Wednesday, April 24, 2024

AV Club 8:01 (Amy) 


LAT 7:50 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:30ish (Sophia) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 7:24 (Emily) 


WSJ 4:36 (Jim) 


Kelly Richardson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Plants with Personality”—Jim’s review

I’m not the type of person to talk to plants, but I know some people are, especially those with the knack for growing a houseful of house plants. Today’s theme might speak to these people. Theme answers are two-word made-up phrases where the second word is a plant and the first word is an adjective differing from the plant by one letter.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Plants with Personality” · Kelly Richardson · Wed., 4.24.24

  • 17a. [Fungus with a strict code of ethics? ] MORAL MOREL.
  • 25a. [Vegetable with a dashing appearance?] RAKISH RADISH.
  • 44a. [Crop known for its shrewdness?] CLEVER CLOVER.
  • 57a. [Green with a reputation for being insensitive?] CRASS CRESS.

I enjoyed this pleasant theme. I can certainly imagine people assigning these attributes to their plants, so it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to me. The only thing I hoped for but didn’t get was for the differing letters to spell out something significant. But maybe that’s too tall of an order. After all, the newly-added first words must still be adjectives that could conceivably describe a plant. For the record, the letters in question in the adjectives are AKEA. In the plants, they’re EDOE.

The fill doesn’t have anything extra long, but it’s smooth for the most part, even with those large-ish NW/SE corners. Highlights include LE MONDE, AVOCADO, ERITREA, ISADORA Duncan, Rock me AMADEUS, and SELENA.

Clues of note:

  • 38d. [Lively merrymaking]. REVELS. Feels like an odd choice to clue this as a plural noun.
  • 5d. [“Como la Flor” singer]. SELENA. Theme-adjacent clue? The title means “Like the flower” and the song compares a dying flower to losing love.

Enjoyable puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Jeffrey Martinovic’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 4/24/24 – no. 0424

The theme revealer is LATERAL SYMMETRY, 62a. [Feature of this puzzle’s grid and the answers to the six starred clues]. The grid’s got left/right symmetry and so do all the letters in MAUI, HAWAII, “WAIT, WHAT?”, MAMMA MIA, HOITY-TOITY, “MWA-HA-HA,” and MAXIMUM. This theme is brought to you by TOYOTA.

I am going to call BS on 5d. [Sound of hesitation], ERM and 68a. [Sounds of hesitation], UMS. (First off, please don’t pluralize interjections! Find me dictionary support for that, will you?) These words are basically identical. “ERM” is not pronounced with an R sound. It’s British. Gen Xers may remember learning that singer Sade’s name was pronounced “shar-day.” The SH sound was helpful, but the Brits don’t pronounce that R. It’s psychotic, I tell you. “Erm” sounds like “um” spoken with a British accent, no R.

Solid theme, except for ABYSM playing a role as theme crossing. You want 70a. [Bottomless pit] to be ABYSS, don’t you? Especially when it’s a Wednesday puzzle and not a Saturday. The crossing is an easy word, but it has a calculus clue?? Come on now. I had filled in ABYSS and figured MAXIMUS was some calculus term I’d long since forgotten. Grr.

While I’m grumbling, let me also express disdain for the WOAH spelling being given the NYT crossword’s approval.

Three stars from me.

Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker crossword — Sophia’s write-up

Hey folks, Sophia here covering the New Yorker Wednesday. I’m a huge fan of Caitlin’s themelesses, and today did not disappoint. Let’s do a rundown of today’s standout clues/answers.

New Yorker, 04 24 2024, By Caitlin Reid

  • Loved MEET IN THE MIDDLE as the appropriately-central answer! PUNCHLINE also felt central-appropriate so I liked that cross. The whole grid kind of felt like a 90 degree rotation from a standard themeless grid, no? Given that the long central answer is a down? I’m into it.
  • 53a [City that’s home to Superman and Lois Lane] – METROPOLIS. Wanted “Smallville” at first. In the superhero spoof “Megamind” they live in a place called Metro City, which Megamind always pronounced like it rhymes with “atrocity”.
  • Enjoyed the PERSON/HUMAN cross, especially since I wanted PERSON for the initial [One of about eight billion on planet Earth] clue.
  • [Best Actress winner for “Poor Things”] – EMMA STONE. Incredible performance from her in that movie. Glad to see a pretty recent clue here.
  • At first I thought that [Venue for “La Bohème” or “The Barber of Seville”] would be a place where both of these shows are set. But no, it’s where *you* would see them – an OPERA HOUSE.
  • [Word before “Pizza” or “River,” in movie titles] for MYSTIC. Fun fact, one of Matt Damon’s first movie roles was in “Mystic Pizza”. He has a basically non-speaking part as the brother of the rich love interest.
  • [Contents of jewel cases] – CDS. Took me a while, I was thinking jewelry boxes.
  • [Acts as a whistle-blower?] TOOTS. Last thing I filled in in the puzzle. Does a whistle really make a “toot” sound?

