Monday, December 21, 2020

BEQ 16:44 (Ade) 


LAT 2:02 (Stella) 


NYT 2:25 (Stella) 


The New Yorker 11:34 (Rachel) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


WSJ 4:11 (Jim P) 


Sarah Keller and Derek Bowman’s New York Times crossword—Stella’s write-up

NYT 12-21-20 by Sarah Keller and Derek Bowman

NY Times crossword solution, 12-21-20, no. 1221 by Sarah Keller and Derek Bowman

Oh wow, Sarah Keller! I thought it had been a while since I’ve seen her byline, and indeed it’s been two-plus years since she was last blogged about here. (Then again, I took a nine-year hiatus from constructing, so I shouldn’t talk.) Nice to see the name of someone I used to interact with on the regular back when we were both members of CrosSynergy.

Anyway, this NYT theme doesn’t need much explaining. There’s a revealer, but I’m not sure it adds anything, since the theme is clearly within the clues. It’s all a bunch of blah-dee-blah:

  • 1A [Prattle] is BLATHER.
  • 19A [Nonsense] is MUMBO-JUMBO.
  • 25A [Worthless talk] is JIBBER-JABBER.
  • 48A [Unintelligible jargon] is GOBBLEDYGOOK.
  • 57A [Twaddle] is BALDERDASH.

I guess now that I think about it, 71A [“Huh?”…or a possible response to 1-, 19-, 25-, 48-, and 57-Across] is not so much a revealer as a way to make 1A feel like part of thematic symmetry. I don’t think it adds anything to the fun of the theme, which IMO comes from the fact that words for nonsense are all fun to say in your mind.

The grid has lots of 6- and 8-letter entries, which feels unusual for a Monday and the fill is pretty clean despite that. Bravi. On the other hand, between EVA MARIE Saint, PAL JOEY, GB SHAW, and ZORBA, the puzzle feels a little…ARCHIVAL, shall we say? ALEXA and PSY weren’t enough to balance that out for me.

At 2:25, this felt a smidge harder than the average Monday for me. Which leads me to something easier…

Fred Piscop’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

LAT 12/21/20 by Fred Piscop

LAT 12/21/20 by Fred Piscop

Ever notice that the word “homophone” is just a letter change away from “homophobe”? Once I was group-chatting at work and mentioned “this really cool homophone” and I raised some virtual eyebrows for a minute or two until people figured out what was going on. Eek!

Anyway, homophobes-with-a-B are bad! But homophones-with-an-N can be really fun! This puzzle has four of them, and I’d say they’re all RIGHT if nothing to WRITE home about. See what I did there?

Breaking the trend of LAT Mondays of late, this puzzle has no revealer, so you need to go back and see that the first syllable of all four theme entries sounds the same:

  • 16A [In general] is BY AND LARGE.
  • 61A [Bring on difficulty] is BUY TROUBLE.
  • 15D [Fluent in two tongues] is BILINGUAL. (In the other three themers, the homophone is the first word of a two- or three-word phrase; in this case, it’s a syllable in a longer word.]
  • 28D [“See you later”] is BYE FOR NOW.

They don’t feel like the freshest or most evocative entries one could have chosen for this theme. In fact, I kinda want to remake this theme with BYE FELICIA and BUY BUY BABY and perhaps BICUSPID and BY GEORGE. I guess my theme for today is that I’m in my 40s but would like to hang onto some semblance of youth.

The fill is nice and smooth. Not a single clunker entry to be found.

Nina Sloan & Matthew Stock’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Cold Cuts”—Jim P’s review

Today’s theme answers have the letters ICE separated by ever-increasing numbers of letters as we go down the grid. The revealer is ICEBREAKER (56a, [Get-to-know-you game, and a description of this puzzle’s theme]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Cold Cuts” · Nina Sloan & Matthew Stock · Mon., 12.21.20

  • 16a. [Sleight of hand, maybe] SWITCHEROO
  • 20a. [“All I Want for Christmas Is You” singer] MARIAH CAREY
  • 35a. [One might make a B-9 announcement] BINGO CALLER
  • 50a. [Group of close associates] INNER CIRCLE

I really like how the ICE letters are separated by one other, then two, then three, then four other letters, as if an iceberg was chopped into three and the pieces drifted apart. That’s an elegant touch.

Speaking of which, have you heard about the massive iceberg heading toward a south Atlantic island and threatening the colony of penguins living there? Something to keep an eye on in the near future.

Top fill: BONANZAS, CANNOLI, a Star Wars POD RACER, and RANDO, one of my favorite recent slang words.

None of the fill caused me to scowl although it felt like there were a lot of initialisms, especially in the center: NGO, MLS, AAA, BCCED, and NBA. Clues were Monday-straight allowing for a relatively quick solve.

3.75 stars.

Barbara Lin’s Universal crossword, “Is It Soup Yet?” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/21/20 • Mon • Lin • “Is It Soup Yet?” • solution • 20201221

Phrases ending in ingredients one might use for soup.

