Sunday, May 2, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 8:04 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 10:11 (Jim P) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Dan Schoenholz’s New York Times crossword, “Initial Impressions”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 2 21, “Initial Impressions”

Not quite sure how to summarize the theme. Let me iron out all the theme entries first and see if looking at them all in one place yields a good description:

  • 23a. [C-Span?], COVERED BRIDGE.
  • 40a. [P-trap?], POTTYMOUTH.
  • 44a. [G-force?], GERMAN ARMY. Too soon?
  • 65a. [G-flat?], GARDEN APARTMENT.
  • 91a. [D-Con?], DIRTY TRICK.
  • 94a. [E-bond?], ELMER’S GLUE.
  • 113a. [C-sharp?], COMPASS NEEDLE. Sharp is a noun in health care circles, but not more broadly.

Okay: Second part of each clue is a noun, or maybe a verb, and the theme answer is a phrase (or compound word, in one case) that starts with a word with that designated initial and ends with a synonym for the clue word. A span is a bridge, C-Span is a COVERED BRIDGE. E-bond is a money thing, and glue bonds things together, so we get ELMER’S GLUE. A force can be an army, and a G-force is, instead of gravitational force, the GERMAN ARMY. Span, con, force, and bond can all be verbs, but the theme entries are all nouns. Feels a little uneven and not defined as specifically as I’d like. Any crossword theme should be something you can explain to someone clearly in a sentence or two, and I don’t know that this one hits that mark.

Seven things:

  • 25a. [Start brawling], GET IT ON. *ahem* No. You might GO AT IT to fight. You might GET READY TO RUMBLE. But if you’re going to GET IT ON, you’re probably naked and not really in a fighting mood.
  • 57a. [Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands: Abbr.], TERR. As with Puerto Rico, basically these are U.S. colonies, right? The U.S. has colonized these places and isn’t letting go?
  • 78a. [LeBron James in his N.B.A. debut, e.g.], TEEN. Yeah, he was drafted right out of high school. He didn’t attend college but he certainly has made it possible for many Akron kids to go to college. He’s done so much societal good in his philanthropic ventures.
  • 116a. [Black-and-white dessert], OREO PIE. Not sure I’ve seen this dessert. What do you expect out of an Oreo pie?
  • 2d. [Classical poem form], EPODE. Rough vocab to drop in the opening corner of a puzzle. This is one of those words I learned from crosswords and not from majoring in English literature.
  • 10d. [Cruella de Vil, for one], DOGNAPPER. Disney’s about to release a movie that gives Cruella’s origin story, as if anyone was asking for that, as if she’s a superhero. Starring Emma Stone. I guess she’s looking to play a villain for a change?
  • 29d. [Aesthetically pretentious, informally], ARTY-FARTY. What?? No. That’s artsy-fartsy. ARTY FARTY is that guy Arthur who tends to be gassy.


Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “Success Stories” – Jenni’s write-up

The theme answers are idiomatic phrases that refer to success clued as if they referred to a specific location.

Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2021, Paul Coulter, “Success Stories,” solution grid

  • 16d [Triumph at a salon?] is MAKE THE CUT.
  • 23a [Triumph in the schoolroom?] is CHALK UP A VICTORY.
  • 38a [Triumph at a hockey arena?] is SAVE THE DAY.
  • 60a [Triumph in a bakery?] is TAKE THE CAKE.
  • 76d [Triumph at the winery?] is WIN BY A NOSE.
  • 84a [Triumph on drums?] is BEAT THE ODDS.
  • 102a [Triumph at the mountain summit?] is END UP ON TOP. You’ll notice I revealed a couple of letters in that one – I accidentally typed over it and couldn’t figure out where I’d put the nonsense letters.
  • 122a [Triumph at a comedy club?] is GET THE LAST LAUGH.

It’s solid and consistent. Not my favorite kind of theme, but that’s OK.

It’s a gorgeous day here and the outside is calling me, so I’ll end it here. What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that ZINC follows copper on the periodic table.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Lifting Weights” – Jim Q’s Write-up

You’ll lose seven pounds after solving this puzzle!

THEME: LB (i.e. a POUND) has been lifted from common phrases.


