Monday, December 20, 2021

BEQ 4:29 (Matthew) 


LAT 2:03 (Stella) 


NYT 3:38 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 5:10 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Anne Rowley’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap

Theme: Each theme answer begins with a word meaning “to sew”

New York Times, 12 20 2021, By Anne Rowley

  • 20a [Prompt action when things are unraveling] – STITCH IN TIME
  • 32a [Beat around the bush] – HEM AND HAW
  • 42a [“Oh, blast!”] – DARN IT ALL
  • 54a [What ties everything together, including 20-, 32- and 42-Across?] – COMMON THREAD

First and foremost, congrats to Anne on her New York Times debut! I enjoyed today’s puzzle, despite being one of the least-crafty people on the planet – I don’t think I’ve sewed anything myself since elementary school. I enjoyed how Anne chose theme answers that obscured the sewing related meaning of their first word, although I always thought STITCH IN TIME, in the proverb, was sewing related? So I didn’t like that answer quite as much as the others; perhaps there could have been some sort of reference to Stitch from “Lilo and Stitch” to further change the meaning of the word. The theme answers are all three words long, too – another nice COMMON THREAD.

Fun grid design today! I love the crosses in the middle of the puzzle – thematically, they give me big cross-stitch vibes. I also liked that the layout allowed some extra long across answers, although neither RESPECTED or THROBBING totally blew me away as answers – in fact, my favorite answers today were PEPITA and WOMBAT, two bits of shorter fill! Some people don’t like having bonus answers that are the same length or longer as theme answers, as RESPECTED/THROBBING/HEM AND HAW/DARN IT ALL are today, but I personally don’t mind it at all, especially when the revealer makes it incredibly clear what answers are theme answers.

Other thoughts:

  • I’m not a huge dupe critic, but I didn’t love IN ALL crossing DARN IT ALL. Dupes become a lot more noticeable when they either cross or dupe a theme answer, so having both at once isn’t great.
  • A couple of tricky spots in the fill today – EWER, HELGA (as clued for me anyways; no idea how well known this is to folks who know about art), and some odd partials in LAY IN and MAD AT. The rest is solid Monday level, though.
  • Raquel WELCH was featured heavily in a “fashion do’s and don’ts” book I somehow acquired as a child, so that’s the only reason I knew that answer immediately.
  • HALCYON is a cool word and one that I can never quite remember the meaning of.

Happy holidays everyone!

Evan Kalish’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Pretty Good!”—Jim P’s review

Theme: KEEP IT PG (63a, [“Tone down that PDA, there are kids around,” and a hint to five answers in this puzzle]). Those five answers are two-word phrases with initial letters P.G.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Pretty Good!” · Evan Kalish · Mon., 12.20.21

  • 16a. [Surefire comedic material] PURE GOLD.
  • 20a. [Pictionary or Jenga, e.g.] PARTY GAME.
  • 53a. [Vessel for ale] PINT GLASS.
  • 13d. [Set of similar people] PEER GROUP.
  • 30d. [Supplier of juice] POWER GRID.

A fine set, but not the tightest of themes. There are loads of other PG phrases (pea green, Persian Gulf, poison gas, plate glass, pearly gates, etc.). Certainly one could come up with 13 which is where I thought this theme was going at first (PG-13). (Probably too ambitious for a 15x grid, tho.) Evan’s a constructor with high standards and usually multi-layered themes, so if there’s something I’m missing here, feel free to let me know.

On the other hand, it is a Monday grid, and this one seems perfectly aimed at newer solvers.

The fill is clean as you’d expect with niceties “EASY, NOW,” PANGAEA, FROGGER, RIHANNA, and BALBOA. I needed most of the crossings for NEVIS [Island southeast of St. Kitts], but they were certainly fair.

Clues are mostly straight as an arrow, reinforcing the idea that this a good grid for the new solver in your life.

A nice grid, but, personally, I’d like a tighter theme. 3.25 stars.

