Saturday, February 10, 2018

LAT 6:05 (Derek) 


Newsday 25:05 (Derek) 


NYT 5:14 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Amy) 


Finn Vigeland’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 10 18, no 0210

This themeless is a skosh wider than the standard to accommodate that center stack of 16s. The whole enterprise feels very Finn—he’s a massive LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA/Hamilton fanboy, so it makes perfect sense that he’d include that [Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama]. The upper left corner also felt Finn-ish—Sarah KOENIG of the Serial podcast, a little foodie ANCHO (cutely crossing SANCHO, and no, that is not the sort of overlap that’s against the rules), internationalist NI HAO ([Greeting in Guangzhou]), literary GENET, font nerd FUTURA. (Solvers who don’t know these things, please don’t complain that they’re “trivia.” These are all things that a well-rounded American can know.)

Now, ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE was my favorite thing in this grid. Worth the price of admission.

“I am not throwing away my shot (of me & @Lin_Manuel). Thank you for your genius & kindness. #HamiltonBway #YayHamlet”

What I didn’t know: 15d. [British writing award], GOLDEN PEN. I don’t know if PREOPS works as a plural noun for preop areas in a hospital. Perhaps the physicians on Team Fiend will weigh in here.

Six more things:

  • 23a. [Went to bat (for)], STOOD UP. Interesting clue choice. More positive than the more common “stood up,” in which one party’s a no-show for a date.
  • Foreign language/literature content: SANCHO Panza, ASADA, ETRE, Latin RARA AVIS (though the term’s in English), Jean GENET, NI HAO. Doesn’t feel excessive for a Saturday puzzle.
  • 37d. [House call?], AYE. Cute clue.
  • 43d. [“Manners require time, as nothing is more vulgar than ___”: Ralph Waldo Emerson], HASTE. Listen, crossword solving is not about manners, and speed solving is not vulgar.
  • Zippy entries not in the center stack or the northwest corner include WHAT A TRIP, SWIFFER, SOLO CUP (with LIBATIONS crossing!), MLB DRAFT, and D-LIST.
  • 2d. [Mounts with a little white on top?], ROANS. Blah crosswordese answer, with a clue that … is sort of pretending to be racy? Pass. … Oh, wait. Mounts = mountains, snow-capped. Not a verb. My bad.

4.5 stars from me. A most enjoyable crossword.

Frank Longo’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

I consider it a triumph on this Longo puzzle that I finished in less than 30 minutes! I will also allow myself a few minutes handicap for iPad solving, and it is a good day! I count 70 words in this one, and I had plenty of errors in the SW corner. Had the whole right side done “fairly” quickly, by Stumper standards, but the other half was quite a struggle. But I would call it a joyful struggle, as there is nothing else to do on a Saturday morning when you are snowed in! Yes, we got almost a foot of snow yesterday, and there was already 6-8 inches on the ground, so we sorely need some warmer weather here. On the bright side, I have finished all of the contest puzzles this weekend! I’m sure I can find more puzzles to do while the Olympics are one! 4.5 stars for Frank today.

A few notes:

  • 5A [Winter blanket produced before the fall?] SHEET OF ICE – Excellent clue. I used to fall on the ice every year when I was younger and always in a hurry. I did get stuck yesterday in the snow, though!
  • 18A [It won’t click beyond a circle] INSIDE JOKE – This may be the best clue in the puzzle, and that is saying something because there are quite a few good ones. My mind had pictures of clicking a mouse on a computer screen!
  • 35A [Prominent white beam] CHESHIRE CAT GRIN – That it is! I said there were lots of good clues!
  • 45A [Craft names a UNESCO Masterpiece] BATIK – Oh, THAT craft …
  • 53A [Slinky in “Toy Story”] SAUSAGE DOG – I was thinking of some type of dog breed. I actually don’t think I am too familiar with this term. I assume this is slang for a dachshund?
  • 5D [“We Need a Little Christmas” instrument] SPINET – I am Googling this now … OK, a spinet is mentioned in the lyrics. I don’t know this song. Evidently is is from Mame?
  • 9D [Suess, to his pale] TED – First clue I filled in. Dr. Seuss is the pen name for Theodor Geisel.
  • 29D [Chapter I of his best-known book is “The Cyclone”] L. FRANK BAUM – This is of course referring to the initial chapter in The Wizard of Oz. Too easy, perhaps?
  • 50D [Complete fragments, perhaps] EDIT – This was hard because it sounds like an incomplete sentence until you realize “complete” is a verb here!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Now THAT is a Xmas song I know! If there is no snow where you are, I am jealous of you and probably a little angry at you! ;-) Have a great weekend!

