Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Jonesin' 5:58 (Derek) 


LAT 2:58 (Derek) 


NYT 3:27 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


WSJ 6:14 (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 497), “Solving the High Seas”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 497: “Solving the High Seas”

Good day, everyone! Hope you all are doing well and keeping warm as the temperatures keep plunging in most parts of the country.  

Today’s puzzle is a pretty enjoyable puzzle, from sea to shining sea! In it, there are five multiple-word long entries, all down, in which the beginnings of them are words that also are the names of actual seas across the world.  

  • BLACK FOREST CAKE (3D: [Rich German dessert])
  • JAVA PROGRAMMERS (7D: [Specialists in a computer language whose logo is a cup of hot coffee])
  • NORTH COUNTRY (21D: [2005 Charlize Theron film film set in a Minnesota mining town])
  • BALTIC AVENUE (9D: [Monopoly property])
  • DEAD TREE EDITION (11D: [Paper version of a newspaper, slangily])

Don’t know about you, but am always intrigued when gazing upon a blank screen to start and knowing that all of the theme entries will be long downs. The anticipation was more than worth it after solving. Definitely needed all of the crossings to get COIR, which I did not have an idea that was the name given to the fibers on the shell of the coconut (41A: [Coconut fiber]). Loved the Eurocentric start to the grid in the Northwest, from GOUDA (1D: [Dutch cheese city]) to ARLES (2D: [“A Lane Near ___” (Van Gogh painting)]) to ORLY, with the first theme entry referring to a German dessert anchoring the area (13A: [Airport near Paris]). Very cute clue for ADOPT, though seeing this will not help my recent addiction of seeing videos of pit bulls in the “Pittie Nation” section of The Dodo Facebook page (32A: [Finalize a “pet” project?]). Seriously, this addiction is bad! I’ll get my mind off of them for now by thinking of some real fun music acts mentioned today, such as the clue to REE (29A: [“You Gotta Be” singer Des’__]) and NINA, who is an absolute showstopper (21A: [Singer Simone, aha “The High Priestess of Soul”]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: MAKER (60A: [Constructive one]) – Just a few months ago, current Howard University freshman and men’s basketball player Makur Maker made waves by becoming the first five-star recruit (ranking out of five stars) to decide to commit to a Historically Black College and University out of high school. Shunning the overtures of traditional college basketball powers such as Kentucky and UCLA, Maker, when announcing his decision in July, tweeted, “I need to make the HBCU movement real so that others will follow.” The seven-footer, who born in Kenya to Sudanese parents and who grew up in Australia after his parents immigrated there, currently is sidelined with a groin injury, but we definitely hope he returns to full health soon and makes an impact with his game and the perception of HBCUs across the country. His cousin, Thon Maker, was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 10th overall selection of the 2016 NBA Draft and has played in 255 career regular-season games. 

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

Take care!


Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 8 20, no. 1208

The (impressively long) byline was unfamiliar to me, but the constructor’s had a number of puzzles published this year (AV Club, Universal, other people’s blogs, his own site). Clearly he’s got skills, as this puzzle has 12 short themers around the periphery, a central revealer, and mostly good/smooth fill. (The exception: STELAE, which feels like crosswordese that’s too hard for many newbies tackling Tuesdays.)

The revealer is 37a. [One totally unlike another … or what each answer on the edge of this puzzle has?], POLAR OPPOSITE. There are six pairs of same-length words that are both opposite in meaning and polar opposites in terms of their placement in the grid:

  • 1a. [9-to-5 activity], WORK / 69a. [Off-hours activity], PLAY.
  • 5a. [In heaven, say], ABOVE / 68a. [In hell, say], BELOW.
  • 10a. [Like a Saturday crossword], HARD / 67a. [Like a Monday crossword], EASY.
  • 1d. [Rainy], WET / 63d. [Not rainy], DRY.
  • 23d. [Like the year you ring out on December 31], OLD / 43d. [Like the year you ring in on January 1], NEW.
  • 44d. [Land, as a plane], ARRIVE / 13d. [Take off, as a plane], DEPART.

Solid concept, executed well.

