Sunday, January 2, 2022

LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT untimed (Nate) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today Untimed (Darby) 


WaPo 9:38 (Jim Q) 


Paolo Pasco’s New York Times crossword, “Color Mixing”—Nate’s write-up

Happy New Year! Today’s Sunday NYT puzzle asks us to flex our blending skills to figure out what might happen when we mix (anagram) various pairs of colors:

01.02.21 Sunday NYT Puzzle

01.02.21 Sunday NYT Puzzle

21A: REINDEER CALVES [CERISE + LAVENDER = certain baby animals]
32A: DOG COLLAR [CORAL + GOLD = pet store purchase]
46A: GERMAN BEER [AMBER + GREEN = imported brew]
52A: MARINE CORPS [PEAR + CRIMSON = fighting group]
60A: MENTAL IMAGE [LIME + MAGENTA = visualization]
74A: STAR CLUSTER [RUST + SCARLET = celestial group]
83A: PEACE MARCH [CREAM + PEACH = nonviolent protest]
94A: HOT CEREAL [TEAL + OCHER = breakfast option]
107A: VEGETARIAN MENU [MAUVE + TANGERINE = restaurant handout]

What a cool theme idea! My favorite themer has to be VEGETARIAN MENU, and my hunch is that this (or MENTAL IMAGE) was among the first themers Paolo found that sent him searching for other options. I wonder if there are any other fun combinations of colors that could be anagrammed to make a common phrase – let us know in the chat if you figure out any good ones! (Also, I don’t know about you but, while I was solving, I kept imagining what the resulting color might look like from each of the actual color combinations – some bold combos, for sure!)

One thing I enjoyed while solving was the mini LGBTQ+ sub-theme amongst some of the clues:

3D: PRIDE PARADE [Christopher Street Day celebration]
53D: EMERGE [Come out]
75D: TOLD A LIE [Wasn’t straight]

The only inelegance, perhaps, that I noticed in the puzzle was the dupe of AD ASTRA at 89A with ASTRONOMERS at 65D. Even still, this puzzle was great fun to solve and super smooth. What did you like about it? Let us know in the chat.

Prasanna Keshava’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Bridge the Gap”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Words that can precede “gap” are found in the circled squares spanning separate, long entries. (Assuming you have the circles in your grid, that is. Solvers without circles have to rely on the awkward parenthetical hints in each clue.)

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Bridge the Gap” · Prasanna Keshava · 1.2.22

  • INCOME gap: 23a. [Pixar film set in a scream-powered city (Note the last three letters in this clue’s answer + …)] / 25a. [Egg dish station (… the first three in this one)]. MONSTERS, INC / OMELET BAR.
  • DIGITAL gap: 38a. [Paleontological job (Last three letters + …)] / 42a. [Sorbet relative (… first four)]. FOSSIL DIG / ITALIAN ICE.
  • KNOWLEDGE gap: 57a. [2010 Taylor Swift album (Last four letters + …)] / 62a. [One may be above a musical staff (… first five)]. SPEAK NOW / LEDGER LINE.
  • TRADE gap: 83a. [Background actor (Last three letters + …)] / 87a. [Filling pizza style (… first two)]. MOVIE EXTRA / DEEP DISH.
  • GENERATION gap: 103a. [Detectable segment of DNA (Last four letters + …)] / 107a. [Apportion (… first six)]. MARKER GENE / RATION OUT.
  • GENDER gap: 123a. [Steve Wozniak portrayer (Last three letters + …)] / 125a. [Successful racehorse (… first three)]. SETH ROGEN / DERBY WINNER.

What a lovely collection of long entries. They didn’t have to be that nice. Take, for example, TRADE gap. The word TRADE can be accomplished with just the words EXTRA and DEEP. But it’s so much nicer as a solver to have juicy entries like MOVIE EXTRA and DEEP DISH. The only nit I’ll call out is that the phrase “digital gap” is far less common than the alliterative “digital divide”.

There’s plenty of sparkle to enjoy in the fill like DC COMICS, SHEEPDOG, GHERKIN, CALCIUM, CORN NUT, and BURGERS.

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [FBI agent]. FED. Hmm. The F in FBI is for “Federal.” Feels a little dupey to me.
  • 51d. [Portable organizer (Abbr.)]. PDA. No one refers to any modern device as a PDA (as far as I know).
  • 115d. [Apt name for a third child]. TREY. I once knew a family who called their third kid “Trace” because I guess that’s how they pronounced the Spanish number tres. *smh*

A nicely executed theme and fine fill. 3.75 stars.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Letters of Introduction”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Phrases that have a synonym for “first” in them, clued solely as the first letter of the phrase + a Birnholzian additional message.

