Sunday, January 3, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WaPo 12:03 (Jim Q) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 9:30 (Jim P) 


Paolo Pasco’s New York Times crossword, “Busting Moves”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 3 21, “Busting Moves”

Paolo’s busting moves on the dance floor, aka the crossword grid. Nine phrases contain kinds of dance, which are spelled out in the circled letters. Each dance name is split into two chunks with a single letter “busting” the move:

  • 23a. [Title for Iran’s Ali Khamenei], SUPREME LEADER. REEL, which is a traditional American folk dance. I hope kids are no longer having to do a square dancing unit as part of gym class.
  • 25a. [Tailored blouse style], SHIRTWAIST with the TWIST.
  • 43a. [Subject of some teen gossip sessions], BOY PROBLEMS. Actually not sure what sort of dance BOP is. I do love BOY PROBLEMS as fill, though!
  • 47a. [Sure-footed alpine climber], MOUNTAIN GOAT does the TANGO.
  • 68a. [Bakery item that’s often messy], CRUMB CAKE, the RUMBA.
  • 88a. [Caribbean capital], PORT AU PRINCE, with TAP. PORT AU PRINCE is one of those supervocalic names, containing each vowel just once.
  • 91a. [Kind of test question], SHORT ANSWER. The HORA, a fun part of any Jewish wedding.
  • 114a. [Proceeds breezily], SAILS ALONG, some SALSA dancing. My feet don’t move fast enough.
  • 117a. [What a spike goes over], VOLLEYBALL NET. BALLET feels like an outlier, since ballet feels like it’s on a different level from all the other dances.

The title is a little off, since dance moves are things like dips and spins, and these are primarily styles of dance rather than moves.

I just thought to myself, It sure would be elegant if the single letters that bust open the dances spelled something out. And sure enough, they do! “MAY I CUT IN?” is your sort-of-meta answer here. Nice, Paolo! That’s perfect.

With 1a and 1d giving us EBB and EGESTS, I was primed to notice any disappointing or blah fill, and there was some of that, but it didn’t jump out enough for me to remember what I didn’t care for. Fill I liked: KONMARI, GEEKDOM, GORDITA, and the new-to-me Tinder SUPER LIKE.

Nice twofer clue angle: 27a. [Pieces of pentathlon equipment], EPEES / 28a. [Piece of biathlon equipment], SKI. Biathlon remains so, so bonkers. How is this still an Olympic sport? I blame Scandinavia. And really, downhill skiing plus guns would be more fun, give off more of a James Bond/Cliffhanger vibe. Rhythmic gymnastics with sniper rifles also has potential. Or diving! You gotta get off an accurate shot while twisting in the air and still nail your pool entry.

Four stars from me.

Trent H. Evans’s Los Angeles Times puzzle, “Career Counseling” — Jenni’s write-up

This will be shorter than usual. I’m actually leaving my house to do something fun. We’re going to make glass beads (in a large well-ventilated room that is basically a garage with only three of us, all masked).

This puzzle was also fun! The theme answers are adages or maxims clued as if they were, well, career counseling.

Los Angeles Times, January 3, 2021, Trent H. Evans, “Career Counseling,” solution grid

  • 22a [Advice to an aspiring preacher?] is SPEAK OF THE DEVIL.
  • 39a [Advice to an aspiring organizer?] is DONT THROW IT ALL AWAY. I hired an organizer to help me redesign my closet. It was awesome. Highly recommend.
  • 57a [Advice to an aspiring journalist?] is DONT FORGET TO WRITE.
  • 83a [Advice to an aspiring ballet dancer?] is LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP.
  • 99a [Advice to an aspiring history professor?] is THERES NO FUTURE IN IT.
  • 121a [Advice to an aspiring stationer?] is PUSH THE ENVELOPE.

All the phrases are solidly in the language and the clues are amusing. Fun Sunday theme.

Time to gather ourselves and head out, so I’ll skip to “What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle:” that NASA TV provided coverage of the New Horizons Pluto fly-by. I didn’t know NASA TV existed, to be honest.

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

After last week’s mind-bender, we’re easing into 2021 with a friendly, easily grokked movie themed puzzle.

THEME: Movie titles are split amongst various rows of the puzzle.

