Sunday, August 6, 2023

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 13:07 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 8:20 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 5:45 (Matthew) 


Lisa Senzel and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “What’s Hanging?” — Nate’s write-up

08.06.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

08.06.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

1D to 1A to 8D ALLITERATION [Feature of “Peter Pan” and “Black Beauty”] which, when the leaves are dropped, becomes 1A LITERATI [Bookish intellectuals]

12D to 12A to 19D BAKING STONES [Slabs for making pizza or bread] which, when the leaves are dropped, becomes 12A KINGSTON [Capital in the Caribbean]

33D to 33A to 34D OPERA SINGER [Person on the high C’s?] which, when the leaves are dropped, becomes 33A ERASING [Function of one end of a pencil]

61D to 61A to 64D KARATE LESSONS [Dojo offerings] which, when the leaves are dropped, becomes 61A ATE LESS [Dieted, maybe]

66D to 66A to 69D ENVIRONMENTAL [Part of E.P.A.] which, when the leaves are dropped, becomes 66A IRON MEN [Certain endurance athletes]

117D to 117A to 119D APRICOT TART [Orange-colored fruit pastry] which, when the leaves are dropped, becomes 117A RICOTTA [Lasagna cheese] (a food within a food!)

121D to 121A to 123D SEA SHANTIES [Sailors’ songs] which, when the leaves are dropped, becomes 121A ASHANTI [One-named vocalist with the hits “Foolish” and “Happy”]

105A DROP LEAF TABLE [Piece of furniture with parts that fold down, as depicted seven times in this puzzle]

With each theme entry, you start reading from the bottom of the relevant down entry, then you go across the table, so to speak, and down the other leaf to reveal the full themer. In the same way that a DROP LEAF TABLE works either in full or without the leaves, so too do the themers stand as entries either with or without their “leaves.”

Things I enjoyed about this puzzle:
– Theme dense, with symmetrical themers and generally impressive word-within-a-word finds, which absolutely scratches a fun part of my cryptic crossword brain!
– Left/right grid symmetry, which also allowed for a Tetris-y looking DROP LEAF TABLE of black squares in the grid around 52A.
– Aside from a few tough crossings, this was a super quick solve for me. The grid felt largely clean, which is impressive given the gridding restraints needed to pull off this theme.

Things that were a little tough for me:
– For me at least, the theme execution was hard to grok / spot, so I completed most of the puzzle without fully understanding what was going on. It was only when I got to SEA SHANTIES and saw the overlap between that and ASHANTI that I figured out what might be going on. If you had a similar experience, I highlighted the themers in my grid to help better visualize this puzzle’s DROP LEAF TABLE depictions.
– There were two (for me) tough crossings: 126A ETAGERE / 102D LESHAN and 55D EVEN BETS (???) / 90A TIT. In retrospect, the second should have been easier to get, but I just couldn’t see it.

Overall, a thumbs up from me. How was your experience with the puzzle? Let us know in the comments – and have a great weekend!

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

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “New School,” 8/5/2023

Eight pairs of themers densely fill this week’s grid from Evan. Each pair consists of a college/university with one of its letters removed (and clued to match), and a second institution with that letter inserted (and clued to match the new phrase). Evan adds helpful geographic information into each clue:

