Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Jonesin' untimed (Derek) 


LAT 3:06 (Derek) 


NYT 3:05 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 7:56 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 547), “Chow Down!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 547: “Chow Down!”

Hello there, peoples! Here is hoping that Turkey Day will be a special one for you, or, at the very least, a relaxing and uneventful holiday.  

Of course, with Thanksgiving around the corner, I’m sure many will think about the good food that will be consumed, and some of those foods appear in today’s grid. Five theme entries are not references to food but contain words that are associated with what you would see on the dinner table on Turkey Day. 

  • TALKS TURKEY (3D: [Gets down to business])
  • IN THE SOUP (5D: [Facing trouble])
  • CUSHION STUFFING (7D: [Upholstery material])
  • WORD SALAD (34D: [Gibberish])
  • AMERICAN PIE (26D: [’70s hit with the lyric “Helter skelter in a summer swelter”])

I remember being roped into watching GOSSIP GIRL by a former beau, and she always loved the “XOXO” line that was used by one of the main characters, and now I couldn’t get it out of my head for months after being exposed to the show (54A: [TV teen drama starring Blake Lively]). After writing this, I can’t get it out of my head right now. Absolutely love seeing a Harlem Renaissance leading icon, HURSTON, smack dab in the middle of the grid (36A: [“Their Eyes Were Watching God” author Zora Neale ___]). Actually have a near-full bottle of CUMIN in my cabinet, as I usually utilize it when I make my (really good) homemade chili, but nothing else (30A: [Curry spice]). Let me know on what dishes you use cumin in, so I can do the same and have my friends exclaim “TASTES GOOD” next time I make some meals for guests (18A: [“This Thanksgiving meal is delish!”]). Probably some vegetable stew or part of a meat rub is what I’m thinking in emptying out this bottle!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: HEAL (64A: [Make well]) – Over the past 30 years, Australians have made a big impact in the National Basketball Association, and one of the first Australians to play in the League was guard Shane Heal, who debuted in the NBA in 1996 with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Heal played on four Olympics teams, captaining the Boomers (nickname of Australian men’s national basketball team) in the 2004 Olympics. Heal’s 28 points against the United States’ “Dream Team” in a 1996 Olympic warm-up game attracted the eyes of NBA scouts, leading to him being signed by the Timberwolves. Heal’s daughter, Shyla Heal, is a basketball star herself, as she was drafted No. 8 overall in the 2021 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky.

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

Take care!


Eric Bornstein’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 11 23 21, no. 1123

Here’s a puzzle for your investment advisor:

  • 20a. [Sort of investment suggested by the ends of 3-, 11- and 29-Down], PERSONAL FINANCE. The three themers are PERSONAL names that end in financial instruments of sorts.
  • 3d. [M.L.B. record-holder for most career home runs], BARRY BONDS. You can invest in bonds.
  • 11d. [Singer profiled in the biopic “Walk the Line”], JOHNNY CASH. Cash holdings.
  • 29d. [N.B.A. commissioner starting in 2014], ADAM SILVER. I can’t imagine even 1% of Americans are investing in silver.

Interesting theme, if a tad dry.

Five more things:

  • 44a. [Curving billiards shot], MASSE. Learned this word from crosswords, not sure I’ve ever encountered it in the wild.
  • Depressing combo: the crossing of LAST IN LINE and ON THIN ICE. Everyone else tromps across the pond, weakening the ice, and sploosh, down you go.
  • 65a. [Deserving a D], POOR. I just heard about a kid who got an F on a school paper that was basically a good paper … but the teacher promises an F if there are more than six punctuation errors in the whole thing. What a jackass teacher. Yes, the mechanics of writing matter, but crushing a kid’s spirit and messing with their GPA because you don’t value the soul of a writer, just the soul of a proofreader … ugh.
  • 10d. [Coke vs. Pepsi, e.g.], AD WAR. I did a Google news search for ad war in quotes. The top results are about political advertising, Apple vs. Facebook, and the Super Bowl. Somehow the colas keep ending up in all the clues for the (overused) AD WAR. There’s also a headline from India: “Ad war in horizon as HUL’s Domex dares Reckitt’s Harpic to battleground.” Toilet cleanser wars!
  • 36a. [“___ you are you! That is truer than true!”: Dr. Seuss], TODAY. I don’t know what book that’s from. Is it possible for something to be truer than true? If you are you today, does it logically hold that you were also you yesterday and will still be you tomorrow? Discuss.

