Sunday, November 28, 2021

LAT no time (Gareth) 


NYT untimed (Nate) 


Universal 4:11 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:42 (Darby) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Jeff Kremer’s New York Times crossword, “Garage Sale Pitches”—Nate’s write-up

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who observe it! I hope you’ve had a wonderful week and reached out to the loved ones in your life to let them know how much you value them, especially with the year we’ve just had. Thanks to all of you who make up this Fiend family – we appreciate you!

Just in time for post-Thanksgiving shopping, today’s Sunday NYT reimagines standard “Garage Sales Pitches” and phrases in the context of funny or quirky sales items. Some of these were cute, while a few (like CANT TURN THAT DOWN and DOOR BUSTER DEAL) genuinely made me laugh out loud. Bravo to Jeff Kremer for tackling this puzzle, which I believe is his debut!

NYT Sunday 11.28.21 Puzzle

NYT Sunday 11.28.21 Puzzle

23A: CANT TURN THAT DOWN [TV, volume knob broken, only $10!]
43A: DROP EVERYTHING [Baseball mitt, has a small hole, just $1!]
68A: NO STRINGS ATTACHED [Guitar, never used, $15!]
91A: LIMITED EDITION [Textbook, a few pages torn out, $2!]
114A: ROCK BOTTOM PRICES [Two fish tanks, accessories included, $5!]
16D: DOOR BUSTER DEAL [Prop ax used in “The Shining,” a valuable collectors’ item, $200!]
51D: BUY NOW PAY LATER [Wallet, in good condition, plenty of card slots, $5!]

Other random thoughts:
62A: RHYMES [Huey, Dewey and Louie, e.g.] – This clue made me smile!
122A: BLENDE [Name for zinc sulfide that is one letter short of a kitchen appliance] – I really like this approach to cluing an entry that might be unfamiliar to many solvers.
69D: ROY [Pam’s former partner on “The Office”] – We’re so used to seeing women clued solely in reference to men that it is a lovely turnabout to see a man clued solely in reference to a woman.

One last thing: If you enjoy puzzle solving and want to support an incredible expansion of the indie crossword outlet AVCX, check out their monumental Kickstarter! They’re aiming to expand from a weekly 15x puzzle to two weekly 15x puzzles, a weekly cryptic puzzle, 1-2 weekly midi puzzles, and weekly trivia. Wow! I’ve gotten a peek behind the scenes of this project and I promise you’re going to want to get in on the ground floor. Check out their Kickstarter here!

That’s all from me for now. What did you like about this puzzle? Tell us in the comments section!

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “What’s Wrong With This Picture?”— Jim Q’s write-up

A very funky puzzle today!

THEME: Pictures, with one letter changed to make another word.

Washington Post, November 28 2021, Evan Birnholz, “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” solution grid



REVEALERS: (spelled out in the changed letters)



Well that was an odd experience! Loved it! Something different with an air of mystery about it that held for the duration of the solve. I kept thinking the odd colors themselves would play more of a direct role in the grid, but not so! And even though the pictures were relatively easy to determine, for many of them, the letter that was being changed could be almost any of them… RIVER could change to DIVER, or ROVER, or RICER, or RIVET… so it’s not just like you could plunk them in with 100% confidence. That’s what gave it the bite that it needed though, so it wasn’t overly easy and you still had to engage with the images.

I found this much more challenging in general than a “normal” WaPo (though I’m starting to question what I mean when I say “normal”). Particularly the NE corner. Like that entire big area. I really struggled in there. Tough clue for COMEDIANS [Crack team?] (not completely sold on that one…) and ARMORER [Mail carrier?] and REASON [Grounds]. New name for me OLSONDONEE is an entry I’m never all that confident in… Forgot if APOLLO was two P’s or two L’s… but a lot of help with the ALONE / MALONE clue [Adjective meaning solo found after the first letter of 25 Across]. So I was thankful for that. AL ITALIA NOV and SEE were also tough for me in that general area.

The last letter I filled in was the G in GRABS / GINO. I wasn’t familiar with Severini. However, you can’t really call it a Natick because… well ?RAPHIC DESIGNER really nudges you hard toward that G.

