Sunday, April 30, 2023

LAT tk  


NYT tk (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 15:16 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 5:13 (Matthew) 


Lewis Rothlein and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “Name Dropping” —Nate’s write-up

04.30.23 Sunday New York Times Puzzle

04.30.23 Sunday New York Times Puzzle

28D: CHAR(DONNA)Y [Cautious (of)]
CHARY fits the clue and DONNA drops down to
90D: LADY MA(DONNA) [Title woman who has children at her feet, in a 1968 hit]

42D: BROK(E THE L)AW [Longtime anchor of “NBC Nightly News”]
BROKAW fits the clue and ETHEL drops down to
110D: TAK(E THE L) [Accept defeat, in modern slang]

18D: S(HERMAN)TANK [Reeked]
STANK fits the clue and HERMAN drops down to
91D: FLY FIS(HERMAN) [Person dealing with casting and lines]

19D: BO(W AND A)RROW [Check out, as a book]
BORROW fits the clue and WANDA drops down to
92D: HOTEL R(WANDA) [2004 Don Cheadle film set in Africa]

44D: T(RICK)ENDING [Guarding, as a goal]
TENDING fits the clue and RICK drops down to
115D: KUB(RICK) [Director of “The Shining” and “Dr. Strangelove”]

34D: FIN(E THAN)KS [Informants, informally]
FINKS fits the clue and ETHAN drops down to
94D: ELIZAB(ETHAN) [Like England in the late 16th century]

For me, this was a solve of two halves. The top half of the puzzle solved quite quickly for me, even if I wasn’t yet sure what the heck was going on with the themers. The bottom half of the puzzle made me spin my wheels for a while, until I finally started piecing things together. My AHA moment was realizing that the top theme entry in each column had to be considered without the shaded name, and that that names needed to drop below the grid to complete the answer at the bottom. ELIZAB(ETHAN) was the giveaway for me – I wonder if that’s true for others, too.

I appreciated that the bottom set of theme entries were clear and indisputable. It had to be HOTEL RWANDA, KUBRICK, and ELIZABETHAN somehow, even if the mechanism wasn’t 100% clear at first. What stumped me for a bit up top, though, was CHARY as the answer for [Cautious (of)]. That was new to me and made it the last themer to fall. That said, I appreciated the extra layer to the top theme entries – that they were (unclued) words or phrases in their own right. I was ultimately able to get CHARY by completing _HARDONNAY. That many of the letters in the top theme entries were essentially triple checked helped me know I had the correct letters entered there.

Overall, this felt like a fun solve and a satisfying theme, which must have been challenging to piece together. How’d the puzzle go for you? Did you have a few nice light bulb moments? Let us know in the chat how the puzzle treated you – and have a nice weekend!

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Third Time’s The Charm”—Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Third Time’s The Charm,” 4-30-2023

A light meta from Evan this week: we’re prompted for “a six letter word.”

It doesn’t take long into the solve to notice that some clues are repeated: I first noticed it with [Handle] at 1- and 31-across, and [“Square” thing, maybe] a little later. The latter in particular has three common possibilities of the same length, so it caught my attention when I had to switch from DEAL to ROOT, only to find ROOT a moment later.

Anyway, there are six clues that are repeated, and as suggested by the title and a central Easter Egg entry —65a [One of a group of three] TRIPLET— three times each. With a little bit of hunting, we have:

  • [Handle] 1a GRIP – 31a MANAGE – 58d ALIAS
  • [“Square” thing, maybe] 54a ROOT – 61a DEAL – 70d MEAL
  • [Drive] 27a TEESHOT – 39d STEER – 91d URGE
  • [Rank] 44a FETID – 83a ROW – 102d LEVEL
  • [Fair] 92a SUNNY – 45d JUST – 110d EXPO
  • [What X might mean] 97a CHI – 41d KISS – 112d TEN

With the title suggesting the third version, I’ve also ordered these by the clue number of the third edition of each clue. And those entries spell out AMULET – an apt “charm” from the title. Brought a smile to my face.

