Saturday, December 3, 2022

LAT 3:20 (Stella) 


Newsday 12:35 (pannonica) 


NYT 4:43 (Amy) 


Universal 3:40 (norah)  


USA Today 2:00 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Kate Hawkins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12 3 22, no. 1203

Okay! That settles it. Yesterday’s puzzle took me almost 50% longer than this one, so I hereby declare that the Friday and Saturday slots were switched.

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Such a fun vibe throughout, with JUMPY, the great APOLOGY TOUR, “NO TAKE-BACKS,” ASMR, a HOLE-PUNCH clued as [Inefficient confetti-making tool], quaint JOLLITY, “COULD IT BE…?”, an arts & crafts PIPE CLEANER (I have half a mind to order myself a bunch and start making little homunculi), EVEN A LITTLE, PATSY Cline, the old SWITCHEROO, GET THE NOD, and MARASCHINO. Lots of energy in the vocab.

That said, if I never saw IN A PET again in a crossword, it would be fine by me. [Where the coins surgically extricated by a veterinarian had been]?

Three bits:

  • 31a. [Wild side?], WEST. A bit on the oblique side. The Wild West was a thing, and you can have a west side, but couching it in the entirely idiomatic “wild side” is tricksy.
  • 42a. [Empty bottles?], TOPE. I entered a plural S at the end of the entry before I thought better of it. Emptying bottles of booze and drinking is toping, so “empty” isn’t an adjective in this clue.
  • 46a. [“I hold it to be the inalienable right of anybody to go to ___ in his own way”: Robert Frost], HELL. This is a terrific quote.

4.25 stars from me.

Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “Tea Infusions”—Matthew’s recap

Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword solution, “Tea Infusions,” 12/03/2022

Themers in this diagonally-symmetric grid contain the string -TEA-

  • 19a [Not working too hard] TAKING IT EASY
  • 39a [Clothing from Nubian Skin] INTIMATEAPPAREL
  • 53a [Maori name for New Zealand] AOTEAROA

Other notes:

  • 43a [The Guardians, on MLB scoreboards] CLE. Formerly known as the “Indians” dating back to 1915, the Cleveland Guardians adopted their new name for 2022, a few years after phasing out an insensitive caricature of a logo.
  • 49a [Congressperson, for short] REP. It has also bugged me that “Congressperson” commonly refers to “members of the House of Representatives” and not “members of the House of Representatives or Senate.” But oh well.
  • 65a [Whale form taken by the mythological spirit Akhlut] ORCA. I was unfamiliar with Akhlut until this clue and a post-solve Google, but of course “whale form” and a crossing are enough to lead a solver to ORCA.

Taylor Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 12/3/22 by Taylor Johnson

Los Angeles Times 12/3/22 by Taylor Johnson

Another short writeup from me this time.

The top left corner of this puzzle is, IMO, markedly harder than the rest of the grid, which made it hard to get the first foothold and smooth sailing thereafter.

I liked: SLANKETS, FLOOR IS LAVA, TAPAS BARS, TUNA SALAD (to be clear, I like the entry as it’s evocative and everyday, but I do not actually like to eat tuna salad!), HOLOGRAM. I would’ve liked a bit more wordplay and a bit less trivia in the clues.

Pelagia Horgan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Book Fare” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/3/22 • Horgan • Sat • “Book Fare” • solution • 20221203

Perfect title for a theme in which the titles of books have a noun replaced by a type of comestible. Only one letter is changed in each theme answer, which is presented as an alternate title.

