Sunday, May 26, 2019

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 9:26 (Amy) 


WaPo 11:02 (Jim Q) 


Universal 6:10 (Vic) 


Universal (Sunday) 10:32 (Jim Q) 


Ruth Bloomfield Margolin’s New York Times crossword, “Buzz Cut”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 26 19, “Buzz Off”

What a fun theme! It’s always a treat to have a Sunday theme that brings amusement in more than one of the entries. Here, “Buzz Cut” means to cut the buzzy “Z” sound down to an unvoiced “S” sound, tweaking spelling as needed to create new words. The resulting silly phrase is clued accordingly:

  • 23a. [Facebook friends weighing in on the new belly button ring?], JURY OF YOUR PIERCE. Peers. This one doesn’t quite work because it’s not a “pierce,” it’s a piercing.
  • 44a. [L’eggs brand bikini?], TWO-PIECE IN A POD. Peas. Ha! I mean, I’d call the L’eggs container an egg, but POD works visually and I like it.
  • 70a. [Final scene of “Antony and Cleopatra”?], HISS AND HEARSE. Double play in the middle, his and hers. so grim, the snake/asp bite and the death.
  • 96a. [Like a confirmed peacenik?], DOWN ON ALL FORCE. All fours.
  • 120a. [“Our driveway has been incredibly slippery since the storm!”?], “CAN’T BELIEVE MY ICE!” Eyes. Would work better with “I” at the beginning, but it’s OK as is.
  • 16d. [Parent’s fervent prayer to the school nurse?], “TELL ME ‘NO LICE’.” Lies.
  • 64d. [Like a sick baby?], WARM AND FUSSY. Aww.

Fave fill: START DATE, DATA PLAN, ESPORTS, CANDY CANE, BRUCE LEE (check out the Cinemax show Warrior, based on a Bruce Lee concept), CRYPTIC, ILANA Glazer, HARD CIDER, LAYOVER, and ARMENIAN like the Kardashians.

There’s some crusty fill in the mix—IL RE, TEENER, TENTER, ORLE crossing NACRE, discontinued NANOS (constructors, it’s past time to remove that plural from your wordlists), NAY, EDY—but overall the puzzle wasn’t a slog because I was enjoying the theme, long fill, and some clues.

MAS- mysteries: 60d. [Atomic clock timekeeper], a MASER (did not know this), and 58d. [Group of mountains], MASSIF (I thought a massif was a single peak).

122d. [Country music’s ___ Young Band], ELI. If you don’t know the group, you’d probably be surprised to know it’s named after two of its members, Mike Eli and James Young.

+5 for the perfect 1-Across, [Mythical hunter]. How many of you filled in ORION first? The answer turned out to be the goddess DIANA, who also has three vowels with two common consonants.

Four stars from me.

Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “Hot Water”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “Hot Water”–5-26-19, solution

Hmm. As I think through this, let me set forth the theme and let it speak for itself. Reveal first:

  • 59a [Facing difficulty, or a bad place for this puzzle’s starred “trouble foods” (note their last words)] IN THE SOUP. This clue has a lot of moving parts. “Facing difficulty” and “a bad place” don’t feel at all parallel, so my guard is up immediately for something being off a bit somewhere. And then we have an unusual phrase in quotation marks, followed by a parenthetical admonition. Yikes!  And now the non-reveal themers:
  • 17a [*Dish that often has mutton and potatoes] IRISH STEW–So, …  soup–not in the soup–is the bad place for stew, or Irish stew, to be. Thus, I believe the reveal’s clue is a tad inapt, as the 3-word phrase is not a place.
    31a [*Tart preserves] APRICOT JAM–Same analysis,
    42a [*Sometimes-kosher deli side] DILL PICKLE–Ditto,

I can be in hot water; in the soup; and/or in a stew, a jam, or a pickle. I don’t think of the five phrases involved here as synonymous, though I’d agree they share a vein. The clue for the reveal suggests synonymity (or does it?), aslo that soup or the soup is a “bad” place for stew, jam, or a pickle–the puzzle’s “starred ‘trouble foods’.” Hmm, maybe I’m overthinking this.

To be in the soup is to be “in trouble.” My first encounter with this phrase was someone telling me of a really bad medical diagnosis: “I’m in the soup, Vic.” I seem to recall learning at the time that it originated as an aeronautical term: A pilot was “in the soup” when the fog was so thick, she could not see far enough in front to fly safely. But I could not replicate that research this morning.

In hot water puts me in mind of situations such as breaking curfew or forgetting an event or occasion. “Oh no! Yesterday was Pat’s birthday. Boy, am I ever in hot water!”

In a stew means being worried, doesn’t it? Maybe even to the point of being angry? “Dad’s in a stew because cousin George is bringing his step-kids to the family reunion!”

