Wednesday, December 8, 2021

LAT 4:30 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:06 (Matthew) 


NYT 3:50 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 5:19 (Sophia) 


AVCX 5:00 (Ben) 


Evan Kalish’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Ma-a-a!”—Jim P’s review

Theme entries are phrases whose last word is of the form MA_A_A.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Ma-a-a!” · Evan Kalish · Wed., 12.8.21

  • 17a. [Chicken dish in spiced curry sauce] TIKKA MASALA. Got this with no crossings thanks to my time in England. Did you know it’s one of that country’s most popular dishes?
  • 35a. [Autobiography subtitled “The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban”] I AM MALALA.
  • 56a. [Sonora “See ya!”] HASTA MAÑANA.
  • 12d. [With 42-Down, Swahili phrase meaning “no worries”] HAKUNA / MATATA.

Wow, that was fun. It’s not just the serendipity that allowed Evan to fit these iconic phrases symmetrically in the grid. It’s also the beautiful surrounding fill (which I’ll get to momentarily). I don’t think I saw the title before the solve, but after I filled in the last theme entry, I glanced at it and laughed out loud. Perfect.

So how ’bout that fill, eh? Top entry has got to be “OK, I GET IT,” but there’s nice stuff everywhere: ENSEMBLE, PEAPODS, SASHAYS, RAIN HAT, ON TASK, ANKARA. I also like the Ñ crossing in SEÑOR and MAÑANA. Nice touch. The only IRKSOME nit I’ll note is AROAR (which I’ve put in a grid myself) since it comes up in crosswords way more often than in real life.

Clues of note:

  • 11a. [Part of many a dual deg. program]. PHD. Harrumph! All I got was a B.A. (English) and a B.S. (Engineering) in my dual-degree program.
  • 48a. [Move like a cat]. SLINK. Like a stray cat?
  • 2d. [Shower cap?]. RAIN HAT. Cute.

Four stars from me.

Philip Koski’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 8 21, no. 1208

Unusual placement of the theme bits here. The two-part revealer is IT’S A / WRAP, with ITSA at the right edge of the grid “wrapping around” to the other side where WRAP is. The circled letters in the other three themers “wrap” ITSA in three different ways: ITS at the end and A at the start, IT/SA, and I/TSA. Here are the wrappies:

  • 20a. [What intellectual rivals engage in], A BATTLE OF WITS. Great entry, too.
  • 37a. [“Theodore Roosevelt” or “Robert Louis Stevenson”], SARGENT PORTRAIT. Not entirely sold on this as getting beyond the GREEN PAINT category.
  • 58a. [Mid-19th-century Russian ruler described as “autocracy personified”], TSAR NICHOLAS I.

Theme’s okay, I didn’t love it.

Four more things:

  • 11d. [Population beyond the homeland], DIASPORA. A good word to know.
  • 2d. [Marsupial with distinctive cube-shaped droppings], WOMBAT. True story!
  • 45a. [Fancy drinking glass], GOBLET. I just now got curious about this word’s etymology. American Heritage Dictionary says Middle English gobelet, from Old French, diminutive of gobel, cup, probably of Celtic origin.
  • 8d. [Spongy balls], NERFS. I wonder if the constructor had this clued as the verb in gaming circles rather than as an awkward plural brand name. They’re not Nerfs, they’re Nerf balls!

3.5 stars from me.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “The Big Six O” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: Six O – each theme answer has six O’s in it

USA Today, 12 08 2021, “The Big Six O”

  • 16a [A lot to deal with right out of the gate] – TOO MUCH TOO SOON
  • 41a [Examined thoroughly] – TOOK A GOOD LOOK AT
  • 65a [How some canvassers go] – FROM DOOR TO DOOR

Somewhere out there, there is someone solving this puzzle on their 60th birthday, and that person is about to solve the most apt puzzle there is. In all serious, this is a fun theme and I like all the answers, particularly TOO MUCH TOO SOON. I got lucky that the clue for FROM DOOR TO DOOR had the word “go” in it, because my brain really wanted that answer to be “go door to door” (which still has the right number of O’s!), but this one works just as well. It would have been really cool if there were no other O’s anywhere in the puzzle, but with USA Today’s fill standards I’m not sure that would have been feasible.

Speaking of fill! Because there are only three theme answers, there is a lot of space for other long entries in the down direction. SHORTCAKE, LOOSE TEA, and TOP SECRET were favorites (although I’m a little mad at top secret because I typed it in wrong and then had to spend the last minute of my solve time looking for an error). Is LUCKY DOG a thing? I only know of a different animal, the “lucky duck”. I enjoyed that we have both EERIE and ERIE in the puzzle (and I’m claiming the clue of [Like a loon call] as a Minnesota reference), and I loved the clues for POSE (r.i.p) [TV show featuring the House of Evangelista] and OHIO [State where Halle Berry was born]. But due to personal bias I gotta give a shoutout to 24a [Comp ___ major] for SCI as my favorite thing here.

Happy Wednesday!

Adam Wagner’s AVCX, “AVCX Themeless #60” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 12/8/21 – “Move It!”

The AVCXpansion is 70% of the way to its goal of a second weekly puzzle, midis, a cryptic, and more.  Find out more details and contribute if interested here!

