Saturday, December 28, 2019

LAT 5:39(Derek) 


Newsday 10:51 (Derek) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s quick write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 28 19, no. 1228

Yeah, so it turns out to be not a stye but a chalazion, which is much less crossword-conducive. My left eye is dominant, but right now it’s a bit blurry from the ointment. So I solved the puzzle without the timer, didn’t feel too hard. Not in the mood to blog much with my unfavored eye in charge. 3d PHONED IT IN is apt for me. (Not for the constructor. Robyn Weintraub takes great care in building her puzzles, particularly her themelesses!)

What I liked best: Familiar, smooth phrases like HIT THE SPOT, ON NOTICE, MAKES DO, “I CAN RELATE,” PHONED IT IN, HASN’T A CLUE, LOSES SLEEP, DOTTED LINE, ON THE ROCKS, and “GUESS WHAT?” These are all so much livelier than, say, most 10-letter nouns or foreign cities.

Clues I liked:

  • 38d. [Speeds through the Downs, say], GALLOPS. Horse-racing, not solving crosswords using only the Down clues! (If you aren’t familiar with “downs only,” it’s a good method for increasing the challenge level in puzzles that are too easy, and for training yourself to piece together answers when you don’t have crossing clues to work with. Good training for crossword tournaments.)
  • 16a. [Character in “Monsters, Inc.”], COMMA. I was racking my brain for 5-letter characters in that movie. Loved it.
  • 15a. [Springs for vacation trips[ SPAS. Hot springs, not “springs for” = “pays for.”
  • 39a. [One of the five rivers of 56-Across], LETHE. Really thought 56a would be a geographic place and that 39a would be an actual river, but no. Neat cross-reference between LETHE and HADES. I had some crossings and figured 56a was ANDES. Oops.
  • 52a. [Like triple fudge brownies], RICH. Yum.
  • 49d. [Rush home?], FRAT. Here, rush = noun, not verb.

4.5 stars from me.

Christopher Adams’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/28/2019

Christopher Adams has a puzzle site that I believe I have mentioned before on this blog. This puzzle evidently made the cut as marketable, and I can see why. This is a nice themeless with nothing too ugly in it, and a fair amount of interesting fill to boot. This is one of those themeless patterns that shouldn’t be too difficult to fill, as there are no entries longer than 8 letters. But there are 12 of those, and they from wide open stacks in the corners, so I don’t want to minimize the difficulty of grid-filling done here. This is a good 72-word puzzle that was fun to solve. 4.3 stars from me.

Some highlights:

  • 16A [Regional birds] AVIFAUNA – I don’t see this word quite often at all, so that made this slightly tough, but a great word nonetheless.
  • 30A [Tight military formation] PHALANX – This describes how the ancient Spartans used to fight, which is in a tight formation locked in shield to shield. It must have worked because they were quite successful.
  • 41A [Florida’s first two-term Republican governor] JEB BUSH – Remember when he was the front runner for the presidency? Yes, that seems like decades ago.
  • 54A [Black Hills terr.] DAK – Is Dallas Cowboys DAK Prescott famous enough to be in a crossword yet? Does he have to win a Super Bowl first??
  • 56A [Apparent displacement due to perspective] PARALLAX – Another great word that is not used much.
  • 6D [“__, queen!”: slangy celebratory words] YAS – Awesome!
  • 8D [Tony-winning musical that draws inspiration from “Sesame Street”] AVENUE Q – I love Sesame Street, and I loved their salute last week at the Kennedy Center Honors. I have never seen Avenue Q, though. One of these days …
  • 27D [Big name in investment banking] SACHS – Goldman Sachs is behind the Apple Card as well. I wonder how much they actually run this country.
  • 37D [Cadillac SUV] ESCALADE – This is a
  • 40D [Singer/actress who voices Meechee in “Smallfoot”] ZENDAYA – She is in a lot of movies and shows. She seems to be actually quite talented. She is in Euphoria on HBO, which I have not seen, but was also in the newest Spider-Man movie, which I DID see!
  • 57D [Author Harper] LEE – This is easy once you realize Harper is not a surname in this instance. Not too hard, but it ends up just a tad challenging when clued this way.

