Sunday, March 27, 2022

LAT 9:10 (Gareth, 1 error) 


NYT untimed (Nate) 


Universal tk (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 4:56 (Darby) 


WaPo untimed (Jim Q) 


For those of you who haven’t heard the exciting news, Patti Varol has taken over as the new editor of the LA Times, with Christina Iverson as assistant editor! They’ve just released their updated submission guidelines and pay rate, which can be found in her recent Tweet. Check it out!

August Lee-Kovach’s New York Times crossword, “I’m Still Standing”—Nate’s write-up

Right off the bat, there’s something interesting about this Sunday NYT’s grid layout and mysteriously enclosed five-letter entry toward the bottom. Let’s see what our constructor has in store:

03.26.22 Sunday NYT Puzzle

03.26.22 Sunday NYT Puzzle

– 74D: KINGS [With 101-Across, where this puzzle’s enclosed answer is located]
– 101A: CHAMBER [Burial ___]
– 79D: THREE [Number of 101-Acrosses in [see circled letters]

– 5D / 51A / 15D: SEVEN WONDERS / OF THE / ANCIENT WORLD [With 51-Across and 15-Down, group in which [see circled letters] is the only one still largely intact]

– Circled letters (in the shape of a pyramid): THE GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA

– Enclosed area, using the first letter from each numbered square: KHUFU
– 10D: CHEOPS [Greek name for this puzzle’s enclosed answer]

– 41A: LIMESTONE [Approximately 5.5 million tons of it was used to build [see circled letters]
– 68A: ENCRYPT [Make secret, in a way]
– 6D: TRACT [Egyptian desert, e.g.]

Wow, a tribute puzzle to the Pharaoh buried in THE GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA. That certainly wasn’t on my bingo card for puzzle themes, but I enjoyed the art of the construction and appreciated learning about KHUFU, whom I hadn’t heard about before. While the structure of the puzzle was neat, I’ll admit to being lukewarm on seemingly random / shoehorned “theme” entries like THREE (when there’s only one shown in the grid), LIMESTONE, and TRACT. Even still, a puzzle that revealed itself across multiple layers, which is always fun.

Other random thoughts:
13A: AD ASTRA [Motto meaning “to the stars”] – My husband is from Kansas, where the state motto is “Ad astra per aspera,” which I’m told translates to “To the stars through difficulties/adversity” – I’ve always liked the poetic growth mindset of that aspiration.
3D: TORTILLAS [They wrap things up] – One of my favorite ways to eat leftovers (especially any kind of chicken, stew, or curry) is to make a burrito with it and some rice the next day. Mmmmm.
40D and 41D: LYRA and LIRAS – Do these come from the same etymology, I wonder?
66D: SENORAS [Mujeres con esposos] – …o con esposas, claro!

That’s all from me today. I hope you’re doing well! To those of you traveling to Stamford next weekend for ACPT, have a great, safe time! I’ll be sad to miss y’all, but I can’t wait to hear all about it.

Matthew Stock and Emet Ozar’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Not I”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Familiar phrases have one letter changed from an I to something else for wacky effect. Collectively, the new letters spell an apt phrase.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Not I” · Matthew Stock and Emet Ozar · 3.27.22

  • 22a. [Trade of swindling secrets?] CON EXCHANGE.
  • 24a. [Venue for a hand drum concert?] BONGO HALL.
  • 31a. [Ringing things in a tropical forest?] JUNGLE BELLS.
  • 39a. [Pirate’s booty, after being set on fire?] BURNED TREASURE.
  • 63a. [Bill dispenser that’s out of order?] DEAD ATM.
  • 68a. [Like some home cooking?] CHEZ MOM. I always mistakenly thought “chez” translated roughly to “house.” But it more closely resembles “at the home of.” But is “chez moi” a real phrase? Ah, yes apparently it is, and it simply means “home” or “at home”.
  • 88a. [One who makes your bed on a ship?] BERTH ATTENDANT.
  • 95a. [Spots to store hiking shoes?] BOOT LOCKERS.
  • 109a. [Hallmark employee’s first product?] DEBUT CARD. I’m currently mad at the word “debut” because it popped into my head before the correct Wordle word the other day.
  • 111a. [Chopper used to take pictures? (Bonus: Note what the circled letters spell)] PHOTOCOPTER.