3.25 stars from me.

Matthew CSewell’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “And Your Host…”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Famous people with the initials M.C., none of whom are surnamed Escher.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “And Your Host…” · Matthew Sewell · Tue., 11.23.21

  • 17a. [Comedy club emcee?] MICHAEL CHE. This was surprisingly hard to parse before I grokked the theme.
  • 25a. [Opera emcee?] MARIA CALLAS.
  • 37a. [Ballet emcee?] MISTY COPELAND.
  • 49a. [Museum emcee?] MARC CHAGALL.
  • 59a. [Concert emcee?] MILEY CYRUS.

It didn’t take too long to catch on to what was going on here. Once I did, the rest of the themers fell pretty easily. I would have liked it better if all the venues were ones that typically have emcees, but operas, ballets, and museums don’t. Barring that, I would have liked it better if all the performers were ones who perform live for an audience. Painters such as MARC CHAGALL don’t usually, Pablo Picasso notwithstanding.

The fill doesn’t sparkle so much, but it’s serviceable. I remember feeling there were an awful lot of abbreviations, especially near the top (BLM, INC, EPA, ASAP, ASCII, BFF, NASA, KOS).

Clues of note:

  • 12d. [Tin Man’s first words in “The Wizard of Oz”]. OIL CAN. A second Oz reference in as many days? I never would have gotten this one without help from the crossings though.
  • 27d. [Edna Mode eschews them in “The Incredibles”]. CAPES. Or rather “No CAPES!”
  • 36d. [Malek of “No Time to Die”]. RAMI. He’s such a great actor, but I felt he was underused in that film.

3.25 stars.

Malaika Handa’s USA Today Crossword, “Disney Princess Beginnings“ — Emily’s write-up

Given the cluing today, even if you don’t know the 12 Disney Princess off-hand, anyone should be able to enjoy the themers. The rest of the fill is excellent as well and grid layout is intriguing too. A fun solve!

Completed USA Today crossword for Tuesday November 23, 2021

USA Today, 11 23 2021, “Disney Princess Beginnings“ by Malaika Handa

Theme: the first word of each themer is the name of a Disney Princess


  • 16a. [Most fashionable woman at an event], BELLEOFTHEBALL
  • 34a. [Thai curry side dish], JASMINERICE
  • 55a. [Northern Lights], AURORABOREALIS

The title is a nice setup for the theme today, queuing the solver to watch the start of the themers for Disney Princesses, and while there are now many of them, the clues make it clear which ones are needed. As stand alone entires, each themer today is strong and delightful. As a set, they are certainly a dream come true! BELLEOFTHEBALL was a quick fill for me, and who doesn’t like this book-reading, independent, curious girl-turned-princess? JASMINERICE took me a few moments longer but is a very clever clue for this sassy, adventurous princess who puts up with Aladdin’s foibles—she and her pet tiger Rajah were instant favorites of mine growing up. The last one, AURORABOREALIS, racked my brain, given that Sleeping Beauty is a classic that I didn’t read the fairy tale or watch the Disney movie often, though again the clue helped me puzzle out the princess soon enough. To be honest, Maleficent and the dragon she turns into always captivated me more that Aurora. Nonetheless, this is an excellent, fun theme and themers!


