Friday, April 3, 2020

LAT 3:49 (Jenni) 


NYT 5:20 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 7:38 (Rachel) 


Universal 4:49 (Jim P) 


Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NYT • 4/3/20 • Fri • Deeney • solution • 0403 • 20200403

Oops, thought tonight’s puzzle was the Thursday and that I had the night off. Anyone else losing track of which day of the week it is? Everyone in the household staying home seven days a week?

For some reason, this themed puzzle was slotted for a Friday. At 72 words, it’s the max allowed for a themeless puzzle, but we’ve seen 72-worders on theme days, no? The theme is cute:

  • 19a. [*Family name in Shakespeare]. MONTAGUE.
  • 21a. [*Pill form], CAPLET. I filled in TABLET first, noted the asterisk and MONTAGUE, and changed it to CAPLET.
  • 34a. [First Billboard #1 hit for U2 … and a hint to the answers to the four starred clues], WITH OR WITHOUT YOU. Romeo and Juliet’s surnames with or without the letter “u.”
  • 42a. [*Family name in Shakespeare], CAPULET.
  • 47a. [*Film technique sometimes used to show the passage of time], MONTAGE.

I’d never noticed that, nor come across it as a “hey, check this out” bit of wordplay trivia. I like this theme.

I don’t much like what happens to the fill when you reach for a 72-word grid with non-thematic 8s, 9s, and 11s. The writing was on the wall when I hit PLEB atop ALAI early on, and some other fill felt clunky: LETS DRY, GINGERED, SOLI, ERSE, ENE, ROPEWORK, TASTES OF, TRACES TO.

On the plus side, I have a soft spot for the 1979 hit “MY SHARONA” … except now when Googling to fetch a video for this post, I saw the lyrics (I am terrible at discerning song lyrics) and it’s a hard nope. Gross, inappropriate, creepy, reminiscent of tonight’s Law & Order: SVU episode. Eww.

Let’s restart. On the plus side, PIECE OF CAKE was a snap, and I dig the clue for CORNERSTONE, 15a. [Place to look for a date] (a date carved in stone, not a social companion).

Three more things:

  • 24a. [One might be measured by the pound], MUTT. Good clue. We would also have accepted [Alexis’s love interest before Ted, on “Schitt’s Creek”].
  • 18a. [Some phone notifications during March Madness], UPSET ALERTS. (a) I never heard of this. (b) What’s March Madness?
  • 30d. [Lin ___, author of the best seller “The Importance of Living”], YUTANG. Apparently Lin Yutang was also a translator and an inventor.

Here’s U2 to play us out with the theme revealer.

3.25 stars from me. I wish the theme had been configured to work with a higher word-count grid allowing for smoother fill. The theme is nifty but the grid here didn’t give it adequate support.

David Van Houten’s LA Times crossword – Jenni’s write-up

At least I expect a theme for the LAT Friday puzzle, as opposed to today’s NYT. Yes, I have an opinion about that.

Back to this puzzle! David takes standard phrases and clues them as if they referred to movies. I enjoyed it although many of the movies were new to me.

Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2020, David Van Houten, solution grid

  • 20a [Never heard of a 1996 Robin Williams movie?] is DONT KNOW JACK. This is one of the ones I didn’t know. It has 5.8 stars on IMDB and also features Bill Cosby, so I won’t be watching it.
  • 37a [“You grabbed the wrong Stephen King movie”?] is THATNOT IT. This is my favorite because 1) I’ve heard of the movie and 2) I love this song. Yeah, I know, it’s not precisely the same thing. My brain is weird.
  • 43a [Essay about a 2015 Christina Applegate movie?] is ON VACATION. The only Christina Applegate movie I’ve seen is “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead,” which I remember enjoying more than I expected. I suppose the full title of the Chevy Chase movie is “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
  • 58a [Start a 2001 Keanu Reeves movie?] is PLAY HARDBALL. Also new to me. Oddly enough, Diane Lane has second billing in this one and in “Jack” and neither of them were “Diane Lane movies.” I have an opinion about that, too.

The movie titles were easily inferable because all the phrases are solidly in the language. The clues are amusing and overall I enjoyed the theme.