I found this a quick grid and pretty clearly indicated series of meta steps. Hopefully with six theme clues each repeating, folks will know even before the solve is complete where their first step is.


  • 24a RODAN – I was familiar with RODAN as a kaiju, but not much beyond that. Turns out it’s an “Irradiated Pteranodon”.
  • 73a ENID – Enid might have been my favorite character in the series other than the titular Wednesday. Bubbly and colorful even in the dour horror setting.
  • 107a EVIL ONE – This phrase always puts Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” in my head.
  • 2d ROLE – I presume the “Field” in the clue is reference to actor Sally Field. If so, it’s a decently tricky bit of misdirection compared to the rest of the grid. Offset of course by being a common word in a relatively small corner, but still caught my eye.
  • 11d SERGIO – I would think that even non soccer fans would be able to get to SERGIO with a few crossings and the clue’s pinning Ramos as a Spaniard.
  • 60d PANTHER – Two very different movies, “The Pink Panther” and “Black Panther.” Fun to connect them like that.

Rich Katz and Jeff Chen’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Next-level Thinking”—Jim’s review

The title had me thinking theme entries would start on one row in the grid and then finish one row above. But nope. It’s simple math. The revealer is PLUS ONES (118a, [Certain additional party-goers … and a hint to the adjustments needed for the starred clues]). Each theme clue has a number (or a hint to a number) within. When you add 1 to it, you get a clue that makes sense for the answer.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Next-level Thinking” · Rich Katz and Jeff Chen · 4.30.23

  • 23a. [*Figure eights?] SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS. More like “figure nines.”
  • 30a. [*Grand old times?] ARABIAN NIGHTS. Ok, this one threw me off and was responsible for me not grokking the theme until I hit the revealer. First, I latched onto the fact that the first word contains the letters ARIANA which is the first name of singer Grande (never mind that the clue has “Grand” in it, not “Grande”). Once I realized this was a red herring and that numbers were involved in the theme, it was clear there was no number in the clue. Ah, but there is! A “grand” is 1,000. Add one to get 1,001 and you get the number associated with ARABIAN NIGHTS. Very clever!
  • 39a. [*Perfect score in Vegas?] BLACKJACK. Again, no number, but again, there is a number. A score is 20; add 1 to get 21.
  • 43a. [*Woman with a six-pack?] SNOW WHITE. A pack of seven dwarfs.
  • 52a. [*Fiver, famously?] WILT CHAMBERLAIN. I couldn’t have told you what team he played for, but I’m guessing it was the Philadelphia 76ers.
  • 71a. [*A penny for your thoughts?] TWO-CENTS’ WORTH. Two pennies.
  • 90a. [*Eleventh hour happening] THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT. I was surprised to see a dupe of “night” in the theme answers.
  • 107a. [*Four corners monument?] THE PENTAGON. Five corners.
  • 114a. [*Double-header?] CERBERUS. A triple-headed dog.

Really quite nice. I like the use of idiomatic phrases in the clues, the satisfying aha moment provided by the revealer, and then the subsequent realization that I still needed to go that extra step with those couple of clues (“grand” and “score”). It started out to be a frustrating solve—at least theme-wise—but it all came together and made sense in the end. Nicely done.

That’s a lot of theme material, so there isn’t a lot of non-theme long fill. But we still get plenty of nice entries in COLISEUM, HOT ZONE, WIIMOTES, SEE ‘N SAYS (small deduction for the plural form and a dupe from SEES TO IT.), BROWN ALE, BOO-YAH, and PURE MATH.