I think of in a jam as referring to a predicament that threatens one’s ability to get things done on time, such as double-scheduling appointments or running late because of car trouble.

As for in a pickle,  I’d have to say that I think of it as being synonymous with in a jam. I think.

The sparkle here is that all of the themers–and the title, too, in a way, involve food. Literally.

Other items to like: OLIVE TREE (in an olive?), VISUALIZED, ODD JOB, STOCK ISSUE (this is not the stock from which soup is made), and ANKLE SOCK.

2.5 stars.

Kevin Salat’s LA Times crossword, “Abracadabra!” – Jenni’s write-up

Another fun wordplay theme! I had no idea what was going on until I found the revealer, which created a very satisfying “aha” moment.

As the title suggests, something disappears from one set of theme answers and reappears in the answer to the right.

Los Angeles Times puzzle 5/26/2019, Kevin Salat, “Abracadabra,” solution grid

  • 23a [For-display-only Greek deli items?] is FAUX PITAS and 25a [Twenty minutes of juggling and acrobatics?] is a SHORT CIRCUS. Base phrases: faux pas and short circuit.
  • 46a [Alien with high heat tolerance?] is a SUN VISITOR and 48a [Einstein’s asset?] is a GREAT BRAINSun visor, Great Britain.
  • 87a [Play part for a giant god?] is TITAN LINES and 89a [Bachelor pad?] is SINGLE DIGSTan lines, single digits.
  • 111a [Musician evoking compassion?] is a PITIED PIPER and 113a [Resist extra calories at Thanksgiving?] is DEFY GRAVYPied Piper, defy gravity.

The revealer in the middle: 68a [Magic words … and a hint to four side-by-side pairs of puzzle answers] is NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON’T, because IT vanishes and reappears. This is a feat of construction that is also a joy to solve. All the base phrases are solidly in the language and the altered answers are amusing. DEFY GRAVY is my favorite. A very enjoyable way to start Sunday!

A few other things:

  • 3d [Lo que un desierto no tiene] is AGUA. I’ll leave it to our Spanish speakers to judge the accuracy of the clue. I know that “no tiene” means “doesn’t have,” and that helped.
  • I filled in 28a from crossings and thought TRIPON was a typo. Nope. It’s TRIP ON, for [Stumble over].
  • 38d [“One of Us” singer Joan] OSBORNE is a favorite of mine, and I love this song. Music break!

  • Since 50a [Backup group] crosses OSBORNE, I was thinking music. Nope. It’s B TEAM.
  • 95a [Simon & Garfunkel genre] is POP FOLK. I think of it as folk/rock, but I can’t argue with the characterization.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that “cummberbund” is derived rom URDU, and that ATLANTIS attacked Athens, at least according to Plato.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Goes to the Renaissance Fair” – Jim Q’s writeup

The adventures of Captain Obvious continue! And this time, perhaps inspired by Game of Thrones, he finds himself in feudal times.

THEME: Captain Obvious


  • 23A [“___, and that ruler should release his hostage”] PAY A KING’S

    WaPo crossword solution * 5 26 19 * “Captain Obvious Goes to the Renaissance Fair” * Birnholz


  • 32A [“___? Over there, in black armor”] THE DARK KNIGHT. 
  • 48A [“___, and the blades will intersect”] CROSS SWORDS. 
  • 63A [“___, and the dismount from that large steed will be complete”] GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE.
  • 83A [“___, and you’ll loudly call attention to that monarch”] SCREAM QUEEN.
  • 94A [“___, and you’ll be lauding that nobleman”] PRAISE THE LORD. 
  • 109A [“___ would fall back to Earth, so fortresses should be built on solid ground”] CASTLES IN THE AIR. 

If you’re new to Captain Obvious, he’s a groaner of a character- reimagining (or perhaps “unimagining”) phrases in the most literal sense. I love these puzzles and the eye-rolls they induce. We saw him go camping and take a trip to the ballpark last year. Prior to that he went to the zoo and visited the theater. He first stopped by crosswords in 2016 with Part I and Part II of what was to be a recurring cameo. Am I missing any?

All of these answers landed for me, especially CASTLES IN THE AIR as clued and SCREAM QUEEN.

Fill and cluing was clean and mostly fresh, as per usual. I had never heard of “Toonces the Driving Cat” so of course I wound up watching several clips on YouTube. Enjoy.


Christopher Adams’s Sunday Universal Crossword, “Tongue-Tied”—Jim Q’s write-up

This one’s all Greek to me! And… erm… Latin.

THEME: Words with both Greek and Latin etymology


  • 28A [*Slimming surgery] LIPOSUCTION.

