Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Jonesin' 4:48 (Derek) 


LAT 3:56 (Derek) 


NYT 2:48 (Amy) 


Universal 3:46 (Jim Q) 


WSJ 6:22 (Nate) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 448), “Opening Numbers”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 448: “Opening Numbers”

It’s New Year’s Eve, everyone! Here is hoping that you’re doing well and that you’re ready to get down and boogie on the dance floor with Barbara Walters and Hugh Downs as we get set to ring in 2020!! 

Speaking of 2020, each of today’s theme entries starts with a number and, when put together in order, spells out the YEAR that we are just hours away from officially being in (70A: [Happy New ____! (the starts of four answers spell out the numbers on your party hat)]).

  • TWO EGGS OVER EASY (1A: [“Uncomplicated” breakfast order]) – I’ll have my eggs scrambled, thank you very much!
  • ZERO STAR REVIEWS (27A: [Restaurant owner’s least-favorite pans?])
  • TWO INCOME FAMILY (47A: [Dual paycheck household])
  • ZERO MOSTEL ROLES (63A: [Tevye (in “Fiddler on the Roof”) and Max Bialystock (in “The Producers”), e.g.])

For the longest time, I held out from having an online money transfer account at places like PAYPAL, but finally gave in about a couple of years ago (20A: [Online purchase method]). Like many other things I held out on doing until much later, I now wish I had signed up for it sooner because of the convenience. We have some serious revolutionaries smack dab in the middle of the grid, with CASTRO (24D: [Cuba’s Fidel]) crossing SEALE, whose name I don’t remember ever seeing in a crossword that I’ve solved before (36A: [Bobby who co-founded the Black Panther Party]). I think I’ve heard of the ROCCO in question once or twice in passing, but his name didn’t ring a bell when coming across the clue and needed the crosses to get it (29D: [Celebrity chef and cookbook author DiSpirito]). Though it’s definitely not baseball season yet, we have a baseball reference in ALOU (35A: [Moises or Felipe of baseball]), but the next graph delves into some hardball more by talking about one of the game’s greatest hurlers…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: FELLER (49A: [Guy, informally]) – It is without a doubt that one of the greatest baseball players of all time was a Cleveland pitcher named Bob FELLER, who led the American League in wins six times and in strikeouts seven times in a career spanning 20 years (1936-1956) and interrupted when he served as a Chief Petty Officer on the USS Alabama during WWII. Amazingly enough, Feller skipped the minor leagues and made his debut with Cleveland at 17, at a time when feared hitters like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio were wreaking havoc on pitchers in the Junior Circuit. An eight-time All-Star known for his blazing fastball, Feller threw three no-hitters and an astounding 12 one-hitters during his career, one which was memorialized in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. 

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

Take care, and Happy New Year!!


Evan Kalish’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 31 19, no. 1231

Another New Year’s resolution theme, on the heels of the Sunday puzzle. You know what I don’t do? Make New Year’s resolutions. Anyway … the revealer is 61a. [Common New Year’s resolution — as hinted at by the answers to the four starred clues], LOSE WEIGHT. God, what a shitty resolution. Losing weight won’t change you and it won’t change your life. It’ll just change your clothing size. Anyway … The first themer includes POUND and the subsequent three themers lose one letter at a time:

  • 17a. [*Currency replaced by the euro], IRISH POUND.
  • 31a. [*Decorative garden feature with fish], KOI POND. The U is gone.
  • 37a. [*Almost-identical pair, figuratively], TWO PEAS IN A POD. Did you realize that most pea pods include more than just two peas? Where is the “like four peas in a pod” phrase in our language?
  • 43a. [*It flows through Turin], RIVER PO.

Really a quick solve. Monday’s was extra-fast, too.

Been a while since I did a Bechdel crossword test. Here we have HONUS Wagner, a random DADA, SOUSA, and Conan O’Brien in the TEAM COCO clue. Also Goya in the ALBA clue, fictional Crusoe in the MAROONED clue, fictional James BOND, up against Patricia NEAL, Duchess of ALBA (rather than contemporary actress/entrepreneur Jessica Alba), fictional Disney cartoons ARIEL (here’s a Dean Friedman video for Jenni) and ANNA (what, there was no actual human ANNA that would work here?), and Justice ELENA Kagan. –7, +5, that’s a minus 2. Bzzt. DADA could have been swimmer DARA Torres crossing a TASER to even things out.

Entries I’m not sure pass muster: 13d. [Subtle acknowledgments], SLY NODS, and 38d. [Silently bids adieu], WAVES BYEWave bye-bye and wave goodbye feel better to me.


