Sunday, April 7, 2024

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT 15:08 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 10:23 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 4:53 (Matthew) 


On Friday, Puzzmo hosted the inaugural Crossword Con, an academic convention exploring crosswords from a number of super interesting angles. I tuned in to the live stream and it was a truly fantastic event! There were a number of wonderful speakers (10ish minute talks each) and a great panel featuring some of the top speed solvers out there. I highly recommend checking out the videos of the talks over at Puzzmo’s Twitch channel.

Tracy Gray’s New York Times crossword, “Double Duty” — Nate’s write-up

04.07.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

04.07.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

23A: EE ON DOWN THE ROAD [Song performed three times in “The Wiz”] (ease on down the road)
— Crossing 1D: I’V(E E)ATEN [“No food for me, thanks”]

39A: BLACK EYED PP [Group with the 2009 hit “I Gotta Feeling”] (Black Eyed Peas)
— Crossing 16D: TEA CU(P P)OODLE [Variety of tiny dog]

63A: UU IT OR LOSE IT [Fitness enthusiast’s mantra] (use it or lose it)
— Crossing 32D: ARE YO(U U)P [“Still awake?”]

74A: A WORD TO THE YY [Start of some cautionary advice] (a word to the wise)
— Crossing 72D: N(Y Y)ANKEE [Aaron Judge, e.g., in brief]

100A: CC THE MOMENT [Take advantage of an opportunity] (seize the moment)
— Crossing 68D: ARCTI(C C)IRCLE [Where to see the midnight sun]

118A: A SIGHT FOR SORE II [You love to see it] (a sight for sore eyes)
— Crossing 99D: MIAM(I I)NK [Former TLC reality show set in a Florida tattoo parlor]

This puzzle’s theme is built around six rebus squares that feature a double letter; when sounded out as the plural of that letter, they stand in as homophones for words in the across themers (hence, the “Double Duty” title. For example, the II rebus stands in for “eyes,” the EE rebus stands in for “ease,” etc. Neat idea!

Random thoughts:
– There is a lot of theme-related fill in this puzzle, which is impressive! I think it ended up straining the other fill throughout the grid, though: TABOURET (crossing ENSOR, which was a tough square for me), STAYMAN, AMNESIC, CINC, CIDERY, SINEBAR, WE THE, ON TWO, SOTO, SAMARRA are a few bits of glue that stand out on a quick scan of the grid. This might be related to my longer than usual solve time.
– Did anyone else plunk in LIRA first at 66A and then get stuck when SENACA wasn’t right at 48D?

That’s all for now. Absolute best of luck to those competing at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament this weekend in Stamford, CT – and a great weekend to all!

LAT crossword, “Amendment Needed” by John Michael Currie — Jack’s write-up

Theme: Common phrases don’t match their clues, but when you remove the circled fifth letters they create wacky phrases that do match the clues. The circled letters spell THE FIFTH as in “I plead the fifth.”

LAT crossword solution — “Amendment Needed” by John Michael Currie

  • 25A. [*Accidentally scorch the appetizers?] = CHART A COURSE (char a course)
  • 31A. [*You can’t wrestle a chimney sweep and come out clean, e.g.?] = SOOTHSAYING (soot saying)
  • 44A. [*Mission of the Blue Origin rockets carrying William Shatner and Michael Strahan?] = STARES INTO SPACE (stars into space)
  • 56A. [*Finish a crossword with a spelling error?] = GO OFF THE GRID (goof the grid)
  • 82A. [*Say no to a date?] = PASSION FRUIT (pass on fruit)
  • 92A. [*Run-ins with soft cheese?] = BRIEF ENCOUNTERS (brie encounters)
  • 108A.[*Exhale in a game of hide-and-seek?] = SIGHT UNSEEN (sigh unseen)
  • 115A. [*Florists who specialize in purple bouquets?] = IRISH SETTERS (iris setters)

Nice way to breathe fresh air into the remove-a-letter genre. At first I thought we were just removing letters to create new phrases, which we’ve seen too often. Then I realized the circled letters would spell something, which is at least an attempt to elevate an old theme concept. But it wasn’t until I finished and read THE FIFTH that I noticed that all the removed letters occurred in the fifth position. This harmonizes so nicely with the title “Amendment Needed” (we’re amending the themers) and the phrase “I plead the fifth,” which hints at staying silent, i.e. not including those letters. The theme fully came together in a tight package for me at the end.

