Saturday, November 11, 2023

LAT 3:16 (Stella) 


Newsday 20:06 (pannonica) 


NYT 3:51 (Amy) 


Universal 3:20 (norah)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Blake Slonecker’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 11/11/23 – no. 1111

What the heck? I was not expecting a sub-4:00 finish on a Saturday puzzle. And the grid’s not jam-packed with names (which I’m good with), it’s just … easy. Same vibe for you?

Fave fill: HOSTESS snack cakes, PENROSE tiles, DRUG TRIALS (I’m in one!), NAVY PIER (had an al fresco dinner there last weekend on a warm November day), GENE WILDER, a HOT BATH, the SANDMAN, DIRTY WORDS.

A few more things:

  • 1d. [Steamy scene?], HOT BATH. So tempting!
  • 46a and 47a are both clued [Put on a pedestal], and “put” can be both past and present tense, ergo ADMIRED and IDOLIZE both fit. Going for a three-fer, 48a STANDS is clued as [Pedestals].
  • 34d. [Coffee first cultivated in Yemen], ARABICA. Arabica beans from the Arabian Peninsula? Makes sense.
  • 45d. [Fantasy sports format, informally], ROTO. I assume that’s short for rotisserie baseball, which devised by crossworder and journalist Daniel Okrent 40-some years ago. Wild how fantasy sports went from a group of journalist friends to the giant business it is now.

Crosswordese appearance: 19a. [Denim dye], ANIL. For your cluing consideration: globally known actor Anil Kapoor.

Four stars from me.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Permutations” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 11/11/23 • Sat • “Permutations” • Shenk • solution • 20231111

Simple theme: per- has been prefixed to familiar phrases.

  • 23a. [Antarctic native in charge of the coffee?] PERKING PENGUIN (king penguin).
  • 27a. [Individual most likely to talk back to the control tower] PERTEST PILOT (test pilot).
  • 48a. [Acting career?] PERFORMER LIFE (former life).
  • 63a. [Kid who keeps asking “May I? May I? May I?”?] PERMISSION CREEP (mission creep). That’s weirdly funny.
  • 87a. [Plucking, cutting, packaging, etc.?] PERDUE PROCESS (due process).
  • 106a. [Statue from a depraved sculptor?] PERVERSE FORM (verse form).
  • 116a. [Litigant who won’t drop the suit?] PERSISTER IN LAW (sister-in-law).

Works, but doesn’t feel special.

Infringing on the the theme: 100d [Intrinsically] PER SE.

  • 43d [Profusion of ploys] GIMMICKRY. I confess that as it emerged via crossings it seemed unlikely to be a recognizable word.
  • 51d [“Melancholia” director von Trier] LARS. I recently rewatched his first feature, The Element of Crime, which looks like no other film I can think of—like monochromatic Mark Tansey paintings, thanks to the sodium lights used on set. I still don’t really understand it, but suspect that there isn’t too much to understand. Hallucinatory and elliptical is how I’d describe it.
  • 65a [Sea of Knowledge setting] MOON. Mare Cognitum.
  • 67d [Focus of a series of 1979 Madison Square Garden concerts] NO NUKES. Another entry that took many crossings to resolve.
  • 71d [Banister support] POST. 121a [Banister supports] NEWELS.
  • 98a [So-so range?] OCTAVE. The interval from one so (or sol) note to another. Nice clue.
  • 117d [But, in Latin] SED. Don’t see this much in crosswords.
  • 21a [“Will you let me try?”] COULD I.
  • 44a [Board of inquiry?] OUIJA. Nice. 25a [House of the spirits?] TAVERN.
  • 74a [Cockpit array] DIALS.

    c’mon, isn’t this what you were thinking of?
  • 78a [Pound sound] WOOF. 123a [Speaker component] TWEETER.
  • 80a [Battleship in a Sergei Eisenstein movie] POTEMKIN. When I write my novel, I’m going to find a way to include a business called Potemkin Realtors.
  • 104a [The Golden Bears of the NCAA] UCB. University of California at Berkeley.

Rich Norris’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 11/11/23 by Rich Norris

Los Angeles Times 11/11/23 by Rich Norris

I love Rich Norris — he was one of my first mentors in constructing — but I’m sorry to say I don’t love this puzzle. The longest answers, like ETRADE BABY, ELECTROLUX, KENO GAMES, NILE GREEN, and ORONO MAINE, didn’t feel satisfying, and there were quite a few entries like UMIAK, J-BAR, RATA, and OGEE that usually get a submission nixed in the era of computer-assisted constructing.

