Saturday, February 18, 2023

LAT tk (Stella) 


Newsday 19:27 (pannonica) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal tk (norah)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Kameron Austin Collins’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 2 28 23, no. 0218

Oops, I miscalculated my alertness potential and it turned out that waiting till 9:45 pm to start the puzzle meant that I would nod off multiple times during the solve and need to reveal my errors (ALUMNI BARS, which, are those even a thing?, instead of ALUMNI MAGS; and yes, ABBIEN and ERO were clearly wrong). (It’s not you, Kameron, it’s me.) TGIF, so I can sleep in tomorrow!

Fave fill: a TENDER AGE, evidentiary PHONE RECORDS, APHASIA (poor Bruce Willis, rough going), “HAVE A GOOD ONE,” DEATHTRAP (wonderful clue, [Fatal attraction?]), ON THE ALERT, DECADENCE, GALVESTON, “RIGHT ON, RIGHT ON,” STREET PROPHETS, BLUEGRASS, and a BARBED WIT (putting RAPIER there slowed me down tremendously).

It’s a good puzzle, but clearly, I gotta hit the sack! Four stars from me.

Tom Pepper and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

LAT 2/18/23 by Tom Pepper and C.C. Burnikel

LAT 2/18/23 by Tom Pepper and C.C. Burnikel

Tell me how to feel about this themeless. I really liked some clues and entries, and was meh on some others. First, the highlights:

  • 17A [Information for the record] is a clever clue for LINER NOTES. “Record” as in album.
  • 23A [Pique periods] made me laugh as a punny clue for FITS.
  • 37A [Cholesterol-rich burger toppers] are FRIED EGGS. Fried eggs are highly underrated as a burger topping, IMO. If you can’t have or don’t want cheese but you still want something gooey, they are perfect. A fried egg and caramelized onions on a turkey burger is one of my favorite combos.
  • 68A [Olympic archer?] is a fresh and cute clue for EROS.
  • 3D [Cleaning agent] with no question mark is a nicely deceptive clue for JANITOR.

And then the “meh”:

  • 1A [Wardrobe of one’s dreams?] didn’t sit quite right with me for PAJAMA TOPS. To me a “wardrobe” is all of your clothes, or in this case, all of your clothes related to sleeping. Probably changing just one word (“Wardrobe” to “Clothing” or “Clothes”) would’ve made me like this a lot, since the pun is clever.
  • 25A [Navigation software once called FreeMap Israel] is WAZE. Um…okay? I get that the clue tells you “this is map software” without being explicit about it, but this wasn’t exactly a delightful piece of trivia that will stick in my mind after finishing the puzzle.
  • 48A [Best Driver and Best Jockey, e.g.] is ESPYS. I’ve seen variations on this clue a zillion times at this point (and I am guilty of having done it myself a time or six). Fine for an early-week puzzle, but on Saturday the fewer tropes, the better.
  • 57A GO BATTY felt a bit green paint-y to me.
  • 67A [Heart-to-hearts] is TETE-A-TETES. I wish the clue hadn’t had the same form as the answer, which made it a little too easy to drop this long entry with only one crossing.

In balance, I’d say it was a fine puzzle, but I would’ve liked a little more sizzle on Saturday.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “We’re With You All the Way” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/18/23 • Sat • “We’re With You All the Way” • Shenk • solution • 20230218

Perhaps the original title of or inspiration for the puzzle was ‘The Last of Us’ and it was too revealing? In any case, the letters, -US are suffixed to phrases to make wacky ones.

  • 23a. [Hole in a bird’s beak?] CARDINAL SINUS (cardinal sin). Those external holes are called nares. I’m not sure that sinus cavity can properly be considered a hole. A hole through bone, admittedly a different thing altogether, is called a foramen. Further, a depression or hollow in bone is a fossa.
  • 32a. [Gumshoe who cracks cases in his sleep?] PILLOW SHAMUS (pillow sham). I’d glommed to the theme after 23-across, so I was able to get this one with just the —ILL— in place. Apparently there is a series of books with some sort of ‘sleeping/psychic’ detective named August Chase… Okay, I see from a description on that big bookseller site that the protagonist is plagued by precognitive dreams, presumably about crimes. I think I’ll take ZBS’ binaural pastiche adventure called The Maltese Goddess. If I recall correctly, there’s a dream-revelation as part of the plot.
  • 48a. [Really heavy coat?] HANGER ONUS (hanger-on).
  • 51a. [Grounds of the Timberland headquarters?] BOOT CAMPUS (boot camp).
  • 64a. [Hard skin from installing lots of window treatments?] CURTAIN CALLUS (curtain call).
  • 78a. [Set a cost for an Iberian river?] PRICE TAGUS (price tag).
  • 82a. [Anklebones of a male ass?] JACK TARSUS (jack tars). So this one has an fudging plural for the base phrase. Although the plural of tarsus is tarsitarsus also refers to a structured grouping of small bones of the foot.
  • 93a. [Inhabitant of the White House when the air conditioning conks out?] MELTING POTUS (melting pot).
  • 108a. [Diner handouts that should have been replaced years ago?] DIRTY OLD MENUS (dirty old men).

