Sunday, March 31, 2024

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 11:33 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 15:47 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 9:04 (Matthew) 


Spencer Leach’s New York Times crossword, “Turns of Phrase” — Nate’s write-up

03.31.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

03.31.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

22A: ALARM THE RAYS [Spook some creatures in an aquarium’s touch tank?]
33A: DAZE THE COUNT [Deliver a blow to Dracula?]
47A: CITES THE SEE [References a Vatican Library source?]
60A: SCREWS THE TITANS [Referees a Tennessee football game poorly?]
79A: HONOR THE DEW [Write an ode to a caffeinated soda?]
90A: HEAT THE BEETS [Start preparing borscht?]
104A: PRESS THE MEAT [Make smash burgers?]

This week’s theme entries are three-word phrases where the first and third words have swapped places (and been respelled, as needed) to create wacky new phrases, clued appropriately. Raise the alarm became ALARM THE RAYS, count the days become DAZE THE COUNT, etc. This felt like a classic theme, but with some modern touches: the “smashburger” and (Mountain) “Dew” angles to PRESS THE MEAT and HONOR THE DEW each felt clever and current, and SCREWS THE TITANS felt quite at home in the modern language (if I did clutch my pearls for a moment upon solving that one!).  A quick and fun solve!  Kudos to the constructor – they did a great job!

Other random thoughts:
– This puzzle also felt modern for its inclusions of YEET, EAT THE RICH, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” at 79D and more. Also, was this the NYT debut of the ICK at 37A?
– The clue for ASTERS at 40A felt strange to me. Clued “for their shape” made me assume that the flower in question would share the name of a common shape solvers might know, but it seems to be a cellular shape that’s referenced instead.
BALSA / CHRIST / ARM all in the second row, though certainly not intentional, seemed to tell an apt story for this holiday weekend.
– I wonder how many solvers will be tripped up by the unusual THNEEDVILLE at 43D. I was not convinced that was correct at all!  That said, all the crossings were fair.  Same with AULII at 44D.

That’s all for now. Have a great weekend, happy Easter to those who celebrate, and happy April! And to all those traveling to Stamford soon for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, safest of journeys!  I already have serious FOMO!


Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “World Wide Web” — Matt’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “World Wide Web,” 3/31/2024

A two-part meta this week from Evan. We’re asked to find “has two internet-related meta answers, both of which are seven letters long.”

Theme clues are marked with asterisks, and are all asking for “webpages,” which require a [dot] rebus, as in “dot-com”:

  • 26a [European webpage where you can say “Settle down” to a female deer?] EASY DOE .IT
  • 28a [South American webpage showing a sculpture of a rodent patterned after Erté’s style?] DECO RATI .VE
  • 47a [European webpage where you can chat with a stage mom?] PLAY MA .ES
  • 59a [South American webpage showing a Calif. city pigpen?] LA STY .AR
  • 64a [African webpage where you can follow an intergovernmental org.’s holy jurisdiction?] UN SEE .LY
  • 82a [Asian webpage with info about an old horse (but not just any old horse)?] THE NAG .IN
  • 109a [North American webpage where you can get live views of a big zoo animal?] HIPPO CAM .US
  • 119a [Place you might visit, and an alternate title for this puzzle] POINT OF INTEREST

As a matter of solving the grid, top-level domains have popped up in themes here and there over the years and each of those dots serve as rebuses in the downs, as well, so it wasn’t too hard to catch on.

Asked to find seven-letter rebus answers in a puzzle with seven theme clues and seven rebus squares, the next step is pretty clear. Each rebus square can be replaced by another letter to make valid entries in both directions: EASY DOES IT, DECORATIVE, PLAYMATES, LAST YEAR, UNSEEMLY, THEN AGAIN, and HIPPOCAMPUS.

Those letters spell SITEMAP, an internet-related word (showing the structure of a website) and something that may display the POINT OF INTEREST in the revealer.