    Universal crossword solution * 5 26 19 * “Tongue-Tied” * Adams

  • 60A [*Baha’i temple shapes] NONAGONS. 
  • 65A [*Natural light?] BIOLUMINESCENCE.
  • 72A [*Information about information] METADATA.
  • 105A [*Base 16] HEXADECIMAL.
  • 3D [*Idiot box] TELEVISION.
  • 8D [*Two-component Winter Olympics events] BIATHLONS.
  • 15D [*The girls in “Gone Girl” and “Girl, Interrupted,” for two] SOCIOPATHS.
  • 70D [*Like many pride parade participants] HOMOSEXUAL.
  • 73D [*Mustang or Impala] AUTOMOBILE.
  • 79D [*Intimacy with multiple partners] POLYAMORY.
  • 1A [Part of each starred answer’s etymology] LATIN and 122A [The other part of each starred answer’s etymology] GREEK.

Oh man. I appreciate that there are thirteen theme answers here and a lot of research must’ve went into coming up with a coherent set. But I just don’t care about the nature of the etymology of these words. Essentially, the puzzle works as a themeless with some very stodgy answers. I don’t mean to sound grumpy two days in a row about the Universal- but this is another one I didn’t care for at all (though I much prefer yesterday’s wordplay).

Ran into a snag after writing in MEGATON for GIGATON and refusing to change it for some time- if I weren’t signed up for blogging, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to suss it out.

Other fill that threw me was SIGILS (was sure I had a typo!), DISCMANS as a weird plural, and DUNLAP. The clue for DIABETIC struck me as strange mid-solve [Low on insulin, say], but in retrospect, I suppose it works as a loose substitution (“He’s low on insulin.” “He’s diabetic.”)

I’m sure some linguists out there got a kick out of this one.

1.9 Stars from me.


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29 Responses to Sunday, May 26, 2019

  1. Ethan says:

    HISS AND HEARSE is maybe grim, but you have to admit it’s darn clever. The real standout for me, though, was DOWN ON ALL FORCE. Wordplay transcends to the next level when the substitution doesn’t just change a word, but changes the meaning of the other words, too.

    However, I have to deduct points from this puzzle for mentioning the 1979 World Series. That does not pass my personal breakfast test.

  2. Matthew G. says:

    I couldn’t help but love this NYT puzzle despite the wince-inducing fill. HISS AND HEARSE was worth the price of admission.

  3. Victor Fleming says:

    By golly, you’re right about PIERCE. It appierce that even the Urban Dictionary has no nounal definition. In my view, the punniness of Ruth’s theme exonerates this usage in context … and sets the stage for using PIERCE in lieu of PIERCING. Hey, the road to the dictionary has to start somewhere!

  4. David L says:

    Scientific nitpick: the clue for MASER is outdated. Modern atomic clocks use lasers (ie optical rather than radio frequencies), but the lasers are not the time-keeping mechanism. The most accurate clocks use the atomic fountain technique, which allows a cloud of very cold atoms to be observed for a long time.

    I liked the concept of the NYT puzzle but some of the fill was indeed ‘crusty’ — a good word!

  5. Mary says:

    I’d appreciate an explanation of the clue for 43D: “New-joint joint?” I get the reference to a rehabilitation center but fail to see how “new-joint” defines / limits this term, even in a punning sense. Is it “newly joint,” as “recently entered” a rehab center? Or is “joint” a reference to a marijuana cigarette? What am I missing?

    • Martin says:

      It’s a joint (place, as in “this joint is jumping”) for people with new joints (knee replacement, e.g.).

      • David L says:

        I was puzzled by that clue too. The problem is that very few joint-replacement patients go to a rehab center. Once you’re out of the hospital you typically get home visits from a physical therapist at first, and then out-patient PT once you are able to get out and about.

        In fact, before I had my first hip replacement, I went to a pre-surgery class to learn what would happen, and we were strongly cautioned against going to a rehab center, because those places are full of sick people laden with germs!

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          “Very few”? I’d disagree with that. If you live alone in a home with stairs, you may very well need to have weeks of inpatient rehab at a rehab center before you can go home. I think my mom was at rehab for 4-6 weeks (and didn’t get sick) after a knee replacement.

          But rehab places are indeed where you also find plenty of people who are discharged there from the hospital because they are too weak or debilitated to go home right away.

          • Martin says:

            It’s true that modern practice is to send as many joint-replacement patients home, as outcomes are better. But, as Amy points out, at least “some” go to rehab centers. Also, the “any clue can imply ‘once'” rule is another justification, since 20 years ago rehab centers were more the usual path.

            Cutesy clues get a bit more slack.

          • David L says:

            Fair enough. I live alone in a home with stairs, and I stayed with a friends for a week or so post-op. But I was in my early 50s for both replacements. Knees are more troublesome than hips, in general, and for older people the problems can be greater. Although a 60-something friend of mine had a knee replacement recently and also didn’t spend any time in a rehab center.

