Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Jonesin' 3:25 (Derek) 


LAT 3:45 (Derek) 


NYT 3:40 (Amy) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


WSJ 5:23 (Nate) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 444), “Tasmania!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 444: “Tasmania!”

Hello there, everyone! Welcome to the final 30 or so days of 2019!

Today’s puzzle made me think about the people who made life easier on me while in college more than any group of people during my times freezing in Central New York: teaching assistants, or TAS (34A: [Prof’s helpers…or a hint to the puzzle theme]). In the puzzle, the four longest entries all are three-word answers with a T___ A___ S___ pattern.

  • THE ARAB SPRING (15A: [Series of uprisings that affected North Africa and the Middle East beginning in 2010])
  • TAKES A SNOOZE (26A: [Goes out in the afternoon?])
  • TIM ALLEN SHOW (41A: [TV’s “Last Man Standing” or “Home Improvement,” e.g.])
  • TWIST AND SHOUT (52A: [Beatles hit that begins “Well, shake it up, baby, now”]) – Anyone else have Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in your head right now?

I totally am out of the loop when it comes to network sitcoms, but I’m guessing the CBS show Young SHELDON is a spin-off to Big Bang Theory and the kid who plays the role is just the younger Jim Parsons/Sheldon (39D: [“Big Bang Theory” character with an IQ of 187]). Outside of seeing all of the red “BAZINGA!” shirts people wear and that former Blossom star Mayam Bialik (a.k.a. one of my first crushes) is part of the case, I really don’t have any knowledge of those shows. The intersection of SBA (46A: [Org. that aids new entrepreneurs]) and BOULE almost got me, as it took running through the alphabet before being somewhat comfortable in putting down the “B” (47D: [French gambling game similar to roulette]). Now that it’s Cyber Monday and that I just finished this puzzle, I’m going to go online shopping to see if there are any deals on ERGONOMIC chairs, as I definitely miss having one of those when I was at my former place of employment (12D: [Like a good office chair, perhaps]). For real, I miss having one of those chairs for my own!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: LSU (24D: [Baton Rouge sch.)]) – It is looking for all the world that college sports’ most-famous individual award will be heading down to the Bayou for only the second time. LSU senior quarterback Joe Burrow is the frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy in 2019, this after one of the great seasons by a signal-caller in modern college football history. Currently, Burrow is completing an astounding 78.3 percent of his passes (which would shatter the previous record for best completion percentage in a single season) while throwing 44 touchdowns to just six interceptions. When the awarding of the Heisman becomes official on Dec. 14, Burrow will become just the second LSU athlete to win the award, joining Billy Cannon all the way back in 1959. This past Saturday, Burrow, an Ohio native, showed his love for the people in the Pelican State by Cajun-izing the end of his last name on the jersey he wore when being introduced to the fans for Senior Night. As they say it (and spell it) down in that area, Geaux Tigers!

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Amanda Rafkin’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up

I’m excited to see Amanda’s name on the byline and doubly pleased that I get to review the puzzle. Amanda and I have become SoCal friends – she is hilarious, wildly smart, and incredibly kind. She has had many co-constructs with Ross Trudeau lately, but this is one of her first solo puzzles (with many more to come!). Let’s see what “Stages of Change” she has in store for us:

WSJ 12.3.19 Solution

WSJ 12.3.19 Solution

17A: SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW [“Well, that’s unsurprising”]
28A: FERTILE CRESCENT [Cradle of civilization]
43A: TOO CLEVER BY HALF [Irritatingly confident of one’s own intelligence]
56A: PLEASE PAY IN FULL [Request on a bill]
33A: ITS JUST A PHASE [Parental comment about a teen’s rebelliousness, and a hint to the last words of the starred clues]

Each of the themers ends with a phase of the moon (new, crescent, half, full), and these “Stages of Change” are also in chronological order. Nicely done! Clearly all 8ish phases of the full moon cycle can’t fit in a puzzle like this (and many would be redundant), so I appreciate that she hit the highlights and took care to order them. One of my other favorite things about this theme set, which is true of many of Amanda Rafkin’s puzzles, is that it features many long, grid-spanning entries while not sacrificing the fill. SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW is particularly crisp and fresh.