Washington Post, January 2 2022, Evan Birnholz, “Letters of Introduction” solution grid



And the first letter of each of the entries in the first row spell HAPPY. So, the message, of course is HAPPY NEW YEAR!

A seemingly simple, but exceptionally tight puzzle to kick off 2022. I hadn’t looked at the letters that were circled in the first row until I was finished, so the final message was a surprise for me :) If I had stopped to examine them, I would’ve figured it out, but I was off to the races with a rare (for me) under-ten-minute solve.

I was actually surprised when Mr, Happy Pencil appeared being that I was certain I must’ve had something wrong with EDITH HEAD. I checked the crossings again and again, and decided to leave it. I didn’t even consider that it might be a person’s name (as none of the others are), but indeed, EDITH HEAD is a celebrated costume designer.

Really nice, the number of firsts being employed, and that there are exactly five entries in the first row to make HAPPY.

New for me: H.B. REESE and LEELEE Sobieski. Actually, I don’t think the latter is new to me. Pretty sure I’ve seen the name in crosswords before (perhaps WaPo even) with a helpful nudge in the clue (like “repetitive” or something).

Really enjoyed this one from Evan, and of course I’m super excited to see what he has up his sleeve for 2022.


Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “There’s a Place for Us”— Jim Q’s write-up

Will Paul be as prolific for Universal in 2022 as he was in 2021 (particularly the end of 2021)? The second puzzle of the year is his, so all signs point to yes!

THEME: Phrases that start with prepositions reimagined as if they are describing a place for something.

Universal crossword solution · “There’s a Place for Us” · Paul Coulter · Sat., 01.02.22


  • [Where to find a roof?] ON THE HOUSE. 
  • [Where to find soap bubbles?] IN A LATHER. 
  • [Where to find logs?] UNDER FIRE.
  • [Where to find a sweater?] OVER THE TOP. 

Clean, consistent, and clear. Can’t ask for much more than that. My favorite themer was OVER THE TOP.

I’m surprised that this one warrants 80 words, which is more than usual. If I’m being honest, I didn’t enjoy that fill all that much. It was mostly fine, but I had just solved another puzzle that felt very smooth, and this one in comparison lacked that smoothness (for me). Felt like a bit more crosswordese than normal.

I did, however, very much enjoy each of the themers, so that made up for any crunch in the fill.

3.25 stars from me.

Thanks, Paul!

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Imperfect Round”—Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer includes an imperfection as well as a reference to a round of golf.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "Imperfect Round" solution for 1/2/2022

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Imperfect Round” solution for 1/2/2022

  • 20a [“PGA Tour Shot of the Day, often”] CHIP IN BIRDIE
  • 38a [“Knight who’s a three-time Masters champion”] NICK FALDO
  • 59a [“Player who shoots 72 regularly”] SCRATCH GOLFER

This is one of those puzzles that I should have asked my dad–an avid golfer–for help with, as I struggled for a while on NICK FALDO’s last name as well as the SCRATCH of SCRATCH GOLFER. CHIP IN BIRDIE was the easier to get, in my opinion, though I could see anyone unfamiliar with golf having to work for these themers. It’s certainly not impossible, but having that golf-specific knowledge probably makes for a much easier solve.

A couple of other things I noticed:

  • 36a [“Tests for high schoolers”] – Whenever I see SATS as an answer, I wonder how much longer this will be the most apt clue here with so many schools going test optional. I’m guessing plenty, but still, it’s interesting to consider. Also, we got a few academic answers here too with 45a [“Scholarship application stat”] GPA crossing 47d [“‘Solve for x’ subject”] ALGEBRA.
  • 9d [“Ruthlessly competitive”] – I thought that this was going to start with DOGGED (which also contributed to my struggle with CHIP IN BIRDIE), but eventually, I got to DOG EAT DOG.
  • 40d [“Extinct since a while ago”] – I loved how LONG GONE here filled in part of NICK FALDO while also offering a double G to cross SCRATCH GOLFER and GEORGE.

Overall, I enjoyed the puzzle, despite my thematic struggles.

