Saturday, May 4, 2019

LAT 10:58 Downs Only (Derek) 


Newsday 21:32 (Derek) 


NYT 7:53 (Amy) 


WSJ 18:07 (Jim P) 


Universal 3:42 (Jim Q) 


Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Uh-Oh!”—Jim P’s review

Pronunciation change: Long O sounds are changed to short U sounds.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Uh-Oh!” · Gary Larson · Sat., 5.4.19

  • 23a [Henhouse division?CLUCK ROOM. Cloak room.
  • 25a [Head count at a convent?NUN QUANTITY. Known quantity.
  • 35a [What new Starbucks employees develop?CUPPING SKILLS. Coping skills. My impression of the word “cupping” is more in line with Urban Dictionary definitions. However, it is also an ancient alternative medicine technique.
  • 53a [Life of the party?FUN COMPANY. Phone company.
  • 70a [Toupee maker’s before-and-after portfolio?RUGS GALLERY. Rogue’s gallery. I like this one.
  • 84a [Coin collector?QUARTER NUT. Quarter note. When you have nine theme answers and eight of them have the first word altered, you would think the ninth one would as well. In this case you’d be wrong. This one should be consistent with the rest or dropped entirely.
  • 99a [What cowboys do when they can’t remember the lyrics?HUM ON THE RANGE. Home On The Range. Another good one.
  • 106a [Prison employee who’s verbally assailed by inmates?CUSSED GUARD. Coast Guard. Hmm. Having trouble believing that someone who gets cussed at is “cussed.”
  • 119a [Prepare beans and peas for eating?HULL FOODS. Whole Foods. Not bad.

Some of these aren’t bad, but nothing about this gets me excited, and the ones that are off bring the rest down.

I’m further bothered by kludgy bits in the fill like TRIABLE (60a, [Worthy of judicial review]), SEA ROVER (105A [Pirate]), ONEALS, ARN, BLYS, EMS, ROES, SRIS, and singular TROUSER (though it’s rescued somewhat by its clue, singular [Pant], which I found amusing).

To be fair, there’s definitely some good fill here, more than I remember while solving in fact: ENUNCIATES, FONDUE, TOLD ALL, ROOT CANALS, BACKSPACE, DAMASK, PIQUE, UNIBROW, PENANCE, RINGTONE, and HILARIOUS.

But while the nits don’t outnumber the stand-outs, they do sap their strength. In a 21x grid, which can easily turn into a slog, I feel it’s better to comb through that fill and make it as squeaky clean as possible.

Clues of note:

  • 1a [Cover story?]. I wanted ATTIC for this, but it’s ALIBI. I was wondering why it needed the question mark, but I guess the original phrase comes from the publishing world.
  • 28a [Gillen of “Game of Thrones”]. AIDAN. Littlefinger portrayer who finally…well, I’d better not.
  • 34a [Get to work on Time]. EDIT. Cute.
  • 87a [Taxi rtes.]. STS. I’m guessing…”streets”? Not the best clue.
  • 2d [Manilow maiden]. LOLA. From “Copacabana”.
  • 114d [One wearing very little clothing?]. DOLL. Another cute clue.

Some good wordplay here and definitely some good fill, but for me, I felt some theme entries needed tweaking and some of the fill could’ve been cleaned up. 3.4 stars.

And now…you asked for it, so here it is. Manilow singing Copacabana. (Best Youtube comment: “Willy Wonka got a good career after leaving the chocolate factory.”) Enjoy!

Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 4 19, no. 0504

Yeah, so I hate this puzzle and its theme on principle, the principle being that (a) nobody really says “May the 4th” for the date, and (b) this “Star Wars Day” nonsense has crapped all over what used to be a perfectly lovely date for one’s wedding anniversary (28 years!). We’ve got a 3/6/6/3 mini-theme spelling out MAY / THE 4TH / BE WITH / YOU. Each of them is clued as a stand-alone entry, but BE WITH is a terrible entry unto itself, and MAY is gratingly clued as [Could] when 35d is COULD WE. And if you’re going to have THE 4TH as a themer, maybe don’t plunk THE UNIVERSE right below it in the grid, as the extra THE jumps out.

Top fill: CAN’T TAKE IT, ITALIAN WINE, BALANCED BUDGETS (although that clue is a lie, [Goals for fiscal conservatives]—the Trump administration has been moving further away from a balanced budget, and now it’s the Blue Dog Democrats pushing for a Balanced Budget Amendment that is likely to again go nowhere), COLESLAW in its entirety, “I NEED A HUG,” TSA AGENT, SEUSSIAN. Toyota 4-RUNNERS are legit but I’m sure that numbered square vexed a ton of solvers not expecting to find a numeral in the grid outside of a Thursday puzzle.

