Saturday, May 18, 2024

LAT 3:07 (Stella) 


Newsday 18:15 (pannonica) 


NYT 3:52 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Matthew)  


USA Today tk (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Adrian Johnson’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 5/18/24 – no. 0518

Whoa, Joel! You may have swung back too far towards the “let’s ease up on the clues a bit” side. This one played like a Tuesday for me.

I gambled on VICTORIA’S SECRET being the answer to 1a. [Where you might shop for the sheer fun of it?] and everything unfurled from there.

Fave fill: “I MEAN IT THIS TIME,” CALL ON THE CARPET, IRANIAN AMERICAN, “SAVE THE DATE” CARD (my son and daughter-in-law mostly used the emailed equivalent this spring), “THERE ARE NO WORDS,” VICUÑA, CELIBACY (great clue: [Nun’s habit?]), SAURON, HYPE MAN, THE BARD.

Three more things:

  • 35d. [Certain drag racer], NITRO CAR. I know about cars getting a boost from nitro, but haven’t seen the two-word term before.
  • 14d. [___ Okafor, 2004-05 N.B.A. Rookie of the Year], EMEKA. Looks like he didn’t make a huge dent after that rookie year, but the name’s familiar.
  • 33a. [Many a character in the 2018 animated film “Smallfoot”], YETI. Never heard of the movie, but a small-footed Bigfoot is an inferrable concept.

Crosswordese: 2d. [Turkish inns], IMARETS. Historically, these were basically soup kitchens, feeding people as an act of charity. Doesn’t the clue sort of connote that a tourist visiting Turkey could book a few nights’ stay at an imaret? I don’t think it works that way. At any rate, it might be nice to see IMARETS clued via Muslim charitable efforts if solvers are going to be quizzed on the vocab.

Four stars from me.

Parker Higgins’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 5/17/24 by Parker Higgins

Los Angeles Times 5/17/24 by Parker Higgins

Ugh, this puzzle is so good. Like, annoyingly good. Wish-I’d-made-it good. (I couldn’t have, though. Parker is younger than I am, and a coder, and both of those things show in the grid.) Also wish I had time to do more than just point out a couple of gems:

  • 6D [Defining question?] is ARE WE A THING? Both a great entry and a very clever clue.
  • 37A [In-person appointments that require an online application?] is TINDER DATES. See comment above.
  • 24D [One with many good buds] is a SUPERTASTER. As in taste buds. Awesome.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Let Me Spell It Out” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 5/18/24 • Sat • “Let Me Spell It Out” • Shenk • solution • 20240518

Payoff at the end:

  • 111aR [Aretha Franklin song spelled out phonetically by the additions to this puzzle’s theme answers] RESPECT. The song, of course, features her spelling out the word as part of the chorus. (13d [Chorus line?] LA LA.) In the other theme entries, words are respelled as necessary to accommodate the suffixed syllables.
  • 23a. [Material for a Coast Guard balloon?] NAUTICAL MYLAR (nautical mile + R).
  • 34a. [Doctor’s job when finishing a C-section?] CLOSING BELLY (closing bell + E).
  • 48a. [Admission into the venue for the NFL draft?] PICK ACCESS (pickaxe + S).
  • 60a. [Speechless dwarf when he’s feeling more like Grumpy?] SOUR DOPEY (sourdough + P).
  • 70a. [Flower whose petals are added to the greens?] SALAD DAISY (salad days + E).
  • 86a. [Particular liking for overhead décor?] CEILING FANCY (ceiling fan + C).
  • 100a. [Get rid of some of the accord provisions?] TRIM THE TREATY (trim the tree + T).

Yep, sure.

