Saturday, December 25, 2021

LAT 3:48 (Derek) 


Newsday 13:30 (Derek) 


NYT untimed (Amy) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


USA Today untimed (Matthew) 


·•No WSJ today because of the holiday•·

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate! I hope you’re all safe, warm, and healthy.

Johan Vass’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12 25 21, no. 1225

Unusual grid design here with left/right symmetry—it looks like an old tabletop telephone to me. We’ve got a 9/11/13 stack up top, a 5/7/9/11 stack in the middle, and a triple-stack of 15s at the base.

Forgot to time myself but this puzzle was hard! Piecing together the top stack was slow going when the clues didn’t give me the Acrosses or the Downs.

Fave fill: THE NEW BLACK, SHORTS WEATHER (just a few months off!), T.S. ELIOT (whose initials are goofily tied to a TSETSE fly). “GOD FORBID,” “OOH, I’M SCARED,” Jason MOMOA, ELENA DELLE DONNE, and a SLEEVELESS DRESS, which feels like a Zawistowski/Weintraub sort of entry and I like it. In the Downs, there’s “oh em gee” (I just can’t type that in all caps), Donna Summer’s “ON THE RADIO,” a PLASTIC BAG to SCHLEP your groceries in, and Harvey KEITEL. Could do without DEVIATOR, which just looks weird; you’ve never had cause to use that form of the root word, have you?

Seven more things:

  • 1a. [Things you might snap on, nowadays], PHOTO APPS. Such as…? No idea what apps are called “photo apps.”
  • 25a. [Body opening?], ANY. As in anybody.
  • 37a. [The oldest known one was found carved into a mammoth tusk (~25,000 B.C.)], MAP. Cartography trivia I did not know.
  • 4d. [Model and body positivity activist Holliday], TESS. I didn’t know her name, that OWW was sort of nonspecifically clued, and PHOTO APPS sure didn’t come readily to mind, so this was the core of my upper-level solving quicksand. Anyway! Holliday’s pinned tweet reads: To everyone that keeps saying “you’re looking healthy lately” or “You are losing weight, keep it up!” Don’t. Comment. On. My. Weight. Or. Perceived. Health. Keep. It. To. Yourself. Thanks.
  • 12d. [Dulcé ___, correspondent for “The Daily Show” beginning in 2017], SLOAN. I’ve seen the name before, couldn’t remember it. Seen her on the show doing segments with Trevor Noah, too. Just looked up some of her stand-up and she’s funny.
  • 14d. [Souvlaki go-with], PITA. I’m not a Greek food fan, had to Google to find out that souvlaki is basically kebabs. So I guessed OUZO and LAMB before PITA came along.
  • 23d. [Linguist Okrand who created Klingon], MARC. Tough one. In general, most linguists aren’t household names that crossword solvers might reasonably know. This helped form the central quicksand.

3.75 stars from me.

Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword—Matthew’s write-up

Erik Agard’s USA Today crossword solution, “All I Want for Christmas Is …”, 12/25/2021

It took me quite a bit to see the theme here, but it’s right in front of my face: “All I Want for Christmas Is…” “you.” (NOT “my two front teeth”) Each themer uses only -u- for its vowels:

  • 17a [Lizzo song that asks, “Why men great ’til they gotta be great”] TRUTHHURTS
  • 27a [Cracker Jack alternative] CRUNCH N MUNCH
  • 48a [Extra money] SURPLUS FUNDS
  • 63a [Trini roti] BUSS UP SHUT. I had to look this up – indeed it’s roti from Trinidad. BUSS UP SHUT specifically is when the bread is shredded on the grill, ending up looking like a “busted up shirt”.


  • 15a [Ghagra ____] CHOLI. I didn’t recognize the word initially, but absolutely recognize the South Asian garment on a Google search.
  • 55a [Southeast Asian language] LAO. There’s a turkey in the oven, but I could really go for some larb now!

Nothing else is jumping out to me. Have a great weekend!