Not keen on: BABY BIB (redundant, as any bib is for babies unless it is otherwise described, like a lobster bib), ABEAM, ETON clued as [Radley rival] (why on earth would any of us know that?), A-TEST, plural abbrev SRAS.

Five more things:

  • 33d. [Full monty], WHOLE BIT. This might be terrible fill—I’m not sure. Thoughts?
  • 4a. [Tail end of a dog?], APSO. As in the tail end of the name, lhasa apso. Eh. Meh.
  • 16d. [Ones making glowing recommendations?], NEONS. What? No. We’re calling neon signs/lights NEONS, are we?
  • 26d. [Makers of fine combs], BEES. Nice clue. Had me thinking of hair care accessories.
  • 31a. [Poet/lyricist who wrote the 1974 #1 hit “Seasons in the Sun”], MCKUEN. Don’t think you’re getting out of here without listening to Terry Jacks. I can’t say the lyrics give me respect for Rod McKuen’s poetry, and I don’t know that I’m familiar with any of his other work. (If you were a ’70s kid, you probably remember the parody we’d sing, “Streaking in the Sun.” “… and the cops came with guns and they shot us in the buns” is about all I recall of those lyrics.)

Two stars from me because of the dreaded “theme” and some clunky fill/clues. Ardent defenses of “Star Wars Day” will be met with distinct dismay from me, so proceed with caution, commenters.

Pawel Fludzinski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 05/04/2019

I think these Downs Only stones are still tough, but I wouldn’t call it agony. Tough one here, especially with no theme to figure out. There are some awesome Across entries in here (WOLVERINE!), although some of them are hard to get without the clues. Most of the issues, as you can see by the error marks, are on the eastern seaboard. Pawel makes good puzzles; please make more of them! A firm 4.5 stars for this one.

Some of the best (Downs Only, of course!):

  • 2D [White Monopoly bill] ONE – I thought this might be the TEN. I haven’t played this game in years!
  • 7D [Nunavut native] INUIT – The other answer from this region is ALEUT, but those are out on the Alaskan islands. Nunavut narrows it to northern Canada, I believe.
  • 9D [Where a gaffer or grip is recognized] END CREDIT – In these recent superhero movies, you have to endure through all ten minutes of these for extra scenes!
  • 11D [Started to perspire] BROKE A SWEAT – This took to long for me to get. I think I made it harder than it is. I almost “broke a sweat!”
  • 25D [“Knowing where your food comes from” movement] FARM TO TABLE – Great entry. You see this a lot nowadays, especially in a vegetarian/vegan sense. Most people would cringe if they saw how meat was actually mass-produced.
  • 31D [Canonized Archbishop of Canterbury] ANSELM – I did not know this. At all.
  • 33D [Part of a blabbing metaphor] LOOSE LIPS – “… sink ships!” This one also took too long, but what a great entry!
  • 43D [Hard-to-overcome evils] HYDRAS – I’ve never heard this used as a metaphor, but I suppose it works.
  • 45D [Brew in Brest] BIÈRE – Beer in French does have an accent in it, if Google is correct! Slightly different than the ñ controversy, but its a little similar.

That’s all for now! Have a great weekend!

Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 05/04/2019

Lester Ruff’s puzzles (Stan’s!) are usually “less rough,” but this one gave me fits. Well over 20 minutes on this solve, and that hasn’t happened to me in a while. Either I am stressed out, or this was a tougher Stan edition than normal. Curious to know what others thought. 4.3 stars, but this one left bruises.

Ironically, some stuff I liked:

  • 1A [App attention-getter] SPLASH AD – For something that is so pervasive, why do I never use this term??
  • 15A [”Take your medicine!”] “NO EXCUSE!” – This was tough for me, partly because I usually hear this in a plural form. Extremely tough, in my opinion
  • 34A [Electric SUV make as of 2018] JAG – As in a Jaguar, which is interesting. I don’t think I have seen this car in Indiana yet!
  • 50A [Author of Amazon’s top book of 2018] OBAMA – This was definitely a forehead slapper once I got it. I think that book is STILL selling well. Maybe I should buy it!
  • 58A [Superlative] GRADE A – This doesn’t end in -EST?? No, it doesn’t! Well done, Stan …
  • 65A [California Prune and Apricot Growers, today] SUNSWEET – I had SUN MAID in my mind. I don’t eat enough prunes and apricots, evidently!
  • 1D [Carrier bought by Evenflo] SNUGLI – After having gone through three children and the accompanying car seats, this took too long to figure out.
  • 6D [Canopy for rabbi-conducted weddings] HUPPAH – I didn’t know this. At all. It doesn’t even ring a bell. Again, in northern Indiana, there are far more Amish than Jewish people.
  • 7D [Completely appropriate] AS IT SHOULD BE – Great 12-letter entry …
  • 21D [Federal Statistical System agency] CENSUS BUREAU – … as is this one. I guessed this one early on, and I was right.
  • 47D [Heat-keeping measure] R-VALUE – Best clue/entry combo in the grid. I worked in construction for a while years ago, and this came up all the time. I was totally “stumped” by this one!

