Sunday, December 29, 2019

LAT 10: 21 (including typo hunt) (Jenni) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


WaPo 13:48 (Jim Q) 


Universal tk (Rebecca)  


Universal (Sunday) 10:00 (Jim Q) 


Andrew Chaikin’s New York Times crossword, “New Year’s Resolutions”—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 29 19, “New Year’s Resolutions”

Various New Year’s resolutions are clued as if they’re specific to something within the phrase:

  • 23a. [Casino gambler’s resolution?], CLEAN OUT THE HOUSE. The house always wins … unless you have hardcore konmari skills.
  • 32a. [Sitcom lover’s resolution?], SEE FRIENDS MORE OFTEN. As in the old Rachel Aniston TV show.
  • 51a. [Hen’s resolution?], GROW MY NEST EGG. Does the development within the shell count as “growing”?
  • 65a. [Nun’s resolution?], GIVE UP OLD HABITS.
  • 80a. [Stalking tiger’s resolution?], WATCH WHAT I EAT. Listen, Ms. Tiger, if you just sit there watching, your pride might go hungry.
  • 97a. [Bank robber’s resolution?], PLAN A PERFECT GETAWAY.
  • 110a. [Union activist’s resolution?], ORGANIZE MY OFFICE. Nice! Saved the best for last.

It works.

Fave fill: GO WALKIES, LAKE VIEW (which is also a neighborhood in Chicago—and of course, West Lakeview does not have views of Lake Michigan), GRACIE ALLEN, THROW A FIT, and ONE PERCENT clued as [Megarich group].

Five more things:

  • 95d. [P.R. advice for the accused, maybe], “DENY IT.” I don’t think this is crossword-worthy as a phrase, and wow, it makes me think of so many different creeps who have denied so many forms of malfeasance.
  • 118a. [Saves for later, in a way], TIVOS. Raise your hand if you still use a TiVo to record TV programming, and not a DVR linked to your cable service, or streaming services without the ability to save things. I bet it’s close to none of you.
  • 104a. [Mideast peace talk?], SHALOM. Also salaam. Related: 45d. [Some of them call Homs home], SYRIANS.
  • 92d. [“Feliz ___ Nuevo!” (cry on el 1 de enero)], ANO. Happy New Anus to everyone!
  • 82d. [Rock band that Slash really ought to play for?], AC/DC. Cute clue!

Overall, 3.9 stars from me.

Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post crossword, “Ending on an Up Note” – Jim Q’s writeup

Another non-standard sized grid (18×24) two weeks in a row? What’s up with that? A lot, actually!

THEME: Eight entries in the grid turn upwards at their ends, and the portions that go up collectively spell a message.

Washington Post, December 29, 2019, Evan Birnholz, “Ending on an Up Note” solution grid


  • 21A [*Set up, as an appliance] INST{ALL}
  • 34A [*Film featuring Emma Stone in an Oscar-winning role] LA LA L{AND}
  • 54A [*Public Enemy No. 1 of 1930] CAP{ONE}
  • 63A [*Flat] PLAN{AR}
  • 74A [*Colorful additive in Hawaiian Punch] RED D{YE}
  • 91A [*Strong piece of tissue] SI{NEW}
  • 110A [*Evaluated] ASSE{SSED}
  • 132A [*In working order] OPER{ABLE}

That makes the message, reading south to north, A BLESSED NEW YEAR ONE AND ALLRather Dickensian, no?

Although my time still fell in the “average” range for me, I found this one delightfully more difficult than normal all around. I grokked exactly 0% of the theme until I finished. I mean, I saw that letters were clearly missing from the ends of the starred clues, but I neglected to see that they turned upwards in the grid. Oddly enough, it took me a solid minute longer than last week’s meta to figure it all out at the end.

And that, my fellow solvers, is why it’s always important to keep the puzzle’s title in mind. Doh!

It also took me a moment or six to retroactively find the starred entries and interpret the instructions in the accompanying note: Certain letters in this puzzle, read from bottom to top, will spell my seven-word note. A tad cryptic, but with a touch of elbow grease, easy enough to suss out. Also, anyone catch the nudge at 133A? [“You should take turns solving this puzzle” and others] HINTS. “Take turns” in this case hinting that you should “take a turn” northward in this puzzle. Clever, but I completely missed it!

FAVE FILL: (I should say I liked most of the fill, particularly because of the difficulty provided by the clues, but there are a few winners).

