Saturday, January 14, 2023

LAT 3:32 (Stella) 


Newsday 17:53 (pannonica) 


NYT 4:03 (Amy) 


Universal tk (norah)  


USA Today 1:58 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


David Karp’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1 14 23, no. 0114

Ah, here’s the regular Friday puzzle, no theme and easier than you’d expect for a Saturday. I’m digging the grid—sort of a dogwood blossom with a structure of 13s and 15s supporting it.

Fave fill: HOSTILE TAKEOVER, WALKIE-TALKIES, DOGSLED*, THE BACHELORETTE, SLEEPLESS NIGHTS (good clue: [Tired excuses?]), WHATCHAMACALLIT (in related news, I invariably forget DOODAD is a word in the NYT’s Spelling Bee puzzles), tooth FAIRIES, and the “sound like they’re from Old Norse but aren’t” SKORT and SKOSH.

Re: DOGSLED – My old roommate and her family went on a dogsledding/camping trip in Northern Minnesota this month. Would you believe the sleeping accommodations were sleeping bags out on a snow-covered lake, under the stars, no shelter, in -15°F temps? This … is not for me.

Three bits:

  • 46a. [D.O.J. V.I.P.s], AGS, attorneys general. Is that a record for the most periods in a clue?
  • 48d. [Generic, e.g.], DRUG. Generic as a noun, not an adjective. Caught me off guard.
  • New to me: 16d. [Women’s surfwear brand], ROXY. There are those who surf the waters of Lake Michigan when the wind is right, but we don’t have much in the way of surf shops in Chicago.

Four stars from me.

Ricky Sirois’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 1/14/23 by Ricky Sirois

Los Angeles Times 1/14/23 by Ricky Sirois

It looks like this one’s a debut! To debut with a themeless is most unusual, and pretty impressive. This one was a bit harder than has been the case with the last few LAT Saturdays, which I appreciate. The top half of the puzzle, at least for me, was notably harder than the bottom half. So, to quote the Drake song, started from the bottom, now we’re here.

  • 18A [Steve of “Peacemaker”] is AGEE. Woof! Legit, and obviously the constructor and editor are trying hard to avoid good ol’ James, but “Steve Agee” with quotes around it gets 128K Google hits, which makes me feel not bad about not having known who he was. This being underneath KORN, since I am also not up on my nu-metal, helped make the top section hard.
  • 25A [Trouble getting down?] is a cute clue for INSOMNIA.
  • 30A [Astringent cosmetic] is TONER. I guess so? I thought “cosmetic” as a noun meant, specifically, applications that visibly change facial appearance in some way, but I guess the dictionary definition allows for any externally applied product meant to improve appearance, in which case TONER qualifies. Tricksy!
  • 2D [Eel, on a menu] is UNAGI. For folks who eat a lot of sushi, as I do, there might be a little extra difficulty here: UNAGI, or freshwater eel, is more common in American sushi restaurants, but ANAGO, or sea eel, also fits the clue and is five letters long. So I filled in only the third and fourth letters at the beginning of my solve, making it harder to get a toehold in the NW corner.
  • 37D [Exchanged notes?] is a clever clue for CASH.

I wasn’t crazy about the entries MOLE MEN (especially now that I’ve looked that up and see that the term has been applied to homeless people) or NO TALENT and KNOW BETTER, which both feel like incomplete thoughts. (When NO-TALENT(ed) is paired with ASSCLOWN, however, I’m all for it.)

Alex Eaton-Salners’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Alternate Endings” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 1/14/23 • Sat • “Alternate Endings” • Eaton-Salners • solution • 20230114

This is a fine theme consisting of some really great finds. The idea is two-word phrases in which the second word can be anagrammed to yield another recognizable two-word phrase. The clue points to the unseen version.

  • 23a. [*Disfavored option for a flyer] MIDDLE EAST (middle seat).
  • 25a. [*Self-aggrandizing deeds] POWER STRIP (power trips).
  • 37a. [*Rubber-bulbed tube needed for Thanksgiving] TURKEY BREAST (turkey baster).
  • 51a. [*Theater wall display] MOVIE TROPES (movie poster).
  • 71a. [*Live audience on TV’s “Howdy Doody”] PEANUT ALLERGY (Peanut Gallery). Obviously the marquee entry. What an excellent find!
  • 90a. [*Crossing a gangplank, say] GOING ABROAD (going aboard).
  • 105a. [*Teslas and the like] ELECTRIC ARCS (electric cars).
  • 119a. [*Early 18th-century pirate of the West Indies] BLACK BREAD (Blackbeard). Okay this one is a single word. Nothing wrong with that but it makes y introduction slightly inaccurate.
  • 122a. [*Substitute squad] SECOND TEAM (second mate).

Fun, right?

