Saturday, May 30, 2020

LAT 3:52 (Derek) 


Newsday 14:05 (Derek) 


NYT 5:03 (Amy) 


Universal 4:54 (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Brian Thomas’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 30 20, no. 0530

Lots of colorful long fill here, with stacked 10s and 13s. Among those I liked most: LET IT SLIDE, SPREAD TOO THIN, CHOO-CHOO TRAIN, LAST SUPPER, pretty GLISSANDO, ALAN ARKIN.

Moving right along to seven more things:

  • 31a. [No oldster], SPRING CHICKEN. Usually the term is paired with “no,” as in when the young ER resident informed me “you’re no spring chicken” and was savagely humiliated by an old dame.
  • 36a. [Something a toddler might chug?], CHOO-CHOO TRAIN. I wonder if any solvers started from the lower left and greeted this clue with the initial CHO- in place, and thus plunked in CHOCOLATE MILK.
  • 42a. [Two-player card game], SPIT. I tried SKAT first. No idea what the card games of skat and spit are like. Speaking of cards, 3d. [Two of hearts] isn’t about playing cards, it’s anatomy: the ATRIA.
  • 21d. [Autumnal salad ingredients]. PEPITAS. Pumpkin seeds! High in iron.
  • 33d. [Lightweight option for a suit], COTTON TIE. Is this really a thing? Feels off-kilter as a crossword entry.

And wow, this is a dudely crossword. Representing the men’s side, we have: a men’s SHAVING KIT; Horace MANN (could’ve been Aimee); fictional EGGMAN; Tyler, the Creator in the IGOR clue; Edward Snowden; Roots character Kunta KINTE; ALAN ARKIN; biblical David and URIAH; baseball’s NOLAN Arenado (never heard of him before); Mel TORME.

For the women, we have only ALIA Shawkat, biblical Bathsheba, and Sonja HENIE. Now, along with a MANN switch, ESPY could have been clued as the Espy award, via a woman who’s won it, but the fill and clues would still be heavily weighted towards men. #representation matters

3.5 stars from me.

Geoff Brown’s Universal crossword — “In the Wrong Business”

A bunch of themers in this puzzle feature workers who should quit their day jobs!

THEME: Phrases that start with careers unrelated to the rest of the phrase.

Universal crossword solution · “In the Wrong Business” · Geoff Brown · Sat., 5.30.20


  • 20A [Make someone’s picture look better, as a retoucher might] DOCTOR A PHOTO. 
  • 26A [Mess up at open mic night, as a comedian might] BUTCHER A JOKE. 
  • 46A [Establish peace, as a diplomat might] BROKER A TRUCE. 
  • 52A [Harbor resentment, as a reality star might] NURSE A GRUDGE. 

I feel like Universal has had a few mismatched career themes! However, there’s a certain tightness to this one that makes it feel unique. The CAREER + A+ NOUN WHICH HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CAREER makes for a very focused theme.

That being said, NURSE A GRUDGE feels strange. HARBOR A GRUDGE sounds more natural to me. Probably also because I think NURSE A DRINK really, really wants to be in there.

I’m also curious why the clue for AXE thought a var. was necessary. Typically, var. clues are eyeroll inducing because it indicates a wacky, archaic spelling is going to be the result. But tbh, I think AXE looks more familiar than AX. I don’t think of either spelling as deserving of a var. any more than BUSES/BUSSES. Could be just me though.

Enjoy your weekend!

***Looks like this may be a debut! Congrats, Geoff! Well done!

3.8 stars.

Brian E. Paquin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 05/30/2020

Another rapid solve for the LAT. It is a good sign for the upcoming rescheduled ACPT, but I am with others in the belief that this still isn’t happening. And if so, I don’t know if DEREK will be there. As much as I love going, I, like many others, have immune system issues, so we shall see. At the very least, I will solve online, as I did for 20 years in the ’90s and ’00s!

Anyway, I digress. Brian has a fun puzzle for this weekend. There is a great wide-open center with stacked entries ranging from 9 to 15 letters. Even though my solve was fast, this gave a little pushback, but I remember having lots of satisfying solves as I worked my way through this one. 4.2 stars today.

