Saturday, May 13, 2023

LAT 3:30 (Stella) 


Newsday 15:09 (pannonica) 


NYT 6:06 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Matt F)  


USA Today 2:07 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Spencer Leach’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 5 13 23, no. 0513

Let’s get right into it!

Fave fill: SRIRACHA, SPACETIME, PROMO CODE, HEADDESK, ENBIES (enby aka NB, aka nonbinary), DROPS A HINT, DENIECE Williams (she’s clued as a soul singer but also has an R&B/pop hit I like), PRIDE PARADES (next month, people! 🏳️‍🌈), SAT SCORES, SIMON SAYS, BORED TO DEATH (tried TO TEARS first), and a GAP YEAR.

I’ve seen some climbing documentaries and such, but didn’t know 1A. [Fingertips-only rock-climbing grip], CRIMP. Also didn’t know the T. Swift song BETTY.

You know me—I could do without overlaps like I DIG / I GOTCHA.

Like the HUMOR and RUMOUR clues and the whimsy of one US spelling crossing one Commonwealth spelling. A literary FITB for the former: 14A. [“___ can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process”: E. B. White]. And contemporary slang in the latter: 2D. [Bit of tea, to Brits],  tea being gossip.

Four stars from me.

“Universal Freestyle 72” by Shannon Rapp – Matt F’s write up

Universal Solution 05.13.23

Its a themeless from one of our very own, Shannon Rapp! Let’s get into it.

Shannon’s construction chops are on full display in today’s puzzle. The fill is clean, and long slots are put to good use. Exactly what a solver wants from a good themeless puzzle.


There’s a lot to love in this puzzle, and in typical Universal fashion we have a lot of straightforward clues for some of the sparkly fill, like HIBACHI (1A), LOVE-HATE (9D), LAST CHANCE (11A), BEST SHOT (24A), HOT STONE (44A). Here are some standout clue/entry pairs I enjoyed:

  • 11D – [Start a nursing session] = LATCH. I appreciate a clue like this that doesn’t shy away from breastfeeding/infant care.
  • 56A – [2021 video game made only for cooperative play] = IT TAKES TWO. This was a nice, niche clue that gamers will appreciate, and my surface-level take is it looks like a really fun platform-adventure game. I’d love to hear thoughts from someone who’s played it!
  • 59A – [“Sounds like a you problem”] = NO ONE CARES. Now, I appreciate a good flippant clue for a flippant entry, and I think these phrases are generally parallel, but the clue could easily be interpreted as, “Not my concern,” or something more first-person in nature. This slight misdirection is actually what makes the clue stand out for me.
  • 61A – [Settled into a cuddle puddle] = NESTLED. Cuddle puddle is such a mushy phrase! I don’t think I’d actually say it out loud, but I appreciate the imagery presented by this clue.

Fun Fact:

HALSEY (1D) is an anagram of the singer’s given name, Ashley. The poem she recited at the Women’s March in 2018, as clued in this puzzle, is definitely worth a listen.

Thanks for the puzzle, Shannon!

Rich Norris’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 5/13/23 by Rich Norris

Los Angeles Times 5/13/23 by Rich Norris

Here’s how my solve went: Struggle bus in the NW; move on to the SW, don’t do a whole lot better there; look up at byline and realize why this is so hard; move along more smoothly, but not super fast, on the right side; come back to the left; finish the job; expect to see a time in the 5-minute range but it’s only three and a half. Life is a roller coaster sometimes.

An unusual touch I noticed: certain bits of trivia were clued not-so-straightforwardly. For example, Carl CZERNY, whose name you likely don’t know unless you’ve taken piano lessons at some point, is clued as [Pupil of Beethoven] rather than with any mention of a piano. 25D GREEN JACKET is [Prize that may need to be altered if a player wins it again], which requires that one know enough about golf to know that the winner of the Masters tournament is rewarded with one. (And let’s be real: I do not know enough about golf to have known that, but I do know enough about fashion.)

I was touched to see MERL Reagle at 23A. I had a good cry re-watching Wordplay after he died, and I recommend a re-watch if you were around during that ACPT era. There are so many friends we’ve lost whom you can bring back to life again for a brief moment during the film.

