Monday, September 27, 2021

BEQ 4:52 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:19 (Stella) 


NYT 4:48 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 5:37 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (Malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Zachary David Levy’s New York Times crossword — Sophia’s recap

New York Times, 09 27 2021, by Zachary David Levy

Theme: The final word of each of the theme phrases can also be banking-related.

  • 17a [Olympic event for which the world record stands at a little over 20 feet] – POLE VAULT
  • 23a [Magic duo with a 20+ year act in Las Vegas] – PENN AND TELLER
  • 37a [“Spring forward” and “fall back” plan] – DAYLIGHT SAVINGS
  • 50a [Added cost of buying soda]  – BOTTLE DEPOSIT
  • 61a [Guaranteed … or where you can find the ends of 17-, 23-, 37- and 50-Across] – IN THE BANK

A solid Monday theme today. The first two theme answers were my favorites, because aside from being fun phrases they also totally obscure the bank-related meaning of VAULT and TELLER. I didn’t realize until I got to DAYLIGHT SAVINGS what was going on at all, which gave me a fun aha moment! Didn’t help me much with puzzling out BOTTLE DEPOSIT, though – I kept wanting something more specifically soda-related as BOTTLE DEPOSIT can also refer to things like beer. Most of what I know about bottle deposits comes from my time in Massachusetts where a codified bottle deposit system exists – I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard it discussed in my home state of Washington. Did other people have this experience?

This grid is set up in an interesting way. I like the big corners in the northeast and southwest part of the puzzle, but they are very cut off from the rest of the grid – you’d only need one black square to completely close them off. This means that it can be hard for solvers to break into these areas. I didn’t get any of the northeast across answers on my first pass through the puzzle, solved the entire bottom half, and then had to jump back up to finish the giant amount of white space that was still there. The corners are very clean, though (well, except maybe for DYS). Favorite fill today was definitely SELF PITY, and I also liked the NEURAL network and Bob MARLEY references.

Other notes:

  • Move over Iams and Alpo, there’s a new crossword dog food in town! I have never heard of KAL Kan dog food, and given that the top Google search question for it is “what happened to Kal Kan dog food?” it looks like it isn’t very relevant in today’s market. The company also appears to make a cat food called “Whiskas”, and I will now be anxiously awaiting its NYT debut.
  • Speaking of dogs, although Paul ANKA may have sung “Diana” and “Lonely Boy”, to me he will always be Lorelai’s dog on “Gilmore Girls”.
  • For 55a [Keeps watching … and watching] I had “binges” prior to STARES. Clearly I have Netflix on the brain. Weirdly, this helped me see OBSESS before getting BOTTLE DEPOSIT, because the B was just moved down one spot.

Happy Monday all!

Ian Rathkey’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Trailing Away”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Phrases that could be interpreted as pertaining to an outdoor hike. The revealer is TAKE A HIKE (61a, [“Get lost!” (or advice carried out by 18-, 24-, 39- and 50-Across)].

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Trailing Away” · Ian Rathkey · Mon., 9.27.21

  • 18a. [Historic 6,000-mile retreat by the Red Army in the 1930s] LONG MARCH. I was not aware of this historical event. Wikipedia says, under the leadership of crossword staples Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, the retreat lasted 370 days.
  • 24a. [Many a fight for equality] UPHILL BATTLE.
  • 39a. [Display of one’s very best] PEAK PERFORMANCE.
  • 50a. [Retiring, say] STEPPING DOWN. Nice play on words here.

At first I was just looking at the final words of each phrase for some sort of sequence, but then I realized the phrases in their entirety were describing this hike. I like how most of the phrases change meaning to be more literal. The first one doesn’t really change meaning, and I wish there was another entry that could have been used in its place, but on the plus side, I was glad to learn of that event.


Clues of note:

  • 23a. [George Orwell or George Eliot, e.g.]. ALIAS. Does anyone refer to these names as aliases and not pen names or pseudonyms?
  • 46a. [Pumping iron may inflate it]. MALE EGO. Cute clue.
  • 49a. [Delivery that can’t be returned to sender?]. ACE. I tried SON first, but then, who would the sender be in that case?
  • 66a. [Regarding]. IN RE. Doesn’t the RE mean “regarding” or “regards”. Looks like a dupe to me. That’s why I went with AS TO at first.
  • 1d. [Waterway of Louisiana]. BAYOU. The other day I was listening to a Guam radio station (I’m from Guam) and I heard “Blue BAYOU” but it was the island version with a portion of it in Chamorro. Well, I can’t find a copy of that one online, but here’s the next best thing: the Hawaiian version. Be sure to stick around for the Hawaiian verses. The song really lends itself to an island vibe.

