Saturday, March 12, 2022

LAT 2:34 (Stella) 


Newsday 16:43 (pannonica) 


NYT 5:19 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Natan Last’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 12 22, no. 0312

What have we here? A 64-worder whose NW and SE corners are kinda cut off, and the constructor is Natan Last so it’s gonna be hard. Except … not so much? On the easier end of Saturday puzzles, I thought.

Fave fill: PARAGUAY (appreciated learning that Guaraní is one of its official languages–remember that Latin America has so many people whose first language is neither Spanish nor Portuguese), “BORN TO RUN,” FLUNKIES, Briticism PRAT, JEEPERS CREEPERS, ISAAC STERN, HANK AARON, and GOT NOWHERE.

til (or today I learned) what PARI-PASSU means! No, I didn’t study Latin. It’s [On equal footing, in Latin].

Five more things:

  • 29a. [1924 tale of derring-do], BEAU GESTE. I really know this only from crossword clues for GESTE.
  • 46a. [It might work on a block], DRANO. Tonight my fortune cookie offered this wisdom: “Try to live life one block at a time.” Truer words, etc. (Let’s disregard the police PATROLS on a block in the next clue.0
  • 15d. [Juice boxes?], CHARGERS. Love the clue.
  • 22d. [“We / Jazz ___” (line in Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool”)], JUNE. Go read the poem here.
  • 34d. [Mentally worn out], FRIED. That was me yesterday. Definitely better today! And ready for the weekend. Saturday morning, the city of Chicago will dye the river green. The wind chill will be below zero. It’s not at all my sort of thing, so my petty side laughs that the people who stand by the river to start their day of drunkenness will be freezing their faces off.

A solid four stars from me.

Paul Coulter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Raggedy Men” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 3/12/22 • “Raggedy Men” • Coulter • Sat • solution • 20220312

In today’s offering there are a half dozen down entries that share the same clue– [Boor]

I’ve circled them for convenience here, but they had to be discovered during the solve. The intersecting across answers incorporate the downs and then continue where they diverged.

There’s a revealer as well: 112a [Tattered, and a hint to six answers in this puzzle] DOWN AT THE HEELS. That pulls the title into place.

  • 21a. [Martian, maybe] EXTRATERRESTRIAL (rat).
  • 32a. [Discussed an issue in detail] HASHED IT ALL OUT (lout).
  • 4oa. [Fear byproduct] GOOSEBUMPS (bum).
  • 67a. [Branch led by a Worshipful Master] MASONIC LODGE (clod). No, that doesn’t creepy or culty at all.
  • 89a. [Total ditz] SPACE CADET (cad). These share an etymology. Cad is from the Scottish caddie (“one who waits around for odd jobs”), which in turn is from the French cadet. And cadet has a much longer etymology, going back to Latin.
  • 98a. [“At the Moulin Rouge” artist] TOULOUSE-LAUTREC (louse).

Good stuff, with a minor misstep.

  • 11d [Family name on “Bob’s Burgers”] BELCHER. 111d [Short style] BOB. Not technically a duplication, but still a bit odd feeling.
  • 14d [Mild chili pepper] CASCABEL.

