Saturday, August 14, 2021

LAT 5:55 (Derek) 


Newsday 7:51 (Derek) 


NYT 5:48 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 5:39 (Nina) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Nam Jin Yoon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 14 21, no. 0814

Is … is this a mini-theme, the three entries with BASE in them? AIRBASES, FAN BASES, BASE TWO? It definitely slowed me down, unable to believe a word that noticeable would be here twice—and then a third one crossing the second? I am perplexed.

It is a pretty grid, though, sort of a plump S, lots of flow, lots of long entries intersecting others. Fave fill: “THIS IS AMERICA,” THE MORE YOU KNOW, MISOGYNY, FAN BASES (like the Beyhive; nice clue, [Star clusters?]), MIRACLE WORKER, “THAT HURT,” MILLENNIAL, T.S. ELIOT, BEST SHOT, MONEY TREES (they’re real! I know it), and CYNDI Lauper.

Five more things:

  • 22a. [What antifeminism is a direct expression of, per Andrea Dworkin], MISOGYNY. The math checks out.
  • 30d. [Word with block or chain], LETTER. Am I the only one who dropped in MENTAL here? I blame 1980s New Wave music. Howard Jones’s “New Song” had the lyrics, Don’t crack up / Bend your brain / See both sides / Throw off your mental chains. I feel like maybe “mental chains” isn’t that much “a thing” outside of this song.
  • 31a. [Its pods are poisonous to eat], TIDE. Man, I honestly thought we needed something botanical here.
  • 1d. [Game of checkers?], CHESS. As in “check,” the whole checkmate thing. Cute clue.
  • 27d. [Family member], GANGSTER. As in “Never go against the family.” Whereas 37a. [Close ones, informally], those are your actual family, SIBS if you’ve got them. Hey, your non-related besties can be your brothers, sisters, and non-gendered siblings, too.

3.5 from me. Would be a solid 4 save for the the the BASE thing.

Jamey Smith’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 08/14/2021

Smooth sailing today, and that is a good thing since we are out of town for a day or so. The lower left corner caused the most fits, otherwise I may have had this done in around 4 minutes. Not much time to write for long, but this was a good quick solve. I have solve a few Jamey Smith Saturday LAT puzzles at this point, so i think I have gotten a decent feel for his style. I still cannot believe that there was a time when there were NO bylines present on these types of puzzles! And I still cannot believe that in my hometown newspaper, the South Bend Tribune, that is STILL the case! Anyway, on to the comments since I am short on time. 4.5 stars for this one.

Those comments:

  • 17A [“On the contrary”] “FAR FROM IT” – Great casual phrase, and there are a few of them in this puzzle!
  • 27A [[Eyeroll]] “HERE WE GO AGAIN …” – See 17A!
  • 39A [__ Ideas Festival: annual Western resort conference] ASPEN – We were here years ago. Beautiful part of the country.
  • 59A [“Sorry, you can’t talk me out of this”] “NO, I INSIST!” – See 17A! The string of vowels in here made me think I had something wrong. (Which I did, but not there! see 29D.)
  • 3D [“Not a prayer”] “ZERO CHANCE” – See 17A!!
  • 24D [Some RPI grads] E.E.’S – I believe Tyler Hinman is a grad of here. I don’t think he is an “electrical engineer”. I think that is what this stands for. Or is he … ?
  • 25D [Ceres, for one] DWARF PLANET – Is it in the sky?? That is good enough for me. What does it orbit? If it orbits the sun, then it should be in the solar system. If it doesn’t, then it shouldn’t. These debates and classifications get tiresome to me.
  • 29D [Classic autumn treat] APPLE CRISP – I had APPLE CIDER in here, which caused some more of the issues in this corner.
  • 53D [Rabbit relative] PIKA – I’m sorry, a what? New word to me!
  • 56D [600 Home Run Club member] SOSA – Ah, and ex-Cub, just like all the ones they traded/released/cut in the last week! On the plus side, their payroll is now miniscule!

I will stop there! On to the rest of the weekend’s adventures!

Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, “Themeless Saturday” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 08/14/2021

I almost got a REALLY good time on this one. I had most of the puzzle filled in pretty quickly; the west central and ENE regions gave me the most fits. And yes, there was one error in the grid. I don’t think I know 28-Down, so I suppose I learned a new word! I think I have gotten the hang of Greg’s puzzles fairly well at this point! 4.6 stars.

