Sunday, July 9, 2023

LAT untimed (Gareth)  


NYT 12:40 (Nate) 


USA Today 3:28 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 12-something (Jim) 


Universal 3:28 (norah) 


WaPo 4:53 (Matthew) 


Christina Iverson’s New York Times crossword, “A Thousand Words” — Nate’s write-up

07.09.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

07.09.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

In this week’s puzzle, there’s a bit of a twist:  each themer is represented not by a clue in words, as usual, but by a clue in literal picture form (assuming you could see the pictures).  For example, SPITTING IMAGE is, literally, an image of someone spitting, while SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is also quite literally that.  Here are the visual clues as I saw them in my version of the app:












This theme worked okay enough for me, and I think LOTTO DRAWING was easily my favorite reimagining of the “image” related word.  I’m not sure what the clues were for any version of the puzzle that didn’t have the pictures, so let us know in the comments how the solving experience was if that was your journey.

Random thoughts:
SNAIL at 106A and MAIL at 33A were highlight-linked in the app for me. I know that, together, they make SNAIL MAIL, but it was weird that neither clue referenced the other. Was that just an Easter egg? Or a remnant of formerly-linked clues?
– The TWITS / TO CELIA / OSHA section toward the top was a tricky one for me to unpack, but thankfully Frog’s dear friend TOAD was up there to help me out.
[Deer departed?] for VENISON at 57D felt unexpectedly grim to me. Oof!

Late evening for me, so that’s all I have for now. What’d you think of the puzzle? Did you enjoy the picturesque themer clues? Let us know in the comments section – and have a great rest of your weekend!

Kevin Curry and Jeff Chen’s Universal crossword, “A House Divided”—Jim’s review

Debut alert for Jeff’s co-constructor! Congrats on that. The pair of them bring us theme answers that are familiar phrases whose outer letters (indicated by circles) spell out a room in a house. The revealer is PARTITIONED (38d, [Like seven circled rooms in this puzzle]). (Good, apt title, too.)

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “A House Divided” · Kevin Curry and Jeff Chen · 7.9.23

  • 23a. {[ / sapped / shambles / ] = confusing voicemail} GARBLED MESSAGE. Garage.
  • 28a. {[ / ___ Vegas / pad / ] = welder’s tool} PLASMA TORCH. Porch.
  • 68a. {[ / erode / applause / others / avail / ] = Schubert composition} DEATH AND THE MAIDEN. Den.
  • 110a. {[ / pale / perform / ] = legal drama} LAW AND ORDER. Larder.
  • 117a. {[ / Staples staple / Swenson from “Benson” / } = Spotify service] STREAMING AUDIO. Studio.
  • 31d. {[ / “sixth sense” / trauma ctrs. / ] = marketer} SALESPERSON. Salon.
  • 47d. {[ / inflection / existed / ] = like some jeans} STONEWASHED. Shed. This one was a bit confusing since it crosses the circled letter of another theme answer.

Nice enough theme with good theme answers. Some of the rooms feel a bit quaint (larder, salon), but it all still works nicely.

I see what our constructors have done in extending the partitioning idea into the theme clues and answers. For example, DEATH AND THE MAIDEN consists of the outer DEN plus EAT, HAND, THEM, and AID. This must have put some limits on potential theme answers. But for the solver, the end result is that those clues became quite cumbersome. Once I realized I could get at the answer just by looking at what came after the equal sign, that’s what I did, ignoring everything before it. Going back later and fully grokking how the clues and entries are broken apart didn’t provide me much joy. The theme of PARTITIONED rooms is satisfied with the circled letters; the partitioning of the rest of the entry doesn’t add to it (IMO), especially when some of those partitioned words are things like DO, WAS, and ERS.

There’s plenty of fun long fill topped off with “…OR WHATEVER” and MCLOVIN. Other goodies include CLEAN CUT, HEATED SEAT, “ALL’S WELL,” RAW DEAL, and ABOUT ME. Not so keen on whatever IN A SWOON is nor a green paintish NEW PHASE, but for the most part, the fill is smooth and solid.

