Saturday, February 24, 2024

LAT 4:14 (Stella) 


Newsday 17:33 (pannonica) 


NYT 5:42 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Matthew)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Rebecca Goldstein & Rafael Musa’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 2/24/24 – no. 0224

Hey! Fun themeless from Rebecca and Rafa. Either it’s on the easier side for a Saturday puzzle or it’s just putting out wavelengths I catch okay.

Fave fill: The GOLDEN HOUR, “COME NOW,” CLINKED (with that tricky clue, [Made a sound with a flute], a champagne flute, that is), SMARTPHONE, COMPOST BIN, PLUOT, OPEN SEASON, “OH GOD  YES,” RUNS POINT, STILETTOS, RACE BIBS, “I HATE TO ASK …”, and RENT STRIKE. Not so keen on NEW AT, SEGO, TUGS ON, and the duplication of “AND ONE” (??) and ONES.

Did not know: 64a. [Tony and Grammy winner Mitchell], ANAIS. Let’s look her up. Ah, she based the Broadway musical Hadestown on her album of the same name.

Four stars from me.

Guilherme Gilioli’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 2/24/24 by Guilherme Gilioli

Los Angeles Times 2/24/24 by Guilherme Gilioli

It’s been a while since anybody but Rich Norris took me past the 4-minute mark for a Saturday LAT, and I AM HERE FOR IT! The unusual grid shape makes for lots of extra-long entries, and some tough cluing on the shorter crossings means that establishing a foothold takes some time.

I also think this puzzle makes a great case for long entries providing a satisfying solve regardless of whether the entries themselves are “sparkly” by subjective editorial standard. Do I really love saying LAST I CHECKED, ANTINEUTRINOS, UNEARNED INCOME, MNEMONIC DEVICES, STAGE PRESENCE, and ON EASY STREET out loud? Not really — I’d call these solid but not there-for-their-own-sake entries, with the possible exception of ANTINEUTRINOS (because I’m always here for STEM content in crosswords). But the challenge they provided — yes please! I realize I sound like I’m negging this grid a little — I want to be clear that I really loved it and that this is a whole puzzle that’s greater than the sum of its parts. (I do slightly quibble with “rent” being an example of UNEARNED INCOME. It’s a lot of work to be a landlord, at least if you’re a good one.)

There seriously has to be some magic dust on this puzzle, because I went back and found exactly two question-mark clues; usually it takes a bit more of those playful clues to get me enjoying a themeless as much as I did this one. Some notable non-marquee clues: [Madness, e.g.] for SKA BAND, since it’s unusual to mix trivia and wordplay in the same clue nowadays; [Mulheres da família] for TIAS, because it taught me that the word for “aunts” in Portuguese is the same as it is in Spanish (minus an accent mark, which I had to discover after the fact); [Weather-sensitive fig.] as a fresh angle on the ubiquitous ETD; [Pops] for DADDY, because it could just as easily be DADAS even if you’re onto the idea that “Pops” is being used in the paternal nickname sense, creating extra difficulty; and [Shape of a baklava, sometimes] as a fresh and evocative clue for NEST.

Randolph Ross’ Wall Street Journal crossword, “She Did What?” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 2/24/24 • Sat • “She Did What?” • Ross • solution • 20240224

In the theme phrases, we’re to elide the H of her to see what the original versions were.

  • 23a. [What she did to keep the salon equipment clean] WASH HER DRYER (washer-dryer).
  • 34a. [What she did to keep siblings out of trouble?] WARN HER BROTHERS (Warner Brothers).
  • 52a. [What she did when she was promoted to captain?] LEAD HER SHIP (leadership).
  • 69a. [What she did to not be bothered by the rest of the family] LOCK HER ROOM (locker room).
  • 84a. [What she did to win a bragging contest with an exterminator?] BET HER MOUSETRAP (better mousetrap).
  • 97a. [What she did during a clothing inventory?] COUNT HER TOPS (countertops).
  • 3d. [What she did to get the soap off of the bath toy?] RUB HER DUCKIE (rubber duckie).
  • 17d. [What she did to not acknowledge a girlfriend on the street?] PASS HER BY (passerby).
  • 58d. [What she did to accompany a choir?] PLAY HER PIANO (player piano).
  • 68a. [What she did to earn money when she didn’t need some theater tickets?] LET HER BOX (letterbox).

Most of these don’t feel too far removed from their original senses. That is, the DUCKIE is a still a DUCKIE, BROTHERS remain BROTHERS, et cetera. On the other hand, there are a lot of theme answers.

