Sunday, February 11, 2024

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT 12:28 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 5:14 (Matthew) 


Peter Koetters New York Times crossword, “Bright Ideas” — Nate’s write-up

We have a birthday tribute puzzle this week, with light bulb and light rays-shaped grid art to go with it:

02.11.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

02.11.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 27A: MOVIE CAMERA [It helps you get the picture]
– 3D: MIMEOGRAPH [Duplicating machine]
– 15D: MICROPHONE [The “thing” in “Is this thing on?”]
– 38D: POWER PLANT [Something that’s big with the current generation?]
– 64D: STOCK TICKER [Bygone tape dispenser]
– 66D: SPIRIT PHONE [Failed device meant to communicate with the dead]
– 69D: PHONOGRAPH [Object in the classic painting “His Master’s Voice”]

– 36D: INVENTIONS [Legacy of 72-Down, seven of which appear among this puzzle’s answers and one more suggested by the black squares in the middle of the grid]
– 72D: THOMAS ALVA (E)(D)(I)(S)(O)(N) [With [circled letters reading clockwise], American icon born on 2/11/1847]

I am genuinely surprised that NYT accepted this grid with SANDUSKY in it. Even though they’ve clued it differently, the way that many folks will know the name will be via notorious, convicted Penn State pedophile Jerry Sandusky, who founded a charity for at-risk youth and was later “arrested and charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period from 1994 to 2009,” many of whom he met through his very same charity. “On June 22, 2012, Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of the 48 remaining charges.” (All quotes are from his Wikipedia page, which I won’t include here.) I appreciate that not everyone will experience this entry the same way I did, but I’ll admit that its inclusion put me off the puzzle and didn’t seem (theme-related pun intended) like a bright idea.

This puzzle also had its fair share of crosswordese, including REPINE, ASH CAN, ERENOW, and T SLOT, as well as some crossings that felt they might be tough for some, including: GAMELAN / POL, REPINE / NICOLE, TSLOT / LORCA / TE AMO, RAOUL / OREL, and TOJO / RAMOS.

That’s all I’ve got. I hope you had a pleasant time solving and, at the very least, are having a nice weekend. For those who enjoy the sports ball, please say hello to the Superb Owl for me!

LA Times crossword “Center of Attention” by Chandi Deitmer & Matthew Stock — Jack’s write-up

Theme: Common phrases have a circled letter added in the central position to create silly phrases with silly clues. The added letters spell HALF TIME SHOW

LA Times crossword solution — “Center of Attention” by Chandi Deitmer & Matthew Stock

  • 21A. [Growling or barking, e.g.?] = DOG T(H)REAT (dog treat)
  • 28A. [Existence fueled by rotini and tagliatelle?] = PAST(A) LIFE (past life)
  • 30A. [Driveway mistake?] = GRAVE(L) ERROR (grave error)
  • 43A. [“You’re talking to a haunted house expert here”?] = I KNOW (F)RIGHT (I know, right?)
  • 47A. [Obnoxious poster in the r/wellsfargo Reddit?] = BANK (T)ROLL (bank roll)
  • 63A. [Rant against the sun?] = DAY T(I)RADE = (day trade)
  • 69A. [Providers of room service for musicians’ tours?] = BAND (M)AIDS (band-aids)
  • 81A. [Intense “don’t blink” contests?] = STAR(E) WARS (star wars)
  • 86A. [Opening dis at a roast?] = FIRST (S)LIGHT (first light)
  • 101A. [Erratic radiator?] = FUSSY (H)EATER (fussy eater)
  • 103A. [Gigs as conductors and percussionists?] = TEMP(O) JOBS
  • 112A. [Casualwear at the pub?] = BAR S(W)EATS (bar seats)

Twelve themers! While they’re not the longest themers crosswords have ever seen, we’re not talking four or five letters either. This is a staggering amount of pre-laid furniture to fill around. It’s remarkable that the rest of the grid isn’t full of gunk to hold everything together. It must have been a tough task to keep this smooth. I need to borrow Chandi and Matthew’s word list — or better yet their grit and patience.

