Sunday, October 6, 2019

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (pannonica) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Universal untimed (Rebecca)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Rebecca) 


Howard Barkin and Victor Barocas’ New York Times crossword, “Initial Public Offerings” — pannonica’s write-up

NYT • Sunday • “Initial Public Offerings” • Barkin, Barocas • 1006 • solution • 20191006

No revealer, but the conceit is practically telegraphed via the theme clues, prefaced prominently with either a bracketed all-caps ‘previous’ or ‘next’.

  • 25a. [PREVIOUS] Memoirist
    ALICE B TOKLAS, which is preceded by 24a [N.Y.C.-based dance troupe] ABT (American Ballet Theater). See also 59d [Truism based on a line by Gertrude Stein] A ROSE IS A ROSE (… is a rose).
  • 39a. [NEXT] Journalist and author
    HUNTER S THOMPSON, followed by 42a [Maui setting: Abbr.] HST (Hawaiʻi Standard Time). See also 2d [Site of the first Ironman race (1978)] HONOLULU.
  •  55a. [PREVIOUS] Sci-fi author
    ARTHUR C CLARKE, and there’s 54a [Org. for the Demon Deacons and Blue Devils] ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference). See also 61a [H.S. class for future engineers, say] AP PHYSICS.
  • 73a. [NEXT] Famed rights advocate
    SUSAN B ANTHONY, then 75a [Agcy. that supports entrepeneurs] SBA (Small Business Administration). See also 66a [Word appearing on only one current U.S. coin (the nickel)] CENTS (good trivia!).
  • 89a. [PREVIOUS] Noted politician and author
    STEPHEN A DOUGLAS, and oh look 88a is [The so-called “winter blues,” for short] SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder); note that this is clued as an initialism rather than the common boo-hoo word. Can’t locate an appropriate see also here, sooooo … as he was nicknamed the ‘Little Giant’ I’ll share Russian band Little Big’s splendidly goofy “Skibidi” video:
  • 106a [NEXT] American composer and lyricist 
    GEORGE M COHAN, followed by 109a [Canyon maker] GMC (General Motors Company). See also 68a [Yonder] OVER THERE.

So, these people all familiarly go by their first name, middle initial, surname. Their neighboring gridmates are all three-letter initialisms that replicate the associated peoples’ initials. Hence, one can easily appreciate the ‘Initial’ part of the crossword’s title, but the ‘Public Offering’ part eludes me. Certainly it’s a common term, and commonly seen in crosswords as the three-letter initialism IPO, but—for instance—the trigrams aren’t all businesses, let alone publicly traded ones. Is it simply that these initials are being ‘offered publicly’ by being printed in a widely-distributed newspaper?

Not to overly slight this endeavor, but I can’t escape the thought that if this theme were in the Washington Post, Evan Birnholz would have had an additional layer of complexity or significance, such as the all-businesses notion above. Or perhaps he’d’ve ensured that the middle letters taken together spell a relevant word (almost like a meta). For the record they are B-S-C-B-A-M. Let’s rearrange them to … uhm … BABSCM (Barkin and Barocas, Superior Crossword Makers).

A LOT OF (32a [Many]) fun and playful clues in this one. A sampling:

  • 47a [Raise one’s spirits] TOAST
  • 11d [Hex’d] ACCURST
  • Questionmark’d: 56d [High percentage of criminals?] USURY, 61d [Mass-produced response?] AMEN, 63a [Inspiration for a horror movie?] GASP, 71d [Northern borders?] ENS
  • 40d [Something a house might be built on] SPEC
  • 55d [Left on board] APORT
  • 70d [Trio often heard in December] HO, HO, HO
  • 102d [Something a cobbler may hold] SHOE

Three-letter initialisms unrelated to the theme material: 65a IMO (in my opinion), 93a BSA (Boy Scouts of America), 108d AMA (American Medical Association).

