Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Jonesin' 4:40 (Derek) 


LAT 4:28 (Derek) 


NYT 3:14 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 11:04 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 546), “Let’s Get Growing!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 546: “Let’s Get Growing!”

Hello there, everyone! Hope all is well as we’re speeding toward the holiday season. 

We have a whole lot of things being planted in today’s garden of a grid, with the first six theme entries all multiple-word answers in which the first word is also a type of seed. Of course, SEED appears at the bottom of the grid as the reveal, as it looks as if each of those theme entries are growing from that seed at the bottom. (Not the case, but having the seed at the foot of the grid is a nice visual touch.) 

  • COTTON TO (17A: [Grow fond of])
  • PUMPKIN BOMBS (24A: [Green Goblin weapons that resemble jack o’-lanterns]) Hope you’re all up to date on your Spiderman super villains!
  • BIRD BOX (39A: [2018 horror thriller starring Sandra Bullock]) – Remember when you couldn’t go five minutes without seeing a meme or hearing about Bird Box once it came out in theaters?
  • APPLE TV (40A: [“The Morning Show” airer])
  • SESAME STREET (45A: [Ernie and Bert’s address])
  • HAY FEVER (59A: [Common summer allergy])

“Cotton to” was a phrase I was not familiar with, and that fact made UPOLU even harder to unearth (2D: [Island in Western Samoa]). The theme made those two aforementioned entries a little easier to figure out, but that area was where I had the biggest hang-up, for sure. I knew that Listerine was named in honor of Joseph LISTER, but I probably had not thought about that for years until coming across the clue today, so that was fun to jog the memory in that fashion (16A: [Pioneer of antiseptic surgery]). Almost wanted to dedicate the next section to MODESTO, given that I almost took a job as a radio broadcaster in the California League, and would have gone to Modesto a few times to see their team, the Modesto Nuts (42A: [City in central California]). The team’s logo includes an anthropomorphic almond named Al and an anthropomorphic walnut named Wally. Man, I would have loved to have seen those mascots in person!   

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MEMPHIS (42D: [Home of Graceland]) – Not talking about Elvis, but I am talking about one of the better soccer players in the world who leaves opponents all shook up. Dutchman Memphis Depay currently plays as a forward for one of the biggest soccer clubs in the world, FC Barcelona, and joined the Catalan club after a successful four-year stint a French side Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon). where he scored 63 goals in 139 appearances. In international play, Memphis has scored 37 times for the Netherlands (including two times in a World Cup qualifying match this past Saturday), the fourth-most goals of any Dutch player in the storied history of their national team. And yes, his first name is Memphis. Need proof?

If I ever wore a sports uniform/jersey again, I’d totally have my first name on the back as well, bucking the usual trend of the surname appearing.

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

Take care!


Jessie Bullock & Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Military Operation”—Jim P’s review

At first this just seemed to be phrases whose first word is also a military rank. But the theme is tighter than that. The revealer is MEDICAL CORPS (48a, [Army branch staffed by doctors, who might staff 19-, 25- and 42-Across]), and it clued me in to the fact that the theme phrases are all medically-related.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Military Operation” · Jessie Bullock & Ross Trudeau · Tue., 11.16.21

  • 19a. [Heart transplant, say] MAJOR SURGERY.
  • 25a. [Self-employed physician’s business] PRIVATE PRACTICE.
  • 42a. [ABC soap opera since 1963] GENERAL HOSPITAL.

It just so happens that my wife works for the MEDICAL CORPS (as a civilian), so I really enjoyed uncovering the revealer. I’m not so sure about its cluing where it says “who might staff…” Is it saying Army docs might staff a PRIVATE PRACTICE, for example? Or might an Army private staff a practice? Neither of those makes sense. I’m thinking that revealer clue needs a little more massaging, but I get the gist of the theme: medically-related terms whose first word is also an Army rank. Nice, tight theme.

The fill is clean, though not especially sparkly with ABSOLVES and SLID OVER as the marquee Downs. We have EYEWITNESS and IRRELEVANT in the Across direction but their lengths (and the lack of asterisks in the theme answers) makes the solver wonder if they’re not theme answers as well.

Not so sure about “DENY IT” [Scandal advice from a handler, perhaps] as an in-the-language phrase. I’d be okay with “DENY EVERYTHING” though.

Clue of note: 31d. [Sister-in-law of Jackie]. ETHEL Kennedy, sister of JFK widow of RFK.

3.75 stars.

