Saturday, May 15, 2021

LAT 7:05 (Derek) 


Newsday 13:29 (Derek) 


NYT 6:04 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Sam Trabucco’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 15 21, no. 0515

Has it been a long week for me or was this one harder than other recent Saturday NYTs?

It’s late, let’s hit the list:

  • 60a. [Hip joints], HOTSPOTS. Got this off the H! Surprised there isn’t a question mark in the clue, actually.
  • 1a. [Event with kings and queens], DRAG SHOW. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen any full-on drag kings. Would I just think I was looking at a man, though? Probably.
  • 9a. [Avon lady, for one], BRITON. Ah, Avon as in the British place name! Fun clue.
  • 15a. [Beverage such as huangjiu or cheongju], RICE WINE. My first guess was GREEN TEA. Oops. Do they sell these libations at H-Mart?
  • 29a. [Worked in Starbuck’s business], WHALED. Absolutely missed the significance of that apostrophe and pondered BREWED coffee.
  • 58a. [Moonstone, for Florida], STATE GEM. What’s your state gem? Illinois boasts the (typically) purple octahedron called fluorite, but technically it’s the state mineral, not GEM.
  • 1d. [Rubbish], DROSS. You know the discount clothing chain, Ross Dress for Less? I like to jack up the rhymes: Ross Dross for Loss. I believe that’s where I bought a sweater that turned out to have sleeves of different lengths.
  • 2d. [Smack a baseball hard], RIP IT. Not too keen on entries like RIP IT, ACE IT, etc. Now, FORGET ABOUT IT, I would like.
  • 10d. [Butler in the old South], RHETT. Shouldn’t there be something to indicate that this is a fictional character from a 1936 (i.e., not “old South”) book?
  • 12d. [Incapable fighter, in boxing slang], TOMATO CAN. How odd! Never heard this term before. Here’s the background.
  • 14d. [Informal denial], NOPE / 16a. [“We absolutely aren’t doing that!”], “OH, NO, NO!” I like the entries, but not in the same grid and certainly not crossing each other.
  • 25d. [Soccer star Carlos], VELA. Unknown to my and even to my husband the soccer fan! Currently plays for Los Angeles FC, was a teenage hotshot.
  • 43d. [___ Vallarta (popular gay vacation destination)], PUERTA. Didn’t know it was particularly gay-friendly. Friend of mine was just vacationing there this month!

Nice fill not mentioned above: EAT LOCAL, RAGNAROK, HIT THE DIRT, LONDON EYE, and (eww) STREET MEAT. No problem with buying food from a halal cart on the streets of NYC, but STREET MEAT is a kinda gross term.

Four stars from me.

David P. Williams’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 05/15/2021

We have another new byline this week to the database. Is this a pseudonym of some sort, or another new constructor? Or just a constructor I don’t know? This is a pretty good themeless puzzle, especially with the nice stack of 11’s right in the middle. Some of the fill isn’t the greatest (see comments below), but I know how hard these are to make. A little tougher than normal, but I didn’t have a quiet place to solve this either. I am still going to reserve harsh judgment until I have my own puzzle in the LAT on a Saturday! One of these days. In the meantime, whoever made this puzzle, I am looking forward to what else is produced from them. 4.2 stars from me.

Those promised comments:

  • 17A [Source of biblical medicine] GILEAD – As in “balsam of Gilead,” a common phrase. I wonder if this is still available today? It’s probably just emu oil!
  • 26A [High-arcing toss first attributed to Rip Sewell] EEPHUS PITCH – Great entry. This was a pitch that is similar to a slow ball, and almost impossible to hit. It’s been a while since I have seen this referred to!
  • 30A [Water music?] SEA SHANTIES – Somebody explain this clue!
  • 32A [“… like you wouldn’t believe!”] “… AS ALL GET OUT!” – Love those casual phrases! Even partial casual phrases!
  • 42A [Horn home] AFRICA – One of these days I am going there. Just not sure when!
  • 1D [Amount often tied to income] TAX RATE – My accounting schooling pays off!
  • 3D [Enjoying prime time] AT ONE’S PEAK – Mine was age 25. I am now 25 twice and then some!
  • 9D [Friendly-sounding old Commodore computer] AMIGA – We used to own one of these!
  • 24D [Squared stones] ASHLARS – Never heard of this word. But it is a thing. I learned something new!
  • 31D [Country whose official language is Dutch] SURINAME – Not sure how I knew this, but got this quickly. The brain is a funny organ!
  • 33D [Song whose second line is “And I will pledge with mine”] “TO CELIA” – Is this a song I should know? Because I don’t.
  • 42D [Three-time Emmy-winning choreographer Debbie] ALLEN – Cousin Debbie makes an appearance in a puzzle!

