Sunday, May 23, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 8:09 (Amy) 


Universal 3:39 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 9:18 (Jim P) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Jennifer Nebergall’s New York Times crossword, “You Do the Math”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 23 21, “You Do the Math”

This new constructor brings us a mathy theme:

  • 27a. [“That was great!” – “No, it stunk!”], DIFFERENCE OF OPINIONS. I feel like it’s most commonly seen in the singular, just a “difference of opinion,” no S, but that wouldn’t quite work for this theme. Difference has to do with subtraction, so in this clue, one opinion is subtracted from the other. The answer you come up with is, of course, a mushy, noncommittal lack of opinion.
  • 42a. [Route 70 in {Route 10, Route 95, Route 101, Route 70, Route 25}], HIGHWAY MEDIAN. I honestly have never seen the point of computing the median. It’s just “take this set of numbers in order, tell me the one in the middle.” So 10, 25, 70, 95, 101 yields 70. And 1, 2, 70, 59,765, 2,345,678, same median. What’s the use of this? (Yes, that’s right. I’m critiquing math.)
  • 66a. [Cattle in [cattle / pigs]], STOCK DIVIDEND. Divide one number (or livestock) by another, your DIVIDEND is the one on top of the fraction.
  • 95a. [Bear x tiger], ANIMAL PRODUCT. This isn’t genetic hybridization, it’s just multiplying a bear by a tiger. Can’t help feeling like the product would be more dramatic than ANIMAL PRODUCT!
  • 106a. [Car in {plane, car, train, horse, car, car, train}], MODE OF TRANSPORTATION. The mode is the one that appears the most times, and here there are 3 cars, 2 trains, and 1 apiece of plane and horse. Again, not really sure what the use of the mode is. Now, the mean, your average, I love a good mean. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN?” could be a themer if there were any way to add up WHAT, DO, and YOU and divide them by three.

Interesting theme approach, not a riff on the usual standard wordplay themes.


Seven more things:

  • 81d. [Kind of vaccine used against Covid], RNA. Nah, you gotta call it an mRNA vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna are both mRNA vaccines, and I don’t think I’ve heard any of the experts call them “RNA.”
  • 22a. [How spring rolls are cooked], IN OIL. See, no. There is too much variation in definitions and recipes for spring rolls to be in an IN OIL clue. An awful lot of fresh spring rolls use thin, translucent wrappers that don’t get fried at all. I think of spring rolls as these fresh things, and egg rolls as the deep-fried and crispy things. But at some restaurants, in some cuisines/recipes, you might have fried spring rolls and fresh egg rolls. There are a zillion deep-fried foods that can be used for IN OIL. Eat them! In moderation.
  • 119a. [___ mess, English dessert of berries, meringue and whipped cream], ETON. I feel like this is new to me, and I feel like I want to have it after dinner today.
  • 36d. [Muhammad’s father-in-law], OMAR. Hey, I didn’t know this! Always good to learn some religious history, and to see fresh OMAR clues.
  • 91d. [Words often replaced when singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”], HOME TEAM. At Wrigley Field, it’s “Cubbies.”
  • 5d. [Like many wildflower seeds], SELF-SOWN. Odd term to find in a crossword, but I do love wildflowers. There’s a crossword constructor I’m Facebook friends with who treats us to lovely photos of Ohio wildflowers, and they’re so delightful.
  • 10d. [What has interest in a car?], AUTO LOAN. I would call it a car loan, and in Black America, I believe it’s a car note.

Four stars from me.

Matthew Stock’s Universal Sunday crossword, “F in Film Class”—Jim P’s review

The puzzle title had me thinking we’d be adding Fs (or changing specific letters to Fs) in the titles of films, but that’s not the case. What is the case is that the entries are famous movie quotes, but they’re clued as if they came from a different movie which is somewhat thematically related.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “F in Film Class” · Matthew Stock · 5.23.21

  • 21a. [“Field of Dreams” quote?] THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME. The quote is from The Wizard of Oz, obviously, but it’s been so long since I saw Field of Dreams, I can’t quite remember what it has to do with “home.” I know the primary line from that film is, “If you build it, they will come.” I guess the rebuilt baseball field was a “home” for those lost souls? Help me out.
  • 38a. [“Coco” quote?] I SEE DEAD PEOPLE. I love this pairing! The quote is from The Sixth Sense, a horror film about a kid who, well, sees dead people. Coco is also about a kid who sees dead people, but it’s a light-hearted kids’ film filled with musical numbers.
  • 54a. [“Interstellar” quote?] TO INFINITY AND BEYOND. The quote is from Toy Story (Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase). I honestly don’t recall if I’ve seen Interstellar; there are a number of sci-fi films I’ve seen in recent years and they kind of run together—especially when the title is fairly generic. The pairing here is straightforward, though.
  • 78a. [“Moulin Rouge!” quote?] WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS. The quote is from Casablanca, and Moulin Rouge was set in Paris. That’s all I know about it. Never saw it.


