Sunday, March 28, 2021

LAT 7:59 (Jenni) 


NYT 7:40 (Amy) 


Universal 3:02 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 10:06 (Jim P) 


WaPo 13:56 (Jim Q) 


Olivia Mitra Framke’s New York Times crossword, “Over the Moon”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 28 21, “Over the Moon”

I like this theme. When you’re “over the moon,” as the puzzle title says, you’re really happy. Here, synonyms for happy that are part of longer phrases appear right above the name of a moon in the solar system:

  • 21a. [Brand of fruity hard candy], JOLLY RANCHER / 24a. [URANUS], ARIEL. Please know that we are all thinking of childish butt jokes and move along.
  • 40a. [Comfort in not knowing, say], BLISSFUL IGNORANCE / 50a. [JUPITER], GANYMEDE.
  • 66a. [Song standard on “Barbra Streisand’s Greatest Hits”], HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN / 71a. [SATURN], TITAN.
  • 86a. [One feature of a perfect nanny, in a “Mary Poppins” song], CHEERY DISPOSITION / 91a. [MARS], DEIMOS.
  • 113a. [Classic carnival ride], MERRY-GO-ROUND / 117a. [NEPTUNE], NAIAD. I didn’t know there was a moon named Naiad.

I appreciate that the moons chosen are all letter-count matches for the “happy” words above theme, no “approximately over part of a moon” hedging.

I had a sinking feeling after encountering both IDYL and DAR in the 1-Across corner, but then the fill overall didn’t bug me. Whew!

Seven more things:

  • 99a. [Solo flier?], CHEWBACCA. Cute! Han Solo’s space-traveling buddy.
  • 17d. [Grateful sentiments, in online shorthand], TYS. Ah, a cursed combination of “plural abbreviation” and “plural interjection, sort of, except you type ty rather than saying it.” The three 8s this crosses are great, but I’m not sure TYS downsides don’t outweigh those pluses.
  • 43d. [Choice of sizes, briefly], SML. Constructors, it is time to really downgrade this one a lot in your word lists. In the world of clothing, there are very rarely just these three sizes offered. Maybe there are for, I dunno, stickers or stuffed animals? But XS, XL, XXL, etc., are out there too for apparel.
  • 44d. [Celebratory, quaintly], FESTAL. It crosses three theme entries so there’s little flexibility, but we all know that “quaintly” really means “this word is archaic.”
  • 70d. [2003 best seller whose title is one letter different from a fantasy creature], ERAGON. I want to know if the author tried out Cragon and Fragon, too.
  • 94d. [Bit of luau wear], SARONG. Mind you, that’s an Indonesian word, and luaus are Polynesian. The various Polynesian cultures use other words for the garment.
  • 115d. [Piece de resistance?], OHM. Fun with science!

Four stars from me.

Morton J. Mendelson’s LA Times crossword, “Body Language” – Jenni’s write-up

Did you know that there are a lot of idioms in English that include words for body parts? And some of them describe damage to those body parts? Well, Morton noticed that and decided to cram a bunch of them into a “quip” and make a puzzle out of it. I don’t like quote puzzles all that much. I like them even less when the quote is made up out of thin air. The fill does not redeem this puzzle.

Los Angeles Times, March 28, 2021, Morton J. Mendelson, “Body Language,” solution grid


There it is. And oh, it’s SO funny that the speaker of this oh-so-amusing quip managed to dismiss a woman’s emotions by joking! That’s totally what we want the men in our lives to do when we’re upset, amirite, ladies? Just jolly us out of it!

Yes, dudes, I know it’s a joke. I know I’m not supposed to take it seriously. Maybe if it was a halfway-decent puzzle, I wouldn’t be so annoyed by the subtext. Unfortunately for us all, it is not. Plural ARSONS. Roll-your-own CEO PAY (clued with reference to the IRS schedule on which it’s reported because sure! that’s common knowledge). The letter Q spelled out as KUE. Fill-in-the-blanks all over the _____. Abbreviation PPD (for pre-paid, I pre-sume). Pasta suffix –INI. The MET‘s division abbreviated as the NLE, which may appear somewhere but is not the standard notation for NL East. Feh.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that CEO PAY (ugh) is reported in SEC form 10-K, part 3. Oh, geeze, it’s the SEC, not the IRS. Somehow that makes it worse.

