Sunday, January 20, 2019

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 10:04 (Amy) 


WaPo 16:28 (Jim Q) 


Pete Muller is about to launch a new year of Muller’s Monthly Music Meta. If you’re a meta crossword junkie, don’t miss out. Pete writes, “The eighth annual 2019 MMMM starts on Tuesday, Jan 22. The submission deadline is Sunday, Jan. 27. Subsequent puzzles will come out on the first Tuesday of each month. Once again there is a mega-meta hidden in the 12 monthly puzzles. Best of all, it’s free! People can sign up at”

Richard Crowe’s New York Times crossword, “Question of Responsibility”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 20 19, “Question of Responsibility”

The theme takes familiar questions and clues them as if they pertain to things people have to answer at their jobs:

  • 23a. [Copy editor], IS THAT A FACT?
  • 33a. [Political strategist], WHERE’S THE PARTY?
  • 45a. [Museum curator], HOW’S IT HANGING?
  • 63a. [Football line judge], WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
  • 80a. [Maternity room nurse], WHO’S CRYING NOW? I have never seen the term “maternity room nurse,” or “maternity room,” for that matter. These are not used in hospital lingo. Newborn nursery nurse, neonatal nurse—those would work. The room where babies who aren’t rooming in go is not called a “maternity room.” The moms aren’t in there, so …
  • 96a. [Parasitologist], WHAT’S EATING HIM? Gross. Usually parasites aren’t straight-up eating their hosts, you know. Watch Monsters Inside Me on cable and learn more!
  • 108a. [Baseball scorekeeper], ANYBODY HOME? I have no idea if “baseball scorekeeper” is an actual job, aside from the people changing the number panels in the old Wrigley Field scoreboard. Baseball buffs, what say you?

I didn’t particularly enjoy the theme, and the whole rest of the puzzle felt like a slog to me. With the top three rows having HASAT APSE DOER ECOL, the stage was set for my ennui throughout the puzzle, right down to the bottom’s INKA NOPAR ASASON ENID ASLOPE. I did like CHURROS, “IT’S A DEAL,” FARMHOUSE, TIDY UP, disgusting WET WILLY, NEW DADS, and LITTER BOX.

Three more things:

  • 56a. [Toffee-nosed sorts], SNOOTS. Snoot and snootiness aren’t specifically British, whereas “toffee-nosed” is, and I suspect ≤95% of solvers had not seen “toffee-nosed” before. Bizarre cluing choice here.
  • 33d. [Year of the ___ (2018)], WOMAN. Ah, yes. The year when so many women were elected to the United States Congress, the Senate dropped down to a mere 75% male and the House of Representatives to 76.6%. The year when Dr. Blasey-Ford came forward to tell her story, only to watch Kavanaugh get a lifetime appointment anyway. When a zillion women relived their own assaults and harassment as the media reported on others’ experiences. Equality remains so far away.
  • 40d. [Where to get the latest poop?], LITTER BOX. I feel like the Gray Lady’s crossword has generally shied away from using the fecal meaning of “poop,” and yet here’s some fresh cat shit right here in the clue.

2.9 stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Splinter Groups” – Jim Q’s writeup

Quick write-up today since I have yet to prepare for Snow-Megeddon here in the Northeast. I have neither bread nor milk in stock.

THEME: Common words/phrases are parsed to reference a three-letter organization (or “splinter group”)


  • WaPo crossword solution * 1 20 19 * “Splinter Groups” * Birnholz

    23A [Round of applause for a traitorous member of a teaching grp.?] NEAR AT HAND becomes N.E.A. RAT HAND.

  • 25A [Criticize a physicians’ grp.’s headgear?] PANAMA HATS becomes PAN A.M.A. HATS.
  •  39A [Circle of former Gaza grp. members?] EXPLORING becomes EX P.L.O. RING.
  • 41A [Venues for acting members of an anti-narcotics grp.?] DEATH EATERS becomes D.E.A. THEATERS. My favorite of the bunch despite not knowing the base phrase “Death Eaters” (I know, I really need to read the Harry Potter series! It’s on the list!).
  • 65A [Fire an oral health grp.’s honking birds?] CANADA GEESE becomes CAN A.D.A. GEESE.
  • 80A [Dense forest being that plays for an NCAA grp.?] THICK ACCENT becomes THICK A.C.C. ENT. Atlantic Coast Conference is new to me- feels like that’s something I should’ve known.
  • 104A [Produced a militant European grp.’s alcoholic beverage?] MADEIRA WINE becomes MADE I.R.A. WINE.
  • 108A [Wicked cool poem dedicated to the Summer Games grp.?] RADIO CODE becomes RAD I.O.C. ODE.
  • 121A [“Anyway, about this secretive government grp.’s itemized documents …”?] SOCIALISTS becomes SO… C.I.A. LISTS.
  • 124A [Shows derision toward college football coach Miles while he works for a bag-screening grp.?] BOOST SALES becomes BOOS T.S.A. LES. Hopefully coach Miles doesn’t need a paycheck.

