Sunday, May 12, 2024

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 20:25 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 6:54 (Matthew) 


Avery Gee Katz’s New York Times crossword, “Pixar Box Set” — Nate’s write-up

05.12.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

05.12.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

25A: (CARS)ON DALY [Original host of MTV’s “Total Request Live”]
11D: OS(CAR S)TATUE [Prominent figure at the Academy Awards]

35A: CABO SAN (LUCA)S [Tourist destination in Baja California Sur]
27D: HU(LU CA)TALOG [Certain streaming library]

61A: E(UP)HORIA [Cloud nine, so to speak]
57D: D(UP)LEX [Two-family dwelling]

85A: (SOUL)FOOD [Fried chicken, cornbread, collard greens, etc.]
62D: MIS(SOUL)A [Home to the University of Montana]

96A: CRYPTO(WALL-E)T [Digital “container” associated with Bitcoin]
67D: STONE(WALL-E)D [Refused to answer questions]

98A: (BRAVE) NEW WORLD [Dystopian classic whose title comes from “The Tempest”]
98D: (BRAVE)HEART [1995 Blockbuster with numerous historical inaccuracies]

117A: (COCO)NUT OIL [Palm tree product used in skin care]
100D: HOT (COCO)A [Drink often served with marshmallows]

This week’s Sunday puzzle sees seven Pixar movies in a box set … or rather, as rebuses contained in individual boxes of the grid. I appreciated the subject matter, sheer quantity of theme-related answers, and modern feel of many of the theme entries, but some of the rebuses felt tough if you don’t know the names of the Pixar movies themselves. BRAVE, for example, was a rebus that crossed at the title of two separate works, with clues that weren’t the easiest context for less aware solvers.

The periphery of the grid felt accessible, but much of the center of the grid felt relatively challenging and my overall solve time was much longer than average. Even though it’s all fair in retrospect, the LABEL MATE, JEN, JIM, MUMMIES section was tough for me to crack, as were a few other sections. Was this a slower solve for anyone else? Not necessarily less enjoyable, though certainly felt stickier. Let us know in the comments section how your solve went … and have a great weekend!

PS: An interesting line from the constructor’s notes, from this debut constructor: “A diligent constructor, she worked and reworked this puzzle for months, ultimately ending up with 19 versions of the grid. You’re solving version #16!”

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Return on Investment” — Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Return on Investment,” 5/11/24

Nothing too tricky from Evan this week: our themers are all monetary in nature, and contain (in circled letters) different currencies in reverse. A two-part revealer CASH / BACK helps out the already on-the-nose title.

  • 23a [First financial stake that one hopes will produce a good return on investment] INITIAL OUTLAY (YUAN)
  • 30a [Employees’ options that, when the shares are sold, provide a return on investment] STOCK PURCHASE PLANS (PESO)
  • 51a [Situation in which there’s a danger of financial loss but also the possibility of a good return on investment] SPECULATIVE RISK (RIAL)
  • 69a [Return on investment] BANG FOR YOUR BUCK (KRONA)
  • 92a [Index that might tell you if you’ve made a good return on investment] DOW JONES AVERAGE (RAND)
  • 107a [One seeking a good return on investment] CORPORATE EXECUTIVE (EURO)
  • 123a [Those seeking a good return on investment] ENTREPRENEURS (RUPEE)

A nice set. I used the currencies and a strategic focus on their crossings for one or two of the themers. As best I can tell, there’s not a second layer here, but if there is, let me know and I’ll edit it in.

  • 1a [Bohr model particle] ATOM. If you see “Bohr” and you have four letters, it’s ATOM. Five, and it’s NIELS. Very rarely it might be DANE or NOBEL, I suppose. But this is one of those where I rarely reach the end of the clue.
  • 29a [Sch. with majoring Miners] UTEP. ‘Miners’ being the name for the school’s sports team. I find myself more lax than most on what requires an abbreviation tag, and don’t particularly think UTEP requires ‘Sch.’ here.
  • 83a [Soufflé ___ reine (dish served at the 1867 Three Emperors Dinner in Paris)] ALA. This event is new to me – on first glance looks like a fun read when I have time.
  • 84d [Power-driven mechanism, for short] SERVO. Short for ‘servomotor’ – new to me.

