Monday, December 27, 2021

BEQ 6:40(Matthew) 


LAT 2:01 (Stella) 


NYT 4:04 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker tk (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today untimed (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Adam Aaronson’s New York Times Crossword — Sophia’s recap

Theme: Each theme answer begins with the letters AA, forming a DOUBLE A TEAM

New York Times, 12 27 2021, By Adam Aaronson

  • 17a [*TV remote inserts, often] – AA BATTERIES
  • 21a [*Sobriety support group session, informally] – AA MEETING
  • 30a [*Animal whose name means “earth pig” in Afrikaans] – AARDVARK
  • 40a [*”Winnie-the-Pooh” writer] – A.A. MILNE
  • 47a [*4.0 on a transcript] – A AVERAGE
  • 53a [*Three-time Emmy winner for “Breaking Bad”] – AARON PAUL
  • 63a [Tennessee Smokies or Portland Sea Dogs … or what the answers to the starred clues comprise?] – DOUBLE A TEAM

What an apt theme from Adam AAronson today! I liked seeing all the different ways that phrases could start with AA, which I had never really considered before. For me, I found the answers where the two A’s were said as initials to be the most satisfying (and on a similar note, A AVERAGE was my least favorite since when you say it aloud it only sounds like a single A!), but the theme using all sorts of AA’s kept me engaged throughout the solve – it felt like an extra layer was added. It was also nice that the puzzle had a revealer, even though it hypothetically could have run as just a “phrases that start with AA!” puzzle. I like it when a puzzle has more of a reason to exist beyond just “words that fit in this category”; again, it’s a nice touch to elevate a simple theme.

I got tripped up right off the bat with thinking that remotes had triple A batteries, and then again at the end of my solve when I kept trying to put something related to “minor league” in the revealer spot. It didn’t help that I had “LPs” instead of EPS, and “aah” instead of AHH – although I really should have spotted that last one as a mistake, because this puzzle has no extra AA’s that aren’t part of the theme answers!

There are 7 theme answers in this puzzle, which is really impressive not only for a Monday but for any 15×15 crossword. And some of them are stacked! (Check out the overlap on AA BATTERIES atop AA MEETING). As a constructor, this amount of thematic material puts a ton of constraints on your grid design and fill, which in turn can make the solver’s experience suffer if you create a grid with lots of junk in it. That was not the case today, though! There are a fair number of three letter answers, but they’re well spaced through the grid and no area (well, maybe the NE and SW) feels closed off. There’s also remarkably little junk in the fill, assuming you know Sissy SPACEK (and remember how to spell her name, unlike me). And there are the bonuses of CAPITAL ONE and EX-GOVERNOR to boot!  Overall, a great Monday puzzle with layers for all levels of crossword interest to enjoy – I had a lot of fun solving this one.

Catherine Cetta’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 12/27/21 by Catherine Cetta

Los Angeles Times 12/27/21 by Catherine Cetta

Catherine Cetta’s theme seems seasonally appropriate, given that many of us will have opened our wallets to buy lots of holiday presents. The revealer at 58A [Totally out of funds … and what each set of circles shows, casually] is FLAT BROKE, meaning that each theme entry has the word FLAT “broken” up through the entry in the circled squares.

  • 17A [Become light-headed] is FEEL FAINT.
  • 24A [Reason for a track race do-over] is a FALSE START.
  • 36A [Choose love over money, say] is FOLLOW ONE’S HEART.
  • 46A [Finished version, as of a document] is FINAL DRAFT.

I don’t love ONE’S phrases, and would have much preferred FOLLOW YOUR HEART in the 36A position. But I do like that F is always the first letter and T is always the last letter in each theme phrase — a nice touch of consistency above what the revealer would strictly call for.

I wish CASCO were not at 1-Across — it’s a tough entry for a Monday, and the 1A position, although of course you don’t have to start there when you solve, does a lot to set the tone of a puzzle. Otherwise, though, this is a nice clean grid without a lot of proper nouns and with some fun longer entries like STETSON HAT and EVIL GRIN.

Karen Stock & Matthew Stock’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Auto Suggestion”—Jim P’s review

The revealer is POP THE TOP (36d, [Request to a convertible driver, and a hint to the starred answers]). The other theme answers (all in the Down direction) are familiar phrases whose first word (i.e. the one at the top) is something you can pop.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Auto Suggestion” · Karen Stock & Matthew Stock · Mon., 12.27.21

  • 3d. [*Drink with tapioca pearls] BUBBLE TEA. Do you like chewy things in your drink?
  • 7d. [*Large lump sums due at the end of loan agreements] BALLOON PAYMENTS.
  • 10d. [*City near Blarney Castle] CORK, IRELAND. Timely entry since many corks will be popped this weekend.
  • 24d. [*Strapless handbag] CLUTCH PURSE.

Very cute. My only question is whether people actually say POP THE TOP when referring to convertible roofs. I’m more familiar with “popping the top” off a bottle of beer or soda, and I know you can “pop the hood” of a car since the hood usually releases with a sharp, popping sound. But maybe I’m just unaware since no one I know has a convertible. It’s a familiar enough phrase and the theme answers are on target.

At first I thought the theme answers were in the usual Across direction, and I was trying to connect SOLO CAREER and STORYLINES. But those turned out to be fun bits of fill, not theme. I also like “MY TURN!,” “HEAR YE!,” and COOPER clued as a barrel maker.

