Saturday, November 25, 2023

LAT 3:33 (Stella) 


Newsday 24:41 (pannonica) 


NYT 7:46 (Amy) 


Universal tk (norah)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Jeff Stillman’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 11/25/23 – no. 1125

This one’s a tale of two puzzles. Some terrific long fill, yes, but also a number of shorter entries that clang rather than sing.

Fave fill: The NAACP IMAGE AWARDS, MILLION MOM MARCH, “THE PLOT THICKENS” (love it!), “I’LL TAKE YOU THERE” (not sure the singular clue is on target; perhaps multiple members of the Staple Singers sang that phrase?), and SCRAMBLE THE JETS.

Among the entries that irked: EEEE shoes, plural notes MIS and RES, ENE, plural interjection UGHS, French crosswordese LAI (ETE and ETRE are far more familiar), Latin NOBIS, suffixes –ENNE and –ISM, never-seen-it E-CRIME, roll-your-own WOOERS, non-idiomatic BAD ONE. There were rather more of these than I’d have liked to see.

There’s not much reason for anyone outside the vicinity to know of ALTON, Illinois, population 25,000. My main reference for it is that gadfly Phyllis Schlafly was from there (not to mention the tallest man in the Guinness Book of World Records), but apparently Miles Davis was born there and Alton was an important place in the abolitionist movement.

3.25 stars from me.


Kunal Nabar’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 10/25/23 by Kunal Nabar

Los Angeles Times 10/25/23 by Kunal Nabar

Ah, there’s that “gentle challenge” one is supposed to get out of LAT.

  • 24A [Pet that needs a sitter?] is a LAP CAT. Cute!
  • 31A [Earring Magic __: collectible doll of 1993] is KEN. I’m too old to have wanted one of these for myself, and also too young to have been aware of the stir this doll created at the time. I kind of love that he became a little gay icon.
  • 40A [Creator of spine-tingling content?] is an ASMRTIST. Boy, is that hard to parse. I guess it’s a portmanteau of “ASMR” and “artist” and it makes me feel extremely old.
  • 51A [One of the racing Andrettis] is MARCO, which is just a cruel way to clue this word. I’d feel differently if the crossing with the C weren’t with a pop-culture reference that I am too old to get; eventually one must realize that there’s no such thing as a SITIH and that 41D must be SITCH, but this almost feels like a trap set for tournament solvers who are not of the age to have watched Kim Possible.
  • 4D [Street food also known as golgappa] is PANI PURI. I enjoyed this entry, which felt very apropos to the constructor.
  • 8D [Places to retire?] is PITS. Now this is a tournament-style trap I can get behind. Experienced solvers will sniff and put in BEDS or COTS, as I did, thinking, “This trope has been around for a while.” But “retire” does not mean “go to bed” the way it usually does in this clue trope. It means “change the tires on your race car.” Get it? Brilliant.
  • 21D [Need in some preservation efforts] is a clever clue for MASON JARS. As in preservation of fruits and vegetables.
  • 47D [Free spot] seems at first glance to be referring to parking, but instead is a PSA; that is, a “spot” that’s “free” because it’s paid for by someone other than the organization it’s promoting.

Sean Ziebarth’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Headliners” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 11/25/23 • Sat • “Headliners” • Ziebarth • solution • 20231125

  • 68aR [Limelight site, and a hint to the positions of this puzzle’s circled names] CENTER STAGE. Each of those circled names is a musical performer, and they do in fact appear precisely in the center of their respective entries.
  • 23a. [“This is a dumb idea”] IT’LL NEVER WORK (Eve).
  • 33a. [Diet-wrecking treat] BANANA SPLIT (Nas).
  • 50a. [Chooses the road less taken, perhaps] TAKES A DETOUR (Sade).
  • 88a. [Entangle] TIE UP IN KNOTS (Pink).
  • 102a. [One hot dog stand in Manhattan spawned more than 400 if these worldwide] SHAKE SHACKS (Kesha).
  • 117a. [Crane, often] ORIGAMI ANIMAL (Mia).

In each case, the hidden central name spans at least two words. The majority of the names are female performers—the exceptions being Nas and Sade, the latter of which is technically the name of the band (but also colloquially used to refer to its lead singer). I don’t believe this distribution represents an editorial choice so much as it’s a reflection of the preponderance of women among one-named performers. Note also that these names  are probably familiar because they appear in crosswords quite a lot—they’re short and have useful letter combinations.

The crossword itself is pitched rather easy, so it was a simple progression through the grid, filling in one section after another. The only part that mounted a bit of resistance was the two-o’clock region, the one containing 53a [Toric] O-SHAPED.

