Sunday, December 15, 2019

LAT 9:13 (Jenni) 


NYT 9:15 (Amy) 


WaPo 13:48 (Jim Q) 


Universal tk (Rebecca)  


Universal (Sunday) 12:31 (Jim Q) 


Christina Iverson & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “Doing a Double Take”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 15 19, “Do a Double Take”

Unusual theme: Six pairs of repeated words appear in the grid, and each of those words has a circled letter to delete in order to get a word that fits the clue.

  • 22a. [Concise and to the point] / 24a. [Desirous], PITCHY. Cut the C and then the P, you get PITHY and ITCHY.
  • 37a. [For now] / 42a. [Group running a celeb’s social media accounts, say], PRO TEAM. PRO TEM and P.R. TEAM.
  • 54a. [Hitting close to home?] / 57a. [Pattern on a barber pole], STRIPLING. TRIPLING and STRIPING.
  • 76a. [Duties imposed] / 79a. [Party notifications sent with a click], LEVITES. LEVIES and EVITES.
  • 100a. [Tousles, as hair / 104a. [Bog growths], MOUSSES. MUSSES and MOSSES.
  • 114a. [Warehouse stacks] / 122a. [Some South Africans], BOXERS. BOXES and BOERS.

The letters taken from the answers on the left spell CASTOR and those on the right spell POLLUX. 32a. [This puzzle’s subjects, by another name] clues THE GEMINI (that THE feels weird to me). 72d. [Weather phenomenon whose double lights were said to represent this puzzle’s subjects] clues ST. ELMO’S FIRE, and I did not know that had a Castor and Pollux allusion. 73d. [Baseball double play, in slang … or a hint to understanding the 12 Across answers that have circles] clues TWIN KILLING, and that is not a baseball term I’ve ever encountered. But I don’t want to “kill” the circled letters, not if they represent people!

I like the CASTOR and POLLUX level to the circled squares, which elevates the theme, and the rule-breaking paired entries.

Elm tree seeds. How are these gonna “whirl,” exactly?

It’s already past midnight on the East Coast, so let me finish quickly here. Didn’t know MUD TIRE was a thing. I’d like to dispute 124d. [Its seeds whirl to the ground], ELM—elm seeds are small, wispy things that don’t whirl the way maple “helicopters” and ash seeds do. They waft. Weren’t ROSE PETAL and FRERES just in the NYT crossword yesterday or the day before? PIRATIC looks weird; I prefer piratical.

Fave fill: PO’BOY, GEE WHIZ, Etch A Sketch company OHIO ART (retro flashback!), and REDDITORS.

4.2 stars from me.

Robin Stears’s LA Times crossword, “Black Magic” – Jenni’s write-up

I slogged through this. Don’t know if it was me or the puzzle – I am feeling a bit sluggish this morning.

Each theme answer (helpfully starred) is a two-word phrase or compound word in which each half can follow “black” to make another word or phrase.

Los Angeles Times, December 15, 2019, Robin Stears, “Black Magic”

  • 23a [*Landmark near Waikiki] is DIAMOND HEAD. Do I really need to tell you it’s black diamond/blackhead? I didn’t think so.
  • 29a [*Down time on Wall Street?] is a BEAR MARKET.
  • 47a [*It’s larger than a littleneck] is a CHERRYSTONE.
  • 50a [*Where land and ocean meet] is the SEABOARDSEA BOARD?
  • 66a [*Cowhide accessory] is a LEATHER BELT.
  • 81a [*Negative-studier’s aid] is a LIGHT BOX. [Treatment for SAD] would have been a less tortured clue. Or [Art major’s necessity, long ago].
  • 83a [*Kozy Shack dessert] is RICE PUDDING. BLACK PUDDING is neither black nor pudding.
  • 104a [*Fancy decoration particles] are GOLD POWDER.
  • 112a [*Former Queens home of the US Open ] is FOREST HILLS.

Not crazy about SEABOARD, which is pretty creaky, and I think GOLD POWDER is roll-your-own. It’s otherwise a solid theme and entirely Sunday-appropriate. I didn’t find it all that much fun to solve; I’m on record as preferring a bit of wordplay in my Sunday puzzles.

A few other things:

  • 6d [“Call Me Irresponsible” lyricist] is the great Sammy CAHN. I went to Google to find this and the second suggestion when I did the search was for this clue.
  • 10d [Sugar Plum Fairy’s instrument] is the CELESTA. Not sure about that clue; the Sugar Plum Fairy doesn’t play the instrument. She dances to it. You’ve heard a CELESTA. Remember?