Overall, let’s call this one 3.75 stars, not subtracting much for the IRE at touting the LOSE WEIGHT New Year’s resolution.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “You Turned Up” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 12/31/2019

When I first saw this puzzle, I thought my computer has errored out and messed up its font!

  • 16A [?keep a kaenS] LOOK THE OTHER WAY 
  • 26A [?loot s’tsirucinaM] BACK-UP FILE
  • 39A [With 49-Across, ?retsis s’anereS] VENUS IN RETROGRADE
  • 64A [?rekrowoc s’rotcudnoC] REVERSE ENGINEER 

How well can you read backwards? The clues read [Sneak a peek], [Manicurist’s tool?], [Serena’s sister] and [Conductor’s coworker?]. Very clever, if not for the initial shock value of thinking your file is corrupted or your computer has a virus! Nice way to end the Jonesin’ year! still in countdown mode to puzzle #1000; this is puzzle #969, so sometime this summer! 4.5 stars for this one.

Some highlights:

  • 14A [“The Beatles at ___ Stadium” (music documentary)] SHEA – Billy Joel also has a Shea Stadium concert film, and we are going to see Billy Joel at Notre Dame this coming June. I cannot wait!
  • 55A [Birch of “Ghost World”] THORA – I remember this actress from American Beauty, so nice to cite something else she was in. Harder, but nice to see.
  • 58A [“Flashdance” director Adrian] LYNE – Definitely the obscure-pop-culture-reference-of-the-week. And there aren’t many ways to clue this name! This may, in fact, be the ONLY way!
  • 4D [Onomatopoetic name for motorized rickshaws] TUKTUKS – I believe you.
  • 5D [First N.L. player to hit 500 home runs] OTT – I just realized: I have no idea what Mel Ott looks like!
  • 25D [Baby Yoda, eventually (one presumes)] JEDI – Yes, if you haven’t heard, this is the star of The Mandalorian on Disney Plus. Not a bad show. Season 1 just completed, and there will be a Season 2 sometime in 2020. Are TV seasons easier to watch (or even make) when they are only 10-12 episodes instead of the standard network 22-24? Times are definitely changing as far as how TV is consumed.
  • 26D [Prime minister between Major and Brown] BLAIR – How did I forget who this is so quickly?

That is all!

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

LAT 12/31/2019

This was a fun puzzle, but I thought the theme was going somewhere other than where it did. First, here are the theme answers:

  • 18A [Remote control insert] AAA BATTERY
  • 26A [Grievance filed with a consumer protection org.] BBB COMPLAINT
  • 49A [Spec for a large loafer] EEE SHOE WIDTH
  • 63A [Firefox or Chrome] WWW BROWSER

I thought the puzzle might have CCC and then DDD, but how would you clue either of those?? And even then, what other letter triplets would even work? I am not sure I can think of one! Maybe XXX, but that is not the best entry in a puzzle! 4.4 stars from me.

A few more things:

  • 32A [Palindromic supermodel] EMME – I don’t think there is another famous person with this name, is there?
  • 33A [Sevilla’s country] ESPAÑA – Sevilla is also one of the top teams in Spain’s La Liga soccer association. But most everyone only knows Real Madrid and Barcelona. As of this writing Sevilla is in third place, behind the two teams I just mentioned!
  • 57A [The tiniest bit] ONE IOTA – This is a more popular entry than I thought, but it does have a ton of vowels in it!
  • 3D [Rights org. since 1920] ACLU – I am sure we will be hearing about the 100th anniversary of this group, if we haven’t already, in the coming year. Meaning tomorrow!
  • 24D [Holmes and Poirot] SLEUTHS – Two of my favorites from literature!
  • 30D [Adorns with Charmin, for short] TPS – I have never done this. I am not that mean!
  • 51D [Up the creek] IN A JAM – Or [Like a strawberry in a jar]! (Insert rimshot here.)

Everyone have a great holiday and a great rest of this week!

Blake Slonecker’s Wall Street Journal crossword—Nate’s write-up

Happy NYE! Today’s WSJ puzzle, entitled “A Sign of the Times (Square),” seems like it might be relevant to tonight’s festivities – let’s find out!

