Saturday, December 4, 2021

LAT 4:47 (Derek) 


Newsday 13:19 (Derek) 


NYT 5:46 (Amy) 


Universal 4:08 (Jim Q) 


USA Today 2:07 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


Nam Jin Yoon’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 4 21, no. 1204

This crossword is *CHEF’S KISS*, really a well-written and interesting puzzle. Kinda gutsy to put the desired critical response right at 1-Across … and a hundred times better than a puzzle whose 1a is a crusty old entry.

I didn’t notice till I started blogging that the symmetry flips along the NW-to-SE diagonal rather than being traditional rotational.


Teen more things:

  • 10a. [Face to scale], CLIFF, as in a rock face a climber might scale. 21d. [Book with scales], ATLAS, with map scales such as “1 cm = 100 km.” Bathroom scales, fish scales, scale from 1 to 10 … there are a lot of meanings of scale.
  • 4d. [Deadly household appliance, according to Korean urban legend], FAN. Read about the concept here.
  • 27a. [Nest egg yield], CHICK. You can retire on those baby chicks!
  • 33a. [Bit of mayo?], DIA. As in the Spanish month of May, mayo, consisting of 31 DIAs.
  • 39a. [Some transcript omissions], ERS. As in “um, er, uh” in speaking that’s transcribed into written form, and not academic transcripts.
  • 45a. [Alternatives to toilet paper], BIDETS. My toilet has an after-market bidet seat on it, and it really is refreshing to hose down your bits.
  • 61a. [Like many apartment rentals], NO-FEE. No idea what this pertains to. Haven’t seen the “no fee” concept in relation to rented apartments. Maybe it’s a New York thing?
  • 25d. [___ Sports Bureau (official 32-Down keepers)], ELIAS, 32d being STATS. I’ve never heard of this.
  • 41d. [Masked warning?], EN GARDE. For fencers wearing their protective masks.
  • 45d. [They might be loaded with singles], BASES. I thought of dollar bills and unattached people, not baseball.

4.5 stars from me. Not too tough but not too easy, chock-full of interesting tidbits.

Matthew Sewell’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/04/2021

Frequent Stumper constructor Matthew Sewell has this week’s LAT Saturday challenge puzzle. This one is much easier than those! Nothing too difficult here, but still a fun solve. I smiled more than once for an entry or two! I may have laughed loudest at TIBETAN OX, since it reminded me of Will Shortz’s email address! Lots of fun with this one, which is welcome after a long week of work! A solid 4.6 stars for a tight puzzle from one of the better themeless constructors we have.

How about some notes?

  • 15A [HS course that may be lit?] AP ENGLISH – Nice little pun here!
  • 23A [Low-carb alternative to oats] NUT MEAL – Don’t know that this is. I am willing to try it, though!
  • 39A [Neuron speed unit: Abbr.] MSEC – Did you write NSEC in here, too? It couldn’t have been just me!
  • 40A [Movie monster term meaning “alien form”] XENOMORPH – As in the creature in The Blob no doubt! Another movie I haven’t seen in ages.
  • 46A [Atsukan, at a sushi bar] HOT SAKE – I learned something new!
  • 57A [Reggie Jackson nickname] MR. OCTOBER – This entry is getting slightly dated; it’s been nearly 50 years since he was a World Series hero!
  • 4D [Hacky Sacker’s option] KNEE – As in juggling this. Are these still a thing? These were a fad way back when I was in grade school!
  • 23D [“The Craft” actress Campbell] NEVE – Surely she has been in something more famous than this?!
  • 47D [Home of Arizona State] TEMPE – I’ve been here, and I would go back. I would even consider moving to Tempe – it doesn’t snow there!
  • 53D [Mighty warrior of myth] AJAX – It wasn’t ARES!

Michigan has a big game today!! Suffice it to say I am a little excited!

Lester Ruff’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 12/04/2021

Got a quick start on this one in the NW corner, then made further progress in a few other areas. But I ground to a halt in the upper right and middle left spots, at least until a few key gets broke it open. No errors! I’ll take that as a win! An error-free solve on themeless puzzles is my goal anymore. I was clean on the Fall Boswords until the final puzzle, but that one didn’t count for me, as I was nowhere near winning anything! The “Les Ruff” puzzles are not proving that way for me recently! 4.5 stars from me.

