Sunday, March 6, 2022

LAT no time (Gareth) 


NYT tk (Nate) 


Universal tk (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today untimed (Darby) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


Greetings, puzzlers! If you like meta crosswords, you’ll be glad to hear that Patrick Berry has a new puzzle suite: “Heavy Meta” is a set of nine meta-crosswords, the last one being a “meta-meta” that links the set together. The difficulty level is equivalent to the weekly WSJ meta crossword. A supersized version of the variety puzzle Trail Mix (14×21) is included as a bonus. The price is $15, and you can find “Heavy Meta” (along with Patrick’s other puzzle extravaganzas, cryptic crossword packs, and his Crossword Constructor’s Handbook, which any budding constructor should have) at the A-Frame Games site.

Matthew Stock and Will Nediger’s New York Times crossword, “Parlor Trick”—Nate’s write-up

Happy weekend! I hope you’re all doing well and excited for the treat of a Stock/Nediger collab puzzle.

03.06.22 Sunday NYT Puzzle

03.06.22 Sunday NYT Puzzle

10D: OOO [Worker’s “on vacation” inits.] – OOO for Out of Office, I assume
3D: PATH TO VICTORY [Election night calculation … or what’s traced by the circled letters]
17D: FALL INTO PLACE [Become clear … or make like the object represented by the circled letters]

82A: NAME OF THE GAME [Something’s essential aspect … or what’s spelled out by letters in this puzzle’s eight ‘cups’] The last / uncrossed letters of 4D, 15D, 28D, 30D, 46D, 44D, 48D, and 84D in order spell P A C H I N K O.
103A: FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL [Karaoke instruction … or what to do starting at 10-Down]

It turns out that this grid is the crossword interpretation of a PACHINKO game! This was a new word to me, but I’m now making a connection: is this why Plinko from “The Price is Right” has that name? At the very least, I was able to find this article on pachinko vs. Plinko. All the same, the ball at the top of 10-Down is bouncing through the grid (all the Os in the circled squares) down into the bottom cup (the O in TWO at 84-Down). In the grid, we can visually FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL through its PATH TO VICTORY and see the game ball FALL INTO PLACE. Pretty neat! What did you think? Was the construction and visual effect worth the grid shape and fill for you? It was for me.

Other random thoughts:
21A: NAOMI [Klein who wrote the best seller “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”] – This is a great example of injecting ideas and ideals into puzzle clues!
25A: UPSELLS [Convinces a customer to pay more] – I like modern fill like this! Kudos also to entries like IM LIKE at 18A and GLOW UP at 40D.
27A: TIPS [Much of a delivery person’s income] – Until you’re willing to help change the system to make sure service industry folks can earn a livable wage without tips, you’d better be tipping for service, especially these days with all the extra difficulties of being a service person in COVID times.
112A: DRED [Scott who sued for his freedom] – If you don’t know his name, you should (and not just for crossword fill).
44D: TOE BEAN [Pink pad on a paw, in slang] – This made me say awww and go snuggle my pup.
77D: SFO [Airport with a Harvey Milk terminal: Abbr.] – This type of simple but effectively LGBTQ+ representation means a lot to me as a queer solver.

That’s all for now. What did you enjoy about this puzzle? Let us know in the comments section below. And be well!

Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau’s Universal Sunday crossword, “T-Minus 10”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Familiar phrases are missing Ts at the ends of certain words. Based on the title, I’m guessing there are 10 such theme entries. *counts* Yup, 10 of ’em.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “T-Minus 10” · Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau · 3.6.22

  • 22a. [*Pixelate video evidence?] BLUR OUT THE TRUTH. Blurt.
  • 31a. [*Manhattan parking penalties and such?] NEW YORK’S FINES. Finest.
  • 52a. [*”Evergreens won’t make the view worse”?] FIRS DO NO HARM. First. Yeah, but all the crap they drop on your lawn/driveway makes for extra yardwork leading to long term back pain and…Sorry. I’ll shut up now.
  • 62a. [*Result of chipping a fake nail?] ACRYLIC PAIN. Paint.
  • 76a. [*Blacken the entree, e.g.?] CHAR A COURSE. Chart.
  • 85a. [*”We’ll shape this sword, but first …”?] “BEFORE I FORGE…” Forget.
  • 104a. [*Looking great in a drag wrap?] ROCKING THE BOA. Boat. I wonder if this was the seed entries. It seems like a phrase one might actually say/hear.
  • 119a. [*Report on surgeries?] COVER OPERATIONS. Covert.
  • 14d. [*”Archie’s ex will arrive soon”?] VERONICA’S CLOSE. Closet.
  • 50d. [*Marsupial overlord?] RULER OF THE ROOS. Roost.

