Saturday, March 2, 2024

LAT 8:18 (norah) 


Newsday 11:35 (pannonica) 


NYT 16:17 (Erin-ish) 


Universal tk (Matthew)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Somebody’s New York Times crossword–somebody’s recap

Hello! Amy here. You know how it goes when you get maybe a little sedated for a medical test and then you can barely stay awake? That’s my deal this evening. So this is a placeholder post for somebody (me, tomorrow? somebody else tonight? who knows!) to post their commentary and solution grid. Over and out!

Natan Last’s New York Times crossword — Erin’s placeholder

NYT solution 3/2/24

NYT solution 3/2/24

Hi lovelies! I have to go take my daughter for bloodwork right now, but here’s the solution grid for the NYT. This was pretty difficult. I had to google the answers to ELLIS, ALLIE, AND BERLE to complete the top half. Please add your thoughts in the comments!

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Just for the Ell of It” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 3/2/24 • Sat • “Just for the Ell of It” • Shenk • solution • 20240302

Each of the original words or phrases gets two letter Ls inserted, to wackify the situation.

  • 22a. [Grassland in the aftermath of a fire?] BLACK PLAIN (back pain).
  • 24a. [Animal preparing to plant in its den?] LAIR PLOWER (air power).
  • 35a. [Writer who insists every detail must be just right?] PLOT STICKLER (pot sticker).
  • 41a. [Cow, to an amorous aquatic bull?] LOVER SEAL (over sea).
  • 56a. [Salesman making a tempting driveway-finishing offer?] GRAVEL DANGLER (grave danger).
  • 64a. [Business presentation with audio commentary?] TALKING SLIDES (taking sides).
  • 79a. [Fiery mishap while cooking a custard dessert?] FLAN FLARE (fanfare).
  • 85a. [Homesteader?] PLACE SETTLER (pace setter).
  • 98a. [Workshop aid that lacks any compelling features?] BLAND CLAMP (band camp).
  • 101a. [Provide access to Wikipedia’s page on a Soviet leader?] LINK STALIN (ink stain).

And why not.

  • 3d [Transmission parts] GEARBOXES. 8d [Crankshaft connections] FAN BELTS.
  • 4d [The upper crust] SOCIETY. High society, sometimes elided this way.
  • 10d [“Purple Noon” star Delon] ALAIN. It’s an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley.
  • 31d [Light lunch, to Brits] TIFFIN. It has combined Indo-Anglian roots. Wikipedia explains the etymology thus: “In the British Raj, tiffin was used to denote the British custom of afternoon tea that had been supplanted by the Indian practice of having a light meal at that hour. It is derived from ‘tiffing’, an English colloquial term meaning to take a little drink. By 1867 it had become naturalised among Anglo-Indians in northern British India to mean luncheon.”
  • 38d [“Fiddler on the Roof” star] TOPOL, but my brain hiccupped and I tried TEVYE.
  • 54d [“Into the Woods” song] AGONY. This small nexus is the only area where I felt I was operating without enough of a net. This includes the crossing 63a [ __ Tooth (peak near Denali)] MOOSE’S and 67a [Particle with a mass about 270 times that of an electron] PION, as well as 58d [Compound in nylon] AMIDE.
  • 81d [End of a sentence?] FREEDOM. Was wise to this one, courtesy the question mark.
  • 82d [Layered sandwich] CLUB, 18a [Layered sandwich] OREO.
  • 90d [Pep rally shout] CHANT, not CHEER.
  • 9a [Old quarter of Algiers] CASBAH. I watched Pépé le Moko several months ago, which takes place almost entirely within the Casbah, as a plot point. 74a [Tasseled topper] FEZ.
  • 29a [Retired tire, maybe] SWING. Didn’t understand this clue during the solve and furnished the answer via crossings.
  • 32a [Mirage on the highway, e.g.] SEDAN. Nice clue. That’s a Mitsubishi model.

Stella Zawistowski’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 3/2/24 • Saturday Stumper • Zawistowski • solution • 20240302

As already mentioned in the comments, this was on the easy end of the scale for Stumpers. My solve was characterized in several spots by needing to confirm one crossing in order to verify an entry—that is, there were only two bright possibilities for an answer and I was quickly able to determine which it was.