A few points:

  • 16A [”Ratatouille” rat] EMILE – Need to watch this again; don’t remember this character! Fairly sure it’s on Disney Plus.
  • 20A [Name related to ”Jennifer”] GUINEVERE – Got this immediately: my wife’s name is Jennifer, and I have heard this fact straight from her!
  • 35A [Duffer’s putting impediment] THE YIPS – Great entry! This affects people in many sports. It is truly all mental!
  • 52A [Something Apollo 11 brought back] LUNAR DUST – Hard to do from that soundstage!
  • 60A [Whom Hathaway and Carell battled in a 2008 film] KAOS – This is a reference to the Get Smart movie they were in. I didn’t notice that while solving! I had KATE in here for some weird reason.
  • 2D [What many male 50 Across are called] ABOU – I don’t know this name at all. That’s on me, I suppose!
  • 8D [Source of pop-ups] AD SERVER – I hate ads as I get older. I am not on Facebook much for this very reason. I spend most content time on something that streams with no commercials! My only problem? Watching live sports!
  • 10D [Evacuation order] “C’MON LET’S GO! – Great casual phrase!
  • 28D [Kindergarten music maker] RHYTHM BAND – Why don’t I know what this is?
  • 44D [Certain card-game wins] BINGOS – I guess we’re referring to the actual Bingo card here, not a deck-of-cards game? Tricky! Consider me fooled. It’s been a long week, and even longer since I have played actual Bingo1

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

Brooke Husic & Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today crossword, “It’s Going Down”—Matthew’s write-up

Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword solution, “It’s Going Down” 12/4/2021

We’ve got themers in the down clues today from Brooke Husic, as suggested by the title “It’s Going Down”:

  • 3d- (Metaphor for academia) IVORY TOWER.
  • 5d- (Crime in the show “Billions”) INSIDER TRADING.
  • 14d- (Siblings with the same DNA) IDENTICAL TWINS.
  • 29d- (Inflatables for lazy rivers) INNER TUBE.

Easier to see here than in the grid, but “IT” (I and T) begins each of the theme phrases.

The fill was plenty colorful and varied, as well. I’ve learned a bunch about ASL (11d- Language with a Philly accent) from its frequent appearance in Brooke’s puzzles lately. Entries like TEPPANYAKI (once I got the spelling right), TICTAC, NAOMI Osaka, and HOME GYM were highlights for me.


  • 5a- (The ___ of Cats (board game involving a boat rescue) ISLE. I’m not a gamer, but this looks interesting, and I do love cats.
  • 32a- (“Uh-uh, dude”) NO SIR. This is the first time (I can remember, at least) that I’ve seen NO SIR clued toward the less formal tone. A plus!
  • 53a- (City in Florida) MIAMI. Hands up for dropping “Ocala” off the middle -A-
  • 32d- (Southern Decadence city, for short) NOLA. I didn’t recognize the phrase in the clue; an annual Labor Day weekend event in New Orleans held by the gay and lesbian community. Apparently it rivals Mardi Gras in size! Glad to learn about it, somewhat abashed I didn’t already know it.

Taylor Johnson’s Universal Crossword, “Wrappers”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Words that can follow “book”can be found at the ends of common phrases

Looks like a debut! Congrats, Taylor!


  • CAN’T LOSECase.

    Universal crossword solution · “Wrappers” · Taylor Johnson · Sat., 12.04.21

  • DEMISEXUAL. Deal. 
  • MAKE IT WORKMark. 
  • (revealer) BOOKENDS.

I liked this one from Taylor Johnson today! And it’s nice to see a brand new byline in Universal. Colorful entries. DEMISEXUAL is a new term for me, juxtaposed with the old fahsioned CLAW FOOT BATHTUB.

Also, excellent pillar longer entries with GENIUS BARMERE MORTALS, and IT’S A CINCH! A little bit of misdirection in the clue for ON/OFF SWITCH gave that some color as well ([Something you flip in a house] has nothing to do with a realtor flipping houses)

My one nit would be that this is better served with circled letters at the beginnings/ends of themers. Without them, you definitely have to wait for the revealer. I’m the type of solver who likes to try to figure out the revealer without the revealer itself. Circles would’ve given it a little spice and helped to build anticipation imo. Otherwise, unless you solve from south to north and uncover the revealer first, it feels like a themeless.

4 stars. Thanks, Taylor! Welcome!

Are book wrappers synonymous with book jackets? That would make the title make more sense. I’m not entirely sure there.

Max Carpenter’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ill-Advised” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/4/21 • Sat • Carpenter • “Ill-Advised” • solution • 20211204

It’s about consumption.

Circled letters of pairs of words in the same row.

  • 110aR [Start of an adage that may explain why you’re not feeling so well after solving this puzzle?] BEER BEFORE LIQUOR, completed by “never sicker”. The second part of the couplet is “Liquor before beer, in the clear”. It’s of dubious validity, hence the ‘may’ of the clue.
  • 22a. [Lose it] BURST OUT LAUGHING (stout).
    25a. [Part of a kit] DRUM (rum).
  • 34a. [Baggy breeches of the early 20thh century] KNICKERBOCKERS (bock).
    40a. [Vandalizing, as one might do on Halloween] EGGING (gin).
  • 59a. [Annoying Adobe alert] EXPORT ERROR (porter).
    64a. [Dispenser inserts] TAPE ROLLS (aperol). Minor stretch in both entry and hidden word on this one.
  • 67a. [Pirates, at times] PILLAGERS (lager).
    70a. [Delta spots] RIVER MOUTHS (vermouth). Is fortified wine a liquor?
  • 92a. [Marshy depressions] SWALES (ale).
    94a. [Elicits an “Et tu”?] STABS IN THE BACK (absinthe). Neat find!

