Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Jonesin' 3:31 (Derek) 


LAT 3:56 (Derek) 


NYT 3:42 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ 4:20 (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 504), “Acting Vice Presidents”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 504: “Acting Vice Presidents”

Good day, everyone! Here is hoping you all are doing well as we get set to close out the first month of 2021 soon!  

Very timely puzzle, given that last week was Inauguration Day, where Joseph R. BIDEN was sworn in as our next commander in chief (52D: [46th U.S. President]). Before he was sworn in, Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president, and in honor of previous No. 2s in America, today’s puzzle features actors whose last surnames are also last names of past vice presidents. Also, the time spans of the vice presidencies of the actors’ namesakes are added in the clue.

  • AMY ADAMS (17A: {“Julie & Julia” actress [1789 – 1797]})
  • CYNTHIA NIXON (19A: {“Sex and the City” actress [1953 – 1961]}) – Former mayoral candidate of NYC (33D: [The Big Apple’s initials])
  • DWAYNE JOHNSON (36A:{“Fast & Furious 6” actor [1961 – 1963]})
  • HARRISON FORD (56A: {“Air Force One” actor [1973 – 1974]})
  • ED HARRIS (63A: {“Pollock” actor [1/20/2021 – present]})

The chill has definitely set in throughout most of the country, but seeing SAVANNAH in the grid reminded me of the time when the minor league baseball team I worked for over a decade ago had a road trip there in the middle of the summer (8D: [Georgia’s oldest city]). Maybe outside of my time in Northeast Texas during a number of summers, the time in Savannah was the hottest I’ve ever experienced temperature wise. As fill, it’s awesome, and definitely NO HASSLE to the solver trying to finish (37D: [“Piece of cake”]). Saw the preview of the movie The Little Things and definitely was intrigued by the preview I saw, in which Jared LETO appears to be playing a disturbed person who’s a suspect in a crime that Denzel Washington’s character is trying to solve (50A: [Jared of “Panic Room”]). Not sure if I’ll watch the movie, but I’ll watch TRIXIE and reruns of The Honeymooners any day of the week (11D: [Mrs. Norton of “The Honeymooners”]). Joyce Randolph, the actress who played Trixie, is with us today, and she turned 96 this past October!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: DRAW (23D: [Put pen to paper]) – With the Super Bowl matchup now set, the time where people explain the nuances of the game to the uninitiated ratchets up a few levels as we count down to Super Bowl Sunday. You will definitely see a PASS [69A: [Quarterback’s throw]) or 80 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs play for the championship, but there is an outside chance that you might see a quarterback DRAW, which is a designed run by the quarterback in which he drops back a couple of steps after receiving the ball, as if he’s retreating to pass, before starting to run upfield. Definitely a possibility that Kansas City’s quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, will run a draw next Sunday. If Tom Brady were to run a quarterback draw, however, I’ll eat my shorts! With ketchup.

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Dallas Fletcher’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Come Again Soon!”—Jim P’s review

We have a very nice double theme today. The revealer is ECHOLOCATION (57a, [Skill shared by bats and dolphins, and a hint to the starred answers]). The “echo” is an indication that words are repeated in the other theme answers and “location” alludes to the fact that all of the themers are place names, more or less.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Come Again Soon!” · Dallas Fletcher · Tue., 1.26.21

  • 20a. [*Vegas casino with an indoor amusement park] CIRCUS CIRCUS
  • 31a. [*Prison on the Hudson that’s the source of “up the river”] SING SING
  • 36a. [*With 37-Across, unofficial capital of Washington wine country] WALLA / WALLA
  • 45a. [*French Polynesian resort destination] BORA BORA

The repetitive nature of the theme certainly aided in filling in squares, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it if that’s all it was. But that revealer is perfect and ties everything together so tightly that I can’t help but admire it. Nicely done.

I’d like to point out that the theme entries are a 12, an 8, a 10, and an 8, plus the 12-letter revealer. Normally you couldn’t make something symmetrical with that set, but since the 10 breaks up into two 5s and can go in the center—voila!—the grid is set. Sometimes the constructor has to get creative with what they’re given.

