Friday, June 25, 2021

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 4:17 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 3:53 (Amy) 


Universal 4:28/untimed (Jim P / pannonica) 


Scott Earl’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 25 21, no. 0625

I enjoyed the heck out of this constructor’s prior themeless (Jan 2020) and I relished this one, too. “I COULD EAT” is definitely in my vernacular. DREAM CAR  is clued as [What you’d love to own and drive], but my mind goes straight to Barbie. That center stagger-stack is incredible–the “ME TOO” MOVEMENT, MALE PRIVILEGE, and BIG LITTLE LIES with lots of long Downs crossing them. LOOKING UP and GANG UP ON are both good, I think good enough that I can accept the UP dupe. “CAN WE TALK” and HIT A NERVE, also great. PUKA SHELL, GROVEL, MEET-CUTES, BARILLA dried pasta, and a WALKOUT are other highlights. The dullest entry is ESTER, but I forgive it because there is so much great stuff in this grid.

Five more things:

  • 25a. [Spirals out over the winter holidays?], HAMS. I was trying to think of spiral holiday decorations, oof. I like the fake-out with the “spiraling out” verb phrase you’re meant to think of.
  • 44a. [Italian for “so”], COSI. I don’t know about you, but I needed all the crossings here.
  • 7d. [___ Bassi, first woman to earn a doctorate in science (University of Bologna, 1732)], LAURA. Interesting trivia tidbit. The school itself dates back to the year 1088, and apparently doctorates were first bestowed ~1150 in France. You know what they were saying in 1732: “Doctorates have been around for almost 600 years, and she’s the first woman to earn one in science? Dang, progress is sloooow.”
  • 35d. [Quick post-wedding getaway], MINI-MOON. I’d never heard of this, I don’t think, and yet it was easy to fill in off the MI-.
  • 41d. [Fire ___ (gemstone)], AGATE. We’re more familiar with fire opals, yes? The fire agates have a rainbow/opal vibe to them. You can look at some photos of fire agate (and buy the stones!) at Etsy. Now I want a fire agate!

4.25 stars from me. Happy Friday!

Jasper Davidoff’s Universal crossword, “Highs and Lows”—Jim P’s review

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

This appears to be a debut, and it’s an enjoyable one.

The revealer is FROM TOP TO BOTTOM (37a, [Way of scanning this grid that elucidates the starred answers’ missing words?]). Eight starred answers are found at the top and bottom of the grid. The top entries are words that can follow “top,” and the bottom entries are words that can precede “bottom.”

Universal crossword solution · “Highs and Lows” · Jasper Davidoff · Fri., 6.25.21

From the top:

  • 1d. [*Popular cooking show] (Top) CHEF
  • 6d. [*Where pens or socks might be kept] (Top) DRAWER. This is true for me in both cases, though they are in different top drawers.
  • 9d. [*First-rate] (Top) NOTCH
  • 12d. [*Brand of instant noodles] (Top) RAMEN

To the bottom:

  • 51d. [*State Department’s neighborhood] FOGGY (Bottom). I’ve always loved that name. Whoever came up with it should be given an award from the State Dept.
  • 52d. [*Deceptive panel] FALSE (bottom)
  • 49d. [*Location of a pineapple under the sea] BIKINI (Bottom). Spongebob’s hometown, if you didn’t already know.
  • 59d. [*The lowest one can go] ROCK (bottom)

Nice! That was fun. When I got to the revealer and grokked the top half, I wondered if there were enough interesting phrases that incorporate “bottom.” Turned out I had nothing to worry about. These were all familiar and fun phrases for me to uncover.

It was just a little bit distracting that there were some Down answers that were longer than the theme answers, but since they’re not starred, it’s clear they’re not part of the theme. And for the most part, they’re wonderful: STRATEGO, POT ROASTS, PULL TABS, TOUCAN SAM, and TUNES OUT. I’m not a fan of preposition-ended phrases in general, but FEED INTO isn’t so bad as others. And in the Across direction, the highlights are FRAT ROW and KIND SIR, which I love since it can be said straight, as clued [Target of formal gratitude], or with an air of sarcasm.

There are a lot of three-letter entries in this grid; I counted 36, far more than standard cap of 20. But they don’t feel clunky, and I barely noticed during the solve. In fact, the fill feels surprisingly clean and lively with those fun long answers. This felt like a grid made by a seasoned pro, not by a debut constructor. Well done.