I think a new Panda Magazine comes out today. There goes my Saturday …

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

Newsday 05/15/2021

No “Anna Stiga” pen name anymore? That’s fine with me. Go ahead and take full credit, Stan! This was a thorny one in spots. I found the SE corner easy to break into, and I finished in the SW. Not even sure what 35-Down is. (See below!) All in all, Finished in a shade under 15 minutes, which isn’t bad. Been tired this week; I need a vacation BADLY!! But nice puzzle Stan. 4.5 stars from me!

A few mentionables:

  • 17A [Paper aide] STRINGER – Isn’t this a newspaper term? Somebody explain.
  • 34A [2017 QEII celebration] SAPPHIRE JUBILEE – What do they call the 80th anniversary? She is never going to die.
  • 39A [Worst-case scenario] NADIR – This is a trademark oblique Stumper clue. I wouldn’t use it in this way, although it is technically correct.
  • 4D [NHL, NBA and NFL locale] CHI – Only gettable after a few crossings, but my hometown is one of less than a dozen cities that have all four (five?) major sports teams. Wonder why MLB wasn’t also in the clue?
  • 8D [Erie Canal Museum city] SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – I made this harder than it should be!
  • 13D [Profession precursor] “I DECLARE” – Love it. Tough to solve, but love the entry!
  • 14D [Food from the French for ”finish”] CONSOMME – Also a great clue. And making me hungry …
  • 30D [More than kind] SO BIG – This also seemed tough. Again, technically correct, and a nice alternative to a reference to the novel, but still seems stretchy. But it is a “Stumper!”
  • 35D [Signature collectors’ banes] AUTOPENS – Is this like a signature stamp? Or is it a forgery tool?
  • 58D [Word on the first line of Mirren’s Wikipedia article] NÉE – Really reaching for this one, it seems! But a nice find nonetheless. Always good to make a common entry interesting!

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend! It’s almost over! (I hope!!)

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “That’s Sweet!” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Types of cake can be found hidden upwards in the middle of common phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “That’s Sweet!” · Paul Coulter · Sat., 5.15.21


  • WESTERN OMELETS. Lemon cake. 
  • MOTOR RACING. Carrot cake. 
  • GUILT RIDDEN. Dirt cake. 
  • (revealer) UPSIDE DOWN CAKE. 

I come from a family of cake lovers. We find any excuse possible to eat cake. Nephew lost a tooth? Cake. Sister has a 1/2 birthday? Cake. Niece made it through the day without a violent temper tantrum? Cake.

Love me a LEMON cake! Though I’m not sure it would go well in a WESTERN OMELET (how do you spell OMELET? That’s the way I do…) I never quite understood the draw to CARROT cake. Too heavy! And DIRT cake- that’s the one with Oreos, right? Pretty sure. That is definitely the least familiar of the three for me though.

Everything about the puzzle was just fine. Standard solve. Paul Coulter’s Universal constructions are always reliable in the sense that you can depend on a clear, consistent theme and fair fill.

I was able to see the words LEMON, CARROT, and DIRT in that order and wonder what was tying them together because I was solving in Across Lite, where Universal utilizes the common practice of circling letters.  This kept the puzzle engaging for me.  However, most people who solve Universal puzzles are unable to access that simple feature (Universal is unable to publish circled-letter themes) and instead have to interpret clues like this in the first themer (solving west to east):

[Eggy breakfasts containing ham and peppers (11…7)] 

What does that mean? How can a novice solver be expected to interpret that? It’s the first themer to appear left to right in the puzzle!

