Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Jonesin' 4:42 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni)  


NYT 3:20 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 5:50 (Matt F) 


USA Today 3ish (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ 4:53 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “One, Please” — no room for any more. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 3/19/24

Jonesin’ solution 3/19/24

Hello lovelies! This week’s Jonesin’ involves celebrities with plural nouns for last names, and the hilarity that ensues when you remove their final S:

  • 16a. [Radio personality who’s good at archery?] ROBIN QUIVER. Robin Quivers is the co-host of The Howard Stern Show.
  • 23a. [Actor who’s good at pressing clothes?] JEREMY IRON. Jeremy Irons has been an actor for over 50 years, but he’ll always be Scar from The Lion King to me.
  • 36a. [Actress/TV host who’s good at economics?] ELIZABETH BANK. Besides tons of acting roles and hosting the 2019 remake of Press Your Luck, Elizabeth Banks has also directed films such as Cocaine Bear.
  • 47a. [Blues rocker who’s good at hauling stuff?] DEREK TRUCK. Derek Trucks joined his uncle Butch Trucks as a member of the Allman Brothers Band in 1999. He currently heads the Tedeschi Trucks Band with his wife Susan Tedeschi.
  • 57a. [Rapper/actor who’s good at holding together documents?] VINCE STAPLE. Vince Staples’ rap career started with guest appearances on songs by Earl Sweatshirt and Mike G from Odd Future. His acting roles include the remake of White Men Can’t Jump and Abbott Elementary.

Other things:

  • 2d. [Montreal CFLers] ALOUETTES. This clue made me think of the French song “Alouette,” which translates as “lark.” Apparently the song involves telling a lark which of its body parts you plan to pluck. Hmm.
  • 35d. [They’re found in the epidermis] SKIN CELLS. Besides the keratinocytes, or skin cells, there are also melanocytes that produce pigment, Langerhans cells that function as the body’s outermost immune system defense, Merkel cells which are involved in light touch sensation…
  • 4a. [China, long ago (as seen in an airline name] CATHAY. The name comes from the Khitan or Qìdān people of Northeast Asia around 1100 AD.

Universal Crossword Review by Matt F

Title: What’s This?
Constructor: Tom Pepper and Zhouqin Burnikel
Editor: David Steinberg

Universal Solution 03.19.2024

Theme Synopsis:

In today’s puzzle we are given clues describing things by what they are not, which may leave solvers scratching their heads and shouting, “What is this?!” Well, let’s dig and see if we can figure this out.

  • 18A – [This is not a test] = RUBBER CHECK. Ha, a rubber check (don’t ask me to explain this euphemism). a rubber check is actually a check that has been returned unpaid.
  • 28A – [This is not a joke] = WATER CHESTNUT. I guess “chestnut” is a synonym for joke, and a water chestnut might be something like, “Why doesn’t water laugh at jokes? It doesn’t like dry humor!” Actually, a water chestnut is an aquatic vegetable and my family’s secret ingredient in green bean casserole.
  • 49A – [This is not a toy] = DEBUTANTE BALL. A debutante ball could be that toy kickball every teenage girl dreams of! Oh, actually, a debutante ball is a formal event for officially welcoming young women into society.
  • 64A – [This is not a game] = SAFETY MATCH. Hmm, maybe a safety match would be like a tennis game when the top seed is guaranteed to win? Sure, sounds plausible. Actually, a safety match is a type of match that requires a very specific friction surface to cause it to ignite.

Overall Impressions:

I enjoyed today’s theme. All the clues were in the language, “This is not a …” phrases, which made the theme feel less groan-worthy. It was fun to reimagine the theme entries in their alternative contexts. I HOPE TO GOD and TAP DANCERS are great in the bonus slots. Even shorter stuff like EARWORM and WACKY helped make this a fun solve from top to bottom.

Thanks for the puzzle,  Tom and Zhouqin!

