Wednesday, April 17, 2024

LAT 4:58 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:31, one error (Kyle) 


NYT 4:34 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 9:25 (Emily) 


WSJ 5:18 (Jim) 


This week’s AV Club Classic crossword is a contest puzzle, so no write-up till the contest ends. Watch for a write-up after the Sunday deadline.

Daniel Bodily’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Double Team”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar two-word verb phrases except the first words have been turned into proper names by virtue of doubling the final letter.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Double Team” · Daniel Bodily · Wed., 4.17.24

  • 17a. [“The Amazing Spider-Man” director Marc catches waves?] WEBB SURFS. Don’t know the name, but hold up. The director of a Spider-Man movie is named Webb?
  • 23a. [Comic Roseanne plays leapfrog?] BARR HOPS.
  • 32a. [Drummer Ringo uses a crystal ball?] STARR GAZES.
  • 42a. [Footballer Lynn explores the coral reef?] SWANN DIVES.
  • 52a. [Rocker Joan hits the slopes?] JETT SKIS.
  • 61a. [Actor Jamie rides on horseback?] FOXX TROTS. There’s another famous Jamie with a doubled last letter: Farr. But there’s no verb phrase that starts with “far” unless you stretch the theme a little with FARR REACHES.

Good theme with excellent execution. Very consistent all the way through with no questionable stretches (like in my example). Impressive to have six theme answers all in the Across direction.

That does mean the fill lacks an abundance of long sparkle, but what we do have is plenty good like DAYTRIP, ORBITER, “IT’S EASY,” STANZAS, STYMIE, JUMPY crossing HIJAB, and GATSBY. I needed every crossing for TISHRI, but that wasn’t a problem, and I learned something new. The rest of the fill is impressively smooth.

Clue of note: 28a. [Focus of a pitching scout?]. TENT. Lots of potential directions for this clue. Ultimately it came down to camping.

Good theme and a lovely grid. Four stars.

Joseph Gangi’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 4/17/24 – no. 0417

One part classics, one part stunt puzzle. We have POLYPHEMUS, aka THE CYCLOPS (“the”?), as encountered in the ODYSSEY. He has ONE EYE, and the grid’s one circled letter (I CAN’T SEE/MAIM) is the one “i” in it. There’s also only one “i” in the clues, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to read through the clue list looking for it.

Favorite clue: 70a. [Wrap for a monarch?], COCOON. I was thinking of ermine and velvet and such.

Fave fill: RAN ERRANDS, but not its opposite in the grid, PASTA SALAD, because I don’t care for pasta salad (nor egg salad, tuna salad, potato salad …).

Not so keen on plural FLORAS and LEVEL A, but given the limitations posed by barring all but one “i” from the grid, it’s pretty smooth overall.

3.5 stars from me.

Prasanna Keshava’s Universal crossword, “Open AI” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 4/17/24 • Wed • “Open AI” • Keshava • solution • 20240417

Each of the two-word theme phrases ‘open’ with the letters A and I, respectively.

  • 17a. [State park located in the San Francisco Bay] ANGELIS ISLAND.
  • 23a. [General concept] ABSTRACT IDEA.
  • 36a. [Inherent behaviors] ANIMAL INSTINCTS. I’m reminded of a biography book report I wrote in elementary school, about the British naturalist Gerald Durrell. In it I wrote that, upon meeting his future wife, that “she shared his animal interests”. My mother secretly realized how funny this was and did not have me change the wording.
  • 49a. [Long-running singing competition show] AMERICAN IDOL.
  • 58a. [Tasks to assign] ACTION ITEMS.

These are fine.

  • 27d [Rad, in ’90s slang] PHAT. Unrelated etymologically, but I’ve recently been making an effort to use the useful word phatic more often. m-w defines it as “of, relating to, or being speech used for social or emotive purposes rather than for communicating information”. This in my opinion reflects a large slice of people’s media diets. There’s also an enlightening discussion of its history in the ‘did you know‘ section.
  • 32d [Carrier of genetic info] DNA. I keyed on the ‘carrier’ part of the clue and first entered RNA, which is sometimes a messenger molecule.
  • 48d [Mixers with gin] TONICS. Getting to be that time of year.
  • 27a [Pet Shop Boys and Carpenters, for example] POP DUOS. I hadn’t known that the brother-and-sister band officially did not have the definite article in their name.
  • 64a [Shout from the crowd] CHANT, not CHEER (which I feel fits the clue better).

