Saturday, May 22, 2021

LAT 8:47 (Derek) 


Newsday 16:37 (Derek) 


NYT 4:56 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Sid Sivakumar & Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 22 21, no. 0522

This unusual 64-word grid is incredibly orthogonal, nary a diagonal stretch of black squares to be found.

Fave fill: MAKE A MOVIE, new-to-me GENERATION ALPHA (31a. [Ones born beginning in the early 2010s], guess you switch to Greek letters after exhausting … just X, Y, and Z), HEIST FILMS (I want to watch the heist-amid-a-zombie-apocalypse Netflix movie, Army of the Dead), “I’M ON A ROLL” (small scowl at “I’LL GO,” though), the BOOBOISIE, FILL ME IN (also the title of a crossword podcast), “OK, GOOGLE” (which gives me nightmarish “OK, Caillou” vibes), yummy ROOT BEER, POKER PROS (hey, Ben Bass!), and AFI LISTS.

Just four things, since I’m tardy for some family time:

  • 49d. [Hit on the head, in slang], DONK. Pfft! Merriam-Webster apparently hasn’t gotten the memo that this is a word, and I wonder if it’s regional or a kids-these-days things, because I’ve never heard it. My household Gen-Z representative decries this word, insisting on BONK. I would also accept CONK.
  • 16a. [Papyrus, e.g.], REED. Plant from which ancient papyri were made, and not a terrible FONT. (Meaning it’s not clued as a font. As a font, of course Papyrus is terrible.)
  • 26a. [Panegyric, e.g.], PRAISE. Am I the only one who gets this word mixed up with the old camphorated tincture of opium called paregoric?
  • 38d. [Deity that becomes a given name when its fifth letter is moved to the front], AMON-RA. Turns into Ramona. This Egyptian sun god can also be spelled Amun-Ra and Amen-Ra, but Ramena and Ramuna aren’t familiar first names. Ramune, on the other hand, is a Japanese brand of soda whose bottles have a marble wedged in them. Why? I don’t know.

Overall, let’s call this four stars.

Tracy Gray & Jeff Chen’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 05/22/2021

I found this puzzle a bit tougher that normal LAT Saturday challenge puzzles. As the Newsday puzzles try to get easier, I think these are getting a little thornier. And that’s OK! There will always be a market for puzzles that strive to push the solver to their limits. We all know of several indie outlets that do just that, but as far as mainstream puzzles, there are not many tough options other than the Saturday NYT, the “Stumper”, and this one. Am I missing any?

This is an excellent themeless. The stars of this puzzle are the corner stacks, which are chock full of lively and entertaining entries. That will fill up most of the highlights below! A solid 4.8 stars for this Tracy Gray and Jeff Chen collaboration. Bring on more of these!

As mentioned, a few notes:

  • 1A [“Yeah, like I believe that!”] “WHAT A CROCK!” – Great casual phrase!
  • 15A [Lozenge flavor] HONEY-LEMON – Just call them Halls. Do people buy other brands?? This is one of my go-to flavors, as well!
  • 22A [NBA Sixers, on scoreboards] PHI – The NBA playoffs start in earnest today, after a drama filled “play-in” tournament. I liked the idea! My Bulls still had no chance, even with the added layer of games.
  • 47A [Some are made in garages] DEMO CDS – One of many great entries in here. several used abbreviations like this. Your brain had to do some work in this puzzle!
  • 61A [Movie in which Ricardo Montalban says, “Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb … ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold’?”] STAR TREK II – This is The Wrath of Khan movie, and Khan was the role Montalban played here. Forty years ago!! Man, I feel old today.
  • 64A [Hitting close to home] ALL TOO REAL – Another great casual phrase, in a way. This was my favorite entry, and I need to make sure it’s in my word list!
  • 7D [Its anchor shouldn’t weigh it down] RELAY TEAM – Best clue in the puzzle!
  • 13D [Some NFL scores] RUSHING TDS – As with 47A, this is another common phrase and this is how you see it. Very well done.
  • 27D [Petty offense] PECCADILLO – A neat little word here.
  • 28D [Nice statement of indignation?] “EXCUSEZ MOI!” – Fantastic entry! As long as you know how to spell in French!

Off to do more puzzles!

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

Newsday 05/22/2021

It has been a while since I solved the Newsday Saturday puzzle on my iPad, so I decided to go that route today. Also, my Mac is nearly dead!