Clues of note:

  • 13a. [Like Los Angeles in July]. HOT. I know the southwest was baking a couple weeks ago. Up here in Tacoma, we’re facing triple-digits temps this weekend for the first time in years. I know that’s not a big deal to most of the country, but around here, I’d say the majority of people (including us) don’t have A/C.
  • 27a. [“Einstein on the Beach,” e.g.]. OPERA. Didn’t know this one, but it dates back to 1976.
  • 43a. [Like the candies Warheads and Toxic Waste]. SOUR. This clue would have been more fun without “the candies.”
  • 61a. [Seydoux of “No Time to Die”]. LEA. That film is not yet out, but in it she reprises her role from Spectre. Beyond that, the French actress has racked up a large number of nominations and awards.
  • 5d. [Cookies with a Lady Gaga variety]. OREOS. I knew this clue was coming when I saw these cookies in the store a couple months ago.
  • 38d. [Lottery tickets with perforated strips]. PULL TABS. I’m not familiar with this use of this phrase (I don’t buy lottery tickets). I associate the term with aluminum cans.

I enjoyed this grid quite a bit—both theme and fill. Four stars.

Jasper Davidoff’s Universal crossword, “Highs and Lows” — pannonica’s write-up

**nb: I composed this in error, as Friday is Jim P’s day to write about the Universal crossword**

The revealer—which is a fine 15-letter entry on its own—doesn’t exactly fit the theme, so the clue has to do some extra work finessing the affair. I bet there was a lot of editorial discussion about that.

  • 37aR [Way of scanning this grid that elucidates the starred answers’ missing words?] FROM TOP TO BOTTOM. Four down entries beginning in Row 1 must be preceded by ‘TOP” and four ending in Row 15 must be followed by “BOTTOM” to make sense in context. These entries are, of course, symmetrically placed.
  • 1d. [*Popular cooking show] CHEF (Top Chef). Ah, but I just happen to be in the midst of watching the complete three series of Chef! starring Lenny Henry.
  • 6d. [*Where pens or socks might be kept] DRAWER (top drawer). The qualifying adjective seems a bit superfluous here, as the answer still makes sense without it. However, the other sense of top-drawer is too similar to …
  • 9d. [*First-rate] NOTCH (top-notch), so I can see the dilemma. Perhaps {TOP} BANANA would have been a better entry for 6-down?
  • 12d. [*Brand of instant noodles] RAMEN (Top Ramen).
  • 51d. [*State Department’s neighborhood] FOGGY (Foggy Bottom).
  • 52d. [*Deceptive panel] FALSE (false bottom).
  • 49d. [*Location of a pineapple under the sea] BIKINI (Bikini Bottom). This is where Spongebob Squarepants takes place. “I understood that reference.”
  • 59d. [*The lowest one can go] ROCK (rock bottom).

I confess to tripping over 10d [Type of pants for bedtime] PAJAMA because it strongly suggested PAJAMA {BOTTOM(s)} but it originated in the TOP row, so it was all very disorienting.

I guess the price of the unusual theme format is that the first and last three rows each consist entirely of four three-letter words, which is less than ideal for a smooth-flowing grid.

  • 21a [Greek territory?] FRAT ROW.
  • 26a [Lacking compassion] INHUMAN. Personally, I’d prefer a ‘perhaps’ at the end of the clue.
  • 13a [Like Los Angeles in July] HOT; 32a [Back-to-school month, for some] AUGUST. Wow, summer sure feels oppressive.
  • 4d [Slow-cooked meat dishes] POT ROASTS; 36d [Froot Loops mascot] TOUCAN SAM. Nice pair of longish entries.
  • 5d [Cookies with a Lady Gaga variety] OREOS. I don’t even want to know.
  • 8d [One more time] AGAIN. This entry pretty much forces my hand into adding “Helter Skelter” as the closing song to this write-up, yeah, yeah, yeah.
  • 38d [Lottery tickets with perforated strips] PULL-TABS. I suppose the kind from old aluminum cans is too far removed? Hm, a little research tells me that the correct names might be ‘pop-tab’ and the current industry standard is the ‘stay-on-tab’.
  • 55d [Digits in many prices] NINES. Yup, so nuisancesome, THOSE (25a) little psychological games.

So, an interesting theme weakened by a too-staccato grid. There are 34 three-letter words by my count!

