Sunday, December 6, 2020

LAT 7:56 (Jenni) 


NYT 8:02 (Amy) 


WaPo Grid 10:17 Meta DNF (Jim Q) 


Universal 4:17 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


Tony Orbach’s New York Times crossword, “Get Out of Here!”—Amy’s write-up

I smiled multiple times while working the theme entries here, and there were some fun things in the fill and clues, not much in the way of clunkers. 4.25 stars, enjoyed it! It’s so nice to have fun with a Sunday puzzle rather than finding it tiresome.

NY Times crossword solution, 12 6 20, “Get Out of Here!”

Tony’s theme removes the “of” from familiar phrases and clues the resulting things accordingly:

  • 23a. [Archaeologist’s assertion about a finding?], BONE CONTENTION. Speaking of fossils (the clue should really have a paleontologist, no?), I hear great things about the movie Ammonite. Hope it comes to one of my streaming services soon.
  • 33a. [Swim team guru?], STROKE GENIUS.
  • 40a. [Hire Phil Collins’s longtime band for a gig?], BOOK GENESIS.
  • 51a. [The Serengeti, e.g.?], PRIDE PLACE. Lions!
  • 63a. [Knowing everything that’s available to view on Netflix?], STREAM CONSCIOUSNESS. 
  • 77a. [Amenity offered at an internet cafe?], FREE CHARGE.
  • 84a. [Bit of reading at a bar mitzvah?], RITE PASSAGE.
  • 90a. [Stand-up’s bombs?], COMEDY ERRORS. Ha!
  • 106a. [Art shop worker’s manual?], FRAME REFERENCE.

The theme worked really well, I thought. No wrong notes.

Just about dinner time, so three clues:

  • 92d. [Many rescues], MUTTS. Shelter rescues, not first-responder rescues. Tricked me!
  • 70a. [Clishmaclaver or bavardage, to use some fancy language], GOSSIP. New words for me. Fun!
  • 51d. [A dime a dozen, say?], PRICE. Great clue!

Time to eat. Bon appétit!

Jason Mueller’s Universal crossword, “Conquer This Puzzle!” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Famous quote attributed to Julius Caesar is hidden amongst the theme answers.

Universal crossword solution · “Conquer This Puzzle!” · Jason Mueller ·  Sun., 12.06.20


  • GULF OF VENICE. Veni. 
  • VICIOUS CYCLE.  Vici. 
  • [Ancient leader whose boast is hidden in {the theme answers}] JULIUS CAESAR.

Fun to see the quote included in its entirety since constant solvers are accustomed to seeing only a part of it with the clue [Part of a Caesarian boast]. I also appreciate the lack of circles in this one. On one hand, I wasn’t able to determine the theme of the puzzle until after the solve, but on the other it allowed me to find the quote myself. Initially, I did immediately notice that each of the themers contained a V, but that was about it.

As far as the theme answers themselves, GULF OF VENICE is new to me… I think, and DIVIDING LINE doesn’t strike me as all that common a phrase, though I’ve heard it. Typically, the hidden word “bridges” other parts of the theme too. In this case it consistently does not (I mean “consistently” in positive sense).

Great clue for 70A [Safari group] TABS. I don’t much use the Safari web browser that much anymore, but in Google Chrome I rarely have less than a dozen tabs open.

I’m not quite sure I understand the WSJ clue: [B-school paper?]. Does the B stand for Business?

3 stars.


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

Before I get to my (anti-climactic) write-up, a big congratulations for Evan as today marks five years since he published his first WaPo puzzle. And hasn’t it been a fun five years?

Meta time! Only I haven’t figured out the meta yet. So I’m going to re-solve the puzzle in a little bit and hope something jumps out at me before I suck it up and open the clue that Evan sent me should I get stuck.

Washington Post, December 6, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Sandwiches” solution grid

THEME: Well… something to do with phrases where two of the same words “sandwich” another word. 


  • 24A [Vague substitute for something more specific] SUCH AND SUCH. 
  • 48A [1984 chart-topping single for Cyndi Lauper] TIME AFTER TIME. 
  • 63A [Modern slang phrase about how a seasoned pro acknowledges a newcomer with similar skills] GAME RECOGNIZE GAME. 
  • 85A [Like the ruthless world out there] DOG EAT DOG. 
  • 102A [Milk-cream blend one might add to coffee] HALF AND HALF. 
  • 120A [“It’s not fair, but it’s the law”] RULES ARE RULES. 