Off to see the Avengers movie later this Saturday. At an IMAX!

Daniel Raymon’s Universal Crossword, “See-ing Double”—Jim Q’s write-up

For some reason, I now have the song “Do You See What I See?” stuck in my head. Great. I don’t even like that song at the appropriate time of the year.

THEME: Homophones with words beginning with C then S.


  • 20A [Wine merchant based in a storage area?] CELLAR SELLER.

    Universal crossword solution * 5 04 19 * “See-ing Double” * Raymon

  • 28A [TV drama about breakfast food?] CEREAL SERIAL.
  • 35A/39A [With 39-Across, overhead crack cover?] CEILING SEALING.
  • 45A [One detecting pleasant smells at church?] CENSER SENSOR.
  • 55A [Romaine salad thief?] CAESAR SEIZER.

I like that, rather than giving us a simple arbitrary homophone pair, Daniel put himself under stricter construction rules dealing strictly with the C/S sound. Answers themselves all work for sure.

CEILING SEALING would work much better as a verb phrase (the way it’s clued now, it sounds like the answer should be CEILING SEAL as no one calls a cover a SEALING), but that would be inconsistent with the rest of the themers. It’s also broken up across two answers though. I don’t mind it, but the puzzle wouldn’t have suffered without it either.

I’m also a bit confused as to why the CELLAR SELLER is clued as a wine merchant. I get that wine is stored in cellars, but “storage area” is already in the clue. I think it would’ve been more fun/ridiculous if it were someone actually trying to sell cellars.

Solid grid. Favorite non-themer was CUT IN LINE both as a colorful phrase and as clued [Act like a rude waiter?].

3.1 stars.

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27 Responses to Saturday, May 4, 2019

  1. Greg says:

    Nice Times puzzle. When I saw the number 4 in the upper left, I suspected there’d be more Arabic numeral answers. Somewhat surprised it was an orphan.

  2. Greg says:

    Wow. I sure missed the theme on that one. I’m not sure I would’ve gotten it even if (a) I was expecting a theme on a Saturday and (b) I had any idea that there was a Star Wars Day and it was May 4.

  3. Puzzled says:

    Constructing puzzles is a difficult task. No doubt. If yours appears in the NYT, it will have high expectations. This might be the least enjoyable puzzle ever. It’s difficult, as it should be for a Saturday. But Holy God, let us review the badness:


    I’m probably leaving something out. Any one of these would be alright. But the puzzle is riddled with them. Give me real in-the-language words and phrases and clue them hard. Don’t give me a smorgasbord of crud because you want to say MAY THE 4TH BE WITH YOU. I haven’t even gotten started with legit things like NASSAU that are clued terribly. I never post reviews of puzzles because I respect how hard they are to make. But this is by far the least fun I have ever experienced doing a puzzle. A terrible swing and a miss. Am I alone here?

  4. Howard B says:

    Actually, that NYT 18-Down answer is CAN TAKE IT, which though only one letter away, really doesn’t sound anywhere near as valid as CAN’T TAKE IT. The latter is a good phrase, the former seems to be rarely used if at all. Although I did enjoy the Times theme, honestly, was a bit too much “roll-your-own” phrasing here for my tastes. (see also OUR TEAM, WHOLE BIT).

    • Steve Faiella says:

      Agreed, unless you add an “I” to the front. “I CAN TAKE IT” is very much in the language, and a bit of black box shuffling would have done the trick, IMO.

      • Howard B says:

        That’s a perfectly good phrase, in fact quite good. Without the I, it just feels fragmentary.

  5. Lise says:

    I liked YEOMAN, which reminds me of an amusing book I read years ago called “The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise”, by Julia Stuart, about a yeoman warder who is beset by animal problems (and other issues). There were also penguins.

    Also liked APSO, although the A was my last entry and I had to stare at Apso for quite a while before I got it. I wasn’t thrilled (SENT!) by all of the COULDs and the THEs. Or NEONS. But as I have not yet successfully created a puzzle (still trying!), I don’t feel qualified to criticize.

