Saturday, December 26, 2020

LAT 8:24 (Derek) 


Newsday 14:33 (Derek) 


NYT 5:47 (Amy) 


Universal 3:27 (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


John Guzzetta’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 26 20, no. 1226

You know that feeling when you have a couple key crossings, just enough to point you towards a great answer that turns out to be wrong? That was me with 52a. [Protector of a quarterback’s blind side, often]—LINEBACKER fit the letters I had in place. Alas, ’twas a LEFT TACKLE. Would I have known that if I’d seen The Blind Side?

Unexpected tidbit of the day: 57a. [Words in a foreign language that bear a deceptive resemblance to those in another, like the French “décevoir” (“disappoint”) and the English “deceive”], FAUX AMIS. I know the synonymous English term, false friend, much better.

Such a handsy puzzle: 19a. [Ones making good use of the hands?] clues CARD SHARKS (a hand in a card game). 10d. [Something for which a dealer might tell customers “Hands off!”] clues a SELF-DRIVING CAR. Can you buy one at a dealership now? Then there’s 20d. [Works with the hands], KNEADS, and also 27d. [“Hands Across the ___” (John Philip Sousa march)], SEA.

Three more things:

  • 30a. [Going out for a while?], SIESTA. Not keen on using “going out” used as a noun to mean “sleeping.” Would expect NAP as an answer, or NAPPING?
  • 37d. [Suffix with prism], -OID. This is a terrible clue. Outside of hardcore geometry, who’s encountered prismoid? Merriam-Webster tells me it’s a type of prismatoid, one whose parallel bases have the same number of sides. [Suffix with human] would at least have us considering a few familiar options (-OID and -ISM and -ITY).
  • 15d. [Respected figure], ELDER STATESMAN. One demerit for the gendered term that makes female leaders and diplomats a side note.

3.5 stars from me.

Kyle Dolan’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/26/2020

My good friend Kyle has this week’s LAT challenge puzzle! This one took me a little longer than a normal Saturday LAT – was the puzzle harder, or was I just savoring the solving experience? I’ll go with the fact that both could be true! Loved this puzzle! I saw some words I haven’t seen in quite a while (see 14A below!), but lots of fun stuff and I feel like I actually got smarter after solving this one! Lots of great info in the clues. I think the difference between constructors and solvers is that constructors love the clueing process, and I don’t! But in reality, good clues make a good puzzle and great clues make GREAT puzzles. I totally enjoyed the clues on this puzzle, which again is part of the reason my time was a tad higher: I seriously felt like I was enjoying this one while I was solving! I’ll take puzzles like this one any day! 4.5 stars from me.

Those comments (which skew slightly towards the longer entries!):

  • 1A [Apple product] SMARTWATCH – They make lots of other stuff too. I will have a new MacBook once they work the kinks out of the new chip.
  • 14A [Mozart’s Queen of the Night, for one] COLORATURA – This is an opera term, yes? I am quite uncultured.
  • 19A [“The First __”] NOEL – Timely!
  • 4D [Low tide formation] ROCK POOL – I knew this was ROCK something. This is a new term to me, but I don’t live near any kind of “tides!”
  • 11D [Diner patron played by Stephen King in “Mr. Mercedes,” e.g.] CAMEO ROLE – Nicely done! Another movie I haven’t seen!
  • 12D [“The Vagina Monologues” playwright] EVE ENSLER – I am worried about my recall recently, but I felt good about myself that I DID remember her name. Maybe I am not totally losing it yet!
  • 30D [First woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol] ROSA PARKS – Terrific fact that I don’t think I knew! Wonderfully done.
  • 35D [Highly energetic sort] FIREBALL – Have you renewed your Fireball Crosswords sub for 2021 yet?
  • 40D [Jellyfish] MEDUSAS – Another new term. I am not a marine biologist, though, so that is my excuse!
  • 49D [Indian novelist Desai] ANITA – Who? I have no clue who this is. As mentioned above, though, I am highly uncultured!

I need to go now and finish this Puzzle Boat 7! As of 12/26, 114 out of 140+ puzzles solved. Close to the end!

Doug Peterson’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 12/26/2020

I thought this week’s puzzle was going to be thorny. I was right! After last week’s easy run, this was a sticky one. The NW corner fell last for me; if there WAS an easy area, it was in the lower regions of the grid. Some of the center parts were hard because I had an error in the grid at 47A (see below!), but once that was fixed there was the sure sense of accomplishment that the Stumper does provide. This goes along with a fascinating webinar I watched on MIT Mystery Hunt-type puzzle solving this past week: They specifically mentioned a rush of endorphins, and I think that is what happens to a degree after getting through these tough Stumpers. Keep ’em coming! Nice puzzle, Doug! A solid 4.6 stars from me.

