Sunday, October 27, 2019

LAT 7:48 (Jenni) 


NYT 9:01 (Amy) 


WaPo 19:57 (Jim Q) 


Universal tk (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Rebecca) 


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

Before I begin, is there an Orca Award for publication with best titles? The WaPo titles are almost always fantastic. This one is no exception.

Last week’s Poe themed puzzle was just an appetizer. Today’s offering is full on spooky. It was super tricky (but definitely more treaty).

THEME: The letters DE and AD are “raised” out of the theme answers.


  • 28A [Artist’s depictions] REN{DE}RINGS.

    Washington Post, October 27, 2019, Evan Birnholz, “Graveyard Shift” solution grid

  • 30A [Travel company that operates the website Family Vacation Critic] TRIP {AD}VISOR.
  • 50A [Stops on a line] TRAIN {DE}POTS.
  • 55A [Mayonnaise-like condiment used in British dishes] SAL{AD} CREAM. 
  • 92A [Driver who’s over 100] SPEED {DE}MON. 
  • 94A [Component of a residential mailing list] HOME {AD}DRESS. 
  • 118A [Disarmed figure?] VENUS {DE} MILO. 
  • 121A [Cares] GIVE {A D}ARN. 
  • 73A [Bring people back to life, and what you must do in four rows in this puzzle] RAISE THE DEAD

Well above average solve time for me. Even though I flew out of the gates, I just couldn’t quite grasp the theme until I stopped and paused for a moment, and tried to absorb what RAISE THE DEAD could possibly mean. Problem for me was that I already had some of the theme answers completely filled without realizing they were theme answers. For instance, I thought TRIP, clued as a travel company, was just one I’d never heard of. Even though I spent the whole summer in the U.K. (and used SALAD CREAM multiple times), I convinced myself that they used SAL (like Spanish salt!) in their dishes. I gave a hairy eyeball to HOME being clued as [Component of a residential mailing list], but I accepted it. The clues for both GIVE and TRAIN seemed sloppy, but I somehow convinced myself that they were acceptable answers.

SPEED DEMON is where it hit me. And what a great AHA moment it was. I love themes where they aid you in filling in everything else, and this one didn’t disappoint in that respect at all. And it was a lot of fun to go back and see what I’d missed on the initial pass (even though I still thought I was supposed to read HOME ADDRESS as HOMEMADE DRESS [Cinderella costume piece]… which doesn’t make sense on multiple levels- my bad!)

And hey, even if you didn’t like the theme, there was plenty of spooky fill to enjoy.


  • 35A [“American Horror Story,” e.g.] SERIES. 
  • 37A [Halloween choice] TRICK.
  • 59A [Big goblin feature] EAR.
  • 63A [Bit of black magic] HEX. 
  • 64A [Like Halloween makeup, perhaps] BLOODY.
  • 70A [Bewitched] ENRAPT. 
  • 89A [Event that may feature people in costumes] PARADE. 
  • 95A [Cinderella costume piece] DRESS. 
  • 127A [Spooky occurrence in the board game Betrayal at House on the Hill] OMEN.
  • 132 [When human sacrifices occur] LENT. Fantastically spooky clue.
  • 46D [Kids’ Halloween party planner, maybe] MOM. 
  • 50D [“The Bone Garden” writer Gerritsen] TESS. 
  • 54D [Ghost story, e.g.] TALE.
  • 77D [Zombie’s attack] BITE.
  • 96D [Digest Rice, say?] READ. Anne Rice, of course. 
  • 119D [Phantom’s name] ERIK. No clue what this refers to, but sounds spooky enough for me!
  • 129D [Horror maven Roth] ELI. 

And you could argue that there were double that clued more “spookily” than normal.

One clue I didn’t quite understand until I was driving today (and I pulled up to a stop sign):

  • 47A [Letter written in the center of stop signs?] PSI. It’s brilliant. “Stop sign” literally has the letter PSI embedded in its center.

Don’t whine that the word DEAD wasn’t literally raised as a whole. DE and AD separately worked well enough, and resulted in a fiendishly devilish and delightful Halloween puzzle. Also, if you’re more of a traditionalist, my Spidey Senses are telling me that, after two mind-benders in a row, you can expect something over-the-plate next week.

Michael Paleos’s New York Times crossword, “How Sweet It Is!”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 27 19, “How Sweet It Is”

Running so close to Halloween, I’m surprised there’s not a trick-or-treat angle to the title. The revealer runs across the middle: 68a. [Pattern once used for hospital volunteer uniforms, with a hint to this puzzle’s theme], CANDY STRIPE. All the circled vertical themers (just put an asterisk before the clues!), occupying all the Down answers in six columns, contain brand names of candy clued generically.

