Wednesday, February 28, 2024

AVCX 7:11 (Amy) 


LAT 3:23 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 4:40 (Amy) 


NYT 4:22 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 8:22 (Emily) 


WSJ 5:33 (Jim) 


Laura Dershewitz & Katherine Baicker’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Conjunction Junction”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases but with an added “OR” at the end, thus turning the last word into something else. The revealer is ANDOR (66a, [Star Wars series, as well as a hint to this puzzle’s theme]). Putting it another way, the theme answers are familiar phrases AND “OR.”

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Conjunction Junction” · Laura Dershewitz & Katherine Baicker · Wed., 2.28.24

  • 20a. [Emotionally unavailable preacher?] DISTANT PASTOR. Cute. This one gave me a chuckle.
  • 34a. [Ginned-up outrage?] FAKE FUROR.
  • 40a. [Serious deliberation?] JURY RIGOR.
  • 54a. [Antarctic admirer?] PENGUIN SUITOR. Also cute.

I was on board with this puzzle just from the title. You’re going to reference Schoolhouse Rock? Count me in. The first geocache I ever hid was titled “Conjunction Junction,” and it’s still active 16 years later (though it was adopted by someone else after we moved away). Of course, it’s a puzzle cache, and you can see it here. (Alas, it’s a Premium Member cache, so I don’t know if everyone can get to it.)

I admit that based on the title, I wanted more conjunctions than just OR. I was expecting at least an “and” and a “but.” (As the lyrics of the song go, “I got ‘and’, ‘but’, and ‘or’. They’ll get you pretty far!”) But once I got to the revealer, it made sense, and I had one of those wish-I’d-thought-of-that moments.

Oh, and if you enjoyed the show ANDOR, as I did (which has been labeled Star Wars for grownups), you may have heard that season 2 was delayed until 2025 due to the writers’ strike. But according to this site (and actor Stellan Skarsgård), it may come out before the end of the year. It’s also said to lead up to the events in Rogue One, so it will likely be the final season of the series.

Getting back to the puzzle and kids’ cartoons of the distant pastor, I learned the word OVERTURES from Bugs Bunny. Anyone else? Other nice bits of fill include WARP SPEED, HAD A FEW, “IT’S GONE,” AUGUSTA, “OH WOW,” YAHOO, and BRUSQUE.

Crosswordese URDU [Karachiite’s language] and ERSE [Gael’s language] both make appearances but their parallel cluing adds some interest.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [May, maybe]. MONTH. I would think the clue should really be [May, e.g.], but I guess they were going for the sound repetition.
  • 23a. [Part of WYSIWYG]. SEE. What You SEE Is What You Get. And it’s pronounced “wizzy wig.”
  • 29a. [Atop, in Arles]. SUR. Nice to learn this. Now SUR La Table makes sense. (Although Big SUR doesn’t.)
  • 59a. [City that gives London its annual Trafalgar Square Christmas tree]. OSLO. Love to see a fresh cluing angle for this name.
  • 1d. [They come clean]. MAIDS. Love this clue, too!
  • 4d. [Not this]. But THAT. (Watch the video below and listen for it.)
  • 42d. [Sheepish response to “Where’s the ice cream?”]. “IT’S GONE.” Wonderful imagery here.

Fun puzzle! Humorous without being too goofy. Lively fill and fresh cluing. Four stars from me.

Greg Snitkin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 2/28/24 – no. 0228

Clever theme. The revealer is WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT, 53a. [The main takeaway … or, when considered in three different senses, a description of 20-, 33- and 41-Across], and the IT is entirely different in each of the three themers:

  • 20a. [Things with hardware and software components], COMPUTER SYSTEMS, what I.T. is all about.
  • 33a. [Someone terrorizing kids in a 1986 Stephen King novel], SCARY CLOWN named It.
  • 41a. [Participation dance in which you “turn yourself around”], HOKEY POKEY, “that’s what it’s all about.”

Now, the revealer feels a little weird as a crossword entry, but we move on.

Fave fill: Diego MARADONA, NEWSY, MITCH Hedberg, TEAM PLAYER. How do we feel about TALKAHOLIC? Is that actually a thing? Looks like the dictionaries haven’t attested to its existence, so … I vote against it.

61a. [“___ you vera much!” (punny valentine)], ALOE. This struck me as wildly implausible, and yet! You can find a whole lotta stuff to buy if you Google “aloe you very much.” Cactus cartoon vibes. Who knew?

Four stars from me.

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Spelling Test” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 2/28/24 • Wed • “Spelling Test” • Coulter • solution • 20240228

The theme here is anagram pair words, using apt phrases that can be interpreted as signalling said anagrams.

  • 17a. [How you can spell “anger”?] OUT OF ‘RANGE’.
  • 26a. [What you can spell “cellar” with?] ‘RECALL’ LETTERS. This phrase seems a little weak to me, compared to the others.
  • 37a. [Instruction for spelling “race?”] USE ‘CARE’. Proofreading note: the question mark should be outside the quotes.
  • 47a. [What you can spell “cheeps” with?] PARTS OF ‘SPEECH’.
  • 61a. [How you can spell “aboard”?] FROM ‘ABROAD’.

