Sunday, April 21, 2024

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 14:20 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo tk (Matthew) 


Michael Schlossberg’s New York Times crossword, “Get Cracking” — Nate’s write-up

04.21.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

04.21.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

Flavortext: “Standing between you and the score of a lifetime are the seven locks of this safe. After completing this puzzle, rotate each dial 90°, 180° or 270° to the only other position that forms four valid crossword answers. The new letters in the 12 o’clock (circled) positions will spell out an appropriate exclamation.”

In left-to-right, top-down order, Locks 1-7:

19D: PBS [Channel with on-air fund-raising]
29A: TARP [Sheet under a tent]
33D: JEER [Taunt]
26A: BLASE [Unimpressed]

Rotated 180° clockwise, the entries become PBJ, EARP, SEER, and BLAST with J at the top.

21D: SPY [Mole, e.g.]
31A: AORTA [Major vessel]
36D: SOLD [Shout at an auction]
30A: STAB [Sharp pain]

Rotated 270° clockwise, the entries become SPA, SORTA, BOLD, and STAY with A at the top.

41D: CROW [Boast]
66A: MOI [“Who, me?”]
70D: CRY [Blubber]
65A: STREAK [Wordle player’s pride]

Rotated 180° clockwise, the entries become CROC, KOI, WRY, and STREAM with C at the top.

43D: TEAL [Blue-green]
68A: NOTION [Belief]
73D: CPR [E.M.T.’s technique]
67A: ARK [Partner ship?]

Rotated 90° clockwise, the entries become TEAK, LOTION, NPR, and ARC with K at the top.

72D: PEA [Stew tidbit]
92A: SIR [Percival of legend, for one]
99D: LARGE [Ginormous]
91A: LIP [___ service]

Rotated 90° clockwise, the entries become PEP, AIR, SARGE, and LIL with P at the top.

77D: MEME [Distracted Boyfriend, e.g.]
104A: DAM [Block (up)]
110D: OVEN [Appliance that may self-clean]
103A: LOAN [Advance]

Rotated 180° clockwise, the entries become MEMO, NAM, EVEN, and LOAD with O at the top.

82D: SWAN [Gift on the seventh day of Christmas]
108A: TOPS [First-rate]
114D: ORAL [Kind of tradition]
107A: IOU [Letters that sound out a sentence]

Rotated 270° clockwise, the entries become SWAT, OOPS, URAL, and ION with T at the top.

So, what do the letters at the top of each lock spell after rotated correctly? JACKPOT!

Wowwwwwww! What a neat concept and fantastic execution with what felt like little (or at least manageable) crosswordese. I love the extra bonus reveal once you’ve cracked the safe correctly – what a fun payoff. Kudos to the constructor for this elegant puzzle!

Some quick random thoughts:
– Because of the black square layout, it almost felt like solving nine smaller puzzles rather than one big mega Sunday grid. Did anyone get stuck in certain sectors because of this?
– I fully had GPA for [No. on a resume] at 37A instead of at 13D for [Application figure]. Anyone else?
– I got stuck for a moment as to whether 104A [Block (up)] was JAM or DAM, so I appreciated the lock rotation mechanism as a way to check that square.
– It’s interesting that both C CLEF at 1A and C CLAMP at 88A were needed to anchor those specific corners. Oh, and G SUIT at 13A in that corner, too.

That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed solving the puzzle and that you’re having a lovely weekend. Here’s to a great week to come!

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Break in the Action” — Matt’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Break in the Action” solution, 4/21/2024

Theme entries this week are a pair – er, trio – of clues with helpful circles helping us parse:

  • 5a [Computer network pro / Extract from …] 10a [… underground / French word for “between” ] AD(MIN E)NTRE
  • 23a [Overly fussy / Make a sudden … ] 24a [… forward movement /Felix of “The Odd Couple”] ANA(L UNGE)R
  • 25a [SNL alum Cheri / Head toward …] 26a … the sky / “Que ___, ___” (lyric in a song sung by Doris Day)] OTE(RI SE)RA
  • 39a [Group following the score / Throw …] 41a [… a tantrum / “Oh great, that’s just what I needed”] ORCHEST(RA GE)E THANKS
  • 63a [Very short period of time / Take …] 65a [… the wheel / Stage show featuring the
    number “Reel Around the Sun”] NANOSECON(D RIVE)RDANCE
  • 71a [Radio transmissions, e.g. / Go …] 75a [… bad / Thornton Wilder play set in Grover’s Corners] SIGNAL(S OUR) TOWN
  • 100a [Whiskey-and-vermouth cocktails / Make …] 103a [… smooth / Actor who provided the voice of Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” films] MANHATTAN(S AND)Y SERKIS
  • 118a [Word such as “be” … or a punny description of the seven-letter word that can create new action words when its letters are inserted in the breaks of the circled action words] LINKING VERB

Inserting workable letters into the circled strings (literal LINKING VERBs) forms the word CONNECT, a fitting term for this theme.