A fairly simple theme, but effectively executed. I like the consistency of limiting the dropped-Ts to the ones at the ends of words. It helps the solver out towards the lower half of the grid.

And ten full-sized theme entries is a lot, even for a Sunday-sized grid. Kudos to our constructors for pulling that off. I wasn’t counting as I went along so I did get confused for a bit thinking that 67d CREATES A STIR was a theme answer. Eventually though I saw the clue was not asterisked.

With so much theme material, you’d expect a lot of compromises in the fill. On the contrary, it felt fun and fresh. I liked the aforementioned CREATES A STIR and its counterpart BROWN MUSTARD as well as shorter stuff like AIRDROP, COCKY, “OH YAY!,” BRISKET, SHROOM, DEMONS, NI HAO, BOOP, NOOB, and OBVI.

I wouldn’t normally list a three-letter answer in the highlights, but I’ve never seen IKR in a grid (or even IRL for that matter). But I inferred it means “I know, right?” which is something people say (maybe too much). Oh, also SRY [“My bad,” in a text], which I have seen IRL.

I was surprised at the dupe in RULER OF THE ROOS and ROO. Yes, ROO is clued differently [Quintana ___ (Mexican state)]—in a way I would never get without the crossings—but that second O was my last letter in the grid since I was resisting it so much.

Also, I didn’t know Z-SCORE [Distribution curve calculation]. I tried Z-SLOPE at first. If you know what a Z-SCORE is, please elucidate us on its usage.

Clues of note:

  • 95a. [Cookie with a serving size of three]. OREO. I always appreciate a fresh cluing angle, and I haven’t seen this one before. Thankfully, the cookie provides so many cluing options. But if you see “cookie” in the clue, there’s a high percentage the answer is OREO.
  • 125a. [Having a romantic meal, maybe]. ON A DATE. Funniest moment of the solve for me. Based on ON A DA__, I immediately typed in ON A DARE.
  • 84d. [Sound made when touching a cute nose]. BOOP. There’s a whole subreddit on booping snoots.

A smoothly executed theme and grid. I didn’t LOL at any of the theme answers, but I appreciate their liveliness and consistency. 3.75 stars.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “The Grainy Bunch”—Darby’s write-up

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer ends in a type of grain.

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "The Grainy Bunch" solution for 3/6/2022

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “The Grainy Bunch” solution for 3/6/2022

  • 17a [“French novelist played by Judy Davis in ‘Impromptu’”] GEORGE SAND / GRAIN OF SAND
  • 37a [“Activist who, contrary to popular belief, most likely didn’t say ‘Ain’t I a woman?’ in her 1851 speech”] SOJOURNER TRUTH / GRAIN OF TRUTH
  • 63a [“NFL Hall of Famer from Crawford, Mississippi”] JERRY RICE / GRAIN OF RICE

The trio of names here as themers truly do make a “Grainy Bunch.” I was only familiar with SOJOURNER TRUTH, so I caught both JERRY RICE and GEORGE SAND on the crosses, all of which were very fair to balance out the challenge of such a name-oriented theme. This was also complimented by a lack of names anywhere else in the fill.

This was an asymmetrical grid, and I think that this lent itself well to the number of answers with more than three letters. The lower section with the smattering of black squares around TIL / SAT / HEM / TSA felt a little tight and closed off, but this was remedied in the way that it opens up right around in the center of the puzzle. 11d [“Gem of a person”] CLASS ACT, 13d [“Long pool toy”] NOODLE, and 40d [“‘Such chutzpah!’”] THE NERVE were my favourites of the longer answers, but generally, I really enjoyed this fill. 9d [“TikToker’s request”] ADD ME was also pretty funny and felt very fresh.

Overall, a solid Sunday puzzle.

MaryEllen Uthlaut ‘s LA Times crossword, “Just Desserts” – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by MaryEllen Uthlaut features a broad theme of phrases associated with pudding not used literally, but clued such that they nod to the pudding in passing. Also, not all of them are typically desserts, and some of them are long partial answers. Therein lies the chief problem with Sunday crosswords – unless you have something groundbreaking, you either define your theme tightly and risk it being repetitive, or you let it wander all over the shop.