  • 5a [Expletive derived from an “Almighty” cry] EGAD. Don’t understand the specifics of the clue, but the gist was enough.
  • 16a [Motor home ancestor] TEPEE. At quite a remove.
  • 23a [Incandescent British band?] ELO, Electric Light Orchestra.
  • 24a [Stubborn] SET. 29d [Stubborn] STONE.
  • 25a [Dan, Al, Dick, __ …] JOE. Quayle, Gore, Cheney, Biden.
  • 34a [It’s about an hour’s drive from Oberlin] KENT STATE. Both are in Ohio.
  • 35a [Word on a northwestern state’s largest city list] ALENECouer d’Alene in Idaho.
  • 40a [They’ll give you a hand] ANTES, not AIDES.
  • 42a [Without seasoning] GREEN. 54d [Without seasoning] RAW.
  • 45a [GPS display] RDS, not RTE.
  • 58a [Catcher of rays] ORCA. Tricky.
  • 60a [Puts together] WEDS. Looks as if this was meant as a feint to ADDS, but I already had enough crossings to eliminate that.
  • 7d [They work the soil] ANTS, not HOES.
  • 8d [Cement user’s designation] DDS. I was on the right wavelength from the start, but waited for crossings.
  • 11d [Bun, for instance] UPDO. Followed immediately by 12d [Didn’t stay up] FELL.
  • 25d [Ford, in five films] JONES. I knew it was Harrison Ford, but surprisingly didn’t quickly think of one his most iconic roles.
  • 28d [Holds up] BEARS. 15a [Don’t stand] MIND.
  • 30d [It’s on a 2004 10-franc coin] MATTERHORN. Just one year? Did they introduce it right before the euro was adopted? <consults the internet> Aha, not French, but Swiss, and a special commemorative coin at that. p.s. the euro débuted in 2001.
  • 31d [Ballpark figure] ATTENDANCE. Nice to see this as something other than EST or UMP (with fig. in the clue).
  • 32d [Dull finish] -NESS. Vague, abstruse clue.
  • 42d [Sleeps in emperor tents, say] GLAMPS, which is a portmanteau of glamor and camp. Not sure what an emperor tent is, but it isn’t hard to approximate.
  • 48d [ __ lamp] HEAT, not LAVA,
  • 49d [Prospero] RICO. Nothing to do with The Tempest and everything to do with Spanish.
  • 52d [Drive away] SHOO, not SHUN.

Los Angeles Times by Stella Zawistowski — norah’s write-up; 8:18



A super solid themeless grid from Stella, at a just-right Saturday difficulty for me, though I wouldn’t be surprised if some folks found it easier than some other Saturday LATs of late. (Though I’ve been solving a ton of harder puzzles lately – maybe I’ve just gotten faster??)

I’m jealous of FOSTERFAIL, which I’ve been trying to get into a themeless for a while now. I’m a sucker for pairs of clues, and here we have a bunch: 1A [Unplanned adoption] / 11A [Adoption org.]; 22A [Sea bream, in a sushi bar] / 23A [Sushi bar list]; 29A [“Awesome!”] / 30A [“Awesome!”]; 60A [Let out] / 35D [ Let out]; (did I miss any?)

I had a little trouble in the west to midwest section with SPY 23D [Northern __ apples] through about YAK 32D [Yona of “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic,” for one] – not really knowing either of those references, crossed with tougher clues for PREDICT 27A [
Divine] and CURE 28D [Fix] made this a little tougher than the rest of the puzzle. No other issues for me; enjoyed solving this one quite a bit!

Favorite clues:

    • 18A WEBS [Natural traps]
    • 25A ANTEATERS [Snooty creatures?]. Adorable.
    • 63A TELEPORTED [Moved mindfully?]
    • 12D PRETEEN [Many a fan of “The Baby-Sitters Club”] Hi, I’m the geriatric millennial, it’s me.
    • 13D CABARET [“Willkommen” musical]. See below.
    • 41D HOGNOSE [Upturned feature of some snakes]. I love, love, love this. I’ve had editors tell me this sort of semi-nichey biology content isn’t friendly to solvers. However, editors please take note. We need more science in puzzles!

