Saturday, February 20, 2021

LAT 4:51 (Derek) 


Newsday 9:03 (Derek) 


NYT 5:19 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Ali Gascoigne’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 20 21, no. 0220

Quick run tonight:

Faves: WICCAN, “IT’S A YES FROM ME” (but not the I GOT YA / I GUESS SO / ON ME overlaps), PRESEASON (this coming Monday is the Boswords preseason puzzle!), Leo ROSTEN, CATWOMAN, SECRET SERVICE, ANYA Taylor-Joy, FREEGANS, “GET A ROOM!”, pretty place name ALICANTE, and POPEYES (the clue delivered trivia I didn’t know: [Restaurant chain originally called Chicken on the Run]).

Disfavored: MUST-DO is an awkward 1a. Also SCUD, plural ELIOTS, AEON, SEAMER.

Three more things:

  • 15a. [“I Wish” rapper, 1995], SKEE-LO / 8d. [Singer whose name becomes a city if you add an “R” in the middle], AKON. Tough crossing for those who haven’t followed rap and top 40 music in the past 25 years, but it’s been awhile. Imagine solving crosswords in 1995 and finding any musical references from 1970 on to be beyond your ken—you don’t have to know the music or the names, but it becomes a bit churlish to complain. That K crossing, well, if the city name clue doesn’t point you to AKON and Akron, that’s on you. (Will anyone complain that the L crossing fo SKEE-LO and ALICANTE is unfair?) Now, I did not know SKEE-LO at all, but I checked out the lyrics for “I Wish” and charmingly, it’s the opposite of the more typical rapper braggadocio. Video below if you’re so inclined.
  • 43a. [Rafter neighbor], EAVE. Real talk: Do your gutters currently have icicle woes? My building’s gutters are freighted with icicles. They say you shouldn’t break off the icicles, but can the gutters carry that much weight?
  • Did not know: 2d. [___ von der Leyen, first female head of the European Commission, who negotiated Brexit for the E.U.], URSULA. I confess I didn’t closely follow the ins and outs of Brexit.

3.4 stars from me.

Chase Dittrich’s Universal crossword, “Trios” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Phrases that have three components

Universal crossword solution · “Trios” · Chase Dittrich · Sat., 2.20.2i


  • [Words before “tape,” “paper,” & “ribbon,” respectively] RED WHITE AND BLUE. Red tape. White paper. Blue ribbon. 
  • [Words before “show,” “piece,” & “play,” respectively] GAME SET AND MATCH. Game show. Set piece. Match play.
  • [Words before “reading,” “language,” & “music,” respectively] MIND BODY AND SOUL. Mind reading. Body language. Soul music. 

I’m not entirely sure if I completely understand the theme. I feel like I’m missing something. Do the items in the clues share something in common? Kind of feels like they do. Like, tape, paper  and ribbon are all things in my… junk drawer? Reading, language and music are all… school subjects? Show, piece and play are… things that can be performed in a theater? Am I reading too much into this? Or not enough?

At first I thought each of the words could also precede each of the words in the trio too. Because, while BLUE RIBBON is definitely a thing, so is RED RIBBON (at least in schools, RED RIBBON week is a popular anti-drug use campaign). And WHITE RIBBON is not unimaginable. But then is WHITE PAPER a thing? Or is it just that paper is white?

So I’m a bit addled, although I found the mystique somewhat intriguing.

In the fill:

  • Surprised that NOLA wasn’t clued with “familiarly” or something. The SE in the clue doesn’t feel like it’s enough to indicate the nickname.
  • There’s now a Lady Gaga variety of OREO! How long until that fun fact makes it into a grid?
  • Why does [Acted over-the-top?] for EMOTED need a ? in the clue? Seems like a very accurate, straightforward way to clue that.

2.75 Stars from me. Enjoy the weekend!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Post Scripts” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/20/21 • “Post Scripts” • Sat • Shenk • solution • 20210220

Pretty standard theme here. Just affix the letters P and S, respectively, to each component of a two-word phrase or compound word to produce silliness.

