Sunday, July 5, 2020

LAT 7:20 (Jenni) 


NYT 10:15 (Amy) 


WaPo untimed (pannonica) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


Universal (Sunday) 10:27 (Jim P) 


Laura Taylor Kinnel’s New York Times crossword, “To-Do List”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 5 20, “To-Do List”

Neat rebus theme. The revealer is 43d. [Be fully qualified … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme], TICK ALL THE BOXES, and {TICK} is in each rebus {BOX}, where the Across answer contains a rebused BOX and the DOWN has TICK. (Annoying that the accepted solution doesn’t take B for the Across BOXes. If you can’t type an actual tick mark in the box, stick with the Across for the rebus!)

Here are the themers:

  • 18a. [Orator’s platform], SOAP{BOX} / 7d. [Imbroglios], S{TICK}Y SITUATIONS.
  • 53a. [Email holder], IN{BOX} / 3d. [Tries to make the unappealing attractive], PUTS LIPS{TICK} ON A PIG.
  • 55a. [Set of skills, metaphorically], TOOL{BOX} / 56d. [Play piano, informally], {TICK}LE THE IVORIES.
  • 75a. [Playroom chest], TOY{BOX} / 29d. [“You nailed it!”], “THAT’S THE {TICK}ET!”
  • 107a. [Flight recorder], BLACK {BOX} / 48d. [Combination meant to change behavior], CARROT AND S{TICK}.

These are all really good entries unto themselves, and the theme is consistent: each {BOX} term uses that word to mean a storage thing, and each {TICK} is embedded in a longer word with distinct meanings (tree STICK and adhesive STICKY are etymologically related if you go back to Old English).

A few clues that popped out at me, dressing up some short fill:

  • 37a. [Note-taking spot?], ATM. Good one!
  • 51d. [Starter earring], STUD. A gimme to anyone who’s had pierced ears, no? Good new clue that doesn’t disadvantage women.
  • 95a. [It’s frequently under fire], ASH. Great clue! The plural version was in an April 2020 WSJ puzzle but if this is the constructor’s own clue, surely she wrote the puzzle prior to this April.
  • And also: 46a. [What Franklin famously asked for], RESPECT. It’s the 4th of July so the first Franklin I thought of was Benjamin. Nope, it’s Aretha!
  • Also also: 91a. [Elizabeth Warren vis-à-vis former chief justice Earl Warren, e.g.], NO RELATION. I spent too much time trying to remember what sort of job title a judge’s clerk might have.


4.5 stars from me. This whole venture was executed well—when it comes to the rebus, the theme entries’ cripsness, the overall fill and cluing, it ticks all the boxes.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword, “The Magnificent Seven” – Jenni’s write-up

I had a vague idea what was up with the theme before I got to the revealer. It was more of an “oh, that” moment than an “aha!” moment. It’s a perfectly serviceable Sunday theme of the “words that all go with another word” variety.

Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2020, Ed Sessa, “The Magnificent Seven,” solution grid

  • 16d [*1977 Eagles hit] is HOTEL CALIFORNIA.
  • 23a [*Pro in a ring] is a PRIZE FIGHTER.
  • 36a [*Challenge for a hopeful collegian] is an ENTRANCE EXAM. Are there still colleges that have their own?
  • 44d [*Liszt list, e.g.] is PIANO REPERTOIRE. That one made me smile.
  • 55a [*Multi-faceted stage performance] is SLAM POETRY
  • 77a [*Military stint] is a TOUR OF DUTY.
  • 94a. [*Act of genius] is a MASTER STROKE.
  • And the revealer: 111a [Ribbon-cutting event, or what the starts of the answers to starred clues can have] is a GRAND OPENING.

GRAND HOTEL (which I know as a movie: Google tells me it’s also a TV series), GRAND PRIZEGRAND ENTRANCEGRAND PIANOGRAND SLAMGRAND TOURGRANDMASTER. They’re all solid. The theme works and is appropriate for a Sunday. Not a whole lot of fun, but hey, you can’t have everything.

I didn’t go through and count for the crossword Bechdel test. While I was solving the puzzle, it felt like it had a lot of women’s names in it, and some frequently seen clues with female-inflected answers, like [Bygone Russian ruler] for TSARINA and [Part of HMS] for HER. I simultaneously appreciate the representation and resent that it’s still a rare enough phenomenon that I noticed it. Could have had one more by cluing ADA for Lovelace instead of dentists.