The second meta was quite a bit tougher for me, a typical “Week 2 if I’m patient” MGWCC solver. The key realizations are (1) we’re still looking for a seven letter word, and still have seven somethings in the theme, and (2) there are a whole lot of countries name dropped in the clues, often at the expense of a more straightforward angle. Seeking out the seven countries used in the theme entries and (spoiler alert) putting them in grid order:

  • 24a [Grand ___ Rimini (five-star locale in Italy)] HOTEL .it is the domain for Italy
  • 51a [Venezuelan Coastal Range flower] ORCHID .ve
  • 54a [Setting of the Palacio de Galiana in Spain] TOLEDO .es
  • 61d [Mammal one might find at Argentina’s Mundo Marino] SEAL .ar
  • 113a [El-Kouf National ___ (wildlife area in Libya)] PARK .ly
  • 121d [India ___ (badminton event held at the K.D. Jadhav Indoor Hall in New Delhi)] OPEN .in
  • 136d [U.S. state that’s home to the Alamo] TEXAS .us

I only noticed now that grid order matches the grid order of the themers themselves. Bravo. The first letters of these entries spell HOTSPOT, another internet-related POINT OF INTEREST, whether in the “Wi-Fi connection” sense, or in the “tourist destination” sense. I also quite like that of all the countries appearing in the clues, only these seven clues contain literal points of interest, as opposed to [Canada ___ (bird)] GOOSE or [“Bah!” in Germany] ACH. I’m sure almost all solvers will get to HOTSPOT by using the countries in the themers than by sorting the different types of clues, but it’s there.

This would have been a satisfying puzzle with only the SITEMAP meta. That there was another, just as valid and with as solid a click, is a lovely touch. Commenters pushed back on my effusiveness two weeks ago, and the difference between “a good time” and “one of my favorite puzzles of the month” here is my willingness to push for that second meta answer, but hopefully the SITEMAP meta is clear enough that even meta-averse solvers caught it and enjoyed the connection. The grid does take lots of short stuff to make it all work, but I found the fill interesting and not drecky, and pretty natural connectivity from section to section. The only real eye-raiser for me was DIDOT at 52d [French printer Firmin ___ (Hint: If you didn’t know of him, his name is one letter off from a word in this clue)], and it’s clear from the clue Evan knows is a tough one.

Happy Easter and Trans Day of Visibility!

Adam Wagner’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Worduckens”—Jim’s review

Like a turducken, which is a duck inside a chicken inside a turkey, today’s theme answers are words inside words inside words. Each entry is a familiar (though unclued) phrase, but it’s broken into three parts: The outer four letters, the circled four letters, and the inner four (or five) letters.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Worduckens” · Adam Wagner · 3.31.24

  • 23a. [*Private ( Actress ( Reword ) Jessica ) eye] DIALED IT BACK. EDIT inside ALBA inside DICK.
  • 29a. [*Starbucks ( High-fat ( Rests ) diet ) size] TAKES ITS TOLL. SITS inside KETO inside TALL.
  • 53a. [*Asks ( Big ( Minus ) amount ) desperately] BEATLES SONGS. Less inside A TON inside BEGS.
  • 70a. [*Old ( Small ( Ire ) talk ) loves] EXCHANGE RATES. ANGER inside CHAT inside EXES. I like this one best.
  • 87a. [*Deli ( Spanish ( Sneaker brand ) eight ) orders] BLOCKED SHOTS. KEDS inside OCHO inside BLTS.
  • 109a. [*African ( October ( Walkers, briefly ) birthstone ) nation] CHOPPED SALAD. PEDS inside OPAL inside CHAD.
  • 117a. [*Water ( Smallville ( Mononymous singer ) surname ) line] MAKES A DENT IN. SADE inside KENT inside MAIN.

An impressive theme! I don’t know how one goes about finding phrases that meet the criteria here unless it’s either by trial-and-error or some sort of regex search, but the result is pretty cool. To be sure, there are some compromises, such as the last phrase ending in a preposition or an awkward partial like A TON, but given the tightness of the theme and the constraints, some leeway is surely warranted. Nice job!

