Saturday, February 15, 2020

LAT 7:56 (Derek) 


Newsday 13:07 (Derek) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal 6:23 (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Randolph Ross’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 15 20, no. 0215

This 62-worder has four spacious quadrants connected by THE SMURFS. Now, I don’t tend to love low-word-count puzzles because the rigors the constructor goes through in making the puzzle don’t often translate into a fun solving experience. Now, “IT’S A DATE” is nice (thought not new), as are RIP TIDES and FREE LOVE, CHRISSIE Hynde (there’s a Pretenders video below), DRAMEDY, and PHONE SEX (plus THE SMURFS). SIT SHIVA is a gorgeous (though sad) entry.

On the other hand we have fill like INHERED, roll-your-own CHANTER, variant spelling HASHEESH, ESTERS, OPEN TAP, weird NO SEATS, ACTA, “HAVE ONE,” rather obscure PELAGE (at least one solver on Twitter was stymied by the PELA*E/E*OISTE crossing), ATE A TON, and the “let’s hold things together with ERASES ASSESSES on the right edge.”

Five more things:

  • 39d. [Third-largest city of the later Ottoman Empire, surpassed only by Constantinople and Cairo], ALEPPO. It was Syria’s largest city before the recent civil war, but has lost over half its prior population of 4.6 million. If you live in a big city, can you imagine it after 2 million people have gone? Tragic.
  • 28d. [Jungle herbivore], TAPIR. I know too much about tapirs. I have seen the beast’s penis at one zoo (Google it if you’re curious—it’s sorta prehensile!)), and been peed on by Ms. Tapir at another zoo.
  • 48a. [21st-century health menace], OPIOIDS. I feel terrible for the many people whose chronic, severe pain is best managed via opioids, but the abuse epidemic means their doctors, insurers, or pharmacies will no longer let them receive the dosage they need to function.
  • 31d. [Personal agenda], TO-DO LIST. Great clue. Makes it sound more like someone’s plotting vengeance than tackling chores.
  • What’s with all the mammals? Besides the TAPIR, we have a WILD PIG, LEVERETS, a STEED, and Captain Kangaroo (Bob KEESHAN, and if you weren’t a child in the 1960s or 1970s, or the parent of one, you may well have never heard of the man).

3.3 stars from me.

Julian Lim’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 02/15/2020

I am getting slower, and the ACPT is coming up! This one I found slightly difficult, especially in the upper left corner. Some of you may think that an 8 minute solve is still fast, but I am still trying to reach my goal of a top 50 finish in Stamford, and this is too slow! Again, I hope that doesn’t sound to self-righteous, but as I get older my window may be closing! I enjoy Julian’s puzzles, though, and this one is no exception. A solid 4.5 stars for this challenging grid.

Some highlights:

  • 18A [55-Down warranty brand] APPLECARE – 55d is MAC, so this becomes easy then. You almost have to buy this, since Apple’s products cost to much!
  • 38A [OkCupid alternative with an oceanic name] PLENTY OF FISH – I have never seen this in a puzzle! I think my brothers have been on here when they were single. Have I mentioned how happy I am that I don’t have to date?
  • 46A [It unfolds before you retire] DAYBED – This little clue might be the best of the bunch!
  • 49A [Mortal Kombat’s __ Kang] LIU – OK, it’s not a Lucy Liu reference, but this is hard if you’re not a gamer!
  • 52A [Pre-coll. class] AP CALC – I took calculus in 12th grade! I still barely understand it!
  • 6D [“Crimson Peak” co-star Wasikowska] MIA – I have seen her in puzzles a few times now, and like 49A, this is at least something different than the usual Mia Farrow clue.
  • 13D [Basic part of a TV showrunner’s pitch] PREMISE – For some reason, this evokes a mental picture of an idea-man in a room where everyone is gathered around a conference table and he is spinning a wild story. Nice clue!
  • 26D [Night light source] FIREFLY – I haven’t caught these and put them in a jar in years. I will do that this June!
  • 34D [Saunders/French Britcom] AB FAB – I don’t know the actresses names that well, but I have seen some episodes of this show. British humor (humour?!) is definitely different, but I am getting used to is
  • 37D [William who plays Grissom on “CSI”] PETERSEN – I watched this show all the time and I couldn’t remember this dude’s name!

Gotta go! I am off to the Chicago Auto Show today for the first time in around 30 years!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 02/15/2020

What a lovely wide-open grid! I had some large swaths of white squares for a few minutes, but after getting a couple of these longer entries in the top and bottom stackes, the puzzle then fell fairly quickly. Maybe I am getting used to Brad’s Stumpers after several years! I will describe this puzzle as a FUN Stumper, and I normally don’t have that feeling after a Stumper. It is normally a feeling of mental exhaustion! 4.3 stars for an enjoyable Stumper, and yes, next week might be a doozy!