Nice grid. Oh, and it’s a debut. Congrats! 3.7 stars.

Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

LAT 9/27/21 by Rebecca Goldstein

LAT 9/27/21 by Rebecca Goldstein

Time to cast your votes: Do you say YEA or NAY on this Monday puzzle? Actually, both! That’s because the theme, revealed in the center of the grid at 33- and 35-Across [Anonymous voting method, and a hint to each set of circled letters], SECRET BALLOT, tells us that there’s a YEA or a NAY hidden in each theme entry. Like so:

  • 17A [Hard-to-please dinner guest] is a PICKY EATER. YEA crosses the two words, with the Y in PICKY and the EA in EATER. If you’re a PICKY EATER, please don’t invite me out to eat with you, as you will drive me bananas. (I have one friend who insisted “I’m easy! You pick!” when I asked which of six choices of Greek meze she was interested in; she proceeded to reject my first three choices. ???)
  • 25A [Did some storytelling] is SPUN A YARN, with NAY made up of the last letter in SPUN, the A in the middle, and the first letter of YARN. I’m currently reading a biography of Robert Heinlein, meaning that I’m seeing YARN in print as slang for a story for the first time outside of crossword puzzles…maybe ever? (One of Heinlein’s editors used YARN as such quite a lot in his 1940s correspondence.)
  • 46A [Photobomb of a sort involving a V sign] is BUNNY EARS, with YEA taking the Y from BUNNY and the EA from EARS. I think a shorter, tighter clue for this phrase exists, although I’m too lazy to write it myself right now.
  • 52A [Early “SNL” star who was one of the Blues Brothers] is DAN AYKROYD. I’m really, really good at spelling, but I always forget how to spell his last name, which is part of why my time was on the high side for a Monday.

It’s a nice touch that each theme entry has YEA or NAY split across words, never hidden inside just one word.

Nice to see WAZE as a modern-feeling short entry in the grid, and although I know it’s trendy to clue Catherine O’HARA with reference to Schitt’s Creek these days, I, for one, am delighted to see her with reference to Best in Show, a movie that makes me laugh so hard it hurts.

Winston Emmons’ Universal crossword, “Quiet Start” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 9/27/21 • Mon • Emmons • “Quiet Start” • solution • 20210927

As the title implies, this is a simple additive theme. A voiceless palato-alveolar fricative [ ʃ ]—the sibilant sh-sound is affixed to the beginning of words and phrases. Further nudging is provided at the outset by 1-across: [Sound-related] SONIC.

  • 21a. [Miniaturize abhorrent rodents?] SHRINK RATS (rink rats). So, so tired of rats—of which there are many species, only a few of which can be considered human pests—always being clues so pejoratively.
  • 32a. [“What a superficial person I am!”?] SHALLOW ME (allow me).
  • 45a. [“The boxwood got blown over!”? SHRUB DOWN (rubdown).
  • 58a. [Features of partially fleeced animals?] SHEAR MARKS (earmarks).

Sure, why not?

  • 21d [Determined to accomplish] SET ON, 53d [Like an achiever’s attitude] CAN-DO.
  • 40d [Old instruments with long necks] LUTES.
  • 44d [Vehicles that children can drive] GO CARTS. Just when I’ve finally gotten myself trained to spell it with a K …
  • 17a [Hollywood in-crowd] A-LIST, 54a [Superior groups] ELITES.
  • Favorite clue, by a mile: 43a [Where to find an observation post?] BLOG.
  • 63a [(Thanks for rubbing my belly!)] PURR. Followed soon after by BITE BITE BITE and BUNNY KICKS.
  • 66a [Settled on a flower, e.g.] ALIT. Second-favorite clue.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword — Matthew’s write-up

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday solution, 9/27/2021

Well, how about this one, with relatively closed-off corners and a middle with few footholds. Makes for a toughie, and a relatively disjointed solve for me.

