Saturday, August 31, 2019

LAT 5:08(Derek) 


Newsday 14:30 (Derek) 


NYT 5:20 (Amy) 


WSJ 4:39 (Jim P) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Brian Thomas’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 31 19, no. 0831

I got under 5 1/2 hours of sleep last night, so … let me phone it in tonight, and just remark on some stuff in the puzzle:

  • 15a. [Classic TV character whose name is Spanish for “fool”], TONTO. Supposedly the character’s name derives from some nonspecific Native American word, but I’m a tad skeptical of that.
  • 34a. [Give a little bit], BUDGE AN INCH. I believe “give an inch” is markedly more common.
  • 29a. [1980s feminist coinage regarding nuclear proliferation], MISSILE ENVY. No recollection of this!
  • 20a. [Impression that’s only skin-deep?], BITE MARK. I don’t understand. Is this about violent bites, or biting into an apple? Because neither circumstance is “only skin-deep” by definition.
  • 25a. [French author Georges], PEREC. This is the dude who wrote novels that use only the vowel E, or with every letter except E, and he embraced puns. What I’m saying is, he’s one of us.
  • 46a. [Winning an Oscar, Emmy and Tony, for an actor], TRIFECTA. The term I was looking for here was Triple Crown of Acting.
  • Did not know: 38d. [___ Ray, co-host of TV’s “Extra”], TANIKA. Mental note stored.
  • 4d. [Putting duct tape on a wart, e.g.], HOME REMEDY. What home remedy do you swear by?

30 of the 66 entries are either 3 or 4 letters long, so if the grid felt a little bit “meh” to you, that could be why.

3.6 stars from me. Good night!

Erik Agard & Wyna Liu’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Transitive Verbs”—Jim P’s review

Wyna Liu makes her WSJ debut with this puzzle. Congrats!

She and Crossword Fiend’s Erik Agard are serving up a tricky one here. This one took some thinking, and I definitely needed the revealer to make sense of what was going on.

119a is TENSE EXCHANGE which is normally a phrase used to describe heated words between parties. But here it’s clued [Back-and-forth involving seven pairs of words in this puzzle’s starred answers]. Each starred answer is a two-word phrase that, at first glance, feels somewhat familiar but somewhat off. But with the help of the revealer, we realize each word in each theme answer was a verb that had its tense changed.

To understand better what’s going on, let’s look at one example: DRILLED BITE. The base phrase is clearly “drill bit,” but how do we get to DRILLED BITE? In the original phrase, “drill” is an adjective and “bit” is a noun. But both “drill” and “bit” are also verbs, one in the present tense and one in the past tense. Our constructors exchanged the tenses of these two words and then put them back together to create something new. Each phrase is like this with one past and one present tense verb.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · Erik Agard & Wyna Liu · “Transitive Verbs” · Sat., 8.31.19

  • 23a [*Lamp covered in lipstick stains?] FRENCHED LIGHT. French Lit.
  • 36a [*Vacation that’s just for show?] STAGED LEAVE. Stage left.
  • 71a [*Hors d’oeuvre that’s been carefully instructed?] DRILLED BITE. Drill bit.
  • 107a [*Budding houseplant?] POTTED SHOOT. Pot shot.
  • 32d [*Convert from a drone to a piloted craft?] MAKE MANNED. Made man.
  • 45d [*Diocese where the clergy get drunk?] BUZZED SEE. Buzzsaw.
  • 53d [*Get the sensation of being given 20 percent?] FEEL TIPPED. Felt-tip.

I’m super impressed with this theme which seems both simple and complicated simultaneously. Mostly what wows me is that our constructors realized these phrases existed that have two words that could also be verbs, that one is present tense and one is past tense, that the tenses can be switched, and that they can still make a believable phrase in the end. Those are quite a few hoops to have to jump through, and yet, they did it and it all works. Wow!

And the fill is nice and shiny, too. Some of the long entries are easy to confuse for theme entries, but they’re so good it’s hard to resent them. I’m looking at DRAGON ROLL, FAT CONTENT, OPEN LETTER, and GREASE FIRE. Plus AMPERES, MOROCCO, ICE TRAY, ART SALE, CAL-TECH, HUSH UP, and on and on. And opening up the grid with PHABLET at 1a is just plain fun.

To be sure, there are some gluey bits, especially the crossings of ARNO/AMIR and ETRE/SETHE but they’re all manageable.

It’s been a long day, so I’m not going to go into the cluing, but overall it felt lively and fresh.

Overall, a densely-packed grid that makes you earn your well-deserved reward. 4.5 stars from me.

