Saturday, January 16, 2021

LAT 5:38 (Derek) 


Newsday 10:00 (Derek) 


NYT 4:51 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Crossword Fiend statement of policy: If you’re just here to comment on the evils of “wokeness” and feminism and whatnot, do not be surprised if your comments are deleted. You’re a distraction. This is a site that (1) is about crosswords and (2) supports equality and justice for women, people of color, LGBTQIA people, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and other marginalized groups. If you don’t like that second item, you’re welcome to leave. We’re not interested in giving you an audience for your regressive (and invariably boring) ideas.

Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 16 21, no. 0116

Sam makes space for the 12s, 13s, and 14s that usually won’t fit into a standard themeless grid. CALL THE SHOTS, MUSEUM EXHIBIT, “LET IT GO ALREADY,” NATIONAL ANTHEM, “AT EASE, SOLDIER,” and CORNISH PASTY (tell me the best vegetarian varieties) are crossed by an upright OBAMA SUPPORTER and MERRIAM-WEBSTER. These are all good entries, no?

Did not know: 7d. [Like a deaccessioned book, for short], EXLIB. EX-LIB? EX LIB? Short for ex libris or something else? Librarians, fill me in!

Also hadn’t heard of 22a. [Small hybrid instrument with six strings], GUITALELE. That’s one ungainly portmanteau.

Seven more things:

  • 15a. [One of the knights of the Round Table], GARETH. My apologies to Team Fiend’s Gareth, but I tried GAWAIN here first.
  • 13a. [Remains to be seen, say], MUSEUM EXHIBIT. What a gross clue. “Oh, instead of remains as a verb, it means dead bodies of, I dunno, animals or people?”
  • Worst fill holding all these long answers together: plural APRS and AGS, MER-, Latin plural URSI, AFR., AREEL. Oh, and 43d. Historic town NW of London where some of the Harry Potter series was filmed], BUSHEY. If more than 1% of solvers have heard of it, I’d be surprised. The town has paleolithic roots and Roman history, though!
  • 24a. [Layperson?], MASON. My mom is a bricklayer’s daughter, so I love this clue/answer combo.
  • 8d. [ Slangy psychedelic], SHROOM. I’ve never psychedelled. Is the singular SHROOM legit, or is it generally used in the plural?
  • 3d. [Bad way to be poisoned], LETHALLY. I’d argue that being poisoned sub-lethally is also not a good thing.
  • 13d. [Company at which business always comes before pleasure?], MERRIAM-WEBSTER. This clue is the CUTEST.

3.8 stars from me.

Peter A. Collins’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 01/16/2021

My good friend Peter Collins has this week’s Saturday LAT challenger puzzle. Nicely done! Not too difficult, and I used to have a supervisor that told me to 32-Across! I got started oddly enough in the SW corner of this grid after tackling the NW area. Then just sort of wound around and ended up in the upper central part. Not sure why. A fun solve, though. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. 4.4 stars.

Some commentary:

  • 1A [“__ Secretary”] MADAM – This is a show I have never seen even one nano-second of. Something else to binge-watch during lockdown!
  • 14A [Durance who plays Lois on “Smallville”] ERICA – I don’t think I knew her real name. I watched a fair amount of this show, but I think it first came out when I started working full time or had kids; something happened where I couldn’t watch a ton of TV anymore!
  • 18A [Removes with a putty knife] STRIPS OFF – Very accurately clued!
  • 36A [442 or 88, e.g.] OLDS – Ah, this brings back memories! I am surprised Peter didn’t reference the old [Deuce and a quarter, e.g.] that my grandfather used to have!
  • 37A [Guideline when something is dropped from one’s diet?] FIVE-SECOND RULE – I am good with this rule. I have children. I have seen things. Nothing has killed me yet!
  • 7D [“A Cook’s Tour” host] ANTHONY BOURDAIN – His passing was tragic. I enjoyed his cooking shows, though.
  • 26D [Lincoln wore them] STOVEPIPES – Aren’t they “stovepipe hats”? Do they call them this for short? Wouldn’t surprise me if that is true.
  • 27D [Window with a crank, often] CASEMENT – I have construction experience, so this was a gimme.
  • 30D [Köln closing] ENDE – I haven’t seen this one in a while. My German is terrible anyways.
  • 47D [John/Rice musical] AIDA – I have never seen this musical. I think there are movie versions somewhere. Hopefully in English! After the success of Hamilton, hopefully there are more instances of plays being filmed so more people can enjoy them.

