Sunday, October 24, 2021

LAT 11:59 (Gareth) 


NYT untimed (Nate) 


Universal 4:26 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:19 (Darby) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Katie Hale’s New York Times crossword, “Sports Nuts”—Nate’s write-up

This week, we visit the Wacky World of Sports! Each of this puzzle’s themers is a standard sports term (or so I’m told – I’m so sports illiterate!) reclued in a fun or unexpected way.

Sunday NYT Puzzle 10.24.21

Sunday NYT Puzzle 10.24.21

22A: OFFENSIVE REBOUND [Your ex’s new date whom you just can’t stand?]
34A: FLOOR EXERCISE [Kegels, e.g.?]
51A: STARTING BLOCK [First square of a crosswords?]
68A: SERVICE LINE [“I’ll be your waiter tonight,” e.g.?]
82A: UNPLAYABLE LIE [Conspiracy theory so wild that it can’t be aired?]
96A: SEVEN-TEN SPLIT [Plan to leave at a very specific evening time?]
114A: DESIGNATED HITTER [Blackjack dealer?]

I enjoy themes like this where I get what’s going on but can’t quite predict what other theme entries are going to be, which motivates me to keep solving right through the end of the puzzle.

My favorite themer clues were certainly those for OFFENSIVE REBOUND and FLOOR EXERCISE, though I also thought the clue for DESIGNATED HITTER was also pretty sly. All in all, a home run for me!

Janelle MONAE

Janelle MONAE

Random thoughts:
– It made me smile to see MOIRA Rose show up in the puzzle, though those unfamiliar with “Schitt’s Creek” might have had trouble with the MOIRA / AMOS crossing.
– I was surprised to see DUNE clued via the book and not the just-debuting film adaptation!
– I will always be pumped to see Janelle MONAE in the crossword – her music and acting are both outstanding!
– I was surprised that EXES was crossed with OFFENSIVE REBOUND‘s clue, which contained “ex’s”. Same thing with RAISE HELL crossing DANTE‘s clue, [One hell of a writer?]. (NB: I flagged these in my test solving of this puzzle – it’s interesting to see them in the final puzzle!)
– I also wish that ATE LESS hadn’t been clued as [Dieted], as there are lots of ways to be on a diet that don’t involve eating less, and many diets involving eating less aren’t always healthy.

That’s all from me for now – let me know in the comments section what you enjoyed about the puzzle.  Thanks for the fun solve, Katie!

Morton J. Mendelson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Border Crossing”—Jim P’s review

Today’s theme is a US MAP (71a, [Weather Channel graphic … or this grid, based on what the letters extending beyond each side spell?]). The grid itself doesn’t resemble a map, nor does it have the lower 48 states in appropriate places (I’m assuming; I didn’t check). But the grid’s edges act as borders, and if we go beyond those borders (via certain words that extend thusly), we find America’s neighbors in their appropriate places.

Note that the entries without the extended letters are still crossword-valid entries.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Border Crossing” · Morton J. Mendelson · 10.24.21

To the north (CANADA):

  • 6d. [Pit, for a cherry] (C)ENTER
  • 7d. [Tennis’ Arthur ___ Stadium] (A)SHE
  • 9d. [French edict city] (N)ANTES
  • 11d. [Modify formally] (A)MEND
  • 12d. [Bump down in rank] (D)EMOTE
  • 14d. [“The Sound of Music” mountains] (A)LPS

To the west (PACIFIC):

  • 26a. [Cats and dogs] (P)ETS
  • 36a. [Belittles] (A)BASES
  • 52a. [Reef invertebrate] (C)ORAL
  • 64a. [Principles to strive for] (I)DEALS
  • 76a. [Promote relentlessly, in slang] (F)LOG. Not familiar with this usage.
  • 93a. [Livid] (I)RATE
  • 104a. [Gossips idly] (C)HATTERS

To the east (ATLANTIC):

  • 31a. [Steam engines ushered one in] NEW ER(A)
  • 42a. [Maximally icky] GROSSES(T)
  • 58a. [Hearing-related] AURA(L)
  • 68a. [Field of study] ARE(A)
  • 83a. [Like a wasteland] BARRE(N)
  • 97a. [Specialized vocabulary] ARGO(T)
  • 108a. [Judo instructor] SENSE(I)
  • 121a. [Ireland Baldwin’s dad] ALE(C). Ugh. You’ve got to feel sorry for the man who finds himself in an impossibly difficult situation.

