Saturday, March 23, 2024

LAT 2:53 (Stella) 


Newsday 26:28 (pannonica) 


NYT 11:24 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Matthew)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Sam Ezersky’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 3/23/24 – no. 0323

Dang, my eyes viewed the clues as being awkwardly small. Wasn’t a problem two nights ago, the last time I blogged an NYT puzzle around this time! So I don’t think the puzzle was carzy hard? If it took you the usual amount of time, then I will need to have a talk with my eyes.

Fave fill: AUDIOBOOKS (great clue, [Speaking volumes?]), SAFETY NET, a LARGE BILL (though that’s better in the plural), BITCOIN ATM (eww), ANGEL FALLS, STOLE A PEEK, “I HEAR YA,” Greta THUNBERG, TORPOR, SAY “I DO” (my offspring is getting married soon!), and POLI SCI.

Slowed myself down by putting the standard D’OH at 30a [Smacks forehead] instead of GAH. I love “gah”! I welcome it to my puzzles. Also had the barber saying OOPS rather than “UH-OH,” so that whole corner had a lot of blanks for the longest time.

Okey-doke, giving my eyes the rest of the night off from computer screens. Four stars from me.

Gary Larson and Amy Ensz’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “All for Nothing” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 3/23/24 • Sat • “All for Nothing” • Larson, Ensz • solution • 20240323

Solving this 21×21 took me less than ⅔ the time of the Fagliano-edited New York Times 15×15, and the change is all over at the NYT.

“All for nothing, and none for all!”

Sorry, I just needed to write that down get it out of my brain.

  • 23a. [Gratis app from a software company?] GIFTED PROGRAM.
  • 34a. [Gratis decision from a Major League umpire?] COURTESY CALL.
  • 66a. [Gratis dreidel from a toy store?] ON THE HOUSE TOP.
  • 98a. [Gratis merch from Jerry Garcia’s band?] DEAD GIVEAWAY.
  • 110a. [Gratis courses for third-year college students?] JUNIOR SAMPLES. Apparently the name of a comedian.
  • 32d. [Gratis ticket for a theater employee?] WORKER’S COMP.
  • 46d. [Gratis booze from a bootlegger?] FREE SPIRITS.

Really uneven, with the weakest of all the center, marquee entry. WORKER’S COMP doesn’t work 100% as straight wordplay; it relies on a little too much blending of the original and derived bits. JUNIOR SAMPLES I’m not qualified to weigh in on, as he’s entirely new to me. On the other hand, FREE SPIRITS, DEAD GIVEAWAY, and COURTESY CALL are quite good.

Going to make the rest fairly cursory, as I have an appointment this morning, plus the Newsday Stumper to do.

  • 6d [Jam producer, sometimes] COPIER. Not a desired product.
  • 31d [Clear writing?] ERASE. Tricky writing.
  • 40d [Cut canines] TEETHE. Does this work well enough?
  • 78d [Designate] TAP, not TAG.
  • 6a [“This thing of darkness,” in “The Tempest”] CALIBAN. 38a [Thrive] PROSPER. 20a [Anthem with lyrics in French and English] O CANADA.
  • 96a [Horse course] OVAL. Not OATS.
  • 105a [Friendship 7 pilot] GLENN. Even during the vaunted Space Race there was room for inclusive names like that. Seems quaint, alas.
  • 118a [Crane creation, at times] ORIGAMI. I guess the syntax works if we interpret ‘creation’ as a verb rather than a noun.

Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 3/23/24 • Saturday Stumper • Sewell • solution • 20240323

Sorry folks—running low on time, so no write-up, just the grid and the observation that it was a rather tough Stumper.

Perhaps I’ll write more this afternoon.


