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:
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.)
- 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.
- N = NOVEMBER FIRST
- E = EYE OPENER
- W = WORLD PREMIERE
- Y = YOUTH LEADER
- E = EDITH HEAD
- A = ARCTIC FRONT
- R = REMOTE STARTER
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.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, all!
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.
- [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.
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.
- 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.