  • 30d [Loggers’ contest] is a ROLEO. That always makes me smile.
  • 48d [Sad sack] is HANGDOG. Something about the parts of speech don’t seem right to me. [Sad sack] is a noun. HANGDOG is an adjective. At least in my world.
  • Speaking of creaky, there’s DEMESNE.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Eydie Gorme recorded a version of ERES TU as “Touch The Wind.”


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless No. 12” – Jim Q’s writeup

Argh. MULE DEER! Not MOLE DEER! Try as I might, I couldn’t figure out my error, so I eventually gave up on that square. I mean, MOLE DEER kinda works with the clue, right [Antlered creature whose name consists of two different animals]? And ROOTS instead of ROUTS kinda-sorta-but-not-really works for [Thrashes]. Ah well. It happens.

THEME: None.

Washington Post, December 15, 2019, Evan Birnholz, “Themeless No. 12” solution grid


  • 31A [All-too-familiar expression?] BEEN THERE DONE THAT. Great entry.
  • 28D [One involved in heated online debates, in slang] KEYBOARD WARRIOR. I think I constructed a themeless that had this entry too. I like it.
  • 99A [Charismatic leader’s problematic following] CULT OF PERSONALITY. This is a new phrase for me, but judging by how well it Googles, it shouldn’t be!


  • 18A [Colorful pieces from a navel coat] ORANGE ZEST. 
  • 23A [Japanese model also known as the MX-5] MAZDA MIATA. Those Z’s add a nice Zing!
  • 24A [“Begin the Beguine” songwriter] COLE PORTER. No crosses needed!
  • 111A [Steeped beverage with floral notes] JASMINE TEA. 
  • 114A [Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder film involving mistaken identity] ANOTHER YOU. Never heard of this one… is it worth watching? I like those two actors together.
  • 119A [Final school period, perhaps] SENIOR YEAR. I only recently learned that one repeating his/her SENIOR YEAR in high school is called a “Super Senior.”
  • 37D [Old news, e.g.] OXYMORON. Indeed.

This one doesn’t feel as open as Evan’s other themelesses, but I liked it just fine. It played quite easy for me, my time being about my usual average for a WaPo. I do prefer a themeless with more teeth, but Evan has a wider audience to consider when constructing, and sometimes 21x themelesses are a tough sell.


  • 27A [Triangle used by a shark] RACK. Pool shark, of course. 
  • 39A [Pessimistic ass] EEYORE. Ha!
  • 48A [Lab access?] PET DOOR. Woof!
  • 57A [Informal folks?] MA AND PA. Really wanted to enter GRANDPA, and was trying to figure out how that made sense.
  • 25D [Bills passed in D.C. (and in every other city)] ONES. Strange way to clue money, but sure!
  • 42D [Band in a pool bar] STRIPE. I just figured this out. The game “pool” is once again being referenced, and the STRIPE is on the ball. I’m not really familiar with “pool bar” as a phrase though. I think “pool hall.”
  • 50D [Take place?] OP-ED. Someone’s “take” is his/her opinion in this sense.

Nothing much to scowl at. Just somewhat surprised at how much short fill it felt like there was. Happy Sunday!


Trent Evans’ Sunday Universal crossword, “Times Headlines”—Jim Q’s review

THEME: Wacky “Headlines” where each of their words can be followed by “time”


  • 23A [THIS JUST IN: Cap’n hands out cereal at noon] CRUNCH SERVES

    Sunday Universal crossword solution · Trent Evans · “Times Headlines” · Sun., 12.15.19

    FREE LUNCH. Crunch time. Serves time. Free time. Lunch time. 

  • 41A [… Armie takes the reins after Santa falls ill] HAMMER SAVES CHRISTMAS. Hammer time! I was unfamiliar with Armie Hammer before this.
  • 64A [… Astronauts heat more food than ever before] SPACE COOKING RECORD SET. The phrases space time, cooking time, and set time don’t feel all that familiar…
  • 88A [… McGwire blows it in his debut as an umpire] MARK MAKES GARBAGE CALL. Garbage time? Is that like, when I’m supposed to bring my cans to the curb (and then leave them there for the rest of the week?)
  • 113A [… White House occupants make a Caribbean purchase] (Theme hint: What can follow each word of the bracketed clues’ answers?) FIRST FAMILY BUYS ISLAND. Strong entry.

