Saturday, September 9, 2023

LAT 2:58 (Stella) 


Newsday 23:06?? (pannonica) 


NYT 5:23 (Amy) 


Universal 4:00 (norah)  


USA Today 1:37 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


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

NY Times crossword solution, 9/9/23 – no. 0909

Fun puzzle, not too hard as Saturday NYTs go.

Fave fill: HOVERBOARDS, BEREA College ([First coed and racially integrated college in the South]), QUEER THEORY, SLEAZY (casting judgment! [Like a Lothario]), STAVED (I just like the word), BARNACLE, SILENT MOVIE (makes no sense that The Artist won Best Picture, though), VEXES, DUST BUNNY, GOODFELLA, WAXES POETIC, DO (someone) A SOLID.

New to me: 38d. [Whim-whams] are apparently NERVES. Also didn’t know: 29a. [Half sister of Meredith Grey on “Grey’s Anatomy”], LEXIE. That might have been Katherine Heigl’s character? No, she was Izzie. One Chyler Leigh played Lexie. I have watched a total of one episode of Grey’s, when a friend was visiting. They killed off a character or two in that episode, though! I picked a good one.

No longer new to me, but I just learnt it a few days ago on YouTube’s LetThemTalkTV channel: 16d. [___ cakes (cupcakes, in the U.K.)], FAIRY. Now I wish we called them fairy cakes too!

Nobody likes to find ODEA in the crossword, or for it to be an approved answer word in the NYT’s Spelling Bee, but here it is and there it is anyway.

Four stars from me.

Universal: “Universal Freestyle 89” by Sarah Beth K. Weintraub

THEME: none!

Favorite entries:

2023-09-09 Univ Weintraub

2023-09-09 Univ Weintraub

  • ⭐CATCHFEELINGS 43A [Start to fall?]
  • AIRJORDAN 53A [Sneaker line with a “Space Jam” tie-in]
  • CATASTROPHIZE 22A [Think the worst]
  • STRIPMALL 14A [Lineup of stores]
  • WEBISODES 31D [“Broad City” started out with these]


I’m kind of puzzled as to why we clued LATESTCRAZE as something from 2016, but otherwise this was a fun and breezy solve. A unique shape for the Universal themeless – a pair of 13s cutting into relatively enclosed side sections opposed by a chonky NE-SW diagonal. I’m so so happy that we got CATCHFEELINGS in this puzzle!

Shorter fill and clues I enjoyed for their references include OLAF 5A [Count in “A Series of Unfortunate Events”], 9A [Cheese or pillow shape], LOCS 34A [Hairstyle that may be palm-rolled], AIDY 42A [Bryant of “Shrill”], ANITA 45D [Ariana’s role in “West Side Story”].

It looks like this could be Sarah Beth’s print debut?? Congratulations!

I learned:

EDIE 29A [Lesbian rights activist Windsor]. Lead plaintiff in the 2013 Supreme Court case U.S. v. Windsor which overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.

Thanks Sara Beth and the USAT team!

David Karp’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

The grid structure here in some ways looks more like that of a themed puzzle than a themeless, with the top and bottom rows broken up into three words instead of two. The middle, however, recalls those triple-stacked 15s of the late aughts, although the center row is broken up (probably a good thing, since triple and quad stacks are how we got to places like A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE back in the day).

Los Angeles Times 9/9/23 by David Karp

Los Angeles Times 9/9/23 by David Karp

But enough about puzzles of the past! High- and lowlights of this one:

