Saturday, November 18, 2023

LAT 2:52 (Stella) 


Newsday 22:22* (Amy) 


NYT 7:04 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (norah)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ 12:12 (Jim) 


Alan Arbesfeld’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Getting a Head Start”—Jim’s review

Jim here sitting in for pannonica who’s taking the weekend off. Theme answers are familiar phrases with an H added to the beginning.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Getting a Head Start” · Alan Arbesfeld · Sat., 11.18.23

  • 22a. [Closet organizer’s concern?] HANGER MANAGEMENT.
  • 37a. [Conditions befalling mustangs when broken?] HALTERED STATES.
  • 44a. [Result of some late-winter hunting?] HIDES OF MARCH.
  • 66a. [Person monopolizing the wig trade?] HAIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER.
  • 84a. [What might catch a hunter’s eye?] HART MOVEMENT.
  • 93a. [Cooperstown institution, say?] HALL FOR THE BEST.
  • 114a. [Part of a house demolition project, perhaps?] HEARTH SHATTERING.

Fairly standard add-a-letter fare. The consistency helped prevent it from turning into a slog, but I can’t say I got any yuks from these. I think I liked the first one best as it hits a little close to home. The wig one is pretty good, too.

Top fill goes to FIBONACCI though I always want to spell it with two Ns and one C. Also good: “HOLD ME,” MEAL TRAY, “HUSH UP” Count CHOCULA, BIG THREE, LUMIERE, POLENTA, and Angela BASSETT.

Clues of note:

  • 28a. [Like hobos’ clothes, perhaps]. IN TATTERS. This is kind of a downer. I really wish a different angle was taken.
  • 72a. [Strings along a hula dancer?]. UKES. Not sure that this actually works.
  • 10d. [“Beauty and the Beast” character voiced by Jerry Orbach]. LUMIERE. I only know the actor from his Law & Order role, so I’m surprised to learn he was a bona fide Broadway star (I did know he voiced LUMIERE, though, and his French accent is on point). He also sang “Be Our Guest” for the film. (See video below.)
  • 86d. [Hospital delivery]. MEAL TRAY. Ha.
  • 115d. [___-80 (old Radio Shack computer)]. TRS. Hence the epithet “Trash 80”.

3.25 stars.

Hoang-Kim Vu’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 11/18/23 – no. 1118

Cool puzzle, lots of good stuff in it, on the hard side.

Fave fill: ZOOM HOST, HE/HIM (tough clue, [Certain descriptor after a signature nowadays]), FRIENDSGIVING, DRAMATIC PAUSE, “HOW WAS IT?”, FOAM PARTY (is that specifically a gay bar/party thing? that’s my only context for it), MAELSTROM, VISUAL GAG, ON THE RISE, and DEETS as shorthand for details.

Clues of note:

  • 28a. [Brown-y points, for short?], TDS. As in the Cleveland Browns of the NFL.
  • 62a. [Sessions of congress?], TRYSTS. This is not about House Rep. Pete Sessions!
  • 5d. [Treatment for someone in transition, in brief], HRT. Hormone replacement therapy. The term HRT is also used for postmenopausal cis-women taking estrogen, and for all I know it also gets applied to cis-men taking testosterone for whatever reasons.
  • 35d. [Gamer’s post-purchase add-ons, for short], DLC. No idea what this is, a new abbrev for me. Downloadable content? A great guess! That’s it exactly.
  • 46d. [Sharp point on a kite], TALON. Kites are birds of prey as well as flying toys.

Four stars from me.

Universal Freestyle 99 by Spencer Leach, norah’s review; untimed

THEME: none!

Favorite entries:

univ 2023-11-18 leach

univ 2023-11-18 leach

  • ESCAPEROOM 26A [Team-building exercise that you want to get out of ASAP?]
  • PISTACHIOS 41A [Nuts in some baklava recipes]
  • IMINLOVE 33D [Smitten person’s declaration]


IGOTAJOB X GETSADATE is a little too dupey for me. Not much else to say about this one!

Thanks Spencer and the Universal team!

Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”—Amy’s recap

Newsday crossword solution, 11/18/23 “Saturday Stumper”

It’s Amy filling in for pannonica today.

