Saturday, February 11, 2023

LAT 2:31 (Stella) 


Newsday 19:08 (pannonica) 


NYT 7:20 (Amy) 


Universal 3:10 (norah)  


USA Today 1:58 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 2 11 23, no. 0211

Tough puzzle with lots of challenging clues and unusual fill in a 16×15 grid. The trio of 16s are great: the BIG TEN CONFERENCE (it has more than 10 schools), the CIA WORLD FACTBOOK, and the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. (The BIG TEN was brought down a notch by TOP TEN also being in the grid. See also: I PRESUME crossing I SEE, with I SAY and I AM across the way. Sigh.)

Fave fill: VIBE CHECK, SKYLARKS (that should be a sports team name rather than a Buick), MR. GOODBAR (haven’t seen one outside of snack size in Halloween assortments in eons—and apparently Hershey swapped out the cocoa butter for cheaper oils so now it’s “chocolate candy” and not “milk chocolate”—sleazy!), SKIN TONES on a cosmetics chart, EGOTS (too bad the clue wasn’t updated after Viola Davis’s Grammy win last weekend making her the newest member of that exalted category). 63a. [Colon’s place, familiarly] clued the LOWER GI tract—a crazy-looking entry but fair game.

Crosswordese: EPODE, [Writing of Horace]. No, you don’t generally learn this term as a literature major. Also MIRY, [Like swampland]. Do any of you use either of these words?

“Wait, is that a thing?”: EU FLAG, ECOTECH, UP TWO, PSALM ONE. Don’t bible verses always use numerals? There does happen to be a Chicago rapper called Psalm One, whose second album was called Bio: Chemistry II: Esters and Essays. (She majored in chemistry.) She’s not too famous but you can still watch her videos (see below) or listen to her music.

A few more things:

  • 57a. [Many people do this on January 1], NAP. Really? I had no idea.
  • 36d. [Some lightweight protection] is SOFT ARMOR? That’s a thing? I googled this and yeah, it’s modern tactical accessories for the gun-involved.
  • Two geographic learning opportunities I liked: 8d. [Capital known as Keijo before the 1940s], SEOUL, and 50d. [Where “talofa” and “tofa” mean “hello” and “goodbye”], SAMOA.

Three stars from me.

Universal Crossword, “Universal Freestyle” by Jess Shulman — norah’s write-up




J.Shulman Universal 02-10-23

  • LEGOLAND 53A [Theme park filled with bricks] ⭐
  • PICODEGALLO 5D [Salsa whose name means “beak of rooster”?]
  • RETWEETS 2D [Amplifies on a certain social media site]
  • PERIOD 23A [It comes to a “full stop” at menopause]
  • SELFAPPOINTED 37A [Like authorities without endorsements]
  • KITTENHEEL 19D [Short stiletto shoe]


Jess makes it look easy with clean entries and comfortable familiar cluing. Super smooth solve for me with no sticking points. And I appreciate the female vibe presented in PERIOD, LADIESROOM, and KITTENHEEL. Not exactly a fan of THE DA and TO PAR, but a couple such entries that tie together longer answers is not a big deal to me in terms of overall enjoyment.

Jess Shulman is one of many constructors who contributed to Grids For Kids, a puzzle pack to raise funds for childrens’ charities. Learn more and donate at

I hope FUNERALPOTATOES (15) is on everyone’s wordlists — the best version of which is made with CORNFLAKES (21D [Cereal used as a casserole topping])

Thanks Jess!


Rafael Musa’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 2/11/23 by Rafael Musa

Los Angeles Times 2/11/23 by Rafael Musa

This puzzle belongs at UAMM: It’s a perfectly nice grid, but there’s not a tough vocabulary word to be found and the clues aren’t really ones to do battle with. A few notes:

  • 19A [Book full of legends?] I’ve seen variations of this wordplay enough times that I knew I was looking for some kind of ATLAS right away (in this case, a ROAD ATLAS).
  • 24A I suppose [“Welp”] isn’t much to go on to get to I SPOKE TOO SOON, but I had too many crossings in place, even early in the solve, not to get there quickly.
  • 40A [Not taking a back seat] is a nice clue for RIDING SHOTGUN.
  • 56A [“The __ U Give” (Angie Thomas novel)] is HATE. I recommend the book!
  • 10D [Going dark] is cute for SUNTANNING.
  • 26D/27D the side-by-side pairing of PAPER PLATE and ONE-TIME USE is cool.
  • 39D [Jazz pianist Jamal] is AHMAD. The man is still making music at age 92 and I was delighted to see him referenced instead of AHMAD Rashad, whom I’ve seen in puzzles more often.
  • 51D/52D [Helpful blackjack cards, maybe] and [Helpful blackjack card, maybe] for ACES and TEN, respectively, was a smart way to handle the juxtaposition of these two entries.

