Sunday, July 28, 2019

LAT 8:38 (Jenni) 


NYT 7:37 (Amy) 


WaPo 9:04 (Jenni) 


Universal 4:49 (Vic) 


Universal (Sunday) 11:01 (Jim P) 


Christopher Adams’s New York Times crossword, “Anagrammar”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 28 19, “Anagrammar”

I’m torn on this puzzle. On one hand, it’s smooth, with a consistent theme containing crisp entries and fill that’s mostly pretty darn good. On the other hand, the theme is sort beside the point for the solve—it’s just an assortment of words and phrases that contain (against all odds!) the letters in METAPHORS all scrambled up, in 9-letter chunks. It’s a nice find, and the cryptic crossword vibe of MIXED METAPHORS (105a. [Some laughable language mistakes – as found literally (in consecutive letters) in 24-, 37-, 55-, 75- and 92-Across]) is solid, but is it fun? Not really. Here are the themers:

  • 24a. [Aura], ATMOSPHERE.
  • 37a. [Real nostalgia trip], BLAST FROM THE PAST.
  • 55a. [Generally speaking], FOR THE MOST PART.
  • 75a. [Sometime collaborator with William Shakespeare, per the Oxford University Press], CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE.
  • 92a. [Easy way that might lead to error], PRIMROSE PATH.

Favorite fill: “DREAM ON,” “NAME ONE,” the RUBAIYAT of Omar Khayyam, Tolkien’s BALROG, the XPRIZE, KARAOKE BAR, NEGRONIS (that cocktail is an apéritif!), SKYMALL (bankrupt in 2015, but still a going concern! and no, they don’t still sell that hot dog and bun toaster gadget), MOWGLI, BLANK STARE, GOOBER, PAX ROMANA, SCHIST, PRENUPTIAL, THE MASK, TOPCOAT, “HERE IT IS,” and the YEAR ZERO. This is more flavor than a great many 21×21 puzzles have.

Five more things:

  • Did not know: 64d. [What keeps athletic tape from sticking to the skin], PREWRAP. What do they use for the prewrap? I have never in my life used athletic tape.
  • 19a. [Netflix crime drama set in a small town in Missouri], OZARK. I’ve seen some of this series, and liked what I watched.
  • 42a. [Mao-___ (Chinese liquor)], TAI. Wikipedia has it with various spellings, but closed up as a single word rather than hyphenated. Apparently the original fermented sorghum booze variety has a “sauce fragrant flavor type.” I can’t imagine that a native speaker of English worked much on this Wikipedia article, because the other liquors based on maotai have a “heavy/thick fragrant flavor type.” Mmmm, sauce fragrant flavor type! Makes the wine flavor words like diesel and grippy almost seem rational.
  • 101a. [“It’s bulls and blood, it’s dust and mud,” per a Garth Brooks hit], RODEO. How much of the blood comes from the animals?
  • 113a. [Organism that grows on another plant nonparasitically], EPIPHYTE. Familiar enough prefix, familiar enough word ending—but no, I didn’t pull the word out of my head after reading the clues. I had to work the crossings.

4.25 stars for the fill and clues in this 22×21 grid, and I can’t figure out what sort of rating to give the theme. It’s one part “neat!” and one part “who cares?”

Andrea Carla Michaels’s Universal Crossword, “Sacre Bleu”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Andrea Carla Michaels’s Universal Crossword, “Sacre Bleu,” July 28, 2019, solution

THEME: The first words of the theme answers can follow French in recognized phrases.

The reveal:

53a Words you need not say before the starts of 16-, 22-, 33- and 48-Across PARDON MY FRENCH

And the others:

  • 16a Popular person TOAST OF THE TOWN
  • 22a Music symbol that looks like a golf club QUARTER NOTE
  • 33a Speaker of the House, 1977-87 TIP O’NEILL
  • 48a Blab about your love life KISS AND TELL

Clever! But that’s a lot of theme matter. 14-11-9-11-14 will cost something.

Other good stuff includes TURBINEELOCUTE, (NEW) ZEALAND,

The cost–A LOT, A HAND, A SENSE, IS ON, TET, DAR, HMS and the 7-consonant, pluralized TSK TSKS–did not bother me while solving (in record time), but on looking closely after, there they were.

3 stars.

Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword, “End Game” – Jenni’s write-up

Each theme answer ends with a game relevant to the profession mentioned in the clue, making us rethink familiar phrases.

Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2019, Gary Larson, “End Game,” Solution grid

  • 22a [Card game for students?] is CLASS WAR.
  • 24a [Card game for the lovelorn?] is LONELY HEARTS. This one made me giggle.
  • 43a [Board game for spies?] is COVERT OPERATION. This one made me laugh out loud.
  • 66a [Card game for plumbers?] is BATHTUB GIN.
  • 68a [Playground game for bellhops?] is LUGGAGE TAG.
  • 86a [Card game for office temps?] is SHORT-TERM MEMORY. Wikipedia confirms that this is the game I call “Concentration.”
  • 110a [Card game for auto mechanics?] is GREASY SPOONS. I wasn’t familiar with that game. Apparently it requires cards and (wait for it) spoons.
  • 113a [Board game for tightrope walkers?] is HIGH RISK.

All the theme answers are solid. It’s a fresh, funny theme. Nice. There were a few things that made me roll my eyes in the fill, but I didn’t take notes and can’t find them now, so they can’t have been that bad.

A few other things:

  • 1d [McDonald’s drink orders] are MOCHAS, because Mickey D’s wants to compete with Starbucks.
  • Old politics alert: Harold STASSEN shows up at 15d. Kids, ask your parents. Or grandparents.
  • Je parle français: 43d [French for “mangers”] is CRECHES and 40d [German : Vater :: French : __] is PERE, which is amusingly right next to PAIR.
  • 63a [Place for a dip]. Raise your hand if you also entered POOL before the correct POND.
  • 72d [Golden State Warriors coach Steve] is KERR. I don’t regularly follow basketball, but since reading this article in the NYT in 2016, I pay attention to Steve Kerr.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Bizet wrote an opera featuring the priestess LEILA. It’s “Les Pêcheurs des Perles,” and I have heard of the opera, if only because it’s mentioned in a Michener novel I read in high school.

Kevin Christian’s Universal Sunday crossword, “One Giant Leap”—Jim P’s review

Jim P here presiding for Judge Vic.

It’s odd that we have a moon landing-themed puzzle a week after the anniversary, especially when last Sunday’s puzzle was not a moon-landing themed puzzle. Curious.

Anyhoo, the theme is MEN WALK ON MOON (115a, [New York Times headline from 50 years ago on 7/21/69, and a hint to five two-row arrangements in this puzzle]). So what are we looking for? Well, we need to find the names of moons in the grid (from elsewhere in the solar system), look above each, and we should find words roughly synonymous with “a man.” Thankfully, the clues give us plenty of parenthetical hints as to where to look by identifying which word is the “man” and what planet the moon orbits.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “One Giant Leap” · Kevin Christian · 7.28.19

  • 22a [“Lethal Weapon” or “Rush Hour” (first word)BUDDY COP MOVIE atop
    25a [UCSD athlete (Neptune)] TRITON. I really thought the UCSD mascot was something else, but I guess I’m thinking of the SDSU Aztec.
  • 38a [Quick chess game ending (last word)] FOOL’S MATE atop
    47a [Styx ferryman (Pluto)CHARON. FOOL’S MATE is new to me, but it was inferable.
  • 52a [2000 stoner film (first word)DUDE WHERE’S MY CAR? atop
    61a [Perlman of “Cheers” (Saturn)RHEA. The film also makes a good title for a crossword puzzle!
  • 78a [Brit’s “Good job!” (last word)WELL DONE OLD CHAP atop
    84a [Italia’s continent (Jupiter)EUROPA
  • 94a [His face appears on many masks (first word)] GUY FAWKES atop
    99a [The Little Mermaid (Uranus)] ARIEL. I like that GUY FAWKES clue.


Nicely constructed theme. It must have been difficult to find just the right way to stack all the theme answers, especially six-letter moons like TRITON, CHARON, and EUROPA, but for the most part, it’s very smooth.


On the rougher side we had: DREA, AITCH, IRONER, AFLARE, ATTAR, and variant ENURE. Rougher, yes, but nothing beyond the pale.

Clues of note:

  • 96a [Steering wheel attachment]. THE CLUB. Is it though, anymore? Do people still use it?
  • 84a [Italia’s continent (Jupiter)]. EUROPA. An alternative clue might have referenced Europa Park, Germany’s largest amusement park and the second most popular amusement park in Europe after Disneyland Paris. If you’re in Europe and like roller coasters, don’t pass it up.
  • 1d [Netflix domain]. WEB TV. Hmm. I don’t think so. WEBTV was an actual device.
  • 59d [Work event?]. ART SHOW. Nice clue, as is 77d‘s [Apt lipstick shade for a scuba diver] CORAL.
  • 117d [One may be full of Natural Light]. KEG. Apparently, that’s a beer. Not one that I know of. I thought it might be a brand of tea.

