Sunday, November 8, 2020

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 10:16 (Amy) 


WaPo 12:22 (Jim Q) 


Universal 4:12 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 10:47 (Jim P) 


Evan Kalish & Caitlin Reid’s New York Times crossword, “Wait, What?”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 8 20, “Wait, What?”

As the title hints, the theme answers change the long A sound of “wait” to the short U sound of “what”:

  • 22a. [Compliment to a runway model?], YOU GOT THAT STRUT. Straight to strut.
  • 31a. [Easily offended by foul language?], CUSS-SENSITIVE. Case-sensitive. I am not cuss-sensitive. I am slur-sensitive, though.
  • 45a. [Question to a tantrum thrower?], WHY THE LONG FUSS? Long face. This feels … topical.
  • 63a. [Relics proving how Noah steered his boat?], RUDDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Raiders. This works surprisingly well for all its weirdness.
  • 83a. [Prepared for a field trip?], LOADED THE BUSES. Bases.
  • 95a. [Masters of slapstick?], MUCK-UP ARTISTS. Hmm. Because throwing a cream pie is messy? Feels like too much of a stretch. And I also want the base phrase to be “make-ape artists,” since there are two short U sounds there.
  • 109a. [Title for an oral surgeon’s handbook?], THE NUMB OF THE GUM. A two-fer for the closer, “the name of the game.”

I won’t go into much detail here, on account of being busy with the holiday and all. Couple things caught my eye:

  • 102a. [“To live without ___ is to cease to live”: Dostoyevsky], HOPE. Gotta have hope!
  • 67d. [Pelvic exercises], KEGELS. This plural has never popped up in the Cruciverb database before (though I imagine it’s been used in some indie crosswords), and the singular just once, in a 2019 NYT. Hooray for the unembarrassed use of a common term! It’s not even vulva-specific. Men also have pelvic floor muscles and can do Kegels!


Four stars from me. Enjoy your weekend!

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Capital Gains” – Jim Q’s Write-up

For some reason, the title feels extremely apt today.

THEME: D.C. is added to common phrases.

Washington Post, November 8, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Capital Gains” solution grid


  • 22A [Dryly humorous rendition of another band’s song?] DROLL COVER. Not ROLL OVER.
  • 34A [Political slogan about how former senator Chris and his family show empathy?] DODDS CARE. ODDS ARE.
  • 44A [Bookbinding, knitting and weaving while behind the wheel, e.g.?] DRIVER CRAFTS. RIVER RAFTS.
  • 58A [Sequel to “Inferno” about the author’s coffee container?] DANTES CUP. ANTES UP.
  • 68A [Lucky plants whose leaves were replaced by pub projectiles?] DART CLOVERS. ART LOVERS.
  • 78A [Pickle resembling actor Owen?] DILL CLIVE. I’LL LIVE.
  • 94A [Be afraid of the YouTube videos that I uploaded?] DREAD MY CLIPS. READ MY LIPS.
  • 100A [Homes of D&D-playing hamsters?] DICE CAGES. ICE AGES.
  • 118A [Actor Cheadle’s mollusk-inspired nickname?] DON THE CLAM. ON THE LAM.

I did just fine solving this, but I (somehow!) completely missed the theme until after the solve. Hadn’t even noticed the consistency of the D.C. phrases. Had it been just a single, typical letter/s addition theme, I’m sure I would’ve caught on, but with the two added letters in different parts of the phrase… ok I think I’m looking for an excuse. To be honest, when I saw the title, I thought state capitals would be added in, so my mind went with that. Also, this was sorta-kinda-not-really confirmed with the first themer, DROLL COVER… where I saw DOVER (Delaware). And although I couldn’t make out a base phrase (ROLL C?), I figured it would eventually reveal itself.

The phrases are a lot of fun though. DREAD MY CLIPS and DON THE CLAM are my two faves.

Super smooth solve for me moving steadily from north to south. I was hung up momentarily on the DODDS CARE / DOLAN crossing. I was thinking Chris DOWD (the actor whose last name is actually O’Dowd), but I couldn’t accept WOLAN as a name. And DOND didn’t look right though NOLAN did. So eventually, DOLAN.

True, but rather ballsy clue for 98A [Emulate many a politician] LIE. Hopefully, we’re about to hear a lot less lying than we have been.

