Saturday, February 3, 2024

LAT 2:55 (Stella) 


Newsday 17:02 (pannonica) 


NYT 7:13 (Amy) 


Universal 2:19 (Matthew)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Carolyn Davies Lynch & Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 2/3/24 – no. 0203

This 15×16 grid was designed to accommodate the central entries, ROCKET SCIENCE and BRAIN SURGERY. Love this mini-theme!

Clue that had me wondering for far too long: 13a. [College assignment], ROOMIE. I started out with THESIS here.


Unfamiliar to me, surprisingly: 34d. [Storm on the horizon, maybe], CLOUD BANK. Opted for CLOUD BAND with some crossings, and that definitely is a term in use. I Googled CLOUD BANK and the first links were for virtual banking. Weather buffs, do you use this term?

Four stars from me.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Inner Conflict” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/3/24 • Sat • “Inner Conflict” • Shenk • solution • 20240203

Because the first two theme answers I got were both on the left side of the grid, I misapprehended the theme for a while as homophones separated by PRO, putting them in a sort of conflict with each other.

But it turns out that the full theme extends to the same process on the right side of the grid, except that those words have CON between them.

  • 22a. [Muscle builder for growing boys and girls?] TEEN PROTEIN.
  • 27a. [Radio cabinet that plays only gospel-tinged R&B?] SOUL CONSOLE.
  • 34a. [Name for a poker fan’s farm business?] DEUCE PRODUCE.
  • 60a. [Phone listing put up on the wall?] TACKED CONTACT.
  • 66a. [Publicist for an engine manufacturer?] MOTOR PROMOTER.
  • 89a. [Part of an online forum moderator’s job?] TROLL CONTROL.
  • 96a. [Introductory section of a captain’s journal?] LOG PROLOGUE. Surprisingly, log and prologue are not directly related etymologically, although they both derive from ancient Greek.
  • 105a. [Cause of bragging about one’s box at the opera?] SEAT CONCEIT.

A little weird as themes go, but it works well.

  • 4d [Put together] CONNECT. Here, the con- prefix means ‘with’ (which is also what it means in several of the theme answers, but the overarching gist of the theme is PROs and CONs.
  • 11d [Dog holder] ROLL. Hot dog.
  • 31d [Answers after two rings?] I DOS. Clever.
  • 36d [Lead-off performer?] UNDERSTUDY. The wordplay is that the UNDERSTUDY performs on the lead’s days off, or perhaps when the lead is feeling off. 25a [Isn’t well] AILS.
  • 63d [Shelf rattler] TREMOR, which was my first attempt for 19a [Major shock] TRAUMA.
  • 84d [Eggy drink] NOG. Have you done Spelling Bee today?
  • 99d [Pipe part] STEM. I just watched a couple of Jean Gabin’s Maigret films.
  • 20a [Bay mixed with white, e.g.] ROAN. Horse coloring.
  • 30a [Tree with samaras] ELM. That’s the technical term for those winged seed pods.
  • 65a [“That profit’s yet to come __ me and you”: Othello] ’TWEEN. Good not to frame this as TWEEN, avoiding partial duplication with the first theme answer.
  • 83d [Standpoint] ANGLE. 56d [Not quite right, perhaps] ACUTE.

Grace Warrington & Greg Warrington’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 2/3/2024 by Grace Warrington & Greg Warrington

Los Angeles Times 2/3/2024 by Grace Warrington & Greg Warrington

This constructing pair burst onto the scene with last Saturday’s NYT, and are now in the LAT. Quite impressive to get two themelesses — the hardest puzzle type to get accepted IMO — on successive Saturdays like that. Congrats to the constructors!

  • 14A [Instant success?] is RAMEN. A topic I’ve been working on with my Cantonese instructor lately has been how to order at a Hong Kong-style cafe, so I have been learning how to say “instant noodles” in a few different combinations. This clue therefore amused me a lot.
  • 53A [Actor who hosted “Scientific American Frontiers” from 1993 to 2005] If you’re going to have that puzzle stalwart Alan ALDA in a grid, it’s nice to learn something new (to me) about him, which is not usually the case.
  • 56A [Side hustle option] also feels fresh for the commonly used UBER.
  • 61A [Wimbledon set?] made me laugh for TELLY, as in a TV set in the UK.
  • 7D [Escape room find] is a nice evocative clue for KEY.
  • 29D [Wrinkles in time?] is LAUGH LINES. Cute!
  • 36D [Glitch in “The Matrix,” maybe?] is a PLOT HOLE, and my favorite clue for a mid-length or longer entry in this puzzle.