Not a lot in the long sparkly fill department, but you could do a lot worse than AL PACINO. PERSONAL, TINIEST, and NAILERS (meh) round out the set but are more workmanlike.

Clues of note:

  • 39d. [Sign of good balance?]. LIBRA. Good clue. I was thinking either yoga or banking.
  • 46d. [Love letter sign-off]. AS EVER. Not very romantic.

Nice puzzle. 3.8 stars.

Peter Gordon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 1 26 21, no. 0126

SCRABBLE is the name of the game, and the revealer clue is 60a. [Game in which the answers to the starred clues are legal plays but cannot be formed even if you have both blanks]. Sure enough, those four theme answers are in the list of words you get when you google words that can’t be made in scrabble even with both blanks. PIZZAZZY, which it’s likely almost none of us has ever used; KNICKKNACK; STRESSLESSNESS, another who-the-heck-would-ever-use-that word; and RAZZMATAZZ. Eh.

What else?

  • 57a. [Everglades mammal], MANATEE. I did not know the West Indian manatee also lived in the Everglades. I know them from Florida’s Gulf Coast and nearby rivers/springs.
  • 55a. [Carrier of sweatpants and sneakers] GYM BAG. My everyday bag is a backpack that is technically a gym bag. It comes in handy when I get caught in the pouring rain—everything inside stays dry. And it’s big enough to hold a folding umbrella, and yet how often have I been caught in the rain without an umbrella? (This is your reminder, Northerners: spring is coming! After the winter storm, I mean.)
  • Anyone else watching 9-1-1: Lone Star? It’s got Rob LOWE and tonight’s episode involved ground that ERUPTS, and the [Lava, e.g.] was not SOAP at all.
  • 32a. [Awards for ad agencies], CLIOS. I wonder if people who don’t do crosswords and aren’t in advertising have ever heard of this.
  • 45a. [Tusked marine creature of the Arctic], NARWHAL. They’re unicorns, you realize. Swimming unicorns of the North.
  • Potentially troublesome crossing for a lot of solvers, particularly in an early-week puzzle: 35d. [Glass-___ (1933 banking legislation, informally)], STEAGALL / 53a. [“Hometown proud” supermarket chain], IGA. The grocery chain is a regionally specific thing, and not everyone is up on their 90-year-old legislation.

Three stars from me. “Here are some words from a list I came across” doesn’t really excite me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Start to Change” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 01/26/2021

What is the theme, you ask? I’ll give you a hint: it’s election related!

  • 17A [“Bring on the carillons”?] “BELL ME MORE”
  • 21A [English actor McKellen, when traveling?] IAN AROUND 
  • 39A [Dish set with a double helix pattern?] DNA-WARE 
  • 54A [Descriptor for about 79% of a certain group of Dalmatians?] EIGHTY-DOG 
  • 63A [Prank where a link leads to a video of “Unforgettable”?] NAT-ROLLING 

So the first letters of the theme answers spell B-I-D-E-N, and the replace the letters T-R-U-M-P in common phrases. There is slim chance that this puzzle will spark a riot on the Capitol, so that is good! I admit I didn’t see what was going on at first, but I solved this on Monday afternoon, and I was exhausted, so that is my story! I am semi-surprised there wasn’t a Schrödinger crossword with the two presidential candidates; if I missed one let me know! 4.7 stars today for a light-hearted take on the transfer of power here in the U.S.

A few more things:

  • 20A [Actress Keanan of “My Two Dads”] STACI – I don’t remember who this is, although I remember the show. This is thus the OPCRotW!
  • 25A [Rising and falling periodically] TIDAL – Also a music service. If you’re into the high end stuff, this service works, but most people cannot tell the difference. I have to concentrate to tell, and you need good equipment to do so, but  there is a point where cost overrides what you’re getting back.
  • 58A [Actress Cornish of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”] ABBIE – Fun fact: We share a birthday! Other celebs with this distinction: David Duchovny, Charlize Theron, and Wayne Knight (“Newman!”), among many others.
  • 10D [Like most modern movies] IN-COLOR
  • 32D [Group of geniuses, supposedly (I mean, what is this trying to prove?)] MENSA
  • 37D [“We Have the Meats” chain] ARBY’S – My son loves these commercials. This could be lunch today ….
  • 43D [Chew toy material] RAWHIDE – Also an old western show! Speaking of old westerns, I am almost done watching the original Yojimbo on HBOMax. It is better than I thought it would be!

