Sunday, June 6, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 8:40 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 8:42 (Jim P) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times big ol’ themeless crossword, “Olio”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 6 21, themeless “Olio”

Ah! An oversized themeless can feel like a slog, but in Robyn’s capable hands, there’s enough spiffy fill and fun clues to keep me happy. Those two pageant sashes full of 6-letter entries are smooth as hell, though held together with the help of a lot of past tense -EDs. Those two corners with criss-crossing 8-letter trios are gorgeous, too.

Fave fill: grinning FROM EAR TO EAR, COSIGNS (though I prefer the contemporary social-media vibe of using cosign as shorthand for “I agree/I endorse this opinion”), HIGHEST BIDDER (without going over! Wait, that’s only on The Price Is Right), EYE-ROLLS, “AS I WAS SAYING,” NOT EVEN CLOSE, RETAIL THERAPY, BOOMERANG, COINED A PHRASE, and the dreaded DURSLEY name.

Ten Fifteen more things:

  • 43a. [“Have You Never Been ___,” #1 album for Olivia Newton-John], MELLOW. A childhood favorite of mine! Olivia was the first pop concert I ever went to—and it was at a rodeo, because she was more country/soft rock at that time. Eventually I moved past loving sopranos, because it’s hell to try to sing along with them.
  • 51a. [Tablet taken before going to bed, maybe], IPAD. Yes! There are three tablets that can come in handy: my iPad, melatonin, and Benadryl.
  • 67a. [Birth day presence?], DOULA. Not birthday presents.
  • 75a. [Some diners … and donors], PATRONS. Restaurant patrons, patrons of the arts.
  • 82a. [Like Queen Anne’s lace?], HERS. Ha! Not the wildflower, not a fabric, just … working that possessive ’s.
  • 1d. [Key for Chopin’s “Heroic” Polonaise], A FLAT. I hate this category of entry. “One of these eight letters, followed by FLAT if you need 4 letters, or SHARP/MINOR/MAJOR for 5.” I guarantee you that I will never recognize one of these answers based on the composer/work.
  • 3d. [Foundation options], TONES. As in skin makeup.
  • 10d. [Take sides?], EAT. What’s your favorite side dish?
  • 16d. [Task for a sous-chef], PREP. Getting Blue Apron meal kits has advanced my family’s food PREP skills. Especially my son’s! We’ll be sending a deft cook out into the world.
  • 31d. [They might be wireless], BRAS. Along with that TONES clue, I’m sensing a new vibe in the NYT crosswords, more clues written by women and not giving a vibe of “eww, why did those men go that way for a BRA clue?” Do we credit the addition of Wyna Liu and Tracy Bennett to the Times’s editorial crew? I think yes. (And of course, this vibe is present in all the Inkubator puzzles and many of the AV Club, New Yorker, and USA Today crosswords I see.)
  • 44d. [Stopped smoking?], COOLED. Kinda wanted DOUSED here.
  • 50d. [First little piggy’s destination], MARKET. Hey, were you all approximately today years old when you realized that the piggy wasn’t going shopping, it was being butchered? A dark day indeed.
  • 59d. [Did a TV marathon, say], BINGED. In the last 10 days, I have watched the first four seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Other recent binge-watches include I May Destroy You (HBO), Ted Lasso (Apple TV+), and Fleabag (Amazon Prime)—spouse and I adored all three of these shows.
  • 69d. [Thought expressed in American Sign Language by extending the pinkie, thumb and index finger], “I LOVE YOU.” Lovely clue!
  • 83d. [“___ and Majnun” (Arabic story that inspired a Clapton hit)], LAYLA. Oh, interesting! Did not know this.

Pam Awick Klawitter’s LA Times crossword, “Deactivated” – Jenni’s write-up

LA Times crossword solution, 6 6 21

Good morning! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping or cooing or squawking according to their nature, and I have a cup of lovely French-press coffee here on my porch. Life is good and so is this puzzle.

Each theme answer has DE added as a prefix to one word in a familiar phrase.

