David Steinberg’s New York Times crossword, “Change of Heart”—Nate’s write-up
Today’s “Change of Heart” puzzle has a prompt that hints to a meta answer: “The middle letter of the answer to each starred clue can be replaced by a different letter to form two new words across and down. Read the new letters, in order, for a bonus.” Let’s dig in and see what’s going on!
23A: UNLIKABLE [Opposite of endearing]
UNLIKABLE / WOKEN –> UNLIVABLE / WOVEN (V)
24A: UNINHIBITED [Freely expressive]
UNINHIBITED / AMISS –> UNINHABITED / AMASS (A)
46A: INTERFACING [Communicating (with)]
INTERFACING / SAFES –> INTERLACING / SALES (L)
49A: SHRINKING [Contracting]
SHRINKING / TENTH –> SHRIEKING / TEETH (E)
69A: INVECTIVE [Harsh language]
INVECTIVE / MACES –> INVENTIVE / MANES (N)
87A: IRRIGATED [Watered artificially]
IRRIGATED / RAGED –> IRRITATED / RATED (T)
89A: COMPLEMENTS [Goes well with]
COMPLEMENTS / FLECK –> COMPLIMENTS / FLICK (I)
113A: ALTERCATION [Noisy disagreement]
ALTERCATION / LICKS –> ALTERNATION / LINKS (N)
116A: COMMANDED [Ordered]
COMMANDED / INAPT –> COMMENDED / INEPT (E)
It seems that this puzzle is our secret VALENTINE! <3 Wow! If you’ve ever tried to construct a Sunday-sized puzzle with a solid theme, you know how hard that is without the meta aspect. To have this degree of flexibility in the entries to allow for such a fun twist shows true skill, and the fill / CLUEING are also super clean. Bravo to the constructor! What did you think? Let us know in the comments.
Drew Schmenner’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Art Acquistion”—Jim P’s review
We’re going on on ART-buying spree today. The trigram ART has been added to familiar phrases in each theme entry.
- 23a. [Basic suggestion for fixing a laptop?] GIVE IT A RESTART. Rest. Reminiscent of The I.T. Crowd as well as the Daddy Pig method of computer repair.
- 37a. [Anthem for many a “Fast & Furious” character?] HAIL TO THE CAR THIEF. Chief. Nice one. “Chief” to “car thief” is a wonderful find worth the price of admission.
- 49a. [Textile seen in the Scottish countryside?] FARMER’S TARTAN. Tan.
- 68a. [Successfully lifting a shot glass with your palm, tying a cherry stem with your tongue, etc.?] HITTING THE BAR TRICKS. Bricks. It’s a little odd to say you’re “hitting” tricks, but okay.
- 87a. [Tiny gin/vermouth cocktails?] MICRO MARTINIS. Minis. Never heard the phrase “micro mini,” and it doesn’t google well. Can’t tell if it’s referring to kids’ scooters, toy cars, or skirts. MARTINI SERIES would’ve fit here and seems clueable.
- 97a. [Start of a a bulletin to Michigan State students?] “ATTENTION, SPARTANS!” Spans. Another nice find.
- 117a. [Celebrations with carving contests?] PUMPKIN PARTIES. Pies.
A fun set (mostly) with a few surprising finds. It kept me engaged throughout the solve.
The long fill is very chatty today with “YOU’RE IN LUCK,” “I MEANT TO SAY…,” and “I’M STUNNED.” Other goodies include PERCOLATE, LOCKS IN, and SMITTEN. Nothing overly kludgy either.
Clues of note:
- 123a. [Dancer Adele]. ASTAIRE. Today I Learned: Adele spent many years touring Broadway and the West End with younger brother Fred to much acclaim and success. Eventually she tired of it all and proposed marriage to one Lord Charles Cavendish, son of the Duke of Devonshire, who accepted the proposal. Thus she married and retired from the stage.
- 38d. [Kelly Marie of “The Last Jedi”]. TRAN. She plays Rose in the Star Wars films and was the first woman of color in a major role in the franchise. As such, she famously received an onslaught of hate from online trolls. But she also famously withstood it and is now starring in the animated Raya and the Last Dragon. Here’s a good read about her experience.
A strong puzzle with a solid theme and clean, smooth fill. Four stars.
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Clam Up”—Darby’s write-up
Theme: Each of the themers include CLAM in reverse order, moving up the Down answers.
- 3d [“Legally binding agreement”] FORMAL CONTRACT
- 17d [“Human rights barrister who has represented Nadia Murad”] AMAL CLOONEY
- 13d [“Video game in which players are indebted to Tom Nook”] ANIMAL CROSSING
This was a really diverse and great batch of themers. FORMAL CONTRACT and ANIMAL CROSSING fell right into place for me, but I also enjoyed the more political inclusion of AMAL CLOONEY. This answer is one of those great examples in which I was more easily able to fill the other two, making the theme really apparent where I was able to fill in AMAL CLOONEY without too much trouble and leading me to learn more about her work with Nadia Murad.
