Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Jonesin' 4:24 (Derek) 


LAT 4:13 (Derek) 


NYT 3:09 (Amy) 


Universal 3:46 (Jim Q) 


WSJ 5:12 (Nate) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 461), “Animal Planet Talk”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 461: “Animal Planet Talk”

Hello there, everyone. Again, I hope all is well with you and that you’re staying safe…and staying at home! 

With so many instances of solvers having to put in sounds made by animals as entries, I don’t think there have been too many times where animal sounds have been used in puns to reimagine common phrases. Well, you have it here today, with the animals making their voices heard with these theme entries!

  • IOWA CAWCUS (17A: [Electoral event that’s something to crow about?]) – Iowa Caucus.
  • CHARDONNEIGH (23A: [Wine favored by folks with horse sense?]) – Chardonnay
  • HISSTORIC MOMENT (36A: [Momentous scene in “Snakes on a Plane”?]) – Historic moment
  • PURRSNICKETY (46A: [Like an overly-picky cat?]) – Persnickety
  • GOOD KARMAA (57A: [Positive energy from a goat?]) – Good karma

Even if  I did not have a strong interest in sports, I definitely would have given a hat tip to the clue to UTAH, a nod to the NBA basketball team (14A: [State with a famed Jazz ensemble]). Actually, one of the seminal moments in really making a lot of citizens understand the seriousness of the coronavirus happened on March 11 when one of the players on the Jazz, Rudy Gobert (pronounced “go-BEAR”), downplayed the threat of the virus by touching all of the reporters’ audio recorders at the end of a media session before a game that eventually was called off just before tip-off because he tested positive for the virus. (Gobert later apologized for his recklessness and made a couple of donations as part of relief efforts against the virus.)

Not that much long fill in the grid outside of the theme entries, but there was still some nice fill despite that, with the neighbors CLOUT (49D: [Leverage]) and KIDDO being a couple of the main standouts (50D: [Generic name for a child]). Best entry to me, by far, is the nod to a wonderful poem, I, TOO (2D: [Langston Hughes poem about equality]). To all who have experienced discrimination, and to those of you who have and/or know people experiencing that now with the racist remarks in describing the coronavirus, please know that you, too, are America!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: IRVING (43A: [“The Cider Huse Rules” author John]) – One of the most skilled players in a league full of skilled players, current Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving may be best known for his Game 7 three-pointer with under a minute left in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals that sealed the the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first-ever NBA championship in its victory over the 73-win Golden State Warriors. Irving, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2011 and six-time NBA All-Star who has a popular line of shoes and other apparel, also made news in 2018 when he questioned — and later retracted on — whether the Earth was actually round. True story.   

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful — and safe — rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Evan Kalish’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up

I hope this post finds everyone doing well, staying safe/healthy, washing their hands, and staying inside and socially distanced as much as possible! I really enjoyed today’s WSJ and I think you will, too:

WSJ 3.31.20 Solution

WSJ 3.31.20 Solution

17A: SPORTS CLUB [Place that might have a ballroom?] – For sports balls, not dancing!
25A: RESTAURANT [Place that might have a server room?] – For waiters, not computer servers!
37A: LOTTERY STUDIO [Place that might have a drawing room?] – For drawing lotto balls, not drawing pictures!
46A: GREENHOUSE [Place that might have a bedroom?] – For flower beds, not people beds!
59A: LUMBER MILL [Place that might have a boardroom?] – For wooden boards, not governing boards!

“Get a Room” is right – each theme entry reimagines a common room in a new way, many to clever effect. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a LOTTERY STUDIO, but I guess the room where lotto balls are drawn has to be called something? Otherwise, a fun theme that has me trying to think of more possible theme entries.

Other random thoughts:
– Many puzzles I’ve reviewed recently have felt like they could have been from twenty years ago, but not this puzzle. I loved how fresh and fun it felt! You’ve got Questlove, ELLIE Goulding, The Notorius RBG, John CHO of “Star Trek Beyond,” the Brooklyn Nets, CLAIRE FOY from “The Crown,” TOBLERONE and FROYO (okay, not so new, but fun and delicious!), and [Viral sensation] MEME. It’s modern fill and cluing like that that makes a puzzle enjoyable. I can get a sense of the constructor’s personality!
– In addition to the great women listed above, we also have the iconic Betty BOOP and the APGAR test (named after anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar – it’s her name AND an acronym!).

Christina Iverson & Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 31 20, no. 0331

The theme revealer is CLAPBACK, clued 63a. [Respond quickly and sharply to criticism … or a hint to 17-, 28- and 46-Across]. I love love love that this is in the puzzle. If you hang out on Twitter much, particularly Black Twitter, you’ll encounter plenty of clapbacks (and the verb seems to have mostly jumped into being one word rather than a two-word phrase). The writer Roxane Gay (@rgay on Twitter) even includes it in her Twitter bio: “If you clap, I clap back.” (Two-word verb! She’s meticulous.) The “clap” is more of a verbal slap, and you’d best be careful who you clap because savagely witty and righteous people will concisely eviscerate you in their clapback. Anyway! The other three theme entries end with words (at their “back”) that can precede “clap”:

  • 17a. [Frisbee sport], DISC GOLF. The golf clap is restrained.
  • 28a. [Name of a celebrated 1970s concert tour with Bob Dylan], ROLLING THUNDER. Heard the first thunderclaps of the season a few days ago.
  • 46a. [“We shouldn’t rush this”], “LET’S TAKE IT SLOW.” The slow clap expresses awe … or sarcasm.