Adam Wagner has a guest puzzle this week.  It’s definitely matching the 2/5 difficulty suggested, and I found the theme charming:

  • 17A: Sell espresso? — SLING SHOTS
  • 24A: Sell ice cream? — TRAFFIC CONES
  • 38A: Sell soft drinks? — PUSH POP
  • 48A: Sell fuse boxes? — DEAL BREAKERS
  • 58A: Resell skating gear? — FLIP BOARDS

All phrases whose first word can be used as a synonym for “sell”, changing the meaning of the overall phrase.  Again, it’s not the most difficult theme, but it’s well done.

Radiohead’s “Faust ARP

Other nice fill: It’s all about the down clues this week – we’ve got some lovely long fill like POOL NOODLE and PR AGENCIES up top, and GARAGE DOOR and LIP READERS along the bottom, FUCHSIA (which I managed to completely mangle the spelling of my first time through), HANG TEN (“Curl all one’s toes over the edge, as a surfer might”), and PH SCALE (“System in which coffee is a 5 and milk is a 6”).

Happy Wednesday!

Christina Iverson’s Universal crossword, “Have a B-last!” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/8/21 • Fri • Iverson • “Have a B-last!” • solution • 20211208

Simply: the letter B is suffixed to familiar phrases for wacky results.

  • 17a. [Ideal piece of pasta, e.g., informally?] DREAM CARB (dream car).
  • 31a. [“I’ve never heard that song sung in two keys simultaneously,” for one?] KARAOKE BARB (karaoke bar).
  • 48a. [Complicated network of relationships in Buckingham Palace?] THE ROYAL WEB.
  • 65a. [“My life has been reduced to these few sentences on a dust jacket!”?] IT’S A BLURB (it’s a blur).

These are merely okay, neither too far-fetched nor too amusing.

  • 5d [One might have a nose wire] FACE MASK. Contemporary clue.
  • 18d [Breast __ (baby-feeding option)] MILK. Inclusive.
  • 30d [Did a crossword in the waiting room, say] KILLED TIME. Meta.
  • 67d [Weightlifter’s pride, briefly] BOD; 1a [They’re above abs] PECS.
  • 26a [Skirts with a pancake variety] TUTUS. New information for me. Here’s a rundown of the various styles.
  • 40a [“Bear” related to a wombat] KOALA. *sigh* At least there’re quotes around it.
  • 70a [Peter, Paul and Marry, for one] TRIO. 72a [Feature of 70-Across’s clue] TYPO. 68a [Feature of 70-Across’s clue] COMMA. So much focus!

Got to run!

Ed Beckert’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times 81221

Ed Beckert’s theme today is so beautiful in its simplicity. Each of four theme entries is an idiomatic phrase, each an example of clothes being used to describe their wearers using synechdoche. So we have EMPTYSUITS, a GOODYTWOSHOES (don’t drink, don’t smoke!), STUFFEDSHIRTS and a FANCYPANTS.

The grid design is quite conservative, being compartmentalized into several smaller sections. I think this design choice is often prudent, and helps the puzzle from having too many difficult entries. The only oddity for me was CAFF. I’ve heard British people pronounce CAFE like that, but didn’t think they’d spell it how they said it!


Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword solution, 12/8/2021

How about this grid from Patrick Berry today? Stacked 15s with some long crossers in each half of the grid. Some sacrifice in connectivity, but I enjoyed myself.

I’m glad to see sports content that isn’t warmed-over crosswordese — sports are a big part of society and deserve to be represented in our grids. Here, we’ve got NO FLAG ON THE PLAY (17a- “There wasn’t a penalty,” from a football referee), Yankees great Casey STENGEL (9d- Only M.L.B. manager to win five consecutive World Series), and the golf term THREE PUTT (29d- Tubrn a birdie opportunity into a bogey, say). I also fell for a trap at 31A, where (One taken on a drive) is ROAD, not “wood.”

FROM TOP TO BOTTOM (42a- Thoroughly) joins NO FLAG ON THE PLAY as a highlight from the 15s, while TREASURE HUNTERS and OIL OF TURPENTINE were less exciting to me, but plenty solid.

As clues go, I particularly liked (Washing-up place?) for ISLE, and all the moreso that it provided a bit of resistance and aha moment at 1A.

Nothing for notes, other than the outstanding Suni Lee [(56d- Ethnic group to which American Olympic gymnast Sunisa Lee belongs) HMONG]

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7 Responses to Wednesday, December 8, 2021

  1. Kent Byron says:

    For some reason the Wall Street Journal did not post Wednesday’s crossword on the WSJ site. Luckily, I found it on Crossword Fiend’s site in Across Lite format. The link there to WSJ’s site still shows Tuesday’s puzzle. Is someone sleeping on the job?

  2. David Roll says:

    WSJ–I would have done better had I known Swahili–that’s a downgrade in the rating.

  3. marciem says:

    WJS: My nit is that Hasta manaña means “until tomorrow” specifically, so the clue should be “see ya tomorrow”. Hasta luego might mean “See Ya” or “bye” (actually… “until later”) , more generic.

  4. Billy Boy says:


    Weakest theme ever and pretty so-so clues strewn around. What am I missing? I did not give it a one, but someone gave it a FIVE!

    Oh – I DO love Radiohead, I listened to them for two hours on the plane yesterday.

Comments are closed.