  • 23a. [Stevenson’s Hispaniola and Wouk’s USS Caine, but not Longfellow’s Hesperus?] PROSE SHIPS (rosehips). The latter is a verse vessel. And let’s not omit Melville’s Pequod, evoked by 1-across [Obsessive of 1850s literature] AHAB.
  • 25a. [Waves in the Red Sea?] PINK SWELLS (inkwells). Hey, is this a nautical-themed puzzle too? Wikipedia sez: “The name of the sea may signify the seasonal blooms of the red-coloured Trichodesmium erythraeum near the water’s surface. A theory favoured by some modern scholars is that the name red is referring to the direction south, just as the Black Sea’s name may refer to north. The basis of this theory is that some Asiatic languages used colour words to refer to the cardinal directions. Herodotus on one occasion uses Red Sea and Southern Sea interchangeably.”
    Answer: no, of course it isn’t nautical-themed as well. Don’t be ridiculous.
  • 37a. [Decoration on a golf club?] PUTTER STRIPE (utter tripe). I feel that the base phrase isn’t too strong, despite rhyming with guttersnipe. But let’s delve a bit. Here’s an Ngram with a few alternative phrases in the mix:

    (If you can think of some better candidates to put in the query, I’ll re-do the analysis and update here.)
  • 42a. [Basis of a Deere defamation lawsuit?] PLOW SLANDER (lowlander).
  • 64a. [Building visitors see at the Tyre Hippodrome?] PRESERVED STABLES (reserved tables). Cannot confirm that the stables are still extant there.
  • 88a. [Ushers who put jeans in their place?] PANT SEATERS (anteaters). (Searches unsuccessfully for anteater pants or an anteater wearing pants—which is not to say that I didn’t find anything, just nothing worthwhile.)
  • 91a. [Has nothing but good things to say about an oil company?] PRAISES SHELL (raises hell). Must be on the payroll, only explanation. I take that back; they have a classic LOGO (43d).
  • 107a. [One of those “SNL” parody ads, say?] PHONEY SPOT (honey pot).
  • 109a. [Doubles tennis and the like?] PAIR SPORTS (airports).

As I said. Solid, but nothing exciting.

  • 106a [Stephen of “The Crying Game”] REA. He also played Neils Bohr in the 2002 BBC/PBS adaptation of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, opposite Francesca Annis and a pre-Bond Daniel Craig.
  • Toughest spot to complete was the area of and around the crossing of 66d [Pitcher Luis] TIANT and 78a [Tom __ (Twain’s pauper)] CANTY.
  • Favorite clues: 98a [They eventually come to grips] CREDITS. 30d [Play around, in a way] TOUR. 31a [Change position, maybe] POCKET. 96a [Hang loosely] LOLL.
  • 85a [Property-based security option] REIT. Completely unknown to me … aha: Real Estate Investment Trust. Wall Street Journal
  • 115a [Olfactory stimuli] ODORS. I will always endeavor to point out neutral cluing of ODOR[s], since I frequently decry pejorative ones. Also present: 55a [Nasty-smelling] FETID.

Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 02/20/2021

Quick one today! Nice and smooth. I think my brain is working better since I have been running a bit and also burning a ton of calories shoveling mounds of snow! We were all snowed in this past Tuesday; mostly back to normal now. Whatever “normal” is. Not that being snowed in is a bad thing; we can always do more puzzles! 4.5 stars for this one. Nice puzzle, Craig!

A few notes:

  • 1A [“Can’t someone else?”] “DO I HAVE TO?” – Great casual phrase!
  • 15A [Mozart’s mother] ANNA MARIA – No idea who this is. I still need to rent Amadeus.
  • 34A [“Voilà!”] “THERE YOU ARE!” – Another great casual phrase!
  • 55A [“Either or”] “I DON’T CARE!” – A rather common casual phrase!!
  • 2D [The least bit] ONE IOTA – I had this entry in my puzzle recently
  • 23D [Follower of Nanak] SIKH – I know nearly nothing about this religion. Included in that lack of knowledge is what/who Nanak is. Maybe I should look this up …
  • 25D [Unreal] PSEUDO – Tricky! This could have been anything.
  • 40D [Word on a Monopoly corner square] SALARY – Not the word I had in mind!
  • 46D [Spruce (up)] SPIFF – We usually say “spiffy” instead of SPIFF, but this is still good.
  • 52D [“Picnic” Pulitzer Prize winner] INGE – This dude is definitely crossword famous!

