Saturday, October 2, 2021

LAT 5:11 (Derek) 


Newsday 13:18 (Derek) 


NYT 6:08 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 1:58 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Wendy Brandes’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 2 21, no. 1002

The marquée entry in this 68-worder is a name I didn’t know: 20a. [Pearl Harbor hero for whom a future U.S. aircraft carrier is scheduled to be named], DORIS MILLER. He was a Black sailor who went by Dorie and saved many lives after the attack on Pearl Harbor, despite military segregation limiting the roles he could officially fill in the Navy. Please do click over to read about him in (or listen to) this NPR story from last year. Five minutes well spent. Thanks to the constructor for bringing Miller’s story to light for the (presumably many) solvers who had missed hearing of it.

Fave fill: COULDN’T RESIST, CORNHOLE (terrible name … but some folks in the Chicago area just call this game bags, with that Northern Cities Shift in vowel sounds wherein the A in bags is pronounced with that stereotypical Chicago accent), EXIT INTERVIEW, SHIV, CRINGE with the modern clue of {[awkward]}, and AS ALWAYS.

Seven more things:

  • 1d. [“Great news!”], “SO GLAD!” I did get some great news about a friend today and I’m SO GLAD!
  • 36d. [Alaskan king, e.g.], SEA CRAB. Wasn’t really familiar with this two-word term. And Wikipedia tells me the king crab isn’t a crab at all! It’s a decapod crustacean with a crabby form … and probably more commonly eaten as crab than a bunch of other actual crabs are.
  • 57a. [Feel it the next day], BE SORE. Not keen on tacking BE on to the beginning of any random adjective if it doesn’t have some more established solidity as a phrase. Wasn’t I complaining about some 7-letter answers that combined a verb and SORE recently? I’m a little sore about it.
  • 30a. [Accords, e.g.], SEDANS. I think Honda stopped making an Accord coupe only a few years ago, so certainly there are plenty of non-SEDAN Accords on the road still. Not a fan of the clue for that reason. There must be plenty of never-anything-but-a-sedan models, maybe even with names that look like common words and could thus be in a tricky clue.
  • 39a. [What’s the big deal?], CARDS. Weird clue, not the standard sort. You can deal a hand of cards, but the clue … it’s off kilter.
  • 39d. [Posers are forever saying it], CHEESE. Cute clue.
  • 42d. [One way to serve chili], ON RICE. For real? It’s news to me! Is this a regional combo?

Wasn’t wild about some of the stodgier fill here—ASLANT, plural SESAMES, OBIES, ELS, ENTO, ERTE, and … well, I can’t be mad at ORT though I recognize that it’s old crosswordese.

3.66 stars from me.

C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 10/02/2021

Have I mentioned recently how much I enjoy C.C. Burnikel’s puzzles? It has been a bit since I have done one, so this was a pleasant revelation upon opening this puzzle. A quicker solve for a Saturday LAT puzzle, but I think I have done enough C.C. puzzles by now that I think I get how she constructs puzzles. Her skills seem effortless at this point. Keep ’em coming, C.C.! 4.6 stars today.

Some interesting stuff:

  • 1A [Grilled sandwiches sometimes served with yogurt sauce] LAMB BURGERS – Sounds delicious! Where can I get one … ?
  • 15A [Annual promotional period] OSCAR SEASON – The Oscars are dying a slow death, and the pandemic certainly hasn’t helped that. What movies have even come out that are any good? Are they all on Netflix and Amazon Prime? Do people even enjoy going to the theater and spending $45 on tickets and popcorn?? So many questions!
  • 31A [“My bad”] “THAT’S ON ME!” – Great casual phrase!
  • 35A [Grain of emmer or spelt] FARRO – This is slightly tough. At least to me. I don’t know my grains as well as I should!
  • 37A [Unseal without ripping] STEAM OPEN – Have you ever had to do this? I have!
  • 56A [Opinion page perspective] EDITORIAL WE – Kinda like the “royal we” here. Nice entry.
  • 3D [Aspiring doc’s hurdle] M.C.A.T. – I don’t know many people before they have had to take these tests, so this is still unfamiliar to me.
  • 10D [Hall of Famer whose #10 was retired by the Cubs] RON SANTO – YES! Great entry, and not just because I am a Cub fan.
  • 13D [Swiss skiing mecca] DAVOS – Also the mega-corporation in the series Westworld, which may be back at some point, hopefully!
  • 27D [Sports show warning message] UPSET ALERT – Lots of upsets in college football these days, which is also dying a slow death. The good athletes, in my opinion, play other sports that don’t get you CTE.
  • 52D [Hall of Fame tennis player __ Seixas] VIC – This is even before my time! And I know tennis pretty well!

