Saturday, July 2, 2022

LAT 2:56 (Stella) 


Newsday 7:34 (pannonica) 


NYT 4:52 (Amy) 


Universal 4:18 (Jim Q)  


USA Today 1:49 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Evan Kalish’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 7 2 22, no. 0702

So much fun stuff in this puzzle, but I’m not sure why it’s running on a Saturday because it felt like a Friday puzzle to me.

Fave fill: THE SCREAM; mathy HEXAHEDRA; WALLABIES; the GREAT RECESSION; NETFLIX SPECIAL clued via two great ones, 36a. [Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette” or Hasan Minhaj’s “Homecoming King”]; THWACK; TAX TIME; the TRIX RABBIT; a TANKINI; and “OH, IT’S ON!”

Wasn’t wild about ALKENE and THIS ONE, but the grid’s generally quite smooth.

Did not know: 36d. [Decorative painting on an airplane fuselage], NOSE ART. Small planes, warplanes, jumbo jets? Speaking of that, I feel like don’t really see a lot of tattooed noses. Let’s change that.

Five more things:

  • 21a. [Needlework verb or noun], TAT. Remember back in the day when TAT was clued as a needlework verb, before tattoos got so commonplace and nicknamed?
  • 49a. [“S.N.L.” alum Rachel], DRATCH. Love her!
  • 57a. [Competitor in the Prix de Lausanne], BALLERINA. Another thing I knew nothing about. Needed the crossings to point the way, thinking it was probably some sort of race. Not quite.
  • 6d. [Image problem?], REBUS. What a great clue! A puzzly problem involving a picture is an “image problem.”
  • 46d. [Saya, for a katana], SHEATH. Saya was new to me, but I learned that a katana is a particular type of Japanese sword through my crossword-editing work. Definitely an educational job, my friends.

Four stars from me.

Angela Olson Halsted’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 7/2/22 by Angela Olson Halsted

Los Angeles Times 7/2/22 by Angela Olson Halsted

I’ve been slacking off on submitting themelesses lately — too many other irons in the fire — but I’m making a mental note to send at least one to Patti Varol that doesn’t have a single baseball clue in it. It’s not that I hate baseball; it’s actually the only sportsball I can put up with, and I have been known to show up at a Phillies game (or at a Mets game in Phillies clothing; uh-oh, now Patti’s never going to accept another puzzle from me again) now and then. But it feels like there’s been a distinct uptick in baseball clues since Mets fan Patti took the editorial reins, and this puzzle has three of them: Ken GRIFFEY at 15A, clued as [One cog in the Big Red Machine], Chase UTLEY at 29A [Chase with a slide rule], and NL EAST at 58-Across [Nats division]. The first two, IMO, require a reasonably deep level of baseball knowledge to get without a majority of the crossings.

So yeah: I don’t hate baseball, but I would like a little more balance! On to some highlights:

  • 21A [Number of Olympic medals won by Katie Ledecky] for TEN. Yay for women’s sports!
  • 30A [Age of enlightenment?] is TODAY YEARS OLD. Great newish-yet-not-already-dated entry and a great clue, too.
  • 47A I was moving so quickly through the SE corner that I didn’t notice [Drag queen Bianca del ___] for RIO, but I would’ve dropped it with no crossings. She’s the winner of Drag Race Season 6.
  • 14D [Jaleel White’s show]: Although it’s way too easy to drop in a 13-letter entry if it’s FAMILY MATTERS and you are a Person of a Certain Age, as I am, I enjoyed the reminder of my childhood.
  • 15D [Roadside assistant?] is a hilarious clue for GOOD SAMARITAN.

I was not crazy about the clue [Catlike Pokemon] for MEW, given that the W is crossing a proper noun that’s clued on the tougher side.

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

WSJ • 7/2/22 • Sat • “Enclosures” • Coulter • solution • 20220702

For the theme, phrases are wackified by appending an N to the ending. “N-closure”.

