Wednesday, May 22, 2024

AV Club 6:00 (Amy) 


LAT 5:37 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 1:46 (Kyle) 


NYT 5:02 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 6:56 (Emily) 


WSJ 8:37 (Jim) 


Freddie Cheng’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Double Duty”—Jim’s review

Theme answers were originally occupations of a sort but had a letter changed to create a new, wacky job. The revealer is CHANGE JOBS (60a, [Switch careers, and a hint to 16- and 37-Across and 10- and 25-Down]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Double Duty” · Freddie Cheng · Wed., 5.22.24

  • 16a. [Person who dresses newborns?] BABY FITTER. Babysitter.
  • 37a. [Person who polices carillons?] BELL COP. Bellhop. Bleh. Even if I knew what a carillon was, this clue has no surface sense.
  • 10d. [Person who checks surfaces at Wimbledon?] COURT TESTER. Court jester.
  • 25d. [Person who brings a spark to events?] FIRE LIGHTER. Firefighter.

I feel like I’m missing something…or else I want more from this theme. These just seem like random choices, randomly changed into new jobs. I came up with some of my own: A shoemaker becomes a shoe baker. A DoorDasher becomes a door washer. A beekeeper becomes a bee peeper (whatever that would be). Feels pretty random, right?  The theme needs something else to tie it together.

I at least wanted the changed letters to spell something out, but no such luck.

In the fill, I was pretty turned off by GUY CODE because (1) the clue is gross [Not hooking up with a bro’s ex, and the like], and (2) who says GUY CODE? I’ve only ever heard “bro code”, probably because as a phrase it flows much better. (But it turns out there was an MTV2 show called GUY CODE about 10 years ago.)

I did like GOOSE EGG in the fill, but not so much entries like ORONO, IRT, and OBE.

Clues of note:

  • 42a. [Vintner’s sediment]. LEES. Checking cruciverb, it looks like this cluing angle is used a lot for this word, so I probably should remember it. Still, a jeans angle seems much more accessible.
  • 51d. [Computer store]. CACHE. Now there’s a good clue with understated misdirection.

Three stars.

John Ewbank’s AV Club Classic crossword, “Peak Performers”—Amy’s recap

AV Club Classic crossword solution, 5/22/24 – “Peak Performers”

We don’t see many British constructors of American-style crosswords. I’ve done one or two of Mr. Ewbank’s US crosswords, along with a handful of his Times of London “quick cryptics” (BEQ tipped me off to the Trelawney puzzles) which are pretty accessible to a US solver.

Here he is with his first AV Club puzzle, presenting four theme answers that zig and zag without creating terrible crossing fill. No mean feat! The revealer is MOUNTAIN GOATS, and the four “peak performers” of the title are athletes often considered to be the greatest of all time, with their names going up to the mountain peak and down the other side. We’ve got SERENA of tennis (first name gives clarity that it’s not about her sister Venus), Michael JORDAN of basketball (some think LeBron has surpassed him), gymnast Simone BILES (please let nothing come between her and the Paris Olympics!), and American football’s Tom BRADY (I asked my husband who’s the GOAT of the NFL and he confirmed “Tom Brady, unfortunately”).

I’m impressed that the fill intersecting the GOATs isn’t compromised. [Greek summit] OSSA had the most crosswordese vibes here, and its HORST Buchholz crossing is maybe asking a lot. There’s also English cathedral town ELY, meh. But overall, pretty solid.

Would have liked no “eye” in the MASCARA clue since the entry crosses SAW EYE TO EYE.

Fave fill: new-to-me NERD RAP, ARM DAYS, THIMBLES, GREENERY (’tis the season), and PARACHUTE IN.

3.9 stars from me.

Martin Schneider’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 5/22/24 – no. 0522

Cute theme: There are various edible DOUBLE MISNOMERS (not entirely sure that this theme revealer is an actual term outside of this crossword) where neither word/half of a phrase/compound word is involved in it. We get three such things here: EGG CREAMS (pluralized only for letter-count purposes), SWEETBREADS, and GRAPE-NUTS cereal. We also get one non-food, the ENGLISH HORN (my husband argues that while it’s not a brass horn, it still has some essential horn features). Not sure if you can think of other good examples of “double misnomers” that could have worked here to skirt that 3 + 1 imbalance.

