Sunday, December 11, 2022

LAT tk(Gareth) 


NYT 14:17 (Nate) 


USA Today 5:28 (Darby)  


Universal (Sunday) untimed (Jim P) 


Universal 3:58 (norah) 


WaPo untimed (Matthew) 


Laura Taylor Kinnel’s New York Times crossword, “Step on It!” —Nate’s write-up

It’s our second Sunday NYT puzzle in a row made by a solo woman constructor – I could get used to this! There’s something buggy about this puzzle, though… let’s take a look:

12.11.22 Sunday New York Times Crossword

12.11.22 Sunday New York Times Crossword

– 23A: PYTHAGORE(AN T)HEOREM [Hypotenuse-finding formula]
– 40A: ABOVE REP(ROACH) [Having an impeccable reputation, say]
– 43A: DESI(GNAT)ED DRIVER [One drinking soft drinks at a party, perhaps]
– 67A: CEL[TIC K]NOT [Symbol of Irish heritage]
– 89A: INSPECTOR C[LOUSE]AU [“The Pink Panther” character]
– 92A: IN LIKE [FLY]NN [Having successfully made it, slangily]
– 110A: LUDWIG VAN [BEE]THOVEN [Composer who studied under Joseph Hadyn]

Each of our themers contains a squashed bug, represented as a single-square rebus. It’s a fun theme that allowed for solidly in-the-language theme entries and a pretty clean grid full of fun bonus entries like PATOOTIE and WATERMELON. I don’t know that the puzzle needed a bug-killing title when some play on trapping these bugs might have also worked, so apologies to everyone out there who enjoys their bugs alive!

In lieu of my random thoughts, I’ll focus on a personal note about 99A:

I was part of the initial official cohort of test solvers for the NYT puzzle a year or two back. As part of that stint, I once reviewed a puzzle that had this puzzle’s same clue for SON, [Prince but not a princess]. I wrote the editing team and asked if they might change the clue, given that when I was a young SON, I so desperately wanted to be a princess myself. I know I’m not alone among queer men in that feeling. That such an innocuous entry and seemingly harmless clue could take a knife right to the heart of my young queer self (even as I push 40) was quite the surprise. I was so happy when they agreed to change the clue in that puzzle… so imagine my heart when I saw it pop up again in today’s puzzle. There are a jillion ways to clue SON and none of them require reinforcement of nonsense rigid gender binaries that do real damage. I have no idea where the clue originated (my hunch is that the constructor had a different clue here), but it’s ultimately up to the editors on which clues make the final cut. I hope they do better in the future.

That said, I still think the constructor did a great job building this smooth grid, and I enjoyed solving it (99A aside).  Congrats, and here’s to many more, Laura!

Universal Crossword, “Coffee Break” by Julian Lim — norah’s write-up

THEME: Types of coffee drinks (ESPRESSO, MOCHA, CORTADO, LATTE) in circled squares are breaking over blocks in four spots


Universal, 12-11-22 J. Lim

Universal, 12-11-22 J. Lim

  • SARA 19A [Bareilles of “Girls5eva”]
  • ISSUE 39A [“Batman” installment, e.g.]
  • ADORABLE 49A [Aww-inspiring?]
  • MUDFLAT 62A [Habitat for oysters?]
  • INDEEDY 66A [“Yes, ___” (“Darn tootin'”)]
  • BREATHE 8D [Get some air?] ⭐
  • SIMU 60D [“Shang-Chi” actor Liu]


Because there have been so many great themeless Sundays lately, a themed puzzle is now a rare treat for me. And I enjoyed this one with my own MOCHA. No revealer required as the title ties it together perfectly. Though I got off to a bit of a SLOWSTART (19D [Bad thing to get off to in a race]) in the NW and thanks to unusual vocabulary like SERVILE and [Denouement] (4D), in the end it came together nice and clean.

I learned:

  • ALEX 2D [Honnold who free soloed El Capitan]

Thank you Julian!

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword, “Fringe Film Festival” —Matthew’s write-up

Evan Birnholz’ Washington Post crossword solution, “Fringe Film Festival,” 12/11/2022

I have no good lede this week: our title is “Fringe Film Festival,” and entries along the edge of the grid extend one letter outward, forming twelve additional entries, all movie titles.

