Sunday, August 4, 2019

LAT puzzle 8:03 theme DNF (Jenni) 


NYT 9:50 (Amy) 


WaPo 10:14 (Jenni) 


Universal 6:10 (Vic) 


Universal (Sunday) 26:04 (Vic) 


Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword, “Constant Consonants”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 4 19, “Constant Consonants”

The theme is not embodied by the puzzle’s title, as the consonants in the two words are CNSTNT and CNSNNTS. The theme entries, though, share the same consonants in the same order:

  • 22a. [With 105-Across, “What walks on four dino legs in the morning, four dino legs at noon and four dino legs in the evening?” and other riddles?], BRONTOSAURUS / BRAINTEASERS.
  • 35a. [Says “Quack” instead of “Buzz”?], MISQUOTES MOSQUITOES.
  • 51a. [Tables in an Old West saloon, e.g.?], FRONTIER FURNITURE.
  • 75a. [Chess gambit employed by gangster Tony Montana?], SCARFACE SACRIFICE.
  • 86a. [Claims that Louis XIV’s palace is better than all the other buildings in France combined?], OVERSELLS VERSAILLES.

The fill is pretty good, probably in part because the grid isn’t overloaded with theme entries. Four long ones, two shorter ones that make a full themer. (And in part because Will N. is really effing good at constructing crosswords.) I like the crossing portmanteaux, VIDIOT and HOTLANTA, along with a musical performer’s SET LIST, RAY LIOTTA, SOBRIQUET, CHIA PET, and MALBECS. There’s a little bit of junk, like roll-your-own STORER and crosswordese EDDA, but overall it’s solid.

Three more things:

  • 1d. [Site of a 1920s renaissance], HARLEM. A lovely start to the puzzle!
  • 24a. [Genre for “Rush Hour” and “Lethal Weapon”], BUDDY-COP movie. If you want to see a list of the 25 best buddy-cop movies (including Kurosawa!), click through.
  • 65a. [Confuse “stem” with “stern,” e.g.], MISREAD. Tight kerning will really smush the “r” and “n” together to look like an “m.” It’s fun to look at the most appalling examples of “keming”—here’s one collection. And here’s a much larger set.

Four stars from me.

Stu Ockman’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Heart in the Right Place”—Judge Vic’s review

Stu Ockman’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Heart in the Right Place,” Aug. 4, 2019, solution

I didn’t think I was going to finish this puzzle, let alone grok its theme. But, as I was writing my commentary for 25a, …:

  • 25a Alligator or snake? (Hint: Read letters 4-8 last!) SCATHINGLY. Following the hint, I sat there saying “Alligator or snake igato.” Then, when nothing magical happened, after I had cobbled together the correct answer, I said, “Scathingly thing?” Finally, I saw that if THING is extracted and moved a space right of what’s left, we get scaly thing! Aha! An animal is a thing? Okay. How that is heart in the right place I’m not yet … Aha again! Letters from the heart of the literal answer are moved to the right. They’re taken from inside the answer and moved out. There’s a lot going on with this theme!
  • 27a Less rapid rapids? (letters 4-7) SAFFLOWER. Safer flow.
  • 42a Bad place to camp when it’s raining? (letters 4-7) PORTENTOUS. Porous tent. A tent is a place? The idea of a porous tent is funny.
  • 46a One saving you from checkmate? (letters 3-7) CHANGELESS. Chess angel.
  • 68a Device for catching the newspaper? (letters 5-8) READMITTING. Reading mitt. A mitt is a device?
  • 89a Piece of Simba’s mane, to Nala? (letters 4-8) MATTRESSES. Mate’s tress.
  • 92a Black sheep, at times? (letters 5-8) FAMILIARLY. Family liar. There’s a family with only one?
  • 112a Casserole in the fridge, say? (letters 5-8) CHILDISHLY. Chilly dish.
  • 109a Pixar film about emotions, or an alternate title for this puzzle INSIDE OUT. What would a Universal Crossword be without a reveal? I did not see a need for one with such a good title. But, something was needed to go symmetrically with SAFFLOWER, and this may have been better than any of the true theme answers that remained on the cutting room table.

This is a really clever theme. I think. It took my brain a while to absorb it. It’s similar to an anagram theme. Similar also to a scrambled letters theme. Give Stu credit for finding these words that have two words within them, one with consecutive letters and one with the remaining letters. Wow!

