Saturday, December 9, 2023

LAT 3:53 (Stella) 


Newsday 23:07 (pannonica) 


NYT 6:37 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Matthew)  


USA Today untimed (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Doug Peterson & Christina Iverson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12/9/23 – no. 1209

Some fun fill in this one. Among my favorites: “ACT NATURAL,” “CAN CONFIRM,” SKITTER, “NOT TODAY, SATAN,” WOOLENS (’tis the season), “WHY NOT BOTH?” (famously GIF-memed via this commercial for hard vs soft tacos, with a little girl who asks “¿Por qué no los dos?”), the BATPOLE, SNORKELED, and EMBIGGENS.

Least favorite entry, of course: “AH, ME.” Stop trying to make fetch happen!

Huh?: 28a. [Shell-inspired shade of greenish blue], DUCK EGG. That’s the name of a color? I was misled into thinking of seashells rather than eggshells. At any rate, a Google image search shows me many pale hues of duck eggs. Just glad we didn’t have a balut clue.

Four stars from me.

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

I liked this puzzle a LOT. It was a “gentle challenge,” as LAT Saturdays claim to be, and there was a lot of clever cluing to enjoy:

  • Los Angeles Times 12/9/23 by Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

    Los Angeles Times 12/9/23 by Enrique Henestroza Anguiano

    14A [Features of “Step By Step” and “Sister, Sister”]: I didn’t watch either of these shows, but I’m a late-Gen X gal who certainly could have, and so I enjoyed seeing a ref to these two ’90s sitcoms and their BLENDED FAMILIES.

  • 23A [“Save it for the honeymoon!”] made me chuckle: GET A ROOM!
  • 26A [Vietnamese garment] is AO DAI, which I’ve put into puzzles also and would love to see more of.
  • 31A [Declaration after a trial?] is FOR REAL THIS TIME. Fresh-feeling entry, and also a fairly tricky clue. A+!
  • 49A [Resident of Number One Observatory Circle since 2021] is HARRIS, and I suppose this is just a sign of my ignorance of what the official Vice Presidential residence is that I didn’t get this right away. (Why did I think it was Blair House?)
  • 57A [Paper clips?] is a nice clue for ARTICLES, as in clips from a newspaper.
  • 6D [Anti-mimetic position held by Oscar Wilde] is the lovely entry LIFE IMITATES ART.
  • 13D [Hit home?] is also a great clue for SIDE A, which is otherwise a crosswordy entry these days given that one doesn’t typically get one’s hit singles on a physical item with sides. Get it? The “home” of a “hit” is on SIDE A of a record (or cassette, if you’re my age and remember Cassingles).
  • 21D [Amass goods repeatedly, in video games] is FARM. Hi, I’m still playing Tears of the Kingdom, and I am constantly FARMing Bomb Flowers. I feel seen.
  • 25D [“Hair Love” voice actress] is Issa RAEHair Love is a very sweet Oscar-winning short from a few years back in which Issa Rae voices the podcast-within-the-show host.
  • 31D [___ roller] I thought at first had to be HOLY, but it’s FOAM. Again, I feel seen. I highly recommend the black Rumble Roller if you like a fairly high-pressure massage.
  • 35D [Reasons for WRs to dance] is TDS; WRs = wide receivers. One sees this entry a lot, so it’s nice to have a fresh-feeling clue.
  • 43D Ditto for [Plans a nice getaway?] for the much-used ABETS.

Joseph Gangi’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Headlines From the Kitchen Times” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/9/23 • Sat • Gangi • “Headlines From the Kitchen Times” • solution • 20231209

Two-word phrases for food items, but the second word changes from a plural noun to a present-tense verb, à la clipped newspaper syntax.

  • 22a. [“Vegetable Makes Bell Choir Debut”] ONION RINGS.
  • 27a. [“Garden Item Competes in Local Dance-Off”] TOMATO SALSAS.
  • 45a. [“Plant Makes Showy Dance Moves”] ARTICHOKE DIPS.
  • 64a. [“Fruit Shines in New Garage Band”] RASPBERRY JAMS.
  • 87a. [“Poultry Plucks Off All Its Feathers”] CHICKEN STRIPS.
  • 103a. [“Crustacean Continues Streak, Remains Undefeated”] LOBSTER ROLLS.
  • 113a. [“Hamburger Swoons Over New Buns”] PATTY MELTS.
  • 33d. [“Brie Shows Off Mad Court Skills”] CHEESE BALLS.
  • 41d. [“Tuber Holes Out From 30 Feet to Win”] POTATO CHIPS.