  • 2d [Disdain] SNEER AT; a verb, not a noun. 13d [Stalwart] LOYALIST; a noun, not an adjective (seemingly). 104a [Hoodwink] HOAX (as a verb, I think).
  • 14d [Where to see Hurricanes and Lightning] ICE RINK. 19d [Hurricanes and Lightning, e.g.] TEAMS.
  • 31d [Stalagmite creator] DRIP. 44d [Drops from the sky] RAIN.
  • 43d [“No man is a hero __ valet”] TO HIS. Not a quote I’ve seen before. An upper-crusty way of saying ‘familiarity breeds contempt’.
  • 62d [Hard to please] PICKY. Because I had DARTS for 62a [Splits] PARTS, and DICKY seemed plausible for 62-down, it took me a while to locate this error and successfully complete the puzzle.
  • 64d [Military role for POTUS] CINC, commander-in-chief.
  • 73d [Opposed to the Manhattan Project, say] ANTI-NUKE. This seems anachronistic to me. The Manhattan Project was very (38d) HUSH-hush, so there would have been no public opposition to it. Further, anyone in the know and against it would have been unlikely to consider themselves ANTI-NUKE in those words. Yet further, wasn’t the colloquial term in those days atomic?
  • 88d [Afternoon prayers] NONES. More interesting I feel is the rise in religious NONES demographic.
  • 12a [Dart] FLIT; verb not noun. 62a [Splits] PARTS; verb or noun.
  • 103a [“Bathers at Asnières” painter] SEURAT. Here it is.
  • 107a [Puffball bit] SPORE. There are a number of different genera of fungus called puffballs.


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

Newsday • 2/24/24 • Saturday Stumper • Mossberg • solution • 20240224

Aha, here’s the ‘less rough’ Stumper that we didn’t get that other week.

Admittedly, it looked as if I wasn’t going to be able to complete the upper left section. That is, until I reconsidered 8d [Drilling expert, for short]—fell right into the DDS trap (and 15-across as something-SHED), but eventually realized it could be SGT (and something-BAG).

With crossings toward the bottom, I was able to get Fellini’s LA STRADA (4d) and surmise 5d [Bears fan] ARCTOPHILE.

19-across is [“Let’s eat!” anagram] SEATTLE was a minor disappointment, as I’d hoped it would be something apropos.

  • 15-across ended up being MYLAR BAG, which definitely requires crossings.
  • 16a [Chill] BE COOL, for which I for some time had as BECALM.
  • 22a [Baby sitter?] HEN, 22d [“… love but __ forever”: Burns] HER. This crossing was the last square I entered.
  • 23a [Taking away] LESS, 24a [Not difficult to take away] CHEAP. Seems forced, but since there’s no formal connection between the sequential clues—not a big deal. 31d [Expunge completely] WIPE.
  • 29a [Very tough] HARDHEARTED. Tried HARD AS NAILS for a time.
  • 38a [Solution tester] LITMUS PAPER. My brain must have been on autopilot because I tried LITMUS TEST, which repeats part of the clue.
  • 40a [Adjudge] REGARD, 10d [Adjudge] DEEM.
  • 41a [Group in discussion] THESE. Completely accurate, but very recondite.
  • 49a [Celtic cross creator] PATRICK, which is what I wanted all along but was prevented from entering because I had 28d [Repurposing as ADAPTING TO instead of ADAPTATION.
  • 54a [Musician on the move] MARIACHI. Maybe could have used a ‘perhaps’?
  • 2d [Word from the Greek for “hearth”] PYRE. Some dancing here, I think. m-w gives the etymology as “Latin pyra, from Greek, from pyr fire – more at FIRE“—which we of course recognize in words such as pyromania—and Google Translate gives the Greek equivalent of hearth as estia, which makes sense as Hestia was goddess of the hearth.
  • 7d [Bar food] DATE. Uhh, like a salad bar? I guess?
  • 24d [Nation with a Saharan north] CHAD, 37a [Start to doubt] DEE. This crossing was an early in for me during the solve.
  • 27d [Closer to tragedy] LAST ACT. Deceptively veiled noun to start the clue.
  • 33d [Antonym of “darling”] OGRE. Hey, okay, I’ll give you a twofer of Katell Keineg today (please don’t be dissuaded by the scary album cover photo).
  • 36d [Literally, “great queen”] MAHARANI. Surprised we don’t see this more often in crosswords. Rani is of course ‘queen’ and maha- indicates ‘great’ (think mahatma—’great soul’ or even the direct correlate maharaja—’great king’).
  • 39d [Woolf title title] MRS Dalloway.
  • 40d [Pulp fiction plot-hole creation] RETCON, which is short for ‘retroactive continuity’ and I can’t really make sense of the clue. It isn’t limited to pulp fiction and it is not created by a plot hole, although it is necessitated by one.
  • 42d [“16 on 16” competition] CHESS. No idea if this is the title of some show or competition, or merely a reference to the sixteen pieces on each opposing side.
  • 46d [Lloyd Webber, since ’97] BARON. Had EXPAT first.
  • 54d [Case specialist’s designation] MSW, Master of Social Work. Clue rather oblique, of course.