That is all! More Jonesin’ next week!

Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 01/26/2021

We have circle! What could they possible mean this time?

  • 17A [French national observance] BASTILLE DAY
  • 29A [Disastrous path] ROAD TO RUIN
  • 46A [Start without hesitation] PLUNGE INTO
  • 63A [Roughhouse, and a hint to each set of circles] HORSE AROUND

There is certainly a fair amount of “horsing around” going on in this puzzle! All of the circles contain types of horses. There are lots of different types, so I am glad this puzzle kept it simple. It is Tuesday, after all! 4.3 stars from me.

Just a few notes:

  • 14A [1998 PGA Player of the Year Mark] O’MEARA – This reference is getting dated. Us crossword people know who he is, and golfers know, but I haven’t seen him golf in quite a while. I haven’t seen Sam SNEAD ever golf, so I guess Mark will remain crossword-famous!
  • 39A [Kind of lamp] HALOGEN – I am contemplating getting LED replacements for my REAR lights on one of our cars. They don’t seem that expensive, and I am tired of changing bulbs! I have a small one out that is a bear to replace.
  • 11D [Integer, e.g.] REAL NUMBER – I have this calendar hanging in my office. It has been a blast to follow along on Twitter as there is a proof posted daily.
  • 24D [Like fat-repellent cooking paper] GREASE-PROOF – I have never heard this phrase before. That could just be me …
  • 33D [Indian bread] NAAN – I have spoken a few times about Indian food, and how good this actually is! I am hesitant to eat in a restaurant for obvious reasons, but maybe once things are back to normal I will find one of the Indian joints around here and have some more of this! (Or maybe they are on DoorDash … !)

Everyone have a safe and healthy week!

Greg Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Men At Work” — Jim Q’s write-up

What’s a name? Your career apparently!

THEME: Apt men’s names for certain careers

Universal crossword solution · “Men At Work” · Greg Johnson · Tue., 1.26.20


  • [Apt jobs for Cliff and Glen?] GEOGRAPHERS. Since cliffs and glens are geographical features…
  • [Apt jobs for Ace and Jack?] POKER PROS.
  • [Apt jobs for Bud and Herb?] BOTANISTS.
  • [Apt jobs for Jimmy and Rob?] CAT BURGLARS. 

I like apt names. Universal puts them in clues a lot, but here they take center stage. It’s a bit wonky in that CAT BURGLAR doesn’t strike me as a “job” per se. POKER PRO doesn’t seem like a “job” either in a sense. But fun enough.

Do you know anybody named Ace? I only see guys named Ace in the movies. Ace Ventura… was there an Ace in Top Gun? And I vaguely recall Ace as the name of the antagonist in Stand By Me. I could be wrong. But I’m going to let the uncertainty hang there and avoid googling.

OILY RAGS? Is that a stand-alone? I found that weird.

3.5 Stars

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20 Responses to Tuesday, January 26, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Man, that word, STRESSLESSNESS, is giving me a headache. On the one hand, it feels like the state of feeling no stress, which is certainly part of a fantasy world, On the other hand, it’s a hybrid of STRESS AND RESTLESSNESS which describes exactly how everyone I know is feeling.
    I’m glad it’s not allowed…

  2. Paul J Coulter says:

    Uni – I liked Greg’s “Men at Work” theme a lot. On the third one, the clue is “Apt jobs for Bud and Herb” At this point, I had, _ _ T_ _ _ _ _S. Perhaps I’m showing my generation (or recreational inclination as a college student,) but I promptly filled in POT then tried to think of something like GROWERS or SELLERS that would fit. The real answer works just fine of course, but I was kind of stunned thinking that David had allowed POT anything in the Universal.