  • 21a [President Gerald, after basking in the sun? (going from a school in California …)] TAN FORD (“Stanford”)
  • 22a [Parent’s boy who grows a crop full of gluten? (… to a school in Massachusetts)] WHEAT SON (“Wheaton”)
  • 32a [Hospital areas for mending floor decor? (going from a school in New Jersey …)] RUG ERS (“Rutgers”)
  • 36a [Archer William, when he shares bad jokes (… to a school in New York)] CORN TELL (“Cornell”)
  • 42a [Insect with pub missiles for wings? (going from a school in New Hampshire …)] DART MOTH (“Dartmouth”)
  • 44a [Opposed to saying “That hurt”? (… to a school in Ohio)] ANTI-OUCH (“Antioch”)
  • 64a [Spend extra time on the slopes? (going from one school in New York …)] SKI MORE (“Skidmore”)
  • 66a [Scandal about chilly weather? (… to another school in New York)] COLD GATE (“Colgate”)
  • 73a [Number of people at a fancy dance, e.g.? (going from a school in Indiana …)] BALL STAT (“Ball State”)
  • 76a [Legends of San Francisco’s body of water? (… to a school in Texas)] BAY LORE (“Baylor”)
  • 90a [Egg cells at a country estate? (going from one school in Pennsylvania …)] VILLA OVA (“Villanova”)
  • 93a [Meat eaten while intoning like monks? (… to another school in Pennsylvania)] CHANT HAM (“Chatham”)
  • 103a [Notification that the “Purple Rain” rocker is performing right now? (going from a school in New Jersey …)] PRINCE ON (“Princeton”)
  • 106a [Attempt at listening to broody music? (… to a school in Georgia)] EMO TRY (“Emory”)

Whew, that is a lot of clue to retype. If you know Evan’s puzzles, you know we should be tracking the letters that move within the pairs. The revealer (also a pair of entries) helps us out:

  • 113a [With 119 Across, one changing schools … and what you must do between seven pairs of schools in this puzzle] TRANSFER STUDENT

A lovely theme, classic Evan, with help in the clues and a clear revealer that ensure solvers won’t miss the last layer. A nice mix of institutional profiles in this list of 14 recognizable schools. I wonder how many other choices really were out there to produce a smooth grid.

I’ve counted a few times and I’m still not sure this grid isn’t a bit oversized… just feels like a dense theme.

  • 19a [Sugary pop?] EAR CANDY. A play on “pop music” rather than the beverage.
  • 27a [Space Needle locale] SEATTLE. Unless you are my brain, where every similarly-shaped building is just a “CN Tower, wait no, that’s not right.”
  • 80a [Influencer one should usually ignore] ENABLER. Here’s a clue that wouldn’t have worked 15, maybe even 10 years ago, playing on so-called “influencers;” social media trendsetters.
  • 13d [Two-time Pro Bowl running back Earnest] BYNER. I know the name, but would not expect anyone to, and I couldn’t tell you what team he played for. But he is a two-time Pro Bowler! Anyway, 14 years in the NFL. Just a little before my football fandom kicked in.
  • 14d [River by Kearney, Neb.] PLATTE. Some real Peter Gordon energy here with this clue, which I’m sure is the first time PLATTE has been clued this way.
  • 50d [Paige who played Grizabella in the original production of “Cats”] ELAINE. Can’t think of Elaine Page without thinking of Susan Boyle’s Britain’s Got Talent audition, when she proclaimed her goal was to be as successful as Page, to Simon Cowell’s amusement.
  • 51d [Narrative device that addresses prior events] RETCON. This is a full term on its own for me, but I imagine at one point it was more clearly a portmanteau — yep, looks like it comes from “retroactive continuity.” Maybe not a portmanteau – not sure what to actually call this type of coinage.
  • 78d [1940s supercomputer, or actor Michael backward] ENIAC. As in actor Michael Caine, but I’ll be sad over here that ENIAC gets a hedge-y hint clue.

Sara Cantor’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Give It a Go!”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases where one word has an added GO.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Give It a Go!” · Sara Cantor · 8.6.23

  • 22a. [*”Hey, man, what happened to the surfboards I shipped?”] “DUDE, WHERE’S MY CARGO?” Car.
  • 38a. [*Copycat Argentinian dance?] FAKE TANGO. Tan.
  • 48a. [*Secondary collegiate focus in cheese studies?] ASIAGO MINOR. Asia.
  • 68a. [*”Label that tropical fruit already!”] “STICK IT TO THE MANGO!” Man. I’m looking at two mangoes on the table before me as I write; only one of them is labeled.
  • 86a. [*Drum whose sound really comes to life?] BONGO VIVANT. Bon.
  • 94a. [*Kinshasa party night activity?] CONGO GAME. Con.
  • 111a. [Five misplaced items in a row?] LOST AND FOUND BINGO. Bin. No asterisk on this one. Also, not quite as in-the-language as the others, at least not to my ear. However, I can easily imagine a bingo game where prizes are the items in the lost-and-found bin.

