Katie Hale and Scott Hogan’s New York Times crossword, “Punctuation Matters” —Nate’s write-up
– 25A PLAY(‘)S A TRICK [“Oh, now I understand the significance of the troupe’s performance in ‘Hamlet’!”]
– 32A STAND(‘)S IN THE WAY [“I can’t get past this witness box!”]
– 41A JERK(‘)S AROUND [“Watch out for that bully!”]
– 58A FALL(‘)S OUT OF FAVOR [“Everyone dislikes autumn now!”]
– 76A BAT(‘)S FIVE HUNDRED [“Dracula has lived half a millennium!”]
– 87A BEAR(‘)S IN MIND [“I’m thinking of a grizzly!”]
– 98A PLANT(‘)S EVIDENCE [“Careful, the shrub may have fingerprints on it!”]
– 110A PUZZLE(‘)S OVER [“I finished this crossword!”]
To make sense of each of the theme entry clues, we need to insert an apostrophe into the first word of each theme entry to change it from a present-tense verb to a “noun is” phrase. For example, BATS FIVE HUNDRED (a baseball reference that I got!) with an apostrophe turns into BAT’S (Bat is) FIVE HUNDRED (so cute!), while PLANTS EVIDENCE turns into PLANT’S (Plant is) EVIDENCE (also really fun).
I liked a lot about this theme: most of the themers were fun reimaginings of their base phrases, there was a lot of theme density in the puzzle, the theme itself felt quite consistently applied, and the puzzle overall felt largely clean (if not a tad difficult). I also appreciated the final theme entry being meta – PUZZLE’S OVER!
– I wonder if the crossing of OPAHS (1D) and HR REP (27A) will be tricky for anyone. It definitely stumped me for a moment! Where I did Natick and had to get help was the DAFOE (71A) and LAHR (67A) crossing. I originally had DEFOE and LEHR – who knew!
– It was fun seeing modern entries like TURNT, EBOY, and CAMI in the puzzle. Bravo, too, for the long overdue Shortz-era debut of LOCS.
– I really appreciated that BAP (8D) was clued as [Korean word for cooked rice] when they could have clued it any other way. It’ll be a gimme for those who know it and something new to learn for those who don’t. All the letters were super fairly crossed, so there shouldn’t be any Naticks there.
What did you enjoy about the puzzle? Can you think of any other fun phrases that could have worked as themers for this puzzle? Let us know in the chat – and have a great weekend!
Garrett Chalfin’s LA Times crossword, “In the End” — Jack’s write-up
Theme entries are common phrases with an “in” sound added at the end, creating new wacky phrases with wacky clues.
- 23A. [Exclamation at a Chinese New Year Parade?] = WHAT A DRAGON (“What a drag!”)
- 25A. [Homemade cat costume?] = DIY KITTEN (DIY kit)
- 42A. [Havana cigar that hits all the right notes?] = PERFECT CUBAN (perfect cube, like the number 8 = 2 cubed).
- 65A. [Evian, e.g.?] = WATER TITAN (water tight)
- 67A. [To whom a young sea monster goes for advice?] = WISE KRAKEN (wisecrack)
- 87A. [Unusually low tax bill?] = LITTLE BURDEN (little bird)
- 105A. [So tired of eating pork for breakfast?] = OVER BACON (overbake)
- 107A. [Observation at a zoo’s big cat exhibit?] = THAT IS A LION (“That is a lie!”)
Add a letter or add a sound themes are very common on Sundays. This is a solid incarnation of a classic style. From the title, I expected to be adding the letters “IN” to the end of phrases. It’s much more interesting to add the sound instead, which is spelled in multiple ways. The theme set has well-known base phrases and interesting enough re-imaginings. My favorites were WHAT A DRAGON and WISE KRAKEN.
Given that there were 8 theme entries (a hefty number even for a Sunday), I’m impressed that Garrett managed to keep the rest of the grid interesting. GLAM ROCK, FLAT SODA, FIVE STAR, IT’S A SNAP, FINAL SALE, MAKE A WISH, ASCII ART (these are images made from keyboard characters), and DEEP SIGH (with the amusing clue [I have to explain this again?]). That’s a lot of fun crossword fill. Pretty clean grid as well although I almost failed to complete the SIMMS/STILL ME/LE FAY/YOGINI complex.
