Sunday, September 3, 2023

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 15:42 (Nate) 


USA Today 4:16 Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 10:17 (Jim) 


Universal 2:35 (norah) 


WaPo 5:04 (Matthew) 


Dylan Schiff’s New York Times crossword, “Computer Games” — Nate’s write-up

09.03.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

09.03.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

It’s not lost on me that some folks will tackle the paper version of this week’s puzzle as a way to reduce their screen time, only to find some common computerese sneaking in all the same. :D

– 22A: HATE MAIL [Derby, for one] (HAT, with EMAIL attached at the end, in circled squares)
– 65A: EMAIL ATTACHMENT [What a paper clip may indicate online … as represented in 22-Across]

– 29A: SURF THE NET [Wander around online] (with SHEET spread throughout in circled squares)
– 92A: SPREADSHEET [Excel offering … as represented in 29-Across]

– 35A: LINCOLN PARK [Chicago neighborhood with a namesake zoo] (with LINK broken, in circled squares)
– 100A: BROKEN LINK [It may lead to a 404 error page … as represented in 35-Across]

– 59A: THE DEA(D S)EA SCROLLS [Ancient manuscripts discovered in the Qumran Caves] (with ADS popping out of the entry, in circled squares)
– 109A: POP UP ADS [Browser annoyances … as represented in 59-Across]

So this puzzle ended up being a quad of themers, each with its own revealer of sorts. HAT turned into HAT(E MAIL) (where EMAIL is attached to HAT, rather than an attachment being attached to an EMAIL), ADS are popping up out of THE DEA(D S)EA SCROLLS, etc. This felt mostly successful to me, though a small part of me wished that a few of the transformations were more dramatic. For example, the BROKEN LINK spread across (LIN)COLN PAR(K) felt less impactful with the first four letters of the entry (LINC) giving the same sound as LINK. All the same, a fun exploration of literal representations. As I solved it on my phone, part of me waited for a full screen announcement to drop over the puzzle, telling me to turn off my ad blocker or something. :)

Random thoughts:
– I appreciate when potentially problematic entries like SNIPER are clued in a way that feels both more modern and less violent.
– The grid features both a current (Jonathan Van NESS) and previous (TED ALLEN) member of the Queer Eye Fab Five – nice!
– The NE corner of the grid was the toughest for me – I couldn’t grok DASHI, IN REASON, SALT, or ISRAEL at first, but they each eventually fell, one by one.
– There were some interesting cluing choices that took me an extra beat: LEOS as the composer rather than summer babies, PAIN as French bread rather than an ache, etc.

That’s all for now – how did you enjoy the puzzle? Let us know in the comments – and have a great weekend!

(Fun note PS: Not even a week ago, my mom texted randomly to ask if I knew a crossword constructor named Dylan Schiff, who used to teach at a school near my parents. Smash cut to opening this week’s puzzle and seeing his byline – what a small world! Dylan, if you’re reading this, hi! My dad (who I think you taught with?) asked me to pass along his best wishes.)

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Traveling Companions” — Matt G’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Traveling Companions” 9/3/23

Four pairs of themers exist in adjacent columns, and are held together by a three-part revealer at 122-, 126-, and 127a: THE FRIENDS WE MADE ALONG // THE // WAY

Looking back at those theme pairs, and the circled letters within, we have four instances of a synonym for “friend” immedialtely adjacent to a synonym for “way”: AMIGO and ROUTE, CHUM and LANE, ALLY and ROAD, and MATE and PATH. I spotted what was going on early in the puzzle, but the specific revealer – which has become a bit meme-y in different usages – was a nice chuckle

I’m sure it’s easier said than done but these relatively short letter strings allow for really interesting theme entries. WHAT AM I GONNA DO and NEUROPATHOLOGY are particular highlights. I’m more impressed by the cleanliness of the fill crossing these pairs, and the grid design work to ease those demands without creating a slog of short stuff. There’s a little bit of a gap from the bottom of the theme pairs to the (symmetrically arranged!) revealer. On one hand, not a whole lot in that area really shined for me, but on the other, the arrangement of theme material is so different from a typical Sunday grid that it’s hard for me to judge how much flexibility Evan had.

Separate from the puzzle, congratulations are in order for Evan, who shares this note on his blog:

My wife, Vicki, and I are expecting our first child in early November. We’re both excited and nervous as I imagine is completely normal for expecting parents.

What does it mean for my crosswords? What I can share right now is that beginning in November, I will be taking a break from writing puzzles for The Post for about two months. In that time, however, The Post will be publishing a slate of crosswords from a set of guest constructors to be revealed later. I’ve already begun editing them, and I’m excited by how they’re turning out. I don’t imagine I will be getting a ton of sleep by January, but hopefully by then we’ll have settled into more of a routine such that I’ll be able to get back into writing puzzles on a normal schedule. There’s no amount of planning that can prepare me for the experience of being a parent, though, so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I expect the experience of raising a child might inspire many ideas for puzzles that I hadn’t considered previously.

