Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Jonesin' 6:09 (Erin) 


LAT untimed (Jenni) 


NYT 3:05 (Amy) 


The New Yorker untimed (pannonica) 


Universal 3:15 (Matt F) 


USA Today 2:48 (Sophia) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Xword Nation untimed (Ade) 


Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ Crossword, “Bird is the Word” – Erin’s write-up

Jonesin' solution 11/29/22

Jonesin’ solution 11/29/22

Hello everyone! This week’s Jonesin’ theme alludes to Twitter, our favorite flailing social media company.

  • 17a. [Tiny solution for cleaning up (like an understaffed moderation team)] TOWELETTE
  • 21a. [Symbol of clumsiness (like announcing, then canceling, an $8/month verification system)] TWO LEFT FEET
  • 39a. [Use unfair tactics (like suspending accounts from just one side of the political spectrum)] HIT BELOW THE BELT
  • 55a. [Evoking both happy and sad feelings (like a social network that’s provided both joy and frustration)] BITTERSWEET
  • 62a. [U.K. “Love Is All Around” band which lost 40% of its members in 2022 (like a certain website that’s apparently hemorrhaging users)] WET WET WET
  • 69a. [Message that can be seen hidden in order in the five longest answers (which might not be seen anymore if its platform implodes)] TWEET.

If you thought the theme involved jumbled up birds (OWL in 21a. and 39a., TIT in 55a.), I see you.

Other things:

  • 67a. [Nail file stuff] EMERY. I never knew why nail files were called emery boards. Emery is a mixture of corundum, or aluminum oxide (which is the primary material of sapphire and ruby) mixed with other minerals.
  • 9d. [Marina of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”] SIRTIS. She played Counselor Deanna Troi in the series. Total Geek Confession Time: In medical school, if it was after normal business hours we had to sign into the building containing the gym. My then-boyfriend and I were there all the time, with our IDs, and they knew who we were, but we still had to sign in every single time. One evening we decided to rebel (as much as you could as a med student), and we signed the log as Deanna Troi and William Riker. We worked out as usual, nobody acknowledged the presence of Starfleet officers in the building, and Reader, I married him.

Until next week!

Josh Goodman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Order in the Court”—Jim P’s review

Theme: ALL RISE (65a, [Bailiff’s request, and a feature of this puzzle]). Theme answers are familiar phrases that feature the letters ALL. They’re positioned in the Down direction in such a way that the letters ALL seem to rise when proceeding from left to right. In keeping with that motif, I’ll present the theme answers from left to right.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Order in the Court” · Josh Goodman · Tue., 11.29.22

  • 39d. [Free-throw flub] AIRBALL.
  • 22d. [Primary motor cortex’s setting] FRONTAL LOBE.
  • 14d. [Sentence starter, usually] CAPITAL LETTER.
  • 8d. [Lens figure] FOCAL LENGTH.
  • 11d. [Tempo faster than moderato but slower than vivace] ALLEGRO.

Solid theme, though I have to admit it didn’t do a lot for me. I think Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen ruined this type of theme for me with their near-perfect Descent of Man puzzle. What I loved most about that puzzle was that each theme answer was a grid-spanner, thus giving them no wiggle room in the placement of their entries. But this one does its job well, and the theme answers are solid.

But they must have been hard to work with since there’s a 13-letter entry going down the middle and a 9-letter entry going across the center. Plus the 7-letter revealer in the bottom right. The result is an unusually-shaped grid with four largish corners. You can see the difference in a corner with no theme material (the NW) which is the smoothest of them all. The rest aren’t bad, but we get some less-than-stellar fare in ELECTS TO and RAN AT.

On the plus side, I liked RICH KID, SANTA FEMISS OUT, SEÑORITA, and de Bergerac’s BIG NOSE.

Clue of note: 47a. [Adrenaline, for short]. EPI. I admit to not knowing adrenaline and epinephrine are the same thing. But even so, do people say “EPI” other than when referring to an EpiPen?

The grid must have been a challenge to fill, but it’s solid all around. 3.5 stars.

