Saturday, December 12, 2020

LAT 5:48 (Derek) 


Newsday 26:08 (Derek) 


NYT 5:23 (Amy) 


Universal 4:15 (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Sid Sivakumar & Brooke Husic’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

Hey! It’s Sid and Brooke! I was just scraping the rust off this site’s “Crossword Links” page the other day and added links to their respective puzzle sites. The page is still a work in progress, wildly incomplete. There are so many people with crossword sites now.

NY Times crossword solution, 12 12 20, no. 1212

Interesting grid here—it’s got an extra row that accommodates a four-pack of long entries in the middle. The whole dang thing is jam-packed with long fill, isn’t it? Of the 16 rows, a whopping 14 have entries of 7 to 12 letters. There are another 10 Downs in the 7- to 8-letter range. Basically a five-section grid with lots of flow.


It’s list time:

  • 13a. [Profession in Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”], MEATPACKER. This muckraking novel was set in Chicago’s Union Stock Yard, which we were just learning about from a Chicago by ‘L’ show on PBS/WTTW. No more stockyards in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
  • 22a. [What doesn’t require a return envelope?], E-FILING. Doesn’t require a tax return envelope.
  • 46a. [Rhythmic pattern in jazz], STOP TIME. I needed the crossings here.
  • 3d. [Representation of the first-born child of “earth mother” and “sky father,” in Hawaiian culture], MAUNA KEA. Lovely clue.
  • 7d. [Foundation location], SKIN. As in makeup/cosmetics. I appreciate a clue that skews female.
  • 10d. [Latin for “and elsewhere”], ET ALIBI. This is where we get alibi but I’m not sure I knew this Latin phrase.
  • 11d. [Mustard, for one], COLONEL. Have you heard about the “mini-movie” to be televised this Sunday? Watch the trailer, featuring Mario Lopez as Harlan Sanders.
  • 32d. [Hybrid fruit also known as an aprium], PLUOT. There’s a brand name PLUOT called Dinosaur Egg plums. These are among my favorite stone fruits, right behind cherries and Georgia peaches.
  • 41d. [Wins a race against, perhaps], UNSEATS. Ah, yes. As in a political race.
  • 50d. [Bumper ___], CROP. I absolutely slowed myself down by filling in CARS here, and also BART for 56d instead of TRAM.

Four stars from me.

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

LAT 12/12/2020

I always enjoy Jeffrey Wechsler’s creations. This one had a little bite to it, but in the end, it wasn’t too thorny. I loved this wide-open grid, which has large chunks of 6-, 7- and 8-letter words all interwoven together. I think there are only the two 12-letter entries longer than 8 letters, but nearly half the grid has words of at least 6. Phenomenal, especially since there is virtually nothing uncommon in here. Exceptional, but I am not surprised by this level of skill coming from Jeffrey! We have vaccines on the way (possibly??), so perhaps life will be back to a semblance of normal in time for the ACPT next spring? I hope so! 4.7 stars for this puzzle in the meantime.

Some favorites:

  • 18A [Crunchy low-calorie snack] RICE CAKE – These come flavored in all kinds of ways now, but I will take actual cake instead, thank you! Now I am hungry …
  • 31A [Ancient portico] STOA – The most glaring use of crosswordese in the puzzle. But as far as I can tell, it is the only one, so we will let it slide!
  • 48A [David’s “Frasier” role] NILES – There is a town named Niles about 20 minutes from where I live.
  • 52A [Longtime beverage sponsor for the New York Mets] RC COLA – Do they still sell this? I certainly don’t see it in at the local markets. I also don’t drink pop that often, so I am not actively looking. I will check today!
  • 57A [“Darn it!”] “OH RATS!” – Great casual phrase!
  • 12D [Company that trademarked Silly Putty] CRAYOLA – I don’t think I knew this!
  • 13D [Nickname for antiaircraft guns] ACK ACKS – I think I have seen this in a book I read long ago. I haven’t heard this term in a while!
  • 20D [“Child’s play!”] “THIS IS SIMPLE!”– Another great casual phrase!
  • 34D [Catch fire dramatically] FLAME UP – Like the Human Torch? Or is he “flame on?”
  • 35D [Layered entrée] LASAGNA – I am getting hungrier … !

That is all!

Stella Zawistowski’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 12/12/2020

This was a toughie, but I didn’t give up! I so wanted to check how I was doing (because I get tired!), but as you can see, there are no error marks in this grid! The NW corner absolutely beat me up. The SW was the easiest, but suffice it to say that there were wide swaths of white squares in this grid for quite a while. As I mentioned on the Boswords stream a few weeks ago when Stella was getting interviewed, this was definitely a session of “joyful agony.” By that I mean that, after solving puzzles for decades, I KNOW I can solve the puzzle, but the answers seem so elusive at times. Paolo Pasco, in the same Boswords series, used the phrase “vibing” to describe the solving process. His vibes are quicker than mine, and that was evident in this puzzle! I get the same “joyful agony” from harder logic puzzles, like sudoku or other types like loop or shape puzzles. More on that another day! But this was a truly “joyful” Stumper to solve, although I do feel slightly weary! 4.7 stars from me.