Stumpers: EDGY (“modern” or “artsy” were where I was going), AIMING (just didn’t click for me, especially that final letter), and REBOOT (just didn’t know, needed crossings)

In addition to all of the Disney Princesses today, it was enjoyable to see the other women in this puzzle today too: LISA [Actress Bonet], STEVIE [Nicks of Fleetwood Mac], Serena [Williams who won that Australian Open while pregnant]—still so impressive!, and [Janis ___ (“Mean Girls” character”)] IAN. Though not official, ELSA [“Frozen” Queen] makes an appearance too.

4.75 stars


Alex Eaton-Salner’s Universal Crossword, “Bursting with Pride”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Common two-word phrases where the last letter of each of the words in the phrases cycle through LGBTQ.

Universal crossword solution · “Bursting with Pride”· Alex Eaton-Salners · Tue., 11.23.21


  • (revealer) LGBTQ RIGHTS

Some nice finds here and a fun, if somewhat more challenging than usual, grid. I got pretty hung up on FBI HQ /ATTAQ (which of course is easily filled in once you get to the revealer). TAG UP was difficult for me too because a clue like [Touch base again] typically denotes a RE- prefix. So I plunked those two letter in confidently and didn’t want to change them. PLAY A GIG felt off to me (and I PLAY A GIG weekly in that context, but I don’t think I say it like that), so that was hard to uncover as well. Didn’t know DIDO and was certain I didn’t have LON right because I couldn’t get it to jibe with the clue [Apt-sounding name for a gardener]. I finally realized that it sounds like LAWN… which… sounds more apt for a landscaper I think.

Thematically, consistent and cutesy, with those letters all being to the right. Not much else to say about it, though I’m sure SHAQ ATTAQ was difficult to both find and build around!

3.6 stars today.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “All Rise” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 11/23/2021

Tricky! I had to do a couple of double takes to make sure I got what was happening:

  • 4D [Exposes academic dishonesty, after the temperature conversion?] HEAT CATCHES A C…ER (catches a cheater)
  • 7D [Home of Shakespeare, after the temperature conversion?] HEAT THE GLOBE T…RE (the Globe Theatre)
  • 10D [Old cereal slogan, after the temperature conversion?] HEAT EAT YOUR W…IES (eat your Wheaties!)

Wow. We have nonsense phrases left over, but the heat is rising. This puzzle no doubt inspired by the cold weather that is coming, although it actually doesn’t get that cold in Oregon, where Matt Jones is. One of these days I will be smart enough to move out there where the nice weather is myself! 4.6 stars today.

Lots of obscurity this week:

  • 1A [Polish-born author Sholem] ASCH – I kinda know who this is, but I had it spelled ES
  • 5A [Abrupt sound at the beginning?] SCHWA – Best clue in the puzzle!
  • 32A [Sea near Palm Springs] SALTON – Why have I never heard of this lake? Or technically a “sea”, since it is quite large?
  • 24A [“Sesame Street” character who mainly tweets numbers on Twitter] THE COUNT – I have seen this Twitter feed. Genius!
  • 21D [Concerned query] “YOU OK?” – Great casual phrase!
  • 26D [“Butter” group] BTS – Recent winners at the American Music Awards this past weekend. Even old me knows this song!
  • 42D [“___ the Right One In” (2008 movie)] LET – This would be the OPCRotW, but look at the next one in this list …
  • 49D [___ Boogie (“The Nightmare Before Christmas” villain)] OOGIE – I don’t know either this or the last one!

Another Jonesin’ coming next week! And I have to do it:

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

LAT 11/23/2021

We have circles!

  • 18A [Spicy condiment] PEPPER SAUCE
  • 23A [Astronaut’s milieu] OUTERSPACE 
  • 35A [Lawn areas lacking grass] BARE SPOTS 
  • 53A [NYC’s World Financial Center architect] CESAR PELLI
  • 59A [Coins in one’s pocket … and what literally happens in each set of circles] SPARE CHANGE 

Am I the only one who doesn’t know who CESAR PELLI is? I hope so! But if not, we can all learn something new. Good theme for a Tuesday, and the crossings for 53A are not so hard, so the themer is easy to figure out. Quick time for me on this puzzle, but I like Bruce Venzke puzzles! Haven’t done one in a while, so this was nice! 4.5 stars from me.