Sad Keanu



I didn’t know BASHTAGS [Social media dogpile markers, in slang] nor FLEXAGONS [Paper fortunetellers, geometrically]. Oh! Those are those paper whatchamahoozits that kids fold up and then open and close to get some sort of fortune. Check out the ultra-cool video below on hexaflexagons. Very cool!

Clues of note:

  • 20a. [Narrow lane]. NICHE. I’m not familiar with this usage, nor are any of the online dictionaries I checked.
  • 36a. [Gatekeepers? (Abbr.)]. TSA. Hmm. Feels like a bit of a stretch.
  • 11d. [Knee connectors]. ACLS. Seems like this should have a “for short” or “Abbr.”
  • 27d. [NFL “scorigami,” for one]. STAT. New term to me. Read more about it here.

Nifty theme and loads of sparkly fill. 4.25 stars.

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

29 Responses to Sunday, March 31, 2024

  1. Greg says:

    Enjoyable New York Times Sunday. But it felt considerably harder than usual, pitched, I would say, at Friday/Saturday level.

    Is the ramped-up difficulty of the last two Saturdays and this Sunday puzzle attributable to Joel Faglianio just having a different editing style than Will Shortz? Or is it just coincidence?

    • Eric H says:

      The NYT felt harder than usual to me, too. It’s probably my slowest Sunday time in months.

      Starting off with agAIn for 1A certainly didn’t help.

      Then there was the wacky theme, which I didn’t fully get until I had 80% of the grid done, and didn’t particularly enjoy once I understood it. But at least it helped me get CITES THE SEE.

      Then there were the weird answers THNEEDVILLE and AULII. With the former, I knew all the crosses were right except possibly SPuNk; once I ditched that, I was able to get SIRE.

      REDACTED eluded me; I could only read “Struck out” in the baseball sense or the metaphorical sense based on that. Never heard of Sea ISLE City.

      Maybe it’s just because I struggled with the puzzle more than normal, but I didn’t much care for it.

      • JohnH says:

        Definitely harder fill than on a typical Sunday, so I didn’t have enough for some time to get the theme. I do wish the difficulty arose less from weird or obscure entries.

        • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

          Yes harder fill. But also “less” theme. Only 85 letters in the the themes. I expect there to be a minimum of 90-95 letters in the themes. Sounds silly but it makes a difference as to what the constructor can do with the fill.

        • Dallas says:

          Agreed; yesterday and today left me feeling a bit unsatisfied… THNEEDVILLE was a particularly odd one.

      • KAS says:

        Thneeds were what the townspeople manufactured in The Lorax, but as far as I recall from many (many, many!) readings, the town itself was not named, making Thneedville the constructor’s creation.

        Does that gibe with anyone else’s memory?

  2. David Steere says:

    USATODAY: Has anyone heard any explanation for why no new puzzle appeared for Saturday or–so far–for Sunday? The Friday puzzle is still on display at Thanks. David

  3. Susan Hoffman says:

    Sigh. One of these days, I will remember that the Icelandic singer’s name is Bjork and not Bjorn. I’ve been struggling with that ever since she appeared on the scene. One of my worst times ever, and for no good reason! Missing everyone in Stamford but having a great time in South Africa.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: I like it quite a bit, and parts of it flowed very easily. But then I needed to cheat to get THNEEDVILLE and AULII. I don’t mind :)
    SCREWS THE TITANS made me chuckle– no pearl clutching here!
    Of course, seeing my hometown, DAMASCUS, nicely clued as “World’s oldest capital city, settled in the third millennium B.C”, put me in a great mood!
    I miss that place, have not been there since my father died and the civil war started shortly thereafter. I think maybe I’m scared to go and see the impact of that war. But Damascus and its people (the Damascene) are tough. It really is an amazing place.

