Sunday, October 31, 2021

LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT untimed (Nate) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 7:01 (Darby) 


Hello! The Washington Post puzzle for this weekend is actually a two-page puzzle suite with a meta solution. Jim Q has devoted a separate post to the WaPo write-up. It can be found here.

Alex Eaton-Salner’s New York Times crossword, “Choice Words”—Nate’s write-up

Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope you all have wonderfully fun, spooky plans for the day… or that you’re at least looking forward to tomorrow’s discounted candy aisles like I am. :)

10.31.21 NYT Sunday Puzzle

10.31.21 NYT Sunday Puzzle

This puzzle was fun for me, though I’ll admit it took me a bit to figure out what was happening. How cool that there are five triads of entries per themer: one that is of the form of a common “A OR B” phrase and the other two that each use one of these choices in the same box, depending on if you’re looking at the across or down clue. It was a nice touch to have the OR phrase and the related across entry in the same row. Pretty ambitious! And, the constructor pulls it off well, I think.

23A: HIT OR MISS [Haphazard], which goes with:
– 21A: THE WHITE ALBUM [Noted Apple release of 1968, to fans]
– 4D: REMISS [Negligent]

43A: DO OR DIE [Desperate], which goes with:
– 45A: LIVER AND ONIONS [Traditional British entree]
– 35D: TIDIEST [Least messy]

70A: MORE OR LESS [Approximately], which goes with:
– 68A: MOUNT RUSHMORE [Noted U.S. rock group?]
– 64D: BLESSES [Consecrates]

96A: IN OR OUT [“You game?”], which goes with:
– 90A: MARCHING ORDERS [Military dismissal]
– 79D: SHOUT AT [Berate blisteringly]

116A: WIN OR LOSE [Regardless of the outcome], which goes with:
– 118A: WHIRLWIND TOUR [Hectic trip abroad]
– 114D: CLOSETS [Places hangers hang]

What lovely theme density. I’ll admit that I’m sometimes hit or miss on this constructor’s puzzles, but count me as a big fan of this puzzle – both as a solver and as a constructor who doesn’t think he could have pulled this off as well.

LOL (Face With Tears of Joy emoji)

LOL (Face With Tears of Joy emoji)

Random thoughts:
– I appreciate clues like [Living ___] WAGE that normalize/legitimize ideas (by the fact that they are “good enough” to be in a NYT puzzle) and help shift the Overton window on them.
– My students tell me that the Face with Tears of Joy emoji (in the clue for LOL at 53A) is only for “old people”… though I’ll admit that it’s my favorite and most used emoji. It is not, according to my students, the HOTNESS.
– Apparently, the Northern SPY apple might have been named after an abolitionist. Listen here for more!  (I was worried it’d been named after someone from the confederacy.)

That’s all from me for now – let me know in the comments sections what you thought about the puzzle. Happy Halloween!

Victor Barocas’ Universal crossword, “Sink Your Teeth Into This Puzzle!”— Jim Q’s write-up

I vant to solve zis puzzle!

THEME: VAMPIREs, and the things they fear.

Universal crossword solution · “Sink Your Teeth Into This Puzzle!” · Victor Barocas · Dun., 10.31.21


40-A (revealer-ish) = VAMPIRE.

17A [What a 40-Across wouldn’t order at a bakery] GARLIC BREAD. 

11D [What a 40-Across wouldn’t want to see at a salon] MIRROR IMAGE. 

60A [What a 40-Across wouldn’t want from a tailor] CROSS STITCH. 

25D [What a 40-Across wouldn’t do with an insurance agent] STAKE A CLAIM. 

Well, I don’t think the CROSS STITCH or STAKing A CLAIM is gonna harm the vampire, so I can’t see why he wouldn’t want either of those. GARLIC BREAD might be an issue. Guess it depends on how heavy handed we are with the garlic. And… do MIRRORs harm vampires? Or is there simply nothing reflected back? I really don’t know much about vampires. There seems to be a different set of rules for each vampire in the various movie/book/TV series to which they belong.

I jest. This puzzle is fun and timely, of course. And there’s a bit of a crossover between this one and the WaPo Meta Puzzles(s) that I’m so close to finishing (that’s not a spoiler… go solve it!). Maybe this one will help push me in the right direction for the final step of the other.

