Sunday, November 21, 2021

LAT no time (Gareth) 


NYT untimed (Nate) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:48 (Darby) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Adam Wagner’s New York Times crossword, “Screen Sharing”—Nate’s write-up

I’m always excited to see Adam Wagner’s byline and this puzzle brought the joy I imagined it would. He somehow managed to find six sets of movies where the letters of one movie title could be found – in order! – inside a longer movie title, both movies staring the same actor(s). There are some pretty cool finds here, and I wonder which one was the seed for this idea. Maybe LION hiding directly (and not even spaced out) inside SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE?

11.21.21 NYT Sunday Puzzle

11.21.21 NYT Sunday Puzzle

23A: [Salma Hayek: 1996, 2002] FROM DUSK TILL DAWN hiding FRIDA
– 31A: [Dev Patel: 2008, 2016] SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
hiding LION
– 50A: [Brad Pitt: 2001, 1995] OCEANS ELEVEN
hiding SEVEN
– 68A: [Owen Wilson: 2005, 2006] WEDDING CRASHERS
hiding CARS
– 86A: [Joaquin Phoenix: 2014, 2013] INHERENT VICE
hiding HER
– 102A: [Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro: 1974, 1995 (twice!)] THE GODFATHER PART II
hiding HEAT (twice!)
116A: [Modern tech feature for watching two programs on one screen … or an alternative title for this puzzle] PICTURE IN PICTURE

There are a lot of cool finds in these theme entries and I really appreciated having the revealer as a bonus moment to smile (though in my test solving, I questioned the use of the word “Modern” in the clue for PICTURE IN PICTURE since that ability has been around in some form for decades).  The title, “Screen Sharing” and the revealer are both such great tie-ins to the film-in-film theme.  I’m not always the most keen on trivia themes in puzzles (I tend to prefer wordplay themes), but I can imagine a lot of people will really dig the idea here!  It certainly makes for plunking in themers more quickly.



Other random thoughts:
64A: [Utilize a company policy for new parents, say] TAKE LEAVE – I appreciated that this clue wasn’t gendered / didn’t assume maternal leave.  Also, wouldn’t it be great if parents could TAKE LEAVE for meaningful amounts of time like they can most everywhere else in the world?!
66A: [When tripled, playful onomatopoeia for shooting laser beams] PEW – How could anyone fill this in and not immediately say it outloud or in their head?  So joyful!
6D: [Ending with “brown.” or “auburn.”] EDU – I liked the play with colors here.
62D: [“Clever ___ are never punished”: Voltaire] TYRANTS – This clue / quotation depressed me, for presumably obvious reasons.

What did you enjoy about this puzzle? And can you think of other film-in-film examples that would have fit this theme? Let me know in the chat. Until then, be well and, for those who celebrate it, have a happy Thanksgiving!

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

Edited by: Erik Agard

Theme: Every theme answer includes the word “tent,” meaning that the title literally means that “tent” is in each phrase.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "Intent" solution for 11/21/2021

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Intent” solution for 11/21/2021

  • 17a [“‘Pay close attention!’”] LISTEN TO ME
  • 40a [“Movie and TV review website”] ROTTEN TOMATOES
  • 64a [“Driver’s license requirement”] WRITTEN TEST

I’m definitely the type of person where if you use the word “intense” in front of me, I’ll say something like “Oh, I thought it was in a school” or “I didn’t know you liked to go camping,” so this theme was right up my alley. I appreciated that TENT was split up between two words in each of the theme answers, with ROTTEN TOMATOES easily being my favorite at a clean 14 letters. 

Grid-wise, I felt that the fill on this was quite smooth, which I feel any time I come in under 5 minutes. I liked that we got some longer answers in the upper right and bottom left corners with 11d [“‘For real?’”] IS IT TRUE, 12d [“Takes over for”] RELIEVES, 41d [“Site with drilling equipment”] OIL FIELD, and 42d [“Workplace rookies”] TRAINEES

Other things I noticed:

  • 35a [“Who ___ to say”] and 37a [“Pro darts player’s skill”] – This was a fun little two-for-one anagram with AM I filling in the former and AIM catching the latter right next to one another.
  • 52a [“Window devices, for short”] – I’m mad at myself for taking so long to figure out why this answer wasn’t PCS but rather ACS. We all got there in the end.
  • 52d [“Feature of the ‘e’ in 57-Across”] – We had a few word nerdy clues in here, running from this reference to 57a [“Part of a diplomatic staff”] ATTACHÉ to 14a [“Phrase of clarification when spelling”] AS IN. The nifty thing about making reference to the ACCENT in ATTACHÉ is that it highlights the ACCENT which we wouldn’t see since none are included in puzzle answers.