Five more things:

  • 42a. [Having no toppings, as a pizza], PLAIN. Say what? I never call it a “plain” pizza. It’s a cheese pizza when you don’t add toppings. And I prefer cheese pizza. You can keep your salty meats and your vegetables-I-don’t-care-for, I’ll have the cheese. It can be thin crust or deep dish, but yesterday’s was Lou Malnati’s deep dish because of that crossword I did that had DE***ISH in it (that entry turned out to be DEVILISH but the die was cast).
  • 49a. [Complete stranger, slangily], RANDO. A word I do actually use with regularity, mainly in the context of Pokémon Go raids.
  • 59a. [Bird whose beak inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution], FINCH. I’ve been gorging on bird photos from Gareth’s birding adventures! I can’t swear that he’s shown us any finches, but there’ve been various larks and thrushes and water birds and bee-eaters and whatnot.
  • 53d. [Prefix with aggression], MICRO. If you’re a bit hazy on what exactly microaggressions are, here’s a two-page chart listing some common types.
  • 21d. [Method of successive improvement], ITERATION. In what field(s) is this term commonly used? I haven’t run into it in my editorial circles.

Fave fill: MOLESKINE notebooks, which I eventually outgrew just like VIDEOTAPE.

4 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Shell Game” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 12/08/2020

We have a riddle for the theme today. The title, “Shell Game,” is sufficiently vague!


I actually got quite stuck on the SW corner; I couldn’t figure out the pun at first. The entry at 61A (See below!) is also a word I am not too familiar with, although it sounds like something I would say! There are a few obscure pop culture references this week, at least to me, so this is a trademark Jonesin’ this week! 4.4 stars this week.

A few comments:

  • 22A [___ St. Soul (U.K. R&B/soul group)] HIL – I feel ignorant that I don’t know who this is! I give this one the OPCRotW for sure!
  • 35A [“The Man Who Mistook His Wife for ___” (1985 best-seller)] A HAT – Something else I don’t know. I should read it!
  • 61A [Closest to the ground, stature-wise] SQUATTIEST – Is this really a word? It is, I suppose, but it sounds slightly insulting! That definitely makes it something I would say!
  • 8D [Comedians Gilliam and Goldsmith, for two] STUS – Don’t know either of them!
  • 33D [Actress Lauren of 2020’s “The Wrong Missy”] LAPKUS – Don’t know this actress OR the reference work.
  • 51D [Monica Geller’s brother] ROSS – Both of them children of Uri, I assume?
  • 57D [Questionable, in “Among Us,” slangily] SUS – This game is all the rage. I haven’t played it yet, but I have tons of puzzles to do!

That is all!

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/08/2020

Today’s puzzle has an elegantly executed theme. All possibilities were found, and the revealer at 39A wraps it all together:

  • 17A [Creator of unique gallery pieces] NICHEARTIST 
  • 24A [“Louder, please”] “I CAN’T HEAR YOU”
  • 51A [Free on request] FOR THE ASKING 
  • 63A [Motorcyclist’s state-of-the-art gear] SMART HELMET 
  • 39A [TV soap for 54 years … and a hint to the puzzle circles] ASTHEWORLDTURNS 

See what I mean? All of the cycles in the word EARTH except for the root word are hidden in the circled squares. Nice and tidy. And nice and easy! Under three minutes for me. 4.5 stars today.

Just a few things:

  • 32A [Ruin’s companion] WRACK – I know the phrase “wrack and ruin,” but I don’t hear it often. I should read more …
  • 4D [First of 21 Popes] JOHN I – There has to be another way to clue this. Is he that unknown?
  • 40D [Guys in the fishing business, e.g.] WATER MEN – This also seems like a stretch. No one says this, do they?
  • 49D [Kin’s partner] KITH – Another rare phrase, but good to know. I still need to read more …
  • 51D [Fruity soda brand] FANTA – Crosswords usually make me hungry – now I’m thirsty!

Have a safe and healthy week!

Samuel A. Donaldson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Send in the Clowns”—Jim P’s review

IT’S A CIRCUS (56a, [Reaction to a frenzied scene, and what could be said of the beginnings of the starred answers]) is the revealer today, indicating that the other theme answers all begin with a word that can precede “circus.”

