John Hawksley’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
Cool grid, with those quad-stacked 9s and sort of a racetrack flow through the puzzle.
First up: Did we all laugh when [Renaissance-era cup] (“Chalice? Grail? Goblet?”) turned out to be a CODPIECE? More importantly, why aren’t athletic cups called codpieces? It’s a piece to protect your … cod.
Had no clue about [Potentially prophetic child], SEVENTH SON. Turns out to be some old woman-hating nonsense, god forbid someone wreck the magical powers by having a daughter along the way.
Fave fill: MAGIC SHOP, “IT WASN’T ME,” CAN’T UNSEE, ATHLEISURE, PORSCHES (not that I’d ever heard of the [Taycan and Macan]), SPACE CADET.
Can’t unsee but wish I could: APISHLY, ASIMMER.
[MIT’s sports team name], ENGINEERS. But their mascot is a beaver rather than an engineer. I learned why this week, from the Netflix series Never Have I Ever: Both CalTech and MIT have beaver mascots because the animal is “nature’s engineer.” CalTech teams are the Beavers, though.
Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
The fill makes this puzzle a delight. The clues, although there are some gems, leave something to be desired — namely, difficulty. (2:28? C’mon, it’s Saturday.) Some highlights:
- 17A [Quaint arcade prompt] is INSERT COIN. “Quaint”? You calling me old? Because I totally put coins in arcade slots back in the day.
- 20A [Box set bonus] is a FEATURETTE. This is a great example of the kind of entry I wish there were more of in puzzles: I don’t think I’ve ever filled it in in the tens of thousands of solves I’ve done in my lifetime, and yet that is not because it’s a piece of pop culture whose 15 minutes were happening while the puzzle was being submitted and are already over by the time the puzzle runs.
- 37A [Do the right thing in the parking lot, perhaps] is a fresh-feeling angle on LEAVE A NOTE.
- 39A [Something to sneeze at] is a great, if not tricky enough to slow me down, clue for ALLERGEN.
- 54A [“I’m sorry you were offended,” e.g.] is NON-APOLOGY, which, like FEATURETTE, feels evergreen and yet not something I’ve seen a million times before.
- 3D [Queen who appears in “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure”] is ELSA. This is not actually a highlight except that it made me remember with a snort how that not-short “short” was so audience-detested that it was quickly pulled from its pairing with Coco. I think I saw Coco in theaters about three weeks after it came out and “Frozen Adventure” was already gone.
- 9D [Vitis vinefera cultivar] is a WINE GRAPE. I am here for clues with esoteric-seeming vocabulary that actually contains enough information (the “vini” in “vinifera,” in this case) to suss things out.
- 26D [Silver-colored plumber in Super Smash Bros.] is METAL MARIO. Fun!
- 46D [From ___ to hero] is ZERO. Who’s got the Hercules song stuck in their head now? (I did not realize how much that movie got stuck in the head of folks about 10-15 years younger than I am until I saw Gottmik of Drag Race S13 claim Sundial Guy as her inspiration for this lewk.)
Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Perfect Game” — pannonica’s write-up
The trigram TEN is inserted, to wacky effect.
- 23a. [Live-in super?] WORKER-TENANT (worker ant).
- 28a. [“Who invented the typewriter?” reply, e.g.?] PATENT ANSWER (pat answer).
- 66a. [Rabbit ears at the North Pole?] SANTA ANTENNA (Santa Ana).
- 73a. [Extra in a vampire movie] BITTEN PLAYER (bit player).
- 110a. [Lipstick-loving cat?] MAKEUP KITTEN (makeup kit).
- 120a. [Alignment of the planets, perhaps?] SPACE PORTENT (spaceport).
- 36d. [Conversations in a tepee?] TENTED TALKS (TED Talks).
- 42d. [Super-insulting tribute?] POTENT ROAST (pot roast).
Liked, but didn’t love.
- 5d [Jane Campion film with three Oscar wins] THE PIANO, symmetrical to 90d [2010 Coen brothers movie that went 0 for 10 at the Oscars] TRUE GRIT.
- 31d [Diamond measure] CARAT, 38d [Diamond, e.g.] GEM, 82d [Diamond side] FACET. 101d [Diamond protector] TARP.
- 59d [Removes from the company?] ISOLATES. Better read without the definite article, but then the pun/misdirection is lost.
- 66d [Tell] SAY TO. Completed this as SAY(-) SO without looking at the clue, which necessitated hunting it up after the grid was completely filled in, to achieve a
- 73d [Sounds from a flock] BAAS. 1a [Sound from a flock] BLEAT.
