Saturday, May 1, 2021

LAT 4:39 (Derek) 


Newsday 13:59 (Derek) 


NYT 4:38 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Ryan McCarty’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 1 21, no. 0501

Ryan McCarty has some serious chops. You see the midsection of this grid? That sliding stack of seven longish entries crossed by yet more longish entries? This seems to be his trademark, as this grid is quite similar to the one in his Boswords Spring Themeless League puzzle (#5). And he’s not relying on junk like SEERESSES to hold everything together.The NE and SW corners are fairly cut off, but each has two routes in from the center. The whole thing felt more like a Friday puzzle to me, no trouble spots that help me up.


Ryan McCarty’s Boswords grid, for comparison

Less keen on plural interjection OWS, PEN NIB (which maybe shouldn’t bug me, but it looks weird in the grid), LACTEAL, and ELIA, though that ELIA clue is sharp: [Essayist who wrote “Newspapers always excite curiosity. No one ever lays one down without a feeling of disappointment”].

Six more things:

  • 6a. [One whose business is home-based?], UMP. Baseball’s home plate. Imagine if umps worked from home via Zoom.
  • 36a. [Vaccine target], ARM. If you haven’t yet gotten the COVID vaccine, please do! There are many of us who must rely on herd immunity to stay safe, and having a third of the US population vaccinated is nowhere near enough.
  • 53a. [Print source], FINGERTIP. There are so many meanings of the word print, and this one’s not hinging on printed reading materials or art prints.
  • 10d. [Peak overlooking Armenia’s capital], ARARAT. The mountain is on the Turkish side of the Turkey/Armenia border. Glad that President Biden officially acknowledged the existence of the Armenian genocide from a century ago.
  • 29d. [Old-timey hearing aid], EAR TRUMPET. Thank goodness we’ve moved on to electronic amplifiers and Bluetooth connections for hearing aids!
  • 36d. [Focus of middle management?], ABS. Abs? I suppose they’re in there somewhere. The smattering of question-mark clues in this puzzle are welcome.

4.25 stars from me.

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

LAT 05/01/2021

Great puzzle! I am starting to love Ryan’s puzzles. (Not that I didn’t before!) This puzzle has quite an impressive stack of 10 9-letter entries in the middle. In going through the puzzle, I try to find interesting entries to highlight, and it is amazing that none of these are forced, and many of them are quite unremarkable in their commonness. This is extremely hard to do, and Ryan pulls it off expertly. This is not too difficult of a puzzle, but the enjoyment level is quite high. A robust 4.7 stars from me today!

Some notes:

  • 24A [Inflatable emergency transports] LIFE RAFTS – Easy enough clue. I just hope I never have to actually inflate one!
  • 32A [It was initially dubbed “Clinton’s Big Ditch” by its critics] ERIE CANAL – No, not THOSE Clintons!
  • 38A [Wood stove successors] GAS RANGES – We have an electric stove, but we are going to invest in a gas range soon. We have the line already in place. Perhaps later this year!
  • 42A [Just below par] ONE UNDER – I like watching golf on the weekends. I stink at it, though. I think I will try this game when I retire!
  • 49A [Beneficiaries of exercises called Russian twists] ABS – I need to do a lot of Russian twists, then!
  • 3D [Aptly named giant in surfing sportswear] RIP CURL – I don’t know this brand that well, here in northern Indiana where surfing is basically nonexistent!
  • 28D [__ Kelly, woman with the most lifetime “Jeopardy!” winnings] LARISSA – I would have thought it was Julia Collins, but I think Larissa won more in a big tournament or two.
  • 29D [Group that includes Chevron and BP] BIG OIL – There seems to be a subtle political statement being made here. I will stay neutral!
  • 33D [Writing letters, some say] LOST ART – Great clue!
  • 35D [Carnival offering] CRUISE – I went on a Carnival cruise a couple of years ago. Not going again any time soon! Not until this virus mess is over. I would like to do an all-inclusive resort next time anyway!

Off to solve more puzzles!

Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 05/01/2021

I think the “Stumper” difficulty is back up just slightly. Or maybe I am working too hard! It has been a rough few weeks. But summer is coming! I think. This puzzle had me slowed down a bit early, got a decent pace in the midsolve, and I finished in the NW then the NE areas of the puzzle. Still not frustratingly hard, but enough resistance to give me minor fits. Perhaps you found it slightly easier, but I thought this packed a bit of a punch. But that is to be expected from a Greg Johnson themeless. I will take 14 minutes or so on this one; I think my barometer now may be to finish under 15 minutes, not 10! 4.6 stars today.

A few highlights:

  • 18A [What a fence may fix] PERIMETER – Sure, this makes sense NOW. But man, I struggled with this. Not sure why!
  • 19A [Supermarket money saver] ECONOMY SIZE – My family just went to Costco on Friday, which is what I think of when I think of large bulk purchases. But these are at the grocery store as well, I suppose.
  • 30A [Night spot] BOITE – I know this word, but I really don’t. I am off to the dictionary …
  • 55A [Time travelers of a sort] MINUTE HANDS – Great clue, but not my favorite. See 34D!
  • 1D [Brando rival] JAMES DEAN – Why were they rivals? This is before my time
  • 6D [High-ranking newspaper person] COPY CHIEF – I got the CHIEF part fairly early. Newspapers are still a dying breed!
  • 28D [His anthem is heard in Beethoven’s “Wellington’s Victory”] ARNE – I am not sure what this clue means: did Beethoven “borrow” a melody here? Is “Wellington’s Victory” an opera or something? Perhaps I should Google it …
  • 34D [It’s set for a suit] TRIAL DATE – Best clue in the puzzle!
  • 39D [Biodiesel source] ALGAE – Good to know! Can they make a Tesla that runs on this?
  • 48D [Civilian outfit] MUFTI – Why don’t I know what this is??

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau’s Universal crossword, “Look Within Yourself” — Jim Q’s write-up

A puzzle that’s after your heart.

THEME: Body organs are found in phrases

Universal crossword solution · “Look Within Yourself” · Amanda Rafkin · Ross Trudeau · Sat., 5.01.21


  • THE ART OF LOVE. Heart. 
  • COMPUTER USER. Uterus.
  • (revealer) INTERNAL ORGANS. 

Cool. Very similar in concept to the last collaboration I solved in Universal a couple days ago. I don’t know why it seems like sometimes Universal runs similar themes very close to one another. That’s probably just me.

Both COBRA INSURANCE and THE ART OF LOVE were brand new to me. However, I was able to figure them out with very few- if any- crosses since the title, the circled letters, and a little inferring worked synergistically. And they’re such colorful names! So I rather enjoyed learning them. Ironically, the familiar one (COMPUTER USER) I found a little bland in comparison.

Nothing too much to make me CRINGE in the fill, though MICA being in 1A had me bit leery for a moment (feels a bit crosswordy to me, but of course it’s a legitimate entry). OK, ARFED may be pushing it a bit, but it’s so danged cute that it’s hard to grimace for too long.

I feel like I usually see the plural of TORSO as TORSI, AMIRITE? Lemme check… ah! EitherTORSOS or TORSI.

Fun to learn that NINE was based on 8 1/2.

Lastly there’s my frequent complaint that Universal runs puzzles that are better served with circles, yet can’t provide the solver with those circles on its more widely available platforms. I don’t believe this one suffers much from that pitfall, though I can’t tell. It would be a different solve experience altogether since, on one hand, I wouldn’t have caught onto the gimmick early and the aforementioned synergy wouldn’t have existed. On the other, it might be more fun to look for the organs yourself. I dunno. It’s very strange to me that they’re offering two different solve experiences.

3.5 with stars

??? without

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Odd Lot” — pannonica’s treatment

WSJ • 5/1/21 • “Odd Lot” • Sat • Larson • solution • 20210501

SCENE: INTERIOR, mid-morning. A WOMAN sits at a computer, coffee at hand. She seems jaded, starts typing.

Today we have in-the-language phrases recontextualized as pertaining to film production, in a more literal fashion.

  • 21a. [Filming the part of the movie where a stand-in appears?] DOING A DOUBLE TAKE.
  • 44a. [Editing raw footage into a cohesive narrative] MAKING A SCENE.
  • 64a. [Canceling the movie’s dangerous action sequence?] PULLING A STUNT.
  • 85a. [Hiring somebody for the opening on the film crew?] GETTING A GRIP.
  • 111a. [Reaching an agreement on the film’s soundtrack?] SETTLING THE SCORE.
  • 14d. [Positioning an overhead microphone closer to an actor?] LOWERING THE BOOM.
  • 42d. [Stepping out of frame while being filmed?] LEAVING ONE’S MARK.

