Sunday, April 16, 2023

LAT untitled (GRAB) 


NYT 13:33 (Nate) 


USA Today 3:23 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 8:50 (Matthew) 


Mike Hobin’s New York Times crossword, “Bring Your ‘A’ Game” —Nate’s write-up

Today’s puzzle is a New York Times debut! And, since I can’t find any reference to him in Crossword Fiend’s database, this might even be his first published puzzle ever?! If so, congrats to the constructor! Let’s dive in:

04.16.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle

04.16.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle

24A: AWARD OF THE STATE [Lottery prize?]
30A: BRUSHED A SIDE [Painted 25% of the house?]
54A: ABRIDGE TOO FAR [Make one’s long story overly short?]
66A: HALF A WAKE [Just the refreshments, not the viewing?]
68A: ATONE POEM [Ode to reparation for sin?]
85A: A CUTE TRIANGLE [One darling percussion instrument?]
104A: AHEAD OF STEAM [Where stealth is found in the dictionary?]
116A: SLOWLY GREW A PART [Successfully used Rogaine?]

What I enjoyed about this theme / puzzle:
– Most of the themers felt quite clever or at least made me smile: HALF A WAKE, A CUTE TRIANGLE, BRUSHED A SIDE, ABRIDGE TOO FAR, and SLOWLY GREW A PART.
– Aside from BALSAS SUERS I IS and X AND O, the grid largely felt clean, even if a few corners felt tougher to fill in.
ALLAH‘s clue tied nicely into the A theme of the puzzle.
– The clue for OBEDIENCE was one I’m sure many pet owners can relate to!
– The MASK UP clue reminded us that we’re not out of the COVID woods quite yet.
– I appreciated the modern references to Minecraft, “This is Us,” and NOMADLand!

What I didn’t enjoy as much about this theme / puzzle:
– The theme answers weren’t consistent as to whether they added or removed an extra space after the A. This theme isn’t the most restrictive (there are lots of words starting with A that could be reparsed), so I’d have preferred a tighter theme set that saw every answer transform similarly. At the very least, the themers alternated how each phrase was parsed, so I’ll give the puzzle that!
– The letter A was added conveniently in a few cases where the base phrase stands alone without it: “ward of the state,” “tone poem,” and “head of steam” (which was a new phrase to me!) are all given an extra A here to transform them into their thematic entries, whereas every other already have the A built in. This felt like a bit of a cheat, especially with so many other A____ reparse possibilities out there.

Even with the things I didn’t enjoy as much, this is damn good for a debut puzzle! Congrats again to the constructor. Let us know what you thought in the comments below – and have a nice weekend!


Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “The End” —Darby’s write-up

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer has letters spelling out THE at the END.

Theme Answers

Rafael Musa's USA Today crossword, "The End" solution for 4/16/2023

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “The End” solution for 4/16/2023

  • 16a [“‘In…and out’”] JUST BREATHE
  • 25a [“Mint-flavored liqueur”] CRÈME DE MENTHE
  • 46a [“Lie on the beach on a nice day”] SUNBATHE
  • 56a [“Harlem Renaissance sculptor”] RICHMOND BARTHE

I don’t think that I would’ve necessarily been able to name TONS of words ending in THE. However, I think that this puzzle has a great mix of them for themers. We don’t really need SUNBATHE, as I think JUST BREATHE, CRÈME DE MENTHE, and RICHMOND BARTHE can stand on their own as a theme. However, it adds a nice bonus element. RICHMOND BARTHE is also new to me, but I appreciated how fair each of the crosses were in the lower section of hte puzzle.

I cruised through this, coming in under three and a half minutes, which feels great. I really liked the fill here, especially the bonus 10s in 10d [“Ceremony with a Torah reading”] BAR MITZVAH and 25d [“Kind response to someone else’s suffering”] COMPASSION. I also really liked 24d [“One on an annual ‘most overpaid’ list”] for CEO, and 41d [“League with Wizards and Magic”], which was a nice misdirect from NBA that I enjoyed as an “aha” moment.

Overall, definitely a fun Sunday solve!

