Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Jonesin' 4:30 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (pannonicai)  


NYT 3:54 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 6:13 (Matt F) 


USA Today tk (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ 5:12 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Lord of the Fries” — what kind do you like? – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 2/20/24

Jonesin’ solution 2/20/24

Hello lovelies! Hope you enjoy greasy potatoes, because today’s Jonesin’ is about different types of French fries.

  • 17a. [Southern restaurant chain with an “index” indicating the severity of a storm] WAFFLE HOUSE. The index ranges from green (open with full menu) to red (closed).
  • 26a. [Bob Saget’s bailiwick, on a show he hosted from 1990-1997] The show was “America’s Funniest HOME VIDEOS.”
  • 38a. [Spectacular play in football or baseball] SHOESTRING CATCH
  • 51a. [A-1, for one] STEAK SAUCE
  • 63a. [One of the bald Stooges] CURLY HOWARD

Boardwalk fries are my favorite by far. Anyway, other things:

  • 21a. [Hurry along] SCOOT. I had SCOOC for a minute because I confidently plopped in SAUCEPAN for [Relative of a skillet] instead of SAUTE PAN.
  • Timely references: 33a. [Super Bowl LVIII halftime headliner] USHER and 50d. [33 Across hit] YEAH
  • 55d. [Queen Elizabeth’s preferred dog breed] CORGI. If you’d like to meet a bunch of fuzzy-bummed short-legged friends, come to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in September for Corgi Con!

Until next week!

Adam Stone’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Order in the Court”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are crimes that have been re-parsed into something else.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Order in the Court” · Adam Stone · Tue., 2.20.24

  • 20a. [Illegal guffaws from a fellow?] MAN’S LAUGHTER.
  • 37a. [Illegal siesta for a goat?] KID NAPPING.
  • 43a. [Illegal freebooting by an inmate?] CON’S PIRACY.
  • 56a. [Illegal reference to arias?] SOLI CITATION.

This one wasn’t for me. The clues really didn’t have much surface sense and the inconsistent use of apostrophes was bothersome. And does anyone really ever use the word “soli” instead of “solos”? I’ve only ever seen it in crosswords.

The fill was mostly smooth though not especially sparkly. LION TAMER is the most interesting entry followed by ANTI-SERUM and ERITREA. Most challenging bit of crosswordese has got to be ELBE [Dresden’s river]. I sure didn’t know it, and what’s more, it’s easily replaced. Make the B into an L and you’ve got ELLE crossing LATHE. Much better, IMO. While we’re at it, change CASEY to CAREY to make the partial IS ON into IRON.

Clues of note:

  • 17a. [Like Kevin McCallister for much of the movie]. ALONE. People know that Kevin McCallister is the kid from Home ALONE, right? Just checking.
  • 62a. [Entertainer with a whip]. LION TAMER. I would not have minded if the clue identified that this form of entertainment is no longer fashionable. [Once common circus performer] might have worked better.
  • 1d. [Smishing, for one]. SCAM. A portmanteau of “SMS phishing.” “Smishing is a social engineering attack that uses fake mobile text messages to trick people into downloading malware, sharing sensitive information or sending money to cybercriminals.”

2.75 stars.

Robert Gard’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 2/20/24 – no. 0220

Unusual theme. The revealer is HALF-BAKED, clued [Description of 17-, 25-, 36- and 49-Across, in different senses?].

  • 17a. [Evidence of a day at the beach], BIKINI TAN. a) “Bikini tan lines” feels like a thing to me, more so than BIKINI TAN. b) If you’re tan everywhere but the area covered by a bikini, you’re more like 80% baked.
  • 25a. [Chocolate confection with a molten core], LAVA CAKE. There’s dispute online over whether the center of the cake is, in fact, underbaked. A nice restaurant might have molten ganache in the center rather than underbaked cake batter.
  • 36a. [Effect of secondhand pot smoke], CONTACT HIGH. Baked as slang for high on marijuana.
  • 49a. [Flight of fancy], WILD IDEA. Not entirely sure that “wild idea” is an idiom unto itself.

Fave fill: Ted CHIANG, SNARKED, CARL JUNG, MAD MAX (there’s another movie in the Mad Max franchise coming out this spring, Furiosa with Anya Taylor-Joy), KRAKEN, OLIGARCH. Not so keen on ASLAN, NERTS, DAH, SSGTS, UNBIND.

