Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Jonesin' tk (Derek) 


LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 6:48 (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (Jim Q) 


USA Today 14:45 (Emily) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 556), “FantAStic Five!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 556: “FantAStic Five!”

Hello there, everyone! I hope all of you are doing great as we wind down the first month of 2022!

We have five amazing women featured in the grid who all share at least one quality: their first names start with the letter “A” and their second names start with the letter “S.” Knowing the constructor the way I do, I’m sure she might have been rooting for the No. 2 women’s tennis player in the world, Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, either at last year’s US Open (semifinalist) or at the Australian Open that’s currently going on so she could be added to this list. Alas, Aryna lost in the Round of 16 last night.  

    • AMANDA SEYFRIED (16A: [“Ted 2” actress hailed for her portrayal of Cosette in “Les Miserables”])
    • AMY SCHNEIDER (23A: [She’s one of the most successful “Jeopardy!” champions ever, with over $1.3 million in winnings (so far)])
    • ANNIKA SORENSTAM (37A: [Winner of 72 PGA titles, and the first woman to shoot 59 in competition])
    • ANNE SULLIVAN (51A: [Helen Keller’s teacher and 2003 inductee into the National Women’s Hall of Fame])
    • ALEXANDRA SHIPP (60A: [“Tick, Tick…Boom!” actress who portrayed Aaliyah in a Lifetime biopic])

Those lovely paralleling 10s were also a highlight outside of the amazing women, with TREAD WATER (11D: [Stay afloat in a moat]) and MANHANDLES cutting through three of the theme entries (29D: [Treats roughly]). Almost all of the entries that cut through three themes were great fill, with DAMASKS reminding me of the time I watched a video of how swords were forged from damask steel (17D: [Pattern upholstery fabrics]). Those without a classical music background might have been put off by the VLAST partial (53D: [Má ___” (set of symphonic poems by Smetana]), let alone crossing that with a French word, LYCEES (56A: [French schools]). My EYES are still trying to recover from the bonkers football game last night with the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs, which pretty much has spoiled me from watching any more American football games for the rest of this season (65A: [Peepers]). Alright, time to head out and dive into another chicken dinner of mine: grilled chicken strips with Cajun-style dirty rice …yes!!!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BANTAM (4D: [Boxing weight class]) – A combat sports weight class named after chickens? Let’s do it! In boxing, the bantamweight class is for fighters between 115 and 118 pounds, and in mixed martial arts, the class constitutes of fighters between 126 and 135 pounds. Then there’s the English soccer team Bradford City A.F.C., whose nickname is the Bantams. (A bantam is depicted in its logo.) Though normally a lower division side in the tiered English Football Association, Bradford City made a surprising run to the League Cup Final in 2013, when it was in League Two, a.k.a. the fourth tier of English Football (behind the Premier League, Championship and League One). The Bantams defeated Premier League sides Arsenal and Aston Villa in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, before losing to Swansea City — at the time a member of the Premier League as well — in the final.

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

Take care!


Ray Brunsberg and Ellen Brunsberg’s New York Times crossword—Jim P’s review

Hiya, folks! Jim P here sitting in for Amy. Let’s see what’s on the board for today.

Well, whaddya know! Board games. Each theme answer is a double-feature of common board games clued wacky-style.

NY Times crossword solution, 1 25 22, no. 0125

  • 20a. [General’s responsibility?] WAR OPERATION. Yeah, okay. War is a card game, not a board game. Sue me. Actually, yeah. It kinda sticks out since all the other games here are board games. Would’ve been nicer to keep them all the same for consistency’s sake.
  • 29a. [Apology from Iago?] “SORRY, OTHELLO.” Yeah, not gonna happen. Probably more like “Sorry, not sorry, Othello.” Amirite?
  • 44a. [Antitrust concern?] MONOPOLY RISK.
  • 53a. [Editors of crossword puzzles, e.g.?] CLUE CHECKERS. I’d bet this was the seed entry, and hey, if you can work a little meta reference to the person deciding whether or not to buy your grid into the puzzle, more power to you!

Cute. I will admit to finishing the grid without grokking the theme, mainly because I was solving for time. I’m not a speed solver and I know I never will be, so my enjoyment from a puzzle mostly comes from the grid itself and not my (in)ability to finish in a certain amount of time. So I had to stare at the theme entries for a few moments post-solve to get the aha moment.

