Sunday, April 21, 2019

LAT 7:56 (Jenni) 


NYT 12:21 (Amy) 


WaPo untimed (1 error) (Jim Q) 


Universal 4:48 (Jim Q) 


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Vic) 


Note from Amy: I won’t have a chance to do the Sunday NYT till after dinner, but in the meantime, I wanted to tell you about a puzzle venture from Eric Berlin. Eric has reworked his Puzzle Your Kids project (“It became clear early on that I only thought I was making puzzles for kids. It turned out I was making puzzles for anyone interested in clever, varied puzzles that use a straightforward and everyday vocabulary”) into Puzzlesnacks, not-too-hard variety puzzles for kids and adults alike. (Variety puzzles, if you don’t know, take all sorts of forms, with a handful seen in the picture above.) The more Puzzlesnacks supporters sign up through Kickstarter, the more Eric can continue making his puzzles available to children for free. A pledge of $3 a month gets you a weekly variety puzzle via email, plus a couple dozen bonus puzzles. Eric does great work and he’s experienced at making puzzles that your friends and family who don’t speak crosswordese can tackle. Click through to the Kickstarter page for more info.

Grant Thackray’s New York Times crossword, “The Inside Story”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 4 21 19, “The Inside Story”

The theme here is nested movie titles that form goofy phrases clued accordingly. The revealer in this 22×21 grid is PICTURE IN PICTURE, or 70a. [Small screen superimposed on a large screen … or a hint to this puzzle’s shaded squares].

  • 24a. [Who has trouble reaching a windshield to place a ticket? [1989, 1982]], THE LITTLE METER MAID. E.T. the Extraterrestrial is the full title, of course. I like that both E.T. and The Little Mermaid are kid-friendly.
  • 42a. [Talk show host Johnny’s children? [2015, 2006]], MINI CARSONS. Cars in Minions. Two more kids’ movies.
  • 52a. [Traitor who gets on one’s nerves? [2006, 2002]], BOTHERING RAT. Awkward as hell, as you’d never use “bothering” to modify a noun like that. Borat and The Ring are entirely different film genres.
  • 95a. [Prepares for guests who don’t like their coffee black? [2017, 1996]], GETS CREAM OUT. Get Out and Scream are both horror.
  • 102a. [Initiated global conflicts? [1977, 2012]], STARTED WARS. Star Wars, Ted. Distinct genres … and WARS retains its original meaning here.
  • 123a. [Selection of billfolds for medical professionals? [2016, 2008]], DOCTORS’ WALLET RANGE. “Wallet range” is awfully stilted. Wall•E, Doctor Strange. Different genres.
  • 17d. [Good manners in kindergarten drawing? [1997, 2004]], CRAYON TACT. The surface sense of “crayon tact” is lacking, no? Ray, Contact. Both dramas, one a biopic and the other sci-fi.
  • 77d. [Smaller piece of cookware? [1953, 2017]], PETITER PAN. Horror It, animated Peter Pan. Clunky, since “petiter” is so awkward.

It’s a nice touch when the pair of movies are in the same genre, but since it doesn’t work out most of the time, it would’ve been better to avoid the genre pairs. Some of the theme answers work pretty well, but others do not.

Overall I didn’t enjoy the fill. The two-pronged overlap of 133a. [Slobbery kiss], WET ONE with both 47a. [Moist towelette], WET WIPE (yes, there is a brand of wet wipes called Wet Ones) and clunky 98d. [Agenda topper], ITEM ONE? Gonna pass on that. See also: Partial I EVER, DO I DARE, I SAID NO, nobody-has-really-said-this-in-decades I DIG, and HERE I AM?

Least expected entry: 120a. [Broad Australian accent, informally], STRINE. Basically what it sounds like to non-Aussies when Aussies say “Australian” out loud.

It’s time to watch last Sunday’s Game of Thrones, so I’ll sign off now with a rating of 3.25 stars.

Rob Gonsalves and Jennifer Lim’s Universal Crossword, “Product Placement”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Rob Gonsalves and Jennifer Lim’s Universal Crossword, 4-21-19, solution

Before-and-after, with a movie and a brand name joined together for each themer. Clever. Enjoyable.

