Sunday, April 19, 2020

LAT 9:39 (Jenni) 


NYT 8:21 (Amy) 


WaPo 11:38 (Jim Q) 


Universal 3:36 (Jim Q) 


Universal (Sunday) 11:16 (Jim P) 


Jack Mowat & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “Of Course!”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 4 19 20, “Of Course!”

Golf is not my favorite topic, so a theme of golf-related plays on words isn’t really up my alley. We’ve got various phrases and words redefined in a golf context. And a duffer, apparently, is someone without a lot of golf skills. If you’d quizzed me, I’d have thought it was a term for any golfer, not specifically a bad one.

  • 23a. [Duffer’s approach shots that barely go anywhere?], MICROCHIPS.
  • 33a. [Duffer’s putt that just misses?] A STROKE OF BAD LUCK.
  • 46a. [Nickname for a duffer who can’t hit straight?], CAPTAIN HOOK.
  • 66a. [Result of spectators heckling a duffer?], DISTRACTED DRIVING. One of the silliest things in the world, the expectation that golfers can’t be expected to perform amid noise, whereas every other athlete can and does.
  • 88a. [Duffer’s problems with an angled club?], WEDGE ISSUES. The straight definition is roughly “any issue that is fraught with the potential to drive a wedge between those who don’t see eye to eye.” As an example, the thickness of one’s mechanical pencil lead is a WEDGE ISSUE among many crossworders.
  • 100a. [Duffer’s reasons to choose a wood?], IRON DEFICIENCIES. Feels a little weird in the plural, but probably legit. What say you, physician-solvers?
  • 115a. [Like the duffer in this puzzle?], NOT UP TO PAR.

The theme’s consistency is good—the “all NOT UP TO PAR” angle. I just don’t get into golf, and golf terms like CHIP and WEDGE aren’t things that resonate. Unless! Unless you are talking about potato chips and potato wedges.

Toughest crossing: 71a. [Rope holding down a bowsprit], BOBSTAY (say what??) and 43d. [Piece of training equipment in boxing], SPEED BAG. I neither box nor sail. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Our dinner has arrived early, so gotta go. Some nice fill here. 3.75 stars, I guess?


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Sounds About Right” – Jim Q’s writeup

A classic theme and a classic title today.

THEME: Homophones!

Washington Post, April 19, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Sounds About Right” solution grid


  • 23A [Monastery full of bucks?] DEER ABBEY. Dear Abby. I always screw up the spelling of ABBEY/ABBY. My cat’s name is Abby and I often switch between the two spellings. I think it gets her mad.
  • 25A [Posted sign warning people that garbage is prohibited in this area?] WASTE BANNED. Waistband. 
  • 39A [Ones receiving divine revelations from eating Indian bread?] NAAN PROPHETS. Non-profits. My favorite of the set.
  • 48A [Sea voyage taken by a royal successor?] HEIR CRUISE. Air crews.
  • 68A [Nickname for Attorney General William that he earned for complaining?] WHINE BARR. Wine bar. 
  • 87A [Boyfriends who rule?] REIGN BEAUS. Rainbows.
  • 93A [Fraudulent survey that collects sensitive information via email?] PHISHING POLL. Fishing pole. 
  • 112A [Jets on a fireplace frame?] GRATE PLANES. Great Plains.
  • 115A [Tranquility among jack rabbits?] HARE PEACE. Hairpiece. 

A gentle, accessible puzzle, perfectly placed amongst some of the curveballs of the past weeks. I always enjoy when Evan embraces the absurdity of the clue/answer pairs rather than trying to find ones that sound a bit more plausible (See NAAN PROPHETS, WHINE BARR and REIGN BEAUS!). I had to stop at HEIR CRUISE and say it aloud a few times before I cam up with Air crews as its homophonic partner. I think the plural of Crews threw me off, but that’s the one I least enjoyed uncovering.

Nicely filled with any names that might not be in the solver’s wheelhouse fairly crossed, though I must admit I screwed up LAZARUS, DUSTIN, and KATANA by filling in LAZARES, DESMIN, and KAMANA. All three of those looked fine to me! Hehe. I keep forgetting I’m supposed to watch Stranger Things. 

I needed every crossing for EVENEST… I couldn’t see that one at all. But… does anyone say that?

Overall, a fine, playful puzzle for a fun Sunday solve.



Debbie Ellerin’s Universal crossword — “Head Fake”

THEME: Phrases where “FALSE” can precede the first word.

