Saturday, June 13, 2020

LAT 5:54 (Derek) 


Newsday 20ish minutes (Derek) 


NYT 5:17 (Amy) 


Universal 6:10 (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Hello, hello! June 13 is important to me for two reasons. First, it’s my sister’s birthday. Second, June 13, 2005 was the day I launched Diary of a Crossword Fiend. Happy 15th birthday, dear blog! Crossword Fiend helped me switch gears from freelance medical editing to full-time crossword editing, so that’s cool. And it’s allowed me to help shape our corner of the Internet, along with the dedicated Team Fiend crew of smart, funny crossword lovers. Webmaster Dave Sullivan keeps things operating smoothly, and used to blog the daily CrosSynergy puzzles. The current crew of writers includes Adesina Koiki, Andy Kravis, Ben Smith, Derek Allen, Gareth Bain, Jenni Levy, Jim Peredo, Jim Quinlan, Joon Pahk, Laura Braunstein, Matt Gaffney, Nate Cardin, pannonica, Rachel Fabi, Rebecca Falcon, and Sam Donaldson. I’m grateful to every one of them for generously contributing their time and energies to Fiend, and I also want to thank the writers emeriti who’ve blogged here in the past. Thanks, too, to all of you who read what we have to say about the crosswords that engage our minds, and who join the conversation in the comments lounge. Here’s to another 15 years!—Amy

Trenton Charlson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 13 20, no. 0613

I typically don’t love themelesses that lean heavily on corners of intersecting 7s. Some of the 7s are good, but they’re mostly going to be less colorful than what you see in stacks of 9- to 11-letter entries. And some of the 7s pall, like ROADEOS, LEFT ARM, and ONE ACRE. Shorter bits holding it all together, your AGUE and APTS and GTO and ACT I, don’t add much.

It does look like the constructor sought out Scrabbly fill—we see ZILLION and X FACTOR crossing ZOOM OUT and XEROPHYTE, KRAKENS, and XIANGQI (!) crossing EX-FBI (blurgh) and AQUATIC.

Three more things:

  • 6d. [Sch. yearbook section], ORGS. As clued, this feels like an ugly plural abbreviation. But when I’m writing about various groups, such as the places I’ve donated in recent weeks, I sure do call them “orgs.”
  • 39d. [So-called “Chinese chess”], XIANGQI. I needed every crossing here. I’m not up on my chess-like games, apparently. If this word’s new to you, you can learn a bit about it here. Have any of you played xiangqi?
  • 60d. [Annual e-sports competition since 1996], EVO. Wow, wow, wow. I have not heard of this, ever. Apparently it’s a tournament for playing fighting video games. *eyeroll* I mean, if that’s your thing, you like to do pretend ass-kickings, have at it. Not for me. There’s also Evo Morales, who until recently was the president of Bolivia. Curious to know if the gaming competition or world leader is more broadly familiar among NYT solvers.

3.5 stars from me.

Michael Wiesenberg’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 06/13/2020

It has been a while since I have seen a puzzle from Michael. This one was fun, and also is a great grid construction with a few longer answers all crossing in the middle. I did have a brain cramp near the end of this puzzle, hence the error marks near the bottom of the grid. I’ll explain my stupidity below! 4.4 stars for this one.

Those promised notes:

  • 13A [Pokémon species with lightning bolt-shaped tails] PIKACHU – This is a species?? I thought this was a character name? I don’t know Pokémon AT ALL.
  • 16A [Like many store-bought juices] FROM CONCENTRATE – You have to get the ones with no pulp! At least the orange juice, which are the main ones you see made this way.
  • 30A [Filmmaker’s __ light] KLIEG – This is named after somebody, right?
  • 35A [Placement question] “WHERE DOES THIS GO?” – I picture someone helping someone else move!
  • 40A [Yellowish color] OCHRE – I never know whether this is ER or RE. Does anybody, really?
  • 58A [Bundt, e.g.] CAKE TIN – I had CAKE PAN in here, and was wondering what I had wrong. I didn’t check the downs!
  • 61A [Legendary Manhattan eatery] SARDIS – Perhaps slightly tough for the LA crowd?
  • 14D [Restocking criterion] UNITS SOLD – The accountant in me got this quickly!
  • 29D [App tester’s concern] EASE OF USE – I think this is where Zoom excelled and Skype fell flat on its face!
  • 44D [__ de rire: burst of laughter] ÉCLAT – I know this word; not this phrase. I must get better at French. I better go to Paris for some “research!”
  • 51D [“__ you think it was?”] WHO’D – I had to think for a minute to figure out if I say this or not; and I’m not entirely sure that I know!

