Saturday, July 22, 2023

LAT 2:42 (Stella) 


Newsday 24:03 (pannonica) 


NYT 6:35 (Amy) 


Universal tk (norah)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Robert Logan’s New York Times crossword — Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 7 22 23, no. 0723

Quick remarks because it’s late (finally watched “Hamilton” tonight, on Disney+, 2 hours 40 minutes of Broadway).

Pretty grid!

Fave fill: CARTWHEELS, HOME REMEDIES (my biggest solving hitch was having COLD REMEDIES here … wait, is eucalyptus oil good for a stuffy nose?), DOUBLE DOG DARES, HANG-GLIDERS, SUSAN RICE, “I MET SOMEONE,” ARTS AND LETTERS, SOUL BROTHERS–practically all of the long Acrosses sing.

Never heard of LIAR’S DICE, 9D. [Game with rolling and bluffing]. Just me?

Unwelcome bits: crusty old bits of crosswordese I haven’t been seeing in crosswords in ages. EDDA! AT. WT.! LETT! Is that a reasonable price to pay for a 62-worder or a bridge too far? Good people can disagree on this.

3.8 stars from me.

Adam Aaronson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Gives and Takes” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 7/22/23 • Sat • Aaronson • “Gives and Takes” • solution • 20230722

I gather the title is to be read as “Give S and Take S”. In the thematic two-word phrases, the letter S migrates from the beginning of the second word to the end of the first.

  • 23a. [Orders a flight at the brewpub?] SAMPLES ALES (sample sales).
  • 29a. [Cuts some tiny bugs in half?] CHOPS TICKS (chop sticks, or rather chopsticks, hmm). Not even particularly strictly speaking, mites are not bugs—they’re arachnids. Taxonomically, only some insects are bugs (or true bugs), but in colloquial usage, bug can be synonymous with insect. Including arachnids is in my opinion a step too far.
  • 36a. [Inspects the contents of mine carts?] EYES ORES (eyesores, unambiguously, so hmm again. Perhaps the title isn’t as elegant as I thought? Or perhaps I’ve read too much into it?).
  • 45a. [Is on the Daily Mail politics beat?] COVERS TORIES (cover stories).
  • 64a. [Straddles some fast mammals?] RIDES HARES (rideshares, okay too much hmming. I officially rescind my take on how the puzzle’s title is to be interpreted.).
  • 66a. [Binge-eats at a Super Bowl party?] DOWNS WINGS (downswings).
  • 85a. [Slays some fairy tale villains?] KILLS WITCHES (kill switches).
  • 91a. [Gently strokes some food containers?] PETS CANS (PET scans). That’s a weird image.
  • 101a. [Throws a fit at a pie shop?] KICKS TARTS (kickstarts).
  • 110a. [Leases out some three-wheelers?] RENTS TRIKES (rent strikes).

All right, those were kind of amusing. Title boondoggle (perhaps of my own making) notwithstanding.

  • 3d [Jazz piano great Lewis] MEL? JOHN? RAMSEY. Oh right, Mel was a drummer.
  • 29d [Green “marbit” in Lucky Charms] CLOVER. Whoa whoa whoa, marbit?! Okay, I think I get it—that must be the industry term for those crusty “marshmallow” bits in breakfast cereals. Couldn’t they have come up with a better-sounding name?
  • 48d [It means “I love you” in dinosaur, per memes] RAWR. This entry has engendered consternation among commenters previously.
  • 58d [Apple product until 2006] POWERMAC, crossing 83a [Cooke with Apples] TIM.
  • 66d [Birdbrains, fittingly] DODOS. This definitely needs a question mark, because dodos were not especially unsmart. If the comparison is going in the other direction (disparagingly referring to a person as a birdbrain) it’s still pretty messy. All I’m saying is, a question mark would make these problems go away, mostly.
  • 25a [Big piece of cake] SLAB, 76a [Piece of cake] SNAP.
  • 39a [“You’re in tro-o-ouble!”] OOH. I would spell this OOO.
  • 48a [Freestyle in a cypher, e.g.] RAP. The first Google result for this sense of cypher includes this definition: “a gathering of rappers, beatboxers, and/or breakers in a circle, extemporaneously making music together. In recent years, the cypher has also grown to include the crowd and spectators who are integral to maintaining the energy of a given cypher.”
  • 53a [Painful rebuke] SLAP. 113a [“I thought we were friends,” dramatically] ET TU.
  • 56a [Lincoln memorial, of a sort] FIVER; sitting atop 61a [Julius Erving, for 11 seasons] SIXER.
  • 84a [“Up up and away” advertiser] TWA.
  • 87a [Cuban export] SUGAR. My only misstep, where I reflexively entered CIGAR.
  • 90a [Unconvincingly glib] PAT. Is this too close etymologically to the following themer, PETS CANS?
  • 104a [Sweet-talk] ENTICE, 19a [Fill with a feeling of love] ENAMOR.

