Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Jonesin' 3:56 (Derek) 


LAT 3:38 (Derek) 


NYT 4:03 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 13:50 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 545), “Too-o-o-o-dles!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 545: “Too-o-o-o-dles!”

Hello there, everybody! Hope you all are doing well as we quickly head toward the holiday season!

Parting is not such sweet sorrow in today’s grid, with the first four theme entries having circles inside of them and, when put together, forming words that is another way of saying goodbye. The final theme entry, THE LONG GOODBYE, acts as the reveal (56A: [Edgar-winning novel by Raymond Chandler (and a hint to the puzzle theme!)

  • SANDWICH BOARDS (16A: [Placards worn by people on a picket line])  – Adios
  • TARANTELLA (22A: [Lively Italian dance]) – Tata
  • I’LL TAKE YOU THERE (34A: [1972 hit by The Staple Singers released on Stax Records])Later. One of those iconic songs where you immediately recognize it right after hearing the first note!
  • CHILD ACTOR (49A: [Minor talent?]) – Ciao

How about those non-themed nines of KATE SPADE (14A: [Designer of the Dottie Lady Bug crossbody bag]) and SALTY DOGS (61A: [Vodka-and-grapefruit juice cocktails])? Talk about fun, fashion-forward and tasty in a grid! This is probably the third or fourth time ever that I’ve seen/heard EVITABLE be used, and it was just as awkward now in seeing it than it was those previous times (37D: [Not predestined]). Unfortunately, NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) have been in the front and center of some horrific stories, most of them dealing with abuse toward women, in the past few years, and, thankfully, many people are putting up the good fight in making sure there is reform to confidentiality clauses (28A: [Secret-protecting doc.]). Boy, does a nice, long WARM BATH sound great right about now, even if my outstretched body won’t be able to fit the bathtub and leave me any wiggle room (10D: [Relaxing soak]). Again, being 6’4″ does have its disadvantages!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MONTRÉAL (3D: [Home of Canada’s McGill University]) – Yay, a clue referencing a place I’ve been to in person! (Not just Montréal, but McGill.) Since we’re coming up on an Olympic year, with the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics nigh, might as well talk about some Olympics and, specifically, the only Summer Olympics to be held in Canada: the 1976 games in Montréal. So what stood out in those games? Well, those were the Olympics in which Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast to record a perfect 10 score. Montréal was the games in which Caitlyn Jenner (then Bruce Jenner) won the gold medal in the decathlon, which then led to the  image of Jenner crossing the finish gracing the front of a Wheaties cereal box, with Jenner becoming more synonymous with Wheaties than any of the great athletes who ever appeared on the box. Another American track legend, Edwin Moses, won the 400 meter hurdles gold, one of 122 consecutive races that he won in that discipline! (Talk about records that will never be broken!) Oh, and America sent to the Olympics, inarguably, the greatest boxing team ever assembled: Sugar Ray Leonard, Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, Howard Davis and Leo Randolph. All of them won gold medals, four of the five then became world champions professionally. 

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

Take care!


Jennifer Lee & Victor Galson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 9 21, no. 1109

The theme here is the ends of a few bits of verse written by OGDEN Nash:

  • 17a. [“God in his wisdom made the fly / And then forgot …”] TO TELL US WHY. I took a picture of some lovely yellow roses last weekend, with big hips on the bush. It was only later that I saw the fly on one rose! So yeah: Why?
  • 24a. [“Tell me, O Octopus, I begs, / Is those things arms …?”] OR IS THEY LEGS?
  • 47a. [“The cow is of the bovine ilk; / One end is moo, …”] THE OTHER MILK. Not sure the udder is at the “other end” of the head, Ogden.
  • 58a. [“The trouble with a kitten is that / Eventually it …”] BECOMES A CAT. Precisely.

Not wild about the theme. I’ve enjoyed some Ogden Nash in my time, but just wasn’t feeling it tonight.

Fave fill: MOCKTAIL, NEW RELEASE. I liked DRY-EYED but it did rankle a little to have eyes in the NEWT and FIRE clues.

Three more things:

  • 6a. [Extreme devotee, informally], FIEND. It took me an inordinately long time to piece this one together! Ha. Considered FREAK first.
  • 35a. [Something often lent, but never returned], EAR. I dispute the accuracy of this clue. When you lend someone your ear, it is de facto returned to you the moment the other party stops speaking.
  • 64a. [Beth Harmon’s weakness in “The Queen’s Gambit”], PILLS. I didn’t watch the show, but this clue feels weird and inappropriate to me. “Weakness”?

3.25 stars from me.

