Saturday, March 20, 2021

LAT 5:45 (Derek) 


Newsday 9:38 (Derek) 


NYT 4:06 (Amy) 


Universal 4:22 (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Emily Carroll’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 20 21, no, 0320

Hey! What’s this Friday puzzle doing in the Saturday slot? Probably the same thing Kameron’s Saturday crossword was doing as a Friday. Were the difficulty levels flipped for you, too?

Today’s pick for Amy’s Favorite Entry is “CAN IT WAIT?” I feel this one deeply. Also liked TRASH TALKER, EASTER BUNNY (I had to Google to find out when Easter is—apparently it’s two weeks from Sunday), A CHORUS LINE, EARGASM, dreaded CONTENT FARM. E.M. FORSTER, ABSCONDED (just a great word, innit?), and PET STORES (my neighborhood pet store is a … reptile specialist).

ESTER and SMEE are in good sections, but I don’t like ’em.

To the list!

  • 15a. [Animal that produces eggs once a year], EASTER BUNNY. I really thought this was a science clue.
  • 42a. [Dos letras en “Trinidad y Tobago”], TES. I gather that te is Spanish for the letter T.
  • 56a. [Flour in Indian cuisine], ATTA. This was a bit of a reach for me, but I think I’ve seen the word before. Oh! It’s a wheat flour, and I have probably had it in the naan, puri, and paratha breads I’ve enjoyed.
  • 1d. [Flirt], TEASE. No. No, no, no. Flirting is fun. “She’s a tease” is an entirely different context. Just use the “poking fun” sense or the “backcombing hair” sense and don’t go there.
  • 2d. [One who’s in the heat?], RACER. As in the preliminary heats at a track event, sure. Did not know where this clue was heading at first!
  • 5d. [“I Used to Know ___” (2019 Grammy-nominated album)], HER, by H.E.R. Moving to the 2021 Grammys last Sunday, H.E.R. won Song of the Year for “I Can’t Breathe” (below). She’s Black and she’s Filipino and I think she’ll be a figure in
  • 29d. [Novelist who received a Nobel nomination at least 20 times, but never won], E.M. FORSTER. How fun would it be if the Nobel nominees gathered for a grand ceremony and found out they lost while on camera, like at the Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys? And to be honest, I neeeeever had any idea that the scientific Nobels had nominees who didn’t win. Mind blown.
  • 33d. [One helping you find a cab?], SOMMELIER. As in cabernet. Nice clue!

Four stars from me. Happy Saturday, y’all!

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “ON/Off Switch” — pannonica’s write-down

WSJ • 3/20/21 • Sat • “On/Off Switch” • Larson • solution • 20210320

Theme is exactly what it says on the tin. Phrases originally containing “off” have that word changed to “on” and vice-versa.

  • 23a. [Operating instruction for a witch’s broom?] FLY ON THE HANDLE (fly off the handle).
  • 47a. [“We’re going to the Super Bowl!” e.g.?] PLAYOFF WORDS (play on words).
  • 68a. [Attempt to cool down a cup of tea?] BLOW ON STEAM (blow off steam).
  • 89a. [Cheap laminate for furniture making] KNOCKOFF WOOD (knock on wood).
  • 116a. [Impudent aboard an ocean cruise?] FRESH ON THE BOAT (fresh off the boat).
  • 2d. [Postpone production of a TV commercial?] PUT OFF THE SPOT (put on the spot).
  • 61d. [Really shining in a full-court defensive scheme] HOT ON THE PRESS (hot off the press).

Perhaps it’s my mood this morning, but this crossword was way off the mark for me. The theme answers seemed uninspired and repetitive, as did the bulk of the tired ballast fill. This standard 21×21 grid felt at least 25% larger and commensurately sloggy. This despite a—for me—relatively swift solve (sub-9 minutes).

  • Favorite clue is probably 53d [Turkey club?] for NATO.
  • Lowlights include the affixes 51d [Name: Suffix] -ONYM and 68d [Depth: Prefix] BATHO-.
  • 117d [Fish-bull go-between] RAM. This is zodiac stuff. Pisces, Aries, Taurus.
  • 21a [Perfume Pagoda setting] HANOI. Wikipedia tells me it’s a complex of structures built into a mountainside. Did not venture to them when I was there in the late ’90s.

Signing off now.

Sally Hoelscher’s Universal crossword, “Shifting Gears” — Jim Q’s write-up

I thought the title was hinting at some sort of mixing up or moving of gears in this one. Nope! “Shifting” is an adjective here. Not a verb.

