Saturday, January 2, 2021

LAT 6:47 (Derek) 


Newsday 8:45 (Derek) 


NYT 7:48 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Joe Deeney’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 2 21, no. 0102

This 16-square-wide puzzle took me more than an extra 1/15th of my usual Saturday NYT solving time. More “Huh??” clues than is typical, and there’s some fill that didn’t want to reveal itself to me. This new year is off to a weird start but I am 2-for-2 at correctly typing “2021” in the dateline. It took me most of January to get used to “2020”! I have been beyond ready for this new year.

Straight to the list, as it’s a holiday and I’ve lost the paragraph vibe:

  • 17a. [Some “M*A*S*H” characters], ASTERISKS. Dammit! I spent too long thinking “it had better not be ORDERLIES,” and fell for the old “characters” trick.
  • 9a. [Band for an awards ceremony, maybe], SASH. Pageants, yes. Which awards ceremonies feature sashes? Is this, like, high school end-of-year awards rather than the Oscars?
  • 24a. [Where the flash drive was invented: Abbr.], ISR. I tried MIT first. Three-letter country abbreviations are often weird, not seen too often in real life.
  • I sure did not know 35a. [Actress/YouTube star Koshy], LIZA. I looked her up on YouTube and one of her latest videos is about using the air fryer, and we have a new Ninja Foodi that includes an air fryer function so I had to watch it. See below! She’s fun and I’m intrigued by the “carrot bacon” that’s mentioned.
  • 36a. [Noted relationship in physics], E EQUALS MC SQUARED. Not wild about spelling out symbols and numerals from an equation/formula.
  • 42a. [Artificial object in orbit?], GLASS EYE. Hey! I know a guy with one of those.
  • 50a. [Euro forerunner], ECU. Crosswordese! Except I think it might be this abbreviation rather than the ended-in-the-1800s écu.
  • 12d HALF SIZES is a great entry. Too bad BITE-SIZED is in the same grid, eh?
  • 46d. [Fluorescent bulb, maybe], TULIP. Not sure I buy the commingling of the bloom and the bulb/root here. Also not sure I’ve ever seen a TULIP that approaches fluorescence, but I can’t wait till springtime to look for one. Love tulips.
  • 47d. [Language of southern Africa], SWAZI. Wikipedia tells me native speakers call it siSwati, and it’s one of the many languages in the Bantu family. (I have it on good authority from a frequent traveler to Africa that crossword constructors/editors need to stop cluing BANTU as if it’s a language. It isn’t.) Also, did you know that Swaziland recently changed its official name to eSwatini?
  • 8d. [Capital on the Cape Verde peninsula], DAKAR, Senegal. I did not know that the island country Cabo Verde/Cape Verde was named after a cape a couple hundred miles away on Africa’s mainland.
  • Bullet-point paragraph: MIC’D looks weird in the grid. Love HELLA COOL and AQUA ZUMBA. SEMELE is not one of my top 50 names from mythology. TUNS is old-school crosswordese. TOONS clue cites Arthur and Garfield, who were also presidents! Clever.

3.33 stars from me.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “New Beginnings” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 1/2/21 • “New Beginnings” • Shenk • Sat • solution • 20210102

Some welcome handsel content.

  • 106aR [New beginning, as spelled by the new beginnings in this puzzle’s theme answers] FRESH START. I’ve circled the relevant squares for clarity.
  • 22a. [Either of two on a vampire bat?] FRIGHT WING (right wing). First impression was that this was fright wig with an N added.
  • 24a. [Roofer’s calculation?] RAFTER MATH (aftermath).
  • 35a. [Painters of financiers’ portraits?] ECON ARTISTS (con artists).
  • 42a. [Golf green feature?] SPORT HOLE (port hole).
  • 49a. [Products of crimping irons?] HAIR WAVES (airwaves).
  • 61a. [“Don’t close the barn door after the horse has run away,” e.g.?] STABLE SAW (table saw).
  • 72a. [Romantic rendezvous on the Orient Express?] TRAIN DATE (rain date).
  • 83a. [Eschewing fancy neckwear?] ASCOT FREE (scot free).
  • 89a. [Computer network’s coverage area?] ROUTER SPACE (outer space).
  • 104a. [Sinbad finding a way to bind himself to a roc, e.g.?] TURBAN MYTH (urban myth). That’s precisely what he is supposed to have done. This has that extra layer of connectedness and is by far the best of the lot. Head and shoulders.

As you may have now surmised, I wasn’t thrilled by the theme in execution. It is an awful lot of content. Nevertheless, I very much appreciate the context and the overall sentiment.

Going to keep the write-up minimal, so just a few highlights.