A few other things:

  • Raise your hand if you dropped in SHOO instead of SCAT for 1a.
  • Our next-door neighbor is home from his third year at the USNA. He’s a year older than Emma and there is a fence. I wonder if quarantine and boredom will lead to a Pyramis-and-Thisbe thing.
  • Does NUBILE apply to both men and women? I think of it as specific to women, which I realized because I first thought the answer was VIRILE and that got me thinking.
  • After solving the NYT, I was amused to see [When Juliet says, “Go ask his name”] at 60d. It’s ACT I, of course.
  • We have [Words on a spine] for TITLE, which made me think 70a [Backbone or spine] referred to something anatomical. It’s GRIT. Nice misdirection.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: in addition to all the movies, I didn’t know that Shannon was in County CLARE. Regular readers will know geography is not my thing. So will anyone who has ever played me in Learned League.

Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword  – Rachel’s write-up

What a fun puzzle! I’m grateful to the New Yorker for keeping me on track with the days of the week right now, as everywhere else in the world time and days have lost all meaning (looking at you, semi-themed NYT Friday…). This puzzle honored the New Yorker pattern of easier Fridays (relative to Mondays), and I felt like I ripped through it, with just a couple of sticky spots that slowed me down.

The New Yorker crossword solution • Aimee Lucido • Friday, April 3, 2020

I loved (most of) the long entries in this puzzle. INCUBATOR (which I 100% spelled with a K instead of a C at first because I spend a lot more timing thinking about the Inkubator than I do INCUBATORs) and YOU’RE GOOD (a lovely colloquialism) in the NW were probably my favorite pair, but I also liked BOURGEOISIE and A DEAL’S A DEAL down the East. ITINERARY and DEBT LIMIT aren’t quite as crunchy, although the clue on DEBT LIMIT was great [Red ceiling?]. In the West, the joy that is OPPOSITE DAY and its clue [Children’s observance that only happens when it doesn’t] were definitely not matched by the yuck of PREDICATIVE, but on balance I’d say that tradeoff was definitely worth it. Similarly, with SIDE TO SIDE and ORDER FORMS (in parallel positions), one is super fun and the other is meh.

Other stuff I loved: STAGE MOM [One mouthing words behind a curtain, perhaps], FUR CHILD (although I think this is more commonly seen as FUR BABY?), the inclusion of the full song title of perpetual crosswordese Anka song ESO BESO, the clue on GLUES [Goes “Krazy”?] and FAWKES [Guy with a mask?].

A few nits:

  • The grammatical construction of UPRISES feels weird, but it’s probably technically accurate.
  • Having PETE and DAVID in such close proximity when one of the clue PETEs is PETE DAVIDson was a little dupey
  • Fill I could live without: ESSE, ACU, AWS, SDI

Overall, I really enjoyed this puzzle. And it brought me to the music video for SIDE TO SIDE which is VERY fun. Many stars from me!

Beverly Seinberg’s Universal crossword, “Ms. Jones”—Jim P’s review

Another debut today! Congratulations, Beverly!

I finished the puzzle without realizing what the theme was. It was then that I glanced at the title and all fell into place. Each theme entry is a phrase whose first word is also the first name of a well-known “Ms. Jones.”

Universal crossword solution · “Ms. Jones” · Beverly Seinberg · Fri., 4.3.20

  • 17a [Michelin measure of quality] STAR RATING. Star Jones was one of the original hosts on The View.
  • 26a [When the Rose Parade airs] JANUARY FIRST. I wouldn’t have been able to ID her, but I recognize the name. January Jones played Betty Draper, spouse to Don Draper, on Mad Men.
  • 43a [Due-date extensions] GRACE PERIOD. Grace Jones, Jamaican model and singer…is aged 71 now!
  • 58a [Washington chopped one down, in a myth] CHERRY TREE. The name Cherry Jones seemed vaguely familiar to me. But it wasn’t because she’s a five-time TONY nominee or a two-time Best Actress in a Play winner. It was because she played the U.S. President on a season of 24, for which she won an Emmy.

Grace Jones

What I like best about this theme is that the first names are all common words, but not common names. This made for a nicely opaque theme until the title provided that satisfying aha moment. Well done!

The fill is not so shiny with only “SO TO SPEAK” providing sparkle, but there are plenty of strong 6s: EUREKA, TUNE IN, BRAWNY, and ADRIAN.

Clues of note:

  • 36a. [Boo-Boo Bear’s buddy]. YOGI. I just read that the voice of Cindy Bear (YOGI‘s erstwhile girlfriend), voice actress Julie Bennett, died of complications due to coronavirus. She was 88.
  • 47a. [Partner of gown or trade]. CAP. Ugh. This clue makes me sad because my daughter’s college graduation has been cancelled.
  • 45d. [It has the same consonants as “purest”]. PRIEST. Is this trying to draw some sort of connection between those two words, because I’m skeptical one exists.

