Saturday, January 18, 2020

LAT 7:46 (Derek) 


Newsday 30:56 (Derek) 


NYT 6:35 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 3:41 (Jim Q) 


Ryan McCarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 18 20, no. 0118

What is this, a 64-worder? The fill’s a bit zippier than you’d expect with that lowish word count. POP A WHEELIE, KICKSTARTER, TEAR IT UP, “I’VE MOVED ON,” SIDEWALK ART, BAD DATES, DOTARD, K-CUP, PONIED UP (I didn’t notice till now the UP dupe), and WINE TASTING with a clue ([Leisure activity for which you need glasses]) that had me thinking paintball or laser tag. I read the clue to my husband and he thought of eyeglasses (video games, reading) rather than safety glasses, and he may have sworn when I told him the intended answer. (The best tricky clues induce swearing, no?)

Ten things (it was gonna be seven, but there were more things I wanted to mention):

  • 13a. [Some naturally heated pools], LAVA LAKES. What are those? They are, Google tells me, straight-up pools of molten lava. No swimming, no diving!
  • 24a. [Self-described “bluesologist” ___ Scott-Heron], GIL. Best known for “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Turns out, revolutions are both televised and livestreamed these days.
  • 25a. [Gets in deep?], INTERS. Wow, that’s grim.
  • 26a. [Green people], NOVICES. Listen, whenever there are new people at work, if they’re guys who aren’t particularly tall, you can call them little green men.
  • 35a. [Relative of slate], BLUESTONE. I had no idea what BLUESTONE is, so I looked it up. Apparently bluestone = slate in South Australia, but the term applies to other minerals in other places. Stonehenge, for example, is made of bluestone but it’s the unrelated-to-slate stone called dolerite. Both volcanic in origin, but one’s igneous and the other’s metamorphic. (Are you flashing back to grade- or high-school earth science?) Also? A friend traded me a Pokémon in Pokémon Go that she caught at Stonehenge a couple days after the winter solstice. Her setting-sun photo was amazing!
  • 4d. [It’s not hard to swallow], PAP. How many more years till mainstream (non-indie) crossword venues are comfortable mentioning the existence of Pap smears?
  • 7d. [So-called “African unicorns”], OKAPIS. Raise your hand if you tried to squeeze TIFFANYHADDISH in here.
  • 10d. [“Winner winner chicken dinner!”], “I RULE.” I rule in the court of crossword justice that this entry should be used very seldom.
  • 32d. [Contraption that might have honey and borax], ANT TRAP. Indeed, the Terro liquid ant traps I was advised to use (and did use with great success within about 24 hours) rely on borax. If you have an ant problem at home, check out Terro.
  • 35d. [“Emergency calls” may save you from them], BAD DATES. This is a great clue.

Nary an abbreviation in this grid, which is not easy to manage. GIL/DECAL could’ve been GIF/DECAF, DAD/MESSED could have been D.A.’S/MESSES, but no, no abbrevs. Four stars from me.

Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Singular Songsters” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 1/18/20 • “Singular Songsters” • Sat • Ross • solution • 20200118

Musicians who go by one name, punned up.

  • 22a. [Advocates for a U2 singer?] Usher Raymond IV. Paul David Hewson.
  • 29a. [Amused a colorful pop-rock singer?] TICKLED PINK. Alecia Beth Moore.
  • 48a. [Treats for a Canadian rapper?] DRAKE’S CAKES. Aubrey Drake Graham.
  • 66a. [Support a Guns N’ Roses guitarist?] BACK SLASH. Saul Hudson.
  • 80a. [Taught exercises to a soulful singer?] TRAINED SEAL. Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel.
  • 101a. [None-too-generous R&B singer?] CHEAP BRANDY. Brandy Rayana Norwood.
  • 110a. [Medical procedure for the Police’s lead singer?] STING OPERATION. Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner.
  • 2d. [The Material Girl and Lourdes?] MADONNA AND CHILD. Madonna Louise Ciccone.
  • 45d. [Where an R&B singer lives?] THE HOUSE OF USHER. Usher Raymond IV.

The phrases are all recognizable enough, but the clues are uneven. For members of bands, it’s fairly easy, but those which simply reference ‘R&B singer’ or ‘soulful singer’ are enormously vague. Obviously we’re hampered by the fact that these are … drum roll …one-named celebrities (duh).

Slightly better are ones where at least some hint is included (e.g. Canadian rapper, colorful … singer). Madonna has a recognizable nickname, but the clue is problematic for another reason; unless you have reason to know (or care) that she has a daughter named Lourdes, you (by which I mean I) might be tempted to think of one-named New Zealander Lorde (Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor), who famously had a big hit with “Royals” in 2013 as a relative child of 16 years.