Off to, of all places, a pen show today! About to see some fancy, and sometimes expensive, fountain pens! Have a great day!

Stanley Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 10/02/2021

No pseudonym this time! Stan is giving us one of his own creations, and it is a doozy. I did have one slight error smack dab in the center of this one. I can never remember the correct phrasing of 33-Across! (See below). I found the NW and SE corners the easiest, while the 5×5 corners tripped my up much more. I was surprised I only had the one error! Fun puzzle, even though I was quite stumped for a large portion of this solve. 4.7 stars from me!

A few notes:

  • 10A [Marconi rival financed by Morgan] TESLA – Is the Morgan as in J.P. Morgan? Probably. I figured this had to be Tesla. The same answer eluded me on my Jeopardy! taping!!
  • 23A [”Be a SORE winner” sloganeer] BEN-GAY – I don’t know why it took me so long to get this one; I am sore virtually all the time these days!
  • 33A [Type of wooden siding] BATTEN BOARD – It’s not BATTED BOARD? I am not crafty AT ALL. This is wood framing that makes squarish patterns on a wall. Google it!
  • 35A [Reproachful rhetorical question] “HOW COULD YOU?” – Great casual phrase!
  • 56A [Word from the Greek for ”apple”] MELON – Okay … interesting, at least!
  • 3D [Protestors-on-call] RENT-A-MOB – Timely! Somehow I think not all protesters are who they seem to be these days.
  • 10D [Script step] TABLE READ – This is common for a sitcom or especially for SNL, which starts up again TONIGHT!
  • 11D [Oscar winner as Alice (1975)] ELLEN – This is referring to the movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore starring Ellen Burstyn. Never seen it. I had to look this up!
  • 34D [Psych out] DO A JOB ON – Weird sequence of letters when you see it all mashed together in a grid!
  • 40D [Cholesterol locale] SERUM – I guess this IS in your blood; how else could it clog an artery?

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

Matthew Stocks’s USA Today crossword – Matthew’s write-up

Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword solution, 10/2/2021

Left-right symmetry in this grid from Matthew today, and there’s reason, or at least a payoff, beyond “it was hard to find themers of the right length.”


  • 16A – WORKS IN PROGRESS (Unfinished projects)
  • 30A – CROWN PRINCE (Future king)
  • 54A – BROKEN PROMISE (Unfulfilled vow). I really like the consistent clue structure for each of these.

Each themer has the letters ‘NPR’ in the middle – the exact middle – of the entry, meshing with the title “Central Air”. NPR certainly works a lot better for this than, say, WKRP! And I *love* that with the left-right symmetry in this grid, it means that the NPRs are not only dead-center in their entries, but also in the grid itself.


  • 13a- O CANADA (Anthem sung at Toronto Six games). The Toronto Six are the only Canadian team playing in the Premier Hockey Federation, formerly the National Women’s Hockey League. The league also shows up in 34d- EXPANSION (Growth for the WNBA or NWHL).
  • 46a- (Founder of the media production company Hoorae) ISSA RAE. All the way to the very last word of the clue, I was thinking OPRAH, since “Harpo” shows up all the time, but nope!
  • 30d- (One who prefers tabbies to terriers) CAT PERSON. I was certain I was a dog person, until I got a cat. Now I have two of each!

