Friday, April 5, 2024

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 7:00 (Amy) 


Universal 5:07 (Jim) 


USA Today 3:51 (Darby) 


Rebecca Goldstein’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 4/5/24 – no. 0405

All righty, is it just me or did this one feel like a Saturday puzzle? I wonder if puzzle completion rates have gone down for the Friday and Saturday crosswords in recent weeks. Joel’s editing style seems to veer tougher than Will’s.

Fave fill: LOCAL COLOR, MOXIE, “YES, BUT …”, TIMOR (only because a friend spent a month there last year! she’s the best-traveled person I know), GOES BANANAS, SWANKY, BANNER YEAR, IN DISARRAY, LION’S SHARE, “ALL OPPOSED…”, CABOOSES, COMMIT TO THE BIT, CREEPY-CRAWLIES, JANE EYRE, POINT BLANK, “ARE YOU OKAY?”

New to me:

  • 18a. [___ mundi], ANNO. Apparently it has to do with the Hebrew calendar and the … Byzantine calendar?
  • 30a. [Dance party where participants wear wireless headphones], SILENT DISCO. Huh. I’m sure the neighbors appreciate the quiet.
  • 61a. [___ ceremony, tradition in Sephardic weddings], HENNA. I knew henna designs were part of South Asian weddings, had no idea Sephardic weddings also involved that.
  • 1d. [Merediz who reprised her Tony-nominated role in the 2021 film adaptation of “In the Heights”], OLGA. Here’s her Wikipedia page.

Can’t remember the last time a Friday puzzle hit me with three clues and a long answer that I’d never encountered before.

As for 8d. [Policy in a restaurant that pays a living wage, perhaps], does NO TIP make sense or do you want that to be NO TIPS?

3.5 stars from me.

Laura Dershewitz’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 4/5/24 • Fri • Dershewitz • solution • 20240405

Some entries weren’t fitting in the allotted squares, and I soon saw that the word GO, central to each, formed a spur to the right. But it wasn’t until I encountered the revealer was I able to understand the rationale.

  • 31dR [Completely fall apart, as a deal, or an apt title for this puzzle?] GO SIDEWAYS.
  • 3d. [Mid-March cry] ERIN {GO}SH} BRAGH.
    23a. [“Who knew?”] GOSH.
  • 24d. [Without a care in the world] HAPPY-{E{GO}-LUCKY.
    48a. [ __ boost] EGO.
  • 9d. [Gentle carnival ride] MERRY-{A{GO}-ROUND.
    30a. [In the past] AGO.

Nicely done.

  • 14a [Traditional wisdom] LORE.
  • 20a [Lunch option on the Shinkansen, say] BENTO. That’s Japan’s bullet train.
  • 31a [Dollop] GOB. A non-theme GO.
  • 45a [Head-scratchers] TOUGHIES. Tried TOUSLERS first.
  • 32d [Marine mammal that uses rocks to crack shells] OTTER. Specifically, the sea otter, Enhydra lutris. They also have massive molars to aid in processing food. 28a [Ingest] EAT.
  • 41d [Online admin] MOD. Been seeing this one a lot lately. Such is the nature of randomness.
  • 44d [Bring up, or something to bring up] REAR. As in, “bring up the REAR.”
  • 55d [Merges] MELDS, symmetrically opposite paired with 4d [United with] WED TO.

Maia McCormick’s Universal crossword, “PUNctuation”—Jim’s review

This is a debut puzzle, so congrats are in order! Theme answers are punctuation mark phrases re-imagined as other things.

Universal crossword solution · “PUNctuation” · Maia McCormick · Fri., 4.5.24

  • 20a. [Interrogate Zuckerberg?] QUESTION MARK.
  • 36a. [With 37-Across, hugely inflate price estimates?] DOUBLE / QUOTES.
  • 52a. [Send along Kirk x Spock fanfic, say?] FORWARD SLASH.

