Sunday, May 22, 2022

LAT 9:15 (Gareth, 1 ERROR) 


NYT untimed (Nate) 


Universal 4:08 (Jim P)  


Universal (Sunday) 9:50 (Jim P) 


USA Today untimed (Darby) 


WaPo 12:49 puzzle and meta (Matt) 


David, Karen, and Paul Steinberg’s New York Times crossword, “Parting Ways”—Nate’s write-up

I’m getting to this review a bit later in the day, but there’s already some great buzz on Twitter for this Sunday’s NYT puzzle, so I’m excited to dig in. It’s by crossworld icon David Steinberg… and his parents! How cool is that? They’ve presented us a 19×23 grid with some flavor text that says, “When this puzzle is done, read the circled letters line by line from top to bottom to get an appropriate word.”

05.21.22 Sunday NYT Puzzle

05.21.22 Sunday NYT Puzzle

5D: DES(POTS) / DES(IGNS) [Tyrants / Patterns]
20A: STOP SIGN [See 5-Down]

12D: WHE(REVER) / WHE(NCE) [Anyplace / From which place]
22A: REVERENCE [See 12-Down]

29D: PLUMP(ED) / PLUM P(OSITION) [Made puffier, as cushions / Very desirable job]
49A: DEPOSITION [See 29-Down]

53D: TRA(VELER) / TRA(NCE) [Tourist, e.g. / Hypnotic state]
62A: RELEVANCE [See 53-Down]

61D: BER(GERON) / BER(ETS) [Tom who hosted “Dancing with the Stars” / Brimless caps]
68A: NO REGRETS [See 61-Down]

80A: ANIMATIONS [See 73-Down]

84D: SECRET (LOVER) / SECRET(ING) [Tryst partner / Discharging, as a liquid]
111A: REVOLTING [See 84-Down]

104D: PRELIM / PRESTONE [Qualifying match, for short / Big name in antifreeze and brake fluid]
113A: MILESTONE [See 104-Down]

Each down theme entry splits when it hits the related across entry and goes either left or right to finish the entry, resulting in two separate words stemming from the same starting point, and the circled letters (the junction points for each parting of ways, read in order: SEPARATE. Wow – what a theme-dense puzzle! And to be able to find the across theme answers that could be split so that each themed down could continue on to the left or to the right to make viable entries is incredible. And to do all of that without sacrificing the fill quality of the grid is some top-level work.  #constructorgoals

Other random thoughts:
64A: ANT [Social worker?] and 90A: ARK [There was Noah-counting for it] – These were cute clues.
4D: HIPS  [They “don’t lie,” per a Shakira hit] – I swear that when I got to the WHE(REVER) / WHE(NCE) theme entry, I was so hoping it would be a WHE(NEVER) / WHE(REVER) nod to Shakira (but I reckon this will do).
57D: ELLIOT [Actor Page] and 98D: THEIRS [Nonbinary possessive] – I’m always here for LGBTQ+ inclusion!

I hope your Sunday is as cool and unexpected as this puzzle!


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post Crossword — “Unmatched” — Matt’s review

Matt here, filling in for a traveling Jim Q. Was hoping for a meta from Evan to review, and got lucky! I think it’s about a 1-in-6 chance on any given Sunday, and we hit our number today.

The prompt asks us to find a 10-letter phrase, and there are ten starred long across, so we’re probably extracting one letter from each of them:

23-A: [*Type of IT account that has complete access to a network of computers] = DOMAIN ADMIN
25-A: [*Under no circumstances] = NEVER EVER
41-A: [*1957 short story collection by Isak Dinesen] = LAST TALES
53-A: [*Ben and Jerry, e.g., usually] = MEN’S NAMES
66-A: [*Airport employee who scans boarding passes] = GATE AGENT
74-A: [*Motored past, as on a bridge] = DROVE OVER
90-A: [*Phone conversation in your neighborhood] = LOCAL CALL. Nice entry but clue seems off? I think of a “local call” as one where you didn’t need to dial the area code. Proving myself older than Evan here…you really did need to only dial 7 digits for local calls back in the day. And IIRC the local calls were free but the long-distance ones cost money. Also there were only 8 teams in the NFL and you loved it!
97-A: [*Adopts a reasonable course of action] = SEES SENSE. Not a familiar phrase to me but YMMV.
119-A: [*Person who might make accusations of cheating] = SORE LOSER. Great entry.
121-A: [*Power from renewable sources] = GREEN ENERGY. Great entry.

What now? Each entry consists of two words that differ in length by one letter — but wait, there’s more. All the letters of the shorter entry can be found in the longer one, with one letter left over. Those leftover letters, highlighted above, spell out meta answer ONE AND ONLY.

When writing metas for an audience of experienced solvers, Evan can power up and swing for the fences like he did here. For a more general audience that wouldn’t work — the meta linked above took Joon 2 days, so 99% of the WaPo audience wouldn’t stand much of a chance — so Evan must provide a fun but solvable-even-for-newbies meta for Post fans. This puzzle succeeds mightily on these terms; I’ve solved a lot of metas but still appreciated the craftsmanship involved, while a Post reader who’s NEVER EVER (!) seen a meta before would still have a good chance of success. So mixing baseball metaphors, this meta is a strike right over the plate.

Other notes:

68-A: [Puzzle clue descriptor] = ACROSS. So meta.

9-D: [Boxer who was Arnold’s hero on “Diff’rent Strokes”] = ALI. Kudos for an ALI clue I had never seen before.

91-D: [Fare-minded people?] = CATERERS. I had the CA?????? and was surprised when CABBIES didn’t fit.

Nice work from Evan as usual. Let’s say 4.20 stars in honor of the Cheech & Chong reference at 130-A.

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

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers: The first letter of each word in the theme answer spells out WFH, referring to “work from home.”

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "WFH" solution for 5/22/2022

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “WFH” solution for 5/22/2022

  • 17a [“How some people pray”] WITH FOLDED HANDS
  • 46a [“Annual fundraiser by Project Bread”] WALK FOR HUNGER
  • 61a [“Place with internet access”] WI-FI HOTSPOT

Do you ever wonder how the pandemic has changed different themes? Like would WFH have been a popular enough phrase pre-pandemic? Anyway, I thought that this was a solid theme, pretty much exactly what I expected when I saw the puzzle’s title. WI-FI HOTSPOT feels tricky since it depends on the F in WI-FI, but with its technical hyphenation, it feels like it makes sense. WITH FOLDED HANDS was a great fifteen, and I wasn’t familiar with WALK FOR HUNGER, but it was relatively easy to pick up on the crosses.

A few other things I noticed:

  • 15a [“Actress Balinska”]ELLA Balinska is likely most known for her leading role in the newest Charlie’s Angels film.
  • 27a [“Brawl”] – The Super Smash Bros. franchise has included both Super Smash Bros. MELEE and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, so that was the first thing I saw when I filled this one in.
  • 50a [“‘__ Chi Master’ (Jet Li film)]TAI Chi Master is a 1993 Hong Kong martial arts film. The cast includes both Jet Li in the lead role, Chin Siu-ho, and Michelle Yeoh.
  • 51a [“‘The Wife’ novelist Wolitzer”] – MEG Wolitzer’s The Wife looks like a really interesting novel “about a woman forced to confront the sacrifices she’s made in order to achieve the life she thought she wanted.” Another one on the list for me, then.

That’s all from me today!

Adrian Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Sunday Themeless 3”—Jim P’s review

Two themelesses in two days? I’m not complaining when they’re filled with such fun entries. (Jim P. here again sitting in for Jim Q.)