  • 23a [Nation that forbids stale mints?] NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MENTOS–Tricky clue issue here, huh? Nation = No country? Comments?
  • 37a [Looking good getting frozen yogurt?] PRETTY IN PINKBERRY–I was in the dark about Pinkberry. It’s a frozen dessert restaurant chain that’s been around since 2005 and has 260 stores in 20 countries. The closest one to Little Rock is a state away, in Dallas.
  • 60a [Tire company’s ancient vehicles?] CHARIOTS OF FIRESTONE
  • 83a Fancy crystal’s design? THE SHAPE OF WATERFORD
  • 99a [Fate of gunk on glass?] GONE WITH THE WINDEX
  • 121a [Judge’s last words in an insurance case?] AND JUSTICE FOR ALLSTATE–Picky legalism here, but insurance case is really vague. And the idea of this concept being uttered by a judge seems superfluous. What about [“… plus a fair result to Geico’s competitor!”?]

Not many non-themers of note, what with a theme that goes 21-17-19-19-17-21. We’re talking JOE COOL, BARN OWL, SHE GOAT, and  IT ISN’T

3.5 stars.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” – Jim Q’s writeup

Three different theme types in one puzzle! Sounds too loose and confusing, right? Not at all. This week’s WaPo is super tight and equally as clever.

THEME:Reduce,” “Reuse,” and “Recycle.” That is to say “Rebus,” “Repetition,” and “Anagram.”


  • 22A [Person selling discarded objects (reduced waste)] (JUNK) DEALER.

    WaPo crossword solution * 4 21 19 * “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” * Birnholz

    The word “JUNK” is “reduced.”

  • 23A [High-kicking performers (reused food container)] CAN CAN DANCERS.CAN” is “reused.”
  • 38A [Experience the initial thrill of a potential victory, idiomatically (recycled SODA BOTTLE)] TASTE BLOOD.SODA BOTTLE” is “recycled.”
  • 47A [Amass with difficulty, as money (reduced waste)] (SCRAP) TOGETHER.
  • 67A [“Star Wars” character from the underwater city Otoh Gunga (reused food container)] JAR JAR BINKS.
  • 87A [Generate discussion (recycled D BATTERIES)] STIR DEBATE.
  • 95A [Garbage disposal unit member (reduced waste)] (TRASH) COLLECTOR.
  • 118A [Related to the sound of ringing bells (reused food container)] TINTINNABULAR.
  • 121A [Tiny bit (recycled COUPONS)] SOUPÇON.

While none of these theme types is new to crosswords, this puzzle is extra fresh in the way they’re presented. And adding to the tightness of the theme are the entries themselves, all of which are things that can be reduced (JUNK, SCRAP, TRASH), reused (CAN, JAR, TIN), and recycled (SODA BOTTLE, D BATTERIES, and COUPONS). I can’t imagine any other way to get mixed themes like this into coherent puzzle that is this tight and fun.

One mistake that I never corrected was my initial answer to 23A  [High-kicking performers (reused food container)]. I wrote in CAN CAN DANgERS. I figured it was a punny take on DANCERS and being the first theme answer I filled in, it seemed perfectly appropriate. When I eventually determined the proper theme, I never corrected it since I was unfamiliar with the crossing down (DECARLO) and it hadn’t crossed my mind at the time that I could possibly be wrong with the theme entry. So it wasn’t on my radar of things I might need to revisit later.

Much appreciated was the clue for 22D [Officials’ trips (Hint: The first syllable rhymes with 54 Down)] JUNKETS. That clue is difficult without the hint, and the rebus square for JUNK is somewhat ambiguous in the theme answer itself.

I had the most difficulty in the TINTINNABULAR section of the puzzle since- although being familiar with the word due to Poe’s The Bells– I was at a loss as to how to spell the latter half. I was inexplicably tripped up by the clue for CASTLE [House of the lord?] and wanted INNATE instead of INBRED for [Natural to a creature]. I suppose there’s no better way to clue INBRED– but it’s one of those words whose connotative meaning is much different in real life.

One thing I want to continue to point out is Evan’s fresh cluing style, even for the oldest of crossword fill. There are far too many examples of this to mention, and it may go largely unappreciated by a casual solver, but it always makes for a good time.

Not that this puzzle’s theme needed any help. That was awesome.

5 stars.

Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels’s Universal Crossword, “A Juicy Puzzle”—Jim Q’s write-up

Apologies for the late post! Let’s get to it.

THEME: Phrases that end with types of berries.


  • 16A [Camel’s backbreaker] FINAL STRAW.

