Wednesday, February 14, 2024

AVCX 7:09 (Amy) 


LAT 4:55 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:57 (Amy) 


NYT 5:12 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 8:54 (Emily) 


WSJ 5:34 (Jim) 


Kathy Lowden’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Passion Play”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar(ish) names and phrases that feature words associated with Feb. 14th but are clued without reference to said date. The revealer is ST VALENTINE’S DAY (63a, [Time of a 1929 gangland “massacre”]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Passion Play” · Kathy Lowden · Wed., 2.14.24

  • 17a. [French, e.g.] ROMANCE LANGUAGE. So named not because it’s romantic but because it descended from the Romans.
  • 24a. [Distinctive upper lip curve] CUPID’S BOW. New to me. I was trying to squeeze CUPID’S ARROW in there.
  • 40a. [“Barracuda” band] HEART.
  • 52a. [1970s environmental disaster site near Niagara Falls] LOVE CANAL. Shows how bad I am at geography; I wanted THREE-MILE ISLAND for this.

Happy St Valentine’s Ash Wednesday! However you celebrate (or commemorate) the occasion, it’s never a bad idea to start off with a puzzle.

There have been a LOT of Valentine’s Day-themed puzzles over the years (too many to count in the Cruciverb database). This one’s pretty straightforward, but I do like the twist in that the items in this list aren’t directly related to the day. The ROMANCE LANGUAGE / ST VALENTINES DAY duo make for a fun pair of grid spanners, although cluing the revealer with respect to such a gruesome event is…odd.

Fillwise, STALWART is a fun word at 11d that went in easily. I needed several crossings to get IRA LEVIN‘s name, though. Your vocab word of the day is TAMARI [Fermented soy sauce]. Here are some differences between TAMARI and regular soy sauce.

Clues of note:

  • 2d. [It might follow a pair of hips]. “HOORAY!” Cute clue. I was thinking of either hula dancing or else rose hips for some reason. Maybe the theme seeped into my brain.
  • 51d. [Gut courses]. EASY A’S. Never have I ever heard the phrase “gut course.” Per Google’s ngram viewer, it’s  been in decline since the ’80s.
  • 59d. [“___ girl!”]. “IT’S A.” Got me. Who else went for ATTA?

Solid puzzle. 3.25 stars.

Ella Dershowitz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 2/14/24 – no. 0214

Quick write-ups tonight, v. tired!

Theme for Valentine’s Day is LOVE LETTERS, and the shaded letters spell out ROMANCE, FONDNESS, PASSION, and RESPECT. I dig it that RESPECT is in the mix here.

TREE BOA and HORNETS, YES OR NO? My answer is nope, nope, nope.

Fave fill: “ANY NEWS?” (not yet), the PERONI/CORONA beer two-fer, LOW-RISES.

I know a lot of plants but hadn’t heard the name LADY FERN (36d. [Feathery perennial]). Looks super-familiar, though!

3.5 stars from me.

John Kugelman & Larry Snyder’s AV Club Classic crossword, “One Way or Another”—Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 2/14/24 – “One Way or Another”

Funky theme. The revealer is 54a. [Even odds scenarios … or fixes required for all 22- and 51-Across in our clues], COIN FLIPS. Those entries are HEADS and TAILS, and all the H’s and T’s in the clues have been flipped to the other side.  Three faves:

  • 34a. [Occasion likely requiring a motel], BRIS. MoTel → moHel.
  • 28a. [Huh, for example], EGYPTIAN. King Tut!
  • 6a. [Share of stock], GAPE. Stare of shock!

4.5 stars from me.

Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today Crossword, “Terms Endearment (Freestyle)” — Emily’s write-up

Happy Valentine’s Day! Like a box of candy hearts, this puzzle is filled with delightful words for a sweet treat.

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday February 14, 2024

USA Today, February 14, 2024, “Terms Endearment (Freestyle)” by Amanda Rafkin

Favorite fill: CHAI, ODAY, INDYA, and WAVEDHELLO

Stumpers: CLONK (could only think of “smash” and “crash”), NIGEL (needed a couple of crossings), and ACK (I haven’t thought about “Cathy” in ages so needed crossings)

No matter what your plans are for today, this puzzle is the perfect valentine to all. The gird is a beautiful visual with the central heart to start. Bordering the top and bottom of the heart is BESTILLMYHEART and ILOVEYOUSOMUCH. Sprinkled around are other romantic entries and references: CARL, KNELT, LIKE. There’s also element for a good time, including LIMO, THISONESONME, IPA, AND BEERGARITA.

4.0 stars


Michele Govier’s Universal crossword, “Prepare as Directed” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 2/14/24 • Wed • “Prepare as Directed” • Govier • solution • 20240214

Once again, the important squares are circled in the .puz file but explicitly enumerated in the clues. The theme here is culinary creations that contain, in order, the method of their preparation.

  • 19a. [Peppery beef entree] STEAK AU POIVRE (sear).
  • 38a. [Dessert named after a German region] BLACK FOREST CAKE (bake).
  • 53a. [Mollusk popular in New England] SOFT SHELL CLAM (steam).