The grid feels overcrowded with these 55 theme squares and the lowish word count of 72. When one corner of stacked 8s includes a CLAY PIPE (huh?? ask an archaeologist) and the non-idiomatic COST LESS, and when the shorter fill includes ALENE, AIX, MANNS, ENO, ERNO, TEC, and such … you’ve lost me. The puzzle might have worked better in a venue like the AVCX Classic, where the puzzle title could yoink that revealer out of the grid and leave breathing room for smoother fill.

2.25 stars from me.

Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker puzzle – Kyle’s write-up

Thanks Caitlin for today’s New Yorker crossword. My experience solving this puzzle can be summed up in one word: “Whoosh!” And I haven’t even had a cup of coffee this morning!

The New Yorker solution grid – Caitlin Reid – Wednesday 05/22/2024

There are only 4 entries longer than 7 letters (WEAR AND TEAR, GREEN SCREEN, COCA-COLA, A-LISTERS, all good), and nothing uncommon among the rest of the fill. The clues were pretty straightforward, at times verging on completely transparent, like 1A [Resells at an inflated price outside the venue] for SCALPS. There were a couple light puns which I think helped for humor and variety, such as [Big name in pop culture?] for COCA-COLA, [Piece of surfing equipment?] for REMOTE, and [Enjoys an in-tents activity?] for CAMPS. The one maybe-questionable entry here is 52D TROU–there was recently some discussion in crossword Discord about whether this entry has gone stale, I suppose because few people say “drop trou” these days.

John Ewbank’s Universal crossword, “Board Meeting” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 5/22/24 • Wed • “Board Meeting” • Ewbank • solution • 20240522

I didn’t read the full clue for the central revealer, so I made an assumption about what it was saying.

  • 35aR [Standard PC accessories … on which the first two letters of the starred clues’ answers are neighbors] QWERTY KEYBOARDS. My natural assumption was that the answers would each consist of letters from single rows on such a device, since that’s a common kind of wordplay.
  • 16a. [*Professional who works on an app’s graphics] UI DESIGNERUser interface.
  • 24a. [*Terrence Fletcher portrayer in “Whiplash”] JK SIMMONSJonathan Kimble.
  • 50a. [*Physicians who specialize in immediate medical care] ER DOCTORSEmergence room.
  • 60a. [*Guide for formatting a job application document] CV TEMPLATECurriculum vitae.

So it turned out to be an interesting variant.

  • 26d [Most frequent, statistically] MODAL. Mean, mode, median.
  • 27d [“Right away!”] PDQ (pretty damned quick). A three-letter initialism, unlike those at the starts of the theme entries. See also 33a [Hospital dept.] ICU (intensive care unit).
  • 38d [Super simple] REAL EASY. Feels kind of wishy-washy.
  • 46d [QB throw worth six points] TD PASS. This one, on the other hand, feels as if it impinges on the theme format.
  • 56d [Chess champs, for short] GMS (grandmasters). Undecided here.
  • 14a [Debonair] SUAVE, which I ironically enjoy pronouncing with a long-a sound.
  • 27a [“__ and thx”] PLS (please). I don’t see this abbrev. as impacting the theme at all, however. Same for 49a [Georgia airport code] ATLanta.
  • 41a [Flop __ (period of failure)] ERA. Not convinced I’ve seen this before, but it was easily gettable.
  • 56a [Republic of __, dystopian setting for “The Handmaid’s Tale”] GILEAD. It’s a cautionary tale, though apparently some view it as a sort of blueprint.

