Saturday, July 14, 2018

LAT 4:45 (Derek) 


Newsday 18:55 (Derek) 


NYT 4:51 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 14 18, no 0714

Oh! A Kam crossword, always welcome. (If you haven’t been doing the New Yorker themelesses on Mondays, you’ve missed some more of his gems—he comes up in the rotation every five weeks, I think.) A surprisingly quick Saturday solve, given the inclusion of some things I just plain did not know, two of which crossed. I blithely filled in APSES instead of APSIS for 19a. [Either of two extremes in an orbit], since ARRES looked vaguely plausible for the crossing, 4d. [“Mrs. ___ Goes to Paris” (Paul Gallico novel)], ARRIS. Apparently that’s ‘Arris, short for Harris, and Gallico also wrote the non-rhyming Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to New York, which disappoints me because I’d hoped he had a whole series of name/city rhymes.

FYI, the plural of APSIS is apsides. #TheMoreYouKnow

My other “Huh?” spot was the inferrable 28a. [City license once needed to work in an establishment serving alcohol], CABARET CARD. Never heard the term before.

Highlights: BEER NUTS, SEND REGRETS (Regrets? I’ve had a few—if you’re asking if some people have RSVPed no for my kid’s graduation party), Richard ROEPER in place of SISKEL, “OH, BABY,” GERMANE, CANDY-COAT, MORAL CENTER (I wanted it to be one letter longer, MORAL COMPASS), STEEL CAGE (for shark diving!), and the BIG LEADS you don’t want to blow.

Pretty 64-worder, no?

Evelyn Deavor, voiced by Catherine Keener, in Incredibles 2

Five more things:

  • 34d. [Style of Southern hip-hop], CRUNK. Think Lil Jon. Apparently crunk’s heyday has come and gone. (Nobody better complain that they couldn’t get this answer. The crossings give it to you!)
  • 33a. [Part of what makes you you], GENETIC CODE. I did the 23andme ancestry testing, and they recently sent a most intriguing addition. So now I’ve got to do the test and see whether it agrees.
  • 41a. [Royal Catherine], PARR. Also the surname of the Incredibles family. Have you seen Incredibles 2 yet? Is it bad that I covet the hairdo of the Evelyn character, and she’s animated?
  • 53a. [Piano trio?], PEDALS. Three of those pedals down there for … honestly, I couldn’t tell you what piano pedals do.
  • 43d. [Strain of potent marijuana] KUSH. We would also have accepted a reference here to the book, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, or the mountain range itself. Both are probably less broadly familiar among Americans than the herb.

4.2 stars from me. How’d the puzzle treat you?

Randolph Ross’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Movie Trailer” — Jim’s review

Theme: One-word movie titles go through the patented Crossword Wackamator 9000 to create wacky movie-themed entries.

WSJ – Sat, 7.14.18 – “Movie Trailers” by Randolph Ross

  • 22a [Admission to a 2000 Steen Soderbergh movie?] TRAFFIC TICKET
  • 27a [Admirers of a 1956 James Dean movie?] GIANT FANS
  • 29a [The Beatles, in a 1965 movie?] HELPMATES
  • 45a [Clip from an Oscar-winning 2005 movie?] CRASH SCENE
  • 91a [Opening of an Oscar-winning 1976 movie?] ROCKY START
  • 101a [Audition for a 1994 Keanu Reeves movie?] SPEED TEST
  • 104a [Where to watch a 1988 Tom Hanks movie?] BIG SCREEN
  • 115a [Sound engineer on a 1988 Tom Cruise movie?] COCKTAIL MIXER
  • 13d [Supervisor of a 1995 Pacino/De Niro movie?] HEAT PRODUCER
  • 37d [P.R. firm for a 2008 Sean Penn movie?] MILK PITCHER
  • 41d [Camera equipment for a 1997 Jodie Foster movie?] CONTACT LENS
  • 61d [Workers on a 1980 comedy movie?] AIRPLANE CREW

Holy theme overload, Batman! That’s 12 full-sized theme entries. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many before.

And I like the theme. It’s fun in a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that kind of way.