- 92d [Halloween loot] SWEETS. Sounds so quaint.
- 30a [“Gandhi” or “Malcolm X”] BIOPIC. Sometimes it’s fun to rhyme this with myopic. But when I hear it said that way unironically …
- 32a [Last mo., alphabetically] SEP. I feel as if I should’ve known this immediately.
- 83a [Dances to jazz] BOPS. Would have preferred a ‘perhaps’ qualifier here.
- 91a [Ritzy Big Apple store] SAKS. Feels weird that I was able to fill this in right away. Maybe there just aren’t any other good 4-letter options?
Stella Zawistowski’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
Oof, this was hard.
Don’t have much to say right now because I’m beat and I would like to make some coffee.
Brief recap: I was able to s l o w l y work my way through the lower right, due in no small part to a quasi-guess on 44a ORANGEMEN.
After that, I made some progress in the upper left, thanks to 1d ELLIPSE and also seeing page in the clue for 26a SCOREPADS, which led me to Satchel PAIGE for the nearby 23-across.
From there it was spotty to say the least. After quite a while I was able to get enough letters to tackle the grid-spanning 7d [It may keep you up at night] CIRCADIAN RHYTHM, although I first spent some time obsessing over something like CIRCULAR THINKING.
Taking a flyer for 47a [Bayer’s headquarters] RUHR put me in the right geographical frame of mind for 16a [Originally, a river crystal] RHINESTONE. Another olden definition at 51a [Serf of the Vikings] THRALL.
13d [General rearrangement] is a cryptic-inspired anagram clue for ENLARGE. Nowadays there’s generally one of these type in the Stumper. Sometimes it’s a hidden word.
Nickname clues are generally tough, in my opinion. 55a [Nickname like Dita] EDIE. 30a [Nickname dropping “-el” or “-anna”] ARI.
Finally, a lot of the answers that seem obvious in retrospect were extremely recalcitrant while solving. Stuff like 18a [Not at all stalwart] UNRELIABLE, 50a [Hardly forthcoming] CAGY, 32a [Trash] VANDALIZE. and so on. So yeh, a hard crossword.
Okay, now I can go make coffee.
Ada Nicolle’s Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 42” — norah’s write-up
- FUN SPONGE 33D [Party pooper]
- MIRROR SELFIES 30A [Many Tinder profile pics]
- COUNT VON COUNT 34A [“Sesame Street” vampire]
- PIANO BARS 50A [Businesses with many keys?]
- MOODBOARD 30D [Set of pictures curated to capture a vibe]
Ada is one of the best themeless constructors in the game and this grid is full of her hallmark style: ultra clean, super fresh entries, and modern takes on old standbys. I legit squealed in anticipation when I saw today’s byline. If you’re not yet a subscriber, get thee over to her Patreon as quickly as possible, at least in time for her to drop what is sure to be a banger puzzle #100. (and also her blog where puzzles are less frequent but just as fun)
(Psst… Universal team, more of this please! <3)
- CROSSSECTIONS 35a [Cuts often made to show off a burrito’s contents]. Three Ss in a row is cool, and also using a cool (food) angle is a fun way to clue this that I would not expect to see in a mainstream publication.
- SKIT 20A [Rap album comedy track]. fun!
- SMOKY 6D [Like blended eye makeup]. fun!
- TAKI 7D [Spicier Dorito alternative]. There was a conversation in crosscord just the other day whether a single TAKI is a usable recognizable thing. Yup, sure is!
- LOOPS 32D [Repeats, like a TikTok]. So easy to just clue this as “Repeats” but the reference helps the solver figure out what sort of loop they’re looking for and adding the TikTok is just doing so with a little modern flavor.
- PSA 50D [TV spot of Sonic telling you not to do drugs, e.g.]. This made me lol for real. PSA has been clued in NYT puzzles 106 times and not a single time like this.
- YAS 25D [Drag queen’s approval]. I wasn’t necessarily planning on listing this one until I saw a comment questioning the clue. Yeah, it’s valid (and good). “Yas Queen!” is a phrase originating in drag culture to mean something like “Hell yes!” So the nod to a drag queen in the clue is a hint the solver can use to narrow down possible answers – and also distinguishes it from YES. Here, that E is crossing ANA 29D [Actress de Armas]. ANA is a crossword mainstay these days but it’s still generally a good idea to be as specific as possible when crossing proper names with potentially ambiguous entries. (YES vs YAS, for example).
