Wednesday, December 15, 2021

LAT 3:47 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 4:00 (Matthew) 


NYT 3:16 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 14:17 (Emily) 


AVCX 5:05 (Ben) 


Michael Lieberman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Queued Up”—Jim P’s review

Theme: The letters QU are added to familiar phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Queued Up” · Michael Lieberman · Tue., 12.15.21

  • 17a. [Words of encouragement to a poetry plagiarizer?] TAKE THE QUATRAIN. A-Train.
  • 24a. [Octogenarians’ places of worship?] GRANDMA MOSQUES. Moses. The Internet tells me the Arabic word for “grandmother” is jadda.
  • 44a. [World’s greatest milkman?] MASTER OF QUARTS. Arts. Here in the Puget Sound region, we still have milkmen, er, milkpeople I should say. Anyone else?
  • 59a. [Stops reading “War and Peace”?] QUITS A LONG STORY. It’s.

Works well enough, yeah? I didn’t get a lot of yuks (as in laughs) out of these, but YMMV. It can’t be so easy to find suitable phrases that can take Qs, so I’m sure the pool of potential theme entries is limited. I found the first two entries to be more interesting than the latter two.

Not a lot of long fill to enjoy today, but FAR-FLUNG and ECSTATIC are nice. Meh to REHEM.

It helped to be married to a pediatrician to get APGAR [Test for newborns]. The test is named after the doctor who invented it (Dr. Virginia APGAR), but a backronym has since been applied to it to stand for: Appearance (skin color), Pulse (heart rate), Grimace (reflex irritability), Activity (muscle tone), and Respiration.

Clues of note:

  • 42a. [Lab oratory?]. ARF. Cute. I’m picturing a dog waxing eloquent, but we humans only hear the ARFs.
  • 49a. [Bronze kin]. TAN. The color. Who else went with TIN (the metal) first?
  • 4d. [Hired killers, informally]. ICEMEN. Don’t think I’ve heard this before. Seems uncommon.
  • 11d. [Something brought up by a loser]. REAR. Harsh. Unnecessarily so.
  • 35d. [Protectors of the Forest of Fangorn]. ENTS. From LOTR.
  • 55d. [Dandling spot]. KNEE. I have never ever heard the word “dandle” (to bounce a baby up and down on one’s KNEE).

Solid puzzle. 3.5 stars.

Jessie Bullock & Ross Trudeau’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 15 21, no. 1215

Today’s puzzle played like a Monday or Tuesday to me, but with the treat of six juicy long Downs (LOCAL PRIDE, LORD IT OVER, WOLVERINE, TEEN CRUSH, IDIOT-PROOF, PERSIAN CAT) in the fill. The revealer is 51a. [Sign in some clothing stores … or a hint to 19-, 25- and 44-Across], SORRY, NO RETURNS. Here are those related themers:

  • 19a. [Speculations that don’t pay off], BAD INVESTMENTS. Sometimes you don’t get any return on your investment.
  • 25a. [Journeys for people who are relocating], ONE-WAY TRIPS. No return trip.
  • 44a. [Some court winners], SERVICE ACES. Tennis serves that can’t be returned.

Decent theme, but it doesn’t resonate with me the way an unpublished Ross/Jessie collaboration, described in this moving essay, did. The art of crossword construction as a pain management strategy, who’d have thought it?

Five more things:

  • 40a. [Writer ___ Rogers St. Johns], ADELA. Which of you have read anything by her? Pretty sure I have not.
  • 8d. [Canadian birthplace of Rae Dawn Chong and Michael J. Fox], ALBERTA. Can’t say I knew they were Albertans, just knew Fox was Canadian. Never knew that Tommy Chong (Rae’s dad) was Canadian!
  • 12d. [Difference between icky and picky?], PEE. Yes, we all know nobody really uses PEE to refer to the letter P. But icky and picky are fun words, so I’ll allow it here.
  • 21d. [Shortest month of the year], MAY. Shortest-named, not chronologically shortest. February wants to meet May in a dark alley because of this clue.
  • 55d. [Answer to the riddle “What can go up and down without moving?”], ROAD. Wait, what? Are we talking hill elevation, or roads going both north and south, or what?