My favorite themer is probably PASSION FRUIT becoming “pass on fruit,” with its clever clue [*Say no to a date?] (date the fruit).

With eight themers it’s hard to make the rest of the fill shine. The solve flowed smoothly enough, but the long slots mostly contain things like REENGAGE. I imagine PRUE crossing ENTR could give some solvers trouble, but fortunately for me, I’m a Great British Baking Show devotee.

Let me know what you all thought.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Playing the Hits” — Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Playing the Hits,” 4/7/2024

Our theme this week is a bit unclear from looking only at the solution grid. There are circled squares and shaded squares, and some clues are appended with (HIT) or (MISS), or multiples.

  • 21a [The Reuben James of Woody Guthrie’s song “The Sinking of the Reuben James,” e.g. (HIT)] DESTROYER
  • 28a [Setting of the “Top Gun” opening, when “Top Gun Anthem” and “Danger Zone” can be heard (HIT HIT)] AIRCRAFT CARRIER
  • 48a [Waters bordering Iran (MISS)] PERSIAN GULF
  • 62a [Waters by a Pacific archipelago (MISS MISS MISS)] PHILIPPINE SEA
  • 91a [Waters surrounding Antarctica (MISS MISS)] SOUTHERN OCEAN
  • 101a [Vessel in the lyrics to “In the Navy” (HIT)] SUBMARINE
  • 70d [The USS Missouri, e.g., where the music video for Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time” was filmed (HIT)] BATTLESHIP
  • 76d [Titular vessel of an old Australian TV series whose theme song has been performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (HIT)] PATROL BOAT

I’ve not marked the circled and shaded letters above, but you can see them in the solution grid. So we’ve got bodies of water with (MISS)es, and ships (conveniently the ships in a game of Battleship) that have been (HIT)

There’s also a revealer:

  • 115a [Naval-sounding band that performed a 1979 hit spelled out in this puzzle’s “hits”] THE COMMODORES.

That 1979 hit, spelled out in the red shaded squares, is SAIL ON. And while I don’t think it’s mentioned in a clue, the circled letters from the (MISS) entries appropriately spell SPLASH. Fun theme. I didn’t realize until writing this up that all the (HIT)s were on ships, and each of the (MISS)es on bodies of water.

  • 16a [The “Frozen” snowman Olaf singing about how he wants to experience summer, for example] IRONY. Do I really know what the definition of IRONY is? Not sure. Do I know it enough to recognize it when clued? I suppose.
  • 84a [Golfer Mark] O’MEARA. I knew of Mark O’MEARA prior to getting into crosswords so he’s never really fully registered as crosswordese for me, but certainly the more noteworthy parts of his career get further in the rearview each year
  • 34a [Four-time MLB all-star Justin] UPTON. The UPTON brothers are more current but just can’t overcome the vowel-heavy ALOUs for baseball’s top crossword spot.

Sarah Beth K. Weintraub & Jeff Chen’s Universal Sunday crossword, “What a Turn-Off!”—Jim’s review

There are two parts to this theme. The more straightforward entries are familiar phrases re-imagined as having to do with the upcoming solar eclipse. Other theme answers with asterisked clues span across the blacked-out sun in the middle of the grid and actually have the letters SUN missing from them.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “What a Turn-Off!” · Sarah Beth K. Weintraub & Jeff Chen · 4.7.24

The main theme answers are:

  • 3d. [Magician’s staple … and what will happen in the sky on April 8, 2024] VANISHING ACT.
  • 24a. [Did some spy work … and what parts of four answers did in this grid] WENT UNDERCOVER.
  • 64d. [April 8, 2024, for those in the path of totality?] BLACKOUT DATE.
  • 113a. [1971 Bill Withers hit … and a hint to four answers in this puzzle] “AIN’T NO SUNSHINE.”

The blacked-out SUN entries are:

  • 35d. [*International title sought by some queens?] / 88d. [See 35-Down]: MIS / S UN / IVERSE.
  • 21d. [*Caramel, pecan and ice cream treat] / 90d. [See 21-Down]: TURTLE / SUN / DAE.
  • 61a. [*Group advocating for educators] / 63a. [See 61-Across]: TEACHER / S UN / ION.
  • 72a. [*Google Pixel competitor] / 73a. See [72-Across]: SAM / SUN / G GALAXY.

