Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Jonesin' 4:23 (Derek) 


LAT 3:17 (Derek) 


NYT 7:43 (malaika) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 12:31 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 552), “Secret New Year’s Greeting!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 552: “Secret New Year’s Greeting!”

Hello there, everyone! For the last time in 2021, I wish you all of the best and hope that you all are staying safe.

With the countdown to the new year in mind, we have a nice little sendoff to 2021 and best wishes for 2022, as the first word in the four theme entries, when combined and put in order from top to bottom, create the hidden message of “Happy Twenty Twenty-Two!” Honestly, wasn’t it 2005 like only five years ago or something?!?! Feels like it!

    • HAPPY-GO-LUCKY GUY (17A: [Dude with a carefree attitude])
    • TWENTY EIGHT (27A: [Song on the Weeknd’s “House of Balloons” ])
    • TWENTY GRAND (43A: [French vodka with a peach variety])
    • TWO-INCOME FAMILY (57A: [Dual-paycheck household])

One can never tell which entry in a crossword may conjure up emotions about past life experiences (one of the main reasons I love doing crosswords and talking about them), and I cannot stop reminiscing right now about my high school, Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School, after seeing PAGODA (39D: [Chinese shrine]). Bishop Francis Xavier Ford was a Brooklyn-born missionary who spent a great deal of his life in China, and the eponymous high school, which was located in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, had its exterior built in a pagoda-style fashion. Bishop Ford’s work is the first thing you  learn about when you arrive at the school, and it was a school that was an outlet for a lot of middle-to-lower income families worried about tuition yet still wanted a quality education. (For real, it was one of the jewels of Catholic Schools in NYC, and I’m not saying that because I might be biased.) By the time I graduated from the school in 2000, it seemed like it was thriving. By 2014, after a serious drop in enrollment and the emergence of charter schools in the city, the school closed its doors for good. Total shock, though that was the wave that was happening in NYC about five years ago, with a number of prominent Catholic schools closing or on the verge of doing so before being rescued. It was the place where I played basketball under one of the all-time great head coaches in New York City basketball history, Ray Nash. The school was the place where I solved my first crossword, co-solving with my high school science teacher. Ms. Dorsey, who first turned me to crosswords. If it wasn’t for that school, there’s a good chance I’m not doing crosswords, let alone talking about them in this space. Man, I miss that school with the unmistakable pagoda exterior and architecture.

OK, enough of the sob story, right?! Back to what you really came for: sports!! OK, maybe not, but I do have to go and leave off with this…

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: STORK (47D: [Baby carrier in a birth announcement]) – One of the most memorable players and personalities on one of the most memorable teams in NFL history, the Oakland Raiders’ and their near three-decades of dominance from the 1960s to the 1980s, was the man nicknamed “The Stork,” Hall-of-Fame defensive end/linebacker Ted Hendricks. The 6-foot-7 Hendricks won four Super Bowls, three of which came with the Oakland Raiders, and he made eight Pro Bowls during his career which saw him record 60.5 sacks. Hendricks’ height also helped him become, arguably, the most premier special teams player in league history in terms of blocking punts and field goals, as he blocked an insane 25 kicks in his career.

Thank you so much for the time, everybody! Have a wonderful and safe rest of your day and, as always, keep solving!

Take care!


Andrea Carla Michaels’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Filling a Void”—Jim P’s review

EMPTY NESTERs take center stage today with the revealer at 57a [Parent whose kids have moved out, and a phonetic clue to parts of 17-, 25-, 35- and 48-Across]. The other theme entries are familiar two-word phrases with an M and a T nested in between the two words.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Filling a Void” · Andrea Carla Michaels · Tue., 12.28.21

  • 17a. [Cartoon character accompanied by Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog] TOM TERRIFIC. Wikipedia tells me the cartoons aired on Captain Kangaroo in the 50s. I have vague recollections of Captain Kangaroo reruns in the 70s, but none of TOM TERRIFIC. Here’s the theme song.
  • 25a. [They can be seen on the flags of Haiti and Guam] PALM TREES. Hey hey! I’m always happy when Guam gets called out in a grid (I’m from Guam). And maybe I’m biased, but the Guam flag has got to be one of the best flags around. Oh, and the Haiti flag is nice too.
  • 35a. [It’s neither heated nor chilled] ROOM TEMPERATURE.
  • 48a. [Heavy Olympics favorite] DREAM TEAM.

