Sunday, March 17, 2024

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 21:14 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 12:05 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 6:25 (Matthew) 


Simeon Seigel’s New York Times crossword, “All Over the Map” — Nate’s write-up

03.17.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

03.17.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 69A: THE NORTHWEST [Locale of this puzzle’s attractions (really, all eight of them!)]
– 2D: OLD FAITHFUL [Attraction in 69-Across that’s part of America’s first national park]
– 4D: CRATER LAKE [Attraction in 69-Across that’s almost 2,000 feet deep]

or is it… – 69A: THE NORTHEAST [Locale of this puzzle’s attractions (really, all eight of them!)]
– 28A: NIAGARA FALLS [Attraction in 69-Across that once froze over for 30 hours in 1848]
– 37A: LADY LIBERTY [Attraction in 69-Across that withstands dozens of lightning strikes a year, familiarly]

or is it… – 69A: THE SOUTHWEST [Locale of this puzzle’s attractions (really, all eight of them!)]
– 104A: FOUR CORNERS [Attraction in 69-Across overseen by the Navajo Nation]
– 116A: AREA FIFTY-ONE [Attraction in 69-Across on the Extraterrestrial Highway]

or is it… – 69A: THE SOUTHEAST [Locale of this puzzle’s attractions (really, all eight of them!)]
– 73D: EPCOT CENTER [Attraction in 69-Across designed to be a “city of the future”]
– 80A: EVERGLADES [Attraction in 69-Across where crocodiles and alligators uniquely coexist]

Wowwwwwww! The central revealer is a Schrödinger answer that can be any of four(!) entries (THE NORTHWEST / THE NORTHEAST / THE SOUTHWEST / THE SOUTHEAST) thanks to its crossing clues, and each pair of theme locales / attractions is located in the corresponding corner of the grid (the two attractions from the Northwest part of the US are in the NW part of the grid, etc.)! This puzzle is literally, as the title suggests, “All Over the Map.”  Mind blown!

Crossing entries to 69-Across that allow for the Schrödinger fun of
– 70D: (N/S)ET [Division for a tennis match]
– 56D: HO(R/U)SE [Word before fly]
– 59D: NA(W/E) [“No,” in a certain dialect]
– 66D: P(E/A)T [Touch gently]

Random thoughts:
– What is also mind-blowing about this puzzle is that it’s the first Sunday NYT not edited by Will Shortz since 1996! We hope that Will is recovering well and that he’ll be back in the editing byline before too soon.

– There are so many enjoyable clues in this puzzle that add even more to the solving experience! My favorites included:
9A: OTOH [Short hedge?] – “On the other hand…”
26A: TRITE [Like a stock quote?] – stock as in nothing special
46A: SCHWA [Either end of America?] – clever wink to the solver re: the theme!
60A: WAR ROOM [General meeting place] – quite literally!

– There were some bits of iffier fill (I RAIL, VENDEE, etc.), but I will gladly take bits of that here and there to get an otherwise stunner of a puzzle like this! Congrats to the constructor!

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


Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Color-Coated” — Matt’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Color-Coated” solution, 3/17/2024

Pi Day on a Thursday and St. Patrick’s on the subsequent Sunday is a heck of a one-two punch from the calendar isn’t it? Not unexpectedly, we’ve got a timely theme from Evan.

Theme clues are easy to spot, and it wasn’t hard to piece together the mechanism for each individual theme entry: we have one clue-entry pair “wearing” a “colorful coat”, and the resulting whole is also clued. A little odd, but clear after one or two, and allows for a nice rhythm while I wondered what the payoff would be.

  • 24a [Fourth Greek letter + colorful coat = Donkey riding in a vintage Ford?] MODEL T ASS. moss around delta
  • 33a [Grocery shopping aid + colorful coat = Hairstyle for some singer?] A VOCALIST DO. avocado around a list
  • 51a [Gives a new title to + colorful coat = Tableland honoring tennis legend Williams?] SERENA MESA. sea around renames
  • 54a [Cipher creator + colorful coat = Historic period known for its adolescent Atlantic fish?] TEEN COD ERA. tea around encoder
  • 71a [“Pick me! I know!” + colorful coat = Broody royal messenger who delivers news about a Hostess snack?] EMO HOHO HERALD. emerald around “oh oh oh”
  • 82a [Coolidge, familiarly + colorful coat = First letter that’s been enlarged or shrunken?] RESCALED A. reseda around Cal
  • 98a [Central Illinois city + colorful coat = Desire from the “Smooth Operator” singer to adopt a feline?] SADE CAT URGE. sage around Decatur

Fun set. The last two in particular hit my funny bone just right. There’s a lot going on in the clues; enough to make it feel unorthodox, but the theme is consistent and everything a solver needs is there. Except maybe knowledge of the color reseda. Perhaps less of a stumble for you.