I really like the theme. Crisp entries, great revealer.

Lots of sparkling fill here, too: KITTEN HEEL, MENSCH, HATE MAIL, the BROWNIES.

Three more things:

  • 44a. [Algerian port], ORAN. Timely! I just downloaded Camus’s The Plague to my iPad, and that’s set in Oran. The Guardian reports that this small novel is leading the surge in pestilence fiction! Just how big a genre is that, anyway?
  • 36a. [French fashion magazine since 1945], ELLE. The Elle.com American site employs a funny writer named R. Eric Thomas. You can read him there, or you can subscribe to his emailed substack newsletter. I especially enjoyed his Sunday installment, about working from home in pandemic times. Laugh-out-loud funny, if you happen to share my sense of humor.
  • 68a. [Blue period?], SAD DAY. I don’t care for this as an entry. Maybe BAD DAY is okay, but SAD DAY doesn’t feel like a thing. The crossing AS I SAY also felt awkward to me.

Four stars from me.

Deeksha Gaur’s Universal crossword — “Variable Weather Conditions” — Jim Q’s review

Women’s month in the Universal is unfortunately coming to an end, but not before a fantastic debut from Deeksha Gaur. Congrats Deeksha! Can’t wait to see more from you.

THEME: Climate change (The word CLIMATE is scrambled in theme answers).

Universal crossword solution · Deeksha Gaur · “Variable Weather Conditions” · Tue., 03.31.20


  • 20A [Mountain, for Boulder] LOCAL TIME ZONE. 
  • 34A [Wealthy spouse providing income, perhaps] MEAL TICKET. 
  • 41A [Symbolic] EMBLEMATIC
  • 55A [Presidential debate topic, or a hint to the circled letters] CLIMATE CHANGE. 

To get a word as long as CLIMATE to be anagrammed into phrases that aren’t forced is quite impressive! EMBLEMATIC is not as splashy as MEAL TICKET and LOCAL TIME ZONE, but it works just fine (and the theme reminded me that it’s not spelled EMBLAMATIC!)

The longer downs are very nice too- BOTANICAL, PACEMAKER, DEBIT CARD, and CLAM BAKES. I’ve never been to a real CLAM BAKE. Those words only remind me of the month I played piano in a pit eight times a week for the musical Carousel (Side Note: Does anyone ever talk about how strange that musical is?)  

My only nit has nothing to do with the construction, but it’s the usual nit with Universal. Casual solvers (i.e. most solvers) are asked to count letters today because Universal can’t incorporate circles in its grids. However, in this case, the word CLIMATE sticks out so well due to the unique letter set and the length. I don’t think circles are all that necessary!

Thanks, Deeksha!

4 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Bowl Games” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 03/31/2020

The title of this puzzle, in the lens of the current pandemic, may be the only “Bowl Games” we see in 2020. There is talk of even the college football season being affected. Yes, it is only March (April tomorrow!), but they have already cancelled spring practices, and summer is right around the corner. We shall see.

In the meantime, in this puzzle we are talking about VERY different bowls! There are four theme entries:

  • 17A [Type of information listed on 62-Across] NUTRITIONAL
  • 32A [Moisturizer stick that Kellogg’s once actually sold, based on retro 62-Across] LIP BALM
  • 44A [“It stays ___, even in milk!” (claim for some contents of 62-Across)] CRUNCHY 
  • 62A [Containers at the breakfast table (represented by the circled letters)] CEREAL BOXES 

I didn’t think that these were symmetrical at first, but yes, Matt managed to tie 32A to breakfast cereal! And in the circled boxes, we have Trix, Life, Chex, and Cheerios in little mini “bowls”. A fun theme, and very well executed. 4.5 stars today.

Tons of candidates for the OPCRW*! Lots of those in the following highlight list:

  • 1A [Meat in a can] SPAM – I actually don’t hate this food! Grew up eating it, and, if it is prepared well in something, can actually be decent. But I haven’t had it in years.
  • 19A [Former “Great British Bake Off” cohost Giedroyc] MEL – This is a candidate …
  • 45A [Actor Colm of “Chicago” and “Thor”] FEORE – … as is this.
  • 55A [Burger topping] CHEESE – No doubt delivered to your door during this self-isolation period!
  • 5D [Winter Olympics squad] SKI TEAM – I hope this pandemic doesn’t affect the 2022 Winter Olympics!
  • 9D [“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” captain Raymond] HOLT – This is also obscure …
  • 14D [Dancer and YouTube star JoJo] SIWA – … as is this …
  • 47D [Singer-songwriter Conor] OBERST – … and so is this …
  • 54D [“Sticks and Bones” playwright David] RABE – … and finally this too! I don’t know any of these last few I mentioned!
  • 56D [Sketch show with Bob and Doug McKenzie] SCTV – Take off, hoser! This one I DO know!

