Friday, February 21, 2020

CHE untimed (pannonica) 


LAT 4:10 (Jenni) 


NYT 4:57 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 6:01 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (Rebecca) 


Patrick Berry has a new mini-puzzle extravaganza! For $10, you’ll get the “Sweet 16” PDF with 16 half-page variety puzzles (about the difficulty level of the variety puzzles in the Sunday NYT magazine) plus a meta-puzzle to tie everything together. Several of the puzzle forms were newly created for this set, because that’s just how the inventive Berry rolls. Click here to order “Sweet 16.”

Erik Agard & Anne Flinchbaugh’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 21 20, no. 0221

Aww, too bad this wasn’t clued a bit harder and scheduled for Saturday. Doesn’t the diagram look sort of like a big “22” pasted together by REFERENDA? And here it is, clued to Friday the 21st.

Lots of good stuff in this 66-worder, what with all the 6- to 11-letter entries that far outnumber the 3s, 4s, and 5s. The whole enterprise feels fresh and contemporary, with plenty of zippy clues.

Eight things of note:

  • 1a. [Caseload?], BOTTLES. As in a case of beer or wine. I wanted ATTACHE here first.
  • 16a. [Time for warm-up shots, in more ways than one], PREGAME. You’ve got the basketball interpretation, and also the partying one. “Pregaming” before going out entails drinking cheaply at home so you needn’t buy so many overpriced drinks, I think. The only time I pregamed was when Tyler Hinman and I were going on WGN (a more respectable AM RADIO station) to talk crosswords, and we met up at a hotel bar near the studio (and he called it pregaming, which was an entirely new usage to me at that time).
  • 17a. [Land that abuts four oceans], EURASIA. The clue had this geography trivia nerd stumped at first.
  • 30a. [It’s a rush, appropriately enough], RUNNER’S HIGH. Yeah, I don’t get that. My husband’s a marathoner, loves running. I don’t get it.
  • 40a. [Egyptian Nobelman?], Anwar SADAT.
  • 50a. [G.R.E. sitters, e.g.], TESTEES. Terrible entry, but useful for making a wide-open swath work out. Also bored by EWERS, LADE, and TSARS (though the latter’s clue was cute: 4d. [They range from terrible to great]). And plural TAROTS felt unfortunate, and OVULAR is a word I’ve never had cause to use.
  • 12d. [Trash], BAD-MOUTH. Great entry.
  • 31d. [Recipient of a lot of #@&! money], SWEAR JAR. Fun clue.


4.3 stars from me.

Erik Agard’s New Yorker puzzle – Rachel’s writeup

As happens pretty much every time I solve an Agard puzzle in the New Yorker, I ended up down a wikipedia rabbit hole reading about another incredible woman I had never heard of. This week, it’s SURYA BONALY, the central entry in today’s grid. The “memorable moment” referenced in the puzzle was her performance of a backflip in competition, an illegal move that is so challenging (and dangerous!) that she is the only skater in history to perform it in competition.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Erik Agard • Friday, February 21, 2020

The rest of the puzzle also shines with interesting entries and new takes on standard entries. Some highlights:

  • TCHALLA (King of Wakanda)
  • IFTAR (Evening meal during Ramadan)
  • COLOR (Holi is associated with it)
  • STORY MODE (Episodic option in some video games)
  • EQUAL PAY (Much-discussed goal during the 2019 World Cup?)
  • YO TE AMO (Words to un querido)
  • TESSA (Thompson who’s slated to play Marvel’s first out L.G.B.T.Q. superhero) [as Valkyrie]

A few other observations:

  • The unusual left-right symmetry is pretty rad
  • Today is a double-Agard day, as he also has the NYT with debut constructor Anne Flinchbaugh, see above
  • I really wish we could get LEER (and OGLE) out of puzzles. Free LEER clue for anyone who wants it: “To read in Spanish?” (Inkubator used this a few puzzles back)
  • Lol’d at NUGS (Pieces of pot, for short)

All the stars from me. Here’s a video about that backflip by SURYA BONALY:

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up

This was fun! I love pun themes. I don’t remember seeing a version of this one, but then I have a terrible memory for themes, so who knows? I enjoyed it.

Each theme answer is a pun that features seafood.

Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2020, Jeffrey Wechsler, solution grid

  • 20a [Offering in shellfish worship?] is a PRAWN SACRIFICE (pawn sacrifice).
  • 29a [Shellfish massage?] is a MUSSEL RELAXER. Now I want a massage. And mussels.
  • 38a [Good name for a budget shellfish dealer?] is SHRIMP AND SAVE (scrimp and save).
  • 52a [Like one who exchanges texts with a shellfish?] is WHELKCONNECTED (well-connected). They saved the best for last.

All the base phrases are solidly in the language, all the puns are amusing, and it was a nice start to a Friday morning.