A few comments (I’ll try to keep it to ten, but there are lots to choose from!):

  • 15A [”Rabbit Seasoning” character] ELMER FUDD – This could have been BUGS BUNNY or DAFFY DUCK as well since I think they are both in this one!
  • 20A [”The Clue in the Crossword Cipher” solver] NANCY DREW – This took way too long to figure out! I thought this was talking about one of those cheesy crossword novels that are floating out there. This is not that!
  • 42A [Hepburn’s ex-husband in ”Breakfast at Tiffany’s”] EBSEN – I don’t think I have ever seen this, and I certainly don’t remember Jed Clampett being in it! Something else to watch!
  • 47A [It means ”native”] IAN – I had ITE in here, and never gave a second thought to it being wrong. Until nothing worked!
  • 49A [Pickup provider] NO-DOZ – I also had something else in here, but I don’t remember what it was. Must not have been too good, then!
  • 8D [Audiophile’s purchase] CD RACKS – I will balk at this: audiophiles would buy vinyl! Or stream lossless files! I cannot see them buying CDs anymore!
  • 10D [20th-century revolutionary] SUN YAT-SEN – My Chinese history is horrible. I had to look up if it needed a hyphen!
  • 11D [It weighs less than one ounce] IPOD NANO – I had the NANO part, but totally forgot about this piece of tech that I used to own! Perhaps this is a tad dated, now? That was about 10 years ago, wasn’t it?
  • 12D [Tulipán, por ejemplo] FLOR – This is a tad tough. My Spanish is fair enough for crosswords, and I barely remember this word. That’s on me, though!
  • 43D [Ultra-odd] BIZARRO – Did you write BIZARRE in here too?

Have a safe and healthy weekend!

Jeff Stillman’s Universal crossword, “Poker Series” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Phrases where the second word is a step in a card game

Universal crossword solution · “Poker Series” · Jeff Stillman · Sat., 12.26.20



Based on the title, I was expecting something specific to poker, so I didn’t see the theme until it was over. Liked it though! Solid in-language (even if the iPOD SHUFFLE is no longer a thing…) colorful themers.

I shaved about a minute off of my average time on this one, so I found it fairly easy. Either that or I need to solve in bed shortly after waking up more often. I think it’s more because the grid is super smooth and there isn’t a heckuva lot of Crosswordese. Liked LOCAL COLOR. It’s symmetrical partner, ATTACK DOGS, conjures up images of a junkyard. Was movie was it… Stand By Me? I want to say it was… with an ATTACK DOG scene? I dunno. I can see the gist of it in my head.

Fun start to the day.

3.3 stars.

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Backflips” — pannnonica’s write-pu

WSJ • 12/26/20 • Sat • “Backflips” • Larson • solution • 20201226

Today we get multiword phrases wackified by reversing the letters of the final, or ‘back’ word.

  • 23a. [Facelift alternative?] NATURAL SAG (natural gas).
  • 25a. [Danny, Sandy or Rizzo, say?] GREASE PART (Grease! trap).
  • 45a. [Commotions in the Japanese legislature?] DIET ADOS (diet soda).
  • 69a. [Teakettles?] WHISTLE POTS (whistle stop). My favorite of the bunch. Perhaps it’s no accident that it occupies the central, marquee position?
  • 94a. [Canned meat to go?] ROAD SPAM (road maps).
  • 118a. [Brushoff from a daredevil?] HOT DOG SNUB (hot dog buns). Only themer consisting of more than two words.
  • 120a. [Airfare restrictions?] TICKET BUTS (ticket stub).
  • 44d. [Fan belt?] MOTOR LOOP (motor pool).
  • 49d. [Unescorted cotillion attendee?] SINGLE DEB (single bed).

These are mildly entertaining. I would not be surprised that this—or a very similar—theme has been done multiple times before, not in the least. But that has little to do with the quality here, which is fine.

  • 6d [Like owls] TALONED. Because STRIGINE doesn’t fit. Obviously.
  • 9d [Heroic accounts] SAGAS. So, not the opposite of troll accounts?
  • Speaking of which, both troll and saga derive from NORSK [Oslo language, to native speakers] (17d)
  • 33d [This pulls a bit] REIN. Deceptively clever and tidy clue.
  • 47d [Brazilian coffee port] SANTOS. ESE of Rio de Janeiro.
  • 76d [Made deductions] INFERRED. Non-financial accounting.
  • 83d [Lustful god] EROS. Lustful, but not lascivious.
  • 102d [Cheapskates] PIKERS. m-w lists the etymology as “pike to play cautiously, of unknown origin.” American Heritage suggests, “Possibly from Piker, a poor migrant to California, after Pike County in eastern Missouri.”
  • 117d [Letter-shaped beam] is H-BAR rather than the more crossword-familiar I-BAR. Without researching, I’ll assume an H-BAR has longer flanges? I mean, it can’t simply be a matter of orientation, right?
  • 19a [Lima locale] OHIO. The largest of about a dozen places named Lima in the United States.
  • 20a [It eats shoots and leaves] PANDA. Ha, ha.
  • 60a [Border in the court] END LINE. Border! Border! Is this … tennis?
  • 42a [Financial guru Suze] ORMAN. Someone pointed out quite a while ago that her names can anagram to ZEUS and ROMAN, respectively. So it seems appropriate to play the Jupiter movement from 74d Gustav HOLST [“The Planets” composer]:

    Oh, and the last across clue is 130a [Mother of Zeus] RHEA.

