Saturday, July 31, 2021

LAT 5:24 (Derek) 


Newsday 9:04 (Derek) 


NYT 4:21 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today tk (Nina) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Brian Thomas & Brooke Husic’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 31 21, no. 0731

What the…? Why did this feel like a Friday puzzle rather than a Saturday? I even spent the first 5 or 10 seconds of the solve time looking to see if this had Brooke’s customary diagonal symmetry or the NYT’s standard rotational (it’s the latter).

Fave fill: AZTEC, “WHAT A TRIP!”, HARDASS (which I filled in off the H but assumed I would have to change—delighted it was actually the answer!!), “LOVED IT,” GESUNDHEIT, “TOP THAT!”, and the great RAPINOE.

Did not know these two things:

  • 6d. [Cold War-era group that included Louis Armstrong], JAZZ AMBASSADORS. I thought it was weird to describe a jazz band as a Cold War group, but that is literally what’s going on here! The U.S. asked its best jazz musicians to travel the world as cultural ambassadors, despite Jim Crow laws meaning that these same musicians weren’t treated as full citizens in their own country.
  • 25d. “Creature From the Black Lagoon” co-star], JULIE ADAMS. I know some folks who have been binge-watching Murder, She Wrote—on which Ms. Adams had a recurring role!

The crossings were smooth enough that I filled in that 15 and that 10 without a struggle.

Five more things:

  • I’m OK with STAYS AT, but LAP AT bugs me because it seems to pop up too often. LAP AT and NIP AT are both overused in grids.
  • 34d. [Ice cream shop posting], FLAVORS. Fun clue! Anyone got a lead on decent sugar-free frozen desserts?
  • 28a. [Where “Home” might be found], MENU PAGE. I’m not sure what this means. Are there websites with “menu pages”? Is this about food menus, or software command menus?
  • 40a. [Relatives of cornets], CLARIONS. Wait. A clarion call means an actual blast from a horn?? I need to look this up. OK, it was a medieval/Renaissance thing.
  • 14d. [It’s a blessing], GESUNDHEIT. This really is the best thing to say in response to a sneeze. It’s the German word for health. “Bless you” feels theologically weird (uh, what exactly is assumed to happen when someone sneezes?) as well as wildly inapt when aimed at atheists.

Four stars from me. And yes, I did see the nudge in the 3d clue, [“Five stars from me”]!

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 07/31/2021

It is official: the “Stumper” is DEFINITELY easier! I got a Brad Wilber puzzle done in under 10 minutes! Brad’s editing for the Boswords puzzles make those quite the challenge, and this was not quite that hard. Perhaps just thorny enough at the beginning, but that is fine; we don’t want it TOO easy! Fun one today once the toehold was gained. This probably means next week will be a doozy! 4.7 stars from me.

A few notes:

  • 1A [Roped calf’s protest] BAWL – I thought this might be BLEAT, but that didn’t fit. Does a calf “bawl”?
  • 20A [Medieval book of fables] BESTIARY – I had the error here, and LEAR at 6D makes much more sense than the LEAL I had in there!
  • 37A [Quarters for sailors] BOATELS – A boat-hotel, I suppose. I don’t think I have ever seen one of these. Unless that is what a cruise ship technically is!
  • 47A [”Stay-put” contract stipulation] NO TRADE – Common in sports contracts, but I think they also exist in other venues. I could be wrong.
  • 51A [How stalactites form] OVERTIME – I had OVERHEAD, which is also correct! Just not in this puzzle!
  • 58A [Takes eight tiles in Scrabble, e.g.] ERRS – Because you only get 7! But I am sure this crowd already knows that!
  • 1D [Lifting impediment] BAD BACK – Who are YOU telling? Nearly 30 years of UPS and my back is shot to pieces!
  • 13D [W-2 addressees] EARNERS – This is one of those that is easy AFTER you get it. Made little sense before that!
  • 39D [Pious, from the Hebrew for ”piety”] HASIDIC – As I often say, there are many Amish around where we live; not many Hasidic Jewish people. But this is a great clue.
  • 49D [Creator of Angela’s ”Groove Back” Stella] TERRY – I read this book many years ago and I think I saw the movie, too. I am getting old …

We will stop there. Off to do more puzzles!

Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 07/31/2021

Had fun with this one. Quick write-up today; we are out of town on a biking vacation! I have done a few Craig Stowe puzzles in my days on this blog, so that may have helped wipe this one out fairly easily. I hope! Time was just a hair over 5 minutes. I’ll take it! 4.5 stars from me.

