Saturday, June 20, 2020

LAT 6:43 (Derek) 


Newsday 12:34 (Derek) 


NYT 4:47 (Amy) 


Universal 5:55 (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Stella Zawistowski’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 20 20, no. 0620

Wait, who scheduled this Friday puzzle for a Saturday? I swear to you that Stella’s Tough as Nails themelesses are harder than this one. I was hoping for a RuPaul’s Drag Race allusion in the puzzle (I’m a recent convert, Stella’s been a fan for much longer), but no, the direct reference is that I got to the puzzle late because I was watching Drag Race. Although! In tonight’s show, there was a Golden Girls angle, and 1a MIAMI is clued [Setting for “The Golden Girls”]. Did anyone else hazard a guess with LANAI?

Favorite entries: HAPPY PLACE, ALL-NIGHTER, cell-phone DEAD SPOT, a Toledo MUD HEN, and Wanda SYKES. If you are OK with explicit language and aren’t squeamish, enjoy Sykes’s stand-up bit about Brazilian waxing. It’s possible I laughed so hard I hurt my head muscles.

Five Nine more things:

  • 20a. [They have an “itis” named after them], SENIORS. Stella’s been a medical writer, so I wasn’t quite expecting a nonmedical -itis here. Senioritis is the condition in which students in their final year of high school take to slacking off.
  • 31a. [Alternative to “stand”], HIT ME. Blackjack! We are overdue for family blackjack night. Is the hit me/stand dichotomy also a thing in poker? And/or other card games?
  • 33a. [1960 Miles Davis album inspired in part by flamenco music], SKETCHES OF SPAIN. Entirely unknown to me. If you’d like a listen but don’t have access to the recording, you can partake of the whole album on YouTube.
  • 39a. [“American Pie” actor Eddie ___ Thomas], KAYE / 34d. [Danity ___, girl group with a self-titled 2006 #1 album], KANE. I knew both of these, but if you knew neither of them, don’t fuss. Ask yourself if KEYE/KENE, KIYE/KINE, KOYE/KONE, or KUYE/KUNE look remotely plausible and move on.
  • 55a. [“Lean and hungry type,” in a Hall & Oates hit], MANEATER. Stella and I share a love of ’80s pop. You’re forgiven if you tried to squeeze YOND CASSIUS into those eight squares.
  • 6d. [Word after speed or drunk], DIAL. We would also have accepted “butt” in this clue.
  • 14d. [Met villains, often], BASSI. We would also have accepted DATED.
  • 38d. [Bland, in a way], SALT-FREE. Hey! You can get flavor without salt. Is a cayenne pepper bland without salt?
  • 45d. [Acronymic weapons], TASERS. Ugh. Tasers have been abused quite a bit in recent weeks. Here’s a Reuters article on that. Someone recently opined that constructors should avoid the word TASE(R) in their grids and I just might agree.

Four stars from me.

Sid Sivakumar’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 06/20/2020

I love Sid’s puzzles! I also loved his recent interview on the Fill Me In podcast, which is my favorite podcast of all time! The discussion there was extremely insightful on the process of construction, certain entries that should and shouldn’t be used, and so forth. To go along with what Sid stated in that episode, there is nothing wrong with crosswords TEACHING you something. If I don’t know a certain term, that shouldn’t necessarily mean that it shouldn’t be in the puzzle. But I will surely know it the next time it is encountered! I was especially intrigued by the use of Indian terms, or lack thereof, in crosswords. There are not many Indian restaurants in my area, and for years I was just not really interested, but I have learned to really enjoy it now, and as soon as this pandemic is over that is one of the first places I am going!

I am rambling, but let’s just say that I don’t believe I have ever blogged a Sid Sivakumar puzzle, and his are quite enjoyable. His blog is here, so go check out some of his independent work. 4.6 stars for a stellar puzzle.

