Sunday, November 19, 2023

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT 10:25 (Nate) 


USA Today 3:43 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 18-something (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 5:45 (Matthew) 


Rebecca Goldstein and Rachel Fabi’s New York Times crossword, “Thanksgiving Meal Prep” — Nate’s write-up

11.19.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

11.19.2023 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 22A BANK ROLLS [Stockpile bread?]
– 24A GOOGLE APPS [Research hors d’oeuvres online?]
– 38A CHOOSES SIDES [Selects green bean casserole, candied yams and mashed potatoes?]
– 65A TALK TURKEY [Debate roasting versus deep-frying?]
– 91A SHEPHERD’S PIE [Steers the dessert cart?]
– 108A KICK THE CAN [Make cranberry sauce from scratch?]
– 112A TABLE WINE [Reserve the chardonnay for later?]
– 37D GRAVY TRAIN [Work on one’s whisking technique?]
– 52D SAGE ADVICE [Pro tip about seasoning stuffing?]

Silly, food-related puns (and so many of them!) + modern fill / clues + a super fast (personal best Sunday) solve?! How could I ask for more?  I really enjoyed this puzzle and it certainly put me into the celebratory spirit – I just wonder what theme entries ended up on the cutting room floor!

Random thoughts:
– I’m curious to hear how many other people will set Sunday best times with this puzzle – let us know in the comments if you do so we can celebrate with you!
– I loved seeing entries like BOP, BOBA, LIL NAS X, HELL NO next to OH DEAR, and NO CAP, as well as so many of the entries clued from modern references (hi, KEN!). The puzzle felt current, alive, and in dialogue with today, which I appreciated. Even entries like MANSE, RIESEN, EWERS, and ENOCH felt like fair compromises for this otherwise fun puzzle.
– Did anyone else have O__A at 102A and confidently plunk in okra instead of ORCA?

Thanks to the constructors for a fun solve. To everyone reading, have a great weekend (and a great Thanksgiving, if you observe it!).

LA Times crossword, “Change the Subject” by Susan Gelfand & Katie Hale — Jack’s write-up

Theme: common phrases are reinterpreted as tips from teachers of different school subjects.

Sunday, Nov 19th LA Times crossword solution — “Change the Subject” by Susan Gelfand & Katie Hale

  • 23A. [Tip from a history teacher about how to study WWII?] = CHOOSE ONES BATTLES
  • 38A. [Tip from an English teacher about the editing process?] = MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT
  • 60A. [Tip from a gym teacher about how to win at tug-of-war?] = PULL IT TOGETHER
  • 81A. [Tip from an astronomy teacher about how to set up telescopes?] = AIM FOR THE STARS
  • 102A. [Tip from an accounting teacher about calculating profits and losses?] = FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE
  • 121A. [Tip from a math teacher about working with squares and cubes?] = REMEMBER YOUR ROOTS

The theme hangs together nicely. I wonder how hard it was to come up with these. PULL IT TOGETHER is so perfectly re-imagined as advice to tug-of-war players. Where does that inspiration start? I guess one of these puns occurs to you first and gives you the idea to consistently use teachers. Then you think, “Gym teachers probably have a lot of punning potential.” And then, what? You start googling common phrases related to running and sports and pulling? Seems like an awfully open-ended process and I admire constructors who persevere through such tasks.

A lot of the base phrases already have an advice-like quality to them. CHOOSE ONES BATTLES, AIM FOR THE STARS, FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE, etc. That tightens things up, but I don’t see MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT as advice that one gives. It’s just something people say (or demand of others) when they want to cut to the chase.

The fill was a bit rough in places with A RUT, MTN, ORNE, ALLA, ILIA, MAAS, STRO, OAS, SRO, ALEE, not to mention three “ats” in HINT AT, LET AT, AT SEA. With only six themers (close to the minimum on a Sunday), I would have hoped for cleaner entries. There are three X’s in the grid, along with a Z and a J, so I can’t help but wonder if some fill was sacrificed for the Scrabble score.