Anyway, by now we’ve noticed all the “colorful coats” are shades of green, and indeed, a two part revealer pulls it together nicely:

  • 109a [With 112 Across, Irish street ballad that serves as an alternate title for this puzzle] THE WEARING OF THE GREEN. Right on the money.

But wait, there’s more:

  • 113d [Game in which a certain tournament’s champions put on aptly colorful jackets (you can find this tournament in the first letters of this puzzle’s circled colors)] GOLF.

Indeed, the first letters of the themers spell MASTERS, the annual golf tournament held in early April, at which winners are famously presented with a green jacket, as the central components of each themer here.

In my mind, it’s the mark of a superlative puzzle that I didn’t notice this second layer until it was handed to me. The fill, while it has some gluey stuff in the lower half, doesn’t betray at all that the themers are in a forced order. And, frankly, I expect it from Evan at this point, but we shouldn’t take for granted how much polish it takes to get this done, just because he pulls it off frequently.

I wish I could forget this puzzle so I could experience it again.

  • 27a [Spider-Man enemy who gained his powers after being struck by lightning] ELECTRO. Even if you don’t know anything about comic book heroes, “lightning” will get you in the right direction.
  • 38a [Earth Observing System org] NASA. Stowing “Earth Observing System” as a possible cluing angle for EOS in the back of my head.
  • 41a [Venezuelan snack] AREPA. I see ‘Venezuela’ and something about ‘food,’ I put AREPA. Someday, another piece of Venezuelan cuisine is going to become popular, and I’ll make error after error.
  • 44a [Blarney ___ (ritually kissed landmark)] STONE. An Easter egg here on St Patrick’s Day
  • 91a [Bar food?] SALAD. As in a salad bar, though I’ve had some decent chicken caesars at (alcoholic) bars in my time.
  • 8d [Dishonorable guy] CAD. Always fun waiting to see if it’s CAD or CUR, though now that I look more closely at XWord Info, there’s less overlap in their clues than I thought.
  • 88d [Bar food?] PASTA. Heh, I completely missed this repeater during my solve.
  • 92d [Recreational space on a military base] DAYROOM. I am unfamiliar with DAYROOMs specifically in military settings, but knew the term from other settings.

Pam Amick Klawitter’s Universal Sunday crossword, “NFL Recaps”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases applied to the American sport of football.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “NFL Recaps” · Pam Amick Klawitter · 3.17.24

  • 22a. [*”Please excuse me while I knock you down for a proper sack!”] CIVIL DEFENSE. How polite!
  • 38a. [*”They expect me to stay here, protected by all you guys … Let’s fake ’em out and I’ll run instead!”] POCKET CHANGE. Whew. That’s an ungainly clue. (The “pocket” is where the QB stands after the ball is snapped while deciding where to throw the ball.)
  • 49a. [*”Watch him … He’ll grab your jersey. Every. Single. Time.”] HOLDING PATTERN. I like this clue.
  • 68a. [*”What if I throw the pass sideways instead of forward?”] LATERAL THINKING. Another good one.
  • 90a. [*”Hey, linemen, do your jobs!”] “BLOCK AND TACKLE!” Low hanging fruit, but solid.
  • 99a. [*”You’re hiking the ball all wrong!”] SNAP JUDGMENT. Good.
  • 121a. [*”That quarterback’s throws … dazzling!”] PASSING FANCY. Good.

Fun theme assuming you’re up on football terminology. If not, this probably wasn’t for you. The entries aren’t entirely consistent in that at least one (BLOCK AND TACKLE) looks like it’s a verbal synonym of the clue, whereas the rest are descriptions of what’s said in the clues. But a fun theme gets a little leeway in my book.

Top entries are FREE REIN and LAKE MEAD. Not so keen on HALF OF. Needed all the crossings for TRISTE [Melancholy, in Madrid], and that ANIMA / GLACE / MAIER section might be a sticking point for some solvers. P.E. CLASS [Course of action? (Abbr.)] was tough to parse (good clue, though).

Clues of note:

  • 28a. [Kondo purchases]. BINS. Is this Marie Kondo? I guess you can infer that the organizing expert sells BINS, but I wouldn’t think this was common knowledge among solvers.
  • 23d. [Call a radio show, maybe]. DIAL IN. Mostly I’ve heard “call in” not DIAL IN for this. However, to DIAL IN might mean to “focus” or “reach peak efficiency” in slang.
  • 46d. [Rocker Frank]. ZAPPA. Flashback to the penultimate episode of The Monkees (see video).

3.5 stars.

