Wednesday, January 17, 2024

AVCX 6:44 (Amy) 


LAT 5:11 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:37 (Amy) 


NYT 4:45 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 7:07 (Emily) 


WSJ 5:34 (Jim) 


Greg Snitkin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Put Your Mind at Ease”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that feature a word whose E was doubled. Wackiness ensues.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Put Your Mind at Ease” · Greg Snitkin · Wed., 1.17.24

  • 17a. [Discussion on the merits of Easter candy?] PEEP TALK. An annual event for some.
  • 23a. [Haunted waterway?] EERIE CANAL. Low-hanging fruit, perhaps?
  • 35a. [Angry oboist, maybe?] REED SNAPPER.
  • 47a. [Tends to a garden for the first time?] NEWLY WEEDS. A little awkward.
  • 59a. [Root veggie served along with the entree?] SIDE BEET. I’ll pass.

Not bad. I may have sounded a little nit-picky above, but I enjoyed these for the most part. It feels a little wide open though. There are a great many potential theme entries here, so I was hoping for some other constraint. For a while I thought the title was hinting at something to do with emotions (EERIE CANAL and an angry REED SNAPPER, e.g.). But that doesn’t play out in the other entries.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a TREE SPARROW [Bird that forages on the ground, despite its name]. That’s different than a regular sparrow? NFL REFEREES feels a little forced, but note that both of those entries are crossing three theme answers, so…not a lot of wiggle room for our constructor. I like DOGWOODS (with their pretty flowers), AT THE TOP, PEDICAB, and “ASK MOM.”

Clues of note:

  • 34a. [Spine-stretching yoga pose] PLOW. That’s this pose:
  • 40a. [Company with the slogan “Made to move you”]. OTIS. Based on _IS, I went with AVIS at first.

3.5 stars.

Morton Mendelson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1/17/24 – no. 0117

The theme answers are signaled by nothing more than a dash replacing a Down clue where an answer that doesn’t fit its Across clue continues. For example, 1a. [Accelerated path of advancement] and 4d. [-] clue the FAST TRACK. 5a/9d turns down at the end to make SPLIT TICKET, 10a/13d gives HOLD DEAR … there are also a TEASER RATE, PEP PILL, GRASS SKIRT, slightly distractingly plural BULLET TRAINS, and STRIP POKER. In other words, phrases whose second word starts with the first word’s final letter. I can’t see anything else that binds these particular phrases together—please let me know if you see another layer to the theme that I’ve missed.

Fave fill: ASK AFTER, KEPT FIT (maybe green-painty but feels in-the-language enough to me), and “YEAH, NO.” Less keen on IS IT ART, SAHARANS, NOD AT, and TELL A FIB.

Three stars from me. Two days in a row with NYTs that have rather dry themes from a solving standpoint.

Jess Rucks’s USA Today Crossword, “Lip Sync for Your Life (Freestyle)” — Emily’s write-up

Stay warm and cozy today with this themeless!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday January 17, 2024

USA Today, January 17 2024, “Lip Sync for Your Life (Freestyle)” by Jess Rucks

Favorite fill: BEERRUN, HERBAL, SLURP, and UHURA

Stumpers: YEAHDUDE (“yeah man” came to mind first), SWOLE (needed a few crossings), and AWMAN (also needed crossings)

A little bit of this and a little bit of that in this puzzle lots of colloquialisms and pop culture. Fun fill and cluing, including a couple of references to RuPaul’s Drag Race with the title and SHANTYAYOUSTAY.

4.0 stars


Astrid Kane and Adam Simpson’s Universal crossword, “Plus One” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 1/1724 • Wed • “Plus One” • Kane, Simpson • solution • 20240117

  • 66aR [Not as good anymore … or what the answers to the starred clues have become?] PAST THEIR PRIME. So the original phrases contain one (or more!) prime numbers, and they’ve been altered by adding one. Nifty.
  • 15a. [*Curly and company] THE FOUR STOOGES (Three).
  • 31a. [*”Brick” band] BEN FOLDS SIX (Five). Incidentally, I believe it’s a trio anyway, with the name being ironic.
  • 49a. [*Home of the Slurpee] EIGHT-TWELVE (7-11).