And I like how each entry is clued with respect to the production of the movie. That’s a nice point of consistency. For example, ROCKY START could’ve been clued regarding the content of the film — perhaps [Drinking raw eggs in the morning?]. While that may be a fun/gross-out kind of clue, it’s not consistent with the others. Or consider HEAT PRODUCER. A stronger base entry might be something like HEAT PUMP, HEAT EXHAUSTION, or HEAT SIGNATURE. But it would be harder to clue those with respect to film production.

That said, this approach results in a couple of blah base entries, specifically GIANT FANS and the aforementioned HEAT PRODUCER. The latter is passable, but GIANT FANS is not an in-the-language phrase I recognize.

Still, I’m thumbs-up on the theme. And considering there’s 12 of them, I’m impressed.

With all that theme, there isn’t much long non-theme fill. I’m looking at EPITAPH (with a great clue [Inscription that may contain “lies”]), SPORE SAC, CREOLES, REFEREED, and HERB TEA (which sounds odd to me, sans -AL).

I was ready to cry foul on two particular crossings, but once I realized how much theme there was, my mood softened. Still, 68d TELIC [Tending toward a definite goal] crossing LOW-SET [Short and stocky] strikes me as on the unfair side. The other one was 108d ECGS [Ticker tapes, for short] crossing GREER [“The Female Eunuch” writer]. I just now grokked the ECGS clue, and I like it, but crossing an acronym (with its ambiguous clue) with a proper name is also on the unfair side.

Okay, it’s Friday night as I write this, and I want to do Friday night things, like go to bed, so I shall bid you adieu. I’ll give this grid 3.5 stars. I like the theme, and there’s a lot of it, but some of the fill held it back.

Andrew J. Ries’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

I subscribe to his weekly themeless puzzle, as I think I have mentioned on this blog before. He also experiments with alternate grid sizes, like the one we have today that is 16×15. It still checks in at 71 words, and the wide-open center no doubt helps in keeping the count low. The odd shape allows for four stacked 10s in the middle, but the feat here is this puzzle is actually pretty easy! Once I got a few answers in the upper left corner, everything seemed to click quite rapidly. I finished where the cursor is, and I admit I tried to finish in under 5 minutes once I saw how far I got in 4 minutes. But to make a wide-open puzzle that has virtually nothing difficult deserves kudos in my book. Andrew is also becoming a constructing force, and he is not to old either. If you like a challenge, subscribe to his offerings at And I need to buy his book! 4.6 stars today.

Some grid mentionables:

  • 26A [Old fad items packed in boxes with breathing holes] PET ROCKS – He must have read about this, because I barely remember these things. Although I am sure you can still find them at some tourist trap somewhere!
  • 36A [Macabre rock genre] DEATH METAL – I haven’t heard this term in years. I am not a fan of this type of music, but it is great for your clock radio alarm!
  • 41A [Modern capture?] SCREEN GRAB – Excellent! A nice, fairly freshly coined term.
  • 15D [Golfing groups] THREESOMES – This is common enough in golf; usually scrambles use foursomes. But this is still good. This entry, as well as 41A, have zero NYT hits at
  • 28D [Smallest Battleship pieces] DESTROYERS – I believe you. I solve the logic Battleship puzzles all the time, and I have no idea what “names” they use for the “ships” in those things! If this is also from the actual board game, I still believe you!
  • 42D [First artist whose first six albums debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200] BEYONCÉ – With that BE?????, one would think BEATLES, but this asked for a specific artist. Say what you want about her (Illuminati perhaps?), but she does have talent.
  • 44D [Genetic variant] ALLELE – Probably the only fairly difficult word in the puzzle. I put MUTANT in here at first. I read too many comic books when I was younger!

Have a great weekend!

Erik Agard’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Here’s hoping that Erik is added to the regular rotation of Stumper constructors. There aren’t many, for several reasons, one of which I assume is payment, but that is not Stan’s fault. But Erik is one of my favorite constructors, and I cannot wait to see what he cranks out when he actually gets into his prime constructing age! I think I have mentioned his book before. Go buy it here!