Guam flag with a palm tree and a proa

Nice theme with a satisfying play on words in the revealer.

My fill faves include COMMANDO, THOREAU, “ONE TO GO!,” and MELANGE. RETRIM isn’t great but it crosses two themers and gets the job done.

Clues of note:

  • 3d. [Raid participant]. COMMANDO. We also would have accepted [Go ___].
  • 7d. [Big place in California?]. SUR. My one recollection of driving the winding Big Sur Coastal Highway was my daughter getting carsick. It was a beautiful drive until then.

Pleasant puzzle. Four stars.

Kathy Wienberg’s NYT puzzle– malaika’s write-up

Good evening everyone! I’m subbing in for Amy today. Hope you have all had (or are still having!) a restful holiday season. I found this to be on the tricky side for a Tuesday, with a few pieces of fill that I had only learned from seeing them in other puzzles.

Theme answers:

  • Food topping used at Abe Lincoln’s birthplace?– LOG CABIN SYRUP
  • Dairy product used at the Seven Dwarfs’ dwelling? — COTTAGE CHEESE
  • Turkey stuffing used at the Ewing’s Southfork?– RANCH DRESSING. This is referring to the fact that another name for “turkey stuffing” is “dressing”
  • Spreads using the above?– HOMEMADE MEALS

New York Times– 12/28/2021

This theme lacked a bit of consistency for me. Normally I’m not a stickler about that sort of thing, but in this case it gave me issues parsing the clues. In the first two theme answers, removing the first part of the food item doesn’t change the meaning of the phrase– “syrup” is a food topper, and so is “Log Cabin syrup.” Similarly, “cheese” is a dairy product, but so is “cottage cheese.” But with the third, “ranch dressing” is a very different type of food from “dressing” which I found confusing. That’s made tougher by the fact that (I think?) “dressing” is not a universally known synonym for “turkey stuffing.”

The theme answer tied things together really well! I like how it wasn’t just “See? All the answers start with a type of house!”– the MADE part of HOMEMADE MEALS got used as well.

So many nice long answers! STILETTO (Shoe named after a dagger) was a favorite for me because I learned that fact while reading A Series of Unfortunate Events— a villainous character has a pair of stilettoes where the heel is an actual, literal dagger. MIND MELD, TAIL SPINCLUSTERS, and CHICAGO were also great pieces of fill. HABANERA was new to me– I really like that they clued it as the dance, rather than the name of an aria!

There did seem to be quite a bit of questionable short fill– more than I would expect for a Tuesday puzzle. IBAR, SOT (please let’s stop using this…), EMS, ORU, SRO, RIN, EER… I am also verrrry skeptical of spelling “the plural of NO” as NOES. A bit too much for me, but perhaps I am spoiled from solving the USA Today puzzles, which tend to have cleaner fill but also more blocks and less theme content / symmetry! What did you all think?

Amanda Rafkin’s USA Today Crossword, “Snapchat“ — Emily’s write-up

A great theme and themers today with lots of long bonus fill in both directions, along with a fun grid make for a very enjoyable puzzle today!

Completed USA Today crossword for Tuesday December 28, 2021

USA Today, 12 28 2021, “Snapchat“ by Amanda Rafkin

Theme: the word “chat” is split up in each themer and can be formed by putting the beginning and ending of each themer together—“snapping” them together like building blocks


  • 17a. [“You’ve got me beat!”], CANTTOPTHAT
  • 35a. [Attitude reversal], CHANGEOFHEART
  • 54a. [“Alice in Wonderland” character who vanishes and reappears], CHESHIRECAT

Today’s title hints at the theme but still required me to puzzle it out, just a bit. CANTTOPTHAT was the last themer to fill in for me, as its clue didn’t immediately click so I proceeded on. CHANGEOFHEART took me a moment, as “one’s mind” was my initial instinct but was close enough to get me there for the first pass. At this point I didn’t see “chat” yet but with CHESHIRECAT which I found to be easy fill. Looking at the title, at this point, “chat” jumped out in the third then second themers and based on that pattern, I could deduce the first themer and complete it. The word “chat” is also split differently in each themer: the first is “c” then “hat”, the second “cha” then “t”, and the third “ch” then “at”.

