Wednesday, December 29, 2021

LAT 4:22 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker tk (Matthew) 


NYT 4:27 (Erin) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 3:45 (Sophia) 


AVCX untimed (Ben) 


Ruth Bloomfield Margolin’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Mock My Words”—Jim P’s review

Fun title to this one. The revealer starts at 70a: CAPE / COD [With 71-Across, vacation spot where you may hear the starred answers]. Those starred answers are familiar phrases except the “AR” sounds are changed to “AH” sounds, with spelling alterations as necessary.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Mock My Words” · Ruth Bloomfield Margolin · Wed., 12.29.21

  • 17a. [*Feature of the i in “arsenic”?] POISON DOT. Poison dart.
  • 39a. [*Suffer when being last in line to shower?] LOSE HOT. Lose heart.
  • 63a. [*Crime of which one stoner accuses another?] TAKING POT. Taking part.
  • 10d. [*Where to find little shavers?] RAZOR SHOP. Razor sharp.
  • 35d. [*Stunned response to seeing the monthly car payments?] LOAN SHOCK. Loan shark.

No doubt this theme has been done many times before, but I enjoyed this one. The aha moment came with the first entry, so I didn’t need a revealer, but it was welcome once I got to it. Funny, using COD as the revealer makes me think it was originally CARD and that makes me think of the phrase CARD SHARP which, if altered a la this puzzle, would become COD SHOP which would be be a wacky but cluable phrase. I wonder if there are other double “AR” phrases that could altered in such a way. Have at it!

Moving on to the fill, RISOTTO is nice, but I hadn’t heard of ARBORIO before. It’s an apt partner for the former, being a variety of Italian rice, but some of the crosses (especially the abbreviation DIR) are less than ideal. Elsewhere, I liked SKI RACE, AMULETS, ALLEGRO, and NO CLASS clued [What a kid on a snow day or a boor has] which reminded me of every episode of Fat Albert.

I must also note that SW corner with SHOAT, SACCO, and AIKEN all crossing OSSA. It was doable, but tough. It might take some effort, but I suspect that corner could be reaccomplished.

Clues of note:

  • 1a. [Wall flowers, maybe?]. ART. Cute way to clue this common word and a nice start to the grid.
  • 19a. [Elevator numbers?]. MUZAK. Another fun clue.
  • 2d. [Swedish diplomat Wallenberg]. RAOUL. I didn’t know the name, but he has an interesting story of how he saved thousands of Jews during WWII. Read more here.
  • 44d. [Occasion where everything goes downhill fast]. SKI RACE. Yet another fun clue.

A fun theme, some good fill (some less good), and colorful cluing. 3.75 stars.

Simon Marotte and Victor Fleming’s NYT puzzle– Erin’s write-up

Completed NYT crossword grid for 12/29/2021

New York Times solution, 12/29/2021

Hello, my lovelies! Erin Milligan-Milburn filling in for Amy today. We’re going to make this quick, as my kitten Thwomp keeps pawing at my hands and the screen. Our NYT theme is words that can be read by pronouncing two or three letters each:

  • 17a. [Lettered awards show host?] EMMY EMCEE (M E M C)
  • 30a. [Lettered adversary in a battle of wits?] CAGEY ENEMY (K G N M E)
  • 49a. [Lettered home on the range when no one’s home?] EMPTY TEPEE (M T T P)
  • 65a. [Lettered school paper that’s a snap to write?] EASY ESSAY (E Z S A) 

That’s it for the theme. If anyone wants to discuss it further, or comment on any SLAM DUNKS or GLOOP in the fill, feel free. I’m going to go extract the cat claws from my pants and the fangs from my hand.

Paul Coulter’s Universal crossword, “Space Travel” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/29/21 • Wed • Coulter • “Space Travel” • solution • 202112229

Metanalysis is the name of the game here. Definition of which from “a reanalysis of the division between sounds or words resulting in different constituents (as in the development of an apron from a napron)”. Some more examples here.

Left-right symmetry also, helping to accommodate a single 15-letter spanner.

  • 18a. [*Resolving a Mafia dispute, e.g.?] DON TASK (don’t ask).
  • 28a. [*Which campfire treat are you referring to?] WHAT S’MORE (what’s more).
  • 47a. [*Familiar TV program?] THAT SHOW YOU KNOW (that’s how you know).
  • 62a. [*Line up of computer support whizzes?] IT SLATE (it’s late).

