Saturday, September 1, 2018

LAT 8:40 (Derek) 


Newsday 13:45 (Derek) 


NYT 5:20 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 1 18, no 0901

This 66-worder has a nice center with 9s, 11s, and 13s intersecting, but also a couple 11s that spin out into corners with lots of crossing 7s, and I’m less fond of the latter. Interrupting MID-SENTENCE, BUDGET CUT, CONAN O’BRIEN, the TIGRIS RIVER, a NOTHINGBURGER, and a CONTORTIONIST are zippy.

World watch: We’ve got the GAMBIA, the SCOTS language (21a. [Language with a trilled “r”]), Japanese MISO, HAN Chinese, Brazilian PELE, Italian PRADA, the TIGRIS, and a SLOVENE.

Could’ve done without: sort of contrived IT’S A ZOO, plural OLES, prefix SERIO, APERY, TALENTS clued as [Money in the Bible], MISDOES, dated NES, partials ME DO and WILE E.

Did not know 1d. [Secretary of war to Taft, Roosevelt and Truman], STIMSON. Henry? Yes.

That’s all I’ve got. 3.5 stars from me. How’d it treat you?

Greg Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Greg Johnson made one of the recent Newsday Stumpers that gave me all kinds of fits. This one is mercifully much easier. Still a bit of a challenge, but done in under 10 minutes. I am sure some of you out there could jam through this in 5 or 6 minutes. A great, wide-open 70-word grid for this one, and I recently found Greg Johnson’s web site for more of his puzzles. (Click here for his site) I had one little error, and I will fully explain why below. 4.6 stars for this one.

Some notes:

    • 1A [Reality show whose Dutch version was called “Now or Neverland”] FEAR FACTOR – I haven’t seen this show in years, so this took a second. Some of that stuff I would never do!
    • 35A [Source of suds] BREWPUB – I had BREWERY for a while, which caused a few fits
    • 40A [Label on some foreign goods] MADE IN CHINA – Was the first word that jumped into your mind “tariff?!”
    • 51A [Drama set in ’60s Manhattan] MAD MEN – I never did finish watching this show. I think near the end it bleeds into the 70s.
    • 55A [“Your turn”] “OK, GO!” – This could have referred to the band that makes the awesome music videos! Like this one:

  • 22D [51-Across bigwig] AD EXEC – Nice tie-in. Hopefully this won’t ruin the show for you! ;-)
  • 24D [Rags or bags lead-in] GLAD – Glad rags? And it’s Glad TRASH bags, isn’t it?
  • 43D [Cosmic energy, in Hinduism] SHAKTI – And, here is what I had wrong. Not very fluent in Hinduism!
  • 44D [Tiny Tootsie Roll] MIDGEE – I had no idea. And I have eaten literally hundreds of these!

Have a great weekend!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Not a bad time for me on a Brad Wilber puzzle! Maybe I am getting better at these! Or maybe Stan has eased it up a smidge for the holiday weekend! We all need time to solve Mark Halpin’s Labor Intensive puzzles that are coming out this weekend! I am out of town this weekend, and if you watch my Facebook you may learn where I am! 4.5 stars today for this 70-worder.

A few high points:

  • 15A [Aptly named country singer of “Like Jesus Does”] ERIC CHURCH – I had GRACE????. I don’t listen to country much. I have heard of this guy, though.
  • 27A [Status symbol in many Elizabeth I portaits] ERMINE – Is this really so? I wonder how this clue came about. Somebody find a pic! I am traveling and I don’t have much time!
  • 35A [One of the last stops for the 2016 Olympic torch] SUGARLOAF – I figured this was something near Rio, obviously, but it took me too long to come up with this.
  • 38A [Many a hybrid] BUS – I suppose in bigger cities these would be hybrid, since they run all day, but I honestly cannot tell you the last time I rode a city bus. I was like 8!
  • 41A [Fifth wheel’s offer] “I’LL GO” – I like this clue. Sort of vague, but still gettable.
  • 63A [Opposite of “wispy”] LARGE-BONED – I am getting “large-boned” as I grow older! I need to run more …
  • 8D [Sch. with a “Think Big” motto] URI – A great motto for the University of Rhode Island, a school in the smallest state!
  • 14D [VMI team] KEYDETS – I did not know this! What is a “keydet?”
  • 40D [Whom Spielberg made his directing debut with] SERLING – I solved this corner so fast that I never realized this awesome answer until going back through the puzzle. Cool fact!
  • 43D [Venerable rock revival group] SHA NA NA – Don’t these guys still tour? I would pay to see them, since I remember watching their show when I was a kid!U
  • 51D [Sources of spores] FUNGI – I saw the “F” and I was sure this was FERNS!

