Sunday, January 24, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 9:13 (Amy) 


WaPo 13:06(Jim Q) 


Universal 5:36 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


Lucy Howard & Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword, “Sugar, Sugar”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 24 21, “Sugar, Sugar”

I love this theme! As the title suggests, each themer is two sugar-providing candy brands combined into a fake phrase with a plausible clue:

  • 22a. [Bookworms call dad?], NERDS RING POP. Nerds candy consists of little crunchy sugar nuggets, and a Ring Pop is a sticky sucker affixed to a plastic ring.
  • 31a. [A young Justice Ginsburg chuckles?], BABY RUTH SNICKERS. Baby Ruth and Snickers candy bars.
  • 47a. [Do core exercises all day, every day?], CRUNCH NOW AND LATER. Nestle Crunch (I never just call it a Crunch bar) chocolate bar, Now and Later gross chewy squares.
  • 67a. [Burger King bingefest?] WHOPPERS SPREE. I had a thing for Whoppers malted milk balls as a kid. And also for a roll of Spree candy.
  • 84a. [Supernova in our galaxy?], MILKY WAY STARBURST. One candy bar, one brand of somewhat gross chewy squares. Great astronomical combo!
  • 103a. [When E.M.T.s bring home the bacon?], LIFESAVERS PAYDAY. Hard candy, candy bar. Pro tip: A Payday bar has 7 g of protein, peanuts enveloping a caramel core. If you don’t mind the sugar, this makes a delicious substitute for, say, a Kind bar. And a candy bar costs so much less than a protein bar!
  • 115a. [Some astronomy Ph.D.s?], MARS SMARTIES. There are different sorts of Mars bars; I liked the one that basically became Snickers Almond. I’m also fond of Smarties, probably in part because of the name.

I don’t know about you, but I have eaten every single one of these candies. I found the theme to be lots of fun. Also, if you come across sugar-free versions of these that are sweetened with stevia, let me know!

I had to abandon this write-up early on because dinner was ready, and now it’s over an hour later and I don’t remember any fill or clues that I might’ve wanted to comment on. Let’s poke around and see:

  • 18a. [Deep secret], ARCANUM. Not sure I’ve seen a singular form of arcana before.
  • 54a. [Business for Sanders supporters?], KFC. Colonel Sanders, not Bernie. A few days after the onslaught of Bernie-in-parka-and-mittens memes hit the internet, it’s natural to think of Bernie first.
  • 71a. [Alma mater for Spike Lee and Donald Glover, for short], NYU. I didn’t know Glover went there, too.
  • 77a. [Govt. org. with a forerunner known as the Black Chamber], NSA. Well, that sounds foreboding.
  • 15d. [Compliant sorts], OBEYERS. Ah, a roll-your-own word. Luckily, it was more the exception than the rule in this grid.

The fill is highlighted by the excellent SCREENWRITERS and a FANTASY SERIES.

This collab marks Lucy’s debut puzzle in the venues we cover. I would not be surprised if she’s published USA Today puzzles already, given how many women Erik Agard publishes.

Four sweet stars from me. I appreciate having a playful theme.

Dylan Schiff’s Los Angeles Times puzzle, “Metamorphosis” — Jenni’s write-up

I don’t mind anagrams on their own. I do the Spelling Bee pretty much every day. I do not like anagrams in my crossword puzzles. I realize that’s a matter of personal taste and I know that anagram puzzles can be good puzzles. This one has a bad theme entry, a significant dupe, and lackluster fill. So it’s not just the anagrams.

I didn’t bother to try and sort out the anagrams until I got to the revealer. I saw them, I knew they were anagrams, and I ignored them, which didn’t impede my solving one whit. The revealer is at 120a [Sci-fi creatures who arranged each set of circled letters?]. They’re SHAPESHIFTERS. For this performance, the circles will be played by the color red.

Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2021, Dylan Schiff, “Metamorphosis,” solution grid

  • 23a [Quadrennial victory determinant] is an ELECTORAL VOTE. Oval.
  • 39a [Solar panel components] are PHOTOELECTRIC CELLS. Circle.
  • 57a [Source of narrowly focused thinking] is a SINGLETRACK MIND. Triangle.
  • 83a [Virgil’s optimistic sentiment] is LOVE CONQUERS ALL. Square.
  • 98a [Wrap up] is BRING TO A CONCLUSION. Octagon.



Here’s the Google Ngram for SINGLETRACK MIND compared to ONE-TRACK MIND.



The dupe is at 50d, where we have [Vote for] in the clue for YESES. It’s a dupe of a theme answer. Not a good look.

