Saturday, September 4, 2021

LAT 5:54 (Derek) 


Newsday 13:42 (Derek) 


NYT 6:16 (Amy) 


Universal 3:16 (Jim Q) 


USA Today 4:14 (Nina) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 4 21, no. 0904

This 66-worder is pitched right to a good Saturday difficulty level, a bit harder than most. It’s got some really nice stuff in it, and some sort of iffy stuff. First up, my fave fill:

COME QUICK!”, the OVER-UNDER (which I still don’t fully understand but I command you not to explain it in the comments), PARSIMONY, the TV business’s TENTPOLING (similar to what movie studios do), LISTLESS (it’s a whole vibe), “SAME TO YOU!”, and Freud’s ON NARCISSISM.

Not fully sold on “I DON’T ASK” as crossword fill, and UN MEMBERSHIP feels a little off balance, though I love the clue, 6d. [Access to a country club, in brief?].

Eight more things:

  • 25a. [Annual celebration during which sweeping is taboo], TET. Learned something new!
  • Geography! I knew (or got quickly) ACCRA, TONGA, HIALEAH. Surprised that MT. ETNA was the answer to 24a. [The Greek philosopher Empedocles leapt into its flames, in legend]. Did not know 33a. [Iranian port near the Iraq border], ABADAN. Filled in an I at the start because the African city of Ibadan is in my head. If you knew Abadan already, tell me how.
  • Did not know: 23d. [Mostly online writing genre], ALT-LIT. What’s this about? I haven’t seen the term but I wonder if it applies to the writings of a FB friend of mine.
  • 47d. [Marengo, for Napoleon], STEED. Marengo! I knew this because eons ago, Byron and I were toying with a cooking theme, with MARE MARENGO as a horse recipe (dark, I know!) because chicken Marengo is a thing. I’m blanking on what else we had besides YAK YAKITORI.
  • 18a. [Just under way, so to speak], YOUNG. “The night is young,” for example. We all wanted something like GOING after filling in that NG, didn’t we? Tough clue, just right for a Saturday. See also: 36a. [In the works], BREWING. There’s your -ing word for that thing you’re starting that’s in the works, just getting underway.
  • 48a. [Someone who has it all], MONOPOLIST. You can’t have it all, people. Unless you are already a billionaire, in which case you’ve got way more than your fair share.
  • 11d. [“Parasite” co-star ___ Woo-shik], CHOI. If you haven’t seen Parasite yet, I hope you’ll find a way to see it. So good! (Perhaps the next time you see CHOI in a crossword, it’ll be actor Kenneth of 9-1-1.
  • 36d. [Ancient siege weapon for launching stones], BALLISTA. I’ll assume you can buy one on Amazon.

Four stars from me.

Saswat Mishra’s Universal crossword, “SOS”— Jim Q’s write-up

Looks like a debut for Saswat Mishra today. Congrats!

THEME: Three-word phrases that have SOS initialism.

Universal crossword solution · “SOS” · Saswat Mishra· Sat, 9.4.21



Over-the-plate puzzle today. Filled very cleanly and enjoyable to solve.

Not a helluva lot to say about it. The themers are mostly solid, if familiar. In this type of puzzle, I would desperately try to avoid the vague pronoun ONE’S as a featured theme answer, but no real harm done.

New for me:

  • [Capital of Dominica] ROSEAU. Also falls into the category of places I couldn’t find on a map… oh wow… it’s worth the google. Beautiful!
  • I’m super awful with song titles/lyrics, so SPEED OF SOUND was new for me as clued, but of course now that I YouTube that song I’ve heard it plenty. Also extremely inferable as clued.

Looking forward to more from Saswat Mishra!

3.3 stars.

