Sunday, April 24, 2022

LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT untimed (Nate) 


Universal 5:17 (Jim Q)  


Universal (Sunday) 8:30 (Jim P) 


USA Today 3:58 (Darby) 


WaPo 13:26 (Jenni’s Original Time from 2016) 12:12 Jim’s time 2022 (Jim Q) 


Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword, “Magazine Racket”—Nate’s write-up

We’ve got an in-house puzzle this week at the NYT, as their resident digital puzzles editor brings us a puzzle that’s been invaded by a bunch of aliens, it seems:

04.24.22 Sunday NY Times Puzzle

04.24.22 Sunday NY Times Puzzle

– 23A: APPLE JACKET [Bit of company swag for a Genius Bar staffer?]
– 25A / 114A: WHAT MAKES YOU TICKET [With 114-Across, exasperated question to parking enforcement?]
– 28A: WATSON AND CRICKET [Elements of a Sherlock Holmes sports mystery?]
– 48A: SITTIN ON THE DOCKET [Today’s plans: watchin’ someone’s kids?]
– 65A: LIKE A MILLION BUCKETS [How much Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain could score, hyperbolically?]
– 86A: UNDERGROUND ROCKET [Missile silo’s holding?]
– 107A: FRONT OF THE PACKET [Where Sweet’N Low displays its logo?]
– 115A: DARN SOCKETS [Cry following an electrical malfunction?]

Each of the (long!) theme entries has an extra ET at the end, transforming it into a new phrase that’s been funnily clued. What really impressed me about this puzzle was (a) how long so many of the themers were and (b) how stacked they were right on top of each other – that’s super tough to pull off as cleanly as he does here! Some things I’m less excited about are (a) that many of the base phrases with out the extra -ET aren’t as interesting to begin with (underground rock?) and (b) that LIKE A MILLION BUCKETS and DARN SOCKETS inserts the ET before a final S rather than at the end of the base phrase like in all the other themers. This felt inelegant and inconsistent in a way that was surprising to me. Even still, a largely clean and smooth Sunday puzzle, which is a feat in itself!

One major note: 33A: CAR BOMB [Irish ___, popular St. Patrick’s Day cocktail] Oof! It’s just brutal to include this. Per its Wikipedia entry, “The name is considered offensive by most Irish and British people, with many bartenders refusing to serve it.” As I seem to ask each week that I review the Sunday NYT puzzle, how does stuff like this make it through the editing process?

Other random thoughts:
– 92A: HOLY [Guacamole go-wish?] – Ok, now this made me smile.
– 70D: KUDO [Ounce of praise, jocularly] – I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this as the singular version instead of kudos. Mind blown!

What did you think about the puzzle? Let us know in the comments section below… and have a great rest of your weekend!

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Comfort In”—Darby’s write-up

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer includes the word BALM as the “comfort in” between two words.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "Comfort In" solution for 4/25/2022

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Comfort In” solution for 4/25/2022

  • 17a [“Spicy Balinese condiment”] SAMBAL MATAH
  • 40a [“International trade venues”] GLOBAL MARKETS
  • 63a [“Echinacea or St. John’s wort”] HERBAL MEDICINE

I was unfamiliar with SAMBAL MATAH before today’s puzzle, so I caught this one on the crosses. Learning more about it, I definitely will not forget because it looks very tasty. GLOBAL MARKETS and HERBAL MEDICINE are both nice theme-wise; the latter, in particular, felt very apt considering the theme. I often think of HERBAL MEDICINE as something that will hopefully be a balm to whatever injury/bruise I’ve gotten myself.

This grid is definitely asymmetric, and there is so much great stuff in here. Something I’ve come to really appreciate about having an asymmetric grid is having a specific structural element of the puzzle that’s my favorite. Think about it, right? A symmetric grid is, obviously, going to have similar elements throughout, and it can also be restricting. Don’t get me wrong: there’s also a beauty symmetry, but, in this puzzle for instance, I really loved the upper right corner. I loved PETULANT, ISOLATES, and GLEANED all going down, as well as the reference to 11a [“Potbellied pet”] PIGs and 39a [“Jacob Batalon’s MCU role”] NED.

This puzzle was anything but HO HUM, though it was indeed something I could find comfort in. TATA for now!

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Time Trial” – Jenni/Jim Q’s writeup

This week, Evan is on vacation and running a puzzle from the archive. Here is Jenni’s original write-up from when it was originally run in 2016. I will add some brief updates from my POV later this afternoon. 

