Sunday, July 7, 2024

LAT tk (Gareth)  


NYT 16:59 (Nate) 


USA Today tk (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) 10:56 (Jim) 


Universal tk (norah) 


WaPo 8:03 (Matt G) 


David Karp’s New York Times crossword, “Double Digits” — Nate’s write-up

07.07.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle

07.07.2024 Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle

– 22A: EATT HHUUMMBBLE PIE [Admit one was wrong] (THUMB is fatter)
– 35A: BLIINNDD EEXXPERIMENTS [Research trials using withheld information] (INDEX is fatter)
– 48A: KATE MMIIDDLLEETON [Royal whose wedding had a whopping 1,900 guests] (MIDDLE is fatter)
– 76A: SPARRRIINNGG PARTNER [Friendly debate opponent] (RING is fatter)
– 92A: PPIINNKKYY AND THE BRAIN [Lab mice of 1990s cartoons] (PINKY is fatter)
– 107A: FAT FINGER SYNDROME [Excuse for texting errors, jocularly … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme]

I am hopeful this puzzle is one that folks enjoy, but I’m sad to say that it wasn’t my favorite:

– The placement of theme entries and revealer in the grid necessitated so. much. short. fill. and. crosswordese. This made the solve less fun for me.
– The theme entries aren’t utilized consistently. Usually in a “word hidden in a phrase” theme like this, editors want to see the hidden word span multiple words in the phrase, as we see in EA(T HUMB)LE PIE and BL(IND EX)PERIMENTS. Yet, those are the only two theme entries that do this; the next two “hide” the finger in half of a stand-alone word and the last one simply has PINKY as a full stand-alone word itself. It was a bit disappointing to see this degree of theme inconsistency in an outlet that I know rejects solid puzzles for much less.
SPARRING PARTNER was an inelegant theme entry in that there is a non-repeated R before the set of repeated Rs in RING. That triple R threw me until I stepped back and figured out what was going on.
– The BLIND EXPERIMENTS theme entry was a particular trap for me, since the idea of a double blind experiment could easily confuse a solver who sees letters doubling in the theme entry but hasn’t figured out the puzzle’s revealer / trick. I’ll admit that this was a rabbit hole I fell down. I wonder if anyone else saw BLIND EXPERIMENTS and a doubling of letters and assumed that was the theme mechanism somehow?
FAT FINGER SYNDROME (or a fat-finger error) usually results in typing a wrong letter or typing multiple, close letters at once, since the finger is so “fat” as to not just land on one narrow letter on a digital keyboard. That’s not what’s going on here, so I think it’s just that each finger letter is taking up two squares to show, literally, “fat fingers”?
– There are quite a number of ways to clue KATE MIDDLETON, so it was a bit disappointing to see her reduced, essentially, to her role as a bride/wife.

What did you think of the puzzle? I hope you enjoyed it in part or full – and I hope you have a great weekend!


Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “The Three-Body Problem” — Matt’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword solution, “The Three-Body Problem,” 7/7/2024

Bit of a funky one from Evan this week. I was a good chunk slower than normal. I found the fill on the tougher end of Evan’s spectrum, but I also think the asymmetry prevents a certain amount of flow. I think it’s worth it – a neat theme with a fitting title.

Five across entries have circled letters that spell body parts, but in the crossing down entries, each letter needs to be used three times to make it work:

  • 33a [Send again] RESHIP, crossing HH HOLMES, PART III, and APP PLAYER
  • 46a [“Bright” partner] EARLY, crossing BEE EATER, AAA BOND, and RIOT GRRRL
  • 54a [Chicken ___ (Italian entree, briefly)] PARM, crossing CLASS AAA, THEY’RE GRRREAT, and MMMBOP
  • 94a [One of 12 biblical groups of ancient Israel] TRIBE, crossing STARR REPORT, WII-ITIS, and BBB RATING
  • 111a [Has an extra level, as an amp that Nigel shows off in “This Is Spinal Tap”] GOES TO ELEVEN, crossing SCOTT TUROW, TOO OLD, SLIME EEL
  • 121a [Vital thing in the body, an example of which is spelled out by the first letters of this puzzle’s tripled words] ORGAN. The spelt-out ORGAN is HEART.