Have a calm Saturday.

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28 Responses to Saturday, December 26, 2020

  1. Brad says:

    CARD SHARKS I might have clued as a game show, since the original phrase is CARD SHARPS (a la trooper vs. trouper etc), but I’m prepared to acknowledge that the former has virtually replaced the latter in usage. Wonderful puzzle all the same. Signed Prescriptive Grammarian.

    • marciem says:

      Thanks for that. Once I shar_, I left that blank for the cross, because I wasn’t sure if it would be a p or a k. I know K is more in-the-language now.

  2. R Cook says:

    It doesn’t help that there’s more than one Piazza del Duomo, and the one in the Stumper is not usually known by that name. I enjoyed the rest of the puzzle, though.

  3. Twangster says:

    Today’s Stumper is a rerun from Saturday, 7/17/10. CDs were somewhat more popular then but the reviewer here also noted the clue seemed outdated. I don’t think I was doing the Stumper that far back yet some of the clues and answers did seem oddly familiar (GREENWAVE, NANCYDREW). In any case, I found it challenging but solvable. Had ALGORE before KERMIT, IAMS before ALPO, and DAMOVER before ICEOVER but otherwise not many write-overs.

    • pannonica says:

      Dupe in the Kermit clue with GREEN WAVE.

      • Brad says:

        I don’t know that this is true but the December Newsday reprints may have been somewhat reclued by the editor for factual accuracy / going a bit gentler on difficulty, etc. The dupe may or may not have been present in the original.

  4. Me says:

    Can I ask for some help with a couple of the LA Times clues? I don’t understand “Red state?”= FIT. And, for “Rhapsody, perhaps”=OPUS, is the clue referring to a particular Rhapsody, or could any type of music have been put in the clue? It seems weird to me to use OPUS for a particular piece of music without a number attached, eg Op. 1, unless one is referring to a grand opus-type of thing, which a rhapsody would not be.

  5. Amy L says:

    NYT: I love the clue at 4A: Creators of quipus–so much better than the inaccurate “Ancient Peruvian” that is used so often.

  6. ktd says:

    Thanks, Derek!

    I’m very glad Rich kept my original clue for COLORATURA because it was inspired by a wonderful post many years ago by Bruce N. Morton, late of this blog’s commentariat, regarding an allusion to “The Magic Flute” in one of my earliest puzzles:

  7. Billy Boy says:

    Not much Science or Technology in NYer’s so-named puzzle today

    • David L says:

      Agree — the constructor is a coder, I believe, so seems to equate science and technology with computer stuff, with a couple of exceptions.

    • GlennG says:

      I’m sure the constructors are told by whoever they answer to at the New Yorker to include certain references in their puzzles that match up with some kind of year-end retrospective that appears elsewhere in the magazine. Likely any fault probably lies there more than with the constructors themselves.

      • JohnH says:

        You may have a point, since far be it from me to claim to remember just what got covered this year. Still, I hesitate to let the constructor off the hook.

        Only three clues have dates in parenthesis, presumably for magazine coverage, rather less than for the literature puzzles the day before. The bulk of the many, many tech references are in downright incidental phrases like TTYL and RSS that couldn’t conceivably have received coverage. Looks to me like the constructor is just imposing an obsession.

        A shame in a year that had so much more. It was, after all, the year of Covid-19, of high-tech vaccine methodology, and climate change as a key political issue. It’s in a magazine, too, that actually favors articles about personal journeys into remote natural habitats. And a co-discover of confirming evidence of the Big Bang did win the Nobel Prize. But again, I can’t tell you what else I read this year.

  8. Chris A says:

    I think the clue for 31 D “river of song” needs amending. It was a jolt when I realized the answer was “Swanee”, given Al Jolson performed the song in blackface and it was based on “Old Folks Home” a minstrel song that glorified slavery.

  9. Rose says:

    Can someone tell me why Fireball costs $45 for less than 52 puzzles per year when other very good weekly constructor subscriptions are $15 including bonus puzzles?

    • jj says:

      Where can I get a $15 deal? Fireball priced me out a few years ago, same with Inkubator. Willing to spend for quality puzzles, but not an arm and a leg. $15 for a weekly sub would be more reasonable.

    • GlennG says:

      A 2021 subscription for Fireball is 45 puzzles for $32. Nearest I can figure as a subscriber is that the extra money is for both paying constructors (Fireball is more a subscribed alternative to the NYT than it is an indie option, and consequently pays as much or more per puzzle) and providing meta prizes, which are rather lavish compared to some of the other outlets.

  10. Joan Macon says:

    Author citing for Fiend and LAT–MATCH!

  11. Seth Cohen says:

    Three Stumper clues I don’t understand. Anyone want to explain?
    – “Periodical” for ORGAN
    – “Flying class” for AVES
    – “Stack, in a way” for NEST

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      A company’s internal newsletter or magazine has been called a “house organ.” The taxonomic class for birds is Aves (cf: avian). Think of Russian nesting dolls, sort of stacked outside one another.

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