Sunday, October 1, 2023

LAT tk(Jack)  


NYT 11:34 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 11:37 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 5:51 (Matthew) 


Jeffrey Lease’s New York Times crossword, “Film Adaptations” — Nate’s write-up

In this week’s Sunday puzzle, we’re treated to a number of popular movies, adapted here for our puzzle brains and solving screens:

10.01.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

10.01.23 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 18A / 23A: ONE FLEW / THE CUCKOOS NEST [With 23-Across, second film to win all five major Academy Awards (1975)] (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

– 41A: THE EMPIRE SEKIRTS [Blockbuster sequel with an iconic plot twist (1980)] (The Empire Strikes Back)

– 50A: THE LAND TIME [Animated dinosaur film that spawned 13 sequels (1988)] (The Land Before Time)

– 67A: TRANSLOSTLATION [Romantic dramedy directed by Sofia Coppola (2003)] (Lost in Translation)

– 89A: READING BURN [Coen brothers farce involving the C.I.A. (2008)] (Burn After Reading)

– 97A: JEOPARDY JEOPARDY [Crime thriller that takes some liberties with its namesake legal concept (1999)] (Double Jeopardy)

– 114A: CROUCHING TIGER [With an unseen portion of 128-Across, Oscar-winning martial arts film (2000)] (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
– 128A: (drag on)ES FEET [Deliberately procrastinate]

– 16D: A RIVER RUNS [Semiautobiographical film set in rural Montana (1992)] (A River Runs Through It, with I and T in circles at the base of the RIVER, whose shading / circles don’t not look phallic…)

– 74D: (SHOP) OF HORRORS [Dark comedy about a carnivorous plant (1960, 1986)] (Little Shop of Horrors, with SHOP as a rebus square)

Ok, wow! Each of this puzzle’s 9(!) long theme entries literally reimagines a movie’s title in how that title is represented in the grid. This puzzle certainly has incredible theme density going for it, especially with two vertical themers crossing horizontal ones!

Most of the applications of the theme were pretty straightforward, like ONE FLEW being literally over THE CUCKOO’S NEST or LOST being hidden inside TRANSLATION. The one I’m stuck on is THE LAND (before) TIME, since THE LAND already comes before TIME in the title of the film, so it looks like “before” is just missing for some reason – for a while, I thought this was “The Land that Time Forgot,” but the date doesn’t line up. What am I missing there?

Random thoughts:
– With such theme density, there are bound to be some sacrifices in the fill, including the weirdly plural LETTUCES. SOHOS, NODDERS, PARS, and SONNYS as well as partials like I ATE, A LID, and A BOY.  Other than that, a pretty smooth grid, I think!
– The NE corner was the toughest for me, with MOTO / ATTICA / AHMAD / AMALIE / HOT SAKE all tripping me up and DECENT not being obvious to me based on the clue. Did anyone else get stuck there?
– That said, even with all of the themer shenanigans and that corner, this was one of my quickest Sunday solve times in a while. I hope others had quick solving luck too, if that’s what you’re into.
– I imagine the MASAI / ESSIE crossing could be tough for some, but hopefully folks have an inroad to at least one of the two.

What did you think of the grid? Can you think of any other films that would have worked well with this theme? Let us know in the comments. Have a great weekend and happy October!

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “7-Up” — Matt’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “7-Up,” 10/1/23

Tough sledding to get going here, and no obvious theme answers from the grid design. Some clues have asterisks. The first I found was 30a, having skipped past the NW corner: [*Sculpture garden seen in the video game “GoldenEye 007”], but STA didn’t make sense.

Things became clearer with the numerically first themer at 27a, where I knew that [*NBA Hall of Famer nicknamed “The Pearl”] is EARL MONROE. These were the first of seven starred clues which don’t fit in their grid spots, with an eighth entry serving as a revealer near the bottom:

  • 27a [*NBA Hall of Famer nicknamed “The Pearl”] EARL MONROE
  • 30a [*Sculpture garden seen in the video game “GoldenEye 007”] STATUE PARK
  • 58a [*”Is that all?”] ARE WE DONE
  • 60a [*Michigan city on the Great Lake in its name] PORT HURON
  • 81a [*They’re thick as thieves] BEST FRIENDS
  • 111a [*Prepares an ambush] SETS A TRAP
  • 114a [*Anesthetizes] PUTS UNDER
  • 129a [Walking trip that may last from morning till evening … and a hint to this puzzle’s theme] DAY HIKE

While 27a only has space for EARL, we can piece together EARL MONROE by continuing up a row, and dropping back down, such that the MON is “hiked” up. Each themer has the three-letter abbreviation for a day of the week (in order) popping up in this way. A well-done theme that puts quite a bit of constraint on the grid. The first two themers are bit less general than the others, but I found that delayed and enhanced the eventual aha moment.

