Thursday, December 15, 2022

BEQ untimed (Darby) 


LAT 4:09 (Gareth) 


NYT 14:19 (ZDL) 


The New Yorker 2:55 (Amy) 


Universal 4:40 (Sophia) 


USA Today 6:10 (Emily) 


Fireball untimed (Jenni) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword — Zachary David Levy’s write-up

Difficulty: Very challenging (14m19s)

Bruce Haight’s New York Times crossword, 12/14/2022, 1214

Today’s theme: VICHYSSOISE, which you make by combining…


Wow, was this hard or what.  Aside from the fact that it’s an oversized grid, there was a lot here that I just couldn’t parse — EONS AGO, BBQ RIBS, LOVE SET, BUS RIDE, GET BEAT, DEED BOX — couldn’t see any of them.  I was fortunate enough that VICHYSSOISE was randomly on my mind today, as Mali Handa was guest blogging for Rex today and started a soup discussion in the comments section.  And then we get a VICHYSSOISE puzzle from the NYT the next day?  Really odd coincidence.

CrackingDIE DOWN — You know what else is odd?  This phrase appeared once in the NYT in 1955, and then didn’t appear again for 46 years (!!!), until 2001.  That’s an unusually long gap for such an idiomatic 7 letter phrase.

Slacking: BULBED — yuck, and yikes.  I wanted BULBAR instead — which is more of a medical term than anything else, and even that is a stretch.  But no, it’s BULBED.  What’s next?  BULBIC?  BULBIFICENT?

Sidetracking: OPTIC — Ok, so Bruce is an ophthalmologist.  So every time he puts something eye-related into a puzzle, it’s like a little Easter egg.   Which is a good segue into the internet’s most famous ophthalmologist, Dr. Glaucomflecken:

Bill Thompson’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “About Face”—Jim P’s review

Theme: U-TURN (39a, [One of four required to solve this puzzle]). Four theme answers are in two parts each where the solver must make a U-TURN into an adjacent entry to find the end.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “About Face” · Bill Thompson · Thu., 12.15.22

  • 17a. [“Swish!”] NOTHING BU(T NET) with 14a TENT.
  • 63a. [Show whose judges have included Michael Kors and Zac Posen] PROJECT RU(NWAY) with 67a YAWN.
  • 11d. [Gist of a saying about useful personal contacts] IT’S WHO YOU (KNOW) with 31d WONK.
  • 35d. [Narrowly escaped disaster] DODGED A BU(LLET) with 57d TELL.

Fun theme! Unfortunately for me I was trying to solve the puzzle while sitting in an airport and trying to listen to an online class at the same time, so I didn’t get the full appreciation of it, but I enjoyed my aha moment and piecing together all the theme answers.

There are some fun bits of fill as well, especially DAISY DUKE, HAD IT MADE, and DOGSTAR. But I definitely noticed some clunky fill which dragged things down, like SMIT, LEGG, I DIE, crossing proper names CYD and DRED, and especially awkward partial FOR WE.

I’m not going to run through the clues because I’m about to board my flight, but a number of cross references also tended to slow things down. I counted at least three, and it almost made me think they were thematic.

Love the theme. The fill had its plusses and minuses. 3.75 stars.

Edited to add: pannonica points out in the comments below that all the U-TURNs are made at the letter U and that those are the only U’s in the grid (other than in the revealer). This ups my already high consideration of the theme tremendously. Consider that the constructor has to find phrases that can make a U-TURN but now they can only make it at a letter U, and the letters after the U must spell a clueable crossword entry (backwards), AND it has to be possible to stack that entry with the main entry. A lot of requirements there! So yes, I’m upgrading my rating to 4.25 stars.

Alex Eaton Salners’s Fireball Crossword, “Macaroni Art” – Jenni’s write-up

Very quickly because life ran away with me this week: the Fireball ends the year in a blaze of glory, sort of. I enjoyed the puzzle until I got totally stuck in one corner because I was convinced of something I was wrong about. That’s not Alex or Peter’s fault and it is quite the construction.

