Sunday, August 27, 2023

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT 12:07 (Nate) 


USA Today 3:24 Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 5:57 (Matthew) 


Rich Katz’s New York Times crossword, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” — Nate’s write-up

08.27.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

08.27.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 32A: COMMON COLD [Seasickness?]
– 51A: OFFICIAL ORDERS [Omission?]
– 68A: BEST BUDDY [Befriend?]
– 88A: GALILEO GALILEI [Gee whiz?]
– 105A: POOL PLAYER [Peashooter?]
– 116A: MIDDLE MANAGEMENT [Embosses?]
– 3D: DOWNWARD DOG [Depose?]
– 72D: TABLE TENNIS [Tee-ball game?]

This puzzle’s theme entries make much more sense when you reconsider their clues as “letter + entry whose two word are both led by that letter.” For example, COMMON COLD isn’t [Seasickness?] so much as a C-sickness, and MIDDLE MANAGEMENT isn’t [Embosses?] so much as M-bosses. Fun idea and mostly solid execution, IMHO.

My favorite themer was either DOWNWARD DOG for [Depose?] or GALILEO GALILEI for [Gee whiz?], though TABLE TENNIS for [Tee-ball game?] certainly played to the judge, given how much Will Shortz adores the sport.  I’d recommend checking out the constructor notes for this puzzle to see some other theme entries that were left on the cutting room floor – DOCTORAL DISSERTATION for [Detest?] hit too close to home on a few levels for me.  :D

What did you think of the puzzle?  Can you come up with any other fun themer options?  Let us know in the comments – and have a great weekend!

LA Times Crossword “DIY” by John-Clark Levin — Jack’s write-up

The theme entries have circled squares, which contain anagrams of different types of furniture. A central revealer explains that by unscrambling the anagrams, we’re doing FURNITURE ASSEMBLY.

August 27th LA Times crossword solution — “DIY” by John-Clark Levin

  • 23A. [“The Mousetrap” playwright] = AGATHA CHRISTIE (chair)
  • 32A. [Fishy bagel topper] = SMOKED SALMON (desk)
  • 48A. [Dinner table question] = WHAT’S FOR DESSERT? (dresser)
  • 80A. [Colorful Galápagos bird] = BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY (bed)
  • 95A. [Free rein] = CARTE BLANCHE (table)
  • 109A. [“You must be joking!”] = I CAN’T BELIEVE IT (cabinet)
  • 64A. [Ikea task, and a task that can be applied to the sets of circled letters in this puzzle] = FURNITURE ASSEMBLY

When I got to the second themer and saw KEDS in circles I thought that we’d be hiding shoe brands and that I had just never heard of ACHRI shoes from the first themer. When the third circled word was also nonsense, I took a closer look and realized the mechanism. There are some nice finds here, especially “cabinet” hidden and mixed up in I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. It seems like most of the major furniture types are accounted for and none feels weak or out of place. It’s a great touch that all of the anagrams split across at least two words in each theme entry. I don’t know why we cruciverbalists like that detail, but we do. I’m also partial to BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY. They’re marvelous birds. I took this picture last year on a Galápagos trip.

The rest of the puzzle played pretty easy for me. Not much resistance in the clues, which is fine for a Sunday. 68A. [Car care franchise that started as a muffler specialist] = MEINEKE was new to me, so the crosses had to pick up my slack. I was happy to learn the etymology of DEKE 104. [Hockey term derived from “decoy”].

The clue 56D. [Was in tents?] = CAMPED made me pause. Not because it’s tough, but because of the question mark. Normally a question mark communicates to a solver something like “don’t take a straightforward reading of this clue”. But this question mark instead seems to be alerting the solver to the pun on “was intense,” when in fact a straightforward reading of the clue could perfectly lead someone to the answer CAMPED. It makes me wonder: has the crossword community come to a consensus on a succinct definition of the question mark’s meaning in crosswords? I’d love to hear peoples’ thoughts on this.