A few other things:

  • Speaking of women’s names, I love seeing STEFFI Graf and ERICA Jong in the NW corner. Jong’s daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, recently posted a video of her mother explaining the zipless fuck to Molly’s kids. It was an Instagram story so it’s not retrievable, which is lucky for the kids but unfortunate for the rest of us. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you were not a teenage girl or young woman in the mid-70s. I’ll save you the potentially embarrassing Google search.
  • I think of GOGO dancers as part of the 60s, not the disco era of the 70s.
  • I also liked the conjunction of boxer clues in the vicinity of PRIZE FIGHTER. We have AKC for [Boxers’ org.?] and GASH for [Boxer’s wound]. Nice touch.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever used RIANT in a sentence. In English.
  • You know you’re an ex-dance mom when you fill in PLIES from crossings and expect the definition to involve ballet. It’s actually [Practices, as a trade].

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: honestly, I’ve never used Lysol so I didn’t know it targeted ODORS. I thought it was just for microbes.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Clued In” — pannonica’s write-up

WaPo • 7/5/20 • “Clued In” • Sun • Birnholz • solution • 20200705

This is one of those easier-to-show-than-describe themes, but here goes. The clues consist of single words containing in sequence—but not necessarily consecutively—smaller words; together these two can be taken to literally represent an “x in (the) y” phrase. They’re similar to some cryptic clues.

  • 23a. [U(N)D(E)R(T)AKING] CATCH IN THE ACT. NET can mean ‘catch’ and it is literally to be found in UNDERTAKING, which may be defined as ‘the act’.
  • 43a. [(TR)ANQUILT(Y)] GO IN PEACE. “Have a go” ≈ “have a try“.
  • 70a. [(S)ILHOU(E)TT(E)] GET IN SHAPE. SEE as in understand.
  • 99a. [(ANIMA(T)I(ON)] LOT IN LIFE.
  • 121a. [(H)INDQ(U)A(RT)ERS] PAIN IN THE BUTT. This one is so good that I suspect it was the seed entry. It’s aptly placed as the final themer.

Clever theme and really well executed. The quality of these WaPo 21×21s has been consistently good and it’s the puzzle I most look forward to on Sundays.

I didn’t do a formal tally, but the impression I had was that the ratio of women and minorities in clues and answers was pretty good. As that’s a metric we’ve been highlighting here at FiendCo.

  • 4d [Ctrl + __ (shortcut for opening the Windows start menu)] ESC. Didn’t know this one, and I consider myself well-versed in keyboard shortcuts. On the other hand, I’ve always had keyboards with functioning windows/start keys.
  • Was wondering why 7d [NBA team that drafted Kevin Durant in 2007] SONICS specified that player. After looking at his Wikipedia page, I’m guessing it’s because he’s from the Washington DC area.
  • 11d [Statue of Washington?] OSCAR. Denzel?
  • 13d [Clear and bright] SUNSHINY.
  • 42d [Orange origin] GROVE. SPANISH sure didn’t fit.
  • 48d/58a [Dodge] AVERT / EVADE.
  • 77d [Some food truck snacks] TACOS. We could have had these on every corner.
  • 22a [Opposite of calm] UNNERVE. Verbs here. Subtly deceptive clue.
  • 79a [Transmogrify] ALTER, 90d [Adapted, fashion-wise] TAILORED. Good non-duplication.
  • 105a [“I’m in the __ boat”] SAME. Perversely, my instinct was to fill in LIFE here.
  • 84a [Drug researched in Project MK-Ultra] LSD, 117a [Org. that developed Project MK-Ultra] CIA. Okay, now I’m getting paranoid.
  • 131a [Necromancer’s forte] SORCERY.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Single Ladies”—Jim P’s review

This was a beauty of a grid. I didn’t catch onto the theme until the revealer and then I just marveled at the theme answers and the fill.

It’s all about the WNBA (112d, [Hoops org. whose members that don’t end with “s” are at the starred answers’ ends]). ZB excluded teams like the Las Vegas Sparks and the Sacramento Monarchs to focus on teams named with a singular noun. For some reason, these team names seem classier to me.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Single Ladies” · Zhouqin Burnikel · 7.5.20

  • 23a. [*”Affliction” of Justin’s fans] BIEBER FEVER. Indiana.
  • 25a. [*Symbol of Japan] RISING SUN. Connecticut.
  • 37a. [*Queen’s original lead singer] FREDDIE MERCURY. Phoenix.
  • 57a. [*Freedom of the press, e.g.] CIVIL LIBERTY. New York.
  • 79a. [*Situation caused by a concurrence of bad things] PERFECT STORM. Seattle.
  • 100a. [*Realization after waking up] IT WAS ALL A DREAM. Atlanta.
  • 116a. [*Game Boy competitor] ATARI LYNX. Minnesota. Whoa. Now that’s a deep cut. I thought I knew gaming machines, but I never knew Atari made a handheld.
  • 118a. [*Illusory hope] PIE IN THE SKY. Chicago.