  • [*Fruity dish that imparts a healthy glow?], PEACHESANDCREAM
  • [*Blended drinks that leave something to be desired?], NOGREATSHAKES
  • [*Shortbread that doesn’t crumble under pressure?], TOUGHCOOKIE
  • [*Pastry that doesn’t live up to its hype?], PIEINTHESKY
  • [*Slice that’s easy to make?], PIECEOFCAKE
  • [*Triangular confections that are a credit to their baker?], BROWNIEPOINTS
  • [*Dish that’s a metaphor for life?], ABOWLOFCHERRIES
  • Not officially a theme answer: [Thin-sliced, browned bread], MELBATOAST


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Travel Books”— Jim Q’s write-up

This one is for the birds.

THEME: Birds can be found “diving” downwards out of common phrases. The bird also makes up part of another word.


  • [Relative of a meerkat / Citizens of Ulaanbaatar] MONGOOSE /

    Washington Post, March 6, 2022, Evan Birnholz, “Rerouted Flights” solution grid (Across Lite)


  • [Cowardly / Sellers of fabric and knitting supplies] CRAVENCRAFT STORES 
  • [Snoopy, e.g. / Stout vessel] BEAGLE / BEER BARREL. 
  • [Infant’s hooded garment / One born during the 1950s, maybe] 

    Washington Post, March 6, 2022, Evan Birnholz, “Rerouted Flights” solution grid (WaPo site)


  • [“An appalling waste of energy,” per Katherine Mansfield / Exploring deeply] REGRET / RESEARCHING. 
  • (revealer) [One making a swift descent, illustrated by each unclued Down answer in this puzzle] DIVING BIRD. 


  • [What this puzzle’s featured creatures build] NESTS
  • [110 Across that’s spelled out by the first letters of this puzzle’s unclued Down answers] GREBE

Not so familiar with the GREBE here, but another Birnolzian layer in a multi-layered puzzle? Wow.

Just googled that… especially apt that the GREBE is a diving waterbird. I feel like I should’ve known this. Guaranteed to be coming soon to a Wordle near you.


This was an outstanding puzzle. Although I’ve seen the concept of answers retreating from their traditional horizontal themers to take a downward turn, the way in which this is presented somehow feels very fresh. Perhaps it’s because it’s not just a single word retreating. There are two: MONGOOSE and GOOSE. And very consistent with the presentation. This is as tight as it gets.

  • [Contraction eliding “un”] To the clue’s point, I always use and apostrophe with the word “’til.” That’s right, right?
  • [Aces of Aces and kings of Kings, e.g.] Excellent clue for ALL-STARS.
  • [Egyptian god of war and chaos] SET. Of the 430 definitions of this word, this one was nowhere on my radar. Fun! Is it pronounced the same?
  • [Rock bottom moment?] BASS SOLO. Clue of the year contender?
  • [Also-ran in 1988] In the world of weird coincidences, I was just talking about DUKAKIS just before I solved this puzzle to a friend about him being the first “Als0-Ran” candidate that I can remember in my lifetime.
  • [Go through “1984” again, say] RE-READ. I did re-read 1984. Didn’t like it the second time. Loved it in high school.
  • [“Little Trip to Heaven (On the Wings of Your Love)” singer, 1973] TOM WAITS. A voice you hate to love. Highly recommend the women sing Waits album, Come on up to the House. 
  • [Section of a building opposite the front] REAR AREA. This seems awfully vague to me as a stand-alone…

    Happy to accept swag on Evan’s behalf for inserting this graphic.

Florence LaRue, Brittney Cooper, Staub, and a hat tip to the Red Bear Brewing Co. I hope they send Evan some swag.

Two other things to note:

  1. The WaPo online solving software, in my opinion, is superior to the applets offered by other publications.

2. Leaving entries unclued is risky business. This was done very well here.

I’m knee deep in high school musical season- my busiest time of year. Gotta run!

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33 Responses to Sunday, March 6, 2022

  1. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Reminiscent of the old Japanese game show, “Takeshi’s Castle,” with its PACHINKO challenge which Western versions of the show called “Ball Cupping.” Fun puzzle. I love the creativity that went into it.

    • Jim I know that those who blog here are granted superpowers but how were you able to go back in time to December to post this comment?

      • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

        He’s writing a Dr. Who puzzle?

      • Jim Peredo says:

        Shh. You weren’t supposed to notice that.

        Actually, there was a typo in my original comment, so I went back to edit it. For some reason it changed the date, and I didn’t notice.

  2. JohnH says:

    This one meant nothing to me, even after I was done. The themers for me were less than revealers.

