Saturday, January 27, 2024

LAT 2:05 (Stella) 


Newsday tk (pannonica) 


NYT 4:07 (Kyle) 


Universal tk (Matthew)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Grace Warrington and Greg Warrington’s New York Times crossword – Kyle’s write-up

New York Times solution grid – Saturday 01/27/2024 – Grace Warrington and Greg Warrington

This would appear to be the publication debut of Grace Warrington and Greg Warrington, a father-daughter constructing duo who also had a puzzle in the Boswords Themeless League last fall. Congratulations Grace and Greg!

  • Interesting grid design, with the staggered stack across the middle and two long swathes of white running vertically on either side. That middle stack comprises CULT CLASSIC (clued with a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” reference), NONE TOO SOON, and “Star Wars” spinoff “The MANDALORIAN” (with the definite article relegated to the clue, something not often seen these days in crosswords).
  • Plentiful sparkle in the longer entries with BOSS BATTLE, TOOK LEAVE, RUSH JOBS, SEASON PASS, HOT SOAKS, RAIL-THIN, CONFIDANT. On the other hand, LEASING TO and GLORIOUSLY felt more neutral to me.
  • The clue for 31D NARRATOR feels off: [Character who’s heard but not seen]. Lots of movies and TV shows have voice-over narrators! Here’s one such list of top voice-over narrators in films, including Ed Norton in “Fight Club”, whose character was apparently named “The Narrator”. (Side note–this list really should include Sam Elliott’s turn as The Stranger in “The Big Lebowski”). And if it’s a live play or musical, the narrator kind of has to appear on stage, no?
  • Proper name wordplay: 5D ELI [Boy’s name that’s an anagram of 9D] (LIE)
  • Proper name wordplay part II: 51A [Boy’s name consisting of an English word followed by its Spanish equivalent] ANDY. As in AND/Y. OK, that’s actually a pretty cool find.

Vasu Seralathan’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Providing Context” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 1/27/24 • Sat • “Providing Context” • Seralathan • solution • 20240127

The theme phrases contain common internet slang initialisms, and the clues address both elements.

  • 23a. “That fast food joint means ‘The Crazy Chicken’? Hilarious!”] EL POLLO LOCO (lol, laughing out loud).
  • 29a. [“It was great chatting again, Gorgeous. Until we do this again…”] PRETTY LADY (ttyl, talk to you later).
  • 41a. [“The document would have taken forever without this program’s templates. It really came through!”] MICRSOFT WORD (ftw, for the win).
  • 60a. [“The best American writer? The author of ‘Beloved,’ if you ask me.”] TONI MORRISON (imo, in my opinion).
  • 67a. [“Which prime minister preceded Theresa May? Who gives a rip?] DAVID CAMERON (idc, I don’t care).
  • 88a. [“A stunning collapse: once toast of the town, now total outcast? I can’t believe it!”] FALL FROM GRACE (omg, oh my god).
  • 102a. [“You upchucked at your sister’s coming-of-age ceremony? You really didn’t need to share that!”] BAT MITZVAH (tmi, too much information).
  • 109a. [“What am I bungeeing off of? Only the tallest building in the world… Psych!”] BURJ KHALIFA (jk, just kidding).

The initialisms are all in-the-language enough for me not to have needed to look any up. Note that in each entry, they span two words—consistency.

  • 13d [Like a tripwire] TAUT. 82d [Prepare to snare] LAY A TRAP.
  • 16d [Mishandle documents?] USE AN ALIAS. Playing on handle = name.
  • 24d [Copier tray abbr.] LTR; I had the L– in place but needed to wait for another crossing in order to eliminate LGL. Conversely, for 46a [Call in tennis] LET, I had the –ET in place and needed the crossing to ensure it wasn’t NET.
  • 94d [Start an occupation?] MOVE IN. The wordplay is a little heavy-handed, but it all works.
  • 32a [What did ewe say?] BAAS. Was not expecting a plural form.
  • 80a [Chilly powder] SNOW. >groan<
  • 105a [A group of them is a skulk] FOXES. I remember this—and many other collective nouns—from a wonderful Brian Wildsmith book I had as a child.
  • 112a [Eye shade producer?] IRIS, not bRIm. I went the wrong way with this one.
  • 114a [Game leader] EMCEE. As in game show? Not sold on this one.
  • 118a [Juicy bits] DEETS, for details. In contrast to 102-across’ TMI.

