Sunday, November 5, 2023

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT 12:30 (Nate) 


USA Today 4:41 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 12:25 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo untimed (Matthew) 


Rich Katz’s New York Times crossword, “Double Talk” — Nate’s write-up

Before we get into this puzzle, I want to admit upfront that I solved the full thing without understanding how any of the theme answers / clues worked until well after the solve! That means (a) I suspect this puzzle might be a love-it-or-hate-it one for solvers and (b) the fill was clean and lovely so as to be accessible even if you didn’t grok the theme, which I appreciated!

11.05.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

11.05.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

21A JUNK IN THE TRUNK [But wait!] (homophone of “butt weight”)
38A STRING BIKINI [To peace!] (homophone of “two-piece”)
55A TUCKERED OUT [Holy Week] (homophone of “wholly weak”)
77A CORONATIONS [Air rights] (homophone of “heir rites”)
91A SUPERBOWL WIN [Bare feet] (homophone of “Bear feat,” I think? Like, the Chicago Bears?)
112A KINDERGARTENER [We won!] (homophone of “wee one”)
30D ROBITUSSIN [Flew by] (homophone of “flu buy” (not “flu bye,” like I first thought – thanks to John in the comments!))
51A BEACH HOTEL [See in] (homophone of “sea inn”)

So, each theme entry matches a spoken homophone (thus, the “Double Talk” title) of the original short, italicized clue. It took me way too long to make this connection, and I wonder if a more direct / less cryptic title would have helped? I’m still not 100% certain on two of the homophone interpretations, so let me know in the comments if you think I have any of them wrong!

Other random thoughts:
– One square stumped me, since I know quite little about “Star Wars”: the AMIDALA / ROBITUSSIN crossing at the I.
– There was some fun cluing in this puzzle! [Classic Greek archetype] for FRAT BRO, [Word for word, in Paris] for MOT, and [Column that might lead to a row?] for OP-ED.

Overall, the puzzle’s cluing and entries felt mostly modern / current, even if the homophone theme might have been more common in years past. That said, it was a quick and enjoyable solve for me! How did you enjoy the puzzle? Let us know in the comments section – and have a great weekend (+ 1 hour of extra sleep, if you’re turning clocks back tonight!).

Paolo Pasco’s Washington Post crossword, “I’m Touched!” — Matthew’s write-up

Paolo Pasco’s Washington Post crossword solution, “I’m Touched!”, 11/04/23

Our first WaPo guest puzzle while Evan is on parental leave comes from Paolo Pasco, a constructor whose praises I tipsily sang at a wedding this evening.

Ten wacky phrases all contain the letters -AU-, and are tied together by a revealer at 105d [Man who changed 10 letters in this puzzle by touching them (the original letters describe his daughter, to his dismay)] MIDAS

Looking back at the themers, they’re much less wacky if -AU- is changed to another, single, letter:

23a MARDI AURAS – “Mardi Gras”
25a CLAUSE QUOTE – “Close quote”
38a SISTINE CHAPEAU – “Sistine Chapel”
55a EAU MCMAHON – “Ed McMahon”
65a CENTAUR OF MATT – “Center of Mass”
82a RAMEAU NOODLES – “Ramen noodles”
92a LUAU WRENCH – “Lug wrench”
108a BUTANE LAUGHTER – “Butane lighter”
125a MAUI SCANNER – “MRI scanner”
128a BIBLE BEAUT – “Bible belt”

The changed letters, as noted in the revealer, from top to bottom spell “GOLDEN GIRL,” an apt, if tragic, description of MIDAS’ daughter.

I found this theme as lovely and elegant as I’d expect from Paolo. RAMEAU (clued as “French composer Jean-Phillippe”) strikes me as a bit of a deep cut compared to other theme clues, but the base phrases are all plenty recognizable.

No additional notes today as I’m traveling and writing from a hotel. Thanks Paolo!

LA Times Crossword, “Make Mine a Double” by Pam Amick Klawitter — Jack’s write-up

Theme: Common two-word phrases (with one exception) have the last letter of the first word “doubled” and attached as the first letter of the second word to create a new zany phrase.