I found the title more compelling than the revealer, but between the two it was clear  what’s going on. Typically when there’s a triple-letter theme like this, the old CLASS AAA team HAWAII ISLANDERS makes an appearance, but the gridding was a bit too constrained here, I imagine. I appreciated a number of the triple-letter entries that we don’t usually see – STARR REPORT, WII ITIS, THEY’RE GREAT, RIOT GRRRL. I also love, love, LOVE that GOES TO ELEVEN is at clue number… 111.


  • 38a [Total of reds and whites, perhaps] TAB. As in a bar TAB. There’s lots of fun clues for bar tabs, and this one felt new to me.
  • 50a [Former venue for the WNBA’s New York Liberty] MSG. They now play at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Go see a game if you’re in the area!
  • 53a [Bread spread, briefly] MAYO. Hands up for OLEO, here. That took a moment to fix.
  • 57a [These usually aren’t considered stories] BASEMENTS. I loved this
  • 117a [Conductor Rodzinski] ARTUR. This is a new orchestra-person entry to me. I’m surprised that in all the ARTURs I’ve seen in grids, it’s never been this fellow before.
  • 5d [End of a trilogy, and a phrase that hints at each circled word when entering it in the Down direction] PART III. Additional theme pointer here.
  • 82d [Red ___ (gemstone)] SPINEL. I’d seen this before, but still a bit of a crossword rarity, despite the friendly letters. Seems to have once been part of what folks called “rubies,” until eventually spinels and corundums were differentiated.
  • 100d [First word of TMNT] TEENAGE. That’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I never saw any of the show, but I enjoy the meme format that plays on phrases that scan the same as the show title.

Halle Amore Bauer’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Crossing the Line”—Jim’s review

Today’s puzzle is a very nice debut by a constructor whose three names would each make a fine addition to the crossword lexicon.

Theme answers are familiar phrases punnily applied to marathoners.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Crossing the Line” · Halle Amore Bauer · 7.7.24

  • 22a. [*With 34-Across, how marathoners describe their association with each other?] LONG-DISTANCE / RELATIONSHIP.
  • 49a. [*Pacing coach’s advice to marathoners?] “HAVE A GREAT TIME!”
  • 69a. [*Where marathoners learn how to go the extra mile?] EXTENSION COURSE.
  • 90a. [*High-five at the end of a marathon?] FINISHING TOUCH.
  • 105a. [*Physical therapy appointment for post-race marathoners?] JOINT SESSION.
  • 121a. [*Recurring gags … and a punny description of this puzzle’s theme] RUNNING JOKES.

I enjoyed these, especially when I got to the last one to cap things off. The only one that felt iffy to me was EXTENSION COURSE as that’s not a phrase I’m familiar with (but it gets plenty of hits on Google). Good humor and good wordplay throughout. Nicely done!

Plenty to like in the fill, too: LATTE ART, TRADE WAR, OPEN SEAS, ARIADNE, PEEL OUT, ROTH IRAS, LEANED ON, WEARS A WIG, METRONOME. I came to a stop at S_YDOG, though [Vegan frankfurter]. I couldn’t get Peppermint Patty’s “you sly dog” out of my head, and I didn’t know the name at that crossing (OLUO [Ijeoma who wrote “Be a Revolution”]). Eventually I figured it out (duh!), but I liked the thought of something called a “sly dog” enjoyed by vegans.

Clue of note: 29d. [The only mammal that truly flies]. BAT. Others, like flying squirrels, only glide.

Good puzzle. 3.75 stars.

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39 Responses to Sunday, July 7, 2024

  1. stmv says:

    NYT: Nate wrote “I wonder if anyone else saw BLIND EXPERIMENTS and a doubling of letters and assumed that was the theme mechanism somehow?” Yes, that happened to me.

    • Nate Cardin says:

      Not just me! I thought I was losing it for a while in that solve when the letters I thought I was supposed to double (BB LL II NN DD) weren’t fitting with the downs I’d already solved. I wonder if any NYT test solvers had this experience and pointed it out.

    • JohnH says:

      In any event, there sure seemed something wrong with it as fill. But then I didn’t appreciate the kiddie TV as a long entry, and I hadn’t heard of the revealer either.

      Mostly it seemed yet another lousy Sunday puzzle. I kept wanting, per the title, to double letters somewhere in the long entries. From the title, I wondered if it were letters that serve as Roman numerals, and that seemed right for my first discoveries, but not consistently so. Then I wondered what in the world we were doing with occasional triples. It kinda sorta made sense when I finally got the revealer, but then still we had the consequences of the grid with its six very long entries set apart from one another: way too many three-letter words, but not so many that one could easily get a hand-hold.