  • 14A [Express opp.] I did not love this clue for LOC, because “opp.” as an abbreviation for “opposite,” although dictionary-sanctioned, feels like “grp.” and other similar crosswordy abbreviation indicators that don’t get used much in the real world. Also, LOC as an abbreviation for LOCAL is neither in the dictionary nor something I think I have ever seen, and I think there was a missed opportunity to refer to either the Library of Congress or hairstyling.
  • 16A [Brazilian steakhouse fare] is the lively entry CHURRASCO. Yum!
  • 18A [Like the Spanish Steps] for ROMAN is a clue that made me chuckle.
  • Those 15s in the middle, ONCE IN A BLUE MOON and DETAILS TO FOLLOW, are fine but not particularly fun.
  • 43A [Super Bowl highlights?] is TV ADS. Ha! Accurate!
  • 51A [Fare named for their original sponsors] is SOAP OPERAS. Nice Saturday-worthy “what’s going on here?” clue that becomes clear once you get some crossings.
  • 1D [Baroque bigwig with a big wig] is BACH. Not a tricky clue in the least, but a very fun one.
  • 4D [Place with rounds and rounds of applause] is a great clue for KARAOKE BAR. Get it? Rounds of drinks, rounds of applause. I haven’t been to one since before the pandemic, and I miss the experience!
  • 7D [Electric mixer?] is SOCIAL BUTTERFLY, which I think is a bit of a stretch even with the question mark. The “mixer” part, yes; the “electric” I’m not buying.
  • 32D [Nice resort area] is a possibly tricky clue for COTE D’AZUR if you get to this area early in your solve and are fooled into thinking “Nice” is an adjective and not a proper noun.
  • 47D [Team that shares an arena with the Raptors] is LEAFS, as in the Toronto Maple Leafs. I hope the arena-sharing means that Canada doesn’t share the terrible habit of American cities of providing kajillions of dollars in subsidies to sports teams.

David Alfred Bywaters’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “What’s the Use?” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 9/9/23 • Sat • “What’s the Use?” • Bywaters • solution • 20230909

“Use” from the title is the operative word here, as each of the theme entries is a phrase where the second word is interpreted in that context, modifying the preceding word.

  • 22a. [Topping spires?] CROSS PURPOSES. I don’t think that’s the purpose of a cross, not by a long shot. But I guess for the purposes of this crossword it’s close enough for jazz.
  • 30a. [Believing?] SEEING REASON. Playing off the saying that seeing is believing. So again, the ‘use’ part is dubious. I guess that’s going to be a subtheme here, so I’ll refrain from boringly pointing it out.
  • 50a. [Making money?] BUSINESS END. …and no sooner do I make that vow than there’s one that’s unassailable.
  • 54a. [Catching flies?] WEB DESIGN. This one is pretty on-target too. Hmph.
  • 72a. [Growing crops?] FIELD GOAL.
  • 76a. [Holding thread?] NEEDLE POINT.
  • 93a. [Separating words?] SPACE MISSION.
  • 105a. [Staying awake?] COFFEE GROUNDS.

Okay, in summary: some of these are significantly better at hewing to the idea of the theme than others, but all are acceptable.

  • 10d [Take to court] SUE. 51d [Cou0rt divider] NET. 17a [Court battle] TENNIS.
  • 21d [Tibia spot] SHIN. 36d [Tibia neighbor] FEMUR.
  • 37d [Lift] RAISE crossing 40a [Brought up] RAISED.
  • 52d [Avenue shader] ELM. 107d [Forest shader] FIR.
  • 55d [In a whisper] SOTTO VOCE. Nice to see this in a grid.
  • 70d [County in New York’s Southern Tier] TIOGA, whose name derives from an American Indian word meaning ‘at the forks’, describing a meeting place. (Wikipedia) Also, can’t recall seeing mention of the Southern Tier in a crossword previously.
  • 88d [Catkin-bearing trees] ALDERS. Tried ALAMOS first.
  • 92d [Hunger indicator] PANG. 6a [Hunger greatly] FAMISH.
  • 1a [Stand for Stuart] EASEL. Is this a reference to … Gilbert Stuart? 69a [Board for Bosch] PALETTE. No doubt that this is Hieronymus.
  • 19a [Not just translucent] OPAQUE. Wow, what a weird clue. Doesn’t it seem that the direction indicated by the clue is for transparent? Whereas if the clue had read [More than translucent] it would have seemed appropriate, even though not just and more than are pretty much synonymous, right? Language is weird.
  • 38a [Soundly defeats] SPANKS. 80a [Soundly defeated] ROUTED.

Apologies for not having much to offer today besides my hey-these-clues-are-similar-or-related schtick.

