Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Jonesin' 4:39 (Derek) 


LAT 2:50 (Derek) 


NYT 3:18 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


WSJ 4:31 (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 477), “Topsy-Turvy Visuals”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 477: “Topsy-Turvy Visuals”

Hello everyone! Hope you’re all well and hope you got fluids in you all day and/or stayed in to remain in temperate conditions. Man, it was hawt outside today!!

Today’s grid hit a soft spot for me, as four theme entries contained circled letters that had to be read backwards as the fifth theme entry, FLIP CHARTS, clued you in to the gimmick (32D: [Presentation visuals that inspired the puzzle theme!]). A lot of my play-by-play broadcasting career involved creating flip charts, especially during football games. I would take a manila folder and put the offensive and defensive depth charts/rosters on all four sides of the folder, flipping it over depending on which team had the ball. Oh, the memories!

  • BIG BAD WOLF (3D: [Menacing nursery rhyme canine]) – Flow
  • TECHNOCRATS (24D: [Decision-makers with scientific expertise]) – Star
  • MEMORABLE MOMENT (7D: [Never-to-be-forgotten bit of time]) – Bar
  • RENT RECEIPT (9D: [Payment record from a landlord]) – Pie

Don’t know why this occurred, but after putting in the first theme entry during the solve (big bad wolf), I immediately thought to read the circled letters backwards, which led to a super-quick identification of the gimmick going on. (I did not have in mind the title of the grid by the time that happened.) To see lively entries such as COME ON DOWN (18A: [Enthusiastic “The Price is Right” invitation]) and ADAM AND EVE and then notice that neither are part of the theme of the grid was especially pleasing (63A: [First couple?]). (By the way, I dare you to not have the voice of Rod Roddy in your head right now!!) Here is hoping I can slip this bit of info in here without getting berated: while I’m sure ODOM is awesome in his role on the musical mentioned, I have still yet to watch it, even though it was made available to stream/watch for free just a few days ago (11D: [“Hamilton” actor Leslie ___ Jr.]). Maybe one of these days, I’ll watch, and I’m sure that I’m missing out on something special. Unless an intrepid constructor wants to actually put “para-aminobenzoic” into a grid, guess we’ll just have to settle for PABA at the moment (1A: [___-free (sunscreen description)]). Probably biggest highlight of the grid was the hilarious clue to MY FOOT (47A: [Skeptical comment from a podiatrist?]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: CARBO (36A: [___-load (prep for a marathon)]) – One of the greatest baseball games of all time, Game 6 of the 1975 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox, featured one of the most famous home runs ever hit, Carlton Fisk’s waving-the-ball-fair walk-off homer in the 12th inning that delivered the Red Sox a 7-6 victory and forced a decisive Game 7. But Fisk’s famous heroics were preceded four innings earlier by those of Bernie Carbo, who came off the bench with the BoSox down 6-3 and crushed a pinch-hit three-run home run to centerfield with two outs to tie the game at 6. Carbo, who had played earlier in his career for the Reds, only registered seven at-bats during the ’75 Fall Classic, but recorded three hits — all for extra bases — with two of those hits being home runs. Don’t believe everything I just said, including the story that claims that Carbo, upon reaching third base after his Game 6 home run, yelled to Reds third baseman Pete Rose and said, “Hey, Pete, don’t you wish you were that strong?”? Well, just watch the video…

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

Take care!


Blake Slonecker’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Something’s Missing”—Jim P’s review

That was fun! Our theme is FILL IN THE BLANKS (61a, [Complete, perhaps]) and each entry (aside from the themers) has a FITB clue. The themers are examples of actual places where people FITB.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Something’s Missing” · Blake Slonecker · Tue., 7.21.20

  • 17a. [Where solvers 61-Across] CROSSWORD PUZZLE. Did I know that CROSSWORD PUZZLE is a grid-spanning 15-letter phrase? I’m not sure. But what a great, meta way to start off this puzzle.
  • 29a. [Where kids 61-Across] MAD LIBS. Ah, yes! Who didn’t love MAD LIBS in their youth, where you could exercise your naughty vocabulary.
  • 36a. [Where candidates 61-Across] JOB APPLICATIONS. Not political candidates as I thought at first, but candidates for employment.
  • 44a. [Where filers 61-Across] TAX FORM. How is the status of everyone’s refunds (for those that got/are getting refunds)? Ours has yet to be released. Of course, we filed only a couple days before the deadline.

