Sunday, June 27, 2021

LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 9:22 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 11:51 (Jim P) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Ross Trudeau & Lindsey Hobbs’s New York Times crossword, “Gravity’s Rainbow”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 6 27 21, “Gravity’s Rainbow”

This theme requires coloring to appreciate it fully. The book title “Gravity’s Rainbow” is reimagined as a rainbow in which the colors are all subject to gravity—the Across theme answers take a downward turn to fill in the color words that don’t fit into the Across spaces, and the color names appear in roughly a rainbow-arced array in spectrum order. Here are the themers:

  • 95a. [Mars], THE {RED} PLANET.
  • 56a. [Fruit with crimson-colored flesh], BLOOD {ORANGE}.
  • 39a. [1966 Donovan hit], “MELLOW {YELLOW}”.
  • 6a. [Spruce or fir], EVER{GREEN} TREE.
  • 43a. [Sinatra, to fans], OL’ {BLUE} EYES. Gotta ding the grid for having AN EYE at 122a—a theme word’s duplication is particularly hard to avoid noticing.
  • 60a. [Popular folk rock duo], {INDIGO} GIRLS.
  • 100a. [Harmful bits of sunlight], ULTRA{VIOLET} RAYS.

Fave fill: ESOTERICA, CRIED WOLF, ODD JOBS, CONTROVERSIAL (nice clue: [Like Merriam-Webster’s inclusion of the word “irregardless,” originally]), “SILLY ME!”, a HOT STONE massage.

Five more things before I go to pick up my Lou Malnati’s pizza (sorry, Matt):

  • 62a. [Place for a canal or a kernel], EAR. Do not put corn kernels in your EAR!
  • 71a. [World’s deepest river], CONGO. Did not know that, making a mental note of it for the time this will eventually come up in trivia.
  • 112a. [You might cry if you slice it], RAW ONION. I have a special fear and loathing of raw onions. Among my least favorite restaurant experiences is ordering a salad, “hold the onions,” and finding raw onions polluting the entire salad with its acrid secretions.
  • 1d. [California-based soft drink company], SHASTA. I’m not sure that Shasta products are sold in Chicago. Feel like it’s been many years since I’ve seen the name.
  • 43d. [Total domination, in gamer-speak], OWNAGE. The only question for me here was whether it was PWNAGE or OWNAGE.

Four stars from me.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword, “At the Anger Management Session….” – Jenni’s write-up

Quickly because I have a bead-making lesson in 20 minutes…each theme answer finishes the title phrase appropriately for the character named in the clue.

Los Angeles Time, June 27, 2021, Ed Sessa, “At the Anger Management Session…” solution grid

  • 27a […Rudolph was ___] SEEING RED.
  • 29a […Elsie was ___] HAVING A COW.
  • 42a […Humpty Dumpty was ___] DRIVEN UP A WALL.
  • 64a […Herbie the “Love Bug” was ___] BLOWING A GASKET.
  • 73a […Santa Claus was ___] HITTING THE ROOF.
  • 98a […Puff the Magic Dragon was ___] BREATHING FIRE. This is my favorite.
  • 114a […Bugs Bunny was ___] HOPPING MAD.
  • 117a […Mr. Bubble was ___] IN A LATHER.

I really liked this theme! It’s kind of a Tom Swifty variation and it was fun to solve.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that Avenue FOCH is Paris’ widest street.

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

THEME: Clues that sound like single letters are referring to a common phrase (that explanation doesn’t quite do it justice as there’s a bigger picture).

Washington Post, June 27, 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Personal Letters” solution grid


  • 23A [Ell] RIGHT ANGLE.  L
  • 35A [“Gee!”] HOW ABOUT THAT! G
  • 65A [Tee] CASUAL SHIRT. T
  • 74A [Queue] WAITING LINE. Q
  • 97A [Eye] GET A GOOD LOOK AT. I
  • 107A [“… eh?”] DON’T YOU THINK? A
  • 122A [Period associated with an initialism heard by saying seven of this puzzle’s clues out loud] PRIDE MONTH. 

