Sunday, April 11, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal tk (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 8:38 (Jim P) 


WaPo 16:10 (Jim Q) 


Dick Shlakman & Will Nedigers New York Times crossword, “Merger Mania”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 4 11 21, “Merger Mania”

I enjoyed this puzzle. I liked the theme, and there was so much good stuff scattered throughout the grid, like IDA B. WELLS, JABOUKIE Young-White (I’ve followed him on Twitter and appreciate that his first name is supervocalic—uses each of the vowels exactly once), CELESTE Ng. Non-people fill like UBER-X, REHYDRATE, ABACAB, TIME CRUNCH, the UNDEAD wights—I liked that, too.

Here’s the theme, where two companies “merge” by having a product from each of them combine to form a familiar phrase:

  • 23a. [Result of a merger between Quaker Oats and Greyhound?], LIFE COACHES. Life cereal, Greyhound motorcoaches.
  • 46a. [Result of a merger between Kraft and Hershey’s?], SINGLES BARS. Kraft Singles cheezoid, Hershey’s chocolate bars.
  • 51a. [Result of a merger between Google and Planters?], DRIVE NUTS. Google Drive, where you have your Google Docs and Sheets, and Planters peanuts.’
  • 68a. [Result of a merger between Hasbro and Nikon?], TROUBLE SHOOTERS. The Pop-o-Matic board game Trouble, cameras that shoot.
  • 91a. [Result of a merger between Procter & Gamble and Jacuzzi?], TIDE POOLS. Tide laundry detergent (Tide Free powder adherent here) and Jacuzzi hot tubs/pools.
  • 94a. [Result of a merger between Hormel and Instagram?], SPAM FILTERS. Love it! There is actually Spam in my fridge right now; my son likes it with eggs, like any good Filipino.
  • 120a. [Result of a merger between Ralph Lauren and Starbucks?], POLO GROUNDS. Polo shirts/clothes, coffee grounds. I learned from crosswords that the Polo Grounds were a baseball venue. Maybe the Dodgers? Not entirely clear on that. Defunct stadiums are not of much interest to me.

Just six more things, because my family’s waiting for me:

  • 14d. [Lead-in to an Indiana “-ville”], EVANS. Weird clue angle for a common name—but my cousin once lived in Evansville so this was a gimme.
  • 72a. [Bird like the Canada goose or arctic tern], MIGRANT. Hoping the piping plover pair return to Chicago’s Montrose Beach to nest again. They winter down in Florida or Georgia, but have nested here in the spring the last few years. Endangered and precious!
  • 109d. [Birkin stock?], BAGS. As in the super-spendy line of Hermès bags, playing on Birkenstock sandals.
  • 111d. [Quinceañera, e.g.], RITE. I went to one when my son was one of the chambelanes for his friend’s quince. I do not have the footwork skills to dance well to fast Latin music.
  • 98d. [JAMA contributors], DRS. Hey! I’m participating in a Johns Hopkins study whose preliminary results were reported in JAMA last month. Hit the big time!
  • 99a. [___ reform, cause for the Marshall Project], BAIL. The Chicago Community Bond Fund has also been working on this issue, and the governor signed into law an end to cash bail.

4.5 stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Themeless No. 16” – Jim Q’s Write-up

They sneak up on you, don’t they? Just when you start to forget that WaPo dabbles in themeless 21x puzzles, Whoomp! There it is.


There was a lot to like, as there darn well should be in a jumbo themeless!

Washington Post, April 11, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Themeless No. 16” solution grid

Favorites for me included:

