Saturday, January 13, 2024

LAT 3:06 (Stella) 


Newsday 35:37 (pannonica) 


NYT 4:26 (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Matthew)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


PSA: The new year of Pete Muller’s free Muller’s Monthly Music Meta has begun!
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Hoang-Kim Vu’s New York Times crossword – Kyle’s write-up

Saturday’s NYT crossword is by Hoang-Kim Vu, another constructor who’s burst onto the scene in the past couple years. I like his style, particularly when it comes to themelesses. This puzzle has a nicely flowing grid, with three Down spanners and plenty of room to maneuver around corners.

New York Times solution grid – Saturday 01/13/2024 – Hoang-Kim Vu

I really liked the tone set by first two across clues/entries: 1A [They have a lot of drawings] for LOTTOS and 7A [Half of a Godfather cocktail, along with whisky] for AMARETTO. This feels like a classic NYT Saturday opening gambit: the former clue requires you to think about what “lot” and “drawings” could mean (for me, my mind jumped first to art auctions because we played a lot of Masterpiece over the holidays), and the latter clue presents some interesting, slightly niche trivia that, even if you don’t know it at first, produces a satisfying mental click (here, because amaretto is an Italian liqueur, hence the “Godfather” reference).

Other thoughts:

  • Great selection of spanners: “ABOVE MY PAY GRADE” (seed entry?) “THIS IS POINTLESS” and TOOK IT ON THE CHIN.
  • 8D MANATEES [Images on some Florida license plates] was my first answer in the grid. My sister used to live in Florida and we have a manatee ornament from her and my brother-in-law for our Christmas tree. Manatees also happen to be one of my wife’s favorite animals.
  • 16A BABYMOON [Trip before a delivery] and 14D ONESIE [First garment, perhaps] – nice tie-in there. BABYMOON is a fresh 8-letter entry.
  • More cool facts at 2D [Their notable behavior is involuntary, like fainting]. I loved learning that this was OPOSSUMS–as in, they’re not playing when they “play dead”.
  • 63A EASY MODE [Friendly video game setting]. The NYT recently started offering “Easy Mode”, a less challenging version of a weekend themeless edited by Christina Iverson. Subtle marketing?
  • Didn’t realize it while solving, but this grid has both IPHONE and SIRI.
  • Much as I liked the puzzle overall, I’ll pick a few nits: 48D NITTY and 60D SLO were way too easy to get with fill-in-the-blank clues [___-gritty] and [___-mo]. 54D TOOT was also given a practically Monday-level clue with [Palindromic example of onomatopoeia]. TOR gets the old-school crossword treatment with its clue [Crag]. ONES and ONESIE?? Still, like I said, these were small blemishes in an otherwise entertaining and well-crafted puzzle.

Thanks Hoang-Kim!

Kyle Dolan’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 1/13/24 by Kyle Dolan

Los Angeles Times 1/13/24 by Kyle Dolan

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this puzzle. So I’ll try going entry by entry on the ones that gave me the biggest reactions and see where I end up:

  • 1A [Part of GTO] is GRAN. I stupidly thought of GTA and put in AUTO, as in GRAND THEFT AUTO, which obviously is on me. I of course had no idea that GTO stands for Gran Turismo Omologato; when I looked it up, I found this Car and Driver article that made me feel stupid because it called GTO “the three most famous letters ever worn by an automobile.” Then I looked again, saw that the article was published 40 years ago, and felt less stupid. Anyway: I think it’s coming in hot to put a YEKIOYD at 1-Across.
  • 17A [Whole alternative] is ONE PERCENT, as in 1% milk as an alternative to whole milk. I can’t remember ever seeing 1% milk available for purchase; I could swear it’s skim, 2%, or whole. Google tells me that it exists, so maybe it’s just that New Yorkers don’t care for it?
  • 25A [Disney villain played by Glenn] is CRUELLA; i.e., Glenn Close played Cruella de Vil. This style of clue, in which a first name in the clue is used to indicate that the answer is also a first name, seems to have fallen out of favor in the last few years, which I think is a pity; I’m cool with it here, especially since it’s easy to think that “Glenn” might be a man’s name or a last name here. (It’s Saturday! We like deception!)
  • 36A [Cold cocktail] is FROZEN MARGARITA, which I enjoyed. Frozen margs are underrated, at least when they’re made by a good bar that doesn’t over-sugar the thing. I recommend the ones at Tiny’s Cantina if you’re ever in my neighborhood.
  • 41A [Hotel bar] is a nice clue for SOAP.
  • 46A [Ax in a concert hall] did not fool me for an instant, because I know my classical pianists: The clue refers to EMANUEL Ax and not, say, a guitar.
  • 5D [Taylor Swift hit with the lyric “You put me on and said I was your favorite”] is CARDIGAN. There is a certain (quite large) contingent of the American population who I’m sure could get this without having a single crossing. I am not one of them.
  • 8D [Hebrew Bible: Var.] is TANACH. Woof. A variant spelling of a tough trivia entry?Not my favorite.
  • 13D [Souvenirs from beach walks] is SANDAL TANS. Clever!
  • 24D [Namesake of a famous alum, perhaps] is DORM, which I also enjoyed.
  • 28D [Grammy-winning Santana song co-written by Wyclef Jean] is MARIA MARIA. Now here is music I know! Don’t judge me for the fact that the albums Supernatural and Shaman are how I got to know Carlos Santana. (I pretty much have both albums memorized.)
  • 47D [Choose a running mate?] is a cute clue for the old standard ELOPE.
  • 56D [“La fanciulla del ___”: Puccini opera], or WEST, is also one I can get sans crossings.

So: I guess I liked it, in balance!

Andrea Carla Michaels and Jeff Jerome’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Sweet Adeline” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 1/13/24 • Sat • “Sweet Adeline” • Michaels, Jerome • solution • 20240113

“Sweet Adeline” is an old song, a barbershop quartet standard. Today we’re parsing it as ‘add-a-line’ (and maybe, if we’re being generous, ‘suite’). Anyway, common phrases have line introduced to wacky effect.

  • 27a. [Unprotected quake plan?] NO-FAULTLINE INSURANCE (no-fault insurance).
  • 40a. [Extended time for an appreciative writer] THE GREATFUL DEADLINE (The Grateful Dead).
  • 53a. [Skywriting’s main topic?] HEADLINE IN THE CLOUDS (head in the clouds).
  • 75a. [Steps on one’s joke?] BEATS TO THE PUNCHLINE (beats to the punch).
  • 83a. [AT&T’s guarantee of retro service?] THE PROMISED LANDLINE (the promised land).
  • 107a. [Energy supplier for everybody?] POWERLINE TO THE PEOPLE (power to the people).

Note that in each instance line is grafted to generate a compound word. It’s a consistent theme, but kind of yawn.

  • 4d [Fancy dos] GALAS. 119a [Fancy do] FÊTE.
  • 9d [Hoosegow] CLINK. Both are slang for jail.
  • 43d [Beef cut] LOIN (not line).
  • 56d [Valley of San Francisco] NOE. Don’t see this too much in crosswords, surprisingly.
  • 58d [Meas. syst. that includes the dyne and 99-Down] CGS. 99-down is ERG.
  • 59d [ __ Inu (Japanese dog breed)] SHIBA. Where inu means ‘dog’. A few other Japanese dog breeds contain the honorific KEN (e.g. Kai Ken, Nihon Ken Hozankai, Tosa-Ken); 32a [2023 part for Ryan Gosling].
  • 71d [Majorca or Minorca] ISLE. Not ISLA, perhaps surprisingly. I suppose in that case, the clue would have featured the SPANISH (2d) version of ‘or’, which is simply o.
  • 89d [Like D.C.’s Tidal Basin cherries around the beginning of April] IN BLOOM.
  • 90d [Spread made with filberts] NUTELLA. And lots of palm oil.
  • 7a [Feature presentation?] FACE. Sure, ok, why not.
  • 30a [Britannia metal component] TIN. 92%
  • 93a [River to the Moselle] SAAR. Whoa.

