Saturday, January 6, 2024

LAT 3:11 (Stella) 


Newsday 15:36 (pannonica) 


NYT 7:03 (Amy) 


Universal 2:38 (Matthew)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Ben Tolkin & Julian Xiao’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1/6/24 – no. 0106

OOF (31d!), I am tired. So I’ll be brief.

Love the grid layout.

Skidded out of control with BAUSCH instead of ACUVUE at 42d, and I’m anti-IPA so it took a while to piece together 10d HAZY IPA, so so both of those sections were a slow mess for me.

Fave fill: HUMAN PYRAMID, “THAT DOG DON’T HUNT,” DAYS OF OUR LIVES,” YEAR-END BONUS, UNMUTES. Not entirely sure that “PAGING DR. FREUD” rises to the level of appearing in a crossword grid, but it’s fun.

January 6th would’ve been my crossword-loving grandma’s 111th birthday. I probably would have found my way to puzzles eventually but I think she introduced me to Games magazine via a gift subscription, and she’d be so proud of me if she’d lived to see me become a crossword editor!

Four stars from me for the tough puzzle.

Rafael Musa’s Universal crossword, “Universal Freestyle 106″—Matthew’s recap

Rafael Musa’s Universal crossword, “Universal Freestyle 106” solution, 1/6/24

Here’s something different — diagonal symmetry isn’t exactly brand new anymore, but it still catches the eye, and the heavy block placement in the upper left corner down to the center adds to the different vibe here. Usually diagonal symmetry brings alone wide-open areas and connectivity in different places than solvers are used to. Here, there connections between the different grid regions are pretty narrow.

And yet I flowed neatly through the grid, and especially through those transition areas, with SOCIAL IQ, MOZAMBIQUE [One-word country with the highest Scrabble score], and EID MUBARAK. If those are a touch tougher than other entries in the grid, generally I felt this was clued on the gentler side.

FOR REALS and I GOT THIS is a fun pairing in the lower right, and I love the slight pause I get when I come across triple letters, as in CHESS SET.

Katie Hale and Brian Callahan’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 1/6/24 by Katie Hale and Brian Callahan

Los Angeles Times 1/6/24 by Katie Hale and Brian Callahan

I liked this puzzle a lot! I’m a late Gen-Xer who feels like my demographic often gets overlooked in puzzles: We’re not old enough to have been favored by the boomer editors who ruled the roost for so long, but the Zs who are in charge now have moved on to clues about Pokemon. So I really enjoyed seeing NINETIES KIDS at 23A. GOING-OUT TOPS also felt fun and fresh.

I was also fooled, at least momentarily, by clues like [Chicago pub] for TRIB (that’s pub…lication…ohhhhh), [Item best not pocketed] for CUE BALL, and [Saving space] for BARGAIN BIN.

Also, TIL that people have PET GATORs (great clue with [Housemate who’s liable to snap], by the way). Mind blown.

Tom Pepper’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mined Games” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 1/6/24 • Sat • “Mined Games” • Pepper • solution • 20240106

Past tense forms of verbs are homophones of the first words or parts of familiar phrases/words.

  • 23a. [Prohibited Red Cross work, say?] BANNED AID (Band-).
  • 35a. [Hauled some pub seating?] TOWED STOOLS (toadstools).
  • 52a. [Invoiced “The Big Lebowski” star?] BILLED BRIDGES (build).
  • 71a. [Sank all 18 putts in a round of golf?] HOLED EVERYTHING (hold).
  • 91a. [Transported Golden State players across the Bay?] ROWED WARRIORS (road). 56d [County across the Golden Gate from San Francisco] MARIN.
  • 105a. [Charged tennis players for serves not in play?] FINED FAULTS (find).
  • 124a. [Borrowed from TV’s Behar?] OWED TO JOY (Ode).

I going to say this is solid but unexciting. The puzzle overall went down very smoothly and quickly.

Early on it felt as if there was a downer vibe: 16d [“There’s no point in continuing”] IT’S USELESS. 24d [Loan application stamp] DENIED. 39a [Causes of sudden deaths] TIES. Maybe some others?

  • 64d [City of western New York, or a fat substitute brand] OLEAN. Mildly curious about which was more helpful to solvers.
  • 90d [Chat-based recovery program] AA ONLINE. New to me; that triple-vowel sequence is kind of wild. Lurking nearby is 82a [Primo] A-ONE.
  • 118a [Like maraschino cherries] DYED. Use amarenas instead! Or if you insist on maraschinos, go for the original: Luxardo.
  • 122d [Make a blunder] ERR. 21a [Not perfect] HUMAN.
  • 27a [Hit from a contact hitter] SINGLE. Baseball.
  • I’m grouping these three laconic clues together: 33a [Forward, say] RESEND. 74d [Tolerate] BROOK. 94d [Look at] REGARD. Not entirely sure why, but it just feels so.
  • 55a [Countless number] UMPTEEN. m-w says: “blend of umpty (such and such) and -teen (as in thirteen)”, and also that umpty is “probably alteration of -enty (as in twenty, seventy)”

Stella Zawistowski’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 1/6/24 • Saturday Stumper • Zawistowski • solution • 20230106

This feels like the easiest Stella Stumper I’ve done.