This is a clever idea and a set of really good finds.

  • 3d [Like some embraces] PASSIONATE. Minor duplication with 5d [“As I demonstrated”] LIKE SO, which is salient only because of proximity.
  • 6d [One with a reddish beard, perhaps] STRAWBERRY BLOND. Spanning the grid vertically and crossing all three of the theme answers.
  • 22d [Pet food in pellets] KIBBLE. says that the word’s origin is unknown.
  • 23d [Grammy-winning Beck album whose title anagrams to “a yodel”] ODELAY, which also functions as invocation of an ‘ode to LA’.
  • 37d [Examples of top-notch service?] ACES. Tennis.
  • 49d [Upper house?] ATTIC. The upper part of a house.
  • 1a [One who gets schooled?] PUPIL. The question mark gave me pause. Were it not there I’d have entered PUPIL without qualm.
  • 13a [Yemeni’s neighbor] OMANI. I guessed wrong, entering SAUDI. Probably influenced by the senseless fighting that’s still going on between those two nations.
  • 43a [Greek love god] EROS. Oh yes, today is Valentine’s Day.

Paolo Pasco’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 2/14/24 – Pasco

Aaaaah! BALIKBAYAN BOXES! These are [Care packages sent to the Philippines from overseas], generally from family members who’ve emigrated. My household has never sent a balikbayan box, but my husband, son, and father-in-law are visiting the Philippines right now. Representation matters, and any solver who’s Filipino or knows some Filipino culture will appreciate this grid-spanner. Thanks for the delight, Paolo. (Those of you who didn’t know the term will be hard-pressed to insist that any of the crossings were unfair.)


Fave clue: 8d. [What a PEBCAK (“Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard”) error is attributed to], USER.

Four stars from me. Paolo nailed the Wednesday difficulty level and made a smooth, fun crossword.

Margie Stevenson & Katie Hale’s LAT crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle gives us five terms of endearment (or thereabouts?) and links them to specific professions:

  • [Beekeeper’s valentine?], HONEYBUNCH
  • [Juice barista’s valentine?], MAINSQUEEZE. Never heard of a juice barista, but I can guess what it is.
  • [Optometrist’s valentine?], GOODLOOKING.
  • [Aesthetician’s valentine?], SWEETCHEEKS. Never heard of an aesthetician either; Google suggests a synonym for beautician?
  • [Baker’s valentine?], STUDMUFFIN

I spent a lot of time figuring out the AWHELL / THATSO / PETTOY area, especially for a midweek puzzle.

The clue [Reply-all email storm deterrents], BCCS felt like a PSA of sorts, or was that just me?


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28 Responses to Wednesday, February 14, 2024

  1. Eric H. says:

    AVXC: I like the concept, but understanding the revealer clue took as long as filling in the grid.

    I somehow missed the nonsense of the the first few clues with H’s and T’s — maybe I was jumping around too grid too erratically. When 34A BRIS was clued as an “occasion likely requiring a motel,” I wondered if the editors had really not paid attention. It wasn’t until I completed the grid that the trick made sense.

    Not knowing “Les Misérables,” I had ROSETTE as Jean Valjean’s ward. That made it difficult to see that 10A “Post office workers” which, once I finally got the trick, I realized was “Posh office workers.”

  2. zevonfan says:

    Anyone else struggle with the crossing of c”J”cregg AND “J”awed in the NYT puzzle. I have never watched the West Wing and CJ Cregg is a grouping of letters that doesn’t exactly show up in crosswords. I tried a C first. Then an M. Perhaps I just need a better memory of all the -AWs, even though I’ve been solving for 20 years! Maybe senilia has set in now that I turned the big 4-0. :)

    • Mr. [somewhat] Grumpy says:

      That was a ridiculous corner.

    • Eric H. says:

      Not really. I’ve never seen “The West Wing,” but I must have already had most of JAWED, because I think I stuck the J in without hesitation.

    • JohnH says:

      For me, too, a hard corner. It had that J, but also LADY FERN, a choice of channels, and a role in Taboo. But I can’t complain, since, while that meant a lot of guesses, I guessed right on all of them. I had to learn EN SUITE, but maybe it’ll come in useful.

      As so often, the gray printed too light from pdf, and the winding paths meant I couldn’t guess the theme words, for which I just came here. But that’s not the puzzle’s fault. I guess it’s just that Brother stopped issuing driver updates with Windows 11 and my old one doesn’t run with that OS, limiting my print options. No “darker” choice. Oh, well.

    • Gary R says:

      The West Wing went off the air 15 or more years ago, and I don’t know that it has had a big presence in syndication. So for a 40-year old, I can see where CJ CREGG is a bit obscure – although I think she has shown up in NYT crosswords in the past (not sure how often). My problem is usually remembering how to spell the last name – she was always referred to as “CJ” in the show, but her last name sounds like it should be “Craig.”

      JAWED seemed pretty straightforward to me – but then, I knew CJ.

    • Art Shapiro says:

      Add me in. I wouldn’t know the West Wing from Adam, and for some reason JAWED simply din’t occur to me. I had to run the alphabet in that square to complete the puzzle.

