle’s inspiration], ESCHER. Aha! The circled letters that are one thing in the Acrosses and another in the Downs (T or R, A or I)? Pick the letter that gives you a clockwise or counterclockwise series of STAIRS. (The S’s are fixed.) I opted for clockwise and Crossword Nexus accepted my solution as correct, but then displayed the R/T, I/A, A/I, T/R pairs in the appropriate squares so you can take the Escher stairs in the other direction. The title, “Nonstop Flights,” is perfect.

For added elegance, the circled letters form legit entries in both directions with either letter. HARD-HIT crosses ICE PACK, but HARD HAT and ICE PICK are also real things. 70a sort of explains this, along with the staircase travel options: [Rocky, as a relationship … and how you can navigate this puzzle’s theme squares (even if you swap directions)], UP AND DOWN.

BLOOD SAMPLE working as the movie BLOOD SIMPLE is a particularly nice find.

There were plenty of clever clues, but it’s a work day and I don’t have time to re-peruse 120 or so clues to find the ones I liked.

4.5 stars from me.

Emma Oxford’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

COPYRIGHT is the revealer of today’s puzzle by Emma Oxford. I liked the premise in its simplicity more than the execution. A collection of synonyms for COPY occur on the right side of four long across answers. But now COPY (n.) or COPY (v.)? I think noun, but it’s a bit of a stretch? CLONE, PHONY and SHAM make sense kind of, but APE is usually a verb for me? The theme answers themselves felt a bit “try-hard”?

  • [*Bureaucratic obstacle to environmental projects], GREENTAPE. Inferrable, I guess.
  • [*Extreme winter-weather event], BOMBCYCLONE. One of those “weather porn” names I suppose.
  • [*Nickname for a Mozart work in C major], JUPITERSYMPHONY
  • [*Writer of the 2023 legal thriller “The Exchange”], JOHNGRISHAM

Another pair to highlight:

  • [Couple of magazines?], ITEM. Cute clue.
  • [Dishwashing brand used to clean animals after oil spills], DAWN. We use Sunlight. Similar chemical composition?


Sally Hoelscher’s USA Today Crossword, “Catch an Early Show” — Emily’s write-up

What a sweet treat!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday January 03, 2023

USA Today, January 03 2023, “Catch an Early Show” by Sally Hoelscher

Theme: the first word (“early) of each themer can all be combined into a the title of a tv show


  • 17a. [What the HOMES mnemonic is used to remember], GREATLAKES
  • 27a. [Washington’s neighbor to the north], BRITISHCOLUMBIA
  • 46a. [Popular Trinidadian dish with fried flatbread and boneless fish], BAKEANDSHARK
  • 62a. [In a spot without phone service, say], OFFTHEGRID

Despite growing up in Minnesota, I don’t remember this mnemonic for GREATLAKES. I also needed a few crossings for BRITISHCOLUMBIA and the new to me BAKEANDSHARK, which sounds tasty for a hot day and you might be lucky to get one in NYC. The themer set is rounded off with the classic OFFTHEGRID, which is all the more appealing after the holiday season. With the theme, we get the GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF! h/t to none other than Sally today on the clue in to the theme for me—I knew it was the first word of each but I wasn’t sure what to do with them all, especially since I’ve never seen an episode (Sorry, Sally! I’m more of a savory fan and don’t watch baking shows.)—you’ve got to check out Sally’s blog post today for all the usual trivia and tidbits but in particular for her explanation at the end of the post for her inspiration for this theme.


Stumpers: ACTUP (needed a couple crossings), LPGA (new to me), and TROD (“stomp” and “thud” came to mind first)

This puzzle is packed with goodies, including so much lengthy bonus fill on top of the delish theme and themer set! It has a fantastic grid with great flow. The cluing was smooth and for a while I thought it’d be my fastest solve, though I slowed down a bit in the bottom half and having to fill in a few crossings here and there but everything was fair, even if I didn’t know something at first on the initial pass. Awesome job, Sally! btw, I see that ERIE—my guess for 2024 appearances is 29, which is lower than usual but no that you’ve used it again so soon, I’m thinking that’s too low…only time will tell.

4.75 stars


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14 Responses to Wednesday, January 3, 2024

  1. Papa John says:

    Are the puzzle downloads still messed up? All I can get it the LAT.

  2. Dallas says:

    I liked the theme a lot, but for some reason I struggled with the SW corner… I couldn’t see MARACA, I kept bouncing between RAG ON and BAG ON, I don’t know enough Spanish to get CLARO, and MCJOB was a completely blank to me, even after I had the last four letters… not sure why it was such a blank for me…

  3. CrotchetyDoug says:

    AVCX – I’m puzzled by 78A. How can a half-court game winner be either RATE or RARE? Someone has to win unless it’s a tie, and RATE makes no sense that I can see. What am I missing?

    • I don’t think each clue is supposed to work with both letters. It’s just that one letter works with the Across clue and the other works with the Down, and both letters form legitimate entries in each direction. (For instance, [Barbieverse doll in a multicolored striped shirt] is a clue for ALLAN but not ALL IN.)

  4. Eric H. says:

    AVXC: Impressive construction with some good clueing.

    Maybe it’s the headache from being at altitude, but I really struggled with it and didn’t enjoy it much. So many areas where things didn’t make sense even after I got the idea that two letters were sharing a square. So many things I had no idea about — AMIIBO, ED SHEERAN (I know the name and one or two songs), JANIS . . .

    After getting the ESCHER revealer, I was able to use the STAIRS to dig myself out in a few spots.

    Maybe at another time, I would have enjoyed this more.

  5. Alex B. says:

    I can’t see the word ALACRITY without thinking of this:

    Amy, how do you feel about adding a link to to the Today’s Puzzles page?

Comments are closed.