Saturday, December 10, 2022

LAT 2:55 (Stella) 


Newsday 41:39 (pannonica) 


NYT 5:07 (Amy) 


Universal 4:58 (norah)  


USA Today 1:59 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Sid Sivakumar’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12 10 22, no. 1210

This one was quicker than I expected for a Sidurday themeless. Pretty 64-word grid here.

Fave fill: PEEKABOO, HEAVE-HOS (plural maybe a tad iffy), FELL IN LOVE, ICE STORM (dodged one today, saw the movie), dieter’s CHEAT DAY.

Didn’t know: 34d. [Machine that gives paper a smooth finish], HOT PRESS. Sounds like a hairstyling term, but it’s an industrial process. Also new to me: 43d. [Bhikkhu’s teacher], LAMA. A bhikkhu is a Buddhist monk.

I kinda wanted BAKELITE for 20a. [The Father of ___, moniker for the inventor Leo Baekeland], because of the inventor’s surname. Whaddaya know? The Father of PLASTICS did indeed start with Bakelite in 1097.

Smooth fill, lots of tricky-but-not-too-tricky clues to engage the mind. Four stars from me.

Tony Caruso and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 12/10/22 by Tony Caruso and C.C. Burnikel

Los Angeles Times 12/10/22 by Tony Caruso and C.C. Burnikel

Here’s a light and easy (just on the edge of being too easy) Saturday. Some highlights and notes:

  • 26A [“Guilty Crown” protagonist __ Ouma] is SHU. I was all ready to say that SHU Uemura, the Japanese beauty brand, would be a fairer clue, until I Googled both “Guilty Crown” and “Shu Uemura” to find that the former gets nearly twice as many hits as the latter. Time to learn about anime, I guess!
  • 43A [Rice porridge often topped with slices of century egg] is CONGEE, and it’s almost like C.C. signing her name to the puzzle. She does love a good food reference. (See also 11D, MATCHA CAKES.)
  • 59A [Turning point?] is a great clue for USE-BY DATE.
  • 21D [“Below Deck” vessels] is SUPERYACHT. It seems like quite a few people I know are addicted to this show, which I will have time to try whenever the next time is that there’s not two or more seasons of Drag Race airing at the same time.
  • 40D [Green field?] another nice question-mark clue, this time for BOTANY.

The stretch of 46D to 55D is five clues, four of which are people’s names. I think it would have been nice to clue NOEL as a non-proper, and perhaps also ASA (even though it would require going to a partial phrase).

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Changing Borders” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/10/22 • Sat • Shenk • “Changing Borders” • solution • 20221210

Simple but kind of brilliant theme here. Phrases composed of a nation and another word that differs only in the first and last letters.

  • 22a. [Thanks from a Bologna-born resident of São Paolo?] BRAZIL GRAZIE.
  • 28a. [Risky stratagem in Lusaka?] ZAMBIA GAMBIT.
  • 34a. [Jeans material in Porto Novo?] BENIN DENIM.
  • 39a. [Horned ungulate in the Shanghai Zoo?] CHINA RHINO.
  • 63a/65a. [… spot for ping pong in Yaoundé?] CAMEROON | GAMEROOM.
  • 88a. [Voodoo practiced in Port-au-Prince?] HAITI FAITH.
  • 91a. [Sound from protesters in Accra?] GHANA CHANT.
  • 97a. [Wrinkly snacks in Bandar Seri Begwan?] BRUNEI PRUNES.
  • 108a. [Destructive force in Conakry?] GUINEA RUINER. This last one was the toughest, perhaps because of the unexpected short three-syllable word.

Once you cotton to the theme, there’s a guarantee of being able to fill in the repeated letters should you need them. My solving experience was rather fluid so I didn’t require such a strategy.