I solve the Stumper almost every week. Usually I can get through it in the 10- to 20-minute range without Googling anything. Not uncommonly, I use the “check” function to highlight incorrect letters. Most of the northeast quarter was either empty or had incorrect letters when the rest of the puzzle had been filled in right. Oof! So my solving time of 22:22 gets an asterisk because I did use “check” along the way.

And almost every week, I wonder why I persist in doing the Stumper, when it’s more a gnarly challenge than a fun one. I think most Stumper regulars can relate!

Fave fill: OVERSELLS, “POINT TAKEN,” “AMIRITE” (not keen on the clue, [Modern verification solicitation]), POOLHOUSE, ANDES MINT (a childhood favorite), PROSPECT, GAMING TABLES, DUNKIN.

Can’t say I knew that a PAMPAS CAT was a thing, nor a SELFIE STUDIO, nor the S’MOREO (though I filled in the OREO part pretty swiftly). Didn’t know natural gas was found in a SALT DOME. Not sure I’ve seen the word form INFINITUDE.

20a. [Where underground bands get together], the mineral GNEISS. I had GARAGE for the longest time.

47a. [Air ender], BNB. Uh, no. I reject this entry as invalid. It’s not a suffix, it’s not a dictionary entry. Airbnb is a thing, yes, but you can’t just pull out the last three letters and plunk them in a grid any more than you could use DUNKIN’s -NKIN.

3.25 stars from me.

Tom Pepper & Zhouqin Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 11/18/23 by Tom Pepper & Zhouqin Burnikel

Los Angeles Times 11/18/23 by Tom Pepper & Zhouqin Burnikel

I think this might be the first time I’ve seen Zhouqin Burnikel use her Chinese name, rather than “C.C.,” in her LAT byline. (I forget why she made the exception for LAT.) Whatever the byline is, there’s a lot to like in this puzzle, with some very fun cluing angles:

  • 12A [___ sum] seems like a very Burnikel way (food!) to clue DIM.
  • 24A [Covered with beads?] is SWEATY. Hee!
  • 29A Likewise, [Sound quality?] is a nice clue for HEALTH.
  • 31A [Place where people might exchange rings] is a PAWN SHOP. The wordplay hits just keep on coming! This one is all the more fun for not having a question mark to tip off the solver.
  • 37A I figured early on that [Field that involves drawing and folding] was not a reference to art, but it took a while to land on the correct answer of PRO POKER.
  • 55A [Prehistoric beast with a large bony frill] is the very cool and evocative TRICERATOPS.
  • 10D [Senators’ supporters, most likely] is a reference to hockey, not politics: OTTAWANS is the answer.
  • 24D [Pipes down?] is a clever way to clue SEWER.
  • 46D [Gp. whose alphabet includes Romeo and Juliett] is NATO. I recently learned that the reason “Juliett” is spelled with two Ts in the NATO Phonetic Alphabet is so that it can be pronounced the same way by French speakers (since the T in a word ending in -et would be silent) as everyone else.

With the exception of the two entries noted above, I wasn’t crazy about the SE corner: NATURAL AREA didn’t have that elusive (and hella subjective) “sparkle” to me, and OSCARS HOSTS felt hard to parse. (I also thought the more common phrasing would be OSCAR HOSTS, but the two versions get very similar numbers of hits when Googled with quotation marks.) But otherwise, liked this one a lot!

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34 Responses to Saturday, November 18, 2023

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: The Wordplay column had a link for FOAM PARTY showing kids in bathing suits covered with what looked like bubble bath foam.

    I thought it was pretty easy for a Saturday. I almost broke 10 minutes, which is fast for me.

    I loved seeing MAELSTROM — such a cool-looking word. It makes me think of Scylla and Charybdis, which makes me think of Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money” (I’m the innocent bystander/Somehow I got stuck/Between the rock and the hard place/And I’m down on my luck”).

    • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

      Interesting about Scylla and Charybdis. I always go the The Police, “Wrapped Around Your Finger”. The lyrics:

      You consider me the young apprentice
      Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis
      Hypnotized by you if I should linger
      Staring at the ring around your finger

      Nice Saturday.

    • DougC says:

      This played easy for me, too. The OSHEA/SANSA cross was a Natick, but I guessed the “A” correctly, and finished waaay under my Saturday average.