Four stars from me.

Francis Heaney’s AVCX, “Stereo Lab” — Ben’s Review

AVCX 12/15/21 – “Stereo Lab”

The AVCXpansion is 89% of the way to its goal of a second weekly puzzle, midis, a cryptic, and more, with 22 days remaining.  Find out more details and contribute if interested here!

Francis Heaney has this week’s AVCX, and it was perfectly on my wavelength of both science and music-related puns:

  • 20A: John Mellencamp song that was played with great frequency? — HERTZ SO GOOD
  • 29A: Rapper known as MCA who often got smashed in Switzerland? — ATOM YAUCH
  • 35A: With 36-Across, items that contain much musical work? — JOULE/BOXES
  • 39A: David Bowie song about someone who’s an absolute whiz with DNA? — GENE GENIE
  • 50A: Songwriter who invented the Monkee wrench? — PETER TORQUE

Just a great blend of song- and artist-name-related puns.  I’d expect no less from Francis.

RIP to Mike Nesmith, who played with PETER TORQUE…er, Tork, as part of The Monkees

There’s a bunch of fill in the puzzle that could also be interpreted musically – the record label RCA, which anagrams nicely into ARC (“One side of a record, say?”), ZAC Brown Band, TRIO (“The Beatles at the time they recorded “I Me Mine,” e.g.”), SLUR (“Curved line indicating a slide from note to note”), YANNI, Huey LEWIS and the News, PRODIGY (either the band, or, as clued, “Five-year-old who can nail Chopin études, e.g.”), Jethro Tull’s IAN Anderson, Neil YOUNG, and others.  It was all nicely, quietly thematic, and I liked that a lot.

Happy Wednesday!

Robert E L Morris’ Universal crossword, “Go Fishing” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/15/21 • Wed • Lee • “Go Fishing” • solution • 20211215

Very standard theme today, hidden words. They’re all fish, and they each span two words of phrases.

  • 17a. [One may do the hustle] DISCO DANCER (cod). See also 36d [Alphabetical nickname] STU, and thence 33d [Broke, or spent] TAPPED OUT. Oh, and of course: 1d [Father such as Homer Simpson] TV DAD.
  • 28a. [Helper in a white coat] LAB ASSISTANT (bass).
  • 43a. [United States senate, for one] UPPER CHAMBER (perch).
  • 57a. [Quickest way, usually] DIRECT ROUTE (trout).

Works fine.

  • 9d [Eurocentric name for Thailand’s region] FAR EAST. Good way to frame a sometimes problematic phrase. Here’s a gorgeous melody from Duke Ellington’s misnamed (as it’s mostly influenced by the Middle East and South Asia) Far East Suite:

    Ironically, the Afro-Eurasian Eclipse record is the one, if any, that would most accurately be called the Far East Suite. Does anyone else remember a telephone book that had a cover similar to that of the record?
  • 10d [Thanksgiving spot for young ones] KIDS TABLE. Parsed differently, it might be where young goats hang out.
  • 23d [Take a load off] SIT, 66a [Take a break] REST.
  • 38d [Athlete Arthur who adopted a daughter named Camera] ASHE. New angle in cluing a crossword staple.
  • 39d [Actress Jewell] GERI. She’s also a noted advocate for disabled rights and LGBTQetc causes.
  • 24a [Ornamental symbol in typography] DINGBAT. Was the name (19th century, etymology unknown) first applied to typography with the introduction of Zapf Dingbats in 1978? Hmm. Probably not, would be my guess.
  • 47a [Rub out] ERASE. Anyone else recall Daffy Duck in The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946), a Dick Tracy spoof? One of the baddies was Rubberhead, who corners our hero and says “I’m gonna r–r– r– rub you out!” before proceeding to do just that.
  • Little bit of flair in stacking EMO and EMU in the lower left. (56a & 61a)

All right, that’s all I’ve got for this one. Just need to add some text so that the formatting with the Rubberhead image looks good. There we go.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today Crossword, “Food, Glorious Food” — Emily’s write-up

Covering today’s USA Today as well (and Friday’s) this week and I am so glad I got this one.

