Sunday, September 10, 2023

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT untimed (Nate) 


USA Today 3:18 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim) 


Universal 4:55 (Darby) 


WaPo untimed (Matthew) 


Aaron Rosenberg’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Bringing Down the House”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are idiomatic phrases humorously re-purposed as the mishaps of an inept home DIYer.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Bringing Down the House” · Aaron Rosenberg · 9.10.23

  • 22a. [“What a miserable day of repairs! I tried to install new panes but accidentally ___”] CRACKED A WINDOW. Good start to the theme.
  • 29a. [“Frustrated, I lashed out and ___”] BROKE THE FOURTH WALL. Very nice.
  • 48a. [“Then, as I gathered my fasteners, I tripped on the stairs and ___”] NAILED THE LANDING. I like this one quite a bit. It turns something outstanding into something terrible.
  • 65a. [“I carried on at the entryway, but I slipped and ___”] GOT A FOOT IN THE DOOR. This one isn’t quite as strong. But if it means a foot through the door, then it’s good.
  • 84a. [“Trying to keep my balance, I grabbed on to the decorative front but ___”] DROPPED THE FACADE. Okay, but our hero doesn’t seem to have been carrying the facade at the time.
  • 100a. [“When I climbed to the top of the house to survey the damage, I fell and ___”] WENT THROUGH THE ROOF. Not sure how you’re going to survey the damage from the roof, but I like this entry best.
  • 111a. [“I clung onto the eaves for a while, but in the end I ___”] TOOK THE EDGE OFF. Unfortunately, not as strong a finish. No one calls the eaves of a house “the edge.” But still, an enjoyable theme.

As someone who prefers to work around the house as much as possible (as opposed to paying someone to do something I should be able to do), I enjoyed this theme quite a bit. Sure, I picked some nits above, but as a whole, the theme works, and I bought into the storyline for the duration.

Plenty to like in the fill: GIVE GROUND, PICTURE DAY, OFF THE MAP, OLD SKOOL, ELEKTRA, FINE WINES, MINIFIGS, and “OH, POO!” I didn’t know BIG HURT [Nickname of baseball’s Frank Thomas, with “the”] or BLUE RINSE [Old Hollywood technique to make hair look silver].

Clues of note:

  • 38d. [Cheesy event?] PICTURE DAY. Fun clue for a fun entry.
  • 88d. [Greeting at a communist mixer]. “COMRADES.” Strange to clue this as a verbal greeting, but a “communist mixer” is funny to me.

Four stars.

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

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Trade Books,” 9/10/2023

Our theme consists of pieces of classic literature with their two-word titles flipped, and wacky clues as a result:

  • 22a [William Makepeace Thackeray novel about a so-so bathroom cabinet?] FAIR VANITY
  • 24a [Kurt Vonnegut novel about felines in a baby’s bed?] CRADLE CATS
  • 40a [John Steinbeck novel about an enchilada wrap eaten in a British apartment?] FLAT TORTILLA
  • 55a [Willa Cather novel about a wagon train traveler’s copy of a Winfrey-based magazine?] PIONEER’S O
  • 66a [Charles Dickens novel about commanding comedian John to do a 1960s dance?] TWIST, OLIVER
  • 78a [Anne Bronte novel about actress Moorehead when she appears to be ashen in colour?] GREY AGNES
  • 91a [Charles Frazier novel about a sickness one suffers from hiking up Everest or Kilimanjaro?] MOUNTAIN COLD
  • 110a [S.E. Hinton novel about a melee between aquatic schools?] FISH RUMBLE
  • 113a [Orson Scott Card novel about the final buzzers and whistles?] GAME ENDERS

I’m unfamiliar with Rumble Fish, but I’m sure that’s on me. A broadly recognizable set. This feels like one of those puzzles where someone comes in the comments and tells me I’m missing part of the theme, but I’m not seeing a final layer. It’s certainly a f


