Friday, March 31, 2023

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker untimed (Matt) 


NYT 8:48 (Amy) 


Universal 3:31 (Jim) 


USA Today 4:14 (Darby) 


Rich Norris’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 3 31 23, #0331

This is an example of my favorite sort of themeless grid— corners with stacks of 9- to 11-letter entries. Fave fill in this one: REPERTOIRE; the TOY PIANO and its player from the Peanuts comic strip, SCHROEDER—I wonder how many people under 40 have read the strip in the newspaper); POOBAHS; RIVERDANCE, ha; TEDDY BEAR; DIET PILLS (scams!), IN TOO DEEP; “JUST SAY IT!”; the neighbors ALGERIA and TUNIS; and OKEY-DOKEY.

But was this surprisingly challenging for you, too? Or have I just lost my mojo? I’d have expected to finish this in 6 minutes or less, Rich’s themeless clues in the past couple decades have tended toward the hard side, I think. So I wasn’t expecting a 4-minute zip, but over 8 on a Friday?!

Is PART SONGS (9d. [Blended numbers]) another term for rounds?

Potential trouble spot for solvers: That the in the Italian river, THE PO, crossing the small score lead of UP ONE, as in “Erik Agard is UP by ONE point over me in the Boswords Spring Themeless League.” Ha, no. He is UP ONE THOUSAND EIGHTY-EIGHT. Not keen on UPONE appearing in a number of crosswords lately, because (a) mightn’t a sports commentator say “up by one”? and (b) is UP ONE significantly more likely to be spoken than “up threee” or “up ten” or any other number? I think the vowel pattern makes this entry more popular. /grumble

I learned 34a. [Diacritic over the “r” in “Dvořák”], HACEK in Prague. Or really, háček. Why wouldn’t the name of a diacritical mark itself include two diacritics? Pronounced roughly as “hah-check,” means “little hook” in Czech. It adds a zh sound, so roughly dvor-zhack.” I think I saw Dvořák’s grave during my Prague vacay.

Four stars from me.

Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “Made of S-T-O-N-E”—Darby’s write-up

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer is made up of the letters in STONE.

Theme Answers

Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword, “Made of S-T-O-N-E” solution for 3/31/2023

  • 20a [“Fourteen-line poems”] SONNETS
  • 30a [“Just in time”] NONE TOO SOON
  • 40a [“In direct confrontation”] NOSE TO NOSE
  • 55a [“‘You were perfect’”] NO NOTES

This puzzle was everything I hoped for in it. When I saw the title, I was pretty sure that I knew what the theme was, and I appreciated the variety that played out in its theme answers. SONNETS was an easy get for me, but for some reason it took me awhile to get the others. I appreciate that there are four themers since they’re shorter, but it is also nice how different they are from one another, despite sharing their letters.

This asymmetric grid also had some really nice non-theme fill. I worked through the Acrosses, then Downs, and then rinsed and repeated, making it feel like I was always getting something new each time I went through. When I first say 49a [“60-Across’ home”], I was nervous since I had not yet reached 60a [“Hammerhead, for example”] and fearing a specificity I would struggle with, but this clear tied itself up with SEA and SHARK respectively. Similarly, I had SONGS for 58a [“Album contents”] before it became apparent that MUSIC was correct. I also loved both 40d [“‘OK, here’s how we’re going to play from now on…’”] NEW RULE and 44d [“There are two in ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’”] COMMAS.

Other fave fill included SPICE TOLERANCE, PENNAME, and ONION RINGS (which immediately made me hungry.

Sam Buchbinder’s Universal crossword, “Ding, Ding!”—Jim’s review

Theme: STUD FINDER (63a, [Carpenter’s tool … or what might beep when near 17-, 31- and 49-Across?]). The other theme answers are places associated with “studs.”

Universal crossword solution · “Ding, Ding!” · Sam Buchbinder · Fri., 3.31.23

  • 17a. [Men’s Health alternative] GQ MAGAZINE.
  • 31a. [Piece of a formal ensemble] TUXEDO SHIRT.
  • 49a. [Housing for a filly or colt] HORSE STABLE.

Ha! I found this cute and chuckle-worthy. I liked how the meaning of the word is different in each answer, including in the revealer. The only meaning not represented is the one as used in “stud poker” (but this site says the term comes from a card player using his horse as collateral in a game of draw poker).

The long fill is smooth and enjoyable as well: OVERTIME PAY, NEW CAR SMELL, “SILLY ME!,” FAN SITE, and DOG SITS. SPLIFF [Joint with tobacco and marijuana] is fun as well, but it’s a word I haven’t heard in a long time.

