Sunday, January 17, 2021

LAT 8:22 (Jenni) 


NYT 9:15 (Amy) 


WaPo 9:15 (Jim Q) 


Universal tk (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 9:53 (Jim P) 


Tracy Gray & Tom Pepper’s New York Times crossword, “Double-Crossed”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 17 21, “Double-Crossed”

The quasi-rebus squares contain two pairs of doubled letters, which read in one order for the Across and the other order for the Down. Let me pop this up so comments are open, and I’ll come back to chat about the puzzle after dinner.


  • 23a. [Way into a garage, typically], OVERHEA{D DOO}R / 7d. [Subject of a Sleeves Up campaign], BL{OOD D}RIVE
  • 34a. [Nickelodeon competitor], CART{OON N}ETWORK / 13d. [Classic dorm room meal], RAME{N NOO}DLES
  • 61a. [Prominent women’s rights lawyer], GLORI{A ALL}RED / 45d. [Beer in a green bottle], STE{LLA A}RTOIS. I haven’t had a Stella in probably 10 months.
  • 76a. [Visual phenomenon created by short flashes of light], STROB{E EFF}ECT / 66d. [Nestlé creamer], CO{FFEE}MATE.
  • 104a. [Some entertainers at children’s birthday parties], BA{LLOO}N ARTISTS / 85d. [Sallie Mae products], SCH{OOL L}OANS.
  • 119a. [Awards show that airs at night, ironically], DAYTIM{E EMM}YS / 101d. [Pool competitions], SWI{M MEE}TS

Solid theme. Much to my surprise, only one of the rebus squares I entered wasn’t accepted in the solution, but when I retried it as EEMM (might’ve been MMEE before? not sure), it was fine.

Remarks! Observations!

  • Least familiar term: 95d. [Old genre for 12-Down], NEO-DADA. Any new dads out there reading this? *waves hello from MyKidIsTwentyLand*
  • 109d. [“Scram!”], GIT / 58d. [“Go ___!” (coach’s encouragement)], GET ’EM. Technically a dupe but somehow I don’t mind it this time.
  • 86d. [Marshmallow-filled snacks], MOONPIES. I did not grow up in MoonPie country. Those of you who did: If you went decades without eating them, do they still hold up? Because I grew up with Hostess HoHos and DingDongs and it turns out they are terrible. So are Space Food Sticks.

3.6 stars from me.

C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times puzzle, “Hitting the Big Leagues” — Jenni’s write-up

I had no idea about the theme until I hit the revealer so it played like a Sunday-sized themeless for most of the time I was solving. Since it’s C.C.’s puzzle, it was a smooth themeless.

The revealer at 119a is [Leaving the amateur ranks, and a hint to the starred clues]. It’s TURNING PRO. Each theme answer contains the string ORP – PRO “turned” backwards.

Los Angeles Times, January 17, 2021, C.C. Burnikel, “Hitting the Big Leagues,” solution grid

  • 21a [*Discount ticket based on age] is SENIOR PASS.
  • 23a [Raffle rewards, perhaps] are DOOR PRIZES.
  • 38d [*Building diagram] is FLOOR PLAN.
  • 45a [*Avocado misnomer] is ALLIGATOR PEAR.
  • 53d [*Workforce] is LABOR POOL.
  • 69a [Cause of some back pain] is POOR POSTURE. Back pain, headaches, and neck pain can be serious collateral damage from the pandemic.
  • 91a [Pre-wedding bash] is a BACHELOR PARTY.
  • 116a [It’s no 112-Across]. 112A is SERIOUS, so the answer is MINOR POINT.

I didn’t realize until I typed them out that all the OR P strings cross the two words of the answer, which takes this construction up a level. Nice, solid, enjoyable Sunday theme.

We’re headed out for more beadmaking lessons, so I’ll skip to “what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle.” I didn’t know that Alton Brown’s GOOD EATS was “Reloaded” in 2018. I also didn’t know that RAMI Malek appeared in “Mr. Robot.”

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Starts a Book Club” – Jim Q’s Write-up

He’s back! At least I assume it’s a he. We can typically look forward to two Captain Obvious puzzles per year. This time, he’s rather bookish.

THEME: Book titles clued literally

Washington Post, January 17, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Captain Obvious Starts a Book Club” solution grid


  • 23A [“___ can be seen on plums”] THE COLOR PURPLE.
  • 31A [“___ is how old you are before you’re considered guilty”] THE AGE OF INNOCENCE.
  • 53A [“___ indicate healthy brushing habits”] WHITE TEETH. 
  • 70A [“___ when they lose structural integrity” THINGS FALL APART. 
  • 92A [“___ happens when someone is convinced” PERSUASION. 
  • 107A [“___ mean that you anticipate an amazing future”] GREAT EXPECTATIONS. 
  • 123A [“___ is what you’d book on the top floor of some high-rise hotel”] A ROOM WITH A VIEW. 

I can’t imagine anyone complaining much about a Captain Obvious puzzle. They’re so fun! Also, it’s usually a good time to go for a speed record. I finished this one in under 10 minutes, which is very fast for me as I’m usually in the 12-15 range. This is largely due to the cluing being so literal that several of the entries needed no crosses (THE COLOR PURPLE, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, and A ROOM WITH A VIEW for me). PERSUASION, by Jane Austen, is the only work I’m unfamiliar with. Haven’t read it, though I like her a lot.

A few names tripped me up: GOB, MEADE, and ELIE, all fairly crossed, though I triple checked GOB because it looked so odd to me as a name. I personally think Judge ITO should be recused from crosswords after a solid run, but somehow he has endurance in the grid world.

