Saturday, October 21, 2023

LAT 3:52 (Stella) 


Newsday 15:52 (pannonica) 


NYT 4:29 (Amy) 


Universal 3:12 (norah)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Kelly Morenus’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 10/21/23 – no. 1021

Cool Saturday puzzle, Friday-easy, with excellent flow throughout the grid.

Fave fill: REPAIR SHOPS (I like the clue, [Stores with fixed costs?]), SECOND OPINION, VENMO, “DON’T INTERRUPT ME,” DISCRETIONARY spending, SOY LATTE, writer Ibram X. KENDI, and of course, the memeable “TAKE MY MONEY!”

FINNS is clued as [Many Laplanders]. Don’t use the “L” word for the indigenous Sami people in that area!

Could do without the comparatives SORER and WANNEST. I mean, I’m pretty pale, but I can’t imagine using the word WANNEST, not even when my cousins and I compete to see whose lower legs are the most pale.


Four stars from me. Terrific work in a debut puzzle!

Matthew Stock’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 10/21/23 by Matthew Stock

Los Angeles Times 10/21/23 by Matthew Stock

This is almost like two different puzzles. The top half was so easy that I was mentally writing my post while I was solving, thinking it would start with “Don’t hate me for saying this puzzle is too easy and belongs in Universal instead of LAT.” The bottom half…I’ve solved ACPT A finals puzzles (alas, in my seat, not on the podium) that were easier. All this led to an overall time that was longer than average.

  • 9A [Nintendo console with a GamePad] is WII U. Lots of folks say this console was very underrated/underappreciated. I had one, and I haven’t had enough others (or paid attention to what’s said about various gaming consoles) to know whether this is true or not. I do know that Mario Kart 8 was pretty great.
  • 14A [Huevos ___] is a super easy clue for RANCHEROS IMO, contributing very much to my quick solve of the top half.
  • 32A Another gaming-related clue with [Take turns before everyone else?] for PLAY-TEST. Very clever!
  • 36A [Pore (over)] is OBSESS. I’m gonna argue that PORE OVER and OBSESS OVER are not quite synonymous and that this clue feels hard bordering on unfair as a result.
  • 42A [Designer of Uma Thurman’s iconic 1995 Oscar gown] I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to get PRADA. Of course, it didn’t help that (see below for comment on 36D).
  • 52A [Mythical birds without feet that fly continuously from birth until death] is MARTLETS. Whoa, that’s a deep trivia cut.
  • 26D [Computer-based civil disobedience] is HACKTIVISM, which is a cool entry.
  • 36D [For all to hear] It’s obviously far easier to drop in ALOUD here than the correct ON AIR, which contributes a lot to the difficulty in this area — when your toehold is wrong, everything goes wrong.

Universal: “Universal Freestyle 95” by Rich Iurilli, norah’s review, 3:12

THEME: none!

Favorite entries:



  • ⭐18D PHOTOBOOTHS [Where shots are taken at parties?] Clue of the puzzle!
  • 28A SECRETSANTA [One may read an article titled “Gifts Under $25 Your Co-worker Won’t Hate”] If only!
  • 32A TAGYOURSELF [Meme format that involves picking the most relatable image] I said this just today in dms with a friend. :)
  • 19A ARCH [St. Louis landmark] (Hi Rich)
  • 41A LAP [Perch for a friendly cat] This summer I visited the Neko Cat Cafe in Bellingham, Washington where a single cat perched on me and stayed there for our entire session. Nice.
  • 10D GLORIA [Italian love song covered by Laura Branigan in 1982]. Also adopted by the St. Louis Blues as the unofficial anthem of their championship 2019 season.
  • 33D FILLMEIN [“I want to know what I missed!”]. Choosing to believe Rich is referencing the crossword podcast.


Heyyy another PR at 3:12! (thanks Rich!)

A very very happy print debut to my friend and DCL colleague Rich Iurilli! What a great grid – a fun and ambitious layout that gives us a lovely center stairstack with two great long downs running through it and corners that have just the right amount of chonk for Universal.

I learned: Xiaolongbao 8D ATE [Enjoyed xiaolongbao, say]. A steamed bun traditionally eaten for breakfast that can be served in soup (or not).

You should know: EEL 6D [“Shrieking” sea creature in “The Princess Bride”]

If you liked this, try Rich’s “Album of the Year” – a short and wide midi with a fun feature.

Thanks Rich and the Universal team!

Lee Taylor’s Wall Srreet Journal crossword, “Job Crises” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 10/21/23 • Sat • “Job Crises” • Taylor • solution • 20231021

I was feeling every inch of this 21×21 grid this morning. Not the puzzle’s fault—I was a bit of a 79d [Slugabed] LATE RISER today.

