Saturday, April 22, 2023

LAT 2:32 (Stella) 


Newsday 20:49 (pannonica) 


NYT 7:54 (Amy) 


Universal 4:03 (norah)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Byron Walden’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 4 22 23, no. 0422

This is one of those puzzles where I glanced at all the clues in the northeast section and found not a single gimme. When I tried the bottom half of the grid, my 8-letter gimme turned out to be 100% wrong (36d. [Like the strongest case], that’s PROVABLE and not IRONCLAD). Oof! So a slower-than-anticipated solve.

New to me: 21a. [___ Babbitt, inventor of the circular saw], TABITHA. She was born in 1779 and had some other unrelated inventions. Neat!

Fave fill: JACKASSES, UP AND QUIT, the weird-looking JUNEAUITE, trivia/game show TOSS-UP QUESTIONS, “IS THIS IT?”, “OH, HELL NO,” JUJUBE, QUEER LIT, JINX, and CAN’T-LOSE.

In the category of “Is that a thing?”, we have WARBLOGS (which, sadly, are not blogs dedicated to warblers) and RAP AT. Wikipedia lists a bunch of early-2000s warblogs I recognize … as blogs that bloggers I read mentioned, but not as blogs that I actually read. RAP AT is one of those clunky “combine a short verb and a two-letter word and Bob’s your uncle” sort of entries that irk me.

Couple clues I liked:

  • 29d. [Tends to a minor issue?], SITS. Issue = offspring. Minor = underage. Tends to minor children = babySITS.
  • 34d. [It has its limits], CITY. Not misleading so much as oblique and potentially referring to lots of things.

Four stars from me.

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

Los Angeles Times 4/22/23 by Doug Peterson

Los Angeles Times 4/22/23 by Doug Peterson

I was surprised to find that this grid has only 72 words and 34 black squares, because it sure feels like a grid for a themed puzzle with its 10s, 14s, and 15 going across the grid and a lot of 3-, 4-, and 5-letter entries (57 in total). It’s that abundance of short answers, plus the fact that the longer theme-like entries were more trivia than tricky wordplay, that turns this into a pretty easy (I would say too easy) puzzle, despite the very top left corner being harder to get a foothold in than usual.

  • 30A [Michael’s “Space Jam” teammate] is BUGS. Cute! I have never seen either Space Jam, but the clue is evocative even if you haven’t seen the movie.
  • 37A [“Time Quintet”] novelist is MADELEINE L’ENGLE. I suppose this might have been tricky if I had come to it with no crossings, but the rest of the puzzle is so easy that if you’re working in a clockwise fashion from the top left, you’ll have most of her name in before you even read the clue.
  • 29D [Navigation aids that ring in waves] is BELL BUOYS. I never knew that’s what such things were called, so this was a welcome speed bump in a puzzle that didn’t have many.
  • 34D [Former ABC series based on a telenovela] is UGLY BETTY, which was a great show.
  • 38D [Rest 63-Across] is LIE ON (63A is ATOP). I don’t love difficulty achieved through cross-references, although again the crossings were easy enough that I didn’t notice this clue until after I was done solving.

Although there are some fun evocative entries, I could’ve used a lot more wordplay!

Gary Larson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Twist Ties” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 4/22/23 • Sat • Larson • “Twist Ties” • solution • 20230422

For unclear reasons—there is no revealer and the title isn’t particularly illuminating—the tetragram -ties has been suffixed to familiar phrases to make ‘wacky’ ones, often changing spellings as necessary.

  • 23a. [Bedbugs in the barracks?] MILITARY COOTIES (… coup).
  • 39a. [Midriff-baring uniform tops?] JERSEY SHORTIES (… Shore).
  • 66a. [Ready for some revelry?] UP TO PARTIES (… par).
  • 91a. [Peace accords in organized crime?] FAMILY TREATIES (… tree).
  • 110a. [Sheepdogs with their heads out of the passenger window?] SHOTGUN SHELTIES (… shell). ‘Sheltie’ is a hypocorism for the Shetland sheepdog breed.
  • 3d. [Juggle responsibilities?] BALANCE DUTIES (… due).
  • 57d. [Cavalry charges?] SADDLE SORTIES (… sores).

These are mildly amusing, but what’s the rationale that binds them? The sufiixed -ties indeed twist the meanings of the original words in the modified phrases, but this feels inadequate.

  • 8d [Makeup of a puffball‘s puff] SPORES.
  • 9d [Strong emotion] HATE. We see this in numerous examples, from charged politics to the mystic ways of the Force in the Star Wars franchise. And classical mythology and, well, just about everything humans do.
  • 25d [Bouquets] ODORS. I make it a habit to highlight when odor is clued nonpejoratively.
  • 33d [NASA landed six of them on the moon] LEMS. Was the acronym for Lunar Excursion Module a knowing nod to influential science fiction Stanislaw LEM, or is it just coincidence?
  • 55d [Omission] GAP. 101a [Suspend temporarily] SUSPEND.
  • 90d [Commands] BEHESTS, 117a [Carries out] OBEYS.
  • 1a [Inner ear part] COB. Fooled me.
  • 70a [Misrepresents] LIES ABOUT. 72a [Handles the bill] PAYS. Kind of like Elon Musk was caught doing about several dozen notable Twitter accounts vis-à-vis the new paid subscriptions.
  • 99a [Leatherneck’s yell] OORAH. This is Marines lore.