Dre Schmenner’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 16 21, no. 1116

The theme today is noted female writers who wrote only one novel, unified by “THAT’S ALL / SHE WROTE” (18a. [With 63-Across, “The end” … or what can be said about the novels in the clues for 25-, 38- and 52-Across]). Here are the authors and their books:

  • 25a. [Author of “The Bell Jar” (1963)], SYLVIA PLATH. She was primarily a poet, not a novelist.
  • 38a. [Author of “Black Beauty” (1877)], ANNA SEWELL. I know nothing about Sewell’s life or career aside from this one book.
  • 52a. [Author of “Wuthering Heights” (1847)], EMILY BRONTE. Wikipedia tells me she had some great poems in a book of poetry she and her siblings collaborated on. Here’s her poem, “Fall, leaves, fall.” I gather she was a fan of cold, overcast November days.

I appreciate a literature theme from time to time. I’m not convinced that the revealer phrase and clue spell the theme out with perfect clarity, though. Easier for English majors?

The central 10 in this 16×15 grid pushes the constructor to have those 10 stacked 7-letter Downs in each corner, and then there are six Across 7s as well. Not your typical Tuesday grid! Fave fill: Stella ARTOIS, AUDIE Cornish, BEATNIK, PRO BOWL.

Four more things:

  • Did not know: 10d. [El ___ (nickname for the Mexican national soccer team)], TRI. Short for El Tricolor, apparently. I’m guessing in relation to the red, white, and green Mexican flag and kit.
  • 31d. [Overhead support for interstate signs], GANTRY. Everything you ever wanted to know about highway sign gantries, right here. Perhaps the editors deemed Elmer Gantry to be a literary bridge too far, given the theme?
  • 39d. [Popular name for an Irish girl], ERIN. For an Irish-American girl, maybe. Not so much Ireland Irish—it made the top 50 but not by much. Take a gander at the top 100 baby names in Ireland for 2020.
  • 61d. [Chalk one up?], CUE. As in a cue stick in billiards.

3.75 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “A Lot of Back and Forth” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 11/16/2021

How are you with palindromes? Because there are a lot of 5-letter ones in this puzzle!

  • 19A [Facts and figures about a flat paddleboat?] LEVEL KAYAK STATS 
  • 34A [Long stories about a “M*A*S*H” character’s featured instrumental breaks?] RADAR SOLOS SAGAS 
  • 50A [Prescribe city-wide anxiety medication?] REFER CIVIC XANAX 

Well done! There probably aren’t that many more 5-letter palindromes, so to get this many to work is nice work. There are probably more than I think, but these are all extremely common words, which is what you want! Smooth solve on this one. 4.6 stars from me.

Just a few highlights:

  • 1A [Regular doofus] SHLUB -Is this an actual word? If so, I think I could describe myself as a “shlub!”
  • 46A [“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” star Simu] LIU – This movie was cool. Also, he is hosting SNL this weekend!
  • 55A [Dinosaur with large thumb spikes] IGUANODON – I believe you.
  • 60A [’21 World Series champs] ATL – It took me FOREVER to remember who won this just a few weeks ago! Probably fuzzy because I didn’t stay up, which is the first time in several years that I haven’t watched a champion being crowned in one of the four major sports.
  • 62A [Megan Thee Stallion song about which Weird Al tweeted: “Just listened to this. Not a very faithful cover version, if you ask me.”] “EAT IT” – This is a hilarious, albeit probably risque clue. No, I am NOT posting a sample of this song on this blog!
  • 4D [Brendon of Panic! at the Disco] URIE – This is likely the OPCRotW, as the band is fairly well known, but maybe not the lead singer’s name. See below!
  • 7D [Page-___ (calendar brand)] A-DAY – May I recommend the Mensa Puzzle version, with brain teasers by Fraser Simpson? I have already ordered and received my 2022 version!
  • 35D [Specialty of Emo Philips or Milton Jones] ONE-LINER – I would add the late Mitch Hedberg to this list, and maybe Steven Wright? I am only saying this because I don’t know who Milton Jones is!
  • 37D [Her backing group is The Banshees] SIOUXSIE – I had this spelled slightly wrong at first, but can you blame me? Great entry.
  • 41D [Triceratops feature] HORN – Two dinosaur refs in one puzzle!

Another Jonesin’ coming next week! Here is a song that I CAN post!