These are a little weird, ok, sure.

  • 11d [Cavatina’s kin] ARIA. A cavatina is simpler and briefer, but also a solo.
  • 42d [Direction in a Steinbeck title] EAST of Eden.
  • 43d [Put on the line, say] DRY, not something like RISK.
  • 45d [Falsely attack] ASPERSE. Rare verb form of a noun, typically ‘cast’. Is aspersion a fossil word?
  • 72d [Monkey’s uncle?] APE. A better analogy would be nephew.
  • 80d [Take in, say] ALTER. Not the first time I’ve been taken in by a clue worded this way.
  • 96d [Hamper] IMPEDE. 74a [Hurdle, so to speak] OBSTACLE.
  • 98d [Core class abbr.] REQ. Ha, I thought this was going to be ABS.
  • 21a [Broken, say] TAMED. Really growing to dislike this framing. There are other ways to tame animals without the domination and cruelty implicit in ‘breaking’ them.
  • 48a [One in a row?] OAR. Oof.
  • 51a [Loudness unit] PHON. “the unit of loudness on a scale beginning at zero for the faintest audible sound and corresponding to the decibel scale of sound intensity with the number of phons of a given sound being equal to the decibels of a pure 1000-hertz tone judged by the average listener to be equal in loudness to the given sound” (m-w).
  • 79a [Wedding reception sight] CAKE. So memorable in what I feel is the best cinematic wedding scene, that from the final section of Relatos salvajes (Wild Tales) (2014).
  • 84a [Salad green] KALE. Not part of the theme.
  • 85a [Anitpasto bit] OLIVE. Also not part of the theme.
  • 101a [Head line setting] PALM. Also not part of the theme. Different kind of headline.

Brad Wilber’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 12/9/23 • Saturday Stumper • Wilber • solution • 20231209

(Whoops, please ascribe no significance to the highlighted ANALOGY in the solution grid.)

Aside from a few missteps, I proceeded slowly but surely through this crossword.

First entry was 36d [Good representation] LIKENESS, confirmed by checking the K as 45a [Woody Guthrie, e.g.] OKIE. From there is wasn’t too difficult to flesh out the entire southeast corner, though there was a temporary error where I had RAIL INTO rather than SAIL INTO for 37d [Dress down].

44a [Jazz duo in Vancouver] had to be ZEDS, so inroads to the southwest were being made.

In the northeast, I benefitted from knowing that uvea is Latin for ‘grape’, so it wasn’t too difficult to answer 15a [Literally, “little grapes”] as UVULAE. On the other hand, RUN rather than RBI at 22a [Pinch hitter’s hope] stymied me for a time. Another issue was 26d [Any of 26 in 1959–60 prime time] OATER, for western—I tried DATER, thinking of The Dating Game, which (a) probably began much later, (b) certainly had more than 26 episodes in a season, (c) wouldn’t have been aired in prime time. 

Way back to 1-across [Drinks favored by Hemingway] in the northwest, I have a strong association of Hemingway with daiquiris (perhaps I was thinking of this?), so it took some time (and crossings) to come up with MOJITOS.

Okay, after all that narrative, finally it’s time for the official run-through.

