Wednesday, May 15, 2024

AV Club 6:09 (Amy) 


LAT 6:11 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 2:32 (Kyle) 


NYT 4:18 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 9:18 (Emily) 


WSJ 9:46 (Jim) 


Christopher Youngs’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Stir Crazy”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases except the ending -STER has been tacked on to key words.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Stir Crazy” · Christopher Youngs · Wed., 5.15.24

  • 18a. [Making an offer that can’t be refused, say?] GANGSTER WAY. Gangway.
  • 29a. [Coffeehouse frequented by trendy urbanites?] HIPSTER JOINT. Hip joint.
  • 49a. [Source of music in a household rodent’s enclosure?] HAMSTER RADIO. Ham radio.
  • 63a. [Errand runner employed by a lexicographer?] WEBSTER PAGE. Web page.

It’s nice to have a good old-fashioned add-some-letters theme every once in a while. All of these work just fine, but I like the HAMSTER RADIO best. I like to think it’s set to loop 10 hours of the Hampster Dance (see video below).

Not sure why my solve time was so slow. I did get hung up in the NE with MCATS instead of ORALS [Hurdles for doctors-to-be], and there were several long entries that I had to infer: TOE PUNT, SALT TAX, and EAU DE GAGA.

Grid highlights include SEXCAPADE, BRALESS, DOG-SITS, PASHTO, and PAROLEE.

Clue of note: 12d. [Composer Schumann]. CLARA. Not the “Composer Schumann” I was thinking of. She was Robert Schumann’s wife and was more widely known as one of the most accomplished concert pianists throughout Europe (per Wikipedia).

Nice grid. Four stars. As promised, here’s 10 hours of…whatever this was. Enjoy?

Ryan Patrick Smith’s AV Club Classic crossword, “AVCX Classic Themeless #76″—Amy’s recap

Solid themeless, and I’m so pleased to get a 15x puzzle from AV this week!

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 5/15/24 – “Themeless #76”

Fave fill: AVOCADOS (learned something: [Fruits analogized to testicles by the Aztecs]—this suggests that the tiny Hass avocados in grocery stores might resemble avocados of pre-Columbian Mexico), EVANESCING, SAOIRSE RONAN (spelling tip: pretend her name could be Portuguese for “Saint Irish” and put the SAO in front of the IR(S)E), STEMS THE TIDE, “COMO ESTA?”, Tom STOPPARD, “LET ‘ER RIP,” NAVY SEALS, SOUTH TEXAS, and RED ONIONS (though they’re purple to me).

Three more things:

  • 31a. [Manual transmission syst.], ASL. Transmitting language with your hands here, nothing to do with cars.
  • 1a. [AO3 post content, briefly], FIC. The clue meant nothing at all to me. Wikipedia to the rescue: Archive of Our Own is a site with fanfiction.
  • 2d. [Wide-eyed father in a haunting Ilya Repin painting], IVAN IV. The painting in question is Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan, and it depicts Mr. Terrible cradling his dying son, after hitting his son in the head in anger. Dang.

Could’ve done without fill like crosswordese TASS, EDO, and SMEW, and regional DEL TACO (found in something like 16 states).

3.75 stars from me.

MaryEllen Uthlaut’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 5/15/24 – no. 0515

The theme revealer is HAPPY B-DAY and the theme entries are all B__B__ terms: BUMBLEBEE, BABY BOTTLE, BASEBALL BAT, BUBBLE BATH. The revealer doesn’t quite connect to the B.B. theme entries, does it? And whose birthday is it supposed to be?

Cruciverb shows me an LA Times puzzle from 2021 with three of the same themers and a B-AND-B unifier; there’s also a 2011 NYT puzzle with two of these themers and an inapt tie-in of BBB. So this feels more like a Monday or Tuesday theme to me, though fill like ALEUT and POESY nudge this puzzle in a harder direction.

