Sunday, February 16, 2020

LAT 7:25 (Jenni) 


NYT 10:26 (Amy) 


WaPo 10:56 (Jim Q) 


Universal 3:50 (Jim Q) 


Universal (Sunday) 8:03 (Jim Q) 


Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword, “Number Theory”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 16 20, “Number Theory”

Sam deliberately includes a bunch of duplicative entries, featuring phrases with words that double as foreign names of numbers, and also dropping the number words in the same row of the grid, and including the language nearby (in symmetrically placed slots):

  • 24a. [Relative of marmalade], QUINCE JELLY / 26a. [FIFTEEN], QUINCE / 20a. [What the answer at 26-Across is written in], SPANISH.
  • 46a. [Whom Harry Potter frees from serving Draco Malfoy’s family], DOBBY THE HOUSE ELF / 45a. [ELEVEN], ELF / 34a. [What the answer at 45-Across is written in], GERMAN.
  • 59a. [With 60-Across, take control after a coup], SEIZE / POWER / 61a. [SIXTEEN], SEIZE / 84a. [What the answer at 61-Across is written in], FRENCH.
  • 71a. [Because], DUE TO THE FACT THAT / 75a. [TWO], DUE / 104a. [What the answer at 75-Across is written in], ITALIAN.

Neat theme, though the “Number Theory” title doesn’t make sense because there’s no theory involved.

Fave fill: TURN PRO, HOT TAKES, SLIPSHOD, LEIPZIG, informal SCIENCY, BUSY BEE, WASABI PEA (though the singular is a little weird), “AYE, AYE, SIR,” and the aspirational ONE-TERM.

Did not know: 1d. [Title host of radio’s first major quiz show], DR. IQ. Rough to have an old and unfamiliar thing parked at 1-Down, but it was relatively inferrable.

Seven more things:

  • 10d. [Funeral ceremony], EXEQUY. Whoa. Not remotely a familiar word to me. Did not know it existed.
  • 6d. [“Slumdog Millionaire” co-star ___ Kapoor], ANIL. Oh, hey! There are a handful of notable desi men named Anil, including longtime blogger Anil Dash. This is much livelier than the crosswordese blue dye, and it expands representation of POC in the puzzle.
  • 11a. [Shed some pounds], SLIM UP. No, you slim down. Although I grew up confuzzled by my mother liking “slow up” rather than “slow down.” Bizarre that these opposite words can be used to connote the same thing.
  • 82a. [Restaurant handouts for calorie counters], DIET MENUS. I’m not at all convinced this is something that actually exists, and I refuse to Google it.
  • 96d. [New pedometer reading], OOOO. Not 0000, but OOOO. Ooooh, Sam, noooo.
  • 64a. [Sleep: Prefix], SOMNI. I tried HYPNO first, which is a much more useful prefix.
  • 44a. [Chicago mayor Lightfoot], LORI. Barack Obama is back in town for the NBA All-Star festivities, and he’ll be meeting with Lori. Perhaps they’ll discuss the group that’s concerned the proposed Obama Presidential Center (aka presidential library, plus community stuff) will dislocate the Black folks who live near the site.

Four stars from me. How’d things go for you?


Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword, “Change for a Buck” – Jenni’s write-up

I’m on call. It’s 8:00 PM on Saturday and so far today I’ve taken over 20 phone calls, done five home visits, and driven nearly 200 miles. It’s possible my reaction to this puzzle has more to do with my day than with the puzzle.

Each theme answer has an anagram of HORSE somewhere. I didn’t realize this until I got to 102a [1971 Stones hit, or what can be found in the answers to starred clues]: WILD HORSES.

Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2020, Ed Sessa, “Change for a Buck,” solution grid

  • 16d [*Car coolant carrier] is a RADIATOR HOSE.
  • 26a [*Ball game record] is a SCORE SHEET. Not in baseball; it’s a SCORECARD. Is it true in other sports?
  • 37a [*One may be six feet long] is a HERO SANDWICH.
  • 55a [*Historic site in Paris’ Latin Quarter] is THE SORBONNE.
  • 61d [*Tourist’s eye-opening experience, perhaps] is CULTURE SHOCK.
  • 72a [*Epithet for a fair British maiden] is ENGLISH ROSE.
  • 87a [*Totally ripped] is TORN TO SHREDS.

