Saturday, September 12, 2020

LAT 7:04 (Derek) 


Newsday 15:55 (Derek) 


NYT 5:41 (Amy) 


Universal 5:21 (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Ryan McCarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 12 20, no. 0912

Quick review, as I’m entertaining the idea of migraining.

Standard Saturday difficulty for me.

Fave fill: THE MOB, DC COMICS ([Flash setting], great clue!), ZAPOTECAN, SANTA HATS, GO BERSERK, SNOWCONE with a W, “GET ON IT” (tried GO AHEAD first), P.E. CLASS, SCAM ARTISTS (it’s an art form!), SHOEHORNING.

Did not know: [Score marking to play higher or lower than written], OTTAVA; [___ Dolohov, one of the Death Eaters in Harry Potter books], ANTONIN; [Novelist Bender], AIMEE; and [Band with the 1974 hit “Come and Get Your Love”], REDBONE. Didn’t know the title or the band name for that song, but I do recognize the tune. Turns out they’re an indigenous American band. (Video below. It rocks.) “Redbone” is also the title of a Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) song from a few years ago.

Worst fill: 38a. [Onetime airer of “Music City Tonight”], TNN. Been a while since you could watch that channel on cable! Tough to stack 11s crossing 9s in the middle of the grid, though, with spacious corners almost as roomy as the midsection. Generally quite a smooth grid for a 60-worder.

Four stars from me.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Universal crossword — “O2” – Jim Q’s Write-up

THEME: Four-letter words whose middle letters are OO have the last letter omitted in common phrases to create wacky phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “O2″ · Jeffrey Wechsler · Sat., 9.12.20


  • 20A [Result of tremors at the La Brea Tar Pits?] GOO VIBRATIONS. My fave of the set.
  • 26A [Behaved like a considerate library ghost?] LOWERED THE BOO. Way better behaved than Slimer in the library.
  • 44A [Replace a lavatory in London?] GET ANOTHER LOO. 
  • 53A [Healthy parts of an outback animal’s diet?] ROO VEGETABLES. 

Classic theme type here, and one that never really gets old for me. These types of themes are what hooked me in the first place. Love me some corny wordplay.

Nice to start off with RBG in 1D– feels like a callback to a recent Universal.

Been a while since I’ve heard a ZERO MOSTEL reference!

I’ve noticed that for the past couple of weeks, my solve time is getting higher solving the Universal. I’m wondering if that’s just me, or if the clues are getting a bit harder.

I’m a bit confused by the title since it doesn’t really seem to have anything to do with the dropped letter, unless of course I’m reading something wrong.

Thanks for this puzzle, Mr. Wechsler!

3.5 Stars.

Andrea Carla Michaels and Tony Orbach’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Forms of Address” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 9/12/20 • Sat • “Forms of Address” • Michaels, Orbach • solution • 20200912

It’s an add-some-letters theme. In this case, as the parsed title indicates, we’re adding RESS to phrases.

  • 23a. [Siren’s destiny] TEMPTRESS FATE (tempt fate).
  • 36a. [Server who had a Buffalo chicken mishap?] WAITRESS IN THE WINGS (wait in the wings).
  • 51a. [Structural support in a ship’s bathroom?] HEAD BUTTRESS (headbutt).
  • 65a. [Hair extension at a fashion photo shoot?] MODEL TRESS (Model T).
  • 67a. [Plaintiff’s compensation in a major case?] BIG REDRESS (Big Red, the chewing gum variety, I presume).
  • 80a. [Alarmed shout on spotting a fallen sportswoman?] HUNTRESS DOWN (hunt down).
  • 90a. [Take part in an audition for a movie about an uprising] READ THE RIOT ACTRESS (read the riot act). Also, the gloss for the new clue is very awkward.
  • 113a. [Fortuneteller’s look-alike?] SEERESS DOUBLE (see double).

Best thing I can say is that the final answer is quite apt. You SEE it, don’t you? The huge flaw in the theme? The majority of these constructions merely feminize a verb, which can be seen as patronizing (not to mention boring): TEMPTRESS, WAITRESS, HUNTRESS, ACTRESS (original was a noun for this one), SEERESS. And DOUBLY damning—they often don’t even substantially alter the phrases’ meanings. Disappointing.

As such, only BUTTRESS, TRESS, and REDRESS have appeal. Note that these three are among the four shortest themers, all located around the middle of the grid. It certainly feels as if this theme would have benefited as a 15×15 grid with just those entries.

  • 79a [Where the Tagus flows] IBERIA.
  • 19a [Leave foster care, in a way] AGE OUT. You hear a lot of heartbreaking stories about how kids suffer in the process, which also has serious flaws.
  • 47a [Dernier __ ] CRI. I nearly always space out and put CRU when I encounter this phrase.
  • 49a [Restoration period] is nothing to Charles II; instead it’s a POWER NAP, possibly right after a power broker has had a power lunch while wearing a power tie.
  • Quite the commentary

    61d [“L’Absinthe” painter] DEGAS.