Overall, definitely a fun, intense-ish (but can be solved outside of tents) puzzle for a Sunday.

Drew Schmenner’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Team Play”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Wordplay with sports teams’ names. Each theme entry is a familiar phrase of the form that ends in a word that is also a team name. Each phrase is of the form verb THE team name, and of course clues are crossword-wacky.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Team Play” · Drew Schmenner · 11.21.21

  • 20a. [Try to touch players on Dallas’ NHL team?] REACH FOR THE STARS.
  • 35a. [Cater for Calgary’s NHL team?] FEED THE FLAMES. Nice.
  • 45a. [Have Oklahoma City’s NBA team accompany you?] BRING THE THUNDER. Also nice.
  • 60a. [Reimburse Buffalo’s NFL team?] PAY THE BILLS.
  • 81a. [Mix up one of New York’s NFL teams?] SCRAMBLE THE JETS. Love the phrase, but it doesn’t have much surface sense.
  • 89a. [Stand up to Seattle’s WNBA team?] BRAVE THE STORM.
  • 109a. [Despise Miami’s NBA team?] CAN’T STAND THE HEAT.

I enjoyed these for the most part. Good consistency and (mostly good) surface sense. It’s surprising there are no MLB or MLS teams here (RELEASE THE KRAKEN seems like a gimme), and of course, it would be nicer if there were more women’s teams included than just the one.

The long fill is top notch. I especially loved JUNGLE GYM and AMTRAK JOE but also Melissa ETHERIDGE, CARE BEAR, DANCE MOVE, ALL-AROUND, GLAM BANDS, SEMI-SWEET, HOLY MEN, and REAR END.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [“Mad Men” quote?] AD RATE. Clever.
  • 53a. [Lexicon that had no single word of the year for 2020 (Abbr.)]. OED. Apparently they decided it was an unprecedented year expanded the award to include “lockdown,” “bushfires,” “Covid-19,” “Black Lives Matter,” “WFH [working from home]”, “keyworkers” and “furlough.” The word of the year for 2021 is “vax.” And now I just learned “vaccine” comes from the Latin vacca meaning cow.

Four stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Playing With Your Food”— Jim Q’s write-up

A two-for-one theme today!

THEME: Foods (that you’d likely see at a Thanksgiving table) are both found in a single rebus square within a common phrase and at the the ends of common phrases.

Washington Post, November 21 2021, Evan Birnholz, “Playing With Your Food” solution grid


THEME #1: Answers are on the sides of theme answers

Revealer: [Thanksgiving serving, and a hint to the circled squares in this puzzle] SIDE DISH.

  • COFFEE URN. Corn.
  • ROYAL BALL. Roll. 

THEME #2: Answers are in a rebus square. 

Revealer: [Thanksgiving serving, and a hint to four special squares in this puzzle] STUFFING.


Super elegant that this is neatly divided into two halves and that the order of the foods being presented within the themers mirror one another.

As I moved my way south, I was certainly wondering what the extra layer would be (I hadn’t noticed the lack of circled letters down there) as it seemed like too simple a theme for WaPo. Excellent surprise.

No real hangups for me, nor did I stumble across too many new names. I mean, I forgot Natasha LYONNE‘s name, but I really hope there’s another Russian Doll series coming out. That show was great. I may just go and rewatch it. I wasn’t overly familiar with FREYA or ZORBA, but easy enough with fair crosses.

What a fun puzzle today!

