Sunday, July 19, 2020

LAT 7:50 (Jenni) 


NYT 11:32 (Amy) 


WaPo 11:05 (including meta) (Jim Q) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


Universal (Sunday) 8:13 (Jim P) 


Wyna Liu’s New York Times crossword, “Doubles Play”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 19 20, “Doubles Play” – Wyna Liu

I don’t think the puzzle was as hard as my comparative solving time suggests—I was sort of distracted while solving. And then our dinner arrived before I was able to blog the puzzle … and then I got waylaid by the Liberty jigsaw in the other room and here it is, two or three hours later! Life is a puzzle.

The theme plays with words that contain a syllable with a Z sound that can be represented with plural letter names, if that makes sense. Like so:

  • 22a. [*Performers who set the bar high?], TRA-PP ARTISTS. Trapeze artists. Trapeze is represented by changing the PEZE to PP, which is two letter PEES, and that plural S takes a Z sound.
  • 24a. [*Go-getter’s maxim], CC THE DAY. Seize the day.
  • 39a. [*Public health agency’s mission], DI-ZZ CONTROL. Disease Control. Still mad that the White House has cut the CDC out of the loop on some important statistics gathering.
  • 48a. [*Feature of a Chippendales show], STRIP-TT. Striptease. It’s unfortunate that the next 7 with a double letter in the grid, PHOTO OP, isn’t part of the theme.
  • 67a. [*Places for coasters], AM-UU-MENT PARKS. Amusement parks.
  • 84a. [*How to screw in a light bulb], CLOCK-YY. Clockwise.
  • 91a. [*What keeps up standards in the radio business?], OL-DD STATION. Oldies station. If you’re over 45, it’s kinda wild that there are oldies stations playing 1990s music, isn’t it?
  • 110a. [*”Holy moly!”], GG LOUISE. Geez Louise!
  • 114a. [*Occasion for hiding in the dark], SURPR-II PARTY. Surprise party. Are you one who would welcome a surprise party or who’s apt to disown anyone who plans one for you? Life can be startling enough without being ambushed by loved ones.

Neat theme. Took me a while to figure out what was going on.

What else? Lots of stuff:

  • 11a. [Something pressed in an emergency], PANIC BAR. I don’t know what this is. Examples, anyone?
  • 46a. [Actress and civil rights activist Ruby ___], DEE. This is a wonderful clue, so informative. See also: 105a. [Singer/activist Horne], LENA.
  • 73a. [Language spoken on Easter Island], RAPA NUI. I knew that was a place name, but not that it was also the name of a people and their language. Click that link to read a bit about this Polynesian language, and about the Peruvians’ essentially genocidal treatment of the Rapa Nui in the 1860s. Shameful.
  • 82a. [Palate cleansers between courses], SORBETS. The print version has palette instead. Oops.
  • 103a. [Author/magazine editor Welteroth], ELAINE. This was a gimme for me. She was the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue magazine when it launched into the stratosphere for its keen political coverage devoured by the young women who read it. She is only 33! One of those smart Black women to keep an eye on.
  • 117a. [Genre for the Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair], ALT ROCK. Liz Phair and her fans on Twitter had a rousing discussion over what the answer to this clue should be.
  • 121a. [Italian diminutive suffix], INO / 104d. [Japanese beer brand], ASAHI. If you don’t know your Japanese beers, this might have stymied you. But it certainly shows up in enough crosswords, with that great vcvcv letter pattern, so you ought to know it by now.
  • 12d. [Inverse trig function], ARCSEC. Oof! THAT HURT. Trying to put together the two themers that it crosses, I spent too much time in this section.
  • 32d. [Like polka], CZECH. !! I always thought it was Polish. It’s got a more Polish vibe here in Chicago.
  • 33d. [What sheep participate in], GROUPTHINK. I’m grateful the word sheeple wasn’t used here. I hate it.
  • 50d. [National economic prosperity, metaphorically], RISING TIDE. It lifts all boats. We’ve got too many boats stranded on a shoal right now.
  • 58d. [First man, in Maori mythology], TIKI. The clue screamed “wow, you do not know this at all, it must be some obscure word you’ve never seen,” and then it turned out to be TIKI. Easy-peasy! (EE-y PP-y, in this theme.)
  • 85d. [Have a serious crush on, informally], LIKE LIKE. Love this entry!
  • 105d. [Partially landlocked bay], LOCH. Am I the only one who thought a LOCH was a lake?