  • 16a [Ends, often] TACKLERS. Clear, after a few crossings. Inscrutable prior.
  • 25a [Something worn on a hood] CORROSION. Rust on a car’s hood.
  • 29a [Defeat overwhelmingly] BURY, not BURN.
  • 31a [Romeo or Juliet] VERONESE. I should’ve remembered this. Instead I toyed with MILANESE and even PISANESE.
  • 34a [Purchase before going to court] RED ROSE. Court as in woo. Thought it might be some kind of ROBE. 8d [One taking up charges] JUROR.
  • 59a [Chain on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge] AZORES. Was rather confident about this, but had trouble figuring out the Z crossing: 42d [Hiding place revealer, maybe] SNEEZE, not an easy clue.
  • 61a [Certain farmer] TENANT, not RED ANT (they aren’t a farming species, anyway—those would be these and these).
  • 3d [Intricate fabric pattern] JACQUARD. As you might suspect, it’s an eponym. Fun fact: ages ago I did computer pattern designing for a JACQUARD knitting factory.
  • 6d [ __ delta (Concord wing shape)] OGEE. New clue-spin on venerable crosswordese. The OGEE aspect must refer to those rounded ‘shoulders’ at the fore of the wings.
  • 7d [It’s east of Rochester] SYRACUSE. The S from the 1-across plural helped enormously here.
  • 12d [Thing secured with a post] EARBOB. Not a word I knew. It appears to be a Southern-ish regionalism for earring.
  • 13d [Only externally visible part of the central nervous system] RETINA. Trivia!
  • 24d [Boxer’s destination] STORAGE. Neither a pugilist nor a puppy. Boo.

Willa Angel Chen Miller’s Universal crossword, “Universal Freestyle 102″—Matt’s recap

Willa Angel Chen Miller’s Universal Crossword solution, “Universal Freestyle 102,” 12/09/2023

Classic themeless shape with stacks in each corner today, but I think my favorite answers are the longer acrosses RESCUE DOG and ANIMORPHS, the latter an absolute staple of the 1990s elementary school scene, if I may date myself. Some fun clues (a highlight for me is [In-flight beverage?] for BEER) and interesting fill throughout.

I found this grid somewhat uneven in difficulty level, a surprise for Universal, toughest and trivia-heavy in the upper half, and pretty straightforward (and more wordplay-y?) in the bottom. ONE OR MORE accurately describes the [Number of items in a non-empty set], but it was tough to see, and a bit of a roundabout cluing angle IMO. I have no sense of how well-known BAY to Breakers is — it rings a bell, and “San Francisco” in the clue helps out, I suppose.

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword, “Shantay, You Stay”—Solution Grid

Rafael Musa’s USA Today crossword solution, “Shantay, You Stay,” 12/09/2023

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25 Responses to Saturday, December 9, 2023

  1. Greg says:

    I found the Times to be slightly harder than usual, but ultimately a fair and enjoyable solving experience. It called for a wide range of random knowledge–a challenge I enjoy.

  2. Nino H. says:

    this might be the hardest NYT puzzle i’ve ever seen in a while. got about three clues solved before I had to throw in the towel and start googling. The hell is a PEWIT, anyways?

    Definitely feels like a puzzle made for the older generation, I guess. Lots of obscura that I would have no real chance of knowing as a twenty-something year old.

    • Nino H. says:

      After further thought, I’d like to leave a review of my comment as ‘dumb and stupid’ and amend it to say that it was actually reasonable in hindsight.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      This member of the “older generation” certainly didn’t think it was “made for me”! It had too many of those danged conversational clue/answer combinations that never seem natural to me. I’m making no judgments about the quality of the puzzle, mind you. It just didn’t hit my wheelhouse.

    • agreenberg says:

      im in my sixties and i found it very challenging to say the least!

    • JohnH says:

      I’m older, too, and found it close to impossible. Interesting, though. (Can’t imagine what in the puzzle refers to an older cultural point of reference, apart from the Iliad, and the boomers didn’t write that one.)

  3. huda says:

    NYT: I agree that there’s a lot to love. The triplet stacks in the North and South are really good, as is the star in the middle. Never heard NOT TODAY SATAN, but it made me chuckle. Maybe I’ll post it in my kitchen for the holiday season.
    But the SW corner felt like a dead end. Needed to google PEWIT and that opened things up.
    A good work out overall.

  4. Eric says:

    NYT: I breezed through the grid, beating my time from yesterday, only to get the equivalent of Connections’ annoying “One Away” message. I retyped everything, introducing some new typos, and found my 35D “Words to end a play” were the nonsensical YOUR bURN. (That’s a great clue; I could only think of a theatrical performance.)

    Fixing 35D still wasn’t enough! Back through the grid again, where I finally noticed that my 30A mouse, who had originally ScaTTER[ed], was now ScITTER[ing]. As soon as I stopped cOWTOWING, victory was mine. (When we drive through the seemingly endless expanse of West Texas on our ski trips, we inevitably see at least one or two ranchers engaged in cOW-TOWING.)