  • 22a. [Or “A Pastry Cook’s Journey From Rags to Riches”?] THE BUN ALSO RISES (The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway). See, I don’t understand why the preposition ‘from’ is capitalized while ‘to’ is not. English has weird conventions.
  • 30a. [Or “An Indian Chef’s Memoirs”?] THE REMAINS OF THE DAL (The Remains of the Day, Ishiguro).
  • 49a. [Or “How I Built My Fast-Food Empire”?] LORD OF THE FRIES (Lord of the Flies, Golding).
  • 65a. [Or “Notes From My CBD Bakery”?] LOAVES OF GRASS (Leaves of Grass, Whitman).
  • 83a. [Or “Or Garden Greens Year-Round”?] THE WINTER’S KALE (The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare).
  • 100a. [Or “Remembrances of a Gin and Tonic Enthusiast”?] IN SEARCH OF LOST LIME (In Search of Lost Time, Proust).
  • 114a. [Or “Confessions of a Disgruntled Sommelier”?] GONE WITH THE WINE (Gone With the Wind, Mitchell). The only female author of the lot.

In case your meta-mind is wondering, the neither the introduced letters nor their substituted counterparts spell anything meaningful. SYLETTD for the latter and BLROKLE for the former.

  • Had one incorrect letter when all was said and done. Combing through the across answers revealed nothing amiss, but the wayward entry became evident as I scanned the downs—turns out that 42a [RISD degree] was a lowly BFA rather than an MFA.
  • 2d [You’ve heard it before] ECHO. This seems philosophically rich.
  • 7d [Jumbled mass] WELTER. It has a rich etymology.
  • 15d [Close] IMMEDIATE. Interesting cluing choice.
  • 23d [Caboose] BUTT. RUMP here delayed me for some time, including cracking the theme.
  • 65d [Guitar composer Antonio] LAURO. New to me.
  • 66d [Final notice] OBITUARY. Rarely do we see the full word in a grid.
  • 76d [Sparkle] CORUSCATE. Can’t share it because the album isn’t on YouTube, but John Surman’s Corsucating is a lovely, recommended record.
  • 77d [Pierre Trudeau, e.g.] QUEBECKER. Certainly I was not the only one to try QUEBECOIS for this.
  • 81d [Brimming, as with tears] ASWIM. Yet another unusual word and clue choice; this crossword has a distinct authorial tone that keeps peeking through.
  • 101d [White birds-in-__ (Florida flower)] A-NEST. Macbridea alba.
  • 102d [Person with a title] OWNER, not NOBLE. 103d [Speeds off] FLEES, not FLIES. Fortunately, by this point I’d understood the theme and the crossing 114-across helped resolve these.
  • 111d [Counter statement?] NEXT. Contender for my favorite clue of the puzzle.
  • 26a [It can be soft or firm] TOFU. Or extra firm or silken. Is the latter the same as soft?
  • 55a [Rome’s Galleria Nazionale __ Moderna] D’ARTE. Here’s a link to a description one of their current exhibits.
  • 60a [“The hottest spot north of Havana”] COPA.
  • 75a [Give in] ACQUIESCE. Looks nice in the grid.
  • 120a [Roman goddess of night] NOX. Have not seen that one in a long while. The Greek equivalent is NYX.

In conclusion I’ll gently point out that both books and meals are meant to be consumed.

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

Newsday • 12/3/22 • Saturday Stumper • Mossberg • solution • 20221203

Surprised by how fast this one went. Started off promisingly, then sparsely, but ultimately it collapsed and crumpled quite readily.

