Saturday, August 15, 2020

LAT 5:51 (Derek) 


Newsday 25:04 (Derek) 


NYT 10:33 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 15 20, no. 0815

Dang! I was completely stuck in the NW corner and it dragged my finish time waaaaay up. This does not bode well for Lollapuzzoola tomorrow, does it? That whole corner felt like a Newsday Saturday Stumper, just mystifying clues intersecting one another. For [Unrepaired], I thought of DEAD before AS IS. Forgot the [Romance novelist’s award], tried NORA before RITA. Didn’t know that AD CLICK RATE was a thing ([Internet marketing metric]). Most deviously, the crossing of 23a and 5d screamed “they both end in an S,” but no, they turned out to be SAYS HI (not SMILES) and CACTI (not CA**S). [Finer cut, usually], SIDE A? Zero nudge there for “this is about vinyl records … which actually have “A-side” and “B-side” in common parlance, so I hate SIDE A as an entry. [About 5% of the world’s population] turned out to be ARABS, and I don’t think I knew that number.

Not keen on CAN’T GO as an entry, and I’m wavering on the three “blank a blank” entries’ goodness. GET A SHOCK, OPEN A NEW TAB, MADE A NEST?—Do you vote “these are good, fresh fill” or “eh, that’s stretching things”?


LANA Wachowski is nice to see here, but comic-strip IRMA, award RITA, and abused LOLITA don’t really give off a great vibe where representation is concerned. There are better cluing options for real IRMAs and RITAs.

Three more things:

  • 27d. [Only musician to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as both a vocalist and an instrumentalist], HERB ALPERT. Trivia I didn’t know. He sings? (I assume cryptic crossword constructors have played on his name being HERBAL + PERT.)
  • 24a. [Lead-in to gender], CIS, right before transgender LANA Wachowski is okay … but then in the SW corner, IT’S and PAT are combined into [With 55-Across, film comedy bomb of 1994]. Remember the Julia Sweeney character on SNL? Back when so many of us were benighted souls who thought, “it’s so hilarious if you can’t tell if someone is male or female.” And now there wouldn’t be a skit or a dumb movie. “Hi, I’m Pat and my pronouns are they/them,” they’re nonbinary, no big whup. Where’s the joke?
  • 24d. [Part of a place setting], CUTLERY. Is that a singular part, or plural parts?

3 stars from me.

Robert Wemischner’s Universal crossword — “Black Box” – Jim Q’s Write-up

Not often you see a “Thursday” type of theme in the Universal!

THEME: The word BLACK has been omitted from phrases and replaced by a black square.

Universal crossword solution · “Black Box” · Robert Wemischner · Sat., 8.15.20


  • 20A [Netflix series in which Taylor Schilling played Piper Chapman] ORANGE IS THE NEW {BLACK}
  • 36A [Ultimately profits] ENDS IN THE {BLACK}.
  • 46A [Dessert with a dense lower layer of chocolate custard] {BLACK} BOTTOM PIE. 
  • 56A [Treat with two kinds of icing] {BLACK} AND WHITE COOKIE. 

I think this will be a great introduction to some solvers as to the cleverness that can exist within a crossword, especially since the fill is accessible to a casual solver. So bravo for that! It’s not the type of grid we see in the Universal that often, so it really stands out as something unique, even though we’ve certainly seen this idea play out in other publications.

I did find it odd that two of the entries were desserts, one of which I’ve never heard of (but sounds delicious!), BLACK BOTTOM PIE. And I don’t think ENDS IN THE BLACK is a phrase I’ve used before, but I almost prefer it that way: ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and BLACK AND WHITE COOKIE were dead giveaways!

I had fun with the fill in the NE: 16A [State ID?] IDAHO was a very cute clue and I love when Universal creates clues that make you go “I never noticed that!” like 13D [Note that becomes a musical piece when “o” is added] SOLO. 

So, even though it’s been done before, I like the presentation very much.

4 stars.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Cardholders” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 8/15/20 • Sat • “Cardholders” • Shenk • solution • 20200815

Simple concept: all the theme answers are phrases that contain a letter sequence spelling a word that can proceed “card”. They’ve been circled in advance.