Greg Johnson puzzles always give me fits. This one was no exception. There are a couple of tough doozies in here, but a couple of the entries did make me smile a bit, and this was a satisfying solve for me. On to the rest of the day! 4.6 stars.

A few notes:

  • 1A [Chesapeake fishery supplies] CRAB TRAPS – I had the CRAB start almost immediately, but couldn’t get the rest quick enough. I must be tired!
  • 10A [’50s command for Bogart] CAINE – As in The Caine Mutiny, no doubt. Had to think about this one for a sec!
  • 17A [SUV stat] E.P.A. ESTIMATED MPG – WOW. What an entry! This is where I grinned!
  • 22A [Certain face-covering feature] EYE HOLE – Not EYE MASK or EYE LASH? No, it is not!
  • 57A [What are needed to say ”Aye!”] GLOTTISES – Excellent, but quite difficult.
  • 5D [Broadcast breaks] TV SPOTS – I had AD SPOTS here for a while, which caused trouble in getting the above-mentioned 22A!
  • 9D [Made a ”messy” manicure] SPATTERED – Needless to say, I have not had this procedure done. I HAVE had manicures before, though!
  • 32D [Rhode Island Reds’ prides] BROWN EGGS – Why am I thinking of a rooster comb here instead? I guess because I don’t think hens have “pride” in their eggs!
  • 35D [Informal invitation] “C’MON IN!”– Great casual phrase!
  • 46D [Return from the right] LAPSE – I don’t get this clue. Someone explain!
  • 51D [Asian marauder in a Norse tale] ATLI – This is tough. I don’t know this entry at all. Off to Google it …

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

David P Williams’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Color Swap” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 5/22/21 • “Color Swap” • Williams • solution • 20210522

This one played a bit different for me. Couldn’t immediately get a toehold in the top left, so my entry was rather scattershot. Further, although I could tell—from the title and the first themers I completed via crossings—that colors in phrases were being moved around, it wasn’t until the grid was nearly finished that the mechanism involved specifically exchanging from symmetrically opposite entries.

  • 23a. [Fear of ecological movements?] GREEN SCARE.
    122a. [Settings for Soviet cinematic propaganda?] RED SCREENS.
    (green screens / Red Scare)
  • 25a. [Redacted content?] BLACK SPACE.
    120a. [Powdered doughnut leftovers?] WHITE HOLES.
    (black holes / white space)
  • 50a. [Pity party punch?] BLUE JUICE.
    91a. [Mandarin decree?] ORANGE LAW.
    (blue law / orange juice)
  • 52a. [Punch-to-the-gut result] PURPLE BELLY.
    88a. [Source of Big Bird’s love] YELLOW HEART.
    (purple heart / yellow belly)

Notice anything else? The paired colors are complementary! (One might quibble with black–white, but I think it’s cool). That’s quite a feat of construction, which explains the slight paucity of theme entries. 87a [“So the truth is revealed!”] OHO.

In homage to the theme, I’m providing my commentary here in the hexadecimal complement to my usual ‘signature’ color.