3.5 stars from me.

Universal Crossword Review by Matt F

Title: Screen Play
Constructor: Alan Levin
Editor: David Steinberg

Universal Solution 02.20.2024

Theme Synopsis:

Ah, a celebration of celebrity! We have a few actors from notable TV shows who have been mashed up against types of celebrations to create common phrases:

  • 16A – [Bash for Billy of “SNL”?] = CRYSTAL BALL
  • 25A – [Wingding for Seth of “Robot Chicken”?] = GREEN PARTY
  • 47A – [Blowout for Harrison of “1923”?] = FORD FIESTA

And our revealer brings these folks together for one big jamboree:

57A – [Gala for the folks referenced in 16-, 25-, and 47-Across?] = TV RECEPTION

Overall Impressions:

I learned today that “wingding” is synonymous with “party.” I thought it was just a wacky font type! I appreciate that all the answers are common things on their own, before the theme gimmick is laid over the top of them. Straightforward, no funny business, but a fun reimagining of common phrases under a restrictive theme constraint. I took too long to unpack NEOCONS thanks to the forgetting the moniker “Dubya” (I guess I just don’t spend enough time reminiscing about the Bush era). The surrounding fill is great – EAR LOBES, CLEAVES, LUCIFER, HABANERO, AT HEART, A LA MODE – great use of the mid-length slots!

Thanks for the puzzle,  Alan!

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 665), “Literary Direction”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 665: “Literary Direction”

Hello there, everybody! Hope all is well with you! I’m loving the sunsets after 5 P.M. now and coming back home and seeing some daylight still in the air!

We have a tribute with today’s puzzle, as a literal sense to a book title is the theme. The circled letters appear diagonally in the grid and, when filled in, spell out the words LET US DESCEND, which happens to be the book title that the rest of the theme answers play off of. The fact that the letters cut across two of the themes, and still can make the theme work, is impressive in itself.

  • JESMYN WARD (18A: [“Sing, Unburied, Sing” author whose 2023 novel (revealed diagonally) is an Oprah Book Club pick])
  • MISSISSIPPIAN (29A: [Resident of the Magnolia State (and description of 18-Across])
  • MAIN CHARACTER (46A: [Protagonist … or Annis, in 18-Across’s novel (see diagonal)])
  • UNIVERSITY (60A: [Tulane ___ (where 18-Across is a professor of English])

For all of you out there: What was the best/worst PET NAME you’ve ever received (45D: [“Cutie,” e.g.])? Don’t think I have a best, but I definitely have a worst: peaches. Because of my appetite for lots of peaches when I was a kid. Thank goodness I’ve moved on past that … and moved on past loving to eat peaches! Need to visit MUSEUMS more, as I haven’t been to one in a good long while (38A: [The Guggenheim and the Whitney, for two]). It was probably a decade ago now where I went to the National Museum of the American Indian, as its Battery Park location in Manhattan is, literally, a couple of blocks from the building where my mom used to work before she retired. Loved the clues featuring two great Black women entertainers, in HORNE (68A: [“Stormy Weather” singer Lena]) and SCAT SINGER (11D: [Ella Fitzgerald, notably])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: AZTEC & PENNY (42A: [Ancient Mexican]) & (36A: [Lincoln’s coin]) – A little two-for-one action here! We’re close to March Madness and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and every Aztec on San Diego State’s basketball team wants to complete the job that it almost did last April, when it was defeated in the national championship game by the University of Connecticut. And, in football, running back Rashaad Penny, an Aztec in his college days, is currently a running back for the Philadelphia Eagles. Penny was a consensus All-America selection in 2017, when he rushed for 2,248 yards in his senior season with the Aztecs. He was selected with the 27th pick of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Eric Rollfing’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 2/20/24 • Tue • Rollfing • solution • 20240220

  • 60aR [Cornerstone of the Konmari method, and the progression found at the starts of the answers to the starred clues] DOWNSIZING.
  • 18a. [*Many stadium screens] JUMBOTRONS.
  • 24a. [*Seven-star pattern in Ursa Major] BIG DIPPER.
  • 39a. [Curly-haired dogs] STANDARD POODLES.
  • 53a. [*Skimpy garment credited to fashion designer Mary Quant] MINISKIRT.