Once I realized all the clues were FITBs, I wondered how I would like the rest of the puzzle. Would it get repetitive or stay lively? For me, it was the latter. The gimmick made each entry quick to solve and so I felt like I was able to speed through. It wasn’t until near the bottom that I hit a couple of snags (I’m looking at Abba EBAN and Rotary HOES in particular). But crossings resolved those easily enough.

Necessarily, there aren’t any long phrases in the fill. But I hardly missed them since I was taking advantage of the format and solving for time. It certainly would be possible to have a long non-theme entry in this grid, but it would have to be the right one (or two, for symmetry) to lend itself to the FITB scheme. Something like [“I Want a ___ For Christmas”] (HIPPOPOTAMUS). As an exercise, what’s the longest FITB you can come up with? Of course, there are already three grid-spanners in this grid, so any long bits of fill would have to cross at least two of them. That’s a pretty tall order given the cluing constraints.

So there’s no really flashy fill, but that’s not what this grid is about. What’s there is solid enough and supports the theme and gimmick, so no complaints from me.

This was definitely something different, and I liked it. How about you? Four stars from me.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution • 7 21 20 • no. 0721

What a good Tuesday puzzle! Fresh theme, smooth fill, crisp cluing. It’s what keeps me coming back for more of Zhouqin’s crosswords.

The five theme clues all consist of the the digits 20 and 20, with assorted punctuation and spacing options, and “, e.g.”:

  • 16a. [20-20, e.g.], TIE SCORE.
  • 23a. [“20/20,” e.g.], NEWSMAGAZINE, on TV. 
  • 40a. [20:20, e.g.], RATIO.
  • 52a. [20/20, e.g.], VISUAL ACUITY.
  • 65a. [2020, e.g.], LEAP YEAR.

How neat do those clues look when they’re all bundled together?

The theme left space for a couple good 10s, “WHAT A SHAME” and ALL FIRED UP.

Five more things:

  • 58a. [Popular hair coloring technique], OMBRE. With gradations of color. If you didn’t know this last time it was in the puzzle (I recall some commenters saying they needed the crossings) and you didn’t make a mental note of it before it showed up again, you should file it away in your memory now.
  • Time to eat! 67a. [Chinese noodle dish], LO MEIN / 7d. [Prepare rice, perhaps], STEAM / 44d. [Stir-fry tidbit], PEA.
  • 28d. [Taj Express destination city], AGRA. Fresh clue! The Taj Express is a train that connects Delhi to Agra.
  • 61d. [Andrews of “Dancing With the Stars”], ERIN. She and cohost Tom Berenger have just been let go. Not sure who will host the next season of DWTS, or where Erin Andrews will turn up next. It’s not a great time to be looking for work in TV.
  • 3d. [Place to play spoons], KNEE. Well, this guy seems to be using his thigh more than a knee for his spoons tutorial. And Abby the Spoon Lady (video below) barely uses her leg at all.

4.5 stars from me. Straight-up and simple, no hard stuff, no obscurities, just smooooooth.

Christopher Adams’ Universal crossword, “Track Team” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 7/21/20 • Wed • Adams • “Track Team” • solution • 20200721

  • 62aR [Advantageous position in some races, and a hint to the starred answers’ circled letters] INSIDE LANE. That is, the interiors of those entries contain some examples of people with the surname Lane.
  • 17a. [*Solo player in “The Stars and Stripes Forever”] PICCOLOIST (Lois Lane).
  • 29a. [*Large animals in southeast Asia] INDIAN ELEPHANTS (Diane Lane).
  • 46a. [*Current set of circumstances] SITUATION AT HAND (Nathan Lane).

Two actors and a comics character frequently seen on the small and big screens; two women and a man. I’d call that cohesive yet relatively diverse, if a bit pale.

Since it’s been ages since I actively ran my own blog, please allow me to digress on the sort of thing that might have comprised some content there.

One of my pet peeves is that whoever it was who decided that words painted on streets and roads should appear bottom-to-top—the logic presumably being that we read them in the order encountered while moving forward—was horribly, horribly wrong and misguided. The truth is that the messages—by necessity concise—are processed as a unit and we read them as normally, which is to say, top-to-bottom. Thus are born nonsense phrases such as ONLY EXIT and of course LANE FIRE, which I’ve always thought sounds like it would be an excellent parodic name for a detective: “Lane Fire, Private Eye!” You just know his middle name actually would be “Danger”.