I loved the peppering of squares in the center of this grid. My pace picked up as I moved through the shorter three-, four- and two six-letter (ESCAPE and DRY RUN) answers. In contrast to these shorter answers, it was nice to see the two 14-letter themers nearly spanning the grid. Plus, it also drew attention to AMAL CLOONEY right down the middle, as if being like “go look this person up if you don’t know.” To make it easy, here’s the basic rundown: Nadia Murad is activist fighting against the genocide of Yazidis in Syria and Iraq by ISIS. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Clooney has worked with Murad to hold perpetrators accountable for these crimes.
That’s all from me for today! There were plenty of interesting facts with this puzzle as well, so I definitely recommend taking a deep dive to learn more about folks like 48a [“Hong Kong singer Samuel”] TAI or South Korean rapper RM (aka Kim NAM-joon). Have a great week!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Code Words”— Jim Q’s write-up
This is a byte sized puzzle :)
THEME: Meta… but surely something to do with binary code!
- VOTING BOOTH / COMMOTION. 01000010
- OIL COLOR / BIOLOGIST. 01001001
- OPIOIDS / ROBIN HOOD. 01010100
- ONION ROLL / OCOTILLO. 01000010
- HOMINOID / PINOT NOIR. 01011001
- SONIC BOOM / ROOIBOS. 01000010
- COMIC BOOK / ISOTONIC. 01001001.
- POISONING / CHOIR SCHOOL 01010100
- (nudge) [Code whose digits can be translated into letters, eight digits at a time] BINARY.
Google around for your favorite binary to text translator (I used this one ) and plug in the numbers for our meta answer: BIT BY BIT.
A fun meta with a wonderfully apt final answer.
The BINARY nudge in the corner would probably make this the equivalent of a week 1 Gaffney, so I hope this was accessible to most solvers, though there may be a bit of confusion as to how to translate the final message. I simply googled “Binary to text” and found a website that worked just fine.
For me, I noticed the abundance of O’s and I’s before I was halfway through the grid. That coupled with the title was enough for me to suspect what was going on. Plugging in the numbers into the translating site made me feel like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, though I was thankful the answer was more interesting than a commercial for Ovaltine.
Translating binary to text is not a random process, though it might look it on the surface. As Evan pointed out to me:
So I used the same rapidtables URL when I was first building it to confirm the letters. But then I (re)learned that you can convert the binary codes to letters without looking anything up, just using simple math. Here’s how:
You have eight-digit codes, each representing a letter. You can disregard the first three digits for each one (010) since that just tells you they’re uppercase letters (lowercase would be 011). The last five digits tell you the letter’s position in the alphabet. Working left to right, you multiply the fourth digit by 16, the fifth digit by 8, the sixth digit by 4, the seventh digit by 2, and the eighth digit by 1, then calculate the sum of the products (normally I’d work right to left so I could multiply up, but I think it’s easier to illustrate this way). For the first code 01000010, toss out the first three digits and you’re left with 00010. Your equation is:
16(0) + 8(0) + 4(0) + 2(1) + 1(0) = 2 –> letter no. 2 of the alphabet is B
For the second code 01001001, toss out the first three digits and you have 01001:16(0) + 8(1) + 4(0) + 2(0) + 1(1) = 9 –> letter no. 9 of the alphabet is I
For the third code 01010100, toss out the first three digits and get 10100:
16(1) + 8(0) + 4(1) + 2(0) + 1(0) = 20 –> letter no. 20 of the alphabet is T
The fill did not feel as smooth as usual for me, which is clearly due to the constraints imposed by all those O’s and I’s. I was lucky enough to know ROOIBOS from the many times I accompanied The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee but I balked on ISOTONIC, OCOTILLO, and HOMINOID. I’d be lying if I didn’t give serious side-eye to CHOIR SCHOOL. Hehe. Some new names for me tripped me up too (ISAO and NOMO to name two).
That said… seventeen theme answers. That’s nuts. Especially with each answer containing exactly four of the digits for the code. Impressive.
Coincidence of the day for me: I am currently teaching Man in the Black Suit to my seniors alongside Young Goodman Brown. It’s a great pairing. The title character is referred to as “the devil.” For some reason I have difficulty perfectly equating “the devil” with “Satan” as the latter seems more like a specific figure and the former seems vaguely metaphorical, but I’m pretty sure that’s just me. So it still took me a while to get that entry right.
Thought on this one?