Thanks, Evan!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

David Alfred Bywater’s LA Times crossword, “See To It” – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

DAB’s puzzle has a simple concept, but one that really comes together. “See To It” is interpreted to mean “Add C to each of two words in a phrase and make wacky answers”. As a rule, this strains the grammar more than just altering one part of the answer. There are examples of that seen here as the theme is stretched to Sunday size. Of the eight answers, [Ice-cream shop cry], (C)ALLFOR(C)ONE is the most obviously stilted, but many require some degree of gymnastics in the clues to land, sort of.

The rest are [Part of a successful baker’s rep?], (C)RUST(C)RED; [Report on a sucker?], (C)OVERTHE(C)HUMP; [Ice-skater’s small talk?],(C)OLD(C)HAT; [Shell game item?], (C)HEAT(C)UP; [Salon receptionist’s job?], (C)LOCKING(C)LIPS; [Cowardly committee head?], (C)RAVEN(C)HAIR; and [Farmer’s market IOU?], (C)HARD(C)HIT.


Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “From the Ground Up”— Jim Q’s write-up

A tree grows in Crossworld!

THEME: Phrases that have parts of a tree in them

THEME ANSWERS: (from bottom to top)


    Universal crossword solution · “From the Ground Up”· Paul Coulter · Sun., 11.21.21


This is a lovely them, pulled off with elegance. Simple, but a nice little aha moment, especially once the solver peeps the title and can appreciate that the tree is indeed represented from the ground up.

[Boards as a group?] for LUMBER is an outstanding clue. Nice one! [Bad lighting?is pretty good too, though there’s a lot of cutesy clues out there for the (terrible) crime of ARSON.

Thoroughly enjoyed this one from top to bottom. I suppose I solved it backwards in a sense.

4 stars. That’s a lot of Paul Coulter in Universal this week!


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16 Responses to Sunday, November 21, 2021

  1. Alex says:

    Hmmm. Came up with Tom Hanks [2015, 1988].

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: I enjoyed the theme a lot and have seen about half the movies mentioned.

    But that NW corner! I must have spent as much time on 1D, 2D, and 3D as I did on the rest of the puzzle. I finally dragged I CRY out of my crossword memory, which eventually led me to TYPE A. Then it finally dawned on me that “expert” can also be an adjective (I’d previously considered DEFT, but rejected it as not fitting the clue). I managed to finish just over my (unimpressive) Sunday average, but it was a challenge.

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    You’d think I’d know by now that when I’m doing one of Evan’s puzzles and I think “is that all there is to the theme?” that the answer is no, it’s not. Really enjoyed the aha! moment in today’s WaPo.

  4. dh says:

    I reversed “Ada Lovelace” with “Ida B. Wells”, and since I had never heard of Irina Shayk I had a difficult time finding my error in the puzzle.

    The Voltaire quote is interesting. I suspect that many people smiled and nodded when reading your comment, but if pressed the “obvious reasons” might be quite different. I personally don’t think tyrants need to be clever, just well connected – which is perhaps even more depressing.

  5. David L says:

    I had FACIANO/CONK in the NE and didn’t correct it (I do the Sunday NYT on paper). I should have corrected it if I’d looked again.

    I didn’t find the theme very engaging. It doesn’t require anything from the solver except to say hmm, how ’bout that, at each of the themers.

    • marciem says:

      I made the same mistake, in AL. I chose Conk because bonk was too similar (to me) to bop in the clue, and I had no idea on the name. But when Mr.HappyPencil didn’t appear, I figured fabiano was better than faciano for a name.

  6. John O says:

    Can someone explain today’s LA Times theme? I have spent way too much time on it. I suspect I am overthinking it. Thanks.

    • marciem says:

      Add a “c” to the beginning of each theme word, for wackiness from a more common phrase.

      • John O says:

        I WAS over-thinking it. Stupidly, I didn’t pay attention to the second “c” in the theme words. Thanks! I appreciate your answer.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      It seems to me that CLEAR CUT should have been rejected as fill in a puzzle with this theme.

  7. Crotchety Doug says:

    Uni Sunday 81A – Scramble the jets means to get the aircraft into the air in the shortest time possible (after an alert).

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Yup. Got that. (I was in the Air Force after all.) What I meant by surface sense was how does one scramble or “mix up” an NFL team?

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