Amanda Rafkin’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Sounds Familiar”—Jim P’s review

Puns! Even better, composer puns! Even better, good composer puns.

The revealer is at 106a, [What you may say after hearing great news, and a theme hint], or THAT’S MUSIC TO MY EARS.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Sounds Familiar” · Amanda Rafkin · 3.28.21

  • 26a. [“My plus-one will be that alluring composer Johann”?] I’M BRINGING SEXY BACH. Back. Ha! What a great one to start the puzzle with. There are so many “sexy” Halloween costumes—from Sexy Santa to Sexy Bob Ross. Sexy Bach would fit right in.
  • 39a. [Starting a lecture about composer Joseph?] GOING INTO HAYDN. Hiding.
  • 53a. [Yuletide piece from composer Frederic?] CHRISTMAS CHOPIN. Shopping. This one has the largest pronunciation change.
  • 78a. [Very successful recording by composer Franz?] BESTSELLER LISZT. List.
  • 93a. [Warmer than is preferable for composer George?] TOO HOT TO HANDEL. Handle. Another strong one to finish out the set. Hallelujah!

I quite enjoyed these, especially that first one, which is strong enough to carry the whole theme.

And look how the long fill sparkles in this grid, starting off with a DOUBLE MARTINI and the LATEST UPDATES, there’s also POOH-POOHS, HORN SOLO, DATA LOSS, “OH SURE,” SALT SCRUB, RAT RACES, and END TITLES. I’m not sure what ICE HOUSES are if not igloos. Ah, the Internets tell me they’re structures used to store ice (prior to the invention of refrigeration) rather than made out of ice.

I’ve never heard INSPO as [Creative motivation, slangily] but maybe that’s something the kids these days are saying. Nor did I know award-winning actress ERIVO [Cynthia of “Harriet”], but she’s three-fourths of the way to an EGOT, and she’s already been twice-nominated for an Oscar. I expect we’ll see her name more in crosswords.

But I could definitely do without BATCHES. BATCHES! We don’t need no stinking BATCHES!

Clues of note:

  • 43a. [Part of a stock exchange?]. MOO. Probably not a new clue, but enjoyable nonetheless.
  • 59d. [Turn into a musical, say]. ADAPT. I get the impression Amanda’s into musicals. There are numerous musical-related clues throughout the grid.

Honestly, a really fun theme and lovely grid. An easy 4.25 stars from me.

Lynn Lempel’s Washington Post crossword, “Bodybuilding” – Jim Q’s Write-up

Guest constructor today! And what a guest it is- I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t love a Lynn Lempel byline. She is known for creating easier Monday-level puzzles with squeaky clean grids and accessible themes.

THEME: Body parts are added to common phrases. Wackiness ensues.

Washington Post, March 28, 2021, Lynn Lempel, “Bodybuilding” solution grid


  • 24A [Chewy candy version of a small horse?] GUMMY LITTLE PONY. Take out the Gum and it’s My Little Pony. 
  • 30A [Blunt directive to close up one’s pants?] BUTTON THE FLY. Kick Butt and it’s On the fly. 
  • 51A [Romance down under?] KANGAROO COURTSHIP. Shake the Hip and it’s Kangaroo courts. 
  • 67A [Typical features of Elle or Marie Claire photo shoots?] LADIES AND GARMENTS. If this entry were un-Armed it would be Ladies and gents. 
  • 82A [Opera singer Maria Callas, e.g.?] LEGEND ON A HIGH NOTE. Amputate that Leg and it’s End on a high note. 
  • 101A [Grumpy parents’ thought on Christmas Day?] TOYS RANKLE US. Cut out the Ankle and it’s Toys ‘R Us. 
  • 113A [Folks kicked out of a ballroom competition for foul language?] SWEARING DANCERS. Let (van) Go(gh) of that ear and it’s Swing dancers. 

