Sunday, May 9, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 8:14 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


WaPo 12:19 grid / Meta = 1/2 day (Jim Q) 


Brad Wiegmann’s New York Times crossword, “Mother’s Day Concert”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 9 21, “Mother’s Day Concert”

Fun pop-culture theme for Mother’s Day: a series of song titles that take us from pregnancy through a multiple birth.

  • 24a. [Mom’s comment to her child during prenatal bonding? [Frank Sinatra, 1954]], I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU.
  • 30a. [What Mom is obligated to do as her due date approaches? [The Beatles, 1969]], CARRY THAT WEIGHT. I have never heard of this song, and I know I’ve got plenty of company in that. Also, it just sounds wrong to me. “Carry that weight” is not at all in-the-language where pregnancy is concerned. Carry to term, sure.
  • 49a. [Mom’s reaction to her first mild contractions? [John Cougar, 1982]], HURTS SO GOOD.
  • 54a. [Midwife’s advice to Mom in the delivery room? [Salt-N-Pepa, 1987]], PUSH IT. Push it real good!
  • 66a. [Mom’s remark as contractions grow stronger? [The Ramones, 1978]], I WANNA BE SEDATED. They did that back in the 1960s, but does anybody get sedated for a vaginal delivery? Heck, I wasn’t sedated for my C-section, and that’s abdominal surgery! Now, the birthing person may well want an epidural, but that’s an entirely different thing.
  • 83a. [Mom’s reaction as delivery draws closer? [Usher, 2012]], SCREAM. Apparently she’s not under sedation.
  • 85a. [Child’s response to Mom’s actions? [Diana Ross, 1980]], I’M COMING OUT.
  • 103a. [Nurse’s remark after Mom delivers the first twin? [Britney Spears, 1998]], BABY ONE MORE TIME.
  • 112a. [Doctor’s comment after Mom delivers the second twin? [The Who, 1965]], THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT. Listen, I’m here to say that the Who were not wrong to spell it alright. Always, already, although? It makes perfect sense to accept alright along with all right.

Obligatory disclaimer: Yes, most birthing people call themselves mothers, but some are dads who are transgender men. They get celebrated on Father’s Day. Zero idea what nonbinary parents opt for … wait, I checked on Twitter and someone I’ve followed for years, Jude Doyle, says his/their mom suggested Birthgiver’s Day. I like it! (Note: Any comments decrying this paragraph will get deleted. You don’t have to complain to an audience.) Also, lots of mothers didn’t give birth to their children, but they are parents just the same.

Other obligatory disclaimer: Some of you had terrible mothers, or you’ve lost your mom, or you lost a child, or you were never able to become a parent but wanted to, so this observance is a painful one. I see you, and I wish you a peaceful Random Sunday in May tomorrow.

Taking a look at the fill, the puzzle got off to a terrific start with that OPERA HOUSE/CAMERA CREW pair in the 1a corner, but not so hot with the OPA IRE MEW crossers. In the opposite corner, we hit some hardcore crosswordese: 107d. [Tour de France stage], ETAPE and 106d. [Legally foreclose], ESTOP.

Seven more things:

  • 43a. [Cancer fighter, for short], T CELL. I definitely needed the crossing for that T. I can’t keep my T cells and B cells straight. All I know is that they both play roles in the immune response to infection.
  • 29a. [They’re used mostly on corners], STAPLERS. Have you ever seen a stack of papers stapled in the middle? I’m almost afraid to know a person who’d staple that way. I’m also tempted to start doing that.
  • 57a. [___ of Maine (toothpaste)], TOM’S. Thematic! When I had morning sickness, I switched to Tom’s of Maine toothpaste because it was less foamy and didn’t make me want to puke.
  • 19a. [Country singer McKenna], LORI. Didn’t recognize the name so I looked her up. She’s won Grammys as a songwriter for other country artists.
  • 7d. [Nibble], BITE AT. Constructors, can we please get rid of BITE AT and the even-worse N*P AT? The latter not only is mighty iffy as a crosswordable phrase, it also includes a word that doubles as an ethnic slur. (HIT AT is another in the {verb AT} category that shows up in too many crosswords.)
  • 60d. [Wind down?], SLALOM. As in winding down the mountainside on skis. Good clue.
  • 66d. [Site of offshore banks?], ISLET. I don’t know, man. Playing question-mark tricks with a word that, really, is scarcely ever used in conversation or news articles? I feel like the payoff is always missing in such cases. The Wikipedia article on islets is actually interesting, though! Lots of vocab from around the world, photos of various types of islets. And apparently the Florida Keys count as islets even though they accommodate 73,000 residents, as opposed to the islets that are just rocks sticking out of the water. Do most islets have sandbanks, though, or is this clue misleading?

