Sunday, June 20, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 8:13 (Amy) 


Universal 5:08 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 9-something (Jim P) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Michael Lieberman’s New York Times crossword, “Familiar Surroundings”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 20 21, “Familiar Surroundings”

I won’t be able to write up the puzzle till later tonight. Meantime, feel free to comment if you like!

The theme takes a word, splits it into two words, wraps it in its own components, and clues the resulting confusion as a plausible sentence:

  • 23a. [Prisoner accidentally causes a power outage?], CON CONFUSES FUSES. It could happen to anyone.
  • 37a. [Southern university beefs up campus security?], ELON ELONGATES GATES. Weirdo Musk is surely better known than the school?
  • 54a. [Fellow imposes a strict palm fruit regimen?], MAN MANDATES DATES.
  • 78a. [Actress de Armas writes “Mr. Gas” and “Ms. Rag”?], ANA ANAGRAMS “GRAMS.”
  • 94a. [Smartphone advises on poker bets?], APP APPRAISES RAISES. Salary increases would work better than poker bets here.
  • 112a. [Doctor acquires antibiotics?], PRO PROCURES CURES. Fingers crossed that the pharmaceutical companies getting billions from the US government identify some effective antiviral meds for COVID.

Fairly solid theme. What’s the funniest such phrase you can create?

Noticed a smattering of crusty fill in the mix—NEBS, OREL for the second day in a row (Russian city yesterday, Hershiser today), ESTES, old REO, NEBS, … and did I mention NEBS? If NEBS was new to you, know that this is old crosswordese, meaning [Birds’ bills] or beaks.


Five more things:

  • 70d. [Like fuschia and turquiose], MISSPELLED. My eye skipped right over that’s-not-fuchsia and snagged on that’s-not-turquoise, which had me hollering about the error … and then all was clear.
  • Recipe corner: 83d. [Jellied garnish], ASPIC—tell me, my friends, have you ever made an ASPIC? 68a. [Good spice to add to guacamole (try it!)], CUMIN—I don’t care for avocados (the texture is deadly), but cumin is amazing. You might try it on a sliced tomato, corn on the cob, chicken for quesadillas or tacos, etc.
  • 14d. [What “…” may represent], ESS. No. In Morse code, that represents the letter S. People don’t much use ESS this way. (Pet peeve, crosswordia’s convention that spelled-out letter names are perfectly normal and familiar.)
  • 56d. [Lets hit it!], NET. Note the lack of an apostrophe in Lets—we’re talking about lets as in the umpire’s call when a tennis serve hits the net.
  • 34a. [Cherokee and Navajo], NATIONS. Nice clue.

3.6 stars from me.

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Universal crossword, “Mixed Messages” — Jim Q’s write-up

This puzzle is part of Universal’s Pride Month series. 

Universal crossword solution · “Enrique Henestroza Anguiano” · Enrique Henestroza Anguiano ​ · Sun, 6.20.21

THEME: The word CODING can be found scrambled in common phrases.



QUEER CODING is a new term for me. It refers to a viewer’s perceptions of a character as portrayed in media. I’m rather impressed that the word CODING can be found mixed in this many phrases. I wonder how many more our constructor found before settling on these.

I appreciate the lack of circles (and therefore lack of confusing directions to count letters in the widely published version, which I can’t seem to find online today…) I much prefer this over the circle “workaround.” It’s a better AHA moment too, finding the hidden word without the nudge.

I got held up on SARDONIC GRIN and nearly needed every cross there (the unfamiliar-to-me TED LASSO wasn’t helping, nor was OLMEC :) I really, really wanted the entry for [Wide, mocking smile] to be SHIT-EATING GRIN. That’s what I know it as.

TATTED UP = fave fill entry today.


  • 15A [Playful knuckle rub] NOOGIE. Playful is subjective. Very.
  • 36A [“Holy” Spanish city] TOLEDO. Is that where the phrase “Holy TOLEDO!” came from? I had no idea.
  • 67A [Spots that wouldn’t be missed?] ADS. Except during Super Bowl of course.
  • 9D [High schooler with a Lexus, perhaps] RICH KID. And it’s super obnoxious when they park next to my Jeep Patriot with 260,000 miles on it.

Thanks for this! 3.4 stars.

David P. Williams’s LA Times crossword, “Elementary” – Jenni’s write-up

I grokked the theme with the first entry and struggled to parse two of them because, apparently, I am not fully awake.

