Sunday, January 8, 2023

LAT tk(Gareth) 


NYT 15:24 (Nate) 


USA Today 5:00 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 9:20 (Jim P) 


Universal 4:59 (norah) 


WaPo a bit (Matthew) 


Wyna Liu’s New York Times crossword, “Do You Hear That?” —Nate’s write-up

01.08.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle

01.08.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle

Happy weekend! I hope 2023 has treated you well so far and that you’re settling in nicely after a busy holiday season. Today’s puzzle uses fill-in-the-blank phonetic rebus clues to get us to common words or phrases, and the letters filled into those blanks promise us a bonus answer at the end. The puzzle’s flavortext notes: “Each italicized clue contains a blank, which should be filled in with a letter of the alphabet. When completed, the letters in order will spell out a two-word phrase.” Let’s dive in!

– 26A: PRINCESS DI [Presses CTRL+P + ___ + Easter egg coloring] | “prints + S + dye”

– 28A: AU COURANT [___ + Scroungy mutt + Parent’s sister, in some regions] | “O + cur + aunt”

– 44A: EUPHORIC [___ + Golfer’s cry + “Ugh!”] | “U + fore + ick”

– 46A: ROSE GARDEN [Column crossers + Sentry + ___] | “rows + guard + N”

– 66A: CANDY CANE [French festival, familiarly + ___ + Actor Michael] | “Cannes + D + Caine”

– 70A: ALL ACCESS [Punching tool + Chopping tool + ___] | “awl + axe + S”

– 90A: NON-APOLOGY [Tandoor bread + Harlem music venue + ___] | “naan + Apollo + G”

– 93A: AUTO-FILL [Word of obligation + ___ + Punxsutawney name] | “ought + O + Phil”

– 107A: TAE KWON DO [Rug rat + Magic stick + ___] | “tyke + wand + O”

– 110A: GOLDILOCKS [Soccer score + ___ + Scottish inlets] | “go(a)l + D + lochs”

The extra letters in the italicized clues, in order, spell out SOUNDS GOOD. Sounds good to me!

Once I figured out how the themers in this puzzle worked, it wasn’t so hard to solve them, but I’ll admit to having trouble getting traction across the puzzle. It felt like there was a higher proportion of crosswordese (OHO, AEIOU, EDER, CAREW, EMER, HIE, CLE, EES) than I’ve been used to in their Sunday puzzles of late, possible because the ambitious theme made use of so many themers that had to go in a very specific, symmetrical order. Or maybe enough of the clues just weren’t on my wavelength? One big positive that I’ll give this puzzle is that I’m notoriously awful with phonetics (see any homophone clues I try to write in any of my cryptics), but the phonetics of these clues and answers felt unimpeachable to me, which is no easy feat. I also loved the clue [Path covered with diamonds] for CARPOOL LANE. Nice!

Okay, gotta run, but let us know what you thought in the comments section. Have a great week!

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Rhyme Time”—Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Rhyme Time,” 1/8/2023

I’m going to have to come back later in the day to complete a full recap, but for now: we’ve got mirror symmetry, theme content in both down and across entries — rhyming phrases in which the last word of the phrase is a unit of time, and the revealer NEITHER RHYME NOR REASON clued to the fact that apparently nothing rhymes with “month.” Not the first time I’ve learned a word has no rhyme from a puzzle. Back later with more!



Universal Crossword, “Themeless Sunday 23” by Adrian Johnson and Rafael Musa — norah’s write-up



Universal, A. Johnson/R. Musa, 1-8-23

Universal, A. Johnson/R. Musa, 1-8-23

  • STAYATHOMEDAD 8D [Pop in during the day?] ⭐
    Occasion for putting two and two together?]
  • NOTTODAYSATAN 17D [“Devilish” Bianca Del Rio quote about making it through to tomorrow]
  • NAILBITER 34D [Really close game, say]
  • PLESSY 43D [Plaintiff in an 1892 civil rights case]


The highlights of this puzzle are certainly the 13- and 10-letter long down entries, all with spot-on cluing. But it’s also fun and fresh all over with the clues for shorter fill like SIR, PRIED, EMO, YACHT, HBO.
I say “trip-O-meter” — am I alone??
I put on NEW Romantics (62D [“___ Romantics” (Taylor Swift song)]) while writing this up.

