Saturday, September 11, 2021

LAT 7:11 (Derek) 


Newsday 12:00 (Derek) 


NYT 8:32 (Amy) 


Universal 4:23 (Jim Q) 


USA Today 5:29 (Nina) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Sid Sivakumar’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 9 11 21, no. 0911

Oof, this puzzle kicked my butt! I’ll attribute it to not having much short fill with which to crack into each section, and having the longer entries’ clues feel impenetrable for too long.

Lots of great fill, though. On my “hell, yeah” list, we have GAUTAMA Buddha (raise your hand if you read Siddhartha in high school), a KEVLAR vest, DOES LUNCH, “NAH, I’M GOOD” (which some may grouse isn’t solid enough to be a crossword answer), TAX DODGES, Greta THUNBERG, SLOVAKIA with geo trivia I didn’t know (46a. [Home of the only world capital to border two other countries]—Bratislava borders Austria and Hungary), GRAB A SEAT, CAPE COD houses, SLUMDOG, ELIXIRS (I’m just so fond of that word—what beverage is your elixir of life?), HOG HEAVEN, DEAD NAME (I dig it that I can’t remember the dead names of the trans folks I’m acquainted with), and RAT PACK.

Coupla entries felt iffy to me. “AMUSE ME”? 31d. [“Tell a joke or something … I’m so bored”]? is this something people actually say? I also raised an eyebrow at “IT’S MAGIC” (14a. [Eyeroll-inducing response to “How did you do that?”]). And SHADERS looks like a roll-your-own word, though it has a highly specialized clue, 24d. [Computer programs used in 3-D animation]. (Furthermore, seeing ITSMAGIC in the grid prompted an earworm with a 1970s song. Sid, if you don’t know the song, I believe you’re obligated to listen to it.)

Sid likes the five-part grids with four wide-open corners spiraling around a bonkers wide-open center. It’s pretty but it might make me dizzy. I think it’s a 62-worder, and it’s impressively clean for such a hard-to-fill grid.

Four more things:

  • Two-fer clues are fun and we’ve got three pairs today. 5d. [Oktoberfest buy], LAGER and 38d. [Oktoberfest buys], STEINS—you know I wanted STEIN at 5d. Then there’s 12d. [Take a ___] RISK and 49a. [Take a ___] KNEE. And also 33d. [One who puts down a few chips?], SNACKER (my husband put away a few PopCorners chips, and then put the bag down … not sure that “put down” works for eating but it’s close enough), plus 40d. [Puts down a few chips, maybe], BETS.
  • 8a. [Lake ___, where the Chari River empties], CHAD. There is one famous river in North Africa and that’s the Nile. I was guessing the Chari flows in the Indian subcontinent and let the crossings show me the way.
  • 20a. [Old-fashioned endings?], DEES. As in the letter D at the end of both old and fashioned.
  • 7d. [Letter accompanying a personal statement, informally], REC. As in a letter of recommendation for a college or grad school application.

4.25 stars from me.

David Liben-Nowell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 09/11/2021

I am not too familiar with this byline, but I think I have seen it at least once before. Not too hard of a puzzle, but it is a fair bit of a challenge, especially compared to some other ones. I’ll mention a couple of them below, but this also has a lot of great entries. Here’s hoping for more puzzles like this from David! 4.7 stars from me.

A few notes:

  • 15A [Pride seekers’ lids] SAFARI HATS – One of many terrific clues here. The word pride has many facets these days, and that makes this tricky!
  • 18A [Texter’s approval] THUMBS UP EMOJI – I use this all the time! ??
  • 36A [Sometimes unattainable maxima] IDEALS – How about “usually” unattainable!
  • 46A [Metaphor for confidentiality popularized in a 1960s sitcom] CONE OF SILENCE – This is from Get Smart, I believe. Great piece of nostalgia here!
  • 1D [Legendary wildlife conservationist] NOAH – I was wondering who this was talking about at first! “Noah Webster?? Oh, wait … doh!”
  • 8D [High-waisted garb, stereotypically] MOM JEANS – See 34-Down!
  • 16D [Squares, e.g.] ISOGONS – This is terrible, but it’s the only toughie. At least in my opinion. But not great.
  • 31D [Charles of Watergate infamy] COLSON – This is also kind of tough, but it’s a prominent enough person. Perhaps a little dated at the very least; that was like 50 years ago!
  • 34D [Some corny humor] DAD JOKES – Is there a mini-theme here? We have MOM JEANS in a symmetrical spot in the grid! I wonder if these were the seed entries? Or if it just worked out that way!
  • 37D [Common jam ingredient?] MISFEED – As in a paper jam. Great misdirection!

I will stop there. I have other puzzles to do!

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

Newsday 09/11/2021

Another kinda tough one for me. Look at all those error marks! I will surely solve in Black Ink next week! This one “stumped” me pretty good, but that is OK! It wouldn’t be any fun otherwise! The difficulty has indeed ramped back up a tad, and that isa good thing. Nice puzzle, Matthew! I’ll do better on your next one! 4.6 stars from me.

