Sunday, August 30, 2020

LAT 8:02 (Jenni) 


NYT 9:29 (Amy) 


WaPo 14:33 (Jim Q) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 10:12 (Jim P) 


Olivia Mitra Framke’s New York Times crossword, “All Aflutter”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 30 20, “All Aflutter” (Butterfly in Puzzle. Amy Reynaldo, 2020. Silver Sharpie, highlighter pencil, and Swiss metallic pink jumbo pencil on laser paper.)

An educational theme for a change, no wordplay: 24a CHAOS THEORY is the [Mathematical field that includes the 81-Across], 81a being the BUTTERFLY EFFECT, [Subject of this puzzle, as suggested visually by its central black squares]. At first I was looking at the very middle, where the black squares look like a capital I, rather than seeing that as the butterfly’s body with the wings (complete with eyespots!) flanking it. The rest of the theme provides more info: 3d, 16d, 109a, and 112a spell out ONE SMALL THING / CAN MAKE ALL THE / DIFFERENCE / IN THE WORLD.

Good lord, there’s something more that I haven’t checked out yet: 62a. [A.L. East team … or, using the shaded square [see note], what a little movement by this puzzle’s subject might cause], TOR. *opens puzzle note to see what’s what* “In the print and online app versions of this puzzle, the black square between 62-/63-Across is shaded.” Ah! So I go look at the online version, and it is still just a black square, people. (Fail!) It’s a gray square in the print version/PDF. Put an N in that square, and the butterfly flaps its wings and changes a million other little things, till a TORNADO (TOR + N in the “shaded” square + ADO) forms. Neat!

Answer I flagged to go back to if my solution wasn’t taken as correct: 35a. [Magical resource in Magic: The Gathering], MANA. What the …? Did not know this at all. If you don’t play that sort of game and you don’t know your crosswordese animals in the ONAGERS crossing, you are outta luck.

Favorite clue: 119a. [Exchanges words, say], EDITS. Next time I’m working, I’ll say “this puzzle and I are exchanging words. Well, I’m doing the exchanging.”

Fave fill: COCOA PUFFS, BEST FRIEND (my best friend and I are marking 40 years of friendship this month! and I’m still 10 years behind her other best friend whom she’s known since toddlerhood), STREAMER clued as [ user], YORKIES, BESPOKE, and NI HAO. I also appreciated 5a. [“___ Catch ‘Em All” (Pokémon theme song)], GOTTA, as I am still having fun with Pokémon Go.

15a. [Word aptly found in “price control”], ECON. It’s kind of a shorthand word, but I’ll buy it as a legit word. Certainly I’ve used it in reference to the collegiate field of study since I was a college kid.

Four stars from me.

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

What’s in a name? In this case… more work.

THEME: Jobs are hidden on either side of notable names.

Washington Post, August 30, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Side Jobs” solution grid


  • 23A [“Arrested Development” actress with a side job amusing monarchs?] JESSICA WALTERActress by day, JESTER by night.
  • 34A [“The Old Man and the Sea” actor with a side job gathering intel?] SPENCER TRACYHe moonlights as a SPY.
  • 52A [French utopian socialist with a side job delivering messages?] CHARLES FOURIERMost of his job as a COURIER is in his last name.
  • 67A [NBA legend with a side job laying brick?] MAGIC JOHNSONAfter a hard day of layups, it’s time he lays down as a MASON.
  • 75A [Opera singer with a side job fighting in the armed forces?] MARILYN HORNEI wonder how she sounds singing The MARINE‘s Hymn?
  • 91A [Adviser to Barack Obama with a side job parking cars?] VALERIE JARRETTI wonder if she ever parked Air Force One as a VALET
  • 108A [Press secretary for George W. Bush with a side job firing at circular targets?] ARI FLEISCHERThe ex-president’s personal ARCHER. 
  • 125A [Former Disney CEO with a side job collecting ore?] MICHAEL EISNERThat explains why he’s such a big fan of the Seven Dwarves! He’s a MINER!

