Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Jonesin' 4:45 (Derek) 


LAT 2:53 (Derek) 


NYT 3:00 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 10:28 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 543), “Haunted House Foodie”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 543: “Haunted House Foodie”

Hello everybody! Here is hoping you are all doing well and, depending on where in the country you are from, staying safe from some nasty weather systems that are wreaking havoc in different parts of the US at the same time! Sheesh!

Many hope that the weather will clear from Fright Night on Sunday, and we have a funny riddle and answer that is Halloween related that’s the theme of the puzzle. Here is hoping you don’t have a bone to pick with this joke…

  • WHAT PARTY SNACKS DID THE SKELETON PREPARE FOR HALLOWEEN (17A, 24A, 39A, & 52A: [Riddle: Part I, Riddle: Part II, Riddle, Part III, Riddle: Part IV])  – Jones’ role in the movie was patterned after one of the greats in the history of boxing, former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson.
  • SPARE RIBS (65A: [Answer to this puzzle’s riddle!])

I usually am not the best at puzzles in which quotes/riddles/phrases are the theme, and this was another one of those instances of having to use a lot of the crosses to parse what the riddle was. (The answer to it ended up being straightforward once I made out most of the question.) Also did not help my solving cause when I automatically put in “Cera” instead of PEÑA (18D: [“The Martian” actor Michael]). Despite those difficulties, and little extra crosswordese/partials to fill, there were a lot of bright spots, highlighted by the paralleling entries of HEARTBEATS (11D: [Per a Poe short story, under-the-floorboard sounds from a murder victim]) and GREEN ROOMS (31D: [Schmoozing places for talk-show guests]). There are a few in the crossword world who have experienced being in a green room, probably when going on Jeopardy! One of my green room experiences happened 20 years ago when on a sports trivia show and, during one of the show tapings, I personally got to meet and get an autograph from…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BROCK (62A: [Base-stealing legend Lou]) – …the man who stole 938 career bases, a Major League record before Rickey Henderson broke the mark in 1991. Brock most certainly is a base-stealing legend, but he would not have been able to get on base all of those times without being a good hitter, as Brock also amassed 3,023 career hits and 900 career runs batted in. And to think, he started his career with the Chicago Cubs and was traded to their longtime rival, and then he blossomed into an all-time great in St. Louis.

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Michael Schlossberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 26 21, no. 1026

What a fun theme, especially for Halloween week! 58a. [Doctor whose shopping list might include 20-, 34- and 42-Across?] clues FRANKENSTEIN, and the components he gathers are:

  • 20a. [Basic, practical details], NUTS AND BOLTS.
  • 34a. [What expensive things cost], AN ARM AND A LEG.
  • 42a. [Magnet for criticism], LIGHTNING ROD.

Mind you, this is not his complete shopping list. He probably picked up bread and milk, too.

I like the floral zone with BEE BALM and BEGONIA beside each other. I did not know that the former is a 7d. [Flowering plant also known as horsemint]. How many animals have their own mints? There was one in the Monday Spelling Bee puzzle. Bring me the axolotlmint, please.

Toughest entry for newer Tuesday solvers: the rarely seen abbreviation ENGR. This answer makes me a little bit engry! If you don’t know what this is supposed to be and you don’t know what letter belongs at the start of G CLEFS, you’re in trouble here. Also the non-Canadian [Edmonton’s prov.], ALB. It’s AB or the old-timey Alta.; come on, now! Don’t know why it’s not ALL/LEER or ALT/TIER.

Been a while since I eyeballed the male vs. female balance in a puzzle. Here we find 13 men or male characters—SEAN Connery, ELIE Wiesel, Mahmoud Abbas, DRE, LAO TSE, BOBA Fett, CHEF Boyardee, erstwhile actor ALDO Ray, Shrek and DONKEY, Hägar and SNERT, Spike LEE—and just 2 real women and 1 fictional one, Princess LEIA, ANNA Kournikova, and Gypsy Rose LEE sharing a clue with Spike. We can do better for ANNA than a tennis player who never won a Grand Slam singles event. Sometimes it’s tiring.

Fun clue: 64d. [“Tuesday is the hardest crossword of the week,” e.g.], LIE. Provided you can wrangle ALB and ENGR!

3.25 stars from me. Really liked the theme, but the rest of the puzzle didn’t quite rise to the same level.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fly-by-Night”—Jim P’s review

Looks like it’s Halloween-themed puzzles for the remainder of this week. We’re starting off today with phrases with hidden BATs (60d, [Fly-by-night creature found in the four longest Across answers]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Fly-by-Night” · Mike Shenk · Tue., 10.26.21

  • 18a. [Soup and salad accompanier, at times] MELBA TOAST
  • 23a. [Sluglike crime lord of sci-fi] JABBA THE HUTT
  • 47a. [“Get lost!”] GO CLIMB A TREE
  • 55a. [Reason for an air-raid siren] BOMB ATTACK

Missing: Boba tea, Zorba the Greek, take a stab at. At seven letters, BOBA TEA, would have made a fitting, central entry.