Clues of note:

  • 109a. [Roald who created the Snozzcumber]. DAHL. Apparently the Snozzcumber is a fictional foodstuff from The BFG.
  • 76d. [Purchase if you don’t get Lucky?]. LEE. Needed all the crossings to realize we’re talking jeans here.

Good, if ambitious theme. The extra partitioning of the theme answers got in the way of the solve, but perhaps there are solvers out there for whom it helped.

3.25 stars.

Universal, “Themeless Sunday 41” by Rafael Musa — norah’s write-up; 3:28



univ 2023-07-09 musa

univ 2023-07-09 musa

  • STORYOFMYLIFE 37A [“Ugh, this happens to me all the time”]
  • IMEANITTHISTIME 3D [“You can trust me now!”]
  • YOULOOKFAMILIAR 11D [“I feel like we’ve met before”]
  • MOCKTRIAL 49A [Hearing test?]


Another blazer today at 3:28; new pr.

As usual, Rafa provides an ultra clean grid with fun long phrases and delightful cluing all over. Among the medium-length stuff I love HOTMIC [What might catch an embarrassing sound bite], GOINTO [Really unpack], and AUTHOR [Hanya Yanagihara, for the novel “A Little Life”]. Two Doja Cat clues!

OKRA and CUKE both clued as veggies!

Thanks Rafa and the Universal team!

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Goes to the Beach” — Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Captain Obvious Goes to the Beach,” 7/9/2023

Evan is recently back from vacation. Can you tell? Another edition of his “Captain Obvious” series hits us from the beach, and takes a literal bent on common idioms:

  • 23a [“___, and you’ll have jumped into the ocean] MAKE A SPLASH
  • 33a [“___? Put it back; it won’t survive on land”] FISH OUT OF WATER
  • 51a [“___? That means you knocked over that pail with your foot”] KICKED THE BUCKET
  • 68a [“___, and it may be hard to breathe”] BURY YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND
  • 88a [“___, so we have this whole beach to ourselves”] THE COAST IS CLEAR
  • 104a [“___ is where you should go to start tanning”] A PLACE IN THE SUN
  • 121a [“___? That’s impossible, unless you can control how waves move”] TURN THE TIDE

This theme conceit could get tiring, but I get a true chuckle out of each successive punchline landing and Evan is judicious about spacing it out among his other puzzles.

Other notes:

  • 41a [Religious figure who was once an aspirant] NUN. This isn’t just a generic use of “aspirant” applied to a specific goal, but “aspirant” is a stage in a person’s discernment whether to join a community of nuns.
  • 42a [2022 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Buck] O’NEIL. 2022 was long overdue for O’Neil, who had a lengthy playing career for the Kansas City Monarchs, an influential term as a scout for the Chicago Cubs, and spearheaded the campaign to establish the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, which is a can’t-miss if you’re a baseball fan in the area.
  • 59a [With 36 Down, library patron’s penalty] LATE FEE. There’s a trend to do away with late fees, the thinking being that they discourage reading and even engaging with library services at all.
  • 75a [Like hot and cold deserts] ARID. I’m always pleased when there’s recognition that a desert need not be hot – indeed, much of Antarctica is a desert.
  • 77a [Contraction that rhymes with “brittle”] IT’LL. Sometimes you just have to clue the thing and move on, eh?
  • 87a [Do re mi fa ____ la ti do] SOL. A chuckle from me after Evan’s solfege-themed meta a few puzzles back.
  • 124a [Tennis player Raducanu] EMMA. Raducanu had a splashy run a few years ago, winning the US Open in 2021, but injuries have hampered her since.
  • 5d [Single-stranded messenger molecule] RNA. I do appreciate when a clue specifies single- or double-stranded instead of something more generic that could be either RNA or DNA.
  • 14d [Tiny body part in a drawing of a T. rex] ARM. It feels like a different era of the internet, and I couldn’t tell you which site it was on, but I always got a smile out of the “T. rex trying” webcomic (?) which hinged on the dino’s overlarge head and small arms.
  • 29d [Gin’s accompaniment] TONIC. Today, this brings to mind the excellent Douglas Adams and his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series: “It is a curious fact, and one to which no one knows quite how much importance to attach, that something like 85% of all known worlds in the Galaxy, be they primitive or highly advanced, have invented a drink called jynnan tonnyx, or gee-N’N-T’N-ix, or jinond-o-nicks, or any one of a thousand or more variations on the same phonetic theme.”
  • 30d [Left/Right candy bar] TWIX. There was a time when TWIX didn’t do the left-right advertising thing, yes? I recall something about “two for me, none for you,” perhaps?
  • 79d [1990s NBA star nicknamed “The Reign Man”] SHAWN KEMP. I am not familiar with this nickname (though I have heard of Kemp). Seems it was popularized by Seattle’s in-house announcer and took off in the way the best nicknames do.

Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “P.S. I Love You” — Darby’s write-up

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Each themer contains two words, the first letters of spell out PS.

Theme Answers

Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “P.S. I Love You” solution for 7/9/2023

  • 17a [“Where to buy Sherwin-Williams or Valspar products”] PAINT STORE
  • 26a [“Fundamental change in understanding”] PARADIGM SHIFT
  • 46a [“Spot next to a car’s driver”] PASSENGER SEAT
  • 59a [“Meat-and-veggie stir-fry dish”] PEPPER STEAK

I appreciated that we got four themers in this cute puzzle! PARADIGM SHIFT and PEPPER STEAK were particularly fun for me, though I did also really like PAINT STORE and PASSENGER SEAT. They were nicely spaced throughout, though it was clear that they were each part of the theme.

This puzzle had a lot of great fill, and I moved pretty smoothly through it. Starting off with 1a [“Toy train’s path”] TRACK was super cute, and there was such a nice mix of references and definition clues to work with, making each crossing very fair.

Some of my favourites included:

  • 25a [“Nose, cutesily”] – Who doesn’t love a good SNOOT boop in dog videos?
  • 5d [“Actor Troy who won an Oscar for ‘CODA’”] – I only recently watched CODA for the first time, but it’s clear that Troy KOTSUR deserved every award he received for the film. He also performed the national anthem at the most recent Super Bowl.
  • 38d [“‘Don’t fall for that!’”] – The Star Wars fan in me will always hear “IT’S A TRAP” in Admiral Ackbar’s voice, no question. I like the cluing angle in this puzzle though.
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27 Responses to Sunday, July 9, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Fun and quick! Once I figured out what the picture clues were, I stumbled only with LOTTO DRAWING*and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, which I tried to make into the green painty (and misspelled) SPORTS silhouettes.

    *When I drafted legislation for the Texas Legislature, my first big assignment was drafting the lottery act that actually passed. The author had carried the bill for several sessions, but it wasn’t until the state faced a big budget crunch that the bill finally got anywhere. It was also much more complex than it had been, because the state comptroller (who was going to have to run the thing) wanted a lot more detail in the statute.

    And then I rewrote the law a year later, to codify it in the Government Code; finally, I drafted it a third time when the comptroller wanted to get rid of it and the legislature created a separate lottery commission.

    Despite my history with the Texas Lottery, I’ve never watched a lottery drawing and I thought the clue depicted some sort of globe.

    • huda says:

      Interesting background!
      I too thought it was a globe.

      • Lise says:

        I thought it was a gumball machine.

        The puzzle was a nice accompaniment to my breakfast, very enjoyable.

        • DougC says:

          I loved the illustrations! And I can’t imagine why Ms. Iverson thought a professional illustrator would be needed to re-do them. Kudos to the editors for the decision to publish the constructor’s original drawings!

          I found this to be the most entertaining Sunday puzzle in a VERY long time!

          Unlike others, I thought the 82A clue was obviously a lotto ball cage, although it took a while for LOTTO DRAWING to dawn on me. I believe I laughed out loud when it did.

          As a practicing omnivore, I did not find VEAL PARM and VENISON distressing, although I realize that others might.

          • pannonica says:

            Wasn’t a question of mere presence, it was the [Deer departed?] clue itself. Hence I didn’t call out the veal entry, even though the industry behind that is objectively crueler and more widescale.

  2. JohnH says:

    Good puzzle, although I foolishly took way too long to get over the idea that the Lotto machine was a gumball dispenser.

