Saturday, July 15, 2023

LAT 2:45 (Stella) 


Newsday untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 6:22 (Amy) 


Universal tk (norah)  


USA Today 2:13 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 7/15/23 – no. 0715

We get a puzzle with left-right symmetry for our Saturday crossword, lots of open space.

Fave fill: TAKE CENTER STAGE (this is an entry that’s supposed to be in row 8, obviously), EXPLICIT CONTENT (tricky clue: [Record label], but it’s a label stuck on a record album rather than the company putting out the records), CASE-INSENSITIVE, MILLE-feuille pastry because pastry, SCREW CAPS on wine, ALEX HALEY, OIL PASTELS (man, I loved Cray-Pas as a kid! That classic oil pastel scent and greasiness somehow felt like art. I was instantly gripped by a desire to buy a set of oil pastels tonight … until I asked myself what I would do with them and had no answer), AMERICAN LIT, DIRT ROAD, MAIN EVENT, “I BETTER GO.”

I got ARTEMISIA easily with the clue, [Plant genus named after the Greek goddess of nature], despite not knowing Artemis is the goddess of nature. Don’t know the plants at all, though. (Absinthe!) Would have preferred an art clue about painter Artemisia Gentileschi.

Wordplay-nerd clue: 36A. [Item that can be described by changing its last letter to a P], SHARD.

Four stars from me.

Alex Eaton-Salners’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “Members Only” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 7/15/23 • Sat • “Members Only” • Eaton-Salners • solution • 20230715

Selected letters, read left to right, in certain phrases spell out something belonging to the group described. They all share the same generic clue, to wit: [The circled letters, e.g.]. This practice adds a layer of difficulty.

  • 64a. ODD NUMBER, ONE.

These are pretty good finds.

  • 36d [Self-assured sparkle] ÉLAN. Interesting clue choice.
  • 38d [Unionizes, in a way] WEDS. 40d [Yoked pair] OXEN.
  • 49d [Ribs unit] SLAB. Seems a bit … crude?
  • 73d [Capital on the Akerselva River] OSLO, 86d [Capital on the Rideau River] OTTAWA, 67a [Capital on the Red River] HANOI.
  • 81d [Unqualified] ABSOLUTE. Terse misdirection. Similarly: 87d [Cast] HEAVED.
  • 12a [Aptly named aquatic bug] TOE-BITER, family Belostomatidae.
  • 27a [Debate position] CON. 58d [Debate position] PRO.
  • 30a [Retail brokers and small investors, e.g.] SELL SIDE. New term on me.
  • 38a [Bookmaker?] WRITER. 33a [Prepped for print] EDITED. 42d [Book reviewer?] AUDITOR.
  • 93d [Island north of Java] BORNEO. Including this only to report that I had a ridiculous mental block for this, which I should have known instantly.
  • 103a [River to the Gulf of Guinea] NIGER. Surprisingly not clued with reference to Niamey, the capital city of the namesake country.

Overall I thought the crossword was solid but not too exciting. The theme to me has a sort of “look what I found” demonstrative quality.

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

Newsday • 7/15/23 • Saturday Stumper • Mossberg • solution • 20230715

Untimed because I accidentally paused the timer at some point during the solve. Suffice to say that it took a long time. I was unprepared for such a difficult workout this morning!

Very stumpery set of clues. Too many to reproduce here, so just a few notables:

  • 14a [Go over well] SCOUR. Toyed with OCCUR.
  • 21a [Cry for] LAMENT. Unexpectedly direct, a double-fakeout.
  • 36a [Rustic jam] HOOTENANNY.
  • 54a [Be stingy] SMART. That’s read with a hard-g.
  • 58a [With 45 Down, hardly a personal preference] PET | PEEVE. Y’know, my time would have been marginally faster had I not persisted in misreading this as ‘personal reference’.
  • 1d [Galaxy cluster] APPS. Took far too long for me to entertain the notion that this was referring to a Samsung Galaxy phone or tablet.
  • 6d [Wear thin] ANNOY. Especially tough clue.
  • 13d [Peruvian brandy cocktail] PISCO PUNCH. Pisco sour is of course the famous national drink, but it didn’t fit. And then, even after I’d managed to get the ending PUNCH, it took me quite a while to pair it with PISCO. Story of my solve—I was my own worst enemy.
  • 21d [Fennel, for instance] LEAFY GREEN. I questioned this, but defer to Wikipedia’s list of leafy greens.
  • 23d [Bit of Spanish in Hemingway’s first novel] TORO. 49d [Half of several hyphenated words in Hemingway’s first novel] BULL—I gather he hyphenates bullfight in The Sun Also Rises? It’s been a very long time since I read it. 19a [Is up] RISES.
  • 26d [Color similar to Flame Orange] NEON CARROT. Uh, ok? I guess this a Crayola® color?
  • 28d [Support for statisticians] DATA ENTRY. Bit tricky.
  • 35d [One of four anagrams for SETTERS] TESTERS. Ugh. Not my favorite genre of clue.
  • 42d [Thoroughfare bordering Yale U.] ELM ST. Eef, oof.