A few notes:

  • 7A [Scrubbed-off stuff] CRUD – I thought this was a made-up word!
  • 17A [’70s kids’ educational animated-short series] SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK – A gimme. Grew up watching these, many of which are fantastic!
  • 21A [Punny lyric before ”It’s off to work I go”] “I OWE” – Sung to the tune of “Heigh Ho” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • 26A [Create, as a space with fencing] RAIL OFF – I don’t know fencing terms at all. But fun fact: several Olympic fencers, per our local paper, had direct ties to Notre Dame. Didn’t realize they were a fencing powerhouse!
  • 39A [Southeast Asian ethnic group] HMONG – Timely as Suni Lee, the US Olympic gold medal winning gymnast is of this descent, if I remember correctly.
  • 4D [Major leaguers’ road-game per diem] FOOD ALLOWANCE – I wonder how much these millionaires get as a food allowance?? The minor leaguers, like we saw in Indy on Friday, DO however need this stipend. I wonder how the structure of minor league baseball will change in the coming years, seeing as how even college players can start a YouTube channel and start cashing in.
  • 18D [Reason for sockless sleeping] HOT FEET – What a great entry!
  • 24D [Wildflower named for its boll-like cluster] COTTONSEDGE – This is all one word, I think. I had to look it up!
  • 28D [Uranium ore, from the Latin for ”violet”] IANTHINITE – I possibly should have know this started with an I from the Latin hint. Or maybe not; those Spelling Bee kids are better at this than I am!
  • 57D [Manicure outdoors] MOW – I mow my grass; I wouldn’t call what I do “manicuring”. More like just getting it done!

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Lee Sides” – pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 8/14/21 • Sat • “Lee Sides” • Shenk • solution • “font osize=1>20210814

LEE is homophonically suffixed to familiar phrases, spellings are adjusted as necessary, and wacky new phrases emerge.

  • 22a. [Tipperary singer?] IRISH STOOLIE (Irish stew).
  • 34a. [Grain grown en route to Ganymede?] SPACE BARLEY (space bar). Ganymede is Jupiter’s largest moon. 59a [Neptune’s largest moon] TRITON.
  • 48a. [Performance by a cabaret singer?] CLUB MEDLEY (Club Med®).
  • 68a. [Place to find a mask and pads?] ON THE GOALIE (on-the-go).
  • 84a. [Prepare Simon for a singing competition?] TRAIN CARLY (train car).
  • 99a. [Scottish magistrate who’s new on the job?] GREEN BAILIE (Green Bay). BAILIE, really? Talk about lees, or dregs! Mike must have been desperate to complete this theme to have resorted to that.
  • 116a. [Stunt by a cycling sovereign?] ROYAL WHEELIE (royal ‘we’). I found some videos of people performing wheelies on Royal Enfied motorcycles.

This strikes me as a treading-water type of theme. The sort of thing that is just not super-interesting but passes the time.

  • 1d [Scales] CLIMBS. I was definitely thinking noun and not verb here.
  • 4d [Grafton’s “__ for Evidence”] E IS. 5d [Very, in Wiesbaden] SEHR. Can’t have two German clues in a row!
  • 7d [Site of a break] POOL TABLE. 26a [Billiards cushion] RAIL. And in the same area, we could have had a trifecta with FELT, but it was clued alternatively: 9d [Derby material].
  • 23d [Overtime cause] TIE. 49d [Score at the start of a match] LOVE ALL.
  • 35d [Jaguar’s trunk] BOOT. Ya, that fooled me.
  • 60d [Just] RIGHT, 110d [Just] MERE.
  • 65d [Leek relative] CHIVE. Lee! Eek!
  • 90d [Stamping ground?] LETTER. Cute. By the way, I am firmly in the ‘stamping ground’ (vs ‘stomping’) camp. ‘Champing (vs ‘chomping’) at the bit’ too.
  • 24a [Vanessa of “Isadora,” “Julia” and “Agatha”] REDGRAVE. 54a [Franchise with “Miami,” “NY,” “Cyber” and “Vegas” versions] CSI.
  • Besides BAILIE, the biggest word-digs are 61a [New __ (former name of Salisbury, England] SARUM and the doubly archaic 92d [Days gone by, poetically] ELD. First runner-up: 78a [Lifeboat lowerers] DAVITS.
  • Okay, I was going to ignore the common duping, but when you have a 99d [Cluster] GROUP of four—FOUR!—it’s tough to leave it be. Thus, 72a [Get closer to] GAIN ON crossing both 73d [Most likely to win] ODDS-ON and 45d [String along[ LEAD ON, which is alongside 46d [Home improvement] ADD-ON. Come on.
  • 55d [Dreamlike, perhaps] SURREAL.

Again, I just wasn’t feeling this one.

Jess Shulman’s Universal crossword, “Absent Note”— Jim Q’s write-up

Looks like a debut for Jess Shulman! So drop her a line and say “congrats”!

THEME: LINE is. dropped from common phrases. Wackiness ensues.

Universal crossword solution · “Absent Note” · Jess Shulman · Sat, 8.14.21


  • 18A [*Manufacture mannequin toppers?] MAKE HEADS. Make headlines. 
  • 24A [*Split ends?] HAIR FRACTURES. Hairline fractures. 
  • 34A [*Anticipate a drink at a dance?] WAIT FOR THE PUNCH. Wait for the punchline. 
  • 50A [*External investor?] OUTSIDE BACKER. Outside linebacker. 
  • (revealer) DROP A LINE. 

