Saturday, February 26, 2022

LAT 3:03 (Stella) 


Newsday 7:16 (pannonica) 


NYT 5:53 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


USA Today unt (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Another charity crossword pack is due out on March 1! Rachel Fabi spearheaded the “These Puzzles Fund Abortion” project, and the donations will be divided among seven organizations from New York to Tampa to the Midwest. Here’s the donation page—With a minimum donation of $15, donors will get 16 puzzles in the TPFA2 puzzle pack (that’s less than $1/puzzle!). Donors who give $25+ will also get a copy of the original 2021 “These Puzzles Fund Abortion” pack with 14 original puzzles (I helped edit the 2021 TPFA).—Amy

Ori Brian’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 26 21, no. 0226

Quick recap, since I procrastinated on writing (I can’t help it if it’s fascinating to watch Korean street food being made on YouTube). Fave fill: OUTER SPACE, the non-canonical (I think) plural BATMEN, SEX-POSITIVE BONOBOS (seriously—those primates are sexing it up plenty), the GOSPEL TRUTH (which … actually is not irrefutable at all, if you aren’t a devout Christian), DESSERT MENU, DID TIME, BOX STEP, U.S. PASSPORT, SLIM TO NONE, BUTTERCUP, CALTECH, and SABRINA the Teenage Witch.

Question: Why choose the less familiar KASBAH spelling (36d. [Moroccan quarter]) crossing KIA when CASBAH and the CIA were right there? Perhaps our constructor has visited Marrakesh.

Did not know: 13d. [N.F.L. kicker Graham who played for 14 teams], SHAYNE. Guessing Shayne is the first name. My go-to Shayne-with-a-Y is Shayne Bushfield, founder of the LearnedLeague online trivia league. Yes, that’s correct—my chosen sport is trivia.

Four stars from me. TGIF!

Jamey Smith’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 2/26/21 by Jamey Smith

Los Angeles Times 2/26/21 by Jamey Smith

Here’s a grid design you don’t see every day: it almost looks like faucets extending toward the center of the grid from each side, and with black squares coming down the first column and up the last column.

Some highlight answers:

  • 14A [2018 documentary about Alex Honnold’s conquest of El Capitan] is FREE SOLO, which is a very, very good movie.
  • 35A [Postgame celebrations] is FIST PUMPS. I think this entry could have used a livelier clue, but it made me smile nonetheless.
  • 48A [Showrunner Shonda] is RHIMES; nice to see her in a puzzle.
  • 6D [Tex. airport that’s bigger than Manhattan] is DFW, normally not an entry to write home about but elevated by its fun-fact clue.
  • 21D [Calif. home of works by Matisse and Warhol] is SFMOMA. I’m not a big modern art fan myself, but there’s something about that combo of letters that reads lively to me, especially since that initialism is indeed how people refer to it in speech.

I’m sorry to say the fill overall had more misses than hits for me. Although I love classical music, I’d almost always rather not have the name of a key in a puzzle, as with G MINOR; that’s both because it’s hard to remember what key a piece is in even if you’ve heard the piece before, and also because you can fill in the M, the O, and the R without knowing. Shonda RHIMES notwithstanding, the lower right has an awful lot of proper names to know, plus the plural NEHRUS. (NEHRU JACKETS, sure. Not sure I buy NEHRUS.) TININESS, HAWSES, STRIATE, EMAG, TKT, GDS, ON RYE. I also really wish the 6A/8D crossing had been changed from DOWD/WEI to DODD/DEI, simply because the latter can be clued with reference to Latin for “god” rather than having to cross two proper names. (Guess where I had a mistake in my grid?)

Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Squat Did You Say?” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/26/22 • Fri • Ross • “Squat Did You Say?” • solution • 20220226

The idea here is that phrases featuring a word beginning with ‘w’ replace it with ‘squ’. All of the theme entries work for me phonetically but the title does not, as I usually pronounce ‘what’ with a schwa sound.