A few other things:

  • 3d [Merchant’s assurance during a sale] is WE HAVE MORE. This phrase is a bit roll-your-own, and I don’t hear it much during sales. In my experience, merchants are more likely to say “if it’s not on the rack, we don’t have it” during a sale.
  • CRAFT showed up in here and in the NYT today. The Crossword Conspiracy strikes again. When I do two puzzles in rapid succession and they contain the same answer, I think “wait! That’s a dupe!” and have to remind myself that no, it’s not.
  • Bible time: we have THY for [Genesis pronoun] and the book of NUMbers.
  • I liked MODEMS for 46d, [Surfing equipment].
  • I know the Loch and Elliott are tired clues, but [Relative of -ity] for NESS is just odd.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that UPI was created in 1958 and that Brigitte Bardot was on the cover of ELLE at age 14. That was in 1950, and Wikipedia says she was 15. She was born in 1934, so someone’s got something wrong. Here’s the cover:


Kevin Salat’s Universal crossword, “Novel-ty Shops”—Rebecca’s review

THEME: Classic literary titles re-imagined as businesses

Universal crossword solution · Kevin Salat · “Novel-ty Shops” · Fri., 02.21.20


  • 20A [Literary name for a burglar alarm company?] SURE LOCK HOMES
  • 26A [Literary name for a pack animal feed shop?] DONKEY OAT HAY
  • 49A [Literary name for a martini bar?] OLIVE OR TWIST
  • 58A [Literary name for a demolition business?] EDIFICE WRECKS

I had a lot of fun with this one. The PUNs were all very entertaining and kept me smiling throughout. As soon as I hit SURE LOCK HOMES I knew this would be entertaining, and the whole puzzle did not disappoint. I’m trying to pick a favorite theme answer, but really they are all so so good. I think DONKEY OAT HAY made me laugh the most, but I would definitely go to a bar called OLIVE OR TWIST.

Fill was interesting and kept the puzzle moving. I have come to the conclusion that I will never remember how to spell VIEIRA [TV personality Meredith], no matter how many times that useful IEI shows up in a puzzle. I also enjoyed the inclusion of both WAKE UP [Early kind of call] and BED HEAD [Tousled hair condition].

In honor of DONKEY OAT HAY here’s Brian Stokes Mitchell at the 2003 Tony Awards singing The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha

3.75 stars

Michael Schlossberg’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Brushes With Baseball Greatness” — pannonica’s write-up

CHE • 2/21/20 • “Brushes With Baseball Greatness” • Schlossberg • solution • 20200221

Okay, right of the bat I’ve got to say this one didn’t quite work for me. It’s an attempt to bring together painting and baseball, presumably because of a few (but not enough, as we’ll see) fortuitous names.

  • 17a. [“The Two Fridas” painter wins “Nighthawks” at auction … or makes a great play in the infield?] KAHLO BAGS HOPPER.
  • 25a. [“Man, Mustache, Navel” Dadaist has a famous mother on his wall … or makes a screaming line drive look easy?] ARP OWNS WHISTLER.
  • 43a. [“The Persistence of Memory” surrealist has nothing good to say about “The Gulf Stream” … or clocks one out of the park?] DALÍ BLASTS HOMER.
  • 57a. [“Untitled (Skull)” painter puts graffiti on Cubist “Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz” … or makes a put-out at Tropicana field?] BASQUIAT TAGS RAY.

You see the inconsistency, yes? The object in each of these phrases is the key baseball part. Hopper, Whistler, and Homer (Edward, James McNeill, Winslow) are all famous painter’s surnames but also baseball terms—specifically, types of hits. But (Man) Ray is the name for someone on the Tampa Bay team.

The verbs in each phrase do double duty as well, straddling the baseball and art spheres of the theme, but in truth they’re malleable, all-purpose sorts of verbs. Nothing special there.

And then, the lead-off subjects. Also painters (Frida Kahlo, Jean (or Hans) Arp, Salvador Dalí, Jean Michel Baasquiat), but as far as I can tell they’re just there for the letter lengths and to slightly pad the gender and racial diversity stats.

If the puzzle had dropped that fourth themer and kept only the three ‘strikes’ it would have been much more robust and satisfying. Perhaps augmented with some theme-adjacent stuff in the regular fill. Maybe something about POP art? There must be some other opportunities, but I’m not going to spend time thinking about it or researching it.

One interesting thing the crossword highlighted is that surreal has entered the language fully enough to become lowercased, whereas Cubist and Dada have not.

  • Favorite clue: 43a [Handle on lots of elevators] OTIS. The company name, yet it still compelled me to think of an old-school, manually-operated elevator.
  • 1d [Lima follower in the NATO alphabet] MIKE, 4d [Peruvian currency] SOL.
  • 6d [What Ptolemy called England in hist second-century “Geography”] ALBION.
  • Colloquial THING IS and I’M COOL; [“Here’s what you need to realize …”] [“No worries, dude”] (42d, 14a)
  • 46a [Eggy brunch casserole] STRATA. says: “a dish that is made up of layers of bread, cheese, and meat or vegetables over which a mixture of eggs and milk is poured and that is usually refrigerated before it is baked”.

