Saturday, February 17, 2024

LAT 3:22 (Stella) 


Newsday 25:46 (pannonica) 


NYT 8:37 (Amy) 


Universal 2:35 (Matthew)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Spencer Leach & Jem Burch’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 2/17/22 – no. 0217

Did you know that one of Taylor Swift’s nicknames is T-SWIZZLE? I sure did not.

Fave fill: SORBET, POKÉ BALL (from Pokémon), STEADY GIG, ON TOP OF IT, DONEZO (we would also have accepted the spelling dunzo), SNEEZY, “DON’T JINX IT,” VR HEADSETS, “GEE WHIZ.”

Football fans, tell me this: Are there sacks other than the QB SACKS? Is there any reason for “QB” to be included here?

Three clues:

  • 61a. [Drinks are on me!], BAR MENU. No quotation marks to signal that we need a phrase that’s synonymous with “Drinks are on me,” such as MY TREAT … which is also 7 letters.
  • 15a. [Source of a foul odor when wool is washed], LANOLIN. I don’t think I knew that.
  • 24a. [Playground comeback], blurgh. Here, it’s DID SO, but other 5-letter options include DO TOO, DO NOT, I DO SO, ARE SO, AM TOO … need I go on? Not sure any solvers are fond of the “playground retort” entries.

Raise your hand if you don’t need for SUSHI PIZZA to be a thing, and if you’d never heard of it prior to this crossword. It feels a hair like the constructors were trying to include as many uncommon letters as possible in the grid, but it helps if the fill doesn’t leave some solvers (or me, anyway) wondering “Uh, is that actually a thing?”

3.5 stars from me.

Quiara Vasquez’ Universal crossword, “Universal Freestyle 112″—Matt’s recap

Quiara Vasquez’ Universal crossword, “Universal Freestyle 112” solution, 2/17/2024

Faves: the clues [“My goose is cooked!”] (I’M A DEAD MAN), [One Time thing?] (ISSUE), and [Website with pages for “Woman Dancing” and “Cat with Wry Smile”] (EMOJIPEDIA)

Attention grabbing stacks in the corners are pretty solid, though “campfire dessert” BANANA BOAT was new to me. My family camping trips as a kid used the cast iron sandwich makers for our desserts.

Joe Deeney’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 2/17/24 by Joe Deeney

Los Angeles Times 2/17/24 by Joe Deeney

I really wasn’t feeling this puzzle, sorry. The SW corner with I’LL CATCH UP, BLUE’S CLUES, and BEER-THIRTY was fun, as was SHELFIE in the middle (I really dislike how social media has made us all want to show off our lives to the point that SHELFIE is a thing, but it’s a fun word to say). But it took a lot of green paint to get there IMO: BROKE IN TWORAP ATTHE FBIDIDN’T GO, ONE MANIT HELP, and there weren’t enough extra-fun clues to make up for that. I did like [Juice bar?] for POWER STRIP and [Tune two croon], which is offbeat enough in its syntax to have made me do a bit of a double take until I figured out it was DUET.

Richard D Allen’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Great Work!” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/17/24 • Sat • “Great Work!” • Allen • solution • 20240217

Very quick solve for me on this one.

  • 110aR [Artistic triumphs, and what the starred answers are created from] MASTERPIECES. To wit, ‘MASTER’ is a letter bank for all the theme answers; they are formed from only those six letters, reused as many times as needed.
  • 26a. [*54-year-old TV show watched by many four-year-olds] SESAME STREET.
  • 32a. [*Study-abroad program aboard the MV World Odyssey] SEMESTER-AT-SEA.
  • 41a. [*Union whose logo features horse heads and a wagon wheel] TEAMSTERS.
  • 53a. [*Betsy Ross, e.g.] SEAMSTRESS.
  • 68a. [*Results of some protests] MASS ARRESTS.
  • 81a. [*Steakhouse patrons] MEAT EATERS.
  • 91a. [*Real-time online personalities] STREAMERS.
  • 102a. [*The Perfect Sleeper Sleep Excellence, for one] SERTA MATTRESS.

Unlike some letter bank exercises, these words and phrases each use all six of the letters comprising MASTER.

