Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Jonesin' 3:48 (Derek) 


LAT 3:03 (Derek) 


NYT 3:41 (Amy) 


Universal 3:48 (Jim Q) 


WSJ 4:18 (Nate) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 445), “Front Wheel Drive”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 445: “Front Wheel Drive”

Hello there, everybody! Hope all is well as we continue to wind down the days left in 2019!

Today’s puzzle includes six wonderful theme entries, all of them starting with a word that also can precede the word “wheel.” Let’s give the wheel a spin and look at all of these entries, shall we?

  • FIFTH OF MAY (17A: [Cinco de Mayo, in English])
  • COLOR PRINTERS (22A: [Office machines that use cyan and magenta ink])
  • PIN MONEY (34A: [Cash for odds and ends])
  • BIG TEETH (42A: [What “Grandmother” had, according to Little Red Riding Hood])
  • FERRIS BUELLER (49A: [Filmdom’s high-school slacker played by Matthew Broderick])
  • WATER NYMPH (56A: [Mythic aquatic figure])

When I filled in NEUE, I thought to myself that that was also the name of a country, but then realized I was confusing it with Niue (20A: [Modern, in Bonn]).  Here is hoping you have come across our constructor’s calligraphy skills on the Crossword Nation site, so seeing LETTERING was awesome as somewhat of a nod to one of Liz’s many talents (32D: [Calligrapher’s activity]). It’s paralleling entry in the grid, UNDERTONE, was probably my favorite fill of the day (10D: [Subtle quality]). Anyone on here ever use COHAB in conversation before (22D: [Roommate, slangily])? I know I have not, outside of inputting it in a crossword, but maybe you might have used it in conversation before and I’m curious about that.

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: NICOL (35D: [“Excalibur” actor Williamson)]) – The English soccer club Liverpool FC is currently undefeated in its current Premier League season, and that development might remind many diehard fans of great Liverpool teams of the 1980s — ones that featured one of the best defenders of the time, Steve NICOL. Between 1981 and 1994, Nicol played 343 games for the Reds, helping the club to five league titles, three FA Cup titles and the Champions League title (called the European Cup) in 1984. Nicol eventually applied his soccer acumen across the pond as the head coach of the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer, ending up as the longest-tenured head coach of one team in MLS history (2002-2011).  

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

Take care!


Michael Schlossberg’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up

It’s time for another Tuesday WSJ. Let’s dive in and see if we can get “The Big Picture”:

WSJ 12.10.19 Solution

WSJ 12.10.19 Solution

17A: FINGERPRINT [Bit of crime scene evidence]
26A: COOTIE SHOT [Playground vaccination that begins “Circle, circle, dot, dot”]
39A: SPITTING IMAGE [Exact likeness]
54A: GINGER SNAP [Spicy-sweet cookie]
64A: PHOTO FINISH [Close race ending, and a hint to the answers to 17-, 26-, 39- and 54-Across]

The second half of each theme entry is a synonym for photo: print, shot, image, and snap. Nice! I appreciate that most of the themers used the photo word in an alternate use that didn’t involve a likeness at all, and I wish that SPITTING IMAGE had done the same. Otherwise, this feels like a solid theme set and fun revealer.

What I really liked about the puzzle was how fresh it felt. Not only are all the themers fun (especially COOTIE SHOT), but much of the puzzle’s fill was also vibrant and interesting, including: DADBOD, SWISHING, PATOOTIE (to match nicely with cootie!), PC GAMES (especially as clued as [Some Steam downloads]), and Amy Winehouse’s REHAB. I also appreciated the women included in the grid, like Jennifer Aniston for AVEENO, ITO Midori, MAE West, LADIES, and the late Amy Winehouse. Finally, I really liked the paired clues like [Denver elevation] for MILE paired with [Elevated verse] for ODE and also [Bit of crime scene evidence] for both FINGERPRINT and DNA. I appreciated the fun callbacks. All in all, a fun puzzle!

Eric Berlin’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 10 19, no. 1210

The theme takes three pugnacious, pugilistic phrases and clues them as if specific sorts of people at a brawl were doing those things literally:

  • 16a. [At the big brawl, the jazz musician …] CAME OUT SWINGING.
  • 36a. [At the big brawl, the hairstylist …] BOBBED AND WEAVED. Watch out, they’ve got scissors and they know how to use them.
  • 55a. [At the big brawl, the king and queen …] PUT UP THEIR DUKES. Typical of the most elite, having underlings do their dirty work.

Cute Tuesday theme.

