Saturday, May 11, 2019

LAT 22:46 Downs Only (Derek) 


Newsday 23:57 (Derek) 


NYT 5:18 (Amy) 


WSJ 13:57 (Jim P) 


Universal 3:47 (Jim Q) 


David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Branded Content”—Jim P’s review

Do people have problems with product names in their puzzles? I don’t really. I feel like they make for great source material as long as the products are universally known across America.

Here we have some deft product placement inside well-known film titles.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Branded Content” · David Alfred Bywaters · Sat., 5.11.19

  • 22a [Film in which an American, seeking an old friend in Vienna, enjoys a hearty lunchTHE THIRD MANWICH.
  • 36a [Film in which the right gum provides insurance against bad breath] DOUBLEMINT INDEMNITY
  • 53a [Film in which a neurotic guy recalls a romance conducted through greeting cardsANNIE HALLMARK
  • 84a [Film in which rival fruit-flavored partisans fight in a galaxy far, far awaySTARBURST WARS
  • 100a [Film in which a German industrialist fights bad breath] SCHINDLER’S LISTERINE
  • 118a [Film in which hotel patrons fall in love despite coming from rival gangs] WESTIN SIDE STORY

I like these pretty well. My first question is…Why aren’t there question marks in the clues? I realize that parts of the clues still apply to the original film titles, but the clues as whole units are quintessentially wacky as crossword wackiness goes. So it seems to me they ought to have question marks.

And my second question…Is anyone bothered by making light of Schindler’s List? It caused me to recall the Seinfeld episode where Newman catches Jerry and his girlfriend-of-the-week making out during the film. His parents were mortified of course, but Jerry felt he had a valid excuse, and anyway, in the real world, there is no consensus on the quality and importance of the film itself. What say you?

Moving on to the fill, the solve felt smooth overall thanks to solid entries like PORCH SWING, MAKES IT BIG, PRE-ORDAINS, TABLECLOTH, TAX CODE, MIDDLE C, OVERSELL, STATURE, ISOTOPE, MINUSES, DIARIST, BLESS ME, and ABOUT US.

GUESTING [Appearing on someone else’s show] is about the only eyebrow-raising entry I see other than a few short entries like ACROEBAN and EYE TO.

Clues felt mostly straightforward but I will note 99d‘s [“Phone book” of the internet, briefly] for DNS. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen it in a crossword, but it seems fair to me. The Domain Name Service is how popularly known web addresses (,, etc.) are mapped to the numerical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses that computers use.

That’s all from me for this week. An enjoyably solid puzzle for your weekend. 3.9 stars.

Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 11 19, no. 0511

It’s been a long day, I’m tired—and when I loaded the NYT page and saw that the Saturday puzzle was by Robyn, I perked right up. Just as I expected, there’s lots of lively fill, very little detritus, and some entertaining clues.

The fill I liked best includes STICK-SHIFT (nice clue, [Car owner’s manual?]), POST-IT NOTE, STRING THEORY, LAST PLACE (with its clue, [Rough finish], bringing to mind MATTE, which is clued [Lacking luster]), “HE LOVES ME NOT,” SCARECROWS, “LET’S SEE NOW,” EVIL GENIUS, ST. KITTS and its partner NEVIS, SCHNITZEL, a CONTOUR MAP, and INNER PEACE with a clue teaching me a new word, [Ataraxia].

Clues I enjoyed:

  • 25a. [Something enjoyed during elevenses], TEA. Not sure if this is a Hobbit thing or if it’s drawn from British life, or if it’s expanded to broader use.
  • 28a. [Abstract unit of exchange], TAT. As in “tit for tat.” One hopes that the TAT is of comparable value.
  • 57a. [Not get some Z’s, say?], LISP. Did you want TOSS or TURN, or WAKE or STIR? The sleeping is over there, in the SEALY beds clue, 13d. [Brand for the rest of the people?].

Musical interlude: 31d. [Repetitive movement in a sonata], RONDO. Okay, so I am familiar with exactly one rondo, and I learned of it from the Baby Mozart video when my son (who just finished his first year of college) was a little tot. It’s Mozart’s Ronda Alla Turca, and you can check out the performance below.