My favorites of these are the ones where a significant syntactical change occurs, such as the adjective-to-verb transformation of PRICE, and the two different types of plurals involved in MEN/US. Overall, however, I felt like I was watching the freeze-frame of a Road Runner cartoon, with the goofy pseudo-taxonomies.

  • 11d [Secretive fraternity Phi Kappa Sigma, familiarly] SKULLS. Is this the notorious Skull and Bones society of Yale, or something else?
  • 40d [They give dollars for quarters] TENANTS. Great clue!
  • 45d [Ping producer] SONAR. Factette: My phone’s ringtone has for many, many years been a submarine’s sonar ping. Long before the smartphone era. 17d [Long ago] IN TIMES PAST.
  • 47d [Don with four Marconi awards] IMUS. Not part of the theme.
  • 60d [Small moon] LUNET. Least favorite fill here.
  • 62d [Aurora’s offering] SUNRISE. Better. This primed me to be misled by 83d [Pan’s counterpart] RAVE.
  • 65d [One way to think] ALOUD. 94d [Cautious way to think] TWICE.
  • Check out this mini-nexus: 80d [Excitedly curious] AGOG. 81d [Sound from the shocked] GASP, 85a [“Yikes!”] EGAD. Not so far away is 97a [Impressed feeling] AWE.
  • 22a [It’s south of Georgia] ARMENIA. 25a [Steered clear of] SKIRTED. My first thoughts for these were FLORIDA and AV{ERT/OID}ED, but when they didn’t play well, the correct answers were a snap.
  • 27a [Secluded hollows] DELLS. Landscape fossae!
  • 45a [They’re tight in cabins] SEATS. Huh?
  • 96a [Raft mover] POLER. Aha, the person, not the object.
  • 114a [Grotesque] HIDEOUS. Not part of the theme, and nothing to do with the celebrated baseball pitcher HIDEO Nomo, nor any of these people.

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

Newsday • 2/18/23 • Saturday Stumper • Mossberg • solution • 20230218

Fits and starts for this one. Beginning was strong, as I knew 1a [“Echoic” Japanese hotpot dish] SHABU SHABU right away. Was able to get a few more in that upper left section and the cascade descending therefrom.

Popped in a few in the middle and the lower left, and eventually those sections were completed, especially after I finally abandoned SPACE-something for the spanning 33a [“Star Trek” into claim to fame] SPLIT INFINITIVE (ahem, “to boldly go …”).

The extreme upper right was especially recondite, and the entire lower right section even more so. Once I leapt and decided that ARES was the 18a [Mythical spear carrier] I was able to polish off the northeast, especially when I recognized that chrom- was the correct prefix for 12d [Identical twin in genetics] CHROMATID. But really, 21d [ __ thing] GUY?? Come on. (45a [Mother’s __ ] SON is not much better. So open-ended.)

And down in the southeast? After I finally seized on SENIORITIS for 52a [Slacking-off syndrome] I had hope that I’d be able to complete this beast in a respectable time. 57a was tough because I was looking for a plural and not a synecdoche: 57a [Prudent purchasers] SMART MONEY. 46d [Easily influenced, from zoology] OVINE is brutal; I was racking my brain, thinking of a less metaphorical answer. And I still don’t understand 52d [Some PJs] SMS.

Have to run, so just a few clue highlights before I go:

  • 17a [Going over everythng?] ALL-TERRAIN.
  • 30a [Slimmed-down food department] DELI. “Slimmed-down” merely refers to the shortened form, from delicatessen.
  • 54a [Brown __ ] ALES. No indication that we have a plural.
  • 8d [With lost integrity] APART. Nice.
  • 13d [Question before the cameras] ARE WE LIVE. Also nice.
  • 23d [Related to] FELT. Too much of a stretch?

Okay, that’s it. How’d it treat you?

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34 Responses to Saturday, February 18, 2023

  1. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT was enjoyable. Definitely a challenge to parse the clue for BARBED WIT but fair for a Saturday. Kind of wish the clue for RIGHT ON RIGHT ON alluded to the repeated phrase in James Brown’s “Sex Machine” (it’s all I heard in my head) but then again that song is over 50 years old now.