Really enjoyed this one and the work that went into it. Looks like there’s a deserved shoutout to Mark Mann for Ernie art and George Brich for Leia (I thought that was Annie for a second cuz red hair…) I wonder if the others were licensed stock images and the ERNIE/LEIA images were unavailable. That’d be my guess.

Also I solved on paper. And I accidentally printed it on card stock. Which was wonderful. From now on, if I have to print a puzzle, card stock it is!

Regardless of the inevitable differing of opinions about this quirky offering, I think it’s safe to say that Evan’s willingness to take risks and try something totally different is universally admired. Bravo, Evan!

Enjoy this from UMI (artist name coming to a crossword near you soon, I’m sure!)

Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “Object-ively Speaking”— Jim Q’s write-up

The Paul Coulter show continues. This is… very, very odd to me. I mean, nothing against Paul at all, but I feel like his is the only name I’m seeing as of late. Just seems very lopsided for a puzzle that has been so diverse and inclusive when it comes to constructors!

I think that makes over 50% of the last two weeks’ worth of puzzles Paul’s. Let’s go back and check… Yea… I count 8. Wowza. Anyway…

THEME: Things that one might way to an object.

Universal crossword solution · “Object-ively Speaking”· Paul Coulter · Sun., 11.28.21


  • 20A [What the scorekeeper said to the scoreboard?] I SEE YOUR POINT. 
  • 33A [What the geography teacher said to the globe?] YOU’RE MY WORLD. 
  • 42A [What the penthouse dweller said to the private elevator?] YOU RAISE ME UP. 
  • 57A [What the repairperson said to the broken appliance?] YOU’RE SO BUSTED. 

Cute. Reminds me of Evan Birnholz’s recurring Captain Obvious theme. It’s a lot more fun to picture these people saying the phrases in a seductive manner. At least the first three.

Fun mistakes for me:

  • misreading of the clue [Relative of a marina]. I read “Relative of marinara” and needed every cross. Then actually convinced myself that “Boatyard” was a type of sauce I was unfamiliar with.
  • [Magic word] PLEASE for PRESTO. I like mine better!
  • I really wanted the clue for ATTEND to have quotations around it… like [“Be there!”]. So I needed every cross for that too, but of course it works perfectly fine as clued.

Solid, if familiar all around.

See you tomorrow, Paul?

3.5 stars from me.

Gary Larson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Out of Sorts”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Familiar phrases with OUT as the second word have their meanings altered.

Universal crossword solution · “Out of Sorts” · Gary Larson · 11.28.21

  • 23a. [Lopsided victory at a swim meet?] BLOWOUT OF THE WATER.
  • 31a. [What women do at a huge debutante ball?] COME OUT IN DROVES.
  • 59a. [Miss three times in the batting cage?] STRIKE OUT ON ONE’S OWN. I’m generally not a fan of ONE’S phrases, but this one’s humorous.
  • 71a. [Steal some kisses?] MAKE OUT LIKE A BANDIT. Best clue/answer combo.
  • 102a. [Enable a purse to hold more items?] LET OUT THE CLUTCH. Significantly, the final word’s meaning is changed more than the OUT phrase.
  • 111a. [Exercise routine geared toward star athletes?] WORKOUT FOR THE BEST.

Mostly good consistency. Some work better than others. And there’s a touch of humor here that often misses the mark for me in these types of themes. Overall, it works.

Top fill has gotta be POKE MONGO, er, POKÉMON GO. I also like ANCHOVIES (only in my puzzle, not on my pizza), SAW ACTION, LEAP YEAR, ON TIPTOE, and CRAB LEGS. There’s nothing too far out of left field though I don’t think I’ve ever seen RV TRIP in a puzzle before. Clues are aggressively straightforward.

3.5 stars.

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

Edited by: Erik Agard

Theme: Each themed answer includes an anagram of DRAPES as the final word. 

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "New Drapes" solution for 11/28/2021

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “New Drapes” solution for 11/28/2021

  • 16a [“‘The Blacklist’ star”] JAMES SPADER
  • 38a [“California baseball team”] SAN DIEGO PADRES
  • 65a [“Oddsmaker’s number”] POINT SPREAD

I got SAN DIEGO PADRES first, and then the theme immediately clicked for me from there, helping me to fill in different bits of both JAMES SPADER and POINT SPREAD until I actually figured out what the two answers were. I appreciated the anagram here, and I’ll be definitely keeping this set of letters in my back pocket for when they hopefully next come up in the Spelling Bee. 

