Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Jonesin' 4:49 (Derek) 


LAT 4:05 (Derek) 


NYT 4:25 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ 6:34 (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 476), “G-E Whiz!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 476: “G-E Whiz!”

Hello everybody! Hope all is well with you and, especially to those people living in the Sun Belt and the northwest portion of the United States, hope you’re all staying as safe as possible with COVID-19 raging in those areas at the moment.

Today’s grid reimagines well-known phrases or nouns by taking one of the words in the phrase and adding a letter “G” at the beginning and an “E” at the end to create a new word and a punny new meaning.

  • GRIPE VAN WINKLE (16A: [Nickname of a kvetching literary sleeper?]) – Rip Van Winkle
  • GNOME DE PLUME (24A: [Elfin pen name?]) – Nom de plume
  • GOT A BAD GRAPE (42A: [Was unjustly accused of inferior winemaking?]) – Got a bad rap
  • YEAR OF THE GRATE (54A: [12-month period that honors sewer covers?]) – Year of the Rat. Timely, since 2020, I believe, is indeed the year of the rat in the Chinese zodiac.

A somewhat unconventional grid structure (those L-shaped black squares in northeast and southwest) with two 14-letter theme entries, though that allowed for a couple of nice non-themed entries such as RUNS FREE (57A: [Goes off-leash]) and IN ORBIT, with the latter having a pretty nice misleading clue (46A: [Revolutionary?]). The grid gives some love to some wonderful vocalists in BRITNEY (9D: [“Toxic” singer Spears]) and ARIANA (43D” [Thank U, Next” singer Grande]). Seeing SPONGES clued the way it was fascinated me that the word can be used in a positive connotation, as in absorbing knowledge, and in a negative way like the clue in the puzzle (41D: [Moochers]). I was/am unfamiliar with FOSS and hoping a few people who might know of his works would enlighten me on what they think about his works (60A: [Conductor/composer Lukas]). In exchange, I’ll tell you all you need to know about pro footballing great Larry CSONKA, including making sure to tell you that he and I have the same alma mater and to make sure to pronounce the “Cs” in his name exactly like the letter “z” (40A: [Football Hall-of-Famer Larry]). Deal?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LIP (4D: [Insolent talk]) & MGRS. (22D: [Baseball VIPs]) & SASSY (61A: [Mouthing off]) – How about a triple play, shall we?!? One of the greatest MGRS in the history of Major League Baseball was best known for his SASSY attitude while inside of the dugout. Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher, who managed the New York (baseball) Giants to the 1954 World Series championship, was affectionately and/or infamously known as “Leo the Lip,” and his sass earned him 95 ejections from games that he managed, second all time at the time of his retirement in 1973. He won 2,008 games as a manager, including over 700 wins with the Dodgers, over 600 with the Giants and over 500 with the Chicago Cubs. He also is associated and credited with coining some not-so-sweet terminology that has found its way into everyday usage, including the phrase “Nice guys finish last” and “Stick it in his ear,” the latter of which he was credited with saying any time he wanted a batter on the opposing team to be hit by a pitch.

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Evan Kalish’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Climbing Trees”—Jim P’s review

There’s no revealer, so we must look to the title for our hint to the theme, and it provides all the information we need. Types of trees can be found climbing upward in the circled letters .

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Climbing Trees” · Evan Kalish · Tue., 7.14.20

  • 5d. [Landscaper’s pride] MANICURED LAWN. Alder.
  • 7d. [It tends to be relatively sparse] RURAL POPULATION. Poplar.
  • 11d. [Sinister signs] EVIL OMENS. Olive.
  • 19d. [Athlete’s contract provision] NO-TRADE CLAUSE. Cedar.
  • 34d. [Informational online resources] HELP PAGES. Apple.

Works for me. I especially like how all the trees are a lengthy five-letters long. No chintzy elm or fir or gum trees need apply. Not even a pine hidden in CHEESE NIPS.

Plenty of fill to like: LAST CALLTRAIN RIDE, ERGONOMIC, LUZON, YAMAHA, WOOT, and even SPIGOT. I’m not a fan of L.A. RAM, especially starting off the grid at 1a, but other than that, those large NW and SE corners are impressively filled.

