Sunday, October 10, 2021

LAT 10:40 (Gareth) 


NYT untimed (Nate) 


Universal 4:09 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:25 (Darby) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Brandon Koppy’s New York Times crossword, “Clue: The Movie”—Nate’s write-up

Okay, this puzzle had me from the title. Clue is among my favorite movies – campy and iconic, with multiple endings to keep you on your toes (though the only ending that really matters is the one that includes the ever-quotable flames on the side of Madeline Kahn’s face). What a fun twist, then, to have the title literally tell us what each of the theme entries will do: clue a movie.

Sunday NYT 10.10.21

Sunday NYT 10.10.21

23A: PSYCHOANALYSIS [Field of Dreams]
26A: GI JOES [Guys and Dolls]
38A: THE RED CARPET [Star Trek]
66A: KANJI [Letters from Iwo Jima]
67A: SIMON SAYS [The Imitation Game]
69A: BORON [The Fifth Element]
84A: BINGE WATCHER [A Man for All Seasons]
97A: CHANEL NO. FIVE [Scent of a Woman]
113A: GOTHAM [Wayne’s World]
114A: FLY ME TO THE MOON [Space Jam]

Now this is how you do a Sunday puzzle right, in my opinion. Even though it’s a 21x grid, you don’t need to rely on super long theme entries. Instead, the constructor focused on getting the best entries (even if they were short) and building a strong puzzle around them. Not bad at all for his first Sunday NYT puzzle!  I had a big smile on my face as each themer dropped, jealous that I didn’t come up with many of them myself. I’d love to see the constructor’s list of theme entries that didn’t quite make the grid.  Brandon, share your secrets!

Other random thoughts:
– I loved the “Clueless” counter-reference to “Clue” at 24D (CHER).
– I especially appreciated the gender-neutral cluing for EPT at 39D, which felt very trans-inclusive.
– Clues like [Drawer of shorts, e.g.] for ANIMATOR will always make me smile – I love asking my brain to bend and stretch like that.
– I’m not the most excited about have IDIOT or MORONS in a grid, much less both.

That’s all for now – let me know in the comments what you enjoyed about the puzzle.  Have a great week!

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Head Start”— Jim Q’s write-up

Whether you’re having a good hair day or not, this is a fun one to wake up to!

THEME: Hair styles are added to the front of common phrases or words and wackiness ensues.

Washington Post, October 10 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Head Start” solution grid


  • 3D [Expert at thrill-seeking jumps?] BUNGEE WHIZ. Gee whiz!
  • 5D [Black bird that’s spreading everywhere?] PERMEATING CROW. Eating crow. 
  • 9D [Headline about an awesome youngster?] MOPPET ROCKS. Pet rocks.
  • 12D [Newborn mountain feline’s bed?] BOBCAT’S CRADLE. Cat’s cradle. 
  • 58D [Icy aces?] FROZEN MASTERS. Zen masters. 
  • 70D [Charges for hiring Scooby-Doo’s buddy?] SHAGGY RATES. Gyrates. 
  • 55D [Songs that don’t conclude suddenly?] FADEOUT NUMBERS. Outnumbers. 
  • 78D (revealer) [Development on one’s head, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] HAIR GROWTH. 

Hairstyles seem to lend themselves to crossword themes for some reason. I’ve seen a bunch of themes featuring them. Always different and usually enjoyable, like this one is. Just odd that hairstyles and famous doctors seem to be regulars in Crossworld rotation.

Very simple concept here, but I tripped over my own feet quite a bit during the solve. Grokked the theme easily with BUNGEE WHIZ. And if you say it aloud, the GEE WHIZ is firmly intact. I like that! There are a couple answers where the base phrase is not audibly intact, like PERMEATING CROWEating crow, and SHAGGY RATESGyrates. Those were less enjoyable to uncover for me. BOBCAT’S CRADLE was my favorite entry, especially since it gave me a foothold in that corner where I was struggling.

Up there, I had difficulty with STYLE, CORAL, BOONS, BRETT, and CELESBIAN. I love that last entry, but it’s a word I’ve never heard of. And it crossed a new BRETT for me. I initially had TRENT for BRETT, and then changed it to TRETT as I figured out the crossing BOBCAT, but I forgot to reexmine the initial T. Can’t really call it a Natick because there is plenty that’s inferable. I just chose not to infer. Ted Lasso is on the ever-growing list of must watch shows, but haven’t gotten there yet. And CELESTIAN sounded just fine for me as some sort of star who is coming out of a closet. Before I move on from that corner I just want to give a little side eye to ON POT. There. Just did it.

