Sunday, March 14, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 9:19 (Amy) 


Universal 5:02 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 9:48 (Jim P) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Announcement! The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament will be virtual/online this spring, and registration is now open at the ACPT site. The puzzles will be released in an AmuseLabs interface like the one Boswords has been using for its various online crossword tournaments—I think I’m a notch or two slower there than in .puz format, but it’s certainly workable. The virtual ACPT will include via video many of the extra events and games you may know from in-person ACPTs of yore (I reckon you’re on your own for wine and cheese), and follow the customary schedule of fun stuff on Friday and Saturday night, puzzle sessions on Saturday and Sunday, and the finals competition and awards Sunday afternoon. $50 for individuals, $60 for the pairs solving option.

Obligatory reminder to bump your clocks forward an hour before you go to bed Saturday night, Americans!

Jacob Stulberg’s New York Times crossword, “They All Laughed”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 14 21, “No Laughing Idea”

We’ve got a Mad magazine theme here marking a cartoonist’s 100th birthday (he’s still around!):

  • 101a. [Satirical cartoonist, born 3/13/1921, known for dreaming up ridiculous inventions … or are they?], AL JAFFEE OF MAD MAGAZINE. The entry is awkward, as the OF MAD MAGAZINE part isn’t the sort of detail that ordinarily shows up within a crossword answer.
  • 22a. [Architectural innovation jokingly predicted by 101-Across in 1982], GRAFFITI-PROOF BUILDING. 
  • 38a. [Grooming tool jokingly predicted by 101-Across in 1979], THREE-BLADE RAZOR. The concept was further advanced by the Onion, with “Fuck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades.”
  • 52a. [Writing aid jokingly predicted by 101-Across in 1967], SPELL-CHECKER. Wow! I did not know Jaffee foretold this.
  • 73a. [Winter sport jokingly predicted by 101-Across in 1965], SNOWBOARDING. How did Jaffee’s piece go? Was it two skis attached to each other, a wider board for better balance, or what?
  • 84a. [Telephone feature jokingly predicted by 101-Across in 1961], AUTOMATIC REDIAL. With the old rotary dial, seems like that would have been complicated to engineer, having to build in a way for a telephone to save that number in a non-digital memory somehow.

Happy 100th, Al! I was a big Mad fan during my early adolescence, same era when I got hooked on Games magazine.

Busy evening here, so let’s hop straight to a little listing:

  • 82d. [Its coat of arms features a marlin and flamingo, with “the”], BAHAMAS. Interesting little trivia fact I didn’t know. They should have put the flamingo on the flag!
  • 68d. [Blues ensemble?], THE SMURFS. Cute clue.
  • 3d. [When the president may make a pitch], SEASON OPENER. How is Biden’s arm? Does he have any first-pitch invites?
  • 4a. [Music genre for Carmen Miranda], SAMBA. I still get SAMBA mixed up with salsa and mambo. Wanted this answer to be SALSA, which suggested that the [Gym array] was LATS rather than MATS, which made not a whole lot of sense. Saved by the BRIOCHE! Which I don’t think of as particularly sweet, but maybe that sweetness is why it’s so damn good in my Thanksgiving stuffing.
  • 90d. [Apt surname for a hot dog vendor?], WEINER. No, no, no. A hot dog is a wiener, derived from Wien, the German name for Vienna. The surname WEINER is either German for cartwright or from the Yiddish for a wine merchant. The German pronunciation has a long “i” sound rather than long “e.”
  • 56a. [___ block], CINDER. I feel like there’s a different term of art that the building trades use, and that “cinder block” is dated, but cinder block is the term I’ve used since I was a kid.

3.8 stars from me. Enjoy the added daylight on Sunday evening!

Steve Mossberg’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Ad Creep”—Jim P’s review

It’s Pi Day, but no Pi’s in this grid, just more ads! Each theme answer is a well-known phrase with an added AD somewhere inside.

  • 26a. [Top prize at a karaoke contest with music like “Don’t Stop Believin'”?] POWER BALLAD JACKPOT. Powerball. Have you ever looked at the lyrics for “Don’t Stop Believin'”? I once wrote a parody of the song which forced me to go through the lyrics which I found to be idiotic.
  • 36a. [Like a somewhat rich dessert?] HALFWAY DECADENT. Decent.
  • 60a. [Trying to be a champion at provoking?] GOADING FOR THE GOLD. Going.
  • 71a. [Ability to see past superficiality?] FACADE RECOGNITION. Face. Probably a good skill to have for a building inspector.
  • 95a. [Teaching staff’s swank ride?] FACULTY ROADSTER. Roster. They all have to share one car?
  • 104a. [Finally decide on a home?] SAY YES TO THE ADDRESS. Dress. Best for last. I got this one just off the SAY YES…

These work for me, and a couple were pleasantly surprising.