  • 9d [Setting for an Innocence Project victory, maybe] RETRIAL. 87d [Judgment day?] COURT DATE.
  • 10d [Fir coat?] SAP. Seems a stretch, even with that question mark.
  • 14d [Element whose name is derived from the Greek for “heavy”] BARIUM. The same root is seen in barometric pressure.
  • 39d [Sunburn preventer] BASE TAN. Not what I was expecting.
  • 50d [Conspiracy theorist’s affliction] DELUSION. But sometimes there are indeed conspiracies, and a theory is required to understand them. This is the gist of Sarah Kendzior’s new book They Knew. But yes, most conspiracy theories that we hear about are bonkers.
  • 69d [Fix a plot hole?] RESOD. 118d [Part of a bed spread?] SEED.
  • 81d [Diarist with a diaresis] ANAÏS. No indication that it’s to be just her first name. It’s a fun clue, but it cheats a bit.
  • 91d [Note that sounds like good advice] BE NATURAL.
  • 104d [Facilitate] ENABLE. 8d [Make certain] ENSURE.
  • 106d [Casting groups?] COVENS. Good misdirection, especially because 94d [Weighted fishing tool] SEINE NET is nearby.
  • 5a [Further down?] BLUER. Another great clue.
  • 47a [One who never skips class?] SNOB. eh.
  • 77a [Where the wild things are] ZOO. Boo.
  • 80a [With skepticism] ASKANT. Seems much less common that ASKANCE. To the Ngrams!
  • 82a [Back part of a Navy site?] MIL. Not a perfect clue, but I appreciate the novelty of it. It’s in reference to the internet domain.
  • 108a [Subject of a Millet painting] PEASANT. Probably the most famous is “Des glaneuses” (The Gleaners).
  • 110a [Yarn skein specification] DYE LOT. Tried DENIER first. I admit it.
  • 113a [Pacific microstate] NAURU. I was thinking they were in the news recently because of an announcement to become the first ‘digital nation’ because of the effects of climate change, but that turns out to be TUVALU, a different Pacific microstate.

On that cheerful note.

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

Newsday • 1/14/23 • Saturday Stumper • Sewell • solution • 20230114

Three phases of solving on this one. First, a few entries right away, practically gimmes. Second, steadfastly working the grid to complete the broad swath from upper right down to lower left. Third, impasse for the narrower upper left and lower right sections, but eventual breakthroughs in each, leading to ta-da.

In general, it was characterized by typical Stumperish cluing, the type that ratchets up the obfuscation because it can.

Anyway, time for the tour.

  • 14a [Confines] AREA. I recognized the angle the clue was taking, but with just four letters and no crossings it was impossible to get.
  • 15a [Member of West Point’s “class the stars fell on” (1915)] EISENHOWER. The only other context I’ve heard that turn of phrase is in a jazz standard that was penned in 1934.
  • 19a [Bit of crowdfunding?] ANTE. Whoa.
  • 22a [Jigsaw cutter] DIE. So jigsaw is an anachronistic misnomer. I believer some high-end puzzles are now cut with laser technology.
  • 23a [Winning number?] SERENADE. Tricky in a good way.
  • 26a [His last book was “Suspect” (2022)] TUROW. Uhm, ‘most recent’? ‘Latest’?
  • 28a [Cover nickname on 13 “People” issues (1975–1991)] LIZ. Presumably Elizabeth Taylor. I have just now learned that People magazine began as late as 1974.
  • 34a [Tree in the etymology of “fig”] FICUS. It’s the genus name.
  • 36a [Enterprise metaphor] PIE. “Enterprise”, ok. 57a [Learners of trade secrets?] ECON MAJORS. I don’t think either of these clues are good. Too far off.
  • 37a [Buck passer’s dismissal] NOT MY DEPARTMENT. Nice.
  • 42a [Golf Channel cofounder’s nickname] ARNIE. Golf + nickname + {5 letters} = ARNIE. Possibly my fist bit of fill.
  • 51a [First-born member of the NJ Music Hall of Fame] TAE. Am only just now understanding this to be Thomas Alva Edison, and the rationale for his inclusion would thus be for technological contributions.
  • 60a [Ground force] ONE G, not ARMY.
  • 62a [About 91 yards of a football field] ACRE. >rolls eyes<
  • 1d [They help you get a grip around greens] SALAD TONGS. I needed to build up the O-N-G-S with crossings before I could confirm that this wasn’t about golf. Getting this was the breakthrough that allowed me to complete the section. Similarly, 30d [Position in baseball, golf, or tennis] OPEN STANCE—once the clouds broke and I understood how to approach the clue—allowed me to finish off the lower right section, and the puzzle.
  • 2d [Strike that moves the needle] URANIUM ORE. Because it’s radioactive, not because of any seismological effect.
  • 6d [Porcine plunderer’s pop] PIPER. Anyone care to explain this one?
  • 7d [Golda Meir received the first one (1953)] ISRAELI PASSPORT. Seems late.
  • 8d [Add-on for VCRs] NES. If this is the Nintendo Entertainment System, why would that require a VCR at all?
  • 10d [Portion of a pot] STAKE? SHARE? SHARD.
  • 12d [Job from the Latin for “walker”] PEON. Job?
  • 13d [It’s held by Tuscan banks] LIRA? EURO? ARNO.
  • 16d [Recently past] OTHER. Huh?