  • 1d. [Big fat lies], WHOPPERS. I loved these as a kid. My Christmas stocking would often have one of those half-gallon cartons of Whoppers beside it.
  • 60d. [What x’s sometimes represent], KISSES. Meh, Hershey’s chocolate is nowhere near the best.
  • 100d. [Tiny objections], PEEPS. Marshmallow Peeps are gross.
  • 4d. [Pop covers], BOTTLE CAPS. Meh.
  • 72d. [They come through when you need them most], LIFE SAVERS. Still mad that they discontinued the all-tangerine roll.
  • 8d. [Types who think school is too cool], NERDS. Last time I ate Nerds was at the hair salon, from my colorist’s candy bowl. Cannot resist.
  • 42d. [Heaps], MOUNDS. Not a big coconut fan. Gotta be good coconut, not stale.
  • 81d. [Its closest neighbor is Andromeda], MILKY WAY. Ugh. Too insipid. Needs nuts. Remember Milky Way Dark, with vanilla nougat and dark chocolate? *chef’s kiss*
  • 11d. [Derisive chuckles], SNICKERS. I actually filled in the sugar-crusted candy CHUCKLES at first … despite that clue.
  • 65d. [What lettuce lends to a sandwich], CRUNCH. Incomplete without Nestle prefacing it! I asked my husband, “Do you like Crunch bars?” And he asked me what those were. My point exactly!
  • 104d. [Jag], SPREE. Big fan of Spree in junior high and high school.
  • 14d. [Gold digger’s goldmine], SUGAR DADDY. First off, this clue is repellent. “Gold digger” is a sexist term. How about [Older man who has to pay if he wants a younger woman’s attention], eh?
  • 74d. [Total stunners], HOT TAMALES. Another inherently sexist term. This whole candy stripe sucks.
  • 18d. [Pipsqueaks], RUNTS. I don’t know/recall what these candies are.
  • 48d. [Biweekly occurrence, for many], PAYDAY. This chocolate-free candy bar is actually a great alternative to things like Kind bars. You want 7 g of protein from peanuts, the nourishing fats in the nuts, plus some sugar/carbs for energy? Buy a Payday bar, save money. It’s effing delicious.
  • 87d. [Scatterbrains], AIRHEADS. Not really sure what these are. I think Airheads and Runts both came out after my formative candy years had already established my preferences.

So I enjoyed the candy theme, and I knew all the candy names Just hated that Column of Sexist Crap.

New-to-me entry, I think: 20a. [QB defenders, collectively], O LINE. Filled it in via crossings, never saw the clue, was startled to see OLINE in the grid and wondered what nonsense this is. Offensive line. Yes, they’re clued as defenders. They defend the QB during offensive plays. See also: D line.

Five more things:

  • 25a. [Year of the final flight of the Concordes], MMIII. 2003. Alas, not an allusion to the funny Flight of the Conchords.
  • 65a. [Manic-looking, in a way], CRAZY-EYED / 107a. [Regards covetously], EYES UP. I guess the editors didn’t see that duplicated entry.
  • 33d. [Large, purple Hanna-Barbera character], GRAPE APE. Surprising fact I just learned about this 1970s cartoon: They made just 16 episodes of The Great Grape Ape Show, in 1975, and yet the show aired on Saturday mornings until 1978. Millennials, can you imagine? We ’70s kids had so few TV channels in the pre-cable era that we apparently watched the same 16 episodes for three years without really noticing.
  • 50a. [Infomercial imperative], ACT NOW. I bet “Buy now!” is a lot more common. Certainly it communicates more clearly what the advertiser wants you to do.
  • 23a. [Something set by a stove], OVEN TIMER. By = near, I think, as the stove doesn’t do anything.

Hours later: Oops, forgot to finish the post and hit publish! 3.3 stars from me. Definite debit for that sexist theme stripe.

Joe Deeney’s Universal crossword, “Writing Down”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Theme answers are split between 2 acrosses and a down, with the TONGUE in the answer in the down

Universal crossword solution · Joe Deeney · “Writing Down” · Sun., 10.27.19


  • 1A [What many No. 1 hits do (continues at 4-Down and 31-Across)] GO PLATINUM
  • 10A [Pike Place Market merchant (continues at 13-Down and 35-Across)] FISH MONGER
  • 32A [Quibble (continues at 34-Down and 57-Across)] SPLIT HAIRS
  • 37A [Singer specialty (continues at 39-Down and 77-Across)] MACHINE SEWING
  • 72A [Crude (continues at 73-Down and 104-Across)] UNPOLISHED
  • 123A [Doctors’ sticks, or another title for this puzzle] TONGUE DEPRESSORS

We don’t often get puzzles that start with theme answers right out of the gate at 1-Across, and I loved that – giving us that immediate indication that something weird is going on added to the excitement of the solve – and this puzzle was strong enough that it never went away. Impressive group of answers for the themes, with all of the second across parts unquestionably legitimate answers. We had another Singer misdirect today, with MACHINE SEWING, which I’ll somehow always be fond of – and always fall for. If I’m being nit-picky, the placement of the theme answers felt a bit random, but all that did was make me think there would be another language to look out for – didn’t take away from the solve. And that TONGUE DEPRESSORS revealer is absolutely perfect.