Only three theme answers, but I count learning about slash fiction as a huge bonus. I’ve never heard the term, but apparently it refers to fan fiction which features a romantic or sexual relationship between two characters of the same sex. Since Star Trek has a huge fanbase and many fans have been writing their own stories for decades, it seemed eventual that there would be stories exploring the relationship between Kirk and Spock. These became known as Kirk/Spock stories, or K/S for short. Thus was born the slash fiction genre. Very cool! Read more about K/S here and slash fiction in general here.

Having only three themers leaves plenty of room for sparkly fill. Highlights include: SOCIALITE, RECESSIONAL, ACCELERANDO, ION BEAMS, HELD DEAR, SNEAK INTO, and MIRANDA rights. The I RAISE and I CALL dual poker statements are also notable. The rest of the fill is quite smooth, although DEEM OK is on the clunky side.

Fun puzzle despite being light on theme material. 3.75 stars.

Jasmeet Arora’s USA Today crossword, “First Class”—Darby’s recap

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Each theme answer begins with a word that could follow “class.”

Theme Answers

Jasmeet Arora's USA Today crossword, "First Class" solution for 4/5/2024

Jasmeet Arora’s USA Today crossword, “First Class” solution for 4/5/2024

  • 16a [“Don’t be immature”] ACT YOUR AGE | CLASS ACT
  • 35a [The Spice Girls had one in 2007] REUNION TOUR | CLASS REUNION
  • 61a [Supervisor for someone on shrooms] TRIPSITTER | CLASS TRIP

I thought that this puzzle was a nice blend of USA Today theme and constructor voice in its fill. ACT YOUR AGE took me a second to get, just as I was figuring out the angle, but as soon as I typed in ACT, I knew what the theme was. Not following the Spice Girls closely, I also needed some of the crosses to get this one as well. This was also true with TRIPSITTER, which is a term I’ve heard before but just needed a refresher on.

This puzzle looks like it has diagonal symmetry, which is something that I don’t often work with, so it’s nice to see in practice as I think about building my own puzzles. There are a lot of black squares near the center of this grid, but it still flowed really nicely, and the corners felt very interconnected. It was nice to get things like REST STOP, ANTEATER, and UNITE. Honestly, I only knew 43a [“Smarter in Seconds” creator Blair] IMANI because I’d seen it in a puzzle recently, but I was so stoked to see it.

Some other fill that I love include 13a [“I don’t dream of___” (response to “What’s your dream job?”] LABOR, 44d [“Hungry Hungry Hippos” piece] MARBLE, 53d [Play a ukelele] STRUM, and 42 [Mass mobilization at the 1999 WTO conference, e.g.] PROTEST.

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41 Responses to Friday, April 5, 2024

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I agree with you, Amy, it felt like a Saturday to me. Took a while to get a foothold. I mostly took some wild guesses, some of which panned out. But eventually it started to flow.
    I also didn’t know SILENT DISCO or COMMIT TO THE BIT.
    I don’t mind learning new stuff, expressions, pop culture, historical tidbits. I guess we may all need to change our expectations a bit.
    I usually find the Mini puzzles delightful. There’s a lightness to them. I can’t recall how Joel Fagliano’s full sized puzzles felt. Did they have the same light touch? I guess I’m trying to figure out how his constructing style fits with his tougher cluing as editor.

    • JohnH says:

      Per Amy’s question, I have heard it as only a “NO TIP policy” as in press coverage after Danny Meyer’s influential restaurants experimented with it (and had to give up). This was a very hard Friday, I thought, but fascinating how often the answer was something perfectly ordinary. Nice.

      I did have a bad time and less pleasure in the S/SE. I didn’t know of COMMIT TO THE BIT and needed every crossing to complete it down there. I’d also tried SPY SUBS first, overlooking that it wasn’t going to be plural, which led me to BLUNT for pointless and STEM for check, and I had trouble seeing ENOKI as a topping, so a lot to undo before I could be done.