Sam Acker’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 11/16/2021

This is yet ANOTHER byline I am not familiar with, showing that the puzzle renaissance is alive and well! A nice tight theme in this puzzle:

  • 18A [Automatic time-out near the end of each NFL half] TWO MINUTE WARNING
  • 29A [Guided sightseeing event in the “Gilligan’s Island” theme] THREE HOUR TOUR
  • 37A [Food-dropped-on-the-floor “policy”] FIVE SECOND RULE 
  • 47A [1955 Marilyn Monroe film, with “The”] SEVEN YEAR ITCH 
  • 62A [Large-audience schedule item … and what the four other longest answers comprise?] PRIME TIME LISTING 

Yes, there are FIVE theme entries in here, and they are all in the correct order from smallest to largest prime numbers. VERY nicely done! And to do all this and make a fairly straightforward puzzle is also nice; easier puzzles tend to be harder to make. Kudos to Sam! 4.6 stars from me.

A few more things:

  • 26A [Dance named for a horse’s gait] GALOP – One of these days I will tackle ballroom dancing. But not today!
  • 58A [Nagano noodle] SOBA – I am not a big noodle fan period, so I am not sure I have ever had these. Maybe once, perhaps? Who knows. I’ll have to order them soon!
  • 3D [Succeed impressively] GO OVER BIG – Great entry. Somewhat of a casual phrase!
  • 31D [India-born author Santha Rama __] RAU – No clue who this is, but that is on me. I will look into it!
  • 38D [Mil. hospitals] V.A.’S – Under fire, somewhat, due to various issues. My grandfather was in a Veterans Administration hospital for his final days, but the issue there was the closest one was around 2 hours away! There is now one in the area we live now, FINALLY. Would have been nice 20 years ago.
  • 55D [“Thelma & Louise” car] T-BIRD – I think I JUST saw this in another recent puzzle, but I don’t remember where! When you do a ton of puzzles, this happens!

Everyone have a safe and healthy week!

Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword, “Character Study“ — Emily’s write-up

What a fun puzzle! Today’s theme includes a revealer, of sorts, that ties it all together. The grid is also unique with partial symmetry, which I really enjoyed.

Completed USA Today crossword for Tuesday November 16, 2021

USA Today, 11 16 2021, “Character Study“ by Erik Agard

Theme: HALLE in 1a. plays the characters whose names begin each of the three themers


  • 1a. [____ Berry, actress with roles found at the starts of three answers in this puzzle], HALLE
  • 17a. [Hive leaders], QUEENBEES
  • 33a. [People who pursue severe weather], STORMCHASERS
  • 54a. [Phrase that might send someone to the vending machine], JINXBUYMEACOKE

Great to see 1a. HALLE setting up the themers for the puzzle, giving the solver a clue right from the start and paired with the title “Character Study” should be enough to be primed for the theme. However, while I enjoy Halle Berry, I don’t keep up with movies well enough to know much movie trivia, let alone all of her roles so I didn’t have much help from those sources of innate knowledge that others might. QUEENBEES and STORMCHASERS were easy clues for me, while I got stuck on JINXBUYMEACOKE. Of the three roles, I only recognized Storm from the X-Men series, though based on length I figured Queen was another and Jinx was the third. Other roles came to mind while solving so I pulled up her IMDB page and she has some upcoming films as well for 2022. Also, check out Sally’s Take on this puzzle for further info on the Halle Berry movies and additional insight from her.

Favorite fill: TWAS, STORMCHASERS (made me think of the movie “Twister” too), CALYPSO, and HALLE


The entire southeast corner gave me the most trouble today. As my jinxes never went passed “Jinx!”, I stumbled until the end with the final themer’s first word and for whatever reason, none of the crosses were coming to my either. I finally broke into that corner with EXIST then NANO, making my way backward with IMIN and finally JERK to fill in the complete JINXBUYMEACOKE. Even with this tough corner for me, this puzzle is fantastic and especially enjoyed the grid layout. Great entries and clues as well! Excellent job, Erik!

4.75 stars


David Litman’s Universal Crossword, “Noodles Around”— Jim Q’s write-up

Looks like a debut for Mr. Litman! Congrats!

THEME: Noodles can be found in theme rows if you combine the end of one with the beginning of the same row.

Universal crossword solution · “Noodles Around”· David Litman · Tues., 11.16.21



Great idea here in a puzzle that is packed with themers despite not feeling that way. And oddly enough, this puzzle is 82 words (way over typical limit), yet it felt like less to me, probably due to the longer answers in the four corners.

Fun clues for ELIE [Name hidden in “loveliest”]. ELI is more noticeable to me, and I don’t know any ELIE‘s, but I like the “find the name in this word” Universal clues. No clue what CORTANA is. Is it Samsung based?