Some high points:

  • 1A [Entertainment genre with a French name of uncertain origin] VAUDEVILLE – Interesting clue!
  • 20A [Johnny Cash’s “At Folsom Prison” was recorded in one] STATE PEN – Isn’t this redundant?
  • 28A [Emmy-winning journalist O’Donnell] NORAH – I have been watching more of the CBS evening news since it is on right before Wheel of Fortune, but all network news is unbearable to watch.
  • 37A [Longtime Italian coffee brand] LAVAZZA – My bike is a Trek, and the Trek pro bike team is also sponsored by Segafredo, which is ANOTHER Italian coffee brand. I’ll bet they’re both fantastic. One of these days I am going to Rome …..
  • 63A [“You betcha!”] “YES INDEEDY!” – Wonderful casual phrase!
  • 4D [“The Pit and the Pendulum” setting] DUNGEON – I haven’t read this in ages. I should dig out some of his old stories and re-read them. Off to fine my online library app …
  • 47D [Meryl’s “Mary Poppins Returns” role] TOPSY – I this the new movie with Emily Blunt that I have never seen?

Everyone have a safe and healthy week!

Billy Bratton’s Universal crossword, “Particle Emissions”— Jim Q’s write-up

This appears to be a debut for Billy Bratton! Congratulations!

THEME: The word BETA gradually goes away at the beginning of common phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “Particle Emissions” · Billy Bratton​ · Say, 7.31.21


  • (revealer) BETA DECAY. 

Excellent grid today. Lots of enjoyable fill, to the point that I really didn’t see (or care about) what the theme was. I missed the clue for BETA DECAY entirely, and wasn’t expecting a revealer in that position so had to hunt around once I’d finished the solve.  No harm done.


  • TENOR SAX– nice nod to Sonny Rollins in the clue!
  • B POSITIVE– never heard of the TV Show. What’s it about? Ah- looks like something to do with a kidney transplant.
  • Feel like it’s been a while since I’ve seen TAYE Diggs! Welcome back!
  • LAYETTE is new for me. I guess I’m not up on baby outfits. Need to go to more showers I suppose.
  • Just saw the clue for TP-ED [Rolled up?]. The clue makes up for the crosswordy entry.

4 stars today! Again, super impressive open grid with lots of interesting fill.

Alan DerKazarian’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Beam Us Down, Scotty” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 7/31/21 • “Beam Us Down, Scotty” • DerKazarian • solution • 20210731

I like the visual setup of this one. It has to do with the Star Trek technology of transporter beams.

  • 39dR [“Star Trek” device sending the six circled characters from the 43-Across to an 85-Across] TRANSPORTER. The crew members (I would have eschewed the ambiguous term ‘characters’—as we are dealing with letters and orthography here) are relocated from the orbiting ENTERPRISE (43a) to the surface of an ALIEN PLANET (85a) below.
  • 56d. [With 60-Down, what the 39-Down is sending the characters through] the interstitial OUTER | SPACE. (The ambiguity of ‘characters’ works perfectly here.)

Anyway, we’ve got six crew members from the original series whose first parts appear in the upper section of the grid … and conclude in bottom section, in the same column. And this is where the conceit breaks down a bit. The technology (which itself is philosophically problematic—more on this later) is meant to transport people and things wholesale by disaggregating and reintegrating their very molecules. So it’s jarring to see them split in two, all disjunct. On the other hand, I concede that there’s no good way to visually represent the process, so this is probably as good if not better than any other.

  • Pavel CHEKOV is divided between APACHE and KOVACS (didn’t I just invoke him yesterday?). (1d, 87d)
  • Leonard MCCOY from TMC and COY. (27d, 90d)
  • James KIRK via ENOKI and RKO. (7d, 112d)
  • Nyota UHURA through DUH and URALS. (11d, 102d)
  • Hikaru SULU by LSU and LUC (as in [Captain Jean-__ Picard] —this ‘bonus’ is distracting). (31d, 94d)
  • Vanderbilt SPOCK from THE ASP and OCKHAM. (17d, 97d)

Visually these six more-or-less evenly spaced columns evoke the visual style of the transporter room. Another plus.

Now, I happened to swipe that image from an ars technica article about the philosophical conundrum I alluded to above. Convenient, because I wasn’t sure which link I was going to provide to explain it, which I’d first encountered years ago in some book or other. As I’m already writing this post on the late side, I haven’t read the article, but a it seems extensive and I’m confident it covers the bases adequately.

No time to write about the rest of the fill, which was, ermm, solid?

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24 Responses to Saturday, July 31, 2021

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: Found this easier than Friday’s puzzle, but maybe that’s just a question of “wheel house.”

    Like Amy, I thought MENU PAGE seemed off – I wanted MENU bar.

    Would “Bless you” actually bother an atheist? I’m not aware that I know anyone who’s an atheist, so I can’t ask them. It seems to me that “bless” has enough usages that are non-theological – “The boss blessed my proposal,” “He’s blessed with the gift of gab” – that it wouldn’t be an issue.

    Cool to learn about JAZZ AMBASSADORS.

    • Mr. Grumpy says:

      File menu, Edit menu, etc. — yes. Menu Page? No.

    • Eric S says:

      I’m an atheist. It doesn’t bother *me* if someone says “bless you” when I sneeze, and I am probably more likely to say “bless you” than “gesundheit” because that’s what I grew up hearing.