  • 41D [Toast declaration?] I’M A GONER! Not the kind of toast you want to hear on New Year’s Eve I hope!
  • 91D [Greta Thunberg, e.g.] SWEDE. Nice to see her in the puzzle, even if it’s just in the clue.
  • 37A [2001 film with the song “Fight” in its soundtrack] ALI. I like it when trivia pulls double duty and nudges you towards a correct answer.
  • 31D [Arcade game hero who swears in an alien language] Q-BERT. Oh my virgin ears! Had my parents known he was cussing, I might not have been allowed to play!

I tripped on a few names here and there, but nothing that wasn’t fairly crossed.

And of course, it should be noted that the across theme answers are still acceptable fill before they turn upward. ASSES, CAPO, SIN, LA LA LA, OPERA, INSTA, PLANA and REDDY. Ok, maybe REDDY looks a bit weird, but it’s had its day in many a crossword clued as [Helen who sang “I Am Woman”].

Happy… errr… BLESSED… New Year, everybody! And of course, thanks for another fantastic year of puzzles, Evan.

P.S. For some reason, I found this bizarrely entertaining:



Gary Larson’s LA Times crossword, “Electronic Games” – Jenni’s write-up

This puzzle takes one of the more annoying things about contemporary crosswords and makes an enjoyable theme out of it. Gary stuck E in front of standard phrases with wacky results.

Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2019, Gary Larson, “Electronic Games,” solution grid

  • 22a [Unlikely getaway car alternative?] is an ESCAPE GOAT.
  • 24a [Time left in an online auction?] is the EBAY WINDOW.
  • 36a [Civil rights legislation?] is EQUALITY CONTROL.
  • 67a [Three-hanky films?] are EMOTION PICTURES.
  • 83a [Bong for special occasions?]  is an EVENT PIPE. One of my husband’s glassblowing mentors has a lucrative side business making bongs. It’s a growth industry.
  • 97a [Big place to fool around in?] is an ESTATE OF AFFAIRS.
  • 112a [Eve?] is the EDEN MOTHER.
  • 115a [Midnight sail?] is an EBON VOYAGE.

A solid, successful theme that was a lot more fun than finding ETAIL or EZINE or ECASH as random (bad) fill.

A few other things:

  • 1d [Word spoken during pouring] is WHEN – by the pouree, not the pourer.
  • I filled in 10d from crossings and thought I had a typo. It’s GO BY, not GOBY.
  • 33a [Meadow mom] is not COW or EWE but rather DOE.
  • I kept trying to make Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb COHOSTS instead of COANCHORS.
  • MUCILAGES is an infelicitous plural.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: that BACARDI owns Dewar’s and Gray Goose.

Alan Olschwang’s Sunday Universal crossword, “Mixed Vegetables”—Jim Q’s review

Yesterday, mixed primaries… today, mixed vegetables!

THEME: Series of letters in theme answers can be unscrambled to spell the name of a vegetable.


  • 25A [Among the best (unscramble each set of circled letters!)] WORLD

    Universal Sunday crossword solution · Alan Olschwang · “Mixed Vegetables” · Sun., 12.29.19

    CLASS. Erm… I dunno the veggie here. Too lazy to plug it into an anagrammer. Help?

  • 27A [They may lift you up or bring you down] ELEVATOR CARS. Carrot. 
  • 49A [Financial difficulty] CASH SQUEEZE. Squash. 
  • 68A [Show set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City] BOARDWALK EMPIRE. Kale (LEEKS come later, and spelled correctly!) 
  • 93A [Temporary fixes] WORK AROUNDS. Okra. Also, coulda used the two letters to the left of the K!
  • 117A [One going down the aisle?] GROCERY CLERK. Celery. 
  • 119A [Departs] TAKES LEAVE. Leeks. Only plural in the theme. But I guess it’s a plural type of food!

I’m assuming that the in-print version of this puzzle does not feature circled letters- correct me if I’m wrong (I’d be delighted to be wrong… I could only find the 15x online in its print form). It probably asks the solver to count letters because Universal hasn’t embraced the idea circling letters in the grid (though they certainly publish an awful lot of theme types that require circles).

This isn’t the sort of theme I particularly enjoy, namely because the gimmick doesn’t aid in solving the puzzle and isn’t particularly interesting. It’s easy enough to figure out what’s going to happen before solving the puzzle (Circled Letters + “Mixed Vegetables” as a title = Pretty Obvs). So I essentially solved this as a themeless. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the sparkly fill of a themeless, so I got bored pretty quick. CASH SQUEEZE was a new phrase for me, though I can totally relate to it! GROCERY CLERK doesn’t strike me as a stand-alone that we use in everyday vernacular.