  • 5d [Here, in Le Havre] ICI. Not theme related.
  • 12d [1983 Tom Cruise movie] LOSIN’ IT. As I’ve never heard of it (or more likely don’t recall it), I’m guessing it was not favorably received.
  • 15d [Basil, for one] HERB. It was this crossing that disabused me of the notion of SKI PANTS for 24a [Aspen attire] SKI PARKA.
  • 21d [Some organs and motorcycles] YAMAHAS. Tuning forks, wheel forks.
  • 29d [Coin featuring King Vajiralongkorn’s likeness] BAHT. No Thai city mentioned! 61d [Coin featuring a springbok] RAND. Also no city mentioned. And now that I’m looking more closely there are a bunch of geographical clues that could—but don’t—mention cities, à la the themers. 5-down excepted.
  • 54d [Precursor of an alien occupation?] WORK VISA. I glimpsed M Grumpy’s comment decrying the clue prior to my solve (but didn’t read through to the specific complaint), so I was somewhat prepared for this. I agree that it’s poor framing.
  • 55d [Spiny flora] ALOES. Was so confident that it was CACTI. Humph.
  • 70d [Small finch of Africa and Europe] SERIN. Bit tough, but the crossings were fair. Ditto 92d [Bauhaus artist Josef] ALBERS.
  • 7a [Preservation Hall Jazz Band leader Ben] JAFFE. I guess Mad cartoonist Al could use some company. Oh wait, that’s JAFFEE. Is there a writer named Rona JAFFE? I think so.
  • 18a [Cheap cotton fabric] CALICO. From Calicut, India, which was for a while known as Calcutta. Madras is another material named for a place in India, although it’s now called Chennai, which is unrelated to chenille (its etymology is the French word for caterpillar).
  • 30a [Tucson and Santa Fe] AUTOS. Cities mentioned. Okay, I think I’m losing it. Let’s hasten and finish up.
  • 68a [Hot dogs topped with chili, onions and mustard] CONEYS. Pretty sure this is a non-NYC name.
  • 107a [Buffalo border] LAKE ERIE. 20a [Neighbor of Minn. and N.Y.] ONT.
  • 116a [Like diamonds] RED. Playing cards.
  • 118a [It serves a sentence] PHRASE. Elegant clue to close out on.

Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 50” by Tom Pepper and Zhouqin Burnikel — norah’s write-up



Universal, T. Pepper/Z. Burnikel, 12-10-2022

Universal, T. Pepper/Z. Burnikel, 12-10-2022

  • SNAILSPACE 1A [Rush hour speed]
  • UNSCRAMBLE 37A [Solve, as the clue “ABCELMNRSU”] ⭐


At 4:58, a smidge tougher than normal for me. I got a little hung up by putting in bAyarea, not knowing whether mAliA or sAshA is older, typing in SLyER, aHRIGHT, and STACey, being utterly confused that *anything* at Disneyland would be free, and a few other reasonable small errors that needed correcting. All in all, a good solve. I prefer the difficulty in a puzzle to come from clever ? clues rather than the either/or sorts of entries listed above but this is a fine puzzle, well constructed and not too much -ese.

I learned:

  • AFRO (43D [Billy Preston hairstyle]). Billy Preston was an American keyboardist and  singer who played with Sam Cooke, Little Richard and many others.

Thank you Tom and Zhouqin!


Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword, “STOP/GO”—Matthew’s recap

Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword solution, “STOP/GO,” 12/10/2022

Dual theme sets! We’ve got both STOP and GO in our puzzle, though you need to re-parse STOP as “S to P” for the acrosses:

15a [Occasion for a permission slip] SCHOOL FIELD TRIP
27a [The Stylistics, for example] SOUL GROUP
41a [Place that sells rolling papers] SMOKE SHOP
52a [It turns out I actually can’t make it] SOMETHING CAME UP

The downs are two-word phrases starting with G and O:

3d [Nauseate] GROSS OUT
7d [There’s a 15-foot-tall sculpture of one in Corning, California, skewered by a giant toothpick] GREEN OLIVE
28d [Hangout involving putting] GOLF OUTING
36d [Promising Sign] GOOD OMEN

Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 12/10/22 • Saturday Stumper • Sewell • solution • 20221210

I think this has been the toughest Stumper yet since I started writing them up here at FiendCo. Frankly, I’m amazed (and relieved) that I managed to complete it at all.

Got the first breakthrough in the upper right, where the straight-shooting 13d [First pronoun in the Gettysburg Address] OUR helped out. Then I was able to speculate that 5d [On target] might be APT and that 14d [Eliot collection at UT Austin] could be (though it felt very iffy) MSS.

At this point I took a real leap for 5a [Provided bonus footage] ADDED A ROOM. May have been subliminally helped but rationally hindered by the duplication of 16a [Roomy party rental] PRIVATE BUS.

Dumb mistakes I made that postponed progress and completion: 28d [Indie pubs] ALT-WEEKLIES, for which I had ART WEEKLIES; 48d [Possible premed precursor] AP BIO, where I blithely filled in the nonsensical AP SCI. And more literally, for a long time I had DUMB for 1-across [Not bright at all] DRAB. I don’t consider that a dumb mistake but it was, y’know, a ‘dumb’ mistake.

