Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Jonesin' untimed (Derek) 


LAT 7:44 Downs Only (Derek) 


NYT 3:25 (Amy) 


Universal (late solve) (Jim Q) 


WSJ 5:47 (Nate) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 419), “Women of the Moment”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 419: “Women of the Moment”

Good day, everybody! Here is hoping all is well with you as we speed into summer. Today’s grid is all about eye-opening women, especially those who make us say AHA when realizing that all of the ladies who make up the theme entries have those three letters, consecutively, spanning their first and last names (35D: [___ moment (the five longest horizontal answers have one!)]).

  • BELLA HADID (17A: [2016 “Model of the Year” who is the face of Dior Makeup])
  • KAMALA HARRIS (23A: [U.S. Senator from California who, in January 2019, threw her hat in the ring as a 2020 Presidential candidate])
  • MARISKA HARGITAY (37A: [Emmy-winning star of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”])“SWMYS” extra: Did you know that Mariska’s father, Miklós (a.k.a. “Mickey”), was a Hungarian bodybuilder who is widely credited with bringing the sport of bodybuilding into the mainstream in the United States by winning the 1955 Mr. Universe competition and, eventually, becoming an actor? One year after winning that bodybuilding competition, Hargitay met Jayne Mansfield, and they eventually married in 1958 and gave birth to Mariska in 1964.
  • HANNAH ARENDT (48A: [German-American philosopher, author of “The Origins of Totalitarianism”])
  • SALMA HAYEK (59A: [Emmy-winning actress who portrayed painter Kahlo in “Frida”])

Today seems like the perfect time to tell you the story about how BILL MURRAY personally wished me good luck before doing an interview (3D: [“Ghostbusters” actor who said “Movie acting suits me because I only need to be good for 90 seconds at a time]). Bill’s son, Luke, is a college basketball assistant coach who was at the University of Rhode Island in 2015, and after URI defeated Fordham on a buzzer-beater in the Bronx, I lined up a one-on-one interview with the head coach, Danny Hurley. About 20 minutes after the game ended, Hurley and Bill Murray were having a conversation and I was standing right next to Hurley, waiting for the convo to end so I can start the interview. Hurley then walks away for a minute to meet one of the parents of the players, leaving Murray and me relatively alone. (Trust me, this actually happened!!) We small-talked, I told him what I did and how I was getting ready to interview Coach Hurley, he made a funny joke about sports reporting and, as Hurley was coming back to our area, Murray told me to “break a leg.”

I would have cried if I was not in the middle of, figuratively, wetting my pants at that moment.

Probably the other highlight of solving the grid was thinking of the Barbara Walters parodies when solving for WAWA (46A: [Gilda Radner persona Baba ___]). Never saw the skits when they originally aired but they are definitely hilarious! Never associated the actual Barbara as having a pronounced Boston accent, but I might not have been listening closely. That, and I probably have not heard Barbara’s voice for more than about 30 seconds since I stopped watching 20/20 years ago. Hope you all got that DIMAG was referring to New York Yankees great Joe DiMaggio (22D: [Joltin’ Joe, in sports headlines]). Not going to highlight The Yankee Clipper in the next graph, as we turn the spotlight on…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BOBEK (1D: [Olympic figure skater Nicole, winner of the 1995 U.S. National Championship)]) – I almost fell out of my chair when I saw this clue, as I probably have not seen/heard her name in 20 years! Nicole Bobek was a highly-talented skater who never reached her potential on the Olympic stage, mostly because of injuries and constant coaching changes, but had some wonderful highlights, including winning the 1995 US nationals. (Michelle Kwan finished second.) Later that year, Bobek finished third in the 1995 World Championships in Birmingham, finishing behind Lu Chen of China (bronze medalist in 1994 and 1998 Olympics) and, my personal favorite figure skater, Surya Bonaly of France — yes, the figure skater who routinely did backflips during her routines! 

