Wednesday, April 3, 2024

AVCX 4:28 (Amy) 


LAT 3:57 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 2:31 (Kyle) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 7:41 (Emily) 


WSJ 6:30 (Jim) 


Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Critical Thinking”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words can also mean “make fun of”.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Critical Thinking” · Gary Larson · Wed., 4.3.24

  • 17a. [Make fun of nuns?] KID SISTERS.
  • 24a. [Make fun of a member of a sleigh-pulling team?] SLAM DANCER. “Slamming” is more than “making fun of.”
  • 39a. [Make fun of familiar sayings?] RIP SAWS. Meh. Not a lot of surface sense to this one.
  • 52a. [Make fun of script dialogue?] FAULT LINES.
  • 63a. [Make fun of members of WWII’s female naval reserves?] BLAST WAVES. Again, “blasting” is more than “making fun of.” And yeesh! Going back to WWII for a joke about making fun of women serving in the military. Find something better. ROAST GOOSE would fit in this slot, perhaps clued [Make fun of a “Top Gun” sidekick?].

Not my cup of tea since the puns are mostly of the groan-worthy variety. The first one is the best of the lot, since “kid” actually means “make fun of,” but there’s just no humor here. At least not for me.

PAST LIVES and MEDICINES top the fill. Also good: RANCOR, FLABBY, and ANGSTY. IDLESSE is rather a snooty word, and I have to believe something more fun could go there since it’s only crossing one theme answer.

Clues of note:

  • 14a. [Burlesque]. APE. Meh. How often do we come across this clue word used as a verb?
  • 3d. [Well-intentioned things?]. MEDICINES. “Things intended to make you well” is how I’m thinking the clue should be interpreted.
  • 9d. [Los Angeles neighborhood north of Tarzana and Encino]. RESEDA. Can’t think of this city without hearing Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.”

2.75 stars.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 4/3/24 – no. 0403

I’m not quite sure how to explain this theme. Two theme answers are alliterative and two aren’t. Three have a third letter matching the two circled ones, and the other doesn’t. Three of the clues have two omitted letters replaced with underscores and the fourth has three, but the answer has two.

  • 17a. [Lip_on produc_s], INSTANT TEAS, with two of the three T’s circled. Weird clue, because Lipton is probably better known for its non-instant tea bags and bottled teas than for its instant teas.
  • 28a. [_lum-colored _lants], PURPLE PEAS. Again, three P’s, just two of them circled. The plants are not “plum-colored,” just the flowers and pods are. Green leaves, green peas.
  • 42a. [_usy _uzzers], BUMBLEBEES. Again, three B’s. Bumblebees aren’t any “busier” than honeybees, are they?
  • 55a. [Fr_endly fac_al tra_t], SMILING EYES. Why are three _ missing i’s in this clue?

Yeah. I don’t get the point or the execution here. Please tell me what I’m missing!


Forgot BUD ICE was ever a thing!

2.5 stars from me, pending a reassessment if I missed a clever layer to the theme.

Robyn Weintraub’s New Yorker crossword – Kyle’s write-up

It’s Weintraub Wednesday at TNY. This puzzle was a breeze–or maybe I should say a light air. I solved the entire lower half using only the Across clues.

The New Yorker solution grid – Robyn Weintraub – Wednesday 04/03/2024

Robyn’s selection of long fill shines as usual, with highlights like ‘SWEET CAROLINE’, CROWD CONTROL, RAIN OR SHINE, CRIME BOSS, TIME ZONE, LOANER CAR, and ON MESSAGE. Though, we don’t have a long conversational entry that’s usually a hallmark of Robyn’s grids.

BIRDWATCHER gets my favorite clue in the puzzle: [Eagle scout?]

I wonder how much longer ICHAT will be acceptable fill. The final version of the app was released 12 years ago, before Apple replaced it with Messages. There must certainly be millions of Mac/iPhone users out there who have never used iChat.

Thanks Robyn!

Rebecca Goldstein and Will Eisenberg’s Universal crossword, “Beginning Bird-Watching” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 4/3/24 • Wed “Beginning Bird-Watching” • Goldstein, Eisenberg • solution • 20240403

Left-right mirror symmetry today. Each of the theme answers is a type of faux avifauna in the format {adjective} {bird variety}. The clues are presented as if they were spoken sotto voce by a guide.

  • 3d. [“There! Sitting on the craft table, with the crisply folded wings … Wait, is that a __?”] PAPER CRANE.
  • 7d. [“There! Arcing through the sky, with the round, red figure … Wait, is that a __?”] CLAY PIGEON.
  • 11d. [“There! Floating on the sudsy water, with the orange beak … Wait, is that a __?”] RUBBER DUCK.
  • 61a. [“There! Standing by the swimming pool, on one foot … Wait! Is that a __?”] PLASTIC FLAMINGO.

Cute, and nicely done. Good selection of themers, too. Each of the three vertical ones has equal-length entries alongside it, with the central 7-down flanked both left and right—impressive.

