Saturday, January 20, 2024

LAT 2:40 (Stella) 


Newsday 15:51 (pannonica) 


NYT 7:26 (Amy) 


Universal 2:35 (Matthew)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Caitlin Reid & Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword–Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1/20/24 – no. 0120

Man, did I draw the SHORT STRAW down in that corner of the puzzle. I tried KONA for the ETNA race, ROOF for the house’s EAVE (… just the one, in crosswordland), and [Sweet ___] TEA instead of PEA, so nothing wanted to come together there. Oof!


Not wild about “ATTAWAY.” Pretty sure I don’t say this. Do you?

Three more things:

  • 1d. [Fortune 100 company whose name is the last two syllables of the city near where it was founded], CISCO. That’s the actual origin of the company’s name, it turns out.
  • 5d. [Rap pioneers, slangily], OGS. From original gangsta. Merl Reagle, for example, was an OG crossword constructor.
  • 12d. [Initialism for a pleasant tingling on the scalp or back of the neck], ASMR. Autonomous sensory meridian response. There are videos and, I assume, apps to provide people who get the welcome tingles from certain sounds, and might appreciate them at bedtime. Here’s a slow-moving video wherein a guy works a crossword, talking softly to himself all the while. The quiet rustling sounds do aaaaabsolutely nothing for me, personally.

Four stars from me.

Adrian Johnson’s Universal crossword, “Universal Freestyle 108″–Matt’s recap

Adrian Johnson’s Universal crossword solution, “Universal Freestyle 108,” 1/20/2024

Six spanners lattice this grid, and each corner also has a long entry. I quite liked PERFECT STRANGER, AINT GONNA HAPPEN, I HOPE SO TOO, ITS A COINCIDENCE and DECEPTICON, and unfortunately was least energized by the entries near the bottom — EGG AND SPOON RACE (I know what it is, but is that really what it’s called?) and KEEPSAKES. Not bad entries by any means, but less engaging than the others, and the grid design means the rest of the fill is on the shorter side.

I did like several clues, outside of those attention-grabbers, [Grader’s writing implement] RED PEN is straightforward but a trip down memory lane. Might be less welcome for some than others, I suppose. I think I knew this, but enjoyed [Its “O” doesn’t stand for oil] OPEC. [Be an Alta boy, say?] SKI is pretty cheeky, as well. Cheers.

Amie Walker’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 1/19/2024 by Amie Walker

Los Angeles Times 1/19/2024 by Amie Walker

Definitely could’ve used a few more hard clues in this puzzle; only the NE corner kept me from an under-2:30 time.

  • 18A [Auto-graph] is a CAR SELFIE. This is a thing? Please don’t answer that. I’m sure it is; I just don’t want it to be.
  • 44A [“Let me recover from that”] is I NEED A MOMENT, which had the potential to trip me up since I NEED A MINUTE and, perhaps to a lesser extent, I NEED A SECOND are also plausible, but the 35D clue [Trap collection] for LINT helped me decide which very quickly.
  • 48A [Tears it up on the slopes] is SHREDS. TIL that you can SHRED at skiing or snowboarding, not just at guitar playing. (Winter sports: Not an area of expertise. I’d rather apres-ski!)
  • 57A [Mane squeezes?] is a cute clue for PONYTAILS.
  • 61A [Paws-itive homebody?] for INDOOR CAT, on the other hand, felt like it was trying a bit too hard.
  • 6D As mentioned, the NE was the only source of trouble for me, and this clue [Women of Troy’s sch.] was one reason, since my mind went to RPI (which is located in Troy, New York) before the correct answer of USC (home of the Trojans).
  • 8D [Time out in the park?] is the best clue-answer pair in the puzzle IMO: STROLLER NAP. Evocative, fresh entry with a clever clue. What more can you ask for?
  • 9D [Barbie owner?] for AUSSIE also made me chuckle when I finally got it. That’s “barbie” as in “shrimp on the barbie.”1
  • 33D [Part of a heart-to-heart exchange] is a clever, if not particularly difficult, clue for VALENTINE.

Gary Larson & Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Et Voilà!” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 1/20/24 • Sat • “Et Voilà!” • Larson, Ensz • solution • 20240120

Straightforward theme: the bigram ET is inserted into the original phrases of the theme answers, wackifying them.

This and very similar themes have been executed before, typically with a title or revealer along the lines of ‘Alien Invasion’. Here are a few of those:

Today’s theme answers:

  • 25a. [Billfold for Barney Rubble?] STONE WALLET (stonewall, or perhaps stone wall).
  • 38a. [Guiding principle shared by many civic groups?] TENET OF CLUBS (ten of clubs).
  • 70a. [Very, very straight?] SUPER HETERO (superhero, or super hero).
  • 101a. [Booster stage?] ROCKET BOTTOM (rock-bottom).
  • 117a. [Riding crop, to a dominatrix?] FETISH STICK (fish stick).
  • 15d. [Proper posture for the Bolshoi?] BALLET BEARING (ball bearing).
  • 57d. [Agent for Lakers legend Earvin Johnson?] MAGIC MARKETER (magic marker).

