Wednesday, March 20, 2024

AVCX 6:21 (Amy) 


LAT 5:21 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 2:50 (Amy) 


NYT 3:54 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 16:53 (Emily) 


WSJ 6:07 (Jim) 


E. M. Capassakis’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 3/20/24 – no. 0320

The name of the game is three-digit numbers used as shorthand for something recognizable. 101 is an INTRO CLASS, Agent 007 is James BOND, 420 is CANNABIS, 666 is the number of THE BEAST, 411 is INFO, and 360 comes FULL CIRCLE. Fresh, a bit slangy.

Fave fill: WENT TOO FAR and KIBOSH.

Three things:

  • 35a. [Czech form of Charles], KAREL. As in R.U.R. playwright Karel Čapek and … are there any other famous-to-Americans KARELs out there, really? Maybe not the most useful name for crossword puzzles on this side of the Atlantic.
  • 27d. [Norwegian name that gained global prominence in 2010], SIRI. Oops, my first guess was SVEN from Frozen.
  • 44a. [This sucks!], LEECH. Eww!

3.75 stars from me.

Kate Chin Park’s AV Club Classic crossword, “AVCX Classic Themeless #75”–Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 3/20/24 – “AVCX Classic Themeless #75”

Ooh, this puzzle’s jammed with terrific long fill. From the top, with sportscaster DORIS BURKE, an INDOOR POOL, and FAST CASUAL dining stacked up, to OUTRAGE BAIT, a SAD TROMBONE, SOCRATES, and Picard’s “MAKE IT SO” running down, and “ACT NATURAL” with “LET’S BOUNCE” down below? Good stuff!

I didn’t understand 11a. [Having big D energy?] for POOR till just now. As in a poor term paper getting a grade of D, nothing at all to do with “big dick energy.”

37d. [Corn-based source of Mesoamerican deliciousness] clues TAMAL. See, now, I think of tamales as characterized by their fillings rather than the masa that envelops a filling. I could be entirely off base here.

Did not know: ROULEAU was a 8d. [Stack of coins].

4.25 stars from me. A fun one, tough but not too tough.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Season Openers”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose final words can precede “spring” to make other phrases. The revealer is START OF SPRING (37a, [Vernal equinox, and what the last words of 17-, 26-, 48- and 60-Across might be considered]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Season Openers” · Mike Shenk · Wed., 3.20.24

  • 17a. [Windy one] CHATTERBOX. Box spring.
  • 26a. [Crew member] DECK HAND. Handspring.
  • 48a. [“Okay, have it your way”] “VERY WELL.” Wellspring.
  • 60a. [Go through a series in a day, say] BINGE WATCH. Watch spring.

Timely tried-and-true theme with lively theme answers.

Smooth fill all around with highlights VAN HALEN, SUPERIOR, and SAVANNA. Do people say “BELT UP!” [Driver’s demand to a passenger]? “Buckle up” seems much more common.

Clues of note:

35d. [“Murder by Death,” e.g.]. SPOOF. I think I saw this 1976 film yeeears ago, so it was worth it to look at the trailer again. Okay, Peter Sellers’ role did not age well, but it was interesting to see Maggie Smith and James Cromwell from nearly 50 years ago.

3.5 stars.

Drew Schmenner’s Universal crossword, “Planting a Tree” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 3/20/24 • Wed • “Planting a Tree” • Schmenner • solution • 20240320

For today’s theme, the thee-letter name of a tree has been inserted into the original words/phrases. I’ve circled the relevant squares post-hoc.

  • 17a. [Drenching St. Louis’ NHL team] SOAKING THE BLUES (sing the blues, oak).
  • 30a. [Safety headwear featuring many holes?] CROC HELMETS (crochets, elm). Things that are crocheted may also have an open pattern, so I was a little confused.
  • 49a. [What burns at the rear of a campsite?] BACK BONFIRE (backbone, fir).
  • 65a. [Most impulsive speeches?] RASHEST ORATIONS (restorations, ash).

Three single words, one three-word phrase. A little uneven.

  • 6d [Online provocateur who posts over-the-top takes] EDGELORD. Genuinely surprised to see this bit of internet slang in a mainstream crossword. The Wiktionary page indicates that the entry was created in March of 2017.
  • 23d [It cools down beachgoers] OCEAN BREEZE. Also the name of a cocktail created for Ocean Spray, a variation on the sea breeze cocktail.
  • 66d [Catch a glimpse of] SEE, though I reflexively put in SPY.
  • 39a [Smoothie chain] JAMBA. I learned recently that ‘Juice’ has been dropped from the name.

Okay, just a sort of run-of-the-mill crossword, if I can be so morbid.

Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword–Amy’s recap

Some programming changes from the New Yorker’s puzzles department: Mon-Wed will be themelesses, with the former Thursday-easy slot moving into Wednesday. Thursday and Friday will have minis (maybe a mini and a midi?), no more Friday themed 15×15. And they’re discontinuing their cryptics, which is a shame! I liked those as a quick nibble of cryptic crosswords.

New Yorker crossword solution, 3/20/24 – Weintraub

So today’s Robyn offering is easy-peasy-breezy. (I recently saw an ad that promised “easy-peezy,” which … no.) The old Thursday, new Wednesday vibe. I zipped through the clues, rarely needing to skip over one.


