Friday, April 26, 2024

LAT untimed (pannonica) 


NYT 6:21 (Amy) 


Universal 4:40 (Jim) 


USA Today 4:17 (Darby) 


Matthew Stock & Christina Iverson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 4/26/24 – no. 0426

Solid Friday puzzle, though maybe felt more like a Saturday? Was FaceTiming with my husband, not entirely sure I was fully focused on solving, so maybe it’s traditional Friday not-so-tough.

Fave fill: CREMA (yum! and yes, I filled in SALSA first, until RIC Ocasek came to the rescue), MAIL-IN BALLOTS, FULL OF IT, MET GALA, ORIGIN STORIES, PLINKO (there is a prime-time game show called The Wall that’s basically big-money Plinko from The Price Is Right, complete with the ability to lose everything. terrible!), TOP DOGS, ANTIHERO, FUN FACTS, “ALL DONE?”, STOPGAP, and FONDUES (are they popular again?).

Speaking of IDIOMS, I just ordered this book, McGraw-Hill’s Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. My colleague Trip tipped me off to it. If you need a handy reference for writing crossword clues, you could use this dictionary. I do find myself looking for fresh “___ as a ___” phrases to use for ASA clues. This book does offer “full as a tick,” which, eww.

Three more things:

  • 42a. [___ the Lucky, nickname of a noted explorer], LEIF. Who?? Am I the only one who doesn’t recall ever learning that Leif Erikson was called Leif the Lucky?
  • 4d. [Sports analyst Kimes], MINA. I consume very little sports analysis, but I do know that Mina Kimes is a fan of the Friday and Saturday NYTs. (See video.)
  • 7d. [One for the record books?], CLERK. Clever clue.

Four stars from me.

Hanh Huynh’s Universal crossword, “Dumpster Bandit”—Jim’s review

Theme answers are words that are still words when the circled letters P and A are removed. Clues are given for both pre- and post-removal words in each case. Down entries (marked with an asterisk) ignore those letters, but are still valid crossword entries if they’re taken into account. The revealer is TRASH PANDA (64a, [Humorous nickname for a raccoon … or when parsed differently, a hint to understanding the starred clues’ answers]). That re-parsing is TRASH P AND A.

Universal crossword solution · “Dumpster Bandit” · Hanh Huynh · Fri., 4.26.24

  • 16a. [*Keeping watch –> Antagonizing online] PATROLLING.with Downs COED/COPED and LONERS/LOANERS.
  • 26a. [*Purchasing beforehand –> Feeding (on), as a predator] PREPAYING. with Downs GAS/GAPS and STAN/SATAN.
  • 38a. [*Child-rearing –> Living as a tenant] PARENTING. with Downs SLOE/SLOPE and SIN/ASIAN (crossing two removed As).
  • 53a. [*Lost all hope –> Craved] DESPAIRED with Downs INKY/PINKY and SIN/ASIAN (see above).

Hmm. Haven’t we seen this theme before? Oh yes, here it as a Fireball puzzle from a couple months ago. Befitting its venue as a subscriber-only provider of “hard” puzzles, that puzzle was a bit trickier than this one since each entry had multiple Ps and As. But this one is meant for a wider audience, so it’s apt that it’s an easier solve. That said, this puzzle has the gimmick of not using those letters in question in the Down entries, so that’s a nice added touch that needed sussing out. Both puzzles were enjoyable.

I expect this is an example of two constructors coming up with the same idea independently. Both were probably in their respective publication queues months ago.

The rather large corners have all the fill highlights today: SCIENCE, “OH MY GOD!,” MID-LIFE, OCEANIA, and PISTONS.

Clues of note:

  • 10d. [Like breakfast, vis-a-vis second breakfast and elevenses]. EARLIER. Tee-hee!
  • 18d. [*It’s illegal to pump your own in New Jersey]. GA(P)S. New Jersey is the last holdout after Oregon voted last year to allow self-service gas stations.

Good puzzle. Four stars.

Winston Emmons’ Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 4/26/24 • Fri • Emmons • solution • 20240426

Anagrams of the ends of idioms; the clues introduce them that way but conclude with definitions of the newly-arranged versions.

  • 15a. [Cleanliness is next to … a minimalist approach?] DOING LESS (godliness).
  • 19a. [Going to hell in a … damaged armored vehicle?] BASHED TANK (handbasket).
  • 34a. [Don’t throw the baby out with … decorative Halloween ring?] BAT WREATH (bathwater).
  • 50a. [The only thing we have to fear is … feeling better quickly?] FAST RELIEF (fear itself).
  • 56a. [Famous … weapon that would dissolve in water?] SALT SWORD (last words).