My favorite mistake was GOFER for GAMER at 28A [One who may take part in speedrunning]. I totally accepted that an office intern would be speedrunning in order to impress the higher-ups with their work ethic in hopes of securing a job later. I like to read deeply into speedrunning clues.


Jennifer Pauli, AUDRE Lorde, Aloo matar, EDITH Hamilton, ELENA Ferrante, BRETT Goldstein, LAZAR Wolf (despite accompanying Fiddler on the Roof on piano for at least half a dozen different productions of it), MEGAN Thee Stallion. Less than normal I think.

Favorite clues were [Fire company?] DRAGONS, [Company product?] OPERA (the “company” refers to the “cast” of the opera), and [Dream ticket activity?] LOTTO. 

Thanks, Evan! Enjoy Sunday y’all.

Freddie Cheng’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Sliders”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Rs “slide” (hence the title) within familiar phrases creating new, wacky phrases.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Sliders” · Freddie Cheng · 10.10.21

  • 21a. [Presenting a fast-food side?] PUTTING OUT FRIES. Fires.
  • 30a. [Yearning felt before Halloween?] PUMPKIN CRAVING. Carving.
  • 48a. [One who walks right off the catwalk?] UNWARY MODEL. Runway.
  • 55a. [Signal for male sheep?] CALL TO RAMS. Arms.
  • 62a. [Non-mainstream watercolors, e.g.?] FRINGE PAINTINGS. Finger.
  • 76a. [Where to stick a corncob holder?] END OF AN EAR. Era.
  • 84a. [Expert at patiently eliciting giggles?] SLOW TICKLER. Trickle.
  • 97a. [Evidence as to who tasted too many filled scones?] JAM ON THE BAKERS. Brakes. This entry features an additional word changing meaning (JAM) unlike the other entries.
  • 113a. [Business of looking after grazing land?] RANGE MANAGEMENT. Anger.

Works well enough, though nothing tickled me especially (despite 84a).  I appreciate that there are no extraneous Rs in the base phrases.

I enjoyed the long fill today with MET HALFWAY, PASSING FAD, ADULT MOVIE, and DOLLAR MENU.

I also liked seeing DEL TACO, but then I grew up in California, and this is a chain restaurant based primarily in the Golden State (601 restaurants in 16 states but 369 of them are in California). Solvers in other states might have had trouble with that one.

Clue of note: 121a. [Word bookending “lease out”]. LET. I was looking for a phrase “___ lease out ___.” Bzzt. That’s not it. LET is found at the ends of “LEase outT.” Meh.

Solid puzzle, but nothing very flashy. 3.4 stars.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “On the Record”—Darby’s write-up

Theme: The first word of each theme answer corresponds to a music recording certification level BESTOWed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA): platinum, gold, and diamond.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today puzzle "On the Record" solution, 10/10/2021

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today puzzle “On the Record” solution, 10/10/2021

  • 20a [“Daenerys Targaryen feature”] PLATINUM HAIR
  • 37a [“Treat with yellow flesh”] GOLD KIWI FRUIT
  • 54a [“Nickname for Delaware”] DIAMOND STATE

Being neither a Game of Thrones fan nor aware of Delaware’s epithets, I got most of these on the crosses. I had some idea with GOLD KIWI FRUIT but still needed the Down clues to help me. This theme was interesting to me because it was both pretty obvious once I finished the puzzle and also difficult because I had no idea about who determines these levels for records. The levels – gold, platinum, and diamond – are just so embedded in our pop culture that seeing all three together was a snap. However, now I know much more about the RIAA and the sheer quantity of records required for each level.

Six-letter downs kick off the puzzle, complimented by their rightward counterpart in the southwest corner of the grid. ADAPTS (1d [“Changes with the times”]), CELLAR (2d [“Place to store root veggies”]), and TATAMI (3d [“Mat a judo dojo”]) formed a stellar acrostic start to ACTS (1a [“Segments of an opera”]). Likewise, I loved the use of the 9-lettered HEAR ME OUT over in 10d [“‘I know how it sounds, but listen…’”]. Those longer, more colloquial phrases bring out such good energy to a puzzle. It takes a really skilled constructor to get me where I need to go when the answer doesn’t depend on a straight-up definition. I talk a lot about crossword answers and how they’re clued, but answers like these are the ones that I most often mentioned to those who don’t do puzzles regularly to show how accessible it can be.