      Coming here to find that Amy rated this “on the hard side” got my Saturday off to a good start 8-)

      One nit to pick: as per Wikipedia, I will argue that a “keep” is, specifically, a “fortified tower built within castles….used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the castle fall to an adversary.” It is not synonymous with CASTLE in spite of the fact that we increasingly (incorrectly) see it used that way.

    • Dallas says:

      Pretty fast Saturday for me, too; not a record but definitely fast (23 minutes) despite having a GoT clue ;-) I wasn’t sure about OCEAN for Charybdis, as I think of that as in the Mediterranean from The Odyssey, but it works well enough.

      LG&M is one of my favorite sons, and introduced me to a lot of Warren Zevon’s other music… such a great singer/songwriter. I really like the previous two lyrics: “I was gambling in Havana, I took a little risk / Send lawyers, guns and money, dad, get me out of this, ha” That little addition of “dad” in there just nails the character so well.

      • Eric H says:

        That’s a great observation about the “dad” in that line. I admire writers who can pack so much in with just a few details.

        I sort stopped listening to Warren Zevon in the mid-1980s, but I did buy his last album, “The Wind.” Some of it is just heartbreaking. It’s kind of hard for me to imagine that I’m now almost 10 years older than he was when he died.

  2. Nino H. says:

    NYT: What a BAAAANGER! Loved it! No lookups and nice and quick, too :)

    Broke into the grid with BIG MAC and the rest was pretty straight forward.

  3. CC says:

    NYT: I wager millions of modern video gamers know what DLC (downloadable content) is, whether they’ve downloaded any or not. says that, as of 2019, a whopping 87% of US video gamers purchased DLC. (Which was pretty eye-opening!)

    Specifically, it’s usually bonus levels, extra adventures/quests, new tracks and courses for racing games, upgrades and expansions for characters, inventory, etc. (For example, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch had six waves of DLC over the last year and half that slowly doubled the number of playable racetracks).

    • Mr. [oh so very] Grumpy says:

      I doubt that the Venn diagram overlap between gamers and crossworders is very large. DLC was a junk entry.

      • Jim Peredo says:

        Not sure I follow the logic that says video gamers aren’t interested in crosswords. Plenty of video games appeal to puzzlers. I plopped in DLC with barely a thought. It’s about as “junk” to me as USB or TWA (i.e. it’s not junk).

  4. Me says:

    For the second week in a row, I found Friday to be much harder than most people, going way past my Friday average, and I found Saturday to be much easier than some others did. Both this week and last week, my Saturday time was almost 30% faster than my Friday time. Usually, my Saturday times are much longer than my Friday times, although I would say the gap between my Friday times and my Saturday times has narrowed recently in general.

    Amy and I had similar blind spots: I’d never heard of DLC or a FOAM PARTY before, either.

    Scylla and Charybdis make me think of the lyrics to a different song: The Police’s “Wrapped Around Your Finger.”

    • Me says:

      Sorry, should have put in the relevant lyrics, which open the song:

      You consider me the young apprentice
      Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis

      I’ve never heard it referred to as “the” Scylla except in that song, unless one is drawing an analogy like “caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of fear and hate” (which is not what’s happening in the song). I don’t know if that’s a British-ism or a Sting-ism.

    • Eric H says:

      We saw the Police on their first US tour when they played Austin’s legendary (and long-gone) Armadillo World Headquarters.

      The crowd wanted an encore, but they had run out of songs that all three of them knew. So it was a literal encore: They played “Roxanne” a second time.

    • Dan says:

      Do you mean the NYT Saturday puzzle, which drops on Fridays at 10 pm Eastern?

      • Me says:

        I usually do the puzzles pretty quickly after they are released at 10pm the night before the publication date, but here I am going by the publication date. I usually find the Saturday themeless to be significantly harder than the Friday themeless, but for the past two weeks, I found the Saturday one to be much easier, even though I don’t think that was universally felt.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Hey, I didn’t say FOAM PARTY was a blind spot. I just wondered if it was a thing outside of gay bars, which is the context I know it from. (Chicago’s Boystown is close by.)

      • Eric H says:

        It doesn’t seem unreasonable for Me to have read your comment about FOAM PARTY as conjecture along the lines of “Is this something they do in gay bars?”