Stella Zawistowski’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 4/22/23 • Saturday Stumper • Zawistowski • solution • 20230422

Honestly I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish this one. It was such slow going for the longest time. But somehow I managed to chip into a few areas and even when I was all but stumped a chunk would fall. And then another, and another. Before I knew it one section was completed, then another and so on, until  it was just the last tendrils in the lower right.

The final breakthrough was realizing that 55a [Solitaire variety] was about gems, not cards, and I was able to fill in CUT after EMERALD. From there, ARM, ACID, and RUNG were much easier to see. But I needed all the crossings for 53d [What often comes with a new addr.] MTGE (mortgage).

Before the usual run-through, I need to highlight what I can’t see as anything other than a very wrong clue. 57a [Orca cousin] MAKO. One of these is a mammal, the largest in the dolphin family, and the other is a medium-large sized shark. They are both predators and live in the ocean, but they are far from cousins. Unless there is some other, non-faunal context that I’m unaware of, this is simply an egregious error.

  • 19a [Device with a mirrored pentaprism] SLR. A gimme for me, but only marginally helpful for the overall solve.
  • 28a [Refreshments that aren’t hard to enjoy] MOCKTAILS. Tried COCA-COLAS for a bit.
  • 38a [“Just what I wanted,” often] LIE. Another gimme, and slightly more helpful.
  • 44a [With the hour almost gone] TWO TO. RANDOM.
  • 47a [What’s common to a nail and a whale] HEAD. RANDOM.
  • And to round out the whale-fixated cluing: 60a [Singer/songwriter claiming a whale in his family history] MOBY—Herman Melville is an ancestor, hence his stage name.
  • 2d [ __ Philharmonic (regular performer of Prokofiev)] URAL needed three crossings to be convinced that this was the correct answer.
  • 12d [Challenge for a Quarter Horse] BARREL RACE.
  • 14d [Battleship call] B-TEN. RANDOM.
  • 16d [“The sport of circumstances,” per Byron] MEN. Um, ok?
  • 24d [NFL protective contingent] DTS. Defensive tackles, protecting … the secondary? The end zone? Offensive tackles protect the quarterback, which seems more apt iin relation to the clue.
  • 27d [Is out and about] SLEEPWALKS. Great clue, my favorite of the crossword.
  • 30d [Where you’ll often find the Swiss] CHEESE TRAY. Almost as good a clue.
  • 33d [One of the Seven Ancient Wonders, in today’s Turkey] MAUSOLEUM. The one at Halicarnassus.
  • 39d [Four-atom chloride, to chemists] TET. Short for tetrachloride.
  • 43d [Job for a chef] LADLER. Kind of RANDOM.
  • 47d [Leg-day regimen beneficiary] HAMstring.
  • 56d [Middle of the century when the Ostrogoths left Rome] DLI. Kind of RANDOM.

Universal, “Universal Freestyle 69” by Evan Kalish — norah’s write-up

THEME: None!




DISSENTCOLLAR 36a [Notable item of neckwear worn by Ruth Bader Ginsburg]
SIGNALBOOSTED 35A [Amplified by retweeting, perhaps]
UNRETIRES 16A [Gets back into the game?]
BITROLE 20D [Part with few lines]
GAMIFIED 11D [Added competitive elements to]


Nice grid from Evan today with a fun and clean middle stairstack, and some real color in the clues: ETS 49D [The heptapods in “Arrival,” e.g.: Abbr.]; PLANETS 27D [What the Kepler space telescope was designed to discover]; AIRFILTER 10D [What gathers dust when in use?]

While ultimately I wish there was more freshness to this grid, clean is the name of the game and Evan nailed it.

Thanks Evan and the Universal team!

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22 Responses to Saturday, April 22, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Not as hard as Byron Walden thinks, based on his constructor’s note, but plenty of fun anyway.

    Thanks, Amy, for explaining the SIT clue. I didn’t quite figure it out, and before I knew it, the grid was filled.

    I especially liked UP AND QUIT, TABITHA Babbit (neat name; even neater fact to have learned), and OH HELL NO.

    In honor of the EX-MET:

    • DougC says:

      I was skeptical of that TABITHA factoid, so I looked it up.

      Wikipedia: “The use of a large circular saw in a saw mill is said to have been invented in 1813 by Tabitha Babbitt….This claim is now mostly discredited.”

      In fact, the circular saw was widely known in Europe in the 1700’s. An English patent for a circular saw driven by a “horizontal windmill” was issued in 1777.

      I like to learn things from puzzles. But if we’re going to have obscure historical trivia, I’d prefer that it at least be accurate.

    • JohnH says:

      Wow, awfully hard to me, and sitting was one of the few I could easily guess. But Saturday makes it worthwhile, even if a lot (like, yeah, Tabitha) wasn’t as challenging in a good way as I’d like.

