Sunday, February 14, 2021

LAT 7:36 (Jenni) 


NYT 14:22 (Erin) 


Universal 3:48 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 10:03 (Jim P) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Lisa Bunker’s New York Times crossword, “Sealed with a Kiss”— Erin’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2/14/21

Hello lovelies! It’s Erin Milligan-Milburn filling in for Amy, and I’m glad the puzzle gods bestowed a clever Sunday concept upon me. Lisa has not had a New York Times puzzle since 2006, but she’s back for Valentine’s Day 2021. Let’s see what we have here…

  • 1a. [Percussion instrument in a marching band] SNAREDRUM, crossing 4d. [Subsequent versions] REDRAFTS. So we have a rebus puzzle, where the red squares can be read as RED_, in this case, a red R. (I solved in the iPhone app where the rebus squares had a red outline and looked like the screenshot from the web interface above after completing the grid.)
  • 34a. [Born yesterday, so to speak] CREDULOUS, crossing 7d. [Turned on] POWEREDUP
  • 46a. [Group tour vehicle] CHARTEREDBUS, crossing 31d. [The Quran, for one] SACREDBOOK
  • 74a. [Kind of dash] HUNDREDYARD, crossing 62d. [Timid sort] SCAREDYCAT
  • 76a. [Best Supporting Actor winner for “Dallas Buyer’s Club”] JAREDLETO, crossing 58d. [Without a doubt] ASSUREDLY
  • 101a. [Student’s bonus points] EXTRACREDIT, crossing 82d. [Packaging list] INGREDIENTS
  • 109a. [British tennis champ who invented the sweatband] FREDPERRY, crossing 85d. [(a, b), e.g.] ORDEREDPAIR
  • 125a. [Sea lion, for one] EAREDSEAL crossing 105d. [Ones with plenty of reservations] MAITREDS

Reading the single letters in the red squares from top to bottom gives us RUBY LIPS, which are commonly associated with Valentine’s Day.

The grid itself has some great fill and cluing. I love seeing SISQO and RIHANNA and PLUSHY and GO FETCH. The punny/wordplay clues are great, including [Post production] for CEREAL, [Place with robes and sweaters] for SAUNA, and [A fine mesh this is!] for SIEVE. On the other hand, there are quite a few three-letter abbreviations and partials such as IFI, IER, ITE, ISR, TGI, and others.

Things I learned from this puzzle:

  • 109a. FRED PERRY won Wimbledon three times, but is better known for his iconic tennis shirts and other sports fashion which started with the invention of the sweatband.
  • 10a. [Prefix with sexual] AMBI. Unlike its grid neighbor PANsexual, which means feeling attraction to all genders, AMBIsexual seems to have a few definitions. These include feeling attraction to both binary males and binary females, or having characteristics associated with both binary sexes, or unisex/suitable for both binary sexes.
  • A tiny bird with a white bottom half, black around the eyes and the beard area, white around the beard, and orange on the crest and the upper chest

    Black throated bushtit (Photo credit)

  • 70d. [Seasick sea serpent of old cartoons] CECILBeany and Cecil was one of the first color cartoons aired on ABC, along with The Flintstones and The Jetsons. Before his cartoon debut, Cecil starred in the puppet show Time for Beany.
  • 12d. [Small woodland songbird] BUSHTIT. Look at this tiny birb. This is the black-throated bushtit, and it’s the cutest four inches / 0.2 ounces I’ve ever seen in my life.

That’s all I have for today. Thanks for letting me stop by!

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

Hopefully, the brides and grooms in this puzzles don’t share the same fate as Shakespeare’s STAR CROSSED LOVERS!

