Saturday, March 25, 2023

LAT 3:22 (Stella) 


Newsday untimed (pannonica) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal 3:26 (norah)  


USA Today 1:54 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Robyn Weintraub’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 3 25 23, no. 0325

Giving all the BONUS POINTS to Robyn for another themeless that does exactly what it ought to. None of the difficulty arises from tough fill–the fill is smooth as silk, with so much personality.

Fave fill: “NO PRESSURE,” TWEEDLEDEE, BIONICS (long live Jaime Sommers of 1970s TV! I had the Bionic Woman board game), “CAN I SEE SOME ID?”, the Back to the Future FLUX CAPACITOR, “STAND ASIDE!”, software EASTER EGGS, NO LEFT TURN (the clue perplexed me–[Traffic sign near a jughandle, maybe]? Let’s google that. It’s a regional type of intersection that’s popular in New Jersey), Yoda’s “USE THE FORCE,” and an astonished “YOU DID WHAT?”

Fave clues, all of which misled me:

  • 15a. [Modern meeting setting], MUTE. As when it’s a Zoom meeting and you’ve got your mic turned off, the Zoom setting is on mute–and not a location where a meeting is taking place.
  • 19a. [Midway point?], GATE. A gate in a Midway airport terminal.
  • 29a. [Ticket prices?], FINES. I went for travel FARES, but it’s fines for traffic tickets, say.
  • 27d. [It’s at the end of “Oedipus”], SIGMA. The Greek letter that corresponds to S.

4.25 stars from me.

Universal, “Universal Freestyle 65” by Matt Forest and Rafael Musa — norah’s write-up

THEME: None!


  • MODERN ART 14A [1860s-1970s creative output]
  • ZERO WASTE 11D [Goal for hard-core composters]
  • NO BRAINER 55A [Goal for hard-core composters]
  • CRUSHED IT 58A [Did an awesome job]
  • GOOD CRY 24A [Cathartic outpouring of emotion]
  • ⭐ANKLE 57A [Joint that’s easy to roll?]


Fiend’s own Matt Forest pairs with Universal regular Rafa Musa on this adorably 90- and 180-degree symmetrical grid. I really do love a big chonky block in the middle – it’s so cute! With half of each section tucked away into a corner and the other half open to the center, there’s just the right amount of room for all the resulting mid-length fill to be squeaky clean and full of entertainment. I enjoyed the fun clues for OXEN 10D [They make a strong team], MOLE 50D [Sauce made with chiles and chocolate], BOZOS 9A [Total clowns], NOON 22A [When hands come together?]. Great stuff, super fun solve.

Reminder that Matt is the genius behind Grids for Kids and Rafa appears in These Puzzl3s Fund Abortion – both great puzzles for great causes.

Thanks Matt, Rafa, and the Universal team!

Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Game Changers” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 3/25/23 • Sat • Larson, Ensz • “Game Changers” • solution • 20230325

As commenter GlennG noted, the online version of the crossword is missing the final 5 down clues. I solved without them, but Glenn’s provided a link to a presumably complete rendering.

So today we have the slightly musty ‘before and after’ theme, this time with all the second parts being athletic events. Many—but not all, I believe—are Olympic endeavors. The clues treat the consolidated phrases as if they were real sports that need to be defined.

  • 21a. [Target-shooting competition for skydivers?] FALLEN ARCHERY (fallen arch/archery).
  • 39a. [Contact sport played in a church?] PRAYER RUGBY (prayer rug/rugby).
  • 56a. [Skating sport played by actors?] HAM HOCKEY (ham hock/hockey).
  • 77a. [Racket sport played with a dreidel?] TOP TENNIS (top ten/tennis).
  • 92a. [Game played in an alley during a downpour?] RAIN BOWLING (rainbow/bowling).
  • 114a. [Watersport for garbage collectors?] TRASH CANOEING (trashcan/canoeing).
  • 3d. [Matador competition with multiple events?] BULL PENTATHLON (bullpen/pentathlon).
  • 52d. [Winter sport played by witches?] BREW SKI-JUMPING (brewski/ski-jumping).

These are… kind of underwhelming and uninteresting to my mind. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

  • 7d [Airport monitor abbr.] ARR. I was thinking TSA, but the monitor in question is a flight status screen.
  • 31d [Right-hander, informally] NORTHPAW. Less commonly uttered than southpaw, I’d venture.
  • 35d [Boys in the ’hood] BROS. The elided word is brotherhood, not neighborhood, as it may seem.
  • 63d [Jerks] SO-AND-SOS. I’m a fan of the ‘so-and-so’ construction.
  • 89d [Cholesterol-lowering drug] LIPITOR, which sounds like a sassy cartoon villain.
  • 83a [Shore scuttler] SAND CRAB. Originally attempted SANDPIPER, which was too long. Crab suits ‘scuttler’ more appropriately anyway. There are various organisms that have this moniker, but the one I grew up being familiar with is Emerita talpoida, where the specific epithet talpoida indicates that it is mole-like.
  • 106a [Attempts] TRIES AT. Seems to be a noun phrase rather than a verb phrase, but it still seems a bit awkward.