David Rockow’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 11 29 22, no. 1129

This theme is really for the birds. Literally!

1d. [Tweeters] BIRDS

51d. [Gathering of 1-Down, like that found in the center of this puzzle], FLOCK. Though technically, a flock wouldn’t be seven birds of different species hanging out together.

37a. [Element of plumage … and a feature shared by every answer crossing this one], FEATHER. The seven crossings are the FALCON, WREN, RHEA, KESTREL, HAWK, NENE, and CONDOR, all clued with bird facts.

Bonus thematic material includes PEACE CORPS clued via a dove, URBAN AREAS clued via pigeons, and not symmetrically, IDIOT clued as [Turkey] and a finch in the birdSEED clue. The 15-letter downs are not theme entries.

I’m moderately into birds, so I enjoyed the avian quizzing here.

Least favorite fill, again: DR. WHO. If you want to know why, see last Wednesday’s post and comments.

Liked seeing Rosalind Franklin in the DNA clue.

3.75 stars from me.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s Crsswrd Nation puzzle (Week 600), “Doorbusters!”—Ade’s take

Crossword Nation puzzle solution, Week 600: “Doorbusters!”

Hello there, everyone! I hope you’re doing well as we quickly speed into the final month of 2022!

We have a milestone puzzle, as this is the 600th puzzle of the Crossword Nation series! Man, if we made a cake for it, can we make one big enough to fit 600 candles?! Anyways, on to the puzzle. In many respects, our intrepid constructor has busted doors open in the crossword community, being a mentor and guiding light for many others who have followed her path into creating and solving crossword puzzles. So very fitting that we have different types of doors being referenced in the circled boxes that are separated by black squares.

      • SAMS CLUB (17A: [Walmart’s bulk-buying chain]) + ARNOLD (18A: [Golf’s Palmer]) = – Barn (door)
      • HI SUGAR (26A: [Sweet greeting from your sweetie]) + AGES (31A: [Ice and Bronze, for two]) = Garage (door)
      • MULES (38A: [Stubborn critters]) + LID (39A: [Pot cover]) = INGOT (40A: [Bar of gold]) = Sliding (door)
      • ASTA (46A: [Nick and Nora’s pooch]) + GEYSERS (47A: [Ones blowing off steam?]) = Stage (door)
      • WERNER (59A: [Film director Herzog]) + EVOLVING (61A: [Changing with time]) = Revolving- (door)

Loved the intersection of SLAM (34A: [Poetry contest]) and EMILY, especially since the latter always makes me think of the time I won third place at a poetry-reading competition in eighth grade (32D: [Poet Dickinson]). The story about how I even decided to enter, and eventually read aloud one of Dickinson’s poems, is something I’ll never forget. Our religion/spelling teacher, Sister Alice, passed around different poetry books in our class in the hopes that a few of us would come across a poem they like and, if they so choose, volunteer to sign up for the poetry slam. When coming into possession of one of the books, I came across Dickinson’s “I’m Nobody. Who are you?” and started reading it aloud softly, but didn’t think anyone would notice because others in the class were talking out loud, too. Out of nowhere, as if she had supersonic hearing, Sister Alice spots me and asks if I’m reading “I’m Nobody…,” which she said was one of her favorite poems. I said yes, but was getting ready to move on to another poem before she asked me to read it out loud in the class. I never saw a sparking in a teacher’s eye glisten more than when she heard me reading that poem!! I mean, yikes! She pretty much goaded me into putting my name into the competition, and who was I to turn a nun down?! I mean, my 13-year-old self was worried about getting into heaven and thinking that saying no wouldn’t help my case for when my time comes!

