Saturday, October 31, 2020

LAT 5:50 (Derek) 


Newsday 17:33 (Derek) 


NYT 6:07 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Stella Zawistowski’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 31 20, no. 1031

Initial vibe: “Ah, yes, Stella’s a foodie.” TAPAS meet TEMPURA, sushi chefs get various TUNAS, there’s the Welsh cheese CAERPHILLY, LASAGNA, and some RADISHES for crunch. There are worse assortments of ingredients in the chefs’ baskets on Chopped.

Fave fill: ACCENT AIGU, the CHARLESTON, “DREAM ON,” SAT PREP, OODLES, and the veiled shout-out to my niece Cara in SCARAB and CARAPACE. Least savory: place names CANA and ST LO, roll-your-own word ECHOER (and clunky “soarer” in neighboring TERN‘s clue), crosswordese RIAS and CEE.

I almost dozed off while solving this puzzle because my family stayed up past 2 am last night trying to find a small table we could agree on, as if it makes any sense at all to make furniture decisions at that hour. Don’t do this!

Five more things:

  • 23a. [Hiss at a Congressional hearing], ALGER. I honestly can’t tell you much about Alger Hiss, but I love this clue! Veiled capital H makes it look like hiss is a verb here.
  • 31a. [Product that becomes an item to which it’s applied after shifting the last letter one spot down in the alphabet], PAM vegetable oil spray, applied to a pan. I wanted to shift the other direction in the alphabet—how is “down” a move to a letter with a higher number, from 13th M to 14th N? Who defines “up” and “down” where the alphabet is concerned?
  • 41a. [Wow, just wow], STUN. Straight-up verb usage, not the interjection.
  • 51a. [A to B, say: Abbr.], VOL. As in a hardbound set of encyclopedias. The World Book is still being published! (The new edition sells for $999.) Same as when I was a kid, A and B each get their own volume, and C is split into two books. I sure did love perusing the encyclopedia when I was a kid. I know there are other erstwhile encyclopedia junkies among you!
  • 7d. [Layered fare], LASAGNA. Anyone got a great meatless lasagna recipe to share?

Here’s a music video that has, as far as I know, absolutely no connection to the puzzle. But I know Stella likes 1980s music and so do I. Plus, there are worse Halloween costumes than early-era Madonna.

3.5 stars from me.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 10/31/2020

For my two puzzle write-ups today, I get to enjoy puzzles from two of my favorite constructors. For the LAT challenge puzzle, the clever Jeffrey Wechsler has a smooth themeless grid to enjoy. The stacks at the top and bottom have great lively entries in them, and for at least one or two I think I broke into a wry smile! As per the LAT puzzles, there is nothing here that you might not know, except for a just a couple, and the ones I didn’t know I feel like I learned something! And there is certainly nothing wrong with that! Thank you for a pleasant solve, Jeffrey! 4.5 stars from me.

Some high points for me:

  • 17A [Where fajitas may be seen] TEX-MEX MENU – I laughed at this one
  • 26A [Chem lab substance] REAGENT – This is what is used for a COVID test, and what they have trouble finding as well.
  • 44A [W.E.B. Du Bois’ Tennessee alma mater] FISK – Also a famous baseball player 30 years ago or so. He was famous in Chicago where I am from.
  • 47A [Maker of Contadina products] DEL MONTE – I couldn’t pass up mentioning this clue. I have seen this tomato paste in my kitchen since I was a young lad.
  • 61A [1963 Johnny Thunder hit] LOOP DE LOOP – I know this song, but not from Johnny Thunder. I have no idea where I’ve heard this before.
  • 67A [Like some eggs] FREE RANGE – I was never sure why this was helpful to the chicken. The end result is the same …
  • 5D [Blanche’s sister, in a Williams play] STELLA – Our cat is named Stella!
  • 6D [Number before Number?] SIX – Brilliant! If you don’t get this clue, take a second look. I won’t spoil it for you!
  • 29D [“That was so stupid of me!”] “AM I AN IDIOT!” – Great casual phrase, and something I say a lot while solving!
  • 38D [Talking Heads lead singer David] BYRNE – The older I get the more I appreciate their music. I just watched the full Stop Making Sense film since it is available on Amazon Prime. Great music.
  • 48D [Piercing locale, perhaps] MIDEAR – I have no piercings anywhere. And don’t plan on any!

That is all for now! Michigan plays at noon today, and I have a ton of other puzzles to do!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 10/31/2020

After the Boswords interview last Monday night, I have been able to reinforce my love of themeless puzzles, especially those that leave you feeling totally helpless at the beginning. This is one of those puzzles! I had NO IDEA how to fill out any of this puzzle for what seemed like an eternity. But as I have said before, I found a quiet place to get lost in my thoughts, and peeling the layers of this puzzle was a form of “joyful agony” that I have come to relish. Brad, as was also mentioned on Monday evening, is a brilliant cluer of crosswords, and there are many gems in this one. This is a really tough puzzle, but the satisfaction after solving is almost addictive. A solid 4.7 stars for this brilliant solving experience.

