Sunday, November 10, 2019

LAT 9:08 (Jenni) 


NYT 8:57 (Amy) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Universal tk (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Rebecca) 


Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword, “Double Sixes”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 9 19, no. 1109, “Double Sixes”

The theme is not particularly amusing phrases made up to include six sets of double letters in a row:

  • 23a. [Low singers, short on money, draw idly?], BASSI IN NEED DOODLE. Bassi is a form of the word I don’t often encounter.
  • 37a. [Works as an accountant for a Swedish aerospace company?], DOES SAAB BOOKKEEPING. Saab no longer sells cars. Saab is the 40th largest aerospace company and meh.
  • 53a. [People who share an apartment with a Jordanian royal?], QUEEN NOOR ROOMMATES. She’s been the queen dowager for 20 years of widowhood, does important work on environmental issues, and divides her time between Jordan, the UK, and Washington, DC.
  • 75a. [Designer Mizrahi shouts like a cowboy in a nonchalant way?], ISAAC COOLLY YEEHAWS. That … is a stretch.
  • 94a. [Headline after an adolescent at a pool competition is made fun of?], SWIM MEET TEEN NEEDLED.
  • 112a. [Matriculated students appear to be timid?], ENROLLEES SEEM MEEK. Enrollees! What a lively word.

So I didn’t enjoy the theme, and most of the fill was just okay (plural INDIGOS, some dated references, LEAVE ON, SOBBER, ENOS ESAU ESE, etc.).

Likes: OY VEY, FESTOON, MAKING A STINK, tasty PIRATE’S BOOTY (I will never forget the way I heard a woman from Belize pronounce Veggie Booty, the green version of this snack), STEADICAM.

Four more things:

  • 87d. [Crib users], CHEATERS. Crib sheets to use during an exam, not the cribs babies sleep in. I did not grow up in an area that used the term.
  • 84a. [Man’s name that becomes another man’s name when a “C” is put in front], ALVIN. I needed crossings to assemble this, and liked the clue.
  • 91a. [Smooth and lustrous], SILKEN. I see the word most often paired with tofu. For smooth and lustrous non-tofu things, silky seems more apt.
  • 68d. [New York Titans’ org. of old], AFL. Ugh.

2.9 stars from me. I’d have liked more zippiness in the fill and clues to offset the theme’s flatness, but Sunday puzzles all too often fall short on the “really fun fill” front.

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

What’s in a name? Well, someone else’s name if this puzzle is any indication…

THEME: The first names of famous people are scrambled to create an alternate identity


Washington Post, November 10, 2019, Evan Birnholz, “Mistaken Identity” solution grid

  • 23A [*”When Harry Met Sally” screenwriter] RONA EPHRON. Not NORA. 
  • 25A [*Short-story writer awarded the Nobel Prize in 2013] CELIA MUNRO. ALICE. 
  • 39A [*”Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” co-star] IRMA SORVINO. MIRA. 
  • 50A [*”Show Boat” novelist] DEAN FERBER. EDNA. 
  • 54A [*”The Chosen” author] MICAH POTOK. CHAIM. 
  • 70A [*U.S. Open winner in 1974, 1979 and 1990] LEAH IRWIN. HALE. 
  • 85A [*”Giving You the Best That I Got” singer] TANIA BAKER. ANITA. 
  • 89A [*Playwright knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1970] LEON COWARD. NOEL. 
  • 96A [*”Bound” actress] INGA GERSHON. GINA. 
  • 117A [*Elevator safety pioneer] SHEILA OTIS. ELISHA. 
  • 120A [What the 10 starred answers in this puzzle have undergone, and what’s spelled out by their first letters when you unscramble their first words] NAME CHANGE. 

This one played very difficult for me in comparison with most WaPos. It was difficult for me to find a solid foothold anywhere, and it felt proper noun heavy. I was actually surprised when Mr. Happy Pencil appeared some twenty minutes after I started, being that I lacked confidence throughout most of the solve. Nearly everything felt “on the tip of my tongue” and just out of reach.

Grokked the theme with NOEL/LEON COWARD, but that was the only theme answer I was truly confident with (perhaps ALICE/CELIA MUNRO too…). Still, it’s a testament to the construction that I was able to figure everything out, and there’s nothing wrong with a puzzling puzzle, right?

TOUGH STUFF (for me):

  • 66D [Colleague of Bones] UHURA. Needed every cross.
  • 68D [___ Aquarium (big Chicago attraction)] SHEDD. Never heard of this either, and being so close to UHURA certainly didn’t help.
  • 87A [Text warning] NOTA BENE. Was not expecting Latin!
  • 14D [Negative reply to one’s own rhetorical question] I SAY NO. Doesn’t strike me as a phrase…
  • 114D [Pianist Gilels] EMIL. Argh! I can never remember his first name!
  • 97D [“Forget it,” in dated slang] NO SOAP. This phrase vaguely rings a bell. Still, I wanted NO SOUP. Still, NATCH looked better than NUTCH, though I wasn’t familiar with that word either.
  • Rory McCann

    40D [“Game of Thrones” actor McCann] RORY. (Googles) Ah! The Hound!!
  • 70D [Actress Dunham, Headey or Olin] LENA. The incomparable LENA Hall got snubbed! Just saw her in the best/worst musical ever… Bat out of Hell: The Musical. 