I’m not sure [Eye lustfully] gets across the misogynistic creepiness of LEER AT  but at least it acknowledges the sexual nature of the term.

My eyes are BLEARY and this puzzle made me a bit TESTY, so I’ll skip to what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of Linda KELSEY and didn’t know she won an Emmy for “Lou Grant.”


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Career Changes” – Jim Q’s Write-up

I suppose as a TEACHER, I can become a professional CHEATER if the theme of this puzzle is any indication of my future.

THEME: Anagrams of careers to new careers.

Washington Post, January 24, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Career Changes” solution grid


  • 23A [The TEST PILOT quit aviation to write odes about a clown’s prop by becoming a ___] STILT POET. 
  • 35A [The STAGE MANAGER left the theater to represent a giant flying turtle of Japanese monster movies as ___] GAMERA’S AGENT. 
  • 52A [“I prefer stones instead of stars now, and I specialize in sculptures that evoke nostalgia,” said the ASTRONOMER turned ___ RETRO MASON. 
  • 64A [After years of performing cardiac procedures, the HEART SURGEON ran for office to become a ___, a more gigantic version of other politicians] HUGER SENATOR. 
  • 69A [The EGYPTOLOGIST left a career in ancient history to transcribe memos for a tech company as a ___] GOOGLE TYPIST. 
  • 86A [No longer satisfied with the legal profession, the U.S. ATTORNEY became a ___ to certify documents about bird feeder food] SUET NOTARY. 
  • 98A [The SCRIPT EDITOR, seeking a different role in Hollywood, became a ___ to make films about ejecting saliva] SPIT DIRECTOR. 
  • 116A [After one last moon mission, the ASTRONAUT became a ___ to teach others about previous moon missions] NASA TUTOR. 

Well, I’d be lying if I said this is my favorite type of theme. It immediately reveals itself and then it’s just a matter of working through the clue carefully. I think this is a good one to introduce grids to newer solvers, especially since they can use the crutch of determining which letters of the anagram have or have not been used in order aid with the fill, but on the couple of occasions I tried to do that, I gave up and figured the crosses would do it for me.

It does follow the rule of “Go Big Or Go Home” on the wackiness. I mean… SUET NOTARY? That’s out there. They’re all pretty out there. I had the most difficulty parsing GAMERA’S AGENT because I thought the clue was referring to a game system of some sort. GAMERA doesn’t have the same name recognition as, say, Godzilla for me!

So, for me, I had the most fun with the fill clues on this one. Some solid trivia and clever wordplay, as well as some new names. ANDY Serkis, RAMON Navarro, SONYA, Soledad O’BRIEN, YVONNE Orji,

MAYA Angelou made an appearance too, which made me wonder… how long until Amanda Gorman makes her grid debut?

Trivia and clever cluing included:

  • [Island origin of goombay music] BAHAMAS.
  • [Singles at bars, e.g.?] TIPS. 
  • [One known for their teaching chops?] SENSEI (the clue uses the gender-less “singular they” to boot!)
  • [Major element?] COURSE.
  • [Lightning designer] ZEUS (I can’t be the only one who read the first word in the clue as “Lighting,” right?)
  • [“The Not-Too-Late Show With ___” (spinoff of “Sesame Street”)] ELMO. I’ve never heard of this! Sounds adorable.
  • [Animal that the Forest Spirit in “Princess Mononoke” resembles] DEER. Say wha?
  • [Instrument heard near the end of the R.E.M. song “Nightswimming”] OBOE. Really?
  • [Company whose catalogue was nicknamed the “consumer’s bible”] SEARS.

A pretty tame January so far. I suspect we’ll be thrown a curve in the next week or two.

Enjoy Sunday! Let’s listen for that oboe:

Doug Peterson’s Universal crossword, “Save Now!” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: The word DOOR is “busted” in common phrases (one half at the beginning of the phrase, the other at the end)

Universal crossword solution · “Save Now!” · Doug Peterson · Sun., 1.24.20


  • 17A [Ambitious collegian’s declaration] DOUBLE MAJOR
  • 24A [Golden Globe winner for “Singin’ in the Rain”] DONALD O’CONNOR
  • 39A [Kaput] DONE FOR
  • 51A [One-way mall transport] DOWN ESCALATOR
  • 62A [Price-slashing sale, and what 17-, 24-, 39- and 51-Across visually represent] DOOR BUSTER. 

Breezy puzzle today! I hadn’t realized what was going on until I got to the revealer. I mean, that’s the definition of “revealer,” right?