  • Favorite clue: 4d [Rule broken by forfeiting?] I BEFORE E. Very spiffy.
  • 9d [Look to the heavens?] EYEROLL is pretty good too,
  • 11d [Oxford insurance?] GALOSH. That one was rather tough. 123d [Oxford instructor] DON. That one was rather easy.
  • 14d [It’s just over a foot] ANKLE. Dang, this one’s good too. And I’m not even done with the downs originating in the first row.
  • 16d [Alternative to Dulles] REAGAN. Glad to hear from commenter CFXK (below) that locals still call it National. Kind of the way New Yorkers stick with the Triboro Bridge (vs RFK), the West Side Highway (vs Joe DiMaggio), and Tappan Zee Bridge (vs Mario Cuomo), and so on. 42d [Resistance to change] INERTIA.
  • 17d [Update, as an app] RECODE. Not merely downloading a new version; this is on the production side.
  • 26d [Belch from Shakespeare] SIR TOBY. Not quite the bawd from the Bard a solver might expect.
  • 29d [Tried to fly] FLAPPED.
  • 35d [Makeup of underwater forests] KELP. They can be quite beautiful. And yes, their existence is threatened by the climate crisis.
  • 47d [Classical collection of fables] AESPOPICA. Not a word I knew, but it was inferable and I’m happy to have learned it.
  • 60d [Abbr. in a return address] IRS. Another great clue. There are actually quite a lot of stellar clues in this crossword—I haven’t been listing all of them here.
  • 84d [Gaelic] ERSE. I’m currently reading a new-ish English translation of a celebrated Gaelic novel, Cré na Cille (Graveyard Clay), by Máirtín Ó Cadhain. It’s quite a remarkable feat. (20a [Gumby stuff] CLAY.)
  • 102a [Bagel topping] SHMEAR. Predictably, the current New York mayoral race has touched on the candidates’ preferences. EYEROLL.
  • 6a [Spice that comes in “blades”] MACE. Did not know this.
  • 41a [Fork foursome, commonly] TINES. The other utensils are of course called threeks. Fortunately it’s only rare that one might spot a fifk.
  • 59a [Number of countries in Centroamérica] SIETE. Nice to clue this as a hybrid geography question rather than some ho-hum arithmetical equation.
  • 72a [Like those who think this clue is about them] PARANOID. Because SO VAIN didn’t fit.
  • 76a [“Saint Joseph and the Christ Child” painter] Guido RENI. That’s kind of a deep cut; not among the most well-known Renaissance Baroque artists.
  • 98a [Seven-time Super Bowl champ Tom] BRADY. Seven?! That’s entirely too many.

David Distenfeld’s Universal crossword, “Spill the T” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Common phrases that end with T are missing that T. Wackiness ensues.

Universal crossword solution · Spill the T · David Distenfeld · Sat., 5.22.21


  • 17A [“Which salesperson is handling Christmas trees?”?] WHO’S ON FIRS?
  • 29A [Neckwear for Carmen Miranda?] BANANA BOA. 
  • 47A [Unhip hopper, informally?] SQUARE ROO. 
  • 62A [“Message received” at a temple?] ROGGER RABBI. 

Another classic theme type, done very well. All of the themers are winners for me. And the title revealer, Spill the T, along with fill like LATERGRAM, which is new to me, but fun and inferable, kept it fresh.

Other things:

  • OLIVE LOAF. I’ve never tried this. Any good?
  • 60D [Musical with a titular number?] NINE. Fun fact!
  • 9D [Pitchers’ “heaters”] FASTBALLS. I can’t read that word without thinking of the latest fastball disaster in the MLB.
  • 34A [King who was played by a woman on Broadway in 2019] LEAR. This clue doesn’t sit right with me. Why not just say her name? It’s Glenda Jackson and she was phenomenal in the role, though the production itself wasn’t my favorite. To write “a woman” instead of the celebrated stage actress’s name seems rather cheap.

3.9 Stars


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34 Responses to Saturday, May 22, 2021

  1. CFXK says:

    RE WSJ 16D

    For natives and long-time residents of the DC area, the alternative to Dulles is National.

    • marciem says:

      DC natives probably call it that (National) (I’ll take your word), but the official name of that airport is “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport”, with Dulles and BWI being international airports.

      So Reagan is an appropriate answer. This west coaster heard it as such.

    • BarbaraK says:

      Yes! And the bridge on the west side of 495 is the Cabin John Bridge :) Old habits die hard.

    • BryanF says:

      “Fun”/Random Fact: It’s also possible to tag National (I call it Reagan National; it’s just a few miles from me) Airport as “Monica Lewinksy National Airport on Facebook.

  2. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: Think Amy had an auto-correct error with MAKE A MOV(I)E. And I have to say, “heist movie” seems more in-the-language than HEIST FILM.

    Now it seems the Egyptian sun god has several different acceptable spellings and we all need to be OK with a clue that makes us re-arrange the letters of one of these variations. Interesting.

    • R says:

      Seems that HEIST FILM and “heist movie” pretty close in terms of usage.

      As to the Egyptian deity, I’d bet that the rearranging part of the clue was there to narrow down the spellings, making the clue more gettable than having to enter AM_NRA and count on a crossing. Seems like a clever solution to an otherwise annoying entry, but your mileage may vary.

  3. Mesa e Somer says:

    still trying to figure out why “touches” is Ipods..?

  4. David L says:

    Newsday 46D: I can’t make sense of ‘Return from the right’ as the clue for LAPSE.

    I didn’t know ATLI and couldn’t come up with GLOTTISES, so those two crosses defeated me.

