Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Jonesin' 3:57 (Derek) 


LAT 3:20 (Derek) 


NYT 4:18 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 9:54 (Emily) 


WSJ 5:04 (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 535), “Fly Away, Little One!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 535: “Fly Away, Little One!”

Good day, everyone! Just like that, we’re on the precipice of the best month of the year: September. Why? Well, that’s the month my birthday falls on, of course! That, and it’s time for me to cover the US Open tennis tournament, which I am doing for a seventh consecutive year as a member of the media. Yahoo! But, way more important that that, here is hoping you all have been doing well lately!

The bird flies the coop in today’s grid, with the first four theme entries being puns of common phrases and/or nouns that are created when removing the first letter of the phrase. The four letters removed, in order from top to bottom, are B-I-R-D, and that explains the reveal, BIRD SET FREE (58A: [2016 Sia song…and a hint to the puzzle theme]).

  • ORDER COLLIE (16A: [Sheepdog adopted by a group of nuns?]) – Border collie
  • VAN THE TERRIBLE (23A: [Tsar’s nickname for a vehicle that keeps breaking down?]) – Ivan the Terrible
  • ACES AGAINST TIME (36A: [Decorated pilots trying to beat the clock?]) – Races against time
  • UKE OF CAMBRIDGE (47A: [Stringed instrument made for Prince William?]) – Duke of Cambridge

There is a decent chance that the intersection of SOUSA (63A: [“The March King”]) and DURUM was a tough one to parse (51D: [Pasta-maker’s wheat]). Was familiar with the former so that made that area not so tricky and was able to trust that “durum” was what was needed.  We have a stack of nine-letter down entries in the corners, with the ones in the northeast, SNAIL MAIL (10D: [Postal worker’s bagful]) and SHAME ON ME, being really delightful fill (11D: [“I’m so embarrassed…”]). I remember hearing “snail mail” for the first time and being completely lost as to what the person was talking about. If I remember, someone wanted my “snail mail addy” and I was like WTF?!? Thank goodness for Urban Dictionary! Though I should have put this on the graph below, here’s a fun fact about former American League Rookie of the Year (1997) and six-time All-Star NOMAR Garciaparra, aka Mr. Mia Hamm (13A: [Former Red Sox slugger Garciaparra]): He was given the name “Nomar” by his father, Ramon, because that is his father’s name backwards. No kidding!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ABA (22D: [Lawyer’s org.]) – Anytime you watch an NBA game or an NBA showcase event, just think about how much the current game was influenced by some aspects of the league’s one-time rival, the American Basketball Association, or the ABA? The Slam Dunk contest? That started in the ABA? The three-point shot? Also an ABA creation. If you’ve heard of the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and/or Brooklyn Nets, know that all of those teams started in the ABA (the Brooklyn Nets were the New York Nets before they moved to New Jersey and then back into New York) before being absorbed in the ABA-NBA merger of 1976.

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Steph Brown & Matthew Stock’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Top Pair”—Jim P’s review

I’m not sure why a Christmas song-based theme is running in August, but here we are. The song in question is SILVER AND GOLD (54a, Seasonal Burl Ives song, and a hint to the circled letters]). Those circled letters that appear in each theme answer are the chemical symbols for the two metals.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Top Pair” · Steph Brown & Matthew Stock · Tue., 8.31.21

  • 20a. [Graduation distinction ] MAGNA CUM LAUDE.
  • 28a. [Red splatter on a shirt, perhaps] SPAGHETTI SAUCE.
  • 45a. [Their trucks play music in Japan and Taiwan] GARBAGE HAULERS. My first thought: “American garbage trucks don’t have radios inside the cab?” But I guess the clue is saying these trucks play music out loud, somewhat like an ice cream truck here in the States. I guess it reminds everyone in the neighborhood to hurry and set their garbage out. In America, ear-splitting screechy brakes serve the same purpose. (Hear a Japanese garbage truck in action here.)

Solid theme, even though I don’t know anyone who uses the phrase “garbage hauler” on a regular basis. And to be truthful, I thought the phrase referred to the truck, not the person.

JUNEBUGS and (The) DARK SIDE top the fill along with “IT’S A TIE!” and “ALAS, NO.” I don’t know about “I GIVE IN.” It seems to me that more people would settle for the more concise “I give.”

One clue of note: 8d. [“Everybody wins!”]. IT’S A TIE. Really? Most people would probably have the feeling that everybody loses in that situation. Except this one, one of the most heartwarming, feel-good stories of the recent Olympics.