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Send in the Clowns” · Samuel A. Donaldson · Tue., 12.8.20

  • 16a. [*Mecca for used goods] FLEA MARKET. Flea circus.
  • 23a. [*Hired public relations pro] MEDIA CONSULTANT. Media circus.
  • 34a. [*Great beginning] FLYING START. Flying circus. Aside from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the term refers usually refers to a barnstorming or flying exhibition team.
  • 47a. [*School supply item that might come with dividers] THREE-RING BINDER. Three-ring circus.

I’m not sure how “in the language” IT’S A CIRCUS really is, but I enjoyed the theme nonetheless since all the other phrases are solid. I discovered Monty Python in my formative years, so if you’re going to have a reference—even an oblique one like 34a—in your theme, then I am so there for that.

In the fill, FIBER FILL is appropriately meh, but I like NOT GUILTY, GOES AT IT, timely FLARE-UPSMEASLY, and ASH TREE (though I’m not sold on that clue [Where many bats originate]).

Clues of note:

  • 52a. [When a psychiatric session might finish]. TEN OF. Is this a thing—that psychiatrist’s appointments are usually 50-minutes long?
  • 46d. [Demonstrates fallibility, in a way]. ERASES. This clue, and the first two letters of the answer, really threw me off because I wanted some version of the word ERRS. Even when I finally got all but one of the crossings (ER_SES), I still couldn’t see it. It’s crazy how your brain can trick you into thinking the wrong thing.

Nice puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Stella Zawistowski’s Universal crossword, “‘Up’ Dos” — Jim Q’s write-up

This one may cause your hair to stand up.

THEME: Types of hair-dos can be found in common phrases reading upwards.

Universal crossword solution · “’Up’ Dos” · Stella Zawistowski ·  Tue., 12.08.20


  • TAKES AN UBER. Bun. 
  • TRUE OR FALSE. Afro. 

Just gonna check to see if Universal started publishing grids with circles in them when they should be required… fingers crossed… and NOPE!

So instead, solvers who do not have access to this site, and therefore cannot see the grid as it was intended in Acrosslite, are being asked to count letters backwards. I don’t get it. I was told many months ago that a fix was on the horizon. Why is Andrews McMeel so hesitant to invest in software that can accomodate? Every other major publisher is light years ahead. In fact, in WaPo’s applet, we were able to write in the black squares not too long ago! The NYT applet sometimes features animations upon completion!

I can’t help but feel that Stella’s excellent grid is going to leave a poor taste in novice solvers’ mouths if they can’t interpret the “workaround” to circles.

Anyway, while I’ve seen hidden hair dos a couple of times, I still enjoyed the heck out of this one. Excellent longer entries and new things to add to the vocab such as CHARGE D’AFFAIRES. While I’ve never called it an END OF TERM REPORT in 14 or so years of teaching, I like the classiness that it has in comparison with REPORT CARD (and let’s face it… there is no “card” being mailed home anymore!)

I’m not quite sure why 4D [Go in circles?] SPIN required a ? in the clue, and I’m still always surprised that Universal feels it necessary to clue AXE with (var.) since that’s how I feel like I see it most commonly (but maybe that’s just from doing crosswords? I dunno).

Really liked everything overall here. Glad I solved in Acrosslite.

3.9 star with circles. 1.9 stars without.


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22 Responses to Tuesday, December 8, 2020

  1. Matt Gaffney says:

    Next time you mention Lou Malnati’s you have to send me one

    • David L says:

      Deep dish pizza is an abomination, an offence against all that is right and holy.

      • PJ says:

        Not an abomination, it’s actually quite tasty. A nice sausage pot pie.

        • Billy Boy says:

          Chicago Deep Dish Pizza is special. Some folks don’t like Champagne, I cannot help them either, their loss.

          That you can get Malnati’s virtually anywhere in USA is a gift. We’ve been getting them for 25 years when it was (312) LOU-TO GO, even before they had (800) and websites. You have to go to CT to get a good NY pizza, lol. UNO’s and Due’s where it all started is a great visit in Chi-Town.

          ITERATION is used in both Orthopaedics and Golf Course architecture, my (former) WORK and my PLAY..

