Sunday, April 2, 2023

LAT untimed (Gareth) 


NYT 20:59 (Nate) 


USA Today 3:54 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 8:33 (Jim) 


Universal 5:02 (Matt F) 


WaPo  untimed (Matthew) 


Jeremy Newton and Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword, “Artistic Differences” —Nate’s write-up

Happy weekend, especially those lucky enough to be at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament! My FOMO is severe and I can’t wait to hear all about it. Best of luck to everyone competing!

04.01.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

04.01.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 22A: THE STARRY (F/N)IGHT [Spaceship battle? / An iconic van Gogh]
– 38A: RE(O/D) BALLOON [Flying invention by a classic automaker? / An iconic Klee]
– 48A: THE (R/M)ONA LISA [Slangy reply when Bart’s sister asks “What’s Covid?” / An iconic Leonardo]
– 65A: THE (G/B)IRTH OF VENUS [Reason Mercury gets eclipsed? / An iconic Botticelli]
– 88A: THE (E/S)ON OF MAN [Post-dinosaur period? / An iconic Magritte]
– 95A: (R/N)IGHT HAWKS [Opposite of liberal doves? / An iconic Hopper]
– 115A: CREATION OF A DA(Y/M) [Planning one’s 24-hour itinerary? An iconic Michelangelo, with “The”]
– 124A: FORGERY [Apt word spelled by the new letters that alter this puzzle’s seven works]

I’m curious to hear how this puzzle played to those who know art… because this puzzle took me much longer than my average Sunday solve time to tackle. I eventually figured out that the themers were each famous works of art that had one letter swapped out to reveal an answer to the ? themer clue. Those new swapped in letters, per 124A, spelled out FORGERY, a cute nod to the artistic works being altered. One extra trick is that the letter being swapped out formed a two-letter rebus with the letter swapping in, and that two-letter combo was required for the corresponding down answer (like at L(GB)TQ FLAGS at 60D).

I’m used to more substantial changes to the base phrase in these types of letter swap mechanisms, so I didn’t quite get entries like REO BALLOON or THE STARRY FIGHT. The clue for THE GIRTH OF VENUS was cute in the context of one planet blocking another, but then the different parsing of ADAM / A DAY in 115A felt different to all the other themers who kept their same parsing, so I’m torn. Again, I’m wondering if folks who know names of iconic art pieces flew through this puzzle and didn’t get stuck as much as I did. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t on the wavelength of the constructors this week and there were a number of sections of the grid where I just couldn’t get traction, either due to abstract cluing or unexpected entries.

One other note: I know that many folks have decided that Covid is over, but it’s still killing thousands of people weekly in the US alone. So many families and communities have been ravaged by the disease that it feels too soon (to me, at least) to be treating it so casually / jokingly. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t a fan of THE RONA LISA or its clue – to me, that was a BIG OOF, as the kids (and grid) apparently say.

Universal “Themeless Sunday 29” by Jared Goudsmit — Matt F’s write-up

Hey, it’s Matt, filling in for Norah again while she’s attending ACPT this weekend. You should be back to your regularly scheduled programming next week!

Today’s THEMELESS puzzle is constructed by Jared Goudsmit and makes a statement that a good themeless does not require grid-spanning entries, or even words longer than 10 letters! This grid is held together by 12 sparkling 10-letter entries.


Universal Solution 04.02.2023

  • DO ME A SOLID 14A [Help line?]
  • LOBSTER BIB 24A [Cover worn while cracking claws]
  • HOME PLANET 40A [The world Kashyyyk, to Chewbacca]
  • EARGASM 5D [Euphoria from listening to music]
  • ONE AT A TIME 25D [“Slow down, folks!”]
  • BON APPETIT 27D [“Enjoy your meal!”]
  • ⭐ PROS 34D [NFL Team makeup?]


Today’s round of “guess the seed” is tough since there aren’t any obvious marquee entries. I wonder if the constructor started with a grid pattern and let the fill work itself out. Nonetheless, if I had to guess, I’d go with HOME PLANET, especially given the Star Wars bent of the clue (I am pretending that Jared is a huge Star Wars fan and really wanted this word to anchor the grid).

I learned about:

26D RHODE Island Red is a breed of chicken and is the state bird of Rhode Island. This breed was created from selective cross-breeding practices of poultry farmers in New England and was officially recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1904. The bird is known for its excellent egg-laying ability.

Thanks Jared and the Universal team!

