Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Jonesin' 4:01 (Derek) 


LAT 3:23 (Derek) 


NYT 3:41 (Amy) 


Universal (hours of observation) (Jim Q) 


WSJ 5:47 (Nate) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 446), “Snow Job”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 446: “Snow Job”

Good day, everybody! Exactly two weeks left until we put an end to 2019!

With snow in the forecast in a number of places at the moment, it is time to prepare yourself for it by, among other things, throwing out the rock salt to melt the flurries. Today’s grid literally spreads out the salt, with four letters in each of the 15-letter themed entries circled and, eventually, spelling out SALT (70A: [___ spreader (snow-melting equipment…and the puzzle’s theme!)

  • LOUISA MAY ALCOTT (17A: [“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain” writer])
  • ASK ME AGAIN LATER (23A: [Indecisive answer])
  • SWEATING BULLETS (38A: [Nervous as heck])
  • RUSSIAN ALPHABET (52A: [Moscow kindergarten lesson])
  • ASPARAGUS OMELET (62A: [Egg-and-veggie brunch dish])

Any white sauce and/or dressing, whether its mayonnaise or tzatziki or anything else of that color, does not agree with me at all for some reason, though I have yet to try BÉCHAMEL (10D: [Versatile white sauce]). Given that previous sentence, however, don’t think I’m going to have it on a dish of mine anytime soon. Love learning new things, and getting to know the name ALOIS, as well as now knowing that the name of the disease is an eponym, was interesting to come across today (2D: [Dr. Alzheimer’s first name]). That (Alois) wasn’t too, too hard of an answer to get and be comfortable with since I finally have BILGE down pat and I remembered it in time for future crossword solving experiences (20A: [Hogwash]). Liked the fill of HEY KID, with it very eye-catching and, still to this day, very prominent in its usage (8D: [Oldster’s call to a youngster])

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: VET (35D: [Animal doc)]) – In contrast to the state-of-the-art stadiums with all the bells and whistles that have been built over the past couple of decades, many sports stadiums that were built in the early 1970s were so-called “cookie cutters,” circular in structure and ideal for hosting multiple sports/tenants. Probably the most (in)famous of those arenas built back then was Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia — known colloquially as The Vet — home to the Eagles (NFL) and Phillies (MLB) from 1971 until 2003. Many memorable Eagles and Phillies teams took the field during that stretch, but the stadium was mostly remembered for its dangerous and uneven Astroturf playing surface and the presence of unruly fans, so unruly in fact that there was an in-stadium courthouse installed inside of it for Eagles games during the 1990s. Judge and all. Overall, I love Philly fans, and they get somewhat of a bad reputation. But some are indeed off the rails! :-)

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

Take care!


David Levinson Wilk’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 17 19, no. 1217

Cool theme. Five familiar phrases that start with ___less words are clued via apt phrases that can have the letters in those ___ words deleted from them:

  • 17a. [_xygen _iflu_ _ide], ODORLESS GAS. The blank spaces take O, D, O, R out of oxygen difluoride. However! That particular gas has a smell that is “peculiar, foul,” Wikipedia tells me. Is there an odorless gas with O, D, O, R in order?
  • 22a. [_ax_ d_iv_r], TIRELESS WORKER, taxi driver.
  • 36a. [R_od_ Isl_n_ Red], HEADLESS CHICKEN, Rhode Island Red.
  • 46a. [_ranklin D_l_no _oosevelt], FEARLESS LEADER, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Nice one!
  • 54a. [_ _rr_e_], HAIRLESS DOG, harrier. I tried terrier and TEIR first, but that went nowhere. I only know of harriers via the running/drinking group called Chicago Hash House Harriers and old sports headlines about cross country events. And the jet. There’s also a bird. And yes, there’s a dog. Not too well known in the US, I don’t think.

Five more things from the puzzle:

  • 28a. [Awesomely tough], BADASS. Love it.
  • 33a. [Caution in a school zone], SLO. Uh, no. The signs might include the word SLOW or they might just say SCHOOL SPEED LIMIT 20 when children are present. I did a Google image search and only saw signs with the correctly spelled word.
  • 32d. [Browser option], MSN. Not keen on this clue, which means “one of billions of website options that’s available within a browser” rather than “one option if you’re choosing a browser to use.” Unless there is some browser called MSN that I’ve never heard of?
  • 43d. [Without which earth is just “eh”?], ART. Quasi-cryptic clue, removing the E and H from EARTH to leave ART. I hadn’t even seen this clue when solving—that’s one advantage of blogging a puzzle, you really dig into it more.
  • 47d. [Word derived from the Japanese for “picture writing”], EMOJI. Yep, nothing to do with emotion or emoticon.

Four stars from me, and here’s Sam Cooke to play us out.


Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up

Ross Trudeau has been so fantastic with collaboratively constructed puzzles, that I was secretly hoping “Two-Part Harmony” might be one of them! All the same, let’s dig in:

WSJ 12.17.19 Solution

WSJ 12.17.19 Solution

17A: FRANK DISCUSSION [Heart-to-heart]
23A: ONE AFTER ANOTHER [Back-to-back]
39A: RESCUE BREATHING [Mouth-to-mouth]
51A: WORKING TOGETHER [Shoulder-to-shoulder]
62A: IN PERSON MEETING [Face-to-face]

Wow! This puzzle includes five 15-letter theme entries in a way that doesn’t make the rest of the puzzle’s fill garbage (when the worst the puzzle has to offer is ELIDE MYOPE LIBRAN, you’re in a good spot!). And, I love the consistency of the [Body part-to-body part] clues that reference specific American English idioms. If they were the correct numbers of letters, I could see switching the clues and fill for the theme entries, but I absolutely understand why Ross approached this grid the way he did. It was an enjoyable solve for me!

A few other thoughts:
– Will we ever be able to clue 13A OOP as [“And I ___!”]? It was, after all, the gif of the year for 2019!
– [Cry to avoid a green bean?] for FORE is wonderful cluing! 58A [Befitting a queen] for REGAL is also a great example of more inclusive cluing!
– It was nice to see FUBU and both MELs of the Spice Girls in the grid!
– Having [Belt setting] WAIST in the puzzle at this time in the holiday season feels hilarious and cruel (this writer says as he shoves holiday snacks into his mouth!). : )

Jim Holland’s Universal crossword, “Vehicle Trailers”—Jim Q’s review

With the anticipation of a snow day, my friend came over last night- a novice solver- and was determined to solve this puzzle sans help from me. It was very difficult to stay mum, but she hacked her way through most of it over the course of a couple hours, only asking toward the end for a couple of nudges. It was interesting to realize how much crosswordese is in a grid that I’d consider relatively clean, like this one.

THEME: Words/phrases that have types of vehicles at their ends.

Universal crossword solution · Jim Holland · “Vehicle Trailers” · Tue., 12.17.19


  • 17A [African island country] MADAGASCAR
  • 27A [Course outline] SYLLABUS
  • 47A [Soft leather] CORDOVAN
  • 62A [1987 Cher film] MOONSTRUCK
  • 10D [With 43-Down, what you need to operate the ends of 17-, 27-, 47- and 62-Across] DRIVER’S LICENSE. 

Things that I wouldn’t think twice about tripped up my guest solver. Those included YEMEN, T-BAR, DYER, SRO, ACT IV, CELS, EKED, PEALS, TOREROS, AYES, and BOON (amongst others). Maybe SRO and EKED strike me as solidly crosswordese. Perhaps DYER too. But to her, a lot of these words made her look a little sideways at the puzzle.

Also, it was difficult for her to decipher what the revealer clue was asking for. Still, she enjoyed, especially when I helped to explain the theme after she’d uncovered a couple. There was that AHA moment, and she was able to infer the VAN and TRUCK endings.

ALLUVIAL and CORDOVAN were two entries that were new for both of us.

Overall, I think the puzzle was able to spark interest in a new solver. And I definitely enjoyed the ride, no matter how hard to sit on my hands and not fill it in!

3.8 Stars.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Alphabet Run” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 12/17/2019

How many phrases can YOU think of that have the consecutive letters MNOP in them?

  • 20A [Comment about a loud blockbuster after thinking it was a Chaplin movie?] “SILENT FILM? NOPE!”
  • 36A [Phrase you won’t hear from me or other solvers?] I’M NO PUZZLER!”
  • 55A [Like the most lenient newspaper ever?] COLUMN OPTIONAL

Yeah, I can’t think of any more either! But I am tired; didn’t sleep well this weekend but was out for 10 hours last night. I feel like I still haven’t woke up! Again, this evokes for me a great mental image of a great brainstorming session! 4.4 stars today.

A couple of things:

  • 24A [“Nailed It!” host Nicole] BYER – Easily the obscure-pop-culture-reference of the week! This is a Netflix show. That I have not seen yet.
  • 63A [Home-___ (local athlete)] TEAMER – I tried TOWNER in here at first. Which led to issues.
  • 8D [“A Streetcar Named Desire” shout] STELLA – Speaking of Stella, Stella Zawistowski has a trivia puzzle in the NYT Puzzlemania section. Great job by my favorite Stella! (Full disclosure: I only know ONE person named Stella!)
  • 11D [2020, for one] LEAP YEAR – It is, isn’t it? Anybody pregnant with a due date around February 29?
  • 39D [10% of MXX] CII – This is at least a Roman numeral clue with easy math!

That’s all for now!

