Saturday, January 11, 2020

LAT 6:20 (Derek) 


Newsday 23:23 (Derek) 


NYT 4:37 (Amy) 


WSJ 18:57 (Jim P) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


If you’re here on a Saturday, you probably like more challenging crosswords, and that category includes metas. Season 9(!) of Pete Muller’s brainchild, Muller Monthly Music Meta, launches on Tuesday at the Washington Post. Give it a look!

Andrew Ries’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 11 20, no. 0111

Look at that gaping chasm in the middle of the grid! Six 9s or 10s stagger-stepped through the diagram, with crossings ranging from 5 to 13 letters. That’s fancy constructin’ there. Note that the grid’s got an extra row to accommodate the pair of central 10s.

Did this play more like a Friday puzzle for you? It did for me. I plunged right into the midsection, guessed GUARD DOGS might work for [Dobermans and mastiffs, traditionally] and confirmed the first letter via attention-GETTER, and I was off to the races. Didn’t hit any trouble spots, so it felt Fridayish to me.

Fave fill: BEAR CLAW pastry ([Finger food at a pastry shop?]), IN-APP PURCHASE, SECRET RECIPES, GUARD DOGS, and the new-to-me BEER LEAGUE ([Recreational sports association for adults]). Plural AGARS is extra meh.

Eight more things:

  • 23a. [Number six in a group of five], ESP. As in the sixth sense, not included among the five senses.
  • 5a. [Food drive donation], TIN. If you refer to cans of food as tins, I can’t help thinking you’re over the age of 60. See also: tin foil when the stuff’s been made from rolled aluminum for a solid century now.
  • 17a. [End of a plug, often], AD SLOGAN. This entry looks so weird in the grid. My brain insists on splitting the words ADS/LOGAN. Maybe Huda can explain why that happens.
  • 33a. [Place for a bead], PORE. A bead of sweat, that is.
  • 49a. [“This tastes delicious!,” maybe], FIB. Such snark!
  • 55a. [Treat commonly eaten with a wooden utensil], GELATO. Huh. The American gelato places I’ve been to offer plastic spoons, I believe.
  • 5d. [The emperor’s old clothes?], TOGAS. Cute clue.
  • 52a. [Nominee for the first two Nobel Prizes in Literature (1901-02), but never won], EMILE ZOLA. This clue is awkward. The grammar only works if it’s [He was nominated for …, but never won] or [Nominee for …, but never a winner], or perhaps [Nominee for … who never won].

Four stars from me.

Kritstian House’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mixed-Up Job Listings”—Jim P’s review

Two-word job descriptions are formed by taking the job title (second word) and anagramming it to form the first word.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Mixed-Up Job Listings” · Kristian House · Sat., 1.11.20

  • 24a [Applicant must be able to paint the area between Alaska and Russia] STRAIT ARTIST. I guess I can see that.
  • 37a [Applicant must be able to explain finance using symbols like ;-)] EMOTICONS ECONOMIST. Oooh. Nice find.
  • 53a [Applicant must be able to transport tight undergarments across town] CORSET ESCORT. Pushing the boundaries, but I’m still good with it.
  • 67a [Applicant must be odoriferous and skilled at data entry] REEKY KEYER. Uh, no. Reeky? Keyer? There is no job title of keyer. Hard pass on this one.
  • 70a [Applicant must make cookies and pies while others are having a smoke] BREAK BAKER. Ok, sure. Why not? It’s better than the last one.
  • 85a [Applicant must be more vulgar than our other metalworkers] LEWDER WELDER. Yeesh. The entry works, but it doesn’t sound like a fun place to work.
  • 97a [Applicant must help a group of pentagram worshipers] SATANISTS ASSISTANT. I like this one.
  • 114a [Applicant must be foul while calling fouls] IMPURE UMPIRE. That’s pretty good, too.

So…mostly good, but one that does not work at all. I mean at all. All the other job titles are absolutely valid; I’m even okay with a plain “assistant.” But “keyer” just does not work and should have been nixed, IMO.

In other news, I love the symmetrical pairing of KICK BUTT and FREAK OUT. How fun! RAT FINKS, PIANO BAR, “NOT A CLUE,” “OH SURE,” SKIP BAIL, SENATOR, MASTIFFS, SHINTO, HARD HIT, and COLD SORE are other highlights.

On the other hand, “IS IT A GO?” [“Are we all set?”] feels made-up. Other eyebrow-raisers include MASER [Atomic clock part] which apparently stands for Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, WAR DOG [The 102nd Infantry’s Sergeant Stubby, e.g.], SYNGE [“The Playboy of the Western World” dramatist], and PBA [Cop-supporting org.]. Regarding this last one, initial googling leads to the Professional Bowlers Association and the Philippine Basketball Association, and then PseudoBulbar Affect which is “a condition that causes uncontrollable crying and/or laughing that happens suddenly and frequently.” I had to google “PBA” and “cops” to learn it’s the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. Hardly common knowledge.