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38 Responses to Sunday, March 17, 2024

  1. LindaBudz says:

    Agree, mind blown. Though I feel like my solve should have an asterisk because I did not see the rebuses until the reveal (had Southeast and did not understand what it all meant). Was so annoyed with myself when I saw the reveal! Brilliant.

    • CC says:

      Indeed, what struck me about this Schrödinger puzzle was that only could there be 4 possible answers for 69-Across (still economically only need “binary” answers for 4 of the downs), but the only way for 69-Across to make sense if if you consider *all four answers* (NORTHWEST, NORTHEAST, SOUTHWEST, SOUTHEAST) simultaneously. That is, other Schrödinger puzzles are strictly “either/or”, but this one requires all the different answers be considered at the same time. Brilliant.

    • BlueIris says:

      Definitely mind blown! My husband and I both worked it and had two different answers, which is when we sorted it out.

  2. Ethan says:

    A masterpiece in the NYT and early contender for next years Orca awards for me.

    yes there have been a number of Schrödinger puzzles but what truly elevated this one for me was locating the landmarks in their (approx) map locations plus the fact that you end up with the four (!) possible entries for the central revealer.

    a smattering of subpar fill (VENDEE especially ugh, SLIER, TEENER, IRAIL) but frankly no more than i’d expect in a Sunday anyway, and more than forgivable with such a killer theme.

  3. Ethan says:

    one thing i will say is i’m sure the Games team has been slammed without Will the last month but disappointed there was no central animation in the app cycling through the four possibilities.

    i would’ve like each corner theme entries highlighted in a different color than the directional revealer change color appropriately as it cycled through. ah well. not the constructors fault.

  4. Eric H says:

    NYT: It’s a great concept. I didn’t realize it was a Schrödinger puzzle until after I was done. When I did understand that, 69A made a hell of a lot more sense.

    I flew through most of it, but then found it oddly frustrating to finish. In three or four spots, including around 9A OTOH and 111A KATRINA, I had a lot of trouble coming up with answers that fit what I already had. Add in my tendency to make even more typos on Sunday than usual, and it was impressive but not especially enjoyable. (But I might have enjoyed it more if I had figured out the trick before I finished.)

  5. Greg says:

    Joining the chorus of extreme praise for this puzzle. Mr. Seigel really nailed it here. A four-way Schrodinger! Has that ever been done before?

    And then locating the landmark sites quite accurately on the “map“ of the grid. “Mindblown“ is certainly the right one-word descriptor for the excellence of this puzzle.

    On a more somber note, I hadn’t realized until just now (seeing that puzzle wasn’t edited by Will Shortz) that Mr. Shortz had suffered a stroke recently. I certainly wish him a prompt and complete recovery. He is such a giant and innovator that even a brief absence causes a disturbing ripple in the universe of puzzles.

  6. JohnH says:

    I hate to dissent from the overwhelming positives on the NYT, but I didn’t really enjoy it, because it played like a themeless to me. It was obvious right away from the clues that I had to round up a bunch of (reasonably) famous places while relying on the crossings for which of many would be needed, but it was just hard to stay motivated.

    Once I was done, I could see two fine additional touches, the geographic placement of those and the revealer that wasn’t a revealer at all, but rather (at last) a puzzle. But by then I was done. It was a good themeless at that, with some nice cluing, but still.

    Oh, could I have help understanding 64D Brut-ish and 95D Flake, so to speak? Thanks.

    • PJ says:

      Brut and Sec are two terms used to communicate the amount of sugar added to the wine when making Champagne. Cane sugar is mixed with a small amount of wine and is added just before bottling. This process is referred to as dosage and the sugar/wine mixture is the dosage liqueur. Sec Champagne has more sugar than Brut. I believe most of what we drink is Brut.

      One meaning of the term ‘flake out’ is to cancel a meeting at the last minute. Bail can have a similar meaning as when someone bails on a meeting (doesn’t attend).

      • JohnH says:

        Ah, thanks. I should have thought of SEC in the sense of dry and Brut as champagne.

        And of course tastes vary, but I do realize that a solid majority here, Amy included, do prefer themeless puzzles. They must feel closer to what they seek, crosswords for themselves.

        • Martin says:

          Respectfully, John, you can’t call a puzzle with eight long theme entries and straightforward cluing “themeless.” Yes, the ninth entry was the point and the intended provider of the aha moment.

          Not getting the trick is something that can happen on Thursday or Sunday, but there’s a big difference between that experience and the solve of a wide-open Saturday.

    • Josh says:

      I agree, except that it made me enjoy the puzzle more, not less. Usually I find themed puzzles total slogs. The payoff almost never seems worth the effort. In this case, I finished the (fairly enjoyable) puzzle thinking “what will the explanation be that these are all in the southeast — the one I happened to put in without a second thought. Reading about it here gave me a backwards-looking appreciation of the construction feat, but it was very nice for the theme not to have gotten in the way of my solving experience.

