Sid Sivakumar’s New York Times crossword, “This and That”—Nate’s write-up
When I see a titled puzzle, I always like to try and guess at what the theme will be. Well, no amount of guessing would have done me well today – it’s a rare New York Times Sunday themeless, a wonderful opportunity for constructors like Sid to stretch his legs and fill a grid with lots of fun and vibrant fill! Let’s take a look at some of the longest entries (and apologies for my handwriting in the grid!):
1A: ATOMIC REACTORS [Piles]
19A: CANADIAN ROCKIES [Setting for Banff National Park]
22A: THE LITTLE MERMAID [Disney film with more than a million hand-drawn bubbles]
45A: CANDY COUNTERS [Some movie theater concession areas]
61A: MEDICINE CHEST [Quaint locale of first-aid supplies]
85A: PRIVATE ENTRANCES [V.I.P. access points]
90A: ELIMINATION DIET [Nutritional plan involving controlled removal of foods]
92A: KEYNOTE ADDRESS [Special delivery?]
I wonder if any of these were a seed entry. They’re all solid terms or phrases, but none of them immediately jump out as a modern or inclusive bit of fill that Sid had to get in a grid. Even still, it was an enjoyable solve without much frustration as I went through solving the grid.
Some other favorite entries/clues:
24A: TRIO [Rap’s Run-D.M.C., e.g.] – This didn’t have to be clued with respect to a rap group, but doing so brings a point of reference not as often seen in the NYT puzzle, one which might bring in people who say, “Oh, I know that!”
36A: MCRIBS [Seasonal fast-food sandwiches that aren’t halal] – I love the halal angle to this clue! It wasn’t needed for the clue, but some solvers seeing that bit might see themselves reflected in the puzzle and feel like their experiences matter to the NYT. This is also why I appreciated the clue at 12D for OKRA [Vegetable in bhindi masala].
58A: FISH SCALE [Tough bass part] – Cute clue!
72A: VALETS [Employees who work a lot] – They work a parking lot. Nice misdirect!
76A: DRAWS LOTS [Grasps at straws?] – This one made me smile.
Also, if you’re going to go into the comments and tell me to stop being woke or whatever, 39A: DON’T [stern glare]. Instead, tell me in the comments section below something you enjoyed about Sid’s puzzle. Have a great day and don’t forget to set those clocks back!
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA TODAY crossword, “United Kingdom”—Darby’s write-up
Edited by Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer includes the letters to spell out “REALM” spanned across two words, referencing the territory of a kingdom.
- 16a [“‘It won’t be long’”] WE’RE ALMOST THERE
- 26a [“Period of the moon’s orbit”] SIDEREAL MONTH
- 55a [“Spanish soccer powerhouse”] REAL MADRID
This was a fun hidden word theme, especially since REALM really is spread out differently in each themed answer. This type of theme provides a nice balance with those in which solvers are expected to pair up a word in the title with an answer (ex. Wendy L. Brandes’s puzzle that I reviewed the other day). I like both types of themes, but it’s fun to notice the pattern in which a pattern appears repeatedly in themed answers.
Grid-wise, I enjoyed this puzzle. It felt pretty open, which, if you’ve read some of my other posts from this week, has been especially on my mind. 27d [“Plea from someone who’s stranded”] I NEED A RIDE was a nice long answer that moved fluidly through the middle and lower sections of the puzzle and providing the R for REAL MADRID.
Some other notes from me today:
- 49a [“Time for family reunions”] – As we approach the holiday season, it was a nice reminder that that holiday season is based around Western holidays and often leaves out other celebrations not fitting into that category, so I appreciated the inclusion of TET here.
- 66a [“Loki and Thor, e.g.”] – I wanted to put FOES for this (though it ended up being the answer for 9d [“Opponents”], but I appreciated GODS as a reference to Norse mythology. As a side note: I saw some fun Lokis out and about for Halloween, including Steve Irwin’s son dressed up as a variant Loki with an alligator. Check it out here.
- 38d [“Teppanyaki cookware”] – This was a great way to clue GRIDDLES because it was relatively easy to figure out once you had a few of the crosses, is a fun word, and challenges us to think about the kitchen tool if it’s an unfamiliar idea.
Have a good week!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Time Change”— Jim Q’s write-up
Shoulda come with a trigger warning… I despise the hour time change, and I told myself I wasn’t going to let it bother me this year! Fail.
THEME: Time changes in few different ways
SET 1: Unscramble the word
- 23A [Task often assigned by a project manager] ACTION ITEM.
- 25A [Tiny pest that’s a type of arachnid] SPIDER MITE.
- 44A [HINT: To get the circled words of 23 Across and 25 Across, ___ the word “time”] SCRAMBLE.
SET 2: Schröedinger’s puzzle (two entries can fit, and across/down clues still make sense)
- 52A [Calculated pay rate] HOURLY WAGE / WEEKLY WAGE
- 80A [“Can I talk to you?”] GOT A SECOND? / GOT A MINUTE?
- 58D [HINT: Each set of circled squares in 52 Across and 80 Across can be filled with ___ different units of time] TWO.
SET 3: Right church, wrong pew. Units of time multiplied.
