Saturday, June 26, 2021

LAT 7:30 (Derek) 


Newsday 13:06 (Derek) 


NYT 7:13 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


John Lieb & Brad Wilber’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

Over the past year, John and Brad have worked together a lot—John cohosts (with Andrew Kingsley) the various Boswords crossword tournaments, and Brad has been the Boswords crossword editor since the Fall (2020) Themeless League, if not before. Heads-up—the next Boswords tournament is another virtual one, on July 25. Registration opens July 1. Juicy details, including that hot constructor line-up, are here.

NY Times crossword solution, 6 26 21, no. 0626

I do wish this puzzle had been spaced out a bit more from the June 18 NYT, which also had CARE TO ELABORATE in the grid. It’s a great entry! But less “ooh!” when it’s only been a week since the last time you saw it in a puzzle.

Did this puzzle kick your butt? My mind might have been elsewhere, because this puppy took me about 40% longer than last Saturday’s NYT. If only I’d had the confidence to posit ATL for 8d. [Home to the Trap Music Museum: Abbr.], I’d have made quicker headway in that top stack.

Fave fill: THE MUDVILLE NINE, ODDLY SATISFYING, DRIVEWAY MOMENTS (I don’t have a driveway, but I definitely have parking lot moments while listening to WBEZ on the car radio), PRESS-ONS, SUM TOTAL (loved the clue, [Entirety, redundantly], since that hadn’t been a glaring pleonasm to me before … but George Carlin knew it), ADDLED, SHOT DOWN, SHE BOP, and YAMMERED.

Five more things:

  • 39a. [Speeds through Shakespeare?], HIES. Fun clue for a typically stale entry.
  • 41a. [Digital applications?], PRESS-ONS. As in Lee Press-On Nails, which middle-aged people will remember from ads back in the day. They’re still out there! Speaking of our digits, let’s see what’s going on here: 3d. [Answer that would be more apt at 10 Down?], TOES and … okay, now I get it. It is not actually a cross-referenced clue! Ten digits down on your feet would be your TOES. It’s playful, ain’t it?
  • 2d. [Second, so to speak], ECHO. As in the verb ECHO, seconding what someone else said.
  • 23d. [___ Ian, “Mean Girls” revenge seeker], JANIS. Why did Tina Fey use an actual singer’s name for this character’s name?
  • 57d. [German granny], OMA. Despite the great/useful letters in this and the grandpa counterpart, OPA, American crossword editors have mostly deemed it unsuitable for the grid. I tell ya, a lot more Americans have studied German than Italian, and there sure are plenty of Italian words that pop up in crosswords.

Four stars from me, with grudging acceptance of CLU and –EAN as the price for some stacked 15s.

Scott Earl’s Universal crossword, “Themeless IV” — Jim Q’s write-up

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

I predicted I would forget about temporary (?) Themeless Saturdays last week. I was right again. But that makes it more fun because it’s always a pleasant surprise.

THEME: None!

Universal crossword solution · “Themeless IV” · Scott Earl ​ · Sat, 6.26.21


  • 10A [One often has googly eyes] SOCK PUPPET. 
  • 32A [Celebration of something being dropped?] RELEASE PARTY. 
  • 29D [Process that led to Kamala Harris’ selection, informally] VEEPSTAKES. I must admit I was unfamiliar with that term, but it’s kinda awesome. 
  • 63A [“Is everything all right with us?”] ARE WE COOL?


  • 53D [“I May Destroy You” creator Michaela] COEL. 
  • 30A [Nanjiani who co-wrote “The Big Sick”] KUMAIL (well, not exactly new to me, but still needed every cross).

Coulda sworn that it was OPTIMAL instead of OPTIMUM, which led me to almost believe that I’ve had Angela MERKEL‘s name wrong forever and that her name (or perhaps her predecessor’s name of whom I was unaware?) was Angela LERKEL.

Still diggin’ Themeless Saturdays here. And they are extremely accessible to most solvers imo. Tougher than the normal Universal bar, but not by all that much. Enjoyed this one- I solved it casually and untimed, but I know it took me longer than the last three.

