Saturday, September 5, 2020

LAT 6:05 (Derek) 


Newsday 15:33 (Derek) 


NYT 5:50 (Amy) 


Universal 5:59 (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 5 20, no. 0905

I showed up two hours late to the puzzle since I wanted to finish writing 10 postcards to voters for Sister District whilst watching some RuPaul’s Drag Race. Democracy and drag are great appetizers for intellectual pursuits like wrangling a crossword.

Well, this is the second NYT in a row that didn’t really grab me. I was not expecting that. Entries like A TAD, prefix ERGO-, suffix –ULA, ASP, INTS, unfortunate Paula DEEN, MORON, ILES, GO AS (duplicating I CAN’T GO ON, which is also crossing I’M AN), and END ON just left me cold. And why cheapen a basic word like LET with a clue ([Word that’s also a diminutive suffix]) that evokes suffix action when the grid’s got a couple affixes already? Two was already too many! Among the longer fill, TAKE A JOKE feels weird without a negation, doesn’t it? And TEASER TRAILER feels redundant; it’s just a trailer to me.


Three more things:

  • 2d. [Something you shouldn’t do in an art museum], TOUCH. One appreciates a gimme in the opening corner of a Saturday NYT puzzle.
  • 35a. [Plates], TAGS. As in car license plates. I never call them TAGS. Might be a regional thing?
  • 12d. [Message that basically tells you to get a life?], GAME OVER. In a video game. If someone tells you “game over” in real life, they’d better not add “get a life”!

3.25 stars from me. On with the long weekend!

Chase Dittrich’s Universal crossword — “Chief Justice” – Jim Q’s Write-up

Tribute puzzle to the one and only…

THEME: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Universal crossword solution · “Chief Justice” · Chase Dittrich · Sat., 9.06.20

THEME ANSWERS: I feel like it makes sense to start with the revealer first.

  • 61A [Renowned, or a word associated with the starting sounds of 17-, 28- and 47-Across] NOTORIOUS
  • 17A [Question before an argument, perhaps] ARE YOU MAD?
  • 28A [Not whine after losing, say] BE A GOOD SPORT. 
  • 47A [“Egad!”] GEE WILLIKERS!

I think any puzzle honoring RBG is gonna get a pass from me. I definitely enjoyed uncovering the revealer, since I had absolutely no clue what was tying the theme answers together. It was a nice surprise.

Felt like a lot of short fill in this one. Probably not much more than usual, but that’s what it felt like during my solve. BAO was new for me, though now that I watched a trailer of the Academy Award winning short film, it looks wonderful and it’s going high on my watch list. I probably could’ve watched it in the same time that I took to watch the trailer. Also, I thought any song that started with the word YAKETY ended in YAK. Who knew? YAKETY SAX is definitely a fitting name of that wacky little tune, however.

Liked: MR. TOAD, POT FARMS, YAKETY SAX, AMY ADAMS, EGG TOSS, MOVED OVER, and MOSH PIT, though I found it odd to clue that last one as a “location.”

Stuff that I didn’t enjoy as much included KAA, AOK, BOA/BAO, GMA, EPS, IWO, APA, ETD, EAU, OTT, AURAE, AGOG, AS DO I, and YERBA. Felt to me like there was quite a bit of crossword glue holding this one together. Also not sure how I feel about 64D [Important resource for a crossword constructor?] ORE. On the one hand, I love it. On the other, it feels like it’s navel gazing.

Overall, fun great theme that was choppy to get through.

3.4 Stars.

Mark Danna and Peter Gordon’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Daffy Derby” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 9/5/20 • Sat • “Daffy Derby” • Danna, Gordon • solution • 20200905

So this is a bunch of puns couched as a horse race call. It follows a chronological sequence.