Doug Peterson and Christina Iverson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 3/25/23 by Doug Peterson and Christina Iverson

Los Angeles Times 3/25/23 by Doug Peterson and Christina Iverson

This puzzle felt harder than my time actually reflects, which is a good thing! Perhaps this comes from the top half being considerably harder than the bottom half, meaning that it was harder than usual to get a foothold and then the sailing got smoother. Some notes:

  • 1A [Flies past] is SHOOTS BY. An entry like this, which feels very green paint, is especially noticeable at 1-Across, which is a spot that has potential to set the tone for the rest of the solve.
  • 26A [Many a custom Gibson] is a FLYING V GUITAR. This entry, plus some of the clues for those stacked above it in the NW corner, contributes a lot to the difficulty of this puzzle. Either you know the model name, or you don’t and that very unusual pattern of letters (NGVG!) is going to make it hard to get there without painstakingly figuring out the crossings.
  • 35A [Kicks out of Oz?] is a fun clue for UGGS. That is, “casual footwear from Australia.”
  • 38A [Drag strip?] is BOA. Ooh, I don’t know whether I’d call a BOA a “strip,” even with a question mark, although I am here for all drag references.
  • 44A [Shiny fabric] is SATINET, a word that was new to me but made sense upon getting the crossings.
  • 57A [Many “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gifts] is a nice clue for AVIANS, because it makes you think if you haven’t before: Boy, there are a lot of birds (and also people as gifts, WTF) in that song!
  • 60A [Culture club?] for ART SCENE was my favorite clue in the puzzle.
  • 3D [Aveeno ingredient] is OATS. The difficulty here is injected by the fact that one wants to Pavlov in ALOE for any four-letter skincare ingredient-related clue. Smart choice to mess with our heads like that.
  • 21D [Train pulled by a pair of locomotives] is a DOUBLEHEADER. Thanks for a) this not being a baseball clue and b) another clue that introduces a meaning that may be new to the solver in a way that provides confirmation after the fact.
  • 39D [Bit of Borat attire] is a MANKINI. No thanks for that mental image.
  • 50D [Mean relative] didn’t fool me into thinking it was about a family member, but it is a clever clue for MODE, which is a statistics concept often taught in the same breath as “mean.”

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

Newsday • 3/25/23 • Saturday Stumper • Mossberg • solution • 20230325

Accidentally paused the timer, so I don’t know how long it took to solve.

Experience of the solve was: practically nothing at first, then a few tremors, followed by basically an avalanche to the finish. In the end, I had something wrong, and it took quite a while to see that it was the very first square: 1a [Dough additive] MALT seemed to obviously be SALT, and I’d assumed there was something I was missing about 1d [Plotter’s preparations] MAPS, which was for me SAPS, something that seemed somewhat plausible.

Quite impressed with a number of the clues. Among my favorites were

  • 16a [Publishing bottleneck] PRINT QUEUE.
  • 24a [Sphere with many openings] ART SCENE.
  • 38a [Small corner gatherings] DUST BUNNIES.
  • 8d [Stay out all night] SLEEP LIKE A LOG.

As for the rest …

  • 9a [Entryway adorned with a butterfly] MSN. That’s the logo of the web portal.
  • 14a [Word from the Greek for “jewel”] OPAL. Latin opalus, from Greek opallios, ultimately from Sanskrit upala stone, jewel. (m-w)
  • 19a [Certain posing pair display] SIDE HUG. Makes perfect sense in retrospect.
  • 28a [Pastime for Leonardo] LUTE. I have no idea if this is the artist/polymath, the animated turtle, or the actor. I think the BEST BET (20a) is for da Vinci.
  • 34a [Parts of times tables] AGES. As in a history textbook?
  • 37a [Where much cork comes from] OAKS. Yes, the trees are in the genus Quercus.
  • 45a. [Third quarters] TWELFTHS. I thought for a moment that I understood this clue, but now I can’t make sense of it. Three times four equals twelve, but that isn’t what’s said here. Oh wait. ⅓ × ¼ = 1⁄12 … tada! So simple.
  • 57a [Place before the rest] EDEN. My first idea is that this was a clever clue for SHOW.
  • 61a [Where many are spotted on the floor] GYMS. With the Y in place from Milne’s HUNNY HONEY (47d), I thought for sure this was the NYSE.
  • 5d [Half of a current commercial coverage duo] DOUG. No idea. News broadcasters? Phrased awkwardly to avoid duping 4d [Section of] TV NEWS?
  • 7d [French beef stew] DAUBE. I feel as if I should have known this.
  • 21d [Leave on the floor] STUN.
  • 25d [Covering for your elbows] RAGÙ. I kind of sensed how the misdirection was working, but needed a crossed letter or two to get the right anwer.
  • 26d [Multi-milk Mexican dessert] TRES LECHES. A ridiculously direct clue.
  • 27d [Soup or salad] NOUN. An exceedingly vague clue.
  • 51d [Name on apple pie packaging] SARA, as in SARA LEE, presumably. The company—I believe—also makes a MARBLE CAKE (9d [Mix often touted as “moist”]). … searches>… Okay, they offer something called a chocolate swirl pound cake, which is not quite the same thing.

