Sunday, February 2, 2020

LAT 8:23 (Jenni) 


NYT 7:08 (Amy) 


WaPo 13:31 Meta 5 Seconds (Jim Q) 


Universal 3:56 (Jim Q) 


Universal (Sunday) tk (Rebecca) 


Brian Herrick & Christopher Adams’s New York Times crossword, “Audubon Society”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 2 20, “Audubon Society”

The title smacks of birds, and indeed, the theme revealer is 115a. [2017 film nominated for Best Picture … or a hint to the answers to the eight starred clues], LADY BIRD. The other eight themers in this L/R symmetry grid are famous women (or girls), real or fictional, whose last names are also birds:

  • 23a. [*”Soak Up the Sun” singer, 2002], SHERYL CROW. Don’t recall that song at all.
  • 25a. [*Fictional protagonist who attends elementary school in Maycomb County], SCOUT FINCH. 
  • 38a. [*Actress in “Alien” and “Avatar”], SIGOURNEY WEAVER. Oh, I rarely think of weaver as a bird, since they’re not native to North America. They sure weave cool nests, though.
  • 112a. [*First African-American U.S. poet laureate], RITA DOVE. I wasn’t familiar with her work, so I just read three of her poems. I like this one best: Adolescence–II.
  • 43d. [*Portrayer of Fallon Carrington Colby on “Dynasty”], PAMELA SUE MARTIN. If you’ve never heard of her, that’s entirely fine. She hasn’t done much in showbiz in the last 30 years.
  • 46d. [*”The Silence of the Lambs” protagonist], CLARICE STARLING.
  • 49d. [*Singer with the most American Music Awards of all time (29)], TAYLOR SWIFT. For most of her career, the AMAs have been chosen by votes/polls of fans.
  • 50d. [*Janet Leigh played her in “Psycho”], MARION CRANE.

I like that the theme is all female. I also enjoyed the way the puzzle just flew, with no trouble spots slowing me down. Probably my fastest Sunday time in a year or three.

Fave fill: ATALANTA, the [Lone female Argonaut]; GO ROGUE; GAY BAR.

Weird word forms: Plural LEISURES and noun ELOPER.

Five more things:

  • 11d. [Render harmless, so to speak], DECLAW. Don’t do this to cats. It involves surgically removing phalanges (toe bones), not just the claws themselves.
  • 1a. [Part of L.G.B.T., for short], TRANS. Looks weird without the Q (if not more) at the end. Looks extra weird with those periods. New York Times style is unfathomable sometimes.
  • 42a. [Farthest orbital point from the moon], APOLUNE. Not a familiar word.
  • 42d. [Island whose name rhymes with a popular thing to do there], ARUBA. Yes indeed, it is quite popular to play the tuba when in Aruba.
  • There are probably a lot more proper nouns in this grid than in most crosswords, which can stymie many solvers. Me, I like pop culture (this is my job, people!) and tend to remember names.

Mike Peluso’s LA Times crossword, “When in Rome” – Jenni’s write-up

At least I don’t have to do arithmetic to get the Roman numeral answers in this puzzle. All the themers have Roman numerals standing in for numbers in titles or phrases. One of the things I dislike about Roman numerals in crosswords is that they are usually numbers in one direction and letters in the other direction, as they are here.

So the theme answers:

Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2020, Mike Peluso, “When in Rome,” solution grid

  • 22a [Show for which Erika Slezak won six Daytime Emmys] is I LIFE TO LIVE. I’ve heard of the show but never watched it and have no idea who Erika Slezak is, but I filled in I L I F, looked at the title, and figured it out. I prefer a theme that takes a little more work.
  • 28a [Films with depth?] are IIID MOVIES.
  • 34a [Video poker basis] is V CARD DRAW.
  • 57a [It’s not good to be behind it] is the VIII BALL.
  • 59a [It’s usually attached to a house] is a II CAR GARAGE. So much for thinking the numerals increased as we went down the grid.
  • 74a [Certain incumbent’s rally cry] is IV MORE YEARS.
  • 76a [1995 Hugh Grant film] is IX MONTHS.
  • 96a [Symbol of untouchability] is X FOOT POLE. I don’t think of the saying as referencing “untouchability” as much as repulsion. I could touch it, but I won’t.
  • 106a [Set of schools that includes Vassar] is the VII SISTERS. Not sure why they chose the one of the seven that’s gone co-ed (Radcliffe didn’t go co-ed as much as it ceased to exist when it was subsumed by Harvard). Anyone interested in the move toward coeducation in the Ivies in the 1960s should read “Keep The Damned Women Out” by Nancy Weiss Malkiel. Among other things, I learned that Hillary Rodham, then president of the Student Government Association, was consulted by the administration when Wellesley was considering coeducation. Fascinating book.
  • 115a [2000s series set in a funeral home] is VI FEET UNDER.

