Wednesday, December 14, 2022

LAT 4:09 (Gareth) 


The New Yorker 3:37 (Amy) 


NYT 4:31 (Amy) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today 12:20 (Emily) 


AVCX untimed (Rebecca) 


Jeff Stillman’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Fix Me a Double”—Jim P’s review

Theme: REPAIRS (or RE PAIRS) (66a, [Fixes, or, parsed another way, what 17-, 28-, 44- and 58-Across have]). Each of the other theme answers is a familiar phrase featuring paired REs.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Fix Me a Double” · Jeff Stillman · Wed., 12.14.22

  • 17a. [Lector in a church service] SCRIPTURE READER.
  • 28a. [Chemical dropped from a plane] FIRE RETARDANT.
  • 44a. [Protected area] NATURE RESERVE.
  • 58a. [What instructions might be kept on hand for] FUTURE REFERENCE.

Serviceable theme with fine theme choices. Quite a lot of real estate devoted to the theme as well, and plenty of long fill besides.

Part of the odd construction is due to the 7-letter revealer’s placement in the bottom right. Often we’d see a revealer of that length in the center of the grid which might allow for more flexibility in the corners at the cost of tightening things up in the middle. But despite the density of theme in that SE corner, it’s filled quite nicely, and the other big corners have some nice assets as well.

FIVE-STAR is especially impressive considering it’s sandwiched between two theme entries. I also liked SEURAT, MALAISE, and MINIBUS. RATING A TEN doesn’t feel quite like an in-the-language phrase to me, and MID-OCTOBER is only so-so, but consider that they each cross three theme entries.

All in all, I’m having a hard time generating a lot of excitement about this grid, but it definitely works and gets the job done. 3.25 stars.

Matthew Stock’s New York Times crossword—Amy’s recap

NY Times crossword solution, 10/14/22, no. 1014

When I saw that RAINBOW in circled squares, I filled in LUCKY CHARMS for the revealer, despite the clue not matching: [Fortunate circumstances … or a punny hint to the shaded letters]. That’s actually LUCKY BREAKS, and things considered lucky occupy the circled squares and have “breaks” from the black squares. So NUMB ERSE VENOM hides NUMBER SEVEN, RETRAIN BOWL CUT has RAINBOW, a SHAMROCK lurks in GRISHAM ROCKIER, and HORSESHOE hides in the ungainly ABHOR/SESH/OEUF combo.

Fave fill: I wouldn’t mind being LAVISHED with gifts! Not my fave fill: ERSE (I’d wager that 90% of the people who know this language name learned it from crosswords), NAV, SESH, OVULES, British-spelling OCHRE, AMUCK. Do you like ARBY’S? Their regrettable slogan is “WE HAVE THE MEATS®”.

42a. [Actress Thompson of “Sorry to Bother You”], TESSA. Just saw her in Thor: Ragnarok and Westworld in the past week. She really is luminous.

5d. [French beloved], CHERI. This is what Frenchie, aka Serge, sometimes calls Kimiko on the Amazon evil-superhero show, The Boys. Mostly he calls her mon coeur, which is impossibly sweet for such a gruesomely violent show.

3.5 stars from me.

Joe DiPietro’s Universal crossword, “Seen But Not Heard” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/14/22 • Wed • “Seen But Not Heard” • DiPietro • solution • 20221214

I kind of thought I saw something about the theme with the first long entry, but wasn’t able to make sense of it through the following ones. So indeed I needed the revealer for the 34a AHA moment to 44a SEE (speaking of the title’s ‘seen’) what was really going on.

  • 62aR [Talkie predecessor, and a hint to understanding this puzzle’s theme] SILENT MOVIE. So we’re to ignore the movie title in each of the theme answers.
  • 17a. [Point a univ. teacher in another direction?] TURN A PROF{IT}.
  • 24a. [Treaty between peace-hating countries?] THE WAR{SAW} PACT.
  • 39a. [One making jokes at a farmer’s market?] STAND{UP} COMEDIAN.
  • 51a. [Like a cash register that can break 5s and 10s?] FULL OF ONES{ELF}.