Even if I didn’t see Amanda’s byline, do you know how I could be reasonably certain this puzzle had been written by a woman? It included IUDS, ELLE, and OVULES in the same puzzle. I’m here for it! I also liked TWERK, JOLT, and ELLIE Kemper, and I was glad to see her sneak in LES Miserables and Damon RUNYON (she’s a musical theater nerd). I wasn’t keen on A NO and A NET in the same puzzle and had to get the CDR and LTS officers by the crossings, but those are small potatoes compared to how much I otherwise enjoyed the puzzle. Gold stars!

Ed Sessa’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

The theme revealer is 62a. [With 64-Across, performer who is like the words sounded out at the starts of the answers to the four starred clues], VOICE / ACTOR. Those four entries begin with homophones of “heard but not seen”:

New York Times, December 3, 2019, #1203, Ed Sessa, solution grid

  • 20a. [*Inclination to follow the majority], HERD INSTINCT. Good phrase. Would have preferred the crucial HERD IMMUNITY here.
  • 32a. [*Phones inadvertently], BUTT-DIALS. Good phrase.
  • 43a. [*Boy Scout handbook topic], KNOT TYING. Meh.
  • 55a. [*One upstaging a star, say], SCENE-STEALER. Good phrase.

Revealer clue is awkward. That voice actor is not at all “like the words.”

In the “why would you foist this vocab on Tuesday newbies?” category, we have SRO, ALB (!), A SOU, Latin AVE, ONE L, STOAT (!), and ELAND, plus some other foreign words.

In today’s cruciverbal Bechdel analysis, it’s looking grim. Bart STARR, Prince Harry, Boy Scouts, a KEN doll, SHAHS, ASTRO, LENIN, Fort BRAGG (named after a Confederate army dude), Chopin, two male TOONS, SPORTSMEN, ABES, Bush/ALITO, and FRERE Jacques go up against the much shorter list of Eva PERON/Madonna, DIANA (clued by her relationship to a man), a generic SIBYL, AVA DuVernay, and NIA Long. Two more men (both African American) make an appearance, too: HOSEA Williams and LESTER Holt.

Three more things:

  • 6d. [Punctuation that may mean “or”], SLASH MARK. No! It’s just a slash, people. A SLASH MARK is … an intentional cut in a car tire. A stab wound. It ain’t the name of a punctuation mark.
  • 58a. [On and on and on …], AD NAUSEAM. That reminds me of a song! 1977, Steven Bishop, classic soft rock.
  • 47a. [Soak one’s bib], DROOL. If only lobster bibs were drool-absorbent.


3.25 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Save IT Till the End” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 12/03/2019

This is another puzzle that I’ll bet the brainstorming process was a lot of fun!

  • 17A [Salad ingredient that’s fuzzy on the outside] KIWI FRUIT 
  • 25A [Much of Mongolia] GOBI DESERT
  • 38A [Busy spot for Finnish travel] HELSINKI AIRPORT
  • 48A [Obi-Wan or Luke, e.g.] JEDI KNIGHT 
  • 61A [Dwyane Wade’s team for most of his career] MIAMI HEAT 

So we have all of the theme entries being two words that the first ends in I, and the second with T. What is the name for the last letter of a word? The first letter is the initial; is it just final? Maybe I am overthinking it. Anyway, I couldn’t think of any other instances of this, but I am a little sleepy. Can you? 4.4 stars for the latest Jonesin’

Some more fun stuff:

  • 44A [“I have ___ / the plums …” (poem line spoofed in memes)] EATEN – I Googled this, and it evidently is a thing. Why don’t I know anything about these? Oh yes: I am hardly ever on social media!
  • 67A [“Evil Dead” hero] ASH – I know Bruce Campbell much better from Burn Notice. I don’t care for horror movies.
  • 6D [“Lord of the Rings” villain] SAURON – I believe you.
  • 10D [“The Last of the Mohicans” character] UNCAS – This is slightly obscure, but I think I actually did remember this. I haven’t read this book in 40 years.
  • 29D [Acronymic 1992 single by The Shamen (from “Boss Drum”)] LSI – I believe you!
  • 37D [___ Dew (PepsiCo product)] MTN – These cans used to actually say “Mountain” on them. I am getting old …
  • 40D [Welsh stand-up comedian Pritchard-McLean] KIRI – Who? Well, she can’t be any less obscure than the opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa, but somehow I know who she is.
  • 45D [Evil computer system in “The Terminator”] SKYNET – I haven’t seen these movies in forever either. I may watch the newest one once it is free somewhere!
  • 62D [“Last Week Tonight” airer] HBO – If you don’t watch this show, why don’t you??

That is all!

Robert E. Lee Morris’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/03/2019

This puzzle should make you feel smarter!

  • 17A [Optimistic viewpoint to “look on”] BRIGHT SIDE
  • 39A [Know-it-all] WISEGUY
  • 58A [Samsung product] SMART PHONE 
  • 11D [Hothead’s trait] QUICK TEMPER
  • 24D [Wicked wit] SHARP TONGUE 

Nicely done. The idea here, I would think to have these synonyms for “smart” all used in a way that doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing. I think this was accomplished; “WISEGUY” in this sense basically means a smart-aleck, so I think it works. Clever enough for a Tuesday, that’s for sure! 4.3 stars today.

Just a few more things:

  • 15A [Like much snack food] SALTY – And fast food! But you DO need salt on
  • 27D [Jeremy Irons film based on a Christopher Paolini fantasy novel] ERAGON – Never seen it. Wasn’t this a book as well?
  • 53D [Roman queen of the gods] JUNO – Why did I think this was male? I think I am confusing this with Janus!
  • 59D [Humanities degs.] MAS – Masters of the Arts, I believe?

Have a great week!

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10 Responses to Tuesday, December 3, 2019

  1. RSP64 says:

    NYT – Am I the only one who is not familiar with HERD INSTINCT? The phrase I’m familiar with is “herd mentality” and that didn’t fit.

  2. CC says:

    NYT: Though awkward, the revealer does make sense, right? “Like the words sounded out at the starts of the answers…”? Which equals “heard but not seen?” Rex had the same gripe: they’re like the phrase made by the words, not the words themselves. Frankly, it’s splitting hairs. I get it, you get it, and I’m sure even a novice attempting a Tuesday would get it. I mean, “performer who, while at work, may be described by a phrase that sounds like the starts of the answers…” is even clunkier though more descriptive. But I think the revealer is grammatically/directionally inferable. Inelegant, but but inferable.

  3. RunawayPancake says:

    WSJ – According to this article, it’s astronomically incorrect to refer to a half moon.

    Astronomers recognize four primary moon phases (new, first quarter, full, last quarter) and four interstitial phases (waxing crescent, waxing gibbous, waning gibbous waning crescent). Notice … no half moon.

    • PJ says:

      Yes, that is the case. It makes identifying the quarter (half) moons unambiguous. By that logic full moon becomes inaccurate. We have the midpoint of a fourteen day trip from new moon to full moon being a quarter.

      It’s best not to think about these things. Just enjoy the moon.

      • RunawayPancake says:

        Agreed. According to the same article, “The process of naming things in astronomy isn’t always logical.”

  4. M483 says:

    You all have permission to make fun of my thought process for the Jonesin’ puzzle. After finishing, I took a quick look at the themers and immediately decided they were about things consumed at the end of the meal – fruit, desert, port…. wait – what are those last 2? Wait…that’s the wrong spelling for dessert! As I said, I had already decided what the theme was and just would not consider anything else! Had to look at the review to find out how far off I was. Silly me.

  5. jj says:

    If you pop in a movie from, say, 1978-1982, and it features an original song, there’s about a 70% chance that it was sung by Stephen Bishop. Two in particular stand out from this era: Bishop cameoing (as himself, apparently) as the guy whose guitar gets smashed by John Belushi in “Animal House,” and the theme song to “The China Syndrome,” which is the *only* music in that entire movie – zero background music save a Bishop ballad over the opening credits. “On and On” is a good one, though – thanks for evoking that memory.

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