This is one of those “Wait for it….” type puzzles. Felt relatively standard to me as I solved steadily from North to South, yet I knew there was a layer that I wasn’t aware of. While I had noticed the many references to the LGBTQ+ community, I simply did not make the connection with the letters in the clue until the revealer, which I suppose is probably for the best. Makes for a fantastic AHA and the gimmick wasn’t obvious enough along the way.

Of course, I should’ve caught on when I got to [Queue] because there are a lot more letters that would work and not result in an awfully weird entry such as WAITING LINE (also known as… a LINE).

Shoutouts to the LGBTQ+ community that I caught included:

  • LOUIE Crew Clay. I’m unfamiliar with the name, but as the founder of Integrity USA, I think the assumption is safe to make.
  • Margaret CHO. 
  • Jason Collins of the NBA. And hopefully we’ll be seeing Carl Nassib’s name soon after recently coming out in the NFL.
  • The EDNA St. Vincent Millay quote, “But she was not made for any man, / And she never will be all mine.”
  • ARETHA‘s final performance at Elton John’s annual AIDS Foundation gala.
  • One IOWA.
  • NEIL Patrick Harris (I was just blasting his version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on my way home tonight before solving this crossword. It’s so good.)
  • “I Was Born This Way” singer CARL Bean. Inferring here. Unfamiliar to me.
  • Megan Rapinoe.
  • Erm… inferring the apps Her and Scruff are aimed at the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Actress and National Equality Award recipient ANNE Hathaway.
  • The Bangalore Queer Film Festival.
  • Reference to EBERT‘s four star review of Brokeback Mountain.
  • The L Word.

And probably many more that I’m missing after that sweep of the grid.

I had a very ugly mistake that was difficult to find. Instead of SCREW IT for 10D [“Who gives a damn? Let’s just do this!”], I had SURE WIT. I just assumed it was an old-timey phrase I’d never heard of after having S?REWIT in the grid and assuming I needed a vowel in the ?. And I totally blanked on CREON despite very much knowing that. Not a Natick at all… just a really ugly misstep on my part.

Overall, another gem of a puzzle. The Birnholzian revealer made the otherwise standard solve well worth it.

Brooke Husic’s Universal crossword, “Set a PR” — Jim Q’s write-up

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

THEME: Phrases that start with P(vowel)R? I think? I may be missing something.

Universal crossword solution · “Set a PR” · Brooke Husic ​ · Sun, 6.27.21


  • 20A [People may dance along them in June] PARADE ROUTES. Definitely a bigger dance party in June than say… other parades in March.
  • 28A [Bisexual blooms] PERFECT FLOWERS. 
  • 44A [Spanish for “Why not both?”] POR QUE NO LOS DOS?
  • 55A [Part of the biromantic flag representing dual attraction] PURPLE STRIPE. 

Well, I really enjoyed the puzzle and the resulting things I learned, despite my lack of confidence in understanding the theme. Strong nods to bisexuality with the last three themers. I was unaware of the existence of a biromantic flag, and therefore knew nothing of the symbolism behind its stripes. It’s quite a nice flag. I think the LGBTQ+ community could give many a world flag a facelift, and we would be better for it. I vaguely recall learning of the aptly named PERFECT FLOWERS before. And uncovering the Spanish phrase was fun.

Still… the theme from a technical standpoint has me scratching my head a bit. I think it’s because the title, Set a PR, coupled with the first themer (PARADE ROUTES) seems to suggest that we will be uncovering two-word phrases where the fist word begins with P and the second begins with R, right? But that’s not the case. The only other thing that I could see that connects them is the P(vowel)R connection of the first word, where the vowel changes (yet I is excluded). I mean, I am solving this pretty late with a mojito next to me, so I apologize in advance if I’m not seeing something that I should be. Whatever. It really doesn’t matter all that much. The fill and theme-phrases were dynamite all around.