Lisa Senzel & Jeff Chen’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Off-brands”—Jim’s review

Theme: Malapropisms are imagined to be slogans for well-known brands.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Off-brands” · Lisa Senzel and Jeff Chen · 8.27.23

  • 23a. [Bank of America: “Our savings bonds will ___!”] PEAK YOUR INTEREST. “Peak” as a transitive verb? Odd, but okay.
  • 37a. [Peloton: “Our equipment withstands ___!”] ALL INTENSIVE PURPOSES.
  • 53a. [French’s: “Our freshness seals are so strong, we guarantee they ___!”] DON’T PASS MUSTARD. I went with WON’T PASS MUSTARD and ended with an error. In retrospect, I should’ve figured out the crossing should’ve been DMS and not WMS, but I’m old and the clue was a Lizzo lyric.
  • 64a. [Zoom: “Don’t worry about saying stupid things, because so often, ___!”] IT’S A MUTE POINT.
  • 75a. [Petco: “Buy one of our restraints to give your dog ___!”] A NEW LEASH ON LIFE. An oldie but a goodie.
  • 92a. [Keurig: “Sick of complicated instructions? ___ and buy our simple machines!”] POUR OVER THE FINE PRINT. Hmm. I don’t think this one works quite as well. “Pore over the fine print” doesn’t seem quite as in-the-language to me, and the new sentence doesn’t make a lot of sense. However, “pour-over coffee” is definitely a thing and a Keurig is an alternative to that.
  • 109a. [Formica: “Our countertop is so magnificent, people will ___!”] TAKE IT FOR GRANITE. Nice, though I never realized “Formica” was a brand name.

Cute, playful theme. It’s not a stretch of the imagination for me to see these malapropisms applied to specific brands, and I’m a sucker for a theme with some humor. I can see some people being annoyed by these phrases, but the puzzle makes no apologies, owns the phrases, and makes good use of them in my opinion.


New to me: Coconut AMINOS, TOE PUNT (soccer kick), and ODENSE (Denmark city).

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Senor living facilities?]. CASAS. No tilde in my clue. I wonder if it was in the print version.
  • 15a. [Super’s accessory]. CAPE. Was thinking “building manager” the whole time. I don’t recall hearing a superhero referred to as a “super” outside of The Incredibles. And of course, super’s shouldn’t have capes, if Edna Mode has any say in the matter.
  • 70a. [Muppet who often singes Beaker’s hair]. BUNSEN. He’s usually referred to as “Dr. BUNSEN Honeydew,” so it’s weird to see him called by just his first name. Show the guy some respect; he is a doctor after all!
  • 3d. [Baseball pro whose mascot is a moose]. SEATTLE MARINER. Did not know this despite living in Tacoma, but then I don’t follow baseball. But…why a moose? Shouldn’t the mascot be an old crusty sailor?
  • 16d. [Coconut ___ (soy sauce alternative)]. AMINOS. I’ll have to look for this, but I doubt it’ll replace soy sauce in our house. Apparently it contains about 70% less salt than soy sauce and doesn’t taste like coconut. Here’s the deets.
  • 53d. [“Somebody come get this man / I think he got lost in my ___” (Lizzo lyric)]. DMS. I should’ve figured this out, but I like the fresh angle despite my error.
  • 91d. [Result of too many six-packs, ironically]. BEER GUT. Cute.
  • 97d. [Three-sided beef cut]. TRI-TIP. First time seeing this in a grid, and it gives me a little bit of unwarranted hometown pride. I spent three years in the ’70s as a kid living in Santa Maria, the central California town where a TRI-TIP BBQ was a common site on the weekends. But for a time, we could never find that cut of beef after leaving the area. As I grew older and we moved away, we began to find it in other parts of California, and now it’s a regular sight here in Washington supermarkets. Is it widespread throughout the country? We were never too keen on the Santa Maria style of BBQ however (rubbed with spices), preferring our Guamanian marinade of soy sauce, lemon juice, and onion. It’s become a regular part of our family’s special occasion get-togethers. Hmm. Maybe I’ll try it with coconut AMINOS next time.

