Sunday, December 13, 2020

LAT 8:35 (with typo) (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WaPo t10:57 (Jim Q) 


Universal 4:17 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 11:18 (Jim P) 


Dan Margolis’s New York Times crossword, “Cinéma Vérité”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 13 20, “Cinema Verite”

The theme clues are cinematic terms (more or less), and the answers are movies that fit that definition via a little wordplay.

  • 26a. [Indy film? (1981)], RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Instead of indie film.
  • 36a. [Road movie? (1950)], SUNSET BOULEVARD. Instead of a movie that takes place during a road trip.
  • 56a. [PG movie? (1992)], PATRIOT GAMES. Not rated PG, but with P.G. initials.
  • 81a. [Family film? (1972)], THE GODFATHER. Not a movie suitable for kids, but about the sort of family you should never go against.
  • 103a. [Dock-udrama? (1954)], ON THE WATERFRONT. Set at the docks rather than a docudrama.
  • 114a. [Short film? (1989)], HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS. This one doesn’t work as cleanly, I don’t think. The lead adult character shrinks his kids, who aren’t “short” so much as miniaturized. Too bad Martin Short didn’t star in any 19-letter movies.

I solved this one off the clock, with dinner interrupting the flow. Seemed to be of about standard Sunday difficulty, I think?

There are some cute clues:

  • 106d. [Cat’s pajamas?], FUR.
  • 4a. [Out of tune … or bubbles], FLAT.
  • 44a. [Confident juggler’s props], EGGS. Is there much egg juggling out there?
  • 17d. [Pastels and charcoal, for two], MEDIA. Are these among the more mainstream artistic media?
  • 45d. [Trickster of Shoshone mythology], COYOTE. I thought this was going to be a proper name, but whaddayaknow, it’s just an animal with an interesting clue.
  • 99d. [Bit of ranch dressing?], STETSON. Don’t put a hat on your salad, folks.

Tougher fill: 110a. [___ Palace, Indian tourist attraction], MYSORE. Difficult for those who don’t know a lot of Indian geography (this is the country’s 50th largest city, you’re excused from knowing dozens of city names within countries you haven’t lived in) or history (it was a kingdom, Wikipedia informs me), and who haven’t eaten at a South Indian restaurant called Mysore Woodlands.

Overall, let’s call this 3.3 stars. There wasn’t a lot of  zip in the fill to offset the Sunday size, and I didn’t feel the sixth themer quite worked.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless No. 15” – Jim Q’s Write-up

Looks like we’re averaging 3 themelesses a year from WaPo. I always look forward to these.

THEME: Nada.

Washington Post, December 13, 2020, Evan Birnholz, “Themeless No. 15” solution grid


  • 23A [Event in “The Queen’s Gambit”] CHESS TOURNAMENT. I just finished watching it. Binged it in a few days. Wow! So well crafted. I know I’m late to the party, but if there’s anyone who is later than me… go watch that show. You definitely wouldn’t need any crosses for this entry if you did!
  • 67A [Childish retort] I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I. I love this one, mainly because the clue [Childish retort] normally refers to a plethora of different crosswordese responses: ARE TOO, AM NOT, ARE SO, IS SO, AM TOO, IS TOO, etc. The list really does go on and on. It’s one of my least favorite clues to see in a crossword. But here, it ironically sparkles! Even though I filled in the whole answer off of the last three letters, I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I is truly Queen Bee of childish retorts.
  • 113A [Earth-shattering event, perhaps] NATURAL DISASTER. 
  • 31D [Lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)] APEX PREDATORS. 

I found the whole grid very easy, finishing under my normal themed time. I only HIT A SNAG once or twice, and solved pretty steadily from north to south. The grid is impressively devoid of short fill; there are just as many 7-letter words as 4-letter words. And there’s almost as many 8-letter words as 3-letter words. And none of it felt like garbage. Names that were new to me like LUMET, LAURA, BYRON were all fairly crossed, as was the Japanese weapon (SHURIKEN!). 

No matter what, you’re going to get some “Never-Themeless!” types who are going to be irked by the puzzle. They’re cousins to the “Never-Meta!” types that were miffed by last week’s offering. I’m sure they’ll all rejoice next week for what will likely to be a holiday themed puzzle to please all.

David Alfred Bywaters’ Universal crossword, “‘Deep Freeze” — Jim Q’s write-up

Yesterday it was words at the top, today you need to look at the bottoms. Was the juxtaposition planned?

THEME: Common phrases add ICE at the end to create wacky phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “The Four Tops” · David Alfred Bywaters · Sat., 12.13.20


  • 3D [Announcement printed on a soda holder?] CAN NOTICE. Not CANNOT ICE, which is how I read it until just now! Oddly enough, that answer sorta makes sense too. Cannot.
  • 21D [Baby toy manufacturer’s subdivision?] RATTLE OFFICE. Rattle off. 
  • 9D [Appreciative exclamation during an architectural tour?] SWEET CORNICE! Love that answer. Sweet corn. 
  • 35D [Evaluated a Chinese food staple?] RATED RICE. Rated R.

Fun puzzle! Like most of the theme answers, CAN NOTICE being my least favorite because the base word CANNOT lacks the pizzazz of the others, as does the resulting wacky phrase.

New to me: PONZU sauce. I’ll try it!
Puzzle felt somewhat harder than normal, but my time is still my average, so not sure why. I think I just had a tricky time getting started.

3.9 stars!

Enjoy your Sunday!

Garry Morse’s Los Angeles Times puzzle, “Paper Trail” — Jenni’s write-up

I liked this better than the NYT. Each theme answer is a phrase clued as if it referred to a newspaper. I figured it out right away and still enjoyed finding each one.