Garrett Chalfin’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Above Water”—Jim’s review

The circled letters in the grid are all world seas found within unclued words. The clues for these entries are only satisfied with the use of the letters that are above each sea. The revealer is GO OVERSEAS (110a, [Travel abroad … and what 21-, 38-, 52-, 78- and 90-Across do]).

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Above Water” · Garrett Chalfin · 5.12.24

  • 21a. [*Became readily apparent] Look above MACHINATED to get the letters NIFES from KNIFE SETS to make MANIFESTED.
  • 38a. [*Rock type similar to dolomite] LIMBERING + BEST ONE = LIMESTONE.
  • 52a. [*Last-resort program shutdown method] FOR CREDIT + EQUAL = FORCE QUIT.
  • 78a. [*Title match, often] MADE A DENT + WINE VAT = MAIN EVENT.
  • 90a. [*People shipwrecked on an island] CROSSWAYS + PASTA = CASTAWAYS.

This played pretty sloggy for me. I saw the seas early on, but didn’t catch on to the theme until maybe the third theme entry. Add in some weird theme entries (FOR CREDIT, BEST ONE), uncommon fill entries, and purposefully ambiguous cluing and you’ve got a rough solve (or at least I did). Once I caught on, things progressed better, but still…

Fill highlights include HOT SAUCES, RED RUSSIANS (new to me; I only know the white and black varieties), CHAT GPT, POWER NAPS, PIT-A-PAT, TARHEELS, COURTROOM, “ZIP IT!,” “FRET NOT,” and SO TO BED. Trying to fill in “IT ISN’T SO” took some doing, and I’d never heard of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in the clue for FIRE TRAP.

Clues of note:

  • 17d. [Closer’s goal]. SAVE. I was thinking real estate, not baseball, and thus had SALE here for far too long.
  • 60d. [Sports commentator Yates]. FIELD. With the F contributing to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory clue, I think it would have been fairer to clue this as a normal word.
  • 71d. [Cerebral]. HEADY. Hmm. I’ve never heard HEADY used that way.
  • 112d. [First word in the names of three large California cities]. SAN. Diego, Jose, and Francisco by order of population.

I have no doubt this was a difficult construction, and really, the long fill is nice. But it wasn’t a joy to solve mainly due to cluing. With a slow-developing theme, it might’ve been fairer to throw solvers a bone by going a little more straightforward with the cluing. 3.5 stars.

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37 Responses to Sunday, May 12, 2024

  1. JohnH says:

    Ok, so let’s see. It’s a rebus, which I like but others hate, only the key squares just turn up wherever, not in obvious themers like the longer or most central entries. Indeed, those are entirely unthemed. And neither the rebus answers not the longer ones have anything else in common but the rebus. Neither are particularly interesting, funny, or clever.

    They’re all Pixar movies, not one of which I’ll ever see, and there are lots of them, so those of us over 18 may have trouble. Given that, you’d think the crossings and indeed fill in general wouldn’t be trivia, especially for the young, but nope. There’s lots of it, starting with a “classic” (not for my time) children’s book and extending to such common knowledge as a town in Montana I’ve never seen before (and a university town at that I’ve never seen, even after working my life culling reviews and sales in the university textbook business).

    So is there anything else they could have done to make this puzzle the worst of all time?

    • JohnH says:

      Oh, and when I say the trivia is everywhere, that includes in the very clues and entries for the rebus clues, making a double whammy. If that’s not unfair, what is?

    • Martin says:

      I’m many multiples of 18, and have seen them all.

    • Gary R says:

      Have heard of CARS and COCO. Have seen part of WALL-E on television (it was one of my son’s favorites). The rest are just random words.

      Typical Sunday solve for me – quit after the top half of the puzzle was filled. After getting the rest of the story from Nate’s write-up, I’m glad I didn’t slog on. Maybe a fun puzzle if you’re a Pixar aficionado.

    • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

      Took me a little longer than normal and disliked it for all the reason you mentioned.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I’m pretty sure that I’ve only seen one of these movies (WALL-E), but I’m aware of all of the titles (and, like Martin, I am a few multiples of 18). I don’t know how you can’t know of at least a few of these films unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 30 years. Furthermore, even if one accepts your dubious premise that only people under 18 years old watch Pixar movies, the oldest of these films (“Cars”) was released in in 2006. Someone who was 18 in 2006 is now 36.

      Anyone who even only occasionally reads the comments out here is well aware by now that most post-1980 pop culture is beneath you. You clearly think that you have much more refined taste and are more erudite than most of the rest of us. So be it. But why must you insist on continuing to hap about the same thing time and time again? You’re like a broken record.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Hmm … I don’t know why my message was double-posted … sorry about the duplicate

    • Dan says:

      I enjoyed solving the clues, and especially that they werre harder than the typical Sunday in recent years. But found the extremely narrow focus of the theme to be rather off-putting.

      (Luckily, a few letters in each one were enough to recall the movie title, but still.)

  2. Greg says:

    Way harder than a typical Sunday, pitched, in my view, at the level of a tough Saturday.

    I like Pixar movies (and love a few of them). But I’ve hardly committed all their names to memory. So, even as I admired the ingenuity of the construction, this was a laborious, slow solve.

  3. Andrea says:

    I’m in my 50s and a big Pixar fan, so I enjoyed looking for the movies in the long answers. I think this was a fun, challenging solve.
    Great debut, Avery!

    • Dallas says:

      I’m with you; I’ve enjoyed Pixar movies for a long time, and this worked out to be a very enjoyable Sunday!

  4. Eric H says:

    NYT: I typically don’t read the title to the Sunday puzzle unless I get stuck. So I was well into the puzzle before I realized that the rebuses were all animated movies (many of which I enjoyed). Figuring that out helped me realize that the mistake I’d made was in the crossing of E[UP]HORIA and D[UP]LEX.

    Despite the extra typing required by the rebuses and having to squint to read them, I finished a few minutes faster than the typical Sunday.

    I read [BRAVE] NEW WORLD 40+ years ago, but never knew that Huxley had taken the title from “The Tempest.”

    It’s not my favorite Sunday puzzle, but it’s a solid debut.

    • JohnH says:

      In The Tempest, Prospero’s daughter has grown up in that small group on an island and marvels at the sight of others when they appear. (They’re mostly his enemies who exiled him in the first place, and he’s had the lucky opportunity to use his magic to wreck their passage and bring them here, too.) Oh brave new world, she says, that has such people in it. He replies, ‘Tis new to thee.

      • Eric H says:


        I don’t remember whether I’ve seen “The Tempest,” but I know I saw the movie “Prospero’s Books,” which is based on the play.

    • Ed says:

      How does one find the title of a puzzle?

  5. Claire in NZ says:

    Hey friends, I’m a new recruit for the NYT puzzle, and have only done about 20 of them so far. I definitely found these clues more obscure than usual, and this led me to your forum! Good to know others found it a sticky wicket.

  6. MattF says:

    NYT was quite tough for me and I’m a Pixar fan, seen many of their movies. Looked up the California tourist destination.

    • Mr. [not] Grumpy says:

      Not California; Baja California in Mexico.

      • MattF says:

        Ha. I apparently read ‘Baja California Sur’ as ‘Big Sur California’. I’ll try to be awake when I do the next Sunday puzzle.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          If it’s any consolation to you, I did the same thing and was very confused when it became clear that the answer was CABO SAN LUCAS.

  7. Papa John says:

    Nancy Schuster passed away at age 90. She was a supreme cruciverbalist.

  8. David L says:

    I’m not very familiar with Pixar movies, so I had O[SCAR]STATUES at 11D before correcting it to make the crosses work. Could be a follow-up to the Lion King, right? (Which probably isn’t a Pixar movie, now that I think about it…)

  9. Josh says:

    NYT: Only complaint was the IRENE/OREAD cross. The R could’ve been an L (which is what I typed first). Everything else seemed fine/gettable, and I’m pushing 50 and have only seen about half the Pixar movies, and know basically no pop culture trivia.

    I kind of enjoyed the fact that the rebus squares were random — made a Sunday feel more like a themeless, which is always a win in my book.