Other notes:

  • 20a [Brazilian setting of the Museum of Tomorrow] RIO. From Wikipedia: “The museum mixes science with an innovative design to focus on sustainable cities and an ecological world.” Sounds neat.
  • 57a [Website with instructional articles] EHOW. Including an article on flushing your eye after getting habanero pepper in it. Not that I have any reason to know that.
  • 108a [Kick ___ Throwing (game venue with a punny name)] AXE. I haven’t been yet, and as time goes on, I think it’s less likely I ever do the axe throwing thing.
  • 109a [Draft document?] BAR MENU. A play on “draft” beers. I like it.
  • 116a [Series of hole notes?] PIANO ROLL. I wonder how much player pianos are still on folks’ radars. I had one in my house growing up, and even then my family treated the rolls like antiques. It’s not something I think about often, so this was a fun clue and entry for me.
  • 12d [“Lo, How a ___ E’er Blooming” (Christmas carol)] ROSE. This is my favorite carol to sing — I’ve seen maybe three or four multiple arrangements, all with really fun harmony lines.

Zachary David Levy and Katie Hale’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Or Thereabouts”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases with an added ISH. The revealer is KINDA SORTA (116a, [In a way … and a hint to six additions in this puzzle]).

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Or Thereabouts” · Zachary David Levy and Katie Hale · 9.3.23

  • 22a. [Marijuana label, in a way?] HASHISH TAG. Nice one to start off with.
  • 31a. [Church near the clubhouse, in a way?] PARISH FOR THE COURSE. Well, a parish is more than just the church building, but okay.
  • 48a. [Greedy courtroom strategy, in a way?] SELFISH DEFENSE. Plausible. I’m imagining multiple defendants with one defending themself in such a way as to implicate their co-defendants.
  • 67a. [Completely vegan, in a way?] TOTALLY RADISH. Not sure I buy the clue on this one. My take: [Shop specializing in pungent root veggies?]
  • 83a. [Unpolished cash, in a way?] MONEY TO BURNISH. I like this one, but “cash” implies paper money to me. Why not use “coins”?
  • 100a. [Versatile, extravagant gesture, in a way?] ALL-PURPOSE FLOURISH. I like this one best. Fun way to finish off a theme.

Standard addition theme but executed nicely. There are a lot of words you can add ISH to and still have another word, but it must have taken some searching to find words that change their meaning completely.

In the fill, I like HALF-DEAD, OUTSMART, EL PRADO, ACROBATS, CHURRO, GAMUT, and ZEALOUS. The rest of the fill is quite smooth. Only A MEMOIR raised an eyebrow, but the clue [Subtitle of some autobiographies] works for me.

Clues of note:

  • 20a. [Healthy]. HALE. We also would have accepted [Crossword constructor Katie]. I searched the grid for LEVY but didn’t see it.
  • 13d. [Word spelled out by Aretha Franklin]. RESPECT. Is it possible to hear an entry as you write it in?

Four stars.

Universal, “Themeless Sunday 49” by Rafael Musa — norah’s write-up; 2:35

THEME: None!

Favorite entries:



  • RUPAULSDRAGRACE 37A [Show where queens compete]
  • LEGOPEOPLE 17A [Plastic figurines with cylindrical heads]
  • BIGBOYPANTS 20A [Metaphorical garment put on when behaving like an adult]
  • ASIANFUSION 56A [Cuisine that includes kimchi quesadillas and sushirritos]
  • SPEEDDATE 32D [Short chemistry test?]
  • CROPTOPS 5D [Shirts that might show a navel ring]


*Smashed* my previous Sunday pr with this, so thanks for that, Rafa. :)

What a great spanner in RUPAULSDRAGRACE! We love to see it. Somehow Rafa’s puzzles always make me hungry and today is no exception. We’ve got kimchi quesadillas and sushirritos, plus CRAB, STEWS, (steak) DIANE, and (apple) TART. yum. And we’ve got another of his hallmarks in giving standard short fill fresher evocative clues such as DJS 52A [Some music festival headliners] and MESS 9A [Hot ___ (chaotic situation)]. Such a great time solving this one.

Rafa was recently named as one of the members of the 2024 Lil AVC X leadership team. I’m so happy for what this means for the future of Lil – more great midi puzzles!

Thanks Rafa and the Universal team!

Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “Breaking Free” — Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each answer is bookended by the letters in FREE, literally breaking them free.

Theme Answers

Matthew Stock's USA Today crossword, “Breaking Free” solution grid for 9/3/2023

Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “Breaking Free” solution for 9/3/2023

  • 18a [Ancestry diagram] FAMILY TREE
  • 38a [Bachelor of Arts, often] FOUR-YEAR DEGREE
  • 53a [This clue’s number] FIFTY-THREE

Matthew Stock tweeted about this as a series of High School Musical: The Crossword: The Series puzzles, which I’m so stoked about because how could you hear this title without thinking of the Disney Channel Original Movie? It’s a solid set, and, of course, it’s a nice little bonus that 53a is FIFTY-THREE. It took me a second for FOUR-YEAR DEGREE, but FAMILY TREE fell right into place.