  5. David Stone says:

    We liked the Times puzzle more than the average reader did, so it seems. Some quite-funny answers and surprises, and the modern fill (YEET, ICK, EAT THE RICH) was a good way to feel like we’re not completely out of touch (tho we needed almost all the crosses for the Swift song). Definitely needed all the crosses for AULII! I was also surprised not to know THNEEDVILLE considering that I have 3 kids and have taught lower school!

    • Eric H says:

      I did like some of the fill, including EAT THE RICH, NO ME GUSTA, and GREEN SPACE.

    • David L says:

      I thought EATTHERICH was a poor choice for this puzzle, because it has the form of the theme answers but isn’t one. I didn’t know what to make of THN… but the crosses were evidently right, and perhaps I’ve heard of THNEEDVILLE from somewhere — it rang a bell faintly (I’ve never read anything by Seuss).

      • damefox says:

        Thank god I’m not the only one who thought this – I was baffled that even Rex didn’t point this out. To have three down entries that include THE (THEARCHER, THEDEADSEA, and EATTHERICH) when THE is a critical part of your theme is Bad Form. EATTHERICH is particularly bad because, as you point out, THE appears right in the middle as it does for all the themers. Maybe they let it slide because EATTHERICH is a good entry on its own, but I agree it’s misplaced in this puzzle. I’m stunned the editors didn’t insist at least two of those down entries had to go. I did enjoy the theme in general though, and most of the non-theme fill is good. HOTDATES, THNEEDVILLE, WINELISTS, CATBURGLAR, GREENSPACE, and BOSSLEVEL were all standouts to me.

  6. David L says:

    WaPo: I figured out SITEMAP easily enough, then figured out also that the second meta would involve cross-checking the clues and the country domains … and at the point I decided I couldn’t be bother to press on. Very ingenious puzzle, as always from Evan, but it reinforces my realization that metas are just not my thing.

  7. Mary Albanese says:

    When I consult this forum to check my answers, ask questions about particular clues, and compare my impressions of a puzzle with those of other (more proficient) solvers, I am struck by how granular (nitpicking?) the criticisms of a puzzle can be. Yes, I like some puzzles more than others, and there are those I dislike. But the microanalysis of the cluing or the construction just isn’t my thing; neither is the drive to always better my solving time. (I’ve never timed myself.) Doing puzzles is a pastime for me, a means of slowing down while “exercising” my brain. Reading the posts here often reminds me of a classic line from “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer”: “Even among misfits, I’m a misfit.”

    • Steve says:

      I’m with ya Mary! Do it for fun and have never cared about timing it, I always turn that off. Crossword puzzles are like any other hobby. Some do it for fun and others are competitive and feel the need to voice their opinions loudly. (The boardgame hobby comes to mind also). I come here to see what I missed theme-wise or with some of the clues and then chuckle at the comments.

      • I feel the need to clarify that speed-solving competitively and voicing opinions loudly about puzzles are two very different things. One does not necessarily follow from the other.

        • Steve says:

          Yeah, I can see that. But I also think it can be a form of a humble brag. Depends on the person and how they write it.

  8. Charles Montpetit says:

    Granular microanalytical nitpick about the WaPo review: 28a’s entry is DECO RAT .VE, not DECO RATI .VE.

    Fun untimed chuckle about the Universal puzzle: love love LOVE those worduckens.

    And to Mary and Steve: the two tendencies are not mutually exclusive–nitpickers can have fun, too!

    • Mary Albanese says:

      I never stated that competitive speed-solving and boorishly stated opinions go hand in hand. Neither did I assert that nitpickers don’t have fun doing puzzles. I was merely commenting on how my approach to puzzling differs from that of many of the pros who contribute to this forum. I admire the skill and cleverness of those who are more accomplished than me; I just am “puzzled” by the competitive spirit.

  9. Lisa Gery says:

    I would love to see an explanation of Brendan Emmett Quigley’s puzzle on 3/31/24 “You’ve Got to Stand for Something.” It was in the Boston Globe. I just can’t figure out the theme. Love your column!

Comments are closed.