Favorite fill: RBG (great quote!), AFROBEAT, TOASTED, and KITSCH

Stumpers: CLANG (“chung” and “choochoo” first came to mind but now I have a “Clang, clang, clang went the trolley” earworm), WOODSHED (we always had a pile not a shed so needed crossings for the second half), and AUDIO (“sound” and “noise” also seemed like strong possibilities)

Some amazing bonus down entries that span this puzzle: SINGINTHESHOWER and DUDEWHERESMYCAR. There’s also a lot of longer fill as well—a plethora of excellent entries. Faster than most of my usual time, some minor misdirections and stumpers kept me from a faster time though it didn’t feel like it since I had a fairly smooth flow. All in all, a very fun puzzle!

4.5 stars


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Time to Start Over” – Derek’s write-up

Jonesin’ 12/28/2021

We have a fitting theme for the end of the year. How about a theme ABOUT the end of the year!

  • 16A [Get gone, colloquially] TAKE A FLYING LEAP
  • 22A [Burger King offering on the smaller side] WHOPPER JUNIOR
  • 34A [Onetime seller of onesies] BABY GAP 
  • 49A [Fast asleep] OUT LIKE A LIGHT
  • 58A [Right about now (and a hint to the closing word of each theme answer)] THE END OF THE YEAR 

So we are referencing leap year, junior year, you get the idea. 2021 has been a lot like 2020: I think most of us just want it to end! Hopefully 2022 has great things in store for us! 4.5 stars from me.

Some notes:

  • 15A [Nickname for the president of Mexico (based on his monogram)] AMLO – I’ll let you look up his full name; I don’t want to type it all out!
  • 40A [Jay who hosts a new revival of “You Bet Your Life”] LENO – He is still on TV! Or is this a YouTube show? No clue. Too much stuff to watch these days. Give me any choice that doesn’t have pharma commercials!
  • 48A [Clan of hip-hop notoriety] WU-TANG – A classic rap group. Some of them are famous actors now! RZA, Method Man, they are all from Wu-Tang.
  • 10D [Earhart who shows up in the latter half of “American Horror Story: Double Feature”] AMELIA – No doubt as a ghost. This show is too creepy for me.
  • 23D [She & ___ (Zooey Deschanel’s band)] HIM – I have vaguely heard of this group, but definitely the OPCRotW. Did you know she was a singer too? Yeah, I didn’t think so!
  • 25D [Actress Pinkett Smith] JADA – She was in the new Matrix movie. As an old lady!
  • 30D [Purple base of some Filipino desserts] UBE – Per 33-Across, this is evidently a YAM!

This is my last Jonesin’ post for a while. Thanks to all who read this blog! Perhaps I will make a guest appearance here or there in the future. Hope to see you all actually in person soon!

LAT 12/28/2021

Henry Lin-David’s LA Times crossword – Derek’s write-up

Clever theme this Tuesday:

  • 17A [Teatime] AFTERNOON REPAST 
  • 41A [Tee time] GOLF RESERVATION 
  • 65A [T-time] DRESS-DOWN FRIDAY 

After seeing the first two, I was actually curious as to what the third entry would be. Nice clean fill in this one, and not too hard, but again, it’s Tuesday. I am rambling! 4.3 stars today.

A few notes:

  • 9A [Kama __] SUTRA – Kinda racy for a weekday crossword, yes? It’s too early!
  • 2D [Coffeehouse amenity] WI-FI – I always wanted to do work in a coffeehouse, but most of these have been shut up, even here in Indiana, which is a COVID nightmare state. But I think remote work is here to stay for most of us that can do it, even if it is for a day or two a week. Hopefully that is a feature of life moving forward.
  • 6D [Pony in a bar] SHOT GLASS – I don’t think I have ever heard it called this, but I don’t spend much time in bars!
  • 10D [Latest in an endless series of occurrences] UMPTEENTH – Great word.
  • 34D [Winter at the Jersey Shore, say] OFF-SEASON – Weird ref to use since it isn’t sports related, but that may just be me.
  • 39D [“Queen of QVC” Greiner] LORI – Even I know who this is; she is also one of the mainstays on Shark Tank. Not exactly plan your day TV watching, but some of these stories make it to social media, and that is where I usually see them. That show is unique in that they are actually trying to make money here, so someone IS funding these ventures. Nice!

