Friday, April 12, 2024

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 6:40 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim) 


USA Today tk (Darby) 


Evan Kalish’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 4/12/24 – no. 0412

Difficulty Watch: Still playing harder than a Shortz-edited Friday, but it’s a fun puzzle packed with juicy fill and hey, I’m glad it didn’t take me a third less time.

Fave fill: “THAT TRACKS,” “I OWE YOU ONE,” BLANKET HOG, HATE-WATCH, the Denver BRONCOS, “DON’T MIND ME,” SWEET ONION (I remain an onion skeptic but somebody needs to make me a dish with actual sweet onions, definitely not raw, and I will see), TEXAS TOAST, RAIN DANCE, NASONEX (a Flonase rival), COHABIT, and a PRICE DROP.

I sure don’t eat lamb so I had two misfires with 12d, trying MINT JELLY and MINT SPRIG before getting to MINT SAUCE. I’ve watched a lot of Top Chef and they cook a lot of lamb dishes, but mint seems out of favor this century.

Three clues:

  • 17a. [Partner who’s deep undercover?], BLANKET HOG. Now envisioning someone buried beneath too many thick layers of blankets and comforters. How deep is survivable?
  • 23a. [Bit of detritus from a Thanksgiving meal], COB. Huh? I feel like corn on the cob is a summer thing while corn served at Thanksgiving is decidedly off the cob. Thoughts?
  • 43a. [Considering retirement?], SLEEPY. Yes, it’s about that time! With SPENT and TIRE also in this puzzle, I’m getting a strong message here. Good night!

4.25 stars from me.

Amie Walker and Wendy L Brandes’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 4/12/24 • Fri • Walker, Brandes • solution • 20240412

  • 40aR [“It was even funnier at the time,” or a hint to making the starred clues match their answers] YOU HAD TO BE THERE. The letter U is missing from the clues, altering their meanings. Restoring the letter sets things aright.
  • 18a. [*Big moth] CHATTERBOX (Big mouth).
  • 24a. [*Theater debt] OPENING NIGHT (Theater début).
  • 52a. [*Frozen state] ICE SCULPTURE (Frozen statue).
  • 62a. [*Title bot] PRIZE FIGHT (Title bout).

Not bad at all. Another layer would have made things more interesting. Maybe had the clues all been real phrases, or if there was a semantic connection among the clues or answers? Anyway, this is fine.

  • 8d [Opposite of dogbane?] CATNIP. I don’t think this is metaphor, as dogbane isn’t invoked that way, although catnip can be. So it’s just a little wordplay fun.
  • 10d [Add salt instead of sugar, say] ERR. I have done this, twice in a row. Worst chocolate chip cookies ever.
  • 19d [Price points?] TAGS. Trying too hard?
  • 21d [ __ Heritage Month: September 15 to October 15] HISPANIC. Offset, wonder why.
  • 27d [Products of thermal imaging] HEAT MAPS. Factette: Siamese and Burmese cats’ bodies are literal heat maps. Extremities such as the ears, muzzle, paws, and tail are cooler and thus darker. As they age, their body temperature is reduced and overall they grow darker.
  • 33d [Muscle building?] GYM. Deceptive. Thanks for the question mark.
  • 39d [ __ zero emissions] NET. This is a greenwashing scam.
  • 51d [Attempt to mediate] STEP IN. ‘Attempt’ is sneakily a verb here.
  • 57d [Recess on a Catholic school campus?] APSE. This one feels as if it’s trying too hard also.
  • 15a [Bar mixer] COLA. 68a [Fountain drinks] SODAS.
  • 30a [False front?] PSEUDO-. Liked this one a lot.
  • 44a [Cantaloupe, e.g.] MELON. Named for a place in Italy, originally meaning—as you might guess—’song of the wolf’.

  • 45a [Close in anger] SLAM. For some reason I kept reading that ‘close’ as an adjective. 16a [Fuming] IRATE.
  • 60a [Spacewalk initials] EVA. Extravehicular activities. 34d [Ada Limón work] POEM.

Chris Gross’s Universal crossword, “That’s Heavy!”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are familiar phrases that have a unit of weight added to the end. The revealer is PUT ON WEIGHT (58a, [Gain muscle mass, say, and what 16-, 26- and 43-Across do?]).

Universal crossword solution · “That’s Heavy!” · Chris Gross · Fri., 4.12.24

  • 16a. [Group of art galleries specializing in pointillism?] DOT COMPOUND.
  • 26a. [Satan, for one?] SANTA ANAGRAM.
  • 43a. [Compliment for an aspiring physicist?] GOOD AS NEWTON. This one was worth a chuckle.

Nice. I like when the added letters or word is different each time, as is the case here. That adds just a bit to the challenge. I enjoyed these enough that I was disappointed there wasn’t a fourth entry. Let’s see if we can come up with another. Hmm, how about [What Stanley did?]: ASSISTED LIVINGSTONE. Drat. A bit too long.

Fill highlights include MEAT CASE, DREAM ACT, and BALL PIT. Didn’t know ALANA Haim at first, but looking her up post-solve, I did recall the rock group she formed with her sisters (named Haim). Their third album was Grammy-nominated and ALANA herself is Golden Globe- and BAFTA-nominated for her acting work. So…definitely crossword-worthy.