  • 15d [Why the housing development was postponed?] is DELAY OF THE LAND (lay of the land).
  • 22a [Explanatory words on a map of dictators’ homes?] is X MARKS THE DESPOT (x marks the spot). This is my favorite, and since it was the first one I filled in, it made me happy about the puzzle.
  • 39a [Shipping delivery headache?] is a PACKAGE DETOUR (package tour).
  • 45d [Post-rush hour elation?] is TRAFFIC DELIGHT (traffic light).
  • 63a [Media barrage for Garcia’s band?] is a DEAD BLITZ (ad blitz). That one took me the longest to parse, probably because the DE isn’t articulated the same way as the other.
  • 84a [Northeastern fishing fleet?] is the LOBSTER DETAIL (lobster tail. Mmm).
  • 105a [Valuable painting hanging in the potting shed?] is a GREENHOUSE DEGAS (greenhouse gas). I supposed we could argue about whether a potting shed and a GREENHOUSE are equivalent. I’m not much of a gardener, so it works for me.

All the base phrases are solid, all the theme answers are amusing, and I like the variety with some DEs added to the first word and some to the last. I don’t know why it pleases me when there are theme answers going both across and down, but it does!

A few other things:

  • Am I the only one who tried to put ISTHMUS for 6d [Panama’s place?]. It’s HAT RACK. I didn’t notice the ? when I was solving and I bet it wouldn’t have been there in a Fri/Sat NYT or a SAT LAT.
  • I can just here I DO SO in the voice of a small child. I love my kid and I’m glad that phase of her life is over.
  • I was all set to criticize the dupe of SOUR and SOUR ALE when I realized the latter was in some other puzzle I did this morning. Maybe I need to go do something else for a while.
  • 50a [House attachment] is a LIEN. I don’t understand why the Panama clue has a ? and this one doesn’t.
  • 104a [Noble gas that sounds like a French forest] is ARGON. I pronounce the gas with stress on the first syllable and ARGONNE with stress on the second, so they’re not homophones. Open to correction by people who actually speak French.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that LEONA Lewis recorded a song called “Run.” That’s not the one I’ve leaving you with.

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

This puzzle was definitely tested before it was published.

THEME: Different tests are “crammed” into common entries in rebus squares.

Washington Post, June 6, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Cram Session” solution grid


  • 22A [*Got somewhere during a task] MADE PRO{GRE}SS. 
  • 24A [*Native American talismans suspended over cradles and beds] DREA{M CAT}CHERS. 
  • 37A [*Semis] TR{ACT}OR TRAILERS. 
  • 49A [*Messes with] PLAY{S A T}RICK ON. 
  • 86A [*Moon, e.g.] NATURA{L SAT}ELLITE. 
  • 121A [*Gymnastics surfaces] TUMBLIN{G MAT}S
  • (bonus) 103D [Things revealed after taking an exam, and what’s spelled out by the letters immediately following six special squares in this puzzle] SCORES

Well, I’m about as knowledgable about different abbreviations for standardized tests as I am about all the different types of degrees one can earn (which reminds me of this fantastic puzzle). That is to say tests are not in my wheelhouse, no matter how often I’ve come across them in crosswords.

It did, however, make for a fun puzzling experience. Unlike many rebus puzzles, with this one you didn’t quite know the number or order of the letters being confined to one box, so it took more puzzling out. For me, I uncovered SCORES about mid-solve, and it was very helpful in at least determining where the rebus square might be on entries that gave me difficulty like NATURAL SATELLITE and TUMBLING MATS. Plus, I mean, the added Birnholzian layer (in this case, SCORES being spelled out like that) is always pretty danged cool. 

Other things:

  • 21A [Round rim surrounder] TIRE. Really wanted this to be SALT. Margaritas on the mind I suppose :)
  • 42A [Band whose name is a potential answer to its song title “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”] WAR. For some reason, I put HER.
  • 126A [Burton whose fans petitioned for him to become the host of “Jeopardy!”] LEVAR. Did he guest host yet? Or is it forthcoming still? I only catch the occasional highlights on YouTube, but it’s been fun seeing all the guest hosts.
  • 133A [Cardinal numbers?] STATS. As in the football/baseball team.
  • 1D [Traps, as in a web] ENMESHES. Anyone else enter ENSNARES?
  • 70D [Bit of company attire?] TUTU. The “company” being the dance team at the ballet. Good one!

