Sunday, October 30, 2022

LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT 10:44 (PR!) (Nate) 


USA Today untimed(Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (norah) 


WaPo 5:56 (Matthew) 


Addison Snell’s New York Times crossword, “Sending a Message” —Nate’s write-up

So, I’ll admit that I normally grimace a bit at tribute puzzles, but I really enjoyed today’s Sunday NYT because of how multi-layered it was. The fact that the puzzle is in tribute to one of my ultimate queer icons did not hurt either (and, in fact, I PRed my solve!).

Let’s see what we have for “theme” answers:

10.30.22 Sunday New York Times Puzzle

10.30.22 Sunday New York Times Puzzle

48A: JITSU [Brazilian jiu-___]
– 55A: EASED [Gradually slid (into)]
– 64A: LOOKS [Appearance]
– 67A: EVERS [Civil rights leader Medgar]
– 69A: CLUNK [Troublesome engine sound]
– 74A: BY SEX [One way to segment demographic data]
– 84A: PINGS [Troublesome engine sound]
– 92A: AVERS [Forthrightly asserts]

Flavortext: “This completed puzzle contains a 114-Across, comprising the eight shaded answers. Put these in order, one after the other. Then, use this key to get a line spoken by 25-Across in “The 40-Across”: A = R, B = I, C = J, D = P, E = A, G = H, I = O, J = C, K = L, L = U, N = T, O = Z, P = Y, R = M, S = E, T = D, U = S, V = G, X = N, Y = K.”

Taking these seven symmetrical entries and subbing out the letters as instructed, we get:


This code-breaking meta answer is related to the other “theme” answers in this tribute puzzle:

25A: ALAN TURING [English computer scientist who pioneered the breaking of ciphers generated by the 98-Across]
– 40A: IMITATION GAME [2014 movie portraying the work of 25-Across, with “The”]
– 98A: ENGIMA MACHINE [W.W. II-era encoding device]
– 114A: CRYPTOGRAM [Sort of encoded message found in this puzzle’s grid [SEE NOTE]]

Perhaps it’s because I just finished watching the brand new CBC documentary “Across and Down” about the importance of diversity and representation in crosswords, but having this Sunday NYT puzzle celebrate one of the most important gay men in modern history make me incredibly proud. I hope you enjoyed it too, even if you didn’t get to share in that aspect.

(As a hilarious meta side note, NYT recently stopped publishing .puz versions of its puzzles so that it could focus on the cool transformations it could accomplish in its own crossword app. I really liked that solving the puzzle in the app immediately resulted in a translation of the cryptogram… but that made it tough to screen grab an image of the original (non-translated) puzzle! Just a bit too much of a good thing, I reckon.) :)

Guilherme Gilioli’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Oh, Goodie!”—Jim P’s review

Theme: The letters IE are appended to the final words in familiar phrases, changing their meanings and thus the meanings of the phrases which get crossword-wacky clues.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Oh, Goodie!” · Guilherme Gilioli · 10.30.22

  • 21a. [Space jam fan, perhaps?] ASTRONAUT FOODIE. Today I learned there’s a brand of snacks called Astronaut Foods centered around freeze-dried ice cream developed for NASA decades ago. I don’t think they make jam, though.
  • 29a. [Created a bike trick once again?] REINVENTED THE WHEELIE.
  • 48a. [Show others your closest friend?] BRING OUT THE BESTIE. The base phrase here feels like a partial without the ending “in someone.” But I’m happy to see BESTIE since I got to debut the word as an entry in the NYT back in 2014. (You’re welcome.)
  • 62a. [Result of a glow stick breaking over your little finger?] FLUORESCENT PINKIE. The clue feels a little forced, but I can’t think of anything better.
  • 81a. [Bring a stoned band helper on tour?] TAKE THE HIGH ROADIE. Best entry of the lot right here. I enjoyed the aha moment I got with this one.
  • 94a. [Politically rebellious band fan?] REVOLUTIONARY GROUPIE. Hmm. The base phrase doesn’t feel very in-the-language to me.
  • 109a. [Keeper who’s not a keeper?] SHORT-TERM GOALIE. Ha! The clue is definitely chuckle-worthy.