Further clue commentary:

  • Stacked on themers: 21a [It goes up with alcohol consumption] REACTION TIME (above ALICE B TOKLAS); 113a [“I can’t understand this at all”] IT’S GREEK TO ME (beneath GEORGE M COHAN).
  • Apt symmetrical pairs: the archaic ACCURST and BETROTH (11d, 85d); 7d [Took by threat] EXTORTED and 79d [What causes will-o’-the-wisp] SWAMP GAS.
  • More good trivia: 97a [Largest cell in the human body] OVUM, 8d [Actor on Time’s list of the 100 most important people of the 20th century] BRANDO.


19a [Famous feature of the Florence Cathedral] DOME
(Filippo Brunelleschi)


David Alfred Bywaters’s LA Times crossword, “Time For ‘A’ Change” – Jenni’s write-up

This is a homophone puzzle. Each theme answer has a long A sound replaced with a homophonic letter combination, with amusing results.

Los Angeles Times, October 6, 2019, David Alfred Bywaters, “Time For ‘A’ Change,” solution grid

  • 20a [Sumo wrestler’s asset?] is a HAZARDOUS WAIST.
  • 30a [Consequence of overtweezing?] would be RAZED EYEBROWS.
  • 49a [Hawaiian tour company specialist?] is a LEI PERSON. I had the LE and the P and was worried it would have something to do with “leper.” I should have known better.
  • 58a [Common sight on “L.A. Law”?] is DEY IN COURT. Susan Dey. Kids, ask your parents. Then ask your grandparents about “The Partridge Family.”
  • 80a [Mid-morning coffee, say?] is BREAK FLUID. This may be my favorite.
  • 89a [Problem for Roman Britain?] was GAEL FORCE.
  • 104a [Said goodbye, dog-style?] is BAYED FAREWELL. The other possible favorite.
  • 121a [Low-voiced choir member’s goal?] is GET TO FIRST BASS. Technically, “first bass” is a thing, equivalent to first tenor/alto/soprano. They are much more commonly called “baritones,” and they are not the lowest voices – that would be the second bass. So this one really does not work for me even as a joke. Yeah, I know, it’s about trying to be the best bass, but it just doesn’t work. It might have worked if it was clued differently, although I’m having trouble thinking of anything at the moment.

Aside from that last entry, I enjoyed this theme, which made me realize how much the order of entries influences my experience. I work top-to-bottom, and if the last theme answer is a clunker, I tend to think ill of the whole enterprise. Writing out the list forced me to realize that the rest of the entries are good and some of them are really funny. It’s equivalent to thinking a puzzle is really hard if I get stymied at 1a/1d even if it doesn’t take me any longer than usual. The mind is a funny thing.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Followers who may be friendly or hostile] is a fun clue for POSSE. I was thinking about Twitter and didn’t get it until I had most of the crossings.
  • The WTF award goes to 2d, [Eurasian blackbird]. The answer is OUZEL, and it’s a good thing the theme answer that crosses the Z was obvious because I would never have gotten this one on my own.
  • 46d [Muffin fruit] is BLUEBERRY. Now I want a muffin.
  • Twitter shows up at 77a, [Go wild on Twitter]. It’s TREND.
  • 128a [Support framework] is TRUSS which looks odd to me. I think of the framework as being multiple TRUSSES, with one TRUSS as part of the framework. Probably just me.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: OUZEL. I also did not know that the present-day site of ancient Carthage is TUNISIA, that Stephen King shared the first Bram Stoker award* for MISERY, or that TBARs are vanishing.

*for those who also have never heard of this, it’s bestowed by the Horror Writer’s Association for “superior achievement” in writing horror novels, and King shared the 1987 award with Robert R. McCammon, who won for “Swan Song.”


