Sunday, December 8, 2019

LAT 9:12 (Jenni) 


NYT 8:20 (Amy) 


WaPo 11:28 (Jim Q) 


Universal tk (Rebecca)  


Universal (Sunday) tk (Jim Q) 


Emily Carroll’s New York Times crossword, “Lookin’ Good!”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 8 19, “Lookin’ Good!”

Sorry the post is late—we went down to Little Village to celebrate my son’s girlfriend’s birthday at El Milagro. I tell ya, I wish more Mexican restaurants served tacos with rice, beans, and a vinegary cabbage slaw on ’em, with milanesa de pollo as an option. I first went to El Milagro when I had jury duty at the Criminal Court building—Chicagoans, don’t try to dodge jury duty at 26th and Cal, because you can get a great lunch down the street.

When I hit the second long answer in the puzzle with two successive I’s, I thought I’d figured out the theme. But when I reached the revealer, I discovered I’d missed a layer: 110a. Good-looking … or a phonetic hint to a feature found five times in this puzzle], EASY ON THE EYES. Each instance of II has the letter combo EZ sitting on top, “EZ on the II.” That parsing of the phrase had never occurred to me, so the theme brought a little surprise.

The theme pairs are found in BREEZINESS atop BALI, INDONESIA; EZINE atop BOYZ II MEN; GEEZER atop KRISTEN WIIG; NEZ atop NINTENDO WII; and WEEZER atop JACOB RIIS. I enjoyed the pop culture content in half of these thematic entries.

Moving along to the “five more things” space:

  • 52a. [“I messed up,” in slang], “MY B.” For those times when it’s too much effort to say “my bad.”
  • 70a. [Follower of Sam or will.], I AM. As in Dr. Seuss’s Sam I Am and Black Eyed Peas’ No relation to Sam Ezersky and Will Shortz.
  • 94a. [Braced (oneself)], NERVED. Not sure I’ve seen this usage before.
  • 112d. [Poet who wrote “Jupiter from on high laughs at lovers’ perjuries”], OVID. Classicists, tell me why Jupiter is paying any attention to such things.
  • 123a. [Knights’ titles in “A Game of Thrones”], SERS. A gimme for anyone who’s read the books or watched the show (particularly with closed captioning turned on). If you hate this entry, would you prefer gen Yers crossing also-legit OJIBWAY?

Entries I wasn’t keen on include the ERs (AGREER, NESTERS, EDIFIER, SCULLER, INKERS), NINE TO, ODO-, rarely seen AKINETIC, and STEP A. BREAD BIN was new to me, too—I had BREADBOX first. Better: UFFIZI, ATHEISM, JABBER.


Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “Pet Sitting” – Jenni’s write-up

This is a cute-ish theme that would have been better in a daily-sized puzzle with an egregious dupe and some seriously marginal fill. On balance, not a great puzzle.

Every theme answer includes a place to sit, and right above that part of the answer are the letters CAT.

Los Angeles Times, December 8, 2019, Paul Coulter, “Pet Sitting,” solution grid

  • 19a [Beats it23] is SCATS sitting on 23a [On easy street], IN THE LAP OF LUXURY.
  • 32a [Curtail] has TRUNCATE above 40a [Sedentary sort], COUCH POTATO.
  • 51a [Battery terminal], CATHODE, is over 55a [Orchestra section leader], FIRST CHAIR.
  • 77a [Lively musical piece] gives us TOCCATA, which has climbed the 84a [Chart with branches], FAMILY TREE.
  • 92a [Pinpoint] is LOCATE, over 97a, [Track foundation], which is RAILROAD BED.
  • 113a [Excoriate] is SCATHE which tops 115a [Opposite of commends], CALLS ON THE CARPET.

And a revealer: 114d [One of six hidden in this puzzle, each sitting on an apt location] is (say it all together now) CAT.

It’s kind of cute, and I would have enjoyed it more with three cats instead of six. This is one of those themes that is an impressive feat of construction but not so much fun to solve. And it got a lot less fun when I ran into 24d [Ate] right next to 28a [Put away], which is ATEThe answer to 24a is HAD. I can think of three other clues for HAD off the top of my head, and I’m neither a constructor or an editor. There’s no reason for that.

There are a lot of three-letter words in this grid, so we get OF ATBAACU close to ICUREOAES, crosswordese ODAOMBEMO, and ETO, among others. Too much. Waaay too much.


What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Shaquille O’NEAL was the NBA Rooie of the Year in the ’92-’93 season.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious, M.D.” – Jim Q’s writeup

Constant Solvers are likely delighted to see WaPo’s unofficial mascot make his return, this time in the medical field. I’m wondering if other solvers, like me, have a visual in their head as what Captain Obvious looks like. For some reason, I can’t help but picture Captain Underpants, but that can’t be it! Maybe Evan should hold an illustration contest.

THEME: Captain Obvious relates everyday phrases to the medical field.


