Sunday, September 13, 2020

LAT 8:03 (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Universal 5:12 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 12:57 (Jim P) 


MaryEllen Uthlaut’s New York Times crossword, “Final Offer”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 13 20, “Final Offer”

Cute theme—it made me smile a few times, and that’s a rare enough treat in Sunday-sized puzzles. As the title hints, the final “er” in various phrases is lopped off, and the resulting goofy phrase is clued accordingly:

  • 23a. [Always glad to be seated in the back of the boat?], HAPPILY EVER AFT.
  • 28a. [Perfectly placed “Batman” punch?], ABSOLUTE POW. Kinda funny! It might be the ur-pow.
  • 56a. [Soup served at the church social?], AMEN BROTH. Cute! “Amen, brother!” is a great base phrase to play with.
  • 77a. [Afternoon gatherings of Mensa?], BRAIN TEAS. Better than cluing this as the decoctions made by boiling … brains.
  • 85a. [Having no feeling in one’s texting hand?], CELLPHONE-NUMB. Hey, in a cold Chicago winter, the struggle is real.
  • 103a. [Ad for heartburn medication?], RELIEF PITCH. How do you spell “relief”? It’s I before E.
  • 115a. [“Quit your snickering, Damon!”?], “NO LAUGHING, MATT!” He would absolutely laugh if my husband recounted today’s mishap, where he was putting away the garden hose, stood up too soon and whacked his head on the underside of the deck, inadvertently squeezed the nozzle, and sprayed himself in the face. Double d’oh! What have you done that’s similar?

I meandered through the puzzle untimed, off and on, and found the fill generally quite smooth. No big highlights in the fill, but no induction of scowls, either.

Five more things:

  • 17d. [Order by the border], TACO. I know that rhymes are appealing in crossword clues, but I’ve had tacos once in the Southwest, never in Mexico, and probably hundreds of times in Chicagoland. Although: Border control defines Chicago as being on the border, since everything within 100 miles of the Great Lakes is somehow in their enforcement zone.
  • 90a. [One of the so-called “Three Crowns of Florence,” along with Petrarch and Boccaccio], DANTE. I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered that term before, but it seems like the sort of thing that might pop up in a trivia competition.
  • 93a. [Small anatomical opening, as in a bone], FENESTRA. Etymologically related to “window” in Latin. I usually nail all the medical terminology in crosswords, but this one needed almost all the crossings!
  • 62d. [Some Hollywood up-and-comers], STARLETS. If only this term had been applied in a gender-neutral fashion, covering young male cutie-pies in Hollywood, too. See also: ingenue, the It girl. We have way too many words that focus on young women and girls via the male gaze.
  • 110d. [Singer/songwriter Lee], AMOS. (Amos Lee, not Lee Amos, in case you wondered.) He has had, apparently, zero hit songs but one of his albums was #1. He’s a current name. A somewhat more successful rocker whose 1990s+ oeuvre I entirely missed out on, is Tori Amos. “Cornflake Girl” is her song I know best … from crossword clues. (Video below.)

3.75 stars from me. A solid offering.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times puzzle, “On the Horizon” — Jenni’s write-up

I didn’t figure out the theme until I got to the revealer, and it was an “oh, that” moment rather than an “aha!” moment. I enjoyed doing the puzzle. I prefer my themes to have some wordplay, especially on a Sunday. Personal taste!

I did notice that the theme answers all rhyme.

Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2020, C.C. Burnikel, “On the Horizon,” solution grid

  • 23a [Problem for an aspiring thespian] is STAGE FRIGHT.
  • 29a [“The Mask of Zorro” scene] is a SWORD FIGHT.
  • 35a [“My bad”] is SERVES ME RIGHT.
  • 50a [Help explain, with “on”] is SHED SOME LIGHT.
  • 65a [Real predicament] is a SORRY PLIGHT.
  • 83a [NBC debut of 1975] is “Live from New York, it’s SATURDAY NIGHT.” I watched that show live. I am old.
  • 95a [Discovery voyage] is a SHUTTLE FLIGHT.
  • 102a [Tucking-in wish] is SLEEP TIGHT.

What I missed is that they all start with S, and the revealer explains: 12a [Visible … or, literally, where most inner letters of this puzzle’s eight other longest Across answers are situated]: WITHIN SIGHT. It’s clever, and I always admire the kind of mind that notices these patterns and turns them into themes.

