Sunday, August 25, 2019

LAT 8:47 (Jenni) 


NYT 12:06 (Amy) 


WaPo 13:42 (Jim Q) 


Universal 6:47 (Vic) 


Universal (Sunday) tk (Jim Q) 


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Captured” – Jim Q’s writeup

Thanks to Jenni for covering the WaPo write-ups for me this summer! I’m back… which can only mean that school is starting soon and I’ll be back to teaching (and “Key making” 77D… hehe).

A breezy, but clever welcome back puzzle!

THEME: Chess pieces are embedded within normal words/names (they have “captured” the pieces) to create wacky answers.


  • 21A [Leisurely walks or, after making a capture, reproduce mythical cave

    Washington Post, August 25, 2019, Evan Birnholz, “Captured” solution grid

    beasts?] SPAWN TROLLS. Strolls. 

  • 31A [Flemish painter or, after making a capture, golf tournaments that are full of nonsense?] RUBBISH OPENS. Rubens. 
  • 49A [Seattle baseball team or, after making a capture, San Francisco football stars?] MARQUEE NINERS. Mariners. 
  • 86A [Tales or, after making a capture, some lingerie for long-necked birds?] STORK NIGHTIES. Stories. 
  • 99A [Keyboard key or, after making a capture, noise from a Skylab Lab?] SPACE BARKINGSpacebar. 
  • 116A [Darling or, after making a capture, tenderhearted tenderfoot?] SWEET ROOKIE. Sweetie. 
  • 64A [Recover from a shock, or an alternative title for this puzzle] PICK UP THE PIECES.


Too bad ABBA didn’t make an appearance in the fill.

Great to see all the chess pieces being used and consistently at that. Evan never holds back on the level of wackiness he allows in theme answers, but these are all clean, fun, and easy to understand without over-parsing.

STORK NIGHTIES is definitely my favorite of the bunch. The visual is hilarious. But all landed (okay, maybe not SWEET ROOKIES since SWEET is a key component of both the base word and the alteration).



  • 13D [Member of Guns N’ Roses … or AC/DC?] SLASH. Slash being the band member of Guns N’ Roses and the “member” in AC{slash}DC.
  • 14D [Cable splitters?] HOUSEMATES. Made me think of my housemate of years past who never paid for a damn thing. I should send a bill with this clue highlighted.
  • 35D [He says yes or no to questions that don’t have yes/no answers] TREBEK. Should’ve figured this out well before I did.
  • 10A [Hand holders?] ARMS. Groan!


  • 1D [Energize, informally] AMP UP. I had PEP UP, which shares 60% of the correct letters, even though I don’t think PEP UP is a phrase. Duh.
  • 30D [Like some beef servings] AU JUS. I had ANGUS. Also 60% correct… and feels so right.
  • 33D [Northeast town bearing the name of a disease] OLD LYME. Say wha? Look at that! Town in Connecticut. Click here to start planning your next vacation.
  • 63D [World Cup champs in 2015 and 2019, briefly] USWNT. United States Women’s National Team. That’s a funky looking initialism. Looks like a unit of weight.
  • 76D [Get out of Dodge] FLEE. Thought this was a car clue due to the capital D, and I was wondering where the question mark was. Nope. Had no idea that the phrase actually refers to Dodge City, Kansas. I’m glad I know that now.


  • 110A [Publisher of the game “Gunstar Heroes”] SEGA.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Caitlin Reid’s Universal Crossword, “Service, Please”—Judge Vic’s write-up

Caitlin Reid’s Universal Crossword. “Service, Please,” Aug. 25, 2019, solution

Caitlin contrasts four figures of speech with their literal meanings, via the use of punny clues. And she does it well:

  • 7a [Auto shop request?] GREASE THE WHEELS
  • 32a [Deli request?] CUT THE MUSTARD [Bar request?]
  • 40a [Bar request?] MAKE THE ROUNDS
  • 59a Post office request? PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Will 15-13-13-15 leave room for other good fill? Yes. Including


3.7 stars.

Matt Ginsberg’s New York Times crossword, “How’s Tricks?”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 25 19, “How’s Tricks?”