The SE corner made me laugh. It’s totally stoned:

101D [Genre of the 1970s album “Legalize It”] REGGAE and 100D [Joint relatives] BLUNTS… I like how COUGH runs through both.

The clue for NAME CHANGE seemed a bit unwieldy, but as soon as I saw the length of the clue, I had a feeling it was essentially asking me to check out first letters of themes. A Birnholzian staple.

Can’t say it was my favorite one, but the challenge was welcome.


  • 115D [Company that used the phrase “blast processing” to market its game consoles] SEGA. 

Splendor, in 93D’s clue, turns out to be a board game. Sounds interesting!

I leave you with this SNL skit about people trying to legally change their names.


Gail Grabowski’s Universal crossword, “No Less”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: The first word of each answers has no “less”

Universal crossword solution · Gail Grabowski · “No Less” · Sun., 11.10.19


  • 21A [Get a whiff of a compost pile?] SENSEless WASTE
  • 23A [AWOL, for one?] BASEless CHARGE
  • 36A [Orderly line of linemen?] ENDless PROCESSION
  • 66A [Person with incredible instincts?] GUTless WONDER
  • 93A [Firm producing Valentine’s Day candy?] HEARTless BUSINESS
  • 113A [Entry in the Guinness World Leopards book?] SPOTless RECORD
  • 115A [Auto mechanic, at times?] TIREless WORKER
  • 35D [Pursuit of healthy gift basket ingredients?] FRUITless SEARCH
  • 39D [“I think this soup needs more seasoning,” for one?] TASTEless REMARK

This puzzle is clever but is another example of something that needed a revealer. I think if “No Less” had been somewhere in the grid, rather than the title I may have gotten there with this theme, but some of the base phrases don’t feel legitimate enough for me to have seen this clearly without that indicator. That said, this theme did make for some very entertaining clues – the best for me going to SPOT RECORD [Entry in the Guinness World Leopards book?], TASTE REMARK [“I think this soup needs more seasoning,” for one?], and FRUIT SEARCH [Pursuit of healthy gift basket ingredients?].

Some fun clue stuff to discuss – favorites included STEER [Range rover], LEAVES [Bibb units], and SLABS [Good-sized hunks]. I also really enjoyed the twin clues for EYEBROW [Tweezer target] and TOE NAIL [Pedicure target].

Other words I just enjoyed seeing – PANACHE, UNIONIZE, MIMOSA, and SLIPSHOD.

I did really enjoy this solve overall – just wish the puzzle had given me the AHA moment to bring it together.

3.5 Stars

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword, “Fowl Play” – Jenni’s write-up

It’s a bird….it’s a pun…it’s a crossword theme!

Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2019, Ed Sessa, “Fowl Play,” solution grid

  • 23a [Action at a coop dance?] is POULTRY IN MOTION.
  • 39a [Nestling tossed out of a bar?] is a BOUNCED CHICK.
  • 47a [Story subtitled “Murder Most Fowl”?] is THE FRYERS TALE.
  • 66a [Rooster’s wake-up call?] is an ALARM CLUCK. We would also have accepted CLOCK-A-DOODLE-DOO.
  • 69a [Tiny hatchling group?] is a MICRO BROOD.
  • 88a [What fussy hens do?] is PECK AND CHOOSE. Anyone else remember the clothing store Peck & Peck?
  • 97a [Fowl haulin’ a semi?] is a CAPON TRUCKIN‘.
  • 117a [“Rooster Wars” sequel in which Hen Solo rescues Princess Layer?] is THE BANTAM MENACE. Extra points for the clue.

This was fun to solve and all the themers are solid. Happy Sunday!

A few other things:

  • I never think of POLO as a ball game, although of course it is.
  • I haven’t seen the word PEIGNOIR in years.
  • MIDORI ITO shows up with her full name, albeit cross-referenced.
  • 44d [1983 Keaton film] is Michael, not Diane, which took me a while to figure out. The answer is MR MOM.
  • I filled in 86a from crossings and couldn’t figure out what LE TRIP meant. That’s because it’s LET RIP.

What I didn’t know before I did this crossword: that Bela Lugosi was buried in a CAPE.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Sunday, November 10, 2019

  1. JohnH says:

    I thought the NYT theme was ingenious and hard to pull off, especially without a lot of junk. It then also gave help with the fill while simultaneously presenting a bit of a challenge even once one has the theme. The fill also had some unusual words worth my learning, like SURCEASE as a verb and EASEMENT, rather than trivia. So all positives for me.

  2. Nene says:

    I found the theme a bit juvenile. Expected better from PGordon. Not enough bite in this one.

  3. bonekrusher says:

    Wow, so surprised at the middling review and ratings for the NYT. Thought it was brilliant and so much fun to try and parse through the oddly phrased clues to find the combo of words to yield the six-doubled phrases. From me, a very rare 5-star rating.

    • RSP64 says:

      To me, the theme phrases were basically random words strung together to get the desired double letters. The theme answers and clues were missing any kind of cleverness or humor. I rated it a 2.5. I guess that shows how widely people’s opinions can vary. I can certainly respect a different point of view.

Comments are closed.