  • GAL[LB]LADDERS. Gall bladders. 
  • META[LB]ANDMetal band. 
  • SEA[LB]EACHSeal Beach. 
  • CAL[LB]ACK. Callback. 
  • MOTE[LB]ILL. Motel bill. 
  • CEL[LB]LOCK. Cell block. 
  • PERSONA[LB]EST. Personal best. 
  • (revealer) [Unit of weight that has been lifted seven times in this puzzle] POUND. 

Wow. Toughest WaPo I can remember solving in a long time! It definitely didn’t help that I didn’t see the gimmick in this (excellent) theme until very late. I don’t know how I missed that. I think it’s because I was set on the answer being PERSONAL RECORD instead of PERSONAL BEST and, after a glance at the title, I was expecting a unit of weight to rise vertically somehow (you’ll see there is the letter L over the last letter of PERSONA that threw me). Still, finding it late helped me fill in the holes and complete the puzzle that I was all but certain would lead to a DNF at one point.

That may sound like I’m describing a slog of a solve, since in the back of my mind I wasn’t sure I’d finish, but it wasn’t at all. I’d call it “delightfully difficult.” Tons of misdirection and inferable new stuff to learn. New names, of course, which didn’t irk me today (sometimes a host of new names annoys me- it really depends on my mood, I’ve discovered).

Some fun difficulties include:

  • 123D [“___ Contemplations” (Victor Hugo work)] LES. Because it wouldn’t be prudent to clue it as [ ___ Miserables] (ya’ know, Hugo’s other work) in a puzzle this challenging.
  • 1D [Creature in an army] FROG. Frogs and ants have something in common.
  • 41A [Trim] CLIP. Lots of clues like this, that don’t seem difficult post-solve, but are really tricky because of the number of things “Trim” can mean (CLIP being one of the last synonyms to come to mind when I was solving, but totally fair).
  • 88A [Rhyming hoops phrase a player uses when arguing they rejected a shot without fouling the shooter] ALL BALL. Fun term to learn.
  • 103A [Adds to a number, in a way?] SINGS. What a great clue. “Number” being a synonym for “Song” of course.
  • 106A [Soldiers’ folders] COTS. Ugh. Took me forever to get this.
  • 3D [Sets right?] ITALICIZES. Another fantastic clue.
  • 9D [Bone above the false kind] TRUE RIB. The clue does a great job pointing a solver who lacks knowledge of this bone’s existence (i.e. me) in the correct direction.
  • 10D [“___ Violent Delights” (Chloe Gong book)] THESE. Never heard of this book, but still entered THESE with no crosses.
  • 25D [What you take on a plane] TRIP. yup.
  • 28D [Minor in Scottish history?] LAD. yup.
  • 30D [Like stretchy material] TENSILE. This word was out of reach for me today. Needed every cross.
  • 51D [(ToT)] SAD FACE. I’m unfamiliar with emoji shorthand in general. Fun clue / answer pair though.
  • 76D [Comedian who said, “I started a weightlifting program. But the first day, I threw my back out. So I put down the booklet.”] EMO PHILIPS. How often does his whole name appear in a puzzle?!
  • 132A [Rails’ constructions] NESTS. I’m assuming a rail is a type of bird? New to me.
  • 133A [Was a zoomer in the 80s?] SPED. Love it.


STACIE Orrico, LIL B, Lefty O’DOUL, Zach DE LA Rocha, HANA Mae Lee, RANDALL Munroe (couldn’t remember his name!)… is that it? Felt like way more.

Well there’s OMAR Jimenez, ALAN Ruck, and LARA Flynn Boyle, who were all familiar to me, but I don’t often see in grids (glad to see OMAR Jimenez in there!).

Anyway, outstanding puzzle that is beautifully constructed. Though constant WaPo solvers are used to it, it should be noted that when LB is lifted from each phrase, it still results in perfectly valid entries SEA / EACH, META / AND, PERSONA / EST, etc. Easy to take that for granted, but it’s important to solve enjoyment. That and the LB entries didn’t raise an eyebrow as being awkward (and there’s a lot of constraint that happens because of that). Kudos.