This puzzle’s too big to go back and tally up the representation numbers, but it felt inclusive and I liked the overall vibe, fill, and clues along with the theme. Four stars from me.

Yaakov & Yoni Glatt’s LA Times crossword, “Fast x Furious IV” – Jenni’s write-up

The theme answers are all clued [Fast] or [Furious]. When I started to write this I noticed the x in the title and realized each [Fast] answer crosses a [Furious] answer, and there are four pairs. It’s an interesting construction, but that tidbit didn’t make it any faster (!) or more fun to solve. The theme gets a solid “meh” from me. The theme rundown:

Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2020, Yaakov Bendavid & Yoni Glatt, “Fast x Furious 4,” solution grid

  • 23a [Fast] is IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE and it crosses 3d [Furious], ON THE WARPATH. That could be removed from everyone’s word list, since it references a stereotype of American Indians.
  • BLOWING A FUSE at 53a crosses AT A GOOD CLIP at 35d.
  • FIT TO BE TIED, 47d, is matched with LICKETYSPLIT, 87a.
  • A MILE A MINUTE at 67d crosses FOAMING AT THE MOUTH, 120a.

So that’s the theme. As I said, “meh.”

A few other things:

  • Plurals I could do without: ACCUSALSEATABLES, and DDAYS. I could do without ACCUSAL and EATABLE in the singular, too.
  • 80s and 90s ladies side-by-side: Sarah Michelle GELLAR and Ally SHEEDY.
  • I got to 81a, [Cathedral part] and confidently filled in NAVE because I was sure APSE had already appeared in the puzzle, but when I went back I couldn’t find APSE. I suspect it was in some other puzzle I did today (or I’m too tired to see it here).
  • I wonder how PTAS will function this year. Socially distanced wrapping paper sales?
  • [Musical fifths] are SOLS; that’s the fifth note on the DO RE MI scale.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the insurance salesman in “Groundhog Day” is named NED (never seen it) and that the soprano in “The Flying Dutchman” is SENTA (never listened to it). I also did not know that Binghamton has a AA TEAM named The Rumble Ponies – I was happy to learn that!

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

Posting a quick write-up today! Rushing to get graduation videos ready for my students (July 31st graduation! Who would’ve thought?)

THEME: Meta! But the title says it all!

Washington Post, July 19, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “A Meal With Captain Obvious” solution grid


No real “theme answers” per se, unless I’m missing something (which is very possible). Perhaps a little wink on one of the clues? I’m talking about 21A [Length x width]. But if you look at some awfully strange letter combinations, it’s not too hard to figure out what’s going on.

There are eight sets of four-letter boxes where the letter is repeated (am I saying that right?). I have highlighted them in green on the grid I printed out since my photoshop program no longer works since I updated my Mac. But they’re pretty easy to spot, especially because it is particularly strange to see the letters W, Y, and B appearing frequently right next to one another.

I picked up on the theme at the CY YOUNG / NAVY YARDS / SKYY / HEY YA section, which was about halfway through for me, and I figured each of the repeated letters would spell the phrase we’re looking for. Bingo! TWOBYTWO! The length x width gives us FOURSQUARE!

Played like a quirky themeless with a hint of mystery for me, but in Evan’s hands that’s never bad. HALEP was new, and of course fantastic clue for TRANS MAN.

Overall, a pleasing solve as usual.

Val Melius’s Universal crossword — “The Masked Singer”

If you’re looking for a soprano, you’ve come to the wrong puzzle!

Universal crossword solution · “The Masked Singer” · Val Melius · Sun., 7.19.20

THEME ANSWERS: Vocal “singing” parts are hidden in common phrases.

  • 18A [Walk-through on a real estate site] VIRTUAL TOUR. 
  • 28A [Premed’s job, perhaps] LAB ASSISTANT.
  • 49A [Mandate on paper] WRITTEN ORDER. 
  • 63A [Consciences, or a theme hint] INNER VOICES. 

Solid revealer and idea, but I feel like I’m solving a lot of hidden word themes in the Universal lately! Lots of circled squares, which Universal cannot print in their regular publication or online webapp. This one doesn’t suffer too badly from that pitfall imo.

It is strange that SOPRANO is missing. I mean, of course you’re not going to find a phrase that is able to hide SOPRANO (though I’m sure Val gave it a onelook search just for fun), but it certainly feels incomplete without that voice part, which frequently carries the melody!