Anyway, enjoyable all around.

Last week, I mused aloud my curiosity as to what the ratio of left/right symmetry was in his puzzles to rotational symmetry. He graciously answered. I was actually shocked to learn that out of 265 puzzles, only 30 have anything other than traditional symmetry. I honestly thought it was closer to half. I was WAY off!

Also, there is a fascinating story as to why Evan’s Captain Obvious character exists in the first place. I highly recommend the three-minute read. It was published on the Post’s website today.

Enjoy Sunday!

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Musical Pieces”—Jim P’s review

SHOWS AROUND is the revealer at 117a [Gives a tour, say, or a theme hint]. The other theme answers have titles of musicals in the circled squares at their beginnings and ends.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Musical Pieces” · Zhouqin Burnikel · 1.17.21

  • 23a. [Kentucky attraction] MAMMOTH CAVE. Mame. I keep forgetting about this musical. I don’t know that it seeped into the public consciousness as much as the others have.
  • 25a. [Gift for an artist?] RAW TALENT. Rent.
  • 35a. [Something worth fighting for] GREAT CAUSE. Grease. Hmm. The entry doesn’t feel as in-the-language as the others.
  • 57a. [Corporate getaways] COMPANY RETREATS. Cats.
  • 84a. [Outing to celebrate a marriage milestone] ANNIVERSARY DATE. Annie. Our last ANNIVERSARY DATE—which happened to be our 25th—was dinner on the back patio. We compelled our kids to make it for us (and serve us).
  • 101a. [Salute to Julius] HAIL CAESAR. Hair.
  • 115a. [Carrier with Maple Leaf Lounges] AIR CANADA. Aida. This one’s not a musical, but an opera, though it should be familiar enough to crossworders.

Solid theme and very good entries for the most part. The title is apt as well since each phrase has a “piece” of the musical at the start and the end.

Zhouqin always brings us great fill and today is no exception. My favorite has to be “I KNOW I CAN” [Self-motivational statement], but there’s also KILLS TIME, PAD THAI, HARD SELL, and SRI LANKA.

Clues of note:

  • 21a. [Potatoes, in Indian cuisine]. ALOO. I think I may have been aware of this, but it’s nice to see it expressly stated since we enjoy Indian food on occasion. I’m surprised we don’t see this entry more often.
  • 31a. [Target walkways]. AISLES. My daughter just started working at Target over the holidays and was just named Employee of the Month for her first month there. Nothing to do with the puzzle, just felt like bragging.
  • 39a. [Wedding promise]. VOW. This one destroyed me as I stuck with I DO for far too long. Those words eventually showed up at 114d [Wedding promises] I DOS.
  • 55a. [Cheesy chip]. NACHO. It feels weird to talk about one NACHO chip. I’d rather see this clued with respect to the film Nacho Libre or with a bad pun.
  • 122a. [Like Mandarin and Cantonese]. TONAL. What a great clue for this fairly common entry. I don’t think I realized this. Learn more here.
  • 123a. [Baby monitor’s output]. I doubt new parents these days are content with just AUDIO. I’d bet most of them have wi-fi- or internet-enabled video cameras.

Nice puzzle. 3.7 stars.

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13 Responses to Sunday, January 17, 2021

  1. David Steere says:

    WaPo: Evan, the Captain may be obvious but they have an eclectic, admirable taste in literature. I particularly liked 31A, 92A, 107A, and 123A. Seems a bit like my own home bookshelves. A lovely puzzle. Thanks.

    • norm says:

      Captain Obvious is my least favorite of Evan’s recurring themes, but I have to admit enjoying this one because of the underlying subject matter. I do have to take issue with The Age of Innocence clue, however. It is not “how old you are before you’re considered guilty”; it’s how old you are before you are deemed to have the capacity to commit a crime — and even be found guilty or innocent [properly speaking, “not guilty,” which is not the same thing as innocent]. Picky, picky. Sorry.

  2. marciem says:

    Universal Sun: 115A AIDA qualifies as a musical, obviously based on the opera. Elton John & Tim Rice co-wrote it.

  3. Marcus says:

    The notes box on today’s Universal Sunday .puz said “The Universal Sunday Crossword will continue to be all-new!”. Does anyone know why?

    • Cynthia says:

      If I remember correctly, the recent Universal dailies are reruns of Puzzle Society puzzles. Can anyone fill in the details?

      • Martin says:

        David took some time off and is rerunning Puzzle Society 15x15s but needed new 21x21s for the extra Sunday since the Puzzle Society didn’t run those.

        “Happy Holidays! Just a heads-up that the 15×15 Universal Crosswords from Monday, January 11, through Sunday, January 31, will be Puzzle Society Crossword reruns from 2018. Meanwhile, the 21×21 Universal Sunday Crosswords will continue to be all-new.”

  4. armagh says:

    RE: NYT
    Seriously, a clunky rebus 21×21 is the best the “Gold Standard” can muster on a Sunday. Pathetic.

    • norm says:

      I liked it. :)

    • R says:

      Definitely not my favorite Sunday of all time, but this was pretty solid. I’m not sure what you’re looking for in a Sunday puzzle if this offends you so much; it’s arguably more challenging and creative than all of the other Sundays listed here.

  5. Patrick says:

    I found it strange that both NYT Sat and Sunday puzzles this week had TIDEPOD for an answer. When I was working Sunday’s I had a little deja vu.

Comments are closed.