Kind of a mixed bag, but mostly it falls in the plus range. I like a good add-a-letter theme, and there are some real gems here.

Solid fill all around with notable highlights BRAN FLAKE and especially VAN LIFE. Nothing else shines quite as brightly as those two, but there’s nothing much to scowl about. I don’t think UNTEACH [Cause to forget, as a bad habit] is as common as “unsee,” but I think I like it.

Clues of note:

  • 24a. [Threw, as David did]. SLUNG. Biblical David, not editor David.
  • 44a. [Show with a “Mattress Store” sketch, briefly]. SNL. Welp, I thought there was only one “Mattress Store” sketch, but Monty Python’s Flying Circus didn’t fit in the grid. (It’s truly a classic, though. Definitely worth watching again.). But the SNL sketch made me LOL more than once for sure. Check it out. Some NSFW language though.
  • 44d. [Take a long, hard look at?]. STARE INTO. Not sure why there’s a question mark in the clue.

Overall, a fun theme, and smooth, solid fill. 3.75 stars.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Alternative Rock” —Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Alternative Rock,” 10/30/2022

Evan takes us to a party this weekend. The band is taking requests, and we’ve got a meta to determine who the group is.

Our title is “Alternative Rock,” and the themers are evident:

  • 23a [The band started taking requests. A fan dressed as a psychic requested “___” … ] ONE VISION
  • 25a [… a marathoner requested “___” …] THE DISTANCE
  • 45a [… an astronaut requested “___” …] MAN ON THE MOON
  • 66a [… a witch requested “___” …] JUST GOT WICKED
  • 92a [… a private eye requested “___” …] CRACK THE CASE
  • 112a [… an inmate requested “___” …] MY OWN PRISON
  • 115a [… beauty pageant contestant requested “___” …] MISS WORLD

I am not a regular meta solver, and when I volunteered to take over Evan’s puzzles, I knew I’d be in for one from time to time. To borrow a recap structure from Matt Gaffney, let’s get into it:

First insight: All of these songs are actual songs. This may not be a needed insight for you, but it was for me, as I only recognized ONE VISION and THE DISTANCE at first.

Even my novice meta brain knew at this point to learn and list the bands that recorded the theme songs (heh). In order, they’re Queen, Cake, R.E.M., Cold, Dawes, Creed, and Hole.

Second insight: Those are all relatively short, one-word band names, and there are similar-ish entries in the grid:

  • 14a [Delmar ___, director of the 1957 western “3:10 to Yuma”] DAVES, one letter off from DAWES. This was the entry that unlocked this step for me, as even during my initial solve, I wondered why DAWES, a surname I’ve seen plenty in puzzles, wasn’t used.
  • 27a [Horned beast] RAM. Pairing with R.E.M.
  • 53a [“Alien” actor Ian] HOLM. HOLE
  • 54a [Part of a Darth Vader costume] CAPE. CAKE
  • 89a [Reacted to being frightened, maybe] CRIED. CREED
  • 101a [Non-heteronormative] QUEER. QUEEN
  • 105d [Oct. 31, 1954 performer on “The Ed Sullivan Show” Nat King ___] COLE. COLD

I’ve already arranged these in grid order. Naturally the next place is to look at the changed letters, which spell VAMPIRE, and are highlighted in the solution grid above. Based on that and the meta prompt, I presumed the band is VAMPIRE WEEKEND and was happy to chalk up the “weekend” part to the fact that Halloween could be called a “Vampire Weekend,” but Evan let me know that “weekend” was supported in the puzzle, so back in.

Third insight: The changed letters from the band names (the -W- from DAWES, etc etc) also spell something.

Naturally, it’s WEEKEND, keeping the same order. My tiny meta brain exploded at this point, because I was already happy with my rationale to get to “Vampire Weekend,” and now here it is, a thousand times more elegant.