Other notes:

  • 32a [Bachelor party venue?] plays on ‘bachelor’s degree’ to point to ALMA MATER
  • 67a [Initials of a driver’s club] AAA. Not “driver” and “club” from golf, but drivers of automobiles.
  • 79a [Brand for treating nasal congestion] AFRIN. Here’s something I haven’t seen in a puzzle in a while, but it’s sure a great entry to make this theme work.
  • 88a [Where a boater might rest] HAT TREE. A boater being a type of hat.
  • 117a [One of Macaronesia’s archipelagos] AZORES. The etymology for “Macaronesia” is neat. The Azores are the northernmost of the group; Madeira and the Canary Islands are near the Moroccan coast, while Cape Verde is further south.
  • 128a [Clinton who presided over the construction of the Erie Canal] DEWITT. Folks may recognize the derogatory name for the canal project (before it started making money, anyway): “Clinton’s Ditch”
  • 11d [Sorta expensive] A BIT STEEP. From time to time every solver runs across a multiword entry that just doesn’t parse right and click in their eyes. I wonder if this one got anyone.
  • 123d [Org. for the Milwaukee Admirals] AHL. That’s the American Hockey League, the highest level of North American pro hockey below the top-flight NHL.

Jay Silverman’s Universal Sunday crossword, “A Dying Art”—Jim’s review

The letters -DY are added to the ends of certain words in familiar phrases causing crossword wackification. Some pronunciations change as needed.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “A Dying Art” · Jay Silverman · 10.1.23

  • 22a. [Dora’s cousin, on a desert trek?] SANDY DIEGO. San Diego. This entry made me think the theme was about repeating syllable sounds.
  • 28a. [“Oh, dear god, not another improv troupe”?] “COMEDY AGAIN.” “Come again?” Yeah, I hate it when people try to make me laugh repeatedly.
  • 36a. [Tom tossing ridiculously improbable touchdowns?] MIRACLE BRADY. Miracle Bra.
  • 49a. [Evil twin?] SEEDY DOUBLE. See double.
  • 67a. [Abstinence program?] RANDY INTERFERENCE. Ran interference.
  • 81a. [King under Morgan le Fay’s spell?] BEADY ARTHUR. Bea Arthur. Not sure I buy this one. Eyes can be beady but I didn’t think a person could be. Unless they’re breaking out in a sweat.
  • 97a. [The junkiest of junk food?] GARBAGE CANDY. Garbage can. I like this one best; it’s the most natural of the lot. Actually, I think this was a real thing, wasn’t it? Yup, it was. Or is.
  • 106a. [Many fraternity headquarters?] ROWDY HOUSES. Row house.
  • 115a. [Rice farmer’s security measures?] PADDY LOCKS. Padlocks.

I don’t think I got any chuckles from the theme answers, but your mileage may vary of course. It’s a plenty solid theme with consistent execution, though, so I don’t mind. Can you think of any other potential theme answers? PITCHING WOODY? BRANDY FLAKES? DISCO STUDY?

Fill highlights include KANGAROOS, BREAD BOX, BIG HORN, BONA FIDE, RIPS OPEN, and WARLORD. I liked seeing YEET [Toss, in Zoomer slang] as well. It was a tough start to the grid with OIKOS, but I recognize the name so it only needed a few crossings.

Clues of note:

  • 18a. [Target rival, once]. KMART. It’s crazy to see this store go away after all these years. There are only three left in the States, and the last New Jersey store is closing this month. One in Miami and one on Long Island remain open. And there’s a big one on Guam, too, and I doubt it will ever go away. It’s part of the fabric of the island now.
  • 59a. [Trevor who won the 2023 Erasmus Prize]. NOAH. Never heard of the prize, but it sounds interesting. NOAH won because of “his sharp-minded, mocking yet inclusive political comedy.”
  • 31d. [Serve well done?]. ACE. Good clue.
  • 37d. [Slushy drink]. ICEE. What? No cross reference to KMART? Back in the day, getting an ICEE at KMART was a highlight of the week.

Nice puzzle with clean fill. 3.75 stars.

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21 Responses to Sunday, October 1, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Haha, it certainly took longer than 11 minutes! But I really enjoyed the work out. All famous movies and the visual play was very clever. It felt like a mega Thursday.

    Yeah, MASAI/ESSIE intersection was stab in the dark. I cannot keep track of nail polish brands (if you’re a lab scientist you quickly forget that idea) and my sports knowledge is sadly limited (I try but it just seems like a whole universe out there). Still, I thought the puzzle was both impressive and enjoyable.

    • Eric H says:

      ESSIE. OPI. Pretty much the only brands you need to know. (Curex h showed up a few times about three years ago, but that X is so unfriendly in terms of gridding.)

    • DougC says:

      Agree. Really enjoyed this, the most entertaining Sunday in a while.

      I’ve seen only three of those movies, but the others were titles that I at least recognized, possibly from other crosswords :)

      The unknown for me was AMALIE, the stadium/oil company crossing three (!) names and one themer. That could have been a problem, but I got the happy music when I filled in the backward STRIKES so all’s well that ends well.