  • 23a. [Person who rents out a grassy expanse?] LETTER OF THE LAWN (… law).
  • 33a. [Playwright O’Casey?] IRISH SEAN (… Sea).
  • 49a. [Breakfast of champions?] SPORTS BRAN (… bra).
  • 52a. [Presidential oath as the Depression took hold?] HOOVER DAMN (… Dam).
  • 84a. [Place for couples to rest in a dance club?] DISCO DIVAN (… diva).
  • 87a. [Housing for extremely smart cows?] GENIUS BARN (… Bar).
  • 100a. [Totally impressive marsh wader?] EPIC HERON (… hero).
  • 116a. [“Can I get some wardrobe advice?”] TELL ME WHAT TO DON (… do).

These are all mildly entertaining, but I can’t say I’m wild for it.

  • 4d [Sloth’s kin] ANTEATER. Some time ago there was a catchall taxon called Edentata (“without teeth” — which is a partial misnomer anyway). That, however, was found to be polyphyletic, i.e., its members did not share a direct common ancestor. Sloths and anteaters, along with armadillos, comprise the superorder Xenarthra, and within Xenarthra they make up the order Pilosa.
  • 35d [Military flyer] AIRMAN. Seems almost weird these days to see a non-gendered clue for a masculine entry.
  • 40d [Indeterminate ordinal] NTH, which seems vaguely theme-adjacent.
  • 43d [ __ dixit] IPSE. Had IPSO for some time, which stymied my finishing the grid.
  • Favorite clue: 58a [Common aspiration] AITCH. Or as they pronounce it over in the UK, haitch.
  • 39a [Lowish USN rank] ENS. Also comes across as theme-adjacent.
  • 61a [Alternatives to jumpers] SET SHOTS. With my misfill of IPSE and presumption that it was about clothing, it was difficult for me to perceive the basketball context.
  • Similarly, 50d [Diamond club] BAT is a baseball reference, and then 71a [Makes a touchdown] is a football misdirection for LANDS.
  • 125a [Coral colony component] POLYP. One of the rare times I would have appreciated a cross-referenced clue, in this case with 29a [Victim of Perseus] MEDUSA.

Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • Saturday Stumper • Mossberg • solution • 20220702

This one fell astonishingly quickly for me. Was able to get toeholds—nay, footholds!—right away, and every time I encountered a relatively tricky clue there were already sufficient crossings to see through the ruse or opacity.

The only section which slowed me at all was the lower right, and even that didn’t put up much resistance as I SPED (2d) to the finish.

  • 18a [Pitches caught by looking] ADS. Or hearing.
  • 38a [Jacob, after his angel-wrestling] ISRAEL. Was unsure if the crossing 35d [Flyspeck] was MITE or MOTE, but OSRAEL just didn’t ring any bells.
  • 40a [Pug nose] SNOUT. Clue invokes the dog breed. I actually considered the obviously-too-long RHINARIUM for a moment.
  • 48a [Name close to Washington’s in reference books] OREGON. Those books would most likely be atlases.
  • 61a [Nostalgic focus] YESTERYEAR. I still associate this word with the opening narration of The Lone Ranger television reruns I saw as a child: “Return … to the thrilling days of YESTERYEAR …”
  • 10d [Many wedding dresses] SARIS. With no crossings whatsoever, that was my immediate guess, but I judiciously waited for confirmation.

Haven’t got much else to say about this one. Just a smooth themeless, and a decent Saturday morning diversion.

Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword, “Running the Gauntlet”—Matthew’s write-up

Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword solution, “Running the Gauntlet,” 7/2/2022

Our theme today draws from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I can’t tell you how this would play for someone not familiar with the MCU, but I’d like to think only the central revealer really requires that knowledge. Let’s start there:

  • 40a [Any of six items sought by Thanos, represented in the starred answers] INFINITY STONE. A storyline spanning a decade+ that came to a head in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame a few years ago.