Rich’s generation shows in cluing ZERO TO HERO as [Process of dramatic character change]; I think anyone my age or younger is cluing that with reference to the song from Disney’s Hercules. I enjoyed clues like [Things that are worth looking into?] for MIRRORS and [Six-pack contents?] for ABS.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Get On It!” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 5/13/23 • Sat • “Get On It!” • Burnikel • solution • 20230513

For this puzzle’s theme, we have two-word phrases in which the first word ends in -ON, and those phrases are segmented into three-word phrases with a new, central preposition: ON.

  • 22a. [Stunning success at a hackathon] COUP ON CODES.
  • 27a. [Make preserves for live TV?] CAN ON CAMERAS. {72d [Olympus rival] NIKON.}
  • 57a. [Outcome of dropping the cruise tickets overboard?] SEAS ON PASSES.
  • b [Gravitational force at the prom?] DRAG ON DANCES.
  • 100a. [Brooks’ take about NBA players?] MEL ON BALLERS.
  • b [Dog addicted to some pork cuts?] MUTT ON CHOPS. {18a [Pickled pork trimmings] SOUSE – new to me.}
  • 35d. [Tail motion when hearing some Dogg songs?] WAG ON TRACKS. {6a [Drop from a band] ALBUM.}
  • 41d. [“More dedication to execution, please!”?] LESS ON PLANS.

These are … strained, for the most part. I do appreciate the consistency of them all being plurals, which strikes me as an adaptation during the construction process, to achieve appropriate lengths in the grid.

  • 9d [Be cautious] USE CARE.
  • 15d [Animal that allows only one half of its brain to sleep at a time] b. I feel that this factette is more well-known  among laypeople about dolphins, but of course orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family.
  • More faunal knowledge! 101d [Only birds with calf muscles] EMUS. I was unaware of that.
  • 31d [Burmese greeting] MEOW, crossing 50a [Crow’s cry] CAW, and both are near 33d [Crows] BRAGS.
  • 75d [The German Schwarzbier, e.g.] DARK LAGER. The name is literally ‘black beer’.
  • 24a [Contest for three-year-olds] HORSE RACE. As the events surrounding the recent Kentucky Derby highlighted (again), horse racing is an extraordinarily inhumane, rapacious industry.
  • 36a [Badger or hound] PESTER. And of course a badger-hound would be a dachshund.
  • 68a [Lose the lead?] ERASE. That’s a short-e lead.
  • 113a [Hot shot?] NUDE SCENE. Not sure that ‘hot’ is the proper adjective here, so I guess that question mark is doing some extra lifting.
  • 119a [Props for plays] TONYS. Nice clue to end things with.

Okay puzzle, but it felt every inch of a 21×21 grid as I bushwhacked my way through it.

Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s wriite-up

Newsday • 5/13/23 • Saturday Stumper • Sewell • solution • 20230513

Am surprised by how swiftly this one yielded, although it was a good omen that the first across answer was a gimme.

  • 1a [Sheet used by Greek bakers] FILO. I mean, what else could it be?
  • Similarly, the next clue was a familiar one, a minor misdirection: 5a [Good fighter] EVIL.
  • 16a [Significant change] RARE COINS. Took a bit to see the play here.
  • 18a [Scientist honored by Napoleon] VOLTA. 1d [Measure named for an Einstein idol] FARAD.
  • 19a [Many people call on them] ANDROIDS. More minor trickery. Brings me to my last bit of fill: 43d [Devices within cellphones] MODEMS. Did not know that; crossed by 42a [Where to buy Gold to Go] ATM, which I don’t understand and suspect I don’t want to know about.
  • 22a [Informal inclination indication] WANNA. Tried SORTA first. Or was it KINDA?
  • 24a [PD data] MOS. Police department / modi operandi.
  • 33a [Pigeon cousin] DODO. Flirted with DOVE.
  • 40a [Smaller size treats] SNAX. I believe the ‘smaller size’ of the clue refers to the shorter word length of the cutesy homophone.
  • 41a [Country code on some EU plates] IRL. Of course I tried ITA first.
  • 54a [Dispreferred] FROWNED ON. 21a [Forswears] DISOWNS.
  • 55a [Divisive device in the theater] SCRIM. Because of crossings in place, I knew it couldn’t be AISLE, which I would hesitate to describe as a ‘device’ anyway.
  • 57a [Prefix meaning “song”] MELO-. As, obviously, seen in melody. My Greek and Latin root reference gives several disparate senses for the Greek melo-: a limb; the cheeks; a prober; a song; an apple, fruit; a sheep. Interesting, huh?
  • 58a [Soft hail] PSST. Was surprised when my hunch turned out correct!
  • 60a [Rise and shine] SOAR. Great clue, my favorite of the puzzle.
  • 2d [Gig for an “Argo” extra] IRANI. I didn’t understand the clue during the solve, though I certainly recognized the film referenced. I get it now, but don’t really like it.
  • 5d [Strategy for greens in the market] ECO INVESTING. One of those clues that only makes sense after you have the answer, or most of the answer.
  • 7d [They’re there to stay] INNS. 24d [It’s there to stay] MOTEL. Fool me once.
  • 8d [Tomber dans __ pommes (faint, in France)] LES. Faint, as in pass out. The literal translation of the phrase is ‘falling in the apples’.
  • 11d [Round tab] ANTE. As in a round of dealing, I’m supposing.
  • 35d [Green sign often seen with a distance] NEXT EXIT. Intuiting this answer greatly helped my rapid completion of the grid.
  • 36d [Literary adjustment from past narratives] RETCON, a portmanteau of retroactive continuity.
  • 47d [State sport of Wyoming] RODEO. Took an embarrassingly long time to get this answer.