- 29A. [Lunch spot, for short] = CAF. I think I’ve exclusively seen this entry clued in terms of caffeine, as in a “half-caf”coffee order. I’m not sure how I feel about “caf” being short for cafeteria. Maybe people say that.
- 50D. [Cape Cod alcohol] = VODKA. I had no idea that a Cape Cod (or Cape Codder) is the cocktail name for a vodka and cranberry juice. I suppose it makes sense given that they grow cranberries around there.
- 94D/100A STOPS/TIGERS. I had SLOTS/LIGERS at first and thought it was pretty rad that Clemson athletes were the Ligers.
- 36A. is ADD-INS. I find it pretty strange that this entry could basically function as a revealer for this puzzle. We’re adding “ins” to the ends of phrases. I wonder if this is intentional, but then again it’s located in a random place in the grid for a revealer and the clue makes no reference to the theme. Just a weird coincidence I guess.
Universal, “Themeless Sunday 31” by Tom Pepper and Zhouqin Burnikel — norah’s write-up
- THUNDERCAT 2D [Grammy-winning bassist whose fans could aptly clap for him?]
- RASTAPASTA 3D [Rhyming dish with jerk chicken and penne]
- CHARSIU 11D [Cantonese barbecued pork]
- HETEROS 68A [Straight people, casually]
Delightful grid with plenty of zing and uncommon entries with fair and thoughtful clues led to a breezy solve with just the gentlest mental STRETCH to start the day.
I enjoy seeing 17A Keri RUSSEL clued as [Keri of “Felicity”], rather than something more recent. Speaks to my xennial heart. I just learned the word 34A CRAVAT [Fancy item of neckwear] a few days ago, so it’s nice to see it repeated here. 46D [Tooth that rotates] gives me the heebiejeebies until I realize it’s COG, great clue.
Mmm… RASTAPASTA !
Thanks Tom, Zhouqin, and the Universal team!
Wendy L. Brandes & Hoang-Kim Vu’s Universal Sunday crossword, “ Station Identification”—Jim’s review
Theme clues are familiar phrases or compound words with “station” as the second word, and each clue should be read as if “station” is a synonym for “place” or “locale.” A change in meaning of the first word in each clue leads to the theme answers.
- 23a. [PlayStation?] BROADWAY THEATER. A place where plays are performed.
- 44a. [Substation?] SANDWICH SHOP. A place to get a subway sandwich.
- 64a. [Service station?] TENNIS COURT. A place where players serve the ball.
- 83a. [Union Station?] WEDDING ALTAR. A place where unions are made.
- 105a. [AM station?] BREAKFAST BUFFET. A place during ante meridiem (not amplitude modulation).
- 32d. [Space station?] PARKING GARAGE. A place to find a parking space.
- 36d. [Filling station?] DENTIST’S CHAIR. A place to get cavities filled.
An enjoyable theme. It’s consistent with fun, gentle wordplay.
I do have to take exception to some of the clues, though. For example, “PlayStation” is a registered trademark of Sony, and my feeling is that you can’t just take that particular stylization of the words and use it to mean something else. I’d argue the correct clue should be [Play station?]. I know that weakens the theme somewhat, but it has to be accurate above all. Similarly, my feeling is that other clues should be [Sub station?] and [Union station?].
Let’s see, what’ve we got in the fill? I liked seeing Gwen STEFANI, AIRPODS, BAR FIGHT, AD-LIBBED, Amy and David SEDARIS, “SI SEŃOR,” and COALESCES. I like GOOD KID, but it doesn’t feel as colloquial as “good boy” or “good girl.”
I don’t think I’ve seen AED [Device used by 102-Down] (EMS) in a puzzle before. Cruciverb lists it as only appearing one other time (in a New Yorker puzzle this year). Seems like a valid entry to me and will be very useful to constructors. Be sure to tuck that one away for future use. (It stands for Automated External Defibrillator, BTW.)
Clues of note:
- 1a. [Wranglers material?]. DENIM. Not so sure that we need a question mark here.