Universal crossword solution · “Sunday Themeless 3” · Adrian Johnson · Sun., 5.22.22

My favorite one—and probably the seed entry for this grid—is centrally located at 39a: UH-OH SPAGHETTIOS. My 13 y.o. asked, “Who says that?” and “Who even eats SpaghettiOs?” I guess I’ve failed as a parent. So we watched the 1979 commercial (titled with “Oh-Oh” for some reason), and she said, “It makes it seem like they don’t like SpaghettiOs.” And you know, she’s right. I never thought about it, but why would you combine your product with the phrase “Uh-oh”? It’s as if the next line in the lyrics would be, “My poor gastro-intestinal tract!”

Also good: ADOPT-A-THON, “SILLY GOOSE!,” Nintendo’s TOADETTE, MAIDEN NAME, BLOOD DONOR, PIE CRUST, PIANO TUNER, PET CARRIER, “DON’T RUSH ME!,” and ALOHA SHIRT. Not so keen on REDOS and AS ONE, but everything else is smooth.

Flag of Botswana

Clues of note:

  • 15a. [One working on a grand scale?]. PIANO TUNER. Two bits of wordplay for the price of one. Nice clue.
  • 52a. [Confidentiality doc]. NDA. Was thinking “doctor” the whole time. Needed the crossings to sort this out.
  • 46d. [Animal represented by the stripes on Botswana’s flag]. ZEBRA.

Fun, fast grid. Four stars.

Zachary David Levy’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Now C Here”—Jim P’s review

The title made me expect we were adding C to the theme entries. But that’s not right. C is added to the starts of other entries in the grid which are synonyms for the theme entries.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Now C Here” · Zachary David Levy · 5.22.22

  • 21a. [C + 117-Down?] UNDER LOCK AND KEY with 117d being AGED leading to CAGED.
  • 39a. [C + 4-Down?] HEAD OVER HEELS w/HARMED -> CHARMED.
  • 100a. [C + 84-Down?] READY TO STRIKE w/OILED -> COILED.
  • 122a. [C + 46-Down?] SINGING THE BLUES w/RUSHED -> CRUSHED.

I like the different angle this theme took, but I will be the first to admit that I didn’t bother looking at the cross references during the solve since I was timing myself. If I wasn’t, I probably would’ve enjoyed it more.

What I don’t get is why you wouldn’t title the puzzle “C+”. Seems like an obvious choice to me.

With theme-related entries all over the grid, there are plenty of constraints. But the fill is smooth enough that you don’t notice. And there are definitely highlights like DEAD AIR, ALFALFA, MEGATRON, AD SLOGAN, TO A FAULT, KENKEN, DELISH, RIPTIDE, “LIKE SO,” OOPSIE, and His AIRNESS.

Clues of note:

  • 88a. [County for Disneyland … or much of Disney World]. ORANGE. Wow, really? That’s such an odd coincidence.
  • 20d. [Drill sergeant’s title, perhaps]. SIR. Hmm. Most sergeants I knew when I was active duty would vociferously object to being called “SIR.” That’s reserved for officers.
  • Fave clues: 52d [Product line?] for AD SLOGAN and 72d [No longer neutral?] for IN GEAR.
  • 115d. [“Far out!”]. RAD. Those are from two very different time periods. Or are we distanced enough from both of them that it’s hard to discern that?

Solid theme and smooth fill. 3.75 stars.

Taylor Johnson’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times 220522
Welcome to the Big Leagues

Today’s puzzle by Taylor Johnson has a title, “Welcome to the Big Leagues” that calls back to last Sunday. Here, it’s simply the prefix, pro, inserted in phrases to create wackiness. It’s hard to extend that one gimmick into a Sunday-size puzzle. The results are definitely variable in quality, though many did work well:

  • [Shout to an FBI agent investigating the wrong fellow?], DONT[PRO]BETHATGUY. Interesting startin with the most radical alteration that changes the pronunciation completely. The base phrase was a strong choice though.
  • [The polygraph is rigged!,” e.g.?], LIEDETECTOR[PRO]TEST.
  • [“RuPaul’s Drag Race” prize money?], [PRO]FITFORAQUEEN
    [Like philosophers who can’t find their way home?], LOSTAND[PRO]FOUND. Also a good’un.
  • [Hype that just goes on and on and on?], PERPETUAL[PRO]MOTION
  • [Put off fulfilling a campaign promise?], [PRO]LONGTERMGOALS

A trend for me so far in Patti Varol’s editorship has been mostly easier clues with a few difficult names being the major speedbump. Today’s difficult spots were in the area around [Glazer of “Broad City”], ILANA and [Long who plays Steve on “PEN15”], CHAU and [Leslie of “This Is 40”], MANN; as well as the intersection of [“Chilombo” Grammy nominee Jhené __] AIKO and [Maker of Calling All Goddesses! nail polish], OPI. I misremembered the latter as EPI.

There were a few t’rif clues, though they may have been lost in the ocean that is a Sunday clue list… [Pop up a lot?], NEWDAD and the quirky [T. rex’s “I’m going to eat you!”], ROAR; which I assume is a pop cult T. Rex?


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24 Responses to Sunday, May 22, 2022

  1. David T Steere Jr says:

    WaPo: Thanks to Matt for his thorough review. Kudos to Evan for a charming, easy meta which I–as someone who generally doesn’t do or enjoy metas–solved and loved. I’m particularly grateful for the inclusion of one of my favorite literary short story collections at 41A. Great work. David

    • Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

      Agree 100%, and Evan knows I’m not a meta fan … but this one was very, very nice and grok-able even without the Notepad [which I try to never read until the end].

    • David Steere says:

      NYT: How could one resist a family-constructed puzzle? Quite nice. It does strike me, however, as sort of a Evan-lite type of puzzle in terms of its multiple layers. We’re used to such fun complexity every week from Evan. Perhaps his joyful trickiness is catching? On a completely different topic, there is a thought-provoking and revealing “letter to the editor” from Gene Weingarten printed in full at Rex’s blog. Worth a read. David

  2. Rich I. says:

    NYT: Great puz!

    Like 20% of my solve time was spent in the BERGERON/BERETS section because I had Alt-TAB as the Windows shortcut and I’d literally never heard of Alt-ESC as a shortcut despite being a keyboard shortcut power user most of my life. I was more convinced IMAC was wrong even tho -AB made no sense at all.

    • pannonica says:

      Same. Alt-TAB is the command I’ve used forever. Apparently Alt-ESC works as well, but is not as reliable (it seems more prone to in-window/app functions).

      • R Cook says:

        I’ve been using Windows since the early 90s, and I’ve never heard of Alt+Esc. Apparently it only works on open windows (i.e., minimized windows are skipped).

    • JohnH says:

      I assumed Alt-Tab just had to be right, too. It’d be my only flaw in an unusually good puzzle, theme packed but without having that ruin the fill as might be expected. Also nice to have a new twist on the themes that turn upward or downward. Original, and just tough enough that catching on took long enough for an aha! I didn’t know BERGERON or PRESTONE, but no matter. My one awkward crossing was SANAA (which I suppose I should know from puzzles) and SPLAT.

      • person says:

        My last letter was the A in splAt and sanAa. I knew it had to be A but just couldn’t convince myself of SANAA being an actual name. I was happy to see the Congratulations pop up immediately after. What an amazing puzzle. I rarely give 5 stars but did so today.

  3. Tony says:

    Really enjoyed the NYT. Only issue solving online was trying to enter the first part of the theme answers backwards. I had AMINATIONS at 80-A for a while because I entered the first part of 73-D as STANIMA

  4. Matt Gritzmacher says:

    NYT: Somewhat surprised to see IRE – Ireland clued to the World Cup. Ireland hasn’t been in the Men’s (FIFA) World Cup since 2002 or ever to the Women’s FIFA World Cup. They’re more a regular in (one of) the Rugby World Cups, but without specifying otherwise I doubt most solvers would think anything other than soccer when reading “world cup”

    • Gary R says:

      Not to mention the fact that FIFA’s code for Ireland is IRL.