David Karp’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

LAT 12/25/2021

Whipped through this one in a near-record time. 3:48 for a Saturday LAT challenger puzzle is an extraordinary time for me! That might actually be a record; I don’t track these sorts of things that closely. David Karp’s name is NOT in the constructor database on this site; is this perhaps a pseudonym for someone? This is quite a work of art for a debut puzzle! If it IS in fact a debut, please make more! This was a great themeless construction. Nothing too hard in it, but that is part of what makes it so good! Hope you enjoyed this puzzle as well! 4.6 stars from me.

A few notes:

  • 1A [Surprise with cheese and wine, perhaps] GIFT BASKET – “Surprise” is a noun here, which makes it a tad tricky. Well done!
  • 33A [__ wedge: golf club with maximum loft] LOB – I haven’t been golfing in forever. Not about to go in the next few months, either!
  • 38A [Blank spaces] LACUNAE – Not a word we use often! Great entry.
  • 54A [Tiger, perhaps] EXOTIC PET – Um, no. And I still haven’t watched Tiger King! No way!
  • 61A [Weather record] ALL-TIME LOW – There are about to be some of these in the coming months. It looks like next Saturday on the first it will be a chilly one!
  • 66A [Cleaning product claim] LEMON-FRESH – Why does cleanliness have to smell like lemons??
  • 8D [New Jersey public university with a campus in China] KEAN – Wow. I don’t think I have this word in my database. Not sure how else you would clue this, either. Nice!
  • 9D [Swedish company that invented Bluetooth] ERICSSON – Is this company still around? I want to say that Sony swallowed them up, but I could be wrong.
  • 12D [Place for pets at an airport] RELIEF AREA – I don’t travel with pets; is this really a thing?? I maintain it is easier to travel with mini-humans (babies!) vs. pets.
  • 46D [Knickknack stand] ÉTAGÈRE – I looked up where to put the accent marks. Hopefully I am correct! Great word.

Everyone have a safe and healthy weekend!

Matthew Sewell’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” – Derek’s write-up

Newsday 12/25/2021

Tough one today. I struggled mightily with this grid. No clear toeholds in this one; you just have to slowly muddle your way through. I am showing you a clean grid image today; suffice it to say I had a few stumbles along the way!

  • 5A [What often accompanies a barbershop soloist] STRAW HAT – I suppose they do! No, it isn’t some sort of instrument!
  • 15A [Court VIP] NBA COACH – There might be some NBA games on today …
  • 26A [British variant of Séamus] HAMISH – Isn’t this the name of the kid in the Baby Blues comic? Nice entry, and a cool clue to boot.
  • 34A [What a trimmer might maintain] DESIGNER STUBBLE – Mine is not designer stubble; I just hat shaving! I need to shave more though, as the beard is getting more and more gray!
  • 57A [Commencement accelerators] WINTER SESSIONS – So these are like extra credit classes? Not familiar with this term.
  • 60A [Abe Lincoln, as a teen] INDIANAN – This is not a word! I live in Indiana, and they strictly go by HOOSIER. This must be what people from the other 49 states say!
  • 1D [Detour, at times] BACK ROAD – I tried SIDE ROAD. I was close!
  • 3D [DJs, by definition] SPINNERS – Most of this stuff is digital these days, but yes, there are digital turntables. All pretty cool stuff.
  • 27D [Rosamund’s role in ”Radioactive” (2019)] MARIE – Rosamund Pike portrayed Marie Curie in this movie that I have not seen.
  • 36D [Document placeholder] NMI – I think this means “no message included”. I don’t use this term, but it kinda makes sense.
  • 37D [Visually striking marine cavern] BLUE HOLE – Is this a thing?? Seems contrived, but I don’t know much, either!
  • 39D [Reasons to ask, ”What was I thinking?”] ESP TESTS – This is the best clue in the grid! Great misdirection!

This is my last Stumper review for this site. I am signing off on 12/31 after over 6 years of blogging. Thanks to all the kind comments, and I will see you all soon hopefully at an in-person tournament soon!

