Sunday, March 8, 2020

LAT 8:50 (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WaPo 13:28 (Jim Q) 


Universal 4:08 (Jim Q) 


Universal (Sunday) tk (Rebecca) 


Laura Taylor Kinnel’s New York Times crossword, “What’s Shaking?”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 8 20, “What’s Shaking?”

What’s shaking? Salt. The theme is a two-pronged rebus: SALT in the Acrosses and the letters NaCl going Down. (And I don’t know what the .puz file accepts as a correct rebus square because it marked my SALTs wrong.)

  • 20a. [Add insult to injury], RUB {SALT} IN THE WOUND crosses 2d. [Almost won], RA{N A CL}OSE SECOND.
  •  41a. [How to take glib promises], WITH A GRAIN OF {SALT} / 28d. [Peak], PIN{NACL}E.
  • 65a. [Boardwalk buy], {SALT} WATER TAFFY / 35d. [Shows how it’s done], PUTS O{N A CL}INIC.
  • 87a. [2002 Winter Olympics locale], {SALT} LAKE CITY / 80d. [Clustered], I{N A CL}UMP.
  • 112a. [You, according to Jesus in Matthew 5:13], THE {SALT} OF THE EARTH / 101d. [Handcuffs], MA{NACL}ES.

I’m not a big fan of sodium chloride but it has its uses, such as in crosswords!

Bright bits in the fill include CRAYOLA, NONEVENT, END RUN, Shirley MACLAINE, SHOWOFFS, and RED FLAG. I also noticed more than the usual smattering of women’s names in the fill and clues. Harper LEE, EVAN Rachel Wood, STE Joan of Arc, writer TARA Westover, MAE Jemison, Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” ICON Princess Diana, Billie Eilish, and Dorothy Parker’s SATIRES. (Still assorted men throughout the puzzle, though.)

Four more things:

  • 12a. [Australia’s national women’s basketball team], OPALS. What a neat clue!
  • 45a. [Subject of many a negotiation], SALARY. The word derives from the Romans, who dispensed salt in lieu of a paycheck. It would be churlish to grouse about the etymological overlap with the theme—it feels like a little bonus.
  • 84d. [Agent of change], DYE. Also a nice clue!
  • 109a. [Get cold feet, with “out”], WUSS, immediately to the right of 107a. [What flies usually become], OUTS. Too much out, if you ask me. Ungainly.

4.25 stars from me.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Washington Post crossword, “Literary Circles” – Jim Q’s writeup

We were teased last week when Evan told us all he would have a guest constructor at the helm today. I had a sneaking suspicion it would likely be in celebration of International Women’s Day. And I thought of a few top-notch constructors Evan might invite to his platform on such an occasion. I was correct. One of the best constructors out there is Zhouqin “C.C.” Burnikel. It was a pleasure to see her name appear in the byline before diving in.

Washington Post, March 8, 2020, Zhouqin Burnikel, “Literary Circles” solution grid

THEME: Female characters in literature are found within common phrases.


  • 23A [*Marie Curie and Malala Yousafzai, e.g. (Stephenie Meyer)] NOBEL LAUREATES. Bella of “Twilight.” And more kudos, of course, to the acknowledgment of women who have received that honor.
  • 34A [*Shakespeare’s playhouse (Louisa May Alcott)] GLOBE THEATRE.  Beth of “Little Women.” An apt title.
  • 41A [*Composition that Mozart left unfinished at the time of his death (Jane Austen)] REQUIEM MASS. Emma of “Emma.”
  • 67A [*Security devices (Boris Pasternak)] BURGLAR ALARMS. Lara of “Doctor Zhivago.” I’m completely unfamiliar with both the book and the movie. It’s the only one in this theme set I hadn’t read/seen. Is it worth adding to my reading list?
  • 72A [*Scandalous period in baseball history (Nathaniel Hawthorne)] THE STEROID HERA. Hester of “The Scarlet Letter.”
  • 95A [*Child’s specialty (George R.R. Martin)] CULINARY ART. Arya of “A Song of Ice and Fire” / “Game of Thrones.”
  • 102A [*”Oh, come on!” (Thomas Hardy)] FOR PETES SAKE. Tess of “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”
  • 120A [Improve one’s moral strength … and what the starred answers and this puzzle’s authors both do?] BUILD CHARACTER. 