Got hung up on 12D [Red wine and rice, for two] VINEGARS. I feel like the wording is off in the clue. Red wine and rice are types of VINEGARS, but they are not VINEGARS as the clue leads me to believe. Maybe I’m just overanalyzing that one and I’m cranky because I didn’t get it right away. Also, not really sure the the clue for 39A [What helps you stick to the script?] TELEPROMPTER needs a That is quite literally the job of a TELEPROMPTER.

Nice stacks in the corners I’M ON BOARD / CAMERA SHY (clued over-cleverly) / EYELASHES and SCUBA MASK / LAST DANCE / ARE WE COOL?

4 stars.

Matthew Sewell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 06/26/2021

Frequent Stumper constructor Matthew Sewell has this week’s LAT challenge puzzle. In recent weeks, these have taken me a few minutes more than normal to finish. Maybe I am not racing like I should; and I should, because the Boswords actual tournament is coming up quickly (July 25, I believe. Don’t quote me.) Hope you found this puzzle enjoyable, as I did! 4.3 stars today.

A few comments:

  • 1A [DIY creators of under-the-skin data storage devices] BIOHACKERS – Those trackers are coming; although we all have one in a way since we all have a cell phone with us all the time!
  • 24A [“Not right now”] “I’M BUSY” – Great casual phrase!
  • 27A [Tree of Madagascar] BAOBAB – I had someone from Africa describe these as a tree put in the ground upside down with the roots sticking out!
  • 53A [White-sale holder, possibly] WINE DEALER – I get the pun here, but it seems like a reach.

    Baobab trees

  • 4D [Chaps] HES – As in more than one HE. This seems like a word that nobody would use that often.
  • 6D [Writer who created the Ryanverse] CLANCY – I have read several of his books. He passed away a bit ago; the books now are now written by a few different people. The show on Amazon is pretty good; I have watched one or two of them!
  • 12D [Word from Afrikaans for “field”] VELDT – This word doesn’t have enough vowels!
  • 15D [One who’s often patronizing] SHOPAHOLIC – Best clue in the puzzle!
  • 26D [Job not included in the original “Around the World in Eighty Days”] BALLOONIST – I am not sure what this clue means. The original book didn’t have a balloon in it? Is this only from the movie adaptations?
  • 47D [Have __: drink in moderation] A NIP – I had A SIP in here at first. Close!

Off to do some more puzzles, albeit between graduation parties and other festivities. Enjoy your Saturday!

Stanley Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up

As I have stated before, Stan’s puzzles are usually easier. These last couple have certainly not been! I’ll take a thirteen minute solve, though. This one wasn’t horrible, but I seem like I am not as sharp as I used to be. I’m getting old! We do have  a nice stack of 11s right in the center of the grid, and these will feature prominently in the comments below. I will say this one did seem satisfying to finally solve. I guess that means I did stare at seas of white squares for probably a tad too long! 4.4 stars today.

Just a few comments:

  • 1A [Warner Bros. Feature Animation debut (1996)] SPACE JAM – If you haven’t heard, the new version of this movie with LeBron James comes out in the next few days. Yes, I will be watching!
  • 32A [Pediatric subspecialty] NEONATOLOGY – This specifically deals with infants. Great word!
  • 34A [Water east of Sinai] GULF OF AQABA – I got the GULF part early on, and I thought there might be a Q due to 30D. (See below!)
  • 35A [Rogues on the road] COMPACT SUVS – Nice clue. We are talking about Nissan Rogues here. Clever!
  • 36A [Former ”Top Chef” judge] LAGASSE – This is going waaaay back. And I don’t even watch this show!
  • 8D [Scheming co-conspirator of ’50s TV] MERTZ – This is also going waaaaay back!
  • 10D [The NYSE bought it in 2008] AMEX – Wait: they own the credit card company??
  • 12D [New York town with Burgoyne and Victory neighborhoods] SARATOGA – Yes, I had SYRACUSE in here at first. I don’t know New York that well! Didn’t even know there was a town with this name.
  • 21D [”Whoa!”] “WAIT A SEC!” – Great casual phrase!
  • 30D [They’re seen on Chef Boyardee cans] TOQUES – I had this in immediately, then took it out
  • 32D [British electronic music pioneer] NUMAN – I have no idea who this is. Should I?
  • 36D [Less than sharp] LOW RES – Funny how footage from way back in the ’90s now looks so grainy!

