Monday, December 13, 2021

BEQ 3:41 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:02 (Stella) 


NYT 3:01 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 5:34 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Tomas Spiers’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap


New York Times, 12 13 2021, By Tomas Spiers

    • 17a [Grand Central, for one] – RAILROAD STATION (which is a stop)
    • 29a [Event of October 1929] – MARKET CRASH (which is a drop)
    • 49a [Pastry with a swirl] – CINNAMON BUN (which is a roll)
    • 65a [Fire safety technique … or 17-, 29- and 49-Across together] – STOP DROP AND ROLL

I talked to my mom (who had already solved this puzzle) right before I did it myself, and she wondered if I was “old enough to understand the revealer”. Well, I don’t know what they’re teaching kids now, but as an elementary schooler in the mid 2000’s, STOP DROP AND ROLL was a constantly repeated phrase. I’ve never imagined seeing it as a revealer though! I enjoy that this puzzle finds a new way to bring together phrases other than “they all start/end with [things in the same category]” – this is not in any way a knock to that type of puzzle, but stepping away from that formula made this crossword feel fresh. MARKET CRASH feels like the stretchiest theme answer to me as the other two phrases can be more closely substituted by “stop” and “roll”. I’m not sure what a better option would be, though. And now I want CINNAMON BUNS :(.

Other notes on the puzzle:

  • Loved the use of the long down answers today – BRIE LARSON and ANOTHER ONE (which to me just feels like a DJ Khaled reference) are both great pieces of fill. “Room”, mentioned in the Brie Larson clue, is also an incredible if intense film; I highly recommend it.
  • It feels like there are a lot of animal clues today – sea horses, land horses, canines, pigs, aardvarks, zebras, geese, and ducks all make appearances. There’s even a CRAB in the grid, which should have been clued as an animal over [One who’s always complaining, complaining, complaining] in my opinion.
  • One of my favorite things about December NYT puzzles is the sheer amount of shoehorned-in holiday-related clues. Today’s example: “Elves have big ones, stereotypically” for EARS.
  • Anyone else have “Argo” before AERO for 14a [Prefix with -naut]?
  • In general, the fill is clean today and everything is pretty well KNOWN (well, assuming you’ve heard of Bryn MAWR). I wish there had been a few more pieces of fresh fill a la BESTIE. Words like PSST, ATTA, OLDE, TORT, AERO… there’s certainly nothing wrong with them per se, but they show up so often and particularly on Monday there’s usually a single type of way they are clued to be easy for a wide swath of the population, so it just doesn’t make for an exciting solve. But still much better than a grid with lots of junk in it, certainly.

Congrats to Tomas on a great NYT debut! Happy Monday everyone!

Gary Cee’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Up for Grabs”—Jim P’s review

Theme: Things you catch. The revealer is “DID YOU CATCH THAT?” (37a, [“Someone say something?” or a hint to the ends of 18-, 20-, 54- and 59-Across]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Up for Grabs” · Gary Cee · Mon., 12.13.21

  • 18a. [Aggressive basketball play] FAST BREAK. Catch a break.
  • 20a. [First American woman in space] SALLY RIDE. Catch a ride.
  • 54a. [Pre-Academy Awards attention] OSCAR BUZZ. Catch a buzz.
  • 59a. [Sudden inspiration] BRAIN WAVE. Catch a wave.

An enjoyable theme. I’m not sure I’ve heard “catch a buzz” very much, but it checks out. Maybe it’s a regional thing. But I like the lively and interesting choices of entries, especially SALLY RIDE.

Today I Learned: Though she was married to fellow astronaut Steven Hawley while at NASA, later in life SALLY RIDE had a long-term relationship with professional women’s tennis player Tam O’Shaugnessy. Ride is therefore the first astronaut to be recognized as LGBT.

Loads of fun fill all around: SMALL FRY, TRUE BLUE, BEER RUN, “BIG DEAL!,” POP ICON, MARLON Brando, and John BELUSHI.

Clue of note: 4d. [Young kids]. SMALL FRY. Not sure I’d clue it as a plural. Usually I hear it as a not-necessarily-unkind nickname.

A smooth grid to start the week. 3.75 stars.

John Harrington’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 12/13/21 by John Harrington

Los Angeles Times 12/13/21 by John Harrington

Looks like we have a debut today!

The revealer at 62A [Like a nonfunctioning vending machine, or what the circled letters are, in two ways] is OUT OF ORDER. The revealer clue is pretty long, but IMO the “two ways” bit is necessary to really make this theme airtight. See, what’s going on is that the circled letters are “out of order,” in that they come OUT of the word ORDER. And in each case the letters are OUT OF ORDER; that is, they appear in a different order than in the word ORDER.

