Sunday, January 19, 2020

LAT 16:29 (Jim P) 


NYT 11:07 (Amy) 


WaPo 13:22 (Jim Q) 


Universal 4:42 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 7:22 (Jim Q) 


Victor Barocas’s New York Times crossword, “Biotechnology”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 19 20, “Biotechnology”

Okay, so a headache walloped me after I did the puzzle and before I set to blogging it. So I’m phoning it in. There may be typos. (I have fixed three already.)

I figured out the theme gimmick with the first diagonal GENE forking off in two directions mid-entry:

  • 24a HEDGE NETTLE (never heard of it) splices with 4d IN GENERAL, branching off the final E in the circled GENE.
  • 26a PLANTAGENETS (we’re up to 5 typos fixed) and 14d EUGENE IONESCO.
  • 98a REGENERATION (before I saw the clue, I was hoping for The Who’s MY GENERATION) and 57d FRONT PAGE NEWS.
  • 101 HOMOGENEITY and 84d retro DODGE NEON.

Neat theme; I liked it a lot. Clever riff on a biotech topic from our professor of biomedical engineering.

Some of the longer fill was nice (AUTOSAVE, THE ROSE, some CASH MONEY, and if you think CASH MONEY is a dumb phrase, well, I like to say it for fun), but there was also a noticeable smattering of crusty crosswordese—EDO SPAD ENA were the most glaring offenders.

3.5 stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Take It Back” – Jim Q’s writeup

A back and forth experience today.

THEME: Partner phrases where one phrase suggests a reversal of a particular item hidden in the other. Does that make sense? I tried. Open to wording suggestion there.


  • 23A [Back-to-the-basket field goal, and a hint to the circled squares in 36 Across] REVERSE DUNK partnered with 36A [Loud release of emotional energy] PRIMAL SCREAM

    Washington Post, January 19, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Take It Back” solution grid

    So, in this case, the “reverse dunk” refers to the word SLAM, as in “SLAM DUNK.” SLAM can be read in reverse in the phrase PRIMAL SCREAM

  • 51A [1983’s highest-grossing film, and a hint to the circled squares in 70 Across] RETURN OF THE JEDI partnered with 70A [Display of exasperation] EYE ROLLING. Read in “return” (i.e. backwards), REY appears, which I’m assuming is a JEDI knight? [Googles… ah yes… looks like a very well-known character]. As I mentioned last week, I’ve never seen Star Wars. But that’s on me 100%. 
  • 91A [Periods that are often short in fast-paced work environments, and a hint to the circled squares in 74 Across] TURN AROUND TIMES partnered with 74A [Site of many presidential news conferences] ROSE GARDEN. AGES… The TIMES (AGES) are TURNed AROUND
  • 123A [Heads-or-tails action, and a hint to the circled squares in 109 Across] FLIP OF A COIN partnered with 109A [Specialist in childbirth and prenatal care] NURSE MIDWIFE. And of course, the COIN that is FLIPped is a DIME

Really like the concept behind this one. At first, I was expecting the word in the first phrase to be reversed… so in REVERSE DUNK, I assumed the partner phrase would have KNUD in those circles. That would be less satisfying as it’s too much of a gimme and doesn’t add the extra layer that comes with discovering SLAM. I think all of the phrases work equally well… at first NURSEMIDWIFE gave me pause. I’ve heard of a NURSE. I’ve heard of a MIDWIFE. But NURSEMIDWIFE was new to me, though it’s very much a thing.

Other areas that gave me pause were mostly in the name department, though fairly crossed as per usual. Those included REX, ELSTON, RUPERT, ELI, OSKAR, SETH, READE, ELLE, DYAN, YEUN, and SAMUS. On the flip side, there were a lot of names that were familiar. I guess what I’m saying is that it felt name-heavy.


  • 14D [Mass communication experts?] PRIESTS. Haha.
  • 63A [Like safe Tigers] ON BASE. The Detroit Tigers baseball team, of course.
  • 95D [Music genre that’s similar to geeksta rap] NERD CORE. What a great entry.


  • 82D [Heroine of the Metroid video game franchise] SAMUS. I played that game a lot as a kid. Still had no clue!

Fun puzzle!

Enjoy your Sunday.



Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “We Interrupt This Puzzle…”—Jim Q’s review

THEME: Common words/phrases broken up by black squares.


  • 17A [Coaches … or, with 18-Across, station break?] TRAINS/TOP.

