Saturday, August 28, 2021

LAT 4:49 (Derek) 


Newsday 18:59 (Derek) 


NYT 7:52 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 5:38 (Nina) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Julian Lim’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 28 21, no. 0828

The crossword blogger’s motto: “LET’S DO THIS THING.” Here we go.

Fave fill: ROUGH IDEA (hey, that’s supervocalic—includes each vowel just once), ALAN ALDA, SI FOR KIDS (that’s Sports Illustrated Jr., basically), SOLO HOMER, DARK HUMOR, REMBRANDT, AFTER PARTY, THE SHARD, an avian THRASHER, “GIVE IT TIME.”

Not so keen on the movie Bridge of Spies getting three clues here—ALAN ALDA, CIA, and KGB. Overkill!

Could not get a good foothold in the NW corner. Trying OTHER for 19a. [Column on a survey] (instead of YESES) took a toll. And I wanted the [Divine instrument?] to be some sort of HARP rather than a single TAROT CARD. Plural RUTS for the singular 3d. [Pattern of monotony] also stymied me. And for 5d. [U.K.’s tallest building, named for its look], all I could think of was the Gherkin, which is one letter too short but more memorably nicknamed than THE SHARD. And we mustn’t overlook 1d. [Long shot, informally], which I was reading idiomatically rather than literally; a TREY or three-point shot in basketball is a shot from a longer distance than a two-point basket. Anyone else flail haplessly in that section but not so much in the rest of the puzzle?

Five more things:

  • 18a. [One might be down for a nap], DUVET. Ah, yes. Duvet season will be upon us soon. It will also be “hey, face masks are cozy” season soon.
  • 31a. [It abuts Santa Monica, for short], WEST L.A. Wasn’t really aware that was a thing. East L.A., sure. South Central, of course.
  • 42a. [Round trip for one?], SOLO HOMER. A round trip around the bases for a batter who hits a solo home run with the bases empty.
  • 47a. [“When restraint and ___ are added to strength, the latter becomes irresistible”: Gandhi], COURTESY. What would Gandhi make of Mitch McConnell’s tactics? Some people bulldoze over the courteous and restrained.
  • 21d. [It has daily openings, with “the”], DOW. Well, on weekdays, anyway. And the Dow-Jones Average isn’t doing the opening. The NYSE (etc.) is doing the opening, and the Dow is just a little math.

Four stars from me.

Erik Agard’s USA Today puzzle, “Upside Down” — Nina’s write up

USA Today puzzle 8/28/2021

Very fun one from USA Today! Aside from the slightly awkward 6a. MIAMIAN and the less-than-ideal double of 48a. USA USA (however fitting of the outlet it appears in), I enjoyed the relatively clean fill the puzzle had to offer. Though the grid was on the segmented side (with some unusual black square placements and shapes), it was clued fairly and constructed smoothly enough that I didn’t get stuck.

Our theme answers of the day consist of 4d. DINNER MENU, 17d. DESMOND TUTU, and 29d. DO I KNOW YOU. The theme unfolds subtly but nicely, consisting of three down answers starting with “D” and ending with “U,” respectively standing for “down” and “up.” In this sense, the “upside” of the answer (signified by the letter “U”) is oriented below the “downside.” In other words, the puzzle’s title, “Upside Down.” Neat! As a side note, I enjoyed that these answers all had the same number of syllables (four, not that I’m counting). Adds a bit of extra consistency.

Some fun and fresh answers today:

43a. [High schooler’s card] — As we rapidly approach back-to-school season, high school and college students alike will be scrambling to find their STUDENT IDs before a hefty replacement fine catches up to them. I’m starting the search for mine now.

56a. [Capital of Hawaii] — Considering how often I spot MAUI, OAHU, and even the occasional KAUAI in crosswords, it’s quite exciting to see the elusive HONOLULU used in a grid.

37d. [Name hidden in “assumed name”] — What a unique clue for EDNA! Mental gymnastics type clues like these sometimes bother me, but this one was a good take on a relatively familiar entry.

Erik Agard’s commitment toward diversifying the puzzle world has been unwavering for at least as long as I’ve been in it, so it came as no surprise that there were several noticeably inclusive clues today:

11d. [Opposite of 35-across] — 35a. was ARE, and its opposite is AIN’T. No fill-in-the-blanks, no qualifier on a dialect, just clued straight. It’s simple, but very effective and very refreshing.

17d. [17d. [Source of the quote “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”] — DESMOND TUTU—in a theme answer no less!—is a fantastic entry, one rounded off with a satisfying clue.

42d. [“The Autobiography of a Transgender Scientist” author Barres] for BEN. Adding this book to my to-read list!

Great solve.

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Two-Dimensional” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 8/28/21 • Larson • “Two-Dimensional” • Sat • solution • 20210828

Simply put, idiomatic phrases comprised by two adjectives joined by ‘and’ are reinterpreted more literally. Am not sure I fully understand the title in this context.

