Sunday, June 18, 2023

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT 17:06 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 3:53 (Matthew) 


Joe DiPietro’s New York Times crossword, “My Two Cents” — Nate’s write-up

06.18.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

06.18.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 23A: DOUBLE TAKE [“It’s obvious the actors aren’t doing these stunts”]
– 25A: GAME THEORY [“Hares and rabbits are really the same animal, some say”]
– 46A: SERVING SUGGESTION [“Waiter, you can hold off bringing the coffee till the end of the meal”]
– 69A: BLANKET RECOMMENDATION [“Wool will keep you the warmest”]
– 94A: DISSENTING OPINION [“Being contrarian is fun!”]
– 116A: CORE BELIEF [“Whaddya mean it’s the pits? It’s the best part of an apple!”]
– 118A: SAGE ADVICE [“Use it for Thanksgiving stuffing and saltimbocca”]

In each theme entry, a common phrase having to do with one’s ideas is reimagined by thinking of the first word in the phrase in a new way. Overall, each of the themers was satisfyingly successful to me, though the theme set as a whole felt like a story of two halves. Some of the themers involved words relating to one’s own ideas – take, theory, opinion, and belief – where as the other themers more closely aligned (in my mind) with “two cents” projected at someone else – suggestion, recommendation, advice. I might be splitting hairs, but that inelegance kept this from being among my favorite Sunday puzzles of late.

I will also note that there were many places in the grid where I just wasn’t on the constructor’s wavelength in terms of fill and got stuck – the ABA / CORBIN / DIK / ACE (with cheeky clue) section especially stumped me. I can imagine that the ANSELM / SMU and SABRAS / LARA crossings could also be tricky for some. The entry that stood out for me, for not great reasons, was MCENROE and its clue [Court figure with a renowned temper] – it doesn’t feel great that some folks (often men) can be known to be unkind humans and yet their behavior is shrugged off (in favor of their genius / accomplishment), as in this clue. I see the merit in acknowledging his temper in the clue instead of cluing him in a neutral way, but I guess my bent would be to not include him at all, if possible. To each their own, though, and I’m sure I’ll get push back on this. I wanted to mention it, though, because it was something that took me out of the puzzle.

I hope others enjoyed the puzzle, its theme, and some of its fun clues – let us know in the comments what you thought! In the meantime, have a lovely weekend.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Business School” — Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, 6/18/23

Speedy one today, thanks to a theme that has shorter entries built into long themers — it’s a lot of letters to put into a grid without needing to build up too many crossings. Each entry is a course of study, with circled letters containing a company hinted in the clue:

  • 23a [Course on nutrition science, attended by SAT exam writers] DIETETICS
  • 28a [… ancient history, attended by some Big Four bankers] CLASSICAL STUDIES
  • 36a [… on journalism and media, added by elevator manufacturers] COMMUNICATIONS
  • 57a [… on human societies and cultures, attended by rink athletics] ANTHROPOLOGY
  • 67a [… written on written works across different cultures, attended by German car salesmen] COMPARATIVE LITERATURE
  • 82a [… tiny organisms, attended by representatives of a gas company that merged with EXXON] MICROBIOLOGY
  • 100a [… on stage acting and singing, attended by Slush Puppie servers] MUSICAL THEATER
  • 114a [… on design and maintenance of infrastructure, attended by reporters from an MSNBC rival] CIVIL ENGINEERING
  • 123a [… celestial phenomena, attended by PlayStation game developers] ASTRONOMY


  • 4a [Day of Silence Month] APRIL. GLSEN’s Day of Silence, an annual day of action to spread awareness about the effects of the bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students, and symbolically represent their silencing, has been around for a few decades now.
  • 14a [Masters tools] IRONS. As in the Masters golf tournament, held annually in Augusta, GA.
  • 27a [“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” voice actress Rae] ISSA. I figured out recently that as dimension-hopping movie titles go, this one is the same length as EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE.
  • 53a [Lockheed Electra 10E aviator’s first name] AMELIA. Nice bit of trivia there.
  • 120a [“The Crown” actress Corrin] EMMA. Emma played Diana in Season 4.
  • 3d [Fuel with cetane ratings] DIESEL. As opposed to “octane” in gasoline, I suppose. I should do a wiki dive when I have time on this.
  • 29d [Dating ___ (virtual romance game, briefly)] SIM. How common are these? I can’t imagine the appeal, myself.
  • 97d [Homer phrase?] IT’S GONE. As in a home run in baseball, colloquially a “homer”

