Sunday, February 21, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal 3:32 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 10:39 (Jim P) 


WaPo 11:56 (Jim Q) 


Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword, “Karaoke Bars”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 21, 21, “Karaoke Bars”

The theme hinges on “___ bars” phrases used to clue song titles appropriate to the phrase, “bars” also meaning song bits:

  • 24a. Space bars? [Frank Sinatra], FLY ME TO THE MOON.
  • 47a. Wet bars? [Gene Kelly], SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN.
  • 69a. Prison bars? [Elvis Presley], JAILHOUSE ROCK.
  • 92a. Cash bars? [Abba], MONEY, MONEY, MONEY.
  • 116a. Singles bars? [Robyn], DANCING ON MY OWN.
  • 3d. Candy bars? [Def Leppard], POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME.
  • 33d. Gold bars? [Queen], WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS.

Neat theme, but it might have been nice to have more representation among the musical artists featured. Robyn and half of ABBA are women, Queen’s Freddie Mercury was Asian, and I think everyone else included is a white man. Bonus points for any suggested song/artist combos that fit the “___ bars” clues and are more broadly representative.

Did not know: 31a. “Top Chef” chef ___ Hall], CARLA. She was a contestant in two seasons about a decade ago. I call foul on cluing a reality competition contestant as such, outside of the more high-profile ones like people who became famous from American Idol. (Top Chef judges often appear year after year, and on multiple cooking shows—and they’re still marginally at the level of “can expect solvers to know the names.”) Hall has cohosted The Chew, which would be a better clue avenue.

Fave fill: FRUIT CUPS, LLOYD Austin and JEN Psaki (today’s current events quiz!), STAR PUPIL, INCHWORM, AIRBALL, OY VEY. Not keen on AS AM I, THE TIDE, OATEN, and a few other entries that are now eluding my eye.

Five more things:

  • 2d. [Did a little lifting], PILFERED. Here I was thinking about lifting things upward, maybe some hand weights. Good gravy, we’re stealing now??
  • 7d. [Mapo ___ (spicy Sichuan dish)], TOFU. Spicy! Yes, indeed.
  • 21d. [Broad valley], LOWLAND. I kinda think I only encounter this term in relation to gorilla habitats.
  • 83d. [Flag carrier to Karachi and Islamabad], PIA. My favorite PIA is the artist Pia Pilar Reynaldo. Click through and check out some of her abstract paintings. I have one hanging above my desk.
  • 41d. [Sister restaurant of Applebee’s], IHOP. There’s a new sign in the window of my local IHOP touting IHOPPY HOUR. Just … no.

3.5 stars from me. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Pam Amick Klawitter’s LA Times crossword, “Seeing Progress” – Jenni’s write-up

Unless I’m missing something, the theme of this puzzle is ING marching across the grid. Not my favorite kind of theme.

Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2021, Pam Amick Klawitter, “Seeing Progress,” solution grid

  • 22a [Fit] is IN GOOD SHAPE.
  • 29a [Arrives like a brainstorm] is SPRINGS TO MIND.
  • 51a [Start of a hopeful chant] is RAIN RAIN GO AWAY.
  • 69a [Absolute zero] is NOT A SINGLE ONE.
  • 88a [Ignore mistakes, say] is LET THINGS SLIDE.
  • 105a [Disney theme park] is ANIMAL KINGDOM.
  • 119a [Family film feature] is HAPPY ENDING.

I see that the strING also marches through the answers as well as through the grid. I guess that makes it a feat of construction. It did not make it fun to solve.

Dupes appear to be a feature of the LAT these days, not a bug. 1d is [Clues for DNA analysis] and 100d is [ ___ kit: item] which is, of course, DNA. There are a lot of other ways to clue HAIRS, which is the answer to 1d. You could even use the clue idea and not mention DNA. If, that is, you cared about dupes.

Time to get ready to go to the glass studio and make pretty beads so I’ll skip right to “what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle.” I don’t follow racing so [1983 Indy 500 champ Tom] SNEVA is knew to me.