Kyle Dolan’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 09/04/2021

My friend Kyle has this holiday weekend challenge puzzle. This one was super smooth, and some of these entries literally made me chuckle out loud. I’ll try to mention those in the comments. I have a theory that these Saturday puzzles are either slightly easier because it is a holiday weekend, or slightly harder because you may or may not have more time. I still cannot tell! I would think most people would have LESS time, since they are likely out and about doing stuff. Anxious to hear what others think! But I enjoyed this puzzle, which is usually the case with a Kyle Dolan puzzle! 4.6 stars from me.

A few comments:

  • 16A [It’s 60 in the current Congress] AVERAGE AGE – Are they really all THAT old? Some may construe this as an issue, furthering the “out-of-touch” perception of legislators. This entry may bolster that argument!
  • 35A [It calculates using qubits] QUANTUM COMPUTER – I think this is something that I don’t fully understand …
  • 3D [Biannual political event] SENATE RACE – They are every two years, but only for a third of the senate seats. Nice tie-in (kind of!) to 16-Across.
  • 7D [“The Periodic Table” author Primo __] LEVI – This is a collection of short stories, and all of them are named after elements. Looks interesting …
  • 8D [Climbed without ropes or harness] FREE-SOLOED – You will never catch me doing this. I don’t need those kinds of “thrills” in my life!
  • 10D [Lakota tribe] OGLALA – Slightly tough here. I have heard of this tribe, but I needed a few crossing letters.
  • 27D [Close to getting through] “ALMOST DONE” – We can look at this like a casual phrase!
  • 29D [45-Down seller] PATISSERIE – 45-Down is TORTE, and this is all making me hungry.
  • 30D [Kool & the Gang hit with the repeated line, “Get down with the genie”] “OPEN SESAME” – How do I not know this Kool & the Gang song?
  • 37D [Facebook attention-getters] POKES – These are annoying! I don’t post much on social media, and you surely won’t get a “poke” from me anytime soon!

There is no Labor Intensive this year: bummer! But there is a Panda Magazine out today around noon my time. Enjoy some Kool & the Gang from the 1970’s!

Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 09/04/2021

So Anna Stiga’s puzzles (“Stan Again” anagram, so this is Stan!) are usually easier, and that was true for most of this puzzle. I got super-stuck in the SE corner, though! I had the other 3/4 of the puzzle done rather quickly, but I stared at this area for what seemed like an eternity. There area a couple of tough wrinkles in there, but once I got an anchor entry in that corner, then it finally fell. Using Black Ink software today, that doesn’t show all my mistakes, so let’s just say there weren’t any! (Honestly, this was a fairly clean solve!) A solid 4.6 stars from me.

A few notes:

  • 14A [Cagers with a dino mascot] TORONTO RAPTORS – This was the first thing I filled in. A gimme!
  • 16A [Lingual clue for Sly’s surname] ITALIAN STALLION – I haven’t heard this name in so long I almost forgot it! Old Sly is in his mid-70s now; I doubt he is “stallion-like” anymore!
  • 63A [Leading the way, in a way] STARTING A TREND – This was the anchor entry that I needed to finish the puzzle. Great entry.
  • 64A [Titular adventure of a ’68 film] A SPACE ODYSSEY – This is the one where, upon solving, I may have uttered a “Doh!” like Homer. It’s easy once you solve it! This is also a movie that I have never seen. Perhaps this weekend!
  • 1D [Really bad] STINKO – STINKY didn’t work!
  • 23D [Pink elephants, perhaps] TOPIARY – How are these pink? I thought a topiary was like a sculptured hedge? Perhaps I should look at a dictionary …
  • 38D [Prone to pallor, 1 Across, etc.] VAMPIRIC – 1-Across is SHAPE-SHIFTING, so what a great tie-in! I suppose when they supposedly turn into a bat that is what is happening!
  • 45D [Remains, most assuredly] WON’T GO – I tried DON’T GO before I got the tense correct!
  • 49D [Emulating 51 Down, above the neck] BEARDY – 51-Down is SANTA, so this makes sense. But notice the next one …
  • 62D [49 follower] ERS – I thought this tied in to 49-Down, but we are talking about the 49ers, like the football team. I was totally fooled by this!

