Sunday, May 31, 2020

LAT 7:14 (Jenni) 


NYT 10:16 (Amy) 


WaPo 12:13 (Jim Q) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Universal (Sunday) 9:41 (Jim P) 


Lewis Rothlein & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “What Goes Up Must Come Down”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 31 20, “What Goes Up Must Come Down”

The theme entries turn up at the circled/shaded letters and then turn around to come back down and return to the rest of the Across space, meaning each themer contains a 7- or 9-letter palindromic string:

  • 32a. [Providers of books to remote locations], MOBILE LIBRARIES. No, it’s not the portmanteau MOBRARIES, which sound like repositories of extensive Mafia knowledge.
  • 34a. [Unlawful activity by a minor], JUVENILE DELINQUENCY.
  • 66a. [Some natural remedies], MEDICINAL PLANTS. Natural ≠ safe. Hemlock and deadly nightshade are plants, but you’re well advised not to consume them.
  • 69a. [Cabinet position once held by Herbert Hoover], COMMERCE SECRETARY.
  • 104a. [Untimely time], INOPPORTUNE MOMENT.
  • 107a. [Great depth], ELABORATE DETAIL.

Neat trick, but this is one of those themes with no potential for entertainment or humor. Right now I’m missing Merl Reagle, who had so many funny themes in his 21×21 puzzles.

There’s a smattering of interesting longer fill in the grid: PIECE OF PAPER clued as [What marriage merely is, to some] (sometimes you need that piece of paper to get added to your sweetie’s health insurance policy, though, because this country is still mired in that weird system). GET A FLAT tire. Plato’s NOBLE LIE. DAMMIT! PENSION PLAN (note that most of the current financial crunch at the USPS is because of a misguided 2006 law Congress passed regarding funding of pensions). School CLASS SIZE, certainly a concern to parents as well as to the teachers cited in the clue. The great MUHAMMAD ALI. The dreaded IMPOUND LOT. And UNTITLED with a nice poetry clue, [Like most haikus].

Worst crossing: ENIAC meets KOCH.

Haven’t got much else to say, and my dinner will arrive any minute now. 3.5 stars from me.

MaryEllen Uthlaut’s LA Times crossword, “I Had a Bad Day” – Jenni’s write-up

Today’s theme is a cousin of Tom Swifties. Each theme answer is a phrase describing something that didn’t go well. The wordplay is in the clues.

  • 23a [My crayon __] DREW A BLANK.
  • 28a [My ruler __] FAILED TO MEASURE UP.
  • 56a [My needle __] DIDNT COME THROUGH.
  • 70a [My belt __] BUCKLED UNDER THE STRAIN. That must have been the seed entry.
  • 93a [My cake __] FELL DOWN ON THE JOB.
  • 117a [My knife __] COULDNT MAKE THE CUT.
  • 128a [And my champagne __] FIZZLED OUT.

I liked it! The clues are funny, all the phrases are solid, and it was enjoyable to solve. I tried to figure out the answers with as few crossings as possible to test my pun IQ. Not too shabby.

A few other things:

Los Angeles Times, May 31, 2020, “I Had a Bad Day,” MaryEllen Uthlaut, solution grid

  • Is it still true that [Many a surfer] is an AOLER? I think that needs an {obs} tag.
  • 31a [Step on it when you need to step on it] is so amusing that I don’t mind having THE GAS in the puzzle.
  • On the other hand, the clue did not redeem END IN.
  • 89a [Fix, as a toy] is talking about dogs. It’s SPAY. That reminds me of the first time I ever lied to my kid. She was a toddler and had one of those battery-operated things that made an infernal noise. One day it stopped working. “Mommy! Fix it!” “Sorry, sweetie, we can’t fix that.” (To be clear, I have not made a habit of lying to my kid. Can’t remember a second time that didn’t involve gift-related subterfuge)
  • WHITE lies may be [Harmless], as noted above. White privilege is not. In addition to the puzzle, the LAT ran this piece by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about the current unrest in the US. Read it.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ILENE Woods was the original voice of Disney’s Cinderella.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Site Lines” – Jim Q’s writeup

THEME: Popular websites are “broken” across rows, indicated by circled letters.

Washington Post, May 31, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Site Lines” solution grid


  • Row 9: ONE PINT / ERE / STILETTO. 
  • Row 13: HUTCHINS / TAG / RAMPS UP.
  • 63A [Causing a social media storm, and an alternate title for this puzzle] BREAKING THE INTERNET. 

After last week’s knuckle ball, Evan pitches Crossworld something a little more over the plate this week. A fun, clean, well executed puzzle with an accessible, albeit familiar, theme.

A couple notable things about the execution: 1) The entire row contains at least part of each of the theme answers 2) The sounds are extremely well hidden. That is, you don’t necessarily hear TWIT when you say NITWIT, or YOU in DAY IN DAY OUT.

WaPo does have a tendency to introduce new and noteworthy names. New for me this week were Amelia HUTCHINS (inferable), Henry LAU, Myra HESS, and Craig MAZIN.