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

The New Yorker solution grid – Robyn Weintraub – Wednesday 04/17/2024

Short write-up today as I’m getting to the puzzle on my lunch break. We’re back to an easy themeless from Robyn Weintraub today, with fill highlights like RUN-ON SENTENCE, POTLUCK DINNER, “DON’T GO THERE”, NOT UP TO PAR, STATIC CLING, PASTA SALAD and SPORTS PAGE. I had one error in my completed grid, having entered ACTS for 1D [First of five in “Othello” or “Hamlet”] which called for ACT I. Had I not solved that whole corner Downs-only, I’d have caught my error.

Thanks Robyn!

Emma Oxford’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Emma Oxford’s puzzle today feature’s a slight wrinkle on an oft-seen theme type. The revealer is WILDFLOWERS, and flower varietals are scrambled and hidden in long across answers. Today, they are contained within the first word or first two words rather than spanning between two parts:

  • [*Be extremely helpful], LIVETOSERVE; violet
  • [*Staged a fireworks show], LITUPTHESKY; tulip
  • [*Start of an instruction to an automated assistant], SIRISETATIMER. So is SIRI[ANYTHING] a crossword entry now? iris
  • [*Sensitive area], SORESUBJECT; rose

There weren’t a lot of tricksy clues and answers today:

  • [Adult stage in insects], IMAGO might be new to some…
  • [Sault __ Marie], STE as clued I haven’t seen in a while. It’s a small town in Canada.
  • [Ger. neighbor], AUS. Except that is non-standard; AUT is usually Austria and Aus Australia.


Chandi Deitmer’s USA Today Crossword, “Ham Sandwiches” — Emily’s write-up

Let’s dig right in before this gets cold!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday April 17, 2024

USA Today, April 17, 2024, “Ham Sandwiches” by Chandi Deitmer

Theme: each themer contains HA—M (aka a “ham sandwich”)


  • 19a. [SportsCenter anchor who was the first play-by-play announcer for the WNBA], HANNAHSTORM
  • 34a. [Techie’s means of promoting social change], HACKTIVISM
  • 53a. [Reasonable compromise], HAPPYMEDIUM

What a delightful feast of a puzzle! HANNAHSTORM was new to me so tricker to fill until a had several crossings. Had a kept the title in mind, which had the perfect hint, I would have gotten HACKTIVISM soon since I’m used to thinking of “code hacks” or “hackathons”. HAPPYMEDIUM fit in nicely, especially given that it was the third and the theme became overtly apparent even without me thinking about it. Tasty!

Favorite fill: EVENSO, ONEMORE, and MINIME

Stumpers: REST (every other notation came to mind before this: “note”, “staff”, “clef”), FETE (could only think of “gala”), and SITTERS (try to put “pet” or “baby” before it but clearly it didn’t need either)

Fun grid, loved the theme and themer set, enjoyed the overall and lengthy bonus fill! Cluing was a bit trickier for me today, which is a good workout sometimes—everything fairly crossed though so not too hard which is nice. Enjoyed every BITE and I hope we get another helping soon of these excellent puzzles!

4.0 stars


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43 Responses to Wednesday, April 17, 2024

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: The clue for ONE EYE is “Feature of 20-Across … and, when sounded out, a feature of today’s puzzle (clues and all!).” I understood that to mean that the only I in both the grid and the clues is the one in I CAN’T SEE.

    I’m overly proud of myself for having remembered how to spell POLYPHEMUS. High school English was a long time ago.

    • Dallas says:

      Also, in the Odyssey, Odysseus MAIMs POLYPHEMUS by stabbing him in the eye, whereupon he CAN’T SEE. Another nice theme element, in addition to WANDERED.

  2. huda says:

    Agree with this interpretation, that there are no I’s in the clues.
    I stumbled all over POLYPHEMUS, but it was pretty smooth otherwise.
    Amy, is it the mayo base in these salads that you dislike? Because I have similar feelings about the classic versions of these salads, but there are some really good versions that are mediterranean.

    • pannonica says:

      Agree on salads-sans-mayonnaise!

    • JohnH says:

      My supermarket slathers on the mayo in its deli section’s cole slaw, and I’m not a fan of mayo bases to begin with, so I sympathize.

      I liked a lot how the theme layered so much on. I also appreciated the clue for STRUM since one just yesterday, I think it was defined it as a guitarist’s noodling. That seems wrong to me. Noodling makes me think of the pretense of virtuosity that just runs up and down single notes forever, like Alvin Lee of Ten Years After. When it comes down to it, strumming is a relatively simple way of playing good for amateurs like me, where you have to stick to the chord progression (or a creative substitutes). You can still go wild on the rhythm, like John Lennon’s choosing triplets over McCartney’s walking bass for All My Loving. But that’s good, not noodling. Sorry for the nostalgia in my examples.