  2. In the Stumper, 52-D, “Some PJs”: I think SMS must be “smalls.” But that seems arbitrary: T-shirts, coffees, sodas, many things can be small, medium, or large. Is there a tech meaning for PJs that goes with SMS?

    My nit to pick with the Stumper (which was, today, a wonderful challenge): 16-A, “Done quickly?” Through is a preposition, an adverb, and an adjective. If you’re done, finished, that’s the adjective. The informal short spelling THRU is common when the word is a preposition. When it’s an adjective, meaning “done, finished,” it’s not. Google searches — I’m thru, we’re thru, thru with work, I’m through, we’re through, through with work — will confirm that. Clueing THRU as “done” is not especially true to the word’s use.

    Okay, I’m through.

    • placematfan says:

      THRU is “true” here in that “done” is the synonym and “quickly”, rather than an adverb describing that synonym’s connotation, is describing the length of the answer–hence the question mark denoting the wordplay. Similarly, “PJs” is a signal that the answer will be an abbreviation or a shortened form, in the spirit of parallelism.

      • I understand that “quickly” suggests a shorter word, but THRU is not the typical form with “done,” the adjective meaning. Which is not to say that the spelling is never used, but it certainly isn’t the typical spelling. “By way of, shortly” would be apt.

        • Martin says:

          Actually, an abbreviation signal like “shortly” would be a cluing error. “Thru” is a word, not an abbreviation. It’s derived from another word by shortening, yes, but it’s pronounced as written. An abbreviation isn’t. For example, we never say “thoo” when reading “Thu.” (Also, abbreviations normally have periods.)

          I agree that “thru” doesn’t usually mean “done,” but it certainly can. In a text, for instance, you might say “im thru.” (Although “done” is just as easy to type.)

          If you want to make the clue a bit easier, “informally” would be an appropriate signal. But the clue is not incorrect without it so I wouldn’t expect it in a Stumper.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Martin: In my crossword editorial work, there is no such rule for “shortly” or “for short.” A shortened word, like ABE for Abraham, muscly ABS, ALUM for alumnus—these can all have “for short” in their clues. We do use the explicit Abbr. tag for abbreviations. (These are puzzles that are meant to be easy and accessible.)

            • Martin says:

              All of those tags are optional and depend on how easy the editor wants to make the clue. A Stumper certainly doesn’t need one.

              Even true abbreviation signals (which can be any of those you cited and not only “abbr.”) can be omitted if an editor is looking to be nasty, but it’s rarer for THU than THRU.

              I don’t have the citation I’m afraid, but these rules are paraphrases of things that WS has said in printed interviews.

              I should add that editors differ in their consistency when it comes to these “rules.” For instance, David Steinberg seems to honor them at all times whereas Stan is much more willing to bend a rule to make a clue trickier.

            • Martin says:

              I forgot to mention that the most common abbreviation signal is an abbreviation in the clue. WS says he only uses abbreviations that are not common as signals, so they stand out. Some editors use initialisms and anagrams the same way, but these might be signaling a short form word as well as a true abbreviation.

  3. PJ says:

    NYT – I also had ALUMNI BARS at 13a. They are places where alumni gather to watch sporting events. I know there are at least a couple of bars in Manhattan where Alabama alums watch football games together. In retrospect pubs as bars was too easy for a Saturday. Can’t immediately grab the cheese.

  4. Gloria E. says:

    LAT I finished reading “Sex, Love, and the State of the Rom-Com” in last Tuesday’s The New Yorker, immediately prior to doing this puzzle, and was delighted to find TETE-A-TETES clued by “Heart-to-hearts”, because the conclusion of the article was pretty much in agreement with the cluing. Current Rom-Coms have moved away from the heart and into the head.

  5. Mary+A says:

    I finished the NYT puzzle with no errors, but I remain befuddled by the clue for 29 Down: “Mares, e.g.” I know “mares” is the Italian word for “seas”, but the manner in which it is clued does not seem to direct the solver to a translation, as is typical in other such clues. That makes me wonder if I’m simply too obtuse to recognize another relationship.



  6. David L says:

    I was very pleased with myself for immediately putting in RARE at 16A in the Stumper, but it prevented me from finishing that corner. No idea about CHROMATID. GUY thing is a big huh? GLOWS for ‘turns red’ seems pretty random.

    I was similarly perplexed by SMS for ‘some PJs.’ I guess SM can mean small, tho it’s normally just S, but you wouldn’t pluralize it, would you? Well, I wouldn’t.