Some highlights:

  • 7A [HQ for Carnival] FLA – I have been on more than one Carnival cruise, and I still put RIO in here! Totally fooled!
  • 13A [Fancy low-level furnishing] PERSIAN RUG – One of many outstanding clues in this puzzle. This might be my favorite.
  • 42A [Sent sideways] LATERALED – Easy once you solve it, sure!
  • 52A [Concession to one streaking] “YOU WIN AGAIN!” – Great casual phrase!
  • 4D [US employer of 1000+ canines] TSA – Quite an informative clue here. They have THAT many dogs???
  • 8D [He thanked ”robots and aliens” for his Honorary Oscar] LUCAS – I had L??AS and still couldn’t figure out who hadn’t won a real Oscar! In retrospect, the clue makes perfect sense!
  • 10D [Group hitting the bottom of the barrel] CALYPSO BAND – This was my other candidate for best clue. Fantastic!
  • 14D [Edge, in sports headlines] NIP – I watch a lot of sports, and I guess you DO hear this when someone wins a close race. But those aren’t usually the “headlines” these days! Most all racing is a page three sport, especially now in football season!
  • 34D [Last word of Twain’s ”Eve’s Diary”] EDEN – Deducible, I suppose!
  • 55D [Suited to following] A TEE – Another fantastic clue.

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

Susan Gelfand’s Universal crossword, “Simply Delicious”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Phrases that could also literally be pieces of cake.

Universal crossword solution · “Simply Delicious” · Susan Gelfand · Sat., 9.11.21


  • (revealer) PIECE OF CAKE

It was fun to uncover the revealer (and found that 27- and 43-Across had nothing to do with the theme) to get an aha moment. At first I though just the first word would have anything cake-i-ness to it, which I believe I’ve seen more than a couple of times as a theme, but I enjoyed the realization that the entire phrase was cake-related. Revealer couldn’t be more spot on.

In the fill:

ADAM Driver. Anyone see his new film? Annette? I’m thoroughly confused by it.

Why are islands always DESERTED in cartoons?

Enjoy the day!

3.9 stars.

Cathy Allis’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Thrift” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 9/11/21 • Sat • Allis • “Thrift” • solution • 20210911

The title is to be parsed as T-H rift. Phrases with a th digraph instead break apart the consonants for two separate words.

  • 23a. [Zealous activist driving the getaway car for a bank robber?] MILITANT AT HEIST (militant atheist).
  • 32a. [Fake, insincere sounds from Santa?] FALSE, PAT HOS (false pathos).
  • 48a. [Alternative designation for Porkopolis?] GOT HAM CITY (Gotham City).
  • 62a. [Fetch the lady waiting here?] COME TO GET HER (come together).
  • 67a. [“Roll the camera on the French revolutionary Jean-Paul, luv”?] FILM MARAT, HON (film marathon).
  • 82a. [Soldier insect’s uniform line] ARMY ANT HEM (army anthem).
  • 94a. [Make a hallowed egg-layer warmer?] HEAT HEN IDOL (heathen idol).
  • 110a. [Big Apple baseballer headed a skills-training session?] MET HAD ONE CLINIC (methadone clinic).

These are … not good. The wackified phrases are tortured, the clues are more tortured, and the original phrases are spotty, uneven. The only one that works—and admittedly it works well—is COME TO GET HER.

  • 13d [Granny square creation] AFGHAN. Granny and square also happen to be similar double-overhand knots.
  • 43d [Door over a wing, say] EXIT. Had to pause to picture this in order to solve it.
  • 51d [Marchers of January 21, 2017] WOMEN. The Women’s March was more than just women, of course.
  • 57d [Who expects the Spanish Inquisition, according to Monty Python] NOBODY. Ha, ha-HA.
  • checks out

    84d [Like some cables and ellipsoids] TRIAXIAL.

  • 88d [Setting of 1921’s race massacre] TULSA. Like many people, I was unaware of the atrocity until last year, as discussions of it began to be published in advance of the centenary.
  • 97d [Like “it is what it is”] TRITE. Despite the absurdity, I actually pondered how TAUTOLOGICAL could be made to fit there.
  • 26a [Asset for ballerinas] GRACE. Hands up for POISE here, at first.
  • 30a [Son of Poseidon] TRITON. A couple of Poseidon’s brothers are in the grid: 94d [Villain in Disney’s “Hercules”] HADES, 21a [Warmongering Olympian] ARES.
  • 98d [“The Faerie Queen ” captive] IRENA. Whoa, that’s a deep cut.
  • 9a [Church area, from the Latin for “ship”] NAVE. Makes sense, though I’d never thought about it. Now thinking about the famous scene in Moby-Dick at the whalers’ chapel.
  • 77a [Herman Melville’s “Billy __”] BUDD.
  • 103a [Oratorio passage] ARIOSO. Also in some operas. Maybe this could be called one, or is it just an aria:

USA Today puzzle, “Playing Around” –– Nina’s writeup

USA Today puzzle 9/11/2021

Nice puzzle today! Theme consists of three familiar childhood games, 20a. DUCK DUCK GOOSE, 38a. SPIN THE BOTTLE, and 57a. MUSICAL CHAIRS. Simple, but I liked this theme—they all fell in the category of multiplayer party games, and they’re fun, nostalgic entries.