Washington Post, January 3, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “And Cut!” solution grid


  • Revealer: SPLIT SCREEN

All of the title of the featured films were familiar to me, but it struck me just now as I was typing that up that I’ve actually only seen one of them: PSYCHO. Kinda stunned myself with that.

A very friendly and accessible theme today, though this sort of split-a-word-across-rows theme type often goes under-appreciated. They are tough to fill cleanly as the grid is under much more stress than it appears to be, especially here where fill crosses two rows of theme several times. The only spot where I really noticed it having a somewhat difficult time breathing was in the APSOS / RED SUIT area; I don’t like the former much as crosswordese and the latter is unfamiliar to me as a stand-alone phrase, which is why I was so hesitant to enter it since it didn’t seem like something Evan would use. Other than that, it was a very steady solve.

Caught on to the theme quickly and after finishing about 15% of the puzzle I wagered that the first letters would spell something. From the S in SHANE and the P in PSYCHO, I correctly guessed SPLIT SCREEN, which was a nice “pat myself on the back” moment.

The clue I learned the most from was 15D [Chaos ankle strap designer Blahnik] MANOLO. I had no idea what any of that meant. Looks like a popular type of strap on a pump style shoe though. Out of my price range even if I could find the correct size.

Overall, I’d say this was an ideal puzzle to start another new year of WaPo puzzling. Can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Gary Larson’s Universal crossword, “Animation” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Animated Disney movies are found at the beginning of common phrases, and clued wackily.

Universal crossword solution · “Animation” · Gary Larson · Sun., 1.03.20


  • 16A [Editor of a 2008 film that features a dog with superpowers?] BOLT CUTTER. Vaguely recall a movie named BOLT.
  • 22A [Online conversation about a 2010 film that features a long-haired princess?] TANGLED THREAD. 
  • 38A [Script version of a 2009 film that features a house with balloons? UPDRAFT. 
  • 49A [Funding source for a 2013 film that features a snow queen?] FROZEN ACCOUNT. 
  • 61A [Co-founder of the studio that distributed this puzzle’s films] WALT DISNEY. 

Couldn’t get out of my own way here. I really wanted some sort of box cutter for the first themer. I almost convinced myself that the answer should be BACHS CUTTER… then figured that’s a whole different theme.

The phrases TANGLED THREAD and UPDRAFT aren’t very familiar to me as stand-alones, so I wasn’t entirely confident that I had grokked the theme until I uncovered FROZEN ACCOUNT.  The revealer here doesn’t really do all that much to aid in the theme it’s benign enough, but I think I would’ve preferred another themer like the others in there. Is there one? There has to be. Hmmm…. BRAVE HEART? Does that work?

Some chuckle out loud mistakes I had were for 45A [Thing to check at a supermarket]…. I entered EGO. Check your EGO before paying for groceries. Then I had AGE, thinking maybe the customer was trying to get a senior discount underage. Nope. EGG. Which… that’s still a really weird clue for EGG. Who checks a single EGG?

Also, for 33A [Ramadan rituals] I had FA?TS and could only see FARTS. There’s a middle schooler in me somewhere that refuses to catch up to my aging body.

3.25 stars from me.

Alan Oschwang’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Tooling Around”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Tools are found hidden inside well-known names and phrases.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Tooling Around” · Alan Oschwang · 1.3.21

  • 21a. [Very brainy] SMART AS A WHIP. Saw.
  • 36a. [Noted barbarian leader] ATTILA THE HUN. Lathe.
  • 69a. [To the limit] AS FAR AS POSSIBLE. Rasp.
  • 103a. [Official job offer, say] FORMAL LETTER. Mallet.
  • 124a. [Light source] ELECTRIC LAMP. Clamp.
  • 14d. [Katarina Witt’s skating rival] DEBI THOMAS. Bit. Hmm. I don’t remember the name, but my main issue is I don’t consider a bit to be a tool in and of itself (assuming we’re talking about drill bits). Is there some other tool this is referring to?
  • 75d. [Place for some brief work?] LAW LIBRARY. Awl.

These work for the most part. However, I wish there was some other basis for tools being hidden in phrases other than “here are some tools hidden in phrases.” Obviously, the longer entries are more interesting than the three-letter ones. I especially like ATTILA THE HUN. I was hoping it would help me remember whether the correct spelling is Attila or Atilla, but sadly, the theme works even if I mis-spell it.

