Saturday, October 1, 2022

LAT 3:00 (Stella) 


Newsday 10:44 (pannonica) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal 4:21 (norah)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Natan Last’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 10 1 22, no. 1001

Untimed, because it’s been a long week with misbehaving nerves and sleep debt. Felt like a Saturday puzzle.

Never heard of: 25a. [Strategy to prevent a runner from stealing a base], PITCH OUT. Good gravy, the World Series goes into November? I thought baseball was almost done.

Fave fill: CROWD-SURFS, GERTRUDE STEIN, POSE NUDE, SHOOED AWAY, BABY FAT, BLUE’S CLUES, OCEAN VUONG, LIVES A LIE. Not sure about B.S. METER; bullshit detector feels more familiar to me but I’m sure there’s lots of variance in what you use. YEMENI takes me back to a Brooklyn ACPT when Tony Orbach and his daughter Sko led a bunch of us to a Yemeni restaurant for lunch, and everything was delicious.

Love [Final four?] as the clue for the four HORSEMEN of the Apocalypse.

I’ll close with a link to one of Natan’s poems, “The Runners.” Greek myth’s “Atalanta zoned for wildness” is a lovely bit, Natan.

Four stars from me.

Matthew Stock and Pravan Chakravarthy’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 10/1/22 by Matthew Stock and Pravan Chakravarthy

Los Angeles Times 10/1/22 by Matthew Stock and Pravan Chakravarthy

First, a few notes on individual entries:

  • 19A [Oscar-nominated biopic about a Supreme Court justice] is RBG. I remember reading a review of On the Basis of Sex, the film starring Felicity Jones as RBG, that said it was a shame that the character’s portrayal in the fictionalized movie was a bit flat, given that the lady herself evinced her big personality so much in the documentary. This clue reminded me that one of these days I need to watch the doc.
  • 26A [Pt. of VAT] is VALUE. I don’t get why this clue abbreviates “part” when the answer isn’t an abbreviation (and even if it were, the abbreviation VAT itself would be enough of an abbreviation indicator).
  • 29A [Cocktails flavored with orgeat syrup] is MAI TAIS. BRB, gotta add ORGEAT to my word list.
  • 31A [Actor Millen of “Orphan Black”] is ARI. This seems like a pretty deep cut to get at a new angle for this rather useful set of three letters. (And I’m saying this as someone who watched the first three seasons of Orphan Black.)
  • 34A [Small wing nut] is a LEPIDOPTERIST. Loved this wordplay. (That’s someone who studies butterflies and moths, if you weren’t aware.)
  • 4D [Meryl Sheep of Sesame Street, for one] is EWE. Now this is a deep cut I like, because the answer provides confirmation even if you’ve never heard of the character.
  • 9D [French course final?] is a cute clue for ENTREMET, a type of dessert I’d never have heard of without GBBO.
  • 36D [Treat with DJ Tropicool and Louie-Bloo Raspberry flavors] is an OTTER POP. Debatable whether an OTTER POP is a “treat,” but a nice evocative answer.

This all adds up to…I wanted to like this puzzle more than I do. I wish there were more stuff of interest in those top and bottom 10-stacks; the top one felt like it was missing the elusive “sparkle” and the bottom one felt almost like ads found their way into my puzzle with two different 10-letter websites with paywalled content (EPICURIOUS and SPARKNOTES).

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “You Really Get Me” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ •10/1/22 • Sat • Shenk • “You Really Get Me” • solution • 20221001

Insertion of the bigram MY in familiar phrases, always at the end of the first word—or first part of a compound word—creating new adjectival phrases. What I didn’t perceive initially is that it’s homophonic, so spelling can change—but that wasn’t the case for the first one.