  • 23a. [“The horses are at the gate…and they’re off! Pushy Linejumper quickly ___…”] CUTS IN FRONT
  • 29a. [“Gearshift is in second, with Tailgater ___…”] RIGHT BEHIND
  • 36a. [“Tidal Wave suddenly ___…”] SURGES FORWARD
  • 51a. [“But now Mudslinger is ___…”] LOSING GROUND
  • 68a. [“At the halfway point, Adam’s Apple and Bottle Throat are ___…”] NECK AND NECK.
  • 84a. [“Marquee Actor stumbles badly, and now Understudy ___…”] TAKES THE LEAD
  • 98a. [“Heading from home, I’ve Been Transferred is ___…”] MAKING HIS MOVE
  • 107a. [“And now Window of Opportunity is ___…”] CLOSING FAST.
  • 117a. [“But at the wire, Pinocchio ___…”] WINS BY A NOSE.

Not going to lie, this theme did practically nothing for me. A pun’s effectiveness comes from the constraints on the form; there needs to be an extra level of cleverness to tie things together. Since thoroughbred monikers can be just about anything, there’s no challenge—not bite—to whatever wit is being employed. I mean, “Bottle Throat”?!? Come on. “I’ve Been Transferred”? “Pushy Linejumper”? These things are too easily sculpted. Conversely, the staid names such as “Gearshift”, “Mudslinger”, and “Understudy” just float along, making little impact. The whole affair feels like a washout.

Theme-adjacent: 61d [Riding a racehorse, e.g.] SKILL, 126a [Mounts, as a horse] GETS ON, 26d [React like a spooked horse] REAR, 79d [Filly, e.g.] SHE.

Not theme adjacent (switcheroo!): 84d [Toy for one who loves being at the track?] TRAIN SET.

    • Despite my dislike of the theme, there were some stellar—or at least genuinely clever—clues among the ballast fill. Some examples: 44a [Abbr. in a return address?] IRS, 80a [Missing people?] LONESOME, 113a [Speed reader?] RADAR, 8d [Running mates?] ELOPERS, 34d [Rotten to the Corps? AWOL
    • In the ‘trying too hard’ category I place 74d [A masseur might be a wizard of these] AHS, and 12d [Warm welcome?] ALOHA.
    • 6d [Pound sounds] ARFS, 42d [Used swine language] OINKED, 90a [Farm bleater] EWE.
    • From “Tap with running water to signify Malawi government’s commitment in ensuring the provision of clean and potable water to the population.”

      66d [Country whose 500-kwacha note features a water faucet] MALAWI. Wow, that’s a deep cut. This is a new-ish design, introduced in 2012.

    • 35a [Sand dollar cousin] SEA STAR. Always impressed how elastic the idea of taxonomic ‘cousins’ are the farther (25a [Ford slogan introduced in 2012] GO FURTHER (86d [Dismayed cry] ACK) one gets from vertebrates, more specifically mammals, and more specifically still—humans. Yes, I am once again decrying the (15d) ANTHROpocentricity of things.) While they are in the same phylum (Echinodermata), they are in different classes (Echinoidea and Asterooidea, respectively), and in fact different subphyla!
    • 24d [Without foundation] IDLE. As in ‘idle speculation’ or ‘idle chatter’.
    • 69d [Crazy Horse, e.g.] CHIEF. The immense memorial sculpture has been under construction for many, many years and is still far from complete. The horse has barely been sketched out.
    • 80d [Puts in the running for a prize] LONG LISTS. For some reason I automatically think of the Booker Prize. Maybe they have good advertising. Anyway, its LONGLIST candidates are announced in midsummer. This year’s.
    • 19a [Surroundings of la Città del Vaticano] ROMA, 95a [Portugal’s capital, to the locals] LISBOA.
    • 48a [Start of three John Wayne titles] RIO. Come on, you know you want to know. I looked ’em up to save you the trouble: Rio Grande(1950), Rio Bravo (1959), and Rio Lobo (1970).


Greg Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 09/05/2020

Greg has done quite a few Stumper puzzles, and I enjoy his puzzles a lot. Maybe that is why I was able to jam through this one. Certainly not Stumper tough by clues or fill, so a perfect fit for an LAT Saturday puzzle. I should show this puzzle to my wife and see if she enjoys it! That is my takeaway: this is a harder puzzle that people might find accessible if they want to tackle something a little meatier. 4.5 stars from me.