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

Newsday • 7/22/23 • Saturday Stumper • Zawistowski • solution • 20230722

Very much a Stumper! Definitely thought I might not be able to complete it, but then I took a few leaps of faith when necessary and it all worked out in the end.

Started off strong and dare I say confidently? in the upper left, and ultimately limped to the finish line in the upper right.

  • 15a [All-year sport played on dirt] ARENA POLO. Not something I’d heard of, but it certainly makes sense.
  • 33a [Haydn opera] SONATINAS. I believe opera is operating here as the plural of ‘works’ rather than as the sung drama composition.
  • 35a [Symbol of proletarian solidarity] HAMMER AND SICKLE. Took me an awful long time to see this, principally because I had some incorrect crossings, including: 35d [Chocolate or pistachio] NUT for HUE, 30d [It’s like -like] -ISH, not -OSE, and ARCS for 29d [Parts of a circle] PALS.
  • 39a [Trepidation term] EEK. Really?
  • 40a [San __ (Vegas hotel near the Excalibur] REMO. Wikipedia tells me it was called this from 1989–2006, after which it was HOOTERS through 2019 and now it’s—constructors take note!—OYO.
  • 41a [Marbles for a Chinese checkers player] TEN. Nothing to indicate we need the number per side. That’s an easy way to make things tough.
  • 42a [City often mentioned on “M*A*S*H”] PUSAN, now spelled Busan.
  • 43a [Evidence of encryption] HTTPS. Nice clue, which really had me flummoxed for a long time.
  • 49a [Onetime big name in beverages] SEAGRAM. The brand is still around, so I guess the implication is that it isn’t as big anymore?
  • 56a [Essence of ear candy?] CORN SUGAR. Oof, that’s terrrrible punning.
  • 5d [Steamers, for instance] WARDROBE TRUNKS. Definitely had clams on my mind.
  • 16d [Expression of lost love lamentation] ARGENTINE TANGO. Yet it still takes two.
  • 23d [Highlighted] SHONE ON.
  • 28d [What you’d expect a press to be] INKY. Unexpectedly straightforward, which makes it tricky. <shakes fist>
  • 31d [Spoiler] BANE, for which I had NANA (and hence NOOB for 31a [Fool] BOOB).
  • 41d [With 42 Down, Palme d’Or winner for 1993] THE | PIANO. At least they’re in sequence!
  • 45d [What a loud barker might be called] SARGE. Tough, tough.
  • 47d [“Bruder von Moses”] ARON. Is this the German spelling? Is it not ARON in the English Bibble? Or is it indeed AARON?

Ed Sessa’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 7/22/23 by Ed Sessa

Los Angeles Times 7/22/23 by Ed Sessa

There were some fun more modern pop culture references with RON BURGUNDY and GHOSTBUSTER (although, oh god, that movie turns 40 years old next year), but on the whole this puzzle felt a little…musty?

  • 34A RIGHT AS RAIN feels like something my grandmother might have said.
  • 54A YOGIISM — Yogi Berra retired 60 years ago.
  • 55A [Name of the pig on “Green Acres”] is a very Boomer-y clue for ARNOLD, a name that can be clued in any number of more recent ways.
  • 38A [Dog star] is LASSIE. I guess LASSIE got a reboot as late as 1994, but still, a character that had her heyday back in the 1940s.

I guess now that I look at it again, it’s only four entries I’m grousing about, but I would’ve liked a little more 21st-century flavor to accompany them. IMO the puzzle is stronger with its non-pop-culture clues, like [Bee team] for SWARM and the wonderful [Artistic settings?] for TABLESCAPES.

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37 Responses to Saturday, July 22, 2023

  1. Me says:

    NYT: I literally spent at least a third of my solving time, maybe 40%, on PSI/VASO/VAIN/SIGNETS . I had PPI then PMI so I put MAGNETS as a kind of seal. I’ve never heard of VASO, although it’s close enough to “vessel” that I should have been able to figure that out more quickly. But I couldn’t see VAIN at all.