  • 22a. [No longer young, euphemistically] OF A CERTAIN AGE (face).
  • 26a. [Creoles have it] MIXED ANCESTRY (dance).
  • 47a. [They fall from plumes] VOLCANIC ASHES (cash).
  • 60a. [Servant to Oberon] ROBIN GOODFELLOW (bingo).
  • 79a. [It ruled China from 1279 to 1368] MONGOL DYNASTY (gold).
  • 99a. [“Get it? Get it?”] KNOW WHAT I MEAN (time).
  • 108a. [Like psychedelic drugs] MIND-EXPANDING (index).

All of these are very good. Also, the hidden words consistently span more than one word. I appreciate that sort of attention to detail.

  • 38d [Aardwolf’s cousin] HYENA. Yes, in the family Hyaenidae. They have a nearly exclusively insectivorous diet.
  • 76a [The Capulets and the Montagues had one] FEUD, 80d [“A smoke made with the fume of sighs,” to Romeo] LOVE … hmm I could have sworn there was a third Romeo and Juliet clue in this puzzle, but it seems I’m mistaken. Two is kind of flimsy to dedicate a bulleted item to, but I’ve already come this far and am loath to abandon it. So here we are.
  • 32d [New York-style pizza chain] SBARRO. Ugh! Not representative. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
  • 79d [Only American ship sunk by the Spanish in the Spanish-American War] MERRIMAC. And it was just over a week ago that its Civil War nemesis the Monitor played a role as a theme answer in the LAT crossword.
  • 62d [Arizona governor Ducey] DOUG.
  • 74a [Upright] is a surprisingly tricky clue for GOALPOST, especially coming right after 70a [Ethically indifferent] AMORAL.
  • 107a [Start of a restaurant door sign warning] NO SHOES. As in No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service. But as we’ve learned on a larger scale, established norms taken for granted need to be spelled out—otherwise someone will come along and exploit such complacency. What I’m saying is, expect pantsless diners as our democracy continues its crumble.
  • 42d [Place to hone your craft] ACTOR’S LAB. Clue seems too nonspecific.
  • 109d [Popular anxiety drug, informally] XAN. I know this refers to Xanax, but do people really shorten the name like that?

    (some moments later)

    Guess so. Wikipedia lists it on their disambiguation page. Some of the other possibilities are more interesting, however. Mosquitoes in the garden, perhaps?

Are you refreshed and rejuvenated? Regardless, time for me to go. Solid puzzle, as I said.

Christopher Adams’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 08/15/2020

I enjoy Christopher’s puzzles quite a lot on his website, but this is a really good one, so I am glad this one made him some money! I enjoyed this puzzle quite a bit! My time was actually right around the 5 minute mark, but I had a slight error that I had to fix and it took me a few moments to find it. Let’s just say I had an issue with 7D (see below!). This will be a short write-up today, because I have to get ready for a crossword tournament! My understanding is that there are over 1,300 signed up for Lollapuzzoola this afternoon. I will see many of you there! 4.3 stars for this puzzle.

A few more things:

  • 1A [Sony videocassette brand developed in 1982] BETACAM – I had BETAMAX in there at first. These are similar, I think.
  • 15A [Making teams, in a way] CHOOSING UP SIDES – We usually say this without the “UP” in the middle here in Indiana. I think.
  • 17A [“Out of the Cellar” rock band] RATT – They have a little burst of fame thanks to their recent Geico commercial!
  • 38A [Exclusive MLB cap supplier] NEW ERA – This reminds me: I need a new Cubs hat!
  • 42A [Wave that maintains its shape and speed through collisions] SOLITON – I learned a new word here. Usually not the case in the LAT, but there it is!
  • 7D [Hephaestus’ workshop was said to be under it] MOUNT ETNA – Since I had BETAMAX at 1A, there was an X starting this entry. Problems ensued! But this makes perfect sense if you just stop and think a moment.
  • 10D [“10” co-star] BO DEREK – My name is in the puzzle!
  • 24D [Diving device] SNORKEL – I haven’t been snorkeling for years. I need a vacation!
  • 33D [It acquired the naming rights for the former Safeco Field] T-MOBILE – We just switched from Sprint (which T-Mobile just bought) to AT&T because I need it to be able to use my phone at work. Ironically, I have a great signal at work and literally no where else!
  • 39D [More cunning] WILIER – This is also a brand of bicycle, which you will no doubt see at the Tour de France starting August 29.

