Saturday, December 21, 2019

LAT 6:56 (Derek) 


Newsday 13:30 (Derek) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal 5:18 (Jim Q) 


Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 21 19, no. 1221

Okay, I didn’t time my solve because we’re watching Ronny Chieng’s new stand-up special on Netflix. (He’s the Malaysian comedian who’s on The Daily Show. Aaand the show is ending now, so I can actually focus on blogging here.)

Educational moment: 24a. [Origin of many refugees once in 26-Across, for short], NAM / 26a. [See 24-Across], GUAM. I did not know Guam received lots of Vietnamese refugees. I’ll bet Jim P, Team Fiend’s only Guamanian writer, was well aware of this fact.

Also did not know: 19a. [Tea flavorer in the Middle East], CLOVE. I’m not huge on tea, and have never been to the Middle East. And! Really not big on cloves.

Seven more things:

  • 28a. [A-O.K.], HOTSY-TOTSY. Good gravy, is that what that means? Pretty sure I’ve never said it.
  • 42a. [Clique’s aspirations, in modern lingo], SQUAD GOALS. Can you still have squad goals with your friends when you’ve known each other for four decades? I say yes.
  • 53a. [TV host fluent in eight languages], TREVOR NOAH. Eight! That is quite a lot. He’s the host of The Daily Show, where the aforementioned Ronny Chieng works.
  • 56a. [“A-Hunting We Will Go” composer], ARNE. Boo, crosswordese names of minimal cultural importance today; boo, hunting.
  • 3d. [Texter’s “When are you coming?”], ETA. My 19-year-old son scoffed at this. wya, “where you at?”, that is what might be texted. Unless! Unless you are an old, like me, in which case you’ll indeed ask someone for their ETA.
  • 33d. [Whence the words “nosh” and “tush”], YIDDISH. I adore Yiddish vocabulary. Some of the best terms in English are Yiddish. Like mensch. English cannot equal that.
  • 46d. [Hepatologist’s focus], LIVER. I initially misread this as herpetologist’s focus, which is altogether a different thing.

The puzzle didn’t really have any trouble spots that MIREd me, other than trying ADORE before CRAVE for [Really fancy]. (And I’d argue that really fancying something doesn’t mean that you crave it. Like, I fancy Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza, but I don’t crave it most days. I will adore it all the time, though.)

Overall vibe, I’m gonna say 3.9 stars.

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Tree of a Kind”—Jim Q’s review

THEME: Tree puns! Tree… errr… three of them!


  • 20A [Causes a conifer to soar?] MAKES THE FIR FLY.
  • 25A [“I’m certain I know what that bow was made of!”] IT HAD TO BE YEW!
  • 48A [Lads who live in shade trees?] THE BEECH BOYS. 
  • 56A [Dave Matthews Band remix about this puzzle’s puns?] WHAT WOOD YOU SAY?

Universal crossword solution · Paul Coulter · “Tree of a Kind” · Sat., 12.21.19

Really enjoyed the revealer on this. The puns themselves were solid, though I had to infer the first one. I’ve never heard of the phrase “makes the fur fly.” In quotes, it googles to less than 9,000 hits, so perhaps it’s not all that common a phrase, or maybe it’s old-timey. According to idiom sites, it means “to cause a disturbance,” which makes sense. I think I’ll start using that phrase. I like it.

We’ve seen the tree puns before, but they work well enough and as long as the theme is executed well (as it is here), it doesn’t feel tired at all.


  • 56D [“Say ___” (waiter’s request)] WHEN. Where do waiters ask this? Chuck E. Cheese? I feel like that’s more something that’s said at the family dinner table. I may have uttered it a couple of times when pouring wine for customers over the years, but only if I’m super familiar with them and I’m filling up their glass on the sly.
  • 57D [Like most clues that end with question marks] HARD. I typically find names I don’t know HARD (looking at you KRIS/ERIS/KYLO!). Question mark clues don’t necessarily strike me as deserving a HARD designation as much as “punny” or “deceitful.” For instance, I didn’t think twice about entering CLOSET for [Skeleton’s site?] and RADAR for [What picks up speed?] was only slightly more tricky.

Overall, strong as an oak. 4 stars.

Brian E. Paquin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/21/2019

This was a great puzzle! There are two 13’s and three 15’s that intertwine in the middle of the grid, and they are all great entries. I didn’t find anything too tough, but I did learn a new phrase or two. I will discuss all of the aforementioned below in the comments, but this one was fun. Just under 7 minutes for me, so not too slow, but not super-fast either. 4.7 stars today for a fine puzzle.