I will stop here. On to more puzzles today!

Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

I will call this one middle-of-the-road. I stopped and started this a few times, and one of those times I forgot to pause the timer, so I have no idea what my actual time is. I am guessing around 20 minutes. But note the grid image: no error marks! I tried to just power through this one, and as usual, upon reflection of the finished grid, everything seems easy now! I am still hoping to meet Matthew Sewell one of these days, but until this pandemic has passed, that may not be any time soon. But kudos to him for another great Stumper to amuse us, if not slightly torture us, for a few moments once again! 4.6 stars for this gem.

Some musings:

  • 19A [Sierra Club starter] ECO – This has you thinking you need a name here. Clever!
  • 21A [”The Right Stuff” actor or role] GLENN – John Glenn was the astronaut, and I believe Scott Glenn was the actor, but he portrayed Alan Shepard in this film. Ed Harris was Glenn the astronaut.
  • 27A [Warrior’s cast iron] THROWING STARS – I thought this was one of the best clues in the puzzle!
  • 39A [Half of New Delhi] ELHI – This has a British cryptic feel to it. I’m not sure I like it in an American standard crossword. It did make me grin just a bit, so we’ll take it!
  • 52A [Post-win ritual] LAP – As in a track meet! Remember those? Or an auto race! Which now have no fans present! And NASCAR now has no Confederate flags
  • 13D [”Outrageous!”] “THE NERVE!” – Great casual phrase! I may have said this just in the last day or so …
  • 24D [John the Baptist opponent] PHARISEE – Tough if you don’t know your Bible; slightly tricky even if you do!
  • 41D [Three-line poems] TERCETS – I don’t think this is a real word.
  • 50D [Brit’s public outdoor pool] LIDO – So THAT is where they get the deck name on those cruise ships!
  • 51D [Any Wagnerian masterwork] OPER – Is this German for opera? Let’s go with that assumption!

Congratulations to Amy on 15 years of this blog! Everyone stay safe and healthy this weekend!

John Guzzetta’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “We Came, We Saw …” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 6/13/20 • “We Came, We Saw …” • Sat • Guzzetta • solution • 20200613

… what does one often do before conquering? Divide! And that’s what we have here. Really impressed with this theme and execution. “Only” 4 theme parts, but that’s because of its complexity and exquisiteness.

The circled squares contain the names of types of saws. These saws ‘cut through’ crossing vertical entries, but only divide them at one spot. Why? Because those constitute items that can be cut by a saw. Further, each item that’s ‘cut’ is matched to a type of saw appropriate for that use!

  • 23a. [Long walk after a stressful day at work, say] COPING MECHANISM.
    3d. [Policy setters] BOARD OF TRUSTEES.
    – The COPING saw is applied to a BOARD.
  • 47a. [Putting Velcro tabs on remotes to keep track of them, e.g.] LIFE HACK.
    35d. [Fanciful hopes] PIPE DREAMS.
    – HACKsaw on a PIPE.
  • 94a. [Marching season prep] BAND CAMP.
    46d. [It might include glucose and cholesterol tests] BLOOD PANEL.
    – BANDsaw, PANEL.
  • 120a. [Subway, e.g.] RESTAURANT CHAIN.
    41d. [The Cabinet is part of it] EXECUTIVE BRANCH.
    – CHAINsaw, BRANCH.

And it’s all symmetrical. Superb, just superb.