I guess I’m slightly disappointed in how pliable this Stumper was, despite the ego boost it provided.


Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword, “Info Dumping”—Matthew’s recap

Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword solution, “Info Dumping,” 5/13/2023

Many apologies for not keeping to my schedule lately — we’re moving this summer and it’s been a good bit more challenging than past moves. I expect I should be more on the right track beginning this weekend.

Today’s puzzle has INFO in down-running themers — a convenient letter string for colorful entries, IMO!

4d [Earth’s oldest living ecosystems] RAINFORESTS
7d [“Ooo, trouble’s a-comin’, pal!”] YOU’RE IN FOR IT NOW
9d [Art form often seen displayed on fancy dining tables] NAPKIN FOLDING

I’m not sure if INNER MONOLOGUES (61a [Internal narratives that a viral 2020 article reported some people don’t have] is another themer, but it certainly has the placement and clue structure of a revealer. Just not clicking for me. But a smooth grid and pleasant click on the theme. Enjoy your weekend!

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28 Responses to Saturday, May 13, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: PRIDE PARADES was nice fill (and cleverly clued), but not every city celebrates Pride in June. Austin, where I live, waits until August — because, you know, it’s too hot in Texas to do it in June.

    Fun puzzle. The fill felt really fresh. I had fewer gimmes than I often do, but I made some lucky guesses and worked the crosses to solve it quicker than I usually do on Saturday.

  2. Gary R says:

    NYT: Fun puzzle with lots of good fill. Much quicker solve for me than the typical Saturday, but I enjoyed it just the same.

    Question about 18-D – are SAT SCORES typically part of a high school transcript? When I graduated (many years ago) my transcript was just a list of courses taken, grades earned, and an overall GPA. SAT (or in my case, ACT) scores were something separate.

    • Eric H says:

      The comments on Wordplay suggest that while SAT scores are typically not included on a student’s transcript, some states allow schools to include them. That saves the student the trouble and expense of having ETS send the scores to colleges.

      • Me says:

        I didn’t love cluing SAT SCORES as being part of the high school transcript. It’d be interesting to talk to Will Shortz and his team about it. It seems that it’s pretty unusual for states to allow this. Yes, it’s Saturday, but I don’t think it’s tricky wordplay to have a clue that’s not accurate for 80% of states. My guess is that it was a sloppy clue, that the cluewriter grew up in one of the allowed states and no one else on the team noted it.

        • Dallas says:

          I agree; transcript would be grades only in most states, and SAT scores are provided by an outside group (ETS). A bit sloppy, but the crossings all made it work okay.

        • JohnH says:

          I didn’t care for it either. Overall, not a hard Saturday, but I got really stuck in the NW and nearby center into the SW. I immediately entered “a poem “for what Auden must be talking about and, from its P, “spotta” for Brits on tea. Not having heard of ENBIES and seeing the B from CAB FARE, I quickly started entering “LGBTQ’s,” and with all that I was in deep trouble, especially as I didn’t know SUI, DENIECE, HEAD DESK, or STOCK in this sense (which I still don’t understand). I like the puzzle, but all that was still not good for me.

  3. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper: two spots did me in at the end.
    – Left: Tried LED and FED before OKD.
    – Bottom: Tried METE and DATE before SITE.