We’ve got this nice set of diagonal black squares in the center, showing the asymmetry of the puzzle. As I’ve said in past reviews, I really love the long corners we get with columns of DELAWARE (10d [“Dover’s state”]), AVOCADOS (11d [“Milkshake ingredients”]), DELETED (12d [“Edited out”]), SINISTER (38d [“Ominous”]) ADORABLE (39d [“Really cute”]) and NOT AGAIN (40d [“This can’t be happening a second time”]). Plus – note that ADORABLE and SINISTER are right next to each other.  *chef’s kiss* 

Other things I noticed:

  • 21a [“Potala ___ (Lhasa landmark)”] – Potala PALACE was built as the winter home of the Dalai Lama. It emphasizes the role that Tibetan Buddhism played in the country. I would definitely recommend looking through the description and gallery included on this UNESCO page  detailing why it’s on the World Heritage site list.
  • 3d [“Lo mai gai, turnip cakes, etc.”] – This is not a good puzzle to do on an empty stomach. I’m now starving and hoping to magically acquire some DIM SUM. Other options include 8d [“Pancake served with beurre Suzette”] CREPE, and OKRA in 9d [“Amala de Xango vegetable”]. And let’s not forget the AVOCADOS!
  • 56d [“‘Ua Mau ke Ea o ka’Aina i ka Pono,’ for Hawaii”] – The state MOTTO of Hawai’i literally translates to “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” While it is used by state officials, it is also widely used by activists advocating for Hawaiian sovereignty. You can also learn more about the history of the phrase and the continued movement for Hawaiian sovereignty here.

That’s all from me for today! I enjoyed the creativity in this puzzle and its theme answer, and I certainly learned a lot from it!

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword, “Two for Two” – Gareth’s summary

Even with two revealing parts, the title “Two for Two” & MIXEDDOUBLES, Ed Sessa’s puzzle theme is somewhat inscrutable. It seems both words go with DOUBLE?


  • A [*Band aide] is a (DOUBLE)BOOKING(DOUBLE)AGENT.
  • The [*Period after a crash, perhaps] is a (DOUBLE)DOWN/(DOUBLE)TIME
  • A [*Figure in many Monty Python routines] is a (DOUBLE)CROSS/(DOUBLE)DRESSER
  • A [*Figurative place for deferred options], is a (DOUBLE)BACK/(DOUBLE)BURNER
  • [*Airbags in cars, e.g.], are a (DOUBLE)STANDARD/(DOUBLE)FEATURE
  • A [*Hoops buzzer-beater, for one], is a
  • A [*Mall rarity on Black Friday] is a (DOUBLE)PARKING/(DOUBLE)SPACE
  • A [*Nightly barracks routine] is a (DOUBLE)BED/(DOUBLE)CHECK

For the most part these work better than is typical for this theme.

  • Other oddities:
    [“__L”: “Bye for now”], TTY. Nope, you can’t use three-quarters of an abbr. as a clue.
  • [Pharaoh depicted on the Sphinx], KHAFRE. Tricky to spell! Also, not the same as Khufu.
  • [Red-and-white topper], SANTAHAT. Neat entry!
  • [Old TV series with a scuba-diving hero], SEAHUNT. News to me…


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14 Responses to Sunday, November 28, 2021

  1. Philippe says:

    WaPo was delightful. I was so glad to have solved a ‘meta’ with color connection but for some reason missed the second one even if I tried! Duh.
    Had you think quite a bit but remained doable, even for my poor level (not a native speaker). Really greats, congrats and thanks to Evan for another jewel

    • Jim Quinlan says:

      Did you miss the hint given at the beginning of the puzzle? I almost missed it! It said

      “Each picture in this puzzle has one wrong letter in its answer. The wrong letters spell out someone who needs to fix the pictures. When you change them to the right letters they spell out the person’s task.”

      • marciem says:

        I did it on the online app, and cannot find what you say, so I was unaware that there was another level of solve (the person fixing the pictures and his job…. it didn’t take a minute to get that something was wrong with the answers) until I came here. I knew with Evan there had to be more, but didn’t see it.

