Saturday, August 7, 2021

LAT 7:34 (Derek) 


Newsday 20:00 (Derek) 


NYT 5:48 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (DNF) (Jim Q) 


USA Today 4:52 (Nina) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Adam Aaronson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 7 21, no. 0807

This puzzle is a’ight, as they say. The three longest Acrosses each contain two IGHT’s, stagger-stepped in the grid, and five of their crossings contain IGHT as well. It looks neat.

Fave fill: “I’LL PASS,” EIGHTY-EIGHT piano keys, “NIGHTY-NIGHT,” HEINEKEN, ANYHOO, EINSTEIN, “IT’S ALRIGHT” (I know alright enrages some of you but I have a soft spot for it), the AUGHTS (2000-2009), Chrissy TEIGEN, and SAT TIGHT.

Less so: ERES,  STENO.

Five more things:

  • 32a. [Grand total?], EIGHTY-EIGHT. As in a grand piano’s keys. Tricksy!
  • 52a. [Spot for some piercings], AREOLA. Is this the first time the NYT crossword has clued this word as the nipple part?
  • 16d. [Investment banker Samuel], SACHS. As in Goldman Sachs, I presume? Yes, in the 1800s.
  • 38d. [Passage that connects stories], SKYWAY. I don’t get the clue. I think the typical skyway connects the two buildings at the same level. Why are we calling the connected floors “stories”? Just because the clue is trying to make us think of fiction writing?
  • 45d. [They’re ahead of their time], EVES. Feels iffy to me. The eves of holidays are “ahead of their time”? I mean, New Year’s Eve is New Year’s Eve.

3.9 stars from me.

Brian E. Paquin’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 08/07/1969

It’s been a brutal week for me, and that showed a bit on this puzzle. It was even worse on the Newsday puzzle. I was actually tripped up on the 11-letter stacks in the middle! Most of the puzzle was only fairly thorny, but I sat and stared for far too long at this section. Did I mention it’s been a brutal week for me? Still a good puzzle, Brian! 4.4 stars.

A few notes, including those central stack entries:

  • 30A [One-time renown] FORMER GLORY – This is not that hard, but it only became clear with several crossing letters.
  • 34A [Some street performers] MIME ARTISTS – Also easy, and provokes several mental images!
  • 35A [Causes of color blindness] MUTANT GENES – I am not color blind, so I cannot relate to what people experience here. I shall consider myself fortunate; I think this afflicts more people than we think!
  • 43A [Top 10 Carole King song of 1974] JAZZMAN – You’ve heard this before! (See below!)
  • 46A [Onetime Texas home of both Bushes] ODESSA – I believe you!
  • 7D [“Keystone” klutzes] KOPS – I haven’t seen clips of these in years, but they are kinda funny. They are synonymous even today with ineptness!
  • 29D [Home buyer’s concern] LOT SIZE – I, too, and concerned with this: I want a SMALL lot! Less grass to mow!
  • 35D [How teens often act up] MOODILY – This seems a little mean lumping all teens in like this, but we’ve all been there, and it probably is more true than we would hope it would be!
  • 43D [Kyoto’s country] JAPAN – This is too easy! Especially since we’ve all been watching the Olympics for two weeks!
  • 47D [Ice cream treat] SODA – Not what you would think of first, which makes it a tad tough. Nice clue!

I’ll stop there! Here is that promised song:

Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 08/07/2021

It’s been a brutal week. My brain is not working! Having said that, this puzzle was a BEAR. Yes, I am solving in Across Lite again on my Mac, and yes, you can see many error marks in the solve. I am working on a deadline, here! As always, the puzzle seems to look a lot easier once it is completed! Not sure why … ! I am not too familiar with Steve Mossberg’s puzzles, and I am not sure that I remember him having a puzzle appearing in the “Stumper”. Great puzzle today. Maybe not being on quite the same wavelength just yet as Steve is part of the issue; I will have to head to his site and do more of his! 4.8 stars from me today for a true Stumper!