Grant Boroughs’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 6/25/21 • Fri • Boroughs • solution • 20210625

The theme for this one is re-parsing more literally words with different negating prefixes.

  • 17a. [Expending?] ALREADY DONE. Ex-pending, no longer pending.
  • 24a. [Improved?] SPECULATED. Im-proved, not proven.
  • 38a. [Unstable?] PUT OUT TO PASTURE. Un-stable, remove from {a} stable.
  • 50a. [Delight?] EXTINGUISHDe-light, uhh… remove a flame? I guess that’s the best way to phrase it. The clue and answer work really well, it’s just tricky to explain it succinctly.
  • 61a. [Distress?] GET A HAIRCUTDis-tress, remove hair.

I like this theme; it’s a simple yet clever concept that lends itself well to a cruciverbal format.

  • 10d [Only Fibonacci number that appears twice in the sequence] ONE. Right at the start. Not by any means a tricky clue, but a nice change of pace for a very common entry.
  • 22d [Spectrum] GAMUT. Spectrum and SPECULATE share an etymology—a minor duplication exacerbated by the two relevant entries crossing in the grid.
  • 31d [Jacque’s okay] OUI. Clue sounds a bit like “just okay”. I bet that was intentional.
  • 37d [Tree in the genus Taxus] YEW. My handy Dictionary of Word Roots and combining forms shows that tax-us comes from Greek and refers directly to the yew tree, whereas the same word describing badgers (i.e., Taxidea taxus) comes from New Latin. To further complicate the issue, the root of the word ‘taxonomy’ is also from Greek, meaning in that case “arrange|ment”. Makes perfect sense, right?
  • 40d [Garden __ ] PEAS. What an odd choice of clue.
  • 51d [Discovery honored with the inaugural Nobel Prize in Physics] X-RAYS. 1901, Wilhelm Röntgen. 42a [Word of distinction] FIRST.
  • 52d [Japanese porcelain] IMARI.
  • 55a [“Family Matters” daughter] LAURAFamily Matters (1989–1997). Also, I may have confused it with Family Ties (1982–1989) until I looked it up.
  • 56d [Oft-used key] ENTER. No dispute from me.
  • 1a [Org. visited by zombie victims in season one of “The Walking Dead” (there was no cure)] CDC. Not known by me, but inferable from the hand-holding clue.
  • 20a [Only single-syllable surname in an immortal ’60s quartet] STARR. Another instance of familiar fill with a fresh clue.
  • 29a [Note next to a D?] SEE ME. Not musical at all.
  • 35a [Optimistic] SUNNY.

Interesting theme, and there was a palpable, but not intrusive, effort to provide innovative clues for many entries, not just the few I chose to highlight in that way. Fun crossword.

Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

The New Yorker crossword solution, 6 25 21, Anna Shechtman

I love the mini-theme of “{name} the {noun}” Grammy winners TYLER, THE CREATOR and CHANCE THE RAPPER. Chance is a Chicagoan and a good citizen, doing some local philanthropy in his community.

Other highlights in the grid: E-SPORTS, SUBSTACK (the online newsletter company has been discussed so much this year, but if you’re not online much, you may have missed it), NORMCORE (this is my aesthetic), CHAUCER, HAIR TIE, BABKA, and J.M. BARRIE.

Favorite clues:

  • 41d. [Machines sometimes used for office shenanigans], COPIERS
  • 55a. [Some like them hot], CEREALS

Not so keen on dated STENOS; weird plurals HICS OMS MAHS TALCS; airline SAS; wildly clunky (to my ear) GT CARS; and ELM ST. ELIEL is known to many of us almost exclusively through crosswords, but he’s salvaged a bit by the anagram cross-reference with ELLIE.

2.75 stars from me.

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27 Responses to Friday, June 25, 2021

  1. Dook says:

    Can someone explain ATE IT and PDA?

    • Mr. Grumpy says:

      I think IT is the ground, as in eat dirt when you fall.
      PDA = public display of affection.

  2. R Cook says:

    Did anyone else notice the exact same clue and answer (“Tough nut to crack”) in today’s NYT and Newsday puzzles?

  3. Billy Boy says:


    Indeed ATE IT is trip and fall.

    Why wasn’t 55A invoking Joan Rivers?
    Wow, why wasn’t 60A an obscure actress¿
    Surely there’s another obscure actress for 56A.
    That middle stack went in faster than a DREAM sports CAR.

