Sunday, January 22, 2023

LAT untimed (Gareth) 


NYT 12:56 (Nate) 


USA Today 4:26 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 5:48 (Matthew) 


Garrett Chalfin’s New York Times crossword, “With Ease” —Nate’s write-up

Hi all! Quick write-up today, as the weekend is never enough time to do everything the workweek won’t allow. I hope you’re all well!

01.21.23 New York Times Crossword Puzzle

01.21.23 New York Times Crossword Puzzle

– 23A: CHILI FACTORY [Kitchen at a barbecue restaurant?] – Chill factor

– 28A: HIPPIE BOOTY [Result of a 1960s Haight-Ashbury shopping spree?] – Hip boot

– 38A: POINTY OUTIE [Highly visible belly button?] – Point out

– 48A: NOSY BESTIE [Good friend who won’t stop snooping?] – Knows best

– 66A: SWEETIE TREATY [Prenuptial agreement?] – Sweet treat

– 85A: WHINY STORY [Long anecdote from a complainer?] – Wine store

– 91A: CRAFTY FAIRY [Tinker Bell or Puck?] – Craft fair

– 104A: PHONY BOOKIE [Bad person for a gambler to make bets with?] – Phone book

– 110A: TESTY GROUPIE [Acolyte with a bad temper?] – Test group

Each themer is a base phrase with the “E” sound added to the end of each word. My favorite was perhaps the first one, CHILI FACTORY (especially since it crossed TLC, who’s C member was named Chilli). I would have wanted a bit more of a transformation in some of the themers between the base phrase and themer, but the puzzle is overall quite impressive for a constructor who is still in high school. Bravo, indeed!

New to me: FANTODS [State of uneasiness, informally] at 93D. I had to look that one up after staring at it for a while trying to make sense of it!

Ok, off for now. Let us know what you thought in the comments section – and have a great Sunday!

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Goes to the Art Museum” —Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Goes to the Art Museum” solution, 1/22/2023

Evan’s email to me providing the puzzle this week said only “He’s back.” I’m a fan of Evan’s Captain Obvious themes, which repurpose common phrases with Merl Reagle-esque charm. It’s a nice change of pace from wordplay themes.

  • 23a [“____? Then it wasn’t photographed”] OUT OF THE PICTURE
  • 37a [“____? That’s when an artist is facing away from a drafting table”] BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
  • 56a [“____? A celebrity painter must have used it”] BRUSH WITH FAME
  • 68a [“____? That’s what holds a painting in your imagination”] FRAME OF MIND
  • 78a [“____? That’s where scoundrels can view works of art”] ROGUES GALLERY
  • 96a [“____? Then you’d be setting fire to that painting at 12 a.m.”] BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL
  • 116a [“____? Then we won’t find any wall-mounted sculptures here”] NO RELIEF IN SIGHT

A pleasant trip through the grid — the center area is a little kludgier with short stuff as the middle three themers are only separated by a single row, so we find more open areas in the corners. EMAIL SCAM, SEXPERT, and A MIGHTY WIND are particular highlights in the fill.


  • 9a [Small bit of color] FLECK. A perfectly cromulent clue, but I’ll note I’ve seen the banjo virtuoso in clues for BELA a whole bunch lately and rarely for FLECK.
  • 19a [Exchange words] CHAT. I could not get my brain to parse “exchange” as a verb, instead of a noun! Sometimes there is no misdirection.
  • 63a [Raw food recipe cookbook author Phyo] ANI. Phyo is new to me, but has quite a presence, and a welcome cluing angle versus the bird. Incorporating more raw food meals (read: vegetables) into my life  seems like not a bad idea, either.
  • 83a [J.R.R. Tolkien characters?] PERIODS. This approach with punctuation in Tolkien’s name has gotten me from time to time over the years, but I hadn’t seen it in a while before today.
  • 25a [Discontinued Apple products as of 2022] IPODS. This is a common clue lately, and every time I fill in IPADS first, think “that can’t be right,” wonder if I’ve missed a news item, and then feel silly. Maybe next time.
  • 110d [Number of pitches in an immaculate inning] NINE. This may be more unfamiliar to non-sports fans than many sports angles in puzzles. An “immaculate inning” in baseball is one in which a pitcher strikes out three batters with the minimal number of pitches: nine. Of course, a half-inning could be completed in only three pitches, but for some reason strikeouts are held in higher regard.
  • 111d [“Young Frankenstein” character analogous to the “Frankenstein” character Fritz] IGOR. 1) Young Frankenstein is one of my favorite comedic films ever, but I haven’t seen it in a while, and given how poorly other Mel Brooks works have aged, I’m unsure what I’ll find when I do. 2) It’s been even longer since I last read Frankenstein, and I’m a little abashed to realize that IGOR in this stereotype doesn’t come directly from the Shelley work.

