Saturday, April 3, 2021

LAT 6:57 (Derek) 


Newsday 7:29 (Derek) 


NYT 6:11 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Peter Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 4 3 21, no. 0403

4d. [Blues classic that contains the lyric “I’m free from your spell”] clues “THE THRILL IS GONE,” and that’s more or less my vibe in solving this puzzle. Started right off with 1a. [Kind of poet], thinking “BARD? Please don’t let it be BEAT (as BEAT by itself is not a sort of poet).” And it was BEAT. ARSE and SPERM in the same corner, plus EARLAP? Meh.

Fill I liked: “I’M SO EXCITED,” but only because it made me think of the Pointer Sisters song (didn’t love the [“Squee!”] clue because the entry feels maybe a touch contrived? See also: ALL TATTED UP). FLIRTATIOUS. TEEN MOM. FLAUNTED. KNOTTY. Carroll’s CURIOUSER. And KICKS IT UP A NOTCH is good.

Five more things:

  • PARKAS are 37d. [Worn down apparel?] (not worn-down, just down that you wear) and not a 15a. [Coat in the winter], which is a verb phrase cluing ICE UP.
  • 19a. [So, in Sicily], COSI. Is this foreign vocab that non-Italian-speakers know? I didn’t know it. There’s a restaurant chain by that name, but apparently it is down to its last 20 locations! So not suitable for cluing.
  • 55a. [Athletic conference that UMass belongs to], A-TEN. Listen, if you’re gonna wedge ATEN into your grid, just own up to it with an Egyptian sun god clue. Atlantic 10, or A-10, has a numeral in it. (Watch some ATEN sports while listening to UTWO, why don’t you?)
  • 36d. [Former name of Kazakhstan’s largest city], ALMA ATA. It’s been Almaty since 1993, switching from a Russian name to a Kazakh one. “I’ll take Cold War Place Names for $600, please”?
  • 40d. [One who might sit in a high chair], UMPIRE, at a tennis court. Fun clue. The toddleresque “waaaah” is optional.

3.4 stars from me.

Alex Rosen’s Universal crossword, “Inner Insertion” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: The words OVER and OUT must be “inserted” into theme answers to split a common phrase/word up into two different phrases/words in order for the clues to make sense.

Universal crossword solution · “Inner Insertion” · Alex Rosen · Sat., 4.03.21


  • 17A [Redoes / Runs faster than (insert 61-Across between letters 5 and 6 in this answer)] WORKSPACES. So, insert OVER and OUT and it’s WORKS OVER and OUTPACES. 
  • 21A [Book jacket / Audibly (… between letters 5 and 6 …) DUST CLOUD. DUST COVER and OUT LOUD.
  • 39A [Came for dinner / Something unusual (… between letters 3 and 4 …)] ATELIER. ATE OVER and OUTLIER. 
  • 54A [Vacuum brand / No longer published (… between letters 2 and 3 …)] HOOF PRINT. HOOVER and OUT OF PRINT. 
  • 61A [Nonsensical radio signoff] OVER AND OUT

Wow. This was pretty cool. Quirky and daring, especially for Universal which, more often than not, tends to run over-the-plate themes. This was a fantastic solve experience for me as I could *sorta/kinda* see what was going on but didn’t fully appreciate it until I was done, so it kept me guessing and had a mysterious quality to it. Great finds by Alex all around, though I must confess I would love it if OVER AND OUT were the title and there were one more themer in its place. Something about the title “Inner Insertion” doesn’t sit right with me. Still, it’s quite remarkable that base phrases where this pattern works a few times over exist at all.

I ignored the instructions where I was asked to count letters and let the theme reveal itself without that crutch, which I find preferable to the nudge. But I appreciate the existence of that push in order to make the solve accessible to a broader audience. It’s also the type of puzzle that has potential to provide a strong AHA to a newer solver and hook them on crosswords for life.

Anything else? Let’s see… JAWA is new to me. But I’m not a Star Wars guy. I had JEDI and then JAB(b)A. I’ll get around to watching that franchise someday. I know a heck of a lot of Star Wars vocabulary from crosswords, but there’s no real context for me (for instance, I know EWOKs are from ENDOR… whatever that means).

I don’t think VIPs should skip lines. I had a friend who told Rudy Giuliani that there was a line when he tried to cut ahead of everyone to get a hot dog at a Yankees game. And that was back when people liked him.

Lastly I don’t call CHORDS “groups of musical notes.” I just call them “groups of notes.” :)

Fill wasn’t all that bad though, especially considering that some of the themers are right on top of one another.

Awesome puzzle today. 4.9 stars from me.

Would be 5… but that title! Yeesh.