Last week I was in New Haven. This week I am in Ocean City, NJ, for a family beach vacation – part of our daughter’s 16th birthday present. Emma and her friends got up this morning to see the sunrise, ate breakfast and then went running on the boardwalk. Meanwhile, Mom is sipping orange juice on the balcony in the cool peace of a Sunday morning and solving crossword puzzles. We each take our vacation as we’d like.

This week’s offering from Evan gives us phrases that end in the worm “time” and takes them literally. It’s not much of a trial. This is not a criticism; it’s a lovely, smooth, and satisfying puzzle. Evan tells me there’s a “small meta-like Easter egg” hidden in one of the clues. Perhaps it’s vacation brain, but I don’t see it. Anyone? Bueller?

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 7.42.10 AM

WaPo 6/26 crossword, “Time Trials” solution grid

On to the theme:

  • 22a [Travel time?] = BASKETBALL GAME
  • 35a [Running time?] = TRACK MEET
  • 37a [Present time?] = BIRTHDAY PARTY
  • 57a [Prime time?] = MATH CLASS
  • 58a [Play time?] = JAM SESSION
  • 70a [Turnaround time?] = HOKEY POKEY. My favorite of the theme answers.
  • 77a [High time?] = PLANE RIDE
  • 97a [Buy time?] = SHOPPING SPREE
  • 99a[ Take time?] = FILM SHOOT
  • 116a [Drive time?] = GOLF TOURNAMENT

I figured out the theme fairly early (TRACK MEET) but the answers weren’t entirely obvious, and it was satisfying to figure them out. A nice start to a vacation Sunday.

A few other things:

  • The music of my youth at 1d [“The Winner Takes It All” band] is ABBA, for those of you too young to remember the 7os. This will be today’s earworm.
  • I didn’t actually know that BAT MASTERSON was a real person.
  • Amusing clue at 54a [Dangerous activity with a safe goal?] for BANK JOB
  • [Airline carrier?] at 60d is SKYCAP. Do they even exist any more?
  • I haven’t read the book Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, that’s referenced at 95d. It apparently features an APE named Ishmael, so I presume it’s somehow alluding to Moby Dick. We also have AHAB at 39d, clued as [To whom Starbuck says, “I came here to hunt whales, not my commander’s vengeance.”] Nice little literary connection.

Time to make my breakfast and search out bike rentals for the girls. I hope your summer Sunday is as lovely as ours.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that the Chicago Bulls’ MASCOT was named Benny.


Time warp back to 2022! Sorry for the late edition addition.

My time was right around Jenni’s original at 12:12, yet I found the puzzle quite difficult in spots! Classic wordplay, but very well done. I remember solving this theme when it was first published. I liked it then. I like it now.

Here is the updated Grid and changes (courtesy of Evan):

  • WaPo 4/24/2022 crossword, “Time Trials” solution grid

    9A: [Pics up on Twitter, say] is MEMES.

    • Before it was METES, clued as [Dishes (out)].
  • 26A: [Palm with nuts mentioned in the “South Pacific” song “Bloody Mary”]. Before it was clued as [Kind of nut mentioned in the “South Pacific” song “Bloody Mary”]
  • 27A: [Arena seating levels] is TIERS.
    • Before it was LIENS, clued as [Debt securities].
  • 30A: [“¿Cómo ___ usted?”]. Before it didn’t have the inverted question mark or the accent over the o.
  • 42A: [Not a single one] is NONE.
    • Before it was ZONE, clued as [General area … or with “war,” general area?].
  • 74A: [Sprawling plant]. Before it was clued as [App with short 74 Down], when the Vine video app was still a thing.
  • 11D: [Barbecue offering], is MEAT.
    • Before it was TEAL, clued as [San Jose Sharks’ uniform color].
  • 28D: [Subcontinent queen] is RANI.
    • Before it was NAZI, clued as [The Soup ___ (classic “Seinfeld” character)]. This was the impetus for changing the old grid. Even though I’m a longtime fan of “Seinfeld,” I no longer felt comfortable using the word NAZI as an answer in a crossword, even if clued in a humorous context like this.
  • 36D: [Makes mittens]. Before it was clued as [Makes gloves]
  • 58D: [“Run” writer Patchett]. Before it was clued as [Mitt’s wife].
  • 74D: [TikTok uploads]. Before it was clued as [74 Across uploads].
  • 109D: [Women wearing habits]. Before it was clued as [Sisters who don’t necessarily have the same parents].
  • 115D: [Resource needed to build cities in Catan]. Before it was clued as [Resource needed to build cities in Settlers of Catan], and the “Settlers” part of the name has since been dropped from the game.