I can’t not share this gem:

David Alfred Bywaters’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Re-turn and Re-place”—Jim P’s review

Today’s theme entries consist of phrases where one word normally starts RE-. Those letters are reversed and placed at the end of the same word to make an entirely new crossword-wacky phrase.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Re-turn and Re-place” · David Alfred Bywaters · 5.2.21

  • 21a. [Is impatient during the kitchen remodel?] DEMANDS A COUNTER. Recount.
  • 41a. [Person who carries certain retrievers?] LAB PORTER. Report. They just carry one particular breed of dog?
  • 43a. [House of Lords tourist?] PEER VIEWER. Review. Could do without the other word also ending in -ER.
  • 65a. [Basketball coaches’ position swaps, perhaps?] CENTER CHANGES. Recent. “Recent changes” feels “green paint”-ish to me.
  • 90a. [Parts of wedding cake eating contests?] LAYER RACES. Relay. There’s gotta be a better clue for this.
  • 93a. [Low-level Breckenridge employee?] SKI SORTER. Resort. This one I like. I’m picturing some poor schlub staring dejectedly at a mountain of haphazardly piled-up skis.
  • 114a. [Escapade after this year’s games?] POST-SEASON CAPER. Recap. Again, is “post-season recap” a common-enough phrase?

Hit and miss for me. I like the solid, consistent execution, but I just can’t get excited about things like LAYER RACES. Your mileage may vary, of course.


Clues of note:

  • 5d. [David’s kingdom]. JUDAH. We also would have accepted [Actor Friedlander of “30 Rock”]. He was the man of many hats.
  • 50d. [Proceed with the parade]. MARCH ON. The entry feels like it has to do more with civil unrest than parades.

The theme is solid if not particularly exciting. The fill, though, is clean and sparkly. 3.5 stars.

Alex Eaton-Salners Universal crossword, “The Right Fruit” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Orange is growing in theme answers? I think… Oh wait. I get it now. The Orange is growing from the middle A (not from the beginning O).

Universal crossword solution · “The Right Fruit” · Alex Eaton Salners · Sun., 4.28.21


  • 17A [*Car introduced in 1927] FORD MODEL A
  • 25A [*Ancient Egyptian god’s symbolic body part] THE EYE OF RA.
  • 36A [*Losing contestant] ALSO RAN
  • 38A [*”How may I help?,” to a butler] YOU RANG?
  • 49A [*It’s measured in octaves] VOCAL RANGE
  • 59A [*New Jersey city where Queen Latifah grew up, or what “grows” at the starred answers’ ends] EAST ORANGE

I really struggled to understand the A in the first themer and how that related to the growing ORANGE. I just now realized that it’s actually rather perfect. The orange is “growing” from the middle, not left-to-right as I had originally assumed. Also, what’s quite nice about these entries is that each part of the ORANGE, as it grows, is its own separate word without feeling forced. Great finds to fit symmetrically, and with six themers, it’s no wonder the word count is 80 in this one.

Didn’t really notice much to like or dislike in the fill. I think I was more focused on what was going on in the theme. Salners’ puzzles are often very clever and when I see the name in the byline, I am usually focused on uncovering the theme rather than the fill. Looking back, I feel about the same.

Excellent post-solve AHA on this one.

3.9 stars.


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22 Responses to Sunday, May 2, 2021

  1. PJ says:

    Let’s Get It On

    • Ethan says:

      “Let’s get it on!” at 0:27:

      Anyone who watched Celebrity Deathmatch knows “get it on” as a term for brawling.

    • susan says:

      T. Rex – Get It On

    • Chris McBride says:

      If you’ve ever watched an MMA match with John McCarthy as the referee, he starts every match with “Let’s get it on!”

      • R says:

        Yep. Another example of how Amy looks around her own narrow personal sphere of reference, doesn’t think a phrase works, can’t be bothered to do even a cursory google search to check herself first, and proclaims that the puzzle must be wrong.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Hang on, R. People have attested to “Let’s get it on!” but not to the phrase GET IT ON without that exhortative “let’s” in front. By itself, GET IT ON is defined in a zillion dictionaries as meaning “have sex.” Please alert me when the preponderance of dictionaries catch up with MMA circles.

          • R says:

            Let’s “start brawling” = Let’s GET IT ON. It fits fine. Come on, now.
            3 seconds on google (more than you could apparently spare) found one dictionary entry specifying “to fight.” Sure it’s not the most common meaning for GET IT ON, but it’s immediately recognizable to plenty of people, and crosswords would be horrible if you could only clue the most common definition of a given word or phrase.