Interesting how each answer has at least one contraction. Seems intentional, so I guess it’s a theme element.

  • 15d [Cherry parts that can be tied with a tongue] STEMS. I don’t know that anyone can actually accomplish that feat; as far as I know it’s a substitution trick.
  • 37d [Gamjatang or goulash, e.g.] STEW. I’m guessing the former is Korean. Let’s  see … yes!
  • 57d [Jazz saxophonist Getz] STAN crossing themer 62-across …
  • 39a [Snuggly kitties] LAP CATS. My cat is, frustratingly, not particularly snuggly despite being a dedicated lap cat. The demarcation line seems to be my waist, so no chest-sitting, no oxter-cozying, no face-suffocating, etc.

Fine, fun midweek offering.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Free Up” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Erik Agard
Theme: The theme answers are placed vertically, and each one contains the letters “EERF”, so in the grid the word “free” is literally going “up”

USA Today, 12 29 2021, “Free Up”

  • 3d [Lightweight makeup product] – SHEER FOUNDATION
  • 14d [Drink also known as a black cow] – ROOT BEER FLOAT
  • 22d [Enclosure to keep out does and bucks] – DEER FENCE

A rare sighting of up-down symmetry in the wild! It definitely makes the grid have a striking visual impact. The symmetry also allows for theme lengths of all different lengths without just placing them anywhere in the grid, which is a personal preference of mine. All three of these phrases are great finds, in my opinion. I haven’t seen SHEER FOUNDATION in a puzzle before despite it being a pretty common beauty term, and DEER FENCE and ROOT BEER FLOAT are fun too.

Favorite parts of the puzzle:

  • The clue for TREE – 38d [Palm or beech]. I’m current dealing with snow-delayed travel and *really* wish I lived somewhere nice and warm like Palm Beach right about now!
  • I’ve never watched the ANIME Fullmetal Alchemist but a lot of my friends have, so that was a quick get for me.
  • Due to their stacked placement, imagining an ELF helping Santa on ROOFS.
  • The long across answers of THEME SONG and LOTUS POSE.
  • The Minnesota reference in 10d [Roughly 87 thousand square miles, for Minnesota] for AREA! Keep ’em coming.

Places I got tripped up:

  • “Main Theme” over THEME SONG for 19a [“My Heart Will Go On,” for “Titanic”] – I think of theme songs as being more of a TV thing than a movie score thing.
  • “Rouse” over ROUST, which is my least favorite word today.
  • “Alight” over IGNITE, which combined with the ROUST mistake made the right half of the puzzle hard to solve.

Debbie Ellerin’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

Today’s puzzle by Debbie Ellerin features a simple theme concept, but done neatly with a few interesting wrinkles. The revealer, LOWROAD, and indeed all the theme components, are found in the downs. There are two stacked pairs of answers ending in a “road”, all with at least some degree of space between their meaning and a little road: PAPERROUTE, MILKYWAY, USBDRIVE and MEMORYLANE.

There was a bit of a wedding subtheme going on today, with LADYDI cross-referenced with BRIDE, plus INLAW and HORAS.


Aimee Lucido’s AVCX, “Writer’s Block” — Ben’s Review

ACVX 12/29/21 – “Writer’s Block”

This week’s AVCX is a 21×21 grid by Aimee Lucido to close out the year.

Six special squares act as LITTLE BLACK BOOKs – the title of a book forms the extra letters needed by the surrounding entries:

  • IT contributes to CRED[IT], [IT]ALY, POS[IT], and [I T]OLD YOU SO
  • KIM makes LIL [KIM], [KIM]ONO, and [KIM]CHI
  • EMMA finishes off ANAL[EMMA], DIL[EMMA], and [EMMA] WATSON
  • and finally, ROOM makes BRIDEG[ROOM], MUSH[ROOM], and [ROOM]BAS

This feels perfectly timed for Jolabokflod and I enjoyed it a lot amidst all of the other holiday celebrations right now.  Happy Wednesday!



