Sunday, May 30, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 9:39 (Amy) 


Universal 3:30 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 11:36 (Jim P) 


WaPo 13:16 (Jim Q) 


Adam Wagner’s New York Times crossword, “Game Over”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 5 30 21, “Game Over”

True confession: I went to Wordplay to read the theme explanation. In chess, you can lose via CHECKMATE, clued as 47d. [One ending for a classic board game – another of which (when a player resigns) is represented visually six times in this puzzle]. Apparently when a chess player resigns a match, they knock their king over, and it’s supposed to look like those Down theme answers have caused a king (the king’s name, whose letters are hidden in that longer answer) to be knocked over to the side. If you’re not a chess person, this might not resonate at all as a sensible way for the theme to work.

The themers are:

  • 4d. [Quick to fall asleep, in a way], NAR{COLE}PTIC crossing Old King COLE.
  • 22d. [Spent some time on YouTube, say], WATCHE{D A VID}EO crossing King DAVID. I’m not sold on WATCHED A VIDEO being a crosswordable phrase.
  • 28d. [Nobel Peace Prize recipient who wrote “No Future Without Forgiveness”], DESMOND {TUT}U crossing King TUTankhamen.
  • 67d. [Quintessentially cowardly] TI{MID AS} A MOUSE crossing King MIDAS.
  • 76d. [Tinker (with)], FIDD{LE AR}OUND crossing King LEAR.
  • 106d. [Potato cultivar that was developed in Ontario, despite its name], YU{KON G}OLD crossing King KONG.

It bothers me that the theme entries aren’t placed symmetrically; 4d and 106d aren’t paired, and none of the kings appear opposite another grid ruler. Is there a reason the tipped kings all have to appear to the left of the thematic Downs? It also bothers me that CHECKMATE is the revealer when the theme is visually representing an entirely different way of ending a match. DESMOND TUTU and YUKON GOLD potatoes are timeless, though.


Less appealing: MAC JR (a fleeting McDonald’s menu item not currently on the US menu), INKER and TILER, RAP CDS (CDs don’t have genres, just the songs and albums contained on the CD do), GARY IN, the dreadful LENDEE, UNSTOW and UNREEL.

Six more things:

  • 8d. [Tabloid nickname for mother Nadya Suleman], OCTOMOM. Rude nickname! The Suleman octuplets are doing well, and they’re gorgeous kids.
  • 55d. [Cubs’ place to play home games], DEN. This is a hard clue when you live walking distance from Wrigley Field!
  • 61d. [The “Bel Paese,” to locals], ITALIA. I’ve heard of the cheese, never put it together that its name means “beautiful country.”
  • 83d. [Rob ___, British comedian and TV personality], BRYDON. Never heard of him, haven’t seen the handful of things he’s done that have reached US audiences.
  • 100d. [Only color of the rainbow not seen on the L.G.B.T. pride flag], INDIGO. I wonder when the NYT will commit to adding the Q, if not the QIA+. Oh, wait, they use it already outside of the crossword. Memo to Will Shortz: Add the “Q.”! We don’t want to look dated.
  • 108d. [Pelvic exercise], KEGEL. I appreciate an unembarrassed reference to anatomy that’s typically concealed in public places.

3.25 stars from me.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Road Trip”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Familiar phrases whose last words can also be actions performed while driving a car.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Road Trip” · Zhouqin Burnikel · 5.30.21

  • 23a. [One may start after dark] LATE SHIFT. Shift gears.
  • 25a. [Sheets’ storage site?] GOOGLE DRIVE. Hit the road!
  • 37a. [Unfortunate return on a bond] NEGATIVE YIELD. Or as the Brits say, “Give way.”
  • 67a. [What a walkie-talkie transmits] RADIO SIGNAL. Or as the Brits say, “Indicate.”
  • 75a. [“I played already”] IT’S YOUR TURN. Turn now, Now, NOW!
  • 106a. [Performer’s badge, perhaps] ALL-ACCESS PASS. Why is everyone driving like zombies? Go around them!
  • 124a. [Home of a New York zoo] CENTRAL PARK. Well, you’re crooked, but at least you’re within the lines.
  • 127a. [Knob on a church instrument] ORGAN STOP. Whew! We made it. Shut it down.

You’ll have to forgive me, I’ve been teaching my daughter to drive even though she’s already a full-fledged adult at 22! Sheesh! (In her defense, we were living abroad during her high school years so we decided to wait.)

Anyway, this was an enjoyable theme. I especially like the consistency in that each word is a verb you perform as part of a typical drive. I also like that the terms are in a relatively logical order. This isn’t an obvious run-of-the-mill theme, and that’s what I like about it.

Top bits of fill: “I’M IN HEAVEN!” (duped by, yet contrasted with, “I’M MAD!”) and “SURE, WHY NOT?”. “WHO CAN IT BE?” is nice but it feels like it should either be “Who can that be?” or the Men at Work song “Who Can It Be Now?” Other honorable mentions: “IS IT EVER?!,” SLACKER, and GATE AGENTS.