    I’m not sure I think VAIN and inflated are really synonyms. I know it’s Saturday but I still don’t love it. Someone who is VAIN may have an inflated sense of self or be inflated with pride, but I don’t think you can substitute “inflated” as a single word for VAIN without some additional words like “inflated sense of self.” Unless there’s some new slang that I don’t know about where people are saying, “Don’t be so inflated!” to each other.

    I’ve never heard of “ICED the game” before, so I was glad that the constructor put in the part about icing food as well!

    • Christopher Smith says:

      Yes the clue for RELOS was similar. There’s a difference between “fair for a Saturday” and “this doesn’t really mean this.”

    • pannonica says:

      Agree on VAIN. Also, in what world is 27d not RUSTLES UP?

      • David L says:

        Agree. I’ve never heard of HUSTLESUP as a phrase in any sense.

        I had POKERDICE (which I seem to recall is a thing) before LIARSDICE, and that gave me RADAR instead of SNAFU.

        I liked the puzzle overall, though, despite these few missteps.

      • JohnH says:

        Good point. about HUSTLES UP. A pretty hard Saturday (maybe especially with LIARS DICE and VASO, and I first guessed SEATO for SNAFU), but overall I enjoyed it. The top was the hardest for me.

    • Eric H says:

      You don’t remember the huge hit Carly Simon had 50 years ago with “You’re So Inflated”?

      I got mired in the same spot, with one square that took a long time to figure out. My Spanish is pretty limited, but VASO doesn’t seem at all familiar.

      My dictionary defines SOUL BROTHER as “an African-American man or boy.” I’m not saying the clue is wrong, but “chosen family” didn’t send me in the right direction.

      I could have lived happily without ever seeing “INGROWN hair” in a puzzle. Yuck.

      I liked the clues for HANG GLIDERS and I MET SOMEONE.

      Overall, the hardest NYT puzzle in months.

      • Me says:

        Rex Parker is on vacation. Rafa did a great job covering for him, but I am really curious if Rex would have gone to town on the iffy cluing here. Too much of the cluing focused on being tricky and went too far out on a limb. Rex can sometimes rant and rant about nothing, but his rants can be amusing to read, especially when I agree with them!

        I think “soul sister” meaning a kindred spirit is more common than “SOUL BROTHER” in that sense, but I think the clue here is a legit use of the phrase. I think “soul sister” might be more common because of the Train song, “Hey, Soul Sister.”

        I put TAZO instead of VASO for a long time. I thought SUSANRICE might have spelled her name as SUZANRICE. There is a Pulitzer-winning playwright named Suzan-Lori Parks, and several other Suzans listed in Wikipedia. TAZO kept me on a path to nowhere for way too long.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Re VAIN/VASO (and FWIW), I wrote similar comments in my post-solve notes. I also balked (ala pannonica) at the clue for HUSTLES UP. To my ear, the clue evokes ‘rUSTLES UP’ and not HUSTLES UP. That made me doubt that I had the front end of HANG GLIDERS correct (with its punny clue).

  2. Nino says:

    NYT: Difficulty crossed into the frustrating territory for me. Got maybe 10 clues before DNFing and resorting to google. Not a very fun puzzle, even if the wordplay was objectively clever.

  3. Josh M says:

    Best NYT in ages. Hard hard hard but ultimately everything was gettable through double, triple, and quadruple checking. I don’t mind misleading clues as long as one can figure them out (VAIN et al.). The important thing is simply that it takes a LONG time for me to finish it. Typical recent Saturdays have taken me 10ish minutes, which almost isn’t even enough time to enjoy my coffee. Today’s took 45, which is on the long side, but I’ll take it. (30 minutes should be the minimum, at least for me, an experienced but not expert solver.)

    • Eric H says:

      My NYT Saturday average is just over 19 minutes, which is sort of a sweet spot for me. If I go over 30 minutes on a puzzle, I often find that I’m not enjoying it.

      Today’s took me 25:24. If I had noticed that, I’d have stretched it out another second.

      Try the Saturday Stumper sometime. I almost always go over 30 minutes with that one.

      • Me says:

        Eric H, I think you and I are similar about how much time we want to spend on any individual crossword or other word game. After thirty minutes or so, it starts to feel like an exercise in getting it finished rather than fun. I don’t do the Sunday crossword in general for that reason. I stopped doing Spelling Bee also because I’m not very good at it and it was taking me a long time to get to Genius. Now my Spelling Bee goal is to find the pangram, which I can usually do without it feeling like a slog.