  • 51A [Stressful competition?] POETRY SLAM. Excellent entry with a great clue. “Stressful” in the context referring to stressed syllables in the poems.
  • 1A [Assessments providing incontrovertible proof] ACID TESTS. Don’t think I’ve ever seen this phrase without the words “Electric Kool-Aid” before it. Not to be confused with the BAR EXAM.
  • 67A [Artistic movements?] INTERPRETIVE DANCE. Little curveball with the decision to make the clue plural.
  • 93A [Spent] DEAD TIRED. 
  • 104A [“Don’t even need to look up the answer!”] I’M RIGHT. Who doesn’t love knowing trivia before someone else can google it?
  • 110A [Condition of a jinxed team, so to speak] BAD MOJO. 
  • 116A [Nitwit] DING-A-LING. Not to be confused with the DING-A-LING of Chuck Berry’s earworm.
  • 17D [Knight-time event?] RENAISSANCE FAIRE. That’s one groaner of a clue if I’ve ever sen one.
  • 43D [Most expensive property between Go and Jail (not counting houses or hotels)] READING RAILROAD. Hands up for trying to remember the name of the light blue property adjacent to Jail.
  • 92D [Access point for some rescues?] PET DOOR. Rescues being shelter animals in this context. My Great Dane uses the regular door (he can open it… if only I can get him to close it!) to get IN AND OUT of my house.
  • 111D [First name among legendary ax wielders?] JIMI. Hendrix, of course. “Ax” referring to the guitar.

New for me:

  • YIPPIES (I keep trying to watch The Trial of the Chicago 7 but I fall asleep before it’s five minutes in).
  • The RARITAN River.
  • Names: Eric CARLE, LAMAR Jackson, SAM Seder, KEN Watanbe (I kept reading that as “wannabe” in the clue), Christopher ORR, Marielle FRANCO

Other things:

  • Interesting Jane Austen quote in the clue for 115D [“One cannot always be laughing at a ___ without now and then stumbling on something witty”: Jane Austen] MAN. Can’t tell whether this is complimentary or insulting!
  • It felt like I came across a lot of food clues. Hmmm… let me look back.  4d [Takes evening courses?] DINES, 95D [Gobbles (down)] SCARFS, 100D [Gobbled up] EATEN, 16A [Chow] GRUB. This puzzle is making me hungry! Bring on the SATAY, EDAM, TRISCUITS, and a SIDE ORDER of tater tots sprinkled with ROMANO!

Didn’t like:

  • One very particular area: FORA, PRATE, AT TEN, SADE, LOIRE all hanging out together with the clue for APPS being rather difficult.

I was hoping for some more colorful answers that would never fit into a normal 15x grid as well.

Other than that, very enjoyable!

Jacob Stulberg’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Whose Side Are You On?”—Jim P’s review

Our theme consists of protagonists paired with one of their antagonists while one of their usual buddies is off to the side by their lonesome (clued as someone else).

This is all explained by the phrase KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE / AND YOUR ENEMIES CLOSER (67a, [With 75-Across, interpersonal advice depicted four times in this puzzle?]).

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Whose Side Are You On?” · Jacob Stulberg · 4.11.21

  • 23a. [*Antagonistic pair from detective fiction] HOLMES MORIARTY with 22a [*Golfer Bubba] WATSON.
  • 39a. [*Antagonistic pair from DC comics] POISON IVY BATMAN with 45a [*Bird symbolizing spring] ROBIN. I imagine Poison Ivy was chosen for symmetry’s sake; I don’t consider her to be one of Batman’s primary foes like Joker, Riddler, or Penguin.
  • 96a. [*Antagonistic pair from Nintendo games] MARIO DONKEY KONG with 93a [*Playwright Pirandello] LUIGI. Similar to the last one, Donkey Kong hasn’t played Mario’s foe in many years and is sometimes portrayed as an ally. Mario’s chief rival is Bowser, of course.
  • 111a. [*Antagonistic pair from a sitcom] NEWMAN SEINFELD with 118a [*Name before or after “vs.,” in a 1979 film title] KRAMER.

I love the the theme revealer in this one. Learning that the phrase can be split into two 20-letter segments at just the right spot is an amazing find. That said, I’m not sure about the implementation of the theme with protagonist and antagonist smushed together yielding an entry that doesn’t make much sense on its own. I got used to it easily enough, but it just feels odd, especially in those cases where the antagonism isn’t as iconic.

There’s a ton of theme material in this grid, so there’s little long fill to speak of—just a handful of 7s. But MALTESE, MANAGUA, ANDROID, and ABALONE are all nice, though I don’t know what a MALTESE dog looks like. Oh, there’s one.

