Saturday, May 6, 2023

LAT 4:31 (Stella) 


Newsday untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 6:49 (Amy) 


Universal tk (norah)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Carter Cobb’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 5/6/23, no. 0506

I got off to a slow start here when it turned out GULLIVERSTRAVELS was a skosh too long for 17a, and had to put the car in reverse later when EIGHTTRACKTAPES clashed with crossings for 50a. But it all came together in a reasonably Saturdayish amount of time.

Many puzzles with triple-stacked 15s on the top and bottom include lots of short crossings for those 15s. Here, though, the grid minimizes the use of 3s, so there’s ample flow throughout if you’re able to crack some clues. Lots of 5s, 6s, 7s, and 8s holding the enterprise together.

Fave fill: SOPHOMORE SLUMPS, THRILLA IN MANILA, Swift’s A MODEST PROPOSAL (a modest counterproposal: eat the rich), spicy CAROLINA REAPERS, STACEY Abrams, “THE NERVE!”

Three things:

  • 18A. [Certain movement supporters], CANES / 34D. [Intense movement], CRUSADE. I definitely felt 18a was about social or political movements, and that 34d was about a physical motion. You’d think the English language could spare two different words for these distinct entities, and yet here we are. (That’s not even taking a bowel movement into account.)
  • 37D. [Highlighters and such], MAKEUP. I thought MARKERS at first but it wouldn’t fit. I appreciate having a clue that tends to favor women, particularly in a puzzle that’s not by (I think) a woman.
  • 22A. [What a helicopter might fly out of?], MAPLE. As in the seeds with wings (aka samaras) that flutter from maple trees in late spring.

New to me: 23A. [Mathematician Weierstrass dubbed the “father of modern analysis”], KARL. German-looking last name, plausibly Teutonic first name.

Four stars from me.

Adrian Johnson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 5/6/23 by Adrian Johnson

Los Angeles Times 5/6/23 by Adrian Johnson

This is the kind of challenge I’d like to see more of on Saturday! Between 4 and 5 minutes feels just right — more than that and a puzzle approaches Newsday Stumper territory, which I realize is not everyone’s cup of tea, but enough of a fight to be satisfying.

Part of what made this puzzle hard is the difficulty of getting a foothold in the NW corner, which has some very tricky clues. This forced me to get started in the NE and work my way around clockwise — but if you do this, there are some nasty little surprises. For example, MINUET IN G at 41A, clued as [Classical piece that’s the basis of the 1965 hit “A Lover’s Concerto”]: If you’re coming in from the right, you’ll have ?????TING. Classical music is one of my strong points, pop music is not, so I was driving myself nuts trying to remember what piece has a gerund for a title since I didn’t know the song to make the connection.

Another one: 61A [Uplifting historical figure?] is ELISHA OTIS. Again, if you are coming at this from the right, the unusual A adjacent to O looks like a mistake, so I kept removing and replacing the SHOP in TEA SHOP at 42D trying to make sure.

14D [Out of ___] could be ORDER, or once you have that S from EGGS it could be STYLE, but it’s neither of those things — it’s SORTS. 21A [Noise] also wants to be DIN before one fills in the correct ADO. 7D [___ Bar: nutritional snack] could be CLIF, but it’s LARA. I don’t want to see this kind of ambiguity on a Monday, but I sure do like it on Saturday.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out these clues for being especially clever:

  • 19A [Floating junk] is SPACE WASTE, not the boat that it appears to be on its surface.
  • 22A [Secretive group?] is GLANDS.
  • 35A [One committed to an orderly society?] is NUN.
  • 48A [Racket of lamb] is BAA. Ha!
  • 37D [Go for the bronze?] is SUNBATHE.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “By the Nvmbers” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 5/6/23 • Sat • “By the Nvmbers” • Shenk • solution • 20230506

There have been many themes involving Roman numerals, but I’m not sure I’ve encountered this exact interpretation before. It’s really quite simple: the letters representing the numbers appear at the beginnings of phrases which appear to be normal but are, in fact, wacky.

  • 22a. [1 adviser to a wizard?] I MAGE CONSULTANT.
  • 35a. [5 members of a female bowling league?] V ALLEY GIRLS.
  • 54a. [10 counseling sessions for a devilfish?] X RAY THERAPIES. I feel like the more commonplace term is radiation therapy rather than x-ray therapy.
  • 65a. [50 dark brown face cards?] L UMBER JACKS.
  • 75a. [100 art galleries?] C HANGING ROOMS.
  • 96a. [500 pieces of balsa wood?] D RAFT BOARDS.
  • 111a. [1000 high-ranking officers besides the obvious ones?] M OTHER SUPERIORS.

Of course the numerals proceed in order of magnitude; we wouldn’t expect any less from Mike Shenk.

It isn’t a terribly exciting theme, primarily because Roman numerals in general feel so familiar in crosswords, but it’s carried out very competently. My only theme-related quibble on technical grounds is the intrusion of 63d [Prologue follower] ACT I.

