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Amanda Chung author page

13 puzzles by Amanda Chung
with Jeff Chen comments

Amanda Chung
View these same grids with comments from:
Constructor (12)Jeff Chen (13)Hide comments

See the 67 answer words debuted by Amanda Chung.

2 collaborators: Erik Agard Karl Ni
Puzzles constructed by Amanda Chung by year
POW Tue 4/6/2021

★ Whoa Nelly, it took me fifteen minutes of searching to find even one more exclamation that could fit into this theme! I so badly wanted "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" to work because I love "Derry Girls" so much, but sometimes the powers that be don't cooperate.

Clever grid design, utilizing mirror symmetry to accommodate the frustrating 14, 10, 10 / 10 lengths. Not all editors or solvers love mirror sym, but I find it so pleasing. Smiley face of black squares; that's my jam.

Smiling's my favorite!

Beautiful gridwork, too. The middle columns of mirror sym grids can be tricky, but Amanda and Karl did so well. DWELLERS is a fine entry, BAR CAR is fun, and even though I'm terrible with pop music, it's hard to avoid Demi LOVATO's name if you scan headlines.

Great use of mid-length entries, too, MAHLER lending a classical feel, APOLLO clued to the famed theater, and TAYLOR Swift — a little something for everyone.

I wasn't keen on the trio of BFFS, DEETS, TOTES (as "totally!"). But Erik Agard, editor of the USA Today crossword, said something smart, that puzzles should contain answers that people already know — but some days, those answers are for people that aren't you. This is a perfect example of that, executed in a way that even a crank like me can still successfully finish.

Jim Horne expressed another sentiment with an apt opera analogy. As a conductor, you're pressured by opera diehards to perform the standards. But if you don't try newer compositions aimed at younger crowds, you'll never create a new generation of opera fans.

I didn't know what a NET CORD sensor was, but it's common tech in that world. Much more accurate than a human, I imagine.

Another delight from an up-and-coming constructing duo.

Tue 11/3/2020

What a curious finding! I've seen the phrase HANDY DANDY many times, even used it (much to the mocking snickers of millennials). I've never noticed the ANDs inside the words, though, nor have I thought about parsing it as H AND Y / D AND Y.

Even if someone gave me a listing of HOWDY DOODY, HEAVY-DUTY, HUMPTY DUMPTY, HUNKY DORY, it would have taken me a million years, banding away on a million computers, to come up with the H AND Y / D AND Y revealer. That's a fine HOWDY DOODY to ya!

(Ok, boomer.)

A quick search confirmed my intuition that it's a tight theme — not many other options. HIPPY DIPPY might be considered derogatory, HICKORY DICKORY sounds partial-ish, and HOLY DAY (or HEYDAY) isn't a long or interesting as the others.

Karl and Amanda are so good at imbuing a grid with glittery goodness. If the theme didn't grab you — I did find the revealer parsing a tad hard to figure out and understand — how about some IDIOTIC HOUNDED ALIMONY MEANIE CHANTEY? That would be quite a song, SO I HEAR.

I paused at PEDWAY, PORKIE, MONOGYNY, which felt tough taken together, but all are figure-out-able. PED WAY = pedestrian walkway, PORKIE = Pomeranian + Yorkie, MONO/GY/NY = a single dude in the Big Apple. It's a "Sex in the City" thing.

Wonderful clues for ISRAEL and BISON. It's tough to make early-week clues both interesting and accessible to newbs. ISRAEL using glue that's kosher for stamps? I enjoyed learning that, and it's something most everyone could reason out. Same goes for the BISON as the national mammal of the U.S. That choice seems about right for America's combative nature.

Innovative theme. I enjoy parsing findings I've never thought of before. It didn't pique my interest enough for POW! consideration, but it's creative, no doubt.

Wed 7/29/2020

Ah, those annoying prompts saying "sorry, passwords must contain at least one letter, number, and special character." Come on, just let me use "Jeff123"!

Uh oh. Now that my secret is out, I better go change my passwords. "Jeff321" it is.

TWO PERCENT MILK is such a beautiful example of STRONG PASSWORDism. A number, a special character, and some letters, all in a common phrase. Perfect!

(Okay, I admit it. I confidently filled in ONE PERCENT MILK and steadfastly stuck to TOOO, OWON, and MISE. I was so sure MISE was edible. Not so much.)