I feel like it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a cut-and-dry standard theme from Evan! This falls into that category for me (which is very nice as the WaPo continues to provide balance and varied theme types to please all solvers). I was able to infer the theme as soon as I saw the title and the circled letters, but it was still a very enjoyable solve. Enough bite in the cluing and the theme names to keep it challenging.

I was solidly familiar with exactly three of the names in the theme. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all though; it would be boring if the solver were able to plunk in each name without a little elbow grease. For the most part, I figured out the job part first, then inferred the rest of the name. For instance: MARI??? Could it be MARIE? MARY? Aha! It’s MARILYN!

Some great clues included:

  • 40A [Hardcore sects] CULTS. Do you hear it?
  • 42A [In after a time out?] RETRO. Clever.
  • 24D [Left outside?] WEST. A little bit of a stretch for wordplay’s  sake, but I liked it.
  • 122D [Sandwich buns?] ARSE. One’s rear-end in Sandwich (England) would be one’s arse.

Tough for me:

  • 29D [Arthur’s foster father in “The Sword in the Stone”] ECTOR. New name.
  • 88A [Li’l individuals] WEE ‘UNS. Very strange looking in a grid.
  • 80D [Currency signified as €] EURO. Whatever version of Across Lite I’m running omits the € … so for me the clue was just [Currency signified as]. 

Plenty to enjoy here, even if you were getting accustomed to week after week of screwball themes.

Enjoy Sunday!


Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword — “Unleaded” – Jim Q’s Write-up

Groaner ALERT!

THEME: Quip; “Inventor’s Lament”

Universal crossword solution · “Unleaded” · Paul Coulter · Sun., 8.30.20






I feel like quip puzzles get a bad rap too often. I like them! Especially good ones like this one, where it doesn’t completely come together until the grid is filled (for me, anyway).

Also, from a construction standpoint, they’re much more difficult than they look. The quips have to be broken in logical places in order to be symmetrical. It’s no easy task to find a quote or joke or anything of that sort that fits. And what can I say? I’m a sucker for a good dad joke. I found it quite refreshing to solve a puzzle with a theme type I haven’t seen in Universal in a very long time.

New for me were AMERICAN ME and ASHY as an antonym to “ruddy.”

Very much appreciated the clue for 5D [Hockey legend whose surname sounds like a conjunction] ORR. I am constantly mixing up OTT and ORR , so this helped!

Not sure I understand 39A [Computer at the front of a machine?] MAC. Like, I know MAC is a compu… Oh! I see it now! The word “machine” has MAC in front! Cool!

4.2 stars.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Upwardly Mobile”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Well-known phrases (in the Down direction), with common text initialisms hidden backwards (upwards, actually).

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Upwardly Mobile” · Zhouqin Burnikel · 8.30.20

  • 3d. [Misstep (read each set of circled letters bottom-to-top!)] WRONG MOVE. Oh My God/Gosh. The instructions in the clue feel heavy-handed, but since there’s no other revealer, I guess it makes sense to spell things out here. Oh, wait. There is a revealer at 86d TEXTS BACK [Replies to a message, and a theme hint]. But honestly, it feels rather ho-hum.
  • 6d. [Brand-new] HOT OFF THE PRESS. On The Other Hand.
  • 9d. [Cut costs] TRIM THE FAT. Too Much Information.
  • 14d. [Outback fare] STEAK DINNER. I Don’t Know. I tried to make a two-N STEAK DIANNE work here, but maybe that’s a little too upscale for Outback.
  • 56d. [Just so-so] FAIR TO MIDDLING. In My Opinion.
  • 70d. [Cause championed by Coretta Scott King] CIVIL RIGHTS. In Real Life.
  • 79d. [Enthusiastic words of support] “I’M ALL FOR IT!”. Rolling On the Floor, Laughing.

Fun entries and just the perfect title for this theme. I don’t think the puzzle needs the revealer at 86d.