  • 1d [Sonata quartet] TIRES. What a great clue, and I was completely misled. This is about the Hyundai car.
  • 4d [Play makeup] ACTS. 52d [Play makeup] SCENES.
  • 6d [Plane figures] COPILOTS. I guessed correctly about the clue’s subject but still had difficulty parsing the COPIL– crossing letters I had in place.
  • 8d [Island with a delegate to the House of Representatives] GUAM. Just because I had recent occasion elsewhere to share this notorious Congressional moment, I’ll repeat it here: “Burning Question: Will the Marines cause Guam to tip over?
  • 15d [Holler] CRY. 110a [Call out] YELL.
  • 32d [Dizzy Gillespie forte] BEBOP. 77a [Drum kit components] HI-HATS. There’s a certain affinity here, no?
  • 35d [Tool for prep chefs] GRATER. 42a [Tools for prep chefs] PARERS.
  • 49d [Pretentious pancakes] CRÊPES. Is it because they’re French? The circumflex? (38a [They look like inverted v’s] CARETS.)
  • 61d [“Did that really just happen?”] OH DAMN. Is this a crossworthy phrase?
  • 80d [Animal shelter sign] ADOPT ME. Sometimes I stop and worry about all the unadopted animals in the overburdened system, but then I also worry about pets being too-easily adopted by abusive types. Honestly, it’s just another aspect of societal despair. Apologies for the downer moment. I’ll give my lucky cat an extra hug.
  • 84d [Hardly a super duper] BAD LIAR. Another standout clue!
  • 92d [Enlightened] AWARE. AWAKE could also work here. Y’know, woke. 31d [Fit for sentry duty] ALERT.
  • 97d [Low pitch, perhaps] BALL. Another sneakily good clue, a notch below the other two I’ve previously highlighted.
  • 1a [Brand produced by the McIlhenny Company of Louisiana] TABASCO. Nice to have a gimme right at the start of the grid.
  • 33a [Carefully winnow] CULL. The process is not always carefully executed, however. Oof, pun was not intended.
  • 45a [Suit in a Spanish card deck] OROS. Somehow I’d never learned this. Let’s find out what the others are. “The Spanish suits closely resemble Italian-suited cards as both were derived from the ‘Moorish-styled’ cards. The four suits are bastos (clubs), oros (literally ‘golds’, that is, golden coins), copas (cups) and espadas (swords).” (courtesy Wikipedia)
  • 63a [Word separator] SPACE. Perhaps surprisingly, this was a relatively late development in written language, especially Latinate ones.

Ben Zimmer’s Newsday crossword, Saturday Stumper — pannonica’s write-up

Newsday • 5/18/24 • Saturday Stumper • Zimmer • solution • 20240518

Genuinely surprised at my relatively quick time on this one, because it surely seemed as if I was getting nowhere for quite a bit.