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful rest of your Tuesday and, as always, keep solving!!

Take care!


David Kahn’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 11 19, no. 0611

I’m perplexed. How do you schedule a Lion King puzzle for 5 weeks before the much-ballyhooed “live-action” remake comes out but only refer to the 1994 movie and the 1997 stage musical? I believe the original songs are all back in the new movie, as are NALA (now voiced by the Queen Bey herself) and SCAR (still voiced by James Earl Jones). JULIE TAYMOR, director of the Broadway adaptation, would stick out, but the puzzle wouldn’t feel decades old.

The other themers are NO WORRIES, CIRCLE OF LIFE, a dumb little diamond of circled letters spelling out LIFE, HAKUNA MATATA, PRIDE ROCK, and THE LION KING.

Unfortunate overlap: ARAL clued as a sea directly above ASEA.

In addition to the plentiful theme answers, the grid’s got something like 19 proper nouns, which means the puzzle feels like an unpleasant “trivia quiz” to solvers who aren’t good with names. 37d. [British singer Lewis with the 2008 #1 album “Spirit”] clues LEONA, for example, and she’s had exactly one top 10 hit in the U.S. Constructors take note, though! She’s one of the recording artists to be featured on the songwriting reality competition show Songland that’s on TV this summer. At last, something to clue her by that isn’t over a decade in the past.

My picks for the worst entries are mostly not names, though: ESSO KER- -OTIC REAIR EYER, plural OLAFS and ESSES. With 72 theme squares (if you count the K and I twice where they appear in crossing themers) and the circled letters constraining the six entries that cross them, you’ve got a recipe for compromises in the fill.

2.5 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Themeless Plug” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 06/11/2019

A stellar 68-word themeless is the Jonesin’ puzzle this week. A few of the entries seem quite timely, which is always the advantage that an indie puzzle with a really quick turnaround can provide. Lots of 3-letter entries, true, but there are a dozen 11-letter ones to make up for it! And this one has a high fun factor, which I hope you found to be the case as well. I have no time listed for this puzzle; there seems to be a timer issue with the file I use. Anybody out there have any ideas as to why one of these programs that export .puz files would disable the timer? 4.6 stars for another puzzle that seems like Matt produces almost effortlessly!

Some favorites:

  • 17A [She played Edith Bunker in 2019] MARISA TOMEI – This reboot of All in the Family, along with The Jeffersons, was amazing. Find it online and check it out if you missed it.
  • 45A [Conned person’s revelation] “IT’S ALL A LIE! – Is this describing the news? Or a converted supporter that wears a certain red hat?
  • 49A [Gavin of “The Love Boat”] MACLEOD – I watched this a lot when I was younger, so this was a given for me. I assume this might be tougher for younger ones?
  • 62A [“Bake him away, toys” speaker] CHIEF WIGGUM – I don’t know this quote, but I do at least know this is a Simpsons character.
  • 64A [Moldable, squishy material in some ASMR videos] KINETIC SAND – I’ll let you Google ASMR and what this is, but find the parody Bill Maher did on ASMR a few weeks ago. One of the funniest things I have seen in a long time!
  • 5D [Woven compositions?] MASH-UPS – The clue (purposely, I’m sure) invokes something else entirely, like a quilting bee or something, but it is accurate. Could be the best clue in the grid.
  • 13D [Finished like the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee] ENDED IN A TIE – I love the word “octochamps!” But I do think they went too easy on these kids, especially since the color commentator was saying there are harder words! It has become somewhat of a TV spectacle in late May, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing: celebrating learning!
  • 14D [What the “cool” smiling face emoji wears] DARK GLASSES – No, SUNGLASSES didn’t fit!
  • 24D [Dramatic performances, quaintly] THEATRICALS – I thoroughly enjoyed what I did watch from the Tony Awards on Sunday. I have only been to 2 or 3 big time production plays in my life, so heading to Broadway is a bucket list item.
  • 40D [TV lawyer Goodman] SAUL – I still have to finish Breaking Bad!
  • 50D [“___ Mark!” (line from “The Room” in memes)] OH, HI – This is a meme based on the movie The Room, which was the subject of the book and subsequent movie The Disaster Artist. Yes, I had to look that up!
  • 51D [“___ the Pigeon” (“Sesame Street” song)] DOIN’ – Yup:

Keep those Jonesin’s coming! Another review next week.

Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 06/11/2019

There is a lot of double-talk going on here! I solved this Downs Only, so I didn’t get the advantage of the clues for the six (count ‘m, six!) theme answers. Clever idea here, so I will examine the Across theme clues for the first time here!

  • 17A [Run out of pants?] LACK SLACKS
  • 25A [Steal tent holders?] TAKE STAKES 
  • 40A [Share sewing cylinders?] POOL SPOOLS 
  • 44A [Praise Guinness products?] TOUT STOUTS 
  • 52A [Discuss cornfields?] TALK STALKS 
  • 67A [Cook escargots perfectly?] NAIL SNAILS 

So we have 10 letter sequences that are the same 5 letters repeated, but broken up into and clued as a phrase with a 4 6 enumeration. Is that an accurate description? Likely it can be said much better, but I am tired, and as I type this the NBA Finals are on! Yes, I am a little distracted! 4.4 stars.

Some Downs Only highlights:

  • 5D [Polite rural assent] YES’M – They still say this quite a lot here in Indiana. But all of Indiana is rural!
  • 7D [Czech diacritical mark] HAČEK – It’s what is over the C in this answer. Much easier to produce these on a Mac!
  • 8D [Joint for a bracelet] ANKLE – Could have been WRIST, which actually makes more sense, so slightly tricky here. I don’t wear either!
  • 12D [Actress Sevigny] CHLOË – Speaking of diacritical marks …
  • 32D [Polite “Hang on”] “HOLD,PLEASE” – I think we keep it polite on the phone where I work, but I talk to several people in the southeast area of the country, and they are REALLY polite on the phone!
  • 33D [Chorus for the villain] BOOS – Or the road team!
  • 56D [Soprano role in Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers”] LEILA – This is l
  • 57D [Green shade with an Irish name] KELLY – I like a clue that, while not too complicated, still makes me think!

Have a great week!

Jacob Stulberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up

If any of Jacob Stulberg’s relatives need a birthday shopping list, here are a few of his Favorite Things:

WSJ Solution 06 10 2019

WSJ Solution 06 10 2019

16A: INTO THIN AIR [Upper atmosphere enthusiast: “I’m ___!”] – This feels like a bit of a stretch. Even among atmospheric scientists, would any of them call themselves an enthusiast of it? I might have liked hot air balloonist here better?
20A: LOVING CUPS [Tarot card enthusiast: “I’m ___!”] – This one feels a bit random. Do tarot readers have suit preferences? Also, this turns LOVING from an adjective to a verb, which isn’t replicated in any of the other themers.
33A: ALL ABOUT EVE [Bible character enthusiast: “I’m ___!”] – Again, there are Bible enthusiasts, but are there Bible character enthusiasts? And did you see what happened to Eve!? She got blamed for original (and all subsequent) sin!
51A: TAKEN WITH A / GRAIN OF SALT [With 56-Across, pretzel enthusiast: “I’m ___!”] – Pretzel enthusiast I can understand, and this one was cute!

So, the constructors list of “My Favorite Things” didn’t unfortunately line up with a list of my favorites. That’s okay – each puzzle will hit folks differently. There were still certainly moments that brought me joy, like seeing Sissy SPACEK, WINONA Ryder, and Frida KAHLO all right up at the NW corner or like VAMP not being used to clue a woman.