Nice, playful theme and strong fill. 3.75 stars.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd” — Matt G’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Two Company, Three’s a Crowd,” 8/26/23

I uploaded this whole review overnight and don’t see it now. Apologies for the mysterious difficulties and delay.

Rebus time this week, but the game changes midway through the puzzle. At first, some squares require entering a double letter, but in the bottom half of this (oversized 21×25!) grid some squares contain *three* identical:

  • 29a [Decision to take a risk based on one’s belief] LEAP OF FAITH, crossing
  • 14d [Needing ventilation] STUFFY
  • 34a [Cattle enclosure] CORRAL, crossing
  • 7d [“A Perfect Spy” author John] LE CARRE
  • 46a [One giving lessons on a white blanket] SKI INSTRUCTOR crossing old crossword staple
  • 42d [Muckraker Jacob] RIIS
  • 55a [Blades in Winter Olympics races] SPEED SKATES, crossing
  • 52d [Pet ___ (irritation)] PEEVE
  • 69a [Spice mixed into some rolls] CINNAMON, crossing
  • 64d [Flowers lasting only one growing season] ANNUALS
  • 75a [Ping-pong item] PADDLE, crossing
  • 58d [In conflict (with)] AT ODDS
  • 82a [Adequately illuminated] WELL LIT, crossing
  • 78d [“It isn’t gonna hurt me much] ILL LIVE
  • 87a [Birds feeding on buzzing insects] BEE EATERS, crossing
  • 79d [Communication service provided at no charge to users] FREE EMAIL
  • 101a [Event featuring dragon tiles] MAH JONGG GAME, crossing
  • 97d [Process of evaluating certain poultry products] EGG GRADING
  • 107a [Member of a former Honolulu minor-league baseball team] HAWAII ISLANDER, crossing
  • 94d [Finale of “Our Town”] ACT III
  • 123a [Chase away] SHOO OFF, crossing
  • 114d [Far more frequently than you’d prefer] TOO OFTEN
  • 126a [Betty White’s character on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”] SUE ANN NIVENS, crossing
  • 120d [Headlines and info from an MSNBC rival] CNN NEWS

(I sure hope that’s the full list. I’ve had to re-capture and save the grid image three times.) (Nope, it’s four now)

We have a little bit of a revealer right next to the last theme pair, at 121d [Tips such as “some squares have more than one letter”] HINTS, as well as an Easter Egg near the middle at 56d [Baseball class for the Pacific Coast League] TRIPLE A.

I like that the rebus squares are symmetric-ish. I can’t imagine the sacrifices the puzzle would make to have them perfectly lined up, but it’s also nice that the themers are evenly distributed. All told, the extra material didn’t feel sloggy, either. And the rebus squares spell FRIEND (from the two-letter squares, “company,” so to speak) and LEGION (from the three-letter squares, a “crowd” of sorts).


  • 21a [Williams College rival] AMHERST. And offshoot, if I accurately recall tidbits from college tours long ago.
  • 44a [Sport for the C’s and the Dubs] HOOPS. I like the casualness in “C’s” (the Boston Celtics) and “Dubs” (the Golden State Warriors) pointing to HOOPS rather than a more formal “basketball”
  • 62a [Banks also known as BanX] TYRA. Looks like BanX is a modeling sobriquet adopted in 2019.
  • 79a [In-flight movement] FLAP. I was confusedly thinking airplane flaps here, but it’s the movement of an animal with wings. You probably knew that already.
  • 107a HAWAII ISLANDERS. I knew this team existed but not much about them. Their Wikipedia page is a fascinating read; distance to the rest of their league was much less an issue than an inconvenient stadium move away from downtown Honolulu.
  • 136a [Joy of listening to great music] EARGASM. Not as much a neologism as I’m sure someone in the comments will assume – it seems to have been coined in Jet magazine in 1976, and my peer groups have been using it for at least 15 or 20 years.
  • 1d [Oolong pouch] TEA BAG. I am a big tea drinker, and I find that Oolong uniquely among teas, upsets my stomach if I haven’t eaten yet. Does this happen to anyone else?
  • 47d [1979 Bette Midler movie that featured a flower on its posters] THE ROSE. I do love that song.
  • 49d [“___-daisy”] UPSY. I’ve only ever encountered “UPSY-daisy” in crosswords. In my life, it’s only been the slightly different “oopsy-daisy.”