Other things:

  • MOIRA not clued as Rose?! I think she should be the only MOIRA from now on. There’s so many ways to clue her. Like OREO.
  • SCOOTS really sounds like the name of a jazz trombonist if you ask me.
  • AND SCENE! doesn’t sound nearly as final as THAT’S A WRAP! for a [Director’s last words]

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

3.5 stars.

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

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Every theme answer includes an item that is the combination of an animal and a food.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Animal Food” solution for 10/31/2021

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Animal Food” solution for 10/31/2021

  • 17a [“Tropical fruit with white flesh and black seeds”] DRAGON FRUIT
  • 38a [“Vanilla ice cream topped with caramel, fudge and pecans”] TURTLE SUNDAE
  • 62a [“Sushi order stuffed with soft-shell crab”] SPIDER ROLL

When I first saw the puzzle title, I wondered if we were going to get answers that worked in words like “kibble,” “fish feed,” etc., and this was much more fun. I have to imagine that there are a number of possibilities that could fit within this theme, but I thought that this was a nice collection. Something I often think about with themes is whether or not the clue plays a little more on the words themselves instead of the exact definition, as we saw in this puzzle. The former is more fun, but there’s less of that “aha!” when you figure it out. Getting DRAGON FRUIT was huge for me, though, since I wasn’t exactly sure what a SPIDER ROLL was and likewise don’t eat a lot of sundaes.

Some clues and answers to think about:

  • 6a [“Shape of a Halloween cookie, maybe”] – We got our spooky word of the day for Halloween with GHOST here. Maybe this puzzle is haunted?
  • 32a [“Tense of ‘passed’”] – This was hands-down my favorite clue/answer combo of the day. It was a clever play on words that didn’t get PAST me, but I was still delighted by it.
  • 48a [“Morally smug people”] – I definitely was not familiar with PRIGS before this puzzle, and I’d be curious to know how often this is used. Is it more common than I think?
  • 3d [“‘It’d be my honor!’”]GLAD TO here didn’t feel exactly synonymous with this phrase. I was sure it’d start with an I contraction for an “I’d be GLAD TO” or “I’m GLAD TO.” I felt similarly about 54a [“‘Heaven forbid!’”] with HOPE NOT. In the end, I caught these on the crosses.

Anyway, this was a fun puzzle with a relatively smooth solve, save for a few hiccups here and there for me. Happy Halloween!

Garrett Chalfin and Andrew Kingsley’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Bewitched”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Familiar phrases are punnily applied to a coven of witches gathering for Halloween shenanigans.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Bewitched” · Garrett Chalfin and Andrew Kingsley · 10.31.21

  • 23a. [To assemble the witches, Hecate takes out her wand and makes …] CASTING CALLS.
  • 32a. [Everyone has arrived by dawn, so the witches huddle together and commence their …] MORNING RITUAL.
  • 52a. [Hoping to make mischief, the witches start …] STIRRING THE POT.
  • 69a. [After mixing the ingredients, the witches ominously announce …] SOMETHING’S BREWING.
  • 87a. [Having summoned their desired phantom, the witches cry …] THAT’S THE SPIRIT.
  • 103a. [Tired of standing but not quite done, the coven …] SITS FOR A SPELL.
  • 118a. [While resting, the witches reflect on all they learned at their …] CHARM SCHOOLS.

Cute. I love the consistent narrative as it progresses. I felt it fizzles at the end, though. I wish the last entry was stronger/funnier to finish with a bang, but it’s still cute.

I’m loving the fill, especially BATARANG and SORCERER which make good Halloween add-ons. Also good: CROCODILE (and GATOR), “IS IT EVER!,” NOT ONE BIT, PARTY HOP, WHIMSY, and GETS CUTE.

Hmm. ARISE and AROUSE in the same grid and very close to one another (7a and 19a)?