Michael Wiesenberg’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

A solid 70-worder today, but there are a couple of entries in here that are not my favorite. I suppose for a harder Saturday challenge puzzle, the solver should be skilled enough to know some of the more heavily used “crosswordese” entries, but it seems as if, especially in the LAT, there is an effort to NOT use these. Still a solid puzzle, and not too hard. 3.9 stars from me.

Things to mention:

  • 1A [Empathetic words] I CAN RELATE – Not bad for 1-Across!
  • 11A [RSVP part] SIL – One of the not my favorites, but how else is there to clue this?
  • 28A [Maternally related] ENATE – My least favorite. I literally have NEVER encountered this word except in puzzles.
  • 34A [Supar suffix] OSE – Another not-my-favorite. At least a newer solver to tough puzzles would likely be able to figure this out if they didn’t know it already.
  • 40A [Rocky of song] RACCOON – There’s a song? (Googling …) Oh yeah, the Beatles!
  • 41A [Munich title] HERR – This is one of several foreign words and places in this puzzle. I don’t normally notice, so maybe this isn’t more than normal, but it seems like a lot.
  • 48A [Ecstatic] BLISSED OUT – No one in Indiana talks like this!
  • 49D [Airport in Peru’s cap.] LIM – On the other hand, I like this one. It seems like a new idea!

Have a happy weekend!

Pancho Harrison’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fish Stories”—Amy’s recap

Wall St Journal crossword solution, 2 10 18, “Fish Stories”

The puzzle title can be parsed as “F” Is “H” Stories, with each theme answer made by changing a familiar phrase’s initial F into an H, and cluing the resulting made-up phrase accordingly. The puzzle’s got nine of these theme entries, and the fill is on the rough side. Crosswordese bits like OENO, ISSEI, UCAL, and IRAE don’t see as much action these days as they used to, fortunately, but here they are. RTEI is awfully bogus as well—this country doesn’t use Roman numerals for highway numbers. BOOK DEAL and QUIXOTE are great fill, though. 2.7 stars from me.

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48 Responses to Saturday, February 10, 2018

  1. MattG says:

    I took ‘mount’ in the ‘steed’ direction, but perhaps the mountain connection is one I don’t know.

    I adore the clue for 1A.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Yeah, ROANS are horses/steeds/mounts, with the clue playing on snow-capped mountains for the mislead. I just took the wrong mislead.

  2. Howard B says:

    Fantastic NY Times – Thanks, Finn!

  3. Penguins says:

    “Solvers who don’t know these things, please don’t complain that they’re “trivia.” These are all things that a well-rounded American can know.”

    GENET, SANCHO, KOENIG, NIHAO, FUTURA, ANCHO is trivia imo which isn’t a problem in itself. The problem, and why I think you felt a need to defend it, is that these entries intersect within a tight corner thus presenting a potential problem for solvers with no, or limited, knowledge of them. The NW is doable (I didn’t know NIHAO, GENET, FUTURA or KOENIG and SANCHO and ANCHO only came to me in full when I saw some of the letters) but I can see some solvers getting stuck there. I thought it a very good puzzle but it was quizzy in places. Loved the clue for DTS.

    • Norm says:

      Agree 100%.

      • David L says:

        Me three. That corner was the last to fall for me. I had NIHAO and SANCHO early on, but the rest was a struggle.

        Also had STOODIN for STOODUP at first, which didn’t help.

        Good puzzle overall, though.

    • PhilR says:

      I was going to email Amy last night about the perfect grace with which she made the point quoted here, but I’ve lost her email. These are not, in the main, trivia.

      Trivia is who came in second in the Home Run Derby in 2013. Jean Genet was a major 20th century author. I had to dredge his name from the darkest reaches of my mind with __NET in place, and I couldn’t name one thing he wrote, but he’s not trivia, he’s an important author. I just learned Don Quixote is the best selling book of all time, so the second most prominent character could hardly be considered ‘trivia’. You local supermarket sells ancho chiles, you just actually have to go grocery shopping. I didn’t know ni hao, but how is that different from knowing to say hello in German or French or Spanish or Italian?

  4. Christopher Smith says:

    Actually do think there was too much trivia in the NYT NE. Would have been reasonable spread out over the entire puzzle but was very hard to get a foothold with it all concentrated in one area. Also didn’t love how FLIED was clued. Pop outs & fly outs aren’t really the same thing.

  5. Lise says:

    I loved the NYT. Especially the long acrosses. Gave it lots of stars. But help me out here:

    I don’t see how the clue for 20A (“. ÷ 40”) is even an equation. I get that the relationship between the clue number and 40 is ONE-HALF but how does the period apply? Do I have to give back my math degree?