  • 5d [Regarded as] DEEMED. 9d [Cashes in] REDEEMS. Etymologically unrelated.
  • 17d [Studio rail] BARRE. Dance studio.
  • 33d [Places] SITES. 96a [Particular places] LOCI.
  • 83d [Capybara or kinkajou, e.g.] EXOTIC PET. The phenomenon is resurgent with the likes of TikTok and YouTube, but please—don’t do this. Although the environmental impact in general isn’t as severe as it once was—due to captive breeding programs, which is another problematic issue—there are very good reasons why most of those species are ‘exotic’ pets. In general there are significant drawbacks both to the animals and their keepers, and such arrangements frequently end in tragedy. See, for example, this article from the Wildlife Conservation Trust.
  • 88d [Like a much-read book] DOG-EARED. I would like a ‘perhaps’ qualifier here, please.
  • 52a [Diet that disallows dairy and grains] PALEO. Conceptually suspect and environmentally destructive. Please don’t do this, either.
  • 114a [Garage job that’s draining?] OIL CHANGE. One of the few punny clues in the whole crossword.
  • 118a [Doughnut choice] MAPLE. My spelling preference is for donut or, better yet, doughnaught (even though it doesn’t accurately reflect the word’s origin).

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

Newsday • 2/17/24 • Saturday Stumper • Ruff, Newman • solution • 20240217

This one did not feel ‘less rough’ to me. Encountered difficulty at almost every turn, and especially in the upper right section, which for a long time felt impenetrable.

  • 20a [Uncertain as yet, for short] TBA, but it could easily have been TBD, as the crossing entry is also an initialism, and a less common one: 8d [Insurer with numerous ex-general CEOs] USAA (United States Automobile Association).
  • 21a [Succeed in selling] INDUCE. Just brutal.
  • 23a [Finch in Broadway’s … Mockingbird] DANIELS. I’m guessing/assuming this is Jeff Daniels portraying Atticus Finch in a revival of To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • 25a [Small print with prices] PLUS TAX. Sure, it seems obvious in retrospect.
  • 27a [Far from wild] MEEK. 1d [Far from wild] STAID.
  • 32a [Hip-height handrail] BARRE. Got a leg up on this one because it was in the WSJ crossword I just solved and wrote about. Ditto 40a [Possible hair raiser] GEL.
  • 33a [They typically go on city buses] ADS. Borderline unfair/impossible.
  • 51a [Ship out] SAIL. Had MAIL for a time, until I perceived 36d [Specious] as ILLUSORY.
  • 59a [Whodunit accusation] YOU’RE LYING. Experimented with YOU’RE GUILTY.
  • 2d [Swahili speaker of the future] UHURA. From Star Trek. I was thinking more along the lines of an infant in the present.
  • 4d [William and Redmayne, circa ’98] ETONIANS. Oof. Why those two together? Were they famously chums at school? It is Prince William and actor Eddie Redmayne, yes?
  • 13d [Sent off for a serious offense] RED CARDED. But PENALIZED also fit, even though it doesn’t quite match the severity implicit in the clue.
  • 22d [Do meal micro-management?] NUKE. Yes, you’d better have that question mark there. “Management” is a stretch. I’m just glad that the odd signifying hyphen was there to make this one reasonably gettable.
  • 31d [Water dubbed by Catherine the Great] URAL RIVER. Got this with only a couple of crossings, but I’m surprised that this name is so recent.
  • 39d [If it contracted] SIL. I don’t understand this at all. Unless… is it the French s’il? Because there’s zero indication that we’re dealing with a foreign language.
  • 45d [Scheme related to a zodiac sign] CAPER. I guess it has something to do with Capricorn? A lucky guess on this one (with just a couple of crossings) helped me to vanquish the lower right section.
  • 48d [How Appealing or Constitution Daily] BLAWG, which is obviously a portmanteau of law and blog but is not a term I’ve encountered previously.
  • 55d [VF close cousin] LOL. VF must be ‘very funny’ but I’ve not seen that in use online.

Not an easy Stumper. 1a [Redundant ratification] SURE I’M SURE.

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43 Responses to Saturday, February 17, 2024

  1. cyberdiva says:

    Amy, according to the constructors’ notes, all those Scrabbly letters were there because the constructors were trying (and, I think, succeeding) to make a double pangram.

  2. cyberdiva says:

    NYT I’m still confused about how BAR MENU is an appropriate answer to the clue
    Drinks are on me! It’s true that there are no quotation marks, but the “on me” and the the exclamation point make me think of the clue as a spoken statement, and that a reasonable answer would be, as Amy suggests, MY TREAT. And even if it’s not a spoken statement, I still don’t understand how BAR MENU is an appropriate answer.

    • Eric H says:

      The list of drinks is on the bar menu.

      The NYT sometimes uses those sorts of clues with exclamation points. About a week ago, “Suck it!” clued STRAW. (The quotation marks are mine.)

