Saturday, December 18, 2021

LAT 4:56 (Derek) 


Newsday 16:18 (Derek) 


NYT 5:35 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 2:19 (Matthew) 


WSJ untimed (pannonica) 


David Distenfeld’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 18 21, no. 1218

I admired the empty grid, with that center swath of 7- to 9-letter answers swaggering across the grid. The puzzle’s basically three crosswords in one, since the NW and SE chunks have only two squares in their passageways to the middle. The Down 15 connects all three sections, which facilitates the solver’s flow.

Fave fill: “WELL, DAMN,” “OK BOOMER” (nobody uses a comma in it, but I do want one there), the BEE GEES, “DIG THIS,” FRYING PAN, magazine COVER STORY, “CAN WE NOT?”, TEST PILOTS, “NOW, MORE THAN EVER…,” “THINK AGAIN,” and BUGATTI. As you can see from all the quotation marks in this paragraph, the fill is quite chatty today.

The clunkiest fill is crosswordese STERE atop weird phrase IS RED, but overall the contents here are quite smooth.

Nine more things:

  • 23a. [Modern-day put-down popularized by a 2019 TikTok video], “OK BOOMER.” I couldn’t have told you this came from TikTok, but I can tell you that Gen X people take offense when “ok boomer” is directed at them, but that rebutting it serves only to reinforce the younger person’s conviction that one is a Boomer.
  • 26a. [Vintage eight-track purchases, maybe], TRAIN SETS. Tricked me. I thought of 1970s eight-track tapes and perhaps BOXED SETS of music albums, but no.
  • 27a. [Stress specialist?], POET. Clever clue.
  • 28a. [“Britain’s first family of harmony,” per Brian Wilson], BEE GEES. I didn’t know this, but I quizzed my husband and he got it instantly.
  • 39a. [Pieces together?], SUITE. As in a furniture suite. I went for SUITS of clothing first.
  • 48a. [Challenge for a free soloist], CRAG. You knew this wasn’t about music, didn’t you? As in the Oscar-winning documentary, Free Solo, about a rock climber who does the impossible (and foolhardy) on a regular basis.
  • 3d. [“Dallas” or “Atlanta”], TV SERIES. I was not misled!
  • 21d. [Basic framework], BONES. As in “this house has good bones.”
  • 22d. [Champagne ___, one of Drake’s nicknames], PAPI. I didn’t know this one, but I’m glad for an alternative to baseball’s Big Papi. I’d be fine with a generic clue for the Spanish “daddy,” mind you. As long as the crossing for the last letter makes it clear it’s PAPI rather than PAPA.

4.25 stars from me.

Craig Stowe’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/18/2021

Under five minutes! I’ll take it. The Stumper today more than made up for it in difficulty! Nice stack of 13-letter entries in the middle, two of which can be called casual phrases, which are some of my favorite entries that you can put in a puzzle. To me, it makes a puzzle more, shall we say, lively? Less academic, perhaps? We always want to avoid things like tree genuses, but to have things in there that are actually in the language are what make the puzzles fun to do. I really like Craig’s puzzles at this point; I think I have done quite a few of them at this point. Keep ’em coming, Craig! 4.6 stars from me.

A few highlights:

  • 1A [Some assembly stations] SALAD BARS – They still don’t have too many of these open here, in the pandemic age. We have a couple of restaurants that are based on the buffet model that struggled for a bit, but my favorite grocery store salad bar is still not open. Rats!
  • 18A [Wagner’s father-in-law] LISZT – How did I not know this??
  • 20A [Zaire’s Mobutu __ Seko] SESE – Is this ruler crossword famous yet? Cuz that is the ONLY way I know who this name!
  • 32A [“No worries”] “DON’T MENTION IT” – You knew I had to mention all of the 13’s! Great casual phrase here, as well!
  • 35A [Stop digressing] CUT TO THE CHASE – Also a somewhat casual phrase. Always nice to see my youngest son’s name in a puzzle, too! (Yes, his name is Chase!)
  • 36A [Words often embroidered] HOME SWEET HOME – Can you just see in your mind the framed needlepoint work? Yeah, me too!
  • 60A [Bike shop array] TEN SPEEDS – This term is somewhat out of date. My new road bike actually has 22 gear combinations! They had “10-speeds” when I was a kid!
  • 11D [Adidas rival] AVIA – Do they still make shoes??
  • 13D [Round item in a square box] PIZZA PIE – One of my favorite foods, and I still got stumped for a sec on this one.
  • 32D [Sandbox toy] DUMP TRUCK – I have not played in a sandbox for decades. Just saying … !
  • 36D [“Nature would not invest __ in such shadowing passion without some instruction”: Othello] HERSELF – What a great quote. I don’t know Shakespeare that well, so this sounds fresh and new to me!

Still knee-deep in Foggy’s Puzzle Boat 8 (after all this time!), so maybe I will try to knock out a few more puzzles in that today. Hope your Saturday goes well!