It’s nice to have a Super Bowl theme on Super Bowl Sunday. Especially one that doesn’t rely on football trivia, which might alienate some solvers. The half time show is a big deal and it deserves a theme too. It’s a good (and critical) detail that all of the circled letters fall exactly in the middle of their entries.

I liked uncovering PIG LATIN, DON’T LIE, ARTS PAGE, and even the colloquial WE CARD (44D. [“Be ready to prove your age”]) during my solve.

Other thoughts:

  • 55A. [Unit in many a Zillow listing] = ACRE. Nice misdirection. “Unit” is meant to evoke apartment unit, but it’s actually referring to the unit of land area that one might see on a house listing.
  • One of the theme entry clues was 47A. [Obnoxious poster in the r/wellsfargo Reddit?] = BANK (T)ROLL. This is a nitpick, but shouldn’t that read “subreddit?” Reddit is the website, but the specific topics are categorized in subreddits. Maybe this was an editorial decision because subreddit might sound too jargony for non-Redditors. Or maybe I have a false understanding of Reddit taxonomy.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday. I hope that your team wins.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Loss of Down” — Matt’s write-up

Something different from Evan this week, and no, it’s not a Something Different. Apologies in advance for however the eight-part midi suite displays in this post – I’m used to typing and not worrying about layout.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Loss of Down, Grid 1,” 2/11/24

None of the puzzles this week come with down clues — the title “Loss of Down” is a football reference for today’s Super Bowl. We’re told up front that there are two metas: First, “something you can use to overcome the loss of Down,” and second, “a phrase that eight of the Down entries might say to eight of the Across entries.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Loss of Down, Grid 2,” 2/11/24

Before the meta, the puzzles themselves weren’t much of a challenge. Some solvers like to challenge themselves by solving grids downs-only. I believe that downs as opposed to acrosses is to avoid theme material, which commonly runs across. If this is new for you, this is nice on-ramp. Theme material is light, and runs in both directions.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Loss of Down, Grid 3,” 2/11/24

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Loss of Down, Grid 4,” 2/11/24

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Loss of Down, Grid 5,” 2/11/24

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Loss of Down, Grid 6,” 2/11/24

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Loss of Down, Grid 7,” 2/11/24

I pretty much solved beginning-to-end, and didn’t need to consider plausible downs to help with a tricky clue. Usually I find the tougher spots in a downs-only solve to be adjacent long entries, and that’s really not an issue in midis like we have here.

Two things jump out while solving: first, the grid designs are pretty unconventional, and second, each grid contains an intersecting pair of NFL team names. In the final puzzle, two clues point toward the meta answers:

13 [Sports org. whose members may run crossing patterns (which is how to find Meta Answer 1)] NFL
42 [Final tally of points in a game, represented by a pair of clue numbers in each grid (convert the higher number in each pair to a letter to find Meta Answer 2] SCORE

As the first meta hint points to “crossing patterns,” we can look to the squares at the intersection of team names in each grid. Together, they spell TEAMWORK, “something you can use to overcome the loss of Down.”

The second meta hint points us to a “pair of clue numbers,” namely, the clue numbers for each of the team names. Taking the higher (across) numbers from each pair, we have 15-11-25-15-21-23-9-14, which converted to letters, spells OK YOU WIN, a phrase that the eight Down-entry teams (with the lower clue numbers) might say to the the eight Across-entry teams. Thus the funky grids — Evan needed to not only spell a phrase from intersecting entries, but simultaneously slot a meta answer in squares with particular numbers.

Solving payoff aside, I’ll once again express admiration and gratitude for the ways that Evan mixes it up from week to week, whether it’s metas, suites, downs-only, Somethings Different, harder puzzles, easier puzzles, Captain Obvious, whatever else.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Loss of Down, Grid 8,” 2/11/24

Have a good Sunday!

