Saturday, February 1, 2020

LAT 6:00 (Derek) 


Newsday 11:48 (Derek) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 4:43 (Jim Q) 


Mark Diehl’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 2 1 20, no. 0201

It’s late, I gotta get this post up, and I’m trying to finish the NYT Spelling Bee puzzle before bed. So:

Fave fill includes WHAT’LL IT BE, PICKLE JAR, DIDN’T GET THE MEMO, POKER GAMES, Midwestern CORN TASSELS, PENTOMINO, the ANGLE PARKING found on part of Chicago’s Lincoln Avenue, and DIY PROJECT.

Fave clues: 38d. [Ax with a pick?], GUITAR, and 19a. [Make a full court press?], SUE.

Unfortunate duplication: MILITIAMAN atop ONE-MAN BAND, too many men.

Worst crossing: 11a. [One of the Argonauts in Greek myth], IDAS meets 13d. [Former kingdom of central Vietnam], ANNAM. Crosswordese collision! Not pretty.

3.75 stars from me.

Brian E. Paquin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 02/01/2020

I am trying to get some speed back, since the ACPT is now less than 2 months away. I suppose I should buy my plane tickets! Got this one done pretty quickly, and I think it would have been quicker had I not made a slight error.

    • 14A [TV screen-bottom banner, perhaps] INLINE AD – Is that what they are called?
    • 34A [What human flight was once thought to be] HARE-BRAINED IDEA – What other crazy ideas will become mainstream in 50 years? My best bet is electric cars!
    • 41A [“__ giorno!”] BUON – How’s your Italian? Mine is virtually non-existent!
    • 42A [Ship’s post that secures cables] BITT – Alrighty then! I am not a sailor, and I barely remember this word.
    • 55A [Crossed the lake, say] BOATED – Speaking of water sports, I don’t use this verb either. I think it is just me!
    • 58A [Emulated Gene Kelly performing “Singin’ in the Rain”] SLOSHED – He’s definitely sloshing!

  • 20D [They’re usually not helpful hints] INSINUATIONS – Right. They are more like snide accusations!
  • 24D [Magnet for rubbernecking] TOURIST TRAP – This seems off. I equate a “tourist trap” as someplace that gets you to spend money you didn’t want to!
  • 32D [Many a “Buffy” character] TEEN – I would have guessed WITCH!
  • 45D [2019 World Series runner-up] ASTRO – This word is now sooo tainted! Wonder how this will affect baseball this coming year?

I will stop there. Another LAT puzzle post from me on Tuesday.

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

Newsday 02/01/2020

This puzzle has some awesome wide-open areas, but it wasn’t a total killer. There were some great “a-ha!” moments, some new facts and/or words to learn, and some fun breakthrough points. All in all, a great puzzle, Stan! A solid 4.6 stars from me.

Some of those highlights:

  • 1A [Only Big Four Sports boss ever named Angelo] GIAMATTI – Pretty sure they called him Bart. I think I knew this fact, but he passed away quite a while ago, and I don’t watch as much baseball as I used to. (Giamatti died in 1989.)
  • 29A [Common Web wild card] ASTERISK – Known well to us crossword solvers when trying to get help from a computer!
  • 32A [Fleeting classroom opportunity] TEACHABLE MOMENT – All moments are teachable if you’re willing to learn!
  • 36A [Toon with an uncle Lubry Kent] OYL – Great clue! I did not know this!
  • 56A [Term first used for mother goddesses] ALMA MATER – Another great fun fact. This literally means “fostering mother” according to Merriam Webster. Not exactly how I would describe the school that bilks me out of $200,000!
  • 58A [Big Apple’s Mr. Mayor] HIZZONER – I don’t know this term. A New York thing, maybe? The closest big city to where I live is South Bend (not a big city!), and they didn’t call Mayor Pete this!
  • 3D [Mini, Air, or Pro] APPLE MAC – I don’t think anyone ever says this, but it was gettable. I don’t call my computer this!
  • 21D [What conductors keep] THE BEAT – Don’t they more keep “time”? I wouldn’t say classical music has a “beat”! But I suppose conductors are used for other types of music. It’ll work!
  • 34D [Actor’s Studio co-president since 1994] AL PACINO – Another fact from deep in the memory banks. At least it is a different way to clue this crossword-famous actor.
  • 47D [Its Subway is owned by the Navy] GITMO – As in the restaurant Subway? Nice clue! Especially since I, like most people, HAVE NEVER EATEN THERE!

That is all! Have a great weekend!

Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau’s Universal crossword, “Top of the Food Chain”—Jim Q’s review

A-huntin’ we shall go!

THEME: Animals who are at the top of the food chain can be discovered at the tops of each theme answer.


  • 4D [Chef who owns Spago] WOLFGANG PUCK. 

    Universal crossword solution · Amanda Rafkin · Ross Trudeau · “Top of the Food Chain” · Sat., 02.01.20

  • 21D [Hipster’s grooming tool] BEARD TRIMMER. Don’t know if “hipster” was necessary in the clue… I have one, and I’m certainly not a hipster. I think a lot of people with beards are likely to own one.
  • 9D [’80s funk balladeer] LIONEL RICHIE. 
  • 23D [Animal that isn’t preyed upon, and a hint to the first four letters of 4-, 9- and 21-Down] APEX PREDATOR. 

Solid all around. I really like how A) The animals are hidden within the first words/names and B) Two of them (BEAR and LION) you can’t even hear them hiding in there.

Fun fill with the likes of CHA CHING! IRON GRIP, SNEAK IN, MACAROON, and of course BEER PONG. I asked my mythology class of senior high school students to develop a game that reflected a myth as a culminating project. Sure enough, some students found a way to rebrand BEER PONG into an educational experience (and it worked! no… there was no drinking of anything involved).

New for me was TIN GODS. I like that term.

Solid puzzle. A solid 4 stars.

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Any Given Sunday” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/1/20 • “Any Given Sunday” • Sat • Larson • solution • 20200201

I understand there’s a big football game coming up soon. Let’s kick things off, shall we?

  • 22a. [Quarterback’s controversial Hail Mary?] INCENDIARY BOMB.
  • 29a. [“Go long,” e.g.?] PASS SENTENCE.
  • 48a. [Rookies teaming up to stop the blitz?] NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK.
  • 64a. [Strategy behind making a fair catch?] POINT OF NO RETURN.
  • 85a. [Stick with the ground game till the final whistle?] RUSH TO A CONCLUSION.
  • 103a. [Choice to make an audible at the line of scrimmage?] SNAP DECISION.
  • 115a. [Penalty for “too many men in the huddle”?] CONFERENCE CALL.

These are all quite cleverly repurposed.

Bonus content sprinkled throughout the puzzle:

  • 55a [Kind of tackle] NOSE, 84a [Flag] TIRE, 123a [Gets ready to play] TRAINS, 76d [Kicker, so to speak] LEG, 87d [Field gain] CORN.
  • 57a [Any of six for the Eagles] GRAMMY, 72a [49ers’ goal] ORE, 95a [Buccaneers’ base, perhaps] ISLE, 86d [Site of the Viking Ship Museum] OSLO.
  • 81a [Site of the Cyclones’ stadium] AMES, 107d [Site of the Blaack Bears’ stadium] ORONO.
  • 11d [12-time Pro Bowl linebacker Junior] SEAU, 71d [Grimm in the Pro Football Hall of Fame] RUSS.

Other stuff:

  • 69a/83d [Colander’s kin] STRAINER, SIEVE.
  • 78a [Stare stupidly] GAWK, 2d [Stares stupidly] GAPES.
  • 19d [Subtle taste] HINT, 124a [Strong flavor] TANG.
  • 104d [Loses color] PALES followed by [105d [Colorless] DULL.
  • 112d/118d [Take in ] SCAM, CON. Fooled me, as neither was EAT.
  • Tricky crossing at 44a [Monopoly token] HAT and 44d [Word to the chauffeur] HOME because there is now a CAT in monopoly and arguably one might say ‘COME’ to a chauffeur. In fact it was the last square I filled in.

Solid crossword.

Gotta run. Time’s passing too quickly today.

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26 Responses to Saturday, February 1, 2020

  1. philr says:

    Worst crossing tie: PENTOMINO x MALIK

    • pseudonym says:

      IDAS/ANNAM as well. Two naticks in one puzzle isn’t good.

      • Evad says:

        Guessed correctly on the first, but not the second. Not a big fan of RAN ARMS as a standalone phrase, seems a bit ATE PIE-ish [Had dessert] to me.

        • Gary R says:

          I went with RAN gunS, which seems a more common phrase to me. That, along with IDAS and ANNAM made the NE pretty slow going.

      • snappysammy says:

        not pretty is quite an understatement for this one

        • M483 says:

          Yes. Unfair is a better description of IDAS and ANNAM crossing. It could have been at least any vowel. That was my only error. I’ve never seen either of those in crosswords before, and I do a lot.
          I was just lucky on guessing the MALIK and PENTOMINO crossing the first time.