Think about it: (1) Recognizing that VAMPIRE WEEKEND is two seven-letter words and Halloween-y. Finding seven bands that (2) contain the letters of WEEKEND, (3) can each be changed by one letter such that the letters of WEEKEND are now the letters of VAMPIRE without changing the order (we might call them… “alternatives” nodding to the title), (4) are short enough to fit all seven into a puzzle, in order, and (5) have songs that fit into a typical theme set, lending themselves to the costume party conceit. And then, you know, just the rest of the puzzle.

This is lengthy, so I won’t go into notes, but appreciate the Halloween vibes Evan has throughout the puzzle even outside of the theme: candy, costumes, scary movies, etc etc. It’s plentiful without bashing me over the head.

Universal Crossword, “Themeless Sunday 14” by Rafael Musa and Michael Lieberman — norah’s write-up



Universal, 10-30-2022

Universal, 10-30-2022, Musa/Lieberman

  • ROSEWATER 13A [Flower-infused liquid used in Turkish delights]
  • INCAHOOTS 17A [Like co-conspirators]
  • WINERIES 28A [Port authorities?]
  • SNAILMAIL 60A [USPS delivery, deprecatingly]
  • ESCAPEROOM 3D [Place you enter just so you can try to leave] ⭐
  • LETDOWN 6D [___ reflex (breastfeeding trigger)]
  • MAGICEIGHTBALL 8D [Toy with an “Ask again later” answer]


WHATSNOTTOLIKE 14D [“It’s perfect, right?”] indeed! Today I especially want to celebrate the variety of perspectives shown in this puzzle. We have THEY 1A [He/___ pronouns] right off the bat, followed by PEA 19A [Mattar paneer legume], 54A EMMA [Early 20th-century activist Goldman], BAHAI 59A [Faith that prohibits gossip], LETDOWN 6D [___ reflex (breastfeeding trigger)] (I *love* seeing this clue in a puzzle that was written by two men and edited by a third – please guys, keep this up!), AOC 15D [Rep. who wore a “Tax the Rich” dress to the 2021 12-Down Gala], and ERIN 30D [Moriarty of “The Boys”].

Yesterday I mentioned that Universal is a great place for newbie constructors to start submitting due to the quick response time and effort the editing team puts into their thoughtful feedback. All four constructors this weekend are veterans displaying grids that embody the Universal themeless standard, which prioritizes cleanliness and enjoyment. Respectively, they come in at 72 and 74 words, average word length of 5.3 and 5.0, and 16% and 17.3% blocked. In both cases, (77.7%) and (78.3%) the majority of the entries are five letters or shorter. To be clear, I think this is a good thing! A themeless grid doesn’t have to meet some arbitrary definition of “ambitious” in order to provide a fun experience for the solver, or simply to be a good puzzle. Both puzzles this weekend were excellent.

Thank you Rafa and Michael!

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

Theme: Each theme answer included SELF in the middle, spanning two words.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "Inner Self" solution for 10/30/2022

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Inner Self” solution for 10/30/2022

  • 16a [“Gas for an 18-wheeler”] DIESEL FUEL
  • 26a [“Aquaculture process”] MUSSEL FARMING
  • 65a [“Auto exec born in Detroit in 1893”] EDSEL FORD

I’m a day late here, but I wanted to post something. I had a good time with this puzzle. I did not know EDESEL FORD‘s full name, so I actively used SELF to help me fill it in. DIESEL FUEL was pretty much a gimme, and then I caught MUSSEL FARMING on the crosses. I also really enjoyed SLEEP MASKS, TOLD YA, and FEEL ME, the latter two of which felt particularly fun vernacular phrases.

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30 Responses to Sunday, October 30, 2022

  1. JohnH says:

    What’s PR? Thanks.

  2. Ethan says:

    What a fun tribute to a tragic genius in the Times!

    Sadly with LGBTQ rights under violent attack in this country I worry more, especially children, will suffer Turing’s ultimately heartbreaking end.

    Get out and vote people! For those of us who fit into neither such group, let’s help ensure the safety of our queer and female friends and family in the face of outrageous efforts to take us back to the sort of culture Turing suffered under.

  3. Jen Willard says:

    For some reason it keeps saying I haven’t solved it correctly. I’ve checked against this key and all my answers match

  4. Eric H says:

    NYT: On the plus side, there’s the tribute to ALAN TURING.

