Sunday, July 23, 2023

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 16:52 (Nate) 


USA Today 5:39 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 14:16 (Jim) 


Universal 3:31 (norah) 


WaPo 5:03 (Matthew) 


Chandi Deitmer’s New York Times crossword, “Aural Surgery” — Nate’s write-up

07.23.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

07.23.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

From the title of this week’s puzzle it sounds like we’re in for a fun time!

– 21A (into 22A) WHO / TOWEL [Nocturnal bird known for its distinct calls, informally]hoot owl
– 30A (into 31A) LAUNCH / HEIRS [Some outdoor seats]lawn chairs
– 37A (into 38A) HIGH / DOUBTS [Secret lairs]hideouts
– 49A (into 50A) FORK / WARTS [Equivalent of one gallon]four quarts
– 67A (into 68A) NEIGH / MITT [“Anything you want!”]“Name it!”
– 80A (into 81A) PLAGUE / EARL [Former magazine that featured male nudesPlaygirl
– 86A (into 89A) QUEUE / BRUTES [2 vis-a-vis 8, 3 vis-a-vis 27, etc.]cube roots
– 99A (into 100A) SLOPE / OAK [Lollygagger] slowpoke
– 58A BREAK THE SOUND BARRIER [Hit Mach I … or a hint to answering eight pairs of consecutive entries in this puzzle]

Each pair of theme entries, when said aloud, is a homophone for the clued answer. And why are the theme answers being reimagined into their homophones? They’re broken by the black square (barrier) between the entries! I liked this concept and its execution. And for me (someone who struggles with homophones based on all the places I grew up), bonus points are awarded for each of these homophone pairs sounding pretty true to my ear. You often see near homophones in puzzles like this, but these entries are strong! My favorites were easily the PLAGUE / EARL to Playgirl transformation, as well as the QUEUE / BRUTES to cube roots one.

That said, I had a devil of a time filling in this grid. I think I just wasn’t on the constructor’s wavelength. You might see from my image grid that I had at least three sections that stumped me for a while until I was able to make traction. There were some fun entries that strengthened the puzzle for me – TRASH TALK, MIND BLOWN, CARTOONY, and WHERE WERE WE, just to name a few.

What did you think of the puzzle? Let us know in the comments – and have a great weekend, especially if you’re competing at Boswords! Please say hi for me to all the amazing folks who’ll be there!

Chandi Deitmer’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Pause for Effect”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that feature the letters UM, but they’re clued as if those “pauses” weren’t there. (The UM words become different words with those letters removed.) The revealer is WITHOUT HESITATION (112a, [No questions asked … or how to read six answers in today’s puzzle so they match their clues]).

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Pause for Effect” · Chandi Deitmer · 7.23.23

  • 21a. [*Museum visitors panning a tour guide?] DOCUMENT SHREDDERS. Docent.
  • 31a. [*Inspiration for stick figure drawings?] CHILDREN’S MUSEUM. Muse. Would’ve preferred it if this entry was farther away from the “museum” clue above.
  • 45a. [*Get that rodent ready to party!] PUMP UP THE VOLUME. Vole.
  • 67a. [*Self-effacing Solo words?] “I’M ONLY HUMAN.” Han.
  • 85a. [*Time during Picasso’s Cubism period?] ANGULAR MOMENTUM. Moment.
  • 100a. [*The power of an adage?] MAXIMUM STRENGTH. Maxim.

I got all the way to the last one before the light bulb came on. It was only then that I noticed the UMs and that their removal helped the clues make sense. It was nice to then get the confirmation from the revealer and to learn why the UMs are excluded. Solid theme with some humorous moments.

Lots to like in the long fill with HOT FUDGE, IT’S A MESS (although “I’m a mess” or “What a mess” feel more colloquial to me), MILK DUDS, TAHITIANS, and OBAMA ERA. I find T-REX ARMS to be funny, but on the green paint side of things.

Not sure whether “NO, YOU!” makes for legit crossword fare (clued [“I insist!”]). It definitely raised an eyebrow. Also, “airdrop” seems more common to me than PARADROP [Deliver from the sky]. Also also, I didn’t know ONDINE [Title sea creature of ballet, poetry and film], but that seems to be my own failing. The character is an example of a water nymph, or selkie. See also: Undine.