As the clue mentions, we’ve got six more themers throughout the grid. They’re all different lengths, so in nonsymmetric positions, and indeed the grid itself is asymmetrical to boot:

  • 1a [“Hurry! We don’t have much ____!] TIME. The Time Stone first appeared in the Doctor Strange movies.
  • 16a [“Do you ___?!”] MIND. The Mind Stone was initially in Loki’s Scepter during the first Avengers film, and was later used to power Vision, played by Paul Bettany.
  • 51a [“Queer Eye” TV genre] REALITY. First appeared in Thor: The Dark World
  • 70a [“The Final Frontier”] SPACE. First appeared in the Tesseract, which played a role in the first Captain America and first Avengers film.
  • 71a [Heart and ___] SOUL. The last stone to appear in the film chronology, we only saw it midway through Avengers: Infinity War.
  • 8d [Telekinesis or invisibility, e.g.] POWER. First seen in The Guardians of the Galaxy.

A little bit of bonus Marvel content, as well, in 3d [Wanda Maximoff, to Billy and Tommy] MOM, and 32a [Feature of each of the X-Men] MUTATION. Other highlights for me include: SUE ME, ITS NOT A RACE, FEEL OUT, and YOU UP.

Billy Bratton’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 27” — Jim Q’s write-up

Universal crossword solution · Universal Freestyle 27 · Billy Bratton · Saturday. 07.02.22

THEME: None!


Oh boy. There’s a lot.

The pillars of course:


And virtually everything else, especially


Really, there’s no point in continuing. Everything in this puzzle was really quite nice. There’s literally no crud. No Crosswordese. Just beautiful. It flowed perfectly for me solving too. Just enough gentle bite (by Universal standards) to keep it fun and interesting and nothing to disrupt the solve.

I can’t remember the last time I solved a themeless that was this smooth.

The only thing I don’t get is the clue for EVERLOVIN’ [Emphatic, elided adjective]. When I google it, the only thing I get is a song with that title. Any help there?

Doesn’t matter.

My favorite mistake was seeing IPLAN?? and entering IPLANET (without reading the clue)… as in iPlanet. Like Apple is now making Smart Planets. Maybe reshaping Pluto into something useful. I dunno.

Anyway, a hard 5 stars for this one. Well done.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Saturday, July 2, 2022

  1. tom says:

    It appears that a previous day’s puzzle ratings were copy-pasted into today’s puzzle ratings.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Oops, fixed that. Thanks for the heads-up!

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks! I was surprised to come here last night and see that I had rated several puzzles I hadn’t solved.

        On a general note: If I haven’t solved enough crossword puzzles in a day and I’m tired of the NYT archives, I often come here to see which puzzles other people enjoyed. The reviews and comments often have more spoilers than I would like, so I usually just look at the ratings to decide which puzzle to do next.

        • You’ve described a great reason why I think the ratings should be abandoned — if you use them to determine which puzzles you should solve, they prevent you and others who do the same thing from becoming regular solvers of that puzzle unless it meets some arbitrary, numerical threshold. And a lot of times, when a puzzle doesn’t get a ton of ratings (like almost every one of them reviewed here not named the NYT), the ratings get wildly skewed by a handful of cranks who don’t even bother to provide any useful feedback. Rebus puzzle was hard? The fill has a few pop culture names you didn’t know and don’t care for? 1 star!

          I do empathize with solvers who say they don’t have enough time in the day to solve every good crossword out there, they want some guidance for picking ones they feel they’d enjoy, etc. But you shouldn’t use the star ratings for that; they aren’t useful at all for measuring a puzzle’s quality. They’re just a way for people to trash a puzzle without having to say what they didn’t like about it. Why a site that’s dedicated to promoting the crosswords it says are of the best quality would then have an in-built algorithm that dissuades people from solving those crosswords just baffles me. Beyond that, reducing something as highly complex as a crossword to a simple algorithm like the star ratings really cheapens something that I consider to be an artform.

          • RichardZ says:

            Well said – I couldn’t agree more. I stopped paying attention to the star ratings after routinely seeing puzzles I thought were terrific – particularly some of the more challenging ones – receive sub-3.0 scores. I’d occasionally try to raise their scores with a higher rating, but it does seem pointless after a while. And given that this site can only review a tiny fraction of the puzzles out there, the ratings don’t seem like a terribly useful resource for finding other puzzles one might find challenging or entertaining.