Fun theme. I enjoyed the play on words in each of the main theme entries as well as sussing out the trick with the other entries. Note also that theme answer symmetry is preserved even though the two parts of each SUN entry have different lengths. This must’ve been a challenge to construct, but it turned out nicely. Kudos!

Plenty of vibrant fill all around the grid with highlights: DROPSHIP, VERACITY, SCORE A HIT, “UP AND AT EM!,” ROUGH CUT, “I PROMISE,” PLACEMAT, EGGING ON, SORE EYES, John HANCOCK, and Kris KRINGLE.

Clues of note:

  • 11a. [Send directly from factory to customer]. DROPSHIP. I don’t think I know this usage. I’ve only ever heard the term with respect to science fiction where it’s a synonym for “shuttlecraft.”
  • 71a. [“Alright,” in slang]. BET. New to me. It’s shortened from “You bet!” and can be used as an affirmation or agreement.

Impressive puzzle. 4.25 stars.

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13 Responses to Sunday, April 7, 2024

  1. Martin says:

    Livestream of the ACPT. Will is the MC.

    • JohnH says:

      Nice to hear of his role. When he became editor, if I recall correctly, there was considerable coverage with a shared theme of how much new he would bring, with more ingenious clues as opposed to geography. And no question there had to be reason to think he would be innovative after his term at Games, having to put forth every conceivable variety puzzle every month.

      There was been no coverage at all that I have noticed of the current editor’s assuming the job, his background, or his hopes for change. It’d be nice to hear. I assume it’s because, his byline notwithstanding, he’s still formally filling in. Still, Will won’t last forever, so it will be interesting to learn more about him. Obviously comments here have found him too interested in gratuitous difficulty, although I’m not convinced either way.

    • Eric H says:

      Thanks for the video link. I’m glad to see that Will Shortz is doing well.

  2. David L says:

    Nice theme in the NYT, and well executed. I’ve never heard of TABOURET or SINEBAR, and even after looking at the Wikipedia page on the latter I’m not clear on how you would use one or why (I have a little plastic gizmo that serves the same purpose, and probably there is some fancy device with lasers that would provide more accurate results).

  3. JohnH says:

    Fun theme, nicely worked out and all over the place. I agree with Nathan that this strains the rest of the fill, although I’m less sanguine about the bottom line. In any case, hard for a Sunday, which is fine.

    Of course, which entries are obstacles will vary from person to person. ENSOR was a much-needed gimme for me. And SINE BAR had me skeptical that I’d got it right. Obviously “compass” wouldn’t fit. “Sextant” would (with that first S, too), and I tried it, although it was more of a stretch. You’d have to be a careful solver to note that “lira” was giving a misspelling of SENECA.

  4. DougC says:

    NYT: I loved, loved, loved this puzzle! The double-letter trick was exceptionally well done. ENSOR/TABOURET was tricky, but they’ve both been seen in puzzles of yore, and swam up through the mists of memory to rescue me. But changing that A to E in LIRE/SENECA was the final stroke, after getting the “Oops!” message when I thought I was done. Lots of fun, and modestly challenging — just right for a Sunday morning!

  5. Eric H says:

    WaPo: Fun puzzle, even if I’m not a fan of either the Commodores or the game Battleship. Thanks, Matthew, for explaining the hit and miss aspect of the double theme. It registered as I was solving that there were naval vessels and bodies of water, but I didn’t fully grasp what was going on.

    Matthew wrote, “The UPTON brothers are more current but just can’t overcome the vowel-heavy ALOUs for baseball’s top crossword spot.” I assume the “baseball’s top crossword spot” is limited to brothers/families. Surely Mel Ott shows up more than any other player, at least in NYT puzzles.

  6. Eric H says:

    LAT: Nice puzzle. I didn’t realize until I read Jack’s review that it was always the fifth letter that was circled and removed. That’s an impressive bit of construction.

    My only significant slowdown was not immediately recognizing (Gavin) Newsom and (Kathy) Hochul. For a brief moment, I thought it was a bit much to expect us to have to identity two lieutenant generals.

  7. Debbie says:

    Regarding the LAT, it’s “take (answer to 130 across) the fifth” not “plead the fifth” as the starred answers rely on taking away the fifth letter

  8. Elizabeth Austin says:

    My husband and I work on these together, as we are relatively new to crossword puzzling. We were stumped by tabouret. “Riddle-me-ree” we had correct. But what is this expression? I have always heard “riddle-me-this.”

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