4.25 stars from me.

Matthew Sewell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 5/11/2019

I should have known once I saw Matthew Sewell’s byline it was a bad idea to solve this one Downs Only, but we forged ahead anyway. And we came out the other end bruised and battered. Take a look at that grid image!! I had errors all over the place. Look at these Across entries that you had to figure out: VR GOGGLES, LANCEMAN, MADE WHOLE, SIZZLE REEL, RECAPPERS, and FELT SURE! I did look at some of the clues afterward, and obviously that would have made the puzzle a lot easier, but I wouldn’t have known MADERA regardless, and some of the clues are so vague it may have taken me just as long. This also feels like it was a tad tougher overall than a normal Saturday LAT, but it is hard to know for sure solving Downs Only. These have been taking me 10-15 minutes, I would say, but not this week! 4.5 stars for a highly challenging puzzle.

Some toughies from those Downs:

  • 1D [Nordic cured salmon appetizer] GRAVLAX – I couldn’t remember this dish name fast enough. Maybe because I rarely ever have it!
  • 3D [French city on the Rhone] AVIGNON – Time for a refresher in French geography. It couldn’t have been too many cities, but this one also played a little hard.
  • 4D [Hardy red hog] DUROC – I don’t think I knew this before solving this puzzle!
  • 12D [“Place de la Concorde” artist] DEGAS – It’s not Monet??
  • 14D [Fighting involving excavated shelters] TRENCH WARFARE – I got the WARFARE part fairly early on, and then the rest came after re-reading the clue. I need more coffee.
  • 21D [Dear, to Donizetti] CARO – I vaguely remember seeing this word before, probably in a different puzzle, but my Italian is quite rusty!
  • 36D [Credit as an inspiration] OWE IT TO – I like this answer, although it might not fly in all outlets.
  • 37D [Best __] WESTERN – I put in PICTURE. This caused problems, obviously.
  • 51D [Sch. with a Schuylkill campus] PSU – You have to know this city is in Pennsylvania, which I did not! Penn State University has tons of campuses, if I remember correctly.

That is all!

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday crossword solution, 5/4/2019

I saw another Longo byline and I was a little intimidated. And for good reason! This one was a toughie. Can I use the excuse again that it has been a long week? Or it’s been rough at work? Or my son was sick? How about all of the above! Seriously, this puzzle certainly fits the bill as a Stumper, since I felt thoroughly Stumped. I spent way too much time solving Saturday crosswords this week! 4.6 stars for another gem from the master.

Some highlights:

  • 1A [’85 film about a novice nun] AGNES OF GOD – Haven’t seen it. Which made this tough. It wasn’t Sister Act??
  • 20A [Largest country entirely in Europe] UKRAINE – I thought this might be GERMANY at first. Then BELARUS. Then I remembered that Ukraine is really big, and a lot of Russia is even in Europe.
  • 49A [Award given for Best Play] ESPY – OK: I thought for a sec that this was TONY. And there IS a Tony Award for this! But I thought, “That would be too easy!” Nice trickeration here, even if something like this has been done before.
  • 53A [It’s adjacent to Lake Tanganyika] BURUNDI – Man, what is it with seven-letter country names in this puzzle? Your geography skills are definitely pushed in this one, and that is not necessarily a bad thing!
  • 58A [Persepolis Football Club’s home] TEHRAN, IRAN – It helps if you know where ancient Persepolis is! It’s hard to remember sometimes, but in the ancient world the people from this area ruled the world. Many accomplishments still in play today come from this region too.
  • 64A [Ardent regards] GOO-GOO EYES -This might be one of the better clues, albeit really hard!
  • 1D [”The soul walks not upon __”: Gibran] A LINE – A very obscure quote, at least here in Indiana. Who is Gibran and where is this from? Off to Google …
  • 10D [Their heights may be adjustable] DESKS – I need one of these. I am gaining weight!
  • 12D [Triggering, in immunology] ANTIGENIC – … and, I learned a new word!
  • 26D [Saying ”I dunno,” say] ELISION – This is actually the best clue in the grid. This brought a wry smile once I got it!
  • 47D [Gate agent handout] ID TAG – Vague, but what else would it be?
  • 54D [”Rocky IV” setting] USSR – I couldn’t remember if this was the Rocky with Drago or not!