    (track 4 (time= 15:20) is ‘Cascavel’, a cognate)
  • 31d [They may use heavy fonts] BAPTISMS. This one really fooled me. I was thinking of memes and how they often use the Impact, which is a very heavy font. But no, font as in accessory for this rite.
  • 42d [Studs, say] EARRINGS, 108a [Sites for studs] LOBES.
  • 51d [Containing quicksilver] MERCURIC. As in MERCURIC acid. Not far off is another uncommon word: 63d [Increase a hundredfold] CENTUPLE.
  • 72d [Hazard auf der Autobahn] EIS.
  • 102d [Bert who hosted “Tattletales”] CONVY. There’s some crossword glue right there. Or maybe he’s more well-known nowadays than I think? Maybe he’s all over the Game Show Network in reruns or something.
  • 105d [Giggle sound] HEHE. More glue. Really needed to get that revealer in there in the southeast!
  • 38a [Contact, e.g.] LENS. Still not a fan of this type of clue construction.
  • 60a [“The Breakfast of Champions,” e.g.] SLOGAN. Yet I still wanted LITTLE CHOCOLATE DONUTS.
  • 30d [Altar answer] I DO.
  • 62a [Monroe, Taylor or Hayes] ACTRESS. Not the US presidents, as we are made to think.
  • 103a [Buckskins] DEER HIDES. Film recommendation (the blurbs on the poster are accurate):
  • 120a [Cash on hand?] BET. A minor but great clue for a little word.
  • 69a [Raccoonlike mammal] COATI. Their generic epithet would be a natural in crosswords too: NASUA. Unfortunately, they are not native to New Hampshire.
  • 86a [“Throne of Glass” author Sarah J. __ ] MAAS. Completely new to me. I think the only name I know from Wikipedia’s list of people with the surname is journalist Peter Maas, who died in 2001.

On to the Stumper!

Greg Johnson’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 3/12/22 • Saturday Stumper • Johnson • solution • >font size=1>20220312

Once again, a puzzle that fights back. This time I started chipping away on the right flank, then moved clockwise through the bottom and fleshed out the center before straightening out the upper right. At this point I needed the northwest and just a little to finish out top-center.

Of course the actual process took much longer  and was far less smooth than that description makes it seem. And when the grid was finally complete I had to methodically scan to figure out an incorrect letter, which turned out to be in 64a [In harmony] AT ONE, for which I’d entered AS ONE. The crossing entry is 46d [Shake down] EXTORT (not EXTORS, obviously).

The most notable struggle involved 26a [Purple Crayola color] JAZZBERRY JAM. First I put in BLUEBERRY JAM, which was then amended to RASPBERRY JAM, after which I tried RAZZBERRY JAM before finally getting it right.

Elsewhere I had BOFFO for SOCKO – 57a [Smashing, in show biz]. And the final lingering misfill was 6d [Baseball uniform specs] CAP SIZES, not HAT SIZES, which had prevented me from sorting out that final block including SCRAM, UPSET, ADESTE, and MATTER (5a, 18a, 8d, 9d).

  • 5a [Something heard for ordering out] has nothing to do with takeout dining. SCRAM.
  • 15a [Back-and-forth sesh] Q AND A. Having this correct early on turned out not to be too helpful, especially when it came to the crossing CAP vs HAT.
  • 24a [Canine one letter off from a con artist] SHAR-PEI. With the I in place thanks to SIZES, I mused that the only dog breed I could think of that was the proper length and ending in I was BASENJI. What’s the con artist, then? SHARPER? Yes.
  • 31a [Start of a scale model] DOE, A DEER. Great, misdirecting clue.
  • 35a [The Barista Express, e.g.] ESPRESSO MACHINE. Really kind of a major duplication, as espresso is a cognate to express. At first I thought this might a coffee bar franchise, but after getting MACHINE the answer became more or less obvious.
  • 41a [What football helmets have] AIRHOLES. Not EARHOLES.
  • 42a [One in a grade school organization] ASSIGNED SEAT. Another great clue.
  • 52a [Move like molasses] OOZE OUT. Was a bit tricky to find the preposition, maybe a little more so considering the clue for 5-across (see above)?
  • 2d [Stock market purchase] BROTH. Perhaps too clever by half on this one? I had SHARE for a while.
  • 4d [It’s for those who don’t give a darn] SWEAR JAR. Because those folks use stronger oaths.
  • 11d [Moses scaled it after Sinai] NEBO. Have not seen this before.
  • 30d [Locale in “Homer’s Odyssey” (1990)] MOES; 33d [Homer’s “Odyssey,” for instance] EPOS.
  • 32d [Diagnostician’s denouement] -OSIS. That’s a very fancy way of saying it’s a medical suffix. Earlier I toyed with AS IS, IT IS, and even IS IS before understanding it.
  • 39d [Scandalous sound-bite sources] HOT MIKES. One of the key entries that helped me build momentum.
  • 43d [Chiller of the ’30s] ICEBOX. I guess that’s supposed to sound like a horror film or something.
  • 45d [Word from the Greek for “ship”] NAUSEA. Hence also nautical and all those -naut suffixes.
  • 51d [Indelicate inspiration] SNORT. Somehow I misread it as ‘aspiration’, which sidetracked me for some small time.
  • 52d [Unseen trail] ODOR. Yay! Another nonpejorative clue for the word.