I didn’t realize until I highlighted the answers that each HORSE crosses two words. It’s a solid theme. I don’t care for anagrams and, as I said, it’s been a long day, so I suspect other people will enjoy it more than I.

A few other things:

  • 3d [Like cobras, but not pythons] is VENOMOUS. Not, you will note, POISONOUS. Gareth will be glad they got it right.
  • I filled in 25a from crosses and couldn’t figure out what LE DON was. That’s because it’s LED ON.
  • 41d [Weimaraner’s complaint] is WHINE. Are they particularly whiny dogs?
  • The juxtaposition of ANTON/UPTON/UPON was amusing.
  • [Diner menu info] at 53a when MENU is in the grid at 15d was not amusing.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Crayola changed FLESH color to “peach” in 1962. I was born in 1960 and I could have sworn I remembered seeing it as a kid.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Takeout Menu” – Jim Q’s writeup

Quite the picnic we’re having with the takeout we ordered from this puzzle!

THEME: Menu items are removed from common phrases and placed elsewhere in the grid.


Washington Post, February 16, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Takeout Menu” solution grid

  • 23A [Stags’ wedding bands?] DEER RINGS. From DE{COD}ER RINGS. 
  • 25A [Command to parents to identify their newborn boy?] NAME YOUR SON! From NAME YOUR {POI}SON. I’ve never had POI. Looking forward to seeing what else is on the menu.
  • 45A [Understudy’s role in “Clueless: The Musical”?] SUBSTITUTE CHER. From SUBSTITUTE {TEA}CHERFeels like a missed opportunity to reference the (somewhat terrible) bio-musical about Cher that was recently on Broadway, but since the diva’s name is in the title, it wouldn’t work anyway.
  • 68A [Home of royal broncos?] BUCKING PALACE. From BUCKING{HAM} PALACE
  • 98A [“The United States has explosive material”?] AMERICA’S GOT TNT! From AMERICA’S GOT T{ALE}NT. 
  • 117A [“25 or 6 to 4,” e.g.?] CHICAGO TUNE. As in the band ChicagoFrom CHICAGO T{RIB}UNE
  • 122A [Person painting portraits of actress Charlotte or Issa?] RAE ARTIST. From R{EGG}AE ARTIST. 

All of the foods/beverages that have been “taken out” are clued in the grid as [Food/Drink taken out of X Across]. 

So what’s on the menu? 1 EGG, 1 RIB, some ALE, HAM, a cup of TEA, POI, and some COD. Sounds like some stoners got the munchies and ordered one item from every eatery in a two block radius!

I feel like this puzzle originally wanted to be called “Takeout Food,” but alas TEA and ALE crept in, so “Takeout Menu” seemed a little more inclusive. Still, I don’t much picture places that serve takeout fielding orders of ALE to-go (okay, okay… I know those microbrew places will fill up your growler!).

Laugh out loud moment for me was realizing a single RIB had been ordered off the takeout menu. It very much reminded me of this hilarious Chris Rock clip from his early days in the movie I’m Gonna Git You Sucka:

Other foods/beverages are elegantly absent from the rest of the grid (unless of course you’re into barbecue RAT).

I enjoyed this one! And now I’m ready for breakfast. I think I’ll eat in though. And no ALE just yet.


Alex Eaton-Sainers’ Universal crossword, “Letter Sounds”—Jim Q’s review

THEME: Letters are sounded out at the beginning of two word phrases that punnily reference the clue.


Universal crossword solution · Alex Eaton-Sainers · “Letter Sounds” · Sun., 02.16.20

  • 17A [“C”obra and others?] SEA SERPENTS. A cobra is a SERPENT and it
    starts with the letter “C.”
  • 24A [“I”ndigo and others?] EYE COLORS. Indigo is a COLOR and it starts with the letter “I.”
  • 38A [“T”ankard and others?] TEA CUPS. (I assume) a tankard is a CUP of sorts and it starts with a “T.”
  • 49A [“Q”uarterstaff and others?] CUE STICKS. (I assume) a quarterstaff is a STICK of sorts and it starts with a “Q.”
  • 60A [“P”aparazzo and others?] PEA SHOOTERS. The paparazzo are SHOOTERS (it’s a stretch… but they’re SHOOTing pictures with their cameras), and it starts with a “P.”