Seemingly having achieved some sort of minor success, the WOMAN takes a triumphant sip of the coffee, then resumes typing.


We see words appearing on a COMPUTER MONITOR. They appear to be transcriptions of a crossword puzzle's clues and answers.

Not part of the theme: 6d [They may be big on movie sets] EGOS, 82d [Hollywood trickery, briefly] CGI, 116a [Like voice-over narrators] UNSEEN.

  • 8d [Strip in the living room, say] MOLDING. Racy.
  • 13d [Racket material] CATGUT. Not anymore, I should think. Or would at least hope.
  • 40d [Beard bits] HAIRS. What a strange clue.
  • 45d [Frazier of the Yankees] CLINT. My brain filled in the end as {New York sports team} so I duly completed the entry as CLYDE.
  • 69d [Former education secretary DeVos] BETSY. There are clue choices other than this reprehensible human, you know.
  • 81d [Producer of Fairlady and Bluebird autos] DATSUN. These are older models. I’m familiar with the era where their model names in the US were number based, like 280ZX and the B210. Turns out the Fairlady is quite famous and was very stylish.
  • 86d [Detail-oriented sort] I-DOTTER. I  have never seen this construction before. I presume there would also be t-crossers, then.
  • 87d [Opposite of alt] NEU. Unannounced German, and a bit of a misdirection.

CLOSE-UP of more coffee being sipped. Then

OVERHEAD VIEW of KEYBOARD, MONITOR, WOMAN. She begins to type again, but a CAT walks across the desk, probably garblingglksdkdhe eelem soejenornfjm   The cat nearly knocks over the coffee cup as well.

¾ VIEW of woman's FACE. Somehow the images on the computer screen are projected across her features. Do not question this. More typing.

  • 1a [Archrivals] NEMESES. Always a good feeling when one can enter a decent-sized 1-across right off the bat.
  • 48a [Language known to native speakers as Unangam Tunuu] ALEUT. This is interesting but not useful and I am bound to forget it within moments.
  • 77a [Brand-new Bruegels, e.g.] FAKES. I like this clue; it’s so random.
  • 90a [Old name for the Chinese port Xiamen] AMOY. I used to occasionally see AMOY noodles on restaurant menus. It’s in Fujian province.
  • 103a [Vole’s cousin] MUSKRAT. Good job on the clue. They’re both in the same subfamily, Arvicolinae.

She takes a vaguely dissatisfied sip of coffee, as if she cannot remember the name of some Native American language, or perhaps she is recalling that there is no yogurt in the house. The camera

PANS to see her putting the CUP down on a coaster, to the MONITOR, over to a WINDOW, where we can see outside it is a clear, verdant, crisp morning. Birds are chirping in the trees and all seems right in a world laden with possibility. We hear the CAT leap onto her lap, purring. She begins to say something as

an ENORMOUS METEORITE impacts the entire house, obliterating everything inside.



This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Saturday, May 1, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: There seemed to be a Middle Eastern vibe in the Eastern part of the puzzle (appropriately). ARARAT, DICE CUP (clued with Backgammon) and TURK.
    When I was taught to play Backgammon as a kid, I was also taught to say the numbers in Turkish. To play with panache, you have to wish out loud for the perfect combination that will smite your enemy… For example, you shake the dice in the palm of your hand and wish for an “Iki Bir” (Two, One) so you can land on top of the enemy and oust them. I never learned any Turkish formally but those numbers stayed with me.
    BTW, I never saw anyone use a dice cup until I came to the US. There’s something more sensual about holding the dice, touching them, shaking them in your palm and flicking them across with just the right motion.
    I think I need to find me a Backgammon partner…

    • Steve Manion says:

      Backgammon was huge in the late ’70s. I won the first Buffalo NY open championship and used to play on the streets in NYC with hardened Turks and Middle Easterners who moved extremely quickly and automatically beavered (redoubled) if you doubled early. I escaped relatively unscathed, but was lucky to do so. Because I was gambling, Huda, I insisted on using a DICE CUP.