Happy Wednesday all!

Daniel Bodily’s Universal crossword, “Permanent Record” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 4/24/24 • Wed • “Permanent Record” • Bodily • solution • 20240424

Solved the puzzle quickly, didn’t pause to interrogate the theme. Let’s find out together.

  • 54aR [Unchangeable … and like one word within each starred clue that’s been obscured] WRITTEN IN STONE.
  • 20a. [*What some say about stage one] IT’S JUST A NUMBER (st{age} one).
  • 28a. [*Skin tone charts] FAMILY TREES (s{kin} tone).
  • 47a. [*Stallone is often found here] LAUNDRY ROOM (st{all}one—the laundry detergent brand).

That’s a new twist, and nicely done.

  • 25d [Earth Day’s month] APRIL, just a couple of days ago, in fact.
  • 49d [Minor blunder] MISHAP.
  • 54d [Policy expert] WONK. 57d [Geek (out)] NERD.
  • 1a [What an invertebrate lacks] SPINE. They often have many! 38a [Name of a book] TITLE.

  • 46a [Arizona tribe whose name means “peaceful person”] HOPI. Learned something new.
  • 65a [Pot grower?] ANTE. The one playful clue in the puzzle, aside from the theme material.
  • 70a [Traffic cone] PYLON. Greek pylōn, from pylē gate.

Aimee Lucido’s AV Club Classic crossword, “That Way!”–Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 4/24/24 – “That Way!”

First off, let me say that I wish the AV Club Classic puzzles were all 15×15 puzzles, because I don’t love solving bigger puzzles.

I do like this theme: interpreting phrases with a reversal aspect by using a quasi-cryptic crossword vibe. The clues are words or phrases printed backwards:

[srefeD] clues FLIPPED TABLES, with the verb sense of TABLES. [srojam TIM] gives us REVERSE ENGINEERING. [raoS] clues RETRO ROCKET. [Detius] yields BACKWARD COMPATIBLE (a term that relates to new software working with older versions of system software). Now, this one feels all wrong to me: [Trap nolocimes] for INVERTED COMMA. No, a semicolon has a regular comma with a period above it. An inverted comma has the bulbous part at the bottom and the mark is raised above the baseline (as in single quotation marks). So the clue needed replacing.

One reason I’m not wild about larger crosswords is that there’s so much space to fill with all those 3s and 4s, and too often they’re not all good. I’M IT, EERO, OGEE, MSGT, EEO, IRAE, ESS, ESSA? On the plus side, the longer fill has plenty of highlights. ROCKETTE, the TENEMENT Museum, NECKBEARD, GODSENDS, FOOD COMA, ELECTIVE classes, and the Friends phrase “ON A BREAK.”

Three stars from me.

Alex Rosen & Brad Wilber’s LA Times crossword, – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

In a rare themed foray, Brad Wilber, along with Alex Rosen, give us a pesach-themed crossword. Six baked goods are formed by circled squares running across, in five cases spread across two rows, but with MATZO an actual entry. The idea is five are LEAVENED, MATZO is not. MEALS below MATZO felt like a bonus entry of sorts as did SIFT at 1D. The other baked goods were: ROLL, CAKE, SCONE and BAGEL.

The puzzle design, possibly to accommodate all the short baked goods, was very walled-off, without around six distinct mini crosswords, with only a couple of ways in and out. This may have contributed to it playing harder than most for me. I had never heard of a FLOORLAMP nor a “torchere”. I wanted FLOODLAMP since at least FLOODLIGHT is something I had heard of. Similarly TELLY was unknown as clued. That was the area I struggled the most with.

Other clues/answers worth highlighting:

  • [Bahama __], MAMA. Sparse clue, but I’m guessing it’s a cocktail… yes.
  • [Court for King James, briefly], BBALL. This clue felt forced. Describing the sport as a “court” is rather inapt.
  • [Rodeo cry], RIDEEM. I really overthought this. EM implies plural. How does one ride more than one? So I put RIDEIM.
  • [Fruit in the liqueur Bargnolino], SLOE. Is that the third cocktail reference in this puzzle?


Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today Crossword, “Build-A-Bear” — Emily’s write-up

Fun puzzle with a playful theme!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday April 24, 2024

USA Today, April 24, 2024, “Build-A-Bear” by Stella Zawistowski

Theme: the themer set progressively “builds” the word “bear” at the start of the themers


  • 18a. [3.0 GPA], BAVERAGE
  • 31a. [Advice that encourages authenticity], BEYOURSELF
  • 42a. [Actress who played Dorothy on “The Golden Girls”], BEAARTHUR
  • 58a. [“Please remember…”], BEARINMIND

A variety of themers today but all with fair crossings so even if you don’t get one right away, they fit in nicely as the puzzle fills in: BAVERAGE, BEYOURSELF, BEAARTHUR, and BEARINMIND. Not only are the themers consecutively building on each other to make a “bear”, they also are the entire first word of each themer: B—, BE—, BEA—, and BEAR—. I realized this while doing the write-up, which makes me enjoy this theme even more. Bravo!

Favorite fill: ALIA, SOMEDAY, and DREAMON

Stumpers: MATTRESS (cluing new to me—so good though!), ROPY (this always gets me, needed crossings), and DRESSER (needed a couple of crossings)

For a Stella puzzle, this was a quick solve for me so the difficulty must not have been too tough today. Excellent puzzle and loved the theme!

4.5 stars


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44 Responses to Wednesday, April 24, 2024

  1. Gary R says:


    Not easy to make OTS look like solid fill!

    • Ichabod says:

      Just awful

      • ranman says:

        ditto ditto ditto…..disgusted emphasis ditto

        spolier alert….it was the abyXX of solving…may have been the worst of all…but who can judge that food fight!

      • JohnH says:

        Agreed. Lots of names, too, and Oprah’s middle name? Goodness. Oh, and whether the U in TAU has the proper symmetry depends on the font. But then it’s not as if a puzzler has to prove that left-right symmetry in a puzzle’s grid is legit.

        I see from the ratings that this is up there with yesterday’s, which I myself liked, in the race for most hated puzzle ever. Deserving, I fear.

        • DougC says:

          The lateral symmetry of the theme answers really only works in the app. For a person solving on paper and using lower case letters, “a” “h” “y” and “m” will be asymmetric. For that matter, even the upper case letters, when handwritten, will generally lack symmetry because hardly anybody prints without a slant or flourish.

          • JohnH says:

            Yes, indeed. I work in print, using capital letters, but even my capital U goes awry because it give it a curve at lower right like a small U. I guess that’s why the letter jumped out at me.

  2. Ichabod says:

    Just awful

  3. Huh says:

    NYT constructor’s note: This puzzle began as my attempt to justify using mirror symmetry in place of typical crossword symmetry.

    Anyone care to explain mirror symmetry vs typical crossword symmetry.

    • Eric H says:

      “Typical crossword symmetry” is 180° rotational symmetry: Spin the grid so that the top becomes the bottom and the pattern of black squares appears the same.

      Mirror symmetry is just what it sounds like. Draw an axis through the center of the puzzle (typically vertically, but not always) and the grid is symmetrical on either of the axis.

      The trick in this puzzle is that in the theme answers, the letters themselves have symmetry along a vertical axis. Mind-boggling, isn’t it?

      • Huh says:

        Thanks for clearing things up for me.

      • marciem says:

        I’m feeling out in left (out) field… I do not understand the “letter (lateral/mirror) symmetry” everyone else seems to see…??? I even went and re-did it in the app to see if there was some mysterious solution for me there…

        • marciem says:

          Oh DUH! The light came on… the letters in and of themselves are formed symmetrically (if printed in caps with no embellishments), not with any other part of the grid… (I won’t go into the mental gymnastics I went through trying to symmetrically match different answers :D )

          Can I kindly add my lack of love for this puzzle? I didn’t hate it (anything with Maui Hawaii gets some warmth from me) but… lack of love.

          • Gary R says:

            I’ll take a shot at an explanation. The grid has lateral symmetry because if you folded the puzzle over at the middle of the 8th column (where TADA resides), the black squares from the right side would match up exactly with the black squares on the left.

            It’s similar with the individual words in the theme. If you take MAXIMUM, printed vertically at 46-D and fold it over down the center of the letters, the part of the “M” “A” “X” etc. from the right side would match up with the part of the letter to the left of the fold.

            Best I can do. :-)

            • marciem says:

              That’s a great explanation, Gary… Thanks!! My I put in a fuse and my lightbulb went on, but not from reading the instruction in the revealer, that’s for sure!

  4. Joe says:

    ABYSS/M and MAXIMUS/M not my favorite

    • Ed says:

      I came here via google because I could not figure out which letter was wrong in my grid. That M was it.

  5. Eric H says:

    NYT: ABYSM fairly much sums it up.

  6. John Morgan says:

    Hard agree on all of the comments above.

