Wednesday, December 21, 2016

AV Club 8:46 (Ben) 


CS 7:12 (Ade) 


LAT 3:30 (Gareth) 


NYT 6:30 (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim) 


Seth Geltman and Jeff Chen’s New York Times crossword—Jenni’s write-up

This took me nearly twice as long as last week’s. It did not play like a Tuesday puzzle for me at all. For one thing, I actually needed the revealer to get the theme; once I figured that out, it fell into place pretty quickly.

The revealer is down at 61a [“Shoot for the moon!” … or a hint to interpreting the clues to 17-, 25-, 35- and 51-Across]. Each of the theme clues is written in all caps, which is part of the theme as well. The answer to 61a is THINK BIG. If we add “big” in front of each theme clue, it all makes sense.

  • NYT 12/21 puzzle, solution grid

    17a [HOUSE] = CLINK (big house).

  • 25a [APPLE] = NEW YORK CITY (big apple).
  • 35a [MAC] = HAMBURGER (Big Mac).
  • 51a [CHEESE] = GRAND POOBAH (big cheese).

Seems like there should be something to say about big apple/Mac and hamburger/big cheese, but I got nothing.

I like the theme; it’s fresh and consistent and all the original phrases are in the language. The fill, however, does not feel Tuesday-ish to me.

  • 19a [Hemingway who wrote “Out Came the Sun”] is MARIEL, which is not what she’s best known for.
  • 10d [Golden] = AURIC, a Maleska-worthy word that does not belong in a Tuesday puzzle.
  • 39a [“I learned to be a movie critic by reading ___ magazine”: Roger Ebert] is an interesting factoid, and an original way to clue a common three-letter word (MAD) but is also obscure.
  • 32d [Be alongside] is ABUT ON, which is just awkward.

Liked the theme, didn’t care much for the fill. It’s got a decent beat but I can’t dance to it.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: Roger Ebert and MAD Magazine. I also didn’t know that WWE RAW debuted in 1993.

Edited to add: as several people have already pointed out, this is a Wednesday puzzle, not a Tuesday puzzle. Mea culpa. I still think the fill was a bit obscure.

Celia Smith’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Deck the Halls” — Jim’s review

Christmas puns! Specifically those having to do with decorations.

WSJ – Wed, 12.21.16 – “Deck the Halls” by Celia Smith (Mike Shenk)

  • 20a [Miniature Christmas decoration?] PEE-WEE WREATH. “Pee Wee” Reese.
  • 28a [Association responsible for setting up nativity scenes?] MANGER LEAGUE. Major league.
  • 43a [Front yard, for some Christmas decorators?] SNOWMAN’S LAND. No man’s land.
  • 51a [How to Create a Nativity Scene 101?] CRECHE COURSE. Crash course.

There is some inconsistency in that two themers are related to nativity scenes while the other two are not. I do like the presence of the word “CRECHE” which you don’t see too often. Overall, the puns aren’t bad and they work. And the clues aren’t without humor.

There isn’t a lot of non-theme fill to highlight except for CATWOMAN and HEATHEN, both of which make a nice counterpoint to all the Christmassy clues and entries (which I won’t list). Some of the other longer entries are rather bland (MADE UP TO and SMARTER). And in general, clues were rather staid throughout, so I didn’t feel a lot of joy during the solve.

Just a couple clues of note:

  • Got a bit stuck with 32a [Cosmetics brand pitched by Carrie Underwood]. I was thinking Camay, but it’s actually ALMAY. Camay is just a soap.
  • I’m not too keen on 24a THE ACT clued as [1977 show for which Liza won a Tony]. That’s digging deep for a pretty generic title. I think I’d prefer something along the lines of [Something you don’t want to be caught in].

Overall, a serviceable theme, but not a lot of excitement beyond it.

Patrick Jordan’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post Crossword, “Piano Composition” —Ade’s write-up

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 12.21.16: “Piano Composition”

Good morning, everyone! Today’s crossword is from our Piano Man for the day, Mr. Patrick Jordan. In the grid, the first word in each of the two-word theme entries also happens to be, when standing alone, a part of the makeup of a piano.

  • KEY CONCEPT (17A: [Core idea])
  • STRING BIKINI (27A: [Daring beachwear])
  • PEDAL PUSHERS (45A: [Calf-length trousers])
  • HAMMER MILL (60A: [Rock-crushing contraption])

Though probably unintended, I liked how SHARP was placed on top of the “key” portion of “key concept,” giving the grid even more of a musical feel to it in some respect (14A: [Freshly honed]). Well, it’s supposed to reach almost 50 degrees in the next couple of days, so whatever COLD FRONT is featured isn’t going to hit us as roughly as it has in the past few days, even though winter officially starts today (36D: [Wintry weather map feature]). Those two entries mentioned were probably the highlights for me today in solving, along with the mixed reaction that I always had when I saw the pejorative phrase of JACKO in newspapers and tabloids (34A: [“Thriller” singer, in tabloids]). Time for a quick power nap before getting ready to really start the day in earnest.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: RILEY (51D: [Colloquial carefree guy]) – One of the best coaches in NBA history, former player Pat RILEY is currently the team president of the Miami Heat, a team he coached to its first NBA championship in 2006. Prior to that, Riley is most known for his time as both a player and a coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning the NBA title in 1972 as a player with the Lakers, then winning four titles as the team’s head coach (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988).