  • 17a. [Delving into a problem layer by layer] PEELING THE ONION.
  • 25a. [Not making any sense] FULL OF BEANS.
  • 43a. [One may watch Netflix for hours] COUCH POTATO. Wiktionary tells me this: “From couch +‎ potato; coined by Tom Iacino in 1976 as a pun on boob tuber (from boob tube (‘television’) and tuber (‘potato’)); trademarked by Robert Armstrong from 1976–91.”
  • 55a. [Offering an incentive] DANGLING A CARROT.

Yes, these are all soupy items. 47d [Stirs into the pot] ADDS. I’m put in mind of those prepackaged soup mixes. Some of them are bags or boxes of dried beans, lentils, and the like, while others are fresh produce such as this:

No RUTABAGAS in this crossword, however. Nor celery for that matter. However, there is 23-down [Pungent salad root] RADISH, which is a not-uncommon soup ingredient. 48d [Poi ingredient] TARO is also not-unheard of for soup. Little distracting. More food with 50-across APPLE PIE, but that’s not quite as close to the theme; nevertheless, it is a bit distracting. Conversely, 5a [Lavish meal] FEAST—located top center—is a nice bonus for the theme.

  • Looking at 44d [Heartburn medication brand] PEPCID and 58a [The “D” of FDA] DRUG, it’s evident that a potential duplication was averted, so what to make of 51d [Remove the peel from] PARE, which quite noticeably repeats part of the themer PEELING THE ONION?
  • Longdowns are 4d [Tibetan spiritual leader] DALAI LAMA and 35d [Dessert from a machine] SOFT SERVE. To no avail, I searched for an image combining the two. Couldn’t even find one with regular ice cream. Found some pizza, some cake, an appearance on Master Chef, but no SOFT SERVE.
  • 10d [Two-faced Roman god] JANUS. Turn of the year is indeed nigh.
  • 45d [Hosiery choice] L’EGGS, 43d [Stocking filler, for some] COAL. Ouch.
  • 22a [“Who am __ judge?”] I TO. Lance?
  • 30a [Transfer students’ degs., perhaps] AAS. Had to look this one up; it’s a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree. Uh, not great fill.
  • 62a [ ___ of decency] SHRED. This works, but also feels incomplete, wanting. As if it should be [“Have you no ___ of decency?”] or something akin to that.
  • 5d [Partial to] FOND OF.

Crossword’s okay, but a bit too loose and muddled for this solver’s palate.

Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Kameron Austin Collins • Monday, December 21, 2020

This is a super ambitious and gorgeous grid! And it very much works, except for one tiny corner I’ll get to later. But for the most part, I am in awe of this beautiful square pattern and the wide open corners that mean this puzzle has *twelve* ten-letter entries. Whew!

Counter-clockwise around the grid, which is the order in which I solved this puzzle, the 10s are: POLICY WONK / I’M IN HEAVEN / CINCINNATI / SPACE WASTE / LIME RICKEY / INTERSTATE / COUTURIERE / COMPLICATE / ARMS DEALER / OR ELSE WHAT / SENATE AIDE / HYDRANGEAS. These are uniformly excellent! I didn’t know the word COUTURIER or Elsa Schiaparelli, but other than that, the 10s are familiar, crunchy phrases, most of which are clued at a challenging Monday New Yorker level. My favorites of these entries are POLICY WONK and OR ELSE WHAT. I also really loved RIIIGHT, which confused me at first (what kind of word has three I’s in a row??), but which made me laugh out loud when it clicked.

A few more things:

  • Favorite clues:
    • [Couple of bucks?] for DEER
    • [Being a-creep?] for INCHING
    • [“We Were ___ Years in Power” (Ta-Nehisi Coates essay collection)] for EIGHT — there are so many ways to clue EIGHT, and I think this is strong and voice-y
  • Cross-references I could live without: GREEN / TEAL
  • The corner I had to cheat on was BUTLER / BOSH / UREY — if you don’t know BUTLER or UREY, the first letter of BOSH is totally up in the air (I had TOSH). I had to google “The Remains of the Day” to learn that the narrator is a BUTLER. I’m an uncultured brute!
  • I also struggled with the NICAD / LIGETI cross, although I infer that NICAD is a hybrid of nickel and cadmium??
  • Have never heard of ACTIFED but would love to believe that it was discontinued because it was a super powerful stimulant. Is that true?

Overall, tons of stars for an ambitious and crunchy grid. See you on Wednesday!

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword (No. 1324), Themeless Monday —Ade’s take

Brendan Emmett Quigley crossword, No. 1324: Themeless Monday

Good day, everyone! Hope all is well to begin the penultimate week of 2020!