  • 22a. [Like a bourgeois blond] FAIR AND SQUARE.
  • 26a. [Like a game show’s lightning round?] HARD AND FAST.
  • 67a. [Like Hercules on a bender?] HIGH AND MIGHTY.
  • 104a. [Like some toddlers at nap time?] THREE AND OUT. The original phrase is a football term. Three downs without gaining 10 yards, and a subsequent punt.
  • 111a. [Like mountain goats] WILD AND WOOLLY.
  • 30a. [Like straightforward advice from a friend?] FREE AND CLEAR.
  • 39a. [Like a dieting simpleton?] THICK AND THIN.

Kind of a no-nonsense theme, and that’s ok with me. Or, like a sharp but foppish knife: fine and dandy? Oh well, I tried. Isn’t as easy as it looks!

  • 33d [Time to beware] IDES. Well, only for some, right?
  • 48d [Their days are numbered] CPAS. Favorite clue of the puzzle.
  • Pacific Sanddab, Citharichthys sordidus, Vancouver Island, Canada, Salish Sea.

    52d [Pacific flatfish] SANDDAB. While the Pacific SANDDAB (Citharichthys sordidus) is indeed the most common species, the genus contains species found in the Atlantic Ocean as well. Very glad S AND DAB was not a theme entry.

  • 116d [Wireless technology preceding 5G] LTE. After consulting Wikipedia I have just learned that LTE (Long Term Evolution) is basically specific to 4G technology.
  • 31a [Percy Jackson, for one] DEMIGOD. Something to do with a YA series, I believe.
  • 49a [Unreal] DREAMT. Had DREAMY here, which led to 44d [Realtor’s prep for a showing] as the nonsensical SYAGING. Upon completion of the grid, I had to go back to uncover this misfill.
  • 76a [Fence made of pointed sticks] PALING. New to me, but this puts the legends about Vlad the Impaler in a clearer light.

Write-up is essentially finished, but I need to add some padding to the copy so that the text continues below the PALING image (right) to ensure that there isn’t a large white space before I add a music video, which—as per usual—will essentially occupy the width of the content pane.

Jordan Hildebrandt’s Universal crossword, “In the Black”— Jim Q’s write-up

Something different today! We don’t see gimmicks like this very often in the Universal. I love it when they introduce solvers to wacky concepts.

THEME:  Words that can precede ALLEY are “hidden” in 4 different areas of black squares.


Best to see the solution grid here… the words that are “hiding” are:







This one was mostly enjoyable in a “oooh… something different is happening today” sense. And that semi-scintillating feeling held for the duration of the solve for me. But there’s a big “however” coming…

However, it wound up falling flat in my opinion. I really want to like it, but something felt off. One thing is that the letters in the white squares that make up the theme (mostly) aren’t stand-alone acceptable crossword words. For example, STO, IGS, LLS, IST, GNAAUD,  etc. I know it’s not really fair to compare, but Evan Birnholz frequently publishes similar gimmicks in the WaPo under his strict rule that the visible grid must always feature acceptable crossword words. A challenge for sure. But I think that if you’re going for a stunt like this, you probably shouldn’t settle for less. In the SE corner of the grid alone IVE and IVE both appear next to one another. Sure, it’s not technically a “dupe” (DIVE and GIVE), but that’s not what we see.

For my solve, I took the time to mentally spell out TINPAN and then said “types of alleys!” Didn’t try to figure out the others until post solve. TORNADO Alley and DIAGON Alley weren’t overly familiar to me (I’ll get to that Harry Potter series someday), but I sense I’m alone there, so I’ll chalk that up to my own ignorance. BLIND ALLEYS as a phrase isn’t too familiar to me either.

There’s one more “however” coming….

However, I usually try to solve and comment on Universal from a novice perspective. And if this were my first time coming across a theme like this, and I took the time to figure it out, I’d be in for a great aha moment… and I’d be hooked. I think the nudge in the initial instructions for each of the four starred series of clues was well-placed.

So my rather stodgy comments should be juxtaposed with some hefty praise for introducing this theme type in an accessible way.

Awesome clue for CHORDS. Reminds me of this.

Gonna forego a rating for this puzzle as it would vary so strongly from two different perspectives. Regardless, it was an intriguing solve.

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

LAT 08/28/2021

This one wasn’t too bad today. Solved in under 5 minutes! I still don’t know how those top solvers solve an entire Sunday puzzle in times like that! I simply cannot type that fast! But this was a smooth solve, and I have come to enjoy Craig’s puzzles quite a bit now. Nothing too obscure in this one, so hopefully you found it smooth sailing as well! 4.4 stars.