IPHONE SEVEN PLUS isn't as good, since it's nearly as obsolete as my sad little Razr flip phone. I'm holding onto my Razr, since it will some day be as amusing to my kids as rotary phones are to me.

ONE MICHELIN STAR … don't most people say that a restaurant got "a" MICHELIN STAR? While solving, I couldn't force myself to believe that ONE MICHELIN STAR was a real phrase. (Something like ONE STAR REVIEW feels more solid.) A better clue could have fixed that, wording that acknowledges that some restaurants have two or even three MICHELIN STARs, but ONE MICHELIN STAR is still a solid rating.

Alternatively, the search strings *ONE*STAR* and *STAR*ONE* turn up a few juicy phrases like COLONEL MUSTARD and STAR JONES. They wouldn't be consistent, but there's something neat about ONE being hidden, perhaps increasing password strength? I'd have enjoyed it if all the themers had hidden numbers.

POUND might also be useful, as in a TEN POUND NOTE or a COMPOUND SENTENCE.

Solid gridsmanship, as I've come to expect from Amanda and Karl; delightful bonuses in DAREDEVIL, SCHLEPPED, NO SWEAT, I BANKER (we finance types love entries like these). Better yet, they worked in those goodies without prices to pay. When your gloopy shorties are … OPS? CONG? EPEE? That's it? That's excellent attention to detail.

Fresh ideas are hard to come by, and much appreciated. If all the phrases had been as spot-on as TWO PERCENT MILK — or featured hidden numbers, as with PAULA POUNDSTONE — this would have gotten serious POW! consideration.

Thu 6/25/2020

Prime fodder for JOTS (Jeff Overthinks Things Severely). Each week when Jim Horne and I chat, my favorite moment is when I see that little grin of his, as he struggles to hold back peals of laughter. This time the corner of his mouth pinched upward when I said, "But is the LIMB really OUT ON A LIMB?"

Right? Wouldn't GO OUT ON A LIMB imply that there's something physically on top of the limb? Like OUT would be outside the grid, right atop an ARM that's also outside the grid?

That's when Jim usually sighs before saying, "Only Jeff."

We had a fun in-depth discussion:

  • Is a WING a limb? Does it belong with ARM and LEG?
  • Isn't that one awkward creature, a single WING, lower than its one LEG?
  • If you're going to include WING, should you use a phrase that's more colorful than the oddly tensed WHISTLE BLOWING? Did anyone else figure it was supposed to be WHISTLE BLOW, with just a W hanging out?
  • Would the puzzle have been better with two ARMs and two LEGs sticking out instead?
  • It's a shame "go out with a limb" isn't a phrase, because that would have been perfect.

To be clear, these were all my musings, while Jim fought to fall over as he cackled in the background.

Jim returned the favor, making me crack up as we discussed the grid. "GAWKY is just … gawky," he deadpanned.

I've seen a ton of "letters outside the grid" puzzles over the years, so it's tough for me to get excited about them unless the raison d'etre is spot-on. I did like the concept, though, GO OUT ON A LIMB a solid reason to go outside (at least for non-serial-overthinkers).

And in the end, I decided that including WING was fun, although it would have been better as part of a phrase like LOTTERY DRA(WING) or THE KING OF S(WING).

You can stop laughing now, Jim.

Thu 2/13/2020

Amanda Chung and Karl Ni ROLL THE DICE today, placing D I C E into dice-like visuals. At first, I wondered how an up-right-down movement was a "roll," but that led down a long Chidi-like internal debate of moral existentialism, and I had to slap myself upside the head.

I enjoyed several elements today:

  • Each of the D I C E roll clockwise (see, I told you, they're rolling. Okay, maybe not physically but in a metaphysical sense ... although one wonders — SLAP, STOP THAT!)
  • There are four instances, each starting with a different position, to cover all four possible clockwise permutations.
  • It's so neat to get entries that are longer than 15 letters. We rarely see something like REVERSE DICTIONARY; excellent themer choice.
  • Each DICE breaks across a phrase, and each phrase is exactly two words.

I've seen many up-right-down motion puzzles, so I appreciated all the elegant touches.

I could have used more polish in the grid, though. There was so much EAN EINE HAI MEIN RGS STS. Even taking out the worst one — EAN, a weird suffix — would have made a big difference. Perhaps a black square at the H of HEIDI would have been a quick fix, though it's hard to say if the opposite side would cooperate.

