Friday, April 1, 2022

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker tk (tbd) 


NYT 3:14 (Matthew) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today 6:32 (Darby) 


Evan Mahnken’s New York Times crossword—Matthew’s writeup

Evan Mahnken’s New York Times crossword solution, 4/1/2022

Today’s puzzle from Evan Mahnken is accompanied by a note:

“This puzzle has four different solutions. When you’re done, read the circled letters from top to bottom to find another one.”

I did not forget that it’s First April, and circles and an apparent theme on a Friday suggest something is up. Of course, I also April Fools-ed myself by agreeing to handle tonight’s puzzle while also needing to wake up at 3:30 to begin my trip to the ACPT tomorrow (See you there?).

Ultimately, as I often do when I’m not sure about a theme, I ignored it and powered through. And good that I did, because those circles aren’t Schroedinger squares, and the note is a cute misdirection. I got the second half first: the circled squares spell ANOTHER ONE. The first bit took longer, but it turns out we do have a theme: the four solutions are not four distinct correct ways to fill a grid, but:

  • 17a [Bathroom cabinet item] MOUTHWASH
  • 27a [Product often advertising 99.99% effectiveness] MOUTHWASH HAND SANITIZER
  • 44a [It might help clear things up] WINDOW CLEANER
  • 57a [Sound filler] SALT WATER

Get it? Four solutions. He blinded me with science.

I’ve been a fan of Evan’s since his debut, and this puzzle is a fantastic addition to his portfolio. This is a *smooth* 78 worder – I didn’t feel dragged down by short stuff, at all, and the circled letters completely distracted me from the commonality among the actual themers. Not a lot of sparkle for me in the fill, but there doesn’t need to be with the theme and pseudo-theme drawing so much attention. And again, it’s a smoooooth grid. KYLO/UZO crossing at the O would have gotten me two years ago, but I’m familar with UZO Aduba now and as long as I don’t have to figure out “Rey” versus “Ren,” I can get by on my minimal Star Wars knowledge. Not much else to say, other than kudos and thanks, Evan!

Zachary David Levy’s Universal crossword, “Where in the World?”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Where in the world is CARMEN SANDIEGO (53a, [International thief hiding in either 20-, 26- or 44-Across (Follow her trail by reading all the clues’ starts!)])?

Universal crossword solution · “Where in the World?” · Zachary David Levy · Fri., 4.1.22

  • 20a. [Confidential sources spotted her eyeing relics at Boudhanath in ___] KATHMANDU, NEPAL.
  • 26a. [Detectives for Interpol saw her skulking around Independence Square in ___] MINSK, BELARUS.
  • 44a. [Witnesses heard her discussing the high altitude at the Plaza Murillo in ___] LA PAZ, BOLIVIA.

I was confused at first thinking there was some wordplay going on in the theme entries, but there isn’t—at least none that I can detect aside from the word DUNE in the first entry. It appears to be just a list of random world cities.

Except, that’s appropriate, because the mythos of CARMEN SANDIEGO is that you never know where she’ll pop up, and the show is all about teaching geographical and cultural factoids from around the world, so the clues are apt as well. Once I realized what was going on, I enjoyed the heck out of this since watching the newer series with my daughter was always a fun time.

But wait there’s more! Where exactly is CARMEN SANDIEGO (per this puzzle)? The revealer clue tells us to read “all the clues’ starts”. Does that mean the first word of the theme clues? Or the first word of all the clues? I tried those first and got nowhere. Then I realized it’s the first letter of all the clues.

So, looking at all the clues’ first letters (Across then Down), you find the message, “You have located her hiding within a safe hou/se at almost twelve thousand feet above sea level.” (A bit wordy, but who’s counting.) Aha! Without looking anything up, I’m going to hazard a guess that she’s in KATHMANDU, NEPAL. Who’s with me? To the Internets!

*sad trombone music*

Should’ve gone with my first guess (or maybe I should’ve paid closer attention to the La Paz clue—doh!). Kathmandu is only at 4,600 feet above sea level whereas La Paz is at 11,975 feet, making it the highest capital city in the world (more geographical factoids!).

Again, I really enjoyed this. In my book, a puzzle should be entertaining as well as challenging and clever. This one ticked all the boxes for me. Looking back now, it seems some clues might be worded a little awkwardly, but I sure didn’t notice it during the solve.

The rest of the fill is solid with a surprising mini-theme of imaginary creatures—MERMAIDS, DEMON, ZOMBIE—and one imaginary place—UTOPIA.

I will leave it there. Did you find CARMEN SANDIEGO? 4.25 stars.