K’NAAN, Awkwafina’s real name Nora LUM (a bit of a dangerous crossing with SEPTUM. For a hot second I thought the U was an I), the gender-neutral term Nibling (in the clue for 47D), PAOLO Montalban,


SMIZES (though I’m happy to stop trying to master smizing now that I’m comfortable maskless in public). SAFE SEX clued via

Only fill nit is AT CAMP, which doesn’t strike me as a stand-alone phrase.

Overall, thoroughly enjoyed the fill and the cluing. Out to lunch on the theme. That’s kinda bothering me. Do the letters PR have a significance in bi culture? I googled for a bit, and I can’t find anything. Ok. I’m gonna stop thinking about it.

4.1 stars on fill. I’m going to skip the rating for the theme because I think I’m missing it.

Ella Dershowitz and Matthew Stock’s Universal crossword, “Turning Pro”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Numerous phrases with the trigram PRO turn right or down at the R.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Turning Pro” · Ella Dershowitz and Matthew Stock · 6.27.21

  • 23a [Inverse (Across theme hint: in this answer, look down after letter 6)] RECIPROCAL crosses 5d [Not disappoint (Down theme hint: look right after letter 4)] DO PROUD.
  • 37a [Kerfuffle (… letter 3)] UPROAR crosses 13d [Tightly sealed (… letter 6)] LEAK-PROOF.
  • 69a [“Taste the explosion!” candy (… letter 4)] POP ROCKS crosses 44d [Double Dutch need (… letter 5)] JUMP ROPE. My fave crossing; both are fun answers.
  • 96a [“It’s fine!” (… letter 4)] NO PROBLEM crosses 80d [Ad-lib comedy (… letter 4)] IMPROV.
  • 113a [Place to order a beer (… letter 4)] TAP ROOM crosses 88d [Fifth Amendment right (… letter 5)] DUE PROCESS.

Solid theme, wonderfully executed with fun entries. I don’t see anything to not like here. Well, actually, I could do without the awkward letter counting in the clues, but that seems to be the thing with Universal puzzles; they need to be accessible to the newest of solvers.

But this construction is really impressive. It must have been a bear to cross all those entries and get everything to fit nicely and play together. Well done.

And yet our constructors still left room for some nice fill: SHOWTIME, QUEER EYE, MISSOURI, LEAPFROG, Ed (or Fiend’s Dave) SULLIVAN, FACE TATTOO, IMOGEN HEAP (love that name!), CALYPSO, PTOLEMY, SOAP DISH, GAG REEL, GLACIER National Park, MOUSEPAD, and MAKEOVER. THIN LINE feels like a long partial mainly because it reminds of the song “Thin Line Between Love and Hate” which I know mostly from The Pretenders’ cover version, but was originally by The Persuaders (see below).

A couple of brand-new-to-me entries:

  • WEIBO. [Sina ___ (microblogging site)]. China’s second-biggest social media site with more than 500 million active users (vs. Twitter’s 300 million).
  • OPPO. [Research on a political rival, briefly]. Ah, I had to look that up, but it’s a noun, not a verb. Basically, it means “dirt.”

Lovely theme and fill. 4.25 stars.

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34 Responses to Sunday, June 27, 2021

  1. Dan says:

    I could have sworn that Beethoven wrote only 32 piano sonatas.

    I suspect the “35” mentioned in the LA Times clues (19A and 38A) resulted from copying a bit of misinformation from a Wikipedia article.

    • Bernie Haas says:

      He wrote 35, but only the last 32 are numbered.,_WoO_47_(Beethoven)

      ‘Since they were written at such an early age (and Beethoven himself did not assign them opus numbers), the works have historically been omitted from the canon of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. However, Barry Cooper included the trio in his critical edition of the sonatas created for ABRSM, arguing that “A complete edition has to be complete, and if you ignore early works, you don’t show the longer trajectory of the composer’s development.” The inclusion of these three works raises Beethoven’s total number of piano sonatas from 32 to 35.’