©Angelo DeSantis

All right. Getting back to the situation at hand, let’s look at the ballast fill.

  • 18d [Controversial backyard projectile] LAWN DART. Does anyone still have these? I feel like they were discontinued in the 1970s, probably less than a decade after they were introduced(?). I’m sure Wikipedia would help on this, but perhaps someone else will do the legwork.
  • 23d [“Those fireworks are so pretty!”] OOH. So, uh, kids, never combine LAWN DARTS and fireworks, ok?
  • 27d [Word on either matching towel, for some couples] HERS. There we go, a gentle shake-up.
  • 31d [Proportionately distributed] PRO RATED. (proportionately, pro rated)
  • 36d [Humanity’s kingdom] ANIMALIA. Gratuitous anthropocentrism. Nevertheless, I appreciate the entry. And right next to that is more biology – 37d [Study of cells] CYTOLOGY.
  • 44d [Snowboard relative] MONOSKI. Unlike snowboarding, monoskiing has both feet facing forward and together, as well as employing ski poles. Turns out that it was invented in the 1950s but was quickly overshadowed by snowboarding, which began a decade or so later. Partial dupe of 5d [Need for a white Christmas] SNOW.
  • 14a [Printer brand] EPSON. It’s always either this or RICOH.
  • 15a [Most populous four-letter state] OHIO. In fact it has almost double the combined populations of Iowa and Utah.
  • 32a [Trendy dispensary initials] CBD. Cannabidiol.
  • 67a [Jerks poured them] SODAS. Time to finally look up the origin of the term:
    “[S]oda jerk was a pun on soda clerk, the formal job title of the drugstore assistants who operated soda fountains. It was inspired by the ‘jerking’ action the server would use to swing the soda fountain handle back and forth when adding the soda water. The soda fountain spigot itself typically was a sturdy, shiny fixture on the end of a pipe or other similar structure protruding above the counter, curving towards where the glasses would be filled. All of the drinks were made with unflavored carbonated water. Consequently, the tap handle was large, as the soda jerker would use it frequently.” (Wikipedia)
  • 34a [Place to play the ponies, briefly] OTB. Where if you have an inside line you could use that info to win big at the track (virtually), perhaps with ‘your’ horse seizing the inside lane. But of course the breeding and treatment of horses for racing is rather abominable and inhumane.

On that cheerful note, I’ll wrap up this write-up on a modestly charming Tuesday offering.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “R-ationing” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 07/21/2020

The theme answers this week (in Jonesin’ #998!) is straightforward: take a phrase that has a word with three R’s in it, remove all but one, and let hilarity ensue!

  • 17A [Pictures of surrealist Joan’s work?] MIRO IMAGES (mirror images)
  • 31A [Villain who only wears his purple suspenders and “W” hat two days at a time?] WEEKEND WARIO (weekend warrior)
  • 41A [Comedy duo of scientist Marie and singer Burl?] CURIE AND IVES (Currier and Ives)
  • 58A [Program again onto an antiquated computer storage format?] TAPE RECODE (tape recorder)

Clever! As I always say, the brainstorming here must have been quite a hoot! Another fun Jonesin’ puzzle. Only one more before puzzle #1,000! 4.3 stars this week.

More fun stuff:

  • 13A [Drink brand with a lizard logo] SOBE – I haven’t had one of these in years! I will have to check the gas station by my house and see if it is still on sale there!
  • 26A [Stereotypical person who might demand to speak to the manager of this puzzle] KAREN – This “Karen” has been in the news a lot lately. There seem to be a lot of “Karen”s out there!
  • 35A [California city near Stockton] LODI – This is tough if you’re not a regular puzzler. Or if you don’t live there!
  • 57A [Actress Kendrick of the Quibi series “Dummy”] ANNA – Is Quibi any good? I don’t want another streaming service. I pay for too many as it is!
  • 10D [Chef Boyardee product that had to be renamed for a “Seinfeld” episode] BEEFARONI – I don’t get this joke. And I watched Seinfeld all the time! This might be the OPCRotW!
  • 24D [Cookie that released an egg-shaped version for Easter 2019] OREO – Here is a novel way to clue this. Just when you think you have seen every possible clue for this cookie!
  • 29D [Tennis’s Agassi] ANDRE
  • 43D [“The Many Loves of ___ Gillis”] DOBIE – This show is almost too dated to use. Is it still on TVLand or somewhere?