    • Eric H says:

      Before Will Shortz, NYT puzzles always clued OREO as “Mountain: Combinative for” or something similar. Hence OREAD.

      • Martin says:

        The original Oreo design included a laurel wreath. The California bay laurel (a tree that grows all around my house) is Umbellularia californica today but when Oreos were invented it was Oreodaphne californica. This genus is now obsolete but was probably the origin of the Oreo name and a justification for the 106 “Mountain prefix” sort of pre-Shortz OREO clues. Connections.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          I sure miss seeing and smelling those magnificent bay laurels on many hikes over my 2+ decades in the Bay Area. And don’t get me started on madrones (sigh) and sequoias! Where I live now (NE Ohio), people seem to view trees as nuisances and they’re constantly cutting them down.

        • pannonica says:

          To be more taxonomically explicit, Oreodaphne is not obsolete but rather is considered a junior synonym.

  10. Eric H says:

    WaPo: Matt wrote, “84d [Power-driven mechanism, for short] SERVO. Short for ‘servomotor’ – new to me.” I guess you weren’t a fan of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”? (One of the robots was Tom Servo.)

    I continue to dislike circles in squares, especially in a 21X21 grid. They’re just hard on my eyes once there’s a letter in them (“Is that a B or an R?”) I know that the backwards currencies would have been impossible to find without some way of marking those squares, but wouldn’t shading them have worked just as well?

    That aside, it was a fun puzzle. I appreciated the novel 13D clue for EMO, which nicely sidesteps the inevitable argument as to whether whatever band you use in your clue is truly an EMO band. I also liked the 68D clue for SKIERS, which I should have gotten more quickly given that skiing is one of my favorite ways to spend time outdoors.

    • Eric H says:

      Matt also wrote, “29a [Sch. with majoring Miners] UTEP.”

      The Friday WSJ puzzle had a clue “The Miners of the NCAA.” It was fine without an abbreviation in the clue.

    • While I’m not opposed to using shaded squares on occasion, you’re the only person I’ve ever heard from in 8+ years of writing Post puzzles who has a problem with circled squares. I can understand problems with eyesight, but I don’t understand how it’s an issue trying to figure out which letter you already filled into the square. Unless the crossing itself were completely ambiguous between B and R to begin with, can you not just look at the clues and the answers you filled in and know if you wrote in a B or an R? Or is that you have a tough time seeing the circles at all?

      In any case, even if I liked shaded squares more, it’s just easier for me to work with circles. Shaded squares cannot be displayed in Across Lite as far as I know, and I’d rather not have to worry about creating two different electronic files for solving in PuzzleMe and in Across Lite (one with shaded squares, the other with circles) when I can just create the same electronic file for both programs with circled squares and be done with it.

      If you haven’t done so, I’d suggest going into your print setup window to see if you can enlarge the puzzle on the page before printing it; that might help you see the circled squares more easily. Alternatively, there’s always the option of solving the puzzle on the Post’s website. The Amuse Labs software (PuzzleMe) is the best in the business at replicating crosswords for digital solving, in my opinion, and you can always easily zoom in closer on the grid if you need to.

  11. No, admittedly it’s been a very long time since someone tried to introduce me to MST3K, but I found it very not my speed and I’ve never given it another chance. Maybe I should.

    • Eric H says:

      It was a silly premise, but the early seasons of MST3K were pretty good. I especially enjoyed when they tossed in a reference to something like “Naked Lunch” or “Ulysses” that probably 90% of their audience didn’t get. (Which is not to say that some of the jokes didn’t go over my head.)

      There are a few lines from that show that my husband and I still quote 30 years later.

      We tried to watch the reboot that started in 2017 and turned it off after 15 minutes.

  12. Megan says:

    Hi! Can you explain the answer to NYT 81D? The clue was “it might come with a plunger” and the answer was “Detonator”. I don’t get this one at all! Please help!

  13. John B says:

    Worst NYT ever. Upper left quadrant was obscure and not fun. Rest was a slog. Never in my 40 years of doing these Sunday puzzles have I had to look up an answer (Skews). Never before have I slashed the page with my pen.

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