Rebecca Goldstein’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Rebecca Goldstein’s puzzle today features a common LAT theme trope with one little twist. The final long answer today is JUMPTHROUGHHOOPS and another three long answers are two-parters with an area spanning the parts and spelling out a synonym for JUMP. The spelt-out words are circled (the hoops):

  • [Undercover undertaking], STEALTHOPERATION
  • [Winter getaway deal], SKIPACKAGE
  • [Meet, Maps, and Drive, e.g.], GOOGLEAPPS

Other clues and answers:

  • [Brunch side], HASH. Nothing like hashish for elevenses…
  • [Trip to see Africa’s “Big Five”], SAFARI. I was starting to believe Americans didn’t know that phrase…
  • [Makes a big noise], GOESKABOOM. I feel like that’s more than just a noise?
  • [Camel in a caravan, maybe], STEED. This came with a strange image in my head (which was by design).
  • [Home state of Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion], TEXAS. As in the title of her recent single…
  • [Rented a yurt, maybe], GLAMPED. Another word I was convinced Americans hadn’t picked up on…


Madeline Kaplan’s USA Today Crossword, “Chow Down” — Emily’s write-up

Let’s dig in!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday May 22, 2024

USA Today, May 22, 2024, “Chow Down” by Madeline Kaplan

Theme: each down themer ends with a food


  • 18d. [Tiny electronic devices often made of silicon], COMPUTERCHIPS
  • 15d. [Form shipping material], PACKINGPEANUTS
  • 19d. [“Enable online tracking” button], ACCEPTCOOKIES

The themer set today is a fun snack mix of COMPUTERCHIPS, PACKINGPEANUTS, and ACCEPTCOOKIES.


Stumpers: HAIRLINE (kept thinking it was some kind of “bangs” or “fringe”), SOUPIER (needed crossings), and LORI (new to me)

Check out the spanner CIRCUMNAVIGATED and it’s just bonus fill. Nice! Loved the grid design and the opportunities that it opened up for the puzzle. Such great overall fill and a fun themer set to boot.

4.0 stars


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30 Responses to Wednesday, May 22, 2024

  1. Ethan says:

    NYT: I’m interested to see how the dupe defenders are going to defend 6D and 36D.

    • Martin says:

      The Shortz answer would be that there’s nothing to defend. The only dupes that are problematic in this editorial opinion are internal spoilers, like a clue that uses an unusual word (say “benzene”) when that word is also an entry. In the editor’s opinion, ONE ARM pushup is not likely to telegraph UNDER ARM deodorant, so there’s no problem.

      I recognize that some solvers (and editors) find two phrases containing the same word to be inherently inelegant. But Will Shortz does not.

      • JohnH says:

        Agreed. No spoiler, no problem. Ruling this out would be like ruling out themes.

        I liked the theme. Those are phrases I always wonder how arose.

    • Gary R says:

      I’m not a dupe “defender,” I’m a dupe “who cares-er.”

      The “rule” about dupes in a crossword strikes as about as important as the “rules” about split infinitives and ending a sentence with a preposition. I gave up noticing or caring long ago.

      6-D and 36-D didn’t change my solving experience, nor my enjoyment of the puzzle.

      • Eric H says:

        Same here, Gary.

        I wonder how many crossword solvers who don’t read crossword blogs and reviews even know about the convention against such duplicates. I’d been solving for years before I heard of it. And I can only think of a couple of times when that “rule” made me rethink an answer.

      • Ethan says:

        Very interesting. I typed up a brief survey about crossword dupes just to see where most folks drew the line. I hope lots of commenters will take it.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Took your survey. Thanks!

        • Eric H says:

          I tried to take your survey, but I don’t think it worked. I got basically yes/no questions instead of the “scale of 1 to 10” the questions led me to expect.

          Thanks anyway.

        • Gary R says:

          Completed the survey. Thanks for taking the time to put it together – will be interested to hear the results.

          Could you do another one about cross-reference clues (the bane of my crossworld existence)? Maybe we could convince editors to ban these forever. Unlike dupes, they DO affect the quality of my solving experience and my enjoyment of a puzzle!

    • Lois says:

      I don’t like dupes and liked the puzzle. I didn’t notice the dupe. Maybe it crossed my mind, but I thought I was remembering an earlier puzzle I did today and I didn’t check. I know that dupes are accepted these days, but when I notice I find them jarring.

