Saturday, February 8, 2020

LAT 7:12 (Derek) 


Newsday 21:03 (Derek) 


NYT 6:12 (Amy) 


WSJ 12:15 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Kevin Christian’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Hidden Pictures”—Jim P’s review

A lot of people don’t like circles in their crossword puzzles. I don’t mind so much, as long it’s done well. This one is a good one.

The “Hidden Pictures” in question are one-word (plus one short, hyphenated name) Best-Picture-winning films hidden in satisfyingly-long and interesting theme answers.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Hidden Pictures” · Kevin Christian · Sat., 2.8.20

  • 23a [Group credited on the single “Give Peace a Chance”PLASTIC ONO BAND. Platoon. I’m doubtful this entry has ever appeared in a puzzle, but what a fun find, especially the dichotomy of a war film entry vs. a peace-protestor clue.
  • 31a [No matter whatCOME RAIN OR SHINE. Crash. I normally hear this entry without the first word, but I guess it’s implied.
  • 50a [Barack Obama’s alma materCOLUMBIA UNIVERSITY. Marty.
  • 66a [Dance, idiomaticallyTRIP THE LIGHT FANTASTIC. Titanic. What a nice grid-spanning find! I love that the movie title spans from the first letter to the last.
  • 79a [Eisenhower was a member of itPRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. Ben-Hur.
  • 96a [Securely hidden awayUNDER LOCK AND KEY. Rocky.
  • 113a [Offensive tackle’s job, frequentlyPASS PROTECTION. Patton.

All of these entries are good at the very least, but most of them are better than that, i.e. they’re colorful and lively. A nice themeset.

My solve proceeded pretty smoothly without too many hangups. Faves in the fill include IWO JIMALAMINATE, HORTON, PUNK OUT, and HIDALGO. DID CHORES and, especially, LIVENER [Rouser] are on the roll-your-own side, so “meh” to them.

How did you do in that east section with PLIANCY and MICROHM. That was tough to sort out, but I got there. I don’t mind RATTERS [Some working terriers] since my neighbor’s dog is a rat terrier. Oh, TITI [South American monkey] crossing opaquely clued TAN [Fawn’s kin] was another trouble spot.

Clues of note:

  • 3d. [Target rival]. K-MART. Not sure it’s much of a rivalry. But if you ever go to Guam, there is no Target or Wal-Mart, and K-MART is the place to go for locals and tourists alike.
  • 14d. [“Allahu ___” (Islamic expression)]. AKBAR. And that expression translates to “God is greater.” John McCain tells it straight to Fox News that the phrase is no different than a Christian saying, “Thank God.”
  • 31d. [Start of a Mozart title]. COSI. The rest of that title being “Fan Tutte.” Wikipedia translates it to “So do they all” but says it’s usually translated to “Women Are Like That” since “Tutte” is feminine.
  • 87d. [Quit in fear]. PUNK OUT. I thought this phrase was more of the punk equivalent of “rock out.” Guess I was wrong.
  • 93d. [Much Top 40 music]. POP. Wait. Isn’t all Top 40 music “POP“? Isn’t that its very definition?
  • 99d. [Military refusal{, for some}]. NO SIR. (Items in the braces are mine.)
  • 109d. [Brits like them mushy]. PEAS. Yup, and I will never understand it. *shivers*

Nice puzzle. Four stars.

Hemant Mehta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 8 20, no. 0208

Oh, hey! I know who this guy is, and it’s not from knowing people in the crossword community. Hemant blogs at Friendly Atheist, and I’ve been seeing his non-cruciverbal writings for years. Neat to learn that he’s also a crossword junkie like the rest of us.

Lots of juicy fill in this 68-word puzzle. Among my favorites: JOKE WRITER, CHILDISH GAMBINO, BLUE MOON beer, BOCA BURGER (though I really wanted there to be enough squares for the Impossible or Beyond Burger to fit—Boca Burger sales must be waaaaay down), SLIP OF THE TONGUE, SACRILEGE (good fit for the Friendly Atheist, though I’d argue that anyone who’s not in a particular religion can’t be expected to give it too much care), and WEIRDED OUT (which passes the substitution test despite the verb mismatch: I’m [Getting a strange vibe], I’m WEIRDED OUT).

I don’t think ISN’T SORRY is a crossword-grade phrase, and neither is AND CO.

Did not know: 3d. [Office-sharing system, in modern lingo], HOT DESKING. Here’s the lowdown. It’s basically people working different shifts/days but using the same workstation.

Five more things:

  • 17a. [Problems with pay or paper], CUTS. Terrific clue!
  • 38a. [Relatives of water skis], KNEEBOARDS. Another term I did not know.
  • 49a. [What Brits call a “saloon”], SEDAN. You may drive a sedan, but don’t treat it like a British saloon!
  • 32d. [North/South divide, with “the”], OHIO. Interesting clue for the river. Didn’t know it was used as a dividing line.
  • 42d. [Pet peeve?], LEASH. Indeed. Goldfish are irate if you put leashes on them.