    • Jose Madre says:

      The West Wing ended in 2006. Seems silly to use an initialed character name from 18 years ago.

    • PJ says:

      It’s too current. It’s too dated. Cue Roseanne Roseannadanna (too dated)

      • Lois says:

        Haha. The fill was so hard for me in this puzzle, but I don’t know how much that should count against it. Never saw West Wing, but I don’t know the standard items either: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Simpsons etc. West Wing was a pretty big show. And the theme must have been really hard to work with. Little wiggle room.

  3. ZDL says:

    my slowest Wednesday solve on record. the entire left side — between CJ CREGG and TREE BOA and VANCE — had me buried. thank god I knew RAPA NUI, otherwise I woulda been cooked.

  4. David L says:

    Clever idea for the NYT, but the need to get the theme words into four places made for some unappealing fill. USEME and WETRY — ‘common’ phrases that are almost never heard in the wild. I knew PERONI from my beer-drinking days, but didn’t know AVEDA. Don’t know the game Taboo, but GUESSER was obvious from the crosses.

    I don’t understand how BASINS are “sink components” — a basin is a sink, in my language anyway.

    • marciem says:

      caught me there too, at basins… esp. since ‘drains” fit perfectly with the INS in place. Stuck me for a while as I didn’t want to give it up. CJCREGG stopped me in the SW too…. gimme at rapa nui but couldn’t think of lowrises for a long time.

    • Eric H. says:

      Maybe the BASIN is the concave receptacle and the “sink” is the BASIN, the drain, and maybe the faucets? (Like marciem, I had “drain” at first, which slowed me down a bit.)

      We used to buy a really nice AVEDA bath soap. I don’t usually care much about that sort of thing, but their soap smelled wonderful and left your skin feeling great. It’s only from crossword puzzles that I have learned their products are vegan.

    • Gary R says:

      I entered “drains” at first for the sink components, but I’m fine with BASINS. The term I would usually use is “bowls,” but I hear “basins,” too. It’s common to hear a kitchen sink described as a “double bowl” or “double basin” sink, so I think it’s legit to consider them “components.”

      That said, I’ve also heard people refer to a sink as a “basin,” so I can see how there could be some confusion.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I think of a sink as the entire assembly … basin, drain (my initial answer for that clue also), faucet handles, spigot, pipes, stopper and all the other various parts underneath. I also went with ‘draIN’ at first, but was aware that it might be something else.

    • JohnH says:

      BASIN didn’t come to me right away, although not much else did either, and it seems legit to me. But then I think of it as this bowl-like thing well below the tap where the water comes out and the handles to either side.

  5. respectyourelders says:

    NYT: IMHO, a super puzzle for today. Clever idea and nicely constructed. I didn’t know CJCREGG either but CRONE, JAWED, CPR were easy crossings.

    • Dallas says:

      I liked it a lot too; I sent a screenshot of the unfilled grid to my wife :-) I knew CJ CREGG (though I couldn’t have told you how to spell the last name without the crossings), and RAPA NUI was new to me, but I’ll try to file it away for later. A bit faster than my average; great theme.

  6. Mr. [very very] Grumpy says:

    Thank you, Ms. Lowden & Mr. Shenk, for “recognizing” a day of love with an environmental disaster and a gang massacre. What on earth were you thinking?

  7. Eric H. says:

    New Yorker: I’d never heard of BALIKBAYAN BOXES, but I agree that the crosses were gentle enough that it wasn’t too difficult to get it. (But knowing it might’ve have significantly reduced my time.)

    But I’m curious: I skimmed the Wikipedia article about them, which suggests that the term is for packages sent from the Philippines to Filipino expats in other countries (specifically, the USA). Does the clue have it backwards, or is the term used for shipments in either direction?

    I thought the clue for LACKEY was off, but Today I Learned that “henchman” doesn’t necessarily imply a criminal association.

    • JohnH says:

      Can’t say I enjoyed having to work out a puzzle-length entry letter by letter by letter, with no obvious cognates in English to enable at least guessing. (Could be the definition of a slog.) Didn’t help that I didn’t get the joke leading to SEX crossing it. Otherwise, though, a sufficiently easy Wednesday with clever bits along the way.

      • Eric H says:

        C’mon, John! At least BOXES is English!

        • JohnH says:

          Yes, and I’m sure it’s my fault for missing that. If I can claim an excuse, though, bear in mind that by then I had an awful lot of letters that I couldn’t possibly parse into words. Who would know where anything begins or ends?

    • Paolo P. says:

      Not sure where you’re seeing that; reading the Wiki now, it pretty strongly supports the overseas -> Philippines direction (“Balikbayan boxes provide connection between family in the Philippines and those abroad, and provide goods for the family in the Philippines”). See this article for more

      • Eric H. says:

        You’re right, I misread the Wikipedia article. It mentioned restrictions on balikbayan boxes after September 11 and I interpreted that as affecting shipments to the United States.

        Thanks for the clarification.

  8. Tom Cassutt says:

    LAT: The wrong day’s puzzle solution grid is displayed.

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