Sunday, April 14, 2024

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 17:02 (Nate) 


USA Today 5:18 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 8:35 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 6:38 (Matthew) 


Congratulations to Paolo Pasco for winning the 46th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament! Find out more here. And, if you’d like to watch the three finalists solving Sid Sivakumar’s final puzzle, check it out here on YouTube.

John Rippe and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword, “Savings Plan” — Nate’s write-up

04.14.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

04.14.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

2D: LIMIT ONE [BEFORE: Coupon stipulation]
56D: MITE [AFTER: Tiny amount]
(BEFORE –> AFTER: LION disappears / goes extinct)

36D: GET IN GEAR [BEFORE: Begin operating effectively]
96D: GENA [AFTER: Actress Rowlands]
(BEFORE –> AFTER: TIGER disappears / goes extinct)

19D: CRASH INTO [BEFORE: Rear-end, e.g.]
74D: CAST [AFTER: Like some statues]
(BEFORE –> AFTER: RHINO disappears / goes extinct)

9D: WHACAMOLE [BEFORE: Game with annoying pop-ups?]
70D: CAMO [AFTER: Military pattern]
(BEFORE –> AFTER: WHALE disappears / goes extinct)

21D: CORPOREAL [BEFORE: Having physical form]
75D: PORE [AFTER: Target of a facial cleanser]
(BEFORE –> AFTER: CORAL disappears / goes extinct)

40D: MALL SANTA [BEFORE: December temp worker]
101: ALLS [AFTER: Shakespearean title starter]
(BEFORE –> AFTER: MANTA disappears / goes extinct)

16D: SEAWORLD [BEFORE: Theme park chain]
64D: WORD [AFTER: Slangy “Amen”]
(BEFORE –> AFTER: SEAL disappears / goes extinct)

104A: GO EXTINCT [Disappear … like the circled creatures might do, if not for the 112-/114-Across]

112A: ENDANGERED / SPECIES ACT [With 114-Across, conservation law that celebrated its 50th anniversary in December 2023]

Wow at the constraints and execution of this puzzle’s theme! We have seven(!) longer down strands of theme fill that contain the letters of an animal in sequential order – and not just any animal, but an endangered one. Then, when the letters that spell that animal are removed, there remains a four-letter word below that is an entry in its own right. Plus, a three-part revealer below it all in a left-right mirror symmetry grid? Wow! I can’t imagine how many solid options there must have been to fill out this theme set, but it seems like they found some solid ones that each work toward the ultimate animal conversation (“Savings Plan”) message of the puzzle. Kudos to the constructors, and extra congrats to John Rippe as a debut NYT constructor with this puzzle!

That said, with such an ambitious theme and so many theme-related squares, the fill was bound to suffer a bit. There wasn’t as much crosswordese, but it did feel like there were a LOT of names and proper nouns, as well as a number of sections of the puzzle where I spun my wheels because I wasn’t on the same wavelength as the constructors – but that was quite possibly just me. How did it go for you? Let us know in the comments section – and have a great weekend!

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Boxed In” — Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Boxed In” solution, 4/14/2024

Great to see so many folks at ACPT last weekend. After a few days along the East Coast after, I just got back to Hawai’i last night and apologize for this write up being later than normal.

Visually, we’ve got a different type of grid, with five white squares seemingly standing on their own as unclued entries, and no obvious theme answers. Unfortunately for me, I had to solve electronically this week, and stumbled across the theme with a typing error before I could puzzle out entries near the singleton squares that didn’t make sense. As you can see in the solution grid, each of the singleton letters are parts of crossing words that require entering letters in black squares.

Two revealers-ish point us in the right direction, if it didn’t already have your attention:

  • 23A [Confined, like five letters in this puzzle that spell an apt word] TRAPPED
  • 122A [Portal represented 20 times in this puzzle that lets you in and out of a confined space (Note: These special letters, reading left to right, row by row, will produce an apt four-word phrase)] DOORWAY

The white squares spell STUCK and the longer phrase from the letters entered into the black squares spell MAKING A GRAND ENTRANCE. Both indeed apt! And while I take for granted that Evan will spell something with his theme arrangements, I’ll note that ensuring the black-square letters spell something allows them to be double-checked in a way, as they each are only clued once within the grid itself.


