Erik Agard & Wendy Brandes’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! Wishing you a peaceful holiday or a peaceful “well, we can’t go out to the movies and a Chinese restaurant—now what?”
Fave fill in this 70-worder: DOOBIE, GRETA THUNBERG (here’s how long and exhausting 2020 has been—I needed a ton of crossings to JOG my memory as to who was named Time’s Person of the Year about 53 weeks ago), GAME TIME, RIFFED ON, DOULA, “NOT BAD AT ALL,” and JUICE BAR (I had the last 5 letters in place and filled in SPACE BAR before I looked at the clue).
Seven more things:
- 33a. [Like someone associated with a blue, pink and white flag, for short], TRANS. Good clue. There are so many pride flags now, as varying groups stride into the light.
- 57a. [Madame___ (online lifestyle magazine)], NOIRE. This one’s new to me. You can go peruse it here.
- 60a. [Parts of an assembly], STEPS. As in the steps in the instructions for assembling a piece of furniture, and not a school assembly.
- 12d. [Process involving a server], ORDERING. As in a restaurant server, not a “process server,” a computer server, or a tennis/volleyball server.
- 13d. [Readers, e.g.], GLASSES. As in reading glasses.
- 29d. [Word on either side of “to”], ASHES. “Ashes to Ashes” is the title of a David Bowie song. Bowie’s also known for a 1977 duet with Bing Crosby (video below), suitable for yuletide.
- 42d. [Toy associated with France], POODLE. There are standard poodles, too, much bigger than the toy poodle, but this clue definitely sent me down the wrong path, trying to think of classically French playthings.
Four stars from me.
NORAD tells me Santa is flying over the Gulf of Mexico right now, heading to New Orleans after dropping off gifts in Ciudad del Carmen. “… and to all a good night.”
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up
Coming in hot and heavy with a crossword that isn’t quite as annoying as what its theme evokes. A small selection of those Christmas tunes heavy on the redundant refrains in this 16×15 grid with bilateral symmetry.
- 21a. [Seasonal favorite] DECK THE HALLS.
- 40a. [With 43-Across, 21-Across chorus line] FA LA LA LA LA
- 43a. LA LA LA LA
- 63a. [Seasonal favorite] LITTLE DRUMMER BOY.
- 66a. [63-Across chorus line] PA RUM PUM PUM PUM.
Uh … de gustibus non est disputandum?
- Maybe in counterpoint to the thematic festivities we have 62a [King of Judea] HEROD? I defer to those versed in bibble things.
- But look! I found some Christmas BATIK (27a):
- And here’s 52d [Like Eeyore’s outlook] GLOOMY in a still from a Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas special:
- 11d [’50s–’70s singer with 12 Billboard Top 10 hits] PAUL ANKA. We rarely see him full-name in a grid. I checked his two Christmas albums (1961 and 2011) and neither of this crossword’s featured songs appear on either. Also, the dates in the clue must be referring to his heydays as an entertainer, as he’s still kicking around at age 79.
- Check out the sequential anagrammatic trio of 38d [Mineo of “Rebel Without a Cause”] SAL / 41d [Gore and Green] ALS / 42d [ __ Cruces] LAS.
- 44d [Lanford Wilson’s “The ___ Baltimore”] HOTL. I knew from previous solves that this was HOTEL with one of the letters missing (i.e., unlit in neon) but couldn’t remember which. Needed crossings to suss it out.
- 64d [Ruler of anc. Rome] EMP. Wow, that’s an ugly clue, and fill. There’s other unappealing pulp holding the grid together, a lot of short stuff like IPO, STP, ORU, ALS, GDP, and HEME.
- 11d [[It vanished!]] PFFT, but I went with POOF first.
- 16a [Ford’s second commercial success] MODEL A, 54a [Fit to serve] ONE-A. >moue<
- 68a [Like Oscar of “The Odd Couple” or “Sesame Street”] MESSY. Cute clue, good framing.
- 56a [Show appreciation to] THANK.
Have a good holiday, people!
Prasanna Keshava’s Universal crossword, “Backwaters”—Jim P’s review
It looks like we have a debut today so congratulations are in order. We’ve had a lot of new names lately all over the crossword world, and it’s been fun to see!