  • 34a [October birthstones] OPALS. Just tried Opal® apples for the first time. They have a strong hint of pear in them.
  • 38a/113d [Analgesic target] PAIN / ACHE.
  • 40a [Chaotic] IN A MESS, which brings some order to the in-grid seeming chaos of INAMESS, which looks like an addled NEMESIS or something.
  • 53a [Hogwarts professor Remus, who’s a werewolf] LUPIN. Did not know this (of course) but it was easy to guess because JK Rowling’s latinate naming of things is always so obvious and heavy-handed. Plumbomanus! or something. Also, she’s an unreconstructed bigot. Feeling more vindicated than ever in never reading the books or watching the movies.
  • 75a [Third-northernmost national capitol] – Haven’t seen that clue before for the ever-popular OSLO.
  • 112a [Raptor that can fly 240 miles per hour while diving] FALCON. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the peregrine FALCON who’s capable of the feat.

    (45a [It crosses the Hudson R. at Ft. Lee] GWB)
  • There’s some weaker short fill (SAAR, TSO, SRSet al) but it’s compensated by good stuff such as OLD SOUL, ANGKOR WAT, non-partial PALO ALTO and BON JOVI, and more. (72a, 44a, 60d; 32a, 5d, 57d, 107a)
  • 91d [NATO member] USA. For the time being, yes. Among the many horrors being perpetrated by the wholly destructive— hey, what was that about a chainsaw?
  • 95d [Of the elbow] CUBITAL. There’s a word you don’t see every day. Cubital tunnel syndrome is the elbow analogue to carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist.
  • Is it coincidence or intentional that nearly the last entry (120d [Tear]) is RIP? Hmm.

David Poole’s Universal crossword — “Name’s Sake”

THEME: Celebrities whose last name ends with S is moved to the first name and turned into a possessive to create a wacky phrase.

Universal crossword solution · “Name’s Sake” · Steven Atwood · Sat., 6.13.20


  • 17A [Mortgage provider for Mr. Cub?] ERNIE’S BANK. Instead of ERNIE BANKS. 
  • 24A [Shaving mishap for a Fleetwood Mac singer?] STEVIE’S NICK. This is where I saw the theme.
  • 34A [Picnic locale for a bus boycott icon?] ROSA’S PARK. 
  • 50A [Sunbathing woe for an “Oh, God!” star?] GEORGE’S BURN. 
  • 58A [Means of entry for the “Fallin'” singer?] ALICIA’S KEYS. 

I liked this idea quite a bit! It seems simple, but trying to explain it is actually quite a challenge. It is consistent throughout and each name was iconic. A joy to uncover the themers for me.

Nothing to splashy in the fill, but not much to grimace at either.

4 stars from me.

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56 Responses to Saturday, June 13, 2020

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    I’ve read this blog every single day since I discovered its existence. Thank you for creating it!

  2. Pete Muller says:

    Me too!

    Happy 15th Amy!

  3. Frank says:

    RE: LA Times: Ford Ikon? No, no, no. Do NOT use a car model that was sold only in South Africa and Mexico and discontinued 5 years ago. How about a Korean boy band? Or a symbol on a computer screen (var)?

    • pannonica says:

      Rather than computer symbol, its forbear [Russian religious image] would be more appropriate to that spelling.

      • Me says:

        IKON (which I imagine almost no solvers will know) crosses with another proper noun at the K, PIKACHU, which is a nonsense word and completely unguessable. I think that intersection is going to trip a lot of people up.

        It’s a very fine puzzle in general. I think a different choice here would have been better.

    • Lise says:

      I got stuck at KLIEG/INGEMAR (oof!). This was the toughest Saturday LAT in a while, very challenging and enjoyable. I liked the clue for THORN (6D: “Side issue?”) particularly.

  4. ktd says:

    Congratulations on 15 years, Amy! And thanks to you and Team Fiend for all that you give to your readers.

  5. Howard B says:

    Happy bloggiversary! What’s the appropriate 15th gift for blogging (besides donations)?

    Been here from somewhere near the start, I think; time gets fuzzy. Anyway, you helped guide me into this pastime, and later on your collective puzzle commentary (and your cowriters) helped guide me in my construction endeavors.

    Here’s to good health, and may you always enjoy writing here; may it never be a chore.