We are steadily creeping towards 1,000. This is puzzle 982. Won’t be long now! I am going to have a bowl of cereal …


Kevin Christian & Bruce Haight’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 03/31/2020

Kevin and Bruce together today for a puzzle that references a popular nursery rhyme:

  • 16A [Sweetened, as something harsh to hear] SUGAR-COATED 
  • 24A [Variety, idiomatically, with “the”] SPICE OF LIFE 
  • 38A [Loaded bakery item] EVERYTHING BAGEL
  • 47A [“Don’t make any sudden moves”] NICE AND EASY”
  • 59A [What the starts of 16-, 24-, 38- and 47-Across make?] LITTLE GIRLS

I have no girls; only boys. So I cannot verify the truth of whether little girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice!” I am sure some parents of girls at times might argue otherwise! Well done, gentlemen! 4.2 stars this morning.

A few more things:

  • 56A [Bethesda research org.] NIH – Timely …
  • 68A [Brainy bunch] MENSA – I applied for the practice test here quite a while ago. I wonder if I still qualify from my ACT score from 1987 …
  • 3D [Worked closely with a partner on a task] TAG-TEAMED – This comes from wrestling, and that is the mental image I have here!
  • 28D [“No more for us”] “WE’RE SET” – Great casual phrase!
  • 35D [“Time for me to split”] “I GOTTA RUN” – See above!

Everyone have a safe week!

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16 Responses to Tuesday, March 31, 2020

  1. Anne says:

    NYT: I have never heard the term CLAPBACK, so after solving the puzzle I had to wait for the review to find out what it meant. Nice puzzle despite the mystifying (to me) theme.

    • Scott says:

      Same here!

      • Billy Boy says:

        We are cool kids today!
        meh, might have to do that LAT, not much puzzle.excite yet today

        Oh yeah, I always forget ROSS as a Friend, such a ___ (too many words, so little space). I always marginalized him. mybad


    • JohnH says:

      I was mystified, too, by CLAPBACK, all the more in that, of the three preceding theme connection phrases, I recognized only one, thunderclap. (I also had trouble parsing SLAP apart from slapstick.) Just sort of a weird puzzle.

      I was more tempted with that crossing to try “claw back” and “slaw,” which I obviously exist, but they clearly weren’t relevant.

  2. Chip says:

    NYT: Vivid memory of Oran in the late 70’s strolling back to the hotel at the end of the work day. The streets were thronged with thousands of fellow pedestrians. No vehicles. It was dusk and growing dark, and a seeming absence of street lighting emphasized the glow of candles set on tables, and the faces around the tables, in the jam-packed cafes I found myself passing. An hour later walking to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner, the sidewalks and the cafes were empty. Everyone was home.

    • JohnH says:

      Maybe relevant this week, too. Isn’t that the city in which Camus set “The Plague” (“La Peste”)? I reread it a year ago by coincidence, first reading since high school French. I didn’t even linger over the often noticed parallel to the Nazi occupation. I just felt the stoicism or existentialism of the moral for the central chracter that one may not make much of a difference in doing the right thing, but you just do it anyway.

      • Chip says:

        Yes. Camus’s Oran. I was working on a litigation against an American company that defaulted on construction of a liquefied natural gas facility at Arzew . a beach town east of Oran. My client, the Algerian national oil company, hired another US company to complete the plant . at an all-in cost approaching $1.5 billion. The contractors kept unearthing . and largely discarding . remnants of a Roman port. Arzew was also a landing sites for US forces in 1942.

  3. Lester says:

    WSJ: I wondered about “Lottery Studio.” I googled the phrase and got more than 18,000 hits. Apparently the Florida lottery uses the term routinely.

    • JohnH says:

      I’m seeing 34.4 thousand hits for “lottery studio,” but that’s misleading. The search results, after all, are merely pages in which those two words appear. The first is a quote: “’The previous studio, completed in 2001, was built solely to conduct Lottery drawings,’ said New York Lottery Director Gweneth Dean,” and the others are about a lottery to obtain a studio apartment in New York ( a ton of these hits) or, in one case, an SNL ticket (at, of course, the NBC TV studio).

      • PJ says:

        I imagine Lester searched for “lottery studio” (quotes included) which requires the exact term. When I did that I got 19,100 hits and noticed the Florida bent as well.

  4. CLAY U DAVIS says:

    Would someone mind doing the USA Today puzzle for today…Three Per Eleven.

    I see the answers all have eleven letters but cannot figure out the Three part. Thank you.

  5. Gene says:

    It’s a sad day when SADDAY isn’t recognized as a thing ?

  6. Ron Seckinger says:

    NYT: Regarding the question about plague literature, Jill Lepore discusses the same in “Loneliness Studied” in the April 8 issue of The New Yorker.

Comments are closed.