            For that, Matt Gritzmacher’s daily puzzle listing – available via – is invaluable. I’ve discovered quite a few wonderful puzzles (both free and subscription-based) through his posts.

          • Eric H says:

            Thanks for your thoughtful response. It *is* altogether too easy for a person who didn’t enjoy a puzzle to come here and give it a one star rating without having to explain their reasoning to anyone.

            I’ve been constructing puzzles for the last 18 months or so; Universal has published two of mine. I know how hard it is just to get a grid you can fill, much less fill well. If nothing else, my attempts at construction have taught me to appreciate other people’s efforts to create a puzzle people will enjoy solving.

            So do you have a suggestion for choosing puzzles I might enjoy? I have a mental list of constructors whose work I usually like. But if I stick to just the constructors I know, I’ll miss out on some good puzzle by “new to me” constructors.

            • Amy Reynaldo says:

              Eric, the New Yorker puzzles are usually rated quite a bit lower than my assessment. If you like themeless puzzles (they’re my favorite), I’d encourage you to do the Mon-Thurs New Yorker puzzles. I get the New Yorker’s puzzles email every day that a new puzzle is released, and I appreciate that reminder and link.

            • Really, the best thing to do is just try a bunch of different puzzles and see what you like for yourself. Matt Gritzmacher’s Substack link that RichardZ provided above is a good resource if you want a lot more options to choose from than just the puzzles reviewed on Fiend. If you like metapuzzles, there’s plenty of discussion every day about many different kinds at the XWord Muggles Forum. You may also consider joining the Crosscord server on Discord, where a lot of puzzlers like to hang out and chat about the puzzles that we solved. You may even get introduced some new ones there that you didn’t know about.

            • Bizarre, I left a comment here about how to choose other puzzles around 5 pm ET but I think the system ate it because it had a few links, like it thought it was spam. But anyhow, the best thing to do is just to try out other puzzles and see if you like them yourself. Matt Gritzmacher’s Substack link provided above is a good resource. Check out the XWord Muggles Forum if you need recommendations on metapuzzles. I’d also suggest joining the Crosscord server on Discord; a lot of us discussing different kinds of puzzles there (standard crosswords, cryptics, and other word games).

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: It definitely felt Saturday-ish to me, though I finished it in less than my average time even after spending two or three minutes looking for typos. Lots of guesses, some of which turned out to be right.

    I too learned “katana” from crossword puzzles — my construction software offered it as possible fill a few weeks ago. (I think I’ve seen “Kill Bill” twice, but I don’t remember any character saying “katana.”)

    • Eric H says:

      A commenter on Wordplay reminded me of a death scene in “Kill Bill” where the dying character’s last words are about the provenance of the katana wielded by the Bride (Uma Thurman). So I didn’t learn the word from crosswords.

  3. Chris McBride says:

    Nose art for planes was popular in WWII; mostly pinups or fierce animals.

    • Papa+John says:

      It’s still prevalent today, most notably on A-10 warthogs and bombers. It’s even used on commercial aircraft, such as the Virgin Ladies on Virgin Airline.

  4. Twangster says:

    LAT: I asked my daughters, who are 9 and 12, if they had heard the expression “today years old,” which I said was new to me. They both said they had, and the 12-year-old said, “You were today years old when you found out what ‘today years old’ meant.”

    Stumper: Amazing how one minor fix – in this case from TENDON to TENSOR – can open up a whole puzzle.

    • Eric H says:

      Deb Amlen, who writes most of the NYT Wordplay columns, frequently uses “today years old.” I’m pretty sure that’s where I first heard it (at today years old minus about two years).

    • sanfranman59 says:

      The only other time I’ve seen or heard this phrase was in a relatively recent crossword puzzle. I don’t think I’ve ever read it or heard it said in the real world. I can’t imagine ever using it myself as it just doesn’t make much sense to me and I’m sure it would sound very awkward coming out of my mouth. Since I don’t really understand it from the way it’s clued here (“Age of enlightenment?”), how is it supposed to be used anyway?