      There were also things I could have lived without such as KRAFT clued from sports trivia, and I never did recognize Wayfair or the rapper is or acccept the peacock as a child rather than logo. Think we’ve had doubling letters before, too. All told, a LLEEMMOONN.

      • pannonica says:

        Peacock is not just NBC’s logo; it’s the name of a subsidiary network/channel.

        • JohnH says:

          Thanks, I go look it up. And also apologies for reference to trippling. I’ve since tossed the puzzle, but am not sure what I was thinking of. Maybe as often trouble reading my own handwriting.

          • Gary R says:

            Re: tripling – most likely thinking of 76-A, where there were three R’s in a row – SPARRRIINN, blah, blah.

  2. Scott says:

    I was a bit confused for awhile but in the end I found the result to be satisfactory.

  3. huda says:

    “I wonder if anyone else saw BLIND EXPERIMENTS and a doubling of letters and assumed that was the theme mechanism somehow?”
    Yes here.
    And I agree with all the criticisms, but remarkably, I thought it was a fun puzzle in the end. I liked the overall title. For a while, I thought we were doubling any letter that may be a Roman numeral, but that was clearly wrong and so I enjoyed the AHA moment.

    • MattF says:

      Agree. I tend to get annoyed with the Sunday puzzle, but was OK with this one.

    • DougC says:

      +1. Took me longer than the usual Sunday, distracted as I was by trying to somehow make the BLIND EXPERIMENT double-blind, and by the several unknown names with unknown crosses.

      I gather that PINKY AND THE BRAIN is well known to some of us here, but I’m learning about it for the very first time. Not sure yet whether I want to take up diminishing brain storage space by committing it to long-term memory.

      But it turned out to be a reasonable theme for a Sunday, and moderately entertaining in spite of some rough spots and a fair amount of PPP.

  4. David K Stone says:

    We enjoyed the NYT puzzle, but I totally understand some folks’ complaints. There was some clever cluing, so that helped the fun (RANSOMS = “rates of return?”, and especially “STREAK = “run out of clothes”). I did goggle at ‘fat finger SYNDROME’ — wasn’t something I think I’ve heard too often, if at all, but my wife guessed the last word confidently (based on the SY), so I figured it’s vernacular enough. Apparently not.

  5. David L says:

    I didn’t understand the NYT theme until after I’d finished, so all the while I was solving I was trying to figure out which letters were doubled and why. It made sense eventually. But I was also distracted by the double-blind experiment.

    The NW corner was tough. I thought TALC had been taken out of cosmetics, and I was looking for an online retailer as a Wayfair alternative, not IKEA. The whole thing was a slog for me, with a very belayed aha moment.

    • David L says:

      Also, now that I think about it, fat-fingering isn’t about doubling letters, is it? It’s more about hitting two keys at the same time, or hitting the key next to the one you wanted.

      • pannonica says:

        Yes, but the cause is that the fingers (thumb, index, etc.) are too large.

        • David L says:

          Right, but the result wouldn’t be doubled letters, typically. So the theme answers don’t represent what fat-fingering usually causes.

          • Ethan says:

            The theme answers aren’t supposed to the result of fat-fingering, they are supposed to *illustrate* fat fingers.

            • JohnH says:

              That’s what I eventually hit on, but it was perhaps less satisfying to a pen and ink solver in the magazine like me, who circled relevant letters as best I could and was thus focused on doubling of adjacent squares, than to those who didn’t and saw something like Nat’s helpful solution with large, wide letters.

  6. Eric H. says:

    NYT: Two mistakes in the top cost me a few minutes.

    In 9D, I misread “NHL” as “NFL” and put Hou, which didn’t fit well with what I knew was going to be HUMBLE PIE. (Yes, I realize the Houston Oilers long ago moved to Tennessee.)

    In 15D, the I at the end from the gimme SUSIE prompted me to enter NEgroNI. Realizing later on that the Bacardi logo had to feature either a BAT, cAT or rAT helped me get BELLINI.

    • Eric H. says:

      NYT continued:

      Overall, I was underwhelmed by the puzzle. Solving online, the graphic flourish of the fat fingers was quickly hidden by the congratulations screen, so it wasn’t until I read Wordplay that I realized that the fingers ran from the THUMB at the top to the PINKY at the bottom. Having that arrangement right is impressive, but as Nate’s review notes, there are some inconsistencies in the way the theme answers incorporate the fingers.