A few things:

  • 17A [“Star Wars” sequel trilogy heroine] REY – They are going to make Star Wars franchise movies until they simply don’t make movies anymore. Too much money to make!
  • 47A [Greets with guffaws] ROARS AT – We all have that pal that laughs too loud!
  • 3D [Overdo the flattery] LAY IT ON – Often not the best course, unless absolutely necessary. Or if you’re in the doghouse!
  • 46D [“Let me reiterate … “] “ASISAID …” – Great casual phrase!
  • 60D [Private aid prog.] N.G.O. – This stands for Non-Governmental Organization. Like Doctors Without Borders. I had not seen this term until recently, now it seems like it is in the news all the time. Like I am supposed to know what it is!

Everyone have a safe and healthy holiday week!

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14 Responses to Tuesday, November 23, 2021

  1. Billy Boy says:

    NYT a really clean, nice little Tuesday, very much devoid of junk, a real rarity, great to build skill for a beginner without a ton of crosswordese. That said, the theme was thin and unsatisfying, maybe better in a large format? STOCKS notably absent …

    I’m going to side with the jackass teacher, set the rules for presenting a paper, you abide them.

    OK, I admit to being a grammar CZAR (Yes, nice to see that spelling) but grammar and punctuation count. Nuance counts, that’s effective writing.

    ENURE — great word, applies twice

    How old was that kid with the crushed spirit? Do you know his spirit was crushed? Is it OK just to skate through until a certain point or always? The kids messed his own GPA.

    Thin anecdotes are useless, can you flesh it, or you just going to tell me to take my comments elsewhere?

    • David L says:

      Ugh, I completely agree with Amy and disagree with you about the teacher. Most punctuation ‘rules’ are little more than peeves that have been set in stone by narrow-minded pedants. I spent many years writing and editing, and punctuation questions almost always come down to stylistic preferences.

      “Nuance counts” — sure, but insisting on baseless rules is the opposite of nuance.

    • R says:

      I love that you posted strong opinions about grammar and punctuation that contained no fewer than 4 comma splices, one long sentence fragment, and a couple other punctuation errors. That’s actually more incorrect punctuation than your joke post later on. In my experience, the people who claim to care the most about grammar know the least about it, and you’ve only given more evidence to support that.

  2. Art Burlington says:

    Can I get a collective yikes for SEERESS in LAT? Fun solve otherwise

  3. marciem says:

    NYT and WSJ: two CZar’s for the price of one? We usually see it in our xwords as TSar when referring to ex-leaders of Russia and CZar when talking about drug or industry barons.

    Just a small nit. Xword serendipity?

    • pannonica says:

      Factette: TZAR is also an acceptable variant (CSAR is not, despite Caesar), though I’ve never seen it in a crossword.

    • JohnH says:

      Agreed that we’d been seeing TSAR alone for Russian rulers for a long time now until today. Fun coincidence, but I don’t consider it a flaw (although curiously both RHUD and MW11C prefer CZAR in all uses, something I could swear I never see in real life).

      I don’t know how I remember this, but when I was really little my father showed me his doing the crossword and knowing that, when it came to this word, there were two spellings and one just had to wait for crossings to see which to use. (I have not taken an interest in crosswords myself until relatively recently, actually.) With that warm memory, it’s often struck me how one spelling had largely vanished, and here we go today. Strange world.

      BTW, I agree fully with Amy’s qualms about execution of the theme. Dated informal usage might have silver for coins, but then that would overlap cash too much. And I figured right away that the odds of someone being named Stock were slim. But so it goes.

  4. Wally Walters says:

    Universal – insufferably woke. Please leave statement puzzles like this in the bin.

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