Clues of note:

  • 29a. [RISD deg.]. BFA. Rhode Island School of Design. See also 41a. [TMI or LMK]. ABBR. Too Much Information and Let Me Know. The latter is one I don’t use or see much so it took a while for it to come to me.
  • 61a. [Many Heiva festival observants]. TAHITIANS. Apparently the Heiva festival is one of the world’s oldest and it’s a month-long showcase and competition for Polynesian art, music, dance, and sport. It takes place every July, so it’s probably too late for this year, but you can start planning for 2024. This site has a good summary of the event (including a brief history of the island). And of course, you’ll want to stay in an overwater bungalow while there.
  • 64d. [___ whale (Moby Dick’s species)] SPERM. Did not know this. {Insert sophomoric joke here.}
  • 96d. [Birds that eat bugs off bovines]. EGRETS. Specifically, Cattle EGRETS, which are the least aquatic member of the heron family.
  • 110d. [Eye affliction]. STY. Not used to seeing this in it’s E-less form.

Good puzzle. Four stars.

Universal, “Themeless Sunday 43” by Adrian Johnson — norah’s write-up; 3:31

First, a very happy Boswords day to all who celebrate either online or in person!





  • ROLLCAMERA 17A [Director’s comment before “Action!”]
  • SHOPAHOLIC 33A [Big fan of what’s in store?]
  • COMICSANS 53A [Bad font choice for a master’s thesis]
  • GOODIEBAGS 61A [Birthday party handouts]


I enjoyed the parallel clues for KYOTO and ROME both as “Eternal City” for their respective countries. SSN with [ID with a billion possibilities] is a super fun clue for this super common entry – literally 10^9 = 1,000,000,000 !  I like the inclusion of Latto in the clue for RAP, whose “Big Energy” I’ve got on repeat.

I learned about “Do ___ See God?” (palindromic book) GEESE 25D. 144 pages of palindromes and accompanying illustrations.

Thanks Adrian and the Universal team!
See yall (virtually!) at boswords!


Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “A Divided Country” — Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “A Divided Country,” 7/23/23

Mirror symmetry today sets the stage for our theme, where US States bridge black squares down the center spine of the grid, in some cases hopping more than one block to do so. As noted in the revealer 124a [State of division, and what the first letters of the states divided across black squares in this puzzle spell out], the actual states used, in order, spell DISUNION. That’s the cherry-on-top extra bit that finishes a nice theme off; it’s conceivable that a constructor could eschew a revealer and/or any particular set or order of states in this arrangement, but it’s just a little more tied together this way.

Working off the title, I was looking for countries spanning the middle and basically solved this as a themeless until I got to the revealer. Alas.

Some notes:

  • 1a [Reading before a meal] MENU. Feels like the answer to a riddle, somehow.
  • 46a [Measure of printed space in a newspaper] LINAGE. New to me, but inferable I suppose. Sure seems like it just wants to be “lineage” to me.
  • 75a [Undergarment with a center gore, at times] BRA. I had to look up this usage of “gore”: “a triangular or tapering piece of material used in making a garment, sail, or umbrella.”
  • 82a [Leader of a movement?] MAESTRO. As in an orchestral movement.
  • 85a [Majority of Europeans?] VOWELS. Tricky tricky – the word ‘Europeans’ is more than half vowels.
  • 10d [Boleyn of “Six”] ANNE. “Six” is a musical that retells the story of Henry VII’s wives in the form of a pop concert. It’s a good time.
  • 78d [Nickname of Mexico’s national soccer team] EL TRI. In reference to the three colors of Mexico’s flag.

Good luck to all competing in Boswords today!

Hoang-Kim Vu’s USA Today crossword, “‘Now We’re Cooking!’ (Freestyle)” — Darby’s write-up

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Hoang-Kim Vu's USA Today crossword "'Now We're Cooking!' (Freestyle)" solution for 7/23/2023

Hoang-Kim Vu’s USA Today crossword “‘Now We’re Cooking!’ (Freestyle)” solution for 7/23/2023

A freestyle Sunday was such a fun treat. 17a [Collection of several small dishes served as a meal] TASTING MENU, 39a [Made a disadvantage into an advantage] TURNED THE TABLES, and 66a [“You’re not serious, are you?] IS THIS A JOKE were great marquee answers. All were really fresh. Aesthetically, too, this was a very pleasing puzzle with its symmetric open corners on each side.I had to be less reliant on shorter fill than usual, especially with the intersecting sixes and sevens in the NW and SE corners. 1a [Confront angrily] ACCOST was a tough (but completely fair starter, but I appreciated moving from the longer NE across to AC/DC and ICE and then THOR and SOY in the second line.