BABE, DOLLS UP, and I NEVER! Gave this an old-timey feel. I can’t hear the word BABE in that context without thinking of the play Oleanna.

Really liked the clue for 39D [Apt part of a sad song?] DOWNBEAT. The clue for AT EASE!, on the other hand, seems a bit inaccurate: [“Chilling” words from a drill instructor?]. I mean, even when they’re AT EASE, do they really look like they’re chilling?

Overall 2.9 stars from me, with or without circles.

Ross Trudeau’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Measurable Impact”—Jim P’s review

Each of today’s theme answers is an idiom that hints at some sort of measurable change. The revealer, MOVING THE NEEDLE, is clued [Making noticeable progress, or a theme hint].

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Measurable Impact” · Ross Trudeau · 7.19.20

  • 22a. [Has a broad impact, or affects a seismometer?] SENDS SHOCK WAVES
  • 36a. [Exceeds one’s previous depravity, or affects a depth gauge?] SINKS TO A NEW LOW
  • 51a. [Loses control, or affects a Geiger counter?] HAS A MELTDOWN
  • 61a. [Suddenly takes major action, or affects a speedometer?] GOES FROM ZERO TO SIXTY
  • 76a. [Tires, or affects a fuel gauge?] RUNS OUT OF GAS
  • 90a. [Adds pressure, or affects a temperature gauge?] TURNS UP THE HEAT.

A nice collection of phrases. Each one is common enough, and I especially like how each one affects a different measuring device.

Beyond the theme, as usual with Ross Trudeau and David Steinberg, the fill is sparkly and strong. Highlights include “AMSCRAY!,” “SHALL WE?,” I AM MALALA, DRESS RACKTALK TOO MUCHSALARY BUMPS, EATS CROW, and THE TWIST with a great clue [Checker’s move?]. I liked seeing STARCRAFT [Intergalactic PC game], Warcraft’s spacey cousin which didn’t catch on the way the fantasy-based game did. Non-gamers maybe won’t have heard of it, but the title is fairly inferable, given the clue and the popularity of games ending in -craft. I also liked seeing DARWIN [“Survival of the fittest” naturalist], as I recently read (listened to the audiobook of) Tim Mason’s The Darwin Affair, an enjoyable Victorian thriller. Sadly, there wasn’t as much Darwin in it as I would have liked, but I recommend it nonetheless.

Clues of note:

  • 14a. [Bit of floury language?]. SIFT. Fun clue.
  • 80a. [Now-silent character on “The Simpsons”]. APU. I haven’t watched the show regularly in years, but I know of the objections regarding the stereotypical portrayal of this character. However, I didn’t know they just made him silent.
  • 97a. [Jane Pauley’s channel]. CBS. This was my only error in the whole puzzle because I went with NBC where she was for 25 years. I didn’t know she became the current host of CBS Sunday Morning in 2016.
  • 110d. [Dr. Mom’s treatment, maybe]. TLC. In our house, Dr. Mom actually prescribes medicine. (My wife’s a pediatrician.)

Solid grid. 3.75 stars.

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20 Responses to Sunday, July 19, 2020

  1. Mark Abe says:

    NYT: Great puzzle. TIL: “Like-like”. Polka is Czech. I also thought it Polish. I googled and discovered that a loch could be either a sea inlet or a lake. I am also in need of having “Panic bar” explained as I am more apt to hit a panic button.

  2. Anne says:

    NYT: a very enjoyable puzzle. It took me until GGLOUISE to tumble to the theme. I guess I’m a bit slow, oh well.

    A PANIC BAR is that thing they have on emergency exits, you press it probably with both hands and the door opens and the fire alarm goes off and you run down the stairs because something bad is going on.

    • Me says:

      A panic bar is pretty common nowadays in public buildings. It’s the big bar that goes across the entire door, that’s often gray, that you push in so you can exit the building. Supermarkets and arenas often have them if they don’t have automatic doors.

      They are great if you’re carrying stuff, because you don’t need to turn a knob.

      They got put into public buildings because there were a bunch of fires and other disasters where people couldn’t get out of the building because the door was difficult to open or opened inward. So now you don’t have to turn a knob or anything — just push the bar and run!

    • RM Camp says:

      The NYT gimmick actually didn’t take me long to get, with TRA[PP] ARTIST being the first to give it away. GGLOUISE threw me though, I thought it would be a double whammy (GGLOUIEE).

