Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Jonesin' 5:28 (Derek) 


LAT 3:04 (Derek) 


NYT 3:39 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ tk (Nate) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 449), “Flour Power”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 449: “Flour Power”

Welcome to the first Tuesday of 2020! Here is hoping you’re doing very well to begin the new decade!

Let’s break bread while talking about this puzzle, shall we? Today’s grid features seven areas of the puzzle where circles are stacked on top of each other, with the letters ending up spelling out a type of bread when read from the top row of the circles to the bottom row. The reveal, BREAD BOXES, lets us in on why the circles are stacked the way they are (65A: [Puzzle theme depicted by seven grid “containers”]).

  • RAIN (10A: [April forecast])SINO (16A: [China (Pref.)]) = RAISIN
  • FLITS (24A: [Moves like a moth]) + A BEAT (29A: [Not miss ___ (keep going)]) = FLAT
  • SOFT GS (26A: [Gigi has two]) + DARE I (32A: [“Is it too risky?”]) = SODA
  • FREE (33A: [Emancipate]) + CONCHES (39A: [Shells used as trumpets]) = FRENCH
  • GAR (42A: [Needlefish]) + COLIC (46A: [Baby’s ailment]) = GARLIC
  • CORA (54A: [“Downton Abbey” countess]) + ALTERNATIVELY (56A: [“As another option…”]) = CORN
  • I WON (63A: [Lottery player’s ecstatic cry]) + ODER (66A: [River to the Baltic]) = WONDER

The intersection of FNMA (33D: [Low-cost home loan org.]) and OMER has me twisted in knots for a bit before I ran the alphabet and, when thinking about the “M,” finally realizing that I had been the latter (omer) in a few grids in the past (45A: [Biblical grain measure]). Though very dated, seeing DOWDY was a nice sight, if only to remind me that that was indeed a word that was more common many moons ago (52D: [Not chic at all]). Speaking of entries to appreciate, the paralleling answers of OPPORTUNISM (20A: [Making the most of current circumstances]) and ALTERNATELY was a thing of beauty. This probably sounds real stupid, but I never ate FARINA, although it was in my house a few times when I was growing up, because I used to be creeped out by the smiling/grinning/whatever-look-that-is countenance of the boy that was on the front of the box (50A: [Oatmeal’s kin]). I guess the face on the Quaker Oats container wasn’t all that more appealing, but enough for me to prefer that much more! Ah, the things you never forget from childhood!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CUBAN (5A [Popular cigar variety]) – We first met each other in 2001, when he was a guest presenter on a television game show I appeared on, and we remain friends to this day, even though he’s busy being one of the stars of Shark Tank. Mark CUBAN is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team, a title he has held since buying a majority stake in the team from Ross Perot Jr. back in 2000. Though much more mild mannered, Cuban used to be a very omnipresent and boisterous figure in the front row of most Mavericks games when he took over the team, and his outspoken nature helped him to incur fines levied by the NBA over the years to the tune of over $1.7 million. Cuban oversaw the 2011 Dallas Mavericks team that ended up winning its one NBA championship. Now after writing about him, it’s time to shoot him an email once more! Hope he responds quickly…well, I hope he responds, period!

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful rest of your day and, as always, keep solving! 

Take care!


Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 7 20, no. 0107

The theme took me a few moments to understand. The revealer is 51a. [What 20-, 28- and 42-Across are], OUTSIDE SHOTS. Here’s how it relates to those answers:

  • 20a. [Long jumper, in hoops], THREE-POINTER. A basketball shot taken from “outside the arc” painted on the court.
  • 28a. [Very slight probability], GHOST OF A CHANCE. An outside chance, as they say. It could happen, but the odds aren’t great.
  • 42a. [Picture from Ansel Adams, say], LANDSCAPE PHOTO. A camera shot taken outside.

So “shot” has three different meanings here. Neat.

I did notice a couple dupes while solving: REV UP and FED UP, I AM and NOR I.

Some of the fill felt a little tough for any Tuesday newbies out there—URAL, SOU, the unnatural phrasing of PEEPS AT and IN MONO.

