Saturday, March 21, 2020

LAT 5:36 (Derek) 


Newsday 22:56 (Derek) 


NYT 5:10 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Damon Gulczynski’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 21 20, no. 0321

I confess I am distracted. Yes, it’s true. I’m looking at social media and reading some news and playing Words With Friends and generally just not writing about this puzzle.Been almost two hours since I solved the puzzle, and this is as far as I’ve gotten. (Raise your hand if you have also been much distracted this week.)

Likes: Colloquial “SO I WAS LIKE ….” all-too-common CHARLATANS, DELTA BURKE, MEDGAR EVERS, PEANUT SAUCE for satay (mmm, yes, we’ll order dinner from Joy’s Noodles, a local Thai joint, in a few days), “YES INDEED” (which is a song by Lil Baby feat. Drake) and “PURPLE HAZE,” PALINDROME, and the ol’ SWITCHEROO. Always nice to be reminded of Zora NEALE Hurston, too.


  • 55a. [Big Apple?], IMAC. Yep, my iMac is a big honker.
  • 62a. [Way to watch shows beginning in 1999], TIVO. We gave up on TiVo eons ago, and don’t miss it since the cable company’s DVR works well. I wonder how many new TiVo customers have signed on in the past year or two.
  • 6d. [Ash, e.g.], SHADE TREE. Too many ash trees in America have succumbed to the emerald ash borer. A pretty bug, but a mean one.
  • 29d. [Like a lamb], OVINE. This is how March will go out, utterly ovine.
  • I think St. PAUL, ELO, and the Beatles in a clue are the only white men in this puzzle, with marquee space given over to women and people of color. Nice!

4.2 stars from me.

Joe Deeney’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 03/17/2020

We have a wide-open 68 word grid this Saturday, but I found this one not too difficult at all. I flew through this in just over five minutes, and I don’t remember encountering anything too confusing. Which is a good thing; I am not complaining! Lots of fun in here, even if it could be just a tad tougher. Kudos to Joe for a great themeless grid with virtually no dreck! 4.6 stars from me.

Some of that fun stuff:

  • 15A [Some drag racers] ROCKET CARS – I remember reading a Darwin Award story about someone who strapped a rocket to the top of a car and flew straight into the side of a mountain. At least that is what I thought of here! One of these days I will go to the Top Fuel Nationals in Indianapolis. If we ever have live sports again!
  • 30A [Words that contradict what preceded them] “SAID NO ONE EVER!” – Great entry! My favorite of the grid.
  • 34A [Perpetual loser] CELLAR DWELLER – Speaking of no live sports, I haven’t heard this term in a while. ESPN is floundering, and they are doing ESPN The Ocho on Sunday on ESPN2. Get ready for cornhole and marble racing!
  • 35A [Game time?] HUNTING SEASON – If this pandemic keeps up, I may turn into a squirrel hunter!
  • 41A [Vegas summer hrs.] PDT – Why did I think Vegas was on Mountain time? I should fly out there and check it out: tickets on Spirit are under $20 now during this shutdown! I could fly there, check my phone’s time, and then fly straight back! It would at least be something to do!
  • 45A [“Baywatch” actor] EFRON – We are talking about the movie, not the TV show. Both are extremely campy.

    Sideshow Mel

  • 5D [Sideshow __ of “The Simpsons”] MEL – Isn’t there a Sideshow Bob, too? Because that is what I wrote in here at first! I don’t watch The Simpsons, in case you couldn’t tell!
  • 10D [I-9 ID] SSN – I started a new job on Monday, believe it or not, and I have done some work in HR in the last few years, and I learned that every job requires an I-9 filled out. I don’t remember ever filling one out in all my years of working, though! I was looking for it this time, though, and sure enough, I did fill one out. Just in time to work from home!
  • 25D [Welk intro words] “A-ONE AND A-TWO..” – I still like Lawrence Welk’s TV show. It is still on, usually on Saturdays, just like old times, even though he has been dead for years.
  • 34D [Coffee, in diner slang] CUP OF MUD – I had CUP OF JOE in at first. That’s what they say in Indiana!

My next LAT write-up is Tuesday. See you then, and stay safe during this unprecedented isolation time.

