Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Jonesin' untimed (Derek) 


LAT 4:11 (Derek) 


NYT 3:38 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (web app) (Jim Q) 


WSJ 6-something (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 487), “Diminishing Returns”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 487: “Diminishing Returns”

Good day, everyone! Here is hoping all is well with you as October fast approaches!

The CHAIRWOMAN of Crossword Nation graces us with a puzzle featuring theme answers that do its fair bit of shedding (57A: [Committee leader]). In the grid, three-word puns are created as the first letter gets dropped to form the second word and then the first letter gets dropped from the second word to form the third and final word.

  • SMART MART ART (19A: [Snazzy emporium paintings?])
  • SCORE CORE ORE (32A: [Acquire metallic rock from the Earth’s center?])
  • FLUNK LUNK UNK (39A: [Give a failing grade to a dorky family member?])
  • ORANG RANG ANG (54A: [Borneo critter telephoned director Lee?])

Though it was eminently gettable with its crossings, I had not ever come across AREPA until today, though, judging by its clue, is something I definitely would not mind trying out (62A: [Colombian cornmeal cake]). If that cake is not your taste, maybe the ones mentioned in the clue for CAKY is more down your alley (33D: [Like some brownies]). Didn’t really notice the hyper similarities with the entry CAKY and the word “cake” in the AREPA clue, but those sort of things don’t really bother me when solving. One of these days, I am going to walk into a LUSH store and quench my curiosity about natural soaps and oils that the store sells (36D: [Abounding in foliage]). Really liked the fill of the paralleling answers NO CAN DO (8D: [“Ain’t gonna happen!”]) and LAWAWAY (41D: [“Buy now, pay later” plan name]). Is layaway still a thing people do when shopping? Does anyone store offer that option?

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: KEG (12D: [Beer barrel]) – If one follows college football long enough, you’ll come across some interesting trophies awarded to schools who win games against a hated rival. In the rivalry game between the University of Louisville and the University of Cincinnati, the winner of the football game wins the Keg of Nails. The story goes that fraternity chapters at both schools founded the trophy to signify the winning team having to be as tough as nails. The rivalry has not been played since 2013 because of Louisville’s move to the Atlantic Coast Conference (both Louisville and Cincinnati used to be in Conference USA and the Big East Conference together), but here is hoping game gets renewed sometime soon. Oh, and here’s the keg… 

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Ricky Cruz’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 29 20, no. 0929

Cute theme. A term I learned from Saturday Night Live write-ups, BREAKS CHARACTER, is reinterpreted as text characters being broken. (For me, Tim Conway as the numb dentist on The Carol Burnett Show is the highlight of the video compilation below.) There’s a TILDE “broken,” or split across two entries in row 3, UNTIL and DENSE. Row 5 has a broken HYPHEN spanning ASHY and PHENOMS. Row 11 has CAMPERS and ANDY hiding AMPERSAND, and row 13 gives us HASTE and RISKY for an ASTERISK.

This theme offers the constructor a lot of flexibility. For instance, the ASTERISK could be also broken between WASTE, BASTE, or CASTE and RISKS, and that CAMPERS could be HAMPERS, PAMPERS, or DAMPERS. Overall the fill is quite smooth, with space for 12 non-theme entries in the 6- to 8-letter range.

Six more things:

  • 16a. [Like the modern descendants of dinosaurs], AVIAN. If you’re not sure birds resemble dinosaurs, check out the baby blue heron.
  • 29a. [What many people do on weekend mornings], SLEEP IN. Bliss!
  • 2d. [Devices relied upon to a high degree?], OVENS. Tricky clue!
  • 21d. [L.P.G.A. golfer ___ Ko, the youngest #1 in professional golf history (17 years, 9 months)], LYDIA. I didn’t know the name but I’m glad to learn it.
  • 46d. [Powerful judicial group, in brief], SCOTUS. Supreme Court of the United States. Hey, has there ever been a restaurant called The Soupreme Court?
  • 56d. [Poet who wrote “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree”], YEATS. I still struggle to remember which is which between YEATS and Keats. Yeats was an Irish Modernist who hated Keats the English Romantic, but unfortunately the “Yeats hates Keats” mnemonic doesn’t work well for me because “Keats hates Yeats” would also have just one of the two names rhyming with “hates.” Sigh. Yes, I was an English major. No, I didn’t much care to study the poets.