You would have to wait until you get to the clue in the third themer (I would call it third since it’s the one next to the  revealer, which is typically last) for a *hint* as to what those numbers mean:

[Suffering severe remorse (see letters 8 to 5 in this answer)] 

So the puzzle is directing the solver, in the third themer and in a very unclear way, to mentally circle and read letters backwards. Instead of circling them for the solver.

I don’t understand why Universal is willing to publish subpar versions of its puzzles with directions like these. It’s constant. Last week, in a span of 8 days (Monday to Monday), there were 5 puzzles that featured (or should’ve featured) circled letters. The fact that it’s available on this site and appears how it should appear seems to be a direct acknowledgement that there’s a problem with the version offered to the masses.

Thanks for this one, Paul! Sorry this one fell victim to the circle “workaround.”

3.5 stars with circles.

1.5 without.

Alex Eaton-Salners’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 5/15/21 • Sat • “Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” • Eaton-Salners • solution • 20210515

Reduplicative phrases in which the first iteration has a voiceless postalveolar affricate (tʃ) introduced—that’s a ‘ch’ sound to you and me—to wacky effect.

  • 22a. [Fashionable sumo wrestler’s pride and joy?] TOP-NOTCH TOPKNOT. It’s called a mage or chonmage in Japanese, and a fancy one styled to resemble a ginkgo leaf is called an ōichō.
  • 38a. [Hanukkah gelt, essentially?] MUNCHY MONEY.
  • 43a. [Emulates the Red Baron?] CHASES ACES.
  • 66a. [Results of gorging on chèvre?] GOAT CHEESE GOATEES. That’s avery strange image.
  • 90a. [Setting for some model rocketry?] LAUNCH LAWN. Factette: the title of the film October Sky is an anagram of the book it’s adapted from, Rocket Boys?
  • 93a. [In-service computer?] CHAPEL APPLE. I like the double-entendre of ‘service’ here.
  • 116a. [Pie crime and misdemeanor?] FILCHING FILLING.

These are … ok. I’m not going to be the one punching punning. In a nice touch, that voiceless postalveolar affricate does not appear elsewhere in the grid.

  • Two senses of boxer back-to-back in 2- and 3-down.
  • 5d [Fine print, perhaps] PHOTO, And I was banking on it being LITHO.
  • Anatomy! 9d [Dividing wall] SEPTUM, 49a [Earwax] CERUMEN.
  • 65a [Hampshire home] STY. Hampshire being a breed of pig. You can check out the information at the National Swine Registry. It’s appropriate for crosswords as it’s characterized by a black body with a white band around the middle.
  • 82d [Long-distance swimmer?] EEL. I feel this clue is stretching things too far.
  • 87d [Country’s Reba] MCENTIRE. Usually REBA is the entry in crosswords.
  • 111d [Breaking points?] ACNE. Ouch.
  • 24a [Small guy who’s blue in the face] SMURF. And everywhere else, presumably.
  • 27a [“Insecure” star] ISSA RAE, who always put me in mind of tesserae.
  • Favorite clues: 30a [It’s brought to order] MENU, 78a [Viral loads?] MEMES.
  • 115a [Rice product] NOVEL. 11d [Richards and Romney] ANNS. (Anne Rice has an e.)

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22 Responses to Saturday, May 15, 2021

  1. Z says:

    NYT 16A – Apolo denial

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I though it was very doable for a Saturday except for the NW. I kept thinking prom for the event for kings and queens, and felt dumb and dumber for being taken in by that self-referential clue.
    A long time ago, when I was new in this country and my husband and I were starving students in New Orleans, my mentor was invited to a very fancy Mardi Gras event (I think he contributed to the float) and gave us his tickets. It turned out to be a DRAG SHOW. I had no idea such things existed and I was blown away. The talent was amazing and the execution breathtaking. I still remember the music, costumes, laughter and uproarious atmosphere. Some of the jokes are still with me. I need to go back to NOLA and see if I can attend another one!

  3. Bob says:

    Yes Saturday seemed a little harder than normal. NW corner was last to fall. Anybody else get a giggle reading the answer to 19A as “Silent BS” as opposed to Silent B’s.