This is a plus-sized redo of the Wednesday NYT in some ways—too many theme answers crammed into the grid, nowhere near enough payoff for the theme, and so much terrible fill. When I’d filled in the first eight answers and three of them were AMIR, IDYL, and OONA, I hit pause and went to see if Crossword Twitter had weighed in and could tell me it was worth continuing. (They’re all having a Saturday night and not talking about puzzles.) Having that much blah fill in the opening corner is never a good sign, and indeed, OAKIE, LAHR, and variant RANEE were nearby, too.

The theme is 113a NOW YOU SEE ME / 73d NOW YOU DON’T, with seven Across answers having a C (which sounds like “see”) added and three Downs having a C taken away, with the new fake phrases clued accordingly. I don’t know why there are 7 additions and 3 subtractions—awkward imbalance. None of the add-a-C or subtract-a-C themers entertained me, and the inclusion of those 14 themers plus two revealers overburdened the grid and left us drowning in stale crosswordese. The Across themers are ANY COLD TIME, DEAD CHEAT, WINCE MAKER, PAGE CRANK (page rank is a measure of internet influence), SPARE CRIB, CROW HOUSES, and CREST AREA. The Downs are MODERN DANE (dance), FREE RADIAL (radical), and MAGI MOMENT (magic).

The longest non-theme fill tends to lack sparkle as well: BALANCES, SWEAR AT, SEEPAGE, SMELTER, TENABLE, SNARL UP? Eh.

Seven things:

  • 93d. [Some inexpensive brews], PABSTS. Nigh unpronounceable, and I’m not sure people would say this. PBRs, maybe, but not Pabsts.
  • 49a. [One going for big bucks?], DOE. Beg pardon? This one feels inappropriate to me.
  • 79a. [One-named singer with the catchphrase “cuchi-cuchi”], CHARO. She’s more than a singer with a childlike catchphrase. Also a gifted guitarist.
  • 21a. [Tepid greeting], “OH, HI.” It’s all in the intonation. You could also exclaim “Oh, hi!” to someone you’re surprised and delighted to see again.
  • 57d. [Brain area, jocularly], ATTIC. Not sure I’ve encountered that usage.
  • 16d. [Anecdotal collections], ANAS. Yep, more crusty crosswordese here. Yawn.
  • 73a. [Jerry, to Tom, in cartoons], NEMESIS. Is there a suitable NEMESIS pairing from the Real Housewives franchise, or RuPaul’s Drag Race?

2.25 stars from me.

Pam Amrick Klawitter’s LA Times crossword, “Literal Literature – Jenni’s write-up

It’s been a hectic on-call Saturday and my brain is not ticking over at the usual speed. I didn’t understand the theme until halfway through the puzzle, and it’s not that complicated. Each theme clue is a type of book, and the answer is a literal (but not accurate) definition.

Los Angeles Times, Sunday, August 25, 2019, Pam Amick Klawitter, “Literal Literature,” solution grid

  • 21a [Pop-up book?] is HOW TO  MAKE PERFECT TOAST.
  • 33a [Match book?] is ONLINE DATING PRIMER. See Jane swipe right. See Dick swipe left. See Sally fume at the heteronormativity of it all.
  • 64a [Blue book?] is A HISTORY OF THE SMURFS.
  • 94a [Text book?] is MESSAGING DONE RIGHT.
  • 112a [Address book?] is BEST SPEECHES OF ALL TIME.

I’m impressed with the 21s, and I like them all. Fun Sunday theme.

A few other things:

  • 1a [It can have pins at the end of it] is LANE, not ALLEY, which was my first thought.
  • 46a [Silver finish?] is a fun clue for WARE.
  • I also liked [Sign of vacancy?] for STARE.
  • I was confused by 93d [Con man’s cohort], which is SHILL. I think of “cohort” as meaning “group,” and a SHILL is only one person. It’s a legitimate use of “cohort.” Just my fuzzy brain.
  • I liked [Lions’ prides], MANES, crossing [Toucan’s pride], BEAK.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that “Baretta” was an outgrowth of TOMA. I’d forgotten about TOMA. According to Wikipedia, “{a}side from the circumstances of its conception, Baretta has no on-screen connection with Toma, as the shows have no characters or settings in common.” Good to know.

I leave you with Paul Simon’s schoolyard pal, without Paul.