So: A nice puzzle, but either it should have gotten harder clues or been sold to an easier market. I expect to work for it at least a little bit on Saturday!

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

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword solution, “Quadmire,” 2/11/2023

Our themers all begin with the string FEN-, and given that we have four FENs, our title is a punny play on “quagmire,”

  • 17a [Boston Red Sox stadium] FENWAY PARK
  • 27a [Rihanna’s makeup brand] FENTY BEAUTY
  • 41a [Protection for an epeeist] FENCING MASK
  • 55a [Spice that can be used as a breath freshener] FENNEL SEED

A fun, balanced theme set. Busy weekend ahead so have to stop here. Have a good one!

Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “In the Drink” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/11/23 • Sat • Larson, Ensz • “In the Drink” • solution • 20230211

(Write-up to come later, as I have a headache this morning.)

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

Newsday • 2/11/23 • Saturday Stumper • Sewell • solution • 20230211

(Write-up to come later, as I have a headache this morning. In the meantime, perhaps Seth
‘s detailed comment below may suffice?)

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Saturday, February 11, 2023

  1. Philip says:

    NYT: Amy, I would say cleantech is much more of a thing than ECOTECH.

    • Christopher Smith says:

      I would say that EU FLAG is a Thing, and there are probably areas in Brussels and Frankfurt where it seems like The Only Thing.

      • Dallas says:

        And UP TWO would be the score difference of one basket in basketball; definitely a phrase you hear.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          It’s so arbitrary, though, since a team could be UP a lot of numbers. Would you accept THREE CENTS or FOUR CENTS, just because the phrases might be spoken?

          • billy boy says:

            BY TWO feels better (slowed me, though puzzle a relatively easy Saturday from this seat)

            BTW, I love the CIA WORLD FACTBOOK reference, best place to get the skinny on “Best Healthcare System in The World” item by item and much more else than you can imagine.

  2. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper: Great puzzle! Surprisingly smooth today. NW gave me the most trouble. NE would have gone quicker, but even though I knew it had to be ONE MINUTE, I wanted lOcAL instead of ZONAL, so I left stuff blank there for a while. (Also, LETO, who?)

    Clues I hated or loved:
    – How the f is ERICA related to Henry? Someone tell me. Please. Enough with “related to” name clues.
    – FONT as having a “cast of characters” is brutal, but great
    – Cluing CREDITS as conclusions of whodunits is so hilariously nonspecific.
    – “Diffuse” as a verb crossing SPEW as a noun: classic Stumper super-toughness. See also, “Intimate” as a noun. But when I do Stumpers, I’m looking out for tricks like this, so these didn’t take me too long to see through.
    – “Starter home” for EDEN is great
    – Loved NEW YORK clued as a “State of mind”
    – “It runs in many purses”: I wanted…IRA? like a purse of money or something? I knew it was wrong but couldn’t think of anything else for a long time. IOS was so so hard to see.
    – Isn’t the fish MAHI MAHI? Doesn’t it have to be doubled? Or is this just an example of the Stumper doing away with the “rule” that the clue should indicate if the answer is a shortened version?
    – Not-so-long limo for SEDAN…come on. A SEDAN is not a limo.
    – What are S&Ls? What does PTS stand for?

    • Martin says:

      I hear “mahi” in fish markets and restaurants often. I would say it’s more of a derived name than an abbreviation (abbreviations are not normally spoken), so I think it’s fine. PTS are “points,” the percentage of a mortgage loan paid up-front by the borrower, typically to reduce the loan interest rate. (S&Ls are savings-and-loans.)

    • Martin says:

      I thought maybe panonica would want to address the Erica clue. Anyway, the “ric” part means “ruler” in Norse and Germanic-derived names. Henry is the modern English for various Heimeric-based names. Heimeric means “ruler of the home.” I’ll second sunsetting these clues.

  3. gyrovague says:

    LAT: I’ve become mostly inured to Sheila’s perfunctory write-ups, but she outdid herself today by leading with “This puzzle belongs at UAMM…” Does that mean anything to anyone? Not me.