    I loved the 36D BATPOLE clue. Actually, I loved almost everything about this puzzle.

  5. AlexK says:

    I’m a bit split on the NYT. Very fun, challenging fill. I can’t help but think some of the challenge was a bit of a misalignment between “trying to give more oblique clues” and “the obliqueness leads to some inaccuracy”. Eg the NW corner stacks: I’m a huge classical music buff…I know the Blue Danube (as does anyone by ear if you’ve ever seen a TV show depicting a waltz before 1920…)… but the Danube itself is the geographical inspiration, no? The ‘blue’ here is just a title given by the composer…seems like the Strauss piece itself should be clued here instead of the geographical site with an adjective attached. Re slang, maybe because I’m a younger solver, but “can confirm” doesn’t exactly jive with being “100% correct,” much more of a “I completely agree” vibe. A much better clue, maybe even more challenging but more accurate, would be along the lines of “I was there”.

    By contrast, the SE corner was just as packed with great fill, but the oblique cluing cleverly pointed at the answers indirectly in a way that the NW failed to do. On the other hand, ’embiggens’ ‘batpole’ ‘snorkeled’ ‘kowtowing’ ‘tabula rasa’ ‘why not both’…all truly excellent.

    • Gary R says:

      I’m with you on BLUE DANUBE and CAN CONFIRM. “The Danube” was too short and “Danube River” too long. So I went with “Blue Danube,” but I didn’t like it . Thinking in terms of “I completely agree,” I started with “absolutely” for 17-A. Took a while to fix that.

    • Mr. [somewhat annoyed and] Grumpy says:

      Oh my, I hated that little SE. I think the clue for TABULA RASA is just wrong [it means from birth, not a second chance IMO], and nobody ever uses CAL in reference to UCSF [no periods needed — just like UCLA]. CAL is Berkeley. UCSF is the University of California at San Francisco. There is no way to use CAL in reference to it. There just isn’t. What? U of Cal at SF? Uni Cal SF? No No No. Sheesh. What’s wrong with using Iron Man Ripken? End of rant. :-)

  6. Twangster says:

    I was delighted to be able to solve the Stumper without cheating for the first time in a few weeks, although it did take a while. It definitely helped that both my parents went to SYRACUSE. Great puzzle!

    • David L says:

      I found it surprisingly straightforward by Stumper standards. Quite a few clues were pretty much straight definitions. The only thing I don’t really buy is the clue for CORROSION — not something you ‘wear,’ in my experience.

  7. After recent Saturdays, I was surprised by the relative easiness of today’s Stumper.

    I have to quarrel a little with 57-A, eight letters, “Warning heading.” “Nota bene” is more a way of marking emphasis, calling attention to something, esp. in an academic setting (say, an endnote or footnote). Which reminds me: there used to be (omg, there still is!) a word-processing program for academics called Nota Bene.

    I’m not sure you’d see ever see Nota Bene as a warning in an everyday context. And certainly not as a heading. DANGER, KEEP OUT, WARNING: that’s what I’d think of as a heading.

  8. meaningless nobody says:

    gg to all you smarties who found the stumper easy and could complete it in a reasonable time… ive only gotten sub-30′ once… which is very emblematic of how i do things, well enough the first time and then never again… at least i did it without checks, so small victory there

  9. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper: nice tough but doable one. But I have two small gripes that slowed me down annoyingly. One is VERONESE. That sure seems like an adjective, but the clue is definitely a noun. I was trying VERONIAN for a while.

    The second is RETINA. Can you see the retina from the outside?? I thought it was at the back of the eyeball. I had CORNEA for a long time, because you can actually see the cornea. The NW was by far the hardest for me, because of this.

    • David L says:

      I hesitated at retina too. But when an ophthalmologist does a full eye exam, with dilation of the pupils, they inspect the retina — with the appropriate instruments. So you can see it without doing any cutting or slicing, which is what the clue suggests.

  10. John+F.+Ervin says:

    L.A.Times, I think the LAT puzzle deserves mention. I found it formidable enough to forward to my like-minded cruciverbalists. 44D, rats at first, made sense to me. 13D Hit Home, aha.
    41A, had to ponder a bit especially with 28D crossing (good clue I thought)
    Toledo, oops I mean toodleoo.

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