Clues of note:

  • 38a. [Imp’s year-end comeuppance]. COAL. IMP appears at 122a. Why not change this clue to use the word “brat”?
  • 70a. [Punchline to the “Interrupting Cow” knock-knock joke]. MOO. Easy to infer, but I didn’t know the joke nor that there’s a series of early-reader books associated with it. Sounds like a fun way to get those kids reading.
  • 88a. [Nintendo accessories]. WIIMOTES. I’d call them [Old Nintendo accessories] at this point.
  • 24d. [Sound often made by flutes]. CLINK. Champagne flutes, that is.
  • 29d. [Letters preceding Q]. TAB. Hmm. Giving this one the side-eye. The TAB key is next to the Q, but who would call them “letters preceding Q”?
  • 32d. [___ Alpha]. GEN. Wait. Who’s this?! No one told me we started over! (See the handy dandy chart below.)
  • 44d. [Who says?]. OWL. I see we’re playing a little fast and loose with cluing grammar here.
  • 46d. [Andy who wrote “Project Hail Mary”]. WEIR. Yay! Thank you. I’ve been wondering when this word/name would be clued via this author. Excellent book. He also wrote The Martian by the way.

Good puzzle. Four stars.

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27 Responses to Sunday, April 30, 2023

  1. Greg says:

    The Times was both ingenious and highly entertaining. Two nice “Aha!” moments, as the clever dual themes finally became clear to me.

    My hat is off to Messrs. Rothlein and Chen. That must have been a real challenge to put together.

  2. Jean says:

    Loved this puzzle- it was a delight to get the ‘Aha!’ when puzzling the bottom half. So much fun!

  3. Eric H says:

    NYT: Impressive piece of construction.

    My solving took longer than normal because I hade ICeHOT for the “pain reliever with the oxymoronic name.” LADe MA didn’t make much sense — I already had the Beatles’ song going in my head — but I hadn’t yet figured out where the DONNA needed to go.

    Then, with 95% of the grid filled in, I struggled to make sense of FI_E THANKS being an informant. It didn’t help that I had EyES instead of EWES (a legit answer, but not correct). Once I got that straightened out, it took me a few more minutes to find my earlier mistake.

    So it was fun until it wasn’t, but I have no one to blame but myself.

    • Ruth says:

      I dropped in EyES on my first pass, feeling very smug for figuring it out, and it took a long time to find my error. I finally went to Wordplay to figure it out. What is a SNOy and why can angels be found in it?! 🙄. All in all a very clever puzzle!

    • John says:

      “Homophone of vowels not found in this answer” is a really stupid clue, IMO

  4. Josh M says:

    CHARY has no place in a puzzle. I don’t care how good the theme is. It ruined the whole experience for me.

    • JohnH says:

      How so? It seems like an ordinary word to me.

      I can’t fairly rate this one, as I got soaked on the way home, as did my gym bag containing the Sunday magazine. So I had to cope with what was still legible and not too hard to lay halfway flat. I didn’t recall the factoid about Brokaw, had somehint lost the connection between the movie and Cheadle, and didn’t know “the L” as informal for “the loss,” but nothing I couldn’t work out, even if they’re all in themers. Overall no strong feelings, but then I was wet and cold.

  5. Sheik Yerbouti says:

    NYT: 40D is wrong, isn’t it? The vowel is indeed “found” in the answer. What am I missing?

    • AmyL says:

      I wondered about that too.

    • David L says:

      There’s no U in EWES — that’s how I took it.

      • Gary R says:

        Pretty sure that’s how it was intended. I’m among those who felt clever by filling in EyES – never gave alternatives a thought, even when I couldn’t make sense of SNOy (figured it was just something not in my knowledge base, like ROAR for “Scar line” from a few days ago).

        I guess “wise” might have worked for the answer, too.

        • Eric H says:

          You’re reading it right — there’s no U in EWES.

          As previously mentioned, “eyes” fits the clue, as do “ayes” and “wise.” A little tricky, but completely legitimate.

  6. AmyL says:

    NYT: I couldn’t finish the top right corner. Heroize? Eargasm? Red cod? I filled in ROAD TRIPS at 20D and couldn’t unthink it. The clue at 12D (“ruff”) is too cutesy for me and I didn’t get it.