Really a joy to solve this one today. Like a special gift, wrapped up in a bow and placed neatly under the tree. I got a good chuckle out of my favorite of the themers, TOYS RANKLE US. Although it was the hardest for me to parse, it offered a great visual. I need to use the word RANKLE more often. SWEARING DANCERS is pretty funny too. Though if the dancers I’ve been around in musical theater world are any indication, it’s a very apt entry.

I had to look a while at BUTTON THE FLY. I wan’t entirely sure it was a themer. It actually sounds like an in-language phrase to me. I think it was an ad campaign a long time ago for a brand of jeans… Sure was! Here’s an article about it.

You can also be the first one to leave a comment on this Levi ‘s ad I found on YouTube if that’s your thing.

KANGAROO COURTSHIP gave me a momentary pause as well since it looks like SHIP could be added to KANGAROO COURT.

Solid clue/answer pairs all around. 2D for the win [A serious group?] AEIOU. I’ve seen iterations of this clue before. I fall for it every time. A E I O and U are a “group” that can be found in the word “serious.”

Thanks Lynn! And thanks Evan for welcoming guests into your venue.

Happy Sunday!


Debbie Ellerin’s Universal crossword, “Changes of Strategy” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: The word PLAN can be found backwards in each theme entry.

Universal crossword solution · “Changes of Strategy” · Debbie Ellerin · Sun., 3.28.21


  • (revealer) BACKUP PLANS

Flew through this one. Those grid-spanners were big gimmes. Came very close to breaking the three minute mark, which I think I’ve only done once or twice. If I hadn’t entered EASY instead of ETSY I woulda had it.

ETSY clue is quirky by the way… [Where to buy a Spider-Man costume on the web]. I mean sure… but very specific. I know it’s having fun with the word “web”… but I think it needs a “perhaps” at the end, since my first and second stops for that item would be and Amazon, in that order. I use ETSY to purchase personalized stuff to spoil my dogs.

I’m not entirely familiar with a TENT SALE, but I feel like I just saw that entry in a Universal this week… Maybe I’m dreaming that up. I can’t seem to find it, but I swear I saw it very recently somewhere.

Solid puzzle!

3.7 stars


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38 Responses to Sunday, March 28, 2021

  1. Jenni Levy says:

    I didn’t like the NYT as much as Amy did. I liked the LAT even less. Thank heavens for Lynn Lempel’s WaPo, which was a lot of fun.

    • Mr. Grumpy says:

      ladies and gents? No thank you. Where did the gentlemen go?
      kangaroo courts? I think not. The idiomatic insult is calling the tribunal a kangaroo court. Singular. I do not believe I ever seen a plural usage.

      WaPo was better than the insipid LAT. That’s about the most I can say for it. I might have been more impressed [or more willing to ignore nits] if the body parts had been added from head to foot.

      • It’s fine if the puzzle wasn’t your favorite, but these are extremely trivial nits to pick, in my opinion. When Lynn suggested KANGAROO COURTSHIP during our initial correspondence, I instantly felt that one was a winner. The image was hilarious enough to me that it overrode any concerns about the base phrase and it wasn’t even a close call. Who cares if you normally hear “kangaroo court” in the singular? The plural phrase shows up in plenty of news stories on its own, anyhow.

      • David L says:

        Just to add my two cents – I liked Ms Lempel’s puzzle very much. “Ladies and gents” is a perfectly acceptable stand-alone phrase, to my mind.

        What’s always outstanding about her puzzles is the quality of the fill. She makes it look easy to avoid both crosswordese and weird obscurities (I’m sure it isn’t that easy).

      • L.H. Puttgrass says:

        I liked the puzzle, but I spent way more time than I should have trying to figure out what part of the body a SHIP was, or why this clue didn’t fit the rest of the theme, before figuring it out. Maybe I’m also used to KANGAROO COURT in the singular, or maybe it seems like there’s something slightly cheating about pluralizing to make the pun, but that clue did feel slightly off to me in an otherwise solid puzzle. OTOH, KANGAROO COURTSHIP is a great image, so I can see why someone would want to try to work that in even if it’s not a perfect fit.

  2. Kevin says:

    Link to the WAPO review not working?

  3. Anon says:

    Re: LA Times, consider perhaps that HE and HIS would not fit into the puzzle letter count.