There is a lot to mention, but here is some of it:

  • 1A [”Macbeth” witches’ place] HEATH – I don’t know Shakespeare as well as I should. I don’t know how I know this one!
  • 16A [Temp’s downfall] COLD WAVE – Worded this way, I had a connotation of a temp worker. But it is much more straightforward than that.
  • 23A [Fundraiser scrapped by rain] TEN-K – This clue makes no sense until you solve it.
  • 30A [Many of today’s tennis pros] GRUNTERS – A tennis clue! I am not a fan of grunters either. There is no need to grunt when the match first starts!
  • 44A [Connors’ current emulator, per Connors] NADAL – Another tennis clue! Nadal just won another major, and may go down as the absolute best ever, at least on clay, if he isn’t already.
  • 60A [What Martha Stewart braises with mustard vinaigrette] ENDIVE – Of course she does ….
  • 4D [Yogurt or oatmeal] THICKENING AGENT – Another clue that makes sense afterward. Very vague, especially for a 15-letter entry.
  • 12D [First British Best Musical Tony winner] EVITA – This is British? Or were the awards new when this play won?
  • 15D [How you may spell ”Relief!”] TGIF – A play on the old Rolaids commercials, no doubt.
  • 30D [What Forerunner watches have] GPS – I own one of these, and also a Garmin head unit for my road bike. Love them both, but my watch is starting to give me fits, so I will have to replace it soon. (Don’t tell my spouse!)
  • 56D [What TS Eliot was turned down for] WWI – Look at all these acronyms! Great piece of trivia here, though.

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Just Browsing” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 10/31/20 • Fri • “Just Browsing” • Larson • solution • 20201031

Common words and phrases dressed up in website clothing:

  • 23a. [Programming instructions for WebMD?] HEALTH CODE.
  • 25a. [Play-by-play coverage on] DOWNSTREAM.
  • 44a. [Glitch on Expedia?] TRAVEL BUG.
  • 62a. [Malware on Google Maps?] EARTHWORM.
  • 85a. [, say?] CRASH SITE.
  • 107a. [Discussion forum on Kickstarter?] BREAD BOARD. More literally, there’s (of course) a subreddit for bakers.
  • 110a. [Client data at] SINGLE FILE.
  • 3d. [Barter offer on Craigslist?] TRADING POST.
  • 67d. [Shortcut to] SAUSAGE LINK. 34d [University VIP] DEAN. Tut, tut.

These are rather clever & entertaining. I’ll be sure to leave a Yelp review or something.

  • 1d [Athlete on a 2005 U.S. stamp] ASHE.
  • 7d [Place for a pilot] STOVE. Fooled me this time, dangit.
  • 39d. [Supermarket worker] PRICER. I suppose this is still something that needs to be done, even if little stickers on each and every item is no longer necessary.
  • 64d [Knot again] RETIE. Oh no!
  • 88d [Isla de la Juventud is part of it] CUBA. As you might have guessed, juventud translates to ‘youth’. The name was changed from {Isle of Pines} in 1978.
  • 97a [Start for cop or car] RENT-A. But not for “cop car”.
  • Liking the juxtaposed PREP and PERP alongside each other at 100d/101d.
  • 44d [Japanese drum] TAIKO. Probably the most famous Japanese percussion ensemble using these is the Kodō Drummers.

David Alfred Bywaters’ Universal crossword, “Wry Humor” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Spoonerisms with R sounds!

Universal crossword solution · “Wry Humor” · David Alfred Bywaters · Sat., 10.31.20


  • 17A [Monastic updo? (note how an “R” sound moves in each starred answer)] FRIAR POUF. Not FIRE PROOF. 
  • 21A [Whiskey drinker’s laundry problem?] RYE STAIN. Not EYE STRAIN. 
  • 38A [Arizona and Nevada, compared to Louisiana and Florida?] DRIER STATES. Not DIRE STRAITS. 
  • 55A [Reaction to a courtroom punch?] TRIAL OOF. Not TILE ROOF. 
  • 61A [Cook who puts grains in the oven?] RICE BAKER. Not ICE BREAKER. 

I like spoonerisms, but when they’re in puzzles, I feel like I can never see them until after the puzzle is completed. Especially in this one! I really needed that extra hint in the first themer (unfortunately, I didn’t read it until after I was done, or I may have had a shit at determining theme mid-solve).

Regardless, they were all fun to figure out, even post solve. TRIAL OOF is the only one that seems a little too out there- at least in the comparison with the others.