  • 20a [Origin of the sport kilikiti] SAMOA. I hadn’t heard of this, but it has some similarities to cricket.
  • 33a [Amazin’ Mets home] SHEA. The Mets now play at Citi Field, but “Amazin'” refers specifically to the 1969 team which won the World Series after finishing the regular season on a 38-11 run. You may also have heard them referred as the “Miracle” Mets.
  • 72a [Betty who works at the Daily Bugle in Spider-Man comics] BRANT. I didn’t know this character, but I figured a B was a decent guess for the first letter, given how common alliterative names are in comics.
  • 95a [NFL team long coached by Mike Tomlin] STEELERS. The Steelers have famously had long-tenured coaches; Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Tomlin are the latest three, and Noll started his Steelers tenure in 1969.
  • 5d [Party mix that may be seasoned with Old Bay] CLAM DIP. I like seafood — and Old Bay; a distinctive seasoning blend from Maryland — quite a bit. I’m not sure CLAM DIP appeals to me.
  • 31d [Yellow-orange gem in jewelry] AMBER. I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around AMBER as a “gem,” though I know it’s generally considered one. Feels demonstratively different from beryls and such.
  • 52d [Jersey number that no NBA player has ever worn during a game] SIXTY NINE. I’m surprised with a quick google to learn that the NBA does not have the NCAA’s rule limiting jersey numbers to digits 0-5, so that referees can easily and clearly signal when they need to. News to me that 69 was even a hypothetical possibility!
  • 53d [Start of a literary orphan’s request] PLEASE SIR. The orphan of course being Oliver Twist, who appears in a way in the theme. I think the puzzle is stronger that Evan didn’t go for a cross-reference here.
  • 56d [Kefauver on a 1956 presidential ticket] ESTES. I know we have a number of cluing options for ESTES but to be honest, I don’t enjoy any of them much. I suppose this angle, dated as it is, makes sense for a Washington paper.
  • 71d [Bit of bad guidance] BUM STEER. I guess I hadn’t realized before now that this phrase — which I have heard — could apply to metaphorical steers, and not a literal bovine that a farmer might have buyer’s remorse over.
  • 74d [Entered abruptly] BARGED IN. I don’t like the show, nor am I very familiar, but I never consider the phrase BARGE(D) IN without thinking of Kosmo Kramer from Seinfeld.
  • 84d [Creeping higher, as underpants] RIDING UP. Now there’s an evocative clue.
  • 89d [Virtual animals like a Kau and a Kougra] NEOPETS. Are NEOPETS still around? I recall a heyday from my childhood, but have trouble placing them. Simultaneous or a bit later than Tamagatchi, maybe? Before Pokemon really got going?

Adam Wagner’s New York Times crossword, “Detours Ahead” — Nate’s write-up

09.10.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

09.10.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

22A: BOB CRATCHIT (BROADWAY HIT via ROADWAY at 27A) [Dickens clerk DETOUR: Theatrical success]
45A: US BORDERS (USB DRIVE via DRIVE at 52A) [Homeland Security concerns DETOUR: Computer port inserts]
68A: EMU EGGS (EMPATHS via PATH at 74A) [They’re laid in Australia DETOUR: They feel your pain]
88A: FILM SPEED (FILL A NEED via LANE at 94A) [Photographer’s setting DETOUR: Come in handy]
112A: ELASTIC BAND (E STREET BAND via STREET at 117A) [Feature of some sweatpants DETOUR: Well-known musical group with a place name]

Each of this puzzle’s theme entries gives you an answer corresponding to the normal path you might take across that entry (struck out in the print version, apparently!), but then a second answer once you go through the parallel detour ROADWAY / DRIVE / PATH / LANE / STREET. This felt largely successful to me, though I wish all the parallel paths had been reimagined as nicely as ROADWAY and LANE. DRIVE and STREET being used as is in the alternate entry felt less impressive a transformation – though, let’s be clear, that two pairs of parallel theme entries x 5 is quite impressive in a grid that’s otherwise this cleanly filled. Fun theme idea, excellent execution, and lots of fun bonus fill?  Gold stars all around!

My fill time for this puzzle ended up about average. It felt tough to break into for a while, but went faster once I got some traction. For whatever reason, the down clues felt more gettable to me than the across ones. Did anyone else experience that, too?

Random thoughts:
– I loved BAD ASSERY as an entry! Bravo to NYT for being willing to keep current with entries like this.
41D OH MAMA crossing 71A DADA was a fun moment. 19D EILEEN crossing 32A ELAYNE (especially with all the possible variant spellings if you don’t know those personas exactly) was less fun for me and felt kind of dupe-y.
– I imagine that the 70D XBOX KINECTS and 91A KVASS crossing might be tough for some!