  • 9a [Nobody you know, these days] RANDO. 1d [Hulking, these days] SWOLE.
  • For the two longest entries we first get 28a [Unfond farewell] GOOD RIDDANCE and then are introduced to 44a [Early artistic l eaf] FRONTISPIECE.
  • 34a [“Edible” synonym of “noodle”] BEAN. 15d [It’s spotted in corrals and kitchens] PINTO.
  • 40a [Another ’70s nickname for “Schwartzy”] ARNIE. I’ve never seen nor heard that ‘Shwartzy’ for Schwarzenegger.
  • 53a [Where the current goes out] CATHODE. 9d [Where the current goes out] RIPTIDE.
  • 57a [Way, way out] OUTRÉ.
  • 3d [Land due north of Libya] MALTA. Had to wait to see if it would be this or ITALY. Once that was determined, I was able to pretty much complete the entire northwest section here.
  • 8d [“Firestarter” skill] PYROKINESIS. This was a 1980 Stephen King novel, made into a film twice.
  • 11d [Overly ingratiating] NICEY-NICE. This feels like a crossword début.
  • 24d [Reply to a would-be reneger] A DEAL’S A DEAL. Toyed with WE MADE A DEAL but eventually sussed out the required answer.
  • 30d [St. Michael’s, after renovation] ALCHEMISTS. Aha, the return of the singular cryptic clue. In this case, an anagram.
  • 31d [Crook or crew] STAFF. Tidy.
  • 32d [All the courses everywhere] CURRICULA. Say, did Tim Curry ever play a vampire?
  • 50d [What kiwifruit is, ultimately] ASIAN. My first thought was BERRY, as it’s also known as Chinese gooseberry. Then with the N in place I abstractly wondered about MELON (which makes no sense) before letting the crossings do their job.
  • 59d [Expert in attestation and internal controls] CPA. If you say so.

Not minding that this one was a relative pushover, as I have Many Sundry Tasks pending this morning.

Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 49” by Garrett Chalfin — norah’s write-up



Universal, G. Chalfin, 12-3-2022

Universal, G. Chalfin, 12-3-2022

  • CRY 23A [Good ___ (what a sad person might need)]
  • TUPPERWAREPARTY 37A [Event where burping is a selling point?] ⭐
  • IWANTITALL 56A [“Everything shall be mine!”]
  • STEW 62A [Birria, e.g.]
  • LOOKYHERE 10D [“Well, well, well …”]
  • SCRAPPY 20D [Full of fight]
  • ICEDLATTE 27D [Refreshing coffee order]
  • HAT 35D [“Finishing the ___” (Sondheim memoir)]


A fun and quick 72-worder with a cute center stack and plenty of other long and fun stuff throughout. Clues that are silly and make me laugh always get top marks from me, and today [Event where burping is a selling point?] for TUPPERWAREPARTY fits the bill. I don’t get why OREO (50D [Cookies and cream brand?]) gets a ? – discuss.

I learned:

  • ERIE 55A [Great Lake that has the most shipwrecks]. Of course it’s ERIE (it’s always ERIE) but I didn’t know this fact. It reasons because it’s the shallowest of the Great Lakes. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, there could be debris from up to 2,000 sunken ships in the lakebed. It’s also believed that ERIE originated “as a shortened version of erielhonan—a word meaning “long-tailed cat” in the language of the Iroquois tribe that once lived along the lake’s southern shores.”
  • Caruru (11D OKRA [Pod veggie in caruru]). Caruru is a dip/condiment of semi-mashed peanuts, okra, shrimp, and spices usually served with rice or friend balls made of black-eyed peas, called acarajé. (OKRA still a fruit tho)

Thank you Garrett!


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23 Responses to Saturday, December 3, 2022

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Fun puzzle. My husband and I frequently deride things as being OVER THE TOP, so it’s always fun to see that in the grid.

    The clue for HOLE PUNCH is great.

    I’ve read a few articles on ASMR, but can never remember the full name or the initialism. Tonight, I had ASM_, decided the last word was probably “response,” and that got me to PLANAR, opening up the theretofore impenetrable NW.

    Aside from that NW corner, I went through this fairly quickly. PATSY Cline is in regular rotation in our house, and “The Graduate” is a favorite of mine.

  2. David L says:

    Contrary to Amy’s experience, today took me about 50% longer than yesterday. I had to run the alphabet to get the cross at MO_/_AVES in the top right, and even then I hesitated before settling on the right letter.

    I can never remember the initials ASMR, except for the A, so had to wait for crosses. The one time I tried to listening to an ASMR video — it was someone crinkling paper, I think — I had exactly the opposite of the desired response. More like nails on a blackboard.