  • 23a. [Disreputable ragamuffins?] SEAMY URCHINS (sea urchins).
  • 25a. [Salon tint with a minty scent?] THYMY DYE (tie-dye).
  • 41a. [Residence of a family known for their angry outbursts?] STORMY HOUSE (storehouse).
  • 45a. [Promontory marked by pleasant warm days?] BALMY POINT (ballpoint).
  • 67a. [Really small detective, while shadowing a suspect?] PIGMY TAIL (pigtail).
  • 92a. [Result of trudging through the mud?] SLIMY BOOTS (slyboots).
  • 95a. [Bit of wood from a dark, depressing forest?] GLOOMY STICK (glue stick).
  • 112a. [Single picture from a Poehler movie scene?] AMY FRAME (A-frame).
  • 114a. [Ghosts that rise from fertile soil?] LOAMY SPIRITS (low spirits).

So those all work, and some of the clues end up being rather poetic.

The puzzle played a little tougher than I’m used to from the Saturday WSJs, but I fortunately seemed to know a lot of the trivia-like answers and was able to get through it without too much hassle. Biggest impasse was figuring out which one letter was off at the very end. Turned out to be the crossing of 34a [One of FDR’s most popular New Deal programs] CCC—which I did not know—and 35d [Antepenultimate letter] CHI, for which I’d hastily put in PHI.

  • 3d [Like Seuss’s elitist sneetches] STAR-BELLIED. I knew it was either the ones with or without, and fortunately only one designation had the right length.
  • 8d [“I can’t believe this,” in a text] SMHShaking my head, but which I long ago thought stood for so much hate.
  • 10d [Famed San Francisco restaurant featured in “Vertigo”] ERNIE’S. The film is regularly among the top-scoring in AFI and other lists, but I feel it’s vastly overrated. SMH.
  • 14d [Rogers Centre players, familiarly] JAYS. I should have twigged to the anglicised spelling of centre, but I didn’t and guessed JAGS.
  • 42d [World War I battle site of West Flanders] YPRES. There was a bit of crosswordy geography: 27a [Scottish town on the Firth of Clyde] AYR, 118a [View from Sugarloaf Mountain] RIO, 12a [Cabo location] BAJA. Okay, perhaps not as much as I thought.
  • 45d [Footing] BASIS. There were a few clues that were oblique in this laconic way. 66d [Predominant] SUPREME is another.
  • 52d [How successful people and space probes go] VERY FAR. Really? We’re going with that? 89a [Suede and gremlins shouldn’t do it] GET WET.
  • 58d [Monsoon season trademark] RAINS. Get used to seeing ever worse ones.
  • 64d [Female parts of a flower] CARPELS, 96d [Male part of a flower] STAMEN.
  • 68d [Small mountain lakes] TARNS. Old-school crosswordese.
  • 91d [Test subject?] STUDENT. Had a brief flashback to Student’s t-Test.
  • 6a [Pickup artist of old] MASHER. I’d thought that was a term for a sexual assailant, but perhaps that’s the intended connotation of “pickup artist” in the clue. Haven’t looked up the formal definition of MASHER, so I leave it to you if you want to.
  • 49a [Ready to drop] POOPED. I really, really wanted ZONKED this morning. 50a [Out] ASLEEP.
  • 59a [NC State’s Lee Hall, as of 1970] COED DORM. That’s rather specific. I suppose there’s either a personal reason or a historic one for that?
  • 75a [Travesties] FARCES.
  • 78a [Unhesitating turndown, informally] FAST PASS. Hadn’t heard it, but it was immanently guessable.
  • 98a [Watches covertly] SPIES ON. Just finished watching all three seasons of Berlin Station.
  • 100a [Ones in a class of their own] TUTEES. Clue goes a long way in mitigating a word that just looks weird to me.
  • 119d [Hansel’s heading] OVEN. That’s dark.
  • 111a [Maternal muntjac] DOE.

    Muntiacus reevesi ©Joel Sartore

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

Newsday • 10/1/22 • Saturday Stumper • Ruff, Newman • solution • 20221001

True to the byline, this one fell rather quickly, but that northeast section gave me solid resistance. The biggest impediments were filling in RTE at 37-across for [GPS reading] NNE and being stymied by 19a [Amazon’s origin] PERU, thinking only of the ANDES. This despite 27a [South American “Historical Capital”] CUZCO being right there. Incidentally, for that one I left the third square blank until I figured out if we were spelling it with a Z or C; the crossing 11d [Take it slow] for SPEED ZONE was a tricky imperative.