Clues of note:

  • 36a. [Low organ part]. PEDAL. Even when I put in the last letter to this one I was still thinking body parts, not musical instruments. Duh!
  • 48a. [Unlock]. OPEN. I don’t equate those two.

Still not sure how I feel about this one. It works for the most part, but it’s just odd. 3.4 stars.

Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “Four of a Kind” – Jenni’s write-up

Circles. Why did it have to be circles? Well, it had to be circles because the theme answers begin and end with the same four letters, so there you go. I thought that was the whole theme until I got to the revealer at the end, which at least didn’t have circles. The whole thing made me sorta grumpy. I like a little wordplay in my puzzles, especially on Sunday. This is more “hey! I found five phrases that begin and end with the same four letters! And I can make them symmetrical!” It’s one of those things constructors notice about language, and I’m sure it’s a feat of construction (maybe. Not a constructor). Doesn’t make it any more fun to solve. The theme answers are clued straight and we know which ones they are by the circles. Which is where I started this paragraph, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

Los Angeles Times, April 11, 2021, Paul Coulter, “Four of a Kind,” solution grid

  • 23a [Law firm standout] is a LEGAL EAGLE.
  • 25a [Stay afloat, in a way] is TREAD WATER.
  • 42a [Near-perfect bridge feat] is a SMALL SLAM.
  • 46a [South American shocker] is an ELECTRIC EEL.
  • 68a [Future educator’s goal] is a TEACHING CERTIFICATE. And a system that treats teachers as the professionals they are and pays them accordingly. Hey, a girl can dream.
  • 90a [Vietnam War defoliant] is AGENT ORANGE. I’m not a huge proponent of the breakfast test. If I were, this entry would definitely fail. I’ve taken care of vets who were exposed to this vile stuff. I can’t imagine what it did to the people on the ground. No, actually, I can imagine, which is why I don’t want to see this in my crossword.
  • 92a [Bonneville racing venue] is the SALT FLATS.
  • 113a [Did a flower garden task] is DEADHEADED.

And the revealer: 116a [Tennis umpire’s order after odd-numbered games….and a hint to the two sets of circled letters in each of eight answers]. It’s CHANGE ENDS. I don’t think we really needed a hint, did we? A confirmed “meh” from me on the theme.

A few other things:

  • Does anyone ever use LILTS to refer to “light songs?”
  • It wasn’t so terrible when my kid was AGE TWO. Now, three, on the other hand….
  • Can’t, at the moment, think of any pop groups whose names include COMMAS. I’m sure there’s one I should know. I was looking for UMLAUT, which didn’t fit. I suspect this was put in to ping off of 13d [Words in some pop group names] which is a bad clue for a bad entry: ANDS.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ABBIE Cornish appeared in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

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22 Responses to Sunday, April 11, 2021

  1. cyberdiva says:

    Amy, the Giants were in the Polo Grounds before they left for the West Coast. The Dodgers played in Ebbets Field before they, too, went west.

    • Mark Abe says:

      Ken Burns’ documentary “Baseball” will explain all this and more, including the history of the rivalry and how they moved West at the same time.

      • Richard Shlakman says:

        Can a person who grew up five blocks from Ebbets Field in the 1940s and 50s, and for whom that special moment in 1956 when, for the first time, no one had to say “wait until next year”, watch this show without wanting to inflict serious damage to the ghost of Walter O’Malley all over again. I know I will cry so hard that using eyedrops will be unnecessary for a week.

  2. Steve Manion says:

    The Polo Grounds was a GIGANTIC field, close to 480 feet in dead center and the site of a Willie Mays fielding (and throwing) gem that is so iconic that it is known simply as THE CATCH. Admittedly it was 1954, but it was in the World Series,


  3. Philippe says:

    Birkin Hermès bags are actually named after Jane Birkin, English born artist who was the muse and wife of Serge Gainsbourg. She has a great career of her own and still sings, leaving mostly if not only in France where she is much appreciated

  4. JohnH says:

    NYT didn’t do much for me. I don’t think I got much of a smile at a single theme answer, and the fill wasn’t LOL either. I did appreciate the consistency that the first word in each theme answer was a brand, the second a more generic description of the product, but that in turn limited the sense of aptness. JABOUKI didn’t seem like a likely name, and I resisted it for some time, but I’m sure that’s my limit, not the the puzzle’s. (Come to think of it, I don’t think of ABACAB as much of a rhyme scheme either, given the C.)