To the south (MEXICO):

  • 125d. [Miami Heat or Calgary Flames] TEA(M)
  • 110d. [Dojo sport] KARAT(E)
  • 119d. [Brand of shapewear] SPAN(X)
  • 112d. [Italian sandwich] PANIN(I). I’m fine with the sandwich, but not PAN IN as a phrase.
  • 127d. [Artist Chagall] MAR(C)
  • 113d. [Quickly reach, as a conclusion] LEAP T(O)

Impressive execution of this theme and a perfect title. I caught on to the fact that there were extended entries up top pretty early, but then to find them all the way around the grid was a bit of a surprise. That ends up being a lot of theme material and a hefty amount of constraints for the grid.

But there’s still plenty of sparkle to go around. I especially liked WOW FACTOR, “MY PRETTY,” LUNCH DATE, “I SEE NOW,” “WHAT AM I?,” APOSTLES, MAN-EATER, NEAR EAST, and CYBORG. Aside from PAN IN, DAY STAR [The sun, for one] was the only other entry that raised my eyebrow.

Clues are mostly straightforward, but I did like [Sources of hydroelectricity?] for EELS.

Impressive grid all around. 4.25 stars.

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

OK… let’s see what’s going on here. (pun intended. I was excited for that one.)

Haven’t determined the meta answer yet, but I’m almost positive I know how I’m supposed to find it, so let’s get to it now!

THEME: Common phrases have a letter or two altered to C, and wackiness ensues.

Washington Post, October 24 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Sea Changes” solution grid


  • 23A [“Got any plans to pick up rapper Hammer?”] WILL YOU CARRY MC? I assume the base phrase here is WILL YOU CARRY ME, but I’m not positive. Sounds/feels weird.
  • 30A [Ice cream purchase that’s completely safe?] NO HARM CONE. NO HARM DONE. 
  • 35A [Fabled figure captured on a video recorder, briefly?] CAM LEGEND. I’m unsure of the base phrase. Oh wait… just ran the alphabet. It’s I AM LEGEND.
  • 56A [Bath powder for bovines?] CATTLE TALC. Again, unsure of base phrase. Hopefully the meta will fill this one in for me. 
  • 65A [Annual award for a snack?] COOKIE OF THE YEAR. ROOKIE OF THE YEAR. 
  • 77A [Great pitcher that you and I genetically replicate?] ACE WE CLONE. ARE WE ALONE. 
  • 97A [Malign mallards?] SLAM DUCKS. SLAM DUNKS. 
  • 114A [Religious branch that forms covenants?] SECT OF THE PACTS. This one didn’t come to me immediately either, but it’s SEAT OF THE PANTS. 

Let’s put all those original letters that were changed together and hope we get something. The meta says we are looking for “…a well-known sea.”


Well clearly it’s MEDITERRANEAN. So let’s go back and see where I screwed up.

Oh. Duh.

Base phrase for 23A is WILL YOU MARRY ME. Which makes much more sense. I don’t know why I didn’t consider altering the first C like I did in the others.

The other one I missed was TATTLE TALE.

and I left out 99A [Rugby formation where the facts emerge?] TRUTH SCRUMTRUTH SERUM. 

So there we have it. It’s all worked out.

Not my favorite of Evan’s metas. It was a bit confusing with some phrases having more than one C, some of the C words rhyming with the base phrase word, and some C words being a different number of words than the base phrase (like I AM / CAM or, in a sense, M.C. / ME).