Today’s title also doubles as the revealer. Each theme entry contains a body of water spelled backward and highlighted by circles.
- 16a. [Enroll at a foreign university (read each set of circled letters in reverse)] STUDY ABROAD. Bay.
- 26a. [Latin pop star who sang “Anything for You”] GLORIA ESTEFAN. Sea.
- 41a. [“Odyssey” characters?] GREEK ALPHABET. Lake.
- 55a. [Wasn’t involved with at all] HAD NO PART IN. Pond. I’m generally not fond of phrases ending in prepositions, but there probably isn’t another option to get “pond” in the puzzle. Sadly, ALL WORK AND NO PLAY is 16 letters.
Solid work. It only took filling in two of the entries and a glance at the title to figure out what was going on. That helped to put together the final two entries.
Beyond the theme there’s fun fill like ACE VENTURA, “PLAY BALL!” and “COME CLOSER” which might come off as creepy, but the clue avoids that vibe with [Words after “I can’t hear you well”]. I also like ESPORTS, SLAVIC, and the word FLAGONS. If you’re inclined to use KEY CASES, you probably liked that as well, but I don’t know anyone who uses one.
Clues of note:
- 60a. [Runs in the laundry]. BLEEDS. Nice, non-gory clue.
- 62a. [Champ or Major, for the Bidens]. PET. It will be pleasant to see pets in the White House again—and people who are compassionate enough to have some.
- 28d. [Animal detective of film]. ACE VENTURA. Curious that this wasn’t cross-referenced with PET; after all, the first film was titled ACE VENTURA: PET Detective.
- 37d. [African capital on the Atlantic]. RABAT. Capital of Morocco.
A solid start to a budding crossword career. 3.5 stars.
I’m not usually one to listen to pop music, but it is Christmas, and it is GLORIA ESTEFAN. What can I do? Here’s a deeper cut from her Christmas album.
Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword – Rachel’s writeup
We have arrived at the New Yorker’s year-in-review puzzle week, where there will be a daily puzzle recapping 2020 in X. I’m not going to review all of these (who has the time!), but I’ll stick to M/W/F. Today’s in 2020 in Literature, appropriately from constructor Anna Shechtman, who is “a Ph.D. candidate in English literature and film and media studies at Yale University and a senior humanities editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books,” per her New Yorker bio.
The “theme” entries for 2020 in Literature are:
- LOUISE GLUCK – [2020 Literature Nobelist who wrote, “We look at the world once, in childhood. / The rest is memory”]
- RODHAM – [Curtis Sittenfeld alternative-history novel about a 2016 Presidential candidate (May, 2020)]
- LUSTER – [Début novel by Raven Leilani, about a young Black woman in an interracial, intergenerational relationship (August, 2020)]
- MANTEL – [Hilary who wrote “The Mirror and the Light,” the final installment of her “Wolf Hall” trilogy (March, 2020)]
- AND – [“The Ballad of Songbirds ___ Snakes” (May, 2020, Suzanne Collins prequel to the “Hunger Games” trilogy)]
- JENNY OFFIL [Author of “Weather,” featuring a fictional podcast called “Hell and High Water” about cultural degeneracy and climate change (February, 2020)]
- COLSON – [Whitehead whose novel “The Nickel Boys” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in May, 2020]
- ALI SMITH – [Author whose novel “Summer” is the final book in her Seasonal Quartet (August, 2020)]
- FERRANTE – [Elena who wrote the Neapolitan bildungsroman “The Lying Life of Adults” (September, 2020)]
- NOT – [“It’s ___ All Downhill from Here” (March, 2020, best-seller by Terry McMillan)]
That’s a lot of “theme” material! I think using AND and NOT to squeeze in two more themers is hilarious. As an uncultured brute, I knew very few of these, but the crosses were all totally fair, so I learned a lot from this puzzle and have developed a 2021 reading list. Thanks Anna! The fill suffers a tad from the constraint of squeezing in all of these themers, but it’s hard to rate a year-in-review puzzle like a standard crossword, so I’m not going to stress about it. Instead, I’m going to go have another Christmas mimosa. Happy holidays to all who celebrate, and see you next week!