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

Gary Cee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Musical Review” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 6/26/21 • “Musical Review” • Sat • Cee • solution • 20210626

Common phrases reinterpreted as having to do with musical performance and presented with the conceit that they are part of a critic’s rather negative take on it.

  • 23a. [The suite’s awkward first movement was full of… ] STICKY NOTES. Perhaps it was the Washington Post-It™ March?
  • 34a. [The lifeless second movement suffered from… ] DEAD BEATS (rather than deadbeats).
  • 51a. [The dull third movement collapsed with its… ] PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE. By far my favorite of the lot, as there’s several layers to the pun.
  • 67a. [And the hopeless fourth movement resorted to… ] DESPERATE MEASURES.
  • 88a. [But the redeeming fifth movement attempted to… ] BALANCE THE SCALES.
  • 102a. [The transposing sixth movement did indeed… ] SHIFT KEYS.
  • 119a. [And the tempestuous finale played at a variety of… ] WILD PITCHES.

Apparently there is no encore, save perhaps 21a [Musical sound] TONE.

  • 8d [Sellers of pictures] PETER. This veiled capital definitely fooled me today.
  • 11d [Perk in some first-person shooters] STEADY AIM. But my 58a [Bemstrom of the NHL] was ERIL (lingering from a partially corrected ERIC) rather than EMIL, so when I’d completed the grid the entry was STEADY AIR, which I rationalized as the absence of crosswind affecting flight. Definitely had to hunt this one up to get the successful solve indication.
  • 13d [Aardvark or zebra] ANIMAL. I guess that’s supposed to run the gamut—of mammals, at least. Zebu could’ve worked too.
  • 33d [Winona Ryder’s “Beetlejuice” role] LYDIA, 107d [Catherine O’Hara’s “Beetlejuice” role] DELIA.
  • 36d [Monomaniacal] OBSESSED. First try: ONE-TRACK.
  • 48d [Frozen treat since 1946] FUDGSICLE. Growing up, where I came from many people omitted the s and called it a ‘Fudgicle” (“Fudgeicle”?)
  • 51d [LAX schedule abbr.] PST. Not ETA, ETD, ARR, or DEP.
  • 61a [Jordanian site of red sandstone ruins] PETRA.
  • 70d [April 22 honoree] EARTH. As with so many days of recognition, it seems thoroughly inadequate and insulting to make a ‘special’ occasion of it. Yes, I realize I’m bludgeoning a nuanced subject here.
  • 72d [Sweeping story] SAGA, 7a [Sweeping story] EPIC, 15a [Sweeping] VAST. 20a [Colossal] MEGA.
  • 88d [Back-seat bobsledder[ BRAKEMAN.
  • 89d [Leave] COME AWAY. Seems a bit formal. Guess I could have plunked in some Norah Jones here.
  • 97d [Crimson cousin] CERISE. Whence our word ‘cherries’, and the errant back-formation to the singular ‘cherry’.
  • 103d [Cuisine hotter than Szechuan] HUNAN. “With its liberal use of chili peppers, shallots and garlic, Hunan cuisine is known for being gan la (干辣; gān là; ‘dry and spicy’) or purely hot, as opposed to Sichuan cuisine, to which it is often compared. Sichuan cuisine uses its distinctive ma la (麻辣; má là; ‘spicy and numbing’) seasoning and other complex flavour combinations, frequently employs Sichuan pepper along with chilies which are often dried. It also utilises more dried or preserved ingredients and condiments. Hunan cuisine, on the other hand, is often spicier by pure chili content and contains a larger variety of fresh ingredients. Both Hunan and Sichuan cuisine are perhaps significantly oilier than the other cuisines in China, but Sichuan dishes are generally oilier than Hunan dishes. Another characteristic distinguishing Hunan cuisine from Sichuan cuisine is that Hunan cuisine uses smoked and cured goods in its dishes much more frequently.” (yoinked from Wikipedia)
  • 105d [Blue blood vessel?] YACHT. 59d [Private rooms?] BARRACKS. Thanks to the question marks, neither of these fooled me.
  • 43a [Skrillex genre, for short] EDM (electronic dance music).
  • 79a [One way to think] ALOUD, but I initially went with AHEAD. Oops.
  • 115a [Baker’s floral accent] ROSETTE. I definitely was thinking of aromas and not cake decoration, which in crossworld is always handled by an ICER.
  • 121a [Worsted, e.g.] YARN. Had not realized this was a noun.
  • 123a [Petite __ (girlfriend] AMIE. Not to be confused with 29a [Nat King Cole song “Darling Je Vous __ Beaucoup”] AIME.