Annemarie Brethauer and Katie Hale’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 1/27/2024 by Annemarie Brethauer and Katie Hale

Los Angeles Times 1/27/2024 by Annemarie Brethauer and Katie Hale

I’m calling this a delightful puzzle that’s in the wrong venue. I solved it faster than I did Monday’s! When I opened the puzzle up in my constructing software to get a look at the stats, I think I can see why: There are just 12 words of 7 letters or longer in the puzzle, and oodles of 3s, 4s, and 5s. There’s some really clever cluing that, despite being clever, didn’t make the puzzle even a little bit hard, which is why I think it would’ve been better suited to Universal/Andrews McMeel.

But let’s look at some of that clever cluing:

  • 1A [Start of communications with NATO] is ALFA, or the first letter of the NATO Phonetic Alphabet.
  • 14A [Studio Ghibli’s animated fuzz ball] is a SOOT SPRITE, which I concede could be hard for people who aren’t familiar with Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. I love My Neighbor Totoro and therefore got this with only one crossing.
  • 45A [Meet face-to-face?] is KISS. Cute!
  • 49A [Pro who worked with Magic] is KAREEM, as in KAREEM Abdul-Jabbar, former teammate of Magic Johnson (and former sight gag on Dancing With the Stars).
  • 65A [Used cars?] is RODE. This is one of those clues that feels as inevitable as a Beethoven melody, and yet why do I think I’ve never seen it before? I love it!
  • 10D [Strategically polite] is DIPLOMATIC. Simple and elegant.
  • 26D [Quick dip?] is GUAC. See above comment re: inevitable, yet fresh.

Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 1/27/24 • Saturday Stumper • Ruff, Newman • solution • 20240127

In accordance with the ‘less rough’ moniker, I found this crossword to be on the easy side, with the exception of the top right corner, where I spent nearly half my solve time.

  • 15a [Irrigation system feature] RAIN DELAY. This could have been clued via baseball to make it much easier.
  • 18a [Bamboo, to botanists] CANES, which must be the genus name. <consults Wikipedia> No, that isn’t it. Aha, so ‘bamboo’ in the clue is sneakily a plural. Anyway, I had GRASS here, ‘confirmed’ by crossing it with NORM at 11d [Regular guy] – but that was incorrect, as the answer is BEAU, as in one seen regularly/steadily.
  • 21a [Dramatist whose name looks like a Scrabble rack] ANOUILH. Unknown to me, and I found the clue discouraging in that already problematic section. 30a [Awes to excess] DAUNTS.
  • 46a [Shakespearean sorcerer] OBERON. PROSPERO sure as heck wasn’t fitting there.
  • 54a [Contests held on water] ROLEOS. An event in lumberjack games.
  • 56d [Team with a home run pome] METS. It’s a giant apple that pops up or something.
  • 63a [Rival of Temple] VILLANOVA, crossing 38d [Rival of Temple] PENN STATE. Temple University is located in Philadelphia.
  • 67a [Neptune, for instance] ICE PLANET. “Like the gas giants (Jupiter and Saturn), Neptune’s atmosphere is composed primarily of hydrogen and helium, along with traces of hydrocarbons and possibly nitrogen, but contains a higher proportion of ices such as water, ammonia and methane. Similar to Uranus, its interior is primarily composed of ices and rock; both planets are normally considered ‘ice giants’ to distinguish them.” (Wikipedia)
  • 69a [Anagram of A REM THING] NIGHTMARE. Got this from just the initial N. <buffs knuckles>
  • 4d [Bovine with a beard] GNU. My very first entry.
  • 7d [Peace prize name] ALFRED Nobel.
  • 14d [It’s slashed for everyone] HE/SHE. Non-binary people exist.
  • 22d [Health food label] NON-GMO. But that doesn’t indicate much, to be honest.
  • 29d [Liam’s relative] WIL. I’d never realized that Liam is a diminutive of William.
  • 37d [Arrive quickly] SCOOT OVER. I had SHOOT OVER for a time. Would’ve been less TRICKY (48d) with a clue like [Move aside].
  • 45d [Needle point] NNE, on a compass.
  • 58d [Scalia nickname] NINO. I tried TONY.