Stephanie Fox, Hayden Giller and Drew Schmenner’s Universal Sunday crossword, “The Masked Singer”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Familiar phrases hide one-named singers within. The revealer is CROSSOVER ARTIST (121a, [Genre-spanning performer, or a theme hint]). The artists “cross over” multiple words in each theme answer.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “The Masked Singer” · Stephanie Fox, Hayden Giller and Drew Schmenner · 4.24.22

  • 21a. [“Where was my mistake?”] “WHAT DID I DO WRONG?” Dido.
  • 39a. [It can be ascending or descending] NUMERICAL ORDER. Lorde.
  • 48a. [“You can’t back out now!”] “A DEAL’S A DEAL.” Sade.
  • 69a. [Boozy, citrusy drink brand] MIKES HARD LEMONADE. Kesha.
  • 90a. [Sailors’ songs] SEA SHANTIES. Ashanti.
  • 100a. [Spanish nickname for the enchanting Puerto Rico] ISLA DEL ENCANTO. Adele.

Lovely. Fun phrases and some wonderful finds, especially the last three. I thoroughly enjoyed this theme.

I’m not sure it needs the revealer though; the title and the circled letters make it clear enough what’s going on. I was hoping for another theme entry. It feels like Cher and Madonna are noticeably absent as popular as they are, but maybe suitable entries of the right lengths couldn’t be found.

Also, I have to say I find it interesting our constructors chose to go with an all-women line-up. I’m not complaining, because I like the consistency, and these are all fun choices. But there are a number of dudes who are also potential theme entries (Elvis, Bono, Seal). Maybe the constructors are working on that puzzle already.

The fill adds to the fun. Let’s see, we’ve got HOT COCOA, R-RATED MOVIE, MANSPLAINED, PEDICURES, CROATIA, TENTACLE, “O CANADA,” PAST LIVES, FREE TRIP, END ZONE,SURE DID!,” good ol’ NEW COKE, and FIESTAS. Plenty of juicy entries to sink our teeth into there!

This Nieman Marcus HOBO Bag sells for $2,100.

Clues of note:

  • 44a. [Crescent-shaped bag style]. HOBO. Didn’t know this usage of this word. This article from Vogue says it’s time to get rid of the phrase “hobo bag” as well as other homeless chic terms.
  • 63a. [What’s turned on its head?]. SCREW. Cute clue.
  • 129a. [Royal pain?]. PEA. Presumably from the story “The Princess and the PEA”?

An enjoyable grid all around, and a debut for two new constructors. Congrats on a good one! Four stars.

Rafael Musa Universal Crossword, “Themeless Sunday 1″— Jim Q’s write-up

Themeless 15x today. Wasn’t expecting that! I wonder why it’s called Themeless Sunday 1 instead of Universal Freestyle 18. Universal Sunday 15x seems to be the red-headed stepchild. Very difficult to find anywhere online. And I have noticed that it’s usually not my favorite one. I mean, this themeless is fine. Entries like:

Universal crossword solution · “Themeless Sunday 1” · Rafael Musa · Sun., 04.24.22

NINA SIMONE, DEATH STARES (okay, that’s kind of an awkward plural), IT’S WORTH A TRY!, and WONTON SOUP were my favorites.

Some of the other longer answers weren’t my cup of tea: CUPERTINO (needed every cross), CO-TEACH as clued (I don’t think of co-teaching as “sharing a course”- my instinct says that that clue would point more to the students. However, if you argued with me about that, you would win). AT THAT RATE feels like it should be AT THIS RATE.

Also, OTTERS does not rhyme with “waters” the way that I say it. And LUCIE does not rhyme with “you see” the way I say it.

Lots of names too! And I entries: I CALL, I WON, I MAY, I HATE IT HERE (is that a common stand alone phrase?).

Favorite mistake was ELI for [Mistake hidden in “Israeli”]. The correct answer was RAE. That said, it’s a lot less common of a name I think than ELI, and I see no good connection between the name RAE and “Israeli”s).

So all in all, not my favorite of the Universal Themeless series so far. And the curiosity stands as to why it’s not in with that group… like it’s sitting all alone at a lunch table enviously watching all the other Universal Freeestyles yuk it up together.