Those promised comments:

  • 1A [Swagger] BRAVADO – Terrific 1-Across entry. Not tough, but not the first word you might think of.
  • 18A [Its namesake, a former Surveyor General of India, objected to having it named for him] EVEREST – This is a great piece of information; I feel smarter.
  • 34A [More than is tolerable] ONCE TOO OFTEN – The “straw that broke the camel’s back!”
  • 38A [Charles, until he’s in charge] HEIR TO THE THRONE – He’s been heir for nearly 70 years now? QEII might outlive him!
  • 41A [Doesn’t evolve] STAYS THE SAME – Another great entry.
  • 59A [Kerosene cousin] COAL OIL – I don’t think I have ever heard of this. This is a thing??
  • 62A [Like some light, fruity wines] UNOAKED – This is also something I had not heard of. I also am not a wine drinker!
  • 63A [Annual February race site] DAYTONA – I always say this is the best nap of the year!
  • 7D [Ancient] OLD AS METHUSELAH – Terrific! I started typing OLD AS THE HILLS but I ran out of letters to fill the entry.
  • 8D [Response to a wince] WHERE DOES IT HURT?” – Another fantastic entry!
  • 38D [London-based financial corp. founded in Hong Kong] HSBC – Can you believe this has NEVER been in a NYT puzzle? I would think this bank is quite well known. Maybe Will disagrees!

That is all!

Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 12/21/2019

This was the best Stumper puzzle I have seen in a while. There is nothing in here that is even remotely obscure, at least to me, and I don’t know anything! There are too many good entries in here to mention them all, but I will still mention a few of them anyway below! A solid 4.9 stars from me for a masterpiece!

Some of the many favorites I had:

  • 16A [Hybrid that runs on grass] BEEFALO – This must be a cow/buffalo hybrid. I had a buffalo burger years ago at Wall Drug in South Dakota, that huge tourist trap on I-94!
  • 17A [Press passes?] IRONING – Great clue!
  • 31A [Airport-closing visibility] ZERO ZERO – I don’t have a pilot’s license, but this must mean a total white-out or heavy fog. I might have learned something new!
  • 42A [Fog machine user of yore] ROLLER DISCO – I don’t think I was ever in a roller disco. This seems obscure, but it still evokes a great word picture.
  • 52A [Tender since 2009] BITCOIN – It’s only been ten years?
  • 9D [Change of plans] NEW APPROACH – Terrific entry.
  • 14D [New Yorker’s hero] TORPEDO – I had to look this up: this is evidently a sandwich! Definitely a NYC thing, as I don’t think I have ever heard this before.
  • 33D [Battle of the Bulge forest] ARDENNES – I actually knew this! My education DID work!
  • 40D [Mining by-product] OPEN PIT – Also a great barbecue sauce! This is also a wonderful clu
  • 41D [Head & Shoulders sister brand] PANTENE – If you know me, you know I have little use for shampoo, so this was a slight struggle!
  • 55D [”Regina” counterpart] REX – I think this means “ruler” in some language. Perhaps Latin?

As an added bonus, I thought you crossworders might enjoy this Tweet from ESPN. Have a great weekend!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Silent Night”—Jim P’s re-cap

The puzzle posted online very late, so this will be a minimal post. Our theme is the SH sound prepended (phonetically) to well-known phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Silent Night” · Mike Shenk · Sat., 12.21.19

  • 22a [Altar slab?] SHRINE STONE. Rhinestone.
  • 24a [Display samples in the confectioner’s shop?] SHOW FUDGE. “Oh, fudge!”
  • 36a [Surf with one’s buds?] SHARE WAVES. Airwaves.
  • 40a [Translucent bath stoppers?] SHEER PLUGS. Earplugs.
  • 60a [Partridge named for the Partridge family mother?] SHIRLEY BIRD. Early bird.
  • 67a [Specialist in the lamp factory?] SHADE WORKER. Aid worker.
  • 88a [Introvert in your address book?] SHY CONTACT. Eye contact.
  • 92a [Champion of Hooverville?] SHANTY HERO. Anti-hero.
  • 107a [Big name in the pashmina biz?] SHAWL STAR. All-star.
  • 110a [Designer Wang, interested only in superficial matters?] SHALLOW VERA. Aloe vera.

Fave bit of fill: PEG LEG PETE (72d, [Brutish villain of Mickey Mouse cartoons]).

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28 Responses to Saturday, December 21, 2019

  1. Martin says:

    Tomorrow’s WSJ is a variety puzzle, so there’s no AcrossLite version. You need to download the pdf via the website link.

