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.
NYT: Smooth jumbo themeless from Sid! Lots of interesting long fill in the mix, and a smattering of tricksy clues to keep things fun.
This one was new to me, though: 34d. [Behaves like a fool, informally], ACTS THE GOAT. Regional? Generational? Not sure.
New to me, too. I started with ACT STUPIDLY, which then became ACTS THE FOOL, which slowly morphed (with crossings) into a GOAT. I’ve never heard it before.
Irony, given the sports meaning of GOAT.
Kinda stupid; some other cluing was weird, too. No need to go into it.
I enjoyed this one at the start a themeless Sunday, but got really bored of the clue/fill pairs towards the end. Another big format disappointment, wish it hasn’t been
I’m surprised nobody’s noted the duplication of ACT in 1d and 34d, especially since neither entry is particularly smooth or relevant.
The GOAT can be the player whose fumble, missed extra point or other mistake was instrumental in a team’s loss, but I have never heard the phrase ACTS THE GOAT.
NYT: 80% Monday level, 20% “why the hell can’t I finish this thing?” There were a few nice clues, but even the tricky ones didn’t require much deep thought. Definitely not as challenging as it looked.
NYT: This morning there was news that eight people died in a crush at a Travis Scott music festival. It was disconcerting to find him in the clue for 20D – not that anyone could have predicted that. Eerie.
Regarding a seed entry for the NYT, Sunday of course added a brief bio of the setter last year, which I imagine appears in instructions for onscreen solvers, and it says that the last across fill got him going, from which he worked up to the top.
Right away, I figured an unthemed puzzle would be a treat for Amy and some others here, while I feared there’d be nothing to keep me going on the duration of a Sunday puzzle. Nice construction, though, and that held me. Maybe not a favorite of mine, but still one of the better ones for a day that’s been short of good puzzles. (I hadn’t heard of ACTS THE GOAT either.)
Anyone else have trouble with opening the WaPo on AcrossLite? When I opened it on my MacBook, it shows up, but with no clues at all. When we tried opening it on an iPad, the AcrossLite app disappeared, which is concerning.
It appears the file that is linked on this site is indeed missing the clues. Very strange. I solved in Across Lite on Mac, but it was a file that Evan had emailed me, so it worked. I’ll alert the powers that be!
It opens fine for me on my PC, but there’s one clue that should have included a diacritical mark that was instead replaced by an unknown “?” character. I don’t know if that’s the cause of the problem on a MacBook/iPad, but hopefully the corrected .puz file will go up soon.
This is the second time have downloaded Wapo to acrosslite app on my iPad and the app will immediately close will not even open again. The only thing that works is for me to delete the app and download it again and not try to download Evans puzzle. Last time this happened was the Halloween puzzle. What gives!
Last week’s Halloween puzzle (“The Haunted House”) was not available for Across Lite. The only .puz file that was uploaded here for Oct. 31 was a dummy file that said there is no .puz file for Oct. 31, so you should either print out the two-page PDF or solve it online at the Post’s website.
And like I said above, there was a minor problem with the Nov. 7 .puz file where one of the clues had a diacritical mark replaced with an unknown character by mistake. I don’t know if that’s what caused the problem with downloading the puzzle to your iPad, but that clue should be fixed now, so try it again.
Thanks Jim, Evan & powers that be! It works on Mac and iPad now.
Tina, before we tried the fixed puzzle, we opened a previous .puz puzzle on the iPad, and the AcrossLite app opened and worked as usual. So we didn’t have to delete and reinstall the app.
I solved the very imaginative WaPo puzzle (corrected version) successfully in Across Lite on a PC. But when I tried to open it in XWord (https://github.com/mrichards42/xword/releases/tag/0.7.0), a solving program offering additional features that would have helped with entering some of the trickier answers, it returned the error “Unknown puz version.” So there must be something different about this file.
Yes, I use XWord too, and am not getting it.
I don’t know why XWord wouldn’t open it, but I made the .puz file from a .txt file using notation that’s meant for Across Lite. That hasn’t been an issue before, as far as I know.
I was able to open it successfully on the second try with no problems blowing up the app. I will try katies suggestion next time. It’s always a treat to do my puzzles in the app so I am not bound to being online. Thanks Evan for allowing us to do this.
NYT fill: “Vibrant?” Not. Dull, boring & drab – yes.
Dull, boring & drab… so I’m assuming you liked it?
Timothy Parker, is that you?
NYT: Funny that Nate called out DONT as that cross with the D was my one error.
Nice puzzle and good to mix on the big theme less from time to time.
Can someone explain 1Across to me please?!? I’m not getting it.
“A nuclear reactor, formerly known as an atomic pile, is a device used to initiate and control a fission nuclear chain reaction or nuclear fusion reactions.”
Thank you — my lesson of the day!
The WaPo puzzle was ’96 Election-level amazing. There should’ve been two acceptable solutions, but I guess the program doesn’t allow that. I only got as far as Puzzle 3 on last week’s meta.
I set a new PR on the Universal Sunday: 3:50 on AcrossLite. If only I could get better on Saturdays and meta puzzles…
That is quite a puzzle. I don’t have a lot of experience constructing puzzles, but every time I get an idea for a Schrödinger puzzle, I know I’d never be able to pull it off.
Like you, I’d have liked to see both solutions accepted by the app. But maybe the fact that only one Schrödinger answer fits the note (as “the shorter” word) means there’s really only one correct solution to the puzzle?
I’d read Evan Birnholz’s comments if I could get around the paywall.
No, you should consider it correct if you put in either of the two words at 52- and 80-Across. There are four correct solutions to the puzzle: One with HOUR and SECOND, one with HOUR and MINUTE, one with WEEK and SECOND, and one with WEEK and MINUTE. I just put in the vague hint in the Info section to help people trigger the “Congratulations, you’ve solved the puzzle” message.
While I also hope that one day the AmuseLabs app could accept either of two Schrödinger words as correct, that’s unfortunately not possible right now. I’m not a programming or coding expert, but even just getting the interface to accept two different letters in a square seems like a tough problem to solve; you could end up with a mishmash of letters from different words (like HOEKLY WAGE or GOT A SECUTE) and you’d have to specify in the code that it must be either HOUR/WEEK and SECOND/MINUTE and nothing else.
(For my blog: I don’t know if this will work, but try opening it in incognito mode.)
Gareth, while owned by the same parent company the SONATA is sold as a HYUNDAI product, not Kia.
For anyone who was having trouble opening the Nov. 7 WaPo .puz file on their iPad or other Mac device, we’ve replaced the .puz file here with a new one that should work now. Sorry for the temporary inconvenience.
Thanks! Opened in Xword and now I can read the write-up and comments.
I can also open it with XWord in Windows. And I see a different representation of the accented character in the hex file. Thanks for figuring this out, Evan.
Sorry but I don’t know what a hex file is. Does the diacritical mark in the 5A clue show up properly? (I’m assuming it does.)
Yes, it does.
Sorry, I wasn’t clear about this. The diacritical mark shows up correctly when you open the file in Across Lite or XWord. But if you inspect the raw data inside the file, which is conventionally represented in hexadecimal format, you can see that the internal code for that character has changed since the previous version. That’s what must have made the difference for XWord and Apple devices.
But maybe this is TMI. I should just say thanks for the puzzle.