Aside from the theme itself undermining its own success, two other things soured me on this crossword. One was the last square I filled in: the crossing of 116a [Businessman for whom Kmart is named] KRESGE and 106d [“__ petit placidam sub libertate quietem” (Massachusetts motto] ENSE. Unless you know enough Latin or the state mottoes or an unusual surname, it’s a tough ask. S isn’t particularly intuitive here structurally. Calling this crossing horrendous might be an exaggeration, but I certainly didn’t care for it.

The other was the last across clue, so again something that’s fresh in the mind as the crossword is nearly completed. It’s 121a [München misters] for the abominable HERRS. Listen, if you’re going to use proper German in the clue (München vs Munich) then the answer should also be proper German; in this case the plural of Herr, which is Herren. Just clue it with the regional potato chip or something.

  • 109d [“The cow is of the bovine ilk” poet] is Ogden NASH. Oh, you can see the milk setup a mile away, which makes it all the more endearing.
  • Favorite clues: 62a [Stars of the publishing world] ASTERISKS, 15d [Fights that take seconds] DUELS.

No encore.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 01/18/2020

I am sure the weather in Los Angeles is a lot nicer than here in the midwest; Winter Storm Jacob is bearing down where I live and it might be dicey traveling for some periods of time this weekend. I guess I’ll just have to hunker down and do some puzzles! This puzzle has an impressive wide open stack in the middle, but overall this played fairly easy. Not surprising from Ed Sessa; his puzzles are normally made quite well. 4.5 stars for this one.

Lots to discuss!

  • 17A [Result of spilling the beans] MESS – This is true literally AND figuratively!
  • 18A [Freudian component of 15-Across] PRIMAL URGE – 15A is OEDIPUS REX, which portrays the famed issues that Oedipus had. I don’t think I have ever actually read or seen this play, but that is not surprising for an uncultured person like myself.
  • 37A [Actress who voiced Duchess in “The Aristocats”] EVA GABOR – Why did I write EVA GREEN in here??
  • 42A [Facebook nudge] POKE – These are annoying.
  • 53A [Garden support] TOMATO CAGE – I have seen several of these, but I don’t think I have ever heard it called this.
  • 3D [“No clue”] “IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME” – I wrote in A MYSTERY instead of ALL GREEK at first. It fit, but didn’t work at all!
  • 11D [Carousel location] ARRIVAL TERMINAL – I made this harder than it was by not remembering the word “terminal!”
  • 35D [“Punch buggy” in a car trip game] VW BEETLE – I’ve been punched by people before playing this game!
  • 39D [Wells predator] MORLOCK – This is from The Time Machine, which I DID read many moons ago.
  • 41D [Turn sharply] ZIG – This is a verb? ;-)

That is all!

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

Newsday 01/18/2020

This one was a Stumper. I got a nice shout out this past week on the Fill Me In crossword podcast about Stumper solving, and the very next puzzle practically kills me! I went back to Across Lite to solve this one; someone updated it to work in macOS Catalina, and it nicely shows all of my blunders! Having said that, there are some great clues in here, and only one or two obscurities, so in the end I found it a fair but quite challenging puzzle. 4.6 stars today.

Some of that hard stuff:

  • 1A [Lose coverage] GO BALD – I am quite familiar with what this pun is getting at. I am a little surprised there is not a question mark after this clue.
  • 20A [”Cosmo” feature] SEX QUIZ – Look at all those Scrabble-y letters! Once I realized what this answer was, there was literally a forehead slap!
  • 34A [Hospital’s overhead helpers] TRAPEZE BARS – Is that what they call those things? They are a little smaller than an actual trapeze, but it is basically the same idea.
  • 35A [Light-sensitive circuit board coating] PHOTORESIST – This is evidently all one word. A word I just learned!
  • 50A [Get back] RE-EARN – I found this difficult. RETAIN or REGAIN would be your first guess.
  • 2D [”Yikes!”] “OH, MAMA!” – This is also tough. Tough to clue, as well. I am not sure how to clue it any differently.
  • 6D [How some fruit is eaten] DRIED – Why did I want this to be two words?
  • 7D [One studying biofertilizers] AGGIE – Why did I write AGGRO in here? Why wasn’t this clued referencing Texas A&M so I could solve it?
  • 10D [Ys, sometimes] UPSILONS – This one I actually figured out, even though my knowledge of Greek letters is not that great. I was never in a frat!
  • 14D [Life form] BOX OF CEREAL – This was also tough, since I wrote BOXED CEREAL in first!
  • 34D [Resolution starter] THIS YEAR – I am referencing a lot of clues today, but I will close with this one, which is eerily timely

As you can see, there was a lot to like here. I could have gone on! Have a great weekend!