Lynn Lempel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 3/19/24 – no. 0319

The theme revealer in this 16×15 grid is 63a. [Game break … or a hint to interpreting the first parts of 17-, 26-, 36-, and 52-Across?], HALFTIME. It’s not about taking halves of times, but rather, time to take half of each themer’s first word as its own word.

  • 17a. [Parent dressed up at a pride parade, perhaps?], MA IN DRAG. Who’s your pick to win season 16 of RuPaul’s Drag Race? I’m not wild about any of the contestants.
  • 26a. [Choice between a haircut and manicure?], DO OR NAILS. I’m not entirely sure what doornails are, as we generally encounter them only in the phrase, dead as a doornail.
  • 36a. [“Meet me under Big Ben”?], BE AT THE CLOCK.
  • 52a. [“Continue with your routine, cheerleaders”?], GO ON, SQUAD.

Not a theme we see all the time, so I appreciate its fresh angle.

Fave fill: SKOR (crunchy toffee!), WORDSMITH, FLOORPLAN, KLONDIKE, DUNCAN, and “DREAM ON.” Could’ve done without AGLARE, which is a word that gets little use.

Four stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 669), “Bride of Sighs”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 669: “Bride of Sighs”

Hello there, everybody! Hope all of you are doing well today, and wishing all of you the best as you fill out your NCAA Tournament brackets this week! If you are interested, you can try to find me on press row during the games in Brooklyn (first two rounds) and Boston (Sweet 16, Elite Eight). Kind of like a sports edition of Where’s Waldo? if you will.

Alas, we’re talking crosswords, and, in each of the five theme entries, the letters ALAS span multiple words in the answers.

    • DENTAL ASSISTANT (17A: [Canine caregiver])
    • MARSALA SAUCE (22A: [Topping made with Italian wine])
    • GENERAL ASSEMBLY (38A: [United Nations “town meeting”])
    • VIVA LAS VEGAS (49A: [Elvis song with the lyric “Lady Luck, please let the dice stay hot”])
    • POLITICAL ASYLUM (60A: [Protection sought by a refugee])

Love the paralleling entries of OVERVALUED (14A: [Placed too high a price on]) and ESSENTIALS, given their somewhat opposite meanings (66A: [Necessities]). How many people remember the U.S. Acres comic strip, in which one of the characters on was LANOLIN the sheep (45A: [Hand-lotion ingredient])? The strip was part of the animated series Garfield and Friends, which was one of my go-to Saturday morning cartoons when growing up. If they brought that back and Looney Tunes and aired it on broadcast television, my ancient self would totally wake up again to watch those like I was 10 years old all over again! Oh, by the way, here’s Lanolin (left), with her surfer-dude-talking brother, Bo.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: PAUL (35A: [Giamatti who plays a classics teacher in “The Holdovers”]) – Beware the people with two first names, especially on the tennis court. One of the biggest tournaments on the tennis calendar just wrapped up last week, the Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells, and American Tommy Paul ended up as a semifinalist and was so close to reaching the final. Paul was the 2015 French Open junior champion, but it took a while for him to make a dent in the main tour. Paul’s breakout came at the Australian Open last year, when he reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic. Currently ranked 14th in the world, Paul’s career-high ranking is 12.

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

Take care!


Sean Ziebarth’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Methodology”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases with initial letters M.O. The revealer is “WHAT’S THEIR M.O.?” (59a, [“How do these people pull that off?” (and a hint to solving the starred clues)]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Methodology” · Sean Ziebarth · Tue., 3.19.24

  • 20a. [*Da Vinci and Beethoven] MAGNUM OPUSES.
  • 30a. [*George Bush Sr. and Jr.] MARINE ONE.
  • 38a. [*Newborn twins] MATCHING OUTFITS.
  • 47a. [*Sears and Roebuck] MAIL ORDER.

Kids these days and their crazy slang! Or so I thought as I scratched my head and wondered what the heck “WHAT’S THE IRMO?” meant. I did learn that Irmo is a town in South Carolina, but could figure nothing out beyond that.