A few high points:

  • 1A [Have plenty of force] PACK A PUNCH – I don’t do this much anymore!
  • 15A [Common Creamsicle float ingredient] ORANGE SODA – This is making me hungry …
  • 16A [Bausch + Lomb brand] RENU – We have this for our contact lenses, which I am not wearing much anymore. I think I will go to Oakley prescription frames for sports moving forward. This getting old stinks!
  • 30A [“I’ve got you”] “HOLD ON TO ME” – Great casual phrase, which I love!
  • 52A [Casual question after “We took pictures”] “WANNA SEE?” – Even the clue says casual this time! Awesome!
  • 7D [Pac-12 member] USC – This school is quiet sports-wise this fall. There was supposed to be a USC-Alabama game today! What a shame …
  • 8D [Words indicating lack of offense] “NO APOLOGY NEEDED” – Another terrific casual phrase!
  • 12D [Chef Boyardee product] BEEFARONI – Thought about buying some of this for pandemic emergency canned food! It would taste like steak and lobster if you were really hungry!
  • 13D [Waterslide aid] INNER TUBE – I think of this word in terms of a bicycle, but many of those are tubeless anymore.
  • 32D [Flameless light source] LED CANDLE – This would be great, but not so much if the power went out! I’ll bet they don’t come scented, either!

That is all! I have an idea for Labor Day Weekend: Do more puzzles!

Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 09/05/2020

Toughie. I had some timer issues, so I think my time is actually a bit longer than the 15 minutes or so that I listed. Look at all those errors! I am finding that the brain cells don’t seem to be firing as quickly as they used to. I hope that doesn’t mean early signs of something serious, but I will continue to do puzzles until I literally cannot read anymore!

In summary, this was a little tough for a Stan puzzle, but it is still a Stumper! 4.3 stars.

Some of those clues that stumped me:

  • 18A [Charlemagne-era servant] VASSAL – I knew this, but somehow couldn’t think of it. This is what I am referring to above. It feels like I should know this easily! Maybe I am just being overconfident, but it doesn’t feel that way.
  • 28A [Burden for Black Beauty] HANSOM – I tried to shove SADDLE in here, which makes way more sense since I don’t think I saw this movie or read the book!
  • 31A [Interrogative ”Lets”] “WHY DON’T WE!” – Wonderful casual phrase!
  • 52A [Article on the Supreme Court] III – Technically this is true … not sure if I like this clue or not.
  • 57A [”No kidding?”] “IS THAT SO?” – Another wonderful casual phrase!
  • 61A [”Glad to”] “NOT AT ALL” – See above!
  • 43D [Mock query of concern] “DO I CARE?” – See above again!
  • 2D [Creator of a Swedish hacker heroine] LARSSON – This is referring to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I believe. Something else to watch!
  • 6D [Started following, as a program] GOT WITH – I need to get with an exercise program …
  • 12D [Oscar winner portraying Romeo] PALTROW – I saw most of this movie years ago; I don’t remember her character named this. Again: something else to watch, or, in this case, re-watch!
  • 15D & 48D [Focus of much oil production] SESAME & VALDEZ – Nicely done! Two TOTALLY different oils!
  • 38D [Orajel alternative] ANBESOL – This is another one that didn’t come to the little gray cells nearly fast enough. It was on the tip of my tongue for far too long!

Have a safe and healthy long weekend!

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26 Responses to Saturday, September 5, 2020

  1. David Steere says:

    Across Lite:
    Anyone else having problems opening the LA Times and Universal puzzles? The normally working links which open Across Lite when they are clicked now try to begin an installation process which fails (at least on my Windows 10 machine using Firefox). This has been happening for a couple of days and is entirely new. Normally the PUZ files call up Across Lite seamlessly. I can do a workaround by saving the PUZ file to my desktop, opening Across Lite, and then opening the PUZ file from within Across Lite. Any ideas?


    • Martin says:

      Those two puzzles come from different sources, so it’s not the sources. Do you have any additional information about the install that kicks off?

    • MattF says:

      I gave up on Across Lite years ago when it couldn’t manage the various screen sizes on my computing devices. I’m an Apple user, so I have no particular app recommendations for Windows— but I’m willing to bet there are various Win10 apps out there that will do the job.

      • Martin says:

        It doesn’t sound like an AL issue. It could be anything from a config problem to a virus. The stated workaround indicates that AL is working fine.

