Sunday, October 11, 2020

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WaPo 15:00 (Jim Q) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


Gary Larson’s New York Times crossword, “Pi R Squared”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 11 20, “Pi R Squared”

I did this puzzle without the timer, while watching Terminator: Dark Fate and doing Pokémon Go raids with a couple California crossword pals. The theme is pointed at by the puzzle title: PIR (spelled-out π + R) appears in 7 rebus squares, not symmetrically placed and not located such that the seven PIRs form a circle (which would have been a neat trick!). So it pretty much plays like an unthemed puzzle without wordplay in the thematic answers, just rebus squares. Rather dry, I thought, and PIR just looks weird.

CONS{PIR}ACY THEORY crosses EM{PIR}E STATE. PUM{P IR}ON crosses {PIR}ATE’S BOOTY (which is also a snack food!). VAM{PIR}E BAT, S{PIR}E. RES{PIR}ATORY SYSTEM, {PIR}OUETTES. S{PIR}O AGNEW, S{PIR}IT. TA{PIR}S, AWE-INS{PIR}ING. And MISSISSI{PI R}IVER, BABY AS{PIR}IN. These rebus answers are all clued pretty straightforwardly.

Six more things:

  • 114d. [German granny]. OMA. And also Dutch, I think? Based on an article I read about the late Eddie Van Halen’s childhood as a part Indonesian kid in the Netherlands (with his mother referred to as “Oma” in a tweet by Eddie’s son) and as a part Asian kid who didn’t speak English in California schools. (tl;dr There was plenty of racism.)
  • 69d. [Only bird with calf muscles], EMU. Will wonders never cease! I did not know this tidbit. You’d think that by now, crossword regulars could no longer learn something new about the EMU.
  • 45d. [Milk dispensers], TEATS / 61a. [Small songbird], TIT. Really? That crossing couldn’t be an M or L? Even with TIT clued as a bird, the word still screams “teat derives from the older word tit and somebody really wanted to evoke nipples here.”
  • 94a. [His resignation triggered the first invocation of the 25th Amendment], SPIRO AGNEW. I was just a kid then, and Wikipedia’s Agnew and 25th articles aren’t giving me the details. What happened there? How was the 25th Amendment involved?
  • 3d. [Old country music channel], TNN. Still hoping constructors will cut this one from their word lists.
  • 36d. [Flowing forth], EMANANT. This feels like one of those words that >99.5% of Americans have never used, but that would show up in the NYT’s Spelling Bee as a “common” word, doesn’t it? I’m looking forward to seeing Deb Amlen’s upcoming article about the Bee.

Fave fill: SLOUCHES, MAHALIA Jackson, DOTTED i’S right at 1-Across, SPANGLES, and the MUNSTERS.

20a. [British pop singer Lily] ALLEN has only cracked the U.S. top 40 once, a feature on a T-Pain song. Here’s the video, filmed in Amsterdam. What I learned just now: T-Pain’s an R&B singer, not a rapper.

3.25 stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Screen Names” – Jim Q’s write-up

What’s in a name? Well, in this puzzle, the role that an actor played. How meta!

THEME: An actor’s name includes a role he/she played.

Washington Post, October 11, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Screen Names” solution grid


  • 3D [“Downton Abbey” actress] JOANNE FROGGATT. She portrayed ANNA Bates in the PBS series.
  • 27A [“Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker” actress] DAISY RIDLEYPortrayer or REY in the Star Wars franchise.
  • 14D [“A Little Bit of Heaven” actress] WHOPPI GOLDBERG. She joins the ranks of George Burns, Alanis Morissette, and Morgan Freeman as those who have portrayed GOD.
  • 46A [“Roseanne” co-star] JOHN GOODMANLegendary for his role as DAN in Roseanne. 
  • 86A [Star of the 1990s TV series “Clueless”] RACHEL BLANCHARD. In Clueless, the TV Series, she was CHER (Alicia Silverstone played CHER in the movie).
  • 112A [“Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” actor] HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN. Anakin Skywalker, of course (or the familiar ANI to crossword solvers!)
  • 72A [Acting as expected, and an alternate title for this puzzle] IN CHARACTER. 