  • 58a [Common vaccine trio] DPT. That’s diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, kids.
  • 110a [Affixes, as a peace patch] IRONS ON. Run together in the grid, it looks like a farcical Viking name, or perhaps that of a Dwarf from fantasy literature. (Am thinking of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books.)
  • 13d [Crier’s cry] HEAR YE, 14d [Once, once] ERST.
  • There are some good clever clues in the puzzle but 37d [Hoop skirt?] for AIRBALL tries a little too hard.
  • Nifty how 69d [Going a-courting?] SUING intersects the REDRESS themer about the plaintiff’s case. Good clue, too.
  • We also get the evocative crossing of 78d [Timber wolf] LOBO and 78a [Solitary] LONE.
  • 7d [Heed the “lefty-loosey” rule] UNSCREW. Hmph, top-biased.
  • Favorite clue not yet mentioned: 43d [Muscular jerk?] SPASM.

So as I conclude, I reiterate my skepticism of the whole premise of this as a 21×21 crossword. It falls so flat for me.

Peter Wentz’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 09/12/2020

Are you all puzzled out yet? Yeah, me neither! It hasn’t happened in 40 years, so I doubt it is coming soon! Great puzzle by Peter Wentz today, who is a great themeless constructor. I have enjoyed his puzzles for years in the NYT, and this one fits right in that mold, albeit a little easier. For an LAT Saturday, it might be a tad tough, but compared to the Saturday Times or the Stumper, quite a bit easier. Lots of great stuff in here, and that made for quite an enjoyable solve. Which I have come to expect from Pete! 4.5 stars.

Some interesting stuff:

  • 14A [Hawaiian senator in six decades] INOUYE – Is this senator crossword famous? I would say so!
  • 21A [“Wayne’s World” rejoinder] WAY – I wrote in NOT at first. Understandably, this caused problems!
  • 43A [Goat cheese] CHÉVRE – I am not a huge fan of cheese, but it is delicious. One of these days I am going to Europe and eat my face off.
  • 59A [Former Sears Holdings holdings] K-MARTS – Are these all gone now? The Amazon/Walmart age has changed shopping as we know it; a lot of mainstays from decades ago are all but gone.

    Edwardsburg Eddie mascot

  • 64A [Whirlpools] EDDIES – Just north of where I live, and near my hometown of Cassopolis, MI, is the town of Edwardsburg, MI. Their school teams are the Eddies! So that is what I think of when I see this word. Probably not fodder for a good clue, though!
  • 1D [Cardinal fan, say?] BIRD WATCHER – A sneakily good clue! Baseball season is winding down after an arduous six weeks of play!
  • 3D [Spirited midday meal?] BOOZY BRUNCH – This sounds like a great idea. Let’s go!
  • 9D [Delicate chip, e.g.] FINESSE SHOT – Also a sneakily good clue!
  • 26D [Lou Brock’s 938] STOLEN BASES – Super timely. Lou Brock just passed away within the last week. He was a little before my time, but I saw clips of him play. This number was the standard until Rickey Henderson came along and stole several bases a game, or so it seemed.
  • 49D [Locks that are picked] AFROS – I have never had an afro; I’ve never had that type of hair. Now I basically don’t have ANY type of hair!

I will stop there! There is a new Panda Magazine coming out today, so I have things to do!

Stanley Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 09/12/2020

Stan has his own byline for this puzzle as opposed to a pseudonym. Usually Stan’s are a tad bit easier, but I have not found that to be the case as of late. This one I found quite tough, not in small part due to the extremely wide open areas that are not easy to get a foothold in. But another great puzzle by Stan, and I am a little worn out from this one! 4.6 stars this week.

Some highlights:

  • 8A [Nine-time debater, 2015-16] JEB BUSH – Those debates in 2016 were something else, and the ones earlier this year were also notable for the large scale. Buckle up for 2024 and get ready for 50 people debating per party!
  • 15A [Penn State campus] ALTOONA – If it says this clue and the answer is 7 letters, it is almost always ALTOONA!
  • 31A [Multiscreen routine] TELEMEETING – I had ZOOM MEETING, which would have been an extraordinarily timely entry! This is still pertinent for these odd times!
  • 35A [16-hour flight from LAX] MEL – Pretty sure this is the code for Melbourne, Australia. See 52A below.
  • 36A [Paul Allen’s ”self-titled” memoir] IDEA MAN – Haven’t read it. Perhaps I should?
  • 3D [Italian erupter] STROMBOLI – I had MOUNT ETNA in here at first. This caused issues! I didn’t know this was another volcano; I only know the sandwich!
  • 31D [He split from Stalin around ’48] TITO – My European WWII history is not as good as it should be.
  • 33D [Tobacco plant genus (unsurprisingly)] NICOTIANA – Usually genus clues are impossible, but this one is actually interesting!
  • 39D [LG introduction of 2011] SMART TV – They are less than 10 years old? It seems like they have been around longer. We have 4 of them in our house!
  • 49D [A Pharaonic capital] GIZA – It’s not OSLO?

