Saturday, July 3, 2021

LAT 5:41 (Derek) 


Newsday 15:00ish (Derek) 


NYT 5:25 (Amy) 


Universal 5:46 (Jim Q) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 3 21, no. 0703

Kameron, as you may know, seems partial to lower-word-count themelesses, and this 66-worder is just as full of interesting, non-everyday fill as you’d expect from him.

Highlights: A SORE BACK (more in-the-language than most other SORE {body part}s would be), CREATURE FEATURE, MASS GENERAL, ROY COHN, PASTICHE, TRIAL RUNS, “TO HELEN,” an ALLEY CAT, “SPIT IT OUT!,” and FISA COURT.

Five more things:

  • 21a. [Hit taken willingly], TOKE. Ach, poor Sha’Carri Richardson! Yes, you’re supposed to follow the rules, but sometimes the rules are, quite frankly, dumb.
  • 34a. [“___ Nobody” (hit for Rufus and Chaka Khan)], AIN’T. Great song!
  • 42a. [Demand during a gossip sesh], DEETS. As in “Gimme the deets! I want all the details.”
  • 3d. [Strengthen, as an embankment], REVET. Not sure I’ve seen this form of the word, as opposed to revetment. But that felt familiar enough, so it was gettable.
  • 31d. [Country that celebrates the new year (“Choul Chnam Thmey”) in April], CAMBODIA. I did not know this! Wikipedia tells us, “the observance begins on New Year’s Day, which usually falls on 13 April or 14 April, which is the end of the harvesting season, when farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor before the rainy season begins. The Khmer New Year coincides with the traditional solar new year in several parts of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.” I was not aware that solar new year in April was a thing, and I love the tie to nature’s cycles. Readers, tell me of your experience with these springtime celebrations, if they’ve been part of your traditions.

Four stars from me.

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Cut Out the Middleman”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Men’s names are “cut out” of common phrases. Wackiness abounds.

Universal crossword solution · “Cut Out the Middleman” · Paul Coulter ​ · Sun, 7.03.21


  • 14A [“Moving along from the eighth part of my box set …”?] I’M ON CD NINE. I’m on cLOUd nine! 
  • 24A [Schmoozes in Hollywood?] WORKS L.A. CHARM. Works lIKE a charm!
  • 40A [Piece of gossip about someone forgetting to clean the coffee maker?] GROUNDS RUMOR. GroundLESs rumor. 
  • 56A [Broadway backer who also works in security?] GUARD ANGEL. GuardIAN angel. 
  • LOU, IKE, LES, and IAN can be found in other areas of the grid.

Another reliable Paul Coulter puzzle: nothing too flashy, but always well crafted and conceived. I really like the first two themers here. They follow the “go-big-or-go-home” rule for wackiness (see Evan Birnholz WaPo puzzles for a Masterclass in those types of themers). The only one that didn’t land solidly for me was GROUNDS RUMOR. I was unfamiliar with the base phrase GROUNDLESS RUMOR (I know it as BASELESS RUMOR), and the resulting entry felt a tad forced without the charm and ridiculousness of the first two.

REST CURE was new for me (needed every cross!). The clue for PEP might have some scratching their heads: [Dash forward and backward?]. The forward/backward portion of the clue refers to the palindromic nature of the word PEP. Dash seems a bit of an out-there way to clue PEP (my crossword instincts want to say ELAN!). So this clue might be a bit overly-clever, but no harm done.

IS LOYAL TO looks so strange in a grid!

4 stars. Thanks, Paul.

Jacob Stulberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Au Pairs” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 7/3/21 • Sat • “Au Pairs” • Stulberg • solution • 20210703

Avant-et-aprés, à la français. Le mash-up!

  • 22a. [Advice for a Hollywood private eye?] CHERCHEZ LA FEMME FATALE.
  • 37a. [Like restaurant offerings that might change without notice] À LA CARTE BLANCHE.
  • 54a. [What unites the Bolshoi’s members?] ESPRIT DE CORPS DE BALLET.
  • 72a. [Tactless ballroom performance?] FAUX PAS-DE-DEUX.
  • 89a. [Best ingredient for a Brandy Alexander?] CRÈME DE LA CRÈME DE CACAO.
  • 108aR [Best picture winner of the 1970s, or what five of this puzzle’s answers have] THE FRENCH CONNECTION.

I enjoyed the cleverness and silliness of this theme. All the phrases are well-known and common enough borrowings in English. Left-right symmetry to accommodate the theme answers of different lengths (but it’s neat how three of them are 21-letter gridspanners).

Plus de trucs français: 24d [Lavish event] FÊTE.

