Friday, January 26, 2024

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 4:17 (Amy) 


The New Yorker 5:04 paper (norah) 


Universal 4:28 (Jim) 


USA Today tk (Darby) 


Sarah Sinclair & Rafael Musa’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 1/26/24 – no. 0126

Easyish Friday puzzle, works for me.

The other day, I didn’t care for REDREW in a puzzle. Here, it’s clued as 6d. [Amended, as a map], it works for me.

Fave fill: PUSHOVERS, ENEMY TURF, DIRT ROAD, NOT GUILTY, GROUP DATE, UNSUNG HERO, BALLERINAS, HOTWIRES, FRITOS, START-UPS, SOFT LAUNCH, and “I NEED SPACE.” Good stuff. Could do without SETTEES, and TAG ON (clued as [Attach]) feels all kinds of wrong.

We used to see BRAE in crosswords a lot more, along with other Scottish bits like GIE and HAE. Here, BRAE is clued interestingly: [Skara ___, Scottish site of Europe’s most complete Neolithic village]. Cool place.

Shakespeareana I had quite forgot: 4a. [The “handsaw” in Hamlet’s “I know a hawk from a handsaw”], HERON. Truthfully? It really is not hard to tell the difference between hawks and herons!

Four stars from me.

Norman M. Aaronson’s Universal crossword, “Spreads Dough”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases whose outer letters spell out a currency. The revealer is BREAKS BREAD (59a, [Shares a meal … or what 17-, 25-, 36- or 50-Across does?]).

Universal crossword solution · “Spreads Dough” · Norman M. Aaronson · Fri., 1.26.24

  • 17a. [Investigates (In this answer, note the first 2 letters + the last 3)] POKES AROUND. Pound.
  • 25a. [“The Mikado,” e.g. (… first 2 letters + the last 2)] LIGHT OPERA. Lira.
  • 36a. [Where to enjoy rolls while rolling? (… first 3 letters + the last 2)] DINING CAR. Dinar.
  • 50a. [Certain shoe bottom (… first 3 letters + the last 2)] RUBBER SOLE. Ruble.

Yes, it’s the return of the dreaded parenthetical square-counting hints. Thankfully, if you have circles in your grid, you can completely ignore them.

Otherwise, the theme is pretty straightforward, assuming you’ve seen this theme type before (which most of us have). Nothing too exciting, but it works and it’s solid.

The 9-letter central answer puts limits on the North/South flow of the grid, hence we have stacks of 7s in the corners. Highlights include ANCIENT, BEATRIX, TOUCANS, and TEST DAY. I could’ve done without two awkward superlatives: INKIEST and TERSEST. That SE corner is mainly limited by _BREAD, so I have to believe it could be re-tooled to get some more interesting 7s in there.

Clues of note:

  • 46d. [Time for a midterm]. TEST DAY. I tried TUESDAY (i.e. an election day) first.
  • 64a. [Peter of “Everybody Loves Raymond”]. BOYLE. We also would’ve accepted [Peter who bellowed “Puttin’ On The Ritz”].

Solid puzzle. 3.25 stars.

Luke K Schreiber’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 1/26/24 • Fri • Schreiber • solution • 20240126

This 16×15 grid somewhat fittingly features left-right symmetry. Fitting, because the theme relies on reversing the order of words’ letters, but primarily it’s necessitated by the unequal lengths of the theme answers. We get a hint that something’s up by the use of all caps and question marks in the clues.

  • 21a. [EMIT?] TURN BACK TIME.
  • 52a. [SPOT?] FLIP TOPS.

Through the looking glass, as it were.

  • 3d [Vegetarian] MEAT-FREE. Went with MEATLESS first.
  • 5d [Root words?] CHANT. Didn’t understand this during the solve, but now at my leisure I can see it’s about rooting for a team. Perhaps I was distracted by the crossing 5a [Harmonious church groups] CHOIRS.
  • 11d [Life itself, to a crepehanger] COSMIC JOKE. Crepehanger is not a word I’ve encountered before. Will try to remember it.
  • 30d [Spice cookie spice] MACE. 15a [Cookie with a Java Chip flavor] OREO; reflexively, this sounds good, but then my rational brain takes over and I know it’d be terrible.
  • 40d [Squiggly baby, to a sitter] LAPFUL. With LAP—L in place, I was seriously worried/thrilled that it could be LAP EEL.
  • 11d [Parachute necessity] CORD. Unclear if this is in reference to a ripcord, which was invented significantly later than the parachute, but roughly contemporaneously with modern skydiving.
  • 38a [Katniss Everdeen portrayer, to fans] J-LAW, Jennifer Lawrence. Not to be confused with Jude Law, whose name is already equally short in pronunciation.
  • 43a [Midwestern Native] SAUK. Not seen too much in crosswords, perhaps surprisingly. Wikipedia informs me that “Their autonym is oθaakiiwaki, and their exonym is Ozaagii(-wag) in Ojibwe.”
  • 68a [Senate position] PAGE. Deceptive little clue. 45d [New faces in the staff lounge] HIREES.

