Friday, October 29, 2021

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 4:04 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 5:38 (malaika) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:41 (Darby) 


Aimee Lucido’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 10 29 21, no. 1029

Ach, I’d’ve finished under 4 minutes if not for a careless typo! I do feel that Friday NYTs have been a couple notches easier this past year or so. I think I used to average more like 4:30 on Fridays, and these days there are a lot of sub-4 finishes. (Which means sub-2 finishes for the extreme speed demons.)

Lots of fun stuff in this grid. Of note: CHOCO TACO, HELL TO PAY, UNDERWIRE (and no, this [Boob tube?] clue wouldn’t quite fly from a male constructor), SCARY STORY, DOUBLE DARE, HUMONGOUS, “I RECKON SO,” the MAD HATTER, CHUCKLE, Jimi HENDRIX, DRONE ON, SNUGGIE, BADASS, SEPHORA, SANSA Stark, and CAROUSE. There’s definitely a “puzzles by women” vibe here, with SASHES clued via bachelorette parties, and SEPHORA clued as an [Ulta competitor] and if you don’t know Ulta or Sephora sell makeup and such, that’s on you—if I had to learn Warren Spahn and Mel Ott, this won’t kill you.

There are some blah bits—ERN ENOCH ANKA CLE GOA ONEG MDSE—but overall there was so much I enjoyed in this puzzle, I forgive them.

Four more things:

  • 1a. [Rhyming ice cream treat], CHOCO TACO. This Midwesterner decrees that these do NOT rhyme. Chaw-ko Tah-ko, different vowel sounds altogether. I concede that the first word probably ends up being “Chah-ko” when the ice cream truck rolls up, though.
  • 8d. [I Spy or Backseat Bingo], CAR GAME. Is that the term for such games? Driving game? Highway game? Road game? Backseat game?
  • 48a. {[More worms, mama!]}, CHIRP. I started with CHEEP, slowed myself down.
  • 42d. [Virtuosa’s display], BRAVURA. This is a noun? It sure is. I feel like I only see it as an adjective.

Four stars from me.

Rachel Fabi’s USA Today crossword, “Slay!”—Darby’s write-up

Edited by Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer starts with a word that also happens to be a way to kill vampires.

Theme Answers

Rachel Fabi's USA Today crossword, "Slay!" solution for 10/29/2021

Rachel Fabi’s USA Today crossword, “Slay!” solution for 10/29/2021

  • 16a [“Side dish for spaghetti”] GARLIC BREAD
  • 35a [“Regulation requiring government transparency”] SUNSHINE LAW
  • 55a [“One with a business interest”] STAKEHOLDER

Y’all, have I said it’s spooky season, or is it spooky season???? With Halloween right around the corner, we’ve got this fun themed puzzle that is also an encoded manual on how to kill vampires. Ya know, in case you’ve never needed to do it before. Anyway, STAKEHOLDER gave it away for me, though it wasn’t until after the puzzle that I realizing exactly what we were slaying. GARLIC BREAD was an excellently tantalizing clue, and I thought that it paired nicely with the other two 11-letter themers.

Grid-wise, I thought we had some solid fill. I love the little corner cap in the upper left and bottom right, though that’s more for aesthetic reasons that anything else. The six-letter double hitters in the corners were also great for moving through the downs quickly. There were a few words that I didn’t feel like I see very often, like PARDON (43d [“Forgive”]), 41d [“Steamship, for example”] VESSEL, and 10d [Mirror useful for glaring at a backseat driver”] REARVIEW. I definitely struggled with CAVE INS for a bit but got there once I realized that 18a [“McKinnery or Greenville, in Dallas”] was AVE.

Some Friday faves:

  • 29a [“Vacation ‘souvenir’ that fades’] – I thought that TAN LINE was a fun answer for this, but it was made even better by its proximity to SUNSHINE LAW.
  • 2d [“Comics page features”] – I used to cut out my favorite comic STRIPS every morning when I was a kid. My girlfriend still does, and she sends them with cards, which is a blast for me since I get to read them all before she mails them. Also, I feel like there are so many creepy connotations with STRIPS as a word that this really sanitized it and made me smile.
  • 12d [“‘We ___ Lady Parts’ (sitcom)”] – We ARE Lady Parts was entirely unfamiliar to me until I entered it right now, but it is a British sitcom that follows the titular British punk rock band, which is also made up entirely of Muslim women. It streams on Peacock, if you are interested (and I definitely am).