  • 9d [Cut down] HEWN. 10d [Hue and cry] ADO.
  • 33d [Singer Erykah] BADU. Not part of the theme. (Partial name anyway.)
  • 57d [Forgoes marketing messages, say] OPTS OUT. Yesterday—Black Friday/Buy Nothing Day—was a good time to do so. But it isn’t too late.
  • 62d [Dr. with Grammys] DRE. Also not part of the theme. (Partial name again).
  • 74d [Iron man, maybe] STATUE. I wonder, are there many statues made of iron?
  • 87d [Understand in a particular way] CONSTRUE. Not a common crossword entry, but not a particularly uncommon word.
  • 112d [Put out] EMIT. 13d [Flows out] EMANATES.
  • 25a [Capital amid five lakes] MADISON. Trivia! That quintet is Lakes Mendota, Monona, Wingra, Kegonsa, and Waubesa.
  • 36a [Dish jockey?] CATERER. Cute.
  • 40a [Scotland’s longest river] TAY.
  • 59a [Letters you can phone in] EMAIL. From that mildly resistant section. I kind of thought this was the answer, but waited for additional crossings to confirm, because it felt a bit off. But I can accept it.
  • 80a [Sprite’s place, say] POP CAN. Just want to say that that’s a phrase that’s quite alien to me. Regionalisms!


Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 11/25/23 • Saturday Stumper • Ruff, Newman • solution • 20231125

This one seemed much tougher than a ‘less rough’ offering. It may be I’m a tad rusty from not being around to solve last week’s Stumper, but I suspect not.

  • 18a [Pizza’s partner potables in “Home Alone”] PEPSISReally?
  • 19a [Stop order] THAT’LL BE ENOUGH. Seems a bit flimsy as an entry.
  • 21a [Word from the Greek for “century”] AEON. I had no idea. Interesting.
  • 22a [Onetime Pringles light ingredient] OLEAN, which was a brand name for olestra.
  • 23a [Cry for attention] ME ME, not MAMA.
  • 24a [Predominance] BRUNT.
  • 26a [Shuttered shooter] SLR. My first entry, after quite a bit of casting about. Pretty sure the nearby 35a [Healer’s handle] DOC was the second.
  • 28a [Only thought] UNSAID. A nice clue/answer pair.
  • 33a [Designate] TAB. Not sure how this works.
  • 36a [South Island stuffed souvenir] MOA. Yeah, not an easy clue for an extinct giant New Zealand ratite. I gather that it’s a popular plush animal version that tourists buy?
  • 41a [Bodies of bees] VOCABS. Again, not an easy clue.
  • 46a [Hard-hat’s wet concrete] MUD. I guess this is the term used by construction workers?
  • 52a [It’s not Impossible] BEEF. Note the capitalization in the clue.
  • 53a [Like dictionaries] QUADRISYLLABIC. Better than what it seemed like it was going to be—QUADRILATERAL or something along those lines. Another toughie, though.
  • 57a [Course heading] À LA CARTE. Tricky again. Especially as we have right below it 60a [Handle headings] NAVIGATE.
  • 5d [Venue for vaults] MEET. Pole vaults, track-and-field meets.
  • 6d [1920’s __-Ethiopian Treaty] ITALO-. Another entry I was able to get early on, sans crossings. Thanks, history!
  • 8d [Nellie Bly contemporary] Ida TARBELL. Mismatch between given name + surname clue and surname-only answer. But perhaps [Bly contemporary] would have been harder?
  • 11d [Tower with the power] REPO MAN. That’s ‘tower’ with a long-O. But how does one parse the ‘power’ in the clue? Again, not a Les Ruff-level clue.
  • 21d [Sit by] ABUT, not IDLE.
  • 29d [Its library holds about 40K genealogies] DAR, the Daughters of the American Revolution. I had considered for some time that the answer would be AKC.
  • 34d [Raises, likewise without its first and third letter] BUMPS (and UPS).
  • 39d [Playground spot in Sussex] SAND PIT. Sounds sinister.
  • 40d [Like bleach bottles] BUOYANT. A safety feature?
  • 55d [Proton donor, in chemistry] ACID, not ATOM.
  • 58d [“Her __ sae bright, like stars at night”: Burns] EEN. I thought it might be E’EN, an elision for EYEN, but it seems that the Scottish dialect has it as simply EEN, no apostrophe.

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39 Responses to Saturday, November 25, 2023

  1. SayWhat? says:

    Grammar, Amy.

  2. zevonfan says:

    Amazed I didn’t get Naticked in the middle cluster of crossword-ese in today’s NYT.