Fun way to start the day! Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Kevin Christian’s Universal crossword, “Happy Sunday!” — Jim Q’s write-up

What a delightful title, is it not?

THEME: Phrases that mean “positive” in more than one sense of the word.

Universal crossword solution · “Happy Sunday!” · Kevin Christian · Sun., 11.08.20



Excellent puzzle today! A nice, neat theme with three lovely grid-spanners. I much prefer puzzles with three solid themers than those that cram in a few more, but sacrifice in the fill area.

Fairly fast solve for me, though it’s been a while since I’ve been under four minutes. I blame my eyesight, which I am loathe to say is not as great as it was just a couple years ago.

Really wanted AMETHYST to be EMERALD and HOORAH to be HOORAY and NUBS to be NIBS. But those were the only spots where I faltered for the most part.

Thanks for this one. Happy Sunday indeed!


Daniel A. Finan & Brian Herrick’s Los Angeles Times puzzle, “Did You Get The Part?” — Jenni’s write-up

The theme is sort of cryptic-in-reverse – each theme answer is like a cryptic clue with the clue in this puzzle being what the answer would be in the cryptic. Well, that didn’t make much sense. Let’s take a look:

Los Angeles Times, November 9, 2020, Daniel A. Finan & Brian Herrick, “Did You Get the Part?” solution grid

  • 12d [ARE] is RARE ELEMENT. ARE is an ELEMENT of the word RARE.
  • 15d [VAT] is PRIVATE SECTOR.
  • 23a [PROP] is IMPROPER FRACTION. A Google search tells me that “{a}n improper fraction is a fraction in which the numerator (top number) is greater than or equal to the denominator (bottom number).” Good to know.
  • 31a [OUT] is MOUTHPIECE.
  • 48a [VIE] is MOVIE CLIP.
  • 55d [HANG] is CHUNK OF CHANGE. This may be my favorite.
  • 66d [CON] is [SLAB OF BACON].
  • 81a [GET] is BUDGET CUT.
  • 98a [ORE] is CORE SAMPLE. This one is particularly apt because you can find ORE in a real CORE SAMPLE.
  • 107a [TEN] is a SENTENCE FRAGMENT.

I really liked this theme. Consistent and solid without being predictable and very entertaining. Fun Sunday!

A few other things:

  • Can’t remember what other puzzle I did today that had ETS clued as UFO pilots, or something like that.
  • I always thought it was ALPENHORN. Google Ngrams disagrees; ALPHORN is more common.
  • I liked [Short notice?] for I QUIT. I also liked Alison Green’s roundup of amazing resignation stories at Ask A Manager, especially the one about the fish.
  • Not crazy about ABETTOR. Who says that?
  • I had a lot of troubled parsing the answer to 89d [Nails that test]. For some reason, I kept thinking that “nails” was the noun and “test” was the verb. Couldn’t figure out how ACES IT made any sense. It makes perfect sense if you realize that “nails” is the verb and “test” is the noun. English is weird and I am a bit giddy with election relief.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: IMPROPER FRACTION. I also did not know that the Milad Tower is in TEHRAN.

Joe Deeney’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Back-to-Back Performances”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Three plays/musicals are put together to create each wacky, grid-spanning theme entry.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Back-to-Back Performances” · Joe Deeney · 11.8.20

  • 21a. [Small village deals in a stolen salon product?] HAMLET FENCES HAIRSPRAY
  • 41a. [The Kardashian daughters move felines to and fro?] THREE SISTERS SWING CATS
  • 62a. [Kermit and Mr. Toad oil the Second City?] THE FROGS GREASE CHICAGO
  • 88a. [A dozen testy guys hire a comedian?] TWELVE ANGRY MEN RENT WIT
  • 111a. [Devastated transportation depot in Bermuda’s capital?] RUINED HAMILTON BUS STOP

I did not figure out the theme during the solve. Without fail, I would recognize two of the titles in each entry but kept scratching my head as to where the third word came from. I guess I’m not enough of a theater-goer. Consequently, the theme left me confounded. I expect I’m not the only one who had this problem.

I am impressed, though, with these finds and the fact they’re all grid-spanners and  that they have a decent amount of surface sense. That said, I wish the last one was a present-tense sentence like the others; it is significantly weaker for not being so, IMO.

