Sunday, February 25, 2024

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT 10:57 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 11:09 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 8:33 (Matthew) 


Voting is now open until Friday, March 1 for this year’s ORCA Awards. Winners will be announced on March 6 during a livestream filled with games and prizes. Go here for more information and to cast your ballot!

Scott Hogan and Katie Hale’s New York Times crossword, “Special Treatment” — Nate’s write-up

As a teacher, my school year can sometimes be so busy that I have to wait until a school break to visit various doctors and specialists, and it’s usually easiest to just pile all the visits back-to-back into that short break. This puzzle felt like doing exactly that, which cracked me up. Who knew you could translate that experience into puzzle form!?

02.25.24 Sunday New York Times Crossword

02.25.24 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 22A: DIDN’T MISS A BEAT [I visited the cardiologist, who …]
– 31A: MADE A RASH DECISION [I visited the dermatologist, who …]
– 47A: KNOW THE DRILL [I visited a dentist and now I …]
– 69A: LOST MY TOUCH [I visited the anesthesiologist and now I’ve …]
– 89A: GAVE ME THE NOD [I visited a sleep specialist, who …]
– 105A: SAW RIGHT THROUGH ME [I visited the radiologist, who …]
– 120A: STAND CORRECTED [I visited the podiatrist and now I …]

When a puzzle like this is done right, the puns really hit and it’s a fun solve. This felt like it was done right – light and fun in tone, solid puns, and a consistent theme.  That, and I almost hit a personal best Sunday solve time with this puzzle, due largely in part to the pretty smooth fill throughout. That felt great!

How did your solve go?  I hope it was enjoyable for you, too.  Let us know what you thought in the comments – and have a great weekend (and upcoming leap day)!


LA Times crossword, “Free Booze” by Ed Sessa — Jack’s Write-up

Theme: Common phrases have “BOO” added to them to create wacky phrases with wacky clues.

LA Times crossword solution — “Free Booze” by Ed Sessa

  • 22A. [Air freshener in the monkey house?] = BABOON DEODORANT (Ban deodorant. Ban is a brand)
  • 31A. [Ready to take reservations?] = FIT FOR A BOOKING (Fit for a king)
  • 53A. [Container for firecracker flowers?] = BOOMING VASE (Ming vase)
  • 69A. [Jump-start?] = BOOSTING OPERATION (Sting operation)
  • 88A. [Apparel for linksbabies?] = GOLF BOOTEES (Golf tees)
  • 102A. [(Soup or salad) and (chicken or fish), e.g.?] = BOOLEAN CUISINE (Lean cuisine. Boolean refers to a binary choice)
  • 120A. [Train conductor’s “That’s the end of the ride for you!”?] = GET OFF MY CABOOSE (Get off my case)

I’m surprised they didn’t hold onto this one for Halloween week. There are often spooky themes in the days leading up to October 31st and this one would have fit right in. I found this harder than usual. I think it just contained a lot of references that were outside of my wheelhouse.

I don’t know how well known the term “Boolean” is. I have a background in computer science so I’m quite familiar with it. Maybe in today’s computer age people have seen it, but I’m curious if that tripped some solvers up.

SEAGAN was new to me (55D. [One who avoids all animal products except fish].) It’s a natural portmanteau, but do people really use it? I have only heard that diet referred to as pescatarian.

I’ve also never seen the word Bishoprics, which was the clue to 130A. SEES. The dictionary says it refers to the office of Bishop. Can someone explain this to me?

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Pushed Back” — Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Pushed Back,” 2/25/2024

Themers are phrases with one letter moved to the end, and reparsed:

  • 23a [Monarch named after a British noble?] KING EARL (King Lear)
  • 30a [Informal term for the period of time when comedian O’Brien had a historically significant bottom?] COCO BUTT ERA (Cocoa butter)
  • 47a [“There’s no way you can make me smooth pieces of wood on behalf of Gomez’s hairy cousin!”?] I WONT SAND FOR ITT (I won’t stand for it)
  • 61a [Sweet treat shaped like the California Gold Rush storyteller Bret?] CANDY HARTE (Candy heart)
  • 68a [Command to one’s feline to capture some guys?] CAT CATCH MEN (Can’t catch me)
  • 82a [Version of the “Hulk” director with an impressively chiseled set of abs?] A CUT ANG LEE (Acute angle)
  • 96a [What owls do to pay tribute to natural satellites?] HOOT FOR THE MOONS (Shoot for the moon)
  • 111a [What owls do to pay tribute to natural satellites?] TWIT OF FATES (Twist of fate)
  • 123a [Result of pushing things back, and what’s spelled out by eight letters that have been literally pushed to the back] LATENESS

Clean theme with a nice little payoff. At some point after figuring out what was going on, I wrote “LATE START” in my margins, which held me back once it didn’t bear out. I think TWIT OF FATES is my favorite of this set.