The only themer where I was familiar with the actor’s name, the role he/she played, and the character was JOHN GOODMAN. That made it more fun for me though, as knowing parts of the whole answer and figuring out the rest is a more interesting solve. JOHN GOODMAN was too easy!

I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars series, but I’ve gleaned the characters’ names enough through crossword solving to get by, so I inferred both ANI and REY and the rest of actors’ names fell into place. Despite having seen (and loved) Downton Abbey I couldn’t remember the characters’ names, let alone the actors (except Maggie Smith!). Didn’t know that WHOOPI played GOD, and really wanted ALICIA SILVERSTONE to fit (one letter shy!), but alas CHER is nowhere to be found in her name.

So this is bound to get some side-eye from people who gripe about unfamiliar proper names in puzzles, but for me it was a lot of fun to suss out and, as always, the crosses were all fair.


  • 20A [“The Politician” star Ben] PLATT. Is this show worth watching? I was one of the lucky ones who saw him in the role of Evan in Dear Evan Hansen.
  • 67A [National Yoga Month] SEPTEMBER. Aw man, I missed it again. Next year I suppose.
  • 120A [Don of “Crash”] CHEADLE. I had CHEATLE, and never saw the clue for DID TO, which made DITTO look totally fine. Took me forever to find my mistake when Mr. Happy Pencil didn’t come to the party.
  • 9D [Greet like a politician would] GLADHAND. New term for me. Makes sense though.
  • 48D [“Hey, look at this!”] OHO / AHA. I mix these two up all the time in crosswords, and I’m glad they were crossing one another with the same clue!
  • 94D [She once tweeted: “We all have an incomplete understanding of reality. Let’s complete the puzzle together and have a clear understanding of what is happening.”] This long clue brought to you by More Real Estate on the WaPo Crossword Print Edition Page!
  • 98A [Wood work, e.g.?] ART. As in Grant Wood, the artist behind American Gothic. 

Also enjoyed the extra title in the puzzle. Impressed that Evan was able to find this set… that’s a lot of searching I would think? Perhaps think of short character names first and find actors second? I dunno. It hurts my head to think about it.

Fun one all-around.

ALSO, here’s a note from Evan about a virtual event happening next week:

On Sunday, Oct. 18 at 12 pm ET, I’ll be chatting on Instagram Live with Harris Paseltiner of the band Darlingside as he attempts to solve my puzzle. I imagine we’ll be talking about crosswords and Darlingside’s new album “Fish Pond Fish” which they released just yesterday. Check out both the chat and the album if you get a chance (I got to hear it ahead of time; it’s really good)

Sounds awesome!

Enjoy your day.

Will Nediger’s Universal crossword — “Please Note” – Jim Q’s Write-up

I get the theme, but I’m not sure I understand the title. Any help?

THEME: Two-word phrases where the first word begins with N and the second begins with B.

Universal crossword solution · “Please Note” · Will Nediger · Sun., 10.11.20


  • 19A [*One eats, cries and sleeps] NEWBORN BABY. Or me on certain days.
  • 28A [*Bread spread that may be made with almonds] NUT BUTTER. 
  • 45A [*She went around the world in 72 days] NELLIE BLY. 
  • 54A [*Main event?] NAVAL BATTLE. 
  • 58D [Person who doesn’t identify as male or female, for short … or a hint to the starred answers’ initials] ENBY. 

I had to google ENBY. It means NB or non-binary. I just haven’t heard the initialism I suppose.

I don’t have too much to say about this one. I liked it just fine. I wonder how many N/B phrases there are. NUT BUTTER is a very strange term to me. I don’t think I’ve ever said it aloud.

Like the tongue twister reference for TOY BOAT. Go ahead. Say it five times fast. Funny enough, I’ve practiced that one and it’s the only tongue twister I can handle!

3 stars.

Ross Trudeau’s Universal Sunday crossword, “High Water”—Jim P’s review

Theme: The names of world seas are found in the circled letters in the Down direction, though they are part of the theme entries in the Across direction. The revealer at 118a is RISING SEA LEVELS [Oceanographer’s climate concern, and a theme hint].

