Saturday, November 4, 2023

LAT 3:37 (Stella) 


Newsday 23:05 (pannonica) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal tk (norah)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


David P. Williams’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 11/4/23 – no. 1104

An untimed solve because I was also watching TV. (That’s right—I do have a television.) I was not clicking with the constructor’s wavelength so there were an awful lot of clues that left me blank for so long.


New to me: 3d. [Blackjack starter], UP CARD. I’ve played blackjack but hadn’t encountered the term.

Clue that mystified me, and now that I understand it, I have disdain for the entry: 40d.
[Line after “On a cold winter’s night that was so deep”?], NOELS. So the line in the clue is a lyric from “The First Noel,” and it’s followed by “Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,” which become your set of NOELS. Nah.

Didn’t know it but it’s guessable and I like it: 34a. [___ deux vins (tipsy: Fr.)], ENTRE. “Between two wines.”

3.5 stars from me.

Daniel Okulitch & Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 11/4/23 by Daniel Okulitch & Doug Peterson

Los Angeles Times 11/4/23 by Daniel Okulitch & Doug Peterson

This puzzle is slightly oversized (16×15), so if you felt like you were taking a little longer than usual, blame the size. I can’t quite decide how I feel about the puzzle as a whole: I enjoyed entries like COME AT ME BRO, SURGE PRICING, PASTRAMIMONOGAMY (great clue of [Faithful practice]!), and OPERA MAN, but wasn’t as jazzed by LAST TO ARRIVE, TWICE REMOVED, and the grid-spanning OBJECT PERMANENCE. I also thought there was a bit too much glue like BPOE, NEH, DARE I, SOC, FRISE.

Paul Hunsberger’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Guessing Game” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 11/4/23 • Sat • Hunsberger • “Guessing Game” • solution • 20231104

The letters -GUE are appended to words in the theme answers, altering the original phrases. Spelling modified as necessary. The title isn’t so great, but you’d be hard-pressed to come up with anything better.

  • 24a. [“The coroner will address only general details of the case at this time”?] NO MORGUE QUESTIONS (no more questions).
  • 35a. [Campus scoundrel who fills the kegs with near beer?] FRATERNITY ROGUE (fraternity row).
  • 69a. [Society of leather shoe collectors?] BROGUE CULTURE (bro culture).
  • 96a. [Fellow customs agent?] BORDER COLLEAGUE (border collie).
  • 115a. [Get wind of a stinky cloud of locusts?] SUSPECT FOUL PLAGUE (suspect foul play).
  • 3d. [Johann Sebastian Bach’s long-lost lyricist?] MAN OF FUGUE WORDS (man of few words). Not quite sure what the long-lost is doing there. Is it to indicate that the fugues are in fact wordless?
  • 46d. [Making an International Court of Justice visit?] HITTING THE HAGUE (hitting the hay).

These are pretty fun.

  • 26d [Fluid transitions] SEGUES. Visually—but crucially not phonetically—impedes on the theme.
  • 38d [Primeval giant of Norse mythology] YMIR. Have not seen this in a crossword before. Might be a tough crossing with baseball player Hideo NOMO?
  • 61d [Response to “I have some bad news”] YOU DO.
  • 69d [Drinker’s staggering balance?] BAR TAB. This clue might have benefitted from a ‘perhaps’ in addition to the question mark, which would nevertheless be quite unusual.
  • 22a [They recorded data with knotted strings] INCA. Called quipu, which we sometimes see in clues, but hardly in grids.
  • 33a [Big name in golf clubs] PING. Unsurprisingly, I did not know this.
  • 66a [Source for cords] WOOD LOT. Not a term I’ve encountered, but it’s certainly inferrable.
  • 120a [Moon units?] REARS. Took me a sec to understand this one. Good place to end.

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

Newsday • 11/4/23 • Saturday Stumper • Mossberg • solution • 20231104

Quite surprised at how fast my solve time was, because this one seemed as if it was going to be impossible to complete.

The final stages of my solving sequence were: lower right corner, upper right corner, corrections top center (PUTT/URES/TALBERD → PATH/ARES/HALBERD).

