Daniel Okulitch’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap
This one fell quickly, but there were just 64 clues to contend with, no part of the grid was at all cut off from the rest, and the clues didn’t strike me as particularly Saturday-tough.
If you’re of a certain age, this grid with left-right symmetry resembles an old rotary phone, doesn’t it? Or maybe the Yip Yip Martians from Sesame Street? Could be both—watch the video and judge for yourself.
The top stack of long entries has a social justice vibe, with SOCIAL CLASS, MIRANDA RIGHTS, and the SUNRISE MOVEMENT ([Environmental activist group with a Climate Mandate campaign]), and the bottom is much more a leisure class venture, with LIVES IN THE MOMENT, DESSERT SPOONS, and SPIDEY-SENSE from your comic books and movies.
Other fave fill, aside from these terrific 11/13/15 stacks: the genie’s THREE WISHES (if you’ve never watched Hulu’s series What We Do in the Shadows, check it out—there’s eventually a djinn, and all four seasons thus far are an utter delight), THE HAVES (see also: social justice stack), crunchy CROSTINI, and a SEX SCENE. Less keen on ACT IN with that dangling IN, STENOG (isn’t STENO bad enough?), and YIPES (most of us say YIKES and you know it).
Fave clue: 29a. [Grant in folklore studies?], THREE WISHES.
Emet Ozar and Matthew Stock’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up
This puzzle is reasonably tough, with some good highs and a couple of irritants:
- First, an irritant: the RED NOSE DAY/INPEN crossing at 13A/4D. I guess the “Comic Relief” in the 13A clue is enough of an indicator that the very plausible RED ROSE DAY, which is what I put in, is not the correct answer, but with the crossing of the unfamiliar INPEN brand name (which could easily have been clued as a non-proper noun two-word phrase), this feels like a trap for the unwary.
- 22A [Like many beep baseball players] is BLIND. I couldn’t parse this clue at first, but after I got the answer from crossings, it made total sense and I’ve made a mental note to learn more about beep baseball later.
- 27A and 6D are [Compass dirección] for OESTE and [Indicación de afecto] for BESO, respectively. I turn to the trope of giving a clue in a foreign language to indicate that the answer is in that language frequently myself, but I didn’t love seeing it twice in the same puzzle.
- 56A [Coward with a knighthood] Loved this clue for NOEL!
- 57A [Spanish soap] is also a nice misdirect for TELENOVELA.
- 7D [Place with a snake in the grass] is a clever way to clue the ubiquitous EDEN.
- 21D I liked [Professional who goes through the motions?] for ATTORNEY.
In general I preferred the cluing of some of the shorter- to mid-length entries to the long ones (especially the stair-step stack in the middle, which I thought was fine but nothing to write home about).
Paolo Pasco’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Upon Reflection …” — pannonica’s write-up
This is a stunner. Right off the bat, one notices the left-right symmetry, which echoes the title. Then there’s the split revealer: 95d [With 102-Down, what the second halves of each asterisked answer are, vis-à-vis the first halves (well, almost…) MIRROR | 102d [See 95-Down] IMAGES.
- 24a. [*Motto for the Harvard Lampoon?] VERITAS SATIRE. Veritas is the motto of Harvard and satire is the Lampoon‘s métier.
- 33a. [*Boring characters in Norse mythology?] ASGARD DRAGS.
- 46a. [*Urban areas that speak Arabic or Hebrew?] SEMITIC CITIES.
***Even before encountering the revealers I realized there was some quasi-palindromic activity going on and began circling the extra letters. These I noticed themselves had mirror symmetry, but that was a short-lived phenomenon.***
- 76a. [*Writers of advice columns for Jurassic Cosmopolitan?] SEXPERT T. REXES.
- 82a. [*Hometown fan responded to a dig about the Tigers?] DETROITER RETORTED.
- 96a. [*Locked down low poker cards?] SECURED DEUCES.
- 117a. [*Response to somebody rating a restaurant?] YELPER REPLY.
As you no doubt have realized, the extra letters spell VAMPIRE, and vampires—per folklore—famously do not cast reflections in mirrors. It makes perfect sense now that those letters do not appear on the righthand side of the grid!
This is a seriously amazing construction. A fantastic idea executed brilliantly. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to find/invent these phrases .
Further—and I have no idea whether it was intentional—the grid is reminiscent of a bat being held to demonstrate its wingspan. Allow me to demonstrate. Below is a watercolor illustration of an Asian lesser false vampire bat (couldn’t find an image of a true vampire bat in the desired position):
If I crop the image to eliminate the extremities (pinnae, uropatagium, patagia, et al.), focussing on just the head and torso, it looks much like the grid pattern, no?
Here, have a look:
(Perhaps picture it with a different bat species, one with a more robust chest and a pointier chin.)
Commenting slyly on the theme are the symmetrical longdowns at 3-and 16-down: 3d [Reforms] TURNS IT AROUND, [Isn’t spotted] GOES UNNOTICED. As if things couldn’t get more elaborate!
Truly a superb construction, and just in time for Halloween.
- 5d [Cow or buffalo] OVERAWE.