Seth Bisen-Hersh’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Change the Game”—Jim P’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases with circled letters that are anagrams of well-known games.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Change the Game” · Seth Bisen-Hersh · 1.22.23

  • 23a. [Luxury wallet items (The circled letters anagram to a “brain” game)] PLATINUM CARDS. Cranium. I’m not sure how familiar people are with this game, but when my kids were younger we had good family fun with it.
  • 34a. [Uncredited author (… “left foot green” game)] GHOST WRITER. Twister.
  • 50a. [“You all think you’re sooo funny!” (… word association game)] “EVERYONE’S A COMEDIAN.” Codenames. It’s apt that I couldn’t figure out this anagram without looking it up. It’s ironic that I couldn’t because we just got it for our household this Christmas (though we haven’t played it yet).
  • 69a. [Mocking song from “Grease” (… decryption game)] “LOOK AT ME, I’M SANDRA DEE.” Mastermind. Wow! What a find!
  • 84a. [Makes an extreme effort (… battlefield game)] GOES TO GREAT LENGTHS. Stratego.
  • 103a. [“Paper Roses” singer (… tile-matching game)] MARIE OSMOND. Dominoes. Couldn’t get mah-jongg out of my head for this one, so I needed to look up the anagram post-solve.
  • 120a. [“Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions” author (… solo card game)] GLORIA STEINEM. Solitaire.

Some very impressive anagrams here. That said, when an anagram gets to be 8, 9, or 10 letters long, chances are I’m not going to recognize it. Thus, the theme was of limited help in actually filling out the grid. Fun theme answers, though.

I also like the variety of games with some being traditional, some being newer, some party games, and some board games.

The fill is strong with highlights “HEY MOM!,” “OH RATS!,” LUCY LIU, and the BEE GEES.

Clues of note:

  • 9a. [Nice way to refer to oneself?]. MOI. Nice, as in the French city.
  • 116a. [“Whatever” gesture]. SHRUG. We also would have accepted [¯\_(ツ)_/¯].
  • 33d. [“Oops, my bad!”]. SORRY. Just noticed this popular game snuck into the grid on its own.
  • 49d. [Grounds keepers?]. FILTERS. Good clue. No idea why I went with FOLGERS at first.
  • 105d. [Comedian Gervais]. RICKY. We also would have accepted [Comedian and famous 25-Across Gervais]. (With 25a being ATHEIST.)

Nicely constructed puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Alan Massengill & Doug Peterson’s LA Times crossword, “Play It Again” – Gareth’s summary

LA Times 230122

Alan Massengill & Doug Peterson’s puzzle, “Play It Again” is really clever! It features pairs of song titles, one in the clue, one in the answer, that are synonymous. So:

  • [Lizzo “remake” of the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine”?], GOODASHELL
  • [Dua Lipa “remake” of Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine”?], LEVITATING
  • [Taylor Swift “remake” of the Eagles’ “Take It Easy”?], YOUNEEDTOCALMDOWN
  • [Marvin Gaye “remake” of Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”?], LETSGETITON
    [Steve Miller Band “remake” of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You”?], ABRACADABRA
  • [Jay-Z/Alicia Keys “remake” of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”?], EMPIRESTATEOFMIND
  • [Ed Sheeran “remake” of the Rays’ “Silhouettes”?], SHAPEOFYOU
  • [Lady Gaga “remake” of the J. Geils Band’s “Love Stinks”?], BADROMANCE

Other interesting answers:

  • [Wimbledon surface], RYEGRASS. Mostly know it as fodder.
  • [Teen sensation, perhaps], ANGST. Succinct, the best kind of clue misdirection.
  • [Place for a pawdicure], PETSPA. Never heard of that, but we have grooming parlours here not PETSPAs…
  • [1941 Bogart role], SAMSPADE. Not many characters you can just drop full name-style like that!
  • [Group pic], WEFIE. Isn’t that just most selfies anyway?


Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Year of the Rabbit” —Darby’s write-up

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: The first word of every theme answer can precede RABBIT.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "Year of the Rabbit" solution for 1/22/2023

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Year of the Rabbit” solution for 1/22/2023

  • 17a [“Toy in an egg”] SILLY PUTTY
  • 64a [“Sound in some sleep apps”] WHITE NOISE
  • 10d [ “‘Message received’”] ROGER THAT
  • 35d [“Song recorded by Audrey Hepburn and Frank Ocean”] MOON RIVER

Obviously appropriate for the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit today, this puzzle was really fun. I love the combination of Across and Down answers here. It was really easy to discern the theme once I filled in SILLY PUTTY, but it didn’t change much about my solve. I needed crosses to get MOON RIVER, but the others fell into place pretty quickly. I really like ROGER THAT, but the fun “oh!” I had on SILLY PUTTY was my favourite part of the puzzle.

The downside to doing a combo of Across and Down themers here was my confusion with 41d [“‘Hold on…you’re serious?!’”] WAIT WHAT, which, only one letter shorter than MOON RIVER, almost felt like it should fit in. However, it was also clearly not a rule of rabbit.