Los Angeles Times, June 20, 2021, David P Williams, “Elementary,” solution grid

  • 21a [One of four women with an EGOT] is WHOOP AUBERG (Au=gold). I know about Rita Moreno. Wikipedia tells me that the others are Helen Hayes and Audrey Hepburn. Audrey won her Grammy for a spoken-word album for children.
  • 26a [“Elizabeth I” Emmy winner] is JEREMY FES (Fe = iron).
  • 31a [Joint winner of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award] is DIEGO MARNA (Rn = radon). I kept trying to make something out of Na, even though I know his name is MARADONA. I just couldn’t see it.
  • 44a [“Long Day’s Journey Into Night” dramatist] is EUGENEILL (Ne = neon). I’m embarrassed to admit this was the other one that confused me – “embarrassed” because I wrote my undergrad thesis on O’Neill, and I could not see NEON in his name. In my (weak) defense, this is the only entry in which the element spans the first and last name.
  • 92a [Grammy winner for comedy and banjo-picking] is STEVE MARSN (Sn = tin)
  • 98a [Emmy-winning comedian/actress] is SARAH AGMAN (Ag = silver).
  • 106a [Rami Male’s Best Actor role] is FREDDIE AG (Ag = mercury).
  • 177a [First living magician with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame] is DAVID CUFIELD (Cu = copper).

IRONSILVERGOLDTINMERCURYCOPPERRADON and NEON all appear in the grid, which is how I went back to the grid and figured out 31- and 44-a. I like the theme. All the theme answers are solid and consistent. I don’t understand why all the clues cite awards of some kind except for Eugene O’Neill. He was awarded a posthumous Tony and a posthumous Pulitzer. Oh, yeah, there was also the Nobel Prize for Literature. I wonder if David and/or Rich considered the Nobel too obscure for a clue? Whatever the reason, it makes the clue set very odd and inconsistent and it annoys me.

A few other things:

  • It was nice to see photos PROMGOERs in my Facebook feed this year.
  • 16a [Makes the rounds for rounds] is BARHOPS.
  • 52a [Lack of musicality] is NO EAR. I know they couldn’t have TIN EAR because TIN appears elsewhere in the grid. Raised an eyebrow at first, and then I remembered that I’ve heard people say they have NO EAR for music.
  • I always want to misspell NICENE. Always.
  • 79d [Scam] is HOSING. Really? In my late-7os-early-80s college years, “hosed” meant “rejected” as in “I applied for a scholarship and I got hosed.”

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Julian EDELMAN was the Super Bowl LVII MVP.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Drawing a Blank” – Jim Q’s Write-up

A little PSA before getting into the puzzle: If you solve in Across Lite, there is an update here. While this may or may not affect the solve experience for some users today, it definitely helped on the latest version of my Mac, which was not playing nice with the older version. The lag that I’ve been dealing with for quite some time is now entirely gone.

Also, here’s a slightly edited note I received from Evan, so if you were experiencing a problem during your solve (or if you haven’t solved it yet), this may solve it:

The .puz file that’s going up at Fiend is a trimmed-down version that doesn’t have all clues rendered as I originally intended them. That’s because there isn’t one .puz version available that can be supported in all solving programs. HOWEVER, we are going to make the .puz files available. The URLs are in the Notepad in the .puz file at Fiend. They should be at these locations:

THEME: Entries that are “clueless” are aptly hinted at elsewhere.

Washington Post, June 20, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Drawing a Blank” solution grid


  • 22A [Suggested … and a description of 26 Across] DROPPED HINTS. NUDGES is without a clue in 26A, and since a NUDGE is a hint, the lack of clue is apropos. 
  • 35A [Unforeseen expense … and a description of 29 Across] HIDDEN COST. OUTLAY is without a clue in 29A. 
  • 47A [Bit of excised footage … and a description of 59 Across] DELETED SCENE. CLIP is without a clue in 59A.
  • 74A [Squandered an advantage, maybe … and a description of 62 Across] LOST GROUND. LAND is without a clue in 62A.
  • 89A [Theoretical evolutionary connections … and a description of 63 Across] MISSING LINKS. URLS is without a clue in 63A.
  • 103A [Portal discovered in many a mystery … and a description of 117 Across] SERET DOOR. ENTRANCE is without a clue in 117A. 

And as if the curveball in the puzzle wasn’t excellent enough, there’s one more Birnholzian layer: The first letters to the unclued entries spell out NO CLUE in this 20×21 left/right symmetry puzzle.Awesome.