Truth be told, I enjoyed the longer entries more than the fact the LINKING VERBS were there, or the payoff from the extra layer. And the puzzle is gentle enough I didn’t really use the extra clues to help the solve. But it’s cleanly done and an apt revealer. I do quite like that, other than some very deep cuts, only C-O-N-N-E-C-T works in each set of circled letters.


  • 44a [Winter cap extension] EARFLAP. This shows up in puzzles from time to time. A few years back the alternative EARLAP appeared in a tournament puzzle, to a good amount of post-solve discussion. Every time I see it, I want to hold it up and say “See? Here it is!”
  • 54a [Crossword constrictor] BOA. I’m sure I’ve seen this clue before, but have never noticed the single-letter difference between “constructor” and “constrictor” before
  • 83a [Pieces maker] REESES. Are the individual candies called “Pieces”? I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the latter without the former.
  • 95a [Fodder for fact-checkers] LIE. And truths, as well, lest something slip through!
  • 106a [Astin of “The Goonies”] SEAN. Immediately after a Lord of the Rings clue, I was primed for a different Sean Astin angle, but “The Goonies” is a fun one, too.
  • 11d [Woman’s nickname that omits “alie”] NAT. There have been a LOT of clues lately that play on nicknames and full names. Apologies to Evan that his puzzle is the one I’m saying this on, but they are really not my favorite.
  • 62d [Cadillac Mountain’s state] MAINE. Cadillac, in Acadia National Park, is the highest mountain on the US Atlantic Coast.
  • 74d [Pitcher’s delivery?] SALES SPIEL. This rang a bit odd to me, but it does pass through two themers and a revealer.

Paul Coulter’s Universal Sunday crossword, “All Decked Out”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that feature a playing card (in circles), though entries are clued as if the card was removed. The revealer is “CUT THE CARDS” (118a, [Request to a poker dealer … and a hint for making 23-, 33-, 49-, 67-, 86- and 103-Across match their clues]). (Aside: Does a player ask the dealer to cut the cards, or does the dealer ask one of the players? I thought it was the latter.)

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “All Decked Out” · Paul Coulter · 4.21.24

  • 23a. [*Continue granting loans? (+8)] LEN DEIGHTON. Lend on.
  • 33a. [*Cowardly Martian? (+J)] YELLOWJACKET. Yellow E.T.
  • 49a. [*Nanny’s warning? (+K)] MAKING A THREAT. Maa threat.
  • 67a. [*Le bon ami? (+A)] THE PALACE OF VERSAILLES. The pal of Versailles.
  • 86a. [*”I’ll give you a belly rub soon”? (+10)] PATENT PENDING. Pat pending.
  • 103a. [*Noah’s ship as it transports the Wise Men? (+2)] GENIUS AT WORK. Genius ark.

YMMV, but I didn’t get a lot of joy from this. The remaining puns after the cards were removed were mostly of the groan-worthy variety (Maa threat, e.g.). I did appreciate the parenthetical hints in the clues that helped keep the whole thing from turning into a slog.

There are some definite highlights in the grid like MARY ASTOR, SNIFTER, HANDSHAKE, A LA MODE, LATE TAG, and AIM LOW. But there were too many iffy entries that counter-acted all those goodies: “THAT’S A GO” (who says that?), TD PASSES, EVENER, ICE IT, and all the TOs: SELL TO, MEANS TO, AS TO, and SIDLE UP TO.

3.25 stars.

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

46 Responses to Sunday, April 21, 2024

  1. Mike H says:

    NYT – when I solved on my PC it didn’t give me a chance to rotate the locks – it just said “congratulations” and showed an animation of the two different positions for each lock. So much for the extra part of the puzzle.

    • Robin F says:

      I had the same experience. But the concept
      and the JACKPOT reveal were fun

    • Gary R says:

      Same here. And I solved using the NYT app (which I abhor) rather than AcrossLite because of the note about the dials. Would have been further ahead to use AL and turn the dials in my head.

      JAM/DAM threw me for a bit, and TIMON wasn’t familiar, so I had TIbON and bAA for 49-D.