Pretty straightforward. I was hoping for something more—maybe some grid art or some additional rationale as to why the BATs are hidden. Or other hidden Halloween critters perhaps. CAT and CROW both make an appearance in the NW but aren’t part of the theme.

In the fill, top entries are BISCOTTI, WINE BAR, CITY BUS, and “BEHOLD!”

Not so keen on the proper name crossings: JAMES / MAHRE ([23d. “The Turn of the Screw” author Henry] and [31a. Slalom gold medalist Phil]) as well as HALEY / LILA ([26d. Tin Man portrayer Jack] and [32a. Marion’s sister in “Psycho”]). The M and the L are the most obvious choices respectively, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some solvers were caught out.

Clues of note:

  • 5a. [The Jets and the Sharks, for two]. GANGS. I fell for this one and switched it from GANGS to TEAMS until I started looking at the crossings.
  • 51a. [1966 musical whose Act 1 closer is “The Honeymoon Is Over”]. I DO I DO. Don’t know that I’ve ever heard of that one, but I appreciate the helpful clue.

3.25 stars.

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today Crossword, “B&B“ — Emily’s write-up

Another excellent puzzle from Enrique today! A fun grid, great clues and entries, and a fantastic theme.

Completed USA Today crossword for Tuesday October 26, 2021

USA Today, 10 26 2021, “B&B“ by Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

Theme: The themers are two word phases joined with “and” that both begin with the letter “b”


  • 16a. [Positive description for an expanded edition], BIGGERANDBETTER
  • 35a. [Never our of work, per Rickey Thompson], BOOKEDANDBUSY
  • 56a. [Haircare brand], BUMBLEANDBUMBLE

The title is just perfect for this theme today, modeling the format of the themer with an example that is iconic but not one of the themers today (“bed and breakfast” or “b and b”). BIGGERANDBETTER started to fill in with my crossing but once I got about half or so entered, I jumped back up and completed it. BOOKEDANDBUSY is less familiar to me, especially since I didn’t get the reference to Rickey Thompson who is a comedian of Instagram fame. BUMBLEANDBUMBLE fits the patterns yet strays a bit since it uses the same word twice but is still a fun themer and great to see in a grid.

Favorite fill: DAD, RNA, DNA, and MESS

Stumpers: ATEIT (clue just wasn’t clicking for me today), UTE (didn’t know and crossed with ATEIT, which gave me little help), TOYED (needed crossings), SEEIN (“let in” was my first instinct), and SOSO (again, the clue just didn’t get me there)

This puzzle ended up taking me longer than usual, which is odd since I started out with a strong flow and filled a good portion of it in quickly. I found the bottom half (acrosses and downs) a bit trickier for me. The first “t” tripped me up and I almost ATEIT but I was still able to complete it in a decent time for myself.

4.25 stars


Keith Johnston’s Universal crossword, “ALladin”— Jim Q’s write-up

Looks like a debut for Keith! Congrats!

THEME: AL is added into a repeated word. Wackiness abounds.

Universal crossword solution · “ALaddin” · Keith Johnston · Tue., 10.26.21


  • 17A [What downtrodden troops could use?] MORE MORALE. 
  • 27A [Members of a circus, say?] TENT TALENT. 
  • 43A [Goat group announcer?] HERD HERALD. 
  • 56A [Excellent ending?] FINE FINALE. 

Pretty good! I like that the grid isn’t over-crowded with theme in this one. Plenty of breathing room for an open grid with some nice, longer fill.

I thought, based on the title, that I would be adding -AL to common phrases, but instead it’s a repeated word, which made it rather fun and interesting as the solver can infer a little more. That being said, the phrase MORE, MORE! is a standalone as a base phrase I think, so it was a little deceiving to uncover that one first for me since I still assumed the base “phrases” were in-language.

Thanks for this one, Keith! Look forward to more from you!

3.3 stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Soup’s On!” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 10/26/2021

We have a little more obscure trivia than there has been recently. Back to the old Jonesin’! Also, the theme is making me hungry:

  • 17A [Partial shadow] PENUMBRA
  • 21A [Outdoor section for cars] PARKING AREA
  • 33A [Telephone numbers, account IDs, etc.] PERSONAL DATA
  • 54A [Film with elaborate costumes, often] PERIOD DRAMA 
  • 62A [Kind of soup, or what the five theme answers demonstrate] SPLIT PEA 

Well done. Do you want some split pea soup as well? It is starting to get a little cool here, so that doesn’t sound too bad! Great theme in that I didn’t see it coming, although I did notice they all started with a P. Even then there is still enough of an “a-ha!” moment to close out the solve smoothly. 4.4 stars from me today.

