Sunday, May 19, 2024

LAT untimed (Jack)  


NYT 10:40 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 12-something (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 6:50 (Matthew) 


Christina Iverson and Katie Hale’s New York Times crossword, “Hold Your Doze” — Nate’s write-up

05.19.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

05.19.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

26A: SHOULD THE DEED ARISE [“If that missing house title ever does show up …”]
43A: WHAT ELSE IS DUE [Question from someone with a lot of outstanding debt?]
57A: DO AS I SAY DOT AS I DO [Teacher’s instruction in a class on pointillism?]
80A: IT’S A HARD DOCK LIFE [Stevedore’s complaint?]
92A: USE YOUR DOODLE [“No need to find a professional illustrator!”]
110A: THAT’S A DOUGH BRAIDER [Tour guide’s remark at the challah factory?]

As the title implies, a congested nose will do wonders for you in hearing this puzzle’s themer transformations, where every N sound (sometimes a kn bit) was changed to a hard D sound. There were only six theme entries, but they all felt super solid, with THAT’S A DOUGH BRAIDER easily being my favorite and DO AS I SAY DOT AS I DO being an unexpectedly fun angle.

Random thoughts:
– Even with a few bits of crosswordese in the grid, this puzzle played super easy for me and I solved it in about half the time as last week’s Pixar movie rebus puzzle.
– I LOVED the Easter egg shot/chaser of 63A [Salt-N-Pepa hit with the refrain “SHOOP, SHOOP ba-doop”] followed directly by 64A [Weaknesses]. (The opening lyrics from SHOOP are “Here I go, here I go, here I go again / Girls, what’s my weakness? Men!)
– I wonder if the constructors originally tried to clue DEI through the more modern diversity, equity, and inclusion angle but it got changed?

What did you think of the puzzle? Any other phrases you could think of that would make for great themers? Let us know in the comments – and have a great weekend!

LA Times crossword “IV Infusion” by Amanda Cook — Jack’s write-up

Theme: Common phrases have the letters “IV” inserted to make new wacky phrases with wacky clues.

LA Times crossword solution — “IV Infusion” by Amanda Cook

  • 22A. [10-meter dash?] = TRIVIAL RUN (Trial run)
  • 33A. [Weekend activity for a group of clairvoyant sommeliers?] = WINE AND DIVINE (Wine and dine)
  • 46A. [Autograph on a rare baseball card?] = CURSIVE OF THE BAMBINO (Curse of the Bambino)
  • 62A. [Prayer candle depicting Taylor Swift as a saint?] = POPULAR VOTIVE (Popular vote)
  • 80A. [Excusing friends who secretly planned a surprise party?] = FORGIVING AN ALLIANCE (Forging an alliance)
  • 96A. [Ranking of recipes from most to least appetizing?] =  SALIVARY SCALE (Salary scale)
  • 109A. [Turf damage caused by a raucous Czech band?] = POLKA DIVOT (Polka dot)

Inserting letters into common phrases to change them is a classic theme type and I was pretty sure that’s what we were in for just from reading the title “IV Infusion”. I think if you’re going to take a well-trodden path, you might as well go hard, and that’s what this puzzle does. The word changes are all quite stark and the new phrases quite wacky. CURSIVE OF THE BAMBINO was probably my favorite followed by WINE AND DIVINE.

The clue on POPULAR VOTIVE [Prayer candle depicting Taylor Swift as a saint?] didn’t hit quite right for me. Compare it to the clue on CURSIVE OF THE BAMBINO [Autograph on a rare baseball card?]. “Autograph” clues the CURSIVE part and “rare baseball card” clues THE BAMBINO part (Babe Ruth’s nickname). Analogously,  “Prayer candle depicting… a saint” clues VOTIVE and “Taylor Swift” clues… POPULAR? Of course Taylor Swift is as popular as they come, but it’s not as tight of a connection as a baseball card has with The Bambino. I thought the answer might be Popstar or something more specific to Taylor Swift. I’m probably being overly pedantic but I wonder if this nagged anybody else.

I found the surrounding fill full of creative clues. All different types too, clever tricky clues like 31A. [Game where it’s bad to catch a break?] = EGG TOSS and 112A. [Word before a Mass exodus?] = AMEN. Simple “unusual word usage” clues like 20A. [Expedition] = HASTE (people will initially think of expedition as in journey rather than alacrity), and evocative picture-painting clues like 88A. [Shadow puppet shapers] = HANDS. Good stuff.