  2. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper, re orca and mako: I read a thing once that said there’s basically no such thing as “fish” in the way the word is commonly used. All the things we think of as “fish” are only very distantly related to each other. They’ve maintained semi-similar body structures only because there are limited ways to move through water as a vertebrate.

    An orca and a cow are more closely related than a cow and a horse.

    • pannonica says:

      Yes, you’re discussing paraphyly in regards to fish.

    • Dan says:

      Heck, *stars* in the sky are far more distantly related (literally speaking!) than fish, yet we accept that the word “star” has a meaning.

    • Martin says:

      I gotta believe Stan knows this. “Cousin” doesn’t have a strict taxonomic meaning so it’s possible he’s thinking of another justification. For instance, orcas and makos share the position of top predator where their ranges overlap. In fact, makos have been documented attacking orcas. So cousins on the food chain wouldn’t bother me.

      Also “Mako” is a famous member of the J-pod in the Pacific Northwest. The southern resident pods and their members are very well studied and followed by their many fans. Mako has lots of cousins in that pod.

      I guess it’s possible Stan just screwed up, but it’s always dangerous to presume he doesn’t know something.

  3. Thanks, pannonica, for glossing “Solitaire variety.” I was thinking that EMERALDCUT must be a card game I’ve never heard of.

    I thought 47-A, “What’s common to a nail and a whale,” was pretty random. A state, a committee, a glass of beer all have heads.

    For “Refreshments that aren’t hard to enjoy,” I wanted JELLOCUPS.

  4. David L says:

    The NE corner of the Stumper defeated me. I had BARN but then I wanted OPTIMISTIC at 11D. I went to a website discussing different types of quarter horse races and there was no mention of BARRELRACES; the Wikipedia page acknowledges that such contests are not exclusively for quarter horses.

    • Seth Cohen says:

      Yeah, I had OPTIMISTIC too, and “confirmed” it with HOC instead of LIB. But I really wanted ADAM and BARN. Eventually took out the wrong answers, tried ADAM and BARN, and saw IDEALISTIC.

      I’m getting better at that on Stumpers: if I’m stuck for too long, forcing myself to rethink things I already have in that I’m “sure” are correct.

  5. Dan says:

    The great Byron Walden puzzle today is a pangram minus F (unless I missed the F).

    It’s fun to try to grok the one missing letter when there is just one.

    • Irish Miss says:

      Your comment piqued my curiosity as I solved the puzzle and had no recollection of a Q in the grid. Am I missing something?

  6. Z says:

    That DTS clue in the Stumper seems like a too clever by half avoidance of a delirium tremens clue. Defensive Tackles are on the defense, so defending -> protecting is…uh…defensible. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. More ADDLing for me, though, were all the possibilities for Ad ___. Hoc, rep, man, men, fee, vil. Blrrgh. As is often the case with the Stumper, I spent nearly half my solve in that NE corner.

  7. Eric H says:

    Stumper: For once, I got 95% of it on my own, with only MAKO (gleaned from an earlier visit here) to get me started. It didn’t begin well, and after getting almost nowhere in about 10 minutes, I set it aside. When I picked it up again, ANY TAKERS jumped right out. My “[g]ooey sammies” (there’s a word I could live without) kept wanting to have peanut butter in them.

    I wish I’d seen the PARIS TEXAS clue early on. It wouldn’t exactly have been a gimme, but it would have been pretty easy. Makes me want to see Wim Wenders’ “Paris, Texas” again. I always did like Harry Dean Stanton.

    LAT: By far the easiest puzzle I’ve done today, but I enjoyed seeing DESDEMONA. I’m halfway through reading “Othello.”

  8. Teedmn says:

    The Stumper NE was where I finally threw in the towel and checked what 10A was, which, of course, made the rest fall into place easily. If only I had left in ADAM and tried BARN, I may have seen LAMBDA (instead of the “large A” I toyed with); it would have eliminated the “optimistic” error preventing me from UNRAVELING the rest.

  9. Homer says:

    WSJ-I thought the clue for 1A should have had a question mark at the end.

  10. Squidley Juan says:

    This is the most disappointing LA Times I’ve done since Varol took over as Editor. Great: we acknowledge accomplishments of women like 23-A and 37-A. Then we undo all of that with a stupid, ultra-sexist 7-D. From there, we get to 34-D, where womyn must be attached to their appearances. We further encourage that thought by going with 3-D—

    Well, she knows what I’m about
    She can take what I dish out, and that’s not easy
    Well, she knows me through and through
    And she knows just what to do, and how to please me

    How does those lyrics sound to you? I’m going to beat the sh!t out of you, then you come and—well, I don’t want to get too graphic here. Am I the only one who gets this impression?
    By itself, 10-D is not a bad answer, but in this context that you built, she’s just another object in the battles and manipulation of men.

    Finally, we fly over to 54-A and 61-A, because unions are bad and right-winged greed is the way to go. I almost quit after 7-D but I thought for sure it’d get better. It just made me madder as I went.

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