That is all! Back to the MIT Mystery Hunt ….

Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 01/16/2021

Well, we have week two of the slightly easier “Themeless Saturday” puzzle. This one wasn’t too awfully hard again, but I did find it fairly difficult. Finished right at 10 minutes, which for me is still a great Stumper time. It didn’t seem that way while solving, though. I distinctly remember, when finishing, thinking, “It has only been 10 minutes??” What I am trying to say, is, this was a good puzzle! I simply got lost in it somehow. As Paolo Pasco would day, I was “vibing!” (Just not as fast as he does it!) Nice puzzle, Stan! I learned a word or two! 4.6 stars.

Some notes:

  • 7A [Certain camera support] UNIPOD – This seems like it wouldn’t stand up!
  • 16A [Where Juneau is] ALASKA PANHANDLE – I would have thought it was the AlaskaN Panhandle, but I could be wrong. And I probably am!
  • 36A [Pro conditioners] STRENGTH COACHES – These are common in football circles. I may need to hire one if I get any more flabby!
  • 48A [What many bowling pins are made of] MAPLE – I didn’t know this. I go bowling quite often, but not this year. Hopefully soon, once these vaccines get rolled out to more people.

    “Whaam” by Roy Liechtenstein

  • 62A [Rush job] NEXT DAY DELIVERY – This was my life for nearly 30 years! It took me waaaay to long to get this answer!
  • 1D [California’s ”Garlic Capital of the World”] GILROY – Anybody know this off the bat? Anyone ever HEARD of Gilroy, CA? This was new to me, but gettable with the crossings, thankfully!
  • 5D [Roy Lichtenstein ”impactful” pop-art painting] “WHAAM” – He is the artist that paints like a comic book artist. Which fits right into my level of art history knowledge! I am so uncultured …
  • 9D [Co-ruler with Peter the Great] IVAN V – This was a mild history lesson for me. My Russian history is spotty at best.
  • 11D [Where ”leprechauns” came from] OLD IRISH – We hear this word a lot in Notre Dame country. Probably too much!
  • 17D [Oldest moon walker (at 47)] ALAN SHEPARD – This is gettable by the length, but a great piece of trivia. I wonder if they will go back to the moon now that China is messing around up there.
  • 32D [Lloyd Webber attainment of 2019] EGOT
  • 36D [Papal, in Michelangelo’s day] SISTINE – I had LEONINE in here. This refers to Sixtus, right? I am too lazy to look it up!
  • 45D [Closest one] BESTIE – This is a fairly new word, and a brilliant example of how language morphs as you go along.

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

David Alfred Bywaters’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Interaction” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 1/16/21 • “Interaction” • Bywaters • Sat • solution • 20210116

The ACTION alluded to in the title is putting IN the letters TER. Phrases are thus wackified.

  • 22a. [Eave-repair task?] GUTTER WRENCHING (gut-wrenching).
  • 36a. [Tight hatband] BOATER CONSTRICTOR (boa constrictor).
  • 48a. [Sycophant’s metric] FLATTER RATE (flat rate).
  • 63a. [Specialized dog groomer?] SETTER DECORATOR (set decorator). Very specialized, it would seem.
  • 84a. [Conflicts between beginners?] STARTER WARS (Star Wars).
  • 92a. [Gallery owner’s challenge?] PAINTER MANAGEMENT (pain management).
  • 110a. [Really slather it on?] BUTTER SERIOUSLY (but seriously).

These are … kind of dry, but serviceable.