    And there’s some impressive construction:

    First, find an appropriate quote that breaks into neat bits that fit the grid’s symmetry. (Trust me, that’s harder than it sounds.)

    Find a few more thematic answers that also fit symmetrically.

    Then devise a letter-substitution code for the quote that makes real words to go in the grid. (The concept only works if, for example, every E in the quote is replaced by S in the grid.)

    Then, fill the grid without too much junk.

    On the down side: It felt about as hard as a Tuesday puzzle. (No personal record for me, but kind of close.) And there’s a lot of prepositional phrases, such as 45D IN A TEXT, 74A BY SEX, and 119A BLINK AT. It seems like you can make anything fit the grid if you start throwing in prepositions.

    • Eric H says:

      Ignore what I said about the quote breaking into neat bits. The words in the quote are chopped up as necessary to fit the grid, which makes it easier to handle.

  5. BryanF says:

    Unlike Nate, I did NOT like when the NYT app immediately broke the code because I had no chance to decipher the phrase. If I had known the app would do that, I would’ve held off entering a final letter so that I could break the code on my own and get the full appreciation for the puzzle. Instead I watched the app do the cool letter decoding on its own while wishing I’d had the chance to figure it out.

    But I did also set a PR for a Sunday puzzle!

  6. Bill Harris says:

    Alan Turing was a great man. More then any one person, he helped the Allies win WWII. He also is regarded as the inventor of the computer. But he was convicted of a “crime” worse than murder: being gay. Britain forced him to have a chemical castration which led to his suicide. Shame on Britain for killing its greatest hero.

    • David L says:

      He was indeed a very important figure, but I don’t think anyone would say he invented the computer (lots of people to credit there, starting (maybe) with Babbage). But it’s fair to say he was a pioneer of computational theory — that is, the theory of what computers can and cannot be made to do.

    • Dallas says:

      I think Alan Turing is rather credited with the early developments of computational complexity. Great puzzle :-)

  7. DCBilly says:

    I got some UK currency for a recent trip and saw that Alan Turing is now pictured on the 50 pound note.

  8. JohnH says:

    The NYT got a slew of negative ratings, while the review and comments are wildly positive. Perhaps the positives are a bit overly influenced by pride in quick solutions and the negative ones by the lack of challenge. And the positives seem at times to be reviewing Turing more than the puzzle.

    But I’m guessing one or two other things are involved in the negatives. First, we’ve often had negatives in the past when online solvers need to see instructions for more (here not really necessary to solving, apart from the extra step once one’s done). Second, that extra step might seem kinda boring or mechanical. I must admit that I almost didn’t bother, intending to come here where Nate would have done it for me, but I was obsessive enough to go for it. Anyway, just speculating. I’m pretty ok with the puzzle and its ingenuity. I haven’t seen the movie, but I bet I should.

    • Doug C says:

      John, I agree completely with the observations in your first paragraph.

      I would add that, as Mr. Snell writes in his constructor’s notes (see the Xword info blog), the very point of this puzzle was to embed a cryptogram in a crossword. Some few solvers will be impressed by the construction feat itself, and a few others will be so pleased at the homage to Turing that all other considerations are secondary.

      As for the rest of us, those who are not cryptogram fans (raises hand) will dislike the constraints this hybridization places on the crossword aspect of the puzzle, resulting in some notably uninteresting fill. Crypto fans, natch, will likely enjoy this – UNLESS they solved on the NYT app, which solved the cryptogram for them!

      So this puzzle, it seems to me, has a rather small audience sweet spot: mainly those who are BOTH crypto AND crossword fans, and who did NOT solve the puzzle in the NYT app.

  9. Michael+Cornfield says:

    Everything the NYT puzzle today fails to provide –smooth and non-banal fill, a cohesive and challenging meta-level, and a Halloween theme- the WP puzzle achieves with flying orange and black colors.

    • David L says:

      Completely agree. Evan’s puzzle is consistently the best Sunday in town. I didn’t bother with the meta (I went as far as googling the band names but didn’t see anything obvious) but it was a charming puzzle with lots of good stuff.

