Monday, December 19, 2022

BEQ 4:46(Matthew) 


LAT 2:10 (Stella) 


NYT 3:57 (Sophia) 


The New Yorker 5:40 (Amy) 


Universal untimed (pannonica) 


USA Today tk (malaika) 


WSJ untimed (Jim P) 


Jennifer Nutt’s New York Times puzzle – Sophia’s write-up

Theme: GIFT wrapping- each of the theme answers begins with something used to wrap a present.

New York Times, 12 19 2022, by Jennifer Nutt

  • 17a [Built-in lag time to allow bleeping during a live broadcast] – TAPE DELAY
  • 24a [Part of a swimmer’s sidestroke] – SCISSORS KICK
  • 40a [Good vantage point at an opera house or stadium] – BOX SEAT
  • 51a [Like a puppy who’s learned where to “go”] – PAPER TRAINED
  • 64a [Archer’s arrow launcher] – BOWSTRING

Happy holidays everyone! I’m on the east coast for the next two weeks, which means waiting all the way until 6pm for the Monday puzzle to come out, can you imagine?! Anyways, today’s puzzle is an appropriately festive one for the start of the holiday week. I like the concept of the theme a lot, and all the important pieces of gift wrapping are here. The theme answers are all solid phrases and generally disguised the gift-related word well. Even knowing the theme, it took me a while to come up with PAPER TRAINED – I really wanted “housebroken” or something like that.

It was a little off putting to have GIFT randomly sitting on the side of the grid like that instead of in a corner. I understand why it’s there, given the density of the thematic material and the need for a revealer, but it was odd to see it halfway through the solve and took away from the aha moment for me.

The puzzle overall played harder than the usual Monday for me. I made a lot of mistakes in the top half of the puzzle, wanting [Dodos] to be “dolts” instead of ASSES, [With it] to be “sane” instead of HIP, and 16a [Not sharp, as a pencil or knife] to be “dull” instead of BLUNT (Imagine how much trouble I would have been in if those answers were actually the right length!). AMOR clued as the Roman love god, ROLF, ORANG, and especially the CASIO/ENIAC cross also seemed potentially rough. Maybe the fill would have been better if BOX SEAT had been ditched and there were only four theme answers?

Favorite entries today: SKYROCKET, SLACKER, and St. OLAF College. Northfield Minnesota represent!

Parikshit S. Bhat’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Tremors”—Jim P’s review

Theme: AFTERSHOCK (59a, [Tremor following a quake, and where the last words of the starred answers can be found]). Theme answers are familiar phrases whose final words can follow “shock” to form other familiar phrases.

Wall St Journal crossword solution · “Tremors” · Parikshit S. Bhat · Mon., 12.19.22

  • 17a. [*Common bedside table item] CLOCK RADIO. Shock radio.
  • 24a. [*Treatment method using modified DNA] GENE THERAPY. Shock therapy. A rather disturbing entry because the term makes me think of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But apparently ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) can provide benefits against depression when used in a controlled manner. The term “shock therapy” is also used in economics.
  • 36a. [*Meeting building code, in a way] FIRE RESISTANT. Shock resistant.
  • 50a. [*Take advantage of a profitable period] RIDE THE WAVE. Shock wave.

Solid theme. While the one entry was initially discomforting, I am glad I looked it up and learned a little more about the treatment.

Fill highlights include GAME PLAN, RUN SHORT, FILAMENT, and GRAVITATE. I wasn’t too keen on that PELTER / TWO-ONE stack in the NW, but it was quickly gotten past, and the rest of the grid held up.

Clue of note: 26d. [“___ Want for Christmas Is You”]. ALL I. Oh, good grief. Don’t we hear this song enough these days and now it’s in our puzzles too? Today I learned that Mariah Carey also wrote the song in addition to providing the vocals. I guess I had thought it was an older song since it has that 60s Motown girl-group vibe and that Carey just did a popular cover of it. But all credit to her for basically writing an instant standard. I’m assuming it’s okay to be impressed by the song even while hating it for its sheer ubiquity.

Solid puzzle. Nothing too flashy, but it does the job. 3.5 stars.

Spencer Leach’s Los Angeles Times crossword — Stella’s write-up

Los Angeles Times 12/19/22 by Spencer Leach

Los Angeles Times 12/19/22 by Spencer Leach

Looks like this might be a debut!

Let’s start at the revealer at 60A [Causes a ruckus, and what the end of each answer to the starred clues does], which is MAKES WAVES. That is, the second part of each theme answer is a thing that “makes waves”:

  • 17A [*Medical scan with a wand] is an ULTRASOUND. I quibble with this theme answer choice: It’s inconsistent with the others for being one word instead of two, even though the break point in the compound word is obvious, and also, does SOUND make waves? It is waves.
  • 27A [*”Channel Orange” Grammy winner] is FRANK OCEAN. The OCEAN indeed “makes waves.”
  • 44A [*Comment after a joke that doesn’t land] is TOUGH CROWD. A CROWD at a stadium can “make waves” also.