Nice. I didn’t quite get a chuckle out of any of these, but they all work well enough, and the variety kept my interest throughout. I didn’t bother trying to find the secret message (“COUNT ME OUT!”) until I finished, but it was a nice cherry on top and perfectly apt given the title. Very well constructed.

Looking elsewhere I spy MOTHER HEN, ICE HUTS, HEAD TRIPS, DELI MEATS, and KIDDO as strong ASSETS to the grid. Nothing really triggered the scowl-o-meter except maybe the dupe between “HI, ALL!” and WAVES HI and the odd bit of crosswordese (IDED, SRIS, OSSO).

Forgive me for not knowing GELT [Hanukkah treat]. Why do I think it’s some kind of fish? Maybe because I’m conflating gefilte and smelt. But the word means “money” and refers to the chocolate coins given to children during the holiday.

I also didn’t know TAMIA [“Beautiful Surprise” singer]. You can check it out here.

A strong grid. Four stars from me.

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

THEME: Films that sound as if they are shoe-ins for an Oscar.

Washington Post, March 27, 2022, Evan Birnholz, “Oscar Snubs” solution grid


  • 3D [1980 thriller starring Michael Caine and Angie Dickinson that surprisingly didn’t win an Oscar for best costume design?] DRESSED TO KILL. 
  • 8D [2004 sci-fi thriller starring Robin Williams that surprisingly didn’t win an Oscar for best film editing?] THE FINAL CUT. Very odd movie.
  • 11D / 16D [1965 epic starring Max von Sydow that surprisingly didn’t win an Oscar for best original screenplay?] THE GREATEST / STORY EVER TOLD. 
  • 63A [2005 comedy starring Queen Latifah that surprisingly didn’t win an Oscar for best makeup and hairstyling?] BEAUTY SHOP. 
  • 86A [2006 romantic mystery starring Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Jessica Biel that surprisingly didn’t win an Oscar for best visual effects?] THE ILLUSIONIST. 
  • 116A [2012 musical comedy starring Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson that surprisingly didn’t win an Oscar for best sound?] PITCH PERFECT. 

Had no clue it was Oscar Night tonight. Figured it had to be with this theme. I think the only contender I saw this year was Power of the Dog, which was pretty darned good.

Anyway, solid puzzle today with a lot of bite in the clues (for me anyway). My time clocked in somewhere around the 15 minute mark, but it felt like it took me much longer. It was tough to find a solid foothold in the NW as I needed crosses for PRIORI, SAPPORO, SADDLED, ERMA, REESE, PRESUME. Had trouble defining the word DISHES as anything other than a physical ceramic plate, so that didn’t fall either.

Didn’t fully read the clue for THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, so I thought initially it was just THE GREATEST… which seemed awfully vague for a specific award. I mean, THE GREATEST should just win all the awards. No fancy ceremony necessary.

Somewhat surprised that there wasn’t a Birnholzian layer having to do with combining a featured letter of each themer. Man, Evan’s constant solvers are pretty pampered when we notice that we don’t get the added layer.

The new-for-me-names that weren’t much present in last week’s puzzle showed up en force today: Aforementioned ERMA and REESE, but also Nicholas MEYER, LEN Wiseman, ANDREA Riseborough, ANN Dowd, DEB Haaland (though I should’ve known that), THEO James… and I feel like I’m missing some others.

For 61D [Mary Poppins or Mrs. Doubtfire, e.g.] I really wanted MUSICAL

Anyway, that’s all I got for today! Enjoyed it :)

Zhouqin Burnikel’s crossword, “Dow Components”—Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer is composed of three words with the first letter of each spelling out DOW.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's crossword, "Dow Components" solution for 3/27/2022

Zhouqin Burnikel’s crossword, “Dow Components” solution for 3/27/2022

  • 17a [“Bead not used for jewelry”] DROP OF WATER
  • 33a [“Cold season’s coldest period”] DEAD OF WINTER
  • 55a [“Time for sermons”] DAY OF WORSHIP

I thought that was a relatively simple theme. DROP OF WATER was clued particularly well, and DEAD OF WINTER was a fun and easy one to include. DAY OF WORSHIP too was pretty effective and easy to fill in, especially once I had the W out of 54d [“Property tax payer”] OWNER. Part of me does wish that OF wasn’t the connecting word in all three of the answers, but it ALSO does maintain consistency.