Newer solvers may balk at the clue for ALI [Athlete whose name is written in Balinese?]. ALI‘s name is can be found in the word “bALInese”… I never grow tired of the cryptic style clues! Also, I didn’t know “Balinese” was a word, and Bahraini is quite new as well! (I initially wanted Bahrainian or Bahrainan).

What I stumbled on most is RISIBLE for [Provoking laughter]. That’s a completely new word for me. Not even sure how to pronounce it!

Thanks for this one! Enjoy Sunday.

Trent H. Evans’s Universal crossword, “Pros and Cons”—Jim P’s review

Theme: PROs are changed to CONs (and vice versa) in common phrases.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Pros and Cons” · Trent H. Evans · Sun., 5.31.20

  • 23a [Compromise made at the altar?] WEDDING CONCESSION. …procession.
  • 38a [House robbery, e.g.?] BURGLARY IN CONGRESS. …progress.
  • 55a [All Americans chewing with their mouths open, say?] GROSS NATIONAL CONDUCT. …product.
  • 78a [Letting someone cut in line to see the priest?] CONFESSIONAL COURTESY. Professional
  • 96a [Where “Jeopardy!” players attend services?] CONTESTANT CHURCHES. Protestant
  • 113a [Strategy for splitting a duck dish?] CONFIT SHARING PLAN. Profit

Evenly balanced theme and solid execution. Since I have no other nits to pick, I’ll comment that it might have been more interesting if the pros and cons were interweaved rather than having all the cons first and then the pros. But that’s a minor thing.

Other notables:

  • I liked SAY I DO and WOO HOO sitting atop the WEDDING CONCESSION. IN A KNOT feels almost related.
  • The crossing of TOILE (which I always get mixed up with “moire”) and TRACKS clued weirdly as [Pari-mutuel venues] (which I’ve never heard of) almost Naticked me. That could’ve been smoothed over easily.

Good wordplay and plenty of sparkly fill. Four stars.

It’s hard to do a puzzle today without seeing it through the prism of national events. And so entries like SIT-INS [Certain civil rights protests], SAT BY [Did nothing], KNELT, and even GROSS NATIONAL CONDUCT (i.e. systemic racism) struck a chord with me.  All I can say is it is incumbent upon us all to be kind. Be kind to everyone, everywhere, all the time. And vote. From the top of the ticket to your local elections. Vote for equity, fairness, justice, and kindness.

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11 Responses to Sunday, May 31, 2020

  1. Greg says:

    I thought the Rothlein/Chen NYT puzzle was a delight, as well as an impressive feat of construction. Finding and fitting those internal palindromes can’t have been easy, and the resulting phrases have a natural, unforced feel to them.

  2. David Steere says:

    WaPo: Evan, thank you for 88 Across. You and your dear ones, as well. Another lovely puzzle on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. I wish this kind of crossword grace could be found 112 Across.

  3. MattF says:

    Liked the NYT, but it took a while to get to ‘like’. Trudged through most of the puzzle without a clue to what was going on with the circled entries, but got the AHA moment from the Herbert Hoover clue. Satisfying to finish, but took some work.

  4. PJ says:

    Jenni – Thanks for the piece by Kareem. I’ve been a fan of his over 50 years. On and off the court.
    If you haven’t seen Killer Mike’s talk from Friday, watch it now.

  5. Armagh says:

    RE: NYT
    Why in hell would you launch a 21×21 Sunday with a NW corner of 3-letter dreck? Knew without looking it was a Jeff Chen collaboration. Ugh.

    • JohnH says:

      Chen isn’t my favorite either. It’s commendable that he now dedicates himself to helping others get started, get published, and get leading credit, although he leaves his stylistic mark on them all. But his collaborations do often leave me flat, not that I can quite explain why.

      Still, I’d cut him a break this time. The theme is really nice, and it’s great they found enough theme entries that don’t feel at all forced. I caught on fast but still enjoyed it a lot.

    • Matt M. says:

      I strongly disagree with you about this puzzle and Jeff Chen in general, but also: EGG and ETC? What about those *two* three-letter answers is dreck?

    • AV says:

      Why? Because you need to fit the beautiful palindromic MOBILELIBRARIES, and you get the clean CELIBATE, TOETOTOE, combination … or did you not see that?

  6. anon says:

    WaPo review: “What I stumbled on most is RISIBLE for [Provoking laughter]. That’s a completely new word for me. Not even sure how to pronounce it!”

    See Life of Brian

  7. arthur118 says:

    Rachel- A recent puzzle review here, coincidentally, was described in words that can also easily apply to your NYTimes “Midi” debut today in the “At Home” section of the paper and I quote:

    “Overall, pretty much all the stars from me. No bad fill, lots of strong entries, A+ wordplay. So good!!!”


  8. Leonard Levine says:

    NYT – liked it, but why long river of Siberia for 43 down. Seems like they must have searched the encyclopedia for a clue when a more recognizable Lena would suffice. Needlessly esoteric. But overall still enjoyed the theme and execution.

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