Friday, December 24, 2021

Inkubator tk (Rebecca) 


LAT untimed (pannonica) 


The New Yorker 9:10 (malaika) 


NYT 5:25 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (Jim P) 


USA Today Untimed (Darby) 


Evan Kalish’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 24 21, no. 1224

An enjoyable puzzle with lots of great fill, though it played more like a Saturday puzzle for me. I got started in the top right instead of the top left, and had to back my way into that corner.


Not convinced that NICE LIST is a discrete thing, but it’s a Christmas Eve puzzle so it would be churlish to object to it.

Ten more things:

  • SOIL TESTS! Second time this week. This time they’re [Agronomic analyses].
  • 13a. [Artificial intelligence system modeled on the human brain], NEURAL NET. I’ve watched the first two Matrixes this week and this makes me leery now.
  • 47a. [Puccini opera … or the first five letters of the maestro who conducted its La Scala premiere], TOSCA and Toscanini. Neat clue!
  • 51a. [Ear hair?], TASSEL. This is a Midwestern corn thing. Will? Is this your clue? My BFF has college friends who grew up in Indiana, and all the teens worked in the summer detasseling corn. And no, I don’t really understand what that means. Corn tassels aren’t the same as corn silk, I don’t think.
  • 5d. [Gets the batter out, say], BAKES. Cake batter, not baseball? I’ll take it! Though usually you are making the batter just prior to baking the cake, and not mixing the batter, putting it in the fridge, and coming back later to take it out and pour it into the pan.
  • 7d. [Wolf’s home], CNN. Did we all try DEN first?
  • 14d. [Fast fashion?], TRACK SUITS. I like the play on the term fast fashion.
  • 30d. [“The gymnasium of the mind,” per Blaise Pascal], CHESS. I tried CHAOS first. …What?
  • 35d. [Cardinal points?: Abbr.], TDS. As in touchdowns for the Arizona Cardinals.
  • 49d. [Underground band], SEAM. As in a seam of coal or a mineral or something.

4.25 stars from me.

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Silent Night”—Jim P’s review

It’s Christmas Eve and thus tonight will be the silentest of nights. So it’s apt that we have a puzzle named “Silent Night” today. Each theme answer has a silent letter as indicated by a circle (and the clue), and guess what? Those letters spell out NIGHT.

Universal crossword solution · “Silent Night” · Paul Coulter · Fri., 12.24.21

  • 16a. [Op-ed piece, e.g. (note letter 15 in this clue’s answer)] NEWSPAPER COLUMN
  • 21a. [One might take place in a conference room (letter 4)] BUSINESS MEETING
  • 34a. [Bothers incessantly (letter 1)] GNAWS AT
  • 47a. [Very slim possibility (letter 3)] A GHOST OF A CHANCE
  • 54a. [Person in charge (letter 13)] KING OF THE CASTLE

Impressive that Paul managed to find four grid-spanning entries to deliver the silent letters. GNAWS AT, on the other hand, is less impressive. But the overall execution of the theme is nicely done.

Fave fill includes Andrea BOCELLI, SHE-WOLF (though it seems to imply that all creatures called “wolves” are male), and “NO HINTS.” I’m dubious of “AS WE SAY” as an in-the-language phrase when “as they say” is far more prevalent.

Clues of note:

  • 36a. [Says “I am what I am!”]. OWNS IT. Can’t help but picture Popeye “owning it.”
  • 46a. [Word before “ring” or “lighting”]. MOOD. I read this as “lightning” until just now. What sort of MOOD does lightning put you in?

Nice Christmas Eve grid. 3.6 stars. Happy Christmas to all those celebrating the holiday!

Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword — pannonica’s write-up

LAT • 12/24/21 • Fri • Wechsler • solution • 20211224

Left-right symmetry in this holiday 15×16 grid.

  • 3d. [Start of a seasonal title] THE TWELVE
    6d. [Title, part 2] DAYS OF
    9d. [End of title] CHRISTMAS.
  • 39d. [With the contents of this grid’s circles, part of the refrain in 3-/6-/9-Down] PARTRIDGE.
  • And the circles, running diagonally northeast then south east and ‘containing’ 39-down, are PEAR | TREE.

Unless I’m missing an additional element, this seems like a haphazard theme. Certainly it has relatable content, but the presentation doesn’t feel cogent—it’s just all sort of there with a ‘whatever’.

  • 26a [Word often contracted] ARE. In conjunction with another word.
  • 32a [Home of the Green Wave] TULANE. Wonder what the green connection is for this New Orleans university.
  • 42a [Animals drawn in the Lascaux caves] DEER. I believe some if not all are identified as Megaloceros.
  • The three long theme answers are stacked with non-theme fill of the same length, which also—I’m realizing—diminishes the impact of the theme. 2d [Added to the playbook] MADE A RULE, 10d [Drumroll follower] BIG MOMENT, 38d [Comment about a familiar film] I’VE SEEN IT, 40d [Salton, for one] INLAND SEA. Additionally, the shorter I’M SURE and AGENDA flank DAYS OF.
  • 52d [Puck handler?] OBERON. Cute. More Shakespeare at 52a [“‘And when I __ my lips let no dog bark!'”: “The Merchant of Venice”] OPE.