- 1d [“Crosswords are just very fun mini-quizzes with packaged little boxes,” e.g.] PANGRAM.
- 39d [Enter] GO IN. Not without being invited!
- 66d [Top of the French military?] KEPI. Been seeing a bunch of these lately in films I’ve screened.
- 69d [Modern site of ancient Thebes] LUXOR. Tried LIBYA first.
- 73a [“…and you don’t want to cross me!”] OR ELSE. Theme-adjacent?
- 80d [Is in, as an inn] STAYS AT. Fun clue, marred somewhat by the presence of 41a AS IN [“…which is the first letter of…”]
- 97d [Online marker] ETSY, symmetrical to EBAY at 100d, which receives an identical clue.
- 20a [Shakespearean “Scram!”] AVAUNT. I should work this into my conversations more.
- 23a [“Ask Me Another” airer] NPR. Ceased production in September of last year,
- 26a [Alumni email address ender] EDU. For an alumnus?
- 54a [Character with much popularity on the web?] SPIDER-MAN. >groan<
- 88a [Jam sound] TOOT. Traffic jam. 72d [Commuting hassle] DETOUR.
- 120a [Subject of the painting “The Monarch of the Glen“] STAG.
Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “Travel TV”—Matthew’s recap
Themers are geographical locations that contain the letter string -TV- across a word break:
- 17a [Caribbean island called Yurumein by the Garifuna] SAINT VINCENT
- 35a [Gulf of Naples volcano] MOUNT VESUVIUS
- 53a [“Take Me Home, Country Roads” state] WEST VIRGINIA
Delighted to learn quite a bit today: British pop-dance artist MNEK and singer TEMS, superheroes The New Agents of ATLAS from Marvel Comics, the aforementioned indigenous name for SAINT VINCENT. TRAIL CLOSED, HAIRLOVE, and INDULGENCES were nicely brain-tickly, as well. I highly encourage anyone who hasn’t watched HAIRLOVE to seek it out. Cheers!
Paolo Pasco’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up
No idea how I managed to complete this one so quickly. It seemed as if I had made barely any headway for so long, and I wasn’t even in a solving mood.
Some of the clues were especially tough, oblique, and/or oblique, while a few were borderline unfair.
In the latter category foremost is 51a [Shades worn on your feet] SANDAL TANS. Is this the color of the sandals themselves, or the distinctively-patterned tan one gets on one’s feet from wearing sandals in the sun? The former seems greenpainty, while the latter struggles to justify the “worn on” of the clue. p.s. NAIL POLISH fits.
Another is 15a [Where one is from in the future] PLANET EARTH. Come on.
- 2d [Decorated for good] HONORED. For good deeds. Tricky.
- 7d [Finn, for one] LAD. Must be Huck, right?
- 10d [Heavy metal instruments] STEEL DRUMS.
- 33d [Dutch doctor known for his optotypes] SNELLEN. Those are the familiar eye charts of vision testing.
- 37d [Scratch-off scratch] SIN TAX. Not sure if the slangy ‘scratch’ works as applied to the tax, rather than the funds one draws upon to purchase said lottery ticket.
- 38d [Orson’s cousin] URSULA. This appears to be from Disney’s The Little Mermaid and not some hitherto-unknown kinship between, say, Orson Welles and URSULA Andress. 40d [Secret Service’s “Rosebud” (c. 2012)] SASHA.
- 39d [Metaphoric big picture] FOREST. Vis-à-vis trees.
- 41d [Trunk depression] NAVEL. Another stretch.
- 18a [Chuck’s overseas relative] KARL. Both are derivatives of Charles.
- 23a [They’re often taken out of stock] LADLEFULS. whew
- 25a [First name on “First Man”’s cover] NEIL Armstrong.
- 26a [Exercise with no running] FIRE DRILL. One is advised to move calmly but deliberately.
- 29a [Knock around] ROAM? ROMP? ROVE.
- 34a [Guy going back for a plan] ARI. Here is today’s cryptic-style clue, in this case a reversal of IRA—the retirement plan, not the name.
- 37a [Rises in desert temperatures] SAND DUNES. Another borderline unfair clue. Not convinced ‘temperatures’ can mean ‘locales’ (if that’s even the intent here).
- 44a [Bring up] PARENT. Oof, tough verb form here.
- 49a [“Encore” antonym] PLEASE STOP. I was seeking something like OVERTURE or OPENING ACT, neither of which fit.
- 50a [Minecraft blockbusters] AXES. I guess it’s blocks of wood? I’m Minecraft illiterate.
Definitely lives up to the Stumper sobriquet.
Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 44” by Hoang-Kim Vu and Kate Chin Park — norah’s write-up
- GENDERNORMS 19A [They might get upset by feminist activism]
- MCRIB 22A [Seasonal Golden Arches sandwich]
- BEET 36A [Turnip the ___ (bad vegetable pun)] ⭐
- DOUP 39A [Arrange into a topknot, say]
- NEWCARSMELL 52A [Malibu or Tahoe sensation, initially]
- WEEDGUMMIES 24D [Munchies that might give you the munchies]
What a fantastic puzzle. The liveliness and humor injected into nearly every clue is what makes this one really shine. Aside from the above favorites we have a ton of common entries that are given fresh and/or interesting cluing angles, and there really are too many to list but a few of my favorites are GINA 43A [“Damn, ___” (“Martin” catchphrase)], PLANB 5D [Morning-after pill brand], RIDES 20D [Planes, trains and automobiles], CHEF 31D [Culinary figure such as Kwame Onwuachi], LOSS 56D [“Their ___!” (friend’s remark after a rejection)]. Overall, this grid is really well done and super clean, as we can expect from Universal. It hits the sweet spot of just easy enough and and makes a fun experience for the solver, which in the end is what really matters.
I want to take this opportunity to (re)-emphasize that Universal is a great place for aspiring constructors to get their feet wet – response time to inquiries is generally pretty quick, and the editing team provides valuable feedback to constructors at all levels of experience.
Thank you Kim and Kate!
Can this even be considered food? A McDonald’s worker decides to reveal how a McRib is made. pic.twitter.com/yFraU7JGhp
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) October 25, 2022
NYT: A delightful Saturday. Felt on the easy side for me and I loved all those long answers. Both SOCIAL CLASS and SPIDEY SENSE emerged readily and helped anchor the top and bottom for me. Had a bunch of false starts– e.g. “Milieu” instead of CENTRE, but there were enough angles to come at each response that errors could be fixed.
I really like this open concept plan for the puzzle.
NYT: Fast but fun. Overestimating the population of Victoria, B.C. by quite a lot cost me a personal best.
About 20 years ago, my husband’s mother gave us a rotary dial desk phone that we kept until we abandoned our landline. Still kind of miss that thing.
Nice to see an ORRIN other than former Senator Hatch.
I was annoyed by MUCHO sans any indication that it was Spanish [yeah, yeah, I know it’s arguably Anglo slang], but that NW corner worked itself out eventually, and the rest of the puzzle was not very difficult. Haven’t seen a SHMOO in years, so that was a nice little treat.
NYT: Yes, fun and fast. But I was really hoping BLOBFISH would be an entry.
NYT: I finished, but I can’t figure out what 50D is: MOS for “Ways of doing things, for short”. I started with SOP, but … I feel like I’m missing something obvious.
I believe it is plural of MO (Method of Operation).
Plural of Modus Operandi
ugh i love a saturday when all the themelesses are top-tier
WSJ: That’s a beautiful Halloween puzzle there, Paolo.
Agree. A brilliant puzzle.
A masterpiece. This one belongs in the Crossword Hall of Fame (as does pannonica’s review).
whoa, thank you for the compliment.
I’m impressed by the puzzle, too, and pannonica saw more in it than I did. I’m even convinced it’s all intentional. (Well, reference to a vampire’s lack of visibility in a mirror certainly is, and I hate to say it, but I missed that connection.)
A woeful day for me … could not sort out the top left of LAT and barely got anywhere with the Stumper. At least I got the Octordle!
Stumper truly stumped me too. I had to Google to get SNELLEN and CHICANA, and even then couldn’t make any progress in the NW (didn’t help that I wanted CARELL for COOGAN — wrong Steve).
I had FLOORPLANS before FLOODLAMPS until I found SNELLEN. The inclusion of ‘temperatures’ in the clues for SANDDUNES seems beyond misleading, as is the clue for HOMEPLANET.
I think the connection between URSULA and Orson is that they are both bear-related names.
SANDALTANS? Sure, sure…
Re: Stumper, I stared at my U from URSULA forever, wanting SAND DUNES but being unable to overcome my aversion to the “temperatures = locales.” And tete-a-tete made mano-a-mano hard to figure out along with all its crosses. Nice job, Paolo Pasco, as usual.
Stumper: I don’t think “temperatures” is supposed to mean “locales.” I think the idea is that, if you happen to be in a place where the temperature is desert-like, you’re likely to see sand dunes. The word “desert” is used as an adjective to describe the temperature, like “Rises in hot temperatures.” Still, a super hard clue.
NW also killed me.
What’s with “Big name in Mexican War annals” for ANNA? At first, I thought this was the worst possible cryptic-style clue, since “anna” appears inside “annals.” I was so furious at this clue. But then I googled and saw that there’s someone named Anna McClarmonde Chase (who???). Or is it Santa Anna, the Mexican general (again, who??). In any case, I really hope it’s one of those ridiculously obscure people, however impossible that would mean the clue is, as opposed to the even worse cryptic-style clue.
Nothing particularly obscure about Mexican General Santa Anna – he’s the guy who laid siege to the Alamo.
To Pannonica: Good write-up. I noticed that you seemed to question the use of the EDU ending on email address for an alumnus. I assume that after graduation, the alumni would keep the email address they have been using for maybe 4 years to stay in touch with all their friends.
Paolo’s Stumper was particularly nice. I appreciated the gimme of Filipino dessert leche FLAN! My husband’s Tia Clarita makes an amazing flan—I don’t generally care for flan, but hers is insanely good.