Katie Hale’s New York Times crossword, “Because I Said So!” —Nate’s write-up
Parents and chasers of personal best times, get ready – this is your puzzle!
– 22A: I’LL TURN THIS CAR AROUND [Mechanic’s go-to parenting phrase?]
– 37A: SIT UP STRAIGHT [Personal trainer’s go-to parenting phrase?]
– 55A: DON’T USE THAT TONE WITH ME [Conductor’s go-to parenting phrase?]
– 79A: I TOLD YOU A HUNDRED TIMES [Mathematician’s go-to parenting phrase?]
– 100A: YOU’RE GROUNDED [Air traffic controller’s go-to parenting phrase?]
– 117A: LET’S PLAY THE QUIET GAME [Librarian’s go-to parenting phrase?]
In my mind, this is what makes for a lovely Sunday puzzle – a fun theme, modern fill, and a smooth solve overall! Even when there were some tricky or less common entries, the crossings felt gettable. I’m guessing there’ll be many PRs or super quick solve times. Heck, this puzzle only took me 11 minutes to solve while simultaneously chasing my dog around our backyard. Congrats to the constructor on a fun puzzle! Even with just six themers, you can really have a puzzle that shines – YOU’RE GROUNDED was very much my favorite themer.
Quick write-up today because of evening plans, but I’m glad I got to share in the joy of solving this puzzle with y’all. Can you think of any other phrases parents say all the time that could be repurposed for a theme like this? If so, let us know in the comments. Otherwise, have a lovely upcoming week!
Amanda Rafkin’s Universal Crossword, “Themeless Sunday 11” — norah’s write-up
- ITSNOTWORTHIT 12A [“Don’t get yourself into that mess”]
- ISNTTHATSPECIAL 22A [Sarcastic alternative to “Big deal!”]
- DOEXACTLYASISAY 49A [“Follow my instructions to a T!”]
- WOEISME 56A [“Oh, I’m just drowning in my sorrows!”]
- YOUCANTMAKEME 3D [“You can’t make me!”]
- NERDSPLAINS 6D [Goes into extreme detail about the backstory of the Scarlet Witch, say]
Whew! This puzzle was sooo fun. It’s technically themeless, but does it ever have a vibe. First off, the grid just looks so gosh darn HAPPY! The above mentioned long entries are smart and sassy and this puzzle does whatever it wants. I very much appreciate the gender representation with SIWA (19A [Singer and dancer Jojo]), POPDIVA (27A [Mariah Carey or Lady Gaga, e.g.]), ANN (2D [Poet Carol ___ Duffy]), LAYTOYA (4D [“If You Feel the Funk” singer Jackson]), ALI (45D [Boxer Laila]), AMY (54D [Florence’s “Little Women” role].
There’s a thoughtful creativity given to cluing entries which might otherwise be seen as negatives, namely OCD (39A [Condition that might be treated with Exposure and Response Prevention] and WEPT (13D [Reacted to a Pixar short, probably]). (Does anyone else get weepy just *thinking* about “Lava“???) What a fun clue for KTOWN (9D [L.A. neighborhood where a lot of Seoul food is found?]) and it even has my favorite Thai restaurant choice: PADSEEEW (29D [Stir-fried noodle dish containing Chinese broccoli and egg])! And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a puzzle from Amanda that didn’t include at least one theater reference: TWO (37D [Number of acts in “Sweeney Todd”]).
I also learned about ARTBASEL 32D [Annual Miami Beach gallery event] Very cool!
Thank you Amanda!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “In Other Words” — Matthew’s write-up
Right from the jump, with circles in some long acrosses and none in others, we know something is up in this mirror symmetry 20×21 grid.
The theme is easily apparent. There’s three pairs of entries following the same pattern: a common phrase containing two hidden words in circles in the first entry, and then a second entry in the format “The X and the Y,” with X and Y being synonyms for the circled hidden words in the immediately previous themer.