I cut my finger yesterday when I was making chicken salad, and typing is uncomfortable, so I’ll skip straight to what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that LUIS Aparicio is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was ignorant. Aparicio was a Rookie of the Year, and MVP, and a ten-time All-Star. He was the first Venezualan-born player to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Lost Cities” – Jim Q’s

Appropriately enough, I’m heading into Manhattan today for the first time in over six months (I typically go in once a week or so). I’m nervous to see what my favorite place in the world looks like right now.

THEME: Cities with dropped letters. Those letters, in Birnholzian fashion, spell out two other cities.

Washington Post, September 13, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Lost Cities” solution grid


  • TEMP{E}, Arizona
  • DUB{L}IN, Ireland
  • {D}OVER, Delaware
  • LAG{O}S, Nigeria
  • {R}EDMOND, Washington
  • TAMP{A}, Florida
  • {D}URBAN, South Africa
  • QUIT{O}, Ecuador
  • MI{A}MI, Florida
  • BOS{T}ON, Massachusets
  • BASE{L}, Switzerland
  • SE{A}TTLE, Washington
  • MILA{N}, Italy
  • {T}OURS, France
  • MUN{I}CH, Germany
  • MIN{S}K, Belarus
  • 61A [Lost city spelled out by the lost letters in the upper half of this puzzle] EL DORADO
  • 70A [Lost city spelled out by the lost letters in the lower half of this puzzle] ATLANTIS.

Wow. I found this puzzle to be waaay more difficult than usual!

Ironically, the only easy part for me were the two revealers, EL DORADO and ATLANTA, both of which I entered without crosses.

However, it was a welcome challenge, especially since I figured out the theme almost as soon as I read the title and had no problem with the first few Across entries. But man, I slowed down big time after that. Of course, it’s difficult when the answer being clued is not the actual answer, and that’s made more difficult when you don’t know the answer to begin with. Luckily, solvers familiar with Evan’s style can assume that the actual answer will still be acceptable crossword fill, even after the letter from the city is dropped, so that helped.

Still, I knew the answer for 23A [*World capital where Bono was born] was DUBLIN, but was having difficulty figuring out which letter to drop and still have a valid word/phrase. Reluctantly, I went with DUB IN, which, when said aloud is fine, but looks a bit strange in the grid. Same with BOSON, which seems to be a particle a physicist would be familiar with.

Being unfamiliar with a few of the cities made it tricky also. For me, those included BASEL (which I thought might be BLASE!), DURBAN, REDMOND, and LAGOS, though the last one was vaguely familiar.

The grid, as a whole, was fair, but still tricky. I got hung up on SMIGEL / MATH crossing, since SPIGEL / PATH seemed to work as well. I’m not sure if I like the trickiness of the MATH clue [Field for operators?] crossing an unfamiliar name.

Still, with the density of the theme, a very impressive grid. 13D [Copy writers?] PLAGIARISTS for the win!

SQUEE? Wasn’t that Brett Kavanaugh’s gym rat buddy from childhood that he cried about during his confirmation hearings?

Enjoy your Sunday!

Queena Mewers and Alex Eaton-Salners’s Universal crossword — “Stadium Eats” – Jim Q’s Write-up

THEME: Food associated with city/state sports teams rather than the cities themselves.

Universal crossword solution · “Stadium Eats” · Queena Mewers · Alex Eaton-Salners’s · Sun., 9.13.20


  • 16A [Concession at a Denver football game, as some spell it?] BRONCOS OMELETTE. Rather than the delicious Denver OMELETTE. How do you spell OMELETTE/OMELET? I just realized due to this clue that I think I spell it both ways interchangeably. According to Google, OMELETTE with the double T is the British spelling.
  • 26A [Concession at a Florida hockey game?] PANTHERS ORANGE. Rather than Florida ORANGE.
  • 44A [Concession at a New York baseball game?] METS CHEESECAKE. 
  • 59A [Concession at a Boston basketball game?] CELTICS CREAM PIE. 

This is a novel, funky theme. I usually associate Eaton-Salners’s name with stunt puzzles, and in a way, this is sort of out there too. Just substitute the city / state food with its sports team, and there’s your answer! Simple, but still felt a bit kooky to me!