Very glad it’s all over!

Rachel Fabi and Rebecca Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 7/15/23 by Rachel Fabi and Rebecca Goldstein

Los Angeles Times 7/15/23 by Rachel Fabi and Rebecca Goldstein

Once again we’ve got a Saturday that puts the “gentle” in “gentle challenge,” although there’s plenty of lively vocabulary to make up for the lack of difficulty:

  • 1A [Poor, unfortunate souls] is WAIFS, which is not necessarily a “sparkly” word on its own, but just try to read that clue and not hear the song in your head.
  • 6A [Catch a ride to the beach?] is a very clever clue for SURF. After all, they never said which direction you were catching that ride from.
  • 18A [Commercial pest control?] is BODEGA CAT, and I’m delighted that this very NYC phenomenon has made it into national parlance enough to be in a mainstream puzzle.
  • 23A [Nosy one] is BUTTINSKI, which is a fun word to say although I wish there’d been some kind of a variant indicator here. The more common spelling is BUTTINSKY, and having a Y after WHAT in the crossing WHAT IS HAPPENING leads one to believe the word after WHAT must be YOU. That is extra difficulty, but of the kind that feels a little unfair.
  • 33A [Analog reminders] is a nice clue for POST-ITS. What did we do before we kept our entire lives on our phones? (I wrote reminders on POST-ITS, for sure, and also on the back of my left hand, a practice for which my husband used to make fun of me. But you lose bits of paper…you don’t lose your hand!)
  • 39A [Mule sound] is a deceptive clue for LONG U, at least if you haven’t solved the puzzle such that you have most of the crossings by the time you get to the clue. I had them, so this was merely an “oh, cute” rather than a source of difficulty.
  • 4D [Twit] is FLIBBERTIGIBBET, which is a fun word to say out loud.

Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword — Matthew’s recap

Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword solution, “A Date to the Jewish Deli (Freestyle),” 7/15/2023

This puzzle’s longest entries are all related — food items you may find at a Jewish deli — but there’s no other wordplay. I assume that’s why it’s also labeled “Freestyle.” Two small thoughts to that. First, I quite like acknowledging that a list like this is not a “theme,” per se, but it still can be a puzzle. Second, it seems that “Freestyle” is picking up steam over “Themeless,” particularly from the Andrews McMeel Universal crowd, which will soon also have puzzles in Apple News. I know some constructors in the past have preferred “Freestyle” but I’ve never understood the strong feelings. Interested if anyone wants to weigh in.

I enjoyed this grid, especially given how constrained it is to accommodate a 13-15-13 “theme” set. Not a lot of vertical room, but IT HAS TO BE [“I’m certain that’s true”] and TEACUP PIG both add plenty of color. I am always glad to have reason to think about IN N OUT, though I know it has its detractors.

One nit, and it is certainly a nit and not a large complaint: I come across this often, but I do not buy that “searing” and “scorching” (at 1-across) are synonymous *when it comes to cooking food*. I would argue that searing aims for that delicious browning of the Maillard Reaction, while *scorched* food on a grill would be more burnt – charred, you might even say.

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32 Responses to Saturday, July 15, 2023

  1. huda says:

    NYT: What a fun puzzle!
    Felt quite easy for a Saturday, likely because there were few proper nouns (which are usually my big challenge) and a lot of cool long entries. I loved that center stack:
    Makes me want a late evening snack!

    • JohnH says:

      For me it was the perfect Saturday challenge. I kept thinking, as with CASE INSENSITIVE, oh, how did I never notice that?

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: Not a lot of gimmes in this one beyond ALEX HALEY, AMI, and ALTA.* THAIS was more of an educated guess that turned out to be correct.

    POSE and CLIP both went right in and then out when the crosses didn’t play nice. I was mildly surprised that both turned out to be right.

    But a letter here, a letter there, and I was done.

    The sesame seeds joke is really silly.

    I’m very glad that Jeff Chen didn’t try to clue CASE INSENSITIVE with a reference to capital punishment, which he describes in his constructor’s notes in the Wordplay column.

    Overall, a fun and moderately challenging puzzle.

    *About a week ago, I solved a puzzle in a different publication that clued ALTA as a resort near Deer Valley. As the crow flies, that’s more or less true. But it’s a good 40 miles from ALTA to Deer Valley by road. Today’s clue passes muster because ALTA and Snowbird are both in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

  3. Me says:

    NYT: Alertness=OPENEYES isn’t “wrong,” but it doesn’t sit right from my viewpoint. Seems like it should be EYES OPEN.