THEME: Celebrity couples are “crossed” at letters that eventually spell LOVERS

Washington Post, February 14, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Power Couples” solution grid


  • PRISCILLA / ELVIS (Presley)
  • RODRIGUEZ / LOPEZ (Alex / Jennifer)
  • DAVID / VICTORIA (Beckham)
  • LEGEND / TEIGAN (John / Chrissy)
  • GEORGE / GRACIE (Burns / Allen)
  • JUSTIN / JESSICA (Timberlake / Biel)
  • [Description for Romeo and Juliet, and a description of the intersections of this puzzle’s power couples] STAR CROSSED LOVERS.

The revealer is excellent, though it is unsettling how often the title characters of Romeo and Juliet are used as some romantic paradigm. I mean, it takes place over like… a few days? And wasn’t Romeo brooding intensely over some other girl moments before meeting Juliet? I have a feeling if they made it another week, they’d each have moved on to their next flame.

That, of course, has no bearing on the merits of this puzzle, which is very clever and well constructed. It’s always a little fun to open a puzzle with a unique shape and symmetry, this one accommodating the names of six different couples. My favorite power couple here is GEORGE and GRACIE.

Poor CLARA at 1-Across! She looks so lonely, especially being half of another power couple from the 1800’s. Alas, Robert is nowhere to be found.

Lots of fill and/or cluing that evokes the Valentine’s sentiments like:

  • [“You ___ So Beautiful” (Joe Cocker song)] ARE
  • [Tended to, as flowers] WATERED
  • [Romantic poem, maybe] ODE
  • [Tenth anniversary material, traditionally] TIN
  • [Sweetie ___] PIE
  • [Certain wedding guest] AUNT
  • [*Biel of “Valentine’s Day”] JESSICA (also a themer)
  • [One sharing a stage kiss] ACTOR
  • [Margaret’s husband in “Addams Family Values”] ITT (never knew ITT was married!)

And that’s just the acrosses!

A delightfully simple concept that has something to please everyone and a fun little AHA (or OHO!) moment.

Enjoy your V-Day!

Jake Braun’s LA Times crossword, “Love Is…..” – Jenni’s write-up

I was relieved that the theme didn’t refer to the treacly single-panel comic of the same name. All the theme answers are people who said or wrote something that starts “Love is….” I’ll take it on faith that all the quotes are correctly attributed.

Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2021, Jake Braun, “Love Is…”, solution grid

  • 5d [“…. a flower, you got to let it grow”] is JOHN LENNON.
  • 24a [“…the beauty of the soul”] is SAINT AUGUSTINE.
  • 55a [“… a fruit in season at all times”] is MOTHER TERESA.
  • 70a [“… an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired”] is ROBERT FROST.
  • 8d [“… the truth more first than sun, more last than star”] is e e cummings. Sorry. Just looks wrong in all caps.
  • 89a [“…an act of endless forgiveness”] is PETER USTINOV.
  • 119a [“…eternal, infinite…equal and pure”] is HONORE DE BALZAC.

A fitting Valentine’s Day theme. The only one I remember seeing before is the cummings line. The quotees are a varied (although very white) bunch. This theme will not be popular with folks who don’t like their puzzles full of proper names. I myself prefer a bit of wordplay with my Sunday coffee, and that’s a matter of personal taste. It’s well done.

Unfortunately, we also have [“… ___ to come”] at 51d. The answer is IS YET, the ellipsis stands in for “the best,” and it’s way too close to the construction of the theme clues.

A few other things:

  • [King of Maine] is an amusing clue for STEPHEN.
  • [Perforated orb holding leaves] had me thinking about Greek statuary when the answer is closer to home. It’s a TEA BALL.
  • Could have done without INE, even clued as [Suffix with salt].

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the USOC added a P to their name and is now the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee. Good on them.

As I worked through the theme clues, I was looking for [….an ever fix’d mark], from the Shakespeare sonnet that was read at our wedding. Hey, I was 24. I know it’s a cliché, and I still love it. Here’s Sir Patrick, who was not at our wedding.