3.5 stars from me.

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

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful moms of Crossworld!

My weekend has been jam-packed (and still is), so I had very little time to solve crosswords. Here’s to hoping I figure out the meta behind this one during the write-up. Otherwise, I’ll have to update this afternoon. Gotta meet mom for breakfast and then an escape room!

THEME: ??? Something about reactions I think…


  • 24A [*Cardinals game] ANGRY BIRDS. Surprised at the lack of ? at the end of the clue! That’s quite a bit of misdirection. :-0
  • 39A [*The plush teddy Good Luck, e.g.] CARE BEAR. 
  • 53A [*Tragic accounts] SAD STORIES. 
  • 70A [*To an extreme degree] LIKE CRAZY. 
  • 74A [*Quality that really excites people] WOW FACTOR. 
  • 104A [*Evoking guffaws rather than raised eyebrows] HAHA FUNNY. 
  • 108A [*Translation of “pomme d’amour,” the old French term for a tomato] LOVE APPLE. 
  • and most likely 129A [Site where one’s comments can generate reactions] FACEBOOK. 

Well, clearly each of the entries starts with a reaction that one can click on FACEBOOK. So that satisfies the “Reaction” part of the title. But what of the “Chain” part? Does the second word in the themers play a role?

BIRDS, BEAR, STORIES, CRAZY, FACTOR, FUNNY, APPLE. Nothing is clicking for me just yet. Hmmm… in the rest of the grid….

Well, the word SCOLD is below ANGRY BIRDS. Are there other corresponding reactions? I see LAMENT under SAD STORIES. GASP is there… that’s a reaction to WOW I suppose. I think I may be onto something…

Other reactions in grid:

When you CARE, you EMBRACE.

When you’re ANGRY, you SCOLD.

When you’re SAD, you LAMENT.

When you’re WOWed, you GASP.

When you LIKE, you say “I APPROVE!

Scanning grid for HAHA / LOVE partners. Can’t find any! But this can’t be a dead end…

Oh wait! When you want to say HAHA, you may HOWL

I’m tempted to say TICKER for LOVE? The clue for TICKER is tersely [Heart]. Not confident with that one since it doesn’t fit the formula. It’s not a reaction like the others.

I’m close I think, but that’s all the time I have right now. I’m relatively certain I’ll figure it out though. Back later to update. Feel free to point out what I’m missing in the comments!

Oh hold on… Anagramming the first letters of the reactions I found already, I see SIGH in there, which is a reaction of relief. That leaves EL?

Oops. Thought I had something.


Ok, so I haven’t looked at any comments yet (everyone has probably already discussed the answer), but I think I have something. I’m gonna continue to hash it out here.

The lack of entries that are synonymous as an expression of LOVE bothers me, and so does including the entry TICKER. I think, however, that I shouldn’t be looking for more reactions, but rather at the clues. The clue [Heart] perfectly describes the LOVE button. That has to be something. Let’s go down that road…

The clue for SCOLDS is [Wags a finger at]. That one doesn’t quite work with this new idea. Oh but hey… the clue for DIRTY LOOK is [Menacing scowl], which quite accurately depicts the angry face button.

[Give a heartfelt hug to] Totally describes the CARE button.

[“Thumbs-up”] Couldn’t be more accurate for LIKE.

[Expression of grief] Works for the SAD button.

[Laugh heartily] I suppose fits for the HAHA button, though something about the verb form is bothering me (which didn’t bother me for the CARE button). Can’t quite put my finger on it.

[Betray amazement] may work for WOW. I guess. Some of these are verb phrases and some are noun phrases. I may be screwing something up.

Now, let’s use the order of the buttons as they appear (which I posted a picture of in my initial write-up this morning) and the first letters of their corresponding entries and see if this ain’t solved…

LIKE[Thumbs Up] = I AGREE! = I

LOVE[Heart] = TICKER = T

CARE = [Give a heartfelt hug to] = EMBRACE = E

HAHA = [Laugh heartily] = HOWL = H uh oh… this isn’t looking good.

WOW = [Betray amazement] = GASP = G

SAD = [Expression of grief] = LAMENT = L

ANGRY = [Menacing scowl] = DIRTY LOOK = D

Well, the order didn’t work, but I see the answer is clearly DELIGHT! It’s probably grid order, not the order of the buttons.

Good one, Evan!