Top bit of fill has to be BEE BEARD! But I so wanted it to be BEQ BEARD. Now I realize the look he’s going for!

Other goodies: BACK MASSAGE (sounds good right about now), BATHROBE, BODY SURF, PARAGUAYANS, ALWAYS ON, EYE DROP, and EDIBLES.

Clues of note:

  • 48a. [Dim sum bun]. BAO. There’s an interesting take here on the anthropomorphization of objects in Pixar films, particularly the short film BAO.
  • 90a. [You may fold one while eating it]. SLICE. I assume the clue is referring to pizza, but who knows? Maybe cake? Seems like the clue is lacking.
  • 47d. [“Don’t sweat it,” in a text]. NBD. I don’t think I’ve seen this entry in a grid before, but I like it. Stands for “No big deal.”
  • 64d. [“Ich bin ___ Berliner”]. EIN. The image to the right has been making the rounds on the internets.

Solid grid. 3.75 stars.

Jeffrey Wechsler’s LA Times crossword, “Pi Day” – Jenni’s write-up

It’s March 14, also written 3/14 (at least in the US) and sometimes 3.14, so…..Pi Day! Each theme answer add PI to a base phrase with generally quite amusing results.

Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2021, “Pi Day,” Jeffrey Wechsler, solution grid

  • 24a [Shrimp dish ordered online?] is INTERNET SCAMPI (internet scam).
  • 34a [Not someone you’d want in the cockpit?] is a VACANT PILOT (vacant lot).
  • 45a [Candidate’s concern after the latest poll?] is OPINION DIP (onion dip).
  • 68a [Hook during a typically slow period?] is an OFFSEASON PIRATE (offseason rate).
  • 93a [Physician for longshoremen?] would be a PIER DOCTOR (ER doctor).
  • 99a [No-brainer card game?] is STUPID POKER. My favorite.
  • 117a [Like most clouds compared to cirrus clouds?] is NONE THE WISPIER (none the wiser).

All the base phrases are solid and it’s a funny wordplay theme, so I’m happy. Not so happy with some of the fill. ESALE should take a long walk off a short pier. VIS is clued as [Discernment meas., in meteorology], so I presume it’s short for VISIBILITY. It’s not a great entry in any case and the clue makes it worse. 96d [With 97-Across, words before “good reason”] is GIVE/ME ONEME ONE would pretty much have to be a FITB, which is bad enough. Why on earth make it even more tortured with a cross-reference?

A few other things:

  • 5d [“Take a shot at it”] is YOU CAN TRY. In my head, YOU CAN TRY is said with great doubt, the implication being that YOU CAN TRY but I will be shocked if you succeed. The definition isn’t wrong, per se, but it’s not…quite…right.
  • We’re reminded that Mexico also has states. [Gulf of California state] is SONORA.
  • LORRAINE is clued as [French region associated with an eggy dish]. I love quiche, and would also love more women in my puzzles. That’s a missed opportunity.
  • 90d [Game that might end in a library] is CLUE.
  • Do people still use the word STEADY to mean [Exclusive date]? I’ve been married since the Pleistocene, so I have no idea.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: never heard of LEANA WEN, a CNN medical analyst.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Big Little Lies” – Jim Q’s Write-up

Isn’t it fun to open up a WaPo puzzle and see that there’s wackiness before you even start? Actually, don’t answer that. I often forget there’s quite a few solvers who aren’t keen on the wackiness :)

THEME: What’s big is small and what’s small is big.

Washington Post, March 14, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Big Little Lies” solution grid


Hard to fully describe, but the words TINY, WEE, and MINI are oversized and make up the answers for MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, SATINY, RETWEETED ALT WEEKLY, GEMINIand DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. They are also parts of shorter fill.

The words LARGE, VASTand MEGA, on the other hand, are quite small, fitting into rebus squares and becoming parts of the entries for DEVASTATE, CANVAS TENT, SOLAR GENERATOR, DOLLAR GENERAL, OMEGA MAN, and HOME GAMES. 

Loved this one! Felt very Alice in Wonderland-sy. I initially tried to hack my way through the top of the grid first, since that’s where it appeared the gimmick was, but I found it a little tough up there. I venture to guess it may be more difficult on purpose as to not reveal the gimmick too quickly. The south was easier for me, but I certainly was not expecting rebus squares, so that was fun. As soon as I uncovered LARGE in DOLLAR GENERAL is was a big AHA, and I figured what was going on (with the oversized squares as well).