    Universal crossword solution * 4 21 19 * “A Juicy Puzzle” * Michaels * Christian

  • 23A [Experiencing sadness] FEELING BLUE.
  • 34A [Game with pats on the head] DUCK DUCK GOOSE.
  • 47A [Cinematic ending technique] FADE TO BLACK.
  • 57A [Picking place, or a hint to the ends of {the theme answers}] BERRY PATCH.

I just realized I have no idea what a gooseberry tastes like. They look delicious! Like a stylish grape. Perhaps I’ve had one and didn’t know? I’ll be on the lookout for one in the future.

Standard fare for a puzzle. I confidently entered DUCK DUCK GOOSE with no help at all and the others barely needed much help either. Despite a hangup in the SE (SOFT CAP instead of SOFT TOP and CIAO instead of TATA), the only resistance was solving with the web app. It seems like it’s always behind my typing speed and since the settings are different than my Across Lite settings, I have to backspace quite often to fix errors. Not that it’s anyone’s fault. Just sayin’.

Enjoy the rest of your Easter!

3 stars.

Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword, “It’s All in the Game Show” – Jenni’s write-up

It’s an ordinary word, a word you use every day….actually, it’s a string of ordinary words that, when said out loud, sound like the name of a game show. At least sort of. There’s no trickery in the cluing, but if you solve this with other people in the room they may think you’re a bit daft. I had to say each one out loud to figure it out.

LAT 4/21, solution grid

  • 22a [Bee home + Venus + heron kin] is HIVE GODDESS EGRET (I’ve Got a Secret).
  • 39a [“Star Trek” villain + mailed + light beam + take pains to avoid] is KHAN SENT RAY SHUN (Concentration). This whole puzzle has that Concentration flavor to me.
  • 52a [Sass, in slang + inferno + turkey + Babe with a bat] is TUDE HELL DUD RUTH (To Tell the Truth). Will the real answer please stand up?
  • 76a [Legume + yank + pound sound + bee product] PEA PULL ARF HONEY (People Are Funny). This one was new to me. It started on radio in 1942 and aired on TV from 1954 until 1960. The show asked “ordinary people” to undertake “pranks” and they won the game if they succeeded in putting the prank over on someone else. Amazingly enough, it was nominated for two Emmy awards, and was “reconstituted” in 1984 with Flip Wilson as host. Thank you, Wikipedia.
  • 93a [Cutlet meat + statute + quartet + goatee site] is VEAL LAW FOUR CHIN (Wheel of Fortune).
  • 114a [Utter + cherish + old laundry detergent + harm] SAY LOVE DUZ INJURY (Sale of the Century). I vaguely remember this one. It was hosted by Joe Garagiola for part of its run.

I enjoyed this theme. It wasn’t particularly challenging but it was fun to figure out.

A few other things:

  • I know that TNN is a useful entry, but that network hasn’t existed since 2000, and the network used in the clue at 14d (Spike TV) hasn’t existed since since January of 2018. It’s time to find another way to fill those spots.
  • 15d [Flexible pronoun substitute] is HE OR SHE. Give it up. The appropriate pronoun is “they.” Just do it.
  • 34d [Itchy red area] is RASH. I guess. It could also be a bug bite..
  • 56d [Stein’s confidante] is TOKLAS. Interesting way to clue that. “Partner” or “lover” or “better half” would have worked, too.
  • 94d [The Red Baron, e.g.] is WAR ACE. I suspect I’m not the only one who dropped in AIR ACE instead.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that AM I BLUE was written and originally recorded in 1929. This is the version I remember:

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25 Responses to Sunday, April 21, 2019

  1. Ethan says:

    I noticed WET ONE and WET WIPE right away, but there’s also SAW LOGS at 94D right next to RIP SAW at 105D. I don’t mind dupes if it’s a minor word (I just assume that every Sunday is going to dupe “I” a bunch of times) but I think this is going a little far.

    I was also a little bothered that the crossing of theme entries left a stray circled T in 102A.

    The theme is clever and the revealer is just perfect, but this could have used some polishing, IMO.

  2. Anne says:

    Australian English has been known to those of us who speak it as “Strine” for at least 50 years – mainly due to a 1960s era book, “Let Stalk Strine” which was generally regarded as hilarious.

    I from time to time ask my husband, “Emma Chisit?” when I want to know the price of something.

