Sunday, February 4, 2024

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 16:14 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 6:59 (Matthew) 


Daniel Grinberg’s New York Times crossword, “Punch Lines” — Nate’s write-up

02.04.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

02.04.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 23A: GUILTY AS CHARGED [Fault line?]
– 31A: CAN’T COMPLAIN [Fine line?]
– 47A: TELL ME I’M PRETTY [Fishing line?]
– 63A: SIX INCH OR FOOTLONG [Subway line?]
– 81A: PLEASE BE SEATED [Assembly line?]
– 98A: YOU’RE THE BOSS [Power line?]
– 110A: GOD SAVE THE QUEEN [Subject line?]
– 15D: SIR YES SIR [Private line?]
– 75D: MAKE A WISH [Party line?]

Wow, there’s so much to enjoy about this theme! The clue for each themer is a common “___ line” phrase in its own right, and each of the matching theme entries is a solidly in-the-language line that someone might say in the context of the themer clue’s first word. A person at fault might say GUILTY AS CHARGED, a person working at Subway might ask SIX INCH OR FOOTLONG?, etc. The cherry on top of this dense theme set is the great title, “Punch Lines,” which parallels the themers’ clues and also hinted at the jokes to come.  So good.

A few random thoughts:
– The top-left corner was quite ALT, with entries like FEIST, LOLA, and GAYDAR crossing BI FLAG and [Nipple rings]!
– I am stumped as to how [Tittle] gets us to DOT at 68A. JOGGLE and GRAMMA felt unusual, too.

I hope you enjoyed the puzzle! Can you think of other theme entries that might have been left on the cutting room floor? Let us know in the comments – and have a nice weekend!

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Rise and Fall” — Matt’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Rise and Fall,” 2/4/24

Four pairs of themers highlight this trickier puzzle, while a central, on-the-nose revealer is here to help.

Easiest way to describe it all is to get into it:

  • 24a [*”Great job, genius!”] NIC doesn’t make much sense on its own
  • 26a [Result of flattery … or a phrase describing the rising part of 24 Across] EGO BOOST

Looking back at 24a, if we grab the -EGO of OSWEGO and consider it a “rising part” of a longer entry, we see NICE GOING, a more appropriate answer to the 24a clue. The other pairs, noting that below the center, the theme entries drop instead of rise:

  • 46a [Emergency transport operation … or a phrase describing the riisng part of 47 Across] AIRLIFT
  • 47a [*Guys who fix things] REP-AIR-MEN, using part of CLAIR above
  • 81a [*”Samantha Who?” actress Christina] APP-LEG-ATE, using part of LEGAL below
  • 84a [Diving wrestling attack … or a phrase describing the falling part of 81 Across] LEG DROP
  • 103a [Ignore … or a phrase describing the falling part of 105 Across] LET SLIDE
  • 105a [*Musical interval between do and re] WHO-LET-ONE, using part of LETTER

A revealer at 64a ties everything together: [“There are positives as well as negatives” … or a description of this puzzle’s theme] IT HAS ITS UPS AND DOWNS

I enjoyed this puzzle plenty. It’s a good theme done well–in particular by not trying to do too much with it. Little bit of a funky grid design, now that I look at it more, but the entry-jumping theme elements helped things feel smooth.


  • 1a [Like internet trolls’ comments] INANE. I wish trolls merely rose to being INANE, and not something worse, as they often are.
  • 13a [Any one of the crown prince of Carpania’s many dogs in “The Great Race”] PUG. I’m unfamiliar with this film, but I’m intrigued by the cast alone.
  • 21a [City on Lake Ontario] OSWEGO. Having grown up in Western New York, I’m always tickled to see towns from throughout the state in the crossword canon. I imagine it’s a lingering element of New York City-centricism in puzzles, whether these cities were vacation getaways or locations of SUNY schools familiar to downstate solvers.
  • 25a [Dutch banking giant] ING. Oh yes, by the way — all the components of the broken-up theme entries are crossword entries in their own right.
  • 44a [Cinéma Pur director René] CLAIR. Entirely new to me, but the crossings were all accessible.
  • 53a [Quarterly press org.?] US MINT. Being a place where quarters are pressed. I love it.
  • 59a [Like the Elves of Middle-earth] IMMORTAL. Unless they are killed in battle, no? I’m not sure this completely works!
  • 98a [“Catch-22” pilot with a “deranged and galvanic giggle”] ORR. You know, there are quite a bit of names in this puzzle, I think. “Catch-22” is nice at least, because few names are the same length.
  • 3d [The animal Nim Chimpsky, e.g.] APE. The subject of a study on language acquisition, Nim Chimpsky’s name is a play on linguist Noam Chomsky.
  • 7d [Craving madly?] HANGRY. Nice! If you haven’t seen it before, HANGRY is a portmanteau of “hungry” and “angry”
  • 29d [Candle originally used to warm a steeped drink] TEALIGHT. Today I learned! But, you know, it’s right there in the name.