Some fun stuff from this week’s Stumper:

  • 12A [Cast layer] PANCAKE MAKE-UP – Someone is going to have to explain this to me. Is this talking about a thick foundation layer? Or clown make-up?
  • 36A [The CIA __ (confidentiality, integrity and availability)] TRIAD – This is hard, but I think I have seen it before. Can’t tell you when or where, though!
  • 38A [First nation with auto license plates] FRANCE – Nice piece of trivia!
  • 50A [College news of 2019] CHEATING SCANDAL – How quickly we forget! At least I did!
  • 55A [Creator of ”the miserable monster”] MARY SHELLEY – I assume this is talking about Frankenstein.
  • 5D [”LET’S BACK __” (’50s collectible button)] IKE – This was a guess. Not a great slogan, though.
  • 6D &14D [Spider silk abundance] TENSILE STRENGTH & WEBS – Great clue tie-in here. I got the longer one first!
  • 11D [High] EUPHORIA – Also an HBO show!
  • 21D [Agony __ (British advice columnist)] AUNT – This is obscure. Never heard of it!
  • 29D [Stop on the Amsterdam-Eindhoven line] UTRECHT – I should know whenever there is a 7 letter Dutch city, it is UTRECHT!

That is all!

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Athletic Breakthroughs”—Jim Q’s review

Anyone ever see this name in a byline as of late? New to me. (yes… I’m being sarcastic!)

THEME: Athletes (for the most part) cross an apt part of another two word phrase.


  • The ARROW in 5D crosses the EASY TARGET of 16A. 

    Universal crossword solution · Paul Coulter · “Athletic Breakthroughs” · Sat., 02.15.20

  • The SKIER in 21A crosses the GATE KEEPER of 9D. 
  • The DIVER of 41A crosses the WATER SPOUT of 30D.
  • The MILER of 53D crosses the SCOTCH TAPE of 64A. 

I like this conceptually. It’s hard not to view ARROW as a total outlier, however, since 1) it’s not an athlete as are the others and 2) an ARROW does not cross a target at all… it pierces it. Who has ever said “Wow, Archie! Your ARROW really crossed that bullseye!”? Unless, of course, we’re talking about crossing in the context of the crossword, but the others don’t seem to follow that same idea. Also that wouldn’t make sense because the clue says [Sharp projectile that aptly crosses the last 6 letters of 16-Across]. In the context of the grid, it only crosses 1 letter.

Much longer than usual for me since I entered SEEDED (?) instead of STEWED at 29A [Like some prunes] and refused to think 41D [Average name?] would be anything other than JOE. But I do enjoy a good snag in a Universal.

BUTTER UP, OVERRULE, and KIT KAT were all fun to uncover.

Thanks as usual, Paul. I enjoyed it. Cross my heart.

3.4 Stars.

Adam Vincent’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Spinning Tops” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/15/20 • “Spinning Tops” • Sat • Vincent • solution • 20200215

Another one of those “this has to have been done before” themes, though I can’t recall it.

  • 65aR [“Now our roles are reversed,” and a hint to the circled letters] THE TABLES HAVE TURNED.
  • 22a. [Uninformed] OUT OF THE LOOP (pool).
  • 27a. [Event noted for 1988 Jamaican participation] BOBSLED RACE (card).
  • 42a. [Digits denoting the degree of accuracy] SIGNIFICANT FIGURES (gift).
  • 86a. [Reward for good service?] HONORABLE DISCHARGE (side).
  • 102a. [He debuted in 1945’s “Hare Trigger”] YOSEMITE SAM (times). The only abstract sort of table here, and one of two not spanning words (the other is pool, coterminous with loop). I’ve just watched it on YouTube and it was unfamiliar. Only 3 minutes long, so maybe it didn’t get syndicated the same way as the more ‘standard’ length Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes.
  • 112a. [Chef’s main course?] CULINARY ARTS (tray).

Well executed, with very good revealer and title.

