Sunday, March 24, 2024

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT 13:11 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 11:15 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 7:04 (Matthew) 


John Kugelman’s New York Times crossword, “Feeling Possessive” — Nate’s write-up

03.24.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

03.24.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

23A: FUEL’S SPECULATION [Oil futures?]
35A: HOLD’S WATER [Castle moat?]
55A: FUDGE’S FACTS [Sugar and cocoa content?]
79A: TAKE’S ORDERS [“Lights! Camera! Action!”]
95A: SET’S AT EASE [“And … cut!”?]
110A: EXCHANGE’S NUMBERS [Stock prices?]
15D: POOL’S RESOURCES [Noodles and floaties?]
49D: PLANT’S EVIDENCE [Leaf fossils?]

A classic theme this week, with each theme entry being a well-known phrase reimagined as a possessive expression, with the first thing possessing the rest. We have the water in the hold, the speculation about the fuel, the resources at the pool, etc. My favorite themers were the sequential pair of orders of a take [“Lights! Camera! Action!”] followed by the “at ease” command on the set [“And … cut!”?].

Random thoughts:
– 27A STRIPES for [Pool side] was clever and might have had a ? at the end of it. The STRIPES here are in contrast to the solids in a set of pool balls.  We have to wait until 15D to get to the pool side where we’d find the noodles and floaties.
– 94A [The “en” in “enby”] was a neat and modern way to clue NON, enby being a phonetic way to say NB or non-binary.
– There were generally a lot of proper names in this grid, and I wonder if that’ll trip anyone up. They all felt well enough known to me, but let us know in the comments if you learned about anyone new.

That’s all for now. Let us know what you thought in the comments below – and have a great weekend!

LA Times crossword, “In Tune” by Kyle Dolan and Dylan Schiff

Theme: Song titles of the form “___ in ___” are used as clues for synonyms of the second blank which contain synonyms of the first blank as substrings (indicated by circled letters). Hard to explain so on to examples:

LA Times crossword solution — “In Tune” by Kyle Dolan & Dylan Schiff”

  • 23A. [Friends in Low Places?] = DEEP SEA TRENCHES (Friends in Low Places is a Garth Brooks song. Deep sea trenches are low places that contain the letters DEARS, who are friends. So friends are literally found inside of low places.)
  • 38A. [Dust in the Wind?] = SOPRANO CLARINET (Dust in the Wind is a song by Kansas. A soprano clarinet is a wind instrument and SOOT is a synonym of dust.)
  • 54A. [Party in the U.S.A.?] = LAND OF OPPORTUNITY (Party in the U.S.A. is a Miley Cyrus song. The U.S.A. is the land of opportunity and I guess DO is a synonym of party?)
  • 77A. [Dancing in the Street?] = SANTA MONICA BOULEVARD (Dancing in the Street is by a lot of artists according to Google. Santa Monica Boulevard is a famous street and it contains the letters SAMBA, a type of dance)
  • 91A. [Crazy in Love?] = ABSOLUTELY ADORE (Crazy in Love is by Beyoncé. To love someone is to absolutely adore them. And OUTRE is kind of a synonym of crazy.)
  • 110A. [Down in the Boondocks?] = MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (Down in the Boondocks is by Billy Joe Royal. The middle of nowhere is the boondocks and LOW is a synonym for down.)

It took me a while to catch onto the theme. Partly because music is not my category at all. I was expecting the circled letters to spell out musical artists for some reason and when that didn’t pan out I felt lost. It was a nice aha when the concept finally clicked and I was relieved to realize that you don’t actually need to know music trivia to figure out the themers. I had about three theme entries remaining once I understood what was going on and knowing the theme helped me get them faster, which is exactly the kind of middle-solve acceleration you want your theme to provide.

I’ve definitely seen “blank in blank” phrases cluing words found inside of other words, but making them all song titles is a nice way to tighten up that mechanism, with “In Tune” being an apt title. Given the long phrases and the fact that the hidden words didn’t need to use consecutive letters made me feel like we could have gotten some flashier interior words. Maybe restricting to song titles severely limits the options. “DO” as a synonym for “party” felt particularly weak, especially given that it only hides two letters in a 20-letter entry. I think SANTA MONICA BOULEVARD concealing SAMBA was my favorite of the bunch.