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Story full of plot holes?]. MAD LIBS. I’m not used to a challenging clue right off the bat in a Universal grid, but I liked this one.
  • 127a. [Asexual, informally]. ACE. I’ll add this one to my collection of slang I’ve learned from crosswords.
  • 17d. [“Mobius Strip II” insect]. ANT. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this work by Escher.
  • 33d. [It’s casted and usually has lines]. ROLE. Not sure I would have used this clue with CASTING CALLS nearby.
  • 99d. [Like a hungry chef]. IRONIC. Is it, though? M-W defines irony as “a situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected.” Well, I expect a chef to get hungry on occasion. That’s probably why they became a chef! Let’s ask the expert. Alanis?

3.75 stars. Congrats to Garrett on the debut.

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17 Responses to Sunday, October 31, 2021

  1. pseudonym says:

    Puns and Anagrams was good fun with some really clever stuff. 1-A is hilarious.

    • marciem says:

      +1 :) . I love reading the write up afterwards, and that one entry @ 45d (EGAD) I didn’t understand at all so the write up helped, even though I had it filled in from the crosses.

      Fun, clever puzzle.

      • pseudonym says:

        Took a bit to to see EGAD. My only nit, in an otherwise stellar puzzle, is having seen the funny ASSESS before in a Taub puzzle.

  2. DCBilly says:

    Pretty cool duplication of the rebuses and entries. I wish the online program would have accepted the exact duplication of “hitormiss” instead of insisting on “hit/miss.”

    • Eric S says:

      Except that “or” does not work as part of either the across answer or the down answer.

      I just entered H for HIT/MISS. Much easier.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I agree it was both ambitious and well executed. Very enjoyable.
    It was my first rebus since giving up the Across Lite platform and I wasn’t sure whether it was going to work well on the NYT online program, so I was actually happy that the way I entered it seemed to work…
    I’ve heard about the demise of the skinny jeans, the side part (for hair) and the LOL emoji as deemed by Gen Z. Good to know!
    Are other emojis OK or are they all passé?

    PS. Nate, I was looking for your bio on Team Fiend but can’t find it (Or Sophia’s). I enjoy your write-ups. Thank you.

  4. David L says:

    For some reason I usually have trouble with puzzles by Alex E-S but I liked this one a lot.

    There were a couple of Britishish clues and answers that I take issue with. METRES is clued as ‘Derby lengths,’ but my impression is that horse races in Britain are measured in old-time units, often in furlongs. The length of the Epsom Derby is given here as one mile, four furlongs and six yards, with the equivalent metric distance of 2,420 metres given second.

    Then we have HRH clued as ‘Inits. at Westminster,’ but Westminster is where Parliament sits. The Queen only goes there to open a new parliamentary term and give a speech written by the Prime Minister’s office.

    • Karen says:

      Derby refers to a city in Great Britain, not a horse race. Good misdirect! That I got, but Westminster inits. also a city in GB and a misdirect, and I had AKC first! I agree with you, however, on Westminster not being where the Royals usually hang.

      • David L says:

        Thanks, that makes sense on the Derby clue (I should have realized that, seeing as I had family there for a long time!)

  5. Mr. [not too] Grumpy says:

    NYT was fun, although it’s often [always] frustrating to try to grok exactly what is expected to make Mr. Happy Pencil appear. Minor nit.

    I also liked the LAT theme, but I was disappointed to see euro in the grid AND in a clue, and stone likewise.

    • Eric S says:

      When in doubt as to what the app will accept for the rebus, try the first letter of the across rebus. That has always worked in my experience.

  6. MattF says:

    You don’t need the ‘/‘ in the NYT rebus squares if you follow the convention that rebus squares with different across and down entries should be filled with the across entry. The puzzle was on the easy side for me. It was a little surprising that the rebus answers were all spelled out in the same across line… But a good puzzle.

  7. PJ says:

    It took me a second to catch on because we have ALB crossing THEWHITEBUM. At first I thought I was missing the reason for the misplaced AL.

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal: Just my two cents … IMHO, the clue for STAKE A CLAIM doesn’t work very well (“What a 40-Across wouldn’t do with an insurance agent”). I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase used in relation to an insurance claim. It’s origin is in the Gold Rush era when people would claim ground for mining by putting stakes down. I might “make a claim” or “file a claim” with my insurance agent, but I don’t think I’d ever “stake a claim” with them.

  9. Paul Worsham says:

    Nate, I hope you keep your politics out of the classroom better than you keep them out of your writeups.

Comments are closed.