Saturday, December 17, 2022

LAT 3:08 (Stella) 


Newsday 13:06 (pannonica) 


NYT 6:56 (Amy) 


Universal 3:37 (norah)  


USA Today 2:12 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Christina Iverson & Tom Pepper’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 17 22, no. 1217

Okay, this is a solidly Saturdayish solving time for me, but still easier than yesterday’s KAC puzzle.

I am personally dismayed by 16d. [Cold shower?], THERMOMETER (it’s a device that shows you how cold it is), solely because next week Chicago is getting a dreaded polar vortex and the temps will drop 30 degrees in one day and flirt with subzero temps the next day. I’m not ready! We should at least have frequent AURORAL sightings if we’re going to have polar weather, honestly. (Ah, AURORAL, rarely used word form you gotta remember for Spelling Bee if you want to make Queen Bee.)


Least familiar: 53a. [Detail-oriented sort], I DOTTER. I’ve heard of people dotting the i’s and crossing their t’s, but I DOTTER? Nope.

Four more things:

  • 17a. [It makes scents!], AIR FRESHENER. Hate it! I’m allergic to fragrances, so I loathe chemical air fresheners. (A little essential oil in vodka makes for a nice, gentle room spray, though.)
  • 56a. [Honorific that translates to “born before”], SENSEI. Cool thing to learn!
  • 3d. [Comment to someone enjoying a hot streak], YOU’RE ON FIRE. I absolutely read this as “enjoying a hot steak” for while.
  • 29d. [Big actors], HAMS / 37a. [Act big?], EMOTE and then … 40a. [Something that may be cut and then cured] really wanted to be something in the ham/prosciutto family rather than the broader MEAT!

3.4 stars from me. Didn’t love all the fill, but appreciated the good grid flow and some fun clues.

Erica Hsiung Wojcik and Brooke Husic’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 12/17/22 by Erica Hsiung Wojcik and Brooke Husic

Los Angeles Times 12/17/22 by Erica Hsiung Wojcik and Brooke Husic

Some great energy in this unusually-patterned grid! Highlights and notes:

  • 11A [Brazen personal ad?] is a fun clue for what is also a fun entry, SHAMELESS PLUG.
  • 21A [Something clasped for support] is a lovely and deceptive clue for BRA.
  • 39A [Number of World Series wins for each of Chicago’s teams] is THREE. This one has Patti’s fingerprints all over it.
  • 43A [Having sex, perhaps] is a very devious clue for RATED R.
  • 53A [Triumphant declaration] is not how I think of NOT TODAY, SATAN, which has been a favorite phrase of mine ever since Bianca del Rio used it in a confessional on Drag Race Season 6. I love the entry but would have clued it as [“You’re not doing this to me!”] or in some other more obviously defiant way.
  • 10D AGE is [Number that’s always positive]. Speak for yourself, kids!
  • 14D [Sculptor Eva who pioneered postminimalism in the 1960s] is HESSE. I don’t think it’s an accident that this pair of women chose a woman to feature instead of the more usual Hermann the author.

Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle 51” by Matt Forest — norah’s write-up



Universal, M. Forest, 12-17-2022

Universal, M. Forest, 12-17-2022

  • HAIRMETAL 15A [Music genre whose performers have big ‘dos]
  • DIAMONDRING 39A [Common purchase before popping the question.]
  • FROG 43A [“Animal” in one’s throat]
  • SMELLTEST 61A [Way to check if milk is spoiled]
  • GOODBET 12D [Solid gamble]
  • COLLINS 38D [Tom ___ (gin cocktail)]


Matt Forest, who just made his print debut in LAT *yesterday* immediately follows up with a smooth and breezy themeless for Universal. (side note for the crossword historians – has anyone ever double debuted on the same day? I’m sure it’s possible!) By the way, Matt also has a puzzle in today’s edition of Lemonade Disco and writes for his own puzzle blog, Matt’s Word.

