Saturday, May 27, 2023

LAT ?? (Stella) 


Newsday 18:54 (pannonica) 


NYT 11:45 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Matt F)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Samuel Smalley’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 5 27 23, no. 0527

Well! On my solving scale, this one took me longer than most Sat NYTs or Mon New Yorkers, right up there at Stumper level. And this was on 9 hours of sleep! I just wasn’t tuning in to Samuel’s wavelength.

Got off to a bad start with 7a. [Bit of marathon attire]? Probably SINGLET, let’s check a crossing. 7d, SRS works, great! Not so fast, Amy. Yes. my husband’s a marathoner, and yes, he’s got a stack of RACE BIBs he’s kept as mementos.


Not entirely sold on these as idiomatic enough to pass muster: NARROW GAP (spelunkers, weigh in), BIG NO-NOS, IN HI-DEF. Do these work for you?

Fresh clue vibes here: 14a. [New Year’s Day, informally], ONE/ONE. Nobody ever, ever spells that out, but it’s better than my first attempt of JAN ONE.

Four stars from me.

Tom Pepper and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 5/27/23 by Tom Pepper and C.C. Burnikel

Los Angeles Times 5/27/23 by Tom Pepper and C.C. Burnikel

Some fun stuff in this themeless, particularly some of the clever cluing for shorter entries, which can often feel like throwaways in a low-word-count puzzle:

  • 5A [Had kittens] is BRED. I appreciated the misdirect, because of course “had kittens” leads one to think of the idiomatic “got mad” sense of the phrase, but in this case it’s straightforward.
  • 17A [Wreath that may be stored in a fridge] feels like a new angle for that old chestnut LEI.
  • 21A [Places to find temples and bridges] is FRAMES. Get it? Glasses frames!
  • 36A [Puts on the line] wants to be RISKS, but it’s BAITS, as in a fishing line.
  • 38A [Apt rhyme for “quake”], on the other hand, I thought was way too easy a clue for Saturday for SHAKE, since, after all, it gives away the majority of the letters even if you don’t know the answer.
  • 1D [Fat with a very high smoke point] is GHEE. I bet this was C.C.’s clue, as she is all about the food references. Also, at a common starting point of the puzzle, in a clue with the equally plausible entry of LARD, the ambiguity is appropriate for Saturday.
  • 5D [Nonstarters] is a nice clue for B-TEAM.
  • 7D [Basic solutions] looks like it could be about chemistry, but instead it’s EASY FIXES.
  • 10D [Complex protest?] is a clever clue for RENT STRIKE, as in a protest that happens at an apartment complex.
  • 28D [Exercise that works the upper body] is a TRICEP DIP, and of course I am always here for a strength training reference.
  • 34D [Noise before a break-in] Again, that’s more thought in the clue than a word like AHEM usually gets.

I somehow didn’t save the time the puzzle took me when I originally wrote this post, but I think it might’ve been in the low 3s.

Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Money Back Guarantee” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 5/27/23 • Sat • “Money Back Guarantee” • Larson, Ensz • solution • 20230527

Phrases whose final word (the ‘back’) is also a denomination of money.

  • 24a. [Money for comedy club tickets?] ROARING TWENTIES. Entertained audiences ROAR with laughter. {8d [Triumph at the comedy club] SLAY.}
  • 46a. [Money for malt liquor?] FORTY FIVES. Forty ounces is a standard size for malt liquor.
  • 67a. [Money for dreidels?] TOP TENS.
  • 87a. [Money for songs?] NUMBER ONES.
  • 113a. [Money for Ivan IV?] THE TERRIBLE TWOS.
  • 5d. [Money for cough lozenges?] DROPS DIMES. In old parlance, when you ratted on someone you ‘dropped a dime’ (in the pay telephone) on them to call the police or some other authority figure. Two concerns: I feel the phrase needs the indefinite article; and does this idiom still have <ahem> currency?
  • 16d. [Money for cleaners?] MAID’S QUARTERS.
  • 55d. [Money for a stiff drink?] DOUBLE NICKELS. So it seems that double nickel was slang for the 55 mph national speed limit? Did not know that.
  • 75d. [Money for a Michael Jackson album?] BAD PENNIES. It was his number one record from 1987.

