Sunday, March 5, 2023

LAT untitled (GRAB) 


NYT 10:47 (Nate) 


USA Today 4:30 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 12-something (Jim P) 


Universal 4:44 (norah) 


WaPo 6:19 (Matthew) 


John-Clark Levin’s New York Times crossword, “As Heard Around the Dinner Table” —Nate’s write-up

03.05.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

03.05.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

22A: GO TO A RESTAURANT [Dine out] – “GOT” (goat) shaded
35A: DUCT TAPE [Aid in some makeshift repairs] – “DUC” (duck) shaded
38A: PORE CLEANSER [Blackhead remover] – “POREC” (pork) shaded
62A: BEFORE PICTURE [Part of many a weight-loss ad] – “BEF” (beef) shaded
85A: BAKE IN THE SUN [Lie out on a scorching day] – “BAKE IN” (bacon) shaded
89A: LAMP POST [Landmark at the entrance to Narnia] – “LAM” (lamb) shaded
102A: MEAT SUBSTITUTES [Vegetarian options … or what the shaded letters in this puzzle are, phonetically]

I have two quite distinct takeaways from this puzzle. The first was how quickly I flew through it, almost getting personal best Sunday time without even trying! I’m guessing many folks will also find the grid and its clues to be super accessible relative to other Sunday NYT grids.

My other takeaway was, unfortunately, that this puzzle’s theme was not for me. The revealer was a bit of a shrug (I was waiting for some kind of pun or other clever transformation) and, for how few letters of each themer were meat-soundalike related, the themers themselves largely felt boring. GO TO A RESTAURANT can’t be the most interesting phrase to have starting letters that kind of sound like “goat,” can it? Also, I’m still struggling to pronounce the second themer as “pork lenser.”

One positive with this puzzle is that it felt current in a way that many Sunday NYT puzzles often don’t, with clues referencing modern experiences or culture (Fortnite, Drake, AIR DROP, etc.). That and the sweet sweet quick solve time!

Pam Amick Klawitter’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Two-way Switches”—Jim P’s review

This puzzle marks Jeff Chen’s editorial debut as he takes over that position from David Steinberg. He brings us Pam Amick Klawitter’s puzzle featuring two-word phrases where each word has been replaced with a homophone.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Title” · Pam Amick Klawitter · 3.5.23

  • 23a. [Carrot buying option?] PAY-PER-ROOT. Paper route. Ha! I like this one. But it did mislead me into thinking the theme was somehow going to involve re-parsing words as well. Also, if you pronounce “route” to rhyme with “scout,” then this one might’ve been a dud for you.
  • 25a. [New England lobster appetizer?] MAINE CLAWS. Main clause. Nice. It’s serendipitous that Maine is known for lobsters.
  • 44a. [“Secure item tightly to workbench”?] VISE PRINCIPLE. Vice principal. Do some of you still use childhood mnemonics to remember things? I do. I remember the difference between “principle” and “principal” because a principal is your “pal” (right?).
  • 92a. [Surveys about online scams?] PHISHING POLLS. Fishing poles. This one’s a bit of a cheat since “phishing” is derived from “fishing.” (It’s a portmanteau of “phreak” and “fishing.”)
  • 112a. [Bunny grooming products?] HARE RAZORS. Hair raisers. This was tough to see because I was quite satisfied with JAM at 112d [Common sandwich layer] instead of HAM. Also, please don’t take a razor to your widdle bunny.
  • 114a. [One undeserving of a seat at the round table?] WEAK KNIGHT. Weeknight. Well, that would be Sir Robin, the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot, wouldn’t it? Another challenging crossing slowed me down on this one as well. I had “I SAID SO” at 90d [Ultimatum from mom] instead of “I SAID NO.”
  • 36d. [“Leave no trace” campground policy?] WASTE BANNED. Waistband.
  • 40d. [Common closet item?] PLAIN HANGER. Plane hangar. I think I’ve only ever heard “airplane hangar.”