A lot of bonuses did help to balance out some of the infelicities — I love stately VALHALLA and, of course, my man, ARISTOTLE. Hmm. What would he say about the roll issue? Would he consider the ethical ramifications of --

*sound of "Nichomachean Ethics" dropped onto my head*

BTW, if you haven't done the Patrick Berry suite from 2011, I highly recommend it. I won't say why I thought of it today. Just do it.

Tue 4/23/2019

PET SOUNDS indeed, common household pets making themselves heard today. Amanda and Karl found four solid words-hidden-in-phrases, TATTOO INK my favorite. Great discovery.

Probably not a lot of solvers will notice this, but it was elegant that Amanda and Karl picked four PET SOUNDS that were all four letters apiece. There's no rule that says this is important or even desirable, but it pleases my constructor's eye to see the consistency.

It could have been that it's tough to find a longer sound hidden within a phrase — try it with SQUEAK or CHIRP or (what do hamsters sound like?) — but still, all-four-letter-sounds was a nice touch.

I would have liked some rationale for why the sounds were hidden in phrases — at least, more than just "that's a good way to insert them into a crossword." It does work, but it's not as fist-pumpy as if there were some spot-on revealer like PET SOUNDS IN THE MIDDLE.

The gridwork … not my favorite of Amanda and Karl's products. ACRO SOTO TES XERS LARAS MUFTI clumped up, leaving me with a sense of inelegance. A shame, as the themers were interesting enough to warrant some POW! consideration.

Tough layout, what with the central TATTOO INK forcing big corners. Then you have the ??F?I pattern forcing MUFTI and then ROTI. Both of those are generally fine, but not desirable in early-week puzzles — especially crossing each other. I'd have tried moving TWO OF A KIND and THIS SIDE UP each one row away from the center, which might have helped with better spacing.

But some nice bonuses in FACE PAINT, KING TUT, HAMSTER (which muddied the theme a bit, but not so much as to be distracting) to liven up the solve.

Wed 3/20/2019

Erik, Amanda, and Karl riff on DISAPPEARING INK, theme answers successively missing one more letter of INK. I enjoyed my hitch at KITCHEN SIN — what happened to the K? It couldn't have disappeared, since nothing had happened to WINK up top. Or could it!

MAKES YOUTH was a clever way to achieve the final INK removal. It took me a long time to figure out the base phrase, since it was the only one that required a parsing change. MAKES YOU THINK, doesn't it? But it felt inconsistent. Perhaps something like BARTON F [Clara's result of not studying?] or QUICK AS A W (something to do with Prez Dubya) would have been better.

I also wondered if I COULDN'T SLEEP A WINK was in the language. The past tense I didn't sleep a wink is more common to me (other parent sof young kids, weigh in!). Minor quibble, as it turns out, according to the Goog.

Nice bonuses, AS IF I CARE, RUM RAISIN, THE CHAMP, IN CHAOS. None of them made me stand up and cheer, but they're all solid.

And as with any Agardian joint, delightful clueing:

  • [Grounds for discussion?] is a FORUM, not some legal / business term.
  • [Letters at a filling station?] refers to a DDS (dentist), not a gas station.
  • [Off the table?] means it's already been EATEN.

I appreciated that the themers didn't take question marks, even though three of them could easily have. Starring their clues was a solid choice, so that the puzzle didn't feel flooded by question mark murkiness.

DISAPPEARING INK has been played upon many a time, including a memorable mini-theme from Xan Vangsathorn, a similar conceit by Ed Sessa, and my favorite of the bunch, Tim Polin's where the phrase affected clues instead of answers. Still, there's room for another creative take, and I enjoyed today's.

Wed 1/23/2019

I have to admit; I didn't entirely get this theme. After thinking about it for a while, I emailed Jim. Here's what he said (and what he meant).

ME: Did you understand what's going on today?

JIM: FLYING BUTTRESS -> FLYING BUTTER. (What, you couldn't figure that out?)

ME: But the GENDER NEUTRAL revealer?

JIM: Cutting off the ESS. (Again, isn't this obvious?)

ME: But but but, if you cut off the ESS, wouldn't it be FLYING BUTTR?

JIM: There's the "female-sounding" hint in the clue. (Stop being so picky!)

ME: Taking the ESS sound off makes it sound more like FLYING BUTT than BUTTER. (Tee hee.)

JIM: Yeah, I'm more lax about these things than you. (Just enjoy the frickin' puzzle, you hoser!)