Zhouqin Burnikel and Tom Pepper’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Hues on First?”—Jim’s review

Fun title! Each theme answer is a familiar phrase whose first word is normally a color, however one letter of each color has been changed resulting in crossword wackiness. The newly-altered letters spell out COLOR CHANGE. A revealer of sorts is at 97d: RIPENS [Shifts hue, in a way … and what the set of circled letters does].

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Hues On First?” · Zhouqin Burnikel and Tom Pepper · 2.11.24

  • 23a. [*Caption of actor Owen shooting craps?] CLIVE ROLLS. Olive.
  • 25a. [*Crossword tournament champion?] SOLVER STAR. Silver.
  • 37a. [*Big players in little bulbs?] LED GIANTS. Red.
  • 46a. [*Quick trip for tavern supplies?] SALOON RUN. Salmon.
  • 54a. [*Not print the truth?] WRITE LIES. White.
  • 66a. [*Detective’s heavenly helper?] CLUE ANGEL. Blue.
  • 80a. [*Guard shift in a cargo boat?] HOLD WATCH. Gold.
  • 89a. [*Sheen from shiny fabric?] LAMÉ LIGHT. Lime.
  • 96a. [*Stoic stoolies?] BLANK RATS. Black.
  • 112a. [*Cash crop?] GROWN BREAD. Brown.
  • 114a. [*Warning that the campfire hasn’t been fully extinguished?] EMBER ALERT. Amber.

This mostly works. I found it just a bit inconsistent where some of the original “color” words aren’t actually colors in their unchanged usage (salmon run, olive rolls) whereas others obviously are (red giant, blue angel). That may be a bit of a nit, but this bothered me more: Closing out the set with EMBER ALERT — an alteration of “Amber Alert” — is such a downer that I felt myself a little saddened.

Eleven theme answers plus a revealer is a lot of theme material, but I didn’t feel the fill suffered from those constraints. Highlights include: CRIME DRAMA, NAVY PILOT, ERADICATES, “HERE’S WHY…,” BOGEY-FREE (new-to-me, though), and “I’M SPENT.”

Didn’t know ARYNA Sabalenka, but that’s on me. She’s won two Australian Opens and is a former No. 1 tennis player.

Clues of note:

  • 17d. [Cheese that’s made backward?]. EDAM. An oldie but a goodie. (EDAM is “made” backward.)
  • 82d. [Cry’s partner]. HUE. Huh. It’s in the title of the puzzle, and the theme is all about colors, yet this is trying to sneak by to avoid being noticed.
  • 86d. [French toast]. SALUT. Very nice clue. But I couldn’t remember if it was SALUT or “salud.” (It’s “salud” in Spanish-speaking countries.)

Good puzzle. 3.25 stars.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Sunday, February 11, 2024

  1. ranman says:

    Yep, put me in this camp: “I appreciate that not everyone will experience this entry the same way I did…”
    I’m guessing you’ve never been to Cedar Point?
    Thousands (could be millions but I won’t be hyperbolic) of visitors, memories over decades–literally over a century now–of years.
    And yes I’m totally aware of the pedophile but until your comment I hadn’t thought of him in years..and if I hadn’t read your comment that would still be the case.
    I’m not aggrieved or triggered at all….just for your own consideration.

    • Martin says:

      I got a ticket in Sandusky. Not a pleasant memory.

    • Eric H. says:

      Count me as someone else who more or less followed the Jerry SANDUSKY case 10 years ago, then completely forgot about him. At least, I had forgotten about him before reading Nate’s write-up.

      I have sympathy for any of his victims who might stumble across his name (as it were) in a crossword puzzle, but I’m not surprised that the name is not banned from crosswords forever.

  2. Eric H. says:

    NYT: Not bad, as tribute puzzles go, but I skipped the title and didn’t get the grid art until I was finished. Still managed to get my third fastest Sunday NYT — evidence that it was perhaps too easy.

  3. John L. says:

    You go on and on about the inclusion of Sandusky – although Jerry Sandusky was not even clued – yet have no issue with the inclusion of Tojo – a convicted war criminal – or Che Guevara, someone that most Cuban Americans – at least the ones I know – might have just a slight objection?

    • Ed says:

      Good point!