Things I’ve tried so far include the old-reliables: Looking at initial letters of each of the themers, and of just the middle words. I’ve also looked for other words in the grid that can substitute for the words SUCH, TIME, GAME, etc. Nothing so far, though I haven’t put a helluva lot of time into it. I noticed the word “Winter” repeating as the first word of two different clues, one oddly referring to a WREN, so I thought I had something there. But it led to nada.

Often, simply re-solving with heightened attention to the clues is a way to help deduce a meta answer… so here we go.

[15 minutes later]

Welp, besides noting that ALE is above SARA LEE and IN DRAG is above RAG, which I’m relatively sure means nothing, I’m at sea with this one. Let me decode the ROT13 clue Evan sent, and I’ll paste it below:

Think in really simple terms about what each “sandwich” has. What would you get if you put something inside them?

Hmmmm. Each has two of the same word. Each has a middle word. Each has… ARGH!!! This is killing me. I’m positive I’m missing something simple.

Let’s jump to other aspects of the puzzle.


  • 29A [Activity where you may take a shot at “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and then take a shot] KARAOKE. Laughably long and absurd clue. I think it would be even better served with a “perhaps” at the end because 1) I think it’s more accurate and 2) that would make for a fun juxtaposition of vague / specific.
  • 38D [Horror film prop, maybe] DOLL. Too true. Horror films have totally ruined DOLLs and clowns for me. And summer camp.
  • 90A [Takes on the challenge] HAS AT IT. Took me forever to see it. I wanted HAS A GO, then figured HAS A TRY. With those two in mind, when I finally got the answer by crosses I only saw HAS A TIT. Yeesh.
  • 115A [Like kings and queens, while on stage] IN DRAG. Yup!


GREG Valentine, CISSY Houston, Jennifer EGANMELOERIN Doherty.

Okay, I’m very hesitantly throwing in the towel. Help in the comments? I’ll append the write-up soon with someone’s more astute insights!

Paul Coulter’s Universal Sunday crossword, “This and That”—Jim P’s review

Today’s theme employs well-known two-word phrases where each word is a synonym of the words in a phrase of the form “___ AND ___”. SYNONYMS is at 113a to provide that additional nudge.

I’ll list these in order of the helper two-word phrases.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “This and That” · Paul Coulter · 12.6.20

  • 29a [Baseball or basketball marking (or, in different senses, the first word + the last word of 124-Across?)] FOUL LINE. Reading this clue, I was expected 124a to include some sort of curse-word-based phrase. When it resolved to RANK AND FILE [Ordinary members of an organization], I was confused. Then I realized FOUL is a synonym of RANK and LINE is a synonym of FILE.
  • 42a [Barbara Gordon’s alter ego (… 103-Across?)] BATGIRL with 103a [Inconsistent] HIT AND MISS. To BAT could be to HIT and a GIRL could be considered a MISS.
  • 73a [Sushi restaurant utensil (… 22-Across?)] CHOPSTICK with 22a [Move words around] CUT AND PASTE. To CHOP is to CUT and to STICK is to PASTE.
  • 100a [Corrode (… 39-Across?)] EAT AWAY with 39a [Penniless] DOWN AND OUT. EAT can be synonymous with DOWN and AWAY can be synonymous with OUT.

Very clever finds. I don’t know how one goes about finding these pairings. It seems like you would start with the AND phrase, but then where do you go from there? I guess you would find a synonym for one of the words and then search for phrases that fulfill the requirements. Seems like a long trial-and-error process.

Fortunately as solvers, we don’t have to worry about that. But we do have to contend with all the cross-referencing, which isn’t exactly solvers’ favorite thing. I’m glad I hadn’t bothered to time myself on this one.

Plenty to highlight in the fill today. We have RODEO DRIVE, “YOU LOST ME,” (partially duped by) “SAME TO YOU,” LIGHT SHOWS, SCHNOOKS, LUNAR MONTH, NERF WAR, ELIXIRS, and SEA SLUG. On the shorter side, I liked “VOTE NO,” TEDIUM, and KISMET.

I could do without the long adverb STALWARTLY which I can’t imagine ever getting much use. “Stalwart” is a great word, but as an adverb, it’s just awkward. One other nose-crinkling bit of fill for me was VCS [Silicon Valley investors, briefly] which is plural venture capitalists. Bleh.

Clues of note:

  • 6a. [Body part within “earmuff”]. ARM. I’ve been noticing at least one cryptic-style clue in Steinberg-edited grids. Here’s today’s.
  • 45a. [Hex, for one]. SPELL. I was thinking either math (hexadecimal) or tools (hex wrench) the whole way. I needed every crossing. Duh!
  • 51a. [One might spin jumpers]. DRYER. Nice clue!
  • 126a. [Covering in the news?] MASK. Another nice one. Not “covering” as in “covering a news story,” but a facial covering found in news stories.
  • 87d. [What comes easily to hand?]. YO-YO. Not when I do it.

