Saturday, September 25, 2021, Adrian Johnson

 Saturday Themeless by Adrian Johnson 

I first encountered Adrian on Feb. 13 of this year when he co-authored a Saturday themeless with Jeff Chen. Today we have a solo puzzle by Adrian with a very striking grid design. Adrian's comments:

Hi all,

It’s great to be back in the LA Times, and I’m excited to share my take on one of the most iconic themeless patterns of recent memory with you this weekend. 


I started with a NE crossing of PR BLITZ & ZEDONKS (A ZEDONK with mom and dad - hg), which I thought was a fun, lively and scrabbly launching point for my creative thinking (though it didn’t survive my final edits). When I moved south and got JALISCO/JUKEBOX/XY PLANE to work in the SE, I knew I was onto something. My favorite clues that survived edits are 18A (which I owe to Brad Wilber), 41A and 41D, while my favorite entries are 15A, 1D and 8D.


Ultimately, I’m delighted by the end product, a feeling not based on how I might judge a “fun” or “lively” crossword, but instead rooted in the variety of words and phrases I was able to fit into the puzzle. The grid’s 36 7-letter entries give ample opportunity for a constructor to push themselves to develop an engaging picture of our world using many parts of life and culture, forcing solvers to stretch their brain and use all their knowledge to get to a victorious finish. In just one corner of this grid you get Mexican geography, French language, English playwriting, two musical entries that couldn’t be more different, some math, a cleaning agent and a tedious synonym. That kind of diversity is what makes me the happiest when reminiscing on this year-old crossword.

Thank you for taking a crossword journey with me on this fine Saturday, and I hope you enjoyed the puzzle! 

My email is open to anyone wanting to chat about crossword stuff, or life in general. I’d love to hear from you!



1. P.D.Q. Bach's "Iphigenia in Brooklyn," e.g.: CANTATA - (CANTATA - hg) Peter 
Schickele's group performs many fun pieces mocking classical music and this is one of them. Here is some of this silliness

8. Dumpling cooker, perhaps: STEAMER - I wrote to C.C. and told her I'd bet a lot of money that you have a bamboo STEAMER. Her reply: "
You lose! We have a small kitchen. These steamers are so bulky. In China, all families have steamers. Chinese don't bake bread. We steam mantou (Chinese bread)."

15. So cool it hurts: UBER HIP - The hippest of the hip

16. Cost of winging it?: AIRFARE - One of  Adrian's favorite clues. 

17. Court figures: LAWYERS - William Jennings Bryan v. Clarence Darrow is a very famous pairing

18. Bistro cheese?: MAITRED - A MAÎTRE D is a "big cheese" in a restaurant. I struggled for the name of a cheese and then for recognizing the French word i generated but got 'er done. As  you read, Adrian credits Brad Wilber with this cluing 

19. "90 Day Fiancé" airer: TLC - Google if you must

20. Fireballs, e.g.: METEORS - Pieces of space rock that usually just burn up in the Earth's atmosphere can be streaking across the sky in this long exposure picture 

22. Kings, on NBA scoreboards: SAC - Even Omaha was a part of  this family tree from 1973 - 1975

23. Ungulate feature: HOOF - Good advice I seldom heed

25. Music with conga drums: SALSA - Desi Arnaz's/Ricky Ricardo's instrument of choice

26. Nigerian pop star: SADE - Let's take a nice, smooth jazz break

27. Get a tat: INK UP.

29. Connection: TIE.

30. ESPN analyst Rose: JALEN and 47. Net support: RIM - Those RIMS are now spring loaded so they don't break off when guys like JALEN Rose used to dunk on them

31. Adolescents: TEENERS - Okay, if Merriman Webster says so...

33. Samovar transport: TEA CART.

35. Bit of hope: RAY.

36. German gripe: ACH - ACH du Lieber! 

37. Offered as proof: ADDUCED.

41. Pay-to-play system: JUKEBOX - This scene would not pass the woke test today

45. Director Sergio: LEONE - He  and Clint made several "spaghetti westerns" and I'll bet you can translate the title below (hint: puñado means fistful - hg)

46. Sr. income source: IRA.

48. Emotionless: STONY.

49. Streaming concerns: LAGS - A new ISP is coming to our town and promises much faster downloads

50. Skate park features: RAILS - What could possibly go wrong?

52. Leader of a popular breakfast trio: SNAP, Crackle and Pop. A great item in your Keto diet.

53. ER personnel: MDS.

54. "Heather Has Two __": 1989 children's book: MOMMIES - My neighbor's grandson has two MOMMIES and they are both lovely people.

56. Buck Henry was the first to host it five times, briefly: SNL - Who knew it would be a big hit in TV and crosswords?

57. "Do we have the ok?": IS IT A GO - Our constructors' request to Rich. Rich's reply, "Yeah, were' going to give it a 4. Shot: TRY."

59. Common cleanser: SAL SODA - It's been around for decades 

61. Habitual surfer: NETIZEN.

62. Medieval trumpet: CLARION.

63. London area: EASTEND.

64. "The Entertainer" playwright: OSBORNE.


1. "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," e.g.: CULT HIT - Ya think?

2. Awabi sushi mollusk: ABALONE.

3. Unsuccessful rollout that tried to imitate Pepsi: NEW COKE - The Edsel of soft drinks

5. "I'm talking now": AHEM - "I didn't mean to talk while you're interrupting" 

6. Rotation targets: TIRES - Most say you should rotate your tires every 7,500 miles

7. High-level H.S. math course: AP STATS.

8. Abenaki leader who first contacted Plymouth settlers: SAMOSET - He is said to have wandered into the Plymouth camp and asked for some beer in English which he learned from British sailors with whom he had had contact on the coast

9. Crown: TIARA.

10. Goddess of discord: ERIS Here ya go

11. Sailor's direction: AFT.

12. Wine used to flavor zabaglione: MARSALA.

13. Modern book case?: E-READER.

14. Trifling sum: RED CENT Derivation

21. Certain Ivy Leaguer: ELI.

24. Community-building races: FUN RUNS - FUN and RUN in the same sentence?

26. Potpourri packets: SACHETS.

28. Parting word: PEACE - The one-word sign off word for the host of the original Today Show, Dave Garroway

30. Pickup game: JACKS - The set I had

32. Manhattan liquor: RYE  2 oz RYE or Canadian whisky, 3/4 oz Sweet red vermouth, Dash Angostura bitters, Maraschino cherry (Garnish)

34. Café freebie: EAU

37. Hardly sharing words: ALL MINE.

38. Jordan River outlet: DEAD SEA.

39. Monitors a Lab, say: DOG SITS - Uh, that lab is a canine, not a scientific area

40. Place to play ball: DIAMOND.

41. State known for its tequila: JALISCO - Blue Agave plants used to make tequila in a field near Tequila, Mexico in the state of Jalisco 

42. Lyon greeting: BON SOIR - Good Evening in Lyon and the rest of France

43. Without respite: ON AND ON.

44. Where many plots are made: XY PLANE - Plot these points in an XY PLANE (Cartesian Plane), join the points and you got yourself a triangle 

50. Seth who played Wozniak in "Steve Jobs": ROGEN - ROGEN and Woz below

51. Makes watertight: SEALS.

54. Place to use an exit strategy: MAZE.

55. Rock quarry unit: SLAB - This quarry in Carrara, Italy produced the SLAB that Michelangelo used for the David

58. Start of a fair exchange: TIT - TIT for tat

60. Sign of success: SRO - Husker VB has a streak of 270 consecutive sellouts and so Standing Room Only tickets are all that are available for games