        • Eric H says:

          Yes, I find the Sunday puzzles sometimes take longer than I want to spend. But I have my average below 30 minutes now, and for the last year or so, the Sunday puzzle rarely takes me more than 20 minutes.

          I abandoned Spelling Bee because I was too obsessed with finding all the words — and because the editing of that game is too capricious.

          • Me says:

            For me, the 15×15-ish crossword is the perfect length. I also don’t do the Sunday crossword to deliberately cap my streak at 6 every week. That way, I don’t get obsessed with preserving my streak.

            I also find the arbitrariness of what’s accepted and what isn’t for Spelling Bee to be very annoying. As far as I know, Sam Ezersky has never gone on record saying how he makes that determination. I think he doesn’t say anything because he’s not using any objective data like word frequencies. He’s just making it up and apparently is fine with that.

            Some other word puzzles make some words into “bonus words,” which means the word exists but isn’t one you have to find to complete the word list. I’m not sure why Spelling Bee doesn’t do that.

            • marciem says:

              *”As far as I know, Sam Ezersky has never gone on record saying how he makes that determination.”

              Here’s one:

              There is also an interview in the NYT that it won’t let me read because I only have a Games subscription. I don’t know if it is the same as the above:

            • Me says:

              marciem, thank you for those two articles. I missed them both! They are slightly different but basically say the same thing, that Sam uses two dictionaries than kind of wings it from that.

              I guess he’s excluding words if they aren’t in the dictionary but then it seems arbitrary after that. He’s definitely excluding words that are in the dictionary (like CARYATID, a recent pangram). It seems like he could be consulting people in medicine/botany/etc about how common words are, use Google ngram, and other means. But he doesn’t, so it’s based just on his own quirks. So it’s arbitrary and frustrating.

          • David L says:

            I do the Spelling Bee every day because I like the idea of being a Genius, but I stop once I’ve reached that level because figuring out more words is tiresome in light of Ezersky’s capricious (le mot juste) editing.

            I have a vague recollection of seeing an interview with Ezersky where he was asked about how he decides what’s legit and what isn’t, and he basically ignored the question, and the interviewer didn’t press.

          • JohnH says:

            Just right about Spelling Bee. I’m way too obsessed about getting all the words and figuring out what they’ll count as common. My compromise has been to stick with the Sunday one in print (where I get the weekend paper delivered) and ignore all the others. I keep two lists, of ones I think Frank Longo will use and ones I think he won’t, and I’m always wrong about both! I come up with all his words maybe one time in three, so aim to fall short by two words. This weekend I missed EGGNOG, but then I hate eggnog.

    • DougC says:

      I absolutely agree with Josh that the NYTX was a terrific puzzle. Lots of wordplay, very little trivia or pop culture. That’s my sweet spot! Challenging but delightful.

      But, wow, I haven’t felt so out of step with the rest of the crowd in a very long time. Maybe it’s regional, maybe generational, I don’t know, but HUSTLE UP as clued strikes me as absolutely in-the-langauge, and spot on. It implies using back channels or calling in favors to acquire something needed in short order; as distinct from “rustle up,” which simply means putting something together from what’s on hand.

      LIAR’S DICE and games that are ICED were also gimmies, as was DOUBLE DOG DARE, so I felt like I was on Mr. Logan’s wavelength today. SOUL BROTHERS! Two thumbs up!

      • JohnH says:

        Once again, I guess I’m way too old. I remember from childhood “I double dare you,” but not double dog dare.

        • Eric H says:

          That’s what I remember, too — no dogs in our dares, at least not in Burlington, Vermont.

          Maybe the dogs are a Midwestern thing. There’s a memorable scene in “A Christmas Story” that involves a triple dog dare. (The author of the story, Jean Shepherd, grew up in Indiana.)

  4. PJ says:

    The Stumper and NYT were tough for me today. A nice way to spend an hour on the porch drinking coffee during a thunderstorm.

    I made the rookie mistake of confidently dropping in ARCS and ISH at 29D and 30D in the Stumper. This made me resistant to my first thought for 35A, which was correct. In the SE I started with DOIT for the end of 34D and CARNY for 45D. NOIRE helped “confirm” these mistakes. I had ___NEON for 23D and took forever to get on the right path.