  • 6a [Nautical prefix] AERO-. Not a prefix denoting naval stuff, but one for -nautical.
  • 14a [Detective’s alternative to dusting] LASER. Not sure how that works, but I haven’t watched shows like CSI, so am probably ignorant here.
  • 15a [It falls in Genesis 7] RAIN. Yeh, I’d say that one’s tricky too.
  • 18a [Small handful] BRAT. Another misdirection.
  • 45a [Highs and lows] WEATHER SYSTEMS. Simple, yet somehow also tricky.
  • 57a [One leaving in the spring] TREE>groan<
  • 1d [What some collars keep off] FLEAS. My first fill, and how I recognized the crossword wouldn’t be too arduous.
  • 5d [Lone Ranger’s grand-nephew] GREEN HORNET. I had no idea there was a connection.
  • 7d [Worldly] EARTHEN. Is that right? Does that work?
  • 13d [Travel around] TOUR. 40d [Travels around] CIRCLES.
  • 24d [Rounds of some pro sports?] DOMES>moue<
  • 33d [Rousseau’s “source of all the false ideas of society”] MONEY. He had some stuff to say, for sure. Oh, also 30d [Font of creativity] IDEA WOMAN.
  • 46d [Its first fleet was Model Ts] HERTZ. Makes sense.
  • 47d [First name on the first Literature Nobel nominations list. ÉMILE Zola.
  • 48d [“Where brilliance belongs”] MENSA>looks askance<
  • 49d [Go quietly] SNEAK.

Garrett Chalfin’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 40” — norah’s write-up

THEME: None!


G. Chalfin, Universal, 10-01-2022

    • BEERPONG 53A [Drinking game involving shots?]
    • SKINCARE 34D [Kind of routine that may use oatmeal masks]
    • DEALER 59A [Representative of the house?]
    • EMOPOP 15A [Panic! at the Disco genre]

NICEWORK (16A [“Well done!”]) today from Garrett Chalfin in putting together a really clean grid that lends itself to plenty of fun wordplay throughout.

I learned about HOGANS 12A [Navajo dwellings]. Hogans are structures made of combinations of stone, timber, and packed earth.

The paired long entries of YOGARETREATS and NASCARTRACKS are begging for identical tricky clues (if in a trickier puzzle). Maybe something like [Places with long stretches?] ? Give me something better in the comments. :)

Thank you Garrett!

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30 Responses to Saturday, October 1, 2022

  1. Kent Byron says:

    The USA Today crossword was free for over 20 years. Now they need munny (sic). Thanks a lot, Erik! There are other puzzles….

  2. Jeff says:

    Pitchout was my first entry. It’s funny how some language is so “everyday” for some people and a complete mystery to others.

  3. Mike H says:

    LAT – NEAP TIDE is not “twice daily” – per Mirriam-Webster: “neap tide: [noun] a tide of minimum range occurring at the first and the third quarters of the moon.”

  4. huda says:

    NYT: I have mixed feelings about this puzzle. I greatly enjoyed the quotes, especially the GERTRUDE STEIN “In the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling”. I had no idea who said it, but was glad to learn it, and it will stay with me. The one about superego is also interesting, but again no idea who said it, and I don’t know that I agree with it? I suspect that each of us has a very distinct superego, and I feel that mine keeps evolving, which might be a good thing? I bet our ids are more similar.
    “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is on my to read list- The title alone is a very interesting thought. The question is how to recognize the moment… For many of us, it’s probably when we were five…
    With all these positives, I should have loved this puzzle. But in a way, it felt like some of the comments I’ve seen about the Ocean Vuong book- Beautiful elements, but hard to break into. Similarly, I found it quite hard to get a foothold into this puzzle. That stack in the middle felt especially challenging. It’s of course expected on a Saturday, but it still left me with these conflicting feelings of admiration and frustration.
    And now I feel I should have waited longer before rating it… As I write this, my admiration is increasing as my frustration dissipates.