This theme was spot on for me! I love foods of all kinds and when traveling my first priority is the cuisine, followed by enjoying the culture and neighborhoods, with a distant third of sightseeing. It seems that a lot of who we are is expressed through our food. If you love it as well, this is a puzzle for you, and if it’s not so much your thing, there’s still enough delight in as well with the other non-food entries.

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday December 15, 2021

USA Today, 12 15 2021, “Food, Glorious Food“ by Zhouqin Burnikel[

Theme: each themer is a repeated word that is the name of a food


  • 16a. [Fish with a repetitive name], MAHIMAHI
  • 20a. [Sauce with a repetitive name], PIRIPIRI
  • 39a. [Hotpot dish with a repetitive name], SHABUSHABU
  • 56a. [Staple food with a repetitive name], COUSCOUS
  • #a. [Dessert with a repetitive name], HALOHALO

Food so nice, you have to say it twice! A total of five themers today that kept me wanting more. With the typical three in most puzzles, the total of five was a fun surprise. MAHIMAHI is a delicious white fish that I’ve been lucky to enjoy in Hawaii, on the North Shore of Oahu. PIRIPIRI is a spicy pepper sauce that I’ve been meaning to order a spice blend from Spicewalla and they have a fantastic article about the spice. SHABUSHABU is a perfect winter dish, often served as a shared soup/broth with thin meat that you swirl it in to quickly cook and veggies and tofu set in until soft and cooked through; so versatile and customizable that it can practically be anything you want—I’m a fan! COUSCOUS is delicious grain in a variety of sizes, though the few recipes that I’ve tried are so dry that I haven’t made it much. HALOHALO is a stunning dessert of colors, flavors, and textures, often layered and very sweet, there’s always some variation.

Favorite fill: JAR crossed with JAM, MASK, and BRAVED

Stumpers: MEDICS (I was stuck on “marcher”), ANIMAL (thinking too hard about the relationship in the clue), and ALE (wouldn’t consider it alternative so needed crossings)

Beyond the extra tasty themers today, this puzzle is JAM-packed (literally!) with other food clues throughout. There are still many other entries that are non-food related but it seems that a majority are today, or if not a majority then at least a significant increase from a typical puzzle. I find it find to fit in tangentially theme related entries that aren’t themers. (It’d be interesting to see that with other themes, just a thought.) Also, stepping back to take a look at the grid, it’s asymertical but with just enough similarities throughout that to me it almost looks like it does—great design that is unique but not jarring. Love it! I hope to see more of these types of grids too!

I’ll leave you today with a bonus holiday treat from me, playing on today’s theme: bonbon!

5.0 stars


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword—Matthew’s review

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s New Yorker crossword solution, 12/15/2021

Fun grid from Liz Gorski today, with long acrosses and sort of a hybrid feel between staggers and open corners.

Those long acrosses are all excellent – I particularly loved ONE WORD ANSWERS (51a- “Perhaps” and “Maybe”), and the clever clues for DEAR JOHN LETTER (14a- Ex communication?) and BARBECUE SAUCE (12- Stick-to-your-ribs cookout staple?), the latter tripping me up until I got enough crosses.

The northeast corner had more names than I’ve seen the last few Wednesdays: Picasso muse Dora MAAR, blink-and-you-missed him Pope LEO XI, and BARBIE, clued to her sister Skipper. Sports crosswordese haters will be glad for 2d (“Dragonfly Song” author Wendy) ORR, while other old standbys EFTS, ACHE (5d- Reminder of a deep-tissue massage), and the telegraphed OBJECT (3d- U.F.O. component) help offset the corner if anyone is really stuck on all the names.