Also my favorite clue: 105A. [Beach balls?] = LUAUS. Nice.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Baby Talk” — Matt’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Baby Talk,” 3/24/2024

Punny, sound-alike theme this week, with babies on the mind for new dad Evan:

  • 23a [*Drive by some blaze?] PASS A FIRE (pacifier)
  • 30a [*Non-glossy finish inspired by former CIA officer Valerie?] PLAME MATTE (playmat)
  • 42a [*Gained a pair of letters from puzzles?] WON ZEES (onesies)
  • 44a [*Indications that a cat is happy that its fur changed from gray to green, say?] DYE PURRS (diapers)
  • 65a [*Cold songbird’s comfortable feeling in a shop?] CHILLED WRENS STORE EASE (children’s stories)
  • 88a [*“Harrumph to highway fees!”?] BAH, TOLLS (bottles)
  • 91a [*Make derisive sounds suggesting sentiments like “These Lipton and Twinings beverages are terrible!”?] BOO, TEAS (booties)
  • 103a [*Confused utterance from a quartet of equine pack animals?] FOUR MULE UH (formula)
  • 123a [One whose parents might need the baby products heard in th starred answers (he’ll learn how to spell them when he’s a bit older)] SON

I appreciate, as I’ve said before, Evan mixing up theme styles for his solvers. This one is more dependent on a solver’s sense of humor, I think, and will have a wider range of reactions. I liked some more than others: CHILLED WREN STORE EASE and FOUR MULE UH in particular. The biggest grin for me though, comes from the revealer, which suggests that the themers are Evan’s son Elliot’s attempts to spell each of these baby needs.


  • 28a [Sch. with student journalists producing the online news publication Borderzine] UTEP. I’ve been paying more attention to clues like this lately – do you need to know student media around the country? Not really, since “Borderzine” gives a pretty big hint to narrow down the options.
  • 11d [Source of base notes] BUGLE. Not overly tricky, as a military ‘base’ is spelled differently from ‘base,’ but got a grin out of me.
  • 64d [Beat generation?] DRUM SOLO. This was trickier. For me the needed click was getting out of seeing “generation” in the Gen X sense.
  • 97d [___ Duck (insurance company’s mascot)] AFLAC. Decided to look it up, not that I’d mistrust Evan: the mascot’s name is indeed “Aflac Duck”

Jeff Chen’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Ramshackle”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases with the letters ARIES added to one of the words. Also, the astrological symbol for the sign is represented by black squares in the middle of the grid. The revealer is RAM (111d, Astrological sign depicted in the middle of today’s grid]).

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Ramshackle” · Jeff Chen · 3.24.24

  • 27a. [*”Mr. Winkler still hasn’t decided on his next role!”] HENRY VARIES. Henry V.
  • 36a. [*”Queen Victoria must retire now”] THE ROYAL WEARIES. The Royal We.
  • 42d. [*April Fools’ Day officials?] I-KID-YOU NOTARIES. I kid you not.
  • 45d. [*Voldemort’s admins?] DARK SECRETARIES. Dark secret.
  • 59d. [*Urban Dictionary and other sassy references?] LIP GLOSSARIES. Lip gloss.
  • 60d. [*Birds that are tone deaf?] TRASH CANARIES. Trash can.

Gotta make this quick since my flight is boarding soon.

Classic Chen grid with left/right symmetry, grid art, solid theme, and fun fill. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an add-some-letters theme where you add five letters and get a different word each time. Very nice.


Clue of note: 63a. [“Meh,” in slang]. MID. Learned this one from my kids, although they use it more as an adjective and not an expression. First time seeing it clued this way.

Four stars.

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29 Responses to Sunday, March 24, 2024

  1. teevoz says:

    (NYT) Nate asked: for me most of the names are known, but an NBA analyst? That’s as bad as the NFL QB from Saturday. Ever thankful for crosses.

    Too tired/lazy to check – but this one feels like a pangram, FWIW.

    Not bad, overall. Cheers!

    • Kevin says:

      Not just any NBA analyst but a female pioneer breaking down barriers in a male dominated professional landscape.

      • Eric H says:

        I don’t follow the NBA and hadn’t heard of Doris Burke until last week, when her full name was an answer in a New Yorker puzzle. But I couldn’t remember her name when it came up in the NYT puzzle; I just knew I had seen it recently.

      • teevoz says:

        Ok I didn’t know that – kudos to her but not everyone I’d up on sports commentators even groundbreaking ones. Players I’d have a shot at getting

        • Philip says:

          Teevoz, I haven’t seen your name since I closed my account on the bad bird site, so it is nice to see you here.

    • Gary R says:

      DORIS Burke’s name was familiar, but for me it was from college basketball broadcasts, not NBA.

    • JohnH says:

      I didn’t know it, and I’d have liked if its crossings didn’t include Sean Astin. But thenI thought the puzzle had lot of such minor glitches.

  2. Roelle Hillzen says:

    WaPo: The answer for 78A, “Cable channel airing NBA games”, is incorrect in the puzzle. TBS does not broadcast games. Its sister station TNT does, however.