I learned:

SAL (48A [Impractical Joker Vulcano]): He is a member of comedy troupe The Tenderloins. They star in the television series Impractical Jokers, which first aired on December 15, 2011, on TruTV.

Thanks Adrian and Rafa!

Morton J. Mendelson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Word Gets Around”—Jim P’s review

Theme: The letters in the word WORD are found in familiar phrases (not necessarily in that order), but two of the letters must be taken from the entry either above or below.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Word Gets Around” · Morton J. Mendelson · 1.8.23

  • 23a. [*Shocking (Hint: Each starred clue’s answer includes two neighboring letters)] JAW-(DR)OPPING.
  • 25a. [*Well-trained employee] SKILLED (WO)RKER.
  • 46a. [*Group of regular revelers] PARTY CR(OW)D.
  • 48a. [*Scottish tradition involving a blade] SW(OR)D DANCING.
  • 86a. [*On the same page as] IN ACCO(RD) WITH.
  • 88a. [*Winter cousins of sand dunes] SNO(W D)RIFTS.
  • 111a. [*What an area rug may cover] HAR(DW)OOD FLOOR.
  • 113a. [*Is up for lying down] FEELS D(RO)WSY.

This was nicely done. It didn’t take long to get the gist of what was going on, but since there’s a good variety of phrases and since the order of the letters isn’t the same in each case, it holds the solver’s interest all the way to the end. The title makes a good basis for the theme, and even though the letters aren’t technically in a circle, the act of dipping down or popping up to get those extra letters makes it feel a little bit like they are.

The one thing that threw me was having to go up to get the needed letters in the fourth entry after having gone down in the first three. It took me an extra beat to realize that LOW-DRES wasn’t a thing and that the theme answer was the one below it (marked with an asterisk, duh). In the end, since there are four entries that go up and four that go down, the theme felt nicely balanced even though it didn’t seem that way at the start.

Fill isn’t especially sparkly, probably due to the fact there are eight theme entries with additional constraints on the words above or below each one. But it’s plenty solid and there are some standouts like OLD WEST, “GET TO IT!,” ICE BOAT, ANDROIDS, and LUSTROUS.

Clues of note:

  • 61a. [Fraction of a square mile]. ACRE. Had to look it up, but 1/640 to be exact.
  • 10d. [Stamps’ first targets]. INKPADS. Meh. “Target” doesn’t feel like the right word here.

Good puzzle. Four stars.

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

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer spells out RATE downward in between two words.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "Downrate" solution for 1/8/2022

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Downrate” solution for 1/8/2022

  • 3d [“They’re ‘X’-perts”] ALGEBRA TEACHER
  • 5d [“‘Love Songs’ poet”] SARA TEASDALE
  • 36d [“Northern Indian beverage”] KANGRA TEA

I love the variety in these three themers, particularly the pun in ALGEBRA TEACHER, which also paired well with 19d [“Intro-level material”] BASICS. I also admire the specificity of SARA TEASDALE, whose poems you can find here. Living in St. Louis (and being obsessed with local history), her name is impossible to miss, so this was a fun bonus for me. I was unfamiliar with KANGRA TEA, so I caught that almost all on the crosses, save for the TEA at the end.

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Not thinking of LOAF immediately for 9d [“Amount of ciabatta”] and my unawareness of 16a [“Photographer Geddes”] ANNE, the NE corner came more slowly for me. RED CABBAGE, EYE SORES, and HERE’S A TIP made for a solid fill as well. It was nice to get these longer answers in addition to the three different-sized themers themselves.

Other fave fill: CUKES, 27d [“Part of a bowling score sheet”] FRAMES, and BRR.

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22 Responses to Sunday, January 8, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: I’d like say that I used the missing letters in the theme clues to figure out the theme answers, but I probably got half the theme answers by filling in enough letters with crosses that the theme answers were obvious. (Lately, I’ve been filling in grids by frequently changing directions, working off what I have, rather than trying to get all the across answers before starting on the downs.)

    Still: The concept is really clever and seems like something I haven’t seen before. I had fun solving the puzzle.

    In addition to the clue for CARPOOL LANE, I liked the ones for BONSAI TREE, TROPHY and AEIOU.

    And Today I Learned that “loch” means “inlet” as well as “lake.” I’m a bit surprised that I hadn’t encountered that before, but maybe I did and forgot it.