Pretty great set, eh? Even if you didn’t know the ATARI LYNX, everything else is common enough and fun.

And everywhere you look in the grid, it’s the same thing—fun, quality fill: EYE-OPENER, DOG PADDLE, “EN GARDE!,” BUDDHA, SISTINE, COROLLA, FACE CARDS, CAKE POP, and SORE LOSER. And as usual, we get fun colloquial phrases along the way: “OH YOU,” “I GIVE,” “AW, C’MON!,” and “I DUNNO.” Only LAP AT made me go “meh,” and only for a quarter of a second.

Clues of note:

  • 41a. [Bread ___ butter pickles]. AND. Wow. I have never heard this phrase before. Here’s the skinny.
  • 88a. [Like pepperoni pizza]. OILY. Hmm. I would never describe a pizza as OILY, unless you drizzled some olive oil on it. “Greasy” is the more apt description.
  • 51d. [Spare indicator]. SLASH. My brain wouldn’t work on this one. Even after I filled in all the correct letters from the crossings, I was still thinking of car tires—as in someone slashing tires. Nope. It’s bowling.
  • 76d. [Obsessive fan]. STAN. I would think this clue would need “slangily” at the end, but maybe it’s become common enough. M-W says the term is now 20 years old. By the way, it’s a portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan” and can also be used as a verb.

Bottom line, this is simply a list theme, but Zhouqin makes it shine with a quality themeset and marvelously sparkly fill. 21x grids can often be a slog, but not this one. 4.25 stars from me.

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26 Responses to Sunday, July 5, 2020

  1. M henderson says:

    This angers me to no end. On the app versions, so often the program doesn’t accept any variant of the rebus. I’ve had this solved for awhile but can’t get the puzzle to complete because apparently I’m not providing the right combination of tick, box, tickbox, tick/box. This happens way too often.

    • Anne says:

      I put BOX in all the rebus squares and the iPad app gave me the Congratulations screen. Perhaps it depends on which app you are using.

      • Huda says:

        In Across Lite the starting letter is usually enough for the rebus.
        I put B in the circles and it was rejected. I put T in all of the circles and it worked.

      • pannonica says:

        I had B for BOX too, but then read the Note, which explained that in the print version the circles were squares. Thus figuring that entering any form of ‘box’ would be redundant, I changed them all to TICKs and that did the trick.

    • Billy Boy says:

      As soon as I figured out the two-way, I knew that was going to be the hard part as the rest of the puzzle was easy. (Is it cheating to fill in the revealer first if you can?)

      On the NYT site entering BOX as an Across, after completion and congratulations for XYZ day streak, THEN they all read TICK. If there was a note, I couldn’t find it.

      Cannot say I got that immediately, tried BOXTICK first, didn’t work. Two-way rebus, will have to remember this for next time.

      Might have to fill in the A-lite to see how that works as I use that sometimes, thanks for the tip.

      • Billy Boy says:

        I solved on paper first, printed A-lite, circles as printed, never filled them in. Entered on webap, all but the shaded squares and then tried to get credit ….

    • John says:

      NYT App on iPad. Boxes were shaded. “Box/Tick” was my Rebus fill. Happy music.

    • Kris says:

      I was able to enter “box” with in, tool and toy, but not with soap or black. When I realized “tick” was the other part, I went back to change them and it won’t let me. I can’t get any of the rebus boxes to change, hence no ‘completion’. Any ideas on how to be able to change them? I’ve got the whole thing solved… I want my congratulations!

      • Marty D says:

        I had the same problem, but when I used the backspace to delete the entire box (not the letters in the rebus), it worked OK

  2. John A says:

    Plain BOX worked here, but I can see how a different app (or this comment?) could TICK you off.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: I loved it. It was clever and breezy which is perfect on a Sunday to avoid it feeling like a slog. A puzzle that lives up to its theme!

  4. MattF says:

    Liked the NYT. My first try at a solution was to leave all the ‘BOX’ boxes blank– that would explain why they had to be emphasized in the grid and would let you ‘tick’ them unobstructed, at least in the print version. Sadly, my concept wasn’t the way it worked out, the NYT app required, redundantly, putting ‘BOX’es in the boxes. But a nice puzzle.

