Sunday, October 22, 2023

LAT untimed(Jack)  


NYT 17:58 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim) 


Universal 3:05 (norah) 


WaPo 4:39 (Matthew) 


Robert Ryan’s New York Times crossword, “You’re Onto Something” — Nate’s write-up

10.22.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

10.22.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 23A: DOESN’T GIVE A FIGURE [Acts coy in salary negotiations?]
– 36A: WASHINGTON POSTURE [Public stance of a member of Congress?]
– 49A: PASTURE CARING [Shepherd’s job, essentially?]
– 63A: ALLURE TOO WELL [Turn more heads than intended?]
– 74A: NO MEAN FEATURE [Newspaper write-up that’s light on criticism?]
– 92A: ADVENTURE CALENDAR [Bungee jumping on Tuesday, skydiving on Wednesday, etc.?]
– 107A: ENDURE ON A HIGH NOTE [Show off one’s vocal range and stamina?]

DEAR ME. I’ll kindly say that this puzzle wasn’t for me. Is it possible that this puzzle was meant to run more than a decade ago and they lost it until now? I’m struggling to find anything modern about it, aside from WII U and the ELSA, OLGA, ORA, and RAE clues. Since the women could have been clued through older references or two-word partials, I genuinely can’t be confident that this puzzle was made at any time after 2012 or so (the date of the WII U release). Even the UGGS and ALI clues are 20+ year-old references.

The theme itself also feels a bit OF AN ERA that isn’t today and not nearly as tight as I would expect, because (a) while some of the base phrases maintained the pronunciation of URE-d word, others didn’t (post –> posture, particularly), and (b) URE was not consistently added to the first or last word of each theme entry.

That said! According to, this constructor has only had three puzzles in the NYT to date – all have been Sunday puzzles and his debut was only in March of this year(!). So maybe instead of a dated puzzle, it’s a newer constructor who’s still building the skill of writing super clean grids with modern entries? I think I want to believe in that and look forward to his potential.

Even still, the puzzle also felt sloggier to solve than we’re used to with recent Sunday NYT puzzles. The proper noun / abbreviation-heavy top-left corner was an indication of how this puzzle was going to go, with so many proper nouns, abbreviations, and bits of crosswordese. Even in just the middle section of the puzzle, we have TEL, INRE, ERAT, CRUS, ETAL, AGER, ADDR, ONEG for crosswordese aone. SBA LOANS / S CLASS also felt like a particularly brutal “guess a letter” crossing if you didn’t know either entry itself.

My joy from this puzzle came from the ARNOLD [___ Lobel, author of the “Frog and Toad” series”] clue. I love those stories and had one of them read at my wedding.

I’m so sorry that I didn’t enjoy this puzzle more, but I hope that some of you out there did. At the very least, I hope you have a great weekend!

LA Times crossword “Finish Lines” by Brian Callahan — Jack’s write-up

Theme: theme entries contain five copies of the letter R. The revealer is 122A. [Fins, or when parsed differently, a feature of the answers to the starred clues] = FIVERS. Fivers and fins are both slang for five dollar bills. Fivers reparsed spells “five Rs”.

LA Times crossword solution 10/22/23 — “Finish Lines” by Brian Callahan

27A. [Coral Sea structure] = GREAT BARRIER REEF
46A. [Place to chill on the train?] = REFRIGERATOR CAR
65A. [Long-running comic strip about the Patterson family] = FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE
85A. [Naval vessel known as a “flattop”] = AIRCRAFT CARRIER
107A. [Dog breed that weighs no more than seven pounds] = YORKSHIRE TERRIER
14D. [Cause of some memory problems] = READ WRITE ERROR
47D. [Need for a comprehensive background check?] = REARVIEW MIRROR

Halfway through solving, I paused to try to guess the theme. The themers didn’t seem as out of the ordinary (punny, letters added, outlandish features) as you often encounter on a Sunday, which made me extra suspicious. It took a couple of minutes to notice that all of the starred entries I’d uncovered thus far had five Rs in them and even then I couldn’t anticipate the revealer despite it sitting right in my lap.

The themers are all pretty well known although I’m not sure I’d actually heard the term REFRIGERATOR CAR before. Quite inferrable though.

