Friday, March 15, 2024

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 5:16 (Amy) 


The New Yorker tk (Matt) 


Universal untimed (Jim) 


USA Today tk (Darby) 


Announcement: There’s a new puzzle pack fundraiser that starts to be sent out to donors on Friday, 3/15. You can see a list of the puzzle creators and editors involved here.

These Puzzles Fund Abortion 4 (TPFA4), a pack of all-new crossword puzzles helping to raise money for abortion access, is now available! As the fourth iteration of this puzzle pack, TPFA4 builds on its predecessors, expanding the range of social and reproductive justice themes. It contains 17 standard American-style crossword puzzles, three cryptic crossword puzzles, two variety puzzles, and a suite of mini variety puzzles with a meta answer. These puzzles have been lovingly made by some of the best constructors in the business, and we are so proud of the work they have put into crafting the puzzles you are about to solve. We hope the puzzles will inspire and nourish you in your own continued fight for reproductive justice. All donations through TPFA4 support The Baltimore Abortion Fund, The Chicago Abortion Fund, Indigenous Women Rising, The Tampa Bay Abortion Fund, and Fondo MARIA.

Daniel Grinberg’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 3/15/24 – no. 0315

I slowed myself down a bit in the opening corner by making a typo that turned BASH into BAST (thta TALF… crossing was just not coming!) and convincing myself that the POET was spelled  PHYLLIS rather than PHILLIS WHEATLEY. At any rate, I realized I didn’t know any of Wheatley’s poems, nor her life story; both are found here.

Fave fill: CARELESS MISTAKE (see preceding paragraph for examples), VIETNAM, ESPRESSO MARTINI (this was just in a TV commercial I saw today … possibly for Guinness??), HALFTIME REPORTS, LIV TYLER, REWRITE HISTORY, AT HOME, MASON JAR, and CALABRIA.

Clever clue: 47a. [Bit of deductive reasoning?], TAX TIP. As in tax deductions, of course.

Question about 10d. [Words from a paper pusher?], “EXTRA, EXTRA, EXTRA”: Am I the only one who thinks the third EXTRA wanted to be “READ ALL ABOUT IT”?

Four stars from me.

Freddie Cheng’s Universal crossword, “Circular Reasoning”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that have a word that can be represented with a circle.

Universal crossword solution · “Circular Reasoning” · Freddie Cheng · Fri., 3.15.24

  • 20a. [Roll for one who wants it all?] EVERYTHING O.
  • 34a. [Taken token?] ENGAGEMENT O.
  • 42a. [Slam dunk target that aptly rhymes with “alley-oop”] BASKETBALL O.
  • 58a. [Fall treat at a bakery] APPLE CIDER O.

Pfft. So apparently we have an Everything Bagel, an Engagement Ring, a Basketball Hoop, and an Apple Cider Something. A cookie, perhaps? That one’s new to me and seems like a stretch. Who represents “cookie” with an O? And I had to search online before I realized the first one was a bagel. I’ve never heard of a bagel referred to as a “roll”. The way that entry is clued, “roll” could very well be a verb. So for me, only two of the four theme entries work without issues. Edited to add: I’m told the last entry should be an Apple Cider Donut, which makes more sense but is also new to me. The cookie has its own Wikipedia page, the donut doesn’t. At best, it’s an ambiguity in a theme answer; some other type of donut would have been a better fit.

The fill is mostly smooth with highlight MAKES A WISH. I’m giving “AH RATS” the side-eye, because I wanted either “OH RATS” or “AW RATS”. Also, I’ve never seen REKT [Gamers’ spelling of “wrecked”], but if that’s what the kids these days are using, so be it.

Three stars.

Alan Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 3/15/24 • Fri • Levin • solution • 20240315

Let’s see if I can figure out the theme as a write this, as I wasn’t able to immediately after the solve.

  • 58aR [When read as three words, suitable sponsor for “Sesame Street” and an alternate answer for 18-, 20-, 30-, 36-, 46-, and 53-Across] THE LETTERS. Not comprehending how that can be read as three words unless … is it THE LETTER S? That might work, and I had been concentrating on the theme answers, not the clues. So—
  • 18a. [It concludes The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds”] CAROLINE NO. Okay, yes—S is the last letter of Sounds.
  • 20a. [Character seen at the beginning and end of “Star Wars”] ARTOO-DETOO. Yep, that’s got to be it, Star Wars.
  • 30a. [It comes in early September] LABOR DAY.
  • 36a. [One is used in basketball but not in hockey] SHOT CLOCK.
  • 46a. [What can be seen in two places in Missouri] MLB TEAMS. (The teams are in St Louis and Kansas City.)
  • 53a. [One can’t print dollars without it] SPECIAL INK.

Well done on disguising the secondary significance of the clues. I was unaware that something else was going on, even as I noticed some stiltedness in the wording of a few.

The other most notable aspect of the crossword was how I needed to hunt up an incorrect crossing. It turned out to be 5-across, where I reasonably put DIES for [Fades] but was perplexed by EIRE as 7d [Marshy spot]. By the time I’d finished filling in the grid, this was forgotten. MIRE is the correct answer, making the across entry DIMS.