    All the best,

  6. placematfan says:

    Reading this blog is part of my morning routine.

  7. Huda says:

    Thank you Amy and Team Fiend for creating this wonderful community. I love to think about how different minds work and this is a great place to witness it– the range of knowledge, perspectives and insights of the bloggers and how they highlight the intent and talents of the constructors.
    I also appreciate the general tone of civility, the ability to disagree without nastiness. It takes great leadership to create honesty blended with warmth and kindness.
    I’ll raise my glass of Prosecco to you all this evening!

  8. Cynthia says:

    Congratulations, Amy! I appreciate all the work, insight and humor you and the other writers put into this blog. I found Crossword Fiend one day after googling something like “explain Universal crossword.” I’ve come here almost every day since. You’ve also introduced me to two more online crosswords (BEQ and Jonesin’) that I never knew existed. Thank you!

  9. WhiskyBill says:

    Let me add my voice to the others: Thank you for fostering this wonderful community of crossword lovers! Also, I like the header/logo: Who made it, if I may ask?

    May this blog continue to carve out a region of sanity, progressiveness, and insight into a favorite pastime for (at least) another 15 years!

  10. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Congratulations, Amy, to you and your teammates. Excellent blog.

    Friday puzzle was very easy this week and Saturday’s very tough for me.


  11. Joan Gignoux says:

    I’ve read your blog almost every day for years for the crossword opinions and wonderful comments. Thank you for this community, and here’s to 15 (at least) more!

  12. Eloise says:

    I’ve read your blog almost every day for years for the crossword opinions and wonderful comments. Thank you for this community, and here’s to 15 (at least) more!

  13. Jim Peredo says:

    Congratulations, Amy! You’ve built a wonderful community here, and your continued guidance keeps things on track. What I appreciate most here is that people come first, before any puzzle, and that reflects your values. I’m happy to be along for the ride. Here’s to many more years of Fiend!

  14. Will Nediger says:

    Congrats Amy, and the rest of Team Fiend! My mornings wouldn’t be the same without this site.

  15. Umberto says:

    Buon compleanno! Tanti auguri!

  16. Umberto says:

    Buon compleanno. Tanti auguri!

  17. Norm says:

    I’m a latecomer to this site [I think maybe Rex mentioned it at one point?], but, yes, I’m another daily visitor now, and you’re invaluable. Example: I thought the WSJ was kind of a thin theme. I wanted the elided letters to spell something [an Evan Birnholz trademark], and was disappointed when they didn’t. Totally missed the point. Your post made me appreciate the puzzle so much more. Not for the first time; won’t be the last, I’m sure. Thanks to you and all the reviewers [and to all the constructors and editors out there as well]. Happy Quinceañera!!

  18. Matt M. says:

    Thanks, Amy and everyone else! I love this site and am so grateful for the tremendous amount of effort you all put into it.

  19. Gene says:

    Congrats! You long ago replaced Rex as my first place to turn after completing the NYT puzzle.

  20. Russ says:

    So glad I found this a few ago. I really enjoy the reviews to explain so of the subtleties I missed. Thanks for keeping this blog going.

  21. Vega says:

    Happy anniversary! Love it, so glad you’re here, thank you, etc.!

  22. Teedmn says:

    15 years, congratulations! I love coming here for comments on the Stumper (which I found much more difficult than Derek did. THROWING Spear held up the NE for a long time and a DNF at sHALE OIL (I was thinking antecedent in the clue meant what came first in the production of kerosene. DOsRY = Union capital? DOWRY and WHALE OIL, Matthew got me again.)

  23. Bob Petitto says:

    Congrats and a big thanks for 15 years, Amy!

  24. Austin says:

    15 years! mega congrats!

  25. Lise says:

    I love this blog and this community. I initially came here to read NYT reviews, and subsequently have subscribed to Crossword Nation and Fireball because I would read reviews which made those puzzles seem highly appealing. Often I learn why I should like a puzzle better than I do, or why it perhaps has suboptimal construction. I’ve learned so much from all of you.

    This is a lovely place to be, a place that values humaneness and politeness and respect for others. It is unique among blogs. My many thanks to all of the contributors here, and congratulations, Amy.