A few notes:

  • 14A [Cry to a captain] “CHOOSE ME!” – It is NOT a nautical reference, but a sports reference! Great clue.
  • 16A [Sub for speed, say] PINCH RUN – This is a baseball reference, which I didn’t understand as I was solving. Another gem!
  • 27A [’70s fad on wheels] ROLLER DISCO – I had the ROLLER part, but this is going WAAAY back. Fantastic!
  • 36A [Buffalo Bill, as a baby] IOWAN – Another example of wonderful misdirection. At least to me! I was thinking there was some other name that he had. (Also, didn’t know he was from Iowa!)
  • 60A [Fruity, bubbly brand] ORANGINA – I had ORANGADE in at first, but I don’t think that is how you spell it!
  • 9D [Called it a day, in a way] HEADED IN – For this one I had TURNED IN. All of them are making me sleepy!
  • 10D [One of 11 in ”Macbeth”] ARIA – This is an opera? If you say so … !
  • 20D [Non-restrictive tests] OPEN MRI’S – Look at that string of consonants in this answer! VERY well done!
  • 49D [It’s assigned to oxygen] EIGHT – This is the atomic number of oxygen. Tricky!
  • 57D [Notation after ”A fool’s paradise”] ANON – Is this a famous phrase? I don’t get this clue.

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend! This pandemic is still not over yet!

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano & Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Animal Rescue” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 8/7/21 • Sat • “Animal Rescue” • Henestroza Anguiano, Trudeau • solution • 20210807

Not sure how I feel about the theme. Let me list them after the revealer and see if that gives me a better point of view for context.

  • 115aR [Companions that may provide assistance in six scenarios described in this puzzle] SERVICE PETS. Aren’t they generally called “service animals”?
  • 23a. [115-Across that help you find your concert seat?] DUCKS IN A ROW.
  • 32a. [115-Across that help your baby fall asleep?[ CATS IN THE CRADLE. The real phrase is cat’s in the cradle.
  • 48a. [115-Across that help you stay warm at night?] PIGS IN A BLANKET.
  • 64a. [115-Across that help you pour water on sauna rocks?] GORILLAS IN THE MIST.
  • 87a. [115-Across that help you measure inseams?] ANTS IN THE PANTS. (versus ‘your’ and ‘one’s’)
  • 99a. [115-Across that help you ascend a steeple?] BATS IN THE BELFRY.

Hmm, musing… Still not buying into it fully. Too contrived, too weird.

  • Last crossing for me was 88-down and 91-across. The former is [What the S of ‘sohcahtoa” stands for] SINE, and the latter is [Tiny amount] DRIB. Could just as easily have been DRAB, which would have made SANE for the component of the mystery portmanteau. I’m going to see what that’s all about right now:
    Sine = Opposite ÷ Hypotenuse
    Cosine = Adjacent ÷ Hypotenuse
    Tangent = Opposite ÷ Adjacent
    So it is indeed trigonometry. I remain not thrilled by that crossing.
  • 89d [Treat designed by actual rocket scientists] ASTRO POP. This I did not know. “Astro Pops® were first made in 1963 after two Rocket Scientists working on the space program in El Segundo, CA decided to quit their jobs at Rocketdyne and create the Astro Pop®, modeling the pop after a three-stage rocket. Being actual Rocket Scientists they custom-built special equipment including a high-speed cone-wrapping machine along with other equipment all made by hand. Astro Pops® are very unusual to manufacture because the cone-wrapper is the actual mold for the candy. The hot candy is poured directly into the wrapper, then a paper stick is added and capped off with a layer of wax to keep the stick in-place as the candy cools.” (source) Further, the original three-stage flavors were cherry, passionfruit, and pineapple. It’s kind of a sinister-looking item.
  • 94a [Spot with a landmark that’s inclined to impress] PISAVery contrived clue, but I like it anyway.
  • 119a [Youngsters who hardly give a hoot?] OWLETS. For no particular reason, I just want to mention again that there are a few species of small owls that are also called owlets. So I suppose their young would be owlet owlets.

