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.
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.
- 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.
- 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
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 /
- [Cowardly / Sellers of fabric and knitting supplies] CRAVEN / CRAFT STORES
- [Snoopy, e.g. / Stout vessel] BEAGLE / BEER BARREL.
- [Infant’s hooded garment / One born during the 1950s, maybe]
BABY BUNTING / BABY BOOMER.
- [“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…
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:
- 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!