All right, I’m out.

Tom Pepper & Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Best Part”—Matthew’s recap

Tom Pepper & Zhouqin Burnikels’ USA Today crossword solution, “Best Part,” 3/25/2023

Our themers split (or “part”) the letters of the word “GOAT” — commonly used as an initialism for “Greatest of all Time,” thus the title.

  • 16a [Mastered perfectly] GOT DOWN PAT
  • 26a [Fights doggedly] GOES TO THE MAT
  • 56a [Exercise named for a type of cup] GOBLET SQUAT

I didn’t notice that the grid was asymmetrical until looping back to the theme and seeing the themer placement. The symmetrical vertical stacks in the NE and SW disguised it during my solve.


  • 19a [Basketball legend Bird] SUE. Bird is one of two people ever to win five Olympic Gold medals in basketball and is the only player to win WNBA titles in three different decades. Off the court, she’s part of one of sports’ greatest power couples alongside US Soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
  • 32a [“Twisted Love” author Huang] ANA. Yes, Virginia, we are now using cluing angles for ANA other than [Actress de Armas of “Knives Out”]
  • 36a [TV journalist Curry] ANN. Here’s a fun sentence from Wikipedia: “In June 2016, [Curry] moderated a panel discussion between the Dalai Lama and Lady Gaga at the 84th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis.”
  • 6d [IHOP competitor] DENNYS. This caught me by surprise — Denny’s hasn’t passed through my mind in ages and somehow are closer to Bob Evans than IHOP in my head, but I guess they are indeed a breakfast place!
  • 8d [Modern ___ (present time period)] ERA. In the indie puzzle scene, ERA has already shifted almost exclusively to clues referencing pop albums and careers, particularly Taylor Swift’s.
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31 Responses to Saturday, March 25, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Mostly a fast, smooth solving process, but Ms. Weintraub must patronize a higher class of drinking establishments than I do (did). My bartender/bouncer/doorman said “Let’s SEE SOME ID.”

    I should’ve known that was wrong because METH was definitely correct, which left me trying to find a “facility that deals with change” that began with MS.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: One of my favorite Saturdays ever. What a perfect mix of fun, contemporary, erudite (some of the clues). Rather than feeling like you’ve gone up a hill that’s a little too steep for your fitness level (my usual Saturday experience), it felt exhilarating.
    Thank you!

    • marciem says:

      huda… I’ve been thinking of you and the earthquake victims of Syria and Turkey. They seem to have dropped from the news.

      • huda says:

        Thank you @marciem. I appreciate it!
        Yeah, they just had another jolt a few days ago. I was on the phone with some relatives and they freaked out and hung up to take shelter. It’s so weird to realize it’s happening and feels so helpless. So many people are homeless, it defies the imagination.

  3. Me says:

    NYT: Another fine Robyn Weintraub puzzle, although it seemed more Friday-ish than Saturday-ish to me.

    I am very excited to see Camelot next week at Lincoln Center, but I was kind of confused by the 1A clue (“Like Camelot, where “the snow may never slush upon the hillside””) for IDEAL. A clue that long and specific would usually point to one specific answer, but as far as I know, IDEAL never appears in the lyrics of the show. I am probably overthinking this.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Good point, Me … I know Camelot quite well and got the answer pretty easily because that’s pretty much what the song lyrics are about (Camelot being an IDEAL). After seeing your post, I went through the lyrics in my head and then double-checked them online and, sure enough, IDEAL isn’t in there anywhere. I wonder if someone mistakenly thought “In short there’s simply not, a more IDEAL spot” appears somewhere in the lyrics (instead of “a more congenial spot”)? It fits the meter and kinda sounds the same.

      The movie and the music was very popular in our household when I was a lad and I played and sang much of it on the piano in our living room.

    • JohnH says:

      To me, you really are overthinking it. It doesn’t promise the word will appear in lyrics, and it’s apt enough. It needn’t match “congenial” in sense either.

