Sunday, September 26, 2021

LAT 14:02 (Gareth) 


NYT 7:37 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:47 (Darby) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Priyanka Sethy & Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword, “Study Breaks”—Amy’s write-up

Hello! First up, a housekeeping note: Starting next Sunday, Nate will be back in the weekly blogging rotation (yay, Nate!) to cover the Sunday NYT each week, and I’ll pick up the (non-contest) Fireball puzzles.

NY Times crossword solution, 9 26 21, “Study Breaks”

Priyanka and Matthew bring us a collegiate (or high school) academics theme, with circled letters amid otherwise unrelated entries “break”ing up various fields of “study” (hence the title). When you take all those circled letters together from top to bottom, they spell out CUT CLASS, which is exactly what those letters are doing in their themers:

  • 21a. [Function whose output is 45° when applied to 1], ARCTANGENT. The circled C interrupts ART class.
  • 26a. [Premium membership designation], ELITE STATUS. The U cuts STATS.
  • 42a. [It lets you see the sites], INTERNET CONNECTION. T cuts ECON.
  • 60a. [Holders of multiple passports], DUAL CITIZENS. C cuts LIT, my favorite.
  • 74a. [First openly lesbian anchor to host a major prime-time news program], RACHEL MADDOW. L cuts CHEM.
  • 92a. [Ones fighting for change], POLITICAL ACTIVISTS. A cuts CALC.
  • 108a. [Hempseed product], CANNABIS OIL. S cuts BIO.
  • 119a. [Bringing up the rear], LAST IN LINE. S cuts Latin.

Cute theme. Zero objection from me for using the shorthand words like calc and econ and chem, since you surely will find a great many college students who use the shorthand far more than the full words.

Puzzle seemed easier than usual to me. A wavelength thing, or did it go more quickly than you were expecting, too?

Fave fill: SWEARING IN (… depending on the year), the GREAT BASIN, POOR DEAR—not a lot of longer fill in the mix here, though.

Seven more things:

  • 58d. [Tometi who co-founded Black Lives Matter], OPAL. Just learned that she now goes by Ayọ Tometi.
  • 66d. [Traditional attire for some martial artists], JUDOGI. A new term for me. I know judo, I know gi, didn’t know the combo.
  • 39d. [Extended-wear manicure options], GELS. A gimme. If you didn’t know this, that’s on you. You know it now!
  • 110d. [“Duh!,” in modern slang], OBVI! OBVIously fits right in with this CALCulus (etc.) theme.
  • 36a. [Language of the 18th-century poet Mir Taqi Mir], URDU. The name is new to me, but there are only so many 4-letter language names that pop up in crosswords and feel right for the name. Here are some of Mir Taqi Mir’s poems transliterated into our alphabet and, for some of them, translated into English.
  • 57a. [Contents of some banks], SNOW. Too soon! Too soon! Summer just ended, and already we gotta get out the shovels and salt, is that how it is?
  • 18d. [Summer ___], INTERN. Oh, look! We’re thinking about summer again. My kid had a great nursing internship over the summer and is currently putting in 20 hours a week at another internship during the fall semester. I tell ya, his dad and I couldn’t be more proud.

Four stars from me.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Carb Loading”—Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each themed answer finishes with a carbohydrate-heavy food.

Theme Answers:

Zhouqin Burnikel's "Carb Loading" USA Today crossword solution for 9/26/2021

Zhouqin Burnikel’s “Carb Loading” USA Today crossword solution for 9/26/2021

  • 19a [“No big deal”] SMALL POTATOES
  • 36a [“NFL wideout with 22, 895 career receiving yards”] JERRY RICE
  • 56a [“Lord’s Prayer sustenance”] OUR DAILY BREAD

Creative Sunday theme here, with 2 13-letters taking the top and bottom thirds of the grids in SMALL POTATOES and OUR DAILY BREAD. Both of these were great, fun answers. For those unfamiliar with the Christian “Our Father,” I fought that the Down answers did the work to balance out OUR DAILY BREAD nicely. JERRY RICE felt especially apt, given that there will be much football today. (As always, go Bills!)