Cute theme. Seems like somebody ran the dictionary in order to find synonyms for CUP and STICK that began with the appropriate letter. And why not just go with “P”hotographers in the clue for 60A instead of “P”aparazzo (since we’re clearly trying to avoid mention of guns).

Nice to see HOI POLLOI as a whole in the grid instead of just HOI. AIR BUBBLE, SCORE CARD, HOI POLLOI, and AFTERLIFE were all very nice. Sure, they’re the same length as a couple of the theme answers (longer than one!), but presented as downs side-by-side you don’t much notice (i.e. there’s no chance of confusing them with theme answers).

Enjoy your Sunday!

3.9 Stars.


Rob Gonsalves and Jennifer Lim’s Sunday Universal crossword, “Spin Cycle”—Jim Q’s review

Let’s take this crossword for a spin!

THEME: Six letters in the grid are “rotated” out of their proper theme answers and into another, to create wacky phrases.


Sunday Universal crossword solution · Rob Gonsalves · Jennifer Lim · “Spin Cycle” · Sun., 02.16.20

  • 22A [Snatched a falling soft drink?] CAUGHT A COLACaught a cold. The D
    has been rotated out of that themer and into…
  • 48A [Settlement for bike riders?] PEDAL COLONY. Penal colony. The N has been rotated out of that themer and into…
  • 93A [Legume-based dental fittings?] BEAN BRIDGES. Beau Bridges. The U has been rotated out of that themer and into…
  • 115A [Battle supply for the North?] UNION POWDER. Onion powder. The O has been rotated out of that themer and into…
  • 86A [Forest full of ferret relatives?] WEASEL WOODS. Weasel words (new phrase for me!). The R has been rotated out of that themer and into…
  • 37A [Unpretentious smiles?] MODEST GRINS. Modest gains. The A has been rotated out of that themer and into CAUGHT A COLA
  • 66A [With 68-Across, revolve, or what the circled letters do to form their wacky phrases] ROTATE AROUND. 

This was cool enough. Feels like it’s something I should’ve seen before, but I don’t think I have! Simple to grok and adds a little spice to the “change a letter” theme. I like that the circled letters form a circle themselves in the grid… very satisfying, and it adds a layer of impressiveness to the construction.

I am curious as to how this puzzle appears in print. I can’t find it on the internet. Please, please, please tell me it doesn’t ask the solver to count letters in order to find the one that should be circled… (something tells me it does).

If it does: For shame. Stop it, Universal. Stop running circle-dependent themes, especially with the circles are visually necessary to appreciate the puzzle.

If it doesn’t: Woo hoo! Welcome to the party! The puzzle that boasts it “…sets the standard for all daily puzzles” has arrived fashionably late!

My only nit (besides my usual Universal-can’t-circle-necessary-letters nit) is that ROTATE AROUND doesn’t strike me as a stand-alone phrase, and it’s certainly risky as a revealer. Other than that, cool beans.

3.4 Stars from me (with circles).

1.5 Stars for any version that may appear without circles.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Sunday, February 16, 2020

  1. David Steere says:

    WaPo: Another gem in a long line of delightfully complex puzzles. Almost phoned for a food delivery after finishing Evan’s hunger-inducing offering.

  2. Jenni Levy says:

    Amy liked today’s NYT more than I did. The theme was fun, but ELEQUY and SLIM UP in the top section made me grumpy, and USE THIS didn’t help much. And in the numbers not being letters category, we also have ACT I.

    • JanO says:

      I’m ok with the numbers as letters, but I didn’t care for so much duplication in the theme execution. Made for a swift solve, so happy to move on to another Sunday puzzle now.

  3. Stephen B. Manion says:

    I liked the puzzle. Pretty easy as noted.

    I did not like the clue LOSE SOME POUNDS for the answer SLIM UP. Losing weight is slimming down. SLIM UP is appropriate for body sculpting, which generally involves losing fat and may or may not involve losing weight.


    • huda says:

      Interesting distinction. I never heard it before.
      Now, how do you explain “swallow up” vs. “swallow down”?

