Wednesday, December 23, 2020

LAT 4:06 (GRAB) 


The New Yorker 13:07 (Rachel) 


NYT 4:53 (Amy) 


WSJ 7:15 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


AVCX 6:28 (Ben) 


Geoff Brown’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Flow Profile”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Fs are added before Ls in well-known phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Flow Profile” · Beoff Brown · Wed., 12.23.20

  • 20a. [The chicken dance as a touchdown celebration?] VICTORY FLAPS. Victory laps.
  • 34a. [Pairs-diving practice?] FLIP SYNCING. Lip syncing.
  • 41a. [Plane trip whose carbon emissions are offset?] GREEN FLIGHT. Green light.
  • 51a. [Evolution gone wrong?] FLAW OF NATURE. Law of nature.

This theme is fairly wide open. There are quite a few L-words that are still words when preceded by an F (lair, lush, lick, lint, loss, lake, etc.). But since there’s no other constraint and many options to choose from, I would hope that the puzzle’s entries would be LOL-funny. Unfortunately, I didn’t find myself chuckling much during the solve (okay, VICTORY FLAPS isn’t bad). Some of those other words I listed seem to lend themselves more easily to humor (HAIR FLOSS, anyone?). These entries are fine, but just that; I’d hope to see more sparkle or else some added constraint.

In the fill, RAT TRAPS is the most interesting entry with EAR PLUG and GARLAND holding second place. I hesitated to put in SPARELY [In a thrifty manner], but I guess it’s a word, even though “sparsely” has almost the same meaning and much wider usage.

As you’d expect, cluing is slightly more difficult than yesterday, but I didn’t spot anything of note. I did like the similar clues for ASIA and AFRICA [Largest of a group of seven] and [Second-largest of a group of seven], respectively.

A solid puzzle. But with a wide-open theme, there’s room for more humor. 3.5 stars.

Julia Tringali Golden’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 23 20, no. 1223

Okay! Another rebus puzzle landing on a Wednesday rather than a Thursday, and it felt sort of Thursday-tough to me even though I figured out the rebus quickly.

The revealer is WEATHER BALLOONS, 40a. [Carriers of meteorological instruments … as suggested by this puzzle’s theme?], and the circled squares can be viewed as little balloons. Each of them contains a weather-related word in rebus form: RAIN, WIND, ICE, and SUN. Here are the rebusoids:

  • 18a. [Interval for a scheduled blastoff], LAUNCH {WIND}OW crossing11d. [Puts back in its original state, as a videotape], RE{WIND}S.
  • 20a. [10th and 11th, e.g.], EXT{RA IN}NINGS crossing4d. [High rollers?], EL T{RAIN}S. Or, as Chicagoans would have it, “L” trains. I impressed myself by guessing 20a with just the -NGS in place.
  • 57a. [Rend], TEAR A{SUN}DER crossing 53d. [Scary cry on a beach], “T{SUN}AMI!” Jeez, that’s terrifying. Puts the solver right there on that beach as disaster approaches.
  • 63a. [Wonder-ful product?], SL{ICE}D BREAD crossing 56d. [Enemy of Antony, in ancient Rome], C{ICE}RO.

Neat theme, rebus angle executed well (if a bit off-putting with that TSUNAMI clue).

Five more things:

  • 6d. [Place for a firing], KILN. If you have HBO Max (which is free if you are already an HBO cable subscriber), check out The Great Pottery Throw Down. It’s like The Great British Bake Off, only with hotter ovens and nothing to eat. They’ve released three seasons and the fourth is in the works, and the British competitors are a delight.
  • 34d. [Ingredient in some medicinal teas], SENNA. It’ll make you poop, if you were wondering.
  • 47a. [Lawless figure with legendary fighting skills], XENA. Played by Lucy Lawless. Gotta love a concealed capital letter clue.
  • 27d. [Contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race”], QUEEN. When will the next season be filmed? Will they use a cast-and-crew COVID-free bubble like GBBO did this year? I am impatient! (Welcome to a special reality TV–focused episode of Diary of a Crossword Fiend.)
  • 25d. [Premium movie theater seat], RECLINER. Oh! How I miss that. My cousin and I would go to Webster Place and watch movies in the comfort of spacious recliners. I don’t know if the movie theater business will ever come back. Certainly I won’t be ready to watch a movie at a multiplex in the next 6 to 12 months.