I had gotten the sense from the first few that the originals were all going to be single words, but obviously that ended up not being the case. Nevertheless, nice anagrams.

The crossword itself put up a little more resistance than I’ve seen lately from Friday LAT offerings—also welcome.

  • 20d [Clean water company] ECOLAB. Got this without looking via crossings, and when I saw it assumed it was a generic description for a place of research.
  • 46d [Dupe] OUTWIT. Verb, not noun.
  • 13a [“Vive le __!”] ROI. Astonishingly, it appears some Americans would like to see a president as king. That demonstrates profound ignorance.
  • 42a [Arts and crafts bit] BEAD. My last square to be filled, and then corrected. Ignoring that ‘crafts’ was uncapitalized, I quickly filled in BEAM.

Sally Hoelscher & Olivia Mitra Framke’s USA Today crossword, “Early Animation”—Darby’s recap

Theme: The first word in each theme answer is the name of an animated movie.

Theme Answers

Sally Hoelscher & Olivia Mitra Framke's USA Today crossword, "Early Animation" solution for 4/26/2024

Sally Hoelscher & Olivia Mitra Framke’s USA Today crossword, “Early Animation” solution for 4/26/2024

  • 17a [Winner of the 2023 US Open] COCO GAUFF
  • 38a [Cold treat made with egg yolks] FROZEN CUSTARD
  • 62a [Fully briefed] UP TO SPEED

This is a super cute theme! I’ve seen all of these movies, which is a major achievement for me because I’m rarely UP TO SPEED on movies. I appreciate that they chose fairly well-known movies, even though it took me awhile to figure out the theme. COCO GAUFF’s name slotted into place once I had a couple of the crosses to help out. Same with FROZEN CUSTARD and UP TO SPEED. Overall, I thought that this was a nice mix of themers.

This puzzle also had a lot of great bonus fill, from FUNKO POP to RICE WINE to FRESH AIR. I also thought that 61d [=^.^= creature] was a very fun for CAT. I also liked 40d [Climb down the fire escape after curfew, say] SNEAK OUT and the inclusion of both PETA and SPCA. I moved pretty smoothly throughout the whole puzzle, switching between Across and Downs. I was slightly slower than my usual sub-4 minutes time, but I attribute that to a few spots that needed extra help. For me, those came on the longer bonus fill, but that stalling was worth it. Crosses on FUNKO POP like EPICS or VOW made a big difference.

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25 Responses to Friday, April 26, 2024

  1. ranman says:

    NYT…Nodding my head to most all of the specifics noted by Amy ….Saturday feel. Tough SW especially for me IMO.

    • Eric H says:

      That corner seemed to take me almost as long as the rest of the grid. I pulled PLINKO out of some recess of my brain, only to follow it with sPoON—which I was sure was right until it wasn’t. I have heard the term PLUGS for those unappealing-to-me adornments, but “gauge earrings” meant nothing.

      • Gary R says:

        The font for the clues in AL is not particularly large and I was solving late in the evening. For the longest time, I thought 38-A was asking for some business/stock market term for a way to “Gauge earnings.” Once I figured out the clue, I had even less of an idea what the answer might be.

        I liked a lot of the longer fill in this one. Took a little longer than a typical Friday, but not a Saturday time.

        • pannonica says:

          “The font for the clues in AL is not particularly large …”

          It’s been a while since I used AcrossLite, but isn’t that something that can be configured via settings?

          • Gary R says:

            Could be – I don’t see it with a quick look. I can change the font, but I don’t see a setting for font size.

            Anyway, it’s only occasionally an issue – and of course, gave me an excuse for struggling with PLUGS. ;-)

            • Eric H says:


              At the bottom of my AcrossLite (iPad app) there’s a “switch” marked “Page/List.” “List” shows you only the two clues for whatever square you’re in. The one above the grid is for the direction you’re going. (It’s a little weird because if you’re “headed” down, the Down clue is above the grid.

              I agree that the Page view (where you can see all the clues at once) is not designed for middle-aged or older eyes. (I have a lot of trouble reading the clues in the New Yorker puzzles.)

      • David L says:

        Neither ‘gauge earrings’ nor PLUGS mean anything to me, so I was going on trust there.