- 111A [Distract oneself with fantasies … multiplied by about 30?] MONTH DREAM (not DAYDREAM).
- 113A [Annual high school publication … multiplied by 10?] DECADE BOOK (not YEARBOOK.
- 89A [HINT: In 111 Across and 113 Across, a unit of time has been ___ with another] REPLACED.
A very clever puzzle, somewhat more difficult and zany than I anticipated it would be after last week’s tour de force. It looks like my timer never started, but I’d bet I was in the 18-20 minute range, which is higher than usual for me for a WaPo solve. To be honest, I didn’t fully grok the theme until I was done. I saw two of the three hints, and was trying to figure out how they related to the entire puzzle rather than just the section it was very clearly referring the solver to.
I completely missed the Schröedinger’s puzzle piece until well after post-solve. That’s a testament to the cluing there because those puzzle types have a tendency to feel contrived and forced. I definitely remembering slowing down in those areas and thinking the clues were tougher than I had expected them to be (like RAGU for [Simmering product]), but nothing that sent the Scowl-o-Meter off the charts.
I feel like I made every misstep possible in this one: ERIE for OTOE, AS IF for ALAS (dumb mistake considering “if” is in the clue: [“If only!”]), TAXI for SEMI… that’s skimming the top. It was like that the whole puzzle for me. My favorite ridiculously wrong entry being EWE for ERE [Palindrome in an ode]. I swear I got myself to accept that someone somewhere at some time wrote an ode to a sheep.
This was one of those puzzles that I enjoyed the post-solve AHAs, however. My first-thing-after-I-woke-up solve might not have served the puzzle itself well.
Enjoy Sunday! And that extra hour of sleep that comes with it as we voluntarily plunge ourselves into darkness one hour earlier than necessary for the foreseeable future!
And no one quite nails it like John Oliver when it comes to time change (and yes, I’m aware that we are now going back to standard time, but it doesn’t matter… changing the time is absurd):
Jeffrey Wechsler Universal crossword, “Ah Yes”— Jim Q’s write-up
THEME: AH is added to common phrases and wackiness in a geographical sense occurs.
- 19A [Boxing venue at a Western lake resort?] TAHOE RING. Toe Ring.
- 22A [Doctors who operate in a Persian Gulf country?] BAHRAIN SURGEONS. Brain Surgeons.
- 43A [Sandwich for an African desert traveler?] SAHARAN WRAP. Saran Wrap.
- 48A [What a Hawaiian woman toasts with?] WAHINE GLASS. Wine Glass.
Nifty construction here. Left/Right symmetry. Two themers abutting one another. And a mere 71 words! Very interesting to solve.
Love the consistency in the AH additions in that they brought us all over the world. And it wasn’t always apparently obvious where the AH would appear, but it still lent itself to synergy if the solver needed a nudge.
Of course the “Add-A-Few-Letters-In” theme has been done many times (and will continue to be done), but this whole idea felt fresh in the way it was presented. Bravo!
Drew Schmenner’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Stage Play”—Jim P’s review
Theme: Familiar phrases are re-imagined as pertaining to stage productions.
- 22a. [Authoritative theater star?] COMMANDING LEAD.
- 32a. [Stage items for a military character?] MAJOR PROPS.
- 51a. [Exit part of a show rapidly?] FLEE THE SCENE.
- 69a. [Rehearsing every song?] RUNNING THE NUMBERS.
- 89a. [Scenery for a Broadway adaptation of “Breaking Bad”?] CHEMISTRY SET.
- 105a. [Showstopper such as “Defying Gravity”?] FLYING SOLO.
- 122a. [Insulting dialogue?] OFFENSIVE LINES.
A nice, fun set. Evocative entries and sensible clues once you catch the drift.
THEATRICALLY is a apt bit of fill given the theme. Elsewhere we get lovely entries OYSTER SEASON, BAD DEBTS, CRY UNCLE, COLORADO, and SODA JERKS. plus COMEBACK and FEVERISH. I’m not so sure about RETRO COOL [In fashion again]. Is this an in-the-language phrase I’m not aware of? It doesn’t Google well. “IT’S GREAT” is a little more familiar, but it feels rather generic. Still, high marks for the fun long fill.
Clues of note:
- 38a. [Place to dance, per Martha and the Vandellas]. STREET. From the song “Dancing in the Street.”
- 64a. [One returned for E.T.]. UFO. After he phoned home, of course.
A clean grid and fun theme. Four stars.
John-Clark Levin’s LA Times crossword, “Shh!” – Gareth’s theme summary
The title of John-Clark Levin’s puzzle doesn’t say much, but the final answer, QUIETCAR, spills the beans. Each of eight two-part theme answers are clued as though the half that is a car model name is not there. It’s a different theme, but it does have the disadvantage that the one half of the answers are barely clued, beyond having to make sense and be a car make. The entries are: [EDGE]WISE (Ford?), SUPER[CHARGER] (Dodge), [CIVIC]ENGAGEMENT (Honda), [BEETLE]JUICE (VW), [CONTINENTAL]DIVIDE (Lincoln), TRAIL[BLAZER] (Chevrolet), [MOONLIGHT]SONATA (Kia) and then a second Kia at [SOUL]CRUSHING.