Certain bits of knowledge really bailed me out at various points in the grid. Stuff like knowing that the anatomical name for big toe is HALLUX (41d), that there’s a section of the brain called BROCA’S AREA (14a), that COOK visited Easter Island in the 18th century (26d), and a few others.

Time to highlight some questionable/extra-tough clues:

  • 17a [Fall plant] BANANA PEEL.
  • 47a [A bit seedy?] OVULAR.
  • 57a [Serving in the Vatican] MINESTRONE.
  • 15d [Make for after-dinner] SARAN.
  • 24d [Runs not very fast] BUNNY SLOPES.
  • 35d [Manual art] DIAGRAMS (art?).

All right, what else?

  • 21a [First Cuban dance with worldwide popularity] BOLERO. Not to be confused with the Spanish dance of the same name.
  • 40a [Call for caution] WHOA EASY THERE. With the H from HALLUX in place, I guessed at WHOA, which enabled me to complete 27d UNLAWFULLY, which really helped with the lower left corner.
  • 3d [What mountains form over] EONS. I saw the trick right away, considered TIME but figured EONS was more appropriate.
  • 5d [Steamed bun from China] MANTOU. Was initially after a two-word phrase ending in bao. Also, MANTOU is not to be confused with manitou.
  • 6d [Japanese restaurant decor] PAPER CRANES, not SHOJI SCREEN.
  • 9d [Swiss Guard weapons] HALBERDS. Initially tried BAYONETS.
  • 11d [Okay to put away] COMESTIBLE. Can’t not think of Monty Python’s cheese shop sketch when I encounter this word.
  • 22d [Where Ivory Soap was born] OHIO. This is quite trivial.
  • 42d [Offgrid Dwellings offering] YURTS. Should be ‘offerings’, no? Anyway, I wouldn’t mind relocating to a tiny home somewhere. Not necessarily from this outfit, though.
  • 45d [Verb from the Latin for “conquer”] EVICT. Makes sense.
  • 50d [Work done in bars] SONG. Structure, not location.

Very tough one today.

Universal Freestyle 97 by Matthew Stock, norah’s review; 3:45

THEME: none!

Favorite entries:



  • ⭐ WINECRITIC 59A [One who might hail a cab?]
  • IMONFIRE 48A [“Nothing can stop me!”]
  • SIRI 1D [Portable speaker?]
  • ACORN 47D [
    Nut that Scrat chased in the “Ice Age” films]


New solver today – shown is the Crossweird Puzzles solver, a mod of Alex Boisvert’s Crossword Nexus Solver. Thanks to Dob and Alex for their great work.

This grid has one of my new favorite block structures – the V with tail. They’re so cute! More importantly, functional in separating the middle of this grid from the sides and bottoms, allowing for super clean stacks of 10s in the top and bottom, and 9s in the left and right sides of the grid. BRAVO 40A [“Stupendous work!”], Matthew. :)

So much for my run of super fast times lately – this one was clued just a bit on the harder side and I found myself moving back and forth through the grid to catch everything on a second pass.

I don’t understand what about a WNBA HOODIE makes it signature orange – can someone please explain in the comments?

I learned:

LATINOUSA 34D [Radio show hosted by Maria Hinojosa]

PUTH 38D [“Light Switch” singer Charlie]

Thanks Matthew and the Universal team!



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25 Responses to Saturday, November 4, 2023

  1. Mr. [not at all] Grumpy says:

    WSJ: Brilliant puzzle. One of my favorite Saturdays this year. Yes, 45D is an ugly word, but 46D made up for it by reminding me of my 17-year-old self traipsing across Europe by train lo those many [many] years ago. Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam and The Hague were two of the highlights.

    • JohnH says:

      Very nice theme indeed, even with successive themers for frat boys and bros. I could have lived without, though, YMIR / NOMO (a blank for me) and WOOD LOT / THRO (an unusual variant, I guess).

  2. AmyL says:

    NYT: I’d like to call out 28A [Performances most likely to cause sweaty palms] and 32A DON’T SWEAT IT. Couldn’t SOLOS have been clued differently?