This was a complicated theme and a tricky construction. I’m impressed, but does that transfer over into solver enjoyment? You decide. On the whole I liked it, and the super sparkly fill made it even better. 3.8 stars.

Paul Coulters Los Angeles Times puzzle, “Cel Mates” — Jenni’s write-up

Cute theme! Each theme answer is a familiar phrase clued as if it referred to a Disney character. The checked block is the typo I didn’t have the patience to search for. And Paul has a double today – check out the Universal Sunday.

Los Angeles Times, December 6, 2020, Paul Coulter, “Cel Mates,” solution grid

  • 22a [Disney dog serving in Congress?] is LADY OF THE HOUSE.
  • 34a [Dale’s brother, away from their home turf?] is CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK. Do young folk know Chip & Dale? I never saw them in the theater but they were a staple of our Saturday mornings.
  • 49a [One of Snow White’s pals acting shellfish-ly?] is HAPPY AS A CLAM.
  • 68a [Franchises owned by Donald’s girlfriend?] are DAISY
  • 88a [Kitchen cooker belonging to 22-Across’s beau?] is a TRAMP STEAMER. “Lady and the Tramp” was one of my father’s favorite movies.
  • 97a [Plans made Bambi’s skunk buddy?] are FLOWER ARRANGEMENTS. I kept trying to put THUMPER in there. He was the rabbit. Duh.
  • 120a [Hoggett’s pig strolling on a forest path?] is BABE IN THE WOODS. A different era from the others.

I enjoyed this! They’re all solid and the clues work (although “kitchen cooker” sounds a bit clunky). It was fun to figure them out and now I can drop into the YouTube rabbit hole and relive my youth.

A few other things:

  • If OLLA is going to keep showing up in crosswords, it should be in the word list for the NYT Spelling Bee. Harumph. I’d be OK if it stopped showing up in crosswords.
  • We get the full acronym for Fannie MAE: FNMA. Took me a second to recognize it.
  • There’s a collection of unpleasant things in the center left: ENLHICA REDA MOI and ON YOU. The last wouldn’t be a problem on its own but with all the rest of the dreck, it didn’t sit well with me.
  • I liked [All-natural fly trap] for COBWEB.
  • I got myself stuck in the SW by putting in FIDDLESTICKS for [Nonsense] at 61d. The delightful correct answer is FIDDLEFADDLE, which is also a delicious caramel popcorn snack food.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that IHOP was reduced to its initialism in 1973. I would’ve said it was much later than that.

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20 Responses to Sunday, December 6, 2020

  1. huda says:

    NYT: It was a good Sunday theme, once you get the trick things open up nicely and it flows well. STREAM CONSCIOUSNESS was my favorite. The photo album that I share with my family is called Huda’s Stream of Consciousness, and it is pretty random.
    During this pandemic, I have gone back and looked at my photos, both shared and unshared, and savored many events, nature shots and trips that I had forgotten about or had not had time to revisit. One of the silver linings…

  2. Mutman says:

    NYT: Fun theme, really enjoyed it. Never heard of ‘Pride of Place’, but apparently it was just me.

    Since people like to challenge validity of clues on this site, let me add mine. FIFTH for liquor store purchase may have been valid decades ago, but at least here in PA, bottles are sold in metric system quantities. The ‘FIFTH’ is now 750ml, the ‘pint’, 375ml and the ‘half-pint’ 200ml. While the workers still use the old terminology, it does not make it correct.

    • JohnH says:

      It’s not Pennsylvania state regulation, but the manufacturers. After all, producers of Scotch, Irish whisky, Russian vodka, French wine, and so on are all in metric countries, and the minority of American wineries are just going with the flow toward global uniformity. But I don’t think of it as a mistake. I think of the word “fifth” as evolving in meaning. Already RHUD had it as “roughly” .750 liter. (MW11C is more exact.) Betcha new dictionaries will have a new entry.

      Very easy NYT for a Sunday. People will differ on whether it’s a clever enough theme to make up for that. It started out unfunny for me but grew on me, in part because of the many theme entries. I started to look forward to them.

      I got a slow start, working around the NW and back into it because of ALLEN, JAM SESH (which had me saying, aptly, sheesh), the crosswordese LEKS, and to me an unexpected part of speech to go with “Whoa!” Also had trouble at the end with CHICA (Google Translate won’t detect it or “chico” as Spanish), ISTRIA, HAUER, and AYS. But got it.

