Monday, December 12, 2022

BEQ tk(Matthew) 


LAT 1:45 (Stella) 


NYT 3:19 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 6:47 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Anthony J. Caruso and Zhouqin Burnikel’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up

New York Times, 12 12 2022, Anthony J. Caruso and Zhouqin Burnikel

Theme: GO FETCH – each of the theme answers begins with something a dog might fetch.

  • 16a [*High-energy person, metaphorically] – BALL OF FIRE
  • 63a [*Documentation leading to proof] – PAPER TRAIL
  • 10d [*Some fine porcelain] – BONE CHINA
  • 33d [*”Don’t quit now!”] – STICK TO IT
  • 39a [Dog command … or a hint to the starts of the answers to the four starred clues] – GO FETCH

Cute theme, and all the dog-loving solvers will go wild for it. The windmill arrangement of theme answers is always pretty, and it’s nice that the clues are starred for new solvers to see what’s theme material and what isn’t. I like how well STICK TO IT disguises the word “stick” – PAPER TRAIL also effectively changes the literal meaning of the base word well. BONE CHINA and BALL OF FIRE are fine answers, but neither one was particularly standout to me. Their main contribution is getting “Great Balls of Fire” stuck in my head for the last half hour.

Given that there are 5 theme answers, the grid is remarkably clean, as I would expect from  a constructor like C.C. There are very few proper nouns in the fill at all, which helps maintain fair crosses on Monday. The hardest cross for me was IN LEAF/CASABA, because I don’t like melon and thus don’t think about it often, and I’ve personally never heard the phrase IN LEAF There weren’t too many notable bonus answers, but some fun ones were HIP HOP and LAB RAT.

Quick hits:

  • Interesting that one of the longest answers in the puzzle, running through GO FETCH, is BEAGLES, and yet it is not at all mentioned in reference to the theme! I guess it must have just worked the best for the puzzle….
  • Panic! at the Disco’s genre has just been regular pop for the last ten years, none of this EMO-POP stuff. You think “High Hopes” is emo?
  • I really thought 6d[[Gone … just like that!]] was “poof” and not PFFT, which made me rethink my entire top middle of the puzzle.

Congrats to Anthony on a great debut and to C.C. for another great puzzle!

Wayne Bergman & Gary Otting’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Things Are Looking Up”—Jim P’s review

The theme consists of things that are OVER MY HEAD (61a, [“I don’t get it,” and where the starred answers might be found]).

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Things Are Looking Up” · Wayne Bergman & Gary Otting · Mon., 12.12.22

  • 17a. [*Ideal conditions for a stargazer] CLEAR SKIES.
  • 27a. [*Tropical paradise staple] PALM TREE.
  • 37a. [*Sunburn preventer] BEACH UMBRELLA.
  • 52a. [*Boater, for example] STRAW HAT.

In a nice touch, notice that the items listed are from furthest to closest. Also, there’s a definite tropical vacation vibe going on here, which makes me think one or both of the constructors were sitting on a beach when they thought this one up. We had a Christmas party at our house the other night and I tend to play reggae and island holiday music, so I can still hear the steel drums (see the video below which features three of the four theme items).

Solid fill with WATER FILTER and DIRECT ROUTE leading things off. I also liked “TOO FAR?” [“Did I cross a line?”]. In the tough-for-Monday category, we have crossing proper names TAYE Diggs and the Spanish river EBRO.

Clue of note: 69a. [Étouffée or feijoada]. STEW. I know étouffée is the Cajun shrimp dish, but the other is new to me. Feijoada is a Brazilian black bean stew and that country’s national dish.

The theme today is pretty wide open, but the far-to-near aspect and the tropical vibe won me over. 3.5 stars.