I solved on paper, and very casually, pecking at it here and there over the course of two days when I would pass by the printed out grid laying on my kitchen island. I rarely do that. I kind of enjoyed the lax approach! As a result, I don’t really remember where or when (or if) I was stumped for too long. I just remember some toughness in the north and the usual-for-WaPo unfamiliar names (fairly crossed).

Lots of fun! Thanks for this one :)

Ed Sessa’s Universal crossword, “Cryptic Clues” — Jim Q’s write-up

Title is a little on the meta side, but pretty standard fare today!

THEME: The word CLUES can be found scrambled in common phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “Wrong at the Start” · Ed Sessa · Sun., 3.14.21



A bit of a late write-up. Apologies! By the way, I can’t find today’s Universal puzzle on the Andrews McMeel website. I wonder why…

We recently had a similar unscramble-the-hidden-word theme, and while I don’t dislike them, I prefer them to be spread out a bit more. BRONZE SCULPTURE felt a little GREEN PAINT-ish to me, and I known them as SINGLES BARS rather than SINGLES CLUBs (fun clue for that one though!)

My favorite mistake was LSAT for PSAT, which led to YOU LICK! for 5D. I assumed it was a phrase I never heard. Or a trend, like perhaps licking one another was a new thing that started amongst friends just before Covid but quickly went the wayside… eew.

Fine puzzle all around.

3 stars.

Oh wait… I almost forgot to complain about the fact that Universal doesn’t offer circles in its publications to the masses. 2 stars without circles because, from what I’ve seen, newer solvers don’t take well to being asked to count and circle their own letters.

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29 Responses to Sunday, March 14, 2021

  1. David Levin says:

    Would also mention spy vs spy and David Berg

  2. JohnH says:

    I didn’t mind the unusual way to identify the person. Having too many letters for any conceivable name threw me, so there was a nice aha in seeing what that entailed. And this way I didn’t have to remember who this guy was.

    The puzzle solidified a feeling I’ve been getting. We often discuss who the real audience for Shortz puzzles is, whether a NYT reader or a crossword fan or someone the NYT wishes it could reach, maybe a bit younger. Ultimately, I think it might just be Shortz. The obsession with the Simpsons, every conceivable Star Wars movie, and Harry Potter. The insistence that literature means science fiction. It’s the picture of a geeky but not at all studious or nerdy adolescent male. (Hey, sports fits, too.) And now Mad. Perfect. I used to enjoy it no end, but then I was 12 once, too.

    That said, the puzzle was fine with me, and I guess I learned something new with CHROMA.

  3. marciem says:

    off topic: What new he// has Chrome brought us? right-click/open in new tab longer works, the only way I can get the .puz download on most of them is to “right-click/save/keep it” (extra step).

    Back to Firefox I think.

    • Tony says:

      On my cell phone, I’m using Samsung’s built-in browser. Works fine.

    • Mary Roque Flaminio says:

      I thought it was just me! Not crazy about this. Chrome- cmon!

    • David L says:

      Right click in Chrome works fine for me — no change that I’ve noticed

    • Martin says:

      The right-click to new tab now works but you have to hit enter in the new tab to accept the URL.

      PS. I’m working on a fix. It will be a while yet, but it’s coming.

      • Mary Roque Flaminio says:

        Thank you!

      • Evad says:

        One thing that seemed to help in my case (using Chrome on a Mac) was to change the Chrome “Site Settings” (under Settings > Privacy & Security) by expanding “Additional Content Settings” and adding to the secure sites where insecure content is allowed.

        I can also go through the various download links and see if https is supported by that site which might help as well.

  4. Frank says:

    WAPO: First off, if you tell me to read the notepad, I’m definitely NOT going to read the notepad. Not until the solve is done, anyway.

    Saw the LARGE rebus first, and knew there had to be more. Then got a sense of the double letter entries and it pretty much flowed easily after that.

    Looked at the notepad and the printed grid and thought it was probably more fun in Across Lite.

    • marciem says:

      I wasn’t going to let the warning stop me, even though I read Evan’s heads-up yesterday. I didn’t read the notepad and glad I didn’t, I figured out the double letters all on my own which added to my enjoyment.

      It was fun and do-able in Across Lite. I don’t much do print xwords anymore (can never find my glasses :D) so I gave it a try in AL and am glad I did. Missed two weeks in a row of WP (metas… not hatin’, just sayin’) already.

      • norm says:

        Count me as another who views the Notepads additions as anathema. This one would have been okay had it just said solve on the pdf. The four letters would have ruined the puzzle for me had I read it. I remember this same gimmick from some years back, although I don’t believe it had the rebus antonyms. The only thing that really disappointed me was the asymmetrical placement of the LARGE rebus.