Minor gripe, which I didn’t notice till after I finished the puzzle: the IN ALL/IN AIR repeat of IN. Bigger gripe, which I did notice: [Long-running sci-fi show, for short], DR. WHO. It’s just not an entry that should be used, since the title is Doctor Who and the character is The Doctor. Clued about as well as can be, but it doesn’t buy forgiveness for the entry.

Four stars from me.

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword  – Rachel’s writeup

The New Yorker crossword solution • Natan Last • Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Happy christmas eve eve, to those who celebrate! Today’s puzzle from Natan Last took me longer than it probably should have, but I enjoyed most of it. The long entries are fun (except for STANNING, imo), and I learned something new with NUYORICAN, a term I had never encountered before and which was not totally intuitive but ultimately makes sense. We also have MINDY KALING, ROOT CAUSE, GROUP CHAT, LONGSHOTS, and MEET-CUTE. All fun! The NUYORICAN corner was really tough for me because I had never heard of ARNICA [Sunflower relative used in some homeopathic balms] or the mineral mentioned in the clue for IRON ORE [Goethite, for one] either. I also had NOTE instead of TONE for [Step on a scale], so this corner took an eternity to untangle. But I got there!

I’m not a fan of the term STANNING to mean [Being devoted to a celebrity, in modern slang] because of the origins of the term in an Eminem song about a “stalker fan” who kills his pregnant girlfriend when he doesn’t get attention from the celebrity he is obsessed with. I recognize that language evolves and the term can also be used totally innocuously, but I personally avoid it. Also unusual to see references to Il DUCE (a fascist) — he hasn’t shown up in a NYT since 2013.

A few more things:

  • EMU EGG was a funny entry that I enjoyed putting into the grid
  • I threw in CLOODLE instead of DROODLE and didn’t bother to check the crosses, so this error took a bit to hunt down at the end
  • JACKS UP doesn’t quite work with [Hikes] for me; I think hikes is also usually followed by an up in this context?
  • Favorite clues:
    • [Words with friends?] – I recognized this clue on GROUP CHAT and realized it was in the NYT in August, but it’s still excellent
    • [Logo image for “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”] for LIPS

Overall, plenty of stars for a fun (and more than moderately challenging) puzzle. See you on the 25th!

Emily Carroll’s Universal crossword, “Liquored Up” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/23/20 • Wed • “Liquored Up” • Carroll • solution • 20201223

  • 66aR [Like laced punch, and a hint to what’s been added to 17-, 32-, 41- and 59-Across] SPIKED. To wit, RUM has been added to existing phrases to engineer wackified results.
  • 17a. [Notices a backward warning in “The Shining”?] SEES REDRUM (sees red). The gimmick in the film is that that’s really ‘MURDER’. An awkward entry to introduce the theme, on two counts. First, the RUM is more or less portraying its recognizable self, and second, introducing the reversal element muddles the wordplay that’s actually taking place.
  • 32a. [Ode to one’s favorite cuts of beef?] RUMPS I LOVE YOU (P.S. I Love You).
  • 41a. [Mist that makes you look like president Harry?] SPRAY-ON TRUMAN (spray-on tan). Sorry to be predictable, but the confluence of RUMPs in the previous themer and ‘spray-on [tan]’ plus ‘president’ in this one imparts a decidedly unpleasant image in this solver’s mind.
  • 59a. [Gallery manners?] ART DECORUM (Art Deco). My favorite of the lot.

As you can see, my estimation is that the theme—which I appreciate for its festive timeliness—has some significant flaws.

  • 7d [Rustic venue for a hipster wedding] BARN. So that’s a different clue.
  • 30d [Nobelist Pavlov] IVAN.