Three bits:

  • 45d. [Bo tree meditator] feels like a tough clue for BUDDHA. Ah! I noticed only while blogging here that all the clues begin with B, too.
  • 19a. [Budweiser beer is aged using this wood], BEECH. Why did I try CEDAR first?
  • 7d. [Box of spaghetti’s weight: Abbr.], ONE LB. Please check your cupboard and tell me if you can find any pasta package labeled ONE LB. I’m seeing lots of 16 oz, 1 lb, and 454 g. You won’t find a lot of spelled-out numbers with abbreviated units of weight.

3.25 stars from me.

Gary Larson’s Universal crossword, “What a Steal!” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 5/15/24 • Wed • “What a Steal!” • Larson • solution • 20240515

  • 61aR [Reject on Bumble … and a hint to the starred clues’ answers] SWIPE LEFT. We’ve seen this sort of thing in crosswords before, perhaps not this precise version, though.
  • 17a. [*Plagiarize the Top 40?] PINCH HITS.
  • 30a. [*Nab some makeup, perhaps?] TAKE A POWDER.
  • 46a. [*Run off with Scratchers?] LIFT TICKETS. (Crossed by 44d [Hit the slopes] SKI.)

Each of the synonyms for ‘steal’ appears first—that is, on the left-hand side—of the phrases.

Short on time this morning, so I’m going to dash.

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

Thanks Robyn for today’s New Yorker crossword.

The New Yorker solution grid – Robyn Weintraub – Wednesday 05/15/2024

In a departure from Robyn’s usual grid layouts, this puzzle features a quartet of 15s, all of which are top-notch entries: SENSORY OVERLOAD, ESPRESSO MARTINI, STAYED ON MESSAGE, and UNIVERSAL REMOTE. Everything else is the puzzle is typical of Robyn’s high-quality fill and clues, though I did hitch a bit at 24A [___ off (departed via airplane)] for JETTED. I originally had put in LIFTED even though it didn’t feel right to me and had to fix it with crossings (the J from JEDI MASTER really helped). I’d argue intuitively that take off/took off is far more common parlance than jet off/jetted off.

Rena Cohen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Rena Cohen’s puzzle today has quite a broadly defined theme: SILVERLINING. Each of four answers has a first word beginning with A and a second word ending in G, spelling out the chemical symbol for silver:

  • [Broadway contender’s number], AUDITIONSONG. I wasn’t aware of this phrase, per se, but it is inferable.
  • [Item that may spruce up empty floor space], ACCENTRUG
  • [Check for immunity], ANTIBODYTESTING
  • [Last part of a relay], ANCHORLEG

There was more tricky short stuff than is often the case today: [Presidential advisory gp.], NSC, which I always fill in as NSA; [Roman time unit], ORA the Latin for hour – I wanted ERA for a goodly time; [“__ queen!”], YAS like a lot of squares, I wanted YES; [Coastal inlets], RIAS and [Indigo shrub], ANIL didn’t trip me up, but aren’t seen much in the wild these days…


Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today Crossword, “How’s It Goin’? (Freestyle)” — Emily’s write-up

A fun puzzle for middle of the week!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday May 15, 2024

USA Today, May 15, 2024, “How’s It Goin’? (Freestyle)” by Amanda Rafkin


Stumpers: GOTYA (needed crossings), RAPINOE (new to me), and NIA (also new to me)

Wow! What a playful grid that allows for so many lengthy entries! Lots of threes but it all flowed very well for me and felt natural, though some of the cluing was a bit harder for me so it’s a slightly longer solve through it never felt too tricky as everything is crossed fairly. Everything felt very random, even for a freestyle so it didn’t gel as much for me as others have. I still enjoyed this creative layout for a Wednesday!

3.75 stars


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14 Responses to Wednesday, May 15, 2024

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: Kinda seems like the theme wants to be more than just B__B__. But I’m not sure there’s anything coherent there. BUMBLEBEE, BABY BOTTLE and BASEBALL BAT each have three “B’s,” but then BUBBLE BATH goes and has four. And then there are several other “B’s” in the grid, so … Just a plethora of “B’s.”