David Alfred Bywaters’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Camping Mishaps”—Jim’s review

Theme: Remind me not to take Mr. Bywaters on a camping trip. Today’s theme answers are idioms of the form “x IN THE y” clued as if they were accidents occurring to some hapless camper. I’m imagining a Jerry Lewis-type character who’s never been out of the city.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Camping Mishaps” · David Alfred Bywaters · 4.16.23

  • 22a. [Camper’s flatware mishap?] FORK IN THE ROAD.
  • 37a. [Camper’s fishing mishap?] FLIES IN THE FACE. The phrase feels off without an ending “of” something.
  • 56a. [Camper’s lettuce mishap?] HEAD IN THE SAND. Not sure why you’re bringing a whole head of lettuce on your camping trip, but maybe such an inexperienced camper is prone to accidents.
  • 81a. [Camper’s chewing gum mishap?] STICK IN THE MUD. (Cue sad trombone.)
  • 96a. [Camper’s sleeping bag mishap?] DOWN IN THE MOUTH. “Mouth” of a river, I presume? Oh no, wait. Maybe a hole in the bag gets our poor camper to ingest some feathers. Ptui!
  • 118a. [Camper’s late-night consolation?] SHOT IN THE DARK. Not clued as a mishap, and the apparent punchline of the group. I’m presuming we’re talking about a shot of whiskey or some such, and not something more violent.

Enjoyable theme. Good consistency and imagination. I don’t know what it was about these phrases that led to a camping theme, but it works well enough for each of the phrases. The repetition of “IN THE” helped resolve some of the lower answers and aided in preventing a slog-like solve.

Not a lot of marquee fill answers, but everything is plenty solid. Top of the fill is “PLEASE HOLD.” I also liked OTTOMAN, GOLIATH, and a hurried “NO TIME!” I did need every crossing for ARIOSO [Recitative alternative].

Clues OF NOTE:

  • 6a. [Company once known as “Fluor-S-Art Co.”. DAY-GLO. I’m glad somebody woke up and realized they needed to change their name.
  • 23d. [David and Alfred]. NAMES. I see what you did there.
  • 112d. [Fly-swatting exclamation]. WHAM! Hmm. WHAM feels more like when something big and heavy slams into something else. Fly-swatting feels more like a “whack!” or “thwack!” That sharp plosive sound at the end is what does it for me.

Good puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “From Top to Bottom” —Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “From Top to Bottom” solution, 4/16/23

A chewier theme from Evan this week – we’ve got some humor in both clues and entries. I spotted it on the earlier side for me and still struggled to see each new themer without quite a few crosses.

As you can imagine from the title, our themers run vertically, and are re-parsings of familiar phrases, once the first letter is moved to the end:

  • 3d [Co. that keeps its doors shut securely?] LOCKED INC. “Clocked in”
  • 28d [High school dance with a “Novel About a Windor Cooling Unit” theme?] AC BOOK PROM. “Macbook Pro”
  • 9d [Prayer to the aquatic mammal who collects a bit of sports info?] O, STAT SEAL. “Lost at sea.” This was probably the toughest for me to parse.
  • 11d [Greeting to the canonized hirsute Addams Family cousin?] HI SAINT ITT. “This ain’t it”
  • 15d [Daredevile Knieval accompanying director Brooks?] EVEL WITH MEL. “Level with Me”
  • 59d [White House staffer who won’t utter any cries of disgust?] NO UGH AIDE. “Enough said.” Another tough one for me to see.
  • 67d [“Verily, behond yon ruby-colored wild Australian dog”?] O, TIS RED DINGO. “Otis Redding”
  • 76d [Supernatural ability to know when former QB Tony wants a flaky fish?] ROMO COD ESP. “Promo code”
  • 82d [Drink served when making a formal proposal at a hearing?] MOTION ALE. “Emotional”
  • 85d [Start of a radio communication between a 1982 film alien and former FBI director James?] ET TO COMEY. “Yet to come”

Pretty even across the theme set and clues for my entertainment; sometimes with themes like this you have two or three great entries and a bunch of me. But the base phrases are all familiar, and as I said I above, I found humor in both the clues and the entry phrases.