- 17a [North, south, east and west] CARDINAL DIRECTIONS
- 38a [1929 novel by William Faulkner, or a hint to 17 Across’s circled words] THE SOUND AND THE FURY
- 46a [Pine Tree State town with the same name as a European capital] PARIS, MAINE
- 64a [1952 novella by Ernest Hemingway, or a hint to 46 Across’s circled words] THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
- 83a [Diner dish served in the morning] BREAKFAST PLATE
- 95a [1995 western starring Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman, or a hint to 83 Across’s circled words] THE QUICK AND THE DEAD.
I found the theme progressively more difficult from top to bottom, which I enjoyed, given how easy the mechanism was to identify on the first pairing. DIN and IRE to SOUND and FURY are quite straightforward, but even knowing the theme in time for the next pairing, PA and MAIN are a bit less direct to OLD MAN and SEA. And then I’m unfamiliar with THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, so even more resistance in the last theme pair. Not sure if that last bit is by design from Evan or specific to this solver, but a fun effect nonetheless.
The shorter PARIS, MAINE allows for some decently open areas in the upper corners and middle edges, as compared to the spots where the second and third, and fifth and sixth, themers are only separated by one row. TENT PEG [44d Spike in a forest] and PROLOGUE [12d Opening statement?] in particular were colorful entries with nice a-ha moments from the clues for me.
Notes and highlights:
- 1a [Aircraft carriers?] BAGS. Interesting misdirection that’s taken me a while to warm up to–rightly or wrongly (probably wrongly) “aircraft” sits in my head as a military term, but this is referring to carry-on bags; “carriers” brought on “aircraft.”
- 23a [Crocus container] VASE. I adore crocuses; my mother had them growing along the side of the house during my childhood.
- 31a [They’re called Italian tomatoes despite not orginating in Italia] ROMAS. TIL! First, that ROMAS are also called “Italian tomatoes,” though that wasn’t much of a hangup, and secondly that they’re predominantly grown in North America, Australia, and Great Britain, not Italy.
- 72a [Endurance even for Olympic gold medalists Gwen Jorgensen and Flora Duffy] TRIATHLON. Jorgensen won for the United States in 2016, but I’m highlighting this answer for Flora Duffy, whose 2021 Gold Medal was the first for Bermuda and made Bermuda the smallest country in history to win a gold.
- 5d [President before Franklin] MILLARD. That’s MILLARD Fillmore before Franklin Pierce. “Herbert” Hoover before Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a neat trap there, but I had too many crossings in place to fall for it. Fillmore is interred in my hometown of Buffalo–a somewhat nondescript grave all told, in a cemetery very near to where I attended high school.
- 8d [Lampoon locale] HARVARD. This is in reference to 146-year-old comedy incubator The Harvard Lampoon boasting among its alumni John Updike, George Santayana, Conan O’Brien, and Ernest Thayer.
- 27d [John who wrote the song “Roundball Rock”] TESH. Hidden sports reference; “Roundball Rock” is something of an NBA theme song, that’s bounced around over the years depending on broadcasting deals. “Roundball” in this case is something of a slang term for a basketball itself. This sports fan would like to believe there are folks out there who recognize the song by ear, even if they don’t know it by title. Video below.
- 33d [Type of car from the French for “cut”] COUPE. I’ve never put this together before, despite knowing the etymology of “coupons!” Fun visual image, of a car being “cut” shorter.
- 37d [With 65 Down, Joel Cairo’s portrayed in “The Maltese Falcon”] PETER LORRE. Don’t mind me, just admiring the elegance of putting this cross-referenced pair in symmetrical positions in the grid. I suspect I look for such things more than most solvers.
- 90d [“Star Trek” role for Nichelle Nichols] UHURA. This may be the first time I’ve seen UHURA or Nichols in a grid since her passing. Absolute icon.
- 102d [Wall Street Journal language columnist Zimmer] BEN. Something I admire about Evan’s puzzles is the preservation of his voice despite his relatively large audience. We see this most in the variety of theme types and difficulty, and a willingness to run metas of varying complexity, but we also get nods to the crossword community that usually don’t make it out of indie puzzles. In this case, it’s all-around word mensch Ben Zimmer, who’s been constructing a bit more lately.
Enjoy your Sunday!
Doug Burnikel and Zhouqin Burnikel’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Mixed Martial Arts”—Jim P’s review
Our theme consists of familiar phrases that hide anagrams of various forms of marital arts.