    Here is the clue, copied/pasted directly from the pdf: “20 . ÷ 40”

    Also, to me it seems weird for a baseball draft to be held in the middle of baseball season. But I guess that’s when college players are available?

    Sorry to nit-pick. I think it’s a great puzzle. I look forward to more of Finn Vigeland’s themelesses (and anything else he constructs).

    • Bruce Sutphin says:


      Solving on the Times website there was a left pointing arrow in 2oA where you have a period. Also on the pdf on xwordinfo there is an arrow. Not sure which pdf you were looking at.


      • Lise says:

        It was the pdf on the NYT crossword site. I promise that it really looked that way.

        Thanks for clearing that up. It didn’t get in the way of solving, for long. All my problems were in the SE. No problem with GENET or anything else up there, loved ORGAN.

        • Bruce Sutphin says:

          I believe you. haha
          I actually couldn’t find the pdf on the Times site when I looked quick. They have changed the design several times and it isn’t where I thought it used to be.

          • Lise says:

            In case you’re still unable to find it, go to:


            Click on the tiny printer icon in the upper right of the box; select “puzzle” from the available choices in the new box that comes up; select “print”. The pdf comes up. I just now checked and the clue is unchanged.

            I just now tried “newspaper version” instead, and got the arrow. I don’t use the newspaper version because it uses too much ink and has yesterday’s solution, which I don’t want. I probably should have checked it before I started this thread, though.

    • Steve Manion. says:


      The baseball draft is 40 rounds and you are correct that the season for college players has recently ended. More importantly, it has also ended for high school players, who are a huge part of the draft.

      Baseball is probably the most difficult sport to predict future success and it has the least number of physical limitations. A 5’10” basketball player has an infinitesimal chance of making it to the NBA and a football player under 220 pounds an equally slim chance to make it to the NFL unless he is exceptionally fast. We are now seeing great baseball players ranging in size from Jose Altuve (5’6″. 165 lbs.) to Aaron Judge (6’7, 280 lbs)

      • Lise says:

        What a great sport! When I was little, baseball was the only TV I was allowed to watch, and then only if the Yankees were playing.

        So the old stuff has stuck with me, but I don’t always remember newer things. That’s another great thing about crosswords. I like to learn newer culture, since I don’t teach or work with teenagers/20-somethings any more. Keep it coming.

  6. Penguins says:

    Nice clues for NEWS, EDIT and FOURPOSTER in the Stumper. Enjoyed the puzzle.

  7. e.a. says:

    i can understand not knowing NIHAO or ANCHO, but, folks, what definition of the word “trivia” do they satisfy? they’re not obscure and they’re not unimportant

    • David L says:

      Trivia = things I don’t know or can’t remember :)

      ‘obscure’ and unimportant’ are very subjective words in this context, I would say

      • e.a. says:

        please unpack for me the subjective standpoint from which the word for “hello” in the most widely spoken language in the world would qualify as either

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I think a lot of complaints of “too much trivia” are nothing more than the wail of someone who thinks their personal knowledge base contains everything that is worth knowing, and anything they don’t know is deemed to be beneath their notice. Better to place the blame on the puzzle than on one’s own inadequacy, no?

          • Penguins says:

            Not necessarily, no. My opinion is that a puzzle should nowhere become a test of names and places, making the grid secondary.

    • Penguins says:

      “Trivia” is basically loose shorthand for names and places, something I think most understand.

        • Penguins says:

          I’ve rarely seen it misunderstood when used in a puzzle context which is why Amy used it. Yes, she put marks around it but without them would people have missed her meaning?

      • David L says:

        I basically agree with our friends the penguins. I don’t think any of the words in the NW corner today are objectionable in isolation, but having a bunch of them in one section made the puzzle less appealing.

        I like crosswords with commonplace words, cleverly clued. Names and places and foreign words fall into the category of either you know or you don’t.

        And yes, NIHAO is hello in Chinese, and billions of people speak Chinese, but it’s still not a well known language in the west. Billions of people speak Hindi/Urdu, but I have no idea what their word for hello is, and I wouldn’t expect to see it in a crossword.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I hope you recognize that that’s entirely subjective. A bunch in one corner makes it “less appealing,” according to you, but I actually loved that corner. Names can feel so much fresher than commonplace words, and bring a little more inherent interest.

          I bet more children under 16 know NIHAO than American adults do. There was even a Nick Jr. show for a few seasons with “Ni Hao” in the title, so tons of American kids and their parents know the term even if they’ve never studied Mandarin and aren’t of Chinese descent.

          • David L says:

            Yes, of course, it’s my personal opinion.

            I liked today’s puzzle. But that NW corner was not quite to my taste. That’s all I’m saying.