Clues of note:

  • 13d. [,,,]. COMMAS. Reminds of the old t-shirt.
  • 29d. [Very excited]. AGOG. This is the first listed usage in the M-W dictionary, but I’m more accustomed to seeing it used with its second meaning: “wide open” (like eyes or a mouth).

Good puzzle with smooth, fun fill. 3.75 stars.

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22 Responses to Friday, April 12, 2024

  1. Martin says:

    “Mint sauce” can be a mint and coriander chutney to go with a lamb kabab. Way better (and current) than the mint jelly of the ’50s. The chutney is also great with potato samosas, so you might like it, Amy.

    • huda says:

      I second this! Especially the samosa bit.
      Something about this reminds me of Only Murder in the Building.
      Need to cook you some good Spanish tortilla with some Vidalia onions, Amy. Makes all the difference.

    • Papa John says:

      Never ate a chutney that I didn’t like.

  2. Greg says:

    I agree with Amy that this Friday played more like a Saturday in terms of difficulty. NW corner took some time. Even so, doable and satisfying.

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Had to stop last night and restart this morning to get through it, but this puzzle is chock full of great expressions as detailed by Amy.

    • Dan says:

      Same here.

    • DougC says:

      My personal favorite today was 11D. I could not figure out what a “misidentification in the DC Universe” could possibly be, then laughed out loud when IT’S A PLANE emerged from crosses!

    • JohnH says:

      The NW defeated me outright. It didn’t help that the question-marked idioms in that corner as well as 1A weren’t in my normal idiom, HATE WATCH and SEGEL were brand new, and I had “tuxes” rather than TENTS for the rentals. It all just wouldn’t straighten out.

  4. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: Tough, but fair puzzle. I also struggled in the NW where I only had AUTHOR, COHABIT, and SEGEL for a long time. This made the undercover partner look like some sort of ___ THUG, and the [Promise of a future return?] became an ARNIE QUOTE, which I thought was clever if a bit green painty.

  5. David L says:

    Good NYT, although I too was puzzled by COB — not at any Thanksgiving dinner I’ve been to. My only misstep was COG before CAM, but otherwise a smooth and steady solve.

    • Martin says:

      The image I had was a pile of cobs at the first Thanksgiving. It is presumed that some sort of polenta/grits-ish dish was served since maize was an important crop. I guess the word “detritus” led me to think “midden.”

    • Papa John says:

      The Internet tells me; “First Thanksgiving likely included wildfowl, corn, porridge and venison. The traditional Thanksgiving dinner includes any number of dishes: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.”

      “There are only two surviving documents that reference the original Thanksgiving harvest meal, which describe a feast of freshly killed deer, assorted wildfowl, a bounty of cod and bass, and flint, a native variety of corn harvested by the Native Americans, which was eaten as corn bread and porridge.”

      There must of been a “pile of cobs” somewhere nearby.

    • JohnH says:

      COB threw me, too, but once I had it I didn’t worry. I’m not convinced that solvers should be researching the first Thanksgiving, however it can be separated from myth. But I figured, whatever, it’s only a puzzle, and maybe other families have different customs than mine.

      I took MINT SAUCE on faith, too, but it’s helpful to be reminded by Martin and others of an antecedent in mint jelly that takes me back to family meals very much best forgotten. If that counts as a bitter herb to temper rather than enhance the meager pleasures of blandly cooked lamb, so be it.

  6. Eric H says:

    NYT: Fun clueing throughout—BLANKET HOG, especially, but also I OWE YOU ONE and HATE WATCH.

    The NW was the only sticking point, as I started with Nepal before TIBET (50/50 chance there, so naturally, I guessed wrong).

  7. Dan says:

    NYT: Solved normally until a big white space in the upper left remained, and I could not make any progress there (NEPAL and A-TEAM instead of TIBET and ELITE did not help) until I finally gave in and looked up the actor Jason of “Shrinking” … and that did the trick.

    A thoroughly enjoyable puzzle, though I prefer to avoid feeling I have to look anything up.

    12D reminded me that as a child when I went to a restaurant with my parents and ordered a leg of lamb, it would always come with a little container of mint jelly (they didn’t call it MINT SAUCE). I wonder how mint ended up getting paired with lamb.

    (It is likely that I have never eaten lamb again, in the past 60 years.)

    • PJ says:

      I would have thought the lamb/mint connection was Middle Eastern in origin. A little searching ties it to Queen Elizabeth I. Since wool was so important to England’s economy, she didn’t want people eating lambs. To slow down consumption a law was issued requiring a bitter herb to be consumed with lamb.

      • Martin says:

        Must have been for the royal seder.

      • David L says:

        I can’t find any solid reference for the idea that Eliz I enacted a law requiring lamb or mutton to be eaten with mint or other bitter herbs (I wouldn’t call mint ‘bitter’ in any case).

        I imagine sheep farmers in those days were likely to slaughter old ewes for meat after they’d produced lambs. Mutton can be pretty strong, and since mint would have been widely available at that time of year, it’s a natural pairing. It wouldn’t have made sense for farmers to slaughter lambs because they would have had many years of wool production ahead of them.

  8. Zev Farkas says:

    Universal puzzle:

    ASSISTED LIVINGSTON could have been split across two rows… ;)

    The t-shirt was supposed to be “comma chameleon”?

    Technical kvetch – gram is supposed to be a unit of mass, although it’s also used for weight, as the GOOD AS NEWTON guy should be able to tell you… ;)

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