Eventually I parsed the phrase correctly, but I still found it unsatisfying since it’s not an in-the-language phrase, and it just felt awkward in plural form. Further, the clue (“How do these people pull that off?”) doesn’t quite equate in my book. The eventual aha moment of realizing the theme entries were M.O.’s related to the people in the clues came too little, too late. All in all, I just found the theme on the clunky side.

Unfortunately, there’s not much in the fill that shines. In fact, there’s no fill entry that’s longer than six letters. Crosswordese is limited, so that’s good at least, but then there’s OH NO, OH I SEE, and OOH OOH, which is a bit more duplication than is preferable.

Clue of note: 54d. [Makes sound asleep]. SNORES. I’m probably not the only one who did a double-take while reading this clue. Good wordplay.

2.75 stars.

Adrian Johnson and Taylor Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

As usual, I tried to figure out what the theme was as I solved. I thought I had it. I did not.

Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2024, Adrian Johnson & Taylor Johnson, solution grid

  • 17a [Permanent patrons] are LIFETIME MEMBERS.
  • 23a [Line at zero degrees longitude] is the PRIME MERIDIAN. So I thought we were looking at cable channels or streaming services or something like that.
  • 44a [Drastic actions] are EXTREME MEASURES. There may be a channel or service called EXTREME. I was dubious.

And the revealer: 51a [“I’ll say it again” and what 17-, 23-, and 44-Across literally do?] is LET ME REPEAT. ME ME appears in the middle of each theme answer. Nice! The theme answers are all solid. Appropriate for a Tuesday.

A few other things:

  • Why clue ORE as the non-standard state abbreviation instead of the perfectly good word it is?
  • 16a [Guinea pig or teacup pig] is a PET. Guinea pigs, of course, are not pigs. They are rodents. Teacup pigs, it turns out, are actually pigs. “Teacup” is an advertising term and the animal in question are apparently malnourished pot-bellied pigs. Not cool.
  • OVA are not the only in vitro cells. The clue doesn’t say they are. I just felt the need to point that out.
  • I’ll be very happy when the craze for IPAS dies out. Too bitter, too hoppy, and much too prevalent. Give me a nice stout or porter any day.
  • [Bic product] as a clue for PEN gave me a chance to link to the brilliance of this page of Amazon reviews.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that URKEL said “Did I do that?” I am not looking up what he was talking about. I do not want to know.

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

New Yorker • 3/19/24 • Tue • Berry • solution • 20240319

This one was a lot of fun. The difficulty was a tad under the ‘moderately challenging’ mark.

  • Favorite clues: 33d [Division of Dante’s Inferno] CANTO, 17a [One feeding the kitty] CAT-SITTER, 37d [Units of mass?] PRAYERS, 29d [Short stop a t Wrigley Field, e.g.] RAIN DELAY.
  • The grid is anchored by four longer clues partly intersecting one another: 19a [“It’s too good!”] I CAN’T RESIST, 8d [Call after the first swing] STRIKE ONE, 31d Get beaten by] LOSE OUT TO, 48a [“Don’t just pop out of nowhere like that!”] YOU SCARED ME.
  • 54a [The Sun, for one] TAROT CARD, not a NEWSPAPER.
  • 9d [Tops with neck ties?] HALTERS. The straps are often tied at the nape.
  • 12d [Sampling of the exotic life?] MENAGERIE. Like the clue, but not the philosophy.
  • 24d [Japanese show with many fans?] NOH. Honorable mention to my four favorites, above.
  • 39d [Alfred Hitchcock film whose title character is dead before the story begins] REBECCA. I forgot that was Hitchcock.