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

Here’s a puzzle you’ll need an Answer Key for :)

THEME: The names of keys on a typist’s keyboard are inserted into common phrases, and wackiness ensues.

Washington Post, February 21, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Board Members” solution grid


  • 22A [Striped cat when it’s up on its hind legs?] STANDING TABBY.  Standing by. 
  • 27A [Baseball legend Pete went deep?] ROSE HOMERED. Rose red. 
  • 29D [“The ‘Relativity’ artist is my date this evening”?] I’M WITH ESCHER. “I’m with her.” 
  • 40D [Soup cracker surges?] SALTINE WAVES. Sine waves. 
  • 56A [Nocturnal bird working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.?] NIGHTSHIFT OWL.  Night owl.
  • 74A [“This is the focal point / Above a seismic source / Where an earthquake proceeds / With devastating force,” e.g.?] EPICENTER POEM. Epic poem. 
  • 105A [“This is the focal point / Above a seismic source / Where an earthquake proceeds / With devastating force,” e.g.?] YODEL ADRIAN. “Yo Adrian!”
  • 114A [Breakfast treat baked by actor Fraser or Gleeson?] BRENDAN MUFFIN. Bran muffin. 
  • Revealer: 68A [Backspace neighbor for many PC users … or, when interpreted as a command, a hint to this puzzle’s theme] INSERT KEY. 

Fun! I 100% needed the revealer as I had no clue what was going on. I’m glad it was in the center of the puzzle for this one. In this case, I found it more enjoyable to find the keys in each answer during the solve rather than afterward. Home, Alt, Enter, and End are not on my mac. I know Return is the equivalent of Enter. I’m not sure about the others. I don’t much use the Control key on my Mac… is that like Alt?

Big nods to Rocky in this puzzle with the title character’s surname, his nemesis, and his catchphrase (as the base of a themer) all making appearances!

Really liked the clever repeated clue for POP STARS and PLANETS [Mercury and Mars, e.g.], especially with those entries being so close to one another.

Stumbles for me included SALAME for SALOME (which made ROSE HAMERED as a themer very difficult to interpret, but somehow I accepted it as correct), and COPILOGS for COPILOTS. The G was a typo when I meant to enter MET, but later when I was checking the crossings, MEG looked perfectly fine in the grid. And I figured COPILOGS was pronounced COP-E-LOGS and was some sort of book used to log altitudes in the cockpit. This is where my mind goes to justify something that looks completely kooky. Did I mention I’m the son of a pilot?

If I had one nit, it’s with the themer NIGHTSHIFT OWL. SHIFT really sticks out there and isn’t even close to buried as, say, ALT is in SALTINE WAVES. Also, NIGHT OWL doesn’t really change definition much when it’s altered to the new phrase. On the other hand, I uncovered that one right before the revealer and it aided in a clear-as-a-bell AHA for me without having to pause much.

Got through this one rather quickly and it was a very pleasant start to the day.

Hope it treated you just as well. Enjoy Sunday!

Fred Piscop’s Universal crossword, “On Even Ground” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Homophones for several different flatlands are found in common phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “On Even Ground” · Fred Piscop · Sun., 2.21.2i


  • 20A [Part of a flying flatland?] PLAIN PROPELLER.
  • 38A [Flatland that’s behind you?] STEPPE TO THE REAR. 
  • 54A [Artist O’Keeffe, when on a flatland?] SAVANNA GEORGIA. 

Excellent finds all around! I really like three solid (and long) themers in a puzzle. Anything more in this one would’ve been a disservice.

Not sure if PLANE PROPELLER is something that people say, but it works well enough and it’s a balancer for the excellent SAVANNA GEORGIA.(too bad PLANE / PLAIN GEOMETRY is only one letter shy!)

Fill felt very standard for me. Nothing much else to say!