The rest of the theme answers are fairly solid, BOARDWALK EMPIRE being my favorite (though anyone who’s familiar with the show is unlikely to need any crosses whatsoever).

I appreciate the construction and the work that went into finding symmetrical theme answers where the “mixed vegetable” bridges the two-word phrases. But in the end, I just slogged through it.

2.5 Stars.

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25 Responses to Sunday, December 29, 2019

  1. RM Camp says:

    It’s Jennifer Aniston; her character was Rachel… Green? I think? Ehh, close enough.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:


      I’ve been watching Aniston on Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show,” so I can’t explain why I typed Rachel.

  2. David Glasser says:

    Evan Birnholz’ gravestone will read “Here lies a man who never let a grid entry appear invalid, no matter how weird the theme”.

  3. JohnH says:

    BTW, looks like there was a sixth themed puzzle from TNY, perhaps Saturday. It’s the year in science and tech.

    Curiously, the sci/tech fields in the clues are pretty narrow — basically, all NASA for the first and consumer goods, mostly Apple, in the second. And, despite the theme, it’s still heavy on singers and actors, with a bit of sports as well. The old dog is definitely not learning new tricks.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      You see that the old dog is you, right? The New Yorker crossword is new and young, and not embodying any kind of “old” vibe.

      • JohnH says:

        Hey, no fair. I have never, ever, ever once said that a clue doesn’t belong because I don’t know it, only that crossings should be fair. And yet you, constantly and consistently, in your reviews praise entries that happen to match your pop-culture tastes and criticize others as unfair. Who’s being more narrow minded? Maybe I don’t belong to the right club?

        In this, case, I was just, instead, criticizing TNY for falling back on old habits when it had a chance to make a real themed puzzle. Whatever is wrong with that?

      • RunawayPancake says:

        The New Yorker crossword is new and young, and not embodying any kind of “old” vibe.

        New and young? Most of TNY’s attempts at being au courant come off as forced and a little lame – more like, “How do you do, fellow kids?”

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          @JohnH: They can’t possibly be old habits when the venue just began publishing crosswords in spring 2018! The puzzles have been pretty consistent in the sort of fill that’s included, with some constructors (particularly Anna Shechtman, imo) having more distinctive voices in that regard.

          @Runaway Pancake: Really? Perhaps you don’t know that at least four of the New Yorker constructors (Aimee Lucido, Erik Agard, Natan Last, Anna S) graduated from college in this decade, meaning they’re likely in their 20s. And Kameron Austin Collins is a 2009 grad, so early 30s. Are you younger than they are? Perhaps you’re assuming they’re all middle-aged and striving for that 20-something vibe?

  4. GlennP says:

    @JimQ: WaPo 25A, the vegetable is COLLARDS. I couldn’t figure it out for the longest time!

  5. marciem says:

    Sunday Universal: First veggie is Collards as in Collard Greens which are a staple of Southern soul food meals, usually cooked with ham or bacon added, I believe.

    p.s. GlennP is faster typer than me and I was looking for a picture or recipe to post LOL!

  6. PJ says:

    NYT 102d [Wields a red pen] for EDITS is a little off to me. Red Pen = grading. Blue Pencil = editing.
    A pretty small nit on a very enjoyable puzzle.
    Collards are usually cooked with some form of salted pork. I make a fat-free smoked pork bone broth that I use instead.

  7. Kelly Clark says:

    A BLESSED NEW YEAR to you, too, Evan. Thank you for a beautiful puzzle.

    • Mike says:

      With the Washington Post puzzle, for the first time ever, I was able to figure out a meta puzzle by myself, without any hints! I’ve only been a serious crossword solver for a few months. I know that some people think the metas can be too easy, but I appreciate the range that’s available. Thank you, Evan Birnholz, for the (slightly belated) Christmas gift!

  8. Norm says:

    MARCI crossing FIOS gets Andrew coal in his sticking next year.

  9. John Malcolm says:

    In LAT for 12/29/19 please explain 31 down.

    • Margaret says:

      I’m in the comments at this late date because the NYT is syndicated two weeks late in my newspaper. Not sure what the clue for 31D is but ALERS is usually AL’ers meaning American League players. Was the clue ‘Stro’s (short for Houston Astros) by any chance? Please note we HATE the use of ALERS, NLERS and other bad fill.

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