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23 Responses to Saturday, January 27, 2024

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: My second-fastest Saturday NYT ever, and much easier for me than yesterday’s Friday puzzle — solved in a tad over half the time that took me.

    Fun, but over too soon.

    Are Fridays and Saturdays still intended by the NYT puzzle crew to be in increasing difficulty? Sure hasn’t seemed that way lately.

    • Eric H. says:

      I didn’t have any real trouble with the Saturday puzzle, but it took me close to 13 minutes, compared to a little over eight minutes for Friday.

      I think it’s just difficult to tell how hard the “average solver” will find any given puzzle.

      • Dan says:

        At least in the past there were, I believe, three test solvers who tackled an NYT puzzle before publication to try to catch last-minute bugs. I suppose their times were averaged to estimate the puzzle’s difficulty. Not sure if they still do it this way.

        • NYeT says:

          They fired all their professional puzzlemaker test-solvers years ago, after the open letter to Times executives about Shortz’ rampant misogyny, racist clues, 70+-year-old, white male from Indiana in the 1950s perspective, and to save face, had to hire Eberdeen Mason (who has zero puzzle or game experience, and decided to remove NYT variety puzzles from the archive, for paid subscribers, among other flagrant missteps any puzzler would know were bad business decisions); Wyna Liu, who had one crossword published in the Times when she was somehow hired as an editor, and who straight-up stole Only Connect’s Connecting Wall round from a BBC game show that’s aired since 2008, including actual categories from that show: the Times swears they are “very confident” the game is “original” (because they can’t be fully confident, because everyone knows they stole it); and other women. In fact the last several hires in the NYT Games dept have been only women, and minorities when they can, to “prove” Shortz isn’t a misogynist who exclusively hired young boys in high school and college, and this year, has only published about 4 women, and only as collaborators on puzzles where men are often billed first.

          Oh, NYT Games. Maybe Shortz’ll get fired like he did from GAMES in 1993, for similar BS….

          • Martin says:

            Fake news, I guess?

            In my opinion, the current staff does a much better job than was done in the past, both in terms of accuracy and tone.

            • NYeT says:

              Can’t see your link?

              It’s behind a paywall?

              Not sure what your point is here.

              The above is all public information.

              Everdeen Mason wrote an entire article on how she has no gaming experience outside of playing Monopoly, I think it was.

              So how’d she get hired to head the NYT Games dept? Hmm…..

            • Linda says:

              You have to be a subscriber to NYT.

            • NYeT says:

              Without being able to see your linked article, which I presume is about the newly out of high school and college hires — most of whom have had very little publications when they were hired, but fit the demos needed to prove Shortz isn’t a racist misogynist (after the open letter, *EANER slur, printing the most-ever swastika-looking grid [the arms of it had double borders] on the first day of Hanukkah), vetting clues, where I meant to tell you the professional puzzlemakers who were previously used to test-solve were fired, to make way for these incompetents.

              The originals were the greats like Frank Longo, Nancy Schuster, David Rosen, more.

              Hope that clarifies that people who’ve had one to a couple of puzzles published before being hired to “edit” and “test-solve” crosswords — who were hired to save face in the Games department, aren’t professional puzzlemakers of any editorial caliber.

              Even the greatest crossword authors take years to master clue writing, especially with the day of the week difficulties.

              But keep talking like you have inside knowledge, because I worked there and saw what goes down.

            • Ethan says:

              No the article, had you bothered to read it, was about the test solving crew.

              Which had for decades included women like Eve Eysenburg and Nancy Shuster.

              That’s an article from just over two years ago.