Jared Goudsmit’s USA Today crossword, “’A Toast!’ (Freestyle)” — Darby’s write-up

This was a great themeless with so much long filled crammed into the grid. AERIAL YOGA, HAND WARMER, GIANT PANDA, and PAGE TURNER are all 10s providing solid bases for the upper left and lower right corners. The placement of black squares near these corners felt a little enclosing, but it does make sense in trying to get them to fill cleanly. Crossing both marquees in the NW corner are 3d [“…but I might be wrong”] OR NOT and 15d [Material in some condoms and diaphragms] LATEX, which I thought were fun (I always love seeing an X pop up; and there are two in this puzzle with ANNEX).

Jared Goudsmit's USA Today crossword, “'A Toast!' (Freestyle)” solution grid

Jared Goudsmit’s USA Today crossword, “’A Toast!’ (Freestyle)” solution for 8/27/2023

Plus, the crossing spanners 7d [Spanish, French or Italian] ROMANCE LANGUAGE and 34a [“Booze for everyone at the table!”] DRINKS ALL AROUND were both really great. All four 9s also cross the latter of these. I love that 11d [Seller of Caramel deLites] GIRL SCOUT is right next to 12d [Crunchier spinoff of a Nabisco cookie] OREO THINS. 21d [Curtis Mayfield hit] SUPERFLY and 23d [Dead Kennedys music genre] PUNK ROCK also made for some fun musical fill.

I moved pretty quickly through the grid overall, stumbling only with 6d [Ada Lovelace’s poet father] BYRON, 10d [“Normal People” star Daisy ___-Jones] EDGAR, and AERIAL YOGA, though YOGA was pretty intuitive once I got the first half in.

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24 Responses to Sunday, August 27, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: “Wheel of Fortune” solving got me NICHOLAS NICKLEBY from just a few critical letters, and I understood the theme almost immediately after that.

    I tried to get as many theme answers as I could without any crosses. COMMON COLD was easy because I’ve developed a sore throat this evening.

    It was on the easy side. I thought for a bit that I was headed for a new Sunday record, but then I think that almost every week before I start slowing down. As it turned out, this was my second fastest Sunday.

    Most importantly, it was a fun puzzle to solve. The theme answers were all amusing; there were two references to “The Godfather”; Laura DERN showed up . . .

    OTOH, 60 years sounds about right for RE-ADORN to be back in the puzzle. Barring a miracle, I won’t be around the next time it appears.

    • huda says:

      haha, READORN was my last entry.
      I agree the theme was amusing and the puzzle unfolded nicely.
      Detest for Doctoral Dissertation is excellent. No matter how much you start off excited, it seems to become a big burden before it’s all over. But it makes it all the more joyful to be done!

      • Eric H says:

        I avoided the dissertation by going to law school.

        But I made up for it, perhaps, by taking both the Texas and Illinois bar exams.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        A big burden or an almost total failure … In my case, I worked my ass off and all I got for five years in grad school was an ABD master’s degree. I was following up on the research of a previous doctorate student of my adviser and we eventually discovered that he had probably manufactured a lot of the data in his dissertation (something that I later learned my adviser had suspected all along). I kept trying to replicate his results so I could extend them. All I ended up with was a lot of frustration, an MS and a couple years of my life that I’ll never get back. The first three years of coursework, grant-writing and learning about animal lab management were valuable, but the last two years were a fruitless struggle to find something that was probably never there. At any rate, I ended up doing well enough in my career with just the MS.