  • 20a [Apple that, despite their name, did not originate in Italy] ROMES. I’m curious if there is even another cluing angle for this entry, which is a gift to constructors if a bit awkward.
  • 24a [Snap decision?] SMILE. As in the snap of a photograph, for which one might SMILE
  • 40a [Units of exposure to X-rays] ROENTGENS. Wilhelm Röntgen won the Nobel Prize for his work with X-rays. This entry, or PREAKNESS or ALAN KEYES below, are clear-cut trivia pieces (of varying difficulty) that probably would have made the theme clear if I hadn’t fumble-fingered my way into it earlier.
  • 47a [First character in “Troy”?] TAU. I appreciate the question mark here, as this is a pet peeve of mine. TAU is the first character in ‘Τροία.’ Tee is the first character in ‘Troy.’ I probably care too much about this.
  • 117a [“Tales of the Mermaid Tavern” poet Alfred] NOYES. This entry shows up enough, and KEYES was a plausible enough surname in the crossing, that I didn’t have trouble here, but that’s perhaps the two most unfamiliar names in the grid crossing. A sacrifice to make it all work.

Edit: I’d missed that YES, and all the back-ends of the theme entries, has a clue of its own. Objection withdrawn!

  • 26d [“Smallfoot” beasts] YETIS. I believe this is an animated movie that spawned some number of memes about the character names. Zendaya had a voice role, perhaps
  • 28d [Punnily named stacks of Bud Light cans, say] BEERAMIDS. Sure. A phase of life I seem to have missed.
  • 98d [Either of two species of atoms with the same number of neutrons and a different number of protons] ISOTONE. I probably know the difference between ISOMER and ISOTONE and whatever else, but if I’m being honest, I read a few words, recognize that ISO- is needed, and then I see what fits and or what crossings make sense.
  • 100d [Weimaraner’s warning] GRR. Glad that “Weimaraner” is much more frequently in clues than grids, as I don’t think I ever spell it right on my first try.

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Amazing to see you! (Freestyle)” — Darby’s write-up

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Amazing to see you! (Freestyle)” solution for 4/14/2024

There was so much fun stuff in this USA Today themeless. Cutely titled “Amazing to see you!,” I loved seeing THANKS FOR COMING as the center spanning. It’s such a fun and clever 15-lettered word to build the puzzle around. The northwest and southeast corners were also pretty open with their Across answers, giving us CROSSOVER, CAT PARENT, TIME LAPSE, and TOP DOLLAR. With Beyoncé’s new album, I loved that the first of these was clued as 13a [Foray int a new genre or style]. Then, the NE and SW corners had some longer vertical fill like CALAMARI, I’VE EATEN, HAWAIIAN, and ADAPTERS. With 8a being [Zimbabwean lion in 2015 news], I needed some help to fill in CECIL (though I thought that this was a cute fact).

This puzzle took me a little longer than usual, which was probably due in part to the tense Guardians-Yankees game I was watching. Still, I got stuck in a few places, particularly in trying to remember 38a [Country singer Morris] MAREN and 59a [Wrinkly-looking mushrooms] MORELS. 33d [“Whatever you want!”] NAME IT was also a little tricky, but I liked the payoff, since I think that it’s fun fill. Other fave fill included 1d [“Random ___ Memories” (Daft Punk album)] ACCESS, 7d [Houston Dynamo midfielder from Brazil] ARTUR, and 49d [Playground fixture for two] SEESAW.

Overall, definitely a fun puzzle!

Desirée Penner and Jeff Sinnock’s Universal Sunday crossword, “It All Adds Up!”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases with an UP added at the end.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “It All Adds Up!” · Desirée Penner and Jeff Sinnock · 4.14.24

  • 25a. [*Earwax, perhaps?] BODY BUILDUP.
  • 31a. [*Eleanor and Chidi on “The Good Place,” for one?] TELEVISION SETUP.
  • 48a. [*What the toddler did when he fell?] BABY GOT BACK UP. This one was worth a chuckle.
  • 68a. [*Limited edition Seinfeld show?] ONE NIGHT STAND-UP.
  • 86a. [*Request from an unhappy partner?] GIMME A BREAKUP.
  • 105a. [*Sleeping Beauty’s prince falling into Maleficient’s trap?] PHILLIP’S SCREWUP.
  • 118a. [*A particular fairy’s occupation?] TOOTH PICKUP.

Solid. I got a chuckle out of the theme, so I can’t complain. The repeated UP sure made solving this grid a lot quicker than usual. Of course the smooth fill and straightforward cluing helped as well.

Loved: SAMESIES, RUNNING MATE, BEATNIK, WHITE HOT, PHOTO LAB, DECK OF CARDS, NONSENSE, PEEPHOLE. The only really clunky bits of fill are RE-ADD and TES [Your, in France].