Some stretches among them, but the theme certainly holds together.

Theme-adjacent: 32d [Costs as much as] RUNS TO, 121a [Costs as much as] TOTALS. Plus several entries involving payments and the like, which I won’t list here.

  • 67d [Easily broken] TAMABLE. Not a fan of the ‘breaking’ framing as a practice, for our animal cousins.. I understand that there are more humane methods available.
  • 29a [Places where many lives are lost every day] ARCADES. Also seems obsolescent. Is there a resurgence that I’m unaware of?
  • 44a [Home of the Fatima Masumeh Shrine] QOM. I kinda sorta knew this?
  • 59a [It comes from the heart] AORTA. 22a [Org. whose original trustees included Peck, Poitier and Coppola] AFI, the American Film Institute.
  • 69a [ASL translator, in slang] TERP, seemingly from interpreter. Makes a change from the shortened form of whichever college sports team is the Terrapins.
  • 73a [Phoenix specialty] REBIRTH. 9d [Achilles, e.g.] HERO. 25d [Atlas feature] INSET (oops).
  • 81a [School administrator, disparagingly] EDUCRAT. New to me, but easily guessable. Especially with a few letters in place.
  • 85a [Marino in the Pro Football Hall of Fame] DAN. 2d [San Marino, e.g.] ENCLAVE.
  • 96a [Birds’ class] AVES. One of these days I wouldn’t mind seeing 14d [Makes of Aspire PCs] ACER clued as the maple tree genus. I would think that’s what was done—if it was used at all—in the years before the home computer era.
  • 97a [John on the court] MCENROE. Okay, this seems like such an open-ended clue, but I was able to get the answer almost reflexively. Are there no other famous tennis players named John??

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

Newsday • 5/27/23 • Saturday Stumper • Mossberg • solution • 20230527

This one felt as if it was kicking my butt the whole time, but I somehow managed to finish it in a respectable time. Part of it, I think, is that my brain wanted to disengage—I wasn’t really in a solving mood.

Believe it or not, I believe I wouldn’t have solved it so quickly had I not taken a chance in guessing the missing word in the Spanish equivalent to ‘make hay while the sun shines’: Al buen DÍA ábrele la puerta (52d).

In the same area, it also helped that I’m familiar with the term HAPTICS (47a [Touch technology]), which allowed me to correct 49d [Whittle away] from IDLE to the more literal PARE.

  • 11a [They’re tops for some musicians] HOODIES. Kind of random.
  • 14a [Leaves in a box] LOOSE TEA. Oh, this one fooled me good.
  • 17a [Spanish guy “born of fire”] IGNACIO. Yes that makes sense now that I’ve been pointed to it.
  • 22a [Brewer’s plant] HOP. Not usually seen in the singular.
  • All three of the long central entries are really good, with tough clues as well: 28a [High-tech plants] HIDDEN CAMERAS, 32a [Sidewalk café patron, perhaps] PEOPLE WATCHER (this was the easiest of the bunch), 34a [Rigid reminder] RULES ARE RULES.
  • 37a [Botanical branches] RAMI. Also the name for the posterior areas of the mandible (singular: ramus) that rise to meet the maxilla.
  • 45a [One playing through multiple rounds] BAR BAND. The ‘one’ is rather misleading here.
  • 1d [What a host may be asked for] BOOTH. Was thinking more of a party host than a maître d’.
  • 6d [French fashion] DERNIER CRI, which translates literally to ‘last cry’, i.e., the latest thing.
  • 12d [Word near Suez on an Egyptian map] SAID, neatly avoiding duplication with 35d [Remarks] SAYS.
  • 21d [Main engagements] SEA WARS, not SEWERS (which doesn’t fit anyway).
  • 24d [24th century teakettle] REPLICATOR. This is Star Trek technology, I believe. Another stretchy clue.
  • 31d [Contrariness] SELF-WILL. Did not know of this construction, but it’s in m-w.
  • 33d [Tighten up, perhaps] RELACE.
  • 43d [Sphere sliced for snacking] EDAM. Again, kind of random. Or at least overly vague.
  • 40d [Stop order] CAN IT. 18d [Encouraging words] GO GET ’EM.