But it came together. Often, Evan will have a theme-type like this, and rather than there being a meta, the “mystery word” will be a revealer.

It should be noted that there are no other C’s in the puzzle, which is an elegant touch.

New Names for Me:

Edith COWAN, JANIE Crawford, Erykah BADU. ROWEL is new to me also.

Favorite RETRO reference 49A [Like Ernest P. Worrell’s friend Vern] UNSEEN. When’s the last time you thought of the inane Ernest Goes to… series? I re-watched Ernest Goes to the Army (or something like that… I don’t care enough to google the actual title) about a decade ago. It didn’t hold up. I remember thinking that was hilarious when I was a kid.

COWS / COWAN / CATTLE is a rather strange combo in one puzzle!

Enjoy Sunday!



Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal crossword, “Forest Ranger”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Names that have deer in them.



Lovely L/R symmetry grid here. I had a ton of trouble getting started as I confidently entered ACT V for TOMB [Where Romeo last kisses Juliet] and couldn’t make much more of anything else in that corner. OPERA helped me out of the jam eventually.

FAWN SHARP is a new name for me, but I’m glad it’s not new now.

PROMO CODE was fun to see in there too. How long is “too long” to search for PROMO CODEs when you have something in your cart and are about to check out? I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time doing that.

4 stars today! Thanks for this one!

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Storm Forecast”—Darby’s write-up

Edited by: Erik Agard

Theme: Each themed answer begins with a type of storm.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "Storm Forecast" solution for 10/24/2021

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Storm Forecast” solution for 10/24/2021

  • 20a [“‘Drop the Mic’ co-host”] HAILEY BIEBER
  • 38a [“‘Drama’ author”] RAINA TELGEMEIER
  • 57a [“2020 Masters champion”] DUSTIN JOHNSON

A nice, breezy (appropriate when storms are in the forecast) Sunday puzzle. I thought that the theme answers were nice and fresh. I did have to google RAINA TELGEMEIER, and am curious to see how many solvers are familiar with Drama.

Grid-wise, I didn’t love three plurals right a row with EGGSACTSAREAS, but I still thought the cluing on each got me right where I needed to be. Knowing how close we are to Halloween, I did appreciate 4d [“Anatomy class display”] SKELETON and 40d [“Trick or ___”] TREAT. Like I said in one of my most recent reviews (the last one? It’s been a hectic weekend), it’s spooky season, y’all.

Some other fave parts of the fill:

  • 3d [“Test pilot’s outfit”] – Speaking of Halloween, even though I will be traveling, the mention of a G-SUIT reminded me of my classic costume: my Top Gun flight suit.
  • 22d [“Moisten with drippings”] – Storms aren’t the only things being forecast in this puzzle. Thanksgiving and the time to BASTE turkeys is right around the corner!
  • 26d [“Mounds on a beach”] – I thought DUNES here was fortuitous, as the new Dune has been all over my social media feed.
  • 33d [“If it lasts for 24 hours, it’s probably good”] – I loved the cheekiness of this clue for FIRST DATE. I definitely didn’t get it on my first go round, but I caught on once DATE came together.

Overall, a cute puzzle for a Sunday! Have a good week, y’all!

Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword, “Sporting Chance” – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

Gary Larson’s puzzle has two rather vague revealing moments: title “Sporting Chance” and final entry TEAMMATES. Neither seem particularly apt at conveying what is happening – answers are made up of pairs of two “big 4” (or maybe just 3? I didn’t cross-check them all to see which sport(s) they come from) US Sports teams, so no Peshawar Zalmi or NSW Waratahs. This is a common thematic road to explore, but today’s trip had a lot of potholes.