- 48a. [GCHQ equivalent in the U.S.]. NSA. GCHQ is the British Government Communications Headquarters. And whaddya know! Right on their main home page they have a link to Puzzles. Fancy a go?
- 71a. [Project Implicit tests for unconscious ones]. BIASES. I was reading “Project” as a verb and I was wondering why “Implicit” was capitalized. Turns out that Project Implicit is a non-profit organization.
Good puzzle. Four stars.
Matt Forest and Taylor Johnson’s Washington Post crossword, “What’s the Point?”—Matthew’s write-up
Guest constructors this week in the WaPo – and it’s two fellas who have been growing steadily more productive in the indie scene. Matt Forest publishes puzzles at Matt’s Word and recently oversaw the charity pack Grids for Kids, while Taylor Johnson is a budding editor who runs the uber-creative (and free) monthly puzzle packs at Lemonade Disco.
Getting to the puzzle, we have goofy clues and goofy phrases, that don’t quite fit into the grid, and what does go into the grid… isn’t that goofy:
- 27a [*This just in: A small town learns its local dump has officially reached capacity, leaving the city council to debate its …] RASH DECISION (“Trash”)
- 36a [*Set to disrupt the toupee industry, research on a newly discovered supplement has earned it the nickname …] AIRLINE FOOD (“Hairline”)
- 47a [*Expansions in virtual-reality living have users spending untold amounts to purchase their own …] STATE OF MIND (“Estate”)
- 60a [*Meat lovers have taken to buying sausages at booths known as …] INK STANDS (“Link”)
- 68a [*Agricultural innovations have produced new confidence-boosting fruits called …] GO BANANAS (“Ego”)
- 82a [*Hell’s Kitchen now requires its chefs to “dress the part” and they are affectionately called …] INNER DEMONS (“Dinner”)
- 91a [*In an effort to contain their methane-laden burps, cows are being cordoned off to a patch of elevated land that farmers are dubbing …] MISSION HILL (“Emission”)
Eventually, a revealer helps us out:
- 104a [Failed to start with critically important information (as seven entries in this puzzle have literally done)] BURIED THE LEDE
Indeed, the letter-by-letter differences between the goofy-clued and straight-entered phrases spell out “THE LEDE.” A pleasant approach and payoff. Evan included a dialogue with Matt and Taylor at his own write-up of the puzzle over at the Post today.
Digging into notes:
- 31a [“To kick,” in Korean] TAE. As in “tae kwon do” or “tae bo”
- 54a [Fashion icon Anna whose last name is a clothing ensemble minus its last letter] SUI. I first learned of Anna SUI from Stella Zawistowski’s excellent themeless grids at Tough As Nails. I knew then that fashion was a blind spot for me, but the sheer number of SUI appearances in all grids since underscores how much I have to learn.
- 114a [___ Srummed (hip hop duo)] RAE. I can’t name and doubt I would recognize a song from this group, but I do know that their name is “Ear Drummers” with each word flipped.
- 117a [Facial affliction] STYE. Frankly odd to see STYE clued without a reference to the eye!
- 5d [Some corsage flowers] ORCHID. Vanilla also comes from an orchid, as I was reminded (the hard way) at a recent trivia night.
- 54d [Bygone Swedish autos] SAABS. I might have shared this here before, but I learned for the first time that SAAB had shuttered from a New York Times crossword. It doesn’t matter, but I still think of that moment every time I come across it in a grid.
- 62d [Practice] TRAIN and 63d [“Toodles!”] ADIOS. I had “trade” and “adieu” here for a while and it really, really, through me off.
- 68d [Humorous phonetic spelling of “fish,” based on letters in “tough,” “women,” and “nation”] GHOTI. Recognizable to me, but I have no idea how well-known this quip is. The idea is the -GH of “tough” are pronounced /f/, and so on.
Rebecca Goldstein’s USA Today crossword, “Am I Right?” —Darby’s write-up
Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: Each theme answer ends with AM I, making each answer have AM I on the right.