Steve Mossberg’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 2/3/24 • Saturday Stumper • Mossberg • solution • 20240203

Not too difficult this time around. I think what allowed me to really clinch the puzzle early on was knowing 28d [Stale-bread Italian salad] PANZANELLA (see also 52a [Zwieback] RUSK) and hence the crossing 40a [While away the hours] FUTZ AROUND.

  • 11a [Carousel rider] BAG. Luggage carousel.
  • 14a [Directive when sparring] LISTEN HERE. Leaping to this one with just a crossing or two was also instrumental to my solve.
  • 15a [One bred by Washington at Mount Vernon] MULE. Who knows that??
  • 18a [Small nest dweller] WASP. Good thing I didn’t have the crossing W first, otherwise I would’ve locked on to WREN.
  • 19a [Latin chorus] OLÉS. Latin as in Latin American.
  • 21a [What you’d best not break] LAWS. When the Stumper goes with a ridiculously easy clue, it’s often more difficult.
  • 24a [Wild card?] RIOT. Both card and riot are referring to an entertaining person.
  • 26a [In which “language” is lingvo] ESPERANTO. Oh yes, got this one right away. Also helpful.
  • 37a [Settled at last] DEE, referring to the word’s final letter.
  • 38a [Nickname for a western capital namesake] LENA. This is in reference to Helena, Montana, and it’s a ridiculous, twice-removed clue.
  • 42a [Nonflier from 1945 to 1955] LUFTHANSA. A good clue, because it was mystifying until it wasn’t.
  • 50a [Sport with shells] CREW. An insta-get, thanks to a simpatico clue in the WSJ, which I tackled before this.
  • 59a/56a MEET | {the} METS. The cross-referenced clues in this exclusive little corner, along with 48a [Theme of Nora Roberts’ Blue Smoke] ARSON, which I didn’t know, ensured that this would be the last section of the grid that I’d complete.
  • 60a [Half of a formal pairing] COLLAR STAY. I don’t fully grasp this clue. Is the other half a pair of shirt cuffs?
  • 2d [Song superstar who’s Mermaid Barbie] Dua LIPA. Thought it might be GAGA. I have yet to see the Barbie movie.
  • 6d [Ready to climb, perhaps] IN LOW. Vehicular gearing.
  • 7d [Sussex cinnamon roll] CHELSEA BUN. Intuited BUN, correctly guessed CHELSEA from —EA.
  • 9d [Cultivated fields] ARTS. Tricky little clue, but I was on the Stumper wavelength for it.
  • 15d [Granny] MEEMAW. Wiktionary, one of the few dictionaries to define it, suggests the etymology is “probably an affectionate alteration of mama or reduplication of maw (‘mother’)”.
  • 23d [Circe’s niece/emulator] MEDEA. A gimme. However, I needed a crossing or two for 32d [Britain’s 23 Down] LE FAY, which aptly intersects 31a SIR GALAHAD.
  • 30d [Doubly shortened article] OP ED. Oof, needed crossings.
  • 41d [Spanish fortified wine] OLOROSO. Spanish, from oloroso fragrant, from olor odor, from Latin, from olēre to smell — more at ODOR (
  • 49d [Metallic part of organs] REED. Pipe organs, I’m presuming. 55a [Grand array] KEYS; grand piano.


Garrett Chalfin & Rafaela Grieco-Freeman’s Universal crossword, “Universal Freestyle 110″—Matthew’s recap

Garrett Chalfin & Rafaela Grieco-Freeman’s Universal crossword, “Universal Freestyle 110” solution, 2/3/24

Smooth themeless here with a whole bunch of food entries that didn’t feel forced on my end. The TRES LECHES / HONEY MUSTARD / CHEAT MEAL combination was my favorite part of the grid. Probably a better crossword combo than diet combo. Toss in HERSHEYS KISSES, WHITE CLAW, CAKE, SATAY, HAS SECONDS, IHOPS, ACAI, and barbecue on a PATIO, and now I’m hungry.