2.9 Stars from me.

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45 Responses to Sunday, April 24, 2022

  1. JohnH says:

    May I get help with the NYT clue for KUDO? Thank you,

    • Nate Cardin says:

      I think it’s supposed to be a singular(?) version of kudos (, but this version is new to me, too!

      • JohnH says:

        Thanks, but no, I mean the clue. “ounce of praise, jocularly.” Is this a saying of some sort? Or is “ounce” meant as a peculiar diminutive that somehow justifies a nonstandard singular? But then who is joking?

        Agreed that the supposed Irish drink, which I’d never even heard of (and so liked even less) is considered insulting and should not appear. Overall, I found the puzzle pretty painful. Admirable how it finds so many example of the CK-ET shift and works them into a grid, but the result is often forced at best, if not borderline meaningless, and the fill overall is often awfully obscure.

  2. Jan O says:

    NYT: Agree about 33A being inappropriate. Didn’t get how clue for 48A related to the answer. Maybe if one was watchin’ someone’s kids *swim*? Thought 115A is inelegant when I got to it, but now see that 65A has the same pattern of inserting ET before the final letter. Maybe if I were into Jaguars or GMCs I would have found the fill to be less of a slog.

    • Vega says:

      48A: I think it’s the “Today’s plans” that makes it a “docket.” As in, “on the docket today is sittin’.”

    • Gary R says:

      I thought the base phrase for 48A was getting at lyrics from an Otis Redding song – “Sittin’ on the dock of the bay.” But that doesn’t really work without the “of the bay” part.

      The themers, overall, didn’t do much for me.

    • Michel says:

      DOCKET is a legalese schedule, ( grandiose)
      kids swim in water,
      sit on the dock(et) to oversee the charges (shitty pun)
      babysittin’ said kids

      Not creepy unless you choose, but a stretch

      A play on the posthumous Otis Redding hit song from the sixties

  3. Dook says:

    watson and crick? I have no idea.

    • Gary R says:

      Discoverers of the double-helix structure of DNA – pretty famous. And of course, Watson provides the tie to Sherlock Holmes.

    • pannonica says:

      Usually the pair are ordered as Crick and Watson, ‘discoverers’ of the double helix structure of DNA. Criminally omits Rosalind Franklin.

      • Gary R says:

        Interesting – I’ve mostly heard it as “Watson and Crick.”

        Google seems to agree – 57,000 hits for “Crick and Watson” vs. 450,000 for “Watson and Crick.”

      • JohnH says:

        I’ve sure always heard it as Watson and Crick. It’s that way in a standard college biology text I just checked, and it’s the order of names on their epochal paper in Nature.

        Still a lame clue, if you ask me. that Watson might instead be the Holmes character doesn’t offer a tight enough connection. I wouldn’t call the fill itself liable for omitting Franklin. There’s no remotely idiomatic phrase “Watson, Crick, and Franklin” even if one could fit it. Besides, the Nobel Prize passed her over for a perfectly ok reason: you can’t award by the rules to the dead. Her lab head was a poor substitute as prize winner, but such is life.

  4. Gary C says:

    The greatest takeaway I got from WaPo was TikTok is already 5 years old (never have I ever used this app). Time flies by, yeesh.

    • Wanna feel even more like “time really flies”? The clue that referenced TikTok today (74D) was different in 2016 when it said [74 Across uploads] back when the VINE app was still a thing.

      • Gary C says:

        Never understood the appeal of these short-video apps, but maybe it’s just me. I’d rather watch a 1-hour video on YouTube than a 6-second clip with so little to offer. To each his own I suppose.

  5. pannonica says:

    The title of the NYT crossword seems only weakly associated with the theme.

    • David L says:

      The only connection I can see is that the title could have been another theme answer. Oh, and the puzzle was printed in the magazine.

      All in all, weak theme, dodgy fill (PREWEB? NOOUT? POSTBAC? ANTCOW?), plus the appalling 33A. Quite the achievement.

      • JohnH says:

        That was the only explanation for “magazine” that I could come up with, too. Not good.

      • Gary R says:

        I took the title as simply an example of what the theme was going to do – add “ET” to the end of a familiar phrase, like magazine rack – without duplicating any of the -ET words from the puzzle itself. Probably about as informative as the typical Sunday puzzle title.