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23 Responses to Sunday, January 2, 2022

  1. Lee Glickstein says:

    This was the first Sunday Times puzzle I can ever remember bailing on, half finished, no interest in going on. The theme to me was the weakest possible, maybe cause I’m not color coordinated. No “aha!” to be had, just a tidy constructor accomplishment.

    • Reddogg says:

      Well, I finished it, but agree with Lee that it was a bore and a trudge. No fun.

      • Mr. [very] Grumpy says:

        I might have liked it if the colors had any relevance, but “PEAR + CRIMSON = fighting group” for MARINE CORPS? No. Absolutely not.

  2. Billy Boy says:


    Workmanlike stuff, not bad, not stellar

  3. Mutman says:

    NYT: Nice puzzle, but clearly lacking any ‘aha’ moment. It was obvious from the start how the theme worked, and any good anagrammer had an easy time with this one.

    Like Billy Boy said, not bad, but not stellar.

  4. David Steere says:

    WaPo: A perfect puzzle for the start of 2022, Evan. Thanks for the sentiment expressed so adroitly in today’s LETTERS OF INTRODUCTION. Right back at you! I’m grateful to you for the entire 2021 of great puzzles and look forward to what you come up with during the next twelve months. I appreciate your creativity, positivity, openness to new ideas, and general sense of fun. Both you and Erik and Amanda at USA Today should also be praised for your fairness in presenting an international world of clues and references with fair crossings as the key to opening the lock of what may be at times unfamiliar names and places. Your work, Patrick Berry’s, many of the grids appearing in the Inkubator and AVCX, and the host of women constructors are all reasons to be grateful and optimistic in our often dark world. Although I’ve taken your “advice” and stopped rating puzzles, you have “all the stars.”

  5. JohnH says:

    For me the NYT really was stellar. Looking at the puzzle, I tried to think of how two colors could produce, punningly, a phrase. While it didn’t take long to find the theme, its swift realization and its unexpectedness both contributed to the pleasure. (Not a theme as late meta.) So did working out the details then taking much longer, and so did marveling at the ingenuity with which the setter came up with all these. So no, this once I don’t get the hostility.

  6. Ethan says:

    NYT: I wasn’t wild about the clue for 109D which, while accurate, sounds like it was written by a lobbyist for the e-cigarette industry.

  7. Hank Freeman says:

    (NYT) I am sick and tired of:
    1. Crossing of obscure proper nouns. Must be able to solve without running a square, no?
    2. Nonstop beating of the leftist drums. Can’t I escape, anywhere?
    3. Weak attempts at introducing modern slang. Is Will 90?

    About 1000 NYT puzzles done, I get a gold star more than half the time, but far from an expert. I add this color to convey, I’m experienced enough to have an opinion on the puzzles decline.

    • Mutman says:

      I’m too lazy to rehash the puzzle. Example(s) of #2 please??

      • sanfranman59 says:

        I wasn’t crazy about the puzzle, but I too am wondering what leftist drum was beating here. My views tend to fall on that side of the political spectrum, so maybe I’m less sensitive to it than someone who falls on the other side, but looking back through the grid, I don’t see anything that seems political at all. What are you referring to Hank? IDA (“___ B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting”)? PRIDE PARADE (“Christopher Street Day celebration”) … though I really don’t think there’s anything inherently leftist about a PRIDE PARADE, is there? Those that I know of are just giant parties.

      • Billy Boy says:

        I’m happy to learn from the far left in my retirement, I’m introduced to many concepts fairly early through CW. This puzzle never had me thinking leftist, BTW

        Some y’all forget we used to protest and march and sit-in back in the sixties and seventies, but history no longer goes back that far, eeeeehhhhhh

        Now getoffamydamnlawn

    • R says:

      People have been talking about the decline of the NYT crossword for decades. I’m sure it will survive this devastating (if vague and unsupported) critique.

  8. Crotchety Doug says:

    USA – I finished it OK but still have one question. Re 57A, what is the connection between Dream and GEORGE? After googling, those two names seem to be skins for the Minecraft game. That’s pretty obscure, seems to me. Obviously I haven’t played the game :)

    • MC fan says:

      They’re the usernames of pretty popular Minecraft players, as far as that goes. Not the most mainstream of cluing angles.

  9. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    LAT: Finished it easily, but still have no idea what the theme is.

  10. John F. Ervin says:

    Thanks to Lester for the site info. Very informative

  11. The title ‘Decision Points’ did nothing to help on the January 2, 2022 LAT Sunday puzzle.

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