Even if the theme didn't resonate with you, there's a lot to enjoy in the fill. TAX RETURN and STRONGMAN take up the long down slots, and there even more goodies: CAR RACE, ATE CROW, CATNAPS, MEEMAW, even KREWE (Mardi Gras term for "crew").

There was a price to be paid, though, in ENS, NNE, SSS, SYN. These are minor offenders—I wouldn't even bother pointing them out for an average constructor, but Amanda and Karl have the technical skills to smooth some of them out.

I'd have focused on that west region. With a couple of hours work, SSS and SYN could have been history. Not entirely sure what would solve the problem, but shifting around the black squares at the ends of BELIEF and NEW would have been a good start.

Overall, I liked the theme idea — BLOWUP MATTER as TNT is hilarious. (I'm a huge Wile E. Coyote fan, what can I say?) But I would have preferred not having the GENDER NEUTRAL revealer, in favor of adding a fourth themer.

I probably could have figured out what was going on. (Probably not.)

ADDED NOTE: I had been thinking along the lines of LIONESS -> LION and STEWARDESS -> STEWARD: simple ESS drops. Astute reader Seth Cohen points out that the theme makes more sense, if you think of it in terms of how WAIT(RESS) changes to become WAIT(ER).

POW Tue 12/11/2018

Loved this one. I had no idea what was going on until I hit the COMPOST BIN revealer. Ah, of course, that's what SHELL / PEEL / GROUNDS / PIT have in common! Each of those four were so well disguised (in such colorful phrases, too!). What a nice experience; the veil of confusion being lifted to great effect.

Such standout gridsmanship, too. FILE CLERK, OREGON TRAIL, BIRD ON A WIRE, MAIN MAN, APE SUIT = great quantity and quality of color.

I especially loved NEGAWATTS. I hadn't heard of it before, but what a fun term.

I wondered why my reaction to this was different than BROGRAMMER. I think it's because NEGAWATTS makes immediate sense (to me at least), but it might not be apparent to the general solver that programmers sometimes have a "bro" culture.

Also sounds like something we energy-conscious Seattleites brag about. You better believe I'm going to start working NEGAWATTS into daily conversation whenever I can!

All that and minimal crossword glue? I rarely use the word "perfect," so it's a tremendous pleasure to be able to use it with glee. This pair of constructors is quickly becoming one of my favorite duos.

Mon 10/15/2018

Amanda and Karl fooled me! I like to play the "name that theme" game on Mondays. Two answers into my solve, I was sure the revealer would be MIDDLE CHILD. I was so sure that I tried to shoehorn MIDDLE CHILD into the bottom row. You know … if you switch the words and put CHILD to the left? And MIDDLE … you force into the right, even though the length is wrong?

Sometimes you gotta laugh at yourself.

Loved the consistency, each YOUNG / AT HEART answer being smack dab in the middle of the themer — for example, CALF is flanked by four squares to the left, four to the right. Perfect!

I also liked how almost all of them changed the meaning of the animal in question. I'm a big jazz fan, so getting JOHN COLTRANE was already a treat. Realizing that I'd never seen COLT in COLTRANE made it even better.

The only one that felt a bit off was KID in KIDDING. I know, the meanings are different. KID just isn't as well-disguised as the others. Maybe something like KABUKI DANCE would have done a better job of it.

It's unusual to place a revealer at the very bottom row; it forces you to break up a long revealer into parts — not elegant. As much as I like Amanda and Karl's exploration of how many different animal young there are, I would have preferred a more traditional layout, with perhaps five total themers (four animals), in rows 4 / 6 / 8 / 10 / 12. INCUBUS and AKITA didn't do a lot for me, anyway.

Mondays are so tough — I hold them to an extremely high standard, as they're the gateway drug for newbs. I'm afraid a crossing like ANATOLE / ASANA might be a turn-off for a newer solver. Yet another reason for favoring a more traditional layout, since AKITA undoubtedly contributed to tough NE corner design.

Overall though, a solid idea that pleasingly pulled the wool over this lamb's eyes.

Wed 9/5/2018

TEAM BUILDING today, explaining how six NFL franchises were formed. Apparently the rapper TI was a founding member of the TITANS. And who knew NCOS helped build the BRONCOS?

(Also, who knew that there was a rapper named TI?)

Such an appropriate fact, that RIOTS are an integral part of the PATRIOTS. My book agent is a die-hard PATRIOTS fan, which makes things difficult when I have to point out that they're the moral equivalent of a cat dingleberry implanted inside a dog turd.