Now I’ll see in the comments that everybody got this one way before me. To be fair, it kinda clicked on my drive to breakfast after I had to leave :)

P.S. Grid with clearer visual explanation below courtesy of Evan:

Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword, “Forcing the Issue” – Jenni’s write-up

The “issue” of the title is a magazine. Remember those? Each theme answer is a familiar phrase or name clued as it if referred to a magazine title.

Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2021, Gary Larson, “Forcing the Issue,” solution grid

  • 22a [Celebrity magazine employee?] is a PEOPLE PERSON.
  • 26a [Using a lifestyle magazine to cool off?] is ELLE FANNING. That – doesn’t quite work. Wouldn’t it be FANNING ELLE?
  • 42a [Found a child-rearing magazine?] is BIRTH PARENTS.
  • 66a [Graphic for a personal well-being magazine?] is PICTURE OF HEALTH.
  • 91a [Closing the doors of a financial magazine?] is FOLDING MONEY.
  • 108a [Shoplifting a fitness magazine?] is TAKING SHAPE.
  • 117a [Kiosk selling a news magazine?] is STALL FOR TIME.

They all work nicely except as noted. It’s a worthy Sunday theme that didn’t really tickle my funny bone. To each her own.

A few other things:

  • Do AVON reps still ring doorbells?
  • [Chad, but not Jeremy] is a fun clue for NATION.
  • Can we lose ALERS? Please? And, of course, NLERS. Words (or in this case combinations of letters) that are never seen outside of crosswords should never be seen inside crosswords, either.
  • 61a [Firewood option….or destiny] is a weird clue for ASH. First of all, how is that a firewood option? It’s not like firewood has a choice; it will end up as ASH. And the “destiny” part is both elliptical and depressing. I presume it refers to “ashes to ashes,” which, as you will note, is ASHES, not ASH.
  • I was nearly Natick’ed at the crossing of 66d [Land in “The Hunger Games”] and 88a [Czuchry who played Cary Agos in “The Good Wife]. “The Hunger Games” joins “The Simpsons” and “Game of Thrones” on the list of things I only know from crosswords, and while I am familiar with MATT Czuchry’s work on “The Good Wife” and “Gilmore Girls,” I don’t remember his name. Luckily _ATT really has to have an M to be a man’s name, because PANEM is a made-up word and thus not easily inferrable.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that LA BAMBA is the only one of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs” not written in English.

Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Study Breaks”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Familiar phrases that include a hidden initialism for an exam are re-parsed in wacky ways. The revealer at 112a is clued [“We’re only practicing,” and a hint to reading each starred answer] with the answer THIS IS JUST A TEST.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Study Breaks” · Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau · 5.9.21

  • 21a. [*Get food ready for one’s H.S. equivalency exam?] PRE-PACK A G.E.D. MEAL.
  • 39a. [*Removed a score from one’s college app?] DROPPED THE A.C.T.
  • 66a. [*Toast for aspiring docs?] “TO M.C.A.T.S!” I like this one best.
  • 92a. [*M.A. hopeful’s test, when taken on a Utah body of water’s shore?] G.R.E. AT SALT LAKE.
  • 14d. [*Flunking a coll.-level studio class?] BLOWING A.P. ART. This one’s a little bit dodgy because A.P. can refer to a class or an exam. While the others are all self-identifying exams, this one needs the entire term “A.P. Exam” to make sense. No one says, “I’m taking the A.P. this weekend.” (AFAIK.)
  • 57d. [*What a sleepy H.S. senior might take?] S.A.T. IN PAJAMAS.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t stop to try and re-parse these during the solve. Your brain sees one thing (TOMCATS, e.g.), and you don’t want to slow your momentum by stopping to break it up into individual letters.

But once I did, I appreciated that they all made sense and were cleverly constructed and clued. I will say that the revealer feels off to me. “This is only a test,” feels much more common, probably due to the Emergency Broadcast System’s regular tests on the radio. (People still listen to the radio, right?). On the other hand, Google’s ngram viewer puts THIS IS JUST A TEST higher than the “only” version. So maybe I’m wrong.

There is a TON of sparkly fill in this thing. It’s truly impressive. However, it’s somewhat marred by a couple of non-trivial dupes (CAR GAMES / GAME DEMO and FACE I.D. / FACE TATTOO). But otherwise there’s FALSE LABOR, SWEET PEA, POP TART, SAD-EYED, JOB SITE, AIR KISS, and RIP CURL. And I really like that one row with ABOUT ME…”I LIED“…”AW, MAN!” There’s plenty of strong shorter fill as well.