Nice puzzle. The title strongly hints at the gimmick, and it’s cemented with the first entry, but I still enjoyed sussing out each one. With smooth fill and straightforward clues, this turned into one of my quickest 21x solves in a long time.

Speaking of fill, we have such niceties as AVE MARIA, TOTE BAGS, VASELINE, GIOVANNI, DANIELLE, HOTSPOT, TRAIL MAP, and a British MOTORCAR. I don’t think they use this word much anymore, but “motorway” is their word for “highway” or “freeway.” Never heard the word MINISODE [Short TV installment] but it was inferable.

Clues of note:

  • 27a. [Animals with rectangular pupils]. GOATS. Curious factoid there. Here’s the why of it.
  • 82a. [Mock a pigeon]. COO. If you’re going to act like a pigeon, do it right.
  • 1d. [“How I Killed ___ and Why It Had It Coming” (astronomy book)]. PLUTO. I thought this would’ve been by Neil deGrasse Tyson, but it’s not. (By the way, it’s. not about cartoon dog.)
  • 114d. [RPG runners]. DMS. I wasn’t expecting a D&D entry here. RPG is role-playing game (not rocket-propelled grenade). DMS are dungeon masters.

Smooth, quick, fun puzzle. Four stars.

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22 Responses to Sunday, August 6, 2023

  1. Nino says:

    NYT: Insert gordon ramsay meme of ‘finally, a good fucking theme’

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: It took me a while to figure out the trick, but if I hadn’t gotten it, I’d still be stuck in the NE corner. Having earlier eaten a homemade pizza cooked on a BAKING STONE, I knew what 12D should be, but there are too many Caribbean capitals for me to try to list in my head. It didn’t help that “distinctively stylish” didn’t suggest SASSY and that I have no idea what channel/service is responsible for “American Dad!”

    And of course, I got the “Not Quite There” message. The obvious place for an error was in one of the DROP-LEAF TABLES, but they were all correct. It turned out that I had invented a new type of camera, the SLT.

    Not my fastest Sunday, but a perfectly enjoyable one.

    • huda says:

      Yeah, I too struggled with the SASSY clue. One can have a sassy style and it would be distinctive, but coming at it from the other direction is hard.

    • JohnH says:

      I hadn’t seen this meaning of SASSY before, and it’s not in RHUD, but it’s in MW11C and is definitely real. When I still had one, I had a MEAL plan, rather than program, but I don’t doubt other schools differ, and I don’t think a SET need be complete (not to mention that any collection of elements at all is a set), but only a nit.

      We’ve had themes before that leave answers clued with a dash, but this was nicely original, and it works out well. It sure didn’t come to me quickly or all at once, but then it’s got plenty of entries, echoes in the grid’s central black and white squares alike, and roughly symmetric placement. And each is a real find for the constructor.

      The SE got denser in proper names, slowing me (and, ok, annoying me) considerably, although in all fairness not that obscure: NIGEL, FIONA, Bob Marley album, World of Warcraft, DEB, Twitch, LESHAN (where I recognized Eda but not Lawrence), and of course ASHANTI. Didn’t help that the last crosses a themer that counts really as an alternative spelling. I started with a C for both. I also started with SEA loon for SEA LION. But so it goes.

      • Eric H says:

        Take another look at the grid Nate posted. I’m pretty sure the black squares and the drop-leaf tables are all symmetrically placed.

        This must have been a real challenge to construct.

        • JohnH says:

          And here I thought I was complimenting the puzzle for just that. The only thing I’d change now is that it sounds like I was contrasting real strengths with difficulty in figuring out the theme, whereas I meant the latter as a compliment, too.

          • Eric H says:

            My comment was addressing only your reference “roughly symmetrical placement.” I think that what you originally wrote is accurate if you drop the “roughly.”