Everyone have a safe and healthy holiday weekend!

Matthew Sewell’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Labor Pains” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 9/4/21 • Fri • Sewell • “Labor Pains” • solution • 20210904

Is it May Day? No, it’s nigh on Labor Day, but it’s the same sentiment. Punnishing takes on phrases, couching them as calls for workers in certain industries to strike. Pains, indeed.

  • 27a. [Strike! Sandwich makers, ___!] STOP THE PRESSES. Presumably panini providers.
  • 43a. [Strike! Thespians, ___!] QUIT THE SCENE.
  • 67a. [Strike! Dispensary workers, ___!] CUT THE GRASS. I guess this is CUT (off the supply of) …
  • 94a. [Strike! Elevator operators, ___!] HOLD THE FLOOR.
  • 112a. [Strike! Game wardens, ___!] CLOSE THE BLINDS.
  • 15d. [Strike! Carpenters, ___!] DROP THE HAMMER.
  • 55d. [Strike! Blackjack dealers, ___!] CLEAR THE DECKS.

Some of these seem only marginally coherent, but I guess the theme works well enough. Not thrilled here, though.

Not part of the theme: 61a [Less likely to work] FAULTIER. 64a [Just-appointed manager who’s eager to shake things up] NEW BROOM.

  • 4d [Garden pest?] SERPENT. Hm, as in pestering Eve to partake of the fabled apple? Otherwise I don’t see how it works.
  • 5d/79d [Easy gait] TROT, LOPE.
  • 11d [Cheddar] DO-RE-MI. Slangapalooza!
  • 14d [Joins, as a feature] ACTS IN. Counterpoint to 43-across,
  • 16d [Title character of whom it’s said “Vex not his ghost”] LEAR.
  • 26d [Overly excite] HOP UP. I feel as if this is much more commonly encountered as an adjectival HOPPED UP.
  • 52d [Approving exclamation, in texts] RAWR! Seems equally distributed—visually, at least—among dinosaurs and cats.
  • 87d [“Cheap Imitation” composer] JOHN CAGE, full name in grid.
  • 98d [God with a broken tusk] GANESH. I had never noticed that particular of his iconography, and it turns out to be significant. Quite what it represents I’m unclear about, but it is discussed on the Wikipedia page and no doubt in greater detail by other references.
  • 113d [Prospect Park plantings] ELMS. One in particular is famed.
  • 114d [Gimlet or screwdriver] TOOL. Ancillary to 15-down,
  • Favorite clue: 19a [Item made to measure] RULER.
  • 32a [Core parts] ABS. Been seeing a lot of this type of clue lately, referencing ‘core’.
  • 33a [The H in WFH] HOME. Have not yet fully internalized the ‘work from home’ initialism. Also not part of the theme.
  • 126a [Word from the Dutch for “salad”] SLAW. Makes sense.
  • 127a [Strike zone boundary] KNEES. Also-also not part of the theme.

Erik Agard’s USA Today puzzle, “Turn the Wigs Around” — Nina’s writeup

Easy, breezy puzzle from Erik Agard today.

The theme is based off a Dreamgirls reference—one that I admittedly did not get—featured in the puzzle’s title “Turn the Wigs Around.” The theme answers all contain a backwards “WIG” (“GIW”), making 19a. HOW WRON(G I W)AS, 35a. NGŨ(GĨ W)A THIONG’O and 55a. BULGO(GI W)RAPS. Pretty consistently executed—I liked that the backwards WIG was hidden across multiple words each time. I do think that the theme could have leaned a bit more into the “turning” angle by finding words where a turned around WIG would change its meaning, but the letter combinations would have made that tricky. Since Saturday is the easiest day of the week for USA Today, I understand the inclination toward simplicity.