Some notes:

  • 1A [Dangerous Beijing blanket] SMOG – Is it still polluted there? I have never been!
  • 15A [Ephemeral emporium] POP-UP STORE – “Ephemeral” as in not long lasting. Clever!
  • 28A [Classical theaters] ODEA – This is probably one of the harder words in the puzzle; if you know your crosswordese, you should be fine!
  • 48A [Mackerel type] CHUB – I like smoked chub, but I haven’t had any of these in a while. I will have to go shoppine!
  • 1D [Washington’s features George] STATE SEAL – This is a weirdly phrased clue, but easy enough with a crossing or two!
  • 13D [__ Zhengfei, CEO/founder of smartphone giant Huawei] REN – A fresh clue! This is timely because I think these phones still cannot be sold here in the US!
  • 29D [Mr. Miyagi’s charge, with “The”] KARATE KID – This one was quite nostalgic
  • 42D [“Father of Eng. History”] ST. BEDE – Not the most well known of the Catholic saints, at least to me. But I am not Catholic!

Off to solve more puzzles!

Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 08/28/2021

I was so locked into solving, I didn’t realize that the title “Saturday Stumper” has been brought back! I think it has been this way for a couple of weeks, now. I think, at least for the last two or three, the difficulty level was slightly ramped up a bit. You should be able to see many correction marks in my Across Lite solve image! (I should solve more in other formats that DON’T show these errors!) Lots of toughies in this one, so those of you that enjoy pulling your hair out should be in hog heaven! I at least hope you enjoyed the puzzle, as it is a pretty good challenge. 4.5 stars from me.

A few observations:

  • 1A [Soft-soap sources] SYCOPHANTS – I kinda sorta understand this clue. It seems slightly vague, but I think that is all me
  • 15A [Where quinoa comes from] PERU – It does??
  • 25A [Comes to earth] GETS REAL – A perfect example of a word that you think should end in an S, but is not even close!
  • 45A [Collector of bogus messages] SPAM TRAP – I have never called the junk mail folder a “trap”. Is this new to anyone else?
  • 1D [ user, for short] SRTA. – So you have to know that Spain’s domain suffix is “es”. Then you have to know this is likely a dating site of some sort? I knew neither!
  • 11D [Veggie using just one vowel] BELL PEPPER – Very clever! And true …
  • 27D [Fad toys of the ’60s] TROLL DOLLS – Before my time!
  • 46D [”Melodic” brand of Austrian chocolates] MOZART – Never heard of them. Do they sell them here anywhere? Mind you, “here” for me is Indiana; they might easily be obtainable in New York City! You can’t get many things here that are quite popular. For instance, the nearest Acura dealership is 70 miles away!
  • 48D [Place that ONION might be a cryptogram for] MIAMI – Another clever clue! Easy if you do cryptograms!

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

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28 Responses to Saturday, August 28, 2021

  1. stephen manion says:

    I got QBABM today significantly faster than the crossword. I flailed throughout starting with TOM HANKS. Solo Homer was terrific.

    The 3-point shot is at its shortest in the corners where it is 22 feet. It arcs out to 23 feet 9. Steph Curry was recently spotted practicing from 35 feet and 30 footers are increasingly common. Some of you may have heard of a logo shot or logo trey. Every team has a logo that crosses half court. If a player shoots and makes a shot from a point where his feet are in the logo, it is a logo trey. That IS a long shot, the kind that used to win a big prize for some lucky customer.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: Found it really hard to get a foothold, and the NW was especially challenging. Like Amy, put OTHER, thought of RUT but didn’t believe it would work as a plural, and wanted a HARP as a divine instrument… I feel the clue is a little bit forced.
    And not having ever heard of SIKIDS was not helpful.
    LETS DO THIS THING was by far my favorite. Along with FAD DIETS, they helped me get going.

    • JohnH says:

      Agreed. A real challenge in every way, from finding a foothold to finding a new one in each and every segment. The NW was my last to fall, too, for reasons Amy articulates so well. I’m sorry so many rated the puzzle unacceptable, as I may not have enjoyed this one but still appreciate the challenge.

      I did have a do not finish that I don’t care for, in SI FOR KIDS crossing ASLAN. I haven’t read C. S. Lewis and thought of the old animal signs as fish or lamb of God. I should have known the rule that if Shortz calls something fiction or literature or whatever, he just means sci-fi.

  3. Pete Collins says:

    NYT: This Midwest boy knows WEST LA from Emmylou Harris’s “Two More Bottles of Wine.”

    I’m sixteen hundred miles from the people I know
    Been doin’ all I can but opportunity sure come slow
    Lord I’d be in the sun all day
    But I’m sweepin’ out a warehouse in west L.A.
    But it’s all right ’cause it’s midnight
    And I got two more bottles of wine

    • Eric S says:

      Well, it’s really Delbert McClinton’s “Two More Bottles of Wine” — but as she often does, Emmylou Harris slays that song.