Stanley Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 12/18/2021

Stan got me today. Totally stumped. I have been out sick all week, so that is going to be my excuse … I mean reason for the somewhat longer solve time today. In the end, as is usually the case, all seems fair, so I cannot cry because it was TOO hard. It was just not in my wheelhouse this week. I may just have to go take a nap so I am ready for the weekend! Next time, Stan!! 4.5 stars from me.

Some of the stuff I liked (and some thorny bits!):

  • 15A [Major Kazakhstan export] URANIUM – Someone has to mine it for the nuclear power plants, I suppose. Interesting.
  • 26A [Beetles’ British cousins] MINI COOPERS – Yes, I read this as the band, and I was totally off on the wrong tangent. Mean!
  • 43A [Food processors] CREPE MAKERS – In a technical sense, I suppose …
  • 53A [Greek goddess of healing] PANACEA – I had seen this before, but the recall wasn’t working fast enough. It makes sense if you think about it!
  • 56A [High-school class] HYGIENE – They do???
  • 11D [Net 26 Down] E-CASH – 26-Down is MOOLAH, so we are talking internet cash here. Tricky!
  • 23D [With 1 Across, Baldwin’s mom on ”30 Rock”] ELAINE STRITCH – I don’t know this actress that well, so I needed all kinds of crossings to get this one. And I have seen most of that show’s episodes because it was hilarious!
  • 27D [Have aspirations] INHALE – Might be the best/trickiest of the bunch. Very nice!
  • 38D [Loosen up, perhaps] RE-SPACE – Also tricky. Actually, VERY tricky!
  • 41D [Michael Keaton’s ex in ”Birdman”] AMY RYAN – Yes, I put MEG in here! I haven’t seen this movie before, even though I know it won Best Picture!

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword—Matthew’s write-up

Brooke Husic’s USA Today crossword solution, “Top Awards”, 12/18/2021

We’ve got down-running themers and “Top” in the title, so we don’t have to look far:

  • 4d- [German mathematician with an eponymous theorem] EMMY NOETHER.
  • 7d- [“The Homesteader” filmmaker] OSCAR Micheaux.
  • 10d- [“The White Girl” author] TONY Birch.

You come across sets like this from time to time — in trivia settings or otherwise — but there’s plenty of folks out there that they generally feel fresh to me. And I like the variety in using a mathematician, a filmmaker, and an author.

Small “award” bonus at 48a [Best Female Athlete with a Disability, e.g.] for ESPY. A considerably harder award to fit into the theme!

Does anyone else discover in doing crosswords that a word is much longer or shorter than you thought? I had that feeling with MARTIANS at 30a [Red planet residents]. It had to be right, and it was, but I sure started filling it in a long way from the edge of the grid.

Other favorite fill: TWITTERBOT, MALCOLM X, PAGODA, HRT. Not much time for more notes today. Have a great weekend!

Paul Coulter’s Universal Crossword, “Adding Roman Numerals”— Jim Q’s write-up

Pretty blunt title!

THEME: Adding roman numerals to common phrases to create wackiness.

Universal crossword solution · “Adding Roman Numerals” · Paul Coulter · Sat., 12.18.21


  • RIGHT ON THE DIVOT. Right on the dot. 
  • BREAKING THE VICE. Breaking the ice. 
  • INDIRECT QUIXOTE. Indirect quote. 
  • MULTIPLEX CHOICE. Multiple choice. 

Another winner from Paul Coulter. I’ve lost track of how many bylines have been his in the past month or so, but it’s a lot. This one is very, very well done. I’ve seen adding numerals before, but using the clue number is an extra layer of nice, and all of the resulting phrases (and base phrases for that matter) are pretty great. Excellent finds all around.

Some things I didn’t like in the fill itself were NIH, NSF, TOK, IT PRO, IN OT, ELYSE (Family Ties clues seem a bit dusty to me!), and SNOT (gross). CANOEIST felt off for me too, probably because I’m no CANOEIST. Funny enough, I actually wanted ARACHNE for the clue [Olympian who might weave through the gates]. That makes sense, right?

New for me: NORMA Torres.

Good to see AIDY Bryant in there!

4.5 stars from me.

Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Deer Crossing” — pannonica’s write-up

WSJ • 12/18/21 • Sat • “Deer Crossing” • Shenk • solution • 20211218

Seasonal theme here.

  • 110aR1 [2, 5, 7, 9, 13, 17 and 20, for the eight hiding in this grid] ROWS.
    61aR2 [Colleague of eight others who are hiding in this grid] RUDOLPH.
    I’ve circled the squares for clarity in the solution grid.
  • In a real flourish, the names of Santa’s reindeer—for that’s what the octet is—appear in the order recited in Clement C Moore’s famous poem:More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
    And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
    “Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
    On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
    To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
    Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

So that’s some top-tier crossword constructing.

Theme-adjacent: 63d [Sound from carolers?] HARD C. 76d December 24 and 31, e.g.] EVES. Okay, sure, lets add 14a [Rockefeller in NYC, e.g.] CTR and 80d [Singer Perry] COMO.