    • pannonica says:

      Weaving is definitely a more efficient solving approach.

      • Me says:

        Weaving is definitely faster IF you are good at it. I do the Bosword online tournaments, and I’ve noticed that almost all of the “featured solvers,” who show their pre-taped filling in of their puzzle followed by an interview, use the weaving. And of course all of the ACPT finalists use it.

        I’ve tried doing it a few times but I find I spend too much time trying to finish a quadrant when I don’t have enough to go on, and my times for weaving are actually slower than when I use the all-across-then-all-down traditional method. If I practiced it more, I would have a better sense of that and I’m sure I’d get better, but I’m solidly middle-of-the-pack in terms of solving time, and I’m not suddenly going to jump to competitive times if I change. And focusing on solving times would probably make the puzzle solving less fun for me. So the leisurely traditional method is what works for me, for right now!

        I’m in a bit of similar situation with Wordle. I’ve been looking at improving my Wordlebot scores, and my average number of guesses has gone down, but it’s starting to feel goal-focused rather than fun. I think after I hit my next hundred streak, I’m going to go back to not caring how many guesses I’m using.

        Is there a way I can reset my NYT crossword or Wordle statistics?

        • Dallas says:

          I was curious about this too; I would’ve liked to reset my crossword streak on new year’s day as I’m planning to go for 365 days this year…

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I’ve always been a weaver by nature, but I occasionally try to solve easy puzzles using mostly across or mostly down clues. I didn’t realize that some people think of all acrosses then all downs as the “traditional method”, as ‘Me’ suggests. Is that the way folks here generally solve?

      • Gary R says:

        I usually go through the top 1/4 – 1/3 of the puzzle focusing on across clues, with an occasional peek at a down clue (especially if I’m wavering between two answers for an across). Then, I go back and start looking at down clues in the same part of the puzzle, to see if I can fill stuff I couldn’t get. Work my way down in chunks that way.

        I’m never too concerned about speed, but this approach seems to work pretty well for me.

      • Me says:

        Because all the across clues come first, then all the down clues, I always did my first pass at a crossword by going through the list of clues in order before I became a more “serious” crossword solver. sanfranman59 brings up an interesting point I never thought of before, which is whether my approach is typical. I have no idea, although I’ve never seen any “civilian” do it any other way (admittedly my universe of non-serious crossword solvers whom I’ve observed directly solve a puzzle is very small).

  2. Gary R says:

    NYT: Pretty good Sunday when the theme is interesting enough to keep me from bailing out halfway through. Unfortunately, I finished with an error.

    My downfall was the crossing of 19-A and 3-D. I’m somewhat familiar with Rihanna and like some of her music. After listening, I realize I’ve heard the song before, but didn’t know the title or artist. Also didn’t know her fans call her RiRi. I know of Lil Wayne, but don’t know his music. After having AcrossLite show me my error, the RiRi part was inferable, but I still don’t know how to parse AMILLI. I had tried “Am All I” – not very grammatical, but seemed like a possibility.

    That one seems to tiptoe right up to the “unfair” line.

    • Doug C says:

      I knew RIRI only from previous puzzles, so that got me to the unknown AMILLI. Then, thinking to expand my pop culture IQ, I looked up the lyrics to the latter. Discovered that the clue should have read “Li’l Wayne song that glorifies unfettered greed, violence, misogyny and vulgarity.” Definitely did NOT pass the breakfast test. I’m hoping not to see this artist mentioned in the NYT again, except perhaps in an investigative series on the alarming decline of Western civilization.

  3. JohnH says:

    Clever theme, and nice that getting it took steps: yes, they’re sound-alikes; oh, that odd underscore is a blank to fill with a letter; and the letters spelled out something appropriate. (Well, absent a revealer, the last step was obvious in coming, but one still had to work it through to find the “something.”) A nice touch of constructor obsession that a couple of other entries played with letters, such as AEIOU.

    I’d agree that puns are asking to run up against different ears, but surely AU COURANT contains a French vowel sound not quite like English COO, not the “cuh” in “cur.” A pity Coors doesn’t exist in Singular. I’m still puzzling over that clue anyway: since when is “aunt” a regionalism? It had me looking for something slangy like “auntie” or “nan,” although the latter is a (crossword-friendly) European grandmother. I guess CANNES isn’t quite the full name, but surely close enough without “familiarly.”