Overall, solid theme, strongly executed with fun fill throughout. Fairly heavy on the testosterone side though. 3.9 stars.


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Split Ends” – Jenni’s writeup

Today Evan serves us a complex theme that combines clues and answers. Circles in the grid help us figure it out.

Evan Birnholz, Washington Post, July 28, 2019, “Split Ends,” solution grid

  • 23a [Controversial legal trial, say / Enjoy a …] goes with 25a [… meal with someone / “Guys and Dolls” role]. The answers are CAUSE CELEBRE ADELAIDE. So the first part of 23a clues CAUSE CELEBRE, the last part of 25a clues ADELAIDE, and the [Enjoy a….meal] is (break) BREAD, because BREAD is broken between the two clues. I figured it out with this pair, and still enjoyed solving the rest. It felt like a series of riddles.
  • 38a [Job seekers’ event / Chance to gain an …] and 42a [… advantage in tennis / Disdainful of others’ beliefs and practices] are CAREER EXPO INTOLERANT, giving us (break) POINT for the center.
  • 56a [Piece of furniture that folds out / Exhibit …] and 59a [… disloyalty / “That’s a no from me”] are SLEEPER SOFA I THINK NOT, with (break) FAITH. I haven’t heard that phrase before.
  • 78a [Pain at the root / Inflict emotional …] and 80a [… pain / Temple designers, e.g.?] are  TOOTHACHE ART STUDENTS, with (break) hearts.
  • 96a [Potting mix brand / Begin work on …] and 99a [… a construction project / Former Judd Apatow series about college freshmen] are MIRACLE GRO UNDECLARED and (break) GROUND.
  • 114a [Site of a decisive 1815 battle / Make an …] and 117a [… escape / Honor for an employee] are WATERLOO SERVICE AWARD and (break) LOOSE.

And just in case you didn’t figure it out, Evan offers a helping hand: 69a [Word that, when preceding this puzzle’s split words, forms the phrases with split clues] is, of course, BREAK.

I really liked this theme despite my raised eyebrow at BREAK FAITH.

A few other things:

  • 1a [“Let me repeat …”] is I SAID, which showed up in another puzzle I did in the last 24 hours. I’m too lazy to look back and see which one.
  • 6a [Golden chariot rider] is APOLLO, and not another callback to the moon landing, for which I am grateful.
  • 66a [Pack for after a trip, maybe?] is an ICEBAG. I’ve had quite enough of those – not because I trippped, but because I had a knee replacement six weeks ago.
  • I love conversational clues like 71d [“Say, you’re right”]: SO IT IS.
  • 123a [Hit with a spray] got me with the past tense. It’s MACED.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Sonic the Hedgehog features the Chaos EMERALD.

Evan sent me a music video with a note saying DO NOT CLICK UNTIL YOU’VE SOLVED THE PUZZLE. I thought it would be this one, but it’s actually this, and Evan is probably horrified at my assumption.

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20 Responses to Sunday, July 28, 2019

  1. Greg says:

    The Times puzzle strikes me as an astounding feat of construction. I wouldn’t have believed you could even find five interesting words or phrases containing those nine letters in anagrammed sequence, let alone skillfully fit them into a Sunday Times crossword puzzle.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      ^^^This! I was astounded at finding well-known names and phrases containing all nine letters in a row. We’ve seen plenty of anagram themes; why are people dissatisfied with this one? True, it solved more like an easyish themeless, but the revealer tied it all together with a nice a-ha moment. Plus, the fill is top notch.

      Six 1-star and 1.5-star ratings as I write this?! What more do people want?!

      • Reid says:

        “What more do people want!?”

        something even mildly entertaining, which an easy themeless is not.

      • RSP64 says:

        For me personally, I blazed through 75% of this, got all the theme answers (the revealer was underwhelming to me) and then got stuck and couldn’t finish in the E and SE between the clues and fill in those areas. I just did not find this an enjoyable experience at all.

    • Pseudonym says:

      Impressive in construction; average in solving experience.

      • Rob says:

        I can’t recall the last Garth Brooks reference in a NYT xword (granted I’ve only been doing W-SU the last several years).