  • 38d [Japanese Olympics site] NAGANO. That would be the 1998 winter games. The other time Japan hosted was Tokyo (1964, summer). The 2020 Tokyo games are at the time of this writing postponed to 2021, but I understand that they will retain the 2020 designation, for historical consistency—presuming they aren’t cancelled altogether due to the pandemic.
  • 39d [Sinister signs] OMENS. This is really a peeve of mine. Why are so many things tacitly taken to be negative and clued as such in crosswords? An OMEN is neutral. Another frequent offender (so to speak) is ODOR.
  • 64d [Like doubtful tales or difficult orders] TALL. That’s quasi-poetic.
  • 66d [Her assistance is required in a Beach Boys song] RHONDA. Makes it sound as if she has to deal with a spill in Aisle 7 or something.
  • 85d [Urban pest] RAT. Again with the negative framing. There are hundreds and hundreds of species of rats, the vast majority which are not ‘pests’.
  • 57d/99d [Beasts] ANIMALS / FAUNA.
  • 77a [Favors] IS FOR, 98a [Favoring] PRO.
  • 102d [Her assistance is requested in a Derek and the Dominos song] LAYLA. Her too?
  • 19a [Home of the Tom Ridge Environmental Center] ERIE. That’s a new way to clue this crossword staple. Tom Ridge is an ex-governor of Pennsylvania.
  • 29d [Messenger god] HERMES.

Mike Duran’s Universal crossword, “Even Splits” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: The first part of a word means “half” and the second part of the word can be halved to find another word. That seemed difficult to explain.

Universal crossword solution · “No Vowel Play” · Mike Doran · Sat., 1.16.20


  • 17A [Vat, e.g., for this answer’s last six letters?] DEMI LOVAT(Half of LOVATO is VAT)
  • 10D [For, e.g., for this answer’s last six letters?] SEMI-FORMAL.
  • 59A [Her, e.g., for this answer’s last six letters?] HEMISPHERE. 
  • 27D [All, e.g., for this answer’s last six letters?] HALF GALLON. 

Really liked everything about this puzzle. Excellent and clever idea. You know it’s a unique idea when it’s difficult to replicate with other themers. I’m impressed at the finds.

Filled quite nicely too. HIP FLASK, GOOD EYE!, SPARE RIBS, MY LORD make up for the ETUI and ECLAT that I never see outside of crosswords.

Found out that OHIO is the seventh most populous state. I found that surprising. Also, there’s a five-letter POTUS whose name begins with T who besides the current one nicknamed “His Accidency.” Excellent name.

Great puzzle, Mike!

4.4 stars.


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36 Responses to Saturday, January 16, 2021

  1. Amy L says:

    NYT: 13a. [Remains to be seen, say], I took this to mean the remains of a culture or civilization, such as pottery, floor tile, tools, so I thought it was okay.

    8d. [ Slangy psychedelic], I don’t know about psychedelics, but here is a pizza from the menu at my neighborhood pizza place:

    SHROOM V 16 / 30
    roasted seasonal mushrooms, baby onions, mozzarella,
    black garlic aioli, chives

    The staff refer to it as the “shroom.”

  2. Maxine Nerdström says:

    I would venture to say that you do not, in fact, “get it.”

  3. Steve Manion says:

    Very hard entertaining puzzle today. NW was hard in an otherwise easy puzzle yesterday.

    I was astonished to learn that there is a SARANAC River. I spent my youth camping on Upper Saranac Lake and never knew.

    It is too bad in a way that HOLD’EM is so prevalent. Baseball, Night Baseball, Anaconda and other “silly” poker games should be rites of passage.


  4. huda says:

    NYT: Tough-ish for me. Certain areas flowed, but that intersection of SARANAC and SAWV was all news to me.

  5. pannonica says:

    “Boring” as in predictable and repetitive, with little depth or merit.

  6. PJ says:

    LAT – Derek, the deuce and a quarter was a Buick Electra 225. I don’t know why I still remember that.

  7. pannonica says:

    NYT: ” 7d. [Like a deaccessioned book, for short], EXLIB. EX-LIB? EX LIB? Short for ex libris or something else?”

    Simply “ex-library”. This is a standard designation on the secondary book market.

    • Billy Boy says:

      I made a comment which included comments in support of the Policy Statement yesterday; it didn’t post, thus the “ . ” post which did post.