Los Angeles Times, December 12, 2020, Garry Morse, “Paper Trail,” solution grid

  • 23a [Newspaper for jeans wearers?] is CASUAL OBSERVER.
  • 32d [Newspaper for hairstylists?] SETTING SUN.
  • 39a [Newspaper for newlyweds?] is HITCHING POST.
  • 53d [[Newspaper for metalworkers?] is BRONZE STAR.
  • 57a [Newspaper for attorneys?] is TRYING TIMES. This reminds me of a song by one my favorite Jewish music groups, Nefesh Mountain. Video below for your enjoyment.
  • 82a [Newspaper for chefs?] is GARLIC PRESS. This is my favorite. I don’t know why.
  • 98a [[Newspaper for traffic cops?] is TWOWAY MIRROR.
  • 118a [Newspaper for Schwinn owners?] is BICYCLE COURIER.

All the theme answers are solid and they all made me smile. It’s a lovely Sunday theme.

A few other things:

  • I have never fried in LARD. I didn’t grow up keeping kosher and neither did my parents, but lard was still off-limits. So were pork chops; I was in my 20s before I ate a pork chop even though I grew up cooking and eating bacon and lots of shellfish.
  • I put MRI instead of CAT SCAN for 48a [Hi-tech  medical image]. CT scanners have been around since the 1970s. I don’t think of them as particularly hi-tech. And why is it “hi-tech” instead of “high-tech?”
  • I was going to connect LES BROWN and his Band of Renown to CAT SCAN and make a comment about this puzzle being in cold storage for 40 years, but it turns out that the Band of Renown is still active under the leadership of LES BROWN Jr.
  • I vigorously dispute the assertion that OLD AGE starts in the 60s. There’s a weaselly “by many reckonings” in the clue, which doesn’t help. And yes, I turned 60 last July. Why do you ask?
  • I liked [“Don’t go in there!”] for ITS A TRAP, especially since we also get GEICO clued with reference to their ad spoofing horror movies.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of LOLA Glaudini, was not aware that MESSALA was the villain in Ben-Hur, and did not know that Winona Ryder plays Joyce BYERS in “Stranger Things.”

Here’s Nefesh Mountain. Chanukah sameach!

Steven E. Atwood’s Universal crossword, “OO7”—Jim P’s review

That’s a pair of “oh”s in the title, not zeroes. Each theme answer is a well-known phrase in which one O has been doubled. As you might expect, there are seven theme answers.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “OO7” · Steven E. Atwood · 12.13.20

  • 23a. [Leave the mall before becoming completely exhausted?] SHOP ‘TIL YOU DROOP. Drop.
  • 32a. [Stairway with enough headroom for a tall person?] NON-STOOP FLIGHT. Stop. FLIGHT changes meaning which is unlike the other themers.
  • 74a. [Henhouse histrionics?] COOP DRAMA. Cop.
  • 111a. [Products for horse breeders?] FERTILITY GOODS. Gods. Where do horses enter into this?
  • 123a. [Be able to make, as an owl call?] HAVE THE HOOTS FOR. Hots. I’m not sure about the clue, but I like the entry.
  • 31d. [Day on the set of a low-budget film?] CHEAP SHOOT. Shot.
  • 53d. [Reaction to a spill you want to keep secret?] COVERT OOPS. Ops. I’m sure I’ve made a COVERT OOPS once or twice.

Overall, cute. It would be more elegant if there weren’t extraneous, un-doubled Os in the theme answers, though.


Bottom fill: ESCAPER (not ESCAPEE). Not sure how I feel about A HANDFUL (with the indefinite article), but I’m leaning more toward the negative.

Clues of note:

  • 82a. [How Dad may have the kids]. IN TOW. As a stay-at-home dad, I appreciate that this did not turn into a comment on the shortcomings of dads’ parenting skills.
  • 118a. [Entered hastily]. RUSHED IN. We also would have accepted [Acted like fools].
  • 39d. [What an accused player is ejected from in “Among Us”]. AIRLOCK. Ha! I don’t play the game, but it seems like every other meme on Reddit is about this game. Nice, modern touch.

The theme is cute, but I felt it could’ve been clean up some. There’s a lot of great fill here, though. 3.7 stars.

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11 Responses to Sunday, December 13, 2020

  1. David Steere says:

    WaPo: A truly wonderful themeless…on the easy side…but a joy to complete. The clue/answer pair for 52 Across is priceless and oh so apropos for these days we’re struggling through. Thanks, Evan.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I thought it was fun. I solved it with my husband and it felt like a good Sunday puzzle for partnering with a non-crossword fanatic. He got into the groove and figured out HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS. I too wanted it to be a Martin Short movie but my husband felt happy to free associate more loosely.

  3. Bryan says:

    NYT: Well, Jeff Chen panned this puzzle, and Amy didn’t seem crazy about it, but I for one enjoyed it. I happened to be solving it last night at the same time a movie called “The Impossible” was on the television, about the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. The movie was two hours of absolute tragic sorrow. Solving this puzzle while watching that provided a counterpoint of enjoyment. And though I’m not a speed solver, I also happened to get one of my best-ever Sunday solve times.

  4. scrivener says:

    NYT: Do solvers and constructors have a name for those clues and answers referring to the spelling of words in the clues themselves, such as 18A’s LONG O for “opening opening?” Whatever they’re called, they drive me insane.

  5. David Stone says:

    The wife and I have completed every Sunday NYT puzzle since we met six years ago… I tip this one. We felt it had little pizzazz and gave up about 2/5 of the way thru.

  6. AndyHat says:

    In the context of Native American mythology, Coyote is a proper name. See for a start.

  7. John Malcolm says:

    WaPo 114D (B as in battleship) “ROW”?

    OK, there was a ‘Battleship Row’ in Pearl Harbor but I feel I might be missing something that makes more sense.

Comments are closed.