      • Cyberdiva says:

        Thanks, Eric H, for pointing to the exclamation point as a signal that the clue works differently than I’m used to. I remember being a bit puzzled by “Suck it!” in the earlier puzzle, but at least I could see how “it” could refer to “straw.” But the connection in the current puzzle seems much less direct. Yes, the “drinks” are listed in a “bar menu,” but so what? The “aha” that I felt once I had filled in “straw” didn’t occur after I wrote “bar menu.” Perhaps it will after I’ve had a few drinks.🙂

  3. Eric H says:

    NYT: Amy, SUSHI PIZZA (which I think I had seen in another crossword puzzle) may not be what you think it is. Wikipedia says: “It uses a slightly crispy yet chewy fried rice patty as the base and is topped with a layer of sliced avocado, a layer of sliced salmon, tuna or crab meat, a drizzle of blended mayonnaise and wasabi powder and is served in wedges.” (It was invented in Toronto, so you can blame the Canadians.)

    Except for the wasabi powder, SUSHI PIZZA sounds pretty good to me.

    I have also seen the nickname T SWIZZLE somewhere, but I didn’t remember it and got most of that from the crosses.

    A fun puzzle, but the left side was a bit slow. I could do without the “playground retorts,” since there seems to be about a million of them. I liked DON’T JINX IT, but didn’t come up with it quickly.

    • Me says:

      Today I learned what sushi pizza is supposed to be, because a local place makes what they call “sushi pizza,” and it’s a scallion pancake without the scallions, topped with tuna and salmon sashimi, with some wasabi mayonnaise. It’s really, really good. I get it all the time.

    • Dallas says:

      Yeah, was pretty slow for me. I had SLEEPY instead of SNEEZY which slowed me down in the SE and VRGLASSES instead of VRHEADSETS which slowed me down in the NW. Eventually righted the ship, and ended a bit over average time… I guess that makes up for a fast Friday :-) Interesting to see a double pangram.

  4. Mutman says:

    NYT: I sniffed out the double pangram when I finished. Did not seem to compromise fill, IMO.

    The ! clues have been popular of late. I thought it was a fine clue for BARMENU. I think it takes its origin from cryptics. They are much harder to compose because they need a second wordplay with it. But in standard xwords, I actually like it.

    Can someone explain the IBEAMS clue to me?!??

    • Eric H says:

      “Capital” as in capital letter I (as Ned noted).

      • dh says:

        I wanted this to be Portland Cement, but (A) it didn’t come close to anything, and (B) it was named after the English isle where it was first made. (I looked that up). I-Beam was a good misdirection, I thought

  5. huda says:

    NYT: this was a train wreck for me. Not blaming the constructors, I appreciate their ambition in creating a double pangram.
    I felt better seeing that Amy didn’t know TSWIZZLE or SUSHIPIZZA. I also didnt know DONEZO.
    Humbling, BRUISING, but I learned some stuff, including about food which is always great (e.g. ZITI).

    • Eric H says:

      It was fun to learn the ZITI etymology.

    • dh says:

      I’m growing too old for pop culture entries, I think. T-Swizzle? Sushi pizza? Donezo? SMH? Never heard of them. Also Doja Cat is on that list of rappers that I only hear of in puzzles, but never remember much beyond “Li’l”.

      I agree with Amy regarding the QB sack, but on looking it up I suppose there could be a technicality here. If the QB gives the ball to another player behind the line of scrimmage and that player goes back to pass but is tackled, that is also called a sack – but he is the “passer”, not the QB. But I’ve only ever heard the term as “sack” with no qualifiers. And while I’m pitching my tent in Amy’s camp, count me in on the list of those who could live a fine life without “playground retort” clues.

      • Eric H says:

        I too don’t care for the “playground retorts.” Too many choices and nothing amusing when you finally get the right answer

        • Me says:

          “Playground retort” seems like it comes up an awful lot in the NYT. This is a real KEALOA, because there’s absolutely no way to tell which of the 5-letter options it is. Could they at least say, “Affirmative playground retort” or something like that to narrow it down a little? Whenever I see “playground retort,” I groan inside a little.

      • MattF says:

        Pretty much my list of never-seen-before entries. Got SMH as the last entry from running through the alphabet, and still had no idea what it meant.

  6. respectyourelders says:

    Love to get filled in on IBEAMS, too. BARMENU had me baffled although I was able to suss it out with crossings. Now, I really appreciate the cleverness – drinks ARE on the bar menu. As for SUSHIPIZZA, I think constructors have to try to come up with new, snappy entries to have their themeless puzzles catch the editors’ eyes. Not appetizing maybe, but entertaining. Good challenging and fun puzzle.

