Saturday, November 12, 2022

LAT 3:54 (Stella) 


Newsday 15:35 (pannonica) 


NYT 8:47 (norah) 


Universal 4:16 (norah)  


USA Today 1:26 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


The New York Times Crossword, Themeless 11-12-2022 by Billy Bratton — norah’s write-up

NYT, B. Bratton, 11-12-2022

NYT, B. Bratton, 11-12-2022

Amy said of last week’s Saturday, “The second straight Saturday NYT that felt like a Friday to me.” Well, add this one to that list. I expect we’ll see a lot of folks pr-ing this one. For me, it certainly played faster than an average Saturday. I ascribe this to the center stack of nice entries (and most entries throughout, really) being clued relatively straightforwardly and a lack of long proper names or foreign phrases more commonly found in Saturday grids. This feels like a Friday to me. (And yesterday’s was slower than an average Friday; I believe these two puzzles could have swapped.)

I really enjoyed and recommend Billy’s constructor notes with the tongue-in-cheek “How to make a crossword in three easy steps.”


  • ANTMAN 22A [Small role in a superhero movie?] To be fair, sometimes ANTMAN gets really big, right?
  • BANANASPLIT 31A [Dessert served in a boat] Indeed! Having “in” in the clue (vs. “on,” say) eliminates the possibility of misdirection.
  • YOGASESSION 34A [Time when it helps to be flexible] I’m not totally sold on “time” in the clue, but it works well enough.
  • ZOOMMEETING 35A [Platform for a modern job interview] This is a super straightforward clue! It’s fine, but I expect much more trickery on a Saturday for a phrase that is extremely well known at this point.
  • OMG 41A [[!!!]] I really like these sorts of nonverbal clues, and this one evokes just the right feeling.
  • GUILTTRIP 49A [“Travel” for someone who’s feeling bad?] Surprised that this one is a debut entry in the Times, but this is a nice clue for it.
  • PIES 55A [Some budget graphics] This was probably the clue that gave me the most trouble – I just couldn’t work it out (having forgotten how MORRIE was to be spelled momentarily). But yes, PIE charts for budgeting purposes. Makes sense.
  • STALAGMITE 18D [One growing up in a cave?] So cute. Remember, stalagmites “might” touch the ceiling and stalactites hang on “tight.”
  • DIPPINDOTS 21D [“Ice Cream of the Future”] Another great debut entry! DIPPINDOTS are a strange confection made and transported at ultra-low temps – about -40°C/°F (just so happens to be the temperature at which Celsius and Fahrenheit are the same!)
  • CLOG 30D [Apt shoe for a plumber?] I’m normally not a fan of the “apt name” sort of clues, but this one just made me giggle for whatever reason. Perhaps it’s because I’m picturing a plumber wearing wooden clogs on the job.
  • ZAMBONI 35D [It resurfaces after 20 minutes] Does it? Ohhh, google tells me a hockey period is 20 minutes long. Okay, sure.

If I have any nits to pick, it’s that the NYT interface continues to behave oddly. Does 1A highlight when 40D is selected for anyone else? Why??

I learned about:

  • KOFI 9A [Actor Siriboe of “Queen Sugar”] I’ve never watched “Queen Sugar” but upon looking him up, I recognize him from Insecure.
  • WACOTEXAS 20A [Southwestern city that produces most of the U.S.’s Snickers bars] This is a new fact to me!
  • HOTWAR 1D [Conflict with fighting] A friend assures me this is a real thing – as opposed to a Cold War – but it sure did feel greenpainty to me at first.
  • SOUSA 7D [“Minnesota March” composer]

Thanks Billy!

Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle” by Drew Schmenner — norah’s write-up



Universal, D. Schmenner, 11-12-2022

Universal, D. Schmenner, 11-12-2022

  • BYEFELICIA 17A [Dismissive send-off that’s from the movie “Friday”]
  • EARCANDY 21A [Catchy music, slangily]
  • SHARINGISCARING 35A [Friendly advice?]
  • DOGTREAT 48A [Compensation for sitting?]
  • CLEANSLATE 3D [New record?]
  • RACEAGAINSTTIME 7D [Rush to score before the final buzzer, say]
  • REALTALK 36D [Direct messages?]


I really dig the intersecting (15)s of RACEAGAINSTTIME and SHARINGISCARING. A bunch of great ? clues throughout this solve that give fun but not tricky. Nice evocative cluing for ANGST (31D [Feeling that may inspire a teen’s poetry]), a new-to-me OREO fact (49D [Cookie invented in Chelsea, NYC]), and a little fun misdirection for ALARM (15A [It’s often set on Sunday night) combine to strike the just-right balance of smoothness and interesting that the Universal themeless is known for.