THEME: Common phrases that start with an automobile’s gear modes

Universal crossword solution · “Shifting Gears” · Sally Hoelscher · Sun., 3.20.21



Solid set! Very in-language with a tight consistency. I still drive a manual (and my dog has chewed the stick shift to the point that it’s barely recognizable), so I don’t enjoy the luxuries of PARK, DRIVE, and LOW.

Very enjoyable clue for LOW BATTERY btw.

I felt like I was going faster than I actually was. Surprised myself when I looked up to see my time tick past the four minute mark. I think I got caught up on some names. DUFF for one, RONAN for another. I can throw RENEE in the mix too, but that one was more inferable.

I was unaware that churches were associated with BAZAARs. I found that… bizarre (couldn’t resist).

3.6 stars from me. Happy spring!

***I neglected to include NEUTRAL SOLUTION in the original write-up

Stella Zawistowski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 03/20/2021

Look at this grid! An awesome 64-worder this Saturday, and only 4 three-letter words! These wide-open grids are hard to fill, and you typically can end up with an answer or two of out and out hogwash, but that is not the case here. This puzzle is making me want to work on my word list more! I have done puzzles this wide-open over the years, and many times the fill has some garbage in it. It is normally unavoidable. But THIS one is magnificently filled with clever entries and virtually nothing wonky. Stella is turning into one of my favorite constructors! 4.9 stars for a stellar Stella puzzle!

Some notes:

  • 14A [Susan Ruttan’s “L.A. Law” role] ROXANNE – What an old reference! But this may be her most famous role
  • 17A [Like some stockings] TOELESS – I don’t wear panty hose, but I think this means the toe isn’t reinforced. Someone please help me before I embarrass myself.
  • 27A [One Pillar Pagoda city] HANOI – I would love to visit Vietnam. I think it would be eye-opening.

    Susan Ruttan is in the top center of this LA Law photo

  • 34A [Free-spirited] INDIVIDUALISTIC – Great entry across the middle. Lots of kind letters to use as well!
  • 47A [Big name in portable illumination] MAGLITE – Aren’t these the flashlights that have the informercials? That you can drive a truck over?
  • 48A [Bond first bought by FDR in 1941] SERIES E – There are tons of different savings bond series, and I need to make sure these are in my word list! Most don’t use these anymore, but they are not a horrible savings option. Especially for younger people
  • 55A [Fruit in some Chinese New Year customs] ORANGES – I know next to nothing about Asian culture, including how ORANGES tie into this custom
  • 5D [Less than 2% have this type] B NEGATIVE – I still don’t know my blood type. Maybe I should check some recent labs …
  • 36D [Umlaut lookalike] DIERESIS – This looks like an umlaut, but it does something different. Great clue. I learned something!
  • 44D [Pancakes served with sour cream] BLINI – This does not sound appetizing!

Gotta go: a new Panda Magazine comes out today! There goes my Saturday …

Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 03/20/2021

I found this one also a tad tougher than normal. Still under ten minutes, but I didn’t get into my Paolo Pasco “vibe” until about halfway in. Maybe I need to learn, at my ripe old age, to be able to tap that zone easier. It is hard to do sometimes with all of the distractions in my life, including a soon-to-be 9-year-old that is always busy! But once that zen is found, it is so relaxing and enjoyable, which is another key reason why I enjoy puzzles so much. With some weird cluing there almost could have been a theme with this one, but that would have been a stretch! Great puzzle, Matthew. 4.4 stars.

A few notes:

  • 16A [Scrooge, to Dewey or Louie] GREAT-UNCLE – I knew he was an UNCLE, but I forgot about the GREAT- part. I haven’t seen these cartoons in forever.
  • 22A [Dollywood group] Y’ALL – We say this in Indiana all the time! But it is likely more prevalent in Tennessee, for sure!
  • 44A [Real dilemma] QUITE A PICKLE – I thought this might be QUITE A PUZZLE at first.
  • 52A [Name associated with polonium] MARIE – As in Marie Curie, I think. Still have to watch that movie about her on Amazon Prime.
  • 61A [College town near Akron] KENT – Ohio is huge, but this is a great clue. You are mentally rifling through Ohio colleges in order to solve it!
  • 3D [Verdi Society members] OPERA FANS – There’s a group for every interest, including this!
  • 6D [Hard seltzer category] ALCO-POP – White Claw comes to mind here! I cannot stand seltzer water, so I have not tried this. I am quite sure I would not like it!
  • 33D [Smoke director] FLUE – Possibly the best clue in the puzzle!
  • 44D [New York neighbor] QUEBEC – This answer is usually Ontario because it is so big, but you also see this province.referenced once in a while

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

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28 Responses to Saturday, March 20, 2021

  1. Barry Goldstein says:

    Has Saturday been eliminated as part of the switch to DST?

