Sunday, May 5, 2024

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT 12:18 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 11:33 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 5:58 (Matthew) 


Daniel Bodily’s New York Times crossword, “From the Astronaut’s Logbook” — Nate’s write-up

05.05.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

05.05.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

3D: HAVING A BLAST [Woo-hoo! The engines are firing, all systems are go, and we are feeling good!]
13D: OUT OF THE BLUE [And just like that, sky and clouds are behind us!]
18D: LOST IN SPACE [Oops, zoned out for a sec. Houston, can you retransmit our coordinates?]
20D: OVER THE MOON [Thrilled to report that we’ve made it to lunar orbit!]
32D: GATHERING DUST [Our lunar rover is collecting samples at long last. It’s been sitting in storage for months!]
34D: FLOATING ON AIR [Moving in zero-G is just blissful!]
70D: SEEING STARS [Ouch! Drifted too far and bonked my head on that darn window … but wow, would you look at that view!]
74D: DOWN TO EARTH [Re-entry time – let’s make sure we do this simply and practically!]

77D: ROCKET MAN [Who’s on a mission in today’s puzzle?]
78D: ELTON JOHN [Musician who sang about a 77-Down]

121A: NIXON [He placed a call to Armstrong and Aldrin minutes after their landing]

Things I enjoyed about this puzzle and it’s theme:
– The puzzle felt quite theme dense, with ten(!) theme answers of at least nine letters.  The fill didn’t seem to suffer from all the theme fill, which was a lovely bonus.
– The theme entries and their clues were in chronological order of a hypothetical space flight, which was a nice touch.
– The rocket grid art in the middle was neat!

Things I didn’t enjoy as much:
– The themer clues felt like they were trying too hard, both by defining the theme answer idiomatically and through space pun. Many of the “puns” also felt quite expected (LOST IN SPACE, OVER THE MOON, SEEING STARS, DOWN TO EARTH) in a way that made me hope for more interesting transformations.
– This puzzle’s theme is mostly space puns, but then we randomly have the ROCKET MAN / ELTON JOHN pairing and NIXON clued via the moon landing at the bottom? It felt like the constructor was trying to do too much under the general umbrella of “space,” which took away from the puzzle for me.

That’s all from me for now. I hope you’re all well and enjoying May! Have a great weekend and keep us posted on your thoughts in the comments section below.

LA Times crossword “Name That Tune” by Katy Steinmetz & Rich Katz — Jack’s write-up

Theme: Different types of “lines” clue famous lyrics from famous songs.

LA Times crossword solution — “Name That Tune” by Rich Katz & Katy Steinmetz

  • 23A. [Power line?] = WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS
  • 33A. [Life line?] = I WILL SURVIVE
  • 49A. [Party line?] = LETS GET IT STARTED
  • 68A. [Opening line?] = I’VE GOT A BLANK SPACE BABY
  • 91A. [Time line?] = YOU CAN’T HURRY LOVE
  • 107A. [Dividing line?] = GO YOUR OWN WAY
  • 119A. [Shore line?] = UNDER THE BOARDWALK


I was pleased that all of thematic lyrics were quite famous, so I suspect even solvers with weak music knowledge could recognize these.  I’VE GOT A BLANK SPACE BABY as a central spanner was fun to uncover. None of the line times are stretches either, so I’d call this a pretty tight theme.

Some solid bonus entries in ROAD TESTS, APHRODITE, NO HIT GAME, TREE POSE although I may have parted with some of these in exchange for tidying up the OPPO, AODAI, ELIA, RV LOT, SERGE, LOIRE, EIRE, RRS, OSSA, plus a lot of proper nouns in the grid.

Notable clues: 47D. [Piece of cake?] = LONG A was really tough! Well-concealed, good hard clue. I also liked the clue 48D. [Square peg in a social circle?] = DWEEB. Nice observation that you could naturally reference two shapes when discussing popularity (or the lack of it).

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” — Matt’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, 5/5/2024

It’s a meta this week from Evan. We’re told the meta answer is “a ten-letter word.”

There’s not much in the way of a theme set, but around the middle of the puzzle I started to notice there are a lot of Us in the grid, and the center across entry makes clear that’s intentional:

  • 68a [1990 MC Hammer hit whose title is a hint to solving the meta] U CANT TOUCH THIS

Finishing up the grid, there Us all over the grid, and very few squares not adjacent to at least one U (or a U themselves). Those squares in grid order spell INTANGIBLE.

This was a particularly fun meta for me: no step was too hard but each took a moment to set in, from the lack of a traditional theme, to the many Us, to starting to mark up my solution grid, before finally seeing that my rabbit hole was plausible and finishing up.

While I’m sure I could find tougher spots of fill on a close review now, I also felt during my solve that it was a pretty enjoyable grid for such a strong theme constraint. (Without taking the time to look it up, I’m pretty sure U is the least common vowel in crossword entries generally). Thanks, Evan!

Dylan Schiff’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Trace Elements”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar(ish) phrases that contain both a metal and the chemical symbol for said metal. The revealer is METAL DETECTORS. Clues simulate a metal detector with a little “bip” indicating the rough location of the chemical symbol in the phrase, and a big “BIP” simulation the common name of the metal.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Trace Elements” · Dylan Schiff · 5.5.24

  • 24a. [“Are *bip!* you as psyched as I *BIP!* am?”] “ISN‘T IT EXCITING?!”
  • 31a. [Concern *BIP!* surrounding oil spills and *bip!* pollution] ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECT.
  • 49a. [*BIP! bip!* When some cinema classics were produced] SILVER AGE OF HOLLYWOOD. I knew there was a Golden Age; I’m not sure I was a aware there was a Silver Age.
  • 64a. [*bip!* Surfing mecca near *Bip!* Brisbane] AUSTRALIAN GOLD COAST.
  • 76a. [*BIP!* Studio that produced “Doug” *bip!* and “Rugrats”] NICKELODEON ANIMATION.
  • 94a. [*BIP!* Morning networking opportunity *bip!* for bigwigs] LEADERSHIP BREAKFAST. Is this a thing people do? Maybe that’s why I’m not a bigwig.