I was impressed with the long bonus entries in this puzzle. Often Sunday-sized themes constrain the grid, but despite having seven hefty theme entries, Brian worked in NOT A TOY, HOTEL SAFE, GAY ANTHEM, DOOR MAT, NERF WARS, AWAY TEAMS, TOO LATE, SCREW TOPS, SEA MIST, INDIE POP, LIMO RIDES, LEAP YEARS. That’s an unusually high volume of good stuff.

A lot of entertaining clues elevated my solve as well. I particularly liked 2D. [Lifted ones spirits?] = EXORCISED. Clever!

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “A Small Announcement” — Matt’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “A Small Announcement,” 10/22/2023

Fans of Evan’s puzzles and regular Crossword Fiend readers will know that Evan and his wife Vicki have been expecting their first child. The Birnholzes welcomed Elliot James Birnholz to the world this past week, and today’s puzzle is both thematically appropriate and carries this note:

This puzzle is a bit smaller than normal, but it has some big news. Next week’s crossword will be my last puzzle of the year. The puzzles from Nov. 5 through Dec. 31 will be written by special guest constructors. Today’s crossword explains why.

Our theme features rebus entries where either “BOY” or “GIRL” would satisfy the clue:

  • 8a [Retriever in foul territory] BALL ___ // 12d [Sitcom with the characters Cory and Topanga] ___ MEETS WORLD
  • 20a [Archetypal neighbor in romantic stories] ___ NEXT DOOR // 20d [Time to grow up] ___HOOD
  • 36a [DC Comics protagonist] SUPER___ // 37d [Some significant others] ___friends
  • 50a [Enthusiastic devotee] FAN___ // 53a [Group whose members earn badges] ___ SCOUT TROOP
  • 40d [Parent’s phrase of encouragement to their young child] THATS MY ___ // 81a [Alex or Morgan, e.g.] ___S NAME
  • 97a [Child represented in six squares in this puzzle (in either of two different ways] LITTLE KID

In the print version, the center square is clued [“It’s a ___!” (either one of two celebratory birth announcements shared by new parents)]. A number of other entries are clued to “baby” and “child” angles, and ELLIOT, the guest of honor, makes an appearance at 13d.

A well-done, accessible rebus that strikes me simultaneously as one with lots of potential theme fodder and impressive in its smoothness. I unfortunately don’t have the time to dig into non-theme notes this weekend, so I’ll close with a hearty congrats to Vicki and Evan!

Universal: “Themeless Sunday 56” by Taylor Johnson and Rafael Musa, norah’s review, 3:05

THEME: none!

Favorite entries:

univ2023-10-22 johnson-musa

univ2023-10-22 johnson-musa

  • ⭐DEMISEXUAL 16A [Needing an emotional bond for physical attraction] 👋
  • YOURENOTSERIOUS 6D [“Really, though?”] Banger colloquial 15s are my jam.
  • NAMES 28A [Tom and Jerry?]
  • KOALA 29A [Marsupial whose male has a scent gland on its chest]
  • FLEXES 40D [Boasts, colloquially]
  • ITPRO 45D [Person who might give you a crash course?]


Heyyy another PR at 3:05! Hoping to bust three minutes soon. :)

This grid isn’t “ODDLY” satisfying, it’s expectedly satisfying by Universal themeless mainstay Rafa, INCAHOOTS today with Taylor.


You should know: “The Age of Pleasure” by Janelle Monae

Thanks Rafa, Taylor, and the Universal team!

Sam Koperwas and Jeff Chen’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Headline Performers”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are made-up phrases comprised of famous singers’ surnames strung together to form a coherent newspaper headline. Clues are rough synonyms of the phrases with the singers’ first names in parentheses.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Headline Performers” · Sam Koperwas and Jeff Chen · 10.22.23