A few (ok several!) thoughts:

  • 11A [”2010” monogram] ACC – What does this refer to? I Googled it and got accounting references. Is that what this is about?
  • 14A  & 24A [Certain internal intensity] HATE & RANCOR – Stella (or the editor) did this repeat clue trick more than once in this puzzle. This is just one example. Very nicely done
  • 15A [Get under your skin] RUB RAW – I think I felt actual pain when I figured this out!
  • 30A [”Walking” jazz style] STRIDE PIANO – I think I first heard this in the movie Ray with Jamie Foxx. I could be wrong. But a great entry regardless.
  • 33A [Nectar-loving birds] HONEYEATERS – I made this harder than it was!
  • 41A [Pier group] PILES – This was the toughest for me. I don’t know marine terms well at all. I think these are the foundation pillars for a pier.
  • 1D [Quick dismissal] “OH, SURE” – Great casual phrase!
  • 2D [Common umbrella holders] MAI TAIS – I figured this was a drink, but I had some incorrect entries in here at first that slowed me down.
  • 8D [Pineapples’ family] BROMELIADS – Nobody should know this immediately. This word only sounds vaguely familiar to me.
  • 12D [Word from the Greek for ”egg”] CAVIAR – I don’t care for this myself. And that is a good thing since I probably couldn’t afford it anyway!
  • 28D [Essence of Polonius’ advice] BE YOURSELF – “To thine own self be true”: is that the actual quote?
  • 31D [Oral arrangement] DENTITION – I think this has a legal connotation. Which is why I don’t know it!

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

Todd Gross’ Universal crossword, “‘The Four Tops” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Phrases where the first word is a synonym for “Top.”

Universal crossword solution · “The Four Tops” · Todd Gross · Sat., 12.12.20



And of course the themers are aptly placed vertically in the grid, though with rotational symmetry in place, SUMMIT MEETING has the unfortunate appearance of being the low man on the totem pole. Would it be possible to create this grid using left/right symmetry to position all theme answers at the top? Not sure. I’ve only toyed around with left/right symmetry for a brief moment.

Liked the juxtaposition of 25D/26D [You should believe one] / [You shouldn’t believe one] FACT/LIAR. Though it’s oddly difficult, if social media is any indication, to get people to believe FACTs and disbelieve LIARs.

Overall strong grid and strong concept. Great title (which also helps unpack the theme).

3.3 stars.

Matthew Sewell’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Call It a Wash” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/12/20 • Sat • Sewell • “Call It a Wash” • solution • 20201220

Two revealers in this one. The first one comes early, at 23-across, and pushes the solver to get an idea of what’s going on: [Pressured, or what five squares in this puzzle do] is a strong indication that those symmetrical locations will be rebus squares. The answer is PUT ON THE SPOT, and spot would seem to be the operative ELEMENT (71a).

  • 21a. [Like an octopus] EIGH{T-AR}MED.
  • 46a. [Give the thumbs-down to] VO{TE A}GAINST.
  • 67a. [Like Hyundai cars] MADE {IN K}OREA.
  • 83a. [It knows when you go] SMART T{OIL}ET. Uh, ok.
  • 116a. [Material for some Inuit carvings] WAL{RUS T}USK.

These rebussed words can all be seen as types of spots. Finally, or at least toward the end, we see the second revealer: 111a [Pollution solution, of a sort] STAIN REMOVER. This informs the down answers intersecting the rebus squares. The key to these entries is that they’re two-part clues, the first with the rebus letters, the second with those letters completely eliminated (ID EST (61d), after the ‘stain’ has been ‘removed’).

  • 15d. [Gregarious songbird/With 111-Across, simple weapon] STARLING / SLING (tar removed).
  • 31d. [Winter Olympics squad/With 111-Across, embezzle] SKI TEAM / SKIM (tea removed.
  • 58d. [Ruined a photo, say/With 111-Across, ran] BLINKED / BLED (ink removed).
  • 78d. [Table adornments/With 111-Across, loses power] DOILIES / DIES (oil removed).
  • 93d. [Doubts/With 111-Across, rains lightly] MISTRUSTS / MISTS (rust removed).