Really clean stacks with fun takes on the short fill like BOT (57D [Search engine spider, e.g.]) and TARP (8D [Infield cover during a rain delay]) combined with straightforward cluing made for a really smooth and quick solve. Each segmented section has some mid-length content to enjoy: DOODLE, IMAGINE, TREESAP, OFFGAME, MIDLIFE is all fun stuff.

Thank you Matt!

Rich Proulx’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Court Disaster” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/17/22 • Sat • Proulx • “Court Disaster” • solution • 20221217

Courtroom puns. Let’s look at the transcript.

  • 23a. [Lousy result for the prosecution?] LACK OF CONVICTION.
  • 34a. [Stocking calamity during cross-examination?] TRIAL RUN.
  • 41a. [Cause for evacuation during initial remarks?] OPENING FIRE.
  • 50a. [Finish litigation in debt?] SETTLE DOWN.
  • 65a. [Counsel’s incessant proposal?] PERPETUAL MOTION. (48a [Without interruption] NO END.)
  • 84a. [Accusation that’s way overdue?] LATE CHARGE.
  • 91a. [Stain on an attorney’s record?] HEARING LOSS.
  • 100a. [Interminable legal proceeding?] LONG SUIT. Is this a tailoring term? Or is it idiomatic, akin to ‘strong suit’?
  • 114a. [Overlook a chance to revive a dismissed case?] DON’T SEE THE APPEAL.

These are okay but don’t excite me. Perhaps it’s the subject matter.

Theme-adjacent: 101d [“I’m not ___ judge”] ONE TO, 79d [Helps when one shouldn’t] ABETS, 6a [Swear word?] OATH, 54a [Collars] ARRESTS, 111a [Mens __ (criminal intent)] REA, 122a [Present one’s case] PLEAD.

  • 2d [Talking in class] ORAL REPORT. No question mark here, interesting.
  • 10d [Measure of a celeb’s familiarity and allure] Q SCORE. New to me. So the Q simply for simply ‘quotient’ or ‘quotient factor’.
  • 21d [Oil reserve?] PIMPLE. Ew?
  • 30d [Call from a cote] BAA, not COO.
  • 38d [Modern collectible, for short] NFT. These have always felt scammy to me, but not as scammy as cryptocurrencies. 71d [Colorful collectible] AUTUMN LEAF.
  • 76d [Miller’s matter] GRIST. The other day there was a thread on Dying Twitter asking for films that resembled paintings. Of course the overrated Barry Lyndon was represented many times—as well as Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Loving Vincent among many others—but I was surprised to see scant reference to The Mill and the Cross.
  • 91d [“Nighthawks” painter] HOPPER. Exhibit currently at the Whitney in NYC.
  • 92d [Neat] ICELESS. Seems a little weird phrasing, but ok.
  • 97d [100%, slangily] HUNDO P. Inferable.
  • 20a [Might increase] TROOP SURGE. Mildly tricky.
  • 29a [ __ dictum (passing remark)] OBITER. I know this from the letters section of the old Verbatim newsletter. (Is that still around?)
  • 45a [ __-disant (self-styled)] SOI. I like to use this phrase to feel smarty-pantsy. Also, it’s surprisingly useful.
  • 77a [Aggravation] TSURIS. Another handy word.
  • 104a [Civil rights martyr Till] EMMETT. Have not seen the recent film. Looks powerful.
  • 124a [Western contest] RODEO. Not your first RODEO but your last.

Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 12/17/22 • Saturday Stumper • Stiga, Newman • solution • 20221217

This turned out to be more of a Les Ruff offering, at least in my experience.

Favorite part of the puzzle is the two long single-word answers to close out the across entries. There were also close to my completion of the grid, so there was some associated euphoria. 63a [Without letup] RELENTLESSLY, 62a [Hardly in a sorry state] UNAPOLOGETIC.

Up top, the starting entries gave me a bit more trouble. I think it stemmed from not pinning down 18a [Not as sensible] DOTTIER right away. I cycled through CRAZIER and LOONIER prior. The crossing 6d [Show stoppers] SPOT ADS was tough too.

