Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Jonesin' 3:30ish (Derek) 


LAT 3:00 (Derek) 


NYT 3:24 (Amy) 


Universal untimed- student solve (Jim Q) 


USA Today 13:09 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 550), “Well-Versed Quartet”—Ade’s take

CrossNation puzzle solution, Week 550: “Well-Versed Quartet”

Hello there, everybody! The Christmas lights are all over, and here is hoping that you all are ready for the holiday madness that is to come.

How about some poetry to start off your crossword-solving experience on Tuesday? Well, we have that in a way in this grid, where the across and down answers that make up the four corners of the grid, which contain bubbles, spell out four different poets,, with POETS’ CORNER acting as the reveal (39A: [Westminster Abbey area…and a hint to finding the puzzle theme (look for Khalil, Maya, John and Rudyard!).

    • BRAN (1A: [Muffin choice]) + BIG (1D: [Large scale]) = (Khalil) GIBRAN
    • ANGEL (9A: [Winged tree ornament]) + LOU (13D: [Baseball Hall of Famer Brock]) = (Maya) ANGELOU
    • KIP (60D: [Gold medal-winning track star ___ Keino]) + PLING (70A: [Exclamation mark, in British tech slang]) = (Rudyard) Kipling
    • MILT (72A: [Jazz great Jackson]) + NOT (66A: [“Just kidding”]) = (John) MILTON

How about a couple of 11-letter non-themed entries to liven up the grid even more! That’s what we have, and both delivered, starting with ARMY SURPLUS (3D: [Outlet inventory that includes field jackets and camouflage pants]). Have only been to that type of store twice, and both when when someone I was accompanying stopped by and I walked in with them. Does anyone have any stories of a memorable purchase when going into an army surplus? I just attended the Army-Navy game this past Saturday, and I’m wondering if I can find this somewhere on aisle two…

“Go Army. Beat Navy. With a bang…

Also fascinated by SLOUGH, mostly because of the hard-to-track pronunciations of those Old English/Middle English words that end with “-ough” (32D: [Shed, with “off”]). That word is pronounced like “sluff,” but then that same word can be pronounced “slew,” then there’s trough (pronounced like “trawf”) and, about four years ago, saw a quarterback who eventually made it to the NFL, David Blough, play college football at Purdue and heard that the pronunciation of his last name is like “blau.” My head is hurting after typing that. Let’s move on to the other 11-letter entry in the grid!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: ANDRE AGASSI (32A: [Tennis great who penned the memoir “Open”]) – One of the great stories that Andre Agassi has told after his playing career ended is about the way he was able to gain advantage when playing fellow tennis legend and contemporary Boris Becker. Becker had one of the biggest serves in the game at the time, but Agassi, arguably the greatest returner of serve the game has ever seen, claimed to know where Becker’s serves were going, to the point where, according to Agassi, Becker asked him how he was so good at reading his serves. Only after their playing careers ended was when Agassi let Becker in on the secret; Agassi was able to figure out that Becker stuck out his tongue out right as he was ready to serve, and when Becker’s tongue was in the middle of his lip, the serve was going  down the T or a body serve, but out wide when Becker’s tongue stuck out to the left corner of his lip.

So did finding out that tic work? Well, Becker won the first three matches against the two, but then Agassi won 10 of their last 11 head-to-head matchups before they retired. How about that?!?

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

Take care!


Catherine Cetta’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Watch Your Step”—Jim P’s review

The revealer is FOOT BRIDGES (59a, [Pedestrians’ spans, and a description of the circled words]). The other theme answers are familiar phrases that feature a part of the foot which “bridges” two words.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Watch Your Step” · Catherine Cetta · Tue., 12.14.21

  • 18a. [Rain, wind, cold, etc.] THE ELEMENTS. Heel.
  • 23a. [Ansel Adams’s “Born Free and Equal,” e.g.] PHOTO ESSAY. Toe.
  • 36a. [Purported fire-starter of 1871] MRS. O’LEARY’S COW. i.
  • 52a. [Storage spot for a quilt, perhaps] CEDAR CHEST. i.

It’s not hard to see what’s going on with this theme as you make your way down the grid, but it’s still nice to come across a revealer that is a bit unexpected but perfectly apt. I enjoyed that little moment during the solve.