That’s all I have. Still underwhelmed.

Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today crossword, “End of an Era”—Darby’s write-up

Edited by: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: Each themed answer ends with -ERA, making it the “end of an ERA.

Theme Answers

Stella Zawistowski's USA Today crossword, "End of an Era" solution for 12/24/2021

Stella Zawistowski’s USA Today crossword, “End of an Era” solution for 12/24/2021

  • 15a [“Summer shirt worn in Mexico”] GUAYABERA
  • 24a [“Trans rights activist and co-founder of STAR”] SYLVIA RIVERA
  • 42a [“Musical drama featuring harpsichord, maybe”] BAROQUE OPERA
  • 57a [“Square-shaped picture-taking device”] BOX CAMERA

This was a nice grid packed with four theme answers. I didn’t know what a GUAYABERA was, so that was tough, but I caught it on the crosses (and then googled it immediately). SYLVIA RIVERA was a great theme answer, both as a name that I was familiar with but also one that’s great to see highlighted so clearly in this puzzle. And for BAROQUE OPERA – well, it was certainly unexpected, but, you know what they say, if it ain’t BAROQUE, don’t fix it. In this case, it definitely was not broken and made for a fun themer you could easily pick up on the crosses.

Some other Friday faves here:

  • 13a [“Cleveland’s Great Lake”] – Being in the Land for the holidays with my fam, ERIE felt like an appropriate addition to this grid, as did 20d [“Tender to the touch”] because my sister and I went rock climbing yesterday, and I sure am SORE today.
  • 34a [“Programming language”] – Sipping on my JAVA, I laughed so hard when I saw that this crossed 30d [“Volcanic output”] LAVA. The phrase “JAVA LAVA” will now be living in my head rent-free.
  • 53a [“Manner of walking”] – For some reason, I really like knowing and using the word GAIT, so I was happy to see it, especially since it passed with my new fun fact about Louisiana in 40a [“Louisiana’s state bird”] PELICAN.

A great puzzle and a fun time as we hit the “End of an Era” with 2021 closing. Happy Holidays!

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle– malaika’s write-up

(If of interest– while solving, I listened to this wild “Santa Baby” remix that I am currently obsessed with.)

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker puzzle

Hello everyone! Today’s puzzle was a kind of eclectic mix of trivia I didn’t know, modern terminology, and terminology that thinks it’s modern but wasn’t actually to me?? This was arguably a themed puzzle– five of the entries were also entries that were added to Merriam-Webster in 2021:

  • I can’t believe REACTION GIF is new!! I’ve been using the term for… close to a decade now, I want to say. I read a really fascinating post about how having GIFs easily accessible on Twitter / via Giphy / wherever makes them a lot less intimate. Back In The Good Old Days, you would have your own personal folder of reaction GIFs, and you’d peruse through them to find one that meant the right thing. You couldn’t just search for “congratulations” and then click on one of a hundred options. I liked this take!! Sort of like a modern version of “emails hit differently than hand-written letters”
  • I was also really surprised that GIG WORKER is from this year. Although– maybe this makes sense. Merriam Webster wouldn’t want to add in random slang terms that come and go, I guess. It takes several years for a term to make it clear that it’s not going anywhere.
  • SECOND GENTLEMAN was presumably added due to the existence of Kamala’s husband whose name I don’t feel like looking up
  • A SILVER FOX is a hottie guy with grey hair– perhaps a guy who is hot *because* of his grey hair. Don’t mind me, just casually searching “Anderson Cooper” on Google images.
  • Lastly, we have SAPIOSEXUAL which is a term for people who are only attracted to intelligent people. My understanding of this word is that it is only used by people who self-identify this way, and most other people think it is a pretty ridiculous term that confuses “attraction” with “compatibility.” Let me know if I’m wrong in the comments.

Other notes on other fill:

  • I know HIPAA and FOIA, but had never heard of FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
  • I did not know that Amy Adams was born in ITALY! I would have liked for this clue to highlight one of Italy’s fabulous holiday treats. Their version of hot chocolate (“cioccolata calda”) has some cornstarch in it so that it’s more of a sauce than a beverage. Sooo good.
  • OTELLO is an opera based on, you guessed it, “Othello.” All I want for Christmas is a puzzle with no mention of operas.
  • That upper left corner was super tough for me, with Phileas FOGG and Cyrano de BERGERAC totally new for me and (in my opinion) not inferable at all.
  • WEBLOG felt horribly dated to me, even with the clue that sort of called attention to it, [Word meaning “online journals” whose first two letters are usually omitted]
  • [Character who’s striped and spotted?] for WALDO is an absolutely fantastic clue

This puzzle mentioned eighteen people by name (Samson, Amy Adams, Verdi, Shakespeare, Hephaestus, Confucius, Phileas FOGG, Verne, Cyrano de BERGERAC, Diana Ross, Mahershala ALI, HANS from “Frozen,” TRAJAN, LYNNE Shelby, MEL Brooks, Amelia Earhart, Bluto from “Popeye,” and Dickens) and fifteen of them are white.