Yes, I have several error marks in this grid, and I will discuss a few of these in the comments below. Suffice it to say I went down some extremely wrong paths. And there are some toughies in here that I’m not sure I know even after solving. Perhaps that is why this was submitted as a Stumper! But this is still a very low 64-word grid, and a wide-open construction feat. 4.5 stars from me.

Those promised notes:

  • 1A [Added to a written exchange] CC’ED – I had PS’ED.
  • 15A [Philosopher analyzed by Aristotle] ZENO OF ELEA – I guess I am familiar with Zeno’s Paradoxes, but not with where he was from. This seemed extremely tough to me, but I am highly uncultured.
  • 21A [] UPI – Not a news source I hit often. Ok, never. But it does exist!
  • 34A [CW star in the 2018 film “Annihilation”] GINA RODRIGUEZ – I was thinking of renting this. The funny thing about this movie is I don’t remember seeing it in the theater listings! This entry was the key that allowed me to break into the puzzle. I was highly stuck until I figured this had to be her. (She stars in Jane the Virgin)
  • 36A [Highly variable] ALL OVER THE MAP – This is another great entry. Also describes my solving technique.
  • 57A [Penetrating] TRENCHANT – This is another tough word. At least I don’t use it often!
  • 1D [Dental scrapings] CALCULI – I am ashamed to say I had a misspelling of PLAQUE in here somehow. I also mistakenly thought the Nashville cable channel at 18A was QVC! (It’s in West Chester, PA!)
  • 2D [Wood-shop safety measure] CLAMPING – Since I am still being honest, I literally had SAW VISOR or something in here. Wow.
  • 15D [Organ with limited circulation] ZINE – This seems to be missing an abbreviation indicator. Or is it just me?
  • 25D [Topic of much debate of late] GUN LAW – If asked, I would say “gun laws,” since they vary so much from place to place, but definitely a hot-button topic. So much so that a recent NYT puzzle was under criticism for guns being the theme.
  • 35D [Nutty nature] ZANINESS – Once 34A was found, this was easy, and further led to breakthroughs in the grid.
  • 52D [Fay Wray’s best-remembered role] ANN – Specifically, Ann Darrow, the role reprised by Naomi Watts in the unwatchable remake from 2005. I wouldn’t have known all that if I didn’t look it up!

Watching tennis this morning. Probably tomorrow morning too!

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33 Responses to Saturday, July 14, 2018

  1. andrea carla michaels says:

    HI! Thanks for all the kind words about my Pizza Lady work… Now I’ve been alerted to a different sort of volunteer (actually it’s paid!) job thru Craigslist. They are looking for someone to do the puzzle with.. Anyone in the SF/Bay Area interested?

  2. Steve Manion says:

    Easy weekend.
    I thought the clue for Ebert partner was a little unfair. It implied (for me anyway) the previous partner not the still active one (and yes I know that Ebert is deceased). Until I realized that the K did not work, SISKEL held me up.

    My wife and I were both adopted in infancy. Our daughter wanted to find out her ancestry, so we allowed her to do so. My wife and I have disagreed for years as to whether she is Chinese, Thai, Filipina or something else. Our daughter’s DNA would solve this argument. The answer: on her mother’s side, she is 95% FAR EAST. Thank you so much. (The other 5% is Polynesian, which is at least intriguing.)


    • Papa John says:

      I did the test and was disappointed with the results. My sister also did it and our results didn’t match at all. Neither results included our immediate relatives, like siblings, parents, grandparents and first cousins. In fact the only relative that showed up in my test was a second cousin; and only one of them, despite that one has four siblings. Both of our maternal grandparents were born in Scotland, yet Scotland wasn’t listed in my sister’s or my results. Strangely, it listed Ireland and Africa, albeit far down on the list. The test listed Germany (Western Europe) as our primary ancestral gene pool.

      If you ask me, it’s a waste of time, money (not my money — I received the test as a gift) and spit.