    I had _ESTS for “Makes some preparations during pregnancy,” and first I put TESTS. Then RESTS. Then finally NESTS. It’s a good thing I wasn’t playing Wordle, because it could be BESTS/FESTS/GESTS/NESTS/PESTS/RESTS/TESTS/VESTS!

    • Eric H says:

      Ugh. I hate when I run into that kind of situation in Wordle. I did today, though fortunately, there weren’t more options than the number of guesses I had left.

      Preparing for the arrival of a baby has never been a part of my world, but somewhere, I read about such “nesting” behavior, so that answer was easy for me.

    • placematfan says:

      If it hasn’t occurred to you, a good solution for the abovementioned Wordle situation is a sacrifice fly: use a guess that will likely enable you to get on base with your next guess. To wit, a good play would be PRINT or BRING, to see if you can get any letter hits and also to advance the process of elimination. So, if I had ?IGHT, I would mentally list all the possibilities, pinpoint consonants that can be combined, and would likely play SWORN, which would either give me a hit or eliminate 4 out of 8 possible letters.

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks for the suggestion.

        I play in Hard Mode, which as I understand requires you to use any letters previously marked green or yellow, thus ruling out the “sacrifice fly.”

        I believe you can ditch Hard Mode in the middle of a game, but that seems to defeat the purpose.

        I have ?IGHTmares about being in that very situation.

  4. Dallas says:

    Ended up being a pretty hard Saturday for me; got the top and then was a little sad about how disconnected the top was from the bottom :-) I also had ANTS instead of COGS and IPAD instead of SIRI. PAULI and MESON fell in quick for me, at least. Satisfying puzzle in the end.

    • Eric H says:

      Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, which surprised me. (I’d have thought it was a bit earlier, especially since I have reached the age where anything I think happened 10 years ago really happened 20 years ago.)

      • sanfranman59 says:

        lol re “I think happened 10 years ago really happened 20 years ago” … I sure know that feeling!

        • Eric H says:

          I expect you do, as we’ve previously established that you and I are about the same age. (Isn’t it nice to have a Beatles song that feels like it could’ve been written for you?)

      • Dallas says:

        Haha… I *first* put in IPOD before realizing it was off and replaced with IPAD :-) So, yeah… being closer to 50 than 40 now….

  5. David L says:

    Stumper: I stared for quite some time before finding a foothold in the SW with CGI and ISAY. Completing that corner didn’t give much of an entry into the rest of the puzzle, because [something]CARROT and [something]GREEN were less than helpful. After more scratching around I hit on EBAY, YAM, RIGA and STEM, which led me to SCRIMSHAW and then CREATUREOFHABIT, and then it was slow but steady to the end.

    I don’t buy that fennel is a leafy green, contra Wikipedia — their list begins by saying that leafy greens are those consumed primarily for their leaves, which ain’t the case with FENNEL.

    I also didn’t care for ARCS as ‘go around in circles’ since an arc is by definition a fraction of a circumference.

    I had SCORE before SCOUR — as in, your fennel-infused chicken soup really scored.

    • PJ says:

      I had a similar experience with a hard cap at CGI. SLAW and WREST got me started in the NE.

      I hesitated on RISES for Is up. I felt RISEN was better and that RISES is a precursor to is up.

    • Twangster says:

      Found this one challenging and enjoyable … pleased that I managed to solve it.

      Was trying to think of Ray Charles’ duet partners and finally recalled the name of Betty Carter … which didn’t fit. Had C__O and wondered if he could have duetted with Perry Como before coming up with CLEO and LAINE.

    • Martin says:

      Fennel grows wild here in California; it just has frondy leaves and flowers. I harvest the pollen for porchetta (fennel pollen costs a small fortune commercially) and use the leaves with fish. Wild fennel has no “bulb,” so it matches the wiki definition pretty well.

      The bulb is the base of a cultivar called Florence fennel. (It’s a great name for a burlesque star but I don’t think it was used.) But even there, the bulb is just a mass of fleshy leaf bases, so I think Stan has lots of justifications for the clue. Not that a Stumper clue without rational justification is much of an issue for Stan.

    • Seth Cohen says:

      Last for me was SW, and I was slowed more by trying ShoRT for “Be stingy”, reading it with a soft g at first.

      Amazingly, I saw through the “Galaxy cluster” ruse immediately. Might be because I studied actual astronomical galaxy clusters for my PhD, so I knew there was no astro word that would possibly make sense there. APPS was my first guess of the whole puzzle, though I took it out for a while because I couldn’t confirm it.

      Once again, a Stumper that, after first pass, I had almost nothing, but somehow managed to squeak through it! Super satisfying.