Someone asked me since last weekend what software I use to solve the Universal puzzles. This is the Crossword Nexus solver, and don’t forget you can get .puz files here.

Thank you Drew!

David Alfred Bywaters’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “They Endure” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 11/12/22 • Sat • BYwaters • “They Endure” • solution • 20221112

Reparse the title as ‘they end -URE’ and you see the gimmick. That trigram is suffixed to familiar phrases.

  • 23a. [Tight jeans consequence?] TROUSER PRESSURE (trouser press).
  • 34a. [Unadulterated nonsense, metaphorically but politely described?] STRAIGHT MANURE (straight man).
  • 50a. [Rule at a pacifist movie theater?] NO MEAN FEATURE (no mean feat).
  • 69a. [Unpleasant olfactory experience in rural regions?] BLAST FROM THE PASTURE (blast from the past).
  • 88a. [Does some prosthodontic work?] MAKES A DENTURE (makes a dent).
  • 103a. [Sonic wallpaper manufacturing process?] VOICE-TO-TEXTURE (voice-to-text). Real stretch, this one.
  • 118a. [Standing erect with raised right thumb?] HITCHING POSTURE (hitching post).

These are … okay?

  • 16d [Watt/volt] AMPERE. 73d [Watt or volt] UNIT.
  • 20d [Livy’s land] TERRA. This one fooled me today. 39d [Remote spot?] SOFA. This one did not fool me today.
  • 25d [Jeans joint] SEAM. Crossing that TROUSER themer.
  • 54d [Like a dangling wall poster] UNSTUCK. Or like Billy Pilgrim, vis-à-vis time.
  • 57d [Candle carriers in religious processions] TAPERERS. Did not know this word. Is that the person or the object?
  • 95d [It’s south of Arizona] SONORA. 98d [It’s north of Arizona] UTAH. Yay, Arizona.
  • 99d [Spring festival] PURIM. 128a [Spring stretch] LENT.
  • 101d [Heaps] LOTS, 125a [Heaps] A TON.
  • 102d [Canine cover] TARTAR. Took quite a few beats to get this one.
  • 38a [WhistlePig wares] RYES. Seems a bit niche?
  • 97a [Hype] CRY UP. I’ve never ever encountered this idiom. Merriam-Webster has an entry for it, though.
  • 127a [Does, e.g.] DEER. This one did not fool me today.

Here, I excavated a big ol’ slab of Eighties for you:

Rich Norris’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 11/12/22 by Rich Norris

Los Angeles Times 11/12/22 by Rich Norris

I was about halfway through this pretty tough puzzle before I flicked my eyes up at the byline, wondering who was challenging me like this. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Rich Norris’s name there! Let’s start with the things I could do without: O-STARS (who remembers which letter goes with which type?!), MORT Drucker (feels a bit dated), and ONE’S in FEATHER ONE’S NEST. And now the highlights:

  • 1A [Mint] is not a lot to go on for BRAND-NEW, forcing me to give up on the NW early on and work back up there from the bottom. This is a good thing on Saturday!
  • 18A [Console with Party and Fit games] is a bit of nostalgia with WII. I remember spending beaucoup bucks trying to find one on Ebay, and now…that was 16 years ago. Sheesh.
  • 38A [Arranges for deferred payment] is a nasty (in a good way) clue for RUNS A TAB. I’ve been a speed solver for almost 20 years at this point and it’s very hard to get those “aha” moments of having to think about and come back to a tough clue more than once before finally figuring it out, so I appreciated this one!
  • 39A [Symbolic 100%] is a similarly difficult and rewarding clue for PIE.
  • 27D [“Joy Shtick” writer] is a nice clue for BEHAR since, although many solvers (myself included) won’t have heard of the book, its title provides instant confirmation once you’ve filled in the answer.

There were enough trivia softballs (MEL clued as [First name of two Spice Girls], ALVIN Ailey, a Winston Churchill reference for FEW, Gustav KLIMT) that these were my toeholds.

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

Newsday • 11/12/22 • Saturday Stumper • Mossberg • solution • 20221112

Quick recap, as I’m really hungry for breakfast.