Another good Saturday workout from Newman & Co.

Debbie Ellerin’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 3/12/22 by Debbie Ellerin

Los Angeles Times 3/12/22 by Debbie Ellerin

My general wish is that this puzzle would’ve given me a lot more fight. Like, any fight. I suppose that not all themelesses need to be hard, as Universal has shown with its freestyles since the start of this year. But I’ve been solving the LAT Saturday for about 20 years now and it’s created an expectation in me that I’m going to work a little harder on the weekend, dangit!

Highlights: ALLOSAURUS, GUILT TRIPS, STAND-UP COMIC, AMANDA GORMAN (although I’d have clued her with reference to Call Us What We Carry or Change Sings for a little more difficulty and timeliness), the clever clue for LEADING MEN [Phoenix and Washington, e.g.] although I arrived at it too late in the solve to be fooled by it.

Lowlights: OBEAH, OBOE (it’s not that I don’t like the entry, it’s just that I’ve seen the Peter and the Wolf clue enough times that it stuck out to me as something that I’d like to see retired for late-week puzzles).

Anyway: It’s a nice construction that would’ve been better either in a different context (Universal, or an indie outlet where the difficulty would be indicated as 1 out of 5) or with harder clues.

I also can’t not mention the wonderful news that Patti Varol is now the editor of the LAT puzzle. I know some folks have had their differences with Rich Norris as a member of the old guard (certainly I was not pleased with his decision to have a Woody Allen tribute puzzle back in 2020); I personally, however, owe him a great deal as a constructor. Back in the early aughts, my very first published puzzle was in LAT; I don’t have the puz any more, but I know he accepted it in spite of it being far less than perfect (he told me at the time that my theme execution violated some consistency conventions, but that it was innovative enough that he was taking it anyway), and I learned so much from Rich in those early years of my constructing experience. I couldn’t possibly cancel him, either in terms of where I submit my puzzles or in my heart. I will miss working with him…and it is also amazing and awesome that one of the most qualified, if not the most qualified, women in the biz is taking the helm. I am so excited to see what Patti does next!

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15 Responses to Saturday, March 12, 2022

  1. Ethan says:

    NYT: Really bizarre clue on 20A, IMO. How can you say a particular sentence in a particular story ends in a particular word – in translation? I wrote in VERMIN because I’m pretty sure that’s what it said in the translation I read. It’s also odd to use that clue because the first sentence of Metamorphosis is indeed famous for how it ends – in German, for ending in the *past participle* “verwandelt” ‘transformed’. It is often cited as an example of Kafka’s using the structure of German to surprising and eerie effect.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      It seems harsh to say INSECT is inaccurate but yes the word in German is more akin to “vermin.” Unfortunately they’re both 6 letters.

    • JohnH says:

      Seems like your quarrel is with the translation, not the clue. Nothing bizarre about the clue itself. Anyhow, in a flawed translation or not, decades and decades of readers got to know and deeply admire Kafka to the point that he’s almost more an emblem of something than an author, I’m afraid. I still know by heart that first sentence as the Muir translation has it and was always particularly taken by it — the way it starts so naturally. Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams to find himself in his bed [well, sure] transformed into a gigantic insect [oops!]. “Gigantic vermin” to my ear would hardly be English and wouldn’t trap me in Gregor’s world nearly as much. If it actually ends with the verb, well, ok. Good for Kafka, and good for German.