Ada says her original clue for COUNT VON COUNT was [“Sesame Street” character who’s doing numbers on Twitter?]. I can only assume this is a reference to @countvoncount which for *over ten years* has been just counting, one tweet per day at a time. Maybe a little too much of a deep cut for a Universal puzzle but funny and original all the same.
- POETRY 24A [Rupi Kaur’s art form]. Actually, I was gonna say “I learned” but then upon googling realized I am familiar with Kaur’s book “Milk and Honey”.
- RABBIT 39A [Bunnicula or My Melody]. My Melody is a Hello Kitty character that is in fact an adorable rabbit.
Thank you Ada!
NYT: CAN’T UNSEE and CODPIECE were worth the price of admission.
Absolutely, with SPACE CADET close behind.
I was surprised to finish in ¾ of my usual Saturday time — it felt harder, like I was making a lot of guesses.
I enjoy chipping away at a puzzle like this, where the long answers need a few crosses before I can see them. I count 12 answers that are nine letters or longer; the only gimme among those was EPIC POEMS. (Well, the TOMATO part of Manhattan-style clam chowdah was a gimme.)
But the problem with chipping away is that I miss some nice misdirection. For example, I never thought of a drinking vessel when I read “Renaissance cup,” because I had so many letters that CODPIECE was the obvious answer.
In my career drafting legislation, we never used MUST NOT. It was always “shall” or “may not,” unless the requesting legislator insisted on the nonsensical (to us) “shall not.”
Overall, a solid Saturday puzzle.
NYT: I remembered the classic Willie Dixon song, but I guess I never caught on to the protagonist’s prophetic powers.
I couldn’t find Dixon’s version on YouTube, so here’s Johnny Rivers (which is what I probably remember anyway):
I most closely associate it with Mose Allison.
Me, too. But what the heck; it’s a classic.
Here’s Willie Dixon…
I believe Dixon wrote it for Willie Mabon, who was the first to record it.
Thanks for those links.
Dunno why I couldn’t find Willie Dixon’s version last night.
And here I am only knowing it from Iron Maiden.
Glad I am not the only one.
I think Bruce Dickinson et al. got it from the Orson Scott Card fantasy novel (been a long time since I read it).
Also found the Stumper super hard …took a good 45 minutes. At first I had next to nothing, but NAMESNAMES got me started.
Can anyone explain why “Romance’s #4, these days” = ITALIAN. I know Italian is a Romance language, but why #4?
My guess is that it’s the fourth most spoken of the lot.
Yes. From Wikipedia:
“The six most widely spoken Romance languages by number of native speakers are Spanish (489 million), Portuguese (283 million), French (77 million), Italian (67 million), Romanian (24 million), and Catalan (4.5 million)”
Stumper flowed decently except for the SE, where I was stopped dead. I wanted ORANGE MEN and ACRID, but I also wanted apse instead of NAVE, and all three of those were not going to work. Took me a long time to figure out which was wrong. Also in that corner to make it super hard for me:
– NICENE CREED is completely foreign to me (and that starting N crossing NLRB (meaningless dump of letters) was a total Natick)
– Another AWFUL nickname clue. Ugh all of those need to go away forever.
– Dieter’s unit for EINS is a great clue, but brutal!
– Sempiternal? What?
– THRALL? What?
But in all, a fun hard puzzle!
Similar reaction here. ORANGEMEN was my first entry, then ACRID, but I had DOME instead of NAVE for quite a while.
NLRB is doubly difficult: it’s a fairly obscure agency, and it oversees labor union elections, unlike the FEC, which oversees federal elections.
Two of those stupid nickname clues is two too many.
TAITO – completely unknown to me. BIOTECH before BIOCHEM. ARID before BRUT. LEE before AHN. Don’t really understand how you would frame a PANE for a wall. And so on.
I was very happy to finish with no errors. Eventually.
re: Universal 25D – This is not a culture I am familiar with. Why is “YAS” a “Drag Queen’s Approval”? Seems like it could be an approval by anyone with a twang or drawl. Why a drag queen?
The phrase “Yas queen” as an enthusiastic or sassy ascent or celebratory phrase (like “hell yeah” or “you rock”) is specifically associated with drag culture.
stumper: Brutal, in a good way :) .
Wanted Dome for Nave, never ever heard of Taito nor thrall, had to walk away, come back, see another crossing, go through again, guess a letter or two, repeat… all good usable fill (except those two). Enjoyed the sw affirmation and confirmations.