So an excellent debut that would be 4+ star worthy were it not for… the circle issue.

I have difficulty getting past Universal’s penchant for employing circles and including them for solvers here at this site when they are unable to publish them for the masses. The fact that they are willing to create a whole separate puzzle file that includes circles is a less-than-tacit acknowledgment that their widely-published is lacking. Had I not witnessed first-hand many new solvers completely misinterpret the awkward instructions like [Dance in the NATO phonetic alphabet (… last 3 letters + the previous answer’s first 3)], then fine.

But it’s sort of like watching someone who is lactose intolerant go to a milk bar and just do shot after shot of 2%. They’re that addicted, and they don’t care about the result, even though it’s a mess.

That’s what Universal reminds me of when it comes to circles. They love publishing themes that require circles. Yet are unable to produce them. It feels like all of the other major publications have made vast improvements to their online solve experiences as of late, and Universal, the self proclaimed “…standard for the daily crossword’ watches from afar.

Why not… erm… fix it?

Sorry, D. L. (see INITIAL clue) Awesome debut. Too bad it was published incorrectly to the masses. Another victim of the “workaround.”

Forgot to mention: Great title!

4.5 stars with circles.

2 stars without.

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14 Responses to Tuesday, November 16, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I really liked the theme! I always thought “that’s all she wrote” was a funny phrase and to find a way to use it literally and refer to distinguished female authors of very famous books is very cool. Many points for originality.
    I didn’t know GANTRY or TRI, but they were gettable.
    I’m surprised at the ratings… I wonder if it would have done better on a Wednesday?

    • Mr. [not so] Grumpy says:

      I loved this puzzle. It was almost too easy — and I’m not an English major, although my wife was one many, many years ago.

  2. JohnH says:

    Maybe the NYT phrase isn’t a perfect fit, given the poetry. (Someone might even take it to mean those are the only writings by women!) Still, I enjoyed the call-out to accomplished women. I had no idea who wrote Black Beauty, but it wasn’t hard to get from crossings, while the other two were gimmes for me, but then it’s only a Tuesday. The grid did make the NW and SE rather isolated.

  3. Alex H. says:

    NYT: Breezy Tuesday; also helped by the fact this was the second time inside a week that SERTA and PAELLA turned up. Sick of EIEIO!

  4. David L says:

    NYT: I liked the theme and wondered if 45D might be part of it…

  5. rtaus says:

    WSJ: Ethel Kennedy was not JFK’s sister; she was married to his brother RFK

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Thanks for keeping me honest. At the time I wrote that, I went to fact-check myself and google decided to hang up on me. By the time my internet started flowing again, I had forgotten all about it.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal: An 82(!)-worder with 34(!) three-letter answers and 41(!) blocks in a 15 x 15 grid? Oof!

  7. David Roll says:

    WSJ–Could “private practice” refer to the fact that one of the doctor’s patients is a private?

  8. Lester says:

    USA Today: When I saw that the theme was Halle Berry’s roles, I didn’t have any real interest (and knew that I wouldn’t know or recognize any of them), but Erik utterly lost me at 10D: “Spoons” as the clue for ENERGY.

    • Elise says:

      See: Sally’s Take on the USA Today at

    • sanfranman59 says:

      This is awfully obscure, if you ask me, but that’s sort of the way it is for me with USA Today puzzles and particularly those by EA. About 90% of the grid is standard crossword clues and answers or ones that I can figure out (i.e. the best kind, IMO) and about 10% is stuff that I know little or absolutely nothing about (e.g., the names of dishes in Indian cuisine, LGBTQIA2S slang/lingo [did I come up with all of the latest initials for this subculture? … it’s hard to keep up]). That’s one of the reasons I do the USA Today puzzle every day. It’s an attempt to broaden my knowledge, but I’d be surprised if I encounter this clue/answer combination again and if I do, I doubt that I’ll remember it. I guess I’d have to do more reading than I’m willing to do about it, but it’s hard for me to imagine why spoons are used as symbolism for energy in this theory.

  9. Philip says:

    I was going to quote someone saying she didn’t have enough spoons recently in an article I was writing, thinking it was a now well-known phrase. Was surprised when I checked with some colleagues and only one knew it. Wikipedia entry on spoon theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoon_theory

  10. Taylor says:

    Anyone wanna talk about how cool it is to see USA Today publishing grids with no symmetry lately? Feel like it’s been happening for several days in a row, love it!

Comments are closed.