3.75 stars from me. Might have been nice for the puzzle to feel a little more themed, if you get what I’m saying. “Words split across two unrelated words” doesn’t feel super themey to the solver.

Zachary David Levy’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Taking a Sabbatical”—Jim P’s review

GAP YEARS (71a, [Some breaks in education, and a hint to portions of 1-, 24-, 40- and 51-Across]) is the revealer. The other theme answers each contain the letters Y, E, A, and R in succession with the exception of one gap.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Taking a Sabbatical” · Zachary David Levy · Tue., 9.29.20

  • 1a. [He finds somebody sleeping in his bed] BABY BEAR
  • 24a. [Doubter’s declaration] OH YEAH, RIGHT. It’s a shame the “OH” is need for symmetry because this feels much less common than simply “YEAH, RIGHT”.
  • 40a. [2002 hit for Justin Timberlake] CRY ME A RIVER
  • 51a. [Took part] PLAYED A ROLE

Very timely theme. According to surveys, an unprecedented number of students are taking GAP YEARS this year (for obvious reasons). My son is a junior at Univ. of Denver and he decided to stick it out. Cases on campus are on the rise recently, but he’s living off campus in an apartment with one other guy, so he’s in about as good a situation as he could be in.

Interesting construction with theme entries at 1a and 71a. That forces additional 8-letter entries in those corners, but it’s clear they’re not thematic since they lack the circles.

I think I would have been okay without that first themer though. Since there are only three possible configurations for the gap placement, it would feel more elegant to me if we only had three actual theme entries. But BABY BEAR is a fun entry and the corners are filled well with IT COUPLE and PLUMERIA.

Favorite fill has to go to Count CHOCULA, “I SURE CAN,” and “GO IRISH!” [Notre Dame cheer]. I’m also liking that stack of WOOHOO on ISLAND in the NE. If you ever played Wii Sports back in the day when it was the in thing, you may recall the setting for the game was a resort called Wuhu Island.

Solid puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Debbie Ellerin’s Universal crossword — “Flip-Book” – Jim Q’s Write-up

THEME: The word PAGE is mixed in common phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “Flip-Book” · Debbie Ellerin · Tue., 9.29.20



I’m just realizing how many theme answers there are in this puzzle! Usually that would stick out solely because of the strain it puts on the grid, which often results in cruddy fill. Not this time! Sure, nothing jumps out as super-snazzy in the fill, but nothing that makes me go UGH either.

Solid themers. Especially like BEG PARDON. MESSAGE PAD, to me, sounds very old-fashioned, but I think I’ve heard the term before.

Of course, I feel compelled, as always, to point out that this puzzle should be employing circled letters rather than asking its solvers to count the letters themselves. It didn’t bother me that much as a solver, but imagine you’re a novice and you haven’t quite grokked how themes work in crosswords… it could really help if those circles were there. I hear a fix is on the horizon though. Hopefully soon!

3.4 with circles. 2.4 without.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Eeeeeeevil” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 09/29/2020

This was puzzle #666 in the Jonesin’ series, and it is from March of 2014. This is quite a feat of construction. The E’s in the title hint at what is going on: the theme answers are phrases that have their E’s removed:

  • 17A [Bathrooms brimming with lawn clippings?] LAVS OF GRASS (Leaves of Grass)
  • 31A [Scandinavian fans of Wiggum’s kid (in Simpsons-iana)?] RALPH FINNS (Ralph Fiennes)
  • 46A [Thousand-dollar bills that fly and roost?] A FLOCK OF G’S (A flock of geese)
  • 60A [Location of what you’ll ditch from all long solutions (and from Across and Down listings) for this all to work] AMIDST D AND F 

But that is not all! There are also 21 clues, if I counted correctly, that only read correctly if THEIR E’s are removed. And to keep the puzzle truly full of E’s, there are NONE in the completed grid either! I have a couple of error marks in the grid: One was just a brain fart, and the other is where I tried to misspell LAURYN Hill’s name … with an E! A GREAT puzzle, and I am not surprised this was chosen as one of the best of the previous 1,000. 4.8 stars for a masterpiece!

Instead of interesting clues, here is a smattering of what I thought were some of the best clues that needed E’s removed to make sense. Enjoy!