Otherwise, I had a pretty smooth solve. I love that we’re never going to let 14a [“Disney princess who combs her hair with a fork”] ARIEL live it down. I also really enjoyed LET ME SEE and IN A SEC. The middle of the grid made me hungry, with its LEMONS, 40a [“Like tong sui”] SWEET, and 47a [“Kyaraben, for example”] BENTO. It also enjoyed where FEEDS and EATS crossed in the SE corner.

Other fave fill included OUIJA, TIRADE, and LAMAS.

Have a great week!

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12 Responses to Sunday, January 22, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Nice!
    I had a hard time getting a foothold in the NW and had to do the rest of the puzzle and then back into it. I guess CHILI does not have an obvious association with barbecue for me. I mean I know you eat chili at BBQs but when I hear BBQ I don’t think of it. I obviously need to work on my BBQ knowhow.
    But POINTY OUTIE made me laugh out loud (rare for me on a Sunday) and I liked SWEETIE TREATY– so much better than a prenup!
    And wow, FANTODS– I had nooo idea… fun to learn a new word.
    Well done!

    • PJ says:

      I’m a big fan of chili and barbecue. I don’t see an association between the two. BBQ and Brunswick Stew? Yes, please.

    • JohnH says:

      Pretty much my experience, too. The corner came awfully hard in part because I don’t think of BBQ as including CHILI. After all, you don’t cook it by BBQing it, and BBQ restaurants don’t necessarily or even often carry it.

      Didn’t help that up there one song crosses another, and I’m so out of touch that “chill factor” is new to me. I, too, was new to FANTOD, and my other tough spot was the proximity of ISLA and LAHIRI. Makes you dependent on knowing Turkey’s money from crosswordese rather than life.

      Still, I got a smile out of the theme, so I’d call this a pretty OK Sunday.

      • JohnH says:

        Oh, I neglected to mention and making the NW harder still the clue for WILD GINGER, a new term to me. Looking up the clue and answer separately, a dictionary I used and Wiki have both, but their entries never mention one another, and they appear to be different genus and species as well. Hmmm . . .

        I keep thinking that some routine editorial clean-up could have helped with all these spots, leaving a very nice puzzle.

    • pannonica says:

      Possibly chili rub? But that doesn’t really fit the clue’s wording.

    • marciem says:

      Better clue for that chili one… maybe “cook-off kitchen” (too obvious?). BBQ just doesn’t speak chili to me or most of us, it seems.

      Never heard of the fantods either. New words always welcome :) . (except for 1 I learned yesterday that I can’t unsee :( )

      Fun puzzle overall.

      Also love Captain Obvious in the WaPo, and he didn’t disappoint :D .

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: I struggled to get anything to work in the NW, though several of my initial guesses turned out to be correct. I don’t usually have a problem with pop culture clues, but that had three 1990s pop music answers that are at all familiar. It’s not as if I lived under a rock then but I have no idea what Prince song 24D refers to. I wouldn’t recognize a song by TLC or En Vogue, though I’ve heard of both.

    Other than that corner, I went through at a decent pace. The theme struck me as something from a 1990’s NYT puzzle, and none of the theme answers amused me much. (Maybe I’d have found POINTY OUTIE funnier if I hadn’t spent so much time getting that corner to work.)

  3. Philippe says:

    WaPo: captain obvious is back! Thanks Evan

  4. David L says:

    WaPo: “Raw food recipe cookbook author Phyo” ANI – hey, if you’re using raw foods you don’t need to cook them, amirite?

    NYT: Didn’t really tickle my ribs, but decent Sunday puzzle. A couple of clues struck me as a little odd. “It’s in your blood” for GENE — strangely specific. “SETI subjects” for UFOS — I don’t think SETI scientists spend a whole lot of time on anecdotal reports of weird sightings in the sky.

    On other hand, I knew FANTODS, although I can’t think from where. Often prefaced with ‘screaming.’

    • JohnH says:

      Those clues had me doing a double-take, too, but I think they’re legit. Genes as specifically in the blood? A little weird, but it works, doubly so as “in the blood” in ordinary usage means stuff that just comes from your inheritance. And while UFOs are hardly the focus of SETI (and indeed really just plain garbage), they’d have to have come from somewhere, so how about a planet with the remainder of that ETI? So I’d cut them a break. Maybe it’s even clever.

  5. Eric H says:

    Universal Sunday: “Theme answers are familiar phrases with circled letters that are anagrams of well-known games.’

    The circled letters aren’t anagrams as I understand that term. They’re merely rearrangements of the letters that make up the names of some well-known games. INUMCAR is not an anagram of “cranium”; it’s gobbledygook that contains the same letters.

    If they had truly been anagrams, the theme might have helped me solve the puzzle. Once anagrams get to seven or eight letters long, it’s hard enough for me to figure them out even when they are actual words. Fortunately, most of the answers that contain the “anagrams” were easy to get on their own.

  6. John Malcolm says:

    LAT — I suppose there must come a time when crosswords move on to younger generations, but they do so at risk of losing their Boomer patrons, many of whom find contemporary song titles and performer names baffling.

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