Evan Kalish’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up
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.
Fave fill: NEURAL NET, AFRIKANERS, “YEAH, ABOUT THAT…,” GREW A SPINE, “YOU AWAKE?,” E-SCOOTER, LOWBALLERS, KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON, the pandemic-suitable TRACK SUITS, METADATA, and “I’M OVER IT.”
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.
- 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
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.
- 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!
(If of interest– while solving, I listened to this wild “Santa Baby” remix that I am currently obsessed with.)
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.