David Tuffs’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 12/12/22 by David Tuffs

Los Angeles Times 12/12/22 by David Tuffs

Another Monday, another sub-2-minute puzzle with a not-so-typical revealer at 55A [Irritating behaviors, and what the ends of the answers to the starred clues may be?] This gives us PET PEEVES, which, if read as “things that peeve a domestic animal,” explains the theme:

  • 17A [*Post-workout relaxation spot] is a STEAM BATH. Here, the meaning of BATH in its “something a doggo might not like” is a little too close to its meaning in the theme phrase IMO.
  • 23A [*Experienced pro] is a SEASONED VET. I like that VET stands for different things in the theme answer and in the sense of the revealer (“veteran” and “veterinarian,” respectively).
  • 33A [*1990 action film with cameos by famous NASCAR drivers] is DAYS OF THUNDER. I’ve heard from a couple of friends that their dogs hide in the bathtub during a thunderstorm. I get being scared of the thunder, but why does the bathtub feel like a safe place in particular? I am so curious.
  • 44A [*Absence of clear leadership] is a POWER VACUUM. Here we have a case where the theme entry itself, or at least the way it’s described, is one of my personal pet peeves, at least at work. I’ll take the constructor’s word for it that pets dislike vacuums, since the only pet I’ve ever had was a gerbil way back in the day.

Micah Sommersmith’s Universal crossword, “Moving Stress” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/12/22 • Mon • Sommersmith • “Moving Stress” • solution • 20221212

It’s said that moving—along with death of a loved one, major illness, divorce, and loss of a job—is one of the most stressful life events.

This crossword, on the other hand, was extremely low stress. The repeating homonymic theme answers helped it go very quickly.

  • 20a. [Abandons arid areas?] DESERTS DESERTS.
  • 25a. [Scribbles sports superlatives?] RECORDS RECORDS.
  • 43a. [Consumes curated collections?] DIGESTS DIGESTS.
  • 50a. [Remembers representative-removing referendums?] RECALLS RECALLS.

In each case the verb precedes the noun, and the verbs’ stressed syllables are generally the second while the nouns’ are first—must be one of those hidden rules of English or something. Not going to check, but it seems to me that the pairs are etymologically akin.

  • 1d [Letters sung to the same tune as “Twinkle, twinkle”] ABCD. Also ‘Baa, baa, black sheep’.
  • 52d [Chunk of cold, hard cash?] COIN. Minor stretch there. 19a [Birds on Canadian dollars] LOONS—they have no one-dollar banknote. 16a [“A penny for your thoughts” or “a dime a dozen,” e.g.] IDIOM.
  • 54d [Walk with uneven strides] LIMP, 55d [Walk with long strides] LOPE.
  • 57d [“Schitt’s Creek” network] CBC. I hadn’t realized it was on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s network, but it certainly makes sense.
  • 32a [Hem and __ ] HAW, 33a [ __ and aah] OOH.
  • 42a [Darn or hem, say] SEW. Symmetrically opposite to the preceding ‘hem’ clue.
  • 59a [Guy who wears his belt high up?] ORION. Referring to the constellation up in the night sky.

Very much a warm-up type crossword.

Natan Last’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s write-up

NY Times crossword solution, 12/12/22 – Natan Last

Another excellent themeless from Natan, with lots of interesting fill and clues.

Not sure I’d seen the word DECARCERATION {[Aim of some abolitionists]) before, but certainly I’m familiar with the movement against the U.S.’s outsized use of mass incarceration. Entirely new to me: SCISSORS DANCE, [Quechuan custom that takes its name from the bladelike rods wielded by performers]; the DANCE part was easy to guess with a crossing or two.

Fave fill: I MAY DESTROY YOU (gripping show, great performances, just 12 episodes, go binge it on HBO Max), RITUAL BATH, AGLIO E OLIO (garlic & oil), GREGORIAN CHANT (love the clue mislead, [Refrain from monastic life]), mountaintop REMOVAL (a dreadfully destructive mining process), “DESPACITO,” ART INSTALLATION, and UNION CARD (NYTimes Guild negotations resume this week).

Clues of note:

  • [Uninterested in congress, briefly?], ACE. Short for asexual.
  • [Work out in public, perhaps], ART INSTALLATION. Another noun with a clue that reads like a verb phrase.
  • [Still], SILENCE. We mostly think of still as an adjective related to not moving, or an adverb with several senses. Here, it’s either a verb or a noun.
  • [Edebiri of “The Bear”], AYO. Ayo Edibiri is a comedian, writer, and actress, and I also recommend watching The Bear on Hulu. Eight episodes in the first season, and we’re waiting for season 2 later this year. Expect to see AYO in more crosswords as her career develops (she’s 27 now).