The new BARBIE doll with vitiligo

Clues of note:

  • 96a. [Tony winner Stroker]. ALI. She’s the first actress who uses a wheelchair for mobility to not just win a Tony, but to even appear on a Broadway stage.
  • 107a. [Wanda Maximoff, aka the ___ Witch]. SCARLET. Of Marvel Comics fame and the recent popular Disney+ show, WandaVision.
  • 121a. [(Ow! My udder!)]. MOO. Ha!
  • 1d. [Main MD]. PCP. The military healthcare system (of which I partake) uses the abbreviation PCM (Primary Care Manager), since that person might not necessarily be a physician (might be a nurse practitioner, e.g.). Don’t know if that’s better, but at least it avoids the angel dust initialism.
  • 12d. [Certain contractions]. FALSE LABOR. A simple but effective clue. I was thinking grammar the whole way.
  • 31d. [Climbing gear that a boulderer eschews]. ROPE. I just like the “boulderer eschews” bit. Makes me think of Quarry cereal from an old SNL fake commercial (which apparently isn’t online anywhere).
  • 59d. [ or Monster]. JOB SITE. Hmm. Do these websites use this term? To me it means a physical location where the job is done (usually construction).
  • 83d. [Nwodim who portrays Dionne Warwick on “SNL”]. EGO. It’s nice to have another avenue for cluing this common word. Read about the Dionne Warwick seal of approval for Ms. Nwodim’s impression here.
  • 90d. [Spork point]. TINE. Is a spork’s “point” long enough to be called a TINE?
  • 98d. [Doll with a 2021 model that has vitiligo]. BARBIE. Wow. Cool.

A slick theme, a load of great fill (minus a couple dupes), and fresh cluing add up to 3.9 stars.

Karen and Matthew Stock’s Universal crossword, “Form a Bond” — Jim Q’s write-up

The note in the byline says “Happy Mother’s Day!” Is this a mother/son collab? If so, that’s awesome.

Universal crossword solution · “Form a Bond” · Karen Stock · Matthew Stock · Sun., 5.09.21

THEME: Common phrases begin with things that are sticky.


  • (revealer) STICK TO IT. 

This was a delightful puzzle. Clean. Fresh. Colorful theme answers (love HONEYDO LIST), and the grid has plenty of room to breathe allowing for good stuff like NCAA TITLE, ROLLS IN, GRAPE SODA, and my favorite… YOWZA. Has a pangram feel to it (no Q) without the pangram shoehorning that sometimes happens in order to get those high-value Scrabble letters in there.

Some new stuff for me:

HARJO. I feel like I should know this, but didn’t. Risky cross with ALEPH, but the latter is fairly common in crosswords, and I think the H is inferable.

PETRA. I had a student named PETRA. It’s very fun name to say. Probably because she always made everybody smile.

My only nit is the clue for VAMP [Improvise in jazz]. I’ve seen it clued like that before. I never think of VAMPing as improvising. Usually, I VAMP to keep time and chord structure while someone else is taking an improvised solo. I mean, are the VAMPs usually improvised? Sure. But that’s kinda like saying that treading water in a pool is swimming. I guess so, but not really.

Lovely puzzle! And this appears to be Karen Stock’s debut. Happy Mother’s Day indeed. Your puzzle was wonderful.

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29 Responses to Sunday, May 9, 2021

  1. F Grant Whittle says:

    Really have not heard Carry That Weight? It’s a majestic song in the middle of the Abbey Road medley on side two. If you have not listened to Abbey Road you owe it to yourself!

    • Christopher Smith says:

      It’s a marvelous song that means a lot to me personally, but it’s less than 2 minutes long, part of a suite, and more than 50 years old. It’s not surprising that a lot of people wouldn’t recognize it, compared to the other songs.

  2. JohnH says:

    To each family its own, and what yours talks about on Mother’s Day get togethers is up to you. Somehow, though, my own’s topic of conversation never became the time before I was born (or, for that matter, much about infancy). Results for me was a bizarre puzzle for the holiday.

    Came down to Mother’s Day as an excuse to quote pop songs, in the form of very lame puns. So two strikes up front. Oh, well. What I learned: OPA. What had me scratching me head: I always said REM sleep and not REM state, and Googling seems to confirm, but how knows.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    Amy, I was counting on you to call out the dupe (and crossing!) of STOP and ESTOP. Because – really?

