Sunday, June 9, 2024

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 10:51 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 12:29 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 17:18 (Matt F) 


Zachary Schiff’s New York Times crossword, “Quiet Time” — Nate’s write-up

06.09.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

06.09.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 22A: CINNAMON BREAD [Sweet loaf with a swirl]
– 31A: TEARDROPS ON MY GUITAR [Triple-platinum song from Taylor Swift’s debut album]
– 49A: SCIENCE PROJECT [Potato battery or model volcano, e.g.]
– 58A: SIDE HUSTLE [Extra source of income, slangily]
– 76A: FRUIT SALAD [Side dish at a summer cookout]
– 84A: THIS IS JEOPARDY [Classic game show intro]
– 103A: DAMN WITH FAINT PRAISE [Pay a backhanded compliment, perhaps]
– 117A: SILENT AUCTION [Popular charity event … or a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters]

I was surprised by how relatively simple this puzzle’s theme was – each of the themers, in order, has a circled letter that is silent in the entry. In order throughout the puzzle, those letters spell out a SILENT AUCTION, hence the “Quiet Time” title of the puzzle. Since all this theme needed to succeed was seven themers, one each with those silent letters, I wonder if the constructor originally considered this as a 15x puzzle with quite short theme entries before realizing it’d be too dense? It certainly works better in a 21x grid with room to breathe, and that choice also allowed for my favorite thing in this puzzle – modern theme entries like TEARDROPS ON MY GUITAR and SIDE HUSTLE and other fun inclusions like THIS IS JEOPARDY and DAMN WITH FAINT PRAISE. (Edited to add: I just checked the Wordplay article for this puzzle and my 15x –> 21x suspicions were right! I also read that this is the constructor’s NYT debut – congratulations indeed!)

The fill in the grid felt mostly solid, though there were a few moments like ELIHU crossing GAUL, SION, and POUF that might give some folks some trouble. Overall, though, this was quite a quick solve for me and almost a PB!  Did any of you breeze through this puzzle?  What did you think of it?  Let us know (kindly) in the comments section – and have a great weekend!

Aaron Rosenberg’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Backing Musicians”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that end in words that are also well-known bands, clued wackily as if these were actions one might take in support of the band. The revealer is BAND-AID SOLUTION (106a, [*Temporary fix … or a description of seven answers in this puzzle ]).

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Backing Musicians” · Aaron Rosenberg · 6.9.24

  • 20a. [*Keep Ray Davies and co. in shape on tour?] WORK OUT THE KINKS. Didn’t know the name but a good entry.
  • 35a. [*Hustle to get Robert Smith and co. their gear before showtime?] RACE FOR THE CURE. This time I knew the name and grokked the theme. This is also my fave entry of the lot.
  • 43a. [*Shuttle Ann Wilson and co. to the venue?] TAKE HEART. Solid.
  • 60a. [*Provide Pat Monahan and co. a place to stay on the road?] HOUSE TRAIN. I thought, “What the heck is a HOUSE TRAIN.” But no, it’s a verb as applied to a new pet, perhaps.
  • 64a. [*Make sure Eric Clapton and co. are illuminated on stage?] LIGHT CREAM. Solid.
  • 80a. [*Tow Freddie Mercury and co.’s broken-down tour bus?] DRAG QUEEN. Hmm. This one’s a bit iffy. No one refers to towing a vehicle as “dragging.” And presumably the band wouldn’t be in the bus at the time.
  • 88a. [*Encourage Jim Morrison and co. to freely express themselves?] OPEN UP THE DOORS. Eh. This one’s okay if you’re referring to literal doors being opened, but a metaphorical “open doors” seems far more common.

Solid wordplay. The challenge for many solvers will be recognizing the names. I knew four of the seven, so needed some crossings to work out the others. But knowing the phrases ended in band names was certainly of some help even if I didn’t know which band it was. I do like the consistent approach as if the solver is a professional roadie who has worked for all these bands.


Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Parisian sandwich cookie]. MACARON. Nice start to the puzzle, especially given that we are trained to respond with “Oreo” to the phrase “sandwich cookie.”
  • 16a. [Smallest denomination of U.S. coin ever minted]. HALF CENT. News to me. It was minted from 1793 to 1857.
  • 83a. [Scam]. HOSE. This sounds like dated slang unless it’s come back into fashion, but that seems unlikely.
  • 103a. [“___ corn!” (2022 viral video)]. IT’S. Wow. I missed this one from two years ago. See below if you missed it too.
  • 53d. [Teacup, say]. PET PIG. Didn’t know this designation for a mini pig, either. Here’s everything you need to know.

Good wordplay and lovely long fill. 3.75 stars.

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Mind Your P’s and Q’s” — Matt F’s Review

WaPo Solution 06.09.2024

Befittingly, we’ve made a little substitution at Fiend to cover today’s puzzle. You get the other Matt today. So, let’s dig in and see what Evan cooked up for us in this one.

(Side note: I should know better than to try and crank out a write-up the morning of, knowing full-well my 3 kids will be clamoring for my attention every second of the day from 6AM onward. One of these days I’ll learn my lesson and do these things the night before. Apologies to anyone who was hoping to read this first thing in the morning.)

Theme Synopsis:

Today we have a substitution puzzle where the P in common phrases is switched out for a Q sound, and the resulting phrase is clued in a punny way.