Dan Schoenholz’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 12/20/21 by Dan Schoenholz

Los Angeles Times 12/20/21 by Dan Schoenholz

This theme is education-centric. See what I did there? You will. The revealer, 56A [Junior high … and what each set of circles is?] is MIDDLE SCHOOL, meaning that spanning two words in each theme phrase (i.e., in the MIDDLE of the phrase), is a college or university (i.e., a SCHOOL). Like so:

  • 19A [Dome-shaped frozen areas at the two ends of the Earth] is POLAR ICE CAPS, with the circled letters spelling RICE, a university in Houston.
  • 27A [One in charge of a depot] is a STATION AGENT, with the circled letters spelling IONA, a college in New Rochelle, New York.
  • 37A [Cognac, creme de cacao, and cream cocktail] is a BRANDY ALEXANDER, with the circled letters spelling YALE. Remember when Matt Amodio was on his Jeopardy! run and they kept introducing him as a PhD student from New Haven, Connecticut? Were they just not allowed to say YALE on camera, given that we all knew exactly what was meant?
  • 45A [Over an extended period] is IN THE LONG RUN, with the circled letters spelling ELON, a university in the town of the same name in North Carolina.

Hmmm. Although the theme entries themselves are all legit in-the-language phrases, two of the MIDDLE SCHOOLs are considerably better-known than the others. “Yale University” gets more than 37 million Google hits; “Rice University” gets about 7 million; “Elon University” gets about 1.8 million; “Iona College” gets about 1 million. I get that there aren’t that many colleges and universities with nice short names to work with, but I personally wouldn’t have been run this theme on a Monday as a result.

Kate Chin Park’s USA Today puzzle: Drop a Line– malaika’s write-up

Theme: The theme answers all contain the substring LINE, running vertically down the grid. Also, the LINE drops down further each time– it’s at the start of the first theme answer, and the end of the last one. A nice touch!

Theme answers:

  • Place to store towels– LINEN CLOSET
  • Quebecoise superstar singer– CELINE DION (my favorite theme answer)
  • Relevance to current events– TIMELINESS
  • Sparklingly clear– CRYSTALLINE

Kate Chin Park’s USA Today puzzle– Drop a Line

Good morning folks! Someone can fact check this, but I believe it’s Kate’s solo debut– congratulations!

With the theme answers going vertically, the long acrosses, TEST TUBES and INSTINCTS were bonus fill. The mid-length across fill was really nice (CASHIER, HAMMOCK, CALL ME, ERRAND, STAMINA), and I know Kate would have come up with some deliciously tricksy and fun clues if this were a puzzle for a different outlet. (USA Today puzzles are supposed to be very easy, and don’t allow pun clues.) More notes below:

  • For [Dances with Polynesian origins] I initially only filled in the H because I wasn’t sure if this was going to be HULAS or “hakas”
  • A YETI is a figure in Sherpa folklore. The Sherpa people are a Tibetan ethnic group. I had only known the word as an expert who assists mountain-climbers.
  • The clue [Opposite of attract] for REPEL tripped be up because I kept reading it as “Opposites attract”
  • The term HAPA was new to me. The clue defines it as an identity for Hawaiians with mixed ancestry. I did some more reading (I like reading about terminology like this because I am mixed race) and it seems like sometimes it refers to any type of mix, and sometimes it refers to specifically people who are half Asian, depending on where you are.
  • Son Heung-min is a soccer player, and Kim Yuna is a figure skater– both were born in KOREA
  • The clue for ROASTED (Cooked like nyama choma) slowed me down because I had “grilled” there first. The dish is basically just Swahili for barbecue (meat specifically), popular in Kenya and Tanzania.

Rebecca Goldstein and Rachel Fabi’s Universal crossword, “Mull It Over” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/20/21 • Mon • “Mull It Over” • Goldstein, Fabi • solution • 20211220

I was hard-pressed to figure out the theme as I was solving, and even after encountering the revealer it took a couple of beats to sort it.

  • 64aR [Hairdo whose “business in the front, party in the back” description hints at what can follow two words in each starred clue’s answer] MULLET. That’s quite a mouthful.
  • 17a. [*Primate exhibit] MONKEY HOUSE (monkey business, house party).
  • 30a. [*Matcha, for instance] GREEN TEA (green business, tea party). psst MATCHA is in today’s NYT Spelling Bee.
  • 46a. [*Have mercy] SHOW PITY (show business, pity party).
  • 59a. [*”Shocker!”] BIG SURPRISE (big business, surprise party).

It’s an ambitious theme, and if you’d described it to me in advance I would have said that it’s a neat idea but probably unworkable, that one wouldn’t be able to find enough entries. Big surprise, eh? So—very well done!