  3. Teedmn says:

    The SE of the Stumper put up most of the resistance for me. ALCHEMIcal was lulling me with a rhyme thing with St. Michaels. I finally remembered the anagram would need two S’s and a T, sheesh.

    Finished with an error – came here to find out what SaMS was for 1A. URIEL is the archangel, not aRIEL, whoops.

    • Twangster says:

      I did pretty well overall but could not sort out the SE corner. Tried lifeSTYLE and ACTMALE (but knew it wasn’t right).

  4. huda says:

    NYT: I also was stumped in the NW corner. And I didn’t know MYB was an expression, which got in the way.
    ASMR may have been named more recently, but I knew a scientist at Stanford who was fascinated by the ability of music to cause “thrills”. Avram Goldstein was a major figure in pharmacology and in this study he wonder whether music-induced thrills were mediated by endorphins:
    Goldstein, A. Thrills in response to music and other stimuli. Psychobiology 8, 126–129 (1980).

    • David L says:

      That’s interesting but I wonder if it’s quite the same thing. There are certainly pieces of music that cause that tingly thrill. The trombone theme in Sibelius’s 7th does it for me. But ASMR videos that I’ve seen seem to focus on soft, more or less repetitive sounds that either leave me cold or positively irritate me. Here’s an example (I only listed to the first minute or two. The first bit did nothing for me; the second pen-clicking thing fell into the irritating category).

      • huda says:

        haha, yeah, I can see the difference. I really don’t know whether it’s a shared phenomenon between music and other sounds, and different people respond to different patterns, or whether it’s a different phenomenon.
        I also wonder about whether the same stimulus affects a given person in a consistent way or it varies. I imagine the latter, since the same piece of music can have very different effects on me depending on my mood at the time.
        A very likely possibility is that I’m missing the whole point of ASMR :)

  5. Seth says:

    NYT: My last square was the top right square, the W of MOW and WAVES. Those two ? clues totally stumped me. I had to just run the alphabet until the app said I was done, and even then I had no clue what either clue meant. I came on here to ask someone to explain, and just as I started typing my question, the meanings finally became clear. If anyone else is confused:
    – “Course” as in a golf course
    – “Permanent” is a perm, for hair

  6. Martin says:

    Most editors are beginning to avoid AHI sushi clues, but the LAT forges ahead. Does anyone ask for ahi at a sushi bar? Why don’t we get BASS or SHRIMP clued as sushi?

    These clues are based on the fact that the Hawaiian word “ahi” sounds Japanesy. It’s not. And ahi (yellowfin tuna from Hawaii) isn’t eaten very much in Japan. And when it is, its Japanese name is kihada. Bluefin (maguro) is the preferred sushi tuna. Most of us are much more likely to ask for maguro than ahi at a sushi bar. And if we ask for maguro and get served ahi, we should find a better sushi bar.

    This clue always makes me cringe, but I know most solvers don’t think twice about it. But just because a clue has been used a thousand times, if it’s wrong it’s wrong.

  7. marciem says:

    WSJ: Raising hand for trying Quebecois first… it fit but I let it go. To me, Quebecker is just ugly :( .

    pannonica, I do not know what SYLETTD or BLROKLE mean, from your write-up.

    I really did enjoy this puzzle :) . What I didn’t know came fairly from the crosses, and the theme was fun! It was a light relief after Stumper and NYT :D .

    • Me says:

      I think pannonica was exploring whether there was a meta theme using the added or discarded letters, but there wasn’t, which is why the letter strings are nonsense strings. For example, the first theme answer, THEBUNALSORISES, substitutes B for S, and those are the first letters for BLROKLE and SYLETTD.

      If this had been an Evan Birnholz puzzle, I would wager that at least one and possibly both letter strings would have spelled out something.