Good workout and I’m very glad it’s over!

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35 Responses to Saturday, May 27, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Amy, if you did that in 1:45 on little sleep, I hate to think how fast you would be if you were well-rested.

    It felt Stumper-hard/old NYT Saturday (a/k/a Rich Norris) hard, but I finished about a minute faster than my Saturday average. Lots of vague but fair clues. Lots of “throw something in and see what happens” solving.

    I wasn’t so happy to see TOTES ADORBS — it’s so cute it makes my skin crawl — but I got it off the ——RBS, so I shouldn’t complain.

    • dh says:

      1:45 – really? Just as a test I re-did the puzzle in Across Lite knowing all the answers and filling in the across clues only. It was like a typing-test, and it still took me 2:15.

      • Milo says:

        Yeah, clearly a digit missing there. Maybe Amy just asked ChatGPT to solve it while she got that ninth hour of sleep!

        This is a solid and enjoyable puzzle, all the more impressive for being a teen’s debut. Not sure what’s going on with all the sub-3 ratings. Sour grapes?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Whoops, I meant 11:45.

      @dh: There are a number of folks who solve easier puzzles in under 2 minutes, so faster than your typing. Not Saturday NYTs, though, I don’t think!

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks, Amy. That makes me feel better about my time (under 20 minutes, but not by a lot).

  2. Greg says:

    A perfect Saturday puzzle. I initially had that “Uh-oh, this is really hard” feeling. Then I ventured a few guesses, built on those, and eventually it succumbed. Clever clues, really good fill. An amazing debut for anyone, let alone a 17-year-old.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Love GINS UP! Along with DAD JOKES, a great NW corner! RACE BIB took a long time to emerge, and I had PEAK hourS instead of PEAK TIMES, which made that lion horNY instead of TAWNY.
    LAB WASTE took an embarrassingly long time. I had WASTE but wanted something more specific, toxic or radioactive or something that wouldn’t fit…
    It all got fixed eventually and finished faster than typical Saturday time.
    I agree, great debut!

  4. rtaus says:

    LAT- As a YALIE, I took biochemistry from Joan Steitz. I loved seeing her recognized today. I’ve always thought she’d have gotten a Nobel if her husband didn’t have one.

  5. David L says:

    I got the NE corner quickly and thought the puzzle would be a breeze — and then I slowed down, going clockwise, and spent most of my time in the NW. I had COOKIE at 1D for a long time, and SONIA for the (unknown to me) actress, so it took a while to untangle everything. Good puzzle.

    (I can’t decide whether I’m happy or sad to see WOAH — I guess we just have to accept it as an alternative spelling now).

    • AmandaB says:

      I’m with you on WOAH. I hate it but now see it everywhere, especially among the younger folk. Much prefer WHOA.

      NYT took me forever. NARROWGAP and TOTESADORBS killed me dead. Also STAGY??

      • Eric H says:

        What’s wrong with STAGY? (I’ll admit I first thought of edible “hams,” leading me to have SaltY for far too long.)

        • Gary R says:

          I considered the acting meaning of “ham,” but STAGY was unfamiliar to me. So, with the “S” and “Y” in place I tried “salty” for a while and then tried “smoky.” Only got STAGY when all the other crosses went in.

  6. MattF says:

    NYT was very tough for me. Few footholds at the start, then managed to fill in the four corners, leaving a big blank space in the middle. 20D was the breakthrough entry for the middle, and so on to the finish.

  7. David L says:

    Stumper: I don’t understand 24D and 30D, and it’s unclear what the clue for 54A is getting at. Par for the course, I guess.

    • pannonica says:

      24-down is mentioned in my write-up. 30d is using ‘vehicle’ idiomatically, as in a medium for racing. I agree that the ‘essentially’ in 54a’s clue is a bit weird.

      • David L says:

        I’m not a Star Trek person so I would have thought a replicator is a machine you might use to create an item of obsolete technology, such as a teakettle. Then again, why wouldn’t there be teakettles in the 24th C to begin with?

        Also, pursuant to yesterday’s geometrical discussion, an EDAM is not a sphere but a truncated sphere, ie with the polar regions sliced off. Alternatively, you could think of as the shape made by rotating an oval racetrack (not strictly speaking an oval) about its short axis.