This was fun for me to figure out. I like the wackiness of it, and the great title really fits. I was thankful for the nudge in the final themer in order to determine what was going on in the theme- but I glanced at the title and it all made sense. Often, when I don’t get the theme until after I’ve finished the puzzle, I don’t like it all that much. But this one was so much fun along the way that it didn’t bother me in the least, though a few of those “time” phrases (noted above) seem contrived.


  • 4D [They put cartridges on records] TONE ARMS. Huh? Am I parsing that correctly? I’ve never heard of this, and Googling only wants to give me instructions on getting rid of flab. Help!
  • 10D [Apt joke to tell on a cruise?] ONE LINER. Hahaha!
  • 58D [Crispy edible shell] HARD TACO. Fun entry.

4 stars from me.

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15 Responses to Sunday, December 15, 2019

  1. JohnH says:

    I caught on early to the doubled, symmetrically placed entries with different dropped letters. It was fun working them out and helpful in finishing reasonably quickly. Together with the dropped letters’ spelling out stuff and the three other theme entries, that’s a lot to work in without tons of bad fill, and they get credit it’s reasonably smooth. (I don’t myself remember OHIO ART or recognize REDDITORS, so hardly fave fill, but no problem at all.)

    OTOH, I’d sure like this a lot if I recognized the slang for a double, and I’m a lifelong baseball fan. I’d like it even more if baseball, the Gemini twins, and St. Elmo’s fire had something obvious connecting them. The last has me really baffled, although there’s a single reference to Castor and Polydeuces buried in a long list in a Wikipedia entry on that weather phenomena (and none at all on a popular science Web page). Left a bad taste.

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    LAT – I enjoyed this, particularly the many good examples Robin found, but I think it could have benefited from a revealer. Perhaps Carbon Copy as the title, and Black in a revealer spot with a clue explaining what’s going on?

    Universal 15x – My original title was All-time Greats and the theme clues had “Awesome!” 1970s style, “Awesome!” 1990s style, “Awesome!” 2000s style, “Awesome!” 2010s style. Not sure why David deleted the decades. We went to considerable trouble to find a set that could be ordered chronologically. Maybe he decided the phrases aren’t exclusive to those eras?

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I enjoyed it a great deal, even though I knew neither the ST ELMO’S FIRE connection nor the TWIN KILLING bit… But I appreciate learning about it… and I mostly like the fact that the duality of the themes cut down on the feeling that I get on some Sundays where it’s a slog that’s supposed to be humorous but isn’t.

    • JohnH says:

      I just wish that learning about it meant learning from the puzzle, rather than from extensive Googling afterward.

  4. mikem says:

    Paul, I really liked your Universal puzzle today! I think putting the decades on the “Awesome!” clues would have been confusing to me. COOL BEANS was around before the 1990s, and “mind=blown” is a 2000s thing, but “mind-blown” (which isn’t exactly the same as “Awesome!” — “mind-blowing” would be better — but close enough to be confusing) has been around for a very long time and I would have been really tripped up if MIND BLOWN, without the equals sign, had been linked to the 2000s.

    I think that the progression as you go down the puzzle is a nice bonus feature, though. I also liked the “roomy carrier” clues side-by-side, and I learned about Yale Blue today!

  5. Lise says:

    Jim Q: The tonearm is the part of a record player that holds the cartridge which houses the needle which follows the groove and creates a varying magnetic field, which the cartridge converts into electrical impulses. Vinyl may be making a comeback, but it’s not exactly ubiquitous these days…

    “Tonearm” is one word, which is why you got different results with Google.

  6. Martin says:

    The Dutch have a Whirling Elm Seed Festival in the spring, among the canals of Amsterdam. It’s remarkable how they protect the trees in this area from the endemic Dutch elm disease that has wiped out most of their beloved trees. It’s also remarkable how the fastidious Dutch celebrate one of the messiest of all trees.

  7. Dr Fancypants says:

    Weird—this is one of those rare occasions where my enjoyment of the puzzle was completely at odds with both Rex Parker’s review *and* the Crossword Fiend average rating. For some reason I found this one quite fun, despite my awareness of some of the not-great fill. This is the first Sunday puzzle I can remember enjoying in some time, at this point I’ve come to mildly dread the Sunday NYT (though I can’t bring myself to allow “holes” in my solving history, so I do it anyway).

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … WTF is AMAZE BALLS?!?

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