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

Newsday • 1/13/24 • Saturday Stumper • Sewell • solution • 20240113

Wow, was this one ever a bear to complete. It was incredibly slow going all the way through. Many of my first answers needed to be rescinded, and many of the clues were very difficult, though not quite impossible.

  • 1a [Any time in Italy] PREGO, which is an extremely all-purpose word. I had TEMPO for quite a while.
  • 14a [Summer cooler] SHADE TREE; 14d [Organic cooler] SWEAT.
  • 17a [Couple’s game phrase] WERE THERE. I have no idea what this is about.
  • 18a [Nail] DO TO A TEE. 59a [Crams successfully] ACES A TEST.
  • 20a [Is lousy] TEEMS. Definitely would have been easier with a parenthetical with.
  • 22a [Peak performance establishment] BASE CAMP. I was thinking along the right lines, but was considering commercial establishments.
  • 30a [Promotional presentation] CLIO. This is the advertising industry honor.
  • 32a [They command attention] STOPPERS. Uh, as in show-stoppers?
  • 55a [Rink rotation] CAMEL SPIN. Usually just called a camel, I believe (but Wikipedia says otherwise). Cursed that PIROUETTE also fits.
  • 60a [Literary lamentation] DIRGE. More often thought of as musical?
  • 61 [Munch kin land, briefly] NOR<major groan> This is short for Norway, the home of Edvard Munch and, presumably, other people with that surname.
  • 4d [Tank] GO DOWN IN FLAMES. Ironically, I was able to get this with only a few crossings, and it was exceedingly helpful to my solve.
  • 5d [Olympic neighbor] OSSA. Mountains.
  • 6d [Wheels, wedges, etc.] CHEESES. Nothing to do with Trivial Pursuit. I’ve had some Georgian food—the republic—recently, and can assert that the cuisine is rather cheese-focussed.
  • 7d [Give a bad mark to] MAR. Confirmed: mar and mark have distinct etymologies.
  • 10d [Right thing] FREE PRESS. Huh? Oh, I was thinking of left and right political factions, but it’s one of the freedoms enumerated in the First Amendment of the Constitution.
  • 12d [Plodding pair] DEES. The letters in the word.
  • 15d [’79 film with the line “Pardon my boa”] THE MUPPET MOVIE. Embarrassed to say that I needed more letters than —PET MOVIE to get this answer.
  • 24d [“Like that’ll happen”] C’MON. Not AS IF, not I BET.
  • 29d [Where 557–579 stood for D.C.] SSN. They used to be apportioned geographically.
  • 30d [Roomy recreation?] CLUE. The board game, which features a floor plan. C’MON.
  • 33d [Satiate] PALL. Very difficult. I had FILL for quite a long time.
  • 39d [Palate cleanser] DENTIST. No, not really. Too clever for its own good.
  • 52d [Bean holder] TACO. C’MON. 54d [Bean holders] PODS.

(composition by Georgian composer Giya Kancheli)

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21 Responses to Saturday, January 13, 2024

  1. AlanW says:

    NYT: Fresh, well made, and smooth solving (63A EASY MODE for a Saturday). But not only 5D ONES and 14D ONESIE, as Kyle mentioned, but 18A ONCE MORE and 35A AS ONE? 31A [Point en pointe] along with 3D THIS IS POINTLESS? Even “lots” in 1A [They have lots of drawings] is etymologically related to its answer LOTTOS. (Or is it a sly allusion to “drawing lots”?) Will & Co. may not mind, but that’s just too many echoes for me.

    • Dallas says:

      Super fast Saturday for me—record setting! Only the SW corner gave me much difficulty (tried MON then SUN then finally SIN for the septet member, and then SAMPLE went in and that was all it took). Pretty happy overall, but it definitely felt on the easier side for a Saturday.