4.5 stars from me. Natan includes more names/titles here than most constructors would use, and I sure like it. Not all of you do, but Natan’s puzzles usually hit my sweet spot.


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13 Responses to Monday, December 12, 2022

  1. J says:

    Complimentary themes in NYT and LAT today

  2. Mr. [just a little bit] Grumpy says:

    I’m curious why the WSJ thought it necessary to use clunky alliterative clues. I can’t see that they were relevant or even entertaining, and “scribbling” is NOT “recording.” Sheesh. Clever puzzle with Monday easiness apart from that.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I assume you’re referring to the Universal puzzle here, not the WSJ. If you scribble something down, you’re recording it, right? Maybe they decided to go with alliterative clues because the answers are alliterative. In any case, I didn’t even notice it while I was solving and they didn’t seem particularly clunky at the time. Now that I revisit them, I agree that they’re a little clunky.

      • Mr. [just a little bit] Grumpy says:

        Yes, the Universal was what I meant. Thanks. Most [all?] dictionaries define scribble as to write or draw hastily or carelessly. I guess that could come close to jotting something down and recording it, but it just struck a sour note, and the alliteration was overkill/too cute. Too bad, because I thought the theme itself was great.

  3. sanfranman59 says:

    TNY … ouch … Another Monday beatdown by NL. I’ve failed to complete 10 of 52 of his Monday puzzles, which is only a slightly lower fail rate than I have with Anna Shechtman’s puzzles (11 DNFs of 44 Monday puzzles).

    There were lots of learning opportunities in this one for me and I had zero chance of solving the top half of this grid without several cheats. I’m shocked that I got as much of it as I did and that was only by completely guessing at answers based on letter patterns.

    • Eric H says:

      I found it much harder than the notorious Brooke Husic New Yorker puzzle a few weeks ago. The top center felt like it took forever, with long entries where I had only one or two widely-scattered letters.

      I’m thankful “Gangnam Style” did not fit the slot for DESPACITO. I’d have been a long time digging myself out of that hole.

      There’s some really nice clueing in it, though.

      • JohnH says:

        It was tough, even largely incomprehensible, for me, too, although for once with Natan I marked under two dozen clues as things I didn’t know. Oh, well. Some, like Amy, do find them enjoyable, I know.

        I bet he googles, too, but in order to to make things harder. He even found an obscure clue for ONO. I’m an arts writer who’s followed profiles of her often and seen a ton of her work in museums, and even I’ve never heard of that title. I seriously doubt Natan had either. He must have just thought, hmm, what can I find about Ono that no one on earth will know?

        • PJ says:

          I think that’s common for many crosswordese entries. I’ve learned a *lot* about Oslo over the years.

          • JohnH says:

            I’m sure. Still, it’s one thing to hope to freshen tired fill, another thing to do everything one can, at all costs, to turn crosswords into trivia night out. I realize that many of their fans are the same, but surely not all, and ratings and comments consistently reflect that.

        • JohnH says:

          And then surely only a Web search for someone unfamiliar with the actress would identify Edith Evans with On the Importance of Being Ernest as if she were among the dramatis personae.

        • YouKnowNothingJohnH says:

          lmao natan last works in refugee advocacy and ono’s “add color” series, one of her most well known, has been around since 1960. i doubt he had to google. you, on the other hand, must be a pretty third-rate arts writer to not know the piece — it’s on her wikipedia page — but then you do love to come on here and post about, seeking pity, how much you don’t know.

  4. Richard A Horvitz says:

    As to the “vacuum” item as a PET PEEVE in the LA Times puzzle, many dogs HATE vacuum cleaners. Our two dogs do. A friend of ours who has the same kind of dogs we do wrote a funny chronicle about one of her dogs. In this she makes multiple references to the “sucky monster.” One should be able to figure out what she is talking about.

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