    • Eric H. says:

      The Che Guevara reference is completely gratuitous; there are lots of other ways to clue BERET.

      Not so with TOJO. Hideki TOJO isn’t the only way that could be clued, but the other angles are too obscure. Maybe TOJO is just a name that ought not be in constructors’ wordlists.

      • JohnH says:

        I don’t mind at all being reminded of villainy. Few today remember him as opposed to Hitler and Mussolini. Maybe they should.

        • JohnH says:

          Oh, dear. I hope it wasn’t muddled. I didn’t mean “as opposed to” to as implying opposition to fascism. Just meant “unlike in the case of.”

          • Eric H. says:

            Thanks. I knew what you meant, and I agree that (especially among younger people, he’s not as familiar a name as Hitler.

            I didn’t mean to say that I think we shouldn’t know about people like Hitler, Tojo, Idi Amin . . . I just don’t think the place to learn about them is a crossword puzzle.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Amen. Do we really want to move in a direction where you can’t use names like Sandusky or refer to Amber Alerts in puzzles or in polite conversation? I’m all for being sensitive to others’ feelings in how we use language, but it feels like some folks work awfully hard to find reasons to be offended these days. Context is important.

    • ranman says:


  4. JohnH says:

    The NYT theme seemed too trivial for me, although I realize they may just have wanted an easy Sunday for readers who might find themes and large puzzles intimidating, and those readers are entitled to their week, too. Still, I didn’t like it at all.

    I had just glanced at the puzzle without reading so much as a clue, meaning to set it aside till later, but (at least with maybe a prompt from the title) saw the light bulb right away. Then I saw an italicized clue about, plainly, an invention. Fine, I guess the bulb was supposed to light up, and it wasn’t long before I noted that sure enough the light bulb was a famous invention, too.

    So all there was to the puzzle was listing some inventions, no cutely misleading clues to them? Guess so, apart from the circled letters. But, those, too, are fully crossed and clued on top of that. Well, maybe one or two inventions were less familiar, and I’d read a bio of Edison (a gift, not a particular interest of mine), but still the fill, too, was incredibly easy apart from maybe (ok) SANDUSKY. Blah. But again the world isn’t built around me.

  5. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    NYT – super easy. Have to admit today is my birthday and I have long been aware that it is also Edison’s. The puzzle title was a dead giveaway. Surprised the NYT did a puzzle like this. Very old-school.

    No problem with Sandusky. It will always be Cedar Point to me.

  6. Mr. [very] Grumpy says:

    NYT: The SPIRIT PHONE was far from a “bright” idea.
    LAT: Transparent and boring “theme”.
    Universal Sunday: Birnholz would made the circled letters mean something. This was just a boring slog.
    WaPo: Sorry, Evan. Couldn’t be bothered to waste my time.

    • e.a. says:

      here’s a suggestion for how you can save even more time next time: don’t comment ❤️

      • Mr. [very] Grumpy says:

        And you as well. Cheers.

      • sanfranman59 says:


      • JohnH says:

        Oh come on, EA, take it easy. He was just contributing his reaction to the puzzle, like everyone here. I may not always agree with him, but he always has an enjoyably sharp pen and points to something I might never have noticed.

        • e.a. says:

          yeah i mean i definitely think people should be welcome to air their negative reactions to puzzles (i disagreed with his critiques here and don’t see what’s gained by phrasing them so “sharply,” but still), but i really fail to see how “Couldn’t be bothered to waste my time” is a reaction to the puzzle, and i was simply trying to point out that he could have made that decision in silence. (mind you, i think this is basically the same conversation you and i had when we were talking about people giving 1-star ratings to puzzles they didn’t solve)

    • LOL. You don’t even read or understand what you write before you hit Post Comment, Norm.

      “Universal Sunday: Evan would have made the circled letters mean something. This was just a boring slog.”

      Good news! The Universal Sunday puzzle circles literally mean something! Colors in phrases literally change by a letter and the new letters spell out COLOR CHANGE. This is something I would have done!

      LAT: Transparent and boring “theme”.