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

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23 Responses to Saturday, September 12, 2020

  1. janie says:

    and there’s also the cyprus-born leon REDBONE (born dickran gobalian…).

    knew the song from back in the day, but hadn’t known about the band’s indigenous makeup. or the childish gambino REDBONE connection.

    three great musical associations for REDBONE. who’da thunk?


  2. pseudonym says:

    Nice puzzle Saturday with the exception of Stan’s Hard Crossword which was so low level I closed it after a minute.

    THE MOB for “collection of offers” is hysterically good!

  3. Cynthia says:

    Jim Q – Re: the Universal, my guess is that O2 refers to the two O’s in each answer. This was a fun theme and I agree that GOO VIBRATIONS was the best. By the way, this is the first Universal that I haven’t been able to correctly solve on my own, because of the ZERO MOSTEL/BOSCO crossing. I’d never heard of either one. Also never heard of ALDO, but that was easier to get through the other answers.

  4. Greg says:

    Struggled mightily in NYT northwest corner, but it finally fell when DCCOMICS came to me in, well, a flash.

  5. MattF says:

    NYT was slow work, but doable, working through one quadrant at a time. Some unusual entries and clues made it entertaining, in retrospect. RIPSAW brought back memories of junior high shop class.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    Much different from yesterday in the NYT, I thought it a bit excessive in propers & true obscurities plus my refusal to learn any Harry Potter doesn’t help.

    Tried to make SNOCONES work for the longest time

  7. snappysammy says:

    times and stumper both played easier than normal for me

    friday’s NYT took me longer than either of those

    • Billy Boy says:

      I wonder if we could even have a conversation. (Funny how wavelengths work -no insults intended, sort of a ‘joke’ I’m trying here <—)

      No seriously, I worked my ASS off on that NYT, I went over to Rex-ville and I checked the comments. I saw a lot of "Hardest Ever" and the like. Friday NYT was like easiest ever for me.

      CWP are amazing in how they play.

  8. Maharaj says:

    Terrible clue for OSAGE, IMHO. I mean partials are generally the lowest type of cluing, but they’re even worse when they do nothing to preclude so many possible answers. “Burnt,” “Blood,” “Blaze” are all 5-letter types of orange to tap just the B’s. Certainly, anyone who has read David Grann’s excellent “Killers of the Flower Moon,” a 2017 bestseller soon to be a movie, could do better.

    • Lise says:

      I like the orange types you mentioned, all good candidates. I started with NAVEL, then thought of OSAGE because we had them in the yard where I lived when I was a child. They are really weird inside. Outside, too.

      Loved the puzzle. I had a little trouble in the NW but as often happens, taking a break helped.

  9. Mary A says:


    I wonder: When did “ass”, when used to refer to a person’s “behind”, become an acceptable usage in crosswords? I’m not in the least bothered by it, but I cannot recall ever seeing “ass” clued in this way.

    And I found Friday’s NYT much easier than Saturday’s. “Zener” cards was new to me.

  10. Theresa Horan says:

    This was the easiest Stumper for me in weeks. But I had to Google LENA and table napkins post-solve, still not sure if the numerous hits I got are what Stan was aiming for. ARISTOCRAcy held up getting into the NE and SE since the corners were pretty isolated. I loved getting BALLAST at last (after considering ____mAST at one point.

  11. stmv says:

    Theresa Horan: LENA = “She’s into tabLE NApkins” is the usual cryptic-style clue that seems to appear in all the Stumpers.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Given all the press given to issues of representation in crosswords (women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, etc.), it’s a shame to ignore actual women in favor of a vague “she” in a cryptic clue. I’d rather have a trivia clue about the great LENA Horne (or the talented Lena Headey or Dunham) than this impersonal cryptic clue.

  12. sanfranman59 says:

    @Jim Q re my recent Universal solving experience … FWIW, my mean solve time for the past two weeks of puzzles is a little lower than it was for the two weeks before as well as that for the months of July and August combined. So go the ebbs and flows of crossword solving.

  13. Theresa Horan says:

    Thanks, @stmv, I forgot to be on the lookout for the cryptic!

  14. Bill Sullivan says:

    Does anyone know how I can get the Saturday Stumper a day late? My printer was jammed yesterday and I can’t get it from this site, unless there is a way someone might know?

    Thanks a lot!!!


  15. David Glasser says:

    Stumper: am I the only one who wanted to put STROMBOLI for 21A long before getting it for 3D?

  16. GiftedButSlow says:

    This Saturday Ryan McCarty was AWESOME, took me forever, but 100%’d it, thank goodness! The ONE guess in the end was that pesky box, first letter of both 26-A & 26-D. Got lucky with the Z, whew! But great teasing clues, giving me more than one hitting-my-forehead-with-open-palm moment when the not-so-obvious became indeed Obvious! :)

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