Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Jonesin' 4:34 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal untimed (Matt F) 


USA Today 3:46 (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untitled (Ade) 


WSJ 6:07 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Outposts” — sent to the edges. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 5/14/24

Jonesin’ solution 5/14/24

Hello lovelies! We have a simple theme this week, where the word POST flanks the theme entries.

  • 17a. [1982 horror flick] POLTERGEIST
  • 24a. [Sunday dinner slow-cooker option] POT ROAST
  • 24d. [Swanky to the max] POSHEST
  • 34a. [Faddish mental health proponent] POP PSYCHOLOGIST
  • 47a. [Most courteous] POLITEST
  • 57a. [Georges Seurat, for one] POINTILLIST

Other things:

  • 20a. [North African condiment] HARISSA. This hot chili paste also includes garlic, citrus, olive oil, and spices.
  • 40a. [Thompson who’s still on “SNL”] KENAN. He joined the “SNL” cast in 2003. Before that he made kids crack up on Nickelodeon’s “All That” and “Kenan and Kel.”
  • 54d. [Robbie who played Cousin Oliver] RIST. Cousin Oliver was added to the last six episodes of “The Brady Bunch” to add a cute kid to the mix. Rist later voiced Michelangelo in several “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” films as well as Stuffy the dragon in “Doc McStuffins.”

Until next week!

Jamey Smith’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Success Strategies”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose second words can be synonyms of “process.” Changes in meaning (mainly in the first words) create crossword wackiness. The revealer is “IT’S A PROCESS” (33a, [“Don’t expect instant results,” and a hint to the ends of the theme answers]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Success Strategies” · Jamey Smith · Tue., 5.14.24

  • 15a. [How to avoid the crowds in Giza?] PYRAMID SCHEME.
  • 22a. [How to land the job you were destined for?] CALLING PLAN.
  • 47a. [How to slash your utility bills?] SOLAR SYSTEM.
  • 54a. [How to manage end-of-semester jitters?] FINAL APPROACH.

Pretty nice! I really liked 3 out of 4 of these. SOLAR doesn’t change in meaning as much as the other first words, so that entry feels like an outlier. But other than that, these were enjoyable and the clues were spot-on.

It’s never easy to have an 11-letter central theme answer, and 13-letter top and bottom theme answers add to the challenge. One way to mitigate the effects of these difficulties is to have extra “cheater” squares in the corners as seen today. This looks like it was probably a difficult construction mainly due to lengths of the theme answers. But the end result is a smooth grid with some good fill.

Highlights include “WHY CAN’T I?,” “GO GET ‘EM!,” CORSAIR, MADE HAY, GIDDY, and TOP SPOT. I’m on the fence with NO CATCH [Ruling against a football receiver]. It doesn’t feel like a standalone in-the-language phrase, but I could certainly be wrong about that.

Clues of note:

  • 29a. [Vancouver-to-Seattle dir.]. SSE. I live near Tacoma. I drive through Vancouver, WA, far more than Vancouver, BC (and they’re in opposite directions from Seattle). But obviously if someone says “Vancouver,” they’re probably talking about the Canadian city.
  • 27d. [Chili peppers, informally]. HOTS. I’ve seen this usage a few times, but it hasn’t sunk in. I guess I’m going to have to get used to it.
  • 55d. [ChatGPT and Gemini, e.g.]. AIS. New cluing angle. Not sure I like it, though.

3.75 stars.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 677), “QB Sneaks”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 677: “QB Sneaks”

Hello there, everyone! Hope you all are having a great start to your week!

As of the time of this post, we are less than two days away from the 2024 NFL schedule reveal, which the league has turned into a night of anticipation, a la a Beyonce/Taylor Swift album drop.  Probably in anticipation of that, today’s theme centers around the position that makes a football team go, the quarterback (QB). In the grid, the five theme answers are two-word entries in which the first word starts with a “Q” and the second begins with a “B.”