I suppose ‘Tubthumping‘ might be a better choice here, but in my opinion it’s far from Chumbawamba’s best.

And in the same row as the revealer is 109a [On the mend, perhaps] IN AA.

It’s quite a clever theme and I appreciate the spirit of it, despite a minor hiccup or two.

  • 1d [Folder feature] TAB. You could run one up at a bar too.
  • 2d [Word interrupted by an oak branch on a dime] UNUM. Ironic.
  • 14d [Like most numbers, if we’re being real] IRRATIONAL. Great clue!
  • 19d [When many begin Little League pitching] AGE SEVEN. meh
  • 37d [Cuup product] BRA. Have not heard of this brand, but I bet I can guess what their logo looks like.
  • 50d [Letter-shaped construction bar] T-BEAM; 47a [Counterfeiter capturer] T-MAN; 6d [Torque symbol] TAU.
  • 55d [French word] MOT. Simple but elegant clue.
  • 72d [Sound from castanets but not cymbals] HARD C.
  • 83d [Southern California tribe] CAHUILLA. Unfamiliar to me.
  • 17a [When Othello promises to send for Desdemona] ANON. I definitely thought this was going to be ACT I or V.
  • 18a [“A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” painter. MANET. It famously (among many other things) depicts bottles of Bass Ale, with the distinctive red triangle logo.
  • 26a [Element of change?] METAL. Some coins even contain transition metals!
  • 28a [Caught, rabbit-style] IN A SNARE. Weird.
  • 52a [Injure graphically] MAUL. A strange choice of adjective in the clue.
  • 74a [“Right, I’m on it] OKAY, DONE; 24d [Hesitant assent] UM, OK.
  • 89a [Tapir consumer] ANACONDA. Only by the very largest individuals of the largest species, Eunectes murinus, and even then, only rarely.
  • 102a [HBO sister channel, derisively] SKINEMAX. Maybe I once knew this?
  • 118a [Move to a ballad] SWAY. From the clue, I was initially thinking about someone being moved to compose aa ballad, but this is more accurately describing someone who is dancing slowly.
  • 120a [Pigment derived from cuttlefish ink] SEPIA. In fact, sepia is the ancient name for cuttlefish and is the generic name for the most common taxa.

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18 Responses to Saturday, December 4, 2021

  1. Andrea says:

    Hi Amy! Love your write ups.
    Just came here to say that actually HABANERO is the correct spelling for that mighty spicy chili 🌶, no Ñ necessary 😊

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Fixed, thank you! I always forget its habanero but jalapeño. You’d think knowing how Havana is pronounced and spelled would keep me from going with ñ, but no …

  2. Alex says:

    NYT: Is mayo not capitalized in Spanish? That ELIAS MAYO cross had me going through the alphabet to finish.

  3. Taylor says:

    Hey all!

    The Universal today is my puzzle, stoked to have my print debut!

    Thanks Jim for the kind words, this was a really fun puzzle to put together.

    Hope y’all enjoy!

  4. Christopher Smith says:

    NYT: Yup NO FEE is a NYC thing. It means the renter doesn’t need to pay a broker fee, usually because they’re dealing directly with the landlord or company that owns the unit. I believe broker fees are actually illegal now but not my area of expertise.

  5. R Cook says:

    I hope I’m not alone, but I found the SW corner of the Stumper quite opaque. RHYTHM BAND? ORAMA-? LARDS? Whaaaaaat? I thought this was a less rough puzzle!

    • steve says:

      for mw it was a les rough stumper
      they have been very stumping lately, this one not so ruff

      maybe cause lards came easy, that part of the puzzle filled itself
      SE took a few more minutes

  6. Paul J Coulter says:

    Uni – Jim, the term that’s synonymous with book jacket is dust wrapper. Taylor – nice puzzle. Congrats on your debut.

  7. David L says:

    Nitpicks of the day:

    NYT: That KATANAS/ETS cross slowed me down. As I have no experience of the US educational system, I know ETS only vaguely and KATANAS not at all.

    USA Today: Isn’t INNERTUBES a single word? It is for me, anyway.

    Two good puzzles, and it’s nice to see that the USA Today one continues the tradition of having at least one unknown food-related answer.

  8. Eric H says:


    I especially liked “Something you flip in a house.”

    Circles in the theme answer squares would have been nice. I misread the revealer and didn’t understand the theme because I thought I was trying to make something out of three letters (“the first” and “the last two” as opposed to “the first two” and “the last two”). That gave me CSE for 15A, which is nonsense.

    Congratulations again on your debut!

    • Taylor says:

      Hey Eric, thanks so much, glad you liked it!

      I’ll admit, that clue for ON/OFF SWITCH was tweaked a bit from what I submitted, so I can’t take all the credit for that one. Pretty sure my version of the clue was something like: “It can be flipped in the bedroom or kitchen”.

      I am a fan of what the editors tweaked it to!

  9. Ch says:

    That ELIAS/DIA crossing was not appreciated. KATANAS/ETS as well. Otherwise a very fun puzzle.

Comments are closed.