If you’re going to go wacky, then go full on wacky. The re-parsed phrases are so absurd that I can’t help but like them for the most part. A couple seem like they’re trying a little hard to fit in though… THICK A.C.C. ENT and EX P.L.O. RING are on that list for me. Otherwise, fun to figure out, although I had a slower than normal solve time.

A bit of inconsistency with whether or not the words in the base phrase completely change meaning. For instance, CAN A.D.A. GEESE is still clued to reference the GEESE in the base phrase and PAN A.M.A. HATS still references the HATS. However, in others the base phrase is completely altered, like RAD I.O.C. ODE and D.E.A. THEATERS. I preferred the latter types of answers.


    • 19A [Deep space?] OCEAN. Took me about an eon to see this for some reason. But yup, the OCEAN is indeed quite deep.
    • 47A [United way?] AISLE. As in the AISLE inside a United Airlines aircraft.
    • 77A [Impatient chess player’s cry] MOVE. I’m the one who always forgets that it’s my turn, so I hear this often.
    • 15D [Sharp remark?] I RAISE. As in cardsharp. .
    • 58D [Nigerian musician King Sunny ___] ADE. I can’t remember seeing ADE clued this way before- fun name to learn. Take a listen!


  • 36D [Prize for completing a “Super Mario 64” task] STAR.

Speaking of STARs, I give it 3.3.

Gotta go get the milk and bread now.

P.S. Also never heard of Pepe Aguilar… this song is really pretty.


Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “Pass” – Jenni’s write-up

I figured this out with the first theme entry. The title can also be read a P as S, and each theme entry has a familiar phrase with a P substituted for an S. Wackiness results.

LAT 1/20, solution grid

  • 23a [Imminent wordplay warning?] is HERE COMES THE PUN (Here Comes the Sun).
  • 33a [“Is my account settled?”?] is NEED I PAY MORE (Need I say more?).
  • 47a [Nervous draft choice?] is a WORRIED PICK (worried sick).
  • 63a [Agency that regulates test cheating?] is the PEEKING OFFICE (seeking office).
  • 83a [Very first ATM password?] is the ORIGINAL PIN (original sin).
  • 96a [Popular disco era pastimes?] were PONG AND DANCE (song and dance).

And in addition to the title, we get a revealer at 110a [No longer be comprehensible … and, with its first word divided in three parts, a hint to how to read this puzzle’s title]: STOP MAKING SENSE, or S TO P MAKING SENSE, which doesn’t really make sense grammatically, but we get the idea.

I like the theme a lot. All the base phrases are solid and many of the transformations are funny. The fill, on the other hand…. HAHAHS? TEEVEEISTLESPH as abbreviation for “sphere”? IN HD? Plural SESAMESMAHI by itself? PINA without colada? Plus some of the usual suspects (ALIIELIESSESI SI, no no).

A few other things:

  • 11d [They may be shot in rafts] are RAPIDS. We rafted down the Grand Canyon almost 20 years ago and I’d do it again in a minute.
  • Since we have the MAMAS in the grid clued as [Half a ’60s quartet], 26a [Peter, Paul or Mary] also brings 60s music to mind, but the answer is SAINT.
  • 64d [The Carpenters’ soloist] is the criminally underrated KAREN.
  • Not underrated: 84d [MLB leader in career saves], the immortal Mariano RIVERA.
  • 91a [International economic coalition] is once again the G-SEVEN, Russia having been dropped in 2014.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ATHOS is the oldest Musketeer.


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15 Responses to Sunday, January 20, 2019

  1. Ethan says:

    Yes, every game has an official scorekeeper. This is the person who decides whether a play is scored a hit or an error, for example.

    I actually found the theme genial enough. For me, the biggest flaw was that the puzzle’s punny interpretation of IS THAT A FACT isn’t really different from the common interpretation.