“‘Two Wrongs” by Olivia Mitra Framke, norah’s review; 5:04 paper

THEME: The word “no” appears in circled squares twice in each themer, summarized by the revealer DOUBLENEGATIVE

2024-01-26 tny olivia

2024-01-26 tny olivia

Themed entries:

  • ANONYMOUSDONOR 15A [Not ungenerous person who stays out of the limelight]
  • PINOTNOIR 30A [Not unpopular red wine]
  • SNOWCANNON 36A [Ski-resort machine that produces a not insignificant flurry]
  • SNOTNOSED 49A [Not unlike a brat]
  • DOUBLENEGATIVE 64A [Grammatical faux pas seen in four of this puzzle’s clues . . . and, in a different way, their answers?]

At first glance, an odd and somewhat unsettling grid design, with the 3-fingers in each corner. But dropping into place the first themer quickly made me realize why. This is an interesting, if unorthodox, way to tackle the challenge of a themeset with a long and otherwise unwieldly revealer. This is a 14-9-10-9-14, a challenge to construct! The typical solution would be to bump the first and last themers to rows 4 and 11 with the end result putting too much pressure on the center of the grid and likely having to toss one theme entry. Some editors wouldn’t accept this just based on this design alone, so I’m very glad TNY picked it up. This is also exactly the difficulty I want from the Friday TNYs – put up just a litttttle bit of fun misdirecty resistance while offering the culture and language we expect from The New Yorker. And to boot, the elegance of no other strings of NO in the grid. 5:04 on paper.

I especially enjoyed the clues for AFRICA 52A [Okavango Delta’s continent] and IDRISELBA 68A [Actor whose films include “Beasts of No Nation” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2”]. Of course all the “Cats” references since 2019 have been great, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is a new high (low?).

I learned: NLP 66D [Branch of computer science that helps chatbots understand text: Abbr.]. Natural Language Processing is a machine learning technique at the intersection of computer science and linguistics.

Olivia is on the leadership team at Lil AVC X and is constructing for the Boswords Winter Wondersolve on February 4.

Thanks Olivia and The New Yorker team!


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22 Responses to Friday, January 26, 2024

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I had a rough start in the NW– somehow that RCA/RPGS opening wasn’t for me. Indeed it was the last to fall, coming back around to it from the bottom up.
    But the rest of the puzzle was wonderful. That TOE LOOP, SOFT LANDING, I NEED SPACE set of adjoining entries is genius! Really liked in the end!

  2. Dan says:

    NYT: I found this to be rather tough during the solve — in an entirely pleasant way. It felt like a real challenge, though my time was just around my Friday average.

    The clues and answers felt fresh and innovative, which are my favorite kind.

    • David L says:

      Yes, a good Friday, although I found a little easier than average. Not sure why, except that I hit on several of the longer answers without difficulty.

      Freakish coincidence of the day: “Account recovery need” — USERID. When I tried to access the NYT this morning it wouldn’t let me in, because it was identifying me with an incorrect email address as my userid. So I had to reset but was able to recover my account.

  3. Pamela+Kelly says:

    Full quote: “I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.”

    Handsaw is probably a corruption for heronsaw, hernsaw. In some dialects of England harnsa is used, and it is but a step from this to handsaw. The meaning generally given to this passage is, that birds generally fly with the wind, and, when the wind is northerly, the sun dazzles the hunter’s eye, and he is scarcely able to distinguish one bird from another. If the wind is southerly, the bird flies in that direction, and his back is to the sun, and he can easily know a hawk from a handsaw. When the wind is north-north-west, which occurs about ten o’clock in the morning, the hunter’s eye, the bird, and the sun, would be in a direct line, and with the sun thus in his eye he would not at all be able to distinguish a hawk from a handsaw.

    From Mertins, Emma. Shakespeare Examinations. Ed. William Taylor Thom, M. A. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1888. Shakespeare Online.

    • huda says:

      But now I’m confused. Is it not true that in the northern hemisphere (Shakespeare’s setting) , the sun is rarely in the north and you see the sun better looking south? (I live in a house which we planned based on that premise). If so, in a northerly wind, looking at a bird flying with the wind from north to south should not be blinding.
      Do I have it backwards somewhere?