  7. Papa John says:

    Oh, my kingdom for a Shortz!

  8. Armagh says:

    easily the worst NYT puzzle of the year so far.

  9. rosie b says:

    i have been solving the sunday crossword puzzle for over 60 years and until the last 5 or so Ive been acing it with only occasional help from an atlas or dictionary
    this sunday i counted 15 trips to wkipedia to solve. nyt puzzle is no longer crossword
    also i agree poorly constructed
    one last minor thing G W bush was not a junior I didnt have to look that up
    being a canadian i guess we can forgive him the error

  10. Mary+A says:

    The inconsistency of the themed clues definitely detracted from the quality of the puzzle. But what really frustrated me were the clues relating to cartoons and alcoholic beverages (I’m not a drinker). I never heard of a “Bellini” (though I have heard of a mimosa); I had no idea a bat appears in the logo for Bacardi rum because I’ve never even held a bottle, much less drink from it; and “Bloody Caesar” and clamato were completely foreign to me. I never watched or knew of “Pinky and the Brain.” I guess I have led a deprived life…

    It’s probably obvious to you pros, but what is the connection between 28D “Flight selections, say” and “Ales”? I’m not seeing it at all.

    • Gary R says:

      Re: “Flight selections” – many restaurants, breweries, wineries and distilleries will offer a “flight” of 4-6 small servings of a particular type of beverage – beers (maybe including ales), wines, bourbons, whatever. Basically, a “sampler.” I think I’ve even seen flights of teas.

  11. Jeff says:

    In the NYT, I didn’t understand the answer for 118A, “Root word?” Can anyone explain?

  12. dh says:

    Re: WaPo – I was happy to see the mention of the Rochester Red Wings in the puzzle; they’re my home AAA team.
    Fun Fact – we attended a screening of the movie “Bull Durham” at the Dryden Theater at the Eastman Museum here in town, and Ron Shelton (who wrote the screenplay for that film) was on hand to talk about the film and answer questions. A former infielder himself, he said that the movie was about his experiences playing with the Red Wings back in the early 1970’s. Back then, the Red Wings were a farm team for the Orioles, who had a championship infield – leaving little room for Shelton to move to the major leagues. When the MLB strike happened in 1972, he left baseball and went back to school and ultimately became a screenwriter.

  13. Seattle DB says:

    WAPO: I’ve been solving about 10 crosswords per day since I retired 10 years ago, and I must give kudos to EVAN BIRNHOLZ for being the top constructor in that time period because 99.9% of his puzzles are clued properly, as are the answers.
    And because I’m a paper & pencil (and eraser) solver, his grid and clues perfectly align with an 8×11 sheet of paper, and there is not a single area on the paper that goes to waste.
    He is a true master of the art, and I’m so grateful that he understands how to create puzzles that appeal to all demographics of people. (Huzzah, Evan!)

  14. Eric H. says:

    WaPo: I was mildly confused through most of this. My last letter was the B of TAB/BEATER, and I was surprised to get the Happy Pencil.

    The circled letters clearly involved something funky beyond the obvious body parts. I assumed BEATER was read as BEE-EATER, but I had no idea why. I haven’t yet read the review, so I’m just now realizing the third letter of each body part is tripled for the Down answer. Part of my confusion was unfamiliarity with the term APP PLAYER and not knowing the Hanson hit well enough to know it’s MMMBop and not MBop.

    It’s an interesting contrast to today’s NYT.

    • Dallas says:

      Really enjoyed the WaPo; I figured out the theme (in part with help from the revealer clue), but hadn’t tripled all the letters in rebus form; when I got to the end, and clicked check grid, all of the theme answers lit up… *face palm* Anyway, a really nice and cleverly-themed puzzle from Evan.

  15. Katie says:

    NYT: no comments on the puzzle today (from me), but here’s another thumb–>pinky finger-theme puzzle, fwiw:

  16. john ervin says:

    NYT : You guys are TOO critical imho, negativity abounds! Personally I enjoyed the puzzle , which is the reason I do them, So what if you don’t know this or that, isn’t that how we learn, expand our knowledge base? Once you have “thumb”, doesn’t “index” seem possible?
    I say kudos to David Karp and to those pining for Mr. Shortz, what about a mention of E. Maleska?

  17. John Malcolm says:

    Double Digits: My wife and I started this one but after we saw the first theme answer, we gave it the finger and moved on to something more fun.

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