Sunday, February 19, 2023

LAT tk (Gareth) 


NYT 11:33 (Nate) 


USA Today 3:51 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 4:52 (Matthew) 


Rebecca Goldstein’s New York Times crossword, “Simile Irresistible” —Nate’s write-up

02.19.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

02.19.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 32A: GREEN AS GRASS [Photosynthesize?]
– 48A: SOUND AS A BELL [Peal?]
– 65A: PRETTY AS A PICTURE [Photoshop?]
– 83A: SMART AS A WHIP [Sting?]
– 97A: SMOOTH AS SILK [Iron?]
– 112A: PLEASED AS PUNCH [Quenched?]

This was a fun theme that I’m having a tough time putting into words. I think the easiest way to describe it is to replace “as” in each of the similes with “, like” and consider the first word in each simile as a verb. Smart (hurt), like a whip = sting. (Make) pretty, like a picture = Photoshop. Etc. It took me an extra beat to figure out the first one, but I think that to bus (act as a waiter) is to clear things (like crystal) from a table. Clever! I really enjoyed these reimaginings and the consistency with which the theme was executed.

I also really enjoyed how smooth this puzzle felt! It was a quick solve for me for sure – the bottom half felt a bit tougher than the top half, but it was quite the motivating Sunday puzzle to work through.

Random thoughts:
1A: NEON [Gas light] – What a fantastic clue and a great way to start the puzzle!
39D: ANECDATA [Evidence derived from personal experience and observation rather than systematic research and analysis] – What a fun debut entry!
– There were so many other bonus entries too that made the puzzle feel modern and extra fun, including CHIA OBAMA, LABOR OF LOVE, AND THEN, PARTY POOPER, HOTPOT, and TEMPT FATE.

Overall, I really enjoyed this puzzle! Let us know what you thought in the comments – and have a nice weekend!

Amie Walker’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Doctor’s Orders”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Popular songs are listed as if they were requested by certain medical professionals—presumably while performing a procedure or examination(?). The revealer is MEDICAL STANDARD (66a, [Health care guideline, or each starred clue’s answer?]). I don’t know that each of these songs qualifies as a standard, but if you define it loosely to simply mean “song,” it works. Besides, the theme is fun, and that’s what counts.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Doctor’s Orders” · Amie Walker · 2.19.23

  • 27a. [Cardiologist’s song request? (Demi Lovato, 2011)] GIVE YOUR HEART A BREAK.
  • 43a. [E.R. physician’s song request? (The Fray, 2005)] HOW TO SAVE A LIFE.
  • 48a. [With 96-Across, OB-GYN’s song request? (The Eagles, 1976)] NEW KID / IN TOWN. I was totally expecting a song title with “baby” in it, so this was a surprise. A good one, though, ‘cuz it gave me a chuckle.
  • 58a. [Ophthalmologist’s song request? (The Weeknd, 2020)] IN YOUR EYES. I’m old, so this title gives me the earworm for the Peter Gabriel song.
  • 83a. [Endocrinologist’s song request? (The Archies, 1969)] SUGAR SUGAR. I’m dumb when it comes to medical stuff (thankfully my wife’s a doctor), so I didn’t know an endocrinologist deals with diabetes among other things.
  • 99a. [Surgeon’s song request? (Bryan Adams, 1983)] CUTS LIKE A KNIFE.
  • 114a. [Anesthesiologist’s song request? (LL Cool J, 1990)] MAMA SAID KNOCK YOU OUT. This one made me LOL when I sussed it out. I wonder if it was the seed entry. I like the idea that Mama is directing the surgery and giving orders to the anesthesiologist. You go, Mama!

It’s nice that there’s a mix of release dates here so that there’s something for almost everyone to recognize. And for my money, going out with a laugh is always the best way to go.

Elsewhere, we get to enjoy some nice long fill in BUG REPORT, RETRO CHICVEGGIE WRAP, “STRIKE THAT,” “I’LL BITE,” TARHEELS, ESTROGEN, “NO JOKE,” and “OK, BYE.”