My favorite entry in the puzzle is the conversational and awfully confrontational BASED ON WHAT? tucked behind an innocuous clue 15D. [Question of evidence].

Happy Sunday y’all

Kate Chin Park’s Washington Post crossword, “Take a Hike!” — Matt’s write-up

Kate Chin Park’s Washington Post crossword solution, “Take A Hike!,” 11/19/2023

This week’s WaPo guest puzzle is from Kate Chin Park. A handful of themers marked by asterisks don’t make sense when fit into their grid spot, and a revealer at 115a helps us out:

  • 115a [Certain striver … or something found four times in this puzzle?] SOCIAL CLIMBER

To make sense, we have to follow an upward angle from the end of each themer to complete the phrase:

  • 30a [*Eke out an existence?] HANG ON FOR DEAR (LIFE)
  • 45a [*Influential storytellers, collectively] MAINSTREAM (MEDIA)
  • 73a [*”You and me both”] JOIN THE (CLUB)
  • 100a [*”Just doing my job”] ALL IN A DAY’S (WORK)

An effective theme that demands a lot from the design, since each of those “extra” bits are triple-checked by the theme as well as the typical across- and down- of the grid. It does have the effect of chunking the grid into shorter entries within narrow S-SE bands without much connectivity and condensing the opportunities for flashier, longer fill into fewer areas of the grid. I generally am mildly biased against asymmetry, but I wonder if it could have been toyed with here — certainly the theme demands shorter entries and more blocks on the east side, but with rotational symmetry we have the same constraints on the (south)west without any theme material over there.

I’m six days into a bout with COVID that’s had me pretty knocked out, so abbreviated notes today. Highlights for me included MARIO PAINT, HI I’M CLIPPY, DADA being clued to Hannah Höch, a clue for NCAA that gets the year correct for NCAA v Alston (you’d be surprised), a fun OGDEN Nash rhyme when the opportunity presents.

Have a good week

Kelly Richardson’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Two Peas in a Pod”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases with a pair of added Ps within. The revealer is INNER PEACE (116a, [State of serenity, and what six answers have in common, both metaphorically and homophonically]).

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Two Peas in a Pod” · Kelly Richardson · 11.19.23

  • 23a. [One who’s fully present for every tiny moment with his niece?] SAPPY UNCLE. Say. Nice, evocative clue. Maybe get your own kid, Uncle.
  • 29a. [Club connected by a deep enjoyment of Carolina Reapers?] PEPPER GROUP. Peer. Got this one pretty quickly after grokking the theme with the first one.
  • 45a. [Person whose worries vanish as she captains her ship across Lake Geneva?] ALPINE SKIPPER. Skier. Not sure I get what vanishing worries has to do with anything. [Person who captains her ship across Lake Geneva?] gets the job done.
  • 65a. [One who embraces his identity as a helpful little fish in a big pond?] MISTER NICE GUPPY. Guy. Good one.
  • 92a. [Finding bliss as a barista?] FIT TO BE TIPPED. Tied. Again, not sure where the “finding bliss” part fits in. [Doing a good job at Starbucks, perhaps?] would make more sense to me.
  • 105a. [One with a sense of purpose in living off the land?] HAPPY FARMER. Hay. Is “hay farmer” an in-the-language phrase? I wanted this to be based on the word “hayseed.”

Solid add-some-letters theme. I picked some nits above, but overall it’s a nice enough theme that works well.

Top fill goes to HORROR STORY, MALAPROPISM, LIFE SAVER, ECCENTRIC, CANNOLI, PORCINI, BLUE RIDGE Mountains, SAUSAGES, FINE TUNE, PARANOID, and I’VE NO IDEA (though that beginning contraction was tough to sort out). Plenty of good stuff to enjoy there.