    • greg johnson says:

      That was my initial idea, but despite being legal, no go. Easy though to find a suitable replacement.

      Relatedly, had BUDTENDER rejected a number of times. It’s odd how a coffee or energy drink ‘buzz’ is somehow different.

      But the discussion continues.
      This puzzle was a reprint from 2018 I believe.


  3. David L says:

    Philosophically speaking, it seems to me that if certain words cannot possibly be made during a Scrabble game, then they cannot be legal plays.

    • damefox says:

      I thought that too, BUT I think some Scrabble super-fans out there probably play a version of the game with multiple sets of tiles. So perhaps Scrabble felt it needed to add otherwise impossible words to the dictionary for these players.

      I have no particular objection to Scrabble-themed puzzles, and I found the theme revealer mildly interesting, but I have to say overall this puzzle didn’t do it for me. OKIE, OTOES, EIRE, and IGA all in the same puzzle?? Talk about crosswordese. Also for some reason the word STRESSLESSNESS fills me with rage, which I realize is a bit ironic.

  4. Siri Gottlieb says:

    Hey there, correction to your clue for “spare the rod.” It does not mean to eschew punishment. To the contrary, it encourages punishment (in this case, with a stick or cane). The entire phrase is “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” meaning: be strict with your child; if you don’t, the child will become spoiled. From Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

    • marciem says:

      Hi! The phrase Eschew punishment, in that saying, does mean exactly “spare the rod”. The whole saying of course encourages discipline by further saying what will happen if you “eschew Punishment/spare the rod”. It goes back further than Dickens for sure. The sentiment is phrased in Psalms, but that isn’t the source. A middle ages poet used it in Old English. Piers Plowman by William Langland for one, (1377).

  5. Crotchety Doug says:

    LAT – Kudos to Derek for calling attention to his idea of replacing his current REAR lights with LEDs. Even though there are companies on the net and elsewhere that will sell you LED bulbs to replace your halogen HEADLIGHT bulbs, you should not do this unless you can find a complete unit (reflector, lens, and all) that will replace your entire current headlight unit. This, if you can find one, costs close to $1000 per side. But if you go the cheap route and just replace the bulb and required electronics, you will be the asshole who blinds me with their mis-aimed headlights. Please don’t be that person! Thank you.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Thanks for the PSA, Crotchety Doug! Is that what’s been going on relatively recently with car headlights? For a while, I thought it was just that my eyes were becoming particularly sensitive as I age, but having discussed this topic with others, I realize that I’m not the only one who thinks that they’re being blinded by overly bright headlights more frequently these days when driving at night. It seems like I flash my brights at just about every other car in hopes that they’ll turn their brights off, only to have them signal me back with even brighter lights. Yeesh! People, have mercy on your fellow drivers!

      And don’t get me started about the folks who load up the front of their car with additional sets of lights.

      • Crotchety Doug says:

        The reason for this is that LED emitters need differently shaped reflectors than that required by a halogen bulb. When you change the bulb it looks real bright in certain areas, but in reality the light isn’t aimed correctly. The result is light going where it shouldn’t (into my eyes) and not well-controlled down the road. The driver behind the offending lights doesn’t usually even experience being able to see further down the road. A lose-lose proposition.

  6. Steve Manion says:

    Re GYM BAG. Don’t get a giant one. I bought one that is bigger than most suitcases because I thought I needed one for multiple day racquetball tournaments. I didn’t.

    I enjoy puzzles like today’s.


  7. Darragh says:

    NYT: I’m confused by “drivers who rarely have passengers” being “valets”. Don’t valets always have passengers? It’s their job to drive people around, no?

  8. marciem says:

    LAT: I don’t know why, but the crossing of Rake in and Ice in made me smh a little. Maybe I’m too picky sometimes.

  9. Alan D. says:

    Wow, the Jonesin is great. I knew something like this was going on but I didn’t get it. Well done, Matt!

  10. Jon Delfin says:

    WSJ, 7d: Miniscule? [sigh] Yes, I know it’s in the dictionary. But still.

Comments are closed.