November 5th LAT crossword solution — “Make Mine a Double” by Pam Amick Klawitter

  • 22A. [Curmudgeonly professor?] = ACADEMIC CRANK (academic rank)
  • 38A. [Sign of sadness from Dumbo?] = ELEPHANT TEAR (elephant ear)
  • 13D. [Golf rental with a sponsorship deal?] = GRAPHIC CART (graphic art)
  • 14D. [Method of tracking down Ben-Hur?] = CHARIOT TRACE (chariot race)
  • 70A. [Pilot’s scheduling concern?] = SPEED OF FLIGHT (speed of light)
  • 62D. [Collectible earthenware?] = CLASSIC CROCK (classic rock)
  • 70D. [Under a log or in a pile of wet leaves?] = SNAILS SPACE (snail’s pace)
  • 100A. [Sign of wedding-day jitters?] = SMOKING GROOM (smoking room)
  • 117A. [Consequence of a Midwest cold snap?] = FREEZING GRAIN (freezing rain)

It’s a simple concept that works well as a Sunday theme. It actually took me a few themers to see what was going on because my eyes kept blurring the duplicated letters and just seeing normal phrases that didn’t match their clues. It bugs me a bit that SPEED OF FLIGHT is the only themer with three words. I’m guessing lots of phrases could work with this theme and I think it would have been better to keep consistency by replacing or removing that one. CLASSIC CROCK is probably my favorite.

Nine long theme entries is a ton, even on a Sunday. I’m impressed that the grid isn’t full of gunk. It’s not easy to keep things clean with this many pre-laid entries. It didn’t leave a ton of room for long bonus entries, but Pam did well keeping mid-length slots lively with things like LOL CATS, PLUS SIGN, and WIN WIN.

The PAISANO/IDA crossing was the toughest spot for me. I’m unfamiliar with PAISANO (it means ‘pal’ in Italian) and I didn’t know which state Snake River is in. PASSANO AND PANSANO both looked like plausibly Italian words, which would have made the crossing SDA or NDA for South Dakota or North Dakota. Although I suppose those are typically abbreviated SDAK and NDAK, so perhaps I should have inferred IDA more readily.

48A [Blue man group?] = SMURFS is an awesome clue.

Annemarie Brethauer’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Network Reruns”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that feature repeated three-letter TV networks (as indicated by the circles).

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Network Reruns” · Annemarie Brethauer · 11.5.23

  • 25a. [Pepperoni or salami] CURED SAUSAGE. USA network.
  • 32a. [T.H. White novel about King Arthur] THE SWORD IN THE STONE. Home Shopping Network.
  • 49a. [Like calls from the ocean] SHIP TO SHORE. Showtime.
  • 64a. [“I’m so excited!”] “BOY OH BOY OH BOY!” Home Box Office.
  • 84a. [College city plus its surroundings, collectively] TOWN AND GOWN. Oprah Winfrey Network.
  • 96a. [Subject of an awkward talk, for some parents] THE BIRDS AND THE BEES. Turner Broadcasting System.
  • 109a. [Like some dirty shots] BELOW THE BELT. Black Entertainment Television.

It took me getting down to HBO before I caught on, mainly because I didn’t look at the puzzle’s title before I started. I wouldn’t call it the most exciting of puzzle themes, but it definitely did the job in helping me with the lower entries, and all the theme answers are lively and interesting. The high point for me was uncovering THE SWORD IN THE STONE which I read in college for an Arthurian legend class.

Other high points in the grid include Stephen King’s BAG OF BONES, MOHAWKS (clued as the people, not the hairstyle), DOUBLE DATE, IGUANAS, WOOHOO, GODDESS, SCROOGE, and LANDSCAPED. I’ve heard the name MANDY MOORE, but wouldn’t be able to point her out if asked. SF MOMA was quite unexpected; needed a majority of the crossings to parse it out. In that same section ONE PER feels like a long partial.

Clues OF NOTE:

  • 114a. [Chevy model that can be interpreted as “doesn’t go” in Spanish]. NOVA. I’ve seen this joke before. And my parents actually had a NOVA when I was a kid. I think it lasted about a year.
  • 4d. [Strategically planted plants]. LANDSCAPED. I had a hard time with this one because I kept reading “planted” as an adjective, not a verb.
  • 34d. [Nordic ___ (dark genre)]. NOIR. Do you have any recommendations in this genre? Of course, there’s Stieg Larsson’s original Millennium trilogy, but I’m also partial to Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole series set in Oslo (though the last two or three books have gotten a little bit silly).
  • 71d. [“Professor T.” airer]. PBS. I don’t know this one, and from the title I thought it was a kids’ show. But apparently it’s a British crime drama based on a hit Belgian series. Any good?

Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars

Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “We’re All in This Together” — Darby’s write-up

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Each theme answer is bookended by letters spelling out THIS.