Bill Thompson’s USA Today Crossword, “Dust Up” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Anna Gundlach
Theme: Each down theme answer starts with a word that can follow “dust”

USA Today, 03 19 2024, “Dust Up”

  • 2d [Like a cheerful and reckless attitude] – DEVIL MAY CARE
  • 20d [Photobomber’s V-sign gesture] – BUNNY EARS
  • 21d [Nightclub admission fees] – COVER CHARGE

I have basically no time today so this is going to be short, but I liked this theme! BUNNY EARS as clued is my favorite answer. I had mixed up “dust devil” with “dirt devil” and thought it was a type of vacuum – it’s actually a whirlwind.


New to me: [Old West cowboy Love] for NAT – my brother’s name is Nat, so I was surprised that there was a famous one I hadn’t heard of before!

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26 Responses to Tuesday, March 19, 2024

  1. Greg says:

    The Times struck me as very clever. As is sometimes the case, I raced through and completed this Tuesday puzzle, without getting the theme. Then I went back — and after a few moments of contemplation, the penny dropped. Very nice!

    • huda says:

      Same here and it cracked me up…

    • David L says:

      Yes, clever and original theme. I was amused.

      • Mr. [very] Grumpy says:

        Not amused was I. Why does Ma have to be in drag at a pride parade? As the proud parent of a trans son, I found that very offensive, and it ruined the puzzle for me. I would give it a zero if that were an option.

        • Martin says:

          Can you explain a bit about why you find this entry offensive?

          For the record, I had a bit of trouble parsing it. One possibility is that ma is a drag king, and is a female in male costume. This could even make sense if ma is childless.

          Another is that ma is one of two dads, in female costume. This doesn’t really work since it would be a dad in drag, not ma. There may be other meanings I haven’t gotten my head around. But none of them would seem to be offensive to any parent. I assume I’m missing something.

        • JT says:

          Pride parades invite people of all walks of life – gay, straight, bisexual, trans, intersex, asexual, cross-dressers, and more – to openly celebrate their “thing” without judgement, where in everyday life they might feel judged. All of those sorts of attendees can also be parents, I have a parent who has been going to the big pride parade for decades because she is part of the LGBTQ community, and were she to dress in men’s clothing, she’d be my ma and she’d be in drag – MA, IN DRAG. Not all drag is dressing in women’s clothes, I have a straight, cis-female friend that occasionally likes to vamp up in men’s clothes, that’s all that drag is; it’s not trying to claim that trans people are in drag, drag is its own separate lifestyle.

          Coincidentally, we live in Los Angeles and the Pride Parade in our area is indeed on West Hollywood’s MAIN DRAG (the primary street in town, the dual-reading of the letters being the alternate gimmick hook of this clue’s answer).

    • JohnH says:

      Yes, I thought it was unusually clever and fun for so early in the week. (FWIW, I didn’t find “it’s half time!” for “time to go halves” anywhere near too big a stretch. Kinda funny actually. And no, I don’t think they’d want altogether to dispense with a revealer for a Tuesday. That’d take seasoned solvers.)

      • PJ says:

        My thinking is that if someone has solved the grid and hasn’t figured out the parsing on the themers then the revealer won’t help.

        • Eric H says:

          The revealer clue at least pushes you to look at the “first parts” of the theme answers, which is maybe a little helpful if you haven’t figured it out already.

          I got the basic idea of the theme from DO OR NAILS, which was probably the first theme answer I solved.

  2. Charles Kelley says:

    RE: Xword Nation – Sports Will Make You Smarter

    Thought your highlighting of Paul Giamatti was a lead-in to noting that his dad, Bart (baseball lover and Red Sox fan), left his position as president of Yale to become president of the National League, and then, three years later, Commissioner of Baseball. Sadly, he died of a heart attack 6 months into this dream job, and was succeeded by his side-kick, Fay Vincent. Fay continued to pursue Giamatti’s vision and reforms, but ended up being the last true independent “outsider” Commissioner, having been fired by the owners three years into his tenure for standing up to them one too many times, and replaced by insider Bud Selig.

  3. David L says:

    Gorski yesterday, Berry today: TNY is giving us an easy week so far.

