Saturday, April 1, 2023

LAT 3:16 (Stella) 


Newsday untimed (pannonica) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal 6:20 (Matt F)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Wyna Liu & Joel Fagliano’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 4 1 23, no. 0401

Happy April Fool’s Day! The crossword celebrates by violating the convention that clues should not contain any of the words in the answer. Scientific name BISON BISON has “American bison” in its clue. Central “APRIL FOOL!” has “April Fool’s Day” in the clue. There’s also “really like” in the clue for doubled LIKE (as in the phrase “like like”), and [___ names] clues NAME. Also MEN IN BLACK, PIKACHU, ERIE PA (meh), BOOKER with “book” in the clue (but the prize isn’t named after books, it’s named after George and Richard Booker’s company; the word and name share roots but “Booker” is not in the clue!), the second President ADAMS, and SAO TOME. Did I miss any? They’re not all paired with other entries opposite them in the grid. (April Fool! The theme isn’t symmetric.)

Newish to me: JAMAIS VU, the inverse of deja vu, the [Experience of feeling unfamiliar with something that’s actually quite familiar to you].

Fave clue: [Going well?] for REGULAR. 💩

Fave fill: LOVE SCENES, BISON BISON, ADAM SAVAGE (…which conflicts with ADAMS just a few squares away), artistic WOODCUTS, MEN IN BLACK, BAD SCIENCE, MAILBOX, PIKACHU, and JIM BEAM,.

ILL FAME sounds off to me, but it’s in Merriam-Webster.

Four stars from me. Cute twist for the holiday.

“Universal Freestyle 66” by Rafael Musa and Adrian Johnson — Matt F’s write-up

Hey, Matt here, filling in for Norah who is off galivanting at ACPT this weekend. Good luck to her and everyone else participating in the event!

Today’s THEMELESS puzzle is constructed by the talented duo of Rafael Musa and Adrian Johnson. Both relatively new on the scene but somehow they feel like seasoned veterans already. I always enjoy their puzzles, and this collab doesn’t disappoint.


Universal Solution 04.01.2023

  • LESS IS MORE 13A [Minimalist maxim]
  • I STAND CORRECTED 16A [“You were right after all”]
  • ⭐ SPAM FILTER 41A [E-weeder?]
  • SATAN 55A [Hell of a guy?]
  • ANIMAL SANCTUARY 59A [Safe forever home for wildlife]
  • IT’S A BEAUTY 63A [“How gorgeous!”]
  • PINKY TOE 4D [Small digit?]
  • SITUP 23D [Crunch time exercise?]


I like to play “guess the seed” when I finish a themeless and today I have to go with 16A. If I’m wrong, well, then I STAND CORRECTED!

13A captures the essence of this puzzle for me. With those 4 standout helper blocks in the corners, you might say these two found a way to use “less” white space to create “more” exciting fill. I’d be curious to know if they tried filling the grid with open corners first before settling on this structure. In any case, the fill is squeaky clean and beautiful as a result of what appears to be careful consideration for block placement.

Some may consider LIT and STARLIT to be a dupe, but I say let the fill shine where it needs to shine and enjoy the brightness where you find it.

Fun fact: Rafa is a self-proclaimed Swiftie and won’t miss an opportunity to include a Taylor Swift easter egg – see 25D.

I learned about:

OLGA 52D [Ukrainian journalist Rudenko]. Olga Rudenko was named editor-in-chief at the Kyiv Independent in 2021 and, in May 2022, graced the cover of Time Magazine which included her in a listicle of “Next Generation Leaders.”

Thanks Rafa, Adrian and the Universal team!

Annemarie Brethauer and Katie Hale’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 4/1/23 by Annemarie Brethauer and Katie Hale

Los Angeles Times 4/1/23 by Annemarie Brethauer and Katie Hale

This puzzle feels like a Thursday puzzle in search of a theme — the grid design, with its 12- and 15-letter entries going across and lots of 3- to 5-letter answers, looks like that for a themed puzzle even though there are only 72 words total.

Of those 12s and 15s, I enjoyed FREE SHIPPING, NOT TOO SHABBY, and WHATCHAMACALLIT; STICK TO THE POINT felt a little stilted, although it does get close to 25 million Google hits with quotation marks, so that might just be me.

It’s said brevity is the soul of wit, but I found the clues a bit too brief on the whole in this puzzle — look how many of them are one to three words in length! It felt light on the wordplay, especially for April Fools’ Day.

I did enjoy the trickery at 1A/1D: [In stitches?] wants to be SEWN, which then led me to put in SRTA instead of the correct CASA for [Spanish address].

Happy ACPT to those who celebrate! To paraphrase Ken Stern: I wish you all good luck, and I wish myself just a little bit more good luck.