  4. Jim G says:

    That’s the toughest Saturday NYT I can remember in quite a while, but it was a fair sort of tough. No obscure names or incredibly esoteric answers, and hardly anything in he way of crosswordese. A very satisfying puzzle IMO. Only quibble is that Monty Python and the Holy Grail seems like a better example for silly humor than DARK HUMOR. If you want an example of the latter involving a Terry Gilliam, try “Brazil.”

    And EROGENOUS zone in the Gray Lady? Ah may faint!

    • Eric S says:

      Yeah, “Brazil” (my second-favorite movie) is darker than “Holy Grail,” but witch-burning and “Bring out your dead!” aren’t exactly cheery.

      NYT used EROGENOUS in the puzzle about 20 years ago.

    • Ch says:

      Totally agree regarding Monty Python. Perhaps they are referring to the “bring out your dead” skit!

  5. David L says:

    It took me a long time to make any headway with the Stumper, but I got there eventually. As always, I spent a lot of time trying to fit words into the grid then come up with some dubious connection to the clue. If I DIGIN to my dinner, am I getting fixed for food? Is that the idea?

    And that John Muir quote: “The water in music the oar forsakes” – I am trying and failing to see what that means.

    • RichardZ says:

      I think DIG IN refers to digging a hole to fix something in place, like a fence post or a tree seedling. As for the Muir quote, I find it somewhat cryptic as well.

    • Pilgrim says:

      The John Muir quote is part of a longer passage in a letter:
      “‘The water in music the oar forsakes.’ The air in music the wing forsakes. All things move in music and write it. The mouse, lizard, and grasshopper sing together on the Turlock sands, sing with the morning stars.”

      The sentence is difficult to parse, but I believe it is the water doing the “forsaking” (i.e., “leaving”): The water makes music when it leaves the oar.

      Some think Muir was paraphrasing a line from an Emerson poem: “and the ripples in rhymes the oar forsake.” It’s easier to see the plural subject (“ripples”) for the verb “forsake” in the Emerson line.

  6. RichardZ says:

    Also wanted to add that I thought today’s Stumper had some clever clues, including those for SYCOPHANTS, GETS REAL, OSU, IRS, PHASER, TUNER, and STYLE MANUAL.

    I was a bit puzzled by the clue for TAKE A PENNY (“Checkout counter suggestion”). When I used to pay for small purchases in cash, I would occasionally be asked if I have a penny. But I’m probably missing something obvious.

    • David L says:

      In olden times, shops would sometimes have a dish of pennies on the counter with a sign that said ‘leave a penny, take a penny.’ That is, leave a penny or two behind if you didn’t want to keep the change, take a penny or two to make exact change for what you were buying.

    • Hector says:

      “Take a penny, leave a penny” was a common sign on small loose-change trays, the point of which was to eliminate the annoyance of carrying pennies with you. Dump the ones you get as change; grab a few to fill out your payment.

  7. R Cook says:

    Regarding SPAM TRAP, I think it’s a reference to a honeypot. This a mailbox that exists only to collect spam for analysis.

  8. Amy L says:

    NYT: I found this very difficult. I had to google a lot to find the answers, probably matching the constructor who must have googled to find those tricky clues. Who would think that Rodin admired Rembrandt so much? (Or did he praise him once and go back to talking about himself?) The only things I filled in on my first go-round were 65A Crystal GAYLE and 5D THE SHARD.

  9. Will says:

    Happy Trails Charlie Watts. Just a coincidence he was mentioned in WSJ 71A today?

  10. Henry A Petri says:

    The John Muir quote is part of a longer passage in a letter:
    “‘The water in music the oar forsakes.’ The air in music the wing forsakes. All things move in music and write it. The mouse, lizard, and grasshopper sing together on the Turlock sands, sing with the morning stars.”

    The sentence is tricky to parse, but I think it is the water doing the “forsaking” (i.e., “leaving”): The water makes music when it leaves the oar.

  11. Greg says:

    Agree with the consensus. One of the toughest Saturdays in a long time. But all that more satisfying when it finally fell into place.

  12. rock says:

    Saturday stumper…. I don’t get the Miami -onion connection, no I do not do cryptograms.


  13. Ch says:

    Yes, West LA is a thing, especially if you went to UCLA!

  14. Seth says:

    Wow the Stumper was hard. But oh so satisfying to finally get it! My first pass through the grid, I literally only got two unconnected 4-letter entries. Can’t believe it finally came together.

    What’s up with IRONED ON for “Transferred for sporting purposes?” Also, I know someone tried to explain DIG IN for “Get fixed” above, but in my opinion it’s an unfairly hard clue. If it refers to digging in heels, the clue should be “Fix.” When you did your heels in, you’re doing the action yourself. “Get fixed” implies that something else is doing the digging in, not you.

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