    • marciem says:

      I’m waiting with you, David. I can’t figure that lapse.

      I dug the glottis out of deep memory of “glottal stops” in some languages, so Atli got there.

      • janie says:

        a RELAPSE is the “return” of, say, an illness — and LAPSE, the “right [hand]” side of the word.

        that’d be my best guess!


    • pannonica says:

      Or maybe after a stint with being ‘right’ (or righteousness) one returns to one’s default state; a LAPSE of sorts?

      • marciem says:

        ok, that so far makes the best sense to me, pannonica… a “lapse” in RIGHTeousness. Strange clue/ans. pairing!

  5. Harry says:

    Lower left in the NYT is pretty much impossible unless you know all kinds of obscure stuff. What’s the fun if you have to google it?

    • Kameron says:

      I felt the clues trying to mitigate that. The clue for AMON-RA, eg, putting the emphasis on the trick with the letters rather than on the trivia itself; PTEROSAUR clue announces itself as a dinosaur entry, so you can at least tentatively/mentally try to put -SAUR in there and see what you can work off of; IBEAM clue straightforward; IM ON A ROLL fairly straightforward (but of course on a Saturday we’re all looking for tricks and often don’t trust “straightforward” clues, rightly so.) POOPED only gave me pause because I was doing Breakfast Test mental calculus.

      For me the fun was in taking this little bit of leverage and trying to parse it. Definitely agree that it wasn’t an easy corner, probably the toughest for me, as well. But the puzzle seems aware of that difficulty and eager to use clues that can help you out, I think.

    • BryanF says:

      That lower left corner of NYT did me in. I got stuck with ISOBAR (instead of APOLAR) and that just made that whole corner utterly painful. Probably a good half of my solve time was spent being stuck in that corner.

    • JohnH says:

      Actually, I got the lower left ok, even without knowing ARES and HUGO, say. It was the upper right that nearly defeated me, with the currency, the designer, the actress, Hoth, and uncertainty that POKER PROS was a phrase. I also had the reluctance to fill in DONK (and interesting that SUCKS passes muster).

  6. marciem says:

    Universal: When I got the first themer with “whosonfirs” crossing “fastballs” I was hoping that meant that the spilled “T” was the next letter down on the crossers (as it is in that particular crossing) but no, t’wasn’t to be. Still a nice theme and puzzle.

  7. Martin Ssempa says:

    Today’s WSJ was one of the best crosswords I’ve done in a while; I’m surprised the ratings so far have been so cold. Clueing “tavern” with an Isabel Allende reference sold me, but there was great wordplay even in a lot of the clues that would normally be rote and predictable. Definitely a few esoteric parts that could’ve been fairer, but an easy 5 stars from me either way.

  8. Mary Roque Flaminio says:

    Wsj. Grunt from a hog? Get on? Doesn’t make sense to me. Otherwise I really liked it.

    • pannonica says:

      ‘Hog’ as a term for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Not a great clue, if you ask me.

      • marciem says:

        Yah, I didn’t quit get this either. I did figure it was talking about motorcycles, but I thought the cycles themselves were the hogs (HarleyDavidson’s NYSE symbol is HOG)… and I haven’t seen the one that grunts “get on”. I’m missing something.

    • JohnH says:

      I made no sense of it either, so thanks for posting the question so now I know.

  9. Dan Rogalski says:

    LATimes. I have never heard “prat” as a synonym for rear (26D). I also don’t understand
    why “tote” is the answer for “board at belmont” (39A). Can anyone enlighten me? The intersection of those two entries was completely ungettable for me.

    • janie says:

      this should help:

      re: PRAT & rear — in slapstick comedy (for one), when you take a “PRAT fall” you fall on your rear…


    • Gary R says:

      I think “prat” may be a Britishism – I believe it’s the basis for pratfall.

      The “tote board” (or “totalizer” board) is where they post the betting odds at a horse track (like Belmont).

      • Dan Rogalski says:

        OK, wow, thank you both. I think of horse racing as a very niche subject when it comes to its terminology, but it is a Saturday after all.

  10. Kameron says:

    Matt, Sid: Lovely work. (And hard!!!)

  11. Ben Bass says:

    Ha, I actually felt that POKER PROS and DONK were subtle cross-references, for some at least. (A “donk,” short for donkey, is an ignorant, often stubborn poker player.) +1 to preferring BONK; agreed as to CONK.

Comments are closed.