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Martin Leechman’s (Mike Shenk’s) Wall Street Journal crossword, “Split Peas” — Jim’s review

This theme threw me for a few DO LOOPs before I sorted it out. Let’s look at the theme answers first.

WSJ – Sat, 9.1.18 – “Split Peas” by Martin Leechman (Mike Shenk)

  • 23a [Graphical representation of a bounding gait?] LOPE PROFILE. Low profile. I have trouble making much sense of this clue.
  • 25a [Koi ponds?] CARP POOLS. Carpools.
  • 40a [Dessert with a full rounded shape?] PLUMP PUDDING. Plum pudding.
  • 44a [Brittle wood?] CRISP PINE. Chris Pine.
  • 57a [Head of the buckle company?] CLASP PRESIDENT. Class President.
  • 67a [Puppy photographed for posterity?] WHELP PRESERVED. Well-preserved. I’m glad the clue uses “photographed” instead of “stuffed.” That would’ve been creepy.
  • 86a [Flower holders on small porches?] STOOP POTS. Stew pots.
  • 88a [Microwave sound primed and ready to go?] BEEP PREPARED. “Be Prepared.” Another one where I thought the clue could use some help. How about [Like a honk-happy driver?]?
  • 104a [Alternative to a kick in the butt?] RUMP PUNCH. Rum punch. This is the only one that actually made me laugh.
  • 108a [Con game?] DUPE PROCESS. Due process.

At first I thought this was just a P-doubling theme since the first two answers I uncovered were CARP POOLS and PLUMP PUDDING. Eventually I realized it’s not just adding a letter P, it’s adding the P sound to the end of the first word.

Most of the entries felt workmanlike and lacking in pizzazz, with the notable exception of RUMP PUNCH. Hmm, I wonder if the theme could be extended to add a T to the beginning of the phrase…

There were some goodies in the fill: NOWHERE MANTAPHOUSELAPEL PIN, ELIXIRS, NOSECONE, SUNRISE, APROPOS, NEVADA. FLOORING IT would be much stronger in the imperative and not as a gerund.

There were also some stand-out oddities: HANG IN [Persevere] which looks weird without a concluding “there,” HABIB [Reagan’s special envoy to the Mideast Philip], and especially ORAD [Toward the mouth]. Ouch. That’s the crosswordesiest bit of crosswordese I’ve seen in quite some time.

In the new-to-me department is SPIRACLE [Whale’s nostril]. The Wikipedia article doesn’t even mention whales though. It highlights some fish and insects.

Cluing felt more thorny than usual, so at times I felt like I was just slogging it out. But luckily for me, RUMP PUNCH was waiting for me at the end, so I finished on a high note. Overall, though, I’d put this in the 3.2-stars range.

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19 Responses to Saturday, September 1, 2018

  1. Huda says:

    NYT: Easier than usual for me on a Saturday. NOTHING BURGER fell early and helped quite a bit, and the NW seemed a breeze.
    Least favorite fill is “MISDOES”. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone speak it.
    All in all: An excellent puzzle.

  2. Rob says:

    Much easier than yesterday’s nightmare. I got Conan O’Brien right off the bat and I was off to the races (something I rarely say about a Saturday puzzle)

  3. Matthew G. says:

    Personal record Saturday time for me (6:58). I always enjoy a themeless that I tear through, although I definitely winced at a couple things even while solving this one. Notably MISDOES and APERY, the latter of which I always want to have something to do with mimicry, not horseplay.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      I wonder if, say, 15 years from now, APERY & its kin will still be considered OK as puzzle fill. Perhaps not.