DONALD O’CONNOR was new for me, though the name is very inferable and fairly crossed. DOWN ESCALATOR makes me think of only one thing… a certain entrance that someone once made. Thankfully, that someone I’ve been thinking less and less about in the last five days.

I found it odd that the clue for JARTS gave away its first letter, especially since it’s fairly common knowledge (I think?) and fairly crossed as well.

Overall, right over the plate. Thanks for this one!

Matthew Stock’s Universal Sunday crossword, “In Here!”—Jim P’s review

Theme: IN is in. Today’s theme answers are well-known(ish) phrases with IN added to them.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “In Here!” · Matthew Stock · 1.24.21

  • 23a. [God, while forming a major landmass?] CONTINENT CREATOR. Content… I like the use of the modern base phrase. Sadly, [Plate tectonics, while forming a major landmass?] doesn’t quite have that ring to it.
  • 33a. [Wolf pack meetup gone horribly wrong?] LUPINE FIASCO. Lupe… What a great stage name. Here is a good profile of the rapper from NPR in 2011.
  • 50a. [Scaredy-cat’s laundromat?] CHICKEN COIN-OP. …coop.
  • 65a. [Zoo’s money manager?] ANIMAL FINANCIER. …fancier. “Animal fancier” is a phrase? I know there’s a magazine Cat Fancy, but “animal fancier” sounds too generic to be real.
  • 82a. [Certain evil spouses?] SINISTER WIVES. Sister… Eww. “Sister wives” sounds like a TV show. Yes, it is, unfortunately. And unfortunately, now I know that.
  • 97a. [Put the last touches on hockey items?] FINISH STICKS. Fish
  • 111a. [What a successful hat seller leads?] MILLINER HIGH-LIFE. Miller… I can never remember what a milliner is…nor a haberdasher.

“Animal fancier” turned me off on this theme, and when that was followed up with SINISTER WIVES, which I can’t find any redeeming value in, that about did it for me. In truth, the theme is solidly executed—I especially liked LUPINE FIASCO—and I’m sure other people enjoyed it more than I did.

In the fill, I like IGNORE THAT even though “scratch that” sounds more familiar. TAKE A GANDER, ALL-BUSINESS, LOOSE LIPS, INNER CHILD, and TOOTSIE POP are all wonderful. JAVASCRIPT and ON THE MAP are strong as well. I never heard of a TIRE FIRE; I didn’t know that was a thing.

Clues of note:

  • 26a. [Has another birthday]. AGES. You know, you age even without birthdays.
  • 46a. [Palindromic Indian flour]. ATTA. I realize cluing this with respect to “atta boy” or “atta girl” is tiresome, but Indian flour seems like a deep cut.
  • 13d. [One who may not want a relationship, slangily]. ARO. I didn’t even see this clue or entry until now. I’m guessing it’s short for “aromantic”? As in, not interested in romance? New to me.
  • 65d. [Like someone who doesn’t mess around]. ALL-BUSINESS. The clue reminded me of the Ray Charles song which reminded me of the below scene from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Really, a solid puzzle, but parts of the theme didn’t work too well for me. 3.4 stars.

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26 Responses to Sunday, January 24, 2021

  1. Ethan says:

    NYT; I’m going to have to question the clue for 23D, specifically the “ancient” part, as there are still people who identify as Nubian and speak the Nubian language today. I’ll leave it to someone more qualified to say if Nubians, even in ancient times, fell under the category of “Egyptian” or if they should be considered a separate rival to Egyptian power.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: This puzzle made me realize how ignorant I am about candy– NOW AND LATER, SPREE, PAYDAY were all news to me… sad but true. Now I have a post-pandemic assignment– to go raid the candy aisle at some supermarket and get myself better educated.

    • Anne says:

      Lots of these (NERDS, RING POP, BABY RUTH, NOW AND LATER, WHOPPERS, SPREE, PAYDAY) are not sold here, so I found this puzzle on the hard side. Particularly 22a – that corner was the last to fall.

      But 84a, 103a and 115a gave the theme away and I went with the cluing.

    • David L says:

      Same here. The NW was a problem area: I had PACKUP and walks-ONS, which made it hard to see TOSHIBA, and I didn’t know either NERDS or RING POP.

      It had somehow escaped my attention that Toshiba, although the company still exists, is no longer in the business of manufacturing personal electronic equipment. I still have a Toshiba laptop, although admittedly it must be ten years old or more and I haven’t tried turning it on for four or five years.