Toe beans

Clues of note:

  • 6a. [Where to find toe beans]. PAWS. Not sure when this term started coming into use, but I’ve only heard it recently.
  • 28a. [Device that uses a three-pronged approach?]. ADAPTER. Nice clue.

Smooth and fun all around. Four stars.

Rena Cohen’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT• 3/31/23 • Fri • Cohen • solution • 20230331

We have pre-circled squares today.

  • 61aR [Lifts for one’s self-esteem, and what’s been given to the answers to the starred clues] EGO BOOSTS. The ‘elevated’ letters are consistently M-E. They need to be read in conjunction with the starred clues beneath.
  • 17a. [*Brunch station for custom orders] OMELETTE BAR.
  • 23a. [*TV competition won by singer Noah Thompson in 2022] AMERICAN IDOL.
  • 37a. [*Many a retired pro athlete] SPORTS COMMENTATOR.
  • 48a. [*Masquerade, e.g.] COSTUME PARTY.

Yep, that works.

  • 1d [Georgia school whose unofficial mascot is Dooley the Skeleton] EMORY. Did anyone read past “Georgia school” for this one? I sure didn’t.
  • 4d [Bánh mì spread] PÂTÉ. That’s the French influence, along with the baguette itself.
  • 21d [Encumbered] LADEN. I didn’t bother to quantify it, but this puzzle seemed a bit encumbered by an excess of cute/clever clues. It’s a fine balance between a staid crossword and a cloying one.
  • 26d [Cookies that can illustrate phases of the moon] OREOS. First Google result is pictured.
  • 29d [D.C. clock setting during the baseball season] EDT. Even I have heard that there’s now a pitcher’s timer (but that isn’t what this is about).
  • 1a [Lead characters in “Mike & Molly”? MES. Did not fool me for a nanosecond.
  • 31a [Checked thoroughly?] MATED. Liked this one.
  • 63a [Flower part] SEPAL.

Ross Trudeau and Parker Higgin’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s write-up

Ross Trudeau and Parker Higgin’s New Yorker crossword solution, 3/31/2023

Our themers play with time indicators in movie titles; specifically, hypothetical prequels that would necessitate a title change:

  • 18a [Prequel to a 1977 disco drama?] FRIDAY NIGHT FEVER
  • 28a [Prequel to a 1979 Vietnam War epic?] APOCALYPSE THEN
  • 51a [Prequel to a 1997 James Bond film?] TODAY NEVER DIES
  • 64a [Prequel to a 1985 sci-fi comedy?] BACK TO THE PRESENT

Certainly high-profile movies; sometimes theme sets have an entry that stands out in obscurity compared to the rest, but not here. And a pleasant theme gimmick in general — classic Ross/Parker in its simplicity and humor. And the more I think about it, the more I think this might be a preetty constrained theme set, once it comes to fitting things in grids.

Other notes:

  • 1a [Bandmate of MCA and Mike D] AD-ROCK. My Beastie Boys knowledge is next to nothing, and mostly gleaned from crosswords. Audibly groaned when the clue gave me the two names I do know. Like a 50/50 on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
  • 26a [Carly ___ Jepsen (“Cut to the Feeling” singer)] RAE. I have nothing to say other than “hooray for Carly Rae!”
  • 49a [Tapped on the nose, cutesily] BOOPED. This is undeniably a word in very common usage right now, even more so than other pet-related words like FLOOF and CHONKER from a few years ago. And yet it’s also in A Whole Bunch of grids lately. I imagine it will level out.
  • 10d [“Carthago delenda ___” (Roman call for war)] EST. I live not far from a city named “Carthage” and think of this line often. It’s a fine enough city, just unfortunately named.
  • 43d [AOL is estimated to have sent out around a billion of them] CDS. A BILLION. That’s too many!
  • 45d [Quarter-barrel container] PONY KEG. I just plain like this term.
  • 50d [With “The,” work whose translation by Emily Wilson “exposes centuries of masculinist readings,” per a Guardian review] ODYSSEY. I was turned onto the works of Emily Wilson by a few crossword friends a little bit ago. I’ve accumulated 6 or 7 different translations of the Odyssey over the years, and Wilson’s is truly a lovely and needed addition to the menu.
  • 52d [Cheeto ___ (residue officially dubbed “Cheetle” by Frito-Lay)] DUST. Yea, I’ll pass on this term, Frito-Lay. No thanks.

If you’re at ACPT this weekend, hoping you’ll say hi!

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33 Responses to Friday, March 31, 2023

  1. JDivney says:

    Wasn’t just you. That was an excellent puzzle.