Ran out of time for fill notes this week. Perhaps a little tougher generally than we’ve seen a bit from Evan?

Ricky Sirois’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Living in the Past”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are homophones of familiar phrases where one word that originally ended in D has been changed to a past-tense verb.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Living in the Past” · Ricky Sirois · 2.25.24

  • 23a. [*Got a piercing?] HOLED YOUR TONGUE. Hold.
  • 41a. [*Flambeed fondue?] SWISS CHARRED. Chard.
  • 48a. [*Result of giving Lightyear new batteries?] BUZZ WHIRRED. Word.
  • 68a. [*Extracted bargains at the mall?] MINED THE GAP. Mind. Favorite entry. It’s genuinely humorous and has good surface sense. You can imagine someone actually using the phrase facetiously.
  • 87a. [*Sign at a nudist colony?] COVER BANNED. Band.
  • 93a. [*Secured a loan with a first-edition Thoreau?] WALDEN PAWNED. Pond.
  • 115a. [*Did physical therapy on the water?] ROWED TO RECOVERY. Road. Second favorite. Maybe you’d do this if you had a shoulder injury.

Fun wordplay. Some work better than others, to be sure, but there’s nothing too off-the-wall here. They’re goofy without being too goofy. Nice job!

Lots to like in the fill, too, such as: “GOT A SEC?,” “I GUESS NOT,” TRUE LOVE, METAPHORS, TOP SECRET, MATISSE, TRADE WAR, and CHARACTER.

78a MAX [Topmost figure] crossing 69d DAX [Actor Shepard of “Parenthood”] was an interesting choice. That X was my last letter in the grid and could’ve been any of a number of letters, such as D or N (with different clues of course). I think I would’ve gone for MAY and DAY and clued them together.

Clues of note:

  • 63a. [“Can we talk, real quick?”]. “GOT A SEC?” I’m wondering what people think of the comma in the clue. My inclination would be that it doesn’t need to be there.
  • 41d. [Hide’s partner]. SEEK. Speaking of homophones, my knee-jerk reaction here was to make JEKYLL fit somehow.
  • 55d. [Alphabet area?]. TECH. Referring to the parent company of Google.
  • 64d. [Midwestern slang word expressing surprise]. OPE. I’m gonna need some examples here. Any midwesterners care to share?

Good puzzle. Four stars.

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26 Responses to Sunday, February 25, 2024

  1. JohnH says:

    I too found the NYT theme fun, so a good puzzle for me. But I’d be fine if others don’t agree. I did think at first it was going to be hard and also not good. I looked first for holds in the upper corners, and neither yielded.

    I didn’t know KIDD, that use of ASKS isn’t in either RHUD or MW11 (it is in MW online, but as British), started with “arid” for most of Iran, and wish we weren’t referring to CHIA pets as if they were still of interest. (It’s been clued in past puzzles I remember as a past fad.) In the NE, I didn’t know JENNA or VINNIE (I ventured Fonzie, but that’s the wrong one of two sitcoms you couldn’t pay me to watch), thought of ASCII for the keyboard, and started with “til now” for ERE NOW. But then the rest of the puzzle was easy enough and grew on me quickly.

    • Eric H says:

      “[O]ne of two sitcoms you couldn’t pay me to watch . . .”

      I was in high school when those shows came on. No. Just no.

      I rarely care anymore for punny themes. These were reasonably well clued, but they didn’t do much for me.

      Maybe I’m just bitter because I watched my sub-15-minute solving time waft away on the breeze of having to hunt for a dumb mistake (Cribbage PEn). I knew the correct answer, and as bad as my one-fingered iPad typing is, it’s usually not that bad. Though now that I look at the keyboard, the G and N are kinda close.

      I was slightly amused by CHIA crossing SHIA. And SPY vs. SPY was one of my favorite parts of Mad Magazine.

      • placematfan says:

        “I rarely care anymore for punny themes.” This was Rex’s attitude as well, and I just don’t get it. Is it just a “different strokes” thing? I love this theme type. I love the humor. I guess you’d call this dad-joke humor or something, maybe just corn. But what other type of humor should one expect to find in a crossword? Political humor? Social humor? Esoteric or bully humor? None of those work in a medium that necessitates comprehension by a diverse audience, “diverse” in so many ways–that may be paradigmatically different when talking about a lone clue and answer, but as far as themes, what else can we realistically expect than cornography? What else works?

        • Eric H says:

          Maybe I only like the puns I make?

          I’m fine with punning in puzzles. A funny clue or two can make a big difference between an OK puzzle and a good one.

          But when the theme is based on them, I need to find two or three that make me chuckle, not roll my eyes.

          I just didn’t think these puns were all that funny. Maybe it’s this style of pun, where the phrase (e.g. SAW RIGHT THROUGH ME) is unchanged, that doesn’t work for me.