Thank you for the time once again, and enjoy the first day of winter! See you tomorrow!

Take care!


Ron Toth and C.C. Burnikel’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s write-up

LA Times

The theme is basic in concept – FAIRGAME mean, somehow, that theme answers begin with words that can be completed by “___ FAIR”. FAIRTRADE and TRADEFAIR are both phrases, so I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to apply this the wrong way first.

The authors have opted to cram the puzzle with fill, to make up for the broadly-defined theme. Two pairs cross; (FAIR)TRADEBARBS and (FAIR)DEALMEIN are opposite (FAIR)TRIALOFFER and the revealer. The remaining vertical pair are (FAIR)BALLOFFIRE and (FAIR)PLAYPOSSUM.

Unsurprisingly, the rest of the puzzle is mostly short, functional answers. For the Collectibles & Art Website, I tried EtsY first, but I think that would be the whole website in that case! [Chaotic mess], SNAFU has a covert F-bomb, which may jar some. I don’t know my MMA people, but I appreciate [Mixed martial artist Holly], HOLM being there, recognizing the event’s exploding popularity.

2.75 Stars

Byron Walden’s AVCX crossword, “Social Contract” — Ben’s Review

Social Contract

Happy holidays, all!  Hope your travels are safe and your gatherings are a little better than the one painted in today’s AVCX by Byron Walden.  Let’s take a look at the wordplay going on into the theme entries:

  • 23A: Predictions for the family holiday gathering: As usual, my brother’s gonna give everyone a hard time …– HE’LL HOUND
  • 29A:… yours truly’s gonna try to play the peacemaker …– I’LL TEMPER
  • 35A:… grandma’s gonna say lots of inappropriate things …– SHE’LL SHOCK
  • 45A:… but somehow everyone’s gonna find a way to get through it — WE’LL DRINK
  • 50A: What the AVCX hopes our pagan (and any other!) solvers will enjoy this season … and a homophonic prediction about the reaction to completing this puzzle — YULE CHEER

I can’t say I cheered, but I did really dig this puzzle’s theme.  Hopefully you did too.  Happy holidays, all!

4/5 stars

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16 Responses to Wednesday, December 21, 2016

  1. Jason Mueller says:

    What’s wrong with Auric? It was Bond villain Goldfinger’s first name. Also, gold’s chemical symbol is Au.

  2. David says:

    Makes sense that it doesn’t feel like a Tuesday, since it’s Wednesday.

  3. Jacksone says:

    Peewee Wreath made me chuckle.

    Jeff Chen and crew always make a creative puzzle.

  4. Bruce N Morton says:

    I found the whole top (North) surprisingly difficult even for a Wednesday — (I won’t make some joke about its being a Thursday, after all. :-) I don’t suppose anyone would have liked “auric” any better if it had been clued to the French composer Georges Auric. . . .

  5. huda says:

    NYT: I agree that the theme was very nice but the fill was not. It’s a lot of vague abbreviated stuff intersecting other obscure stuff, especially up north…
    I have met Mariel Hemingway at a luncheon when she was discussing this book, and found her to be great– extremely approachable, gracious and thoughtful. The title of that book is a nice riff on her grandfather’s title… What a legacy that family has, both in terms of raw talent, and in the burden of depression and suicide.

  6. Mark McClain says:

    Unrelated to today’s puzzles, but I noticed when you click HOME or when you enter in the address bar it doesn’t take you to today’s puzzles as (I think) it’s supposed to.

    • Hibob says:

      Me too. I can’t even get to the home page any more from my laptop. It keeps redirecting me to the “/blog” error page.

    • pannonica says:

      Mark, you need to clear your cache.

      Both of you may need to edit your bookmarks (if you have them), and delete those “…/blog/” auto-complete selections from your browser. In Chrome, you highlight the unwanted entity in the drop-down box and press SHIFT–DEL. For other browsers there are equivalent key combinations.

    • pannonica says:

      The “Today’s Puzzles” tab has a URL of

      What you should see when you go to plain old is unexpanded versions of the most recent seven posts.

      • Jacksoon says:

        Landed on a post from 2009 the other day!! Think I changed the URL in my bookmark and all is well.

        So we’ve got some new post icons or is that a glitch? Like the penguins.

        • pannonica says:

          Nope, that’s your personal Gravatar. The assigned ones (based on IP?) are still those rastery doodle-monsters. Doodly raster-monsters?

          • Jacksain says:

            Then some glitch occurred somewhere because I never assigned myself a penguin avatar anywhere at anytime.
            I didn’t even know what a Gravatar was until I read your reply and looked it up.

  7. JohnH says:

    Perhaps I just missed them, but I hadn’t spotted any comments on the Sunday Times special section of just puzzles, quite a few of them, so I thought I’d mention it. I have the weekend paper delivered and don’t know if the puzzles appeared for puzzle subscribers online.

    A large variety, and I’m working too many too soon out of obsessiveness. The cryptic (of course, my fave) is harder than the Times average cryptic. I haven’t yet begun a “Scandanavian” style puzzle, with the clues in what we’d consider black spaces rather than apart from the diagram, but it’s going to be hard, as that constraint means smaller type than I can read. (They should have compensated.) All sorts of other things, too.

Comments are closed.