  4. David L says:

    NYT: similar solving time to yesterday, with no real holdups. I have a question about ‘bit of tea’ for RUMOUR: has that particular slangy expression crossed the Atlantic? Also, ‘4-d mathematical model of the universe’ for SPACETIME is not how I would define it, but given the NYT’s usual laxity with science-related clues it’ll do.

    Stumper was not too stumpery, although there was one square I had to guess at: MOS/MOTEL. I didn’t know what ‘PD data’ referred to and the down answer could be motel or hotel. I guessed MOS meant ‘months’ and it turned out to be right for the wrong reason.

    • Eric H says:

      The “to Brits” was only to alert us to the spelling of RUMOUR, though it wouldn’t surprise me if “tea” in the sense of “gossip” has spread to the UK.

    • Jim says:

      I jumped right on TESSERACT for 29A, reinforced by EMTS for 30D, only to be stymied by the cross for 28D (Sammy the Owl).

    • JohnH says:

      For this former physics major at a competitive school, who taught himself special relativity in high school and general relativity for an independent paper college junior year, and who took the grad course in relativity with J. A. Wheeler, I really liked the SPACETIME clue and don’t see anything wrong with it at all. If it’s not a way to model the real world that requires four dimensions, what is it?

  5. AmandaB says:

    Loved the NYT puzzle today! Right up my alley in terms of clues. I love smooth solves where I’m not totally stumped but they aren’t too easy.

  6. marciem says:

    NYT: 49d: Leave in the dust = lose?
    I thought winners left the losers in the dust, in a race. What am I missing ? That was my most reluctant but needed fill.

    Otherwise, fun puzzle. Went more smoothly for me than a lot of Sat NYTs.

  7. Teedmn says:

    Yes, an “easy” Stumper today, which means it took me less than an hour. My hold-up was overthinking 35D’s clue to imagine it was a sign on a golf course green. (I don’t golf so…)

  8. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ … Shouldn’t the clue for APS be “Univ. prep courses” (or something like that) instead of “H.S. prep course”? They aren’t high school prep courses, are they? It’s been a very long time sine I was in high school, so maybe the way schools use this term has changed in the last 46 years. I think AP classes were just coming into being in my school system back then.

    • Bill in SoCal says:

      I agree!

    • jefe says:

      They’re prep courses taken *in* high school, not *for* high school.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Yes, yes. I know that college prep courses are generally taken in high school (i.e. before college) … but I don’t recall ever hearing them referred to as “high school prep courses”. Again, I’m certainly open to the possibility that the terminology has changed in the 46 years since I graduated from high school, but the wording of that clue just seems wrong to me.

        • JohnH says:

          Yes, it’s a peculiar clue. Not only does one speak instead of college prep (which is why fancy high schools call themselves prep school), but one never sees “high school prep” as a term at all. I guess that leaves it open to decide what you want it to mean, but that’s scant relief.

          Googling for college prep comes up with a site with claim to authority, the College Board, and sure it uses the page for advice on preparing for college. If one wants to assign “high school prep” a meaning by analogy, it’d have to be preparing for admission to competitive high schools! Other hits are for high schools boasting of their preparation for college.

          Googling for high school prep comes up with “high school test prep,” which includes sample tests as prep for exams like the SATs and (yes) APs. But that’s not the same as taking those courses. (Over all, I’m finding the WSJ long and tedious.)

  9. Eric H says:

    WSJ: “101d [Only birds with calf muscles] EMUS. I was unaware of that.” I saw virtually the same clue in another puzzle in the last week or so. Weird how that happens.

    I agree that the theme answers are a bit forced. The fill was fine, but I felt like I was just typing stuff in without really thinking about it.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I saw that in Wikipedia but didn’t find solid enough support for that elsewhere. Really wanted to use that as a fresh EMU clue but it didn’t pass editorial muster with me.

  10. milobela says:

    NYT: The clue for SRIRACHA isn’t technically wrong…there is a Thai sauce called “sriracha.” But in actual usage in US, “sriracha” almost exclusively refers to the classic Vietnamese sriracha sauce by Huy Fong Foods, with the green tip and rooster logo.

    Nitpick of all nitpicks, but that clue tripped me up.

    • Eric H says:

      Thanks! I’ve seen the Huy Fong Foods stuff in restaurants, and I didn’t think it was Thai. But since SRIRACHA seemed to fit m that’s what I put in.

    • MarkAbe says:

      Wow, good point. It slipped by me because I first tasted Sriracha in a Thai restaurant!

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