  • 51A [Last half of a tiny food contaminant (first half is, um, you know …)] COLI – This isn’t really one, but it references the theme cleverly!
  • 53A [Folks who Owen Meany films, say] BUFFS
  • 67A [Start to unite?] SMALL U
  • 1D [It usually starts with “wee wee wee“] URL
  • 12D [Hill who sang “Doo Wop (That Tee-heeing)”] LAURYN
  • 13D [Toepieces of discussion] POINTS
  • 28D [Bad guys pursuing peace, man] GHOSTS – Pursuing Pac-Man, of course!

I will stop there! Hope you enjoyed this retro Jonesin’ puzzle this week!

Catherine Cetta’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 09/29/2020

This is not a byline I come across too often, but I do recognize it. This Tuesday’s puzzle has the trademark revealer at 61A:

  • 18A [*Where a strike usually isn’t lucky] BOWLING LANE 
  • 29A [*Dinner guest’s gift] BOTTLE OF WINE 
  • 48A [*Fencing may mark it] BOUNDARY LINE 
  • 61A [*Orthopedist’s concerns … and what you’ll find in two parts in the answers to the starred clues] BROKEN BONE

Fun! As you can clearly see, the phrases all start with BO and end with NE, thus “breaking” a bone. Just right for a Tuesday. 4.3 stars.

Just a few things:

  • 17A [Dye type] AZO – This is slightly hard for an early week puzzle.
  • 70A [Shabby] TATTY – Does anyone say this??
  • 3D [Man at the altar] GROOM-TO-BE – Isn’t he already the groom at that point?
  • 16D [Yanks’ crosstown rivals] METS – My first thought is that this isn’t an abbreviation like Yanks, but they are actually the Metropolitans, I believe. Yeah, no one calls them that.
  • 52D [Garlic unit] CLOVE – Clove is also a spice in its own right. Now I’m hungry …

Have a safe and healthy week!

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15 Responses to Tuesday, September 29, 2020

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Well done!
    And, great clue for MADAME…

  2. Ethan says:

    Well, I’ve been trying to make this puzzle sellable for a while now, but since Ricky basically got there first I’m giving up. If you want a different twist on this idea, here’s a freebie:


  3. Lise says:

    NYT: I remember that Keats was English by associating him with Kedgeree, which is, or used to be, a traditional English breakfast dish that when I made it, years ago, there was unanimous agreement among my roommates that I would never do that again.

    Nice puzzle. It’s good to see a tilde now and then.

  4. Anne says:

    NYT: What a good puzzle. Just the thing for punctuation nerds like me.

  5. davey says:

    NYT: I offer the following mnemonic: Yeats starts with a Y and so does Yreland

  6. Jenni Levy says:

    I was an English major who enjoyed studying the poets. Yeats wrote “The Second Coming” about the Irish War for Independence. I’ve always loved that poem, so I remember that Yeats was Irish. I checked my facts before writing this and Wikipedia tells me it was also written during the flu pandemic, and that his wife nearly died from influenza while pregnant. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre….”

    • JohnH says:

      He wrote lots about Ireland and its hopes for independence, such as “Easter 1916.” (“A terrible beauty is born.”) But oddly enough I never thought of “The Second Coming” as about that at all. It’s about Europe in a dark time, after World War I, whose horrors stoked I can’t tell you how many writers and artists. It comes in the book in which it first appeared and again in his collected poems right between a poem about “how every natural victory / Belongs to beast or demon” and one that starts “Once more the storm is howling.” This doesn’t sound like Irish nationalism to me.

      “The Second Coming” combines physical description and a view of the world and its politics as come to anarchy. “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loose upon the world.” When he continues that “The best lack all conviction while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity,” I’m afraid he is not exempting Irish leaders.

      To this he adds what was becoming increasingly his topic, a private mythology that he later outlined in something like his own personal study guide to the poems, “A Vision.” Here it accounts for the poem’s other half, its view of eternal cycles, the “gyre” that becomes a falcon’s flight in the first line and ends with the Second Coming, after “twenty centuries of stony sleep.” Kinda shakes me up still.

  7. Mutman says:

    NYT: Fun puzzle

    And furthermore, has there ever been a tennis club named ‘The Supreme Court’??

  8. Billy Boy says:


    As a nickname, Bing and Google both say “WTF?” (Well, sorta-ish) … must have been missed because of the easier crosses, lol

    WSJ & NYT both based on breaks …


  9. Cynthia says:

    Re: Jonesin’ – completed it a few minutes ago and my head is still spinning! As Derek said in his writeup, quite a feat of construction. Also a feat to solve. I was getting more and more frustrated until I finally realized what was going on.

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