    The rest of the fill, well, ok. RIR / AMILLI was a not finished for me. (Grr.) The road clues (diamonds, ALL ACCESS) aren’t in my NYC nondriver realm, BONSAI TREE and it’s punning clue are unusual for me but well worth knowing, I’d forgotten ECTOMOBILE, and I was hoping it was crossing YELP, not WELP, but Y was clearly wrong. I’ve no idea what “landlords of New York” means. Overall: nice theme awkwardly carried out, at best average puzzle.

    • Jenni says:

      The Astors are a very wealthy old-money New York family who used to own a great deal of real estate in Manhattan. I hadn’t heard the term before – figured it out as soon as I had a couple of letters because I’m familiar with the family.

    • pannonica says:

      ‘Aunt’ rhyming with ant rather than the first syllable of onto is a regionalism. It’s my pronunciation as well.

      • Gary R says:

        A number of on-line sources (none of which I would describe as unimpeachable) indicate that “ant” is the common pronunciation in the U.S., and describe the pronunciation used in the clue/answer as “northeastern.”

        I grew up in rural Wisconsin, and it was always “ant.” I would occasionally hear it pronounced the other way (usually on TV). When I went away to college, I became convinced it wasn’t just a ruralism – plenty of friends from Chicago or the Twin Cities who pronounced it like I did. I had a friend/roommate who was from New Jersey, and his aunt didn’t rhyme with mine. So, based on a very small sample, “northeastern” seems plausible to me.

      • JohnH says:

        Oh, I see. They mean the pronunciation, not the word. I wasn’t thinking that way anyhow since I’d already decided I couldn’t figure out their ear for things. Given “cur” for “coor,” for all I knew they ended the phrase (for which the T should be silent anyway!) sounding like “ant.”

        I knew John Jacob Astor, so no doubt I should have guessed that the family was associated with real estate, too.

      • Doug C says:

        I could not, for the life of me, figure out what an “ocher ant” was. Eventually got it only from the crosses.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        I’ve been a split personality over the course of my life in my pronunciation of ‘aunt’. I spent my first 22 years in Ohio and only ever heard it pronounced the same way I do the word ‘ant’. Then, I moved to Connecticut, then metro Boston, then Northern Virginia, then San Francisco and in all of those places, most people pronounce it the other way and I adopted it (I’ve followed a similar path with pop and soda). In addition to the peer pressure, I decided that it makes no sense to pronounce ‘au’ as a soft ‘a’. Now that I’m back living in Ohio again, I don’t know what the heck to do. I think I always stumble over that word now and mostly try to just avoid using it when speaking.

  4. Jenni says:

    I know RiRi thanks to my kid, who is very much hoping that Rihanna’s Super Bowl appearance means new music is in the offing. I really enjoyed today’s puzzle. The dead-tree edition didn’t include the hint, so I had the fun of figuring it out on my own. Very satisfying.

    It never occurred to me that CAREW is crosswordese. To me, “crosswordese” means something that I never see outside of crosswords – an obscure word or name. Rod CAREW was one of the best hitters in the game. I realize I’m a bit of a baseball geek, and I’m old enough to remember when he played so I suppose crosswordese is in the eye of the beholder.

  5. pannonica says:

    HEADS-UP: If you’re doing the variety offering in the NYT today, be aware that there’s a typographical error in the second Building Blocks puzzle. The triad in the second row should read MAR, not MSR.

  6. David L says:

    NYT: I had to think twice about some of the themers, in part because of my British-tinged pronunciation, even after all these years. Neither ‘cur’ nor ‘aunt’ rhyme with the respective syllables of ‘courant’, and ‘naan’ and ‘non’ have completely different vowels. But I realize these are rhymes for at least some USians.

    Nice puzzle, definitely harder for me than the typical Sunday.

  7. Dallas says:

    Pretty fun Sunday; I really liked BONSAI TREE, and ended up watching a short video about how to do it with the 7 yo after talking him through the clue.

    The Super Mega NYT contest is finished as of last night; I was curious if there might be a separate post about it? I realize it wasn’t straightforwardly available in an electronic format, but I assume there are some readers here who worked it over the holidays and might want to chat about it? Or is it too far past?

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