Some highlights:

  • 16A [Make an impression (on)] IMPINGE – This word appears in the latest Cracking the Cryptic YouTube video, where Simon solves a puzzle from the Independent created by a comedian “across the pond.” You can still watch it; this fun fact in no way spoils the puzzle! Check it out here.
  • 19A [“Mind your own business”] “DON’T JUDGE” – Great entry. And timely!
  • 56A [Sun-on-skin concern] AGE SPOT – I am not getting these yet, but I feel it’s only a matter of time at this point …..
  • 4D [It’s taken on the way out] EXIT POLL – These are usually how they are able to “call” elections on the news. There are sometimes discrepancies in the exit poll and the actual results, and a large discrepancy may indicate voter fraud.
  • 8D [Repeated phrase in the coda of James Taylor’s “Shower the People”] MAKE IT RAIN – This could have gone south quite easily … nice safe clue here!
  • 20D [Eco-friendly housetop] GREEN ROOF – I need a new roof, and we are considering a metal roof, which may technically be a GREEN ROOF! It won’t be the color green, though!
  • 28D [Contests with four legs] RELAY RACES – Great clue. Although your non-standard egg-drop relay from third grade may have any number!
  • 29D [What a chiromancer does] READS PALMS – You don’t see the word “chiromancer” every day!
  • 31D [Single-serve coffee container] K-CUP POD – This is phenomenal. Likely this is a debut entry; certainly no NYT hits. Very nicely done!
  • 32D [Singles network logo with a partly outlined Star of David] JDATE – I have said it before, and I will say it again: anything Jewish is quite foreign to me, including the existence of this site! There are not many Jewish communities in northern Indiana/southwest Michigan. Amish, yes.

Also, if you haven’t already, subscribe to Matt Gritzmacher’s email service where he lists all of the puzzles that come out daily, including Sid’s! His website is found here. Have a safe and healthy weekend!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday Stumper 06/20/2020

I am getting better! I will take this time in a heartbeat! As you can see from the grid image, I had a slight issue with the SE corner; see below for some commentary on a few of those entries. But for the most part, I flew through a lot of this puzzle. I am not keen on attending the ACPT, but I am looking forward to the online Boswords tournament, which is coming up in late July. That should be a lot of fun, just like the online tournament back in April that was a blast!

Anyway, doing tough crosswords is good training for tournaments, and the Stumper is, as always, a great barometer for your solving skills. So my theme today is one of positivity, since this IS still a difficult puzzle. And yes, in a tournament situation, those errors would kill me! Thanks for another great puzzle, Brad! 4.6 stars.

That promised commentary:

  • 14A [Precursor of leaving home] BALL THREE – I actually thought of BALL FOUR being the answer, but it didn’t fit! This is DEFINITELY a “precursor” of a walk!
  • 22A [Fund-raisers spoiled by showers] TEN K’S – This is rarely spelled out, so it looks weird. They are just now starting to do races again here, but there aren’t many of them.
  • 27A [Stomachs] ABIDES – “The Dude abides” is a famous line (was this an “exit line??” See 35D!) from The Big Lebowski, and every time I see this word this is what comes to mind!
  • 29A [He’s not without egotism] OTIS – We have a cryptic style clue here, as OTIS is hidden in the word “egotism”. Not too hard, but still getting used to seeing cryptic clues in a standard puzzle.
  • 56A [Fake cannon named for pacifists] QUAKER GUN – I have no idea what this even is, to that is my lame excuse for why I got it wrong!
  • 14D [Name derived from a western French region] BRETT – As you can see from the grid image, I highlighted this entry on purpose: my middle son’s name is Brett! I think I knew this history of the name, but still nice to see: his name is not at all common in puzzle. My other sons, Drew and Chase, appear all the time! Also, see 44D …
  • 28D [Element with a unique last letter] BISMUTH – I think this is referring to the fact that this is the only element that ends in H. Great find!
  • 35D [Movie zinger, often] EXIT LINE – Like Rhett Butler’s last line in Gone With the Wind, which is now under intense scrutiny due to the massive sea change of opinion after the Floyd murder? Yes, that was an EXIT LINE!
  • 44D [Contests] ARGUES – My wife’s maiden name is Argue. It is Irish, so it is similar to Sprague or Bogue, but they pronounce it like you are fighting someone. I guess if you pronounced it differently, it would sound like a pirate screaming!
  • 57D [Reader’s resource] ESP – I have no idea why this one stumped me! Perhaps because it is a really clever clue!

Again, have a wonderful weekend!

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “A Little Bit Country” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 6/20/20 • Sat • “A Little Bit Country” • Larson • solution • 20200620

Firstly, don’t expect Donny and Marie, ok?

Theme is names of nations straddling multi-word phrases. Circled squares highlight.