    Universal crossword solution · Paul Coulter · “We Interrupt This Puzzle…” · Sun., 01.19.20

  • 34A [Stingy type … or, with 36-Across, torn down?] MISER/ABLE. 
  • 40A [Quick haircut … or, with 41-Across, period pieces?] TRIM/ESTER. 
  • 58A [San Francisco hill … or, with 59-Across, split decision?] NOB/RAINER. 

Feel like I’m seeing Paul Coulter puzzles all over the place! Not that that’s a bad thing. They’re typically well-constructed.

I’m finally appreciating this theme after initially just thinking that it was a word split up for no particular reason. I found “station break” an odd way to clue TRAIN STOP, but accepted it. In fact, no. The “station” is “broken up”… TRAINS / TOP. MISERABLE means “down” and it’s “torn” MISER / ABLE. A TRIMESTER is a “period” and its “pieces” are TRIM / ESTER.

The last one is the weakest of the bunch: A decision is a NO BRAINER (I don’t think of a NO BRAINER as a decision per se), and when split it’s NOB / RAINER (RAINER doesn’t strike me as common enough knowledge to be part of the theme in this type of puzzle).

All in all, pretty cool! Here’s how I started the write-up before I realized what was happening:  I’m left feeling like a layer is missing or perhaps I’m not getting something. Like, I see that “station break” is in the clue for TRAINS/TOP and… Oh…..

I really enjoyed that post-solve AHA! Thanks, Paul!

4.1 stars. 


3.2 stars.

Pam Amick Klawitter’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Jim P’s review

Bird puns!

Los Angeles Times crossword solution · “Flight of Fancy” · Pam Amick Klawitter · Sun., 1.19.20

  • 27a [Museum piece depicting a songbird battle?] WREN WAR PAINTING. Renoir painting. If you’re pronouncing “Renoir” as “wren war,” perhaps some French lessons are in order. But for the sake of the joke, we won’t look too closely.
  • 40a [Turkey concerned with the details?] TECHNICAL FOWL. Technical foul.
  • 65a [Supply for a bird-of-prey flu epidemic?] ILL-EAGLE DRUGS. Illegal drugs.
  • 84a [Target audience for] SINGLE PARROTS. Single parents? I think?
  • 103a [Troupe of pink entertainers?] FLAMINGO DANCERS. Flamenco dancers. An oldie but a goodie.
  • 16d [Where seabirds grab buses?] PETREL STATIONS. Petrol stations. This sounds natural to my ear having lived in a place where such facilities are called “petrol stations” and not “gas stations.”
  • 47d [Bird skilled at long hoops shots?] THREE-POINT TERN. Three-point turn. I think I like this one best.

These work. Some are old puns (like foul/fowl) but nothing feels overly forced and it’s all in good fun.

Moving on to the fill, I’m liking ZYDECO, RHINESTONE, BULRUSH (though it’s usually seen in plural form I think), ARISTOCRAT, IPOD NANO, MAGIC ACTPIONEER, RAIDERS, and LEMMING. If you’re a gamer of a certain age, perhaps you played 1991’s Lemmings in your youth, the puzzley game in which you have to guide the little critters to the exit without having too many of them fall to their doom. Hey! Apparently, there’s a modern version for iOS and Android.

There’s a fairly heavy reliance on crosswordese in the fill, but nothing too egregious. I did get tripped up in a couple areas though. I put in ILENE for 22a‘s [Idaho’s Coeur d’__ River], but the crossing is JACLYN [She played Kelly on “Charlie’s Angels”], so that was an easy fix for me. I’m old enough to remember the old show and JACLYN Smith’s name spelling, but others may have had a tough time with that crossing. Or maybe not since the A seems inferable. The other thing that really slowed me down was 62a WAPITIS [Rockies roamers]. I didn’t know this was another word for elk. I like this word better. Read more about the usage and history of this word here. But the crossing with PCPS [HMO doctor designations] was what got me. On the military side, we use PCMS (primary care managers). I thought PCP always meant “angel dust.”

Clues of note:

  • 1a [Col. Potter on “M*A*S*H,” to pals]. Funny start to the puzzle for me. I immediately put in HARRY for this, and knew I was right. I went back and looked at it several times and didn’t change it because of my certainty. Finally, I realized I was conflating the actor, Harry Morgan, with the role, SHERMan Potter. No, Harry Potter was not a character on M*A*S*H.
  • 34a [Bayou sound]. ZYDECO. Love this clue because I was thinking of frogs or cicadas or some other critter. Very evocative, this clue and answer.
  • 71a [“Archie’s Pals ‘n’ __”: old comic book series]. GALS. Finally, something other than a hoedown clue. It’s nice to have some variety.
  • 83a [Knight supporter?]. PIP. Referencing Gladys Knight, of course.
  • 57d [Take badly?]. KIDNAP. Valid, but somewhat cringeworthy.