Five things:

  • 34d. [Dippable snack item], NACHO CHIP. Are there really people who use this phrase, rather than tortilla chips? Does anyone have much use for the term in the singular?
  • 10d. [Subject of the saying “Leaves of three, let it be”], POISON IVY. It rhymes, so you know it has to be true. (This is the Johnnie Cochran postulate.)
  • 29d. [Benefiting from benzoyl peroxide, say], ACNED. That’s an ugly form of the word, isn’t it? As if it’s an identity, that person is ACNED.
  • 49d. [Period of time], SPELL. What do people do for a spell other than sit?
  • 2d. [At full speed], AMAIN. Nautical language. Eh.

Abbrevs felt rather plentiful in this 76-worder. USS NCAA RTE ADHD PGA EKG TBS UPI? Now I’ve got a hankering for a bowl of Alpha-Bits cereal.

3.25 stars from me. I liked the theme, but hoped for more smoothness in the fill.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Color Changers” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 12/10/2019

Since Matt has to come up with a puzzle weekly (and has done so for YEARS), I often think about how the brainstorming process goes. With this puzzle, it seems quite clear that this time of year has to have had at least a small role in the inspiration of this puzzle, and the idea was pulled off well. Here are the thematic entries:

  • 17A [Decorations that may change colors] LED LIGHTS 
  • 25A [Tourist draw with seasonally changing colors] FALL LEAVES
  • 37A [Mammals that completely change color depending on the time of year] SNOWSHOE HARES
  • 48A [Lizards notable for changing colors] CHAMELEONS
  • 59A [Color-changing jewelry popular in the ’70s] MOOD RINGS 

Very nicely done! Do you see what I mean in how this puzzle was likely inspired? Also, that fun face about the snowshoe hare was interesting; I may or may not have heard that before, but still a fun fact. More info found here. The result is another fun Jonesin’ puzzle. 4.6 stars.

A few more high points:

  • 1A [“The Italian Job” actor ___ Def] MOS – Wasn’t he in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well? I haven’t seen The Italian Job in a while; it is a fun movie to rewatch, and I don’t say that about a lot of movies!
  • 28A [“Cosi fan ___” (Mozart opera)] TUTTE – I can never remember if this ends in E or I!
  • 43A [Pai ___ poker (casino game)] GOW – This is another gambling game I have no idea how to play.
  • 2D [Cougar’s cousin] OCELOT – They seem like distant cousins …
  • 3D [It starts with a few digits filled in already] SUDOKU – Many of my friends think I am nuts, but I enjoy thoroughly the Cracking the Cryptic YouTube channel. They mainly solve sudoku puzzles and not cryptics, but one of their founders won the London Times crossword championship this past weekend. I wonder if he will ever find his way to Stamford? They have more than one video on American puzzles. Check it out!
  • 6D [“Straight Outta Compton” costar ___ Jackson Jr.] O’SHEA – This is Ice Cube’s son, and he played his dad in the movie, which was really good.
  • 22D [Super Bowl played at Dolphin Stadium] XLI – Another way to clue Roman numerals, but only slightly less annoying than doing math!
  • 47D [Capital of Myanmar until 2006 (formerly known as Rangoon)] YANGON – I actually knew this! I think I surprised myself!

I will stop there! Another Jonesin’ coming next week. Still closing in on puzzle #1000!

David Poole’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/10/2019

You may have to think a bit about this theme even after it is done. Here are those theme answers:

  • 20A [*Fruity adult beverage] WINE COOLER
  • 28A [*Black-spotted orange flower] TIGER LILY 
  • 38A [*Toy pistols used on stage] CAP GUNS
  • 46A [*Toy car brand] HOT WHEELS
  • 55A [Canoeing challenge whose first word can precede the start and whose second word can precede the end of the answers to starred clues] WHITE WATER 

Is the revealer clear enough? All of the themers first words can follow the word white (white winewhite tiger, etc.), and all of the second words can follow water (water cooler, water lily, etc.). Maybe a little complicated, but still a rather neat theme idea. Or maybe I am just a little slow with this one. Often when you solve quickly you have to go back and examine what the theme is, and this certainly merited a little scrutiny upon completion. But all in all, a nice Tuesday puzzle. 4.2 stars today.