Pretty fun, yeah? I think I like that first entry best; I just wish it wasn’t first since it’s slightly different than the others. I would’ve liked it at the end where it gives you just a little bit of a twist as you try to finish out the grid.

Elsewhere we have fun long fill in DEAD SPOT, EUPHORIA, ESCALADE, HARD TOPS, and LA LAKER. I’ve heard of blue moons and blood moons, but not so much RED MOONS.

Clues of note:

  • 4d. [Like a luger]. SUPINE. Thought I was going crazy with this one. I could only think of the German gun and couldn’t imagine why it would be SUPINE. But the clue isn’t about the gun, it’s about someone who rides a luge.
  • 46d. [British cracker brand since 1831]. CARR’S. Don’t know how much this has appeared in crosswords, but we have these crackers available in our local grocery store here on the west coast, so I’m assuming they’re all over the states.

Enjoyable puzzle. Four stars.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “State Secrets” —Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “State Secrets,” 3/5/2023

Fun theme from Evan this week, which makes use of the black squares – specifically five instances of pairs of black squares.

Let’s start with two long answers that serve as revealers:

  • 11d [State secrets] CLASSIFIED INFO
  • 47d [Author of a satirical book whose title consists of five U.S. state abbreviations (and is hidden in this puzzle)] STEPHEN COLBERT

Colbert’s 2007 book is titled I AM AMERICA. I will pass on typing out every affected answer, but you can see in the solution grid how the five state abbreviations; IA, MA, ME, RI, and CA fit into black squares to make adjacent entries match their clues. Of course, everything in the grid is a valid crossword entry before the state abbreviations come into play, because Evan wouldn’t settle for less.

With the necessary black squares, we end up with more short stuff than in many Sundays, but it flowed smoothly enough to me.


  • 18a [Adventure with Peter Pan?] BUS TRIP. Peter Pan and Greyhound were in something of an alliance during my college years, and a step up in predictability from other bus options between Boston and New York.
  • 75a [_____ Jenkins (“World of Warcraft” player character in a 2005 viral video)] LEEROY. One of the first viral videos I can recall. If you know it, I’m sure you can replay Jenkins’ voice in your mind. If not, I’m curious if it holds up to first-timers almost 20 years later.
  • 100a [Playing an area of the outfield like Rickey Henderson] IN LEFT. My favorite bit of trivia around baseball Hall-of-Famer Henderson involves his long-time role batting leadoff: no player has broken up more no-hit bids with home runs than Rickey. A bit cheeky but fun to pose to your baseball-loving friends.
  • 1d [Gritty and the Phillie Phanatic, e.g.] MASCOTS. Evan writes these puzzles for the Washington Post, but his Philly comes through sometimes.
  • 78d [“Bohemian Rhapsody” actor Malek] RAM(I), using the I from RI. It took me a long time to commit RAMI vs Ramy to memory. I could have used this theme then!

And an easter egg: If you remember that Colbert’s book had a subtitle, you can find it (“And So Can You!”) in the first letters of across clues 45-63

Universal Crossword, “Greetings!” by Winston Emmons — norah’s write-up

THEME: HI has been added t




  • 17A FILTHIERTIP [Even more vulgar bit of advice?]
  • 26A HIPSILOVEYOU [Positive affirmation to one’s curves?]
  • 42A CHILEANSWEEP [Chimney cleaner from Santiago, say?]
  • ⭐56A HIKINGCRABS [People who are grumpy about how unpleasant the trail is?


I’m torn on this theme! I really wish that I loved the first three as much as I do the final one. But none of them really grab me in the same way. And I’d like to see a little more consistency — having four that take the same turn as HIKINGRABS would be a little more interesting to me.