      • QUICK BITE (17A: [Fast repast])
      • QUIET BAR (25A: [Establishment that offers a “Hushed Happy Hour”])
      • QUINTUPLE BYPASS (38A: [Complex coronary procedure])
      • QUEEN BEY (48A: [Regal nickname for multi-Grammy-winning “Crazy in Love” singer])
      • QUIZ BOWLS (61A: [Fast-paced academic competitions])

Loved a good number of the long non-themed entries in the grid, with THREE DAYS being the most appealing since Memorial Day weekend will be here pretty soon and can think about that elongated weekend (9D: [Long weekend duration, typically]). I was probably in high school biology class the last time I came across ENDOSPERM before today, though, when I think about that class, all I can think about are human cells and the “mighty mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell.” (14A: [Tissue that nourishes a plant embryo]). Now I have anthers and stamens and petals in my head now that some plant anatomy has come back in my head, which will probably carry over when I walk outside tomorrow as I hope I don’t get overcome by allergies! 

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: SIMMS (42A: [Ex-Giant quarterback Phil]) – Given today’s theme, it’s perfect that we get to talk a little about a former quarterback, and a Hall-of-Fame one at that. Thought he did not come from a football powerhouse in college (Morehead State), Simms was the seventh overall pick in the 1979 NFL Draft by Big Blue. Simms spent all 15 seasons of his career with the Giants, winning two Super Bowls and making two Pro Bowls, the second of those Pro Bowls coming in his final season in 1993. Simms, almost inarguably, had the greatest single-game performance by a quarterback in Super Bowl history, completing 22 of 25 passes (88%) for 268 yards and three touchdowns in the Giants’ win over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI. The completion percentage and passer rating (150.9, close to a perfect 158.3) remain Super Bowl records.

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

Take care!


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

NY Times crossword solution, 5/14/24 – no. 0514

This is one of those puzzles where you can solve it like a 74-word themeless if you work through everything except the ending of the 38d clue, [Common spots for eagles’ nests … or a hint to 2-, 9-, 21- and 24-Down]. Those would be TREETOPS, and those four Downs have tree parts at their starts, on top. Elegantly, each is used in a non-arboreal context. ROOTS FOR, BARK COLLAR (that’s a thing??), TRUNK SHOW, and LEAVES ALONE are all unrelated to trees, but a tree has roots and leaves (in the plural) and bark and a trunk.

Fave fill: BALL PIT, UNEARTH (ever notice that this word isn’t intimately related to unearthly?), B-SCHOOL (business school), ORANGINA.

Four stars from me.

Sala Wanetick & Emily Biegas’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

The solve was definitely Tuesday-level. One of the theme answers felt more Thursday-ish to me. Not the definition, which was clear, but the way it worked in the theme. Let me explain.

Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2024, Sala Wanetick & Emily Biegas, solution grid

All the theme answers have standard definitions.

  • 20a [Specialized curriculum in a public school] is a MAGNET PROGRAM.
  • 35a [Expand one’s horizons] is BRANCH OUT.
  • 40a [Pet with separation anxiety, perhaps] is a VELCRO DOG. I suspect I’m not the only one who plopped in RESCUE for the first word.

What do all these things have in common? 52a tells us it’s [Complicated discussion topic, and an apt description of the start of 20-, 35-, or 40-Across?] and the answer is STICKY SUBJECT. OK, MAGNET  and VELCRO stick to things. Got it. But a BRANCH? Eventually it dawned on me that a branch is a stick. Cute! Definitely trickier (or, er, stickier) than I’d expect on a Tuesday.

A few other things:

  • Geography is most definitely not my thing, so I put in SOMALIA at 5d for [Westernmost country of continental Africa] even though I didn’t think it was in Western Africa. It’s not. The answer is SENEGAL. Apparently even when I know something about geography I still get it wrong.
  • I guess I need to study the ATLAS a bit more.
  • When being married to a geologst pays off: you know the answer to [Quartz suffix] is ITE.
  • If we have to have ENS in a puzzle I’d rather see it clued as [Coast Guard rank: Abbr.] than the plural of the letter or the dash, so thanks.
  • 38d [Mimics] is COPYCATS. Took me a minute – I was looking for a verb, not a noun.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that SALMA Hayek is married to François-Henri Pinault. A Google search confirms that her Instagram feed identifies her as Hayek Pinault so she chooses (at least some of the time) to use his name.

I debated which of these to post and decided not to choose.

Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 5/14/24 • Tue • Liu • solution • 20240514

This ‘moderately challenging’ one played a little harder for me than yesterday’s ‘challenging’ offering. In fact, I finished with an ERROR (38d) that I couldn’t locate and needed to use the check grid feature to identify: the crossing of 7d [One transferring property rights, for example] ASSIGNOR and 29a [I.P. or trademark holder, e.g.] LICENSOR—I’d had the less-legalistic -ER suffix for both.

  • 1a [Star trek?] SPACE WALK. I’ll allow it.
  • 24a [Discover alternatives] AMEXES. Misleading clue, but I wasn’t fooled.
  • 25a [Word in titles from Chinua Achebe and Maurice Sendak] THINGSThings Fall Apart, Where the Wild Things Are. So, maybe therapy is where the wild things fall apart?
  • 32a [Designer purse with a certain gold monogram] YSL BAG. Is this standalone crossworthy?
  • 37a [French city thought to be the namesake for a system of weight] TROYES. That name, in turn is not related to Troy, or Ilium, from ancient mythology. Instead, Troyes was the city of the Gallic tribe of the Tricaesses and in Roman times was known as Tricassium or Tricassae, and Troyes is the francophone version thence.
  • 51a [Sound that a leopard can make but a cheetah can’t] ROAR. Leopards are members of the felid subfamily Pantherinae, all members of which—with the exception of snow leopards—are capable of roaring.
  • 3d [Tree whose bark  had medicinal qualities] ALDER. Seemed a pretty open-ended clue, so I waited for crossings.
  • 11d [Winter Olympics event also known as the long program] FREE SKATE, not to be confused with freeskates.
  • 21d [Armpits, anatomically] AXILLAS. Quickly realized that OXTERS wouldn’t fit, but went with the more formal AXILLAE until 42a [Skin flicks] NUDIES showed me otherwise.
  • 25d [Description for a reunion or a Scotch] TEN YEAR. Not sure how often the “old” modifier is dispensed from or elided in describing the booze.
  • 44d [Diamond certifier: Abbr.] RIAA, the Recording Industry Association of America.
  • 46d [First word of the Pokémon slogan] “GOTTA catch ’em all!” This, with 26d [Toddler member of the same species as Yoda and Yaddle] GROGU and 9d [Bowser’s turtle-like minions] KOOPAS might be too much for some solvers.
  • 47d [Smile or frown signifier, briefly] PAREN(thesis), in emoticons.

Dennis Nullet’s USA Today Crossword, “Gee Whiz” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Jared Goudsmit
Theme: Each theme answer begins with a word that starts with G that means “whiz”

USA Today, 05 14 2024, “Gee Whiz”

  • 17a [Best Buy’s group of technicians] – GEEK SQUAD
  • 38a [Place to get help with a glitchy Mac] – GENIUS BAR
  • 64a [Founder of Sikhism] – GURU NANAK

I did not know how many G “whiz” words there are! I really liked the title and central gimmick here. I do wish that there was only one of GEEK SQUAD and GENIUS BAR since they are basically the same type of job, but for different companies? As evidenced by the fact that my immediate thought for the Best Buy answer was “Genius bar! No wait, that’s Apple”… so imagine my surprise to see GENIUS BAR pop up a few answers later! They are both fun fill though, so I’m not too hung up on it.

Fill highlights: TOTE BAG, TAHINI, BOOGIES, GRENADA. Also having both DOG and CATS in the grid clued similarly!

Clue highlights: [“Let’s ___ down to business / To defeat the Huns”] for GET (this is a lyric from Mulan). Also, it took me a very long time to even understand the clue on SATES – [Word that aptly bookends “satisfies”] just means that SATES is the “outside” of “satisfies“.

