Sunday, November 12, 2023

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 18:01 (Nate) 


USA Today 7:06 (Emily)  


Universal (Sunday) 12-something (Jim) 


Universal 3:37 (norah) 


WaPo 6:15 (Matthew) 


Garrett Chalfin’s New York Times crossword, “Right on the Money” — Nate’s write-up

11.12.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

11.12.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

3D DOES WELL BY / DOES WONDERS [Treats favorably / Has a very good effect]
via 29A WON [Emerged as a victor] (also the currency of South Korea)

12D MEMORABLE / MEMORANDUM [Like a momentous occasion / Office communique]
via 34A RAND [Writer Ayn] (also the currency of South Africa)

52D EXPERTS / EXPOUNDS [Masters / Elaborated]
via 64A POUND [Poet Ezra] (also the currency of the United Kingdom, among other countries)

81D HAPPY NOW / HAPPY ENDING [“Are you satisfied?” / Common fairy tale conclusion]
via 101A YEN [Craving] (also the currency of Japan)

88D FIRING / FIRE ALARMS [Part of a potter’s process / Parts of a building’s safety system]
via 98A REAL [Not fake] (also the currency of Brazil)

Five of the down entries have two clues, whose answers can be found depending on whether you go straight down or if you turn “right on the money” – that is, if you turn right at the circled currency and then (I think?) right again to finish the downward trek. For me, the tracing of the second theme entry in each pair was fun, but I was left shrugging my shoulders at how many of the theme pairs were so similar. I’d have loved theme pairs that diverged in meaning and etymology as much as they diverged across the puzzle. MEMORABLE / MEMORANDUM was a particularly egregious example of both entries having the same memory etymology. HAPPY NOW / HAPPY ENDING and DOES WELL BY / DOES WONDERS both use the same first word, which also took away from any kind of transformation possibility.

That said, the reason this puzzle took me so long was that there were so. many. proper. names! EGO, RAND, GLENN, ELLERBEE, POUND, AMY, SACHS, INDIANA JONES, ANN, IKE, ARDERN, RED ADAIR, ORION, OSSA, HOAG, SAL BANDO, ANISTON, BEA, SATIE, ITZA, and JANE, at least. Oooof.

Other random thoughts:
RIPER years is a way to talk about old age??
RED ADAIR was a complete mystery to me, made tougher by crossing SOBA (I wasn’t sure on that last vowel, but fair) and DA?GUMIT, which I’d spell daggumit, but which is apparently spelled DADGUMIT. I had to run the alphabet at that square to finish the puzzle. Tough section, especially with LEERERS, ERNS, SHEDDED, and HELIO nearby. Eek.
– Given everything I noted above, I wish the editors had taken a stronger hand in guiding the constructor to a puzzle that made use of a theme mechanic like the one that was used here, but with unexpected divergences in theme entries and a fresher, less proper noun-dense grid.

Aside from a few fun clues (AMEX CARDS, SMALL ARMS), this puzzle wasn’t the most joyful solving experience for me. I hope it treated you better! Let us know in the comments – and have a nice weekend!

Jared Goudsmit’s USA Today Crossword, “Photo Spread” — Emily’s write-up

Say cheese!

Completed USA Today crossword for Sunday November 12, 2023

USA Today, November 12 2023, “Photo Spread” by Jared Goudsmit

Theme: each themer is encompassed within P–IC


  • 17a. [Like the world of “Mad Max: Fury Road”], POSTAPOCALYPTIC
  • 35a. [Stand-up performer such as Carrot Top], PROPCOMIC
  • 44a. [Checkout counter question], PAPERORPLASTIC

Today’s themer set is a mixed bag of this and that but it all comes together in a well-framed snapshot. POSTAPOCALYPTIC is still a popular genre though “Mad Max” is certainly one of the most recognizable examples. Having only seen Carrot Top in phone commercials growing up, I learned today that he’s a PROPCOMIC. With all of the self-checkout lanes these days, PAPERORPLASTIC is rarely heard question while shopping these days.

Favorite fill: SPLAT, EZRA, and TAYE

Stumpers: ORELSE (thought only of cessation, not end of a phrase) and CELLISTS (new to me)

Smooth solve with a great theme and lots of fun lengthy bonus fill. Again, today’s puzzle has a grid that allows for more flexibility and creativity, which I appreciate and am enjoying this trend.

4.0 stars


Universal Themeless Sunday 56 by Rafael Musa, norah’s review; 3:37

THEME: none!