  2. David L says:

    Cute NYT. I’m surprised that both Amy and Rex P were puzzled by CLAYPIPE. Google reveals that you can still buy them, if you’re so inclined.

    I am definitely in the camp that thinks having ONEARM and UNDERARM in the same puzzle is a Bad Thing.

    • Chris says:

      There’s also BADONES…it’s a double dupe.

      • DougC says:

        BAD ONES, IMO, has a double problem: not only is it a dupe, but it’s also random and non-idiomatic, just like COST LESS. It’s just weak fill.

        CLAY PIPE, on the other hand, is definitely (still) a thing, and is perfectly described by its clue. I am not a smoker, and I got this immediately from the initial “CL”.

        Yes, they are a handy archeological dating tool (for sites post-1620) due to their being ubiquitous, easily broken, and made in designs that varied over time and can be tracked in the historical record.

        But they are also still available today for those smokers who prefer them, and are apparently in regular use by tobacco testers and blenders, due to the belief that they are more flavor-neutral than other materials.

  3. Allen K says:

    It’s interesting that a French horn is a part of a standard woodwind quintet even though it is a brass instrument, but an English horn is definitely a woodwind and Amy’s husband is sadly wrong.

  4. PJ says:

    Universal 34a [Gin ___ tonic]. Possibly the laziest clue I recall seeing

  5. Zach says:

    WSJ: Lots of thoughts about today’s grid…
    -36A: San Diego is east of Reno? I’m a geography buff, and my mind is always blown by factoids like this.
    -62D: OBE was not in my lexicon and probably the same for most Americans. Without testing this myself, I’d imagine Freddie could have swapped out OBOE and YEOW for other words to avoid OBE.
    -The 29A/24D crossing was a natick-ish for me. Thankfully, logic kicked in, and my first guess was correct.
    -I totally agree with Jim that the 4D clue was inappropriate.

    • sorry after after says:

      While I disagree there’s anything wrong with O.B.E. as an answer, this puzzle was crying out, as Jim notes, for another layer to justify its existence. Had the four changed letters spelled out something relevant (SWAP?) there would at least have been a payoff at the end.

    • GTIJohnny says:

      With you on all points. Reflexively entered SSW for 36A and my brain refused to consider it an error, blowing up that whole area of the grid.

    • Martin says:

      OBE has been used in NYT puzzles 119 times. It’s pretty standard crossword fare. GBE (Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), MBE (Member of the British Empire) and KBE (Knight of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) have all appeared as well. They don’t appear often, but I start with _BE just in case.

      • Zach says:

        I don’t recall seeing it in any WSJ grids, at least recently. Thanks for the education on these titles, though! Could be useful in the future.

    • JohnH says:

      I don’t have a problem with OBE. I even know what it is. The other complaints about the WSJ do seem in order, especially the wish for another layer. And I, too, tried to find one by seeing what changing a letter spelled out.

    • David Roll says:

      WSJ–how is frog a peeper? Must be simple, but then so am I.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        It’s a frog that’s very common in the eastern US and Canada. If you’re in those areas and are anywhere near a pond during their mating season (spring), you can’t miss hearing them.

  6. Jose Madre says:

    I was pretty confident when I filled in EDIble misnomers and really puzzled how French Horns were edible. Then I started on the SW corner and took a bit to change my mind. The 3 + 1 was weird

    • DougC says:

      “…really puzzled how French Horns were edible.” Hilarious! I’ve gotta admit I’ve done that, too. But not today, luckily for me.

  7. Burak says:

    NYT answered the question “what if we made a crossword out of Seinfeldesque jokes?” for me. Apparently I didn’t need to know the answer to that one.

  8. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: Rated this puzzle a “1.5” because of poor editing that occurs too often. 10D: “Choose a spot in an open office” = “Hotdesk” (is hot-desking a verb?). 15D: “Camel in a caravan, maybe” = “Steed” (nobody calls a camel a steed).

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