Recap: interesting theme, but it ERODEd (31d) before the final inning.

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

22 Responses to Friday, February 21, 2020

  1. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Really excellent moderately difficult puzzle.
    I have always found RUNNERS HIGH to be interesting even though I am not a runner, One website listed several ways in which endorphins are released, which is the cause of Runners’ High. One of them is group exercise classes. I always thought that the high came from the fact that the end of the class was near. Apparently, there is more to it,

    The one that I found the most interesting was that certain scents cause the release of endorphins. One of the most compelling scents in any perfume is VANILLA according to multiple perfume websites. And as it turns out, a whiff of vanilla or lavender causes the release of endorphins,

    And if neither of these sources work, there is always SEX.


  2. Paul Coulter says:

    Universal – Great theme from Kevin Salat today. Three of the four were excellent. For me, one was kind of stretchy, but it still gave me a good chuckle. Since taste varies so widely, I wonder if other solvers would cite the same one. And I wonder if there are actual businesses with these names. If not, there should be. Congratulations on an outstanding puzzle, Kevin.

    • Kevin S says:

      Thanks a lot Paul! Yeah I think you could make the argument that 26- and 58-across are both stretches. But glad you still enjoyed :)

      • Paul Coulter says:

        Edifice Wrecks works well for me. BTW, I just googled it, and there are indeed businesses with the names of the three I liked the most. There was also a Donkey Oaty, but not a Donkey Oat Hay.

    • Norm says:

      This was hilarious. My [former English major & ABD] wife is gonna love it.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I was okay with three of the themers here, but DONKEY OAT HAY kinda ruined the solve for me. It just doesn’t pass muster with me as a plausible name for a business. I filled that entire answer in from crosses and even when I was sure of all of the crosses, I couldn’t make any sense out of the string of letters or how they connected with the clue. When I finally submitted my solution, I was a little surprised that it was accepted.

    • John says:

      Very fun puzzle but I still don’t get 28A. 49A was fantastic.

  3. Gary R says:

    Enjoyed today’s NYT, but I still cringe every time I see SIT PAT. I’m okay with both “slow up” and “slow down” from earlier this week, but it’s STAND pat.

  4. Tony says:

    There is a SURE LOCK HOMES burglar alarm company based out of Fremont, CA.

  5. Lester says:

    TNY: Erik Naticked me twice with “Pugsley.” I didn’t know the Offill book, and, since a title can be anything, Debt of Speculation seemed plausible enough. I’m not current on my pot slang, so didn’t know nugs, though I happened to guess right. Neither cross feels fair to me.

  6. cyco says:

    No Inkubator review today?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      We typically don’t review bonus puzzles, as we don’t have anyone allocated to cover puzzles that aren’t on our regular schedule.

      • cyco says:

        Got it, didn’t catch that today was a bonus. The Inkubator specifically directs people to Fiend to discuss the puzzle, so maybe you can ask if they’ll give you a heads up when bonuses are coming.

  7. Douglas says:

    You can use this link to get the Wall Street Journal puzzle for Saturday (“Quick Witted”). The Across Lite link here now (substituting 2/22), and the links on the WSJ page for the pdf and in-line playing bring up 2 different puzzles from earlier in the week. They’ll probably catch this within minutes of me posting this.

  8. Douglas says:

    I see they corrected it at also. How the heck do you get an Across Lite version of it? Is there a .pdf to .puz converter? I know you can write a puzzle to a .txt file using a specific format that Across Lite can open. How does Herbach (I guess that’s the DNS alias) do it? I found a .puz to .pdf program on line (, but it didn’t work for me right away.

    • Martin says:

      I run a converter, yes. Several people have contributed to it and it takes a fair amount of maintenance to deal with file format changes. It doesn’t use the pdf. It starts with the file that drives the wsj app. Finding that file takes a bit of art and science as well, and now and then I have to adjust the art bit to deal with wsj site issues. It’s been pretty stable of late, but I do make a habit of solving the puzzle from my generated .puz shortly after the script converts it, to make sure there were no hiccups.

      Martin (Herbach)

  9. Douglas says:


  10. C. Y. Hollander says:

    The “memorable moment” referenced in the puzzle was her performance of a backflip in competition, an illegal move that is so challenging (and dangerous!) that she is the only skater in history to perform it in competition.

    It would be more accurate to call it a challenging (and dangerous!) move so illegal that she is the only skater in history to perform it in competition. Plenty of skaters have performed backflips at show events. Almost none have performed one in competition because it is the opposite of competitive–it causes a mandatory deduction from a skater’s score! When Bonaly performed it, she was out of the running for a medal in any case.

Comments are closed.