New names for me:

ELENA Vesnina, NIE Yuanzi, ELLA Emhoff, MIRA, ELIZA Maxwell, William Weatherford AKA RED EAGLEANDREA Riseborough.

Enjoyed this one!

Rebecca Goldstein’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Combination”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Words that can take the prefix COM- are paired with the prefixed version of that word resulting in crossword wackiness.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Combination” · Rebecca Goldstein · 6.6.21

  • 23a. [Incentive for SpaceX sales reps?] MISSION COMMISSION.
  • 40a. [Much ado about legislation?] MOTION COMMOTION.
  • 48a. [Person who pretends to be on Bach’s level?] POSER COMPOSER.
  • 66a. [Quarterback’s directional sense?] PASS COMPASS.
  • 75a. [Luxurious military base?] FORT COMFORT.
  • 90a. [Animal shelter disinfectant?] POUND COMPOUND.
  • 100a. [Die-hard environmentalist, when cleaning up after a protest?] POSTER COMPOSTER.
  • 120a. [One who’s kvetching in more simple terms?] PLAINER COMPLAINER.

These work best when the pronunciation doesn’t undergo a change as it does in the two middle entries (PASS and FORT). I also generally preferred the entries where the first word is two-syllables long, since they sound more lyrical. Reading the entries as a list, you get into a flow until PASS COMPASS interrupts that flow. I’d enjoy it more if those two middle entries were replaced with a single entry (PADRE COMPADRE, perhaps?). Of course, then POUND COMPOUND would stick out as different.

As it is though, there’s a lot of repetition in this theme, which I didn’t necessarily find as a bad thing. It definitely helped in getting me to plop in entries left and right in speedy fashion. There’s little chance of your 21x grid turning into a slog when the solver can plug in theme entries relatively quickly.

The rest of the grid is very nicely filled with a load of sparkly entries: SUSHI CHEF, MOONSHINE, POT SHOPS (and a STONER to boot), IT FACTOR, GOBLINS, ST LUCIA, ABSALOM, EARMARK, COSMIC, TAHINI. Nice job on the fill!

Clues of note:

  • 11a. [Birth ___ (passageway for a baby)]. CANAL. Ha! I like it. I’m not sure that clue would pass “the breakfast test” in, say, the NYT, but I like Universal’s (i.e. David Steinberg’s) not-shy approach.
  • 56a. [Romantic outing]. DATE. Hey! I remember these! I even went on one last week with my wife to a restaurant for the very first time since the beforetimes.
  • 86a. [Group of fields that includes CS]. STEM. I’m guessing CS is computer science?
  • 107a. [Crunchyroll cartoon genre]. ANIME. Oh, I assumed Crunchyroll was the title of a show I didn’t know. But according to Wikipedia, it’s “an American distributor, publisher, production and licensing company focused on streaming anime, manga, and dorama.” According to my kids, it’s an app they use to subscribe to ANIME.
  • 114a. [Island country named after a woman]. ST LUCIA. Don’t ask me how it started, but “Santa Lucia!” is my go-to expression when I want to swear but can’t for whatever reason. What’s yours?
  • 3d. [They may be flashed at a bartender]. IDS. Ha!
  • 94d. [Cartoon clown fish]. NEMO. Hmm. I really think that should be [Cartoon clownfish] (no space).

The repetition in the theme made this a quick solve, and that’s not a bad thing. The fill makes the grid sparkle. 3.8 stars.

Nate Cardin’s Universal crossword, “LGBTQ+ Rights” — Jim Q’s write-up

This puzzle is part of the Universal Pride Month series.