And there you have it, et voilà!

  • 96d [List-ending phrase] ET ALIAE.
  • 2d [Small stream] RIVULET. I really like this word.
  • 33d [Hearing aides] STENOS. Noticing the spelling of aides is the key to detecting the misdirection.
  • 52d [Spot for the cautious] SAFE SIDE.
  • 55d [Baton wielder] MAESTRO.
  • 56d [More peeved] ANGRIER. 4d [More demanding] BOSSIER.
  • 79d [Fashion model Moss] KATE. 123a [Fashion model Moss] LOTTIE.
  • 97d [Woman, e.g.] NON-MALE. Little awkward, but valid.
  • 108d [Belt, in the Bible] SMITE. Playing on the Bible Belt of the American South,
  • 34a [Orphan girl in “The Last Days of Pompeii”] IONE. Typically we see reference to the actress IONE Skye.
  • 53a [Hurricane-tracking agency] NOAA. They also, of course, monitor SNOWfall (88d [Falling flakes]).
  • 91a [Be bombastic] ORATE. Clue in my opinion needs a qualifier along the lines of “, perhaps”.
  • 112a [Capital of Bahrain] MANAMA.
  • 116a [Town east of Buffalo] ELMA. Reflexively entered ERIE here, although it is southwest of there. My only major mis-fill.


Ben Zimmer’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 1/20/24 • Saturday Stumper • Zimmer • solution • 20240120

On the easy side, as far as these things go.

Lower right corner was where I first made significant progress, and thereafter the grid yielded fairly easily throughout, with the usual weaving and stitching.

When the grid was entirely filled I was notified that there was at least one incorrect square, so I immediately returned to the spot that had trouble me—the crossing of 27d [Gentle slope [kin to an icy expanse]] and 39a [Nellie Bly contemporary]. I’d had GLACES and RIES, but was instantly able to correct the latter to Jacob RIIS, which made the other entry GLACIS, which is new to me and am happy to learn of.

  • 1a [Render ineffectual] DECLAW. Semi-regular appeal: do NOT ‘declaw’ your cats. That’s a euphemism for the cruel practice of amputation of the distal digits.
  • 14a [Start of many happy returns] I’M HOME. Maybe?
  • 15a [Chinese character] CAPITAL C. Oof.
  • 18a [Manx, for instance] CELTS. Veiled plural.
  • 21a [Latin under the $1 pyramid] ORDO. Of course I put UNUM here at first. The relevant phrase is novus ordo seclorum, ‘a new order of the ages’.
  • 22a [Capsule review?] CRIT. A novel way of indicating an abbreviation. Great clue.
  • 25a [Wall St. profitability measure] ROI, return on investment.
  • 27a [Advisor to Truman through Obama] GRAHAM. Surely not Harry S Truman? Without sleuthing, I’m flummoxed by this clue and answer.
  • 30a [AFI’s #3 funniest film] DR STRANGELOVE. No indication that this is an abridged title.
  • 37a [Kept from littering] SPAYED. Clever.
  • 45a [Mandela in 2013] ELBA, the actor Idris ELBA.
  • 48a [Validation inquiry] IS IT ME OR. 49d [Text introducing an emotional outreach] TFW, that feeling when
  • 53a [32-Grammy singer (so far)] KNOWLES. Should have gotten this with fewer crossings.
  • Longdowns: 3d [Rapper who wrote for 30 Rock] CHILDISH GAMBINO, 11d [Did a swift scan] GAVE THE ONCE-OVER.
  • Also connecting many acrosses: 15d [Offering assistance] COMING FORWARD.
  • 23d [Places for curlers] RINKS. Did not fool me!
  • 45d [He’s a citrus reversal] EMIL. My first entry; took only a few beats to come up with the right fruit to reverse.
  • 46d [Article opener] LEDE. 13d [What a headline might do] SCREAM.

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36 Responses to Saturday, January 20, 2024

  1. Martin says:

    Attaway was rough. I knew baconator and kept trying to figure out how attaboy could fit.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I say “attaboy” quite a bit when watching one of my favorite sports teams, but I’m not sure that “ATTAWAY” has ever crossed my lips.

  2. I’ve heard and said ATTA WAY a lot. Good phrase.

  3. RCook says:

    I’ve neither heard nor said ATTA WAY. THAT-A-WAY, maybe, but that’s an actual direction as opposed to a cheer. Maybe it’s regional.

    • DougC says:

      Hand up for never having heard or used ATTAWAY. Attaboy, attagirl, sure, both of those were very common in my younger days. Xwordinfo says this is its first appearance in the NYTXW, so that suggests something about how uncommon it is.

      OTOH, I really liked a lot of the long answers.

      But INCOGMEATO crossing OGS, yikes! Talk about a Natick! Two complete unknowns to me. I ran the alphabet to get the “g” and then thought, “huh, really?” Kinda cute brand name, I guess, but if you’ve never seen or heard of it, pretty hard to infer.

      Also, I gave a lot of side-eye to RARER as somehow “more golden.” That was too much of a stretch to justify the double clue, I thought.