Clues of note:

  • 28a. [A rabbit has 28] TEETH. Wow. Seems like a lot.
  • 81a. [Inexperienced gamers]. NEWBS. Hmm. Mostly I see “noobs.”

Impressive grid with a fresh theme (and lots of it) and plenty of sparkly fill. Four stars.

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

Lest you think that title is “Not a Thing,” you can rest assured that it is indeed. If you’ve solved Evan’s puzzles for long enough (or maybe even just a few?), you’d know he has a penchant for video game inclusion. Any video game. He’s not picky. I mean… look at the cover for this one! That exists!


THEME: Animals can be found scrambled in common phrases


Washington Post, May 30, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Altered Beasts” solution grid


  • 23A [They often fly during pride parades] RAINBOW FLAGS. FOWL.  (**this should be WOLF, actually… see end of post)
  • 25A [“Back so soon?”] YOU AGAINIGUANA.
  • 39A [Dirty martini garnish] GREEN OLIVE. LION. 
  • 54A [Process that may end with a remainder] LONG DIVISION. DINGO.
  • 61A [Well-worn path] BEATEN TRACK. ANTEATER
  • 75A [Language expressed in books rather than in speech] WRITTEN WORD. NEWT
  • 81A [Robert De Niro’s role in “Taxi Driver”] TRAVIS BICKLE. IBIS
  • 95A [Start of a proverb about deception] FOOL ME ONCE… MOLE
  • 112A [Social for a child and teddy bears, perhaps] TEA PARTY. APE
  • 115A [Single guys’ dwellings] BACHELOR PADS. LEOPARD

This theme type isn’t my favorite. For me, it doesn’t lend itself to a synergy where the theme and the fill work together to get through tough spots. I solve this type of puzzle mostly as a themeless, and then I figure out the scrambled words later. I noticed FOWL first**, just to make sure I understood the theme. IGUANA stuck out clearly, and ANTEATER was bizarre enough that I stopped mid-solve to figure it out. The others I haven’t looked at yet, so I’ll do those now.  Let’s see… LION, APE, MOLE, IBIS, NEWT… what are those last two? Ah! LEOPARD and DINGO.

As far as execution goes, it’s very solid. The base phrases are all in-language, the animals bridge the two-word themers, and the animals are all well-known enough (although I probably wouldn’t be able to identify a DINGO in a lineup. I just know not to let them near babies).

Had much difficulty in the Southeast of the puzzle. Couldn’t get FOOL ME ONCE for the life of me (needed almost every cross for some reason) and ALLTELL, POACHES, TIMECOP, and CORDON were coming in very slowly. Didn’t know Kiki LAYNE down there either. But a bit of elbow grease and it came together.

Fill Notes:

  • I was wondering who was going to be the first (that I noticed anyway) to clue OREOS via Lady Gaga reference. Evan for the win!
  • 42A [Filthy film] SCUM. I had SMUT, which was very hard to change. Oops.
  • 90A [Uncle Fester portrayer Christopher] LLOYD. Totally forgot that was him.
  • 123A [1996 Broadway premiere] RENT. Was my generation’s Hamilton that long ago? I remember people camping outside the theater to score a ticket.
  • Note the references to animals and beasts throughout.

**I’m just realizing something right now… In a Birnholz puzzle like this one, there has to be another layer to kick it up a notch beyond a concept that could be employed in a 15×15 crossword grid. Let’s check the first letters of each of the animals in order.


Okay, let’s change FOWL to WOLF shall we?


And just like that, I’m much more satisfied. Did I miss a nudge in the clues that asked us to look at first letters? I would love if that nudge wasn’t there. I’m not going to check.

Thanks, Evan!

Susan Gelfand’s Universal crossword, “Creative Storage Solutions” — Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Common phrases reimagined as if they’re units of storage.

Universal crossword solution · “Creative Storage Solutions” · Susan Gelfand · Sun., 5.30.21


  • 17A [Container for a sausage meat?] PORK BARREL. 
  • 11D [Container for a bread spread?] BUTTERCUP. 
  • 62A [Container for certain citrus fruits?] ORANGE BOWL. 
  • 35D [Container for genealogy charts?] TREE TRUNK. 

Cute theme here! Tight and consistent. I suppose there are a few more entries one could find to fit the theme, but I enjoyed these choices.

Filled fine. Nothing really caught my attention much, except perhaps the reference to a TikTok starring FETA cheese. I’ll have to look that up. My students finally forced me to download the app. Very easy to see why it’s so addictive.

Mr. Happy Pencil took a few moments to appear. Had to correct ZONK (had CONK) and I’d misspelled VEILED (VAILED). Easy fixes to find though.

3.5 stars. Enjoy Sunday!


Paul Coulter’s LA Times crossword, “What’s My Line?” – Jenni’s write-up

Each theme answer is a job title clued – differently.

Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2021, Paul Coulter, “What’s My Line?” solution grid

  • 23a [Researcher with an outgoing personality?] is a SOCIAL SCIENTIST.
  • 37a [Clergyman who build cupboards?] is a CABINET MINISTER.
  • 49a [Bleep button operator?] is a CROSSWORD EDITOR. That one made me giggle.
  • 68a [Dietician?] is a MIDDLE MANAGER. Seen that before. Filled it in with no crossings.
  • 87a [Drug kingpin?] is a TRAFFIC ENGINEER.
  • 96a [Getaway driver?] is a FLIGHT ATTENDANT.
  • 118a [Fishing guide?] is a CASTING DIRECTOR.

Solid, enjoyable theme, well-suited for a Sunday.

Please please please can we retire ETAIL? Please? Also: ONE L by Scott Turow is not a novel. The subtitle is “The Turbulent True Story of First Year at Harvard Law School.” It’s a memoir. Turow has written novels. This isn’t one.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Terry O’Quinn played LOCKE in Lost.

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20 Responses to Sunday, May 30, 2021

  1. JohnH says:

    Not a favorite NYT Sunday. I had a chess phase as a teen and continued to follow competitive chess while the Times still had a chess column, so I guess you could say I really am a chess person, and the theme still made no sense to me. I couldn’t translate “let’s have kings stick out to your left” into anything.

    The fill was a slog, too. UNSTOW as a word? Yuck.

  2. Dook says:

    Chuck Berry heard Surfin’ USA for the first time on a car radio. He wasn’t asked permission to use his tune nor did he receive any royalties. It was outright theft.

    • Crotchety Doug says:

      According to Genius Lyrics, “under pressure from Berry’s publisher and with threats of lawsuit, Wilson’s father and manager, Murry Wilson, gave the copyright for the song to Arc Music, Berry’s publisher.”

  3. MattFI says:

    NYT ‘horizontal king’ theme was (possibly) a reference to the Netflix series. Beth’s opponents would always knock over their kings when defeated— I don’t think that’s actually such a common practice in real tournaments. An OK puzzle.

    • huda says:

      Interesting! Thank you

    • Me says:

      Knocking over your king to signal a resignation is a pretty common maneuver in the chess world, although I don’t think players in the big tournaments do it anymore, if they ever did at that level. Often, at the highest-level tournaments, the resigner doesn’t say anything at all; he or she just puts his hand out to shake as the signal that he or she is resigning. At that level, both players know the scoop and realize that’s a signal that the game is lost and not an offer to draw. But the idea of knocking over your own king to resign has been true in the chess world for decades.

      That being said, I didn’t love this theme. I don’t really equate the names of kings portrayed horizontally to knocking over the king and resigning.

  4. Me says:

    LAT: ONE L is clued as a novel, but it’s autobiographical. Good puzzle except for that one slip-up.

    • just stopping by says:

      I loved the theme on this one and there was some really good fill. But I was confused by 119D, “Shamus” [TEC]. Do you know what that is referring to?

  5. MattF says:

    This is a try at fixing my misspelled nym problem above.

  6. marciem says:

    WaPo: me too with fowl ending with a fild animal for the notepad note. I hunted for an animal starting with e to make a field animal but it just wasn’t there :D . It was my first full fill of a themer, and fowl worked with the creature kingdom so it stuck in my head until the end. I now realize that fowl is a category of creatures, and all the others were more specific.

    Fun puzzle!!

    U(sun). I’ve seen lots of newbies, and lots of noobs. Newbs is new to me. But all in all another fun puzzle, and that area was easy to correct.

    LAT no write up yet, but the NE had a real nattick for me.

    • marciem says:

      That Locke / Anke crossing in the NE is what did me in. I’ve not heard of either of the names and it isn’t easily inferable.

      Otherwise enjoyed the theme, and with Jenni on having seen middle management in the not too distant past, so dropped it in right away.

  7. David L says:

    27A: “Floors” — STUNS
    56A: “Stuns” — AWES

    Especially ironic in a puzzle where CROSSWORDEDITOR is a theme answer!

  8. Mike says:

    Given that Evan Birnholz put BELLEANDSEBASTIAN into a grid not long ago, I wouldn’t be shocked if Matthew Sweet’s “Sick of Myself” was going thru his head the whole time he was making this one…..

    • Jim Q says:

      I don’t understand. Can you explain?

      • I think Mike was referring to the fact that Matthew Sweet released an album in 1993 called “Altered Beast.” The song “Sick of Myself” wasn’t on that album, but rather his next album, “100% Fun.”

        I hadn’t heard of the song, but listening to it now, it reminds me of other ’90s rock tracks, for sure.

  9. Mutman says:

    NYT: Late on the post. I liked the theme, as I have played chess and enjoyed the reference.

    However, it would have more visual sense to have the king vertical and ‘tip over’ to a horizontal position, as that is how it would look on a chess board!

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