In addition to Childish Gambino, the puzzle’s got [Rocker Joan] JETT. To play us out, here’s her version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Four stars from me. Keep constructing, Hemant—you’re off to a good start!

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

LAT 02/08/2020

What a grid! I love the S shape. I think I remember there being a Superman themed puzzle with a shape like this one. I almost thought there would be another thematic aspect to this puzzle given the unique shape, but I don’t think there is. There are certainly a lot of S’s in the grid, but unsurprisingly there are slightly more E’s. If I am indeed missing something, please let me know, but this is still a stunning wide-open grid. And a fun solve! 4.5 stars.

A few favorite parts:

    • 1A [“We’re done here”] “CASE CLOSED” – I don’t think this could be clued any better than this!
    • 14A [Lead-in for an old saw] “AS THE SAYING GOES…” – Awesome entry. This is where I broke into the top.
    • 24A [Wild fruit is a feature of it] PALEO DIET – This one really fooled me. One of many stellar clues.
    • 37A [Decides when] SETS A DATE – With this letter pattern, I thought this might start with SAYS
    • 52A [Song title line after “once, twice”] THREE TIMES A LADY – This was a gimme for me. I had several Commodores albums when I was younger. Yes, on vinyl!

  • 57A [Basements, to Realtors] TERRACE LEVELS – Sounds fancy!
  • 4D & 5D [“Men in Black” gp.], [“Men in black” gp., some say] ETSCIA – Great tie-in. I sure hope this movie series is, in fact, fictional …
  • 11D [Depth-of-field setting] F-STOP – I still want to learn more about photography. One of these days!
  • 13D [Declining in later years] SENILE – Hopefully this isn’t me, but I can tell I am slowing down already …
  • 54D [“AGT” judge __ B] MEL – Also a former Spice Girl! This crazy summer TV show is probably more popular than I think.

I’ll stop there! My next LAT entry is Tuesday. See you then!

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

Newsday 02/08/2020

We definitely have a Stumper this week. I had a feeling of dread when starting this one, as literally NOTHING came to me immediately. And by immediately I mean like 5 or 6 minutes! I finally got a toehold in this one in the upper right, which spilled down then to the SE corner, and then the lower left. The upper left I found the most challenging, and that is where I wrapped this one up. I am finding now that I have to really shut everything out to solve these now. Am I actually slowing down? Time will tell! This is another fantastic Greg Johnson puzzle. 4.8 stars for a masterpiece.

Just a few high points, since there are too many to mention:

  • 1A [Occupation associated with Tennessee] DRAMATIST – Totally fooled! COAL MINER fits! This is a TERRIFIC 1-Across clue/entry combo!
  • 17A [What powers today’s 28 Across] ECODIESEL – 28A is RAM, referring to the Dodge pickup. This is what Alex Trebek drives, so we should all buy one!
  • 24A [”Fun to make” snack brand] JIFFY POP – Now I want some! 
  • 37A [Louisiana Purchase figure] ACREAGE – This seems like it would be somebody’s name, and JEFFERSON certainly didn’t fit. Great clue!
  • 60A [Current successor of the ’60s slogan ”Let’s Eat Out!”] “I’M LOVIN’ IT!” – I am old, and the clue in this slogan is before my time! While I am in the mood for popcorn, I am NOT in the mood for McDonalds!
  • 61A [A-list] ELECT – This is not a common use of this word; as a noun this is right, but it is usually a verb. Very hard, but in the end fair.
  • 2D [World’s largest copier company] RICOH – XEROX didn’t work! I think Ricoh bought out Savin, and usually most offices have one of these in there. The office where I work has an older Savin copier.
  • 7D [”Totally worthless!”] “IT’S A JOKE!” – Great entry!
  • 13D [They’re taken when leaving home] BASEPATHS – This is hands down the best clue in the puzzle. 1A is good, but this is fantastic.
  • 32D [Write] DROP A LINE – This sounds like a phone call!
  • 43D [With a gummy quality] VISCID – Super-hard word here, unless you’re a chemist. Most of the crossings are easier, thought. 44A is a little tough, but you should know it.
  • 44A [Marmoset cousins] TAMARINS – I couldn’t think of this fast enough, even with several crossers. I need to go to a zoo!
  • 49D [Save-a-letter sincerity] THANX – This is clued perfectly, as a letter or card is one of the few places this spelling would work. Perhaps also a text message as well. That was not a sentence!

Everyone have a wonderful weekend!

Gary Larson’s Universal crossword, “Word Bank”—Jim Q’s review

THEME: Words associated with a “bank” make up the latter half of theme entries.