  • 4d [Square figure?] STATUE. Needed most of the crossings.
  • 30d [Soundly defeats] LICKS. Hm, okay.
  • 39d [“Let me see …”] HMM.
  • 58d [Number of digits on a keypad] TEN. Don’t forget that zero!
  • 14a [Strip of wood] SLAT. Tried LATH first.
  • 42a [Animal also called a forest giraffe] OKAPI. Indeed, the two are the only extant genera of Giraffids.
  • 43a [Boxer’s warning] GRR. The dog, most likely.
  • 68a [Physicist Bethe portrayed in “Oppenheimer”] HANS. Still haven’t seen the film; don’t feel a pressing need to.

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53 Responses to Friday, March 15, 2024

  1. Dan says:

    NYT: An unusually vibrant and fresh feel to the Friday puzzle, and it was no pushover, either.
    Very high marks from me!

    But a number of dictionaries and usage guides warn that the word MERER is not, alas, a word.

    MERE and MEREST are OK, though.

    But what do those dictionaries know, anyway?

    • Eric H says:

      How can you have MEREST without MERER?

      I liked the puzzle, too, despite getting a little bogged down in the NW.

      • Dan says:

        I don’t make the rules, I just enforce ’em.

      • Dallas says:

        I got caught there too; after I got REPORTS, I added SIDELINE instead of HALFTIME, which made getting MY EYE very difficult; NO TV was also tricky, but fun (I had the V early, but couldn’t see what the rest would be). And I had PACKED then TAXIED instead of TAXIES, which was the last CARELESS MISTAKE that I fixed… Good Friday.

  2. Dan says:

    WSJ: What a terrific theme and execution!!! It would rank very high on my list of all-time favorite NYT Thursday puzzles, had it been one.

    For me this was a perfectly calibrated puzzle: Eventually I got to the phrase CUT OUT THE MIDDLEMAN without knowing what it meant, thinking maybe I needed to remove the letters MAN from some theme entries.

    But no, it was much better than that — we needed to remove men’s *names* from the theme entries. A very enjoyable Aha! experience and a very satisfying solve.

  3. Greg says:

    I thought the Times was very satisfying, but in terms of difficulty, it felt more Saturday-ish.

    • Me says:

      I felt the same. I liked the puzzle quite a bit, but it was much more like Saturday than Friday for me. Part of that was that I had never heard of PHILLIS WHEATLEY or ESPRESSO MARTINI, so 2 of the 3 Across grid-spanners were a mystery to me. I had also never heard of CALABRIAn peppers or OPIE Cates.

      Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, OPIE on the Andy Griffith Show was named after OPIE Cates. Referring to the Andy Griffith OPIE would be much more of a Friday clue than OPIE Cates.

      I agree with Amy that the third EXTRA is weird. It seems it’s only there to make it a grid-spanning entry. Is there a famous character who said, “EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRA!”? Two EXTRAS as in “Extra, Extra, read All about it!” seems pretty common, but not three EXTRAs.

  4. David L says:

    NYT was definitely more Saturday-like for me. Some of the clues seemed a little questionable. I don’t know what ‘put on blast’ means or how it leads to BASH. I don’t see how a TAXTIP counts as a piece of ‘reasoning.’ REEK as a noun is unusual, though legit according to M-W.

    Cluing ABEL as a homophone of 24A is a bit of a cheat. Certainly it’s a homophone of ABLE as a standalone word, but not of ‘-able’ as a suffix, as in ‘questionable’ above.

    And I wish the NYT would stop putting ARSE in the puzzle. It’s not a horribly bad word, but it’s not innocuous either. I don’t think the puzzle would use ‘shit,’ which is very roughly comparable.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      David, Americans generally find UK swear words to be quaint, cute, charming, and not offensive. Shite, arse, bollocks, sod off, taking the piss … quaint!

      • David L says:

        One exception to that is the c-word, which is thrown about freely in the UK but would certainly not be regarded as ‘quaint’ over here!

      • JohnH says:

        Agreed with Amy that the British ARSE would not be in the least offensive to most American ears. I also don’t get the objection to ABEL. Can a name (or word) not sound like a suffix? And both are clearly defined as such in the clue.

        I do agree with those who doubted MERER, but it was easy to shrug off. But I was fine with the clue for OPIE in a Friday-level puzzle, especially an unusually hard one like this. Besides, the last thing I want to see is another clue to him from mediocre vintage TV.

        I’m with those who found it a hard puzzle and liked it all the more for that. The very long entries took me a while to catch onto, and once they did gave me a leg-up on the rest of the fill. A nice series of steps along the way! (I too started by misspelling PHYLLIS, but got it in time from a suspected crossing.)

        I did leave scratching my head as to who adds TALC to white rice, but the Web confirms it. And I didn’t have to wonder at BASH since I didn’t know BOPS in that sense either, my unfinished square. They could have changed that letter easily, but if others know the words, fine by me.

    • Gary R says:

      That BASH clue made no sense to me either. I could see just “Blast” as a clue for BASH – either as a verb or a noun (in the “party” sense), but I don’t get the “Put on” part.