      Overall, a lot of slow spots, but nice to overcome them. My last fill was Stark crossing the wedding tradition, but HENNA looked at that point like it had to be right.

    • Gary R says:

      I started the puzzle last night and had probably eight entries I was confident about after two passes through the clues. Finally gave up and went to bed. This morning, I could see a few things I couldn’t last night, and made steady, but slow progress. I didn’t time it, but it sure felt like a Saturday to me!

      If harder than usual NYT puzzles is a trend, I’m good with that. Especially if TNY is moving in the other direction.

      • Lois says:

        I don’t think TNY is going in the other direction, but time will tell. The main thing is that two puzzles were cut from the week, and the themed puzzle was totally eliminated.

  2. MattG says:

    NYT: I found this one to be easier than the average Friday. I beat my average time by 2.5 minutes.

    Having a daughter in college I knew both COMMIT TO THE BIT (one of her favorite sayings) and SILENT DISCO. I have been to the latter, though only as an observer. It’s odd to see a room full of people dancing with no music. They seem to be dancing to the flashing lights.

  3. Ethan says:

    waaay harder for me. over twice my average Friday time.

    Agree that Joel seems to veer harder than Will so far.

    Slightly surprising since the Times seems to have been moving in the opposite direction the last couple years.

  4. Alison L says:

    Can someone explain answer Jake for nickname alternative to Colby?

  5. Mutman says:

    NYT: felt hard but fell in good time for me.

    Anyone here (in Fiendland) attending ACPT this weekend?? It’d be fun to meet a poster in person.

  6. Eric H says:

    NYT: Rebecca Goldstein has quickly become one of my favorite constructors. Her puzzles are witty and fun to solve.

    Her “Fake Meat” puzzle for AVXC last year remains one of my favorite themed puzzles of the last few years.

    I thought today’s NYT puzzle was just the right amount of challenge for a Friday. I read lots of comments about the clueing being harder under Joel Fagliano than it is when Will Shortz is editing, but I don’t personally see that.

    • Dallas says:

      I agree; I really liked this puzzle. I solved it on a plane, so I’m blaming that for my longer-than-average solve time, but overall it was very enjoyable. I loved seeing COMMIT TO THE BIT; I dropped it in immediately, and was delighted that it fit, but I wasn’t completely sure till the crosses started coming, but I thought if I can’t COMMIT to COMMIT TO THE BIT, what *can* I commit to?

  7. dh says:

    I would not have known TIMOR except that, coincidentally, I watched “Mutiny on the Bounty” last night, and I checked with Britannica to separate fact from embellished fact from fiction; I learned that Timor was where Bligh ultimately sailed after having been put off the Bounty. It was on my mind, so the first thing I thought of in the context of the clue.

  8. David L says:

    There’s a different feel or style to the puzzles with Joel at the helm, although it’s hard to pin down why exactly. I wonder if Will would have allowed BOLO/BANC, clued as they are today. Are SPYSHIPs typically painted green, I wonder? ANNO (as clued) and SILENTDISCO were new to me, but not hard to infer.

    I don’t understand how “go out for” equates to APPLYTO. Can anyone give an example?

  9. MattF says:

    NYT was about average time for me, but it felt harder. Hard to get a foothold, unfamiliar entries. Not complaining though, and it felt good to complete.

  10. Martin says:

    NYT came in just a bit under average for me, but I was shocked when I completed it.
    As in I definitely thought some of my guesses would need revision.

    That being said, I don’t mind Joel edited puzzles. They are tough but ultimately satisfying for the most part.

  11. sanfranman59 says:

    TNY … I just don’t get the appeal of mini-puzzles

    • Eric H says:

      That is because like me, you’re old(er). And unlike me, you have an attention span greater than one minute.

      Think of the way movies are edited now as compared to, say, in the 1960s.

      Much of what’s on the internet can be consumed quickly or in bit and pieces. The mini crossword puzzles are of the same kind.