Susy Christiansen & Doug Peterson’s LA Times crossword, “Human Resources” — Jack’s write-up

Theme entries are common two-word phrases where the second word is a body part. They are clued as though the body parts belong to specific types of people. The revealer BODY LANGUAGE ties it all together.

June 18th, 2023 LA Times crossword solution — “Human Resources” by Susy Christiansen and Doug Peterson

  • 23A. [*Witch’s dialect?] = WICKED TONGUE
  • 39A. [*Snowman’s joint?] = COLD SHOULDER
  • 44A. [*Rocket scientist’s trap?] = SMART MOUTH
  • 15D. [*Smurf’s plamsa?] = BLUE BLOOD
  • 66A. [*Baker’s digits?] = BUTTER FINGERS
  • 77D. [*Comic’s humerus?] = FUNNY BONE
  • 87A. [*Gingerbread man’s chomper?] = SWEET TOOTH
  • 92A. [*Soda jerk’s noggin?] = FOUNTAIN HEAD
  • 112. [Nonverbal communication, and what can be found in the answers to the starred clues?] = BODY LANGUAGE

A pleasant, tight theme with a strong revealer. I like that the clue on FUNNY BONE opts for the punny “humerus”, when any bone would have worked for thematic purposes. Soda jerk is also a fun persona that you don’t encounter much these days.

9 theme entries is a ton and I wonder if this would have been better off dropping some of the weaker ones in exchange for cleaner fill. WICKED TONGUE and SMART MOUTH feel slightly outdated and the theme could certainly live on without them. The sacrifice might help clean up some of the DPI, ARAL, SSA, CALIF, ACK, ORU, SOPH, SWED, ARRET, OESTE, ISM, OPES.

Other thoughts:

  • 6A. [Brief survey] = APERÇU. I’m glad to be reminded of this word. It was hard for me to suss out mid-solve because the CU ending looks so strange. It means a hasty glance, or immediate estimate/judgement.
  • 36D. [Focused gp.] = ASSN. I’m not sure I get why associations are focused groups. I guess they’re focused on whatever the group’s purpose is.
  • 30D. [Runners in hot weather: Abbr.] = ACS. Another that was tough for me to see. “Runners” is an unusual descriptor for “appliances that one runs.” I was thinking of animals that trot in the summertime.
  • 29A. [Avian crop] = CRAW. A craw is an expanded, muscular pouch near the gullet or throat birds and some insects. A crop is another word for this anatomical feature. The phrase “stick in one’s craw” originates from things getting stuck in this throat section of birds and them not being able to pass and digest them.
  • 103A. [Game-enhancing toy by Nintendo] = AMIIBO. I had to look this one up. They’re figurines of video game characters that you can plug into your console to make things happen in-game.

Alex Eaton-Salners’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Coin Flips”—Jim’s review

Note: Adding this well after the fact (on Monday), after a weekend camping trip.

Theme: Certain H’s have been swapped for T’s (and vice versa) in familiar phrases. As indicated by the huge H and T in the center of the grid, the phrases in the upper half got H’s, while the phrases in the lower half got T’s.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Coin Flips” · Alex Eaton-Salners · 6.18.23

  • 4d. [More extravagant NBA jams?] POSHER DUNKS. Poster dunks. This was a tough one for me to start with since I’d never heard the base phrase before. (Here are apparently the 10 best poster dunks of all time.)
  • 7d. [Pot shop?] HEMP AGENCY. Temp agency.
  • 13d. [“Q: How is a chicken coop like finely stratified sedimentary rock? A: They’re both full of layers,” and the like?] SHALE JOKES. Stale jokes.
  • 16d. [Problem in an undersized aquarium?] FISH BUMPING. Fist bumping.
  • 67d. [Unabridged Nightingale treatise?] NURSING TOME. Nursing home.
  • 71d. [British dairy cattle seller?] JERSEY STORE. Jersey Shore.
  • 114a. [Prideful look?] LION’S STARE. Lion’s share.
  • 116a. [Stations for the Hogwarts Express?] MAGIC STOPS. Magic shops.