        I worked my way from the bottom anticlockwise to the NW. I’m not familiar with CREMA (some kind of sour cream variation, per Google) but I vaguely remembered a story about MINA Kimes in the NYT, I think. I haven’t seen her in the wild, so to speak.

        • David L says:

          I googled plug earrings – and I have seen them, but didn’t know that was what they are called. Seems like I’ve encountered them more often on men than women, but we are talking about small-sample statistics here.

          I agree with Eric’s aesthetic judgment.

          • marciem says:

            I’d heard of and seen “gauges” (the word and the things) (mostly on stoner white boys) but never heard of the alternatives (plugs and tunnels)… and me three on the aesthetics.

            Reading up a little, they (gauges, stretched earlobes etc.) are a large part of various cultures… African, Mayan and even Egyptian. I can respect that.

      • Lois says:

        It was a clue in the last regular New Yorker themed puzzle, Poking Holes. I learned it then. Not always happy to be in 2024, but better than the alternative.

        • Lois says:

          (I didn’t get my 5 minutes to edit.) I have to say that I had to look it up anyway today, but at least I had my bearings.

        • Eric H says:

          The New Yorker puzzle was probably where I picked up PLUGS. And “gauge earrings” makes perfect sense given how they work (repeatedly going to larger sizes as the earlobe gets stretched). I just hadn’t heard that term before.

    • JohnH says:

      I, too, found it hard for a Friday, like several past Friday puzzles as well. Unless, of course, that’s the new norm under Fagliano. And speaking of “bits of trivia,” that added to the difficulty.

      In the NW, one faced RIC, MINA, and a fact about Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. The SW had plugs and PLINKO, and I just don’t want to now about either. The NE set me back for many reasons, including BLAZE, and the SE running E from LEIF was my last to fall. My very last was figuring out why DOS works with OKS. But solvabale, making a nice challenge, with some nice “dohs” along the way.

  2. steve says:

    nyt, maybe a bit harder than typical friday fare, but not saturday worthy IMHO

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Took a bit to get into it, but unfolded very nicely. Really like the long answers and the clues were the right mix of clever and gettable.
    Well done!

    • Lois says:

      I agree with Huda’s comment, but unfortunately it was way above my level. I had to look up a bunch of stuff. Since there was not much trivia, there was not a lot to look up. Yet the answers were so pleasurable that I gave it a good rating. Sometimes I abstain from rating a puzzle I can’t do.

  4. Dan says:

    NYT: Wow, that was quite tough for me, but thoroughly satisfying to finally finish.

    I had to erase ISLES and replace it with TOWNS, which made all the difference.

    Fun seeing TIN-CAN TELEPHONE as an answer.

    Never heard of PLINKO, probably since the last time I watched The Price is Right was over 60 years ago.

  5. Chris says:

    Universal: There’s no joy in knowing an answer but have it not work because you don’t know an arbitrary and stupid rule the creator invented for the puzzle. It’s not fun to figure the rule out, especially when the clues are excessively opaque as well. Infuriating.

    Four letters for something you can’t pump on your own in New Jersey? Clearly it’s FUEL. But not, it’s GA(P)S! Makes total sense, not.

    FML, but this puzzle left me unhappy.

    • Gerald A. Connell says:

      I really liked the Universal once I figured out the gimmick. After that it was a lot of fun to solve.

  6. Burak says:

    NYT: I found it to be much easier than the past four Fridays of the Fagliano era. Good balance of tricky/clever clues vs. gimmes.

    • Eric H says:

      I had my slowest Friday time since the beginning of February, mostly because of the SW corner.

  7. Zev Farkas says:


    I lived in NJ under the no-self-service-gas rule. IMHO, safer and more convenient. It doesn’t make much difference in price, because the cost of the gas jockey is spread among all buyers, while it would have to be borne by only those who can’t/won’t pump their own if self-serve were allowed. NJ gas prices were consistently lower than in NY, which allowed self-serve.

    You came for crossword commentary and got an economics lesson. Heh, heh… ;)

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Presumably the higher prices in NY State reflected higher gas taxes.

      I think it was the early 1970s when self-serve was introduced as a money-saving option for Illinois drivers, and quickly the full-serve option vanished. NJ and Oregon just sound weird to me!

      • pannonica says:

        Oregon lifted the self-serve ban last summer. Unknown to me whether stations still have attendants that provide that service.

      • Zev Farkas says:

        I’ll grant you NJ being weird, but, at least in this respect, it’s a nice kind of weird.

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