      Like you, I don’t find mini puzzles particularly satisfying. I do kinda like midis (9X9, 11X11), which sometimes have some interesting answers that I haven’t seen in full-sized puzzles.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        [fair warning … (somewhat) off-topic diatribe ahead]

        You’re probably right, Eric. It’s a TL;DR world now, isn’t it? Anything that can’t be boiled down to a Twitter (X-?)-sized comment is scoffed at. If you ask me, there’s very little that’s worthwhile knowing that can be effectively communicated in 280 characters or a 15-second sound-bite. I believe that this is a major contributing factor to why our public discourse (courtesy of MSNBC, CNN and FOX News) is so polarized and rancorous and explains, in part anyway, our government’s extreme dysfunction. I don’t know if it will be in our lifetimes, but a second US civil war is coming unless we learn to understand each other and respect different viewpoints. That won’t happen if we can’t give anything more than 15 seconds of our attention.

        [stepping down from my soapbox now … you may now return to your regularly scheduled crossword blog reading]

  12. Eric H says:

    WSJ: I know the review won’t be up until the contest ends on Sunday.

    But the meta is really easy this week. If, like me, you’ve had trouble with some of the recent WSJ metas, this might be a good time to give it another try.

    • Art Shapiro says:

      Well, I’ve almost never gotten one of those metas, and if this one is easy it’s still completely arcane to me! I’m generally pretty good at thinking outside the box, and indeed often fail to think INSIDE the box, but this looks like it will continue the sad streak.

      • Eric H says:

        Try identifying the theme answers and reading the clues for them very carefully.

        Good luck!

  13. Eric H says:

    Universal: Thanks, Jim, for the explanation of FORWARD SLASH. I’d heard of slash fiction before, but had forgotten the term.

    The puzzle had a nice, breezy feel. I’m surprised that it’s a debut. Nice clue for the overly-familiar ALOE. (Yeah, I know it’s the Oreo of succulents.)

  14. Martin says:

    Amy asks, “As for 8d. [Policy in a restaurant that pays a living wage, perhaps], does NO TIP make sense or do you want that to be NO TIPS?”

    I think most would say the policy is “no tipping,” so either way it’s an approximation.

    • Eric H says:

      I presume no one would have a grammatical problem with a “no kill” pet shelter. By that example, a NO TIP restaurant policy sounds fine to me.

      • Martin says:

        Yes, the entry is fine. But in the wild it would be, “Our policy is no tipping because we pay a living wage.” Substitute either “tip” or “tips” doesn’t sound right to my delicate ears.

        • Gary R says:

          I think in the restaurant industry, it’s typically referred to as a “no tip policy.” Although, in the wild, I think it’s a pretty rare beast.

  15. Lois says:

    NYT: I’ve had to use Christina Iverson’s Easy Mode for several weeks on Friday, or a combination of the two sets of clues. Saturdays are usually impossible for me now. I know that many or most here prefer tough puzzles, and that what is tough varies for each person; however, under Will there was a range of difficulty, with some weeks being easier and some harder. Either most solvers here yearn for harder puzzles, or your readers who prefer puzzles to be a bit easier find it harder to admit that publicly. Judging by the ratings, I would say that a lot of people agree with me that the average Friday is too hard now.

    • Martin says:

      Be careful about drawing conclusions based on a few Friday and Saturday puzzles edited by Joel. A range of difficulty takes a while to manifest itself, and what seems like a pattern in the short run could be the luck of the draw. Just sayin’.

  16. Martin says:

    This is not a complaint about its appearance in a puzzle, but “forward slash” sets my teeth on edge. It’s “slash.” I get it’s not a backslash, but for how often non-programmers use backslashes, it seems like a total waste of time to say “forward.” The audience for a commercial that says, “go to forward slash radio for this discount offer” includes very few people who have ever had to type “\”. Just say slash!

    But feel free to picnic on my lawn.

  17. Alison L says:

    Ah, thanks for the explanation regarding the Coby clue.

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