      • marciem says:

        +1 everything you said.

        Even without doing the meta (other than googling the songs to get the band names), it was an enjoyable puzzle with cute wackiness in the clues/songs. For this one, it can’t be easy to construct a meta puzzle that even n0n-meta doers find fun. As for all other weeks, Evan’s are usually the tops too, IMO

        • Mr. [Moderately] Grumpy says:

          Ugh. Sorry to disagree with all of you. I found the search for song titles boring [but thank you for the reasonable crosses, Evan] and had absolutely no interest in the meta. I thought yesterday’s WSJ puzzle was a much better example of the VAMPIRE theme, but props to Evan for praising that one when he knew his own take was appearing today.

      • Martin says:

        The meta gave me chills, which I found appropriate for this vampire weekend. The fact that the “other” letters from the entries that mapped to the band names anagrammed to “vampire” was neat, but I’d seen that before. In fact, I thought I was done until I reread the instruction and realized I needed another word. The realization that the “other other” letters anagrammed to “weekend” was an amazaing aha moment. It’s the sort of extra layer that Evan manages to squeeze out of a theme. I really recommend trying Evan’s metas.

        • David L says:

          I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. Solving crosswords and solving metas are two different things. Just because you like one doesn’t mean you’ll like the other.

        • Martin says:

          I stand corrected: anagramming is not necessary. The letters are in order. Mind-boggling.

    • Eric H says:

      I bailed on the meta after looking up most of the band’s names. (“Man on the Moon” was the only song I knew, though I have heard of most of the bands.)

      I never had anything akin to Matthew’s “second insight” (e.g. REM/RAM), possibly because I wasn’t looking at the grid and the lists of band names at the same time. The list of songs and names didn’t suggest anything to me.

      As always, the construction feat is impressive.

  10. Eric H says:

    Universal Sunday: “Crossword wackiness” often makes me cringe, but I thought the-IE theme answers were mostly amusing. I enjoyed trying to get them with as few crosses as I could.

    Hellman’s Mayonnaise is advertised with the slogan: “Bring out the Hellman’s and bring out the best.” I remember it from 50 years ago, but it looks like they trademarked the phrase in 2021, so I guess they are still using it. Perhaps that’s what BRING OUT THE BESTIE is riffing on?

    • Mister [Not Today] Grumpy says:

      I took it as a more generic “bring out the best” in oneself, but it was one of my faves in this delightful puzzle whatever the base phrase — behind only REINVENTING THE WHEELIE and TAKING THE HIGH ROADIE.

      • Eric H says:

        I liked those three answers, too. REINVENTING THE WHEELIE gave the theme away to me early on, but I still enjoyed trying to figure out the others.

    • marciem says:

      Hellman’s on the west coast has always been Best Foods brand (they’re the same company)… the Jingle “Bring out the Best Foods and bring out the Best” works better for them than with Hellmans name, and I’d bet that’s where it started :) . (also bringing out the best [in someone/something]) .

      One of those almost too perfect jingles like Kay Jewelers “Every Kiss begins with K”(ay?)… it doesn’t get better than that, slogan-wise :) .

      • Eric H says:

        I didn’t realize Hellman’s was Best Foods further west.

        I’m not saying my suggestion for the original BESTIE phrase is necessarily correct. I offered it because Jim P seemed to find “bring out the best” (without an object) a not-in-the-language phrase.

        • marciem says:

          I think all of us at some time has heard that advertisement (Hellmans or Best Foods), so whether it is the correct inspiration for the constructor or not doesn’t matter. You’re right, without being the jingle, the phrase needs an object.

  11. SIPTB says:

    Good ole Gareth. Another LA Times Sunday with no comments. For those of us looking for analysis by an “expert solver,” Gareth’s absence Sunday after Sunday is a real drag.

    • Mark+McClain says:

      Interesting theme, but stretched a bit too much to make it a Sunday; might have been a good daily. Wasn’t helped by ERSE, SRO, AGITA, TARED, IRANI (it’s Iranian, really), PARTV. 3 stars.

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