I found this grid on the tougher side in the fill, as well. On to notes:

  • 19a [BAFTA Award-winning actress Aimée] ANOUK. Here’s someone I only learned from crosswords — so much so that I think I only learned ANOUK is her first name and Aimée her surname in 2019.
  • 21a [Original language of the 1888 novel “Chandrakanta”] HINDI. I think I’ve seen this novel before, but perhaps not. It is widely considered the first Hindi novel and kicked off a series of six sequels. It’s now available in the public domain, as well.
  • 48a [Secretive PRISM org.] NSA. PRISM is a program by which the NSA mass-monitors internet traffic, and came to light (heh) via Edward Snowden in 2013.
  • 63a [International Rose Test Garden state] OREGON. More than 10,000 rose bushes are found in the garden, which was founded as a “safe haven” for European varietals in World War I. Portland’s moniker as the “City of Roses,” as well as its flagship Rose Festival, predate the garden.
  • 73a [Miami Dolphins legend Dan] MARINO. I was going to write that Marino has stayed in the public eye as a member of CBS’ Sunday Pregame Show, but it turns out that he left that post in 2014. Shows how much my sports diet has changed!
  • 93a [Liquor in a Rob Roy] SCOTCH. I’ve never had one — prefer my Scotch Whisky neat, and a traditional rye Manhattan over this variant.
  • 96a [“Flashing-eyed” goddess in “The Odyssey”] ATHENA. I’ve long been a fan of Homeric epithets — a good rosy-fingered Dawn matches many sunsets, if you’re up in time.
  • 98a [Rush Valley state] UTAH. I’m not sure if I’m missing something here — perhaps we just need new clues for UTAH. Rush Valley has a population of roughly 500, and the eponymous geographical feature, and I’m not sure what else. It’s not *that* close to the ALTA ski area, which cross-references this entry from 96d, or at least it doesn’t seem so on the map.
  • 102a [Justice whom “The Daily Show” once referred to as the Human Dissentipede] SCALIA. Jiggery-pokery and whatnot.
  • 112a [Wrinkled citrus fruits] UGLIS. I suppose I’ve never had to consider it before, but I’m very surprised to learn of this plural: “One ugli, two ugli” sounds much more sensible to my brain.
  • 114a [Documentary featuring a climb of El Capitan] FREE SOLO. I think my wife watched this next to me on a flight a few months back. I don’t think I have the stomach for it — I’ve heard it’s quite stressful.
  • 30d [Caber ____ (Highland Games throwing event)] TOSS. A “caber” is a long (and weighty) wooden pole, which contestants try to flip end-over-end — distance is irrelevant, but a caber that lands directly opposite the thrower (a “12:00” score) is better than one that falls at an angle.
  • 31d [Stuff picked up by a lint roller] PETHAIR. Yea, right. I’m not convinced these things work. If anyone has a recommendation for me (and my four pets), I’m listening.
  • 40d [Bassist Cook] STU. Of Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • 45d [LA/MI nation] USA. I’m not sure of the signifance, if any, of LA/MI here. If it’s state abbreviations, why those two?
  • 74d [Soccer moved in which the ball is kicked or dribbled through the defender’s legs (named after a certain spice)] NUTMEGS. These are typically seen as embarassing for the defender and I’ve never totally understood why — there’s a lot of space in soccer and only so much of it is possible to fill. It’s more notable, though not called a NUTMEG, in basketball, no?

Amie Walker’s LA Times crossword, “Stereo Types” – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

The puzzle has a title, but also a revealer: SURROUNDSOUND, [Home theater feature, and a feature of the answers to the starred clues?]. Each of those answers with asterisked clues has an onomatopoeic word bookending it: [*Space to recover] B{REATHINGR}OOM; [*Sending mixed messages, maybe?], D{RUNKTEXT}ING; [*Pickle-y condiment], SW{EETREL}ISH; [*Ham it up for the camera, say], P{UTONASH}OW; [*Chewable candy with a comic in its wrapper], BA{ZOOKAGU}M; [*Satisfactory compromise], H{APPYMEDI}UM; *10 or 11, at many hotels, CH{ECKOUTT}IME.

I’d say this was a good puzzle to choose to make into a plus-sized Sunday, with a lot of space to explore in the theme.


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25 Responses to Sunday, April 16, 2023

  1. JohnH says:

    I have to agree with Nat’s two qualms about the NYT theme — that and my first couple of themers to fall had me thinking they’d all add that A at the very beginning. By the time I was done, all I could think was why couldn’t the setter make up his mind what the theme is? But others may relish the variety as a worthy difficulty, so I’ll just wait and see what people think.

    My one wish to congratulate the setter: the Sunday puzzle bio says he’s submitted two dozen over years without getting published before. Wow. My praise to those who can handle that without giving up. I know I would bag it! (Makes me wonder if, once you’ve made it, you then get reduced scrutiny. After all, Jeff Chen, to name just one, gets published pretty much a puzzle a day!)