Last holdouts were the left flank and the bottom right. The former was entirely due to my sticking too long with IPA instead of ALE at 36a [Audrey Hopburn, for one]. Similarly, having ANTIPHOTON instead of ANTIPROTON for 52a [Bit of cosmic rays] caused a delay in the other section.

  • 15a [Now and then] SOME. Okay, I can see a specific way these are exchangable.
  • 23a [Fiberglass fittings for feet] CASTS. Unknown to me whether this is akin to casters or if it’s just a medical cast to mend a broken foot.
  • 32a [Water tower] TUG. Oof. 12d [Large water cooler] BERG. Oof-ish.
  • The marquee grid-spanners are SAUCE AMÉRICAINE and TELEPHOTO LENSES, both excellent.
  • 44a [Branta sandvicensis] I know that Branta is a genus of swans, so I simply entered SWAN here, until guided otherwise. NENE,
  • 58a [Tostada’s close kin] SOPE. Useful crossword letter combination that I haven’t seen in puzzles prior.
  • 6d [Shout-out] EXCLAMATION. Getting this one early on was instrumental to my relatively speedy solve. It’s symmetrical partner—23d [Bryant-Denny Stadium team] CRIMSON TIDE—was, I’m suspecting a gimme for at least on DOACF regular.
  • 8d [Height starter] ACR-. As in acrophobia, for instance.
  • 11d [Service period] AMEN. I’m presuming ‘period’ in the clue indicates a sort of punctuation to a religious service.
  • 28d [Word from the Latin for “nutritious”] NURSE. Good to know.
  • 41d [Breaks into a vault] LEAPS. Oof-oof.
  • 50d [Ford part, familiarly] INDY. Nice.
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35 Responses to Saturday, January 6, 2024

  1. Mr. Cavin says:

    NYT–Yeah, I definitely think they switched Friday and Saturday this week (at least). I’d be interested if anybody performed better yesterday than today, relative to their personal averages–or comparing the puzzles themselves. I certainly didn’t. I was unable to hit my average time yesterday by a long shot. I finished today’s puzzle a couple of minutes faster than average for Wednesday.

    I certainly had fun with both… and they defied expectations for sure.

    • Eric H. says:

      I was 30 seconds over my Friday average yesterday; today’s puzzle took less than half as long, is supposedly my third fastest NYT Saturday, and took only a few seconds more than my Tuesday average.

      Like you, I enjoyed them both.

    • Gary R says:

      Normal Wednesday time for me. The only things that were new to me were 5-A, BOKEH and 22-A, LUIS. That’s pretty unusual for a Saturday.

    • Sophomoric Old Guy says:

      Agree – Friday far more difficult for me compared to Saturday. When I only finish a minute behind Amy, on a Saturday, I generally assume that I was tuned into the constructor.

      Both puzzles were good for different reasons.

    • Greg says:

      Agree in all respects with this consensus. Friday was very tough and I finished considerably above my average Friday time. But I raced through this puzzle in a record Saturday time for me, nearly breaking 10 minutes.

      I also very much enjoyed both puzzles, but for very different reasons!

    • Iggystan says:

      It was my fastest Saturday by over 9 minutes. I rivaled Amy’s time, which I’ve never done. Yesterday I was over my average by more than 5 minutes. Sometimes they click, sometimes they don’t. “Bokeh” was new for me.

    • Me says:

      I also finished in about half the time as Friday’s puzzle, and around my Wednesday average. I don’t know if Martin yesterday had inside info or was just speculating when he said today’s puzzle would be easier than yesterday’s, but he was definitely right!

    • David L says:

      Yep. I find it bizarre that the editors could have looked at yesterday’s puzzle and today’s and placed them in the order they did.

      BOKEH was the one outlier in the puzzler, in terms of weirdness. And surely the southern phrase should be “That dog won’t hunt,” as it means that a proposed plan is not going to turn out well. (I say this on the authority of my BFF Bill Clinton).

      • Dallas says:

        Faster Saturday time for me too, and I agree that the phrase is THAT DOG WON’T HUNT not “don’t” but what are you gonna do…

      • DougC says:

        Agree. I filled in THAT DOG wONT HUNT early on, then got the error message at the end, and had to go back and change the W to a D, thinking “that can’t be right.” And in spite of that hiccup, flew through this in just slightly more than my Tuesday average time.

        I have to think that Amy was even more tired than she realized.

      • Jim says:

        “That dog DON’T hunt” is the form I’ve always heard. Also sounds like more of a southern dialect to me.

      • Mr. Cavin says:

        Eh, this is purely anecdotal trivia, but as a 53-year-old North Carolinian, I filled “that dog don’t hunt” in with zero second guessing and almost no crosses. Mostly I avoid using cozy regional idioms when I can, but my family sure doesn’t, and I kind of secretly dig them. I can’t say I’ve never heard anyone say “won’t” in that sentence, but it isn’t what I would say, nor what I think of as usual. Carry on.