          Definitely two naticks in one puzzle!

    • Jenni Levy says:

      I knew Malik because of my kid, so that one didn’t bother me as much. The other is AWFUL.

      • Lise says:

        The Argonaut answer could have been clued as some sort of plurality of IDA and as a bonus, would have included at least two more women.

        I get that it’s Saturday, but I could have made sense of any vowel there – where is the fun and learning in that?

        Oh well! At least I will remember both of those entries (I hope) for next time…

    • R says:

      PENTOMINOes and other polyominoes are puzzle-y enough to make them Saturday worthy. Zayn MALIK is at least alive and relatively famous now, as opposed to ANNAM and IDAS which are past by decades and millennia. It’s still a tough cross, but ANNAM and IDAS is the worst.

  2. pseudonym says:

    Stumper: MS PACMAN is a video game not a video, no? And I shook my head at the clue for BEATLE.

  3. Christopher Smith says:

    Maybe the NYT crossword should avoid concepts that are foreign to New York, like “downtown” ANGLE-PARKING? Just a thought.

  4. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Extremely difficult for me. I had the beginning of several long answers with little or no idea as to the balance: CORN T___________. PENTO_____, DIY______ (the answer PROJECT didn’t fit the clue in my mind). IF___________ (I wanted IF, THEN)—- not to mention difficult words and crossings: MaLIK/aWEK. IDaS. aNNAM. Even POKER_____ was tough to grok for me.


  5. John says:

    I had a devil of a time with the NW…part of it was options and part trickery, but I complain that “Entertained at an [opera]” should only be “SANGTO” as “sung” is the past participle and shouldn’t stand alone, so I had —-TRACTS on the down clue and couldn’t make it out. When combined with 1-down’s difficulty for me, plus the options of “CITE” for “TASE” RTE/AVE, CLOVES/CHIVES (not a pumpkin spice person), EVEN/INON/ITON, and FACETOFACE/NOSETONOSE it took me quite some time to straighten it all out. Also, why are tines inherently “valuable” points?

    • David L says:

      I had SANGTO at first, but SUNGTO is legit — I was entertained at an opera/I was sung to.

      I don’t understand the clue for TINED either.

  6. MattF says:

    Guess I’m the outlier here— didn’t exactly zip through the NYT but didn’t get stuck anywhere either, finished in well under average time.

  7. arthur118 says:

    Troubled only by IDAS; not knowing an Argonaut from a cosmonaut, it would have been preferable if Mark had clued it, say, “Muckraker Tarbell namesakes.”

    In that same area, SYNE was a clever chuckle of an answer, as was PICKLEJAR.

    Thanks to Mark Diehl for another super Saturday.

  8. Alan D. says:

    LAT: 36-down – couldn’t be that the constructor might be related to her? Nah…

  9. Twangster says:

    First Stumper in many moons I’ve been able to solve (although I actually had to google one thing, NASH, to sort out that corner). Having the gimme’ TEACHABLEMOMENT right of the bat definitely helped. I wish they were all this “easy”!

  10. Dave G says:

    Having AWNS as 1 Down did not portend well for the NYT puzzle. Then came IDAS/ANNAM, and SUNGTO instead of SANGTO, and MALIK/PENTOMINO, and APIA. TINED is having “valuable” points? RAN ARMS? Headtohead, facetoface, nosetonose… Get it on, get real, get even,… I liked much of the longer fill, but the puzzle suffered from crosswordese and “not in the language” phrases.

  11. pannonica says:

    Not sure if this will help anyone in the future, but the Annamite Mountains are a fairly significant geological feature of Southeast Asia.

  12. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal: LOLSPEAK (37D: Text in a cat meme}? … “cat meme”? It’s clues/answers like this that make me realize that the world is passing me by. It seems like I became old almost overnight. I’m only 60, for crying out loud!

    Now that I’ve looked up what this “cat meme” thing is, I still don’t get it. This is supposed to be funny somehow? Now I feel even more left behind. Maybe it’s just that I don’t understand the whole “Housewives of blah, blah, blah” phenomenon. What I’ve seen of these shows basically repulses me.

    OTOH, I do own a BEARD TRIMMER (21D: Hipster’s grooming tool}, so apparently, I’m a “hipster”.

  13. David Glasser says:

    “Journalists Wells and Tarbell”, anyone?

    (Or if it were my puzzle, “Two of the author’s great grandmothers and his daughter too.”)

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