  5. David L says:

    In the LAT, I had an empty square at the crossing of 101D “Three-time AL batting champ Tony” and 108A “Initialism for some time away from work.” O_IVA/_OA. I guessed it was mostly likely L or R but neither LOA nor ROA meant anything to me. Google tells me that LOA can mean ‘leave of absence.’ And also, ironically, ‘list of acronyms.’

  6. Bryan says:

    NYT: I’m an avid hiker, and I always check myself for ticks if I’ve been on a wooded or overgrown trail. I never thought I would have to check the crossword for ticks. Alas, this one has five of them! Speaking of checking and ticks, I wonder if “check the box” is more often used than “tick the box.” I suppose it would have been more challenging, though, to find answers that contain “check” rather than “tick.” Overall, this was a very fun puzzle, but perhaps a bit too easy for a Sunday. I got my fastest-ever Sunday time on this one. Once I figured out a couple of the rebus squares, I realized they were all the same, and I was off to the races.

  7. Marycat says:

    LAT: 55A should be POETRY SLAM. 7D is definitely a word from the 60s, not the 70s. 30D is an abbreviation but is not clued as such. 65D should be NOVA LOX. Sloppy editing, as usual. Not fun.

    • Martin says:

      Slam poetry is the genre. A poetry slam is the activity.

      Yes, there were Go-go dancers in the ’60s, but “Disco-a-gogo” is also a thing. The clue doesn’t say anything about origination of the term.

      At least in New York, “Nova Scotia lox” is often called “nova.” It doesn’t come from Nova Scotia anymore. In any case, “Nova lox” sounds odder to my ear than either “Nova” or “Nova Scotia.”

      • pannonica says:

        Nova Scotia / Nova and lox are two different preparations in my experience, hence ‘nova lox’ is intelligible but garbled.

        • Martin says:

          I’m good with “intelligible but garbled.” “Lox” just means “salmon” (from Lachs, G.) , but “nova is a kind of lox” wouldn’t bother most New Yorkers. Many in my grandparents’ generation called it “novy.”

          While just plain “lox” is ambiguous, it can refer to “belly lox,” which is cheaper and saltier than nova. Many people don’t realize it’s not smoked, only salt cured (which is why it’s cheaper and saltier). Nova is cold-smoked, and the bacteriostatic action of the smoke allows it to be less heavily salted. My dad grew up eating belly lox and would put salt on nova to give it “tam” (flavor). We would get nova for me, my mom and sister and belly lox for him rather than watch him defile the nova with salt.

          It’s king salmon season in California and last night I smoked a side of salmon. Home made nova!

  8. Thanks, pannonica.

    The [HINDQUARTERS] clue was actually the last one I found, strangely enough! The original seed was one I abandoned: [COMMANDMENT] or [MANDATE] cluing MOTHER-IN-LAW.

  9. Me says:

    I think Evan Birnholz is a genius, but I really struggled with this one. I think it’s because the only way to get the theme answers is to go on this multi-step journey – figure out synonym options for the small word, figure out synonym options for the big word, then figure out what combination goes together to make a common phrase. But the phrase itself isn’t really clued, and some of the synonyms are technically correct but require some mental contortions (NET=CATCH, for example). I kind of wish there had been a straightforward clue as well as the clever one: something like “what people hope to do through exercise, or (S)ILHOU(E)TT(E).” But I still finished it successfully, and Evan’s Sunday puzzle is the one I look forward to the most each week!

    • David Steere says:

      I quite agree about looking forward to Evan’s most of all. Usually, I can’t wait until Sunday and stay up late Saturday night to do the Post puzzle. Not sure why the ratings are rather low. This was a delight. A pleasant Sunday with enjoyable puzzles also from the Times and the Universal Sunday.

      • Thank you.

        I wouldn’t bother trying to figure out the ratings. More to the point, as I periodically say here, I wish everyone would stop treating the ratings as though they’re useful evidence of anything.

        • Mary P says:

          I very much look forward to Evan’s puzzles, too. And I feel as if he wants us to have fun and complete them, as opposed to some puzzles that do the opposite. The July 5th one was harder than most, but not due to the theme words. I got “pain in the butt” right away and had little trouble with the rest, but I had to laugh out loud as I finally finished the puzzle with bars for hockey fans. What on earth was oca nada? Okinawa? Whoops! O Canada. I especially enjoyed the puzzle with senseless answers, like Liv lost gin, etc. So much fun. I have to agree that Evan, you are a genius. Thanks so much for what you do. It is most impressive.

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