12.31.19 WSJ Draft

12.31.19 WSJ Draft

1A / 3D / 20A: GO BALLISTIC (GOB + the BALL of BALL DROP + LISTIC) [Lose it]

4A / 8D / 22A: HIGHBALL GLASS (HIGHB + the BALL of BALLPARK + LGLASS) [Gin fizz holder]

51A / 34D / 64A: WATER BALLOONS (WATERB + the BALL of SKEEBALL + LOONS) [Summer projectiles]

52A / 37D / 65A: POWER BALLAD (POWERB + the BALL of MOTHBALL + LAD) [Softer part of hard rock]

3D: BALL DROP [“Auld Lang Syne” trigger, and a hint to this puzzle’s theme]

Each of the four theme entries drops at the word BALL in one of the downs and then turns back to finish in an across entry that is simply clued as [CLUED ELSEWHERE]. Wow! What a fantastic puzzle that is so smoothly executed – there were no dregs in this puzzle, which is tough to pull off in a grid this packed with theme! Maybe SEAWAR was my only small issue? I am incredibly jealous that I didn’t come up with / execute this puzzle – super kudos to the constructor.

Other random thoughts:
– I enjoyed the MAT / TATAMI pairing and felt the GOP / REP pairing was fair.
– [Lord’s lackey] for SERF is … quite generous to the lords.
– Is EMMA literally the only woman in this entire puzzle? So many dudes all over this puzzle and only EMMA for the women. If I had any major ding against this puzzle, that’d be it. Here’s hoping for more inclusion in 2020 – if you can’t fit women in the grid itself, don’t forget that you can always be much more inclusive in the cluing!

Winston Emmons’ Universal crossword, “Jump Start”—Jim Q’s review

Nothing very New-Yearsy going on here, unless of course we’re looking to “jump start” 2020!

THEME: Phrases where the first word is a synonym for “jump.”

Universal crossword solution · Winston Emmons · “Jump Start” · Tue., 12.31.19


  • 17A [Post-winter restlessness] SPRING FEVER. 
  • 29A [2020, for one] LEAP YEAR.
  • 47A [Seedy pubs] DIVE BARS. 
  • 63A [With no chance of success] BOUND TO FAIL. 

Sure! This works. Though SPRINGing, LEAPing, and BOUNDing seem like a different way of jumping than DIVing. And BOUND TO FAIL is an outlier grammatically (the others are noun phrases).

Fave fill included MINI-SERIES, SKI RUN, and EARFUL. I also really like the clues for ANDRE [Name hidden in “Italian dressing”] and DIE [A side of one looks like [: :]]. Clever!


  •  33D [Wine at many New Year’s Eve parties] ROSÉ. Maybe this needs a “perhaps,” perhaps? Feels like it’s trying too hard to be a New Year’s clue. I’ve never been at a New Year’s party where ROSÉ was the choice POTABLE. Prosecco and champagne seem to have a more solid relationship with New Year’s imo.
  • 61D [Put on the schedule] SLOT. This doesn’t strike me as a verb. I can hear SLOTTED (“We’ve slotted you for a 5 PM appointment”… I guess). But SLOT feels more nouny to me.

DANA Point was new for me [Orange County’s ___ Point]. I live in Orange County, NY, where West Point is familiar. For a moment, I was excited that our county was getting crossword attention! Nope. It’s always California!

3 stars from me.

Enjoy your festivities! And your bottles of ROSÉ!


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15 Responses to Tuesday, December 31, 2019

  1. Bryan says:

    “Losing weight won’t change you and it won’t change your life.” Amy, I couldn’t disagree more. Just for starters, losing significant weight could make a person more active, perhaps give them more energy to play with their kids, possibly enhance their self-confidence, likely reduce their blood pressure and risk of a heart attack. Etc., etc., etc… Are you saying none of that is a positive change of life?

    • cyberdiva says:

      Thanks, Bryan. I was about to make the same point.

    • dave glasser says:

      Improving ones general physical fitness leads to the positive results you describe. “Losing weight” through doing so is only loosely correlated. What the scale reads and whether you’re healthy are a lot less connected than you’re implying.

    • Ethan says:

      I’ve lost about 45 pounds in the past two years. It definitely has had some concrete, measurably positive effects in my life. Of course, you could argue that the weight loss is merely an incidental corollary to more important health indicators (cholesterol, blood lipid levels, etc.) getting better for me, and that my endeavor shouldn’t be framed as “losing weight” but “exercising more and eating better.” Indeed, for many people weight isn’t any kind of measure of how healthy they are, and adopting good habits is a good thing in and of itself regardless of whether any weight is lost. (And obviously weight loss is not always in and of itself healthy.) All that being said, since I couldn’t very well go to a blood lab every day, weighing myself was pretty useful as a crude measure of how well my habit changes were working.

    • Jenni Levy says:

      Nope. The correlation between weight and health is flimsy at best and almost completely disappears when you control for activity level. The reason for “enhanced self-confidence” is that fat hatred is so rampant in our society that we assume people should be less confident if their bodies don’t match an ideal – which, for women, is almost impossible to reach and entirely impossible to maintain.