I quite enjoyed this theme once I realized what was going on. 3.6 stars.

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41 Responses to Friday, April 3, 2020

  1. Martin says:


    Sharona Alperin wasn’t that young when Fieger fell for her. She was 17 and he was 25. Or are you responding to something else in the lyrics?

    Although they had long since broken up, she was with him when he died of cancer. He was 57 and she was 49, which doesn’t sound icky at all. Except for the part where he died.

    • davey says:

      when is the last time the word ‘Erse’ has been used outside a crossword?

    • Jenni Levy says:

      There’s a big difference between 17/25 and 57/49. 57/49 could well be at the same stage of life with comparable experiences. Not gonna happen with 17/25. There will be a power differential and a HUGE potential for abuse. I would have been really unhappy if my kid had dated a 25-year-old when she was 17. I wouldn’t be thrilled about it now, and she’s 20. For more, I refer you to this

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      AYFKM? Even if you posit (which I do not) that most listeners knew the song was about his girlfriend and you posit that 17 isn’t that young (I’m with Jenni on this one), how how how do you look at these lyrics and not see them as repellent? I’m omitting the chorus and end.

      Come a little closer, huh, ah, will ya, huh?
      Close enough to look in my eyes, Sharona
      Keeping it a mystery gets to me
      Running down the length of my thighs, Sharona

      Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind
      I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind

      When you gonna give to me, give to me?
      Is it just a matter of time, Sharona?

      • Stephen B. Manion says:

        Nicki Minaj sings far more explicit lyrics in Side to Side. I know she is older and most if not all the cyclists appear to be at least in their late teens.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          WTF is this? “Don’t blame that dude for being a creep. Look over there! There’s a woman being a creep.” You’re defending the “My Sharona” lyrics? “I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind”? What did that teach the kids and teens who sang along with it?

          • Stephen B. Manion says:

            I really doubt that anyone who sang along with My Sharona was aware of the lyrics. I did not say I approved. I did say that the lyrics in Side by Side were more sexually explicit and it is universally known to be explicitly sexual which is probably why it has close to 2 billion views

            • Jenni Levy says:

              Amy’s not objecting to it being sexually explicit. Minaj is not singing/rapping about seducing children.

            • Stephen B. Manion says:

              Thank you for woman-splaining, I will try to make sure that my daughter who will turn 18 in two weeks knows that she should not go out with 25-year-old men.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              Sexually explicit lyrics that don’t involve children are fine. (When I was 13, I gave no real thought to what “Do That to Me One More Time” was about, but hey! It was popular and all the kids knew it. It just went over our heads.) Jenni knows me well. It was the grotesque “the touch of the younger kind” that screamed “pedophilia” at me. The lyrics don’t say “my girlfriend who’s almost 18.” It’s left open to interpretation. Maybe he means 11-year-olds—it doesn’t say.

              Stray Cats’ “Sexy and Seventeen” is also problematic. Possibly a majority of pop songs from the ’70s and ’80s (my childhood and adolescence) are problematic. One exception: “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee. No objectification, no sexism, no sense of possession, none of those things that populate so many other songs.

      • Martin says:

        All interesting takes. Jenni, your link is not working. I’ll try it again later.

        In this case, both parties had a boyfriend/girlfriend that they dumped for each other. I suppose my knowledge of the situation behind the lyrics affects my reaction. Sexually-active high school kids have been the reality for a long time and, while I don’t know the age of the guy Sharona dumped for Fieger, the situation didn’t seem that unsual, much less criminal. Under California law, even a 17-year old boyfriend would be guilty of statutory rape but my guess is that there are a lot of such cases that are not prosecuted.

        I agree the lyrics are kind of nasty, but they’re nasty even if you separate the 17-year old aspect from them. I’m not sure that the sexual explicitness of the lyrics aren’t part of what Amy is reacting to, Jenni’s assertion notwithstanding.

        Incidentally, although she was 17 when they met, she was over 18 when they started dating so you can say that Fieger saved her from her previous boyfriend, who in fact broke the law.

        I too loved the song. Probably not any more.

    • PhilR says:

      That would be illegal in 11 states. A 25yo male is a grown-assed man, a 17yo girl is still a child. Or does well developed breasts negate all that?