            I had difficulty figuring out the theme, but once I did, it helped me finish the puzzle.

  3. Greg says:

    I thought the New York Times was incredibly clever and a joy to solve. I’m continually amazed how these master constructors can pull off these feats.

    • huda says:

      Definitely impressive. And when colored, as Nate did, a thing of beauty.

      • Eric H says:

        I don’t think Nate’s review was up when I commented last night. The highlighting really helps see what’s going to. I’m a bit surprised that the NYT puzzle app didn’t do that once you had solved the puzzle.

        Nate’s point about the theme entries working in the same way a drop-leaf table does — with leaves up or down — makes me appreciate the theme even more.

  4. Anna says:

    Kind of curious why the Atlantic Sunday xwords aren’t covered here. They’re usually startlingly amazing with their fill and marquee entries.

  5. Sarah says:

    I loved the NYT, one of the cutest themes I’ve seen in a while, but was super frustrated with the crossing of LESHANE and ISLE — two names I simply didn’t know (also annoyed with ETAGERE and LAG… but those just required thinking hard with a frowny face)

    • Mutman says:

      I got burned there too. Also at the ATELESS entry. I had GENEOLOGICAL [sic] going down and couldn’t get off of it.

      Interesting puzzle. All in all, thumbs up!

    • Eric H says:

      It’s weird. Eda LESHAN shows up all the time in the NYT archive puzzles I solve, but when I read the clue for 102D, I must have read it as “Edna.” Or else when I solved it, it said something like “Author Eda or Lawrence,” without reference to the topics each wrote about. In any case, that corner gave me more trouble than it should have.

  6. Philippe says:

    NYT’s title did not help finding the gimmick, which was very nice.
    WaPo was again excellent. What a construction, what a smooth solve. Congrats!

  7. PJ says:

    I have to nits about the NYT.

    First, There’s no floor for the tables to be on. To me the tables look like rectangular tables viewed from one side. The leaves on our drop leaf tables do not reach the floor.

    Second, after the revealer I was hoping for some foliage as part of the theme.

    I’m on a migraine hangover and that usually makes me grumpy.

    • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

      Solved the whole thing without getting the theme. After the fact I really like the theme.

      I have a nit as well. I do not like that the clue for the table is a Down clue and yet we have to solve it as if it is up. Seems odd.

      As for someone’s comment about master constructors. IMO there’s only one here. That’s Jeff. Lisa has only had two puzzles in the NYT and both collaborations with Jeff.

  8. RichardZ says:

    Re today’s WaPo offering – Evan’s puzzles are reliably good, but I thought this one was particularly creative. The way in which the theme entries were created (using a letter shift) was ingenious, as were the clues for those entries and the revealer phrase at 113A – 119A.

    I wasn’t familiar with the term in 51D (RETCON), but it’s a literary device (and used in other media as well) which I’ve encountered many times, so it’s nice to learn the informal term for it.

    • BavinBrielle says:

      I totally agree! I had so much fun doing it and I’ve learned to use pen and paper with Evan’s puzzles to make notes as I go along (I do it on my iPad with Across Lite). I’m amazed at his ability to create such crosswords week in and week out.

  9. Pamela+Kelly says:

    The Evan Birnholz WaPo puzzle, New School, is wonderful!! Just WOW!!! Great puzzle!

  10. Eric H says:

    WaPo: Pretty amazing piece of work! I figured out quickly that some schools were gaining a letter and some were losing one, but I didn’t understand the reason why until I finished the grid and really gave some thought to TRANSFER STUDENT.

    And it’s extra impressive that Evan Birnholz pulled it off so cleanly. Yes, a lot of the short fill is stuff I see all the time, but there’s nothing yuckier than STP. I can live with that.

    When I retired five years ago, my goal was to SKI MORE. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, but I blame that on the pandemic, which killed at least one ski season entirely.

  11. SIPTB says:

    Thanks Gareth for another non review of the Sunday LAT.

Comments are closed.