I didn’t lol at any of these, but they all seem fine as far as crossword wackiness goes. (I think I like FISH BUMPING best.) I was mostly trying to figure out what was going on with the crossings. The first two crosses I found (HOP UP and HASSLES) seemed like they would also be valid entries if the T’s were left in place (“top up” is a valid phrase, and I was thinking “tassles” is a word, but it isn’t, is it?). In the SE corner, “shat” (instead of STAT) is a word (though you’re unlikely to find it in any crossword) but none of the other crossings in the grid worked the same way. The end result was that I spent a non-zero amount of time trying to figure out if the crossings were part of the theme somehow.

All that aside, you have to admire the construction as the white space flows around those central structures as well as the left/right symmetry of the grid made possible by the left/right symmetry of the letters H and T themselves.

Moving on to the fill, there are loads of long entries to enjoy like SCHMOOZED, “WISE GUY, EH?” (with a Three Stooges vibe), LOW BLOW, YUPPIES, TAKE A STAB, MADE SENSE, AIR MAIL, and CAR TRIP. I didn’t know EDNA BEST (old timey actress), nor SINGJAY [Reggae style combining vocals with a DJ’s patter].

SINGJAY sent me down a rabbit hole trying to understand it and find a good example. I’m not sure I managed either one. The term is a portmanteau of “singing” and “deejaying” (also known as “toasting,” also known as “rapping”). SINGJAY may refer to the style but it may also refer to the performer themselves.

Clues of note:

  • 54a. [Hawaiian dish of sliced-up fish]. POKE. Nice to see this angle in the clue since it’s quite common here on the West Coast. Not sure how much those of you back east see it, though.
  • 59d. [Board game reviewer Garcia of “The Dice Tower”]. ZEE. Oh, geez. We’re supposed to know this? But as a player of board games, I’m going to have to check it out.

Good puzzle. Four stars.

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45 Responses to Sunday, June 18, 2023

  1. JohnH says:

    I don’t relate to Nate’s distinction in the NYT themers between two kinds of opinion, so the theme worked just fine for me. Reasonably amusing (to borrow a fill) if not a riot (to borrow another) as well.

    • Gary R says:

      I agree on the themers. I can imagine someone saying “Here’s my two cents…” before offering their point of view. The second half of any of the themers would work there.

  2. Mike H says:

    A Natick for me in NYT. SABRAS/LARA? I’m supposed to know one of those?

    • Gary R says:

      I guess either “know” or noodle it out. SABRAS was vaguely familiar to me, LARA Downes was new. But “A” seems like a fairly obvious choice for the cross.

  3. dhj says:

    Disqualifying someone from a crossword cuz of their…[checks notes] temper?? OK then … [insert Adam Sandler “Psycho” gif]

    • Mutman says:

      Agreed. Not sure what Nate’s beef is. Don’t like McEnroe’s temper. Fine. What about Jimmy Connor’s? Or worse, Serena (who oft appears in crosswords) who bullied and threatened a line judge???

      Cancel Tommy Lasorda as well along those lines.

      I’m afraid to research Mel Ott for fear of what I might find, and then crosswords would be doomed!

      Overall a fine NYT!

    • Lee says:

      Sometimes it’s like the reviewers actively search the puzzles for things to be offended by.

      • placematfan says:

        What a lazy, trollsome comment this is. The reviewer’s presentation of why he was mentioning what he was mentioning came off as worthwhile and authentic to me, even though I disagreed with his opinion a bit. I DID respect his comportment, not to mention the work and time, generally speaking, that bloggers here put forth on a daily effing basis. And conversely, I have little respect for commentors who seemingly read blogs hunting for something negative to be able to say, especially without expounding or substantiating their remarks.

    • JohnH says:

      Did seem strange. After all, the clue neither approves nor disapproves of him.