    I know it doesn’t matter, but are those actual Chinese characters, and if so, what do they say?

  3. pannonica says:

    NYT: My gut reaction on this one is, what’s the point? Also I thought the clue for VENISON was, hate to say it, in poor taste.

    • PJ says:

      I solved in AL without the pictures. I was able to enter most of the first words right away. When I had enough crossings for the second part of one entry (SPORTSILLUSTRATED, I think) the rest were easy.

  4. janie says:

    nyt — put me in the “loved it” column! that said… was also unpleasantly distracted by the VENISON clue. ditto yesterday’s NURSING BRA clue — which felt like a kinda “heh-heh” bro moment. ça va. one’s response to the “tone” of a clue or a puzz gets us into highly subjective territory.

    still — had real fun solving this one!


    • Eric H says:

      I don’t mind macabre humor, but the VENISON clue didn’t land well with me. Maybe because it was trying to be cute?

  5. dh says:

    In AL, the clues read (for example) “Depiction of device that randomly selects numbered balls” followed by a link to a picture somewhere, which I did not follow.

    My first thought about 65D was “[insert name of politician here] – Every time he’s awake, he lies”. but that would be too broad a category to narrow down to a single answer.

  6. FK says:

    Mixed feelings on this one. It could have been a pretty good puzzle with a proper title and well-worded theme clues; but the grade school picture thing really fell flat for me.

  7. Michael says:

    NYT: I too found the hi-lited MAIL/SNAIL a bit distracting. I guess that the original clue for the one referenced the other. Alhough, I refreshed the screen to see what the clue numbers were for these two, and the online version no longer highlights the word combo…

  8. Papa John says:

    In my version of Across Lite I wasn’t able to read the novel-length word clues (not drawings) because the font was way too small. Usually when that happens, I can increase the size by manipulating the space of the clue line. Doing that with this puzzle actually made the clue font smaller (don’t know why), so I had to solve the puzzle without clues for the theme entries. It didn’t take many crosses to see what was wanted for those theme fills. All this added up to disappointing experience.

  9. Shanda says:

    VEALPARM – terrible. Those poor animals.
    VENISON – also terrible.
    Does the constructor hate animals?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Could ya just use one name for all your comments instead of pretending to be Shanda, Mark, PJ, Alfonz, Blind Spots, JP, MiloDumbFuk, Amos Redondo, and Cracker? This is dishonest bullshit, and you keep claiming various identities that surely don’t all apply to you. You are thisclose to your IP address being blocked altogether, because you’re not adding to the discourse and community here, you’re distracting and detracting.

  10. cyberdiva says:

    NYT: Count me in the “I enjoyed it” camp, though I too thought the lotto illustration was a globe. Nonetheless, when I finally got LOTTODRAWING, I thought it was perhaps the best answer of all. Not sure why someone thought the title wasn’t a “proper” one. I assume it’s referring to the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words,” which seems quite fitting for this puzzle.

  11. Dallas says:

    Fun Sunday, and pretty quick fill. I liked the theme, and the idea of the pictures was very cute. I had similar issues to the reviewer in filling in some spots, but all in all, came together pretty well. Good fun :-)

  12. Arthur Shapiro says:

    NYT: For what it’s worth, the Nexus solver showed the pictures, unlike Across Lite. I’ve been using the former for a few months, and other than not being able to save the puzzle it seems like a more up-to-date program.

  13. Art Shapiro says:

    LAT: Gareth’s time of “untimed” has been posted for quite a few hours, but the normal concurrent writeup has never appeared.

    • Philip says:

      Gareth often neglects posting a writeup. Don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

      • John Andrew Agpalo says:

        Aww, I wanted to hear his feedback on my puzzle.

        • Brian Mitchinson says:

          Well, I just finished it and loved it! The theme was fun with “bored of roses” and “pandora express” being my personal favs. I also had a nice aha moment on verses-versus-verses — that was clever.

  14. Brenda Rose says:

    In 1973 I read that calves were caged for human consumption & never ate it again. But did that inclusion in the puzzle put me in a dither? No. One person’s vegetable is another person’s meat. Can we quit the judging, in of all things, a xword puzzle please. Thx.

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