That last revealer, BUILD  CHARACTER, caught me off-guard. If any puzzle doesn’t need a revealer, it’s this one for sure! Title and circled characters say it all. Also, I don’t see how the starred answers really “build character.” They have characters included already! But I digress. No need to take away from a joyful and celebratory puzzle.

I appreciate how C.C. focused solely on very “in-language” phrases where the hidden character bridges more than one of the words in the phrase. Also, the characters themselves are all very notable, even Lara whom I know nothing about from the book I haven’t read. For a hot second, I thought that all the authors were going to be women as well as I solved from North to South. I mean, we hit the first three! While C.C. may have attempted this, asking for that element as well would’ve brought us to a land of obscurity if it were possible at all.

Ironically enough, there are plenty of men hanging around. John Legend showed up as the SEXIEST of all. Gary SINISE and WES Anderson are two LADDIEs that stopped by to say Hello! while Paul Anka sang ESO BESO in the background. But we’ve also got ANA de Armas, ARIANA Grande, and the HEROIC Wonder Woman at the party. Simona HALEP was a new name for me, though its clearly a name I should know.

Smooth fill all around. The only nit I have is the clue for 113A [Opening night attendee] CRITIC. CRITICs typically attend preview performances and have done thorough research before posting their reviews after a show opens. You won’t see a CRITIC taking notes on opening night (in New York, anyway).

This was a delight and a treat. Thank you, Ms. Burnikel, and thanks to Evan as well for hosting.



Jennifer Nutt’s Universal crossword, “Court Trouble”—Jim Q’s review

It would be a crime not to solve this one today!


THEME: Theme entries end with words that go through the court process.


  • 17A [Fee for returning a rental car at a different location] DROP CHARGE. 

    Universal crossword solution · Jennifer Nut · “Court Trouble” · Sun., 03.08.20

  • 28A [Drug development stage] CLINICAL TRIAL.  
  • 47A [It doesn’t end as expected] RUN ON SENTENCE. 
  • 64A [Exterior asset, in real estate] CURB APPEAL. 

This is a lovely set of theme answers. Sometimes I kick myself for not stopping to smell the flowers along the way. I probably would’ve enjoyed this more had I taken a couple seconds to figure out the them mid-solve instead of post-solve. I really like that 1) The process goes in order (CHARGE, TRIAL, SENTENCE, APPEAL) and 2) The theme answers have nothing to do with the legal sense of the terms whatsoever.

ICE BREAKER was nice to see in the fill. Also, I’m a sucker for random facts, and Universal loves to include those. The one today was 48D [Only word that’s a two-digit number backward] TEN. Never thought about that before!

4.1 stars from me.

Robin Stears’s LA Times crossword, “Losing an Hour” – Jenni’s write-up

Most of us in the US transitioned to daylight savings time last night (waves to people in AZ, HI and part of IN). I was on call last night, so losing an hour was A-OK with me. Robin makes it fun.

Each theme answer has lost an HR.

Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2020, Robin Stears, “Losing an Hour,” solution grid.

  • 23a [Floating flower going under?] is a SINKING VIOLET (shrinking violet).
  • 28a [Ratio of a synagogue’s center column to its roof slope?] is a TEMPLE SINE (temple shrine). I raised my eyebrows because if this refers to the Temple that used to stand in Jerusalem, that was by definition not a synagogue, and I’m not sure it had a shrine, and then I remembered that other religions have temples and that some synagogues are called Temple whatever, and I calmed down.
  • 52a [Simon, partly?] is a GAME OF TONES (Game of Thrones). Simon, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a memory game that uses tones as well as colored lights.
  • 69a [Highways pitted with potholes?] are TOUGH ROADS (through roads). Yo, PA represent! We have the BEST potholes. Or at least the most.
  • 71a [Cast of “Caddyshack”?] would be TEE STOOGES (Three Stooges).
  • 87a [Hauling beach umbrellas?] is TOWING SHADE (throwing shade). This one made me giggle.
  • 113a [Pointy-bottomed paper cups missing their holders?] are CONIC PAINS (chronic pains).
  • 119a [“Someone stole our cash box!”?] is THE TILL IS GONE (the thrill is gone).

It’s a solid, consistent, and enjoyable theme. I didn’t realize until I wrote them all out that each themer has the HR removed from the same position in the word. Cool.