    Now that I think of it, ever since she started covering the LAT Saturday it’s been obvious that Sheila is simply not a good fit for the task. Nearly every week we get another complaint that the puzzle is not challenging enough. But guess what? Despite her carping, this puzzle is not aimed at the sub-three minute solver.

    Per the LAT submission guidelines: “Each solve should be a gentle challenge, with contemporary vocabulary and imaginative clues that celebrate a broad range of culture and education.” (See for the full document.)

    Like many folks here, I prefer a harder Saturday puzzle myself, and for that luckily we have the NYT and Newsday, both of which are well served by Amy and pannonica’s perspectives. With all due deference to Sheila and her speed-solving prowess, perhaps it’s time to find a more suitable match for the Saturday LAT?

    • Twangster says:

      FWIW I found today’s LAT quite a fun challenge but managed to solve it.

      Also have no idea what UAMM references … I see it’s a stock symbol but I doubt that’s it.

    • gyrovague says:

      Stella…! (Big oops — please substitute Stella for Sheila in my message above.) :-)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      You have no idea how much unpaid work is involved in writing about puzzles here. I’m grateful Stella volunteers her time. Also, the bloggers run the gamut on the solving times front. Would you rather have Stella blogging a super-easy themed puzzle she solved in two minutes?

      I really don’t care for comments that take potshots at Team Fiend’s hardworking volunteers.

    • e.a. says:

      imo complaining about someone who does regular crossword writeups FOR FREE being “perfunctory” is way more out of touch with reality than any of the difficulty expectations Stella has expressed

      (also, loved the puzzle!)

      • gyrovague says:

        Out of touch with reality … yes, let’s go with that. 😄

        No pot-shots intended, honestly. Just wanted to make the point that the Saturday LAT is by design a “gentle challenge” and should maybe be critiqued accordingly.

        FWIW I also enjoyed today’s puzzle!

        • marciem says:

          I don’t mean to gang up, but I don’t understand what part of “Now that I think of it, ever since she started covering the LAT Saturday it’s been obvious that Sheila (stella) [sic] is simply not a good fit for the task. Nearly every week we get another complaint that the puzzle is not challenging enough.” is NOT a pot shot?

          I liked the puzzle too, and did find parts of it challenging. But I’m not Stella… and I love HER puzzles too, as well as her write-ups here.

          • sanfranman59 says:

            +1 re pot shot comment … “No pot-shot intended, honestly” is pretty disingenuous or at least awfully oblivious. Disagreeing with someone else’s opinion about a crossword puzzle is one thing, but when you say that it’s “obvious” that a volunteer reviewer is “not a good fit for the task” and “perhaps it’s time to find a more suitable match for the Saturday LAT”, in my opinion, you’re crossing the line into pot-shot territory.

            For the record, I thought it was an excellent puzzle, but it definitely seemed out of character for an LAT Saturday difficulty-wise. Perhaps it was a wavelength thing, but my solve time was close to half of my Saturday average.

  4. Jan O says:

    NYT – Is anyone else bothered when the word SIMP shows up in a grid? I think is has a modern slangy usage, but I think it might also have a derogatory name-calling aspect, the likes of which I don’t find appealing.
    This puzzle was used as the finals puzzle in the Westport (CT) Library tournament last Saturday. Usually the finals puzzle is a Thursday-ish one (after three puzzles that Will Shortz provides from an upcoming Mon, Tues, and Wed), but this time, Will used a Saturday puzzle for the finals and made a few of the clues easier. The finalists (Glen Ryan, Ken Stern, and Pete Rimkus – congrats to all) could have handled the Saturday clues, however.

  5. Eric H says:

    Stumper: It felt like it took forever to get more than a few words in, but eventually it started to fall together. SHOW ME YOUR WAYS sounds like a line from a movie that I would probably roll my eyes at. Nice clues for NEW YORK and CREDITS.

    Last bit to fall was the NE — ONE Moment made perfect sense.

    • The northeast was hard. UDUB — sheesh.

      I wondered about TEACHMEYOURWAYS, which I’d never heard. It’s biblical — Moses speaking to God. Clueing it as the request of a protégé doesn’t fit, unless people do use this form in everyday speech.

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks for the origin of TEACH ME YOUR WAYS. My knowledge of the Old Testament is pretty much derived from crossword puzzles.

  6. marciem says:

    Stumper: 6d… is cmon really a word? I wanted “in a moment” for the cross there so that hung me up :(

    That Henry/Erica spot was also a complete mystery.

Comments are closed.