  • 27a [Slice pairing well with peaches] EDAM. So glad this wasn’t SPAM, as I was beginning to fear.
  • 40a [Stabilization specialist] ER DOC. For a hot moment I wondered if Paul ERDŐS worked on some mathematical stuff about stabilization, whatever that might be,
  • 11d [“The greatest symphony,” per “BBC Music Magazine”] EROICA. My first entry, a guess based on word length.
  • 12d [Melt down or hand down] RENDER. Nice clue.
  • 16d [Iconic peace officer] EARP. Misread clue as ‘offer’.
  • 24d [Evidential intro] IT SEEMS. Misread as ‘info’. And yet despite all these misreadings, I managed a relatively swift solve time.
  • 33d [Tours de force] GEMS. Tough clue.
  • 56d [Very soon after] UPON. Had ANON for a bit.
  • 61d [What a Washington portraitist wasn’t called] GIL. Shades of that DAVE clue from last week! Not a good trend. Sheesh.
  • 14a [Much more than moist] SOAKED TO THE BONE. Great fill,
  • 23a [Surpassing in pleasing] NICER. Needlessly ornate/opaque clue.
  • 29a [Painter’s canvas] TARP. Another good clue. I considered WALL for a time.
  • 34a [Guidance computer backup for Apollo astronauts] SEXTANT. Can you use a SEXTANT in space or the upper atmosphere? Or was it intended for use after splashdown?
  • 36a [It articulated with the femur] KNEE PAN. Surely I’m not the only one who plopped in CAP here, even though it famously ‘floats’.

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Midterms”—Matthew’s write-up

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword solution, “Midterms,” 12/17/2022

Pretty smooth grid for 5 themers and 76+ words – just a pleasant solve on a Saturday morning.

Our themers have -TERM- inside, bridging word gaps (I think — some of these feel more natural to me as compound words than phrases).

  • 18a [Fantasy sports action] ROSTER MOVE
  • 23a [Spike or Belle, to Snoopy] LITTER MATE
  • 36a [Couple working with a social worker to help raise a child] FOSTER MOMS
  • 49a [Brains of the operation] MASTER MIND
  • 56a [Tangy dairy drink] BUTTER MILK

BUTTER MILK is new to me, but not jarring, and the remainder are well within the language.


  • 12a [Fruit made into atchara] PAPAYA. Atchara is a pickled slaw — I’ve had it at Filipino restaurants with carrots and ginger included as well as PAPAYA.
  • 26d [Stars of many alphabet picture books] ANIMALS. Missed opportunity to use “abecedarian” in the clue :). Speaking of alphabet animals, there are even bears and mice in Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies
  • 58d [Org. that confiscates water bottles] TSA. I, uh, know from experience that sometimes they won’t confiscate your water bottle if you chug the contents in front of them. I still have that Nalgene, even.
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23 Responses to Saturday, December 17, 2022

  1. PJ says:

    NYT – Enjoyed the puzzle. My last letter was AFTS crossing FANTHEORIES. I really wanted FANTHEORIES but modern media didn’t fit as well as social media to me. I guess social media are modern media? I don’t think I’ve heard afternoons referred to as afts, but it’s certainly gettable.

    • Dallas says:

      I think FAN THEORIES are a modern phenomenon, relating to media.

      Faster solve than yesterday… felt like a proper Saturday :-) Lots of fun clues all around, and not too many proper names that required crossings.

  2. Josh M says:

    IDOTTER is maybe the worst thing I’ve ever seen in a puzzle. Even after getting it (and then seeing it is meant to be read as “i dotter”), it’s still awful.

    • Ethan says:

      What if it had been changed to I MATTER (“Self-esteem-building mantra”)? Less contrived? More contrived? I don’t know, but it’s an easy change to make.

  3. PJ says:

    Stumper – Can you use a SEXTANT in space or the upper atmosphere? Or was it intended for use after splashdown?

    It was used in space. Most famously on Apollo 13.