Universal crossword solution · “LGBTQ+ Rights” · Nate Cardin · Sun., 6.06.21

THEME: Sexual identities are at the ends of common names/phrases


  • 20A [Rock-solid defense for a suspect] AIRTIGHT ALIBI
  • 27A [He conquered Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary] TENZING NORGAY
  • 43A [What’s all around you] PERSONAL SPACE
  • 51A [Amount of time you can focus on this clue, say] ATTENTION SPAN

I’ll keep my gripe about circled letter themes in the Universal minimal today. Just still feel the need to mention that it’s odd that Universal publishes two different versions of the same puzzle: One with circles available on this site only, and one for the masses that doesn’t feature circles. This one doesn’t suffer that much from the discrepancy. Time for an update to the software, Universal!

Fun theme. I skipped the title today and was wondering what the revealer was… then AHA! Clever!

New to me:

TENZING NORGAY. Needed every (fair) cross, and still wasn’t sure where the fist name ended and the last name started. Also, if climbing Everest is one your bucket list, please reconsider.

LGBTQ+ Related Entries:

  • 9A [Soccer icon Wambach] ABBY. I believe she made an appearance in the first puzzle of Pride Month too!
  • 57A [Prefix for “erotic”] HOMO. 
  • 42A [One might seat you at a lesbian wedding] USHER. One might seat you at any wedding… this one to me feels a little forced. I’ve been to several same-sex weddings. I just call them “weddings.”

Thanks for this one! Nice finds.

4 stars with or without circles.





This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Sunday, June 6, 2021

  1. Frank says:

    Light refreshing Sunday themeless, thoroughly enjoyable. Pachelbel’s Canon may be an exception to Amy’s comment on 1D.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Does that have a “D” in the title? I sure couldn’t tell you if it’s flat, sharp, major, or minor.

      • marciem says:

        You’ve got it! I’ve most commonly heard it called Canon in D, but sometimes they add major. Now ya know :) .

        What can I say? Part of it is my ringtone :D

      • RM Camp says:

        I’m not a musical guy, so I’d never figure out sharp vs flat, but major vs minor is fairly easy enough to get. Pachelbel’s Canon, for instance, wouldn’t be a popular song for walking down the aisle if it were in a minor key.

        Maybe for my wife and me, but we’re weirdos, so

  2. huda says:

    The link to Olivia Newton John brought back memories. When I was a young scientist I worked alongside an Australian young woman who was her double- the exact look, accent, hairdo. Her twin, except for being a really gifted scientist. It actually turned out to be a burden to be a scientist and look like that. She eventually married a surgeon and dropped out of science. I still wonder if that would have gone differently had she not looked like a pop star. Bias can sneak up on people from so many directions…

    • David L says:

      Speaking of scientists — Olivia Newton-John is the granddaughter of Max Born, one of the founders of quantum mechanics and a Nobel Physics winner.

    • Billy Boy says:

      How do you know THAT was the ‘burden’ and the reason for abandoning Science (not science)?

      real reason to comment:
      Even a themeless 21×21 can’t entice me (Wait! BB doesn’t do Sundays.) Corrrectomundo.

      I still check Sundays and WSJ Saturday ratings to find one soooo universally badly
      bad ( rating) to start such a puzzle just for the hell of it.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Why do you think there’s a reason to doubt the observation of a woman in science regarding another woman in science? If you’ve never been a woman scientist, you likely aren’t attuned to the range of bullshit they go through.

        Saying “Let me doubt what a woman says about something that she knows more about than I do” is not a good look.

        • huda says:

          @Billy Boy, it is true that it is hard to know for sure why someone quits a field, and science can be emotionally as well as intellectually demanding, so it’s not for everyone, even if they’re very talented.
          But to Amy’s point, I was there and it was interesting to watch back then how her looks got in the way. She would be presenting a poster with lovely data and people would not be focusing on that, for example, or even worse, seemed to doubt that she really did it herself. People who met her at meetings remembered her, but couldn’t tell you what she’d done. Things like that led me to feel that she had a greater burden to carry, and that if it was not the main factor, it was a contributor.

  3. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: I need to be That Guy and just point out that “Layla” is Derek & the Dominoes, not Clapton. Important because Duane Allman came up with the signature riff and played all the lovely slide leads under the main section and the drummer Jim Gordon contributed the beautiful piano coda (although reports now say he stole it from his ex Rita Coolidge).