That is all! Time for a nap!

Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 12/28/2019

This will be my easiest blog post I have ever done. I didn’t realize it last week, but this Stumper and the one on the 21st were re-treads, and the intrepid Amy Reynaldo was already blogging full tilt in 2009. The following is her recap from October 31, 2009:

I had no idea which vowel belonged in the 54A/50D crossing. [Personal-finance guru Dolan] turns out to be DARIA, but for all I knew it was a less common DORIA or something. SAO is clued as [Neptune moon discovered in ’02] and I, for one, do not follow the news about small moons orbiting distant planets. There are certainly less esoteric ways of clueing SAO.


• The TEMPURA/TEMPERA crossing. Don’t care for TEMPURA’s clue, [Seafood serving], being reused for BISQUE. TEMPERA’s a [Type of paint].
• A LA MODE is clued as [Apple-pie order] but involves actual apple pie and not the idiom “in apple-pie order,” meaning “tidy.”
• MR. SLATE is [Fred Flintstone’s boss]. Took a zillion crossings for me to remember his name. What better to draw a blank on than SLATE?
• TWADDLE, or [Horsefeathers], is a great word.
• [“…the Flying Trapeze” guy] is LEOTARD.
• Who’s the best athlete? PELE is [IOC’s Athlete of the Century], while Muhammad ALI is [SI’s Athlete of the Century]. Did you see the Flip Wilson–as–Geraldine clip with Muhammad Ali that Rex posted at L.A. Crossword Confidential the other day? Funny stuff, and Ali was such a cutie in his younger days.


• EATEN AT is clued as [Annoyed]. “This puzzle has eaten at me”?
• I like SPATULA, but the clue, [Kitchen blender], feels off to me.

Neutral zone of clues I needed lots of crossings to get:

• [Toon teen in an ’89 film] is ARIEL, the Little Mermaid. Never saw it. (Neither have I!)
• [Five-petal flower] is SEDUM. There are others with five petals, I’m sure.
• [Quarters with buttons] are PUP TENTS. They have buttons? Google tells me the old military pup tents buttoned together…up to World War II. We need to know 1930s tent technology now?
• [Huckleberry’s father] is his PAP. Don’t be dissing him, now. We don’t want any pap smears here.

There you have it! That was easy, wasn’t it? Thoughts on a reprint of an older puzzle are welcome below!

Sean Griffith’s Universal crossword, “Mixed Primaries”—Jim Q’s review

A colorful offering from Sean Griffith today…

THEME: Down theme answers feature primary colors, Across theme answers feature the result of mixing them


  • 23D [Food fish in the Gulf of Mexico] RED SNAPPER. 

    Universal crossword solution · Sean Griffith · “Mixed Primaries” · Sat., 12.28.19

  • 7D [Government-appointed group of experts] BLUE RIBBON PANEL.
  • 15D [Early karate level] YELLOW BELT.
  • 20D [Martini garnish (mix the colors in 7- and 15-Down)] GREEN OLIVE. 
  • 56A [1967 hit whose title is sung before “all in my brain” (… 7- and 23-Down)] PURPLE HAZE. 

I really like the way that the across answers run through the two down themers that are being mixed. Even though half of each theme answer (whatever follows the color) is completely arbitrary, this is a relatively tight grid keeping in mind that there is not much room to play around with theme answer placement.


  • BLUE RIBBON PANEL. It googles well enough, and it’s inferable.
  • KEL. Huh? Looks like this refers to a TV show from the 90’s called Kenan & KelIt was on Nickelodeon, and I was deprived of cable growing up, so I missed this show entirely. Still, I think it’s ugly fill.


The theme answers were all fine, but the fill took a hit in a few spots, and with the exception of NEAR BEER, there wasn’t much to keep it fresh. Still, it’s pretty standard, though I coulda done without A CARE.

Three stars from me.

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

Another late-posting puzzle, another quick re-cap.