Jumbo, big, standard, mini. This works just fine.

  • 5d [“The Big Bang Theory” chum of Sheldon and Leonard] RAJ. Duplicates a key element of the theme. Tsk.
  • 11d [Enticing odor] AROMA. Duly noting the nonpejorative use of odor.
  • 33d [Take the lid off] UNCAP.
  • 37d [Insipid remark] PLATITUDE. It comes from the French plat, meaning flat or dull. Presumably it ultimately derives from Latin and perhaps even farther back.
  • 40d [Triangular river formations] DELTAS, which can confusingly be referring to either tributaries or the mouth of a river.
  • 65d [Telepath’s claim] ESP. Appreciate the framing.
  • 46a [Actor Pacino and singer Green] ALS.
  • 49a [Summer shade] TAN. Certainly referring to skin exposed to the sun, but I’m thinking of beaches too.
  • 66a [Burse Jackie portrayer Falco] EDIE. Just going to mention this here, as it’s the final instance in my circuit of the clues, but there seemed to be a preponderance of celebrity names/references in this crossword. I won’t list them all here, but it’s a cumulative sense.

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 2/20/24 • Tue • Berry • solution • 20240220

This one felt properly pitched to the ‘moderately challenging’ label.

  • Started off wrong-footed in the upper-left section—1a [Bring together] UNITE and 1d [In imperfect condition] USED, so I erased all that and decamped to elsewhere in the grid. Those answers, I later uncovered, turned out to be AMASS and AS IS.
  • Had more success in the upper right, with 16a [Growth in one’s field] CROP, 18a [“Lost __ is never found again”: Benjamin Franklin] TIME, 13d [Fast car] SPEED— (which turned out to be completed as SPEEDSTER), and so on.
  • 19a [It shows how far you’ve come] STEP COUNTER. The clue is both more and less literal than it may seem.
  • 34a [Not candid] POSED. Think photography.
  • 37a [Company with a “Venture Across America” image campaign] U-HAUL. I tried to find a gallery of all the graphics—which are often rather pleasing—but the links I found at the official site were broken.
  • 41a [Big name in A.T.M.s] NCR. 27d [Withdrawal from a cajero, perhaps] PESOS.
  • 60a [Nothing to write home about] OKAY, not BLAH.
  • 2d [In perfect condition] MINT, right alongside 1d [In imperfect condition] (see above).
  • 4d [Mattel game related to Double Solitaire] SKIP-BO, which I’ve never heard of.
  • 8d [Complete snafu] GOAT RODEO. When this entry first appeared several years ago, there was consternation from some commenters. Have we all collectively absorbed the term at this point?
  • 47d [Like amber beers] MALTY. Didn’t know that was a defining characteristic.
  • 52a [“The False Mirror” painter Magritte] RENÉ. That’s the one depicting a close-up of a human eye where the iris is replaced with an azure and cloud-filled sky. Probably in part a commentary on the adage that the eyes are a window to the soul. 53d [Comprehends] SEES.

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47 Responses to Tuesday, February 20, 2024

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: I was listening to an old song by the New Pornographers at dinner and when they sang the opening line — “When the contact high from the real-life adventures wear off” — I started thinking that CONTACT HIGH would be a nice crossword entry.

    I didn’t think I’d see it so soon, though.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: At first, I took the revealer literally– one of two words (i.e. half of each theme entry) would stand for something “baked”– A TAN, a CAKE, a HIGH all worked. But neither WILD nor IDEA did… So, I had to revise my hypothesis. And under the interpretation, I’m with Amy that if you were wearing a BIKINI, you’re more than half baked. On the other hand, a WILD IDEA is indeed the instantiation of HALF BAKED.
    I don’t know NERTS… never heard anyone say it. Is it common? That T was the last letter I entered in the puzzle.
    My absolute and total favorite thing about this puzzle is the clue for SEX. Never heard it before but it is so true. I will not forget it. Thank you Mr. Gard!

    • JohnH says:

      Dictionaries qualify NERTS as “dated” or “old-fashioned,” which sounds right. I know I’ve heard it before somewhere, maybe in a puzzle.