Sorry Rich! I still love you!

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

Newsday • 11/11/23 • Saturday Stumper • Sewell • solution • 20231111

Another one where it initially felt impossible yet is belied by my completion time.

First footholds were bottom-center, from where I expanded to the lower right corner. First fill was 46d [Recess] APSE, but that was quickly corrected to NOOK, as 58a [Moviedom’s “Eighth Wonder”] was no doubt KONG. Next was 49d [Where le Carré taught French] ETON—an educated guess, if you will. From there, slow working and weaving to finish the area.

30a [Joey of fiction] was going to be either PAL or ROO, and the latter just felt more right, which is sometimes a dangerous choice in Stumper land.

  • 1a [Receptionist’s pronoun] WHOM. Is that like in the stereotypical response, “Whom shall I say is calling?”?
  • Top center I needed to correct my earlier forays from SOU and TONY at 6d [Icon of small change] and 13a [What Dewhurst got for “Taming of the Shrew”]: the correct answers are ABE and OBIE.
  • 15a [What Russian America was subsequently called] ALASKA TERRITORY. So simple, I feel as if I should have been able to get it without any crossings, but no.
  • 19a [Mideast word for “lighthouse”] MINARET. Another that should have been obvious but mysteriously was not.
  • 23a [Where Pulitzer’s Big Apple office was] WORLD BUILDING, which I’ve never heard of. Not to be confused with worldbuilding or terraforming.
  • 29a [Goggle] STARE. Being able to get this sans crossings was a major stepping stone in the solve.
  • 39a [Tonic cocktails] ESPRESSOTINIS. Pretty sure tonic is not an ingredient as instead being used more figuratively. Easily got the -TINIS suffix but needed to wait on crossings for the front end. Didn’t help that I’d provisionally had 21d [With added zest] CITRUSY as blank-something ending in -LY.
  • 45a [Word on US commonwealths list] MARIANA. I kept thinking this but was reluctant to put it in the grid, not knowing who these Pacific islands belonged to. The MARIANA Trench is the deepest known part of the oceans.
  • 3d [In high gear?] ON STILTS. Clever clue, but the answer is greenpainty.
  • 8d [Resa alternative] TERI. I had no idea what this was about until this very moment, with a little focussed thinking. They are possible nicknames for Theresa.
  • 14d [Slide stuff] STAIN. Nonplussed here.
  • 17d [Pit of the stomach] INNIE. Absence of a question mark makes this tricky indeed.
  • 26d [Indy 500 setting] LATE SPRING. Also the title of a famous and highly-regarded film by Yasujiro Ozu, which has long been on my to-see list. His Tokyo Story is a masterpiece and one of my favorites.
  • 32d [Takes a course] OPTS, not EATS. I wasn’t fooled, yet needed to wait on the answer anyway.
  • 38d [Desserted?] ATE LAST. <side-eye>
  • 40d [Part of the 2024 Olympics opening ceremony parade route] SEINE. Got this off of the N in BRINK OF DISASTER. It’s fortunate, my being aware of next year’s locale.
  • 42d [Circumference] AMBIT. Not GIRTH.
  • 43d [Water near Verona] GARDA, a lake. GARDA is also short for Garda Síochána, the Irish police force.
  • 47d [Big shock] AFRO. Clue trying too hard.
  • 51d [It sounds like an inspiration] ERE (‘air’).
  • 53d [Athletics degree] DAN. In judo, and perhaps others?

Universal Freestyle 98 by Brian Callahan, norah’s review; 3:20

THEME: none!

Favorite entries:

callahan univ-2023-11-11

callahan univ-2023-11-11

  • ⭐ BOATYMCBOATFACE 33A [Winning entry in a 2016 online poll to name a British research vessel].  *obviously* the entry of the puzzle here. so so so fun! According to my research, this is its first appearance in a mainstream puzzle. So so happy Universal picked this one up.
  • ALLITERATE 10D [Ask “Who? What? When? Where? Why?,” say]. Mostly because I’ve been pondering related theme ideas.
  • PHTEST 41A [Experiment with acid, say?]
  • INKED 57A [Sporting a sleeve, say]
  • MIDAS 6D [King in a touching story?] very cute.
  • PLANTBASED 26D [Like a diet filled with Impossible things to eat]
  • (honestly there is so much great stuff in this puzzle I could go all day)


Woot! So happy to see Brian’s themeless and Universal debut today :D

Brian is one of the editors for Lil AVC X in 2024. The application for the constructor roster is only open for a couple more days. This is a great opportunity for early-career constructors to work with an editor and mentor under the AVCX umbrella for a whole year.