Theme Answers

Matthew Stock's USA Today crossword, “We're All in This Together” solution for 11/5/2023

Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “We’re All in This Together” solution for 11/5/2023

  • 16a [“Don’t even try to change things”] THAT’S THE WAY IT IS
  • 32a [Ancient Greek site located on a hill overlooking Athens] THE ACROPOLIS
  • 54a [Texters’ indicator of approval] THUMBS UP EMOJI

The last of the High School Musical series, this was a fun way to turn “We’re All in This Together” into a puzzle. I really loved the inclusion of THUMBS UP EMOJI, which I had mostly on the crosses since I was moving through the Downs. I struggled a bit with THE ACROPOLIS, but I popped in POLIS since I knew that it would be the end of the answer, with the rest coming through on crosses.

I moved more slowly through the grid than usual, spending some extra time on THAT’S THE WAY IT IS. I also wasn’t familiar with Oksana MASTERS in 12d, but I loved the clue [Paralympian Oksana who has won seven gold medals across three different sports]. I’d love to see more Paralympians appear in puzzles in general. Highlighting wayfinding as key to MOANA was also great. Longer fill like PHOTO DUMP and OFF TOPIC was also fun, as was RUFFLED and NO DUH.

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40 Responses to Sunday, November 5, 2023

  1. John Jones says:

    Flu buy

  2. Dan says:

    NYT: I prefer the spelling KINDERGARTNER without that extra E.

  3. JohnH says:

    I missed out on the NYT crossing of the cold medicine and Star Wars, too.

    I solved this one as a themeless and then looked for a theme. It’s kind of a meta, and I’m awful at those. And I needed help to get the idea of JUNK IN THE TRUNK as, well, I guessed something about cars. And pronunciations are always hard to agree on. But I won’t be upset if it worked perfectly for others. I think I’ll pass on rating this one, to be fair to all.

  4. MaryS says:

    Once again I’m glad the version I printed did not have any clues in italics and I had to figure out all the theme entries without help. Much more enjoyable (for me).

  5. Eric H says:

    NYT: I figured the theme out only after I filled in the grid and then spent about three minutes looking for a typo. Reading through the theme clues again, “To peace” jumped out at me, and I knew I had it.

    Punny themes aren’t my favorite.

    When was the last time anyone used ABLUSH in conversation?

    But the TWERKS clue is almost funny.

    • Mutman says:

      STRING BIKINI also clicked for me. I was feeling a slog when theme didn’t click after five or so themers. Not so bad after.

      I had many problems in the MINUTIA area.

    • Dallas says:

      I liked TWERKS, and shared the clue for VETS with my veterinarian wife :-) And for ABLUSH, I originally wanted to put in ABLAZE before changing it out.

      I don’t know if there’s any overlap between this blog’s audience and listeners to the NPR Sunday puzzle, but the on-air puzzle that Will Shortz did also involved phonetics / homophones, and there have been a few other times I’ve noticed a similarity between the Sunday NYT and the on-air NPR Sunday puzzle. It’s probably more coincidence than anything…

  6. Nino H. says:

    Fair few pain points for me, namely the KEENAN/DENALI crossing as well as the aforementioned ROBITUSSIN / AMIDALA. (Is Robitussin even sold in Canada?)

    Oh, and KIP / PASSAT. I feel like I’m still learning all of this crosswordese and it’s kind of impossible to figure it out otherwise. Oh well. I know this part wasn’t going to fun.

    • JohnH says:

      I needed a good guess to get KIP / PASSET, another instance of my disagreement with our reviewer about what he saw as a clean fill. I can’t say whether either has appeared often enough to count as crosswordese, but I didn’t recognize them.

      Incidentally, MINUTIA is definitely in my vocabulary, and my only puzzle over crossings there was IP BANDS, new to me. (Sounds like roving, angry techies.)

  7. Alison L says:

    Can somebody explain the Manet clue from Wednesday November 1st.Artist Eduardo mistakenly proposed 11:00.. Manet meant 10 AM

    • Philippe says:

      Not Eduardo but Édouard. Édouard Manet is a French impressionist, not to be mistaken with Monet, although more or less contemporary

  8. Dook says:

    The ‘junk’ in the trunk doesn’t usually refer to one’s butt! I really hated this theme.

  9. Alison L. says:

    Yes sorry for the typo with Edouard. What is the explanation of the answer? Sorry to be so dense.

  10. Alison L. says:

    Oh I see. Thanks a lot.

  11. David L says:

    I stared and stared at the NYT puzzle and couldn’t figure out the theme. Oh well. It was all doable anyway.

    I thought Paolo Pasco’s WaPo puzzle was very Birnholzian (Birnholzisch?). Ingenious and enjoyable.

    • David L says:

      PS M-W’s definition of ‘double talk’ is 1. : language that appears to be earnest and meaningful but in fact is a mixture of sense and nonsense. 2. : inflated, involved, and often deliberately ambiguous language.