  • 17A [TV Mister with a “neighborhood”] is FRED ROGERS; the circled letters are REDRO, or ORDER spelled backwards (not that that means anything special). Who doesn’t love Mr. Rogers?
  • 23A [Regular cybersecurity measure] is a PASSWORD RESET, with the circled letters spelling ORDRE. Hypothetically, what would you think of a company that makes employees change their passwords every three months and insists that the passwords be long AND contain all four types of characters, BUT doesn’t block the use of dictionary words/names/etc. as part of the string? Hypothetically, do you think employees would pick the easiest-to-remember and therefore not-that-hard-to-guess strings that fit those criteria? Asking for a friend.
  • 40A [Agatha Christie play set in Egypt] is MURDER ON THE NILE, with the circled letters spelling RDERO.
  • 51A [Self-inflicted tennis mistake] is an UNFORCED ERROR, with DERRO as the circled letters.

This is a pretty smooth debut, with the exception of Robert IGER — IMO it’s about time we retired him from puzzles, since he quit the Disney CEO post nearly 2 years ago. (This puzzle was probably accepted many moons ago, so I’d call that more on the editing than on the constructing; maybe an attempt was made to refill the bottom right corner and if not, I think it would have been a good idea to try.)

Beth Rubin and Trent H Evans’ Universal crossword, “Funny Business” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/13/21 • Mon • Rubin, Evans • “Funny Business” • solution • 202112113,/font>

Comedians’ surnames, punningly reimagined in ‘second careers’.

  • 17a. [Comedian Arsenio, in his second career as a tour promoter?] CONCERT HALL.
  • 26a. [Comedian Lucille, in her second career managing the Dodgers?] MAJOR LEAGUE BALL.
  • 44a. [Comedian Chris, in his second career as a teacher?] SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK.
  • 60a. [Comedian Samantha, in her second career making bedspreads?] QUILTING BEE.

These are … ok?

  • Was fooled twice in the same way: first at 3d [Belted out] SUNG and later at 63a [Launched] BEGUN; had an A for the U in both instances.
  • 8d [Controversial meat in some cutlets] VEAL. Some ethical concern.
  • 10d [Punkie Johnson’s show, for short] SNL. I’m falling out of touch, I guess.
  • 35d [Sunny note?] SOL. The currency of Peru. This was my immediate thought for the answer, but it seemed maybe a bit too tricky for a Monday.
  • 45d [Performs soothing music] CROONS. Soothing for some.
  • 48d [Assistant whose reply to “OK Google” might be “Wow. Awkward.”] SIRI. I would not be in the least surprised to learn that someone has gotten SIRI, Alexa, and Google Assistant (is that what it’s called) to all talk to each other.
  • 54d [Latvia’s capital] RIGA. Here’s a useful Latvian phrase I’ve recently come across: Mans transportlīdzeklis uz gaisa spilvena ir pilns ar zušiem.
  • 22a [Made on a loom] WOVE. I like how this crosses 22d [Where Charlotte spun “Some Pig”] WEB.
  • 52a [Plastic weapon in Clue] ROPE. Is it still plastic? Wow.
  • 59a [Reaction to Christmas lights] OOH, 38d [Sound of surprise] OHO, 27d [“I solved it!”] AHA.

Brandon & Brooke’s USA Today puzzle, “Play List”—malaika’s write-up

Theme: The first word of each theme answer can come before the word “play”

Theme answers:

  • POWER COUPLE— Pair who might exemplify #relationshipgoals (This was my favorite theme answer)
  • CHILDS POSE— Asana used for resting (I love child’s pose and do it practically every day ((I do not do yoga every day, or even every week)). Highly recommend.)
  • FAIR ENOUGH— I see your point
  • DOUBLE MAJOR— College degree with two specializations

Brandon & Brooke’s USA Today puzzle — “Play List”

Good morning everyone! The long down answers in this puzzle were awesome. TIK TOK DUET (split-screen social media video) could be the seed for a themeless puzzle easily, and PRETZELS, MOUSSAKA, and SORRY IM OUT were also great. I like that there were food items in symmetrical slots. More notes on this pretty, symmetrical grid below:

  • Vi Redd played SAX in the sixties and seventies with a variety of jazz musicians.
  • Your T-zone is the skin on your nose and forehead, and on some people it has a propensity to get OILY.
  • The unseen “Bambi” villain referenced in this clue is a MAN. This felt a little vague to me, I kept trying to put in “hunter” even though obviously that would not fit.
  • The word ROUT, clued as a decisive victory is a new word for me.
  • Timo Boll is a German table tennis player.
  • PTO stands for PAID time off. I feel like I’ve seen these letters arising more and more in the last couple of years as people discuss labor conditions in the States… although maybe that’s just because three years ago, I didn’t have a job. Did you know that in France, every single full-time employee (and by the way, full-time there means 35hrs/wk, not 40) is legally required to get twenty-five paid vacation days?
  • The url www.bxscience.EDU is for Bronx Science, which is a specialized high school in New York City.
  • “Interplanet Janet” is a song from Schoolhouse Rock about space. The fourth planet mentioned in it is MARS.
  • A crystallographer uses XRAYs to look at the arrangements of atoms in solids.
  • The phrase that is aptly found in “hormone” is ON E. (It took a second for me to parse this as two words.) I believe this is referring to taking estrogen as part of a transition. Let me know in the comments if I’m incorrect– I’ve mostly heard that term to refer to taking ecstasy.
  • Salah is the second pillar of Islam, PRAYer. This took me a second because I know Salah as the captain of Liverpool. I was lucky enough to see him play for Fiorentina before he had become a superstar.

Kameron Austin Collins’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

The New Yorker crossword solution, 12/13/21, Kameron Austin Collins

First, let me say I’m perplexed as to why two readers hit this puzzle with a 1-star rating and one gave it 1.5 stars. Are they that upset about ARETES showing up in the grid? Are they resentful about not knowing all the answers? Did some crossings vex them? Do they have it in for the constructor? I just don’t get it. I think it’s a 4.25-star puzzle.

Fave fill: STINKY TOFU (don’t really know it, but the clue points the way to each half), “NO SIREE, BOB,” APPLE STORE, WHATSAPP, NAIL POLISH, THE BEE GEES, LIMBURGER (our second smelly food!), FONTANELLE (doesn’t that word look like it should mean something pretty rather than the soft spot atop of baby’s head?), OSCAR SNUBS, KREMLIN, UBER EATS, the late BOB DOLE, REGINA KING, and GIANT PANDA ([Big fan of shoots], and Kam’s not referring to movie shoots here). Lots of good stuff!

Six more things:

  • 11d. [Knife-edge ridges], ARETES. We just watched Free Solo and The Alpinist, two documentaries about two young men who free-climb up daunting rock faces without ropes. You can imagine my crossworder’s delight when the word arête popped up in the captioning. “Hey! I know that word!” Rare for me to encounter the word in the wild.
  • 29a. [Pans], SHOTS. I think this refers to film shots, panning over the panorama. Could also be that a negative review is a pan that takes a shot at a particular movie. What say you?
  • 40a. [Hardly bristled at?], UNSWEPT. As in a floor you’ve hardly run the broom bristles over, so it’s UNSWEPT. Tricky clue.
  • 6d. [General admission?], “YES, I DO.” Not general-admission tickets, not military generals, just a generic admitting that you do something unspecified.
  • 26d. [Who the nominees aren’t], OSCAR SNUBS. Not saying that OSCAR SNUBS are unnominated people, just that a list of OSCAR SNUBS identifies who the nominees aren’t.
  • Awkward repetition: the game I SPY and the phrase “I SEE.” So close in meaning! And yet distinctly applied.

As I said, 4.25 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday Crossword — Matthew’s recap

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 12/13/201

I enjoyed myself for much of today’s puzzle from BEQ — it’s nearly one of my favorite puzzles of his in the past year. We’ve got intersecting stagger stacks, with particularly juicy entries in the acrosses: INFINITY POOL, WIDE ANGLE LENS, and CALENDAR YEAR and wide-open corners.

The cluing was particularly up my alley today: (Belief you’re not being watched) at 13A for ATHEISM tickled me in just the right way, and (Places where you might find home plates) and (It’s all relatives) for DINING ROOMS and FAMILY PHOTO in the downward stagger stack are in a sweet spot of overt, but not too overt, misdirection.

For all the positives, though, I’ll remember this puzzle for two squares. First, the crossing of OXYMORA (48a- Awfully good and bittersweet, e.g.) and AMPS (49d- Spoon boxes). If I had more readily recognized “Spoon” as a band, it might have been no problem, but the rare-but-technically-not-wrong-I-guess plural OXYMORA stymied me, because you know, we’re in English and not Greek, and “oxymorons” is something I’ve actually seen and heard before.

Even more difficult was the 14D/20A crossing of two words I’d not seen before. It’s not a Natick – there aren’t too many letters that could work, but MATUTINALLY (14d- Tending to happen early in the day) and ROTIFER (20a- Microscopic aquatic invertebrate) is a tough crossing. I can see the relation to French matin in the former, but had no help sussing out a root word for ROTIFER (it’s rot- ~ “wheel”, as these creatures are also known as “wheel animals”) from the clue.

