Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Jonesin' 5:46 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 3:42 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 5:08 (Matt F) 


USA Today tk (Sophia) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


WSJ 5:18 (Jim) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Opera Biffs” — classing it up, but with one letter off. – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 5/21/24

Jonesin’ solution 5/21/24

Hello lovelies! For the Jonesin’ this week we have a change-a-letter theme involving opera.

  • 17a. [Opera that’s sorta supernatural, but by chance?] MAGIC FLUKE, from Mozart’s The Magic Flute
  • 24a. [Opera about actor Ribisi turning into a canine] DOG GIOVANNI, from another Mozart work, Don Giovanni
  • 28a. [Opera about an Irish wiggly dessert?] O’JELLO, from Verdi’s Otello
  • 41a. [Opera about a superhero mechanic?] CARMAN, from Bizet’s Carmen
  • 44a. [Opera where a future king turns blue-green?] WILLIAM TEAL, from Rossini’s William Tell
  • 56a. [Italian opera about pub quizzes?] LA TRIVIATA, from another Verdi, La Traviata

Other things:

  • 5d. [“King of the Surf Guitar”] DICK DALE. His 1962 rendition of the folk song “Misirlou” became known as the theme of the movie Pulp Fiction.
  • 18d. [1988 Olympics track star nickname] FLO JO. Florence Griffith Joyner still holds two world records and an Olympic record for sprinting.

Until next week!

Jeanne D. Breen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Rogues in Love”—Jim’s review

Today’s theme consists of circled words spelling out rough synonyms of “head” atop other circled words that are rough synonyms of “heels”. The revealer is HEAD OVER HEELS (51a, [One way to fall in love, and, in another sense, what each set of circled letters shows]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Rogues in Love” · Jeanne D. Breen · Tue., 5.21.24

  • 20a. [Classic Campbell’s variety] CHICKEN NOODLE atop 23a. [Louts] CADS.
  • 30a. [Stuffed toy in a 1990s fad] BEANIE BABY atop 35a. [Scoundrels] RATS.
  • 39a. [Intellectual property protectors] PATENT LAWS atop 43a. [Churls] DOGS.

The theme works, but some of the inconsistencies bothered me a bit. First, we have two slang words for head (NOODLE and BEAN), but PATE isn’t so slangy. Second, we have one head word which is its own word (NOODLE), one which is part of a longer, cutesy form of itself (BEANIE), and one which is found within a completely unrelated word PATE/PATENT. Perhaps if a different entry could’ve replaced the last one, these inconsistencies might have gone away. Lastly, the old-timey slang “heels” and “cads” makes the puzzle feel dated. No one really uses these terms anymore (AFAIK).

A flame tree (a.k.a. a poinciana) on Guam in 2019

I do like the great long fill, though: ALL HEART, CONESTOGA, AT PEACE, and SHELF SPACE. Sadly for me, I needed every crossing for POINCIANAS [Tropical trees with brilliant scarlet flowers]. If only I’d known that was the real name for what I know as the “flame tree” on Guam, I could’ve plunked that in right quick.

Clues of note:

  • 20a. [Classic Campbell’s variety]. CHICKEN NOODLE. The omission of “soup” in the clue made me expect it would be in the answer. I think this clue would be better as [Classic soup variety].
  • 48d. [Causing quaking]. EERIE. Hmm. I don’t think of something being EERIE as evoking a trembling fear.

Three stars from me.

Zachary David Levy’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 5/21/24 – no. 0521

The theme revealer is 63a. [Make safer, in a way … or what the starts of 17-, 27-, 38- and 52-Across might be?], BABY-PROOF. CRIB NOTES, BOTTLE GOURD, CARRIAGE HOUSE, and MOBILE PHONE begin with words that are merely circumstantial evidence of a baby: a crib with a mobile hanging over it, a bottle, and a carriage. There is room for reasonable doubt!

Fave fill: VERSACE, TOPAZ, a HEATH bar.

Three more things:

  • 15a. [Often-discarded part of a fruit], RIND. I think you can pickle watermelon rind, and candied orange peel is a thing. But most often? To the compost!
  • 43a. [Millennial’s successor, informally], GEN ZER. I’ve seen Gen Xer, but Gen Zer just looks wrong.
  • 37d. [Kind of motor used in robotics], SERVO. Never really watched Mystery Science Theater 3000, but it did have a robot character called Tom Servo. I’ll bet at least 10% of solvers don’t really know anything about robotics technology but got help from Tom Servo here.

Four stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 678), “Connecting Flights”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 678: Connecting Flights”

Hello there, everyone! Only a couple of weeks left in May, so hoping that you close out the month in style!