There are rebi scattered around the puzzle. I’m not going to go through all the theme answers because my typing fingers would get tired. Here’s the grid:

Fireball, December 16, 2022, Alex Eaton-Salners, “Macaroni Art,” solution grid

The rebi are DO RE MI FA SOL LA TI, which we all know from “The Sound of Music” are the notes of the scale. I’m not a solfege singer so I didn’t go through and confirm that the pattern in the grid gives us the tune to YANKEE DOODLE. I trust Peter and Alex so I’m sure that it does since 57a says that’s the [Song melodically hidden in this puzzle]. I had no idea what was going on before that – I found {DO}{MI}NI at 33d and hadn’t made the solfege connection yet. Once I knew what was up, that helped me fill in the rest of the puzzle. When I ran into a word that didn’t fit the space, I figured out which note to sing and there we were.


The sticking point for me was 26d [Woody’s director in “The People vs Larry Flynt.” I was sure it was OLIVER Stone and of course there are no musical notes in OLIVER. Turns out he produced the television movie. {MI}{LO}S Forman directed it.

What I didn’t know before I did this puzzle: well, that MILOS Forman directed “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” Also did not know that the Lyrids meteor shower occurs in APR.

Amie Walker’s Universal crossword, “Full of Energy” — Sophia’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer contains a carb within it.

Universal Crossword, 12 15 2022, “Full of Energy”

  • 17a [Accept the facts (note letters 3-8 in this clue’s answer)] – FACE REALITY
  • 24a [Shrinking formations at both ends of the Earth (letters 5-8)] – POLAR ICE CAPS
  • 45a [Skills necessary for success in one’s work (letters 3-7)] – JOB READINESS
  • 56a [Some sneaky nutrients, and a theme hint] – HIDDEN CARBS

Cute theme, although I think I would have appreciated it more if I knew the phrase HIDDEN CARBS before solving this puzzle! The hidden words “cereal” and “bread” are impressive to me given how long each of those words are. Is there a way that Universal could still give solvers hints about the theme but not use such wordy clues? I’ve given up on them ever having circles, but maybe the revealer clue could be the wordy one…. I’m not sure, but the way it is right now means that I just avoid reading the theme clues at all.

Fave fill: ROY KENT (“He’s here! He’s there! He’s every-f***ing-where!”) and LMAO, just because I was once told that it was “too edgy” for Universal so I’m glad to see times changing.

Least fave fill: MEARA, plural HENNAS

Fave clues: 39a [That really blows!] for GALE, 12d [Pro who hardly has a spotless record?] for AD REP, 24d [Place to buy collars and leashes] for PET STORE

Patrick Berry’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 12/15/22 – Berry

Smooth and easy, quick and breezy. I typically complete the Thursday themeless faster than all Tuesday NYTs. Some of that I attribute to the PuzzleMe interface, which I have set to jump me to the next incomplete entry. For any speed solver, such things make a big difference!

Fave fill: CAMEO ROLE (been gorging on MCU movies and enjoy the Stan Lee cameos), STYROFOAM PEANUT, PLATYPUS, “WHEN CAN YOU START?”, BUMPER CAR, PARIS METRO, BIRKIN BAG (I know of the bag but have no idea who Birkin was), SAND TRAP.

Four stars from me.

Ed Sessa’s LA Times crossword – Gareth’s theme summary

LA Times

We’re heading into another round of rolling blackouts, so I’ll be quick. Dr. Ed Sessa gives us four phrases where ?əʊl heterograph pairs are swapped, creating droll phrases:

  • [K-pop, e.g.?], SEOUL[SOUL]MUSIC
  • [Survey of hairdressers?], BARBER[POLE]POLL
  • [Golfer who’s too afraid to make a putt?], HOLE[WHOLE]CHICKEN
  • [1982 film job that kept an actor on his heels?], TOOTSIE[ROLL]ROLE


Mark Valdez’s USA Today Crossword, “Internal Memo” — Emily’s write-up

Quick one today with a fun theme!