Also, OBVI. I think I like “obvs” better than OBVI but maybe OBVI works better within a sentence, whereas “obvs” works better at the beginning or end of a sentence as a point of emphasis, obvs.

If you haven’t read the recent interview with Will Shortz yet, check it out. (See Friday’s post for the link.) I bring it up here because two entries in this puzzle were commented on in that interview: RUR and ARO. I wonder if Will saw this puzzle at some point.

Clues of note:

  • 23a. [Apt bit of feedback for a web developer?]. BUG REPORT. Being a long entry early in the puzzle, I though this was thematic. It turned out not to be, but I enjoyed the clue. Works for both a coder and a spider.
  • 84d. [Not interested in finding love, briefly]. ARO. In the interview, Will says this term was new to him, but he’s willing to use it with this angle. However, he said it was hard to clue without using the word “romantic.” This one works fine, IMO. (Another word he mentions is ACE, being short for “asexual,” which is also in this grid but not clued that way. Both abbreviations are great examples of how language changes over time.)

Fun puzzle with an enjoyable theme and mostly smooth fill. Four stars.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Character Development”—Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Character Development,” 2/19/2023

In addition to the title, our revealer references “character development:” [Cartoon detective agency featuring this puzzle’s “developing” characters] RESCUE RANGERS.

Eight themers build up the names of the Rescue Rangers: “Chip” and “Dale:”

  • 22a [*Former alias of the rapper Sean Combs] P DIDDY
  • 23a [**Quarter note?] E PLURIBUS UNUM
  • 44a [*Codes assigned to devices on a network] IP ADDRESS
  • 47a [**Communist party official of declined a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973] LE DUC THO
  • 60a [*Pelvic injury] HIP POINTER
  • 76a [**Business that specializes in a certain type of beer] ALE BREWERY
  • 92a [*Lofted approach in golf] CHIP SHOT
  • 94a [**Creator of the comic strip “Brenda Starr, Reporter”] DALE MESSICK

And (surprise) there’s a second revealer, as well: [Company that created the characters who develop at the starts of the starred and double-starred entries] DISNEY.

A fun mix of in-language material for the theme, IMO. I needed crossings to get DALE MESSICK, but I’m familiar with Brenda Starr, Reporter, at least. After last week’s multi-step meta, I don’t mind this gentler theme from Evan. Unfortunately for me, Rescue Rangers was a bit before my time, so while I know it’s a thing, no blast of nostalgia here. I’m even surprised to learn there was a film adaptation made in the last few years.


  • 20a [Frou Frou musician ____ Heap] IMOGEN. I’m sure I’m not the only one who learned of IMOGEN Heap from that viral scene in The OC (later parodied on SNL, and I’m sure elsewhere). Calls to mind a feat of constructing from Will Nediger on his own blog a few weeks back.
  • 31a [Inbox ___ (strategy for managing one’s unread email)] ZERO. I do not practice Inbox Zero. It doesn’t help that nowadays maybe one in 10 emails is even worth reading, and maybe only half those require a response?
  • 49a [“Wednesday” actress Christina] RICCI. Ricci of course played Wednesday herself in the early-90s Addams Family films. The Netflix show got plenty of buzz — while I’m not much for horror I loved all the trope-y-ness and callbacks to previous Addams Family lore.
  • 67a [Grain at a milling plant] OAT. For a bit a few years back it felt like everyone was cluing OAT to the non-dairy milk. I’m glad that’s died down.
  • 73a [___ Paulo, Brazil] SAO. It’s a day later and I’m still thinking of Kam’s clue for SAO in yesterday’s NYT [“Saint” elsewhere]. Brilliant.
  • 101a [Meat space] DELI. I like this clue, which plays on “meat space” as a jokey way to refer to the real world, as opposed to games and online communities.
  • 103a [Iowa college whose founder originally called it the School for the Prophets] COE. COE College and NATICK, Massachusetts – two bits of crossword-dom that I know thanks to some of my favorite football players (Fred Jackson and Doug Flutie, respectively).
  • 3d [Minor league class] TRIPLE A. Feel like I should have realized before this puzzle that “single,” “double,” and TRIPLE are all the same length.
  • 34d [“Tár” director Field] TODD. Tár accounts for more crossword content than the rest of the Oscars combined, I think.