This felt like such a refreshing and easy Sunday to scoot through. From BODEGA, ISRAEL, and ACORNS, to HOME, I BET, and PANS. It was a really smooth flow from clue to clue, and I felt like it came together nicely. I learned a lot from 18a [“like some qipao patterns”] in FLORAL to 14d [“Aizhai Winding ___ (scenic route in Hunan)”] ROAD. In general, a really fun, nice Sunday puzzle.

Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s LA Times crossword, “The Final Frontier” – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

Gary Larson & Amy Ensz together make a Star Trek (predominantly TOS) pun theme featuring seven non-Trek phrases reimagined as being about the show. Most of them landed better than average for me, though with some obvious filler. We have [Satisfied with on’es working in the transporter room], BEAMINGWITHPRIDE; [Detain Dr. McCoy], COLLARBONES (above LEONID, almost LEONARD); [Phaser, slangily?], SPACEHEATER; SCOTTTISSUE, [DNA sample from Kirk’s chief engineering officer?] (those last two the weakest); VULCANIZEDRUBBER, [Masseuse trained in massage techniques from Spock’s home planet]; [Allure of boldly going where no man has gone before?], STARATTRACTION (using TOS version of the quote); [Happy Meal toy replica of Captain Kirk’s ship?], FREEENTERPRISE.

My error was not knowing [Miles’ “Sideways” love interest], MAYA and deciding the weirdly phrased [Pony up the service charge, say] was PADAFEE? As in inflate the fee? Made as much sense as anything at the time…


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25 Responses to Sunday, March 27, 2022

  1. andeux says:

    I’ve heard of Cheops, but never as KHUFU. That’s quite an entry to put in without crossings; very curious what percent of solvers could get it without just looking it up.

    • Cyberdiva says:

      andeux, I too had never heard of Khufu. But after completing most of the puzzle, I found it easy to fill in the name in the crypt, since each of the five squares carried the location number of the needed letter.

      • JohnH says:

        I found that easy, too. Could hardly be clearer crossings. Generally, I admired the puzzle much more than the ratings do, and not just because of the young setter.

        So much theme fill is bound to have drawbacks, generally in questionable or obscure other fill, but that seemed surprisingly absent. That left a new type of drawback, cross-ref clues and generally a theme that won’t come together until I’m nearly done, and I don’t adapt easily to metas. But here it was fascinating to learn more about the pyramids. Who knew, in fact, how little I did know?

        • PJ says:

          I’m guessing andeux used crosswordscraper and solved a .puz or .jpz file. I solved a .puz file and the circled letters don’t have the location numbers of the letters like the NYT app.

          • huda says:

            I never noticed there was a code… I wonder how many others had the same issue!

          • Josh M says:

            I use the NYT app and KHUFU is simply 121 across. No clues/code (i.e. basically impossible to get without cheating and looking it up)

            • marciem says:

              If you use the NYT app, numbers are in each square which indicate what letters go there. I don’t use the app but I can see it in Nate’s graphic.

              No such luck with Across Lite, which did give a warning which I never read until after. With AL, either you knew it or you didn’t.

            • David L says:

              As is my usual Sunday habit, I printed out the puzzle from the website. The 5-letter mystery word appears simply as 121A, with no other information. I put in MUMMY because that’s all I could come up with.

              Major Fail on the part of the NYT for this one.

            • sanfranman59 says:

              @David L … Suggestion: When you print the grid from, you might want to at least look at the version you get with the “Newspaper Version” option. I wish I’d done that before solving the puzzle using my preferred online app that works with .puz files. I was duly warned by the note and can’t reasonably criticize Will or the constructor for my inability to complete the puzzle since I wasn’t seeing it in its intended form.