  2. Cyberdiva says:

    NYT Thanks very much, Nate, for your helpful explanations. I especially appreciated your discussion of ARIVERRUNS. Until you mentioned the circled I and T on either side of the RIVER, I had not noticed them.

    One small correction: 128A should be ES FEET, but your discussion says ES EFET (though of course you show it correctly in the puzzle}.

  3. I took 50A as THE LAND TIME (FORGOT)

    • Jim Peredo says:

      But that one wasn’t animated and didn’t have 13 sequels. Although the MST3K crew sent it up a couple years ago.

      Nate, you got it right with The Land Before Time. It’s THE LAND immediately before TIME. No need to overthink it.

  4. Eric H says:

    NYT: I always enjoy a good movie-themed puzzle, almost as much as I enjoy a good movie. And I appreciated the variety of tricks employed.

    The NE was a bit challenging for me too until I finally realized that STRIKES ran backwards. 14D just had to be HOT SAKE, but it didn’t work — until it did. AMALIE was new to me, as was ATTICA as clued. (As Caitlin Lovinger noted in her Wordplay column, it seems like a movie-themed puzzle should have ATTICA clued to “Dog Day Afternoon.”)

    • Christopher Smith says:

      It’s funny, I think sometimes reviewers complain when a puzzle has a broad theme like movies and also has fill that is clued to a movie.

  5. Ethan says:

    NYT: I enjoyed the thematic material a lot, the grid, meh (SIP TEA is wholly contrived, no better than CHUG FRESCA) but what I really want to talk about, at great risk of being the proverbial “old man yelling at a cloud,” is that God-awful parenthetical exclamation point in the clue for 49A. I have noticed more and more that the NYT puzzle is trying to soften its image as the stodgy old stalwart of the crossword scene not by really changing anything fundamental but by making these cutesy additions to clues. This one was not as egregious as the one the other day strongly urging me to watch a video on Sesame Street’s YouTube channel, but it was still irritating. If it’s so fascinating and remarkable that a praying mantis’s ear is on its stomach, then the clue on its own should be enough to fascinate the solver. The solver does not need the puzzle to metaphorically poke them in the arm and say “how amazing is that?!” with an exclamation point, especially one in parentheses that gives the whole thing an artificial coyness. If my take is curmudgeonly, so be it: trivia clues should present the facts as they are and let the solver decide how to feel about them. Don’t give them any kind of editorial slant. / end rant

  6. JohnH says:

    I found the NYT hard and no fun, but then I’m not the trivia type, and it did seem legit enough to please a sizable number. No way I can call it anywhere near unacceptable (and whoever has this irrational hatred of puzzles that annoys Amy, it’s a straw man when it comes to those of us who keep hating Natan Last puzzles and some others at TNY), but I can’t say I enjoyed it either.

    The slim clues meant you really had to know and like the movies at hand, for me a mixed bag. I’d definitely never heard of the dinosaur movie, and I didn’t recall that Double Jeopardy was a movie rather than just a (thankfully) familiar phrase. (I see it got widely panned and has a dismal Metacritic score.) Like others, I kept looking for The Land That Time Forgot.

    Thankfully, too, the ingenuity and variety of the theme fill were nice, as well as deceptive in a good way. I knew DRAGON had to be hidden but couldn’t for ages figure out how it made sense of ES FEET. (Stupid me.) That was my handle on the rest. I’d forgotten ESSIE, and even tried Estee as crosswordese, but once I had all crossings but MASAI, the missing letter looked obvious, so no sweat.

  7. Mutman says:

    NYT: I thought this was a great puzzle and loved how each had its own wordplay. I won’t grouse that I wasn’t familiar with BURN AFTER READING — it’s unlikely anyone knew every single film.

    But it was a wide variety and lots of fun!

    Great debut Jeffrey!

  8. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    NYT – Great theme. My kind of puzzle based on movies. NE corner was a nightmare because I filled in THEEMPIRESTRIKES right away. Thinking we were to “strike” the word BACK. I never got back on track. Also not a big fan of the AMELIE/AHMAD/ATTICA crossings. Know ATTICA, just not the way it way clued.

  9. Tony says:

    What I loved about the NYT was the theme was easy to graap but it wasn’t one that was boring, and the theme has a variety of crossword puzzle gimmick (rebus, stacked theme entries, etc) and I smiled as I entered them in. The only one I struggled with a bit was the last across entry. I didn’t see the clue (Deliberately procrastinate) but with CROUCHING TIGER entered in, I entered ERAGON, which fit in the grid and is a movie that features dragons, though I did know that Eragon was the boy and not the dragon.

  10. Billposter says:

    Still waiting for Sunday’s LAT workover. Is it coming?

  11. Mary Jane says:

    Decent as in “are you decent (dressed)?

  12. Derrick Brady says:

    This was indeed a fun one, at first was thinking of deliberate omissions of either prepositions or adverbs was the theme, only to finally discover (of course, as always) that there were literal clues given . Slow and steady wins the race !

  13. John+F.+Ervin says:

    Re Nate’s review; 16D unnecessary closing comment IMHO. ‘nuf said.

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