Other stuff of good note:

  • 5d Gala outside? APPLE PEEL. Great combo here!
  • 6d Where many saloons operated OLD WEST
  • 17d Teapot Dome scandal subject OIL LEASE
  • 26d Attached, as a patch IRONE DON
  • 37d Beatified mother ST. MARY. Nice misdirect. Raise your hand if you wrote in TERESA.
  • 54d Doesn’t play one’s hardest GOES EASY
  • 81d Left port SAILED OFF
  • 83d Online tests of humanity CAPTCHAS. New vocab for me.
  • 84d “Eek!” follower IT’S ALIVE. New clue for this answer, giving new usage to eek.
  • 86d Early airmail craft ZEPPELIN. Misreading airmail as animal, I wrote in NOAH’S ARK early. Imagine my surprise!
  • 91d Verbal facepalm SILLY ME

There are a few items I’d rather not see, UNLADE and SOHNE being the leaders. A few short words are duped in phrases:


But, you know what? None of that bothered me during the solve. And that’s important, right?

4.5 stars from me!

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

Andrea Carla Michaels’s Universal Crossword, “Golden-Agers,” Aug. 4, 2019, solution

Three celebrities, whose initials are S.R., which is intended to suggest Sr., abbreviation for senior, as per the obligatory reveal:

  • 19a “The Satanic Verses” author (born in 1947) SALMAN RUSHDIE
  • 24a CBS and Viacom mogul (born in 1923) SUMNER REDSTONE
  • 42a Former lead singer of The Miracles (born in 1940) SMOKEY ROBINSON
  • 48a One advanced in years, or a hint to the initials and life stage of 19-, 24- and 42-Across SENIOR CITIZEN

Other answers of note:


3.5 stars.

C.C Burnikel’s LA Times crossword, “Walk-off” – Jenni’s write-up

I usually love C.C.’s puzzles. I did not love this one. For one thing, I couldn’t figure out the theme. I had help from our esteemed blogmistress, and I was left with the feeling of “is that all there is?”

I noticed on my own that the long Downs were two-words phrases in which the second word started with “B.” I did not realize that each contained the word TAB (read top to bottom) and I didn’t notice the revealer at 118d: [Something flipped after a walk-off home run … and in the nine longest Down answers]. Flip TAB and you get BATBAT flips are a hot topic in baseball these days. Not everybody likes them.

The theme answers:

Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2019, C.C. Burnikel, “Walk-Off,” solution grid

  • 3d [Hacker’s coup] is a DATA BREACH.
  • 5d [SunTrust Park player] is an ATLANTA BRAVE.
  • 11d [Presidential moniker] is HONEST ABE.
  • 15d [Genre from Mississippi] is the DELTA BLUES.
  • 40d [Heart rhythm manager] is a BETA BLOCKER. A gimme for me; was it too arcane for non-medical folk?
  • 66d [University of California city] is SANTA BARBARA.
  • 74d [“Sweet Love” R&B singer] is ANITA BAKER.
  • 82d [Almost] is JUST ABOUT.
  • 79d [Annual Arizona football game] is the FIESTA BOWL.

I  might have liked this better if I’d found it on my own, or maybe not. I didn’t need to understand the theme to solve the puzzle correctly and it didn’t involve any real wordplay.

A few other things:

  • 1d [Canasta play] is a MELD. I don’t play the game myself but my mother did, and I know the lingo.
  • 7d [Theater group] is a fun clue for AUDIENCE.
  • I like conversational clues like [“Hmm … doubt it”] and [“I’m good with it”] (UH, NO and SUITS ME, respectively).
  • LEI is not the first thing that occurs to me for [Molokai memento], since Molokai is a far less tourist-oriented island than many others.
  • We get [Bar code?] for LAW and [Bar worker: Abbr.] for ATTY.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Salvador DALI created the “Mae West Lips Sofa.” Apparently this was in collaboration with Edward James.


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Text Message” – Jenni’s writeup

Let’s supersize it! Evan tells me this is the biggest crossword he’s ever constructed. It wasn’t particularly challenging; it was a lot of fun.

Each theme answer is the book title, and the circles spell out a message.

Washington Post, August 4, 2019, Evan Birnholz, “Text Message,” solution grid

  • 33a [Pearl S. Buck work that won a Pulitzer] is THE GOOD EARTH.
  • 36a [Clive Barker horror fiction collection] is BOOKS OF BLOOD.
  • 44a [Harlan Coben thriller published in 2017] is DON’T LET GO.
  • 48a [Angie Thomas novel inspired by Black Lives Matter] is THE HATE U GIVE.
  • 51a ]Shel Silverstein poetry collection] is FALLING UP.
  • 75a [Cormac McCarthy novel adapted into a 2000 film] is ALL THE PRETTY HORSES.
  • 98a [Zora Neale Hurston classic] is THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD.
  • 119a [Rebecca Wells novel adapted into a 2002 film] spans the extended grid. The answer is DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YAYA SISTERHOOD.
  • 146a [John Updike novel with an animal in its title] is RABBIT AT REST.
  • 160a [T.H. White classic whose title’s last word is the last name of the author who wrote this puzzle’s text message] is THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. Stephen KING said “Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once.”