Paul Coulter’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Metamorphosis”—Jim Q’s review

With the title and the extra hint at the first theme clue (23A), I thought we were going to have a Gregor Samsa themed puzzle! No worries. If Kafka ain’t your thing, there was something up your alley in this one.

THEME: Parts of common phrases undergo a famous “metamorphosis,” and the result is clued wackily.


  • 23A [Moth? (think Kafka)] INSECT OF THE CLOTH. Instead of Man of the

    Universal Sunday 21x crossword, August 25, 2019, Paul Coulter, “Metamorphosis” solution grid

    cloth.  First line of the story: “One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.”

  • 38A [What makes the voice temporarily regal? (think Brothers Grimm)] PRINCE IN ONE’S THROATFrog in one’s throat (not “pauper” in one’s throat as I initially thought!)
  • 57A [Cowardly B-team? (think “Which came first?”)] CHICKEN SUBSTITUTES. Egg substitutes. 
  • 69A [Expensive Buddha statue feature? (think alchemy)] GOLD BELLY. Yellow belly? I assume so. Not entirely sure here. (UPDATE: The base phrase is Lead Belly)
  • 81A [Bacchus’ motto? (think biblical miracle)] WINE WINE EVERYWHERE. Water water everywhere. Sounds like the best metamorphosis ever.
  • 99A [Milestone for a spooky fiction genre? (think Stoker)] VAMPIRE ONE THOUSAND. Bat one thousand. The base phrase sounds strange to me.  Shouldn’t it be bat a thousand? Or batting a thousand? I Googled “batting one thousand” and it seemed to agree.
  • 117A [Cleat mark on the infield? (think graphite)] DIAMOND FOOTPRINT. Carbon footprint. 

About half of the themers were fun to figure out. Definitely the Kafka one. I liked water changing into wine, and PRINCE IN ONE’S THROAT was a solid groaner. Some of them were making my head hurt though- there’s a lot to interpret in the clue with that extra hint. I found the chicken/egg clue to be unhelpful because I was trying to figure out what the metamorphosis was… the hint about the classic question doesn’t seem to have anything to do with a change per se (the others all point to a direct change).

Highlights in the fill include READY TO RUMBLE, NEAR MISS, NOSE RING, and CRIME NOVELIST.

YAHS may be one of the ugliest things I’ve seen as of late, but Y?H?… what else can go there? Still… that’s a laughable stretch- a plural of a very strange looking “derisive cry”?

Guessed correctly at the SHEENA/NIEKRO crossing. Hopefully solvers are familiar with one of them. My mom used to blast SHEENA Easton when I was a kid. I just wasn’t sure if it was SHEANA or SHEENA. Also needed every cross for TSOTSI, but it sounds interesting!

Overall, mostly enjoyable. 3.5 stars from me.


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9 Responses to Sunday, August 25, 2019

  1. Rob says:

    I had never heard of TOMA. That’s a deep dive into IMDB.

  2. Alan D. says:

    66-down…not so much. The August/September 2019 issue is its last one in print.

  3. Scott Weiss says:

    For 69-A in the Universal Crossword, I think the base phrase (well, name) is Lead Belly, the stage name of a prominent folk/blues singer from the first half of the 20th century.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    NYT did nothing to reduce my general disdain for larger grid puzzles and the theme answers/fill that they necessitate.

  5. JohnH says:

    I liked the NYT much more than others because it delivered a multiple aha. It took a bit to see that I needed to add a C to some phrases, and they to my ear did elicit a smile. Then it took longer to see the dropped letters.

    I do agree that the sheer number of theme entries led to some routine fill. Maybe they should have gone for the extra elegance of symmetry, with four added and four dropped letters, so two less overall. I’d also always seen the phrase as “Now you see it, now you don’t,” and I entered it at first accordingly.

  6. wobbith says:

    ^^^ what JohnH said

  7. Lois says:

    I liked the NYT much more than anyone commenting here so far, or should I say I loved it. I haven’t done such an enjoyable one in months (though I don’t do them every week). It reminded me oh so warmly of Merl Reagle’s work. Perhaps people here found it too easy, but for me it was just right. The tough clues had pleasant crosses to help me get everything, I think. Thank you, Matt G.!

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