Definitely was hyped seeing the title of the puzzle, as I know I’ll be taking a flight in the next 2-3 weeks to either Minneapolis or Dallas for the NBA Finals. (Please, Boston, beat Indianapolis so I don’t have to take flights to both the Eastern Conference AND Western Conference host cities … I don’t have that kind of quid, unless some generous person/family in Indianapolis wants to put me up for a couple of days, if the Pacers win the East!) As for this grid, it’s on the lam, as in the five theme answers all have the letters LAM spanning multiple words within those entries.

      • SMALL AMOUNT (17A: [Little bit])
      • CINDERELLA MAN (23A: [Ron Howard film with Russell Crowe as a heavyweight boxing champ])
      • TEQUILA MARTINIS (37A: [Cocktail alternatives for Margarita lovers])
      • VANILLA MOUSSE (49A: [Decadent dessert made with heavy cream, egg yolks and bean extract])
      • CALL A MARINE (60A: [Toby Keith song with the lyric “They’re built to improvise, adapt and overcome”])

There are so many non-themed crossword entries that could be paired together to make, at the very least, some sort of loose connection, from H-HOUR (7D: [D-Day time]) and V SIGN (49D: [Churchill’s triumphant gesture]), to ASEA (47D: [On the Aegean, say]) and AQUANAUTS (30D: [Undersea explorers]), to RUDY (22A: [NYC mayor between David and Mike]) and UNFIT (38D: [Ill-suited]). All fit like a glove! It’s that time of the year when many students are taking the SAT, or are waiting for their SAT scores, so this part-time SAT tutor has had all of the RADII that his eyes could possibly digest for the spring without going mad (22D: [Bicycle spokes, essentially]). Tomorrow will be teaching geometry for a New York State Regents exam, and, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be teaching how to create certain constructions using a compass. Wait … didn’t I leave this behind like 25 years ago to be a journalist?!?!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: REAL DEAL (5D: [Genuine, with “the”) – It’s so interesting to see this entry intersecting the theme answer that references boxing, since “Real Deal” is the nickname of the former heavyweight champion of the world, Evander Holyfield. He’s the only four-time heavyweight champion of the world, first winning the title in 1990 after knocking out James “Buster Douglas (the person who upset then-undefeated heavyweight champion Mike Tyson earlier that year) and winning it for the last time in 2000. Of course, part of his reign as world champion came after a) defeating Tyson to reclaim the belt in 1996 and b) winning a rematch against Tyson one year later when Tyson infamously bit off part of Holyfield’s ear during the third round and was disqualified. Sorry for the graphic description, but, hey, it’s a part of sports history.

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

Take care!


Catherine Cetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

It always throws me a little when the theme answers go down instead of across. It really matters for this puzzle.

The themers:

Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2024, Catherine Cetta, solution grid

  • 3d [*Pasta-shaped colorful foam float] is a POOL NOODLE.
  • 9d [*Totally chill] is LOOSEY GOOSEY.
  • 21d [*Celebratory search engine logo] is a GOOGLE DOODLE.
  • 25d [*”So awesome!”] is TOO COOL.

And the revealer: 31d [Enthusiastic audience responses, and a feature of the answers to the starred clues] is STANDING OS. Fun!

A few other things:

  • ALTOS are not just between sopranos and tenors. We are an important section in our own right. I mean, really. Harumph.
  • BOING is a fun word.
  • We get [Sty emanation] for ODOR and [Sty emanations] for OINKS. All we need is [Stye emanation] for EYELASH.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of the Banzai Pipeline on OAHU. Surfing, not oil.

Universal Crossword – Matt F’s Review

Title: Low Fashion
Constructors: Priyanka Sethy and Rajiv Sethy
Editor: Taylor Johnson

Universal Solution 5.21.2024

When I see a shared surname on the byline I begin to speculate on the relationship. Long lost cousins, spouses, parent and child… the list goes on. Since I do not know these constructors personally, I can only let my imagination run wild. In any case, I love to see a family collaboration in the puzzleverse!

Theme Synopsis:

Based on the title, I figured we’d be looking for articles of clothing at the tail end of the theme answers. Fashion is a broad category, but our revealer helps to narrow things up:

  • 36D – Harshly criticize … and a hint to the starred clues’ answers = DRESS DOWN

Each vertical theme answer contains a type of dress at the bottom:

  • 3D – Afternoon, in Paris = APRES MIDI
  • 9D – Calling your boss “Mom,” for example = FREUDIAN SLIP
  • 22D – Major change = SEISMIC SHIFT

Overall Impressions

I’m no fashionista, so “shift dress” was new to me; but after Googling I can confidently say I’d recognize one on the street. These are the fun facts we collect as crossword solvers! This is a nice theme with a tight constraint, and the grid is well-designed. Entries like UM YEAH, WHAT A DAY, and I BET help to keep the fill engaging throughout (I’m a sucker for a fun colloquialism). Music heads will appreciate the BASS / SITAR cross.