For whatever reasons, all of the theme answers are proper nouns.

  • 24d [Superhero’s power] ABILITY. Needed several crossings for this.
  • 32d [Name that’s a lair backward] NED. 44d [Alphabet trio that’s also a name] STU.
  • 42d [Tool for breaking?] CUE STICK. Ditto this one, which has an unusual letter sequence in the middle.
  • 52d [Scrub down] WASH. 29d [Surgery sites: Abbr.] ORS. Marginal dupe with 3d [One of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 14] OPERETTA? But even if it is, that’s inconsequential.
  • 45a [Sch. for chefs, or a secretive org.] CIA. Culinary Institute of America/Central Intelligence Agency.
  • 55d [Affirmative vote] YEA. Irks me when I see people write “yay or nay?” 73a [“Uh-huh”] YEP.
  • 58a [Tiny bit] IOTA. 63a [It has a nucleus] ATOM.
  • 74a [Word with “a promise” or “a secret”] KEEP. Needed to wait to see what the tense would be. Kept my cool.

Nice one.

Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 1/17/24 – Lucido

Fun puzzle, good vibes, lots of fill I liked, easy but not excessively so.

Fave fill: “PRETTY MUCH,” ESTROGEN for a TRANSWOMAN and others (does the SOYBEAN mimic estrogen a bit too?), “FAST CAR,” MATZOH, HAS IT OUT, SOURBALL candy, DOCUSERIES, BURBERRY (the Chicago Burberry store on Michigan Avenue has a diagonal plaid exterior that’s kinda wild), ESCAPADE, PLUS-SIZE, STIFLE.

Tell me your DOCUSERIES recommendations. The last one I watched was Netflix’s High on the Hog, about African American cuisines and the history and cultures that intersect with them. Did you know it was a Black man (enslaved by Thomas Jefferson) who devised macaroni and cheese?

4.25 stars from me for an enjoyable themeless.

Aimee Lucido’s AV Club Classic crossword, “To Coin a Phrase”–Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 1/17/24 – “To Coin a Phrase”

Straightforward theme: Take a familiar phrase and “coin” it by inserting a US coin.

  • 16a. [Hits It], CRACKS PENNYWISE. Cracks = hits? Feels a little off to me. Also? Clowns can be scary.
  • 29a. [Open your trench coat during “How You Remind Me”?], FLASH NICKELBACK. Had the start and finish from crossings, didn’t need to know the title of a single Nickelback song since there are only a handful of US coins.
  • 46a. [Response to “Where’s my cannabis?”], IT’S IN THE DIME BAG.
  • 62a. [Part of a 4/4 beat played with a soup or salad bowl?], SIDE QUARTER NOTE. Sounds weird, and I don’t know the first thing about quarter notes and beats.

Interesting clue: 33a. [“History Smashers: Christopher Columbus and the ___ People” (children’s book)], TAINO. Apparently there’s a whole series of History Smashers nonfiction books for kids; looks interesting. Aimee, of course, is herself a kid-lit author, with her first picture book due out this summer.

Least solid spelling: 39d. [Punchline sound effect], BA-DUM-TSS. I think this is meant to represent the sound of a rim shot, but there are other spellings for it, yeah?

3.75 stars from me.

Katie Hale’s LA Times Crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Katie Hale presents us with a typical mid-week LA Times theme. It has circles to aid us, and I quickly saw military ranks appearing in those circles. Jumping to the revealer, we find PULLEDRANK and CADET, CAPTAIN, GENERAL and MAJOR are “pulled” in that they are spelt out in sequential but at least partly separated letters:

  • [“I luv u” message holder], CANDYHEART.
  • [Textbook dividers], CHAPTERHEADINGS.
  • [Hybrid interactive experience], AUGMENTEDREALITY.
  • [“Sabrina the Teenage Witch” actress], MELISSAJOANHEART.