  • 23A [“___ can be observed with dermatology exams and X-rays”] ALL

    Washington Post, December 8, 2019, Evan Birnholz, “Captain Obvious, M.D.” solution grid


  • 34A [“___ are two of my four limbs”] AN ARM AND A LEG. 
  • 52A [“___? It’d be better to administer a vaccine with the lights on”] SHOT IN THE DARK. 
  • 69A [“___? I’ll call the otolaryngologist to remove that amphibian”] HAVE A FROG IN YOUR THROAT?
  • 90A [“___ is a sign of discomfort just below your head”] PAIN IN THE NECK. 
  • 105A [“___? Put this heating pad on your joint to warm it up”] COLD SHOULDER. 
  • 120A [“___, and you’ll duck beneath that scalpel”] GO UNDER THE KNIFE. 

This can’t be what he looks like! Someone come to the rescue and draw Captain Obvious!

A playful, charming puzzle, as one can expect from the occasional Captain Obvious appearance. It’s best not to overthink these and just have fun with them. Like the word SHOT in SHOT IN THE DARK changes meaning from the base phrase and GO UNDER THE KNIFE already has a medical connotation before Captain Obvious gets to it, but the blatantly literal analysis by the newly anointed doctor is pretty funny. I just started watching the Netflix series “Atypical,” and this feels like the sort of puzzle Sam would appreciate.

Fill was fairly straightforward today. No real hiccups and I was able to move steadily from north to south, occasionally getting hung up on unfamiliar names like LUE, TYCHO, and ARMIN. For those, I needed all the crosses and still triple checked to make sure that I couldn’t have possibly had any typos. That said, crosses were more than fair.

Already looking forward to the next time we see the Captain!

Happy Sunday!

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22 Responses to Sunday, December 8, 2019

  1. RunawayPancake says:

    LAT – Hey, Jenni. “Name Tags” was the title of last Sunday’s puzzle. Today’s puzzle is titled “Pet Sitting.” Cheers!

  2. JohnH says:

    In the NYT, I did indeed draw a blank at SER / YER and wasn’t too fond of that.

    My first thought was that the revealer meant we’d be converting double I’s to single I’s, but oops. That didn’t work out, of course. I relied on the theme to fill in BOYZ _ MEN, which I didn’t know.

    Anyone troubled that one theme clue made its double I the hard way, from two words, while the other four just found it within a word? No strong feeling here.

  3. Ethan says:

    NYT: Can we talk about how, contrary to the reviews here and on That Other Blog, AKINETIC was the best non-theme answer in this puzzle?

    • Norm says:

      I only know Kelso as a horse, so it took me an embarrassingly long time to see it, but … yes, Great word. [But I hate “in a sec” for “momentarily” — which is not the same things as “in a moment” and never will be for me.]

  4. Ethan Friedman says:

    Amy, I wondered at the Ovid quote too. My best guess without digging through the original is that Jupiter is after all the exemplar of a perjuring lover himself. Notorious for his affairs with humans and then lying to Juno (I’m staying consistent here btw with the Roman rather than Greek names, but the original stories were of course Zeus and Hera) about it?

    I don’t know but at least it sounds plausible: “you’re lying to your boyfriend about where you were last night? Child I lied to the goddess of marriage herself about sleeping with the personification of a whole damn continent. Your lies are cute.”

  5. Joe O'Neill says:

    The passage from Ovid goes on to note that Jupiter not only laughed at the lies of such lovers but (as the King of roman gods and also of storms and such) he also commanded Aeolus, god of winds, to blow such lies away to no effect.

  6. Ben says:

    I don’t get the clue/answer for OLY in the NYT.

  7. Clay Patrick says:

    Re LAT: the clue for 108D is not accurate. “Most” crosswords do NOT have a theme, at least from my 45 plus years of experience solving. A more accurate clue would have been “many crosswords.”

    • Martin says:

      Most American crosswords have a theme. Five out of seven New York Times. Six out of seven LA Times. Eight out of eight Universal. All the Chronicle of Higher Educations (may they rest in peace). All the Jonesins. All the Washington Posts. All the Wall Street Journals. Six out of seven Newsdays.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Martin has failed to take note of the countless unthemed crosswords that are published in this country each year. Puzzle magazines, syndicated puzzles in newspapers—just because the snootier among us aren’t solving those unthemed crosswords doesn’t mean they aren’t plentiful. I don’t know whether themed or unthemed account for more than half of the total, but the 6/7ths or so Martin was calculating probably is not accurate.

  8. David says:

    Chicago related tangent, sorry if off topic: Is the puzzle in the Chicago Tribune the same as the LAT? Former resident and was just looking at the puzzles online. Consolidated years ago?

    • GlennG says:

      >Is the puzzle in the Chicago Tribune the same as the LAT?

      One of my links to the LAT is the Chicago Tribune website. So I would say “Yes”. Remember the LAT is syndicated pretty far and wide to the point of being the second option after the NYT.

  9. Andy D says:

    NYT, 90 down. Sierra Nevada makes other varieties of beer, so that’s a bad clue. Oly is the local jargon for Olympia beer. That’s too many beer clues for one puzzle.

  10. Ray-o-sunshine says:

    Don’t get this puzzle till today, 12/22, in our rag.

    Just couldn’t figure how the “to” in Boyz crossed with “I” in Uffizi… Roman numeral II..?

    Merry Christmas

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