Plus, ten eight-letter answers were really fun to fill in. I got to a point where I just enjoyed trying to figure out what was coming next, and each were really different from one another, moving from the light-hearted 11d [“Do my eyes deceive me?] IS IT REAL to 12d [Insurance] COVERAGE. Plus, I loved the combo of 13d [Things that are hard to look at] EYESORES and 60a [Distance close enough to eavesdrop] EAR SHOT. Plus, the similar and same clues on 30a SEES / 63d DATE and 50d SARI / 52d KIMONO were both fun doubles.

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33 Responses to Sunday, July 23, 2023

  1. Dan says:

    NYT puzzle: I enjoyed this one a lot. The theme wasn’t too hard to grok, but most of the theme pairs were rather surprising and plenty of fun to work out.

    Also the nontheme clues & answers were a cut above more typical Sunday fare, making them more fun to solve.

    • Eric H says:

      My thoughts exactly. Yes, the theme answers could be a bit silly — especially FORK WARTS and PLAGUE EARL — but I enjoy a little silliness now and then. Really fun puzzle.

      My only problem was with the OTTESSA/TOSH crossing. I had never heard of Ms, Moshfegh before (or her novel), and “bosh” makes sense for British nonsense. (I’ve had the bosh/tosh conflict before; maybe this time I will remember TOSH. (I’d be fine if they always clued it as Peter TOSH.)

      • MattF says:

        Me too. The clue was sufficient to look up the name, and the BOSH/TOSH problem plus the sneaky clue for AREA are enough to make me think looking this one up is acceptable. Otherwise a very nice puzzle.

        • David L says:

          On top of that, both TOSH and BOSH are extremely dated — they were antiquated when I was young, and that was a long time ago. Many of the British terms in NYT puzzles date from the Wodehouse era.

          Oh well. Time for a spot of tea, what?

      • Dan says:

        Yeah, I’d never heard of Ottessa, so my very last letter completed his name, luckily. And I didn’t know tosh meant bosh.

    • JohnH says:

      Wasn’t fun for me, although the theme wasn’t bad. I had so many unguessable crossings.

      I could see the bad news from square one, in a tiny section dense with Miss Congeniality, old British slang TOG, FTW, BOHO CHIC, and Moshfegh. And the problems kept coming, with everything from contemporary football slang to DESI and “arf” as a verb of all things. I guess this puzzle was determined to be contemporary, but it my hardest NYT all week, Saturday included.

      • huda says:

        I had both reactions. I really liked the theme and thought it was fun, playful and provided aha moments. But the overall word length was short with some intercrossing abbreviations, which can be challenging.
        In the end, I liked it better than I usually like Sundays. FORK WARTS and PLAGUE EARL are worth the price of admission.

  2. Bill Harris says:

    I didn’t care for the theme answer pairs not having any relevance in their word meanings.

    It would have been more compelling to have a double entendre perhaps AND sound significance.

    • Eric H says:

      That might have been more compelling, but it seems an impossible task. I was happy that the homophones worked and were mostly funny.

    • Dallas says:

      I had the exact opposite reaction—I loved that they were completely unrelated. Moreover, I loved that the “barrier” between wasn’t just a black box; rather, the sounds were split between the words, to be completed. Super clever and gave a fun sounding out element to figuring out the second word in many cases. And that many were funny? Bonus.

  3. cyberdiva says:

    Something seems amiss with the Crossword Fiend website today. I couldn’t access the individual puzzle discussions on either my tablet or my desktop computer. Clicking on any of them returned a File not Found or similar error message. Only when I clicked on “Continue reading” was I able to read the actual discussions.

  4. DougC says:

    Interesting that Chandi Deitmer had two puzzles published today, the NYT and Universal. In my opinion the NYT was by far the better of the two, even with that OTTESSA/TOSH cross.

    • Eric H says:

      I enjoyed Chandi Deitmer’s NYT puzzle more than her Universal one, but that could just be because the NYT puzzle gave me a few chuckles, and the other one didn’t.