Completed USA Today crossword for Thursday December 15, 2022

USA Today, December 15 2022, “Internal Memo” by Mark Valdez

Theme: each themer contains —MEMO—


  • 20a. [Residential loans], HOMEMORTGAGUE
  • 38a. [“And then?! Keep going!”], TELLMEMORE
  • 57a. [“12 Men of Christmas” or “Fatal Lessons: The Good Teacher”], LIFETIMEMOVIE

While not everyone pays a HOMEMORTGAGUE, they all well-known and filled right in for me. TELLMEMORE was easy fill for me today—the cluing was perfectly emphatic that I got it right away. For the third though, I had the last word but it took me a few crossings to get the first half of LIFETIMEMOVIE. An intreguging set that shares this theme commonality!

Favorite fill: GORMAN, DOSAS, MOOD, and EDM

Stumpers: YARA (new to me), ELUDE (needed a couple of crossings), and EVADE (needed a couple of crossings)

Loved the smooth solve and great fill, just what I needed for a Thursday!

4.0 stars


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1531 “Bunch of Nonsense”– Darby’s write-up

Theme: Each theme answer pair splits BANANA across two answers.

Theme Answers

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Crossword #1531 "Bunch of Nonsense" solution for 12/15/2022

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Crossword #1531 “Bunch of Nonsense” solution for 12/15/2022

  • 17a [“He played Nero in the 2009 ‘Star Trek’ reboot”] and 19a [“Where META and GOOG trade”] ERIC BANA NASDAQ
  • 36a [“Shakespeare character that says ‘A plague upon the tyrant I serve!’”] & 38a [“Desire banners for Bernie Sanders, e.g.”] CALIBAN ANAGRAM
  • 55a [“Plant oil in some shampoos”] & 58a [“Chant after the lyrics ‘Go on and ksis him goodbye now’ in a 1969 #1 hit”] JOJOBA NANANA

Revealer: 63a [“Fruit commonly split in some sundaes, and split three times in this puzzle”] BANANA

How fun was this? I loved that the theme answers put together with the black square in between became grid spanners. The revealer was also a huge help in JOJOBA NANANA and ANAGRAM for me, since I was entirely off with 36a to start. Really, there was just a lot of great wordplay in this grid, from the inclusion of ANAGRAM to 8d [“House mate?”] SENATE. It was also fun seeing a theme puzzle have the meta inclusion of THEME in 27d [“Linking element in a crossword”].

Fave fill for today included NANANA, 18d [“Actress Delavigne”] CARA, 25 [“Game setting”] BOARD, and 35d [“Light challenge for a spy?”] LASER MAZE.

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20 Responses to Thursday, December 15, 2022

  1. huda says:

    NYT: I like the theme and the specifics of the recipe. But I feel this puzzle belongs on a Wednesday, in that it was not tricky enough for what we’ve come to expect from a Thursday.
    Yet, I agree that it felt remarkably hard in some places and not because anything was intrinsically hard, but maybe the cluing? That SE corner took a lot of doing, in spite of plunking VICHYSSOISE pretty early on in the process… BULBED is certainly a big offender… and YEASTS in the plural was not easy to think of.
    A lot of what we call in the business “agonistic behavior” going on in the fill– GET BEAT, WIN, DENT, LOVE SET, CEDE, GOTCHA. And BAHS and LOW NOTE add to the atmosphere. I hope the Vichyssoise is good enough to cheer everyone up…

  2. JohnH says:

    Of course DRED Scott in the WSJ is a proper name, but definitely a gimme, something I must have had hammered into me in grade school history, and my school was hardly woke. But PROJECT RUNWAY, LEGG, TITOS, MINAJ, and even NOTHING BUT NET (enough in that corner to have me question my JEST) were new to me. I could see NET coming from the clue but just didn’t know the phrase. So good puzzle, I guess, but just not at all for me. I won’t weigh down the ratings by voting, but no fun.

  3. Lise says:

    NYT: It was a rough solve – that SE corner, oof – which left me feeling a little negative, so I decided to look for entries that I enjoyed.