Five more things:

  • 2d. [One monopolizing a mattress], BED HOG. Not me!
  • 1a. [Break-dancer, slangily], B-BOY. Feels dated, no?
  • 54a. [Relative via remarriage], STEPNIECE. Ha, that’s so random. This is a rather terrible entry if you think about it.
  • 3d. [Describing one’s bathroom routine in detail, say], OVERSHARING. Let me just tell you … on second thought, no.
  • 38d. [Splits that may give rise to sects], SCHISMS. The classic schism is the Great Schism, wherein the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches went their separate ways a millennium ago. A contemporary one is happening right now in the United Methodist Church. That denominational name will stay with the congregations that are cool with LGBTQ pastors and same-sex marriage, and the folks who aren’t will be coming up with their own name, I guess. My local United Methodist Church actually had its old pastor put on church trial for performing a blessing ceremony for a same-sex couple back in 1998. (The church suspended him but on his return, he continued to do blessings that managed to stay within the boundaries of what was deemed acceptable.) If only Dell were alive to see what’s happening now.

3.8 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Free For the Decade” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 01/07/2020

This is a themeless puzzle, but it has quite the timely answer at 5A:

  • 5A [Catchphrase from Barbara Walters heard a lot recently] “THIS IS 2020.”

In the grid, the zeroes actually work as the letter O, but the 2s are clearly clued, with rapper 2 CHAINZ getting some recognition in a puzzle! I’m not sure this is heard “a lot,” but so far I haven’t written 2019 as the date yet! (OK, maybe once!) Very nicely done, and also quite timely as mentioned. Only 30 away from 1,000! 4.5 stars today.

Some highlights:

  • 16A [RZA’s group] WU-TANG CLAN – Speaking of rappers, we have another famous group here. RZA is now a prominent actor.
  • 19A [Uninterrupted sequences] CONTINUA – This isn’t a word!
  • 36A [Communication where K and V differ only by a thumb] ASL – I feel I should know the ASL alphabet better than I do. Sadly, I only know a few letters. I don’t use it often enough, but I do encounter deaf people from time to time.
  • 57A [Turns used materials into something better] UPCYCLES – Kind of like “recycle” I assume? Great entry.
  • 65A [First-person action-adventure game with a “Death of the Outsider” sequel] DISHONORED – Never played it. Never even heard of it! But I struggle with Mario games, to there’s that …
  • 66A [He worked with Branford Marsalis] LENO – Tricky! Leno is not a musician at all! But I think Marsalis was his bandleader for quite a while.
  • 6D [“Pen15” streaming service] HULU – This is a show about middle school set in 2000. It is rated TV-MA, so beware!
  • 13D [Bad hour for a car alarm to go off] 2AM – The other numeral is clued with quite a word picture!
  • 14D [“We Are Number ___” (song meme from “LazyTown”)] ONE – You mean this?

See you next week with another Jonesin!

David Poole’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 01/07/2020

We have some circles in this Tuesday’s puzzle, with final theme answer as the revealer:

  • 17A [Not be serious] KID AROUND
  • 24A [“Answer with the first thing that comes to mind” exercise] WORD ASSOCIATION
  • 36A [World’s largest lizards] KOMODO DRAGONS 
  • 52A [’70s Chilean president] SALVADOR ALLENDE 
  • 61A [Nutty ice cream parlor order … and a hint to each set of circled letters] ROCKY ROAD 

Cleanly done. Not too fancy, yet a little humor there at the end. Also, it makes me want some ice cream, although Rocky Road is not one of my favorite flavors. But it is too cold outside, and I am on a diet, so bring on more salads! And more puzzles, of course! 4.3 stars today.

A few more things:

      • 9A [Goldman __: investment banking giant] SACHS – These crooks are behind my Apple Card, but my cash back is piling up … !
      • 29A [Golfer Michelle] WIE – She doesn’t play much anymore, but she will always be crossword-famous! According to Wikipedia, she recently married Jerry West’s son!
      • 42A [“Peer Gynt Suite” dancer] ANITRA – “Anitra’s Dance” is one of the many famous tunes from Peer Gynt:

    • 2D [“Green Book” Oscar winner Mahershala] ALI – This is streaming on Showtime now. I have never seen it. I will remedy that soon!
    • 22D [“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” host Tyler] AISHA – I am behind on my Archer viewing!
    • 38D [Toronto native] ONTARIAN – The NPL convention is in Toronto this year, and they are calling it Contario. Clever!
    • 47D [Acting twins Mary-Kate and Ashley] OLSENS – Or, if you believe John Oliver, one twin moving very rapidly to fool everyone!