  • 5a [Taylor Swift 2023 haul (nine)] VMAS. Site of the letter I needed to hunt down for nearly a minute at the end. Had CMAS here and as I was solving I just assumed 5d [Summit] CERTEX was some obscure thing I’d never heard of, but it turns out the awards were for videos—Swift is more of a pop artist than a country artist these days—and VERTEX makes a lot more sense.
  • 9a [Out to lunch] SPACY. Sure, but 1d [Sap] DITZ?
  • 16a [21st named storm of 2020] ALPHA. I had originally suspected something beginning with a U, naturally.
  • 17a [What NASA‘s eHEALTH ONE device emulates] TRICORDER, from the Star Trek world. One of those clues where the response is, no it can’t be that, can it? Could it really be? Wow!
  • 18a [Andean city where fire-kindling is tough] LA PAZ, because of the high elevation.
  • 19a [Deep pan] ZERO STAR REVIEW, for which I had … RATING at first.
  • 26a [From] STARTING crossed by 11d [Certain beginnings] APPETIZERS and avoiding duplication. 33d [Certain beginning] SOFT-C.
  • 30a [Plenty of nothing] VOIDS. Plural makes it a bit trickier.
  • 32a [Half of an interlocking pair] YANG. I feel that ‘interlocking’ sells it a little too hard, but on the other hand ‘complementary’ wouldn’t have been tough enough by Stumper standards. Anyway, I was thinking (because of Zimmer’s language credentials) of typographical ligatures, which is also off the mark.
  • 36a [Larry or Curly, by their own admission] MORON. Unaware of the specific basis for this beyond their professional stoogedom.
  • 41a [Where gumbo comes from] BANTU. Language, not locale.
  • 48a [Cluster] BUNCH. Was primed for this because the crossing entry 25d [Darlin′] turned out not to be HONEYBUNCH but HONEY BUNNY.
  • 52a [Using crafts] SLYLY. Meta clue.
  • 6d [Up-and-down address] MADAM. Referring to its palindromic nature and the vertical aspect of the entry. See also, 26d [Up-and-down flights] SOLOS.
  • 9d [Prizes for Wimbledon Women’s champs] SALVERS, or trays. Etymology: modification of French salve, from Spanish salva sampling of food to detect poison, tray, from salvar to save, sample food to detect poison, from Late Latin salvare to save — more at SAVE (m-w)
  • 10d [Beef also a beef cut?] PLAINT. Not understanding how this works. 20d [Aged beef?] EGADS. Not exactly buying that an exclamation = a complaint.
  • 28d [Canada __ ] GOOSE. Also the name of a company that makes nice but very expensive outerwear that people have decided is a status symbol.
  • 34d [Combat with light artillery] LASER TAG. No question mark here, making it a bit more difficult.
  • 37d [Word from Latin for “lead down”] DEDUCT. Makes sense.
  • 43d [Adjectival “what”] QUEL. No indication that the answer is in French, perhaps I’m missing something. (27d [Tempo oscuro] NOTTE.

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29 Responses to Saturday, May 18, 2024

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: I think there’s a typo in the review headline. The constructor is Adrian Johnson, no?

    The puzzle was fun, if a little on the easy side. I knew instantly that the 1A clue referred to lingerie, but VICTORIA’S SECRET didn’t spring to mind. Neither of the other spanners at the top was obvious, so I think 21A NEB was my first entry.

    The bottom section went very quickly. Perhaps my biggest mistake was assuming that Andre Agassi (55A) was an Italian-AMERICAN.

    And when all I had of 1D was the final NA, I briefly considered the possibility of a fur-bearing iguaNA.

  2. David L says:

    I didn’t find the NYT quite as easy as Amy did, but it was definitely an overcorrection, compared to the Fri/Sat puzzles of a few weeks ago. My last square was URI_/TAL_. No idea about the former and had trouble making sense of the clue for the latter.

    • Jim says:

      When one conveys a story, particularly some type of legend, they are said to be “relating a tale”.

    • JohnH says:

      I was surprised to find it pretty easy (although surely more a Friday than a Tuesday). After all, it was Saturday and Fagliano, and the combo of stacks and big areas of black squares had me fearing I’d never get a foothold. In practice, I got quite a few (IMARETS first).

      There were still things I didn’t know, like NITRO CAR (and I’ll always tune out Tolkein), and the whole SW proved harder, in part because I tried “Ode to” Beauty, in part because I didn’t know the Oprah factoid and had never guessed Agassi’s family background. (He’s born in the U.S., in Vegas, so not a typical hyphenated American, and his mother is American.)

      For all quibbles over difficulty, though, it was a nice grid and a very lively fill, with those long phrases.

  3. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper: Getting better at these! Felt pretty smooth. Wanted ZERO STAR REVIEW almost immediately (so proud of myself for seeing through that clue so fast), but couldn’t confirm the ZERO for a long time. cMAS before VMAS and sKYLOFTS before HAYLOFTS slowed me down a bit.