        • David Steere says:

          Thanks for taking the time to comment, Martin and MattF. I uninstalled Across Lite and reinstalled. That seems to have taken care of things. The LAT, UNIVERSAL and WSJ puzzles now open properly and immediately.


    • Billposter says:

      My prob – as I reported here last weekend – is similar but completely opposite. I can get both LAT and Universal out of Across Lite on Cruciverb but it absolutely refuses to open NYT. Using Windows 7, to get my daily NYT fix I go to Firefox and get into crosswords which works just fine.

      • I’ve had similar problems with the NYT recently, where when I tried to download a puzzle (.puz or .pdf), I unexpectedly got an error page, although I was still able to play online using their website. I was able to fix it by logging out and logging back into their site.

      • Billposter says:

        Late breaking good news! Problem identified (Cruciverb no longer delivering NYT to Windows 7 recipients) and solved (enter Cruciverb from Firefox) or as we say in crossword-ese “TADA!”

  2. Martin says:

    I’ve heard “tags” used for license plates on both coasts, but in some areas it’s predominant. For instance, in Oklahoma, you register your car at a “tag agency.”

    • David L says:

      For me (Virginia), the tag is the sticker I buy every couple of years to put on my license plate and make it legit.

    • PJ says:

      Tags = plates in Alabama

      • Billy Boy says:

        When we moved from CT to FL when I was a kid in the late 1950’s, my Mom had a helluva time trying to get license plates. I don’t know if it was an affectation against Yankees or true density but I was there with her when a guy said “TAGS” you need a license tag. (FL ain’t really the South, even though you an buy Nehi some places.)

        I still call them plates. Ironically, I live in an original colony Southern State now.

        In the traditional sense a tag has a string on it, to me.

  3. Billy Boy says:

    TEASER TRAILER is a bit oxymoronic

    Teasers are 15-30 sec, Trailers can be 2-3 minutes, more if not “Official” as I understand it.

    I’m sure someone will correct me.

    • David L says:

      Maybe a teaser trailer is a 10-second spot to warn you that a 3-minute preview is coming up, giving you time to buy popcorn.

    • Martin says:

      Teasers and trailers have different functions. A teaser generates interest in a movie that’s still in production. It may or may not use clips that won’t be in the final cut. It may even use explanatory material unrelated to actual scenes.

      A trailer advertises a movie that’s in the can and is about to be or has just been released. “Coming soon” vs. “coming in the summer of 2021.”

      “Teaser trailer” seems to be a teaser that consists solely of scenes expected to be in the final film. Unlike a theatrical trailer, it’s not unusual for much of the included scenes to wind up on the cutting room floor.

  4. John says:

    Re: MEDAL HUNT – is this a thing? Seems green paint-ey to me.

    • Steve Manion says:

      I have never heard the expression used relating to a single participant, although it probably was used during Michael Phelps’ epic run.

      I have heard it relating to the efforts of countries to increase their overall medal count or their count in a particular discipline like boxing.

    • Gary R says:

      Used all the time to describe an athlete who, part-way through a multi-round or multi-event Olympic competition, still has a chance at winning a medal. “With two dives left, he is still in the medal hunt.” “With floor exercise and vault remaining, she is in the medal hunt.”

  5. Hector says:

    If you haven’t done the (nice) Stumper yet, the clue for 31A should be,”Interrogative ‘Let’s.'” (They omitted the apostrophe.)

  6. Stumped says:

    In Stan’s Saturday Stumper, the 12-Down PALTROW clue [Oscar winner portraying Romeo] makes no sense to me. When did Gwyneth Paltrow ever portray Romeo?

    • pannonica says:

      I looked it up. In Shakespeare in Love Paltrow plays Viola de Lesseps, who assumes the identity ‘Thomas Kent’, and ‘he’ in turn portrays Romeo in the play’s rehearsals, but Viola’s true identity is discovered on the eve of the première.

  7. david glasser says:

    Stumper: What was “TNT upshot” = ENE about? Just that trinitrotoluene ends in ENE?

  8. C. Y. Hollander says:

    Can someone explain the meaning of “Grp. that may be voting” (RTS) in the Newsday Stumper? Is it meant to stand for “rights”?

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