And how apropos for me. We recently (for Christmas) splurged and got a game table so we can have longer game sessions without messing with the dining table. It’s one of these. The kid does her homework on top, but when it’s game time, we remove the leaves to reveal the gaming area below. So far we’ve only had one game night, but it was a pleasure to play at the table. What game, you ask? Pandemic, of course. (Wife’s a doctor, and that’s all she’s been wanting to play since forever. That didn’t help; the pandemic won. 😔)

Oh, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this is a debut for both constructors. I took a peek at the Wordplay blog to learn they are a husband-and-wife team. Nice job!

Hmm. Not a lot of long fill to enjoy, but there sure are a lot of Ks in the grid: KLEPTOS, YUCKY, POLKAS, SPANK. Let’s move on to…

A Klepto from Super Mario Odyssey

Clues of note:

  • 16a. [Tongue, but not cheek]. ORGAN. I wanted MUSCLE.
  • 19a. [___ boson (the so-called “God particle’)]. HIGGS. I liked seeing this even though I know I probably can’t come close to understanding, let alone explaining, it. Today I Learned: The “God particle” sobriquet came about partly because the publisher of physicist Leon Lederman’s book wouldn’t let him call it the “Goddamn Particle.”
  • 5d. [Thieving condors of Mario games]. KLEPTOS. As a lifelong Nintendo fanboy, I should’ve known this, but I admit I needed most of the crossings (yes, even despite the “thieving” hint in the clue). Ah, I see they mainly appeared in Super Mario 64 and in Super Mario Odyssey, both games I missed for one reason or another.
  • 22d. [:, in an analogy]. IS TO. Holy cow, I went with EYES first. Anyone else caught thinking emoticons? Anyone? Just me?
  • 26d. [Pellucid]. CLEAR. Never heard “pellucid” before, but I spied the “lucid” within. That helped.
  • 38d. [It has colloquial gestures like “kiss-fist” and “shaking L”: Abbr.]. ASL. American Sign Language. Fun clue. Can we get translations for these two gestures? Amy?

An enjoyable grid. I would’ve liked a bit more sparkle in the fill, and the one inconsistency in the theme entries still irks me, but I liked it nonetheless. 3.5 stars.

Evelyn Rubin & Ross Trudeau’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Battle Ground”—Jim P’s review

I noticed the decidedly confrontational nature of that first row (rhyming with low) and thought either the constructors were having a row (rhyming with cow) or this was part of the theme. It turned out to be part of the theme.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Battle Ground” · Evelyn Rubin & Ross Trudeau · Tue., 1.25.22

The revealer is in the center: BORDER DISPUTE (38a, [Root of territorial conflict, and a hint to this puzzle’s perimeter]). All the words on the grid’s perimeter are synonyms of “confrontation.”

Proceeding clockwise: RUN-IN, TIFF, FEUD, DEBATE, DUST-UP, SCRAP, BOUT, SPAT, FRACAS, and RUMPUS. I don’t doubt that last one, but my only experience with that word is in the phrase “RUMPUS room” which must mean something different than a room for a [Heated controversy].

I don’t think I’ve seen a theme like this where the edge words are all synonyms. Often, they’re words that precede or follow another word. But this feels like a tougher constraint to meet, so I’m impressed that our constructors managed to find enough synonyms of the right lengths to meet their needs, especially at the corners.

Perimeter themes like this one, especially with a central revealer of an awkward length (13 letters in this case), put a lot of constraints on the the grid. So it’s nice to see some juicy long entries in the fill: BEEP BEEP, OBAMA ERA, EUROMART, UNIVERSE, and BIG SUR are all nice. Sure, there’s TAMPERER, CETERA, CEES, and whoever ULLA is [Max’s secretary in “The Producers”], and the fourth and twelfth rows of four three-letter entries each aren’t pretty. But I felt the fill is quite good considering the constraints.