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “High Water” · Ross Trudeau · 10.11.20

  • 22a. [Banknote that doesn’t feature a D.C. building (hint: look up at letter 5)] HUND(RED) DOLLAR BILL with 5d REDUX
  • 41a. [Classic causality dilemma (… letter 7)] CHICKE(N OR TH)E EGG with 14d UNORTHODOX
  • 54a. [Martial arts role for Jaden Smith, with “The” (… letter 1)] (KARA)TE KID with 37d KARAOKE. Never heard of KARA Sea; apparently it’s in the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia.
  • 68a. [Ideas that prompt serious reflection (… letter 3)] SO(BERING) THOUGHTS with 20d CLAMBERING
  • 83a. [Bumped into (… letter 6)] RAN AC(ROSS) with 66d ROSSINI
  • 98a. [Games that include wheelchair tennis (… letter 5)] THE P(ARAL)YMPICS with 75d PARALLELED

This is a pretty complex construction with a ton of theme material, especially when you include those long Down entries.

That said, I’m not sold on the sea names coming down in their respective entries. With RISING SEA LEVELS as your revealer, wouldn’t it make more sense if they were going upward?

And with all that theme material and the complexity of the crossings, the fill does suffer, starting at 1d with EHH but also including OTTO I, ELIA, ILIA, OSS, plus the usual suspects of O’SHEA, XS OUT, AGEE, ERAT, ULNA, as well as the dupes OK DEAR and OKS.

There are definitely high points though: BED HEAD, James CARVILLE (whether you like him or not, he’s quite a character), HIBACHIS, CHOW MEIN, EGO TRIP, ACT COOL, HOME PLANET, “STEP ASIDE,” and THE LORAX.

But despite all those great entries, I really felt the weight of the gunkier fill during the solve and they dragged down the whole experience for me. Couple that with my feeling that the theme entries should be going downward, and it results in a grid that felt more problematic than enjoyable. Three stars.

John Lampkin’s Los Angeles Times puzzle, “Yes, But Is It Art?” — Jenni’s write-up

Very brief today because I am tied up but forgot to get a sub:

Theme answers are words or phrases cued as if they referred to art.

Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2020, John Lampkin, “But Is It Art?” solution grid

  • 23a [Molding okra likenesses?] is POD CASTING.
  • 25a [Accumulation after many oil changes?] is BRUSH PILES. As in oil painting brushes.
  • 35a [Housekeeper-artist barter agreement?] is DUSTING FOR PRINTS.
  • 56a [Asset for sketching the human body?] is A HEAD FOR FIGURES.
  • 80a [Traditional Western song to sing while cleaning up the atelier?] is GOODBYE OLD PAINT.
  • 98a [Sculpting painstakingly, as ice?] is LICKING INTO SHAPE. Pretty sure that’s not how you sculpt ice (I know they’re joking).
  • 115a [Foundation for nude sketches?] is a BOTTOM LINE.
  • 117a [Color for a “Starry” Dutch classic?] is NIGHTSHADE.


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

26 Responses to Sunday, October 11, 2020

  1. Ethan says:

    I’m not normally someone who would say that two words from the same Latin root in the same puzzle automatically constitutes a dupe. But if the whole point of the puzzle is phrases that happen to have the string PIR, then using forms of RESPIRE, CONSPIRE, and INSPIRE does seem like going to the same well a bit too much.

  2. Bryan says:

    NYT: Very timely clue at 94a. I learned about this over the past week and a half when we’ve all been paying close attention to the fate of our current president and the legal/procedural implications. Amy, this is a short article that explains how the 25th Amendment involved Spiro Agnew.

  3. Pete Mitchell says:

    25th Amendment Section 2: “Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.”

    Agnew resigned. Nixon nominated Ford to replace him (after which Nixon resigned, making Ford the only President NOT part of a voted ticket). Ford proceeded to then nominate Nelson Rockefeller as his VP.

  4. David Steere says:

    WaPo: Delightful. Who knew there were so many such combinations? I feel “subsumed.” :-)

  5. John Malcolm says:

    NYT (Yes, but is it art?) 25A Accumulation after many oil changes = Brushpiles??? If this is about art, it’s a real stretch!

    • John Malcolm says:

      If I could have gotten the editor to load, I would have amended my characterization to “it’s really sketchy!”