Haven’t got much else to say about this one. I’m still left with a weird VIBE (41d [Vague sense]).


Julietta Gervase and Miranda Copps’ Universal crossword, “Lofty Language”— Jim Q’s write-up

I don’t recognize either of our constructors’ names today. Looks like it’s a debut for both! Big congratulations. And keeping in line with the theme today, you should be offered the highest praise.

THEME: Things that are high (with wordplay in the clue).

Universal crossword solution · “Lofty Language” · Julietta Gervase ​ · Miranda Copps​ · Sat, 8.7.21


  • 16A [High horse?] CLYDESDALE. 
  • 27A [High spirits?] TOP SHELF LIQUOR. 
  • 45A [High rollers?] ELEVATED TRAINS. 
  • 61A [High maintenance?] ROOF REPAIR. 

Excellent theme here! I like how the clues consistently have nothing to do with their, rather literal, interpretation in the entries.

I must admit, I gave up on looking for the typo in my grid. I searched for much longer than it took me to actually fill in the grid and did not catch my mistake in the TAMAGOTCHI / CANE crossing. It was very easy to convince myself that a CONE was some sort of [Hollow stem], and my version of the spelling of T[O]MAGOTCHI fad I had all but forgotten about seemed quite viable. So, a rare Universal DNF for me I suppose.

Fill seemed pretty standard. Nothing stuck out as particularly flashy or ICKY either. Not a fan of degrees in puzzles because I can never get them straight and they all are similar in their abbreviations. But M.D. PHD was inferable.

Not sure if ON THE RADIO and ROOF REPAIR strike me as in-language-stand-alone phrases. Although, I cringe every time it rains hard. I have a slow drip right above my piano that is now always covered in towels. Better call ROOF REPAIR now.

3.5 stars.

Hoang-Kim Vu’s USA Today puzzle, “I Before E” –– Nina’s Writeup

USA Today puzzle, 8/7/2021

I admire the USA Today puzzles because of their simplicity––when done right, their themes tend to be approachable for new solvers. Today’s theme fits right into this box. The title, “I Before E,” tells you exactly what you’re going to see: four theme answers where the first word begins with “I” and the second word begins with “E.”

16a. [Lacking the right tools] is ILL EQUIPPED.

27a. [Basically] is IN ESSENCE.

43a. [Actor in “Beasts of No Nation”] is IDRIS ELBA. I might have chosen a different Elba role for the clue––perhaps Heimdall from the Avengers franchise––but I still got this pretty easily from the crossings.

55a. [Too-large sense of self-importance] is an INFLATED EGO.

No wordplay or misdirects in these clues, but nothing really in common besides the I/E theme. I would have liked to see more rigid criteria to tighten this theme set: the “I” words and the “E” words could have all been the same length, or they could have all been people, for example. In the absence of this, I especially would have liked to see the theme carry over throughout the entire puzzle––AKA, no E’s before I’s anywhere. Vu came quite close to accomplishing this, but unfortunately 66a. MERIT and 31d. EERIE leave the puzzle just shy of this feat. Altogether, not a bad theme. It’s consistent and logical, and (with a little bit of refinement) could be quite fun.

The cluing today was straightforward, with a primary focus on solvability. Some answers that popped out to me:

19a. [Dessert often topped with hot fudge] evokes childhood memories with SUNDAE.

30a. Though we might be a bit past graduation season, [Feature on a graduation cap] was a nice way to clue TASSEL.

32a. [Draw intersecting lines through] –– I’m not too sure about this one. I can mayyybe let EX OUT slide, but X OUT seems like a weird jumble of abbreviation.

52a. [People who represent talent] –– Funny to see AGENTS, clued in the Hollywood sense, right above INFLATED EGO. Coincidence or intentionally tongue-in-cheek? Either way, I liked it.