  5. Eric H says:

    WaPo: Since when is HOOVER (49A/51A) a state?

    Nice to see the clue for Sufjan STEVENS. “Carrie and Lowell” is a fantastic album. And I appreciate the shoutout to the TREVOR Project. I’m glad I didn’t need an organization like that when I was coming out to myself, because that kind of thing didn’t exist back then.

    OROTUND is such a great word.

  6. Eric H says:

    Universal Sunday: I’m surprised that PUMP UP THE VOLUME (45A) made the cut. The revealer suggests that 45A is to be read as PP UP THE VOLE. That’s nonsensical, unless PP has some meaning equivalent to “get ready to party” that I’m not aware of. (Googling it doesn’t show anything.)

    Otherwise, a pleasant-enough puzzle. I didn’t know that T-REX ARMS was a recognized phrase, but I doubt it would confuse anyone.

    • marciem says:

      I’m guessing the intent was only the second “um” works. Pump up the vole would work for the clue. Big mistake in construction, IMO. but otherwise a pleasant puzzle.

      • Eric H says:

        Oh, I knew exactly what how the answer was supposed to be read. It just seems like a constructor as talented as Chandi Deitmer or an editor as experienced as Jeff Chen would have rejected that entry.

        On the other hand, it is one of the better theme answers. And it’s a lot easier to say “That shouldn’t be in there!’ than it is to come up with a replacement that works.

        Sometimes I think that reading crossword blogs obsessively can take some of the fun out of solving crosswords.

        • marciem says:

          “Sometimes I think that reading crossword blogs obsessively can take some of the fun out of solving crosswords.”


          OTOH, it can also add to it in other ways :) , which is why I keep reading. Also because I don’t always grok the themes or what some of the fill means.

          • Eric H says:

            On the whole, I feel like the existence of crossword blogs enhances the whole experience. My husband is pretty tolerant about listening to me talk about the puzzles I’ve solved, but he’s not really interested in them. It’s great to have forums (fora?) like these to discuss puzzles.

            And certainly for someone who’s just getting started with solving puzzles, these blogs can impart a lot of information that otherwise takes years of solving to pick up on.

  7. Steve says:

    WaPo- Nice, fun puzzle this morning with my coffee. Always look forward to Evan’s Sunday!

    Across Lite- Anyone having issues on their iPad? Puzzle answers disappear when I leave and come back to the app. I saw one review mention it also on the App Store. I emailed their support a couple weeks ago but haven’t gotten a reply. Any other recommended iPad apps?

    • Eric H says:

      I have the same issue with my iPad and AcrossLite. But if I click the Library icon, the answers come back.

      I also sometimes have a weird thing going on with the timer. It will toggle back and forth between two times. One seems to be the actual time I’ve been working on the current puzzle, and the other seems to be maybe the total time I’ve spent in AcrossLite for the day. It’s really odd. Since I’m not obsessed with my times, it’s not a huge problem.

      I haven’t tried any other apps that handle.puz files.

  8. Seattle DB says:

    Very timely and apropos for EB to title his puzzle “A Divided Country”. (And we’re only in the beginning stages of the 2024 elections. Wait until after the elections and then EB might publish a “Civil War II” puzzle…)

  9. Seattle DB says:

    Boo to both of the UNI puzzles. The small one has 50A “Green energy” and the answer is “Envy”, which doesn’t make sense. And the big one has 110D “Eye affliction” and the answer is “Sty” w/o the “e”. It also has 113D “Yikes” and the answer is “Oof”. Bad editing can ruin a good puzzle.

    • Eric H says:

      STY is an acceptable spelling for the eyelid affliction.

      I don’t remember the “Yikes”/OOF pairing, but if it’s a conversational clue, I can easily imagine someone saying either in response to any number of situations.

      The biggest editing failure in the Universal Sunday puzzle is the PUMP UP THE VOLUME theme answer, which doesn’t work when you remove both UMs.

  10. Chris+Wooding says:

    NYT: Similar theme on May 25, except no aural distortion. Revealer was “split peas” and all second words started with P. Additional detail: bottom down answers had one letter off the bottom of the puzzle (forming unclued words).

  11. Brady says:

    Clumsy homophones (yeah, Android, it’s a word) don’t do it for me. I rarely quit a puzzle, but, enough.

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