This is my last blog post for Fiend for a while. Thanks again to all! Until we meet again!

Christina Iverson’s Universal Crossword, “From A to B”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: The letter A in common phrases changes to B and wackiness abounds.

Universal crossword solution · “From A to B” · Christina Iverson · Tues., 12.28.21


  • [Cheap beer to sip while golfing?] PBR FOR THE COURSE.
  • [Chant from a crowd that hates Thunderbolt ports] USB! USB! USB!
  • [Figurine of a “notorious” justice?] RBG DOLL.
  • [Utensils for detangling spaghetti?] FOOD COMBS. 

Classic theme! A theme so classic, that if you attempt it, you’d better have some damn good theme entries. And boy, this one most certainly does. My favorite without a doubt is USB! USB! USB! It’s such a great entry with a hilarious clue and visual. RBG DOLL (my girlfriend has one!) and PBR FOR THE COURSE (I’m sure PBR has come along for many a golf outing) were fantastic as well. The last one seems to be a bit of an outlier since the first three are all initialisms after the change. FOOD COMBS and the base phrase FOOD COMAS are nice finds, but it doesn’t feel like it belongs to me.

In the fill, I don’t understand the clue/answer pair for three entries, which is a lot for me:

  • [Daddy’s partner, maybe] POPPA. Huh? As in a same sex couple? Is one called “daddy” and one called “poppa” in that situation? I’ve never heard of that, and I know several same sex couples with children. Don’t get this one at all.
  • [What goes sideways?] CRAB. I don’t get it. Crabs go sideways. Where is the pun and misdirection in the clue?
  • [Strand, as one’s babysitter] LOCK OUT. Huh? As in, the kid locks the babysitter outside of the house? Is that a thing? Felt oddly specific to bring a babysitter into the clue as an afterthought.

Couple other things: SNAZZ feels weird without a -y or -iness added to it. Alligator PEAR is new terminology for me. That makes sense though. Fun to learn that one.

Great clue for BLOOMS [Word that means “flowers,” with or without “ss” at its center] and very apt clue for END as it was indeed the last entry I filled in.

Having trouble finding a .puz version of this one. I absolutely abhor solving in the webapp for so many reasons. It really mars the solve experience. Here’s to hoping Universal catches up with the competition in 2022 and updates that.

4 stars today. Really great finds, Christina!

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19 Responses to Tuesday, December 28, 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:


    Tuesday UC and WSJ puzzles are there, and this week’s Jonesin is as well. With a bit of luck, we’ll be back to normal late tomorrow. (AT&T is stringing 1,500 feet of new cable for me.)

    • John Daviso says:

      Good job, Martin!

    • dh says:

      Thanks, Martin – I was just reading through the comments trying to figure out why the problems existed. I did the WSJ via my subscription, but had to do it using the applet online. I much prefer ACL; I wish the NYT would return to that format!

    • Martin says:

      And we’re back. I won’t be updating the Google Drive folder because Today’s Puzzles should be working now.

  2. Eric H says:

    NYT: The theme mostly works for me, though I got the second half of each theme answer before getting the first. (At first, I thought the theme answers were going to be the sort of awful puns the NYT seems to have soured on sometime in the last 20 years.)

    Looking at it again, I see one brand name and two generic terms, which makes the theme a little less tight, perhaps.

    Of the questionable short fill, I’d be happy if constructors dropped SOT (and other pejorative terms related to alcoholism). RIN Tin Tin is so far in the past that no one who doesn’t solve crossword puzzles every day has heard of it (ditto for KALE as money).

    Overall, though, not a bad puzzle for a Tuesday.

    • Critter says:


      While I’m relatively young (38) to get the Rin Tin Tin reference, I am old enough to have watched reruns with my Pop-Pop.