    • STEVEN says:

      well, friday was saturday-ish and today was a lot like saturday

      this is a plus in my book, sorry about that for friday lovers but good for me!!

  2. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: Given that it’s a Saturday puzzle, perhaps something like “parlay-like sports bet” would be a fair clue for TEASE, especially with March Madness starting.

  3. person says:

    NYT: I opened 1A with DRAFT DODGER. My solve attempt went downhill quickly from there. In the back of my mind I knew there was no way on earth the NY Times would clue something so controversially. Nevertheless, I convinced myself it was correct.

    • L.H. Puttgrass says:

      My first thought was along similar lines, but CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR wouldn’t fit. Ali didn’t dodge the draft: he stood up, said no, and took the consequences.

      I thought the clue for EASTER BUNNY really should have had a question mark, but otherwise a fun puzzle.

      • Mr. Grumpy says:

        DRAFT DODGER then DRAFT EVADER [although that was not really correct either] and then WAR OBJECTOR — at which point I started over elsewhere in the grid and worked my way back. Not persuaded that TRASH TALKER was really accurate. Is it trash talk or simply braggadocio if you back it up?

  4. M483 says:

    I haven’t been able to open the News Day crossword for a week. The pop-up offering a subscription blocks the page. It used to have an X in the upper right corner that would close it, but not anymore. I’ve tried this site’s link and 2 different links that I have and I’ve tried 2 different browsers. Can anyone help me?

  5. marciem says:

    NYT: Yes, this was a step easier than yesterday… actually about three steps easier but who’s counting? :D

    I also first thought Draft Dodger for Ali. I didn’t believe and hoped they wouldn’t harken back to that in those words, so erased it after dropping it in but keeping the thought on file. I’m glad it wasn’t right. btw ‘name changer’ also fits, FWIW.

    I really really detested 42a. Yes, there are dos tes in Trinidad y Tobago. There are also dos “des”, and dos “a’s” and dos “i’s” and dos o”s which I don’t know how the Spanish spell those letras. Not a fun clue or answer IMO.

    • marciem says:

      I will add, I enjoyed the “find you a cab” clue for sommelier, but it didn’t misdirect me. I thought it was cute and dropped it right in.

    • GLR says:

      42a seemed odd, since I don’t think Spanish is particularly widely spoken in Trinidad and Tobago. Though I can’t offer a better way to clue TES.

  6. Bob White says:

    Universal: Theme-wise, also NEUTRAL SOLUTION (35-Across)

  7. Pilgrim says:

    Re Newsday: Can someone help me figure out who is the “Genesis patriarch” as to whom IKE is the namesake? Thanks

    • David L says:

      I wondered about that too. Eventually I decided it must be Isaac (I’m sure all his pals called him Ike). I don’t think there was an Eisenhower in the Old Testament, although I admit I haven’t read the whole thing.

      • Pilgrim says:

        Thanks. You’re right. This wasn’t referring to Eisenhower, but to folks named Isaac. I got stuck thinking that “David” didn’t appear until 1 Samuel and so he couldn’t be the Genesis patriarch referred to. This stumped me!

      • marciem says:

        There weren’t many Dwights in the OT either :D :D.

    • David Glasser says:

      I think the point is that if your name is Isaac then you are a namesake of a Genesis patriarch.

  8. R says:

    NYT 1d: My first thought was how teens and tweens often TEASE when they (attempt to) flirt.

  9. Crotchety Doug says:

    LAT 5D reference – If you don’t know your blood type, sign up at and donate blood at a local Red Cross blood drive. You will then be able to access your Red Cross ID card on their site, which has your blood type on it.

    • Crotchety Doug says:

      These days, Red Cross also tests all blood for COVID antibodies, and that info also shows up on their site when you log in.

  10. RM Camp says:

    NYT: I got SOMMELIER immediately from the clue because the word is at the front of my mind thanks to the YouTube channel, unemployedwineguy. He seems like he’s going to turn things around if he can keep a sponsorship but I’m morbidly keeping my fingers crossed for a Rickety Cricket-style downward spiral.

    (we all know it’s a character, yes)

  11. Michael says:

    Second week in a row I find the juicy long answers in a themeless overshadowed by a ton of meh stuff (RES, TES, TREATISES, ESTER, STARE, ALTE, SIRS, TIS, ORATES). Peter and Emily set the bar very high.

  12. Brenda Rose says:

    Kent, Ohio. Will never forget 4 people were shot dead at the behest of Nixon during the student revolt against the Viet Nam war. I heard it on my radio in my painting studio & immediately changed the canvas & painted a sobbing tribute.

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