Thursday, December 30, 2021

BEQ Untimed (Darby) 


LAT 4:49 (GRAB) 


NYT 9:48 (Ben) 


Universal tk (Jim Q) 


USA Today 3:11 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Calendar Boxes”—Jim P’s review

It took me a while to make sense of this theme, even after I completely filled in the grid. There’s a theme-related NEW YEAR’S EVE at 20a, but the real revealer is TIMES SQUARE (59a, [“Crossroads of the World,” and what each box of circles is, in a way]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Calendar Boxes” · Mike Shenk · Thu., 12.30.21

I wanted the boxes of circles to spell out something calendar-related—using all eight letters. I noticed the repetition of letters early on in the solve and that definitely helped me fill in the lower squares in the grid. But try as I might, no matter where I started in each box of circles, I couldn’t find any eight-letter words.

That’s because the words are three-letters long and there are four of them in each box of circles—well, two words each repeated once. Those words are ERA and AGE, both rough “units” of time. So each box of circles is a square of times consisting of the words ERA and AGE.

So I had my aha moment, but it felt pretty underwhelming. I thought this was an odd theme that was inscrutable at first and then had very little payoff. And then there’s the fact that EONS is right there near the center of the grid trying to act all inconspicuous, like it wants be in on the theme but it wasn’t invited to the party.

I did enjoy certain moments in the fill: DEAD SPOT, BEER CANS, CALDERA, UP A TREE, and PLUGS IN.  I wanted [Eggy medium] to be TEMPURA (maybe because I’m hungry), but it turned out to be TEMPERA. It wasn’t great to see all the kludgy fill around the theme entries: AGEE, AGER, A GEM, ORIG, ERAT.

Clues of note:

  • 23a. [Not give up]. KEEP. Where “give up” is a synonym of “hand over.”
  • 43a. [Hand holder?]. BRIG. Don’t know if this is a new clue or not, but I like its tricksiness.
  • 45a. [Heughan of “Outlander”]. SAM. I didn’t know the name, but he’s the hunky Scotsman playing Jamie Fraser. My wife’s read most of the books, so we watched the show early on, but it seemed to jump the shark a couple years ago.
  • 50a. [Jimmy’s successor]. RONALD. Wow, I was thinking late-night TV hosts, not presidents, until just now.
  • 69a. [Lasso in a soccer match]. TED. Cute clue. I haven’t watched the show, but it comes highly recommended.
  • 30d. [Pitchers’ nos.]. ERAS. Obviously this couldn’t be clued as the word it is.

This one wasn’t for me though it has its high points. Three stars.

John Ewbank’s New York Times crossword—Ben’s review

NYT #1230 – 12/30/2021

Well, here we are, the last NYT Thursday of the year.  It’s a little more straightforward than some of the more outre themes we’ve had, but it was a nice way to close things out:

  • 18A: They stay and bite — ADULT TEETH
  • 27A: Emmy-winning comedy series of 2007, 2008 and 2009 — THIRTY ROCK
  • 46A: Gains favor using abject flattery, informally — KISSES BUTT
  • 58A: Souse — BOOZE HOUND
  • 38A: Symbol for the starts of 18-, 27-, 46- and 58-Across — XXX

XXX!  It can mean “adult”, it can mean “thirty”, it can mean “kisses”, it can mean “booze”, and it can also mean a series of films starring Vin Diesel


Elsewhere: Loved seeing THE RAVEN and PEEPHOLE in the downs, as well as some more slang-y expressions like HATERADE and STAY WOKE.

Happy Thursday, and see you in 2022!

Rebecca Goldstein & Matthew Stock’s USA Today crossword, “The GOAT” — Sophia’s recap

Editor: Amanda Rafkin
Theme: The theme answers all begin with types of goats

USA Today, 12 30 2021, “The GOAT”

  • 17a [Extreme gentleness, metaphorically] – KID GLOVES
  • 39a [Fashion icon who won a Tony for “Kinky Boots”] – BILLY PORTER
  • 63a [Surveillance devices that might be hidden in teddy bears] – NANNY CAMS

Fun theme today from Rebecca and Matthew! If you don’t know the acronym GOAT, it stands for “Greatest of all time”, but here it’s being used in reference to actual goats! I have never thought about how many words there are to describe, uh, goat life stages, as well as how they can all be used in non-goat-related terms. I’m a huge BILLY PORTER fan (I remember his Kinky Boots win well) so I appreciated seeing him in the grid. KID GLOVES took me about half of the crosses to get, but I was able to drop in NANNY CAMS without any help.

All the corners are very nicely filled – my favorite is probably the southwest corner, with BEST BUDS and SOUR ALE. This is also the second USA Today puzzle in a row with a ROOT BEER related answer; we’ll have to see if the pattern continues tomorrow. My biggest issue in the grid was filling in “nilla” rather than NECCO for 34a [Classic wafer brand], but that was fixed with the TOPAZ crossing. Oh, and I didn’t know ANANDA either, but again all the crosses are fair.

Happy new year all!