    (Well, this video comes up as “age-restricted” and I can’t imagine why.)
  • 19a [Class where tangents are important, briefly?] TRIG. Nifty clue, though the misdirection is transparent.
  • 63a [Broccoli rabe] RAPINI. I tend to use the former name, but have had to internalize the other because its frequency in the NYT Spelling Bee.

Now looking for a musical selection to conclude on, and I’m going to be a bit lazy about it by falling back on Monk (sort of). 50a [ __ to lunch] OUT.

John Guzzetta’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle is not a unique one, but it has a strong visual element. PROGRESSIVETAX is clued as a [Rate-rising-with-amount levy…] which made my brain bleed whilst reading it. The letters T-A-X move from left to right a-la the “man walking up stairs” puzzle. Another curiosity: the puzzle is only 14 letters wide; unusual design decision.

Not a whole lot that’s notable, for better or worse, in the rest of the grid: EVOO has not yet conquered crossword puzzles completely, though perhaps it is just a matter of time! LUMMOX is just a fun word to say or to write.


Byron Walden’s AVCX, “Gifted Individuals” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 12/23/20 – “Gifted Individuals”

Happy Wednesday – it’s Christmas Eve Eve, and there must be some holiday magic in this grid because this was a rare Byron AVCX I was on the same wavelength with:

  • 17A: Wrestling superstar who played the lead in John Carpenter’s “They Live” (11th) — ROWDY RODDY PIPER
  • 26A: “Axios on HBO” journalist whose summer 2020 interview with Donald Trump launched many memes (7th) — JONATHAN SWAN
  • 34A: Lexicographer who wrote “Usage and Abusage” and “A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English” (1st) — ERIC PARTRIDGE
  • 43A: “The Danny Thomas Show” costar, and mom to actress Anne Archer (10th) — MARJORIE LORD
  • 56A: Hugo-winning alternate history author of “The Two Georges” and “The Guns of the South” (2nd) — HARRY TURTLEDOVE

As soon as I connected ROWDY RODDY PIPER and the (11th) in the clue, I knew what was going on.  Each “gifted individual” has a last name that matches one of the items given in the 12 Days of Christmas.  I wasn’t familiar with most of these people (save Piper, who’s great in “The Live”), but knowing that was the hook was enough to work each of them out with the crossings.

Other notes :

  • I’ve lived in Boston for just over a decade and I’ve somehow never run into CANTAB as shorthand for a Harvard grad in the same way ELI is associated with Yale.  I had just thought it was the name of a local dive bar!
  • How did AGE OF LOVE air on NBC and not VH1, home of both “Flavor of Love” and “Rock of Love”?
  • COW MANURE: “That’s basically BS”

Have a wonderful rest of this holiday week!

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27 Responses to Wednesday, December 23, 2020

  1. RSP64 says:

    NYT – way too many abbreviations in my opinion. Neither my wife or I can figure out how EGOT is a Barbara Streisand collection (even with a question mark).

  2. Lise says:

    NYT: I liked that the weather balloons were symmetrically placed. That had to up the construction difficulty significantly. Kudos!

  3. Pamela Kelly says:

    EGOT is huge outside of crosswords!

  4. ATeenyLass says:

    re: Drag Race: they revealed the next season’s cast already and the premiere will be on New Year’s Day! They apparently filmed back-to-back with (presumably) all-stars, with regular testing. The queens are already quarantined for the duration of filming, even pre-COVID, so wearing masks for crew and the COVID testing were probably the biggest changes…

  5. JohnH says:

    Recently the TNY print option has come with a popup asking if you’d like to reduce the typeface so that it will fit on a page. (It also displays a conventional character sequence used to display type, not terribly helpful.) What it doesn’t say is that it hasn’t in the least screened for puzzles that require this option in order to fit. Most but not all still fit just fine.