    • Martin says:

      Chromatids are the “identical twins” of DNA molecules formed during mitosis. They have nothing to do with “identical twins” referring to natural clones in human births. Another nasty clue.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT … The “theme” is three random answers that start with GI? What am I missing?

  8. RichardZ says:

    Re today’s Stumper:

    16A: I agree with Michael Leddy’s comments about THRU being an incorrect shorthand for “through” in the sense that it’s clued.

    48A/24D: I’m not sure if the answer is fruit skins or skin fruits, but I don’t understand what either phrase would have to do with sorbet. Perhaps skin fruits refer to peaches, mangoes, and the like, but in that case, “surroundings” should be replaced by “ingredients” or “flavorings.”

    25D: I think the clue should read “canonized” rather than “canon.”

    26D: I’m skeptical that “slitherier” is even a word. At the very least, a question mark should be appended to the clue.

    On the other hand, some of my favorite clues were those for ALL-TERRAIN, SPLIT INFINITIVE, APART, ARE WE LIVE, and OVINE.

    • Martin says:

      Orange sorbet, for instance, is often served in a half-orange peel. I assumed this is what was meant, even though we don’t call them “orange skins.”

  9. Barbara Hampsey Calhoun says:

    Re 45 across in WSJ, the seats in airplane cabins are very tight to say the least!

  10. Teedmn says:

    Yeowch, the Stumper stumped along today. I was about to throw in the towel with the SE unfinished when I finally saw MONEY (I had tImE in for LIMO for a long time) and that gave me LIMO, LAVA and NASTY. Tough corner.

    edeN before ICON gave me some fits and Snark (no, it doesn’t fit the clue, so SUE ME) at 24A also caused its own problems. But I finished, albeit in longer than normal Stumper time. By contrast, the NYTimes was super-easy, though fun.

  11. anon says:

    Stumper: FELT = [Related to], as in “I feel you” = “I relate to you”

    Don’t get the clue for SMS either. Great puzzle otherwise

  12. Mr. [somewhat] Grumpy says:

    WSJ 55A: Does Shenk not know who the President of the United States is?

    • Martin says:

      Before you start a panic that Mike doesn’t acknowledge the current administration as legitimate, I think he’s saying that senators have states but presidents have countries. Since Biden wasn’t born in Delaware, I think this clue is more precise.

      One for the “no good deed goes unpunished” file?

  13. placematfan says:

    Ohmygod I’m so embarrassed. I didn’t understand how pannonica was using the word “synecdoche” so I Wiktionaried it and realized I’ve been using it wrong. I thought it was a philosophical term, not a linguistic one. I thought it was a fallacy. I thought it meant to judge the pie by a piece of the pie, or vice versa; like, if I went to a Methodist sermon and judged Methodism by having been to one of it’s churches or if I read a John Wesley quote and then assumed I knew something about a self-professed Methodist; or, if I went to an AA meeting and then thought I knew a lot about the organization itself or if I watched a news segment about AA and then convinced myself that I knew what the meeting down the street would must be like. That’s what I thought synecdoche meant. I thought that’s why someone named their movie that. I’m so unbearably embarrassed. Life sucks. I’ve been using synecdoche this way, conversationally, for twenty years. No one ever corrected me?! I want to die. I’m never, ever telling another soul about this. No one can know. I lost a week’s sleep when in college I ranted about Shakespeare for eight minutes, during class, with the teacher, and the students, staring at me, and I guess I had just come across the word “brevity” somewhere and, anyway, I’d assumed it meant braveness–because why doesn’t anyone use that word, “braveness”? and what’s the noun form of “brave”? and the long A changed to short E, sounds Latiny, and add -ity and, sure, brevity means “braveness”–so I was showing off my mastery of the word I’d learned the day before and I used it, like, three times in place of “courage”. So now as bad as that was, this is that amplified a million times and I hate everything. The majority of YouTube I consume is people who talk a lot, a lot, about fallacies and I’m always like, How come nobody knows about synecdoche? Why am I, apparently, the only one? And I, apparently, was the Chosen Son of the Great Synecdoche Spirit, tasked with “spreading the word” across the land in the name of Intellectual Honesty. And ohmygod the number of times I’ve told people they’re “committing the sin of synecdoche” and then went on to explain what that means, thinking I was doing them a service and proud that I had the wisdom and the brevity to confront them on the issue. Head, sand. And, weirdly, frankly, I’m gonna miss my misunderstood usage; it was very utilitarian and efficient the way I understood it, the way I used it. Dammit.

  14. JohnH says:

    Well, it truly is a comment that might have been improved if only a part were used for the whole.

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