Mike Torch’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ode Fashioned” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 4/1/23 • Sat • “Ode Fashioned” • Torch • solution • 20230401

Playing on speech patterns, in this case the letter L is not velarized and the following letter—a D—becomes more prominent.

  • 28a. [When programmers work for the devil?] A CODE DAY IN HELL (cold).
  • 46a. [Cattle prod to measure all others against?] GOAD STANDARD (gold).
  • 62a. [Used needlepoint for the customer’s receipt?] SEWED A BILL OF GOODS (sold).
  • 82a. [Caresses from a violinist?] BOWED STROKES (bold).
  • 95a. [Created topiary with a Toro?] MOWED INTO SHAPE (mold).
  • 4d. [Admission from the victim of a robin repo?] A BIRDIE TOWED ME (told). “Little” seems to be missing in action. {6a [“Paper Planes” singer] MIA.}
  • 54d. [Turned over one’s property?] HOED YOUR GROUND (hold).

All right, it works.

  • 1d [Perches for petite pets] LAPS. Alliteration aside, some not-so-petite pets also think they can do this.
  • 3d [Paste for soup] MISO. Just picked up some awase yesterday.
  • 38d [Auntie’s twin, perhaps] MAMA. 112a [Pop’s twin, perhaps] UNCLE.
  • 42d [Alpine animals] IBEXES, not ibices.
  • 43d [Ready for the cobbler] CORED. Apples.
  • 74d [Scent] ODOR. I always appreciate a non-pejorative clue for ODOR.
  • 98d [About how long it takes to travel a ft.] NSEC. Weird clue.
  • 1a [High priests?] LAMAS. Was mildly surprised that my reflexive answer here was correct. 93a [Reach great heights] SOAR. 64d [Really high] BAKED.
  • 20a [Like all points on the x-axis, e.g.] COLLINEAR. Tried CARTESIAN first.
  • 37a [General assemblies] ARMIES. No question mark in the clue, strangely.
  • 70a [Lassie’s companion, on old TV] TIMMY, he of the well-falling-into tropes.
  • 78a [Court player, informally] CAGER. There was a college player named Willie CAGER who died very recently.
  • 107a [Makes merger plans] SETS A DATE. 39d [Altar exchanges] I DOS.

Anna Stiga’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 4/1/23 • Saturday Stumper • Stiga, Newman • solution • 20230401

This one was tough. Unfortunately, I accidentally paused the timer so I can’t report the length of the solve.

Going to keep it brief because (1) I’ve got some obligations today, (2) many of you I presume will be preoccupied by ACPT goings-on.

  • The central spanning entry was tough because there was no indication that 33a [Fête nationale] was a holiday of les États Unis, and also because I didn’t quite know how to render ‘Fourth of July’ in French. QUATORZE JUILLET.
  • 28a [Many a sauna, essentially] CEDAR. Was held up by having CABIN here.
  • 34d [Blast] UNLOAD ON. With only partial crossing letters, the sequence looked unpromising if not impossible. 41a [Blast] RAP; not feeling this one. 14d [Blasts] HISSES AT; nor this one, really.
  • 8d [Metaphor for much money] CLOVER. As in the phrase, in clover. Tough one.
  • 54d [Partial score] TEN. Is this playing off ‘score’ = twenty?
  • 49a [Two-digit signal] VEE. The hand gesture.

“Peace out.”

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30 Responses to Saturday, April 1, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Cracked me up.
    Not something that usually happens with a Saturday puzzle.
    Well done!!!!

    PS. I understand now why they didn’t schedule yesterday’s puzzle for today.

    • Eric H’ says:

      The theme clue and answer pairs in the puzzle were all fine, but the funniest for me was one they couldn’t use: “First word of The Police’s ‘Roxanne.’”

      I was happy that I didn’t have to look up some Pokémon clue.

    • AmandaB says:

      Yes! I laughed out loud at BISON BISON.

    • David L says:

      Very cute — although I almost had a DNF. My first guess for 11D was ENID (probably thinking of Tennyson), then I changed it to EDIE, then had to run the alphabet to come up with EVIE/SAVAGE.

    • Me says:

      I feel like the theme answers came so close to being symmetric that they either should have been all symmetric or they shouldn’t have been symmetric at all (in which case there should have been more of them). NAME names and LIKE like were just one row away from being symmetric, as were PICKACHU and SAOTOME.

      I couldn’t help but think that if Evan Birnholz did the puzzle, the theme answers would have been symmetric…

      I know nothing about Mythbusters, and at first I thought the answer would be ADAMSADAMS, particularly when I had ADAMSADA– at one point (with EDIE as the cross instead of EVIE). But it was not meant to be.