      • Norm says:

        Mine revealed a connection to the Ashkenasi diaspora that my brother and I had not known of but that we now have a theory about relating to our paternal grandmother. It also verified exactly which of the various subgroups of our surname we belong to and thus allowed to focus more precisely our genealogical research along that line. Not a waste of time, money, or spit from this corner.

        • Papa John says:

          Did you get all that good info from the first test or did you pay more for the next round that they offer?

    • Noz says:

      Don’t forget that Chinese people were emigrating to and settling in the Philippines for a long time. Might explain having both Far East and Polynesian. On the other hand, there have been many Japanese emigrants to Hawaii, too.

  3. Anne says:

    Hummina hummina? What is that?

  4. MattF says:

    I found the NYT puzzle average-to-hard, but doable– with a lot of virtual erasure.

  5. David L says:

    Very nice puzzle. I was held up by a couple of things that are at least two generations removed from my knowledge base, but overall it was a steady solve.

    CAMERAREADY gave me pause. It’s a long time since I have heard that phrase, and for me the meaning has to do with preparing academic books (conference proceedings and the like) for publication by having them typed up in a tidy way so that they can be photographically reproduced. Not a good look, in general, but a lot cheaper than real typesetting. That’s a thing of the past now, what with your word processing and page layout software.

  6. Huda says:

    NYT: I too wanted MORAL COMPASS…

    The NW was hard for me because I literally had no clue what Hummina, Hummina was… And had Siskel. Pretty much killed that area…

    Also, I have an objection to the clue for GENETIC CODE. The genetic code is as general as could be– it’s the way that the triplets of base pairs encodes amino acids, so we can figure out how specific sequences translates into protein. So, it’s not unique to anyone person, we all share the same CODE. We don’t share the same variants that make us unique. Not.a. good. clue.

    • Lise says:

      Huda, this is very interesting. After I read your comment I went to Wikipedia to look this up and while I didn’t read all of the entry, I learned a lot. Thanks for the eye-opener!

      • Huda says:

        Thanks Lise. I’m glad you found it useful!
        In rereading my comment, I realized it sounds annoyed. I feel disappointed when the NYT mis-clues science entries. I hold the paper in high regard and appreciate its values and its role in our culture. Nowadays, the appreciation of science is not as great as I’d hope. So, I guess I’m a little touchy about a scientific term that can be easily googled not being clued accurately. It’s sort of a missed opportunity.

  7. David L says:

    I almost finished the Stumper but failed in the NW. I had PSED and couldn’t get 1d or 2d. Don’t know GINARODRIGUEZ — figured out her last name but was it TINA, TITA…?

    I put in DEPOSALS with great reluctance because (a) it doesn’t seem like a bona fide word and (b) it gives PEEN at 22A, which I have trouble parsing. If the reference is to a ball-peen hammer, I suppose you can just about say that the peen of a ball-peen hammer is a ball-shaped thing that is used for hitting. Problem is that PEEN by itself simply means the other end of the hammer head, so it doesn’t have to be a ball. I have a small hammer with a wedge peen, for example.

    ETA: ASTERs come in many different colors, and there are many other purple-flowered plants, so “sporter of purple rays” is a very imprecise clue.

  8. Lise says:

    Duck AMUCK took me back. I really love those cartoons… Also have read “Mrs. ’ARRIS goes to Paris”, but don’t ask me to recall anything about it :)

    That NW corner was tough! My gen-X son remembered ROEPER. Somehow. Which was good, because my brain refused to cough up APSIS when queried. “Hummina hummina” is familiar to me (perhaps because of Jackie Gleason? not sure) but I still had trouble coming up with OH BABY.

    There didn’t seem to be any junk at all in this puzzle; even the small fill was decently clued. What’s up with that?

  9. animalheart says:

    For me, “Hummina hummina” means, essentially, “I can’t think of anything I can say or do to extricate myself from this mortifying predicament I suddenly find myself in.” OHBABY, on the other hand, can mean many things, depending on the context. Wasn’t really fond of that part of the puzzle.