              I’ve no idea what specific impact the various assistant editors have except that as a 40-something straight male white guy: puzzle feels better and more interesting to me than ever before.

              Maybe less sports trivia and more African-American-oriented brands; less Latin and more English words derived from non-Romance languages, etc.

              But that’s great for me—learn something almost every day.

            • Genevieve says:

              Psych cleanup on aisle 2.

    • DougC says:

      @Dan, that was my experience, too. Today’s puzzle went much faster than Friday’s, in spite of a healthy helping of the kind of pop culture trivia that usually gives me fits, and Friday’s puzzle was uncommonly easy, too. In fact, I was very close to my Wednesday average time today.

      Looking back at my stats, I’ve done every puzzle this week in less than my average time for the previous day.

      I’ve been doing the NYTXW for literally decades, so I really don’t think, at this point, that it’s my increasing skill that accounts for such a streak. Given the NYT’s increasing reliance on games revenue to fund operations, I suspect it’s more likely the result of an effort to make the crossword more “accessible” to a larger (paying) audience. I hope I’m wrong about that. But I feel like this has been a trend lately.

      • JohnH says:

        Alas (or AH ME before I had to change it), the culture clues really did me in. I still don’t get the one about a rival throwing SHADE. The interesting grid alone would no doubt be enough to kick it to Saturday, but it just felt new names and terms to me.

        That suggests just how hard it is to judge difficulty and, no doubt, for the editors to place a puzzle. Solvers will all have their interests that are obvious to them, me included. I have to give them credit, and (for all my gripes about Shortz) they’re still to me the best-edited puzzles out there.

  2. Oliver says:

    Just an OK saturday for me – that bottom right corner was brutal for me, even after getting HOGSHEAD and SEASONPASS…the bug and IQ pioneer were tough. Dampened my overall view of the puzzle.

  3. David L says:

    Today’s NYT was a lot tougher for me than yesterday’s. Not familiar with BOSSBATTLE (I think I’ve seen BOSS[different word that I can’t remember] in other puzzles). Got MANDALORIAN eventually, from crosses; the clue meant nothing. I knew BINET and DAMSEL* but the rest of the SE corner was tough, especially because I had the old crosswordese standby AHME before OHME.

    Good puzzle overall. Plenty of clues I struggled to interpret but nothing outright unfair.

    *Actually I was thinking of damselfly, which is a different insect, but never mind.

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT … This has to be one of the most uneven solves I’ve ever had. I did about 80% of it at close to a typical LAT Monday pace for me, but ended up completely stymied by three squares in the due-north section. I was done in by SOOT SPRITE and DARA crossing COLD and STEAM. SOOT SPRITE and STEAM were completely lost on me. ‘SOap SPRITE’ seemed at least plausible and since I know absolutely nothing about video game distribution platforms, I took a stab in the dark with ‘SpEAM. I submitted with ‘mARA’ instead of DARA and ‘CaLm’ instead of COLD. Argh.

    • Gloria Elizabeth says:

      My LAT experience was exactly the same. Even experimenting with COLD instead of CALM didn’t allow me to finish.

  5. meaningless nobody says:

    stumper – same experience, about 30′ for most of the grid, which got me real excited, but then i had to check 15 of the 16 squares in the upper right 4×4 block, and ended at 64’… did not like those clues up there, especially 14d and 21a (just… so lazy)… welp, i’ll keep trying, no matter how futile it might be

    • David L says:

      The NE corner was definitely ruff. Like pannonica, I wanted GRASS/NORM, but then I couldn’t come up with anything else. Eventually I hit on ATCOST, and remembered ANOUILH (I had been expecting a Greek name of the ancient variety).

  6. Pilgrim says:

    Stumper – 21A “Dramatist whose name looks like a Scrabble rack” – Reminds me of the “What a Washington portraitist wasn’t called” (GIL) clue a while back.

  7. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper: “whose name looks like a Scrabble rack” is the most hilarious middle finger to a solver I’ve ever seen. It’s like “hey this has 7 letters that you don’t know haha good luck.” But the audacity is impressive. As Ron Burgundy said, “I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.”

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