  2. Jenni says:

    PART SONGS was new to me. I thought it referred to choral music and the clue [Blended numbers] referred to the SATB harmony. I’m a choral singer and have never heard the term, so I gave it some side-eye. Other than that it was a really good puzzle and no, it wasn’t just you – definitely harder than the average Friday. ACPT warmup? If that’s the case, I’m worried about tomorrow.

  3. Lise says:

    NYT: The clue for 34a (Diacritic over the “r” in “Dvorak”) in the pdf is “Slavic diacritic.” This made it a lot harder, but I was able to get it from the crosses.

    This was a difficult Friday for me, a worthy struggle. Looking forward to Saturday’s!

    • JohnH says:

      In the pdf of the NYT I downloaded, the clue for HACEK isn’t about Dvorak. It asks for a “diacritic over a letter that looks like an upside-down ‘v’.” That really threw me. No, it looks like a right-side up v, or an upside-down circumflex.

      Generally, I’m finding a killer Friday. I still haven’t broken into the NW and SW.

      • JohnH says:

        I take back the part about being stuck. I was carrying the puzzle while while walking around all day with some aches and pains that were distracting. Once I got home, it fell in 10 more minutes. And yes, the THE in THE PO threw me.

  4. Eric H’ says:

    NYT: I finished just a hair over 15 minutes, which is a minute less than my Friday average.

    More importantly, it’s probably better than half the time a Rich Norris NYT puzzle from the archives usually takes me. His clues are hard — a bit on the vague side. (“Czech diacritic” is way harder than “Diacritic over the ‘r’ in ’Dvořák’”; I listen to a fair amount of classical music, so HÁČEK was à gimme.) But his clues always make sense once you have the answer. (For example, “Spicy cuisine.” Lots of food traditions involve liberal use of spices (yum!), but the only way to get CAJUN without a cross or two is luck.)

    Looking at the grid, the only answer that seems new to me is INNES (as clued; I’ve never seen “ER”.) I’m not sure what PART SONGS are exactly, but I have heard that term before.

    Challenging but fun.

  5. Mutman says:

    NYT: Nice Friday!

    UP ONE, I believe is just as good as ‘up by one’. Depends on context.

    “The Sixers are up one in the win column as we head towards the playoffs”.

    In a game you may say the Rangers are ‘up by one’ in the fifth inning over the Phils (which turned into 4 after being down five when the inning started. Alas!)

    The clue alluded to neither.

  6. Greg says:

    Totally agree with Amy and the consensus. Excellent, challenging puzzle, but pitched more at tough Saturday level.

    • huda says:

      Agreed. The cluing makes it hard but a lot of cool content. I too liked TUNIS and ALGERIA being in there.
      I looked up PART SONGS, and even if I had known what that meant, the clue would not have led me there without a lot of crosses.

  7. David L says:

    NYT was hard in a Stumpery way — many clues that were vague or questionable IMO.

    PARTSONGS: ‘blended’ how, exactly?
    ROADRACER: The Monaco Grand Prix is run on city roads but all the others, I believe, are run on race-tracks
    POOBAHS: variant spelling, POOHBAH is more common
    DIETPILLS: well, those and a million other things
    LEDS: well, also car headlights, household lights etc etc
    EMBASSY: Part of Mass Ave in DC is known as Embassy Row — is that common knowledge?
    INDY: It’s the INDY 500, not just the INDY, I would say.

    In short, not my idea of a fun puzzle.

  8. David L says:

    NYT was tough in Stumpery way, I thought. Many loose or questionable clues.

    PARTSONGS: Blended how, exactly?
    ROADRACER: The Monaco Grand Prix is run on city streets but all the others, I believe, are on racetracks.
    POOBAHS: variant spelling, POOHBAH is more common.
    DIETPILLS: Well, along with a million other things.
    LEDS: Well, plus pretty much any other kind of lighting.
    CANTAB: I’ve never come across it as a noun. The examples in Wiktionary are from 1789 and 1819, and refer to Cambridge University.

    In short, I did not care for this puzzle.

  9. Gary R says:

    NYT: Fun solve, but it took me forever! My big challenge was in the southwest. Apple pie before Apple INC. AilMENTS before TORMENTS. Wanted the sediment to be loes (my misspelling of loess). And worst of all, I got my Peanuts characters mixed up, thinking it was Linus rather than SCHROEDER who played the TOY PIANO, so I kept trying to come up with a different iconic player!

  10. David L says:

    hmm, I tried to post a comment earlier but it didn’t go through….

    • David L says:

      OK, I’ll try again. I didn’t care for the NYT as much as others seemed to. There were a lot of vague/loose/questionable clues and answers, IMO.