I hadn’t noticed something truly unique about this puzzle until it was pointed out to me. Typically, Across Lite solvers would see a dash or a period or something in place of a “blank clue.” Here, assuming you’re solving the correct version of the puzzle with the correct software, the clue is legitimately blank. That’s because it appears that Across Lite is now able to read unicode symbols (if I’m reading between the lines correctly, Alex Boisvert figured this out). And there is a unicode symbol that will result in a clue being “blank”: Â

You’ll also notice that the clue for 72D features an actual theta.


Anyway, I flew out of the gates at the onset (or so I thought… had AETNA instead of AFLAC which was tough to erase), but I was quickly slowed down. It seemed the further south I got, the more challenging it became. Blank clues can be dangerous to play with since the solver has to rely more on the crosses, and that’s where I often got hung up, but there is a synergy in this theme type (for instance, MISSING LINKS helped me uncover URLS) that I very much enjoy. At the end of the day, Mr. Happy Pencil popped up, so it’s tough to complain about it being… tough. I mean, a puzzle, by nature, should be puzzling (and solvable), right? Well, this one was.

Toughest area by far for me was the SW. I could not for the life of me see EDITORIAL WE, which was crossing Adam AMIN, a name with which I am unfamiliar. Seen COWLS in crosswords a bunch, but couldn’t cull it forward. So I futzed around there for quite a while before it clicked.

Loved the clue for XENA[TV character who once said to Ares, “You’re soft, like all the Olympians”]. 

Stuff I faltered with: DUOMO, the spelling of EWW (I never know how it’s going to be spelled), OUTLAY (not a word I’m all that familiar with), ATTA (finally clued differently rather than [Lead in to “girl”]  or something), PEAR (as clued), the spelling of MIRO in JOAN MIRO‘s name, TENON, DEAN (as clued… I filled in DEAD!), SUE Monk Kidd, Andy DALY, GLEN Weldon, and EFREN Ramirez. Also, wtf is a zonkey and where can I get one?

A very nicely placed puzzle after a breezy meta last week.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Amanda Rafkin & Ross Trudeau’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Surprising Development”—Jim P’s review

The revealer is STARTLING REVELATION (113a, [*Dramatic disclosure, and what the starred answers’ first words amount to?]). Each starting word of the theme answers builds upon the previous one by adding one letter until the word STARTLING is fully revealed.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Surprising Development” · Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau · 6.20.21

  • 18a. [*What you may say after solving 113-Across] I DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING. Truly I didn’t. I paid no attention to the theme until after completion, and even then I needed a minute to grok what was happening.
  • 27a. [*Very quickly] IN NO TIME FLAT.
  • 43a. [*Wrong associated with a green-eyed monster] SIN OF ENVY. Feel a little green paintish to me. Maybe?
  • 50a. [*Feel sad] SING THE BLUES.
  • 65a. [*Punch hard, per Muhammad Ali] STING LIKE A BEE.
  • 78a. [*Skimpy beach attire] STRING BIKINI.
  • 87a. [*Gazing upon] STARING AT. Meh. The weakest entry of the lot by far.
  • 103a. [*Easing in] STARTING SLOW.

I guess that’s pretty cool. I certainly wasn’t expecting it. I wonder how common it is to be able to do this with your average nine-letter word. My gut feeling is that it’s probably not that common. So to be able to do this and still find interesting phrases that can be placed symmetrically is an impressive feat of construction. So if an entry or two are not quite up to par, well, that can be forgiven.

Some sparkle in the long fill: IDINA MENZEL, GIVING BLOOD, GAY PRIDE, FIRELOGS, and PARENTS—speaking of which, Happy Fathers’ Day to those celebrating today.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [Nonstandard nickname for L.A.’s state]. CALI. I grew up in the Golden State, and this doesn’t seem nonstandard to me, at least since LL Cool J’s “Going Back to CALI” in 1988.
  • 49a. [Readily available]. HANDY. We also would have accepted [Weird Al’s parody of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”].
  • 85a. [Alyssa Naeher’s national team]. USA. Goalie for the US Women’s National Soccer Team.
  • 110a. [Pour ferret food into a cat’s bowl, say]. ERR. This is oddly specific, as if it stems from someone’s actual experience.
  • 37d. [Actress ___ Elise Goldsberry]. RENEE. Tony Award-winner for Hamilton.
  • 87d. [___ musubi (Hawaiian snack made with canned meat)]. SPAM. A favorite of my kids. Here’s an interesting recipe.
  • 90d. [“Just ___” (No Doubt song)]. A GIRL. Good excuse to embed the video.