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

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer splits SHORT between its starting and ending letters.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "Cutting Short" solution for 2/19/2023

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Cutting Short” solution for 2/19/2023

  • 18a [“Foot-shaped cushion”] SHOE INSERT
  • 28a [“Grocery store squeaker”] SHOPPING CART
  • 58a [“Is likely to help matters”] SHOULDN’T HURT

I went through and filled in SHO at the beginning of both SHOPPING CART and SHOULDN’T HURT right after getting SHOE INSERT, knowing that I could pretty reliably guess that the cutting of SHORT would remain the same throughout the puzzle. SHOULDN’T HURT felt a bit awkward, but I really liked the clue on SHOPPING CART.

This grid has a lot of fun stuff, from AU NATUREL to DISCO to GO HOME and CORN DOG. I thought the approach to 34a [“Building floor”] STORY was unexpected, and I enjoyed the crossing of COUGAR with CORN DOG. The Acrosses in the SW corner were also really clean and easy, so I didn’t even get to look at 62d [“Includes on an email thread” CCS, 63d [“___-country music”] ALT, or 64d [“Corporate leader”] CEO until after I finished the puzzle.

A few other fun things:

  • 17a [“Makki ki ___ (maize flatbread)”] – Makki ki ROTI is a delicious-looking flatbread that can be made in a tandoor. It gets its name from the Punjabi makki ka atta, and you can find a recipe here.
  • 24a [“___ Pueblo”] – While I’m highlighting two clues with a fill-in, there weren’t that many in the grid, and I found that they were nicely spaced out. TAOS Pueblo is in New Mexico and has a literal thousand-year history. You can learn more about it here.
  • 44d [“Obviously!”] – I loved this sarcastic inclusion of YA THINK!
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19 Responses to Sunday, February 19, 2023

  1. zevonfan says:

    Fun NYT puzzle.
    98D/119A Crossing got me. Never heard of MARTA Kauffman (she’s never been a clue in the NYT per xwordinfo) and also did not know what “MACRO” was. I guessed an I, because I thought “MICRO” meant zooming in, like a microscope would. Oh well.

    • JohnH says:

      MARTA / MACRO defeated me actually. I thought of zooming in as giving something like MARTI / MICRO. (I also had trouble in forgetting BOBA tea while not knowing poker or, for that matter, BIG AIR. Must admit I’m always surprised at the frequency of poker slang in puzzles. I guess the game’s much more popular than I knew, even if no one I’ve ever known plays it, and I never overhear talk of it in bars. Go figure.)

      Hate to say it, but I never did put the theme into words either. For me, that meant I wasn’t sure it was consistent or worked, so can’t say it wowed me. Also wasn’t sure all the entries were phrases. I’d say “crystal clear” but never CLEAR AS CRYSTAL, say.

      • JohnH says:

        I should add that I’m more used to “clear as a bell” than SOUND AS A BELL, which with the clear in the first themer had me in a rabbit hole looking for more like it. Say, GRASS could almost from crossings to that point have been “glass.”

        I’m not saying it’s a flaw in the puzzle rather than my mistakes, perhaps even clever deception. But I’ll be curious to see what others experienced.

        • Adam S says:

          These are actually two separate phrases with different meanings

          Sound as a bell – in excellent condition
          Clear as a bell – Exceptionally clear

          With that said, I think clear as a bell is a bit more in the language ATM. I think of sound as a bell as the sort of thing I’m most likely to encounter in a novel 30 years old or more.

      • Diana says:

        LOL at the poker slang. I have the exact same thoughts about that. I worked in casino for a couple years – back in my early twenties and I’m still confounded by all this poker slang in the crosswords.

    • David L says:

      Same here. MICRO seemed more appropriate for a close up.

  2. Just Saying says:

    This felt like a Tuesday puzzle in a Sunday grid. Cute, but not overly challenging.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      For me, it was very reminiscent of the difficulty level of the current Universal large-grid Sunday and what I recall of when I used to do Newsday Sundays. I posted my fourth fastest NYT Sunday solve time of the 1,526 puzzles published during the Shortz era.