      • marciem says:

        errrmm… took me a minute to find you meant the LAT not NYT, since I hadn’t done LAT yet and had no idea what you were talking about in the NYT… lol too for such confusion :D .

  6. Cynthia says:

    Jim Q – “N.B.” stands for “nota bene,” or in English, “note well.” It’s used to point out something in a document to which the reader needs to pay special attention.

  7. Billy Boy says:


    a great example of why I don’t always do 21×21

    Much of the failing and repulsion well-covered by our host.

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    @Jim Q re the Uni puzzle, the title refers to the Latin shorthand n.b. for nota bene (note well). I think it’s mostly an abbreviation used in legal papers.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Sorry for the duplicate answer. I didn’t notice that someone had already responded. FWIW, I never read all the comments here until I’ve finished my rotation of daily puzzles since I don’t want to see any spoilers. After I complete each puzzle, I read the review and use the Chrome’s search feature to look for comments that are specific to that puzzle (LAT, WSJ, Uni). If the poster doesn’t include the search terms I use in their comments, I don’t see that post until I’ve completed the NYT puzzle, routinely my last of the day.

      • Jim Q says:

        No need to apologize! I asked for the explanation and I appreciate it. Your comments are always welcome. You always have something interesting to add to the conversation.

  9. huda says:

    NYT: I like it much better than the general opinion, as reflected by the ratings. I basically prefer something that’s like a themeless with a twist over a Sunday puzzle where the theme feels contorted and stretched to the max.
    All the words with the rebus where between fine and really good– CONSPIRACY THEORY being my favorite– and sadly relevant these days, as is RESPIRATORY SYSTEM and, with approaching Halloween, VAMPIRE BAT.

  10. pannonica says:

    NYT: 111a [South American mammals with trunks] TAPIRS. I’d call their proboscides ‘prehensile snouts’ rather than trunks. Nevertheless, I’ll note the Wikipedia page for the genus describes it as a ‘trunk’ once (and ‘snout’ four times).

    • huda says:

      I love that word- prehensile… I’m going to teach it to my 4 yo grandson. He loves animals and big words! To him, it’s not a bigger deal than learning any other word.

  11. Norm says:

    Universal Sunday: In addition to the problem that the seas were falling rather than rising, crossing “the” entries at 86D and 98A? Ugh. And another at 90D? Puh-leaze. Nice try at an interesting theme, but a fail in execution. And do we really need something like DEFCON in a Sunday puzzle?

  12. GG says:

    Totally off the subject…. LOVE your new header design on the main page. Is that Edward Scissorhands? Great October look. Thanks Erica and Marisa.

  13. Kelly Clark says:

    Evan Birnholz is amazing.

  14. arthur118 says:


    The most prominent non-legal use of Nota Bene (Note Well) in my memory was when TV Evangelist Bishop Fulton Sheen, (in the mid-50’s), would write one of his dicta on a blackboard and boldly sign them with a large N.B.

    I don’t think Bishop Sheen had the foggiest idea that NB also means non-binary.

    • Kelly Clark says:

      I still don’t. And why we have to bring Venerable Sheen into this is perplexing, but there you go! :-)

  15. Kelly Clark says:

    Universal Sunday:

    “Couple that with my feeling that the theme entries should be going downward, and it results in a grid that felt more problematic than enjoyable. Three stars.”

    Gee. (Well, first of all, I think you mean “upward.”) I think maybe we’re being a little too hard on the constructor. ‘Course, I’m assuming that Universal still isn’t using circles or shadings or whatever, but even if they are? From a constructor’s viewpoint, the decision to move the secondary themers into position is always stuff. What it comes down to are two factors: 1.) What is more pleasurable for the solvers? and 2.) What, if any, will my decision affect the fill? I think, at least for factor #1, Ross chose the better course. I mean, the seas are actually rising — if not literally (filling ARAL as LARA, e.g.) — they certainly are “rising” in the grid. Just my opinion. Thanks.

  16. Barry Koch says:

    Hamlet’s castle is called KRONBORG castle. I know that ELSINORE is listed at the beginning of the play as the setting, so the playwright gets a pass on this technicality, but the name of the castle is Kronborg, which is located in the town of Helsingor.

Comments are closed.