      My last crossing was AGGRO with CHIANG, both new to me. Still more of Shortz’s prediliction for sci-fi and kid stuff, but Tuesday gettable.

  3. dh says:

    Completely missed the theme. I had the same initial thought as huda, but didn’t follow through. I’m with Amy on the tan percentage, and am completely unaware of the controversy surrounding lava cake. I did know “NERTS” though – from the old M*A*S*H series. Frank Burns said it often.

    The crossing between 45A/35D was a Natick for me. I suppose the “G” was guessable as the end of “CHIAN_” but not for me.

    • Gary R says:

      Last letter in for me. The “G” seemed to make sense for CHIANG, but AGGRO looked odd to me. I tried an “O” first and switched when the Happy Pencil didn’t appear.

    • David L says:

      I was perplexed by the theme, especially as I don’t know what LAVACAKE is. ‘Half-baked’ seems about right — as a description of the theme itself.

      I knew AGGRO, although I objected once before when it came up in an NYT puzzle, clued in an adjectival sense. I know it only as a noun and that’s the only sense the Cambridge dictionary gives.

  4. Gary R says:

    Wordle (no spoiler): I thought I had read somewhere that Wordle solutions were chosen so that it was guaranteed that you could solve in six tries without relying on a “lucky guess.” But today, even if you had the last four letters in their proper place on your first try, there would still be six possibilities for the first letter. I managed to get it on my sixth try, but somehow, this doesn’t seem quite right.

    • Eric H says:

      I found myself in that situation so many times that I just quit playing Wordle. There are lots of letter combinations where that can happen.

    • David L says:

      It’s happened to me too, although I got today’s on the last try also. Those occasions are the reason my streak has been broken from time to time. I keep playing, though.

      • Gary R says:

        I guess I should expand on my original complaint.

        On several occasions, I’ve had all but one letter in place and run out of tries before I hit the limit. The most recent case I can remember is a puzzle where I had _ASTE. I don’t recall what the correct solution was, but I didn’t get it. But at least, if I had started with, say, BASTE, as my initial try, there would only have been five more possibilities – so I would have been able to complete the puzzle by trying each of the remaining possible letters.

        Today’s puzzle is different. Even if you guessed the last four letters correctly on your first try, there were still six more possibilities – so then the whole thing is just a guessing game, which I don’t think it’s supposed to be.

        And as long as I’m bitching about NYT puzzles, last week Sam Ezersky wouldn’t accept MONOTONIC in the Spelling Bee (he’s never taken a math class or a music class?), but today’s pangram is something out of the 19th century. WTF?

        • PJ says:

          Second the bitching RE: MONOTONIC

        • David L says:

          I tried MONOTONIC twice in case I had misspelled it… The selection of allowed and disallowed words in the Spelling Bee remains (as I think Eric H once put it) capricious. (Speaking of goat rodeos….)

        • Eric H says:

          Your comment made me curious, so I looked for the pangram. My first submission is not a word, but I reversed the syllables and that was it.

          Yes, it’s a quaint word that few would use now. But I’m sure it appears in old literature, which some people read. My dictionary doesn’t mark it as archaic.

          • Gary R says:

            When working on the puzzle this morning, I tried the version with the syllables reversed first, and when that didn’t work, I thought “Oh, wait … maybe THIS” – bingo!

            Certainly a word I’ve heard before. Probably in a movie or on TV – don’t think I’ve heard it in real life.

            From you (via David L), yes – Sam’s choices are capricious!

            • Eric H says:

              Yep. It’s mostly Sam Ezersky’s capriciousness that keeps me from going any further down the Spelling Bee road.

              But I also get addicted to the game and feel like I have to find every word on the list.

              I usually read the NYT “Morning” newsletter, which includes each day’s Spelling Bee array. A lot of days, I just glance at it and instantly see a pangram.

            • Gary R says:

              Eric H – an alternative to Spelling Bee you might like is the “Blossom” puzzle at Merriam-Webster’s site:


              Rather than trying to find all the words, you’re challenged to find just 12 words that maximize your score. I like it vis-a-vis Spelling Bee because it’s finite – 12 words and you’re done.

            • Eric H says:

              Thanks, Gary, for the suggestion of Merriam-Webster’s blossom. I’ll give it a try.