  2. The Stumper cross of MEZE and MOILS did me in. Yow.

    44-A, four letters, “Reader using batteries”: the NOOK (which still exists — I looked it up) uses a single battery.

    • David L says:

      Same here with TOILS/TEZE because why not.

      I don’t understand VIN for “Outback etching.” [oh wait, now I get it, VIN = vehicle identification number…] [oh but then again the VIN is usually impressed into a metal strip, not etched]

      “Partial score,” TEN. I interpreted this as implying that if you’re partial to something/someone you might give them a ten.

      CEDAR: Not in Finland, I would think, where saunas would generally be built from some natives species of pine. But in this country, perhaps.

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks for explaining “Outback etching.” I totally missed that — and we just bought a new Subaru Outback! (I agree that Vehicle Identification Number plates are probably stamped, not etched.)

        Like Pannonica, I interpreted “Partial score” as “score” being 20, e.g. “Four score and seven years ago . . . .”

        Even with the three answers I got from these comments (MEZE, MOIL and NOOK), I ended up checking several answers. I egot the SE on my own, but ran into tough spots everywhere else.

        Weirdly, SHILOH was my first guess for 23A, though my Civil War knowledge is limited at best. I left it blank for a long while until I had a few crosses.

  3. Boston+Bob says:

    TNY – QUATORZE JUILLET, the 14th of July, is Bastille Day.

  4. dh says:

    “Like-like” is an example of contrastive focus reduplication, but the goal the way I understand it is not to emphasize, but rather create a prototypical definition – as in, “Do you ‘like’ her, or ‘like-like’ her?” There’s a great read on this in a paper subtitled “The Salad-Salad Paper” (You bring the macaroni salad, I’ll bring the salad-salad”. “Jeopardy” sometimes has “stupid answers” categories too. Fun.

  5. Seth says:

    The Stumper was so hard. The bottom half was ok, but the top stopped me dead.

    Two things:
    – Don’t like half of the “blast” clues. HISSES AT barely means “blasts,” but RAP…I don’t even get. RAP…on a door? RAP, like the music? How in the world does RAP mean blast?
    – I feel like the clue for CEDAR is wrong. A sauna might be made of cedar, but it’s not, itself, a cedar. If the clue were “Like many a sauna, essentially”, that would work, because the clue and answer would be adjectives. But here, the clue is a noun; it’s implying that a sauna is, somehow, an actual cedar tree. Or maybe it’s implying that a sauna is the wood of a cedar. But it’s not — it’s MADE of cedar. It is not, itself, a cedar. Does that make sense? I don’t know. I’m griping extra hard at that clue because it could have helped me so much get into the upper half of the grid, and I had CABIN there for a while, and it just contributed to me not being able to do anything with the upper half.

    • David L says:

      I agree. It’s a real stretch, even by Stumper standards, and of dubious accuracy. Even if you have a sauna that’s lined in cedar, the underlying structure may well be of some cheaper material.

    • Twangster says:

      I did better than usual but could not get the upper right corner. The Bastille Day clue really helped open it up.

  6. Eric H says:

    Universal: LIT/STARLIT seems less egregious than STARLIT/STELLAR. But duplicates rarely bother me anyway; it’s pretty rare that I hesitate to enter an answer because part of it is in another answer.

    I thought BOCCE BALL clued as the sport was weird. I only remember the sport being referred to as BOCCE. A BOCCE BALL would be the equipment, no?

    But those are quibbles about an otherwise nice but easy themeless.

  7. GlennP says:

    The grid-spanning Quatorze Juillet in the Stumper actually refers to the French national holiday, Bastille Day (the 14th of July).

  8. Papa John says:

    As an April Fool’s Day joke, I cut a hank of my wife’s hair as she slept. She’s mad as hell at me!

    • Papa John says:

      Wow. I’m surprised no one fell for my April Fool joke. With the exception of my sister-in-law, everyone I pulled it on did fall for it. Hard to fool this group.

  9. David L says:

    Stumper: a late thought just occurred to me. I don’t believe ‘rats’ is a MINCEDOATH. A minced oath is a milder substitute for a bad word – ‘darn’ for ‘damn’, ‘zounds’ for ‘God’s wounds’ etc. ‘Rats’ is not a substitution for anything, to the best of my knowledge, just a mildly expressive word in its own right.

    • I wondered about that. I’m not sure if this is satisfying, but —

      The OED makes a comparison to “drat” in its entry for the interjection “rats,” and it explains “drat” as a shortening of “God rot!” So there’s a relation to a minced oath.

      But whether “rats” itself is a minced oath, I’m not so sure.

  10. JohnH says:

    I don’t understand REGULAR in the NYT. Help?

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