Other nice entries include SOME 9A [“___ pig” (“Charlotte’s Web” message)], FOCUS 1D [“Keep your eye on the ball!”], and ESPY 12D [Award such as Best Female Athlete with a Disability]

I learned:

61A PABLO [“The Backyardigans” penguin]  (who seems to have frequent PANIC 14A attacks?)

Thanks Winston and the Universal team!

Pam Klawitter’s LA Times crossword, “Moving In” – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

I don’t think the title, “Moving In”, does a good job explaining what the puzzle theme is doing. Which was just fine, because there are more than enough examples here to catch on. Basically, phrases with an “IN” sound it spelt with an ON are changed to “ING”. The fact they are sound rather than letter substitutions gives the theme more pizzazz:

  • [Task for the caregivers of a Trojan War hero?], ACHILLESTENDING. TENDON
  • [Method of preserving souvenir tops?], TSHIRTCANNING. CANNON
  • [Activity in a Toronto pastry shop?], CANADIANBAKING. BACON
  • [Tall tales about one’s climbing experience?], MOUNTAINLYING. LION
  • [Greeting that may come with barks and licks], WELCOMEWAGGING. WAGON
  • [Rodent who’s really angry he missed the migration?], BITTERLEMMING. LEMON
  • [Good-natured fun leading up to an election?] CAMPAIGNRIBBING. RIBBON

Interesting entries:

  • [Tolkien saga, briefly], LOTR. Wonder if this will become more widespread? Or has it already peaked?
  • [Bertie played by Hugh Laurie], WOOSTER. I didn’t think Americans believed he had roles before House?
  • [Many an episode of “This Is Us,” e.g.], SOBFEST. Gem of an entry!
  • [Tubman of Judy Blume’s “Fudge” series], SHIELA. Geez, I read those as a primary schooler, but I can’t remember any details?
  • [7UP nickname, with “the”], UNCOLA. Is that pronounced “un” or “yoo-enn”?
  • [“Soldier of Love” singer], SADE. I think this is a different song, but the same title, as Donny Osmond’s?


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

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each themer includes NO NO, making the solver wrong (NO) but twice (NO NO).

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "Wrong Again" solution for 3/5/2023

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Wrong Again” solution for 3/5/2023

  • 17a [“Triple Zero yogurt brand”] DANNON OIKOS
  • 27a [“Protesting or proposing, perhaps”] DOWN ON ONE KNEE
  • 65a [“Feeling evoked by cherry blossoms”] MONO NO AWARE

DANNON OIKOS and MONO NO AWARE were tricky for me in this puzzle, though I liked the variety in them. I learned that MONO NO AWARE is a Japanese phrase that refers to the awareness of impermanence, an apt descriptor for cherry blossoms, which only bloom for a very short while. It was definitely a fun fact for me. I also liked that we got both DOWN ON ONE KNEE and 19a [“Groom-to-groom promise”] VOW, even if I first had I DO here.

I moved pretty quickly through the puzzle, bumping back and forth between Across and Down. Some favourite fill includes GOOD DOG, WIGGLE ROOM, and DOO-WOP. I appreciated how much longer fill this grid has; it doesn’t feel like there were many three letter answers since they were spread through the puzzle, for the most part. It’s also nifty that AGAIN made it into the puzzle and its title.

Overall, definitely a NEAT IDEA.

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18 Responses to Sunday, March 5, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: It felt like an oversized Monday grid. I was typing stuff without having to think about the clues.

    So of course I made a typo that took almost five minutes to find. Might’ve had a new personal best otherwise.

    A couple of the theme answers — GO TO A RESTAURANT and PORE CLEANSER — don’t work for me. There’s too much of a break between the first syllable and the second.

  2. RCook says:

    NYT: I know meat substitutes often have altered or punny names, but these are just lazy. It feels like a themeless puzzle that someone later tried to jam a theme into.