      • Eric H says:

        Ha! I went to Wikipedia to verify that, and I can’t even find an article on the Ireland men’s association football team.

        • Eric H says:

          The relevant Wikipedia article is “Republic of Ireland national football team,” if anyone’s interested.

          And you’re right about the FIFA code, Gary. (Not that I really doubted you.) I’m surprised that one got through editing, but since IRE makes sense, it’s likely that no one at the NYT checked it.

  5. Evad says:

    NYT: Great job from the Steinberg clan! Now we see where David gets his constructing chops!

    A small NIT from me, isn’t it SALES tag/tax?

    Oh, and add me to the ALT-TAB gang.

    • Gary R says:

      I took the clue/answer to be “tag SALE” / “tax SALE” – the former being what I grew up knowing as a “yard sale” and the latter being the sale of property that is overdue on its taxes.

    • JohnH says:

      SALE with “tax” puzzled me, too. I appreciate Gary’s explaining it.

  6. Eric H says:

    WaPo: I’m not a big fan of meta puzzles, and I made only a half-hearted attempt to solve the meta on this one. Maybe it’s easier to see the starred clues when you solve on paper, but in AcrossLite, it’s damn-near impossible.

    Did I miss something that suggested which letters were to be removed from the starred clues’ answers? Or is it only that “unmatched” and “one and only” are more-or-less synonymous?

    Aside from the meta, the puzzle was fine, if clued at a Tuesday or Wednesday level.

    • Maybe it’s easier to see the starred clues when you solve on paper, but in AcrossLite, it’s damn-near impossible.

      I’ve never had a problem seeing starred clues in Across Lite, certainly no more of a problem than spotting them in print, but maybe this is a device issue on your end? If for some reason you don’t see the stars in the clues above the grid, they should show up in the clue list.

      Did I miss something that suggested which letters were to be removed from the starred clues’ answers? Or is it only that “unmatched” and “one and only” are more-or-less synonymous?

      As in, was there a revealer clue saying which letters you need to extract? No, there was no revealer, but the Notepad says you’re looking for a 10-letter phrase and the 10 starred answers are signals to look there. You take the O from DOMAIN ADMIN because all of the letters in ADMIN match the letters of DOMAIN except for the leftover O; you take the the N from NEVER EVER because the letters in EVER match the letters in NEVER except for the leftover N; rinse and repeat.

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks. I was missing, for example, that DOMAIN has an O that’s not in ADMIN. I wasn’t applying the title the way I should have.

  7. KarenS says:

    WaPo: I loved this puzzle, and the meta was the perfect level for me (about a week 1 of Matt Gaffney’s puzzles). Great construction!

  8. Karyl says:

    WaPo – Reagle puzzle. 90 down should be EMT crossing symphony, I believe. I did enjoy the puzzle.

  9. sanfranman59 says:

    WaPo … I’m really late to the game with this one since I had a full day yesterday and didn’t get to all of my regular puzzles. I found this to be a very straight-forward (and enjoyable) solve with the exception of “Easy peasy LEMON squeezy”. I’m just wondering if folks around these parts know this phrase or am I the only one who’s in the dark?

    I think I was introduced to “easy peasy” by crossword puzzles a while back. I recall Googling it and learning that it’s British in origin. That probably explains why I wasn’t familiar with it. I think I’ve got a hole in my brain where Britishisms are supposed to reside. I kinda get the “easy peasy” part, but “LEMON squeezy”? In what context would one use that phrase and has anyone ever heard it in the wild?

    • Eric H says:

      I’ve heard “easy peasy” in real life (and probably used it myself), but the “lemon squeezy” was new to me.

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