The phrase, AULD LANG SYNE (111a, [Seasonal title made of two-letter resolutions of the long Across answers]), is broken up into bigrams and each pair of letters is added on to the ends to “resolve” well-known phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · Mike Shenk · “Resolutions” · Sat., 12.28.19

  • 24a [Rich cake with yellow frosting?] GOLDEN GATEAU
  • 30a [Auctioneer’s retort to “Why can’t we keep bidding”?] BECAUSE I SAID SOLD
  • 52a [Fanfare for a luau?] HULA HOOPLA
  • 68a [Government plan to raise revenue from breathing?] AIR TAXING
  • 85a [No longer into defying the church?] OVER HERESY
  • 102a [Mistakenly give Newton a massage instead of Gretzky?] RUB THE WRONG WAYNE. Ha! Best for last.

The breaking down of the revealer phrase into pairs of letters feels random, but I like most of the resulting new phrases.

Highlights in the fill: STUNTMEN, ANTI-HERO (not ASSASSIN as the clue [John Wick, e.g.] led me to believe), HOOSEGOWS, HEAD USHER, RAMONES, DEAD END, EVIDENCE, and SCORPIUS.

Lowlights: ILO, AAR, HAREMSSMYRNA crossing THAYER, and IRABU crossing SEINE NET. Bleh.

An odd theme with a mix of high and low points. 3.5 stars.

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18 Responses to Saturday, December 28, 2019

  1. pseudonym says:

    NYT and LAT reads “rated” though I haven’t rated them.

    Good round of Saturday puzzles, especially the NYT

  2. Lise says:

    Amy, I looked up “chalazion” and you have my sympathies. I hope you feel better soon.

  3. arthur118 says:

    The WSJ web site is offering a Saturday cryptic puzzle only.

    Not my cup of chowder so I haven’t bothered with it but, if anyone wants to solve it, go to and click on “site” next to the WSJ’s name.

    Perhaps Martin will log on with more info as to the missing Sat. crosswords.

    • Martin says:

      Must be the holidays. Last Saturday’s crossword was eventually posted. I assume they will get around to posting today’s as well. I’m watching for it and when it appears on the WSJ site, I’ll convert it so the .puz will become available as well.

    • Martin says:

      Today’s WSJ crossword is now available.

      • Lise says:

        Thanks so much! ❤

        The cryptic also looks way fun. I’ll give that a try. Because I have nothing else that needs getting done ?

  4. pseudonym says:

    “Thoughts on a reprint of an older puzzle are welcome below!”

    Hadn’t done it in 2009 so I enjoyed it.

    Wish Newsday had an archive like the NYT so I could do all the Stumpers I missed.

    C’mon, Stan, make these available to us somehow!

    • Derek Allen says:

      With no archive, there is almost no way of knowing this. I am sure most of the old Stumpers have to be in book form by now. There used to be a book called Ultrahard Crosswords. Not sure that book is called now.

  5. Billy Boy says:

    I was a bit mixed on the NYT, got stumped in the SW of all places due to some personally weak areas, but that’s my lack of experience (Only been able to fill >80% of a Saturday for about 6-8 months now) and some areas out of my wheelhouse due to disinterest.

    I’ve learned a lot from all of you this year, thanks for putting up with my asinine (at times) comments.

    Cheers, spring for a real bottle of Champagne on NYE. I probably won’t post on the 21×21 puzzles or early week, so Happy Early (Western Calendar) New Year.

  6. Evan Kalish says:

    Just realized how Chris seeded his puzzle; look at the central letters! Lots of good stuff in there.

    • Will says:

      Nice catch! While solving, I got the Q, X, and Z as first letters, and was thinking “that’s a lot of weird last letters.” I never thought about the J since it wasn’t a last letter of an entry, so didn’t really piece that all together.

  7. Gene says:

    Regarding the Stumper, he did fix the 54A clue!

  8. JohnH says:

    Funny, but I found the NYT really hard. Not that I’m complaining. (Feel better.)

  9. JohnH says:

    BECAUSE I SAID SOLD in the WSJ was my favorite puzzle joke this week for sure.

  10. Seth says:

    In the Stumper, I don’t get the LEOTARD clue (“…the Flying Trapeze” guy). Is there some crazy obscure definition of “guy” I don’t know? I looked it up and the only thing I see is that it means rope in some capacity, but that still doesn’t make the clue make sense.

Comments are closed.