That’s it for now – let us know what you thought of the puzzle in the comments. I hope everyone’s having a nice weekend! (Apologies again for the late review – I had the chance to take a quick trip over to see Brandi Carlile at Red Rocks in Denver (she did not disappoint!) and just got home after a long day of travel.)

LA Times crossword, “Walk Around the Block” by Meghan Morris – Jack’s write-up

Theme entries all begin or end with four circled letters that wrap around a black block in the grid. The circled letters spell out different types of “walks,” which explains the puzzle title, “Walk Around the Block.”

LA Times crossword solution, Sept 10th 2023 — “Walk Around the Block” by Meghan Morris

  • 25A. [“But there is a silver lining…”] = ON THE BRIGHT SIDE (sidewalk)
  • 43A. [Made a volatile situation worse] = ADDED FUEL TO THE FIRE (fire walk)
  • 62A. [Scramble to meet a deadline] = RACE AGAINST TIME (race walk)
  • 76A. [“Deadliest Catch” catch] = ALASKAN KING CRAB (crab walk)
  • 97A. [Egg-laying mammal] = DUCK-BILLED PLATYPUS (duckwalk)
  • 116A. [Beethoven piano classic] = MOONLIGHT SONATA (moonwalk)


It’s always fun when crossword entries take circuitous paths. During the solve I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what all of the circled words had in common, so I eagerly awaited a revealer to cure my ignorance. I was surprised and momentarily disappointed when one never came. Could it be that the puzzle supplied no justification for why the themers looped at the edges? Another scan of the set and a fresh glance at the title led to a forehead-smacking moment. Walk around the block. A very satisfying realization that probably took me longer than most.

Some of the walks are very well-known to me (sidewalk, crab walk, and moonwalk). The others, much less so. Especially firewalk, which I suppose refers to people walking on hot coals. But I’ve only ever heard that referred to as “walking on hot coals.” My favorite themer is DUCK-BILLED PLATYPUS because of course it is.

Meghan included a lot of nice bonus entries – RITE AID, FOOD DYE, KEY ISSUE, TIN PANS, DEAD SEA, YES WE CAN. These aren’t showing off or sacrificing fill quality– just enough zest to keep solvers engaged.

I sped through this one faster than a typical Sunday. The cluing felt almost Monday-level to me. I tend to not mind easier Sundays, as the bigger format already takes extra time. I’m going to go take a walk around the block now in honor of this jaunty puzzle.

Stella Zawistowski’s USA crossword, “Front Seats”—Darby’s review

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Each theme answer begins with a type of furniture, making them FRONT SEATS.

Theme Answers

Stella Zawistowski's USA crossword, “Front Seats” solution for 9/10/2023

Stella Zawistowski’s USA crossword, “Front Seats” solution for 9/10/2023

  • 20a [Kingdom that ruled modern-day Turkey] OTTOMAN EMPIRE
  • 25a [Person acting as a decoy] STOOL PIGEON
  • 37a [Exercise that works the pecs] BENCH PRESS
  • 60a [Leader of a committee meeting] CHAIRWOMAN

This was a cute set, and it was helpful as I moved through. OTTOMAN EMPIRE was easy fill since I’m a history nerd, and so it was clear from the start what the theme was getting at. I blanked on BENCH PRESS for a second and then, knowing that it was a seat of some sort really helped. I love the use of CHAIRWOMAN and though STOOL PIGEON was very fun as well.

This grid was clearly asymmetric, which was markedly evident in the four black squares together, but the structure lent itself to some solid fill, which can be tough with the four themers. 56a [Completed some reps] DID A SET was an odd one to see come together on the crosses alone, but I liked how close it was to BENCH PRESS. This corner was generally pretty S-filled with BLESS, MESSY, ELSE, and ERASES. I also liked the double pig reference in 27d [Pig sounds] OINKS and 48a [Pig’s place] STY.

A few other faves:

  • 2d [Home of the Nevada Museum of Art] – Art museums are my jam. I looked at some of the exhibitions currency being hosted at the institution, and if you’re a RENO resident, I’m jealous.
  • 9d [DivaCup alternative] – There are so many options for handling one’s period, and I appreciated this callout to both TAMPONs and menstrual cups.
  • 28d [Hereditary units studied by Jennifer Doudna] – Jenifer Doudna studies GENES and genome editing. She is one of the first women to share a Nobel Prize in the sciences.

A great Sunday puzzle, and I’m glad to have had a front seat to it!