  • 21a [Pantry interloper] ANT. This works as a cryptic clue also!
  • 78a [Number of hills in Rome] VII. Wow, a Roman numeral clue that has a little panache.
  • 111a [Summary sheet] ONE-PAGER. Was going to ask if that was really a phrase in use, but a quick search returned 1.5 million hits and I guess that answers that. However, the write-up could use some self-referential padding, so this will be staying in.
  • 72a [Inventor Tesla] NIKOLA, 4d [Tesla’s Musk] ELON. Getting real tired of seeing ELON in grids; he’s rapidly becoming my new ESAI.
  • 5d [Painter’s base, stereotypically] LOFT, 101d [Painter’s base] GESSO.
  • 23d [Cuban ingredient] HAM. Never seen a cubano referred to that way. ‘Cuban sandwich’, yes, but not just ‘Cuban’.
  • 62d [X} CHI. Marks the spot, dead center.
  • 85d [Chain with chains] KAY. Didn’t understand this one until it came time to write about it here. It’s the Kay Jewelers chain of stores. Perhaps I was partially misdirected by the crossing 93a [Item on a ring] KEY? But I was surely thinking of island chains too. Very confusing (but that’s all on me).
  • 88d [Creature Darwin called an “imp of darkness”] IGUANA. Specifically, the marine iguana, a Galápagos endemic. By his obvious revulsion (see his diary), Darwin did not fully appreciate their marvelous adaptations.
  • Favorite clue: 99d [Make a cameo] CARVE.

So, uh, your turn. What did YOU think of this crossword?

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24 Responses to Saturday, February 15, 2020

  1. pseudonym says:

    EGOISTE/PELAGE/HEL & TOROLA/SELENE wasn’t great but I liked PHONE SEX & THE SMURFS. Super easy Saturday for me and the easiest 4-in-1 I’ve ever done.

    How do you get peed on by a tapir?

    • Gary R says:

      Neither TORTOLA or SELENE was on the tip of my tongue, but I’ve heard of both, so that cross was manageable.

      The “EG” in EGOISTE, on the other hand, left me completely baffled. Ran the alphabet in my head a couple of times on the crosses, and came up with nothing that rang any bells. Finally just let Across Lite fill in those two letters. And even then, there was no “yeah – I should have known that” moment.

      The rest of the puzzle was challenging, but satisfying.

      Amy – I’d like to know about that tapir, too!

  2. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Tough SE.

    When I was in college, I lived in Leverett House, a high rise overlooking the Charles River. Our house football team had bunny ears on the helmets. I did not realize the (misspelled) significance until I was a senior.

    PELAGE was totally new for me.


  3. huda says:

    NYT: I found it impossible to get into, but eventually got rolling. Some cheating was involved. Seeing ALEPPO (my father’s hometown, and still home to many cousins) is always bittersweet. I did not know the clue factoid about it, so it made me happy.
    What helped me with PELAGE is the word “epilage” which means hair removal… I imagine they’re related.

    • Billy Boy says:

      Re: NYT:
      I never got on wavelength either. I’m a cheater today as well as I got progressively bored. Maybe I added to my experience today.

      FREE LOVE is actually a 19 30-40 thing used by elders in the 1960’s, then the use became more widespread, so I did not get that one until cheating.

      I can see how this could be very easy to some, but it wasn’t a puzzle that endeared me at all.

  4. Dave G says:

    PELAGE was new to me, as was LEVERET, as was INHERED. I don’t mind obscure words as long as the crossings are getable so I didn’t like inhered crossing two names I knew but didn’t know how to spell (CHRISSIE and KEESHAN). I have also never heard “EMERITA” and had no idea “emeritus” had male connotations.

  5. Paul Coulter says:

    Universal – Thanks, Jim. I enjoy your thoughtful reviews, too. This started as a 21x, with both athletes and sports items crossing (or piercing) appropriate items. For instance, BALL intersecting BASKETCASE. It’s true the arrow pierces the target. You can also say the diver pierces the water. The skier crosses through the gates, and it’s usually said that the runner breaks the tape.

  6. pseudonym says:

    “12A [Cast layer] PANCAKE MAKE-UP – Someone is going to have to explain this to me.”

    Per yourdictionary: “a cosmetic or theatrical makeup…”

  7. holi puja says:

    Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword are amazing

  8. Jenni Levy says:

    What the heck is PROD poker?

  9. Nancy says:

    re WSJ:

    What is the 10D TYPO in Tent for Rent?

    • pannonica says:

      ‘T’ for ‘R’

      • Billy Boy says:

        I really liked that clue when I got it. I lost a friend last year who always called them a TYOP on a message board. Nice to be reminded of him, he jokingly called himself Rihc (Rich).

        I enjoyed solving the Saturday WSJ (Despite my double disdain for circles and large grids) as well, starting it at breakfast on Sunday. My Saturday WSJ arrives after Saturday golf and doesn’t get looked through until Sunday.

  10. bonekrusher says:

    NYT: Had the unusual experience of getting all the quadrants correct while simultaneously being totally unsure if I had any quadrants correct.

  11. Dr Fancypants says:

    NYT: Count me as another solver stymied by the EGOISTE/PELAGE crossing. Otherwise, I ripped through this puzzle despite being a little tipsy.

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