  • 4d [Athlete’s ultimate punishment] LIFE BAN. I feel this is more commonly rendered as lifetime ban.
  • 8d [Dagger alternative] ASTERISK. Typography!
  • 14d [Williamsburg tavern owner Campbell] CHRISTIANA. Should I know this? Is it famous? Is it from the Revolutionary ERA (107d)?
  • 49d [County southeast of Napa] SOLANO. There was a minor blowup the other day regarding New Jersey’s Morris County, and this particular California county was unknown to me but easily gettable via crossings.
  • 54d [Prefix with sphere or pause] TROPO-. That’s where we all live. The -sphere, that is.
  • 59d [Youngster in a holt] OTTER PUP. And now you know what to call an otter’s home.
  • 73d [City near Dortmund] ESSEN, crossworld’s favorite German burg.
  • 81d [Romeo’s cousin] BENVOLIO. Malvolio appears in Twelfth Night.
  • Sure, there’s some unusual fill in the grid to accommodate all the hidden stuff, but the crossings are generally fair. Talking about entries like WEDGY, BACONY, NIMBI, PRAN, and ALTESSE. (46a, 91d, 93d, 42a, 70a)
  • 90a [Abolitionist slated to replace Jackson on the $20 bill] TUBMAN. This was supposed to have happened quite some time ago now. Grr.

A really strong crossword.

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17 Responses to Saturday, December 18, 2021

  1. Billy Boy says:

    NYT definitely three puzzles, NW & SE pretty simple and straightforward, some dodgy stuff in NE & SW, the middle stack was quite clean.

    NE my big nit, [ .net ] is hardly uncommon, TOOT ATTA AT A LOSS came rather slowly

    Today we got a young puzzle, at least it was consistent and the seemingly outlier 8-track clue, I’m not sure I understand the train connection; Rex groused on that one, too

    • Gary R says:

      I was into electric trains for a while when I was a kid (a long time ago), and “eight-track” didn’t ring any bells for me. Best I could come up with is that a lot of trains sets come with a figure-8 track layout – but if that’s what the constructor had in mind, I think he should have gone another direction.

  2. Jeremy says:

    I loved the NYT with one bit to pick. The Bee Gees were Australian, not British. I would like to think the constructor knew that but Brian Wilson didn’t.

  3. Me says:

    NYT: I’m not sure I understand “Lead-in to a grave pronouncement” = NOWMORETHANEVER . I get that NOWMORETHANEVER is typically said in the context of a serious situation, but the pronouncement itself isn’t the part that’s grave. If anything, I think the pronouncement is typically more uplifting than grave. “Now more than ever, love each other,” for example. Or does “grave pronouncement” mean something else?

    • Eric H says:

      “Hear this, young men and women everywhere, and proclaim it far and wide. The earth is yours and the fullness thereof. Be kind, but be fierce. You are needed now more than ever before. Take up the mantle of change. For this is your time.”

      -Sir Winston Churchill

  4. David Steere says:

    USA Today: truly wonderful puzzle from Brooke Husic showing what makes this series so special. Simple, elegant theme (4D, 7D, 10D). The clue/answer pairs I didn’t know were many: 23A, 4D, 8D, 10D, 26D, 33D, 37D, 49D, 65D. What I knew from being a lover of TCM: 7D (the filmmaker not this particular film). What I loved to learn: 63A. Particularly wonderful cross at 7D and 63A which couldn’t be more apt. In spite of all I did not know, I completed the puzzle with satisfaction and pleasure. I’ve stopped rating puzzles but would give it “lots of stars” (as per one of your puzzle reviewers). Thanks Brooke and Amanda!

  5. Gene says:

    NYT – SUITE works for musical compositions even better, IMO

  6. Crotchety Doug says:

    Universal – Didn’t even look at the title until after solving and reading Jim Q’s review. When I realized that the extra letters represented their respective clue numbers, that was the icing on this 5-star cake. I rated it even before finishing. Beautiful!

    • marciem says:

      I was worried when I saw that title that I’d have to do addition in Roman numerals… LOL, I HATE those puzzle entries!

      LOVED this puzzle… had to know the simple Romans but no math involved :) .

      • Paul J Coulter says:

        Yeah, that was the idea behind David’s wonderfully clever title. (My original one was “Please Take a Number.) With David’s, it seems like an uh-oh at first, but it turns out a relief when you only have to insert the numerals. BTW, Marcie, I also hate those add the Roman numeral clues. The multiplication or division ones have me tearing out what’s left of my hair.

  7. Crotchety Doug says:

    Newsday – I finished successfully, but not without erasing entire words (I always solve in pencil). Erased textile at 9D and attimes at 8A before filling in 26A. Then guessed RUM at 12D and the rest filled in gradually from there. Loved learning about 53A. 38D was a surprise. Very satisfying.

  8. Seth says:

    Stumper: HYGIENE in high school? No. Maybe a hundred years ago? Also, “food processor” for CREPE MAKER is so vague, it’s like using the clue “Thing” for the word hammer.

  9. JohnH says:

    I’m sure I’m just being dense, but I still don’t get the theme clue numbers in the WSJ. Say, the first had me looking at 2D, which was clearly not relevant, the second at 5D, and so on.

    • Bob says:

      If you were to number the rows in the grid top to bottom from 1 to 21, the reindeer are hidden in rows 2, 5, 7, 9, etc.

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