  2. Robert says:

    Thank God for this post— we spent a long time (to no avail) after finishing the puzzle figuring out just what the heck they meant by “mixed metaphors.” Now we can sleep in peace!

  3. AV says:

    Great find. I liked the Title – bonus point for that find! [BALROG, GREEDO, a bit too obscure for me, but crossings were fine!]

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    I come down firmly on the “who cares?” side on the NYT. Did not like.

  5. JohnH says:

    Like Amy, I’m having trouble knowing what to feel about the NYT puzzle. It really is amazing, but it wasn’t fun. Can I admire it no end without actually liking it?

    Often in cryptics, I don’t bother to check that every letter appears in the wordplay once I know that it’s an anagram. I don’t count that one bit as a flaw in the puzzle. I’d just find it obsessive of me to confirm everything. With this puzzle, though, it really did bother me that I was taking for granted that a “mixing” of “metaphors” appears in each theme answer, because that left me with the experience of a themeless puzzle despite so prominent a theme. Quite a paradox.

    I also found it laden with name clusters that made it a rare multiple did not finish. Say what you will in defense of learning about pop culture from a puzzle, I can only repeat that if the crossings don’t help, it’s just a trivia quiz.That came with, say, BALROG / MOWGLI and, worse, with LORDE /AZERA / OZARK. At least one other cluster, too.

    And I still don’t think that marks a lifelong reader and learner like me as narrow minded. It just marks your personal interests, smugly, somehow superior to mine.

    • JohnH says:

      BTW, small quibble. Is it right to say that OUP deems the Henry VI plays a collaboration with Marlow? I worked for 6 years at OUP, although not the division in the UK that publishes the editions of Shakespeare, but quite generally publishers don’t make decisions like that. They only decide what to publish. In this case, they decided to engage Gary Taylor and others to pull together the plays, and they take it from there.

      FWIW, their attribution is not widely accepted. There are actually two prominent competing theories. In one, the plays appear in the First Folio because Shakespeare wrote them, and 1 Henry VI is more awkward because he wrote it first, not just when he was younger, but also when he was pioneering an entire genre, the history plays, and had to work it out from scratch, with his only model Marlowe’s Edward II, which probably but not certainly preceded it. The other theory is that parts 2 and 3 hang together as an account of the War of the Roses and appeared in bootleg quartos as “the first and second parts of the contention” not as marketing hype, but because they came first, and part 1 was a “prequel.” Why then, does it exist, when Shakespeare was moving onto another sequel, Richard III, and why is it worse if it came later? In this theory, it had a collaborator, but surely someone far less accomplished and advanced in his career than Marlowe.

  6. DH says:

    Re: Universal – I could NOT figure out what I had wrong in this puzzle! Turns out I somehow put a “Q” instead of an “O” in BUDDY COP MOVIE. I thought it was a smudge on my screen!

    “Netflix Domain” also gave me pause for the same reason. I think the Netflix Domain is actually, isn’t it?

    I continue to roll my eyes at every iteration of “Playground Retort” I see.

  7. Glickstein says:

    World class constructor trick! As a former constructor I would have been vastly proud of this accomplishment. As a solver who couldn’t see the trick until I read about it here, the puzzle experience sucked. This once in a lifetime disparity is a wonder to behold, so I’m delighted this puzzle was birthed and published prominently.

    • Glickstein says:

      The Mona Lisa of the cruciverbal arts as explained to a person on the spectrum who cannot read the enigmatic smile.

    • Mark Abe says:

      Agreed. I also found the NYT entertaining, and enjoyed the range of pup culture from Marlowe to Omar Khayyam to J.R.R. Tolkein to George Lucas. I also didn’t really see the trick until I read the review. The combination of “grammar” in the title and the word “past” at the end of the first theme answer had me hunting for other grammar terms for most of the puzzle.

      • PJ Ward says:

        I didn’t see it until after I finished solving but I should have gotten it much sooner from the title and the revealer. I was riding the rapids and didn’t smell the roses along the way. ?

  8. ranman says:

    First, it’s been 30 years since I had my ankle taped, but prewrap is / was? made of a gauzy-material that has some clingy properties so when it its wrapped around your skin, it “clings” but not in a way that is sticky like tape. And then they wrap the adhesive tape right over the prewrap.
    Enjoyed these puzzles. NYT, WP, LAT; 20-30 minutes apiece for me and a good mix. Thanks Christopher Gary Evan!

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