  4. huda says:

    NYT: Amy, finishing is puzzle in less than 4 minutes blows my mind.
    I know I’ve said this before, but this is yet another example of crosswords showing very clearly the significant differences in brain processing speed among people. To read, comprehend the nuances of the clues, retrieve the information, throw away incorrect or interfering options, all of that takes little segments of time, and for most of us, it adds up. You can also see that difference in processing speed when watching Jeopardy. Witnessing the outcome from these finely tuned mental machines is a thing of beauty!
    Back to the puzzle, and speaking of (bad) processing, I misread the clue to 1A and thought it was: “Where you might STOP for the sheer fun of it?” and wanted it to be a scenic viewpoint or something related to Vista or Viewing… I actually took in sheer and thought about waterfalls :). I eventually navigated away and wound up starting from the bottom, plunked down : THERE ARE NO WORDS and built up from there. Eventually tumbled to the 1A clue, mumbled “I’m an idiot” to myself , and ended up with a Wednesday-like time.
    All in all, I greatly enjoyed this puzzle and thought the combination of stacks was truly impressive.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      The wild thing is that today’s top speed-solvers likely finished the puzzle in half my time. Blows my mind that the Erik Agards and Paolo Pascos among us can fly through the puzzles in the Boswords Themeless League so fast.

      • huda says:

        It really is amazing. Some neuroimaging is warranted.
        One hypothesis could be that speed solvers use more of their brain simultaneously. But another is that it’s actually very regionally focused. I think the latter might be true.
        I base that guess on earlier findings showing that when old people do as well as young people in a memory task, the old people are using more of their brain. So, you recruit more brain regions to assist but it’s somewhat slower (because more synapses).
        But it’s conceivable that part of the speed also occurs at the level of synaptic efficacy.
        It’s a very interesting and under-appreciated facet of intellect.

        • Me says:

          I also find how people can solve the puzzles so quickly to be fascinating. I’ve read some of what some speed solvers have said, and it seems they can multi-task really well — while they are filling the answer in, they are already reading the next clue, for example. And some can fill in an across answer but look at the down options at the same time to make sure that the across answer works for down clues also.

          I think Jeopardy is a little bit different, because you can’t buzz in until after the host finishes reading the clue and a light goes on around the outside of the board. I think by the time that happens, particularly for a long clue, it’s common that multiple contestants know the answer, and it becomes a matter of who can buzz in first.

        • a lifelong crossword lover says:

          Add me to the list of puzzlers who is awed by speed solvers.

          I’ll never be one, since I developed the habit of crossing out the numbers to clues as I solve them, so I can more quickly spot the unsolved clues.

          But I understand how speed solving is possible (it really should be studied in laboratories, as another approach to understanding memory).

          Memory is reliant on having a wide, varied storehouse of past experiences and learned knowledge,from which one can make connections and retrieve information.

          Someone like Amy, who is directly involved in the crossword industry, has by now literally read thousands, maybe millions of clues…which if accurately remembered, can be quickly, even automatically retrieved.

          I also think that individuals obsessed with crosswords, who have them occupy a great amount of their life, are not filling their minds and memory with unrelated trivial information (which to me explains why some solvers grouse when they don’t know certain areas of info like geography, sports, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc).

          A strong ability to focus ones attention and not get mentally sidetracked is a bonus.

          And writing in answers quickly is a skill that with practice, anyone can learn.

          Still, I like to take my time, admiring an unusual grid design, puzzling over unfamiliar clues, learning new words and their meanings…savoring those ‘AHA!” moments when a theme or answer becomes clear…
          and in general, just enjoying the overall crossword solving experience.

          Which is why I do the puzzles on paper, not online, where I’d likely get caught up in trying to ‘Beat the Clock’.

          It may just be me… but I think some of the enjoyment is lost when the focus is on racing through puzzles, trying to beat your past scores.

  5. Crotchety Doug says:

    For the second Saturday in a row my link ( for the Stumper SAYS 2024 in the top bar but when you hit print you get the puzzle from two years prior, 5/18/22. When I use the link on the Fiend’s Today’s Puzzles page, I get blocked with an ad to subscribe. Am I missing something?