  • 4d [Often-rolled joints] ANKLES. Misdirection there.
  • Longdowns: 8d [Jumping for joy] EXUBERANT, 34d [Feeling of longing for the Before Times] NOSTALGIA—a nod to our current COVID times; 11d [Lingering flavor] AFTERTASTE, 12d [Successful book] BESTSELLER, 28d [Wasn’t cool enough?] OVERHEATED, 29d [Kraken or Scylla] SEA MONSTER. That’s a lot of meat.
  • 10d [Washington-to-Syracuse dir.] NNE. Strange pairing of locales.
  • 24d [Creepy-crawly] BUG. Thought this was going to be an adjective.
  • 56d [“The __ We Climb” (Amanda Gorman poem] HILL. More timeliness.
  • 11a [Type of therapy for people with autism: Abbr.] ABA. That’s different than the tired old American Bar Association. It stands for applied behavior analysis.
  • 23a [Site that prohibits the selling of souls] EBAY. I seem to recall the story that inspired that rule.
  • 41a [Plot __ (protagonist’s “protection”)] ARMOR. Have heard the term but don’t recall it being presented in a crossword before, so that’s also good.
  • 66a [Oscar-winning director Chloe] ZHAO. Despite mixed reviews, I’m still interested in seeing The Eternals.

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 12/20/2021

A touch harder than his recent average today for me from BEQ, but a consistent grid with fun stuff, no eyebrow raisers, long entries through the middle, and open corners. And 64 words. I’m a fan.

  • 14a- [Beer than has an image of Zhanqiao Pier in its logo] TSINGTAO. An easy drinking pale lager that I’m realizing I only get when dining-in and thus haven’t had since the pandemic started. Same for sushi-joint staples Sapporo, Asahi, and Kirin.
  • 22a- [Some longish fundraising events] TEN KS. Someday I will parse “ten K” or “one K” in a puzzle without feeling stumped first. “Five K” is unfortunately less common in grids – I think I’d be able to see it more quickly.
  • 31a- [Name on a red spoon in a logo] BETTY CROCKER. I’ve highlighted these types of clues a bunch lately: of course I can picture the red spoon, or the comic in a bowler hat, but it’s fun trying to remember the words that go with the images. Didn’t take long here, at least. And now I want brownies.
  • 36a- [Cats on kits] JAZZ DRUMMERS. Love the clue, the entry is fun, and those Zs are handled adeptly in the crossings.
  • 38a- [Game name its players often say] UNO. Anyone else plop down “gin”?
  • 57a- [True believers] DEISTS. I’m not sure about the use of “true” in this one. Are other believers who are not deists not “true”?
  • 12d- [Freshwater fish] PICKEREL. New to me, and fun to sort out from “mackerel” through the crossings, especially with “YIPPIE” spelled -IE instead of -EE. And of course I learn now that mackerel are salt water fish, to boot.
  • 13d- [Asteroid in the ocean] SEASTAR. This one really tickled me – asteroid as in star-shaped and the class of such creatures.
  • 15d- [Bird with finger-like feathers] OSPREY. Filled this in from OSP- without looking at the clue. OSP??? is a surprisingly restrictive letter combo!
  • 25d- [Some dogwood trees] CORNELS. Another new one to me. I had “corners” for a bit and thought it was a tortured golf reference (as in the dogwood trees at Augusta National’s ‘Amen Corner’), but no, just errors on my end.
  • 34d- [Latin rock band that took its name from an astrological symbol from the Aztec calendar] OZOMATLI. I’ve seen this group live twice. They put on a really great show – highly recommended.
  • 40d- [Hypoallergenic polyester] DACRON. ‘Dien Bien Phu falls, “Rock Around the Clock”‘, anyone?

Lots of stuff from the world of nature today, huh?

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

New Yorker crossword solution, 12 20 21, Natan Last

Another great outing from Natan today. Fave fill: CORNER BAR, POWER BOTTOM, LONG-FORM.

Things I learned:

  • 34a. [Ruth Wilson Gilmore book about prison-building in California], GOLDEN GULAG. A 2007 book, it turns out.
  • 5d. [Term first used by Antonio Gramsci to mean a subject excluded from hegemonic power structures], SUBALTERN. Natan always drops that scholarly vibe.
  • 8a. [Titular feeling called “inexorable sadness,” “misery,” and “desolation,” in a Theodore Roethke poem], DOLOR. I know the word (clue v. gettable) but not the poem. Go read it if you don’t know it, either.
  • 13a. [The East Los Angeles ___ (1968 demonstrations by Chicano students against unequal conditions)], WALKOUTS. Had not heard of these demonstrations.