  4. MattS says:

    Not related to today’s puzzles…but does anyone know when the David Steinberg-edited puzzle will be in the Philly Inquirer?

    • paul coulter says:

      When David told me the Inquirer would be one of the publications carrying his Puzzle Society series, I eagerly awaited the debut. This is my hometown paper, so it would have been great for friends and family to see some of my puzzles run in it, but apparently, there’s been a snag. Instead, we’re still stuck with Timothy Parker. It was bad enough when he was plagiarizing, but the puzzles he creates himself are so poor in concept and construction, it’s actually interesting each day to see what new fresh horrors he’ll produce.

      • paul coulter says:

        p.s. Speaking of David’s series, I’ve found it to be excellent. David has a great eye for fresh themes, and his exacting editorial standards make every puzzle shine. I look forward to seeing reviews begin in the Fiend. Folks, these are some of the best grids you’ll find on-line. The site’s at

        • Lise says:

          Is there a way to print them? I didn’t see a print button, but I may have overlooked it.

          • paul coulter says:

            Yes, after you hit the play button, it takes you to the puzzles. On that screen, the print icon’s in the upper right, next to the clock.

            • Lise says:

              There’s no print button next to the clock. Maybe I’ll try a different browser. The Lollapuzzoola site did the same thing to me – no “buy now” button on Edge, but IE11 worked just fine.

              PS: I just tried the link in IE and there’s no print button there either. If I inspect the element, it’s right there in the code, but doesn’t display on the page (which is what happened with the Lollapuzzoola site). Maybe it’s a Windows 10 thing. Oh well.

        • rock says:

          I always get a notice saying page unresponsive, I used to be able to start a puzzle then it would freeze up, but now I am not able to do anything. Does anyone know why? Thanks

        • placematfan says:

          Steinberg-edited puzzles are blogged at

  5. DH says:

    Was it just an interesting coincidence that WILE E crossed TEN MILE, which was clued with the Roadrunner?

  6. Skype Marshall says:

    WSJ – Fourth consecutive Saturday puzzle by the editor, using 4 different aliases.
    Submissions must be sparse, or terribly substandard to not exceed any of these gems.

    • JohnH says:

      And this week’s earns the WSJ’s consistently low ratings. It’s disappointing. I couldn’t get worked up one way or other about this puzzle, which was “just fine.” But does seem that something’s very wrong here, unless the WSJ pays so little that it can hardly do better than Shenk as both setter and editor.

      Maybe he creates so many puzzles because he would rather be a setter than an editor and just refuses to acknowledge it, perhaps even to himself. A different editor could bring improvement not just in opening the pool of setters, but also in, well, editing. (I know Shortz changes many clues.) Shenk may just not be good at improving puzzles, but then, too, it’s impossible for anyone to edit himself well. Like the line about a lawyer representing himself having a fool for a client.

  7. David L says:

    Almost finished the Stumper, but I had FAVA bean instead of NAVY bean and no idea at all about ‘cap a pie’ at 16A – never heard of the expression. Had I remembered navy bean I could probably have puzzled out the rest, but I just blanked on it.

  8. Steve Manion says:

    Very easy puzzle and I agree about MISDOES.

    The surprise for me was to learn that Henry Stimson was Secretary of War under Truman or even FDR. I thought it was discontinued many years before. It turns out that after WWII ended, Secretary of War became Secretary of the Army and Secretary of Defense was added. Secretary of Defense became the cabinet level position, I also did not realize that in the succession to the presidency pecking order, the Secretary of War and currently the Secretary of Defense is next in line after the Secretary of State.


    • Papa John says:

      Dagnabit! Nothing is so infuriating as coming here to seek solace after being thrashed by a puzzle and read how easy it was for so many of you. I was hitting stumbling blocks from start to to finish. Bravo to you whiz kids!

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