Overall, this puzzle slayed me, without using garlic, a stake, or sunshine (though the sun isn’t even up for me yet, so we’ll see!). Have a great Halloweekend, y’all!

Gary Larson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 10/29/21 • Fri • Larson • solution • 20211029

Wherein individual letters homophonically replace short words, Steig/CDB style, at the beginnings or ends of phrases.

  • 16a. [Submits a racy version of a film to the MPAA?] CHANCES R (chances are). As of September 2019 it’s the MPA.
  • 25a. [Trouble at the family rec center?] Y BOTHER (why bother).
  • 36a. [Filling in for rapper Cardi?] SPELLING B (spelling bee).
  • 49a. [Deans, professors and undergrads?] U PEOPLE (you people).
  • 60a. [Mediocre bakery item in home ec class?] C BISCUIT (Sea Biscuit).

This theme might be exciting to a novice solver, but jaded folks like us probably expect a little more. Something tying them all together thematically, such as a cohesive subject for all five entries; or if the implanted letters (R-Y-B-U-C) spelled something or sounded out something (are why bee you sea). But, nada.

So here’s Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples taking a verse on a warhorse. I considered sharing a song that features him more prominently, but the staging, Scorsese’s direction, and whomever of the film’s three cinematographers make this a nice choice.

The ballast fill is solid and lively.

  • 6d [Narwhal feature] TUSK. Specifically, with rare exceptions, it’s the spiraling left canine in males of the species, which is Monodon monoceros. Yes, that’s “one tooth one horn”.
  • 15a [Irritate] GNAW AT. Here’s some trancey gnawa music; I hope you don’t find it irritating.
  • 38a [Watercolor user] ARTIST, 41a [Water color] AQUA.
  • 45a [Sailor’s emergency container] BAIL. I did not know this.
  • 57a [Library ID] ISBN. Technically, yes, it’s part of a book’s record and typically appears in the metadata, but rarely used as an identification in library cataloguing systems.
  • 64a [Witness] SEE. Right under C BISCUIT, but this is just coincidence.

Chase Dittrich and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “Going Separate Ways”—Jim P’s review

This one had me befuddled until I uncovered my fourth theme entry. Then I fell in love with it.

Each theme clue has two parts, a Before and After. The Before part clues the entire phrase before the top half was turned upside down. The After part clues the separate words with a mentally-added UP and DOWN. This is revealed by 36d UP AND DOWN [Fluctuating, or two words needed to understand the starred clues’ “After” parts].

Universal crossword solution · “Going Separate Ways” · Chase Dittrich and Jeff Chen · Fri., 10.29.21

  • 3d. [*Before: Dance move involving the fingers / After: Enliven + Without question] ZZAJ HANDS. Before: Jazz hands. After: Jazz up, Hands down.
  • 6d. [*Before: Treat for a dog / After: Bankrupt + Post-workout massage] YLLEB RUB. Before: Belly rub. After: Belly up, Rub down.
  • 9d. [*Before: Fiji product / After: Held in + Dilute] DELTTOB WATER. Before: Bottle water. After: Bottled up, Water down.
  • 21d. [*Before: Tennis format that isn’t single-sex / After: Confused + Commits more] DEXIM DOUBLES. Before: Mixed Doubles. After: Mixed up, Doubles down.
  • 42d. [*Before: Beverage drinker’s comic reaction / After: Regurgitate, baby-style + Dismantle] TIPS TAKE. Before: Spit take. After: Spit up, Take down.

Just a lovely, elegant theme—once I had the aha moment of course. It was belly up that did it for me though I had already uncovered most of the other entries.

I liked it so much I was a little disappointed when I found the revealer; I wanted another theme entry. I suppose it was necessary to include the revealer; no doubt some solvers made it to that point still in the dark.

Since I wanted another theme entry, I went and found one on my own: make tracks (make up, tracks down). Also: back talk, hook shot, clean sweep. There must be more. Can you come up with one?

The grid’s 3-letter-word count is pretty high (22), but honestly I didn’t notice during the solve. Our constructors did a good job of keeping things smooth. Top fill includes AMARETTI and CELEBRANT with ELECTRICS and OIL LEASE rounding things out. I don’t think I’ve seen ENBY [Nonbinary person, for short] in any of the major publications yet, but I like it, and I expect we’ll see it again before too long.

Wonderful puzzle. 4.5 stars.