About that obscure stuff:

  • 25A [___ Pollos Hermanos (“Breaking Bad” restaurant)] LOS – Still haven’t seen this show. Perhaps this winter!
  • 29A [“___ the Seas with Oysters” (Hugo Award-winning short story by Avram Davidson)] “OR ALL – Never heard of it! Maybe I should read it? It is only a short story!
  • 67A [Richman of “The New Gidget” and “A Very Brady Christmas”] CARYN – No idea who this is.
  • 11D [Descriptor in many Google Maps searches] NEAR ME – Say what you want about the Google monstrosity, Google Maps is awesome. And constantly getting better.
  • 43D [2019 remake directed by Guy Ritchie] ALADDIN – This is the Will Smith version, I think!
  • 46D [Language where a crossword puzzle is “tóimhseachan crois-fhacal”] GAELIC – If it looks like English but has too many letters, it might be Gaelic. Or Welsh!

That is all! Another Jonesin’ next week!

Daniel Sweren-Becker & Daniel Nussbaum’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 10/26/2021

We have TWO new Daniels to add to the constructor database today! Congrats to the possible debut, and a nice theme to boot. See what you think:

  • 20A [*Island known for its bars?] ALCATRAZ
  • 35A [*Tom Sawyer’s creator] MARK TWAIN 
  • 45A [*Highest peak in the Alps] MONT BLANC 
  • 58A [What the answers to starred clues are, in different ways] PEN NAMES 

As a pen buff, I found this a clever theme. ALCATRAZ is a “pen” as in a prison, Twain is literally a pen name, and MONT BLANC is a literal pen. One I cannot afford! And I have spent too much on pens, believe me! If this is in fact a debut, it is a fine one! 4.6 stars from me.

Just a couple of things:

  • 1A [Conservatives’ foes, briefly] LIBS – Everybody wants to “own the Libs!” Especially here in Indiana.
  • 63A [Opera solos] ARIAS – Also the name of a tennis player from the ’80s or so, Jimmy Arias. I am showing my age.
  • 65A [Indianapolis NFLer] COLT – The Colts actually won on Sunday night! They are still terrible, though.
  • 5D [Remove, as the wall in Reagan’s demand to Gorbachev] TEAR DOWN – You young folks may not remember him saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” And it was destroyed that day. Quite a moment in history.
  • 36D [Campus setting for Neil Young’s “Ohio”] KENT STATE – This song is about the Kent State shooting in the early ’70s. But gun violence has been a problem for literally centuries here in the US!

Everyone have a safe and healthy week!

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18 Responses to Tuesday, October 26, 2021

  1. Jenni Levy says:

    E-check? Ugh. Loved the theme and the rest of the fill was fine but ugh.

    • marciem says:

      Well, lots of sites (Ca DMV for one, my pharmacy site for another) use “echeck” as one of the payment choices, so its all around these days and I’m not clear what your objection is? Ecash and Etail irritate the heck out of me, since I never see them anyplace but Xwords.

  2. PJ says:

    I feel like a curmudgeon for saying this but I have had my fill of Halloween themed puzzles for 2021.

  3. David L says:

    I’ve started doing the USA Today puzzle most days. I know Erik is on a mission to enlighten the hoi polloi, but there was a bad cross at 56A/57D involving a brand name unknown to me and a truly arcane clue referring to a person I’ve never heard of. I was able to guess right, but it really was a guess, and it took some googling to figure out what 57D was about.

    In general I like the puzzles but sometimes they try too hard to be educational, at the cost of being enjoyable.

    • Ethan says:

      I thought the crossing was fair. When I read the clue I immediately thought the answer would probably be an Indigenous tribe. Given _TE and the fact that the first letter was going to have to be a vowel, the correct answer was pretty clear to me. I don’t disagree that the incident referenced in the clue was obscure (it’s not even mentioned on the Wikipedia page of the professor, who is not exactly famous to begin with), but the clue was no less helpful than the generic “Western U.S. Native” that we typically see for that entry.

      • David L says:

        The clue didn’t make me think of a tribal name. I agree UTE seemed like the best option; what put me off that choice was that the across answer was then the same word repeated, unlike the others. I thought maybe the down answer might be an abbreviation for some organization, although perhaps that would have been indicated in the clue (I haven’t been doing the puzzle long enough to know whether that’s the norm).

        • SD says:

          Correct. And I’m sure the editors believe that indicating abbreviations is a standard borne out of “whiteness,” or some other hyper-progressive drivel, so I wouldn’t expect that to be a standard they would universally apply.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            SD, my eyes just rolled so hard I got a headache. You’re just spoiling for a fight, ain’t ya?

    • Eric S says:

      I’d never heard of the brand or of Christine Sleeter, but the crossing was obviously a vowel. And I was glad to read about Professor Sleeter’s admirable action.

      I don’t read much into the fact that her Wikipedia page doesn’t mention the donation. It looks like that page hasn’t been updated in years.

  4. DJ says:

    NYT – fun theme, but Dr Frankenstein “shopping” for a lightning bolt doesn’t really work

  5. Billy Boy says:

    Stupid me was hoping for an orthopedic connection in the NYT today

    Not a Halloween fan, used to mean trips to the E.R. for me at 2-3 a.m. most years, it had become a “Drunk Adult Holiday” and I never liked it as a kid

  6. Alan D. says:

    Jim P., I think I have Thursday’s WSJ puzzle and last I saw it, it wasn’t a Halloween theme. Now it makes me wonder why indeed it is running this week?

Comments are closed.