  • 23a. [BESTSELLING MEMOIR ROILED BY CONTROVERSY! (Patti, Tina, Jordin, Roberta)] PAGE-TURNER SPARKS FLACK. This one is fine, but I felt it was the weakest of the lot.
  • 33a. [PRIZE FLOWER SUCCUMBS TO HEAT! (Donna, Doris, Bill, Axl)] SUMMER DAY WITHERS ROSE. Now we’re talking. Fun entry.
  • 54a. [VIRAL RUMOR PLUMMETS IPHONE SALES! (Keith, John, Bruno, Fiona)] URBAN LEGEND MARS APPLE. Ha! Good one.
  • 74a. [TEEN CRAFTS BREAD MASTERPIECE! (Neil, Anita, Harry, Meat)] YOUNG BAKER STYLES LOAF. Hmm. Not sure about the accuracy of separating Meat from Loaf. Incidentally, his real name was Michael Lee Aday.
  • 88a. [WINGED PIRATE PILFERS SALVATION ARMY BUCKET! (Sheryl, Stevie, Billie, Johnny)] CROW NICKS HOLIDAY CASH. Outstanding entry. Very natural-feeling. My favorite of the group.
  • 108a. [GALLOPING GALAHAD GORES GRAIL! (Taylor, Gladys, Britney, Billy)] SWIFT KNIGHT SPEARS IDOL. Feels odd to call a grail an “idol.” I’d think you’d call it a “relic” first.

Despite my nits, I enjoyed this theme immensely. I looked forward to each one and piecing it together via the names (which I mostly knew, thankfully). This type of theme can get a little too wacky, but here are constructors did a good job of making the phrases feel natural. And I definitely made audible chuckling noises more than once during the solve. A win in my book!

Not so much long fill today since the six long theme answers steal the show. But BLUE DEVIL, EASY MARKS, and FAKE TAN are fun entries.

Clues of note:

  • 13a. [“I’m just a soul ___ intentions are good”]. WHOSE. I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to the Latin/flamenco version of this song by Santa Esmeralda and which was featured in Kill Bill. (The uncut version is 10.5 mins. long, so just click play and go about your blog-reading business.)
  • 85a. [TV spot for good]. PSA. Usually I don’t complain too loudly about clue/entry dupes, but the entry right before this clue is ION TV.
  • 37d. [Rapper’s line?]. “IT’S ME.” Mario?

Fun puzzle. 4.25 stars.

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32 Responses to Sunday, October 22, 2023

  1. Ethan says:

    NYT: Absolutely shocked – not in a good way or bad way, just shocked – that 113A and 77D were not cross-clued.

  2. Dan says:

    NYT: Does RISEN really mean how it’s clued — “Up and about”? I can’t think of any case where one means the other, even if they’re close.

    Also, the word OBLATE does ***not*** mean “Almost spherical in shape”. Rather it refers to a glob that is closer to pancake-shaped than worm-shaped (that would be prolate). I.e., more flat than long.

    (Also, I mentally retch when encountering a clue like “They’re craze-y!” for FADS.)

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Re RISEN … It means that to me with reference to getting out of bed. That’s certainly what I thought when I entered the answer.

  3. Eric H says:

    NYT: It wasn’t for me, either.

    It felt like it was taking forever (and I did go several minutes over my Sunday average). I ended up looking at the answer key for VIP ROOM/VPS because the V just wasn’t coming to me, and at that point, I was PAST CARING.

    There were a few clues I enjoyed: “Fox coverage” for FUR and “Unsavory relation” for SORDID TALE.

  4. David Steere says:

    WaPo: This is so lovely and so sweet. In addition to the special squares mentioned above by Matt, this puzzle is–excuse the expression ;-) — absolutely pregnant with related clue/answer pairs. Unless I missed one or two, I count over 20. That’s really something! A big congratulations to both of you. We’ll miss you for the next few months. David

  5. huda says:

    NYT: I appreciate the fact that Nate was careful to critique the puzzle while giving consideration to the constructor as a person. And the feedback from the commenters has been specific which I feel is the most helpful kind (academia exposes you to all kinds of criticism :).
    So, in the spirit of (hopefully) constructive input, I wanted to add that I personally find the wacky word play themes less satisfying than other types, and on Sundays they feel burdensome. A single play on words can be funny but repeating it loses the charm, and consistency of quality is often an issue.
    I’m sharing this personal perspective because of a broader reason– I think that people are more forgiving of any problematic fill or cluing if the theme is great. And Sundays, everything is amplified, so a great theme goes a long way.
    I agree with Eric H that there was some very clever cluing. My absolute favorite is the one for GROUCHO. It truly made me laugh out loud. And my favorite clue/entry combo was Facepalm/IMAMORON.

    • Eric H says:

      I liked the GROUCHO clue, too. I only wish I had come up with his name without needing two or three crosses. In my high school years (long ago), I was a big fan of curmudgeons like GROUCHO Marx and W. C. Fields. (Probably still am.)