  • Great marquee entry spanning across the middle of the grid: 37a [Time best forgotten] ANNUS HORRIBILIS.
  • Confession, I needed to run the alphabet until getting the ‘ok’ signal from the program to finish the grid. The square I in question was the crossing of 25a [Prime minister after Brian] and 25d [Hajji’s destination, for which my very first try was of course MECCA. Turned out to be KAABA, and the prime ministers are from Canada in the 1990s: Brian Mulroney and Avril Phaedra Douglas ‘KIM‘ Campbell.
  • 11a [Swiss partner] HAM. My very first fill here.
  • 15a [Twenty-seven connection] FOUR. Great little clue.
  • Some gratuitously obfuscatory clues: 28a [Agricultural block] BALE, 2d [One noo longer crawling] PUPA, 5d [some external adipose tissue] EARLOBE, 13d [Clue card designation] MRS, 26d [Depression on a trunk] INNIE.
  • 49a [Mozzarella alternative for lasagna] EDAM. Seems non-traditional.
  • 62a [Largest break in the California Coastal Range] GOLDEN GATE. Was definitely expecting something-PASS here.
  • 10d [Type of tabby] TOYGER. New to me, and I know a fair bit about cats.
  • 11d [Play adaptations] HOUSE RULES. Tough one.
  • 54d [Male mink] BOAR. Took a chance on this one with no crossings. Fortunately it was a good instinct.

That’s all. On the less-challenging side as far as Stumpers go. Was able to put in a fair amount of answers throughout the grid on initial pass.

Rafael Musa’s USA Today Crossword, “Three-Peat” — Matthew’s write-up

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword solution, “Three-Peat,” 11/12/2022

Our themers each start with the letters BOG-, but it took me a few seconds post-solve to connect it to the title: Three-Peat as in a “peat bog,” home of preserved iron age… stuff and tasty flavor notes for scotch. Not the most intricate theme, but it made me laugh when it connected, so I like it.

  • 16a [Totally astounds] BOGGLES THE MIND
  • 34a [Unfounded assertions] BOGUS CLAIMS
  • 54a [Capital city that hosts the Ibero-American Theater Festival] BOGOTA COLOMBIA

Not a whole lot jumped out to me on this quick solve — I’m indeed not sure if I’ve seen “The Future is FEMALE” anywhere other than t-shirts, and I’m a fan of Dr. ELVIS Francois, who had a Moment early in the COVID pandemic while he was working at the Mayo Clinic and has since appeared on The Masked Singer. Cheers!

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31 Responses to Saturday, November 12, 2022

  1. Steve Manion says:

    Fairly easy Saturday.
    While flexibility is at the heart of yoga, my first thought is the importance of balance especially as we get older.

  2. Mutman says:

    NYT: definitely played on the east side, as I rarely finish before 8am!

    Favorite clue was for ZAMBONI!

    I have been seeing weird issues with highlighting in the app, but 40D is not triggering 1A for me. Maybe updating app helps? I did it recently. But it may run off server anyway. Not sure.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Thank you for a great write up, norah, and for this help tip: “Remember, stalagmites “might” touch the ceiling and stalactites hang on “tight.”” Never heard it before.
    I really enjoyed the puzzle and agree it’s on the easy side (once I got going). I did like that combo of events in the center– the YOGA and ZOOM events. Never heard of DIPPIN DOTS, I need to try them!
    Lots of great goodies in there: THAT S MY CUE, KINDA SORTA, GUILT TRIP (as clued).
    A fun solve!

    • pannonica says:

      I find the easiest and most straightforward mnemonic to be stalaGmite (Ground), stalaCtite (Ceiling).

    • Karen says:

      Late to the party here: my favorite and pour moi, the easiest way to remember the cave formations was taught to me during a trip in France visiting caves in the southwest. My French friend said “stalagmites MONTENT (go up) and stalactites TOMBENT (fall). For those Francophones here, this may help. But when do we need to know in everyday life?

      • huda says:

        Cool! Thank you everyone.
        In spite of living in the US for decades, I’m occasionally reminded of what I’ve missed by not growing up here…

  4. Rob says:

    NYT: Easy peasy for a Saturday! Thanks, Billy, for a very nice solving experience. Nice way to spend my early Saturday morning. Favorite clue: “Travel” for someone who’s feeling bad?

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    NYT … It seems to me that the times they are a-changin’ at the NYT crossword editor’s desk. I’ve tracked my solve times in a spreadsheet since 2009 and have always been amazed at how consistently and reliably Will assesses puzzle difficulty from day to day and week to week. Not so much lately though. Over the past few months (or so) my solve times have been noticeably more erratic than they were before. It may very well be a combination of a change in whoever is judging the difficulty of the puzzles and the content of the puzzles moving further and further away from my ability to solve them, but either way, it really seems like something is changing there. Will’s had a very long and very impressive run as the crossword editor. He’s coming to the end of his 30th year as editor in the next couple of weeks. I wonder if what I’m picking up on is that he’s gradually transitioning out of the picture?

    • Dan says:

      I completely agree.

    • gyrovague says:

      Or … the cheese could be slipping off your cracker.