And this appears to be a debut for Rafaela! Congrats!

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35 Responses to Saturday, February 3, 2024

  1. Anne in Oz says:

    NYT: I’m not a weather buff by any means but when I could see CLOUD I immediately filled in CLOUDBANK. Perhaps it’s regional.

    Nice puzzle to do as I fill in time before I go to the airport for the long long trip to SFO.

    • Papa John says:

      I had no problem with CLOUD_BANK. I was surprised that it became an issue. Cloud banks are more prominent at sea. Pilots fly into cloud banks.

  2. Greg says:

    NYT: Whenever I see that Jeff Chen is involved (either solo or with a collaborator), I know I’m going to enjoy the puzzle. Nice theme, open grid with cross-pollination between quadrants, smooth unforced fill. A pleasure to solve.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Oof, that NW corner was rough for me! The cluing really threw me– e.g. roots for EMBEDS, the ROOMIE clue, etc.. The rest felt more like a typical Saturday.
    Loved the BRAIN SURGERY/ROCKET SCIENCE combo. I have done a lot of brain surgery in the lab and attended many in humans where I was doing the testing on the patient. The first time I saw brain surgery in a human, it was mind blowing (!). The patient was awake and giving us feedback on the procedure we were carrying out to relieve his severe peripheral pain. I still find it bewildering that the brain itself does not trigger pain sensations, even though it recognizes pain from other parts of the body.
    PS. Amy, yes, I have definitely heard of CLOUD BANK in the weather sense. Maybe because the Weather Channel is on a lot in our house, since my husband is an amateur astronomer and clouds are the bane of his existence.

    • JohnH says:

      The NW was my killer, too, although I als0 didn’t know the crossing of KIA RIO and KUSH. And sure, CLOUD BANK is a term I know, although the clue’s connotation made it tougher. I also didn’t know either ICE HUT or WYANS, side by side. But an ingenious Saturday.

      Must admit I got waylaid on the two long answers with duplicate clues, because my first instinct was to phrases that mean something else again, like “it’s not the end of the world.”

  4. Eric H. says:

    NYT: Easier than Friday’s puzzle, but still challenging in the SE. I eventually decided that my early guesses of DAB ON and IDLY were correct, and the weird -IA- led me to KIA RIO, which led to me remembering KUSH and finishing the puzzle quickly. I loved the ROCKET SCIENCE/BRAIN SURGERY pairing.

    • Dallas says:

      Same here; SE was the last to fall, but it was all very satisfying. I got ROOMIE after the two O’s. I’ve also used the term CLOUD BANK; reminds me of a bank like on the shore. IBID’s cluing threw me, because I thought IBID literally meant “in the same place” while IDEM is “the same” but my Latin could be rusty here. If it hadn’t been a Saturday, I would’ve just dropped in IBID first.

      I loved the double clue crossing, in part because my wife is a veterinary neurologist who does, in fact, do BRAIN SURGERY. I’m an engineer, but do not do ROCKET SCIENCE, alas.

      Overall, just a really great Saturday. Came in a little faster than average.

  5. Nino H. says:

    NYT: Perhaps the platonic ideal of puzzle for me. It took a lot of thought and an hour of work, but everything was *eventually* gettable. Especially the cute marquee cross/clue dupe. Naturally, that means I liked the puzzle!

  6. pannonica says:

    NYT: Another chime-in for CLOUDBANK awareness. Although I thought the puzzle was quite good, the isolated nature of the large upper left and lower right sections was irksome.

  7. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper: So so hard for me. Needed checks. I think the OLOROSO/RUSK/UNTO group is a bit unfair. Esoteric foreign word, obscure word, and word that could be INTO or ONTO… Natick city.

    Also, LEFAY and FUTZ. Could also be PUTZ, and LEPAY looks just as good for another esoteric name. I had trouble elsewhere too, but these two spots just ended up being letter guesses.

    • pannonica says:

      I’d argue that Morgan Le Fay is an archetypal character that many, many people know. And also that anyone who’s dealt with a teething baby is familiar with zwieback/rusk cookies.

      • Seth Cohen says:

        I have a teething baby! 1.5 years old. Never heard of RUCKS. But I guess we all have our things that we think are totally obscure.