Matthew Stock’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Creature Creep” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 10/2/21 • Sat • “Creature Creep” • Stock • solution • 20211002

Revealer at 110-across: [Nonnative organisms, as found seven times in this puzzle] INVASIVE SPECIES. My first impression was that this was a poor revealer, as the names of animals are not merely introduced into existing phrases, but homophones replace words in those phrases.

But a slightly deeper analysis is needed. Invasive species—often having no local natural predators, parasites, etc.—tend to outcompete and even supplant native species, wreaking havoc with the ecosystem. And that’s what’s happening here: nonnative animals that are similar to the original inhabitants (read: words) wackify the original phrases.

  • 22a. [Bring on darkness] TERN OFF THE LIGHT (turn).
  • 35a. [Weaves] HARE EXTENSIONS (hair).
  • 52a. [Be exceedingly uninteresting] BOAR TO TEARS (bore).
  • 54a. [Where the ball gets dropped on a regular basis] GNU YORK CITY (New).
  • 78a. [Absolute least] BEAR MINIMUM (bare).
  • 81a. [Resisted rebelliousness] TOAD THE LINE (toed).
  • 94a. [Winner of six Tonys in 2017] DEER EVAN HANSEN (Dear).

Maybe a little strange that the clues play it straight?

  • 3d [Color in many retro baseball uniforms] POWDER BLUE. If you say so.
  • 10d [“Hundo P”] DEF. (One) hundred percent / definitely.
  • 14d [Police court figure] MAGISTRATE.
  • 25d [Touchy] TEXTURAL. Because HAPTIC doesn’t have enough letters.
  • 32d [Olympic hurdler/bobsledder Jones] LOLO. Winter and Summer Games competitor, then. I had LOLA first.
  • 56d [Pixar’s first protagonists, e.g.] TOYS. If you’re considering only the features and not the shorts.
  • 1a [Boiling byproduct] VAPOR. Had STEAM initially, and that’s a more specific answer.
  • 18a [First-grade athletes] PEE WEES. A-LISTERS did not fit.
  • 63a [Cardinal topper] CREST, 64a [Cardinal topper letters] STL. First the bird, then the namesake baseball team.
  • 86a [Music’s Puente] TITO. You’re probably more familiar with Santana’s cover of this classic:

That’s all I’ve got today. To reiterate, at first I wasn’t thrilled with the theme, but just a little extra thinking changed my mind. Grid’s pretty smooth, but the ballast fill is maybe a bit too sportsy for my liking.

Desiree Penner and Jeff Sinnock’s Universal crossword, “Role Reversal”— Jim Q’s write-up

Another debut collaboration! Fantastic! Congratulations to both of you.

THEME: Famous Doctors from movies/television can be found backwards in common phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “Role Reversal” · Desiree Penner · Jeff Sinnock · Sat., 10.02.21


  • OH, WHATEVER! Dr. Who. 
  • IT’S ALL I’VE GOT! Dr. Evil. 
  • TOO NICE. Dr. No. 
  • RENEWAL CREAM. Dr. Claw. 
  • (revealer) SPIN DOCTOR. 

Excellent debut from both of our constructors today. I’ve seen the doctor theme before (with many of these doctors), but I don’t think presented like this. Regardless, it’s a perfect Universal theme except for one thing (which is no fault of the constructors) that I will get to as soon as I give the puzzle its deserved praise.

With five long themers like this, it’s impressively filled with lively stuff. NOT A SOUND! and BEETHOVEN flanking TOO NICE! is excellent. And somehow they don’t try to steal the spotlight and pose as themers (now that I think about it, for solvers who didn’t have circles in their puzzle as the visual aid, they might very well have thought they were themers at first).