I was on the wrong wavelength or something as far as cluing goes, especially in that ACTED / PLACE / SAUCE section in the North. I probably spent a good couple of minutes just trying to sort out those three entries.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Conjuring a rabbit out of a hat, e.g.]. Right out of the gate I was wrong. I wanted this to be TRICK but it turned out to be MAGIC.
  • 8d. [Pluck]. VALOR. Hmm. I don’t quite equate these. To me, it’s kind of like saying “pleased” and “ecstatic” are equivalent.
  • 12d. [Like a trenchcoat or mushroom]. TAUPE. I get that a lot of trench coats are tan-ish, but I can’t see saying that mushrooms are all TAUPE in color.
  • 53d. [Prince in disguise, perhaps]. FROG. Hmm. To me, “disguise” implies the prince purposefully wants to look like a FROG.
  • 16d. [“It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” say] for IDIOM and 65d. [“It’s a doggy dog world,” say] for MALAPROPISM. I enjoy when constructors/editors pair clues like this.
  • 92d. [Background for policy decisions]. FRAMING. Meh. Needed every crossing for this and I’m still not sure what it means.
  • 103d. [“The Ecstasy of Gold” composer Morricone]. ENNIO. I loves me some good ENNIO Morricone tunes. I didn’t know this one by name, but I certainly recognize it. It’s from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Brooke Husic & Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “It’s Raining Men” — Darby’s write-up

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: The second word of each theme answer can precede MEN. Since they’re all Down answers, “it’s raining men.”

Theme Answers

Brooke Husic & Matthew Stock's USA Today crossword, “It's Raining Men” solution for 11/19/2023

Brooke Husic & Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “It’s Raining Men” solution for 11/19/2023

  • 4d [Have a good time] MAKE MERRY / MERRY MEN
  • 17d [Cohort just older than millennials] GENERATION X / X-MEN
  • 34d [App used to manage shared expenses] SPLITWISE / WISE MEN

Seeing the title for this, I was so stoked, and I love the sets of men highlighted. MAKE MERRY feels apt both because I think it’s a cute reference to Robin Hood’s Merry Men but also MAKE MERRY captures the holiday vibes as we head into Turkey Day and December. Also, it was fun to see GENERATION X spelled out in full since we so often see it as GEN X or XERS in puzzles. I struggled a bit with SPLITWISE, but after getting SORE, PLED, A LINE, and WING, it became clearer.

I moved pretty smoothly through this grid, and I think there was some really nice longer fill to complement the themers. 13a [Early opportunity to get concert tickets] PRE-SALE and 17a [Team’s strategy] GAME PLAN were both great in the NE corner, as were 25a [Eco-friendly power source] GREEN ENERGY and 43a [Cultural identity for North Americans] MEXICANIDAD. Plus, I literally yelled aloud as I entered in 61a [“All bangers, ___” (album endorsement)] NO SKIPS because it was so fun and cute.

Other answers I loved included:

  • 1a [Doohickey] – I’ve always loved “doohickey” as a word, and I just think GIZMO is a great starter for a puzzle.
  • 62a [Oklahoma people aka the Wazhazhe] – I appreciated the incorporation of how the OSAGE refer to themselves since so many tribal names were applied by European settlers.
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20 Responses to Sunday, November 19, 2023

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: I found this to be an enjoyable solve with several areas requiring more thought than usual for a Sunday puzzle.

    But the theme left me only mildly amused, especially since the puns were mainly half-puns — one word meant the same as it always does.

  2. CC says:

    NYT: I do the monthly crossword for my hometown’s arts & entertainment publication, and 6 years ago I did a 21×21 that had a very similar theme. The revealer was TALKINGTURKEY (where NYT’s here had TALKTURKEY as one of the themers). My puzzle’s themers focused on either turkey parts or what’s served on the turkey. (I also had GRAVYTRAIN as a themer).

    I do prefer NYT’s broader meal-wide focus, though it was the first puzzle I worked a hidden answer into (I hidden the letters in WISHBONE in the SW corner, roughly in the shape of the thing it described.)