So the day of the poetry slam is here, and Sister Alice, after coaching me up for says like Gene Hackman’s Norman Dale character from Hoosiers, is one of the judges. As my luck would have it, the person who performed before me absolutely…tore…the…house…down!! I forget if it was a Maya Angelou poem or not, but it definitely was a black empowerment-themed poem, and the young girl nailed every line, struck every emotional chord and, afterward, got a rousing round of applause in the school gymnasium. And deservedly so! Oh…I’m next, and by the time I walk onto the stage, the standing ovation hadn’t ended yet. I was toast. No one would even remember what in the world I said. But I performed it, and I emoted and gesticulated and did my very, very best! Then there’s a pair of us…DON’T TELL!! They’d BANISH US, you know!!

Afterward, there was a courtesy applause, as the audience was still buzzing from the person who came before me. I knew I didn’t win, and I knew that the person who preceded me would win hands down…which she did! Two days later, during a spelling class, Sister Alice came up to me and shared some news, which I was anticipating would be something akin to, “You tried your best, and that’s all that matters.” She told me that I came in third place in the judges’ tally, and got a small bronze medal that I received once it came to the school. I don’t know how much sway Sister Alice had with the judges, if any, but I can’t thank her enough for her encouragement!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: BEDROCK (45D: [“The Flintstones” town]) – One of the top relievers in baseball during the 1980s, former pitcher Steve Bedrosian, nicknamed “Bedrock,” amassed 184 career saves during his Major League career, from 1981 to 1995. In 1987, Bedrosian had his best season, recording 40 saves for the Philadelphia Phillies and becoming one of the few relief pitchers in history to win the Cy Young Award.

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

Take care!


Catherine Cetta’s Universal Crossword – “Bands Together” – Matt F’s write up

Universal Solution 11.29.2022, “Bands Together” by Catherine Cetta

Theme: The reveal at 58A [Young wedding participant, or a hint to the end of 17-, 24-, 35- or 49-Across] tells us we are looking for a RING BEARER at the end of each theme answer. Let’s take a closer look:

  • 17A [Diagram of relative interest?] FAMILY TREE
  • 24A[A Hollywood breakup might lead to one] MEDIA CIRCUS
  • 35A [Exactly] ON THE NOSE
  • 49A [Comic newspaper?] DAILY PLANET

All trees have rings to indicate their age. All circuses have rings where acts are performed. Some noses have rings if they’re pierced. A planet has rings if its Saturn (ok, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune also have rings but I know you didn’t think of them!). The general-to-specific progression of this theme set is interesting. All theme answers follow the “blank RING” convention, as in tree-ring, circus-ring, nose-ring, and planet-ring, so that’s a plus for consistency. I can’t help but wonder if there could have been a punchier clue for ON THE NOSE.

While the grid doesn’t have any extra long bonuses, I’m impressed by the clean triple stacks of 7’s in all four corners. Topping the bunch are ALFALFA, AS A RULE, ITS A SIN, BAD MOVE, OH SORRY, and UMPTEEN.

Clues: [Totally confused] is most certainly LOST. [Equipment for blasting rock?] is not dynamite – we are talking about rock music and the answer is AMPS (a sneaky plural if you ask me). [First lady’s garden?] is referring to the first lady in the Bible, Eve, and her garden of EDEN. [Take in or let out] is not referring to an adopted pet, but to a seamster’s task to ALTER a garment. I’m not convinced that ROTE works as an adverb to match the same part of speech hinted by “way to memorize” in the clue (“rotely” or “by rote” would work). [Memory used to store times tables] might have connected better with the noun form.

Comments: The word ASPIC does not sound pleasant, but it is, apparently, a savory meat-based jelly. Google Ngram Viewer tells me that “seedier” is a more common synonym for “more sordid,” but SEAMIER is apparently more common than “sleazier.”

Words-that-follow-half themes are pretty overdone, but it’s a classic theme type and this puzzle executes it well with a clean grid to boot. Nicely done, Catherine.

Rafael Musa’s USA Today Crossword, “Splitting Dessert” — Sophia’s recap

Editor:  Erik Agard
Theme: Each theme answer begins with FL and ends with AN, splitting the word FLAN.