Solid, punny theme. A fair amount of clunky fill weighed things down, but the sparkly stuff made up for it.

Michael Schlossberg’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Postal Code”—Jim Q’s review

Took me a hot second to figure out what was going on here, but turned out to be a lot of fun!

THEME: Common phrases clued via cryptic nicknames for states.


  • 23A [[ ] AL, [ ] AK, [x] AR, [ ] AZ] NATURAL SE

    Universal Sunday crossword solution · Michael Schlossberg · “Postal Code” · Sun., 01.19.20

    LECTION. The Natural State is Arkansas, and that is the one that has been “selected” in the set of four states, so it’s a NATURAL SELECTION!

  • 34A [NJ or N.J.] GARDEN VARIETY. Do you prefer your abbreviated states with or without periods? Either variety works. In this case, it’s the GARDEN VARIETY because NJ/N.J. is The Garden State. 
  • 44A [… IX) OR, X) PA, XI) RI …] OCEAN’S ELEVEN. Rhode Island is listed XI (or eleventh), therefore The OCEAN State is ELEVENth. OCEAN’S ELEVEN. 
  • 65A [MO $$$] SHOW ME THE MONEY. Missouri, or The Show Me State, is followed by dollar signs… SHOW ME THE MONEY. 
  • 74A [… CT, DE, ??, GA, HI …] AIN’T NO SUNSHINE. Where’s The Sunshine State (AKA Florida)?
  • 96A [Second item in this list: o NM, o NV, o NY] SILVER BULLET. Weakest of the (very strong) set imo… mostly because them don’t look like bullets. Anyways, The Silver State is bulleted second. SILVER BULLET. 
  • 105A [Choice between OK and not now] SOONER OR LATER. The Sooner State? Or not now? Love the wackiness in this clue.  
  • 119A [NY = MA = DE = NC = VA] FIRST AMONG EQUALS. Delaware is The First State (that’s the best nickname you could come up with, Delaware?) and it’s equated to the others. 

Loved this one! So quirky. So clever. The answers actually helped me to interpret the clues, not the other way around, and it was always fun to figure out. Great title too. As the clues are somewhat ENCODEd (booooo to having a variation of the word CODE in the fill and in the title!), there’s a “Postal Code” happening.

Solidly filled as well. Standouts being SPAMBOTS, ATE LIKE A PIG, and SMART CASUAL. 

BAD PERMS? I literally laughed out loud at that. Is that an in-language phrase??? And pluralized??? Hey, it made me laugh, so it passes my backwards smell test.

Best Universal I’ve done in a while.

4.6 Stars.

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10 Responses to Sunday, January 19, 2020

  1. Leonard Levine says:

    NYT – A slog for me. I frequently thought the constructor must have looked up a word that filled a tough spot for him. Too much esoterica. And can someone explain odor for “down in the dumps”. I don’t get it.

    • JohnH says:

      I had a tough time with the puzzle, too, what with entries like AMMAN and HEDGE NETTLE. I hadn’t heard the phrase CASH MONEY and resisted it for sounding so well, redundant, and I, too, was puzzled by the clue for ODOR. But I believe the idea is that the dumps are garbage, which stinks, even if the parts of speech don’t work out.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      “Down” here seems an evocation of wind-borne detritus, the sort of tortured wordplay that would suit this puzzle.

    • John says:

      The clue was “*It’s* down in the dumps”, which is true of an ODOR. That first word is important.

  2. MattF says:

    Pretty nice NYT, a bit spoiled for me because I spent a lot of time at the end looking for a single wrong letter. Happens a lot on Sunday.

  3. Billy Boy says:

    Joyless NYT for me

  4. David Steere says:

    WaPo: Another delightfully creative and intricate puzzle. Evan consistently creates “big” Sunday puzzles that are a joy to experience and that would be slogs in less deft hands. Quite a few answers I didn’t know but–as always–the crosses are fair and helpful. For some reason I always get Wasabi and Casaba mixed up. Beyond that and “Death Eater” (which I’d never heard of…not being into Harry Potter). no problems and lots of fun. Thanks, Evan.

  5. Kelly Clark says:

    WaPo: Nice to see NURSE MIDWIFE, today, especially. Pope Francis praised the “noble and precious” work of these pros during his Angelus address today, noting that the World Health Organization designated 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

  6. Robert White says:

    Universal Sunday: 108D RHODE kinda hurts 44A OCEAN’S ELEVEN. Also, Arkansas the NATURAL state? Wow…..

Comments are closed.