  • 22a. [Agency that knights call when they need help?] SQUIRE SERVICE (wire service).
  • 30a. [Container for zucchinis?] SQUASH BOWL (wash bowl).
  • 45a. [Space for an illegible signature?] SQUIGGLE ROOM (wiggle room).
  • 60a. [Memorable Far East weather event?] THE GREAT SQUALL OF CHINA (… Wall …). Why not describe it as Asian? This central grid-spanning entry is the only one with the squ- substitution in a place other than the very beginning of the phrase.
  • 81a. [Buffalo’s offense or defense?] SQUAD OF BILLS (wad of bills).
  • 92a. [Exterminator’s agenda?] SQUISH LIST (wish list).
  • 108a. [Boxy residences?] SQUARE HOUSING (warehousing). Necessitates a spacing change. Perhaps the same can be said of washbowl, above?

Thinking that Mr Magoo is a SQUINTER OF MISCONTENT.

Anyway, let’s see what else the grid has to offer, but cursorily.

  • 31d [Arabian shrub whose leaves are chewed as a stimulant] QAT. Known to Scrabble players far and wide.
  • 54d [Panamanian coin] BALBOA, 108d [Peruvian coin] SOL, 103d [Turkish coin] LIRA.
  • 62d [Lucy’s pal] ETHEL.
  • Just want to mention that many of the words crossing at the thematic Qs lack an associated U, which brings variety to the proceedings. ESQS, QAT, FAQS, QED.
  • 85d [Twice, in Latin] BIS. As seen sometimes on prescriptions. 1d [Recommended amount] DOSE. I would say, by the way, that this is a big duplication with the crossing 85a [Split] BISECTED.
  • 86d [Job for un détective privé] CAS. That’s a potent bit of glue. Also: 58a [Brit’s brew, informally] CHA (from chai, presumably). And: 53a [“__ le roi!” (cry at the Bastille)] À BAS.
  • 107d [Carrier to Karachi] PIA. Going to presume this is Pakistan International Airlines or something close.
  • 26a [Blue bard] ELEGIST. Not convinced this works, but the wordplay is mildly amusing.
  • Favorite clue: 40a [Lower part of a range] FOOTHILLS.
  • 100a [Place for peace, hopefully] ON EARTH.


Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 2/26/22 • Saturday Stumper • Ruff, Newman • solution • 20220226

This one definitely lived up to its “Les Rough” promise. My recorded time is of a leisurely solve!

The dynamics were straightforward. A couple of immediate toeholds in the upper left—1a [Roast holder, perhaps] SPIT, 2d [Something spotted on a ranch] PINTO, and then I was off to the races. Wasn’t long before I’d gotten a tendril into the rest of the grid with 22a [Revelation rider] HORSEMAN and then a spy’s MINI CAMERA (14a) and bang! the grid-spanning 7d [As luck would have it] SERENDIPITIOUSLY was practically a gimme. I continued apace.

  • 20a [Alternative to Xander] LEX. Realizing retrospectively that these are nicknames for Alexander. I’ve not personally heard the one in the clue, but it’s legitimate per the internet.
  • 25a [Reference note for a certain sitter] is not about pets or children. We’re talking pianists. MIDDLE C. Yet, 42d [With 47 Down, scales for staff] PAY | RATES.
  • 33a [Bit of a comet’s tail] ION. Ah, here’s the one spot where I tripped up slightly. Put in ICE and that created three Es in a row for 24d [Plywood portions] which I was reasonably certain wanted to be VENEERS. Nevertheless, it called into question the latter half of 35a [“You’re welcome” alternative] ALWAYS A PLEASURE and gave me pause. This bled over to 34a [Wet continental divide] URAL which I also temporarily erased, and the as-yet-ungotten 28d [Apt rhyme for “praise”] OLÉS.
  • 42a [Sherpas, for instance] PORTERS. Of course they are often much more than this.
  • 55a [“Magnificent __” (what Aldrin called the moon)] DESOLATION.