Caitlin Reid’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Caitlin Reid’s October 29, 2021 New Yorker puzzle

Happy Halloweekend!! This delightful puzzle was a delightful start to my weekend. Constructing for the USA Today has made me pretty strict about fill, so I always scour grids for words that might be obscure or oddly phrased. I could not find a single one in this grid. Really impressively clean work. Favorite entries below, and there were a lot of them:

  • THERE THERE (12A: “Everything will be okay”)
  • PLUG (17A: Promote, as a product) I like this fresh angle– makes me think of all the podcasters who drone on about Squarespace.
  • SLACKS (24A: Casual trousers) Notably, I had “sweats” here first. Pandemic brain.
  • CODING (29A: Practicing one’s Python) As a Computer Girl, I always love to see code-y things in grids! Usually I get this from Aimee Lucido or Adam Aaronson’s puzzles.
  • SEE IF I CARE (56A: “Fine! No skin off my nose!”) The phrasing of the clue was a tinyyy bit weird here because they were trying to avoid duping the word “I” but whatever, such a good entry.
  • CHILI DOG (1D: Messy ballpark fare)
  • ONE NOTE (26D: Boring, in a way) I love when seven-letter entries are fun two-word phrases
  • CARTELS (39D: Market manipulating groups) I like this definition, because I think a lot of people associate the word “cartel” with drug dealers. But actually, lots of different groups can be classified as cartels. I just read the book “Indentured” which describes how the NCAA has so much control over student athletes that they can legally be called a cartel.
  • PARTAY (42D: Live it up, slangily) Usually I don’t like / agree when clues have “in slang” tacked on (I’ve found it tends to mean “as twenty-year-olds say in their normal conversations, but not as fifty-year-olds say”) but this is a perfect example of it being used totally correctly.
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21 Responses to Friday, October 29, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Yes, really enjoyed the puzzle and it went fast for me, which makes it feel more rewarding. Cheers to that.
    I got stuck on the clue for UNDERWIRE. There’s something called Tube Bra or Bandeau Bra, and it’s usually specifically anti-underwire (it’s easy enough to google). It seems like the wrong technical term!
    But those NW and SE corner stacks are really great. I like this grid, it minimizes the 3 word fill.

  2. Alex H says:

    NYT: Breezy Friday for me apart from the NE. I know Sephora, but don’t know Ulta (or Warren Spahn or Mel Ott for that matter).

  3. Rob says:

    NYT and TNY: Thanks Aimee and thanks Caitlin for your very enjoyable Friday puzzles!

  4. Paul J Coulter says:

    Uni – For those who don’t usually do the Uni, I highly recommend today’s. This was the sort of theme I’d expect to see in the Fireball, though perhaps with tougher clues.

    • Eric S says:

      Thanks for mentioning it. I don’t always do the Universal puzzle, but this one was pretty good.

      I had the theme halfway figured out before I finished solving it, but it wasn’t until I read Jim P’s review that I fully understood it. Even though that sometimes m me feel dense, I like that kind of complexity in a theme.

  5. Dan says:

    Can someone please explain why “snap” is clued as “Kid stuff” in the L.A. Times puzzle? Thanks.

  6. steve says:

    stumper fans

    had to find a new site and did

    worked for me today after my old one quit after all this time
    i hope i don’t lose the stumper :(

    • rock says:

      thank you so much!! I tried that site yesterday and nothing would work but I tried just now and it does !! Besides the stumper, the Thurs.-Fri. puzzles are great. I was disappointed to lose the Newsday Site, but I do have to cut back on some puzzles so I can maybe dust or mop !! lol

      And yes thanks to Martin for everything!!!

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    I’m not able to download the WSJ or Universal puzzles from the “Today’s Puzzles” page here. Is anyone else having trouble or are the gremlins only targeting me today? It doesn’t appear to connect to

    • pannonica says:

      Martin may be experiencing a power or server outage.

    • Elise says:

      I am having the same exact problem. I tried two different browsers. I could not download any of the puzzles in acrosslite, but I could get the html.
      It must be more than coincidental that this happened to both of us. Have others been able to get the acrosslite links to work?

    • steve says:

      they worked for me today
      but yesterday my old stumper url worked and today it did not
      they want us to pay, i pay for some sites, but i don’t want to pay more than i pay now and have been dropping some

    • Martin says:

      Back up now. My fault. I had to install a new router this morning and knocked loose the power cable to that particular server.


      If in doubt, please send me an email when weird stuff happens. Or anyone. I’m at
      martin . herbach @ gmail . com

  8. Angry Crossword Solver says:

    You sir are a jerk

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