One could quibble that even though the films aren’t ‘heard’ they’re still seen and hence are still present, but that’s probably being unnecessarily wetblankety. Nevertheless I might have found it more impressive or rewarding if there were a common factor among the movies, aside from the brevity of their titles.

  • 3d [Mostly green soda container] SPRITE CAN. Mostly greenpainty.
  • 36d [Kindly helped out] DID A FAVOR. Don’t know why I leapt to DID A SOLID on this one.
  • 47d [Cook, like chestnuts] ROAST. Timely.
  • 21d [LiMu __ (insurance mascot] EMU. Have not seen this, but it must be short for Liberty Mutual, and then the adwizards made a rhyme.
  • 61a [It gives a rower power] OAR. The eye-rhyme made my head go woo.

Aimee Lucido’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 10/14/22 – Lucido

So much fun and conversational and slangy and girltalk content in here!

New to me: [“Get off the Internet,” in Internet-speak], TOUCH GRASS. Is that like “eat dirt”? I also learned FAIRY RINGS, or [Circular mushroom formations that have supernatural associations in some cultures]. Creepy!

The chatty, “living today,” and girltalk vibes: CAN GET IT (the “it” is essentially the same as the “it” in the sex synonym “doing it”), BLISSES out, “HELL NO,” TEENY-WEENY, period ACHES, a mascara SMUDGE, squoval (squared oval) and stiletto (finger)NAILS, and fake eyelash GLUE. If you were stuck where GLUE and ESME cross SMUDGE and NAILS, well, the endings of SMUD**, VAC***, and CLAU**** do some heavy lifting.

Crosswordese vibe with Russia’s Lake ONEGA and SAGOS. Crossings all seemed eminently fair to me.

Fun clue: [App that might teach you how to say “I am eating bread and crying on the floor” in Norwegian], DUOLINGO.

3.75 stars from me.

Parker Higgins’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s summary

Parker Higgins’s theme today gives us 4 pairs of NO{4}/NO{4} phrases that start from the same number, all with a particularly American bent to them. NOPAIN/NOGAIN is familiar as a [Mantra on embracing difficult], but the [Idiom meaning “easy peasy”], NOMUSS/NOFUSS is usually stated as MESS here. The [aphorism excusing misconduct that didn’t cause damage] is a more universal NOHARMNOFOUL. Lastly, a phrase I had never heard of at all, which sounded vaguely financial: [expression describing an abscence without leave] is NOCALLNOSHOW. The grid also feels an unusual diagonal symmetry that is hurting my head a little when I look at it too closely.

Fast five:

  • [Simple camera setting], AUTO. Yup, it me. The camera is far smarter than I am, and I really find twiddling my ISO and exposure figures means I simply miss out on photographing things entirely…
  • [McFlurry cookies], OREOS and CHIPSAHOY, [Nabisco brand] intersect in a rather insular manner.
  • How many of us wanted [1980s Pontiacs], FIEROS to be AZTEKS?
  • My DuoLingo Spanish helped less than my English with MURO as [Wall, in Spanish], for which I have only learned pared. Google suggests paredes are inside, and muros outside. On the other hand Latin-rooted English words like MURAL made MURO somewhat inferrable.
  • [Fresnel ___: lighthouse installation], LENS was another unknown, but inferrable answer for me.


Zhouqin Burnikel USA Today Crossword, “Undercover Outfit” — Emily’s write-up

Tricky theme today for me but great fill and, as always, fun cluing!

Completed USA Today crossword for Wednesday December 14, 2022

USA Today, December 14 2022, “Undercover Outfit” by Zhouqin Burnikel

Theme: each themer contains bedtime clothes (—PJ—)



While my high school had other Advance Placement classes, APJAPANESE wasn’t one of them—though I wish it had been! SNAPJUDGMENT was an immediate fill for me, with great cluing. CHEAPJEWELRY took me a couple of crossings at the beginning, since “costume” was my first instinct. h/t to Sally and her blog for explaining today’s theme! I kept looking for an outfit, or multiples but this one just didn’t jump out at me.