David Alfred Bywaters’s Universal crossword, “Creative Endeavors”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Common phrases clued as the “Creative Endeavor” of its first word

Universal crossword solution · David Alfred Bywaters · “Creative Endeavors” · Sun., 10.06.19


  • 17A [Mold a snow scene in bronze?] CAST A DRIFT
  • 25A [Sketch a large group?] DRAW A CROWD
  • 36A [Design vehicle tags?] FASHION PLATES
  • 49A [Photograph round earrings?] SHOOT HOOPS
  • 60A [Make part of an iron bust?] FORGE A HEAD

This was a great puzzle all around. Really fun theme, very well executed. This was definitely one of those puzzles that once I got one theme answer, I went searching for the others because I wanted to see what else they would be, and none of them disappointed.

Great fill today too. The puzzle stayed interesting throughout, with my favorite answers today TOE TO TOE, FUN HOUSES, ECSTASY, PAST DUE. Clue of the day goes to HAY [Arabian food?].

4 Stars

Erik Agard’s Universal crossword, “Time Travel”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Every answer that crosses the INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE has a day added in the form of a letter.

Universal crossword solution · Erik Agard · “Time Travel” · Sun., 10.06.19


  • 8A [“Are you?” reply (Sunday)] SIAM
  • 21A [First square number (Monday)] ON ME
  • 24A [Part of UCSF (Tuesday)] STAN
  • 28A [Opposite of exo- (Wednesday)] ENDOW
  • 34A [Tabula ___ (Thursday)] RASTA
  • 36A [Declaration of defeat (Friday)] FIRE SIGN
  • 45A [Campus areas (Saturday)] SQUADS
  • 53A [Window coloring (Sunday)] STINT
  • 59A [Actress Fisher (Monday)] ISLAM
  • 63A [Intense enthusiasm (Tuesday)] PASS IT ON
  • 69A [Wavy trig function (Wednesday)] SINEW
  • 77A [Places for massages (Thursday)] DAYS PAST
  • 83A [Train transit (Friday)] FRAIL
  • 89A [Some lights, briefly (Saturday)] SLEDS
  • 95A [Beach trees (Sunday)] PSALMS
  • 101A [Boy sopranos’ voices (Monday)] TREMBLES
  • 106A [Sculptor Hardison or playwright William (Tuesday)] TINGE
  • 115A [Achilles’ weak spot (Wednesday)] WHEEL
  • 120A [Prefix for lateral (Thursday)] UNIT
  • 125A [Trade-___ (Friday)] FINS
  • 128A [Mouse-sighting yelp (Saturday)] SEEK

Two Universal puzzles to love today and not enough time. This puzzle is a thing of beauty. Theme is fantastic and the amount of theme-related answers, as well as the detail put into this is truly astounding. Each word, both with and without the added letter are solid answers, and they run through the week in order. So so impressive.

The Rest of the fill is fantastic as well. CLAPS BACK, ICY STARE, SAY LESS, INDIA ARIE…. I could go on and on with how great this fill is and wish I had more time to do so.

4 Stars

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

My apologies for the late write-up. Especially for such a cool puzzle. I’ll have to be brief too.

THEME: Famous singers are “masked” in black squares.

Washington Post, October 6, 2019, Evan Birnholz, “Musical Covers” solution grid


  • CHER
  • SEAL
  • BONO
  • SADE


  • 26A [Sass, briefly … or, with a possible contestant on 115 Across, mournful piano piece?] {SADE}TUDE. Parsed as SAD ETUDE.
  • 29A [Avatar of Vishnu … or, with a possible contestant on 115 Across, crash into an Arctic mammal?] {RAMA}SEAL. Parsed as RAM A SEAL.
  • 82A [Fifth of fünf … or, with a possible contestant on 115 Across, jockey straps held by a Marxist revolutionary?] {CHER}EINS. Parsed as CHE REINS.
  • 86A [Hazy image … or, with a possible contestant on 115 Across, artist Yoko when she writes a publicity notice?] {BLUR}BONO. Parsed as BLURB BONO.