There’s nothing wrong with this theme, and nothing particularly enjoyable about it, either. I can’t say the same for the fill (well, I can say it wasn’t enjoyable, I guess). PSA: NORW is not an abbreviation for Norway. It’s just not. I’m too tired to list the rest of what’s wrong with the fill. It’s just not a good puzzle.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that AIOLI derives from Provençal words for “garlic” and “oil.”

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Pick Six” – Jim Q’s writeup

Meta time!

THEME: ????? The Notepad tells us that the answer to the meta-puzzle is a football-related term. That seems apropos!


  • 24A [Portrayer of Judy Garland in “Judy”] RENEE ZELLWEGER.

    Washington Post, February 2, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Pick Six” solution grid

  • 31A [All day] MORNING NOON AND NIGHT. 
  • 49A [Opening of a Mother Goose nursery rhyme] HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE.
  • 71A [1957 Hollywood Flames song that mentions the sound of a bumblebee] BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ. 
  • 94A [Term used by George H.W. Bush to criticize Ronald Reagan’s supply-side ideas] VOODOO ECONOMICS. 
  • 106A [Process of preparing for unexpected events] CONTINGENCY PLANNING. 
  • 120A [“Seriously … I’m Kidding” author] ELLEN DEGENERES. 

So what’s going on here? While I was solving, I thought perhaps the meta-answer had something to do with repetition since the first theme answer I uncovered was BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ followed by HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE shortly thereafter. VOODOO kind of has a repetitious sound too. But that theory was quickly scrapped when the others surfaced.

But don’t those Z’s really jump out in BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ? And that’s a lot of D’s in HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE. Aha! There’s exactly six! That with the title is all you need to find ENDZONE as the answer to the meta. Just look for the letter that appears six times in each themer:


I think that’s it… but I can’t help but think that I’m missing another layer. Am I? I mean the puzzle is fine left there, but often Evan has layer upon layer of theme in a meta-puzzle (or a “regular” themed puzzle for that matter). I can’t imagine there’s much more wiggle room for thematic material with all of those long answers and the smooth fill. And the title, “Pick Six,” sounds more like a lotto-related term (even though a touchdown is six points)… I dunno. I’m going to stop thinking about it now.

So… ENDZONE it is!

Enjoy the game tonight… here’s to hoping the score favors the boxes in your office pool!


Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal crossword, “In the Paper”—Jim Q’s review

Great byline today! Who isn’t excited to C.C. named as the constructor?

THEME: Phrases that end with newspaper related terms


  • 17A [“The,” grammatically] DEFINITE ARTICLE. Grammar nerds needed no

    Universal crossword solution · Zhouqin Burnikel · “In the Paper” · Sun., 02.02.20


  • 27A [Good understanding] CLEAR PICTURE. 
  • 46A [It’s made of 33 bones] SPINAL COLUMN. 
  • 57A [a, b or c] LOWERCASE LETTER. 

ARTICLE, PICTURE, COLUMN, and LETTER. Yup! All staples of any newspaper.

Simple, clean concept in a simple, clean grid. Totally what one would expect from a Burnikel puzzle.

I don’t have a helluva lot to say about it other than I enjoyed it, and I liked the fact that it made SELF SERVE ice cream sound like a healthy alternative to Ben & Jerry’s [Kind of ice cream that generally has less milk fat]. 

Stumbling spots were ROCHE and CARLA. Also, the word SWOLE really bothers me for some reason. I cringe when people say it unironically.

That’s it! Happy Sunday!

3.6 Stars.


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3 Responses to Sunday, February 2, 2020

  1. David L says:

    WaPo meta: I was misled for a while by the fact that the long across answers all have double letters and tried to make something out of those — but then I noticed __DZON_ and was led to the right answer.

    “Pick six” is football-speak shorthand for an interception that is run back for a touchdown, and I assume the fact that each letter in ENDZONE appears six times in the themers ties into that.

    • Yes, I picked END ZONE for the answer because that’s where every “pick six” ends. (Also I felt lucky that there was anything with six Z’s. The only other one I could find that I thought was decent was the Danish rock band DIZZY MIZZ LIZZY.)

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