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “On a Roll”—Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “On a Roll,” 4/2/2023

Evan brings a meta for ACPT weekend, with a gentle pointer in the form of two short, symmetrical entries and their clues:

  • 63a [What an O resembles after you shade it in (as you should 21 times)] PIP
  • 77a [One of six objects hidden in this puzzle’s 5×5 sections of white squares (and where you need to find the letters matching the value shown there)] DIE

I didn’t even notice that we have six 5×5 areas in the grid until turning back to hunt down the meta, but there they are. Filling in the O’s as instructed, we can clearly see six die faces (in sequential order!), and while there are other O’s not part of the theme, at this point the dice connections are too overt to get confuzzled, and I imagine it was just too much to try to work without them.

The second part of the meta is in the parenthetical for DIE. Truth be told I still can’t quite parse it, but I noticed that there were a lot of L’s and E’s in the bottom two dice – five L’s in the “5” die and six E’s in the “6.” A satisfying click – working backwards along the same lines we find that our meta answer is GAMBLE.

Only a few minutes later did I realize that “G” is the only letter that appears once in the “1” die, and so on. Very very smooth.


  • 24a [Party that might aptly feature Blue Hawaiian cocktails] LUAU. TIL that there is both a “Blue Hawaii” and a “Blue Hawaiian.” The only difference is Sweet and Sour mix versus Cream of Coconut.
  • 27a [British auction venues] SALEROOMS. This was new to me, but plenty plausible.
  • 30a [Attorney general before Thornburgh] MEESE. I’m young enough to have learned about Ed MEESE from puzzles. Today I learn his successor. Maybe someday I will learn his predecessor from a clue.
  • 44a [African locale of Black Star Square] ACCRA. Sports helped me a bit here — Ghana’s national soccer team is known as the Black Stars, and ACCRA is the capital of Ghana. There is of course a historical angle to the Square, the nickname, and the black star on Ghana’s flag, but this was my way in.
  • 46a [Got along great (with)] VIBED. It turns out that neither of the easily-confused “jibe” or “jive” fit this clue (I’ve finally bothered to look them up), so I guess I can stop worrying about the coinflip on them in the future.
  • 49d [Apple desktop beginning in 2006] MACPRO. A few years ago I worked through the New York Times archives in reverse order. It was fun to see the lifecycles of Apple products in grids, until they fell away in the late nineties.
  • 104d [Leave Boston or Chicago, say?] GO SOLO. Peter Cetera of Chicago of course did GO SOLO, and it looks like the members of Boston tried to do some solo work but have most stuck together.

Guilherme Gilioli’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Cracking Open a Book”—Jim’s review

Theme: Rough synonyms for “story” are found in circled letters within familiar(ish) phrases. Since the circled letters are not consecutive within each answer, the words can be considered to be “broken.” Hence, the revealer is BREAKING STORIES (125a, [Fresh news … and another possible title for this puzzle]).

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Cracking Open a Book” · Guilherme Gilioli · 4.2.23

  • 23a. [Health form request] NEAREST RELATIVE. Narrative. Hmm. Is this a legit phrase in this country? Most of the hits I see come from the UK. I’m used to hearing “next of kin.”
  • 37a. [Doctor’s stereotypical trait] ILLEGIBLE HANDWRITING. Legend.
  • 52a. [Car with a cache of cash] ARMORED TRANSPORT. Report.
  • 71a. [Many a “Shark Tank” investor] SELF-MADE MILLIONAIRE. Memoir.
  • 91a. [One hiking up for a run in the mountains?] BACK-COUNTRY SKIER. Account. A new-to-me phrase, but there’s even a Wikipedia page, so it’s for sure legit. The sport is also known as “off-piste” skiing, which is a lot more fun to say, especially when you use a smug French accent.
  • 104a. [Line on some toy boxes] BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED. Article.

Mostly solid, yeah? ILLEGIBLE HANDWRITING feels a bit green paintish, but the rest are solid enough. Synonym themes aren’t typically going to thrill me, but it’s a tried-and-true theme type, and it works.

The long fill is a mix of fun entries and more run-of-the-mill (but solid) phrases. For the former, we have TOOK A STAND, OCEAN LIFE, STUTTGART, EAR GUARD, NEW USERS, RAMBLED ON, and DR WATSON. For the latter: PRESERVE, ATTAINED, RESONATE, RECTANGLES, and TAPPING ON, with that last one being the iffiest. The clue [Touching gently] doesn’t capture the repetitive nature of tapping; I wonder if there was a way to clue it with respect to a kid trying to get the attention of an aquarium fish.