        • huda says:

          I’m so sorry. That sounds like a nightmare.
          And I have some thoughts about your advisor…
          I’m glad you had the last laugh by landing on your feet, and I hope the person who made up stuff got their comeuppance. Life (and science) have a way of catching up with people who take the easy way out at the expense of integrity.

        • Eric H says:

          That sounds like a horrible experience. I’m glad you did well in your career anyway.

          I have a friend who is a physics professor and graduate advisor. I’m sure he has never treated his grad students so poorly.

  2. Philippe says:

    WaPo was so smooth. And the very kind, embedded attention that there were rebuses as part of one clue, if you had not understood it yet, was a very nice bonus

    • David L says:

      I solved the puzzle and I got the two extra words (at least I think I did) but I don’t understand their significance or why some of the rebuses were different from the others (not to give too much away).

      • Look at the title again.

        • Mr. [not really] Grumpy says:

          Okay. That works, said Mr. Grumpy with a smile on his face.

        • David L says:

          Thanks for the hint, Evan. Although your use of the word ‘again’ makes an unwarranted assumption, if you catch my meaning.

      • Eric H says:

        Same here, David.

        The two words I found don’t seem to mean anything together. I’ve pondered the title per Evan’s suggestion, but it hasn’t helped.

        I’m not functioning at my best today and could use a hint.

        I’m a little surprised to see two references to a 50-year-old sitcom, but I‘ll take my gimmes wherever I can find them.

        The puzzle itself was fine. Nice fill given the restraints the rebuses must have created.

        • Stephie says:

          Good lord.

        • They’re two separate six-letter words.

          Two’s “company” = rebus squares with two letters
          Three’s “a crowd” = rebus squares with three letters

          • Eric H says:

            Thanks, Evan.

            I figured the title related to the number of letters in the rebuses.

            And I found two six-letter words that don’t seem to have any real connection, but I am probably just missing something.

            Nice puzzle, as usual.

            • Thank you. The six-letter words are connected to the title. The 2-letter rebus squares spell out FRIEND (“company”). The 3-letter rebus squares spell out LEGION (“a crowd”).

            • Eric H says:

              Thanks, Evan.

              Those are the words I found, so I guess “all” I was missing was friend = company/legion = crowd.

            • Milo says:

              FWIW I’m with you, Eric. I got the two words easily enough, but they landed with a sonorous thud. A shame, because it was an enjoyable puzzle overall.

            • Eric H says:

              Milo: Evans’s explanation made the FRIEND and LEGION connection more solid. (When I got those words, I was certain there had to be more.)

              I think part of the problem is that Evan has made so many incredible meta puzzles that when he publishes one that’s less impressive, it feels like a letdown.

              I’ve constructed some puzzles (and had a few published). I have plenty of trouble getting a regular grid to work, so I hate to imagine how hard it is to pull off any meta puzzle. I really admire the constructing skills of people like Evan Birnholz, Matt Gaffney, and Mike Shenk’s.

  3. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni (21x grid) … Re the clue for CAPE (“Super accessory”), I just figured it was an error and that the clue was supposed to be either “Superman’s accessory” or “Superhero’s accessory”. I too was thinking of a building superintendent and the only thing I could come up with was ‘keys’, even though the clue was singular. Hmm.

    • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

      Lots of superheroes, in addition to Superman, wear capes: Batman, Thor, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel …. I suspected a typo/editing mistake as well, but then figured that Super was a reasonable shorthand for Superhero, so I’ll call it an acceptable misdirection.

  4. Lester says:

    Universal Sunday: those malapropisms are classic eggcorns.

  5. Seattle DB says:

    Uni-Sun: Boo to the editors for the clue at 15A: “Super’s accessory” is a “Cape”. WTF?

  6. Vernon Blair says:

    Going to college was a real challenge and adventure for me. I gathered all my determination and energy to successfully get through this stage. Preparing for exams, writing an essay, waiting for the results – every stage was filled with tension and hope. Finally, the moment came when I knew that my effort had been rewarded. A sense of pride and joy filled me, realizing that I had achieved this goal. It was an important step forward towards my academic and professional dreams.

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