I struggled a bit in the MAORI/CHARO/ARG/MALTA complex. Mostly these were gettable, but the pileup of proper nouns made it a bit tough to find a foothold in that section. Otherwise the puzzle played smoothly for me.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Bowl Game” — Matt’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Bowl Game” solution, 5/19/2024

A meta this week – we’re told to look for “a two-word phrase.” Themers and their clues both, are Something Different-esque:

  • 19a [Headline noting that a Canadian politician was reelected, thus extending their tenure at Parliament Hill?] OTTAWA TERM ELONGATED
  • 29a [Swimming venue that’s familiar to me?] POOL IVE SEEN
  • 40a [“Mr. Paisley has some reservations”?] BRAD IS HESITANT
  • 53a [Holy hardships?] SACRED ILLS
  • 66a [Twangy-sounding abbey figure?] NASAL MONK
  • 75a [Classroom session led by “Rent” actor Anthony?] RAPP LESSON
  • 88a [“In that case … how could you betray me, Ms. Dion?!”?] WELL ET TU CELINE
  • 102a [Chaos lover?] HAVOC ADORER
  • 112a [Caribbean archipelago resident’s information?] ADDRESS IN GUADELOUPE

Each of these entries has a hidden food item – depending on when a solver catches on, that element might be useful to finish the grid. “Lettuce” in 88a went a long way for me. The first letters of these food items spell out WORD SALAD, our meta answer.

The theme and jump to the meta answer are clear clicks, but I didn’t have a very smooth solve. There’s not much in the way of longer downs or larger open areas, so I felt choppy, and until I understood the theme, it took many more crosses to materialize than usual.

  • 33a [Company opening?] ACT I. Company being a Broadway show, I’m sure familiar to many readers, but perhaps not all.
  • 37a [Nature trail sighting] TREE. I have to admit, when I first read the clue I was expecting something a bit more than TREE.
  • 46a [Greek symbol for pseudorapidity] ETA. ‘Pseudorapidity’ is… “a commonly used spatial coordinate describing the angle of a particle relative to the beam axis.” I’m sure it’ll come right to mind next time ETA is clued this way.
  • 60a [“Not a chance”] UH UH. I have been putting UH NO in for this clue and its variations for the last few months, and it’s been wrong every time.
  • 3d [Cut into pieces, as lumber] SAW UP. I had SAWED and had to edit. It’s much more common that a present-looking verb is actually past rather than vice versa, as we have here
  • 11d [Longtime Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Ormandy] EUGENE. Imagine my concern when a conductor slot wasn’t five letters long after decades of dropping OZAWA, MEHTA, and SOLTI into puzzles!
  • 21d [Steve ___, former world record holder in the men’s mile run] OVETT. Completely new to me, but it does cross three themers.

Daniel Hrynick’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Rising Through the Ranks”—Jim’s review

The TITLE is all the revealer you’ll need for this theme. The circled letters (parts of three different answers each) spell out familiar(ish) phrases and were chosen and positioned such that the three Down letters form an abbreviation for a military rank. The Down entries are not clued as ranks and have a second clue for the circled-letter phrases.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Rising Through the Ranks” · Daniel Hrynick · 5.18.24

  • 22d. [Next-___ (advanced tech) / Dionysus, notably] GEN / WINE GOD.
  • 34d. [NHL’s Avs, on scoreboards / Farm-to-table mantra] COL / EAT LOCAL.
  • 61d. [Happy musical key (Abbr.) / Orange Monopoly place] MAJ / ST JAMES.
  • 93d. [Professional aviator’s cert. / Dandruff treatments, e.g.] CPL / SCALP CARE.
  • 108d. [Subordinate to four answers in this puzzle (Abbr.) / Premium streaming service] PVT / APPLE TV PLUS

There are a lot of moving parts to this theme, but it was relatively simple to grok given the title and the first theme answer. All the entries and supporting long phrases are solid although SCALP CARE is a bit green painty, and I doubt a majority of solvers would know that CPL also stands for Commercial Pilots License. But still, with so many triple-checked squares and little wiggle room for moving theme answers around, it’s a wonder this grid isn’t filled with more sludge. Also note that the ranks are in descending order. In the end, this is an impressive and satisfying grid.