  2. Martin says:

    “Plain pizza” is pretty common terminology in New York. “Cheese pizza” works too, but plain is definitely a thing.

    Now that cheese-less pizza is a thing (even Lou Malnati’s makes them) things get more complicated.

    • JohnH says:

      I ordered a plain slice just the other day. (ITERATION works for me, too. RANDO was new.)

      I appreciated the WSJ’s acknowledging that a C is a lousy grade. Shortz keeps on insisting that it’s average. Yesterday the consensus here was that prefixes are not nice, but I also really enjoyed PSEUDO clued as “False front.”

  3. huda says:

    NYT: Really liked!!!
    to your question, Amy re ITERATION. It came to me easily. I thought “Cool”, and then wondered whether this a broadly shared concept of how to best approach problems.
    The constructor (I found out) is a data scientist and ITERATION is a good way of starting with a large data problem, finding an algorithm that leads to a partial but imperfect solution, then using that as a starting point for the next round of analysis, until you reach a plateau, and can do no better in approximating your ideal end point.
    But I also feel that ITERATION is a generally good way of thinking more broadly, e.g. in neurobiological research. It admits that our understanding is limited, as are our tools, but we do have a very good starting place, so you go with what you got and build on it.
    And I believe in it for real life– e.g. if I am adapting a recipe with food restrictions in mind. I am currently iterating making a gluten free, dairy free, puff pastry (eggs are allowed). If anyone out there has the ideal solution, let me know. I’m not proud.
    ITERATION is a kind of striving but with solid feedback.

  4. Crotchety Doug says:

    WSJ – 38D, I believe that most wooden baseball bats are made from ash, as it is famously tough and resilient.

  5. Phil says:

    WSJ: Indeed, most bats are ash, but a growing number of players are turning to maple ones. The length of psychiatrist appointments will vary depending on setting, but typically psychoanalysts (who are often but not always psychologists) book 50-minute sessions.

  6. Ethan Friedman says:

    Been ordering a “plain slice” in NYC since childhood. Maybe it’s a regionalism?

    I think ITERATION is a fair clue / answer. I wanted KAIZEN but too short of course. But in tech at least, it’s a common way of solving something: you repetitively iterate, getting closer to your goal each time.

  7. sanfranman59 says:

    Universal: An AXE {47A: Tool thrown in some bars: Var.} is thrown in some bars? Is this supposed to be a reference to the slang term for a rock guitar or is it something else in bar-slang that’s not part of my vocabulary? Just wondering as I’m not always up to date with some of the language usages in the Universal and USA Today puzzles these days.

  8. Tom Plotz says:

    WATERMEN (one word, not two) is the plural for the occupation of the oyster harvesters on Chesapeake Bay. It’s a well-known word for those of us who live in the greater DC area.

  9. Jim Peredo says:

    NYT: I use ITERATION often when referring to intermediary versions of crossword grids I’m trying to fill. I might have 5, 10, or 15 iterations before I get to my final submittable puzzle.

  10. Art Shapiro says:

    Just out of curiosity, am I the only soul around here who has never heard of MOLESKINE???

  11. Jan O says:

    The Universal puzzle image above is not today’s puzzle by Stella Z.
    Also, a small nit: for 46D “Cross-stitch, perhaps” the answer is SEW, but cross-stitching is not sewing, it is embroidery, in other words, surface embellishment. Sewing is attaching fabrics together, like when you make a garment.
    Another thing for constructors and editors to note: Alpacas and llamas do not have wool, they have fleece. Sheep have wool. I think this was in a USA Today puzzle a while ago.

    • Jan O says:

      Actually, now I’m not sure which puzzle venue had the alpaca/wool mismatch. The USA Today nit I had recently was a knitting issue: the TOE is not the hard part of knitting a sock. Turning the heel is generally considered the tricky part. I’m happy to consult with editors on all things fiber/needlearts/buttons!

    • Jim Quinlan says:

      Thanks for pointing out the grid image mistake. I fixed.

  12. Cynthia says:

    Derek – Not sure if there’s any use posting this a day late, but I just did the Jonesin’ today. For your future reference, Monica and Ross Geller are the “Friends” characters (siblings) played by Courteney Cox and David Schwimmer.

Comments are closed.