Clues I still don’t understand, or—if I do—consider them to be extreme stretches: 23a [Never got] HASN’T, 38a [For you and me] HUMAN, 44a [Do the math] CIPHER (I have now learned the intransitive verb sense of the word), 24d [Curves for convenience] ARCHES, 56d [Silence, perhaps] OIL (okay, I finally see this one—a verb—but it was the last entry I filled in and skeptically so).

And then there were many clues that were just very, very tough/obscure. Won’t list them here, but I’m sure other solvers’ lists would match up pretty well with mine.

Favorite clue: 63a [Old-timey exhibitions with carousels] SLIDE SHOWS. For a long while I was convinced it had to be STATE FAIRS (this is the origin of my AP SCI blunder).

Glad it’s over!

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33 Responses to Saturday, December 10, 2022

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: I solved this after watching three episodes of the new season of “Derry Girls.”

    My puzzle experience was almost the same as watching the show — the language is English, but there’s a big communication gap.

    To put it another way: I find Sid Sivakumar‘s puzzles challenging in a way that, say, Kameron Austin Collins’s, or even Brooke Husic’s, are not.

    Many commenters on Wordplay found Saturday’s puzzle easier than Friday’s. That surprises me. My time this evening was over twice what it was this morning.

    The NW was particularly hard for me. If the whole puzzle had been that hard, I’d still be working on it. And it’s all in the clueing; there’s not a word there that’s uncommon.

    • Dallas says:

      Same for me; fun to work through, but the NW was tricky. I literally had _ESTARE_ and had to run through initial letters to get the rest of it. Still finished under my average time; really nice puzzle.

      I also like “Sidurday” :-)

    • David L says:

      I watched all of Derry Girls last night with a friend. We weren’t planning to but the episodes are short and we couldn’t stop. Great series, with a surprisingly moving ending.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I think it’s an excellent puzzle but I too found it rather challenging, especially trying to get a foothold in the NW. I started in the NE, circled around and finished the NW last. It was ironic when IRIS SCAN eventually showed up, because I was traveling today and had one of those at the airport, and it still did not compute. As an aside, there is evidence that irises change with age and a previous scan from a few years ago can start failing…
    This puzzle triggered me to learn more about Terrence TAO. I really enjoyed this article
    Especially his comments at the end about how much trial and error there is in the process of solving problems, even for people like him who are considered geniuses.
    I’m always grateful when a puzzle teaches me something interesting.

    • Ethan says:

      Ooh thanks for the link! What a great read.

      I was annoyed by the crossing of an obscure machine with an obscure name—I had TAA and HAT PRESS initially—and wondered why TAO wasn’t clued in the more familiar sense but glad I got to learn something now!

    • Eric H says:

      Dang! I got TAO from the crosses and never saw it in the grid.

      I actually knew that name from previous crosswords, but didn’t remember it last night. Not that I remember what he’s known for, anyway.

  3. Judgevic says:

    22 ILSA’s = gr8 puz

  4. Seth says:

    Loved the NYT. My favorite wrong answer: ARSES for “Flat bottoms.” Get it?? I was really hoping that was going to be right.

    I feel like “Evidence of one’s hang-ups?” isn’t really correct for DIAL TONES. When you’re on the phone with someone and they hang up (even on old land lines), you don’t get a dial tone again. You just get silence. You only get a dial tone when you first pick up the phone. Movies and tv shows get this wrong all the time, but I think it’s on purpose: it’s just an artistic choice to make the viewer realize the person hung up. Here, I’m not really upset by the “incorrect” clue — it’s a cute ? clue — but I thought it was interesting enough to point out.

  5. Mr. [Moderately] Grumpy says:

    WSJ clue for 54D is horrible. I can see what Shenk was trying to do, but no. That is a derogatory term and should not be used. He could have just skipped the “cleverness” for that one.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Wow … yeah … did the WSJ’s editorial bias sneak into the puzzle today? I’ve not noticed that that happens very often.

      • Mr. [Moderately] Grumpy says:

        I would have accepted a B-1 vitamin or B-1 bomber clue, since a B-1 visa is a classic example of a work visa. AS THE WALL STREET JOURNAL KNOWS. Please forgive me for yelling. I’m calm now.

        • JohnH says:

          Awful as the clue is, I’d have found those alternatives truly obscure. I’ve never heard of a B-1 visa, and the punning ways of introducing “B-1” just don’t work.

          I didn’t like the WSJ. The theme is clever, and I realize it’s not a geography quiz (even with the unnecessary additional geography quiz of the monetary units). One just figures each one out relying on the theme itself for crosses.