I’ve never heard the phrase TIP CREEP [Gradual increase of gratuities], which sounds more like the pushy bellhop with his hand out as he drops your bags off in your room (not that I’ve ever had a bellhop drop my bags off in my room).

What else is good? SIN TAXES, ONE NOTE, MA AND PA, IRISH SEA, DOODAD, and these fun colloquial phrases: “OUI, MADAME,” “I SAID NO!”…”CAPEESH?” I’m not sure about SLOGAN TEE [Top that makes a statement?]. Anyone ever encounter that phrase in the wild?

I’m late getting this posted, so I will leave it there. Decent theme with good fill. 3.5 stars.

Pam Amick Klawitter’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Space Savers” — Jenni’s write-up

This was fun! The theme answers are common phrases with the preposition removed and words rearranged so they are literally true. It’s easier to show than describe. I put them out of order because that’s how I solved them.

Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2020, Pam Amick Klawitter, “Space Savers,” solution grid

  • 23a [“Wait … let me start over”] is IM GETTING MYSELF. The base phrase is I’M GETTING AHEAD OF MYSELF. I figured that out immediately and I thought the theme was just going to be missing prepositions. Nope.
  • 15d [Feeling ecstatic] is SITTING THE WORLD – SITTING (on top of) THE WORLD.
  • 33d [Make every effort] is BEND BACKWARD – BEND (over) BACKWARD. See? Missing prepositions.
  • 44d is when I realized what was really going on. The clue is [Negative forecast] and the answer is ZERO FIVE DEGREESFIVE DEGREES (under) ZERO. That was a fun “aha!” moment.
  • 36d [Fancy poultry dish] is GLASS PHEASANT – PHEASANT (under) GLASS.
  • 66a [Belief common to much religion] is DEATH LIFE – DEATH (after) LIFE.
  • 111a [Method for slow, steady progress] is ONE FOOT THE OTHER – ONE FOOT (in front of) THE OTHER.

I love this theme. It’s fun to solve and accessible to Sunday solvers. I’m also a big fan of the cartoon riddles with the same idea – what are those called?

I’ll skip a few other things – this writeup is already late.

What I didn’t know before I this puzzle: that the awesome KATHY Najimy voice Peg in “King of the Hill,” and that ERAGON is the first book in the Inheritance Cycle. Never seen the one or read the other.

I lied: one more thing. Can we please retire EZINE? Pretty please? Thanks ever so.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Sunday, August 30, 2020

  1. zevonfan says:

    I’ve been solving the NYT Crossword daily since 2003, and don’t remember ever encountering ONAGER(s) – though looking at, ONAGER has been used 11 times in the Shortz Era and ONAGERS 5 times. I must have always solved that word through the crosses, because I do not recall ever seeing it before. I know nothing about Magic the Gathering, so I thought maybe there was a lion’s “MANE” that was a magical resource. When the happy pencil didn’t come up – I immediately knew it had to be that crossing. Oops.
    Nice puzzle though. Toughie compared to most NYT Sundays – well based on my time anyway.

    Have a good weekend all, Zevonfan

    • MattF says:

      It’s possible that there’s a little joke embedded in the puzzle. 1Down reminded me that an old friend would refer to a ‘wild-assed guess’ as an ‘onageric estimate’.

  2. David Steere says:

    WaPo: Thanks for another GREAT Sunday puzzle, Evan. I particularly enjoyed your wonderful clues at 55 Down and 122 Down.


  3. J says:

    Oof, [Gentrification target] clue in LAT is awfully tone deaf, isn’t it?

  4. MattF says:

    I’m using the NYT app, and I don’t see a way move the selected square into the black squares in order to insert an ‘N’. In any case, that black square was automagically filled with an ‘N’ when I completed the puzzle. And no animation. Good puzzle.

  5. MattF says:

    And, what is O. H. M. S.? Google insists that I’m trying to search for ‘ohms’ and tells me all about electrical resistance.