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26 Responses to Wednesday, December 29, 2021

  1. Will says:

    These New Yorker year end puzzles are a fun way to see what you’re staying current on and what you’re not. I’ve never kept up much with movies, but this is the year I’ve become an old man when it comes to music. The combination of Covid and Spotify has me living in my own little world of music. Despite the fact I haven’t known a lot of the movies and music, all the crossings were fair and the puzzles were enjoyable.

    • Mr. Grumpy says:

      The answers in the movies puzzle were at least inferable when unknown; the 24A/18D & the 51A/45D crossings in the music puzzle were ridiculous.

      • JohnH says:

        I agree with you. I guessed the first right, but I guessed BDS / DANA (a not uncommon first name) for the second.

      • marciem says:

        51A/45D did me in. I was good with Stamos (24A) from Full(er) House and all the other crossings fell with fair guesses, but that BTS/TANA crossing wasn’t in any way inferable. You knew it or you didn’t…. otherwise run the alphabet. IMO.

      • Will says:

        The fact that I know who BTS is has convinced me that I’m not that old after all. Hooray!

  2. pannonica says:

    NYT: Am not caring for the appearances of 7d ACEY and 33d ELLIE in the grid.

      • Gary R says:

        “A-C” and “L-E” could be confounded with the theme. (I think – don’t want to speak for pannonica.)

          • Me says:

            I agree that the inclusion of ACEY and ELLIE is kind of sloppy. I also don’t like that the two words within each theme answer seem random. They aren’t common phrases, the letters don’t spell out anything, some of the answers repeat letters but some don’t. I would like an NYT puzzle with this kind of theme to have that special extra. And EMCEE is weird to include because it comes from M and C (Master of Ceremonies).

            I also don’t understand how CAGEY=battle of wits. Someone who is cagey is reluctant to divulge information. I don’t think of it as involving a battle of wits.

            The puzzle is fine but it could be sharper.

          • e.a. says:

            in what way could they be confounded with the theme? given that they’re not clued like theme answers

  3. person says:

    NYT: Have I been pronouncing the word EMPTY incorrectly my entire life? Is the P silent? That one seemed out of place to me. I’ll accept N M E for ENEMY but not M T for EMPTY.

    • Jim Peredo says:

      All I can say is don’t do yesterday’s WSJ then.

    • David L says:

      I agree. There may not be a full-blown P sound when I say ’empty,’ but it’s definitely there.

    • Leah says:

      If you have, so have I! I had trouble fully grokking the theme for that reason.

    • Gary R says:

      It’s borderline for me (upper-midwesterner – maybe that matters). Sometimes the “P” sound is clearly there, and sometimes it’s not.

    • Martin says:

      New Yorkers leave out letters that take too many muscle movements. So yes, we tend to say “em-tee.” And “yuge.” And “Fudgicle” (it took me moving out west to learn why “Fudgsicle” had a silent “S”). And “bo-ill” (of wine). And “toid” (comes after second).

      • John Daviso says:

        While I certainly appreciate your alternate means of getting the puzzles, I’m really happy that things are back to normal. It was taking me longer to get the puzzles than it took to solve them. How spoiled are users when one or two more clicks elicits a groan?

    • R says:

      It would be awkward for a native English speaker to pronounce “M-T” fluently without some intrusive ‘p’ sound entering in the middle, but different people pronounce it to different degrees. The ‘p’ wasn’t part of the etymology of the word, but was added to the spelling several hundred years ago because people were pronouncing it anyway. It’s not that you (or anyone) is pronouncing it wrong, but that “M-T” is going to have that ‘p’ sound whether you’re saying the letters or the word “empty.”

  4. David L says:

    WSJ: This is far from the first time, I think, that a puzzle has relied on a hopeless misunderstanding of what a New England accent sounds like (I’m not from there but my BFF is, and I can pronounce Market Basket almost in an acceptable fashion). SHARK, for example, is closer to SHACK than SHOCK, when pronounced by a Bostonian, but has a longer vowel than SHACK – something like SHAAK, if that makes sense.

  5. David L says:

    re: Cherry STEMS. Years ago, at a party, I saw someone accomplish the feat of putting a stem into her mouth and, after some fiddling around, produce it looped into a loose knot. Seemed legit to me.

    • pannonica says:

      The trick is that there’s a tied stem already in place, probably hidden beneath the tongue. The second, untied stem goes in and some theatric lingual machinations take place (while the stems are surreptitiously exchanged), and voila! the tied stem is revealed!

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