New to me: ARIA clued by [Yunah Lee solo], SKI clued by [Compete like Sabrina Simader]


Universal Crossword – Matt F’s Review

Title: A Little Something Extra
Constructors: Jeanne Breen
Editor: Taylor Johnson

Universal Solution 05.14.2024

Theme Synopsis:

We have a nice hidden word puzzle today, going in the down direction to enhance the wordplay of the revealer:

  • 41D – Adds some excitement to … and what you’ll find in the starred clues’ answers? = SPICES UP

Each theme answer contains a spice written backwards, or, “up,” as it appears in the grid:

  • 3D – Starting point for a mountain climber = BAS(E CAM)P (mace)
  • 8D – Storms out = LEAV(ES IN A) HUFF (anise)
  • 17D – Mount St. Helens, e.g. = ACTIV(E VOLC)ANO (clove)

Overall Impressions

Solid hidden word theme today with some fun theme phrases. LEAVES IN A HUFF is my favorite, even if it the last word is not strictly necessary for the theme because HUFF does not hold any of the hidden letters. The theme consumes a lot of real estate and does not leave much room for bonus words, but the mid-length stuff holds the grid down nicely: HAN SOLO, SURE CAN, RECLUSE; and the 3×6 corners are nice (and trickier to fill than you might think.) Good job keeping the grid fairly open and “flowy” in general.

Thanks for the puzzle, Jeanne!

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31 Responses to Tuesday, May 14, 2024

  1. Alison says:

    Silence is not an option. It’s an endorsement. MLK

  2. Ethan Cooper says:

    I must have missed one hell of a wild puzzle if those are the first two comments.

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Longer comment from Ben removed, as this is a crossword blog and it was off topic. There are venues for heated discussions about fascism, but this isn’t it.

    • dhj says:

      Huh. For several years you and others would use this crossword blog to promote all kinds of partisan political causes and when people would push back against the non-appropriateness of that we’d be scolded that it was your platform and that your pet causes were “speaking truth to power” or some such drivel.

      Quite the turnaround. I take it as a sign that nature is healing and an indication that the keepers of this site who for so long marketed insanity as some sort of higher wisdom have come to their senses a bit.

      • pannonica says:

        The comment was seemingly unprompted, ex nihilo.

      • Burak says:

        I’m confused: Do you think talking about political causes by way of crosswords is non-appropriate, or that those causes were “insanity”? Because if it is the latter, I’d love to gift you some mirrors.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          The comment that was deleted wasn’t about the day’s crosswords. It was about fascism and gun owners. There are lots of places to start discussions on political matters, but the comments lounge here ain’t it.

        • dhj says:

          Both. There is rarely a germane opportunity to launch into political posturing when talking about something as mundane as a crossword puzzle. But with so many hobbyist groups in recent years, far left cliques of these groups self-anoint themselves as mouthpieces of their micro community in order to advance a partisan agenda.

          I’d say that the problem is equally apparent with the hijack of far-right cliques infiltrating hobbyists communities, but at least in the tiny world of crosswords, literally zero of those people exist.

          The median political position of the crossword commentariat is somewhere to the left of Bernie Sanders. Loud, illiberal, and intolerant of anyone a skosh to their right. This site has operated at the forefront of this disturbing trend.

  4. David L says:

    I got hung up for a while in the middle of the NYT. Started with TRADESHOW at 21D, then got USES so changed it to TRUCKSHOW, which gave me ICHEAT at 32A, which I imagined might be some sort of nefarious iPhone app for straying cats… But then I figured it out.

    ETA: I must have missed the memo from several years ago when ‘tied game’ officially became TIEGAME. I’ve always said the former, and the latter still sounds wrong to me.

    • Gary R says:

      I’m familiar with the term “trunk sale,” but was pretty sure that wouldn’t work because “sale” is in the clue. Considered “trunk shop,” but that didn’t sound right. So that one took a while.

      To my ear, it’s “the game is tied” or it’s a “tie game.” Guess it could be something regional.

    • DougC says:

      “Tied game” is admittedly more grammatically correct. And yet, I can’t recall ever hearing it said. “It’s a tie,” “all tied up,” or “TIE GAME” are the most common constructions in my experience. That answer went in with absolutely no hesitation for me.

      This was a Tuesday-worthy puzzle and theme, and yet it played unusually easy for me, faster than Monday. Maybe it was the lack of proper nouns.

  5. Mr. [not] Grumpy says:

    New Yorker: Wanted RED CARPET for 1A, and the C worked, so I was very unhappy when I had to reboot. Nice puzzle.

    • Eric H says:

      A good if incorrect answer. I somehow remembered how dim sum is prepared (though I have never eaten it), so I had 1D as STEAMED early on.