Universal crossword solution · “Head Fake” · Debbie Ellerin · Sat., 4.19.20


  • 17A [*Snooze button’s location] ALARM CLOCK. False alarm. 
  • 23A [*Game with no tackling] FLAG FOOTBALL. False flag. 
  • 40A [*OSHA is in it] LABOR DEPARTMENT. False labor. 
  • 51A [*Despicable opportunist] BOTTOM FEEDER. False bottom. 
  • 64A [Sprinter’s infraction, and a hint to the starred answers’ first words] FALSE START.

A fine Universal today, very cleanly filled with a very accessible theme. “False flag” and “False labor” were somewhat new to me, but as I was googling each I realized what they were. Those terms were both sitting on the edge of my everyday vocabulary, waving from a distance, asking to be noticed. That is not saying anything negative about their use in the puzzle – they’re both perfectly fine – just that I couldn’t immediately snag them.

MOONBEAMS and DO NOT OPEN make for nice longer downs. You can even make a sentence out of it as if you are talking to multiple children with the same name in the Hippie Era: “Moonbeams, do not open!”

Thanks for this one!

3.6 stars.

David Alfred Bywater’s LA Times crossword, “What’s Missing?” – Jenni’s write-up

As the title suggests, something is missing from half the theme answers. We can answer the question by looking at the other theme answers.

Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2020, David Alfred Bywaters, “What’s Missing?” solution grid

  • 23a [Feeling caused by reading too many self-referential articles?] is META FATIGUE. That’s metal fatigue without the L. Then we have 25a [Where movie actors rehearse Southern accents?], which is DRAWL LOTS. The missing L shows up in the middle of draw lots, and there’s a helpful circle to make sure we notice. More on the circles later.
  • 50a [Overhead support for a small army?] is ANT AIRCRAFT (anti-aircraft), paired with 54a [Urban pedestrian’s maneuver?], TAXI DODGE (tax dodge). My husband made up a rap called “The Covid Swerve.” If he succeeds in coaxing our daughter to post it on TikTok, I’ll share the link.
  • 88a [Insult humor in a cornfield?] is CROW ROAST (crown roast), matched with 91a [Trust that a supervised job will lead to full-time work?], INTERN FAITH (interfaith).
  • 118a [Legume farmer’s concern?] is PEAK DEMAND, parterned with 121a [Sailing one small ship after another?], BARK HOPPING (bar hopping). I think BARK HOPPING would be going from one small ship to another, but that’s not important now.

I like this theme, which is a fun variation on the drop a letter/add a letter idea. I do not like the circles. I’m not a huge fan of circles in my puzzles anyway, and here they rob us of any real “aha” moment. I know Sunday puzzles have to be accessible to casual solvers, and maybe I’m just living in my own little crossword bubble, but I think this theme would have been solvable by normal people without the circles. I also do not like “Indefatigable” showing up in a clue when METAL FATIGUE is a theme answer. This would have bothered me anywhere in the grid, but it’s especially egregious when they’re nearly right next to each other.

A few other things (note to self: do not go for a two-mile walk between solving and blogging, or you will forget what you were going to write):

  • I know the plural of APEX as APICES, not APEXES, and Google Ngram agrees with me.
  • I know T, S, and E are useful letters. If you’re going to use the insect, use the whole insect. If you’re going to use TSE by itself, reference Eliot, please, not [When doubled, a dangerous fly].
  • I promised myself I wouldn’t complain about the Roman numeral math. Oops.
  • Does anyone refer to infielders as BASEMEN without saying “third baseman?” I think not.
  • Name that could have been clued as a woman and wasn’t: DEE. It’s not even the letter; it’s the “Twisted Sister” frontman. So it’s a primarily female name clued by referring to a man.

Wow. I guess I really didn’t like this puzzle very much, even though I mostly enjoyed the theme.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Thomas ARNE wrote “A-Hunting We Will Go.” Since it was written in 1777, I don’t feel too badly about that. I also did not know that Meryl STREEP has 21 Oscar nominations, or that this is a record number.

Christopher Adams & Steve Faiella’s Universal crossword, “Dessert Dilemma”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Before-and-after entries featuring two-word desserts all clued with the angle of trying to decide which dessert to purchase.. I’m hungry.