    • J says:

      NYT: I believe there is some consistency – the themers on the left side of the grid all separate the A from the original phrase, the themers on the right concatenate

      • Steve says:

        I think J hit the nail on the head. The title tells us there’s an “A” game – on one side we separate the A, on the other side we combine it. Kinda like an oxidation-reduction reaction for the chemists in the crowd!

        • placematfan says:

          Agreed. That’s a really interesting observation.

        • DougC says:

          Yes, precisely. The themers alternate how the “A” works going down the grid. An “A Game” indeed!

          And I just love this kind of silliness in a Sunday puzzle! Well done!

      • David L says:

        That still doesn’t seem quite right to me. For example, WARDOFTHESTATE is a standard phrase, so the A has been added. But then ABRIDGETOOFAR is a standard phrase that already has an A at the front. Similarly with ATONEPOEM (A added) and AHEADOFSTEAM (A already there).

        So I don’t really get it.

      • JohnH says:

        Apologies for not having noticed. That’s what happens with a large grid when one’s eye goes every which way.

        Still, apart from the ingenious analogy to chem, must I’d have trouble putting that aspect of the variation into words to enunciate a theme. Still felt awkward. But again, congratulations to him for breaking through, and surely he’ll get better.

  2. Seattle DB says:

    Out of curiosity I’d like to find out when “Crossword Fiend” first came online. Was it December 2009? And I’d like to thank Amy Renaldo and all of the contributors who make this such a wonderful mingling site.

  3. marciem says:

    WaPo: I didn’t see mention of the word alluded to in the notepad… COMPLETELY, meaning Top to Bottom. The letters that had migrated from the top to the bottom to form the wacky phrases spell that out.

    I am also lost on the significance of the clue for USA…. LA/MI nation… Louisiana/Michigan??? Why that??

    Fun puzzle!

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … What the heck is STRUGGLE BUS? Is this a common metaphor? Is this a gaming term or something? I was able to deduce the STRUGGLE part from the clue, but why a BUS?

  5. Dan says:

    Just curious: I’ve noticed that, at least so far this year, the LAT Sunday puzzles have never been timed, and probably more than half the weeks are (still) listed as “tk”.

    I wonder what the reason for this is.

  6. Eric H says:

    WaPo: Solving the puzzle took me considerably longer than the typical Sunday WaPo grid — a combination of having the theme answers as Downs and theme answers that were essentially nonsense. Thanks, Mr. Gritzmacher, for parsing them all. I was too lazy to do that.

    I did figure out the theme trick with AC BOOK PROM, and once I looked at the right words, the meta answer was obvious. (In making a list of the letters I thought were part of the meta, I had the D from LISTENED instead of the P from ROMO COD ESP.)

    (One of these days, I will finally remember that the former Cowboys QB is Tony ROMO, not ROMa. The last time I paid even the slightest attention to the Cowboys, Roger Staubach was their quarterback.)

  7. Eric H says:

    Universal Sunday: I have done a lot of camping, so the theme amused me. I especially liked the image evoked by DOWN IN THE MOUTH.

  8. WaPo: About 29-A, “Vehicle in a Duke Ellington song”: “Take the ‘A’ Train” was the Ellington band’s long-time theme, but it was written by Ellington’s writing and arranging partner Billy Strayhorn. In countless performances, Ellington introduced it thusly: “And now our theme, Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Take the “A” Train’.’” (Yes, the A gets quotation marks.)

    • JohnH says:

      Not that I worked the Washington Post, but surely “a Duke Ellington song” doesn’t necessarily make him the writer. Indeed, forced to speak of this signature tune, surely I’d identify it as just that, knowing who wrote it all too well.

      I’d talk about, oh, I don’t know, say, Janis Joplin songs the same way, and those weren’t even written by a someone within the group as arranger and partner. And remember: crossword clues can’t and don’t have to explain everything.

  9. Silverskiesdean says:

    Did anyone mention that when you took the last letters or first after re-arranging, you spell out the word “completely” which is the answer to the title as clue, I think?

    • Yes it was mentioned in the comments above.

      To be clear, though, you don’t have to rearrange any of the letters. Read them from left-to-right in the grid and you spell out COMPLETELY.

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