    And then there’s that thing with the clues. If I never encounter another puzzle with clues that all start with the same letter – well yes, I’ll “B” a happy man.

    On a positive note, as a Wisconsin native, I appreciated the clue for BASEBALL BAT.

    • Me says:

      Sadly, I agree that the theme doesn’t quite work on the level that I think it wants to. As you might not be surprised to hear, Rex Parker trashed the puzzle, saying it was substandard and “just does not meet minimum requirements for thematic inventiveness or fill quality.”

      I also agree with Gary that stuff with the clues can be kind of fun, but it’s not all that exciting to see the clues all start with the same letter. It’s not enough.

      I was sure while doing it that it was a debut constructor, for whom we might lower our expectations just a tad. But this is her fourth crossword, one of which was Jeff Chen’s Puzzle of the Week, and she also has had a crossword in the ACPT. So I’m not sure why the editors didn’t at least say, “get rid of all the extra Bs,” at a minimum.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        FWIW, this constructor has constructed a bunch of puzzles over the years, dating back to at least 2011. This is her 42nd puzzle in my solving database. Most of them have been published by the LAT. She’s definitely a seasoned constructor.

    • JohnH says:

      While this theme hasn’t gone over well at all, I liked it. Maybe it’s because I never cared for B-DAY for “birthday,” but I was delighted at the joke interpreting it as a day of B’s. Indeed, that worked just fine for me with double-B themers alone, before I’d learned to see a B starting all the clues.

      I also agree with other comments to the effect that ONE LB doesn’t have to appear that way on boxes to go with the clue (although I’d have sworn it’s not the only package weight for spaghetti) and that I’d rather not be reminded of “Beldames,” although of course it’s a word.

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: I didn’t realize until I read Wordplay that (as Gary R noted) all the clues start with a B. I guess that’s something extra on top of the B____B____ phrases. And it explains the old-fashioned and decidedly unkind “Beldames” (3oA).

  3. Eric H says:

    AVXC: Mostly smooth except for the SW, in part because of my insistence that Sam Shepard wrote “The Invention of Love” (his name fits if you misspell it, which I did twice) and my complete unfamiliarity with the name MELISSA Benoist (I see now that I have seen her in “Whiplash” and “The Good Wife”). SOUTH TEXAS had to be correct, but it was hard to see PAR SIX as the “unusually long hole.”

  4. JohnH says:

    TNY boring, but hard to complain. They wanted an easy puzzle, and they got one. JETTED slowed me briefly, but “jet” meaning to travel by plane does have consistent dictionary support, as the verb’s first meaning. RHUD has the example of to “jet to Las Vegas for the weekend.”

    • David L says:

      “Jetted off to the Bahamas for a week” is OK by me, but as Kyle said, “jetted off” meaning simply ‘departed’ doesn’t sound idiomatic to me.

      ARMOREDCAR is what the President rides around in; if you’re moving big stacks of cash, you need an armored truck or van, I would say.

      And 7D: A crossword cliche that should be tossed.

  5. Fred Smith says:

    WSJ: Toepunt is not a phrase that has even been used in soccer. Is it referring to the type of kick punters do in American Football?

  6. Dan says:

    NYT: This may be the first time I’ve ever solved an NYT puzzle in less than 150% of Amy’s time.

    (But I don’t get why it should matter whether pasta packages spell their weight the same as the puzzle answer.)

  7. Eric H says:

    “They wanted an easy puzzle, and they got one.” At least they didn’t try to pass it off as anything harder than “beginner-friendly.”

    I miss the old New Yorker puzzles.

    But as Kyle noted, the spanners are all pretty good (UNIVERSAL REMOTE might have benefited from a less straightforward clue).

    • Eric H says:

      Oops. This was intended as a response to JohnH’s comment about the New Yorker puzzle.

  8. Burak says:

    NYT was a slog, and the NE corner was just ridiculous.

    I know that we’re contractually obligated to get a gimmick puzzle at least once a month, but yeah this definitely wasn’t my cup of tea.

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