      I took the “reasoning” part of the TAX TIP clue to be just a little poetic license.

      I didn’t notice the issue with ABEL/ABLE when I was solving because ABLE was already filled in when I got to 33-D, and I wasn’t thinking about the way ABLE was clued. Easy enough to fix, too – just change “homophone” to “anagram.”

      A more Saturday-like solving experience for me, too. Worked on it last night and gave up with a lot of the NW corner blank. Finished up this morning.

      • Eric H says:

        What I learned today: To “Put on blast” is to ‘put someone’s secrets and personal business in the spotlight without them being willing” (per one definition in the Urban Dictionary. It apparently also means to simply talk disrespectfully about someone.

        It made no sense to me when I was solving, but I was fairly confident that BOPS was right.

    • Dan says:

      I completely agree with David L, wishing that the puzzle would strive to avoid words that cause discomfort.

      I’m no prude, but encountering such words in the puzzle tends to make me feel the opposite of uplifted.

      • TheyRun says:

        Interesting, but who compiles the list of clues that make people uncomfortable?
        Would COLUMBUS be out?
        Recently someone objected to SANDUSKY.
        I would bet that most solvers are adults who can encounter words they don’t like and go about their lives without a second thought.

      • Mutman says:

        I don’t get it. I never hear anyone complain about ASS when it appears countless times in the NYT, and they don’t all relate to donkeys! What’s the diff here?!?

  5. Howard B says:

    Universal: APPLE CIDER O = doughnut/donut :). They’re pretty delicious.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      Thanks. I’ll fix it. Interestingly, apple cider cookie has a Wikipedia page. The donut doesn’t.

      • CC says:

        I’ve seen apple cider donuts at several donut shops in my neck of the woods.

        Also, I do see the logic of it meaning DONUT, since all three other instances represented something that’s a topological ring (and one of them was also a ring-shaped food item). Now if it’d been a solid black circle, then yes, cookie for sure. :)

  6. JacobT says:

    NYT: extremely difficult compared to normal Fridays. Not to mention the inclusion of a poet made me think I was doing a Monday-level New Yorker. That being said, I profoundly dislike poetry, so any time I see that clued in a puzzle I know the constructor and I have vastly differing tastes and it won’t go well

    • Flinty Steve says:

      Jacob T: please take Helen Vendler’s *Poems-Poets-Poetry* and Ben Lerner’s *The Hatred of Poetry* and call my office in the morning.

      • JohnH says:

        Good for you. I’d hate to think someone can’t put up with intel-lek-chewal matters like poetry if I have to put up with so much pop culture. And you know, I first heard about WHEATLEY as a textbook editor for getting to work on an anthology of American Lit longer ago than I care to remember. The two volumes were an eye-opener for me, and Vendler was the scholarly editor for the section on contemporary poetry. I’d admired her so, so getting to meet her was a treat.

  7. Ben Kennedy says:

    I read “Put on blast” as a “a party that was thrown” aka “bash”

  8. Martin says:

    I think we are seeing, and maybe not recognizing, a different editing style. The editor absolutely has a “voice,” and while my guess is that Joel knows Will’s voice well and tries to reflect it, his own style is evident.

    I think that some of the “difficult for a Friday” reactions are really responses to a new editorial style. For instance, I think Joel is less concerned with “knotholes” (my term for an area of fill that is markedly tougher than the bulk of the puzzle’s) than Will. I don’t note this as a flaw — just a difference.

    Joel is doing a great job in my opinion, and while I wish Will a complete and rapid recovery, I look forward to seeing how Joel develops his editorial voice.

    • Eric H says:

      That’s an interesting point.

      I wonder, for example, if Will Shortz would have used the OPIE Cates clue. Except for a few clues referring to the radio duo OPIE & Anthony, every OPIE clue during Shortz’s tenure has referred to the character on “The Andy Griffith Show.” It’s not as if OPIE Cates is someone who only became “famous” in the past few years.

      But surely an “easier” clue for OPIE would have helped the people who struggled with PHILLIS WHEATLEY.

  9. Brenda Rose says:

    For those who think today’s NYT was Saturdayish, try going to the early oughts archives & before. THAT’S when NYT was on its mark with the MTWTFS scale in escalating hardness. For me, I say it’s about time!

    • Eric H says:

      I’ve just started 2006 in the archives. I routinely see Friday and Saturday puzzles that take me longer than contemporary ones. And I often have to set them aside, which I never do with the current puzzles.

  10. Mike Sez says:

    Re UNIVERSAL. Three stars? That’s pretty generous. I have rarely seen a crossword as stupid as this one.

  11. Seattle DB says:

    LAT: the editor did not mention that solvers were supposed to look at the clues for “The Letter S”. Good puzzle, bad editing. 1.5 stars.

  12. Lois says:

    Can someone explain the New Yorker theme? It was never reviewed, and I think it was the last themed New Yorker puzzle.

    • Lois says:

      OK, I finally figured it out. “Poking holes,” was all about piercings. What a downer for the last themed puzzle, yet perhaps a good sign that the series should be retired. I did enjoy some of them.

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