I thought that this was a friendly grid layout. It was very smooth sailing from start to finish with only a few skips as I started my way through the Across clues. 17a [“Trees with coarse-grained wood”] ELMS held me up, but once I got one letter, that was no problem, and now I’ll file that fact away in my mental tree folder (which is filled mostly with knowledge gained from puzzles). I wanted to fill 29a [“Groups of mountains or restaurants] with RANGES because that was what first came to find for mountains, but I quickly pivoted to CHAINS. I appreciated this clue because restaurants clearly put me in the right direction, and it was a good way to group the CHAINS.

Other clues that stood out to me included:

  • 15a [“Its logo is an M in Google colors”] – Google recently changed all of the logos for its services, and I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan. Having all of them in Google colors versus differentiated took me a minute to get used to, but I have also now adapted so maybe I just don’t like change. Anyway, I thought that this was a clever use of the logo (which had an M in GMAIL even before the new icon dropped).
  • 43a [“Enjoy nian gao, for example”] – Nian gao is a Chinese New Year Sweet Rice cake that looks like it would be delightful to EAT. I feel similarly about the Japanese dish found in 25a [“Chankonabe holder”]. Chankonabe is a hot POT dish and looks very welcoming as we approach fall.
  • 60a [“Forugh Farrokhzad’s country”] – Forugh Farrokhzad was an IRANian poet who rebelled against the male-dominated societal norms of mid-20th century IRAN by discussing “the innermost world of women” that was constantly left out of art and poetry at that time. You can read more about her and her work here.

Overall, a solid Sunday puzzle! Have a great week!

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “One-Two Combo” – Jim Q’s Write-up

About time SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS was featured as a grid-spanner. Why did it take so long?!

Washington Post, September 25 2021, Evan Birnholz, “One-Two Punch” solution grid


THEME: ALI appears twice in common phrases. 









The theme here is simple. A repeated letter strain within a phrase isn’t particularly groundbreaking. So the funkiness of the grid is what truly sets this puzzle apart from others. Evan is very lucky with the freedoms he has in comparison with limitations of other publications. And although SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS was a gimme if I’ve ever seen one, I was not at all confident with the spelling of it, so I had to use a little fill/theme synergy to help me out there. 

Heck, eeven Julie Andrews isn’t confident in the spelling. Check her out as a guest speller in Broadway’s 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee:

Part of me wonders if the theme was born out of the grid spanner. Reverse engineered in a sense. Like, did Evan examine that word and find a quality in it that he would likely be able to find in other phrases? While just fine, the other themers are not nearly as fun (that’s a very tall order though) or they seem repetitive like ALIGN ALIGNER and ALIVE ALIVE. 

Some fun curveball clues today:

[Name spelled in midair?] IDA. The name is hiding in mIDAir. 

[Match point?] RING. Boxing matches are played in RINGs. I had RINK first, which made sense to me as I thought it was referring to a hockey game (but I don’t think they’re ever referred to as “matches”).

[Date around?] CIRCA. Very clever. Date is a noun in this sense

[Rest stop?] CRYPT. A touch of morbidity fun. 

New names for me:

CHE Noir and Rosamund Pike. Is that it? There’s usually more. 

Love that BONNAROO is Creole slang for “a really good time.” That was fun to learn. 

Thanks for this one! 

And Happy Birthday, Evan! 38 ain’t that bad. Two more years before things that shouldn’t hurt start to hurt. 

Jake Halperin’s Universal crossword, “In-Flight Entertainment” — Jim Q’s write-up

Send ups going down!

Universal crossword solution · “In-Flight Entertainment” · Jake Halperin · Sun., 9.26.21

THEME: Spoof movies.






I uncovered SPACEBALLS first (a movie I love despite having never seen any films in the Star Wars franchise). Then the revealer. That with the title had me believing for more than a few moments that the already-tight theme was taking it next level and all of the spoof movies were going to have to do with flight or space or something. 

But no. Still, a fun little love note to the under appreciated spoof genre. 