As for WAR DOG, I’m inclined to be more lenient toward it since I just finished playing the wonderful award-winning video game Valiant Hearts: The Great War which was not only fun, but filled with emotion and plenty of factual information about WWI. One aspect of it was that it highlighted the work done by dogs in the war as helpers for soldiers and medics. I highly recommend the game.

Clues of note:

  • 122a [Prominent smilodon feature]. FANG. I had no idea that a smilodon is a saber-toothed cat. I think I prefer that name, though. It makes it sound happy.
  • 65d [Run after release]. SKIP BAIL. Tricky, especially since I started this entry with SKI___. I really thought this was going to be skiing related.
  • 77d [King of Maine, e.g.]. SENATOR. Super tricky, since STEPHEN fits right in there and Angus King is much less well known than his senior counterpart Susan Collins. But I love the misdirection here. Well done!

A lot of good stuff here but some really detracting questionable stuff as well. 3.3 stars.

Erik Agard & Wyna Liu’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 01/10/2020

I believe I have seen this byline once or twice before. Erik and Wyna, how many times HAVE I seen this byline? I solved this puzzle in Across Lite instead of Black Ink, which shows my stupid mistakes I made in the NE corner of this grid. Still finished in around 6 minutes, so it wasn’t too hard. Maybe I rushed too much. Still a fun puzzle. I am getting waaaay behind on my USA Today puzzle solving now. I didn’t do them for so long, but now I HAVE to! 4.5 stars for this fine themeless collaboration.

Lot’s to talk about:

  • 1A [Drill bit?] MARCH – This is the title of a graphic novel by John Lewis that I just now heard about. I might go buy it TODAY.
  • 10A [’60s civil rights gp. inspired by student sit-ins] SNCC – I heard about this graphic novel in LearnedLeague, as there was an entire One Day quiz devoted to it. This group was referenced in a question as to what the N stood for, which is non-violence. Again, why didn’t I know about this book??
  • 19A & 59A [Micro amount] ATOM & IOTA – Nice clue duplicate.
  • 20A [Irritable sort, in slang] CRANKY PANTS
  • 45A [Only article in a U.S. state capital name] DES – As in Des Moines, IA. I thought LAS Vegas, but Vegas isn’t a capital, and it appears in another clue. (See 64A)
  • 47A [Looked bad?]  & 61A [Look bad?] LEERED & OGLE – More clue similarity here. This does something while you’re solving; I might describe it as adding cohesiveness to the puzzle, maybe? I am wording that poorly, so hopefully you understand what I am describing.
  • 64A [Las Vegas Aces’ org.] WNBA – I’ll bet Erik clued this one.
  • 67A [Elle Woods of “Legally Blonde” got 179 on hers, briefly] LSAT – I think this is a good score for this test. I think.
  • 11D [Just okay] NOT TOO BAD – This corner was actually a little bad for me!
  • 12D [Classic hole-in-one site] CLOWN NOSE – Just as classic as the windmill!
  • 50D [Animated Tootsie Pop eater in ads] MR. OWL – Ah, yes, that old commercial talking about how many licks to get to the center. “The world may never know!”

That is all! Back on Tuesday with another LAT puzzle write-up.

Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 01/11/2020

This one played like a true Stumper. Well over 20 minutes for me, and there may or may not have been some Googling involved! I did re-download Across Lite to see if it works, and it does seem to work with macOS Catalina now. I like Black Ink better for solving, but Across Lite makes a better web image. Whatever they did, they fixed the timer issue! It now stops when you’re finished!! Now if only you could change fonts like on the Windows version …

Anyway, I digress. This puzzle was flat-out hard. Several obscure terms, at least to me. All of you people that love uber-hard puzzles, you should be ecstatic over this one. 4.6 stars.

Some high points:

  • 1A [Western ethics attributed to Autry] COWBOY CODE
  • 17A [Kiwanians’ colleagues] ODDFELLOWS – These are both old organizations that I know literally nothing about.
  • 29A [”Sacred” symbol of Israel’s special forces] IBIS – I believe you.
  • 42A [Boss’ autobiography] BORN TO RUN – We are talking Bruce Springsteen here. On a side note, I finally starting reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall about the Mexican endurance running tribe. So far it is pretty good.
  • 5D [Supporting Actress Oscar role in the disaster flick ”In Old Chicago”] O’LEARY – The disaster being the Chicago Fire of 1871.
  • 9D [Less street-smart] DEWIER – This is a word??
  • 13D [”A Charlie Brown Christmas” instrumental] O TANNENBAUM – I made this harder than it was. It seems like this melody is playing near the end? Also, most Charlie Brown music is instrumental!
  • 23D [Nonpecuniary pleasurable pursuit] LABOR OF LOVE – Nonpecuniary means you don’t get paid!
  • 31D [Rice paddy sight] OXEN – This evokes a nice word picture. I can see the tiers in my mind, but once I got this it was a rather nice “a-ha!” moment.
  • 42D [City that sounds like sausage] BANGOR – Bangers and mash is an Irish dish of sausage and mashed potatoes

Have a fantastic weekend!