    It was one of those awkwardly split in difficulty level. At first in the NW it felt way too easy, but then the unknowns kicked in, like the nail polish brand, the desert, Ted Lasso, and Octavia Spenser, and it might have been a Friday or harder. I guessed the crosswordese “roo” for GNU. As for the theme, I didn’t recognize the game, and with it everything went wrong.

    I waited for the 8 unchecked letters to make sense, and of course they didn’t. Or rather, their checking by the game name meant I hadn’t a clue to TOE BEAN. I didn’t know if it as game related that they were said to be in cups. The last long entry finally did explain why the circled letters were all O’s, but they sure didn’t look like they were bouncing rather than forming an inexplicable reverse S. I couldn’t explain it. And if that was the path to victory, shouldn’t the bottom hold a mention of victory? I kept looking. And maybe I’m wrong, but FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL seems rather old-fashioned and specific, not right for karaoke.

    So all told, didn’t know, didn’t care. I’d have appreciated it if a clue wording helped ease the pain by, say, mentioning pinball or something else to say, in effect, “this is about something real, but don’t worry.” . But question: how do RODS cast lots?

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I greatly admire the construction. The solving experience made me feel like a PACHINKO ball, bouncing from place to place. I think the cluing in some places made it a little harder. But when I was done, I thought it was cool.
    And it brought to mind this novel I read about 5 years ago which was very intriguing:

  4. Robin says:

    Yuck. Too cumbersome and no idea what it all meant.

  5. Jenni Levy says:

    I liked it! I figured out PACHINKO about 2/3rds through the grid and enjoyed the aha! moment. Fun puzzle!

  6. Gary R says:

    NYT: Finished with a couple of errors. ADONAI was unfamiliar, and even though I recall playing the game *many* years ago, I went with PACHeNKO. I had no idea on ATACAMA – Google tells me it’s the 25th largest desert in the world (but I’ll be sure to remember that it has soil like Mars) – and only after I saw it, did I dredge ATP from my very distant high school biology class memory.

    The grid art was kind of neat and the puzzle kept my interest but, overall, just an “okay” Sunday.

    Still not entirely clear on 76-A. Is this referring to RODS as a unit of measure?

    • marciem says:

      fishing rods used often cast lots :) . e.g. “the fly fisherman does lots of casting with his rod” That’s how I parsed it.

      oops sorry didn’t see stmv’s response below.

  7. stmv says:

    RODS = [They cast lots] mystified me too, but in 20-20 hindsight I now see that they mean *fishing* rods, which are often used (a lot) to cast flies.

  8. e.a. says:

    10 1-star ratings for quite possibly the best sunday puzzle of the year so far… woof

    • Matthew S. says:


    • Billy Boy says:

      Not me, but remember these votes are o p i n i o n s – not grades of quality

      I gave it 1.5 * for general tedium and inconsistency, not to mention the cluing. Years ago a guy had a Pachinko Machine in his office, next door to mine – waaaaay more fun than this pizzle.

      One’s favorite hardly makes it “best”; being a professional critic of another art form – recognizing your fave does not make best is often the last step for critics to truly understand.

    • Once again I have to ask why the star ratings continue to be a thing here and don’t know what the downside would be to abandoning them. But as long as they’re gonna be around, here’s a reminder that the ratings are meaningless and should never be taken as a sign of the puzzle’s quality.

      (I thought the Sunday NYT was great, for the record.)

      • dh says:

        “Ron Burgundy”, a Will Farrell character that does (or did) a podcast, was going over some of his reviews in one episode. “Look!” he said, “This listener even gave us a star!”

  9. David L says:

    If you’re not familiar with Pachinko (I’ve seen the name, but that’s it) then I don’t see how this is a great puzzle. Well-constructed and all that, but no real payoff. And the inclusion of the karaoke answer seems random.

    Tougher than usual cluing for a Sunday, I thought. ATACAMA/ATP is a dodgy crossing, and like others above I didn’t understand the clue for RODS. Still don’t, in fact. People use rods to cast when they’re fishing, but the rods themselves don’t cast.

    • e.a. says:

      to me that’s interesting because i would have thought the puzzle is either a good puzzle or not, regardless of individual solvers’ subjectivities. i’m trying and failing to imagine someone being like “the godfather is an all-time great – unless you don’t like violence, in which case nevermind.”

      patrick berry has a famous cryptic puzzle that involves a certain cultural touchstone that i had never experienced. i personally got nothing but confusion out of the payoff. it’s one of the most astonishingly brilliant puzzles of all time. both of these things can be true at once. i’m not gonna tell someone that “i didn’t enjoy this puzzle because i didn’t understand it” isn’t valid, but it’s the leap people keep making from there to “the puzzle is bad” that loses me.