  3. David Steere says:

    WaPo: If I had to do my career-choice all over again, I’d certainly jump at the earthier professions mentioned 86A and 98A. ;-) What a funny puzzle! As someone terrible at anagrams, I’m somewhat in awe of Evan’s fluency here–particularly after reading his mini-essay about the cognitive origins of Captain Obvious last week:

  4. Frank says:

    WaPo: Anagrams. Senseless anagrams. The last refuge of those with no real ideas.

    • Steve says:

      What a terrible comment. Do better next time. Sorry we’re all not like you. I have zero interest in doing a difficult Sunday NYT’s crossword. Nor could I without seriously cheating. I like Evan’s crosswords and I like fun anagrams. His Sunday crosswords are perfect for for many of us.

      • norm says:

        Frank’s comment was not terrible. It was his opinion. I don’t care for Evan’s “Captain Obvious” puzzles, and most of today’s anagrams fell flat IMHO. Glad you enjoyed it, Steve. I’m hoping for better next Sunday.

        • Steve says:

          “The last refuge of those with no real ideas.”
          This is a good comment to you, really? Evan has no real ideas? If it’s not for you, fine. But no need to say he has no real ideas. The comment was just plain mean. Instead, just don’t say anything (which seems hard to do for some people) or maybe “Anagrams aren’t for me, oh well. I look forward to next weeks puzzle and hope I like it.”

          There are many times I do a crossword and don’t like the theme or something else about it but I don’t feel the need to go online and ridicule the author. I just move on to the next puzzle. Is that so hard?

        • R says:

          “A comment can’t be terrible if it’s an opinion, no matter how it’s phrased” is a pretty dumb opinion that I bet you don’t hold when things you like or you yourself are criticized rudely.

  5. STEVEN says:

    nice to have a sunday NYT worth filling in!!

    makes one wonder why it is not a more common occurrence

  6. John Malcolm says:

    Anybody figure out the meaning of LAT 72D ” SHADE” for (“Thrown” criticism)?

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT … I was channeling Jenni’s thoughts almost exactly as I solved this puzzle. Anagrams in my crosswords … yecch. As a speed-solver*, I can’t be bothered unless I absolutely need them to come up with an answer. Plus, I find circles in the grid annoying and very distracting. Linda KELSEY? Who? SINGLE-TRACK MIND? No. Thank goodness that I didn’t pick up on the dupe. When I notice it, that type of thing usually costs me.

    But the worst part for me was a self-inflicted wound. I got all the way through and submitted with a single, stupid error. Next puzzle please.

    *Disclaimer: I fully recognize that constructors and editors are under no obligation to please speed-solvers and that it’s not fair to criticize their puzzles for not satisfying my whims.

    • Mark Abe says:

      I’m OK with anagrams, but in this one the theme didn’t help me at all…I actually didn’t get it until I read the review here.
      I agree that “One track mind” is in the language, but “single track mind” isn’t.

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    @Amy … I don’t think Lucy has been published in the USA Today as yet. I’ve recorded all of their puzzles under his Erik’s editorship in my solving database and her name’s not there. In fact, this is her first ever appearance in my database, which includes the NYT (the entire Shortz era), LAT (back to Feb 2010), Newsday (back to Sept 2014), WSJ (back to Jan 2018), Universal (back to Jan 2019, i.e. most of David Steinberg’s editorship), USA Today (back to Dec 2019).

    Starbursts are “somewhat gross chewy squares”??? Don’t be dissing one of my go-to vices! Actually, I prefer their jelly beans to the chewy squares, which really are a little gross and are very tough on the dental work.

    I liked figuring out the themers in this puzzle, but there seemed to be an over-abundance of icky short fill and partials.

    • R says:

      Yeah, I’m surprised she didn’t mention the fill, especially starting at 93A getting A SEC, SCAREDY, A LOT OF, ATS, and A RAY in a row. Not sure if she’s just going easy on a new female constructor, but Amy usually at least mentions it. I still liked the puzzle, but it’s one (like most NYT Sundays) that would have been smoother with one or two fewer theme entries.

  9. Alan says:

    Cathy Millhauser had a pretty incredible Sunday NYT with the same theme, from 11/19/1995 called Candyland. It was in a Best Sunday puzzle book I had and was one of the ones that got me hooked on crosswords

  10. John Malcom says:

    We got a different WaPo crossword Sunday, called “Y Not?” It had one peculiar clue: “Persia before ’35”. The answer is apparently “IRAN” but doesn’t make sense to us. I don’t recall hearing it called Iran when I was growing up, but that’s its name today and apparently in antiquity… was “Persia” just a 20th century name? What did ’35 have to do with anything?

  11. Joel says:

    I thought I didn’t have homework, then I did the LAT metamorphosis puzzzle.

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