    I’m not old enough to remember the New York Giants or Dodgers, but as a New Yorker with a love of the city and its history (and with a puzzle in a NY newspaper) I definitely could have told you that Ebbets Field was in Brooklyn where it made the Dodgers synonymous with Flatbush (the avenue), while the Polo Grounds was on the East River drive in Harlem. Wiki tells me, which I didn’t know, that it was originally north of Central Park and that the Mets played their first two seasons in its final home.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      The Polo Grounds were on the west side, off the banks of the Harlem River, not the East River. My father practically lived there when he was a kid (100 years ago, literally) and probably wouldn’t have survived Amy’s hesitant supposition that maybe the Dodgers played there.

  5. John says:

    LA Times 80-Down. Pitt is in the ACC, not the Big East. Pitt hasn’t been a Big East team in eight years.
    Count me as one who really liked today’s NYT.

    • A says:

      It feels like this is not the first time crosswords have screwed up sports alignments. Seems like one of the easiest things to catch and fact check rather than relying on outdated memory.

  6. marciem says:

    UC Sunday: I liked, for some reason, the crossings of Pile/Pyle and Patio/Lanai. Wouldn’t have minded if in-puzzle Sear might have crossed a Char and in-puzzle Arid crossed a sere somehow :) . I’m a bit of an anti-duper, but those don’t feel dupe-y.

    Enjoyed the puzzle and the theme, and didn’t catch the bonus character next to the antagonistic pairs.

  7. Dwayne says:

    Amy missed the fact that the first half is a BRAND and the second half is a PRODUCT for all the NYT theme answers. Minor detail, but it made the them just a bit more likable to me.

    • Richard Shlakman says:

      Dwayne, a whole lot of people in addition to Amy, some of them well known NYT bloggers, missed that fact, which was a revision requirement of the editors. They gave us a choice of going “brand – product” or “product – brand” but not to intermix those two approaches or to go “brand – brand” or “product – product.” That left a large number of potential theme entries on the cutting room floor.

    • R says:

      I was half-heartedly looking for a pattern in the answers and noticed a little mixing of terms, but I’m glad you pointed out the actual theme!

  8. David Steere says:

    WaPo, etc.: A terrific themeless from Evan today. Another great puzzle, too, from Zhouqin Burnikel at USA Today. I wish I could agree with Amy about today’s Times puzzle from Shlakman and Nediger which, unfortunately, continues the tradition of a tedious slog on Sunday. I’m with Rex on this puzzle: “It’s all so sub-dadjoke” and “‘Stop your foolishness outside!’ is one of the most awkward imagined clue phrases I’ve ever seen (123A: “GET IN HERE”).”

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I kinda wish nobody would quote “Rex” here. We all know he hates almost everything, so why give details? Your own disliking of the puzzle suffices!

      • PJ says:

        I agree. I used to read the blog. Some solving observations resonated strongly with me. But those things got overwhelmed by the negativity.

        I sense Michael Sharp is a decent, stand up guy. But the Rex Parker character is not my favorite.

  9. David Steere says:

    I’ll try to remember, Amy, not to mention Rex or quote from him in future. I didn’t realize doing so was a no-no of sorts. I do think your characterization that he “hates almost everything” is bit unfair. But, no matter. Quite some time ago you chided me gently for not explaining in a comment the reason I low-rated a particular puzzle. I said at the time that I preferred only posting positive comments. I should return to that philosophy. Saying something less that praiseworthy about a puzzle seems to invite unkind rejoinders as it did a week or two ago with a mean bit of sarcasm directed at me. Better to just keep mum. Keep up the great work.

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