      So I don’t see how that helps in understanding the theme.

      • Dallas says:

        I think the “talk” clues you that it should be spoken, and “double” that there’s a second meaning. “To peace” / “two piece” was the one that broke it open for me.

        • David L says:

          Oh, it’s gettable, I just didn’t get it! I was trying to come up with a double meaning of the clues, rather than anything to do with sound.

          To peace!/Two-piece is not so obvious for me, since the phrases would be stressed on the second and first words respectively.

  12. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … wow … After breezing through most of the Uni puzzles in October, I seem to have hit a wall in November. With this one, I felt like I was solving a puzzle in a different language at times.

  13. Dan says:

    LAT: I was a bit surprised to see 41D EMUS clued as “Ostrich kin”, with ostrich being singular but EMUS plural.

    This is justifiable, since the word kin can mean a group of relatives, not just one.

    Still, it is a bit unusual to clue a plural with a singular.

  14. Dan says:

    LAT (cont’d): I was also surprised that PAISANO means friend in Italian. I’ve run into this word many times, maybe especially in movies, but always thought it means “countryman”.

    (Actually, I just looked it up in AHD and for the *English* meaning (in the U.S., anyway) it *does* mean countryman, and the “pal” meaning is labeled “slang”.

    I don’t know what an Italian dictionary would say.

    (Google Translate is of limited use here: It translated PAISANO in Italian to PAISANO in English.)

    • pannonica says:

      I believe the Italian word is paesàno. I consulted an online Italian dictionary for these definitions:

      agg. Di paese; tipico, originario di un paese perlopiù rurale SIN campagnolo: festa, cucina p.; estens. semplice, alla buona; anche, grossolano, rozzo: modi p. || alla p., secondo l’usanza del paese, spec. riferito a pietanze: risotto alla p.

      s.m. (f. -na)
      1 Nativo, abitante di un paese

      2 region. Compaesano, compatriota

      dim. paesanotto

      Google translation for that is:

      adj. Of country; typical, originating from a mostly rural town SIN [synonyms] rural: party, local cuisine; ext. simple, simple; also, coarse, crude: ways p. || on the p., according to the custom of the country, spec. referring to dishes: risotto alla p.

      s.m. [masculine noun] (f. -na) [feminine]
      1 Native, inhabitant of a town

      2 regions. Fellow countryman, compatriot

      dim. villager

  15. JT says:

    NYT – I assumed the theme right away but it wasn’t until my down pass that I actually got one of them, I had enough crossings to fill in STRING BIKINI, but I still took forever to get the rest, HOLY WEEK didn’t make sense until I read this review.

    The rest of the puzzle was a weird mix of stuff I vibed with and stuff that made no sense to me. I am not a fan of this many quote clues, nor 3-letter answers. Some also felt like they were trying to be modern which made them feel more dated, DA BOMB and TWERKS just facepalmed. AD SALE is not a good answer for its clue, at least “or magazine” would have felt less inaccurate. ENTER’s clue “Broad key” was so vague that it wasn’t until I was about to post this comment that I realized it meant the keyboard key.

    I did like INKY, REGIFT, and I really liked the clue on TIRE.

  16. Jim says:

    NYT (for today; pretty much everywhere over time): Does anyone, anywhere, ever actually use the word IDEATE in normal conversation and/or writing? Can’t think of a single time in many years of school and employment that anyone ever suggested we get together and ideate on a problem. But yeah, it’s a real word, I suppose, but definitely crosswordese to me.

    • David L says:

      I think of it as a term of art in psychology rather than simply coming up with an idea. But I can see why it’s handy for crossword construction.

    • Bryan says:

      I think it’s kind of a corporate buzzword. I’m a knowledge worker in the corporate world, and I hear my colleagues use the word “ideate” more often than I would like.

  17. Diana Bier says:

    THANK YOU!!! I had no idea what the theme was until I found your site!

  18. Max Raimi says:

    I never figured out the theme either, even after finishing the puzzle. A singularly unsatisfying solving experience.

  19. Dallas says:

    I didn’t see any comments on the Sunday WaPo, which I just did today—very nice puzzle! Seems very much on Evan’s wavelength, too, so it didn’t feel completely out of place. Really nice theme, and a great set of answers, too.

  20. Peggy Bocox says:

    Thank you so much for explaining the NYT puzzle. It was driving me crazy!

  21. E. Roberts says:

    My clue : Real wail (Reel whale)
    My answer: Noisy catch
    Didn’t CATCH on until I read the answers. That being said, I have never encountered homophones mixed within crossword clues. Had me stymied. Clever, but not my favorite…

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