  4. Greg says:

    I hadn’t noticed that deft construction feat that Amy identified in the Times: that the length of the names of the moons were identical in each case to the length of the adjective above it. Impressive to pack in that much formal razzle-dazzle and still keep it a nice, smooth solving experience. Brava!

  5. Me says:

    LAT: While I appreciate that there are a lot of very long theme-related answers, KUE is just not worth it. There’s too much Green Paint for my taste (CAMEEASY, TOOSTEEP, CEOPAY, etc), and a bunch of other dodgy fill like ARSONS, but if you have to use KUE, I think you should rip up that part of the grid and come up with another solution.

  6. Mutman says:

    NYT: I found this quite a slog. So the adjectives matched the moons in letter count: well they had better, or the theme would have been more lame.

    Am I really supposed to be an expert on knowing all the moons in the solar system?? I’m not, so maybe that’s why I didn’t like this all too much, plus to me, there’s not a whole lotta them going on.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Part of my enjoyment likely had to do with most of the moon names being familiar to me from trivia quizzes.

  7. Jim says:

    NYT: SML are still common choices for beverages in fast-food restaurants.

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni (Sunday) … I can’t disagree more with Jim Q about this one. Suffice it to say that this theme wasn’t MUSIC TO MY EARS. I can live with the others, but “Back” and BACH and, especially, “shopping” and CHOPIN are decidedly not homophones. This is exactly why I cringe whenever I see this type of theme. I do agree that the fill was pretty good with the notable exceptions of ERIVO and INSPO. INSPO?!? WTF is that? You’ve just gotta re-work your grid to avoid INSPO.

    • Jim Q says:

      I didn’t post that review. Mind your P’s and Q’s :)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      It’s rude to single out Cynthia ERIVO as bad fill. She may be fairly new to the spotlight, but her exceptional skills have already won her an Emmy, Grammy, and Tony, plus two Oscar nominations. Three quarters of the way to an EGOT and this Black actress and singer still doesn’t make the grade in your book?

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Rude? Really? I agree that I shouldn’t have lumped ERIVO in with INSPO as not “pretty good fill” (to be fair, I didn’t call those two “bad fill”). She certainly has the bona fides for crosswords. It’s just a name that I don’t recall encountering before.

        There’s an awful lot of rudeness in the world and I make every effort not to contribute to it. If you say that what I wrote was rude, then I guess I’m guilty as charged. I’ll go back to my corner now.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Now that I’ve read the rest of the day’s commentary, I see that “rude” puts me in the same company as a commenter who made a joke out of calling someone a moron. Wow.

        Having recently been made fun of on another crossword blog’s commentary for something I posted, I think I best keep my virtual mouth shut in these venues, unless I wish to be insulted or accused of rudeness (when I was simply ignorant of a name).

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Phrasing is everything. “The fill was pretty good except for ERIVO and INSPO” is not the same as “The fill was pretty good but there were a couple entries I wasn’t familiar with, ERIVO and INSPO.” The latter doesn’t at all suggest those are bad fill, just that they’re out of your wheelhouse.

          (INSPO is one of those contemporary, Instagram-friendly sorts of shortenings. I do like to see crosswords change with the time as our language changes and expands. When puzzles appeal to the younger generation of solvers and draw more of them in, it means our supply of crosswords won’t run out any time soon!)

          • sanfranman59 says:

            In the future, I will continue to try to avoid rudeness with my phrasing. I really do labor over my writing, trying to be sure that I say exactly what I intend and that I don’t inadvertently offend or mistreat others with my words. Believe it or not, this little message took me about 20 minutes to hone. In this case, I missed the mark; either that or I’m ruder than I realize.

            The more I think about this, the more I think I was triggered by your pointing out that Ms. ERIVO is Black and took it as a suggestion that you felt my comment wasn’t just rude, but racist (particularly since you used the same adjective to describe someone else using the offensive term “moron” in chastising Sunday’s LAT constructor). There’s little (perhaps nothing) in this life that I find more abhorrent than bias based upon someone’s race, ethnicity, culture, gender, age, creed, religion, sexual preference, mental capacity, physical infirmity or any other superficial trait (I sincerely hope I’m not forgetting something in this list … please don’t jump on me if I am). I try to always be conscious of my own biases and do my very best to analyze them and to keep them in check. I know that I am not perfect in this regard and am always trying to improve myself. I now realize that what I wrote about ERIVO and INSPO may reflect racism/ageism on my part (or at least it could be interpreted that way) and that I need to be even more careful than I already try to be with what I write and say.