      I guess I don’t see the phrase as invoking the intervention of any deity.

    • JohnH says:

      MENU PAGE was my last to fall, and I didn’t care for it either. Didn’t help that I didn’t know JULIE ADAMS and wavered on the tunnel’s location, which could easily have been Toronto or Korea from _OR.

      Otherwise, though, an intriguing puzzle with interesting fill. I learned a few things. Maybe I’m just too geeky, but MOD for yielding the remainder did feel funny to me as well. It’s true that, say, 10 (mod 8) is the remainder on dividing by 8, so 2, but ordinarily one doesn’t speak of mod as an operation or the operation. We just speak of modular arithmetic.

    • JohnH says:

      FWIW, “bless you” doesn’t bother me at all. It’s not just that its literal meaning is moot for so many speakers, although that’s true. (Come to think of it, I never thought to ask what “Gesundheit” means either. I grew up hearing both.)

      Part is that I think we can easily overdo cleansing the language, period, as a priority over serious arguments and action. I think we can get too PC, too, I have to admit, although I also think we have to respect the feelings of those hurt by language.

      But think, too, about the case of a speaker who really does mean “bless you” literally. That person then believes in a god and is asking that god to look on me with favor. It speaks of genuine concern. I’d have to be both truly horrified by any and all believers, plus insensitive to the speaker’s feelings, not to be simply grateful. If that person also happens to pray for me at a house of worship, I wouldn’t know about it, but I’m not in a huff at the very thought. I wish that person well, too.

  2. Mr. Grumpy says:

    WSJ: Very cute. Maybe a bit too easy, but, as Gary R noted above, “wheel house.”

  3. Newsday: I thought 51-A, “How stalactites form,” was esp. clever. The clue invites you (or me) to start thinking about stalactites and stalagmites and trying to remember which are which, and the difference makes no difference to the answer.

  4. Dave says:

    Superb NYT offering, my only demerit was against NEW ERAS which seems a made up phrase to me.

    • Lester says:

      If you see a stack of official baseball caps, you’re probably looking at New Eras.

      • Eric S says:

        I wonder if NEW ERAS was originally clued that way. I remember now having seen the cap company in the NYT puzzle sometime in the last year. I’d never heard of it before then.

  5. Me says:

    NYT: I found this pretty hard, although I got it done in the end. I think that part of the issue for me was that I usually rely on the short answers to get toeholds, but so many of the short answers were clued in such a way that the clue might as well have been, “This is a word” as far as I was concerned, so I spent a lot of time getting nowhere. TIM/ONO/PRU/AVIS/MOD/APO were all dead ends for me.

    In addition, a lot of the long entries were two-word phrases where I could figure out one word but not the other, so I wasn’t getting toeholds. I had ___SIZES, ___PAGE, JAZZ___, JULIE___, NEW___ at different points before I figured out the missing word.

    None of the above is a reflection on the quality of the puzzle, which was a great puzzle that I finished in only a bit longer than my usual Saturday range after I took a quick “mind reset” break. And it is, after all, a Saturday puzzle, which should be challenging. But it was definitely more of a Saturday than a Friday for me.

  6. Steve Price says:

    “Devil Among The Tailors” is also an Irish fiddle tune:

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT: The clue for ZZ TOP, “trio with notable beards”, is wrong. Only two of the three members of ZZ TOP had “notable” beards, Dusty Hill (who, I just found out while looking up his name, died the other day … RIP) and Billy Gibbons had iconic beards. Ironically, Frank Beard (typically) did not.

    • Alan says:

      The clue’s not really wrong. “Trio” refers to the band as a whole not necessarily the three band members and the band is certainly noted for its beards.

    • marciem says:

      or, read differently … “3 notable beards” … two with notable facial hair and one notable person named Beard…. ? kinda cute clue when read that way. :) Would have been even better if his last name were, oh, say… Goatee, or something, so that the Beard didn’t require a capital B.

  8. stephen manion says:

    W was quite easy for me; E was harder. Watched RAPINOE last night in a very exciting game. Whatever you think about overtime penalty kicks, I can’t think of many more compelling must-watch moments in sports.


  9. Brenda Rose says:

    I was told the myth that when you sneezed your heart stopped ergo Bless You (go to heaven.)
    Just looked it up…good old plagues…the 590 AD Bubonic plague led Pope Gregory I to recommend saying bless you when someone sneezed because the plague killed so many people & it was a way to root for their health. So now that the Delta Variant is upon us I don’t care what language you use if & when I sneeze. It’s a nice thought.

  10. just stopping by says:

    LAT: I thought this had some really weird entries. Maybe Britishisms?

    What is KER-flooey?
    Does anyone say ANTENATAL care instead of “prenatal”?
    What is the meaning of the clue “Fair color?” for AZURE?

    • just stopping by says:

      Oh is “Fair color?” referring to the color of the sky in fair weather? Maybe that’s it.

  11. DJRC says:

    WSJ: never saw “bootie” spelled “bootee” before…

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