3.3 stars

Pam Klawitter’s Universal Sunday crossword, “De-letion”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Well-known phrases that have a word starting with DE have that bigram removed resulting in crossword wackiness.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “De-letion” · Pam Klawitter · 2.21.21

  • 23a. [Those who join the Seattle Storm or L.A. Sparks?] SIGNING WOMEN. Designing.
  • 31a. [Sneaky pitch from Don Draper, say?] AD-MAN’S CURVE. Deadman’s. Nice find.
  • 51a. [Congregation’s stratagems?] LAY TACTICS. Delay. I like the idea of a congregation deploying tactics at Sunday service.
  • 66a. [Where the top racehorses reside?] SPECIAL LIVERY. Delivery.
  • 84a. [Risky pace for a horse carrying reds and whites?] WINE CANTER. Decanter. This one’s a little forced.
  • 99a. [Guilty pleasure of reading Marie Kondo books?] STORAGE VICE. Device.
  • 113a. [Like peacocks, when evaluating mates?] TAIL ORIENTED. Detail. I like this one best.
  • 36d. [Part of a city bus?] PUBLIC FENDER. Defender.
  • 40d. [Forecaster Roker, to his wife?] SWEETHEART AL. Deal. Aww. I like this one, too.

Solid and mostly good. And really, that’s a lot of theme material, even for a 21x grid. And somehow everything’s placed in such a way such that no themers are crossing thereby freeing the grid from added restrictions.

Thus, even with all those theme entries, there’s still a goodly amount of strong non-theme fill, such as IRIS SCAN, BERMUDA, “WANNA BET?”, IN THE END, ARTISANS, SCENE ONE, CHICKENS, MASS EMAILS, “I’M DONE,” PAKISTANIS, and WARDROBE. I didn’t spot anything iffy at all in the fill, only the occasional proper name I didn’t know.

Clues of note:

  • 4d. [December temps]. SANTAS. Nice clue. Not “temperatures,” but “temporary workers.”
  • 11d. [Dee or Oh]. SANDRA. I like this clue as well. Both women are well-known actresses.
  • 84d. [Gateway to Narnia]. WARDROBE. Um. Only in one of the seven Narnia books, if I recall correctly.

Solid grid, expertly executed. 3.9 stars.

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31 Responses to Sunday, February 21, 2021

  1. Ethan says:

    Handle bars – SAY MY NAME

    If you want examples with the right number of letters I’ll have to think some more.

  2. Ethan says:

    Dove bars – WHERE IS THE LOVE

  3. Ethan says:

    Oxygen bars – IN THE AIR TONIGHT

    Doesn’t make the puzzle any less white, but it’s a pretty good song!

  4. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: “Lift” seems like pretty standard slang for stealing. Should there have been a question mark? Not sure I understand what was wrong here.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Stealing is what’s wrong, silly! I didn’t mean to suggest something was wrong with the clue, just that I in my innocence did not think of such deviltry when I first read the clue.

  5. pannonica says:

    Monkey Bars (Louis Prima) – I WANNA BE LIKE YOU


  6. pannonica says:

    Parallel Bars (Kay Starr) – SIDE BY SIDE

    old oldie

  7. pannonica says:

    Behind Bars (Spinal Tap) – BIG BOTTOMS


  8. Matthew Sewell says:

    Jeff Chen’s comments on XWord Info are interesting. I’m struck by the information that the constructor’s thinking about the theme set (aptly characterized by Rex as having “huge old white guy energy”) was informed by a sense of what the NYT would consider mainstream or known to its audience. The constructor expresses some regret about that in his own comments, though I suppose it’s hard to argue with success — the strategy appears to have been on the nose regarding what the NYT considers a good set.

    I have to differ with Jeff when he says: “However, I’d encourage constructors not to guess what Will might or might not culturally accept as a theme answer. He does come from a specific demographic, but he’s expanded his team with people that better represent other customer segments. Allow him to say yes to a song or singer (but back it up with data, i.e., the song was a #1 hit for X weeks, the album sold Y million copies, etc.).” The degree to which this lets the NYT off the hook is really extraordinary. Obviously, the NYT could have asked the constructor for a different theme set. And the idea that one’s specific demographic background is determinative of one’s ability to be sensitive to these issues is, well, pretty darn depressing.