      • marciem says:

        ok, thanks… I didn’t think of it that way and thought it was some (well known to everybody but me) modern initialism :D :D.

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    In Norah’s Universal puzzle review, what are “friend balls”? A quick Google suggests that they have something to do with Pokemon. If so, that may explain why I don’t understand, but what does that have to do with food? Just wondering …

    Wait … Just as I was about to hit the “Post Comment” button, I realized that maybe Norah meant “fried balls” and it’s a typo? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • marciem says:

      LOL, thanks for the laugh!! Indeed, Wiki tells us that caruru is “often eaten with acarajé, an Afro-Brazilian street food made from mashed black-eyed peas formed into a ball and then deep-fried in palm oil.” No friend’s balls are included (in that particular recipe) :P .

  9. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT: I fought hard to get through this one, but submitted it with two errors: AERIs/AURAs instead of AERIE/AURAE and CHEdSE (doh!)/SELECTEd instead of CHEESE/SELECTEE. The first one seems a tad unfair, but I’ll begrudgingly own the second one, even though I have no idea who Robert Cormier is or what “I Am the CHEESE” is and SELECTEd works perfectly well with the clue. Though it looked very wrong, I thought CHEdSE might be some bizarre word that I just don’t know about. That type of thing seems to happen more and more with my crosswords these days (case in point: SLANKETS?).

    I’m still trying to figure out what Patti is doing with the difficulty level of LAT puzzles according to day of the week. It such seems like things are changing (not that I think that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you). Overall, I’m finding their puzzles more difficult, but it seems like Thursdays and Fridays have generally gotten quite a bit easier and Saturdays quite a bit harder. My Thursday 6-month median solve time has dropped from 6:14 to 5:32 since June 16 and Friday has fallen from 7:15 to 6:09 since June 24, while Saturday has spiked from 9:11 to 12:56 since July 2. I’ve also had three Saturday DNFs since August 13 after having none since April 2019.

    • Me says:

      Yes, I think the Saturday LATs are much harder. The LAT puzzles were generally easier than that day’s NYT puzzle, but the current Saturday LATs are very hard now. As sanfranman59 said, nothing wrong with that, but I wonder if that’s generally well-received or not. I wonder if the number of solvers has increased or decreased with the change.

  10. MarkAbe says:

    LAT – can anyone explain why 8D omigosh is correct, instead of omygosh?

    • Martin says:

      It’s either “oh my gosh” or “omigosh.”

      If you follow the link to the wiktionary entry, you have a link for “eye dialect,” which explains the point of the spelling.

  11. Bit says:

    I objected to the Stumper cluing OUTRE as “Way, way out”, just because of the root similarities. It’s like cluing PASSE as “Passed out of fashion”, or such. Must just be me.

    • Ethan says:

      I don’t know that they do share a root. OUTRE is French, from Latin “ultra”, ‘beyond’. I can’t find a source that says “ultra” is cognate with English “out.”

      • Martin says:

        One is Old English and the other Old French. But I think OP’s point is that they look so similar.

        Stan is very loose with dupes. Last Sunday’s clued TOT as “Little tot.”

      • Bit says:

        Yes; sorry, I wasn’t speaking etymologically. I was referring to cases in which the answer consists entirely of a key word in the clue, plus or minus letters at the end.

  12. JohnH says:

    Don’t get me wrong. I really liked the WSJ as a worthy challenge in all the right ways. (Well, ACRED doesn’t look like a word to me, but maybe it should.) But no, I don’t think there’s rhyme or reason to the capital F in a clue with “from” other than a sloppy puzzle editor.

    A publication will have a house style. A common one uses caps for all words but conjunctions and prepositions. Another starts with that, but then capitalizes all words with five or more letters. Early versions of MS Word messed things up by capitalizing everything (although then its spell check would alert you to capitalizing the wrong things). But the inconsistency here isn’t likely to be intentional. It’s also no big deal, honest.

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