      • Jenni Levy says:

        Of course it does. Once girls grow breasts, they are fair game and it’s all their fault if men act on their undeniable urges. (to be clear, this is garbage)

  2. Robert White says:

    No NYT answer grid?

  3. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Fun, but too easy for a Friday.

    March Madness is the NCAA basketball tournament, which normally would be nearing the final four. Upset alerts pop up on my computer and my phone and the pundits on ESPN frequently forecast their projected upset alerts.


    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      AYKM? You’ve (e-)known me for about 15 years and you think I’m obtuse enough to actually not know what March Madness is? “What’s March Madness?” is a reflection of these nutty pandemic times, when March Madness was canceled and the “before times” can seem so far away and alien.

      • Stephen B. Manion says:

        Amy, for many years on the old NYT Forum, I pointed out all of the sports-related errors particularly as they related to what I believe was a conscious and deliberate tone deafness when it came to sports vernacular. I have never thought you were lacking in sports knowledge. You are a trivia expert and your husband is a marathon runner. I rarely comment on sports matters anymore, particularly sports idiom, because it has improved and many don’t care. Still, it never surprises me when someone does not know LeBron’s last name or that the public was ignorant enough to vote for Shaq over Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the second round of ESPN’s recent greatest college basketball player 64-player bracket, which was created as a fun substitute for March Madness. I wonder how many of your readers really do not know what March Madness refers to.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: “For some reason, this themed puzzle was slotted for a Friday. At 72 words, it’s the max allowed for a themeless puzzle, but we’ve seen 72-worders on theme days, no?”

    It’s 16 × 15, which certainly is a factor for word count.

  5. davey says:

    when is the last time the word ‘Erse’ has been used outside a crossword?

  6. pannonica says:

    New Yorker: 32d [Org. for some agents] CAA. Which organization is this?

    Or is it supposed to be CIA, which of course doesn’t work with the crossing?

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Creative Artists Agency. “Agent” as in “Entourage,” not “Argo.”

    • JohnH says:

      I wondered about that, too. As so often, TNY has just a ton of stuff I don’t recognize. Oh, well. But also, when are brownies SPECIAL? I don’t understand. Thanks.

    • Rachel Fabi says:

      I didn’t even SEE this one, or it would have ended up in the Fill I could live without list!

  7. Pamela Kelly says:

    Hi! Special brownies have marijuana in them, otherwise known as Magic Brownies. 45 across is a spectacular clue and answer! Loved it!!

  8. F Grant says:

    Sad that real trooper is gaining currency when the original (and IMHO better) version is real trouper with reference to theatre and the show must go on.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Shoot! It was so late when I was blogging the puzzle, I completely forgot to bemoan REAL TROOPER. It bugged me to see it in the grid.

  9. RM Camp says:

    I was never really into My Sharona, it didn’t really jibe with me. I’m more of a Costello fan. But anyway, the lyrics never occurred to me until I heard a slowed-down version of the Alvin and the Chipmunks cover. It’s eerie and cool, but it really did drive home the creep-ass lyrics.

    What I’m saying is, listen to slowed-down Alvin and the Chipmunks songs on SoundCloud:

  10. Ethan says:

    Well, ya just never know what a XwordFiend comment thread is going to turn into, do you? Gee whiz.

  11. maxine nerdström says:

    NYT: BONER is so dated that I thought, “that can’t be it. That can’t possibly be it. How does BONER pass the breakfast test?!” Combine that with it crossing another word not in my vernacular (GINGERED) and it really threw me for a loop. I’m in my mid 30s. Not that young. I vote no more BONERs in the puzzle unless clued for in a way that lines up with spoken vocabulary of the past 40+ years. Who’s going to write that puberty-themed puzzle, people?

    Sorry to see the kind of comments-fight that appeared above on a blog I love, but Amy and Jenni’s comments made me love it more. Thanks for doing what you do. I really need these entertainment pursuits right now.

  12. Bryan says:

    NYT: I came here and rated the NYT five stars because I thought the Montague/Capulet (with or without “u”) was very clever. Then I scrolled down and read the comments and realized that, crap, “My Sharona” (which I grew up listening to, but never paying close attention to) is actually a repugnant song. And then I thought: Wait, is no one going to comment on the fact that this puzzle has BONER as an answer (clued with a meaning that I’ve never been aware of)? And then Maxine did note that. So anyway, well… After all that, I just urge people to listen to Weird Al Yankovic’s wonderful parody of “My Sharona” called “My Bologna.” Weird Al took what I now realize is a bad song and at least made it funny!

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