  • 23A: Actor Aidan, when he’s doing summersaults? = ROLLING QUINN (…pin)
  • 31A: Surpasses that pheasant relative? = GOES BEYOND THE QUAIL (…pale)
  • 47A: Charmingly old-fashioned game? = QUAINT BALL (paint…)
  • 62A: Actor Pesci’s nickname when he makes a duck sound half a dozen times? = JOE SIX-QUACK (…pack)
  • 75A: “Awesome crouch!”? = SWEET SQUAT (…spot)
  • 92A: Pet mouse? = SQUEAKER OF THE HOUSE (speaker…)
  • 104A: Ocean giants that twist like worms? = SQUIRM WHALES (sperm…)

Overall Impressions

With a straightforward theme like this, I like to look at each themer in isolation and take a stab at the answer before checking crosses. Some of these came easier than others, and even if I didn’t get it right away, I basically had to “find that Q” with crosses and the phrase fell in shortly after. Four out of seven required more than just a “qu” swap to make the phonetic switch, and I enjoyed these the most – pin/Quinn, pale/quail, spot/squat, sperm/squirm. The fill stays clean here despite all the Q’s, and trickier intersections like MIRTH/GIMLI are crossed fairly enough to keep the flow. QANTAS was a nice change up that threw me off when I was expecting another QU word.

I also like the black square pattern here. There’s something aesthetically pleasing about the connectivity of everything, opposed to a smattering of single squares. I think it helps facilitate good solving flow, too.

Thanks for the puzzle, Evan!

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15 Responses to Sunday, June 9, 2024

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: It felt a little more difficult while I was solving it than it turned out to be. Mostly, I think it was because I had some minor writes-overs here and there, mostly in the top third of the grid.

    Circled letters, especially in a Sunday-sized grid, are a little hard on my eyes. So I didn’t try to make sense of the circled letters until after I had the revealer.

    It’s a solid puzzle for a debut.

  2. Theme of WSJ June 8th is board games

  3. JohnH says:

    I indeed found the NYT a breeze but didn’t like it at all. Generally, Sunday varies in difficulty a bit more these days, where it used to be more or less between Wednesday and Thursday in level, and we’ve had some hard ones leaning more than I’d like on trivia. It’s the theme that carries me through them.

    But this was the reverse. Easier than I might prefer, but a dreadful theme. Something felt wrong with the print edition’s bio note, that this was the constructor’s first published puzzle and had been polished after being rejected for a daily. All I could think of was that they must lower their standards an awful lot for Sunday. That few large submissions?

    Second warning signal was the circling. When the circles are so spare and arbitrary in position, I’m always turned off. With no constraints, you can find the word you like hidden in any puzzle! But then there was a constraint: all silent letters. But that has a drawback of its own. Can the long entries be that arbitrary, that we need all that to sneak in a word like DAMN or GUITAR, which occur in hundreds of usages? Shouldn’t they have a little something more in common?

    Besides, I’m not convinced they’re all silent. Say, FRUT without the I in FRUIT would surely rhyme with STRUT, no? Overall, just not acceptable, moderately challenging, or interesting.

    • Mr. [just a little bit] Grumpy says:

      Agree with the last paragraph, but … shrug. What the heck. But … I did not like the 101A/93D cross. Didn’t affect my rating of the puzzle as a whole, but that sort of thing turns me off.

      • David L says:

        The whole concept of ‘silent’ letters in English is very iffy, as the example of FRUIT shows. And what about the final E in SCIENCE, for that matter?

        Congrats to the constructor on a first puzzle — but it wasn’t much of a theme, I’m sorry to say. Like Eric, I paid no attention to the circled letters until I got to the end.

      • DougC says:

        The “U” at that 101A/93D crossing was my last entry. Surprised myself by getting it right on the first try! Didn’t think I knew either name/word, but they must have been buried somewhere in my subconscious.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: Like Nate, I loved the long entries. Some were simply great.
    While the theme was certainly not the star of the show, it allowed for a wide range of material and sidestepped the trap that a lot of Sunday puzzles fall into– feeling like a slog around a theme that tries to be funny but does not always succeed.
    I agree that there were a few tricky crosses, and I am not sure how to think about the “I” in FRUIT. You could not remove it and make the word sound right so it’s clearly playing a role, but one definitely doesn’t hear the sound of an I in the word, so I’d put that in the grey zone.
    Compared to, say, Jeopardy… Because I first knew the word in French, when I first heard of the game I would call it GEO PAR DEE. My then boyfriend, now husband, quickly set me straight. But once in a while, we still refer to the non-silent, GEO version, of the game.
    Congratulations on this debut!

  5. Art Shapiro says:

    WP review: “Goes beyond…” should cite “pale”, not “pail”.

  6. JohnH says:

    Oh, I forgot to ask for help. In the NYT, why is the clue for RAW, “tartare,” in quotes? Thanks.

    • Martin says:

      Not sure, but maybe it’s because “tartare” doesn’t mean “raw” in French. It means “Tatar,” supposedly because there’s no time to cook while marauding. Steak tartare is raw, but it also is minced and seasoned. But a simple, informal definition of steak tartare is “raw beef,” so the quotes are a reasonable compromise between vernacular and actual meaning.

      • JohnH says:

        Thanks. I’d hate to say for sure, but that gives me something smart to think about, as you always do. (Maybe, now that I think again, they were just afraid that without quotes it would attribute qualities to Tartars and their diet that they do not really have apart from French usage c. 1900.We’re all taking more pains to be less demeaning, no doubt.)

  7. Dallas says:

    WaPo: enjoyed the P->Q substitution theme a lot, especially when there were the spelling changes. Fun theme to play with… plus a Simpson’s clue and an Ani Difranco answer… very much in my wheelhouse :-)

  8. Seattle DB says:

    WaPo: Evan B has been my favorite puzzler since the passing of Merl Reagle, and his “Joe Six Quack” and “Sweet Squat” totally cracks me up! Thanks for another funny & punny puzzle!

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