Definitely a tough one to crack into for today’s themeless, and, oddly enough for this solver, a couple of the sports-related entries were the ones that tripped me up! I knew 1D immediately, but put in “Sissy” instead of CISSY (1D: [“___ Strut” (1969 hit by the Meters)]), which then made COACH K, a.k.a. Duke University men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, harder to see (1A: [Sports Illustrated’s 2011 Sportsman of the Year, colloquially]). Then there was not putting together that the date mentioned for SHEA STADIUM would/should correspond with a World Series date (in this case, the New York Mets winning their first Fall Classic) instead of some volcano or other geological episode (18A: [It erupted on October 16, 1969]). At least GAME NIGHT (28D: [Go time?]) , referring to the board game Go (which I’ve played all of once in my life), came a little faster, which was necessary given that NOMEN, for some reason, did not pop in my mind  for its clue until getting that crossing…and slapping my forehead once seeing it completely filled (38A” [“Octavius,” in Octavius Caesar]). There were definitely highlights in the puzzle, especially LOGARITHMIC (42A: [Like some nonlinear scales in mathematics]) and one of the many nicknames of Kendrick LAMAR (32A: [Rapper also known as Cornrow Kenny]). However, definitely was grossed out upon a) seeing torture supporter GONZALES(29D: [Ashcroft’s successor as Attorney General]) in the grid and b) seeing his name cross something associated with Muslims, MOSQUE (49A: [Building with a minaret]). Definitely a GOD NO from me on that one (28A: [Adamant refusal]).

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ASSIST (7A: [Dime, in the NBA]) – Hope you knew some basketball slang in knowing a “dime” is referring to an assist ,(the pass that directly leads to a made basket), a statistic that has been tracked in the NBA since the beginning of the league back in the late 1940s. Those who are casual fans know that John Stockton of the Utah Jazz is the all-time leader in assists, but who holds the NBA record for assists in a single game??? That answer is Scott Skiles, who had a whopping 30 assists in a game almost 30 years ago today, on Dec. 30, 1990, as a member of the Orlando Magic against the Denver Nuggets. If you think that Magic great and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal was on the receiving end of a lot of those passes, then you’re wrong; Shaq was a sophomore at LSU at the time!

Thank you so much for your time, everyone! Have a great rest of your Monday, and hope you have a good rest of your week!

Take care!


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20 Responses to Monday, December 21, 2020

  1. janie says:

    sarah and derek’s puzz brought to mind this spectrum mobile ad, now currently running:

    nothin’ ARCHIVAL about EVA MARIE Saint, PAL JOEY, GB SHAW, and ZORBA in my book. classics? yep — but each evergreen in its own way. for this solver anyway! a YMMV call, i s’pose…


  2. huda says:

    NYT: Loved the theme. I use many of these expressions.. Not BALDERDASH, but the others. My goal in writing scientific papers is not to sound like it’s a bunch of GOBBLEDY GOOK.

  3. Mutman says:

    NYT: Really wish there was a shoutout to Joe B with MALARKY! That could have replaced the non-essential revealer.

  4. cyco says:

    New Yorker: I hadn’t heard of it, but it looks like the company behind ACTIFED had to switch up its formula in the mid-2000s to remove pseudoephedrine, which can be used in the manufacture of crystal meth. Like similar products, it was moved behind the counter as well. This must have cut into sales because they discontinued it shortly afterward.

    Surprised that I had never heard of Elsa Schiaparelli before! Apparently she was a rival of Coco Chanel and they were equally famous in their day.

  5. RichardZ says:

    Just wondering if there’s a more or less comprehensive listing of all of the crossword sites out there. It can include free or subscription-based sites, and if the list includes sites which offer variety puzzles (acrostics, cryptics, etc) in addition to standard American-style puzzles, so much the better. Like everyone else, I have only so much time each week to devote to puzzles, so I sometimes like to survey what’s available and consider swapping out one puzzle from my rotation for another more interesting or challenging one. (I seem to recall a link to such a listing being posted here, but I can’t seem to dig it up). Thanks!

  6. David L says:

    An odd little problem in the BEQ–at 38D, we get the plural NOVAE crossing with MOSQUE. But then 34D and 47A are TOGA_/AREOLA_, both plural. I figured they should end in E, for consistency with NOVAE, but no, you have to put in S to get the correct solution.

    Incidentally, in my long ago days as an astrophysicist, the word ‘nova’ would come up with some frequency, and almost everyone pluralized it with an -s.

    • RunawayPancake says:

      BEQ – Hey, David L. I had the same thought as you did when I hit that cross.

      And I would like to add my thanks to Ade for this comprehensive review. I’m a big fan of BEQ’s puzzles and am very happy that Ade deems them worthy of such thoughtful analysis.

  7. Kelly Clark says:

    Thanks for reviewing BEQ’s puzzle, Ade. SHEA STADIUM…it was next to the last to drop in and I *still* had no idea why. Until I thought for several minutes. Duh on me! :-)

  8. Rahsaan Hawkins says:


    I think the 30A [Transfer students’ degs, perhaps], “AAS”, refers to Associates of Arts, not the specific Associate of Applied Science. Most junior college/community college graduates have an AA.

  9. Joan Macon says:

    Is anyone tired of me continually complaining that the paper LAT and the fiend list different authors? This has been going on for weeks except for yesterday when they matched and I had a thrill to see it! OK. today it’s different gain. I guess from now on I’ll only mention when they match, not when they’re different!

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