  6. pannonica says:

    Universal: “I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to the Latin/flamenco version of this song by Santa Esmeralda …”

    Perhaps, but you haven’t truly lived until you’ve heard this version:

  7. David L says:

    Evan’s puzzle was charming, but I was surprised by 12D. Are there two sitcoms, one called Girl Meets World and the other called Boy Meets World? Why yes, yes there are! Who knew? Not me, clearly.

  8. Ed says:

    NYT: Did NOT like 36D/45A .

    • puzzler says:

      I had to look at the answer to get that one.

    • JohnH says:

      That was rough on me, too.

      I did like the puzzle more than most. I defer to those who found it unfunny, although it’s not exactly punny like Saturday’s WSJ (which I did find unfunny) but more about adding URE, and I liked figuring that out. What made it harder also impressed me, the sheer length of several of those answers.

      I’m less sympathetic to Nate’s criticism. He’s normally more of a cheerleader that I’d like in commentary, but his complaint here seems to be a lack of the pop culture names he’d like to see dropped. Hey, those of us who don’t appreciate fill requiring too much of that (like 36D/45A) keep trying to ask only for fair crossings and not too many words you have to get one letter at a time from all crossings. But others keep complaining that we really want factoids to OUR taste, and others are projecting theirs. I can now rest my case!

  9. Mr. [a little bit] Grumpy says:

    LAT: Can you really call For Better or For Worse a “long-running comic strip” if the episodes stopped in 2008 and it’s just repeating itself now? Gee, I guess I Love Lucy is an even “longer-running” television show. [Don’t get me wrong. I loved the comic strip … as well as I Love Lucy, for that matter … but “long-running” implies current status.]

  10. Billposter says:

    LAT 35 across “MISS” for battleship response? As a retired warship captain. should I be insulted or just perplexed?

    • PJ says:

      The clue is referring to the game Battleship where two players place their game pieces on a grid hidden from their opponent. Each player then take turns taking “shots” at each other by calling out grid coordinates. The player who is being attacked then responds with “hit” indicating there is a ship on the coordinate called or “miss” indicating there is not a ship on the coordinate.

      For a better explanation see Description in this article, sir –

  11. Mr. [baffled but not really] Grumpy says:

    Not a puzzle covered here, so please forgive me, but can anyone explain 8A in The New Yorker cryptic? I don’t even understand the purported explanation you can see after solving the puzzle. I get the obvious half (i.e., the answer = synonym of the first word in the clue) but it doesn’t count for me unless I understand both parts.

  12. Eric H says:

    WaPo: Congratulations to Evan and Vicki!

    Charming, fun puzzle.

    • Eric H says:

      Just a technical question: Are the rebus squares supposed to accept either BOY or GIRL? The AcrossLite version accepted only BOY as correct, but that seems a little weird given the clue for LITTLE KID.

      • The Across Lite version is just a clunky workaround for what I originally intended. Since you can’t enter either BOY or GIRL and have both counted as correct in Across Lite, the rebus squares would show BOYGIRL if you hit Reveal Solution, so it would accept either that or the first letter B. I could have coded the file where some of them would be GIRLBOY instead, but I thought that would be strange to force people to randomly guess which ones start with BOY and which start with GIRL, so I just made them all the same.

        It’s much better to solve this online at the Post’s website, where you can actually enter either BOY or GIRL and both will be counted as correct. Amuse Labs helped make it a true Schrödinger rebus as I envisioned it.

  13. Jordan says:

    What I like about puzzles like today’s LAT is that you can see the answers and still have no idea what the clues mean.

  14. David Stone says:

    My favorite moment of the NYT puzzle was also the ARNOLD Lobel reference. I’m a learning specialist, and his Mouse Tales book is perhaps the best literature of its kind. Frog and Toad are terrific, too, as are most of his other stories.

  15. BavinBrielle says:

    WaPo. For some reason I filled in SuperMAN right off the bat, so BOY naturally followed in the other rebuses. Until I read Matt’s write-up, I didn’t realize there was an alternative! DUH. (PS: I’m an old lady so I should known better.)

    Anyway, it was a quite delightful puzzle. Congratulations to Evan and Vicki!

  16. Me says:

    Congratulations, Evan and Vicki!

Comments are closed.