  • Longdowns are 15d [Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier,” for one] PIANO SONATA and 60d [Optimistic] ROSE-COLORED. I remain skeptical.
  • 92d [Take ___ for the better] A TURNhmm
  • 5a [Ketch’s kin] YAWL. Ketch as ketch kin.
  • 27a [Ski resort of southern Switzerland] ZERMATT.
  • 52a [Shakespeare’s Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth or Mustardseed] FAIRY; 64d [Starbuck, Queequeg, Tashtego and crewmates] WHALERS. Those are indeed some names.
  • 70a [Good times] UPShmmm
  • 98a [Play set in a Kansas diner] BUS STOP. I am now AWARE (65a) of two facts about the play. I’ve doubled my knowledge!
  • 109a [Title teenager in an MTV animated series] DARIA. Oh yes, Sick, Sad World, mhmm.

So I’ll finish with this, which is not exactly memorable musically. Just can’t resist the names and titles, though. “New Beginnings”, from Old Departures, New Beginnings by Trainwreck:

I mean, how could I not?

Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 01/02/2021

I count 68 words in this grid. (OK, I didn’t count; CrossFire did!) Other info from CrossFire: This grid is only a Q short of a pangram! Very nicely done. Not too hard; my solve was just under 7 minutes. That is totally subjective, though. I am not replicating tournament conditions, and I am still super slow solving on a computer. I have no idea why, since I have solved literally thousands of puzzles on a computer at this point. I should practice that, but I am getting old and that may not be as easy as it would have been 30 years ago! Tournaments now may all have an online aspect, so maybe I will give it some thought! 4.4 stars for this week’s LAT Saturday challenge.

A few notes:

  • 14A [“Is everything resolved now?”] “ARE WE GOOD?” – Great casual phrase!
  • 27A [Megan of “The Blacklist”] BOONE – I tried to watch this show once, but it got too crazy. That is the problem with a lot of network shows these days; I think that is why Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO and Showtime win all of the Emmys!
  • 28A [Robert __, unsuccessful 1987 Supreme Court nominee] BORK – I barely remember this. I don’t remember why he wasn’t confirmed, and they pretty much confirm any that are nominated these days, with one notable recent exception.
  • 42A [“Just one more”] “ALMOST DONE!” – Another great casual phrase!
  • 51A [Small driers, to Brits] TEA TOWELS – Is this a thing? I have never been to a British tea service. One of these days!
  • 12D [17th-century sculptor Bernini] GIAN – I learned a fact today! I had no idea what his first name was, even from just doing a zillion puzzles.
  • 21D [Offer to a customer] “CAN I HELP YOU?” – Another great casual phrase! I need to make sure these are in my wordlist!
  • 34D [Home of the Cardinal] STANFORD – This year’s No. 1 ranked women’s basketball team, also. So far; until they cancel the season due to COVID! Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen.
  • 45D [Bari __: low-pitched strings] UKES – They have uke-type cellos??
  • 47D [Sixth of 24] ZETA – Wasn’t there a tropical storm with this name in 2020? It was so busy they ran through the regular alphabet worth of names and had to go with the Greek alphabet!

That is all!

Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 01/02/2021

Another quick solve! The noise-canceling headphones must be doing the trick! Nice wide-open grid from Stan this week, but nothing overly difficult. I got the NW section fairly quickly, and just proceeded down the grid pretty much in order. That is rare for me on a Stumper. I show 68 words in this grid, which surprisingly doesn’t have a tone of long entries save for the 15 spanning the middle, but there are some nice stacks of 8- and 9-letter entries. Any Stumper time under 10 minutes is a triumph for me, and this was well under that, so suffice it to say I am ecstatic! 4.3 stars today.

Some interesting stuff:

  • 15A [”__ Variations” (Beethoven piece)] EROICA
  • 48A [Hall of Famer, by definition] ENSHRINEE
  • 58A [Hall of Famers, by definition] GREATS
  • 1D [Tried] HAD A GO – I have seen this phrase and variants of it quite a few times recently in puzzles.
  • 3D [Having bounced once] ON A HOP – Believe it or not, baseball will likely be ramping back up in just a few weeks! I doubt they will postpone it until August this year, but their season in general needs to be shorter. 162 games is waaaaay too many.
  • 10D [Of rest] SABBATIC – I know of “sabbatical”, but I am unfamiliar with this word. I actually tried SABBATHY in here at first!
  • 11D [10-time ”’Muscle & Fitness” cover subject] FERRIGNO
  • 32D [Shakespearean title character] CRESSIDA – I ran through Shakespeare characters with 8-letter names and ran with this one. Fortunately it fit!
  • 36D [Salon offerings] ART SONGS – Someone please explain this clue. I thought Salon might be a music group, but I don’t think so. Or is it?
  • 43D [Tot’s coat attachment] MITTEN – We had the string of yarn through the armholes when I was young. I may install that setup on my coats even now!
  • 46D [Fine drawer features] TENONS – I guess this means a fine drawer that is put together just with wood joints and blue and not just screwed together.