Thanks for the puzzle, Priyanka and Rajiv!

Brooke Husic’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 5/21/24 • Tue • Husic • solution • 20240521

Just when I’d given up on the New Yorker recalibrating their difficulty adjustments, we get a decently challenging Monday puzzle and then a reasonably tough one today.

I will, however, quibble with two crossings which are subpar. First, 13d [VHS replacement] DVD / 18a [“Bessie” co-writer and director Rees] DEE—this one could have been DVR and REE. Second, 44a [Part of a Miss Piggy costume] SNOUT / 39d [São __, Brazil] PAULO, which some might think could be SNOOT and PAOLO. I don’t believe these are intentionally ambiguous but feel that the editing could’ve been a little tighter on them.

  • 13a [2021 film based on the work of Haruki Murakami] DRIVE MY CAR. Still on my to-watch list! Aside: since my mention of Past Lives (2023) being on that same list, I have screened it—my opinion is that it was good, not great. Perhaps my expectations had been raised too high.
  • 15a [Magazine whose name is a pronoun] ELLE. Aha, but not an English pronoun!
  • 28a [Zigzagging moves whose popularity overseas spread to the NBA] EURO STEPS. Sounds more like a dancing contest show, right?
  • 37a [Multimedia artist __ Red Star] WENDY.
  • 53a [Housemates that hardly ever go out?] INDOOR CATS. Some will leap at any opportunity to ‘escape’, others are wary. Mine is curious and will explore a little if I prop open the front door (e.g., while I’m making morning coffee), but dashes back inside at the first instance of other-human activity. She was much more adventurous as a kitten.
  • 54a [What an ovenbird makes on the forest floor] NEST, which for this species is also referred to as an oven, hence the eponymy. “The placement of the nest on the ground makes predation by snakes, red squirrels, and chipmunks a greater concern than for tree-nesting birds. Chipmunks have been known to burrow directly into the nest to eat the young birds. The female can perform a distraction display, simulating a crippled bird, when a potential predator is in the vicinity of the nest.” (Wikipedia)
  • 1d [The Great Banyan, for one] TREE. The largest tree specimen in the world. “The area occupied by the tree is about 18,918 square metres (about 1.89 hectares or 4.67 acres). The present crown of the tree has a circumference of 486 m. and the highest branch rises to 24.5 m; it has at present 3772 aerial roots reaching down to the ground as a prop root.” (Wikipedia)
  • 2d [What allows some headbands to keep their shape] WIRE. !?
  • 22d [2022 Steve Lacy album that alludes to his late-May birthday] GEMINI RIGHTS. I’d first tried GEMINI RISING. Hmm, late May … that’s where we are now… it’s 23rd May. And this is not the Steve Lacy I know (primarily through his dedication Thelonious Monk’s music).
  • 7d [They often contain letters you don’t want anyone else to read] PASSWORDS. I understand what the clue is doing, but it feels kind of tortured.
  • 20d [Mystery authors?] GHOSTWRITERS. Cute.
  • 21d [Course that might cover “Paradise” and “This Side of Paradise,” for short] AMERICAN LIT. Toni Morrison (1988), F Scott Fitzgerald (1920).
  • 23d [“Much __ About Nothing”] ADO. Crossed by 26a [Tasks on a list] TO-DOS. This feels dupey.
  • 41d [Structures that urban skiers grind] RAILS. Not sure I know what ‘urban skiers’ are—wouldn’t they mostly be using cross-country equipment?—but I got the answer easily.
  • 46d [Escape into a book] READ, 47d [Nourishes oneself] EATS. Fortuitous pairing.
  • 51d [School such as Navajo Tech or I.A.I.A.] TCU (tribal colleges and universities).
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17 Responses to Tuesday, May 21, 2024

  1. MarkAbe says:

    NYT: Just wanted to point-out that the clue “Often-discarded part of a fruit” reappears at 69A, where it is a “stem”, which will be discarded at least as often as the rind.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Interesting puzzle in that it ended up being the right level of difficulty but there were places where I had to navigate away and come back in a way that I don’t usually need on a Tuesday.
    The question mark in the theme clue was important otherwise PROOF doesn’t make sense. It took me a bit to fully appreciate it. I liked the way Amy underscored it with “There is room for reasonable doubt!”.
    I have not thought about SERVO for a while, but I learned the concept of a SERVO system outside of robotics, because these systems control output based on ongoing feedback. In that sense, they mimic events that go on in our brain and rest of the body. For example, the magnitude and duration of our stress response is controlled by negative feedback, and faulty feedback in that system can lead to significant mental and physiological problems. I will spare you the details :).