Clues of note:

  • 8d. [Place for a shot in the dark?]. PHOTO LAB. Clever. Though how many photo labs have darkrooms any more?
  • 92d. [More heavy-eyed]. SLEEPIER. The clue checks out, but it makes no sense to me. Your eyes don’t get “heavy,” your eyelids do.

Nice puzzle. 3.75 stars.

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13 Responses to Sunday, April 14, 2024

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: An impressive feat of construction, with two more-or-less unrelated themes going on at the same time. And I have to admit, I didn’t grasp the before/after aspect of the theme until I read Nate’s write-up.

    It seemed like the grid design made the puzzle kind of “choppy.” Maybe this is a function of the theme(s) – not sure. I never really got stuck anywhere, but somehow, the puzzle felt a little disjointed – like I was solving a bunch of mini-puzzles. I didn’t care for that.

    A more interesting than usual Sunday puzzle.

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: Grids with circles often slow me down. (It’s hard for me to read what I’ve typed.)

    I didn’t think this one was particularly hard, but I was two-thirds done before I figured out how the theme worked.

    And I misspelled the Mozart opera and couldn’t make sense of the crossing “Pinnacle achievement.” I spent a couple of minutes at the end finding that mistake.

    All of that gave me an unimpressive time.

    But the theme is an interesting one, and I liked the clues for CHINA SHOP and WHAC-A-MOLE.

    • Makfan says:

      CHINA SHOP was a literal LOL for me when I saw it.

      Found it a little hard but was rather impressed at the final solved grid when considering the constraints imposed.

  3. JohnH says:

    The first visible theme, circled letters cued by two-entry revealer, is tight. It can’t help be bit more of a lecture than fun or funny, but I can accept that as duly virtuous.

    The rest I’m not so sure of. I’d agree with Nate that the fill wasn’t good. (Oh, I didn’t understand REP to do with back.)

    And I liked the broader theme a lot better long after I was done. It is ingeneous to pull off and makes the whole truly theme heavy. OTOH, since it can’t be its nature appear in all and only long entries, you have to go by either a good eye (to see that they pair in columns) to the grid or simply the clue labels BEFORE and AFTER. So I didn’t track them down until I was done, with, sure, belated appreciation. But for me it was a puzzle to appreciate, not enjoy.

  4. Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

    WaPo: I’ll be circumspect here in order to avoid spoilers for anyone who has not done the puzzle yet. I tend not to like puzzles that tell me to go to a site other than Across Lite, and this was a good example of why that is. I enjoyed figuring out what was going on, and I think the grid at the WaPo site [which I looked at after the fact] gives too much of a hint. I’ll say no more, but, all of that said, this was a lovely puzzle, Evan, and I truly enjoyed struggling with it. Bravo!

    • marciem says:

      What ^ said! :) Enjoyed it very much and even in AL it wasn’t impossible to get it together and write down the few parts that were trapped and latch on to what was happening. (as opposed to doing it in PDF or in the app, which I haven’t looked at).

      Fun, multilayered (as expected from Evan) puzzle!!

  5. David L says:

    NYT was clever, but there was no need to understand the theme in order to solve the puzzle, which is a demerit, IMO.

    WaPo: also very ingenious. I printed it out to solve, and it occurred to me that 80D might be tough because of the uncrossed letters (although I remembered the name, as it happens).

    • I could see 80D being tough to recall but those letters aren’t unchecked, though, not when you piece together the two “other” answers.

      • David L says:

        Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see how the N of ALAN and the first E of KEYES are checked.

        ETA: Oh, I read pannonica’s explanation. That went over my head.

      • Eric H says:

        My reaction to 80D was “Hmm. Didn’t remember that about ALAN KEYES.” I see now that he’d already run for president twice by then, so maybe I was aware of his senate race at the time.

        Nice puzzle! I’m not sure if I have seen a similar trick before.

        I enjoyed the fill and the not-so-hidden letters, but inexplicably struggled to make sense of MAKING AN ENTRANCE. (I’m not sure why the 122A clue didn’t seem to make sense; it’s perfectly clear now.)

  6. Eric H says:

    Universal (John Ewbank): Lots of fresh, fun fill. I especially liked the HOLY HAND GRENADE. Damn, that’s a funny movie.

  7. Rebecca says:

    I kept trying to figure out what the BEFORE/AFTER portions had to do with the clues.
    I am relatively new to NYT puzzles but do love the word play.
    It would just help/not detract from me solving if there was maybe a little heads up on things like the B/A type clues.

  8. CBD says:

    Wish Penner/Sinnock would have considered the racist implications of using the word “CAKEWALK” as a clue.

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