USA Today, 11 29 2022, “Splitting Dessert”

    • 20a [Midwestern city where some people call paper grocery bags “Hamady sacks”] – FLINT MICHIGAN
    • 46a [Legendary ghost ship from the Netherlands] – FLYING DUTCHMAN
    • 61a [Occasional meat-eater] – FLEXITARIAN

Cute theme, although I’m not sure exactly why flan is the only dessert on the menu…. It might have been cool to split different desserts for each theme answer, although that would make the theme harder to see, and I’m not sure how many short-named desserts there are. “Cake”, at least…. The theme answers themselves are nice. I did not know FLINT MICHIGAN called paper grocery bags “Hamady sacks”, but I do have a strong memory of getting a soda in a gas station in South Dakota once and the clerk asking me if I “wanted my pop in a sack”. I miss the midwest.

This puzzle played incredibly easy for me – I swear I didn’t read at least a third of the clues because I didn’t need them from getting the crosses. That’s pretty rare for me on the USA Today, as often times there is specific knowledge that requires me to go back through an area, but that didn’t really happen today.

Clues/answers that I knew that might stymie other folks: [“___ on Titan”] for ATTACK, [Uramaki seaweed] for NORI

Clues/answers that were new to me: [Daredevil aka ___ Murdock] for MATT, [Dance taught by Keali’i Reichel] for HULA, [Dong, in baseball] for HOME RUN – I’ve only heard “dinger”.

Jared Goudsmit’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Jenni’s write-up

There’s a lot of theme material in this puzzle and it works overall. Each theme entry is a two-word phrase where each word starts with P.

Los Angeles Times, November 29, 2022, Jared Goudsmit, solution grid

  • 3d [Noodles often served alla vodka] is PENNE PASTA.
  • 17a [Big name in crossword magazines] is PENNY PRESS.
  • 28a [Wet blanket] is a PARTY POOPER.
  • 30d [Picnic dinnerware] is a PAPER PLATE.
  • 47a [Challenging yoga asana named for a showy bird] is PEACOCK POSE.
  • 61a [Electricity facility] is a POWER PLANT.

I like the way the theme answers interlock. They’re all in the language (although I rarely hear PENNE PASTA  – usually it’s just PENNE). It’s a perfectly fine Tuesday theme.

We had to wake up at 4:30 this morning to take our kid to the airport so I am TIRED. I’ll skip right to “what I didn’t know before I did this puzzle” and tell you that PEACOCK POSE is new to me. It sure does look challenging.

Peacock pose

Wyna Liu’s New Yorker crossword — pannonica’s write-up

New Yorker • 11/29/22 • Tue • Liu • solution • 20221129

I am back.

Today’s ‘moderately challenging’ crossword in the New Yorker felt like a bark-is-worse-than-its-bite puzzle. Sometimes a clue looked as if it might be tough, but it never seemed to be. Or at least they never presented that much of an obstacle.

The misdirection clues were clever in ways that let you appreciate them, without being overly tenuous or recondite:

  • 2d [Result of cord-cutting?] NAVEL.
  • 15d [It’s not far from the median] LEFT LANE.
  • 17a [French toast] À VOTRE SANTÉ.
  • 19a [Brand with instant success] NESCAFÉ.
  • 30a [Place that lacks spirit?] DRY STATE.

Very nice stuff.