Fill was just fine! A little DST clue to remind me that it’s ending tomorrow, which causes me IRE. I have no idea why we keep changing the clocks twice a year (I have yet to hear a rational explanation). I prefer lighter later.

4 stars.

Enjoy Halloween!

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24 Responses to Saturday, October 31, 2020

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I liked it, but I wondered whether people who were not francophile would be annoyed because of ACCENT AIGU crossing ETE (both with French clues) along with a general French/foreign vibe.
    I also loved all the food-related content, which made me decide that I need to work on a gluten free tempura batter that my family can eat. A puzzle and a small goal for the weekend!

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Both last Sunday & today were rather aggressively francophile. Given the ubiquity of Spanish and how students have recently been encouraged to learn languages like Mandarin, it’s possible that the presumption that any well educated reader will be familiar with French has reached its sell-by date.

    • Karen says:

      Huda, Kikkoman makes gluten-free panko. Grabbed it when I found it at local supermarket.

    • Zulema says:

      And one more French: the target of the “coup” is ETAT. Good puzzle but I had trouble with the NE, especially ECHOER and kept trying to fit in RARE instead of SCARCE for the hen’s teeth.

  2. Jeff Livingston says:

    I would spend entire days reading through my World Book encyclopedia.

  3. golfballman says:

    Maybe its a regional thing, but I’ve always called it a yard sale.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: “how is ‘down’ a move to a letter with a higher number, from 13th M to 14th N? Who defines ‘up’ and ‘down’ where the alphabet is concerned?”

    Maybe ‘moving down the line’?

    • WhiskyBill says:

      I was also thinking of it like this: Suppose we were to put the alphabet in order on 26 lines on a sheet of line paper, one letter per line. Surely it would look like:
      rather than the reverse. So, maybe moving “down” makes sense in that sense?

    • Zulema says:

      Thank you. I struggled with L

  5. Billy Boy says:

    Philly it’s a TAG sale, heard it called a BOOT sale on British TV

    I have zero problem with (I’ll accept down the line)
    NYT: “How is ‘down’ a move to a letter with a higher number, from 13th M to 14th N? Who defines ‘up’ and ‘down’ where the alphabet is concerned?” didn’t stop to think, surprised it’s so unsettling, NEXT! (I guess THAT works …)

    Été – mainstay of crosswordese uses the aigu (2x), gee, cosmic stuff – but since Ete doesn’t mean butthole …

  6. Teedmn says:

    The Stumper, oof. “Almost addictive”, Derek? Absolutely addictive.

    The 3D clue had me put in RIN at the end of it and that stayed for the duration until the NW’s ADVEN talked me out of it.

    AGENT in the SW had me get rid of “we’re ON” at 41A because I saw THICKENING but then it took forever to replace it with GAME.

    angLED before VEILED.

    Just another Brad Wilber gem, wow. It makes Stella’s NYT (which I loved) seem like a walk in the park.

  7. snappysammy says:

    pretty good time for a stella saturday, the crossses made it possible, as usual she put in words i don’t know

    had the bottom half of the stumper done in record time, the top was a bit of a struggle but finally fell

    two very nice puzzles, thanks

  8. Tim in Queens says:

    One meatless lasagna recipe would use bechamel sauce and sauteing any vegetable you have in the fridge. With the white base the colors of the vegetables can be striking. Don’t forget the nutmeg.

  9. janie says:

    >[First British Best Musical Tony winner] EVITA – This is British? Or were the awards new when this play won?

    british. yes indeed — by way of andrew lloyd weber and tim rice. not entirely sure of your meaning w/ the second question, but the tony awards have been around since 1947… evita took the prize in 1980.

    and yes, especially b/c of the tricky cluing: one difficult puzzle that ultimately led to one satisfying solve!


  10. janie says:

    grrr. after editing/correcting an existing post, what’s the process to get the edited version posted? this used to be a very simple process, but darned if i see a place from the screen that now comes up how to complete it. tia!!


  11. Becky Moody says:

    I’m surprised nobody comments on the duplication of “skill” in the LAT.

  12. JohnH says:

    I wasted a lot of time at the end trying to debug my correct answer to the cheese, but I see it’s in RHUD as well. Oops. (OTOH, I can’t find a dictionary justification for BHUTANI rather than Bhutanese.)

    I was awfully grateful for the French, as without it I wouldn’t have had so much as a foothold in a tough one. But I know I shouldn’t praise entries that merely conform to my knowledge base rather than someone else’s, just as I don’t agree with the write-ups that praise some one’s favorite bits of pop culture. So my only excuse is that I really needed the help!

  13. sandirhodes says:

    universal: Jim, I would love to believe your typo was on purpose, but I don’t. It is hilarious anyway.

Comments are closed.