No notes today, since I’m late enough as it is.

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27 Responses to Monday, December 13, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Well done… I had no idea where that was going, and loved the revealer.
    And my home town as a clue!

  2. Eric H says:

    Maybe I’m just irked that what should have been a personal best was snatched away by an inordinate number of typos.

    But the image of a person on fire that the STOP DROP AND ROLL revealer gives me isn’t my idea of fun. (Yeah, I know that sounds Rex Parker-ish.)

    I do like that the theme answers didn’t include the three verbs from the revealer. And the fill was mostly pretty good.

  3. JohnH says:

    I’m not seeing a TNY Monday puzzle.

    • Mr. Grumpy says:

      Me either. I emailed them about it. Haven’t heard back yet.

    • JohnH says:

      It’s up. (Not that I’m making much progress yet.)

    • Mary Flaminio says:

      It seems like you have to have a subscription now. That’s too bad, I liked it.

      • Mr. [not so] Grumpy says:

        Digital only costs $49.99 first year. That’s about 32 cents a puzzle. @24 cents a puzzle if you like the Sunday Crostic. Free was nice, but these are my favorite puzzles by far — even if some of the East Coast arty mindset annoys me on occasion — and it seems a fair price. Not sure about paying double upon renewal.

      • RunawayPancake says:

        TNY – I don’t have a New Yorker subscription and I was able to access Monday’s puzzle (12/13) after it was posted. My understanding is that a non-subscriber can access up to four free articles per month. Each puzzle counts as one article.

  4. Mutman says:

    NYT: I enjoyed the fresh theme!

    I live near Bryn Mawr, so that was a gimme. Katharine Hepburn graduated from there!

  5. Eric H says:

    Universal: MAJOR LEAGUE BALL doesn’t sound right without “base.” Other than that, the theme works well, and the fill is overall fine.

  6. sanfranman59 says:

    USA Today: Anyone know the last names of the constructors? I’m guessing that Brooke is Brooke Husic, but Brandon who? Just wondering.

    FWIW, this puzzle wasn’t my cuppa. 50 blocks(!), 56 3- or 4-letter words(!) and a boatload of references that went right over my head.

  7. Christina says:

    The New Yorker…really enjoyed this one! BAR STOOL as “bottom point of a dive” made me laugh when I finally figured it out. I also loved the aromatic blocks clues, which I was totally confused about until I uncovered STINKY TOFU which I love as an entry. Nice puzzle, Kameron!

  8. David H says:

    I can identify with the people who gave this New Yorker puzzle a low rating. Resentful might not be their feeling. It might be that they could not even get a foothold in this puzzle and so they did not enjoy it. I guess it’s hard for you to imagine there are people out there who regularly do puzzles and were so stumped.

    • Mr. [not so] Grumpy says:

      Uh oh. Didn’t even try this one yet, but I’m forewarned. KAC is one of the constructors who fits my comment above. I don’t mind his mindset as long as there are enough “fair” crosses to give me a shot at figuring out something that is completely foreign to me.

    • Harry says:

      Right. I gave it a 1 also, too much impossible-to-deduce-if-you-don’t-know-it-right-away stuff like LOSIN and ALIA and KAL. And then there are just errors like REPENTS, which doesn’t mean to feel contrition, it means to make up for one’s sins (it’s an action, not a feeling). Feeling contrition is to regret.

      • Kameron says:

        Sorry you feel that way. A couple of thoughts:

        — Definition 2a in M-W, for REPENT, is “to feel regret or contrition.” (TNY’s dictionary of choice is M-W.)

        — The reason I opt to go with a song title like “LOSIN Sleep” isn’t because you’re expected to know the exact song; it’s because the base phrase — “losing sleep” — is extremely common, and so is the practice of cutting the G off of gerunds in song titles and lyrics of every genre. We definitely agree that deduction is needed. The goal is for it to mostly come down to a level of common sense about pop culture that’s as applicable to David Archuleta as it is to Beatles songs (and as present in TNY puzzles as it is and has been in NYT etc. puzzles for decades now.) Definitely not the goal to alienate, but also not the goal to kowtow to the severest limits.

        • Harry says:

          No doubt you’ve got the dictionary to back you up, but common usage ought to play a role too. When someone approaches you and says “Repent,” are they asking you to feel contrition or to to “turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life,” the M-W main definition. I don’t mind misdirection, but this one seemed to favor obscurity over common usage. And the name of that song isn’t LOSIN SLEEP, it’s LOSIN’ SLEEP. Maybe I’m just picky about these things, but precision matters in a quality puzzle.