  6. Huda says:

    NYT: I’m torn. I like the concept a great deal, and it’s a feat of construction. But it was hard to perceive the butterfly, that central square did not get executed correctly on line, and a I don’t especially like definition puzzle. There were also little corners that suffered as noted by others. So, 5 on the theme , 2.5 on the execution by the NYT, and 3 on the fill… After all these gyrations, my 3.5 lands right where the average sits…

  7. Norm says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever be so disappointed in the entire array of Sunday puzzles as today. [I haven’t got to the LAT yet; maybe it will put me in a better mood.] NYT was boring and tedious; UC was a stupid made-up quote; UCS was a bunch of crappy texting shorthand that I loathe; and WaPo was just a bunch of proper names. Geez. I totally disagree with the high ratings you folks are giving. I guess we have different expectations of our Sunday puzzles.

    • “Just a bunch of proper names.”

      Are you saying that proper noun themes are always bad? If yes, then I will never agree with you on that. If no, then I’d like to know a) which proper nouns are acceptable to you and which aren’t, and b) which proper nouns in this puzzle were unfairly crossed.

      Are you saying that my puzzle had too many proper nouns? Because I just went back into the last seven themed 21×21 puzzles of mine and counted the number of proper noun answers. Today’s is not out of whack compared to what I normally do:

      June 7, “Field Work”: 33
      June 14, “Day Shift”: 37 or 40 — this one has two numbers because some of the theme answers were based on proper nouns but clued in a non-proper-noun way, while other theme answers contained names but weren’t based on proper nouns, so it just depends on how you count them. Still, this one was above my average.
      July 5, “Clued In”: 30
      July 12, “A Meal With Captain Obvious”: 28
      July 26, “Smash Hits”: 29 or 34 — this one has two numbers because while the theme answers were song titles smashed together, I clued them as though they were normal words so that you could get them even if you didn’t know the songs themselves.
      Aug. 9, “What Is It?”: 29
      Aug. 30, “Side Jobs”: 34
      Average: 32.6 if you take the higher numbers from June 14 and July 26.

      I know people’s tastes in puzzles are idiosyncratic, but just saying “a bunch of proper nouns” as though that’s a de facto weakness without elaborating at all makes no sense.

      • Forgot one 21×21 puzzle in the mix: “Foursquare” on July 19. That had 34 proper noun answers — not far from the average of all my 21×21 themed puzzles dating back to the beginning of June.

        • David Steere says:

          As someone who often gets stymied by proper nouns out of my wheelhouse, I must risk repeating my praise from last night. A wonderful puzzle with a simple, lovely conceit and great fill. As always, you create such fair crossings that even unfamiliar names are gettable. I also liked today’s LA Times and Universal Sunday puzzles. A mostly fine array, if you ask me. Keep on, Evan.


        • lk says:

          Not a defense of Norm, but just an observation that in the very rare instance that someone says something critical of your work you go to great lengths to explain why they’re wrong. Not a good look, in my opinion. It seems pretty clear you’ve got way more sycophants than critics. In the past you’ve gone out of your way multiple times to claim that the star ratings here are meaningless and that you put zero stock into them (you’re the only person who’s so adamant about this), so why not do likewise and just ignore the one critic you have here.

          • David Steere says:

            ” Sycophant. n. A person who attempts to gain advantage by flattering influential people or behaving in a servile manner.” (American Heritage Dictionary). Perhaps a more accurate word might be appropriate, Ik, for those of us who like Evan’s puzzles.


          • You know, I don’t entirely disagree with your comment (well, I absolutely think it’s wrong to call people who like my puzzles “sycophants” — that’s a really ugly sentiment). Perhaps I should just ignore the more negative comments here altogether, but I’ll be completely honest: I’ve been growing increasingly frustrated for the last few months building what I felt were some of the cleanest, freshest grids of my life, with some themes I’ve never done before, only to find a lot of people’s responses to them here were either tepid at best or downright nasty at worst. It’s exasperating since I work my ass off every week trying to make every grid as good as they can be.