Great effort to work in such a ton of long downs — NO FEWER THAN six! This is an incredibly tough ask; it's so difficult to get every one of them to sing. I love, love, loved THE DOG ATE IT and TENTH INNING — such great entries!

Not so hot on DSL MODEM. It is a real term, no doubt — something essential for DSL service. I don't know that I've ever called my (DSL) modem anything but just a modem, though.

And I'VE GOT A PLAN? Huh. I stared at that for a while during my solve, and I'm still staring at it. That one gets some side-eye from me. Feels arbitrary as a sentence / statement. Unless it's someone's famous catch line?

A couple of prices to pay for the audacious grid layout, but I don't mind ORA ENT ORO that much. And good old ODIE, who's only borderline crossworthy (sorry, bud!) gets saved with that delightful clue. Funny to think of ODIE as Garfield's frenemy.

A couple of oddballs in BATHOS and UBUNTU. I think they're fair game for a mid-week puzzle, seeing as all the crossings are fair, but man are they tough. UBUNTU, in particular, is hard to suss out unless you have some programming background. Or you're Bantu (it means "humanity toward others").

Fun concept, and I love that the authors trashed the hated PATRIOTS. PAT + RIOTS = detestable. And that's a fact. Ipso facto. Q.E.D.

That's the way I'm taking it, at least. Stupid winning Patriots, why must you win so much grumble grumble.

POW Tue 7/17/2018

★ Loved this theme! FLYING COLORS = things that fly, all described by a color. This huge GREEN LANTERN fan loved seeing Hal Jordan get his due (although, your weakness is the color yellow? Seriously, you cower in the face of a dandelion?). And GOLDEN SNITCH! It's like Amanda and Karl asked themselves, "What themers would make Jeff automatically give us his POW!?"

BLUEBIRD wasn't as interesting, but I read a ton of "Peanuts" as a kid, and I have a soft spot for Snoopy's dogfights with the RED BARON. it always made me want to go seek out root beer at a French cafe.

Now, the grid wasn't as clean as I want from an early-week puzzle. There was enough SOIRS, AFOG / ALII, NTSB, EDT, that I paused slightly before slamming down the POW! But there is a relatively high density of theme material, not easy to work with a split revealer like FLYING / COLORS in the center, kind of splitting the puzzle in half.

Speaking of that, splitting the puzzle nearly completely in half is another no-no. It forces solvers to do two mini-puzzles — blockages in the feng shui. But, FLYING / COLORS does tie the two halves together a little better, so that's something.

And ultimately, the gluey bits were all minor offenders, many in the name of working in great stuff like CATNIP / OK SURE / WEBBYS — ok sure, that's worth the price of NTSB!

Overall, the theme won me over so highly that the slight dings didn't bring things down much. Such an entertaining solve.

P.S. A friend and I have a puzzle waiting in the publication queue … also based on FLYING COLORS. This is one of the very few times I've wished for the lag time from acceptance to publication to be very long!

Sun 6/17/2018 TRICKY TRIOS

LAST ONE STANDING = final person in a trio oriented vertically. We've highlighted the people below in case you missed them.

One thing I thought Amanda, Karl, and Erik did particularly well: the LAST ONEs STANDING are buried within such juicy answers. It would have been very easy to place POP into POPE or APOP or something, so POPULAR OPINION is a real treat. NOD within ANNO DOMINI is great too, as is MARY within MAMMARY GLAND.

[Nursing facility?] for MAMMARY GLAND made me giggle. Uncomfortably. Not sure why.

Some lovely fill to spice things up, SHRINKY DINKS, SMALL WORLD, BROCADE. Excellent! Not much glue to hold it together, some TOK, ESL, ANIN, ANAT. Also excellent! Not a surprise to get a well-crafted grid, given Erik's high standards.

Well, except for WAITITI / POTAGE — wow, that's a tough crossing. Maybe we should all know either Taika WAITITI or a thick POTAGE? Not sure that's a reasonable expectation.

The theme did feel a bit thinly un-potage-like, given only four trios, especially since one didn't resonate with me. (I'm sure FRAN, KUKLA AND OLLIE will mean more to others.) Would have been great to get one more, although that would likely have meant reducing the snazzy long stuff like POPULAR DEMAND down to POPE-style shorties. I would have been okay with that.

Will isn't taking many "turning" type puzzles these days, because they've become overdone, but I like one now and again if the rationale is solid. I like today's interpretation of LAST ONE STANDING pretty well.

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