      • Gary R says:


        Here in lower Michigan, the summer sun rises considerably – maybe 15-20* – north of due east (a phenomenon I’ve never entirely understood, given our latitude). So, I could imagine a bird flying out of the ENE in the morning being hard to see because the sun is in my eyes.

        But I’m pretty sure there isn’t any place on Earth where the sun is in your eyes looking NNW at 10:00 am. – so Mertins’ explanation doesn’t make much sense to me, either.

        I wonder if the terminology around wind direction might have been different in the late 1800’s? Today, a “southerly wind” is a wind from the south – I wonder if, at one time, a southerly wind was a wind “toward” the south?

        • huda says:

          Thanks Gary.
          I need to watch for that sunrise being north of due East, since I live in lower Michigan! Never knew that.
          But I did wonder whether the terminology of wind direction could have changed, for this to make sense.

          • Gary R says:

            Given recent weather, it would be nice to see the sun, ANYwhere in the sky! ;-)

          • PJ says:

            Huda – The sun will rise due East in Ann Arbor on March 17. After that it will rise north of East until September 23. From June 8 through July 3 it will rise at its fartherest North, approximately 57°, or about 10° North of Northeast.

            This website provides more information about solar and lunar movement than most folks want:


            • Gary R says:

              If I understand the table, due East is 90*, so around the Summer Solstice, sunrise appears about 33-34* North of due East in these parts. More than I had guesstimated, but after a little thought, that seems about right.

            • PJ says:

              Yes, you’ve got it right. The movement is more extreme the farther you move away from the equator. Where I live in central Alabama, it maxes out at 61°.

    • JohnH says:

      I learned the line in Hamlet as a double pun of hack/handsaw with hawk/hernshaw, and didn’t think to pursue a closer fit in dialect. Seemed fine as puns go and, in the doubling, the usual testimony to Hamlet’s quick wits. Others add that, by choosing his two of four that are so plainly different, he’s saying he can see the obvious that others do not wish him to see.

      Must admit I never pursued the opening phrase and didn’t worry if one could see the difference only in certain conditions. And anyway the sun and the wind are quite different, no?

      • JohnH says:

        Well, ok, I’ll take a stab at the wind clause. Now, of course he’s saying that he may look crazy but is quite aware of things. That translates into, if you will, I may seem crazy right now, but just wait. So why put that in terms of wind? I think it just evokes a striking image of the hawk going with a decent but not overwhelming tailwind, so that the pun itself evokes a prince in command.

        • huda says:

          My take on the whole thing is that he’s saying that his madness is not constant– It depends on which way the wind is blowing… (may be as a metaphor or maybe specifically indicating different seasons, as some mental disorders can be seasonal).
          Thus, when he’s not mad, he can discern the obvious just fine– two different types of birds, or which people he can or cannot trust.

  4. Donna Lemons, CEO The Lemons Org - visit us at says:

    Pandemic workers were quite (and appropriately) well sung, maybe this puzzle was in a drawer for a few years.

  5. Margaret says:

    LAT: Thanks to pannonica for the write-up because I’ve never heard of crepehanger either. Nor was I familiar with SAUK.

  6. Me says:

    NYT: I was really on the same wavelength as the constructors and had a new Friday Personal Record today! I was happy that happened because my Saturday PR was a freakish time from last January that was not only a couple of minutes less than any other Saturday I’ve had, it also was less than both my Thursday and Friday PRs. The OCD side of me did not like that there wasn’t a steady upward movement of my PRs!

    Today’s time was 1 second less than that Saturday PR, so some order is restored! My Thursday PR is still 2 seconds more than today, but it’s a lot less off-kilter than before!

  7. AlanW says:

    The theme clues in TNY, though they contain two negative elements (“not ungenerous,” etc.), are not the type of double negatives that would constitute a grammatical faux pas (as the revealer states).

    “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction,” to give one example, where “can’t” and “no” are combined to emphasize the negativity, rather than to cancel each other out, is ungrammatical in standard English (though permitted in many languages). That’s what’s usually meant by a double negative. The construction that uses two negatives to create a positive, as in the clues, on the other hand, is called litotes and is perfectly acceptable.

    This isn’t to criticize the puzzle, which was enjoyable, but simply to make what I find an interesting linguistic distinction, though maybe others will consider it pedantic.

  8. huda says:

    Thank you PJ and Gary. This is so good to know and I will watch for it.
    I imagine my husband, an amateur astronomer, is aware of this, but I had no idea. I love it.
    And I love this site with all the smart people!

Comments are closed.