      Oh, the crossing of SABRAS / LARA was new to me but one of those were you could say “what else could it be?” LAnA seemed the alternative, but then SABNAS is harder to pronounce. (Or was I just influenced by Sabra as a brand of humus?)

      • Eric H says:

        I couldn’t quite remember if the pianist is LARA Downes or LilA. Today I learned she’s also a “cultural activist,” promoting classical music composed by Black and women composers.

        I think SABRA comes from the Palestinian Arabic for “prickly pear,” a cactus that grows in Israel (and elsewhere). In any case, I’ve known the word for years.

        I would rather be expected to know things like that than some Harry Potter character.

    • JB says:

      It’s probably not even necessary to read Nate’s reviews. If the puzzle is by a guy, just think to yourself, “What could the Diversity Coordinator at a prep school that costs $45k a year find to complain about?” and you can fill in the blanks yourself.

    • marciem says:

      I really don’t understand Nate’s objection to seeing McEnroe in a puzzle A. the clue didn’t laud him or his temper (It could have said “sports great blahblah” but merely said “Court figure etc.”) and B. McEnroe has more than once directed his infamous temper towards Margaret Court (is the clue a hint at that?) and her homophobic stance, and Australia’s support of her.

      • Anne says:

        Saying that Australia supports Margaret Court isn’t really correct. She is a controversial figure to say the least. For years there have been calls for her name to be removed from the arena in Melbourne Park. So far Tennis Australia has resisted this, citing her achievements in tennis.

        • marciem says:

          My only point being that McEnroe is strongly and vocally antihomophobic and has directed his ill temper in that direction more than once in the issue of Margaret Court. Thus Nate’s stance against his mention in swords seems at odds to me.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: SAGE ADVICE was my favorite!
    I loved the theme. I had some struggles with the fill. I tend to do badly with 3-letter answers, especially abbreviations, and I think there were many, likely to accommodate the seven theme entries.
    Happy Father’s Day to the dads amongst us!

    • Eric H says:


      I wasn’t familiar with ANSELM and originally had two A’s. I had to go looking for my error at the end and it took a few minutes to realize that I had misspelled ANGELENO. But overall, it was a pretty good Sunday puzzle.

  5. VB says:

    I have been meaning for a while to raise the question of how people feel about what I will call “the contorted partial,” and this puzzle provides such a beautiful example that it seemed like time. The NYT guidelines state the following:

    Avoid uncommon abbreviations and partial phrases longer than five letters (“So ___” for BE IT would be permissible, while “So ___” for IT GOES would not.)

    THEPLUNGE is obviously a partial phrase. Except perhaps as the name for a through-the-ice swimming event, I cannot recall ever hearing anyone say “the plunge” except as part of the phrase “take the plunge.” Cluing it as “It’s said to be taken upon marriage” rather than “Take ___ (get married)” eliminates the perhaps-embarrassing blank, but it does not change the fact that it’s a partial. SOWSEAR would be similar.

    There are, of course, some partials that cannot be contorted. “___ roll” or “between a ___ a hard place” for ROCKAND would be much harder to clue without a blank (“Lead-in to roll” maybe), or WHENINTHE (“Start of a Declaration?”).

    So, how do people feel about this sort of thing? The construct has a number of advantages, such as expanding the fill possibilities and being generally more accessible than, say, some obscure plant genus. It is, however, still a long partial, unless someone is defining “partial phrase” differently from how I would.

    As a constructor, what I need most is to understand the constraints of the problem as set by the editors, who seem to be of the opinion that a long partial is just fine if clued without a blank so everyone can pretend it’s not a partial. What do the solvers (and/or other constructors) think?

    Happy Fathers Day to the fathers out there, and good health to all.

    • huda says:

      I’m simple, if it’s clued in a way that elicits the response from me, then I’m happy. I don’t really pay attention to how long it is.
      In this case, I was OK with both THEPLUNGE and SOWSEAR

    • Eric H says:

      Neither THEPLUNGE nor SOWSEAR strikes me as a partial. (Especially the second; though most of us only hear of a SOWSEAR in the context of the adage, it’s definitely a thing.)