This entry was posted in Daily Puzzles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Friday, December 24, 2021

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: “Chaos” instead of CHESS made a mess of the SW corner, though it didn’t help that it took me way longer than it should have to see ESCOOTER. (The damn things are all over the place where I live.)

    Fun puzzle, but more challenging than any recent NYT puzzle I can remember.

    • Brian says:

      If the damn ESCOOTERs are all over the place, just wait til you realize how all over the place cars are.

      • Billy Boy says:

        Put me down for A TIARA virtue signal

      • Eric H says:

        I put more miles on my bike than on my car. I know how many freaking cars there are out there.

        One difference is that we as a society have devoted scads of money and resources to accommodating cars. (And there’s still not enough room for all of them.) But sidewalks were built for transitory pedestrians, not the dumping of supposedly green scooters and motorized bikes.

        • Brian says:

          Apologies for the early morning snark. In complete agreement with you, and would love to see some of our existing car infrastructure repurposed for scooters, bike rentals, etc. instead of pedestrians and cyclists and transit fighting over scraps.

          • Eric H says:


            I’d have fewer objections to the scooters if I thought they replaced car trips. Mostly, though, I think people use scooters to get to places they’d otherwise walk to.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Those damned things are one of the few reasons that I don’t miss living in San Francisco. The way that some people zipped around on busy sidewalks was a menace. I was nearly taken out on several occasions and actually witnessed one poor soul getting knocked to the ground by one (of course, the offender went on his merry way). I can’t believe the city seemingly allowed those businesses to set up shop wherever they wanted. I’m 100% for getting people out of cars, but that’s not the way to do it.

    • JohnH says:

      It was an unusually hard Friday for me, too. My last to fall was the NE and -ISH (wondering how a “follower” might differ from the ___ form of clues and not really associating this with “black”), I’M OVER IT (where for some reason I really wanted “I let it go”), and TIARA (tempted to think it must be instead a gardening term).

  2. jason chapnick says:

    What a wonderful day for Christmas puzzles. Jeffrey Wechsler’s effort is beautiful and Paul Coulter’s is exquisite. Both do not hit the solver over the head but are wonderful holiday puzzles.

    • placematfan says:

      I too dig Paul’s Universal.

    • Eric H says:

      I missed that the silent letters in the Universal puzzle spelled out night. (I’m going to blame that on the fact that they weren’t circled in the app I used; they had the awkward “note the Xth letter of the answer.”

      Fun puzzle, in any case.

  3. Martin says:

    Big storm took down a tree and my internet with it. So the WSJ, UC, WP and Jonesin puzzles are inaccessible. AT&T is on the way. Stay tuned.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Thanks for letting us know, Martin and, as ever, thanks for making this great resource available to us. I hope the tree didn’t do much damage and that AT&T gets you back online soon.

  4. David L says:

    HUCKS? Surely I’m not the only one who has never heard of this.

  5. Scott says:

    My NYT time was a horrible 27:03. I had an awful time with ESCOOTER and the surrounding fill.

    • Eric H says:

      That corner was damn near impossible until you got ESCOOTER.

      My time was just a few minutes under yours. Slowest Friday in weeks, if not months.

  6. marciem says:

    NYT: 5d. [Gets the batter out, say] Yes, it is about baking. Chocolate Chip cookies bake up better if the batter (dough) is chilled after mixing… so maybe that’s it? :) . Really a stretch and doesn’t quite work since we all love Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream and uncooked … batter?

    LAT: Green Wave… Tulane’s colors are Olive Green and Blue… hence they are called “The Green Wave” by their tradition. (my mousepad is a Green Wave one, gift from graduate son) (“It isn’t a hurricane or flash flood… its THE GREEN WAVE!” cartoon)

  7. PJ says:

    LAT – “Wonder what the green connection is for this New Orleans university”

  8. Joe Balbona says:

    Big mistake on “I am what I am”. That is a direct quote from Popeye.

  9. jason chapnick says:

    Pannonica, the LAT is hardly haphazard as the grid provides a visual representation of a Christmas Tree which explains the left right symmetry and the limited use of circles.

    • John F. Ervin says:

      I agree, these critics are too critical. Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative or at least tone it down. i for one enjoyed this puzzle and appreciate your efforts, Jeffrey.

    • pannonica says:

      But it’s a PEAR TREE we’re talking about. If we’re involving a Christmas tree as well, then it gets back to my sense that it’s too much and incoherent.

  10. Martin says:

    It looks like AT&T will not be restoring my internet until next week. I will try to drop new puzzles into this Google Drive folder.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      Wow … no internet for a week? Welcome to the 1990s! Thanks again for your efforts, Martin.

      • Martin says:

        I hope it’s not a whole week. But in fairness, a big storm took out a cable on Christmas Eve. It’s in a ravine and only affects me, while there are downed cables affecting hundreds and some of the cable crew really deserve Christmas off. It’s welcome to living on the top of a mountain.

Comments are closed.