An interesting Sunday outing. 3.65 stars.

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25 Responses to Sunday, June 20, 2021

  1. Ethan says:

    NYT: I don’t care what the constructor says in his notes, this has to have been the inspiration:

  2. Hibob says:

    Cumin in guacamole? How much? Does it work?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’m gonna say “sprinkle a good bunch in and taste it.” I like a lot of cumin.

      • huda says:

        While we’re at it: best and easiest potato salad: Boiled potatoes cut up, sweet onions or scallions, salt, (very good) olive oil, and ground cumin. A twist of lemon if you’d like (not too much).
        Way lighter that the type with mayo, and it certainly lasts better for any outdoor meal.

      • Patrick M says:

        Since you asked about aspic, Amy, one of my father’s favorite dishes was aspic with shrimp, asparagus, grapefruit and, I think, some other things in it. I’m not sure because I tried not to look at it too much … or imagine what it must have tasted like.

  3. Jason Mueller says:

    Anybody else getting an error when trying to get the Across Lite version of the Washington Post puzzle?

  4. Tom P says:

    I did the NYT in the magazine and couldn’t figure out how the clue for 70D fit the answer. Amazingly, whoever did the final edit for the print edition corrected the misspellings so they were spelled correctly.

  5. golfballman says:

    yesterdays WSJ why is ellipsis third , answer dot?

  6. M483 says:

    Universal write-up by Jim Q: Thanks to your comment about 67 across clue, I realized the two different meanings.
    1. If there were no ads, I wouldn’t miss them at all.
    2. While watching the Super Bowl, I like to watch ads. I wouldn’t miss them.

    • Mary A says:

      No doubt I’ll kick myself after this has been explained to me, but I cannot reason why 14D’s answer is “ess.” It’s obvious that an ellipsis can mean “etc”, as clued in 57D, but I’m not making the connection to “ess.”


    • Jim Quinlan says:

      I don’t understand what you mean by “two different meanings.” I also don’t really get the epiphany you’re describing in your second point. I don’t much like ads much myself. Just was trying to take a lighthearted approach in the write-up is all.

      • Gary R says:

        “I don’t understand what you mean by “two different meanings.””

        1) If they removed all the ads from broadcast TV, I wouldn’t miss ’em.

        2) The Super Bowl is tonight. I don’t care about the game, but the ads – I wouldn’t miss ’em.

  7. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    The writeup here of the LAT puzzle has errors in it, but the grid is right. For example, HG = mercury, not AG.

  8. Thanks, Jim.

    About the unicode symbols: A couple of weeks ago I’d tested out inserting a blank unicode character in Crossword Compiler and I was stunned to find out that Across Lite not only accepted it but showed the blank space exactly as I’d wanted. But this particular character didn’t translate to the Post’s PuzzleMe interface or the mobile app Alphacross (they substituted another character like the one you suggested). So before this puzzle was to go live, I tinkered around with a .txt file to see if I could recreate the same .puz file with blank clues and it seemingly worked again, but I reached out to other solvers to see if the blank spaces (and the Greek letter at 72D) showed up on their end. This .txt file worked better, but not for all solving programs.

    Alex is a tech wizard and he contacted me to offer his help. I sent him an Across Lite manual that had a passage about how it can accept Unicode symbols. I didn’t really understand the significance of this, but Alex did. He tested out some emoji symbols in his own .txt file and they rendered properly in Across Lite, like in these screenshots I took.

    So in a way, we both sort of “discovered” this unicode capability. But that info was in the manual the whole time; we just didn’t know.

    • p.s. The Post was able to render the blank clues for their website, too, but using an HTML format instead. I’m very glad they got it to work as well.

  9. Gary R says:


    I was in college around the same time as you – late 70’s, early 80’s – and “hosed” basically meant “screwed” (“scammed” doesn’t seem quite right). If someone told me they had applied for a scholarship and they got hosed, it would mean they thought they should have gotten the scholarship, but they’d been screwed.

    Could be it’s regional. I went to school in the midwest.

  10. Pilgrim says:

    Re LA Times – to me it seems they should have avoided using “Silverstein” as part of one of the non-theme clues. And while this is more picky, sAUna (especially crossing WHOOPIAUBERG) and AUtogiro (right next door) also jumped out at me.

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