      Good news again! The LAT puzzle circles literally mean something too! Letters added in the middle of phrases to make wacky phrases, the added letters spell out HALFTIME SHOW. I would have done this too! But *that’s* somehow a transparent and boring theme even though you whined that the Universal Sunday should have done that (which it did! and which you instantly ignored!).

      And then I’m supposed to feel bad (or, what, impressed?) that you didn’t bother solving mine? Who cares? You’d have just found excuses to complain about it even if you did solve it.

      I’ll go further than e.a.: You can save even more time in your day not just by avoiding commenting, but by not solving any puzzles at all. You don’t enjoy crosswords and the only reason you show up here is to troll and find incredibly stupid, nonsensical reasons to shit on other people’s puzzles, most of which you solve for free and which you could never dream of producing yourself.

    • Seattle DB says:

      I always get a kick out of Mr. Grumpy’s posts because he foretells the mood of his comments by modifying his name, and I enjoy reading his opinions because they are seldomly boring. And it’s a good thing to have both positive and negative remarks in the comments section because it evokes a lot of responses.

  7. David Stone says:

    NYT: Very surprised it was allowed, but not because of Sandusky. I hadn’t remembered about Jerry Sandusky, so that didn’t strike me as odd or awful, but the puzzle was a weird combination of too easy and not interesting — a quick slog, if you will. Today marks Edison’s 177th birthday, so not an ‘anniversary’ puzzle, exactly, and the long clues include PHONE twice. SPIRIT PHONE is an interesting factoid, but the others? Not so much.

  8. Pilgrim says:

    LAT: I was really hoping 4A “Heel’s opposite” would be FACE (that’s what I originally put there), but with 66A (“SmackDown figures”), two professional wrestling clues would probably have been one too many.

    • Dallas says:

      Hehe… I thought about that one too! It was a fun Sunday puzzle, with an interesting set of theme answers… really nice!

  9. Nick says:

    Re : “Zhouqin Burnikel and Tom Pepper’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Hues on First? – Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024”
    Re grated provolone. Not that it’s not a thing or that it does not exist in some recipes, maybe it is and does, but as an Italian-Canadian I’ve never heard of that. Grated Parmesan, yes. Provolone, I’ve only ever seen sliced, usually in a panino, maybe on a veal cutlet.

    For what it’s worth, recorded solve here , under 19 min. with 2 errors.

  10. Dan says:

    NYT: This was my fastest Sunday NYT solve ever.

    I also enjoyed the puzzle plenty, even though it did not present any difficulty.

    According to my family’s lore, the subject of this puzzle personally presented my great grandfather a gold watch upon the latter’s retirement from the former’s company.

  11. Me says:

    WaPo: Very clever! Are the shapes of the grids supposed to mean something? The first few look a bit like V, O, X, and there are a couple of maybe- 2’s in there as well, but some of the grids don’t look like anything.

    • No meaning to the grid shapes. Just whatever was needed to get the crossings at the right letters and the winning teams at the right numbers (and to get everything to fit on one page, obviously).

      • Me says:

        Hi Evan, thank you for responding! With metas, sometimes I see clues everywhere, even in places where they don’t exist! The maybe-2’s made me wonder about something to do with February or 2024, but I’m glad I didn’t go further down that road than I did!

      • Dallas says:

        Pretty fun solve! It must’ve been a real bear to construct… wow. I read your writeup on WaPo about it, and I’m glad it was 8 midis and not 15 or 16 as you thought at one point ;-)

  12. Bill C says:

    What about the solution to the .puz file with 16A clues and 2D clues?

  13. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: I enjoyed the constructors’ creativity for a good puzzle, but once again the editing of the clues was bungled in a few areas (as usually happens with the current editor), the most of which was in 61A. FYI, the “deltoid” is not a “back muscle”. It is a shoulder muscle. So I think the puzzle was a 3.5 and the editing was a 1.5, so I’m giving it 2.5 stars. (Random thought: have any puzzles in the Varol era received more than a 3 star rating?)

Comments are closed.