I found a couple of entries in this puzzle to be not right for a Monday: IBEX (well-known crosswordese, but maybe not so familiar to a beginning solver), LECH Walesa (a name I will agree is quite important in Cold War history, but are we all good enough at Cold War history to make it Monday territory?), and especially DREMEL [Multiuse tool with lots of attachments]. I had to carefully check all of my crossings on that one — I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it before in 20+ years of solving, and not in real life either. Turns out it’s not just a tool, it’s a brand of tool. Perhaps this is simply exposing me as the opposite of a handy person, but I found it a real needle scratch for a Monday.

Nancy Stark & Will Nediger’s Universal crossword, “Questionable Assertions” — pannonica’s write-up

Universal • 12/19/22 • Mon • “Questionable Assertions” • Stark, Nediger • solution • 20221219

An easy, smooth-flowing offering. An okay theme, but I remind readers that it’s difficult to come up with amazing themes on a regular basis. As such, this crossword is much more than adequate.

  • 17a. [Door-lock ad claim] CHILDPROOF.
  • 26a. [Furniture ad claim] EASY TO ASSEMBLE.
  • 48a. [Clothing ad claim] ONE SIZE FITS ALL.
  • 61aR? [Literal or figurative reaction to 17-, 26- or 48-Across?] I DON’T BUY IT.


(I mean that literally and not figuratively.)

Nothing too exciting in the ballast fill, but I’m contractually obligated* to take a spin through it:

  • 9d [Least likely to smile at you] UNFRIENDLIEST. That’s a tall drink of water. Its symmetrical partner is 18d [Big picture?] PANORAMIC VIEW. Can’t tell if the latter is fitting or contrary—must a panorama be oriented horizontally or is it merely in reference to its relative dimensions?
  • 10d [Instrument played with mallets] MARIMBA. Yes I’m sharing this one again.
  • 13d [Aptly named NBA team] NETS. Short for ‘Netropolitans’.
  • 24d [“Just so you know …” initials] FYI, which I tend to spell phonetically as fwai.
  • 22a [Beasts named for their horns, briefly] RHINOS. I assume that most of you know this, but rhinoceros is from Greek for ‘nose-horn’. The scientific binomial of, for instance, the Indian rhinoceros is Rhinoceros unicornis, with the specific epithet from Latin for one-horn.
  • 53a [It’s going on as you watch it] LIVE TV, but 69a [Noble gas in TV tubes] XENON.
  • 60a [The best place ever] EDEN. I would like a qualifier, please.
  • 66a [Tennis pro Naomi, or her Japanese birthplace] OSAKA, a mere 139km (86mi) from Nagoya.
  • 67a [Purple tuber] TARO. I really like Terra’s TARO chips, but they’re crazy expensive.

*I am in fact not contractually obligated to do any such thing.

Anna Shechtman’s New Yorker crossword—Amy’s recap

New Yorker crossword solution, 12/19/22 – Shechtman

Easier than I expected for a Monday TNY. For you, too?

Fave fill: MOBY-DICK, the DATIVE cast (which I know from German classes far more than from English language know-how), NONPROFITS, PUFF PIECE (so good!), poet Muriel RUKEYSER, POP-TARTS, new-to-me FED-SPEAK (from the Federal Reserve).

I gather that CALIFORNIA SOBER, with the great clue [High and dry?], re(e)fers to people who don’t drink alcohol, but do smoke pot.

Less keen on bits like SONANT, -IDE, CORONAE, plural ANNAS, IN AT, and EFTS.

Literary clues of the day:

  • [Poet Muriel who wrote, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open”], RUKEYSER.
  • [Novel whose first chapter is preceded by eighty epigraphs, none of which ought to be taken as “veritable gospel cetology,” per the author], MOBY-DICK. Given how many times whales are called “fish” in the book, no, not gospel cetology!

3.25 stars from me.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword—Matthew’s review

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s Themeless Monday crossword solution, 12/19/2022

Classic grid design, decently tough, fun stuff in those open corners. Right to notes:

  • 1a [Rotten attitude] BAD HUMOR. I love the older use of “humor” as a general mood rather than comedic.
  • 14a [Court game] ONE ON ONE. I was thinking some racket sport rather than basketball for a while. I should know better – tennis is pretty well represented in crosswords, but so is basketball.
  • 16a [UNH athletes] WILDCATS. A common mascot among colleges; UNH here is University of New Hampshire, though their hockey rivals might say the “University of No Hardware,” due to their lack of National Championships.
  • 34a [2022 Golden Boot winner Kylian ____] MBAPPE. The Golden Boot is awarded to the top scorer at the FIFA World Cup – the 23-year-old Mbappe scored all three French goals in a loss to Lionel Messi’s Argentina yesterday as the tournament ended.
  • 35a [Pyramid of Khafre city] GIZA. I didn’t recognize “Khafre,” who is the son of Khufu, who I do know relatively quickly in clues for GIZA and “pyramid”.
  • 36a [Sign named after a Greek god] ARIES. I’m not so sure about this one. The Zodiac sign ARIES *sounds like* “Ares,” but both Wiktionary and etymonline (neither perfect sources, but I don’t keep an OED subscription) chart different etymologies for the two.
  • 46a [Comedian with the catchphrase “But, no-o-o-o-o-o!”] JOHN BELUSHI. Might be the first time I’ve seen this full name in the grid.
  • 6d [Piece in a knight’s defense] MOAT. Between ANITRA, DELEON, and HODADS, I had a bunch on the tip of my tongue, and while I didn’t fall for a trap of “pawn” or some such chess angle, this is another bit of fun difficulty in this corner.
  • 7d [Frequently, for short] ON THE REG. If you’re having trouble parsing this, it’s an abbreviation of “on the regular.”
  • 9d [Root vegetable in mutabbal shamandar] BEET. Alas, I am allergic to beets, so this beet-tahini-garlic dip is not for me. But it looks delicious on Google.
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14 Responses to Monday, December 19, 2022

  1. Eric H says:

    NYT: Pleasant little Monday theme, with nice fill.

    It always amuses me when my solving time is exactly the same as my average for the day, as it was today. (To put it another way, I didn’t find it any harder than the typical NYT Monday.)

  2. Eric H says:

    Universal: I thought the theme was fun. (The I DON’T BUY IT as applied to the “Clothing ad claim” is particularly true for me.)

    Thanks, Pannonica, for your observation on how hard it is to come up with a good theme. That’s been a major stumbling block for me as a wannabe constructor.

    Bonus fun: My mental image of Nancy Stark bopping to the music of Krewella. Ms. Stark is probably in her 70’s; she’s also a frequent commenter on the Wordplay blog and on Rex Parker’s blog. On Wordplay, she frequently mentions pop culture answers that she doesn’t know and doesn’t care about.

  3. KAP says:

    Hands up if you have a clock radio on your bedside table. Anyone? Anyone? The simple addition of “once” or “formerly” (or some similar qualification) would have improved the clue, I think.

    • Gary R says:

      I have a clock radio on my bedside table at home, at our vacation home, and there’s been one in nearly every hotel room I’ve stayed in in the U.S.

      My question is, which clue are you referring to? The only clue I can find that references a clock is 42-A, which refers to a grandfather clock.

    • Eric H says:

      I think you mean the WSJ, no?

      My husband has a fake clock radio on his nightstand. It’s a chunk of resin shaped like a 1970’s clock radio that holds an old iPhone. The phone runs an app that gives the time display in large numbers that appear to flip over mechanically. Does that count?

    • sanfranman59 says:

      I lost my clock radio in the shuffle when I relocated from San Francisco to NE Ohio after I retired three years ago and was shocked at how difficult it was to find a decent one to replace it. I ended up buying an Amazon Echo Dot smart/stupid speaker, with which I have a love/hate relationship. I’ve grown very tired of hearing “I’m sorry, but I can’t play that right now. Please try again later.” My clock radio never had that problem (except when the power went off, of course). Ah, progress.

  4. sanfranman59 says:

    USAT … A very smooth solve for me today, but the clue for CHI isn’t right (“The Cubs, on a scoreboard”). Since there are two MLB teams in Chicago, the Cubs must be abbreviated either CHC or, less commonly I think, CHN in order to distinguish them from the White Sox (CHW/CHA). Before the advent of interleague 25 years ago, this wasn’t necessary, but it has been since then.

  5. Eric H says:

    LAT: When I had the first two theme answers (ULTRASOUND and FRANK OCEAN), I thought the theme was “bodies of water.” That made it a little harder to get TOUGH CROWD. Overall, I thought it was a solid debut.

    I am always a bit surprised when reviewers and commenters say that a particular word is “too hard” for Monday (or, as Stella put it, “not right.”) Sure, there are lots of words one only sees in crossword puzzles (“adit” and “snee” come to mind), but if someone is going to be a competent crossword solver, they probably need to learn such words. What better opportunity than in an otherwise easy puzzle?

    I’ll admit that DREMEL is a bit obscure for Monday (or any other day). I got it quickly because my husband owns one.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      There is a character named Snee (Ms. Snee, maybe?) in some upcoming movie or TV show. This needs to hit big, for the sake of all the constructors who’ve finally stopped using SNEE but wish they could get away with it.

  6. Mr. [Moderately] Grumpy says:

    LAT: An ocean does NOT “make” waves; waves are an attribute of an ocean that are MADE by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun. The “you got that wrong” buzzer went off loud in my house.

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