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18 Responses to Saturday, December 25, 2021

  1. Martin says:

    New puzzles from WSJ, UC, WaPo and Jonesin can be accessed via:
    until my internet service is repaired, probably early next week.

    There is no new WSJ because of the holiday.

  2. Billy Boy says:

    When you get a puzzle with very few three letter words to help get that toe hold on stacks of 8, 9, 15’s and names names names everywhere several very niche-y … then add some marginal clues and answers (of course it’s Saturday). I cheated a lot or I’d have wasted the day. I had very little fun and zero ,”aha, that’s great” moments.

    What you get is an elite puzzle solvers’ great puzzle. Since I don’t do a typical Saturday in four minutes and the Boss ‘forgot to time’ today, I have no way to judge this thing. My puzzle app (PHONE? SURE, PHOTO, NOT SO) always gives me a time

    Had it had SADOMASOCHISM crossing BALLGAG, I might have chuckled at the creator’s pluck, but it didn’t and I didn’t.

    But I didn’t give the 5 * rating either

  3. cyco says:

    Newsday Stumper: anyone know what 36D means? Google has not helped.

  4. Crotchety Doug says:

    Universal – A wonderful puzzle – I used this puzzle to start teaching my grandson how crosswords work. A great Christmas puzzle experience.

  5. Gary R says:

    NYT: The solve was strangely smooth for me – maybe a little faster than my normal Saturday time – in spite of the fact that most of the names (other than KEITEL, RAIMI and TS ELIOT) were unfamiliar. It certainly helped that TS ELIOT (and then TSETSE) went in with no crosses, and ON THE RADIO, PLINTHS, and GOD FORBID went in with only one or two.

    31-D: I don’t like trying to keep track of the various initialisms used in text messages to start with, so spelling one out felt doubly offensive.

    I guess MEGA CORPORATIONS is in the language, but “Fortune 100” seems too broad as a clue – the Fortune 100 are just “very big” companies. Maybe the “Fortune 5” or “Fortune 10.”

    Re: PHOTO APPS – I think “camera apps” (though I don’t know that anyone uses that term) makes more sense. I would think a “photo app” is something intended more for editing photos vs. “snapping” them.

  6. scrivener says:

    I was destroyed by PHOTOAPPS because I had PHONEAPPS crossing NESS and EWW. I had to accept NESS on faith, and EWW as a pained expression wasn’t a lock, but it certainly worked. PHONEAPPS definitely satisfies the clue better than PHOTOAPPS. I had to check puzzle. :(

  7. JohnH says:

    Wow, was the top in the NYT hard. Amy lists many reasons, but it hardly helped that I confidently entered “shorter nights” for signs of springs and seemed to have confirmation with “short” and H.

    FWIW, NY has banned plastic bags so it’s not a choice, although many bodegas continue to hand them out. The official choice is to bring a bag or to pay extra for a paper back of a form closer to a tote bag but hard to use for much, and anyway I have too many tote bags. I wonder how others are coping with not reusing plastic bags the next day for the garbage. Are we going to be using just as much plastic only buying it as garbage bags?

  8. David Karp says:

    LAT: Thanks for the kind review, Derek! To answer your questions, no, David Karp is not a pseudonym — it’s my real name. And yes, this is my LA Times debut, although I’ve had past crosswords with Universal, The Atlantic, Spyscape Museum and

  9. Ellen Nichols says:

    Derek, thank you for your writeups. I almost always learn something, and isn’t that the bonus point of puzzling?

  10. benchen71 says:

    In “All I Want For Christmas Is…”, 1 across references Mariah Carey, which is a very nice touch!

  11. Teedmn says:

    Stumper’s IOR as the college class suffix, arrgh!

    Derek, thanks for the entertaining Stumper reviews. I’ll miss them.

  12. David Glasser says:

    Derek, thank you for many years of such excitement and positivity towards such a hard puzzle!

Comments are closed.