    • TBS was part of a four-channel package (TNT, TBS, TruTV, Max) that carried the in-season tournament final in December, they simulcast the NBA All-Star Game (along with TNT), and TBS has served as an overflow channel for TNT — like when a nationally televised game on TNT runs long because it’s in overtime and there’s a second game scheduled on TNT right after that, so they air the start of the second game on TBS at least until the first game is over.

      I’ll admit this wasn’t the best clue and I should have gone with MLB instead to avoid any confusion, but technically I don’t think it’s wrong since TBS does air NBA games, albeit infrequently.

      • Roelle Hillzen says:

        “TBS was part of a four-channel package (TNT, TBS, TruTV, Max) that carried the in-season tournament final in December”

        That’s incorrect. ABC / ESPN2 broadcasted the tournament final. TBS did simulcast one (and only one as far as I can see) tournament game, the Lakers-Pelicans semifinals, with TruTV.

        But is that what you were thinking when you created the puzzle? Oh yah, TBS showed *one* in-season tournament game, they simulcast the all-star game, they show the *endings* of games that go over their allotted time slots. So “Cable channel airing NBA games” it is!

  3. Eric H says:

    NYT: Proper names in puzzles don’t bother me as much as they seem to bother other people, unless they seriously impede my progress. That didn’t happen today.

    It was actually the opposite experience, in that I got hung up with a theme answer and some “normal” fill: The area below the definitely correct GIL and WILLA took almost as long as the rest of the puzzle.

    I was stymied by the clever clue for GOLF SHIRT, my inability to see FUDGES FACTS, my unfamiliarity with poker slang, and my perpetual inability to remember that ISUZU still exists. I may also have had a typo in POOLS RESOURCES, but since I have trouble reading those long Down answers, I can’t be sure.

    I didn’t know that YOKO ONO had a dance hit, but the reference to her age made that a near gimme. (Madonna would have fit, but since she’s less than a year older than I am, I never thought of her for that answer.)

    After Saturday’s challenging NYT puzzle, it would have been humbling to have to peek at the answer key to have finished this otherwise breezy puzzle. But ditching AcUra and trying ISUZU broke that last area open.

    • Gary R says:

      I puzzled over GOLF SHIRT for quite a while, even though I got the clue right away. My problem was I was thinking it was a themer, and I couldn’t make sense of GOLF’S HIRT. When I finally noticed the lack of italics and question mark – face palm!

    • Dallas says:

      I did the same with ACURA instead of ISUZU; I also had SUPER before realizing it needed to be the plural “SUPES”. I couldn’t make heads-or-tails of TEAMO as an answer to “International date line?” … any ideas how to interpret that one? Thanks

    • DougC says:

      Proper nouns do bother me in a puzzle, mainly because using too many of them means that success in solving depends on how well you know your entertainment/geography/literature/brand name trivia, and so little of that kind of trivia seems cross-generational these days. Either you know it, in which case the puzzle is a snap, or you don’t, and it’s a slog. And hoo boy, this puzzle has a bucketful of it, both in the fill and in the clues. Surprisingly, today I knew most of it, and so finished well under my average Sunday time.

      The most interesting thing about today’s solve was that I learned about HEAD CANON. That concept was unknown to me, but is an clever and innovative use of language, which I do find interesting.

      • JohnH says:

        Great summary of the issue, and of course efforts to include text/social media slang can go in the same category of generational slog, but I am more likely to enjoy learning about it, as with HEAD CANON here. It comes down, I guess, to whether you can learn it as opposed you know or you don’t, as you put it well.

  4. David L says:

    NYT: I don’t normally endorse Rex Parker’s criticisms but he is on the money today.

    WaPo: A couple of the themers confused me. I thought PLAMEMATTE was an oddly pronounced pun on ‘playmate,’ not knowing that a play mat was a thing (when I was a child we played on the floor, dammit). And I didn’t understand BAHTOLLS, which doesn’t sound at all like ‘bottles’ as I say them.

  5. Tony says:

    NYT – I enjoyed the fill more than the theme entries.

  6. Edward R. Wolpow says:

    For the New York Times puzzle, note that the 4 hard-to-fit letters: J, Q, X and Z, often missing entirely in a large Sunday puzzle, are in this puzzle 7 times, with all 4 letters used. Clearly intentional, and well-done.

  7. Dan says:

    NYT: A distinctly enjoyable solve. And a pangram.

    (But the theme entries seemed a bit unbalanced, with two of them referring to what a director might say on a movie set, and the other four all over the map.)

  8. Art Shapiro says:

    Universal Sunday: I was put off by 65D because, with all the thematic answers ending in ARIES, this answer ending in TRIES was rather jarring.

  9. Hi. says:

    DO is a very common word for party in British (and possibly others) English. A bachelor party is a stag do and a bachelorette party is a hen do. I was with some Irish-born in-laws for Christmas and I got to town a day later than them because of a work holiday party. They both asked me ‘how was the work do’.

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