Mossberg’s Stumpers usually give me much more of a workout than this, but I don’t mind the respite.

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45 Responses to Saturday, February 24, 2024

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: I had a much easier time with this one than with Friday’s. The clue for NAPA amused me, and OPEN SEASON gave me an earworm of a favorite song written by the brilliant Rodney Crowell. A title like “OPEN SEASON On My Heart” really shouldn’t work, but Mr. Crowell pulls it off admirably.

    This is the original recording, by Tim McGraw:

    • Me says:

      I also had a lower time today than Friday, although I had extremely little filled in for the first pass or two. But it started to come together after a bit.

      I had never heard of TOADETTE, and I had I HAVE TO ASK rather than I HATE TO ASK. So I couldn’t figure out what TOADEVTE was for a while there!

      • Me says:

        I see that Rex Parker did the exact same thing as I did with TOADEVTE -> TOADETTE.

        One place where I tripped myself up is that I put in BRIAN for “Tony and Grammy winner Mitchell.” He goes by “Brian Stokes Mitchell,” so it would have been odd for the puzzle to have BRIAN without STOKES as well. And as it turns out, he’s been nominated for a Grammy but never won, so it wasn’t the best guess to begin with.

      • Mary+A says:

        Same with me! I hate it when I have that one error. Video game allusions often do me in.

    • pannonica says:

      Counterpoint song. I like this one because it—I believe unusually for the time—has in part an Ethiopian sound.

    • David L says:

      I seem to be in the minority here — I found yesterday’s NYT pretty straightforward and this one much tougher. Took me some time to correctly parse several of the clues, although there was nothing truly impenetrable. Didn’t know GOLDENHOUR or TOADETTE (I wondered if might be TOADELLE) or ANAIS or NANCY, but the crossings were all perfectly fair.

    • Gary R says:

      Harder for me than yesterday – by about 50%. But it was late-night solve, so …

    • DougC says:

      This initially felt hard, primarily due to the diabolical clues, and to the several names I did not know. To my surprise, my time was better than yesterday’s, which I take as a sign that the crosses on those names were fair.

      Speaking of the clues, this is just what I love on a Saturday! Lots of misdirects, but all fair, and frequently quite entertaining. I spent waaay too much time puzzling over the sound made with a flute, and had to laugh when I finally got it. Well done!

  2. Dee Dee says:

    LAT: I must be missing something obvious but can anyone explain to me the clues for 14D SMALL FRY and 33D DARES?

  3. Matt G says:

    NYT: ANDONE – When a basketball player is fouled while taking shot that ends up going in they get a bonus free throw for the foul. That free throw is the “and one”, as in “Two for the basket, and one for the foul”.

    • Me says:

      Matt G, thank you for the explanation! I had never heard the term before and didn’t understand the clue and answer at all.

    • Gary R says:

      Definitely agree on the interpretation. But I’m not too sure this is a “player’s cry,” as stated in the clue. More like a play-by-play guy’s (or gal’s – really like Beth Mowins) cry.

      • Twangster says:

        I used to play in an over-30 basketball rec league and some of the guys would say “and one!” every time they drove to the basket, made a shot, and got touched at all … which was annoying.

        • Gary R says:

          Good point. Actually, I think I know those guys! ;-)

        • sanfranman59 says:

          Agreed … saying “and one” on the court became a thing somewhere along the line back in the days when I was still playing rec basketball (about 20 years ago). It seems to me that it came into vogue in the 90s, but it may have been before that. It’s pretty niche, but seems appropriate for a NYT Saturday puzzle.

  4. MattF says:

    Slow start for me with the NYT, suspected it would be very tough. But I got a small foothold on the left half, then pushed it through— finished up, to my surprise, in a normal time. Nice puzzle.