      I just turned 39 a week ago and I’m pissed to hear Nirvana on classic rock stations.

  3. Stephen B. Manion says:

    MAN O’WAR lost one race in his career. The horse that beat him was the aptly named UPSET. SECRETARIAT lost several times but won the Belmont in a performance that is considered by many to be the greatest of all time by any athlete in any sport. They both lost races at Saratoga, which is known as the graveyard of favorites. My vote goes to SECRETARIAT

    EZ enjoyable puzzle except for the SE corner, which was tricky. I did not know ASAHI.


    • MattF says:

      Agree. My immediate reaction to the clue was ‘not enough blank spaces in the grid’.

      • Diana says:

        Hear hear. Secretariat is of course the greatest horse. When I didn’t see enough spaces, I thought- Seabiscuit. But still not enough spaces. But then I thought of how Sea beat War Admiral who was a son or grandson of MAN O WAR. So I figured it out. As I filled in, I thought smugly to myself, “I bet I’m the only solver who knows this with no letters.” Probably not, but it made me happy at time. Still think Secretariat is greatest horse of all time. But that’s neither here or there.

  4. Ethan says:

    I thought the NYT was exceptionally well filled for a Sunday. Interesting stuff sprinkled everywhere. I do wonder why GABS/ANS was used rather than GABY/ANY, since Jeff Chen called out the RAPANUI/ANS crossing as being potentially problematic for some people. Was ANY somewhere else in the grid and I missed it?

  5. Richelle says:

    I enjoyed the fact that the Sunday puzzle included both Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee who were married for 56 years and stood with Martin Luther King during the 1963 march on Washington

  6. MattF says:

    Took me a little while to get the NYT theme— the revealer for me was CCTHEDAY. After that, it went pretty easily. Good puzzle.

  7. Howard B says:

    Very nice puzzle, with names and knowledge all over the map.
    My time was extremely slow on this (indicating a bit higher difficulty) for a few reasons:
    – The theme was subtle enough to not reveal itself immediately.
    – I found a lot of the clues here to be very original, to prevent immediate fill-in – we had to “work” for it a bit more (I’m looking at you, TIKI! That was a great clue!).
    – There were many vaguer clues that offered 2-4 possible initial solutions. I tripped up a lot more on these incorrect first impressions.

    Very nicely done – although a few of these did really vex me (HOWRU? Maybe I saw this one used once in an email in the 2000s).
    P.S. – “LIKE like” cracked me up. Perfect clue!

  8. Jenni Levy says:

    Loved the NYT and found it a good bit harder than the average Sunday, which is a good thing by my lights.

  9. Billy Boy says:

    NYT clever methodology, found at 22A, crosses plus the title did it. But eventually the extra trivia needed for a 21×21, I just couldn’t find the interest to fill each square.

    A nice trick.

  10. DH says:

    “Like-like” is an example of a grammatical construct proposed a few years ago by Jila Ghomeshi, Ray Jackendoff, Nicole Rosen and Kevin Russell, in a paper titled “Contrastive Focus Reduplication in English”, and subtitled “The Salad-Salad Paper (as in, “You make the tuna salad, I’ll make the salad-salad”).

    Here’s an interesting poem that makes use of CFR, that I discovered in Wikipedia:

  11. AV says:

    Exactly what a Sunday should be! Perfect gimmick. Loved it.

  12. Norm says:

    Since it’s almost “baseball” season, I thought the NYT should have borrowed from Ernie Banks and titled the puzzle “Let’s Play Two.” Fun puzzle. Baffled me until AMUUMENT PARKS. and, even after the light bulb came on, it was still fun figuring out the entries. Some themes wear on you after you get it; this one stayed fresh until the end.

  13. Thanks, Jim.

    Credit to Nate Cardin, Heron Greenesmith, and Anna Gundlach for their suggestions in helping me finesse the clue for TRANS MAN.

  14. Kelly Clark says:

    “97a. [Jane Pauley’s channel]. CBS. This was my only error in the whole puzzle because I went with NBC where she was for 25 years. I didn’t know she became the current host of CBS Sunday Morning in 2016.”

    And a lovely shout-out to Ross’s dad’s wife.

  15. Scott says:

    NYT Regarding 80D, What is a Teastop? I understand it is T-Top, but I think the double T here is a minor nit in an otherwise good puzzle.

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