Clues of note:

  • 39a. [Amanda Gorman, for one]. POET. I haven’t seen her name in a while, so I had to cast my thoughts back to the most recent presidential inauguration to recall her epic performance.
  • 53a. [Unhelpful response to “You’re muted”]. “AM I?” Nice, modern approach to this common entry.
  • 2d. [Peacock comedy about a high school science class]. AP BIO. I thought this show was cancelled a while ago, but it apparently was moved to NBC’s streaming channel. However, Wikipedia says it has just been cancelled this month. No doubt it will still live on in crosswords for longer than it should.
  • 31d. [Irrelevant no. for an electric car]. MPG. But it’s still useful if only as a point of comparison when referring to fuel economy. I’m seeing MPGe (MPG equivalent) used a lot.

Very nice puzzle for this mother/son duo. Four stars.

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

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 12/27/2021

Fun one from BEQ today, particularly in the clues. I’m dropping this in here in a small window of time and will be back later with a fuller recap.

Jinghua Qian and Erik Agard’s Universal crossword, “Q&A” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/27/21 • Mon • Qian, Agard • “Q&A” • solution • 20211227

A trio of two-word phrases with the initials Q and A, presented as clues in a query/response–fill-in-the-blank, format, :

  • 20a. [Q: What carrier with a kangaroo logo is headquartered in New South Wales? A: __ ] QANTAS AIRWAYS.
  • 39a. [Q: Ideologically, the authors of the book “Be Gay Do Crime” are what? A: __ ] QUEER ANARCHISTS.
  • 55a. [Q: What trees have the scientific name Populus tremuloides? A: __ ] QUAKING ASPENS. Whereas the scientific name of the white oak is Quercus alba.


So that’s a nifty little theme, and we’ve got entries of 13, 15, and 13 letters—pretty good phrases for an unusual letter combination. Quite an amiable Monday offering.

  • 2d [Country whose flag features the takbir] IRAQ. Did not know that bit of vocabulary. And the nation’s crossword near-twin IRAN is over at 37-down.
  • Strange how the same-length PASTA BAR and MACARONI (5d, 10d) seem allied, as do EYE CANDY and HAND PICK (40d, 42d).
  • 22a [Lead-in to “market” or “blanket”] WET. For your –ket needs.
  • 31d [All stuvved ub] NASAL. Cute clue, which looks bizarre until you figure it out.
  • 58d [“’Tis a bummer”] ALAS>snort<
  • 10a [Congregation destination] MASS. Confidently filled in NAVE here.
  • 19a [What is this?] CLUE. QED

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today puzzle: Southern Cross– malaika’s write-up

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme: The last word in each vertical theme answer (that is, the “Southernmost” word) can come after the word “cross”

Theme answers:

  • Postpones for another day– TAKES A RAINCHECK
  • What everyone’s saying– WORD ON THE STREET
  • Titular Disney pair who learn that “ohana” means family– LILO AND STITCH

Enrique Henestroza Anguiano’s USA Today puzzle

Short write-up today! Thought this was a really pretty layout with the four T-esque shapes. TAKES A RAINCHECK felt slightly off to my ears, but not so off that I can think of something that sounds better, and the other two theme answers were beautiful.

No long bonuses, but lots of nice short fill, like TOMATO, UNICEF, SALSAS, SCIFI, TRAVEL. If you’re looking for some sci-fi to read, I really enjoyed the collection of short stories called “Exhalation.”

Several things I didn’t know, but all gettable with crosses– CHA gio are a Vietnamese spring roll, chancho en piedra is a type of salsa, ETTA Baker is a guitarist, PEKOE is a type of tea, “Fire Shut Up in my Bones” is an opera with three ACTS.

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

11 Responses to Monday, December 27, 2021

  1. Martin says:

    Reminder: while my internet outage lasts, WSJ, WP, Jonesin and UC puzzles will not load from the Puzzle Pointers page. I will be putting them in this Google Drive folder:

    Monday UC and WSJ puzzles are there, and this week’s Jonesin is as well.

    • Jack R Lewis says:

      I feel your pain. Thanks so much for feeding my addiction via an alternate!

    • Derek says:

      TY for setting up the Google Docs link. Will that be a permanent fixture?

      • Martin says:

        Derek, no, only while the puzzles are inaccessible via the Today’s Puzzles page.

        I’ve added tomorrow’s WSJ and UC.

        Hopefully, we’ll be back tomorrow. AT&T has decided to replace 1,500 feet of copper, between four poles! That’s a lot of wire, but it’s over 50 years old and pretty tattered. They’ll be back tomorrow to do the work. Fingers crossed.

  2. Alex says:

    NYT: 7 themers?

  3. Lester says:

    WSJ: I had a lot of fun with this puzzle, and as a convertible driver for nearly 40 years, I can confirm to Jim P that I say “pop the top” from time to time.

  4. JohnH says:

    Friday’s TNY had a theme, words of the year. It still played ok as a Friday (pretty easy), but looks like the theme was just the start.

    Today shows not one but two new puzzles, neither explicitly labeled hard (for Monday), but both designed to “test your knowledge,” one of the year’s TV the other of the year’s new books. Of course, not everyone wants a crossword to be a test of cultural knowledge, but I’m sure some will. Unfortunately for print solvers, both are at the extremes of the mag’s non-pdf formatting with a large grid and entries lapping well onto a second page.

    The screen promises more like this through the end of the year.

  5. marciem says:

    UC: 25D: Wanted Burka, didn’t know Niqab so a satisfying “learn some new words & cultural info” puzzle for me. Takbir was the other new one for me.

    Niqab took me here after the solve :

  6. Katie M. says:

    TNY: The Holiday Crossword: Ring in the New
    I can’t figure out why the answer to 30D “A.D.A. part” is ASST. Any ideas?

Comments are closed.