Least confidence I had when solving was the HVAC / DEV crossing. Also, I really think we should retire ON CD as acceptable fill. Other than that, I enjoyed all around. The theme answers, being the length that they were, really stole the show (as they should). Not too much room for longer, flashier fill.

3.9 Stars.

David Alfred Bywaters’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Catch a Falling Star”—Jim P’s review

Interesting theme. The letters S, T, A, and R “fall” from an upper entry to an entry immediately below it, causing crossword wackiness in both entries. All of this occurs in the Down direction.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Catch a Falling Star” · David Alfred Bywaters · 9.13.20

  • 3d. [“Oh, yeah? You’re just in denial!” and such?] FREUDIAN LIP and 84d. [Berth that isn’t as high up?] LOWER SLIP.
  • 7d. [Fact-checker’s cause?] WAR ON ERROR and 78d. [Panicky feeling that all your data is gone?] DISK TERROR
  • 12d. [Bronze bust?] FORGED HEAD and 80d. [“This Hawaiian road is coming to an end!”?] BEACH AHEAD
  • 15d. [Breakfast in a clear liquid diet?] PUFFED ICE and 74d. [Routed a Houston college?] CRUSHED RICE.

I like that the construction is very consistent. Each letter lost and gained occurs in the same position each time (at the beginning of the second word). The ERROR/TERROR entries are both on target from a cleverness/humor standpoint, however the rest aren’t quite as interesting. I’m still trying to figure out what PUFFED ICE could possibly be and what that clue means since it seems to be saying ice is a clear liquid.

Be that as it may, there seems to be a higher than average number of longer entries in this grid, and they are all at least solid if not good. I’m surprised I didn’t know LANA DEL REY [“Summertime Sadness” singer], especially given her crossword-friendly letters. And SINECURE [Undemanding job] needed a lot of crossings, but I must have crossed paths with it at some point. The funnest entries are mostly up top: GAG GIFTS, PERSEPHONE, and “IT’S OVER!”. COAT CLOSET gets honorable mention.

I’m not so keen on a partial and cross-reference rolled into one (115d ACT A / 19a PART), nor had I ever heard of APA [Style for a research paper, often (Abbr.)]. Surprisingly, this initialism stands for American Psychological Association. But given the amount of theme material and the other long fill entries, the grid is considerably cleaner than one might expect.

I like the theme and the fill here for the most part, though there are a few hiccups along the way. 3.75 stars.

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

10 Responses to Sunday, September 13, 2020

  1. Michael says:

    NYT: Fun theme with many amusing answers, but the title gave it away from the start and the subsequent solve ended up being a bit too predictable.

    103A: Is there a heartburn medication called Relief? Google comes up empty. I think the clue was trying to make an oblique reference to the old Rolaids commercial, but that requires an extra step. RELIEF PITCH ≠ heartburn medication ad.

    36A/96A: nice pair of “echoing” symmetrical anatomical answers (meaning “hollow” and “window,” respectively).

    • Jenni Levy says:

      “Rolaids spells RELIEF” was effective advertising – that’s what I thought of immediately and I suspect that’s what they were referring to.

      • PJ says:

        Rolaids also sponsored the MLB award given to the top relief pitcher in both leagues from 1976 through 2012.

      • RSP64 says:

        Alka Seltzer also had “plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.” I think that indicates that relief is indeed associated with antacids.

  2. PJ says:

    WAPO 3d is quite a stretch. Cabernet Sauvignon is typically one of the driest wines. The Wine Advocate database contains over 24,000 Cabs. Nine are listed as medium dry or sweet. In my opinion, Riesling would have been a better choice.

  3. Billy Boy says:

    Solid if mostly unspectacular fill in NYT but with a few interesting themers – good ones because one could work them out – in and of themselves from the clues.

    Amy, agree FENESTRA was NOT my first choice (but was solid) either …

  4. Erik says:

    Calling a book about the Titanic “A Night to Remember” is sort of hilarious. (NYT, 53A)

  5. marciem says:

    NYT 17d Taco: clue might be referring to Taco Bell’s old ad “Make a run for for the border”.

    Taco Bell tacos are nothing like real south of the border tacos. Just sayin’.

Comments are closed.