    Could someone please explain this clue to me?
    46 Spanish : “son” :: English : ___ : ARE

    No habla espanol. Does this “son” mean child or is it a linking verb like “are?”

    Muchos gracias.

    • Matt G says:

      “son” is the third-person plural form of “es”, which is Spanish for “is”. Soy, eres, es, somos, sois, son. I am, you are, he/she is, we are, you are, they are.

  3. Dallas says:

    Some tricky small fill, felt slow but ended up below my average… For 1D I wanted HERANDOS HIDEAWAY… but eventually got the right answer :-) One of my favorite songs, too…. And I think both have that same opening line “I know a place…”

    Overall, it came along alright with the long answers making up for a lot of the shorter ones. I didn’t care for DNAS and SPEX really messed me up (I had WORK PERMITS before eventually fixing it to EXIT PERMITS). But a good Saturday… hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving weekend!

  4. Dan says:

    LAT: I came here mainly to learn why ASMRTIST is “Creator of spine-tingling content?”

    Unfortunately, this was not explained.

    • Eric H says:

      I always have trouble remembering what ASMR stands for, though I know what it is.

      It’s “autonomous sensory meridian response,” which Wikipedia describes as a pleasant tingling sensation that begins in the scalp and moves down the spine.

      From what I’ve read, it’s typically caused by certain sounds, like the sound you could make by running your thumbnail across the teeth of a plastic comb.

      YouTube apparently has hundreds of videos of ASMR sounds.

    • Mr. [oh so very] Grumpy says:

      I thought that 40A/41D crossing was unforgivable. For me, it ruined what was otherwise a nice puzzle.

  5. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: I had the same reaction as Amy. Loved the long fill, but cringed at the short fill.

    The “Well, gosh” in the clue for the central Across entry led me to GEE, I SUPPOSE. This resulted in a G in the song title at 1-Down. But I’ve never heard the song I’LL TAKE GOUT HERE.

    • Mr. [not really] Grumpy says:

      Those colloquial clues are so very often open to so many options. I started with GEE as well and had to backtrack.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        … what’s worse (IMO, of course) is that they’re becoming ever more ubiquitous in CrossWorld … as if everyone uses language in the same way as a 20-something or 30-something … for the record, I wouldn’t be happy with a surfeit of colloquial clues that 20-somethings and 30-somethings wouldn’t be likely to know either

    • Me says:

      I know it’s Saturday, but I also found some of the short fill cluing to be too obscure, and that got in the way of enjoying the puzzle. LAI could have been clued as Francis Lai, the Oscar-winning composer of Love Story, and ALTON as Alton Brown. They aren’t super well-known, but the current cluing for LAI at least might as well be, “Three letters that you have to guess” for 99.9% of solvers.

      • Lois says:

        Not knocking fans of the composer if they think it’s a good clue (I’m not familiar with his name though perhaps I should be), but I preferred the clue for LAI as given. For sure, I didn’t know it straight off, but I got it once I had the “L.” I know just a little French, not enough to read or speak really, but I could see the similarity of LAI (with a French-looking ending) to to the English word “lay” meaning poem. Now I see from looking it up that LAI is actually an English word.

  6. MattF says:

    NYT was OK, was stumped for a while by the clue to ENE. And by the spelling of the Blade Runner actor’s name. Seemed to be a lot of popcult.

  7. Stephie says:

    Sweet blessed Jesus on the cross.

  8. Boston Bob says:

    TNY: Anyone else have TAP for 33A? After multiple reviews, I threw up my hands and revealed the location of my error. Otherwise, I found this Stumper to be easier than usual.

  9. ZDL says:

    i will give a shiny silver dollar to the first constructor who slips EEEEEE into a puzzle

  10. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Confidential to Stephie, Shanda, WhoFarted?, and SayWhat?: The sad little game you’re playing to amuse yourself is cheap and lazy. If you don’t want your comments removed, stay on topic and don’t be a bozo.

  11. JT says:

    NYT – there’s not a lot of puzzles I will walk away from after starting, but I abandoned this one, too much junk fill and questionable cluing for my tastes.

  12. Eric H says:

    Stumper: I found it very Stumperish and not much fun. (I’m a bit surprised that I didn’t abandon it.) I was slow to get stuff like ART HOUSE and CABBAGE that should have been obvious with a few crossings.

    I’m sure it would have helped if I had remembered RIHANNA had performed at the last Super Bowl (which I didn’t watch). And it might have helped to not read the 2D clue as “Beacon lens enclosure,” because I spent a long time trying to figure out what a “beacon lens” is.

    I did like THAT’LL BE ENOUGH and the clue for À LA CARTE (which had me thinking of compass points and college courses for far too long).