    • Me says:

      Eric Clapton had an “unplugged” remake of Layla in the 1990s that was a hit (right after Tears in Heaven), so the clue is technically correct. Although it’s hard to know whether the cluewriter was being tricky in calling it a “Clapton hit” or being sloppy.

      • RM Camp says:

        I feel like most people are going to associate it more with Clapton himself, though the original, plugged-in Derek & the Dominoes version is far superior in my opinion. There’s just this sense of urgency to it that the ‘90s acoustic version does not have at all.

  4. pannonica says:

    UniSun: I’m going to cry foul on 48-across. There’s a meaningful distinction between a poser and a poseur.

    • AliceFromParis says:

      I half-suspected my hesitation on this one could be chalked up to interference from my native French so I’m glad somebody else also thought POSER didn’t quite work there. I’m sure some dictionaries have it in that sense but as far as I’m concerned it’s more of a common misspelling.

    • R says:

      Correction: There has been a distinction between those two words, but it’s largely been erased over the past few decades, and that reality is showing up in dictionaries. Insisting on “poseur” at this point is simply an affectation.

  5. Me says:

    LAT: SOUR was in today’s puzzle and SOUR ALE in yesterday’s LAT. And SAUER (clued as acidic in German) in Friday’s LAT.

    Like Jenni, I also pronounce Argonne with the stress on the second syllable, and I don’t think the first syllable would be stressed in French, either. So I also pronounce ARGON and Argonne differently. I did some searching on YouTube to see how others pronounce Argonne in English. I wasn’t able to find any Americans using the word, but I found a couple of British historians who pronounced it similarly to ARGON. So I think the clue might be okay for the UK, although perhaps not universally in France or the US!

  6. Mr. [not so] Grumpy says:

    Loved the WaPo, even though [perhaps because?] it stumped me at the end for the longest time. Knew that 24A had to be DREAM CATCHERS but just had TOM at 13D, because the CAT is superfluous in my book. Tried to persuade myself that CATC could be the test [and there actually is one — blush, I Googled], but that did not fit with Mama Cass. And then SCORES came to my rescue, since the C square could not be a rebus, and I finally saw Mr. TOMCAT yowling [not meowing] in the alley. Great fun. Thank you, Evan

    • David L says:

      Same here!

    • marciem says:

      me three, and I could not give that CATC up “catchup oh no!”. Feline Toms are toms not tomcats in my mind, so I did the same thing, and was upset when the down CATC didn’t work with anything… but thought oh well none of the downs work then, it will be the first letter of the rebus that works … but then all the other rebuses worked both ways I couldn’t figure out where to put what it took to make that dreamcatcher! LOL. fun puzzling it out.

      Really enjoyable puzzle and it did come together beautifully even having to guess some of the tests but were ones that float around in xwords enough. I was antsy for a bit with many names that were not familiar but they all worked in with their crosses so I couldn’t be upset about it.

  7. John O says:

    I had a similar experience. Except instead of TOM, I threw in TAB, which totally messed me up!

  8. Jim says:

    NYT: near and dear to me, and thus especially appreciated – 73a Families-and-friends support group ALANON

  9. Cynthia says:

    Jim P – My favorite swear-word substitute is “Oh, shyster.” I picked it up from either my brother or a friend in the 1980’s and used it to avoid offending my very straight-laced college roommate. It still pops out every once in a while.

    Fun discussion topic by the way. I’m hoping a few more people share theirs!

  10. mct says:

    NYT: really enjoyed it. re A-flat, I agree the clues are gimmicky, though I bet a decent amount of classical music-minded solvers will get the clue from the work (I do ~50% of the time)

  11. Steve H says:

    WaPo was fantastic this week! Kudos Evan!

  12. Michele N says:

    LAT : is it just my phone or is the full crossword solution missing? The write-up is fantastic (my mom and I love reading your write-ups each week), but the solution seems to be missing. Maybe it’s just me?

Comments are closed.