Pretty standard Universal themeless grid here today – 8-10 stacks in the NW and SE paired with 10-10s in the NE and SW and a (great) spanner, with SLEEPLATE and OFFTHEMAP tying the quadrants together. Really solid effort and result.

  • 18A ALFA [NATO leader?]. In addition to just being a fun clue, this is a great reminder to self to add the NATO alphabet to the list of things to study going into the 24 tournament season.
  • 42A UBERED [Used a certain ride-booking app]. Uber-enjoyed (sorry) seeing this in the colloquial verby sense.
  • 1D JAWA [“Star Wars” scavenger]. I just like them.

Thanks Brian and the Universal team!



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34 Responses to Saturday, November 11, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Easy for a Saturday, yes. The bottom half went very quickly, but I needed a few crosses in the top to get OCTAVIA, PENROSE, DRUG TRIALS and CON ARTISTS (maybe this time I will finally remember what “Mountebank” means).

    Interesting to see RITALIN clued as “Narcolepsy medicine.” I had only heard of it being used to treat ADHD.

    • huda says:

      I too thought it was mostly easy, but not the NW.
      And Ritalin is not primarily a narcolepsy drug, although it is used as a second line of treatment if standard treatments don’t work. It is stimulant and would work in combatting sleepiness in that sense. In fact it seems counterintuitive to use it in hyperactive kids, but it is thought to work in conditions where cortical neural circuitry needs to be activated in order to inhibit attention deficit (that’s the theory at least).

      • Eric H says:

        Thanks. I knew that RITALIN is a stimulant.

      • Christopher Smith says:

        Cluing RITALIN that way seemed slightly strange. Also it’s fair to say that the safety is not “often” the TACKLER.

      • Dallas says:

        I had the same feeling… I mistakenly put NABISCO in 1A, HOOVES for the Pan clue; only PENROSE and BARKLEY was I sure about… then the bottom half came together pretty quickly. Both ROBUSTA and ARABICA have the same number of letters too. But the NW took the longest to fill; I guess I’m Today Year’s Old when I learned ANIL.

        I am genuinely baffled with a sub-4:00 time on a Saturday. My best time is 4:19 on a Monday, and I feel like I can’t read the clues and type in the answers much faster than that… I feel like they’re playing a game with which I’m not familiar.

        Anyway… fun Saturday. Loved the look of the grid too. And I’m now two puzzles away from my first 365-day streak :-)

        • DougC says:

          “I feel like I can’t read the clues and type in the answers much faster than that…”

          :-) I know that feeling all too well!

      • Dan says:

        Maybe *now* Ritalin is mainly used to treat ADHD, but originally (mid-1940s) it was used only to reverse barbiturate-induced comas.
        It wasn’t until 1980 that the forerunner to ADHD (called ADD) was defined.

    • Boston+Bob says:

      Sadly, for me, “charlatans,” like “con artists’ has 10 letters. And “adulate,’ like “idolize,” has six. Took me some time, but I got there.

      • DougC says:

        Exactly what I did. I was quite confident in both charlatans and adulate, and had to work my way back up from the bottom to eventually correct them.

        But even with that, I finished well under my average, so a pretty easy Saturday.

  2. Dan says:

    NYT: Personally, I’d much rather that a word be defined as a non-proper noun than as a bit of pop-cult trivia.

    (Case in point: ANIL. I’ve known of the dye for many decades; I am not aware of ever encountering the name Anil Kapoor. And if I”m going to fill my head with facts, I’d much rather they be facts that won’t vary according to passing fads.)

    • DougC says:

      I second that!

    • JohnH says:

      Much agreed. And weird Saturday NYT. The quadrants were like separate puzzles, with three easy and the NW much too obscure.

      I’ve never heard of ANIL KAPOOR either. Indeed my first association is Anish Kapoor, a prominent artist, but I wouldn’t expect others to know that one either.

  3. Nino H. says:

    Finally, a Saturday that I can solve without looking anything up! I know it might seem overly easy to you guys that’re really experienced, but a slightly easier saturday is a real big confidence booster and exciting for amateurs like me :)

  4. Ethan says:

    6:24. Crazy easy. My 9th fastest Saturday ever.

    Friday took me almost 4x as long—they felt flipped!

    • David L says:

      Interesting — I finished yesterday’s about two minutes faster than today, although neither was all that challenging.

  5. Dan says:

    LAT: This was quite a challenge compared with the usual LAT Saturday fare.