This is a rather intricate theme, involving four elements for each themer: a rebus, an across entry, and two down entries. For the most part it succeeds very well. However, I don’t think the clue for STAIN REMOVER is good, the contrived rhyme moving it away from the mark—but this is a minor quibble. More consequentially, the first revealer struggles to convey the mechanism; I believe it’s supposed to indicate that the stain remover be applied to the contents of the rebus squares, but is that what “five squares in this puzzle do”? Or, is it supposed to be saying that those rebus squares “put on” (as one would an article of clothing) the various types of spots?

Since I’ve spent so long analyzing the theme, I’ll give the rest a relative gloss. One thing I noticed during the solve was a lot of very interesting, clever, or evocative clues. A small sampling:

  • 48a [They may be pulled by runners] HAMSTRINGS.
  • 8d [Nursery buy] BASSINET. I was certain this had to do with plants, perhaps because of the leading 1a [Kitchen garden plant] HERB.
  • 10d [Delivery on Veteran’s Day] SCORPIO.
  • 47d [Blue jeans, apple pie and the like] AMERICANA.
  • 66d [Stupidly lose] BLOW.

Some more stuff:

  • 56a [Weapon seen in the Bayeux Tapestry] MACE. One source informs me that there are three depictions of MACEs in the tapestry, and apparently one is wielded by ODO in this scene. If you want to have a little fun with this important piece of art and history, spend some time with the interactive Historic Tale Construction Kit.
  • 59a [When asked how she learns accents, she said “I listen”] STREEP. That strikes me as glib.
  • 44d [Response to “Which do you want?”] THAT ONE, 94d [“Which do you want?”] CHOOSE.
  • 80d {“Dont go!”] STAY, 82d [Go] EXIT.
  • 91d [Find hilarious] ROAR AT crossing 108a [Handel bars] ORATORIO means I’m compelled to offer an excerpt from this John Cage composition:

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

37 Responses to Saturday, December 12, 2020

  1. Kent Byron says:

    When will the Universal Puzzles return in Across Lite format?

    • pannonica says:

      I’ve been having trouble downloading from the Today’s Puzzles links also, but found that right clicking and selecting Open in New Tab circumvents whatever my browser’s problem is.

    • Martin says:

      Chrome makes you click Keep for these files now because they’re not https. Is there a different problem?

      • pannonica says:

        I saw that behavior for a while, but now it’s doing nothing on a left-click.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Thanks for the work you do here for us crossword addicts, Martin. This method has been working for me with Chrome (knock on wood). I didn’t think to try right-clicking and saving the file that way. Internet security is getting to be more and more of a pain in the rear. I feel like I’m trying to break into Fort Knox in order to shop for Christmas on Amazon this year.

    • Martin says:

      One possibility is to use another browser while I look into taming Chrome.

  2. R Cook says:

    In the Stumper, ACC refers to Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote 2001, 2010, 2061, and 3001.

  3. Mallot says:

    NYT: A question for Sid Sivakumar: I read with interest the discussion this week about the 12/7 LAT, including your comment that you no longer want to publish in that venue. The NYT has its own (ongoing) history of insensitive and objectionable clues/entries, which I doubt I need to list here. What are your thoughts about them as a venue?

    My two cents: I wish the LAT hadn’t run that puzzle. And I wish the NYT hadn’t referenced Mike LEE this week, or run a slur for those of Hispanic origin last year, or…. More than apologies, I would like to see editors commit to better and more sensitive reviewing and test-solving practices. I’m intrigued by the idea of some sort of collective action by constructors, though, and curious to know your perspective.

  4. Jenni Levy says:

    DENTITION is the arrangement of teeth in the mouth. I don’t think it’s legal. I loved the Stumper and also came to grief in the NW. It took me a very very long time to figure out 2oa and I literally laughed out loud when I finally got it.

  5. David L says:

    I liked the Stumper but have a couple of quibbles. EWERS may well be decorative and collectible, but I don’t think they would ever be crystal. “Bard’s players” should be dramatis personae; PERSONAE on its own just means people. And RANCOR generally refers to disagreement between people; I don’t see know it’s ‘internal’ particularly.

    And like marciem, I have no clue about UTE

    ETA: just saw pannonica’s explanation

  6. Norm says:

    I do not believe I have ever seen MUNI refer to any of its vehicles as a TRAM. MUNI operates buses, light rail trains, historic street cars, and cable cars. No “trams”. That made the SE a struggle for me and annoyed me when I finally sussed things out. There are so many ways to clue TRAM. Why pick an narrow geographic one [how many people outside the Bay Area even know what MUNI is?] and an incorrect one to boot?

    • Martin says:

      MUNI has a couple of streetcar lines, and some of the historic cars are referred to as trams.

      • norm says:

        Only by people who call the city “Frisco” and we run them out of town. :)

      • norm says:

        Never heard anyone [ever] refer to them that way. “I’m going to catch the J” Yes. “I’m going to catch the streetcar [or trolley]” Yes. “I’m going to catch the tram” Never. I’ll repeat that I think this was a very stupid clue. My opinion. You don’t have to agree with me.