Nate Cardin’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 3/23/24 by Nate Cardin

Los Angeles Times 3/23/24 by Nate Cardin

You know when you’re solving a Nate Cardin puzzle that you’re going to learn something about queer history and see something STEM-related, and this puzzle is no exception, with NONBINARY FLAG occupying one of the marquee positions at 10D and INTEGER clued as [Numbers like 3 and 14, but not 3.14]. I also appreciated the cluing of SASHAY as [Apt rhyme of slay and runway], which is very RuPaul’s Drag Race.

And as someone who has not owned a car in 21 years, I learned something new today with 39A [Electric vehicle driver’s apprehension], which is RANGE ANXIETY. I appreciate that the clue-answer pair means that I learned something without having to look anything up after the fact.

Other highlights:

  • 19A [Asks for more Money] is a cute clue for RENEWS, as in renewing Money magazine.
  • 32A [In the flesh?] is also clever for NUDE.
  • 33A I enjoyed the entry I GET THAT A LOT.
  • 2D [Return address?] These question-mark clues are bangers, aren’t they? I’M HOME is the answer, as in how you might “address” whomever you share your home with when you “return.”
  • 9D [Hebrew leader?] is ALEPH, a nice approach to what could otherwise be a throwaway entry.
  • 37A ENTRAILS is never not going to make me feel squicky as an entry (good thing I didn’t follow through on being premed in college, right?), but if you’re going to have a reference to intestines, [Inner workings?] is a good way to do it!
  • 40A XENNIAL is a cool entry. I feel seen! (And I think Nate is one too.)
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53 Responses to Saturday, March 23, 2024

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Hardest Saturday in weeks. Easily twice my average time on contemporary NYT Saturdays, more like my Stumper times.

    I think I got all the way down to 46A ALTA before I found a gimme. (There are four ski resorts outside in the Cottonwood Canyons outside Salt Lake City. In January, we went to all except ALTA because my husband’s snowboard is not welcome there.)

    DAMASK should have been a gimme, but I needed a few letters before I remembered it.

    ReverseATM (it’s a thing, really!) held me up for a long while. I know of ANGEL FALLS but it took a lot of crosses to get that one.

    • Gridlock says:

      Sam Ezersky’s cluing can make for a very difficult puzzle. Learned that at his old site.

      • Me says:

        I also found this really, really hard. I appreciate the clue telling us that SOMETHING and GENOSMITH are anagrams, or I think I might still be doing the puzzle when the sun comes up tomorrow. Referencing the name of a character in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for BAI is just silly. Did ANYONE get that without crosses?

        I hope that Joel isn’t ramping up the difficulty. I feel like the themelesses on the past couple of Fridays and Saturdays have been harder than usual. Nothing wrong with a hard puzzle, but I personally thought the prior difficulty was just right for me: a bit of a bite, but not something that I am going to find frustrating or that I feel like I’m spending way too much of my time on.

      • DougC says:

        Well, I’ve spent a decade or so trying, and failing, to get on Mr. Ezersky’s wavelength. But I finally got in sync with him today, apparently, as I inexplicably came in just a little under my average Saturday time.

        Living in Seahawk country, GENO SMITH came easily. OTOH, BITCOIN ATM ?? Checked their locator map, found exactly zero within a hundred miles of me, so now I don’t feel so bad about needing to get a lot of crosses to see that one.

        Made the same mistakes as Amy on my first pass through the puzzle. Also, put in CIS, and then took it out, only to have it reappear later from crosses. Doh! (definitely not GAH). And in spite of finishing faster than average, I was still considerably slower than Amy, whose solving times are mind-boggling, even on her rare bad day.

  2. Martin says:

    Really tough Saturday. It took 2x my usual time and that was after googling some of the trivia to get unstuck.

  3. Greg says:

    As I was struggling with Sam Ezerski’s NYT puzzle, I kept thinking, “I sure hope the folks over at Amy’s blog also find this tough going. Otherwise, I may just be losing it.”

    So, yeah, I totally agree with Amy, Eric H. and Martin. This was really challenging.