I was impressed that the flow of this set. I really like the stacked sixes in the middle of the bottom section with 60a [“Green & Gold” singer La Havas] LIANNE, 64a [Loyal Japanese dogs] AKITAS, and the unfortunate statement 67a [“The other team won”] WE LOST. I also thought that 4d [Many an ambitious person, astrologically] CAPRICORN was fun. When it comes to HELPLINEs, I also really love when constructors include a phone number because you never know who might need to see it, and crosswords provide great ways to get the word out, so I quite appreciated 9d [The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s is 1-80-662-4357].

Other faves included

  • 11d [Pets named Mary Shelly and Shell Silverstein, perhaps] – I thought that maybe this would be snail-related, but it’s still a cute clue for TORTOISES.
  • 24d [Great Lake home to Bessie the sea monster] – Cleveland’s AHL team is the Cleveland Monsters, but they used to be the Lake ERIE Monsters, so this clue was a nice reminder of this fact.
  • 40d [Sushi Go! or Go, e.g.] – I love a GAME reference, and Sushi Go! is one of my favourites!

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28 Responses to Sunday, September 3, 2023

  1. marciem says:

    NYT: I enjoyed the puzzle and the theme, but the first themer stood out to me as different from the others. All the others the answers matched the clues, with the circled words working as described in their references. But, “Derby, for one” does not define Hate Mail, and hat email isn’t a thing … I don’t know a more succinct way of stating my problem with it :) . Tell me where I’m missing it.

    Still a fun puzzle

    • JohnH says:

      That first one seemed different to me, too, and really threw me off.

      The puzzle had a fair amount I didn’t know, such as TAP OUT, SPINER, SOO, CUT MEN, MR T crossing CARES, and TERRENCE crossing NESS. So have to say it was the reasonably creative pairing of theme entries that kept me going, where otherwise I’d have been just put off. I still don’t get the idea of zhush up, for SPRUCE up.

    • Andrew says:

      marciem, far as I know the email part has no relevance to a derby. But it’s attached to hat, making it an email attachment. That T of hat was one of the last letters to fall for me.
      It was a fun puzzle. I happily found it on the quick & easy side of Sundays, even though I share most of JohnH’s list of unknowns.

    • Mutman says:

      I agree with the 22A remark. Perhaps it could have been clued “Mr Grumpy writing an actual letter to the constructor is an example of this” :)

    • Dallas says:

      I had the same struggle with HATE MAIL / HAT EMAIL as well. THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS not fitting in kept confusing me even though I already had USDA in … and then it finally clicked. Even with that (and putting TORTE in rather than TORTA) was still a faster than average solve. Nice Sunday.

      And congratulations, Evan! Parenthood is exhausting and wonderful.

  2. Seattle DB says:

    Some people here complain about how convoluted, complex and pervasive that internet/smartphone initialism has become. Meanwhile, I’ve been going thru the Jonesin’ archives, and then coming back here to read the answers and reviews. And here’s a reviewer’s statement from 10 years ago that made me giggle.

    “47a. [Pic taken at arm’s length], SELFIE. Do you think this word will enter the language long-term, or is it a fly-by-night neologism?”

  3. marciem says:

    WOOHOO EVAN & VICKI! Congratulations felicitations and every good vibe out there!!

    Parenting is definitely on-the-job training, and each child is a new different job, so get ready!

    Evan… I/we will miss your puzzles and look forward to seeing you back after your paternity leave!

  4. LA Times: the Greek god of wine is Dionysus, not Bacchus (Roman). Zeus who views the wide world is angry.

  5. Morgan says:

    I don’t get how the answer for 59 across is THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS when it doesn’t fit. Can someone please explain this to me?

    • sanfranman59 says:

      The ADS part of THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS is in the circles going up from the middle of the answer, as suggested by 109-Across (POP-UP ADS, clued as “Browser annoyances … as represented in 59-Across”)

      • Morgan says:

        Ugh, that’s so dumb. None of the other answers are like that (part of the answer goes through another answer). Thank you, though!

        • Eric H says:

          Each theme answer has a unique trick that is visually represented in the grid.

          THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS is unique in being the only theme answer that is not confined to a single line in the grid.

  6. Dan says:

    LAT: I find the word “ladened” to be ultra dubious.

    Even if it’s listed in some dictionaries, this is a casualty of the “We only describe usage; we don’t try to arbitrate” era.

    • Pilgrim says:

      That’s an odd one. I wonder if it’s regional.
      I can see lade -> laden like ride -> ridden or hide/hid -> hidden,
      but I grew up hearing “ladened” all the time, so I guess I’m on the “descriptive” vs “prescriptive” side.

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