  4. Seth says:

    Stumper: amazing how little I got into the grid on my first pass, and yet managed to finish. Liked the puzzle a lot, except for that awful GIL clue. Shut down that clue convention now, please.

    • Twangster says:

      What does this one even mean? Gil Hodges?

    • David L says:

      Stan seems to go through phases on his cluing for names. First there were the semi-cryptic ‘name hidden in a word or phrase’ clues, then there were ‘obscurely related nicknames,’ and now we’re getting ‘nicknames that probably weren’t used in reality, but who knows.’

      To be fair, cluing names is difficult. I wonder what he’ll come up with next.

    • Eric H says:

      I agree it’s ridiculous clueing convention. As Pilgrim notes, there’s an endless list of names that Gilbert Stuart probably wasn’t called.

      OTOH, I remembered the “Dave” answer (about the Biblical King David) from last Saturday or the week before and happily plunked GIL in right away.

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ … ouch … This was a rough ride for me and it seemed to get tougher and tougher the further south I went in the grid. HUNDO P {97D: 100%, slangily} sure wasn’t inferable for this solver. I thought for sure that this is what I had wrong when my solution wasn’t accepted (nope … I had a typo elsewhere). MISHA {94A: Bear mascot of the 1980 Moscow Olympics}? I’m supposed to know the name of a mascot for Olympic Games from 42 years ago in which the US didn’t participate and that wasn’t even televised here? TSURIS {77A: Aggravation}? Handy? I suppose so, assuming whoever you’re talking to has a dictionary handy or you don’t want them to understand you. NFT {38D: Modern collectible, in brief}? Q SCORE {10D: Measure of a celeb’s familiarity and allure}? ICELESS {93D: Neat}? (I get it … it’s just that it’s not a word that human beings actually use.)

    • JohnH says:

      HUNDO P crossing MISHA wasn’t inferable at all for me either. Indeed, I parsed it as _UND OP, which seemed as plausible as anything but made no more sense than, well, the right answer. ICELESS didn’t seem idiomatic for me either, but I shrugged it off ok, got Q SCORE from crossings (well, maybe a tad reluctantly), and recognized TSURIS just fine.

      Anyhow, they felt a bit like a setter’s last resort in finding fill to round out a theme that didn’t amuse me much. As puzzles go, it’ll do, I guess. Just hard to get enthusiastic.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    NYT … I’m pretty sure that I’ve been on this soapbox out here before and I’m guessing that I’ll be lambasted for making this comment again, but I’m going to do it anyway. Can you imagine the (completely justifiable) uproar if anyone ever published a puzzle with ‘mom bod’ in it or, for that matter, used it in other print media, on radio or on TV in any context? And Amy identifies DAD BOD as “fave fill”? Really? What’s good for the goose … So-called “reverse sexism” is still sexist.

    For me, the puzzle redeemed itself with RED RYDER and SPOT REMOVER.

    • John says:

      It’s not sexism, reverse or otherwise. “Dad bod” is consistently talked about as a positive thing.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        ““Dad bod” is consistently talked about as a positive thing.” … huh? Maybe you and I have a different definition of “positive thing”.

        FWIW, here’s what has to say … “a physique regarded as typical of an average father; especially : one that is slightly overweight and not extremely muscular”

        That doesn’t seem terribly “positive” to me.

    • JohnH says:

      DAD BOD was new to me (as was RED RYDER), so I couldn’t have told you whether it was pejorative or not. So for once not knowing the territory allowed me not to get upset!

  7. JohnH says:

    For me, due east in the NYT was really hard. I had not heard of AFTS in short before or FAN THEORIES, and I didn’t know CERA (although it looks familiar) or SERENA. With those crossings hardly my favorite, but have to admit it was an interesting challenge. But I might be saying that only because I contributed needlessly to the difficulty by having “abyss” for a while for ANNUL (void).

  8. John says:

    NYT: Along with the valid complaints about “I DOTTER”, I want to register my complaint about “KEYS UP” and “psychs”. You psych people *up* or *out*. It makes no sense without a preposition.

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