  • 1a [Scottish musician, maybe] PIPER. “There! Patrolling the shoreline, picking out small crabs … Wait, is that a SANDPIPER?”
  • 21a [“__ Gravity” (“Wicked” song)] DEFYING. Presumably this is about flying, as many birds do.
  • 41a [Process that produces daughter cells] MITOSIS. Not too common a word in ordinary parlance, but this is very basic biology.
  • 48a [Terrier type] SKYE. Homophone of where many birds can be found.
  • 12d [Log of a time out?] DREAM DIARY. The question mark signifies not so much wordplay as just weirdness. Without it, the clue barely makes sense.
  • 48d [ __ butterfly] SOCIAL. I’m suddenly reminded of a short, wordless story by Krystine Kryttre from the pages of Raw Commix.

Dylan Schiff’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Dylan Schiff’s puzzle theme today consists of phrases starting with four rough synonyms for TUNE: THEME, NUMBER, SONG, CAROL. These are contained in the following entries:

  • [*Rainforest Cafe, for one], THEMERESTAURANT
  • [*Depiction of integers at regular intervals], NUMBERLINE. I thought the whole point of a number line was to visualise any set of numbers, not just integers?
  • [*Imperial reign of China ended by Kublai Khan], SONGDYNASTY
  • [*Florence Henderson sitcom role], CAROLBRADY

The puzzle felt more towards Monday, Tuesday in difficulty, but the difference can often be negligible in any case.

Other notable entries:

  • [Specs dished in a gossip sesh], DEETS. Lots of syllable dropping!
  • [Total randos], NONAMES. More informal phrasing.
  • [Race-sanctioning body since 1994], INDYCAR. What the US single-seater racing series is called at any one time can be a tad confusing…
  • [Universal blood recipient’s designation], TYPEAB. Your body’s blood has A and B antigens, so you don’t make anti-bodies to either, however your blood has both antigens, so if a donor’s blood lacks one, then the body will consider the blood as foreign.


Emma Lawson’s USA Today Crossword, “Period Pieces” — Emily’s write-up

Lovely puzzle for midweek.

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday April 03, 2024

USA Today, April 03, 2024, “Period Pieces” by Emma Lawson

Theme: each themer contains —ERA—


  • 17a. [Prince song with a colorful name], PURPLERAIN
  • 28a. [Do a little of this and a little of that], PUTTERAROUND
  • 45a. [Number of euros to the dollar, e.g.], EXCHANGERATE
  • 60a. [Download that offers forecasts], WEATHERAPP

A fun themer set today with PURPLERAIN, PUTTERAROUND, EXCHANGERATE, and WEATHERAPP. All were easy to fill except I wanted to put “Raspberry Beret”.

Favorite fill: NOWAY, BEACHREAD, and LOTUS

Stumpers: INIT (needed some crossings) and IDOTOO (kept thinking of “ditto”)

Love the themer set, grid, and cluing. Lots of great overall fill as well. Short and sweet write-up today—excuse me while I go jam out to some Prince!

4.0 stars


Sam Brody’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Seeing Double”–Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 4/3/24 – “Seeing Double”

Each of the theme entries is a word that can be split into two unrelated words. Each theme clue repeats the same words twice, cluing each half of the theme answer separately.

  • 17a. CASTRATING splits into a CAST and a movie RATING, both of which could be [Info on an IMDb page]. CASTRATING, I’m pretty sure, isn’t indexed on IMDb.
  • 26a. [Cherokee, for example] is both a CAR (SUV, really) and an indigenous NATION. The Cherokee rose is their chosen flower, not a carnation.
  • 36a. [It may lend an air of distinction] refers to your GARB and/or your AGE. Garbage lends an air of distinktion.
  • 38a. [Most “Top Gun” characters], MEN and ACES. Are they also menaces? I couldn’t tell you.
  • 53a. [Hairstyle feature], a PART and a RIDGE? My hair won’t hold a ridge, I know that. Pretty sure there’s not a hairstyle connection for PARTRIDGE.
  • 60a. [Rock formations] clues rock STRATA and GEMS.

The vague rightness of GARBAGE and MENACES detracts from the theme because I can’t make the other theme answers in the grid fit their clues.

Fill I didn’t love includes LENTO and ATEMPO (prefer zero to one piece of musical terminology per puzzle), NOGS, STES.

3.5 stars from  me.

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24 Responses to Wednesday, April 3, 2024

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: The second part of each theme answer is a homophone of the letter that’s circled in the first part of the answer: TEA, PEA, etc.

    • marciem says:

      thx… I was totally lost on the theme, after whizzing through the puzzle nonstop… wha???

    • Gary R says:

      The theme seems like one of those jokes that falls flat, so you end up explaining it to the audience. Probably shouldn’t have told that joke to start with.

    • George says:

      Ohhh, I totally missed that. Came here looking for an explanation, and felt exactly the same as Amy is in her write up. At least this makes it feel less random, not sure why it was hard for multiple people to notice.