Very tight theme. It could not have been easy to find a suitable theme set for this. There are some nice finds here, but given the tightness of the theme and the need to get everything to fit symmetrically, a little leeway is warranted for those entries that aren’t quite as common.

That said, once I realized I could ignore the “bip”s, I certainly did so.

Seven long theme answers fill up the grid, so there’s not much room for long fill. I did like TRI-TIP, “I’M EASY,” and ICE FLOES. Did not know SKIP BO [Game whose cards go up to 12].

Clues of note:

  • Really, the puzzle won me over at 1a with TRI-TIP [Cut of beef often cooked Santa Maria-style]. I spent some formative years growing up in Santa Maria in Central California, and TRI-TIP barbecues were a common sight around town on weekends when the weather was nice. These were often fundraisers for local organizations. (This was back in the ’70s. I have no idea if they still do this, but I expect the do.) As the years went by and we moved away, the TRI-TIP cut eventually became a common sight in grocery stores around the country, and yet the connection with Santa Maria stuck. All that said, when the Peredo Family gets together and we opt for a TRI-TIP or two, we opt for a Chamorro-style marinade (soy sauce and lemon juice) instead of the Santa Maria-style rub.
  • 74d. [Tours’ the globe?]. MONDE. What’s this Stumper-level clue doing here? “Tours'” is referring to the city in France, so the answer is the French word for “globe” (or “world”). Tricksy. Needed every crossing.

Gotta go! 3.75 stars.

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24 Responses to Sunday, May 5, 2024

  1. Mike H says:

    NYT: IDS and IDTAGS – um, since when is this considered OK? I was giving a pass to OKED and OKAYSURE. I think OKIE was added just to entertain us.

    • Martin says:

      What about TON and ELTON? Or SLAM and ISLAM? Or are initial letters of unrelated words more egregious dupes?

      • Mike H says:

        I’ll rescind my complaint. I got IDS from the crosses and made an incorrect assumption when reviewing the answers. Mea culpa.

      • Ethan Cooper says:

        I agree with Mike H and I think homographs are dupes. BANK (financial institution) and BANK (of a river) are unrelated words, but I would consider, for example, BANKS (“Places for tellers”) and WESTBANK (“Region adjacent to Jordan”) to be a dupe.

        • Martin says:

          Well, both share an etymology: bench. So they’re not completely unrelated. But the Will Shortz view is that dupes are not a problem unless one spoils the answer for the other. So the question is does WESTBANK telegraph the entry for the tellers clue? If not, the current Times editorial style is fine with it. Etymology is only one perspective. It’s all about spoilage.

    • David L says:

      I thought having OKED and OKAYSURE in the same puzzle was bad. Regardless of what you think about dupes, it’s inelegant.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I quite liked it!!!

    • DougC says:

      +1! Easy, but cute and fun, so what’s not to like?

      I was amused by seeing the long theme answers emerge from the crosses, and it didn’t take up too much of my Sunday morning.

  3. Eric H says:

    NYT: Like Nate, I found some of the punny theme answers too predictable to be very interesting.

    The grid art didn’t do anything for me. There seemed to be a lot of three- and four-letter answers (74 out of 143).

    But what really turned me off was getting stuck in that isolated center section. It’s amazing how much one little wrong answer can make it hard to see what’s what. At 59A, I foolishly put “baa” instead of MOO. I know that cattle low, so there’s no reason that I should have put “baa.” At least my Titanic knowledge got me APR without any hesitation.

    But then, it took far longer than it should’ve for me to see SKI BOOT, given how much time I have spent trying to put those things on or get them off.

    Toss in my lack of interest in books of the Bible and 40+ years of not thinking much about math, and seemed like the center was going to defeat me. Finally hitting on MOO led me to MALACHI and OREGANO. Yeesh.

  4. HappyGirl says:

    Woo hoo! I loved the NYT!!

  5. JohnH says:

    I wanted to like the NYT for the obvious reasons, the density of theme answers and the effort the constructor put into those long theme clues. Whether you find them funny is no doubt just a matter of taste.

    Still, it was obvious that each would take lots of crossings, since there’s no particular device for turning phrases into answers, just the potential for a word applying to space. And reading any one, all I could think was that the answer could be anything at all. That definitely made it all a less than positive experience, especially with clear interest in creating up-to-date names and vocabulary (or not so current, with the Latin phrase and the odd thought of a dinner gong) I didn’t know. So fine for the NYT but lousy for me.

  6. David L says:

    NYT: Not my kind of puzzle. Blah.

    WaPo: Nice puzzle, as always. Clueless about the meta, as (almost) always.

  7. David L says:

    LAT: I knew five of the seven songs, but the two that I didn’t know weren’t hard to get.

  8. Mary+A says:

    Today’s NYT puzzle was not particularly challenging or interesting. That said, I am always struck by how exacting the criticism is by the expert puzzlers who comment here. I’m an adept solver but not a timer / competitor type. To me, the act of constructing a NYT crossword, particularly a Sunday puzzle, is an accomplishment I would not subject to such microanalysis because I could never create one myself.

Comments are closed.