I learned:

  • TAI 22A [Sea bream, in a sushi bar]
  • KIWI 39A [Smallest ratite]
  • SIBERIAN 24D [Like the Chukchi people of Russia]
  • AMO 58D [“O Deus ego __ te”: Catholic hymn]

Thanks to Stella for covering the TNY for me yesterday – and in exchange I got to review her LAT today. I really enjoyed this puzzle – and I know she agrees with me that we need more hard puzzles by women, so I was so happy for this one. Thanks Stella and the LAT team!


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39 Responses to Saturday, March 2, 2024

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Oof. My slowest Saturday in many weeks (over three times longer than last Saturday’s NYT.)

    The NW was particularly challenging. I quickly dropped in KABUKI and MENTION, but the crosses simply wouldn’t cooperate, so I took both annswers out (more than once). Eventually, BALLOONS helped me with KULTUR and ALLIE (about whom I know less than I should), but it was still a struggle to finish that corner.

    Despite having been a devoted “Batman” fan in my childhood, I only vaguely remember the character Louie the Lilac and for a bit had George BuRns in the role (that was after trying Paul Lynde).

    And I couldn’t make sense of the 23A clue “Talk trashed.” I kept interpreting it as “Talked trash.” I’m not convinced the clue really works; “Talk trash” seems to better match SLUR grammatically and to me is just as funny. I suppose now that TALKED is meant to be read as “spoken,’” but that’s still something of a stretch.

    In the end, though, it was the typos that almost got me: HoGH for the 22D weather datum lead me to SOUND noTE (whatever that is) and the politician’s promised TAX CiT kept me from seeing SEAN PAUL.

    • Martin says:

      This played hard for me too. The NW was 2nd to last to fall then the SE was the hardest for me.

      • Eric H says:

        I didn’t have much trouble with the SE, except for the crossing of SEAN PAUL and RUPEE (which I originally had, but took out because of my erroneous SEAN _AiL). It helped that I got STIHL off the S in TSK. (I don’t know much about sheep breeds, but I do know a bit about power tools.)

      • Gary R says:

        Very slow start, but then steady slow progress. SE was the last to fall for me, too. Didn’t know the rapper or the sheep breed. Didn’t help that I had WEDDING ringS for 18-D and “sync” for 42-D.

        Eric – I think the clue for 23-A is to be interpreted as “Talk while trashed (drunk).” I thought that one was cute.

        • huda says:

          So many wrong starts– WEDDING RINGS being one of them. I had to cheat a couple of times to get through it.
          I guessed RUPEE for LEONE, had to drop it when not sustainable, but it was now handily available to plunk down elsewhere in the puzzle. I love it when that happens. I think Andrea Carla Michaels called in a “Malapop”.
          Gary R, thanks for the take on Talk trashed clue. It’s interesting to think that SLUR has that drunken meaning as well as the one in racial SLUR. It makes it hard to interpret the clue even after the answer appears.

        • Eric H says:

          Gary R — Thanks!

          Someone on Wordplay suggested the same interpretation. It makes sense and is actually kinda funny.

      • JohnH says:

        SW was the hardest for me, and I do wish we hadn’t faced SEAN PAUL crossing EVO and STIHL, which didn’t look like a name to me. Some other knowledge gaps, like in the NE with a currency and Italian (and it didn’t help that I erred with “shy” for COY).

        In contrast, I lucked out and guessed BLOODSTREAMS with little else beyond the M in MAD. KABUKI then confirmed the B, and I had a firm start from there. But overall pretty decent Saturday difficulty, and I could definitely sympathize if it seemed super-interesting to some and needlessly quiz-like to others.

        • JohnH says:

          Oh, about the fact-heavy NE, I meant to mention the baseball pitcher, new to me. But still manageable.

    • Hi. says:

      When you are very drunk (trashed) you tend to slur your words.

  2. Josh says:

    Best NYT puzzle in a long time. Super hard but nothing that wasn’t gettable with persistence and crosses. More please!

    • Mr. [very] Grumpy says:

      Dissenting opinion. No more Natan Last please.

      • David L says:

        I managed to finish, but can’t say I enjoyed the ride. Foreign words, too many names (including a familiar name, BERLE, clued in a ludicrously obscure way), and best of all, a nickname for a now-discontinued Japanese car.