  7. Sarah says:

    I wouldn’t have minded ABYSM so much if the crossing had been a word that could have ended a few ways, but definitely couldn’t end with an S. That might have led me to abysm by thinking about abysmal. As it was, I was just frustrated and had no idea what I might have wrong.

    • Eric H says:

      I got caught by the nasty ABYSM, too. But I now realize that MAXIMUM is part of the theme and is symmetrically placed opposite MWAH HA HA.

      So ABYSM couldn’t have been ABYSS. And solvers could use the theme to figure that out.

      It’s a great puzzle if you think it’s interesting that certain letterforms have vertical symmetry. Not so great if that quirk of typography doesn’t awe you.

      This is the second NYT puzzle in three days that has made me want to chuck my iPad across the room.

      • Mr. Cavin says:

        “MAXIMUM is part of the theme”

        Thank you for pointing this out. This should have occurred to me in the solve–it isn’t like MAXIMUM wasn’t identified as a theme clue two different ways. It isn’t like I didn’t understand the theme. So this goes a long way toward making me okay with ABYSM as an answer. Maybe all the way.

        • huda says:

          Yes, that was a very helpful observation. I’m among the ABYSS people who ended up with an error and gave up on trying to figure it out.
          But I liked the sound of many of these entries– their repetitive nature. That was fun. I think I liked it better than most.

        • Eric H says:

          You’re welcome.

          I didn’t really get that about MAXIMUM until I read the Wordplay comments.

          Maybe I would have been happier if the clue for MAXIMUM hadn’t involved calculus. I took it, but that was decades ago, and MAXIMUs didn’t sound entirely wrong.

          • JohnH says:

            I’ve had plenty of math and relied on calculus throughout college and even some of my career, so MAXIMUS looked dumb, but then so did ABYSM. So I did have to wonder which was supposed to have a variant almost nobody’s heard of. Now that I think about it, ABYSM really is something I’ve heard in some old poem somewhere.

            I’m less convinced by the point that the theme was supposed to resolve the issue for us. It did in the end for me, but it’d have been a lot more satisfying if the clues and entries worked.

            • Eric H says:

              Someone on Wordplay offered this alternative:

              LAG instead of LAB
              SKI instead of SPY
              SHAKEUP instead of SHAPEUP
              AGISM instead of ABYSM

              As another commenter pointed out, AGEISM is often spelled with an E. But I think it’s a reasonable way to avoid that ABYSM.

     has over 32 five-letter words beginning with A and ending with M. Most are junk, but there’s ALARM, ALBUM, AXIOM . . .

              I would have had a better opinion of the puzzle if I hadn’t had to sort out that error at the end.

            • Martin says:

              I get a big smile from this discussion. I got tripped up by ABYSM — in the May 25, 2001 crossword by Bob Peoples. It appeared again in November 2001 in another puzzle by Bob and Nancy Salomon. Ever since I’ve expected every ABYSS to be an ABYSM. Today was the tenth appearance; 2006-2015 were ABYSM-free. I don’t know if they were to lower our guards. There were a couple more, but none since 2017. But I was ready!

            • Martin says:

              To the 10 appearances of ABYSM, compare with 1 of AGISM. Just sayin’.

  8. Jenni Levy says:

    Adding my name to the chorus of “oys.”

  9. dh says:

    why is it “appropriate enough” that Oprah’s middle name is Gail?

  10. David L says:

    I started with CHASM at the bottom, because I had YES and MAXIMUM already in place. That fit nicely with CIA (where SPY should be) and NIH (where LAB should be). But I was able to work my way to ABYSM. I knew MAXIMUM had to be right, not because of the symmetry but because I know calculus, and maximus isn’t a thing unless it follows circus or gluteus.

    I didn’t think the puzzle was so bad. Not one of the best, but an OK Wednesday.

  11. Eric H says:

    Team Fiend: It looks like the ratings for the NYT puzzle are now next to the link for the review of the AVXC puzzle. (The link itself is truncated to “AV.”)

    Thanks for all the time and effort y’all put in to this forum. I enjoy spending time here despite the occasional trolls.

  12. Eric H says:

    AVXC: Interesting theme; I quickly picked up on the backwards clues even though I needed Amy’s explanation of “serefed.” (I could only think of TABLES as a noun.)

    I wasn’t familiar with BACKWARD COMPATIBLE and probably had the most trouble sorting that out.

  13. Let me say I hope the AVCX continues to publish puzzles larger than 15×15 because I like making and solving larger puzzles (Aimee’s included!).

  14. Mary says:

    NYT: I’m sorry, but the smallest amount is *NOT* ATAD. Grr. Plus ditto above.

  15. Burak says:

    Look, I’ve made a conscious effort to stop talking ish about crosswords, but today’s NYT is really pushing it. Woof.

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