Have a safe and healthy weekend!

Matthew Stock and Ella Dershowitz’s Universal crossword, “Breaking Cover” — Jim Q’s write-up

Lots of bite in this one!

THEME: Types of spies are broken up in four rows of the puzzle

Universal crossword solution · “Breaking Cover” · Matthew Stock · Ella Dershowitz · Sat., 1.02.20


  • revealer: BRIDGE OF SPIES.

I’m too scared to check the regular applet that Universal uses. Someone, please tell me that they’ve figured out how to use circles, because this one needs it.


What an impressive grid! It may go under-appreciated, but there is A LOT of strain on this grid with all that theme, and it’s filled quite well, considering. I mean, I got hopelessly hung up in the MAGLEV / IDLI crossing and had to run the alphabet for the L since I’d never heard of either of those. I didn’t know READwas a thing either (as clued anyway). So some odd stuff here and there (is THE BUG a stand-alone phrase?)

Loved that TAY-TAY made an appearance with that nickname, and I’m looking forward to YouTubing ROBOT SUMO tonight!

It might’ve made things a little easier to make BRIDGE OF SPIES the title rather than the revealer, but hey- I had fun, so no real qualms. Excellent finds all around from these constructors!

4 stars.

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18 Responses to Saturday, January 2, 2021

  1. Billy Boy says:

    HELLACOOL took me far too long in this good puzzle.

    I liked the spelled out E = mc²


  2. STEVEN says:

    stumper was strange

    first time thru, had an almost blank grid
    in the end it was done errorlessly and quicker than average

    nyt, seemed a little easier to me than normal

    • Mick Brown says:

      Same: long stares, then a relatively fast solve.
      Anyone else think 1a might be one of the cryptic SS clues and enter “once”?

  3. Lise says:

    Is Derek okay? His cheerful LAT and Stumper reviews are usually up by now. I hope all is well with him.

  4. Ed says:

    In the original fable the lion’s share is all of it.

  5. Re: “36D [Salon offerings] ART SONGS”: think of a salon devoted to art and music. (It helps that I’m reading M. Proust.)

  6. David Steere says:

    UNIVERSAL: I kinda enjoyed this one until I ran into the cross of MAGLEV and IDLI. Simply awful. I wonder if Erik Agard would have allowed that “meeting” over at USA Today.

    • anon says:

      Well, IDLI is worth a bunch of woke points, so Agard would be all over that. MAGLEV is kinda blah but the “statement” of the “inclusion” of “non-white” “culture” (insert more buzzwords here) is worth any bad crossing. Crossword puzzles can change the world, after all.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Hey, @anon, that’s a piece-of-shite opinion and it’s honestly not welcome here. This “woke points” bullshit is tiresome. Some of us actually know and like things like Indian food and we aren’t afraid of it. In another 20 years, you won’t know how to fill in crosswords anymore if you don’t open yourself to learning more new things. Nobody’s gonna spoon-feed you 20th-century white American culture anymore.

        I don’t see how MAGLEV is gonna be too hard for smart white dudes doing the crossword. That term has been around for decades.

  7. marciem says:

    Never have I ever (before) given up on the Universal, but that crossing made it a first. I’m happy to learn new stuff (i.e. maglev and idli) BUT… make the crossings fair pleeeeeease!! :)

    Otherwise I enjoyed the puzzle but came away sad from it.

    • marciem says:

      Never have I ever (before) given up on the Universal, but that crossing made it a first. I’m happy to learn new stuff (i.e. maglev and idli) BUT… make the crossings fair pleeeeeease!! :)

      Otherwise I enjoyed the puzzle but came away sad from it.

      p.s. I’m trying to see what Jim Q means about “read” but can’t find that answer in the grid. Prolly going blind trying to figure out idli LOL!

  8. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper: how are “Second-string players” CHARACTER ACTORS? I get the “players” part but the rest seems like annoying-barely-connected Stumper gibberish to me.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      If you’re in the second string on a team, you’re not a star player. Character actors play supporting roles rather than starring in lead roles.

  9. Billy Boy says:

    WSJ, pretty enjoyable and a decent payoff if clunky in a spot or two.

    Learned TOPES, totally had to look to see if it was correct

Comments are closed.