        • Martin says:

          Let me try once more.

          I don’t disagree with you. I live in the Bay Area too and know that San Franciscans don’t call the streetcars “trams.”

          It bothers me a lot when people call cable cars “streetcars.” That allows the wonder of the system — where a vehicle with no engine is pulled uphill by a similar vehicle miles away going downhill — to be missed.

          But it bothers me a lot less when someone calls a streetcar a “tram,” because they’re the same thing. We happen to use one term and not the other, but why would I care if someone uses the — correct — term they know?

          If I were talking about the popularity of striped bass, would it be wrong to talk about finding it in San Francisco, New York and Baltimore, knowing that it’s always called “rockfish” in Baltimore? The J (if it’s still running during the pandemic) is a tram even if nobody calls it that.

          That’s why the clue didn’t bother me, and was probably easier for many solvers as written.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ: Anyone else tempted to enter KKK off of K__ instead of KGB {14D: Red state org.}?

    And what’s with my daily crosswords’ sudden obsession with bathroom- and butt-related answers (SMART T[OIL]ET {83A: It knows when you go} and ARSE {39D: Cheshire can})? There were a couple in yesterday’s NYT and LAT puzzles and now two in today’s WSJ. I was a little worried that there was something underwear-related to come after I entered the WSJ revealer today (STAIN REMOVER {111A: Pollution solution, of a sort}). Still more evidence of the Great Crossword Constructor Conspiracy? Weird.

  8. About CAVIAR, “Word from the Greek for ‘egg,’” in the Saturday Stumper: I checked the OED, which says that caviar is of “uncertain origin” and references the Turkish khāvyār and the Italian caviale. But there’s nothing about Greek.


  9. Gene says:

    In the Stumper, guven Stan’s penchant for crypic clues recently, I was *certain* that 29A was BRO. ?

    • Pilgrim says:

      I thought the same thing. Also, I resisted filling in UTE for the longest time, since I always imagined the word Vinny was saying was “YOOT.”

  10. Crotchety Doug says:

    Stumper – I think 52D is the cryptic clue of this puzzle – somewhat astoniSHEd.
    But mostly I want to say “that’s the way to make a puzzle!” Hard as nails (to borrow Stella’s phrase) and completely solveable in the end. Bonus benefit for me – I read Kipling’s “How the Leopard Got His Spots” for the first time and couldn’t stop laughing.

    • marciem says:

      I’m not sure what Gene above is referring to for his thought on “Bro” in the
      stumper, but I’m sure you’re correct about the cryptic being the 52d. SHE of astonished. No other explanation for that one.

      • pseudonym says:

        He meant 20A: Kid from/in Brooklyn

        • marciem says:

          aha! I think I tried that at first too :) Can’t remember all my mis-steps. Stumper was crazy hard and fun today!

          yep, looking back, I thought 1d. might be “Ill bet” making bro a fit. and Bedoins could be in iraq/iran, no? I don’t know where they roam. But ultimately the unknowable ute came out.

  11. scrivener says:

    NYT: I hate myself sometimes.

    I wasn’t sure about ESPYS for “annual event held at the Hollywood Athletic Club” but couldn’t think of something else. Once I ruled out BART for the “muni” clue, I assumed this answer was some other proper noun I simply wasn’t aware of, like (until recently), ACELA, so left it open to just about anything. When ESPYS made that TRAP, I thought it was the kind of ironic acronym a crossword constructor would love, ‘though it still had no meaning to me. Neither does ACELA, so okay.

    ESPYS meant “SEES” was my answer for “feel,” which I knew couldn’t be right but also could be, in some tense sense I couldn’t figure out. I was so focused on trying to figure out what was wrong with STOPTIME (which I was never sure of) crossing TATAR and PEACES (which I have never heard exactly this way) that it simply never occurred to me that I screwed up with ESPYS. Had to do a check grid.

  12. Zulema says:

    Could someone explain how or why “N as in Nissan” in the NYT 42D, I think, turns out to be the entry NEUTRAL ? Nissan is a Hebrew month, and the “n” is called a “NUN.” There are two “n”s. I am sure I’ll be surprised by the explanation, or maybe not!

  13. Robert says:

    Why doesn’t the WSJ have a rebus link to click on? I am missing it?

  14. Theresa Horan says:

    BROMELIADS was my entry into the Stumper based on the plants I saw on an eco-tour in Mexico. The NW was hard but so was the SW, with the NE filling in fastest for me. I got MINOR DETAIL with just the D in place.

    Loved the clue “Beyond buzzed” for BALD. As always, Stella gave us a tough but fair challenge.

Comments are closed.