  9. AV says:

    Sunday NYT reveal was good. Post-solve.

    But the solve itself was a slog.

    DAR, GER, TYS, SYL, SYN, SML, UTEP, WAH, ADM, ALG, SLR, MNO …. too many 3LW and too much crud, all caused by the 82 blocks … all of which were needed to do the magic that Amy mentions.

    But no fun solving.

  10. Mark Abe says:

    NYT: Very impressive theme and meta (“above”) theme construction.
    LAT: Very unimpressed by making up a silly “quote” and still having to make up “KUE” for the letter before “r”.

  11. David Steere says:

    SUNDAY Puzzles: What a great day for great crosswords! Olivia Mitra Framke at the Times, Lynn Lempel at WaPo, Amanda Rafkin at Universal Sunday, Debbie Ellerin at Universal, … and fine puzzles by Zhouqin Burnikel at USA Today, and Pamela Klawitter at the Atlantic. All very good, some superb. Feels just right after enjoying immensely last night the episode of American Masters on PBS devoted to Twyla Tharp, TWYLA MOVES, which is still streaming at My favorite clue in all of these terrific grids is 43A in Amanda’s puzzle (which certainly had a theme dear to my heart and ears).

  12. marciem says:

    NYT: Thoroughly enjoyed the whole puzzle, even not knowing all the moon names that well. I didn’t even catch that the “over the moon” happinesses were same letter count matching, which gave me an extra enjoyment reading about it.

    Also had a good time with the Univ. Sun, even if the “sound alikes” didn’t really in all cases. I had to puzzle over Christmas Choppin’ for a minute :D (hey don’t we do lot of that? ;) )

    LAT: Jenni!! Thanks for the heads up review!! I don’t much care for quip-quotes at all. I will tolerate them if they’re really clever and attributable to someone I like. This was neither, so I didn’t bother. As I’ve said, i have trouble with the on-line solve on Sunday size puzzles.

    Is the LAT available in Across Lite ? Someone said they couldn’t access it either, the other day. I’m still at the same problem, and it doesn’t seem browser related.

    • Lobsterboys says:

      Ueah, I’m still having problems seeing the LAT. And I can’t seem to find it on the Mensa site as someone recommended.

  13. Mr. Jordan says:

    I haven’t seriously tried a crossword in years and I foolishly thought I’d dip my toe in with the LA Times, only to be greeted with Moron… oops, legitimate typo, Morton J. Mendelson’s wretched puzzle.

    The ‘quip’ is nothing. It’s NOTHING. It’s just word salad. KUE has already been discussed and is unforgivable, but there’s a similar lack of thought in the completely vestigial INONIT and then just ‘Wedding ___’ for DAY. Do you maybe want use your whole ass next time?

    • Jim Q says:

      It’s no longer a typo when you call it “legitimate” and leave it in. Shame on you.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Perhaps “Mr. Jordan” is acting out because life sucks (it really has been a tough year for so many of us) and eventually he’ll regret it, or perhaps he’s just rude.

  14. RM Camp says:

    Wow, looks like quite a few thought the NYT a slog. I didn’t, the only part to give me any difficulty was the east central section, because I’m more familiar with the term “cherimoya” over PAPAW for “custard apple”, and I don’t give a rat’s ass about GREASE. I initially thought the moons were the largest to their planets, but Phobos is bigger than DEIMOS iirc and I don’t remember NAIAD either. Still, this turned out to be a Sunday personal best, and it flew by.

  15. M483 says:

    Never mind I got it.

  16. Joan Macon says:

    Add me to the list of those who did not like the LAT. A quotation—fine. A “quip”? I don’t think so!

  17. Jejunebug says:

    Re NYT 62-across, the singular noun is TAMAL. Not TAMALE. May be acceptable as an anglicization.

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