    I loved SEUSSIAN. I use that term quite a bit. We have two extremely Seussian juniper bushes near our house and when we needed stuff trimmed back so that the painters could approach our house, I asked the tree person if he could also trim the Dr. Seuss bushes. That’s how they appeared on the invoice ;)

    So, some good, some not so good, but overall, fine.

    • Lise says:

      Now that I think of it, The Neons is the name of a band – so NEONS is in the language, anyway. I take back my objection.

  6. dh says:

    I missed the theme, I know nothing about “Star Wars Day” or the apparent controversy surrounding it. Now that I think about it, I guess it’s a cute pun for those who like to think about those things, but not worth my time to fret over it. Kind of like “Pi” day or March 14th. Others of us are entertained by crossword puzzles.

    If I were one to rate puzzles, which I’m not, I’d consider giving an extra star for the absence of “Playground Retort” as a clue – but I also see a missed punning opportunity for “Are Too Dee Too”, in keeping with this despised theme.

    Finally, I would not equate “Fiscal Conservatives” and “The Trump Administration”. Fiscal conservatives, as political theorists, have much criticism of the current budget.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Agree with your last point. There are a lot of economic conservatives who love low tax rates but clutch their pearls & gasp about deficits whenever there’s a big government spending initiative. A true fiscal conservative, though, is focused on deficits & probably displeased with the last 20 years in general. It was a well worded clue & criticizing it seems unfair.

  7. pannonica says:

    NYT: >looks sidewise at ARE TOO and MAUL<

    I find Rod McKuen unintentionally amusing, and this is something of his I really like:

    As for the meh COULD WE, at least it provides an opportunity for

  8. Hector says:

    SE on the Newsday killed me. I never thought of the ash tree, because I was stuck on the thought that burnt ashes are largely composed of lime (the chemical). Even if I had gotten LIMB, I would have been sunk by the clues “Word from the Greek for attack”, “It’s High in the UK”, “Heat-keeping measure”, and especially “DVD measure” (a little grumpy about that one: “RPM” is nowhere on the extensive Wikipedia page for DVD, and DVDs don’t spin at a constant RPM, but spin faster when the read/write is closer to the center so that linear speed is constant). Everywhere else, the puzzle was nicely difficult and fair.

    • John says:

      I’m just baffled by 56D, “start with spirit, with ‘in'”. How on Earth is that WADE?

  9. P Merrell says:

    Today’s discovery (from the video for the WSJ puzzle): Barry Manilow is a bad dancer.

  10. Steve Manion says:

    First DQ in the history of the Kentucky Derby other than an after the race drug DQ many years ago. I am lucky I lost money last night at poker. I had Maximum Security to win, but because I lost last night, I made only a limited number of trifecta bets, which did not include Country House, a 65-1 longshot. The DQ did not cost me anything. If I had won a lot, I would have bet 7-any-any, which would have paid in the $5,000 range for a $1 ticket if the finish stood. As it was, after Maximum Security was taken down, the trifecta paid around $11,000 and the superfecta paid $51,000.

    I liked Saturday’s puzzle more than it appears many of you did.


  11. Peter Berardi says:

    Slogged my way through today’s Stumper and got it, but can someone help me out with:

    41A. Plants with covers = MOLES
    61D. Strong-connection interjection = POW


    • Jim Peredo says:

      I didn’t do the puzzle, but I’m thinking MOLES are spies who are planted inside enemy territory with cover stories. And “strong-connection” probably refers to a fistfight. While no one would shout “POW”, maybe you’d see it in a comic book or on the old Batman TV show (or in this puzzle).

    • pannonica says:
      • Mole as a secret agent, a plant.
      • “Strong-connection” is here a hyphenated adjective, so it’s describing a punch or a kick or whathaveyou.

  12. haari Meech says:

    LAT 7D [Nunavut native] INUIT – The other answer from this region is ALEUT, but those are out on the Alaskan islands. Nunavut narrows it to northern Canada, I believe.

    When will the crossword world learn that “Inuit” is a plural! A Nunavut native (singular) is an Inuk.

  13. Peter Berardi says:


    9A. One might be pitched in field = CAMP.

    Nobody “pitches” a camp. You “make” camp, the place where you “pitch” your tent.

  14. Crotchety Doug says:

    Re: Stumper – (and sorry this is so late)
    51D MS-DOS was and is a creation of Microsoft and merely licensed to IBM, which called it PC DOS from 1981 on and used in their genuine IBM PCs. All other companies (Leading Edge, Packard-Bell, HP, etc etc, used MS-DOS, which they also licensed from Microsoft, in their IBM-compatible PCs. In the early days, compatible was a matter of degree.

    I enjoyed the puzzle otherwise, but due to this problem, the SW was the last corner to fall for me.

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