- 19a [“‘First Person Singular’ author”] HARUKI MURAKAMI
- 37a [“2020 movie set at the Hampton House on Feb. 25, 1964”] ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…
- 54a [Meat on a triple-decker sandwich at Second Avenue Deli”] KOSHER PASTRAMI
I loved these themers so so much. What a great combo of things. ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI… was also fun to plug in (it’s also a really interesting movie about a potential meeting of Jim Brown, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay)). KOSHER PASTRAMI took me a second to plug in, as I kept thinking that SALAMI was the meat in question, but AAS, TVS, and PIPE DREAM quickly corrected me.
The fill on this symmetric grid was really smooth and fun. There were a few things I wasn’t sure of, liking spending time thinking that 5d [“Like the number of this clue”] was FIFTH instead of PRIME or not being sure of 8d [“Tzedakah contribution”] DONATION. However, a clear strength of this grid was the quality cluing that helped me along (and I learned so much along the way, like the fact that tzedakah refers to giving charity). Additionally, even though the themers included 2 14s and 1 spanner, there was also plenty of longer fill, like ILLUSIONS, TELEPORTS, GUMMY BEAR, and PIPE DREAM.
Fave fill included: 61a [“‘Seasons of Love’ musical”] RENT, 2d [“The ‘N’ of ‘NCIS’”] NAVAL, and 43a [“Last day of Q4”] NYE.
NYT: Kind of a “meh” puzzle for me, at least by comparison to the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday NYT puzzles. The theme phrases didn’t amuse me all that much.
I did enjoy seeing the Coen Brothers in the clue for DARK HUMOR, as I’ve been a fan of their work since “Blood Simple.”
I also appreciated learning LOCS, as the only names I have heard for that style are “dreadlocks” and “dreads.” And I am glad to have the “amped up” sense of TURNT reinforced. Until just a few days ago, the only meaning I knew for it was “intoxicated.” (I have straight, fine hair that I doubt would lock well, and no one I know has ever uttered TURNT in my presence.)
I didn’t find the theme terribly amusing either, much less one that (per Shortz’s Sunday bio note in print has it) one that would have the constructors having to stop owing to laughter. It also isn’t really as original as he makes it sound, as other themes have amounted to breaking up words at the wrong place, although there’s still plenty of room for such a device. Punctuation in general for specifically apostrophes also seemed a little odd, as did some of the theme fill. Say, “bully” cluing JERK seems off, as few jerks are bullies.
I, too, should no doubt also have taken pleasure in learning new usage, but the fill was also kinda full of it, to the point that it got in the way of the solving experience. It also led to some awfully tough or iffy crossings for me, like MAE / CAMI, FOZZIE / LOCS / SMIZES, and EBOY / ABU. But at the very least I wish they’d taken more editing time to tighten up and enliven the theme.
Eric H, From last night, thanks for replying re the Q mystery. I confused The NY Times grid with the LA Times. 🙄
If you do enough of these puzzles, it’s easy to forget where you saw something (or didn’t see it, as the case may be).
I don’t understand the hidden meaning behind PLAY’S A TRICK.
I thought the themers were at least moderately entertaining (with the exception of the aforementioned) but I found the puzzle noticeably tougher in its cluing than the typical Sunday. The clues for DECAFS, CSPAN, ELAPSE and some others took me a while to parse. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I didn’t care for that theme entry either and had to work to justify it. I think the idea is that “well, here’s the trick” could be something you say to someone who wonders how something could work out this way.
That guilty creatures sitting at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene,
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim’d their malefactions.
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I’ll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle. I’ll observe his looks;
I’ll tent him to the quick. If he but blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil, and the devil hath power
T’assume a pleasing shape, yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have grounds
More relative than this. The play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.
Hamlet hires a troupe to stage a play whose plot resembles the murder of Hamlet’s father. He does this so he can observe Claudius’s reaction (he believes that Claudius killed his father).
Thank you. I have seen Hamlet, I swear, but it was a long time ago and I don’t remember that bit…
Wild and whirling words, guys.
I, too, thought right away of Hamlet’s “The play’s the thing,” and of course I know the plot cold (and, I have to admit, by now much of the text), but the wording didn’t really resemble that of the clue. I’ll stick to my explanation.