      For me, the geek complaint should be with exponential decay as a function. The exponential is a function, but its application just means that exponential decay is a phenomenon. This being a Natan Last puzzle, it was going to have some impossibilities for me related to proper names, and indeed my last to fall was J-LAW.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: A perfect Saturday for me– hard enough to give me a mental workout, but easy enough to let me finish and feel that my brain is still working, old age and two years of pandemic notwithstanding.
    I too had a: “Oh, that’s what it means!” moment with PARI PASSU. I guess Pari is the same root as parity, and Passu means steps , so equal steps, same speed.
    Love the NONDAIRY CREAMER clue (though I think that stuff might be evil- sorry if you love it).
    And good factoid about ATHENS. Great way to start the weekend!

  3. Jenni Levy says:

    Definitely not on the easier side for me – one of the harder Saturdays in recent memory. I enjoyed it!

    • Will says:

      It played really hard for me, too. It’s the rare Saturday where the stumper went quicker for me than the NYT

  4. Mr. [Not Always] Grumpy says:

    WSJ: A lot of fun … and kudos for providing no clue to where you needed to go down or even which answers they were in.

  5. Ed says:

    The 22 down/across entries seem unfair.

  6. placematfan says:

    Does anyone know what’s going on over at xwordinfo with Jeff’s climbing-gym post? I don’t understand the joke, or whatever is happening.

    • Ethan says:

      If I were Jeff I wouldn’t want to acknowledge Natan Last, either.

      • R says:

        Reading what Natan’s said about Jeff and so many others makes me not want to do his puzzles, too. I’m not sure who appointed that rich white man the arbiter of all social justice issues, but he’s actually the worst.

        • DJ says:

          Care to fill us in on the details of this spat? I find Last utterly repulsive as well, but I’m unaware of any specifically Chen-centered animus.

        • stmv says:

          R: It would have been more useful to include a link to what Natan Last wrote about Jeff Chen so that the discerning readers of Fiend could make up their own minds about this topic. Here are some links to Natan’s writings about crosswords for DJ and such:

 Natan indirectly writes about Jeff: “Every day one of the maintainers of [XWordInfo] posts his thoughts on the puzzle, and his thoughts are terrible. Hokey, incoherent, offensive.”

 Natan writes here about the comments in Fiend.

          • DJ says:

            Thanks. Wow. I was aware of that Atlantic piece, which I consider a particularly embarrassing low point in crossword discourse. But I was not aware of this Tempest drivel. Good god.

            Aside from his spineless smearing of Chen (where he doesn’t even have the balls to mention the guy he’s smearing by name), this is just straight-up elitist snobbery disguised as enlightenment. As a general rule, if you unironically start a sentence “I’m reminded of something Noam Chomsky said” you deserve a punch in the nose. Good for him though – I’m sure he got a bunch of props from all his mimosa buddies back at the beach house.

            Very hokey, intentionally incoherent, and horribly disgusting.

  7. Kameron says:

    Perfectly fine not to like the puzzle. But — “the arbiter”? A good number of people have been outspoken on that subject, so that’s a little puzzling. He’s also definitely not rich — but I get that that’s often imprecise shorthand for ‘overeducated.’

    Either way, what’s “social justice” got to do with ISAAC STERN, HANK AARON, BEAU GESTE, PARI PASSU, POUTINES (which are delicious) and — perhaps most of all? — the THONG SONG (lol)? The latter has been referenced multiple times in clues since 2003, so as NYT knowledge goes, it’s been considered fair game for almost 20 years. More urgently, as a nod to black culture, this is not new territory for the Times. But I understand that “social justice” is another term that gets bandied about imprecisely.

    Keeping in mind XWI’s use as a resource, I actually think Jeff’s comment missed an opportunity to explore why so-called “Megs” are still, to the editorial team, a valid style of puzzle. He cites the low acceptance rate for themelesses all the time (and, if anything, the reality is honestly more drastic than what he says). So for the puzzles that don’t excite him, I think it’d be helpful to constructors new and old to see someone with so much experience discuss what may have made the puzzle appealing to the NYT. Like the rest of us, Natan gets puzzles rejected. The NYT chose this one. What made it an ‘NYT Saturday’? What may have made it stand out? You can discuss that fairly while also expressing a personal lack of excitement. At minimum, just … talk about the actual puzzle?

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