Favorite entries:



  • ⭐ IMONLYHUMAN 19A [“We all make mistakes, OK?!”]
  • IDBEHONORED 41A [“Yes! Thanks for thinking of me!”]
  • GUMMYBEAR 7D [Chewy treat shaped like an animal]
  • CANDYBARDS 35D [100 Grand and PayDay]
  • NOBRAINER 33D [Resolution made with resolution]


Lately I’ve been enjoying themeless puzzles that feature long entries in symmetrical locations that while aren’t theme entries are related in a fun way, whether that’s in meaning, in cluing, near-anagrams, linguistically, etc. Today the pair of CANDYBARS and GUMMYBEAR did that for me. (On this, see also Kelsey’s Apple News puzzle from October 28, a recent favorite)

I’m better at beer pong than I am at TABLETENNIS, so I was amused by its clue: 56A [Sport whose balls are used for beer pong]. I don’t totally understand NOBRAINER 33D [Resolution made with resolution] – can someone help me out please?

You should know: Ella MAI 55A [Singer-songwriter Ella]

Thanks Rafa and the Universal team!

Denise Blasevick & Jeff Chen’s Universal Sunday crossword, “The Cat’s Meow”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that hide the word “life” (in various foreign languages). The revealer is NINE LIVES (82d, [Storied feline trait … and a hint to the circled letters’ meanings]). Note also the black cat head in the center of the grid.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “The Cat’s Meow” · Denise Blasevick & Jeff Chen · 11.12.23

  • 3d. [*Actor who was once married to Courteney Cox (Catalan)] DAVID ARQUETTE.
  • 5d. [*Western props blowing in the wind (Afrikaans)] TUMBLEWEEDS.
  • 7d. [*Anglican architectural element (Maori)] TUDOR ARCH.
  • 12d. [*Nonexistent meal, according to a saying (Estonian)] FREE LUNCH.
  • 14d. [*It happens every year (Dutch)] ANNUAL EVENT.
  • 16d. [*October carve-outs (Hawaiian)] JACK OLANTERN.
  • 72d. [*Missive from the heart (Hungarian)] LOVE LETTER.
  • 76d. [*Meal made with green ingredients (Danish)] CHILI VERDE.
  • 80d. [*Bear in a classic children’s book (German)] GENTLE BEN.

Lively choices for theme answers, and the grid art is fun. But…

The purpose of a theme is to help a solver who gets stuck, and I’m very doubtful that this theme was helpful to anyone. Is there a single solver out there who might know more than half of these foreign words? And of course some of them seem to have similar etymologies (lookin’ at LEWE, LEVE, LIV, and LEBEN). Just ask yourself how many of these get clued in crosswords as translations of “life”. I’m thinking just the one (VIDA). So how can solvers be expected to get any help from this theme?

Despite that there’s a lot to like in the fill. “DOGGONE IT!” is notable for its central placement and its irony, considering the theme. Elsewhere I liked ARISTOTLE, CAVERNOUS, CO-EXIST, RIPOSTE, XMAS TREE, and WASTRELS (love this word). The biggest eyebrow-raiser was CALL-UPS [Orders to report]. I guess “orders” is a plural noun; I thought it was a verb, so I wanted CALLS UP.

Clues of note:

  • 55a. [Org. that Curry favors?]. NBA. Cute.
  • 79a. [Stuart Smalley interjection]. “DOGGONE IT, people like me!”
  • 31d. [Men and boys]. HES. Bleh. Who would ever use this as a plural? I would’ve preferred [“___ dead, Jim”], [“___ a real nowhere man”], or [“___ Just Not That Into You”].
  • 54d. [Color whose name comes from the German for “goblin”]. COBALT. Neat factoid. Are German goblins bluish?

The theme did very little for me, but the fill is lively and interesting. Three stars.

Rebecca Goldstein’s Washington Post crossword, “The Show Must Go On” — Matt’s write-up

Rebecca Goldstein’s Washington Post crossword solution, “The Show Must Go On,” 11/12/2023

Apologies for the late write up today. I had some travel delays on an already lengthy itinerary yesterday. Rebecca Goldstein is our guest constructor this week. A handful of themers don’t quite fit in their spaces:

  • 26a [*1988] THE PHANTOM OF THE OPER
  • 34a [*1950] OUTH PACIFIC
  • 51a [*1952] THE KING AND
  • 69a [*2017] EAR EVAN HANSEN
  • 65a [*2021] MOULIN ROUG

It took me a few themers in to see that only end letters — either the first or last — were being deleted. Two revealers bring us along:

  • 94a [Tony Award won by the starred answers in the years of their clues] BEST MUSICAL
  • 105a [Delivers an aside, as this puzzle’s starred answers literally do] BREAKS THE FOURTH WALL

So it’s not so much that letters are deleted, by that they extend past the “walls” of the grid.

Edit: Thanks to commenters for pointing out the final layer of the theme I had missed: taking the revealer more directly, the missing letters of the selected musicals quite literally spell A-S-I-D-E.

A fun theme, and I appreciate the restraint not to clue the resulting grid entries as wacky phrases in their own right. I wonder what exactly the “fourth” wall is in the context of the puzzle, since themers extend past two different edges, but I don’t think it changes my enjoyment of the grid very much.