      Kale is a new one for me. Lettuce or cabbage would qualify as “so far in the past” in my opinion.

      I see your note about the first two themes containing brand names, but they are all dwellings (?).

      As someone who has family with alcohol issues, I can understand your your sentiment concerning SOT. However, it’s just a (lazy) word that made the puzzle work. Don’t take it personally.

      • Eric H says:

        I should have said that few people who aren’t regular crossword solvers would know RIN Tin Tin.

        I don’t take the SOTs and related words personally, though I have had relatives with alcohol problems.

        In Tuesday’s puzzle, turn the O into an A and clue 22D as “Scottish refusals.” (Added benefit: It eliminates the awkward NOES.)

        • DJ says:

          As someone with alcohol issues, I can assure you “sot” would be among the nicer things someone could label me as. It’s old fashioned more than anything, and would elicit laughter rather than anger if it was directed at me. I’m more angered at the notion that people like me are so fragile that a word like “sot” would make them curl up in a ball and cry for days on end. Your condescending sympathy is not appreciated.

          • Eric H says:

            I never said you or anyone else would “curl up in a ball and cry for days on end” from seeing SOT or any other word.

            I’m sorry you have alcohol issues. If that sounds condescending, it’s not meant to be.

  3. Bob says:

    malaika – agree with your nit about the 3rd theme. Hit me right away. Clue could have been Salad topper at the Ewing’s Southfork.

    But still a good puzzle.

  4. JohnH says:

    I’m sure that anyone interested in TNY puzzles is quite capable of navigating the site without me, but I just want to be consistent after my comment yesterday. Later that afternoon, TNY also added a year-end puzzle for sci/tech and a Sunday-size rebus to honor the year. (That’s not a spoiler: the puzzle starts with a note that you can enter two letters in a square.) As of now, they’ve also added a puzzle for the movies.

    And again that’s on top of puzzles yesterday for TV and books, and the year ain’t over yet. Which one people were rating yesterday and which one Amy didn’t have time to review I couldn’t tell you.

  5. JohnH says:

    Re Malaika’s review of the NYT, both RHUD and MW11C prefer NOES to NOS, although they both give both. (I wasn’t disturbed so much that the theme was inconsistent as that it was ho-hum. I got to the end wondering what had changed from the obvious food meaning, so was looking forward to the spoiler, but the answer as “not much.”)

  6. Mark Abe says:

    LAT: Did anybody else think the clue for 40D, “What means may justify”, for ENDS, was reversed? The saying is the (ethically debatable) statement that “The ends justify the means”, not vice-versa.
    PS: Yes, I know it’s picky, but also a sign of whether the editor is awake.

  7. Andrea Carla Michaels says:

    Jim p
    Thanks for the incredibly nice write up! I fear no one on earth will understand the theme without the MTs being circled!
    You’re from Guam?!!! When explaining the difficulty of creating Monday puzzles I always use “Capital of Guam” as an example of something I’d love to use (APIA, right!) bec it’s four letters with three vowels but it’s deemed too difficult! I think it would be educational! Tho the flag clue was definitely not mine, I loved it tho! See I learned something from my own puzzle! And my mom’s caretaker/Saint is from Haiti so it can be a shout-out to Ketline!!!

    • Jim Peredo says:

      I had to look it up, but Apia is the capital of Samoa, about 3500 mi. southeast of Guam. The capital of Guam used to be written as Agaña and had its own day in the sun as far as crossword representation. Sadly, they changed the official name to Hagåtña (huh-GOT-nya), which is more traditional but harder to work into a puzzle. :(

  8. Elise says:

    LA Times: I really question the use of T-Time. I can’t find anywhere that “dress down Friday” is a definition for “T-Time.”
    Even if someone decided that it mimics” T-shirt”, I think that not that many places allow it to be all that casual.

  9. Wally Walters says:

    Universal: As noted, POPPA is ridiculous. But Universal needs to work in a regular gaay angle. Same as the next day. WEED (brownies), RGB (notorious) and KAMALA (historic) also lean left. Easier now to tell when puzzle maker is female.

    Clues, not posturing.

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