Rafael Musa’s Universal crossword, “Themeless Sunday 50”—Darby’s review

This Sunday themeless was a gift that kept on giving. The grid itself is really nice and open, with 40 black squares dotted throughout in this 72-word grid. The big marquee answers include:

Rafael Musa's Universal crossword, “Themeless Sunday 50” solution for 9/10/2023

Rafael Musa’s Universal crossword, “Themeless Sunday 50” solution for 9/10/2023

  • 18a [Cut ties with, digitally] UNFRIENDED
  • 21a [Coolheaded person’s woe?] BRAIN FREEZE
  • 36a [Informal romantic connection] SITUATIONSHIP
  • 51a [Totally lost it] WENT BANANAS
  • 56a [“So…you’re in?”] IS THAT A YES

31a [Lightning alternative for some non-Apple devices] MICRO USB and 39a [“Take a look for yourself”] GO AND SEE flow really nicely with SITUATIONSHIP in this puzzle. It took me a second to get WENT BANANAS, but the repeated NAs of crosses UNAGI, BAYOU, NERO, and OASES made it pretty clear. It also didn’t help that I had SWOOP for 44d [“Nothing but net” sound] instead of SWISH. Lastly on these, I loved the cluing on BRAIN FREEZE; it’s so clever and fun.

I moved pretty clearly through this grid, moving between Across and Down. 2d [Beef between Wikipedia contributors] EDIT WARS was very fun, though I questioned EDIT WARS at first and just popped in EDIT, waiting for the SWIPES / CATAN / ORBS stack to confirm what I’d initially had. Similarly, I struggled with some of the propers in the middle and NE sections, but all of the crosses were very fair, giving me 7d [“Game of THrones” actor Allen] ALFIE and 12d [TV host Gibbons] LEEZA.

Some other favourites include:

  • 55a [“We __ tears of mascara in the bathroom” (Taylor Swift lyric)] – This clue for CRY is incredible, and I love the T Swift reference.
  • 63a [Boomers at a rock concert?] – The wordplay on this clue for AMPS is really fun and fresh.
  • 38d [Energizing snooze] – The EDIT WARS, MADE IT BIG, BIONIC ARM, and POWER NAP symmetry was really nice and clean. I enjoyed it so much (and I might take a POWER NAP later).
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10 Responses to Sunday, September 10, 2023

  1. pannonica says:

    WaPo: “It’s certainly a f”

    Looks as if part of the text is missing here.

  2. ZDL says:

    Loved the Universal!

    • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

      As did I. This was an old school type theme, executed pretty well except, I agree with Jim that TAKE THE EDGE OFF was not good. Some good fill in MINIFIGS and FINEWINES. A lot of short fill that many solvers think is overused, but having constructed, sometimes you don’t have any better choices.

  3. Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

    Loved today’s WaPo. I’m not usually a fan of puzzles where the wit is in the clues rather than wordplay in the grid, but this one was delightful. And I appreciated the subtlety of the non-theme PLEASE, SIR off to the side of TWIST, OLIVER.

  4. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    NYT – Like the theme concept but think there needs to be maybe 2 more themes. Also, maybe a little on the easy side. With the short themes and low number of themes this was more like a themeless with some sizeable open spaces. The two 10s and two 11s were good. Slightly lower time than my average for Sunday theme.

  5. Bryan says:

    Nate: No apologies needed for the delayed NYT review. Seeing Brandi Carlile at Red Rocks is one of the very best reasons! I’m a huge fan of both the artist and the venue. Also, I loved today’s puzzle, and it makes me glad I finally realized a while back that I needed to turn on “Show Overlays” in the NYT Games app, which is how I always solve the puzzles on my iPhone and/or iPad.

  6. Dan Jacobsen says:

    The NYT crossword in my Des Moines Register Sep 10 is different than the one for today that is posted here. I think I have noticed this before. Why is that?

    • Eric H says:

      The Des Moines Register is running the syndicated NYT puzzle. I think the puzzle you solved ran in the NYT six weeks ago.

  7. Barnyard says:

    NYT puzzle was stunning. To have each theme chunk do triple duty is an amazing feat of construction and yet it did not imo seem forced or take away from the overall fun of the solve. Bravo.

  8. Billposter says:

    There is an obviously apocryphal story that professes that there is confusion as to which Gene Maleska’s “grave” is truly his. Simple solution – after Sunday’s atrocity, if the occupant is spinning like a dervish, that’s it!

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