      • Stephen B. Manion says:

        Sounds like something from Job. I think swallow down normally means eat something quickly. I usually think of it as something like trying to ingest bad tasting medicine. Swallow up I see as ravenous and not even associated with food, although it certainly can be. He swallowed up everything in his path.


  4. pseudonym says:

    “Sam deliberately includes a bunch of duplicative entries, featuring phrases with words that double as foreign names of numbers, and also dropping the number words in the same row of the grid…”

    Yeah, he did.

  5. R says:

    NYT: “Number Theory” didn’t make much sense as a title, so there was a second possible title in the grid, LOST/IN TRANSLATION which also didn’t make much sense as a title.

    • Mutman says:

      How Amy missed this entry in the write-up is lost on me?!?! Especially since she took the time to throw shade on the original puzzle title. Anyone have a theory???

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Wow, Mutman, that’s rude. I give up a chunk of my Saturday evening every week for the blog readers, and this is the thanks I get.

        • Mutman says:

          It wasn’t ill-intended — I was trying to be tongue-in-cheek while using one of the two title’s words.

          But I was surprised you omitted the ‘revealer’ in the write up, which I thought added some ooomph to the puzzle — surely an oversight at worst.

          • RunawayPancake says:

            We don’t cotton to the likes of your ambiguous sarcasm around these here parts. Must attach “lol” to make it perfectly clear so that your comment is drained of any and all subtlety.

            Edit: lol

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            I copied and pasted and typed stuff for THIRTEEN theme entries, and you’re gonna nick me for missing two for the revealer? The revealer that also made no better thematic sense to me than the title?

            And RunawayPancake, you ever notice how many people comment here without a lick of subtlety to grouse that Team Fiend’s dancing monkeys haven’t posted write-ups on the reader’s preferred schedule? It’s exhausting to take crap from people for an entirely volunteer effort—especially when the “delayed” write-up is from someone other than me.

            • RunawayPancake says:

              Speaking for myself (although I’m sure that I’m far from alone in this sentiment), I’m very aware and appreciative of the hard work you and the rest of Team Fiend do to put out these reviews on a daily basis. I don’t think that was ever in question.

  6. Ethan says:

    Today’s puzzle reminds me of an old joke (which only works when said out loud):

    Q: To Freud, what comes between fear and sex?
    A: Fünf. (Fünf comes between vier and sechs in German counting)

    As for the puzzle itself, I thought this was a nice Tuesday or Wednesday masquerading as a Sunday. How about:


    “What the beginnings of the starred entries begin with in Swedish, Italian, German, French and Spanish” — NUMBER

  7. RM Camp says:

    My only real gripe with the NYT puzzle, and it’s a very minor gripe indeed, was that DETOO came before ARTOO. I get it though, so whatever.

  8. Me says:

    Jim Q, aw, I liked The Cher Show on Broadway! Not the greatest show in the universe, but fun for what it was. And Stephanie J Block as Cher was really great!

  9. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Re NYC 96D:OOOO — It used to be a common crossword convention that “number of Arabian nights” = IOOI, etc. Shortz evidently doesn’t care for that (no IOOI since he started editing the NYTXW) but I’m fine with it. Though I’d expect at least five digits in an odometer.

    10D:EXEQUY — new to me (and last seen in 1966, with plural EXEQUIES also in 1980); but inferable from “Musikalische Exequien” (in the language that brought us II ON A SHELF).


  10. Brenda Rose says:

    Mr. Jim Q:
    Why do you care so much about the circle vs no-circle thing? Personally I find circles annoying & dumbs down the solving experience. I’m surprised a professional as you can’t get circles. I log on cruciverb & always get circles. No biggie.

    • Jim Q says:

      I care about it because I look at it from a new solver’s perspective. Also, with a puzzle like this, there is a visual element of the overall symmetrical circle. If circling puzzles dumbs down puzzles, then how do you explain so many publications (i.e. all) doing it?

  11. Dr Fancypants says:

    Another Sunday, another “meh” NYT puzzle. If I weren’t a bit obsessive about completeness, I’d probably be skipping the Sunday puzzles at this point, since it’s so rare to see one that’s good (or at least interesting) in recent years.

Comments are closed.