  3. Ethan says:

    Agree 100% with the review of the Times. Felt very current. Fun funny and a breeze

  4. Eric H says:

    NYT: Surprisingly fun for a pun-themed puzzle. I especially liked SHEPERDS PIE, and the clue for ÉPÉE is a fantastic spin on an overly-familiar bit of fill.

    Fast but not a personal best for me (my fourth fastest Sunday, according to

  5. Mutman says:

    NYT: Agreed. Very swift, breezy and fun puzzle. I did get slowed down in far NE and SW on a few entries (PAPAW, e.g.). But overall a nice holiday puzzle!

  6. MattF says:

    NYT took me a long time because of a couple of hard spots, e.g., the NW corner. Not sure why that corner was so troublesome. Otherwise, the puzzle was relatively easy— the jokey theme was okay but not great, IMO. NOCAP was new to me.

    • Eric H says:

      I hadn’t heard NOCAP, either. I’m going to look it up, as I can’t figure out what it is derived from. “No capital?” “No capeesh?” I don’t think so.

    • AlexK says:

      Ah! Same snag here. I had MOSS/MING as my first answers, realised quickly they were off, but couldn’t quickly think of something ending with the K of KOKOMO. Then of course I finish the rest of the puzzle, my eyes reset and BARK was all too obvious.

  7. anon says:

    NYT: [from the review] “I’m curious to hear how many other people will set Sunday best times with this puzzle”

    The grid is 21 x 20, so there probably will be faster times on this one

  8. David L says:

    NYT: fun and straightforward — I do the Sunday puzzles on paper so I don’t know how long it took me.

    WaPo: Nice, but it took me a while after finishing to see what was going on with the starred answers. I was looking for extra words that were vertical, not going up at 45 degrees. One tricky spot for me was EEP crossing MARIOPAINT. I had EEK at first. Never heard of MARIOPAINT, and why does the clue have a question mark? I thought maybe I was missing a pun, or something.

    • It has a question mark because [Nintendo art producer?] makes it sound like it’s a job title or the person with that job, but it’s a video game where you can draw pictures.

      • Dallas says:

        You’ve really gotten some great creators filling in for you on paternity leave—it’s kept the Sunday WaPo a must-do. Kudos!

        I hope everything is going well with parenthood; it’s the “longest shortest time”.

  9. JT says:

    NYT was cute, I liked the theme quite a lot, but the lower half really didn’t vibe with me the way the top did. The top felt like a Sunday level puzzle, while the bottom felt like it was trying to average between Monday and Friday cluing.

    I was good with the more modern lingo except NO CAP, that felt totally left-field for me and that whole section was just not working for me because of it.

  10. Eric H says:

    WaPo: I enjoyed the trick once I got the revealer and saw how it worked with ALL IN A DAYS WORK. Like Matt, though, I found the grid a bit choppy and disconnected.

    I finished it in about 18 minutes, which is several minutes faster than average for me on a 21X21 grid, but it felt like it took longer.

    Like David L, I found the EEP/MARIO PAINT crossing tricky (that P was my final square). I don’t play video games, but crossword puzzles have reinforced that MARIO is a Nintendo character, and MARIO PAINT sounds vaguely familiar. But EEP? I guess I can imagine someone saying that.

  11. Rebecca says:

    “Take a Hike” solution: Why is it shaded and why the “a” in blue?

    • Eric H says:

      What I see is MARIO PAINT highlighted and the second A is in blue. Is that what you’re referring to?

      I’m pretty sure that just shows where Matt was when he finished the puzzle.

  12. Seattle DB says:

    UNI-Sunday: I gave the puzzle a 3 because the constructor should get a 4 and the editor should get a 2. This isn’t the first nice puzzle that I’ve seen an editor mess up.

  13. Jane Munson says:

    Loved Thanksgiving Meal Prep, fun!

Comments are closed.