Clues of note:

  • 43a. [One of 2020’s front-line heroes]. NURSE. Nice shout out. We’re far from out of the woods. Mask up, people!
  • 52d. [“Socrate” composer Erik]. SATIE. Anyone else pronounce the piece “so crate,” a la Bill and Ted?

Nice puzzle. Four stars.

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

NY Times crossword solution, 7 14 20, no. 0714

The theme builds on famous one-word Broadway musicals by taking familiar phrases that start with those words and cluing them as if they pertain to the shows:

  • 17a. [Super-cold spell on the set of a 1996 Broadway musical?], RENT FREEZE.
  • 58a. [Positive, albeit terse, review of a 2003 Broadway musical?], WICKED GOOD. Cute.
  • 11d. [Souvenir from a 1968 Broadway musical?], HAIR SHIRT.
  • 34d. [Performance venue for a 1977 Broadway musical?], ANNIE HALL.

Simple, fun theme.

I slowed myself down in solving by trying PLINK for 38a. [Old piano’s sound] instead of PLONK. I knew PLONK meant cheap, bad wine, but not that it was also a sound. (Just me? Or did this snag you, too?) So I had WRIN* for [All wet] and WRING was related but not right, and then I sort of misread the SKIPPING clue (43a. [Saying “No thanks” to, say]) as starting with just say, so I racked my brain trying to think of a “skip ___” phrase that worked. Oof! I was WRONG.

Dupe of the day: 33d. [War supporter], HAWK / 38d. [Conflict helpful to customers], PRICE WAR. I’m hawkish on price wars.

I encountered some spoilers when I received a text message prior to solving: “CREE, NORN, RIIS … it’s why people don’t get into crosswords.” I’d add a couple other entries to the “maybe out of reach for the typical beginning solver” list of entries I don’t think should pop up in Monday or Tuesday NYTs: 41d. [Collector of letters: Abbr.], GPO, crossing EEOC, and 65a. [Kind of message made obsolescent by faxes], TELEX. I actually saw a telex machine used one time in 1989; it was near the fax machine and there was only one gray-haired administrative assistant who knew what it was and how to work it. Given that faxes are largely obsolescent now, this entry likely perplexed whole generations of solvers. If you’re in that cohort, please enjoy the video below.

Three more things:

  • 6a. [Things that may be open or folded], ARMS. Is there a difference between crossing and folding your arms?
  • 27a. [Org. concerned with sustainability], EPA. The historically accurate clues will continue, aspirationally, until the EPA returns to its roots.
  • 9d. [Genius, informally], SHERLOCK. I feel like this is mainly used in the negative, as in a sarcastic “No shit, Sherlock.”

3.25 stars. I liked the theme for a Tuesday, but the bits of beginner-hostile fill jumped out.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Double Negatives” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 07/14/2020

Why must we be so negative this week?? We have a bunch of “double negatives,” or the letters in NO doubled:

  • 17A [Subject of library censorship] BANNED BOOK
  • 23A [Bandleader known as “The King of Swing”] BENNY GOODMAN 
  • 37A [In fine order] RUNNING SMOOTHLY 
  • 45A [Cheap bowlful, maybe] RAMEN NOODLES – I always say these taste different when you HAVE to eat them!
  • 58A [Pet owner’s alternative to kibble] CANNED FOO

I envision another fun brainstorming session in making this puzzle! Minor quibble with RAMEN NOODLES in that the two N’s aren’t in the first word entirely like the other 4, but it’s all good in indie puzzles! Once again, can you think of any others? 4.4 stars this week.