Other things that stuck out to me:

  • 47a [“___-mo”] & 52a [“Walked nervously”] – I love that SLO and PACED are layered right on top of each other in that bottom right corner.
  • 50a [“Music streaming service”] – I had Spotify at first for this, but I quickly switched over to PANDORA. I honestly can’t remember the last time I used this particular platform, but once I had a few letters, it became clear.
  • 58a & 7d [“Part of a flower”] – Y’all probably know by now that I love duets like this, and the PETAL/STEM combo didn’t disappoint.
  • 68a [“‘Monsoon Wedding’ director Nair”] – I was unfamiliar with MIRA Nair until I did this puzzle, but I’ve already seen the titles of at least scholarly works that I’m excited to dive into at some point. I was also excited to discover that she was the director of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a 2012 film based off of Mohsin Hamid’s novel of the same name (Hamid, by the way, has written several incredible novels that I highly recommend). Anyway, Nair has also directed Queen of Katwe, Amelia, The Namesake (also an excellent novel by Jhumpa Lahiri), and Vanity Fair. I could go on and on about her, but I’ll hold off for now. You can learn more at her Britannica and Imdb pages if you’re interested in following me down the rabbit hole.
  • 57d [“Some Little League spectators”] – Did you know that the final game of the Little League World Series this year had over 2.77 million viewers? Fun fact: that’s more DADS (and moms and sibs and fans generally) than those who watched the Yankees the same night.

Alright, you’ve listened to me talk long enough. TLDR (is this supposed to go at the beginning? whoops): HEAR ME OUT, this was a great puzzle. Record certification was the theme, and clues covered cool film directors, baseball, flower parts, and streaming services.

David Alfred Bywaters’s LA Times crossword, “Moonlighting” – Gareth’s summary

lat 101021

Today’s Sunday puzzle by David Alfred Bywaters is the type that you have to kind of be willing to go with, as while it is playful, it is quite loosely defined. The seven entries each consist of a participle associated with one vocation and a noun associated with a second which together make an unrelated phrase. I feel like the associations started off tighter and then gradually got more iffy. We started with DIVINGSUIT, an [Exec working as a lifeguard?]. Both SUIT and SALT in SMELLINGSALTS, [Sailors working as aromatherapists?] are informal nicknames for vocations. The trend continues with ROCKINGCHAIR, [Committee head working as a lead guitarist?]. Now that I know what Instacart is, SHOPPINGCENTERS makes more sense. It is clued as [NBA players working as Instacart employees?]. [Comics working as phone solicitors?], CALLINGCARDS seems a tad weaker, as no comic would call their job CARD. The set is rounded out by CLEANINGAGENT and FITTINGEND, which was too tempting to not finish on it seems.

I’m not sold on the meta-clue for CLUEING as a [Crossword constructor’s chore] as that lingo is not familiar to the general public.


Jesse Goldberg’s Universal crossword, “B-Sides”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Common phrases that start and end with the letter B.

Universal crossword solution · “B-Sides” · Jesse Goldberg · Sun., 10.10.21



This is nicely done. Very simple, over-the-plate theme type, but a joy to solve. Six fun themers that never try to upstage each other and all 8 letters made for nice cohesion. Determining the bookended B theme also led to a certain synergy between fill/theme, which is always welcome.

Not new for me, but new for me because I never see it in writing is ENBY (actually, I saw it in writing once before if my memory serves me correct… it was the theme for a Universal puz, perhaps during pride month?) Also new for me: NENE Leakes.

Thanks for this one, Jesse!

4 stars.

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23 Responses to Sunday, October 10, 2021

  1. Dan says:

    This was a great puzzle. I loved it! The theme, the theme answers, and many of the rank-and-file clues were terrifically innovative and funny to behold once they were solved.

    (Note: The answer to the 38A clue [Star Trek] was THE RED CARPET.)

  2. arthur118 says:

    From M-W: “arcanum
    1 : mysterious or specialized knowledge, language, or information accessible or possessed only by the initiate —usually used in plural”

    Not being one of the initiate, this puzzle lasted on my screen for about as long as it took to hit the delete button.