VIKINGSAINT is not a real answer, but merely a description. It stands out like a sore thumb against BROWNBEAR, HEATBILL, YANKEECLIPPER (I’d have gone for a non-sport clue here BTW – since now YANKEE means member of the YANKEES in the clue), REDGIANT, TITANROCK, BENGALTIGER and WARRIORKING (more on him in a bit) are at least defined things. Now, WARRIORKING, he isn’t notable enough to be in a puzzle, he is a good two orders of magnitude too obscure for a general puzzle. Me, if I was going to run this puzzle, would have sent it back asking for fewer, but better theme entries.

Not a lot more to comment on. Let’s see, STL, [NL Central club]; again, given the nature of the theme, I’d have eschewed sports. [Uses, as a scale], STEPSON – another really odd clueing choice, given the familiarity of STEP-SON.


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15 Responses to Sunday, October 24, 2021

  1. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    33D: King Hong? A restaurant in Ft. Lee, NJ?

  2. David Steere says:

    WaPo: Thanks for a wonderful Saturday night/Sunday puzzle. I don’t know why I find yours so much fun and most of the other Sunday-size puzzles such a slog, but I do. Perhaps it has something to do with the humor built into so many clue/answer pairs (e.g., 21A) or themers that are so witty (e.g., 30A). Like Erik’s beautifully edited USA Today puzzles, unknown names of people, tribes, food, songs, TV shows, etc., in your puzzles are always crossed fairly. I don’t do meta puzzles, don’t even try, just not my thing. But, this easy meta solution jumped right out at me as it did with one by Patrick Berry a year or two ago. Thanks for the diversion!


    • Mr. [not so] Grumpy says:

      Agree 100%. Fantastic puzzle. Funny, Wacky. And not a single extraneous C in the grid. That was amazing!!

    • marciem says:


      Loved the puzzle, and this non-meta person got the meta so I double-enjoyed it.

      And the meta helped me understand a couple of the themers that I didn’t really understand .

      • marciem says:

        meant PLUS 1, agreement.

        sect of the pacts = seat of the pants only came after I got the meta, same with I am legend :) .

    • David L says:

      I agree. The meta was a whole lot easier for me than last week’s, which I struck out on completely, but the imaginative construction of this one was very impressive. It took me a while to see what letters needed to be changed in the theme answers — I started off by turning CATTLETALC into CATTLECALL — but once I realized that it’s the letter C that has to change, I was on my way.

      I can’t even begin to imagine how Evan comes up with these ideas and executes them in such an appealing way.

  3. Dook says:

    Can someone explain the kegeling clue? Why is kegeling a floor exercise?

    • PJ says:

      I believe it refers to the abdominal floor. That’s the muscles at the base of the body’s core.

    • Alex H. says:

      Because it targets the anatomical area known as the pelvic floor, I believe.

    • JohnH says:

      I didn’t know that either. (Also RUSK and hadn’t known you could spell Hecate with a K.)

      • pannonica says:

        Rule of thumb: in any classical Greek word a c should more authentically be replaced with a k.

        e.g. Herakles, Kírkē, even Sophokles. But I guess we have conventions too, because admittedly that last looks really weird. But look: Σοφοκλῆς

        • JohnH says:

          Thanks. It occurred to me, too, that the K/hard C sound would be the same letter in the Greek alphabet. Of course, the K is given as only an alternative spelling in American dictionaries, but it didn’t seem a flaw.

          I’m guessing the puzzle generally is more welcome to sports fans. After all, a pun on a phrase isn’t as resonant if you don’t recognize the phrase. But I figured that just left a perfectly average puzzle, which isn’t bad by NYT Sunday recent efforts. After all again, punning themes often don’t work if your sense of humor takes a different tack. So not stellar for me, but fine.

  4. Gary R says:

    NYT: Pretty good puzzle. Thought it was a nice touch that the seven themers related to seven different sports – basketball, gymnastics, track, tennis, golf, bowling and baseball.

  5. MattF says:

    NYT was good enough, relatively easy. Not a standout, though. RUSK was new to me.

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