Bruce Venzke & Gail Grabowski’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/17/2019

This is the first LAT Tuesday I have done in quite a while that has no revealer! It does have circles, though:

  • 17A [Very exciting episode] HIGH DRAMA
  • 26A [One doing the play-by-play] SPORTS ANNOUNCER
  • 44A [Stand-up comic who is a recurring panelist on “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me”] PAULA POUNDSTONE
  • 60A [Subject of the 2019 biopic “Rocketman”] ELTON JOHN

I told you it wasn’t complicated. All of these units of weight are hidden nicely in another word, although POUNDSTONE may be a little less hidden; I doubt there is another option for this though. On the positive side, there are in order from lightest to heaviest! Well done. 4.2 stars from me.

Just a few more things:

  • 1A [Spanish kiss] BESO – So that famous song Eso Beso song means “That Kiss.” I don’t think I knew this …
  • 21A [Responding to an Evite] RSVP-ING – Is this really a verb??
  • 1D [__ Men: “Who Let the Dogs Out” band] BAHA – Rex Parker was complaining about this clue on Twitter. I think it is fair; I just can’t remember if it has an H or a J!
  • 29D [Color TV pioneer] RCA – I wonder what the color TV inventors would think of the flat screens they have today?
  • 52D [“Choose-A-Sheet” paper towels brand] VIVA – Much better clue than a song reference, which is usually a Coldplay song or a Ricky Martin song!
  • 55D [Kept the party hopping, for short] DJ-ED – Another quasi-verb!

Have a great week!

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16 Responses to Tuesday, December 17, 2019

  1. Mark Abe says:

    NYT was cute, and I liked the idea that the man who said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” would be called “Fearless Leader”,
    I did an image search for “Rhode Island Red” and they all had heads attached. In what sense are these “Headless”?

    It also occurs to me that a taxi driver whose vehicle were tire-less would not be able to work.

    • RM Camp says:

      The clue is for a headless chicken, not that Rhode Island Reds aren’t all headless, per se. Dunno what kind of chicken Mike the Headless Chicken was.

      [edit] Aw buttz, didn’t see your other comment there

    • marciem says:

      NYT: I have the same problem with the Taxidriver/Tireless worker… If a taxi (driver) is tireless, how is he getting around? (Similar to odorless gas that smells bad…???). Just didn’t work for me as well as the others (not knowing that the gas in question smelled, I was going with the clue)

      • Ethan Friedman says:

        The ODOR was removed from the gas, so it no longer smelled. That was how I interpreted it at any rate.

  2. Mark Abe says:

    My bad – I checked the NYT “Word Play” column and realized the “less” referred to the CLUEs! That is, the clue for “Rhode Island Red” is that it is a chicken, but the word “Head” has been removed, etc..
    So… “Never Mind” as they say on SNL.

  3. Scott says:

    I had parsed TAX-ID-RIVER which makes no sense. After reading this blog, I get it. Thanks.

  4. RM Camp says:

    NYT: There used to be a browser called MSN Explorer (along with MSN Messenger), back around when AOL had an integrated browser. Can’t remember if their existences overlapped though. It was definitely a product of its time, in terms of design, when Windows Me was A Thing.

    [fake edit] I guess it still exists? But why…?

  5. Mike says:

    Great theme enjoyed the puzzle. Like Amy the Hairless dog took time. I had the “AI” so I was convinced was tailless for a long time. Figured the T was for terrier until I looked at it again

  6. WhiskyBill says:

    Off the topic of today’s puzzles: Yesterday, I enjoyed doing this past Sunday’s NYT print-only SuperMega crossword . The only reason I knew to seek to buy the Sunday Times was a comment, I think from Norm, about how he was looking forward to doing it. (Pretty sure that after the fact, in a review or comment, Jenni remarked in passing about having done it.)

    Anyways, in the future, hoping to not rely on random chance and good luck, given that I subscribe to the electronic edition of the NYT and to the puzzle, by what means can I reasonably expect to learn which Sunday to purchase a print edition?*

    Thanks for help and ideas!

    * I have a feeling it will be utterly obvious, and I blithely and blindly overlooked it.

    • sharkicicles says:

      If anyone happens to be in the wicker park neighborhood of Chicago, my local bakery has the super mega crossword taped up behind the counter. It’s quite, well, super and mega.

  7. Billy Boy says:

    Thumbs up on WSJ for the reason stated 15 spanners and no OREO, ORR, ERR, or AXE but there was IRE and EBB. Still pretty darned fine.

    Can only say meh to NYT, (clue words missing) – less? Plus using MSN as a bowser(sic)? At least no OREO.

  8. Ethan says:

    WSJ: I’m going to have to call foul on the 4D clue, as “JFK” is not a “presidential biopic.”

  9. arthur118 says:

    LAT, “no revealer”?

    How about 65 across, “Device related to the circled letters” for SCALE.

    Seems like a revealer to me.

  10. Rock says:

    I’m enjoying all the puzzles while i sit here with a broken ULNA! But enough about me, I wanted to give e.a. a shout out for his great USA xwords where, IIRC he used “And I oop”!

    WSJ These get better and better (to me)

    Later Gators

  11. DRC says:

    WSJ only nitpick – do people say “spare cash”? I’ve always heard/used “change”

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