Ryan McCarty’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 04/03/2021

This puzzle has a momentous occasion for me: I see the entry ELKHART in a puzzle! According to, it has appeared 5 times since 2000 in NYT puzzles, but I don’t remember seeing it in a puzzle. For some reason, I remember seeing clues for Elkhart Lake, WI more often that a reference to the city I lived in for 25 years! The clue [South Bend suburb] threw me for a loop, though, as it isn’t really a “suburb”. But that is mainly because South Bend isn’t big enough to have “suburbs”! With the answer being 7 letters, I thought it might be GRANGER or OSCEOLA, but ELKHART is a city of 50,000 people that is a full 20 miles or so away in a separate county! It isn’t even that much smaller than South Bend, whose population is barely over 100,000. Mayor Pete and Notre Dame have put South Bend on the national map, but if you have ever bought an RV, chances are high that it was made in Elkhart or the surrounding area, where there are literally dozens of RV factories. When conversion vans were the rage in the late ’70s and early ’80s, those were made there too. I am getting wordy, but even though I never want to live in Elkhart again, I have family there! So my puzzle enjoyment had a great “a-ha!” moment seeing this entry. Thanks, Ryan! 4.8 stars for this phenomenal themeless.

I also enjoyed Ryan’s interview from this past week’s Boswords Spring league. You can find that here if I copied the link correctly! If not, it is on Twitch and also on the Boswords site. I feel like I know him now, even though I don’t think we have ever met!

Also, there are other entries besides 7-Down!

  • 5A [One who gets famous just for kicks?] SOCCER STAR – This sounds like it is referring to a basketball player, who are renowned (at least in this country!) for signature lines of shoes that cost too much.
  • 18A [Reaction that can be grateful or sarcastic] “THANKS A LOT!”– Great casual phrase!
  • 35A [Area where skateboarding likely originated, briefly] SO-CAL – I was in this area recently; the weather is much nicer there!
  • 48A [Milwaukee draft pick?] PABST – This beer is terrible. As I get older, MOST beer is terrible. I don’t drink beer or pop that often anymore. Getting old stinks!
  • 52A [Utensil in Valencian cooking] PAELLA PAN – This sounds redundant, but there are omelet pans and such, so it works. I just don’t own one!
  • 3D [Competitor who’s over the hump?] CAMEL RACER – They race camels??
  • 31D [Impressive displays] PANOPLIES – I thought this was PANORAMAS, which also fits. Great entry!
  • 41D [Lose it] GO BATTY – This would be a debut in the NYT! Excellent.
  • 49D [Croquetas or caracoles] TAPAS – Now I am hungry. And I am fully vaccinated, so perhaps a restaurant is in the works … ? Maybe if it isn’t too crowded?
  • 55D [Role in the Monteverdi opera “The Coronation of Poppaea”] NERO – I believe you!

That is all for now! Off to work on the newest Panda, which I haven’t spent enough time on.

Stanley Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 04/03/2021

This one fell quickly. I had a slightly tough time in the lower areas of the puzzle, especially the SE corner, but the upper half was filled in quite rapidly. I was a little surprised how quickly it was filled in, but this is still a hard puzzle. It just showed its teeth a little later than normal. There are some interesting entries in this puzzle, including that SE area, and I will mention those below. But in summary, this puzzle did not induce an anxiety attack or a fit of anger, which may or may not have happened in the past! A solid 4.4 stars for this slightly kinder toughie.

Those promised comments:

  • 1A [Kids’ programming designation] RATED TV-G – Great 1-Across entry! This is mainly cartoons, right?
  • 31A [Undemanding listening] EAR CANDY – Like pop music, which I learned years ago is extremely non-complex, compared to classical music, for instance.
  • 36A [When ”I Will Survive” got a Grammy] DISCO ERA – This is true, but highly vague. But that is the whole point of these Stumpers, is it not?
  • 39A [Structure south of Luxor] ASWAN DAM – This isn’t near the Suez Canal, is it? I feel ignorant not knowing that area of the world!
  • 50A [Kid-lit ecologist] LORAX – He was an ecologist??
  • 63A [Don’t swallow easily] QUESTION – Best clue in the grid, in my opinion. This has a vicious misdirection.
  • 67A [LBJ Library locale] UT-AUSTIN – I think they say this a lot. In Texas! I would love to visit Austin, since I hear they have phenomenal restaurants, but I have never been to the Lone Star State. One of these days!
  • 11D [Media letters since Charleston days] NBC – I get how we are making the clues tough and vague, but someone will have to explain this clue to me.
  • 32D [Something reported in annual reports] NET PROFITS – My accounting degree pays off!
  • 44D [Nation de Nogales] MEXIQUE – This is Mexico in French. Tough!

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

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

WSJ • 4/3/21 • Sat • “Coincide” • Shenk • solution • 20210403

The bigram CO is placed inside words and phrases to wackify them. Seems apt for the newspaper of businesses.

  • 22a. [Aspirant for a job with a snake charmer?] TRAINING COBRA (training bra). Asp-irant, I see what you did there.
  • 27a. [Dance instructors specializing in sinuous Middle Eastern moves?] BELLY COACHES (bellyaches).
  • 43a. [Table protectors used with fancy tea sets?] CHINA COASTERS (China asters). Was not familiar with that specific flower.
  • 65a. [Spouse who refuses to be present in the delivery room?] MATERNITY COWARD (maternity ward). Is that still a thing, or just a trope?
  • 88a. [Celestial objects seen in the Hayden Planetarium?] NEW YORK COMETS (New York Mets). Not to be confused with the erstwhile New York Cosmos. Or the Utica Comets.
  • 103a. [Aid for draining pasta on the Red Planet?] MARS COLANDER (Mars lander). Presumably served with arrabbiata sauce.
  • 113a. [Person mimicking your fly-casting technique?] FISHING COPIER (fishing pier).