  10. Lise says:

    This fascinating Hummina discussion sent me to Google, which turned up the following definition from Wiktionary:

    “Interjection. hummina. Used to express that one has a strong reaction that cannot be expressed in words, especially when expressing sexual attraction.”

    There was also a Jackie Gleason 6-second video [I also googled “hummina hummina gif”] [it’s the same video referenced above], where he does appear to have a strong reaction that he is unable to express in words. The context is not apparent, but my husband said he looks as though he is cornered, and nothing he could say would work in whatever situation this was.

  11. Mr. X says:

    NW NYT is a good example of why I’ve never enjoyed a KAC puzzle (bushelful for tons around all the “stuff” is just awful) and the Stumper for why I feel the same about most of E.A.’s with all his esoterica, “stuff” (clamping, calculi, etta, zeno of elea, gina rodriguez, carr, detre and on and on and on and on) and c̶l̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ terribly reaching clues (emcee, zine, scabs, lingo, industrialist and more).

    I’d be a happy man if both of these guys found new hobbies.

    • e.a. says:

      i’ve been playing a lot of basketball lately if that helps

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Nothing finer than an anonymous critic taking potshots. Griping about clues in puzzles that have editors is weird, though—you’ve got no way of knowing which clues came from the constructor and which from the editor. (Not to mention that Saturday Stumper clues are *routinely* “terribly reaching,” by design.)

      For the record, Kameron and Erik are among my favorite constructors. I kinda wish that Kameron were more excited by 70- and 72-word themelesses, since they tend to have smoother fill, but he seems to prefer the challenge of filling grids with lower word counts.

      • Mr. X says:

        I laid out my criticism so I don’t see how a name is relevant. That you and others disagree is fine. I just’ve never enjoyed a KAC or deliberately difficult E.A. puzzle. I find them stuffed with esoterica, cultural references, names, etc, and far-flung clues at critical spots to create artificial difficulty. I’d really be surprised if many don’t feel as I do.

        • If your standard for being happy is Kameron and Erik no longer making crosswords, you need a new standard.

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            I have to side with Mr. X here. Erik has been at this for years and if there was any hidden talent it would have manifested by now.

            Erik I just visited the website and ordered you a backgammon book and set. It will occupy all your newfound leisure time. Godspeed

          • hibob says:

            I also agree with Mr X. I am not using my real name, like Matt did, however I know lots about crosswords (I won a WSJ coffee mug a couple of years ago). E.A’s pop-culture references like LATTE art and ZENOOFELEA are a little over the top.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              OMG, really?! ZENO OF ELEA is crosswordese and ancient Greece, not pop culture! And LATTE art … well, I thought coffee and Starbucks were pretty widespread in this country.

        • Chukkagirl says:

          I wasn’t fond of this puzzle either. Example: 6 & 7 D were small but particularly galling. I’m probably missing something, but DOT EDU is a pretty farfetched answer to get from a clue about Illinois or Indiana. Just MO. The long answers were the only saving graces to this one for me.

  12. Greg says:

    I finished the Times, but found it very challenging (particularly the northwest corner).

    What dazzles me is that Amy (and other top solvers) can do it so darn quickly. I have never gone below five minutes, even filling a Monday puzzle pretty much as quickly as I can write. The fact that Amy solved this puzzle in under five minutes is just mind blowing. I get there, but it’s as if my brain is an old 286 processor and Amy’s is a Pentium quadcore.

  13. JohnH says:

    Glad others found the NYT easy. This was a killer for me, with lots of overwriting, and I never did finish the NW, where I knew almost nothing (including the alternative name to Siskel). The area from CRUNK (new to me) and further SE was no easy going either. I don’t know whether to admire the puzzle for the challenge or blame it rather than me for a did not finish.

  14. JohnH says:

    I thought the WSJ was a so-so theme and so-so fill, plus the stumbling block of movies that, given their sheer number, most anyone is not going to remember in their entirety. So not exactly fun. Still, I had to admire a puzzle with that much theme fill.

    ECG / GREER didn’t both me. While I had EKG first for the former, it’s pretty well known. (I’ve had it done several times myself.) And I definitely remember Greer. She’s still in the news now and then.

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