Stanley Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 03/17/2020

Usually the Stumpers that Stan constructs are under the pseudonym “Lester Ruff”, which is a play on the phrase “less rough”. Today, we simply have Stan’s initials, which may can mean two things: 1) Stan is not using pseudonyms anymore, or 2) this puzzle IS rough! My thought is on the latter, because I found this one brutal. The upper right and lower left weren’t too horrible, but the NW and SE corners stymied me for far too long. I used Across Lite for my solve, and you can clearly see all of the error marks I had. I haven’t felt frustrated during a Stumper in quite a long time, but this one got me worked up. But it is over now, and as is usually the case, everything seems quite fair after a second look. Great puzzle if you like your Stumpers difficult! 4.6 stars for this one.

Some random thoughts:

  • 1A [Squealing stoppers] GAG LAWS – This one took me forever to figure out. The word “squealing” had me thinking of mice or something. Great clue, but I think there is one even better. Read on …
  • 19A [Insensitive, informally] TONE DEAF – I had ????DEAD in here, which naturally caused problems. See 20D below!
  • 33A [Offers things you can do without] THREATENS – I think THIS is the best clue in the puzzle. The surface reading is quite vague, if not confusing, but then it makes total sense in the end. Well done!
  • 36A [”Just like that . . .”] BAM – I hear Emeril for some reason … !
  • 53A [Cocktail garnish] PARASOL – Oh, you mean THAT garnish! It’s not PARsley? See why this corner was hard?
  • 1D [Holistic notion] GESTALT – I will show the actual dictionary def here for the German word that I never use!
  • 20D [Nietzsche, e.g.] FRIEDRICH – This is stupidly simple upon review. Totally flummoxed anyway, especially with an incorrect D at the beginning. I actually thought it might be DRIED RICE, in a similar vein to 34A FRIED RICE!
  • 34D [$2000 appliance, circa 1983] FAX – These were that expensive then?? I was in the 8th grade in ’83! Meaning, I certainly wasn’t in the market for one at that age!
  • 36D [Jazz band nickname] BARISAX – Totally fooled here also. Is this even one word??
  • 40D [Grenada neighbor] TOBAGO – Also really tough. I have not been this far south ever, although one of these days I am going to Aruba, which is also in the south Caribbean, just a bit further west. Tobago is also rarely seen by itself, and is usually clued in a puzzle as [Trinidad & __ ]. Or it could just be me!

Gotta wrap this up: there is a crossword tournament later today! Gotta get my couch ready!! Hope to “see” some of you later at the Crossword Tournament from you Couch! (Details here.) Have a great weekend and stay safe during this pandemic.

Ezra Brauner’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Left, Right and Center” — pannnicao’s write-up

WSJ • 3/21/20 • “Left, Right and Center • Sat • Brauner • solution 20200321

Here’s my interpretation of the title: for each theme answer, the word on the left has its center letter moved to its end—that is, the right. Thus the original phrases become wackified.

If anyone has a better parsing, please feel free to share it in the comments.

  • 22a. [Cheesy line from Tony’s wife on “The Sopranos”?] CARMELA CORN (caramel).
  • 33a. [Description of a Canadian clod pushing a stroller?] HOSER AND BUGGY (horse).
  • 48a. [Alternative to a beer belly?] LAGER INTESTINE (large). The clue’s framing really makes this one a winner.
  • 66a. [Response from President Xi?] CHINA REACTION (chain).
  • 81a. [Beautifiers of a prince of Troy’s dinner] PLATERS OF PARIS (plaster). This one, on the other hand, is quite strained.
  • 98a. [Bookkeeping for the smartest 2%?] MENSA BUSINESS (means). Original phrase seems weird without a subject.
  • 112a. [Plan to fix an infestation of cobras?] SNAKE ATTACK (sneak).

Not a wildly exciting theme, but it gets the job done.