      The crux of the comment about the NYT was the 1A fit CHIEF OF STAFF which I held onto for too long, eventually TIDE PODS setting me on the correct path. CALL THE SHOTS is much more a Physician Extender service of medical offices.


      (I learn things here, that’s good)

  8. STEVEN says:

    firstly, thanks for the statement

    in the universal, how many people put in trump without thinking?

    nyt was hard for me to get a toehold, but not a hard puzzle, does that make sense?
    enjoyed the LAT

    as for the stumper, a nice change from the real killers of late, a pleasant little puzzle :)

    oh, and from one who knows, shroom is legal ;)

  9. Dwayne says:

    Gilroy was a gimme for me (without any crosses), but it wouldn’t have been before I moved to the Bay Area. I certainly never heard of it while living in Chicago for 17-odd years.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      We lived in the Bay Area for years and now reside in the Lehigh Valley, so GILROY and EASTON were both gimmes. Oh, and my husband spent his youth camping in the Adirondacks. The geography was good to us today.

    • Frank says:

      There was a bar in Chicago until 2015ish called The Blue Frog that had a Gilroy Burger which was a garlic overload.

      There was also a mass shooting at their garlic festival a year and a half ago.

  10. marciem says:

    Derek re: Newsday Gilroy. Being in Ca, that dropped easily for me (certain times of year, you can’t whiz by on the freeway without noting the aroma, and all the garlic & produce stands along the way). Wiki says this about the Gilroy Garlic Festival: “One of the nation’s best-known food festivals, centered on garlic, it draws 80,000 to 100,000 visitors from around the country and is described as a family event”

    However, the Gilroy Garlic Festival also did make national news in a bad way, unfortunately, because of a mass shooting at the festivities with an AK-47. Three were killed (ages 6, 13 and 25), 17 (aged 12 to 69) wounded. July 28, 2019.

  11. Lester says:

    Amy, “I’ve never psychedelled” utterly cracked me up. As did the WSJ clue, “Her assistance is requested in a Derek and the Dominos song.” (With my sieve-like memory, I’d already forgotten the related Beach Boys clue.)

  12. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ: Anyone else feel like the difficulty level of the WSJ puzzle has been ramped down since about the beginning of the new year? My solve times have plummeted noticeably. I posted my third fastest cumulative solve time for the week in the three years I’ve been doing the puzzle. Maybe I’m just getting better and better at this with all of the solving I’ve done the past ten months. Just wondering …

    • Ah Chang says:

      I was kind of thinking the same thing. I’ve gone three weeks without an error, something that’s only happened six times in the past 6+ years. Don’t know if Will is getting soft in his old age . . . . . . relax fools, that’s a joke, not a stab at a person of age!

      • Billy Boy says:

        I think they became more perceptively difficult towards the end of 2020, so the relative perceptions jive.

        Given that much of the WSJ readership is not hard-core puzzlers, and that many puzzles are done traditionally on paper and not for speed – the difficulty and tangentiality became challenging for too many of the core is my takeaway. Comments on WSJ . com are fairly consistent with that perception as well.

  13. Wrongthink says:

    Perhaps the better course of action would be to just have this otherwise wonderful blog just be about crosswords.

    • pannonica says:

      Crosswords are about words. Words are about ideas and real-world things.

      Perhaps you’d prefer a blog about something more abstract, such as Sudoku.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      This topic again? Perhaps a better course of action would be to just let Amy do her blog the way she wants to and for you to start your own crossword blog.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Thanks, sanfranman!

        Somehow the world keeps turning despite the lack of any right wing–oriented crossword blogs. Perhaps those who decry this one lack the skills and social network to make a go of their own crossword blog?

        • PJ says:

          “Perhaps those who decry this one lack the skills and social network to make a go of their own crossword blog?”

          I have a different opinion that, in the spirit of healing, I’ll keep to myself.

        • Wrongthink says:

          I don’t want a right-wing crossword blog. I want more apolitical communities and fora to help us get to know and appreciate each other as people and not as member of opposing teams, so we can cut down on the general incivility and groupthink that’s become a problem.

          So I am not going to start a rival blog out of spite or something. I gave you a complement and constructive criticism, because I thought it might make your blog better. Instead, you called me stupid and friendless. Great.