Marshal Herrmann’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Sell It!”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words can also be synonyms of “sell.”

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Sell It!” · Marshal Herrmann · 2.4.24

  • 23a. [*Sell electrical equipment?] DEAL BREAKERS. Good start. And since I recently had the pleasure of receiving a quote from an electrician for $12,000 to replace my circuit breaker panels, this one hit home. (Dude was seriously trying to upsell me, even going as far as telling me my breakers were recalled. They weren’t.)
  • 29a. [*Sell plumbing inventory?] PITCH PIPES. The phrase sounded familiar, but I needed to Google it (post-solve) to learn it’s a harmonica-like device to provide a pitch for musicians.
  • 44a. [*Sell vehicular testing services?] MARKET CRASHES. This one’s a bit of a stretch. I might’ve gone for MARKET SQUARES here [*Sell crossword puzzles?].
  • 68a. [*Sell ski resorts?] MOVE MOUNTAINS. I like this one a lot.
  • 93a. [*Sell mental health services?] RETAIL THERAPY. Solid.
  • 107a. [*Sell cleaning equipment?] PUSH BROOMS. Another good one.
  • 117a. [*Sell some writing?] OFFER LETTERS. A “letter” as in a missive or the individual letters themselves?

Pretty good, eh? Most of these worked just fine for me. Some worked better than others, sure, but for the most part, this is a solid set.

Despite all the theme material, we still get some sparkly long fill like START FROM SCRATCH, INAUGURAL ADDRESS, SPEED CHESS, SMOKE BOMBS, PHD STUDENTS, MEGASTAR, EAR CANDY, GYM CLASS, and TRASH ART.

Clues of note:

  • 11a. [Popes, e.g.]. HES. Bleh. I’d much rather see this clued as a contraction and not a plural noun.
  • 64a. [Valuable item in some fairy tales]. TOOTH. As in the TOOTH Fairy? I think this clue might need a question mark since we’re not talking about fairy tales in the usual sense.
  • 8d. [Word shouted on a set]. TAKE. Strange clue. It gives the impression they’re shouting “TAKE” on its own without a number following it. And I’ve never heard it shouted anyway (though I’m certainly never been on a film set).

Good puzzle. 3.5 stars.

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31 Responses to Sunday, February 4, 2024

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I thought the theme/cluing was great! The NW corner was fun. But some places threw me, especially that DO/AXOLOTL crossing! Oh, and JOGGLE?
    (Also- Stink in the clue for EYE inhibited me for a while from putting STUNK AT nearby).
    That aside, I felt it was a great way to do a humorous Sunday theme.

    • Eric H. says:

      AXOLOTL is one of my favorite words. Do an image search — they’re cute little creatures!

      ‘Word after stink or pink” is such a great clue that STUNK AT doesn’t bother me a bit.

    • DougC says:

      I absolutely agree that this was a terrific Sunday puzzle! Lots to love here. Challenging enough to be interesting, clever enough to be fun, a bunch of first-use answers, and a pangram to boot. Well done!

  2. Eric H. says:

    NYT: Many humorous Sunday themes don’t do much for me, but this one was fun — even if TELL ME I’M PRETTY and SIX INCH OR FOOT-LONG don’t seem as familiar as GOD SAVE THE QUEEN or GUILTY AS CHARGED. And there’s even an AXOLOTL!

    “Tittle” gets us DOT because one sense of “tittle” is a small typographical mark such as the one found in a lower case i or j.

  3. Mr. Cavin says:

    Ach du leiber! [Fräulein].

    Okay, just kidding. I loved the NYT puzzle today. My only trouble with JOGGLE was that I had JOGGED in there at first. I also wanted JUNK in the trunk, but then I always do. Delighted to see AREOLAE finally clued as human anatomy.

  4. JohnH says:

    I wanted “jiggle” or “toggle,” but I can live with it. I also had “jot” for “tittle,” as in a small amount, until DOT was absolutely forced on me. But all I had to do then was look up “tittle” and see that it works. I wasn’t sure about DRE for Andre, and I’d have said that ON IT is (and is often clued as ) a response to an order, not an offer to volunteer, but whatever. (Actually, even in the more common cluing, I suspect it’s more crosswordese than English. Managers are not military superiors.)

    Well, OK, but, unlike several here, I didn’t care for the theme. What holds it together other than they are puns? The world is full of puns.

    • JohnH says:

      Sorry. I broke the rule to include which puzzle we’re talking about, here the NYT. I mistakenly thought I was replying to another comment.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I enjoyed all the themers except TELL ME I’M PRETTY doesn’t seem like something that someone would actually say except maybe in the movies, on a soap opera or in a Jane Austen novel. Perhaps people who say that are the same ones who use the phrase “I RULE”. I’m happy so say that I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say either one.

  5. RCook says:

    NYT: There are 1024 megs in a gig, not 1000. I know the SI prefix implies 1000, but computer storage is based on binary, so we do powers of 2 instead of 10.