  4. PJ says:

    LAT – 33d refers to a poem, “Song to Celia” by Ben Johnson.

  5. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: I’m sure that anyone who supports Arsenal will have quite a laugh over seeing Carlos VELA described as a “star.”

    • KarenS says:

      NYT seems to have two types of male soccer players: Pele and obscure so-called stars who now play in MLS.

      • Reid says:

        I agree that Shortz has dubbed some pretty medium athletes as stars (I believe Seth Curry was recently an NBA star), but Vela won league MVP, and is clearly a star in MLS.

  6. Billy Boy says:

    NYT, yes for me, much harder than usual. I thought some of the clues were too loose, but I guess any Old DROSS is fine on Saturday.

    puertO not puertA (as I first wrote it, too, wrong in the write up ) Vallarta
    nice virtue signaling with that clue one of five or so toehold gimmes

    Write it in – Street meat is indeed very common use, in London we seek out a nice dirty DonnerKebab after a heavy night of drinking and slinking.

    Hardly Vegan, now that’s offensive in an NYT


    • Reid says:

      The only person virtue signaling here is you

      • dhj says:

        BOOM roasted

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Thank you, Reid! Yes.

        “Virtue signaling” is generally used by people who simply cannot believe that many of us genuinely care about social justice, civil rights, etc. To cite a gay vacation spot in a clue isn’t “virtue signaling,” it’s inclusivity; it tells LGBTQIA people that we see you, we like you, we’re not afraid of you, and we don’t wish to pretend that you don’t exist.

  7. Harry says:

    Actually I thought the NYT was significantly easier than usual.

  8. pannonica says:

    Newsday: Finished with PUG and TAG for PUP/TAP. I can easily rationalize TAG for [Call on].

  9. Me says:

    LAT: The cross between EEPHUSPITCH and ASHLARS is … not great. That’s a Natick if ever I saw one.

    And there’s a clue that references a Bolivian president, which is bad enough, but it’s a FORMER Bolivian president.

    I think the editor was asleep at the wheel here.

    • Lise says:

      That LAT crossing was absolutely unfathomable. I’m pretty old, and I’ve never heard of either of those, nor have I heard of Rip Sewell, who seems to have played baseball over a decade before I was born. Neither EEPHUS nor EPHUS is in Merriam-Webster and it’s not an eponym.

      ASHLAR stone is interesting, and I’m glad I learned about it and will know when to recognize it. But I’m a little put out that those two entries crossed each other.

      I didn’t mind EVO Morales; he was a Jeopardy! answer recently, and I knew him, thanks to crosswords. Other than the egregious Natick, I liked the LAT. The Saturday LAT is generally a lovely treat, which I look forward to all week.

  10. Michael says:

    I had quite the opposite experience compared to yesterday and flew through this one… well, my flying is relative and still takes about 15 minutes. Great puzzle with lots of good, some bad and a few ugly answers. I had mixed feelings about the plural TRAIL MIXES yesterday and those feelings have been amplified by SILENT Bs (BS?) today, which, to be fair, had a cleverly misleading clue. Just not sure I’d want this to open the floodgates to stuff like CAPITAL Js (Johnson & Johnson leaders) or HARD Cs (Coca Cola can openers?). Otherwise, a very enjoyable solving experience, as with all of Sam’s puzzles.

  11. Hector says:

    A stringer is a freelance-ish reporter, on call for a newspaper. Autopens are robotic signature-signers, to save celebs writer’s cramp. And I think NADIR does not at all mean worst case scenario.

  12. David L says:

    Is STREETMEAT the same as road-kill? It sounds about as appetizing.

    That WKRP/KENOLIN/RAGNAROK/VELA section was awkward — I’ve never watched either of the TV shows and misremembered LENOLIN at first but then dragged up WKRP from the dark recesses of my memory.

  13. RichardZ says:

    Re today’s Newsday puzzle – it’s a small point, but I believe 20A (SONATAS) is technically incorrect, since although Liszt wrote many works for solo piano, he only wrote a single piano sonata – the beautiful (and famously difficult) Sonata in B Minor.

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