        Well, it was a Natan Last puzzle, that’s for sure. I was searching for a word to describe his puzzles, and came across this definition of show-offy: “to behave in a way that is intended to attract attention or admiration, and that other people often find annoying.” There you go.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I was going to skip this puzzle since Erin had posted the grid and a few remarks, and because I’d seen spoilers in the comments. But then I saw the byline and had to do the puzzle! I’m never mad at a Natan puzzle.

      • DougC says:

        If you like a lot of really obscure trivia in your puzzle, and you like it hard to get from the crosses, then Natan Last is your go-to guy.

        But he’s definitely not mine.

      • Josh says:

        Huh. Ok. Different strokes, I guess. I don’t pay attention to the constructor. I just know when I’ve struggled mightily with a puzzle, but then finished it, with no errors or run-through-the-alphabet guesses — and that is a wonderful experience.

  3. Boston Bob says:

    Stumper easier than NYT today.

    • pannonica says:

      My Stumper time was about 50% longer than that for the NYT. Write-up forthcoming.

    • David L says:

      Stumper was easier for me than the NYT. I don’t understand STONE for ‘stubborn.’ I tried STONY at first, which seems slightly better bit still not a good match.

      TESLA is invariably described as Serbian (or Serbian-American), not Croatian. I know there’s a whole mess of confusion about whether Serbs and Croats are truly different, but it’s an odd way to clue him.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I saw this at Reddit:

        “Tesla himself said that ‘I am equally proud of my Serb origin and my Croat homeland. Long live all Yugoslavs.'” So many European borders shifted so much over the centuries. My Lithuanian ancestors had Russia on their US documents during the time that Lithuania had been absorbed within Russia’s borders … but they were still ethnically Lithuanian. And don’t get me started on the ancestors from Prussia! (They’re Polish.)

    • Twangster says:

      Definitely an easy one as evidenced by my being able to solve it. So many more straightforward clues than usual. But that’s fine by me!

  4. PJ says:

    WSJ – two entries clued “Layered sandwich.” I’m having a difficult time thinking of a sandwich that isn’t layered.

  5. Dan says:

    LAT: Very tough and totally fair puzzle today was a pleasure to solve. (Though I had never heard of the misnomer “foster fail” before. (I say misnomer because it is actually a kind of success, not failure.)

  6. Teedmn says:

    Stumper offered the usual Stumpishness for me. Funny how the smallest breakthroughs can sometimes open the whole grid. For me, with only the SW filled along with JONES crossing NAE, when I finally saw RAW and WEDS, it was only a matter of time to the finish.

    I was very tempted to look for a different word at 44D when I only had BL_ at 44A. That iceberg lettuce aha was my favorite of the day.

    Nice job, Stella!

  7. Eric H says:

    Stumper: About one minute longer than the NYT, which is pretty good for me on the Stumper. PWNS was one of my first fills; I don’t play video games, but I’ve seen that in enough crosswords by now. That gave me STOAT, which I couldn’t make work with the crosses.

    “Prospero” caused me to look up “The Tempest.” Prospero is a Duke, so I hade DUCE there for a while.

    But I kept plugging away and eventually figured it all out.

  8. meaningless nobody says:

    stumper – concur with the rest of you geniuses, definitely not tough as nails, one i was able to solve cleanly… thanks stella for the confidence booster… even if im still not in a place to match wits with the rest of you geniuses… now ill have to see how i compare on the nyt

  9. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: their editing is sloppy, and one bad clue marred a good puzzle by Stella Zawistowski.
    16A – Clue: “Name on the highest-grossing concert film in history”. Answer: “Eras”. Can someone explain how “Eras” is a “Name”? “Taylor” or “Swift” would be a name, and “Eras” are usually “Named” after someone/something. But a standalone “Eras” doesn’t work. (I rate a 4 for the puzzle, and a 1 for the editing.)

    • Eric H says:

      Ms Swift called her tour “The Eras Tour.” If that doesn’t make it a “name,” then I don’t know what it is.

      I agree it was a good puzzle. Much easier and more fun than Ms Zawistowski’s Stumper.

      • Seattle DB says:

        Yikes, thank you for pointing out that “Eras” is the “Name” of the tour, and not somebody’s proper name. (BTW, I really like your comments because they are enlightening.)

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