As much as I often highlight BEQ’s internet-isms and marquee answers pulled from the zeitgest and plopped into puzzles quicker than the Times could dream, this one displays one of his other calling cards: music. We’ve got DEXY’S (____ Midnight Runners (“Come On Eileen” band)) right off the bat at 1A, country star Jake OWEN in the NW corner as well (26A- “Beachin'” singer Jake), while SHEP (37A- Pettibone who co-wrote “Vogue” with Madonna) and LESTER (52A- Jazz trumpeter Bowie) in the southeast. Other than DEXY’S Midnight Runners, all were new to me.

Otherwise, not much about this stood out for me. I always get a chuckle out of ONEONTA (15a- New York city whose name supposedly means “place of open rocks”) Oswego, and the like for just how overrepresented New York cities are in puzzles, and I wonder how quickly they come to people who didn’t grow up in a town with a SUNY school. And I wonder in a close read how far back in time this puzzle would still fly: Jake OWEN‘s hit song was in 2014, and TRU Niagen was founded in 2015. I certainly don’t think every puzzle needs to have the latest trend in culture, but it’s odd to see an indie puzzle feel so out-of-time.

A handful of eye-raisers in this one for me: COIN MONEY (20d- Make a bundle), I AM BORED (32d- “Can we do something?”), and THE PINTA (33d- Martin Alonso Pinzon was its captain) each feel out of the language to my tongue.


  • 19a- [Sound a warning, “Julius Caesar”-style] CRY HAVOC. I quite liked this one, after initially missing the quotes and looking for an appropriate Latin phrase.
  • 33a- I hadn’t heard of TRU [___ Niagen (dietary supplement brand)], and while I’m skeptical of most dietary supplements in the first place, I wasn’t expecting to find an FDA warning letter pointing to misleading advertising statements about the supplement’s purported efficacy in COVID prevention and treatment. Not my favorite!
  • 38a- Just noticing now that this is POMPONS [Some chrystanthemums] and not “pompoms”. And I’m learning at this very moment that that’s not a separate word, but the plural of “pom-pom”. Neat!
  • 43a- [Grand narrative verse] Raise your hand with me if you had “epic” before EPOS.
  • 14d- [Soccer team that shares its home with the Pats] REVS. That’s the New England Revolution, of Major League Soccer, and the New England Patriots of the NFL.
  • 54a- [Something thrown while insulting someone] SHADE. The clue’s not wrong, but it’s worth mentioning that SHADE is much more nuanced than just “insulting someone”, if only so I can share this still from a New Yorker video a year or so back:

Erik Agard:
“People don’t know what ‘shade’ means still, in 2019”


Kate Hawkins & Janet Strauss’ USA Today crossword—malaika’s recap

Kate Hawkins and Janet Strauss’ USA Today puzzle

(This puzzle was edited by Amanda Rafkin.)

Hey solvers! I gasped when I opened this puzzle. I LOVE the grid pattern. I love love love big chunks of blocks like this– they look like tetris shapes kinda. A lot of publications don’t like them (not sure why– I guess they result in fewer words?), but USA Today is pretty lax with grid layouts.

Title: Strip Down

Theme: The last word of each theme answer (which are running down in the grid) can come before the word “strip”

Theme answers:

  • 4A: STAND UP COMIC (Professional joke teller)
  • 8D: SELLING SUNSET (Netflix series about a real estate firm in Los Angeles)
  • 17D: FIGHT THE POWER (1989 Public Enemy hit) (This was my favorite theme answer)
  • 22D: CRASH LANDING (Pilot’s emergency procedure)

So much stuff I loved in here. What a delightful puzzle. Bullet points, to round them all up:

  • 5A: “BLESS your heart”
  • 17A: CHOSEN family (support system)
  • 19A: BINDI (Dot worn on the forehead)
  • 26A: SMUSHES (Squashes)
  • 41A: SMOOCH (Kiss)
  • 46A: DENMARK (First country to legally recognize same-sex unions)
  • 50D: EBAY (Site with a “Dolls & Bears” section)

Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

The New Yorker crossword solution, 9 27 21

Sorry for getting to this on the late side. Overall, not as difficult as I was expecting for a Monday New Yorker themeless. I like the grid, anchored as it is by the 13- and 14-letter Downs. Neat to have the right and left sides so expansive, and feeding into the center section in four spots to promote smooth progress through the grid. And if you piece together that central 15, OLD AS METHUSELAH, it gives you a huge toehold.