  5. David L says:

    I struggled with the NYT, as expected, but finished eventually. The NE was last to fall – no idea about 1D, 1A could be any number of things, couldn’t come up with the right tower, etc etc.

    I think this puzzle is a good example of why Natan Last’s work tends to be polarizing. We’ve got literary references, a nod to MCU and (I think) Tolkien, a rapper, and the aforementioned 1D. I knew Gertrude Stein and Ocean Vuong (the latter by name anyway; haven’t read the book) but the other stuff is distinctly not in my wheelhouse. If you know it, you know it, if not it’s all kind of off-putting.

    • Eric H says:

      21D *is* a Tolkien reference, and probably a challenge for people who haven’t read “El Señor de Los Anillos” (a/k/a “The Lord of the Rings”) multiple times. Definitely a Saturday clue.

    • JohnH says:

      You mean NW, of course, and I didn’t have a chance. Not even close. Sorry to see Natan Last making it to the NYT. I have that corner entirely blank. A first for me, for whom a NYT DNF is rare and never more than an isolated square or two.

      • JohnH says:

        Oh, and incidentally, a porter is an ale.

      • gyrovague says:

        “Sorry to see Natan Last making it to the NYT.”

        Huh? This is his 36th Times puzzle since 2007. Maybe you need a new windmill to tilt at.

        • JohnH says:

          Sorry. I guess I just associate his inscrutable style (which I see has polarized them over at Wordplay, too) with TNY. Or maybe he hadn’t shown off quite as much in previous NYT appearances as he does regularly over there. Couldn’t tell you.

    • Gary R says:

      Mr. Last’s cultural references are often outside my wheelhouse. I had never heard of MECHA, but AARON, IVORY and NEWS went in with no crosses, so that area worked itself out fairly easily.

      A couple of brain cramps slowed me down in the middle. I knew exactly what strategy 25-A was referring to, but it took me several crosses to remember what it’s called. “Funky Cold Medina” is the rare rap song that I am familiar with and sorta like – but it took several crosses for me to remember TONE LOC.

      I know GERTRUDE STEIN, but not the quote. Have never heard of OCEAN VUONG – the “V” was my last entry (I know VMI, but didn’t know their nickname).

      I thought it was challenging (~ 50% longer than a typical Saturday time) but manageable.

  6. Twangster says:

    Stumper: Started out poorly and it wasn’t until I got to the bottom third that I was able to get much traction. But from that, I was able to work my way back up and complete it.

  7. Eric H says:

    NYT: I’m impressed by the breadth of cultural references in this one — there’s probably at least a few gimmes and a few unknowns for almost everyone. I was able to figure out the stuff I didn’t know without too much trouble.

    And a couple of clues, particularly 16A CROWDSURFS and 19A HORSEMEN, are just fun.

  8. Jenni says:

    Yogi Berra had a habit of swinging at a pitchout and hitting home runs. That was a gimme for me. And yes, baseball goes into November – the season started late because of the lockout and the owners wanted the revenue from all 162 games, so someone is likely to freeze their you-know-what during the World Series (here’s hoping, anyway, that some of those games will be played in NY and it won’t be LA and Houston).

  9. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT … Does anyone besides me think that LAT Saturdays have suddenly become significantly more difficult to complete since mid-August. After going more than two years without a single Saturday DNF (and very few before then going back to 2010), I’ve had six in the last eight puzzles and struggled to finish the other two. I also really struggled with two of the Saturday puzzles in July.

    I wonder if the new editor is intentionally upping the ante on Saturdays or if I’ve just gone into some kind of weird weekly solving slump that’s only affecting me with one of my six daily puzzles? Just wondering …

    • Eric H says:

      I haven’t done enough LAT puzzles to have an opinion, other than that this was a challenging puzzle. Technically, I’d have to call it a DNF, as I misspelled GELT even though I know better.