      I’ve two questions about the puzzle, if I can ask for help. Why is a YET offered at a shrine, and is the comma in “What can follow, sneak or check” warranted? They kept me out of the west and SW a long time.

      • Milo says:

        That’s YEN, not YET. Otherwise you get NO LEFT TURT. :-)

        And it looks like you overlooked the second “follow” in that 28-A clue. With both of them there it makes more sense.

        • JohnH says:

          Sorry about the typo. I entered YEN ok in the puzzle and meant to ask here about it. So why is YEN taken to a shrine? I still don’t know.

          But you’re right overlooked the second “follow.”

      • sanfranman59 says:

        “It needn’t match “congenial” in sense either” … huh? … I don’t think I implied this in my post (I certainly didn’t intend to). Also, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a solver to think that the clue is asking for part of the lyric since most of the clue is a quote from the lyrics, but good for you not taking that bait. In any case, I was simply wondering if the constructor or editors of the puzzle mistakenly thought that the lyrics really do include IDEAL somewhere and since that word could work with the actual lyrics in place of “congenial” and it fits the meter and sounds similar.

        • JohnH says:

          Well, ok, even if I’d cringe to sing “a more I-dee-ul spot.” But honestly, all I meant is that, even if the musical explicitly calls Camelot congenial, it’s not ridiculous to think of it as ideal. Of course, the musical is playing directly against the very image of it as ideal, with a pompous Lancelot, the love triangle, and all.

  4. Seth says:

    Stumper: super hard. Had to check for wrong answers several times and delete things. A few things I don’t get:
    – What’s the “openings” part of ART SCENE?
    – Who is DOUG?
    – What’s the definition of “tout” in 20A that makes that clue work?

  5. dh says:

    has anyone else had difficulty opening the Across Lite version of the WSJ? It crashes my program. Other puzzles open with no issues.

    • Silver says:

      I’m guessing it’s a faulty file for whatever reason. The app I use says “document can not be opened,” and like you, no trouble with any other puzzles today.

    • pannonica says:

      It’s because of the missing clues. My response was to go the WSJ website and use Crossword Scraper.

      • marciem says:

        That’s what I did… but the last five down clues were all “-” . I thought it might be some trick of the puzzle that I wasn’t getting :( .

      • GlennG says:

        The WSJ will sometimes post the puzzles online with a number of the clues missing. This will make Crossword Scraper and scripts like what Martin runs produce PUZ files that are not working properly.

        Check the comment of yesterday’s post that pannonica helpfully linked to if you want a corrected, working PUZ file with all the clues present as intended, assuming the WSJ has not fixed this puzzle yet on their site.

        • marciem says:

          Oops, I didn’t follow her link! Now I see that you posted the link yesterday and at the time I didn’t realize it was for today’s puzzle :) . Thanks!

  6. Re: the Stumper: I missed by the same square as pannonica, having convinced myself that SAPS was a Stumpery way to reference saplings, prepared for planting on a plot of ground.

    Did anyone else balk as 23-A, eight letters, “Dander-free pets”? Sure, REPTILES are indeed dander-free. But it seems odd to call something dander-free when there’s no possibility of dander. Maybe the clue is meant as a reminder that no cat or dog is truly dander-free (though they are scale-free).

  7. Eric H says:

    Stumper: I set myself the goal of getting everything without looking anything up or even checking any of my answers. I made it, but it took well over an hour.

    The top center seemed like it was going to defeat me. I only see the Liberty Mutual emu ads when I watch YouTube videos, and I forgot the guy’s name is Doug. (At one point, I had “emus” for 5D. So close but not quite.)

    Nice puzzle. I liked the clues Pannonica mentioned in the review.

    I just wish the whole thing hadn’t taken me so long.

  8. Eric H says:

    Universal: Fun and fast — quicker than many NYT Mondays.

    The clue for MOLE didn’t strike me as “fun.” It’s simultaneously straightforward and only partly accurate: MOLE is simply Spanish for “sauce.” The “[s]auce made with chiles and chocolate” is more properly called a MOLE Poblano. (But I’ll admit the clue did make me hungry for a good MOLE Poblano, which I haven’t had in a long time.)

  9. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT … “35A [Kicks out of Oz?] is a fun clue for UGGS. That is, “casual footwear from Australia.”” … I had no idea why that was the answer for that clue until I read Stella’s review. Oz is short for Australia? Really?

    I had a real tussle with this one and it was very satisfying when my solution was accepted, albeit at more than 50% above my average LAT Saturday solve time.

    • Anne says:

      We Australians do indeed refer to our country as Oz.

      • Milo says:

        Yes, this usage has been around quite a while. One of my fondest Broadway memories is seeing noted Aussie Hugh Jackman play another noted Aussie, Peter Allen, in “The Boy from Oz” in 2003.

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