Ed Sessa’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Now You Hear Me, Now You Don’t”—Jim P’s review

I solved the puzzle without realizing what the theme was and, in fact, without even reading the full clue for the revealer. Let’s see what it says. 118a SOUNDS OF SILENCE is clued [Album with “I Am a Rock” … and a hint to the Down, but not Across, pronunciations of the circled letters]. Ah, ok. The circled letters spell out SILENCE, and each of those letters is silent in the Across answer, but is soundful(?) in the Down direction. In fact, in the Down entries, each letter “says its name,” as it were (usually by way of an initialism).

Universal crossword solution · “Now You Hear Me, Now You Don’t” · Ed Sessa · Sun., 2.14.21

  • 23a. [Where cold cases are opened?] FROZEN FOOD AISLE. crossing ALS. Excellent clue.
  • 32a. [Operating again] BACK TO BUSINESS crossing I SEE.
  • 45a. [Have a frank discussion] TALK TURKEY crossing LSAT. Nothing to do with hot dogs, though.
  • 67a. [Funny money maker] COUNTERFEITER crossing OED. I think it should be [Funny-money maker].
  • 88a. [It always has a view] OP-ED COLUMN crossing ESPN.
  • 106a. [Coffee and liquor, to some] ACQUIRED TASTES crossing C CELL.
  • And the revealer: SOUNDS OF SILENCE crossing THE ERA

This works for me—in no small part because it’s Saturday night of Valentine’s weekend and I’ve had multiple adult beverages at this point. I do like the fact that in each Down entry we don’t just hear the letter’s sound, but we hear the letter itself. Yes, that means there are a lot of abbreviations there, but it’s a point of consistency that I enjoyed.

Turning to the fill we find AU NATUREL getting things off to a good start in the NW corner. Elsewhere, STRAP IN, IMAGINE, PASSENGER, DUCK / A L’ORANGE, HIGH NOTES, DUMPS ON, RED SQUARE (clued via a checkerboard, not the Moscow location), “I’M STUMPED,” and PENELOPE. Also, it was nice to see SHANKAR when we usually get the first name Ravi.

In the less-enjoyable column: AGITA [Gut concern] and CSONKA [Dolphins Hall of Famer Larry]. But everything else is within normal parameters, so count me satisfied.

Clues of note:

  • 70a. [Strings for Kamakawiwo’ole, briefly]. UKE. That’s the last name of famous ukulele player and singer Israel, or “Iz”. You’ve heard his version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” multiple times, I’m sure.
  • 104d. [Teammate of Dasher]. DANCER. I was reaching for the D when I hit the C instead making this answer CANCER. Oops. That must be one of the Eight Reindeer of the Apocalypse.

Nice theme, very good fill. 3.7 stars.

Wren Schultz’s Universal crossword, “Be My Valentine” — Jim Q’s write-up

Valentine’s Day was not lost on CrossWorld today :)

THEME: Phrases that begin with “pet names”

Universal crossword solution · “Be My Valentine” · Wren Schultz · Sat., 2.13.2



Cute, clean, and consistent. Can’t ask for much more! I especially appreciate that, in the context of the answers, none of those has anything to do with a pet name- which must’ve been tricky with SWEETHEART in the mix!

Two things:

  • Like the clue for EVIE [Name hidden in “reviewer”], but I can’t think of anyone with that name. My niece is named Eve… I guess once in a while we call her EVIE as a nickname…
  • LORN looks strange to me as a stand-alone. OJS is weird too :)

Enjoyable and breezy.

3.5 Stars

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14 Responses to Sunday, February 14, 2021

  1. David Steere says:

    WaPo: Thank you for a puzzle so imbued with affaires de coeur. Completely sweet! I was particularly happy to see 82A x 66D. 1A made for a promising start. Happy V Day, Evan.


  2. Me says:

    LAT: I liked the theme and enjoyed the quotes, but I had issues with some of the fill, particularly the cross of IDED and USERID, which both have ID as short for identified/identifier. You could also argue that the nearby AEIOU and OGAUGE cross at “O” is problematic, since the “O” is used as the single letter “O” in both cases.