    • If you enjoyed the puzzle in Across Lite, then great, and if printing a puzzle is impossible, then I can understand solving it electronically. But I will seriously *never* understand the refusal to even glance at the Notepad until after you’re done, especially if you have the means to print the puzzle. If you’re worried about having the Notepad spoiling the theme for you, you don’t even have to read the whole thing! Just see the opening line “This puzzle contains visual elements that cannot be reproduced in Across Lite” or (like the NYT sometimes does) “In the print version of this puzzle …” and that’s all you need to read — now you know the print version has something the Across Lite version doesn’t and you can print it out.

      Still, I put PLEASE SEE NOTEPAD in the title field and warned people about the print version being different in multiple places yesterday because I know there are solvers who will still refuse to look at the Notepad regardless. Just take a quick peek at the Notepad before solving from now on; your solve won’t be ruined, trust me.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Evan, the Sunday Washington Post isn’t the only crossword venue that uses the Notepad hints from time to time. Do you have any idea how many times we’ve seen NYT Notepads that dumb things down a bit, remove the element of solver surprise? We’ve had years to develop this habit of “I don’t look at the Notepad till after.”

        • I’m well aware of that. Which is why I said you don’t have to read the whole Notepad. Just the first few words that say “In the print version” or something like that and then that’s it; that’s all I need to see to know that it’s worth printing it out.

          But I solve every NYT Thursday-Sunday puzzle in print so I generally avoid this issue altogether.

          • Martin says:


            Don’t forget this is the home of the masochist solver, the lunatic fringe. We are the folks who like solving with across clues only. I also solved with AL, and agree that the Notepad was a spoiler. It wasn’t a spoiler for the puzzle as you intended it (it didn’t provide any information that the pdf didn’t make obvious) but it did spoil an aspect of the more challenging puzzle that we loonies were solving.

            I always enjoy “reverse engineering” unread Notepads, figuring out what they say as part of my solve. It’s sort of like an unintended meta.

            • Norm says:

              The way I read — thanks to Evelyn Wood many many years ago — my brain tends to grab a lot of text at once. It’s not that easy to just read one line. :) YMMV

  5. David Steere says:

    WAPO: Another amazing creation from Evan. Kind of a loopy universe in which BIG is LITTLE and LITTLE is BIG. Loved the contrasts here in box size and semantic content. I don’t know most television shows–don’t watch–so, let me know if there is some other connection here with the HBO show…other than the obvious one. For some reason, I found particularly difficult the box of answers at 78A, 87A, 91A and 97A. I had to sleep on it before those answers came clear on Sunday morning. Thanks, Evan.

  6. Billy Boy says:


    I really despise struggling to finish in the NW after completing the rest of the puzzle.

    Been that way my entire cw life it seems. ?

  7. janie says:

    NYT — fwiw, seems phone engineers were thinking about digital and push-button alternatives long before the demise of the rotary phone —


  8. AV says:

    NYT: putupJOB and JOBinterview ok?

  9. Genuinely curious for those who’ve said they won’t look at any part of the Notepad before solving the puzzle:

    What else should I do differently to warn you on puzzles like this that I recommend solving from the PDF instead of in Across Lite? I put in “PLEASE SEE NOTEPAD” in the title field but should I be using a more explicit warning like “PRINT THIS PUZZLE OUT” or “SOLVE FROM THE PDF”? Even if you thought Across Lite handled this one well enough, there are still going to be puzzles of mine on occasion where Across Lite just can’t reproduce the grid in the best way.

    • Steve H says:

      I am guessing I am an outlier here. I don’t mind the notes. I also don’t time myself or do the NYT. Anyway, I think saying “I suggest you do this via PDF is fine”. My guess is more people would appreciate that (general solvers) than not (advanced solvers).

      Fantastic puzzle today Evan! Really had my brain working on some of the non-theme answers.

    • Martin says:


      At least from my perspective, you did everything fine. If some solvers want to extract some extra challenge by ignoring your instructions, that’s ok too. For 99%+ of the solving public, not providing the note would be unfair.

      Don’t confuse “I don’t want to read the Notepad” with “I don’t think the Notepad should be there.”

    • KarenS says:

      I solve on paper so I like to be told to print out the PDF instead of using Across Lite to print.

      I loved today’s puzzle!

  10. David Glasser says:

    WaPo: I love how I got sucked in by thinking “well this is a pretty straightforward gimmick, some big squares with little words in it, a little theme minimal on the bottom but probably there’s some funny revealer there” only for the rebus to sneak up on me. One of the best ahas in a crossword I’ve had in a while.

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