It’s a straightforward theme without wordplay and I still enjoyed it. I appreciate the diversity in the authors of the books and it’s a cool quote.

A few other things:

  • 5d [Acts like a hot dog] is DROOLS.
  • 21d [Incontrovertible ruling principle] is IRON LAW. Is this a thing?
  • 64a [Spot on a screen] is a TV AD, not the annoying little bit of schmutz that looks like a misplaced comma.
  • For some reason, it had never occurred to me that PEKINGESE dogs came from China. D’oh.
  • 135d [Spews like a geyser] is GUSHES. When we visited Iceland last March, we spent some time at Geysir.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: I’d never heard of auto racer FABI Teo.

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12 Responses to Sunday, August 4, 2019

  1. David Steere says:

    WaPo: What a lovely, literate gift of a puzzle from Evan today! An amazing grid, the usual wonderful cluing, quality fill, subtle humor, and an overarching message that is quite reassuring in whatever medium one reads. Thanks!

    David (retired librarian)

    • David L says:

      Oddly enough, I thought this was one of less successful of Evan’s puzzles. It was clever how he put those book titles into a clean puzzle, but there wasn’t anything particularly challenging or novel about the solve, and I found the embedded quote more trite than stirring.

  2. JohnH says:

    I found the Sunday NYT easier than I’d ideally like but still terrific, since I’d never seen a theme like that before. I’m surprised so many hated it.

  3. Trent Evans says:

    Thanks Evan for a brilliant WaPo today!

  4. pannonica says:


    • 24a. [Genre for “Rush Hour” and “Lethal Weapon”], BUDDY-COP movie. If you want to see a list of the 25 best buddy-cop movies (including Kurosawa!), click through.
    • 65a. [Confuse “stem” with “stern,” e.g.], MISREAD. Tight kerning will really smush the “r” and “n” together to look like an “m.” It’s fun to look at the most appalling examples of “keming”—here’s one collection. And here’s a much larger set.

    Factette: The Japanese title of Kurosawa’s early masterpiece Stray Dog is (the very crossword-grid-friendly) Nora Inu; if “inu” looks familiar that’s because it appears in the names of breeds such as the shiba inu, and the full names akita inu and tosa inu.

    • As expected, most of those examples of bad kerning are in fact instances of poor tracking (and in some cases, just plain ol’ word spacing). I’m very much the pedant on this subject because I find it depressingly hilarious that people who think they’re being clever and superior are in fact mistaken about the very thing they’re mocking (not that I have any firsthand experience whatsoever with that phenomenon).

  5. Billy Boy says:

    I didn’t find the NYT unlikeable as I did uninteresting and difficult for ME to finish due to generalized tedium.

    Greater than 15 x 15 are rarely truly snappy, but y’all knew that.

  6. Norm says:

    I thought the Universal Sunday was one of the most brilliant puzzles of the year. I just wish it had run in a different forum — or that there was someway to unsee the directions hitting you over the head with which letters to move. I realize Universal is trying to be a fun solve, but this puzzle would have been so freaking difficult and oh so satisfying to figure out without the extra help. Actually, I guess I should say that the parenthetical hints were better than circles would have been, since I could adjust the clue pane in AcrossLite to move the hint off screen, and the larger clue was not as noticeable up top as I moved to the bottom of the grid. Can I give this puzzle 10 stars?

    • M483 says:

      I agree. It’s a great puzzle. I, however, am happy with the difficulty level. For me, it’s just right for a Sunday. Doing multiple large puzzles, I don’t like to spend a lot of time figuring out the theme. The puzzle still had enough fill that required thought processes to make it interesting and enjoyable. It didn’t need to have more difficulty added to solve the theme answers.

  7. Lise says:

    I, too, thought the WaPo was excellent. I liked the theme, but also, the fill was lively and fun.

    FWIW, it’s Teo(dorico) FABI (not the other way around). It’s hard to discern which is the surname if you’ve never heard of him, but auto racing is a favorite sport of my husband, so I have some familiarity.

    I need that Mae West Lips Sofa.

  8. Kelly Clark says:

    Evan’s utterly fantastic puzzle made my day! What a really cool way to reinvent the classic quip puzzle — and, as has been mentioned, the fill, the cluing, everything about this WaPo opus is exquisite!

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