Dallas Fletcher’s Universal crossword, “All in the Family”—Jim Q’s review

THEME: TV shows with family members in the title.


  • 19A [Steve Douglas’ “family” show] MY THREE SONS.

    Universal crossword solution · Dallas Fletcher · “All in the Family” · Sat., 01.18.20

  • 25A [Napoleon Solo’s “family” show] THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. 
  • 41A [Jim Anderson’s “family” show] FATHER KNOWS BEST. 
  • 50A [Kody Brown’s “family” show] SISTER WIVES. 

I’ve never seen any of these shows. I’ve heard of them, but the first three were off the air more than a decade before I was born… and the last one doesn’t appeal to me.

Taken alone these work well enough, though dated for sure. But together as a set it’s a bit wonky. SONS, UNCLE (which is an acronym in the title), FATHER, and SISTER. Where’s the other parent? UNCLE looks a bit weird in there… and SONS/SISTER feels off too… like it should either be BROTHER/SISTER or SONS/DAUGHTERS.

So I dunno. I like the idea, but maybe a solid set just doesn’t exist.

2.4 Stars.

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40 Responses to Saturday, January 18, 2020

  1. soupfordinner says:

    What irritated me was 9A for the NYT (“Indicator of interest on”) – I was stuck because I filled in LIKE, because I’m actually on Match and that’s a thing. A WINK is not a feature on Match.

  2. Greg Johnson says:

    Derek: OH MAMA is also a lyric from the Styx song “Renegade” but I decided against cluing it that way. Plus I think Stan would have changed it for being too unfamiliar.

    • Derek Allen says:

      Actually, that might be a waaay better clue! I remember that song vividly from when I was a kid. But the song IS 40 years old or so …

  3. MattF says:

    Slow start on the NYT, because of the longer words. Doable starting with a foothold, with multiple tries on some entries. Noticed the dupe UPs, pretty good puzzle, though.

  4. RichardZ says:

    My favorite clue from today’s Stumper is 13A (“Two-in-a-row situation”). Definitely an “aha moment” for me once I realized the answer.

  5. marciem says:

    NYT 46 across… I don’t understand the correlation of the clue and the answer at all… “site of many pitches” = “kickstarter”… is this a sports thing?

  6. Twangster says:

    Any estimates on the number of people who are able to solve a Stumper like this without any help? I’m thinking there are more players in the NBA.

    FWIW I was able to get about a third.

    • RichardZ says:

      I don’t have any estimates, but I’m sure most people would regard the Stumper as among the toughest out there. Even people who have relatively little difficulty with the Fri/Sat NYT puzzles struggle with it. (I’m definitely in that camp). If I want to complete the Stumper in a reasonable amount of time, I’ll normally do a couple or three word reveals or at least a few letter reveals to jumpstart the solve, though sometimes letting the partially-solved puzzle sit overnight helps.

      The Stumper includes wordplay clues, of course, but it also often uses rather terse clues as well as somewhat obscure factoids (what in the context of an NYT puzzle would be called “pre-Shortzian” clues), and the combination of the three definitely makes for a challenge.

    • JanO says:

      This was the hardest Stumper for me in quite a while. I was able to solve it without help, but to get the top third done, I put it aside and came back to it later. I would say the top 50-100 people at the ACPT could solve it without help, so yes, far fewer than the number of NBA players.

      • Twangster says:

        Thanks — if that’s the case, I don’t feel so bad!

        I always wonder about a hypothetical first-time visitor to Long Island who finds a Newsday lying around and unwittingly decided to take a stab at the Saturday puzzle.

  7. pseudonym says:

    RichardZ, above, loved the “Two-in-a-row situation” clue in the Stumper but are the hyphens at all objectionable? They seem ungrammatical, only employed to throw off the solver.

    Thought the NYT was a really good puzzle even though I didn’t find it very difficult.

    • Greg Johnson says:

      The way I look at it, it is a matter of style. Two in a row situation and Situation with two in a row seem clunky to me. Hyphens I think make it easier because it’s not a “row” situation. Adding hyphens ties the words together.

      Besides, grammar rules are subjective guidelines and not absolute law. Breaking them is fun. It passed Stan’s edit so that’s good enough for me.

    • Martin says:

      “Two-in-a-row” is a compound adjective modifying “situation.” I think the hyphens are required.

      It took a while to see row as “rao” and not “roh.”

      • Greg Johnson says:

        Yeah hyphens are weird. Words like half-hearted and halfhearted are both accepted, plus hyphens depend on usage sometimes. As long as the message gets across…I believe that’s what is important.