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1431, “Make It A Double”—Darby’s review

Theme: Each answer includes the number 2 as a replacement for TWO in theme answer phrases.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1431, “Make It A Double” solution 12/30/2021

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1431, “Make It A Double” solution 12/30/2021


  • 15a [“Teak or cedar, e.g.”] CABINE2OD / CABINET WOOD
  • 17a [“‘Amazing!…I’m stunned silent’”] JUST2W / JUST WOW
  • 35a [“Parting lines”] FAMOUS LAS2RDS / FAMOUS LAST WORDS
  • 59a [“Ghost realm”] SPIRI2RLD / SPIRIT WORLD
  • 61a [“Abstract expressionist painter Cy”] 2MBLY / TWOMBLY
    4d [“Become conscious of systemic societal problems”] GE2KE / GET WOKE


  • 11d [“Selina Kyle’s alter ego in the DC Universe”] CA2MAN / CAT WOMAN
  • 30d [“Assets minus liabilities”] NE2RTH / NET WORTH
  • 50d [“Museum display”] AR2RK / ART WORK
  • 61d [“Minnesota cager”] 2LF / T WOLF

I that puzzles like this are so interesting because, honestly, I have such a hard time figuring out when numbers/rebuses are present, so it was great to crack this. My big hint was when I was so sure about 11d being CATWOMAN but not having enough letters there. I did think it interesting that both CATWOMAN and Cy TWOMBLY included the TWO as part of one word rather than the rest of the answers spanning it across TWO.

Other things I noticed:

  • 20a [“Suffix with neat, beat, or peace”] – What a fun way to clue NIK!
  • 32a [“League co-founded by Babe Zaharias”] – Fun fact: Babe Zaharias didn’t pick up golf until after she competed in the Olympics as a runner, javelin thrower, and high jumper. In 1932, she picked up golf, and then she helped found the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) in 1950. Prior to that, she was the first woman to compete in a men’s golf event in 1938.
  • 2d [“Make it an even 100, say”] – I tend to think of ROUND UP here rather than ROUND OFF, but maybe that may be circumstantial? Or regional?

I hope y’all remembered your hat and SCARF for this holiday season and that you’ve all been warm and healthy. See ya tomorrow!

August Miller’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

LA Times

The most obvious thing when starting to solve today’s puzzle by August Miller is the lines of circles. Each septet of circles spells out BALANCE, and with five themers and 69 squares, the puzzle has gone for utter quantity. The puzzle is tied up with UPSETTHEBALANCE, with each set of circles spelling out that.

The rest of the puzzle was managed well, but without too much that was memorable. Puzzling clues for me were [Spanish gal pal], CHICA; not AMIGA – trap! And [__ music: small talk], CHIN. I thought that was fisticuffs?


Adrian Johnson’s Universal Crossword, “Letter by Letter A”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: The sounds of starts of three unrelated phrases collectively spell the word OUT

Universal crossword solution · “Letter by Letter” · Adrian Johnson · Thurs., 12.30.21


  • (revealer) SPELL OUT.

That’s about as literal as it gets! Fun revealer as I had no clue what the connection was. I wasn’t even sure where the themers were as SWEET TOOTH and UGLY TRUTHS are viable contenders. They both kinda stole the show imo.

Favorite mistake: TEAS AND WISHES is what I had as I had SARIPH (?) for the correct CALIPH. 

I can’t believe I’m forgetting the term for the afternoon decadent servings of tea and sandwiches, especially popular in the Cornwall region of England. Any help? It’s on the tip of my tongue…

Anyway, good puzzle, great revealer.

3.9 Stars.


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21 Responses to Thursday, December 30, 2021

  1. Susan K. Hoffman says:

    Just finished today’s BEQ, which is a terrific puzzle but I couldn’t figure out how to enter the rebus square in Across Lite. I tried the digit, the first letter, and the multiple letters, and it didn’t like any of those options. So I finally hit “reveal” and the digit popped up. So A/L doesn’t like that digit when I enter it on my keyboard. But that’s the answer it was looking for. Anyone understand how this happens?

  2. Billy Boy says:

    NYT yet another dud Thursday

    I was temporarily confused by ADULT TEETH since there are 32 not 30, but I forgot the oxymoronic use of adult when referring to sex films

    • Rob says:

      NYT: I think the problem with this puzzle is its placement. This may explain the low ratings. This would be a fine Wednesday puzzle. It lacks the usual “aha” moment of the typical Thursday puzzle.

      • Eric H says:

        It was definitely not the tricky Thursday puzzle we’ve come to expect.

        I sometimes spend time on these easy Thursday puzzles trying to find the trick, only to realize there isn’t one.

  3. Billposter says:

    WSJ – Jim’s affection for BRIG as a clue for”Hand Holder” difficult to understand…what am I missing here?

    • PJ says:

      One definition of hand is member of a ship’s crew.

    • Billy Boy says:

      A deckHAND gets jailed in the BRIG (Nautical) – that’s what I got

      Hey, I really liked this puzzle, I have sloughed off WSJ for a bit, despite a digital subscription to the paper (is that an oxymoron? digital-paper) but actively doing them again as I find the NYT so banal in construction and execution for the most part as of late.

      Hey, what do I know? I’m an old white guy. If I’m not outright wrong I’m at least to blame. Now getoffa my lawn for NEW YEAR’s EVE


    • John Daviso says:

      It’s a strained naval pun on crew members, a.k.a. “hands”, being “held” in a ship’s jail, a.k.a. BRIG.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      This answer is only part of the reason the grid would probably be in the running for the worst puzzle of 2021. IMO, the theme is a mess. Equating AGE and ERA with “time” seems pretty contrived. But even aside from that, how in the world is ERAS considered to be an acceptable answer in this grid (irrespective of the clue)? For that matter, A GEM also seems kind of cheap.

      Other annoyances for this solver: DRAYAGE? Does SLUE imply “violently”? I think of it as meaning simply turning around an axis point. The clue for BRIG is just awful. How do you go with a character in a 25 year old film about a pig to clue REX?

  4. placematfan says:

    I just noticed, looking at the clues for 27-Across and 5-Down, that the New York Times style guidelines obviously do not promote usage of the Oxford comma. That makes me very sad.

  5. Anne says:

    NYT: XXX means booze? That’s news to me.

  6. rtaus says:

    Anne–I feel like a staple character in old cartoons was a barefoot hillbilly with a jug of moonshine labeled ‘XXX’

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