Everyone have a great week!

David Steinberg’s Universal crossword, “Chasing After the Kids”—Jim Q’s review

THEME: Characters from the comic “Baby Blues” are hidden across answers.



    Universal crossword solution · David Steinberg · “Chasing After the Kids” · Tue., 01.07.20

  • ANAHEIM / MAHALIA. Hammie. 
  • 34A [Family focused comic since January 7, 1990…] BABY BLUES. 

I’m starting to appreciate this puzzle more now that I’m writing about it. During the initial solve I didn’t notice that Wanda (the mom in the comic) appears to be “chasing” the kids around the grid in a clockwise fashion. Now it makes sense as to why two of the names need to appear backwards. It also explains Darryl’s absence as only one parent needs to be chasing all the kids. I also noticed that it’s the 30th anniversary of the cartoon- which I hadn’t noticed before since I didn’t comprehend the whole clue- so that’s a nice touch.

However, this one really wasn’t for me. I have never read the comic being honored here and had no clue of any of its characters. I had to consult Wikipedia to figure out what was going on. Also, is it safe to assume the Across Lite version employed circled letters? I can’t access it, and I found reading the instructions on the regular web version very annoying. From experience of watching new solvers, I know that instructions such as (first letter + last 3 of 3-Down, backward) is a major turn off.

I simply do not understand why Universal runs so many circle dependent themes when they don’t have the futuristic technology needed to put circles in a crossword.

3.2 stars with circles.

1 star without.

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26 Responses to Tuesday, January 7, 2020

  1. Jenni Levy says:

    Liz should lose the ableist slur at 1a in today’s CN puzzle.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Yeah, I like the fact that it took a few seconds to compute the theme. Well done!

  3. Billy Boy says:

    I really liked the four x fifteen spanners in todays WSJ not generating a too much uninteresting junk to fill the grid. I truly enjoyed trying to figure out the relationship of the answers (And what they actually were), haha I felt like I couldn’t figure it out fast enough, I admired the construction and couldn’t wait to fill it. (Sorry if my not being a constructor, I somehow missed this puzzles failings).

    Compare and contrast that to my perception of rote, tired, lame fill of the NYT by comparison, albeit with a multi-shaded meaning reveal.

    (….AT ….ON ….UP) – I really don’t care for ‘tag-on’ answers SOS BIC IAM ERS CDS SPA TAX OPED AXED ALES ELSA – I’m certain I missed some of the fill, many clued by gimmies (Crips in BB lingo to go with 3-pointers).

    What am I missing? That’s like a 1.5-2.5 * effort for me. Maybe the WSJ just shone more by comparison?

  4. Dave S says:

    LAT – Calling fouls on “ldr” and “mss” as abbreviations.

  5. Margaret says:

    Sorry to say I didn’t like the LAT nearly as well as Derek. I’m not a circle puzzle fan to begin with (though today’s revealer is pretty good) and the fill seemed less than Tuesday-ish (RAGA/OPORTO/ETRE/RAGA/ROI/ESSEN etc all seem stale.) I’ve been doing puzzles a long time and ANITRA was not in my wheelhouse for a Tuesday (Ase, sure, Anitra, no.) But my pettiest peeve is that RINGO could have been clued a million ways, and yet they went with a ROAD clue?

  6. David Steere says:

    WSJ: Since there has been no write-up yet on today’s puzzle by Ross Trudeau, I’ll ask this question here. Am I missing something or is there a rather surprising value judgment connecting 1-Across and 35-Across? Is the constructor saying that those who engaged in 35-Across (an example of 59-Across) are “contemptible (1-Across)?” I grew up in the 60’s and would never characterize those who went to Canada to avoid Vietnam as such. Perhaps I’m missing something. Now if we were talking about the current POTUS and military service and 1-Across, I’d probably feel very differently.

    • Ross Trudeau says:

      Hey, David. What lead you to the conclusion that there’s a connection between 35-Across and 1-Across? The theme answers are the 4 15-letter spanners. The other material is just fill. (Though if we’re going to free associate, I’d much rather associate 35-Across and 70-Across. Mwah!)

      Thanks for solving!