        • Martin says:

          Sam has accepted MONOTONIC in eight hives, and last week’s was the first rejection. I don’t know why he decided it’s obscure, but clearly he’s familiar with the word.

          Anyway, if a word is rejected I move on. He’s the editor; we disagree but it doesn’t ruin my day. I got a little laugh from today’s pangram because it reminded me of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” I stay up for the midnight release every night. It’s a serious addiction.

          • Gary R says:

            “I got a little laugh from today’s pangram because it reminded me of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” ”

            I wonder if Sam would accept “possum”? :-)

    • Mutman says:

      Oooh! A chance to rant on Wordle (sort of).

      I disagree with the moniker of ‘hard mode’. I never play it that way because you can get caught in the ‘six rhymes will work’ situation and not solve the puzzle. I actually like when you have to calculate remaining letters and use a ‘dump word’ (my coined term) that you know is incorrect, to solve the puzzle. I did that yesterday.

      Anyway. End of Wordle rant.

      NYT: I’ve never spelled DRYLY with an ‘I’ before.

      • Eric H says:

        I’ve heard what you call a “dump word” referred to as a “burner word.”

        Yes, when I still played Wordle, it was in Hard Mode, which as you know doesn’t allow that sort of strategy.

      • Dallas says:

        I had the same issue with DRILY … I couldn’t figure out _LYGARCH…

      • Mhoonchild says:

        I didn’t finish yesterday’s Wordle – I knew that there were several possibilities that ended in the same four letters, but didn’t ever pick the right one. The WordleBot suggested a tactic that would have helped here – pick an unrelated word that has most of the possible first letters, which will either give you the right one, or eliminate several wrong ones.

    • PJ says:

      Hard mode in two today. I made a 1/154 shot.

  5. Greg says:

    Patrick Berry‘s New Yorker. I always enjoy and admire his work. This one was no exception. Great fill, tricky but fair clueing, open grid with nice cross-pollination among the quadrants.

    I agree that it was appropriately labeled as “moderately challenging“ (perhaps veering slightly more toward “challenging“).

    • pannonica says:

      That reminds me—I meant to conclude the write-up by mentioning how strong the pinwheeled long stacks in each of the quadrants were.

      • Eric H says:

        pannonica — I’m missing the connection between the New Yorker puzzle and “Mingus Eyes.” Is it just because the album is “Mirror Blue”?

        I’m a big Richard Thompson fan, but have never much cared for that song.

    • Eric H says:

      I liked the Patrick Berry puzzle, too, but I would put it on the easy side for “moderately challenging” (it took me half the time that Monday’s New Yorker puzzle took). And that was with the same false start in the NW that pannonica had, which I should have caught more quickly than I did, because SICK AS A DOG was a gimme off the S in uSed. (I kinda liked seeing that phrase in the puzzle; I haven’t heard it in a long time. But it does summon unpleasant memories of being really sick that way, which fortunately I haven’t been in years.)

      pannonica asked about the collective absorption of GOAT RODEO. I first encountered it in an 2011 album title, “The Goat Rodeo Sessions,” by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer (kinda high-class bluegrass), and it’s only been in the past few weeks that I have learned of the snafu meaning of the term.

  6. Lois says:

    NYT: Regarding Amy’s comment about LAVA CAKE, I did find a recipe online where the same batter is used for the baked and less baked parts, where the middle is still jiggly. (I wouldn’t call that underbaked, as that is part of the recipe.) But even in versions where another filling is inserted, the center would still be unbaked or much less baked, so I think the clue is apt.

  7. Jim says:

    NYT: I’ve heard many people say, “Now here’s a wild idea”, and have said it myself.

  8. Mike H says:

    TNY – as did @pannonica I had UNITE, USED, and added ITCH (for ACHE) and stared at that section for a long time before pulling it all out. It was quite a trap for me.

  9. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Re: BIKINI TAN being HALF-BAKED. I don’t think it’s to do with surface area (which was my first thought as well), but doneness instead. Since the individual is only tanned (and not, say, charred), they’re only HALF-BAKED. That’s my guess.

  10. Seattle DB says:

    USA: I rated this as 1.5 because the constructor or editor used too many little-known names that mainstream solvers are unlikely to know. (You gotta play to the audience!)

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