    • JohnH says:

      Yeah. I was going to compare it to a puzzle with a meta rather than a theme. The next morning I did catch on, that we’re supposed not to pronounce the shaded letters, but rather to attend to the shaded part of the pronunciation of the whole phrase. Of course, punning themes are always subjective, and what is clever to one person is a groaner to another. Can’t be helped. But this one just felt like a bit nothing.

      I don’t follow “crib” for PAD. I’m sure I’m just missing the obvious.

      • Mutman says:

        CRIB is (urban) slang for one’s home. As is PAD

        • JohnH says:

          Ah, thanks. Crib is new to me in that sense, while PAD, although I recognize it from parodies of beatnik culture, is of course rather before my time .

  3. huda says:

    @JohnH, your insight into how to conceive of the theme is helpful.
    The way I talk, it doesn’t quite work for BEFore. I say it it much more briefly than beef. But I think that’s the issue with all aural themes, they will sound perfect to some ears and perplexing to others (and I have an accent, so there’s that :).
    I didn’t find it quite as easy as a Monday, possibly because of several false starts, like FLOUR instead of SUGAR, but definitely on the easier side.
    Some clues were awesome: Like for MORTGAGES and LAWS. And they contributed to making it more playful.

    • David L says:

      I agree with you on BEFORE — the first syllable for me is a schwa, not the same as in beef. (I have an accent too, but I don’t think it’s relevant here).

      • JohnH says:

        I wouldn’t quite call it a schwa. MW11C gives it as a short i, which sounds right and I was willing to take as kinda sorta close enough, but I agree I’m being a bit lenient. But try to repeat to yourself half a dozen times quickly first BIF-fore and then beef-fore, and they do start to blend a bit, no doubt because there are limits to how clearly we can maintain the distinction in rapid speech, not because of a regional difference.

  4. David L says:

    WaPo: It took me forever to figure out what was going on. I thought the ‘bad’ squares were rebuses but cramming two letters into them didn’t make sense.

    I hadn’t realized that Colbert’s book title is four state abbrevs in a row. And I certainly didn’t notice that the subtitle is spelled out in the beginnings of the clues. If there was a hint to look for that I didn’t see it.

    • It’s just an Easter egg I threw in for fun. There wasn’t any hint in the clues to look for it.

    • Eric H says:

      I figured out pretty quickly that there were letters hiding in the black squares, but it wasn’t until I read Matthew’s write-up that I realized they were postal codes. (By the time I reached 47D, I had enough of COLBERT that I could fill in the rest without really reading that clue beyond “satirical book.”)

      Elegant work by Mr. Birnholz, as always.

  5. Lester says:

    WAPO: Matthew, I’m so impressed that you found Evan’s Easter egg for the second part of the book title. I never spot those clues-contain-a-message features; when I learn that they are present, sometimes I can go back and see peculiar or awkward phrasing in the clues that should have alerted me, but I don’t even see that in Evan’s clues. The only thing I can suppose would have prompted you to look for and find this feature is that you know so well how Evan operates that you figure that the rest of the title just has to be there somewhere.

    • Matt Gritzmacher says:

      Some stolen valor here — Evan told me there was something to find, or else I would have never ever seen it.

  6. Betty Asmus says:

    Thank you, Gareth, for publishing the LA Times Theme Summary. Agreed with your summary of the theme. Diary of a Crossword Fiend fan.

  7. Michael says:

    Honestly, I think it was a mistake and the real title of the LAT puzzle should be ‘Moving On’ as the letters O and N are being substituted…

    • Pilgrim says:

      I interpreted the title as Move “-ing” In. But maybe it could have been “Moving In On” or something like that. Also, regarding whether the original phrases have an “in” sound, kind of like the debate regarding the NYT, I think the last syllable of those words have a schwa pronunciation, not a short “i” pronunciation as in the word “in.”

      As for Gareth’s question how to pronounce UNCOLA, Geoffrey Holder can help:

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Did you not do a summary of February 26 puzzles? Maybe I just missed it!

Comments are closed.