  8. Papa John says:

    2d. [Mounts with a little white on top?], ROANS. What is the white on top of? As I understand it, white hairs are mixed in with the other colored hairs rather evenly across most of the the horse’s body.

    I don’t understand the conversation about trivia. I sense that many consider it a bad thing in Xwords. Xwords can be considered mostly trivia but, like I say, I may not understand how the word trivia is being used in this context. How is knowing any member of a Broadway cast considered important? Or, for that matter, what the Brits call their award given to their top authors, let alone the name of Our Miss Brook’s neighbor’s cat? I could go on but I think you get my drift. It’s all trivial.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      There are 9 entries in that corner. The majority are fact-based (ie not wordplay or, say, a poorly executed equation clue). If you don’t know SANCHO the Saturday puzzle is probably not for you. The other 4, though, are foreign words or “famous” people who individually would only be recognizable to a single-digit percentage of Americans. I was able to solve it (ANCHO through crosses; the others were lodged somewhere in my brain & eventually came up). But I’d argue that this is out of whack.

  9. Steve Manion. says:

    I got a kick out of your comment about knowable trivia. I knew all the words except for ANCHO so I am not complaining personally, but I would venture to say that there are sports trivia entries that are routinely and approvingly complained about for which there are probably 1000 people who know the trivia for every one that knows Koening or Genet.

    I thought this was a tough puzzle in spite of my trivia knowledge. Fun, but tough.

    I still don’t understand ETRE. Is that French? I took French for seven years, but don’t remember SERIEZ if in fact that is the relationship between clue and answer.


    • Lise says:

      Mais oui! SERIEZ is the conditional present of ETRE, of the plural/respectful “you”, as in Si vous seriez intéressé (if you are/would be interested).

  10. Diana says:

    Chiming in to say I’m amazed to see the discussion on ANCHO, such a commonly used pepper, as trivia. Is it rare on the East Coast?

    • Lise says:

      Gosh no. They’re available in grocery stores here in Charlottesville, Virginia (usually dried, but sometimes fresh); and I grew them two summers ago when I couldn’t find organic jalapeños. nom nom nom

  11. Jenni says:

    To answer your question: no, PREOPS doesn’t work. I am not a surgeon, and it’s entirely possible they call some area of their bailiwick PREOP, but I haven’t heard it and the plural made me roll my eyes. The rest of the puzzle was so good I didn’t really care, though.

    • Papa John says:

      When I had my nose worked on I was assigned to a bed in pre-op, along with two other people.

      Dict: 1. A preoperative patient.
      2. A section of a hospital providing preoperative treatment.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        It definitely feels weird as a plural, though.

        … You’re really going to trump a physician because you’ve been a patient in a hospital?

        • Papa John says:

          No, Amy, I’m merely adding my own experience.

          You do realize that both observations may be correct? I’m certain of mine and I have no reason to doubt what Jenni says.

          Are you going to say that the dictionary is also trying to “trump” Jenni?

          By the way, when I left surgery, I was taken to the post-op section of the hospital.

          I agree with you on the plural — sounds like the briefing before a special ops mission.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            And that is EXACTLY the point Jenni and I were making. Not that PREOP isn’t legit as a noun. That it is ungainly as a plural.

            • Michael says:

              It turns out we use the word “pre-ops” every single day in anesthesiology practice to describe the electronic or handwritten pre-operative evaluations of patients (or of their charts, if the patients are not in-house) prior to their surgery. Here’s a common scenario.
              Resident: “My room is done, Dr. Lee. Is there anything else I can do?”
              Attending: “Yes, please do these two pre-ops and then you can go home.”

  12. Burak says:

    I have just read the constructor’s notes, and his clues were much better than what we ended up with. I’m pretty sure there are a ton of times where the editing makes it a better puzzle, but for such an easy Saturday, I wouldn’t have minded the original stuff. It’s a pity the clue for ZOMBIEAPOCALYPSE was sent home packing.

  13. TammyB says:

    WSJ Saturday: I hope someone can enlighten me.

    I don’t get the meaning of the theme “Fish Stories.” I get that the start of each theme answer is a pun that exchanges the F for and H, but what does that have to do with fish?

    Just the fact that the word “fish” begins with f and ends with h??

    Thanks….or perhaps I should say “Tanks…”

  14. Bill says:

    Where is WSJ Saturday answer? Any good websites (including WSJ) to find that?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Grid posted now—and annoyingly, the WSJ website will let you reveal the whole solution grid online, but the instant you touch your keyboard (as I tried to do for the screenshot), it’s back to a blank puzzle. I had to actually solve the darn thing to get a solution grid.

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