  6. Gary R says:

    TNY: A little faster solve than yesterday’s, so I’m good with the “moderately challenging” label. Good puzzle.

    Don’t care for plural AMEXES (think I saw that in another puzzle in the last week or two). I used to do some programming, and it was always an “infinite loop.” Also thought, like pannonica, that YSL BAG was a bit of a contrivance. And to me, it’s a “ten year reunion” but “ten-year old scotch.”

    Liked the clues for SPACE WALK and STEROID ERA.

    A former colleague uses COMIC SANS in the signature line of his emails (not the most professional look IMHO), but not on his business cards – that’s dictated by the employer.

  7. Amy Reynaldo says:

    I checked Merriam-Webster, which seems to prefer assigner over assignor, but licensor over licenser–but lists the variant spellings. If this New Yorker crossword were a tournament puzzle, half the people would be marked wrong for no real reason.

    • David L says:

      The only reason I went with the ‘o’ versions was because of the fondness of lawyers for seemingly archaic spellings. It was a bad cross, for sure.

    • JohnH says:

      I’d no idea which to enter. To top it off, I considered “licensee,” since I’d no clue about the movie factoid coming down. That possibility looks obviously wrong, but then what do I know of the relevant law?

    • Gary R says:

      Don’t know how definitive this is, but Google’s n-grams viewer seems to show both “o” versions as substantially more common than the “e” versions.

    • placematfan says:

      Man, that is the worst cross I’ve seen in ages. Just shoddy.

    • Lois says:

      I cheated on AYA but I don’t think I did elsewhere, so the -OR was my only other error. A bad cross for sure, but I was tempted to think that it was a good challenge for me, as I’m a retired proofreader. Almost an immoral cross, though. Interesting what Amy found from M-W. What I found online backed up the forms in the puzzle, but still–

  8. MarkAbe says:

    LAT: It went fast, but, really, TWO Spanish arithmetic questions? I know all of us Angelenos find that easy, but it’s still one too many. More importantly, “opus” does NOT mean “masterpiece”. It means “work”, usually musical. Editor, please take note..

    • Eric H says:

      I hope you’re joking, but I don’t think you are.

      The Spanish numbers are pretty basic, even if you don’t live in LA (or, like I do, Central Texas). Certainly anyone solving crossword puzzles from mainstream publishers knows what “Uno y uno” works out to be.

      I was slowed more by the ambiguity of 8D (would it be UH-uh or UH NO?) and the unknown to me Kevin KWAN (53D).

  9. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: My first reaction when I read the 46D clue “First word of the Pokémon slogan” was “I don’t ****ing know and I don’t ****ing care.” So I was surprised that it bailed me out in that corner when I realized that I *do* know it (thanks, crosswords!) and that my 51A big cat sound shouldn’t be PurR.

    Like pannonica, I needed a check in the center area. I had foolishly put LICENSee at 29A and that kept me from seeing 26D GROGU, which I know enough about to associate with Baby Yoda. (But I just now learned that Grogu is not the same individual as Yoda; I have no idea about the temporal relationship between “The Mandalorian” and the parts of the “Star Wars” universe that I have seen.)

    Probably a good part of my inability to spot my mistake was solving on my phone instead of my iPad I should know better. My time was almost identical to my time on yesterday’s Natan Last puzzle, but I think I’d have been quicker on my iPad.

  10. marciem says:

    EricH: “New Yorker: My first reaction when I read the 46D clue “First word of the Pokémon slogan” was “I don’t ****ing know and I don’t ****ing care.” ” LOL spit my afternoon tea!! And that was my reaction also… and same end result, I got it and it helped. Total unknown about the Yoda clue though :( . I started with Licensee but that didn’t work so well and ended in a no-win since Geogu worked as well as grogu for me, and assigner also worked in my mind.

    • marciem says:

      ***intended as reply to EricH***

      also I did know that Cheetahs do indeed purr, even though I tried it with that final R… Watching “Secrets of the Zoo” on Hulu shows cheetahs purring, but never mentions their inability to roar…

    • Eric H says:

      Glad to have provided some amusement. I hope whatever took the brunt of the tea wasn’t too damaged.

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