  • 7d [They follow cues] ARS. Was not fooled for a moment!
  • 34d [Baseball brawl] RHUBARB. Did not know this. It seems RHUBARB has a few off-piste uses. This is probably my favorite.
  • 46a [Even numbers?] TIE >moue<
  • 49d [Router’s creation] GROOVE. In this day and age, I was of course thinking of computer networks. 83d [Divert] REROUTE. (Differing etymologies.)
  • 65d [Internet language that includes “n00b” and “pawn’d”] LEET, or 1337.
  • 67d [Adorably innocent] ANGELIC crossing 80a [Pure] CHASTE.
  • 94d [Didn’t just giggle] ROARED. 40a [Amused giggle] HEE HEE.
  • 18a [Strongly criticize] REVILERevile to me feels more intense than even strong criticism.
  • 19a [Sacred asp-shaped symbols of the pharaohs] URAEUSES. Etymology: New Latin, from Late Greek ouraios, a kind of snake.
  • 61a [Swinging spot] HOME. More baseball. I tried TREE first, long before arriving at 104d [Arboretum item] TREE.
  • 81a [Tubes in torsi] AORTAE. 48d [It might be stuck in a trunk] AX HEAD. Something about these two together doesn’t sit right with me.
  • 117a [Protects from danger] SHELTERS.

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

Newsday • 5/6/23 • Saturday Stumper • Mossberg • solution • 20230506

Accidentally paused the timer during the solve so I can’t report a precise duration, but can say that it felt to be on the tougher side of average for a Stumper.

There were some real humdingers in this one:

  • 20a [You’d expect it to catch a mouse] CAT’S EYE. (Crossing the straightforward 7d [Geode, often] AGATE.)
  • 48a [One way to get your things together] STIR.
  • 59a [Know-nothing bridge] FROM.
  • 61a [What Asian bread isn’t] YENS. Because the correct plural is YEN. Gahhh!
  • 25d [Plow, vis-à-vis roads] CLEARER.
  • 27d [Veil-wearing activity] APICULTURE.
  • 52d [Digital editing] MANI.
  • 53d [One catching some rays] ORCA.
  • 54d [Stayed] BEEN. I don’t even understand this one.

And that’s far from all of the ones I could list. Let’s see what else I can mention in other contexts.

  • 4d [Gathering in a forest] SAP. Nice, tricky clue.
  • 9d [Stumpery clue for “cot”] SLEEP ON IT. A bit meta, although in my opinion it doesn’t really seem like such a ‘stumpery’ clue, but who am I to determine that, versus the constructor and editor?
  • 11d [Inner power] GEOTHERMAL. 60a [Fuel source] SUSTENANCE. With the incorrect TINY in place at 51 down (ITSY) I was thinking this would be something SUN-related.
  • With OMEGA obviously too short for 12d [Resistance symbol] I knew I needed to think more flexibly, and was pleasantly surprised that RAISED FIST worked—it was one of several longish entries that enabled me to make inroads into the puzzle. Another was 32d [Solar system boundary], which I’d hoped would be OORT CLOUD but couldn’t be sure until securing the double-O crossing.
  • Speaking of which, I really dislike misleading overly general clues like 31a [Soup or salad] which was not SIDE but NOUN generically. It’s a cheap way to amp up the difficulty.
  • 13d [Assistant in a Herculean labor] ATLAS. In return, Herakles spelled Atlas in his onus of maintaining the heavens. Atlas was set to double-cross Herakles and leave him there for eternity, so Herakles said fine, just take it back for a sec while I adjust the NEMEAN lion cloak so the burden is more COMFY (47d), thus tricking Atlas into reclaiming the mantle.
    For another of the labors, Herakles required the assistance of his nephew Iolaus: the latter singed the severed necks of the decapitated Hydra heads, so they were unable to grow back doubled.
  • Oh and by the way, according to some sources the Hydra was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. 35a [Associate of Knuckles the Echidna] SONIC (the Hedgehog). That’s probably enough Greek mythology for the morning, eh?
  • 14a [What a wedding band might do] HAVA NAGILA. Another long one that I somehow got fairly easily. I examined the clue with the idea that it was a trick and sure enough the illusion was dispelled, although I think ‘do’ is a bit iffy here.
  • 24a [Stopovers between flights] PERCHES. Double fake-out! Guessed it wasn’t about airplanes and was instead considering stairs, when it was indeed about flying all along. But the avian type.
  • 30a [Retired player as of 2022] IPOD. Tried sooo hard to make this be A-ROD.
  • 41a [Cosmo or Tiki beverage] RITA. Okay, (1) I dislike the abridgement of margarita to RITA to start with, (2) how does the clue deliver this answer?
  • 52a [Online ill-wishers] MOB. Took a while to relinquish the plural S that I’d laid down here. In fact changing that square—and SEEN to the mysterious BEEN—was my last play in the grid.

Wow, toughie!