Other random thoughts:
– A POLL is not always an accurate [Election predictor], as we saw in 2016…
– There were a lot of ???!? names in here for me, like ALAN KING, STU Ungar, Phillip AHN, and Madeleine LENGLE (though inclusion of women certainly grants this one more of a pass).
– There’s an AT dupe between ADEPT AT and AT STAKE. I never know how to feel about dupes when they’re in partials? What do y’all think – does it impact your solving experience?

Evan Kalish’s Universal Crossword, “Odd Jobs”—Jim Q’s write-up

Full disclosure: I missed the deadline for this write-up by a few days and solved Evan’s version prior to editing since the puzzle was no longer available.

THEME: Turn “it” around. The letters “it” are switched in common phrases and clued wackily.

Universal crossword solution * 06 11 19* “Rotating Cast of Characters” * Kalish


  • 54A (revealer) TURN IT AROUND

Solid from start to finish for me, though BCE/MELOTT had me running the alphabet for the E.

Excellent, simple wordplay with spot on revealer.

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16 Responses to Tuesday, June 11, 2019

  1. LindaB says:

    NYT: Amy’s right, James Earl Jones does return in the new Lion King, but he’s the voice of Mufasa. Scar’s villainous voice was memorably done by Jeremy Irons in the original.

  2. Lise says:

    The clue for 48d, “Baby rocker” brought to mind a tiny David Bowie.

  3. DD says:

    No particular puzzle — just Seth Meyers stepping briefly into crosswordese (EGOT, EGADS, EMU, ELF, EIEIO, and more):


  4. John says:

    NYT: pretty strange IMO to clue ESSES as “Valuable Scrabble tiles” when they’re only worth one point…

    • mpbx says:

      They’re valuable because you can add them to an existing word on the board to pluralize it and claim the points for every tile.

      • Norm says:

        Depends which set of rules you use. This can lead to arguments. Not that I’ve ever had one, of course.

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    Salt does not cause hypertension. It may exacerbate it in certain people (depending on the state of your renin/angiotensin axis) but it is not a cause.

    • Martin says:

      Yep, I take four meds for hypertension, screwed up my kidneys by going untreated as a young adult but can have as much salt as I want, according to my nephrologist. Once we determined I’m not “salt-sensitive,” it was on to the hard stuff.

      That said, I thought “can lead to” was close enough to “may exacerbate” for a clue. There are people (lucky souls) who can moderate hypertension without medication, and sodium is one thing they watch.

      Since most people overestimate the role of salt in hypertension, it makes for a good early-week “gimme” clue, even if people don’t know that they’re largely wrong.

      • Norm says:

        I think the jury is still out on the role of salt in hypertension, and people should talk to their doctors rather than accepting posts here — as well intentioned as they are — for medical advice.

        • Martin says:

          Absolutely. I don’t think anyone is dispensing advice.

          It’s more a discussion about what your doctor might base some of his or her advice on. But I think the jury is in; it’s just that whether or not sodium needs to be avoided depends on each hypertensive’s hormone system. But that’s not the same as not understanding the relationship.

        • Jenni Levy says:

          Um. I am a doctor. I am not offering advice. The jury is in – to the extent we ever k ow anything for sure in medicine.

  6. lemonade714 says:

    Derek, the LAT theme is the four-letter first word is wrapped in two SSes. E.G. LACK SLACKS a much more creative theme, which we are used too seeing from Bruce.

  7. JohnH says:

    I don’t mind polls (in the WSJ) as election predictors only partly because they can be rather good and because most of us obsessively turn to them even when they are not. Mostly because dictionaries support PREDICTORS as anything that makes predictions. I’d agree, though, that the theme didn’t ring true.

    I sure feel glad I didn’t get to try the NYT, and I can see why a record number of 1 and 1.5 star votes. I sure wouldn’t have finished it. But I have to admit it doesn’t bother me anywhere near as much as puzzles that keep returning to certain ground like this as necessarily shared knowledge. In contrast, I can see a one-off puzzle just for fans of something.

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