    Usually when I do the Stumper first the NYT is a lot easier. Not today. Like Eric, I enjoyed the clues at 27A and 30A are great. I decided the CT Compromise was about SLAVES even though I know the 3/5 Compromise.

    Two tough but solvable puzzles. My idea of a good Saturday.

    CLEOME should be in the Spelling Bee’s word list.

  5. In the Newsday Stumper, I have to quarrel (with my wife Elaine Fine’s help) about 33-A, “Haydn opera.” Haydn wrote baryton trios that were later arranged as sonatinas for piano by another hand:

    Elaine suggests “Beethoven opera” as a more appropriate clue. B did write sonatinas for piano:

    But even if the Haydn clue is okay, opera as the plural of opus is pretty dang mean.

    My favorite in today’s Stumper: 45-D, “What a loud barker might be called.” Plain but really clever.

  6. PJ says:

    WSJ – 91a. [Gently strokes some food containers?] PETS CANS (PET scans). That’s a weird image. I don’t know if buttocks (or another synonym) would have made it past the editor.

    The first pianist that came to me was Meade Lux but he wasn’t really jazz, was he?

  7. RCook says:

    Today’s Stumper was an exercise in frustration, as I often find Stella’s entries to be. I feel like I’m on a fundamentally different wavelength from her, but judging from the comments, I also feel like I’m alone in that respect.

    • David L says:

      If it’s any consolation, I couldn’t complete it either. I got most of it, and had no errors, but there were two sections I just couldn’t complete. I had WORE, WADS and DESERTION, but [something]POLO didn’t come to me, and I was reading lead as the verb not the metal, so the rest remained blank. No idea about “things in chambers,” although I see it now.

      I had about half of SONATINAS, but IPO, PALS and OSE eluded me.

      44D: PRIUS, ‘common Uber arrival.’ Do we have some statistical evidence to back this up? I see all kinds of cars with Uber and Lyft decals.

    • Twangster says:

      I got about half of it, stalled and gave up.

      • Seth Cohen says:

        Twangster, do you ever put it away for a bit and come back to it? I can never complete a Stumper in one sitting. I get some, hit a brick wall, look at it an hour later, get a bit more, hit another wall, etc. I actually kinda like it like that, because each time I come back to it, I’m excited that I have more Stumper to ponder!

        • Twangster says:

          I do that occasionally, and it does work, but usually I just don’t have the patience (my own flaw). I get to the point where I feel frustrated and just want to what the answers are and get on with my day.

    • Eric H says:

      I frequently struggle with Stella Zawistowski‘s puzzles, too. (I wrote a long comment about my difficulties with today’s Stumper.)

  8. MattF says:

    NYT was average difficulty for me. Got a foothold in the NW and just followed the snaky grid down to the SE without major stumbles.

  9. Milo says:

    LAT: Nice enough puzzle overall. No issues here with any of Stella’s four peeves. I love me some Yogi-isms, and so that entry was one of the grid’s highlights for me. (And for the record, while it’s true Berra left the Yankees 60 years ago, he went on to play a season with the Mets before beginning his decades-long managing/coaching career.)

    The WEAR ON/RELY ON dupe on the other hand, plus SNA, EEN and ONT …

  10. Eric H says:

    Stumper: After finding today’s NYT more challenging than usual, I thought maybe the Stumper would be easier. Hah! It took me about twice as long as the NYT, with way too much checking and revealing answers as my patience wore out. ( says I solved 88% of it on my own.)

    I made the same mistakes as pannonica in the central east part that made HAMMER AND SICKLE impossible to see even after OMSK and ATE AT HOME made the HAMMER inevitable.

    The SW corner was particularly tough. ARON was a gimme and SERT an educated guess, but the rest of it was just hard.

    I don’t follow baseball, so BREAK CAMP was new. I can never remember what “erenow” means, and I always thought SPRY meant agile (though I see now it can also mean brisk).

    At one time, I probably knew that “The Piano” won the Palme d’Or, but I never remember correctly how old movies and records are. (Spoiler alert: I have always had a theory that in the original cut of “The Piano,” Holly Hunter’s character doesn’t survive being dragged into the ocean by the piano. But I have never read anything to support that.)

    Worst “How did it take me so long to get that?” was WARDROBE TRUNKS. We have an old steamer trunk that we’ve use as an end table for 35 years.

    The SARGE clue is probably my favorite.

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