Not quite like cryptic cluing, but seemingly inspired by it.

  • 52a [Perplexes] ADDLES. 43d [Obstructs] STYMIES.
  • 57a [Hot spot for a pot] KILN, but not for a hotpot.
  • 60a [Spelling unrelated to this puzzle’s theme] TORI. Completely missed this during the solve.
  • 8d [Baker’s dozen?] EGGS. Not thirteen. It’s because eggs are a common ingredient in baking.
  • 13d [Site with homemade candles] ETSY. I just purchased a few hand-dipped candles, but not via that website.
  • 22d [What may be boring?] BIT. Not a comedic BIT, one hopes, but a drill BIT.
  • 38d [Any day now] SOON. 4d m[Like a product that’s coming] ON ORDER.
  • 53d [Share in a business] STAKE. Had STOCK for a moment.
  • 61d [Kind of shot given annually] FLU. I would’ve phrased it as offered annually.

Rebecca Goldstein’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Just the Two of Us”—Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 2/28/24 – “Just the Two of Us”

Honestly, I don’t know how the AV Club team is calculating puzzle difficulties. Perhaps they’re taking the experience of a solver as fast as Will Nediger as the norm? I’d call this one 4/5 rather than “breezy 2/5.”

The theme revealer is 69a. [Question in a meme about an aspirational relationship, represented three times in this puzzle], “ME AND WHO?” The themers contain ME and WHO hidden within them: HOME OF THE WHOPPER, GAME SHOW HOST, and BECOMES WHOLE. I didn’t know the meme at all, but that didn’t affect the solve.

Clue that only made sense when I saw the preceding Across clue, which happened much later: 62a. [Animal that sank no yachts, but which has a very soft mane and surely can help fight capitalism in other ways], HORSE. ??? 61a. [Animal that sank multiple yachts in 2023] is ORCA, though unfortunately I hadn’t heard of any of the yacht sinkings.

Fave fill: GLASS BLOWER (though the clue, [Type of artist whose studio has a glory hole], got me nowhere), VIP PASS, LOST SOUL, HANGRY.

40a. [Hutchinson who ran for president in 2024 (I didn’t know, either!)], ASA. Hey! I also didn’t know.

3.75 stars from me.

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

New Yorker crossword solution, 2/28/24 – Pasco

Solid themeless on the easier end of the solving spectrum.

12a. [“Ah, it’s always a good time with us”], “WE HAVE FUN HERE.” This sounds like something said at a small business where maybe you wouldn’t actually want to work.


Things I didn’t really know:

  • 24d. [Working meetup for Wikipedia contributors], EDITATHON. I don’t actively contribute Wikipedia content, but sometimes I can’t resist the editorial urge to fix something that’s not right.
  • 26d. [Spotify playlist that inspired a hip-hop-focussed Hulu series], RAPCAVIAR. First of all, New Yorker, in this country we spell it “focused,” why are you so weird? I don’t use Spotify, but the Hulu RapCaviar series sounds interesting.

Four stars from me.

Natalie Murphy’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LAT 240228

I don’t know who celebrates BACKWARDDAY, but that is today’s revealer in this puzzle by Natalie Murphy. I was going to guess it happens on 29 February, but apparently, no, 31 January. The interpretation of this is fairly straightforward: three other answers have the letter string YAD in them:

  • [Beach community in L.A.’s South Bay], PLAYADELREY
  • [Customer who buys a gadget as soon as it’s available], EARLYADOPTER
  • [Guidance at just the right moment], TIMELYADVICE

Generally an easy puzzle, so not a lot of time to note things:

  • [Like purchases made while playing freemium games], INAPP. After three letters, it looked like INAne.
  • [“Ooh, makes sense”], AHISEE. Who else started with an O?
  • [Marioverse racer with pink braids], TOADETTE. By far the least familiar thing in the puzzle except the revealer. I think I can picture that character, but I didn’t know the name.


Carolyn Davies Lynch’s USA Today Crossword, “Wedding Bells (Freestyle)” — Emily’s write-up

A mini-theme in today’s puzzle!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday February 28, 2024

USA Today, February 28, 2024, “Wedding Bells (Freestyle)” by Carolyn Davies Lynch

Favorite fill: PETDOORS, OWNEDIT, and EATERY

Stumpers: ELATE (needed crossings), EDIBLES (needed crossings as well—just didn’t click for me today), and OBSESS (“fixate” came to mind first)

Though labelled a “freestyle” puzzle today, there is a mini-theme the two spanners REHEARSALDINNER and BRIDESMAIDDRESS. Impressive spanners, that’s for sure! Overall, it was a fairly smooth solve for me though a typical time for me with a few trickier ones but all with fair crossings. Solid cluing.

3.0 stars


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24 Responses to Wednesday, February 28, 2024

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: I particularly enjoyed the clue for PONTIAC. My mother owned a 1969 Firebird with a three-speed stick shift and a 350 cubic inch V-8 engine. That car was a lot of fun to drive, especially when I was 16.