    • Matthew G. says:

      Yep, definitely a real job. I don’t know how it’s done today, but at one time the official scorer was also a member of the press doubling as the scorekeeper. When I was in newspapers, I used to work with a guy who had the good luck to be the official scorer of one of Nolan Ryan’s no-hitters.

      The theme felt a little uneven to me. You might _really_ ask a copy editor IS THAT A FACT? or (angrily) a referee WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON? But you wouldn’t really say WHERE’S THE PARTY? or HOW’S IT HANGING? to the professions mentioned in those clues.

      Liked the WaPo a bit better than the NYT. The WaPo theme is kind of silly, but I’ve noticed that Evan will often go for a pretty loose theme so that he can make the grid more solid and themeless-ish, and in a Sunday-size puzzle that’s to my taste. There’s just so much puzzle I need it all to be decent.

      • anon says:

        “The theme felt a little uneven to me. You might _really_ ask a copy editor IS THAT A FACT? or (angrily) a referee WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON? But you wouldn’t really say WHERE’S THE PARTY? or HOW’S IT HANGING? to the professions mentioned in those clues.”

        I think the theme “questions” are meant to be asked *by* each of the clued professions, not to/of them. A few are a bit tenuous (thinking WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?), but they mostly work.

        • Matthew G. says:

          Assuming you’re right about who’s asking the questions, my comment that the questions sound like real-life questions for some but not others still holds true. A copy editor might really ask IS THAT A FACT on the job. A political consultant would not ask WHERES THE PARTY on the job.

  2. scrivener says:

    NYT: Slaughtered again by a European language answer. GLI crossing GARY killed me, and I usually get the cartoon answers. By now I’ve seen enough of these to make a guess that a vowel went in the _LI space, but alas. My only error. 33:40 for me (a minute or so ahead of my Sunday average). Honestly, I can’t tell if I’m getting any better at this, but it was fun. 3.5 stars.

  3. J Brophy says:

    back in the day there was a maternity ward and the room would be a maternity room which was next to the nursery no co mingling of moms and babies back then
    also I do the puzzle to escape all the political nonsense going on now so would really appreciate you keeping politics out of it just asking

    • pannonica says:

      perhaps something abstract such as sudoku or set would be a better option for you

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I should store this answer somewhere so I can paste it in every time someone says this.

      This blog has a point of view which includes the radical notions that women are people, racism is bad, and that everyone should be have access to a safe and even enjoyable life. Asking us to avoid mentioning those things because you want to “escape all the political nonsense” is exercising your privilege in a way that seeks to silence the women and people of color who write on this blog. That “political nonsense,” by the way, threatens my life, so it’s a bit more than just “nonsense” to me (and to many of us).

      It never ceases to amaze me that people who would most likely cry “foul” at the idea of a safe space for women or POC see no contradiction or even irony in complaining that this blog is not a safe space for reactionary white men.

  4. J Brophy says:

    no the times is fine thank you but appreciate your concern

  5. LAT: Major thumbs down to 67D. I don’t know why they went with that when it could easily be swapped out along with 78A to make COUNT/PERU instead.

    • paul coulter says:

      Good point, Evan. It was clued as the animal’s common name, of course, and I’d forgotten that it used to be a racial slur, but I’ve just removed it from my word list.

  6. ahimsa says:

    NYT: The theme was okay. WET WILLY was a little icky but I kept solving. I gave up after LITTER BOX with the poop clue. Scatalogical clues just aren’t my cup of tea but to each his own.

    LAT: Made me smile. :-)

  7. Brenda says:

    Was doing the NYT at work today on break today. A co-worker said “whoa, I’m impressed.” I said don’t be.
    As a seasoned solver it is my opinion that Sunday puzzles are overwrought slogs but I do them to prove I’m right or maybe they’ll surprise me & prove me wrong. I miss Evan’s hot chili peppers. His WaPo today tasted like poblanos.
    Sigh, I’m old. Unlike some solvers born before the dawn of television I need new & exciting clues & answers to keep my synapses snapping. Cheers to BEQ, Croce, Ries, Agard & to all who evolved beyond the Gray Lady mentality of xwords with unimaginative 4 letter words & could care less you found a clue disturbing because you were eating breakfast.

    I applaud Amy for hosting a site that supports women from all walks of life. My sorority sisters & I marched for birth control in the ’60’s. Some of us are still in contact & we worry for our millennium sisters. Planned Parenthood was vital for all women with low income & little access to familial support then & it still is. I wouldn’t be here today if it were not for a PP’s clinic in 1968. Please support them. The current administration is surreptitious.

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