TRIO SONATA and VICTORIOUS are doing their level best to hide amongst the fill and not look as if they’re theme answers, but that’s a tall order being as they’re the same length as two of theme and they’re very much in standard theme territory. 

New to me in fill: HALEP Simona.

Is LIT still a thing? It had a good run, but I think it’s gone into PHAT-land. Don’t hear it said much in the high school halls anymore. 

Fun puzzle!

4 stars. 

Rebecca Goldstein’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Units of time are “warped” (i.e. anagrammed) within familiar phrases.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “ Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” · Rebecca Goldstein · 9.26.21

  • 22a. [Surgery requirement (Theme hint: Unscramble each set of circled letters)] INFORMED CONSENT. Second.
  • 35a. [Starbucks’ Skittles Frappuccino, e.g.] SECRET MENU ITEM. Minute.
  • 45a. [“Cheers!”] “TO YOUR HEALTH!”. Hour.
  • 63a. [Comply without resistance] ROLL OVER AND PLAY DEAD. Day.
  • 84a. [Certain dumbbells] SHAKE WEIGHTS. Week.
  • 95a. [Where to see a room with a view] WATERFRONT HOME. Month.
  • 113a. [Opportunity to make first-round picks?] PRIMARY ELECTION. Year.

Very impressed with this set! Fun entries (well, SECRET MENU ITEM feels a little forced),  but I’m most impressed with the temporal progression from SECOND to YEAR. That’s an elegant touch I wasn’t expecting, but it elevates the theme tremendously.

I enjoyed the long fill as well with BROWNIE MIXES, GLASS CEILING, GREEN TAX, A LOT TO DO, AT IT AGAIN, and BELITTLED. Some of the proper names got me like actress Mireille ENOS, actress/writer Robin THEDE, chef Samin NOSRAT, and  director Chloé ZHAO, but I’m glad to learn them.

Clue of note: 101a. [Japanese honorific]. CHAN. I was only aware of SAN as an honorific. Here’s a good guide to all of them. Specifically, CHAN is used for people and animals one finds adorable and cute, like one’s children or pets.

Solidly constructed grid all around. Four stars from me.

I can’t think of SHAKE WEIGHTS without recalling the SNL parody commercial. NSFW. NBC tries to keep control of videos of its shows, so the link above goes to their site, but you have to sign in. Here’s a video someone made of the video. Apologies for the sound quality.

Michael Lieberman’s LA Times crossword, “Elongation” – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by Michael Lieberman features a pretty standard letter addition theme. I wondered if, given the title of “Elongation”, we’d have lengthened vowel sounds. Instead, the digram “el” is added to make answers with new, “wacky”, clues. I liked entries 1,3 and 7 the most: the bookending HANDELSANITIZER and CATCHAFEWRELAYS plus the scrabbly ORTHODOXJEWELS. The remaining were more functional: SALADDELAYS, FELINEPRINT and VOWELOFSILENCE; with only ROCKYRELOAD being grammatically strained.

  • Other tidbits:
    [Award for good plays], OBIE. I had TONY here first. ESPY also fits, albeit more loosely.
  • [Greenish-blue], TEAL. Here is a pictuAnas hottentotare of a blue-billed teal from a recent trip to one of our local sewage works.
  • [Providers of liquid assets?], IVS. I don’t think this clue lands, even with a “?”
  • [Sticky home?], NEST. As in it is made of sticks. Ow, I liked it!
  • [Biscuit whose name describes its shape], MILKBONE. I believe this a dog biscuit brand?


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23 Responses to Sunday, September 26, 2021

  1. Robert H. Wolfe says:

    I guess it’s 2 words JUDO GI, as it would be as a KARATE GI

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Not necessarily. Click the hyperlink on “the combo” where I write about this entry and you’ll find both judogi and karategi as solid words (which is new to me).

  2. Philippe says:

    Weapons not the easiest on IPad but such a delight. Evan managed a great feat with an extraordinary marquee entry’ and several other great ones. Hats down

  3. Philippe says:

    I meant Wapo, thanks auto correct.

  4. David L says:

    I found the NYT a little harder than usual – quite a few names I didn’t know, plus some unknowns, notably KATSU, SALAT, JUDOGI.