60a. [, for example] –– It’s a URL, of course, but I (like most solvers, I imagine) had never heard of the website in question. I googled it, and it turns out it’s a service that provides salary information in the hopes of reducing the gender pay gap. This is cluing done right: enabling the solver to learn something new without sacrificing solvability. Well done.

45d. [Salted part of a margarita glass] –– RIM. Another evocative, specific clue for a short, three-letter word.

52d. [Hairstyle protected by the CROWN act] –– Fantastic clue for AFRO. The CROWN act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” is a Californian law passed in 2019 that prohibits discrimination based on hair style and texture. With the growing media coverage of double standards surrounding natural hairstyles such as locs, braids, and AFROS, I hope this is the first of many laws of its type.

Fun puzzle.

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23 Responses to Saturday, August 7, 2021

  1. Me says:

    NYT: I’m not a fan of ALRIGHT, but if it’s going to be in the puzzle, I think it would be better to label it a variant in the clue rather than informal. I think that would be more accurate in terms of current usage and thinking on ALRIGHT vs all right. I know others will disagree.

    The issue could have been sidestepped entirely by cluing it as the name of a Pet Shop Boys single.

    • David L says:

      This is the relevant M-W usage note:

      “Although the spelling alright is nearly as old as all right, some critics have insisted alright is all wrong. Nevertheless it has its defenders and its users, who perhaps have been influenced by analogy with altogether and already. It is less frequent than all right but remains common especially in informal writing. It is quite common in fictional dialogue and is sometimes found in more formal writing.”

      I honestly don’t understand the objections to ‘alright.’ It’s a common part of everyday language, sanctioned by long usage.

    • Bryan says:

      NYT: I used to be a stickler about “alright” being… well… not alright — until I realized that “almighty” (a perfectly fine word that nobody quibbles about) is “all mighty.” So, I figured, what’s the difference? I suspect that eventually “all right” will seem quaint.

      As for the puzzle itself, it was more than alright. It was great, albeit very tough to get a foothold in. I went through all the acrosses with hardly anything filled in. Then some of the downs came to me, and I enjoyed seeing all the “ight”s emerging all over the place. Well done, Adam!

    • milo says:

      Suppose I’m showing my age here, but I genuinely didn’t realize “alright” was perceived as informal or non-standard. The “informally” in the clue tripped me up, actually, since I thought I was looking for something more slangy.

    • JohnH says:

      Unlike others here, I have no interest in defending ALRIGHT as correct usage. I just don’t see anything wrong with the clue. If there really is a difference between variant and informal, in fact, I’d say that variant is the less judgmental, like any old choice of spelling, while informal points to the casual, nonstandard.

  2. Jan O says:

    I haven’t done it yet, but I just printed out the Newsday puzzle and noticed that it is called “Saturday Stumper” again. It could be an error, but perhaps they’re bringing it back. I checked, and over the last several weeks they were still “Themeless Saturday” puzzles.

    • marciem says:

      For me, at least, and it looks like Derek too, this lived up to the ‘Stumper’ name… it was very tough for me. Lots of good stuff, misdirection and just hard things. I wanted “open book” for that nonrestrictive test, had no idea about roller-discos, took many crossings to get foothold on the discos. Macbeth and aria…?? Who’da thunk?. Just the way I like them :) .

      If this is going back to the real Saturday Stumpers, I’m all for it!

    • Stan Newman said in a e-mail to readers in January that he was going to be able to bring back the Stumper as an occasional feature.

      Let me ask, since I’m now among people who know much more about crosswords than I do: is there a word for solving a puzzle via one clue, where every other answer then comes by way of a cross with a previous answer? That’s what happened with this Stumper for me: everything went back to 26-D, “Language of Sri Lanka.”

      • steve says:


        had me scratching my head, and i watch a lot of baseball, hahaha

        loved the stumper

        • marciem says:

          I’d never heard it either but have heard of pinch hitter. Wikipedia says pinch runner is a thing :) .