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

Newsday • 9/9/23 • Saturday Stumper • Sewell • solution • 20230909

No idea how I managed to solve this bear of a crossword so quickly. In fact, I suspect I must have accidentally paused the timer at some point, because it just doesn’t seem plausible.

It was very slow going, but I managed to make inroads in the lower right, then the lower left, with a sprinkling of potentials in other regions. Finally, the upper left and upper right, with the crossing of 21-across ETNA and 13-down LENA as my final ssquare.

  • 1a [Diamond collection] BATS. Originally I tried RBIS because I very reasonably thought 1d [Unsophisticate] was RUBE rather than BABE.
  • 5a [Mail letters] USPS. Fine, but 9d [5 Across abbr.] STE? Unreasonable. At first I thought it was Sainte as in Sault Ste Marie, but then I realized it was suite. Still unreasonable, however.
  • 9a [Hunger (for)] SPOIL. As in, for a fight. There were a lot of clues that required a leap like this. I’ll try to collect some others here as I go through the grid… 35a [Capacity] STEAD. 58a [Chemistry symbol] EROS. 59a [Quarterbacks] HEADS? LEADS? TENDS. 5d [Crying] URGENT; quite similar to SPOIL.
  • 18a [Scrooge McDuck, by birth] GLASWEGIAN. I had a couple of crossing letters, but it wasn’t until I took a very unsure guess for the beginning of 10d [Screenplay overhauls] that I was able to place the G and complete the demonym. At that point I had __ONEREWRITES and wasn’t sure whether ONE was the end of a longer word.
  • 20a [Kid-lit pachyderm, aptly enough] ELLIE. ELLIE the elephant, presumably. The misdirect here I guess was for BABAR, perhaps rooted in baby (this was before I had 1d BABE), but of course it was written in French and enfant would be the operative word.
  • Speaking of French, 26a [Perrier ingredient?] SILENT R. Oof. And just to rub it in, it comes right after 24a [Letter on some Euros] RHO!
  • 37a [Be blustery] RANT? RAVE? RAIL.
  • 40a [Introduction in organic chemistry] PENTA-. Not easy.
  • 56a [Rodin’s thinker] TÊTE. My very first bit of fill.
  • 2d [Interjection from the Latin for “weary”] ALAS. Back when I thought 1-across was RBIS I figured this was, amazingly, BLAH and was tickled about learning its surprising origin. But obviously that was wrong, yet I’m still happy to learn about ALAS.
  • Speaking of BLAH, 4d [Corresponding request] SEND ME A POSTCARD is a long but unremarkable entry.
  • 6d [Easy-to-move item] SELLER. Huh?
  • 35d [“Persona non grata”] SNUBBED. Oh we weren’t looking for a noun here?
  • 43d [Met set] NL EAST. I was definitely thinking art here, despite the nearby presence of 29d GRAND OPERA, and certainly not baseball.
  • 55d [CO’s 50+ 14ers] MTS. Translation: the state of Colorado has more than fifty mountains with an elevation of 14,000 feet or greater. 


Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword, “Curtain’s Up! (Freestyle)—Matt G’s recap

Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword, “Curtain’s Up! (Freestyle)” solution, 9/9/2023

I groaned when I opened this puzzle. I generally agree with the sense that many crossword solvers — the number who solve daily and have never visited or heard of this site is exponentially larger than the number who have — don’t really notice asymmetry nor find their solves affected by it. And I often don’t notice it, but I do feel that theme ideas that can’t find a set that works with grid symmetry are less elegant, and I usually notice when themers aren’t in symmetric positions. Today, I sure noticed the asymmetry off the bat.

All that said, I enjoyed the heck out of this puzzle. It is one of the freshest themelesses I’ve done in a while. Every single entry longer than six letters is a plus-plus entry. The cluing is full of personality and draws from a wide variety of angles and knowledge bases — there’s something for everyone in here. It’s rare that I find the tradeoff of such an unorthodox grid design pays off in the other elements of a crossword, but this puzzle is an unambiguous highlight for me.

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19 Responses to Saturday, September 9, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: “[M]akes no sense that The Artist won Best Picture, though . . . .”

    It’s a movie about movies! Oscar voters love those.