Clues of note:

  • 66a. [Only country in the world without a capital city]. NAURU. Per Wikipedia, Yaren is often listed as the capital, but that’s a district, not a city.
  • 8d. [Salmon serving]. FILLET. Today I Learned: FILLET is usually used with fish while filet is usually used with other meats. But you really can use either one with any meat or fish.
  • 36d. [“Samesies!”]. “I DO TOO!” Keep your “samesies,” I’ll stick with “I DO TOO.”
  • 61d. [Football coach Holtz]. LOU. I used to have much respect for the man as he was the football coach when I was at Notre Dame. But he squandered all credibility in 2020 when he went all in for Trump.

3.5 stars.

Erik Agard’s USA Today Crossword, “Perfect Square” — Emily’s write-up

A fantastic puzzle today with perfectly challenging clues, excellent fill, a fun theme and themers, plus a unique grid. It’s certainly ONPOINT.

Completed USA Today crossword for Tuesday January 25, 2022

USA Today, 01 25 2022, “Perfect Square” by Erik Agard

Theme: the second word of each themer is a “perfect square” (the product of two equal integers, or a number times itself)


  • 16a. [“Good joke!”], NICEONE
  • 29a. [Superhero team that fights Doctor Doom], FANTASTICFOUR
  • 42a. [Nickname for the National Pan-Hellenic Council], DIVINENINE
  • 53a. [“Super” birthday party in a long-running MTV show], SWEETSIXTEEN

The title probably should have tipped me off sooner to numbers but instead of taking it as a phrase, I focused in on the second half and had my mind set on shapes or parts of a square. The themers took me a while to fill in, but I figured the theme out once I had the final one in place since 16 is a classic perfect square example. NICEONE has cluing that made me think along the lines of something with “ha ha”, which seems to have cropped up in more puzzles recently. FANTASTICFOUR is probably an easier themer for superhero fans—I know just enough that once I started getting a few crossings then I was able to fill the rest in. DIVINENINE is a great phrase, though new to me; with this one, my sense of the theme started to change. SWEETSIXTEEN has a fun clue though only seeing snippets of the show, I also needed crossings to get me started but then was able to complete the rest easily and realize the number theme. The themers are also in order: 1, 4, 9, 16.


Stumpers: BONNET (still currently in use?), TAXI (I was thinking about car makes), and TEA (the clue pairing had me stumped—now I know about cheese tea and want some!)

Though it was one of my longer solve times, I kept making steady progress, filling in pieces here and there then building out until finally everything came together. This is just the right amount of challenging that I enjoy most—tough but not impossible and I could fill everything in myself, though many entries needed other crossings. Many of the clues were slight misdirections for me, which is probably why it took me so long to puzzle them out, which I found just doable and thus very enjoyable. A great theme with excellent clues for the fun themers, too!

4.75 stars


David Poole’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

I grokked the theme immediately and enjoyed the revealer. There are six sets of circles in the grid and the central entry at 37a tells us why: [Freight train components….or a hint to each group of circled letter] are BOXCARS. Cars in a box. Cute!

Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2022, David Poole, solution grid

The six cars that make up our train are:

  • AUDI
  • OPEL
  • JEEP
  • MINI
  • LADA
  • FORD

Turns out LADA is a Russian car manufacturer with an English-language website. I didn’t delve deep enough to see if they’re sold outside of Russia. That’s pretty obscure, but we didn’t need to know it because the cars aren’t clued and the crossings are fair for a Tuesday (although the DA is part of John SECADA, so that might be an issue for some folks). Overall I liked the theme. It’s an impressive construction – figuring out how to create the four boxes, make them symmetrical, have all the car models read clockwise from the upper left, and include the central revealer. There was only one eyebrow-roller in the fill. I’ll take that for a theme this unusual and creative. Bravo!

A few other things:

  • Thanks for not cluing LOLITA in any way that suggested she was responsible for Humbert’s actions. [Nabokov girl] is fine. And don’t “but actually” me in the comments. It’s a repellent book, and the underlying idea is unfortunately alive and well.
  • The eye-roller was APERY for [Mimic’s forte]. That’s a word not seen in the wild.
  • 19a [Warning from a reckless driver?] is FORE. Would there be a question mark on Saturday?
  • 32a [Medicare section for ambulance services] is PART B. This was a gimme for me. I suspect it was not for the younger set.
  • 60a [Back biter?] is a cute clue for MOLAR.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: see above re: LADA. I also did not know that John SECADA was born in Cuba.