    • GlennG says:

      I’ll put it this way. I don’t mind a good challenge, but I do mind if it’s not a fair challenge. In that light, if you were to put all things equal (they aren’t), I find the Stumper a lot easier to complete lately than a lot of the other “mainstream” puzzles simply because they’ve been a lot more “fair” lately than some of those for some junky cluing and junky fill that’s been making it into some of the other puzzles. If I happen to be here, I’ll rank those puzzles pretty low since I find it pretty hard to not pin those “unfair” kinds of things on the editor when I see them.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        My comment wasn’t intended to suggest anything about the quality or fairness of the LAT Saturday puzzles. I was just wondering if others think that the difficulty level has ramped up the past couple of months. They haven’t seemed “unfair” or “junky” to me, just harder to complete cleanly and my solve times are way up.

        • GlennG says:

          I was just more fully explaining my perceptions in answering your question as to possibly why it’s happening. In short, yes difficulty level has ramped up on a few of the LAT and WSJ puzzles of the last three weeks.

          When I find myself saying “That was harder than the Stumper to complete cleanly” (true of the last two Saturday LAT, but a few others scattered throughout the week) , it definitely makes you question where intended difficulties are. But then again, I notice in my solving experiences that nothing is consistent lately.

  10. Eric H says:

    LAT: I found this considerably harder than the NYT. It took me way too long to come up with CYAN; both ENTREMET and YULE LADS were new to me; I’ve heard of both websites in the SE corner but needed a fair number of crosses for each one.

    We’re trying to avoid reading about the last season of “Better Call Saul” because we won’t see it until it’s on Netflix. I watched plenty of CAROL Burnett when I was a kid, but she’s in the “dead or alive?” category for me now.

    There was some fresh fill, like CAREERISTS and VITRIOL, and a few fun clues like the ones for GELT and LEPIDOPTERIST.

  11. Seth says:

    Stumper: “Take it slow” for SPEED ZONE is unfair. It breaks the rule that if the clue is a verb phrase, the answer must be too. I know some puzzles do cutesy things like “Step on it!” for FOOT or whatever, but those clues always have an exclamation point. This one needed one of those. The Stumper can’t just ignore the “rules” just to be harder.

    On another note, I found it interesting that my first guess for 1A was LASER, which was wrong there but correct one line down!

    • Martin says:

      The “!” signals that the clue is calling for the object of an action, but it’s not a hard convention. Even in the Times, it tends to be used early in the week and sometimes dropped to make a late-week clue more challenging. Thus SOLE was clued as “Step on it!” on Wednesday, 12/4/2019 and “Step on it” on Sunday, 1o/6/2002. I do agree that Stan sometimes stretches things beyond misdirection but this clue is kosher in my book.

      My headscratcher today was something turning green when it ripens. Aren’t unripe bell peppers, limes and Granny Smith apples green too?

      • Pilgrim says:

        I wondered about RIPENS as well. I can’t think of anything that turns from some other color to green when ripe. I always thought it was the other way around.

  12. Teedmn says:

    Stumper: would have finished sooner if I’d just put down CINÉ when I first read the clue, not sure why I held off. NE was the last to fall for me. OPPO, is that used in texting, or….?

    I’m thankful RIATAS let me get rid of edeN at 15A quickly. I did think Genesis 7 was a tad early for Eve eating the apple :-).

  13. Quiara says:

    Oh f— off Natan/Shortz, BLUE’S CLUES isn’t old!! If BLUE’S CLUES is old then that means I’m old. AND I’M NOT OLD. >:(



  14. CalR says:

    WSJ: Lots of challenging crosses in this one that made me feel extra dumb today. “Tarns” and “Horne”, “Ypres” and “pooped”, “setto” and “star-bellied”, and “CCC” and “chi” to name a few.

    And I could just be picking nits, but… even if you are one that pronounces the “L” in “balmy”, I feel that “bal” rarely sounds like “ball”. Maybe with “caught”/”cot” merger in the parts of the Western US? (End rant.)

    • JohnH says:

      Arguably, the sounds is even further off than that for most. RHUD has only one pronunciation, and (the vowels aside) it has no voice for the L in BALMY at all. It’d then be more like a cot / caw merger! However, MW11C does allow an L in a secondary pronunciation.

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