  2. Mutman says:

    NYT: after getting my ass kicked yesterday (especially in that NE corner), I welcome this Saturday themeless and all its ‘flaws’ for making me feel smart again!

    Always nice to see PLETHORA in a puzzle.

    Fun ouzzle!

  3. Mumpsimus says:

    What’s the big deal about dups? They don’t make the puzzle less enjoyable for me. Sometimes trying to avoid dups results in awkwardly-phrased clues which do make a puzzle less enjoyable.

    • Dallas says:

      I’m no expert—and in general the “near” duplicates don’t bother me at all—I think it’s because part of solving, especially the harder puzzles, will sometimes rely on those bits of logic to help you work the puzzle. Although I still have a similar knee jerk reaction when I encounter rebuses in a crossword :-)
      I think last year (maybe April 1?) there was a fun puzzle in the NYT that broke multiple crossword rules intentionally that was very fun, and part of it was realizing that you had to flip a lot of those logic rules.

  4. Ethan says:

    Third or fourth week in a row the NYT Saturday has been markedly easier for me than the Friday. Like not even close. Weird.

    I wonder if a different member of the editorial staff takes the lead on clues for Fri than for Sat.

    • David L says:

      Same here, although not by a huge margin.

      BABYMOON? Had to look that up, and then curse whoever came up with it.

      • Dallas says:

        It’s been around for a while… we did it before our 8.5 yo was born, and I think the term had been around for several years by that point.

    • DougC says:

      Same here. Considerably easier than Friday, which was already easy (for a Friday). Even though there were names (and other things) I didn’t know.

      A BABY MOON is a hubcap. Never heard of the meaning clued here, so scratched my head a bit at that.

      Liked the puzzle, just surprised at how easy it was on a Saturday.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Four in a row for me. I wonder if it has anything to do with the NYT now publishing a version of its Friday puzzle with easier cluing? I’m not sure when that started, but I know it was relatively recently.

  5. Dan says:

    NYT: An enjoyable solve with some hard parts and some very nice long answers.

    But there were way too many incredibly easy clues for a Saturday.

    Sure, things will vary a bit, but this much? That’s too much.

  6. John says:

    Usa today

    Amanda needs an editor

  7. Aikenka says:

    KEN is not an honorific—it’s literally just the word for “dog” 犬. That character has two pronunciations, the other being INU as the blog states

  8. In the Stumper, “Couple’s game phrase,” WERE THERE, is something like “I’m game,” “I’m there.” A bit weird.

    And I agree about “Palate cleanser.” Try calling the dentist to ask for a palate cleaning.

  9. Teedmn says:

    Today’s Stumper wasn’t as easy as last week’s, for me, but still, with one sitting and under an hour, in my “easy” category. A few gimmes in each sector helped whittle away (CMAJ, SSN, OVENS, CAMELSPIN, OSSA, TB(A orD), CASTANET).

    I had WE’RE a team before NBA TEAM knocked that out of place.

    I liked SWEAT as an organic cooler and BASE CAMP as the peak performance establishment.

    As for the NY Times, really easy though I stared at BABYMOON for a long time before conceding it must be correct.

  10. David L says:

    One error in the Stumper: I finished with URBI, for Caesar’s city, which I remembered from the papal phrase ‘urbi et orbi.’ That gave me ISN at 29D, which I didn’t understand, but that’s hardly unusual for a Stumper. URBS seems unlikely to me as a Latin noun, but it’s correct.

    The clues for DENTIST and TACO were terrible, but again that’s not unusual for a Stumper.

  11. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT … There’s also at least one person in the contingent of the American population who could only get CARDIGAN with five crosses. Guess who I’m referring to.

  12. meaningless nobody says:

    stumper: 72′, 4 errors (i expected my failure rate to be much higher)
    fell for a lot of the same misdirects as you geniuses, but what truly did me in stupidly was icesalt for icemelt
    welp, i tried… again im not sure why…

Comments are closed.