  • 22a. [A warranty may be void if you deviate from it] PROPER USE (Peru).
  • 24a. [Circus worker, perhaps] ANIMAL TAMER (Malta). Many circuses have eliminated animal acts because of their inherent cruelty.
  • 35a. [Stop dithering] REACH A DECISION (Chad).
  • 50a. [Unit honoring a Swedish astronomer] DEGREE CELSIUS (Greece).
  • 66a. [Official language of China] MANDARIN DIALECT (India).
  • 85a. [Liberal arts school of southern California] POMONA COLLEGE (Monaco).
  • 97a. [Church control of a sort] PAPAL AUTHORITY (Palau).
  • 117a. [“Common Sense” writer] THOMAS PAINE (Spain).
  • 119a. [Queue up] FORM A LINE (Mali). Without spaces, also happens to be a British variant spelling of formalin.

Not earth-shattering, but well done nonetheless.

  • 80a [Remdesivir producer] GILEAD. The drug’s efficacy against COVID-19 is still being evaluated.
  • 9d [Toasted sandwich] PANINI. More of a grilled thing, and PANINO is the (proper) singular form. But ok.
  • 11d [Uncle of note] SAM. Can’t tell if the ‘note’ part is supposed to be punny. The character isn’t on currency and has no strong relation to music, so I’m guessing not.
  • 35d [Copy for paste-up] REPRO. How retro.
  • 38d [Let go] CEDE, 56a [Distribute] METE. CEDE & METE, together they’re nigh unstoppable!
  • 99d [Hurt] PAINED. Intersecting with themer THOMAS PAINE, really?
  • 127a [Site of a fictional prison] ZENDA, crossed by 112d [“The Marvelous Land __” (1904 sequel] OF OZOZ is also the titular nickname of the Oswald State Correctional Facility in the HBO show. Anyway, here’s some rather insipid music from The Prisoner of ZENDA, typical of Hollywood’s 86d [Yesteryear] OLD TIMES:

p.s. I had no idea there have been so many adaptations and productions of the story.

Did you think I was going to have Donny and Marie anyway? Nope nope nope. 107d [Slangy denials] NOPES.

Cheryl Phair’s Universal crossword — “Pump Up the Volume” — (Jim Q)

This post is only big enough to hold my two cents :)

THEME: Increasingly large containers.

Universal crossword solution · “Pump Up the Volume” · Cheryl Phair · Sat., 6.20.20


  • 10A [0.05-gallon item, perhaps] TEA CUP. 
  • 12A [0.25-gallon item, perhaps] MASON JAR. 
  • 22A [1-gallon item, perhaps] MILK JUG. 
  • 25A [4-gallon item, perhaps] SOUP POT.
  • 46A [12-gallon item, perhaps] GAS TANK. 
  • 50A [15.5-gallon item, perhaps] BEER KEG. 
  • 62A [39-gallon item, perhaps] TRASH BAG. 
  • 63A [300-gallon item, perhaps] HOT TUB. 

When I hit the 4 gallon soup pot less than halfway through the puzzle, I thought Oh boy… we’re in for some big containers ahead! I actually thought this was novel and fun, trying to figure out what was coming next. There was a bizarre element of suspense.

I did find the preciseness of the measurements juxtaposed with the word “perhaps” in each of the themers somewhat odd. I only like to see a “perhaps” in a clue once or twice per puzzle, so seeing it on repeat was a tad obnoxious for me. The only other nit I have is that TRASH BAG doesn’t feel like it belongs since the others are hard containers that typically hold liquids.

Just fine in the fill. Got a chuckle out of KRIS Kross. I remember the brief fad of wearing clothes backwards. It lasted a week and my seventh grade classmates looked like idiots. I did not partake in that one.

Great title! Also a bit of a throwback as it’s the title of one of my favorite 90’s movies starring Christian Slater that no one ever seems to remember when I bring it up in convo.

3.6 stars.



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20 Responses to Saturday, June 20, 2020

  1. Stephen B. Manion says:

    Excellent puzzle. Much harder for me than for Amy.

    I don’t know of any casino poker games in which a player has an option to hit or stand, although all draw poker games and modern variants such as BADUGI and BADACEY give the player the option to stand pat or discard and replace. In triple draw, the player has three such options. Baccarat has hit or stand options, but those options are often constrained by rules that only allow hitting in certain situations.

    In house poker games, there are many variations of point count games in which the player tries to reach a specific target sum. Such games are almost always hi-lo split games. 7-27 is one common variant in which the players try to be the closest to 7 to win the low or to 27 to win the high. Aces count 1 or 11; face cards count 1/2 or 10 and other cards count their numerical value. Betting can have a specific number of rounds or an unspecified number in which the betting ends when no one takes another card.