    • Martin says:

      From Wikipedia:

      Thus, some usage of gigabyte has been ambiguous. To resolve this difficulty, IEC 80000-13 clarifies that a gigabyte (GB) is 10^^9 bytes and specifies the term gibibyte (GiB) to denote 2^^30 bytes.

      • RCook says:

        Gibibyte is the preferred term for the unit defined by powers of 2, but almost no one says it, and no software I’ve encountered uses the one defined by powers of 10. In common parlance, a gigabyte is equal to a gibibyte.

        • Martin says:

          In common parlance, per M-W, it’s ambiguous. Wikipedia said the same thing.

          You’re perfectly free to use the power-of-two definition for these units, but not claim that the clue is wrong for using the power-of-ten, especially when technically (as opposed to conversationally) it’s right and you’re wrong.

          • JohnH says:

            Oddly enough, Random House Unabridged has only the power of 10, and it’s old enough to have one expect an engineer’s perspective, before the public got into computers. Oh, well. Absolutely valid clue anyhow.

            • RCook says:

              I feel like this could have been avoided had the clue not used a term that immediately invokes computer storage. It’s the only giga- unit that has this ambiguity.

  6. JohnH says:

    Some time back, I griped here about coverage of the Sunday puzzles in the NYT wordplay / gameplay blogs. So I’ve been rude not to mention that, for several weeks now, the issue has gone away.

    Of course, the Sunday magazine always has a variety puzzle, such as an acrostic or cryptic. And of course the NYT removed online access, angering many who subscribed to the Times online or the puzzles separately but not the Sunday print edition. Some just felt cheated of something they considered their due. Others (unlike me) are acrostic fans but find it tedious to hunt down where to place the letters from an answer in the quote. (Jeff Chen makes his own version available, subscription based).

    My point had been different. The blog continued to cover the variety puzzle, until it didn’t. I found that coverage helpful since solutions arrive in the next week’s magazine, but by then I’d tossed the week’s before and largely forgotten it. So I should not have let that gripe stand once the weekly post returned. It is now in the gameplay blog along with posts on wordle and the like. Magically, it appears a couple of days before the print edition arrives (on a Saturday morning). So guess SOMEONE still gets the puzzle online!

  7. Mr. [proud father of a doctor] Grumpy says:

    I take [semi-mock] umbrage at 38D in the Universal Sunday. They are NOT “Phd students”; they may be called grad students, but they are PhD CANDIDATES.

    • PJ says:

      I didn’t consider myself a PhD candidate until after I had passed my field exam.

      • Mr. [proud father of a doctor] Grumpy says:

        I suppose different fields and different schools may differ. My son and his cohort were referred to as candidates from the day one.

        • huda says:

          In many programs, you “advance to candidacy” by completing some requirements.. courses, qualifying exams, etc.
          I tend to say graduate student. But that can cover people seeking a masters degree as well. So, PhD student can be useful as a more specific description of grad student until one becomes a formal PhD candidate.

  8. Seattle DB says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I feel there are a few editors — without naming names — who feel they have to put their “personal stamp” on a puzzle by changing clues just so they can feel like they’re doing their jobs. But they end up making a mess of a good puzzle. (Maybe they should just leave well-enough alone. And this thought has been noted on this website by a few other constructors and commenters.)

  9. Dan says:

    LAT: An exceptionally well-clued Sunday puzzle!

    It was not at all difficult, but contained clue after clue that had very deceptive multiple possible meanings that had to be sorted out.


  10. Eric H. says:

    WaPo: I had trouble making sense of the theme/trick, even after getting the revealer. I filled in the grid in a decent time, and then studied the UPS AND DOWNS to make sense of them.

    I think Matt’s review might be off on 105A “Musical interval between do and re.” WHO LET ONE doesn’t make much sense in that context. Might it instead be WHOLES, dropping down from the 112 square? That would make more sense with 103A’s LET SLIDE.

    It’s entirely possible that I’m wrong, but I don’t understand how WHO LET ONE fits the “do re” clue.

    I did like the ORR clue, but then “Catch-22” is one of my favorite novels.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      It’s WHOLE TONE

    • Dallas says:

      I didn’t notice that the three letter bits had been raised and lowered at first, because I thought EGO BOOST meant that “EGO” had been “BOOSTED” (as in, stolen), and then AIR LIFT meant that “AIR” had been “LIFTED” (again, stolen) from the grid… so I didn’t notice that it was literally above. By the time I got to the dropped entries, I hadn’t thought about it more. I struggled with WHOLE TONE because I’m used to WHOLE STEP, but WHOLE TONE is certainly fine.

      Overall, a really nice theme that I appreciated more after reading the writeup here. I also noticed a lot of “quarter” clues in this one, which was fun too. And I hadn’t thought about GAUSS SUMs since undergraduate abstract algebra… I did not expect to see that in a crossword!

  11. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: I liked this puzzle because Zhouquin put the animals in the Vietnamese zodiac in order!

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