DECENT (124a) puzzle, and that 51-across theme answer remains the highlight.

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15 Responses to Saturday, June 26, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Yup definitely hard for me.
    Had to cheat to get CLU and it’s remarkable how much it helped open up the NW for me.
    It took embarrassingly long to get PET SCAN, given that it’s a brain imaging technique.
    I loved ODDLY SATISFYING and it’s clue.
    And the TOES bit left me bewildered until I read Amy’s explanation.

  2. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: A proper Manchester United fan doesn’t call them MAN U because of a disparaging song that Liverpool fans sing. I know the NYT is trying to get more European soccer references in but they almost always get something wrong.

  3. David Glasser says:

    Newsday: 13D seems to be just wrong. The company in question is part of Gap Inc. The clue seems to be a misinterpretation of the beginning of its Wikipedia entry, which describes a different store created by Target’s parent that Old Navy was a response to…

    9D is also less true than it’s been.

    • David L says:

      Good catch. I took that on trust but didn’t think to check.

      I believe the clue for 16A is also wrong. The animal is a member of the bovidae family, which makes it a bovid, but not a bovine. Bovines are members of a subfamily, bovinae, which does not include the animal. (This is from Wikipedia. My first instinct was that the clue was incorrect but it’s somewhat more complicated than I thought).

  4. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: If you like ODDLY SATISFYING things, there’s a whole subreddit for you to enjoy.

  5. marciem says:

    NYT: for some reason I found it less difficult than usual Sats. Maybe because of instantly knowing Clu (dating myself here :) ) and that “care to elaborate” dupe from recently.

    Janis Ian in Mean Girls: Her parents were throw-back hippy-types, and socially aware, and Janis Ian the singer was iconic (“Society’s Child”) and “At 17” describes the Mean Girls plot a lot IMO. That’s why they named her after a real singer.

    • R says:

      Yeah, I also assumed that using JANIS Ian’s name for a character was a direct homage given the overlapping themes between her career and the movie.

  6. BOB says:

    Liked the NYT. Always appreciate a good 15. NW corner was the last to fall. Reason was TOES. Can someone please explain why Down was capitalized in the clue?

    • Me says:

      I also can’t think of a reason why Down should be capitalized. Wordplay is such a large part of clue construction, but you have to be able to defend capitalization, etc.

      To Amy’s thoughts about German vs Italian answers, I think Italian words in crosswords are more generally known than German because a lot of the Italian words in crosswords are used in music notation, even if they are clued otherwise: forte, poco, etc.

  7. Billy Boy says:

    I’m awaiting posts recognizing an ‘Old’ bias to the NYT.

    CLU helped quite a bit, watched many an OATER (movie & TV)

    DRIVEWAY MOMENTS – needed more than my fair share of crosses, several not immediately apparent.

    Fri/Sat rather good this week.

    • RM Camp says:

      I knew CLU as one of the many butts of jokes from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Hell, I know Kim Cattrall more from MST3K than from whatever that one show was that she was in, because Crow T. Robot was wildly infatuated with her. I can’t remember if it was Crow or Tom Servo who had a thing for Agnes Moorhead though.

      As for DRIVEWAY MOMENTS, I’m p. sure NPR released compilation CDs under that name in the ‘00s.

      I’ll be 40 in two weeks.

  8. Pilgrim says:

    Re Newsday: AMEX was the nickname for the American Stock Exchange. NUMAN brings back old memories – I bought Gary Numan’s “The Pleasure Principle” album when it first came out. If you listened to the radio 1979-1980, “Cars” was his big hit.

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