My kind of Stumper. Harder than NYT this week.
It’s hilarious to me to hear that some people think the NYT is ever harder than the Stumper. To me, the Stumper is Always a million times harder.
You’re probably right, the stumper is always tough. Sometimes it depends on “wavelength” with the constructor, if you’re on it it is less tough. Best to be said sometimes NYT is equally as difficult as Stumper, for me.
That’s one thing I never read about, but not sure it’s been studied either. For me overall, puzzles are pretty inconsistent. Case in point 8 min on a Friday NYT, 42 on a Saturday. Or for the LAT, 5 and change today, 28 and change last week. Never really know what to expect. But on a entire weeks of puzzles, it always seems lately that there’s at least one and sometimes multiple puzzles that are either equal to or harder than the Stumper for me. Just what it is.
WSJ – Excellent musical choice!
Stumper: I’m glad I’m not the only one who found it challenging. I got all but the SE on my own. Then around 45 minutes into it, I started checking what I had in that corner. Most of it was right, except for my clever “euro” as “Dieter’s unit.”
But even after looking up “sempiternal,” I wouldn’t have come up with ENDLESS if I hadn’t already checked ACRID. Tough clue for AM RADIO; I was expecting some bygone model that I’d never heard of. (That would’ve nice balanced the NYT’s clueing “Porsche” to two current models I’d never heard of.)
I’ve only done the Stumper a few times, but it’s living up to its name. Thanks, Pannonica, for pointing out that ENLARGE is an anagram of “general.” I’ll know to watch for cryptic-type clues next time.
I still don’t get the connection between “Dita” and EDIE, unless “Dita” is a nickname for “Edith.”
I see now that the “sem” in “sempiternal” is the “always” of “Semper Fidelis.”
“Always eternal”? That’s a poster boy for “tautology.”
Stumper – Delicious puzzle from Stella. Took quite a while, putting it down and coming back to it over several hours, but progressing slowly, kind of all over the grid, until it started coming together. But in the end it all came together without having any look-ups. The best kind of stumper! 5 stars
LAT … Wow! A 2:28 solve time with this puzzle? That’s amazing!
This puzzle was an exceedingly uneven solve for me. I found the southern two-thirds to be quite a bit easier than the other LAT Saturdays since mid-July (I solved that part of the puzzle at an Easy-Medium pace), but I couldn’t get any kind of foothold at all in either the NW or the due-North section. It didn’t help that I had a tentative ‘i bet’ instead of AS IF for 1-Down (“Ha, right”). The only other things I had in that area of the grid were the correct LACES (What loafers do without?) and the incorrect ‘irOn’ where BOOT belonged (“Retired Monopoly token”). I was really hurt by the latter because (a) I was very confident in it and (b) it was reinforced by the crossing INSERT COIN. I eventually worked it out, but it was like pulling teeth to finish it off.
I’ve averaged 14:02 on the 12 Saturday puzzles I’ve completed since July 16 vs 10:05 on the 14 Saturdays before then. There have been two other Saturdays since July 16 that I couldn’t finish. Prior to then, I’d had only two DNFs since the beginning of 2019. My solve times on the other days of the week haven’t shown this same pattern. In fact, if anything, my solve times have dropped with Monday through Friday and Sunday puzzles (particularly Thursday). Has anyone else had a similar experience? I’m trying to decide if it’s just coincidental, if the new editor is intentionally adjusting the difficulty levels of the puzzles or if it’s just a change in the style of cluing and/or the variety of answers (but, if so, I’d expect it to also affect my solve times on other days).
Amy I read the Wikipedia link you posted on seventh son—nowhere does it say that comes out of misogynistic lore?
Seven is obviously a a number with ancient mystical significance, so that’s where that part comes from.
Is it because no special significance (as mentioned there) was ascribed to seventh daughter of a seventh daughter?
Like primogeniture, the birth of girls is an inconvenience, and only male children count. Surely you don’t argue that reserving certain powers for males is somehow untouched by misogyny?
NYT, Hated “Am I rite”
But amirite is a thing that’s seen a lot these days.
I’m not crazy about it, either.
But Merriam-Webster dates it to 1998:
Who’d a thunk it?
Regarding the beaver mascots of MIT and Cal Tech, a saying from waaaaay back, hence not exactly PC: “The beaver is the engineer of the animal world and the Tech man is the animal of the engineer world”
Stumper – Pots for tots. Gah!