Overall, not too tough as far as Stumpers go, but still a welcome workout.

Will Nediger’s USA Today crossword, “Malcolm in the Middle”—Matthew’s recap

Will Nediger’s USA Today crossword solution, “Malcolm in the Middle,” 1/14/23

Our themers all have a centered -X- – the “Malcolm in the Middle” is Malcolm X rather than Frankie Muniz:

  • 20a [“Ungodly Hour” duo] CHLOE X HALLE
  • 37a [High-energy radiation] HARD X RAYS
  • 55a [“Antiracist Baby” author] IBRAM X KENDI

I’m a big fan of Kendi’s, didn’t know Chloe x Halle before today, and got suckered into putting “gamma” RAYS before recognizing the theme. So a nice little aha moment once it clicked.

One Note:

  • 31a [Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbes, for the podcast “Maintenance Phase”] COHOSTS. I don’t know this podcast, but a blurb I found describes it as “Debunking the junk science behind health fads, wellness scams and nonsensical nutrition advice,” so I’m a fan now.

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23 Responses to Saturday, January 14, 2023

  1. pannonica says:

    NYT: More like a Wednesday than a Friday, let alone Saturday.

    • Dallas says:

      My fill time puts it right between my Thursday and Friday averages… still a fun puzzle.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I posted a Wednesday solve time and beat my previous personal Saturday best by a mile (of 710 contemporaneously solved puzzles).

      • Me says:

        I beat my previous Saturday personal best by about 20%. I had a nice step-wise progression in personal bests over the week, but not anymore! Considering how many comments on Wordplay talk about Saturday personal bests, I’m surprised that whatever pre-publication testing that happened didn’t slot this as a Friday. It’s a great puzzle, just misplaced onto Saturday.

    • Eric H says:

      I beat my Wednesday average on this one. Fun puzzle nevertheless.

    • Doug C says:

      Fun, but over much too soon. My time was squarely in between my Tuesday and Wednesday averages. I do prefer a Saturday puzzle that puts up more of a fight. :)

  2. In the Stumper, can anyone gloss 6-D, “Porcine plunderer’s pop” and 16-D, “Recently past”? I tried the OED for PIPER and found nothing. And OTHER — ? I’m just baffled.

    • Matthew Sewell says:

      Hello everybody — “Porcine plunderer’s pop” is Stan’s cleverly confusing clue. The reference is to the nursery rhyme “Tom, Tom, the PIPER’s Son.” Wish I’d thought of that! “Recently past” is mine, though really it’s a straight lift from the M-W dictionary, meaning OTHER as in ‘the other day,’ e.g.

    • David L says:

      I found this much easier than the typical Stumper, although as always there were a few clues that baffled me. Thanks for the explanation of PIPER and OTHER, but I still don’t get PIE for “enterprise.” As in, a piece of the pie, is that the idea?

      I was surprised by FICUS, seeing as it is, as pannonica says, just the Latin name for the tree. And I’m not sold on AZUR as a French rainbow color. It’s just plain old bleu, it says here. Azur would be the color of the sky or sea, more likely.

  3. MattF says:

    NYT was easy for me. I paused at ENURE/INURE, but that was the only thing.

  4. Seth says:

    – Glad OTHER got explained — it’s actually a great clue.
    – PIPER, though…never heard that nursery rhyme, so…blah
    – Clue for ARNO is amazing, though I didn’t understand it until I was done.
    – Is the clue for AVA just a list of popular girls’ names?? Ugh ugh a million times ugh. Please stop with the weird clues for names that could seriously just be replaced with “Name”.
    – TAE crossing PETE SEEGER was a Natick. No idea what TAE stood for (actually thought it was a name), and PETE…who?
    – Is PIE like “piece of the pie”?
    – I liked the clue on ECON MAJORS.

  5. Teedmn says:

    Got the PIPER, heard the rhyme in my head and still had to think, “Right, Tom is the PIPER’s son, thus the PIPER is ‘pop’,” which is when I decided that was a brilliant clue. Also the clue for SERENADE.

    Didn’t know ECGS were measured in V/T so ErGS held up ECON for a while. And I think I’ve heard the ISRAELI PASSPORT factoid before; diaSPORa made no sense but was somehow hard to get rid of for a long time.

    This was a great antidote to the easy Saturday NYT (which was wonderful, but easy.)

    • Twangster says:

      I would have liked something in between. NYT was way too easy, and Stumper was a too hard, for me at least. Googled to get the two long answers and then was able to get most of it.

  6. Dallas says:

    In the LAT, I know Steve Agee, but I considered him too obscure to be the answer and needed to get enough crossings to convince myself that he was the answer… he’s a funny comedian and amateur photographer.

  7. Eric H says:

    Stumper: As Teedmn said, it was a good antidote to the very easy NYT puzzle. It took me about three times as long as the NYT. I’d have been sunk if my educated guesses on EISENHOWER and ARNIE had been wrong.

    No issues with PETE SEEGER as an answer, but who buys postage stamps anymore? Ever since I got out of the habit of sending my family birthday cards and such, I use maybe five stamps a year.

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