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31 Responses to Saturday, May 6, 2023

  1. DougC says:

    NYT: Maybe I was just on the constructor’s wavelength, but I thought this was pretty easy for a Saturday. Finished in less than half my average time. I definitely appreciated the scarcity of 3 and 4 letter answers! But OHMAGE and SPATTED got some serious side-eye. I enjoyed seeing THRILLAINMANILA, but like Amy, I really wanted 50A to be EIGHTTRACKTAPES.

    • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

      Agree. Definitely on same wavelength. Had one of my best Saturday times ever. Got 3 of the 15’s from the clues. THRILLAINMANILA, CAROLINAREAPER, REELTOREELTAPES. Had SOPHOMORICHUMOR at first.

  2. Mutman says:

    NYT: much easier than yesterday (which I still have not finished!)

    Never heard of GASSES up for an ego reference.

    Has anyone else??

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I scanned most of it before getting a foothold and plopped REEL TO REEL TAPES as my first entry– remembering advice from Amy in her book that I read years ago, about keeping in mind that the edges are likely to have these types of bland letters (I’m sure she said it completely differently, I just coded it this way). So thanks Amy! It gave me a critical foothold in the south.
    Really beautiful stacks of long entries. MAPLE gave me serious pause as I had never heard of helicopters on maple trees… Happy to continue to learn from the puzzles…

    • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

      My father had a very fancy dual reel-to-reel setup in the 60s, so that one brought a smile to my face.

  4. MattF says:

    As has been noted, NYT looks daunting but is easier than yesterday. Went through it anticipating obstacles but didn’t really encounter any.

    • John says:

      I’ve found that sometimes having several long entries actually makes a puzzle easier. If it’s just one, there’s low odds that I know it, but with six I have a good chance of getting a couple of them, which opens up a lot of possibilities for those crosses

  5. pannonica says:

    Chiming in on the NYT‘s pliability. It isn’t often that I beat Amy’s time, but I finished this one in 6:02, which is practically lightning speed for me.

  6. David L says:

    Stumper: It looked daunting at first but I got a few toeholds here and there and in the end finished without too much trouble. But as always, there were a few clues that baffled me, to wit:

    3D: Google has not helped me find what this refers to
    45A: This doesn’t seem right to me, grammatically
    48D: True, but random

    BEEN: I have stayed at home, I have been at home … maybe?

    The clue for YENS was on my list but pannonica figured that one out.

    • pannonica says:

      My assumption for 3d was that it has something to do with the film Evan Almighty or a sequel(?), but I haven’t verified.

    • Eric H says:

      It took me just over an hour. Ugh. No checks, but I did look up DA CAPO and MILANO after I got them.

      Most of my time was in the SW corner. My CORONATION was lonely for a long time. The last few letters of APICULTURE took way longer than they should have.

      Thanks, pannonica, for explaining the YENS clue.

      I just now made sense of “This isn’t happening” for NOT ON A DARE. The clue directed me to something like “Am I dreaming?”

      I did like the clue for RAISED FIST. Other than that, I can’t really say I enjoyed it.

  7. Re: the Stumper’s RITA: the cosmorita and the tikirita are drinks, if you like that kind of drink. I’m old-fashioned.

  8. Milo says:

    LAT: I HAD A HUNCH this one would be a winner when I saw the byline, and it was. Impressively constructed quad stacks and some fun clues — bonus points for the Calvin & Hobbes reference! — made for smooth sailing indeed.

    • Mr. [not really] Grumpy says:

      That was one of the last things I filled in. Didn’t help that I had URINAL for 46A [hey, it fit the N and L], but drummer Gene came to my rescue.

  9. Teedmn says:

    With “paroLeS at 43A, LoaNS at 44D and SolarpANel for 60A, it isn’t any wonder that the Stumper took me much longer than it should have and I still didn’t get the final few in the SW since I wanted Chill for 47D.

    I was convinced 55A was looking for a Cryptic-style answer and could only find emIt to fit – no help at all.

    At least I knew EVAN in the NW which gave me HAVA NAGILA off the V and G. Yay.

  10. dh says:

    I have a question mark next to the Universal 41A. I don’t think the two phrases have the same meaning at all. “Gee, ya think?” is a rude-ish sarcastic varation of “Duh!”, whereas “Who knew?” is more of a surprised remark made upon learning some obscure bit of trivia. It’s a question-mark instead of an exclamation mark because I suspect these two expressions are possibly regionalisms or defined differently by different people.

  11. JohnH says:

    May I ask for help with “takes off” (with “it”) as BOOKS, in the NYT?

    Others have raised some dubious clues, and I have to agree, but not too bad all told.

  12. JohnH says:

    A lot in the WSJ didn’t work well for me, such as ARS for R’s and (goodness) URAEUSES, which also happen to cross. But what threw me most was the title, By the Nvmbers. Since my first themer to fall was VALLEY GIRLS, it had me thinking that the theme phrases would delete a V. Still can’t really explain what that misspelling is getting at.

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