While the theme was quickly apparent and I solved it without, Evan does provide clues to the 12 films:

Fringe Films:
1. [1982 film that takes place in cyberspace] TRON
2. [2013 film with a virtual assistant named Samantha] HER
3. [2003 film with the line “Treat every day like Christmas”] ELF
4. [2007 film featuring the song “Falling Slowly”] ONCE
5. [1989 film featuring TV shows on Channel 62] UHF
6. [2012 film in which a stuffed bear comes to life] TED
7. [1968 film about the actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence] STAR
8. [2013 film about a novice nun living in the Polish People’s Republic] IDA
9. [1989 film in which John Tremont spends quality time with his father] DAD
10. [2020 film adapted from a Jane Austen novel] EMMA
11. [2010 film with an acronymic, colorful title] RED
12. [2004 film that served as the basis of a horror-themed Las Vegas escape room] SAW

And a 13th — as we’ve seen from a few of Evan’s puzzle recently — tying it together:

13. [1983 film whose title is spelled clockwise in the first letters of the other 12 films] THE OUTSIDERS

THE OUTSIDERS, of course, is an apt answer to include in a grid involving entries around the edge, and there is one more theme-relevant entry at 78a [What edgy films do, just like 13 films in this puzzle] PUSH THE BOUNDARIES.

It’s a conscientious grid: unsurprisingly, all twelve films are common enough words, the 13th film is a nice touch, and all entries that extend past the 21x21x grid are themselves valid entries without the “extra” letter (T/RAP, R/OLE, etc etc)

John-Clark Levin’s Universal Sunday crossword, “Love Letters”—Jim P’s review

Theme clues hint at people whose favorite letters are homophones for apt items.

Universal Sunday crossword solution · “Love Letters” · John-Clark Levin · 12.11.22

  • 22a. [Person whose favorite letter might be B?] ENTOMOLOGIST. Bee.
  • 30a. [Person whose favorite letter might be U?] SHEEPHERDER. Ewe.
  • 51a. [Person whose favorite letter might be Q?] POOL SHARK. Cue.
  • 53a. [Person whose favorite letter might be Y?] PHILOSOPHER. Why.
  • 75a. [Person whose favorite letter might be J?] BIRD WATCHER. Jay.
  • 77a. [Person whose favorite letter might be T?] PRO GOLFER. Tee.
  • 94a. [Person whose favorite letter might be I?] OPTOMETRIST. Eye.
  • 111a. [Person whose favorite letter might be C?] YACHT CAPTAIN. Sea.

Nice enough theme. Some of these are a little squishy though. SHEEPHERDER is a legit term, but most of us would use the word “shepherd.” And is YACHT CAPTAIN an in-the-language phrase? The clue would work for any person who makes their life on the ocean, so might not there be a better option? But on the whole, it’s a solid theme. I liked the PHILOSOPHER entry best of all.

In the fill, the grid boasts many long juicy answers to sink our teeth into. Those stacks in the NE/SW are especially nice: ESP TESTS, STEEL-CUT, TEAMMATE, RIESLING, AGE RANGE, and HEDONIST. Elsewhere, ARMCHAIR, PEAK HOURS, PIGGY BANK, APPLETINI, ON THE SPOT, PINOCCHIO, EARPIECESTELEPORTS, RING POP, EASY OUT, and “I GIVE UP” are all strong assets to the puzzle.

Did you know there were no less than three PINOCCHIO films this year. According to this list, the live-action Zemeckis/Hanks outing came in at #21 of the top 24 films about the little liar. That’s two worse than the Pauly Shore-dubbed Russian animated flm. Lastly, the Guillermo del Toro film just dropped on Netflix two days ago and is getting outstanding reviews. The clue is a simple [Geppetto’s puppet], but I wouldn’t have minded if it referred to the unusual concurrence of films this year.

I will end it there. Solid theme but with plenty of lovely long fill. 3.75 stars.

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Care Package” —Darby’s write-up

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme: Each theme answer contains the wod “CARE,” making it the packaging of the puzzle’s title.

Theme Answers

Zhouqin Burnikel's USA Today crossword, "Care Package" solution for 12/11/2022

Zhouqin Burnikel’s USA Today crossword, “Care Package” solution for 12/11/2022

  • 16a [“Place to eat outside”] PICNIC AREA
  • 34a [“Place for a piston”] CAR ENGINE
  • 61a [“Music label with an alleged curse”] RCA RECORDS

The theme of this puzzle ended up being exactly what I expected. However, I still wanted to fill 16a with PICNIC TABLE and PICNIC BENCH (both of which would’ve been too long) since they’re the more common phrases. Still, PICNIC AREA certainly worked. CAR ENGINE was pretty manageable, and it was nice to see RCA RECORDS written out in full since we usually see RCA on its own.