      Okay puzzle, I guess, but with the technology fail and nothing real special in the fill, kinda “meh.”

    • Martin says:

      I’m not sure how practical it would have been without the animation. There’s 2187 possible words that can be formed (assuming rotation is mandatory it’s 3^7) and that might get frustrating to solve by hand.

  2. Ethan says:

    fun Sunday. at least on my iphone no rotation after solving so you got to do that part.

    i think the rotation was what saved it from being 9 mini puzzles. there were a couple times i used it (JAM/DAM was one) to figure out a word.

  3. ranman says:

    Tracking with your random thoughts….
    – with tough cluing (IMO)… got a little nervous in a few sections because they felt isolated and no major cross opportunities
    – had GPA for (Application figure) early but (No. on a resume) made me rethink a bit
    – JAM to DAM…as our last tweak–Mr. Happy Pencil ensued….as you note, hat tip to lock for that!
    – noted the repetitive Cs and wondered if that was something….and then after G wondered if intro generic letter was something….and then didn’t think about again!

  4. Ethan says:

    I too was a victim of the JAM/DAM unchecked square. First, I got the message that I had a mistake somewhere. I spent ten minutes checking every crossing. Then, I gave up and turned the locks, whereupon I realized that it was DAM. But putting in the turned locks doesn’t give you the Happy Pencil either! So I had to go *back* and put in the original answers with DAM, then I got the Happy Pencil and the computer did the lock-turning for me. Clever concept but the online interface needed rethinking.

  5. David L says:

    Where was the explanation? I solved on the NYT website because I’m traveling for a few days, and I saw no blurb anywhere to say what was going on. So the puzzle seemed clever but kinda pointless.

  6. Eric H says:

    15 minutes more or less to solve the puzzle. 15 minutes more to figure out why I wasn’t getting a gold star.

    I read the note halfway through solving because I hadn’t figured out what the keyholes were about. I interpreted the note as saying that I had to move the letters around each keyhole myself, so I painstakingly switched them out and got the 28 new words and the magic word JACKPOT.

    What I didn’t get was the gold star. In my first pass through the grid to reorient the keyholes, I noticed I had misspelled AGASSI. Fixing that didn’t help, possibly because by that time, my C CLEF had become a V CLEF.

    Finally, on my third time through changing the letters around the keyholes, I hit the correct combination. (Some appear to be the original letters, e.g MEME rather than MEMO; some appear to be the new letters.)

    I still don’t know whether, if I hadn’t misspelled AGASSI, the keyholes would have automatically rotated to the correct position to spell JACKPOT. (It sounds from some of the comments that the rotation was supposed to be automatic, so what’s the point of the note telling the solver to “rotate each dial”?)

    This is a clever concept that I am sure was challenging to construct. But either bad programming or a poorly written note made it the most frustrating puzzle I’ve done in months.

    • Dan says:

      I don’t think that the rotated letters were needed for the software to confirm the solve.

      The note said to do the rotating “After completing the puzzle”, so I took that to mean that the rotation would just be in one’s head. (Though, yes, the software did the rotation for me.)

      My problem was having an error in the spelling of NEGATRON, which when fixed led to the gold star.

      • JohnH says:

        That, by the way, was a curious obscurity. You might think from the clue that the term came first, before “electron,” but it didn’t. Evidence for two kinds of charge goes back a long way, and while he didn’t make that discovery, and he got the nature of it wrong (he thought it was a fluid that could be in excess on one side or not), Ben Franklin’s the one who picked the terms positive and negative. (He could just as well have switched the terms.) Still, there was a already a feeling that there must be positive and negative tiny things, and the electron got its name fairly early on in the 19th century. It was widely accepted.

        If was only nearing the mid-20th century that the picture of electrons, protons, and neutrons as everything there is started to shatter, as the positron was discovered. The man credited with it and who named it thought it would then be great if we could call the electron, by contrast, a negatron. The term became obsolete almost from the day he suggested it.

  7. Tim says:

    Where could I find Universal (Sunday) please

  8. JohnH says:

    NYT just isn’t my kind of puzzle. The theme just doesn’t enter solving in the least except to change one’s mind about JAM (for, it turns out, DAM). So all it means is coming back to the puzzle once you’re done, should you care enough, and then it’s pretty mechanical.

    It also takes its toll as clever constructions often do, with 3-letter words throughout and, at least for me, a wildly inconsistent level of difficulty. Most was unusually easy, but at least three sections near to impossible between names and the latest Internet speak. Neither felt satisfying.