    (insta-review: this seemed a bit over-the-top and derivative. I’ll post something better yet still appropriate at the end of the write-up)
  • 59a [Its junior members are Antlers] ELKS. Makes sense.
  • 4d [They may be good and hard] TIMES. Just times.
  • 15d [Southern tip of New Jersey] CAPE MAY. How well-known is this nationally?
  • 26d [Kin to colon-hyphen-close paren] LOL. Dang, that was an annoying clue. I glossed it and left it to the crossings.
  • 51d [Word from the Dutch for “eye”] OGLE. Might be my favorite clue so far for this loaded word.
  • 55d [“The private side of Twitter”: Abbr.] DMS. Direct messages.


Brooke Husic & Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword—Amy’s write-up

Brooke Husic & Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword solution, “Blank Slate,” 2/26/2022

It took me some time to see the theme here, but each themer starts with a word that can follow “blank”:

  • 20a [Piece of casual footwear] CANVAS SHOE
  • 38a [Sun Ra film with a rhyming title] SPACE IS THE PLACE
  • 56a [Self-promotional phrase] CHECK ME OUT

Oh, hey this is asymmetrical. I only noticed just now as I looked for the partner 15 to WHEELCHAIR RUGBY. Other highlights for me are WHATD I MISS and PAST clued to [“American Sonnets for My ____ and Future Assassin” (Terrance Hayes collection”], which is a lovely, lovely book. EIDGAH is new to me, but I’m only seeing the entry now, as I got it all off crossings.

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17 Responses to Saturday, February 26, 2022

  1. Alan D. says:

    Can someone please repost the link to the Newsday puzzle? I’m away from home and can’t remember the URL. Thank you!

  2. Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

    I’d guess that the NYT constructor went with KASBAH/KIA rather than CASBAH/CIA in order to be able to use “auto import” for KIA as a parallel of sorts for “auto download?” at 6A.

  3. dh says:

    My brain could not parse “US Passports” I got “Sports” from the fill and couldn’t not see it. When I got “US” I thought maybe it was something to do with the Olympics – then I was thinking it was part of the post office. I finally had to look it up even though I finished via crossings.

    • Gary R says:

      I also was stuck for a while with just “sports.” The light came on when I got to “assports,” which by itself entertained the 12-year in me.

  4. Judith Speer says:

    Is anyone else having problems downloading puzzles to Chrome? I remember a problem a while ago when Google instituted new security checks but I don’t remember how to get around it. I use a MacBook Air and Crossword Scraper but when I click on a .puz file nothing is happening, no puzzle appears. This just started today. Ideas???

  5. KarenS says:

    Stumper: Can someone explain the answer to 27A? Thank you.

  6. Christina says:

    I have definitely heard people use “the gospel truth” to mean something that is treated as fact, unrelated to Christianity!

    • sanfranman59 says:

      The source of that phrase and the concept are almost certainly rooted in Christianity. People who believe other traditions don’t necessarily view the Gospel books of the Bible as “the truth”.

      • David L says:

        Yes, of course, but I think Christina’s point is that ‘gospel truth’ is an idiomatic phrase that can be and is used without any particular religious connotation. Like saying ‘bless you’ to someone who has sneezed.

        • Christina says:

          Yes, it is most ceramic rooted in Christianity – but it is an idiomatic phrase, and I think I’ve heard it (and would use it myself) in an almost mocking way–that something is “taken as gospel truth” meaning it is taken as absolute fact when in reality it probably isn’t. So my point was, I don’t see anything problematic with the clue.

    • R says:

      Yes, this was one of Amy’s sloppy reads where she needed to make a diversity-adjacent point without actually thinking about language or reality. Swing and a miss.

  7. JohnH says:

    RHUD prefers KASBAH to CASBAH, while MW11C calls it less common. I am used to CASBAH but knew it could be either so waited until KIA hit me to fill in the square in the NYT.

    It may or may not be insensitive to include a phrase with roots in Christianity, roots that I think it’s silly to deny, but I can’t say it’s wrong, and I wasn’t offended in the least. GOSPEL truth has entered the language as a phrase distinct in meaning from THE GOSPELS and defined in both dictionaries as absolutely true, irrefutable.

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