      • pannonica says:

        Conversely, I took a flyer on 1-across and plopped in JAM SESH with nothing else at all! Was pleasantly surprised that my risk paid off and led to a rather fast solve time.

      • person says:

        IMO, if ALLEN is going to be crossed with LEKS there should be a friendlier clue than a dead jazz pianist behind ALLEN. If you’re less than a pro it could easily be mistaken as ALLAN and LAKS.

  3. Cynthia says:

    Jim Q – yes, B-school=business school, as J-school=journalism school. Took me a minute to get the meaning after I had the letters filled in, but once I figured it out I thought it was pretty amusing. [Time unit?] for 2-Down was also a forehead-slapper for me.

  4. Flinty Steve says:

    Washington Post
    The three initials of each sandwich phrase have a matching four-letter word somewhere in the grid. The letters that are added to make the four-letter words spell a sandwich filling.

    • Howard B says:

      I see that now, thanks Steve! But holy… could have given me a year on that and I wouldn’t have caught on.
      Well-played, Evan! :)

      • Norm says:

        I don’t have enough time to deal with or care about his metas. The puzzles are fine [usually] on their own.

    • marciem says:

      For those who aren’t there yet or don’t have time:

      Such And Such + Sacs = C
      Time after Time + That = H
      Game Recognize Game + Greg = E
      Dog Eat Dog + Deed = E
      Half and Half + Hash = S
      Rules are Rules + Rear = E

      • TS says:

        I still don’t get it. Can you break down the first one for me even more? What’s the logical link of such and such to sacs? Once you get that far, how did you make the leap to the letter C?

        I’m totally clueless on this one.

        • The initials of the six “sandwich” phrases plus another letter inside = another answer in the grid.

          Such And Such –> SAS –> SACS
          Time After Time –> TAT –> THAT
          Game Recognize Game –> GRG –> GREG
          Dog Eat Dog –> DED –> DEED
          Half And Half –> HAH –> HASH
          Rules Are Rules –> RAR –> REAR

  5. David L says:

    I tried many of the same things Jim tried for the WaPo meta, and likewise got nowhere. But then I came up with a plausible answer: TOMATO. Because it has the same structure, TO-MA-TO, as the theme answers.

    But I wasn’t convinced it was right. Maybe it’s worth a ‘close but no cigar’ award.

    ETA: Evan’s ‘hint’ means nothing to me, even after understanding the correct answer.

    The correct mechanism and solution may be something that regular meta solvers would come up with fairly easily, but it was a bridge too far for me.

    • marciem says:

      I agree. Without FlintySteve’s guidance I would have just left it all alone, finished the puzzle with a “meh” and never looked back. and even with that instruction it was more work than I’m used to for Sunday a.m. I did it and got the correct answer…..BUT

      While I really appreciate Evan’s construction, and usually his Sunday puzzles are THE BEST, I sort of wish he’d leave the metas for the Friday puzzlers (which I don’t even try). Yes, selfish I know but there it is.

      • I’m sorry if you didn’t enjoy this meta and I do understand the frustration of not being able to figure a meta out. But no, I’m not going to “leave them for the Friday puzzlers.” I enjoy writing them and solving them and I know many other Post solvers do, too.

        Fair warning that there will be another meta on Dec. 27, but I think you’ll like that one more.

  6. David Stone says:

    We really enjoyed the NYT; some of the themers were a bit dull, but others were terrific and made both of us laugh. Rex’s blog rightly points out that the ISTRIA/AYS crossing is terrible for several reasons and would have been easily remedied. Otherwise an excellent puzzle. I gave it 4 stars.

    • JohnH says:

      I see at Wordplay that many were tempted instead by OYS, especially New Yorkers. Me, too. Didn’t help that my first attempt to confirm that Italy includes part of Istria or vice versa let to maps without the detail needed.

  7. Mary P says:

    I had the same problem with Wapo meta as everyone else. Finally decided on cheese by last two letters of such, then two last letter e’s in the sandwiched phrases,from time and game; skipped two words and ended with s and e backwards from rules. Totally wrong but right answer.

  8. marciem says:

    NYT : My first mistake was when I immediately dropped in jamseSS (keeping in mind that it COULD be sesh but in my mind we spell “mic drop” but pronounce it mike drop, right? so the SH sound should go by that logic) and I also dropped in oys (not a New Yorker here but its pretty common, seems as much so as ays) and didn’t know istria so istrio wasn’t easily caught when Happy didn’t appear.

  9. Steve M says:

    LAT – Babe isn’t just from a different era, but it’s the only one that’s not a cartoon… and the title of the puzzle is “Cel Mates”! Bad fit.

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