  9. MattF says:

    Had a typical NYT Sunday problem. Got a few letters wrong, then spent a -very- long time looking for the errors. -Not- fun. A bit disappointed at the very end when the dials auto-rotated.

  10. Annelie says:

    First time I have been able to solve Evan Birnholz’s puzzle and work out the meta!

    • :) May it be the first of many successful meta solves for you.

    • Eric H says:

      Congratulations! It’s a nice feeling when you finally crack a meta, isn’t it?

      You still have a few hours to submit an answer for Friday’s WSJ meta. I thought it was one of the easier ones.

  11. sanfranman59 says:

    NYT: Do people put GPAs on applications and resumes these days? I don’t recall ever doing that when I was close enough to college or high school age to have a relatively recent GPA. Then again, that was 40+ years ago, so I could certainly be mistaken and times do change.

    • Gary R says:

      At least as of a few years ago, yes – applications for college or grad school usually ask for a GPA (and will require a transcript to back that up), and new college grads often include overall GPA and GPA within their major on a resume. After they have some work experience, that will typically disappear.

  12. Steve says:

    WaPo: I don’t understand the Connect part at all. Good puzzle, otherwise.

    • Matt Gritzmacher says:

      I didn’t explain it well or represent it in the solution grid, because I didn’t notice it until I was done with my write up and was running late. The revealer indicates another LINKING VERB can be found by working with the circled entries. Specifically, by inserting a letter into the spots were the circled bits hop over a black square, to make a new word. The letters necessary to do that for each opportunity spell CONNECT

      • Steve says:

        My brain is not working as I still don’t understand. If I put a C in the first one it’s Cunge, that makes no sense to me. Can you give me an example of how it works? Thanks!

        • Each circled word is clued as a verb. Insert a letter in the place where it breaks to get another verb.

          MIN_E → MINCE
          L_UNGE → LOUNGE

          and so on.

          • Steve says:

            Thanks, got it now. Never would have figured that out, but that’s ok. Still a fun puzzle even without that!

        • Eric H says:

          You missed a verb, and you’re not seeing all the circled letters.

          Top center, there’s a split MINE. Put the C there to get MI[C]NE.

          Third row, the split LUNGE gets O to become L[O]UNGE; split RISE gets an N to become RI[N]SE.

          And so on through the grid.

          • Eric H says:

            Oops. As Evan Birnholz noted, that first one is MIN[C]E.

          • Steve says:

            Yeah, I’m an idiot. Didn’t see MINE at the top. Still wouldn’t have gotten it as I didn’t understand the instructions in the clue. No biggie.

  13. Eric H says:

    WaPo: I sort of ignored the clues to the words in the squares with circles (e.g. MINE, LUNGE), but the other clues made it easy to solve.

    When I first read the instructions in the 118A clue, I was a little confused about what I was supposed to do, but once I started inserting letters, it was clear what the answer would be.

    I love seeing NINA Simone in a puzzle. What a voice. I regret that I only started listening to her in the 1990s (maybe even early aughts), so when I saw her in concert, her voice wasn’t what it had been.

    Minor quibble with the clue for ANDY SERKIS. It’s accurate, but his performance as Gollum was so much more than just the voice. It’s worth watching the extras on the DVDs for “The Lord of the Rings” to see how the whole motion capture worked.

  14. Craig N. Owens says:

    NYT: Once I figured out how the locks were meant to work (no note in the main NYT app), I used the rebus to put both the original and rotated letters into the locks. Naturally, this was a maddeningly time-consuming way of “solving” the puzzle, and of course it didn’t accept those answers. I did not, I’m afraid, go back and replace the rebused answers with single letters, because I didn’t know whether to put in the “locked” or the “unlocked” versions of the answers, and, well, by that time it had become a merely clerical task.

    A bit over-elaborate, if you ask me. The further a puzzle deviates from word play and toward whimsy, the less I like it–partly because of what others have said: needlessly choppy fill and an over-all fragmented feel to the puzzle, sacrifices for the sake of cleverness.

  15. Seattle DB says:

    Uni 15×15: I docked this puzzle a half-point because I wish constructors and editors would quit re-defining words/phrases to make themselves feel more hipsterish.
    45D: “Suh-weet”, and the answer is “No Ice”. (What the heck does that mean?)

  16. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: congrats to Julian Kwan for making a very good “connect the circled letters” puzzle that serves as a reference to the title. Well done, sir!

  17. Linda says:

    NYT Did anyone inject to Sinatra being called a crooner? According to Wikipedia, “ Frank Sinatra once said that he did not consider himself or Crosby to be “crooners””

Comments are closed.