Stumpers: ENDEDLATE (kept thinking about shows that get extended another season), DRAB (only “dull” was came to mind), and IMNOTAROBOT (needed most crossings before I saw it, oddly)

There’s usually just enough misdirection in clues that Zhouqin’s puzzle always more of a challenge and take me a bit longer to solve, but I get there in the end. I’ve certainly improved and feel quicker over the months that I’ve been blogging on here, though my times still say otherwise; I’ve come to truly enjoy these puzzles, ready to see if today I’ll solve then any faster but regardless they remain impressive solves, with really smart themes and given the sheer number, awe-inspiring for a hopeful constructor.

4.0 stars


Zaineb Akbar’s AVCX, “*bum-bum* *bum-bum*” — Rebecca’s Review

AVCX 12/14 – “*bum-bum* *bum-bum*”

This week’s AVCX Classic was a cheeky puzzle with a 2/5 difficulty from Zaineb Akbar.

  • 18A: Celestial symbol of Islam CRESCENT MOON
  • 25A: Mushroom Kingdom  royal who wields a pink parasol PRINCESS PEACH
  • 38A: Backsides… like what you might find in 18-, 25-, 52-, or 63-Across? TAIL ENDS
  • 52A: Sweet potato of a person CUTIE PATOOTIE
  • 63A: Spiced, crucified confections HOT CROSS BUNS

This was a fun quick solve that had me smiling the whole time. I spent the  top half of the puzzle wondering what CRESCENT MOON and PRINCESS PEACH could possibly have in common and loved the center revealer. Super smooth grid work throughout that allowed for a great flow while solving.

Couldn’t help but think of ‘HOT PATOOTIE‘ while solving…

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19 Responses to Wednesday, December 14, 2022

  1. Dallas says:

    The NYT brought up a question that’s been bugging me: why is it called a “rebus” when you need to put multiple letters into a crossword square? That doesn’t fit with how I think of rebus puzzles where pictures and letter sounds are pieced together to make words. I wonder if someone here knows the history of how this came to be used and named.

    • JohnH says:

      Fair enough. I suppose the idea is that a rebus is the representation by pictures, symbols, etc., so why not multiple letters? But I can see it as a stretch.

      I find the use of charade for cryptic wordplay that breaks the answer into pieces to be a stretch as well. But conventions are what they are, so no worries.

    • Gary R says:

      I don’t know anything of the history of the term as it pertains to crosswords. I know I’ve seen it used for as long as I’ve been solving NYT puzzles (15 or 20 years). Your understanding of the definition of the term matches mine – I usually think of the old game “Concentration” – but that’s clearly not how it works in a crossword.

      A lot of rebus puzzles fall flat for me. There are a couple of factors that affect my reaction:

      (1) I think they work better when what goes in the rebus square is a full word, and names something that I can imagine being replaced by a picture. This past Sunday, with the various insects appearing in rebus squares is an example (though I’m not sure I’d recognize a picture of a gnat).

      (2) I think they work better when the thing represented by the rebus square is actually pronounced as that thing in the answer. This past Sunday’s puzzle doesn’t work that way – it’s the letters in the rebus square making up parts of the words in the answer. The best example I can come up with for a puzzle that meets this criterion is the Kevin Der and Jessica A. Hui puzzle from Sunday, 1/30/2011, which put the signs of the Chinese zodiac in rebus squares, and the name of each animal was a word in each answer.

      • JohnH says:

        Must admit that those constraints wouldn’t make the device more fun for me. I might even relish the difficulty of not relying on them. But to each one’s own, and I know some hate any rebus whatsoever while others, like me, look forward to them.

        TNY seemed much slower and harder than Tuesday (the usual bad editing, I guess) but no less worthy. The um girlie things surely didn’t enhance things for me, but then I’d dislike exclusively male things just as much. (Not that I’d thought about male dress codes or sports trivia ever, and you’d be perfectly right to hate them in a puzzle.)

    • Martin says:

      As JohnH says, a rebus uses a picture to represent a word or words. A “true” crossword rebus can be a picture, say of a little sun, drawn in a box. On a computer we enter “SUN” (or “S”), but that’s a function of the device.

      It’s true that many rebus crosswords use multiple letters that don’t spell a word that could be depicted as a drawing, but we don’t distinguish them from the classic rebus crossword.