    20A my nit of the day, one of those silly two word “In need some fill here” fill bits

    My tablet timer showed just over 20:00, lightning for a non-timer. Astonishing!

    I was thoroughly entertained in so many ways by this Friday, laughing all the way, bravo.

  4. MattF says:

    Good NYT, relatively tough for me. Hard to get a foothold— but finally got one near the bottom, then slowly worked upwards to the top. A bit misleading to call Ansel Adams anything but a photographer (or, perhaps, an artist).

  5. Anne says:

    NYT: Could someone please explain HAMS?

    • marciem says:

      Spiral-cut hams are sold in quantity during the winter holiday season. :)

      • JohnH says:

        Thanks. I was puzzled by that, too. I hadn’t heard of the term and couldn’t figure out how to use “spiral” and “ham” in the same context.

      • Anne says:

        Thanks Marcie and Steve. I have now seen photographs of spiral cut ham and it’s not something I’ve ever seen here. Yet another thing that I have learned from doing crosswords!

  6. JohnH says:

    In case anyone missed it, NYT has a bonus puzzle today commemorating the book review. I saw it in a link from the online books page. I can’t swear I’ll solve it, though, since the pdf comes with very, very tiny print. I may try to create a new version, but that will take some time since it’s on the scale of a Sunday puzzle.

    • JohnH says:

      Should anyone find it helpful, I doctored it and put a copy here:

      It takes two pages, and I always hate when TNY does when, for them, it’d be so easy to avoid that, creating a proper pdf in the process. (While they’re at it, they could come up with a default grid format with more legible clue numbers. In any case, a proper pdf would save space or paper, as html prints include top and bottom margins for unneeded URLs and the like.) But at least it’s legible! (The original has 6 point type.)

      Just a warning that, in order to save space, I shortened clues when I felt I could. This can make them harder or make the connection to the book theme less obvious, so my apologies up front.

    • AndyHat says:

      It looks like the original PDF was formatted to take advantage of the 11×12 pages of the Book Review (where I assume it will appear this weekend), so that would become somewhat squashed on standard 8.5×11 letter paper. The regular Sunday puzzle only has 8.9375 x 10.875″, which fits a letter-sized paper better.

      Anyways, is the link to solve online.

      • JohnH says:

        Makes sense. I don’t have to worry about the Sunday puzzle, since I get the weekend paper delivered and so can take advantage of the large page size of the magazine.

        I can’t swear how it will look in print tomorrow, since 6 point type would take a big page to bring it up to (say) 10 points, but I’ll find out soon! Overall, a very easy puzzle, although I got flustered by a section just above the middle where some names reflecting global diversity were new to me.

      • JohnH says:

        I got the book section today. The type is still small, but to my eyes entirely readable. I’d have combined somewhat larger type with a somewhat smaller grid, which might require four rather than five columns of next, but that’s subjective.

  7. Steve Manion says:

    Spiral cut hams are often a Christmas time treat. I have always been a turkey guy.

    Easy puzzle for me except the SE

    • Anne says:

      I have never heard of a spiral cut ham. I guess I’ll have to Google.

    • marciem says:

      Oops, I didn’t see this when I replied above. I do Turkey for t’giving, then usually Prime Rib or Ham (*not spiral cut, but home-scored, cloved and basted) for the later holiday (Christmas at my house).

      I really enjoyed today’s NYT!

    • David L says:

      For me it was the toughest Friday or Saturday puzzle in quite a long time. Lots of stuff I didn’t know (names, mostly) and clues that didn’t click with me for one reason or another.

  8. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: I was surprised to see BARILLA in this grid after the anti-LGBT comments made by the company’s president some years ago. But I hadn’t been aware he’s since apologized and actually changed things for the better at the company.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Constructor Scott Earl was a contributor to the great Queer Qrosswords puzzle pack, so I’ll bet he was cognizant of all that.

    • JohnH says:

      It wasn’t a familiar brand to me in NYC, part of overall a hard Friday for me.

  9. marciem says:

    Pedantic nit on LAT: Ringo Starr’s birth last name (I believe he did not change it legally, but used Ringo Starr as a stage name ) :) . Starkey. He is in the British books as Sir Richard Starkey MBE.

  10. Dan says:

    “Extinguish” doesn’t need to be about a flame; it can mean just turning off a light.

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