Those of you who carp about New Yorker crosswords including too many names you don’t know, you ought to speak up when the puzzle doesn’t fight you that way. Waiting to see if instead you’ll complain that the puzzle wasn’t challenging enough.

This clue amused me: [Musk who set a record for the largest loss of personal fortune in history, according to Guinness], ELON.

4.25 stars from me.

Michèle Govier’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

I haven’t seen the conceit of today’s puzzle theme by Michèle Govier in a while. I liked the way the central SURROUNDSOUND provides two black squares and doesn’t intersect the theme. If you didn’t realise while solving (I didn’t), all the outer answers are onomatopoeic: CRUNCH, JINGLE, SNAP, POP, SMASH, SPLASH, RATTLE, SLAM, TAP, CLICK. The most difficult part of this theme type is designing a balanced grid that doesn’t have at least one truly ugly area, which this one achieves better than most I’ve solved.

  • Bullets:
    [Playground retort], DIDTOO. One of the more arbitrary entries today.
  • [Watering hole in TV’s “M*A*S*H”], ROSIES. A deep dive into old TV…
  • [CARE, e.g.], NGO. Non-governmental organisation.
  • [Knight cap], HELMET. Technically, as it goes on the head.
  • [Contract that may prevent bad PR], NDA. Non-disclosure agreement.


Amie Walker’s USA Today Crossword, “Leo Rising” — Emily’s write-up

A toughie for me today—how did you all do?

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday March 20, 2024

USA Today, March 20, 2024, “Leo Rising” by Amie Walker

Theme: each downs themer contains —LEO—


  • 27d. [Fungus-derived umami topping], TRUFFLEOIL
  • 14d. [Card game in which sleeping dogs might be mistaken for breakfast rolls], BEAGLEORBAGEL
  • 9d. [2018 stop-motion Wes Anderson film], ISLEOFDOGS

Really fun themer set today! Beginning with TRUFFLEOIL, moving on to BEAGLEORBAGEL, and ending with ISLEOFDOGS. With the theme, progressing from left to right, the first themer sits on the bottom of the grid and the —LEO— “rises” with each consecutive one until the last ends at the top of the grid. At first and especially with themers in the downs today, I initially expected —OEL—thinking that it might “rise” in each themer itself but quickly saw it was the other way and I love this set overall!

Favorite fill: NONOTES, ILLASK, and SOO

Stumpers: DUSTY (had “dingy”), SHOEGAZE (I don’t listen to this enough; needed a few crossings), BUTTS (new to me) and POX (totally on the food mindset so needed all crossings)

For some reason, I just didn’t know many of the entries so it took me a while to break in anywhere on the grid then slow work into the rest of it. The NW corner was the last section that I completed which seems odd to me since usually that area never gives me issues. Was it just me? Was this puzzle a harder one than usual?

3.5 stars


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12 Responses to Wednesday, March 20, 2024

  1. Mutman says:

    NYT: KAREL / NEMEA cross tough. Had an ‘O’ in there.

    • anon says:

      Agreed – that crossing felt a bit Naticky. I had NIMEA/KARIL (confusing the location in Greece with the Nivea skin care brand).

    • JohnH says:

      KAREL didn’t occur to me right away, but no question it’s a name I recognize. NEMEA is a gimme for me, although mostly from crosswords as a stand-alone place name. I’m more familiar with it from myth as the Nemean lion that Hercules slew.

      In the NYT, must admit I hadn’t heard 420 in real life and assumed it was a West Coast thing. But I see that it’s spread more widely, even to proposed federal legislation.

      Agreed that TNY is light on names, but I wouldn’t go so far as to speak up in high praise and celebration. After all, we weren’t asking for beginner’s puzzles, just fair-play challenges. Still, agreed too that there’s some nicely idiomatic fill.

  2. Papa John says:

    Martin (or anyone else who may be able to help me) — My machine was hacked last Friday and it took until yesterday to get it back from the computer shop. They were able to clear the hack but my machine is not like it was before the hack. For one thing, I’m unable to load the puzzle into Across Lite. And there are many other unwanted changes. Are you able to connect remotely to my machine and see if you can help get back to normal? I realize it’s big ask but I have nowhere else to go. []

  3. anon says:

    ACVX: Nice puzzle! Great to see DORIS BURKE at 1a, ending with LET’S BOUNCE at 68a. (A mini-theme!)

    • Eric H says:

      That was a nice puzzle. I zipped through the first part of it, causing me to doubt the 5/5 difficulty rating AVXC gave it.

      Then I got slowed by some unknowns and felt like I wouldn’t solve it without looking something up. But I resisted that urge and finished with a time that I would be content with on a NYT Saturday puzzle.

      If you’re going to stick something like ON A in the grid, you could do worse than clueing it to a Magnetic Fields song.

  4. DougC says:

    NYT: I liked this clever puzzle a lot, even if it played way too easy for its Wednesday time slot, IMO. It would’ve been a great Tuesday puzzle. Scheduling nits aside, a worthy NYT debut for Ms. Capassakis.

Comments are closed.