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33 Responses to Saturday, January 11, 2020

  1. Evad says:

    Tough for me, particularly that NW–I had CAN for TIN (and I’m almost 60!), SCHMEAR for BESMEAR, RUST for RUBY and ON CAMPUS for ONE ON ONE. I’m not sure how NENE is a [Double birdie?] other than the letters NE are repeated? With just the leading S of what is covered in a kitchen, I proudly threw in SIMMERING POTS. Good workout for the ol’ noggin this morning!

  2. Brad says:

    For those interested in Friday’s Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle who skipped it because the Across Lite link was faulty (my bad), it’s now fixed and I’ll wait until as late as possible before I upload Jan 17. Much gratitude to webmaster.

  3. RunawayPancake says:

    Thanks, Brad. Much appreciated.

  4. Frank says:

    Anagrams do not belong in crossword puzzles. Ever. Period.

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    Stumper – “Avoid capping” for the clue to ANCE. IMO, this is an unnecessary stretch. In retrospect, I see what the cluewriter was going for, but it doesn’t really work. For me, it marred an otherwise good puzzle.

    • R Cook says:

      I also take issue with calling musical instruments media. It might fit the definition in a technical sense, but no one uses it that way.

      • Twangster says:

        I think it’s referring to a newspaper, which could be a house organ.

        I didn’t get anywhere with this one… almost everything I put in turned out to be wrong.

      • Ellen Nichols says:

        I thought ORGANS fit use of music in a Catholic mass.

  6. Teedmn says:

    RE: The Stumper: I wanted Roundhead or Orangeman for Cromwell’s followers. PURITAN was shockingly slow to come into view! Still finished with two errors and am not getting ANCE for “Avoid capping” even after Googling ANCE post-solve.

    • Karen says:

      I think the clue is telling us to turn “avoid” into “avoidance” by capping it (i.e., bringing it to an end) with ANCE.

      • David L says:

        Thank you. I didn’t get that at all. SCARE had to be right but I couldn’t make any sense of ANCE.

        “Capping” seems to me like it should come at the start of the word, not the end, but I guess either one works.

      • Teedmn says:

        Thanks. Yuck on that one, though.

  7. Billy Boy says:

    NYT much more palatable today

  8. pannonica says:

    (CHE write-up now appears in yesterday’s post.)

  9. Drew G says:

    I, too, held my nose at reeky keyer

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      REEKY KEYER is awful, but redeemed by its two halves being anagrams of each other. Discuss.

    • JohnH says:

      That one didn’t bother me at all, as it fit with theme and indeed did a lot to help me get the theme. I’m still lost on WAR DOG, but I’m off to Google it now.

  10. pseudonym says:

    Dat Stumper was haaaaarrrrdddddd! Some really tough clues and trivia I didn’t know or only very vaguely. I need an ice pack for my brain.

    LAT was yet another great E.A. (and partner) puzzle.

  11. Crotchety Doug says:

    Stumper – a nice challenge, as stumpers are supposed to be. But (42D) I lived in Bangor Maine for a couple years and everyone pronounced it rhyming with “rang for”. I wonder if the constructor had another Bangor in mind? The banger sausage sounds like the banger in 4-banger (referring to a 4-cylinder engine).

  12. RichardZ says:

    Re today’s Stumper, I didn’t understand the answer (TO TERM) to 43D (For all time?).

    I’ve only heard “to term” referred to in connection with a pregnancy (carrying a baby to term), but that wouldn’t appear to apply here. I suppose the question mark indicates some form of wordplay is involved, but I’m not seeing it.

    • pannonica says:

      In that context, a (human) pregnancy that goes to term lasts a full 9 months. That is, it lasts for all (the ‘allotted’) time.

  13. Zulema says:

    Some of us are still wondering about 12D in the LAT whose answer was CLOWN NOSE. Any enlightenment available? “Classic hole in one site” was the clue.

    • Enrique says:

      I think it’s a mini golf reference! Writing it as “hole-in-one” might have made it clearer.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I guess it’s referring to a miniature/Putt-Putt golf hole. I don’t recall ever seeing a “clown nose” as a target in Putt-Putt. A clown head or clown mouth, yes. Anyone else find this one to be off the mark?

  14. scrivener says:

    NYT: Mina Kimes, an ESPN writer and host of the ESPN Daily podcast, is an avid NYT xword solver. She was pretty stoked to see her podcast mentioned in the puzzle. I’m mildly surprised she hasn’t appeared in it yet, as far as I know. She’s an on-air rockstar.

  15. Pete Muller says:

    Thanks for the shout-out Amy…

    The MMMM will continue to be available for free at (with no ads).
    The first three metas will start off on the easy side, and there will once again be a mega-meta hidden in the 12 puzzles.

  16. JohnH says:

    Question for NYT solvers. Do people still rely on demo tapes? Thanks.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Saturday Stumper … the ANCE/SCARE cross could have easily been ONCE/SCORE.
    This is a prime example of poor construction.

Comments are closed.