      • David L says:

        I noticed that the themers end in letter sounds, but what’s the significance of those letters being blanked out in the clues? I remain mystified.

        • spiderplant says:

          ^Second that.

          What bothers me is that TEAS, PEAS, and BEES rhyme and then we have EYES as an outlier. Is that one supposed to stand out because “E” does not match “I”, whereas the others match the letter to which they refer?

        • JohnH says:

          I differ from the consensus in liking the theme quite a bit. It has its layers, which is always a plus. Here we have two-word phrases in the which the second sounds like a letter in plural while the first has two instances of that letter. And then, as a bonus or, for me, a hint, all instances of the letter are removed from the clue. That helped me a lot, getting me focused on the missing letter.

          I don’t at all mind that the number of occurrences in the clues varies, which to me feels like overthinking. Maybe they could have found a wording in which it was always two, but I’m not sure that would have made the theme tighter. Looking for a correspondence between the dropped and circled letter feels like overthinking, too. There’s an irony to the objection in that, had they not bothered to drop the letter in the clue, the objection would disappear but the theme would be duller. (“I that all?”)

          I definitely didn’t worry that one-sound alike is spelled differently. It’s just a nice touch — or just English. (Oh, like Jim, I found the clue for MEDICINES a stretch and wondered at the dated reference in the clue for BLAST WAVE, which anyway is a phrase you don’t say everyday.)

  2. Allen K says:

    I think you can think of it as the two tees (teas) of the word instant. The two pees (peas)of the word purple etc. That’s why only the first word has the circles.

    • marciem says:

      almost like a Connections connection… I think one in the last few days played on the letter homophone thing?

  3. David L says:

    Yeah, I don’t get it either.

  4. Zach says:

    WSJ: In the last week, “ABBA” has appeared as an answer 4 times: Thursday 3/28, Friday 3/29, Tuesday 4/2 and Wednesday 4/3. Thanks to the WSJ, now I can tell my friends that not only am I an expert on all things Oslo, but I know quite a bit about ABBA too!

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ … Though I wasn’t a big fan of this puzzle either (IDLESSE???), I don’t know why Jim thinks the theme is synonyms for “make fun of”. With the notable exception of KID, I think the other themer verbs (SLAM, RIP, FAULT and BLAST) work well as synonyms for being “critical”, as is hinted at in the puzzle’s title, “Critical Thinking”.

    • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:


    • dh says:

      agree. Even “kid” as a verb is a stretch – it’s more accurately “tease” or “rib”.

      • Gary R says:

        Not sure why “kid” as a verb is a stretch – hear it all the time (“you’re kidding me”).

        My sense of Jim’s review is that he got caught up in his initial take of “make fun of” as the theme and didn’t catch on to “critical.”

        • Bill in SoCal says:

          But the clues all say “Make fun of” and the clues are more important that the overarching and vague title.

  6. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: Breezy, as expected. My pleasure at seeing Aimee MANN (a longtime favorite) in the grid was somewhat diminished by getting the Neil Diamond song stuck in my head. But I’m sure others liked it.

    On my way to do today’s puzzle, I saw that the New Yorker has a short story read by its author, Souvankham Thammavongs. Perhaps I’ll remember that name if Ms Thammavongs appears in a Natan Last puzzle.

    Her short story is pretty good.

    • JohnH says:

      I’m happy to be reminded of Amy Mann and just hate Neil Diamond myself but whatever. It’s only a puzzle.

      • Eric H says:

        True, it’s only a puzzle. And I would have hardly noticed if it had just been Neil Diamond’s name.

        But there are many songs I don’t care for as to which just seeing the name gives me an earworm that I can’t shake.

        Maybe we’ll just have to listen to some Aimee MANN this evening.

  7. Oakpatch says:

    Today’s New Yorker puzzle was awfully easy for a Wednesday. Seemed to me that it belonged later in the week.

    • JohnH says:

      There IS no longer a later in the week. They had gone up from 3 to 5 in progression from hard to easy, and now they’ve cut back again to 3. So today is their easy one. A bit too breezy for me. Maybe when I’m not asked to work harder, I rely on a theme to interest me.

    • Lois says:

      It says “beginner-friendly puzzle” right on top, but not when you print it, I don’t think.

  8. Martin says:

    I’m with Amy on the three fill-in-the-blank I’s. I figured each FITB mapped to a circled letter and scratched my head when I got to I. I guess JohnH’s theory — that them being unrelated adds some sort of elegance to the theme — is plausible, but it bugged me. It would have been easy to fix by changing “trait” in the clue to an I-less word, but the team chose to leave it. It was clearly intentional. But I still have a nagging feeling I’m missing something.

  9. Eric H says:

    AVCX: Amy wrote, “CASTRATING, I’m pretty sure, isn’t indexed on IMDb.”

    Not so! IMDb assigns keywords to movies and TV shows, and “castration” brings up about 10 titles. (There appear to be even more titles that contain the word.)

    I’d have enjoyed the puzzle more without that word, especially right up at the top.

Comments are closed.