A few other things:

  • I suspect a lot of people who use the cc function on their EMail have never seen a real CARBON copy. I have, because I am old.
  • Having filled in CARBON, I confidently dropped ARETHA into 2d, [Grande dame of pop]. Nope. It’s ARIANA, punning on her last name. Nice.
  • I’ve never seen EMIGREE before. It was easily inferrable, but ick.
  • Can someone enlighten me about 54d [Musical “phone” namesake]? The answer is SOUSA and I have no idea why.
  • 71d [Snarl] confused me because I was thinking of a snarling dog. Nope. It’s TANGLE.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that LAID TO is sailor-speak for stopping the ship; that UGLI fruit is related to the tangelo; that there’s a ZEBRA named Marty in the Madagascar films; that ETNA is Greek for “I burn;” that OREM used be called Provo Bench.

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18 Responses to Sunday, March 8, 2020

  1. GlennP says:

    NYT: In my Crosswords app, the .puz file wanted N, and only N.

  2. JohnH says:

    Where online do I go for the variety puzzle, this week a cryptic? I don’t see it among the options on the crossword page (The Mini, The Crossword, Tiles across the top; last seven days next row; How to Solve below that; and then New Games and Logic Puzzles).

    I realize that I just may not see it. While my weekend print subscription makes me an online subscriber, and while an online subscription now gives the day’s puzzle access, it’s not as powerful as an additional puzzle subscription. (Say, I can’t actually use the link to the archives, not that I really want to.) I also apologize that it’s mostly an academic problem, as I get the magazine section in print (and already finished the cryptic), but my delivery has been just awful for six months.

      • JohnH says:

        Apparently I’d need a separate crossword subscription. The link takes me to a page that says I need to sign in but already signed in. Oh, well. I’ll probably drop my NYT subscription again, as I’ve a missing paper again today, missing or late almost half of all days over the last six months. To rub it in, I just got an email saying they’d called the deliverer, who said the problem is solved. Have a nice day, so to speak.

        Odd that you need to know the URL rather than see it as among the options on the crossword page.

        • Ethan Friedman says:

          or just go to an online-only subscription. That’s what I did.

          The variety puzzles are absolutely present on the crossword page.

  3. AJS says:

    @ JohnH, for me, the variety puzzles appear at the bottom of the main crossword page, underneath the “logic puzzles” section.

    • JohnH says:

      Thanks. Not for me. Maybe it’s a subscriber thing. Originally, I understand, they denied access to all puzzles to online newspaper subscribers but backed down after complaints (long before I learned they had changed their mind). But it looks like its limited to that day’s ordinary crossword.

  4. David Steere says:

    WaPO, et al. I am so loving this “March of women” constructors! Clues, answers and tones feel quite different from the frequent “Bro” vibe from men constructors. Can we continue this “March” into April? I particularly had fun today with Zhouqin Burnikel’s LITERARY CIRCLES and Robin Stears’ LOSING AN HOUR. Particular thanks to Rebecca Falcon and David Steinberg for making this happen.

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT: @Jenni … SOUSA stumped me at first also. In case you’re still wondering, SOUSAphone is another name for a tuba, so it’s a “musical ‘phone'” and SOUSA is its namesake. Very punny, like the theme.

  6. Kelly Clark says:

    Really nice set today…thanks to all.

    One nit on cluing I feel compelled — as a one-time sailor — to point out, re: Jennifer Nutt’s terrific “Court Trouble” puzzle. (Universal). 27 Down: [Nautical sheet] and the answer is SAIL. No. A “nautical sheet” is a line attached to the sail to control it. It does seem like “sheet” describes a sail, doesn’t it? But it’s not accurate. Comment error. Again, terrific puzzles all ’round.

  7. Gene says:

    In print, the NYT clue for 109A was “Wimp”, which obviates the noted problem. But having the print one “fixed” is strange.

  8. Zulema says:

    Just want to express my endless admiration for today’s (Sunday’y) NYT crossword constructor.

  9. John Malcolm says:

    re LAT for 3/8

    1. The clue about Sousa (54 down) refers to the sousaphone, a brass instrument found in many high school bands who play music of John Philip Sousa, the “March King”. I guess it’s louder than a tuba but has similar (low) range. Very big bell on this one so it’s easy to spot, usually near the back.

    2. I believe there’s an error in 99 down: ‘healed’ fits the crossed word if it’s ‘pains’ but the definition given refers to a ship listing and that’s ‘heeled’. Probably a lot of folks were too sleepy to notice ;-)

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