      • Billy Boy says:

        Tennis professionals such as John McEnroe?, Jimmy Connors and Chrissie Evert were often shown playing backgammon. Indeed the popularity was widespread.

        NYT – Fairly easy puzzle, but no where near as easy as Friday’s. A bit underwhelming weekend fare.

    • Steve Manion says:

      By the way, the 2-1 roll (the roll plus a choice of doubles) is known as ACEY DEUCEY. Was that how you always played or just a variation? Rarely played in the U.S.. although I knew some Navy veterans who only played that way.

      • huda says:

        Wow, that sounds intense! And fun!
        Using a dice cup makes a lot of sense if the stakes are high.
        I know about Acey Deucey but we usually played classic backgammon.
        I have some really old backgammon sets including a big elaborate table made in Damascus with inlaid wood…

    • Alan D. says:

      Also TURK crosses ARARAT. Coincidence? It couldn’t really be anything else, however…

    • STEVEN says:

      love backgammon, used to play daily with humans, but the machine gives me a better game and i can yell at it without getting any back talk

      always threw the dice cups aside, real players don’t use dice cups
      move to playa del carmen, we can play gammon on the beach and have a cold beer in the ocean breeze :)

      and i can learn turkish numbers!!

      as far as the stumper, i thought it was getting harder recently, but found today’s model fell very easily for me

      my life right now consists of crosswords, backgammon and reading, life is very good

  2. Adrian Johnson says:

    Congratulations to Ryan McCarty on his double themeless Saturday– both grids are masterful low-word-count puzzles. I’m a big fan of his work, today’s crosswords are no exception :)

  3. ROBYN J FRANKE says:

    Fun puzzle today! The only thing that held me up was the 1st across when I confidently dropped in “AGLOW” which ended up costing me a bit of time. Congratulations to Ryan McCarty .

  4. Billy Boy says:


    Expecting to see comments on grid shape.

  5. PJ says:

    WSJ – Is there an Orca Award for reviews?

    • Crotchety Doug says:

      I’ll second this. I laughed at every turn in Pannonnica’s script. Loved it.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Fantastic review! I found it much more enjoyable and smooth than my solving experience with this grid by a constructor I usually have little trouble with.

  6. dh says:

    “Unassisted triple play” – I’d be interested to hear of some likely scenarios. I came up with “Runners on 1st & 2nd, a ‘hit and run’ is called. Batter hits a line drive caught by second baseman (one out). 2nd baseman then tags the runner headed to 2nd (two out), and steps on the bag before the other runner can return” (three). Same for runners on 2nd & 3d, with the ball hit to the 3rd baseman. Any other thoughts?

    And speaking of baseball – I think that if a home plate umpire were truly working from home via Zoom, he may be able to call balls & strikes more accurately. Using video and instant-replay in sports where calls are questioned and confirmed (or reversed) is a hotly debated topic.

    And finally – when I saw the “Russian Twist” comment in the review, I said to myself, “I don’t remember that clue at all – wasn’t it something to do with middle management?” I got “abs” via the crossings in the LAT and never saw the clue. I liked the witty clue in the NYT.

  7. Ah Chang says:

    Don’t be a see you next Tuesday with your commentary. I don’t need your social justice warrior assessments on other people.

    • M.Gritz says:

      This is way out of line.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Who are you even talking to, and do you think it’s clever to hide that you’re calling someone a cunt? Don’t be an a-s-s-h-o-l-e.

      And if you’re here to defend Betsy DeVos’s honor, *falls to the floor laughing*.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Wow … classy … Do your parents know that you post vulgar comments on internet message boards?

  8. Art Shapiro says:

    Terrific NYT without a bunch of proletarian culture. It was a real pleasure to solve.

    I kept hoping that the Vaccine Target wasn’t ARM, and I originally put in FLU. It seems to me that the arm is the needle’s target, but the vaccine target is whatever malady is being treated. Am I just being pedantic???

    • JohnH says:

      I had FLU first, too, with FAT for the target of middle management crossing. Unlike others, I found a very hard Saturday indeed, but also really good. My only reservation is the THE in THE OX, especially after the perhaps more justifiable (as it’s the proper name) THE OLD VIC.

Comments are closed.