What’s good in the fill? “NEWS TO ME” tops the list followed by CORN BELT, ART DECO, LEAD DOG, ST. PAUL’S, NOSTRIL, CUL-DE-SAC, and GLITCHY. On the more challenging side: I would never have known Keir DULLEA [“2001: A Space Odyssey” star Keir] without getting every single crossing. But it’s nice to put the actor’s name with the role of Dave in that film.

Clues of note:

  • 63a. [Shrimp-diavolo connector]. FRA. I don’t think I’ve heard of this dish. I went with ALA which I guess would have meant “shrimp like the Devil cooks it.” That makes more sense to me than “shrimp brother devil.”
  • 122a. [Piece such as “Messiah”]. ORATORIO. If you missed a performance of the Hallelujah chorus and want to sing along, see the video below. Skip ahead to 58:39 for the chorus.
  • 4d. [“‘Cause I ___ me spinach” (Popeye)]. EATS. Ha! That’s why he’s strong to the finish. My favorite clue in the grid.

Solid puzzle that made for a quick solve. 3.5 stars.

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16 Responses to Sunday, January 3, 2021

  1. cyberdiva says:

    NYT: I’m puzzled by LOLAT as the answer to 52A. I’m of course familiar with LOL, and when I googled for LOLAT I got lots of hits for LOLA (Laughing Out Loud Again), but I found nothing for LOLAT. ??

  2. Steven says:

    I was expecting to find BREAK DANCE as a revealer. It would have been a better title since these are each dances, not moves.

    • RM Camp says:

      Yeah, I was gonna say, I don’t have a problem with the title since “bust a move” simply means “[to] dance,” but your suggestion is way better. Not to mention it would honor its upcoming entry into the Olympics as a sport, and I am totally here for that.

  3. Bryan says:

    NYT: From Jeff Chen’s review, and I 100% agree with this: “This isn’t a ground-breaking puzzle, but this level of quality, along with an extra level providing the cherry on top, should be the floor for all Sunday NYT crosswords. If I were in Will Shortz’s shoes, I’d be tapping Paolo for a Sunday Squad of 21×21 specialists.”

    • R says:

      So true. Evan at WaPo consistently does Sunday puzzles at this quality, and it’s surprising that the NYT hasn’t put a premium on aiming for the same level.

      • David Steere says:

        So true, Brian and R. I was thinking as I completed Paolo’s crossword that today we had two great Birnholz-like puzzles–only one by Evan himself. I hope the Times Sunday can reach the WaPo quality much more often this coming year by taking a lesson from Evan’s work and from the type of puzzles appearing regularly at USA Today–where Paolo has a strong presence.

  4. pannonica says:

    Don’t know what happened, but my Saturday WSJ disappeared from the post yesterday, so I’ve just now restored it. In case anyone wants to read it a day late.

  5. pannonica says:

    Universal (Sun): I wasn’t paying too much attention during the solve, yet I was distracted by the duplicated 80d [Lots and lots] for TONS and 20d [Disreputable group] BAD LOT. Further, The theme item in 14d DEBI THOMAS—BIT—also appears in 54a [Ocean, for a seahorse] HABITAT. Such are the hazardous shoals for minimal theme elements.

  6. Crotchety Doug says:

    LAT – 132A I don’t understand the connection between Greens in regulation, e.g. and STAT. Anyone?

    • Goodhue the fourth says:

      It’s a golf statistic: how many times a golfer gets the ball on the putting green in two strokes or less under par.

    • marciem says:

      Think golf. Greens are a stat in golf games.

      p.s. I learned that AFTER filling in the puzzle, I needed to look it up.

  7. Norm says:

    EINK was horrible, but the rest of the LAT was entertaining.

    • Pilgrim says:

      I thought the same thing. I try to solve puzzles top to bottom, so I was thinking “This is a pretty fun puzzle” but then ” Yuk!!!”

  8. Joan Macon says:

    It’s happened! It’s happened! For a whole week the author of the LAT listed in the paper is the SAME as the one listed here! I will conclude that the LAT finally got it together and quit checking to see if they are the same. What can I worry about now?

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