  • 1d [Person struggling in the heat?] RACER. Kind of a tough clue, but perhaps more intuitive at the moment because the Olympics are nigh?
  • 3d [Hollows] GLENS. I was interpreting hollows as singular and considered a double-n GLENN, which … uh … no, not right, here.
  • 9d [Bug, informally] VEE-DUB; 32d [City by the Bay, informally] SAN FRAN.
  • 47d [Crater Lake Natl. Pk. setting] OREG; 45a [Disguised, briefly] INCOG; 122a [Texas athlete, informally] ’STRO.
  • 11d [Melody for Monteverdi] TEMA. Minor stress fracture in the grid there.
  • 77d [Cash bar?] INGOT. Is gold cash? Hm.
  • 28a [Like diamonds] RED. Playing cards obviously, but it turns out that red is the rarest color for geological diamonds.
  • 100a [Org. whose logo features a two-leaved flower] EPA. It seems the logo features two leaves while the official seal—a more elaborate affair—features two leaves and two sepals.
  • 91d [Antlered animals] DEER. 123a [Antlered animals] ROES; I believe the plural of roe deer (Capreolus sp.) is roe deer. A mammalian “roe” without that qualifier is synonymous with “doe”, and most female deer do not have antlers (not to mention rabbits, kangaroos, et al.).

Julian Lim’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 07/03/2021

Got through this one fairly quickly, for once! Lots of fun stuff in here, and look at that wide open grid! At first glance it is hard to find the three-letter words in the grid, but there are a few of them right in the middle. But all in all, there are some really smooth sections of 4-, 5- and 6-letter words woven together quite well. There is almost nothing in here that seems forced. Extremely well done! 4.6 stars from me.

A few highlights:

  • 18A [Duran Duran lead singer Simon] LE BON – This dude is in his early 60s now. Man, am I getting old …
  • 23A [Outbreak of spots?] AD CAMPAIGN – Might be the best clue in the puzzle. Great misdirectional pun here!
  • 34A [Tidy sum] CHUNK OF CHANGE – I would to this one “great casual phrase”! That’s because that is generally where you hear something like this; in a casual conversation.
  • 37A [Is in contention for] HAS A SHOT AT – This is also something you hear a lot, but it looks like a weird partial phrase. I like it.
  • 52A [2004 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Aoki] ISAO – Ah, that crossword famous Japanese golfer appears again. Surely there will be another famous ISAO that crops up at some point, yes?
  • 10D [Language in which most words rhyme] PIG LATIN – This is ootray!
  • 12D [Round bakery snack] MOON CAKE – I think this is some of the junk food you see at the gas station near the Hostess and Little Debbie snacks. I don’t care for these; I am not a fan of marshmallow, and these have marshmallow filling, I think. I am willing to do some research here …
  • 32D [“We’re done here”] “THAT’S THAT!”– Great casual phrase!
  • 35D [Excessive negativity, in modern lingo] HATERADE – Best entry in a grid full of great entries.
  • 41D [“Ain’t no choice for me”] “I GOTTA!” – Similar to 37A, this looks like a weird partial, but it is also something you hear all the time.

That is all for now! I think the NPL convention extravaganza puzzle is later today, so hopefully I can stay up that late!

Lars G. Doubleday’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 07/03/2021

I messed this puzzle up during my solve. Lots of issues here, and I think I learned a new word or two! If I remember correctly, this is the pseudonym for Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson. Someone correct me if I am wrong! This has lots of trademark misdirection and clues that purposely make you think the tense is wrong. But in the end, as usual, all is fair! It seems as if sometimes these puzzles are slightly harder on long weekends; this may or may not be the case here! A solid 4.5 stars from me.

A few notes:

  • 1A [Toast for tots] ZWIEBACK – These are disgusting, but when you’re 18 months old, what difference does it make!
  • 15A [Anthem turning 50 next year] I AM WOMAN – Yes, I was trying to figure out what country would be 50 in 2022. Totally fooled!
  • 20A [Hymns of gratitude] TEDEUMS – I learned a new word here! I’ll make sure it’s in my word list, although I will be hesitant to use it!
  • 29A [Name that means ”bear cub”] ORSON – I actually got this one by thinking about it! I think I will pat myself on the back!
  • 30A [Related precisely] WELL TOLD – I had WELL SAID. Both work, but this entry is the less common one.
  • 34A [Got into in a hurry] THREW ON – This is the one that seems like the tense is wrong. They don’t use this phrase in this way in Indiana!
  • 51A [UPS concerns] WTS. – This is probably the biggest reach. True but a reach.
  • 10D [Retro golf pants] PLUS FOURS – KNICKERS didn’t fit! They are quite similar, I think, if not the same thing.
  • 26D & 41D [”Marriage of Figaro” piece] ARIETTA & MINUET – Both difficult and vague, but I see what they did here!
  • 35D [Hole maker in furniture] WOODWORM – It makes sense now that I read it, but this gave me all kinds of fits!
  • 36D [Dozen+ British pounds] ONE STONE – Isn’t this unit of weight equal to 14 pounds, not 12ish?
  • 47D [”Daily Planet” logo] GLOBE – All that comic book reading pays off again! Got this immediately!

Everyone have a safe and healthy long weekend, if you’re fortunate enough to have Monday off!