There are a ton of entries that are battling it out for the Obscure-Pop-Culture-Reference-of-the-Week (OPCRotW!):

  • 6A [1990 World Series MVP Jose] RIJO – Here is a name from long ago! I think Sweet Lou Piniella managed these Reds teams from the late ’80s early ’90s.
  • 14A [“Legend of a Cowgirl” singer Coppola] IMANI – Who?
  • 52A [“Magpie and the Dandelion” band The ___ Brothers] AVETT – Who??
  • 62A [Actress Dreyfuss of “Dear Evan Hansen”] LAURA – Who??? OK, maybe I should know who this is, but if she is a Broadway stage actress, I don’t. (I just Googled her, and no, I don’t know who this is!)
  • 10D [Suit in a tarot deck] SWORDS – I am not a fan of Tarot cards, but they sure seem to show up quite often in puzzles …
  • 11D [U.S. Grant’s original first name] HIRAM – Can’t say I never heard this before. But I sure forgot it!
  • 13D [“Hobbs & Shaw” actress Mirren] HELEN – Of all her stellar movies, Matt picks THIS one?? :-D
  • 38D [“___ Mad At Cha” (Tupac Shakur song)] I AIN’T – Always good to see a rap reference in there. I imagine old white people getting frustrated just like I do when I encounter topics I am totally unfamiliar with!

This is Jonesin’ #997. Almost there!

Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 07/14/2020

This puzzle is certainly NOT a [first word of 61A]!

  • 18A [*Athletic brand for yoga class] LULULEMON 
  • 24A [*Beachgoer’s footwear] FLIP-FLOP 
  • 39A [*Stops smoking suddenly and entirely, say] QUITS COLD TURKEY
  • 51A [*Raid with a K-9 unit, perhaps] DRUG BUST 
  • 61A [Specialized unit seeking explosives … or what the ends of the answers to starred clues comprise?] BOMB SQUAD 

Far from being a bomb, this puzzle was quite a lot of fun, albeit it took a beat or two longer than it normally does for me. I think I had an error in there somewhere. I am getting out of my groove, and there are two online crossword tournaments coming up in the next month! I might have to go buy some ginseng or something! 4.3 stars for Craig’s puzzle today.

A few more things:

  • 1A [Poindexter] DWEEB – One of my monikers!
  • 46A [Kabul native] AFGHANI – There have been either Soviet or US troops there for almost my entire lifetime. There is a school of thought that says poppy grows there, which is used for a zillion different drugs. I wonder if that theory has merit …
  • 5D [Kids’ play boxes with plastic spheres] BALL PITS – After this pandemic, I can think of no place I would rather be LESS than in one of these!
  • 7D [Cape Cod town] TRURO – Is this near Natick? (Crossword joke!)
  • 11D [“I stand corrected”] MY MISTAKE” – Nice casual phrase!

Everyone have a safe and healthy week!

Peter A. Collins’ Universal crossword — “Star Turns”

THEME: Athletes’ names appear backwards in phrases that relate to their sport.

Universal crossword solution · “Star Turns” · Peter Collins Michaels · Tue., 7.14.20


  • 20A [How Mel advanced on a base hit, sometimes?] FIRST TO THIRD. 
  • 30A [Offside and interference, for Night Train?] PENALTIES. 
  • 47A [Larry’s court activity?] DRIBBLING. 
  • 57A [Substitute, or a hint to the circled letters?] BACKUP PLAYER. 

Universal loves to run themes that require circled letters. The problem is that the only place you can find the grid as it should appear is on this site. It’s run everywhere else without circles where solvers are asked to count and circle letters themselves (in this case, they’re asked to circle them backwards!). I’ve seen several novice solvers (and I think the Universal is a great puzzle for newer solvers!) try to interpret the instructions and fail. Either that or they are just turned off by it. In any case, this is an idea that, imo, needs the circled letters.

This one in general wasn’t for me, largely because I’m not a sports fan. I thought Night Train was a band, and I’ve never heard the phrase FIRST TO THIRD, though it Googles extremely well. PENALTIES was a bit of an outlier since DRIBBLING and FIRST TO THIRD are Basketball and Baseball specific, respectively.

Some crunchy stuff in the fill… BEBOPS as a present tense verb, EN BLOC, GYPSUM, BARDOT, TAUPE, SCROD… I dunno, for me they feel a bit bland. I did like MILKY WAY BAR and was just humming the song YOU’RE SO VAIN yesterday!

I also think the found phrases with the backwards names are pretty cool.

3 Stars with circles. 1.5 Star without circles. I find it ODD that the puzzle that, per its website “…sets the standard for all daily puzzles” is unable to do what all the other daily crosswords can do. Circle the squares.