    The crossing of MARADONA and ANTICS was divinely inspired — obviously the work of the Hand of God.

    • JohnH says:

      I don’t get Eric’s joke, but then I didn’t get much of the puzzle’s jokes either, including the connection to the theme in two of three themers. And if ANTICS is an inspired crossing for this proper name, LEON is not. This is so much more a proper name trivia puzzle than I’d expect from the NYT, any day of the week. But then I’m sure they were all gimmes for some, who loved it accordingly. Sorry I don’t belong again to the right club.

      • Eric H says:

        It’s rare that I know enough about sports to make a joke about it.

      • David L says:

        Those names — CAVA, LEON, LOLA, ELSA — slowed me down too and made the middle a bit of a slog. At least I knew MARADONA and understood Eric’s remark!

        • JohnH says:

          Yes, I should have mentioned CAVA as crossing MARADONA, but A did look more likely than anything. (And you know, Weird Al seems a lot more popular in crosswords than in his professional life.)

      • Dan says:

        I agree about the proper names. It felt as if there were an excess of them in this puzzle. And I didn’t even notice the theme while solving. Now having looked back at the theme, I wish I hadn’t.

        • Eric H says:

          I find the song itself pretty annoying.

          But as a puzzle theme, it’s fine. The theme answers don’t have any obvious connection, but if you know the song’s lyrics, the revealer works well.

        • DougC says:

          I thought the theme was amusing, once I figured it out. This was not a puzzle where the theme helped with the solve!

          But you can also count me as one who was annoyed by the number of names. I felt lucky that I knew about half of them, and surprised that I finished well under my Wednesday average.

          Never heard TALKAHOLIC before, but I like it!

  2. Nino H. says:

    NYT: for some reason, the hokey pokey is deathly amusing to me. Pretty smooth – if a bit mid with some of the fill – otherwise!

  3. Mutman says:

    NYT: very clever and satisfying theme, IMO.

    TALKAHOLICs may not be a real word, but I know a lot of them!!

    8D I may be wrong, but I don’t think they SOD greens. I think they grow them on prem. The rest of the course can be resodded though.

    • rob says:

      NYT: I second (or third or fourth) the motion. Very enjoyable Wednesday puzzle and an awesome revealer! I am a huge Stephen King fan, so I was very familiar with the book. That unlocked the theme for me.

  4. Howard B says:

    NYT is a fantastic theme set/reveal. Completely threw me. TALKAHOLIC was my only question mark, but the reveal was priceless!

  5. Patrick M says:

    TALKAHOLIC seems to be a term mostly used in psychology circles. It was coined by two communications researchers circa 1990, who then created a Talkaholic Scale to identify compulsive talkers.

  6. JohnH says:

    I hate to defend TNY, which was way too contemporary for me today and so difficult for a Wednesday. But don’t blame the puzzle for “focussed.” It appears often in the magazine, however dumb. (I’m always tempted when it does to pronounce it out loud as “fo-CUSSED.”)

    Of course, every publication has its style sheet (though most often taking taking its spellings from MW11C), and TNY may just lean more than most on older spellings. Just today, it has Byron’s “lustre.”

    • pannonica says:

      I for one am guilty of several New Yorker-esque tics.

    • Eric H says:

      My favorite example of the fustiness of the New Yorker’s style manual is the use of a dieresis in words no one is going to mispronounce, like cooperate or naive. C’mon, if you can’t get within the 21st century, at least join the 20th!

      I thought the puzzle was appropriately described as “lightly challenging.” My time was about the same as my Tuesday NYT average (since the NYT is the one I have done regularly for the longest time, that’s my benchmark).

      I hadn’t heard EMOTIONAL LABOR (which pairs nicely with the also new-to-me WE HAVE FUN HERE). RAP CAVIAR is also new to me, as I don’t stream music. And I’m more used to hearing of BEAUTY pageants. But I never got the least bit stuck anywhere.

      • pannonica says:

        My favorite example of the fustiness of the New Yorker’s style manual is the use of a dieresis in words no one is going to mispronounce, like cooperate or naive.

        Yes I do this.

        • Eric H says:

          I will admit that I was going to use “reelection” as an example of a word that doesn’t need a dieresis, but man! That looks weird without a hyphen or something.

  7. Eric H says:

    AVXC: I too found it more challenging than the AVXC rating. Not super hard, but my time was in the low double digits. I don’t know the ME AND WHO meme, but by the second answer with a ME and a WHO, I should’ve been able to fill in the circled letters.

    Amy, I’m a little surprised that you hadn’t heard of ORCA attacks on boats. That was a gimme for me. Per Wikipedia, “From 2020 to 2023, there were at least five hundred reports of orcas attacking boats off the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal, an unusual and unprecedented behaviour.”

    Though I know who ASA Hutchinson is, I didn’t know that he ran for president this year. But I try to ignore the Republicans as much as possible.

  8. Burak says:

    Very pleasant selection of puzzles so far this week for NYT. Today’s was a creative theme, with some quite decent fill around it.

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