          • Ethan says:

            I have no opinion on home rehab vs. rehab centers, but I did think that “joint” was a bit of a stretch. First, I’ve never heard of a place being described as a joint that wasn’t a restaurant or bar. I just don’t think “joint” has arrived yet as a full-on generalized word for “location.” Second, REHAB isn’t a physical location, it’s an activity that might happen at a certain location, which is why everyone in this thread is specifying “rehab center” or “rehab place.” Sure you can “go to rehab” but you can also “go to a piano lesson” and nobody would call a piano lesson a kind of “joint.”

    • Jenni Levy says:

      When you have a new joint (as in a replaced hip), you go to rehab.

      • David L says:

        I wouldn’t say I went to rehab. I went through rehab, of course, but as I said above it was all done either at home or at a regular PT clinic.

  6. David Steere says:

    LA TIMES: Amy, could you check the links for the LA Times puzzles? The Across Lite link has been dead for some time. The HTML links are problematic. Firefox–my preferred browser–can’t show the puzzle. IE can’t either. With some struggle, I can get Edge to work…some days. I don’t use Chrome. Thanks for any assistance.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      There’s nothing we can do about it if Kevin McCann doesn’t upload the LAT .puz files to Cruciverb (and that is the only sanctioned place for the LAT’s .puz files to appear). Have you updated your browsers lately? You may be using outdated versions that aren’t compatible with what the puzzle site uses.

      • anon says:

        It looks like the LAT .puz issue David mentioned is a link problem on the ‘Today’s puzzles” page. Today’s link is “”, but it should be “”.

        Alternatively, one could go directly to the cruciverb site to download.

        It does look like the HTML link is fine, though.

        • David Steere says:

          Thanks, Amy and anon. Amy, my browsers are all updated, cache cleared and pop-up blockers and ad blockers are turned off for the LA Times site on Firefox, Edge and IE. Anon, the preferred URL you gave for Cruciverb doesn’t work. I get “Access denied. Only logged-in members may access this file” as a response. The PUZ link on Today’s Puzzles page produces “Not Found. The requested URL /puzzles/lat/lat190526.puz was not found on this server.” I hope a permanent fix is found.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Can we assume you are, in fact, a logged-in Cruciverb member? Because if I go to, where I log in automatically, I can download the puzzle just fine.

            • David Steere says:

              No, Amy, I’ve never been a Cruciverb member. I could join, of course, and will if I have to. But, should I have to? No way, do you think, of “fixing” the HTML link and the PUZ link right from your Today’s Puzzles page? Thanks.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              *snort-laugh* You will NEVER get the Cruciverb LAT download link to work unless you sign up for a free and safe Cruciverb account.

              We’re looking into the links—but the PUZ link is useless to Cruciverb non-members.

          • Martin says:

            The arrangement that Cruiciverb has with the publisher requires that only members be allowed to download the puzzles. That’s the copyright holder’s prerogative.

            Joining is no big deal. It’s free and you can log on “forever,” so you need your password about as often as you buy new computers.

            • David Steere says:

              Thank you all for your time in responding. The one thing I still don’t understand is why only the LAT PUZ link requires one to be a Cruciverb member. All the other PUZ links on Today’s Puzzles page work without being a member: Universal, WaPo, etc. I’ve never gotten such a message from those PUZ links.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              David, please reread Martin’s comment. His first paragraph applies to the LAT puzzles.

            • Evad says:

              Kevin has indeed changed the LAT puz download link on his site, but requires (as has been mentioned) that you register on his site as well as click the link to the file from his site, so I’ve changed our “Today’s Puzzles” link to go to his archive page where you have to click on today’s date from his calendar to download the file.

  7. GlennG says:

    Does anyone know what’s been going on with the syndication track at the NYT for Sundays? The last month or two has been pretty radically messed up compared to the track people get in the regular NYT paper. Like for today, the 0519 puzzle is not “Hook-ups” by Natan Last, but “Musical Remixes” by Joel Fagliano as originally published on 08-23-2015.

    Ideas, thoughts?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Might be just your local paper having an issue.

      • GlennG says:

        No, I’ve encountered multiple people all over the country online indicating that the numbering/puzzles are off. This would be the 3rd occasion in the last four weeks.

  8. DD says:

    WaPo: As someone else wrote a few weeks ago, these are now my Sunday faves:
    1. Evan’s themes, fill, and clues are consistently funny and smart.
    2. He comes up with some way-amazing themes and grids — his Christmas puzzle and his metas come to mind.
    3. He includes women in the fill and the clues, and he never clues girls/women in a condescending or misogynistic or otherwise objectionable way. If only the the other men who edit the major puzzles were as wise and humane.

    Thank you, EB!

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