    • Erik says:

      YES. I have really gotten annoyed with the NYT’s indifference to duplicates. Let me make clear–I am NOT A BIG COMPLAINER! I regularly read crossword critics and wince at the entitlement and captiousness of the blogger! Never at this site of course. :)

      But I am SO TIRED of my solves getting thrown by dupes! I actually had DONT SWEAT IT in my grid and deleted it when I read into the clue on 28A. If there are a couple of OUTs in a puzzle or something like that, whatever. But duping 5+ letter words where, in the case of 28A, you really had to stretch to come up with a clue that included the word…it’s just irritating. I don’t want the difficulty in my solves to come from the belief that the editing must be better than it is.

      Again, love the puzzles (quite enjoyed this one!), but there must be some very quick way to pick up on long duplicated strings, no? It seems like it should be such an easy fix that would improve the quality of the puzzle.

  3. David L says:

    NYT was one of my slowest in a long time, entirely because of the SE corner. Just couldn’t get a toehold for ages. The NOELS clue baffled me, because I couldn’t remember where that line came from. And I wanted AWARDS (as in Olympic medals) instead of ALLOYS.

    I quibble with “Certain rocket engine” for RETRO. A retro rocket is simply one that points backward, to slow your spaceship (or whatever) down. It’s a not a specific type of engine, as the clue seems to imply.

    • Martin says:

      “Certain of the craft’s rockets are retros.” Sounds ok to me. I don’t see that the clue implies a specific technology.

  4. JohnH says:

    Looks like they’ve reformatted over at the NYT Word/Gameplay blog. It’s now separated the two, so that Wordplay has each day’s crossword, while Gameplay has each day’s Wordle, Spelling Bee (although not the one in print on Sunday), and a new one to me, Connections.

    Neither has the second Sunday puzzle, this weekend an acrostic. I’m not an acrostic fan, but sorry to see this on top of their cutting online access. I don’t know if it’s gone terminal cheapskate, but it sure does commit to the new games.

    • Eric H says:

      The NYT stopped offering electronic access to the Acrostic and bonus puzzles months ago.

      Connections is a relatively new puzzle. I really enjoy it because it often takes a lot of thought.

      • pannonica says:

        It’s based on the Connecting Wall of the the British quiz show Only Connect. You can find many episodes on YouTube.

      • JohnH says:

        Don’t talk down to me and then ignore what I wrote. I know perfectly well that they stopped that months ago. In fact, quote myself, “on top of their cutting online access.” My point was about cutting and resorting the blog. And again, I don’t do acrostics, so the post was in part just continued criticism, I believe widely shared from the number of complaints about online access; in part a warning to myself about future weekends; and in part simply trying to be helpful by informing people here who like puzzles but may not check Wordplay all that often. (Which in fact describes me.)

    • Twangster says:

      If you like Connections, you can go back and do all of them here:

      Got about 85% of the Stumper today but needed two google a couple to finish.

  5. meaningless nobody says:

    stumper: a slog for me, but i didn’t give up, and i got it all on my own! i’m not saying my 41′ time is any competition for you smarties (or for my past times on a mossberg) but i’m still pleased with it

  6. David L says:

    Similar experience to pannonica with the Stumper. It seemed impossible at first, but I got a start with HALLUX and STYX and steadily made my way through it. As always, I remain baffled by some of the clues and answers, to wit:

    Many a golf course: PATH
    Some check writing: MEMOS
    Covers all: TREATS

    I can’t make sense of any of these.

    I didn’t know MANTOU, or that THOR rode in a chariot. SILL as a ‘support for a sash’ is questionable: only the bottom sash of a double-hung window, and if the sill is supporting the lower sash then you need to repair the sash mechanism.

  7. Eric H says:

    Stumper: It took me just under an hour, and I ended up checking some of my answers as I neared the end. I think that’s typical for me solving a Steve Mossberg puzzle.

    It was one of those where I’d get a long answer like COMESTIBLE or ACUPUNCTURIST and think that was going to break the whole grid open, but it didn’t.

    About the only word in the grid that I don’t recognize is MANTOU, though I’m not sure I would have remembered HALLUX if I hadn’t seen it here before I did the Stumper.

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