A few things I liked:

  • 7A [Can really bring it] HAS GAME – A slightly weird partial, but you hear this all the time on ESPN. If you watch ESPN all the time, like I USED to do!
  • 14A [Modern book case?] E-READER – This may be the best clue in the bunch! Nicely done!
  • 16A [Poirot portrayer in “Death on the Nile”] USTINOV – He’s no David Suchet, but still good. The Agatha Christie movies stories stand the test of time. Something else to watch!
  • 20A [Fenders, e.g.] GUITARS – Oh, THOSE Fenders!

    Lili Taylor

  • 37A [Makes big bucks] RAKES IN THE MONEY – This is not describing me. At all.
  • 6D [Two-time 1990s French Open champ __ Bruguera] SERGI – This was a gimme for me, but I watch tennis all the time. At least I USED to!
  • 10D [Infomercial kitchen brand] GINSU – You don’t see these infomercials for these knives much anymore. But I am not up at 3 in the morning that much, either!
  • 15D [Inaccuracies usually considered acceptable] ROUNDING ERRORS – As an accountant, I am in Excel all the time, and these are common. Annoying, but common.
  • 23D [Side in a decades-long war] PEPSI – I don’t drink this OR Coke that much! Unless we have some Captain Morgan to add to it …..
  • 46D [Barrels or bolts] SPEEDS – Another good, albeit simple, clue.
  • 55D [Taylor of “Six Feet Under”] LILI – We need another famous LILI!

See you next month! (That’s a mini-joke!)

Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 05/30/2020

This wasn’t too bad! I have said that for the past few Greg Johnson Stumpers, so maybe I am getting used to how he constructs. The left half of the grid was filled in rather quickly, then I slowed down for quite a bit, with the SE corner being the last to fall. Nothing too difficult, but there is some usual Stumper vagueness and a stretch or two. In the all, it is all fair. A solid 4.4 stars for this one.

Some high points:

  • 1A [Flaky food-truck fare] FISH TACO – These are bigger on the West coast, I think, than they are in the Midwest. We don’t have as much fresh fish here in Indiana! I am getting hungry now …
  • 9A [Site for funny eCards and videos] JIBJAB – Is this site still a thing? I don’t use it much.
  • 36A [Homer] HIT ONE – Homer is a verb, here. Tricky!
  • 38A [Rodeo entertainment] ROPE TRICK – This is another pandemic casualty that isn’t on TV anymore. I would take even watching a rodeo at this point! I am desperately waiting for the Marble Racing season on YouTube!!
  • 45A [Brainless] AMENTAL – Nobody says this in Indiana, but I can think of a few people that this describes!
  • 4D [Macon breakfast] HOMINY GRITS – I grew up on grits. I love grits. I may go make some grits right now!
  • 27D [Annual event starting at South Orange Grove Boulevard] ROSE PARADE – This is gettable once you think a second. I am in favor of a college football playoff, and if this goes bye-bye I won’t be sad. The New Year’s Day tradition of a zillion bowl games is already pretty much done. The parades can go too!
  • 34D [Nickname on the memoir ”Moon Shot”] DEKE – I think this is referencing Deke Slayton, the astronaut?
  • 40D [Striking suit of a sort] PINK TUX – Oh my! I wouldn’t be caught dead in this!
  • 56D [Chinese collaborator on Google phones] HTC – Isn’t this the company that Trump was arguing with a while back?

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend! See you next month!