    • PJ says:

      All the hate for mayonnaise is killing me. I make my own but Duke’s isn’t bad. Try this recipe for Alabama White Sauce. Its most famous use is on BBQ chicken. Others use it as a salad dressing. I could mainline it.

      1.5 C Mayonnaise
      2 t Prepared horseradish
      Black pepper/salt/cayenne pepper – 1/4 C all combined (not each). I lean on the black pepper the heaviest. Adjust to your taste.
      1/4 C Sugar
      One small lemon freshly squeezed
      1/2 C Apple cider vinegar

      Whisk and serve

      • Eric H says:

        When I was a kid, my mother always bought Miracle Whip. It took me a long time to realize that the reason I enjoyed a ham or roast beef sandwich more at my grandmother’s was because my Nana bought mayonnaise.

        My tolerance for ketchup and mustard is greater now than when I was younger, but I still prefer mayonnaise on a hamburger.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      For pasta salad, it’s everything but the noodles. For potato salad, it’s the mayo and (often) mustard. For egg salad, it’s mainly the hard-boiled eggs and the way they smell. I haven’t ever tried tuna salad; the smell of canned tuna makes it no-go. I do like chicken salad, though! Provided I can avoid raw celery, scallions, and an excess of mayo. Apples or grapes, pecans, and curry all improve a chicken salad.

      • Eric H says:

        Man! And I thought I was a picky eater!

        It took me a long time to get used to eating tuna salad. I got more accepting of canned tuna after eating a fresh tuna steak.

        I still don’t much care for celery, though. It’s fine in Cajun food, but eating it raw? No thanks.

      • Martin says:

        Salmon salad, made with leftover roasted salmon and mayo is my favorite. But homemade mayo makes a gigantic difference. I haven’t bought a jar of mayo in close to 50 years, since I got my first food processor. It only takes a minute, plus maybe two to wash the processor. The taste is so much fresher. C’mon folks, stop buying Hellmann’s.

        2 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg, at room temperature
        1/2 t salt
        1/4 t pepper, white or black
        1 T Grey Poupon
        Process above ingredients for a few seconds. With machine running, add 1 quart canola oil, very slowly at first, increasing to moderate stream after about 1/2 cup has been added.
        When all the oil has been added, with machine still running, add 2T vinegar and 2T lemon juice. I use rice vinegar, but any will work.
        Process another few seconds and you’re done. Lasts in a covered container in the refrigerator indefinitely.

      • Gary R says:

        Ha! My tastes seem to be almost opposite Amy’s (though I agree that the mayo, which I like, is often overdone). I’m not much for egg salad, either. But a good tuna salad or chicken salad (sans any of the fruit) are great. Love the crunch of some fresh celery in either one.

        To Huda’s earlier point about non-mayo pasta salads, I’ve enjoyed some really nice vinaigrette-dressed pasta salads. And of course, if they’re going to a picnic or whatever, where they might be unrefrigerated for a while, the non-mayo salads are less of a food poisoning risk.

        Thanks to PJ and Martin for the recipes – these are both going on my list of things to try!

  3. pannonica says:

    NYT: 65a [Took the long way home, say] WANDERED is at least theme adjacent, describing Odysseus’ decade-long post-Iliad journey.

    • DougC says:

      I assumed it was intentionally thematic, given its placement symmetrical to I CAN’T SEE.

      This was a much-better-than-average stunt puzzle, IMO. It started off weak, with those POCs in the northwest, but won me over as the theme unfolded. Very nicely done.

  4. JohnH says:

    TNY is labeled beginner friendly (obviously not too exciting but will have to do), which would seem to confirm a difficult / medium / easy (no theme) plan for the week. But wait another week and see.

  5. Neil Gupta says:

    WSJ – Rosh Hashanah’s month ? TISHRI.

    Really? Talk about exclusionary.
    Great for solvers with Jewish heritage but they are a tiny, tiny religious sect of 15m.

    Obscure religious clues don’t belong in general crosswords. There are 900m Hindus but “Current Hindu month?” (CHAITRA) is also unacceptable.

    • Mr. [somewhat] Grumpy [aka Norm] says:

      Totes agree.