METHUSELAAHTEMPTS FATEPOLO SHIRT, and SET THEORY comprise the longest non-theme fill. Straightforward clues for all, with POLO SHIRT’s [Top choice] engaging in a bit of wordplay; it’s repeated for 69a TEE. (13d, 71d, 63a, 70a)

  • 54a [Unit Wikipedia defines as about the amount of work of a push-up by a housefly] ERG. Uhm, good to know?
  • 105a [It may be retrograde or anterograde] AMNESIA. “Retrograde amnesia is the inability to retrieve information that was acquired before a particular date, usually the date of an accident or operation. In some cases the memory loss can extend back decades, while in others the person may lose only a few months of memory. Anterograde amnesia is the inability to transfer new information from the short-term store into the long-term store. People with anterograde amnesia cannot remember things for long periods of time. These two types are not mutually exclusive; both can occur simultaneously.” (from Wikipedia)
  • 111a [Language of New Mexico] TAOS. Not just an art colony or ski resort!
  • Not thrilled with the side-by-side similarity of I CAN and I KID down in the southeast.
  • 44a [Phone screen border] BEZEL. Nice contextual update.
  • Best clue? 77d [Layers of rocks?] MASONS.

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16 Responses to Saturday, March 21, 2020

  1. Gary R says:

    The NYT seemed pretty easy for a Saturday – solved in about half my typical Saturday time.

    (old fart rant) SO, I WAS LIKE made me cringe. I know that sometimes the details are critical, but it amazes me how often people want to “recap” a conversation by reciting, verbatim, the dialogue of the conversation. My mind wanders when I listen to a string of “he said,” “then I said,” “then he said,” … when the point is, “Business is slow and they’re cutting staff. I have the least seniority, so I’m being laid off, effective Friday.” When the dialogue is delivered in the form of “I was like” and “then he’s like,” it’s even worse. (/old fart rant)

  2. Paul Coulter says:

    LAT – Overall, I loved this puzzle. But as Derek says, “34D [Coffee, in diner slang] CUP OF MUD – I had CUP OF JOE in at first. That’s what they say in Indiana!”

    I had CUPOFJOE at first too. Through my college years, I worked nights in a Cambridge, MA diner. That’s how everyone always said it back then. And everywhere I’ve ever been since. The only place I’ve seen CUPOFMUD besides this grid was in a detective novel. Any cups of mud out there?

  3. Billy Boy says:

    NYT 1A is just dreadful – otherwise fairly clued puzzle save the crosses that made 1A even more random. It seems intentional that the NW is most resistant on these W/E puzzles.

    Maybe my best ever back-to-back Fri-Sat NYT solve ever, though.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      SO I WAS LIKE this is how you want to kick off your puzzle, eh? With a long answer that’s really hard to clue to. Crossing things like unindicated initials & an archaic alternative to “assay.” Um, OK.

      • Dwayne says:

        Oddly enough, that archaic version of assay was in last week’s Saturday Stumper. Gave me confidence when it popped up in today’s NY Times.

  4. jim says:

    I agree that is the only interpretation of the clue.You take the LEFT word of the 2 word answers move the RIGHT letter of that word to the CENTER of the word and you get a normal phrase which was wackified. As a precaution I did see if there is an anagram for all the moved letters (A R R A S A E ) and there is NONE..

    • Billy Boy says:

      I finished that WSJ this morning (Sun) and yes, it indeed fits that design description, but that was a really weird puzzle, I had to come see what was likely going on, thanks for the review. I had other holds-up with wackified clues, finishing was a relief.

  5. David L says:

    The Stumper was an odd mix of straightforward cluing (FORLORN, MAILTRUCK, EURASIA, SAINTHOOD…) along with some I didn’t understand even after I’d finished. To wit:

    SHILLS: Plants with legs. Huh?
    SOC: Major at LSU and UCLA. Also any other university?
    ATE: Downloaded apps. Apps meaning … appetizers?
    CAD: Bounder from Piccadilly, in more ways than one. What’s the second way?

    The clue for RIA seems off to me. It’s true that a ria forms when a river valley is submerged (as when the landmass sinks) but the ria itself is the resulting surface feature, i.e. an inlet.

  6. MattF says:

    I ended up solving the NYT bottom-up. It felt like a slog, but finished significantly faster than my average for a Saturday.

  7. Dwayne says:

    Oh man… Joy’s Noodles. I miss their Phuket noodles so much out here in SF. Now I feel the need to schedule a trip back to Chicago, but we’re in lockdown. Damn you, Amy! ?

  8. Martin says:

    Tomorrow’s Washington Post is available at Today’s Puzzles in Across Lite format, as usual, but Evan strongly suggests solving it with the pdf that he also made available. For this week only, the pdf is posted at:

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