David Alfred Bywaters’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Post-It Notes”—Jim P’s recap

Quick recap today since I’m so late to the scene. Our theme entries are phrases that have a single added letter A-G in order. Going by the title, these are musical notes and they all follow the letters IT in the phrase.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Post-It Notes” · David Alfred Bywaters · Sat., 5.30.20

  • 22a [Managers of Greek sandwich shops?] PITA BOSSES. Pit bosses.
  • 33a [Musical groups’ heydays?] HIT BAND RUNS. Hit-and-runs.
  • 48a [Ghost-hunting tools?] SPIRIT CLAMPS. Spirit lamps. Don’t know that I’m familiar with this base phrase, but it’s definitely legit.
  • 67a [Celebratory performance after changing one’s will?] DISINHERIT DANCE. Disinheritance.
  • 89a [Exceedingly hot?] QUITE SMOKING. Quit smoking.
  • 104a [Dogs, owls, gardeners and the like?] RABBIT FEARS. Rabbit ears.
  • 119a [Stage direction in a multigenerational drama?] EXIT GRAMPS. Exit ramps.

Really tight constraints on this theme and impressive execution. Nothing feels overly forced, and while I didn’t lol, there’s certainly humor here. And the title gives a perfect explanation for the mechanism. Nice job.

Fill highlights: CURMUDGEON, MARRIEDS (as a noun), DAILY BREAD, SQUIRRELS, BEELINE, RICOTTA, OCTOBER, DREXEL. My only trouble spot was the crossing of S_ATTER [Paint à la Pollock] and RE_INED [Fretted]. I wanted SCATTER at first and then SMATTER (for some reason). Having never heard of REPINED didn’t help matters.

Tightly executed theme and strong fill. Four stars from me.

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38 Responses to Saturday, May 30, 2020

  1. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Skat is a great (many say the greatest) strategy card game for three players . It is played with a 32 card deck and is essentially a trick-taking game with a trump suit. It is big in Germany. It has some complex rules for scoring and the rank of cards. I played it a lot 30 years ago, but not since.
    Spit is a two-person stacking game in which the object is to quickly get rid of your cards by placing them in a pile in accordance with rules that prescribe what cards can go where. It is a speed game that I can’t recall ever playing. Gin and poker are my go-to two person card games.
    I thought both Friday and Saturday were excellent and fairly easy.

  2. LtKije says:

    Can someone explain 41 across? Maybe shouldn’t solve a puzzle at 3 am but just cannot parse how MOs precede slashes.

    • Anne says:

      Months I believe. Month/day/year ie the preferred date format in some countries.

      • LtKije says:

        Thanks, makes sense. Not sure why they’d clue it that way when there’s the perfectly good MOS Eisley cantina to reference but to each their own. ?

  3. pseudonym says:

    Would love to see Puns And Anagrams as a weekly.

    • Ellen Nichols says:

      + 1, and an opportunity to discuss it. I nearly always don’t understand something, even if I fill all the squares correctly.

      • jj says:

        Caitlin Lovinger at the Wordplay blog includes explanations for most of the clues in her column on the variety puzzles. I find it very helpful and a fun read.

    • JohnH says:

      I enjoy them, too, although they’re no longer quite my favorite. I got started on them right out of college, and I bet they helped me appreciate cryptics when friends introduced me to those a year later. But then, funny thing, P&A actually become a tad harder for me, since I’m so primed for how cryptics (at least in the United States) have to play by stricter rules.

  4. R Cook says:

    The Stumper’s west side went down quickly, although I don’t get why a salesclerk would carry an ESC key. Also, am I just out of the loop for not knowing about JibJab? I had honestly never heard of it.

    • Gary R says:

      I didn’t do the puzzle, but maybe it’s something about salESClerk?

    • Lise says:

      There is usually one Cryptic-style clue in the Stumper. The problem with this one is that it could be interpreted ESS, which is also a key, sort of, and is the beginning of “Salesclerk”. That would be a little far-fetched, but well, this IS the Stumper. I didn’t know TERCET, so TERsET made as much sense to me.

      ESC makes more sense, and I’m glad to have learned TERCET.

  5. Crotchety Doug says:

    WSJ – Spoiler

    Enjoyed Bywaters’ changing ordinary phrases to new and humorous ones by adding musical notes after a certain bigram in the answers (see title). He included all seven notes from the C major scale in alphabetical order. Maybe they should have been in normal order as you’d play the scale, but I’ll take it.

