Sunday, January 7, 2024

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 16:42 (Nate) 


USA Today 3:01 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 12:05 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 6:55 (Matthew) 


Michael Schlossberg’s New York Times crossword, “Gimme a Second!” — Nate’s write-up

Thanks to Sophia and Matt for reviewing the Sunday NYT puzzle over the past two weeks while I was away! I’m glad to be back and hope that you’re all having a happy 2024 so far.

Today’s puzzle has a fun echo effect, where two sequential (and quite distinct) themers have the same clue, with the second entry in each set featuring a hidden emotion:

01.07.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

01.07.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 23A POWER SUIT [It might be pressed before work]
– 24A SNOOZE ALARM [It might be pressed before work]

– 42A SPIDER WEBS [They’re home to spinners]
– 46A PR AGENCIES [They’re home to spinners]

– 91A SEA CAPTAIN [One sailing through long passages]
– 95A AVID READER [One sailing through long passages]

– 117A GENERATION X [Target of many a viral marketing campaign]
– 119A FLU STRAIN [Target of many a viral marketing campaign]

– 68A ONCE MORE WITH FEELING [Bandleader’s urging … or an alternative title for this puzzle]

I really enjoyed this theme and its execution. It felt fun and multi-layered, while also feeling fair to a wide array of solvers. How cool were some of these theme pairs that solidly shared the same clue? I also appreciated how each of the second themers hid a feeling word across the words of the entry – solid work! The only place I got stuck was at 83A, where I confidently had uppity instead of UPPISH for [Snooty]. Who knew!?

What did you think of the puzzle? Any favorite bits? Let us know in the comments – and have a great weekend!


Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Becomes a Dad” — Matt’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Captain Obvious Becomes a Dad” solution, 1/7/2024

Evan is back from parental leave, and so is Captain Obvious, with a bit of an autobigraphical twist.

Something I appreciate about Captain Obvious theme sets is that the clues are wacky and the base phrases are unchanged. I like a good made-up wacky themer paired with an amusing clue, but I feel the punchline experience is stronger when the themers are real phrases.

  • 22a [“___? That’s you, me, your mom, and your other relatives”] ALL IN THE FAMILY
  • 32a [“___, and you’ll have crawled toward me”] COME TO PAPA
  • 50a [“___? Then we celebrated your birth last night”] BORN YESTERDAY
  • 65a [“___? That’s me and your mom when we’re in a chopper”] HELICOPTER PARENTS
  • 86a [“___? That’s an instance of when I’m feeding you”] BOTTLE EPISODE
  • 98a [“___? That’s when you’re hanging out with me”] FATHER TIME
  • 114a [“___, and you’ll be in bed just as any other infant would be”] SLEEP LIKE A BABY

I was unfamiliar with BOTTLE EPISODE; I guess it’s one of those sitcom episodes produced with a smaller cast and in only one or two settings, to save some money. BLISS and CHILD bookending the across entries is a nice touch.


  • 31a [“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” enemies] ORCS. I always appreciate when clues differentiate between ORC and ENT without leaving me to look for crossings.
  • 40a and 48d [Ireland, poetically] ERIN and EIRE
  • 62a and 77a [“It follows that …”] ERGO and HENCE. I liked this pair of clue pairs.
  • 56a [First name of the singer honored by a 2023 Country Music Corn Maze campaign] REBA. Worth a scroll through
  • 94a [Fish aptly found in “Niagara”] GAR. I had to check – indeed there are some GAR in the Great Lakes
  • 105a [Beringer Vineyards’ valley] NAPA. I didn’t know this vineyard, but it is “California’s longest continually operating winery” and on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 8d [Northeastern collegiate home of the Jumbos] TUFTS. The Jumbos mascot is an elephant.
  • 36d [Spare moment?] TIRE CHANGE. As in a spare tire. Nice.
  • 42d [Ouroboros reptile] SNAKE. The ouroboros is the snake eating its own tale, in the shape of a circle.
  • 47d [“When the world seems to shine / Like you’ve had too much wine” song] THAT’S AMORE. I thought these were funny, fake lyrics. They are not. They are the second line of the song. I now wonder if I’ve ever actually heard the song.
  • 52d [“Wild Magic” author Pierce] TAMORA. Pierce’s young adult fantasy output spans several decades. Wild Magic is one of many stories set in the fictional world of Tortall.