Familiar fill for me today, and very standardly clued to boot. I noticed a lot of opposite type clues today, (i.e. 12a. [Doesn’t interest] and 39d. [Doesn’t stay]) which was a bit of a disappointment only because they weren’t particularly interesting. I really liked 46d. [Shelters made with pukaangajuq] for IGLOOS, since it was a specific clue I hadn’t seen before. 21d. [Geico lizard] was a nice, fun clue for GECKO. Beyond that, nothing particularly exciting fill-wise. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing when the fill is, well, fillable in a grid, which this certainly was. Virtually no glue makes for a frictionless solve, and this puzzle accomplishes that.

That being said, the puzzle really was just meh. The theme was fine, the fill was fine, and the clues were fine, which altogether creates the perfect environment a boring solve. There’s nothing really specific I can point to, but it’s the absence of a wow factor that hurts the puzzle.

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13 Responses to Saturday, September 4, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Tough for the likes of me. But when I looked it over after the fact, it seems very good, with a few exceptions. I think the cluing was a big part of the toughness (as we expect on Saturdays), but also if you don’t know a lot of the places, haven’t hear of TENT POLING, etc.. it adds up. But, I learned stuff, so it was good.
    ABADAN in Arabic means “Ever”… I can still hear my mother’s voice when I was a child and she was warning me about something– “don’t do this, ever! –Abadan, Abadan!! “

    • JohnH says:

      Wow, that was hard, especially the north and most especially the NW. I was slow indeed to find TENTPOLING as a reasonable combination of words at all. I also didn’t know MERCH, OVER UNDER, the shape of a cricket field, or 90 Day Fiance. I had “allow” and then “own to” before COP TOO. I was slow to think of PARSIMONY, sadly, and slower still to think of a “mental’ association (presumably sparing of words in prose, a definitely asset). And yes, the clue for UN MEMBERSHIP does feel a little strange, although it’s also funny in a good way, and I DON”T ASK is a bit odd, too, as Amy says. I had “I won’t ask” for a long time (and wanted just plain “don’t ask”).

      I never thought I’d finish this one. Maybe my only real qualm, though, is that I’d like ASYLA better if either MW11C or RHUD listed it as a legit plural.

  2. ktd says:

    Thanks Derek!

    Additional constructor notes on today’s LAT themeless are available at the LAT Crossword Corner blog:

  3. In the Newsday puzzle: “pink” is a verb.

    I want to point out what I think is extra-clever about SHAPESHIFTING and VAMPIRIC. The answer to 1-A is a gerund. If you read the clue for 38-D as describing creatures prone to x and y, prone to a couple of things, SHAPESHIFTING remains a gerund (a noun). But if you read the clue for 38-D as describing separate traits — they’re prone to pallor, they’re 1-Across, then SHAPESHIFTING turns into a participle. If I’m overthinking it, I don’t mind, because doing so adds value to 1-A.

    • David L says:

      I agree ‘pink’ is intended as a verb, but then the clue doesn’t work because TOPIARY is a noun.

      • Seth says:

        Yeah, it doesn’t make sense for pink to be a verb. So what’s the deal with that clue? Anyone know?

        • On second thought, “pink” could refer to pinks, the flowers. So elephants made of flowers. (An image search will turn up at least one.) That might stretch the meaning of “topiary” if the word is limited to trees and shrubs. But there are references online to topiary flower arrangements.

          • Garymac says:

            Pink elephants are what might be seen by one who has had a little too much to drink – a toper. A little play on words to get from toper to topiary.

  4. pannonica says:

    Newsday: Would have appreciated a var. qualifier for 33a PEKINESE.

  5. Seth says:

    Saturday Stumper: how does “With you and me” mean HERE? I mean I guess it makes a little sense: “She’s with you and me.” “She’s here.” But boy is that imprecise, even for the hardest puzzle of the week.

    • RichardZ says:

      Also on the subject of the Stumper, 48D (ARLENE) and its clue (“Name related to Charles”) had me mystified. There is an actress named Arlene Charles, but she seems somewhat obscure, even by Stumper standards, so I’m thinking there must be another explanation.

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