As for the fill, it’s very good with ONLOOKER, OPERA-GOER, “I GET IT,” NANNYCAMS, Jean VALJEAN, STREET ART, JETCAR, “FEAR NOT,” KISSERS clued as mouths, and MT. SHASTA, which I drive past every time I road-trip down from WA to CA to visit my parents. I’m not so sure about STEEP FINE which sounds a little “green painty” to me and TEAR-DOWNS as a noun is new to me.

This is the first I’ve seen of NSAIDS [Aspirin and ibuprofen, briefly] in a grid (the initials stand for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). What say you? Is this well-known enough to be crossword fodder? I’d say it isn’t, but I’ve been wrong before (a lot).

Clues of note:

  • 94a. [Penitent person, perhaps]. KNEELER. Meh. A KNEELER is what the penitent person kneels upon in a pew.
  • 15d. [Road work?]. STREET ART. Fave clue in the grid.
  • 66d. [Funny DeGeneres]. ELLEN. I’d go with another clue. This one seems to blithely ignore the harassment allegations she was up against this year. She’s since apologized and vowed to do better, so to ignore all that just doesn’t feel right at this time.
  • 85d. [Sanders’ title (Abbr.)]. SEN. Anyone go with COL? I briefly considered it.
  • 86d. [How some NFL games are resolved]. IN OT. And some college football games as well. Like last night’s epic Clemson/Notre Dame game.

The theme is impressive, but I didn’t recognize a third of them. YMMV, of course. Strong fill, too. 3.8 stars.

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12 Responses to Sunday, November 8, 2020

  1. JohnH says:

    The NYT theme was ok, if a little forced and not hilarious, and the stretch to “muck” in a theme entry threw me, too. Actually, so did the reference to relics, which had me hoping to force bones or inplements into the answer. Perhaps the clue could have read just “How Noah steered his boat.”

    Am I imagining it, but have the Sunday NYT puzzles had low ratings for many weeks now? I wonder why. Does Shortz get too few submissions of larger puzzles? I’d have said that if anyone attracts submissions, it would be the editor for the Times.

    • David Steere says:

      I’m with Rex Parker on today’s NYT puzzle and the general trend for a long time. A slog. On the other hand, Evan’s puzzle was everything the Times puzzle was not…beginning with fun!

      • Billy Boy says:


        “I won’t mention how little I care for 21×21 puzzles.” Billy Boy said without a hint of irony.

        I did this one because my golf got rained out and while I watched my third soccer match of the day. As usual I got too bored to finish this puzzle. Slog is the word.

        This one won’t encourage me doing another soon.

  2. David L says:

    NYT: For me, the only vowel change that wasn’t consistent with the theme was in the puzzle’s title — I pronounce ‘what’ like ‘squat.’ That’s because I’m from England, but Merriam-Webster gives two pronunciations in American English.

    LAT: This was a nice set of theme answers. The only one that didn’t quite work for me was SLABOFBACON, since I would expect a slab to be a large chunk, not a small piece.

  3. MattF says:

    NYT and WaPo themes were similar– altering long entries to make common phrases jokey. Both pretty good, both took some extra time and thought to get the themes after finishing.

  4. Cynthia says:

    Jim P – I agree with you on ELLEN in the Universal Sunday. My first thought was, “Wow, that’s glossing right over all the recent trouble.” There are several other famous Ellens to choose from.

    I was also on the same page with you re: Sanders. “COL” was my first thought! Maybe because I’m hungry…

    Lastly, the NSAIDS. I’ve seen and heard the term quite a bit in the media and in the ubiquitous drug commercials, so I’d say it’s fair crossword fill. Much easier for me to get than some of the more obscure or very recent names from pop culture or sports.

  5. Harriet Beecher Stowe says:

    When I heard Biden triumphed over Trump on Sat. am I put the Stumper puz down & whooped for joy. Anyone with me on this?

  6. marciem says:

    Jim P. : re Universal NSAIDs. I’m familiar with the term, and googling “otc pain reliever” will bring up the description of all the usual suspects, with the written-out phrase “nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug” and then (NSAIDs) in parentheses, so I’m pretty sure it is in the language.

    FWIW and what I didn’t know, Tylenol (acetaminophen) is not an NSAID because it doesn’t relieve inflammation.

  7. Pilgrim says:

    WaPo – 125A Connery of “First Knight” was a timely tribute. Thanks, even if serendipity.
    Also, otherwise, a really fun puzzle and timely here in DC.

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