  • 17A [Field event with a bar] POLE VAULT. 

    Universal crossword solution · Gary Larson · “Word Bank” · Sat., 02.08.20

  • 24A [Look over again] DOUBLE CHECK. 
  • 39A [Magic duo] PENN AND TELLER. 
  • 51A [Eco-conscious words on a tuna can] DOLPHIN SAFE. 
  • 62A [Of little importance] NO ACCOUNT. 

Seemed a bit weird to have a person in there (the bank TELLER) equated with the objects, but this one worked just fine. Solved alongside a novice solver, and it’s always interesting to see areas that are difficult to hack through, like the SW with ALEUT and ELYSE and the NE with GO A and EDS. And there’s a slew of other things I don’t even consider to be “Crosswordese,” that take a lot of nudging and rewording in order to bring about the correct response. In the end though, my solving partner figured out the theme after reading the title and the longer entries and had a solid AHA moment, which was a joy to see, especially with a relatively basic theme-type like this. It added a coat of freshness.

3.4 Stars.

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16 Responses to Saturday, February 8, 2020

  1. fkdiver says:

    Re: the WSJ – Not a bad puzzle but the theme was irrelevant, didn’t aid the solve. Forget the film titles and it was a pretty good themeless.

    Re: the NYT – Nice one! I hope to see more from this constructor.

  2. MattF says:

    NYT was hard, maybe broke a record for ‘finished despite things I didn’t know’. Also, IMO, some of the clues were a bit off, e.g., ION beams are quite real, SACRILEGE is not merely irreverence, OBSCENELY has a pretty specific common meaning, more than ‘excessively’.

  3. Billy Boy says:

    BOCA burger – I thought the NYT tried to avoid brand names? Not no mo’.

    • Martin says:

      Welcome to 1993.

      That was the last time OREO was clued as “Mountain: Comb. form.” (Although clues of that form were used 105 times to avoid a brand name, it was never even correct.)

      Will Shortz changed all that.

      • Lise says:

        And thank goodness.

        That was, for me, a satisfyingly tough NYT. I managed to erase a lot of correct answers to make way for quite a few errors. Also, I had BAMBINO first, having no idea there was such a thing as a GAMBINO. Also also, SNOWBOARDS, because that answer totally made sense (good grief).

        I hope this constructor continues to make puzzles. I look forward to more!

      • Gary R says:

        I’ve only been doing the NYT puzzles for about 20 years – no idea there had ever been a ban on brand names. Seems like they are a staple – car makes/models, various computer/tech products (Acer, ipad, ipod, etc.), shoe brands (Avia, Fila, Puma, McAn, etc.), cosmetics (Aveda, O’lay, Estee Lauder, etc.), fashion labels (Dior, Lauren, etc.), ice cream (Edys, etc.) and on and on.

  4. mt says:

    NYT was fun, on the easier side (though the content skewing younger helped me for sure). Is it not bad form to have RE-UP and OIL UP and WEIRDED OUT and STRIKES OUT?

  5. golfballman says:

    Can anyone tell the LA Times to use smaller numbers in their sunday grid. Like they used to.

  6. Twangster says:

    Well my Saturday Stumper solving streak ended at one with this week’s offering, although I did get about 40%.

    From the J in JIFFYPOP, I thought 7-down had to be WHAT JUNK.

    Fun fact: If you google, “let’s eat out,” one of the things that comes up is that this is the name for a predecessor to the board game CANDYLAND, which has the same number of letters as the correct answer (IMLOVINIT).

  7. Alan D. says:

    Off the topic question. Does anyone know if the Wall Street Journal runs non-square puzzles, e.g. 14×15?

  8. RichardZ says:

    Re today’s Saturday Stumper – some of the clues/entries I particularly liked were:

    – 13D They’re taken when leaving home: BASE PATHS
    – 41A Nursing degree: SIP (I had confidently filled in L_N)
    – 57A Mobile National Historic Landmark: CABLE CARS (great use of misdirection with the leading M)
    – 36D Howl that’s seen but not heard: LOL

    I also didn’t know that (in 30D) LAGS could be used as a synonym for “laggards.”

  9. PJ says:

    WSJ 31a – The entry isn’t an exact match but anything that makes me think of James Booker is a good thing.

  10. C. Y. Hollander says:

    Saturday Stumper: For “They bring up the rear”, at first I had LeGS in place of LAGS. I thought the clue rather clever before discovering its more prosaic intent! (I was slow to the intended answer because, like Richard Z, I hadn’t known that lag could be synonymous with laggard.)

    Re: 49D [Save-a-letter sincerity] THANX – This is clued perfectly, as a letter or card is one of the few places this spelling would work.

    As I understand it, THANX saves a letter insofar as it takes five letters to spell, rather than the six of the standard spelling. I can’t see a way to read this clue that takes “letter” to mean a missive.

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