    • David L says:

      Despite it being allegedly Les Ruff, I couldn’t finish it. The SE quadrant was a big blank, except for a lonely ACID. As others said above, I had TAP/PUMPS in the middle. FLAVA was unknown to me, and unguessable. The clue for HADJI was pretty esoteric. I couldn’t come up with anything after QUADRIS_ for the dictionaries clue. Etc etc.

  13. David Stone says:

    Amy, I was interested to see your take on the NYT puzzle today. I find that you tend to award more stars than the average reader does, and today was [no/a surprising] exception. You enumerated exactly why it was a bad puzzle — LAI and UGHS are truly unforgivable — and then you rated it with 3.25 stars; that’s above average!? I didn’t even know that Saturday puzzles *could* be bad. Maybe you meant to give it 2.25 or momentarily forgot that the scale is out of 5. (3.25 out of 10 would be about right). It reminds me of the phrase we often hear: “You’re too kind!” I think you were too kind.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      I’m not giving 20% of puzzles 1 star and another 20% 2 stars. Those are reserved for truly terrible puzzles. This one did have some terrific long fill. If LAI and UGHS had been the glue for fill like STRESSLESSNESS or something, then I might’ve been down in the 2 range. The reputable crossword editors whose venues are reviewed here are very rarely (if ever) publishing anything that is such absolute shite that I’d rate it 1 star. This isn’t Yelp here. I’ll bet there are plenty of 1-star crosswords rejected by the various puzzle editors. (Note: If a straight-up slur is in the grid, that might merit a 1-star rating from me.)

      • David Stone says:

        I would never expect you to give 20% of the puzzles 1 star, etc — that’s not how ratings or grades typically work. But I think that the fact that you are a(n excellent) constructor and that you know a lot of constructors personally may make it hard for you to be a fair judge of the solving experience for the rest of us. In this particular instance, your rating was a bit more than a full point over the 2.12 rating given by more than 50 readers, and I’ve noticed that your rating tends to fall a decent amount higher than that of the readers.

        I also don’t think that 2 stars denotes a ‘truly awful’ puzzle. It’s literally just a bit below average. This puzzle was definitely not as good as the average NYT Friday puzzle — not even close — so I expected a 2.5 or 3.0 from you (at best).

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          Ratings are subjective. This didn’t feel as unpleasant as a 2.12 for me.

          Do you consider a D grade to be “just a bit below average”? A, B, C, D, F, that’s another 5-point rating system.

          Also: It’s my blog and I’ve defined 1 and 2 stars differently from you.

          • David says:

            I think I figured something out. You are probably thinking of 5 = A, 4 = B, and so on. That makes total sense, but I’d never thought of a 1-5 rating scale that way. I always assumed that 3 = “average” but that the average isn’t necessarily a C.

            This means that if I’m correct, your average puzzle is probably a 3.5 or so. If that’s the case, then you rated this puzzle a bit lower than (your) average, which makes sense.

            I do think that most readers use the 1-5 scoring system closer in line with my thinking, and that would explain why this puzzle was scored so much lower by the readers than by you.

            Thanks for the clarification and the replies!

  14. Late to the game:

    I too had TAP and PUMPS. Merriam-Webster has “designate” among its definitions for “tap.” And “pumps” works just as well as “bumps.” The choice of what’s correct here seems arbitrary, and I think that’s a strike against the puzzle.

    The clue for HADJI is fine, imo, but that’s a variant spelling. “Hajji” is standard.

  15. merlinnimue says:

    stumper: count me in tap/pumps gang… no, i can’t join you cool kids? eh, no worries

    satisfied in that that was my only check… even if it did take me an hour… yet another reason i can’t sit at the cool kids’ table

  16. Teedmn says:

    Anyone else for gUMPS? Though I did change it to BUMPS when the poker tie-in came to mind.

    What held me up the most in the SE was a Hail Mary guess of Blondes in place of BUOYANT. Silly, I know.

  17. Lois says:

    NYT: Many solvers seemed to be unhappy with the short fill, but I liked most of it. It helped me to get to the nice long answers. I didn’t complete the crossword, but got most of it. I found it much easier than Friday’s Times crossword. I couldn’t do much with that one until I used Easy Mode. Friday’s was probably much better for advanced solvers.

  18. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: The editing team needs to quit twisting meanings. 29D: “French crown” is not a “Tete”. A tete is a head, not a crown that can sit on a head, or be the top of the head.
    I gave the puzzle a 2 — the constructor got a 3 and the editor got a 1.

  19. Seattle DB says:

    USAT: I had to give this puzzle a 4 simply for publishing the 48D clue that includes “…putting a condom on a banana…”.

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