        • Martin says:

          Compound adjectives that find common use tend to become words over time. That’s why half-hearted is in the process of losing its hyphen.

          I doubt “two-in-a-row” will ever become a word. :)

          • Greg Johnson says:

            It is now. I made it one. rao though, not roh. Probably will never be used again. Let’s hope so.

      • pseudonym says:

        Would “Two in a fight situation” require hyphens as well?

        Come to think of it, “situation” is what’s misleading (and misplaced) in the clue as it’s redundant in referring to a fight rather than a recurrence of some sort.

        • Martin says:

          That depends on what was meant (which is the point of the hyphens). “Two in a fight situation” would refer to the fighters. “Two-in-a-fight situation” would refer to the fight.

          • pseudonym says:

            In that case, the former seems a nonsensical phrase none would utter thus justifying the use of hyphens. The clue still seems redundant because row was used rather than fight, fight having several meanings.

            • Greg Johnson says:

              Two in a fight would not match RHUBARB. That’s like saying Two in a rhubarb. Adding that the ‘row’ is a situation (noun) helps you determine that two-in-a-row is in adjective form. Believe me these clues are not written hastily. Hope that helps.

            • pseudonym says:

              Not sure what you’re getting at. “Two in a fight” matches rhubarb or row. Both are verbal disputes, forms of fights.

  8. David L says:

    I did 4/5 of the Stumper in a reasonable time but got nowhere in that NW section — mainly because that meaning of RHUBARB is not one I knew. I had WIRELESS at 16A but took it out because it didn’t fit with BOXOFCEREAL. The clue for GRAVEN is very clever — in retrospect, anyway.

  9. RichardZ says:

    I also thought the clue for 14D (“Life form”) in the Stumper was ingenious as well. It’s interesting that the “Mikey Likes It!” advertising slogan is still being used in their ads after so many years. For some reason, whenever I see a (rare) enthusiastic review of a puzzle in the Rex Parker blog, I think of that phrase.

  10. scrivener says:

    The NYT was really well done. Well done and brutal. Clean solve for me but it took 40:05. :s

  11. Jeff says:

    Can anyone tell me where to find the Stumper as a .puz file?

    • Greg Johnson says:

      I know all Newsday puzzles are available through the free Crosswords app by Standalone (that’s how I solve). Also I post a copy on my Twitter page(s) – or search Creators Syndicate online.

  12. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ: CUE IN, clued as “Bring up to speed” (or something similar), bugs me every time. Isn’t that a clue for “clue in”? To me, “cue in” means to prompt someone to do something (e.g., go on stage or make a musical entrance). I did some Googling and see that the phrase has been used as clued in the wild, but I don’t find any “official” dictionary or language sources that confirm it.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Thanks @Martin … For better or worse, I lean toward Merriam-Webster. It usually suffices, though not in this case. From “Give information or instructions, for example, She said she’d cue us in on their summer plans. This verbal use of the noun cue in the sense of “guiding suggestion” dates from the 1920s.” … with an American Heritage citation. My Second College Edition AH hardcover has “To tell a latecomer what has happened up to now. [Orig. unknown.]”

  13. Teedmn says:

    Glad to see most found the Stumper brutal. Out-loud groans when I finally saw BOX OF CEREAL, GO BALD, NANAS and SEATS (I had mEAls and thought that was pretty lame – SEATS wasn’t much better :-). ) I always appreciate seeing Greg Johnson’s name because I know I’m in for a challenge. Love the misdirection on 15A’s “axes” though it didn’t fool me today.

  14. Chip says:

    NYT: Bluestone is commonly quarried in stretches of the Hudson and Delaware Valleys and standard in garden centers from Philly to Boston. Large flat pieces an inch or two thick . 12 x 12 . 12 x 18 . 12 x 24 . 24 x 24 . 24 x 36 . 36 x 36 . and so on. Rather hard. Stands up to icing. Relatively impervious so it doesn’t split the way slate can. Used for outdoor walkways, walls, etc. Attractive darkish slate gray with a hint of blueness.

  15. Billy Boy says:

    Broke my rule and did a bigger puzzle, the WSJ was really easy waiting to start a party.

    NYT was really testy for me today, could not get on the wavelength, took forever.

  16. e.a. says:

    this universal review made ME feel like shit and i was only barely involved in editing the puzzle. who does this serve?

  17. Charles Stevens says:

    The Stumper took me nearly 2 hours (!) all told, but I was able to grind my way through it. It helped that I’ve seen CEREAL BOX clued as “Life Preserver?” at least twice in the NYT.

    Goos to see that Greg comments here! Not sure if he’s still reading, but I love seeing his byline on Saturdays. His puzzles are always hard, always fair, and always clean.

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