  7. Ned says:

    The name I-beam refers to the cross-sectional shape of the beam, which is basically a (thickened up) capital I.

  8. Christopher Smith says:

    No, QB SACKS are not a thing. Any player who gets the ball from center could be sacked, theoretically but a) it’s rare for that not to be the QB, and b) there’s no real reason for making this distinction anyway.

  9. Judy P says:

    Amy asks whether there are sacks other than quarterback sacks. From Wikipedia: “In gridiron football, a sack occurs when the quarterback (or another offensive player acting as a passer) is tackled behind the line of scrimmage before throwing a forward pass…”

  10. BlueIris says:

    Stumper: I agree with everything you say, paticularly 39D and 48D — yuck.

  11. Twangster says:

    Agree that the Stumper was not less rough. Got the top left corner and that was pretty much it. Hats off to anyone who solved this puzzle.

    I do like “YOU RELYING!” as an accusation.

  12. Dan says:

    NYT: Great Saturday puzzle!

    Looks to me like a double pangram, though I haven’t checked carefully.

  13. Eric H says:

    Stumper: After seeing the complaints about it, I had to give it a shot. 40 minutes, a bunch of checks, and I’m finished. Not many gimmes — ANNE MORROW was a huge help, UHURA a guess that worked — but a lot of write-overs, especially in the NW, where I first had EUrOSTRADA and AtticuS for the “To Kill a Mockingbird” Finch.

    I’ve been on a lot of SKI RUNs, but the only SLEDS I’ve seen have been pulled by ski patrol. But I guess it takes just one for it to be a valid clue.

    Like Amy, SIL makes no sense except as French.

    BLAWGS is new to me, and I’m a retired lawyer. What an ugly bunch of letters to string together. I also never heard of either of the ones in the clue, though it was obvious they had something to with the law.

  14. Martin says:

    S’il vous plaît is accepted by M-W as an English phrase of French origin. I think that gives Stan license to clue it sans signal.

    • Eric H says:

      That’s still a stretch as far as I’m concerned.

      I studied French long enough to know the literal meaning of “s’il vous plait”.

      But to the extent anyone who hasn’t studied French knows the phrase, it just means “Please.”

      I see that SIL has been in many NYT puzzles clued as “the S in R.S.V.P.” That’s fine, but I think the Newsday clue goes too far.

      • Dwayne says:

        I’m gonna be the one person who chimes in with an “I liked it” on SIL. I thought it was quite clever when I figured it out.

        • Me says:

          It’s clever and a great clue, but I don’t think S’IL is English. It’s a Saturday Stumper, but I would agree that throwing in foreign words and phrases with no warning should be avoided, even on Saturday.

          • Martin says:

            That’s why we have dictionaries. We don’t have to argue whether a loanword is English or not. The lexicographers call the balls and strikes; we can boo but we don’t really get a say.

            In any case, it’s not only Saturday — it’s the Stumper. We’ve seen way stretchier clues in Stumpers.

  15. JohnH says:

    NYT was a fair Saturday challenge, although Amy and others have raised good points. I don’t care for clues like that for BAR MENU that refer to rather than are synonymous with the entry, but they do come up, so ok. But sure, I lingered over the bad choice between ARE SO and AM TOO without even landing on a third, and I sure hope that SUSHI PIZZA is not a thing.

    I also got wrong T SWIZZLE / IN A SEC / DOJA, since after all ONE SEC is legit, and how was I to know it wasn’t T SWOZZLE and DOJE? In the end, I also couldn’t finish the far NW, but that’s my failing, not the puzzle, more or less. Not sure that, say, since I see I BEAM mostly in puzzles, that it couldn’t get along just fine with a lowercase I. Still Saturdays are supposed to be hard.

  16. meaningless nobody says:

    stumper: i got stuck in the se corner, with my downfall being utterly convinced that the comic strip character was JOEBAZOOKA… ah well, 51′ and 3 incorrect on this moar ruff puzzle…

    • Eric H says:

      Bazooka Joe was a bubble gum brand in the 1960s that included a little comic with each piece of gum. But the character wasn’t a boxer.

      I vaguely remember JOE PALOOKA, but my hometown paper didn’t run that strip.

  17. Burak says:

    I really enjoyed the NYT. I didn’t even realize they were going for a double pangram, but I’ve solved my fair share of tedious “oh let’s fill as many unique letters as possible” puzzles and this one definitely felt less gimmicky than most. That’s a great achievement.

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