  2. pannonica says:

    Universal: It’s a vowel progression between the P and R. Also, the Spanish phrase has become part of a meme.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      It’s kinda, sorta a vowel progression, except that there’s no PIR answer. That doesn’t seem like a theme to me. Plus, it’s inelegant, at best, to make the first themer a PR phrase if you’re going to use that title. Then again, I’m a little butt-sore because it was my first Uni DNF in a year and a half (1/7/2020). There were just too many learning opportunities in this one for me to complete it.

  3. Mutman says:

    NYT: Fun, enjoyable Sunday puzzle. Not too hard, as it was pretty easy to figure out where the colors would go.

    Two things:

    98D Skedaddled: LITOUT Huh?
    39D Kind of jacket: MAO New to me, and having googled it, doubt I’d ever own one.

    • AlanW says:

      “But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it.  I been there before.

      • Christopher Smith says:

        Not sure about choosing that particular novel as a lexicon for acceptable usage.

      • JohnH says:

        Just my association, too. (And the book is acceptable. Pretty much every class in American lit or anthology of American lit, and I’ve edited one, singles it out as the font of the American novel. He talks southern, which could today sound like a parody, but at least it was white southern. The book’s degree of racism has been hotly debated, but the mainstream still sees it as a rebellion against slavery and, as in the book’s end, authority using “civilization” as a cover for it. The bitter irony of their going deeper and deeper into slave territory to escape it has been noticed too, but in order to praise it, and a novel on the NYT top 10 list just last year adapted it to a story of a boy using his teacher to run away from home. )

  4. marciem says:

    WP: A couple miscues in the write-up, maybe.
    First, missed reference to 28a Jonathan Van Ness :) .
    Initials: 97a is letter I. 107a is letter A . (couldn’t figure how “…, eh” was pronounced as “I” so had to investigate after realizing the significance.)

    Otherwise, great write-up of a multi-layered and very fun puzzle!

    • Jim Quinlan says:

      Thanks! Fixed the typo. As far as the missed reference goes, I noted that I likely missed some, and there are probably more. Don’t know if I’d call that a miscue :)

      • marciem says:

        Shouldn’t have listed that with miscues… sorry. Just one name that jumped out at me as not being mentioned in your list. There could be others, as you said :) .

        • I listed all of the references here. The one I wish I could have included (as Jim noted) was Carl Nassib, either with the CARL clue at 48D or with NFL at 64D, but I submitted the puzzle for final publication 10 days before he made his announcement, so unfortunately I couldn’t add him in time.

  5. DH says:

    NYT: Given the current climate and the current month, the title of this puzzle could have been something like “I’m Down With Pride!”. To further push this thread, the clue for 116-A is about “inclusion” which, also given the current climate, is “controversial”.

    As an MOT myself, I also liked 74-D. In my life, this word has been used as an intended derogatory epithet towards myself and other Jewish people – but I was always taught to refuse to accept the intended offense, stripping the word of its intended power. A great example of “Sociolinguistics”.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I do feel that we goyim need to use the word more carefully. If I’m talking to a close friend who’s Jewish, I’ll say “Jew” to refer to an MOT, but if I’m talking to someone I don’t know well, it’s “Jewish person,” because for all I know they’d hear it as a derogatory word where no insult is meant.

    • RSP64 says:

      May I ask what MOT stands for? I’m not Jewish. My cousin married a Jewish woman and it was the most fun wedding ceremony and reception I’ve ever been to. The rabbi who performed the ceremony knew many of the wedding attendees were not Jewish, so he explained the meaning of every part of the ceremony.

  6. R says:

    I was also surprised that there wasn’t an explicit Pride tie-in, and also that that wasn’t noted in the review. Missed opportunities!

  7. cyberdiva says:

    In looking at the solved puzzle Amy provided, I noticed that the colors are actually present in the order of the rainbow (VIBGYOR), if you move from right (Violet) to left (Red). And with a little stretch of imagination, one might see their placement in the puzzle as forming an arc of sorts, moving from Violet at the bottom of the arc, gradually over and up to GREEN at the highest and mid-point, and then descending gradually leftward to Red. Nice!