            As for the star ratings: It’s true that I think people shouldn’t ever use them as evidence for what’s a good puzzle, but it’s only half-true for me to say they’re completely meaningless. They actually do serve a function — a really negative one, in my opinion. They cause other good constructors a non-insignificant amount of stress (see here, here, and here). It’s a cheap way for solvers to essentially say “this puzzle is garbage” without ever having to back that opinion up with reasons. Seriously, the idea that anyone would equate a Matt Gaffney puzzle or a Zhouqin Burnikel puzzle with the worst crosswords they could solve is just ridiculous. The worst thing is that there are solvers who have admitted they don’t have as much time during the day and so they use the ratings to determine whether they should solve a puzzle or not. That’s incredibly sad; a small handful of people casually tossing out 1-star ratings, often with no explanation for what the puzzle did wrong, is enough to dissuade others from becoming regular solvers of that puzzle.

            You can call me thin-skinned if you want. I’ll cop to that. But crosswords are my life. They’re how I make my living. I don’t have the luxury of feeling secure that my job is safe if solvers are constantly expressing displeasure with my work. Seeing that people don’t enjoy a puzzle I write makes me sad; seeing comments like the one Norm wrote last week about how I was “shilling” for a TV talk show is something I take quite personally.

            • lk says:

              Thanks for the reply. I agree with a lot of it. I do find it a little odd how much you’re jumping to the defense of constructors who are battling stress over 1-star ratings, and how you don’t like the insecurity that comes with a barrage of negative feedback, when over the last year you’ve made a running Twitter joke of how existentially awful the Vox puzzle is, taking several personal shots at the constructor along the way and apparently taking much glee in doing all this. Whether that puzzle deserves the vitriol is beside the point; the point is that if you expect humanity from critics here then perhaps display some humanity yourself when you’re criticizing others’ work as well.

            • Buddy, the continued existence of the Vox crossword is a complete insult to everyone else who works hard to make good crosswords. That puzzle routinely includes answers and clues with references to things like Nazis and September 11 and QAnon. When it’s not doing that, it literally always relies on the most obscure, unsolvable information, includes sloppy typo-ridden clues that are never reviewed or proofread by Vox editors, AND blatantly rips off other constructors’ published clues. There are dozens if not hundreds of constructors who could do better work for Vox, but Vox has refused to do a damn thing about it. So no, I am not going to pretend that puzzle or its constructor deserves the same respect that others reviewed here do.

            • Me says:

              Evan, I am obviously just another anonymous poster, and my thoughts are no more valid than anyone else’s. But, as a small business owner having to deal with customer ratings myself, I have a few thoughts:

              There is always going to be someone who is unhappy, and the unhappy ones are often the most vocal and are disproportionately represented. It can be hard, because sometimes they have valid points that get lost in a harsh tone, sometimes their concerns are not addressable by the business, and sometimes they are just off-base. But it’s not possible to please everyone, especially because different people’s concepts of a perfect puzzle are often diametrically opposite of each other. Some people love puns, some people hate puns. The same puzzle might get “Too tricky!” and “I loved that it was a challenge!” from different solvers.

              I think your puzzles are fantastic, and you are one of the best in the business. Part of what you are encountering is that you have raised the bar so high that being less than A+ means that people are wondering why this puzzle is only their definition of A- rather than their definition of A+. CC Burnikel and Matt Gaffney are in the same situation.

              I also think one reason you think you are seeing more negative comments is because you typically don’t acknowledge or respond to positive comments, either here or in the comment section at WaPo. So the positive commenter doesn’t get any positive feedback, and may not write another positive comment. But you respond to the negative ones, so the negative person will write another one. I’m not saying you should cultivate or fawn over positive comments, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to acknowledge them if you think their presence and feedback are important.