    In blackjack, you usually don’t say anything, but make your decision with a hand motion (so the security camera can see it).

  2. pseudonym says:

    JACQUARD/CLONK/HALING marred the Stumper for me. Didn’t know em; had no idea if I was guessing correctly.

  3. Cynthia says:

    Really fun theme in the Universal today, and some interesting fill. Well done, Cheryl!

  4. Michael Hanko says:

    Not sure why the NYT continues to clue BASSI as though it were an English word. (No nod to Italian in 23 of 28 occurrences in the Shortz era.) In 40+ years as a singer and voice teacher I’ve never heard English speakers use any term other than “basses” for low male singers.

    • JohnH says:

      While neither MW11C or RHUD has BASSI as a plural of “bass,” and so an alternative to “basses,” both have it as an alternative to “bassos” as a plural of “basso,” so I’m ok with it. It’s true one would have to be pretty pretentious and unusual to prefer the Italian to just plain “bass.”

      I found that corner surprisingly hard. I guess I didn’t know about mud hens and iguanas or that SHANE is also a book. But my “do not finish” was SKIP and KAYE. I leaned to SHIP, in fact. Not sure I blame myself either.

  5. PJ says:

    NYT – I loved Miles Davis’ music. Then I read about his abuse of women and the music wasn’t the same. I searched a bit this morning and while I find some mention of domestic violence, it seems to be often downplayed or overlooked.
    Were the stories lies or overblown? Or do people overlook them because of his genius? Something else? I’d really like to know.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      This is such a touchy subject. The article that yesterday’s New Yorker puzzle linked out to referred to Chuck Berry being convicted on a “trumped up” charge. He was found guilty of transporting a 14 year old Native American girl across state lines for sex. I’m a big fan of his music, and Miles Davis’, but they both had real demons. As Black men, they were victimized by our larger culture. But they victimized others too.

    • R says:

      I imagine it’s glossed over in the same way that our founding fathers’ slaveholding is glossed over. People value their public accomplishments more, and their bad actions were largely legal and socially accepted (if reprehensible). We’re getting to a point where we’re revisiting those, but Miles hasn’t really come up in that conversation yet.

    • JohnH says:

      I have to admit I didn’t know about his domestic violence, but then I didn’t know anything at all about his personal life. (Come to think of it, I could say the same about almost any jazz musician. For some reason, artists and pop musicians seem more food for public stories.)

      So very sorry to hear it. Very troubling. Of course, his history as a musician is amazing, evolving through so many styles, any one of which would have made him a great, leaving so many great recordings. That and his bringing so many great musicians to light, which I always thought of as a nurturing as well as challenging and extending. SKETCHES OF SPAIN was a gimme for me and my foothold into the puzzle, as an early fave.

  6. Huda says:

    NYT: Amy, I have tears streaming down my face from laughing so hard at the Wanda Sykes routine.
    And I had SnaTCHES OF SPAIN in their for while…
    I really like the puzzle!

  7. Cole says:

    The 45D TASER clue was “shocking things” in the dead tree version.

  8. MinorThreat says:

    Stumper — The NW region was the toughest for me. Had a difficult time with TENKS and wasn’t sure if it was going to be JAILER or JAILOR. In the NE, I don’t understand how 9A:Upstart is SCAMP.

    • David L says:

      Same here. I breezed through most of the puzzle but couldn’t get anywhere in the NW. Eventually I googled to get ALBANY and pieced together the rest. I was thinking of ‘turnkey’ as an adjective meaning ready to go, no prep needed, as in software systems or houses.

      Scamp and upstart don’t seem very similar to me either.

    • pannonica says:

      Just use the substitution method.

      “Sometimes my shrimp upstarti is too garlicky for the guests.”

      See? Works fine.

  9. Billy Boy says:

    That was an easy Saturday NYT even without filling in one of my Miles Davis Albums.

  10. Theresa Horan says:

    Am I the only one who didn’t know hale meant compel? The whole court add-on didn’t help. I ran the alphabet on that L but it was the only thing that worked with the cross. The NW had almost all of the tricky clues. TRY and JAILER as clued, ARMANIS as material? Great puzzle, Mr. Wilber.

    @pannonica, nice one!

  11. Billposter says:

    Saturday LAT “called an audible” for “changed plans”? Need help getting that one…

  12. Dave S says:

    Thanks for posting the Wanda Sykes link- hilarious!

Comments are closed.