I’ve accepted that I need glasses for reading off screens, but now it’s a matter of keeping them on hand. That is to say, couldn’t find ’em, and started the puzzle reading the title as Absent Now… so I kept trying to parse the base phrases adding the word NOW. The revealer was a nice aha, and redirected me to the correct title.

Some new stuff for me in the fill included:

  • ERICA clued vie PlayStation. No idea what the game is… oh. Looks like it’s just called “Erica.” Just realized it says that in the clue. Coulda saved the google.
  • RENO clued as real estate lingo. Very close to RELO, the more popular real-estate-lingo-crossword fill. Ah! Means “renovated.” Good to know!
  • SERIAL and OXFORD are the same number of letters. I immediately dropped in OXFORD as the “controversial comma type.” As far as I can tell, they are one and the same.

PENCE clued as [British coins]. You know you could’ve been a better veep when crossworld would prefer to clue you as foreign currency.

Nice work, Jess! Enjoyed it.

3.6 stars from me.

Brooke Husic’s USA Today puzzle, “So Be it” –– Nina’s writeup

USA Today puzzle 8/14/2021

Extremely smooth fill on this puzzle. Anything that gave me pause was due to a gap in my knowledge, not faults of the answers themselves––good to see such clean gridwork.

The theme, “So Be It,” refers to the first letter of each word in the theme set answers. With 19a. SOAP OPERA, 29a. SHOUT OUT, 34a. SEA OTTER, and 49a. SESAME OIL, the initials of each two word answer make S.O. The puzzle’s title quite literally informs you that “SO” will be the theme. I’ve noticed several letter-based themes in the USA Today puzzle recently, so while this doesn’t feel as fresh, it’s still clever.

9a. [Inspiration for some before/after pictures (Abbr.)] –– Nice to see HRT in the puzzle.

40a. [Poison ___] –– Missed opportunity to clue this as the DC Comics villain, Poison IVY! Would have been fun, especially considering Batwoman’s CAPE at 28a and Valkyrie’s SWORD at 6d.

3d. [Partywear made from bedsheets] –– Fun clue for TOGAS; easily gettable while remaining fresh.

9d. [Forecast you might check daily] –– Rather than the weather, your HOROSCOPE may very well be the most important variable to check before leaving the house.

31d. [Couscous flour] –– I mostly associate SEMOLINA with Italian pastas, but today I learned that it’s used for couscous as well. Nice bit of trivia!

44d. [Chopped potato dishes] –– The vowel combos here created the perfect storm for me to fill this as LATKES instead of HASHES. Apparently my brain is already in Hannukah mode.

46d. [Word after “lip” or “panty”] –– Quite cheeky to put “lip” right next to “panty” in this clue. Made me chuckle. I did initially read it as “pantry,” though, and I spent a little while wondering what a pantry LINER could possibly be.

Fun solve!

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14 Responses to Saturday, August 14, 2021

  1. stephen manion says:

    Another hard puzzle for me.

    Phil Simms was absolutely brilliant in the second half of the 1987 Super Bowl in which the Giants crushed the Broncos and he is a successful, personable analyst, but most of his career was decent not great and he is still not in the Hall of Fame. Legend seems not appropriate.

    • Bernie Haas says:

      Simms is definitely a “New York Giants legend”, if not an NFL legend, for leading his team to a Super Bowl victory – a championship in any pro sport is such an accomplishment. And he’s a member of the Giants Ring of Honor – sounds like a New York Giants legend to me.

  2. Me says:

    NYT: Like Amy, I’m confused by the whole BASE repetition today. I took FANBASES out once AIRBASES went in, because the repetition on a themeless Saturday seemed wrong.

    BASETWO and FANBASES even have a cross in the BASE part. There doesn’t seem to be any point to the BASE repetition, at least as far as I can tell. It feels like an unnecessary distraction.

    I liked how open the grid was. No isolated corners so lots of ways that crosses can help. I’m sure they are harder to construct, but I wish that more of the challenging puzzles were as open as this one is.

  3. Pilgrim says:

    Newsday: I think the clue for SMU should have been “It’s near the GWB Library.” The LBJ Library is on the UT-Austin campus. But then again, 200 miles might be “near” depending on what scale you are thinking about.

    • dh says:

      A Texan and an Australian were bragging about the size of their ranches. The Texan said, “I can drive all day in that direction and still not leave my property!” The Australian said, “Yeah, I had a truck like that once, too!”

      • Pilgrim says:

        You know what — “It’s near the LBJ Library” is a pretty nice, all-purpose clue for any number of Texas schools and/or landmarks (the ALAMO, the ASTRODOME, the COTTONBOWL), etc.

  4. Twangster says:

    I found the Stumper very challenging but managed to finish it. Thought IANTHINITE had to be wrong so that was a pleasant surprise.

    I’m pretty sure the fencing clue refers to actual fences, not the sport. I had SEALOFF for a while …

    … which made EURO for “Bit of neurology” seem correct; I thought it was our cryptic clue for the day.

Comments are closed.