          • Kameron says:

            This is interesting to me because, for many of us who aren’t religious and wouldn’t sincerely be told to REPENT in that context, yeah, the broader secondary definition — feel regret, feel contrition — feels pretty well-established. I would argue that it’s well within “common usage,” as you can’t earnestly tell someone to turn from sin etc. etc. if they don’t believe in sin, and plenty of us don’t believe in sin, wouldn’t seriously be commanded to repent, and only reference the idea ironically.

            You’re right, it’s LOSIN’ — which helps my point! The apostrophe indicates that it’s a vernacular use of “losing” — identical to, say, the use of changin’ in Dylan’s “ The Times They Are a-Changin.’” The idea is that the phrase “losing sleep” is common enough, and this practice of cutting the G for vernacular’s sake is also common enough, for the FITB to be inferable whether or not you know the song.

  9. This question keeps coming up: “Why did X number of readers rate this puzzle 1 star?”

    But the question should really be: “Why does Crossword Fiend keep its star rating system at all?”

    • Crotchety Doug says:

      I used to get pissed at the people who rated a puzzle 1 star without posting a comment. Then I stopped looking at the average score. Then I started hovering over the stars. Seeing the number of 5’s, 4.5’s, etc is much more informative of the feelings of our community. Keep the ratings alive. Maybe change the reporting of mathematical mean to median or something else, but keep the record of individual ratings.

      • The ratings aren’t a meaningful metric of a puzzle’s quality. They’re just a convenient way for anonymous users to trash puzzles for no reason at all. Worse, there are readers who treat the ratings seriously enough that they’ll use them to determine which puzzles they should solve. “Oh, that Universal puzzle got more 1-star ratings than 5-star ratings? Guess I’d better avoid that.” So a handful of cranks downrating a puzzle end up discouraging people from becoming regular solvers of that crossword.

        I fail to see how any of that is better than just abandoning the ratings altogether.

        • David Steere says:

          TNY: I didn’t rate this puzzle. I liked it…if you can believe that…but I didn’t rate it because it was simply too hard for me. Looking at Amy’s evaluation, I feel a bit slow that I could not fill out more of the answers. But, KAC is a wizard with generally fair clues, fair answers and fair crosses…unlike, at times, his co-TNY creator, Natan. This puzzle was admirable but just above my skill level and solving powers today…kind of like a super-hard USA Today puzzle…which I do every day. I have mixed feelings about Evan’s negative view of the ratings. There are too many good puzzles out there with too little time to do them. Very imperfectly, these ratings help me decide which to try.

          • David, I am sympathetic to not having enough time to solve all the good puzzles out there, but I can already tell you for a fact that you don’t always take the ratings into account when choosing which puzzles to solve. The USA Today crossword routinely gets hit with 1- and 1.5-star ratings here, but you’ve decided (correctly, in my view) that you’re going to solve it every day anyhow, because it’s an enjoyable puzzle. If you’re already ignoring the star ratings and making time to solve the USA Today, why not do the same for others? I feel quite confident that you would enjoy solving many of those puzzles that you’ve decided to skip. At the very least you should be considering a different method of picking and choosing which puzzles to solve, rather than relying on a system where a handful of anonymous cranky solvers who downrate puzzles for a whole slew of arbitrary reasons might dissuade you from solving a puzzle that you might like.

            And that’s my point: There’s no correlation between the ratings and the quality of the puzzle. Pretending that there is one — such that you’d use the ratings to decide which other puzzles to solve — means that you and anyone else who relies on an algorithm like that would be missing out on crosswords you might otherwise enjoy. That’s what the star ratings system encourages. Whatever benefits it has, they’re greatly outweighed by that negative.

            • David Steere says:

              Thanks, Evan. You are probably exactly right. At times, there seems a loose parallel between low ratings and less than stellar puzzles. I’m thinking particularly of the Sunday NY Times puzzle which I find almost always a disappointing slog and that is often reflected in the ratings. If suddenly a Sunday Times puzzle or a Monday New Yorker by Natan gets lots of high ratings, I’ll at least take a look. In general, I have my own arbitrary system. I do your puzzle every week, any crossword by Patrick Berry, the New Yorker puzzle on most days it appears, the USA Today every day, the NY Times on Friday and Saturday, every Inkubator and the AVX (although some of the AVX puzzles are tough being aimed more at the young and the smart phone and social media audiences). With other puzzles, I tend to prefer women and LGBTQ+ constructors over those from CIS males. The last “prejudice” comes from too many years of puzzles exclusively by men with lots of “bro culture” references. Too many grids…too little time.

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