    I also don’t like the 43A CAN YOU DIG IT clue; it’s too cutesy as well. Other oddball answers were gettable from the crossings.

    Like Nate, ELIZABETHAN was the giveaway.

    • DougC says:

      That northeast corner was bad, for sure.

      I’ve never heard of red cod, but apparently it is a common New Zealand food fish, so OK, I guess.

      Eargasm srikes me as ephemeral slang that will soon (please!) sound outdated.

      Heroize is just plain ugly. It’s been around for a long time, and yet barely makes a blip on the Collins Dictionary usage trend graph. You can see why. I can’t recall ever hearing it IRL.

  7. MattF says:

    Liked the NYT. I figured the entry for the left-most ‘dropping’ word was CHARY, but seeing DONNA in the grayed portion of the grid inside the entry gave away most of the trick. The finishing step with the entries along the bottom row was neat. A nice piece of construction, even though the words in the right-most dropping word didn’t really make a meaningful combination.

  8. Ed says:

    Tough puzzle for me even after I figured out the gimmick. “heroize”? UGH!

  9. Eric H says:

    WaPo: Ha! I got the meta despite not finding the sixth set of repeated clues (I overlooked the “What X might mean” set). I’d figured the meta answer involved ALIAS, URGE, LEVEL, MEAL, and EXPO (in that order; I’m not sure how Matthew got them in the order to spell AMULET).

    Then I saw TRIPLET and decided I could use that T to get an anagram of AMULET. Not as clean as the way Matthew solved it, but it got me the answer. (“Charm” was a nice confirmation that I had found the correct six-letter word.)

    Side note: I do the WaPo puzzles in AcrossLite. In addition to the hassle of switching between AcrossLite and the Notes app that I use to list the possible components of the meta, I’ve lately had this problem: Every time I come back to AcrossLite, my completed grid is empty until I click on the library icon. It’s not a big deal, but it’s kind of annoying. Has anyone else seen that? (Once again, I’m thinking this meta might have been easier to solve on paper.)

    I enjoyed seeing SERGIO Ramos in the grid. I’m not a big sports fan, but I got hooked watching the 2010 World Cup and was happy to see Spain win.

    • You spell out AMULET in grid order, using the third triplet in each trio.

      ALIAS (58D)
      MEAL (70D)
      URGE (91D)
      LEVEL (102D)
      EXPO (110D)
      TEN (112D)

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks. As I said, I missed the X triplet when I was trying to identify them.

        I should’ve looked at Matthew’s highlighted grid. It makes it all pretty obvious.

        • Janice says:

          Ha! Exactly my experience, Eric. Couldn’t find the X triplet, instead used the Triple “T” to arrive at AMULET, and felt validated by the “charm” title. AND I use Notepad to suss out Evan’s metas.
          (And as always, Evan, your puzzles are my favorites. Thanks so much for them!!)

  10. Tara C says:

    NYT: North east corner got us as well. Started 20D with ACIDTRIPS…thought that would have been a common mistake. Fun puzzle though all around.

  11. Mark says:

    Is it just me or have Universal Sundays been a lot harder the past few weeks?

  12. Patw says:

    Can’t go along with the accolades. I thought the puzzle annoyingly tricky!

  13. Doug says:

    I thought this was a clever, elegant puzzle. If the theme had just been words containing names, which I originally thought was the point of the puzzle, that might have been sufficiently (well, maybe barely)amusing. But to have had the lower answers completed by the names above brought this, in my opinion, to the highest level of invention and craft that I’ve seen in a long time. Bravo!

  14. John Malcolm says:

    NYT — UGHly

  15. Redactle says:

    I found I quite liked the NYT. Although I had guessed that CHARY would be the answer to the leftmost ‘dropping’ word, seeing DONNA in the grayed-out section of the grid inside the entry gave away most of the trick.

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