      I have been slightly irked by partials in other puzzles, but I can’t think of any examples now.

      Like Huda, if a partial (or any other type of answer) is clued so that I can get it relatively easily, I usually don’t much mind.

    • placematfan says:

      I think it’s an interesting point and a good question. Wish Will did, like, a weekly 30-minute “Questions from the Audience” podcast or something; this would be perfect for that, and I’m really curious what his reply would be.

    • JohnH says:

      None of those examples bother me at all. It’s not using a partial phrase per se that bothers me, but rather using a word from a phrase alone as if it meant something that it doesn’t. In those examples, though, the proposed clues (approved or disapproved) all make clear it’s partial. I’d respond happily.

    • JML says:

      Funny, I had a nit with 44-Down INSTONE, despite it finishing SET

  6. John O says:

    Count me as another John McEnroe fan! I never saw him as an unkind human. In his youth, he got frustrated with umpires. Don’t we all!

    I enjoyed the NYT puzzle. Evan also had another five-star puzzle today in WaPo, too – perfect for graduation season.

  7. David L says:

    I liked the NYT theme. I was perplexed by COREBELIES until I realized that the things in bookstores were CAFES, not CASES.

    According to the BBC and others, Elon Musk named his dog as CEO of Tesla; he is the ‘technoking.’

    McEnroe: I found him annoying as a player but he is a great commentator and a funny guy. Check out his interview with Jiminy Glick!

  8. Evan K. says:

    I think re: WaPo, we’ve neglected to mention the fact that (of course) the first [circled] letters of the corporate entities spell out a word relevant to the theme: ECONOMICS.

  9. David L says:

    LAT [spoiler alert]

    97D: “Insect that resembles a locust” — CICADA. Unless cicadas in California are very different to the east coast ones, this is not even approximately true.

  10. pannonica says:

    I found the WaPo Sunday to be a rare clunker. The theme just didn’t seem interesting to me at all.

    • Eric H says:

      Sometimes my AcrossLite timer acts weird. I can’t imagine that today’s WaPo puzzle really took 16 minutes.

      The theme was OK. It’s hard to get excited about “hidden” corporate names.

      I found the prompt for the meta confusing, until I finally realized what they meant by “circled words.”

    • I don’t know what’s uninteresting about this. It’s not easy to find the letters of businesses in college courses, less so when they have to spell out a relevant business school course.

      • Dallas says:

        Hi Evan; I have a meta-question about your sunday puzzles and the metas… Do you have a pattern for when there are “easy” metas and when there are “hard” metas, as in the start of the month is easy and it gets harder through the month, or is it just dictated by that week’s puzzle? Thanks—I look forward to your Sundays each week.

        • It’s just whatever puzzle I feel like making at the time. I try not to run too many easy or hard puzzles in a row just to maintain some variety, and sometimes I’ll make something holiday-specific, but otherwise there’s no set pattern to the difficulty.

      • Seattle DB says:


  11. Nino H. says:

    NYT was not fun for me at all today. All the proper nouns were some combination of aggressively american or sufficiently old to be annoying to even know about. Not to mention that it felt like there were a LOT of proper nouns that just gave me no chance at the puzzle.

  12. sanfranman59 says:

    WaPo … @Matthew … 3:53 on a 21x puzzle? Wow! Is that accurate or a typo? I think I’m a reasonably fast solver (though less so these days than I was a few years back). I’m nowhere near Erik Agard, Dan Feyer, Tyler Hinman or Amy Reynaldo territory, but I usually finish in the top 10% or so when I enter puzzle contests. My best ever WaPo Sunday solve time is 9:24. I used to do the (usually) easy Newsday Sunday and my fastest time was 6:58. I’m not even sure that I could read 144 clues in 3:53, let alone come up with answers and write/type them into a grid.

    • e.a. says:

      just in case Matt is too humble to tell you, he’s the reigning Lollapuzzoola champion and he once beat me, Dan, Tyler, and Amy (and Paolo, and Will, etc) by like a full minute on a Boswords puzzle. he’s a bad man and 3:53 was probably him typing with one hand

  13. Peter says:

    What newspapers carry the Universal Sunday crossword?

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