    • AG says:

      yes breezed thru today’s puzzle but really struggled with Friday’s

    • JohnH says:

      After Friday’s, which seemed to me awfully hard even for a Saturday and defeated me, this was such a breeze, even if I didn’t know, say, Japanese for blur or the Southernism coming all the way across. I enjoyed it, though.

      FWIW, I don’t like hazy IPAs myself, but these days they’re almost the only kind one can get here, as major companies like the ones owning Sam Adams and Goose Island adopt them, and the local bars shift from a varied menu to the big distributors that, I presume, can undercut smaller companies’ prices (despite the growth in city-wide brew-pubs for the various craft breweries).

      • Eric H. says:

        I’m no fan of IPAs, hazy or otherwise. But what really irks me about those beers is that they have so overtaken the craft brewing market that it’s virtually impossible to find a nicely balanced brown ale.

        • sanfranman59 says:

          Amen, Eric. It seems that just about every bar I’ve been in the last four or five years that has 15 or 20 or 30 taps, 13 or 18 or 28 of them are IPAs, double IPAs and/or triple IPAs and one of the other two is either Bud Light or Miller Lite (ugh … just give me a glass of water instead). It’s ridiculous. There was a time when I would occasionally order an IPA, but now I actively avoid them in protest.

        • JohnH says:

          It’s craft beers period that I miss. It’s not that they or IPAs have taken over. As I say, one factor is that big distributors have taken over too often. But another may be changes in fashion. There’s a younger generation returning to a more familiar, I want to say frat boy sensibility. Cheap and lower in alcohol. It can be hard to find anything, beyond maybe that one token hazy IPA on the menu, that’s not a “session” beer. They are just out for another Stella.

          Of course, the brewery’s own pubs have a huge variety of types. And an Irish bar down the street from me has a house beer that’s an amber.

  2. Teedmn says:

    I agree with @pannonica that this was a very easy Stella Stumper (easy meaning I did it in one sitting and “only” 32 minutes.) I loved the “Service period” clue for AMEN!

    FROZEN peas held up the top center for a long time. Yes, corn would work just as well as an ice pack but it’s always peas that I see recommended.

    This was fun, thanks, Stella.

    • steve says:

      i bet everyone had peas in there at first, but that fell easily

      it was trying to make ipa work that hung me up

    • David L says:

      Yes, surprisingly straightforward. SOPE was new to me, and I balked somewhat at ENGRAM, which to the best of my knowledge is a theorized construct rather than an established memory element.

      PS to pannonica: There is no such thing as an antiphoton; or rather, a photon is its own antiparticle.

      Nitpick: UNSELECTED for ‘chosen at random’ doesn’t make sense. Picking something at random is still a way of selecting it.

    • Twangster says:

      Took a while but I managed to solve it. AXING got me CRIMSONTIDE, which opened up the rest of it.

      Missed opportunity to reference String Cheese Incident at 48-across!

  3. huda says:

    Joining the chorus of enjoying the puzzle and doing it in Wednesday time, even though two hazy items slowed me down a bit— Liked learning BOKEH and HAZY IPA is not something I knew about, and seemed hard to parse. Great to know!

  4. huda says:

    Amy, as a grandmother, I love hearing about how grandparents can influence their grandkids in fun ways. I try and introduce mine to new things and ideas, and hope some of it will give them joy now and in the future.
    It’s great that you remember her birthday! The spirit of your grandmother lives on!

  5. meaningless nobody says:

    stumper: felt very easy… until it wasn’t and i hit a brick wall… i also had ipa for ale, and had an extremely embarrassing lapse on 6d that i just could not see at all… i was almost going to give up, and my 53′ makes me wonder why i even try

  6. Eric H. says:

    Universal: Fun if kind of easy.

    I know this is pedantic, but the Scrabble value of MOZAMBIQUE is zero, because proper nouns aren’t playable.

  7. Eric H. says:

    Stumper: Under 30 minutes (but just barely), which is faster than usual. And no checking answers ¾ of the way through, which I often end up doing.

    My biggest snags were FROZEN peas (CORN? Really?) and reading “Snag” in 10A as a noun instead of a verb.

    By Stumper standards, a very fair puzzle, with no clues that stretched too much.

  8. Michael says:

    Definitely one of the easier Saturdays. But unlike most folks here, I filled BOKEH and HAZYIPA right away.

    Not sure if iPhones have the same feature, but if you choose the “portrait” mode in your Android camera app, it will sharpen the objects in the foreground and blur the background, giving it a professional look. If you then go to the file name, it will start with the typical IMG_date_time sequence and the word “bokeh” will be tacked on at the end.

  9. John+F.+Ervin says:

    I disagree with Stella but then again different generation. Where to start…
    No clue on “chillhop”, or Storm. I wouldn’t refer to a rhino as a lumberer when it can run faster than we can.
    Shouldn’t one across’ answer be plural? I did like the clue for “fan letter”. 36D “move’ ,took me awhile even after I had the answer. That’s all (a no) from me.

  10. Seattle DB says:

    WSJ: I really enjoyed this puzzle by Tom Pepper and laughed out loud on the “Owed To Joy” answer! No junk fill and a lot of funny puns, so I give it a 5.

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