  2. anon says:

    AVCX: one clue/answer pair in this one that I don’t understand:

    67a: Waving the air, in a way – ALOUD


    • Bryan says:

      Maybe because when something is said aloud, it produces sound waves in the air, hence “waving the air,” so to speak.

  3. Margaret says:

    LAT: I’m not familiar with NOCALL NOSHOW either. I’m assuming it’s when you’ve said you’d come to an event and then flake out? I’ve never heard that term though.

    • sanfranman59 says:

      This American has never heard NO CALL/NO SHOW before either (at least I don’t think so). That one sure mystified me in this puzzle that played much harder than the average LAT Wednesday. I finished it in well above my current LAT Friday 6-month median solve time.

    • placematfan says:

      I’m very familiar with this term. In my twenties I did a lot of warehouse work and had a few cooking jobs. In both industries, where there’s a lot of turnover, there’s an unwritten rule that if you don’t show up or call for 3 days, you’re fired. In that capacity, I heard “no call/no show” a lot. I think I might’ve also heard it used by, say, a front-office worker at a doctor’s office, describing a patient who didn’t show up for the appointment and didn’t contact the office, either.

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    Uni … OMG pannonica … You’re my hero! How in the world have you managed to avoid getting the ridiculous LiMu EMU ad campaign imprinted on your brain? I actively try to not watch TV ads, but these are so ubiquitous that I haven’t been able to avoid them entirely. They’re like trying not to look at a car accident when going past one on the highway. I guess that makes it “good advertising”, huh? (that is if you ignore the fact that I’ll never buy Liberty Mutual insurance because of them)

    • Bryan says:

      To me, the LiMu emu is slightly entertaining. But what I find slightly annoying is the Liberty Mutual jingle that’s just the word “liberty” repeated four times: “Liberty, Liberty, Liberty. Liiiiiberty.” Like they couldn’t think of any other lyrics for the jingle, so they just repeated “liberty” over and over. Annoys me every time.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Truth be told, I think I kind of liked the first couple of LiMu Emu ads the first few times I saw each of them also. But a couple of dozen(?) iterations later and having seen each one of them way, way, way too many times, they just annoy me now and make me wonder how much less Liberty Mutual could be charging their customers if they didn’t carpet bomb us with advertising.

    • pannonica says:

      Method: no television, essentially no commercial radio.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        Yeah … I figured … I wish I could do that, but I seem constitutionally incapable of it. I blame my parents (as I do for all of my less-than-ideal habits).

      • Eric H says:

        That’s my basic strategy. It’s been thwarted by the death of the MP3 player hookup in the car, which had caused me to listen to more commercial radio in the last six months than the preceding 20 years.

        But it’s been interesting research for crossword puzzles;
        I’m hearing people like Sia who I otherwise wouldn’t know beyond the name

      • placematfan says:

        I use adblockers and piracy. Feel guilty about both, just not enough to abstain.

    • Gary R says:

      LiMu Emu isn’t bad, IMHO – certainly very repetitive, especially if you watch sports on TV, but not bad compared to many others.

      Worst, again IMHO, is the Allstate “Mayhem” guy ads. They’ve been around for years, and I can’t think of a single one I didn’t find grating/annoying from the very first viewing.

      On the other hand, I used to smile every time I’d see the GEICO ad with the camel – “Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike – what day is it?” (If you haven’t seen the ad, it’s Humpday).

  5. Eric H says:

    Uni: I missed seeing the short film titles until I read Pannonica’s review. Maybe I missed them because the phrases that incorporate the titles are all pretty much in common usage? (OK, I can’t remember the last time I heard someone mention THE WARSAW PACT, but it is legit if quite dusty.)

    The theme reminded me of a NYT puzzle that rebused short film titles. I thought the two puzzles had more in common, but only IT and UP seem to be in both puzzles.

    I agree that SPRITE CAN oozes green paint. OTOH, it was fun seeing IGA Swiatek in the grid. I added her to my constructing word list last spring, but I don’t think I’ve seen her in a grid before. And she’s got a great name for crossword puzzles!

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