    I did finally complete it, which was very satisfying. But it took well over an hour!

  4. MattF says:

    As noted, a tough NYT. Several entries in the ‘I suppose that’s not wrong’ category, plus some obscure popcult were irritating for me. Oh, well.

  5. Ethan says:

    NYT: Come on, Hebrew doesn’t pluralize nouns by adding an “s” on the end. What a ridiculous clue and answer. Was 45D originally supposed to be Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud ABBAS and the editing team decided he was too controversial for 2024 or something?

    • Burak says:

      That struck me as bizarre as well. There are so many ABBASes to pick from but we go with a made up plural of a Hebrew word?

      Otoh, I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if NYT decided they shouldn’t have Mahmoud Abbas in a crossword.

      Good puzzle otherwise, it’s nice to have a toughie every once in a while.

  6. huda says:

    NYT: It’s all in the cluing. It made it really hard.
    Looking back at the puzzle itself, there were a few things that I didn’t know, but fewer than a typical Saturday.
    But some of these clues were masterful: e.g. SPEAKING VOLUMES. And others were great in retrospect but left me in the dark (the PAW/WASHERS combo).
    What saved my life: Two entries that were total gimmes- DAMASK (where I was born) and THALAMI (what I sometimes work on, mostly around).
    I thought it was a great puzzle, but “BE GENTLE” with some of that cluing please!

    • Eric H says:

      You’re right; it’s the clueing that made this one hard. Of the long answers, the one I didn’t hadn’t seen before was GENO SMITH — and it had one of the easiest clues in the puzzle!

      I compared my solving time to a typical time for me on the Saturday Stumper, but that comparison applies to my entire solving experience: Hard clue crossing hard clue crossing hard clue. I think sometimes that leads to me overlooking or under -appreciating the clever clues like the one for DOGNAP.

  7. Mr. [very] Grumpy says:

    Ugh. That applies to NYT, LAT & Universal. Just … ugh.

  8. RCook says:

    NYT: Is NYSTATE really short for NEWYORK when they’re the same length? (I get that it distinguishes the state from the city, but context should do that.)

  9. Seth Cohen says:

    I’ve been staring at the Stumper on and off all morning and I have almost nothing. Basically just the bottom right. Gonna keep trying…wish me luck…

    • Gridlock says:

      Toughest Stumper for me in quite a while. NE gave me the most trouble.

      • BlueIris says:

        Lower left was the hardest for me — I kept thinking “a tad,” rather than “a dab,” for one thing.

    • Boston Bob says:

      Good luck. Harder than usual IMHO. Started this morning, and kept leaving it and going back. Just finished @ 58 minutes on the timer.

  10. This Stumper — yeesh. Too many strained clues.

    And as for 47-A, “Radically improvisatory subgenre,” no one calls it that. At least no one who knows the stuff. A Google search or a Google Ngram search will confirm it.

    I hope that pannonica will agree. :)

  11. David L says:

    Will Shortz, please get well and come back soon. Your deputies need a guardian to keep away the ghost of Maleska.

    • Mr. [rather] Grumpy says:


    • Martin says:

      Maleska’s puzzle were hard because of obscure entries. Will Shortz did away with that and made puzzles hard because of tricky (and hopefully witty) clues. His “deputies” are doing more of the same.

      • David L says:

        Martin, I know why Maleska’s puzzles were hard. I stand by my comment.

        • Martin says:

          What entries did you find obscure?

          • David L says:

            Hebrew ABBAS (incorrect, per Ethan above) crossing BAI, Italian TUO (I tried TIO first), an Icelandic folkloric kitty (the answer wasn’t obscure, but the clue…).

            Plural THALAMI and ELOCUTE were a little out there too.

            I don’t say this is full Maleska but it was headed in that direction.

            • Martin says:

              Since it’s been mentioned twice, any loanword can be pluralized as an English word. And “abba” is in some dictionaries, most notably the RHUD, the chief authority for Times crosswords. And yes, “abbas” is the accepted plural.