            • @Me:

              Thank you; that’s fair. For the record, I always appreciate the compliments by you and David Steere and others even if I don’t express that here every week. Still, you’re absolutely right that people’s views of what makes a good puzzle can often be in direct opposition to each other.

              As I said, it’s been a frustrating summer for me. But I imagine that’s true outside of puzzles too for just about everyone.

            • lk says:

              You reap what you sow.

            • Me says:

              I think this summer has everyone a bit edgy. Everyone in the entire country has been under low-level stress 24 hours a day for more than 5 months, with no end in sight. We are all irritable and not at our best. Several long-term customers, who are normally pretty mellow, have snapped at me recently. But I understand why they are irritable, and I’ve probably been snappish as well.

              You are a great puzzle constructor, and it is a joy to open your puzzles every week.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        The NYT today has about 29 proper nouns, but there the issue was said to be “boring and tedious” rather than “almost as many proper nouns as the WaPo.”

  8. Bryan says:

    NYT: I truly loved this one! This is one of my favorite Sunday puzzles in a long time. The butterfly leading to the tornado, and the overall message that we all have the power to make a huge difference in the world with seemingly small actions that can multiply into profound effects… fantastic! This one gets all the stars from me. Well done, Olivia!

  9. Art Shapiro says:

    Washington Post review: typo MAGIC not MAJIC (Johnson)

  10. Samuel says:

    The NYT didn’t work for either me or my friend. We both did the print version. I started with TORONTO for 62a, and slowly changed that into TORNADO when I fixed the broken crossings on the right. But that’s no longer an A.L. East team, so I was just lost. My friend just filled in TORNADO from the start, having no idea it wasn’t an A.L. East team. After finishing the puzzle, we were both stumped about how that clue made any sense.

    Eventually, of course, we noticed that there was a 63a clue. Funny how the print version has the opposite problem from the online version.

  11. Evan Kalish says:

    Re: WaPo. Coincidental, I’m sure, though I love the juxtaposition of Jessica Walter with ARCHER! (Looks like the next season is coming out next month! Been a while.)

  12. Cynthia says:

    Jim P, Re: Universal Sunday “Slogan Tee” – my first instinct there was “Graphic Tee,” which is how they’re usually identified at the stores where I shop (online these days, of course…). Today’s puzzle was the first time I’ve seen “Slogan Tee” anywhere, but it is a valid search term.

    I’ve also never heard of “Tip Creep.”

  13. Brenda Rose says:

    This posting is late since I’m in Calif. but had to put my 2 cents about proper nouns.
    I do Merl Reagle’s archives on Sunday because that’s what I did every Sunday when he was alive & some habits are hard to give up. Today his theme was *What a Cockney Dude’ll Do.*
    The best clue was: import on a certain car. Answer: Audi Duty, a classic Merl pun.
    Modern xwords feature 3 letter names that now supercede 3 letter *crosswordese* & wonder what Merl would had done with those today. (Ronan is exasperated with his rap star mom & says> Mamma Mia) I miss his wit & I miss solving a grid based on intelligence rather than memory of ephemera.

  14. Mary P says:

    Evan, Evan, Evan…please don’t be upset. I think Me said it well that you tend to respond more to negative feedback. But there will always be people unhappy with your work. Not me. I am there every Saturday with the Wapo mag, a pen and a magnifying glass happily working thru your excellent and sometimes stunning puzzles. Did you not see the letter in the Post comparing you to Newton and Hawking? I am not comparing you to Jesus Christ, but if He were to come to earth, people would say who is that guy in the dirty robe with stringy hair wearing sox with his sandals? Ew! And why is he sitting with those homeless people? Ew! Call the cops. We fans or sycofans like your stuff very much. You are one of the best in the business. You just happen to be working in the internet era. Damn the torpedoes… full speed ahead!

  15. hmj says:

    Hey Jenni – the term is five degrees BELOW zero, not five degrees UNDER zero.

Comments are closed.