  • [Mega-excited, with “up”], TURNT. The not-a-spelling-bee-word of the day.
  • [“Who, me?”], MOI is not clued as a partner of [“__ Green”: Kermit’s song]. which is odd.
  • [Tricks that are also a treat?], MAGICACT. That clue felt a little try-hard?


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13 Responses to Wednesday, January 17, 2024

  1. placematfan says:

    NYT: I guess the dashes in the Down clues tell you Something’s Going On Here, but, nonetheless, the absence of a revealer is just weird, almost eerie.

    • JohnH says:

      I liked it a lot, the way it came up with a diagram with lots of corners and then used them all. Maybe it was just a wavelength thing, but I also found the fill hard for a Wednesday, which in turn made me like the puzzle more than usual for early to midweek. (Didn’t help that, while I got the theme quickly enough, at first I tried entering LSD for a three-letter drug, where it turned out to be PEP PILL. Didn’t help either that I thought first of YES AND? rather than YEAH NO, a new usage to me, and didn’t know the rules of STRIP POKER enough to get quickly what they meant by a single winner.)

    • Gary R says:

      With so many themers, it might be a lot to ask for the constructor to include a revealer.

      I thought the puzzle was more entertaining than the typical Wednesday. Solving time was maybe a little faster than my Wednesday average.

      Probably about 45 years since my last game of STRIP POKER, but I liked that clue!

    • DougC says:

      I agree that it’s surprising there’s no revealer for a theme like this. I imagine it will be tricky for newer solvers, but those who’ve been doing this for a while will guess what’s going on from those dashes in the down clues.

      Liked HALF PAST and TEASER RATE. Not as thrilled with SAHARANS and LEGATOS; that’s a pair of clumsy POCs.

      I found this very easy for a Wednesday. Finished in less than my Tuesday average time. Liked it, mostly.

    • Dallas says:

      I was surprised by no revealer as well, but I also had the idea from the first clue… it feels almost like a warm-up for Thursday. I ended up breezing through it pretty quickly with a near-record time.

      • Morton J. Mendelson says:

        NYT background comments from constructor:

        I had hoped this puzzle would be a Thursday, so I had clued it without the dashes. Rather, all the down entries now clued as “-” had a definition unrelated to the across-plus-down entry – e.g., 4D TRACK was clued “CD unit.” Thus, the theme would have been somewhat less obvious. But the puzzle was accepted as a Wednesday, so the distraction clues were simplified to dashes.

        I also tried a couple of versions that included a reveal (BEND DOWN), but I couldn’t really find a way to include it nicely, so I abandoned the idea.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          Thanks for the insight, Morton. I really enjoyed this one. I’m impressed that there’s very little evidence of crossword dreck in spite of there being so much theme material and the constraints imposed by the theme. Kudos.

        • Gary R says:

          Thought it worked well as a Wednesday with the unclued down answers. Would have been an entertaining Thursday as you originally conceived it.

        • Dallas says:

          Thanks—worked out well as a Wednesday!

  2. Nino H. says:

    NYT: The only thing I see is that every corner is a theme clue? Surprised that there isn’t TURN A CORNER or something in the grid.

  3. David L says:

    Have Wednesday NYTs become a teaser for Thursdays? Seems like a lot of them recently have employed tricks of this sort rather than having an explicit theme.

    I started with SLATE at 5A, even though it didn’t fit with the clue, but once I had figured that out it was a breeze to get the rest.

    Do you NODAT someone or NODTO them? The perennial question…

    • Mutman says:

      I NOD TO them, on the rare occasion that I don’t verbally answer them.

    • Gary R says:

      I could go either way on “nod to” vs. “nod at” if I’m acknowledging a person. If I’m acknowledging a statement, it would be “nod at.” The clue doesn’t seem to indicate which is the case.

Comments are closed.