        Be that as it may, I was amused that when I googled “foam party” (which is a new concept for me), one of the first hits I got was a company called Foam Daddy.

        • Me says:

          I took it as Eric H is saying, that the FOAM PARTY comment was conjecture. Like I said, I’d never heard of it before so had no context for it at all.

  5. David L says:

    Tougher for me than most Saturdays, and definitely tougher than yesterday’s. Nothing unfair (except maybe DLC), but a lot of stuff that didn’t come to mind quickly: OSHEA, ESCAROLE, ADIDAS, DRYSALT, FOAMPARTY, CASTLE (as clued). The equivalence between RAN and ‘drove’ isn’t clear to me.

    Good Saturday puzzle overall.

    • Art Shapiro says:

      The Drove/Ran connection seemed strange to me as well. I first thought they could be used with, say, “the project” in the sense of administering something. Then I considered they could be equivalent with “to the store”.

      I did not enjoy this puzzle – a little too trendy for my tastes.

  6. BlueIris says:

    Hmmmm…. The Newsday puzzle is listed above, but I’m not seeing the posting. I was curious to see any reasoning regarding the 25D clue answer — salmon and squid/carnivore? I would have thought piscivore.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Per Merriam-Webster, carnivores eat animal matter. Fish are animals.

      • BlueIris says:

        Hmmmph! Don’t like it personally. The far more common meaning is meat-eating. Thanks for the response.

    • JohnH says:

      Not that I do the Newsday puzzle, but interesting question. I’d have said something else than carnivore, too, although maybe slow to call “piscivore” to mind. RHUD has a carnivore as flesh-eating and, under flesh, has “muscular or fatty tissue . . . viewed as an article of food, usually excluding fish and sometimes fowl; meat.” So take it as you see fit.

      FWIW, I’m finding the NYT really hard.

      • PJ says:

        Continuing in the Wiki vein…

        Subcategories of carnivory
        Carnivores are sometimes characterized by their type of prey. For example, animals that eat mainly insects and similar invertebrates are called insectivores, while those that eat mainly fish are called piscivores.

        I’d’ve never thought of insectivores as carnivores. Probably because I hadn’t thought about it.

  7. Eric H says:

    Stumper: I’m not sure why I didn’t abandon it. It was just too hard for me to really enjoy.

    It took me over an hour, and that was with enough checks and reveals to take it down to a completion rate of 84%. (Usually, even if I don’t do it all on my own, my completion rate is in the 90s.)

    My biggest mistake was sticking to Captcha instead of AMIRITE for a long time. And Strata instead of GNEISS didn’t help, but at least I was on the right track with that one.

    SMOREOs? Whatever. (I’ll eat an Oreo in ice cream or if I’m on a plane and that’s all they’ll give me, but really, they’re just not worth the calories.) SELFIE STUDIOS? If you say so, Mr. Mossberg.

    I did like the clues for GO TO SLEEP and TRIPODS.

    • Eric H says:

      Just read Amy’s review. That pretty much summed it up for me.

      • Twangster says:

        Well at least now I don’t feel so badly. I got about half of it and threw in the towel.

      • David L says:

        On my first attempt, I got it all except the NE corner, which was a total blank, and the mid-Atlantic section. Couldn’t find a way in, although by that time I had figured out POINTTAKEN and GAMINGTABLE. But when I came back to the puzzle, I decided ‘craft that benefits craft’ had to be TUG, which led to TUNES and AMIRITE, and persuaded me that SANG had to be SUNG. From there I got INFINITUDE and that saw me through to the end.

        The clue for GNEISS suggests someone just picked a random fact about the material from a website somewhere.

    • Boston+Bob says:

      I, too, was certain CAPTCHA had to be “rite.”

  8. merlinnimue says:

    stumper: just over an hour for me with one check and 2 mistakes (how do you geniuses do this regularly clean in under 20?)… my downfall was putting in variety ART for some reason… i should have reviewed that but i was just so tired and thrown by 36a: how does IAN link one to one’s hometown?… it was only a few minutes after solving that i realized it was one of those darn suffixes… i got to it fairly late, perhaps i should have followed mossberg’s advice and GOTOSLEEP

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