  3. JohnH says:

    I didn’t know STRINE (which is actually kind of interesting), EVEE, or MARCO (assuming they’re right) and haven’t had much luck online ascribing meaning to the latter two. I also didn’t know some other things or even several of the movie names (and I was bothered by the word repetition, too). But mostly it just annoyed me that not a single of the many movies (except, I guess, ET and STAR WARS) was of sufficient quality per, say, a NY Times review that I’d have made a point of being aware of it. Worse, I’d have said that all of them are for kids age 12. No wonder there’s also a Cheetos mascot. Sorry I wasted time on this one.

    • Ethan says:

      I would be surprised if GET OUT didn’t have a highly favorable NYT review.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        In fact, I was able to ascertain that Get Out, Star Wars, Little Mermaid, Borat, Wall-E, and Doctor Strange were all labeled “critic’s pick” in the NYT. (The NYT’s review search function made it hard to look up Ray and Ted, and E.T. appears to predate those archives.) It’s possible that JohnH has an antipathy towards movies that are meant to be fun rather than strictly dramatic and edifying.

        • Lise says:

          So many movies that are outwardly marketed to children are (like the old Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Bugs Bunny cartoons) really aimed at adults. This is a good thing, especially if they’re going to be watched repeatedly in your home. There are often details meaningless to a child which strike home to an adult.

          Also, our dog *loved* Monsters, Inc. I don’t know why. She never said. But she would sit in front of the TV, fascinated, when it was showing. So, a little interspecies appeal :-)

    • Robin says:

      JohnH – EVEE? Was that 108A in the NYT puzzle? Should be EPEES. The prefix for bee is API, not AVI. And I assume MARCO in 38A refers to playing Marco Polo at a pool.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Oh, good. I wait every day to see what culture I can consume without befouling my brain with something lowbrow. How ever would I know these things without your unerring judgment of the value of books and movies and music? I mean, I might listen to other people or even (horrors!) judge for myself, but that would clearly be inappropriate when I have the opportunity to learn from The One Who Knows All.

  4. xepia says:

    USC: Funnily, 23A was my favourite clue-answer pair of all because of the different-but-imho-matching linguistic angles.

    “Should I buy new refreshings for our trip through Europe?” – “Well, Bohemia forbids stale mints, so I’m afraid Bohemia is no country for old Mentos.”

  5. Rob Gonsalves says:

    Jennifer and I are excited to have our first Sunday puzzle published. We would like to thank editor David Steinberg who helped us along. We like his new clue for 95D [I.M. conceived long before texting] PEI. We would also like to thank super mentor Nancy Salomon, who helped us with an early iteration of this puzzle.

    Judge Vic, yeah, 23A has a tricky clue because of the negative in the movie title. Our intent was to have NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MENTOS imply a place where stale mints are forbidden (i.e. only fresh mints are allowed). But we can see how our attempt at absurd humor here might confuse solvers.

    Our original clue for 121a AND JUSTICE FOR ALLSTATE was [Ruling for the insurance company?]. We are guessing that the word AND in the movie title led to David’s [Judge’s last words in an insurance case?]. It seems that the two senses of “case” can lead to ambiguity. (i.e. a claim or a lawsuit).

    • RunawayPancake says:

      Universal (Sunday) – Hey, Rob! Really enjoyed your and Jennifer’s puzzle. Great theme with fun clues.

  6. pannonica says:

    Really really liked the WaPo today.

    Here’s a classic:

  7. Robin says:

    Loved today’s WaPo puzzle!

  8. John McC says:

    NYT 39A… Major leagues is The Show, or The Bigs; The Pros? Not so much…

  9. Aura says:

    Good God. Another Sunday disaster from the NYT. Is taken?

  10. Thanks, all. Today’s Washington Post Magazine has an Earth Day theme throughout the whole issue, so this was my contribution to that.

    A solver wrote to me last week to tell me he hates it whenever I publish 21×21 themeless puzzles. Since today’s has three themes in one, I think I now have license to do three 21×21 themeless puzzles in a row.

    • RunawayPancake says:

      I, for one, love your themeless puzzles. Just putting that out there to counter the misguided solvers who dislike them.

      • Dave S says:

        Pancake, it’s lovely that you enjoy themeless puzzles. I wish you much happiness in solving them. On the other hand, it’s offensive for you to describe those of us who do not share your preference as misguided.

  11. Art Shapiro says:

    Where’s the LAT writeup today? Given that a time is posted, I’d expect the discussion to be present.

  12. Joan Macon says:

    Yes, where is the LAT?

Comments are closed.