          I’m not surprised that Rex Parker didn’t like it. I don’t usually read his blog, but when I do, I often agree with what he says.

          I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I think this is a bad puzzle. It’s not, but it won’t be one I’ll remember as enjoyable.

        • DougC says:

          I wasn’t near my best Sunday time, but I did stop to take a call from my son without turning off the timer, and still came in under my average. So, pretty easy.

          I normally like punny puzzles, and wanted to like this one better than I did. It’s an old trope that didn’t have much that’s new to offer.

      • Dallas says:

        They felt like pretty straightforward puns, though they did scratch that “dad joke” itch for me, which I enjoy :-) I had to split my solve up between the morning and evening, because my son got too hungry before I could finish it.

    • Mutman says:

      Hating on Welcome Back Kotter & Happy Day?? Shame!!

      I grew up with those shows —they were fabulous, maybe because I was a kid at the time.

      I won’t speculate on John H’s age, but being an adult watching a TV show 45 years past its prime probs won’t produce a rewarding experience.

      In 2065, people may wonder why ‘Curb’ was so well-liked?!?

      • Eric H says:

        As I said, I was in high school when “Happy Days” and “Welcome Back, Kotter” first aired. I didn’t think much of them at the time.

        Most of the shows I watched as a kid don’t appeal to me at all now.

      • Iggy says:

        I know this is probably sacrilege, but I don’t like Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I’ve never seen an episode of Seinfeld.

        • David L says:

          I used to enjoy Seinfeld, although I was not an avid watcher.

          I watched one episode of CYE and hated it. It was like Seinfeld, but if George Costanza was the dominant character.

  2. pannonica says:

    NYT: 48d [Hint to the number of ingredients in Triscuits] TRI. While true—whole grain wheat, canola oil, sea salt—it is misleading. The name of the venerable cracker derives from the water-generated electricity that was originally used to bake them.

    • Martin says:

      Cool, ‘tho the clue just says it’s a hint, not that it’s an etymon.

      Panko, the Japanese breadcrumbs, are from bread baked by electricity. It’s the reason the crumbs have that angular shape that makes panko-coated foods so crunchy.

      The Japanese army invented a process of baking bread between meta plates, while on the move. It used the batteries of tanks rather than ovens. After the war, the odd crumb of this electro-bread was exploited.

      I wonder if the addictive crunch of a Triscuit is related.

    • Eric H says:

      I don’t think we have any Triscuits in the house, but I bet they have more than three ingredients these days. At least, the rosemary and olive oil ones do. (And they’re pretty tasty.)

      I want one of those “neat little booklet[s]” so that I can learn some new ways to eat Triscuits.

      • Twangster says:

        Actually there are 3 ingredients in the plain ones:

        (I work in health/nutrition so part of my job includes looking up the nutritional info of processed foods.)

      • Gary R says:

        The box in my pantry – the “Hint of Sea Salt” variety – says on the front “Starts with 3 simple ingredients.” And there are just three ingredients listed – no flavorings (other than the salt) and no preservatives. I’m guessing that the “Starts with” part covers them for the flavored varieties.

        Thought it was interesting that the ad pannonica posted doesn’t mention eating them with cheese – which is the way most of them are consumed in our household.

    • Gary R says:

      So, TRISCUIT is the elecTRIcity biSCUIT? That seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

      Of course, they’re now made by Mondelez – a company with a made-up name that no one is sure how to pronounce and offers absolutely no clue as to what the business does. So, yeah – maybe it is the elecTRIcity biSCUIT!

  3. Dougo says:

    There doesn’t seem to be a link to open the puzzles at, but you can get them here:

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni (large grid Sunday) … FWIW, I was born and raised in Ohio and have lived here again since retiring about four years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say OPE to “express surprise” (or in any other context, for that matter). It must be from a different part of the Midwest.

  5. PJ says:

    LAT – Jack, bishopric comes up from time to time when I’m reading about medieval England. My crude understanding is diocese, see, and bishopric are quasi-synonyms for the jurisdiction of a bishop in the Catholic Church.

    I welcome correction or clarification

  6. Dallas says:

    Just did Evan’s WaPo; fun theme and good grid. Felt pretty fast to me, though I don’t feel like I have good timing data for WaPo. CAT CATCH MEN took me the longest (and I used the theme to drop in the N at the end); COCO BUTT ERA was the first for me, and one of the best. I also liked that SASHA Velour made it; she grew up in Urbana, Illinois!

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I’m very late to this party, but FWIW, I posted one of my faster solve times in the 3-1/2 years I’ve been doing EB’s WaPo Sundays (27th fastest of 164). I rated it as toward the high end of my Easy range on a seven -point relative difficulty scale (Very Easy, Easy, Easy-Medium, Medium, Medium-Challenging, Challenging, Very Challenging)

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