Fave clue: 30a. [Filmdom’s Chucky, Billy, Woody, or Slappy], DOLL. Ha! Not a last name. Woody’s in Toy Story, Chucky and Slappy are horror characters (movies and R.L. Stine kids’ books, respectively), and Billy … I don’t know this one. Googling … oh! Billy was a gay doll.

Four stars from me.


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20 Responses to Monday, December 20, 2021

  1. rob says:

    TNY: Sigh. This was a cute gimmick, but I really miss the usual TNY puzzle

    • Katie M. says:

      I just did TNY Monday for Dec 20. It’s by Natan Last. There were three other special puzzles listed on their website for Dec 27.

      • JohnH says:

        Thanks for the hint. I didn’t see the Monday puzzle in the usual place online and figured that the special issue had displaced it. The issue is not quite THAT packed. (It includes as Amy said Sunday a cryptic, but that’s the usual one available online on a Sunday. It also has three picture puzzles, an acrostic, a cover puzzle that’s of course short and decorative, and two other crosswords. One, while modest in size, has two sets of clues, labeled hard and easy. The other has a trick, that some answers lap into gray spaces. I haven’t attempted any yet.)

      • rob says:

        TNY: Thanks Katie!

  2. David L says:

    ‘Antiknock fluid’ – ETHYL. This isn’t correct. Ethyl is not a chemical in its own right but a radical group that attaches to other moles. The antiknock fluid in old gasoline was tetraethyl lead. Ethyl alcohol is another name for ethanol. And so on. But ethyl by itself isn’t a fluid.

    • JohnH says:

      I think they’re hoping there’s sufficient support for ETHYL standalone as a noun, when used more as indeed an antiknock fluid than as an alcohol or other chemical to which the group can contribute. And I’m indeed seeing dictionary support. I imagine it’s informal usage.

      • David L says:

        Cambridge gives a noun definition, relating to biofuels, but all the examples cited use ethyl in combination with something else. I’ve never seen the word used as a standalone, at any rate, and it seems bit out there, especially for a Monday.

        PS: ‘moles’ in my first comments was meant to be ‘molecules.’ Sometimes my fingers don’t obey my brain.

        • John says:

          I was using RHUD. I might not trust Cambridge on American usage. On the other hand, I don’t see it in MW11c, and I certainly don’t rely here on my own ear, having some background in chem that would never use this and having no familiarity at all with cars. And I’m certainly happy to defer to others if it rings false to them.

          Still, I wouldn’t get too worked up when it’s clear they’re not simply mistaking a group prefix for a loosely related compound.

    • Gary R says:

      I didn’t especially like that entry, but ETHYL used to be common terminology for what is now usually called “premium” gasoline. I assumed this is what the constructor/editor was going for.

      • Bungalow Bill says:

        Yes, people would drive their Edsels into the gas station and say “Fill ‘
        ‘er up with ethyl”. No more dated that clues about Edsels or the dog in “Thin Man”. Heck, “Dancing Queen” is 45 years old.

      • David L says:

        If were going to be totally nitpicky about this — which, as it happens, I am — I would say that ‘ethyl fluid’, not ‘ethyl,’ is the name of the, um, fluid.

  3. Eric H says:

    Universal: I also struggled a bit to see how the theme worked. But now that I know, I like it.

    The long down answers all felt fresh, but they should also be familiar to most people. It’s hard to pull that off.

    The NYT puzzle from May 29, 2021, used “plot armor” as an answer. My undergrad degree is in Radio-TV-Film, and I watch a lot of movies, but I’d never heard the term before the NYT puzzle.

  4. Lester says:

    TNY: Could someone please explain 33A to me: POWERBOTTOM clued as “Top boss?” Sorry to be dense / unhip.

    • dhj says:

      This is sex slang, primarily gay slang. A “bottom” is someone getting penetrated by a “top” who is doing the penetrating. A power bottom is one who takes charge during the sex, even though they’re traditionally in the submissive position.

  5. anon says:

    TNY: Giving a side-eye to DORAG, especially since we finally saw the better spelling for this in the NYT recently

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