      ANECDATA {39D: Evidence derived from personal experience and observation rather than systematic research and analysis} sure came out of leftfield. That word’s not in my Funk & Wagnall’s (or online at The clue seems perfectly appropriate for ‘ANECDoTe’ (i.e. an actual word) and that’s what I had locked in there until the crossing SELA {77A: Actress Ward} forced it out, at which point, the voice inside my head said “It can’t possibly be ANECDATA, can it?” That little mess sure made seeing PRETTY AS A PICTURE {65A: Photoshop?} a lot more difficult than it should have been.

      • huda says:

        I too struggled with ANECDATA in the same way. But it’s an interesting word to learn (I guess it’s intended tongue in cheek). And there is a website with that name…
        I find these little surprises a good way to learn contemporary stuff and it sticks better because it takes a little extra work to ferret out.

  3. Eric H says:

    NYT: I solved most of it very quickly for me.

    I have a goal of someday finishing a Sunday NYT puzzle in X minutes. I’d have met it today but for my unfamiliarity with ALLYSON Felix and trying to make 82D “has SHOTS” (all the while complaining inwardly that people DO SHOTS, not “have SHOTS”). Add in a few typos, and I ended up around X + 3 minutes.

    The theme mostly worked, though I’m still not sure I buy “quenched” as leading to PLEASED, AS PUNCH, though one definition of “please” is “to bring satisfaction to,” and I have no problem with “quench” having the sense of “satisfy.”

  4. Philip says:

    NYT was easy but fun. Only quibble is that a no-hitter and a perfect game are very different. You could do like Dock Ellis and pitch a no-hitter while walking eight batters. Impressive, but not perfect.

  5. Tony says:

    Took me a while to understand the theme entry for “Bus?” as I was thinking first of the vehicle and then a computer bus. Finally dawned on me that it was referring to clearing a table.

  6. AmandaB says:

    NYT – I thought the trick was to replace the “AS” or “AS A” with “THE”, such as “CLEAR THE CRYSTAL” to get Bus, “GREEN THE GRASS” for Photosynthesize, “SMART THE WHIP” for Sting. But then I got to “PLEASED THE PUNCH” and couldn’t see how that led to Quenched. Still smooth puzzle with a record for me today. Also was tricked up by the Marti/Micro –> Marta/Macro. Only one I had to check.

  7. David L says:

    NYT: Some of the entries don’t work, as far as I can see. SMARTASAWHIP is certainly a common expression, but how does “Smart, as a whip” mean sting? I understand that a whip can make you smart but grammatically I don’t get how this is meant to be read. Similarly with “Green, as grass” and “Pleased, as punch.”

    Am I misunderstanding or are these themers inconsistent with the others?

    WaPo: I didn’t understand what was going on until I looked again at the themers. The clue for 120A suggested doing something with the initial letters, but I couldn’t make any sense of that. It didn’t help that I’ve never heard of Rescue Rangers, so I had no reason to think about Chip and Dale.

    • John says:

      Yeah the NYT theme is incredibly sloppy IMO. Best I can tell, the theme answers are a simile where the clue is a synonym for the first word, which is just… not how crosswords work, at least without a revealer to tie it together.

    • Doug C says:

      I agree with you re: NYT. Some themers don’t parse, and others just make no sense. A whipping can smart, but not a whip; to GREEN can mean to re-vegetate or revitalize, but it does not mean to photosynthesize. SOUNDASABELL works the best, IMO, but that phrase verges on being archaic.

      ANECDATA is new to me, and I’m puzzled as to whether it implies a positive or negative judgement. I can find examples of both online. It seems to me that anecdotes, while useful (and frequently entertaining), are pretty much the opposite of data.

  8. Becky Moody says:

    Marta Kauffman was a high-school classmate of mine, so I got that one right away. I was not thrilled with the theme entries, though.

  9. SIPTB says:

    Would you please find a “Crossword fiend” who will regularly provide a review of the Sunday LAT puzzle. Gareth seems to have no interest in doing such.

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