  3. David L says:

    Boy, I didn’t care for the NYT at all. Some of the movie clues made little or no sense to me — notably ‘Guys and Dolls’ for GIJOES and ‘Space Jam’ for FLYMETOTHEMOON. And the fill had more than a usual amount of awkwardness: ARIOSE crossing ORONYM, ELLA crossing KANJI (could easily be an E), and IRAIL (huh???) I misremembered Martinez as TITO, and had VOTE for me at 63A, which took a while to untangle, especially with ATEASE for 73A instead of ATHOME (‘perfectly comfortable’? huh???)

    Maybe this was simply a case of me not being at all on the constructor’s wavelength, but I thought a good deal of the fill and cluing was trying too hard to be cute. EYESHADOW is part of a makeup test? Another huh — where does a test come into this?

    One last thing — having a movie title clue at 109D that isn’t part of the theme was inelegant at best.

    • P Merrell says:

      G.I. Joe started out as a reference to U.S. infantrymen in WWII, later used as the name of Mattel’s doll … so G.I. Joes are guys and they’re also dolls. I admit I didn’t get “Space Jam” immediately, because I wasn’t thinking of jam as meaning music. But when I did, it made sense to me.

      • David L says:

        That makes sense, thanks. I was thinking of it in terms of GI Joe being a doll that guys play with, or something like that.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Rest assured that you weren’t the only one with a wavelength issue with this puzzle. If it were only that, I’d probably still have been frustrated, but I could write it off as simply holes in my knowledge. But there were just too many clue-answer combinations that made no sense at all to me or, as you say, seemed to be trying too hard to be cute. Next puzzle please …

    • R says:

      Feeling AT HOME = Feeling perfectly comfortable. Totally in the language. I’m not sure how that one could be any clearer.
      There are plenty of cosmetology schools where tests with makeup might include EYE SHADOW. One may also test new makeup like EYE SHADOW before committing to using it. And, not sure if this needs to be said, but “makeup test” has another academic meaning that this is playing with.
      I’m sympathetic to some of the gripes about unusual words crossing each other, but these wordplay clues are not unfair by any stretch.

  4. MattF says:

    NYT was a good one— somewhat on the tough side. Kept me engaged all the way through.

  5. David L says:

    WaPo: enjoyable as usual, but I am perplexed by GAMER, ‘one who may take part in speedrunning.’ I googled ‘speedrunning’ and lots of techy stuff came up, but I still don’t understand what it means.

    • Lee says:

      Speedrunning is trying to complete a video game in the least amount of time possible.

    • Giovanni P. says:

      Basically, its trying to finish a game as fast as possible, usually by exploiting bugs and glitches in the design. It’s fascinating to watch the ways in which people can break a game.

      Hope that helps.

      • David L says:

        Thank you both, but I’m still perplexed. “trying to finish a game as fast as possible” — isn’t that the basic idea of any game? To finish as fast as possible?

        (Apologies for the ignorance. I am not a Gamer. I have never Gamed.)

        • In a lot of video games, you proceed through them carefully so that your player doesn’t die, or you may explore different areas of the game to collect items or bonuses or whatever. With speedrunning, the entire goal is to complete the game or a specific level of the game as quickly as you can, with no other considerations. There are even official world records for fastest speed on tons of games.

  6. JohnH says:

    I found the NYT a toughie, and I’m grateful for that. I did complete it, after a while.

    Not sure I like the theme as much as some, while I see others hate it. I’m just unsure one way or the other. It was kinda inconsistent. Some theme entries were quite literal, such as BORON for the fifth element in the periodic table. Others were punning to the point that either you smile a lot or not. My fave was rolling out the red carpet for stars.

  7. Martin says:

    Power’s out, so there may be some outages for the puzzles I host: WSJ, WaPo, UC, Jonesin. Hopefully not too long but PG&E is still figuring it out.

  8. David and Heather says:

    We found the NYT tough and pretty awful. The NE corner was about the worst we’ve encountered in about 300 puzzles we’ve solved together. Yikes. And the themers were just so-so at best. Sorry, but this puzzle was a fail in out book.

  9. Matt M says:

    I guess there’s no accounting for taste, but this definitely was one of my favorite Sunday NYTs of the year

  10. Frank says:

    NYT 10 Oct0ber 2021:

    I’ve studied the sound of language a fair amount, and have never heard of D13 “Ariose” and A22 “oronym”. They are not in any of the several dictionaries that I own. I consider these words extreme outliers, and beyond reasonable bounds. Sure I could find them on line, but that’s cheating, right?

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