      Ha ha, no I’ve definitely sensed a different tone as well. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Nor can I chalk it all up to their outreach to a more diverse group of constructors, though that’s certainly made a difference in content. It’s a change in editing style.

      Not unreasonable to think that a gradual transition is already underway at the Times. None or us will be around forever.

  6. Seth says:

    Stumper: not too hard! And fun! Though that 25A/D letter is a hilariously terrible cross. KIM could be clued as a million things, and you pick the first name of a foreign PM from 30 years ago, clued via the first name of a foreign PM from 40 years ago? Crossing something as obscure as KAABA? Ouch.

    • e.a. says:

      crossing something as obscure as… the most sacred site in islam… ?

    • steve says:

      stumper was a little tough for me, and kaaba/kim was a sorta lucky guess, but kaaba was somewhere deep in the archives, which at my advanced age are not always easy to access

    • David L says:

      Yeah, I went with JIM/JAABA, which didn’t seem right but I didn’t think to come back to it later.

      ETA: Now that I think about it, the spelling QAABA seems more familiar to me than KAABA, although the latter is evidently the modern standard.

  7. Jose Madre says:

    wow I PRed by over 3 minutes on today’s NYT and my Saturday PR is now faster than my Thursday and Friday. I was kinda sorta shocked when I saw the time

  8. RichardZ says:

    Re today’s Saturday Stumper – can someone explain 15A (FOUR), with clue “Twenty-seven connection”? I’m not seeing it, at least not yet.

    Also, it seems like the answer for 23D (ALLOT) doesn’t match the clue (“Appropriate”). The two words aren’t even loosely synonymous. If anything, they are antonyms.

    • Matt Gritzmacher says:

      In the phrase “twenty-four, seven,” the word “four” “connects” the words “twenty” and “seven”

    • PJ says:

      15a – It’s a parsing of 24/7 as in always available.

      23d – think congress appropriating funds for an expenditure

      • RichardZ says:

        Re 15A – Thanks (and to Matt, also). Great clue, as pannonica indicated in the review.

        Re 23D – that makes perfect sense. I guess that makes “allot” one of those words which can take on opposite meanings (like “cleave” or “sanction”). A Google search reminded me of some of the names for such words – Janus words, contronyms, antagonyms, and auto-antonyms.

  9. gyrovague says:

    LAT: Another fine showing by Rich Norris. Anyone who enjoys NYT and Newsday Saturdays should be giving the LAT a go as well. In the half year or so since the change in editors there’s been more than a few bumps. But the themelesses have been more hit than miss lately.

  10. Dan says:

    I found several clue/answer combos in the LAT puzzle to be puzzling. This is my own reaction and not a criticism of the puzzle.

    I am not at all familiar with the meaning “Briefly appeared” for “gleamed”. (But sure enough, AHD lists “To be manifested or indicated briefly or faintly” as one definition for “gleam”.)

    I have no idea why a tire iron should be considered “outmoded”.

    And the only meaning I know for “feather one’s nest” is to add furnishings, drapes, carpets, and/or decorations to one’s home to make it more homey. Which has nothing at all to do with the clue, “Exploit a position of trust”.

    • gyrovague says:

      I’m no grease monkey, so that tire iron clue gave me pause too. But, according to Wiki: “Tire irons have not been in common use for automobile tires since the shift to the use of tubeless tires in the late 1950s.” Shows what we know, I guess?

      As for the nest feathering, that’s a fairly common way to describe your basic garden variety self dealing and/or outright embezzlement. Sadly, the perpetrator is often an officeholder, i.e., one in a position of trust.

      • Dan says:

        I have a late-model car (OK, 2017) that most definitely needs a tire iron to remove a tire.

      • Gary R says:

        Wikipedia seems to believe that the tool that I (and pretty much everyone I know) have always called a tire iron is actually a “lug wrench.”

        Probably technically correct. Probably why we don’t like “technicalities.”

        • David L says:

          Strange. To me, a lug wrench is the thing that’s often shaped like a cross and is used to undo the nuts that hold the wheel to the mounting.

          A tire iron, of the kind I used to use on bicycle wheels anyway, is a lever that allows you to detach the tire from the rim. When I’ve seen the equivalent action done on a car wheel, they used a machine that inserts a small shim and rotates the wheel to get the tire off. Doing it by hand would require far more strength than I have now or ever had, in all likelihood.

  11. JohnH says:

    Dense as I am, often (like last week) when others find a Saturday NYT puzzle easy, it’s hard as ever for me. But this time it really did go fast. Still, by other measures it’s quite a good puzzle. I didn’t know the ice cream of the future, but I’ll look it up. I haven’t yet seen Zoom used for job interviews, but any moment now, I’m sure.

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