        For the mineral clue, I wasn’t sure whether it was going for a geological or dietary reference. Works in either case, I guess, after a fashion.

        ‘Vehicles’ in the clue for MARATHONS is stretched beyond reason, IMO.

        • Pilgrim says:

          See the last two sentences of this article:

        • Gary R says:

          Re: 54-A, I took this to be referring to salt as an “essential MINERAL,” nutritionally.

          • David L says:

            As I understand it, the essential mineral is sodium, and salt is obviously a common way of getting it. But salt per se is not a dietary mineral.

            On the other hand, solid salt can be a geological mineral, as in salt beds and caverns.

            I’m being somewhat picky, but the laxity of Stumper cluing frequently bugs me.

            • Gary R says:

              As I understand it, there are a bunch of “essential minerals,” including sodium, chloride and potassium. We generally ingest these as sodium chloride (table salt), potassium chloride, sodium carbonate or potassium carbonate – each of which is considered a “salt,” in chemical terms.

              So, I think this works okay for a Stumper clue/answer.

  8. Milo says:

    LAT: Chewier than most recent Saturdays — I’m a fan! One quibble on YALIE. That’s a term applied to alums as well as current students, unless I’m mistaken. So “Cory Booker, once” doesn’t really work. Likely meant as a misdirect for MAYOR, which is what I wanted there. I’ll leave TRICEP DIP to the s/no s partisans to hash out. :-)

  9. dh says:

    I didn’t think “Narrow Gap” was idiomatic – I took it as face value and could easily see it as a challenge for a spelunker. “I’d like to keep going, but I’m not sure I can get through that narrow gap”. I had no problem with “Big No-No” or “In Hi Def” except that I had “HIDE” in there for a while, and I spent too long trying to think of a way to say “not hidden”.

  10. RichardZ says:

    Re today’s Stumper:

    I was also puzzled by 24D. This page goes into a bit more detail:

    Regarding 52D, I arrived at the answer strictly via the crossing entries, as I don’t speak Spanish. On a lark, I entered the phrase into Google Translate, and it came back with “Open the door to the good day.” If the clue is accurate (and perhaps a fluent Spanish speaker can weigh in), Google Translate has a ways to go before it can handle idiomatic expressions.

  11. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper: how are HOODIES related to musicians?

  12. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT … Am I alone in the LAST OF US/FUNKO Natick pool? Argh.

  13. PJ says:

    WSJ – Dropping dimes is basketballese for making an outstanding pass that leads directly to a basket.

    97a – I entered MCENROE pretty quickly even though law and basketball are court options.

  14. Eric H says:

    Stumper: Kind of yucky in places. HOP? When is that ever used in the singular? HOODIE? OK, but people other than musicians wear them, too. EDAM is a sphere? RAMI is just the worst kind of crosswordese.

    I spent too long on this and ended up checking a bunch of stuff anyway. I can’t say I much enjoyed it.

    I did like the clever clue for ADORABLE.

  15. adrian johnson says:

    universal review? :)

  16. Jack2 says:

    WSJ. I’m thinking “fortyfives” references one of the original malt liquors, “Colt 45.” IMO, horrible stuff!

    • pannonica says:

      That would be using the ‘fives’ part twice, unlike all the other theme answers. I stand by my 40-ounce interpretation.

    • JohnH says:

      I assumed that, too, so (as pannonica points out) I was bound to object to the clue as not consistent with others. But the interpretation of it as simply “forty” isn’t satisfying either. I know it doesn’t matter at some level that, say Bud Light also comes in 40 ounces, but it’s still awkward.

      As pannonica also points out, someone might not make sense of DROPS DIMES and DOUBLE NICKELS. That includes me, and I was going to say I’m old enough to remember pay phones quite well but never heard the phrase. So I’m grateful to another comment giving it another interpretation I didn’t recognize either.

      Overall, I found it a blah theme in a puzzle filled with really trite fill and some clues working too hard for originality. Say, you’d never talk of “costs as much as” to mean, well, simply costs. The phrase is used, as far as I know, only in comparing other costs — to mean, say, that the one at hand is out of line.

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