  4. Oli says:

    Can someone make the NYT revealer make sense to me? From the post here it’s explained as ‘time to take half of the first part of the themer’ and I still feel like HALFTIME makes like no sense

    • Eric H says:

      I can’t come up with anything better than Amy did in her review.

      And neither can Sam Corbin, who wrote today’s Wordplay column in the NYT. She basically ignored whether TIME was supposed to mean something.

    • Dan says:

      I wondered the same thing — why TIME?

    • sorry after after says:

      At least one Rex reader postulated that it might have to do with a 2/2 time signature in music, i.e. going from four to two…? But that would be an example of “cut time,” right? I feel like we’re all missing something.

    • PJ says:

      From the constructor notes:

      The editing team thought those [original] answers were too strained but liked the idea and wondered if I could come up with another set of theme entries. In my mind, I’d kind of thought of the first part of each answer as HALF TIME, so I was able to rescue the puzzle by using that phrase as a revealer, and by adding GOON SQUAD as a theme answer. I wasn’t at all sure this would pass muster, but as you can see it got the thumbs-up.

      Not sure I follow this explanation, either

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I interpret it as Lynn saying to the solvers of the puzzle, “It’s TIME to split the first word of each themer in HALF”. I liked what she came up with for the themers, even if the revealer is a bit of a stretch.

    • Eric H says:

      Several people commented on Wordplay that the puzzle would have been fine without a revealer.

      I think I agree. Almost everyone who has solved a lot of crossword puzzles has been dooked a time or two.

      As PJ noted, Lynn Lempel had an explanation in her constructor notes. But like PJ, I didn’t find it very helpful.

  5. Dan says:

    NYT: Anyone else remember the TV game show “Beat the Clock”, hosted by Bud Collyer and sponsored by Sylvania? (As a kid, I once attended a live broadcast along with my family, because my father worked for Sylvania and got free tickets.)

  6. For those who missed the news, the New Yorker is changing its puzzle operation. They’re no longer publishing new cryptic crosswords on Sundays, and they’re getting rid of their Thursday themeless 15×15 and Friday themed 15×15 puzzles, replacing the latter two with mini-puzzles (written by Kate Chin Park, Mollie Cowger, and Andy Kravis). The Monday-Wednesday themeless 15×15 puzzles will continue, with the same hard-to-easy progression that they’ve done.

    I hope it goes well for them though it’s disappointing to lose both the cryptic and the work of constructors who weren’t in their regular themeless rotation. This is the first time I can recall since they launched their weekly crossword in 2018 that the New Yorker has dropped one of its puzzle features.

    • Dallas says:

      Oh no! No more cryptics? I just started doing them this year, with one a week from the New Yorker. This is a bummer.

    • JohnH says:

      Too bad. I prefer cryptics to standard American puzzles, going back to the very tough early variety cryptics in the Atlantic. And I’ve no interest at all in mini puzzles. But then TNY cryptics have been pretty mini, too.

  7. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: Enjoyable fill that you don’t often see (THAT IS ALL, YOU SCARED ME) and nice clues like RAIN DELAY.

    I lost about a minute thinking the clue for I CAN’T RESIST was “It’s no good!” (I wish the New Yorker app had a larger font for the clues, as I almost always have trouble reading at least one or two clues in a puzzle.)

    It felt light on proper names, though there are probably about a dozen. Most of them were gimmes. I’m guessing “Serial” is a podcast; I’ve never heard of Sarah KOENIG, but there’s a street by that name here, so it was easily gettable after I had a few letters.

    • JohnH says:

      Yes, clever fill. I’d rather it ran later in the week, but still a nice puzzle.

    • Gary R says:

      KOENIG and LIU were the only completely unfamiliar names for me. Some others required a cross or two to bring to mind – FIFI, RON (I only know Parks and Recreation characters from crosswords).

      A good puzzle, but a little light for a Tuesday.

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