  6. Notjustanothernewt says:

    Jenni/JimQ’s answer grid has some odd miscues. Theirs/Evan’s answers. Metes/memes. Teal/meat. Liens/tiers. Zone/none. Nazi/rani. Hope you have “time” to fix it before Evan sees it!

  7. Dan says:

    The LAT puzzle has the theme clue “Tale of the hora?” for “chair-raising story”.

    In my experience, Jewish weddings often include both dancing the hora and chair-raising, BUT the two are *distinct* from each other.

    That is, the dance called the hora has nothing to do with chair-raising.

    • David says:

      Are you sure about that? I just did a quick bit of searching to confirm my memory, to be safe, and chair-raising is specifically talked about as happening during the hora.

      • Dan says:

        In my view: The hora and the chair raising are both things that occur during a wedding, so of course they would be temporally proximal; just as vegetables are often eaten along with starch, but without one’s being part of the other.

        • john morgan says:

          Definitely not an expert, but I think if you have a look into it, it’s pretty clear that the chair raising happens during the hora…and even that many refer to the hora as the “chair dance” so I don’t think they’re just “temporally proximal.” I’d go so far as to say that you don’t see chair raising without the hora.

  8. David and Heather says:

    By far the worst Sunday XW my wife and I have worked on. To be clear: We’ve solved 0ver 400 21×21 puzzles from the NYT, and this was the worst of them. There are too many reasons to list — I suggest you read over “Rex”‘s critique. But Nate, you don’t do yourself any favors by pretending not to notice how awful puzzles are. I appreciate that you want to be kind; so do I. But criticism has to be able to point out what makes things good vs bad. This puzzle was just awful, and the readers’ ratings seem to agree — has there ever been a puzzle so low-rated? It’s currently below 1.65.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I gotta agree. While I’m not prepared to say that it’s the worst Sunday NYT I’ve ever done, it’s gotta be in the running. Making light of the awfulness that is the history of Irish-British relations was the final straw for me. I’ve always been drawn to Irish pubs (it’s kinda in my blood) and have done a lot of St. Patrick’s Day celebrating over the years, but have never heard of that cocktail and I’d be just fine with never hearing the name of it again.

    • Dan says:

      David and Heather: Are you (and for that matter, sanfranman59) equating “worst” with “most difficult”, “least fun”, or what?

      I thought it was among the most difficult Sunday NYTs in recent memory, by a long shot. At the same time, I thought it was one of the most fun (because for me the fun is roughly proportional to how long it lasts).

      • sanfranman59 says:

        I find that my subjective evaluation of a puzzle can be influenced by how long it takes me to solve it, but I enjoy a challenge and learning some new things from my efforts. It can also be related to whether or not I can get on the same wavelength with the constructor’s/editor’s cluing style and there are definitely constructors (including this one) that consistently give me a hard time.

        With this puzzle, I just found myself doing a lot of groaning, pretty much from start to finish. I kept coming up with answers that I would rule out because they just couldn’t be correct, but then, they were. A couple of examples are NO OUT {69D: Like a situation at the start of an inning} (awkward clue wording and answer, if you ask this lifetime baseball fanatic … it seems to me that “no outs” is much more in the language) and ICEE {68D: ___ Float (cold treat)} (disclaimer: I’ve never had an ICEE anything in my life, so I concede that this answer completely missed my strike zone).

  9. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    NYT: 70D (KUDO) is an error. KUDOS is already singular.

    • R says:

      Not an error, but a joke.

    • john morgan says:

      I agree with you, but was dismayed to find that, among some scholars and dictionaries kudo is now an accepted singular.

      I put it with “on accident” as changes that I’m going to have to accept, but which really grind my gears…

  10. Lou says:

    I respectfully suggest that the NYT editorial team consider doing a blind review of submissions, with only the gender of the constructor(s) as an identifier.

  11. Billposter says:

    “Worst” ever NYT. I got about a quarter of the way through it and simply quit. A good puzzle puts you on more or less equal terms with the constructor and you kind of “duke” it out following some kind of unwritten game rules you both understand. This little stinker simply factured the puzzler/puzzlee relationship for no concievable reason. I had Maleska reject a puzzle I did a long time ago because in making the “solution” to 1 across “twenty three down” he figured I had violated that implied rubric.

  12. Laurie Benenson says:

    Please tell me what “magazine” has to do with this puzzle (Sunday, April 24)? And what do Watson and Crick have to do with Sherlock Holmes and sports? Truly baffled by this one.
    Hated this puzzle.

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