  • 94a. [“The Wolf of Wall Street” quote?] SHOW ME THE MONEY. The quote is from Jerry MaGuire about a sports agent trying to turn his career around. The Wolf of Wall Street, I’m assuming, is about corporate greed. Never saw that one either. Not to be confused with Michael Douglas’s Wall Street from which we get the line, “Greed is good.”
  • 115a. [“Pinocchio” quote?] YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH. Another outstanding pairing! I’m imagining a red-faced and angry Jack Nicholson berating a shocked Pinocchio after being caught in a lie.

This was fun. And since the quotes are so recognizable, it only took a few crossings of each one to fill them in (once I cottoned on to the theme). So it made for a fast solve.

Since there’s quite a lot of theme material, there aren’t so many long entries in the fill. I like BUZZARD, SAME OLD, ROXBURY, and HI-CHEW [Japanese fruit candy brand] which I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a grid before, but which I’m sure I can find in a cupboard around here. I have to give EMU OIL [Australian bird’s liquid product] the side-eye. Is this really a thing? Are there other critters from which we extract oil?

Everything else is within parameters, and the clues are mostly on the straightforward side. Let’s put this one at 3.75 stars.

Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword, “Food for Thought” – Jenni’s write-up

This menu takes us all around the world. Each theme answer is a food that includes a place name clued literally. Easier to show than tell.

Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2021, Gary Larson, “Food For Thought,” solution grid

  • 17d [Medal recipient in Milan?] is an ITALIAN HERO. That’s a hoagie around here and a wedge where I grew up.
  • 33d [Worried state in Dublin?] is IRISH STEW.
  • 23a [Easy-to-hit pitch in Stockholm?] is a SWEDISH MEATBALL.
  • 45a [Minor matter in Manchester?] is an ENGLISH TRIFLE.
  • 60d [Dance move in Dijon?] is a FRENCH DIP.
  • 71d [Inferior items in Zurich?] are SWISS CHEESE.
  • 96a [Argument in Ulaanbaatar?] is a MONGOLIAN BEEF. Got that one with no crossings.
  • 123a [Rent money in Mumbai?] is INDIAN FLATBREAD.

All the theme entries are solid. It’s a nice, enjoyable theme – nothing that made me laugh out loud and nothing that made me wince, either.

There were a couple of wincey moments in the fill. EZINE needs to go away and stay away. FITB IN OR for [Are going ___ not?] is not good.

It’s too hot to sit here and type. What I didn’t know until I did this puzzle: that Ulaanbaatar has changed the Anglicization of its name.

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

Apologizes for an afternoon write-up! I was out enjoying SPRING early this morning.

THEME: SPRING is spelled out, gradually, in common phrases.

Washington Post, May 23, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Development Time” solution grid


  • 24A [*Musical for which Yul Brynner won a Tony Award] THE KIND AND I.
  • 37A [*Get involved with, as other people’s business] STICK YOUR NOSE INI do appreciate that this answer wasn’t STICK ONE’S NOSE IN. Not a big fan of the vague ONES that seems common in those types of entries.
  • 58A [*Author of the 1989 techno-thriller “The Ransom of Black Stealth One”] DEANINGThat name is entirely new for me. I don’t even know if it’s a first name, last name, or both. Thank goodness for fair crosses. (it’s both btw… DEAN ING).
  • 69A [*Certain navel piercing] BELLY BUTTON RING
  • 103A [*Filipina media personality who created a self-titled podcast about adulting] JOYCE PRINGAgain, I’m assuming the name. It could be JOY CEPRING. (Unlike DEAN ING, I got her name right the first time).
  • 107A [*Series of uprisings in the early 2010s that began in Tunisia] ARAB SPRING
  • 117A [Period of agricultural development, and a hint to the progression seen in the starred answers’ last words] GROWING SEASON

A complete 180 after two weeks of zaniness to something right over the plate. Solid revealer, solid idea, solid puzzle, but for me it had a very 15×15 crossword feel, thematically. Of course, with SPRING being six letters, it would be hard to pull off in a 15x, but that’s just how it felt to me.

With the title in mind and the first two themers circling the I, then IN, I could’ve sworn the circled letters were going to spell out IN UTERO, which I found very, very strange (yet not strange enough to dismiss as a possibility… Perhaps a Nirvana tribute?)

Flew through the fill here, which was the highlight for me. PEACHY KEEN, NEW DIGS, BAT SUIT, HOME BIRTHS (plural!). Nowhere where I really got hung up.