Other notes:

  • 19a [Type of steak represented in a steak emoji] TBONE. I’m not sure I can picture the steak emoji, but this was a reasonable guess.
  • 25a [Instrument that is typically about 18 feet long when fully stretched out] TUBA. Truthfully, I would have thought it was longer.
  • 77a [Photography choice that fills in the blanks of “In_tagram fi_te_”] SLR. I’m not a great fan of this type of clue, but it can be useful to solvers. I’m sure many folks who make real money from social media use SLRs, but all of my Instagram photos are right from my cellphone camera.
  • 82a [Vegeteable sometimes served with marshmallow topping] YAM. We celebrated an early Thanksgiving this week while on the mainland. I am a big fan of sweet potatoes and yams but find them plenty sweet enough already without marshmallows.
  • 97a [Coke Zero alternative] DIET RC. RC COLA is certainly a staple of crossword grids, and I know it’s real, but I haven’t seen it in the real world in some time.
  • 5d [Walter White’s product] METH. From the TV show “Breaking Bad”
  • 20d [Fratty moniker] BROSEPH. I don’t think I’ve seen this in a grid before, but it’s certainly out in the language, alongside formations like “Bromance,” and more parallel to BROSEPH, “Broseidon”
  • 27d [Actor Omar of “This Is Us”] EPPS. It is good for crosswords that Epps’ filmography is so extensive.
  • 44d [Doja Cat or Lady Gaga, e.g.] STAGE NAME. Notably not a stage name: Dua Lipa
  • 72d [Brosh who created the webcomic “Hyperbole and a Half”] ALLIE. This webcomic’s heydey was more than ten years ago, but it still resonates and is well worth a visit if you’re unfamiliar.
  • 103d [“It’s-a me, ___!] MARIO. There was a mildly viral video a few months ago positing that Mario actually says the word “itsumi,” purportedly meaning “super,” but I see as I look it up that it’s been debunked.
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29 Responses to Sunday, November 12, 2023

  1. VB says:

    I agree with the criticism that too many pairs were too close to each other, but bravo to Mr. Chalfin for trying something different. I think that the only way to get more interesting pairs would be to make the splits earlier (GR… / GRAND… or NE… / NEURO…, for example), which might get difficult if one wants to keep the symmetry, but maybe not since the starting points of the splits are not symmetric. Regardless, a laudable effort to execute a demanding theme.

    I remember SALBANDO in his prime and look forward to seeing BERTCAMPANERIS, JOERUDI, and GENETENACE in future puzzles. I do not remember REDADAIR but knew him from his crossword-popular last name. For both of them, I had a somewhat pleasurable, “oh, did he really put THAT name in there?” moment, but I can also see how for many solvers it would be less pleasant.

    Peace to all.

  2. Tony says:

    I enjoyed the gimmick of the NYT, but for me it was a little too easy for a Sunday. Once I knew how to enter them the themers weren’t very hard to figure out even with most of the grid empty. The only clue that gave me an issue was 7-D (Gig part). I had SET for a while before realizing that it was gigabyte and not a concert gig.

  3. JohnH says:

    In retrospect, the NYT has more than enough theme fill, but at the time I couldn’t help wondering what all that space for long entries was doing. Kind of nice to see how it all worked out, and nice pun in the title. No strong feelings one way or the other about the whole or the fill. Fair point that the alternatives were sometimes close in sense, although it didn’t bother me THAT much at the time.

  4. RCook says:

    NYT: SHEDDED is one of those words no one uses except harried cruciverbalists.

    • Dallas says:

      I dunno … with two cats in the house, we find use for the worded SHEDDED. But their shedding doesn’t seem to result in cats that a less furry…

    • marciem says:

      I personally always use shed for the past tense. According to, in part: “The verb shed is uninflected in the past tense and as a past participle. For example, she shed some fur yesterday and she has shed her excess fur are correct, as is we found some shed skin on the ground. *** Shedded appears occasionally, but dictionaries don’t recognize it, and it is rare in edited writing.***”

  5. Mutman says:

    NYT: I kinda thought he would work in the countries of the currencies, because the puzzle has more gimmick than theme. But I guess that would have been a lot.

  6. Dan says:

    NYT: I enjoyed this harder-than-average puzzle with several entries I’d never seen before: MECHA, ARDERN, DUM-DUM (lollipops), and CHIASMUS (which I am confident is related etymologically to the “optical chiasm”.

    But I was underwhelmed by SHEDDED, which was mis-clued, and DADGUMIT, which is misspelled.

    And although I am no prude, not by a long shot, I did not appreciate seeing the middle letter of 67A. Each such inclusion in a puzzle cheapens the experience a bit for me.