    I am now tempted to make VICHYSSOISE, with a seasoned white bean puree instead of HEAVY CREAM, so that’s a plus. Also, I just happen to have some tiny potatoes and several leeks on hand, so, timely entry, thanks. I liked that MEDIA was clued in a non-social media way, plus, art supplies make me happy. LUCRE is a fun word that I don’t see often enough.

    I am happy to add BESS to my limited Houdini knowledge; same with the origin of the name LEE.

    Happy Thursday to all!

  4. pannonica says:

    WSJ: all the one-eighties occur at the letter U, and those four are the only Us in the grid.

  5. marciem says:

    NYT: Wow, a lot of haters on there today.
    I was mildly disappointed only because it wasn’t the expected Thursday trickery I look forward to… As Huda said above, more of a Wednesday puzzle, fairly straightforward in the theme. I did hate bulbed…ugh! I dropped in vichyssoise right away except I misspelled it (vichycoisse.. why do I see that word in my head with a cedilla? dunno).

    WSJ gave me the desired tricking so I’m not mad :D .

    • JohnH says:

      Agreed that the NYT wasn’t so bad, even with the ugly BULBED. Must say LOW NOTE and DEED BOX didn’t easily occur to me, EONS AGO felt a bit far from such more common usage as ages ago or long ago, and I’m more likely to have heard straight sets than love sets, but I think it’s been in a puzzle before. Over all, though, that at least made a common recipe hard enough for a Thursday for me. Obviously some found it too easy and some too hard, but worked ok for me. Now just have to look up what an RC CAR is. Oh.

      • sanfranman59 says:

        A LOVE SET and “straight sets” refer to two different things in tennis. A LOVE SET means one player won all six games in a set (i.e. a 6-0 set). Winning in straight sets means a player wins the match without losing a set.

        • JohnH says:

          Oh, right. Sorry! I still had never said “love set” for 6-0, and I’m from a tennis family. (Long story.) But it could be anytime within the last 20 years and I wouldn’t know. I don’t talk tennis the way the elders did back then.

    • David L says:

      I went with VICHYSOISSE at first…

      Bulbed, of course, should be bulbous.

  6. Gary R says:

    NYT: I enjoyed solving this one, but it was definitely more in the Friday/Saturday range, timewise.

    I never saw the revealer – I had several crosses in place and recognized that the answer was going to be VICHYSSOISE, but I can never remember how to spell it, so I just got it from the crosses and didn’t read the clue. I recognized that the themers were getting at a recipe, but I have never eaten, let alone prepared VICHYSSOISE, so it didn’t click (plus, I was falling asleep).

    Last letter in for me was the “C” at the crossing of RCCAR and SAUCING. I see that SAUCING is legit, but it’s not a term I’ve ever used – plus, I know some cooks make a distinction between a sauce and a gravy. I’ve seen plenty of remote-control cars, but I haven’t heard/seen the short form.

    DEED BOX was new to me – I’m familiar with that type of device, but have not heard it called that.

  7. Mr. [Moderately] Grumpy says:

    NYT was easy and boring. LAT and Universal weren’t much better. Think C- rather than D+. Thank God for the Wall Street Journal. That was an A+ treat. And Patrick Berry’s puzzle in The New Yorker was very nice as well.

  8. Joe Pickett says:

    WSJ: Really loved this theme. One of the more interesting ones that I’ve seen. Also the ACAI clue made me laugh.

  9. David says:

    Second dullest Thursday NYT of the last decade, I’d say. I can’t believe that got passed by Shortz. Maybe it could have been dumbed down and used on a Wednesday?

  10. Lois says:

    The New Yorker: Amy, aside from Jane Birkin’s long career as a film actress, she’s also known as a singer of songs written for her by Serge Gainsbourg, and she is the mother of Charlotte Gainsbourg. She’s had roles in both English-language films and French films. The Birkin bag is a roomy one, and apparently is absurdly priced. I did like this puzzle!

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