A little short on time today – but some great fill here as well IT HAPPENS, AREN’T WE ALL, BURSTS OPEN were among my favorites – but every section of the puzzle was really lively and entertaining. Not much to get stuck on, and consistently fun. My favorite area was the southwest – with GAZPACHO, OXICLEAN, and BELTS OUT crossing things like ALSORANS, ZILLOW and GO BAGS.


4 Stars

Robin Stears’s LA Times crossword, “What About Bob?” – Jenni’s write-up

All the theme answers are three-word phrases with the initial B-O-B. This is the kind of theme that makes a puzzle easier without being all that much fun.

Los Angeles Times, October 27, 2019, Robin Stears, “What About Bob?”, solution grid

  • 23a [Flop] is a BOX OFFICE BOMB.
  • 34a [Colorful Bobby Vinton album (and hit song)] is BLUE ON BLUE.
  • 49a [1936 Edward G. Robinson gangster film] is BULLETS OR BALLOTS. Never heard of it.
  • 68a [Sun metaphor] is BIG ORANGE BALL. I guess. Is this is common usage?
  • 89a [Make extreme efforts] is BEND OVER BACKWARD.
  • 103a [1998 Stephen King “haunted love story”] is BAG OF BONES.
  • 118a [“You’re in my space, pal!”] is BACK OFFBUSTER. Finally – one that was actually somewhat amusing.

This is a pretty “meh” theme and the fill didn’t have anything particularly sparkling to redeem the puzzle.

A few other things:

  • 1a [Narratives of deeds] is ACTA, a fairly obscure entry, especially for 1a.
  • 22a [It’s usually taken in twos] is an outdated clue for ASPIRIN. Yes, I know it references the old “take two and call me in the morning” joke. These days aspirin is more often used for prevention of heart attacks than for its anti-inflammatory properties; the correct dose is one tablet (either 325 mg or 81 mg, depending on the situation).
  • 40d [Pool room] is about swimming, not billiards. It’s CABANA.
  • How many of you got ORDO right off? {raises hand} I have no idea why that sticks in my head.
  • 121d  is just wrong. The clue is [Pre-A.D.] and the answer in the grid is BCE. If you’re using that wording, the other era is CE not AD. The whole point is to get away from Christian-centric terminology to “common era” and “before the common era.” It’s still Eurocentric, so it’s only a small step in the right direction.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that someone who raises roses is a ROSARIAN.

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28 Responses to Sunday, October 27, 2019

  1. Anne says:

    What a slog. I had heard of candy stripers, so I got the theme. But I don’t know about WHOPPERS PEEPS BOTTLECAPS NERDS CRUNCH SPREE SUGARDADDY HOTTAMALES RUNTS PAYDAY or AIRHEADS. So no help to me from most of the theme entries.

    And in my part of the world, biweekly means twice per week. As opposed to fortnightly, which means once every two weeks.

  2. Dook says:

    Bi-monthly, not biweekly, a duplicate eyes, hillier – just no!

    Not sure why ‘gold digger’ (who could be of any gender) is more problematic than ‘sugar daddy’. Not clear why ‘hot tamale’ would be sexist either. Calling someone (again could be any gender) a hot tamale is a compliment. Is it sexist to comment on someone’s looks and sex appeal? I hope not.

    Totally agree about Nestle’s Crunch (as opposed to Crackle, to which we would not add Hershey’s)

    Liked the candy theme, though didn’t know some of the candies.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Yes, it is sexist to comment on a woman’s “looks and sex appeal.” And no, “reverse sexism” isn’t a thing. Women can (and do) objectify men. That’s also inappropriate. It is not sexism because women, as a class, don’t hold more power than men, as a class.

      If you make a practice of commenting on the looks and “sex appeal” of any woman other than your romantic partner, you are making many – probably most – of those women uncomfortable. You’re also making any other women who hear you uncomfortable, and suggesting to everyone in the room that your attitudes are (to be charitable) out of date.

      • Ned says:

        Well, if we’re going to be ** really ** observant, AIRHEADS is ableist and RUNTS is a short-shaming insult. ?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If you check a dictionary, it’ll probably tell you that the ways gold digger and hot tamale are used generally apply to women. Also, when male DADDY is in the answer to the gold digger clue, unless you’re saying that gay male gold diggers are a common enough thing for NYT crossword clues to reference them, the clue is implying a female gold digger.