        Finally after hunting around I called up the .pdf, and those instructions are there. Maybe someone can tell me where to find them in the online app?

        Or was this another layer— a treasure hunt for final instructions?

        • Me says:

          marciem, I’m not sure about the app specifically, but when you pull up the puzzle online in a browser, there is an info box that comes up automatically that had the information. You can also see it if you click on “info” on the puzzle page.

          Evan, this was a real tour de force! Fifteen theme answers in a 19×19 grid, each with a specific letter exchange. And the usual Birnholzian extra touch of not having any nonsense answers in the grid. Plus a refreshing and different “wordless” theme. I thought it was a fantastic puzzle.

          My one (hopefully constructive) comment is to be careful about potential Naticks by having one of the crossing entries have a gettable clue. As clued, the cross between gIno and pIerre is going to be a Natick for 99% of readers. g_no could be any vowel (and you can’t get the “g” until you’ve done the entire rest of the puzzle). p_erre is more guessable if you have the rest of the letters, but “gentle touch,” the clue for 14A could have been TAP or DAB, and I think 90% of solvers won’t know that “Once” is a Tony-winning musical. So I had

          _a_ (tap? or dab?)

          in that corner for way too long. T_erre and D_erre seem wrong, but it’s an unknown person’s name, so anything is possible. I think if Pierre had been clued as the capital of South Dakota, the Natick would have been avoided and the corner would have been a lot less frustrating. But even with that hiccup, it was a great, great puzzle!

          • marciem says:

            Thanks… I see it when I go to the ‘info’ link.
            This was my first time using the WP app. so it wasn’t intuitive to me to look there.

          • Jim Q says:

            Where are you getting those oddly specific percentages from? Is there a database I’m unaware of?

          • Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the puzzle.

            I appreciate that the northwest corner may have been tricky for you, and I’d be willing to buy that you’re not the only solver who had trouble with it. I am *not* willing to buy that G?NO/P?ERRE is a Natick for “99% of solvers” or that “90% of solvers won’t know that ‘Once’ is a Tony-winning musical,” however.

            Even if it is a tough corner as clued, the fact that you got stuck there but worked it out despite not knowing the information in the clues should serve at least as some evidence that it’s not a Natick-y corner. I trust other solvers to do the same.

          • Pilgrim says:

            I did the WAPO on paper, so I don’t get the benefit of error marks. I filled in the top left corner starting with TAP for “Gentle touch.” That led to TIERRE (which I thought was an odd name, but then again, who am I to criticize, since I have never heard of him?) and PONY (which I also thought was weird, but just assumed there must have been a lot of ponies in “Once,” which I have never seen).

            Oh well.

  2. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    The WaPo puzzle was quite easy if one saw that getting the Downs was key. Then the non-graphic Acrosses, and the graphic Acrosses came quickly.

  3. JohnH says:

    Sorry people were overall pretty down on the NYT. I thought it was funny and appreciated that so many long theme entries didn’t entail perpetual crosswordese in the rest of the fill. But I don’t claim to be representative.

  4. Matt M. says:

    I thought the WaPo was really remarkable and a lot of fun.

    • David Steere says:

      WaPo: I quite agree. Wonderful and colorful. I even enjoyed the few moments when my slow pictorial brain had trouble identifying the images at 54 A (a lampshade??) and 102 A (a centipede??). A complete delight.

  5. David L says:

    LAT: I had trouble making sense of the title and revealer, but eventually saw that the words in each themer can be preceded by double, although I didn’t know that ‘double dresser’ is a thing. (Having googled and seen pictures, it’s a perfectly familiar piece of furniture, but I didn’t know it had a specific name).

    Does ‘double clutch’ refer to the old maneuver some of us learned on pre-synchromesh stick-shift cars? If so, that’s pretty obscure. But maybe it has some other meaning.

    The KHAFRE/NABOO cross was suboptimal. Never heard of the former, and guessed A on the latter on the grounds that it seemed like the sort of silly name George Lucas would make up.

    • John O says:

      I took double clutch to be a basketball term…essentially a pump fake.
      Like you, I had trouble with this one. I was hopeless with KHAFRE/NABOO. I also had no clue on DESICA/DAG – I guessed JESICA/JAG. I did guess correctly on DDT/TUM, so I guess it evens out in the end!

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