Two very new names as theme answers was surprising for me. However, I just noticed that SPRING is growing entirely at the ends of the themers (in fact, it’s an entire stand-alone part of each entry). So ING and PRING as last names should’ve been easier to infer with the synergy available on tap.

Not really sure what else to say. Everything was good. Just didn’t have the exciting edge (for me anyway) that Evan’s puzzles usually do.

Enjoy the rest of Sunday!

Richard Shlakman and Will Nediger’s Universal crossword, “Verbal Menagerie” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Phrases that begin with animals (though not in context)

Universal crossword solution · Verbal Menagerie · Richard Shlakman · Will Nediger · Sun., 5.23.21


  • 17A [Is a selfish sleeper] HOGS THE BLANKETS. 
  • 26A [Covers expenses] BEARS THE COST. 
  • 45A [Shakes on it] SEALS THE DEAL. 
  • 59A [Falls for a scam] SWALLOWS THE BAIT. 

I like how all the animals are plural too. This is a nice, evenly conceived and executed theme. See any other animals hiding in the grid? Sure! There’s a CAT, a SNAKE (whose VENOM comes in the form of [Hate mail content], a SWAN, and some baby foxes… KITS! Let’s throw in an EWOK to make the zoo really interesting. And keep ’em all together with a YOKE.

I don’t equate COLD AS ICE with aloofness. Either I’m wrong on the definition of “aloof” or I don’t know what the phrase really means. (googles) Look at that. My whole life I thought “aloof” just meant “ignorant of” or “unaware” or something like that. Good thing that’s a word I don’t use very often. From now on, I will very much equate COLD AS ICE with aloofness.

Almost time for BEDDY BYE for me! (that’s a winning bit of fill right there)

4 stars.

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14 Responses to Sunday, May 23, 2021

  1. Ethan says:

    I think the point of a median is this: if you take my net worth, the net worth of my ten closest friends, and Jeff Bezos’s net worth, you get a mean of about 19 billion dollars. A median would be more representative.

    • R Cook says:

      More concisely: Mean gives you the average salary, mode gives you the salary of the average person.

    • PJ says:


      The mean (average) is sensitive to outliers. The median isn’t. If the variable of interest is skewed and has outliers, the median is the preferred measure of central tendency. In my field, business, most variables are skewed and have outliers. Yet the mean is used more often. The mean gets used more because the sample mean has a lot of great mathematical properties that lead to a large body of analytic techniques such as hypothesis testing.

  2. JohnH says:

    In the NYT, why is the division enclosed in square brackets?

    Overall, the puzzle had an awful lot I didn’t know, and I don’t mean the math and theme entries. So I’d have to say no fun.

  3. Mr. Grumpy says:

    Universal: You score a run in baseball by making it home [to home plate]. That was my take.

  4. marciem says:

    Universal: “I have to give EMU OIL [Australian bird’s liquid product] the side-eye. Is this really a thing? Are there other critters from which we extract oil?” I know!! I know!! BABY oil, am I right? <—-kidding of course, and unfortunately it isn't funny since Emus die in the process. Emu Oil is definitely a thing. (They are also killed for their meat.)

    I'm with Mr. Grumpy on "no place like home"… the baseball reference goes with Field of Dreams story, and home is great since you score crossing it. I did try to fit in "If you build it etc…" but ran out of spaces. This before I caught that the theme was incorrect attributions to quotes.

    • marciem says:

      “Are there other critters from which we extract oil?” added to above, lanolin is an oil that is secreted from sheep skin. The sheep do not die in the process of obtaining it, it is extracted from the shorn wool.

  5. huda says:

    NYT: Loved the nerdy vibe, with NERD also being part of the grid…
    Minor Nit: OMAR is the most famous of Mohammed’s fathers in law. He had several.
    Trying to decide whether “RNA vaccine” bothers me. Of course, mRNA is more accurate and has the important connotation that the mRNA is translatable, which is key for the vaccine’s ability to produce the spike protein and trigger antibody production. But since mRNA is a type of RNA, and I feel that the progress is built on huge recent advances in RNA Biology broadly, RNA vaccine did not give pause while solving.

  6. Kelly Clark says:

    Whoo-hoo, Universal! My neighborhood — ROXBURY — made it into a puzzle for only the second time since 2001! And with an accurate clue! Yes!

  7. Ch says:

    Well, it had to happen: something with which I and Amy agree: the uselessness of median! Never made sense to me, but then again math isn’t my thing. And yes, Eton mess is an absolutely glorious dessert! Don’t let the fact it’s my favorite spoil it for you ;)

  8. Ed says:

    NYT 39 across, IMP???

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