    • Eric H says:

      I’m not sure how long it would have taken me had I not inadvertently seen PISCO PUNCH here on an earlier visit. With that very big help, I finished in 22+, which is not bad for me on a Stumper — especially one by Steve Mossberg.

      Like you, I’m not sure I buy fennel as a LEAFY GREEN. (Even after reading Martin’s explanation below.)

      On first glance, I thought there was almost nothing in the grid that I have never heard of. But looking further, there’s AVON and CEREAL BAR (both of which I definitely didn’t know as clued); NAOMI, who I assume is NAOMI Campbell); and finally NEON CARROT. I’m willing to accept that it exists, but I have never heard of it.

      So I have to attribute the challenges to clueing that was alternately clever or vague.

  6. Twangster says:

    Found this one challenging and enjoyable … pleased that I managed to solve it.

    Was trying to think of Ray Charles’ duet partners and finally recalled the name of Betty Carter … which didn’t fit. Had C__O and wondered if he could have duetted with Perry Como before coming up with CLEO and LAINE.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT … This one wasn’t so “gentle” for me. A 2:45 solve time? Wow, Stella! You are truly a crossword-solving phenom. We reside in very different neighborhoods of CrossWorld. I posted a Medium-Challenging solve time for me (11% above my 6-month LAT Saturday median).

    I found it to be a very enjoyable solve with lots of fun answers, but there were a bunch of clue/answer combos that were outside of my comfort zone. I’m not complaining or criticizing, mind you. I much prefer a workout with my Saturday LAT and NYT puzzles. FLIBBERTIGIBBET crossing BUTTINSKI is brilliant, though the spellings gave me fits (I fell into the ‘BUTTINSKy’ trap and assumed that 10-Down was going to be ‘WHAT you’-something).

    • Eric H says:

      If it’s any consolation, the LAT took me almost 14 minutes, which is a few minutes longer than today’s NYT took me. (I don’t always do the LAT puzzle, so I don’t have any average to compare it to.)

      I’ve accepted that my times on any puzzle are never going to be anywhere close to Stella’s or Amy’s. I’m just happy that there are one or two reviewers here that I can occasionally beat.

      FLIBBERTIGIBBET is a great word; I’m surprised to see that it goes back at least as far as Shakespeare. I was slow to get it because I read “twit” as a verb, not a noun.

      BUTTINSKI is also great. The spelling didn’t trouble me because by the time I was trying to get it, I had finally nailed down WHAT IS HAPPENING. (I was slow to commit to WHAT IS HAPPENING because that put the I in an awkward place.)

      The puzzle as a whole felt fun, with nothing that seemed particularly obscure to me. I quite enjoyed it.

  8. teedmn says:

    Stumper: Toughie as usual. CGI gave me the whole SE and I was left with NEON and LEAFY crossing NETS and came to a halt. Finally a couple of Google look-ups (I hate doing that) gave me RIGA and CLEO’s last name and confirmed my guess of MILAN and NAOMI. Before confirming NAOMI, I had both ScAnT and StinT in at 54A. Very tricky.

    I can’t believe I didn’t come up with SAP or YAM right away, so obvious now. I did like the “Starting point” clue for “from SCRATCH”.

  9. Brenda Rose says:

    If you think Stan’s Stumper was hard I dare you to try doing his Hard Puzzle for Saturday on his other site.

    In my family we scooped aioli into fennel ends (they look like a chard end as opposed to a bulb) as an appetizer. Yum. Some, like those who find cilantro soapy, can’t appreciate this truly Mediterranean savory. One person’s vegetable is another’s…

    • Seth Cohen says:

      What site?

    • bonekrusher says:

      Yes, please–what site features this “Hard Puzzle for Saturday”? I always thought his Newsday Saturdays were the hardest puzzles out there. I’d love to know if there’s something even tougher.

  10. Zev Farkas says:

    About the Universal puzzle:

    57a, Vows beneath a chuppah

    What fits in the puzzle is “IDOS”, but a chuppah (canopy) is used in a Jewish wedding (been there, done that) and vows of “I do” are not part of the ceremony.

    Otherwise, a fun puzzle. :)

  11. John+F.+Ervin says:


    I enjoyed this puzzle. My last fill was in the NE corner, as I had inked in “SOS” and had to recheck my downs before I arrived at “soB”. I grew up in NYC and never heard of a bodega cat!( but that was some time ago)
    Also FWIW, I don’t time myself, I think that takes the enjoyment out of solving.
    Re Stella’s write-up, what song is referenced by waif or sparkly?

  12. John+F.+Ervin says:

    Thanks for the reply, Pannonica

  13. John+F.+Ervin says:

    Thanks for the reply, Pannonica

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