Katherine Baicker’s Universal Crossword, “Cuckoo Clock”— Jim Q’s write-up

THEME: Phrases that have the word TIME in them, but TIME is anagrammed to be other word/words and wackiness results… sorta.

Universal crossword solution · “Cuckoo Clock” · Katherine Baicker · Tues., 01.25.22


  • [Recap from Kevin McAllister after being home alone] “I MET BANDITS!” TIME BANDITS. 
  • [Soup or sandwich, sometimes] LUNCH ITEM. LUNCH TIME.
  • [“Didn’t we get rid of all these little bugs?”] “ANOTHER MITE?!” ANOTHER TIME. 
  • [What a confused carnivorous plant might do] EMIT FLIES. TIME FLIES. 
  • (revealer) TIME CHANGES. 

The theme is actually very clever, though it took me a while to grok. I think it took more TIME for me to suss out because the theme entries are not clued with a ? at the end (which totally confuses me). Aren’t the resulting phrases not in-language? And therefore most definitely deserve the ? treatment? But… LUNCH ITEM is, I believe, an in-language phrase (or in-language enough), so… that made it more confusing.

I did not notice TIME anagramming until the very end revealer, but that made it fun to figure out what I’d missed. Another little AHA as I realized the base phrases all made sense with the word TIME. I was unfamiliar with TIME BANDITS as a base phrase. Looks like a a classic John Cleese movie that eluded me somehow.

Some new things for me in the puzzle made it more difficult than normal. Didn’t know BOSCH and had CON for BAN, and with TIME BANDITS being unfamiliar, it made that area very difficult.  LAILA Lalami, YOLANDA Adams, and PEPITA also gave me some trouble.

Fun clue for READ ME [File type hidden in “gingerbread man”]. I mean, it’s not apt at all, but it’s a pretty epic phrase to hide in a phrase.

4 stars today. Thanks!




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20 Responses to Tuesday, January 25, 2022

  1. Gary R says:

    NYT: Didn’t think about WAR not being a board game – but at least it’s a game you could play on your new game table (pretty cool – seems like it would be handy for jigsaw puzzles, too). The themer that bothered me was MONOPOLY RISK. It just didn’t seem like an in-the-language phrase to me.

    I was definitely thinking emoticon for 22-D. But that was at least in part due to the fact that I misread “analogy” as “apology” – oops!

  2. Jenni Levy says:

    I misread “thieving” as “thriving” for the raptors. Since I don’t know Mario at all, I figured there might be thriving raptors. When I got KLE I looked again and the light dawned. Fun puzzle!

  3. Mr. Grumpy says:

    Same theme as a 2013 Robyn Weintraub puzzle, which also had SORRY OTHELLO, but 10 years seems like a reasonable gap. I actually liked the older [Wednesday] one a bit better: TWISTER CHECKERS [“Tornado monitors”] and CLUE MONOPOLY [“What the only detective on a case has?”] were very clever; and the BACK TO BACK GAMES revealer was nice. Interesting that both had to go outside the board game category for one themer.

  4. Carole Tucci says:

    Bro, the point of Lolita is to be repellent and show the machinations abusers create to justify their actions.

    • PJ says:

      Bro? Referring to Jenni? Srsly?

      Also, that explanation reminds me of Southern Baptists viewing pornography so they can knowledgeably discuss how evil it is.

      • Carole Tucci says:

        Srsly? Seriously?

        • PJ says:

          Seems apt in a response to a post that leads with Bro.

          • Ethan says:

            I have not read Lolita and it’s not near the top on my list of things to read, but I thought Jenni’s words typified a certain kind of ambiguous Fiend comment that might be confusing, if not downright frustrating, for constructors. Jenni thought the clue on LOLITA was responsibly done, but the book is “repellent.”

            Does this mean:

            A. “Lolita” is a bad book that should not be read by anyone and, one presumes, should probably not be amplified by inclusion in a crossword puzzle, although Poole mitigated this problem as much as it can be mitigated with a neutral clue.

            B. There’s no problem whatsoever with the inclusion of LOLITA in the grid as long as the clue is neutral (the book is famous, after all), and Jenni’s feelings about the artistic merits of the book are merely a personal aside.

