The New York Times Crossword, Themeless 11-12-2022 by Billy Bratton — norah’s write-up
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]
Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle” by Drew Schmenner — norah’s write-up
- 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.
Thank you Drew!
David Alfred Bywaters’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “They Endure” — pannonica’s write-up
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
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
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
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!