        • Martin says:

          It’s a rusk, not a ruck. My high school cafeteria often served a variation of army SOS called “chipped beef on Holland rusk.” My safe space doesn’t allow rusks.

    • steve says:

      kinda hard, not the worst ever

      futz around or putz around, i went with putz and it hung me up

  8. MattF says:

    NYT was a good one. Slow start, but finished pretty quickly adding up to an average time. KUSH, SOURBEER new to me.

  9. Martin says:


    I think you’re overthinking the collar stay clue. A formal shirt uses two of them.

  10. Re: the Stumper:

    I find the clueing in the Stumper getting more and more opaque, misdirective, arbitrary. A shirt with collar stays would have two, one for each end of the collar. But Google shows them on shirts with open collars — hardly formal stuff. LISTENHERE is hardly a directive (nothing official about it). RICEU is where Larry McMurtry received an MA. Is that really his alma mater?

    My biggest objection is to 38-A, “Nickname for a western capital namesake.” Have many people been named for the capital of Montana? A search for named for helena turns up a United States Navy submarine. A search for named for the capital of Montana turns up the submarine and a ring with a gemstone. I doubt that the ring has a nickname either. Granted, namesake need not mean “named for.” But still.

  11. JML says:

    NYT cluing was exceptional. What a fun puzzle!

  12. David L says:

    NYT: Three weeks in a row where Saturday has been significantly easier than Friday for me. ROCKETSCIENCE crossing BRAINSURGERY is cute.

    CLOUDBANK is familiar; never heard of CLOUDBAND.

    Stumper: Error for me at LENU/UTMOST. I had no idea what to make of LENU, but LENA is equally mystifying, and absurdly clued. The NW and SE corners were hardest, but getting APPEALEDTO and FOOLMEONCE allowed me to break in.

    I filled in CHELSEABUN eventually, but what the heck does it have to with Sussex? It’s named after Chelsea in London. Is [random English county] meant to indicate that it’s a British pastry?

  13. DougC says:

    NYT: Just a great Saturday puzzle, and a great NYT debut for Carolyn Davies Lynch! Loved the crossing marquee answers, the excellent cluing, and the lack of obscure trivia. The best NYT puzzle in quite some time!

    And yes, I’m very familiar with the term CLOUD BANK.

  14. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ … This makes three Mike Shenk puzzles in a row. I wonder if the WSJ is getting fewer puzzle submissions these days? The editor seems to have his name on more and more puzzles. Here are his annual puzzle counts since he began publishing his real name with his puzzles in January 2019:

    2023: 68
    2022: 52
    2021: 48
    2000: 41
    1999: 48

    The increase is even more dramatic when you consider that he has a built-in 23-25 puzzles each year because he and Matt Gaffney typically alternate Fridays.

    • Eric H says:

      I belong to a couple of Facebook groups for crossword constructors. I have gotten the sense from posts in those groups that the WSJ’s response time is slow compared to the other publishers who take open submissions. Perhaps constructors are avoiding the Journal because of that.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Is it worse there than it is at the NYT? I think I’ve read that sometimes it’s a year or more between when a puzzle is accepted for publication and when it’s published. And that doesn’t even account for the back and forth before it’s accepted for publication.

    • Seattle DB says:

      While I think Shenk is a good constructor and a pretty good editor, maybe he feels (like I do) that a majority of puzzles nowadays are pretty bland, and that his are better.

  15. Margaret says:

    LAT: I know complaining about duplication is a tired issue but it genuinely slowed me waaaay down today with “Rock’n Me” band cluing STEVEMILLERBAND. I put in Steve Miller and thought, I would have sworn it was Steve Miller Band but must not be. I had to put in all the crossings to confirm that it really was Band.

    • Seattle DB says:

      My print-version shows the clue as “Rock’n Me Group”, not “band”.

      • Margaret says:

        I double-checked my print East Bay Times and it definitely says “‘Rock’n Me’ band.” Maybe they fixed it for some but not all?

  16. meaningless nobody says:

    stumper: mossdef a tough one for me… a putz like me definitely identified with a p in that crosser… and 6 other mistakes in the southeast corner to eventually finish at 66′ (see, i am the beast)

  17. JoeO says:

    I’ve found the WSJ the longest of all in terms of response time.

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