Aside from all the long entries directly supporting the theme, we have goodies like PASS MUSTER, FEMALE DEER (or a “doe” as I like to call it), REPLICANTS from Blade Runner, SNOW SHOVEL, BOOLEAN, TOMATOES, Tracy Chapman’s “FAST CAR” symmetrically partnered with SPEED UP, and PAISANOS. A lot to like there!

Clues of note:

  • 49a. [Pops a squat]. SITS. Is this what the kids these days are saying? I’ll just stick with SITS, if you don’t mind.
  • 51a. [Strauss line]. SEAM. Levi Strauss, that is.
  • 60a. [Little bit of everything?]. SESAME. I take it this is referring to an everything bagel.
  • 66a. [Eight, six, seven, five, three or nine]. You’re showing your AGE if you recognize these numbers from the ’80s song by Tommy Tutone.
  • 83a. [Voice actor Hayes]. ISAAC. He was a lot more than a voice actor, but he’s known for voicing Chef from South Park.
  • 113a. [Chicken nuggy shape]. DINO. Hmm. I’ve heard “nuggs” but not “nuggy”. Maybe this is a toddler thing.
  • 23d. [Modern “alas”]. WELP. Hmm. I use it more as a replacement for “well” but with a little more resignation. “Alas” feels too negative, IMO.
  • 30d. [Decline, as a substack]. OPT OUT. I’m going to OPT OUT of knowing what a substack is.
  • 44d. [There’s the rub?]. ALOE. Meh. Technically, the clue is looking for a location. A bit too cutesy for me. See also 72d. [For whom the bell notification tolls?] for USER.

Impressive construction and a good theme. Lots of fun fill to enjoy, although the clues were on the verge of being overly clever. Four stars.

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22 Responses to Sunday, May 19, 2024

  1. JohnH says:

    Hated it. First, the theme just wasn’t carried out all that well. I could accept that not all D’s stemmed from N’s and that some phrases required pronouncing while others just changed a letter. But then one (the silent in hard knocks) required speaking the clue itself aloud, and then just one and only one transformed N twice to get those entries. Didn’t help that I was sure no one would ever use hard knocks to say the entry, but I see it’s a song from Annie.

    The fill only made things worse (and much harder than for Nat). There was DEE crossing the Jeff Beck song and SHOOT crossing POT OFF, but much more the concentration of Matcha, ASSHAT, MAE, ANDES, AUDRA, and South PLATTE. And in that sector, too, LI_A could have been several names if you don’t know German (and to make matters worse, my German dictionary doesn’t list LILA and gives a different translation for “purple”). And does anyone really say OWLISH? And does anyone really need (or find easier) the phrase for compass points? And why does that phrase refer especially to students? And surely a ladder shape goes better with RNA than the double helix? I didn’t know the IPAD scam, but by all means put that down to me. Still, this needed a huge revision.

    • Martin says:

      It’s fine to dislike the puzzle. But an RNA ladder would be missing one of the side rails, and I wouldn’t want to step on it. Also, LILA is “lilac,” both the color and the flower. I didn’t know that, but it was a reasonable guess.

    • Eric H says:

      “Loser” is a 1993 song by Beck (not Jeff Beck) that I still hear on the radio every once in a while. AUDRA McDonald is a six-time Tony winner who was great in the series “The Good Fight.”

      I agree that no one should need an idiotic mnemonic for the compass points. That was one place where I got stuck because I read the clue too quickly and whatever garbage I typed lacked the T that would have given me 91D TATTOO.

      The theme didn’t amuse me. When a Sunday theme falls that flat, the whole thing is a bit of a slog.

      I wanted to say that I really liked at least one or two clues, but I don’t see any outstanding ones.

      • Dallas says:

        I heard the mnemonic from my 8 year old son, so maybe it’s a school thing? Overall, I liked the theme; DOUGH BRAIDER and DOT AS I DO were both enjoyable. And a reasonably fast Sunday to boot.

  2. Alison L. says:

    As a longtime post op nurse, patients go to PACU (post anesthesia care unit) not ICU after they get out of surgery. We sometimes transfer them to ICU after they have recovered. It used to be referred to as the Recovery Room. Just thought I’d mention it as this clue is constantly in the NY Times puzzle. Shout out to all my fellow PACU nurses.

    • Eric H says:

      I don’t remember being in PACU, but 10 years ago, I spent several days in a cardiac ICU. My appreciation of the work nurses do skyrocketed. Y’all are amazing. Thanks.