  • 5d [Lead-in to byte or hertz] TERA. Am considering getting an 1TB SSD external hard drive to back up my data.
  • 11d [Unfortunate first-base choice] BAD KISSER. Even though it’s the wrong length, the humorous BACKFLIP crossed my mind here. Either in baseball or dating, that’d be unadvised.
  • Sort of a Peter Gabriel trifecta: 31d [Actual] REAL WORLD (his record label), 12d [“Didn’t think I’d run into you!”] OH HI THERE (a spoken “hi there” introduces ‘Sledgehammer’). 41d [Knockout] STUNNER (a memorable lyric from ‘Games Without Frontiers’).
  • 53d [“A Woman Under the Influence” actress Rowlands] GENA. Great film, amazing performance. Not always easy to watch, though.
  • 14a [Fabled Voodoo Queen of New Orleans] MARIE LAVEAU. Couldn’t quite remember her surname, so crossings were required. Pretty sure a pivotal scene in Easy Rider involved her grave and the cemetery that it’s in.
  • 28a [Discipline that includes Long Fist and Southern Fist styles] WUSHU. “Wushu is the Chinese term for ‘martial arts’ (武 Wu = combat or martial, 術 Shu = art).” (Wikipedia). Another, earlier transliteration is kung fu.
  • West Coast sch. that was one of the original four nodes of the Internet forerunner ARPANET] UCSB. Thanks once again to Wikipedia, I can tell you that the other three were UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, and the University of Utah.
  • 52a [Word with a shared root] COGNATE. Latin cognatus, from co- + gnatus, natus, past participle of nasci to be born; akin to Latin gignere to beget — more at KIN. (m-w)
  • 55a [May kittens appear here?] CAT CALENDAR. If you must have a CAT CALENDAR, might I suggest the 2023 Social Justice Kittens calendar. from Sean Tajaratchi at Liartown USA? “Each of these twelve adorable kittens was subject to a week-long, grueling interview process to ensure there was absolutely nothing problematic in its beliefs.”

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21 Responses to Tuesday, November 29, 2022

  1. Dallas says:

    NYT: The bird theme was interesting; once I got to the center, I felt a bit unsure—how many birds do I actually know?—but it came together reasonably smoothly. I guess that’s what a Tuesday buys you :-) It was nice seeing the long down entries too.

  2. PJ says:

    TNY – the step from Challenging to Moderately Challenging is a big one. I prefer the tough ones like TNY Monday and Stumper. I find I’m solving fewer puzzles these days. Filling in answers just about as quickly as I can type isn’t a lot of fun.

    • Flinty Steve says:

      I hope you’re doing Tim Croce’s Club 72 puzzles (https://club72.wordpress.com/). Consistently difficult and very fun – posted every Tuesday and Friday at 6 p.m. Eastern.

    • JohnH says:

      I sympathize, since I far prefer NYT puzzles late in the week to early in the week. I’d just caution you. First, I bet not a lot of people can race through a puzzle, especially a Tuesday TNY but for some even a Monday NYT, and they’re worth accommodating, too. Second, I’d never dream of rating a puzzle based on its difficulty. There will always be harder and easier puzzles, and just look at all the publications that have a stated progression over the course of the week.

      Most important, please don’t miss the nature of actual overwhelming criticism of TNY puzzles, like yesterday. One should ask not the difficulty, but two things. Is it right for that day of the week? (If you raced through a Tuesday, I’m guessing not, but of course that’s not the same as finding Tuesday level puzzles lacking, and I can’t yet say how I’ll do.) And second, is it better than a slog and is it fair? A lot of us are just losing patience with words that require every crossing and crossings that are obscure, too. think so many of us yesterday saw the setter as out to make a clue harder by any means necessary, and that can hide a multitude of sins, from proper name crossings to that northern city in a language we can’t know to “a castle” where the move is called castling. Please don’t sell us short. We’re not asking for much.

      • JohnH says:

        Did it. While I can’t say that I just blithely wrote in all the fill, not when I didn’t know MARIE L. or WUSHU, but agreed it’s on the easy side for a Tuesday.

        • PJ says:

          I didn’t mean to imply that I simply entered everything without thinking or I didn’t enjoy it. It just fell a *lot* faster than yesterday.

    • GlennG says:

      To be fair, I should point out today’s NYT was better than yesterdays, though still obscure on a number of levels, requiring a fair number of potshots at some obscure crossings. Mind you, the problem with any of these we are having isn’t so much “it’s hard”, but “it’s deliberately impossible to the point of requiring Google to do it for you”. At least to be fair, I can say they’re still a lot better than the very first ones that were released.