Clues of note:

  • 41d. [Swing supporter?] LIMB. A tree LIMB I’m guessing.
  • 92d. [Nyan ___ (animated meme)] CAT. Wow. This is totally new to me though it’s been around for more than a decade. The meme combines a Japanese pop song with a Pop Tart cat flying through space and trailing a rainbow behind it. Apparently this was the fifth most viewed YouTube video of 2011. And now you all get to enjoy it here. (See below.) Read more about it here and how it made more than half a million dollars for its creator.
  • 126d. [Krazy ___] KAT. In light of CAT being in the grid, this probably should have been clued as [Actress Dennings] or something similar.

Solid theme and a clean grid. 3.5 stars.

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

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer is a Down answer that could have DEEP placed before its final word.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Deep Down” solution for 4/2/2023

  • 3d [“Stresses about something”] LOSES SLEEP / DEEP SLEEP
  • 8d [“Like Pi in ‘Life of Pi’”] LOST AT SEA / DEEP SEA
  • 31d [“Request in a relationship”] I NEED SPACE / DEEP SPACE
  • 36d [“Conainer used by microbiologists”] PETRI DISH /DEEP DISH

This was a cute set of themers. I appreciated that they were all Down answers and they formed very coherent phrases. LOSES SLEEP and LOST AT SEA felt close,but the meaning of LOSE/LOST was different enough so as to not feel like a dupe. I NEED SPACE was also a really solid one.

I filled this pretty quickly, coming in under four minutes. It had a lot of nice non-theme fill like CHEF’S SALAD, EPISODES, and WASABI PEAS. I also really liked PETSAT, TEAPOT, and INDEED.

Pam Amick Klawitter’s LA Times crossword, “Sound Bites” – Gareth’s theme summary


Pam Amick Klawitter’s puzzle “Sound Bites” features site rhymes: words that look like they rhyme, but don’t. Many of the examples given have different syllable counts as well!

  1. [Traveling puppet show featuring talking melons?], CANTALOUPETROUPE. I’ve been pronouncing it CANTALOOP, but apparently its LOAP; in my defense, we call it spanspek (spunspeck) here, which means Spanish bacon.
  2. [Coffee vessel with a broken handle?], UNSAFECARAFE. The second is RAFF.
  3. [“Men never eat flaky pastry for brunch,” e.g.?], QUICHECLICHE.
  4. [Result of an orchard’s promotional deal with a bakery?], FRUITBISCUIT. I thought biscuits weren’t from bakeries in the US?
  5. [Lobster soup that’s a little too spicy?], RISQUEBISQUE.
  6. [Rule for adding toppings to french fries?], POUTINEGUIDELINE.
  7. [Unconventional spot for breadmaking?], DOUGHTROUGH. If it were an all across arrangement, this could have been a finale, with SLOUGH (UFF) and PLOUGH (OW) or similar…
  8. [Box of donuts kept on ice?], FROZENDOZEN. Isn’t this a real college sports league yet?


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18 Responses to Sunday, April 2, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: The puzzle was very challenging for me. Looking back, I don’t know why. Maybe I was tired (I tried it late last night). The art being referenced is iconic and I should have been able to retrieve it. But the first part of the clue seemed primary and my brain was trying to do too many things at once. Maybe if I had focused on coming up with the name of paintings, it would have worked better.
    In general, I think about how much puzzle difficulty is about competition of ideas in one’s mind. Once something pops up and it’s wrong, it seems very hard to fully erase without stepping away. In the end, it’s a test of mental flexibility. I need to work on mine (Never too late :).

  2. JohnH says:

    From the low ratings for the NYT, people must find the art unduly obscure. So much, I wanted to say, for those dumping on my not knowing enough junk TV as a sign I’m unwilling to learn. But that’d be unfair of me, and anyway I couldn’t really get into it either.

    Maybe it was jut me, I kept thinking. Surely most of the paintings are gimmes to almost anyone. I kept marveling at getting a look at Starry Night at MoMA during the pandemic, normally impossible because of the crowds. I never did get a look at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre and kept to the other side of the room with the early Renaissance in Italy. Birth of Venus, Creation of Adam, and Nighthawks, too, now approach cliches, great as they are.

    I didn’t remember the titles for Klee and Magritte, but again it must be just me. Wiki calls the Magritte likely his most famous painting. People I know don’t refer to the coronavirus as RONA but again who am I to object? OTOH, I just couldn’t get into the puns. Would anyone really say that after the dinosaurs came the Eon of Man? On my kepboard, too, – and Tab aren’t even close. KATIE / ROTEL also slowed me down. Oh, well, again just me, I’m sure.