  26. RichardZ says:

    I found today’s Stumper to be a struggle (as usual). The only answers which left me a bit flummoxed after completing the puzzle were:

    16A (OHO) – Is there some wordplay going on with O. Henry’s name, or does the answer figure into one of his short stories? If not, the clue seems somewhat random.

    51D (OPER) – From what I’ve read, the word “opera” can operate as a singular or plural term (depending on the context), though sometimes “opus” is used for the singular. But as for “oper” – I can’t find that usage anywhere. (Before I’d filled in that section of the puzzle, my first guess at the solution was LONG ;)

    Oh, and happy anniversary wishes as well. I’m a relative newcomer to the blog, but I always make a point to check in and see the feedback from other solvers (and, occasionally, constructors).

  27. marciem says:

    Let me join in the congratulations on the anniversary of this terrific blog, and express my appreciation too! I mostly lurk and learn, and really enjoy the exchanges.

    Also… WSJ… WOW WOW …. I missed the whole exquisite thing, other than the circled “saws”, and thanks to this blog I got a glimpse of genius at work! Not just “things that could be cut with a saw” (which I didn’t notice until I came here) but even more precise with the “this type of saw would cut this particular thing” .
    Wish I could give more than 5* . Ok I’ll stop. Just … really impressed :) .
    LAT: Am I the only one who saw the FR at 16 across and just dropped in “fruit” knowing it had to be “fruit [something]” ? Well that didn’t go so well LOL

  28. pseudonym says:

    Happy 15th to Amy and contributors! Thanks for a great blog.

    REM/METIER in the NYT is a poor, unnecessary cross imo. “Metier” is not all that common and “ad rem” esoteric, so why clue REM with “Ad __” when REP is plausible and the sleep stage or once popular band are available. (Clued as tough as one wanted.) Very good puzzle a tad marred.

    • scrivener says:

      Happy 15 from Honolulu.

      The REM/METIER crossing killed me. I had to look both phrases up, and this makes two consecutive Saturday DNFs for me. :(

    • RM Camp says:

      Good god that one made me angry. I went with the time-tested ad HOC, which crossed with CAREER, which blew the southeast quadrant for me big time. A better clue for the former (Athens, GA-based alt rock band (that is still popular, dammit), dream-filled sleep stage, whatever) would have sufficed and I could have puked out the latter through the crossings.


  29. GR says:

    Wow, 15 years, time flies (and congrats!) As Howard said, time gets fuzzy, and I don’t recall when I found this site, but it was the first crossword site I found, and remains the first one I read each day. Hopefully it can continue for 15 more years, and then some

  30. Mark says:

    Re: Saturday UC
    The constructor is David Poole, not Steven Atwood

  31. ahimsa says:

    Nothing eloquent to say but I wanted to add my congrats to all of team fiend, both old and new. Thank you for your work on this blog – it’s very much appreciated!

  32. Joan Macon says:

    Let me add my California voice to everyone and thank you, Amy, for your labor of love! It’s my pleasure to read you every night before I go to bed, and I think you add to my dream list!

  33. John Lampkin says:

    Obviously, I’m not one who reads the blog every day–sometimes I’m a day late! So belated congrats, Amy, and here’s to another 15!

    • slubduck says:

      4 days late here, ugh. So many thanks to all who make this incredible blog what it is, and especially to Amy for its conception. This blog rescued me from Saturday Stumper purgatory about 7 years ago ….. oh, it was so dark trying to do those puzzles with no feedback or interaction with others. Now, it’s bliss. This blog also turned me on to the world of great meta-puzzles as well as the yearly tournaments, etc.

      Here’s to the next 15! ThankYou ∞

  34. e.a. says:

    happy 15! ♥

  35. SmugYetHumble says:

    My first EVER post to a Crossword Puzzle website; just wanna say, been doing NY Times Xwords since the late-late ’80s, and this 6/13/20 Saturday was a great one. Kept me puzzled for no fewer than 5 sessions, but finally nailed it 100%. I’m keeping my eye on this Trenton Charlson fellow!

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