That is all!

Hannah Slovut’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 07/21/2020

This is definitely a name I do not know in the byline, but we have a fine puzzle nonetheless. We actually have quite a clever theme, which may take you a second to see how it meshes. (OK, it took ME a second!)

  • 17A [*Spotify alternative] APPLEMUSIC
  • 27A [*”More heat in that dish!,” Emeril-style] KICKITUPANOTCH
  • 43A [*”Unwell” band] MATCHBOXTWENTY
  • 58A [Game-ending result … or what each of the answers to starred clues has?] FINALSCORE

So we have a few different meanings of the word score, not necessarily a word that precedes or follows a word in the themers, as is usually the case. Sheet music is known as a score, you score something when you put a notch in it (kind of!), and Abraham Lincoln has taught us all at a young age that a score is 20 years. Clever! I like that it isn’t super simple, yet in the end it is rather simple. Does that make sense? I hope so! 4.4 stars today.

A few more things:

  • 16A [Superhero whose surname is Odinson] THOR – Just watched Thor: Ragnarok again. I am not doing great on the MCU Mini-League on Learned League, but I am not doing terrible either. I thought I might make the final, but the questions are hard.
  • 25A [Cincinnati-based supermarket chain] KROGER – Why did I think the HQ for this company was further south? There are several Krogers in the area where I live.
  • 34A [African country whose capital is Accra] GHANA – There is a push by Ghana to get Americans to actually move over there. That may be a bit much for me, but I’ll bet it is a beautiful place to visit. One of these days!
  • 49A [Go over again, as a contract] REREAD – Always read the fine print!
  • 29D [Popular ride app’s basic service level] UBER X – I don’t think I have ever seen this in a puzzle! There are no NYT hits on this.
  • 41D [Minnesota Timberwolves org.] NBA – The NBA is supposed to start up at the end of next week. We will see if it works, but at the least there is more stuff to watch on TV when these sports leagues start back up. Will they succeed is the real question. And will football start? It doesn’t look likely, but we shall see.

Everyone have a safe and healthy week!

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26 Responses to Tuesday, July 21, 2020

  1. RSP64 says:

    NYT – 20:20 as a ratio seems very arbitrary to me. Why would you ever use a ratio of 20:20 when that just means 1:1? Granted, a 20-20 score may be arbitrary, but I see that in a lot of basketball and football games at some point during the game.

    • Martin says:

      Many times ratios are expressed in a non-simplified form. For instance, we might talk about gear ratios in both their physical (number of teeth) values, like 45:15, and reduced (3:1) forms. The former might be more illuminating in conveying how the ratio is created.

      I visualize the ratio for making a sauce as 4:4:32 (flour, fat, liquid) because I often make a quart, although 1:1:8 is “simpler.”

      So I don’t think the entry is unreasoanable, since it’s just an example.

  2. Philippe says:

    WSJ has a classical clue for ELBA. Happens that I just solved it in my hotel room that a view on… ELBA. Such a wonderful place. And a cloudless, deep blue sky.

  3. Gary R says:

    NYT: OMBRE was new to me – I’ll try to file it away for future puzzles. I do the NYT every day, and other puzzles only occasionally. XWord Info says the last time the word showed up in the NYT was 2012 – and it was clued as a card game, as it had the previous seven times, going back to 1999.

    I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Dancing With the Stars, but ERIN Andrews’ name was familiar from her sports broadcasting career – I suspect she’s pretty well set without DWTS. Amy – Google tells me ERIN’s co-host is Tom Bergeron (vs. Berenger).

  4. Alan D. says:

    Re: tax returns. Jim, my return was accepted by the IRS on May 1 and I still haven’t seen the refund, FYI. I guess they’re kinda busy!

    • marciem says:

      re: taxes too. Filed on May 15, no Fed. refund yet. State appeared a week or two after filing. Kind of glad to know I’m not the only one (like “is my return red-flagged for audit the reason no refund yet?” LOL-ish).

    • MattF says:

      Well, I e-filed on July 7 and got both my federal and state refund checks in the mail about a week later. No clue, really, about how I managed that

    • Stephen B. Manion says:

      I do tax returns. If you are do a refund, try to efile. A friend I filed for by mail many months ago asked me if there was a problem with her refund. I googled “Where’s My Refund?” The IRS website stated that if you filed by mail, the IRS is short-staffed and will review your return in the order it was received and added DO NOT CALL.