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19 Responses to Saturday, July 3, 2021

  1. dhj says:

    Growing weary of Collins’s long treatises on his own puzzles, as seen on the Wordplay blog, especially the thinly veiled critiques of other crossword websites, which just come off as petulant. I get it, you think you’re brilliant. Others may respectfully disagree. That doesn’t mean they’re evil people.

    • pannonica says:

      Obviously, short-turnaround reviews—done on a volunteer basis—of crossword puzzles should be fully-realized narratives encompassing the full scope of their requisite artistry. They should be deeply reasoned treatises; the only reader responses they provoke should be holistic in nature.

      • Kameron says:

        I specifically named and cited XWI, pannonica.

        • pannonica says:

          Fair enough, but I perhaps inadvertently presumed the pop-tune divisiveness had to do with events here.

          I will cop to muddling the various criticisms, and that’s on me.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I absolutely didn’t feel attacked by your words at Wordplay, and in fact appreciated the dive into your process.

          I was critical of the “867-5309” puzzle owing to the underlying problematic lyrics—the pop songs that ruled the airwaves in the 1980s, like every other era, are rife with objectification of women, and sometimes it’s just dismaying to be reminded of that.

          I don’t recall (or didn’t see) where XWI painted a puzzle/entry as “divisive.” But what’s more divisive than folks who want to never be challenged with content from beyond their personal experience?

          • Kameron says:

            Re you both: That makes sense! And is a worthy conversation about that song, 100%— I was responding to the sentiment (written elsewhere) that the tune being from the 80s was the point of divisiveness. (The quote: “ Some puzzles are geared toward the young and hip, so one could argue that there should be some for the rotary dial crowd. I’d prefer to have puzzles that aren’t so divisive.”)

            It definitely felt weird given that a person who *wrote* the puzzle is presumably of the age that’d supposedly feel alienated; and I’m also younger than the song by a bit. I’d much rather have the conversation it sounds like was being explored here than one that makes all these weird assumptions about people.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              None of that even makes sense to me! I started doing crosswords as a kid in the ’70s, absorbed all the pop culture in the ’80s (and it wasn’t reflected much in crosswords), started really hardcore doing lots of crosswords in the early 2000s, my day job requires knowing contemporary pop culture, and sometimes I listen to rap. So … I can handle the silent film stars of a century ago and also Lil Durk.

              The majority of the fill and clue in puzzles that alienate *some* older solvers is actually time-neutral or old, isn’t it? Just a smattering of newer names and such? I don’t see how that’s “divisive.”

    • Kameron never said the people who run those other websites are evil, so you can forget about that straw man. He took strong objection to their arguments and explained what was wrong about them, like how it’s bad to describe a puzzle with a theme on “867-5309/Jenny” as “divisive,” and why you shouldn’t assume that what’s a tough answer for you makes it a bad answer for all solvers. All fair game, in my opinion.

  2. Dave says:

    [Cause to recall] really had me scratching my head, even with E. COLI in place. Hard to get a foothold on this one, but once the longer entries started falling, the rest came quickly.

  3. R Cook says:

    NYT: The MARIST, FISACOURT, EPPIE crossings were brutal. I didn’t know any of those names and had to just fill in viable letters until something worked. Uncommon proper names are fine until they all intersect.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I can see your argument about EPPIE and (maybe) MARIST (after all, it’s a New York newspaper and a Saturday NYT puzzle), but FISA COURT has had a great deal of news headline attention over the years and was particularly prominent during the last presidential administration’s term.

    • JohnH says:

      I, eventually and with crossings, pulled those out of distant memories. My trouble spot was rather the NW with Gilbert, one of Verdi’s least known operas, and REVET. BEACH HUT wasn’t idiomatic to me, and I wish SOG had been in either of the dictionaries I normally check.

  4. marciem says:

    Derek; re: newsday

    20a: It’s actually Te Deums for the praises. (know this from church programs that always had the Te Deum listed after passing the collection plate).

    34a: You never “THREW ON some (got into in a hurry) sweats” when someone was at the door and you were nekkid? How do they say it in Indiana? :) .

    Tough (for me) but enjoyable solve for this one today. I struggled most in the SW, starting with “run low” or “run out” at 53a, and downhill from there for a while

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ … I guess I’m not very well-versed in French phrases, because I’ve never heard of CHERCHEZ LA FEMME. Coming up with that first C from the crossing RACER proved to be my downfall because I left it plank at the very beginning of my solve and completely forgot to go back to fill it in before hitting the submit button. I hate when that happens! (And that type of thing seems to happen to me disproportionately in WSJ puzzles.)

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    @Derek re LAT … You may be thinking of Moon Pies and not MOONCAKEs. Mooncakes are a Chinese delicacy.

  7. Greg says:

    NYT. Particularly challenging NW, but eventually fell after a walkaway. An invigorating struggle!

  8. Pete Berardi says:

    11D. Melody for Monteverdi
    Answer. TEMA

    Can’t find a single reference to that anywhere.

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