That is all! See you at Lollapuzzoola!

Andrew Bell Lewis’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 08/15/2020

Once again, for the second time in two weeks, I was properly Stumped. Note all of the error marks! Next week for SURE has to be a lot easier! Maybe Stan heard me when I finished one of these in around 10 minutes recently! Hopefully he isn’t using me as a barometer for how hard to make these things! But I found this especially thorny today. Maybe I am just getting old! As mentioned in the LAT write-up, there is a crossword tournament today, so there will be a busy afternoon here! 4.6 stars for a stellar yet extremely difficult challenge.

I do have a lot of comments, though!

  • 15A [”Iron Lady” before Indira] GOLDA – How many “Iron Ladies” are there? We didn’t even mention Thatcher yet!
  • 16A [Former ”Vogue” VIP] MIRABELLA – I don’t think I know this name at all. I am not a Vogue reader, shockingly!
  • 19A [Digital ”marvelous”] OK SIGN – When turned upside down, this is also possibly a white supremacist symbol. See the series Watchmen on HBO, which was nominated for several Emmy awards.
  • 30A [”Shark Tank” heavy hitter for two seasons] A-ROD – I don’t remember this, but I also didn’t watch Shark Tank much. Still don’t! But that does show he has too much money!
  • 33A [Early Edison bulb filament] BAMBOO – This cannot have gone well!
  • 51A [”Un __ spettacolo” (”Pagliacci” aria)] GRANDE – Much harder than [Singer Ariana]!
  • 54A [Durham collegian, cutely] DUKIE – I am not a fan of the Dukies! If I lived down there on Tobacco Road, I think I would be rooting for the Tar Heels!
  • 56A [Either version of ”Stagecoach”] ROAD MOVIE – This is obvious, yet somehow quite difficult!
  • 59A [Yuletide fruitcake] PANETTONE – I don’t know this word. I don’t know fruitcake either, other than I know I can’t stand it!
  • 12D [Military terror] MARTINET – Does this word have a military connotation? The dictionary doesn’t seem to indicate that. I had SENTINEL in here at first, causing many problems!
  • 34D [Roman Empire refresher] AQUA PURA – Is this the original Artesian well spring water?
  • 35D [Single-serving desserts] MUG CAKES – CUPCAKES didn’t work. I have bought some of these microwavable treats, and they are delicious!
  • 42D [Its leaves were once used in leather making] TANOAK – Not the greatest entry. Mainly because I don’t know it! I thought this was two words!

There are many more phenomenal clues, but I will stop here! Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

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23 Responses to Saturday, August 15, 2020

  1. philr says:

    Actually, the clue for RITA could have used some indication that it no longer is awarded. It turns out that all the finalists have been stories about white women falling in love with white male members of the British peerage. Too much time wasted on explaining how the judges weren’t racist / hetero-normative bigots necessitated that it be dropped. Apparently it’s to be replaced by the Vivian. I assume stories of Southern Belles remaining true to their soldier husbands away fighting for the Confederacy are de rigueur.

  2. Stephen B. Manion says:

    NW was the last to fall, but the entire puzzle was very difficult. SAMUEL BECKETT was my break through entry. I am familiar with CLICK RATE from agreements I have reviewed for Influencers, but I didn’t see it right away.

    I thought it was a really challenging excellent puzzle except for the awkwardness to my ear of THAT IS SICK (That’s sick ) and the somewhat green paint GETS A SHOCK.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: Not easy, but I liked it. That saying by BECKETT is one of my favorites. I owe my son-in-law for knowing about AD CLICK RATE. And I learned about ARABS, I had no idea…

  4. MattF says:

    Agree that NYT NW was hard, but I got it eventually. A couple of obscurities, but nothing unfair, IMO. Good puzzle.

  5. M.Gritz says:

    I really enjoyed the NYT, and it’s been years since I’ve had a slower start on a non-Stumper puzzle. My first pass of acrosses (and about half the downs in the process) didn’t yield anything until the SNL clues in the far SW. Once I got there it was around a normal Saturday, but those two clues were the only in the whole puzzle I filled without any crossing help.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    NYT very uneven and the NW killed me as well, although recognizing ADCLICKRATE – I thought I’d broken through. However the NW was busy creating a DNF for me after polishing off 65-70% of this thing. Difficulty for its own sake falls flat to me, I found little cleverness.