Ed Sessa’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “It’s More Than a Game”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Phrases that hide anagrams of BAN as revealed by BANANAGRAMS (59a, [Popular word game, or, read differently, a hint to the circled letters]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “It’s More Than a Game” · Ed Sessa · Tue., 11.9.21

  • 17a. [Splashy dives] CANNONBALLS. Not drinking establishments, but actual dives into swimming pools.
  • 24a. [Noted Dogpatch resident] LI’L ABNER
  • 48a. [Challenge to a doubter] “WANNA BET?”
  • 10d. [Jewish service organization] BNAI B’RITH
  • 35d. [Cuisine that includes grilled bulgogi] KOREAN BBQ. Yum. We just had bulgogi the other night. And yet somehow I stared at KOREAN B__ for an inordinately long time.

It was pretty clear what was going on after solving the first two themers, but the revealer made for a welcome verification, and the play on words had just enough of a surprise to it to warrant an aha. The themers are all interesting and lively, and I note that all six permutations of the three letters in question are presented. A fine set.

Secretary of the Interior DEB Haaland

There’s plenty of long fill to like: AIR HORNS, RAINBOW, RAP SINGER, MANDELA, WINE BAR, INSIGHT.

Clues of note:

  • 62a. [Interior secretary Haaland]. DEB. I didn’t remember this name, but I do remember the fact that she is the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary.
  • 1d. [Kind of point]. FOCAL. Grr. Please put a stop to this kind of nonsensical clue, constructors.

3.5 stars.

Adrian Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Why Are You Here”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: –YRU- in the middle of common phrases.

Universal crossword solution · “Why Are You Here?” · Adrian Johnson · Tue., 11.09.21



Fun enough phrases to uncover with a consistent theme (the title serves as the revealer, though I’m not sure it should have a question mark in this case). I rolled my eyes when I saw the hint for the first themer: […*Theme hint: Note three letters in each starred clue’s answer)]. If a clue is asking you to note specific letters, then those letters should be circled, right? And Universal is standing pat in the land of technology that is unable to employ circles. It’s odd in this one, however, because I don’t think circles would be good. I feel it would be too much of a giveaway. And yet, I understand why the “hint” is there too. So, I find the nudge a tad strange, but I can very much appreciate its existence.

There were some fill items that made me cock my head a bit. Probably the biggest of them being [“Walk the dog” and others] for TASKS. The puzzle is trying to do a cutesy “call-back” clue to [“Walk the dog” and others] for YOYO TRICKS. But for the former entry, it feels forced. “Walk the dog” isn’t a TASK imo. It’s hardly a chore. It may be part of a routine, but calling anything a TASK feels weird to me when it comes to basic pet care.

Is filling an OREO with toothpaste a common prank? I’ve never heard of it. Gross!

I assume the questions mark in [Sweat spot?] for PORE is supposed to make us think of “Sweet spot,” but that seems a tad forced to me too.

New for me:

SOLOMON Islands, FUEL ROD (as clued), and the English Horn vs. OBOE.

3 stars.

Rafael Musa’s USA Today Crossword, “Breaking It Down“ — Emily’s write-up

Fun puzzle and grid today, with a theme in the downs!

Completed USA Today crossword for Tuesday November 9, 2021

USA Today, 11 09 2021, “Breaking It Down“ by Rafael Musa

Theme: The themers start with “I” and end in “T” in the downs


  • 3d. [“That was fun!”], IHADABLAST
  • 7d. [Tax rate determinant], INCOMEBRACKET
  • 17d. [On the same page], INAGREEMENT
  • 29d. [Country where Kedjenou is eaten], IVORYCOAST

Today’s titled had my thinking about the downs but took me until the solved grid to deduce the full theme. It’s a fun one that the title does describe but won’t give much away during the solve. IHADABLAST is a fantastic entry and was an easy fill for me, as was INCOMEBRACKET and INAGREEMENT. All three are common enough phrases to me and the clues weren’t tricky. IVORYCOAST took me the crossing to complete. While it’s a country name instead of a phrase, it still fits the pattern and is also two words, similar to two of the other themers. “Kedjenou” is new to me but I enjoyed the cluing and now want some of this Ivory Coast chicken stew.


Stumpers: REDDENING (first three letters filled in then I got stuck), REEK (used to seeing “odor” so this took me longer to get), and GAIT (tried “walk” and “pace” then relied on crossings)

Down themes are always a fun twist, especially with some long acrosses, which gave me an initial brief pause as to which were the themers. Great puzzle!

4.5 stars


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “On a One-Name Basis” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 11/09/2021

The flavor text adds “five for five,” so we are looking for some 5-letter names in the circled squares. I don’t think there is an indication that they are all music artists; did I miss it?