This puzzle was pretty straightforward for a Sunday. I liked the tea combos with 15a [“Elaichi ___ (cardamomtea)”] CHAI right on top of 18a [“___ Grey tea”] EARL. It was also really fun to start with PEEP at 1a [“Sound from inside an incubator”]. If you’re hungry, I hope that you had a snack before doing this puzzle since there was 24a [“Shio or shoyu noodle dish”] RAMEN, 60a “Its juice is used in larb”] LIME, 4d [“Seed stir-fried with sweet corn”] PINE NUT, and 49d [“Cook-off dish”] CHILI in addition to the teas and SODAS as beverages within the grid.

The nerd that I am, I also enjoyed 22a [“Org. with Artemis missions”] NASA and 26d [“Lake fed by the Cuyahoga River”] ERIE. Overall, just a fun Sunday puzzle to work through.

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17 Responses to Sunday, December 11, 2022

  1. Brian says:

    I do these in the app on my phone. Its so frustrating not being able to type the words in the rebus. Am i doing something wrong? I end up coming to a site like this to see what im doing wrong and it feels like cheating.

    • RHC says:

      Here’s how it works in my (Apple) phone app: the key to the left of “z” is “more.” Touch it, and a keyboard with “rebus” on the bottom row far right appears. Touch it and type in the rebus letters. Then touch any square in the puzzle to exit the rebus.

      • Philip says:

        Similar on Android. Three dots at left on bottom row brings up rebus box. Press “done” when finished entering.

  2. Leading Edge Boomer says:

    NYT: An excellent rebus puzzle. But the title, “Step on It!”, at first led me to look for dropping “IT” from answers. Then the bugs came out, actually. However, stepping on a gnat, fly, or bee seems unlikely (unlike the others). So my NIT (a young or future bug) is with the title, really.

    • JohnH says:

      I noticed it but decided not to worry about it. Still, an apter title might also have been a funnier one, I hope. (Maybe something the cartoon Bugs would say?) As it was, the puzzle was a breeze, maybe too easy for my own taste, and I just kept wishing for more of a payoff to earn a smile, like a punning revealer.

  3. Allen Krantz says:

    Enjoyable puzzle but offensive title. Do we not value bees at this point, or appreciate insects’ place in the natural scheme of things? Many other titles would have worked….this one bugs me.

    • David L says:

      Totally agree.

    • Mutman says:

      Indeed! As a member of LICE (Let Insect Cruelty End — and organization dedicated to end the needless cruelty and death to insects everywhere) I found the title to be deeply offensive.

      When our kids see a bug and we tell them to ‘STEP ON IT’ or worse yet, ‘just kill it’, we are teaching them that it is justifiable as a superior species to just rid ourselves of things we just don’t like. No wonder there are problems in the world! I would hope Shortz and company would be more sympathetic to life everywhere, not just our own kind.

  4. marciem says:

    NYT: A great puzzle to pick nits on LOL!! I really enjoyed this one, even to trying to figure out how I would step on a gnat :P . I did start out thinking ‘IT’ was going to be the rebus, but that didn’t work. I had the same thought about respect for bees, but they do die, sometimes writhing on the ground and could be stepped on.

    WaPo… Yay me I got it!! I think this was a meta with perfect instructions in notepad, and was worth the work!! Thank you Evan! A really fun puzzle. (this from a non-meta person). I might have gotten the movies (sussed the idea pretty quickly) but never the final layered one.

  5. Just Saying says:

    Was very touched by Nateś comment about 99A. We come to these puzzles,
    and these word games, hoping to escape from the challenges and hardships of
    of the world; so, when the insensitive world does slip into this cherished space, the
    pangs are even worse….That being said, the clue and answer for 27A were particularly
    in tune with the changes in our society.

  6. Brian Mitchinson says:

    WaPo: loved that moment when I looked back up at the note from Evan (“Happy Birthday Dad”). Solid and very entertaining puzzle!

  7. Issa says:

    This is probably silly of me to post but one thing that annoyed me about this puzzle was 85A: Non reversal? In french if you contradict a negative with a positive you don’t say “oui” but instead “si”. Quand même

  8. SIPTB says:

    So Gareth begins a new streak of no comments, for the Sunday LATXW, after gracing us with his comments on 12/4. Wonder why he even bothered to comment on that puzzle after a string of 4 weeks without so much as one word?

Comments are closed.