      And yet I finished well under my average Saturday time, go figure. So overall, on the easy side (for a Saturday) but wildly uneven.

  4. Mr. [very] Grumpy says:

    BART [8D] does NOT run “along” the Embarcadero in SF. There is an Embarcadero station, and all BART lines into the city intersect the Embarcadero at one point in a sense, although the BART subway is many feet under the roadway, but MUNI [the SF Municipal Railway] runs “along” the Embarcadero; not BART. Constructors and editors get an F from me.

    • Jenni says:

      Came to check if anyone had clocked this after my husband started fulminating about it. He entered MUNI which completely fouled up that corner and he was Not Happy. Me, I don’t know enough – I figured it was mass transit in SF. It’s clearly wrong and easy enough to fix.

    • Mutman says:

      Shoulda stuck with a Simpsons clue … public transportation people are very sensitive!!

      • Mr. [very] Grumpy says:

        Or ___ Starr or even ____ Maverick. I mean, if I can bother to learn CTA and even SEPTA, they can get SF transit right. ;-)

    • Dan says:

      Agreed. That clue was just wrong.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I generally enjoyed this puzzle, but that answer really annoyed this former long-time San Franciscan. The clue is just flat-out wrong. Boo-hiss, NYT editing team!

  5. pannonica says:


    Who on Earth approved that name?

  6. Dan says:

    NYT: As usual, an enjoyable solve.

    But I was not pleased with the many parts of this puzzle that felt way easier than the Saturday standard I am accustomed to; far too many clues were gimmes or virtual gimmes.

    On the other hand, a few parts of the puzzle were very tough, especially the NW around INCOGMEATO, which I had never heard of (and am hoping to never hear of again).

    This made for a solve that felt pretty unbalanced.

    • Dan says:

      PS to A.R.: I did not understand why you wrote that Merl Reagle was an OG crossword constructor. (I probably don’t grasp the term OG, which I’d never heard before.)

      • Dallas says:

        OG is shorthand for Original Gangsta, and has been used in rap and hip-hop (almost always as “OG”) since the late 80’s / early 90’s. It’s applied to a member of the older generation who’ve been at it for a while; it’s a term of respect.

  7. David L says:

    NYT: ATTAWAY is awful. Evan B clearly lives in a different world. INCOGMEATO is a horrible name, but made for a good entry. Nice Saturday overall, except for ATTAWAY, which is awful (did I mention that already?).

    Stumper: I put in GRAHAM reluctantly. I can only think of Katharine Graham, who owned the WaPo and hobnobbed with the high-ups, but I wouldn’t call her an advisor. I struggled to finish the SW section, where finally I hit on LEDE, but then still had to ponder to make sense of ELBA and ISITMEOR (I wanted ISITMINE). And CRIT as a shortening of critique is new to me; can’t say I like it.

  8. Twangster says:

    Found the Stumper a challenge but managed to solve it, which is more than I can say for the previous few weeks. Although I see I did leave it at RIES.

    Getting SHRINKFLATION helped a lot. Since the PDF is no longer available, I now print out a version that’s a little blurry and initially misread the clue as “Result of 35 1.5-quart ice creams,” which was baffling. Once I realized it was a dollar sign, I got it, but I think that clue is still clunky. Seems like it’s the other way around, with smaller ice cream the result.

    WES and CRAVEN also helped, since it led me away from DEFANG.

    Clue for ELBA was very clever … didn’t understand it until googling afterward.

  9. meaningless nobody says:

    stumper: 58′ for a slowpoke like me, found it slow going… until it wasn’t… until it was… i was also stumped at glaces/ries and couldn’t see any other mistake so i ran the letters and got surprise confetti without using a (formal) check… maybe in another several lifetimes i might compare to you geniuses but for now i guess i have to be happy with where im at

  10. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper: +1 for the GLACeS/RIeS Natick.

  11. Margaret says:

    LAT: I didn’t know CARSELFIE was a thing, or STROLLERNAP. I would have thought the napping happening while strolling, do people take their babies to a park so they can nap in a stroller? I don’t understand how this works. Anyway, I’m more confused by “leaves on the side” for SLAW. Salad, sure, but slaw? Apparently I’m having a morning filled with overthinking.

    • Papa John says:

      While searching SLAW, I was surprised to turn up the fact that there are numerous slaws, besides the usual “Cole’ slaw. There’s also Rainbow, Spring, Thai, German and Chinese.

      • Margaret says:

        Interesting, thanks! I’ll have to look some of these up, I thought slaw meant cabbage in thin strips (i.e., not leafy) but these sound delicious!

  12. Teedmn says:

    aloe Gel and GAVE it a ONCE OVER caused a lot of problems in my NE Stumper solve and I thought many regular contributions might go to a titHe.

    I had no idea what Abe Lincoln’s dad’s name was. Abe led me to think it was an informal “paw” or “pap”. Kept St Nick from coming down the chimney!

  13. Seattle DB says:

    WSJ: I almost fell out of my chair with laughter when I read the clue & answer to 117A. “Riding crop, to a dominatrix?” “FETISH STICK”
    Very creative, and hilarious, by the constructors!

Comments are closed.