      • Gary R says:


        Is your Spelling Bee streak still intact? Today was a slog. I gave up after 40 words and 214 points – looked like I had another 45-50 points to get to the QB, and that was never going to happen.


        • Stephen B. Manion says:

          Yes, today was a slog, but not difficult: QB is 49/265. Yesterday’s was one of the toughest of the year: three plurals that ended in i, plus CANNULA, CAUL, TACTUAL and LUNULA (the crescent-shaped white space at the bottom of your fingernail sometimes called MOON). Pretty impressive considering I misspelled DUE in my first post. 43 in a row


          • Judith Speer says:

            I am in awe. I don’t give up before I get to Genius but I am frustrated by not knowing how many words it will take to get to the QB. Is there a way to tell or do you just keep at it?

            • Stephen B. Manion says:

              There is no way to know how many words. However, the QB is always equal to double the AMAZING threshold or one less than that threshold. It is never more. Today AMAZING is 133. As you get closer, you can figure out the likely number you have left to go.

            • Stephen B. Manion says:

              I have read comments from great crossword solvers who have an excellent feel for what letters fit where. I have very good feel for Spelling Bee. As one example, if there is an L and a U, there is a very good likelihood that a plural will end in i. Yesterday, there were CALCULI, NAUTILI, and ANNULI (annulus is a ring).

            • John says:


              Judith, the above is a link to Deb Amlen’s blog for today. The first post of Reader’s Picks is usually the beginning of the SB thread written by Doug. Doug’s post is designed to provide increasing amounts of detail about each Bee. If you read just the top line, total words is shown.

            • Judith Speer says:

              Thank you so much Steve and John. This at least gives me an idea of the extent of the task and some hints to get to that elusive (to me) QB.

    • Michael says:

      Filed April 15. Still no refund as of early July. Online “Where’s my Refund?” feature unable to find a record of the return (first time this ever happened). Sent form 3911 a week ago stating I haven’t received anything. Good news is I learned you have up to three years to file your tax returns as long as the government owes you money. But still pretty annoying.

    • Gary R says:

      I read recently that because of the special circumstances this year, the government will be paying interest on refunds. The article said the interest rate would be 3-5%, compounded daily (no explanation of how the actual rate would be determined), starting from April 15, until the time of payment. Not much consolation for someone who needs the refund to pay current bills, but if you don’t really need the money right away, it’s a better return your bank is likely to offer.

  5. Luther says:

    WSJ Wondered if I was going to like it as well, Jim P.
    Enjoyable puzzle! Fun reveal.
    Nice job, Blake Slonecker!

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal: Would someone in the know please explain THIS {69A: “I agree 100%,” in internet slang}? I don’t know THIS particular bit of “internet slang” and was worried that the cross with NAH {63D: “I’d rather not”} might be ‘NAw’/’TwIS’. Sooner or later, I fear that I’ll be completely internet lingo illiterate.

    • Kelly Clark says:

      It happens a lot on Facebook, and often on Twitter. Somebody will post, say, a meme… something “Profoundly True” (at least in the poster’s eyes) and give the seal of approval with the word: “This!” It translates to “Truth!”

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Huh … I don’t really get the drift and haven’t seen that one before. I spend less and less time on FB and other social media as time goes on. Thanks for the reply, Kelly.

  7. Kelly Clark says:

    Derek: Matt was referring the Seinfeld episode where Kramer, while running a Hansom Cab company, feeds the horses tons o’ BEEFARONI, with…unfortunate…results. Chef Boyardee asked the show to remove the brand from the show before it aired, and they changed the name to BEEF-A-REENO. :-) (I had to look it up myself.)

    • rock says:

      It’s also the episode where Frank Constanza says Somethings Missing! which my mind went right to when seeing wsj title ! after doing Jonesin

  8. marciem says:

    Re: Karens. Yes we see them a lot today, and do we realize that it is racist to use that term perjoratively as a noun (not proper name… I know several nice women named Karen)?

    Karen according to the online dictionary is

    1. a member of an indigenous people of eastern Burma (Myanmar) and western Thailand.
    2. the language of the Karen, probably Sino-Tibetan.

    I did not know that before, but I know it now and so I find the term offensive.

  9. RM Camp says:

    Incidentally, I learned today that Hugh Downs died earlier this month; I just wanted to see how old he was because I knew he was on the edge of a century.

    So it goes.

    […of course he happens to die in 2020 :\ ]

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