    I did find a rabbit hole. I got the top themer first, compared FIGHT to Differences in the title, and went looking for more wars. Oh, well. Anyhow, with better editing, I think, this could have been a great, popular puzzle and wasn’t.

    • MattF says:

      Agree about the famous art being the easy parts of the puzzle— the main theme challenge was figuring out what letter was rebussed. The puzzle was in the odd category of ‘easy but slow going’. My entry for the vampire clue went through four versions…

    • Milo says:

      It’s ~ not –.

      I liked this puzzle a lot. Intricate and entertaining.

      • JohnH says:

        Thanks. I’ve tossed the Sunday paper so can’t swear they printed it right, but I’ve definitely had eyesight mistakes.

    • R says:

      For me, figuring out that the double letters in the down entries corresponded to the altered and correct letters in the themers was finicky and the payoff didn’t compensate for it, nor did the cleverness of the themers. I enjoyed it enough, but I wouldn’t put it in my pantheon. I agree that it had the potential, but didn’t quite make it.

  3. ZDL says:

    NYT — loved it.

    • Papa John says:

      I’d love to hear what you loved about it.

      DOGGO? Really? It’s been a long time since I was in high school, but I don’t remember ever electing a CLASS_REP. I suppose some folks wear their watch on their ULNA, but I wear it on my wrist — duh! I believe the idiom is big ask, not HUGE_ASK. Is RIGHT_HAWKS in the language? I don’t see how planning a 24-hour itinerary is the CREATION_OF_A_DAY — divine planner?

      • Eric H says:

        DAY in the sense of “My DAY tomorrow involves a dental appointment, a trip to the vet, and grocery shopping.”

      • R says:

        DOGGO is great. It’s been in-the-language slang for well over a decade (and much longer in Australia). CLASS REP is fully in the language. I’m decades out of school and I clearly remember electing CLASS REPS. Standard style for watches is that they go above your wrist bone, i.e. around your ULNA and radius. “HUGE ASK” has hundreds of thousands of google hits and sounds fully in the language to me.

        The altered themers are not supposed to be in the language. Is this your first crossword puzzle? Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but if you’re finding lots of problems with a pretty mainstream puzzle, sometimes the common denominator is you.

  4. AmandaB says:

    NYT took me longer than usual as well, even though I got THERONALISA straight off. It took me a little while to get the rebus. I got stuck on RIPSNORTER. I have never heard those words together and never want to again. This one seemed to contain more question marks and vague clues, but it may just be me.

  5. David L says:

    I found the NYT a bit of a slog. And I have a scientific objection: how is THEGIRTHOFVENUS a cause of Mercury being eclipsed? In principle, Venus is big enough that it could obscure Mercury but I don’t think such a precise alignment ever happens, what with the orbits being not exactly in the same plane and so on.

    WaPo: Easy enough to figure out the numbers on the dice but I couldn’t see what to do next, although I didn’t spend much time trying.

    • PJ says:

      I believe Venus could eclipse Mercury during a conjunction. I don’t know for certain if properties of their orbits prevent this from occurring but I do know they can appear very close.

    • JohnH says:

      Girth seemed phony to me, too. So did the ones to which Papa John objects. That poor puzzle was sure a missed opportunity.

  6. Just Me says:

    To quote passed-on comedian Pat Paulson doing one of his stony-faced editorials on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour…

    “Picky, picky, picky…”

    (If this is an unfamiliar reference, look him up on ViewTube).

    I liked this puzzle a lot…but it took me three days and a lot of trial & error to completely crack it.

    Once a week (usually Monday) I walk 5 minutes to my local library, and copy all of the NYT crosswords.

    So I do them on paper,and in pen.

    I usually start by scanning through all the clues,and putting in the answers I know, which gives me toeholds.

    But this time that approach tripped me up.

    Hefner was an obvious answer for “Mr. Playboy…except there were only 5 boxes. Okay, it’s a Rebus puzzle,crossing a long theme answer. So I entered (F/N) in the Rebus box the way I usually do,horizontally. Which didn’t look right.
    And that habit kept tripping me up.

    Once I realized that theme answers were famous works of art, I used down answers to puzzle them out…except there were a lot of clever clues and (according to X-Word Info), 22 original answers.

    So the puzzle was slow going…with a lot of write-overs.

    Still, whenever I appreciate the cleverness of the theme and/or design of a crossword…I’m willing to overlook any clunkiness.

    So my Salutation to the Creators!

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