  • 17A [Comic-strip magician] MANDRAKE 
  • 30A [Moral source of authority, in a way] NATURAL ORDE
  • 36A [Got progressively more confusing] MADE LESS SENSE 
  • 43A [Office drudge] PENCIL PUSHER 
  • 59A [Battle site of 1066] HASTING

Kind of a mix of old and new, but mainly because STING is in there! I watched the old Dune movie recently (since there is now a new one!), and he has quite the role in there. Of course I am probably the only person who HADN’T seen the old one! I may read the books, since it looks like there will be a series of Dune movies. Not too much obscure trivia this week, but still a lot of fun stuff in here. 4.5 stars from me.

A few notes:

  • 61A [Japanese crime syndicate] YAKUZA – It has been a while since I have read a novel that mentions this group, so it took a minute to come to mind. I should read more …
  • 1D [“Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” director] NIMOY – How has he been gone from this world 6 years already? Man, time flies!
  • 5D [Where travelers often stay] IN A HOTEL – Slightly forced, but it is a phrase. Actually, I think I will make sure it’s in my word list … !
  • 8D [Repetitive-sounding spear-throwing tool] ATLATL – I have seen this word, and I think it is Scrabble legal to boot! It makes for great cryptic cluing.
  • 26D [Danish cheese?] KRONER – I have been to Denmark and I couldn’t remember what their currency was called! Got the “cheese” misdirection early on, though!
  • 39D [Skied downhill] SCHUSSED – It is almost schussing, I mean ski season. I keep saying I am going to go cross-country skiing, but it never happens. It is supposed to be a brutal winter this year, so maybe this is the year!
  • 52D [Navigation app that offers celebrity voices] WAZE – The great thing about Waze is that it told you where the cops were! The cops hated it, and Waze has since been purchased by Google. Google Maps now does the same thing, but not quite as well. These big companies ruin everything! But can you blame Waze for taking a billion dollars??

That’s it for now! Another Jonesin’ coming next week!

Michael Wiesenberg & Andrea Carla Michael’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 11/09/2021

We have a collaboration between a couple of excellent constructors, and the puzzle does not disappoint! We have circles! The revealer is the last them answer:

  • 20A [December holiday mailing] CHRISTMAS CARD
  • 28A [Orca] KILLER WHALE
  • 46A [Significant other] MAINS QUEEZE
  • 57A [Salad crudités … and a hint to each row of circled letters] SLICED VEGGIES

So we have chard, kale and maize literally “sliced” in that they form the beginning and the end of the thematic entries. Also slightly timely, since maize is basically only discussed during this time of year! (Unless you’re talking Michigan colors of maize and blue, but that maize isn’t a vegetable!) A tightly made construction is exactly what I would expect from this duo. Perhaps more collabs are in the cards, if there weren’t others already that I don’t know about? 4.6 stars from me.

Just a few things:

  • 1A [“__: Ragnarok”: 2017 superhero film] THOR – This was actually a funny movie. I don’t watch many movies more than once, but this one I have seen two or three times.
  • 41A [Airport kiosk printout] E-TICKET – I cannot remember the last time I had a physical ticket to something! This is the way to go.
  • 66A [Patient no longer] FED UP – I have a t-shirt that says this in the style of the FedEx logo. It’s the answer to a long standing FedEx/UPS joke!
  • 1D [“Baywatch” actress Bingham] TRACI – There aren’t many famous Tracis with an I ending, are there? I don’t know this one. I also have never seen this show!
  • 2D [Note for a soprano] HIGH C – For some reason, I am now thirsty ….
  • 8D [“Yes, it’s clear now”] “OH, I SEE!” – Great casual phrase!
  • 44D [Sighed agreement] “YES, DEAR” – This phrase isn’t quite as casual, but certainly useful in a pinch!

Everyone have a safe and healthy week!

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6 Responses to Tuesday, November 9, 2021

  1. MattF says:

    Liked the NYT. Took a minute or two to fix the inevitable MOCKTAIL/COCKTAIL error— I think having CANE elsewhere in the puzzle was a hint. And PILLS were indeed Beth Harmon’s weakness. You should watch the series.

    • Rob says:

      NYT: Agreed. Very enjoyable Tuesday puzzle. So two for two since I really liked Monday’s NYT as well.

      • Zulema says:

        Loved the NYT puzzle, reminded me of my long ago visit to Fla. with my little son, who had a Shirley Temple at a place we stopped. He is in his late fifties now. And I do love Ogden Nash, always did.

  2. Dan says:

    I find 19A in the LAT puzzle of November 9 to be ill-considered.

    The word “venue” is clued as “Event site”. The word “venue” just means “location”. Granted, “venue” has been used to refer to event sites lately. But to clue it with “Event site” when just “Site” will suffice is just lame.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      Amen. And look at the New York Times: 15A: Egypt’s Sadat, 3D Indian flatbread . . . surely neither needs its modifier. With enough effort, maybe we can wipe out adjectives altogether!

    • PJ says:

      Event and venue are also cognate. Both stem from the Latin word venire.

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