  6. Stumper: “Antique letter opener” makes me recall A Confederacy of Dunces. Myrna Minkoff’s letters to Ignatius J. Reilly always begin with “Sirs.”

  7. Seth Cohen says:

    Stumper: if you have beef with something, you could have a PLAINT about it or a complaint. If you “cut” the word complaint, you get PLAINT.

  8. Mr. [not] Grumpy says:

    Per Merriam-Webster, IMARET is “an inn or hospice in Turkey.” It’s an old-time crossword clue/entry. Criticism unwarranted IMO.

    • JohnH says:

      I’d strongly defend it, too. Its deep history just isn’t relevant. It is literally a place of refuge for pilgrims and other travelers, but even that shouldn’t disqualify the clue. I had only to glance at the clue to get the answer. I’d much rather dispense with SAURON, though I now these days that nerds aren’t those who gave up fantasy for academic lit but the reverse.

  9. Eric H says:

    Stumper: I bailed out after five minutes. I see now that at least one of my few initial answers (28D GOOSE) was correct, but I took it out because I thought 24A LETO was “Leda.” (One of these days, I will remember that correctly.)

    Having read the review, I’m glad I didn’t spend any more time on it. I do like the clue for 19A ZERO-STAR REVIEW. But some of the other clues seem to be too much of a stretch.

    • Seth Cohen says:

      “Too much of a stretch” is exactly what makes the Stumper the Stumper! Personally I love it: one puzzle a week that’s just unapologetically fiendish. If you approach it expecting that, you can actually enjoy the struggle, because that’s why you’re there.

      • Eric H says:

        I get your point, and I don’t entirely disagree.

        But too often with the Stumper, it feels like every clue is a huge stretch or completely vague. Throw in a few answers that I just don’t know, and I’m out. If you can’t find a place to start, it makes it awfully hard to get anywhere.

  10. BlueIris says:

    Stumper: Agree with pannonica on everything. All I could do was groan regarding “plaint.” Never heard of “honey bunny” and was challenged with that lower left area since I started with “went cold turkey.

    • pannonica says:

      Notably, ‘Honey Bunny’ was Amanda Plummer’s character in Pulp Fiction (opposite Tim Roth’s ‘Pumpkin’), but that might not be on everyone’s radar.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        I was just watching the YouTube clip of that scene but won’t post it here, because Tarantino thought it would be good for Tim Roth’s character to be verbally racist and anti-Semitic.

        Yes, HONEY BUNNY connotes “Pulp Fiction” for many 1990s filmgoers.

  11. sanfranman59 says:

    LAT: It’s hard to imagine having a more opposite reaction to a puzzle than Stella and I had to this one. Parts of it were like pulling teeth for me and I posted my slowest Saturday solve time in more than a year (since John Guzzetta’s 4/29/2023 puzzle). I found it to be an almost ridiculous combination of near gimmes and total WTFs. The NW corner was almost impenetrable by me and I came close to giving up on it until I thought of trying CUR instead of ‘dog’ and ‘pUp’. I’m amazed that I was able to finish the corner by only adding that little 3-word answer to ESOS (I’m almost never comfortable with non-English answers), END and the E__DE of ELUDE. I don’t know of either Maya DEREN or Rachel SYME and neither name is in any way guessable.

    Elsewhere in the grid … I just can’t seem to internalize what THIRST TRAPS are. Crossword puzzles are the only place I’ve ever seen this odd bit of internet jargon. NICEY NICE? SUPER TASTERS? These are THINGs?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Not sure about NICEY NICE but I’m a bit of a SUPERTASTER myself. Coffee and broccoli are bitter nightmares I eschew.

    • Seattle DB says:

      +1 — And I would add that the LAT is losing the audience that Rich Norris built up over the years. In my opinion, in most puzzles either the cluing has a few errors or the grid contains entries that don’t make sense to most mainstream solvers.

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