That is all! Off to do more puzzles, of course!

Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 02/20/2021

Slightly tougher than normal; still easier than they used to by. Greg’s puzzles for me are either really smooth or totally baffling. This one was more on the smoother side. Didn’t feel hopeless at any point of this solve. I have certainly been lost on my fair share of these “Stumpers” over the years. Always fun to do a Greg Johnson puzzle. 4.6 stars today.

A few highlights:

  • 8A [Former Snickers shelfmate] MARS BAR – They don’t make these anymore??
  • 26A [Acrobats to compete at the 2024 Olympics] BREAK DANCERS – This is going to be hilarious. Especially if they’re dancing with masks on!
  • 44A [”Got it?”] “SEE WHAT I MEAN?” – Great casual phrase!
  • 50A [What returns cover] TAX YEARS – This tricky entry may have the best clue in the puzzle. Also timely; it is tax season!
  • 60A [Last Women’s World Cup champs] TEAM USA – The next men’s tournament is at the end of 2022 (during football season!), and the women’s is is 2023
  • 2D [What got Lloyd Webber three-fourths of his EGOT] EVITA – I knew he had all four awards (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), but I didn’t know he got most of them in one fell swoop!
  • 7D [Islas Canarias owner] ESPAÑA – Some rudimentary Spanish will help you here.
  • 21D [Cheesy, saucy casserole] BAKED ZITI – Now I am hungry …
  • 24D [Put pencil to paper, perhaps] DREW – My oldest son’s name is Drew!
  • 32D [Step on it] SOLE – On a totally tangent note, we have a Sole treadmill in our basement. Been using it recently since there is still a foot and a half of snow outside!

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

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14 Responses to Saturday, February 20, 2021

  1. Mark Abe says:

    NYT-related suggestion to Amy: Try watching BBC World News. It covers U.S events but gives you much more information on events in the rest of the world than either CCN or Fox. In any case, it was how I knew Ursula.

  2. Greg says:

    A tough solve, but fair and enjoyable. Just right for Saturday.

  3. sps says:

    A lot of my elementary and middle school teaching colleagues put an assignment on the board to be done first thing in the morning as students file in. They call this a “must-do”. I don’t know if it’s in common usage or not, but it was almost a gimme for me.

    • Jim Quinlan says:

      Today, it’s called a “Do Now,” a play on words since it’s a quick assignment that’s “Due Now.” In my class, it’s a Q Now :)

  4. David L says:

    I didn’t know either AKON or SKEELO but the clue for the former pointed me in the right direction. I assume there’s no city called APRON or AWRON or…

  5. David L says:

    Speaking of Ursula von der Leyen, I remember a funny remark in the Guardian that she was an effective negotiator over Brexit because she proved immune to Boris’s raffish charms, or words to that effect.

  6. Dave S says:

    Jim Q – a White Paper is a document that provides a detailed explanation of a product, program, issue, etc.

  7. David Steere says:

    USA TODAY: Just a note to mention that the printing problems at the USA Today crossword site have been partially fixed after two days with printing not working. For those of you who do these puzzles on paper, you might want to check functionality on your browser. The partial fix yesterday allows printing on Firefox and MS Edge but the constructor’s name does not print with the grid and the appearance of the grid is poor-looking. Printing still does not work on Internet Explorer. If a user of Chrome or Safari wants to check, please do. Contact email is Thanks.

  8. jack says:

    I love Mike Shenks editing, but how in the world does “CHANGE POSITION IN A WAY” translate to POCKET? Seriously.

  9. Me says:

    NYT: Would ITSAYESFROMME be considered to be “in the language” outside of its constant use on American Idol and other judging shows? I was suprised it was clued so generically. I’ve heard it used a million times on those shows, but I’ve never heard it in any other context.

    • Doug says:

      Aha! Speaking as someone who has never watched those shows, I’ve never heard that phrase in any context whatsoever, so I would say no to your question, and thanks for explaining the context. It just seemed like a really weak entry to me.

    • Matthew says:

      I agree with you, it’s “in the language” but not with such a random clue.

  10. Brenda Rose says:

    Mark Abe made a good point. I began watching BBC during the Grumpy Era finding the US media unnecessarily provincial & obsessed with Grumpy.

Comments are closed.