Neville Fogarty & Paolo Pasco’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 08/31/2019

What a byline! Two puzzle stalwarts teaming up for a fun Saturday LAT challenger! Not too awfully hard (it’s no Stumper!), but still lots of cool entries. As always in a collab, especially in a themeless, I wonder who did what? This one took me just over 5 minutes, but I have had plenty of sleep recently! 4.4 stars.

Some highlights:

  • 9A [Mideast presidential name since 1971] ASSAD – Very neutral clue here; that name may evoke opinions in some. I have no issues with stuff like that: one a basic level, words are words and names are names.
  • 14A [Dutch treat?] APPLE PIE – There is a Blueberry Festival near my home this weekend, so I may find some blueberry pie! Close enough!!
  • 19A [Word preceding an opinion] CENTS – As in putting in your “two cents,” no doubt.
  • 39A [Consort of Shiva] KALI – There was a gaming service called this about 25 years ago. I barely remember what it did. Anybody else remember this web service?
  • 54A [Philosophical principle that rules out unlikely explanations] RAZOR – Like “Occam’s Razor,” which I recall but don’t know exactly what it is.
  • 64A [Vacanza a dicembre] NATALE – I thought this was Spanish, but this is Christmas in Italian. Vacanza means holiday.
  • 4D [1971 title detective] KLUTE – I thought for sure this was Kojak! Maybe 1971 is a little early for his show!
  • 31D [Its flag has two green stars] SYRIA – Surprised a little this isn’t tied into 9A, but that might not be as politically neutral. Safely done.
  • 39D [Hangul alphabet user] KOREAN – Do you know Korean has no spelling bees? Their alphabet makes sense and almost everything is spelled like it sounds. Unlike crazy English!
  • 45D [“Woe Is I” author Patricia] O’CONNER – I’ll bet there aren’t many that spell this surname ER instead of OR!

My next LAT blog entry is Tuesday. See you then!

Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 08/31/2019

This one was a little more “Ruff” than a normal Les Ruff puzzle, but still managed to solve in under 15 minutes, which is a win for me. This grid has 72 words, which would be on the upper end for a themeless, so you would expect not too much crossword-y dreck, and there doesn’t seem to be any here. Although in a Stumper, you would expect some. It’s supposed to be hard! I got the SE area first, at least most of it, circled around, and I believe my last entry was 44D. There is an error mark in the grid image, if you look closely! Still a nice puzzle, Stan! 4.3 stars today.

Some faves:

  • 14A [Work with a troubadour hero] IL TROVATORE – Wonderful! I was totally Stumped here for a bit, since I am uncultured and don’t know opera. (This is an opera, right?)
  • 17A [Vegan 40 Across] RATATOUILLE – 40A is STEW, but I wouldn’t call this a stew. Depends on how you make it, I guess. Now I want to watch the movie!
  • 41A [”Chicago” guy from Chicago] FOSSE – Clever little clue here. I have never seen this movie or play or anything else!
  • 43A [Piercing-sounding poet] NOYES – I read this as No-Yes!
  • 61A [Start of many a satiric verse] ROSES ARE RED – One of the best entries, along with 14A. Definitely elicited a grin from me!
  • 1D [’60s sci-fi intro speaker] KIRK – Nice tie-in here with 15D, which is VOYAGES and references that word used in the Star Trek intro!
  • 3D [Man’s first name?] OTTO – This is a bad pun!
  • 9D [Streep author role (2002)] ORLEAN – I had to look this up. This was from the movie Adaptation. with Nicolas Cage. Never saw it.
  • 11D [Commercial artist, often] VOICE ACTOR – Many famous actors become this in commercials, including very famous voices like James Earl Jones, etc.
  • 27D [”Distinctive sound” musical instruments] IDIOPHONES – So, … I learned a new word here!
  • 29D [”Help power the real you” brand] NO-DOZ – I have never taken this stuff. I live on coffee!
  • 44D [Got] SECURED – I had an R in the first part here, since I didn’t know 43A. Again, since I am uncultured, I don’t know poetry!

Have a great weekend!

Will Eisenberg’s Universal crossword, “Hidden Bookcase”—Jim Q’s review

Sure to please the bibliophiles!

Universal crossword solution · Will Eisenberg · “Hidden Bookcase” · Sat., 8.31.19

THEME: Book titles that start common phrases


  • 20A [Good grasps of business? (John Grisham)] FIRM HANDSHAKES.
  • 25A [Anonymous love letter senders (Rhonda Byrne)] SECRET ADMIRERS.
  • 42A [Flashes of glory (Stephen King)] SHINING MOMENTS.
  • 48A [Netflix horror show (Albert Camus)] STRANGER THINGS.
  • 63A [Article that can be added to 20-, 25-, 42- and 48-Across’ starts to form book titles] THE.