  5. David L says:

    Stumper: like pannonica, I didn’t find this one too tough. Steady progress throughout. As usual, some mystification remains after the solve: I don’t know what kind of exotic bars a person would frequent to find a DATE as finger-food; ‘storage facility’ is a very grandiose way to refer to a MYLARBAG; and couldn’t ‘group in discussion’ equally well be THOSE rather than THESE? Perhaps I’m missing something there.

    I don’t really understand what a RETCON is so am in no position to judge the aptness of the clue. ‘Into spelling’ for OCCULT is clever.

    • MattG says:

      My guess is that “bar food” refers to protein bars, some of which have dates as an ingredient. I tried to make DIET (“bar” as in “ban”) or EATS (a more literal interpretation) work.

    • steve says:

      huh, and i found this much tougher than last saturday
      funny the way that works

      • Twangster says:

        I’m with you, Steve … couldn’t get anywhere with this one. When one of the clues is “get” – a word notorious for having multiple meanings – it seems like the puzzle is veering into self-parody.

      • BlueIris says:

        I agree — I found it tougher than pannonica did. I had to look up “arctophile” — never heard of it.

    • Martin says:

      RETCON means “retroactive continuity.” It’s a common device to justify sequels.

      • David L says:

        pannonica explained what it means. It’s the concept I’m fuzzy on. And I’m not sufficiently interested to do any googling in the cause of self-enlightenment.

    • Eric H says:

      Add me to the list who found this Stumper quite challenging. I got LA STRADA and LITMUS PAPER early on, and had inadvertent spoilers from here that got me MAHARANI and RETCON. (It’s nice to know the etymology of the first one.)

      But it still took me 40+ minutes and a bunch of checks to get through. I’ve previously had to look up SATORI — maybe now I will remember what it means.

      I kinda like the MARIACHI clue, though I needed a few crosses to get the answer.

      A BAG (MYLAR or otherwise) is a “facility”? Really?

  6. Lily says:

    LAT: Can someone explain the hyphen in 32A: N-EVERLASTING THING?

  7. Martin says:


    19-across is [“Let’s eat!” anagram] SEATTLE was a minor disappointment, as I’d hoped it would be something apropos

    Have you ever been to Seattle? There are more great restaurants than a city of less than a million has any business hosting. Seattle and Portland are both foodie paradises.

    • pannonica says:

      Yes, but so are many major cities.

    • Eric H says:

      Seattle may have less than a million people, but the metro area is over 3.4 million — the 15th largest in the USA.

      But yes, there are a lot of good restaurants there.

      • Martin says:

        And there are lots of great restaurants outside the city limits too. The mussels at the Oystercatcher on Whidbey Island are worth a detour.

        I agree there are many great food cities in the US, but I’m only defending “Let’s Eat” as apropos.

  8. meaningless nobody says:

    stumper: the bottom half was less of a slog than the top half (especially since mariachi was my first in)… i spent a long time in the upper right because i was so sure [into spelling] was wiccan… and i had to shake my head at adorbs… but in the end i completely mangled the upper right (despite getting arctophile, which was a delightful find)… not easy for me, but not so “omg i just want this to end” difficult – mosdef a respectably challenging puzzle

  9. Burak says:

    NYT was more of a Friday than a Saturday, but what a delightful puzzle! The fill was already fresh, but the clues were even fresher.

  10. Mr. [very baffled &] Grumpy says:

    WSJ: Can someone please explain why this was worth publishing? Okay, we have an extraneous H. So? Is there a reason? Is there actually a theme? Does the title actually mean anything? What am I missing? What’s the opposite of an ORCA? A minnow? I nominate this one.

    • Barry Miller says:

      I loved it. Made me laugh. And the title makes perfect sense.

      • Bob says:

        I agree. Overall I thought it was a nice puzzle.

      • JohnH says:

        I tend to agree. Enough of the puns were pleasant, and of course Grumpy doesn’t really mean that it’s just adding an H, since the idea is to make a phrase about HER. As pannonica says, also a lot of them.

        OTOH, it felt inconsistent to me in that sometimes the H replaced a T to get the TH sound, while most of the time it was just added to get a new sound or syllable. And there was a lot of trite fill, along with proper names. Overall, not great, but I can sure see why star ratings are somewhere been evenly split and all over the map. (I like “religious NONES.” It sounds like a pun in a talk about irreligious nuns.)

  11. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: Once again this editor goofs up a good puzzle. 32A: “N-everlasting thing” is a “Fad”. I give the constructor a 3 but the editing gets a 1, so my rating is a 2.

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