      • Eric H says:

        I could be wrong, but I think it’s equivalent to “today I learned.”

        It is a bit of a mouthful. It’s also a little cutesy for me. Outside of the aforementioned Deb Amlen, I don’t remember encountering it in real life.

  5. DH says:

    My Aunt Sally was a well known and very prolific artist in her day; she was a WAC during WWII and painted her share of “Nose Art” on planes. As Chris says, most of the nose-art I’ve seen has been pinups.

    Re: “Speaking of that, I feel like don’t really see a lot of tattooed noses. Let’s change that.”

    You first.

  6. Mr. [Moderately] Grumpy says:

    WSJ was reasonably amusing, but did we really need 81A? HATERS and TEN would have been just fine and a simple fix, Mr. Coulter.

  7. Dan says:

    I enjoyed solving the July 2 LAT puzzle plenty, but I find the entry “today years old” to be confusing. I have never encountered that phrase before and am finding it difficult to attach a meaning to it.

  8. Jack Azout says:

    Hi, I’m probably being totally obtuse here, but I’m wondering if someone can explain today’s 58D clue on the WSJ puzzle: “Common aspiration” AITCH. It would seem to me that pronouncing the letter “H” (which, I believe, is what AITCH refers to) is an exhalation, not an aspiration. However, in their write-up, pannonica not only doesn’t question the clue, but lists it as one of their favorites! I’m obviously failing to understand something here…

    • pannonica says:

      “Pronouncing the H in most words—the voiceless glottal fricative—is the result of aspiration, unless you have a Cockney accent or similar. It’s a bit ironic that saying the name of the letter does not involve aspiration, unless one does it the British/Irish way (‘haitch’)”, she replies.

      • Bob says:

        I’m glad some one asked, and thanks for explaining, but it still sounds like a really weird clue and answer. Maybe it’s just one of those crossword things. I’ll keep an eye out for it in the future. Honestly, I would be happy if I never saw it again.

  9. Eric H says:

    Amy, thanks for the recommendation on the New Yorker puzzles. I’ll do them occasionally, but I’m too cheap to subscribe, so I eventually run out of free “articles.”

    • sanfranman59 says:

      This comment may come to late for anyone to see it, but I’m able to get the New Yorker puzzles every day using the Crossword Scraper tool. Even when I get the message that I’ve run out of free articles, it’s able to create a .puz file from the puzzle page that’s open in the background of that message.

      Here’s a link to a Reddit post describing the tool … … and you can also find some discussion of it here at CrosswordFiend if you search back through the posts and comment sections

  10. Gloria E. says:

    LAT Thanks for all the discussion of Today YearsOld. I finally puzzled it down to possibly referencing AD year numeration with enlightenment beginning on the traditional birth of Jesus date. That seemed both incredibly awkward and culturally narrow. I also have young relatives and plan to toss it into conversation today and see if I can make them roll their eyes.

  11. Eric H says:

    LAT: I’m not usually one to complain about “too much PPP” (as the Rex Parker commenters refer to it), but this one seemed heavily loaded in that direction. The Pokémon clue could’ve easily been avoided. Much as I loved the Chase UTLEY clue, it took me a long time to get it because I’m not much of a baseball fan. I’ve never seen FAMILY MATTERS, but Jaleel White sounded kind of familiar. I would have gotten ANGELA BASSETT more quickly if the clued had referred to one of her movies and not a guest shot on “The Simpsons.”

    Still, it was kind of a fun puzzle.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Count me among the multitudes who have no clue what “PPP” means.

      • Eric H says:

        PPP is something like “People, Products, and other Proper nouns.” I don’t think Rex Parker’s commenters agree on what it means.

  12. A says:

    LAT: I don’t understand 34A “Meek” for “Like one due for an inheritance”. Anyone?

  13. Eric H says:

    Evan Birnholz: Thanks for your suggestions on other places to look for good puzzles.

Comments are closed.