      PARTSONGS: Blended in what way, as distinct from other compositions with multiple parts?
      ROADRACER: Only the Monaco Grand Prix, is run on roads. The others are on racetracks.
      POOBAHS: variant spelling, POOHBAH is more usual.
      DIETPILLS: Sure, along with a million other things scammers try to sell.
      LEDS: Sure, plus pretty much any other kind of light these days.
      CANTAB: I’ve never come across this as a noun. Wiktionary has two examples, from 1789 and 1819, both referring to Cambridge University.
      INDY: It’s the INDY 500, AFAIK, not just INDY.

    • David L says:

      so I reposted and that didn’t go through either. I give up. Except to say I didn’t care for the NYT as much as others seemed to.

  11. Seth Cohen says:

    NYT: I had DI** PILLS and my mind went somewhere much less breakfast-friendly than DIET :-D

    • Eric Hougland says:

      I didn’t think of that particular answer, but that was the category of meds and supplements that I thought of when I read the clue.

  12. Milo says:

    NYT: The overall vibe on this one was perhaps a bit musty for my taste, and apparently I’m not alone. But that just made it more of a challenge, something I’m always down for with a NYT Friday. I am surprised this one wasn’t held for tomorrow, though, when the POOBAHS at ACPT are set to bestow the crossworld’s highest honor on the constructor.

    A little context may be in order for the more casual solvers who drop in here. According to the stat-masters at xwordinfo: This is NYT puzzle no. 187 for Mr. Norris. 134 of those have been themeless. He has debuted 1,104 answer words, including six today.

    That’s not to mention his many contributions to other venues, and of course his long editorship at the LA Times. Kudos and thanks, Rich Norris!

    • Me says:

      I agree with others that this was a fine puzzle but more of a Saturday than a Friday. I was past my Saturday average on this one.

      Rich Norris is getting a little bit beat up in the comment section in Wordplay as happens when the puzzle is harder than expected, but it’s not his fault the puzzle should be on a different day. Funny how, when the puzzle is unusually easy, people aren’t upset about that… In Wordplay, they said that this is his first puzzle in the NYT since 2008! So not a coincidence that it’s being published this weekend when he’s getting the big award at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

      I also wanted to thank Rich Norris for his work for the LA Times. He did a fantastic job keeping the puzzle quality high while keeping the puzzle fun and accessible! Great work!

  13. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT … Could someone please explain how the clue for NO NOTES works? “You were perfect”?

    • Milo says:

      Notes in this sense refers to feedback on a performance or creative piece, usually from a director, choreographer, editor, etc. It’s pretty common in entertainment and performing arts.

      Usage example: “We’re almost there. I have just a couple more notes.”

  14. Sophomoric Old Guy says:

    Find it interesting that the NYT comments by Amy and most others are favorable, yet the current rating is 2.8. There must be a number of people who think it’s a 2.5 or 2 or worse.

    Thought it was very good. Took me longer than normal Friday. More like a Saturday.

    • Eric H’ says:

      On my iPad, if I hold my finger on the stars for the average rating, I get a pop-up with the actual breakdown. (For example, right now there are eight one-star ratings for the NYT puzzle.)

      I presume there’s a way to get that breakdown on a desktop computer, but I couldn’t figure it out.

      To me, the star ratings here typically skew low. It’s much easier to just leave a low rating for a puzzle you didn’t like than to write a few sentences explaining why you didn’t like it.

      • Arthur Shapiro says:

        Desktop: just hover over the stars and you’ll get the breakdown.

        I disagree about ratings skewing low. I try to keep an average of about 3 stars, and I’d guess the general average is 3.5 or 3.6 – an entirely unscientific guess. And there are fairly routine puzzles (in my admiring opinion) that someone always rates a 5, further skewing the rating higher than it might otherwise be.

  15. JohnH says:

    Unusual for a Friday TNY, their weekly themed puzzle, you have to pay attention to the theme to solve. Nice, and nicely done!

    • JohnH says:

      BTW, I envy Matthew for his stock of 6 or 7 translations of the Odyssey and definitely vote for Mary Wilson’s. It’s wonderful. I tend to toss what I can and, even more to borrow library books, but this one’s on my shelf, and I so will her Iliad when it comes out this fall or, more likely, next year in paperback. The intro alone will be worth it. (I seriously have no shelf space and nowhere to put another shelf. New York apartments!)

      Which is not to say that the clue was a gimme for me. I t should have been, but it wasn’t.

  16. Katya says:

    The misplaced ME – very clever. I enjoyed this one.

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