Some answers that popped out at me:

1a. [Gefilte fish ingredient] — With Rosh Hashanah just past and Yom Kippur fast approaching, CARP is an aptly clued entry.

34a. [Self-moving vacuum] — Flashy piece of fill with ROOMBA. I find them quite endearing as pseudo-creatures (although my dog hates them).

47a. [France of Queer Eye] is TAN, which reminds me that although its sixth season has been confirmed, we don’t have a release date for it yet. :(

67a. [Barge ___ (rudely interrupt)] — Not a huge fan of the partial IN ON, especially when it could have been framed as it’s own individual phrase with a clue like [Privy to, as a secret].

11d. [Skin-smoothing spa treatment] — Despite the rather macabre name, I enjoyed seeing FACE PEEL here; it’s an entry with a certain level of evocative specificity that remains feeling fresh.

39d. [Restorative cocktail] — What a nice clue—and nice entry—with PICK ME UP! Something I don’t see very often, and a very interesting morsel of fill.

46d. [Wheat gluten] — SEITAN has been ever present on my TikTok for you page recently, thanks to a viral recipe using it as a chicken substitute. It’s on my list to try!

One discrepancy: I can’t see an author name! Not sure if it’s a glitch with this puzzle or with the USA Today website. I really enjoyed the puzzle, but disappointed I can’t give credit. Who’s the mystery constructor???

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13 Responses to Saturday, September 11, 2021

  1. Just a heads-up about this Sunday’s WaPo puzzle: I’d recommend solving it either online at the Post’s website, or by printing out the PDF, rather than with the .puz file (though printing that out should be okay too). As always, the PuzzleMe version at the Post’s website will be available at 12:01 am ET on Sunday, and the PDF will be available at 6 pm ET on Saturday.

  2. MattF says:

    NYT was quite tough but, in the end, doable.

    A ‘shader’ is, as the clue says, a program to do 3D graphics— but shaders run on graphics hardware boards, not on conventional CPUs, which is why most people have never heard of them. When shaders replaced the old unprogrammable graphics pipelines on graphics boards, it was a very big deal— back in Paleolithic times— and my hard-won knowledge of 3D graphics programming suddenly became obsolete.

  3. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: As someone whose grandfather was from Bratislava, really appreciated the shoutout to SLOVAKIA. One nitpick for Amy is that the IT’S MAGIC song I think she’s referring to is actually just “Magic.”

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Save your nitpick. I know what the title is, and I also know that “oh oh oh IT’S MAGIC” is the lyrical hook of the song.

      • marciem says:

        LOL, same song came to mind, except more from the new-day commercial Oh Oh Oh OZEMPIC… no idea what the drug does for the body but whatever it is … It’s Magic! :D and it seems to run all the time. THAT was the earworm I caught! I do know the song but that irritant ozempic stuck.

      • Ethan says:

        I think Magic by The Cars is the superior song, though.

  4. stephen manion says:

    DEES was very clever and totally fooled me. Very hard today as was yesterday’s.

    Interesting and fantastic that two teenagers made the final at the US Open and on the other side, a 34-year-old is playing the game as well as it ever has been played.

  5. e.a. says:

    i would love to hear the reasoning that led multiple people to 1-star today’s nyt puzzle. i’m not going to agree with it but i still want to know

  6. Jenni Levy says:

    I know this is nitpicky…but the CONE OF SILENCE on “Get Smart” was not a metaphor. It was an actual, physical cone. I guess the clue is referring to contemporary use as a metaphor but it says “popularized” rather than “based on” and I think it’s wrong. I know, I know, I’m being very picky….

  7. Dave says:

    ah, if the cars had used the chorus as the title of the song it could have slotted into the NYT…

  8. PJ says:

    NYT 14a – I’m more accustomed to the one word MAGIC as the eye-roll inducing response. The same song did pop in to my head but was soon replaced by 3d.

  9. JohnH says:

    Wow was the NYT hard. I got the SE and made some progress in the NE, although I had to get past my knowing the founder of Buddhism only as the title character in Hesse (or, I liked to think, Sid Arthur). But I got that and in time the SW.

    The center took me much longer, as I didn’t know DEADNAME, CAPE COD style, ELIE Saab, or HOG HEAVEN. It also took me a while to think of SLUMDOG and to get from I’M GOOD to the initial NAH.

    But the NW was the real killer and last to fall without even obscurities. Too many reasonable alternatives. Should I try to take a hike, a rest, a peek, or a leak? Should the yakking be babbled on given the B in STABBED? And so on. Don’t know how I eventually finished.

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