      • David Steere says:

        Thanks, Ross, so much for replying. I made the connection between 1-Across and 35-Across because that is what your 35-Across clue specifies. Spoiler alert here for those who haven’t completed Ross’s puzzle. 35-Across reads “Option for 1-A’s (i.e., jerks) who 59-Across (turn down service)” by 35-Across (dodging the draft). Your clue ties these three together. Perhaps I’m too sensitive? :-)

        p.s. I don’t get your free association between 35-Across and 70-Across. Stupid me, I guess.

        • PJ says:

          Stupid me, as well. I see 1-A in a clue and I’m going to look at 1 across. David qualified his question with was he missing something and didn’t deserve a snitty reply.

          Oops! Wrote this before I saw constructor’s comment below.

    • joon says:

      i think maybe david was assuming “1-A” in the clue for 35-across was short for “1-across”, when in fact in just refers to the draft status 1-A.

      • Ross Trudeau says:

        OHHHH. Aha. That’s funny :)

      • David Steere says:

        Thanks, Joon, for zooming in on the mistake I made. I did think Ross meant 1-A to be 1-Across. My bad. The draft status meaning didn’t even occur to me as it should have. Sorry I wasted people’s time. As to Gale’s comment below…”no comment.”

      • BarbaraK says:

        Me too.Never considered that 1-A in a puzzle meant anything other than 1 across, especially since it made sense and with all the other cross references in the theme.

        • Martin says:

          Puzzle clues always spell out “Across” and “Down” in cross-references. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one use “A” or “D.” It never occurred to me that it was a cross-ref for that reason.

          I can see how some might have been confused, but I also can see how a constructor, familiar with the clue editing style, would have overlooked it.

          • BarbaraK says:

            Interesting. I never noticed that, even though, going back to look at it, I see that the clue under discussion is, “Option for 1-A’s who 59-Across”

            In case it’s not obvious, I’m just a solver, not a constructor.

    • Gale G Davis says:

      How liberals find ways to bash Trump in every forum amazes me. Ross’s answer was right on. Making a leap to 1 A as offensive to Vietnam war vets is a real stretch. As is to POTUS.

      • Dave S says:

        Gale, I’ll try to help you understand. Trump is an evil, incompetent, idiot with no capacity for empathy. Does that help clarify?

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Count me among those who were taken aback by the JERKDRAFT DODGER association. Doh!

  7. Stephen B. Manion says:

    I am sure many if not most of you already know this and are anxiously awaiting it, but just in case, the long-awaited Jeopardy match of the all-time greats begins tonight. As a gambler at heart, my money is on Holzauer.


  8. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal … Help please? MOM CAVE clued as “She shed kin for a parent”. I’ve come to know what a “man cave” is. But I haven’t heard of a “mom cave”. How does that clue make any sense?

    Much thanks to Jim Q for enlightening me about BABY BLUES. I’ve never been into comic strips and I drew a total blank on that one. Since the clue says “comic” and not “comic strip”, I was thinking it was some stand-up comic act that I didn’t know of, but I couldn’t imagine what that had to do with the circled names.

    David is one of my nemeses as a constructor, but I almost always manage to at least get through his themed grids and usually enjoy the challenge. Not so much this time around.

    • Stephen B. Manion says:

      Here’s the she shed commercial that was funny at most once and then became incredibly annoying:

      It is a spoof on a woman’s right to have her own space, i.e. a MOM CAVE. Sports talk shows have focused on Man Caves for years, most notably Dan Patrick’s studio, which doubles as his Man Cave.


      • sanfranman59 says:

        Hmmm … I see (I guess) … Madison Avenue annoys the crap out of me and I do my best to avoid advertisements. I guess that one’s on me. But that still seems like a pretty obtuse clue. One solver’s obtuse is another’s sweet spot, I suppose. Such is the challenge of crosswords, from both a constructor’s and a solver’s point-of-view.

        As the years pass, I feel as though I’m becoming less and less a part of this world.

        Thanks for the explanation Steve!

        • John says:

          I had never heard of Mom Cave. I insisted on reading shed as a verb rather than a noun which gave me attuner in the down slot. I hadn’t heard of that either but that didn’t stop me from being comfortable with Motcave. Amazing how dumb one can be at times!!! Love it.

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