          But I just wish the rest, then, weren’t so proper name heavy. As it is, I see the same complaint in comments on the WSJ puzzle page itself, which is rare. They have so very few comments, period, since limiting them to subscribers, and those run only to either “Yeah, me, I got it!” or “Where’s the puzzle?”

  6. David L says:

    I sailed through the NYT without too much trouble but lost a lot time figuring out the SW corner. I had plunked in RAMA for ‘bikkhu’s teacher’ because why not, and even with CHEA_DAY in place I had to run the alphabet to figure out the right answer, which was new to me. And then I had to reconsider RAMA…

    Good puzzle!

    • JohnH says:

      I thought of RAMA, too, but it didn’t seem to work, and eventually I thought of the one-L LAMA as so familiar from puzzledom.

      I definitely didn’t think this and Friday’s are reversed. If anything, I found the day before’s easier than some Fridays and this one, at least in the dread NW, hard indeed.

  7. janie says:

    >The Father of PLASTICS did indeed start with Bakelite in 1097.

    interesting factoid (and one amusing typo to ponder)…


  8. Seth says:

    Stumper was so hard. And lots of clues I’m not a fan of.
    “Our” is a possessive adjective, not a pronoun.
    The clue about King David not being called DAVE is all kinds of ridiculous — he could easily have been called Dave, we have no idea.
    TWO crappy name-related-to-name clues.
    CIPHER only means “do the math” archaically.
    “Effortfully gain” should be EKE out. You don’t just EKE something.

    I liked others, though. The whole SW is great, e.g.

    • pannonica says:

      You’re correct about OUR being an adjective, and yet it was my first toehold in the grid. I guess my brain short-circuited.

      (Write-up is completed, but the patching-in process is pending.)

    • Twangster says:

      Ruff day for me … got the top right and bottom left corners but was otherwise mostly stumped.

    • David L says:

      The SW is the one section I couldn’t finish. I had PIXELATION but put in OXY at 57D. Couldn’t come up with GOOGLEABLE and had no hope of finding SLIDESHOWS with the misplaced Y.

      I agree on the EKE clue. I wonder if the ARCHES clue is a reference to the Golden Arches, where one can conveniently obtain fast food.

  9. Art Shapiro says:

    LAT: “Light and easy”???

    Am I losing it in my proverbial old age? I’ve had a pretty rough go of Saturday LATs in recent months, all the infernal names aside. Doing that puzzle in two and a half minutes is enough to drop one’s mandible. Do others agree with Ms. Stella?

    • Ed says:

      I’m with you.

    • Twangster says:

      I’m also with you … could not finish it with all the names I had never heard of. NYT was the only one of the big 3 I was able to solve.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      2:55 is nuts, but Stella is a crossword-solving wizard. I don’t know if Patti has intentionally ramped up the Saturday difficulty, but I’m generally finding them to be a lot more difficult than they were before she took the reins. I finished this puzzle in what I now consider to be an Easy-Medium solve time for me with an LAT Saturday puzzle, but my 6-month median has increased by more than 36%(!) over the past six months and is higher than it’s been since early June 2017. I’d have called today’s solve time Medium-Challenging six months ago. This is only the sixth time in the last 28 LAT Saturdays when my solve time has been below my 6-month median.

      FWIW, my LAT Thursday & Friday median solve times have fallen significantly over the same span of time (about 14% and 15%, respectively).

  10. Seth says:

    Re clues you don’t understand in the Stumper:
    If he “Never got” something, he currently doesn’t have (HASN’T) that thing.
    HUMAN is an adjective that could describe something that is for people, like HUMAN food; examples of people are “you and me”.
    ARCHES are used to make bridges, which are definitely convenient.

  11. Ethan says:

    NYT: NEOPETS and PETCO is a pretty bad dupe, right?

  12. Tony says:

    OMG! – Stella said nice things about my cluing?!? I’m such a fan of her puzzles!
    Thanks Stella.
    If anyone cares, C.C. did the amazing stacks, I just clued.
    Cheers, -T

  13. Teedmn says:

    Stumper: The NW was the hardest for me. My last open sector, I threw in ANONYMOUSLY crossing SOMBER but ended up crossing out everything north of RO when I decided ghosts in the 3D clue actually meant phantasms. I couldn’t think of an adverb to describe their hauntings. :-). I finally saw ANY would work at 22A, restored ANONYM crossing SOM and got the forehead slapper of DACHAS. Quite the workout, loved it.

  14. Dan says:

    “The Father of PLASTICS did indeed start with Bakelite in 1097.”

    That was about 800 years early!

Comments are closed.