    • DougC says:

      I’ve never heard of Tom Servo, but I do know that servo motors have been around for a very long time, used in all sorts of mechanical control applications since well before robotics became a named field. No idea how aware of this the general public, outside of engineers and hobbyists, would be.

      The puzzle felt more challenging, and more interesting, than the usual Tuesday, but somehow I finished below my average time. Go figure.

      • Gary R says:

        Back in the day (late 70’s/early 80’s) I had a Technics turntable with a servo motor. I think “servo” might actually have been part of the name of the model.

        • Martin says:

          Yep, their belt-drive turntables had dots on the bottom of the platter that were read by a strobe and fed pitch-control circuitry. That is a classic servo-motor application.

          • Gary R says:

            Yeah – I remember the dots! Mine was manually controlled – there was a dial that I’d turn one way or the other until the dots appeared to be stationary and that meant it was turning at exactly the right speed.

  3. Lois says:

    New Yorker: So many proper nouns today. They were mostly gettable with crosses, but not a lot of fun for the most part. But I’m posting to say that I loved 7-down.

    • steve says:

      i cringed when i saw brooke’s byline
      she can be so far out of my wheelhouse i can end up with nothing filled in
      that is mostly her “indie” stuff, but she is hard for me to tune into

      for me this was more “normal”
      much closer to enjoyable than a lot of hers for me

      good puzzle, a bit of a challenge but doable

    • Gary R says:

      Agree about a lot of proper nouns, but I knew at least a few off the top of my head – ELLE, BEALE STREET, ALEX Haley, and Nayyirah WAHEED was vaguely familiar. And crosses were reasonable.

      I also liked the clue for PASSWORDS – as well as GHOSTWRITERS and INDOOR CATS.

      Seemed about right challenge-wise, for a Tuesday. A little over half of yesterday’s solve time.

    • JohnH says:

      I had mixed feelings about the puzzle. Many clues seem gimmes, more than I’d expect for a Tuesday, but then the difficulty was ramped up to Tuesday with the proper nouns. It’s not a strategy I like on both counts. Still, the puzzle went down well as could be expected, so I’m expressing only mild reservations, honest.

      I’d put Beale Street, Elle, and Alex Haley on my gimme list, although they’re proper nouns, although it does get at the fear that puzzles with names can vary too much in difficulty from person to person. (You know it or you don’t.) WAHEED was my last fill.

      • Eric H says:

        “You know it or you don’t.”

        About 30 or 35 years ago, I read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” At the time, I certainly knew that its coauthor was Alex Haley (who I had previously known of only from the TV adaptation of “Roots”).

        A year or so ago, I solved a crossword with a similar Malcolm X clue. Whatever bit of Alex Haley I needed was in the “I knew that once” category. Today, ALEX was a gimme.

        Stuff goes in, stuff goes out. One remembers more than one thinks one does. One also forgets (or never knew) more than one thinks.

    • marciem says:

      I’m usually at a loss with BH’s puzzles, I sort of cringe but try anyways. This puzzle was exceptional for me, I enjoyed it. What I didn’t know, the crossings were fair enough to infer the answers. (other than that Paolo/Paulo Snoot/snout crossing which took me too long to find my mistake.) Loved the Indoor Cat and Passwords clues!

      I will try not to fear BH next time I see her byline :D :D

  4. GTIJohnny says:

    WSJ 12D, It took me a while to see DMA as D, MA. (Democrat from Massachusetts.)

  5. PJ says:

    TNY – I originally had the same thought about DVD and DVR but decided that VHS is the medium and VCR is the device.

  6. Eric H says:

    New Yorker: It feels like it’s been a long time since I have solved a Brooke Husic puzzle. I usually enjoy her work, though it reminds me that she and I inhabit different worlds. HI especially get that feeling when I try one the puzzles on her website.j

    This one was quite solvable, despite a plethora of names that I didn’t recognize, like Nayyirah WAHEED, CHLOE Bailey and WENDY Red Star. All of those were derivable from the crosses.

    There are some nice clues for PASSWORDS and GHOSTWRITERS. Overall, a fun puzzle.

  7. CC says:

    Jonesin’: Was hoping there would be an obvious rhyme or reason connecting the whole “change one letter of an opera” theme. FWIW, and I feel this is likely a total coincidence, but the letters that the changed letters took the places of anagram into the word TALENT.

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