Erik Agard & Jasmine Lim’s USA Today crossword, “Bookends”—Darby’s review

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: That’s a good question. I think that this may have been an April Fool’s puzzle, so if you have any good guesses for me, I can update this post if you drop ‘em in the comments.

Theme Answers

  • 16a [“2000 movie with a ‘Brr! It’s cold in here!’ routine”] BRING IT ON
  • 27a [“Birthplace of Mamodou Athie”] MAURITANIA
  • 46a [“Political squabble”] PARTISAN DISPUTE
  • 60a [“Tunes played with a mouth organ”] HARMONICA MUSIC

Trick or treat, unknown, but what a patch of answers to bring together for us. I caught MAURITANIA on the crosses and chuckled as I filled in HARMONICA MUSIC. BRING IT ON was a nice 2000s throwback as well.

If this was for April Fool’s, PAGE TURNER was deceptive in clearly being both book-related and a longer answer, though there are no other Downs quite that length is this asymmetric grid. I enjoyed the 1d [“Duke University’s city”] DURHAM and 2d [“Chant from American fans”] USA USA in the upper left corner, and the likewise nicely aligned set of sevens in the upper right with 9d [“In harmony”] ATTUNED, 10d [“Amplified”] BOOSTED, and 11d [“Challenge”] CONTEST.

Friday faves:

  • 26a [“Al ___ pasta”] – We  got two pasta-oriented cues with 44d [“Like pasta water”] STARCHY (a similarly-lengthed seven to its upper counterparts) and DENTE.
  • 54a [“‘You know yo make me wanna ___’ (Isley Brothers lyric)”] – Y’all know I SHOUTed on this one, as this classic is often played at Buffalo Bills games, and, as a result, Buffalo weddings.
  • 47d [“___ the Tiger (Mizzou mascot)”] – Harry TRUMAN is from Missouri, so this is no surprise that he got a mascot named for him.

Also, I believe that this is Jasmine Lim’s debut! Congrats!

If y’all figure out the theme, sound off in the comments. If you’re at ACPT, have fun!

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 4/1/22 • Fri • Wechsler • solution • 20220401

Several caveats before beginning this brief write-up: (1) I’m exhausted at the moment, which may be why (2) it took significantly longer than usual to solve this crossword and possibly why (3) even with the central revealer I don’t understand what the theme is.

Said revealer is 37a [Architectural marker, or what can be found four times in this puzzle] CORNERSTONE.

I’ve studied the corners of the grid for a while and see nothing stony there. There aren’t any notable long answers that read as ‘theme’. In fact, the only entry that seems to  have anything to do with stones is 66a [67-Across sites] MESAS, and that certainly doesn’t seem thematic.

Time for the clue run-through, which’ll be briefer than usual.

  • 41a [WWII org. with a Pallas Athene symbol] WAC, the Women’s Air Army Corps. Mentioning this because I want to share that when solving crosswords I never enter the final letter for the Greek goddess of wisdom because I’m forever expecting it to be ATHENE rather than ATHENA.
  • 68a [Modern navigation aids] MICE. I certainly was fooled into thinking it was going to be like GPS or SATELLITES, but it was a bit sneakier than that.

<code>BREAKING NEWS</code> A little bird told me how the theme works, and I’m astonished because it’s exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. Reading clockwise at each corner are four types of stone. MARBLE in the northwest, BASALT northeast, SHALE southeast, and oh-wait-this-one-is-counterclockwise PUMICE in the southwest.

So that’s pretty good.

  • 69a [Court orders] STAYS, not WRITS as I had at first.
  • 3d [Like Paul Samuelson’s field] ECONOMIC. Bit awkward, that.
  • 6d [Key ending words?] THE BRAVE. Francis Scott Key, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
  • 9d [Try to locate] SEEK. As I had attempted, fruitlessly, for the theme.
  • 45d [Boris’ sidekick] NATASHA. I kind of thought they were equal partners?

Okay, that’s all I’ve got.

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28 Responses to Friday, April 1, 2022

  1. Philippe says:

    NYT: you will all have noticed that 2nd thème answer is hand sanitizer, not mouthwash again. Use it!

  2. JohnH says:

    I’m nowhere near meme-driven enough for the first themed TNY puzzle, although the theme is arguably highbrow, so torture for me to complete. But I humbly trust it’s fun for others.

    • marciem says:

      I’m not sure what you mean, meme-driven? Other than not being familiar with the revealer, “found poetry”, I thought this was pretty easy and not really as fun as I was hoping given the byline. It was in the middle on my personal satisfaction score… kind of meh ok.

      • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

        The 14A & 8D cross was a mystery to me, so that L was a complete guess, but the puzzle was otherwise fair [by the standards I’ve talked about previously and won’t repeat — “Thank God, “whisper the multitudes], and a pleasant little jaunt.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        I’m wondering the same thing. Care to elaborate on what you mean by “meme-driven” JohnH?

        Like marciem, I wasn’t familiar with the revealer phrase (FOUND POETRY) and kind of similar to Mr. (Not Always) Grumpy, I tossed a coin to come up with the MILLI/HIP TO cross at 14A/6D. As best as I know, that could have just as easily been MeLLI/HeP TO. I also don’t know how the clue relates to the answer for PROFILE PICS {16A: What catfishers might use as bait}. “Catfishers”? Maybe this has something to do with the “meme-driven” comment by JohnH?

        • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

          Per Google, “A catfisher is an individual who uses the Internet, and in particular, online dating websites to lure people into a scam romance. The general goal of a catfisher is financial gain by developing an online relationship with another person and ultimately asking for money.” Who knew? But at least PROFILE PICS makes sense in that context. [I’m 6’2″ and built like a stud in case anyone wants to send this 5’5″ runt any money ….]

        • roxk says:

          catfishers use fake profiles to lure unsuspecting people on social media

    • JohnH says:

      Oops, I didn’t mean to be mysterious. I just meant that this once the problem wasn’t so much a density of pop culture names with unfair crossings, just contemporary topics and related idioms new to me but I’m sure not to many others.

      I’m afraid I can’t give examples as i discarded the puzzle when done and, as ever, the review still isn’t up.

  3. marciem says:

    NYT: Caught me with the “4 different solutions”, I didn’t look closely enough at the themers… good one!! I’m sure glad Matthew got it, so I didn’t have to scratch my head all day and keep looking for Schrodinger who wasn’t there :P !

    UC: I didn’t find Carmen :( , I always think of Nepal as being the highest country anywhere so that was my guess … another good trickster!! I had fun with this one as well, so that makes it a Good Friday… oh wait that’s not for two weeks LOL! Still a very good puzzle Friday IMO .

    • marciem says:

      And I just learned from Google that Kathmandu, Nepal’s neighbor, Lhasa, Tibet, is the highest capitol in the world at almost the same elevation as LaPaz… 11,995 give or take. But it doesn’t fit the clues in the puzzle either.

  4. Douglas says:

    Universal: I thought I saw Rochelle, Rochelle skulking around Minsk after her strange, erotic journey from Milan.

  5. Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

    I do not understand the LAT, unless 37A is an April Fool’s joke because there’s nothing to be found? Baffled am I. Any help?

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT/Universal: How bizarre is it that today’s LAT puzzle has LHASA {55D: Capital at 12,000 feet} clued this way given the theme of today’s Carmen San Diego-themed Universal puzzle? That puzzle includes LA PAZ BOLIVIA as an answer and, as is pointed out in the review here, the puzzle’s clues are worded so that the first letters spell out a phrase which informs us that La Paz is at 12,000 feet. So, quite naturally, I confidently entered ‘Lapaz’ in the LAT puzzle (off of the L) instead of LHASA. That cost me a bunch of solve time since I was so confident of that answer. Very weird!

    Then, there’s the fact that GO BUST appears in both the WSJ and the USA Today puzzle today. Today (April Fool’s Day, of all days), you can’t convince me that there’s not some sort of crossword puzzle constructor conspiracy going on.

  7. dh says:

    Re: NYT 20A – I take issue with this clue. If you never have a chance to make anything other than a return of your own cash, I’d say those are pretty terrible odds. Can’t say for sure, but I think that there’s probably at least an equal, if not greater, risk of loss at one of these things due to some kind of malfunction than there is of it giving you a win with more than you came with.

    • marciem says:

      The reason that casino owners are rich and most of their patrons are not… the odds are at least with you the patron of going home with the cash you requested as opposed to playing the games of chance and emptying your pockets/atm.

      I agree with the cluing 100%. There have been one or more times I went home having had a “free vacation” with what I won, but nothing extra in my pocket. Usually much worse scenario.

      • dh says:

        There’s a psychology behind that – people go to casinos with a set amount of money that they can afford to lose – and once they lose it they go home. The winners know when to quit.

  8. Jack2 says:

    LAT: “WAC” refers to Women’s ARMY Corps, not Air. My Mom was (and, at 99 yrs, still is) a Navy WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Anchors aweigh!

  9. pannonica says:

    Thank you, corrected.

  10. Lou says:

    Re: Erik Agard & Jasmine Lim’s USA Today crossword, “Bookends”

    Authors Celeste NG, Amy TAN, George SAND and Albert CAMUS are bookmarked with “I”. From Sally’s Take

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