    Finally, I noticed that a commenter elsewhere pointed out that the turns are actually *left* turns. Other commenters questioned this, because, they wrote, it all depends on your point of view. After considering this, I do not agree with the other commenters: The word “right” (direction) is not based on one’s point of view; it is based on the direction one is traveling. When you enter an answer in a crossword, it is presumably from the first letter toward the last. So these really are *left* turns.

    • David L says:

      Did you put the firewood away, dear? Yes, I SHEDDED it. Hmm.

      NYT theme was fine but there was an awful lot of iffy fill. Were satyrs LEERERS? I imagine them being more pro-active than hiding in the shadows and gawking.

      It has never crossed my mind that I might be in my RIPER years.

      I did like seeing DADGUMIT. I used work with someone from Alabama, IIRC, and she used that expression frequently and unironically. But yes, it should have another M.

      I think ‘right’ is right. If you’re filling in the answers from top to bottom, then you move to the right at the appropriate square.

    • Hi. says:

      “I’m no prude but the letter F offends me”
      -A prude

    • Dan says:

      Of course, in this puzzle after the left turn there really does come an actual right turn.

    • Craig N. Owens says:

      Chiasm/chiasmus from the Greek letter “chi” (X): In rhetoric, when two elements switch places (thus figuratively X-ing paths); in the optical sense, a literal X shape where the optic nerves cross.

      “Gig” is also a long pole for hunting frogs, which came to mind first for me.

      The circles threw me–in my view the wrong choice to indicate the “right” turn–typically circles draw attention to the individual letters in a word, not the whole word or its orientation.

      Overall, this puzzle was a slog for me for reasons already cited: Choppy fill, proper names.

  7. Eric H says:

    NYT: I forgot to read the title until I was almost finished — or maybe until I was completely finished. In any case, I solved it quickly for me, ignoring the Down theme clues after the slash (e.g. 3D “Has a very good effect’’). I did notice that the circled letters were all various currencies, but that’s a minor part of the theme.

    While I liked the puzzle overall, Nate’s point about the similarities in the Down parts of the theme answers is a good one. Also, the part that goes straight down, like 52D EXPERTS, could often be a host of other things: EXPLODE, EXPANDS, EXPOSES . . . . That gives the constructor a lot more flexibility in creating the grid.

    On the other hand, as JohnH notes, there’s a lot of theme material in this grid, which makes it harder to fill neatly.

  8. Philippe says:

    WaPo: nice little bonus when you take the missing letters of the 5 theme answers: they form ‘Aside’.

    • David L says:

      Yes, that’s the Birnholzisch* bonus.

      *I want this to be a word.

      One nitpick at 45A: A condo board and an HOA are not the same. Condominiums and home owners associations are different things, from a legal perspective.

      • Eric H says:

        Someone else here used “Birnholzian” in the same way. I think that rolls off the tongue a little better.

        By the time I had the grid filled in, I had forgotten the part of the clue for BREAKS THE FOURTH WALL that told me to look for ASIDE. I’m lousy at meta puzzles, but I knew the letters missing from the musicals would spell something, so I found ASIDE without the prompt.

        I was surprised to see that I know a little about all five musicals (the genre doesn’t really interest me). I give myself bonus points for remembering that John M. CHU directed the film version of the musical “In the Heights”; my unfamiliarity with that cost me a minute or so with a New Yorker puzzle earlier this week.

        On the other hand, I lose points for my inability to remember what the Sunrise Movement is about.

    • Tina says:

      Anyone explain ‘prelude to a rimshot’? I thought it was a basketball term. Maybe it has to do with drumming? Even so, pun doesn’t fit.

  9. David says:

    The missing letters in the Wash Post puzzle spell ASIDE, which is part of the revealer.

    • Matt Gritzmacher says:

      Thanks to you and others upthread, and apologies to Rebecca for my missing this. I’ve updated the post.

  10. Eric H says:

    Universal (Rafael Musa): “I don’t totally understand NOBRAINER 33D [Resolution made with resolution]”

    As best as I can figure out, since a NO-BRAINER is something you don’t have to think about, you might be said to be resolute about it.

    It seems to me like one of those clues that kinda works, but it’s more about the way the clue sounds than whether it makes perfect sense.

    Thanks for the Ella MAI link. I only know her name from crossword puzzles.

  11. Ellen+Nichols says:

    NYT comments:
    1. I don’t see how 2 words or phrases with the same starting letters could not be similar, it didn’t bother me.

    2. The write up in the physical magazine said “this puzzle was a long time in the making.” When I entered AREA CODE MAPS I thought “It sure was!” Area codes used to be useful for locating a caller’s location, now with cell phone users moving all around and new codes being carved out from the old ones as there are more phones the codes don’t mean much, nor would a map.

  12. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    Where’s the LAT writeup? I suppose the circled letters form a scrambled piece of wardrobe?

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