Had a tough time parsing RENEWAL CREAM. I thought it was RENEW ALCREAM… some brand I’d never heard of. Duh. But Dr. Claw in there was a nice find. My favorite of all the nemesis doctors, from Inspector Gadget of course.

And the elephant in the room just simply refuses to leave. Or even budge. Or even seem to care that it’s there and not welcome. That elephant is the sorely outdated software that Universal is holding onto which can’t manage to feature circles (amongst many other dated flaws). So instead, solvers are asked to count and mentally circle letters before reading them backwards, both in print and in the webapp. Not good. Not what I’d call a “workaround,” as the publication refers to it. Only solvers (who are likely experienced) who download the puzzle from this site are treated to the way the puzzle was intended to be presented. Newer solvers… sink or swim. The novice solvers I’ve seen have sunk 100% of the time when it comes to interpreting theme clues presented like this:

And, in my experience, novice solvers are not overly excited to try swimming again once they sank.

It’s like going to a great restaurant, and after the waiter puts the meal down in front of you, he simply shrugs and walks away when you request silverware. Sure, you can still eat it. It’s just a lot sloppier and makes for a worse experience when the solution was simply… silverware. Like all the other restaurants have.

Anyway, sorry that the otherwise great debut from these constructors fell prey to that.

4 stars with circles.

1.5 stars without.




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15 Responses to Saturday, October 2, 2021

  1. stephen manion says:

    One of my poker friends has a close friend who is one of the best cornhole players. The best players are north of $100,000 per year and are getting close to $250,000. Reminds me of about 35 or 40 years ago when everyone (including me) bought their own darts to compete. Haven’t tried cornhole yet.

    Much easier Saturday than Friday for me and an easy Spelling Bee today.

  2. MattF says:

    So, the king crab is an example of carcinisation…
    A relatively easy NYT. And an easy Spelling Bee.

  3. Billy Boy says:

    NYT played fairly well, top like a Wednesday bottom more Saturday challenging for me.

    One DORIS MILLER great story
    SEA CRAB felt made up

    Cornhole is just ugly, it’s bean bag toss, but so Ohio

    • RM Camp says:

      Yeah, CORNHOLE is Ohio AF. Ugh. I think I’m gonna start calling it “bags” now—would it be pronounced “baygs”? I hope so. Even if not, too bad, “baygs” it is.

  4. pannonica says:

    NYT: “And Wikipedia tells me the king crab isn’t a crab at all! It’s a decapod crustacean with a crabby form …”

    Of course, Brachyura (true crabs) are also decapod crustaceans, and the Anomura (including king crabs) is a sister taxon.

    Not contradicting Amy’s statement, just clarifying and expanding on it a little.

  5. Mr. Grumpy says:

    WSJ: Actually liked the theme; hated the fill & cluing.

  6. Tracy B. says:

    I always make rice as an optional base for chili. And folks can add a dollop of sour cream and a little grated cheddar and a sprinkle of cilantro, if they want. It may be a southwestern style? I’m from the northeast, and we never had it that way growing up. It’s an adaptation that I think helps those who don’t like straight-up spicy chili make it less spicy. I got my version from a “cowgirl cuisine” recipe book.

  7. Jim says:

    NYT: Why not “ancient royal transports” for SEDANS?

    Chili on rice? No. Just no.

  8. Eric S says:

    WSJ: I liked the theme, even though it took me longer than it should have to get it.

  9. Zulema says:

    12D in the NYT was clued “Lapped” and the answer was GONE PAST. Shouldn’t the clue have been “Lapsed”? “Lapped was how the dog drank water. Am I wrong?

    • PJ says:

      Think about a long race on a closed track. Autos or runners. The leader catches and passes (laps) the last place contestant. I think of it more with auto races.

      • R says:

        This is right. It takes me back to running laps in gym class so many years ago. I was occasionally the lapper, but more often the lapped.

  10. Zulema says:

    Thank you, PJ and R. On Saturday, I should have thought even farther outside the box.

Comments are closed.