As usual, ignore the parenthetical square-counting tips if your grid has circles.
- 23a. [You can’t tell when it’s working (In this answer, unscramble letters 10-13)] SUBCONSCIOUS MIND. Sumo.
- 39a. [Alaskan home of many bears (… letters 2-7)] KODIAK ISLAND. Aikido. Nice find.
- 69a. [American plants? (… letters 1-8)] CIA OPERATIVES. I figured out all the other anagrams without looking them up. Still working on this one. Maybe I’ll have it by the time I’m done with this review.
- 97a. [Raw meat dish similar to yukhoe (… letters 3-8)] STEAK TARTARE. Karate.
- 120a. [Don’t have any effect (… letters 3-7)] MAKE NO DIFFERENCE. Kendo.
- 37d. [Portray adequately (… letters 1-4)] DO JUSTICE. Judo.
- 53d. [Hummus scoopers (… letters 2-7)] PITA CHIPS. Tai chi.
I solved this as a themeless because I didn’t think sorting out the anagrams during the solve would actually help me. But it’s a nice theme set with some surprising finds. I also learned that sumo and tai chi are considered martial arts. (Now that I think about it, why wouldn’t they be? Maybe because no one ever made an action movie where the protagonist practiced sumo or tai chi. Maybe someone should.)
There isn’t a lot of long fill aside from ANDROIDS and “GO TEAM GO!” (I had to work for that second GO), which are both nice. But the mid-length stuff has some gems, too: ORIGAMI, “YES, DEAR,” ON BOARD, CAIMANS, BED HOG, SWAHILI, and CICADA.
Clues of note:
- 11a [Jessica of “Machete”] ALBA and 78d [Elba of “Zootopia”] IDRIS. I’d like to think that if Jessica ALBA and IDRIS Elba ever got married, they’d both change their surname to Ælba.
- 28a. [“Sure, honey”]. “YES, DEAR.” Is it just me, or can you hear the sarcasm in the clue, too?
- 36a. [Maker of Stan Smith sneakers]. ADIDAS. Had to look up Stan Smith. He was a successful American tennis player in the early 70s.
- 24d. [Country with a dangerous airport near Mount Everest]. NEPAL. It’s #1 on Fodor’s Most Dangerous Airports list.
I ignored the theme during the solve, but it’s a nicely-constructed grid. 3.75 stars.
Oh, and I never figured out that last anagram. Let’s look it up…Oy, no wonder I couldn’t get it. I’ve never heard of Capoeira. Wikipedia says it’s “a Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, dance, acrobatics, music and spirituality.”
Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Paper Cut“ — Emily’s write-up
I’m covering today and very happy to do so! Clever theme with a fun grid filled with tons of bonus fill—what’s not to love?
Theme: the word “paper” is split (or cut) in each themer, each beginning with PA… and ending with …PER
- 17a. [Skydiver], PARACHUTEJUMPER
- 29a. [Wet blanket], PARTYPOOPER
- 64a. [Face consequences for wrongdoings], PAYTHEPIPER
Given the title today, I was looking for “paper” and considered a wraparound so between that hint and the cluing, PARACHUTEJUMPER plummeted into place and landed safely. PARTYPOOPER was the same, making me laugh as I typed it in. However, PAYTHEPIPER took me a bit longer, as I wanted to end the phrase with “price” but that wouldn’t fit the pattern so I relied on the crossings. Interestingly, as the pattern emerged, I wondered if the “cut” would be in different places but it remained the same throughout, which is probably the more impressive feat. Part of me wanted a fourth, just since they were so fun!
Favorite fill: SPAM, PRICEMATCH, PLENTY, and GOPHERS
Stumpers: SPEW (first tried “spit”), ERRORCODES (I always think of them as “messages” or “sites” so the second half tripped me up for a bit), and SLAP (needed crossings, as the cluing just didn’t do it for me)
Flipped between acrosses and downs to, as the first few acrosses were tougher for me and needed crossings to get a foothold but then the grid started filling in fairly quickly and I just adored all of the lengthy bonus fill and great design that allowed for it all, in addition to the fun theme and themer set. Excellent puzzle with just the right mix of challenge and delight!