I further enjoyed the stacks in the corners of the grid (DO NO HARM / STEW OVER and ON RECORD / WEASELED) plus interesting words PASTIME, INQUEST, and CANAPE. I’m not so keen on the long abbreviation APT NO and word-no-one-uses APER.

Clues of note:

  • 41a. [Dove in a tub]. SOAP. Ha! Please don’t try this at home (diving in a tub that is).
  • 51a. [Surrealist Magritte]. RENÉ. Nothing against Magritte, but for the past couple of months I’ve been bingeing a series of audiobooks read by acclaimed actor RENÉ Auberjonois who does a masterful job, especially when he gets to read the occasional French phrase. I noticed 110 clues for Magritte in the Cruciverb database and only 20 or so for Auberjonois who had a long and varied career before he passed away two years ago. Just hoping to see more clues for my boy Auberjonois is all. (Descartes gets 98 and Russo gets 140!)
  • 19d. [Praying mantises have five]. EYES. Your factoid of the day. Apparently, aside from the two big ones, there are three in the middle of its head.

Enjoyable puzzle. 3.75 stars.

Tao Platt’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 12 14 21, no. 1214

We’ve got two revealers, sort of. 17a. [Northern European region] is SCANDINAVIA and 61a. [Flag symbol seen twice in this puzzle’s grid] is NORDIC CROSS … though the upper cross made out of black squares is backwards and not in flag orientation. There are four Nordic countries as themers, clued via the color of their flag’s NORDIC CROSS: SWEDEN and NORWAY, not symmetrically paired in the grid, and FINLAND and NORWAY. Iceland also has a Nordic cross flag (it’s red and white), but was not invited to the party. Wasn’t aware that this flag design was called the Nordic cross; that’s not common knowledge, is it? Theme is OK, but the shortcomings bug me.

Things posing trouble for Tuesday newbies: crosswordese [Gaelic language], ERSE; British variant spelling ENTHRAL (never seen it in my life); niche trade-name [Climber’s belaying device], GRIGRI. Italian ORA is also not likely in everyone’s vocab. “SO DOPE” also feels a bit weird to me as a crossword entry. I did like launching with WONK at 1-Across, though, and its crossing KENKEN. Glaring dupe: LOWNESS (not a common form of the root word) one row away from GO LOW.

3 stars from me.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Dr. Livingston, I Pre-Zoo?” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 12/14/2021

I keep forgetting to start my timer with this puzzle! As is the case in the phrase “pre-zoo”, we have phrases with the ending “mm” sound deleted, and with Matt’s trademark clueing, hilarity ensues!

  • 16A [What happened when the wedding party gained an extra foot?] BRIDE GREW 
  • 22A [Hallowed place to learn to count in French?] THE TEMPLE OF DEUX 
  • 35A [Words from a ghost clock?] TICK TICK BOO 
  • 46A [Chef’s complaint about a lack of sauce base?] “I’VE RUN OUT OF ROUX !
  • 57A [Allows just a pair?] GRANT’S TWO 

Matt, as always, makes me laugh! Not too difficult a solve this week, but my funny bone is now sore! 4.4 stars from me.

A few notes:

  • 1A [One of 11 for RuPaul] EMMY – He has that many? Informative!
  • 14A [“It is not ___ am crazy … it is ___ am mad!” (“Ren and Stimpy” quote)] “I WHO” – This is a reference that is getting older by the minute! Do the young kids today even know who these cartoon characters are?
  • 52A [Oldman’s villain role in “The Fifth Element”] ZORG – I couldn’t remember this character’s name, and I have seen this movie a few times. May have to find it again over the holiday break and watch it!
  • 53A [“Up in the Air” Oscar nominee Farmiga] VERA – She also appears in the new Hawkeye series, which is fair at best. Leave it to Disney to screw up the Marvel movies and shows!
  • 10D [First words of some proverbs] “THOSE WHO …” – EXCELLENT clue! Made me think for a moment!
  • 31D [Fast food dessert inspiring the search question “Is the spoon a straw?”] MCFLURRY – I think it actually is the stirrer!
  • 47D [1976 literary bestseller] ROOTS – If you have not read this book before, do so. It was a tremendous read. Alex Haley also wrote the biography of Malcolm X, which is another page turner.
  • 50D [“Believe It ___”] “… OR NOT” – Makes me think of those crazy tourist trap museums that are all over the place. Still no idea how they make money …

Another Jonesin’ coming next week!