      To wit, admittedly I’m in a weird place where most of my solves over the week constitute almost a flat-line, I’m guessing because I’m finding consistently that scant few entries are “gimmes” even from Monday onward. But honestly, one could literally make a crossword unsolvable (without cheating) to anyone by packing enough obscurities in them or using enough capricious and fallacious cluing (the other big problem I see). Like @JohnH: Is it entertaining and is it fair? TNY definitely has a lot of “calibration” wrong in my estimation. But then again these days, my NYT Tues-Wed comes within shouting distance of my Fri-Sat most weeks…

      That said, I definitely find myself doing less crosswords lately due to various frustrations and getting a lot more joy doing older crosswords both from an entertainment and challenge aspect.

    • Brenda Rose says:

      Andrew Ries’ Aries puzzles are killer. They’re a subscription but worth every penny. Stan Newman has a Hard Puzzle page & every other day is a banger. May I suggest PJ that you explore indies. Crosswordlinks @ gmail.com is free & provides oodles of very cool constructors via your email every day. Bewildering is another good one from Ned.

      • GlennG says:

        Seconded on both suggestions. I went to Ries’ Aries puzzles when Fireball puzzles started drying up and haven’t regretted it. The “Hard Puzzle page” page Brenda mentions is on the Arkadium site and consists of reprints of old Friday and Saturday Newsday puzzles (alternating “every other day”).

      • PJ says:

        Bad news. I subscribed to Andrew’s puzzles only t find out that the Freestyle puzzles will be discontinued at the end of the year. I’ll check out the others.

        • GlennG says:

          @PJ I just saw Andrew’s announcement with this week’s puzzle. Definitely sad to read. If you’re still interested in Andrew’s puzzles, you can always look under “Crossword Archive” and buy the old ones as it looks like they’re still being sold. Anything from 2021 on should fit the original request, as I notice from working an older set or two that they seem to be (by today’s terms) slightly harder than average Sat NYT.

          • PJ says:

            Andrew offered me the choice of refunding my payment or sending me the old (but new to me) puzzles. I opted for the puzzles.

  3. David L says:

    NYT: It’s certainly true that Rosalind Franklin did crucial work on the structure of DNA and that she was badly treated by her colleagues, but it’s an overstatement to say that she discovered the structure. As best as I understand it, she was still undecided between various models by the time Watson and Crick published their famous structure, and she thought they had insufficient evidence to prove that their double helix model was correct.

    • JohnH says:

      I had the same reaction. While Maurice Wilkins ran the lab and while they saw themselves as both in pursuit of the needed image, she got it, so one can only hope that, had she lived, she rather than he would have been a Nobel Prize winner along with Watson and Crick. But I never dreamed of thinking her as a or the discoverer of DNA’s structure.

      Maybe it’s one of those things that depend on what the meaning of “is” is. Or rather it depends on what is meant by discovery and structure. At the time, there was no question that, when Watson and Crick continued addressing the puzzle, the race was still on (with Linus Pauling in America seen as a key competitor, although he did not have the advantage of her x-ray), and they were more focused on the puzzle than the evidence as well. They got the double helix, and she did not, and their paper had that wonderfully wry ending that it had not escaped their attention its implication for DNA’s replication. Still, she did write that her x-rays showed a helix with base pairs on the outside. You can decide whether that’s the breakthrough or just close but no cigar. The players at the time and a textbook history ever since have voted, but one can always differ.

  4. Ethan says:

    NYT: 6D becomes OFA so easily. I wonder if there was any thought to doing a triple-entry revealer BIRDS / OFA / FEATHER?

  5. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT: Any baseball fans out there ever heard a HOME RUN referred to as a “dong”? I’ve been an avid baseball fan for over fifty years and don’t recall ever hearing it, but I’m sure there are regional variations in baseball slang and maybe I’m just not aware of this term. I think one of the idiot talking heads at ESPN sometimes pretends to be a munchkin and says “ding dong, the pitch is dead” when showing highlights, but that’s about as close as I can come.

  6. marciem says:

    WSJ: I didn’t notice until all done that the word “all” rises across the grid. I was put off by the word not rising (spelled down to up) in each iteration. Oh well, that’s why I only do crosswords, & don’t construct them :D :D .

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