A few more things:

  • 4A [Olympic swimming star Ledecky] KATIE – I don’t follow swimming closely, but I will watch if it is on, even though I cannot swim. To me, this is a household name, especially if you watch the Olympics at all. Side note: Russia was banned from the 2020 games again, so that will be interesting …
  • 64A [Orange Muppet] ERNIE – There is more than one orange Muppet!
  • 3D [Concert keyboard] GRAND PIANO – I am trying to get my sister’s grand piano to my house. Hopefully soon!
  • 12D [Like Olympic years, numerically] EVEN – Speaking of Olympics …
  • 31D [Red Square shrine] LENIN’S TOMB – I figured this would get NYT hits, and I was right. But only 3 prior uses. Excellent entry.
  • 40D [Grafton’s “__ for Noose”] N IS – I started reading these years ago, and I think I only got to D or so. I think I will invest in these for my Kindle!
  • 43D [“80’s Ladies” country singer] KT OSLIN – Surprisingly, this also only has three NYT hits. I would have thought this was more, but usually the entry is just OSLIN
  • 51D [“Ni-i-ice!”] “SWEET!” – This made me smile. Not sure why! Maybe because I say this a lot!

Everyone have a great week!

Steve Mossberg’s Universal crossword, “Jobs for Superchef”—Jim Q’s review

If Tom Cruise were a cook in that movie franchise of his…

THEME: Common food phrases reimagined as if they’re a mission


  • Universal crossword solution · Steve Mossberg · “Jobs for Superchef” · Tue., 12.10.19

    18A [Location: Omelet station; Mission: ___ that are too runny] FIX SOME EGGS. 

  • 24A [Location: Deli; Mission: ___ that smells off] CURE PASTRAMI.
  • 38A [Location: Olive Garden; Mission: ___ from their baskets] FREE BREADSTICKS. 
  • 47A [Location: Domino’s; Mission: ___ from the fiery oven] DELIVER PIZZA. 
  • 58A [Location: Bar; Mission: ___ whose liquor is spoiled] NURSE A DRINK. 

Three of the five of these work really well. One feels a bit off. And one feels just plain wrong. The latter is CURE PASTRAMI. That’s definitely not a stand alone phrase that I’m familiar with. And Googling it in quotes yields a mere 482 hits. CURE(D) PASTRAMI does a bit better at over 20,000 hits. FIX SOME EGGS, FREE BREADSTICKS, and NURSE A DRINK, on the other hand, all make sense as stand-alones. DELIVER PIZZA feels weird too. I think PIZZA DELIVERY sounds more in-language.

Fill is fine here… no major stumbling blocks… though in my English class I try to dispel the myth that a HAIKU must be 17 syllables.

I mostly liked this, but those two rather forced entries left a bad taste.

2.9 Stars from me.

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10 Responses to Tuesday, December 10, 2019

  1. RSP64 says:

    NYT – I don’t understand how benefitting from benzoyl peroxide means ACNED. That is medication to treat acne, so wouldn’t the beneficiary be UNACNED?

  2. da kine says:

    Someone should review USA Today. It appears Erik Agard has taken over as editor and primary constructor and it has been pretty excellent of late.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      We mostly review puzzles that are available in .puz format. It’ll probably take a while before USA Today has that option, if they ever have it.

  3. Noam D. Elkies says:

    NYT — about the right difficulty level to enjoy Downs-only solving: I was able to guess the theme from two examples and use it to guess the third (though I couldn’t quite fill every square without “cheating” by consulting a few Across clues at the end).

    I mentioned here already that I’m surprised that 23D:”MUMBO-jumbo” has not yet been deprecated despite its origin in religious, racial, and gender stereotypes. In the present case, it could have been MAMBO, switching out the abbreviation 28A:USS to ASS. It might be that this is what Eric Berlin submitted but Shortz drew the line at having ASS and ARSE in the same line . . .

    29D:ACNED is ungainly, but is it any more of an “identity” than say INJURED? 49D:SPELLs are not just for sitting — Merriam-Webster’s examples are “waited a spell” and “did a spell in prison”, and there’s also “a spell of bad weather”. Still on a Tuesday it might have been clued via Harry Potter or the Bee activity.


  4. sanfranman59 says:

    WSJ … Nice puzzle, but just imagine the uproar were “mom bod” ever to appear in print.

  5. Noam D. Elkies says:

    Also NYT has a rare(?) French-accent clash between the Ê of 26D:FÊTES and the É of 30A:NÉE. (It’s common for Ê, É, or È to cross plain E, and likewise Ñ/N etc.; sometimes the constructor achieves a felicitous crossing of two words with the same accented letter. I may have seen an earlier funny crossing between differently accented E’s, but I don’t remember it, and it’s not easy to search the archives for such an effect.)


  6. Zulema says:

    I was happy to see Eric Berlin’s name. Maybe it has been there and I missed it. He goes back a long way to the earliest version of our NYT crossword comments, whatever we called them then that right this minute escapes me. I am glad to come across his name again.

  7. More says:

    Ohhhh road trips! Totally agree that food always tastes so much better when it’s packed for a road trip! Hope you’re having a nice time ?

  8. whiskey says:

    This pretty good post :)

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