Whew!! Have a great weekend!

Susan Gelfand’s Universal Crossword, “A Bug’s Life”—Jim Q’s write-up

There are a few bugs in this crossword today.

THEME: Apt careers for certain bugs.

Universal crossword solution * 5 11 19 * “A Bug’s Life” * Gelfand


  • 17A [Jobs that lice are well qualified for?] HEAD HUNTERS. Eeew. Feels like I’ve been learning quite a bit about lice in the Universal! That said, great answer.
  • 27A [Jobs that spiders are well qualified for?] WEB DEVELOPERS. 
  • 43A [Jobs that ants are well qualified for?] SOCIAL WORKERS.
  • 58A [Jobs that termites are well qualified for?] WOOD CARVERS.

Great theme! I mean, I doubt that termites would do a good job at carving wood to one’s desired specs, but hey… we can’t all be amazing at our chosen career path. Really liked all the theme answers, even the (yucky) lice one.

Nice longer answers with PIZZA SAUCE and BELT SANDER too (which I bet could help those termites).

ADMIX is new to me. I assumed there was something wrong in that corner and I’d have to go revisit it for a correction once finished. But, nope. It’s a thing. Surprised I haven’t encountered that word more often.

If you came for a 51A [Fiery blog post] RANT, then you came to the wrong place. I thought this puzzle was adorable. Great title, too.

4 stars.


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16 Responses to Saturday, May 11, 2019

  1. e.a. says:

    the only bad thing about weintraub freestyles is that they’re not every week. what a cluing god

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: Great puzzle, relatively easy for me (for a Saturday). My husband was peeking as I was solving and gave me ORION and NEVIS. Also learned ATARAXIA, which sounds like a motor disorder (evokes Apraxia).
    Good start, especially since I’m also Queen Bee for the day on Spelling Bee. Life is good.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    Loved the NYT and finished the Stumper in one sitting. I feel victorious.

  4. David L says:

    I found the NYT unusually difficult and finished with an error. I didn’t know TRIPS and had FOTO at 2D — TFIPS seemed wrong, of course, but I don’t know anything about poker slang. The cluing was just not on my wavelength. For the veal dish I wanted something Italian — SCHNITZEL is not necessarily made with veal. Never heard of this particular EVA, and have never watched Big Bang Theory. SEALY and INNERPEACE were hard to get.

    I don’t understand the plural clue for SACRA — it’s a single (fused) bone, I believe. I know more about pelvic architecture than I really want to, sad to say.

    Etc etc. Pretty good puzzle but a struggle for me.

    • Martin says:

      One sacrum per pelvis. Several sacra for pelvises. Right?

      • David L says:

        You’re right. Cursory googling turned up singular sacra with plural sacrae but that refers to something else.

    • Kemo Sabe says:

      NEVIS with the EVA and SCHNITZEL cross marred the puzzle a tad for me. Other female names are possible, other vowel endings for the German treat seem possible. Loved the puzzle otherwise.

  5. Sam H. says:

    WSJ: ‘ Shindler’s List’ is off-limits to you? Why, exactly?

  6. pannonica says:

    Stumper: Took me a moment to figure out 40a [What mice often hold] AAS, but am nonplussed by 42d [Unenvious heart] VEE. Can anyone explain?

    • Evad says:

      Could it be that the letter V is in the center of UNEN-V-IOUS?

      • Martin says:

        Yeah, I’m used to crypticky clues in the Stumper, but AAS was my last too. And I just replaced the battery in one of my four mice last night!

      • pannonica says:

        That’ll work. Question mark would’ve been appropriate, at least to my eyes. Thank you.

  7. Kemo Sabe says:

    The Stumper’s “Trying Out?” for ALIBI was really super.

  8. ranster says:

    LAT: I don’t recall ever having to “rent” a gown to graduate. Maybe I was just lucky! At my high school having to do (i.e. pay rent for a gown) so would have put a BIG dent in the crowd!

  9. Michael says:

    Amy, I think you’re a lot more cultured than I. The only rondo I remember learning was ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ :)

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