    • DH says:

      One could also look at that as having all the notes from the A minor scale, which has the same notes as C major, but begins A and is played in alphabetical order. Inasmuch as it is difficult to see major issues with this, one might regard this comment as a minor quibble.

  6. Bryan says:

    NYT: This puzzle exemplifies what I love about Friday and Saturday puzzles. I open up the puzzle and it looks hopeless (NO WIN). I go through all the acrosses and only have maybe four or five letters filled in. I turn to the downs and hope for better luck. With some struggle, I start getting a handful more letters filled in. And then… boom, there’s a sudden tipping point where everything just starts falling like dominoes, and the puzzle I thought was impossible is filled in really fast. And then I sit back and go through the puzzle again in detail, marveling at the artful construction and clever cluing. That rush — that tipping-point moment when the impossible suddenly becomes quite doable — happened to me today, and it’s one of the reasons I love Friday and Saturday puzzles.

  7. David L says:

    I found the NYT mostly straightforward but had trouble in the SE. I had WACO and NOWIN, UNO and PIN, but had SKAT (never heard of SPIT) along with COTTON___ (MIX, maybe?). Eventually I guessed NOMAR at 40D, which gave me ACTIONITEM, then took out SKAT and tried PEPTO. Figured that NOMAR couldn’t be right and eventually got the rest.

    I don’t understand COTTONTIE at all. Most ties are silk, and are lightweight anyway — a cotton tie would be heavier, would it not?

    • Bryan says:

      Yeah, I don’t understand cotton tie either. I kept thinking it was supposed to be cotton tee, which would make more sense, like wearing a T-shirt under a sport coat or something.

    • cyco says:

      I see cotton ties frequently in DC in the summer — I think it’s more about the aesthetic than comfort. Cotton seems to match better with lighter suit materials like seersucker.

  8. Crotchety Doug says:

    Stumper – Smooth and crunchy. Just one question – can anyone explain how CRANK is a use for a bent axle?

    • Greg Johnson says:

      It was Stan’s clue so I am not positive but it seems to refer to the cranks that started old cars. Regarding the ESC key…salESClerk.

      Free puzzles (through Twitter – alexashortbush)

  9. Cynthia says:

    Jim Q – I had the same reaction to AXE in the Universal. That’s the most common spelling I’ve seen.

    • Greg Johnson says:

      If you look it up AX is technically correct. AXE body spray comes to kind.
      ADZ and ADZE are kinda the same.

  10. cyco says:

    Anyone else having trouble getting to the Stumper? It keeps prompting me to subscribe or log in, which hasn’t happened before.

  11. RichardZ says:

    Anyone else puzzled by the clue (“Gym exercise”) for 25D (CHIN) in today’s LAT? A chin-up, yes, but chin by itself seems wrong unless there’s an interpretation I’m missing.

    • Me says:

      I didn’t like that, either. Wikipedia says that a chin-up can be called a chin, but I’ve never heard it used that way and can’t find any uses like that online easily. There are a gazillion ways to clue CHIN that would have been better.

  12. RichardZ says:

    In today’s Stumper, the clue (“Totes”) for 52D (ADDS) also seems awkward. I get that the word “totes” is used informally to mean “totally,” but certainly not “adds.” I think a more accurate clue would be “Tots (up)”:

    • David L says:

      ‘tote’ can also have the meaning ‘add’ — see the second verb def here:
      not common, of course, but this is the Stumper

    • Stephen B. Manion says:

      Racetracks calculate the bets on totalisator machines. The changing odds are displayed on the tote board. The totalisator is called a tote machine. It is a stretch but not a major one to call the added up bets totes.


  13. Brenda Rose says:

    If you are a noob or a whiner with protocol issues stay away from Stan’s killer dailies:

  14. anon says:

    Thanks for the link – so are these old Newsday Stumpers that are reprinted in the National Review? Looks like a lot of the same Stumper contributors, but can’t be sure. If anyone can clarify if these National Review puzzles are originals or reprints that would be great.

  15. Ellen Nichols says:

    + 1, and an opportunity to discuss it. I nearly always don’t understand something, even if I fill all the squares correctly.

Comments are closed.