Anyway, punny job complaints:

  • 23a. [Telemarketer’s job complaint?] I MISSED MY CALLING.
  • 40a. [Taxi driver’s job complaint?] I’M OUT OF GAS.
  • 59a. [Tennis pro’s job complaint?] WHAT A RACKET.
  • 74a. [Computer geek’s job complaint?] I CAN’T HACK IT.
  • 96a. [Plastic surgeon’s job complaint?] I NEED A LIFT.
  • 115a. [Radio personality’s job complaint?] NO ONE LISTENS TO ME.
  • 5d. [Doorman’s job complaint?] THERE’S NO WAY OUT.
  • 53d. [Comic’s job complaint?] THE LAUGH IS ON ME.

And there you have it. They’re all fine.

  • 10d [Rust buckets] JALOPIES. Etymology unknown, alas.
  • 13d [Kind of congressional bill] OMNIBUS. When it’s, y’know, functional.
  • 46d [Paint solvent] ACETAL. This entry stood out to me as the most obscure in the grid, but the crossings were fair.
  • 60d [India and Brazil are on its board] RISK. Fake-out!
  • 61d [Ceres or Vesta, e.g.] ASTEROID. Ceres was the goddess of the harvest, while Vesta embodied the hearth.
  • 22a [Leaf blower alternative] RAKE. Gas-powered leaf blowers are the worst.
  • 67a [Microwaves?] RIPPLES. I like it.
  • 78a [Hurt badly] MAUL. 1d [Hurt badly] MAIM. 16d [Damage] HARM. Ouch.
  • 110a [Sky line?] HORIZON. Okay.
  • 122a [Bloodhound trail] ODOR. I always try to highlight instances of non-pejorative ODOR use in crosswords.

(This is a traditional Vietnamese melody. Title translates to “The Scent of the Dong Thap Lotus”.)

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

Newsday • 10/21/23 • Saturday Stumper • Zawistowski • solution • 20231021

This one felt tougher than my solve time would suggest. The hardest section by a fair margin was the upper left.

There, it wasn’t until I thought more laterally about 2d [Grade school instruction] that I finally broke it open: LINE UP, not academic at all! From there I was able to complete the beginning part of 17a [Routines without resolution] ANTICOMEDY. Is MUM really 22a [Tacit]? 20a [The Buick stops here] REST AREA is a terrible pun but also a welcome gimme.

  • 29a [No longer under a misapprehension] DISABUSED. I probably use this word too often.
  • 31a [Resistance units?] NOS. Deceptively simple. Similarly: 6d [Units of volume] TOMES.
  • 39a [Fancy formal wear] EARRINGS. Huh?
  • 43a [Main force] ARMADA. Proud that I was hip to this one based only on the crossing A from 40d [Scattershot] RANDOM. I think the presence of the M helped subconsciously.
  • 45a [Nursing degree] SIP. Li’l too cute, if you ask me.
  • 7d [Block buster] IDEA. As in a mental block.
  • 11d [Isfahani, for instance] IRANIAN. Sure, I hardly ever pass up an opportunity to share this beautiful melody:
  • 21d [Rank between Scout and Second Class] TENDERFOOT. I had no idea this was a formal designation. <queries internet> Oh, this is Boy Scouts stuff.
  • 24d [Link] TIE TOGETHER. Like, say, an area rug in a room? Kind of a big dupe with 42d [Makes fast, perhaps] TIES ON.
  • 35d [Name from the Greek for “foreign”] BARBARA. The same root for barbarian. But I thought that referred to beards? Perhaps those ancient foreigners were bearded and so the two meanings are intertwined?
  • 36d [One delivering mail] ARMORER. In a regular crossword, this would surely be question-marked.
  • 50d [Letters after numbers of refreshments] FL OZfluid ounces. Curious that I’ve never seen this as an entry in a crossword before. It’s a commonly seen abbrev. in real life, and they seem like useful letters to have in one’s quiver.
  • 52d [Saw around] WAS. This is a Puns-and-Anagrams cryptic-lite type clue. A straight-up reversal.

And that’s a wrap.

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28 Responses to Saturday, October 21, 2023

  1. Nino H. says:

    NYT: Started out strong and then got stuck with the very difficult (and kind of impossible) centre-east section of the grid. Had WANKEST / MINKS because I had no clue what Lapland meant!

    Either way, the marquees are pretty neat. Saturdays are hard. Kind of wish they’d include an easy version of them too.

    • Eric H says:

      I don’t know how long you’ve been doing the NYT puzzles. You should find Saturdays getting easier after a while.