  3. MattF says:

    When I got to the ‘Site for some piercings’ clue, my first thought was AREOLA, but immediately thought ‘Nope’. So, a small surprise. Good puzzle.

    • Michael says:

      I don’t have any piercings, so I’m hardly the authority on the subject. But, aren’t you supposed to pierce the nipple and not the areola?

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ: imho, pannonica was much too kind to this puzzle. What an uninteresting and, at times, annoying slog!

    Full disclosure: I’m irked because I was Naticked by the ANTI/PALPATINE cross, for which I had ‘AcT I’/’PALPATIcE’. Since I’ve only seen the original “Star Wars” trilogy (and that was 38 to 44 years ago!), I only directly know this PALPATINE character as “The Emperor”. I may have stumbled across that name from time to time over the years, but I sure wasn’t going to come up with it without a lot of help.

    • M483 says:

      WSJ: Yes, this puzzle had some messy crossings that were quite unfair. I hated the one mentioned above. Two of the crossings were lucky guesses for me.
      Then there was the drib /drab – sine/ sane crossing mentioned in the review. I got that one wrong.
      I thought quality puzzles prided themselves on fair crossings. These were very low on the fairness continuum and not just on the common knowledge level. Drib or drab is in the category of “no amount of knowledge will give the solver that middle letter” so it is totally dependent on the crossing.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Ah, but you’d have to be bonkers to clue DRAB as the bizarre singular half of “dribs and drabs.” If the answer is DRAB, it’s almost certainly going to be clued as the dull, colorless adjective. (Note: Singular DRIB is not good fill. It’s a “well, that will make this section work” entry.)

        • marciem says:

          That’s logical yes, but we’ve seen worse. If singular drib is ok, so is its counterpart drab imo….
          The crossing desert Namib was a mystery to me, so I was trying for dram for the small amount, since Namim made as much sense to me as the correct answer.
          The trigonometric clue was very arcanely specific to non-trig people (like me :) ).
          Just a really unfair area, again IMO.

          • M483 says:

            Usually I hear that desert referred to as the Namibian desert. I had to think for awhile to fit into a 5 letter word.

      • JohnH says:

        I had no idea of the ANTI/PALPATINE crossing, too, and like the review didn’t ever get comfortable. (Besides, one always says bats in one’s or his or her or something like that belfry, not the.)

        I did eventually get DRIB, once I had enough letters to guess that SINE might somehow be right, and then I managed to attribute meaning to the initialism. I’d never seen it before, and it sure doesn’t look like a memory aid. In fact, it looks harder to memorize than the rules. But my final letter to fall was instead the B, since “drip” seemed possible and I didn’t recognize the geographic feature.

  5. dh says:

    Got a little chuckle out of “Service Pets”, imagining boarding an airplane and telling the TSA, “This is my service ant”.

  6. marciem says:

    WSJ: The ADA is very clear that Service Animals are NOT pets.

    Also, as of 2011, they say that only dogs are considered Service Animals. However, their website is somewhat confusing, because after saying that, they go on later to say that sometimes Miniature Horses are allowed as service animals. But their definition of a Service Animal only says Dogs.

    And with all that, I thought the theme was cute, maybe without the revealer.

    I was ticked off at the sine/drib crossing (unfair), and had a hard time with that Star Wars answer. Enjoyed the info about AstroPops which I used to love. Didn’t know they were made by rocket scientists, nor that the wrapper was the mold for the pop.

  7. Steve says:

    I’m a huge fan of bad puns (the more groan worthy the better) so I loved the WSJ grid until I solved the revealer (which I always save for last). Service Pets Googles poorly (Service Animals is much more common) and half of them are a stretch (at best) as pets. My Natick occured at the crossing of TOSH and SEALE. Naticks are tough to judge as fair/unfair at times, but when one of the words is a nonsense word crosses need to be fair.
    Still a fun solve for me despite these nits.

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