    (I’ve never been entirely clear on whether there is supposed to be an LAT difficulty gradient from Monday through Saturday like the NYT. At least when newish editor Patti Varol took over starting around April of 2022, I did not sense a clear gradient. I’m less sure about now.)

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I somewhat agree. Based solely on my solve times, the progression in difficulty between Monday and Wednesday has almost disappeared. There have been also periods of time during PV’s editorship when my Thursday solve times have been close to my Monday through Wednesday solve times. Fridays have been pretty variable, but the gap between my Thursday and Friday average solve times has also shrunk considerably. However, my Saturday solve times have increased by about 15%.

  6. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper: I loved the clue on AFRO (Big shock). That’s what I come to the Stumper for: clues that try really hard to be really hard.

    There were two impossible (for me) crossings. Foreign words/proper nouns crossing others. GARDA/MARIANA and SAL/SIENA. Just guessed those crosses.

    Can someone explain “Maximum intensity” for HEAT? I get it’s probably of the phrase “the heat is on” or something, but that doesn’t necessarily imply maximum.

    • Twangster says:

      I suspect it relates to spiciness, i.e., “give it to me with heat.”

      Found this Stumper super challenging and didn’t get far without looking a bunch up.

  7. David L says:

    It took me a while to get going with the Stumper, but I persevered. My big holdup was ROUEN instead of YPRES, thinking that 21D, ‘with added zest,’ would end in -ER.

    STAIN for ‘slide stuff’ refers to stains used for biological samples on microscope slides, I believe.

    I don’t understand PER for ‘unbundled.’

    • mitch says:

      I think it’s a reference to pricing. You pay “per” item instead of bundling.

      • David L says:

        I guessed it might be something like that, but they’re not exactly synonyms. Do you have your house and car insurance bundled? No, I get them per…

        I suppose Stumper clues allow this sort of indirect equivalence.

    • pannonica says:

      “STAIN for ‘slide stuff’ refers to stains used for biological samples on microscope slides, I believe.”

      That’s absolutely correct and I can’t believe I didn’t see the connection.

  8. LA Times: the crossing of UMIAK and ABUJA took some of the fun out of the puzzle for me. AMIAK? ABAJA? NATICK?

    I liked the challenge of today’s Stumper, and I esp. liked “Receptionist’s pronoun.” And it happens that today’s Dustin has some commentary on who and whom:

  9. Papa John says:

    Today’s NYT is one of those rare puzzles that I’m surprised I was able to complete and absolutely flummoxed when Mr. Happy Pencil (?) popped up. Life is good.

    And to all you fellow veterans out there — I hope somebody buys you a beer, today.

    • Mr. [kinda sad but not] Grumpy says:

      Wish I could still buy my dad a beer.
      RIP, Colonel.
      Lt. Colonel Robert N. Vance, USMC [ret.] 1924-1992
      My brother and I still miss him.

  10. GlennG says:

    WSJ: Pretty much a big jumble. Lots of odd/suspect crossings for me that took time to suss/guess out. Mainly though just was paint by numbers. Blah, overall, experience speaking.

    LAT: Agreed with the reviewer. This was pretty much just blah. But a strange solve that just struck me odd (both for my history with Saturday LAT and Rich Norris themelesses), and was one of those that was nice to be able to read some of these blogs/forums to see what was up. I’m still amazed at how wildly inconsistent solves go for me these days, as I’m used to this one being average Stumper level. Same for the NYT stuff for most part, though those are usually pretty low times (for me) and are fairly consistent.

    Newsday: Delivered on the whole the Saturday Stumper thing for this week. About 15X the Saturday NYT. Again maddeningly inconsistent for the day. I definitely want to figure out a lot of the things I’m sure I’m doing wrong, especially on these outlier puzzles.

  11. Eric H says:

    Stumper: A little over 40 minutes, in two sittings, but I didn’t look anything up or even check any of my answers.

    The bottom part wasn’t too bad, but the top was a bear until the -ORY at the end of ALASKA TERRITORY finally made that answer obvious. I also had the same Tony/Sou error that pannonica did, which slowed me a lot.

    Maybe the quotation marks around “Poulet” threw me, but it took me forever to get OEUF.

  12. Teedmn says:

    Stumper: typically brutal for me, taking over an hour with a look-up to see what time of year the Indy 500 runs. I knew it was LATE something but the incorrect YvRES made SPRING hard to find.

    On the other hand, STAIN was a nice aha, as opposed to where I wanted something akin to Aha, aah, ahh, but instead 51D was ERE? Not an inspiration for me.

    But all’s fair in love and Stumper.

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