Fave fill: RECESSIVE GENES (great clue, [They have a tougher time expressing themselves]—they’re just shy!), a BEER RUN, and a SILENT PROTEST.

Clue that stymied me for a while: [Three, in a saying], TREND. If you see two people wearing those weird goggles, it’s a coincidence. If you see three, it’s a bonafide TREND.

OLEA, the NEVA River, and THRO‘ felt a little gluey, but it’s a 68-worder so it’s not easy to avoid some paste.

Did not know: [Environmentalist Riki known for her talking-head expertise on oil spills], OTT. Nice to have an alternative to earlyish 1900s Mel Ott. Timely, too—Hurricane Ida brought about far too many oil leaks/spills in the Gulf of Mexico. Presumably Riki OTT has made the circuit of the various news shows I seldom watch.

Also didn’t know [Black Arts Movement poet Sanchez], SONIA. Here’s an amazing encomium to the great Ella Fitzgerald. Do yourself a favor, click through and read it. You can check out some of Sanchez’s other poems at that site.

4.25 stars.

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17 Responses to Monday, September 27, 2021

  1. Eric S says:

    Whiskas has already been here: 1/4/17 and 1/24/21.

    I hadn’t noticed how cut off the NE and SW corners are until I read Sophia’s review. That isolation didn’t bother me, as it was such an easy puzzle.

  2. Ethan says:

    NYT: I can’t say I’ve ever heard of obsessing “on” something. Obsessing “over” something, yes. Perhaps the clue should have been “Dwell on, with ‘over'”.

    Regarding CREOLE, while constructing recently I looked up past clues for CREOLE/CREOLES and noticed with interest that all of them referenced capital-C Creole, either the people in Louisiana or Haitian Creole. There has never been a clue referring to a small-c creole. Do average NYT solvers not know of a creole as a generalized language type?

    • David L says:

      I would guess that Haitian Creole is the creole most familiar to the average NYT solver, and also that it’s easier to clue it that way, especially for a Monday puzzle. If CREOLE showed up in a Friday or Saturday puzzle, a more accurate and less specific clue would be appropriate, but I don’t know if that’s actually happened.

  3. Bryan says:

    NYT: Isn’t it New York Times editorial style to use “daylight saving” (singular)? I’ve always learned that even though “savings” is the more popular way to say it, in fact “saving” is actually correct. Maybe this is an example of the incorrect usage evolving into the correct usage over time (no pun intended). Other than my confusion over that answer, I enjoyed this puzzle. It’s just as easy and straightforward as Monday grids should be.

    • Anne says:

      I grimace every time I hear or read “daylight savings”, but the grid is 15 letters wide and so perhaps the final S was necessary. And I’ve never heard of a saving bank, they are savings banks.

    • R Cook says:

      They should have annoyed people in both camps and used DAYLIGHTS SAVING.

    • ZDL says:

      “Daylight Saving Time” is technically correct; “Daylight Savings” is the colloquially accepted alternative, especially when omitting “time”. Irregardless, either is correct.

  4. e.a. says:

    can someone explain the 46a clue in wsj?

    • Ethan says:

      “May” is doing a lot of work there.

      • Gary R says:

        I see more than a few guys at the gym who I suspect are “pumping iron” to inflate their ego, but I also see a lot who are like me – doing it because my doc says (at my age) it’s important for maintaining bone density, posture and weight. Of course, I wouldn’t say I’m “pumping iron.” I’m just lifting weights.

  5. Alex says:


    49a Delivery that can’t be returned to sender? ACE

    I didn’t get this. Would someone please explain it to me? I’m guessing it has something to do with a card game and I don’t play any card games.

  6. Mutman says:

    NYT: I think Paul ANKA is most famous for ‘Having My Baby’ — a song that (many) women have reviled for decades!

  7. Lester says:

    LAT: I guessed right (I think) on both of the Naticks — Sui X Luna and Katz X Katana — but I was certainly put off by them, and by the high proportion of names.

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