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29 Responses to Tuesday, July 14, 2020

  1. e.a. says:

    the CREE are why people don’t get into crosswords?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      As a First Nations people mainly up in Canada, they’re bound to be less familiar to many American solvers. Many of the tribes that show up in crosswords the most (four-letter names, lots of vowels) are also not the ones Americans learn about in school. (Note: Not a defense of the American curriculum.)

    • JohnH says:

      Must admit that CREE was easy for me, RIIS even easier, but then I’m into urban stuff. I’m reading more of Jane Jacobs now.

      I had PLINK, too, and got a little hung up on the not rightness of WRING. (I couldn’t actually have told you what a TELEX is, although the fill wasn’t hard, and I don’t share the consensus hatred of the puzzle; whether it’s right for a Tuesday or not isn’t that big an issue to me.)

    • Mutman says:

      I agree with Amy — CREE is bad fill on a Tuesday, especially naticking LORCA, whom I’ve never heard of (maybe it’s my ignornace?!?!?)

      I also fell to the center square of I being wrong.

      And maybe I need to get out more, but I have never heard of a HAIRSHIRT. Maybe I needed to get out centuries ago when they may have been used …

      • M483 says:

        I’ve heard of “hair shirt” but it certainly isn’t a familiar phrase. I can’t even think of it as a phrase! This puzzle wouldn’t be any fun no matter what day it was. What I really dislike is too many clues that could have many different answers. 10Accross: “Friends” or “Frasier is a terrible clue for show. These kinds of clues then cross ridiculous words like “plonk” which would never be associated with a piano. Just because it’s an acceptable word for a noise doesn’t mean it is reasonable to use it for any noise you want. They are also crossing the theme answers which have no clue at all for either part of the answer except a year (which is no clue at all to a lot of us).
        I like the puzzles to have some bite to them, but the challenge should be from cleverness, not things like 56Across “norn.”

  2. Billy Boy says:

    Right, PLONK is British word for cheap wine/drink. Unattractive as onomatopoeia. Thought PLINK worked better, cross was wrong. Yes, Sherlock mean-spirited, several other right-on points.

    Just not a good Tuesday puzzle, like zero cleverness. outside of groanworthy Broadway name reinterpretations. Ugh, sorry to be so negative, but not late night fun, I assume no better with coffee. meh


  3. Philippe says:

    GPO crossing EEOC is incredibly weak and should never be accepted, regardless of the day.
    Hair shirt: meh…
    Happy Bastille day

    • R says:

      Agreed. The PLONK/WRONG cross with stretched clues was bad for a Tuesday, but EEOC crossing GPO (I still have no idea what this is referring to) is ludicrously bad. All that for a theme that’s kinda cute but has been done 1000 times, is just a mess.

      • David L says:

        One of many things that GPO can stand for is “General Post Office,” which is a thing in the UK but not really in the US. Although I discovered from Google that there is a building in DC named the General Post Office, more commonly known as the Tariff Commission Building these days. Pretty obscure, any way you look at it.

        • R says:

          “General Post Office” isn’t on the first page of Google hits for GPO, but I guess it makes enough sense. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for that entry.

  4. Bryan says:

    NYT: Tougher than usual for a Tuesday. If I were Shortz, I probably would have slotted this for Wednesday. But still, I think the 1.5 star rating (currently, as I’m writing this) is overly harsh. I’m a fan of this blog. I read it every day. But I might be in favor of doing away with the star ratings. I just think they tend to be an overly harsh judgment for some reason. I enjoyed this one, but like I said, it felt more like a Wednesday than a Tuesday.

  5. Mark Abe says:

    NTY: Yes, it felt difficult for a Tuesday. I’m sure most people under 70 have not seen a TELEX and would be more likely to know “FAX” as a kind of message made obsolescent by e-mail. I remember as a new IT guy about 1973 having to rig the interface to it from a computer through a paper tape using “Baudot code”, and haven’t thought about them in decades.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    WSJ, that last letter of 1A was the last block I filled in. (What the hell is a LARAM? Then d-oh) a big haha on me

    To ‘defend the NYT’, crossed acronyms, cluing unclever and awkward to the point of *annoying*. Yep, no better reviewing it over coffee. I did write in CREE, I learned my natives as a Scout. RIIS? No, not that one. but fully legit.