We’ve seen entries “overspilling” into black squares before, but this is exceptionally tight all around. Of course, even without the “correct” answers that include the black squares, the grid looks normal (i.e. everything in the white squares is acceptable crossword fill). But especially cool is that the “masked singers” are pulling triple duty, making sense in three different directions with wacky answers creating the bonus themers horizontally. Bravo!

It was fun to figure out, though it was evident something funky was going on from the get-go. Is it a rebus? If so, where? There are an awful lot of entries affected by the masked singers, and the AHA was a nice click.

Great puzzle all around.

I really wanted 101A [High school test fig.] to be PROCTOR, even though the abbreviation in the clue told me otherwise. I don’t want to tell you what I was doing while solving the puzzle. I would never sneak a peek at a crossword while proctoring a test on a SATurday. Never.

Thanks for this one!

Awesome title, too.


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10 Responses to Sunday, October 6, 2019

  1. JohnH says:

    Funny, but I’d have said that APORT was crosswordese, the kind of word that wouldn’t be accpted in, say, the Sunday magazine’s letter bank puzzle. But the puzzle, while not bad at all, wasn’t nearly as obvious in print. Instead of “before” and “after,” it has only an exclamation point with theme entries (and what themes do not beg for exclamation points). I almost came here for the reveal before finding it. For a long time, I saw only theme entries with a middle initial, which felt pretty arbitrary, given how many such one could name.

    Not bad at all, although I can’t swear to the cereal mascot and had trouble wrapping up the SE, where “Take It Easy” made me think only of the Eagles, I tried “Yglesias,” and didn’t know the sports Web site. STKS felt a little out there, too. But all done.

    I’d complain that Alice B. Toklas did not write her memoirs. But it’s a decent touch to have a clue for the actual “autobiography” in Gertrude Stein elsewhere. I’d complain, too, that the quote from Stein doesn’t begin with A, but I guess the mistake is hallowed enough from usage by now.

    • Lise says:

      Mine had up-arrows and down-arrows, pointing to the initialism clues. It’s interesting that there are so many versions.

      I’m familiar with SLOW RIDE but for some reason, my brain went directly to “Slow down, you move too fast” from “Feelin’ Groovy” and now I’m kind of singing it which the dog seems to be enjoying. I think.

      • JohnH says:

        Oops, you’re right. I mistook the signs. The detail of arrowheads in print is pretty small. I was thinking of the before and after connections as horizonal, too, so I didn’t make the connection to a clue listing. Oh, well.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Universal – Fantastic theme and execution from Erik. I love how he was able to do this all the way down the grid. So many of them, and all in order! Plus the perfect reveal to tie it all together.

    • Robert White says:

      …and 10 DOTWs are on the left half of the grid, 10 are on the right half, and one [S(T)AN, 24A] is in the middle. Wow!

  3. Norm says:

    Universal: Five stars. I half wanted the bottom part of the grid to lose a day or maybe to have alternating rows as if you were going back and forth across the date line but running the days of the week in order three times (!!!) was so elegant that I was content. I’m often not on the same wavelength with Erik, but this one was a delight to solve.

    WaPo: Five stars here as well. Using the names to end and start the downs AND to have the grid entries be perfectly good words as well AND to use the names across with the wacky clues. Whew. I don’t know how Evan pulls it off. This one was in Merl territory, and I can’t think of higher praise than that,

  4. Cynthia says:

    Where does everyone do the Sunday Universal? When I click on the html link on the “Today’s Puzzles” page it just takes me to the smaller daily puzzle. When I click on the Across Lite icon it says I have to download an app.

  5. Jim Q says:

    It’s worth downloading the app. Across Lite is pretty solid- although it can’t always access some of the more creative features of crosswords. But with Universal you’ll always have a better solve experience with Across Lite since they have the ability to use circles when necessary- the web/print versions don’t have that feature.

    • Norm says:

      And AcrossLite gives you formatting and cursor-movement options that the web puzzle does not. A much more enjoyable solving experience IMO/IMHO [excuse the crossword-ese].

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