Universal crossword solution · “Dessert Dilemma” · Christopher Adams & Steve Faiella · Sun., 4.19.20

  • 27a [Choice about buying a fruity dessert with ice cream?] BANANA SPLIT DECISION. Good one.
  • 38a [Bargains that may influence you to buy a tart dessert?] LEMON SQUARE DEALS. Would be better in the singular but good otherwise.
  • 60a [Internal conflict about buying a dessert with a graham cracker crust?] S’MORES BAR FIGHT. Hmm. Not sure about this one. The “s’more” is a dessert in and of itself. A “s’mores bar” is a lesser-known variation…AFAIK. That made this one tough to parse, especially when it starts “S’MORES BARF…”
  • 72a [Sample that may entice you to buy a custardy dessert?] CREAM PUFF PIECES. Again, an unfortunate plural, but not bad at all.
  • 95a [Judgment about buying a swirly breakfast dessert?] CINNAMON ROLL CALL. I think a funnier clue would’ve been something like [Temptation from a swirly breakfast dessert?], but a good entry.
  • 103a [Ice cream and meringue dessert that you finally bought?] BAKED ALASKA PURCHASE. I can never remember what Baked Alaska is. I tend to think it’s something with crab in it, but clearly that’s not right. And is “Alaska Purchase” a phrase that springs immediately to mind when talking American land deals? Not on the level of “Louisiana Purchase,” I’d say.

Despite my nits, these are fun entries. I like the consistency of focusing on a dessert purchase. Before-and-after themes often make for good opportunities for humor, and there is some here, though maybe not the lol kind.

Loads of bright and shiny long fill in this grid with DIANE KEATON, LOBSTER BIB, RELAXERS (clued with respect to hair, not generic idling persons), NORDIQUE, “IS IT ME?”, “I DON’T BITE“, EGOMANIA, FAMILY UNIT, HAT TIP, AIKIDO, the LAKERS, and KALAHARI. If you’ve ever been to New Orleans and/or Mardi Gras, you know LAGNIAPPE [Small gift for a customer] which generally equates to “free stuff.”

Did not know MIGOS [“Bad and Boujee” trio], nor ERIS [Apple of Discord thrower], nor KLOSS [“Project Runway” host Karlie], nor PEREC [Author of a novel with no E’s (although this answer has two)]. Pretty sure I’ve heard of this last book, but it sounds like it would be torturous to read. Anyone with any first-hand knowledge of it?

Clues of note:

  • 49a. [Small metal fastener]. BRAD. We also would have accepted [“Pulp Fiction” quote: “Check out the big brain on ___!”].
  • 64a. [“Prolly not”]. NAH. Good, slangy hint in the clue.

Nice puzzle. 3.8 stars.

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23 Responses to Sunday, April 19, 2020

  1. JohnH says:

    I don’t play gold myself, but the NYT theme worked ok for a non-golfer. Not LOL, but ok. I worked from the bottom, and at first it seemed way too easy, but the top fell particularly slowly, what with a cluster of IRL SMURFETTE, and the Maleska-style PAPEETE. Overall, good enough.

    FWIW, from RHUD Amy may have it backward. Rather than generally a golfer but not necessarily inept, it appears to be generally plodding and, by extension, not just for golfers. The etymology is from Scottish for stupid person.

    • Stephen B. Manion says:


      See my comment below about DUFFER. To reconcile our two comments, I would say that a duffer is simply a bad golfer. However, it does not have the pejorative ad hominem elements of HACKER. Duffers and hackers are both inept, but hacker often adds elements of not only hitting bad shots, but of ignoring golf etiquette, such as playing out of turn, standing in someone’s line, cheating and general ignorance on top of ineptitude. A duffer can be a likeable plodder, but the term itself connotes someone who is a bad player.


      • JohnH says:

        That’s helpful, thanks. Not knowing golf, I’d have said a duffer is somewhere between new/naive and not very good, and I didn’t know that “hacker” is a term in golf. Of course, it’s awfully pejorative elsewhere, so I could see this!

  2. Sheik Yerbouti says:

    I quit on the NYT after about the first third. Really did not enjoy it at all.

  3. Crotchety Doug says:

    LAT – Really enjoyed making my way through David Alfred Bywaters’ puzzle. Just the right mix of entries and entertaining clues, with just enough information to just barely keep things connected as I progressed from the NW to the SE. 4.5 stars

    Also, just a reminder – DAB has a website full of fairly easy but entertaining xwords mixed in with beautifully illustrated Victorian novels.

  4. armagh says:

    RE: NYT
    Is there any chance Jeff Chen could construct or co-construct a puzzle without including every bit of three-letter crossword crap on the planet. God this was awful.

    • Gary R says:

      Glad to hear your life is going so well.

      Aunt on a ventilator, father-in-law ill but not critical. Daughter-in-law out of work. Haven’t had physical contact with our son or any of our grandkids in a month.