    Just was reading a legendary old wine list/book (Bern’s Steak House in Tampa) 3 days ago; an insert was trying to justify the new – wait for it – TELEX (~1925-1985), which wasn’t seeing much use in 1983.

  7. David L says:

    TELEX reminds me of Saturdays long ago when the BBC sports programme would show the football (soccer) results coming through on a teletype machine, while a gentleman with a reassuring and mellifluous voice would read them out: “West Bromwich Albion three, Wolverhampton Wanders two.” He always managed to say the score of losing team with a hint of disappointment in his voice. Poetry, it was.

    • David L says:

      *Wanderers, I meant

    • Anne says:

      You must mean James Alexander Gordon. He read the football results on the BBC every Saturday for nearly forty years, and “used his intonation, when pronouncing the names of the clubs, to indicate whether a match had ended in a home win, away win or draw” to quote Wikipedia.

  8. Dave S says:

    LAT – chock full of crosswordese (oles, nene, ell, era, uie, ale, eft, eked) and the second recent Rich Norris-edited puzzle I’ve seen that uses the word “comprise” (61 across) incorrectly. And is an Afghani a Kabul native? I’ve always seen the word used as a monetary unit.

  9. Norm says:

    Cr♥ssw♥rd Nation puzzle: A gnome is not an elf.

  10. M483 says:

    A review of the Universal puzzle hasn’t been posted yet. Can someone explain the theme to me. Star turns, I believe, means read the circled letters backward. So we get Ott (Mel) who is a baseball star, and Larry Bird but who is Lane?

  11. Karl Neice says:

    Star Turns by Peter A. Collins is pretty out there. I would think Larry Bird would be pretty old even for Gen X’ers and Mel Ott possibly ancient (hadn’t seen him much lately except as a gimme for crossers). Being a Giants fan helps me know that Ott was a slugger, not a FIRSTTOTHIRDer, so that clue was shaky. And being “backwords”? Just too cute. But only someone qualified to be a sports reporter would know about Dick “Night Train” Lane. I certainly didn’t. To add it all up (ENBLOC?) to BACKUPPLAYER? Doesn’t add up.

    • M483 says:

      Thanks. The posting is now up but I still wouldn’t have figured it out if not for your reply. BTW Although Mel Ott was a slugger, sometimes, after he was already on first base, the next hitter might have given him the opportunity to run thru second and on to third base. That’s the way I interpret it.

    • Gary R says:

      I can certainly see where Night Train Lane might not be a familiar name to someone who isn’t a serious pro football fan – but the PENALTIES answer should be fairly straightforward for even casual football fans. Mel Ott, on the other hand, should be familiar to any crossword solver, and if you know baseball at all, advancing FIRST TO THIRD on a base hit is pretty standard.

      If I understand things correctly, Gen X started in the mid-60’s, when the Baby Boom ended. I would think anyone born in the U.S. before the mid-70’s, who has even a passing interest in sports, would know Larry Bird’s name. He played into the early 90’s, and coached for a few years after that. His battles with Magic Johnson in Celtic-Lakers match-ups are legendary. Any list of all-time best NBA players that doesn’t have him in the Top 10 is to be scoffed at.

    • John says:

      People of all ages do puzzles. The fill certainly skewed older but the theme concept was terrific and the crosses were fair. I found it entertaining. Thanks Peter.

  12. Brenda Rose says:

    I absolutely agree with Derek’s critique on Jonesin’ puz. The “I believe you” phrase came up too often in my solving.
    CREE – a friend who is a veteran solver said once that whenever he saw a clue for a Canadian indigne it was an automatic C for Cree.
    I am defending NYT & Stella for offering us a quality puzzle today. This venue has been presumed to be the epitome of erudition for decades regardless of what day it is so if you can’t stand the heat…

  13. Vince Hradil says:

    Jonesin’ can someone explain 18D for me? Thanks.

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