Jay Silverman’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Spin City”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are well-known(ish) American cities and their states, except the words are reversed and they’re given wacky clues.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Spin City” · Jay Silverman · 1.7.24

  • 3d. [*Invoices in the Big Sky?] MONTANA BILLINGS.
  • 5d. [*Calder sculpture in the Yellowhammer State?] ALABAMA MOBILE. This is the entry which provided my aha moment.
  • 9d. [*Flickers of light outside a casino?] NEVADA SPARKS.
  • 13d. [*Ordinary peach bagels?] GEORGIA PLAINS. This is the only city I didn’t know. Wikipedia says its population is 573. But it was the birthplace of both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.
  • 15d. [*Last Frontier’s respectable lenders?] ALASKA FAIR BANKS.
  • 103a. [*Where a young DJ might become a Lone Star?] TEXAS COLLEGE STATION. I liked this entry best.
  • 115a. [*Gigantic utensils in the Upper Midwest?] NORTH DAKOTA GRAND FORKS.

Nice theme. I got the gist of it with the second entry, but it still kept me guessing throughout. I appreciate the creativity that went into theme entry placement since—given their letter lengths—they couldn’t be placed in the typical symmetrical fashion. Unfortunately, this meant a lot of short 3- and 4-letter entries which threatened to turn into a slog, but straightforward clues helped speed things along.

The long fill entries are more utilitarian than sparkly, but ARCHITECTURE and DISTILLATION stacked with a theme entry in the middle is impressive. Other niceties: TOUGH GUY, ALSO-RAN, POLLSTER, and ANAGRAM.

Clues of note:

  • 22a. [Melancholy]. LOW. I kept trying to make this a noun when it’s an adjective.
  • 126a. [Two ___ (mobile puzzle game)]. DOTS. I’m not familiar with this game, but it came out in 2014 and has won some awards. If you like casual puzzle games, it might be worth checking out.
  • 45d. [Kind of blue?]. NAVY. I’m not usually a fan of “kind of” clues, but this one has a nice wordplay twist.
  • 78d. [Fat Brain ___ (big name in entertainment)]. TOYS. Another brand I’m not familiar with. But check them out if you have TOTS in your life.
  • 116d. [Green owl mascot for a language-learning app]. DUO. I like the modern cluing angle even though I didn’t know the answer. Does this mean Duolingo will teach you how to speak owl?

Good puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Bruce Haight’s USA Today crossword, “See You” — Darby’s write-up

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Each theme answer is comprised of two words, the first of which begins with a C and the second with U.

Theme Answers

Bruce Haight's USA Today crossword, “See You” solution for 1/7/2024

Bruce Haight’s USA Today crossword, “See You” solution for 1/7/2024

  • 16a [First country artist to debut atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart] CARRIE UNDERWOOD
  • 34a [Nonprofit lender] CREDIT UNION
  • 53a [Peelers, graters, whisks, spatulas, etc.] COOKING UTENSILS

I was curious what this theme would be like once I opened up the puzzle, but upon getting the crossings for CARRIE UNDERWOOD, it quickly became clear. I read 34a as [Nonprofit leader] for a second, but on my second go-through, I realized my error and filled in CREDIT UNION, using WELCOME HOME to kick me off with the crossing C. COOKING UTENSILS fell pretty easily into place, especially since I knew the theme. I always love themes with spanners, so it was nice to see the 2 15-lettered answers. They were easy enough and fresh.

I moved pretty quickly and probably would’ve been under 3 minutes had it not been for the cross at 51a [Hawaiian porch] LANAI and 51d [“The Farewell” director Wang] LULU. That was a little tough, but it’s more on me not knowing LANAI than anything else. I also really liked WELCOME HOME and TOOK A GANDER, which is super fun. 35d [Frustrating maze features] was also cute with DEAD ENDS. I also learned that 36d IRELAND was the [Country where flavored potato chips were invented].

Overall, a fun puzzle!

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16 Responses to Sunday, January 7, 2024

  1. David says:

    Wasn’t sure what a “FLUSTRAIN” was. Now that I see how it’s parsed, i don’t love that answer. Do people really say “flu strain”?

    I really liked the revealer – excellent phrase to explain the puzzle.

    • JohnH says:

      I’ve a feeling that FLU STRAIN will be one of those that divides solvers sharply between those who find it clever and those who find it forced. Less because of the phrase than the use of “marketing” in the clue.