  2. JohnH says:

    NYT theme felt really lame, at least to me. First, there’s that issue of how close the tail word is to a synonym. When I saw NEEDLE after SPAN, I though the theme would be settling for a word with the property the clue word as a property, although a bridge can be called a span as well as span (the verb). Second, I’d never even seen p-trap or e-bond before. Are they that exciting that we need them?

    Last and even more broadly, just felt like it needed more than a clue that supplies the first letter and the end of the fill. That isn’t close to the punny riffs on a familiar phrase you often see as a theme or a theme that supplies just one idea throughout, even if it guides only the end word of the theme fill. At first, I was expecting more when I saw COVERED, as “over” can mean “bridge,” too. But that soon proved a false promise. So nope, pretty lame puzzle.

  3. Mr. Grumpy says:

    WaPo: Enjoyable theme but way too many names — and crossing each other too often — made for a real slog.

    • David L says:

      I agree. I found myself grumbling as I was solving because of the many obscure (to me) names. After I finished I googled ‘frog army’ and it’s apparently a reference to some animated tv show that I had never heard of.

      The theme was ingenious and the crossings were fair, since I managed to finish the puzzle, but yeah, I found it kind of a slog too, something I rarely feel about Evan’s puzzles.

      • It was not a reference to an animated TV show. If I wanted to make a reference to an animated TV show, I’d have said that in the clue. A group of frogs is simply called an army of frogs (or a colony of frogs).

        Sorry if you didn’t enjoy solving the puzzle, but personally I think it’s okay to include names of people that you don’t know if I crossed them fairly.

        • pannonica says:

          125d × 129a were both unfamiliar names, but pretty much guessable. Still, I’d say that wasn’t a fair crossing.

        • David L says:

          When I googled ‘frog army’ the first page of links was all about the tv show. I’m guessing that army as a collective name is not one that is widely used.

          I don’t mind a couple of unfamiliar names, but there were more than usual in the puzzle today — unfamiliar to me, of course. Having to rely on crosses to get an entry that’s new to me and which I almost certainly won’t remember doesn’t thrill me much. Naturally, I assume that you take my personal preferences and knowledge base into account when you are constructing.

          In any case, your Sunday puzzle is by far the best in show, so the fact that an occasional one isn’t quite as enjoyable for me is not a big deal.

    • marciem says:

      WaPo: LOL, before I finally laboriously “got” the theme, I mentally clued 14a as ‘puzzles like this one’ :D . It did take me a while with all the names I was unfamiliar with, and I kept looking for units of measure going up somehow, and “italicized” mis-direct put me back a while (set right = straighten up/make erect … to me, so great clue!).

      Challenging and still way fun in the end, yes a bit sloggy at first with names but ok since the theme and crosses got me there with no look-ups.

  4. Steve says:

    WAPO: Really enjoyed it this morning! Nice brain burner that I eventually got without having to look anything up for once. Also, having a hidden pound was a nice touch (lLBEan).

  5. marciem says:

    LAT: 38a… I’m not understanding the relation of a hockey arena to day?

    • sanfranman59 says:

      The association is between hockey and SAVE. When a hockey goalie makes a SAVE, it’s a “triumph” (of sorts). The same answer could have been clued as “Triumph at a soccer stadium” or “… on a football pitch” or “… in a water polo pool” etc, etc.

      • marciem says:

        Ok, I got that part, but in all the other themers there is an association between the Clue noun and the answer noun : I.e. Bakery = cake, mountain summit = top , etc. Sure, “save” can equate to a triumph in many sports, but how is this specific to a hockey arena?

        • Gary R says:

          Seems to me that in some themers, the association is with the noun in the answer – CUT, CAKE, NOSE, TOP and LAUGH – but in others, it’s with the verb – CHALK UP, SAVE and BEAT.

  6. Kelly Clark says:

    WaPo: Sheer genius. Sheer enjoyment. I didn’t know many of the names but the crossers were eminently fair and gettable. I can’t think of enough words to describe the sheer beauty of this puzzle — thank you so much, Evan!

  7. KarenS says:

    WaPo: That was a lot of fun! Evan, thank you.

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