Good theme and a clean grid. 3.75 stars. And congrats to Steph Brown on her debut puzzle!

Eric Bornstein’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 8 31 21, no. 0831

What a fun and fresh theme to chow down on! Familiar non-food phrases are clued as if they’re snack foods for a particular occupational demographic:

  • 18a. [Good snack for a pilot?], WING NUTS. As opposed to wingnuts who embrace foolish conspiracy theories.
  • 24a. [Good snack for a gangster?], TOUGH COOKIES. Sign me up!
  • 39a. [Good snack for a flea market dealer?], BARGAINING CHIPS.
  • 51a. [Good snack for an arsonist?], FIRE CRACKERS. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it?
  • 62a. [Good snack for an optometrist?], EYE CANDY.

Toughest cookie clue for me: 7d. [A cut above?], NEW DO. A cut above … your shoulders? A haircut that stands above your previous hairstyles and is thus a NEW DO? Not sure how this one is supposed to work.

Tough for Tuesday-solving newbies: ENO, LLANO, OEUF. LLANO gets plenty of use in the Spelling Bee puzzle, though!

Three more things:

  • 41d. [Delivery option]. C-SECTION. You thought it would be UBEREATS or some rival of UPS, didn’t you? I sure did.
  • 60a. [Fancy car maneuver that might leave skid marks], DONUT. As in driving in a tight circle at high speed. Good snack for the “is she a witch?” testers of the Salem era, DUNKIN DONUTS.
  • 35a. [Elizabeth Warren, by birth], OKIE. I like her. One wonders what differences we would see if she were president now instead of Biden. Or is the electorate still too sexist to elect a woman?

Four stars from me.

David Williams’ Universal crossword, “Going Through the Emotions”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Emotions can be found in common phrases reading downward.

Universal crossword solution · “Going Through the Emotions” · David Williams· Tue, 8.31.21


  • (revealer) SINKING FEELINGS. 

Fine work from the constructor, but this is a circle-dependent theme. Universal is unable at the present to include circles in its grids because… erm… they really, really like their current interface?

It may not matter much to people who frequent this site, but I’ve seen newer solvers first hand and on so many different occasions not understanding the directions (or forgetting them altogether as they focus on the parts of the puzzle that aren’t confusing) and completely miss the theme. Universal is such a good puzzle for hooking newer solvers, and their willingness to put blinders on and publish puzzles that are missing crucial (simple) features is mind-boggling.

The fact that they are publishing circles in an Across Lite version available solely from this website seems to be a direct acknowledgement that their widely published version is subpar.

Its very own webpage claims that the Universal “…sets the standard for all daily crosswords.” Are there any other crosswords clamoring to reach the standard of publishing two different versions of the same puzzle?

Solid work from David Williams. I wish it could be fully appreciated and accessible to all solvers the way it was to me.

3.5 stars with circles.

1 star without.

Claire Rimkus’s USA Today Crossword, “Bedspreads“ — Emily’s write-up

Overall a fun puzzle today! Lots of great fill, clues, and a unique grid.

Completed USA Today crossword for Tuesday August 31, 2021

USA Today, 08 31 2021, “Bedspreads“ by Claire Rimkus

Theme: The word “bed” is split up in today’s themers, as “BE…D” in the first and last, and as “B…ED” for the second and third. Or another way to describe it is that the word “bed” contains (wraps around) the themer.


  • 17a. [Closest pal], BESTFRIEND
  • 26a. [Reversed a previous decision], BACKTRACKED
  • 47a. [Installed cabinet locks, for example], BABYPROOFED
  • 61a. [In advance], BEEFOREHAND

The title is an excellent hint for the today’s theme. The clue for BESTFRIEND is spot on. I like the including of “closest” because I’ve recently seen “BFF” (aka “best friend”) clued as “pal” and that just doesn’t ring true for me. BACKTRACKED took me a few crossings. BABYPROOFED is great, though I’ve also put cabinet locks on because our sly cat has been known to open some cabinets too! BEFOREHAND came to me right away, which is always a treat. Overall the theme is delightful. Looking at it again now, each themer is two words and the second and third are past tense. Very nice!

Favorite fill: ICED, THAI, OWN, and SCRAM

Stumpers: AROUSE, SNAG (“take” was my initial reaction), LIMP, and STRAP (“pick” and “clamp” came to mind first)

I was ready for CORNY this week, though my first instinct was still “punny”.