  3. respectyourelders says:

    NYT: Loved WHATELSEISDUE and DOASISAYDOTASIDO. Others were a bit harder for me but then I thought, just “use your noodle!” In response to the first comment: If you’re going to trash a puzzle, it’d be good get your criticisms right. It was SHOOP crossing POPOFF — pretty easy guesses given the rhyming clue of “… ba-doop.” DNA is ladder-like; RNA is single-stranded. I have said OWLISH, and learned “Never eat soggy waffles” from my students.

    • JohnH says:

      Apologies for typos (it’s only the Web, though), and I concede DNA. I could argue either way from the usual picture in our heads and distributed everywhere, but no question that a ladder is a common descriptor.

      Otherwise I’ll stick to my guns. It’s not a great or remotely consistent theme, and my point about pop-culture names and trivia fill remains unchanged for a long time now. I don’t mean to deny that many will known them, just as I may know something they don’t know, and I don’t mean at all to say that an Emmy winner can’t appear in a puzzle, even if it’s the kind of TV I’d never watch. I don’t dictate my tastes to you, and I expect the same courtesy toward me.

      The point is the same, I repeat: there have to be fair crossings, not more of the same, and too dense a cluster of such entries makes for a slog. Who would want to work out an entire puzzle from crossings? And hey, there are lots of nonsensical sounds that end -OOP. Feel free to riff for yourself.

  4. MattF says:

    Sunday NYT puzzle tend to be a slog for me, particularly when there’s one wrong letter and I have to sift through the whole puzzle to find it. In today’s puzzle the resolution to the Sunday slog was the critical letter in the last theme entry– I had TOUGH for DOUGH. Fixing that revealed the theme, so this time the slog had a reward. Otherwise, a relatively easy puzzle for me, in spite of all the popcult.

  5. David L says:

    NYT: Puzzle was fine but the theme didn’t tickle my funny bone.

    WaPo: Finished the puzzle, stared at the wacky answers for a while, no idea what to do with them. Easy enough if you notice the hidden foods — but I didn’t. Oh well, I have to go out now and divide some hostas…

  6. Martin says:

    The Salmon Birnholz salad: salmon, watermelon and apple with olives, radishes and avocado salad on a bed of lettuce, with lots of dill in the dressing. Sounded pretty weird at first, but I’m thinking it might be an interesting twist on the Salmon Niçoise. Make the lettuce Treviso to offset the sweet fruit. Tiny niçoise olives. Dill vinaigrette with a fruity olive oil. I might sneak in some anchovies, at least in the vinaigrette.

    • Susan Hoffman says:

      I also thought of mixing those ingredients, and decided it must be a trendy poke bowl (my two-word phrase answer).

  7. Dan says:

    NYT: Enjoyed the solve a lot, especially that it was no pushover but forced me to actually think in a number of spots.

    Was a bit disappointed that the last theme entry depended on the common phrase spelled only phonetically, while the other theme entries merely changed one letter of the original spelling (of the common phrase), leading to an apparent inconsistency in the theme. Oh, well.

  8. Me says:

    NYT: I liked this one, especially with the title!

    On an unrelated NYT note, I wasn’t crazy about Strands at first, but now it’s one of my favorites. I’m liking it more now than Connections, which often has something too obscure for the purple grouping, so that I often end up with the last four and have no idea how they go together. I thought today’s Strands, although much easier than usual, was very clever and fun.

    • MarkAbe says:

      I also often end up in Connections with a group of four with no idea what the connections is. I just call it “leftovers” and click it! I also wanted to shout-out that, second day in a row, LAT was fun, and like the review I guessed the theme from the name.

  9. Del says:

    Think yesterday’s puzzle had SOLOS for up and down flights. Not seeing that. Thanks.

  10. Eric H says:

    WaPo: I didn’t spot the “hidden” ingredients until I spotted the AVOCADO of HAVOC ADORER. The off-center placement of DILL in SACRED ILLS caused me to initially overlook it and wonder what a WOR SALAD was.

    If more metas were this easy, I would have a much better success rate.

  11. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: editing woes continue, and 46D “Crashes” is the same as “Clatters”. In what world does this language even exist? Minus 1 star for this blunder.

  12. Seattle DB says:

    WAPO: in my opinion, Evan B is the best crossworder on Earth. And while this puzzle was a nice solve, I needed a hint to solve the meta, but couldn’t find one in the clues or answers. 1/2 star reduction.

Comments are closed.