    • e.a. says:

      i must not be understanding you correctly, because it seems like you’re saying “that group is a minority so their culture shouldn’t be allowed in crosswords” would be the “inclusionary” policy

    • Martin says:

      Some NYT entries:

      Hindus have so many gods that are good for crosswords. Jews only have one, so they have to make do with months.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I suspect this comment was made strictly to troll the site, so it goes against my better judgment to reply.

      But out of curiosity, googling “Jewish population in America” comes up with 7.6 million people. Googling “Hindu population in America” comes up with 3.3 million. Make of that what you will.

      I’m all for learning new stuff as long as the crossings are fair, which is the case today.

    • Lois says:

      I agree with Jim’s point that more obscure entries are OK if the crossings are fair. (Actually, I don’t know whether the majority of Jews in the United States know the Hebrew months.) I learned from a friend that in some Arabic-speaking countries, the Arabic names of the Gregorian months are similar to the Hebrew lunar month names. See October in the table:
      Hebrew months, though they don’t match the Gregorian calendar exactly, are tied to the seasons, and so can be matched up to the Gregorian calendar somewhat. Though lunar months are shorter than solar months, the Hebrew calendar keeps up with the seasons by having an occasional leap month.

    • JohnH says:

      I’m a bit ashamed to say that, while of Jewish heritage, I didn’t know TISHRI, but it didn’t bother me at all. I got it easily it easily from crossings. And you know, learning about someone else’s religion seems rather appealing to me rather than a flaw. Beats learning the celebs in the theme fill hands down. I didn’t care for the SNORE joke either. That said, the theme did carry me through enjoyably with its consistent pattern.

  6. David L says:

    NYT: I entered ICANTSEE without understanding why, and by the time I’d finished the puzzle I’d forgotten about it. And I didn’t occur to me until coming here that WANDERED was also part of the theme.

    One objection (and I think this has come up before): There isn’t really a B street in Washington DC. Originally, Constitution and Independence Aves were B street N and S, but they were renamed in the late 19th C, I believe. If you go to Google Maps and look for B St there’s a short segment that shows up, but it’s in Fort McNair, which is in DC — and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the clue was asking us to think of.

  7. respectyourelders says:

    LAT: Lovely theme for the spring!

  8. David L says:

    Spelling Bee: I don’t know about you, but if I’m struggling to find words I sometimes try making up ridiculous ones to see if they’re accepted. Today’s pangram is just such a word.

    • Mr. [somewhat] Grumpy says:

      Ha ha ha. Agree 100%. And none of the staff has apparently ever been sailing or read a Melville novel.

    • Eric H says:

      I got the noun related to today’s pangram and thought to try the leftover letter. It does produce a bit of an eye roll.

      On the other hand, yesterday’s pangrams were pretty cool.

      Since I started playing Spelling Bee again a few weeks ago, I’ve tried to get to Genius each day without submitting any four-letter words. I’m finding that pretty hard today.

      • Gary R says:

        Identical experience with the pangram.

        I usually try to get to Amazing before entering any four-letter words. Probably not the wisest strategy – I often find that when I start entering the four-letter words, I’ll spot longer, related words.

        • MarkAbe says:

          My favorite is when short words lead to longer ones, as when Y, ED, or ING is available. I do agree that the list is arbitrary enough that I sometimes make up likely words and find they are accepted.

    • Art Shapiro says:

      For what it’s worth, that was my first word today. But yes, it’s rather obscure.

      But it’s better than RAMBUTAN, the last time I failed to get the pangram.

  9. Tom Cassutt says:

    LAT: I think that it’s possible that the last two flower varietals are meant to be IRISES and ROSES so that the anagrams span two words instead of one.

    • damefox says:

      Good catch, but they are not. That was a coincidence. An unfortunate one, but a coincidence nevertheless. Somehow, in three of the four entries I ended up with the next word starting with S (or SE), and LITUPTHESKY is all alone. I maybe should’ve gone with SORETHROATS or SOREWINNERS as the last themer to balance it out.


  10. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: This was a nice puzzle, but the editor didn’t know the three letter code for Austria, which is AUT, not AUS. So I rate the puzzle as 3.5, but a one-point deduction for the editing makes it 2.5.

    • Eric H says:

      You’re correct that the ISO code for Austria is AUT.

      But where in the clue does it say anything about three-letter codes? The clue just asks for “Ger. neighbor,” which implies that an accepted abbreviation for any country that borders Germany is correct. And AUS is an accepted abbreviation for Austria.

  11. Seattle DB says:

    @pannonica, re: UNI — I got quite the chuckle from your anecdote about your book report where you wrote “she shared his animal interests”. Too funny!

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