    I find it particularly annoying when the starting point (I so consider the NW this) is where the obtuse lays.

    ^^This holds even if I weren’t having a bad week. I waited to click POST COMMENT.


  7. Norm says:

    Who declared this proper name day? What an annoying set of puzzles from NYT, LAT & WSJ. When you cross trivia with trivia, you totally turn me off, One solver’s opinion.

  8. Sandy H. says:

    Not knowing much about romance novels, their writers, or their awards, my husband and I wanted 14a to be “Pulpy.” Alas, it didn’t fit.

  9. David L says:

    I got the top half of the Stumper without too much trouble, and got nowhere at all with the rest. CARBON instead of BAMBOO; AQUEDUCT instead of AQUAPURA; GENESIS and GIGA instead of GENESET and MEGA. Couldn’t untangle that mess and ground to a halt.

  10. A trans solver says:

    Thanks for acknowledging the cringy awfulness of having CIS and LANA in the puzzle, but then going on to include ITS PAT…

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      And you are far from the only trans solver who’s done this puzzle. I’m just mad on y’all’s behalf at that ITS/PAT nonsense. Both words could have been clued in a zillion other ways.

  11. Samuel says:

    Loved the NY Times (because I got it easily ;). Somehow I guessed “That is sick” and “Gets a shock,” then Beckett fell and soon the rest. For me, it’s rare to have a puzzle where the long words get me started instead of the short ones. Really fun.

  12. Michael Hanko says:

    Hard Stumper indeed! Can anyone explain Bradbury’s ”Verb that moves us to Space” for VERNE? Is this the cryptic clue of this puzzle?

    • Gary R says:

      I don’t think so. It seems to be an actual statement by Bradbury about Jules Verne.

      In the introduction to William Butcher’s book Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Self Ray Bradbury wrote that, “We are all, in one way, children of Jules Verne. His name never stops. At aerospace or NASA gatherings, Verne is the verb that moves us to space.”

  13. Gary R says:

    I feel like I’ve been through a crossword wringer today. Started the NYT about a half hour before bed time last night, and gave up with less than half the grid filled. Went back at it this morning, and it succumbed after about another 40 minutes. Like others here, the NW was the last part filled. I liked the three long acrosses in the middle, as well as SIMULCAST and HERB ALPERT (I like his music, and I think I may have heard that bit of trivia before). IT’S PAT was a total mystery to me, and after reading about it on Wikipedia, it sounds like its “bomb” status was well-deserved.

    The Stumper also put up a heckuva fight. It didn’t help that I have never heard of PANETTONE, MUG CAKES or ROAD MOVIEs (stuck with Ford movie for the latter for quite a while – right for the first, but not the remake).

  14. PJ says:

    WSJ 74a – I’ve always considered the goalpost to be the collection of base, crossbar, and uprights. As an Alabama fan I’ve gotten to know the uprights very well the past ten years or so.

  15. JohnH says:

    Wow, the NYT really was hard. I had no clue what to make of ITS PAT and didn’t bother to look it up, so I’ll take your word it’s offensive. And, as for others, the NW was the killer. I guessed CLICK RATE but then couldn’t account for two letters and had no idea the romance novel award.

    And sure, the clue for A SIDE didn’t do much for me. It’s not so much its age. I wasn’t that aware of A/B sides in the first place, being into FM radio (and a college DJ) back then with its refusal of hits. More that B SIDE to me is crosswordese.

  16. Dr Fancypants says:

    NYT was mostly joyless for me. I really wanted the internet pioneer to be LEE, but of course I forgot Berners-Lee is hyphenated. Still, if you’re going to reference a “pioneer” of the internet it would be nice to cite someone more meaningful. AOL was a pretty soulless answer to that clue (and I’d hardly call them a “pioneer”).

  17. C. Y. Hollander says:

    TAN OAK can be spelled as two words, at least according to some dictionaries, and even if it’s not, the two-word spelling captures the sense of it. Since OAK is a familiar type of tree and TAN relates to leathermaking, I thought this was a fair entry, even though I hadn’t previously heard of the tree in question.

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