    • PJ says:

      Nice catch! Not that it matters much but this might be the first time I’ve seen VIBGYOR. ROY G BIV has been my color guy a long time.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Hey! Does anyone even read what I write? I did specifically mention that “the color names appear in roughly a rainbow-arced array in spectrum order.” It wasn’t apparent to me till I started adding the colors to my grid.

        • JohnH says:

          Of course you did. It was a late discovery for me, in going over what theme answers I had to help in finding others, and it added to my appreciation. An extra aha moment.

          I expected a gay pride theme and didn’t take long to see that “green” was needed up top. I assumed a rebus, but soon enough the letters -REEN were staring out at me. It was no doubt easier to spot in that we’ve had a few “detour” puzzles, if you will, recently, including one heading down. It was easy to forgive that duplication in that I could visualize stripes or whole banners hanging down, vividly. Didn’t hurt that the tie-in to the title was smile worthy and that I really like the Pynchon novel.

          Like last week, the fill was a mix of Monday level with some proper names (like JAIHO), the first of which is why I couldn’t rate it higher than 4, but not enough to spoil the puzzle.

        • PJ says:

          Do you work here?

          My comprehension is iffy today. My wife and I sat out and watched the moon to well past midnight last night. And you can’t watch a moon like that without wine.

  8. cyberdiva says:

    Oops. My apologies, Amy. I do read and am grateful for your discussions of the puzzles. I guess my brain was simply turned off when I read your commentary about this one. The weird thing is that I DID check the reader comments to see whether anyone else had noticed this! Duh…

    PJ, when I was in school, we were taught VIBGYOR. It was only years later that I first came upon ROYGVIB, which I was told was sometimes presented as someone’s name: Roy G Biv, on the assumption that it would be easier to remember. But for me, VIBGYOR stuck.

  9. JohnH says:

    The New Yorker has added a Sunday cryptic to its MWF schedule of American style puzzles, starting today. I stumbled on it only by looking at TNY online, and for a sec I wondered if I just wasn’t seeing one of its archive of Sondheim cryptics from back when, but it’s by Patrick Berry and brand new, and (as I found only after solving) there’s also a post announcing the addition.

    It’s a mini-puzzle, and it’s also a bar rather than black square puzzle. In print, the lighter bars between cells in the grid don’t appear at all, only the heavy bars demarcating entries. But still it’s entirely solvable.

    • AlanW says:

      For the past couple of years, the New Yorker has been reprinting online, on Sundays, its brief run (1997-1999) of cryptics from the magazine. Those are almost exhausted now, and I was very happy to see today, as JohnH says, that new puzzles will be joining the limited menu of regular American-style cryptics (Out of Left Field, The Browser, the National Post, and a little less often from the WSJ and Sunday NYT).

      When I print the New Yorker cryptics, the output preserves the heavy bars and the gray checkerboard pattern. But for some reason this only works for me in Chrome, not Firefox (which omits the checkerboard). You can also print first to PDF and then print the PDF, but again, this only works for me in Chrome.

  10. Rob says:

    Does the 6/27/21 NYT Book Review Crossword by Tracy Bennett merit a note here?

  11. Derek Benedict says:

    Universal: SET A PR

    Maybe Brooke Husic can explain how the puzzle title corresponds to the answers? I’m stumped.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      “Set a PR” means to set a personal record, and as a puzzle title it alludes to the theme answers having the initials P.R.

      • Doc says:

        Parade routes has the initials PR

        Perfect flowers has the initials PF

        Por que no los dos has the initials PQNLD

        Purple stripe has the initials PS

        The above explanation of a P_R vowel progression makes more sense, but as mentioned PIR* is missing (and it’s not like it’s a string of letters that don’t start any words; pirate, piranha, pirogi, pirouette, etc etc etc).

        Hence the continued mystification at what the theme is supposed to be.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Oops! Can you tell I only glanced briefly at the puzzle write-up? I suspect Jim has it right—a vowel progression theme (though incomplete). Who knows?

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