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Amy, quit baiting me with all these Lou Malnati’s references

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Relatively smooth solve for a Saturday! But JOE CAMEL did not make me happy– the idea that this ad campaign was targeting children and young adults upsets me, especially in view of the recent vaping impact on young people. I guess the interface of business and addiction gets under my skin… (see opioid crisis).
    I realize none of this was in the mind of the constructor. Just my associations.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Huda, I had all the same thoughts about JOE CAMEL, Big Tobacco marketing cigarettes to children and teens, and Big Tobacco turning its attention to getting youth hooked on their nicotine via vaping flavors and high doses. Not a pleasant 1-Across.

  4. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: Didn’t love the SAO PAULO clue. The World Cup is hosted by a country, not a city. And the final has been played in Rio both times Brazil has hosted. Pele, a name that’s pretty familiar to crossword solvers, spent almost his entire career in Sao Paulo, so it would make more sense to reference him if you want to do A Soccer Thing.

    • Mark Abe says:

      I agree it was a tad misleading. I remembered from 2016 Olympics coverage that Rio had hosted two finals, and filled in Sao Paulo while telling myself that it must have hosted some of the games.

  5. Jim Peredo says:


    I did not know Guam received lots of Vietnamese refugees. I’ll bet Jim P, Team Fiend’s only Guamanian writer, was well aware of this fact.

    I’m afraid it’s news to me as well. This operation (Operation New Life) only lasted a few months in 1975 and was well over and done with when my immediate family moved back to Guam in ’76. The refugees mostly stayed on the military bases and were off to various points in the States within a few weeks. The operation doesn’t seem to have had lasting effects on the local population or my extended family. I didn’t see a word about it when we visited the Guam Museum this past summer.

    Still, you’d think I’d have at least heard of it, but I guess it was just a blip in Guam’s recent history which is so dominated by the devastating impacts of WWII on the island.

    On a side note, the final evacuation of Saigon was named Operation Frequent Wind. I hope the person who named that program got the medical attention he needed.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    I think Doan’s and HOTSY-TOTSY must be happy together.
    Write away – got one, not the other
    talk about not-so-current

    My dead tree WSJ comes by mail on Saturday (No local Rag Saturday), so I haven’t seen the puzzles; as a signed-in subscriber no regular puzzle available on the website as of 11:33EST

  7. Jenni Levy says:

    36d in the Stumper is flat-out wrong. ROGAINE is a trade name for a medication with the generic name of minoxidil. Folcare and Pilagro are also trade names for minoxidil; Folcare appears not to be sold in the US. I’m not sure about Pilagro. In any case, they are not “generically” known as ROGAINE.

    • Martin says:

      I thought it ok because “generically” can mean “of a class.” They are two of the class of minoxidil-containing drugs that are popularly known as “Rogaine.” The specific meaning of “generic drug” either wasn’t intended or was intentional misdirection.

      I find many clues in the Stumper are so obscured as to be almost wrong, which is definitely Stan’s Saturday voice.

      • Jenni Levy says:

        I have never heard the word used that way about medications. Words have meaning. This is not an obscure technical term. It’s wrong.

        • Martin says:

          Not a big deal, but I think we’re looking at it through different lenses. Yours is, understandably, medical, while mine is not technical at all. A line like “NSAIDs are a generic term for many chemically distinct drugs, including aspirin” happens to involve pharmaceuticals but is just the “generic” use of the word. Amy and any other decent editor might have caught it as potentially ambiguous, but it doesn’t mean “generic drug” in the sense of post-patent. But I agree it wasn’t a great clue. I just don’t thing it’s “wrong wrong.”

  8. Paul Coulter says:

    Universal – My original title for this was “Lumber Camp.” I love what David came up with to replace it. “Tree of A Kind” – how cute is that? In addition to his editing skills, those who solve this series regularly have probably noticed the great titles. Sometimes he leaves the constructor’s title in place, but if it’s kind of perfect, chances are that David is responsible.

    • John says:

      I’ve been doing the daily puzzle that runs in the Philadelphia Inquirer for the past 30+ years. For the past x number of years it’s been the Universal. Having David as editor has been a huge positive impact on the quality of puzzles. Technology problems remain, but I solve .puz files so they are somewhat alleviated.

      Nice amusing puzzle Paul.

  9. Evan Kalish says:

    Derek — I put HSBC in my word list ages ago, but have never actually used it when it’s presented a fill option.

    Also, Wall Drug is off I-90; I-94 traverses North Dakota.

  10. Seth says:

    Stumper: having LINER in for LISLE killed me. I hate all those weird fabric names. I was stuck in the SW for a while, and it wasn’t until I checked the grid and saw the wrong letters was I able to finish.

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