Quite possibly the most bizarre revealer I’ve ever seen… THE. Strangely, however, it’s necessary. I figured out the theme early and was wondering why the clues never mentioned that “The” was missing from the titles. And it was a laugh out loud chuckle filling it in as my last entry. So, weird- but sure!

All well known novels. All well known phrases. All plural. Very consistent and very much in my wheelhouse. A “right over the plate” puzzle.

A bummer that SNEE had to make an appearance in order to get THE in just the right spot. NOCK was another entry that feels dated. But at least the clue for 9-Down is still accurate as of today!

3 stars from me.

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18 Responses to Saturday, August 31, 2019

  1. PJ says:

    Universal 8d – My favorite piece of Great Lakes trivia – One province borders four Great Lakes. The only lake it doesn’t border is Michigan. One state borders four Great Lakes – Michigan. The only lake it doesn’t border – Ontario.

  2. MattF says:

    Relatively easy NYT, at half my average time. Best home remedy is applying tea to sunburn.

  3. Stephen B Manion says:

    Another unusually easy Friday or Saturday puzzle for me.

    In Canada, a trifecta is called a triactor and in England it is a tricast, both of which seem especially fitting names for the recipients. Christopher Plummer is the only Canadian winner I am aware of and there are several English winners. I had never heard of the Trifecta until this puzzle. The only distinction I had heard of is EGOT, adding Grammy to the list.

    BITE MARK seems odd. Bite marks can certainly break the surface. Insect Bites maybe or hickeys?


  4. Ben says:

    Enjoyed the NYT overall. Definitely on the easier side for a Saturday, but that’s fine with me.

    On Georges PEREC: not only was he known for using experimental constraints and wordplay in his books — he worked as a crossword constructor for some time as well! Here is a translation of his essay “Thoughts on the Art and Technique of Crossing Word,” which is an excellent primer on construction. (Kudos to the translators for putting not just his essay but also the example grids/clues into English!)

    Definitely one of the more interesting and innovative writers I’ve ever come across. I read his book W back in college and it stuck with me as much as any book can ever since.

    • JohnH says:

      I really liked “La Disparition,” the one without the letter E, and hats off to the translator as well, since the feat is even harder in English. (The literal translation of the title would have gotten him into trouble right off, as “The Disappearance.” He came up with “A Void.”) It starts with a lively single run-on word of exasperation that’s hilarious already, kind of like in English “Chrisitstinksinhere.”

      He’s best known, though, for “La Vie: Mode d’Emploi” (“Life: A User’s Manual”), a much fatter novel that sold well in both languages. Also way clever, almost like a mystery story, only not.

      I found the NYT a great challenge.

      • pannonica says:

        If I recall correctly, it’s David Bellos who did most if not all of Perec’s English translations.

        … searches internet …

        Yay, correct!

      • JohnH says:

        Oh, shoot. Now I’m embarrassed. Must be losing it. That opening word is from another very funny contemporary novel, Zazie in the Metro, by Raymond Queneau. So sorry.

  5. Neville says:


    You wondered about who did what in the LA Times puzzle. If I recall correctly, I started constructing the grid in the upper-left, and then Paolo wrote the middle through lower-right. Then between the two of us we took care of the remaining corners. We both wrote a lot of clues, and then sent the puzzle off. We were asked to make some changes (I think in the upper-right? It was so long ago!), which we did together. Of course, the LAT editorial staff made some clue changes of their own.

  6. M483 says:

    Universal puzzle, Jim Q’s review: I really had to laugh at “nock feels dated!” Archery is, was and will continue to be a sport. (I don’t mean hunting.) We still say “nock the arrow.”

  7. TammyB says:

    WSJ: I always take a quick look through for “gimmes.” I spied one immediately at 90A “Prevention publisher.”

    RODALE, of course! My dad subscribed to Prevention for at least 50 years. He passed away in 2017 at 95, so it must have been worth the subscription price.

    Alas, that answer messed me up for quite some time. I see Hearst bought it the month after my dad passed. Kinda weird, eh? But at least I can be forgiven for not having known!

  8. C. Y. Hollander says:

    I couldn’t believe that Stan Newman [editor of Newsday’s puzzle] allowed a clue that used “troubadour” to describe the hero of Il trovatore. Isn’t such duplication verboten by convention and wouldn’t it have been rather simple to come up with a synonym to avoid it?

  9. JohnH says:

    In the WSJ, I don’t understand FRENCHED LIGHT. I looked up “French” in RHUD, to see if it means lipstick stained, but that didn’t work.

    Hard one, with lots of hard or maybe not really me fill, but good theme that made it all worthwhile. The NW was the hardest of all for me, between that, the mobile device new to me, and maybe a near-miss definition for ECHOING. I’m not sure that I’ve heard “made man” apart from “self-made man,” but it didn’t ruin the puzzle for me at all.

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