Kurt Krauss’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/14/2021

This puzzle seems … repetitive!

  • 17A [Tray with egg rolls, fried wontons, etc.] PUPU PLATTER 
  • 23A [Amorous looks] GOO-GOO EYES 
  • 33A [Yoga-inspired athletic brand] LULULEMON 
  • 48A [Yogi’s cartoon buddy] BOO-BOO BEAR 
  • 53A [Colorful Hawaiian garment] MUUMUU DRESS 

I hope I spelled/hyphenated everything correctly; I am doing this by memory! Nice execution of a relatively simple idea, but slightly updated with the central entry, which surely wasn’t around the first few times this theme was attempted. Smooth solve, but that is what we want on a Tuesday! 4.3 stars from me.

Just a few things:

  • 1A [Fruity drink suffix] ADE – Sounds like someone I know! How long until the clue reads [Constructor Koiki, for short] !
  • 32A [Concert pianos] GRANDS – They say Steinways are the best, and the choice of many concert pianists, including Billy Joel. I will confirm next summer when we see him in concert!
  • 46A [Camera setting] F-STOP – I still wish I knew more about photography. One of these days …
  • 2D [Home of Lions and Tigers, but not Bears] DETROIT – The hapless Lions actually won a game! They have been bad my whole life. I think it is worse than the suffering Cubs fans endured for all those years!
  • 32D [Baseball VIPs] GM’S – In case you missed it, there is technically a work stoppage in MLB as we speak. Not sure if it will trickle into next season, but pitchers and catchers are due to start reporting in to camp in early February, which is NOT that far away. Stay tuned!
  • 55D [Filmmaker Reiner] ROB – I thought he recently passed away, but I was thinking of his father Carl Reiner.

Everyone have a safe and healthy week! I am not following my own advice, as I am home sick myself today!

Hoang-Kim Vu & Kate Chin Park’s USA Today Crossword, “When Worlds Collide“ — Emily’s write-up

Great puzzle today! A fun grid, excellent clues and entries, and an intriguing theme.

USA Today, 12 14 2021, “When Worlds Collide“ by Hoang-Kim Vu & Kate Chin Park

Theme: ”world” can be added to each portion of the themer as a stand alone term; thus the themers are formed “when worlds collide”


  • 20a. [Deodorant brand with many absurd ads], OLDSPICE
  • 39a. [Genre with magical elements in present-day settings], MODERNFANTASY
  • 60a. [Submerged], UNDERWATER

Let’s make some worlds! Each themer contains two words so when “world” is added to the end of each, it makes various world:
OLDSPICE becomes OLD World and SPICE World
UNDERWATER splits into UNDER World and WATER World

Favorite fill: MOONCAKE, UNMASK, and SKEE

Stumpers: BRUINS (needed all of the crossings), TENSEST (wanted “tightest” to work), and ONTOP (needed a couple of crossings)

For the first two thirds, I blazed through this puzzle but then slowed down at the halfway point and got held up in the final third (southern portion). Usually I work through acrosses then proceed to downs as needed. The downs helped me break into that final third and switching between acrosses and downs, I slowly completed the rest. Lately I’ve been solving quicker and when I began, I though it might be a quick time today but with that slow down, it wasn’t the case today. Still a great puzzle!

h/t to Sally and her blog post today for helping me figure out today’s theme, which also has insightful notes from the constructors if you want to know more about the creation of this puzzle as well as the other themers considered for this set.

4.25 stars


Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “Define Your Boundaries”— Jim Q’s write-up

It was a pretty good day today, but the best part of it by far was my Period 9 class. Actually, I don’t have a class Period 9. I have students who just come to my room who don’t want to be in their study halls. It’s an unofficial Geeks and Misfits Club.

Today, I went to solve Paul’s Universal and it was projected on the screen. A clue caught a kid’s eye and he shouted out the answer and I entered it. Then another kid. Then another. And pretty soon, it was a four-student effort. They filled in the whole thing with NO help from me, or the internet. And the many AHA moments were fantastic.