  4. David L says:

    I am equally baffled by the WaPo meta. I went off on what is probably a wild goose chase having to do with movies. The clue referring to Tippi Hedren mentions Marnie, but of course she was also in the more famous movie that featured ANGRY BIRDS. Then I noticed that the clues for Val Kilmer and Alan Alda featured movies that I hadn’t heard of — Willow and Jenny — and I wondered why those particular choices when better known movies could have been used. And there are other movie-related clues in the puzzle. But all this got me precisely nowhere so I am still totally in the dark. And I have no idea how to interpret the puzzle’s title, Chain Reaction. I await enlightenment.

    PS If the solution to the meta depends on recognizing the first words of each themer as something to do with Facebook, then I call foul. There are people who don’t use Facebook, you know.

    • You know FACEBOOK is important because the clue hints at reactions. And you are allowed to use Google on metas, so maybe just Google “Facebook reactions” and see what you find.

      • David L says:

        I dunno, that seems like a stretch to me. Far from obvious, IMO.

        ETA: The idea that a ‘facebook reaction’ is a specific thing is news to me

  5. marciem says:

    Jenni: LAT 61a: Firewood option… burn ash wood for the end result of ashes

    clue/ans. made me smile

  6. Jim you’re extremely close. There’s another reason you can pick the answers that you did.

    • stmv says:

      Indeed. I actually didn’t fully get it until Jim helpfully posted the FB reaction icons (emoji?). Then match the icons to entries in the puzzle (which Jim made a good start on), and you’ll get it.

      @David L: I agree with Evan: I don’t use FB either so I had to Google to see that these seven were the FB reactions, but it’s a big part of the culture, so basing a meta on it seemed eminently reasonable. Lots of the meta puzzles depend on esoteric knowledge that most people wouldn’t know except via Googling, so if you want to engage with metas you need to admit Google as a post-filling in the grid tool.

    • Jim Quinlan says:

      Got it! Post updated :) No Angry Face here whatsover!

      • Nice!

        The first letters work both in grid order from top to bottom and in thematic order too. Not actual Facebook reaction button order, though; I couldn’t get that to work.

  7. Judyxof says:

    I think the WaPo has something to do with the stages of getting to like something. warming?

  8. Samuel says:

    Amy: ISLETS have offshore banks, as in financial banks, not sand banks! (For tax evasion, etc.) That’s the question mark.

  9. Steve H says:

    WaPo: I’m pretty sure I have the meta but one thing doesn’t make sense to me and am curious what I missed since I have the puzzle filled correctly. FB makes me irrationally like the birds in 24-Across so, unfortunately, the meta was not really enjoyable for me today once I figured out what was going on.

    I will say that I would never have gotten it without Jim’s help as I did not how how those were tied to FB to begin with.

    • Jim Quinlan says:

      ANGRY BIRDS is a reference to a popular game, not FB. The themers themselves as a whole have nothing to do with facebook (you typically saw everyone playing ANGRY BIRDS on their phones through a separate app).

      However, the first word ANGRY is a reference to one of the buttons that you can click on FB to show your reaction to someone else’s post.

      • Steve H says:


        I meant the word FB makes me irrationally angry (like the birds). I was trying to be funny and it did not type out as good as it was in my brain I guess.

        I understood the concept of the puzzle and how it all related even though I don’t use that platform. Just needed you to show me what was going on.

  10. R says:

    NYT: ““Carry that weight” is not at all in-the-language where pregnancy is concerned”
    Isn’t the entire joke of the theme that all of these phrases are “not at all in-the-language where pregnancy is concerned”? Are any of the other theme phrases actually in-the-language where pregancy is concerned?

  11. Dwayne says:

    Lori McKenna is a killer singer-songwriter. You should definitely check out her stuff. And she’s very much on-topic for Mother’s Day. Check out “When You’re My Age” and “Humble and Kind” for proof (and maybe a tear or two),

  12. Michael says:

    Hi, the AMEBA answer for today’s NYT puzzle has me wondering. Do the puzzle editors have their own style guides? I’m not complaining. I would like to know if editors decide that one spelling of a word like AMEBA is allowed but not AMOEBA

  13. armagh says:

    Been through labor? Guessing not. It ain’t fun. So it goes with the NYT these days with its tone deaf themes. Shortz needs to go.

  14. Matthew S. says:

    Universal is a mother/son puzzle, indeed! Happy Mothers Day (and debut!) to my mom :)

  15. Just Saying says:

    1. You know you’re getting old, when someone you admire for their crosswording expertise, isn’t familiar with a celebrated song you grew up with.
    Guess I’ll have to ‘carry that weight’ of realization.

    2. Birthgiver’s Day sounds awkward. I suggest simply “Birthing Day”.

Comments are closed.