      *Krackel, not Crackle

    • R says:

      I dare you to find a dictionary entry for “biweekly” that doesn’t include “every two weeks.”
      I would agree that I can’t imagine any way to clue SUGAR DADDY that Amy wouldn’t find gross. Even if it were her suggested [Older man who has to pay if he wants a younger woman’s attention], she’d complain that it was giving gross men too much real estate in the Sunday puzzle. Either that or it would fail the breakfast test.

  3. placematfan says:

    Wow, what an extraordinary theme execution in the WaPo. Beautiful.

  4. rosiebro says:

    I look forward to the Sunday puzzle as a refuge from politics. Can you please confine your opinions to the puzzle’s construction and leave your politics to some other forum. {I’ve made this request before, obviously to no avail, but will continue to do so}

    • Jenni Levy says:

      “My recreation is more important than your distress.” Fixed that for you.

      It never ceases to amaze me that people don’t see the contradiction in objecting to our commentary because it upsets them. Sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism (among many others) upset *us.* Sometimes we write about it. Not nearly every time, because it’s exhausting, but sometimes. I would love it if puzzles were a refuge from sexism but they’re not.

      • Dr Fancypants says:

        The decision to remain silent in the face of toxic culture is itself a political act—the act of accepting injustice and oppression rather than speaking out against it.

      • sara says:

        Thank you!!! I found this website because, as a newly daily NYT solver for the past couple of months, I started to notice sexist clues and answers here and there and it bothered me to the point that I googled it and learned that the vast majority of constructors and editors are men—I never would have found that out had it not been for the puzzles themselves. No one in the Word Play blog or comments seemed to say anything about the sexism so I went looking for like minds and here I am. To rosiebro: I look forward to crossword puzzles for recreation, too, and it really sucks to be happily moving through a puzzle, musing over different possible wordplay solutions to a clue about “gold diggers,” only to find out that, of all the possible interpretations, the answer is a sexist stereotype. And then the hot tamale question. The objectification made me feel excluded, like the puzzle was just for men. Crosswords are supposed to be for a general audience, including women, and sexist clues have no place in them. I am so over Shortz. I was really pleased to come here and be reminded that I’m not the only one bothered by this sh*t. Thanks, and keep up the commentary!

  5. roger says:

    Maybe OLINE can be used to describe SUGARDADDY and HOTTAMALES.

    Boring puzzle.

  6. Christopher Smith says:

    The NYT app actually shades the themers, which complements the CANDY STRIPE revealer much better than a bunch of circles. I used to complain about the app a lot but they deserve credit for making it more flexible to accommodate the Sunday puzzles over the last few years.

  7. Jenni Levy says:

    And to cleanse my palate: LOVED the WaPo. Just loved it.

  8. Robin Stears says:

    Nice review, Gareth! And I’m glad I can blame all the things you didn’t like on editorial changes — most of those clues were not mine. ;-)

    I will own the BCE clue, though, because obviously I couldn’t use “CE” in the clue itself and I needed to use something close to it.

    Entry that didn’t make the cut: BLUE OYSTER BAR, the bar made famous by “Police Academy” films. :D

  9. GlennP says:

    WaPo: ERIK (119D) is the name of the title character of The Phantom of the Opera … who knew? Wikipedia did, not me!

  10. Norm says:

    Amy is at it again: puzzles shouldn’t be rated by ones own political views. Being an expert in crosswords is not an expert in politics.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Norm, you’re gonna have to start your own crossword blog if you’re looking for one that will cater to your delicate snowflake sensibilities.

      Also, what the hell do “political views” have to do with finding sexist language to be unwelcome in a crossword puzzle?

      I bet you’d complain bitterly if all the crosswords were filled with clues that insult white people and older men, Norm, and would have a negative assessment of the puzzles. And when someone told you to stop your complaining about the biased-against-you editorial slant of the puzzles, you wouldn’t care for it.

  11. Judith Speer says:

    I can’t find it now but someone commented earlier that the new Catalina version of MAC IOS will not support AcrossLite. What will MAC users be able to use to access most of the puzzles that are now on that format???

  12. Hup hup says:

    Sunday’s NYT clue for 40 across was “. A quotation mark. Not a symbol for rewind as far as I know. Across Lite showed it as it must have been printed but the electronic version used the quotation symbol. Gettable from the crosses but hope it isn’t used again.

  13. Anonymous Coward says:

    If you want a good coconut candy bar, Bounty is a lot better than Mounds. The only downside is you have to go to Canada or Europe to find one. (That’s actually an upside, so go for it.)

Comments are closed.