      Wife and I are retired, and should be fine for several months, but then…

      But Gawd, that awful three-letter crossword crap!! Ruined my whole weekend. Maybe we should take Jeff out back and beat him (gently) with a stick.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Gary, I’m sending good thoughts to your family in these horrendous times, especially your aunt.

        The pandemic stresses and frustrations make some people short-tempered, reduce their threshold for coping with things. It’s possible that @armagh here would normally be less intemperate, was just really hoping the crossword would be a delightful distraction and was frustrated when it wasn’t to their liking.

        • Gary R says:

          Amy and JohnH,

          Thanks for your kind words/thoughts – and apologies to @armagh for my own crankiness. I guess a lot of us are a bit on edge these days.

          Good news for me – my aunt will come off the ventilator later today. Doc says it will be a slow recovery, but the prognosis is good.

      • JohnH says:

        My best to you and family. Gotta be tough.

  5. Karen Ralston says:

    NYT: Amy, in the few tennis tournaments I have watched, the stadium must be in absolute silence before each serve, and usually stays quiet until the volley is over. Maybe it’s only team sports that are loud?

  6. Stephen B. Manion says:

    A duffer in golf is a lousy golfer period. Sometimes, a very good golfer can play like a duffer in his own mind. Say, a scratch golfer shoots 79. Breaking 80 is the holy grail for average golfers but is unattainable for a duffer. In my mind, a duffer is a golfer who can’t break 100.

    There are many sports, most of which are game sports rather than reaction sports, that are accompanied by silence while the player is making his shot or stroke: bowling, archery, curling, golf, pool, and darts to name a few. Other sports, like gymnastics and figure skating are usually if not always accompanied by silence during the performance and others like tennis and all other racquet sports, track and field, and just about all sports for that matter are accompanied by silence before play is initiated.


  7. Billy Boy says:

    A DUFFER is to me, a golfer, not particularly skilled but who loves the game nonetheless. It can be used as a self-deprecating term just as HACKER can be. Hacker is indeed more harsh, but more because no matter how hard they try, they just suck. A duffer takes it more lightly.

    I’m 55+ years as a skilled golfer (Whole life a single digit, lowest was 1 hcp), this puzzle was for a golfer who deals with non-golfers going after their sport – not too bad. There were some reasonably cute puns. I was way better than the gifts non-golfers get golfers for X-mas. MICROCHIPS was the best entry for me.

    Not a fan of the large format, I finished it –
    A) to keep my NYT streak going
    B) because I wanted to see what was on offer.

    WEDGE ISSUES was the biggest stretch as real-life -ism used as a golf pun for me.

    Cheers, all

  8. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Gary, I’m sending good thoughts to your family in these horrendous times, especially your aunt.

    The pandemic stresses and frustrations make some people short-tempered, reduce their threshold for coping with things. It’s possible that @armagh here would normally be less intemperate, was just really hoping the crossword would be a delightful distraction and was frustrated when it wasn’t to their liking.

  9. Norm says:

    LAT: Agree that it would have been more fun without the circles. I also found myself annoyed [I’m undoubtedly on a shorter fuse than usual these days] by the title, because nothing was missing: the letters were moved. Nor, for the same reason, was there a “missing link” if that was supposed to be part of the entertainment. Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln liked the show just fine, thank you.

  10. Brenda Rose says:

    Golf themed puzzles should be thrown into Lake Erie along with oreos. Done. Done. And done.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      You’re not altogether wrong—though we must save the Oreos!

      • Billy Boy says:


        Uhm, no Rosanna, that was save the ORCAS.

        R: Oh. Never mind.

        I have come to terms with OREOS.

        Historical misquote:
        In 1457 Scotland’s King James II banned the game because his subjects were playing golf and neglecting their archery practice. He announced that “golfe be utterly cryit doune and not usit.”

        He meant Golf Puzzles ….

  11. andeux says:

    “Kudo” in the Universal Sunday? Yuck.

  12. T Campbell says:

    There are a couple of other competitive arenas where silence is expected: chess and crossword tourneys come to mind. All sports involve concentration to some degree, but it seems to be the events that allow for lots of thoughtful pauses that maintain silence for them.

    Jenni’s review doesn’t convey that the circled letters spell out the literal answer to “What’s Missing,” since she never mentions the word LINK or the fact that each withdrawn and inserted letter are at the end of the first word in a two-word phrase. Admittedly, that’s kind of a tenuous definition of a “link,” there, and can it really be “missing” if it’s just somewhere else in the puzzle? Doesn’t quite do it for me. But at least an attempt was made to give this a little more zazz than just “letter in, letter out.”

  13. John Malcolm says:

    LAT 67A: “AM I RITE”???

Comments are closed.