    Also, there are way too many abbreviations, and too much stuff like CANSO, YAR and NLAT. I appreciate that there are a lot of long theme answers and very few black squares, but a lot of the fill seemed strained to me.

  3. Mark Abe says:

    NTY: Really enjoyed it, but I am always uncomfortable with rebuses in Sundays just because many Sunday solvers will be unfamiliar with the idea.
    LAT: I didn’t get too many of the quotes right off, but relied on crossing to give famous authors. Jenni, I was waiting for the same Shakespeare quote. I still love the sonnet, but would rather call it an adage than a cliché.

    • marciem says:

      Personally I enjoyed the rebus aspect of the NYT, with the added letters to the color making it even more fun. Knowing where the rebus was and being able to infer made it relatively do-able even for newer solvers.

      BUT, as far as newer solvers… I thought the crossing of 16d and 52a was pretty unfair for newer and experienced solvers, not inferable, you either knew one or the other or were stuck (which I was). I’ve only ever seen Casque once and I didn’t remember the spelling, its been long enough. Qua I’ve only seen as part of “sine qua non” in puzzles, never a translation of the word.

      Would have been a 5 star except for that crossing, for me.

      • JohnH says:

        I think you mean 32A. Might be a hard crossing, although I found harder in this puzzle alone.

        Bear in mind that we’re probably not supposed to recognize CASQUE. It mostly just sounds like that’s what it should mean. Given a couple of crossings, I thus got it. As for QUA, I didn’t think of its individual meaning in SINE QUA NON, which I didn’t know. I thought right off more of how it’s used as a word apart, meaning just what the clue said. It’s pretentious that way but has a long history.

        From the low ratings, I guess those here just plain hate rebuses, so execution hardly matters. I loved it.

  4. Billy Boy says:

    So tedious, knew it was a sorta rebus-meta – NYT was just awful, only did 20% of it and had had enough I will assume the final * tally will be rather polar

  5. Jim says:

    NYT: Raven hair / RUBY LIPS / Sparks fly from her fingertips . . . . Ooooh, oooh, witchy woman . . . .

  6. julie says:

    how do I find the universal sunday puzzle? every time I click the link, it takes me to the universal puzzle for sundays, but it is a smaller grid. any suggestions would be appreciated. I only found one a few weeks ago by googling the constructor listed in your write-up. Thanks and happy v day.

    • Jim Quinlan says:

      There are two links for Universal under “Today’s Puzzles” at the top. Are you sure you’re clicking the right one? One of them specifically says “Sunday.” I screw it up all the time.

      • Julie says:

        thanks Jim. I keep clicking the HTML version of Sunday universal and it takes me to the regular universal puzzle. I tried to click on the lite icon and couldn’t get it from there either. I appreciate the advice!

        • Jim Peredo says:

          The Universal Sunday only comes out in the paper and isn’t published online on their website. That is, we really shouldn’t have an HTML link on the Today’s Puzzles page since that puzzle won’t be on their website.

          Fiend is the only place (as far as I know) that has the .puz version thanks to editor David Steinberg giving us special dispensation. If you click Today’s Puzzles then scroll down to Sundays then click the Across Lite icon, it should download the puzzle for you. If you hover over the icon, you’ll see the website where it’s stored. The filename will be ucs{date}.puz where the “s” is for Sunday. Of course, you’ll need Across Lite or another puzzle-solving program for your computer.

  7. Mutman says:

    NYT. Day late, but what the heck!

    I thought it was an awesome puzzle, especially as a ‘do it in the Sunday magazine’ solver. The eight red squares gave it a great aesthetic touch!!

    Well done, Lisa!

  8. Kelly Clark says:

    “The quotees are a varied (although very white) bunch.”

    No kidding. I expect Augustin of Hippo will be surprised to learn this.

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