    I don’t understand DO IT UP, ‘Pull out all the stops.’ To me, to do something up means to fix it or perhaps decorate it.

    The theme was straightforward but didn’t add anything to the solve. After finishing, I saw that the ‘break’ letters spelled out CUT CLASS and I thought, huh, how ’bout that.

    • Gary R says:

      I’m used to hearing “do it up right.” For our 25th wedding anniversary, my wife and I decided to “do it up right.” Took the train to Chicago, very nice hotel, a gourmet dinner with some fine wine, live music at a quiet club, some quality time back at the hotel. Pulled out all the stops.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I can’t eat raw fish, so my favorite Japanese restaurants are the ones with chicken KATSU with curry sauce. So good!

  5. MattF says:

    I’m usually OK with proper names in a puzzle, but I noticed them in today’s NYT, which probably means there were too many— over a dozen by my count. About average difficulty, had to run through the alphabet to get AGAVE.

  6. Thanks, Jim.

    Theme started from thinking of the phrase “one-two combo,” then looking up phrases that contained ALI twice … and then deciding that if I didn’t use the central answer when I had the chance, I’d be kicking myself for it.

  7. Taylor johnson says:

    Wait.. I haven’t looked in the paper to confirm, but did Universal use circles today?! I see in the clue for the revealer it specifically states to “unscramble each set of circled letters”

    Has Universal started using circles?!

    • Jim Peredo says:

      My understanding is that the paper-only large Sunday puzzle has always had the ability to feature circles. It’s their online 15x daily offering that goes without, sometimes resulting in torturous cluing to compensate. I’m happy to be corrected if that’s wrong.

      • Taylor Johnson says:

        My local paper runs the universal daily, including the big Sunday. I’ve never seen circles in any of their puzzles, which results in the funky cluing that people experience online.

        If they in fact could publish it on a Sunday, they should be able to every day of the week, right?

      • Jim Quinlan says:

        Oh no. Absolutely not. The Universal paper edition (Sunday or otherwise) has never had the capabilities of using circles. I make it a point to call this out every single time they employ themes that require circles. They change the clues in the Across Lite version to adapt.

        • AndyHat says:

          Yep, in print it was “Theme hint: In this clue’s answer, unscramble letter 7 to 12)” and so on.

          The lack of circles is doubly mystifying in the Sunday NY Daily News, which gives the puzzle an entire tabloid page and thus has the biggest squares of any print crossword.

    • Jim Quinlan says:

      Are pigs flying outside?

  8. PAT says:

    I’d really appreciate it if all of us could work harder at putting the initials of the puzzle at the beginning of all our comments. I often read about one puzzle before I have done the others. If I have a question or a comment, I want to look through the list to see if it has already been said, but I don’t want to see things from the other puzzles I haven’t done yet.
    Thank you.

  9. Wally Walters says:

    Universal has an marginal theme, embedding scrambled units of time in some of the answers. Had they been unscrambled but non-obvious, like spanning words, then you’d have something.

    The puzzle was far too slanted with most people referenced being obscure females, multiple other clues posed using a female angle, plus liberal tropes like glass ceiling and green tax. LGBTQ+(WXYZ) supporter = ALLY? I can only add RE-ally?

    The puzzle was not at all “universal”. Easy to tell when the puzzler is female. Do better.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Ah, I see you’ve fallen for the fallacy that male = neutral and universal, and female = weird and foreign.

      Glass ceiling as a “liberal trope”? Dude, this phrase has been in the dictionary for quite a while. It’s as if you are looking for things to fight about.

      Also, “obscure females”? Using “female” as a noun to refer to a human (rather than an animal) is a big red flag that says “this guy has issues with women.” It’s time you knew this—maybe nobody told you before.

    • Norah Sharpe says:

      Dude, you just made me want to do the puzzle even *more*, so thanks for your insightful commentary.

    • Eric Chaikin says:

      Totally agree. So annoying to have to “consider the female perspective”. That’s why I only do the Daily Caller puzzle – strong incel vibe. You’d love it.

Comments are closed.