              English is not kind to foreign words. In Spanish it’s one tamal, two tamales but in English it’s one tamale. Never mind one panini or ravioli. We may go out for paninis for lunch.

          • Ethan says:

            @Martin, OK, if you want to accept the RHUD’s definition of ABBAS as “title[s] of honor given variously to the Deity in the New Testament, to bishops and patriarchs in many Eastern churches, and to Jewish scholars in the Talmudic period”, then you have a point but in that case I think David L’s characterization of it as a Maleskaesque obscurity is entirely fair.

            But it is clued as “Hebrew fathers.” Hebrew is unquestionably a language and not a culture or ethnicity. If PANINI was clued as “Italian sandwich” I would accept it under the interpretation of “what an Italian restaurant or deli in an English-speaking country might call a sandwich” but “[single] sandwich, in the Italian language” is wrong. Putting “Hebrew” in the clue really forces the language angle. If the clue was “Israeli fathers” I might feel slightly differently. However, I still find Mahmoud ABBAS a much more sensible cluing angle than what we got, unless the NYT puzzle team has consciously decided to ignore any semblance of politics whatsoever in that corner of the world.

  12. Scott says:

    NYT puzzle was great. Very clever cluing made it tough but in a good way.

  13. Dan says:

    NYT: Took almost twice my average Saturday NYT time, but was a thoroughly enjoyable tough puzzle, with next to no pop culture or trite crossword glue anywhere in the diagram.

    I did not get why ALL THAT is clued by “Legit”, but I guess it’s some newfangled slang that the young ‘uns use.

    • Henry T says:

      And don’t see how POLI SCI is hill-adjacent. It’s the study of the hill. Good puzzle anyway, though a few of the clues led to just wild guesses.

      • David L says:

        Hill-adjacent as in Capitol Hill. “The Hill” is shorthand for Congressional politicking etc. Kind of an insider clue.

    • Eric H says:

      For what it’s worth, several Urban Dictionary definitions of “legit” define it as “cool” or “top quality.” In that sense, I can see ALL THAT as an appropriate answer. (I use “legit” only as shorthand for “legitimate” or “genuine.”)

  14. David L says:

    Stumper: Finished eventually. Only one clue mystified me after solving: “They have shock waves” = MANES? Some sort of hairstyling lingo? Not lions or horses, I presume.

  15. Eric H says:

    Stumper: 43 minutes into it, about 60% done. I’m trying to decide if I care enough to finish it.

    It’s frustrating because each answer I get *should* lead to a cascade of additional answers — and that’s not happening.

    Just saw the MANES answer in the previous comment. Maybe that’ll break open the SW. Or not.

    Compared to this, the NYT was a breeze.

    • Eric H says:

      86% solved on my own, over an hour. A few nice clues (SOLO CAREER) and some real Stumper ones (DOTTED LINE).

      Misspelling MOROCCAN didn’t help.

  16. Thom says:

    @LAT: Long across entries were good, but way too many abbreviations in this puzzle (and even went out of their way to clue TED as another abbreviation). Surprised to see “retirement” in the ROTHIRA clue + feel like the 8-letter slots (ENTRAILS, NORTHERN, INTEGERS, OVERRULE) could have had been used more effectively.

  17. meaningless nobody says:

    stumper: more or less came together in just under an hour… not a good start when i insisted the wrap had to be sari… slapped my head when i filled in the answer for q, it never even crossed my tiny mind… groaned at nepo baby, which i guess every crossword has to have as an entry now… most importantly, i was foiled in getting a clean solve by mixing up mole and vole… alas, we’ll clear this one away and press on to next week

  18. Gloria Elizabeth says:

    Today’s LAT was a delight to solve. I’m 77 and enjoyed needing (but being ultimately able) to suss out answers from fragments of crossings for references to stuff that spans all of my lived decades.

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