    There were some good movies nominated that year — “Hugo,” “The Descendants,” “Tree of Life” — but I wouldn’t say that it was one of those years where the Academy completely blew it.

    As for the puzzle: I zipped through about three-fourths of the grid, only to get a little bogged down in the NE. I don’t remember seeing FOOTPADS before, and I needed the F from SNIFF to get CORFU.

    I was pretty sure that “Family man” was a Mafia joke, but it took me a bit to get GOOD FELLA — despite “Goodfellas” being my favorite Martin Scorsese movie (and one of my favorite movies, period). (And talk about the Academy getting it wrong: “Goodfellas” lost out on Best Picture to “Dances With Wolves.”)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I meant to mention that the FOOTPADS slang was unknown to me.

      • Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

        Much of the slang and text shorthand and rapper names is unknown to me, so I love seeing old friends like FOOTPADS and ERSE. I miss my ANOA.

    • Dallas says:

      When I went to check FAIRY CAKES in Wikipedia, I found that they’re *also* a type of poisonous mushroom:
      And NERVES for “whim whams” really through me; I checked “whimwham” in my Webster’s from 1913, and got “trifle, trinket” so I was way off base. Luckily, my wife got me HOBO bag and the SE corner finally unlocked. Tricky Saturday!

      • PJ says:

        I know fairy cakes as the basis for extrapolating a model of the entire universe in the Total Perspective Vortex as seen in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

  2. cyberdiva says:

    NYT: I’m having a hard time understanding 12D: “So many assume, so little know.” Apparently that’s the phrase one finds in Google, but it seems to me wrong grammatically. I kept wanting it to be “So many assume, so few know.” I think of many people vs. few people. Can someone explain how “little” can work grammatically in that sentence? Thanks in advance.

    • Ned says:

      Grammatically incorrect, but (perhaps) more rhythmical when spoken out loud.

      • huda says:

        I agree. I’ve never heard this expression and it really threw me.
        For a while, I misread as “so little To know”, which didn’t help matters. (Like a course on something trivial– so many classes, so little to know :).

    • DougC says:

      I hadn’t heard this phrase before, and I absolutely agree that it makes no sense. I get the meaning, but it just sounds so wrong.

  3. RCook says:

    STUMPER: There’s difficult, and then there’s a joyless, “what are you smoking” slog. There were too many clues that could have been replaced by “Noun in this category” that would have made as much sense.

    • Seth Cohen says:

      I used to think this about Stumpers, but as I’ve done more, I’ve come to appreciate the crazy difficulty. There are so many puzzles out there of all difficulties, so it’s nice to have one that’s just like “No mercy.”

  4. Seth Cohen says:

    The Stumper was the hardest one I’ve ever done. Took me all day, looking at it on and off. Wildly hard. But you know, that’s why I do Stumpers! I was kinda bummed when it was over, cause it was over!

  5. Seattle DB says:

    Horrible day for crosswords. So-so puzzles mixed with bad editing made me regret not watching football instead. (Sigh…)

    • Seattle DB says:

      Evan B says ratings don’t matter, but not a single puzzle rated at least a “3” rating!

      • The ratings still don’t matter, Seattle. At this point it’s just funny to me how people treat them seriously.

        If you didn’t like the puzzles you solved, fine, but don’t use the ratings as though they’re meaningful evidence of anything.

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Conspiracy theory: It’s you and Dan F, vocal critics of the ratings widget, loading up all the 1-star ratings to force the system’s collapse.

          • LOL. That’s a good one. Dan can speak for himself, but as much as I’d love to see the ratings disappear, I’m not your serial 1-star rater. I haven’t rated any puzzle on this site in maybe over eight years if I had to guess.

            My not-conspiracy-theory-but-probably-mistaken-assumption is that I actually thought you and other site admins had a way of monitoring which users rate puzzles, or that certain IP addresses would be logged when submitting ratings. But even if I was wrong about that, that’s still a good way you know I’m not lying. If I thought for years that you had a way of tracking who’s rating the puzzles, then there’s no way I’d risk rating them myself while encouraging people not to participate in the star ratings system.

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