Lots of fun clues in general on this one – EEYORE (39d) indeed wears a pink bow on his tail, and it was fun to remember that; I had a head-slap moment after figuring out BOOK I (26a- First section of Euclid’s “Elements”), and I learned something new about Starbucks at (44d- Starbucks size that’s twenty ounces for hot drinks but twenty-four ounces for cold drinks) VENTI. And I cheered to see Connie MACK (49d- Baseball Hall of Famer Connie), the dapperest and winningest baseball managers, make his way into the grid.

Matt Scoczen’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary


Matt Scoczen features a common thematic trope this Wednesday with words spelt out across circles in four long theme entries. The revealer is placed centrally at MOUNTAINRANGES. The mountains are the URALS, ALPS, ANDES… and TETONS, with the last being considerably less GRANDE.

I liked the stack of WETNURSE/ALLALONG. Other highlights were VCHIP, SAHIB and the clue for ABC [It can replace “pie” in an idiom].


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13 Responses to Wednesday, December 15, 2021

  1. huda says:

    NYT: Really liked it! And it did play a bit easier, like a Tuesday, which always makes me feel smarter. The point of no return theme in this one seems to approximate the more dramatic “When Death Comes” theme in the essay– that theme is genius.
    And the essay is incredibly moving and beautifully written. As someone who has studied pain with the hope of helping those who suffer from it, I find it very sad to see how hard it is for so many people to gain control over it.
    I was glad that there was some respite, and I really resonated with this bit:
    “But making crosswords, I came to realize, occupied some sublime cognitive space at the intersection of entertainment and rigor. ”
    That is exactly what I discovered for myself in fighting migraines– that I had to do something cognitive and sufficiently engaging to block the emotional side of pain, but not so arduous that being in pain made it impossible. Of course, for me, it was not constructing puzzles but attempting to solve them.
    Ross, thank you for sharing your experiences. I wish you the best of luck in fighting your illness and finding additional means to manage pain! Jessie seems like an amazing person to have on your side.
    And thank you, Amy, for linking to it. Devastatingly beautiful.

  2. Billy Boy says:

    Like an easy Wednesday, those long downs would never work on a Monday. Good puzzle, but I’d have liked one more long across theme answer, I think elite puzzlers forget that downs are much harder to get for newbs.

    I’m really glad puzzle construction works for Ross, I see his name at the top of a lot of my fave puzzles.

  3. David Roll says:

    WSJ–Maybe it is just me, but I dislike clues such as 1-d and 2-d that relate to obscure people, particularly when they are adjacent to each other.

  4. marciem says:

    TNY: That NW really got me, made me work very hard. Between having no idea bout Maar and Orr, and thinking Flying was a good element of UFO, as well as standing firm that BarbeQUE is spelled MY way :D (does anybody shorten this to BBC? I don’t think so) once I got the sauce in there.. well you can see the mess I had, since nothing was letting me see moolah for 1A.

    Great work out, and loved the puzzle once it finally fell. Nothing unfair …ok, well maybe the side-by-side Maar and Orr… total unknowns.

    • David Steere says:

      TNY: I, too, really liked this puzzle from Liz…her best New Yorker puzzle in some time. I wanted 18A to be LSD but I tripped out of that mistake. Quite a few names I didn’t know but I managed to fill them all in with crosses. Zhouqin’s food puzzle from USA Today was also great. I’m not a foodie but figured out these wonderful double edibles. I didn’t quite catch all the “audio” puns in the AVCX from Francis but filled them all in correctly. Successful puzzle day, I guess.

  5. Mike says:

    I have some brain-lock for the NYT 65A answer for ‘Followers of moms’. I just can’t see it. Any assistance, please?

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