          • andeux says:

            I solved online and just didn’t notice the numbers, though I now see they are there. Still not a fan of that mechanism.

        • JohnH says:

          Goodness. While I’ll stick by my liking the puzzle, apologies for insensitivity to the experience of online solvers. Who’d have imagined that the online version and even the default print version (which I’ve always disliked since the switch) would be so deficient?

          In all fairness, I can see how it came about. Shortz must feel that conversion of the puzzle is a techie matter for which he’s not responsible, although he should have seen that this puzzle would be hard to convert and might need him to see that it did so well. Indeed, while I’m sure he had no say in the replacement of online app (which I’ve never seen), it’s elicited only complaints, he should then feel the need to speak up for solvers if only as a way to speak for his puzzles. So why, with due respect to the comments, there’s not exactly an editor who should have caught this, one should still be very disappointed

      • Leading Edge Boomer says:

        The needed square numbers are lost if printing the blank puzzle from online, so one has to pull “KHUFU” out of one’s … ear. Bummer.

  2. pannonica says:

    NYT: For me, this falls under the category of stunt puzzle that’s more for the benefit of the constructor than the solver. An interesting idea, but the solving experience was incredibly choppy, between the fragmented theme elements (further compromised by grid art) and the preponderance of short fill.

    • marciem says:

      +1… agree 100% . Not a particularly satisfying Sunday puzzle experience for this solver.

    • John F. Ervin says:

      Disagree as usual. For me this was a very cleverly constructed puzzle, especially for one so young. Kudos to August!

  3. cyberdiva says:

    NYT – I printed out the puzzle from the NYT site, and I had the option of choosing “Newspaper version.” I took that, and the numbers were printed out in the five squares in the crypt, so it was a piece of cake once I’d done most of the puzzle. But without those printed numbers, I’d have been at a total loss. Like andeux, I knew Cheops but not Khufu. What’s really weird is that in the version I printed out, the clue for 121A was “Prehistoric Southwest culture,” and the answer was ANASAZI. I just took a look at what I would have printed out if I hadn’t chosen Newspaper version. Sure enough, that clue was numbered 122A, and 121A was clued as “This puzzle’s subject,” and there were no helpful numbers in the five squares in the crypt. Yikes!

    • David L says:

      You might think, with half a dozen editors on the NYT staff, that someone would have the job of making sure that all the puzzle formats display correctly.

      But you’d be wrong.

  4. Ethan says:

    ENCRYPT across the middle of the NYT was a nice bonus too

  5. Diana says:

    NYT was constructed by a 14-year old high school student. I find it brilliant. Nothing I could ever accomplish. Bravo, August!

  6. Mark Abe says:

    I do NYT and LAT. I loved the contrast on the same day between the ancient theme of NYT and the sci-fi theme of LAT. Both enjoyable puzzles, too.

  7. aura says:

    RE: NYT: Reason number 506: Do not let children play games in an adult world. What a load of crap. Does any one own the Fire Will Shortz domain?

  8. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    LAT puzzle: 95D clue “It’s found in banks.” Answer “ORE”. Ore is found in banks?

  9. Mani says:

    LAT puzzle 95D: in the early days of gold rush, gold ore used to be filtered from the sands. Hence I thought ORE found in (river) banks was not totally inappropriate.

  10. dh says:

    NYT was a test of our Egyptology Cheops. “Khufu” was relatively easy for me – it was the first thing that came to mind when I saw it buried under the pyramid. I thought it was pretty common knowledge, but I studied Ancient History in high school and Art History in college. I didn’t think of “Mummy” but even without the crossings 10D gave it away. I agree with Mark Abe – it was a nice combo with the LAT theme.

    Re LAT – I thought the clue for 93A – (“DNA sample from …”) was clumsy – I was disappointed in the answer. Tissue? I thought it should be “SCOTTBUCCALSWAB” but that wouldn’t have made much sense. How about “What James Doohan uses to remove his makeup after a shoot?”

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