      I had bariatric surgery two years ago. I’ve lost over 200 lbs, which is way more than I anticipated. I did that because I couldn’t walk more than a block without pain as the result of a lifetime of seriously disordered eating. I would have been happy – AND HEALTHY – at 100 lbs heavier than this. Surgery didn’t fix my disordered eating – I had to do that before I had surgery. Weight loss isn’t magic, and the majority of people who are “overweight” can be perfectly healthy without losing a pound.

  2. Billy Boy says:

    I liked the little move in the WSJ puzzle.

    PAPA to Mother’s dismay is indeed often first “word” even though junior has no idea what it is saying. The DA is easier for the young babbler to say than MA (Try making the D and the M sounds and note how much more effort it takes to make a MA than a DA – one learns this in Medical School, but now you don’t have to go!)

    It’s all babble, the kiddo has zero idea that it is saying a “word”.

    A view from inside the system: Losing weight is as with many other things – different things to different people. At 68 with arthritis in Knee and Spine -35 pounds would do me a lot of good, but I like to eat and have a drink, too. One balances things in life. I used to live in the Lehigh Valley, PA, Bariatrics is a virtual ‘Industry’ there – honestly they do too much of it, but that area is full of retirees and is a Medical Mill in sooo many ways. On US 22 every freaking billboard is Cancer Rx, some second rate OrthoGuy running a surgical mill, Competing Hospital systems, ugh. We don’t have billboards on or near Hilton Head Island and outside of that it’s Dueling Ambulance Chasers!

    My new Year’s Resolution is to drink more water, definitely a good thing and good for me and my one Kidney and easily done.

    Happy New Year, don’t skimp honest-to-goodness French stuff tonight, please.

    BB V

    Oh yeeeeeah! WSJ dead tree noted the error with the puzzles today and had the solve for the Friday Contest today as today’s ‘yesterday solution’.

    • PJ says:

      I wasn’t successful when I tried to lose weight but when I decided to eat for one and exercise for two. I’ve backed off to a more reasonable exercise regimen. And I do feel a whole lot better. I’ve even started waterskiing again – two skis, not gonna press my luck on a slalom.

    • Jenni says:

      I practice medicine in the Lehigh Valley. Thanks so much for this characterization.

  3. RSP64 says:

    Jonesin’ – NET SALES is definitely not a company’s bottom line. It is usually the top line of a company’s income statement. The bottom line would be net income. I liked the theme a lot. At first I thought the theme clues had been misread by my crossword app.

  4. Gale G Davis says:

    WSJ – Hey Nate, how about more women in the Puzzle Write Up teams?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Let’s take stock of who does the daily puzzle write-ups here:

      6 white women (me, Jenni, Laura, pannonica, Rebecca, Rachel)
      4 non-white men (Ade, Derek, Joon, Jim P)
      6 white men (Ben, Nate, Matt, Andy, Jim Q, Gareth)
      4 or more of the above in the LGBTQ category

      I hadn’t really been cognizant of the lack of non-white women in Team Fiend and I’d absolutely welcome them. I value diversity in more than just gender. Not keen on having bloggers who don’t support women, people of color, and LGBTQ folks, though.

  5. Stephen B. Manion says:

    My sister’s husband is a cardiologist. A year ago, he had an afib-related condition that the doctors said was inoperable and that he would be lucky to live another six months. He went on weight watchers and has lost 75 pounds and is in the best condition he has been in the past 10 or even 20 years. He is 83.

    Weight is not important to me. I work out seven days a week (pilates, yoga, boot camp, step plus abs, spinning, weights). I figure that my regimen, which is good for my mental as well as physical heath, keeps me happy. I have to eat a lot to keep up the workout pace and that is not a bad thing either. There are several of my friends who follow a similar workout routine and they all seem to live a healthy lifestyle. When I was in my thirties, I added 25 pounds of muscle (no supplements). Now at age 70, it is very hard to gain mass, so to the extent that I am concerned about weight, I try to maintain my muscle mass. If I lose weight, I lose mass.

    I enjoyed the puzzle.


  6. Constant Malachi says:

    Universal: this looked familiar, and it’s because it’s very close to a WSJ puzzle from just a few months back.


  7. Len Elliott says:

    LAT Tuesday

    Possibly something could have been done with
    CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps)
    DDD (Domain Driven Design or Division of Development Disablities
    or the stock symbol for 3D Systems which makes 3D printers.)

  8. DRC says:

    WSJ is one of the best in a very long time. Loved it.

Comments are closed.