But the REAL kicker was when they figured out the theme (which, I’ll admit, they needed a nudge on). I saw four light bulbs go off simultaneously. Followed by four blown minds.

No, none of us had heard of BORDER TERRIERs (we’ve all heard of the Collies, which if pluralized is the same number of letters as TERRIER! A tad curious as to why Paul snubbed the COLLIES), but it was even fun to google up some TERRIER types until we found the one that fit the theme. And SET YOUR TEETH ON EDGE isn’t all that familiar to this group of high school seniors either. It only rings a faint bell for me.

But when all is said and done, four students at the same time said “Can we do another?” and that’s amazing, Paul. Congrats. Coming from someone who tries to hook kids on these constantly, it is a true feat to hook four at once (and then we solved today’s NY Times… which they also enjoyed…. I won’t say whose they liked better, but the constructor’s name rhymes with “Tall Molter”).

I was so excited to write about that, I forgot to explain the theme.

THEME: Phrases that are missing a synonym for “Boundary” (but the literal boundary of the puzzle is there instead)

Universal crossword solution · “Define Your Boundaries” · Paul Coulter · Tue., 12.14.21



You just created four lifelong solvers, Paul. And a guarantee that they will be in my room to solve on a daily basis. Usually I solve during my study hall duty period 2… I didn’t get around to it today, and period 9 will have to be the new normal.

5 stars. No doubt.


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13 Responses to Tuesday, December 14, 2021

  1. CFXK says:

    Re Xword Nation

    While completing this puzzle, I was shocked to learn that the Brits have such a level of disdain for some versifiers that they have set aside an area at Westminster Abbey for Poet Scorners. Seems a bit nasty, IMHO.

    • marciem says:

      ^^^ LOL…. good one!! :) .

      I kind of wish Liz had left off the naming of names in the revealer clue, the names jumped out with little effort or coaxing by virtue of the circles (at least in AcrossLite) .

  2. Alan D. says:

    Re: Jonesin’. Is it just me or have these been a lot harder lately?

  3. David L says:

    Jonesin’: nice theme, but the French word ‘deux’ and the English word ‘doom’ don’t remotely have the same vowel.

  4. marciem says:

    LAT: 53A redundant answer… a Muumuu IS a dress.

  5. JohnH says:

    Not that I do or get access to Crossword Nation puzzles, but the review is bit sloppy about SLOUGH. Per both RHUD and MW11C, the pronunciation of the vowel may vary a bit, although maybe not all that much to my ear. But “sluff” is reserved for the sense of shedding, as might be spelled “sluff off,” while sounds like “slow” (whether for you that rhymes with “wow” or not) are for the senses to do with muddy grounds or slogging through a mire.

    I believe I’ve seen that sense used in only one place in my life, for the Slough of Despond (i.e., despair) in Pilgrim’s Progress, famed as an ancestor of a still unborn art form, the novel. All senses back in Chaucer’s time, when language was more phonetic (which changed rapidly until we reached modern English by the time of, say, Edmund Spenser or, only a generation younger, Shakespeare), you might have hard something like “slog,” but with a more gutteral and nasal “g” for that “gh.” Those sounds were more common in a region other than London and a distinct ancestor of modern English than London usage. “Sir Gawain and the Green Night” is full of such sounds, maybe a bit harsh to modern ears.

  6. ktd says:

    Jim P: I only know who Rene Auberjonois is through crosswords! I seem to recall his name popping up in a lot of grids maybe 15-20 years ago. Can’t remember the venue, but there must have been an editor who was a big fan.

  7. Lester says:

    Jim Q: Thank you for telling us about your “Period 9 class” experience. They sound like great kids, with a great teacher.

  8. Elise says:

    NYT: It was very interesting to learn that the crosses on those flags are called Nordic crosses.
    Several odd words and odd wordforms in the puzzle today. However, the only thing that bothered me was the crossing of 51d. and 71a. Hurray or hurrah? No way to tell. And I do not know 71a. It doesn’t seem to be very common knowledge. Wouldn’t Mia Hamm have been better?

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