      • Wrongthink says:

        If you are going to build a public forum dedicated to discussing

        (1) crosswords

        (2) your politics

        then you should not be surprised when people feel it is fair game to discuss (1) or (2).

        And yeah, I guess you can just have a policy of banning dissent of all forms. It’s your blog. I would just encourage you to think about how you would feel about someone who did this that you disagreed with.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          If someone blogged about crosswords and took a decidedly right-wing slant, I probably wouldn’t engage with the site.

          Dissent about crosswords is fine. Dissenting when it comes to matters of representation and social justice? I’m not interested in having this site dispense that sort of content. Do you get that everyone complaining about “wokeness” isn’t persuading anybody at all? And fine, maybe I’m not persuading you to be more open to matters of justice and representation, but you need to know that this blog’s editorial stance is in favor of those things.

          And actually, there’s plenty of evidence that constructors and crossword editors have heard our pleas, and we’re seeing more diverse bylines and (just as important) more diverse content within the puzzles. When’s the last time you saw HOMIE clued as [Friend in the hood], or LOLITA clued as [Tease]? We’re getting better, more respectful and inclusive, less ignorant.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          @WrongThink …

          For one thing, you didn’t “discuss” anything.

          For another, when did anyone say anything about “banning” you or anyone else? Your initial comment is completely disingenuous. Your concern is not for the welfare of this blog. You’re pissed off about something one of the writers included in their puzzle review or a comment that you disagree with and consider to be political. But you’re not forthright enough to say what it was or why you disagree with it. Maybe try that the next time instead of passive-aggressively hiding behind the veil of making a suggestion for a “better course of action” for the blog.

          If you read this blog enough to know that it’s “wonderful”, you surely know that it often includes what you most likely consider to be unwelcome political commentary but others call taking a stand for civil liberty and social justice. I don’t agree with everything that’s written around here either, but I sure defend the commenters’ right to say it and Amy’s right to have it posted in her name. I occasionally speak up if it triggers something in me and I feel strongly enough about it. I’ve not been banned for doing so. If there ever comes a point in time when I find myself persistently annoyed by what’s written here, I assume that I’ll stop torturing myself by reading it.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      And, again, you are utterly blind to your own hypocrisy. You want this space to be free of political discussion that upsets you because you think crosswords are for recreation and that should be free of such content. Despite repeated explanations, you still have no clue about *why* we talk about this stuff. Crossword content and constructors have traditionally been overwhelmingly white and male. That upsets us. We feel excluded, disrespected, insulted, and – hey! We feel JUST THE SAME WAY YOU DO about our blog. You don’t notice what bothers us because it’s “normal” for you, from which I conclude that you don’t live in a marginalized body or marginalized identity.

      We write about this stuff because it is hurtful and dangerous to us and to people we care about and to the society in which we all live. By asking for a politics-free zone for your precious recreation, you are placing you comfort above our survival. That’s not a good look. And if you think I’m being hyperbolic, I’ll remind you that the Trump-fomented insurrection on January 6th included people who think Hitler didn’t go far enough to exterminate the Jews. I’m Jewish. I am not kidding about “survival.”

  14. Pilgrim says:

    Re Newsday: my first thought was AlaskaN panhandle as well, but then again, no one ever says “Texan panhandle,” “Floridian panhandle,” “West Virginian panhandle,” etc.

  15. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: I need to go on record to say the clue [Command to stop saluting] isn’t quite right for “AT EASE, SOLDIER.” A salute is a sign of respect; the one who was saluted should acknowledge it by saluting back. Only then should the saluter drop their salute. If someone salutes you, you simply wouldn’t say “at ease.” That’s disrespecting their salute. The easiest thing to do is simply salute them back.

    In formal functions, like parades or color guards, a salute is initiated with the command “Present Arms.” It is only concluded with the command “Order Arms.”

    “At Ease” is the command to come out of the position of Attention. For example, your chillin’ in your room and an officer walks in. You jump to your feet and snap to Attention (you don’t salute because you’re indoors and don’t have your hat on). The officer might then say “at ease” to get you to relax a little or even “as you were” to get you to go back to what you were doing.

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