Fine little theme. Also, Disney’s Coco (2017) is one of the few recent films of theirs that I’ve seen, and it’s very good. There’s a XOLO in it!

COs are not expunged from the rest of the grid, and can be seen in entries such as the maybe-tricky, maybe-not-that-good 19a [It might end in a tie] COLLAR, the clever 50a [Take in] CON, and the nifty 47d [Hot Mediterranean wind] SIROCCO.

Difficulty of the solve is increased slightly by editorial choices in cluing such as CON above,  41d [Permission] for LEAVE, the misdirection of 44d [Diamond figure] CARATS (not baseball!), and the obliqueness of 63a [Pull up] STOP. This is not a bad thing at all.

  • 2d [Lady’s man] LORD. Not ladies’ man. 11d [They outrank viscounts] EARLS.
  • 16d [Robe closer] SASH. BELT here slowed me down.
  • 18d [All-Black team that one the first professional basketball championship, in 1939] RENS. Completely new to me, but I am not a 14d [Fount of facts] ALMANAC when it comes to sports. Named for their home arena, the Harlem Renaissance Ballroom.
  • 57d [Dogfighters’ doings] AIR WAR. 33a [TV series with Lloyd Bridges as a diver] SEA HUNT. So where is LAND SQAUBBLE?
  • Down on the left margin we have some African architecture/geography going on: 34d [Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum setting] ACCRA (capital of Ghana), and 68d [Abdeen Palace setting] CAIRO (capital of Egypt).
  • More geography—and something I didn’t know—at 117a [Ganges city, formerly] BENARES. For the crossing 81d [Old gold coins of Spain] I first had PISTOLAS (rather than PISTOLES), making BENARAS. Now called Varanasi
  • 21a [Recovery from a wreck] SALVAGE, which I just confirmed was a major element in SEA HUNT. Also in the news, with the recent exploration of the deepest known shipwreck, the USS Johnston.
  • 109a [Org. that grants emergency use authorizations] FDA. Such as, for instance, with new vaccines amid a pandemic.
  • 13a [“The die is cast” speaker] CAESAR, upon crossing the Rubicon. “Iacta alea est.
  • Finally, can we all AGREE (34a) that DONOVAN‘s “Mellow Yellow” (58d) is a silly song? Here’s one of his that I much prefer:

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27 Responses to Saturday, April 3, 2021

  1. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: How on earth do you mess up a song (by a Black, female group) that was featured in Vacation and numerous other movies & TV shows? If only it were a 1963 “hit” written by Paul Anka.

  2. arthur118 says:

    Certainly, Mozart’s opera buffa, Cosi Fan Tutte, is usable when developing a clue for COSI.

  3. MattF says:

    NYT was rather tough for me, although the entries weren’t particularly obscure. A good one, IMO. Also— ‘I’m So Excited’ is a lot more… um… explicit than I recalled… but I’m not complaining.

    • STEVEN says:

      i couldn’t get a toehold

      finally got something going at the bottom and worked my way up

      i think it was the clever cluing that made it harder for me

      all in all, one of the better saturdays, IMHO

  4. Alan D. says:

    I’m hitting a pay wall for the Newsday no matter what I do. How are people accessing it?

  5. marcie m says:

    UC: revealer… Why is Over and Out “nonsensical”? I thought it meant, in radio-ese, “I’m done and signing off” as opposed to just “over” meaning “I’m done speaking, it’s your turn”.

  6. Zulema says:

    NYT did not pass the breakfast test. I never expected to say that. “Dog” PILE, really? Plus ARSE, plus SPERM, though that one had a clean clue. Easier than some Saturdays but not a pleasant or joyful solve. Sorry, my take!

  7. Bob says:

    As for the the Newsday puzzle, two answers to your questions. The Lorax was into saving the environment so that means one is an ecologist, I presume. And NBC being the answer to “Media letters since Charleston days” means the network has been around since the Charleston was the dance craze: the roaring 20s.

  8. Hector says:

    NYT I was stuck for a while, sure that Squee! was some variation of DUDEBROBREWSKITIME

  9. RunawayPancake says:

    LAT – Hey, Derek. No love for 1D? [Retiring groups?] PITCREWS. The plural in the clue notwithstanding, I had PITCHERS in there way too long. Sometimes I grow too attached to an answer.

    • marcie m says:

      I loved the Retiring groups, once I got it :) . Not being a race car fan, it wasn’t the first on my list of possibilities, that’s for sure. Loved the punniness.

  10. BarbaraK says:

    WSJ: Anyone else react to “All-Black team that won the first professional basketball championship, in 1939” by being surprised that New Zealand was playing basketball back in 1939? :)

    (No, I don’t know much about sports, which is probably why I over-apply the teeny tiny bit I do know.)

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