    They really should bite the bullet and add a “download pdf” option like most puzzles. (I know that’s not of interest to readers here, who are almost all online solvers.) Their grid takes up more than the usual space, which is what creates the potential problem. Numbers within the grid are small relative to the grid, so if you use your print driver’s reduce option (as opposed to theirs) they become very hard to read as well. The type is fairly large, but then so would that of most pdf puzzles if you don’t reduce them to less than a full page. Oh, well, won’t happen. (The print page URL still somehow ends “-jpg.”)

    I see today’s is by Natan Last, so no doubt the “moderately challenging” puzzle will be close to impossible. I’ll find out soon.

  6. marciem says:

    TNY: I’m not clear on 53D = DEV. Is that as in developer with the ux being the hint at an abbreviation? Just a guess. Nuyorican was totally unknown/unheard by me but makes sense once you say it aloud a few times LOL!

    WSJ: The two “#x of seven” clues, I was expecting one of the seven to be continents and the other to be seas/oceans for a twist. But nope, no twist, just straight up.

    • JohnH says:

      I didn’t know DEV either. I Googled DEV UX, and while that didn’t actually get me to a page mentioning DEV, it did give pages including “developer” of UX, which turns out to mean “user experience.”

      And yeah, in the end this was impossible for me. I left blanks all over the NE with KASHI, KATEY, DRE, STANNING, the terms associated with MANX, and KALING (but did remember NIA and SPANX entirely from other crosswords). I also circled nearly half the clue numbers for things I didn’t know, obviously more than I can list here. I realize I have things to learn, but this was still a quiz I could only fail.

      Unlike Rachel, the NW was the only corner in which I had a fair chance, as NUYORICAN is old hat to a New Yorker. Here’s a current exhibition at El Museo del Barrio about a movement back in the day that boasted the term.

      • marciem says:

        I had the same experience googling UX DEV, just a vague mention of the word development in one article. Which is where I came up with my wild guess that dev meant development. I had no idea what UX was either. And maybe that isn’t what is meant in the puzzle at all.

        As ATeenylass confirms, UX is mostly about design.

        I was lucky in that most of the center parts that slowed you were pretty easy for me. Along with Jaques PEPIN, that gave me a good foothold.

      • Zulema says:

        And one more question about another abbr. in the NYT. What is ANAG, 7D?

      • Christopher Smith says:

        I was pretty lost the whole time too. Also it’d be great if I never saw THATD in a puzzle again.

    • ATeenyLass says:

      I work in software development. Traditionally, a ‘dev’ is someone who writes code that is executed by the end-user. UX (“User eXperience”) designers tend to make mockups and designs for the devs to execute, and only rarely are they actually coding the final user experience.

      UX is specifically the things like workflows (once you login, what do you see first?) and designs (what things do we want to emphasize visually so that users have an easier time doing X or are prompted to do X?), and the general ‘experience’. One classic of user experience is Norman’s “The Design of Everday Objects”, which isn’t about software at all and is really interesting to anyone, if you want to think about things as common as doors and juicers or as uncommon as the pilot’s cockpit.

      • ATeenyLass says:

        That said, my experience isn’t universal, and I’m sure there are people called ‘UX developers’ instead of ‘UX designers’.

  7. Will says:

    I didn’t know the wrestler for 17A in the AV club, but when choosing between STD and STI I thought randy roIdy piper made sense.

  8. Mutman says:

    NYT: I think 53D should more factually be reworded as: ‘Beachgoers final cry at the beach’.

    Tsunami in this context — SHEESH! Get a less morbid clue!

  9. Jwaan says:

    Ben is correct on CANTAB. I never heard it used at Harvard–I thought it was only ever used by yale students writing about Harvard in November. Whereas ELI seemed like more of a semi-official nickname people there actually used.

  10. Joan Macon says:

    Well, I was afraid it was too good to be true when the authors of LAT and fiend were the same yesterday, and I was right. No match today. Why can’t this be solved???? Amy, I’m blaming the LAT!

  11. Lois says:

    I really enjoyed the NYT, and will give it five stars despite Amy’s being absolutely right about the “IN”s, which Shortz doesn’t care about but which bother me, and about DOCTOR WHO.

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