  7. huda says:

    NYT: I agree this was a remarkable puzzle. It highlights that there are multiple ways that a puzzle can bring pleasure, some during the solve and others in retrospect. The solving experience was moderately enjoyable to me, but the one in retrospect was off scale.
    I don’t automatically like feats of construction for their own sake- For example if all the clues start with M, that does nothing for me per se. But I love it when I can glimpse through a puzzle a unique way that a mind works. Being analytical and attentive to specifics and then seeing opportunities to pull together the combination of rebus squares for this construction– that is a kind of creativity that is distinctive and rare.
    Locating the attractions where they belong geographically indicates that this creativity is coupled to very high standards.
    It made me google Mr. Seigel, and I can totally see how he would be great at his day job as an analyst. I imagine this puzzle will bring his company more business!
    And I’m grateful for the ability to rate puzzles on this site– I gave it the first 5 I’ve given in a long time.

  8. Dan says:

    NYT: A masterpiece of a puzzle! A four-way Schrödinger puzzle! Plus lots of cute clues.

    But try as I might, I can’t get the software to accept my solution. Oh, well.

    • Eric H says:

      I entered only one quadrant (THE NORTHEAST, perhaps a Freudian homage to my birthplace) and the app accepted it.

  9. Tony says:

    It would’ve been neat if after finishing the puzzle on the app, the letters would change to show all four locations.

  10. Mutman says:

    NYT: brilliant! I had SOUTHWEST ( I thought maybe Las Vegas had an ripoff on all the themers) and just shrugged it off until I came here.


    • R says:

      I did the same with SOUTHEAST guessing that it had something to do with Disney World, which would have been quite unsatisfying.

  11. David L says:

    NYT: Yes, very ingenious construction — but I didn’t understand at all what was going until I came here (I print out the Sunday puzzle, if that makes a difference). So the ingenuity was lost on me.

    A couple of clues bugged me: “It’s a trap!” for BAIT doesn’t seem right (bait is what goes in the trap); and “Insurance company whose name contains a diphthong” for AETNA – that’s not a diphthong as I understand the term, although Google tells me that diphthong is sometimes used as a synonym for digraph (it seems like a bad idea to me to confuse two different things).

    WaPo: Not my favorite Birnholz puzzle. I found the theme answers more forced than amusing, plus I’ve never heard of RESEDA as a kind of green.

    It could be that I’m just in a bad mood because my computer froze this morning and I had to unplug it to get it going again.

  12. dh says:

    I skipped to 69A and entered “UNITED STATES”, which I corrected to “NORTHWEST”. I then grumbled at the theme, thinking it was the quadrant of the globe formed by the northern and western hemispheres. ACL only accepts one of the four combinations.

    • Gary R says:

      The AcrossLite quirk took a lot of the fun out of it for me. I had SOUTHWEST at 69-A, and didn’t get the Happy Pencil when I completed the grid. Spent a long time looking for a typo before I just asked AL to check all my letters. I recognized that multiple quadrant directions would work with the crosses for that answer, but by that point, I was in no mood to appreciate the puzzle.

      After cooling off, it IS a pretty impressive puzzle!

  13. Eric H says:

    WaPo: Evan Birnholz’s construction skills always impress me. But as much as I admire the skill it took to pull this off, I can’t say that I enjoyed it more than Ive enjoyed other puzzles.

    I really don’t care for circles in grids. I also don’t like nonsense answers such as AVOCALISTDO. It helps, though, that these are relatively easy to parse.

    It’s nice to see a different clue for boring ol’ STU. It’s almost as good a clue as my yet-unused STU clue.

    • “I really don’t care for circles in grids” is one of the more baffling reasons I’ve heard for not enjoying a puzzle.

      • Eric H says:

        Sorry. I know that they are useful with some themes, but I find then distracting. And they can make it hard to read what’s in n a filled-in square.

        Shaded squares are easier on my aging eyes.

  14. Jeff says:

    Whoa! I finished the NYT puzzle not realizing it was a Schrödinger/quantum puzzle until reading this writeup. I had THE SOUTHEAST and guessed the joke was that every attraction was in the southeast part of the state where it was located. But even with my limited geographical knowledge I knew that didn’t work for FOUR CORNERS. So, whoa!

  15. Art Shapiro says:

    How often have we gotten Schrödinger puzzles? I remember a political one long ago (was it BUSH / DOLE?) but nothing else comes immediately to mind. In any event, what a great Sunday puzzle.

  16. Burak says:

    I’m guessing that for some who figure out the revealer early, the puzzle might grow stale as you’re solving. I figured it out towards finishing it, which was perfect timing. Brilliant execution for a hit-or-miss theme idea.

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