      • JohnH says:

        Of course it’s all subjective, but I have tried to be conscious of my limits when it comes to such things, and I tried above to explain why it couldn’t work for someone who doesn’t know the Japanese game, however willing to learn. Of course, one can disagree with that, too, but I’m totally with those who caution against generalizing from one’s taste.

      • David L says:

        A cleverly constructed and ingenious puzzle — which this one certainly was — does not necessarily make for a great solving experience. That’s all I’m saying. And of course that depends on the solver.

  10. Mutman says:

    NYT: I thought his was a great puzzle. While I knew what the game was, I only knew it as PLINKO from TPIR.

    Too bad for all the grumpies above who couldn’t enjoy it. Not everything pleases everyone.

    And as one who gets the Sunday paper, the write up on the constructors and the ‘how’ was an interesting story. It’s a shame the app doesn’t show it.

  11. dh says:

    I got all the “0000000”s pretty quickly, but 3-D put politics in my head and it was difficult to get away from it. I thought it was interesting and I liked the way the 0’s snaked down the puzzle, but I don’t like “you either know it or you don’t” unsolvable areas with no crossings. I have never heard of a “TOEBEAN” so the “N” was a pure guess. Having been raised Jewish I got “Adonai” pretty quickly but I wonder if it’s as common an entry for others. If, like others, I were unfamiliar with PACHINKO or its spelling, this would have been a DNF for me. I guess that technically “PACHINKO” was the crossing clue for all the hanging chads – but as my father-in-law used to gripe (cue thick New England accent here), “Margaret Farrar would never have let this by!”

  12. Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

    As one of the “grumpies” referred to above [I assume], let me say that I really enjoy a puzzle with humor [see today’s Universal Sunday] and skill [see today’s WaPo]. I loved the latter’s birds flying all over the place, and my only “complaint” was that the GREBE was not diving as well — although I figured that maybe he was just hanging around watching for prey down below. NYT had too many Naticks and annoying clues for my taste. They couldn’t clue ATP for the tennis tour? Sheesh! End of mini-rant [the original was much longer and more detailed]. Enjoy your Sunday.

  13. rosie says:

    I reallycould care less about Pachinko Did not factor in my solving puzzle. Never heard of it by the way. My problem with the puzzle as it is with many recent puzzles is the amount of wikipedia lookups it now takes me to solve . At 81 I’ve been successfully solving the Sunday puzzle for over 60 years and for most of those years it only required an occasional Atlas look up for the capital of East Yahbip or some other arcane reference.
    This week it was 6 Actually not aas many as other weeks . 12d really??? I’ve been a member of the Met and Moma for longer than most of you have been alive And never heard of him. Its crossword puzzle not name that celebrity or sport person Orr and Ott excluded. I’m ok with the.
    I will not go into my objections to personal political views even though I might agree with them being interjected into the review. I get all the politics I need every day and lookfor a free zone
    Oh one last thing I do unfortunately remember Ross Perot But forgot as most have of the reform party

  14. sanfranman59 says:

    Request from the peanut gallery … Since multiple puzzles are reviewed and discussed on this site and message board, it’s helpful if you indicate which puzzle you’re commenting about at the start of your post.

  15. John Daviso says:

    Pachinko is a mechanical gambling device from Japan that attracts gamblers much like a slot machine does. It’s addictive (habitual), like slots are, and creates a social problem.

    When I was a kid, I found a wounded common grebe and kept it until it was able to fly. I fed it goldfish that I bought for ten cents a pop. I put the fish in white enamel wash basin. As fast as a bulllet, the grebe dove after the poor fish and smashed into the side of the basin. He did that only once.

    I had mixed feelings about today’s NYT. The construction is impressive, no doubt, but I winced at more than few clues/fills. (TOEBEAN, I’m looking at your.)

    I believe Atacama is the driest desert, aside from the Antarctic.

    Lastly, 12D, Giovanni TIEPOLO is a major Venetian artist of the Rococo. I recommend doing a search online to check out his works — not my cup of tea but, damn, they’re something else.

  16. rosie says:

    My point exactly On line searches for 18th century painters . Not your Grandmothers NYT puzzle. Long for the day when they were clever and witty not abstruse and recondite

    • rosie says:

      also in my wikipedia search lo and behold there are 3 count em 3 tiepolos in the met.

      maybe ill check them out next time i visit

  17. rosie says:

    also in my wikipedia search lo and behold there are 3 count em 3 tiepolos in the met.

    maybe ill check them out next time i visit

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