After finishing this puzzle, I have a crazing for some Thai food and either a Thai iced tea (given the stacking!) or as clued an iced matcha latte. A local Japanese bakery makes the best, though I’m partial to a hot matcha latte myself.

4 stars


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “It’s Symbolic” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 08/31/2021

We have circles!

  • 16A [Underground illegal activity that may be busted by the Feds] MOB RACKET
  • 22A [Some negatively persuasive strategies] SCARE TACTICS 
  • 33A [Unrealistic comparisons for real-life couples (since problems don’t often get resolved in 30 minutes)] SITCOM MARRIAGES 
  • 45A [Turned up on the beach] WASHED ASHORE 
  • 55A [Searchlight used in Gotham City] BAT SIGNAL 

Each of the circles, as you can see, has a type of symbol that does appear on a standard keyboard. If there is some other significance, I am not seeing it. The bracket, comma and dash don’t appear over numbers, so I don’t think anything crazy is going on. If there is, please correct me! 4.4 stars for this one.

Just a few notes:

  • 42A [Former spelling of “Westworld” actress Newton’s name (she restored the W in 2021)] THANDIE – So I looked this up, and she evidently now spells it THANDIWE. I think it is still pronounced “tandy”?
  • 54A [Dwarves’ representative in the Fellowship of the Ring] GIMLI – I don’t know these movies/books hardly at all. Not my thing!
  • 59A [MC ___ (“Keep On, Keepin’ On” rapper)] LYTE – Ah, this is in my era, but it is likely the OPCRotW!
  • 61A [___ ipsa loquitur] RES – Wow. No idea what this stands for!
  • 25D [“Sesame Street” human character for 25 years] LUIS
  • 34D [Strident agreement] “OH YES I AM!” – Great casual phrase!
  • 36D [Optimistic “David Copperfield” character] MICAWBER – Know your Dickens!
  • 41D [“Okay to proceed?”] “SHALL I?” – Another great casual phrase!
  • 47D [Judge seated near Sofia] SIMON – I thought this was referring to the Supreme Court, at first, but this is referring to America’s Got Talent, I think! I am so simple …

That is all! Another Jonesin’ next week (even though that will be near a holiday!)

Kurt Krauss’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 08/31/2021

Did you figure out the theme before you got to the revealer at 62-Across? Yeah, me neither!

  • 17A [*It often runs through the center of town] MAIN STREET 
  • 39A [*Sleeveless shirt] TANK TOP 
  • 11D [*Monopoly property three squares before Go] PARK PLACE
  • 35D [*Bit of wishful thinking] PIPE DREAM 
  • 62A [Like oceanside resort property … and what the starts to the answers to starred clues can have?] WATERFRONT

Very nicely done. Water main, water tank, you get the idea. And timely, in a way, since I hope you have spent at least a portion of your summer on the water! With the unofficial “close” of summer looming this weekend, perhaps you can do so if you haven’t already! But at least make sure you spend some time this weekend doing puzzles! I believe there will be a new Panda Magazine on Saturday, as well as Mark Halpin’s Labor Intensive puzzle suite as well. I, for one, will be busy! 4.3 stars from me.

A few things:

  • 1A [Country singer McCann] LILA – I don’t know this singer, but I am not hip on much country. Or maybe I DO, I just don’t know the name!
  • 20A [Year at the Sorbonne] ANNÉE – This has a weird accent in it. Know basic French! Any alphabet that uses roman lettering will be fair game in a crossword!
  • 5D [Old-time baseball slugger called “Master Melvin”] OTT
  • 34D [Above, in Berlin] UBER – Nice to not reference the ride-sharing company for once!
  • 52D [“Are you in __?”] OR OUT – Nice casual phrase, sort of!
  • 58D [Platte River people] OTOS – This is about as crosswordese-y as this puzzle gets. And this isn’t terrible!

Everyone have a safe and healthy week!

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5 Responses to Tuesday, August 31, 2021

  1. jack says:

    LA Times- I have never seen a more ugly northwest corner. Ever.

  2. Bob says:

    NYT – very good Tuesday. Tight themes. Tuesday appropriate and entertaining.

  3. Gary R says:

    NYT: Liked the theme. All of the themers were very much in-the-language, and none, in their “native form” relate to food.

    I was on the right track from the start on 41-D, but wasted time trying to recall the correct spelling of Caesarean before convincing myself that it couldn’t fit.

    Not particularly a fan of the clue for NEW DO – trying a little too hard, I think.

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