            I have noticed a lot of Fiend reviewers express distaste for a word in a puzzle without clarifying whether this is meant only as a tangent to inject a bit of color to the commentary or an actual demerit to the puzzle. For newer constructors who are trying to build their wordlists and understand their audience, I think these comments can be challenging to interpret. Does Jenni think LOLITA should be removed from wordlists (because the existence of the book and character is an evil), kept but scored lower (because the book is potentially upsetting to some people), or kept at the same score as the name of any other book or book character (because people are entitled to different opinions about books)?

            • DJ says:

              Another annoying internet trend that seems to be catching on at this site is this thing where someone gives a subjective opinion, one which very much can be refuted or challenged in a good faith way, and the reviewer will say “please don’t “but actually” me.” Essentially they’re saying “I have an opinion that you can’t disagree with,” as if their personal viewpoints are axiomatic, self-affirming truths.

              I realize the internet is a toxic place where the standards of discourse have been slowing dying over the last few decades, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that this sort of attitude – asserting opinions as absolutes and preemptively forbidding dissent – contributes absolutely nothing positive to the world and only furthers the decay of our culture.

            • CWilson says:

              Agreed w/DJ: Saying “Don’t but actually me” is one of the weakest and worst forms of dialogue or analysis possible.

            • Billy Boy says:

              “I have an opinion that you can’t disagree with,” as if their personal viewpoints are axiomatic, self-affirming truths.”


              Yeah, I seen that

            • pannonica says:

              Not speaking for anyone but myself, in the write-ups I approach potentially controversial topics multiple ways.

              Sometimes I’ll express my opinion straightforwardly, strongly or otherwise; other times I’m more epigrammatic, which I often hope will spur conversation in the comments.

              I generally deploy ‘don’t @ me’ in a humorous way, if at all.

              All that said, there remain subjects/opinions that I feel are non-negotiable.

          • Carole Tucci says:

            lol holy shit you need to broaden your mind. Check your horoscope or something.

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    USA Today … Yet another drubbing for me today at the hands of EA. By the time I finally got to the end of this solve, I’d completely forgotten that I left a blank way back at the beginning in the NW. I’ve never heard of FINNPOE {1A: “Star Wars” ship} or the crossing NBD {3D: “Don’t worry about it,” for short} (I realized after the fact that this must be shorthand for ‘no big deal’). I also finished up with a double Natick square guess at BONNET {14A: Sleep garment} crossing both LOCS {8D: They might be palm-rolled} and ONE {9D: Taking estrogen, for short}. (I know they’re not, strictly speaking, Natick crosses since they aren’t proper nouns, but the effect is still the same.) I don’t think of a BONNET as a “sleep garment”. I have no idea what LOCS are (is?) or what the clue is referring to. I now know that the answer for 9-Down should be parsed as “ON E” for “on estrogen”. But doesn’t that make the clue inappropriate since it specifically includes “estrogen”? Ouch.

    • Lester says:

      Every time you post about USA Today, you make me happier that I stopped doing it (the puzzle, not posting).

    • John says:

      By dumb luck I got the puzzle but it was a struggle. I now know that “locs” are short for dread locks. Also, the “ship” is slang for/a shortening of the word “relationship”. Finn and Poe are 2 Star Wars characters I’ve never heard of. I call bullshit on that one.

      Still not educated on why “poms” is the answer for School Dance Team.

    • malaika says:

      you probably don’t think of a BONNET as a sleep garment because you don’t wear one. but millions of people do: https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-bonnets.html

  6. Jeremy says:

    Jim P, if your only exposure to “rumpus” is as a lead-in to “room,” you owe it to yourself to go read Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” https://tinyurl.com/d5bhh33a

    • Eric H says:

      “Miller’s Crossing” makes good use of “rumpus.” And it’s got one of John Tuturro’s best performances.

  7. Brenda Rose says:

    USAToday – Because EA likes us to learn words from multi-cultures I really had a hard time with BONNETS/LOCS. The last time I saw bonnets used as sleeping garments was in the poem “Twas the night before Christmas.” What culture wears bonnets when they sleep today? & to plop down a down clue with Locs? That was just plain lazy editing from a constructor I esteem.

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