    Asking that constructors “Allow [the NYT] to say yes” to diversity is like putting the burden of antiracism solely on the victims of racism. I have no idea what internal discussions (if any) occurred around this as the puzzle made its way from idea to publication, but — if I can get back on my hobbyhorse about this — we really need to develop better ways of talking about these issues within crosswords. (Jeff, I don’t know if you read this blog, but if you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts in more detail.)

    • Matthew Stock says:

      Really appreciate these thoughts (especially from a fellow Matthew S!) I can only take responsibility for my own part of the process as a constructor, but also super agree about the massive role that editors play in all of this. I certainly would’ve been thrilled to revise the puzzle along those lines had it been asked of me.

      Also, any chance we could connect over email/social? been meaning to reach out with kind words on your own puzzles and have been putting it off. cheers!

    • R says:

      I’m confused. Did you miss this paragraph from the notes?
      “Don’t misinterpret my comments as absolving the NYT from responsibility. I think they should have kicked this one back, to better target a broader range of their solving audience. I’m only trying to help a newer constructor to not feel skewered, especially because he clearly regrets the issue, and to shed light on a common problem among newer constructors.”

  9. Martin says:

    Washington Post pdf.

    Evan has kindly added a pdf to the Across Lite file he provides us every week. And the Fiend IT staff (Dave Sullivan) has added a link for it on the Today’s Puzzles page. So paper-solving fans of Evan’s Sundays now have an alternative. Thanks, Evan and Dave.

    • Evad says:

      Yes, we had a IT staff meeting this very morning and enjoyed a stack of donuts and a pot of damn fine coffee…no need for Zoom as “we” all cohabitate.

      • david glasser says:

        Thanks for adding the PDF link! I have to admit that it has felt frustrating to have to sit through a video ad in order to interact with the webapp to get a PDF when I’m even a paying WP subscriber (and Evan’s puzzle is a big part of why I subscribe).

  10. PJ says:


  11. PJ says:

    Oyster Bar (Jelly Roll Morton) – THE PEARLS; or
    Oyster Bar (Don Ho) – PEARLY SHELLS

  12. PJ says:

    Genius Bar (Pink Floyd) – BRAIN DAMAGE

  13. Jenni Levy says:

    Crowbar (Nelly Furtado) – I’m Like a Bird

  14. PJ says:

    Raw Bar (Anders Osborne) – STONED, DRUNK, AND NAKED

  15. marciem says:

    Sushi Bar = (I’m a) Sole Man by Salmon Dave

    stop me now!

  16. Ethan says:

    Mini bars (Blink 182) – ALL THE SMALL THINGS

  17. PJ says:

    Sand Bar (Jimmy Buffet) – BEACH HOUSE ON THE MOON

    Marciem – it’s like Zapp’s chips. I cant stop.

  18. norm says:

    Just wanted to give some love to Evan’s WaPo. I loved STANDING TABBY, and I’M WITH ESCHER cracked me up [the obscure, for me, clue just adding to the fun when I grokked it].

  19. Goodhue the fourth says:

    High bar (The Toyes) – SMOKE TWO JOINTS

  20. PJ says:

    X-bar (Dr. John) – AVERAGE KIND OF GUY

  21. PJ says:

    Stars and Bars (Little Feat) 12 letters

  22. marciem says:

    Cell Bar . The Score – Can you hear me now?

    Cell Bar: Smokey & the Miracles . You really got a hold on me.

  23. andrea carla michaels says:

    the fact that everyone is making up their own entries is a sign to me of a wildly successful fun puzzle.

  24. Ethan says:

    Open bars (Lizzo) – TRUTH HURTS

Comments are closed.