      The puzzle grew on me, and no question the revealer helped. For a while I expected just paired clues that have two plausible answers, but that asks way too little of a puzzle. Surely almost any clue if worded cleverly enough could have, with enough effort, more than one answer. My first discovery of a shaded word only confused me, and the puzzle’s title didn’t lead me to demand more. But the revealer added layers.

  2. JDivney says:

    Erin is Ireland poetically. Eire is Ireland in Irish.

    • JohnH says:

      I don’t believe I’ve ever seen “Erin” in poetry, so I searched for “Erin Go Bragh,” the phrase often trotted out for St. Patrick’s day. Per Wiki, it has political origins — first Irish volunteers in war (the Mexican side of the Mexican American War) and later the Irish Free State movement. However, ironically, it turns out the phrase is an anglicization of one in Irish that begins, ta da, with Eire! (Well, that or Éirinn, but never mind.)

  3. David L says:

    NYT: The theme works, but I didn’t find it very engaging. Identical clues for adjacent entries is clever, but the addition of hidden words didn’t do much for me. Also, ARIKARA???

    WaPo: Nice to see Evan back, although the guest puzzles were good. No idea about BOTTLEEPISODE, but googling confirms it’s a thing. Strange name, though.

    • Katie says:

      NYT: Same here, on “Arikara”. (What?!) Somehow, other Montana tribes come to mind (for me) more readily (e.g., Blackfeet, Mandan, Hidatsa,…) – but out of all those tribal names, “Arikara” is the only one showing up on my laptop with a red dotted line underneath, to say, “hey, did you happen to misspell this, perhaps?”

      Anyway, I’m fine with that since all the crossings were “nice” – and now I know the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara are part of the same (Three Affiliated Tribes) nation.

      Sad history, btw, if you search on smallpox and these tribes – especially the Mandan (circa 1837), perhaps. It’s even more poignant because small pox vaccines were available by then – and had been promised and should have been more available for tribes in that region, from the Indian Vaccination Act of 1832.

      So, it was worth having this “fill” to learn some history today…

  4. marciem says:

    WaPo: Happy to see Evan back and (1a)blissful about his (122a) child … as it should be!! I had never heard of a bottle episode, so that clue/answer fell a little flat for me.
    His replacements did a good job, I will say.

    Matt: THAT’S AMORE…

    The funnest lyric is “When the stars make you drool just like pasta (nobody can spell it except an Italian speaker… sounds like FAZOOL but is actually FAGIOLI :))” No that isn’t made up, its the lyric…

  5. Steve says:

    WaPo: Welcome back Evan and congratulations! I think the guest constructors were great as well but still good to see your name on Sunday mornings.

    I REALLY hope it was intentional that one answer was Lily and then you clued Heidi Swedberg later (Susan on Seinfeld). Kramer kept thinking her name was Lily, not Susan. When I put in Lily for the earlier answer, my brain immediately went to the episode where she dies and Kramer still thinks her name was Lily. A few minutes later I chortled (see what I did there) when I saw the other clue.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT … Yikes! This constructor has kicked my butt all 13 times I’ve encountered one of his puzzles. I’m clearly not on his wavelength.

    • Mr. [very] Grumpy says:

      First nomination for Most Annoying Puzzle of the Year. Weird feudal references + what I assume are error messages for coders. I will not use any of the words that my Marine Corps father taught me, but I am seriously tempted to.

    • David L says:

      I didn’t find it too hard (it helped that AUX at 103A showed up in some other puzzle recently, and a commenter here provided the explanation), but the theme answers were perplexing, to say the least. Seems like a puzzle for a niche audience.

      SERVERERROR for “Knight fails to tip waitstaff at banquet” seems wrong. A server error would be spilling the wine.

    • marciem says:

      I’ll join you there on the outside of the constructors wavelength. Mostly didn’t really see the point of some, and that clue for “server error” was just wrong.

      If all the answers were something “we” encounter online or on computer, I haven’t ever seen half of them.

  7. bavinbrielle says:

    WaPo … Welcome back, Evan, and with such an apropos puzzle! I thoroughly enjoyed your guest constructors and had so much fun working on their puzzles. Kudos to all of them! But I’m glad to be back awaiting your weekly puzzle on Saturday nights!

  8. Tina says:

    WAPO glad to have Evan back….i just can’t seem to figure out 55 across. PACE? Looked it up in dictionary and still can’t get how it answers the clue have the nerves seemingly?

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