      For me, today’s puzzle was one of my fastest Saturdays ever.

      But I’m almost hopelessly stuck on a 2005 Saturday puzzle from the archives.

  2. huda says:

    NYT: I thought it was an excellent puzzle, even though the North felt hard (not knowing STILL NOT A PLAYER) and was the last to fall.
    I agree, Amy, that WANNEST sounds/looks odd. I usually think of “wan” less as a skin tone and more as an indicator of ill health. But I don’t know if that term is only reserved to light skinned people?
    And yes, points for the flow of the puzzle. It’s especially important late in the week when it’s hard and being trapped in an isolated spot makes it impossible.

    • Dallas says:

      Same here; the south came together pretty quickly but the north was last. Neither my wife nor I knew the rap song, despite being in the proper age demographic :-) I also had to look up what a MONOPOD was … but a pretty fun Saturday.

  3. Josh says:

    NYT: IDO[M/D]ENEO X [M/D]USTY seems cruel to those of us who don’t know all the titles of Mozart’s lesser known works.

    • David L says:

      IDOMENEO wasn’t a problem for me but I agree it’s a bad cross, especially as I think of MUSTY (“impaired by damp or mildew,” per M-W) as applying to basements more than attics.

    • Eric H says:

      If the common O is all that’s holding you up, what other letter could it be?

      I knew the Mozart (but needed a few letters to get me started). I didn’t know the rap song.

      I did fall into the dUSTY trap. That’s arguably the toughest cross for IDOMENEO, but if D doesn’t work, you try M. (And I agree with David L that MUSTY seems more applicable to basements than attics.)

    • MattF says:

      Me too with the D/M problem. Otherwise a nice puzzle.

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … I think I know what PHOTO BOOTHS are but I’ve never seen one at a party (“Where shots are taken at parties?”). Amusement parks, shopping malls, maybe arcades? Sure. I get the pun about “shots” at “parties”, but that clue really didn’t hit the mark for me.

    Is this a thing these days? People have PHOTO BOOTHS at parties?

  5. David L says:

    I got very little on a first pass through the Stumper, but pieced things together in a reasonable time. The NW was the last to fall – I semi-guessed ANTICOMEDY, then the rest wasn’t too bad (after replacing TIRADES with GETSMAD and finally ACTSMAD).

    The EARRING clue is strange. I know plenty of women and a handful of men who wear earrings routinely.

    Not convinced about BARBARA. As pannonica says, it’s kin to barbarian, which the Greeks used for unkempt, bearded and probably unwashed foreigners. So it’s only indirectly related to ‘foreign.’ I was trying at first to come up with a name involving Xeno…

  6. david says:

    Does anyone know what’s going on with the puzzle analyzer? When I upload a .puz file, the completed grid and clues no longer show up – just a blank grid. It *does* seem to recognize the puzzle, though, as it correctly reports the number of words, blocks, etc.

  7. Iggystan says:

    Never heard of “martlets” before today and that section around “on air” gave me pause for a while as well. In contrast, the NYT seemed relatively easy for a Saturday.

  8. mitch says:

    stumper – hung up for a while on the rest areas clued in the singular.

  9. meaningless nobody says:

    stumper – came to comment/ask about the dupe between 24d/42d… that really jumped out at me and threw me a bit off guard when solving (otoh, it kinda makes sense given their numbers…)

    (not my fastest but faster than my average… some stupid mistakes on my part, but since its a stella and im out of shape im gonna go ahead and take the w on this one)

  10. Erik says:

    “Nonessential” is not really a very good synonym for “discretionary,” at least not as it’s used in American public finance.

  11. Eric H says:

    Stumper: 26:37 with a bit of checking at the end because I started the thing hours ago.

    SeeS reD > getS reD > getS MAD > ACTS MAD. ANTI-COMEDY is new to me. Whatever. I’m not really complaining, but the NW corner took almost as much time as the rest of the puzzle. And I don’t like puzzles that end up like that.

    The TIE duplicate annoyed me, and I’m usually pretty blasé about duplicates.

    The punny clues like the ones for TOME and ARMORER were easy to suss out.

    REST AREAS plural matches “stops here” well enough for me. What else could you say: “The Buick stops here and here”? (On the other hand, that clue is almost too cute for my liking.)

  12. Seth Cohen says:

    The Stumper was SO hard and I LOVED it because of that. A real struggle that took me looking at it on and off all day. I’m always surprised how I can be totally stuck, put it away for a couple hours, come back, and immediately see a break-in.

    The EARRINGS clue makes sense because “Fancy formal” is not two adjectives; rather, it’s a noun phrase. The clue is saying “Something you might wear at a fancy formal”

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